Friday, January 29

Good News Friday: Girls' Life Interview!

Just wanted to share my recent interview in Girls' Life Magazine!

A quick excerpt:

Samanthan Davis: I LOVE reading, but when it comes to writing, I don’t even know where to start! So, what should I write about?!

Melissa Walker: Write about your life, what you love, what bugs you, what inspires you—anything that comes to mind! Even just narrating your day will help you find a voice that fits. And don’t be critical of your own writing. Just let it flow—every word you put down is practice.

If you’re more into fiction, pick up a book of writing prompts (author Aimee Bender puts up a quirky prompt every month on her site This month’s is: “One page that contains a broken gadget of some sort and a dancer.” Go!

It was really fun to do this interview! (You can read the full version too.) Thanks for letting me celebrate here.

Thursday, January 28

Food & Fear

It's Food Week at TFC and I thought I'd try a new spin on it: Fear.

Some people think the #1 fear is death, but it's not. It's public speaking. So all you writers and other folks who get up to talk in front of groups of people - yea, you! - you're doing something many other people fear even more than dying. And what's the #3 fear? You may well ask. Why, it's spiders of course. And that #3 bugs me far more than the top two. Oh, I've come to peace with the littler specimens of eight-legged creatures. But the big ones? The hairy ones? Sure, I could probably see a therapist about it. But I figure having one raging fear humanizes me, so I'll hold onto it, thank you very much.

Now you're probably wondering how my arachnid antipathy relates to food. Well, I've eaten a few strange things in my life - peacock, snake - things that other people always say taste like chicken, and they do. But I cannot imagine that a hairy spider tastes anything like chicken, and I cannot imagine eating anything grosser than...

Rats. When I uploaded the image, instead of it going here, like I wanted it to, it ended up at the top of the page. (My #2 fear is modern technology - I stink at it.) Still...

Ack! Gross! Rob Blagojevich's wife ate a tarantula...for a TV show! Think of the crunch. Think of all that hair.

OK, maybe to save the life of another human being I might eat one. But for any other reason? No. Really. No.

So that's my TFC question to all of you today:


Enjoy your lunch. And have a nice day.

Tuesday, January 26

Healthy Snacking

It's food week here on TFC. Perfect timing because food has been on my mind big time for the past week. I consider myself a pretty healthy person. I exercise regularly. I kicked that nasty smoking habit several years ago. I don't drink much. And I'm vegan. People often assume that being vegan automatically means you're a health nut... in fact you are probably starved. Not the case. There are still just as many unhealthy things out there for vegans to eat. And I'd been eating more and more of those lately. Oh and it didn't help that I decided I would cheat and eat dairy again while I was on my honeymoon. (Veganism is an ethical choice for me, so I feel guilty for the cows when I violate it, but you have to break your own rules from time to time.) I do that on occasion. Usually only for one day though--on my birthday. The result, I came home from my honeymoon three pounds heavier. It was time to get healthy again!

I'm also a big snacker--or grazer as my mom calls it. All the family gatherings there are trays of veggies and chips and salsa and potato chips and dip and especially lots of olives and chocolates around for grazing. Grazing/snacking is definitely a healthy way to eat. I've read in numerous places that its better for you to eat several small meals instead of big ones. But my downfall is that I snack when I'm not even hungry. I just have this need to chew. And if I bring a bag of chips up to my desk while I'm working... they just all disappear. Oh and working late night at a bar with access to both a popcorn maker and a fryer and frozen french fries... not good.

So I've been trying to reform my habits this past week. Since I'm all about writing things down and making lists, I've decided to try keeping a food journal. And it's definitely been keeping me in check. In the late afternoon when I'm tempted to grab cookies and tortilla chips, I actually stop to think about what I'm doing and I go that's not actually going to give me the energy I need, so I grab a yogurt and some pistachios instead.

The pistachios were on sale recently. I'd forgotten how much I love them. Carrot sticks are just as good to dip in hummus as chips are. And clementine oranges? Almost as satisfying as cookies. Okay not really, but the thing I really love about the cookies is the chocolate. I'm a chocolate fanatic. Fortunately Trader Joe's sells a bunch of dark chocolate and it's vegan. One or two pieces of that and an orange satisfies the sweet tooth. Another healthy snack for my sweet tooth (because my sweet tooth is my big weakness... well and the salt... love salt too) that I'd forgotten about is apple slices and peanut butter.

Oh and I have a new morning snack. It's something I was always afraid to try but then I was sent a big box of citrus fruits for the holidays.. Grapefruit! I thought it was a weird old lady food and that it would be bitter and horrible. But once I had it, I was geared up for the challenge and wanted to try it. The best thing about working at a bar is one of my customers always seems to have an answer for my conundrums. I've got the guy I can ask about computers, the one I can ask about anything home repair or construction related, and I've got some foodies. They explained the proper way to cut a grapefruit to me and filled me in on a little secret: you can sprinkle salt on grapefruit to reduce the bitterness and bring out it's natural flavor. Well, I love salt so I was happy to try that. And I'm now officially a grapefruit addict.

As for that pesky need to chew on things when I'm not even hungry--sugar-free gum. So far it seems to be working!

I'm already feeling better now that I'm doing this healthy snacking. What about you? What are some of your favorite healthy snacks cause I'm definitely looking for more. They say it takes 21 days to break an unhealthy habit, so I need some variety to keep me going!

Sunday, January 24

The Soup

One of my favorite parts of snowy winter months is sitting down to a hot bowl of homemade soup. I usually make a large portion so we have plenty to share with friends, eat as leftovers, and sometimes freeze for future meals.

I made a huge double-recipe of minestrone last week, one of my favorites because a) it's easy, b) it's healthy, c) I can get creative with it if I feel the urge, d) it can be "dressed up" with salad and hot bread, and e) it's even better left over.

I use a recipe called "Best Ever Minestrone Soup" as a guide. It's in my JLO Art of Cooking cookbook (put out by the Junior League of Ogden and jam-packed with delectable recipes and delightful art). Then, I add or omit ingredients to make it a tad easier and healthier. I also double the recipe so we have LOTS. So, without further ado, here's

Wendy's Best Ever Minestrone Soup

2 cups ground turkey, cooked and drained
1 (28 oz) can tomatoes, pureed (Italian seasoned if available)
4 cups water
1/4 of a 10-oz bag of matchsticks carrots (from your produce dept.)
1/4 of a 14-oz bag of Dole Classic Coleslaw mix (from produce dept. by bagged salads)
1 small zucchini, diced
2 (8-oz) cans tomato sauce (Italian seasoned if available)
2 cups beef broth
1 T. dried parsley leaves
1/2 t. pepper
Italian seasoning to taste (depending on if the tomatoes you are using are seasoned or not. If not, suggestion is 1/2 t. basil leaves and 1 t. dried oregano leaves)
1/2 t. garlic salt or equivalent fresh garlic
1 (15-oz) can garbanzo beans, drained
1 (16-oz) can green beans, drained
1 (15-oz) can kidney beans, drained
1 1/2 cups baby shells pasta, cooked (optional)
Fresh Parmesan cheese to garnish (optional)

In large pan, combine everything except for the beans and pasta. Bring to a boil, simmer on low for 20 minutes. Add beans, bring to a boil. Simmer 10-15 minutes until tender. Season to taste. Serve over cooked pasta (I keep it separate so the pasta doesn't soak up the leftover soup) and sprinkle fresh Parmesan cheese on top.

Bon appetite! :)

Thursday, January 21

Scrapbooks love vacations

I wish I had the scrapbook gene.

Lots of my friends do. They create these glorious, lavish scrapbooks with all kinds of cool layouts and embellishments to remember the major events in their lives. I, on the other hand, have only ever managed digital scrapbook pages. And only then because there are really cool digital scrapbook programs that cost less than $30 each and require you to simply drop pictures into an already designed page and do a bit of journaling.

That I can handle.

But I decided that I want to create a real album for my husband and my first ten years together. This is partially because I would like to give traditional scrapbooking a try and partially because all of our photos from that time are (gasp) actual photos and the idea of scanning them all in (even if my scanner was working) makes me want to pass out.

About five years ago, I did the laborious task of sorting through those first ten years of pictures and putting them into labeled envelopes with the date and event. Apparently, I had to go take a nap after that because that's as far as I ever got.

But in pulling out all those envelopes again, I've discovered that pictures--at least for me--fall into one of three categories:

-- Holidays
-- Major life events (birthdays, weddings)
-- Vacations

And really, vacations is about 80% of them. It appears we do nothing noteworthy in the slightest the 345 days a year when we are not vacationing. :-)

It's fun though, this nostaglic look at vacations past. So I thought it would be fun to note my top three favorite vacations from the first five years of marriage. If my scanner was working, I would even include pictures. But alas, Miss Scanner is a finicky girl.

3. The great California trip

Back in the late 90s, my husband and I took a weeklong vacation in California with another couple. We flew into LA and did the Tinseltown routine (and Rodeo Drive) and then drove up the coast to Carmel. We ate at the Hogs Breath Inn which Clint Eastwood owned at the time (perhaps he still does) and then stayed the night in lovely Monterey. Then it was up to San Francisco for three days where we did Fisherman's Wharf, saw Phantom of the Opera and ate. A lot.

2. Grand Cayman

My husband actually won this trip through his work! A week at a gorgeous resort on Grand Cayman. This was the first trip we'd taken in a LONG time where I wasn't obsessed with work. (I actually took my laptop on our honeymoon - no lie.) We sprinted across the Miami airport trying to catch our flight... which left five minutes EARLY even though they'd been alerted to our airplane's delay... but managed to get rerouted on Cayman Air. I hate to fly. I'd rather walk, but the Cayman Islands are, well, islands. So that wasn't really an option. One thing I will say is that Cayman Air served us Cayman punch (I think it was called) out of a gallon jug in these little plastic cups. And it was GOOD. Turns out it was also laced with Cayman rum. Live a little, learn a little. Anywho... we ended up having a nice flight despite the chaos. My favorite memory is sitting out on our balcony with the scent of barbecue floating into the air and chilling out to the sound of steel drums.

1. San Juan, Puerto Rico

This is hands down my favorite vacation ever. We stayed in a bungalow right on the beach with a hammock outside the door. We ate Monte Cristo sandwiches and ate luscious seafood and watched the waves crash over the rocks outside our favorite restaurant's window. I also managed to get a horrific sunburn while snorkeling and spent two solid days on our covered balcony with John Grisham (in book form, not the real deal). But it was still by far the most relaxing and wonderful vacation EVER.

What about you? What's your favorite vacation ever?

Wednesday, January 20

Vacation time!!!!!

Now, I don't want you all to feel sorry for me (well, you can if you like) but running a motel is 24/7 - I open up at 6.15am when I come downstairs, and we lock up at around 11pm when we go to bed. And unless we actually go away we don't get any time off. Our last day off was at the end of May 2009 (actually I went to the RWNZ conference in August, so for me it's August).

Anyway, there is a point to this in case you thought I was just on a ramble, in just over 9 weeks time we're having a two week vacation. I am counting the days and getting VERY excited. It's all I can think about. I've already planned what I'll have for breakfast (which won't surprise those who know me) as we're leaving early, and though I haven't packed my suitcase (that's the one thing I do leave until the last minute) I'm mulling over which clothes and books to take - and I noticed a swimsuit sale going on in a shop where I live, and I could do with another one.

We're not going far, just popping to Sunshine Beach on the Sunshine Coast in Australia.... because, you guessed it, we love the sunshine!!!! And hopefully in a couple of years we'll move there permanently!!

So what about you, any vacations coming up?

Monday, January 18

USA Today's Best-Selling Books of 2009

Just a quick YEE-HAW to celebrate that our own Alyson Noel made USA Today's best-selling books list: The top 100 of 2009!!! Check it out here.

Friday, January 15

Houston, We Have Cover!

OK,I already posted this on my blog but I'm excited about it, so I think it qualifies for Good News Friday. I got the cover art for TRANCE. Woot! Happy Friday, everyone!

Thursday, January 14

Learn to Fly

(blog title courtesy of the Foo Fighters)

So this week were talking about Movies, Books, TV, and/or Music and because of it, I decided to play a little hooky conduct some serious research by grabbing hold of my hubby and heading for a matinee.

I love matinees. They're one of my favorite, self-indulgent treats. You always get a good seat, there's no line for popcorn, and even the ticket price is discounted--a win in every conceivable way!

And since we'd already seen AVATAR on Imax (AMAAAAZINNGGG!!!!), we decided to see UP IN THE AIR because we'd heard such great things about it and let me tell you it did not disappoint! I liked it because it was funny, smart, contemplative, and even though it would've been nice, there was no typical "Hollywood" ending. It was both modern and real. Oh, and did I mention it stars Le Clooney???

As for books- well, right now, I hate to say it, but I'm so buried in deadlines, the only book I'm reading/writing/editing is the still untitled, Immortals Book #5, that is due in 2 months--gulp!!

As for TV- I'm thrilled that Big Love is back! And I've been watching lots of Criminal Minds reruns and have developed a significant nerd crush on Dr. Spencer Reid!

As for music- I just downloaded Allison Krauss's live, cover version of "Baby Now That I've Found You" and I've listened to it so many times, I'm almost sick of it. Almost. But not quite!

So what about you? What movies have you seen, what books are you reading, what TV shows are you watching, and what song is playing on your own personal heavy rotation???

Books to Movies Coming in 2010

In my house, we have February 12 on the calendar circled with a big, red pen. That's the day the first installment of Rick Riordan's* Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, THE LIGHTNING THIEF, hits the big screen. Usually I'm a little wary about well-loved books being turned into movies (because they seldom live up to the book) but the trailer for this one looks amazing. It's directed by Chris Columbus of Harry Potter fame and the casting is fantastic. I never hit any of the midnight openers for the Twilight movies, but if this one as a twelve o'clock screening, I'm so there.

March brings us HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON based on the book by Cressida Cowell. I haven't read it yet, but it sounds like a fun one, so I've added it to my (always growing) TBR pile.

In April, it's DIARY OF A WIMPY KID. It will be fun to see how they translate Jeff Kinney's cartoon-infused book. (Fun or tragic. I'm hoping for fun.)

ECLIPSE is coming in June. I have high hopes for this one since the NEW MOON movie was so much better than TWILIGHT. (Quielute boys. That is all.)

Edited to add: BEASTLY, based on the Alex Flinn book comes our way in July. Thanks, Julia.

I'm really crossing my fingers that they don't mess up Beverly Cleary's RAMONA AND BEEZUS, which will be released in August. One of my favorite little (not so little anymore) Disney actresses, Selena Gomez, is Beezus and that cute little Joey King is Ramona.

September has two book-related releases that I know of. FLIPPED by Wendelin Van Draanen and GUARDIANS OF GA'HOOLE by Kathryn Lasky. I read FLIPPED a long time ago, but I haven't read GUARDIANS OF GA'HOOLE. It has a cool trailer, though.

HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS opens in November... but only part one. Agh! We will have to wait another seven months for part two. (mumble, mumble, J.K. Rowling and her blasted long books!)

And finally, in December comes the next in the C.S. Lewis Chronicles of Narnia series, VOYAGE OF THE DAWN TREADER. (On a totally off topic but kind of related note, my daughter and her friends met Prince Caspian (okay, just a really cute guy dressed as Prince Caspian) at Disney World last month. He actually kissed their hands. Cute guy, if you're reading this, you totally made their day.)

Did I miss any? What do you think about movies made from books? Do you have any faves? Least faves?

*Fans of Rick Riordan, check out his write up in (of all places) The Wall Street Journal - including a mini excerpt from his upcoming book, THE RED PYRAMID from his new Kane Chronicles series.

Wednesday, January 13

Reading habits

First up I just wanted to say Happy New Year to everyone! I'm sending some lovely big (sunny) waves from New Zealand and I hope that 2010 has got off to a stellar start for everyone. Right, now that I've caused you all to hate me by reminding you that I'm in the middle of summer while a lot of you are buried in winter, let me turn my attention to the post at hand!

The topic this week is about movies, music or books and while half of me was tempted to blog about UP, which I finally saw yesterday, I finally decided that no good could come from letting the world know that I am a complete and utter cry baby. Yes people I pretty much bawled through the whole movie much to the amusement of my kids! So, anyway, since I'm not going to talk about that I thought I'd talk about books instead. Well, actually not books so much as reading habits.

Once upon a time when I was a younger girl I used to read three to four books a week and was often caught standing in the kitchen with my nose in a book and the dinner burning. But then I hit my thirties and not only did I have children but I finally got my first book contract and somewhere along the way my reading habit got severely dented, which was when I decided to keep track of what I read.

The first year I did it, I put the books on the sidebar of my blog and was horrified to discover that in one year I had only read 30 odd books. The next year I made a resolution to read a book a week (and I discovered Goodreads!!!!) and two years later I'm pleased to say that I'm still going strong. I don't know if I'll ever get back to reading three books a week like I did in my teens and twenties but I'm so pleased I made the conscious effort to re-find the time to indulge in my favorite habit. So I'm curious if this has happened to anyone else? Have you suddenly lost your reading time and if so what did you do to reclaim it?

Tuesday, January 5

Beauty Schooled

The topic of the week here at TFC is schools, and I have had a peek into a very interesting school world lately through a friend's blog, Beauty Schooled. Said friend is a magazine writer who's attending Beauty School to learn the ins and outs of the beauty industry, and she's writing about it in a fascinating, weird, funny, insightful way.

For example:

Her tests are way different from high school's. (The Makeup Practical)

She highlights a news story about a Milwaukee first-grade teacher who cut off one of 7-year-old LMya Cammon’s braids when the little girl wouldn’t stop twirling them in class.

Making friends over sparkly blush and mascara wands.

She does Ingredient Watches (the latest is on Parabens and there was the one about Placenta...).

Borrowing her tagline, it's "An investigation of the price we pay for pretty." And it's awesome.

I've always wondered about Beauty School, and Drama School... and Flight School (though I'm too scared for that). What types of schools intrigue you?

Friday, January 1

My Mortifying Teenage Dating Moment

What better way to start a new year (happy 2010, everyone!) than by sharing a tale of teenage embarrassment?

Well, I'd actually meant to share this earlier in the week, but my life has been kind of chaotic (sick cats. They are on the mend, but it's been stressful) and I honestly couldn't think of an embarrassing moment to share. I was such a naturally awkward kid, you know, geeky, didn't really fit in, mocked for my clothes, that I did my best to avoid all embarrassing moments that I would read in the Oops! or some such column in YM (omg, does YM even exist? When did it stop existing? Am I really showing my age) or Seventeen-- the kinds of incident that usually involved mishaps with your period or accidentally flashing people. I never would have been brave enough to show off in front of a guy the way Wendy did. I crushed on guys quietly, secretly. Only my very best friend would know who I liked and we wrote all our notes in code, giving the boys numbers instead of names so as not to risk an accidental reveal of our crushes. Then it hit me, I *did* have an embarrassing boy moment! I must have been blocking it out! (And I'm sure I'm blocking out many other embarrassing moments, so I hope this doesn't bring them all back or I might need therapy.)

It was actually the kind of moment that could have been made into a sitcom episode. It's the moment that they always show teenage girls dreading on TV... when your parents go, "Oh, you're dating someone?" And you go, "Um, we don't use the words, like, dating. I'm sort of kind of seeing someone...." But that doesn't really help matters, nor does your request for an extended curfew and your parents go, "Well, we need to meet him before you can go out with him."

Yeah, the first boyfriend situation. It happened fall of my sophomore year of high school. Like my character Kara from Ballads of Suburbia, I didn't really get a social life until then. I only had one or two friends, but then I suddenly started meeting people and hanging out at this park called Scoville (yeah, I know it sounds familiar but I swear Ballads isn't just a fictionalized version of my life. Kara and I went through different kinds of drama.) And my best friend met this guy in her history class, for privacy's sake we will call him Bryan, and when she introduced us he really liked me and his friend (who we'll call Sam) really liked my friend and it seemed like something straight out of a TV show, perfect, like finally my life was really happening. Oh and Sam had a car. It was awesome.

But then I told my parents about it. And they insisted that if I was going to go out with boys in a car and stay out later than usual, they needed to meet the boys. I was mortified. I finally was making friends, cool friends that I wanted to keep, and I had a boyfriend, a guy that had pursued me rather than me quietly lusting over him for months the way all my crushes had worked in the past. And now I had to tell them that before we could go anywhere they had to come in and meet my lame lame lame parents????

Like I said, embarrassing in the way that many teen girls get embarrassed in books, movies and TVs all the time. It's almost a rite of passage. But was more embarrassing was the guys' reaction. I tried to be all cool about it and they didn't seem to care about having to come in and meet the fam. But instead of us all standing around awkwardly like it tends to go on TV, Bryan and Sam started chasing my thirteen year old brother around the living room, making ape noises and pretending to pick lice off of him and of each other!!!!! WHAT???? I don't know *why* my parents let me go out with them after that. I didn't know who to be more embarrassed for my parents, the guys, my brother or myself. *Sigh* Seriously, this could only happen to me. Only I would have my first date with a guy who would chase my little brother around acting like a monkey. I'm sure you're not surprised to hear that the relationship only lasted three weeks....

What about you? How was your very first introduce boyfriend/girlfriend to parents moment? Normal weird? Or pretend-lice-eating-monkey weird? Can you top my story?