Monday, September 15, 2014

Let's Get Cooking!


I've been teasing you about my upcoming digital cookbook for ages, and I'm delighted to let you know that it is coming very soon.  This cover is so hot off the presses that it isn't even posted on Amazon yet!


Big Delicious Life is a digital collection of 150 recipes from my novels, including 40 recipes that had to be cut from the original books for space considerations.  Even better, because it is digital, it is a recipe resource you can keep in your pocket on your phone or tablet, perfect for those moments you are at the grocery store and don't know what to make for dinner!  I love having recipes on the go when I'm traveling or staying with pals, and there is something for everyone in here.

The absolute best part?  In a day and age when a new cookbook will run you anywhere from $25-$65?  Big Delicious Life is $3.79.  BOOM.  I've had such wonderful feedback from you all about cooking from the books, and I know what a pain it is to have to go searching through multiple books to find a recipe, so I really wanted to make all of them available in one super-convenient format, and at a price that makes it a real value, and an easy fun gift.  We're talking like 2 1/2 cents a recipe, people!

I spent a lot of time working on the indexing, so there are actually two ways to navigate, you can find recipes from a specific novel, but I've also indexed them based on ingredients, so if you are staring at a package of chicken in your fridge and don't know what to do with it, you can get all the chicken recipes in a flash.

It is currently available for pre-order and will be delivered to your E-Reader on October 21, in time for all of your holiday menu planning.  

I'm very proud of it, and can't wait to hear how you all like it.  Also?  It includes a chapter (and a recipe) from my upcoming new novel Recipe for Disaster just to whet your appetites.

Yours in Good Taste,
The Polymath

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Stick a Fork in Me!


I'm finally getting my head above water!  I'm delighted to announce that I've finished the revisions on my new book, and I really really think you are going to like it.  Recipe for Disaster is the story of a contractor whose life blows up around her, forcing her to live in the half-finished ruin of her current renovation with a miniature schnauzer that hates her.  I'm very excited about it, and there are plenty of new recipes as well!

Luckily for us, our own renovations are moving along without disaster!  We officially have a completed concrete pour in the basement, so no more dirt floor.  We are waiting for it to cure for 28 days so that we can polish it.  Once that happens, it's time for fun things like, you know, WALLS!  I have a feeling that once we start to see some framing, things are going to move very quickly, so get ready for a Fall full of updates. In the meantime, I thought I would share some of the unexpected pitfalls of doing such a renovation.

When you know that more square footage is imminent?  It can become tricky not to purchase things for the "future house" as opposed to the "current house".  This is where what used to be a casual flirtation with Craigslist can turn into a dangerous full-fledged affair.  Case in point, the recent Hall Mirrorpalooza (which Charming Suitor might refer to as a Debacle).

I have wanted a built-in antique pier mirror for the foyer for the longest time.  It is appropriate to the time period of the building, and I have always thought it would make for a wonderful addition. Of course, salvaged genuine antiques of the right age have had three things working against me.  One?  They are very often terribly ornate, carved, gilded items, which certainly hits a Princess where she lives, but CS is viscerally opposed to things that are overly "decorative", being more of an Arts and Crafts/Prairie kind of guy, so the fancy ones are right out.  Two?  Even non-fancy ones are CRAZY expensive, ranging in my research from an almost-reasonable $1500 to a "are-you-effing-kidding-me?" $27,000.  And no, that is not a typo.  Three?  They are very often far far away, on the East Coast.  Or France.  And shipping costs for an item like this from NY to Chicago can be a thousand bucks or more and you don't even want to think about overseas shipping.  Um? No.

I've been looking around for one of these things for the better part of two years to no avail.

So you can imagine when I spotted this on Craiglist, it caught my attention.

Vintage Hall Mirror- $500 - Chicago

I looked at the picture.

Hard to see, I know, but not overly ornate, mirror in nice condition, and the style and finish of the woodwork is very much in line with the existing woodwork in our house.

I looked at the measurements.  I measured the wall in the foyer.  With very little adjustment, it will fit like a glove.  I show it to Charming Suitor who likes it.  I email the seller, yes it is still available, pretty close to our house, and yes, there is wiggle room on price.  

When we arrived at the house to see it, the owner mentioned that he is converting a two-flat into a single family home, so this is salvaged from that property.  "Oh,"  he says. "And there are two of them, so you can pick which one you like more."

My heart leapt.  Behind me I heard CS mutter. "F***."  Because he knows me, and he knows that unless one of the two of these is harboring a family of venomous spidersnakes, I'm gonna want them both.


They were both perfect.  Solid as a rock.  Mirrors beveled, and just the tiniest bit speckled in a way that lets you know they are over 100 years old.  All the moldings intact, original finish with plenty of patina.  I batted my eyelashes.  I gave my most winning smile.  And CS said, "You negotiate it."

I offered the guy $600 for both.  And he came back with an offer of "Absolutely, get them out of my garage."

Oh, yeah!

We decided that the second one will eventually get installed in our master bedroom to serve as a cool full-length mirror.  Of course, we are still a long way of being able to install either of them ANYWHERE, so for the moment?  They live in the dining room.  Along with the eventual vanity for the basement bathroom, and the eventual basement bathroom sink.  And all of our dining room furniture.  


All of the rest of the stuff I've found for the "future house" like a pair of repro Louis VIV chairs, and an Arts and Crafts desk, and four really cool art nouveau iron folding chairs...not to mention all of the stuff we took out of CS's bungalow now that we have sold it.  And THIS BAR CART!

you can kind of see the art nouveau folding chairs behind it...

How could I not?  It's Italian, 1920s, it's SILVERPLATE!  Look at the WHEELS!!!

I know.  Its a sickness.

Our formerly lovely dining room for dinner parties now looks like one of those storage units on Garage Gold, and when people come over, its all "how much fun to eat pizza on your lap in the living room!" party.  CS had to put me on a strict "No Craigslist till some new square footage is actually finished." moratorium.

Luckily, we only have to live like a Hoarders episode for another month or so, because when our second floor tenants vacate mid-October, we will move it all up there while we finish the renovations down here.

Stay tuned for more updates coming soon, there are a couple of exciting announcements to be revealed in the coming weeks!

Yours in Good Taste,
The Polymath

Monday, August 11, 2014

Winners Announced!

Congrats to Rebecca and Kelly Rollinson on winning the Naturals By Gina B Body Balm sets!  Email me at staceyballisinfo (at) gmail (dot) com with your shipping address and Gina will get you your products.

And thank you again to everyone who entered all of the giveaways these past couple of weeks.  So great to see all of your comments.

I'm back to rewrites, but stay tuned for some exciting updates on the house project!

Yours in Good Taste,
The Polymath

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Winners announced and YET ANOTHER GIVEAWAY!


Thanks to all who entered to win Laura Caldwell's darling summer read, The Dog Park.

Congrats to Trish Ryan, Erica, and KW!  You have won signed copies.  Email me your shipping address at staceyballisinfo(at)gmail(dot)com and Laura will get them out to you.  For everyone who didn't win, you can pick up your copy HERE.

And since it is my summer of prizes, I have another guest post from a pal with another giveaway!

Gina B is one of my besties who has accidentally invented a couple of fabulous new  skincare products!  I'll let Gina tell her own story but I can vouch for the quality, I've been lucky enough to be one of her testers and I just love them.  They do exactly what they are supposed to do, and they smell delicious.  Gina is providing TWO sets of her body products to a lucky reader, just comment below with the skin or hair problem you wish you could fix forever!

Gina- take it away!

I'm excited to announced that I’ve released a line of body products - if two products can be called a line.  The company name is Naturals by Gina B, and the line is aptly titled Kiss My Ash.  The name is very appropriate because it kisses away the ashy appearance of dry skin.  

There’s a tale of how this came to be (because of COURSE there is).  Long story short, I was unhappy with my hair.  (If you knew me personally you would know that I’m ALWAYS unhappy with my hair, but I was especially distraught about it this time).  I was displeased because my naturally curly/wavy hair had been heat damaged from a terrible run-in with a smoking hot flat iron, and I was left with areas that are bone straight and others that have remained curly, somehow.  Not really high on the cuteness scale, and very distressing.  I loathed of the products on the market (and I have an entire closet full of them to prove it) and I willfully decided that I was going to make my own super-product that I would formulate specifically to address my issues and get my curls back.

Chemistry was one of my favorite subjects in high school, so I got busy blending natural ingredients and came up with a usable conditioner.  I used it enthusiastically, and learned a harrowing lesson.  The trouble is that, once damaged, curly hair can’t be restored (it’s still a hot mess and I will ultimately have to cut it in stages).  However, I did really enjoy the residual effects that my concoction had on my skin as it rinsed out of my lifeless hair in the shower.  So I retooled it, worked on creating a creamy texture, and lo and behold I had body butter.

I instantly fell in love with my own product because it was made with my issues in mind and addressed all of my needs for moisturized, glowing skin.  I hated sticky products and watery lotions.  I also detested lotions and oils that soiled my clothes, and my concoction dried quickly on the skin without staining my garments.  I wanted something that I could use on my face without it making me look like a walking oil slick.  I also enjoy a simple product with only a handful of ingredients that are easily pronounced.  

I was lounging poolside in LA with a girlfriend.  She needed moisturizer and I offered mine.  She wanted to know the brand, and I confessed that I had made it myself.  After asking several questions she enthusiastically told me that I should think about marketing and selling them.  I laughed and sipped my refreshing Chardonnay spritzer.  What a cute and funny idea.

Then, as I began letting others try my product, they agreed.  They say that it’s very emollient and works wonders on dry skin.  And when the boyfriend became addicted to another product that I made — the body scrub — I gave it serious thought.  Love him, but he’s one of the most particular people I know.
So here we sit, nearly a year later.  I’ve done endless market research.  I’ve gotten deeper into the science of it — which has been SO much fun and rewarding.  I’ve enjoyed picking out packaging and sourcing materials.  I’ve turned my friends into my own personal guinea pigs and foisted samples upon unsuspecting strangers.  I’ve created a list of future releases and I haven’t been this excited and anxious about anything in years.  If ever.  Who knew?

Because Stacey is a dear friend, amazing writer and most importantly she was kind enough to sample the second-to-last iteration of the formula, I wanted to make sure to provide a giveaway for her esteemed readers.  Two lucky readers will receive a full 4 oz jar of Kiss My Ash Body Balm, and an 8oz jar of Kiss My Ash Body Buff.  If you don't win, feel free to visit my website at

Be sure to comment below by 11:59 PM on Sunday August 10, I'll announce winners on Monday.

Yours in Good Taste,
The Polymath

Friday, August 1, 2014

Winners Announced and A guest post with giveaway!


First of all, thanks for all of you who entered to win the amazing Get it Right Spatula sets! I wish I could send a set to each and every one of you, but sadly, I only have three sets to giveaway.  And the lucky winners are....

Angie...we are SAVING THE SAUCE!
Tracy McCarty...No more employee gift spatulas for you! and your Suitor can each have your own spatula and still have one to spare!

So, now the important part...

You have to pick your size/color combos!  Each of you is getting one Ultimate, one Skinny, and one Mini.  Please send me an email at staceyballisinfo (at) gmail (dot) com with your shipping address and which colors you want for your sets.  Your options are white, black, gray, pink, magenta, yellow, orange, red, sky blue, lavender, teal or lime.  You can have all one color or mix and match, just be sure to put the details in your email and congrats!

For those of you who didn't win, I still cannot recommend them enough, they are worth the purchase, and you can buy yours HERE.

Since I adore you all, and want everyone to have a shot at something wonderful...I've got another giveaway!

My dear friend Laura Caldwell has written an adorable new book called The Dog Park.

And since it is summer, I know that many of you want to take your pooches with you for some al fresco dining.  As I do not myself have a dog, I thought this would be a great opportunity for Laura to share some of her tips, and as a bonus, she has THREE SIGNED COPIES to giveaway!  Just comment below by 11:59 pm CST on Monday August 4 to enter.

Take it away Laura...

When I was writing The Dog Park, my new book about a divorced couple who share joint custody of the suddenly-famous dog, I managed to take own puppy nearly everywhere. All in the name literature. But even if you're not penning a novel, it's summer, so take out the whole family 

5 Doggie Do's and Don't's for Dining Out
- Do ask any restaurant with outdoor seating if you can dine al fresco with el doggo. Unless the outdoor area is a partially enclosed patio, most establishments are happy to have you.

- Don't let your pup roam. The couple who smiled at him across the deck doesn't want him sniffing their newly-delivered burgers.

- Do ask your server for a bowl of water for your dog.

- Do bring treats or a tupperware of Fido's own food. (Everyone sees the strip of chicken that goes under your table and onto your pup's head before landing on the floor for him to eat).

- Do bring your dog everywhere while it's still seasonable out!

-Don't be afraid to dine just you and the pup...just bring your copy of The Dog Park to read while you both are enjoying a beautiful day!

Please feel free to find me on Twitter and Facebook. Good luck!  

Love,  Laura Caldwell

Thanks Laura for these tips!  Now everyone start sharing in the comments so you can be entered to win a signed copy of this terrific summer read.

Yours in Good Taste,
The Polymath

Monday, July 21, 2014

Spatulicious! With a giveaway.


Here is another quick product recommendation, and this one with a fabulous giveaway!

First, a little backstory:

I am a spatula girl.  And by spatula, I mean a slab of silicone on the end of a stick that I can use to make perfect scrambled eggs, or fold cake batter, or scrape something sticky out of one vessel and into another.

I am also, it should go without saying, a lazy girl, which means that while I am turning my kitchen into a disaster area, I require multiples of nearly every utensil so I don't have to stop and wash something, and everything goes in the dishwasher.

This is particularly complicated when it comes to the spatula situation, since the really good ones have wooden handles.  This means that you really have to be careful about cleaning, since stuff can get into the seam and be really disgusting.  You can pull the silicone head off of the wood to avoid putting the wood in the dishwasher, but after a few times, you find that the wood and silicone decide not to love each other nearly as much as they once did, and then the head of your spatula falls off into the egg whites mid-fold or flops off into the quiche filling spraying you with liquid eggs and you get powerfully in touch with your inner vulgarian.

So when I saw the Get it Right Spatula line at the Housewares show?  I was more excited than someone should probably be.  In fact, I think they may have questioned my sanity.  But these people, much like their name, have in the simplest possible terms, gotten it right.

Their spatulas are a single piece of silicone that is heat proof to 464 degrees, and heat resistant to 550!  The weight is perfect, the flex is strong enough to work with stiff cookie dough but soft enough to make perfect eggs.  The whole thing goes right in the dishwasher, and since there are no seams, it cleans like a dream.

They have four sizes, a regular size called the ultimate, which will be your go-to for almost every application.  Then there is a long one with a slimmer head that is a total game changer for getting things out of jars.  Charming Suitor is a peanut-butter on english muffin for breakfast EVERY DAY kinda guy, and this skinny version is his new best friend.  Then there is a mini version, which is like Honey I Shrunk the Ultimate, and I love it for little jobs like scraping homemade salad dressing out of the mixing bowl and into a container. The Pro is a serious and massive version that is great if you do a lot of large batch baking.

Even cooler?  They come in a dozen awesome colors.  So you can match your decor, or buy each size in a different color so they are easy to spot in the drawer.  I have a Pro in Magenta, an Ultimate in Teal, a Skinny in Orange, and minis in both Gray and Lime.  But for your kitchen, they also come in White, Black, Lavender, Sky Blue, Pink, Red and Yellow.  There is even a set that is striated to look like BACON!

And yes, I do, in fact, wish I had one of each size in every color, despite recognizing that having four dozen spatulas is insanely ridiculous.  But sometimes you are feeling lavender, and sometimes you are feeling yellow, and that is just how things go.  I own it.

Because I love you all, and because Get it Right is such a rockstar company, I have THREE SETS of spatulas to giveaway to three lucky Chickens!  You will get a set of three spatulas, an Ultimate, a Skinny and a Mini, and even better, you get to custom pick your colors!  Three different colors, all the same, your choice.

Just comment below to enter, hopefully telling us why these spatulas will absolutely change your life and cooking, by 11:59 pm CST on July 31, and on August 1 I will announce the three winners!

In the meantime, check out their website for more info and to dream of the colors...  GET IT RIGHT

And if you can't wait, you can buy one  HERE

Yours in Good Taste,
The Polymath

Friday, July 18, 2014

The Glamorous Life of the Foodie Writer on Deadline: Perceived and Actual


I may have mentioned that I am currently doing the rewrites on my new novel:

 With a cover this cute, and what with it being all available for pre-order and everything, it seems that I ought to make sure I get the actual thing, you know, finished.

People often ask me about process, and about what my days look like as a full-time writer, and I realized that there is usually the idea of what this life is like and then there is the reality.

So I thought this would be a good time to share:

The Life of a Foodie Writer on Deadline


8am- Awaken rested, ready to tackle a hard day at the computer
8:15- Make a large pot of organic decaffeinated tea to last the morning, and create a lovely energizing parfait of Greek yogurt, homemade granola, and fresh berries
8:30- Turn on classical music or jazz to provide soft background music, and settle into your office, which contains an antique library table used as a desk, wraparound bookshelves, and a fainting couch.
9:00- having skimmed over the outline of what is to be written today, turn on the computer and get to work
11:00- feeling good about progress, break for tea and homemade biscotti
11:15- return to writing
12:30- break for lunch-Seared Tuna Nicoise Salad made with baby greens, tomatoes, and green beans from the garden, baby new potatoes from the Farmer’s Market, and a homemade shallot Dijon vinaigrette using a technique picked up last visit to Provence- quickly post picture of lunch to Facebook
1:30- Skim over morning writing and pronounce it lovely, continue writing
3:30- break for tea and an energizing snack of homemade hummus and flax crackers with crudités
3:45- Continue writing
6:30- Break for dinner- Grilled baby lamb chops with black garlic butter, mint and parsley carrot couscous, steamed asparagus.  Peaches with honeyed mascarpone and candied sage for dessert.  Plate everything on vintage china and eat with grandmother’s wedding silver and a half carafe of perfectly chilled Cote de Provence.  Take pictures of everything for files.
7:30-  Quickly jot down recipe notes on dinner for use in blog post tomorrow
8:00- Return to office with wine and settle on fainting couch to read over today’s writing and make notes on outline for tomorrow
9:30- Indulge- watch Jiro Dreams of Sushi while editing
11:00- eat a single square of artisanal 85% dark chocolate while reading MFK Fisher’s The Art of Eating for the eleventh time.
12:00- sleep

6am- Awaken briefly to pee.  Return to sleep. Have bizarre dreams.
9- Awaken for real. Debate going back to sleep.  Lose debate due to need to take a dump.
9:15- Drink a diet ginger ale, and eat a Think Thin peanut butter chocolate protein bar, marveling that chocolate and peanut butter can actually taste like chalk and old socks.  Put on Fitbit.
9:30- Settle onto the living room couch with laptop on the ottoman and turn on HGTV to provide background noise.
9:45: Check email and Feedly blogs
10:30:  Grab iPad and use up all of your available lives in Candy Crush, Pet Rescue Saga, Bubble Witch 1 & 2, and Juice Cubes
11:30- feeling good about progress, break for tea and chocolate chip toffee cookies from the freezer that you were saving to bring to a friend next week.  Vow to make fresh cookies instead.  Nearly pull out a filling on frozen cookies.
11:45- Get sucked into the end of a particularly compelling Love it or List it.  They love it.  Despite still being one bedroom and two bathrooms short for their family of 11, and the other house being three times the size and in their beloved neighborhood for under their budget and never having had black mold in the kitchen. Wonder about the general intelligence of Canadians.
12:00- Realize it is nearly lunchtime and therefore there is no reason to begin writing quite yet.
12:30- Survey lunch options.  There are makings for sandwiches, quick pastas, or salads in your overstuffed fridge.  Eat the tuna salad you picked up at the deli yesterday right out of the tub with a plastic fork to eliminate washing.
12:45- Eat a fistful of cornichons and three Kraft singles
12:55- Eat three more frozen cookies since you’ve been really good about your lunch being carb-free
1:15- Skim over yesterdays writing and cringe at your use of the word frankly no less than six times in 1500 words.
1:30- Ipad tells you all your lives are back
2:30- Hildy has discovered that the foundation of the house she is working on is completely unsafe and that the house could collapse into a hellmouth any second.  She gets Fergus right on fixing it up to make the family safe.  They are enormously pissed at her, as it is clearly her fault they bought this house with no inspection off an ad on the internet, and now they won’t be able to afford their open-concept main floor with gourmet kitchen and dining room.
2:59- They love it.  Where do they find these people?  I’ve met many lovely and insanely smart Canadians in my life.  None of them ever seem to
appear on Love it or List it.
3:00- Feeling sleepy.  Maybe blood sugar is low.  Look in fridge.  There is fresh fruit, hummus, crudités, yogurt.  Put electric kettle on for tea.
3:10:  Decide against tea and use boiling water for Cup O Noodles instead
3:12:  Scald the ever loving crap out of your hand on overflowing Cup O Noodles
3:15:  Burn tongue on lava-like Cup O Noodles
3:30:  Still sleepy.  Decide on Power Nap
5:30:  Awaken groggy and barely able to open eyes.
5:45:  Get off couch due to need to pee.
6:00: Drink diet ginger ale and eat last two frozen cookies.
6:15:  All your lives are back
6:59: They love it. Yell at television and switch to Bravo.
7:15: Almost dinnertime, better not start writing yet.
7:30: Survey fridge for dinner options. There is a rotisserie chicken, baby lamb chops, six grain salad, plus all of the options you ignored at lunchtime.
7:35:  Make large bowl of popcorn for dinner.  Eat three more Kraft singles while waiting for it to pop.  And for protein.  Source online picture of summer pasta with burrata and heirloom tomatoes for tomorrows blog post.
7:59: Feel awfully good about yourself since you are a much better person than any of these housewives.
8:00:  Switch to Law and Order marathon.
8:15:  Start writing.
10:15:  Break to pee.  Eat fistful of mini gummi bears that you bought because they are 1/3 the size of regular gummi bears and therefore impossible to resist, as is all adorable food.  Plus they come in 12 flavors.  Which all taste identical unless you are really paying close attention to the color before you eat them. Decide to test your palate and pick out one of every flavor and close eyes and try to identify blind.
10:30: realize that once you have eaten the gummi bear blind you have no idea if you were right.  Pick out two of every flavor so that you can start over and use process of elimination to determine if you were correct.
10:45:  10 out of 12.  You are clearly a superior palate.
11:00:  All your lives are back.
11:45:  go back to writing
2:50:  Realize that you have actually done some good work and wonder why you waited all day to get to it.
3:00: Check FitiBit, you have walked 1213 steps, all of them between couch, kitchen and bathroom.
3:15: go to sleep and vow to do better tomorrow.

Hope this clarifies!

Also, if you now can't stop thinking about mini gummi bears, you can get them HERE.  You're welcome.

Back to writing.  Honest.

Yours in Good Taste,
The Polymath