Favorite Food (Potato) and How I Use It

My friends at Long and Short Reviews started a blogging challenge and this week’s topic is favorite foods–an offer I can’t refuse. Looks like they’ve turned me into a food writer!

You Say Potato, I Say Wonderful

Potatoes were nearly always on the dinner plate in my youth, since my family’s Irish. Yet unlike most childhood staples, I’ve never gotten tired of them. In fact, I love them more than ever.

Spuds are tasty, filling and comforting, plus they’re full of nutrients. I read that if you had to live on two items, whole milk and white potatoes with skin would provide the most complete diet.

My kitchen is rarely without a bag of potatoes plus a box of good instant ones. Don’t knock the latter; a chef taught me that adding some to hand-mashed potatoes makes for a smoother texture. And whatever you’d use for a loaded baked potato you can also load onto a scoop of mashed.

When I was young and broke, potatoes were an economic godsend and inspired endless cooking creativity. Want to use up leftover scraps of chicken, spoonfuls of soup, assorted veggies and other meal fragments? Blend in milk or wine, add a spice or two and serve on a baked potato. Dish it up in a bowl or crock and it’ll look practically elegant.

Anything you’d mix into pasta, put on a sandwich or heap onto rice, add to a potato instead. Pour on spare marinara or meat sauce or spoon on your chili and shredded cheese.  Spritz salad dressing on chunks of potato, celery and tomato for a yummy salad.

Speaking of salad, I invented one to enjoy cold potatoes sans mayonnaise. I call it Potato Salad Provençal since I use ingredients of the region (and I’m part French), but I like to experiment and rarely obey recipes so I keep varying it. If you don’t like tomatoes, olives or onions, omit those and stick to potatoes by their lonesome. They’ll still taste fine. After all, they’re potatoes.

 Potato Salad Provençal

6 medium to large cooked potatoes (at least some red if possible) with skin, cubed

½ – 1 cup sliced olives, depending how much you like olives

1 large red onion, diced

½ cup sundried tomatoes, cut in thin strips

1 tsp. dried basil or ¼ cup fresh basil

1/3 cup olive oil *

¼ cup cider vinegar *

2 tbs. sugar

1 tsp. garlic powder

1 tsp. herbs de Provençe (optional)

* Substitute ½ cup or so of vinegary dressing, maybe Italian or balsamic, if you like.

Combine ingredients in a large bowl, refrigerate an hour and try not to keep sampling it until the bowl looks depleted and you have to make another batch.

Tackling the Write Space Dilemma

Most of the writers I know start each new year determined to produce more and better material. Finding the time to work is a challenge, but finding the right place can be as well. Here’s a piece I did for the Huffington Post, sharing my thoughts on the matter. Happy writing, all!

Finding the Write Spot

Writers often insist the creative process would go more smoothly if only they had a better work space.

A large office or a cozy alcove. An ergonomic chair and desk or a cushy armchair and generous table. Flooded with sunshine or bathed in dim, soothing light. Blissfully silent or humming with white noise or mellow music. Whatever the specifications, the perfect spot always seems out of reach.

After years of writing on the cluttered dining table of a big, noisy family and meeting deadlines amid the clamor of cubicle farms and newsrooms, I finally have plenty of space and solitude. Either of our guest rooms or our family room would make a great writer’s den. But not for me. As it turns out, those are the places where my inspiration goes to die.

It’s possible I’m still too steeped in illusions. I’ve stood in the parlor in Massachusetts where Concord native Louisa May Alcott penned Little Women and in Margaret Mitchell’s Atlanta apartment, nicknamed “The Dump,” marveling at the pocket-sized nook where she scrawled Gone with the Wind on yellow paper. I’ve visited the three Denver houses where my girlhood idol, Lenora Mattingly Weber, wrote dozens of young adult novels while raising six children.

Maybe I can’t shake those romantic images, or maybe holing up behind closed doors feels like being a child exiled to my room as punishment. For whatever reason, I write best in the more central rooms of the house, the ones where I spend time doing many other things.

Much of my writing occurs on my end of the living-room sofa, Dell notebook on my lap and feet on the vast coffee table we use for everything from lunch to mending to Scrabble. It’s great for composing essays, fiction or any material that requires little or no outside information. And if my husband’s not writing over on his side, Turner Classic or MeTV provides a little low-key companionship.


When a piece entails phone interviews, however, there’s no place like my kitchen table. That’s where the liveliest discussions with family and friends usually take place, and I’ve found this dynamic also applies when I’m chatting with faceless strangers. Settling in with my coffee and notebook establishes the right mood, like a talk show set complete with fruit bowl and cookie jar, and I seldom fail to get a good interview there.

For hard-core research and photos, I’ve come to rely on our sunroom. The lighting can’t be beat, so it’s an excellent location for taking pictures to accompany magazine features. But the big plus is the mammoth poker table my husband and his buddy constructed two summers ago. Each slot at the octagonal table can hold a store of reference items — books, handouts, notes, news clippings, legal pads, even a spare laptop for calling up online data. Its padded chairs are fine, but if I’m there for the long haul I prefer the comfort of my blue wicker rocking chair.


I’ll never stop drooling over pictures of those wonderful settings where top-tier writers get it done. Yet as much as I envy their waterfront views, antique desks or shelves full of trophies and travel souvenirs, I doubt I’ll ever be the atelier type.

I also wonder if the likes of Pat Conroy or Stephen Fried or Janet Evanovich ever play hooky from their work spaces, not to goof off but to seek a temporary change of venue. Maybe grab a notebook and head for the patio, laundry room or breakfast nook. An unlikely site—or two or three — that somehow unleashes ideas, speeds up research or makes the words flow more readily

Release Day!

Bumpy Night on the Walk of Fame was officially released by Uncial Press today — my first novel, now an e-book available for order!

Many thanks to editor Judith Glad for her faith in me and for the fabulous job Uncial did on editing, cover art, etc.  Not to mention all the emails and newsletters from Uncial staff and writers that brightened my days and answered my questions. You guys are the best!

Jude also submitted my book for review and I was lucky enough to get a great one from Long and Short Reviews: 4.5 stars and a glowing writeup. And its reader poll named Bumpy Night as Book of the Month–the book they most wanted to read based on the review!


I started my book years ago and it’s taken a while to get here, but it was worth the wait. I owe so much of it to the support of my husband Fred, my loved ones and an amazing posse of fellow writers and critics who gave me such valuable feedback, help and encouragement over the years.

If you order the book, I hope you’ll enjoy it. And if you’re working on a book of your own, keep going.  Write, rewrite, edit and–if you’re anything like me–don’t ever, ever run out of coffee!

Bumpy Night’s ready for pre-order!

My film fantasy novel, “Bumpy Night on the Walk of Fame,” is being published as an e-book next month by Uncial Press. But it’s available for pre-order as of today!!

An excerpt will follow soon, but here’s a quick summary:

After Bette Davis posthumously founds a museum-theater complex at her hometown college, the Producer on high fulfills her longtime dream of playing Scarlett O’Hara. But Bette has no idea how much she’ll shake up her career and her love life by starring in Gone with the Wind. And that’s only the beginning. Her cosmic do-over also manages to scramble eighty years of world history.

Ronald Reagan will win two Oscars and never become President while John Kennedy marries Grace Kelly and serves two terms. Marilyn Monroe will turn into a sitcom legend, Jacqueline Bouvier will run a style empire and Martha Stewart will become a celebrity chef.
To curator Dana Foster’s horror, the casting reboot plays havoc with her exhibits and replica Hollywood Walk of Fame. It turns egotistical superstar Patrice Clark into a nobody just as she is about to become the museum’s first Hall of Fame inductee. She’s outraged when she finds Meryl Streep is being honored instead and the Patrice Clark Walk of Fame star now bears Michelle Pfeiffer’s name.

Racing against time, the movie-loving academic and the high-strung diva form an uneasy alliance to unravel the mystery before the next day’s induction ceremony.
While they spend a stressful but enlightening day trying to restore order, the Producer takes Bette on a bumpy multi-media ride of her own. As she sees favorite film roles elude her and her onetime husband marry another, she mourns all she has sacrificed by starring in Gone with the Wind and fears her derailed history can’t be fixed.

Seeing that Patrice and Dana’s investigation is stalled, Bette gets permission to make a cameo appearance on earth and lend them a hand. In the process, the trio learns new lessons about film, fate and roads not taken.

For all you e-readers interested in learning more about my book, or reserving a copy, here are the Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Kobo links:


Hi, readers!

This is the post excerpt.

You’re looking good, readers — have you been working out? Now that the 21st Century is old enough to buy lottery tickets, I’m getting on board and learning to communicate with you via website. But I warn you, it’ll take a while for me to set it up properly. My first effort involved locating a vintage typewriter logo, uploading it, pasting it in twice and then erasing both images. Good to have you here so don’t go away. Just make yourselves at home. The rest room is the first door on the right and the cookie jar is on the kitchen table.