Archives for May 2011

Photos from Lake Austin


Two weekends ago, I was lucky to have an event at Lake Austin Spa Resort as a part of their For the Love of Books Club.  It. Was. Bliss.

So blissful that I NAPPED!  I read somewhere once that it’s common for people to crash and sleep a lot during their first day at a spa, and even though sleep for me is an elusive, complicated thing, I did just that. I let everything go and slept like it’s easy. I don’t think I realized just how noisy my life is until everything was suddenly calm and quiet.

And it didn’t hurt that my room was the stuff dreams are made of.  Seriously, wouldn’t you kill for a bathtub like this…


…overlooking the most perfect little private garden?


I wrote by the pool.


Until a flash thunderstorm chased me to the library.  It’s an amazing spot to watch lightning over Lake Austin. And to watch the sun come out after the rain stopped.


I’m pretty sure I’m spoiled for life now.


On Saturday evening, we had a great book club chat about STAY.  We talked about the writing process, and did a writing exercise together.  It was lovely to have quality time with people who love books as much as I do.

Oh, and the majority of the veggies and herbs served in the dining room come from absolutely gorgeous organic gardens on the grounds.  It’s inspiring to see just how beautiful vegetables can be.


I spent some time at up at the spa, took yoga, somatics, and foam roller classes, and went on a boat tour of Lake Austin.  I ate five course meals every night (I’m still dreaming of the stone fruit gazpacho), and had a wonderful time chatting with staff and guests.  I’m so thankful for my time at Lake Austin, and hope to visit again!

Also, my imaginary dream home now has need for a red chandelier.  I’m completely in love.


P.S.  If you’re looking for a good excuse to get away, Claire Cook will be at Lake Austin in August for a Reinvention Workshop!

A recipe (sort of) for @aracauna_man

I’m happiest about cooking when I don’t have a recipe in front of me.  I like to combine good, basic ingredients to taste and see what happens.
I tweeted about my leftover lentil concoction today, and @aracauna_man pointed out that if I’m going to tweet about good food, I should at least offer up a recipe.
I’m way too lazy to try to figure out how to explain my mad scientist approach to lentils in 140 characters, so here’s an almost recipe for my new favorite meal.  There are no amounts listed.  I just eyeball the amounts for our meal needs and what I’m in the mood for.

Veggies, etc.
Precooked lentils
Fingerling potatoes
Frozen artichoke hearts (thawed)*

Sesame Oil
Fish Sauce
Rice Vinegar
Lemon Juice
Bragg Aminos (I can’t eat soy sauce, if you can, you could probably use that instead)

Chipotle Chile Powder
Chili Powder
Chinese Five Spice
Dried Basil
Ground Pepper

I cut the potatoes into small rounds and brown them in sesame oil in a big frying pan on high heat, adding chopped onion and garlic once the potatoes are cooked through and browned.

I add splashes of fish sauce, lemon juice, rice vinegar, and aminos once the onions & garlic have browned slightly and started to soften.  Then I turn it down to medium heat, add the artichoke hearts and lentils, and season with the spices in whatever amount I feel like using.  I also splash some more of the liquids and/or a little of the thawed artichoke liquid if it all starts to look too dry.  I add Sriracha at the very end, because I feel like it gets lost in all the other flavors otherwise.

It’s not the prettiest of meals, but it’s one of my favorites.  Cold leftovers for lunch the next day are even better.

* I use fresh broccoli instead of the artichokes, if I have it, separated into bite-sized sections.  I add it after the onions & garlic, and give it extra time to steam before adding the lentils.

Book Trailer Fridays – Maria Dahvana Headley & Queen of Kings

Maria Dahvana Headley‘s novel, Queen of Kings, the first book in a trilogy, hit stores yesterday, and is listed as one of USA TODAY’s 10 books not to miss in May!

Here’s a description:

Once there was a queen of Egypt…a queen who became through magic something else…

The year is 30 BC. Octavian Caesar and his massed legions are poised to enter Alexandria. A messenger informs Queen Cleopatra that her beloved Mark Antony has died by his own hand. Desperate to save her kingdom and resurrect her husband, Cleopatra turns to the gods for help. Ignoring the warnings of those around her, she summons Sekhmet, goddess of death and destruction, and strikes a mortal bargain. But not even the wisest of Egypt’s scholars could have predicted what would follow…

In exchange for Antony’s soul, Sekhmet demands something in return: Cleopatra herself. Egypt’s queen is possessed, transformed into a vampiric creature of mythical proportions, an immortal shapeshifter with superhuman strength—at once ferocious and seductive. Fighting to preserve something of her humanity, Cleopatra pursues Octavian back to Rome: she desires revenge, she yearns for her children…and she craves human blood.

Clashing against witches and monsters, gods and warriors, Cleopatra journeys from the tombs of the Pharaohs to the great amphitheaters of imperial Rome to the ancient underworld—where she will meet her love once again, and where the battle between man and beast will determine the fate of the world.

Blending history, mythology and the darkest of fantasy, Queen of Kings brings the timeless story of Cleopatra to life like never before in this stunningly original and spellbinding debut.

Here’s what people are saying about Queen of Kings:

“The dark, romantic novel Queen of Kings by Maria Dahvana Headley mixes history with vampire lore, imagining Cleopatra as a vengeful, bloodthirsty queen who travels to the underworld to save her kingdom and her king.” ~Tres Sugar-Pop Sugar’s May Must Read

“You may think you know vampires, and you may think you know Cleopatra, but in Maria Headley’s inventive and sweeping historical fantasy, Queen of Kings (Dutton, May), the rulers of ancient Egypt and Rome grapple with bloodlust, magic, and betrayal in ways you’d never expect…Readers of Guy Gavriel Kay will love the rich storytelling, laden with historical detail.” ~Publisher’s Weekly 

Just when you think the subject and the character of Cleopatra have been exhausted, Headley adds a new twist to the timeworn legend by blending history, fantasy, and epic battle scenes in this intriguing genre bender, the first volume in a projected trilogy…Can Cleopatra defeat Octavian, bring Rome to its knees, and even conquer death itself? Readers will keep turning the pages to find out. ~Booklist

And here’s the trailer:

You can follow Maria, who is also the author of The Year of Yes, on Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads.

A sappy post about my dogs teaching me a life lesson.

I tend to be really hard on myself.  It’s my default setting.  Since I was diagnosed with ADD at 18, a big part of my journey has been getting to a point where I let go of the qualities I wish I had, and work with what I bring to the table.  When I can do that, oh, life is glorious!  I can laugh at my quirks and make allowances for the things I need to do to be productive and happy.  I don’t begrudge myself the time I need to zone out, my weird filing system, or the fact that I feel better about the world when all my clothes are in color order in the closet.

But the last two weeks have been stressful.  There have been a few curveballs.  And while I’m fine and things are so much better, I know I added to my own stress.  Even while I took care of the things that needed taking care of, I had this constant inner dialogue about how tons of other people could probably take their stress in stride and still somehow manage to keep their house spotless and their paperwork filed and at any given time have a good idea of where their left shoe is.  And some people would even manage to keep a smile on their face and not break a sweat and never ever whine or have a hair out of place.  No matter what I was accomplishing, I couldn’t stop thinking that someone else would do it better.  It wasn’t a productive line of thinking, but my inner critic is a strong, stubborn SOB and it was hard to shut it down.

Yesterday afternoon, I was out in the yard.  Argo ran around with his Frisbee in his mouth, happy and carefree.

Stella doesn’t like to be outside when the neighbors’ kids are playing.  If she can hear them laughing and shrieking, she’d rather be in the house.  But she wanted to be with me and Argo, so she stood in the garage and watched from the doorway.  She flinched every time she heard the kids.  I made eye contact and told her it was okay.  She took a step outside and I cheered her on. “Oh, you are such a good girl!”

She came all the way out and wagged her tail and ran over to lick my chin.  I was so proud of her.  What Argo does easily was an act of courage for her.  He was just playing.  She overcame a fear.

I threw the Frisbee for Argo.  He’s amazing.  He almost always catches it.  He takes the most gorgeous, graceful leaps in the air when he does.

Stella never really seemed to learn how to play.  We work with her, but she doesn’t quite get toys or what she’s supposed to do with them.  Yesterday, a few times, when I threw the Frisbee for her, she ran after it, her clumsy legs flailing.  She picked it up off the ground and brought it back to me, and every time she did, I got a little teary.  Even though she never caught it, Stella playing Frisbee was gorgeous too.

I realized that I had no problem praising Stella for just stepping outside or picking up a toy, while Argo (who gets plenty of praise, and completely knows how awesome he is, don’t worry) was running circles around her effortlessly.  It would be ridiculous to hold Stella to Argo’s standards.  They’re different dogs.  They have different strengths and weaknesses, and they are both wonderful.  Stella deserved praise.  It’s easy for Argo to walk outside and play, but that doesn’t in any way diminish how hard Stella tries or how brave she has to be to overcome her fears.

I can give Stella credit for how hard she works to do the best she can with what she brings to the table, but for the past few weeks I hadn’t been able to do that for myself.  Like Stella, I’ve been trying hard.  I’ve been doing the best I can.  Celebrating Stella’s victories reminded me that it’s okay to acknowledge the things I accomplish, even if I get stressed out by stressful things or the kitchen sink is full of dirty dishes and I’m not sure where my keys are.

I know it’s sappy to say that my dogs teach me how to be a better, kinder, more patient person, but they do.  And I really needed a reminder to be nicer to my self.

Book Trailer Fridays – Rebecca Rasmussen and The Bird Sisters

Rebecca Rasmussen‘s debut novel The Bird Sisters is on my must read list.

Here’s a description:

When a bird flies into a window in Spring Green, Wisconsin, sisters Milly and Twiss get a visit. Twiss listens to the birds’ heartbeats, assessing what she can fix and what she can’t, while Milly listens to the heartaches of the people who’ve brought them. The two sisters have spent their lives nursing people and birds back to health.

But back in the summer of 1947, they knew nothing about trying to mend what had been accidentally broken. Milly was known as a great beauty with emerald eyes and Twiss was a brazen wild child who never wore a dress or did what she was told. That was the summer their golf pro father got into an accident that cost him both his swing and his charm, and their mother, the daughter of a wealthy jeweler, finally admitted their hardscrabble lives wouldn’t change. It was the summer their priest, Father Rice, announced that God didn’t exist and ran off to Mexico, and a boy named Asa finally caught Milly’s eye. And, most unforgettably, it was the summer their cousin Bett came down from a town called Deadwater and changed the course of their lives forever.

Here’s what people are saying about The Bird Sisters:

“Achingly authentic and almost completely character driven, the story of the sisters depicts the endlessly binding ties of family.” —Publisher’s Weekly

“Rasmussen’s debut novel is full of grace and humanity. Her heroines are fearless and romantic, endearing and engaging, and her poetic prose creates an almost magical, wholly satisfying world.” —Library Journal, Starred Review

“A magical debut, original and poignant, lovely and moving. The Bird Sisters evokes the richly imaginative joys of childhood and the throat-aching betrayals and loyalties of being an adult.” –Jenna Blum, Bestselling Author of Those Who Save Us and The Stormchasers

And here’s the trailer:

You can follow Rebecca on her blog, Twitter, and Facebook.  She’s touring this spring! You can see if she’s doing a reading near you on her website.

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