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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Tacos, Gardens, Sci Fi

Snowy station

Here I go again, bitching about eating healthy. Three of my four kids claim they are vegetarian (even though the youngest hates all vegetables and indeed, most food) so by default we are eating mostly vegetarian food these days. I only prefer to cook meat because it’s easy and I don’t have to think about recipes, but obviously I want to be like every other red-blooded American in January and eat more vegetables. How is it going for you?

I’m not sure these Beer Battered Avocado Tacos really count as health food, but they were delicious and technically vegetarian, so let’s call it a win, shall we? I realize those of you who don’t live in California may not have year-round access to avocados, and for that I am sorry. My next-door neighbor has a gigantic avocado tree, so my hipster kids can eat their daily avocado toast without breaking the bank, and I can make lunatic food like fried avocado tacos. Win-win.

Speaking of which, I’m starting to think about my spring vegetable garden. We can, for the most part, garden all year here, but I am most enthused for it in the spring. I had tremendous success with my tomato gardens last year (I used this method) and am doubling the number of tomato containers this year. But I also always like to do something whimsical. We just don’t have rain boots here in California, but if we did, I’d love to do something goofy and fun like this Wellie Boot Garden in Scotland’s Firth of Forth. (And also: don’t you love that there is actually a real place called Firth of Forth?)

As I said in my 2017 book round up, I am trying to branch out a bit in my 2018 reading. Do you have any entry level sci-fi recommendations for me? I know Octavia Butler is a good starting point – do you have a favorite?

Speaking of books, (when am I not speaking of books?) this is a great list of 10 bookish podcasts to listen to. What Should I Read Next, Lore, and BookRiot are already on my weekly listening list, now I’m going to add all of the others.

Finally – is it too early in the year to dream about a summer vacation? Because I already want one, preferably one that is in an isolated house that could have been built by Hobbits where I can read all of my new sci-fi books in silence. This place fits the bit nicely, and I think if I don’t move to Firth of Forth, I will make it my new home.

Have a great, bookish, avocado-ish, dreaming-of-summer-vacation-tacos weekend, my friends.

OXO

JULIE

PS – Weekend truths:

Pasty

 

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2018 Word of the Year

DSC_0628

I don’t make resolutions anymore. For the last two years, I’ve chosen a ‘Word of the Year’ and I think that works much better for me. Something about setting a resolution feels like a zero-sum game. Even though I totally know that isn’t true; if you set a goal to lose 20 pounds and you only lose 15, you’ve still done very good work. I do understand that. But my brain is all-or-nothing, and I’m tired of beating myself up on December 31 (or, more accurately, around mid-January) for not keeping up with my goals.

I was having a hard time figuring out what exactly I want in 2018, except that I want to be happier. That sounds shallow, but if you know me at all, you know that ‘happier’ doesn’t mean dancing around with little birdies on my shoulder. Happier, to me, means just Not Completely Mental. And hoo-boy, 2017 was a Completely Mental Year. Part of that had to do with the chaos that is our government, making us all feel unhinged and disgusted and terrified. The other part of it is that my Evil Step-sisters, Depression and Anxiety, along with their bastard child Insomnia, moved into my brain again this year and Would. Not. Leave.

Rude.

The word I chose for 2017 was Strengthen. I’m not sure how well I did with that one. I don’t feel stronger in any area except my author/editor business. (Which, I’m not going to lie – I feel like a badass.) But other than that, I feel fragile and weak.

But that’s OK – just like a New Year’s resolution should not be a zero-sum game, neither should the One Word.

So while I do have a few very specific business goals for next year (I am releasing books, I want to blog more often, I want to hit some financial goals,) and I have some more general life goals (I want to go on more dates with my husband, I want to start swimming again, I want to meditate more often) I was having a hard time narrowing it down to one guiding word.

What it boils down to, essentially, is I want to spend 2018 being LESS OF A MISERABLE COW.

I shared this with my author gang, and then my friend Amy hit me with the right word:

CHOOSE.

“You choose how to spend your energy. You choose what gets to be in your life. You consciously and intentionally make the choices (instead of letting other people’s needs make them for you.)”  Amy Teegan

Perfect, right?

There is a lot I can’t choose. What happens in the White House. What happens when my brain decides to go haywire. What happens to my book sales.

But I can choose what I focus on (let’s start with no more Facebook scrolling.) I can choose how I respond. I can choose how I treat myself when I am tired or anxious or stressed or have insomnia. I can choose activities that make me less crazy, less frightened, less miserable cow.

I’m super excited about this word, and this new mind set. It feels right. It puts the power back in my hands.

Did you pick a word in 2018? Or make resolutions? Or skip the whole thing? Let me know!

OXO Julie

PS – that fantastic little achievement pin was my Christmas gift from Amy, and what we have learned from this story is that Amy really, really gets me. You can get your own achievement pin on Emily McDowell’s website.

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The Crown

the crown 2

It’s no secret that I am obsessed with All Things Related to the British Monarchy. They are endlessly interesting to me, even though yes, I see your point that the idea that certain people live a life of radical privilege due to nothing more than the luck of their DNA while others of this world are starving is lunacy. And I also see your point that the notion that there are people in this world we are required to curtsey to – curtsey! in 2018! – is silly and goes against all of my egalitarian beliefs.

And yet.

I am totally obsessed. With all of it.

I binged Season Two of Netflix’s The Crown over Christmas break, and I have a lot of thoughts. First and foremost, enough with the whining about how hard it is to be royal. Please. It is magnificent to be royal and anyone who says otherwise needs to hand over their tiara to someone who would appreciate it. Me, for example. Yes, you lose your privacy and some of your freedom and possibly your choice in who you get to marry, but the payoff is that you get to live in a castle and wear ball gowns to dinner. So pipe down about how hard your life is, mmmmkay Phillip?

Despite the vast amount of whining from every single royal except the Queen herself, I really enjoyed Season Two. It’s slow, thoughtful story telling (maybe too slow for some) and I’d like to see future seasons focus more on the Queen’s inner life, not that we can ever really know it. I especially loved the episode with the Kennedys, even though I can’t find any evidence that their meeting went down that way in real life.

If, like me, you can’t get enough of the Royal Lifestyle, I have some fun links for you today.

Vanessa Kirby was a magnificent Princess Margaret in the show. She was the perfect combination of rage and rebellion and snooty privilege, and I couldn’t take my eyes off of her. Margaret was no less fascinating in real life. This is a good article about 13 Princess Margaret Stories That Will Make You Love Her Even More. (Vanity Fair does a lot of coverage of The Crown, including a lot of really great stories about the truth behind the fiction.) And if you want to read more about Margaret and Anthony’s crazy life, check out Snowdon: The Biography by Anne de Courcy.

One of my favorite websites, Go Fug Yourself, does wonderful recaps of each episode, talking about the fashion, the castles, and the interior design of the show. Their collective irritation about Phillip’s constant sniveling is wonderful to behold. Related: the authors of that blog,  Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan, known as the Fug Girls, wrote a fantastic, hilarious, dishy romance called The Royal We, which I highly recommend.

Speaking of romances I highly recommend, my book Winter Heat is currently FREE for the month of January over at the Swirl Love Romance Giveaway. This promotion is in celebration of Prince Harry and Megan Markle’s rather amazing (if you think about history) interracial romance, which needless to say, I am a fan of. Head on over there and find your new favorite romance!

Finally, just for fun, check out this article about competitive table setting. Yes, it’s a thing, and yes, it’s crazy and completely fascinating.

Have a great weekend, fellow peasants.

OXO

JULIE

dress for the job

 

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