What I did this summer

I’ve been erratic about writing these last few months. That tendency, to be erratic, is probably one reason why I’m never likely to write the Great American Novel. Serious writers, in my experience, are highly disciplined and highly routinized—and that’s never been quite my cup of tea. First of all, I probably ate too much ice […]

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‘I write in ink.’

Dear Frances Mayes, The time I brought The Tuscan Sun Cookbook to you for signing in Chapel Hill, I remember saying, simply, “Can I tell you how much I loved A Year in the World?” You smiled sweetly. I frankly never thought anything else of yours could eclipse that smashing book—which really wasn’t about travel, […]

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Remembering another Miss Austin

No, not Austen. And not Jane. But they have books and writing in common. It was a verdant Central Pennsylvania summer, and I was in my last term, anxious for graduation. Summer terms were rapid-fire in those days, eight weeks as opposed to the usual ten. Classes met four times a week and, as I […]

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Au revoir, Monsieur Mayle

I teared up, almost as if I’d lost a friend, when I saw that Peter Mayle had passed.  After all, he had given me Provence—first on the printed pages of his charming, insightful trilogy—A Year in Provence, Encore Provence, Toujours Provence—and thereafter the engaging, lighthearted novels he set there, irresistible confections all. Hotel Pastis and […]

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January reads

January is that metaphorical new broom that sweeps clean. I like to start out the new year re-establishing routines, tackling those niggling little tasks that typically fall by the wayside, and trying to get back to my happy places, chief among them my reading time. After what I like to refer to as my “medical […]

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Sweet distractions

I’ve been lean on writing  this last week; sometimes, real life just intervenes. In this case, in a good way. Here is where my time usually devoted to writing has gone… The kitchen cabinets I set out determined to clean both pantry cabinets and all the kitchen drawers, and I did. They are beautifully organized, old […]

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Adriana Trigiani’s Italian-Americans

I was thrilled to receive a pre-publication copy of Adriana Trigiani’s new book, Kiss Carlo, which goes on sale June 20. This post is more of an homage than a review. I’ve loved Trigiani’s books since my cousin Nina first handed me Lucia, Lucia in 2004. Since then,  I’ve read them all. Suffice it to say […]

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Oscar, mother, and those jelly jars

I’ve loved The Importance of Being Earnest, one of dear Oscar Wilde’s funniest, since we staged the show in high school. Many of its epigrammatic quips have stayed with me all these years.  It’s possible that I like this one best: All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does. That’s his. […]

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Islands in the laguna

For a daydreaming Pisces, a novel with a sense of place as strong as any of its characters is irresistible. Writers from the American south have always been very good at this—Gail Godwin, Pat Conroy, Flannery O’Connor, and the like. Place is typically very important to ongoing mystery series are as well. My personal favorites are Donna Leon’s […]

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Lipstick on your collar

I love lipstick. On those rare occasions when I leave the house without it, people ask if I’m okay because they think I look “a little pale.” That’s a pretty clear message. And yet… I’m a behind-the-scenes, producer type. While I have the ability to work just about any kind of crowd, do a TV […]

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But it doesn’t taste like my mother’s…

Author Laura Schenone went to Italy in search of her ancestral ravioli recipe. Hold that thought while I digress a bit. Ravioli is my favorite food in the world. Not the fancy kind, stuffed with lobster or  “kiwi infused pork” (no kidding!). Plain old cheese ravioli. Peasant food—la cucina povera— at its finest. It was my family’s signature dish for […]

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