Tuesday, January 20, 2015

ACT NOW!

Chickens-

Today is a very exciting day, full of happy news on the book front.  First and foremost, I want to let you know that for the first time EVER, one of my books has been made available digitally at a significant price reduction.  For one week only, beginning today, OUT TO LUNCH is available for only $2.99!  It tells the story of a woman who loses her best friend, and gains custody of her best friend's annoying husband.  There are fabulous recipes.  There are adorable dogs.  There is hilarity.




You can get it for your Kindle HERE

You can get it for your Nook HERE

I know that this book came out in December over a year ago, when your minds and budgets were all swirly full of holiday madness and expenses, so I'm really thrilled that my publisher is doing this special pricing for a week so that everyone can catch up.  If you didn't get a chance to get it yet, now you can!  If you read it and loved it?  I hope you will consider sending it as a gift to some of your besties...after all, for $2.99 it is cheaper than buying and mailing a card! And if you really love me?  Please help me spread the word on your social media sites, because this pricing will go back to normal levels on 1/27, and I want everyone who wants to read it to have a chance at this low price.

And to sweeten the deal, if you post about it on Facebook or Twitter, along with my Facebook author page LINK  or my Twitter handle @staceyballis   and you can win a copy of Big Delicious Life!  If your peeps retweet or share your post, they will be entered to win as well!  I'm giving away 5 copies, so you have many chances to win, and yes, if you do both Facebook and Twitter, that gives you two chances, so let's get the word out, you are eligible to win as long as your post goes live by 10:00 AM CST on 1/27/15, winners will be announced on 1/29.


This is really important. I need you to help me make this week a huge blowout...because the only way my publisher will ever make any of my books available to you at this price point again is if this promotion is a massive success!  And I want all of you to be able to read ALL of my books, and if this price makes that possible, that makes me enormously happy.  So I hope you will join me this week in getting the word out, so that hopefully there will be more special deals like this coming down the pike! Thank you, in advance, so very much for all of your support.

In other news, RECIPE FOR DISASTER is almost here!  It is available for pre-order, so if you happen to be over at Amazon or Barnes and Noble getting your copy of Out to Lunch, you might just want to pop over and check it out as well!  RECIPE FOR DISASTER is the story of a house flipper who loses her job, her fiance, and her home in one horrible day, and must rebuild her life while living in the half-finished ruin of her latest project, with her dead grandmother's schnauzer who hates her.  With fabulous recipes, of course.  I have to say, this one is really special to me, and I'm terribly proud of it, and I really think you are going to love it!


Stay tuned for some really fabulous house updates along with the winner announcement on 1/29, in the meantime, go forth and shout to the rooftops for me, and be sure to tag me or include my handle so that I can enter you to win!

Yours in Good Taste and Deep Gratitude,
The Polymath

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Happy New Tub!

Well, Chickens, it is 2015.  And despite what Back to the Future might have promised us, we are still missing our hovercars and rocket shoes and other key technological advancements.

Here at the Castle things are moving right along, mostly in ways that don't really make for sexy pictorials.  Vapor barrier installed in the wine cellar?  Check.  Ducting in for the Vinotemp wine cellar cooling system? Check. Massive new water heater installed and working?  You betcha.  Plumbing and electrical all roughed in?  Yep.  But mostly, it looks much the same down there as it did at the end of 2014.  Tomorrow the radiant heat floor gets officially connected in the basement, so that will be toasty, but not really visual.  And the electrician will do one final pass to put in the boxes for the bathroom sconces and ceiling fixture and then we wait for inspection.

Once inspection happens, then things can really start rolling along...closed cell spray foam insulation will go in, and then SHEET ROCK!  I never in a million years thought that the very idea of drywall would make me all tingly in my bits, but it totally does.  Because once there is drywall, there can be paint, and once there is paint there can be furnishings!  And really?  Aren't you tired of seeing pictures of construction and not of finished rooms that look warm and inviting and pretty?  Because I can tell you that I certainly am!  HGTV seems to think that overhauling a whole house can happen in about twelve minutes, but I am here to tell you that is very much not the case.  Now some of this is because when HGTV is PAYING for said construction, they can afford to have eleventy million workers stumbling over each other 17 hours a day seven days a week, but here in the real world, one has to pay as they go, and we are not in the "time and a half" business over here.

But the one thing that has changed in a way that I can actually show you might seem small, but is huge for me.

I might have mentioned before that I am a hot bath kind of girl.  Not for washing, that requires a shower with great water pressure.  For soaking.  For relaxing.  For reading a good book and sipping a hot cup of ginger honey tea (more on this later) or wine, for nibbling on a tangerine and luxuriating in steaming water.

Or I would be.  If my current tub did not look like this:


And lest you have a problem with judging scale, and imagine that this is actually one of those huge oval two-person soakers, let me be precise.  This is a 1978 corner tub.  The interior dimensions are 46 x 28 x 12.  This is the perfect tub in which to soak a child under the age of 3.  But I?  Am 63 inches long, and wide enough that I don't even want to tell you what happens when I try and take a bath in this hateful thing, but let's just say that there is suction involved.  And 12 inches deep does not qualify as soaking anything except a skillet, particularly when the stupid overflow valve has been installed as a mere EIGHT INCHES.  It's not a bathtub, its barely a puddle, and its very existence makes my brain want to explode in frustration.  Plus?  It is almond bisque.  Sort of a flesh colored taupe.  Shudder.

Wanna know what a tub should look like?

THIS IS WHAT A TUB SHOULD LOOK LIKE.  Boo-ya.



This?  Right here?  Is 72 inches long and 36 inches wide and 22 inches deep and it is IN MY BASEMENT RIGHT NOW.  Note that my contractors have put all kinds of signs on it saying not to step into it, because they know me and know that I would absolutely be curled up in there taking an imaginary bubble bath if they didn't warn me off. It doesn't have faucets yet, or proper support, and we are a good eight weeks from being able to take a bath in it, but it is there and beautiful and it makes me inordinately happy just to look at it.  Go on.  Scroll back up and look at it again.  I'll wait.

Ahhhh.

Some other fun bathroom fixtures have also arrived...


This is the sconce we will be using both over the vanity and in the tub nook.  All of our finishes in this bathroom will be in antique brass, because the hardware on the antique vanity we are repurposing for the vanity is brass, so we are going off of that.  There will also be a ceiling fixture over the tub:


Just a very simple brass drum.

Over the vanity, where we are doing one long trough sink with two sets of faucets for a his and hers look, we are hanging his and hers mirrors:


Also in antique brass, these are reproductions of a 1920s French design that has a 5 inch deep shelf with protective bar at the bottom, and since we will have limited counter space and didn't want to do medicine cabinets, this will provide much needed (and attractive) storage.

I'm really excited about how the bathroom is coming together, and very ready to see it all actually in place!

Finally, because it is winter and horrible cold and flu season, I want to share with you one of our new favorite items in the Arctic survival kit.  Ginger Honey Tea.  A recent trip to a local Asian market unearthed a jar of magic.  It looks like a cross between marmalade and ginger jam.  But one heaping teaspoon in a cup of hot water or blended into tea gives you the perfect hit of spicy ginger, soothing honey, and just enough sweetness without being cloying.  It has about 1/3 the sugar and calories per teaspoon versus straight honey, and the ginger is real julienned ginger root, which makes for a crunchy little chewy surprise at the bottom of your cup.  We are addicted, and strongly suggest you hit your nearest Asian market and pick some up.  They carry it on Amazon, but it is insanely expensive, more than three times what we paid for it at the store.




Here's to a new year and all the happy (and healthy) I hope it brings to us all!  More updates soon!

Yours in Good Taste,
The Polymath


Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy New Year!

Well, Chickens, another year is upon us!   I know most blogs are giving you endless resolutions and NYE recipes and cocktail suggestions and the like.  But let's be honest.  If you haven't planned your menu for tonight, you are probably running all over town shopping and not reading blogs.  And we all know that resolutions are those lovely ephemeral things that make us feel super crappy about ourselves by around January 9.  I always start the new year resolving to laugh a lot and eat delicious things and drink good wine and read a lot of books and take many naps, since I like set myself up to be successful.  But I also try and think about anything in my life I want to do better at...not fix, not 180, not find perfection in, just do BETTER.  Because at the end of the day, if we can just get incrementally better at stuff that is important to us, it is a really good thing.  And it doesn't really matter if better is eating 95% of the bag of chips instead of the whole bag, that is STILL BETTER!

So here is my offering for the new year, for what it is worth, not resolutions, just reminders for myself to try to do better.  If any of them feel useful, feel free to borrow.  If you have any of your own, feel free to share with the class!

1.  I am going to try and be better about not putting off getting together with people I care about just because life gets busy.  It also gets short, and frankly, I have to have dinner every night anyway, might as well share it with friends.  I've realized this past year that you can have people over for dinner and not have it be a dinner party...it doesn't have to be fancy, or even special, you can just make whatever you were going to make anyway (or order take-out for that matter) and make enough for a couple bonus people.  It doesn't have to be an all-night bacchanal, it can just be dinner and company for a couple of hours.  Its the connection that is the most important part, and following thru.  I'm going to try to not say "We should get together." to someone without pulling out my phone to look at a possible date to actually make that happen.  And when I do get together with people, and we end the event with "We should do this more often!" I will try and get that date actually nailed down in the moment.  I started doing a little of this towards the end of 2014, and it has been a good thing.  So I'm looking to make it a permanent habit.

2.  I'm going to try to be better about getting out of my ruts, sort of globally.  Just make more mindful and less knee-jerk decisions.  I'm still going to want to go to my old favorite hangs, but when we are going to run out and grab a quick bite, if we aren't specifically craving one of our standbys, then we should have a new adventure.  Are we probably still going to have salad and popcorn for dinner once a week?  Yep.  But I can at least use that to test new salad dressing recipes, or salad topping combos.   Just because I need a few things at the grocery doesn't mean I can't go pick it up at one of the fabulous Asian or Latin markets that are just as conveniently located to me, and maybe find something new in the process.  This past couple of years I added tennis to my usual workout routine of just weight training and treadmill, and it has been good for me, so who knows what other new programs might be beneficial?

3. I'm going to try and get better at being more forgiving, especially when it comes to little stuff.  If I can retrain my brain to ask myself "Did _________ intend to do or say that thing in a way that would piss me off or annoy me in a calculated and premeditated and targeted way?" before having an emotional response, whether _________ is someone I know and love, or that random guy who just cut me off on the highway, it would probably be better for my general demeanor.  If the answer is "No.", that knowledge might help me brush it off and not get pissed.  Of course, if the answer is "Yes.", then I can guiltlessly unleash the full force of my hellfire!  The same holds true for myself.  If I do something stupid (ok, WHEN I do something stupid, lets be honest) I have to give myself the same break I would give anyone else.

4.  I'm going to try and get better at making time for the crappy stuff the same way I do for the fun stuff.  If there is something I want to do, antiquing, or tracking down those boots the girl at the salon was wearing, or making a new cake recipe, or rejiggering things so that I can attend a party, then I suddenly become a scheduling genius with plenty of time.  But when it is something annoying like cleaning out a closet, or making that dentist appointment, organizing receipts, or fitting in a much needed trip to the gym?  Boy am I WAY TOO BUSY.  But its all BS, and I know it. And I also know that I feel better when I just get that stuff checked off the list.  So I'm going to work on reminding myself to put on my big girl panties and just do what needs to be done.  If there is something on my to do list that I am telling myself I don't have time for, I will try and ask myself if I would make time to do something enjoyable, and if the answer is yes, then I know it is suck it up time.

That's it.  My Better list.

I want to take this moment to thank each and every one of you for reading and commenting and sticking with me, you cannot know how much it means to me.  I want to wish all of you a year of peace and love and safety, and BETTER, whatever that looks like for you.

See you in 2015!

Yours in Good Taste,
The Polymath

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Everything!

Merry Xmas Chickens!

Whether you are gathered around a sparkly tree, or gearing up (as we are) for a day of movies and Chinese food, I hope your day is happy and full of love!

Thanks to all who offered such amazing suggestions for things to hide in our walls for future owners.  We will reveal the actual bits and bobs as we go, but in the meantime, we gathered the family around to vote, and here are the winners of stocking stuffers from me!

The winners of Big Delicious Life:

Unknown- with the suggestion of blueprints and pictures
Jessica- with a bottle of wine that means something to us
Daruma- menus for take out places, map of local interest
Amanda- love letter from CS to me and vice versa
Elizabeth- a recipe box with beloved family recipes

And the grand prize winner, of a copy of Big Delicious Life AND a signed advanced copy of Recipe for Disaster is....

Noelle C- with the pictures of our neighborhood and love letter to the future

If you won Big Delicious Life, please send me your email address to staceyballisinfo at gmail dot com, and Noelle, I need both your kindle email and your shipping address!

We are still taking suggestions, and who knows, if you send a really cool one, perhaps there will be more prizes!

In the meantime, celebrate the season in the most delicious way you can, and I hope it is filled with love and joy.

Yours in Good Taste,
The Polymath

Monday, December 22, 2014

Crowdsourcing Memories

Hello Chickens!

I am reaching out with a house update and a need for some help.

First off, things are cranking right along in the basement.  All the walls have been framed in, all the plumbing and electrical have been roughed in, the bathroom fixtures have arrived.

Did you know that toilets come in a toilet shaped cardboard box?  Neither did I. I'm delighted to add it to the list of new discoveries.

Nearly every day Charming Suitor and I go downstairs to look at the bathtub-to-be. Our current bathtub is more of a bathpuddle.  It is a 1978 corner tub, an oval that is about a foot deep and two and a half feet long, so effectively, a really good place to soak your butt, the backs of your thighs, and two inches of lower back.  The future tub is 6 feet long by three feet wide by 22 inches deep.  A SOAKER.  In which you can actually soak all of you.  We are counting days.

Now that we can see the skeleton of the walls, it really feels like things are happening.  My dad, who has been enjoying our tales of some of the things we have been finding inside the walls as we demo made a great suggestion.  We should plant some things in some of the walls so that in another hundred years when another family is making the place their own, they will have a little bit of a record of us.

Not a time capsule, per se, all neat and in a convenient container.  Nope, we are talking about flotsam and jetsam, simply put inside the occasional nook or cranny, to get dusty and age worn and maybe tell someone in the future who we were.

Which is a very cool idea.  And one that I thought you all would be great to help with!

So...in the spirit of holiday giving, I have prizes!  The top five suggestions of cool things that CS and I could plant here and there in hidey holes for future generations will all get a gift copy of my digital cookbook, Big Delicious Life.


And our number one favorite suggestion will also get a signed advanced copy of my new novel Recipe for Disaster.  Since the heroine of Recipe for Disaster is living in the half-finished ruin of the house she is renovating, and something she finds in a wall literally changes the course of her life, it seemed appropriate.



So, please make your suggestions in the comments by 11:49PM Christmas Eve, and on Christmas Morning, I will announce the winners like a little giftie in your stockings.

Please note...we are not looking to spend a lot of money, and anything that is technology will be WAY defunct by the time anyone might find it, so please keep your suggestions to things you think would tell someone something about us, or about the time in which we live, and isn't going to cost us a fortune!

Yours in Good Taste,
The Polymath

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Winner Announced!

Congrats to Andrea and your Peanut Blossoms!  You have won a signed copy of Dana Bate's wonderful new foodie novel A Second Bite at the Apple.  Shoot me an email at staceyballisinfo at gmail dot com with your shipping address and Dana will get your prize right out to you.

For the rest of my Chickens, I really enjoyed this book and think you will too, so why not treat yourself this holiday season?



Stay tuned later this week for a house update...

Yours in Good Taste,
The Polymath

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Guest Post and Giveaway with Dana Bate!

Chickens-

One of the things I love best about my job is that I get to connect with other writers.  And while I adore my peeps regardless of genre, it is always very special when I can meet a writer in my strange little specific genre of foodie fiction!  So when I was introduced to Dana Bate and her work, it was extra special.  I've been fortunate enough to be able to blurb both of Dana's charming books, The Girl's Guide to Love and Supper Clubs, and the brand new A Second Bite at the Apple.  I just loved both of these books, and thought it would be a fun celebration of the holiday spirit to let Dana take over the blog today and share a recipe from the book and offer a giveaway of a signed copy of A Second Bite at the Apple!  Take it away, Dana...



Many thanks to Stacey for letting me take over her blog for the day!

So today I want to talk about holiday treats. Specifically: brownies.

For a lot of people, the holiday season means cookies: cookies as gifts, cookies as decorations, cookies as a primary form of sustenance.

I should preface what I’m about to write by saying I love cookies. Snickerdoodles, chocolate chip, thumbprint, molasses, peanut butter, oatmeal raisin – I’m pretty sure I’ve never met a cookie I didn’t like.

But here’s the thing: cookies are a time suck. The dough is easy to throw together, sure, but the rolling, the cutting, the scooping, the waiting between batches – it can take a while. And if you are short on time, you may rue the decision to bake those adorable windowpane sandwich cookies.

Brownies, however, are a different story. Brownies take mere minutes to throw together, and then you pour the batter in the pan, stick the pan in the oven, and about 30 minutes later, you are finito señorito.

Now, if you’re anything like me, you don’t want to make plain, old brownies. You want something special, especially this time of year. I have just the ticket: salted fudge brownies.

I have made this recipe countless times, and people always rave. And the best part? They are dead easy. Easy, impressive, and delicious: sounds like a recipe for success to me.


I like these brownies so much that I even mention them in my second book, A SECOND BITE AT THE APPLE – a book that Stacey not only blurbed but has also offered to give to one lucky reader! All you have to do is comment below with your favorite cookie or brownie recipe, and you could soon be the owner of a signed copy!  Submit comments by 11:59 pm CST Monday, and winner will be announced Tuesday!

Salted Fudge Brownies by Kate Krader from Food and Wine Magazine

  1. 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
  2. 2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped
  3. 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
  4. 2 cups sugar
  5. 3 large eggs
  6. 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  7. 1 cup all-purpose flour
  8. 1/2 teaspoon Maldon sea salt
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Line a 9-inch square metal cake pan with foil, draping the foil over the edges. Lightly butter the foil.
  2. In a large saucepan, melt the butter with the unsweetened chocolate over very low heat, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat. Whisking them in one at a time until thoroughly incorporated, add the cocoa, sugar, eggs, vanilla and flour. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the surface. Sprinkle the salt evenly over the batter. Using a butter knife, swirl the salt into the batter.
  3. Bake the fudge brownies in the center of the oven for about 35 minutes, until the edge is set but the center is still a bit soft and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out coated with a little of the batter. Let the brownies cool at room temperature in the pan for 1 hour, then refrigerate just until they are firm, about 1 hour. Lift the brownies from the pan and peel off the foil. Cut the brownies into 16 squares. Serve at room temperature.