Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Friday, September 26, 2008
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Makes 8 servings
1-1/2 tablespoons butter, melted
1-1/2 tablespoons honey
3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs
2-1/2 heaping cups yellow summer squash, unpeeled, cut into 1/2-inch to 1-inch pieces
4 egg whites
1 cup nonfat dry milk
1/3 cup sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1-1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Combine butter and honey in a 9-inch pie pan. Add graham cracker crumbs and mix until crumbs are moistened. Press crumbs onto bottom and sides of pan to form crust. Bake 5 minutes.
In a blender container, combine all filling ingredients. Blend until smooth. Pour into crust. Bake 25 minutes, or until set.
Cool slightly, then chill.
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Monday, September 15, 2008
On Friday I was the “guest fairy” at a Fairy Gathering held at Barnes & Noble on Broadway. It was attended by lots of little “fairies in training”. Some wore wings and sparkly dresses, while others wore mismatched socks in honor of The Sock Fairy. There were quite a few little fairies with tangled hair, however I don’t think this was intentional. I don’t think they realized that they were the spitting image of The Knot Fairy. It does, however, prove that “art imitates life.”
On Saturday, the Brooklyn Public Library hosted an author’s reception where I was thrilled to meet Marty Markowitz, the president of Brooklyn Borough. What a treat! He is like everyone’s Uncle Marty.
The Brooklyn Book Festival was the highlight of the weekend. Twenty thousand or so enthusiastic book buyers braved the heat and humidity to see what was new in the literary world. This is one of my favorite book fairs, drawing people from all over the east coast.
The best news for me was that fairies are still very popular! It was really heartwarming to hear the words that so many authors long to hear: “I loved your first book. Now I must have the second one.”
I arrived home tired, yet happy. Thank you, New Yorkers, for a wonderful weekend.
Thursday, September 11, 2008
Have you ever wondered why picture books contain pictures? They’re not just there to look pretty, or take up space, or make the story longer. In a good picture book, the pictures should add to the story. They should tell you things that the words alone don’t tell you. Remember the old adage, “A picture is worth a thousand words”?
When I visit schools, I read my books, and then I go through each book a second time with the children. I ask the children to tell me what the pictures are “saying” that the words didn’t say. This really enhances the meaning of the story. And, since children as extremely observant, they usually see things in the pictures that adults don’t notice.
Another exercise I do with children is to “read” an entire book with them without actually reading the words. If the pictures are an integral part of the story, the children will be able to make up the story as they go, getting all of their clues from the pictures. If the author and the illustrator have done their jobs, the children will be able to find meaning in the pictures. The picture story may not have the exact same meaning as the words intended, however this is still very useful in story-building.
Think of the other types of books that you read. It’s so much easier to put a recipe together when you can look at a picture and see what the author meant for the dish to look like. Also, think how much harder it is to put a bike or scooter together when the directions do not contain pictures of the finished product.
Pictures truly are worth a thousand words. What’s your opinion?
Please be sure to read the pictures in my books, The Knot Fairy and The Sock Fairy!
Friday, September 5, 2008
To my mind, herbs are the essence of cooking. These are the special ingredients that you remember most about a dish. And, even though herbs are used in relatively small quantities, they add a great deal of flavor to the recipe.
Herbs can be dried or fresh. Indeed, a mere teaspoon or two of dried herbs can make all the difference in a soup or sauce. However, all too often the dried herbs have been sitting on the shelf too long and have lost their seasoning capabilities. So be sure to buy from a store that has a relatively fast turnover and buy dried herbs in small quantities whenever possible.
Finding fresh herbs used to be difficult unless you grew your own. However, today a wide variety can be purchased in most large grocery stores. When choosing fresh herbs, keep in mind that they are very delicate and will not keep for more than a few days. Avoid wilted herbs and, if possible, purchase ones with the roots intact as they keep longer this way. Fresh herbs should be wrapped and stored in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator and washed just before using them.
The following recipes feature dried herbs. I think you’ll agree that herbs add depth and character to even the most humble dishes.
(Note: In case you've wondered about the difference between herbs and spices, spices are actually derived from the seeds, bark, roots, flowers, and fruits of certain plants and herbs are the aromatic leaves.)
Manhattan Clam Chowder
Basil, thyme, parsley, and bay leaf are featured in this exquisitely flavored chowder.
Makes 6 servings
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 cup sliced onions
1 cup diced carrots
1 cup diced celery
1 tablespoon dried parsley flakes
1 16-ounce can tomatoes, drained (Reserve liquid.)
1 large cooked potato, diced (about 9 ounces)
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 whole black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
1-1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon dried basil
12 ounces canned clams, drained (Reserve liquid.)
Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add onions and cook until tender, about 5 minutes.
Add carrots, celery, and parsley. Cook, stirring frequently, 5 minutes. Add small amounts of water, if necessary, to prevent sticking.
Add tomatoes, potatoes, salt, pepper, and remaining spices.
In a 1-quart bowl, combine reserved tomato liquid and clam liquid. Add water to equal 1 quart. Pour liquid over vegetables and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer 45 minutes.
Add clams. Simmer 15 minutes, covered.
Remove and discard bay leaf before serving.
Each serving provides 137 calories.
French Herbed Cheese Spread
If you love the expensive, imported herbed cheese spreads, this one's for you.
Makes 6 servings (2 tablespoons each serving)
3/4 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
1 tablespoon dried parsley flakes
2 tablespoons dried chives
2 teaspoons grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon dried marjoram
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
Pepper to taste
In a small bowl, combine all ingredients, mixing well. Chill several hours or overnight to blend flavors.
Spread on crackers or bread.
Each serving provides 46 calories.
Tuesday, September 2, 2008
Saturday, August 23, 2008
It is very wise to share your ideas and first draft with the people in your subject area who you hope will be the ones to choose your book from a crowded bookstore shelf. I have spoken to several children’s authors who said that they didn’t share their ideas beforehand because they were actually afraid of the results. The thought of receiving negative comments was more than they could bear. All the more reason to do it! One author told me that he didn’t show his book to anyone because he wanted the story to be a surprise. He also said that he “just knew” that everyone would love it. Some authors find out too late that it isn’t enough to simply feel sure that your audience will love your book.
While I was working on my first children’s book, The Knot Fairy, I organized several decidedly unorganized focus groups consisting of all of the children in my daughter’s neighborhood. I can now tell you from experience that children are honest – maybe brutally so. What did I learn? I learned that the ending to my book (an ending that I thought made perfect sense) didn’t make sense to the ones who would be reading it. Luckily, these little Einsteins had wonderful ideas for what the ending should have been. I can now say with pride that the last line in The Knot Fairy was actually written by a seven-year old! A few revisions later, I read the book to the same group, this time receiving an enthusiastic “thumbs up”. Five book awards later, I think they were right on target.
While working on my second book, I almost made the dreadful mistake of sending it to the illustrator without doing my research. After all, I thought I now knew how to please children. I thank my lucky stars that I came to my senses and called my group together. My story was a perky, rhyming account of The Button Fairy – you know, the one who is responsible for missing buttons. The children hated it! Why? Not one of the children in my group had ever lost a button. They didn’t know what I was talking about. In fact, there were fourteen children in the group and not one of them even had a single button on their clothes. Zippers, yes. Velcro, yes. Buttons, no! My research had shown that, sadly (for me), the book will spend its life in my file cabinet and will probably never see the light of day. Thank you, kids.
The Sock Fairy was next on my to-do list. Fortunately it passed the kid-test with flying colors. The book was released in June 2008 and is being embraced by both children and adults. In fact, adults are even more keenly aware than children of the frustration of missing socks.
The message learned is simple. Do your research. Find out what the audience you would like to capture is actually reading. Talk to bookstore employees. Be sure to also ask them what is NOT selling. Talk to librarians. What are the most popular books in your category? Check Amazon. What are their bestsellers? Find out what the people interested in your genre want to read. Find out what the best selling books all have in common? Then make yours better.
Please visit the Just For Fun page on my website for printable coloring pages for the kids. http://www.bestfairybooks.com/
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
All was peaceful, until three years ago…
My new career started on an ordinary day, in an ordinary way. I was simply brushing my twin granddaughters’ hair. One of the girls was distressed about the mass of knots and tangles in her beautiful, but very curly tresses. I found myself doing something that having ten grandchildren has taught me to do well - making up stories to divert the girls’ attention. I told the twins about a tiny fairy who flies into children’s rooms at night and delights in tangling their hair. It worked! No more tears and no more tangles. Later that day the girls and I sat down together, wrote the entire story and decided to call it The Knot Fairy. I never imagined that this was the beginning of a new and very exciting adventure. The adventure actually catapulted into a career a few days later when I innocently said to the girls, “Why don’t we turn this story into a book?” Oops, that just slipped out. I didn’t mean to say it. Now what? I couldn’t back out. I could never disappoint my grandkids. And so, a fairy tale was born.
Anyway, this seemed like the perfect time to re-invent my career. My bachelor’s degree in education and my minor in children’s literature were calling to me to re-enter the book world. As I fast-forward to today, three years later, and only one year after the release of The Knot Fairy, I am happy to report that the book has been the recipient of two children’s book awards and a selection on the esteemed BookSense Childrens’ Pick List. In addition, the book is now a finalist in the ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year Awards. It seems that the mystery of tangled hair is a popular dilemma that crosses all ages and ethnic boundaries.
Now, in keeping with my theme of explaining some of the deeper mysteries of life, I am pleased to announce that my second book., The Sock Fairy will be arriving this Spring. Yes, everyone has been visited by this mischievous little sprite. He’s the one (yes, a little boy fairy) who is responsible for missing socks, mismatched socks, and the occasional hole in the toe.
So, just remember - when life’s little mysteries have you baffled – who better to blame it on than a fairy?