Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Au revoir, 2013!

First autocorrect changed revoir to reboot. Then to revoke. Both interesting ideas for 2013!

Since New Year's Eve is my least favorite holiday, and since due to my thankfully waning flu I'm forced to do nothing tonight, I don't have to look back, review, choose top 10s, reboot or revoke. I just have to start packing for Paris! 

We leave January 2. Move into our apartment in the Marais. And spend two glorious days wandering the city. I love Paris in rainy empty January and cannot wait to hit our favorite fondue restaurant, cook dinners, go to museums and flea markets and bistros. Home January 12. 

So for tonight I plan to maybe cook up some spaghetti carbonara and keep on the get better track. I hope you have the last day of 2013 of your dreams!

Monday, December 30, 2013

Dreaming of my next novel

In Meredith Maran's wonderful book, Why We Write, Isabel Allende says that she always begins a new book on January 6. No matter what. I do not share her discipline, or regiment, I'm afraid. I begin when I know what I am trying to say, and when I think I know how I'm going to say it. 

It's been a matter of some frustration that my next novel fell into place months and months ago. But my reading/speaking/teaching schedule prevented me from writing even one word. Except in my head. And how the characters and plots have grown with so much time to do so! As an advocate of thoughtful, purposeful  writing (rather than that phrase I loathe of "a shitty first draft" or a "vomit draft") I have learned an important lesson these past months: trust my imagination. Let it take me to unexpected places. Don't rush to the page. 

The theme I'm working with in this one is secrets. How layered and nuanced my characters and their secrets have grown! So much deeper. So much more interesting. 

When I realized I wouldn't be able to begin in the fall, I admit to both panic and crankiness. But then I decided to embrace the delay. And that freeing decision has opened the novel up in unexpected ways. 

This morning I woke up with the first line (or a version of it), in my head. And the excitement and terror that always accompanies a blank page filled me to the point that I forgot I still feel flu-sick. 

Ahead for me is two weeks in Paris, a week home, and then a week teaching at the Eckerd Writers Conference. In there, that first line will be typed onto that blank page. And then the next. And the next...

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Health Report

I made my own grilled cheese! And it was good! But when I got to the kitchen, the overwhelming smell of broccoli gone bad led me to my beautiful (unbaked) broccoli gratin for the pot luck Christmas night (not to be confused with the fabulous Christmas lunch that Gogo made and I missed due to getting IV drugs at the ER) was left behind. True, I made it in a fevered fog, but it was a thing of beauty. So I tossed it and cleaned the whole kitchen, then had to get in bed and sleep. When I woke up, I indulged in a little pity party. But then I thought of the little match girl, and tiny Tim, and Rudolph, and the brave little toaster--brave souls everyone. Me too. Ordered the Essential Pepin cookbook to reward myself and allowed many minutes of dreaming about Paris, 5 days and counting. 

And since I am no longer contagious my hubby is taking me to a matinee of American Hustle and maybe even buying me much yearned for burger before returning me to my sick bed. 


Friday, December 27, 2013

Adventures in the ER

My husband is Canadian. Why is this important to this tale? By genetics, he is tough. He ran a marathon with appendicitis. He climbs really big mountains for fun. When Sam pierced his finger with a fork, and that fork dangled from that finger, he removed it without flinching. So when he looked at me on Christmas morning and said he was taking me to the ER, I knew I was pretty darn sick. Turns out my temperature was 103.6 and my lungs sounded "raucous". No pneumonia, thankfully. But it took five hours, IV antibiotics and fluids, before they'd send me home to 3 days of bed rest and at least 5 days of general rest. Lots of meds. Lots of Gogo's soup. Lots of hot tea and honey. Lots of sleep. No voice but my coughing is sure noisy. In six days we all leave for two weeks in Paris, so send all the healing thoughts you can my way please!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The flu! On Christmas Eve!

Twenty years ago I had pneumonia starting on Christmas Eve and an 8 month old baby. That "baby" really stepped up today when I was felled by the flu. Fever. Chills. Aches. Cough. The works. But Sam helped Gogo throw a smashing Christmas Eve Feast of the Seven Fishes, while I groaned and trembled on the sofa. Now in my own bed trembling and groaning. Maybe this is a once every couple of decades thing?

Still, it's Christmas and I love it. Annabelle figured out this year who Santa is, but she still left out cookies and milk and a note. And went to sleep surely with visions of sugarplums dancing in her head. 

Merry Christmas to you and yours. May the day be merry and bright. 

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Everything Christmas

Let the madness begin! My knitting room floor is covered with presents, wrapping paper, tape, and hopefully the scissors that always go missing while I'm wrapping. 

Today: baked strata that I made the night before for Annabelle's class brunch. Carried piping hot Pyrex across icy cobblestones in heels (hey, gotta wear the cool silver booties to the party, right?) and then over chunks of icy snow into the school. All worth it to hear the class rendition of The 12 Days of Christmas. 

Back home to catch Zuzu and bring her to the vet. 

Dog fine. Bring her home. Try to convince Sam to come to faraway ballet store. No luck. So I drive there alone and spend $50 on random ballet things AB needs for Polar Express (live in RI? Come this weekend! Saturday at 2 and 6; Sunday at 2. Nathan Bishop school in Providence. Performed by Jump! dance company)

Back home. More wrapping. 

Back to school. Ice chunks on street now melted into slushy puddles. Silver boots hold up surprisingly well. School Christmas show. 

Stop at Dunkin Donuts for coffee for big kid, snack for little one. On to Polar Express rehearsal. 

Sam and I continue on to Gogo's for complicated car thing. 

Back home. Bake three dozen madeleines for Polar Express bake sale. 

Sam and I go to a holiday party where I drink champagne and eat cheese and have holiday fun. 

9PM in bed with an amazing hot toddy (recipe courtesy of Prune in NYC), latest Top Chef, and Annabelle. 

Tomorrow: repeat, sort of. 

Thursday, December 19, 2013

What's It All About?

I'm blown away by this show I saw last night, a reimagining of Burt Bacharach songs arranged by Kyle Riabko (who is a genius, methinks). It was followed by the best hot toddy on the planet at Prune (and radishes with salt and butter, and braised lamb shank, and roasted broccoli, and an amazing Cote de Rhone). The only disappointment? No cast recording. 


Oh! And Climb and Swirl cowl finally 13.5 inches. Which means finished!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

City sidewalks, pretty sidewalks...

...dressed in holiday style, in the air there's a feeling of Christmas! 

I love seeing all the Christmas trees on every corner here in NYC. Love their smell in the cold air. Even loved yesterday's snowfall. 

Burgers with a dear friend. Wine with cousins. The wonderful play BAD JEWS at the Roundabout. Dinner at Barbuto (raw Brussels sprout salad with hazelnuts and pecorino, roast chicken, and those potatoes I love so much). 

This is a much needed break, doing things I love with people I love in the city I love. 

Came at the right time too. Everyone out there who has experienced deep grief knows the holidays have a way of slamming you. I was starting to get pretty blue, felt that grief rising up. Oh! How I miss Gracie! 

So I've been knitting. A lot. Reading a lot. Trying to take care of myself. Grief is so powerful, and I felt it tugging at me, pulling me down. The tsunami brings back not just losing Grace, but my father who I miss every day, my brother gone longer now than we had him. And with that, old hurts surface too until you find yourself watching every episode of Scandal, your body feeling like it's held down with stones. Or knitting until your fingers ache. 

But Christmas and the love of family and friends, the promise of baking cookies, Seven Fishes, smiles on everyone's face when they open presents, the big trip ahead, beginning finally a new novel, and so much more help pull me through once again. 

Today: the Union Square Christmas Market. Matinee of Betrayal. Cocktails with cousins. Burt Bacharach play. Dinner at Prune. 

In the air there's a feeling of Christmas. 

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Dashing through the snow

...on a warm and cozy train to NYC. Three days of theater, shopping and good eating! Snow falling in a blustery way, making it fun to look out the window from time to time as I knit. Yes. Still the Climb and Swirl cowl. 3 1/2 more inches to go. 

When I arrive, lunch with someone special. Then hitting Calypso and maybe rustling up an Irish coffee before seeing Betrayal followed by dinner at Barbuto. 

Tomorrow a matinee, then the play about Burt Bacharach, and dinner at Prune. 

All a reward for a hard working fall. 


Sunday, December 15, 2013


After over three months of travel, readings, talks, teaching, conferences, school visits, book signings, and fundraisers I am finally home to stay. (Sort of). 

Today, I intend to stay in this cozy bed with its new plaid flannel bedding as long as possible, reading the Sunday NYT and eating blueberry scones in my most worn pair of (martini decorated) Jammie's. When I finally get up, I'm going to wrap Christmas presents while I listen to the new bio FOSSE on tape. 

Then my favorite chore: laundry! I love to fold warm laundry. Especially when in between loads I can knit and watch cooking shows. 

A batch of turkey tetrazzini will get made and eaten at some point today. 

Big big sigh. 

Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Norwich Bookstore rocks!

What an incredible event last night at the Norwich Bookstore in Norwich, VT! A packed house full of knitters and readers. A cozy room at the Norwich Inn down the street. A snowfall so perfect in the moonlight it felt like Camelot. 

Would love to stay home and best tonight but a party awaits me. Have to put on my black sparkly dress and some eye make up and head out very soon. 

Dreaming of making the African peanut soup from Joshua's in Woodstock, NY. So if we get the snow predicted I'm taking out my stockpot! Also have the fixings ready for turkey tetrazzini. 

Otherwise, I'll be at my old stomping ground, the West Warwick Library at 10AM on Saturday. Lunch after with old pals and another friend's birthday party that night. Sunday, if no snow, another birthday party on the Cape at lunch and an evening discussing THE OBITUARY WRITER that night. 

And, still knitting the climb and swirl cowl: http://www.loopknits.com/2010/10/28/hannah-yarn-and-the-climb-and-swirl-cowl/

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Moonlight in Vermont

Off to Norwich, VT and the Norwich Bookstore where I'll be reading tonight at 7. Hope to see you there!

A wonderful night last night at the Providence Public Library with John Searles:

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

My holiday love story

When you're asked to write an essay on a particular theme, it's surprising where that takes you. Here, my essay on the theme of a book I've given for the holiday:

Tonight, Providence! Tomorrow Vermont!

As the tours for THE OBITUARY WRITER and KNITTING YARNS wind down, I'm so grateful for all the loving support from fans both knitters and not. Happy to be at the Providence Public Library tonight at 7 with John Searles and at the Norwich Bookstore in Norwich, VT tomorrow night at 7. 

With both the tours and my class finished, I look forward to three days of theater, eating out, and shopping in NYC next week. A weekend of Polar Express with Annabelle in her white tutu. Lots and lots of reading. Lots and lots of knitting. Working on our jigsaw puzzle. Cooking and baking with Sam. All the love and warmth that comes with the holidays. 

And then in January turning my attention to writing my new novel!

Until then, still basking in all my birthday wishes, and my dinner with friends at Babbo. 

Knitting up a climb and swirl cowl in neon blue now as Amtrak takes me through snowy CT toward home. 

Friday, December 6, 2013

We are stardust! We are golden!

That's right! Heading to Woodstock tomorrow for my event at The Golden Notebook at 4 with the ever fabulousMartha  Frankel and KNITTING YARNS! Excited to see so many Woodstock friends. If you are in the area, please bring your knitting! 

Also excited that my article on hunting the Northern Lights is in the WSJ this weekend! Read here: http://m.us.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052702303670804579234082500241604?mobile=y

Orange dishrag almost done!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

John Searles and me! December 10 in Providence!

I am so excited for this event next week at the downtown Providence Public Library! John was my student at NYU about a million years ago, and this is the first time we are doing an event together! Hosted by Robin Kall, aka Reading with Robin, things will get rolling at 6:30. John's new novel is Help For The Haunted, and I'll be talking about KNITTING YARNS and THE OBITUARY WRITER. 

I'm so delighted that KNITTING YARNS. Is flying off the shelves! Already in a second printing, it makes a great holiday gift for knitters and readers. Contributors like Anita Shreve, Elizabeth Berg, Sue Grafton, Andre Dubus lll, Barbara Kingsolver, Ann Patchett, and more; four stars from People Magazine; and 5 original patterns by Helen Bingham make it even more special. For me, it's a labor of love: working with writers I adore on essays about one of my favorite things. 

If you can come on December 10, email Robin at: robin@readingwithrobin.com for tickets and details!

PS Speaking of knitting, just finished arm warmers for Auntie Junie and am busily knitting a few dishcloths while I wait for yarn for a cowl to arrive!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Tonight at Slater Mill in Pawtucket, RI

Built in 1793, the Old Slater Mill was the first successful factory in the US. It was dedicated exclusively to the production of cotton thread until 1829. Can you think of a better place for a KNITTING YARNS event???

Tonight at 6:30 contributors Taylor Polites, Elizabeth Searles, Helen Bingham, and yours truly will be there to talk about all things knitting. Bring your yarn and needles and join us!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Loving Buffalo!

What a great event at Larkin Square and The Filling Station here in Buffalo. Got to gaze at Lake Erie. And see the birthplace of grain elevators. And so much more. Full of wine and pizza and good cheer. 

Tomorrow night: come to Slater Mill in Pawtucket, RI. Taylor Polites, Helen Bingham, Elizabeth Searles, and I will be there to celebrate KNITTING YARNS. Can you think of a better place???

Shuffling Off to Buffalo

Excited to get on that Jet Blue flight this afternoon that will zoom me to Buffalo and Larkin Square. They have a dynamite Author's Series and I'm delighted to be a part of it. 5PM today. http://larkinsquare.com/the-larkin-square-author-series/

Monday, December 2, 2013

Yarn bombing!

What an amazing day I had in Duxbury, MA. Not only did I spend over an hour at The Wool Basket (knitters: go there!) talking to people, signing KNITTING YARNS, and touching gorgeous yarn, I also signed up for their block a month class and left with the dreamiest yarn to knit my blanket. OK. I'm 6 months behind, but am going to class for the 7th block in a few weeks and will slowly catch up! Beth is amazing! 

Taylor Polites met me there and we continued onward to the library where Brooke from Westwinds Bookstore and Carol from the library were waiting along with contributors Marianne Leone and Anne D. LeClaire and a packed auditorium. I love events in Duxbury. Brooke and Carol really know how to make everything work. 

Later, dinner at Patrizia's in Plymouth, one of my favorite Italian restaurants anywhere. 

And the icing on the cake? They had yarn bombed the library!!!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

On my way to Duxbury with Taylor Polites!

Can't wait to get to The Wool Basket at noon and then on to the Merry Room at the library at 2 with Taylor Polites, Marianne Leone, Anne D. LeClaire, and KNITTING YARNS!