Monday, April 30, 2012

Toastworthy Teens: S.C.I.


 How’s this for a teen summit? S.C.I. (Social Capital, Inc.) youth councils from Dorchester, Lynn, and Woburn, Massachusetts met to discuss community needs and ways they could help. The teens all felt so strongly that “every voice has a right to be heard,” that they proceeded to put together a “Speak Up” campaign promoting healthy teen relationships (i.e. non-abusive, non-consuming, unpressured, etc.).

This project, which enabled the teens to not only address important issues but also to develop their planning, organizational, and leadership skills, has encompassed everything from a community day with performances by Boston artists to creating poignant public service announcements encouraging teens to “Speak Up” against abuse, peer pressure, racial slurs and more.

See one of their PSAs here:

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Thursday, April 19, 2012

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Mary Lowry, Author of The Earthquake Machine

A Good Meal Is Strong Magic

It’s certainly not unusual for American girls to have complicated and sometimes difficult relationships with food. Rhonda, the 14 year-old protagonist of my novel The Earthquake Machine, is no exception.

Rhonda escapes her devastating family situation by running away while on a river rafting trip on the Rio Grande River. She swims across the river to Mexico, and with the help of a peyote-addled bartender, transforms her appearance so that she can “pass” as a Mexican boy named Angel. She then heads south into interior Mexico in search of her family’s former gardener Jésus.

Rhonda/Angel quickly determines that she must starve herself so that her body won’t develop into womanly curves that will give away the fact that she is female. So with an iron-willed determination, she refuses the tempting foods she encounters on her journey. She walks past taco vendors selling delicious nopalitos (cactus) and mango aqua fresca. No matter how delicious the food she encounters on her journey, or how she swoons with hunger, she takes care to eat very little.

When Rhonda/Angel teams up with Las Verduras, a group of female bandits who disguise themselves as men so that they will be taken seriously when committing robberies, she finds comfort in the company of other women who sometimes pretend to be men. But when Las Verduras encourage Rhonda/Angel to taste all the delicacies of Oaxaca: pan de cazon, a thick pancake with fish and spicy tomato sauce; the little corn pizzas called panuchos; platters of enchiladas covered in mole; and even chapulines (fried grasshoppers), Rhonda/Angel drifts away from Las Verduras to continue on her search for her Jésus.

When Rhonda/Angel finally finds Jésus, it is his mother Mama who convinces her to let go of pretending she is a boy, and go back to eating. Mama shows Rhonda/Angel the fallacies of her beliefs about food, gender and even cooking. When Rhonda doesn’t want to learn the “women’s work” of cooking, Mama says :

“I know, I know. You think I’m backwards. But women with new-fangled ideas have forgotten what it is that gives women power.  A good meal is like a prayer, a gift, a spell.  It’s strong magic.”  Mamá tapped her fingertips against her heart.  “It is a subtle power and not one many understand anymore.  And I see how you’ve tried to become strong by not eating.  But you have it wrong.  It is food that makes you a woman, and being a woman that gives you strength.”  Mamá slapped her fat hip to make her point and laughed and fussed at Angel to pay attention now, because she was going to show her how to make chile rellenos.

Like Rhonda/Angel, many women and girls starve themselves to try to lose their feminine curves. And it often takes time and experience for us to learn to be comfortable in our bodies and able to enjoy food without guilt.

Thanks for sharing your food for thought, Mary!

You can find Mary here:

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Toastworthy Teens: Matthew Mokoroa

Matthew Mokoroa, Gold Medalist

Matthew Mokoroa was diagnosed with a rare condition known as Wilson’s disease when he was 9 years old and given one month to live. 6 years later, the 1/3 liver donated to him by his father, along with his mother’s desire to treat him like a normal kid and encouragement in sports to keep him healthy helped Matthew run away with gold, silver, and bronze medals at the 18th World Transplant Games. 

But perhaps the greatest factors in the New Zealand’s teen success are actually the strength, determination, and winning attitude of the 15-year-old athlete who believes his transplant was “a gift, because I get to travel to places like this [Sweden]. It’s given me opportunities.”

With an outlook that bright, his future’s sure to be brilliant. ;)

To find out more about the World Transplant Games, visit:

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Thursday, April 12, 2012

FOODFIC: The Long Walk - Richard Bachman

Walk or die – it’s that simple

100 boys start walking in Northern Maine at 9am on the first day of May;* the one who walks the longest wins. There are a handful of rules, of course: stay on the road, maintain a minimum speed of 4 miles an hour, no interfering with the other participants, no breaks. The first 3 infractions get you warnings; the fourth buys you a ticket and you’re out (of both the race and life – “walk or die” isn’t a metaphorical slogan).

Now, even though the Walkers (yes, with a capital W, like Army or Red Sox) aren’t allowed to stop and stretch, sleep, or go to the bathroom (I’d say use your imagination, but you don’t have to; King has the boys show you how it’s done), they are given canteens of water and daily food rations. (And don’t go thinking the powers that be feed the Walkers out of concern for their health; it’s just that collapsing from hunger isn’t a sexy, crowd-pleasing way to fall out of the race.)

So if here’s where you think I’m going to talk about the rations as my FoodFic focus, you’re wrong. Yes, the “high-energy concentrate pastes” are worth nothing: bacon spread, beef concentrate, tuna paste…you get the idea. They say basic sustenance; I say boring sledge.  

No, the food that speaks to me in this book is not the actual, but the allegorical. Parker explains to Garraty the folly in feeling any sense of accomplishment at having outlasted more than half of the other walkers:

It’s like shaking a box of crackers through a sieve…the crumbs fall through pretty fast. Then the little pieces break up and they go, too. But…the whole crackers have to break off a crumb at a time.

As in most life events, it’s not hard to beat the quitters; you only need to push a little to overtake the half-hearteds; the real challenge lies in outlasting the whole crackers. There are many such lessons on the Long Walk – all both timely and timeless – and only time will tell if people will learn them before they run out of warnings. 

*The year isn’t important, as nothing in the book locks it into 1979 or 2012. I’d like to say the story is “timeless,” but I think that would imply a sort of romanticism that doesn’t reflect the tone of the book.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Toastworthy Teens: Jessica Markowitz

Jessica Markowitz, Richard's Rwanda

When Jessica Markowitz was in the 6th grade, a Rwandan man named Richard stayed with her family and told them about the horrific 1994 genocide in his country. Jessica, who’s favorite quote is: “When you educate a girl, you educate a community,” was particularly shocked to learn that many Rwandan girls couldn’t afford to go to school, and, as the daughter of an activist, knew she could do something about it. 

Jessica’s foundation, Impuwe Richard’s Rwanda, has since evolved from middle-school car-washes and bake sales to selling apparel and writing grant proposals to fund support for more than 7 different Rwandan schools. In between taking the SATs and managing the many other challenges of high school, Jessica is currently working to build the Rwandan students a much-needed science center, and several other members have formed more chapters to continue to grow the youth-led organization. 

See their work in action here:

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Sunday, April 8, 2012

Authors in Bloom GIVEAWAY HOP

What do you send your favorite author to celebrate the launch of her/his new book?

Why, flowers and candy, of course!

The only way to top that would be candy flowers, which I’ve always wanted to make. 

This is how Paula Deen (love her!) does it, so it’s probably the recipe I’ll go with:

50-75 petals (depending on size) from organically grown roses
2 egg whites, broken up with a fork
2 cups sugar

Directions (Prepare Sugared Rose Petals one day in advance):
Line a baking sheet with wax paper and set aside. Pour sugar into a medium mixing bowl. Using a craft paint brush, gently brush all sides of each rose petal with the egg whites and dip each one into the sugar completely coating the petal. Place on lined baking sheet. Repeat until all rose petals are covered. Allow to dry at room temperature overnight.

Now, Paula uses her petals to then decorate a cake, but I can’t do that because…I don’t like cake. 

Yes, I’ll wait while you gasp, choke, and call me names. 

Now, where was I? Right, cake. Cheesecake I’m okay with, and occasionally a carrot cake if it’s nutty, but traditional ol’ cakey-cake with frosting is just not my thing. Oh, why sugar coat it? (Pun kinda sorta intended ;)

I hate cake! But I don’t hate comments – those I love!  So if you’ve ever candied petals, please leave a comment below telling me how it went and offering any tips you have. Or if you want to comment about something else entirely, feel free to do that instead. :) Either one will enter you to win:

A Signed Copy of either:
 "Solid" (Solid Series Book #1) or "Settling" (Solid #2)

To enter to win, just follow this blog
and leave a comment/question, along with a way to contact you.

Optional Extra Entries:
+1 Follow on Twitter
+1 Like Solid Series on Facebook 
+1 Add series to your to-read list on Goodreads

Giveaway runs from April 9th to April 18th; last day to enter is Wed., April 18th.

Next, return to to enter the GRAND PRIZE:
an eReader (Nook or Kindle — your choice) and $25 gift card!!!

You will need to hop to all of the participating blogs to collect lines from a selection;
Here are mine:

Line 92: From the sensual to the erotic.
Line 93: It happens with the one you love. 

And visit the other 70+ authors participating in this hop for the remaining
lines and also to enter their individual giveaways!
So many stops, so many prizes - get hopping!

1.Dianne Venetta2.YA Author PJ Sharon
3.Vickie Taylor4.Alexa Grace
5.Marilyn Brant6.Celebrating Spring
7.Diana Layne Blog8.*lizzie starr
9.Darcy Flynn10.Off Kilter
11.Marci Baun12.Amber Kallyn
13.Sarah Gilman14.Renee Pace
15.A Cozy Reader's Corner16.Children's Author Maria Dismondy
17.Indie Author How-To18.Deb Sanders
19.Fresh Start Stories with Beverly Nault20.Aris Whittier
21.Darcyholic Diversions22.Once Upon a Time: world of symbols
23.Nuayma Jeggels24.YA author Katharina Gerlach
25.Chick Lit (Bridget Jones's Diary meets The Office)26.Beate Boeker
27.Jessica Chambers: Straight From The Heart28.Gotta Have YA
29.Karl Fields30.Sally Clements
31.Dina Silver32.Sybil Nelson
33.Priscilla the Great34.Nina Benneton
35.Caron Rider, YA Author of Silver Knight36.Tara Woolpy
37.J.M. Kelley38.Susan Mallery Cooks
39.J.L. Campbell 40.Amy Saunders
41.Kaira Rouda42.Michael Scott Miller
43.Samantha March44.Marika Christian
45.Elena Aitken46.No Hope for Gomez!
47.Nearly Brilliant48.WHO GOT LIZ GARDNER
49.Amy Lignor - Until Next Time: The Angel Chronicles50.Jolene Perry - Night Sky
51.ShaynaGier.com52.DeeSWhite-Author, Inspirational Speaker, Vocalist
53.Tracy Marchini - Hot Ticket54.STAY TUNED - Lauren Clark
55.TwoCanDo Books Mary Laudien's Website- Follow the Blog!56.Maria Geraci
57.Patti Callahan Henry - Wildflower Wishes App58.Pandora Poikilos - Peace from Pieces
59.Christina Wible60.ALMOST HUMAN - venomous vampire series
61.Walking with Justice62.Author Darien Gee and the Friendship Bread Kitchen
63.K.E. Saxon64.Cynthia Vespia Author of Thrills and Chills
65.Kristina McMorris66.Louisa Mack - Cooking Up Trouble
67.Cheryl - Books, Products and More!68.Sloane Wolf - Margay Leah Justice
69.Daddy, Come & Get Me70.Author Mia King (Good Things, Sweet Life, Table Manners)
71.Welcome to the Woods72.More Than Words-S.Carol Crovo

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Sue Ann Bowling, Author of Tourist Trap

Science fiction may not seem like it should pay much attention to food, but even aliens have to live on something! Mine in Homecoming and Tourist Trap are either Human-like or Human, and they all eat. What’s more, they all enjoy eating—sometimes a little too much!

Roi, my protagonist in both Homecoming and Tourist Trap, has learned to appreciate fine food from his uncle, the noted gourmet Derik Tarlian. But he started life (and Homecoming) as a slave, and he hasn’t forgotten slave chow. (Think Dog Chow without the taste tests.) Even years later he will eat just about anything if he has to, as shown in this snippet from Tourist Trap when he’s helping Penny feed a team of sled dogs.

The dogs seemed to like it, and Roi took a cautious fingerful himself. “Roi, that’s dog food!” Penny scolded.
Roi grinned and sucked his finger. “Tastes better than a lot of slave rations I’ve had,” he commented. “Probably better nutrition, too.”

Roi and a number of other characters are able to read minds, teleport, and do a lot of other things mentally, but at an energy cost. Too much at one time and they’re apt to develop low blood sugar and pass out. Here’s a bit from Homecoming, right after Roi has reflexively overused his developing talents, forcing those around him to use theirs to protect themselves.

“Poltergeist reaction, I think,” Derik replied. “We’re all in esper shock, Vara. Can you get some food out here?” At least the table was still standing, and he needed its help on a second attempt to rise. “Ander,” he called as he clung to the table and waited for the world to slow its whirling, “why are you two so wet?”
“Figured the water might shock him out of whatever state he was in,” Ander called back, “so I jumped into the pool with him. Scared him, though, so I got him back out in a hurry.”
“Good thinking. Now get some food into him. Get his blood sugar up.”

Even some of the minor characters, like the adjudicator Kyrie, have some preoccupation with food:

The news screen was melting through a series of targeted advertisements even as the voice-over reported the latest doings of the planetary government. Kyrie glanced at herself in the mirror and grimaced at a tri-dee of a sumptuous meal accompanying today’s menu at her favorite restaurant. Not ‘til you get some fat off, my girl, she told herself.
Why anyone would actually pay for the privilege of being dragged across country and eating poorly cooked camp food when the planet had such superb cuisine was beyond her understanding. Not that Roi had seemed to mind, and she’d caught a glimpse of the concentrated food sticks they’d had for breakfast when she’d teleported the candy to the group. Then she paused as the food sticks and the gourmet meal juxtaposed themselves in her brain, and a slow smile spread across her face.
“Gralen’s,” she told the communicator, and a moment later the manager’s face was on the com screen.
“I want a meal for five delivered, in full stasis containers and including table service,” she told him. “At the Confederation Justice Building, before midmorning. Enough that they can nibble all day. Set up the menu so they can sample a wide variety of your specialties. It’s for a group of snowbound adolescents with excellent appetites, and at least one of them knows something about fine food.”
“Wines?” the manager asked.
“Of course. I’ll leave the selection to you, but I should warn you that Lord Derik Tarlian will be sharing the bill with me—and he will certainly check your selections.

Those wines are going to cause problems, but for that you’ll have to read Tourist Trap—which has just been named best fiction book of the year in the Reader Views contest.

 Thanks for sharing your food for thought, Sue Ann!

You can find Sue Ann,
and more about her books, at:

Monday, April 2, 2012

Toastworthy Teens: Michael Lake & Justin Loria

Michael Lake and Justin Loria, sick of witnessing the curse words and middle-finger raising amongst their peers, decided to offer an alternative. Yup, their self-launched clothing line, LL Clothing Co., sells shirts, hoodies, and dog bandanas emblazoned with the “hang-loose” gesture and the word “HUAAA,” which stands for Help Us Avoid All Anger

They hope that seeing their logo will make people pause before swearing or flipping someone the bird, and ultimately choose instead to curl their hands into the hang-loose sign and yell, “Hoo-aah!” Yes, it may sound a little goofy at first, but, as Michael says, “When you’re agitated and think about HUAAA, you can’t be mad at anything anymore.”

Sounds good to me. :)

You can find Michael and Justin’s HUAAA merchandise at:

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Comment below with your email address so we can get a post together!