Thursday, October 23, 2014

So. Much. News.

Chickens-

Buckle up, this is going to be a doozy!

First off, I want to thank all of you who pre-ordered my new digital cookbook Big Delicious Life.  It should have been delivered to you wirelessly on the 21st.  For those of you who have not yet pulled the trigger, welcome to instant gratification!  You can get yours HERE.


It's only $3.79, kids, and has not only over 150 recipes, including over 40 that have never been printed, but it also has a chapter of my new novel Recipe for Disaster, to give you a sneak peek at what is coming your way in March.  Makes a great gift for a foodie pal or relative, and there are plenty of holiday centric recipes for the upcoming celebrations.  And if you've ever cooked one of my recipes, either from the novels or from here on the blog, it would mean the world if you would work your social media network on my behalf.

Now, are we ready for a house update?  I bet we are!

Much to report from here at the castle.  The Matts have left the building.  Yep, all eight of our strapping 25 year old tenants headed out last week for new digs.  They were a fun bunch, consumed their collective weight in pizza, beer and Mountan Dew on a weekly basis, and generally made it not horrible to play Mrs. Roper.  We have found a new group of tenants for the third floor, who will move in next week, and we are looking forward to getting to know them.

The concrete floor in the basement FINALLY cured, and so we polished and sealed it.





ISN'T IT YUMMY?  I wish you could feel it.  It is like one huge river rock.  The first chance we got, we ran around barefoot.  I have never been barefoot in my basement EVER.  Not since the day I moved in.  It was strangely gratifying. The floor looks a little shinier in the pics than it does in real life, the finish is more of a matte glow.

Now that the floor is done, we can start framing up walls and really pulling stuff together!

In the meantime, with the decampment of the second floor Matts, we were able to start the demolition where the new eat-in kitchen will be.

What used to be a dining room...


Butler's Pantry...
 
Pantry....
 Small bedroom....

 And kitchen....

Is now....



Now, I know you are probably looking at the "before" and thinking "Those are lovely spaces!  Why on earth would anyone turn them into something that looks like Beirut?"  And the answer is, because your Polymath needs a great kitchen that is bigger than a postage stamp, where she can cook with her Charming Suitor and not elbow each other in the eyeball.  A kitchen with actual counter space.

We salvaged all of the woodwork and built-ins for re-use elsewhere (stay tuned for those projects), and are now dealing with the information resulting from the demolition.  Because as anyone who has ever renovated a home over 100 years old knows, there are always surprises.  Sometimes good, sometimes bad.  We got very lucky in the basement, no bad surprises at all. But what we have discovered here does create some challenges.  We knew that the construction of the building was steel, so YAY!  Won't fall down!  We assumed that the floor joists would have been laid out on TOP of the steel beams.  Demolition revealed that not to be the case.  The floor joists are all laid out directly into the beams.  Which creates some serious issues in how we had thought to lay out our plumbing runs and HVAC ductwork.  Usually these things go between the joists.  On top of the beam.  Since the joists run INTO the beams, all of the runs we planned would run smack into the middle of steel beams.  Not functional.  So we are meeting Monday with our contractors and our architect to come up with some solutions.

We also demolished half of the closet in one of the future guest bedrooms:

Closets were a later addition to the building, in 1907 people used armoires and such to store clothes.  In this room, they added two side by side closets, one of which contained a small window.  Because nothing is better for your best duds than constant access to direct sunlight.  By removing half of the closet, our guests will still get some closet space, but what feels like a much bigger room!  We have a beautiful English Arts and Crafts tall dresser with a mirror that will fit beautifully in this nook.

We also demoed parts of the bathroom:


When we took out the horrid 1978 corner tub it revealed some of the original tile floor:


Buried under layers of ghastly linoleum, and partially demolished from previous plumbing work, we are very sad that we can't salvage it.  I love that the accent tiles are blue instead of the more common black, and would have loved to just restore a floor like this, but not enough of it survived, so we will be looking into other options.  But it was very cool to get to see it, and we are going to try and save some of the cove tiles that are along the baseboard just for our "treasures" box.

Things are going to start to move pretty quickly over here, so stay tuned for much more frequent updates!

Yours in Good Taste,
The Polymath

Monday, September 15, 2014

Let's Get Cooking!

Chickens-

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!

SQUEE!!!!

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!

Chickens-

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.

Because, TWO! TWO! TWO MIRRORS IN ONE!

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.  

And...

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!

Chickens-

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 www.naturalsbyginab.com.

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!

Chickens-

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!
LeslieJane...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.

Chickens-

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