Food Friday: Crack Cakes for Bookclub

This month it was my turn to host book club (aka food and wine club). I picked Peace Like a River by Leif Enger and even bought used books for everyone. Did that mean anyone read it? Not really. Although I must admit that more people got ALMOST through with it than normal. I can always count on my one sister-in-law to finish the book and she did not disappoint and loved the book.

I served these bruschettas, which the same sister-in-law I mentioned above dubbed crack cakes a few years back, saying they were like crack, you couldn’t get enough of them.

Bookclub didn’t have any discussion of the book, but every month I can count on laughing until I cry and this proved no exception.

Fun times.

Here is the recipe for crack cakes. Enjoy.

Date and Blue Cheese Bruschetta

1 loaf French bread, sliced into 1/2 inch slices
Extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
Black pepper
8 ounces blue cheese
12-18 dates cut in 1/2 with pit removed
8 oz proscuitto

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Brush both sides of bread with the olive oil and put on baking sheet.

3. Bake for 5 minutes. Flip and bake for five minutes more. Remove from oven.
4. Turn broiler to high and move rack up in oven.
5. Season bread with salt and pepper. Spoon a small amount of cheese onto bread to cover it.

6. Place date halves on bread to cover.






























7. Broil one to two minutes or until cheese melts and date begins to carmelize.
8. Remove and place piece of proscuitto on top.






























9. Serve.

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Snapshots: Photoshoot with my honey

I didn’t have a chance to snap any photos this week so I dug into the archives and found some snapshots I took during a photo shoot with my honey last fall. We had a morning date while the kids were at school, got some coffee, and then hiked down by the Mississippi River.

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Writer Interviews: Joelle Charbonneau

Joelle Charbonneau is tied with Donnell Bell for being the most generous, encouraging writer out there. I met her after she judged my novel in a contest and invited me to contact her on the judging form. Since that day, she’s been in my corner, going way out of her way to help me succeed and offering unending encouragement and support. She is a true gem. Joelle is an incredibly hardworking, terrific writer who always weaves a great tale with unforgettable characters. She is also a classically trained singer, an actress and a voice teacher. She does it all! Here is the lovely Joelle in her own words.

1. Describe your writing routine and/or schedule?

Since I have a toddler at home, my schedule has to be more flexible than I’d like. However, the typical routine is answering e-mails in the morning in between dodging the toddler as he races around and running errands. The tot still naps, which means the minute his head hits the pillow in the afternoons, I start typing. I typically get about 2 hours of writing time in during the afternoon before I have to be “mom” again. Once the tot goes to sleep for the evening, I then start writing again. Often you’ll find me at my laptop well past midnight.

2. What do you do if you get writer’s block?

Writer’s block? What’s that? Ha! I am only half kidding. I write every day no matter what. Some days I write less than others, but I am always moving the story forward. I think writer’s block happens most when writers give into the fear of telling the wrong story or worry about how far they still have to travel until they finish the manuscript. I try to focus on what happens next…the next hook…the next line…the next moment. Small steps. If I keep my focus on the path in front of me, I am less scared about the miles that stretch ahead.

3. Who do you read, or recommend other writer’s read, in regards to craft?

I have never been one to read books on how to write. Instead, I read books by authors I love. If I find one that I think is exceptionally well done, I read it over again with an eye on the craft I think has been done well. I believe the best way to really learn is to understand why something works and figure out how to apply that to your own writing.

4. Who do you read for fun?

The one problem with being a published author is that I have less time to read that I once did. I admit that I used to be a 200 book a year kind of girl. Now I’m lucky if I read 30-40 books in a year. Sigh…. However, when I do read, I am a sucker for thrillers (adult or YA), science fiction, fantasy, mysteries and anything that makes me laugh.

5. When did you first know you wanted to be a writer? Tell us about it.

Um….I never actually wanted to be a writer. True story! My love of reading started when I was in first grade and continued through adulthood. I admired writers who could craft such amazing stories, but I never considered joining the ranks. As a professional stage performer, I enjoyed acting out other people’s stories on the stage. About ten years ago, I was in a production of Evita. On the way home from a show, I had an idea for an opening line of a book. It startled me since I had never considered writing. Heck, I’d never even taken an English class in college. (Yes, this is another true story…one for another time!) But, the opening line was stuck in my head so I wrote it down. Since my performance schedule gave me Mondays and Tuesdays off, and most everyone else works on those days, I decided to see if I could add to that opening line. Once I did, I wanted to see if I could actually finish writing the story. When I did, I realized I’d enjoyed the process of figuring out what came next and decided to try my hand at writing something that might be publishable. It took a lot of practice (trust me, no one should ever see those first manuscripts) but finally, I managed to write a manuscript that landed me my fabulous agent and sold to an editor!

6. What advice would you give an aspiring writer?

Write. Ha! This sounds totally lame, but true. Sit down and write. Get to THE END and revise the book and then write another one. In this day and age of self-publishing, it is easy to get swept up in the idea of hitting a button and being published. I think a lot of young writers don’t give themselves time to develop their own unique voice and style. They’re so busy trying to get to the finish line that they don’t really take time to learn what makes their writing special. The only way to develop your writing voice and learn the craft of writing is to write, revise, edit and write some more. For some people this learning process takes years. For others it takes months. Don’t listen to other people’s journeys to being published and assume yours will be the same. Take the time you require to be the best writer you can be.

7. What do you think is the most important skill to have to succeed as a writer?

Self-motivation. Being a writer is a strange job. Unlike a lot of jobs, there is no one looking over your shoulder making sure you get your daily word counts in. There is no one telling you to sit down and write instead of cleaning house or taking a nap or any number of other myriad things that need your attention. Self-motivation is something writers need to learn before ever getting that first contract.

8. What is your favorite food and/or drink?

Popcorn (with real butter and salt) and Diet Pepsi.

9. Do you have a favorite book or movie?

Hmmm….my favorite movies are The Fugitive, Die Hard, Hoosiers and The Rookie. Give me stuff blowing up or great sports films any day of the week. With books, I love to read just about every genre. Some of the books that really made an impression on me growing up were Stephen King’s The Stand and The Tailsman, and David Eddings Belgarion and Malloreon series and Agatha Christie’s Ten Little Indians (now retitled And Then There Were None).

10. Is there anything I didn’t ask you that you’d like to share?

Nah! Redheads need to keep a few secrets, right?

Joelle Charbonneau has performed in a variety of opera and musical theatre productions across Chicagoland. She now teaches private voice lessons and uses her stage experience to create compelling characters in her books. She is the author of two mystery series: The Rebecca Robbins mysteries (Minotaur Books) and the soon to debut Glee Club mystery series (MURDER FOR CHOIR, Berkley , July 3). Joelle is also the author of the Graduation Day young adult trilogy that will debut with THE TESTING (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children’s) in Spring 2013. Learn more at

Here’s some info on Joelle’s next book, Murder for Choir:

Even as a struggling opera singer, Paige Marshall has never seen anything like the uber-competitive egos of Prospect Glen High School show choir. As their new coach, she’s getting an icy reception from championship-hungry students who doubt she can take them to a first-place trophy. Toughing this gig out may prove harder than scoring her big break…

Especially now that her best young male singer is suspected of killing the arrogant coach of Prospect Glen’s fiercest rival choir. For Paige to clear his name, she’ll have to sort through a chorus of suspects—and go note-for-note with a killer who’ll do anything to knock her out of the spotlight for good…

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Books & Flicks: Henry Perez & Game of Thrones

Disclaimer: I am not a movie or book reviewer and would never attempt to call myself such a thing. I have utmost respect for those who do that. I am just a bookworm and movie lover who wants to share what I’m reading and watching.

Books & Flicks


This week was a bit slow. I am about halfway through KILLING RED by Henry Perez, which features a newspaper reporter and a serial killer and kids. Sound familiar? But the protagonist is a Latino male. I’m really loving this book so far.

And I did finish THE REINCARNATIONIST by M.J. Rose. Really liked it and hope to read more in this series.

Unfortunately that was all I’ve had time to read this week.

Digging the addition of dragons to the storyline


Game of Thrones!!!! Thanks to my husband’s connections and know how, we were able to get the first three episodes of Season Two this week. LOVE this show. I haven’t been hooked on a show in this way since Battlestar Galactica! Eagerly awaiting episode four. Didn’t have family movie night this week and looking forward to that again this weekend.

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This Writer’s Life: 2777 Francis Avenue, Part II

I didn’t just move into a room, I moved into a subculture when I was handed the keys to 2777 Francis Avenue.

Our house, with the double dead-bolted, iron-barred screen door, was a haven for artists. I soon found out that Bibbe was the daughter of a famous performance artist. A picture in a book on Andy Warhol showed her dancing next to Edie Sedgwick at The Factory.

Her husband, Sean Carrillo, was ultra hip in the art scene, too, and had some super cool film background. This couple knew everybody. EVERYBODY. I’m pretty sure Bibbe was Whoopi Goldberg’s maid of honor or something like that. And this couple was friends with everyone and anyone who were famous and cool in the Chicano arts world. It was all a bit mysterious, glamorous, and vague to me. The husband’s sister, a girl my own age, stayed in the nonfiction library. Another bedroom housed one of Bibbe’s sons and not long after, his Danish girlfriend. Before long we were all good friends. We lived at the house, but we also hung out at the cafe, Troy Cafe, that my roommates owned in downtown L.A. on the border of East L.A. in Little Tokyo.

Rolling Stone Boy

One day, I met Bibbe’s older son, who was a year younger than me. He was browsing through the fiction library in what I think was a big straw Panama hat, and what appeared to be an old man’s shirt and pants. A few years later at one of his concert’s, I would see a crowd filled with boys dressing just like him (minus the hat). I’m fairly certain he dressed that way because he didn’t have any money and didn’t give a shit, so he shopped at thrift stores and spent his money on demo tapes to send to record companies.

About a month later, this cute boy musician moved into the room next to mine, a small space overlooking the street. At first, he was really hard to get to know. He would hole himself up in his room and play guitar. He didn’t have a guitar strap, but used a piece of rope he found on the ground. Whenever he would venture out from his room, I would rush to be near him just so I could listen to him play. One day, he was playing guitar on the front porch and a bunch of stray cats gathered around to listen. Magical.

Then one day I had a dream about him. I dreamed we kissed. I told Bibbe about it and she thought it was great. She thought I should marry him and become her daughter-in-law. It sounded good to me. But he was very, very, very shy. And I wasn’t the type of girl to make a move so it never went anywhere.

Within two years, his face was on the cover of Rolling Stone Magazine.

Urban Rabbit

In addition to the feral cats, we also had a neighborhood rabbit. We told Bibbe about it. For some reason, one of the cats had adopted the rabbit. They hung out on our urban street together. They were inseparable. You usually saw them at night. One day, we spotted them across the street and ran to get Bibbe. She opened the door, saw the rabbit and the cat snuggling and said, “I’ll be. It is a goddamn rabbit!”

Jack W.

Artists and musicians of all types dropped into our place all the time. I’ll never forget meeting Jack W. He walked in with a crisp white shirt on, skinny black tie and black shorts. He was a beautiful, impeccably groomed Asian boy. He sat down at the piano and played like a superstar, singing and playing for us like he was born to perform Frank Sinatra songs.

Jack and I became friends. I soon noticed that he always wore a tie. He even slept over at our house once and his silk pajamas — as my redheaded roommate would say — had a goddamn tie. “I’m never without a tie,” he told me.

Jack and I would often go watch old movies, such as Brazil and Chariots of Fire on the big screen at the New Beverly Theater. He would always drive us in his BMW. One time, I opened by bag and pulled out my lipstick to apply a fresh coat. I was just pulling down the visor to look in the mirror when Jack swerved to the side of the road. At first, I was confused, but then realized he was being Jack: He pulled over so I wouldn’t smudge my lipstick.

And forget being a woman and trying to light your own cigarette around him. If you happened to beat him to the punch before he whipped out his Zippo, he would pout and act hurt, saying “Please let me light your cigarette for you.”

Same goes with opening doors. He took it personally if you opened your own car door.

My favorite memories of living at 2777 Francis Avenue are the simplest ones. The days we all sat on the floor in the kitchen, lighting our cigarettes from the gas burner, and talking about music, philosophy, books, movies, and art.

Or the nights we sat around singing, drinking, and smoking and laughing deep into the night. Our faces lit by candles and the licking flames of the fire in the hearth nearby. But we had many more adventures than just those …

Dear Reader, will you stay tuned for  more?



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