Monthly Archives: October 2012

A Visit With the Artist

Today I want to introduce you to my dear friend, author Mariam Kobras. Born in Frankfurt, Germany, Mariam lived in Brazil and Saudi Arabia with her parents as a child before they decided to settle in Germany. She attended school there and studied American Literature and Psychology at Justus-Liebig-University in Giessen, where she met her husband. She lives in Hamburg, Germany, with her husband, two sons and  two cats. I know you will enjoy her post below!


Sycamore trees.

I keep telling Ginny, those trees lining the streets of Salt Lake City are sycamores, not maples, but she’s still skeptical. We’re driving through Sugar House, that much I know. That’s the name of this part of town. It’s elevated, all the streets on our right lead downhill, toward the valley with the city proper and the Great Salt Lake beyond.

Sugar House, and if you don’t know the history of the place it might sound a bit kinky, right? But no, I’m told, it’s because there was a maple plantation here, and the sugar house is where they make the syrup. Right, but Ginny, those trees are still sycamores.

We’re going to visit Eric. His art is on the covers of my books, first The Distant Shore, and now on my new release, Under the Same Sun. I’m very excited about this. I’ll be seeing Eric’s studio, all of his lovely paintings, and meeting the man himself.

Not even a year ago, I didn’t know he existed, didn’t know I’d fall in love with his art so much. Then, one Sunday morning, a friend of a friend posted one of his paintings on Facebook. It was stunning. It was beautiful, and it was the perfect depiction of a scene in my first novel, The Distant Shore. I did what every Facebook user does: I shared it to my own wall. My publisher saw it, and commented, “Where did you find this?”

“Right here,” I more or less screamed back, “And I want it on my book, I want it on the cover!”

And now we’re going to visit him.

I’m nervous. I’m scared, and I’m sweaty. I know I have to make a good impression, because I want more of Eric’s art on my future books, and I’m sure if he thinks I’m just another oldish, frumpy, housewife with the will to write, he’ll sneer at me and throw me out instead of signing the new contract the publisher gave me for him.

The door opens before we’re even properly out of the car, and there he is, his wife right behind him, and they’re smiling, waving, just as excited as I am!

“I love your book.,” Eric says. “You’re a wonderful writer!”

How many ways can you spell “abashed”?

I stand there in the Salt Lake City heat of July, purse pressed to my chest just like some frumpy old lady, and here is this tall, handsome man giving me a blinding grin, speaking to me in his wonderful, melodic voice, and I’m smitten.

I mean, I was smitten from afar before, by proxy, if you wish, through his art. But this is still different, this is Meeting the Artist.

His wife Hilary, the lovely girl on my book covers, is even prettier in real life. She really is, and she does look a lot like I pictured Naomi in my stories: slender, dainty, with very white skin and black hair, and a beautiful face.

I’ve brought a copy of  The Distant Shore, carried it with me all the way across the Atlantic and nearly across the US, to have Eric sign it for me. It already has a few really nice words from the publisher in it, and now I want his handwriting there, too.

The two people who, other than me, contributed the most to this book, one by giving me his art, the other one by signing me as their author.

“Thank you for allowing me to be a part of your wonderful book!” Eric writes, and I blush, reading those words from him, whom I admire so much. Does he really not understand that only with his art, is it, for me, complete?

We go into the studio, and there it is, the painting called Sunday Morning, the one that’s on the cover of Under the Same Sun.

I remember being at the Louvre the first time, just before my husband and I got married, and we walked all those miles through the endless hallways of that mammoth building to get to where they were hiding the Mona Lisa, and reaching it felt pretty much the way I felt seeing Sunday Morning: I could’t believe I was seeing the original, the real, paint-on-canvas piece of art.

By the way, I still have my doubts about the Mona Lisa. I believe that’s not the original, hanging in the Louvre, unprotected. I’m sure it’s a very, very, well done  copy, and the original is somewhere safe in the vaults.

But Sunday Morning, is right there before me, in the artist’s studio. I touch it, and Eric smiles.

Ginny is sitting on a couch in the corner and playing with the Thompson’s dog, chatting with Hilary, while the sun shines through the windows on Eric’s paintings, and for a moment, for as long as it takes to take three breaths, the world feels complete, stopped, perfect. I’m holding my first book in my hand, I’m standing before the painting that will be on my second, and Eric has signed, gladly, excitedly, the contract for the third painting on my third book. How much better can it get?

Later that night, on the plane, on my way back home, I get out the much-traveled copy of The Distant Shore and look at the handwritten dedications in it.

Serendipity, for sure. A blessing.

Thank you, world.

This was the thirteenth stop in Mariam’s Blog Hop celebrating the launch of her latest book, Under the Same Sun (Book II in the Stone Trilogy) which hit the bestseller list on its first day on sale!

We hope you enjoyed her guest post, and invite you to write a comment below about this blog post for a chance to WIN one of three copies of Under the Same Sun (plus some pretty gosh, darn, yummy chocolate)!

You can get additional chances by following Mariam at every stop on her hop and leaving comments after each post. And hey, while you’re here, why not follow this blog—you won’t regret it.

Join Mariam tomorrow, 10/31, when she stops by Wendy Mason’s blog.

And this is the link:

Check our blog for the full calendar and more details about Mariam and her books!

Macgyvering the coffee

So I’m a coffee achiever. I’ve gotta have it. And I don’t take any chances when I travel.

If we travel by car, I have a small Mr. Coffee pot that I take, along with coffee and filters.

When we travel overseas, we have a small French press that we take since most hotels have kettles in the room to boil water. We got it in Fiji and it’s called Make Tea Device. 😉

I took the cheesy little cups out and threw them away which gives me room to put coffee in the box. The box fits perfectly inside my make up bag.

So we’re good with coffee. Well, sort of.

A few years ago, hotels started putting pod coffee makers in their rooms. I’m not a cup at a time gal and this did present a challenge to me since when you fly in the US, it’s a little harder to take the 4 cup pot and most rooms don’t have kettles for hot water.

So Macgyvering was born.

And it’s been mostly successful.

Here’s how you do it.

You’ll need to bring your filters and your coffee.

Take the filter and tear it so it will fit into the pod space.

Then fill the pod with your coffee.

Add your water to the machine and press the “go” button.

Hopefully, you’ll get a nice, delicious cup of coffee instead of nasty hotel pod coffee.

Now, I must caution you. The rectangular pod makers are easier for me to use since I like strong coffee. This was my first experience with a round pod and it just didn’t let me use as much coffee as I would have liked. Still it was a better cup of coffee.

If you overfill the coffee in this maker, you could be surprised early morning style by an explosion that will send you pushing your chair backwards but laughing nonetheless.

I used a lot of tissues that day. 😉

So there you have it. How to have great coffee while staying in a hotel. Macgyver it. 😉


Little daddy

Tyke is my glamdog. I love him and he loves me.

Before the glambaby was born, Tyke was Nikki’s baby, more or less. According to Nikki, he isn’t too interested in Aniston unless someone else stops by the house and pays attention to her. I always try and make sure to spend time with him when I go to visit because he knows I’m his grandma. 🙂

Yesterday, we stopped by to see Geoff, Nikki, Aniston and Tyke and we learned that Tyke has a baby now.

He has taken a toy that used to belong to Nikki’s sister and has started carrying it around like it’s his baby.

He grooms it.

And puts it to sleep in the corner.

Yesterday, after Tyke put his baby to sleep, he hopped up on the couch and crashed out himself. Nikki reached over and pet him saying, “It’s tough work to look after a baby, isn’t it Tyke?”

When Aniston started crawling seemingly toward the baby, Tyke jumped off the couch to go get it and keep it safe.

He’s “taking care” of this toy like a mother dog would take care of her new puppy and it’s so cute it makes me want to cry.

Watching Tyke like this, it’s easy to believe that our pets do have feelings and emotions and can see what’s going on in our lives. Tyke is a good daddy. Just like Geoff. But he’s also a good mommy. Just like Nikki. 🙂

*Many thanks to Nikki for all of the photos but the top one. 🙂

Banana cardamom pancakes

Because of my pageant background, people are always asking me what my talent is. I always reply: parallel parking and making iced tea. I’ve never done a pageant with a talent portion. 😉

Well, I just realized that I have another talent that I’ve not been sharing with people. Poaching eggs. Oh yeah, buddy. I can poach an egg like no other.  And I love them. The problem is that you have to really have something to sop up the egg yolk when it’s prepared the way I like it and, since we’re not eating bread, toast is not an option.

The other day, I found this recipe for paleo pancakes. It’s delicious and we’ve been having it a couple of times a week.  It’s a great sopper up of egg yolks. too. AND! Today I remembered to add cardamom to the mixture.


So here it is. The recipe makes three decent sized pancakes. I cook them on a griddle brushed with ghee. You could make two larger pancakes but the smaller size lends itself to flipping well. 🙂

Banana Cardamom Paleo Pancakes

(adapted from The Best Effing Protein Pancakes I’ve Ever Had)


1/2 Very Ripe Banana

1 Egg

1 scoop Vanilla Whey Protein Powder

1 T Ground Flax

1/4 t Vanilla

1/4 t Cardamom


Mash the banana and beat the egg, protein powder, flax, and vanilla to make a batter.

Cook over medium-low heat for 2-3 minutes on one side till browned, then flip and repeat.  This recipe makes 3 pancakes.

Top with eggs, almond butter or fruit.

Terrified of propane

While we were on our magical mystery RV tour (We’re back now. It was fun.) I realized that I was terrified of propane. I didn’t want to use it for anything if we could help it. I was afraid it would blow up. People have told me this is not the case but I didn’t want to take any chances.

We never used the stove or oven in the RV and had the fridge on the electric mode. I think that we probably used propane for the hot water heater because we only found out that it would run on electric when we were showing it to the man who would eventually buy the RV.

Anyway, cooking became challenging. We used our George Foreman grill and crock pot a LOT. But I wanted some over easy eggs. So we got a griddle.  We like veggies but since we would have to turn off the a/c in order to microwave them, we decided to get a steamer.

I found an very nice Black and Decker Flavor Scenter and Steamer at the Goodwill for $3. Score!

And we were set. Until I was looking for a snack one day and there were no hard boiled eggs (one of our favorite paleo go-tos) in the fridge. And I wondered, “Can I steam eggs to make them hard boiled?”

After a google search I found out that it was indeed possible and, so, another non-propane hurdle was crossed.

But here’s something I didn’t know until I actually steamed the eggs the first time. Not only is steaming the easiest way I have ever hard boiled eggs, they are extra easy to peel. Every single egg. Every single time. 🙂

Now I know you want to steam eggs too. Here’s how I did it.

I filled the water to the low mark.

Put a dozen eggs into the basket. It’s a perfect fit!

And steam for 25 minutes.

When the buzzer dings, you take the basket and plunge it into cold water.  Because of the holes in the bottom, plunging the eggs into the water becomes easier than any other method!

That’s it! Fabu hard boiled eggs that last longer than the ones that you bake in the oven and are easier to peel than any before. I wish you luck finding your own deluxe steamer at the Goodwill. 🙂