What to do? What to do?

Twenty days from today the gang at Winterfros t– Phillip, Dreamspinner, Edward, Llamont, Oli, some of the others and I will be posting the very first craft of the summer! As Edward would say, “Nuts and acorns, that’s exciting!” Right now, the main issue amongst the contributors — all of the above and more, is who goes first. And, I have to make that decision. They all have such good ideas, but I think I am going to use Dreamspinner’s idea. It will be a project that will take you well into the summer months and beyond — hopefully, you will keep it forever!!! Got any idea of what that might be?

Sign up for this page, and you can guess anytime before June 23rd! Just send me a message and if you’re right — there will be a prize! Dreamspinner is a dinosaur, so she likes big prizes and while it may not be big in size, it’a pretty cool!

Here, is a picture of the likeness of Dreamspinner, right after she was repurposed from an old dinosaur toy. Now, she can travel with me wherever I go!

2014-10-07 15.17.14

August is almost halfway gone…

“Good grief, Charlie Brown, it’s almost time for school!” Certainly, that phrase was said over and over again, by the wonderful Peanuts’ kids. And here we are again, almost mid August.

I don’t know about you, but my summer has definitely been eventful–in a good way. Every time I look at my blog page, I am more and more aware of how far the internet stretches. I see people from all over the world that have looked at my page. I wish I could meet them all. Regardless, thank you!

I think it takes a year for things to really start to percolate for a writer. As some of you know, my year–Phillip’s one year anniversary was July 7th. Since then, things just started to rock ‘n’ roll. <a href="http://www.amazon.com/dp/061593739X&quot; title=“Phillip’s Quest, Book I: Winterfrost”>Winterfrost” has received new energy and new followers. The Gnome Gnewsletter was published and accepted by most. Personally, I would recommend a newsletter for any author. It allows one to get the word out to those who are not a fan of social media–yes there are some “un-fans.”

It certainly takes a village to market a book. So, I was able to put together a team of unbelievably professional women to help me out. From one of the sweetest and most brilliant ladies I know–Ms. Katherine Gotthardt, who helped me when I was a floundering guppy (floundering flounder?), to the amazing Bethany Joy Carlson, of The Artists’ Partner (my personal cheerleader and marketing guru), to the wonderful Jessica Parker and her team, at BookLogix Publishing Services, I couldn’t be in better hands.

So, Phillip will be ready for his next adventure without the bumps and bruises he suffered before. Can I just tell you how important it is to find the right people!

Our next endeavor happens September 1, 2014. The Kickstarter Campaign begins for Phillip’s Quest, Book II: Above the Stars. Don’t let anybody kid you, it is definitely laborious. But, with the support of a great team, it can be done. We have put in many pledge rewards. There are different rewards listed for the level of pledge you make. When I say “pledge,” I mean MONEY! As I said, producing and marketing a book takes some outgo of cash to pay the team members and help defray other costs, so anything you can spare to keep Phillip’s Quest, on the shelves is very much appreciated.

September 18, 2014 will be the closing night for Virginia’s <a href="http://fallforthebook.org/2014/08/10/haute-cuisine-at-the-hylton/&quot; title="Fall for the Book”>Fall for the Book festival. The event starts in Fairfax, Virginia on September 11th at George Mason University and ends at the Hylton Center for the Arts in Manassas, Virginia–you can follow all the activities on their app. The event is a Haute Cuisine event and will have food tastings, demonstrations and discussions by a variety of chefs, foodies, cookbook authors and Cluadia Lefeve, a fellow author and friend. Oh! And me! From the recipes of “Winterfrost”, and “Above the Stars”, to the recipes from my Mom’s table. I was and am honored to have been chosen to participate and will be serving; Ivy’s Tater Dumplings, Phillip’s Mater and Hazlenut Sauce and one of the recipes from the new book!

This week, I was able to start scheduling my signings for the Christmas season and was thrilled when the owner of <a href="http://www.thethingsilovemanassas.com&quot; title=“The Things I Love”>The Things I Love, an exquisite shop in Old Towne Manassas, allowed me to do that on December 5, 2014, during the Tree Lighting Festival. This store and the downtown area comes alive and turns into a Winter Wonderland. I am thrilled, to say the least. Then, on Sunday, December 7th, I have another signing at <a href="http://www.flowergallerymanassas.com&quot; title=“The Flower Gallery”>The Flower Gallery. Another magical shop where I will be part of their Holiday Open House. Such a special opportunity and I am grateful.

Not to leave out one of my favorite events for November! I will again be reading to the children at Mayfield Elementary School–as I did last year.

So, this summer has flown by, but what a great summer it has been. Thank you to all my gnomes, fairies and angels! I’ve loved every minute.

2014-06-05 20.02.16

Haute Cuisine at the Hylton Center for the Arts

Who’d a thunk?! Little Ivy’s recipes have been chosen as part of the Fall for the Book event on September, 18th, 2014 by the Prince William, Virginia Arts Council!!! I mean, who’d a thunk??? I am so excited, and so is Phillip!

So, in the back of each book, from Winterfrost and “The Ragworts,” to beyond, there are and will be recipes that have been shared by the gnomes and sprites, fairies and elves! And yes, they have been written exactly as they have been told to me, but I have managed to translate them into real recipes for us humans. Made a few twists and changes, but basically, just like magic, voila! No, Razorsnoot did not contribute. Ugh!

Well, the ever so kind people at the Prince William Arts Council, chose those recipes (1 is Ivy’s, 1 is Phillip’s and 1 is Violette’s from “Above the Stars“) to showcase at their event. Cool, huh?

Unfortunately, the gnomes are way to shy to show up, but I’ll be there–with a friend or two and a few books and recipe cards! Oh! and FOOD! As Edward would say, “Nuts ‘n’ acorns lot’s of food!”  There’ll be “Ivy’s Tater Dumplings,” “Phillip’s Mater Sauce with Hazelnuts,” and well, Violette (the snow sprite) is not ready to tell us what her recipe is (but I think it’s cookies).

The gnomes and sprites are, as I type, gathering up all of their supplies to cook for you so don’t disappoint. Boot’s and britches, it’s sure to be fun!  Mark the date on your calendars: Sept.18, 2014 at the Hylton Center for the Arts!

(And, don’t forget the Kickstarter Campaign, beginning on Sept. 1, 2014 thru the 3oth where you can pre-order Phillip’s Quest newest book, “Above the Stars.” Or, you can go to my “Buy…” page and do it right now! Those are the only two places, besides this event that you can get a signed, first edition. And only until Sept. 30.)

 

Buona Pasqua!

There is a lovely poem that was written by my friend, Dan Verner regarding the treatment of Christmas vs. Easter. You can see it on his WP blog and FB page. He is right in that Christmas is treated, especially in the United States, with so much fanfare that we often forget that Easter, as a holy-day, is just as miraculous.

When I was a child, Easter was treated on the same level as Christmas. Being brought up as an Italian-American, the Easter season, beginning with Ash Wednesday was even more revered. There was sacrifice, albeit it might have been just candy, that was expected of you.  There was absolutely no meat eaten on Fridays and other Holy Days of Obligation, confession and communion was not even up for discussion and at 3:00 PM on Good Friday, you went to the Stations of the Cross.  A prayer vigil that was held for each stop that Christ made on His way to Calvary. When you got home, there was a dinner with fish, fish, fish! Easter Saturday was spent cooking–all day–for the celebration of the Risen Christ, Easter.

Food, the likes of which you can’t believe! Ahhh, Easter! Pizza Rustica! Pastiera! Easter Breads! Cannoli! Sicilian Cassata (for those of Sicilian heritage), Anginetti and other incredible Italian pastries and cookies. And that was just the beginning! Dinner was unbelievable. Antipasta, lasagna, meat course (could be roasted lamb or chicken), the gravy meat (meatballs, braciola, sausage), salad, vegetables. While everyone was cleaning up the dinner dishes, there was fruit and nuts, then the coffee came out–“black or brown?”–espresso or regular(no decaf was mentioned, ever). Then, the desserts!!!!! OMG!!! Except for the first thing listed, the Pizza Rustica, which you munched on after church on Easter Sunday, especially because you got hungry hunting for eggs, the others were dessert! 

I can remember the Three Sisters; my mother Linda, my aunt Anne, and my Godmother Kate, cooking in the kitchen. Each had their assigned duties. I can still see Katie standing in front of the pastry board with at least 20 pounds of flour, making the pastry and pie crusts for the Pizza Rustica and Pastiere.  Ten inch pie plates were used. The pastry was soft and delicate and perfect. My mother made the cookies. You name it, she made it. She collected pounds of butter from when it was on sale and used nothing but Land O’Lakes…the other was too “watery.” Her cookies were coveted. And my Aunt Annie made the gravy. While my mom made the braciola, (beef and pork), the sausages, (that had to come from the Pork Store or somewhere on Arthur Avenue, the Bronx), were carefully rendered in the big dutch oven. Patiently, patiently, my Aunt Anne would braise the sausage until it was golden brown. Then, out it came and the braciola went in. It was a process, but nothing, nothing was better then my Aunt Annie’s gravy (my mother used to get pissed when I said that). Un poco cooking rivalry between them. The meatballs, that were beautiful, round and browned by my Aunt Katie at 0-Dark-30, that morning, were the last things added. If you want to see an Italian making a lasagna, check out cookingwithnonna.com. It has recipes for all that I mentioned…real recipes!

And then, we ate!! Ten, fifteen, twenty at the table with guests arriving, all of the time. And we laughed. And we told stories. And we loved!  Buona Pasqua a tutti!

Image

Happy Easter! May your memories always be wonderful!

Truth or Dare…A Gnome’s Recipe

Is this recipe a fantasy?  Maybe, maybe not.  It sure sounds good, especially on a very cold Virginia day.

Phillip made this sauce in the Vast Enchanted Forest after he and Edward hadn’t eaten for a whole day. They had just left the Farmer’s Market where Phillip said his “good-bye” to a very unhappy Ivy.  What had happened afterwards, Phillip did not know until Azur broke the news.

It was evening when Phillip and Edward entered the Forest and they were exhausted.

There were many Tree Folk in this part of the forest.  Groups of them line the curvy path and appeared to be engaged in important conversations with one another.  Their twiggy hands pointed and gestured.  One of them glanced over and gave Edward a little wink as the travelers walked by.

Phillip’s Quest, Book 1: Winterfrost, “The Staring Statues”

Edward, the squirrel was always hungry and enough was enough.  He knew that Phillip could not go much longer without food so,

He jumped from tree to tree, for a good hour, while Phillip looked over his maps (they were lost, at this point).  One of the Forest Fathers even helped by shaking his branches and allowing Edward to gather all the fallen nuts!  Phillip then made the sauce with some maters he bought from a dwarf at the Farmer’s Market.

Five or six small ripe maters will make enough for one gnome and one hungry squirrel.

Finely chop the maters up into a hollowed out rock or a saucepan that’s been coated with a little oil.  Simmer the maters until some of the water cooks out.  Put a handful of crushed hazelnuts into the mater sauce with some salt and a bit of black spice (if you have it) and cook until thick.

A perfect meal for day old tater buns and if you’re lost in a vast forest.

…Appendix F: Phillip’s Mater Sauce with Hazelnuts

 

The Appendices, B-F are recipes that I adapted.  Some important ingredients have been omitted and revised to coincide with the story. Still, an experienced cook could improvise and make with his or her child. Actual recipes will be reprinted here or in an upcoming cook book!

By the way, the artwork for The Vast Enchanted Forest is brilliant!  Please look at the Twisted Oak Press website: twistedoakpress.com, where you can by beautiful art prints from Phillip’s Quest, as well as other art from my collaborator, Dean Kuhta.

Taters and Onions, Italian Style

I said that I would include blogs about Italian cooking.  When I eventually do the Phillip’s Quest Cookbook, many of the recipes will be a conversion of Italian recipes to recipes for gnomes, and other creatures.  Here is one I found on Adrianna’s Cookies page.  I’d like to call it, “Taters and Onions a la Italiano”

2-1/4 lbs of russet potatoes, peeled and sliced very thinly

2 cups chopped onions

2 cups chicken broth

1 garlic clove, halved

8 Tablespoons packed Pecorino Romano cheese, divided

3 Tablespoons drained capers

Olive oil for brushing, plus 4 Tablespoons, divided

Coarse Kosher salt

Directions:

Preheat  oven to 350F

Rub 13 x 9 x 2 inch glass pan with cut side of garlic clove.

Brush dish with olive oil.

Heat 2 Tablespoons of olive oil in heavy large skillet over medium heat.

Add onions, sprinkle with salt and sautee until soft and beginning to brown. Stir frequently, about 12-15 minutes.

Arrange 1/3 of s;iced potatoes in even layer in prepared pan.

Sprinkle with coarse salt and pepper.

Scatter 1/2 onions over the potatoes.

Sprinkle with 2 Tablespoons Pecorino and 1 Tablespoon capers.

Repeat layering and end with layer of potatoes.

Drizzle remaining olive oil.

Pour chicken broth over.

Press down on potatoes to compact layers.

Cover, gratin with foil and bake for 1hour 20 minutes, or until potatoes are tender.

Uncover and sprinkle with remaining cheese.

Bake, uncovered, another 15 minutes, until cheese is lightly browned.

Let gratin remain at room temperature for 10 minutes, before serving.

Salute! Buono appetito!

Cookies-fromItaly.com

The Care and Feeding of Gnomes

When writing my first children’s book, Phillip’s Quest, Book 1, Winterfrost, I found it was necessary to spend many hours at the main library in the Village of Twistedoak, to research the species genomos or “earth dweller.” One cannot simply look at the commercialized and sometimes obnoxious “garden gnome” as popularized by a certain travel company and think, “Ugh! Why would you write about those creepy creatures!”  Mais, non! To know a gnome, is to love a gnome.  And so, my love of Phillip began.

Gnomes are self-sufficient and resilient, by nature.  Very easily pleased, their normal psyche is that of loving, caring beings, with huge hearts and a general joie de vivre. Although small in stature, smaller than their dwarf counterparts in height, their hands and feet are disproportionately larger.  Requiring very little physical care, the gnome is naturally quite healthy due to its diet, rich in organic fruits and vegetables, legumes, nuts and  occasional raw dairy and eggs. Even though rarely sad or depressed, a tasty cookie or wiskit, will change the mood of the gnome from sad to glad! Not comfortable with confrontation, the gnome is a master diplomat.  One of the favorite gnome mottos is, “Don’t worry, be happy.” (Yes, it originally came from the gnome community and found on Rune stone in 1579 A.D. by Swiss alchemist, Paracelsus.) Since the gnome is not normally equipped for protecting itself, it has many natural predators; goblins, trolls, orcs, snakes, wolves, giant spiders, bats, ice hornets, etc… and evil witches. Their only means of protection comes from the help of a higher being, i.e. humans, blue witches, wizards.

The gnome’s eating habits differ, slightly, from region to region.  The gnomes of Twistedoak are vegetarians while other gnomes add dairy, fish and poultry to their diet.   The female gnome, given to having a large family, are excellent cooks.  They can turn anything into a feast.   The gnomes of Twistedoak arrived from their Old Country as mushroom farmers, many millennia ago. They “settled at the edge of the Great Granite Mountains and the Vast Enchanted Forest… They grew the most lovely mushrooms.  Some looked like little white pearls.  The farmers called them ‘candy ‘shrooms.’ They were as sweet as sugar and the wee ones would steal them as quickly as they popped out of the ground.  Their mothers and fathers always knew when they’d eaten too much, because they would come running home, crying, with tummy aches.  Some of the mushrooms were golden and big enough to feed a family of four…” However, due to circumstances beyond their control, these resilient gnomes have learned to adapt their diets to the main crops of  “taters and onions.”

Not for a lack of recipes, the female gnomes are very sharing, often having recipe trading parties.  Before the passing of Ivy, she was kind enough to share some wonderful recipes that she loved, as well as recipes from the Great Granma Polli. A recipe from Oli, the squirrel and a favorite of Phillip’s were also shared for our book.  They are:

Ivy’s Tater Buns

Ivy’s Tater Dumplings

Ivy’s Tater and Onion Pancakes

Oli’s Nutty Cakes

Phillip’s Mater Sauce with Hazelnuts

All recipes can be found in Phillip’s Quest, Book 1: Winterfrost.  An upcoming cookbook, adapted for human consumption, is in the works!