Saturday, November 23, 2013

For once . . .

I listened to reason. Sort of. 

A few posts ago I published my revised bio for grown-ups.  (I once had a girlfriend who informed me that I would never be a grown-up because real grown-ups referred to themselves as adults.  Well, there you have it.)  

Anyway, what I was supposed to be writing was a longer, more complete bio than the one on the back of the book, one that could be handed out by teachers as part of a downloadable package.  (Assuming, of course, that there were teachers who wanted to use the book in their classroom.)

So I did-

My name is Margo and I was born in a small town in East Tennessee.  When I was growing up I loved animals and we always had dogs and cats in the house.  I even had a horse named Lady who lived on a farm about a half-mile away and I would walk over there and catch her in the field by rattling a can of dried corn.  Then I would put a halter on her and walk her over to the barn and saddle her so I could ride her.
She was so big I had to climb up on the fence rail to put the saddle on her and her back was so wide my legs stuck out almost straight.
When I was thirteen I started to work in my aunt’s pet shop.  I trained a monkey to walk on a halter and wear diapers.  Monkeys don’t care where they poop so you can’t house train them, but they won’t poop in their diapers.  I used to take the monkey to schools where she would sit on my shoulder and I would talk to the kids about animals.  
Once I brought the monkey home but my mother wouldn’t let it in the house.  She said she had to draw the line somewhere.

(this is a lot like the line she drew)

After high school and college I worked at a lot of jobs.  For a while I designed lights in the theater.

That was fun.  I traveled around the country for years.

Then I moved to an island and learned how to cook.  I lived on the island for fifteen years and ran and inn and restaurant with my sister.  That’s where I got the inspiration for Jessie’s island.  I started out with the real island     

but it wasn’t big enough so I had to add cliffs on one end and a lighthouse on the other, and make it wider and put more roads in.  Then of course it wasn’t the same island anymore so I had to come up with a new name.  There isn’t any real Bayberry island but there’s this island that looks a lot like it and that’s where l lived.
The End

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Okay . . .

it’s getting near the end of my first year as a blogger. (insert applause.)

I started this blog (full disclosure here) to try and get people interested in some island things and nature stuff featured in my series of middle readers. So hopefully they’d want to read them.  And . . .

 to get people used to my voice, and hopefully to like it.
That was the idea, anyway.  And so I have tried very hard to write these blog posts in the same voice as my Summerhood Island series.  While similar to my real voice, I have to admit it is slightly calmer, much less convoluted and much more rational.  It also, believe it or not, makes far fewer digressions than I do when I speak in what I refer to as my uncensored voice.

This has not been as difficult for me as I imagined it might be.  After all, I write in many different voices.  Usually though, those voices come about through other characters.

Here’s the  funny thing-  people are telling me that my blog doesn’t sound like me.  And these are often the people that suggest I might be a trifle off, or ask me to stop singing silly songs to the dogs, or speaking in iambic pentameter.  Sometimes they are even the same people who do not appreciate `to do’ lists written in Seusian form.  Go figure.

So here’s my dilemma.  Do I begin slowly reverting back to my more comfortable, quote normal unquote voice?  Will I scare off middle school teachers and librarians who work with my primary targets?( Sorry, I meant target audience.)

As my friend Amy Scott would say,

Thanks for listening.  Here’s your reward.
Since it’s almost Thanksgivkah-  (Thanksgiving and Chanukah both fall on the same day) have some pie dough recipes. 

(Disclaimer- I rarely make pies. Higgins always made the pies. I do not have what is referred to as “a light hand with pastry.” But these recipes work. They do. Honest.)
You’re welcome.


Flour                      1 cup
Baking powder                  1/8 tsp.
Salt                         ¼ tsp.
Cold lard or shortening                  1/3 cup
Ice water                             2 ½ T

Sift dry ingredients. Cut cold fat in until like coarse sand. Add just enough ice water to hold pastry together. Do not knead. Chill before rolling out crust. Roll out to 1/8” thick. Pierce before baking in pan. Bake in 450° oven for 15 minutes.
Lard                       ½ cup  (ok, use shortening, but it won’t be as good)
Butter                   ½ cup
Sifted flour                         3 cups
Salt                         pinch
Ice water                             8 – 10 T
With knife, blend lard, butter, and salt into flour. Moisten with ice water. Handle as little as possible. Roll dough out very thin. May be halved.

Makes 2 crusts
Lard or fat                           2 T
Butter                   1 T
Sifted flour                         2 cups
Salt                         ½ tsp.
Sugar                     ½ tsp.
Milk                       ½ cup
Stir lard and butter in bowl until creamy. Sift flour, salt, and sugar, and add. Mix with milk. If dough is too thick, add cold water. Spread flour on board and roll out dough ¼” thick. Place in greased pie pans. Indent edges with fork.
(Alton’s hint and it works- replace a tablespoon of the liquid with vodka. Cheap is fine. As it evaporates in the oven it will make the crust flakier. No alcohol will remain.)

Sunday, November 10, 2013

So I'm working . . .

on a new website that will encompass all of my books and allow me to feature each new book as it comes out.

Ok, full disclosure- Rebecca Caldwell is doing all the difficult tech work. Me, I am writing little pieces of things and sending them to her so she can fit them in the appropriate space. But that is beside the point. A digression, if you can believe that.

Here's the point.
Deborah (my partner, you should all know Deborah by now if you've been following long) told me I needed a longer, more complete biography to put in the downloadable handout we are compiling for teachers.

Fine, I thought, completely ignoring the fact that it was already 2 in the afternoon and thereby well past my "sell by date" otherwise known as the time I stop making sense. 
I shall write an amusing little bio that will reveal far more of me that the simply factual 50 words in the back of the book.

So I did. And Deborah told me to take a nap. Apparently she meant a bio for teachers to hand to the children. 

But I like this bio. So I am making it today's blog.

And I am not even going to run this idea by Deborah first.

Margo Solod was born in East Tennessee, and fled her hometown high school at 16, conveniently forgetting to graduate before applying to the University of Tennessee. Four and a half years later she was reminded of that fact when she went to the dean’s office to make sure she had the proper credits to obtain her degree. 

There she discovered that the University had never actually admitted her. This problem was solved after some discussion by allowing her to graduate with a B.A. in theater arts but denying her a high school diploma. 

Neither her degree or lack of a diploma appear to have made the slightest difference in her career path.

Her high school jobs of grooming dogs and working in a pet shop naturally led to years of work as a lighting technician and designer for theater and dance. These skills allowed her to effortlessly slide into restaurant work, leading to careers as a chef and innkeeper, with an occasional backslide into carpentry.

 Her early restaurant experience was on an island eerily similar to the one occupied by the fictional Jessie Silva, in an inn that remarkably resembles the Sea Inn portrayed in the second Summerhood Island novel. 

Winters on islands can be long and quiet, which led to serious contemplation and lots of long walks, and eventually to several books of poetry.

After that there was nothing to do but get in her truck(s) and drive circuitous routes around the country until she ended up in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, where, having learned nothing from the last 20 years, she proceeded to open (and close) two more restaurants and write a memoir.

All of these life experiences have finally prepared her for the offering laid before you now: the first Summerhood Island novel Coyote Summer.

There. Now you know everything.

Friday, November 1, 2013

So last night…

I gave away Halloween candy from the front door of my house for the first time in forty years. 

Ever since I left home I’ve been on the run from holidays.  The major ones (Christmas, New Year’s, Easter, Thanksgiving) I worked; first in the theater, then in restaurants.  The minor ones, Fourth of July and all the “days” (Memorial Day, Labor Day, Columbus Day, Presidents’ Day, Martin Luther King Day, Arbor Day) I either worked or did my best to ignore.

Holidays are easiest to ignore if you're in a strange town or city.  If I don’t know anyone, the hype and the decorations, the commercials and, around Christmas time, the ever present and infernal music don’t seem to get under my skin is so much.  I even found the luminaria lining the downtown plaza of Santa Fe
ok, so this is phoenix. it looks the same.

 and the sailboat masts in Charleston brightly lit as miniature Christmas trees sort of pretty.
and  i have no idea where this is but i think it's florida. sue me.

And Halloween.  That’s an easy one to ignore if you’re living in a strange town.  Just turn your lights off and pretend you’re not home.  I mean, it’s not your house anyway, even if it does get papered or egged.
truthfully, this is not my house

For years, when I wasn’t traveling I lived on an island. 
this island. i did live on this island. honest.

Halloween was a breeze there, what few kids there were (and some people brought their kids on island specifically for Halloween) all got together and rode from house to house in someone’s truck or all wheel drive vehicle that had been decorated for the occasion.  All the kids showed up at your house at once, you dispensed your treat bags and admired their costumes and went back to watching Jeopardy.

I don’t count that as real Halloween trick-or-treating, although I’m sure they did.

For the last fifteen years I’ve lived in the woods.  The only people who found me without invitation were the 2000 census taker and one set of Jehovah’s Witnesses.  I’m still not sure how they did that.  
also truly my cabin in woods
I never had to put up Christmas lights, carve a jack-o’-lantern, or even put a political candidate’s sign in my yard.

Or buy Halloween candy.  Until this year, when we moved right into the center of town.

It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be, even with three large mutts freaking out every time a stranger got close to the house.  Most kids passed us by, the combination of the front gate, the porch door and then the front door too daunting or too much trouble.

But I think I still prefer the day after Halloween.

Thanks for listening.  Here’s a pumpkin recipe for your trouble.


Sugar                     1 cup
Water                   ½ cup
Egg yolks                              5
Light cream                         2 cups
Pumpkin                              ½ cup
Cornstarch                          1 T
Sugar                     1/3 cup
Nutmeg                               1/8 tsp.
Cinnamon                           1/8 tsp.
Ground clove                     1/8 tsp.

Heat sugar and water, stirring frequently, until caramelized. Pour into 6 cups or ramekins. Mix together pumpkin, cornstarch, sugar, and spices. Beat in separate pan light cream. Add pumpkin mixture. Cool. Mix in egg yolks. Pour into caramelized dishes. Bake in a water bath for 1 hour at 350°.