My Ultimate Dinner Party

I’ll be candid here, I am terrible at thinking up blog post ideas. So, I actually have a Pinterest board full of posting ideas. The premise for this post sounded like a lot of fun so here we go: Name 10 people, living or dead, you would invite to dinner and also what would be served.

Let’s start with the guests:

Hypatia: An original pioneer in women’s education and also an early victim of Christian fanaticism, Hypatia would, perhaps, be a bit too heavy of an addition to a dinner party. But something tells me this woman knew how to let go and have a little bit of fun.

Marlon Brando: To my mind, Brando revolutionized the movie industry with his gritty, realistic performances. He was an intelligent, witty man. And… just damn gorgeous!


Jonathan Swift: I love a good piece of satire. And anyone who can CREATE satire is, by default, highly intelligent and socially aware. What a fascinating man with whom to sit down and devour a whole animal.

Jonathan Swift


Starhawk: Eloquent, thoughtful, and learned, Starhawk could definitely hold her own in any company.


Barak Obama: Unless you’re a political wingnut, I think you can admit that, whether you believe in his tactics or not, Obama is a damn funny guy. It can only help that he’s also well spoken and intelligent.


Imagine Dragons: Since they are a band, I consider them one unit (after all, I would send only one invitation to their agent!).  I adore their music and they are amazing artists – a plus for any dinner party.


Hayao Miyazaki: A filmmaking genius, incredible visual artist, and well-known defender of the environment I honestly just want to watch all of his movies with him sitting beside me. But I have a feeling he would hate that. So, next best thing, have him over for a wonderful dinner.



Frida Kahlo: An amazing visual artist, whose work expresses intensely personal truths, a desire for the subjugation of women to end, and a palpable pride in her home country of Mexico. And I’m pretty sure she knew how to have a great time!

“Frida on White Bench,” photograph by Nickolas Muray, 1939. Submitted image

“Frida on White Bench,” photograph by Nickolas Muray, 1939. Submitted image


Tom Hardy: Tom Hardy: This is my secret boyfriend we’re talking about so, I HAVE to invite him.  Plus, he’s intelligent, sensitive, and a staggering talent on screen. Plus, PLUS I really want him to stand next to a young Marlon Brando so I can detect if Tom really IS his reincarnation .

Tom Hardy

And now for the dinner. Since I would want this to last as long as possible, I would plan a full seven courses, but without that really formal setting. This would casual and comfortable dining.

Because it’s likely at least some of my guests will be vegetarian/Vegans, I would plan to offer options for them in all the courses:

Appetizer: Raw Endive Stuffed with Herbed Goat Cheese OR Raw Endive Stuffed with Carrot Puree

Salad: Nicoise Salad (with or without meat) served with a dry Rose


Fish/Pasta: Zucchini Pasta with Lemon-Garlic Shrimp OR Zucchini Pasta with Vegan Pesto served with Sauvignon Blanc


Soup:  Leek and Potato Soup (Vegan or not) served with Pinot Gris

Entree: Cabernet-braised Short Ribs with Gorgonzola Polenta and Roasted Vegetables OR Sauteed Tofu Cutlet with Vegan Polenta and Roasted Vegetables served, of course, with Cabernet Sauvignon

Cheese & Fruit Course: These would just be plonked down in the middle of the table for everyone to nibble. Served with either the leftover Pinot Gris or with a Reisling


Dessert: Lemon Meringue Nests OR Aquafaba Vegan Pavlova served with Viognier

2018 Reading Challenge

I love challenges (even if I don’t finish them). And even if I don’t complete reading challenges, at the very least I learn about a lot of books I otherwise would not have. So, for 2018, here is a pretty demanding reading challenge I found on PopSugar (with a couple of alterations). I’ll be updating this post as I finish books that fit into one or more of these categories.

  • A book made into a movie you’ve already seen
    • My pick: Dolores Claiborne by Stephen King (completed)
  • True crime
    • My pick: *Murder of Innocence by Joel Kaplan (completed)
  • The next book in a series you’ve started
    • My pick: Authority by Jeff Vandermeer (completed)
  • A book involving a heist
    • My pick: The Taking of Pelham 123 by John Godey (completed)
  • Nordic Noir (had no idea this was even a thing!)
    • My pick: The Snowman by Jo Nesbo
  • A novel based on a real person
    • My pic: Siddhartha by Herman Hesse (completed)
  • A book set in a country that fascinates you
    • My pick: Heart’s Blood by Juliet Marillier (completed)
  • A book with a time of day in the title
    • My pick: **Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt
  • A book about a villain or anti-hero
    • My pick: *Vicious by V. E. Schwab
  • A book about death or grief
    • My pick: **The Pagan Book of Living and Dying by Starhawk
  • A book by a female author who uses a male pseudonym
    • My pick: **The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers
  • A book with an LGBTQ+ protagonist
    • My pick: **Walk to the End of the World by Suzy McKee Charnas (completed)
  • A book that is also a stage play or musical
    • My pick: **The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
  • A book by an author of a different ethnicity than you
    • My pick: Binti by Nnedi Okorafor (completed)
  • A book about feminism
    • My pick: *You Play the Girl by Carina Chocano
  • A book about mental health
    • My pick: **The Alienist by Caleb Carr (completed)
  • A book you borrowed or that was given to you as a gift
    • My pick: Gerald’s Game by Stephen King (I borrowed it from the library) (completed)
  • A book by two authors
    • My pick: **Dracula: Prince of Many Faces by Radu R. Florescu & Raymond T. McNally
  • A book about or involving a sport
    • My pick: **Winterdance by Gary Paulsen
  • A book by a local author
    • My pick: The Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
  • A book with your favorite color in the title
    • My pick: **Fast Ships, Black Sails edited by Ann VanderMeer
  • A book with alliteration in the title
    • My pick: Willa of the Wood by Robert Beatty (completed)
  • A book about time travel
    • My pick: Doomsday Book by Connie Willis
  • A book with a weather element in the title
    • My pick: **The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey (completed)
  • A book set by the sea
    • My pick: *The Duke with the Dragon Tattoo by Kerrigan Byrne (completed)
  • A book with an animal in the title
    • My pick: *Lionheart by Thea Harrison
  • A book set on a different planet
    • My pick: *Provenance by Ann Leckie (completed)
  • A book with song lyrics in the title
    • My pick: Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote (completed)
  • A book about or set on Halloween
    • My pick: His Darkest Craving by Tiffany Roberts (completed)
  • A book with characters who are twins
    • My pick: **The Secret History of Las Vegas by Chris Abani
  • A book mentioned in another book
    • My pick: Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie (completed)
  • A book from a celebrity book club
    • My pick: **A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole (included in Florence Welch’s book club)
  • A childhood classic you’ve never read
    • My pick: **The Complete Tales of Winnie-the-Pooh by A. A. Milne
  • A book published in 2018
    • My pick: *Circe by Madeline Miller
  • A past Goodreads Choice Award Winner(I’ve changed this to a Pulitzer Prize Winner – more of a challenge since I rarely read anything from that list)
    • My pick: *Empire Falls by Richard Russo
  • A book set in the decade you were born
    • My pick:
  • A book you MEANT to read in 2017 but didn’t get to
    • My pick: **Vampires are Us by Margot Adler
  • A book with an ugly cover
    • My pick: **Story Engineering by Larry Brooks
  • A book that involves a bookstore or library
    • My pick: Dear Fahrenheit 451 by Annie Spence (completed)
  • Steampunk
    • My pick: *Lady of Devices by Shelley Adina
  • A bestseller from the year you graduated high school
    • My pick: **The Art of Happiness by The Dalai Lama
  • Cyberpunk
    • My pick: Slow River by Nicola Griffith
  • A book being read by a stranger in a public place
    • My pick: *The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill
  • A book tied to your ancestry
    • My pick: **Elizabeth and Mary: Cousins, Rivals, Queens by Jane Dunn (completed)
  • A book with a fruit or vegetable in the title
    • My pick: **The Apple: New Crimson Petal Stories by Michel Faber
  • An allegory
    • My pick: **Bless me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya
  • A book by an author with the same first name as you
    • My pick: **The Inheritance by Robin Hobb
  • Microhistory
    • My pick: **The Witches of Warboys by Phillip C. Almond (completed)
  • A book about a problem facing society today
    • My pick: **The Devil’s Highway by Luis Alberto Urrea
  • A book that’s been on your TRB list for WAY too long
    • My pick: **Black Pearls: A Faerie Strand by Louise Hawes

What’s on your reading lists for this year?

RIP Dolores O’Riordan

In the wake of Dolores O’Riordan’s sudden and tragic death, I’ve been thinking about how she and The Cranberries effected my youth. They were most popular during my teen years in the 90s and their music certainly had a prominent place in the soundtrack of my life.

“Zombie” from No Need to Argue

Oh man, this song… My best memory of it is definitely warming up before color guard competitions while Dolores wailed over us. Twenty of us girls would be crammed into a high school hallway in rows. Someone would hit this song on the boombox we carried around with us and we’d go into a modified dance routine in order to both hype our spirits and warm our muscles.

One particular instructor, a generally terrible beast, made us turn it off during an early morning warm-up once because she “just couldn’t take it right now.” I think we all fantasized about punching her in the throat that morning.


“When You’re Gone” from To the Faithful Departed

Every time I hear this song, even after all these years, I think about Jason Nice, the boy I absolutely adored in high school. He was one year ahead of me and I met him when we both took a world history elective. I fell in love with him when he was a slightly flabby, quiet loner who was really into art and drawing.

Later he started playing soccer, got super fit and gorgeous (not to mention popular), and I loved him still. I even went to all of the home soccer games just so I could watch him play.

I played this song over and over and over in my room at night while I daydreamed about Jason.

Ahhh, the particular sting of unrequited adolescent love!


“Dreams” from Everybody Else is Doing it, Why Can’t We?

This song just seems to encapsulate the whole decade of the 90s. It was hopeful and upbeat with an untamed edge. Dolores’ voice was so pure and yearning. I’d bet nearly every person who went through puberty during the 90s felt some connection with this song, slight as it might have been.


“Ode to My Family” from No Need to Argue

Who doesn’t remember cruising in the car trying to match your voice to Dolores’ while this wafted through the speakers?


“War Child” from To the Faithful Departed

I think this song was my first glimmer of social awareness. Because it was so simple and quiet, it was easier – for me at least – to grasp the social message Dolores was sending out. Whereas “Zombie” had such a driving and exciting beat, it was easy to miss the deeper complexities and meaning. In any case, “War Child” moved me to tears on more than one occasion.




Rule of 7

7 Everyday Things I Couldn’t Live Without (aside from food, water, and shelter):

  1. A toothbrush
  2. Books
  3. My computer and Microsoft Word
  4. Running hot water (and believe me, I’ve had to go without it before!)
  5. Blue-ink Bic pens & lined paper
  6. Drawing paper and pencils
  7. My kids and dog, Lovelace

7 of My Favorite Songs:

  1. “Demons” by Imagine Dragons
  2. “Total Eclipse of the Heart” by Bonnie Tyler
  3. “November” by Gabrielle Aplin
  4. “F**king Perfect” by P!nk
  5. “Hey Jude” by Beatles
  6. “Rhiannon” by Fleetwood Mac
  7. “Moonlight Sonata” by Beethoven

7 Adventures I Want to Have Before I Die: 

  1. Ride in a hot-air balloon
  2. Start and run my own literary magazine
  3. Learn fencing, archery, and Krav Maga
  4. Take hose-riding lessons
  5. Go on a fishing trip where I catch and cook my own fish
  6. Experience a sweat lodge
  7. Model in a fashion show

7 Pastimes I Never Tire of Doing:

  1. Reading
  2. Listening to music
  3. Collecting books
  4. Cuddling with my kids and dog
  5. Collecting pictures on Pinterest
  6. Eating out (bad habit, I know)
  7. Yoga

7 Treats I Could Eat Everyday:

  1. Sushi
  2. Indian food
  3. Ice-cream
  4. Chocolate candy with either nuts or peanut butter
  5. Cheesecake
  6. Nutella
  7. Cake

7 People I’d Be Lost Without:

  1. My mother
  2. Lovelace
  3. My children
  4. My husband
  5. My editor, Kate Foster
  6. Teachers I have worked with throughout my life
  7. Jane Austen

7 Places I Want to Visit:

  1. Literary tour through Britain, Ireland, Wales, and Scotland
  2. Hike either the Appalachian or Pacific Crest Trails
  3. Climb Trolltunga
  4. Australia and New Zealand
  5. Vaadhoo Island
  6. Madagascar
  7. Neuschwanstein Castle & the Black Forest