Saturday, February 28, 2009

I was wondering what I could share about Argentina this week and thought it would be fun to introduce you to other Argentine authors. But I found, that actually, I don't know much about Argentine authors, shameful as that is to admit.

Growing up I knew of Jose Luis Borges and read parts of folk classic Martin Fierro and don't even know who wrote that.

So I started surfing the web to see what I could find and came across a blog that spoke about Foundation TyPA who distributed a brochure at the Franfurt book festival on 30 Argentine writers who were not yet translated. Hopefully some of these will be translated to English, because the stories look interesting. To see the brochure follow this link:

This gives a good idea of the type of current writers in Argentina. I'd love to find a few writers that already translated. If I tried to read them in Spanish it would probably take me all year to read one book. If anyone out there wants to recommend a few books, please do. Or even better, American-Argentine authors.

Until next time,


Sunday, February 22, 2009

Jr. Olympians Inspire Greatness

Had an awesome weekend with my friends from Florida. I went to watch their twelve year old daughter compete in a gymnastics meet in Del Mar. This is the first competition of this type that I've attended and enjoyed it.

Anytime I'm around people that are doing something they love, I get re-inspired to do what I love, which is of course, to write. These young girls are SO good. My friend tells me they practice for hours. At this level her daughter spends 4 to 5 hours a day practicing. And of course, the closer they get to the Elite level, the more hours they have to dedicate to their chosen sport.

Do those of us that write or would like to write "put in" the numbers of hours it takes to be great? Do we test our skills in writing competitions or by submitting out work to agents and editors? I think greatness really does take a lot of work. It takes time on the computer, putting words on a page. It takes a willingness to attend workshops to continually improve our skills.

The girls at the meet today were focused on each event. My friend warned me not to expect her daughter to acknowledge that we were in the audience because she would not. And I could completely understand that. She wouldn't allow herself to get distracted. I do this when I write. I tune everyone and everything out. I try not to judge what I'm writing until I go back and edit, otherwise I would probably sensor what I wrote. So focus is important.

Also, in writing it's important to do what I was lucky enough to do this weekend, and that is to get away from your work and do something that inspires you. Great people inspire me. For others it might be a weekend in the mountains. Whatever it is, getting away from the work gives you perspective. Practicing is important, but so are breaks every once in a while.

So I'm feeling refreshed and ready to start a busy week. By the way, my friend's daughter came in second all around. She was awesome!!


Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Making Beef Barley Soup

I'm starting to think I need to vary my Wednesday or I'm going to have nothing but reciepes on my blog. But not to change in mid-week, he is another favorite of mine. Beef Barley Soup. On cold days, this is soooo good.

You'll need:

1 1/2 pounds beef stew meat

2 tablespoons of cooking oil

7 cups water

1 16-ounce can tomatoes, cut up

1 large onion, chopped

2 tablesppons instant beef bouillon granules

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon dried basil, crushed

1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

2 cups sliced carrot

1 cup sliced celery

2/3 cup quick-cooking barley

1/2 cup chopped green pepper


In a large kettle or Dutch oven brown meat in hot oil over low heat; drain well. Still in water, undrained tomatoes, onion bouillon granules, salt, basil, and Worcestershire sauce. Cover, and simmer for 1 1/2 hours. Stir in carrot, celery, barley, and green pepper. Cover, simmer for 45 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper (though I find I don't need to add anything at this point)

This is great to make when you have time, because though it doesn't take a lot of prep time, it takes a long time simmering. But it's well worth the wait.

We've been having lots of rainy days, and it's great on those days.

Hope you enjoy!


Sunday, February 15, 2009

Argentine Wines

In California, we're all waiting to see what kind of budget out state government will pass, and how much we will be taxed in the next few years. For the first time, my husband and I are talking about why we want to continue to live here. But since this is too depressing a topic to discuss, I'm going to move on to talking about something much more interesting. I'm currently working on a novel which will take place in the the wine country of Argentina and Southern California.

Researching wine-making has been an interesting part of the process, an no not because I've spent countless hours tasting the different varieties of wine. I'd had Argentine and Californian wines before, but I didn't know what I was tasting until I began to learn a little about the differences between Argentine Malbecs, Syrahs, and Cabernet Sauvignons. I'll never be an expert, but I delved into the process of wine making and wine appreciation enough to flavor my novel accordingly.

Argentine wines have been mostly undiscovered by other countries. They are produced in the province of Mendoza. This region enjoys a perfect climate of abundant sun and little rain. Also unlike other Argentine provinces, it has low humidity. The soil is rocky but rich in nutrients. The combination ends up producing excellent premium wines with unique characteristics. They share an intense color, and are not too dry which I like. The Malbec which is the Argentine specialty has "velvety soft tannins and low acidity" according to the bottle, and I guess this is a good thing.

Argentine wines are not only good, but inexpensive compared to some European and American wines, so they are easy on your budget. So even if California keeps trying to tax us out of existance we can afford to buy a bottle of wine every once in a while. Here is a good site to find out more information of Argentine wines:

And this one is one that was helpful to me in how to "taste" wine:

So if you're stressing over the California taxes or buried under snow or rain today, go get yourself a bottle of wine and maybe some cheese and crackers and try it out. Let me know what you think.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Arroz Con Pollo

One of my favorite meals, growing up was my mother's arroz con pollo, chicken and rice. It was delicious, filling, and for an Argentine family that had beef of some type everyday, chicken was a nice change.

Then when I was newly married, I took my husband to visit Argentina, and on our last day in Buenos Aires we found this little cafe to have lunch. I ordered Arroz con Pollo, and it was amazingly good. If I could have, I would have stayed another day, just to eat there again.
But, I never learned to make it myself. Until one day I bought a cookbook that had a pretty good recipe for chicken and rice. I made it and thought it wasn't my mothers everyone liked it.
So this is what I'm making for my family tonight:

Chicken (3 pounds), cut up, salt and freshly ground peper
2 tablesppons olive oil
1 large onion
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 medium-size green bell pepper, cut into strips
1 cup rice
1/2 pound Italian sausage (about 2)
1/4 teaspoon ground saffron
1 can cut tomatoes, Italian style
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano (I go lighter)
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (again, I go lighter)
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed
1/2 cup pitted black olives, sliced

1. Season chicken with salt and pepper. In a large frying pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add chicken and sausage and cook, turning, until brown all over, about 10 minutes or until chicken is fully cooked. Transfer with tongs to a large flameproof casserole.

2. Add onion, garlic, and bell peppers to skillet and cook until onions and peppers are soft. Transfer to casserole; and rice.

3. To skillet add saffron, tomatoes wine, oregano, cayenne, and chicken broth. Bring to a boil, scraping up brown bits from bottom of pan. Pour into casserole. Stir to distribute rice evenly. bring to boil, reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 25 minute, until chicken is tender.

4. Stir in peas and olives and heat through. Serve immediately with penty of ice cold beer!



Sunday, February 8, 2009

Valentine's Day Treat

As is often the case with me, I got overwhelmed last week and didn't get a chance to post at all. So I'm going to share the recipe I planned to post last Wednesday.

When my daughter was younger, probably about five, I bought her a Mom and Me cookbook. She was interested in cooking, and I thought it would be something fun and educational to do together. Well, this cook book has turned to be so good. The recipes are simple and the food actually tastes great. And there are pictures to accompany each step so that your little ones can follow along. I highly recommend this for all you moms with your children.

I want to share a recipe from this book for Rasberry Ripple Cheesecake. You can make if for Valentine's Day, and share it with your sweetheart. It looks like you spent a long time preparing it, but it will take you less than half an hour and there's NO BAKING.

This is what you need:

1 Graham Cracker Crust shell

2 1/2 fresh rasberries (or a bag of frozen works well too)

16 oz cream cheese

1 cup super-fine sugar

2/3 cup powdered sugar

1 2/3 cups whipping cream

1 tsp vanilla extract

1. First, you make the rasberry puree by bringing raspverries and powdered sugar to a boil, then simmer for 10 minutes. Cool, then press through a sieve.

2. Mix together the cream cheese, superfine sugar, and vanilla extract. Whip the cream until stiff, then fold it into the cheese mixture.

3. Spread toping on the cracker base -- use about 3/4 of the cheese mixture. Then spoon on 3/4 of the puree and swirl it into the cheesecake mixture.

4. Gently spread on the remaining cheescake mixture. Drizzle on straight lines of raspberry puree. Pull a skewer acraoss the lines for a feathered effect.

5. Leave the cheesecake in the refrigerator for a least 2 hours or overnight.

And that's it! It's so amazingly easy.



Sunday, February 1, 2009

Super Bowl Sunday

Superbowl Sunday used to always fall on my birthday weekend. My husband was always a good sport about it and didn't complain when he had to spend the weekend with me instead of doing what almost every other man in America was doing, watching the Superbowl. But now that they've moved it to a week later, he can watch it. And yet . . . he's not. I'm not because I had to work today.

We used to tape it to share the game together and watch the half time show, and of course, all the new commercials. It's wierd, because any other time, I hate to watch commercials. But not during the Super Bowl. In fact that's what I missed most today. Every year there's always a few good ones. I came across this one on uTube . They say it was banned, I don't know, but it's pretty funny.

That's what I mean, Superbowl Sunday is just plain fun. So today, whether you got together with friends, watched it for the game, the half time show or the commercials, I hope you had a great time.

And for my old high school friend who loved the Steelers and had everything from posters to helmets to beach towels with Steelers logos on them, Go Steelers!