About Me

My photo
NYT Bestselling Author. Reluctant master of packing light. Lover of beautiful shoes & spicy food. Lapsed ballerina. Cook. Book junkie.

Monday, May 1, 2017


I can't believe it's the first of the month again. Chicago is finally (sort of) getting some spring weather, but I'm off to Wyoming tomorrow, where I'm hoping to see a little snow. So! What do I recommend to help us all focus on good stuff this month?


David Mitchell, Black Swan Green

It’s no secret that I consider David Mitchell to be the best novelist working today, and my signed copy of this book is one of my most treasured possessions. Black Swan Green tells the story of thirteen-year-old Jason Taylor navigating life in a small English village during the early 1980s. The characters are gorgeously developed, from Jason himself (an aspiring poet who struggles with a stammer), to his sly older sister, his often-bickering parents, and schoolmates (friends and enemies alike).

Let’s face it; thirteen is a pretty crummy age, and I’m sure most of don’t harbor a hidden desire to revisit it. But this book elevates the coming-of-age story in a way no other does. It makes Catcher in the Rye hide in shame. Joy and wonder erase and then are erased by pain and betrayal in a cycle we can all recognize from adolescence. This book makes the ordinary enchanting and magical and is an absolute pleasure to read.

I leave you with one of favorite lines in the novel:

“If you show someone something you've written, you give them a sharpened stake, lie down in your coffin, and say, ‘When you’re ready’.”

True, true words.


Sing Faster: The Stagehands’ Ring Cycle

John Else’s 1999 utterly charming documentary follows the San Francisco Opera’s production of Wagner’s Ring Cycle from backstage. Sure, the singers are fantastic, but the drama behind the scenes is every bit as enticing. Witty, insightful, and masterfully filmed, this is entertainment at its best. Watching the stagehands explain the plot (over a game of poker played when they’re not moving scenery) will make you laugh out loud (“Doesn't one of the giants get a chick out of the deal?”).


I don’t think I’ve ever met someone who didn’t like chocolate chip cookies, and when Kathy Lapergola asked for my recipe, I knew it was what I’d have to share this month. My go-to favorite comes from an ancient copy of Betty Crocker’s Cooky Book given to me by my grandmother. They were the first recipe I adapted for high-altitude cooking when I moved to Wyoming after college and what I made for after school snacks on my son’s first day of high school.

Betty names these the Best Cooky of 1935 – 1940. My only question is when did the spelling change from “cooky” to “cookie?”

Chocolate Chip Cookies

2/3 cup butter
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup brown sugar (packed)
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
½ cup chopped nuts (optional)
1 cup chocolate chips

Pre-heat oven to 375

Mix butter, sugars, egg, and vanilla thoroughly. Measure flour after sifting. Stir dry ingredients together; blend in. Mix in nuts and chocolate chips. Drop rounded teaspoonfuls of dough about 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheet (I always cover mine with parchment paper to avoid extra dish washing). Bake 8 to 10 minutes, or until delicately browned. (Cookies should still be soft) Cool slightly before removing from baking sheet.

Makes 4 to 5 dozen 2 inch cookies

Variations: Sometimes I use half chocolate and half butterscotch chips. Also, it can be fun to combine different varieties of chocolate, say, bittersweet and semi-sweet. There’s also nothing wrong with throwing in some pieces of toffee crunch, too.