Touring our new cookbook — and spending time with family

Thank you to everyone who came out to Astoria Bookshop for our New York launch and to the Book Cellar for our Chicago launch! Both bookshops were wonderful and we had a terrific turnout! I meant to write sooner, but we’ve been bouncing from one thing to the next for the last month.

We brought the kids for the NYC launch, as well as batches of Dante’s Nine Layers of Torture Bars and Pythagorean Serum cocktails to share with the audience.

At The Astoria Bookshop with Dingding Hu (who makes a fabulous Janet), our illustrator for FORKING GOOD.
It was nice to be able to share our NYC party with the kids this time. It’s not often that they’re all able to travel with us.
Thank you to everyone who came out to celebrate with us!

Inspired by Dingding’s costume, Stephen and I decided to dress as a gender-swapped Michael and Janet for the Chicago party…

So thrilled to have coworker friends from NIIT show up! <3
My Soul Squad. I love these people wholeheartedly.

The Book Cellar featured a special The Good Place-inspired cocktail created by Stephen that was not in the book: French Vanilla Antimatter! And we brought more Dante’s Nine Layers of Torture Bars to share with our guests.

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In the last month, FORKING GOOD made it to the Semifinal Round of the 2019 Goodreads Choice Awards for “Best Food & Cookbooks!” We also had some nice press, including this featured review by Foreword:

An extended inside joke that show fans will delight in adding to their shelves, Forking Good is a comfort-food laden, lightly philosophical cookbook worth indulging in.

We were included in this feature, “Pop culture cookbooks are one thing Millennials aren’t killing,” by Danielle Zimmerman for Hypable:

We’ve exhausted so many avenues of celebrating the fandoms we love that it was only natural for us to turn to food next. After all, fandom and pop culture already nourish our souls, so why not our bodies as well?

Stephen and I also did a fun interview for i8tonight, which is their own culinary spin on the Proust Questionnaire:

Where is your favorite place to eat?

Valya: Honestly, I love to eat at home—ours and other people’s. I appreciate the intimacy and personality. Outside of home dining, we really love our neighborhood Ethiopian restaurant, Ras Dashen. Also high on our list is Band of Bohemia, such wonderful food and cocktails.

Stephen: As an East Coaster relocated to Chicago, I thank the heavens for Jimmy’s Pizza Cafe, which is the place to get real New York pizza in town.

You can read the rest here.

Meanwhile, in the kid arena, there was a lockdown at my older kids’ high school. That morning, I got a text from my son telling me that their high school was on lockdown, and it was not a drill. My son and daughter, both in the high school, proceeded to relay information to us via text about what was happening as the students shared updates with one another around the school.

As it turns out, the lockdown was prompted by two pellet guns brought in by students, and the school seems to have dealt with it safely and efficiently. Still, it was terrifying to be a parent helplessly waiting for information about your children’s safety… in school, where they should be safe. I am so grateful that all the kids are ok, and I could not help but think of the hundreds of parents across this country who have sat frozen with feelings of helplessness and fear.

We talked about it at length at dinner, and the kids were mostly calm and pragmatic, discussing places where they think security could be better, praising teachers for staying calm and helping, relaying the fears and concerns of their peers.

This is their normal. This is anything but normal.

I’m still processing.

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And speaking of parenting, there was the time last week when I was tucking in my youngest, and she said something sweet about hoping to be a mom like me when she grows up. I told her thank you, but it’s also ok if she decides to be a cool aunt instead. She certainly doesn’t have to decide now.

She looked at me with that intense Lana gaze for a minute and then said, “I see what you’re doing, Mom, trying not to push me in a direction. I know how you think. I KNOW where you get your parenting from. I READ your parenting book. The whole thing.”

Then she settled into her pillow and said (very pleased with herself), “I guess I know famous people too.” And went to sleep.

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Thanksgiving behind us and the winter holidays ahead, I’m looking forward to some vacation days — cozy afternoons baking with the kids, coffee dates with friends, catching up with reading beside the tree, catching up with writing under quilts, and so much cuddling on the couch.

I hope that your December is also cozy and full of things that make you feel warm and happy and loved.

 

On New Years, Faraway Friends, and Fairy Tales

Photo by Eight Eyes Photography.

They take their mugs, then their seats, and fill the room; the empty chair holding everything they do not say. Until she speaks to raise a mug and, in remembering, cracks the silence, spills everything, and takes them back with, “I remember when” and “He always” and “I will miss” and “If only.” (Seven,” KROnline )

I’m delighted that my new short story, “Seven” has been published by The Kenyon Review Online. The story is essentially a love letter to friends near and especially far, whom I don’t get to see often enough. It was also born out of something I was thinking a lot about at the time: What may have happened to the fairy tale heroes and heroines, victims and villains, as they eventually faced aging and death? It’s not the sexy part of the story, but I feel like there is beauty and grace to be explored there.

So much of 2015 was spent working on Geek Parenting, that I wasn’t able to write and submit a lot of short fiction and poetry. “Seven” was an exception, and I’m grateful to begin this year by having it published it in such a well-respected and widely-read journal.

Thus the wheel turns and we leave 2015 behind, having lost loved ones, having turned parts of our lives upside-down, having welcomed new relationships and projects, hopefully having created a few new treasured memories. We look ahead to 2016, beginning to write onto those blank calendar squares, planning the ways we hope the year will play itself out (although it will surely surprise us).

I have not traditionally been a fan of New Year’s Eve. Many of my best eves have been spent “writing in the new year” in a quiet house or apartment, a cup of hot coffee beside me (maybe with a splash of Kahlua). However this time it felt appropriate to celebrate the threshold between the years with something more creative and dramatic–with a Celestial Ball in three stories of a festively decorated historic New York City Romanesque Revival building filled with live music and occupied by all manner of beautifully costumed people meandering about, drinking, dancing, and laughing. It felt very much like the shimmery veils between so many fantastic worlds were lifted to allow for such a congregation of sparkly, mythic creatures.

I was swept up in all that that magic and forgot to take photos, but thankfully photographer Steven Rosen was there, and he took this beautiful portrait. (Oh, the light!)
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(If you’d like to see his other breathtaking portraits from that night and others, you can find them on his facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/stevenrosenphotography)

There’s so much out of balance and broken and hurting in our world right now. I want to believe that the systems in place that continue to perpetuate hatred and injustice will finally be dismantled, that new models will spring up to reshape a future where all people are treated with dignity and respect. I have hope, and I want to do my part.

In so many cultures, the end of an old year was a time for magic, for fortunetelling and storytelling, for casting spells and making wishes. My wish for 2016 is not long: May we find our way to love in 2016–in the people, animals, activities, and ideas that nourish our authentic selves and connect us with humanity as a whole.

Happy New Year.