Monday, December 29, 2014

Briefly, Merrily...

Hope everyone had a lovely Christmas! Regularly scheduled blogging will resume next week - this week Danny is off for the holidays and I'm joining him. It's been a very busy holiday season with a flurry of food, family, and travel, so we're taking a few days to rest up before jumping back into the fray.

In the meantime, I'm pleased to announce that Contest Entrant Tracey Culley has won the 12 Films of Christmas Book Giveaway! Many thanks to everyone for participating, so delighted by the huge response.

Love and blessings!

~ Hillary

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Twelve Films of Christmas, Part I

A few weeks ago, Melissa Tagg and I decided to celebrate our love of Christmas and movies by putting together a blog event combining the two! The idea grew until it became what you're about to read - twelve authors talking about their favorite movies, split into two blogs, and giving away a total of twelve books.

This week, we'll hear from Allison Pittman, Becky Wade, Katherine Reay, Kristin Billerbeck, Kristy Cambron, and Melissa Tagg!

Remember the Night with Allison Pittman

My favorite Christmas movie is a classic—one that not a lot of people have seen. Remember the Night, 1940, stars Fred MacMurray and Barbara Stanwyck in a story that’s experienced different incarnations. Stanwyck is a petty thief, arrested on Christmas Eve, and remanded into the custody of the District Attorney until her case can be heard after the holiday. From there, we follow the two on a road trip to his idyllic hometown for a family-centered celebration. Along the way, we get a glimpse into her past, and we understand her choices. This film, though, makes the brave choice of allowing us to understand, but not forgive. Not yet. MacMurray’s character struggles with his attraction, fighting  it with every hooded look, restrained touch, every stoic turn of phrase.
Remember the Night is a film that brings both of its characters to a true moment of crisis. A choice that will challenge what they know to be true and good in the world. What sets this film apart from other Christmas offerings is the fact that you, too, will have to make the same choice. And if you’re like me, the first time you watch it, you’ll be surprised at the direction of your own heart.

In 1989, this movie suited my goofy teenage sense of humor to a T. I remember laughing all the way through it. In those days, I related to the kids in the movie, but nowadays I relate to Chevy Chase's character. I'm the one who feels the desire and pressure to provide a 'perfect' and 'memorable' Christmas for my family. I'm the one whose efforts often bomb. 

It's easy to long for a picture perfect Christmas, isn't it? In trying to achieve it, I'm sometimes tempted to exhaust myself because I want to do it all and I want it all to be wonderful. And in the busy-ness, I can miss the Christ of Christmas.

This year, I'm trying to do less and concentrate on Him more. He's the one who never disappoints. Our expectations can never, never, never measure up to the greatness of His reality. I wish you all a Christmas filled with His peace. God bless! 

I get three movies! The Santa Clause (1994), The Santa Clause 2 (2002) and The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause (2006). Okay, I love these movies. They showcase Tim Allen at his best. I love his Santa’s reluctance then sold-out enthusiasm for the job – and even the delightful mayhem that develops in the 3rd movie as he questions the cost of his unique vocation. 

As for the kids – they’re all delightful. Charlie warms your heart in the 1st movie and his little sister, Lucy, is an absolute charmer in the 2nd and 3rd. And the scenery! I want to live at this North Pole. It’s one of the best visual depictions of this magical place that we all secretly hope (know) exists. Curl up, grab some popcorn and cocoa and enjoy!

It's a tradition at my house to have the 24-hours of "A Christmas Story" running in the ba`ckground as we prepare for Christmas dinner. There are so many memorable parts of that movie that have worked their way into our household vocabulary and my dad is a huge "Jean Shepherd" fan. My dad grew up in the same time frame, and just loves to tell us how true everything in the story is and appreciates the nostalgia. It's a tale that brings my family together and isn't that what the holidays are all about? To appreciate what God has given us? The Ultimate Gift?

Meet Me in St. Louis with Kristy Cambron

I love so many Christmas movies, that it's difficult to choose a favorite. But as a huge classic movie fan, nostalgia is going to win me over every time. The top spot on my favorites list would have to be claimed by Meet me in St. Louisstarring the stunning Judy Garland. The song is iconic. The story is warm and the characters unforgettable. And for this writer gal? It will always remind me of drinking hot chocolate by the fireplace, watching this film with my family while Christmas snow blanketed the world outside our window.
I like to think I’m a pretty nice and even-keeled person, but once a friend told me he thought It’s a Wonderful Life was *gasp* “boring.” I had to work really hard to convince myself not to a) stick my tongue out at him and b) chuck our years of friendship out the window after that one snide comment. 

This should tell you how much I love — nay, adore — the movie It’s a Wonderful Life. It is nostalgic and sentimental and tear-jerking, all things a good holiday movie should be. But it’s also poignant. The moment when Jimmy Stewart finds Zuzu’s petals in his pocket and realizes his mouth’s bleeding…it’s jubilant perfection. When he runs through town yelling, “Merry Christmas, Bedford Falls…Merry Christmas, you wonderful old Building and Loan!” my heart is celebrating along with him. 

Plus, Donna Reed is from Iowa. And that’s happy.

All For a Sister ~ Meant to Be Mine ~ Lizzy & Jane
What a Girl Needs ~The Butterfly and the Violin ~ Here to Stay

Each of today's authors are contributing a book to the giveaway! And as much fun as giveaways are, you know what's also fun? Supporting authors! Each one of the books would make great reading for a Christmas getaway or an ideal Christmas gift. And for the next six, check in next week with Melissa Tagg!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Off the Shelf: Rachel McMillan & The Blue Castle

Taking a brief break from the Project Runway Coverage on the blog today! I've long wanted to start a blog series featuring authors and the books they evangelize most. I'm delighted that my friend and writerly compatriot Rachel MacMillian is kicking it off today with a little novel called The Blue Castle. 

When I was a teenager, my ultra-cool Aunt Annette gave me a copy of A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf.  Any book gift (especially an unexpected one, without occasion or holiday) was a huge treat and I felt elated but badly-- as she pulled it from the shelf and placed it in my hand--- that her collection would have its spine-sized hole in it.

She bid me not to worry. She said something to the effect of it being a book that needs to be shared and given away.  She bought copies to give away. She shared it. She appropriated its voice and took ownership of its message and sent it out into the world, speaking for herself.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Q&A Friday with Betsy St. Amant + Giveaway!

All's Fair in Love and Cupcakes Betsy St. Amant Zondervan

So excited to have Betsy St. Amant on the blog today! I knew I wanted to have her stop by when I first heard about her latest release, All's Fair in Love and Cupcakes  but was even more delighted to get to meet her at the ACFW conference this last week. Note: she wore really terrific, sparkly shoes to the gala!

Friday, September 12, 2014

Kitchen Questions: Getting Comfortable Cooking with Meats

Last week I had the pleasure of chatting with Sarah Varland, author of Treasure Point Secrets. The conversation ranged over all the things (Sarah's super easy to talk to) before it turned to the kitchen. Sarah mentioned that she struggled with preparing meats. Either she worried that they were underdone, or cooked them until they'd turned to leather. 

I totally understood because as much as I enjoy eating meat, I reeeeeaaaaaally don't like preparing it.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Kindle vs. Overdrive vs. Oyster - an E-reader Roundup

Shiloh the Cavalier King Charles with Book, by Hillary Manton Lodge
He's an accomplished reader, Shiloh.

I don't know that I've mentioned this on the blog or not, but I'm a complete e-book convert, and have been ever since we left Eugene.

When we moved, packed the books I couldn't live without and hauled them with me to Portland, to Memphis, to the corporate apartment in Richland. I got to reunite with my full library once we moved into the Richland house, but by then we'd been moving and traveling for nearly a full year.

By then, the full practicality of the ebook had set in. I loved having a library on my phone, a book that lit itself, a volume I couldn't lose my place in.

Once we settled in Richland, I got a library card and tried my hand at library downloads. I swapped between the library and Kindle books, sometimes buying books I'd gotten through the library loan because I'd highlighted so many things (Anna Quindlen's Still Life in Breadcrumbs). Between the lack of late fees and the end of hunting down stray library volumes, library ebooks found their place in rotation.

But I still bumped up against the limits of the two - sometimes libraries wouldn't have anything I was interested in, but didn't want to spend the money for a Kindle book as fast as I could read.

Enter Oyster.

And technically, enter Kindle Unlimited. Priced the same, same concept - a library of books to choose from with a single monthly fee. No wait times, no check outs, no expiration dates.

Since the price for both is roughly the same as the average Kindle book, I figured if I got two solid reads out of it per month, a book subscription service would make sense. So I checked out the offerings.

While things may improve, the Kindle Unlimited selection is thin. I looked up authors I enjoyed, and they were either missing or only containing volumes I'd already purchased.

Oyster on the other hand had a wider range of books I'd recognized and meant to read over the years - but hadn't. So - now that I'm using three fairly different reading apparatuses, here are my thoughts - 


Kindle App Screen
Simple to navigate, thoughtful design, and lots of features. You can organize your books into collections, search within books, bookmark, highlight, and look up unfamiliar words.

It's simple to move books in and out of your carousel, though getting a book permanently off requires some work on Amazon.

Really, it's the slickest of the three, and it makes sense why - you're paying for the content. Sure, you can stick to the free and discounted books, but otherwise it can add up quickly.

But if you're dying to read Rainbow Rowell's latest? Kindle is there for you.


Overdrive App Screen
There's a lot to like about library ebooks. First, it's free. Secondly, the catalog changes, and thirdly, you'll also find audiobooks.

So that's fun. It also includes many of the same features as Kindle, such as the ability to highlight text and change the page layout. And while most libraries put limits on the amount of books checked out, you do have the option of returning books early to make room for more.

The downside is that sometimes the library selection can be spotty, or you'll find yourself waiting an age for something that's new and popular.

Also, the app itself is occasionally buggy. Sometimes it'll forget which book you're reading, or start over in the same spot repeatedly, never mind where you actually left off.

But - it's free. So as long as you take the time to look through the catalog and get yourself on the right waiting lists, you'll have a long (but not too long) list of books to choose from.


Oyster App Screen
Don't get me wrong, there are major changes that need to happen. First, the search is clunky. If you're using "Paris" as a search term, there's no way to differentiate between title, author, or subject. 

Also, if you're searching through books for a while, there's no good way to get back to the original screen other than to page back several times.

Books you've been reading are kept in a separate list from the books to your Booklist pile, but there's no way to remove a book. So if you start it and hate it, you still have to look at the cover until it gets bumped far enough down the timeline.

In their promotions, Oyster talks a lot about its aesthetic appeal. And it's true - the navigation pages as well as the reader itself are all very nice to look at - colorful and crisp. But navigating within the book is clunky - you can skip from chapter to chapter, but you can't search for text within the book, or for a specific location or page number.

All of those issues aside, I'm still using it. The catalogue is varied with a nice selection of popular and literary fiction, as well as a number of non-fiction volumes. I admit I haven't explored them much, but I have been impressed with the number of cookbooks I've seen.

I reasoned that it was worth the subscription if I read two solid books a month, and so far I'm averaging three or four.

Overall? I'm using Oyster a lot, and enjoyed using it to read The Hundred-Foot Journey (QUITE different from the film, but certainly worth the read). The library is nice but takes more work, although I'm on the wait list for Gone Girl. And I'm mainly using Kindle to read previously purchased titles, but as soon as the new Susanna Kearsley comes out, you can be sure I'll be glued to it for a few days!

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel sleeping book
Shiloh, at rest. On my book.

What about you? What's your favorite method of reading? Do you prefer paper or electronic versions?

Monday, August 18, 2014

Birthday Giveaway!

Because it's my birthday, because I got to go see the awesome Tuileries Garden Exhibit at the Portland Art Museum on Saturday, because Saint Cupcake is again open for business, and because I want you to have nice things, there's a giveaway on the blog today!

The Prize: One signed copy of A Table by the Window, and one super adorable booklet of Paris-themed post-it notes.

 Note: cupcake for staging purposes only. Very soon, it shall no longer be with us.

Just kidding. It's all gone.

To enter: Please leave your name and a fascimile of your email in your comment, as well as your favorite thing to eat on your birthday. Winner will be chosen at random.

Best of luck! Off to celebrate with Danny.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Shiloh Friday

Because it's Friday, because I got a couple particularly hilarious shots of Shiloh this week, and because I wrote this guest blog involving Strawberry Basil Hand Pies (so, so, so good), today is "Let's look at cute puppy pictures" day.

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Shiloh

This. I love everything about this. The expression, the tuft of hair on top of his head - kills me, every time.

Belly Rubs Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

This is Shiloh upon his return to the house (he stayed with my parents while we were out). He made a couple happy loops around the living room before flopping onto his back for a belly rub.

sleeping Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

You'll have to imagine the snoring that accompanied this one.

Tri-Color Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

He doesn't actually sleep all of the time.

sleeping Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

Though I know that's hard to believe.

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel tongue

Shiloh and his tongue, his favorite method of greeting. 

Cavalier King Charles Ears

Shiloh of the flowing ears...

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

 See? Not sleeping...yet.

Have a great weekend! Let me know if you decide to give the hand pies a try!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Happy Anniversary, Us - Part VII

Leaving the wedding, 7/7/07
Seven years and seven days ago, I married my best friend.

Every previous year for our anniversary, I've written my annual essay about love and marriage. This year, however, we mixed it up - Danny and I took a vacation.

It's been an eventful year, to say the least. And after that year, it became very clear that we needed a break. Danny was tired, and I'd reached a level of anxious twitchiness that wasn't doing anybody any good.

So we booked a B&B, made ferry reservations, and planned our vacation to Victoria, B.C. This was a big deal - we haven't taken a real vacation, one that lasted for longer than two days, with a location not chosen by work, for four years.

It was time.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Q&A Tuesday with Becky Wade + Giveaway!

Becky Wade Author
Delighted to have Becky Wade on the blog today! I've enjoyed getting to know Becky over the last couple months, partly because of her books, and partly because, well  you'll figure it out when you get there. And stay tuned for the giveaway below!

 Hillary Lodge: Thanks for joining in on the blog today, Becky! Share with us about your most recent release, Meant to be Mine.

Becky Wade: Meant to Be Mine is a secret baby story. Yay! I've been wanting to write one for a long time.

Ty and Celia marry in a Las Vegas wedding chapel after a whirlwind romance. He
realizes the next morning that he's made a mistake. They part ways. The story picks up more than five years later, when Ty tracks Celia down in search of a divorce. He discovers that he  they  have a child he knew nothing about.

Like all my books, Meant to Be Mine is a wry, modern (hopefully heartwarming) love story with a faith story woven through.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Adventures with Cherries!

I picked up a pound of gorgeous Rainier cherries not very long ago at the grocery store, but I didn't know what I wanted to do with them.

Bruschetta Mascarpone Tartine Recipe Cherry Thyme Goumet Foodie

I considered making a tart, or baking them into a buckle, but frankly these sounded more labor-intensive than I was willing to go for as yet.

So the cherries remained. I pitted them, photographed them, and set them back in my fridge.

As I was browsing Pinterest I saw a Cherry & Ricotta Crostini pin which sparked my interest. I mean - it's fruit and toast with spreadable cheese, what could go wrong?

Thursday, June 19, 2014

A little light housekeeping... what I'm doing now that I've finished Reservations for Two. In fact, after the massive amount of relief of having it off my plate for a short time, the next reality set in really fast: I had a lot of other things to catch up on.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Wildflowers in the Desert: Honoring the Empty Womb

The Mother’s Day anxiety first hits in early March, when it dawns on me that spring is coming.

At first I’m excited for the longer days, the signs of life. I crave the color and sunlight. But then my mind considers the calendar and I remember that Mother’s Day waits in May. Suddenly, my chest tightens and my brain begins to flail, trying to stave off the spiral of depression and hopelessness.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Kitchen Confessional

How's your kitchen? Mine's a mess.

And not just because I haven't wiped the counters down lately (we'll play along with the illusion that all that's messy is some crumbs). We've been in the townhouse for six months now, which - yay for not moving for six months, that's cool - but it's also long enough to figure out what elements of my slap-dash organization are not working.

Like...most of it.

Redoing the whole thing top to bottom the way I want because of the whole finishing-a-book-about-someone-with-a-more-organized-kitchen thing.

Here are the things I know I need to do:

1. Make sure everything earns its place.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Fun on a Thursday - Which Character from A Table by the Window are You?

Because it's Thursday, because they're fun - here's a new quiz to go with A Table by the Window! Which character from the book are you?

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Around the Web and Back Again

Sorry the blog's been a bit quiet lately - I'm writing, just everywhere else.

I'm working on wrapping up book two in the series, Reservations for Two, which is still finding ways to surprise me. I've also gotten to stop by a few blogs, and when I haven't, A Table by the Window has.

I got to stop by Suzanne Woods Fisher's blog column Dreams Comes True, where I get to chat about the origins of the project and realities of a writer's life.

Serena Chase featured A Table by the Window in her Happily Ever After blog on 

I stopped by Novel Crossing to chat about how I got my start as a foodie.

Laurie Tomlinson and I got to chat on Inspy Romance about what's coming up in book two and what I would make if I had a chef coming over for dinner.

The Recipe Club featured the Moroccan Oranges recipe. 

A Table by the Window Recipes Hillary Manton Lodge Moroccan Oranges

Lastly, at A Girl Who is a Geek you'll find a list (which coincidentally includes, yes, A Table by the Window) of foodie fiction from a delightful mix of authors. 

Bavarian Sugar Cookie Recipe Stranger Than Fiction Hillary Manton Lodge

Also, don't forget to check out the recipe for Bavarian Sugar Cookies, as well as the Pinterest board for A Table by the Window. And if you go browsing on my boards, you'll find one for Reservations for Two as well, which may include a few hints (and potentially a few red herrings, since sometimes things change). 

Until later! 

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Fun on a Thursday! What kind of Foodie are You?

Because it's Thursday, because they're fun - here's a foodie quiz to go with A Table by the Window!

What results did you get? Share on Facebook or Twitter, or sound off in the comments below!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

A Table By the Window - The Playlist

I listened to a lot of great music while I was working A Table by the Window, and now that A Table by the Window (hereafter referred to as simply "Table" because life is short and my title is not) is out, I wanted to share a soundtrack to go with it.

So here it is - some tracks evoke Juliette's French and Italian heritage, while others celebrate the eclectic indie music tastes found in Portland. There are a few more tracks below the widget cut-off, so be sure to click through to find the entire list.


As you read the book, what songs did you feel belonged in the background? Share in the comments below! Still looking to purchase a copy? Click here.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Bavarian Sugar Cookies for Pub Day!

It's pub day! I can't believe it's here! A Table by the Window is officially on sale. I was up late (more on that later) and refreshed my web browser until the "pre-order" button became a much lovelier "order now" button.

It's finally available from retailers nationwide, including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, CBD, Lifeway, and Powell's Books.

I'm so excited that it's received such lovely reviews from Publishers Weekly and RT Book Reviews, as well as endorsements from Joanne Bischoff, Suzanne Woods Fisher, Katie Ganshert, Leslie Gould, Meg Moseley, and Carla Stewart, who each took the time to read during the hectic holiday season.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Lessons from Television: Olivia Pope vs. Veronica Mars

Last month I decided that, with the new Veronica Mars film coming out, the time had come to re-watch all three seasons of the original show.

Tough work. I suffer for art, y'all.

The more I re-familiarized myself with the show, which is a treasure trove of clever writing and surprising guest stars (Jessica Chastain, Melissa Leo), the more I saw similarities between Veronica Mars and Scandal, specifically the two main characters.

Scandal has its own strengths. The characterizations can be sharp, the writing crisp, the plot fearless. 

Both women are fixers. When people find themselves in the midst of tragedy and scandal, Veronica and Olivia can find a clever way out. They both use unorthodox means of questionable legality. They have friends and associates who are fiercely loyal, while their love lives are a mess.

Both shows struggled during the third season. In Veronica Mars, the tertiary characters wobbled and behaved erratically (never mind the frequent, giant plot-holes, such as Vinnie Van Lowe somehow being an eligible candidate for Sheriff, despite never having been a policeman), and yet Veronica remained strong.

We knew what she wanted, who she cared about, how she was damaged, and in Season 3 we learn how this negatively affected her life and relationships. In shows where you have to suspend a healthy amount of disbelief to buy into a teen-aged detective, the realism helped to ground the character.

Until now, watching Scandal has been like watching a top that's been spinning crazily and yet remained upright - somehow, despite the soapy twists and turns it managed to maintain its balance.

And then Season 3. The top is pinging and bouncing, and while it hasn't crashed yet, there's the feeling that it's inevitable.

For starters, there are a lot of tertiary characters that the writers want us to emotionally engage with. And that can be fine. But if you're going to build out a team of strong characters, you have to make sure that your central character is still the most compelling.

The telling moment for me was in the most recent episode, when Olivia yells at Fitz that she has her own hopes and dreams.

I sat there and thought, "Really? Hopes and dreams? Do share, because this is the first we're hearing about it."

And three seasons in, that's an issue. We should know what motivates her, and we're pretty sure that the Truth, Justice, and the American Way ship has sailed, because Olivia Pope is nobody's girl scout.

Much of her character in the first two seasons centered around her past and present affairs with the president. And yet, for the woman that we're told she is, there should be thoughts and motivations beyond her (admittedly concerning) personal life.

Contrast this with Veronica Mars. We knew her long-term goals, to finish college and make a career of investigation. For a 16-18 year-old, it works. In the shorter term, she wants to solve her best friend's murder, the double-mystery of her drugging and subsequent rape, and find her mother.

All of these are emotionally loaded, and we care deeply about each outcome. We watch her be alternately stoic and overwhelmed as she sifts through each issue. 

But all we know about Olivia Pope right now is that she wants Fitz to be reelected, and she likes the idea of living a "normal life" with Fitz in a "cabin" in Vermont. 

Yet when it comes to Fitz, we don't have any compelling reasons why he should be president (he admits that his greatest talent does not lie in foreign policy, cough), or why the two of them should be together. I get that Olivia is supposed to be mysterious and enigmatic. But after three seasons - we need to know stuff. It's important. We have to be able to get behind her goals, want to root for her success. 

And if not? That is a major, major structural issue. 

Shonda Rhimes is great at launching shows that are compulsively watchable, but the sustainability is an issue. Sure, Grey's Anatomy has been on for nearly ten years, but it began to jump back and forth over the shark in season 4; I don't know what's been going on and I'm okay with that. I'll watch previews in passing and simply be pleased if certain characters have managed to stay alive (when the death rate rivals Vampire Diaires, that's saying something). 

I'm excited to see how the transition from TV to film goes for Veronica Mars. And who knows - Scandal may be able to course correct. 

But until then, it's a strong lesson in character building. Even with established characters, sometimes it's important to step back and refocus on your character's goals and motivations.

Short term and long term, they inform the character's actions and keep your protagonist from becoming passive or unknowable.

Which strong characters have stuck with you? How do you think the serial-nature to television writing affects characterizations? Share your thoughts below!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Remembering Memphis

Sometimes it feels funny to experience Martin Luther King Jr. Day in Portland, OR. Political correctness is...assumed, and expected. That's not to say racism doesn't happen, but it's different, and often more subtle.

Not so in Memphis. You can't get through the morning commute without noticing the stark racial and socio-economic divide. When I drove Danny to work in the morning, we'd be driving from the east side of the city to the center along with other Caucasian commuters, usually driving newer American cars or German imports.

On my way back to our hotel, though, I drove back with the African American service employees headed to work on the east side. The cars were either much older, much flashier, or both. Sometimes the tires were worn so deeply that the metal core sparked on the asphalt, and yet I've never seen so many Mustangs and Corvettes as I did on Memphis roads.

I'll never forget what it was like to be driving somewhere new, and to transition from a clean, photogenic neighborhood into a poorer, less safe one - with only a street or two in between. Antebellum-style houses would give way to loan shops, alcohol stores, run-down restaurants, and most tragically, funeral homes. So many funeral homes. All of these would have bars on the windows.

Danny and I once picked up Thai food for takeout, from a restaurant we later realized was near the Hickory Hill area. We counted the number of cop cars we saw until we returned to the hotel; there were seven.

Some time on the internet will tell you more about the racial/socio-economic divides that plague the city. Violent crime rates in the poorer neighborhoods are some of the highest in the nation. Public schools are predominately populated with African-American students; most of the middle-class Caucasian families send their children to private schools or home-school.

Memphis is, of course, home to the Lorraine Hotel, where Dr. King was assassinated. That site is now the home of the National Civil Rights Museum. Having spent time in that city, I can only hope and pray that one day it will be a place where grace and generosity will abound. As it was two years ago, I found it a city that could alternately the friendliest and the most frightening place I'd ever been.

As a Caucasian woman in the Pacific Northwest, I feel profoundly under-qualified to offer any sort of commentary on race relations. But I've traveled enough that in remembering Martin Luther King Jr., I can't shake the profound sense that we still have so very, very far to go. 

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Writer's Corner: Compelling Characters

It's been a while since I've had a Writer's Corner post. kinda too bad, because I had some cool insights about characters a few months ago. Be sure to tell me what you think in the comments.

So, the last writerly post was about active versus reactive characters. As I was thinking about active characters and their common threads, I landed on a thought - the very best active characters have a superpower.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Why Cookbooks Matter in a Pinterest World

Funny story - I received a bunch of gift cards for Christmas, for both Amazon and Powell's Books.

For a while I've been circling various craft books, whether it's paper craft, needle felting, what have you. But the thing is, new hobbies take time.

And - I've got books to write. Food books, not needle-felting books. So after hemming and hawing over using the gift cards to get started on something new, I decided to take what is, likely, the wiser path.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Simple Holidays from Thanksgiving to New Year's - an Update

The holidays - they're over!

Did you survive? I hope you did. We did, though there were a few skin-of-our-teeth moments.

I wrote in the previous post about how we were simplifying the holidays, and I wanted to write up a recap of what that looked like and how it went.

For Thanksgiving, we had nine loved ones over for Soupsgiving 2013. Now, if you've followed this blog for any length of time, you know that I have a deep and abiding love for soup. What you likely don't know is that I have an equally abiding hatred for roast turkey. So for me, the Soupsgiving was a win on several levels.