Moonstone Heart is here!

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you the new cover of Moonstone Heart. Check out our hero, Paul Trainor, the moodiest, dreamiest Irishman on the California Coast.

Moonstone Heart Julie Strauss

Paul owns the Trainor Inn on Moonstone Beach in Cambria, where he is engaged to his childhood sweetheart, Rosemary Streit. He loves her, but he’s always felt stifled by his small town and wanted more in his life. 

One day, a beautiful stranger with jet black hair and a wild sense of adventure crashes her bike in Cambria, and Paul has to make a choice between a life of stability and security, or a life of passion and adventure.

Have lots of tissues on hand, because this book is my ode to the weepy Danielle Steel type novels I used to read in high school. I loved writing this one; and coming up with all the awesome recipes in the back of the book. (Pie. Irish Soda Bread. Cheesecake. It’s a wonderland of carbs and handsome men.)

Moonstone Heart is available NOW everywhere you buy your books.

 

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Soup Roundup

Ladle

Ask any former waiter what food they can’t stand the sight of. We ALL have one item that turns our stomach because we served it a million times a day. In college, I worked at a café that was famous for its French Onion Soup. We had to scoop the soup into a crock, put a hard-toasted crouton on top, and hand it to the cooks. The cooks would throw a handful of parmesan on it, drape it with a giant slice of Gruyere, and then run it through the salamander (which is like a long broiler with a moving rack.) It was too hot to pick up, but if we didn’t grab it fast enough the Night Manager would yell at us to move our asses and get the soup out 911, or he’d hire a dog to serve food because dogs have more brains. Night Managers are the fucking worst. I don’t think I’ve eaten onion soup since then, because – ugh. That said – this Vegetarian French Onion Soup recipe sounds tasty, and I bet my family would love it. Plus, you know. Melted cheese is the food of the gods.

True story: the only soup my mother ever made for us was Campbell’s Chicken Noodle, and to this day when I am sick that is all I want. Not homemade, not fresh vegetables, not real chicken. Just Campbell’s from a can, a handful of saltine crackers crushed on top. When I’m sick, I’m a very cheap date. But I won’t have anything to do with that when I’m healthy, so I want to make some better recipes. If you are in the mood to up your soup game, I have a few suggestions here.

I don’t use parsnips enough, but I am going to rectify that by making this Roasted Garlic and Parsnip Soup With Sage and Lemon Butter. Because I think it looks purdy.

Dying for this Roasted Tomato Bread soup. Roasting makes even the anemic winter tomatoes taste good, but next summer I think I will try to freeze several trays of my garden tomatoes to have a really good winter soup.

This Sweet Potato Soup sounds deee-lish, and bonus: it’s vegan. If you care about that kind of thing. I don’t but I prolly should.

Another vegan option: this Curried Pumpkin Soup uses cashew cream for richness. Sounds daunting; is actually very easy.

I hate lentils in theory – they look like dusty little pebbles. But whenever I eat them, I vow to try them more often. This Broccoli Raab and Greens Curried Lentil Soup seems like a good place to start. I’ve made a lot of Tim’s recipes, and they are always great.

Cauliflower soup sounds like what they serve in a Dickens orphanage, but this Roasted Cauliflower and Chickpea Soup is beautiful.

Irish Beer Cheese Soup, with Smoked Paprika Popcorn? Um, ok. That’s not soup, that’s a Superbowl party in a bowl, but whatever. I’m down.

And obviously, what is soup without carbs? Nothing. So check out these recipes:

Cheesy Corn Cake Topper would be great on chili.

Garlic Parmesan Skillet Rolls. I mean. Who even needs the soup?

Spinach, Artichoke, and Bacon Stuffed Soft Pretzels sounds like a meal all on their own. I think you should make these when the soup isn’t very promising. Soup is kind of dumb food, let’s be honest. These crazy pretzels would fix that.

Savory Apple, Oat, and Herb Scones sound divine. Another one that would be good for breakfast.

Don’t get mad at me for posting a recipe in French; that’s why God gave you Google Translate. Just look at the pictures of this Pain Feuilleté au Roquefort and tell me you don’t want to stop eating store bought bread forever.

Ignore the 90’s TGIF appetizer menu name and just go with the goodness that is this Bacon Jalapeno Popper Cheesy Bread.

Easy Overnight Dark Rye Finally I found a bread recipe that doesn’t contain bacon or cheese. This one actually looks wholesome. I bet it would be fantastic for breakfast, lightly toasted, with a smear of unsalted butter and a dab of good jam.

Re-reading this post, it occurs to me that I only really like soup for the accompanying bread. Do you have a soup recipe for me?

OXO

Julie

PS – Be careful:

carbs

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On Binge Reading

Hammock

Let’s talk about a giant reading binge – by series or by author? Do you do it? Any you recommend?  I’m not talking about a reading binge just to cram in more book titles, not that that’s necessarily a bad thing; right now I’m talking about a binge because you love an author or a series so much that you have a completist mentality about them.

I read last week that Louise Penny is releasing a new Gamache mystery in November and I am soooo excited. I hope she does another book tour, and I really hope she comes to Southern California. I went to hear her speak in 2017 and made an absolute ass of myself when I talked to her afterward. But so deep is my love for her that if she comes around, I will see her again (hopefully she won’t remember me.) I am a little behind in the series, however, and I want to catch up before the new release. (Last year’s Gamache book, Glass Houses, was her best reviewed of the entire series, I think, and I still haven’t read it.) They technically don’t have to be read in order, but they will mean more to you if you do.

If it’s a romance series you are looking for, Book Riot has a list of 10 Complete Romance Series to Binge. I’d add to this list: The Jersey Girls series by Lisa-Marie Cabrelli. Alyssa Cole’s The Loyal League Series (which is only two books at this point but I am dying for another one.) Any of Sarah MacLean’s series (The Scandal and Scoundrel books, The Rules of Scoundrels series, or the Love by Numbers series.) If your tastes run to the more, um, ‘active’ romance, here’s a list of 8 Erotica Series you may want to check out. (By the way, that Tiffany Reisz series is my favorite set of book covers ever. I haven’t read that series but I love the way that woman drapes across all of the covers.)

Check out The Book Addicts Guide to 6 Bingeable Series You Won’t Want To Put Down. All of these are outside my usual genre picks, so I can’t wait to dive into them.

Modern Mrs. Darcy has a good list of authors to binge read (including Louise Penny.) Of these, I’m most eager to read Kate Morton’s books next.

What about you? What is your favorite book binge? Are you planning to binge anything this year?

OXO
Julie

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What’s Saving My Life Right Now

Underwater

Today is the mid point of winter, and I’m linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy to share what’s saving my life right now. Because depression can hit me any time of year, no matter the weather, I’ve never really understood seasonal depression. It’s no secret that I’m a Daughter of Winter. I’d choose a grey, rainy day over hot and sunny any day of the year. That said, this winter has been particularly rough. I’m making an effort to notice things – big and small – that lift my spirits or make me feel alive, human, and not insane.

  1. Movie Pass – I still don’t understand how this works as a business model, but whatever. It serves me, so I’m happy with it. Husband and I love going to the movies, and now we don’t fret about the expense anymore.
  1. The Vetiver and Cardamom Candle from Paddywax – I originally found this scent on a clearance table at Barnes & Noble, but now am willing to pay full price for it because I love it so much. I light it on my desk every morning, and it calms me all day. I had to look up what a vetiver is, and now I’m seriously addicted to the scent and wondering if I can grow it myself? One warning: the large size bottle has a stupid design; it’s impossible to get a match to the bottom to light the candle once it’s burned down. Stick with the medium size. (Note: the shop is closed until Feb 5, but you can find the candle on Amazon and some other retailers.)
  1. A Reading Challenge – My friend Claire challenged me to read 100 books this year and I decided to give it a try, even though I hate ‘reading challenges’ in theory. (Read what you want, when you want, kids.) 100 books is not a whole lot more than what I normally read in a year, but now I will need to squeeze in just a bit more book time every day. Which means I need to prioritize reading. Which means I get off the computer much earlier every night. Which means I sleep better. Which is saving my life.
  1. Randy Rainbow’s videos. He makes me laugh, and very few things make me laugh these days.
  1. Stitch Fix. Clothes shopping is boring and itchy and expensive and I hate it. I haven’t done it in over a year, because Stitch Fix sends me clothes that look good and fit on the first try. Can I get an Amen?
  1. The Milk Street Cookbook. My mother gave me this for Christmas (she got it signed by Christopher Kimball himself when she visited Boston,) and it has quickly become my favorite. The recipes are simple, and the flavors are exotic without being too crazy or difficult to shop for. It’s really nice to feel inspired in the kitchen again.
  1. Quitting coffee. Yeah, you heard me. I did not quit willingly, and I’m still kind of pissed about it, TBQH. But it’s been almost a month, and I have to admit that I feel better overall. Not gonna lie: I still think about coffee all day, every day.

Your turn: large or small, what is saving your life right now?

OXO

Julie

PS – Truth:

Take A Nap

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Let’s Go To The Movies

 

cool

I’m thinking about hosting an Oscar party. (By party, of course, I mean I will invite Denise over to watch with me, and we will drink champagne in our pajamas and look askance at anyone who dares to speak over Meryl Streep or Viola Davis.)

I am as annoyed as any feminist by the “Who Are You Wearing?” question that all women get on the red carpet. That said, I LOVE looking at Oscar dresses. This is a fun chart of the most iconic Oscar dress every year. Cher is the obvious winner for straight up crazy, but I’m also rather fond of Bette Davis and all of those feathers in 1939. Go big or go home, amirite ladies?

This article about the 100 Greatest Movie Props of All Time, is an awful lot of fun, mainly because it doesn’t rely on the usual suspects. I love that they include goofy things like the amps that go to 11 from Spinal Tap, or the pile of cocaine from Scarface.

Have there always been “punchable” celebrities? Or am I showing my age by commenting that a lot of young stars today have very punchable faces?  I’m not the only one who noticed.  I’m sure they are all very nice in real life, and it’s not their fault that they look like the kind of guys who would stiff a waitress or take a selfie in the gym mirror.

What do you think of this: Male Stars are Too Buff Now. I mean, I write romance, so I’m certainly not one to complain about six-pack abs. But it is getting weird right? I blame the superhero movies for this crazy muscle fetishisation, and I wonder when or if it will end. How sad it would be if an entire gender were to be judged on their physical appearance rather than their brains, compassion, or capabilities. That must be so demeaning.

As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts, and what you are reading/watching/playing this weekend!

OXO

JULIE

 

PS –

Bitch please

 

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Obstinate, Headstrong Girl

 

Queen Anne's Lace

I mentioned in my 2017 book round up that I haven’t re-read a Jane Austen book in 2 years, which is unusual for me. They are among the books that I re-read constantly and love more every time. I plan to rectify that situation in 2018 with Mansfield Park, because it’s been longest since I’ve re-read that one. I am feeling very Austen-ish this weekend, so I thought I would hit you up with a whole bunch of Jane links this weekend.

What do you think of re-imaginings of classic books, or retellings from the point of view of other characters? I love them, and even if they are poor examples, they don’t diminish my love of the original work at all. Some people balk at the notion of making an unremarkable character into a remarkable one, but that’s the whole point. Here’s the best writing advice I ever got: every single character thinks they are the star of the show. (And, major life advice: every single person you meet thinks THEY are the star of the show.) A character who is minor in one narrative is not at all unremarkable in their own. I plan to read the upcoming Pride and Prejudice sequel, and I’ll also read the Mary Bennet story.

Check out this this modern review of Pride and Prejudice from the great Helen Gardner, whom I always thought was waayyyy too smart for me. It turns out she is witty and accessible in her assessment of the Bennet family: “I sprang off my sopha at last, strode to the freezer for a slug of Absolut, and raised my glass in silent respect. A toast to the Empress, Jane Austen.”

I love this article, about the many ways we are wrong about Jane Austen. It’s so strange to think that we know someone so well, but in actuality we only know the modern consumer image. Her inner world, her thoughts and the real events of her life, remain tantalizingly opaque. There is something wonderful about that; as much as I want to know everything about her, we live in a world where no one has any secrets at all, and a mystery is quite refreshing.

Is Pride and Prejudice’s first line the most famous first line in all of literature? Check out this fun article about how it is used to sell everything from soap to contraceptives, and yet most people take it literally, instead of in the ironic tone it was intended. One thing to remember about Jane: she is much more subversive than many give her credit for. That’s why I get so annoyed when people dismiss her books as ‘simple love stories.’ They are really missing the whole genius of her work.

Speaking of genius: what do you think of Mrs. Bennet? She’s always my favorite in Pride and Prejudice; I never thought she was silly or stupid at all. I loved this article about how she is the most subversive of all of Austen’s characters, precisely because she is so easy to mock.

So, now it’s your turn: what are you reading this weekend? Have you read any Jane Austen lately? Do you like her, or have you never seen the appeal?

Happy weekend reading, my friend,

OXO

JULIE

PS – for fun:

Mr. Bennet

 

 

 

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The Shape of Water

the shape of water

There were two women about my age sitting next to me in the movie theater. They smelled like wine, and they were loud and bawdy through the whole movie. I wanted to snap at them You are not in your living room! Please kindly STFU. But I didn’t say anything because God knows I love a tipsy night out with my mains. They giggled like mad at the naked bathtub scenes, they debated the anatomy of the fish-man (“Do you think he even has a dick?”), they were not shy about scoffing and loudly protesting what they thought was weird or uncomfortable or silly.

I spent the first half of The Shape of Water thinking about girls in white bathing suits.

Specifically, about the girls in white bathing suits who show up in monster movies. The monster falls in love with them, the girl is terrified, everyone flips out, the monster kidnaps her, she falls in love despite the fact that he is a monster, her straight-laced boyfriend shoots the monster who is dangerous to society but good to her, and she is broken hearted but the world goes back to normal. Dracula. The Creature from the Black Lagoon. King Kong. Beauty and the Beast.

I thought about how the monster is a metaphor for female sexuality, and I thought about how we have been terrified, and tried to suppress, female sexuality since the dawn of time.

I had heard that the two best friends in this movie were stereotypes – the Gay Best Friend and the Wise Black Best Friend. But I was pleasantly surprised that they were complex and interesting in their own right, not just in relation to the main character.

But after a while, I just stopped thinking about sexuality and What It All Means and just sort of drowned in this movie. The issue of his genitals is explained, and it’s weird, but I let myself feel weirded out and uncomfortable and sort of confused by the whole experience. There is even a glorious musical number with the fish man. The movie made me want to buy red shoes and dive into the water to breathe from my neck gills. It was a strange, beautiful, odd little movie. By the end I was giggling right along with the ladies next to me.

PS – If Husband doesn’t buy this book for me, I will for sure buy it for myself.

PPS – For a different take on this movie, one that made me question my ableist view of the world, please read this article, though it does contain spoilers. Her interpretation of the love story, and of the portrayal of the disability, made me think about this movie in a whole new light.

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