Show and Tell: Doing Dishes

Wheel-thrown dessert plates.

Woohoo! I made my first set of wheel-thrown dishes.

So what if the plates shrunk in the kiln more than I anticipated? So what if I made eight, but one was too thin and had to be scrapped? So what if the earth-tone glaze applied along with blue doesn’t show at all? And so what if I need to sand the bottoms more? These are the first plates I’ve made that look and feel like plates as opposed to, say, hockey pucks! I also made a set of four handle-less mugs, and am working on several Raku projects, which are in the beginning stages. Updates to follow when my pieces are fired.

Happy creating, hon!

Want to know what a wiggle-wire is? Click here to read more about this cool pottery tool.


Mike Lupica, The Zach & Zoe Mysteries

Mike Lupica sharing stories of his own children.







Inspired by Sports

Mike Lupica, a prominent sports writer, syndicated columnist, and author, visited Words Bookstore to talk about his middle grade chapterbooks. In the Zach and Zoe Mysteries, a twin brother-sister duo solve sports-related mysteries. Lupica “always loved mysteries that made you want to sleep with the light on.”

Lupica said writing for young readers was not in his thought process, but that his young adult novel Travel Team changed his life. Zach and Zoe are the kids of Travel Team’s main character and, in a way, his kids. Lupica shared many stories of his own children, particularly how his life as a writer changed when his son was cut from a team.” A big part of the appeal of his books, Lupica said, is that “sports is a memory-making business.”

I loved what he had to say about writing kidlit.

Page one, chapter one is more magical and powerful than all the electronics.

Characters get knocked down. It’s how you get back that tells the world all about you.

My books are about loyalty, friendship and teamwork.

Once a good idea gets inside your head, it’s impossible to get it out.

Square by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen

Lucky me! I had a chance to hear Kidlit celebs Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen read and discuss their new picture book, Square, which follows their book Triangle.  At Words Bookstore in Maplewood, NJ, the room filled with kids and adults, all eager to see these two funny people in person.

Some of Barnett and Klassen’s quotes:

“When Jon draws a picture, you always have to watch the eyes, especially the animals’ eyes.” Barnett

“When is Circle coming out?” One of the kids.

“Can you speak to my publisher?” Barnett (Circle will actually be a book since it’s part of the trilogy.)

“Why don’t the shapes have hands?” One of the kids.

“They use them when they need them.” Klassen

The beguiling second entry in the innovative shape trilogy.
This book is about Square. Square spends every day taking blocks from a pile below the ground to a pile above the ground. This book is also about Square’s friend Circle. Circle thinks Square is an artistic genius. But is he really? With the second story in a trilogy of tales about Triangle, Square, and Circle, Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen nudge readers toward a more well-rounded way of looking at things. Understated and striking in its simplicity, this funny, thoughtful offering from two of today’s most talented picture-book creators emphasizes the importance of keeping your eyes — and your mind — open to wonder where others see only rubble and rocks.   Amazon

Click here to watch a short, funny video of Barnett and Klassen discussing Square.

July 4th, Repost

Wishing you a relaxing July 4th from “down the shore,”

Flags in front of the American Legion post.

to Main Street,

Hot air balloon at festival in Readington, NJ.

to the country,

Liberty State Park, NJ
Liberty State Park, NJ

to the city, 

or wherever you live in the world .

Hon, I was going to quote John Lennon but then I thought you’d enjoy listening to him singing Imagine yourself.

John Lennon’s Imagine song and video.


Fireworks Are Now Legal In New Jersey, Sort Of

About a month ago, I came across a display like this at the grocery store.

Me: “Umm, are those fireworks? Aren’t they illegal in New Jersey?”

Grocer: “Not anymore. Governor Christie changed the law last year, so no more having to drive to Pennsylvania to buy fireworks.”

What’s the law? What’s allowed? Which fireworks do what?

The following is an excerpt from a humorous article by Joe Atmonavage  with all the details.

Legal fireworks are so boring your neighbors won’t even call the cops

Last year, then-Gov. Chris Christie took a stand and signed a bill allowing anyone old enough to have a learner’s permit to twirl around with a sparkler if they so choose, taking New Jersey off the short list of states with blanket bans on fireworks. (Massachusetts now stands alone.)

Signed at the end of last June, the bill legalized “non-explosive, non-aerial” fireworks such as sparklers and party poppers. While shopping the selection of legal “fireworks” was overwhelmingly anti-climatic, setting them off was not as boring as “sparklers” and “party poppers” might sound.

We wanted to get a little bit of everything so we would be ready to show off to our friends and family on July Fourth just how cool New Jersey’s somewhat-new fireworks law is.

Choosing which fireworks to get is harder than it sounds. While you know that at the end of the day they practically all do the same thing (make sparks, create some noise, maybe change colors), the bright packaging with eye-catching images makes choosing a tad harder.

They had the classic pyro toys like sparklers (including neon ones!), snappers, smoke grenades, fountains, as well as small fireworks that don’t do all that much, like snakes in the grass, jumping jacks and something called a “gyro bloom.”

You can buy these in jumbo sets that can cost hundreds of dollars, but you can also buy them individually. We paid $66 for nearly 20 individual packages.

Grilled Sweet-and-Sour Boneless Chicken Breasts

grilled chicken, cous-cous, and sugar snap peas

Chicken for Dinner Again?

As is often the case, I had chicken breasts but no idea what I wanted to do with them. I opened up my new favorite cookbook, How to Grill Everything, Simple Recipes for Great Flame-Cooked Food by Mark Bittman, and found this light and delicious recipe.

The grilling bible includes recipes for (you guessed it) pretty much everything you could think of, from quick-pickled charred vegetables to tzatziki lamb burgers, and, in typical Bittman fashion, the book also offers variations on every recipe, so readers can customize as they see fit.  Alison Spiegel, Food & Wine

Happy cooking, hon.

Grilled Sweet-and-Sour Boneless Chicken Breasts


1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts

1 red onion, cut into small wedges

approximately 1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup pineapple juice

1/4 cup rice vinegar

2 Tablespoons honey

1 Tablespoon soy sauce

salt and pepper


  1. If you’re using bamboo or wooden skewers, soak them in water for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, start the coals or heat the gas grill for medium direct cooking. Make sure the grates are clean.
  2. Make the sweet-and-sour sauce. Combine pineapple juice, rice vinegar, honey, and soy sauce. Put them in a small saucepan over medium-low heat and let bubble for 2 to 3 minutes. For a shot of heat, add sriracha or other hot sauce to taste before pouring over the grilled chicken and onion. Before grilling the onion, brush it with oil, not the sauce; the sugar in it will burn.
  3. Pat the chicken dry with paper towels, then pound the breast to an even thickness if necessary. Brush with oil and sprinkle with salt and petter on both sides. Skewer the onion wedges and brush with olive oil.
  4. Put the chicken and skewers on the grill directly over the fire. Close the lid and cook the chicken, turning once, until the breasts are no longer pink in the center, 3 to 8 minutes per side depending on their size. (Nick with a small knife and peek inside.) Cook the onions, turning the skewers several times, until they have softened and taken on some color, even some char, 8 to 10 minutes per side. As they finish, transfer the chicken and onions to a deep platter or shallow bowl. Let them rest for 5 minutes.
  5. Slice the chicken 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick and return it to the platter. Slide the onions from the skewer and scatter then over the chicken. Pour the sweet-and-sour sauce over all and serve. Or cover and refrigerate for up to 12 hours and serve cold or at room temperature.

Yield: 4 servings

Mark Bittman’s How to Grill Everything, Crisp-Skin Salmon with Maple-Ginger Glaze

Mark Bittman talking about his new cookbook, How to Grill Everything.

Hon, you know how much I love to try new recipes? Do you know that I’m constantly tearing out recipes from The New York Times Food section? And that the  writer of many recipes and food-related articles is Mark Bittman? When I heard that this prolific writer and chef was scheduled to speak at Words Bookstore in Maplewood, I wrote the date in pen on my calendar!

I can’t wait to try new combinations and flavors while working my way through the cookbook. In honor of summer, here’s one of Bittman’s recipes.

Crisp-Skin Salmon with Maple-Ginger Glaze


1 2-pound skin-on salmon fillet

1 Tablespoon good-quality vegetable oil

Salt and pepper

1/4 cup maple syrup

1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 Tablespoon minced fresh ginger


  1. Start the coals or heat a gas grill for medium-high direct heat cooking. Make sure the grates are clean.
  2. Pull any remaining pin bones from the salmon. With a sharp knife, score the skin in a crosshatch pattern.
  3. Pat the fish dry with paper towels and put it on a large baking sheet. Brush the skin side with the oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper on both sides, and turn it skin side down. Put the maple syrup, mustard, and ginger in a small bowl and stir to combine. Brush the glaze over the top.
  4. Put the salmon skin side down on the grill directly over the fire, at an angle or perpendicular to the grate. Close the lid and cook, without turning, until the thickest part is as opaque as you like, 5 to 10 minutes; nick with a sharp  knife and peek inside to check a couple of times. Transfer the salmon to a cutting board, cut into 4 to 6 pieces, and serve.

Yield: 4-6 servings

Want another Bittman bite? Check out his appearance on Live with Kelly and Ryan where he demonstrates how to make Veggie Burgers.