Friday, August 27, 2010

Project Runway, or, Where's Donald Trump When You Need Him?

Did anybody watch Project Runway last night? Weird episode! I kept wondering if I was watching an (early) episode of The Apprentice. Team challenge, big personalities, bigger egos, and a team leader who needs a lot of therapy.

Oh, Gretchen. She's a good designer, won the first two challenges, but she's also a subtle bully. Her "help" during the party store challenge killed Sarah's design and ousted her from the show.

Last night, the challenge involved the designers being broken up into two teams, each charged with the task of coming up with a 6-piece collection.

Team "Luxe" contained several challenge winners, and they knew it. They (meaning Gretchen) came up with the convoluted plan of having everyone make several pieces. Every look they put together was the result of two or three people's efforts. They were so pleased with themselves, their teamwork, their love, their slightly pinko-plan, and their own talent. A lot of hand-holding and back-patting. Not a lot of critical thinking.

Team "Military and Lace" contained several people who had been in the bottom two. Their plan of attack was to assign each person to a look. They bickered a lot in the process, there was a lot of manic running around, but they also worked hard. And because each person had a specific look to be responsible for, everyone owned his/her work because they had control over their own vision, within certain perimeters.

Casanova had a meltdown when Tim didn't love his blouse. Now, I love Tim, but there are times when his advice needs to be taken with a grain of salt. On its own, the black lace blouse could look dated. But styled with white military-style pants and modern hair, it was very chic.

Long story short - Gretchen bullied her team (which was not, technically, to have a team leader) into doing a collection with her design aesthetic. Except, it came out baggy. Oversized. Oddly zippered. Cheap looking.

It was bad. It was really bad.

Team Military and Lace, though, gave Casanova and Peach (I love Peach!) a chance to really shine. Casanova was declared the ultimate winner, having redeemed himself from the dresses termed "pole-dancer in Dubai" and "transvestite flamenco dancer going to a funeral" by Michael Kors (Oh, my goodness. Does he work on these ahead of time, ready to pull out when appropriate, a la Mr. Collins? Really? And how is he not British? Aren't the difficult to please judges all supposed to be British?)

And then the weirdness started. Gretchen gave a speech in the back room (very long speech) about how they were going to stand together and be united and not point fingers link arms and sing "Kum-bay-yah" and "We Shall Overcome." They tried this, and Gretchen gave another speech to the judges with painful, awkward earnestness. Scant seconds later, the tune changed to "Michael done us wrong," which was problematic because Michael had immunity.

A word about Michael: He don't get no respect. He won last week by starting over at the last minute and creating a lovely dress. The rest of the cast sniped behind his back, though, about how he wasn't a visionary and the dress wasn't all that. And maybe he doesn't have the best technical skills, but he really impressed the judges, and on a judged competition, that's kind of all that matters.

Anyway. The finger-pointing started, and Gretchen gave it a good kick-off. Back and forth and back and was painful. I wanted Trump to come in with his pink firing tie and make the whole thing stop.

In the end, Gretchen and AJ were in the bottom two. AJ left, and it was a good call. But before Tim gave AJ his send off in the back, he (Tim) gave Gretchen what-for. I've never seen him do it before, but he called her to the carpet for bullying her teammates, and scolded the rest of them for letting themselves be bullied.

Curious to see what happens next week, and the episode trailer didn't illuminate anything at all, other than the fact that the challenge would be difficult, the designers wouldn't be happy about it, there would be a surprise twist they'd be even less happy about it, followed by a dressing-down by the judges.

So, pretty much, business as usual.

Did you see the episode? What did you think?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Simply Sara and Magic Red Pepper Sauce

Not sure where to start.

I'll start with the book. Simply Sara arrived via FedEx this morning. She's lovely. And Shiny.

There are some things you should know about this book.

1.) Simply Sara is a slimmer volume than Plain Jayne. Don't think that you're getting less book, though. Sara is actually about 5,000 words longer. She's just formatted for print in such a way that she uses less paper.

2.) Ergo, Sara is quite eco-friendly. Which will make Sonnet's parents happy. You'll find out why when you read the book.

3.) Do me a favor. Please. Pretty please. Do not flip to the back to read the ending. Please. Don't do it. You know who you are. I've done this myself - things get dicey and you want to know that the author is going to land this plane on the tarmac, not the middle of the Indian ocean.

You have to trust me. The plane lands. It's a surprise. It's a good surprise. This is not Hamlet. There are no bodies being dragged off the stage. I'm just as invested in the happiness of my characters as you are. Probably more. One night Danny came home to find me having an absolute meltdown because of what Sara (who technically is not a real person) was going through.

But you know what? A week later in the writing game, things turned around. Sara winds up very happy, and she does so in a manner that completely surprised me. I wish that same surprise for you. So keep your fingers from flipping back there. Nothing good can come of it. And the witty acknowledgements are in the front, so you really have no excuse.

4. You can download the first chapter here.

5. You can view the super cute book trailer here.

6. You can also mark your calender for the first official book signing at Barnes & Noble in Eugene, which is October 3rd at 4pm.

Moving on.

I'm now working on a book about Jayne and Sara's dear friend, Gemma. Ah, Gemma, who cooks like an angel and accessorizes in a way that Michael Kors would approve of. Gemma who has a job many would dream of. Gemma who cannot, it seems, get a decent date.

There's more to the story than that, and my agent and I are shaping and discoursing over it, but I think it's going to be amazing.

And not just because, well, it's Gemma, and we get to hang out in the kitchen with her. Though that is one very good reason.

In the chapter I'm working on, she makes herself dinner. I want to sit at her feet in the kitchen, sneaking bites whenever she gets distracted. The first item I included was a red pepper sauce.

The sauce is inspired by the Pioneer Woman's Red Pepper sauce. Now, I love her, and I loved the sauce, but I had a hunch it could go places. Yummy places.

So I experimented,

You want this sauce. Trust me.

What you need:

Pasta of choice (I like campanelle and farfalle at the moment)
4 large red peppers
1/2 an onion
2-3 cloves of garlic
Creme Fraiche
Heavy Cream
Red pepper flakes
Some sugar
Some salt
Some milk
Grated Parmesan cheese (Pecorino Romano works too)

Note: This recipe is not particularly...precise. But we're not baking here. It's okay to make things the way you want them in a sauce like this.

1. Roast the peppers. This can take a bit, so bring a book, or your phone, or your child, or something. I stick mine on a baking sheet covered with foil and place them under the broiler, top rack of my oven. Once the tops get nice and blackened, pull out the sheet and turn them. Keep doing this until they're completely black and blistered. Stick them (using tongs), into a plastic ziplock bag and let them sweat for a while.

2. While they're sweating, chop the onion and garlic. Saute them in a medium saucepan in some olive oil, over medium-ish heat. Throw in some red pepper flakes. I just shook it a couple times - if you like things spicier, go for it. You're eating it. Cook until the onions are golden but not dry. Remove from heat.

3. Pull out your blender. Hopefully, your peppers are cool enough to handle by now. If not, you can work on the first one while you stick the others in the fridge to take the edge off. Remove the blackened skin and inside seeds, but don't worry about having little tiny bits of burn in there. It's okay. Stick your finished peppers in your blender. Add the onion mixture and puree.

4. When the pepper and onion mixture is quite smooth, transfer it back to the sauce pan. Add a couple dollops of creme fraiche (so good!). Oh, and if your blender is like mine and it's hard to get every last bit out, pour in a bit of milk. Like, 1/4 cup or so. Swish it around, pour it into your pot. Add some heavy cream. Stir. Reheat it.

5. Taste it. At this point, I added some salt and about 1/2 tsp or so of sugar to bring out the sweetness of the peppers. Maybe even a whole teaspoon. Not a lot, but enough.

6. Let it sit on the burner on low while you cook the pasta. Serve with grated cheese and snipped arugula over the top. You could also put some extra creme fraiche on the top, if you were feeling a bit underweight.

7. Now, if you're eating this with a man, I totally recommend a pork & portobello mushroom sausage that's at Costco. I'm sorry, I can't tell you want kind it is, specifically. There's also provolone in it too, I think. It's good. You can fry it up (don't need oil, it has plenty of its own fat) while the pasta is cooking, cut into half-rounds. Give it a good rinse when it's done, though. It's not low-fat, but rinsing it will take the edge off. Once you've drained and rinsed the pasta, throw in the sausage and pour the sauce over it.

Seriously. It's magical, and very very flavorful.

Getting sleepy. If you make the pasta, let me know, k?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

It's my Birff-day

...Though I have a hard time believing it. Really. There's been so much crazy going on, on so many different levels. I haven't blogged much lately. Haven't used Twitter, either, but if you've been following the "news," you'll know that Twitter kills.


I got up this morning and checked my facebook page.

And realized that over the last year, my life has changed.

I discovered Greek yogurt. I got hooked on green tea. I found the perfect mascara. I learned to drive a car with cruise control. I got back on the sewing wagon. I figured out how to sift powdered sugar. I rediscovered the color yellow. I cut my hair short, as short (if not shorter) than it was in college. I watched my husband graduate with a masters degree. I made my first roux. I sang along with Glee.

I published a book. I can't tell you how many years I blew out my candles, wishing for a contract, wishing to publish a novel.

Plain Jayne came out in January. Sara will be out shortly. Over the last year, I've experienced my first release, first review in Publishers Weekly, first booksignings, first radio interview...

Because of the book, I've gotten to meet wonderful readers online, women who I'd never be able to connect with otherwise. It's crazy. It's humbling.

And I have no idea what next year will bring. But if there's something better than Greek yogurt out there, I'm ready.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Passing Through

I need a better blogging system. By that, I mean that having a blogging system at all wouldn't be the worst idea. Life is unstructured right now; I'm between projects. Rather than spend long days trying desperately to get 1,200 words out, I'm working on everything else I put off until I hit one of the many deadlines that lead up to a print date.

So here's everything that's been going on in the Lodge camp:

1. Our grandpas passed away this last week. Two of them, opposite sides of the country, within 24 hours of each other. One was expected. We had no idea about the other until we got the call. Danny and I each have our own roller-coaster moments, but we're hanging in there. Can I just say that if you want to rack up treasure in heaven, grocery shop for those who have experienced loss. A precious friend brought us dinner (and then some!). It's amazing how something so simple can be so profound.

2. In other news, the Oregon Christian Writers' Conference went down beautifully. A herd of writers came out. It was fantastic. My classes went well, meetings with conferees over manuscripts went well, copies of Plain Jayne graduated from the back of my car to the loving homes of several readers. I am a bit exhausted, though. While I do a pretty good impersonation of an extrovert when necessary, it's nice to be home in the quiet.

3. I started work on the next book! It's about Gemma (friend to Jayne and Sara, feeder of many), and I have to say, It's going to be delicious. If you have any amazing recipes to pass on, let me know (and by amazing, I mean "something you'd feed to a food critic" good. Gemma doesn't mess around. Unless it's Oreos. She has a secret weakness for them...)

4. I'm officially all registered to attend the ACFW conference in September. This will be my first ACFW conference, as well as my first venture into the state of Indiana.

5. I bought yarn last night. Haven't knitted anything in about a year (I know; the mind reels). I have a bunch of Louisa Harding's Ca'D'Oro but it's not particularly seasonal - I just can't work with wool in the heat of the summer. So I bought a sweater's worth of this last night - it's the grey color shown at the top (though I really liked the Apple Blossom, I thought the grey would be be more multi-seasonal).

Sorry. This isn't my funniest or most insightful blog. Not for lack of material - I probably ought to write a whole blog about my new smart phone (in particular my intelligence-challenged so-called "genius button"), but I'm not there yet. Hopefully soon, though. It's an unusual season to be passing through; the trick is to remember we're just passing through.