Georgia’s Kitchen events! (Oh, and flowers too. Lots and lots of flowers.) After hibernating all winter long, I’ve got some terrific new events lined up for May and I couldn’t be more excited. (The sunshine and warmer temps aren’t hurting either.)

Kicking things off is a dinner at Villa Borghese in Wappinger Falls, New York. Over a delicious Italian meal, I’ll be talking a bit about my experience writing Georgia’s Kitchen. The event cost includes a donation to the Center for the Prevention of Child Abuse in Dutchess County, a wonderful and vital organization that has helped countless children. Thanks to Laurie Milano for organizing the entire evening — she’s a force!

On May 14th at 2 pm, I’m thrilled to be joining a panel of fellow mother writers at the Millbrook Book Festival. That such a small town produces such a fabulous literary event is a testament to the festival’s many talented and hardworking organizers. This is my first year attending as an author, and I’m looking forward to joining Thelma Adams, Tina Traster, Liza Donnelly, Nina Shengold, Carol Maso, and my friend Daphne Uviller as we talk writing and motherhood (or something like that). There are great events planned all day long, so if you live in the area, and even if you don’t, come on by.

On May 26th, I’ll be at Flyleaf Books in beautiful Chapel Hill, North Carolina. I missed this amazing bookstore on my Tar Heel Tour last fall and I’m so glad to have the chance to visit now. I’ll be doing an author luncheon, so we’ll get to eat a great meal and dish about Georgia’s Kitchen, writing and food. Please spread the word to any friends in the area — this is going to be a lot of fun!

German and Dutch versions of Georgia's Kitchen

Last night I came back from a wild day at American Girl Place (my newly-turned seven year olds are gaga for all things AG) to find a box of German and Dutch copies of Georgia’s Kitchen. I love how completely different the covers are from each other and the English (American) version, and yet how each cover truly captures the spirit of the book. For those of you non German speakers (myself included), the title on the left translates to Kissing Al Dente. Cute, nein?

Burn, Baby, Burn

Yesterday, while I was feeling all resolution-y and determined to get rid of stuff I no longer need or use, I discovered a plethora of scented candles tucked into various rooms, drawers and cabinets throughout my house. I found nine in my bedroom alone – three on my desk (to be fair, these are all minis), one on each nightstand, a pair on my mantel, ditto my and my husband’s dressers. Poking around my bathroom yielded an additional five, at which point I searched the rest of the house. Total score: 23 candles of various shapes, sizes and scents, not including the tapers and tea lights I use in the dining room.

This struck me as an inordinately high number, particularly because some still reside in their handsome boxes (minus the cello wrap, thank goodness), and many have never met a flame, not even for a minute. Why am I hoarding scented candles? Simple. Unless I’m soaking in a tub, an activity that positively demands a lighted candle (and bath salts too, but that’s another story), it feels too decadent, too indulgent to fire up a scented candle just because I want to. (Though not, it must be noted, to buy said candle in the first place.) This logic, I realize, doesn’t hold up. But it does explain the pricey bottle of perfume that turned to alcohol before I’d spritzed even half of it, and the fabulous Bordeaux that had vinegarized by the time we opened it, thereby becoming the most expensive drain cleaner ever.

So this year, I resolve to light more candles. Whether plugging away on my laptop, or curled up with a book, or watching The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills (highly entertaining – catch it on Bravo On Demand if you haven’t seen it yet) or whenever the urge strikes, you’ll find me enshrouded in good-smelling air, not giving a moment’s thought to what I’ll do when my candle burns away to nothing.

I don’t like pie. I like cobblers, crumbles and crisps, but I don’t like pie. For the most part, people have a hard time understanding my aversion to pie. While it’s not something I generally get into, except with fellow non-pie lovers (yes, they do exist), I will say it has to do with the crust and there being too much of it, hence my preference for cobblers. There are, however, two kinds of pie I do like and like quite a bit. One is Key Lime pie (no top crust) and the other is my mother’s pumpkin chiffon pie (also no top crust), which she serves once a year. When I told her I was posting the recipe on my blog, she said to be sure to give props where props are due, so Mamie Eisenhower, thank you for your recipe! It is delicious, light and there will be no leftovers, so you may want to make two. My mom swears by canned pumpkin and while neither she nor I are big fans of canned anything (except stewed tomatoes and Progresso Lentil soup, on my part, not hers) we both agree it’s much easier. (When cooking Thanksgiving dinner for 12, easy counts.) Fresh whipped cream is non-negotiable.

Mamie Eisenhower’s Pumpkin Chiffon Pie

1 baked pie shell (we like graham cracker crust)

3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1 envelope Knox gelatin

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1 1/2 cup cooked or canned pumpkin

3/4 cup milk

3 egg yolks

3 egg whites

1/4 cup granulated sugar

Directions:

Mix brown sugar, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg in top of double boiler

Stir in pumpkin and egg yolks, mix

Add milk

Heat over boiling water until thick, stirring constantly

Soak gelatin in 1/4 cup cold water; when gelatin dissolves stir into the pumpkin mixture

Cool until cold
and set aside

Beat egg whites with granulated sugar until stiff peaks form

Fold egg whites into pumpkin mixture and pour the mixture into pie shell

Chill in the refrigerator until set

Top with fresh whipped cream when ready to serve

I’ve been eating my Grandmother Adelia’s stuffing since I was a little girl, when it was the centerpiece of my Thanksgiving Day feast, along with sides of turkey, mashed “badados,” green beans and, if I was feeling adventurous, pearled onions (I usually wasn’t.) When I was 20 years old, I spent my junior year studying in Madrid and for the first time in my life was away from home for Thanksgiving. Though my American friends and I tried to hunt down a turkey, we finally gave up and ate roasted chicken instead. I refused, however, to give up my Grandmother’s stuffing, which is, hands down, the most delicious, easy-to-make stuffing there is. Since then, I’ve become the self-designated stuffing maker, bringing it to friend’s houses and serving it at my own. Every year I consider making a more highbrow version, perusing magazines, newspapers and the web for fancier stuffing recipes, but I never do it — why mess with perfection, especially when it’s this tasty and this easy? Plus, my daughters Ava and Flora love Grandma’s 1950’s (40s?) stuffing just as much as I do, so it’s safe to say it’ll continue to be part of our Thanksgiving dinner for years to come.

Hint: Per my Grandma, I use good old Pepperidge Farm white bread, which has sat out, uncovered, overnight.

Grandma Adelia’s stuffing

½ c butter

½ c chopped celery

½ c chopped onion

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon poultry seasoning

¼ teaspoon rosemary

¼ teaspoon thyme

1/8 teaspoon pepper

1 c chicken stock

5 c bread, chopped into small cubes

Melt the butter in a large sauté pan

Add the onions and celery and sauté until soft, 5 minutes

Add seasoning and mix well

Add the bread cubes and mix so that the cubes are well coated

Add the stock a little at a time; add more for a moister stuffing and less if you prefer chunkier stuffing

Continue cooking over low heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally

Serve hot

Though it’s best served right away, it can be reheated; add a few tablespoons of chicken broth or water to a pan, add the stuffing, cover it and heat over a low flame for 5 to 10 minutes.

I’ve always liked November. With a few notable exceptions – daylight savings and the midterm elections spring to mind – it’s a pretty great month. For starters, there’s Thanksgiving. Family, turkey, my Grandmother Adelia’s butter-drenched stuffing and my mom’s legendary pumpkin chiffon pie do not a bad dinner make. (Check back next week for recipes – they are amazing and easy and your family will love them, I promise.) There’s also my dad’s birthday (Happy 69th, JGN, Sr.!), and as much pre-holiday excitement as two six-year-old girls who are lucky enough to celebrate both Channukah and Christmas can muster. Finally, there’s the New York City marathon.

This year, the marathon was held on a picture-perfect fall day: blue skies, crisp air, brilliant sun – New York City at her finest. We staked out a spot near the finish line at Tavern on the Green, cheering on everyone who’d written their name across their shirt, a nifty trick that ensures someone will be rooting for you every step of the way. (My daughters swear there were more Kates, Kellys and Marks than anyone.) I always get a little choked up watching the runners come in, imagining the obstacles they’ve overcome, the distances they’ve traveled, the training, the exhaustion. I cheer for them all – the ones who are struggling, limping, barely moving, the others who – amazingly – still have a spring in their step, the mother-daughter duos, the groups of five or six Italian or French friends proudly wearing their countries’ flags, the burly men in tutus and funny wigs, the just-married couples. And every year, I wonder how they do it. I’ve been a runner for the past 12 years and while I’ve dreamed of running the marathon – and you know which one I mean by “the” – I’ve never seriously thought it was something I could or would do. Until this year. Yesterday, I officially threw my name into the hat, registering for the lottery along with over 100,000 other hopefuls. I’ll find out in April whether I’ve been accepted. I know it’s a long shot, but so is running a marathon.

I read Jean Kwok’s engrossing coming-of-age novel, Girl in Translation, in one very late night.  I’ve never been good at putting down a book I love (I was that nine-year-old girl reading Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret under the covers, flashlight in hand) and being the perpetually tired mother to two active six-year-old daughters hasn’t changed things a bit. My eyes burn, my mind dulls and yet, I can’t seem to put down that book until I know what happens next. I started Girl in Translation while waiting for my husband to come home from a meeting so we could go out on “date night” (dorky but true). I cranked through 100 pages, propelled by a cup of super strong black tea and the gripping plight of Kimberly and her mother, who, fresh from Hong Kong, have landed in the slums and sweatshops of New York City.  After a delicious sushi dinner, I stayed up until the wee hours, bleary eyed and fuzzy headed, until I no longer had to ask “what happens next” because I’d found out for myself. And boy, was it good.

I know I’m not the only one who’s stayed up way past my bedtime because of a book I couldn’t bear to put down. Leave a comment with the title of your favorite late-late-night read and you’ll be entered to win a copy of Girl In Translation. As usual, the more places you share this contest, the better your chances of winning. Comment below for a chance to win, then comment on Facebook, then share this contest link on Facebook and Twitter and increase your chances! Your name will be entered for every place you share — so if you comment here on the blog, comment on the Georgia’s Kitchen Facebook page, share the contest on Facebook (and tag me – @ Jenny Nelson Georgia’s Kitchen), and tweet about it (and tag me @JennyGNelson), you’ll be entered four times.  Good luck!

The Statue of Liberty

A good friend recently asked me what’s been the most exciting thing about getting published. For sure, the day I sold Georgia’s Kitchen ranks as number one. Nothing can compare to the feeling of learning the manuscript I’d spent years writing, revising and polishing was going to become an actual book, one that people outside of my immediate family and best friends would be able to read. Celebrating the journey to getting published with all my friends and family at my book launch party was a close number two, and the first time I laid eyes on a stack of Georgia’s Kitchen for sale in a real-live bookstore number three. Until yesterday.

After a jam-packed New York City morning and early afternoon – a half-dozen rides on the granite slide at Cental Park’s Billy Johnson playground (bring pieces of cardboard to make the ride even zippier), a lickety split tour of the children’s zoo, a trip to the indoor carnival at the Park Avenue Armory, complete with giant ferris wheel and jugglers, and lunch at the Eat Here Now Diner – my insatiable daughters still wanted more. Though I was ready to pack it in, pack the car and head back to the tranquility of our upstate New York home, Ava and Flora were having none of it. “What about the boat ride?” they asked. I’d promised them a trip on the Staten Island ferry to check out Lady Liberty and seeing as they weren’t about to let me off the hook, we hopped the number 4 train down to Bowling Green.

When the train pulled in to Grand Central, I saw someone reading a book. A book with a familiar red cover, a slice of yellow running across the top of the back. “I think that woman’s reading my book,” I murmured, turning to my husband. “Is that Georgia’s Kitchen?” I gestured to the woman, who was walking into our car. My husband, my daughters and I proceeded to stare at the nice woman who was, indeed, reading Georgia’s Kitchen and, fortunately, oblivious of our stares (I took this as a good sign.). “Of all the train lines and all the subway cars, she walks into ours?” Warren said, not meaning to summon Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca, but doing a good job of it nonetheless. He stood and, accompanied by Flora, walked over to the woman to tell her his wife had written the book she was reading and just happened to be sitting in the seat right over there. I waved and smiled, too shocked and delighted and flabbergasted to do anything more. She told him she was loving it (yay!), and had recommended it to all her work pals (double yay!). For a New York author, especially a debut New York author (though I no longer live in the city fulltime, I will always remain a New Yorker at heart), nothing can top the feeling of spotting someone on the subway reading your book.

Later, we stood on the ferry’s upper deck with all the other tourists and passed by the Statue of Liberty, who was ringed with a golden light.  New York has always been a city of infinite possibility, a city where anything can happen, a city for dreamers. To the woman reading Georgia’s Kitchen, a big, heartfelt New York thank you for reminding me.

Lady Liberty

I’m super excited about all the great Georgia’s Kitchen events coming up this October. First is a reading and signing in Kingston, NY, followed by another reading with my good friend and fellow novelist, Daphne Uviller, in Beacon, NY (home to the amazing and surprisingly kid-friendly museum Dia: Beacon). On October 16th I’m heading to East Haddam, CT and the wonderful Burgundy Books for a reading and reception; and then on October 18th I’ll be in my hometown of Larchmont, NY bringing Georgia’s Kitchen to Anna Maria’s, a lovely restaurant (Italian, natch) helmed by the fabulous chef Anna Maria Santorelli (she’s cooked for two presidents!). Everyone’s invited to this great Girls’ Night Out – moms, daughters, aunts, grandmas, you name it. Delicious food and wine and a great group of gals – what more could you ask for? Thanks to Francine Lucidon of The Voracious Reader for cooking up this fabulous event! For details call 914.630.4581 or email info@thevoraciousreader.com.

October 5, 7 pm

Barnes & Noble Books

Kingston, NY

October 9, 5:30 pm

Zuzu’s Coffeehouse

Beacon, NY

October 16, 2 pm

Burgundy Books

East Haddam, CT

October 18, 7 pm

Anna Maria’s Restaurant

Larchmont, NY

Hope to see all of you (some of you?) at an event soon. Got a great idea for a Georgia’s Kitchen reading? Drop me an email at jenny@jennynelsonwriter.dev.

When it comes to entertaining, Ina Garten is my go-to gal. I’ve yet to meet a Barefoot Contessa recipe I don’t like, and I love her fun and laidback style. This week, I’m giving away a copy of Barefoot Contessa Back To Basics, considered by many to be the essential Ina. This is definitely one you want in your kitchen!

The more places you share this contest, the better your chances of winning. Comment below with a favorite fall dish for a chance to win; comment on Facebook, then share this contest link on Facebook and Twitter and increase your chances! Be sure to include in your comment where you shared the contest. Your name will be entered for every place you share — so if you comment here on the blog, comment on the Georgia’s Kitchen Facebook page, share the contest on Facebook (and tag me – @ Jenny Nelson Georgia’s Kitchen), and tweet about it (and tag me @JennyGNelson), you’ll be entered four times. If that isn’t motivation enough, last week’s winner did all of the above!

While you’re here, check out some of the great Georgia’s Kitchen events coming up this month!