How is your writing going?

It’s our anniversary on Sunday! Jarrett and I are off to Richmond for the weekend, which is where we met and got engaged, and I’m crazy excited to stay at the new Quirk Hotel.

quirk hotel in richmond

Isn’t it pretty?

I may also be a complete lunatic and pack up my wedding dress to wear in the room…or around the lobby, if I’m brave enough. It’s just that I adore this dress, and it’s not fair that I’ve only gotten to wear it once.

155

So I’m taking a cue from this smart chick and wearing it again. And yes, Jarrett’s wearing his suit again. We might even recreate a few of our wedding photos. And we will definitely be eating the Dexter Cider Mill donuts (our “cake”) that are stashed in our freezer.

Did I mention that I can’t wait?

But in the meantime, I wanted to ask you a quick question: is there anything in your writing life that has you completely stumped lately? We talked all about our reading lives a few weeks ago in our survey, but now I’m curious to know how you guys are feeling about your writing.

For me, I’m feeling stumped about how to balance it all—I adore working with authors, writing + editing proposals, writing here to you guys, coaching my authors through the publishing process, and writing for The Kitchn now and then. I just want more time. Someone package me up and send me a bundle of time. (There’s a cooking joke in there somewhere.)

So I’d love to hear: what’s your biggest obstacle in your writing life right now?

I’d love to hear all about it, and the more details you can give me, the more I can try to help you out!

No fancy survey today—just email me at maria @ cooksplusbooks . com and let me know what’s on your mind. I LOVE hearing from you guys, and you can bet I will read and respond to every single one of your notes.

Can’t wait to chat!


As a thank you…

I’d buy you a drink if I could, but let’s go for the next best thing: a cocktail recipe! Here’s a Cucumber Jalapeno Gimlet recipe Jarrett developed a few weeks ago. It was GOOD. Really good. And it’s exactly what you need for soaking up these last few weeks of summer.

Cucumber Jalapeno Gimlet Recipe

cucumber jalapeno gimlet recipe

Makes 1 cocktail

For cocktail:
  • 5 slices of cucumber + more for garnish
  • 1-2 slices of jalapeno, seeds removed (optional)
  • ¾ oz. lime juice
  • 2 oz. cucumber gin
  • ¾ oz. mint syrup
  • Club soda
For mint syrup:
  • 5-6 mint leaves
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
For cucumber gin:
  • 3-4 cucumber slices
  • 1 cup gin
For the mint syrup: Add 5-6 mint leaves to 1 cup of water in a small saucepan. Add 1 cup of sugar and heat over medium-high heat until sugar dissolves, about 5 minutes. Let steep until cool, then strain out mint leaves.

For the cucumber gin: Chop 3-4 slices of cucumbers and place them in a glass with 1 cup of gin. Refrigerate for 10-15 minutes, then strain out the cucumber.

For the cocktail: Pour the mint syrup into a shaker along with 5 slices of cucumbers and 2 slices of jalapeno (optional). Muddle, then add the lime juice and gin. Add ice up to level of liquid, and shake vigorously for 20-30 seconds. Double-strain into chilled coupe (or a Collins glass filled with ice, if you prefer); top with a splash of club soda. Add a cucumber or jalapeno slice for garnish.

Cheers!


What I’ve Been Reading This Week

Your Literary Twin, According to Your Myers-Briggs Personality Type (Carolyn Stanley for PureWow): Here’s a fun one for the weekend! I’m an INFJ, which means my literary twin is Jane Eyre. Who are you?

How to Write Your Book and Blog at The Same Time: 7 Strategies for Succeeding at Both (Chad R. Allen): I get asked about this all. The. Time. I’ll let Chad answer it this time–he has 7 great actionable steps you can take right away to get this issue sorted out. I think you’ll find this really helpful!

The Secret Life of a Book Manuscript (Thomas E. Ricks for The Atlantic): I love the subtitle for this piece: “A best-selling author submits a draft to his editor. Hijinks ensue.” I remember that feeling of getting a manuscript in from an author and realizing it was not the book you had signed up. It still makes me shudder. This is such a well-written and fascinating look at what happens when you need to take your manuscript apart and put it all back together, and how this can happen even to bestselling authors. So don’t stress if editing is tearing you up–you’re in great company.

How the Silent Book Club Gave Me Back My Reading Life (Maggie Downs for Literary Hub): Would you go to a public space to read silently with others? Here’s what Downs thought of it: “There aren’t enough words to convey how good this feels. I’m the mother of a toddler, and carving out reading time for myself has been a challenge. During the day, I’m either working or playing with my child. At night I can’t crack open a book without the crushing guilt of the dirty dishes or the overflowing laundry hamper or, hell, my actual professional work.” Me? I would totally do it.

The ‘New York Times’ Books Desk Will Make You Read Again (John Maher for Publisher’s Weekly): “Its chief critic took a buy-out. It’s consolidating like crazy. But the Gray Lady’s books team is neither flailing nor failing. Here’s what it is doing.”


What We’re Eating This Week

We were normal! Yes, we ate some pretty normal and home-cooked things this week, for a change. Nothing fancy–just the food, ma’m.

Monday: Mondo burrito bowls with charred corn and ground beef that Jarrett accidentally seasoned with thyme. (There HAS to be a cooking joke in there somewhere.)

Tuesday: Creamy Miso Fettucine with Brussels Sprouts from The Love & Lemons Cookbook, but with almonds instead of cashews, broccoli instead of brussels, and umami paste instead of miso, because apparently I never have the right ingredients for anything. It’s the thought that counts?

Wednesday: I am still crushing hard on these lentil bowls. My plan is to make them every week until I get tired of them and ruin a good thing. Hooray!

Thursday: Wine for dinner. I mean. We will order food, too. But we’ll be at Maxwell for a friend’s birthday, and you know how Thursdays go. #EntirelyMadeUpRationale

Friday: PIZZA NIGHT! I’m not excited except that I am, and it’s been months since we’ve had a shameless Friday pizza night. There will be plenty of salami and arugula on my pizza, plus my favorite roasted broccoli from Back Pocket Pasta. Yes and yes and yes.

Happy weekend!

Get one tip for upgrading your literary life sent to your inbox each week!

The results are in!

I LOVED hearing from you last week through the reader survey. You all are so fascinating.

I was trying hard not to peek at the survey responses before they were all in, and then I finally sat down with them on Tuesday morning, riding the Amtrak train from DC to NYC. Which meant I was giggling and nodding like a lunatic on the train, and also having way more fun than is allowed on Amtrak.

what kind of reader are you survey

Your responses were witty and insightful and thoughtful. Thank you immensely for taking that time out of your day—I know how busy you are, and I don’t ever want to take your time lightly.

Speaking of which, Allison S. is the winner of the surprise $20 Amazon card that was tucked at the back of the survey! I didn’t want to bribe you all, but I did want to give you a thank you gift for giving me your time. So, Allison, I hope you buy yourself something perfect to read with the gift card! I’ll be contacting you via email to get it to you.

So, are you curious about who your fellow readers and writers are?

Here’s who you’ll find in our little cooks & books community:

Read More

What kind of reader are you? (survey!)

I have something a little fun and different for us today!

Every night after we’ve cooked and cleaned up dinner, Jarrett and I turn to each other and say “Sooo…should we read tonight? Or watch TV?”

That’s how exciting we are.

But really: those are about the only two leisure activities we like after a long day of work, and each one has about a 50/50 shot of winning out, based on how brain-tired we feel from the workday. But it got me to thinking: people fit reading into their days in such different ways!

I know a lot of people who read for a few minutes on their morning commutes, or can only squeeze in 30 minutes during a lunch break, or who rely on audiobooks to keep them up with their to-be-read lists. But everyone I know wishes they could read more.

So I thought it would be fun to do a little survey called “What kind of reader are you?”

what kind of reader are you

Click here to take the survey!

You can tell me all about what books you’re reading, what challenges you’re facing in your reading life, what genres or categories you most love to read, and more! I’d love to hear all about you. The survey is 7 very brief, mostly multiple-choice questions, so it shouldn’t take longer than 3 minutes to complete.

At the end of the survey, you’ll also find a box for telling me anything else you’d like me to know about you–anything from what you’re working on, what your writing struggles are, or what you’d like me to write about next. I take personal requests very seriously, so if there’s something you want me to talk about specifically on the blog, now’s your chance to get all those questions answered!

And since there’s nothing more fun than talking about books, I’ll share the results next week, so you can see how you stack up against the other readers in our little community!

The survey will be open until this Monday, July 24th at 5 EST and will close after that.

I can’t wait to hear from you and share the insights with you all next week!

Get one tip for upgrading your literary life sent to your inbox each week!

 


What I’m Reading This Week:

Forget About Setting Goals. Focus on This Instead (James Clear): I recently discovered James Clear’s site and have been really enjoying his writing on habits and learning systems. James wrote the equivalent of two books in one year (!!), and he did it by setting up systems, inspired by this Wall Street Journal article he read by Scott Adams, creator of Dilbert. Success comes down to committing to the process, and if you need a little reminder of that, here’s a free printable art print I created to remind you that you can’t rush something you want to last forever.

you can't rush something you want to last forever quote printable

Best Books of 2017 (So Far) (Book Riot): Maybe you need something new to read right now? Here are the best books from the first half of this year–browse away!

Rebecca Solnit on a Childhood of Reading and Wandering (Literary Hub) “There are ecological reasons to question how books are made out of trees but metaphysical reasons to rejoice in the linkage between forests and libraries, here in this public library, in the town I grew up in, with the fiber from tens of thousands of trees rolled out into paper, printed and then bound into books, stacked up in rows on the shelves that fill this place and make narrow corridors for readers to travel through, a labyrinth of words that is also an invitation to wander inside the texts.”

3 Ways to an Acquisition Editor’s Heart (Chad R. Allen): These 3 things are also what I look for in potential authors. This is a great piece for any writer climbing up the mountain toward publication.

A Taste for Books (Monte Burke in Garden & Gun): Rick Ellis has a stunning collection of vintage cookbooks socked away in his gorgeous New York City loft, and this piece takes you through the highlights of his Southern cookbooks. I get a little giddy reading articles like these (cookbooks! everywhere!) and especially loved the shoutout to my old favorite, The Virginia Housewife.


What We’re Eating This Week:

It’s hot out; we’ve been gone every weekend (camping, beach, etc.); and the fanciness factor in our kitchen is at an all-time low. And yet, I just can’t stop scratching that itch to meal plan and cook something that sounds like something (i.e., not hot dogs) every night. What is wrong with me? Next week, I swear to eat hot dogs for dinner one night, and not even with any fancy toppings, either. It is the summer after all, and I need a break.

Monday: Jarrett picked the One-Pot Shells with Broccoli recipe from SkinnyTaste: Fast and Slow, and I added sautéed chicken to it because I like complicating things. (It was good!)

Tuesday: We could have chosen one vegetable curry recipe to make, but after a long day of stretching your brain and making decisions, isn’t it so much more fun to compile multiple recipes and ideas and substitutions until you have one FrankenCurry and no thoughts at all left in your brain? Tuesday, you won.

Wednesday: Out! Beautiful, beautiful restaurant food.

Thursday: Okay, so there’s this fast casual chain in the DC area called CAVA, and they serve breakfast at only one of their spots nationwide: the Reagan Airport location. I had the egg and lentil bowl there last summer on my way to LA for BlogHer, and inexplicably, I was attacked this week by the most horrendous craving for THAT EXACT BREAKFAST. All I can think about is soft scrambled eggs and black lentils. Which means I shall spend tonight maniacally trying to recreate all 87 of CAVA’s bowl components, using this recipe as a guideline. I either have too much time on my hands or a complete lack of good judgment. Maybe both! Woo.

Friday: Chicken Fil-A on our way to the beach. My good judgment is redeemed.

Cheers!