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To Hell with that Home-cooked Meal...

I’ve been trumped by the hair net brigade. My ace in the hole as a mother has lost its curb appeal, if you will, thanks to food services at my son’s college.

When your kid leaves for college, a mom has little pull remaining. Not much to draw that child back home again. When I was a kid, one of the few things I looked forward to was a good home-cooked meal upon my return to the home front.

My freshman year dining hall experience ran the gamut from the infamous (and much-loathed) chili-dogs to a fine-dining item known as “shrimplets”: a glob of batter with dessicated shrimp flakes mixed in, molded into the vague shape of an actual piece of shrimp and deep-fried to golden goodness. I knew it was time to get home to a good meal when shrimplets on the menu began to sound tasty.

We also had what was at the time the very cutting-edge salad bar. But this was in the early 80’s, so the salad bar was doused with sulfites to preserve it’s “freshness”, and thus left a bitter taste and had an undesirable numbing after-effect that left me generally eating only the chow mein noodles on top and none of the wholesome veggies beneath. 

My son is attending a school that touts the nation’s top-ranked dining hall experience. So great is the food that it is repeated as a mantra by most students, faculty and administration. Harvard might boast about the best education, but this place, dammit, they’ve got you by the balls with fabulous food.

When we attended orientation, I was dragged kicking and screaming (almost literally: I detest cafeteria food and had been looking forward to finding a nice restaurant in town, enjoying a leisurely glass of wine and some actual food) into the dining hall. My husband insisted: “We have to get the entire dining experience.” Why, I have no clue. But I relented so as to not have a hissy fit in front of my son and his potential peers.

When we arrived in the dining hall, I practically heard a choir of, well, not exactly angels, but something that would indicate this place wasn’t serving shrimplets. A quick glance around revealed dining stations everywhere: Asian, Mexican, vegetarian, breakfast for dinner, a dessert bar (our dessert was one item, rarely something one would choose to eat if given the chance to eat either that or gnaw on one’s own flesh). Hell, they even had a damned churrascaria. Who goes to the trouble to have a churrascaria for a bunch of college students who would gladly eat shrimplets if given no other options?

Now my husband has never met an all-you-can-eat venue that hasn’t thrilled him to the core of his being. He rises to the challenge and slathers his plate as high as it’ll hold it. And goes back for more. And more. And more. He was a very happy camper at the dining hall that night, particularly as he gloated at me, the doubting Thomas, who wanted nothing more than to hate the food and want to toss it at him. Take that, dammit, and gimme my glass of wine and my goat cheese appetizer!

Now when my oldest brother went away to college, I, the loving, baking-obsessed kid sister that I was, whipped up a batch of oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. Back then shipping things wasn’t as simple as it is today. We didn’t keep packing materials handy, things took ages to get to their destination. Undeterred, I rifled through the house and found soft packaging for  those cookies: I securely buffered the batch with cotton balls, sent it on its merry way. Where it no doubt sat on a variety of sweltering trucks in the early days of September en route from Pennsylvania to North Carolina. By the time my brother got my well-intended gift the cotton had glued to the stale cookies and there was to be no salvaging of the things.

I’ve entertained the idea of sending my son cookies. This time I could even overnight them so they wouldn’t be stale. And I’d avoid the cotton balls in favor of maybe bubble wrap. The only problem is my cookies will be no draw to the cheesecake, creme brulee, mousse au chocolat, and the myriad other desserts at his daily disposal. 

By extension, those meals he might yearn for prepared by my loving hands will pale in comparison to the lobster, tenderloin, shrimp creole and lord knows what else they’re offering up at that place.

I want to lodge a complaint! They’re making school so desirable that my son will never want to come home. I guess the upside is it’s making my husband want to re-enroll in college, just for the meals alone. Maybe I can talk him into that, and I’ll be off the hook for cooking dinner for a couple of years: not such a bad downside to being usurped in my mommy role, eh?

Categories: News, parenting

Welcome Guest Author Kelly Parra

Today I have author Kelly Parra visiting. Her young adult novel Invisible Touch has just been released with MTV books. Here’s a little about the book that Teens Read Too says is “an amazing, touching novel that deals with big issues in an original context”:


Kara Martinez has been trying to be “normal” ever since the accident that took her father’s life when she was eleven years old. She’s buried the caliente side of her Mexican heritage with her father and tried to be the girl her rigid mother wants her to be — compliant and dressed in pink, and certainly not acting out like her older brother Jason. Not even Danielle, her best friend at Valdez High, has seen the real Kara; only those who read her anonymous blog know the deepest secrets of the Sign Seer.

Because Kara has a gift — one that often feels like a curse. She sees signs, visions that are clues to a person’s fate, if she can put together the pieces of the puzzle in time. So far, she’s been able to solve the clues and avert disaster for those she’s been warned about — until she sees the flash of a gun on a fellow classmate, and the stakes are raised higher than ever before. Kara does her best to follow the signs, but it’s her heart that wanders into new territory when she falls for a mysterious guy from the wrong side of town, taking her closer to answers she may not be able to handle. Will her forbidden romance help her solve the deadly puzzle before it’s too late…or lead her even further into danger?

JG: Tell me a little about your book.

KP: Invisible Touch is about Kara Martinez.  Kara was in a tragic accident at eleven and lost her father, yet also gained something else–visions.  Or “signs” that she sees on individuals’ torsos.  She must piece these signs together like a puzzle and do her best to stop unfortunate fates.  Because of the pressure and mystery of the events, Kara keeps an anonymous blog called Secret Fates.  When she sees the sign of a gun on a fellow classmate, the latest mystery takes her into dangerous territory that increases with a relationship with a boy from the wrong side of town.  Invisible Touch has mystery, romance, and family drama, and I’m hoping I give readers an entertaining read.

JG:  What got you writing in the genre in which you write.

KP: When I started writing, I was writing Romantic Suspense. But I always wanted to write in two genres. I had a great idea for a young adult novel. Once I had sold my Romantic Suspense, my YA novel Graffiti Girl sold a couple of months later.

JG:  Favorite thing about being a writer?

KP:  The creativity of building characters and their stories from scratch. Using my imagination has always been a rush for me, and creating stories is what I love to do.

JG:  Least favorite thing about being a writer?

KP: The business side is hard to keep up with, such as the market and promotion. If I could just be a recluse and ship off stories to my agent whenever I wanted I’d be thrilled. :)

JG:  What is the most interesting thing that’s happened to you since becoming a published author?

KP: I’d have to say learning that my novel Graffiti Girl is being used in classrooms and recommended for high school students and have a producer option the film rights. I never thought these things would be possible.

JG:  What’s your favorite type of pie?

KP: It has to be Blueberry with a golden crispy crust. Yum.

Kelly Parra is the author of Graffiti Girl, a double RITA nominee and a Latinidad Top Pick, and the contemporary paranormal, Invisible Touch. When not pulling her hair while writing her current novel, she likes to play with her abundance of websites and feed a serious television addiction.

Categories: News

Welcome New York Times Bestselling Author Allison Winn Scotch

I’m thrilled to have Allison Winn Scotch join me today. Her latest novel, Time of my Life (in which she explores what might happen if you could live your life all over again, and change the course of history) has met with enormous success and hit the New York Times bestsellers list. It was also chosen as a Today Show must-read for the fall season, received a glowing review from People Magazine, and has been optioned for a film by the Weinstein Company. Allison and I have been on a number of online writing groups over the year, and I know her as a very gracious person willing  to share with other up-and-coming writers and someone who has worked very hard for her success. I can’t wait to read her novel, which is sitting atop my to-be-read pile.

JG: Tell me a little about your book.

AWS:  Time of My Life is the story about a woman who, on the surface, seems to have it all.  But when you peel back her layers, you discover that she is deeply unhappy and has lingering “what ifs” about her past.  Rather than face her current problems, she wakes up one day seven year in her past – at her old job, with her old boyfriend – and has the opportunity to rewrite her future.

JG:  What got you writing in the genre in which you write.

AWS:  I write commercial fiction, and I write it because I read it.  I’m not going to pretend that I pore over highly literary works: I like books to suck me in, entertain me, and spit me out when they’re done.  Look, I’m a working mom with two young kids…I simply don’t have the mental energy to read a book that’s going to take a month to finish because I have to reread every other sentence to fully understand the hidden meanings.  I like sharp, intelligent, thought-provoking commercial fiction…that I can finish in less than a week. So I hope that my book meets all of those criteria! It’s definitely one that if I hadn’t written I’d pick up.

JG:  Favorite thing about being a writer?

AWS:  The freedom of it.  I love being able to schedule my day as I so choose; to hang out with my kids and then retreat to my office and get some work done; to totally blow off days if I’m not in the mood but to also hunker down and write for hours on end when I’m inspired.  I also love that I can create something from nothing but what is purely in my imagination.  It is so, so cool to get that finished book from my publisher and think, “Wow, this is 100% all me.”

JG:  Least favorite thing about being a writer?

ASW:  The freedom of it. When I’m not writing–which I’m not at the present moment because I’m rooting around for my next book idea–I have no one to blame by myself. And I put a lot of pressure on myself to jump-start my work, but if it’s not happening, it’s not happening…so…I’m waiting to be inspired by my next big idea. And that can sort of suck. 

JG:  What is the most interesting thing that’s happened to you since becoming a published author? 

ASW:  OMG, that people somehow think I’m famous.  Seriously.  I run into old friends or acquaintances who say, “You’re famous now!”  Which is hilarious.  Because a) I’m not and b) really, I’m not.  And if I were, I’m incredibly grateful that there is no US Weekly for writers.  Because I walk around all day in my sweats, looking like total crap, and if a paparazzi were to follow me, I’d definitely be listed in that “Stars without make-up” section!

JG:  What’s your favorite type of pie?

AWS:  Strawberry-rubarb.  I love the combination of sweet and tart.  Which, yes, is also a metaphor for my personality.


Allison Winn Scotch is the author of a novel, The Department of Lost and Found. She is a frequent contributor to numerous magazines including American Baby, American Way, Bride’s, Cooking Light, Family Circle, Fitness, Glamour, InStyle Weddings, Lifetime Television, Men’s Fitness, Men’s Health, Parents, Prevention, Redbook, Self, Shape, Stuff, USA Weekend, Woman’s Day, Women’s Health, and,, and She lives in New York with her husband and their son and daughter. 

Categories: News, Sleeping with Ward Cleaver