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December 18, 2015

Nearly ten years ago, I read Dianne Jacob’s book, Will Write for Food, after purchasing it from the Writer’s Digest catalog. It has become one of my favorite writing books, surviving year after year of ruthless culling of my bookshelves. I reviewed it then in my brand new blog, and it’s a bit staggering to look back on that post, as both I and my blog have aged an entire decade.

I’m still here, and I still enjoy sharing great books and writing resources. In 2009, Dianne Jacob entered the world of blogging as a way to update her book, and you can keep up with her at Will Write for Food.

Because of vast changes in the world of print and digital writing, Dianne Jacob’s new edition has been extensively revised to reflect current media trends. I enjoyed this 2015 release and found it brimming with practical advice for bloggers and photographers, as she offers a smorgasbord of ideas on how to become a professional in the field. That is, how to make money from your food writing.

Will Write for Food

In her introduction, Dianne Jacob shares:

Much has changed in the world of food writing since 2005, most notably in the widespread acceptance of blogging. Ten years ago, bloggers had barely emerged, and the print world did not respect them. Since then, a national food magazine asked a food blogger to write a monthly column…a food blogger got a show on the Food Network…more than a hundred food bloggers have book deals, and a few make a six-figure income. Learning good photography, social media skills, and self-promotion has become as important — maybe more so, if I’m being honest — than being an excellent writer.

Whether you’re a gourmet food aficionado or simply enjoy sharing your love of cooking through recipes and personal photography, this book has something to offer you. After devouring this new edition, I learned the field of food writing is still wide open, and if you have a passion for food writing, this book can help take you to the next step of becoming a professional.

Here are a few ways you can break into the huge market for food writing:

Start a Food Blog
If you’ve ever dreamed of writing a book, the best place to begin is by creating a blog. Then you can start immediately in finding your voice and audience, which will build your platform as an expert in your field. Chapter 4 of Will Write for Food is completely devoted to helping you get started. Jacob has interviewed dozens of successful food bloggers and shares their tips to help you.

Become a Better Photographer
Food writing works in sync with beautiful photography. Jacob explains, “Since the web is such a visual place, this is the best way to increase views. Of course it isn’t easy, but having terrific photos can propel a food blog to stardom.” She includes many practical ways to make your photo shoots look more professional.

Master the Art of Recipe Writing
“A well-written recipe is like poetry,” says Jacob. “Agents and editors can see a good one a mile away.” Who knew there was such an art to writing down your recipes? There is, and chapter 8 explains how you can become a master of the art. She includes a list of powerful action verbs that will bring your recipes to life. I especially enjoyed reading about how Julia Child captured the attention of legendary editor Judith Jones because of her strong knack for punchy verbs.

Compile a Cookbook
The world of cookbook writing has changed drastically in the past decade. Cookbooks are full of stories, which help grab a reader’s attention. “Many people read cookbooks in bed as though they were novels,” Jacob says. “They provide escape from daily life and a source of guiltless pleasure.” I confess I’ve done this very thing. I love reading descriptions of food, and especially the narratives behind them. Many magazines and websites have created sections to showcase the stories behind recipes. My favorite is Guideposts.

Write a Food Memoir
Ah… I love food memoirs. When I traveled to Tampa a few years ago to get a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the egg industry, I found myself spending the weekend with strangers who had one main topic in common: we loved reading and writing about food. So we discussed our favorite food memoirs, as we dined on scrambled egg burritos on the bus ride to tour egg farms. My all-time favorite food memoir is Julia Child’s My Life in France, which was co-authored with her nephew, Alex Prud’Homme. Julie and Julia sprang from the original, and I’m also a fan of farm-to-table memoirs such as Kristin Kimball’s The Dirty Life. There’s a never-ending market for weight-loss stories and recipes, and I reviewed Heidi Bonds’ Who’s the New Kid? here. Dianne Jacob devotes all of Chapter 9 to “Crafting Memoir and Nonfiction.”

Create Fiction Infused with Food
I love it when I’m reading a novel infused with descriptions of food. I can’t help it. I learn so much about characters and setting by visualizing meals in the story. Jacob writes, “In fiction, food is a device that helps you develop characters based on how they cook, which foods they like, and how they eat. It also creates a mood or sets a scene, and establishes the time.” Many fiction authors today include recipes, and several books I’ve reviewed have inspired me to try out a recipe I’ve discovered, such as Eva Marie Everson and Linda Evans Shepherd’s The Potluck Club and Cyndy Salzmann’s Friday Afternoon Club cozy mystery series.

I hope you get a chance to read Will Write for Food, and if you collect trade books on writing, this is one you’ll want to acquire for your shelves. Reading the updated edition ten years after the first has me focused less on myself and more on how I plan to incorporate food writing in my English/Language Arts classroom. I can’t wait to see what kinds of recipes and stories my teen students come up with. Maybe we’ll even compile a classroom cookbook or break into food blogging. The opportunities for sharing a love of good food and writing are endless!


About the Author:
Dianne Jacob is a popular speaker at food writing conferences and workshops in America and around the world. She judges for both the James Beard Foundation annual cookbook awards and the IACP annual cookbook awards. The coauthor of Grilled Pizzas & Piandinas and The United States of Pizza, and the writer of The Good Pantry, she lives in Oakland, California. She can be reached at her website and blog, where she covers food writing trends, issues, and technique.

Note: I received this book, complimentary, from the publisher for the purpose of review.

By: Heather Ivester in: Blogging,Book Reviews,Cooking & Recipes,Writing | Permalink | Comments Off on Dianne Jacob Offers Great Tips for Bloggers in Will Write for Food

May 23, 2015

Yesterday was the last day of school for my kids, so with summer here, I’m all for seeking ways to stay active. When I heard about Heidi Bond’s book, Who’s the New Kid? I couldn’t wait to read it.

It seems like every day I’m bombarded with adult weight loss success stories and before/after photos, yet I’d never seen or read anything about a child successfully losing weight. In fact, that’s one of those taboo topics, where mothers are more likely to say, “Well, that child is just big-boned.” Or “It’s hereditary, and he can’t help it.” In the South, we may even add, “Bless her heart.”

Heidi Bond knew her daughter needed help when, at age nine, Breanna tipped the scales at 186 pounds. She became fatigued just walking up the stairs to her room. Her legs chafed to the point of bleeding from rubbing against each other, and her school days were filled with taunts of “Hey, Fatty!”

The book explores Breanna’s infancy and childhood, as her mother looks for clues as to how her daughter became overweight. In infancy, Heidi noticed Breanna’s unusually strong appetite, and she confesses a personal struggle with junk food that made it easy for her daughter to access calorie-loaded snacks. But I’m sure all of us, if we’re honest, can plug ourselves into this equation. At first, Heidi tried hiding snacks to help her daughter eat healthier, but then a point came when she did what all of us should do: she decided to make a complete lifestyle change for her entire family.

And here’s where the real heart of the book lies, and why I found it so inspiring. Heidi succeeded in helping her daughter lose 86 pounds in a completely natural and healthy way. She didn’t use dangerous diet pills or crash diets; instead she began to incorporate two main activities: swimming and walking. She drove Breanna every day of the week to swim team practice, and this daily commitment became crucial to her weight loss transformation.

Also, one day a new neighbor invited Heidi to go walking on a 3.8 mile trail loop behind her house, something she’d never done before. She describes what happened:

“Sure,” I said. “Just let me put on some sneakers.”

I had no idea that this was a moment that would change all of our lives. It was an ordinary weekday like any other. The “Hallelujah Chorus” was not trumpeting in the background, and no neon signs lit up to tell me that this was The Day until a couple of months later. But looking back now, it’s obvious to me that this was where it all began.”

From that point on, Heidi began encouraging her entire family to walk together. Her husband and younger son also needed to lose some weight. All they needed to do was put on a pair of tennis shoes and head to the trail. After only a few weeks, Breanna had lost six pounds, and Heidi says, “Fireworks went off in my brain!” It was the first time Breanna had ever lost weight; in fact, she had been steadily gaining 20 pounds per year! Her mother writes:

The day I saw “possible” was the day I realized we were going to war against nine years of bad habits. It was a war we needed to win, because my daughter’s life was literally on the line. If we continued on our old path, it was clear what was going to happen to her: multiple health problems leading to an early grave, and a limited life where she wouldn’t be able to enjoy the things other people can do with ease…But now everything looked different.

Heidi developed a plan, which she called the “Five Four Three” Plan. Swimming five days a week, walking four days a week, and eating three healthy meals a day. The best part about this book is that she gives you a very detailed 40-day plan that you and your child or family can work on together, including dozens of delicious, healthy, and extremely easy-to-prepare recipes. I’ve been keeping this book on a shelf in my kitchen as I try out some of her recipes!

I appreciate this mother’s honesty as she shares both the ups and downs of her story. Some days were so hard. Not only did Heidi get rid of all junk food in her house, she literally walked every step of the way with her daughter. Her commitment was unbelievable, even walking in the rain, sleet, or freezing winter weather. She had to battle against early whining, which can be completely demoralizing, as every mother knows! She listened to Breanna’s complaints, and says her “resolve was being tested.”

Breanna was begging to stop the walks, and each time she came up with endless excuses about why she needed to stop. There was a pebble in her shoe. Her shoelace had come untied. Her shirt was itchy. She was hot and dizzy, and she was definitely going to throw up, and a bug flew in her shirt, and a twig was stuck in her shoe, and there was bubble gum stuck to the street, and it looked like rain was coming, and she was sure she was going to die of thirst, and she was sure her kneecap was going to pop right off. Some of those things were true, and some of them weren’t. It didn’t really matter.

“Keep going,” I said. I wasn’t going to waver. No matter what.

Gradually, naturally, the weight began to drop off. When Breanna started school the next year, several kids didn’t even recognize her! That’s where the title of the book comes from. Her story got picked up by a local journalist, which led to national recognition and appearances on Good Morning America, CNN, and The Biggest Loser. You can keep up with Heidi and Breanna’s updates on her website. I loved watching her and her mother tell the story in person on Good Morning America:

I hope you’ll have a chance to read the whole book! Filled with helpful diagnostic tools, easy-to-make recipes, eye-opening nutritional information, fun exercise ideas, and practical tips and advice, Who’s the New Kid? will not only show parents how to help their kids lose weight naturally but also introduce them to simple, yet effective lifestyle changes that will benefit the entire family.

Celebrate the release of Who’s the New Kid? by entering to win a Fitbit and RSVPing to Heidi’s June 9th author chat party!

One grand prize winner will receive:

  • A Fitbit
  • A copy of Who’s the New Kid?

Enter today by clicking the icon below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on June 9th. Winner will be announced June 9th at Heidi’s Facebook partyRSVP here! Plus, participate in the #WhosTheNewKid conversation by pinning a family-friendly, healthy recipe (or two) to a Pinterest board!


RSVP today and spread the word—tell your friends about the giveaway via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on June 9th!

Note: I received this book, complimentary, in exchange for my honest review.

By: Heather Ivester in: Book Reviews,Cooking & Recipes,Family,Motherhood,Parenting,Wellness | Permalink | Comments Off on Heidi Bond’s Who’s the New Kid? Fitbit Giveaway and Facebook Party

July 27, 2011

Update: A reader alerted me that Lori Z. Scott’s Meghan Rose website is no longer active, so I’ve removed the link.

Hello friends! I hope you’re surviving the heat this summer. Time is flying for us, and my kids are heading back to school next week. Today, I’m excited to share with you an interview with children’s author, Lori Z. Scott, who writes humorous middle grade fiction, especially for the inspirational book market.

Welcome to Mom 2 Mom Connection, Lori! Can you tell us a little about how you balance your roles as mom and writer?

Being a mother is my highest calling in life. And that means I’m a caregiver, nurse, tutor, cheerleader, counselor, transportation expert, and nutritionist. Doing all those mommy things is a bit like stuffing a sock with pineapples. It’s a stretch, but I pursue my own interests in the empty spaces around the pineapple. I think moms should realize that it’s okay to put the mommy part of our lives first and to trust that God will still bless, fulfill, and lead us in other areas as well. He’s full of surprises that way.

I also teach second grade. Since graduating from Wheaton College, I’ve taught school for longer than I care to remember. I’ve worked mainly with kids in kindergarten, first, and second grade. Teaching has been such a huge part of my life. I guess I’m just not ready to give up playing games and reading comic books yet.

Finally, I’m an author. My students get a big kick out of this, and love having my books in the classroom. We talk about writing a lot, and experiment with patterns and words. By the end of the year, they all view themselves as writers.

That sounds wonderful! I’m sure you really inspire your students with your own publishing success! How did you get started writing for children?

I started writing almost by accident. When my kids were little, we often went to the library to hang out. One day when we were there, I saw a flyer for an amateur science fiction/ fantasy writing contest. I decided to enter. Keep in mind, I hadn’t done any writing for probably fifteen years (except letters to my grandma). In high school, I wrote for our yearbook and school newspaper, and really enjoyed it. But I played volleyball in college, and between practice and studies, barely had time to sleep let alone write. I forgot how much I loved playing with words. I forgot how writers both lose and find themselves in those words.

Oh, I love the way you put that! We “lose and find ourselves in words.” So what happened next?

I entered the contest anyway, and won second place. Encouraged by my success, I tried the MOPS International story writing contest…and WON! After that, I joined a writer’s group, learned more about the writing industry, and started publishing short stories, poems, devotions, and personal essays. I didn’t realize it (God did, of course), but writing those short pieces helped me build both the confidence and skill I needed to later write children’s chapter books.

Do you remember the moment you felt inspired to begin writing the Meghan Rose series?

When my daughter was in first grade, her teacher started reading the Junie B. Jones books in class. Since Meghan liked them, I picked up a few copies. I enjoyed the humor in those books, but when Meghan started acting and talking like Junie B., I started editing out those grammar slips, name calling and bad attitudes…and looking elsewhere. I thought there had to be an alternative choice—a book that was just as funny, but also had a good take-away value.

At that time, most Christian bookstores didn’t carry fiction for that age group, only devotional books and Bible stories. I ended up empty-handed and frustrated. Eventually, at my daughter’s urging, I wrote the book I couldn’t find — a book just for her. I put in everything she wanted — an interesting story filled with giggles and characters worth rooting for — and everything I wanted — good moral values (but with nothing preachy about the story at all). (I hate preachy, I love amusing.) BLAM! Inspiration!

Now fast forward a bit. At a writing conference, my hunt for good fiction came back to mind. Almost on a whim, I wrote up a proposal for a whole series based on the book I wrote for my daughter. After all, I knew there had to be an untapped market because I WAS part of that untapped market. I also felt somewhat qualified to fill the gap because of my extensive experience working with children. I pitched the idea to editors, and eventually landed a contract for the series.

Sounds like you wrote something from the heart, then did your research and found the perfect market niche, Lori!

One thing I find interesting is that when the Meghan Rose series was first released, there were very few Christian fiction titles available for the K-2 age group. Now you can find a handful of other options out there, and I’m guessing (and hoping) more on the way.

Yes, I hope so too. I’m also part of your target market, a mom looking for books that are fun to read, yet will also encourage good character in my kids. How would you describe this spunky little girl, Meghan Rose?

When I started the series, I wanted a character that was likable but flawed, outrageous but clever, passionate but sensitive all rolled into one. I wanted someone who didn’t know all the answers, but was willing to look for them. In a nutshell, I wanted someone just like my own daughter. Since I never intended on publishing the books and originally wrote them just for her, I actually used her as the foundational basis for a fictional character. I even used her name!

I’m sure she was excited to see her name on the book covers! What age group are you gearing the books toward?

They’re geared for kids in grades K-2, the age I’ve worked with the most. But I have had older kids who enjoy reading them too. Although it’s a series, each book can be read as a stand-alone adventure. Each book has an overall theme, such as friendship, patience, joy, honesty, or humility. These concepts are NOT preached, but subtly woven into the storyline. There are discussion questions and activities at the end of the book for those parents (or children) who want to continue to explore the theme. Some homeschool parents have especially appreciated this feature.

Also, the books are not just for girls! A mother of two boys once emailed me about how much her sons enjoyed reading them with her. She said they could hardly read for laughing so hard — they were all HOWLING!! The youngest one loved it so much he started sleeping with the first book under his pillow at night.

In fact, the comment I hear most from people who read the books is, “I laughed out loud.” The second comment I hear most often is about how much kids (and parents) like the discussion questions and activities. How can all that just be for girls?

That’s true! I read them out loud to my son and daughter, and we were all laughing at the crazy scrapes Meghan Rose finds herself in. How do you think your series distinguishes itself from other books available for this target age group, such as the Junie B. Jones series?

My books are geared specifically for a Christian audience. Also, since I spend so much time with this age group, I am very much aware of the challenges they face, the way they think and talk, and the questions they struggle to answer. I think that lends a certain amount of authenticity to the stories. Plus I don’t use words like “stupid”. Overall, the books are heavy on the humor and very, VERY light on the lesson…yet neither quality is lost on the child.

I love how Meghan and her mom discuss prayer and seeking God for answers to problems. Can you share with us an example of how parents can use your books to teach prayer to their own children?

Let me relate my own experience with the stories. As I mentioned, I wrote them for my daughter. Since she is the type to imitate people she likes, she began copying some of the fictional Meghan’s actions. That included prayer. I remember when she was in maybe third grade, she came home from school one day and said, “There’s a mean girl on the playground that I don’t like. I was going to say something mean to her, but then I thought what would Meghan Rose do? So I prayed about it instead. And then I talked to her and made friends with her.”

Wow! She had turned to prayer on her own and then solved her own problem. I never expected the books to have that kind of impact on her thinking, but they did. So as far as parents using the book, I suspect just reading and discussing how Meghan works out her problems might do the trick.

In the back of the books, you offer discussion questions and activity ideas that are fun and helpful for parents and teachers. How do you come up with these ideas?

That’s the teacher part of me flaring up big time! LOL. The ideas come from years practice in the classroom. Kids love extending the story experience by creating their own volcanoes or whatever. I also put a ton of other ideas for parents and kids on my website under the BLAM (Brilliant Little Activities to Make) link.

But seriously, I added that section so parents can capitalize on the book’s underlying message. I mean, how many times have you as a mother read a book and thought, “There’s a good lesson in here” but didn’t know how to draw your child into a discussion about it? I remember reading Where the Red Fern Grows with my daughter and wanting to talk about death and sacrifice. Since I didn’t know where to start, I couldn’t fully take advantage of that teachable moment. (Instead we both just wept all the way through the last few chapters.)

Can you tell us more about your journey to publication? Did you write the books with a certain publisher in mind, or did you seek an agent first?

Like I mentioned earlier, I started with contests, moved on to publishing for magazines, e-zines, and book anthologies, and then finally into writing books.

I guess I’m not a typical writer. I don’t write every day, nor do I have thousands of notebooks filled with stories. When I write, I find a need and fill the need. That means when I write a piece, I have a specific publication, along with their wish-list, style and guidelines, in mind. And please don’t laugh. I don’t have an agent. My bread-and-butter writing goes mostly to magazines, and I don’t need an agent for that. The book series was a complete surprise, and I still haven’t gotten around to finding an agent. However, I feel like Standard (my publisher) has been very supportive, generous, and fair.

How many books are in the series now, and do you know how many more you plan to write?

Right now, there are eight books in the series. Apparently, they have been well received. They have reached the bestselling status!

That’s awesome — congratulations!

Thank you. As far as more books go, that’s up to God and the editors at Standard. Standard is considering more Meghan Rose titles and possibly a spin-off series starring Ryan, the main boy character. I have two Meghan Rose and two Ryan Baker stories drafted. I’ve outlined a third Meghan Rose story, which I hope to draft before school starts. I have titles and themes for a dozen more books, but those will have to wait for next summer since I’ll have little time to write during the school year.

Lori, your writing inspires all of us who are busy moms with a desire to write. Can you give us any advice on how to carve out a writing life in the midst of raising our families?

I think the first thing to keep in mind is that everyone’s writing journey will look different. What works for one writer might not work for you. With that said, here are some suggestions:

1. If you’re very determined to write, be prepared to lose sleep over it. Get up early before the kids are up or stay up late when they’re in bed.

2. Carry a notebook with you. If you have to sit through a practice or wait for school to let out so you can pick up your children, that notebook gives you the opportunity to write wherever you are. Those slots may be 10 minutes or 45… but that time is wasted if you’re just sitting. If an idea comes to you, write it down as soon as possible. I’ve used lots of napkins and envelopes in my day! Plants grow inch by inch. So do stories. Keep a notebook next to your bed too. Sometimes when you’re drifting off to sleep, your mind will work out a glitch in your story.

3. Don’t be afraid to start small. Writing devotions, for example, can teach you to make every word count since they generally run anywhere from 150-250 words in length.

4. Join a writer’s group if you can. They offer support and encouragement. Sometimes they will alert you to writing opportunities. If you can’t (sometimes it’s hard to find a decent babysitter!), then look for an online writer’s group.

5. Write with your children. I remember times when I sat down with my young kiddos and we all had notebooks. We wrote our own stories and drew pictures. An hour later, we’d share our work. The kids loved it. (Side note: my children are older now, and still love writing.)

6. Exercise. Believe it or not, I’ve written whole articles in my mind while running.

Wow! These are some great tips! You’ve really gotten me motivated to get writing with my kids. I have one more question — do you have a favorite quick meal you put together when you’re in a deadline crunch, yet you know the people in your house need to eat? Would you mind sharing with us your recipe?

My secret recipe is called “Run to WalMart and buy a roasted Rotisserie chicken.” I usually throw in baked potatoes, bread, and a vegetable. It’s ready in 10 minutes.

Ha! So I’m not the only one who is rescued by those ready-made meals!

Fun aside, if I’ve got deadlines approaching, I cook ahead. That way when it’s time to eat, I can just throw it in the oven. My favorite is homemade pizza. I use a bread machine to make the dough. I roll the dough out, prick it, and bake it at 375 for 15 minutes. While it bakes, I brown some Jimmy Dean’s hot pork sausage. When the crust is ready, I add Ragu pizza sauce, the sausage, and cheese. Then I bake it for 15 more minutes.

Homemade pizza sounds delicious!

Another quick and hearty meal isn’t a recipe, but a package. Bear Creek has a variety of wonderful powder-form soups available. I throw in whatever meat I want (ham for the potato soup, chicken for the tortilla soup, hamburger for others) and add a loaf of bakery-bought bread. It’s fast, inexpensive, and very yummy.

These are GREAT ideas, and very practical for any busy mom! Thank you so much, Lori, for all of your inspiring advice. It’s been a joy getting to know you better. We wish you all the best as you continue to share your faith through writing, teaching, and parenting.

You can learn more about Lori Z. Scott and her popular Meghan Rose series at her website, which also includes games, jokes and activities for parents and teachers.

December 17, 2010

The fifth installment in the 12 Pearls of Christmas series is by one of my favorite Christian fiction authors, Melody Carlson. Read here about how a young mother learned to embrace her own Christmas traditions—and how they’re a constantly evolving process.


There’s No Place Like….
by Melody Carlson

I grew up spending Christmases at my grandparents’ quaint Victorian home, surrounded by lots of relatives, laughter and love and really good food. For a little girl growing up in a single parent home, harried working mother, no church family, and TV dinners, these extended family holidays spent at my grandparents were like a real gift from God. But as a young adult, my grandfather passed on, the old house was sold, I grew up and eventually had a small family of my own.
Still I longed for those familiar kinds of “big” Christmases—I wanted that house full of relatives and fun times to go home to—I think the “child” in me thought I deserved it somehow. But my grandmother had gotten older and lived in a tiny apartment, and my mother and my husband’s parents were not comfortable hosting Christmas in their homes. For a while we went to my cousin’s, but I soon had to come to grips with reality. The days of going to Grandma’s for the perfect Christmas were a thing of the past.

In other words, it was time for me to grow up—time for me to start hosting our own Christmas celebrations. So biting the holiday bullet, I decided to just do it. With two very small children underfoot, I cooked my first turkey, made my first stuffing, invited some family, neighbors, and friends over, and we all crammed ourselves into our little house, balanced our plates on our knees, and had a very good time. Oh, I’m sure the turkey was dry and the gravy lumpy, but what I remember most is that everyone seemed truly happy to be there. And I realized that I wasn’t the only one longing for that sense of warmth and community—that longing to “go home again”—and I finally grasped that I could (with God’s grace) help to provide that for my family and others.
So for the next three decades we continued to host Christmas in our home. I got better at decorating, cooking, gifting…the works. Some years the place would be packed and crazy. A few years were thinner and quieter. But family, friends and neighbors could always count on the fact that the Carlson’s would be “doing something for Christmas.” It was a no-brainer.
Until this year. This year, for the first time in more than thirty years, my husband and I decided we’re going to take a pass on hosting Christmas—we are going to the beach. At first I felt terribly guilty, and even right now I’m a bit unsure—and wonder if I’ll end up changing my mind at the last minute. And yet, I believe it’s the right thing for us to do—for a lot of reasons. One being that my husband’s birthday is Christmas and he never gets to do what he wants on his birthday—this year will be different. But more than that, I hope that our stepping aside will encourage the younger members of our family to find and embrace some of their own traditions—to grow up and look for opportunities to stretch themselves a bit. Because, similar to how an oyster creates a pearl—or how a young mom learns to be a hostess—with some discomfort and distress of burnt turkeys, the end results are truly valuable.


About Melody: Melody Carlson lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and yellow Labrador Retriever. She’s the author of around 200 books including this year’s Christmas novella, Christmas at Harrington’s.Visit her website for more information,


A three strand pearl necklace will be given away on New Year’s Day. All you need to do to have a chance of winning is {FILL OUT THIS QUICK ENTRY FORM}. The winner will be announced on the Pearl Girls Blog ( on New Years Day!

12 Pearls of Christmas Series and contest sponsored by Pearl Girls®. For more information, please visit

December 9, 2010

I went to my first Cookie Swap yesterday. I don’t know why I’ve never been to one before. It was really fun and a great way to get together with other moms.

In case you’re not familiar with this tradition, every guest brings two dozen cookies, along with enough copies of your recipe to give everyone else. You place your plate of cookies on a table alongside your recipe. Then everyone goes around and collects two or three cookies, storing them in a container to take home.

The highlight of the morning for me, after visiting with everyone and sharing breakfast together, came when we all swapped “Cookie Stories.” I should have thought a little harder about what to bring because I didn’t have any exciting cookie story to share. I made those little Eagle Brand Mini Chocolate Cheesecakes, and my only story was that I’d gotten back late from a basketball game the night before so I had to make them in a hurry that morning and cool them in the freezer.

But other people shared some wonderful stories. One lady brought Chocolate Kahlua Balls that were from a recipe passed down from her best friend’s mother. Her best friend made them every year until she died a few years ago from cancer. Now they’ve become a tradition as a way of celebrating and remembering their friendship.

Other people shared tips and secrets behind favorite family recipes — or the occasional funny story about how they had a stressful morning that led to a stop by the bakery on the way to the party. One young mother with a baby on her hip confessed that she just wanted to come to be around everybody but didn’t have time to make anything. That was perfectly all right! I’m so glad she was there.

I discovered my favorite cookie wasn’t even a cookie at all. It’s called a Cake Pop. My friend, Leigh, brought these, and they were adorable. They’re made using a cake mix and cream cheese icing. You’ve probably heard of them because, apparently, there’s a whole fan world devoted to Cake Pops.

Leigh said her children helped her put sprinkles on the Cake Pops in the morning before they rushed out the door for school — so I’m most impressed. She wrapped them in cellophane and tied them with red and green curly ribbon, all before 9:30 am.

There seems to be a million variations of these Cake Pops, so I’m going to have to try them. They’re creamy inside, instead of dry, like some cakes taste. Plus it seems like something fun for kids to make — kind of like rolling up balls of play-dough. I think it would be a fun craft idea for a kid’s party — then the guests can take home their creations as party favors.

I found a wonderful video with baker Elizabeth LaBau from About.Com that offers a step-by-step tutorial on how to make Chocolate Cake Pops. (Thank you, Elizabeth! You make it look so easy!)

For me, the Cookie Swap didn’t end when the party was over. It ended that afternoon when I opened up my container of 30+ cookies (and Cake Pops!) to share with my children for an after-school snack.

While they ate, I had a ready audience to share all of my new Cookie Swap stories.

May 15, 2008

My five-year-old son finished preschool today and brought home his “All About Me” book. One of the pages concerned food, and the question asked, “What’s your mother’s favorite food?” He answered, “Salad and peanuts.”

Well, I guess I ought to explain, in case his teacher checks my blog! It’s cole slaw. I’ve become a fanatic lately about cole slaw, which is strange, because I’ve never been that crazy about it.

Most of the cole slaw you buy or see at pot luck suppers is dripping in mayonnaise — uh, no thanks. It’s just soggy cabbage to me, and not at all tasty. But here’s what I’ve discovered. My aging body has become less and less able to handle junk food. If I eat french fries, I feel exhausted an hour later. Same with chips, cookies, anything high carbish. Just can’t eat that way anymore.

These days, when I sit down to eat lunch with my kids, I make myself a huge bowl of this CRUNCHY ALMOND COLE SLAW that is the best stuff! So here I share my non-recipe with you — because really, you just toss a few things into a bowl.

Here’s what you need:

One bag of prewashed cole slaw — the purple and green cabbage is already slivered, and there are lots of sliced carrots in there too.

A jar of cole slaw dressing — the grocery store has it right next to the cole slaw. EASY!

Slivered almonds (or any kind of nuts that go well in a salad, like sunflower seeds)

Grape tomatoes, halved (you have to cut them in half so you make yourself feel special)

Pepper! (Lots of pepper! Freshly milled!)

Here’s the secret. You only use about a tablespoon of the slaw dressing. So that keeps the cabbage crispy. The carrots are so yummy this way — you forget that you’re eating a bowl full of raw vegetables. Mix all this together to taste, and sprinkle lots of pepper on. I love pepper — on just about everything. The freshly milled kind will get your tastebuds going.

If you’ve never been a cole slaw fan, try this. Especially if you’re addicted to eating something crunchy with your soup or sandwich at lunch. Instead of potato chips or french fries, try this cole slaw.

An hour after lunch, instead of feeling sleepy, you’ll have energy! This really works. (Especially if you don’t drink coffee or diet soda with your lunch — but that’s another blog post).

Thank you for reading this. I’m so sad about preschool ending that it made me feel better to come sit down and tap out something that may help someone else who’s struggling with energy and weight gain like me.

Love you!

May 4, 2007

We’re cooking for a crowd this weekend, and I’ve decided to go with a super-easy dish that always seems to turn out okay.

A friend and I are each making two of these casseroles, then I’ve asked everyone else to bring either a side dish, drink, or dessert. We’re hoping this will be a budget-friendly, easy party for everyone.

I’m PRAYING it doesn’t rain — because we’ll have a ton of energetic kids running around!

Here’s the recipe — in case you’re also looking for a simple crowd-pleaser. (I like dishes you can make ahead — since the day of the party I’m usually running around cleaning!)

Chicken Supreme Tortillas

6 chicken breasts
1 dozen tortillas
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 tall can evaporated milk
1/2 cup butter
1 medium onion
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1 tall can mild chili peppers (optional)

Cook chicken until tender; cool and tear apart. Saute onion in butter, adding soups, milk, onions, and chilies. Drop tortillas in chicken stock, 2 at a time and soak 2 minutes. Line bottom of greased 9×13 casserole dish, using 6 tortillas. Put layer of chicken and another layer of tortillas and the rest of chicken.

Pour soup mixture over top of all. Lift tortillas lightly to allow mixture to dribble through. Sprinkle with grated cheese, then paprika. Bake at 325 for 45 minutes. (I usually keep covered for 30, then uncovered for 15.) Serves 8.

This goes well with salad, black beans, and bread.

April 27, 2007

Christine Lynxwiler!

Trish Berg randomly drew a name from the comments in this post, and she drew Christine’s name. YEA! You’ve won a free copy of The Great American Supper Swap.

Enjoy it!

P.S. Christine, let me know what recipes you try and like. We’re loving these kid-friendly one-dish meals.

Don’t forget! If you leave a comment in this post by 5 pm today, you’ll be entered in a drawing to win a signed copy of Trish Berg’s new book, The Great American Supper Swap, sent to you by the author.

This book is so fun! It contains details about how to start a supper swapping group, tried-and-true recipes that even kids love, and wonderful potluck activities.

Best of all, Trish shares how God can use a supper swapping group to strengthen families by helping moms simplify meals so everyone can eat at the table together.

By: Heather Ivester in: Books,Cooking & Recipes,Family | Permalink | Comments Off on Win a Free Supper Swapping Book!

April 23, 2007

Author and speaker Trish Berg is here today to show us how to simplify our mealtime routines. She has a passion for encouraging families to get back to the dinner table, which she shares about in her new book, The Great American Supper Swap.

Trish is a mom of four who lives on a 200-acre beef cattle farm in the heart of Ohio, just north of Amish country. She’s an avid reader, scrapbooker (when she finds time!), and has been a MOPS mom for over a decade.

Her syndicated weekly column runs in The Daily Record Ohio newspaper and, as well as several regional parenting magazines. And she also teaches part-time at a community college! Trish is one busy mom, and I’m so glad she’s made time to stop in for a visit.

Trish, welcome to Mom 2 Mom Connection! Can you tell us how you got started supper swapping?

Almost five years ago, I was struggling with my daily to-do list, like most moms, and running myself ragged in the process of trying to get dinner on the table.

One of my girlfriends, Carla, had heard of supper swapping, and asked me if I wanted to give it a try. I figured I had nothing to lose except that “4:30 and nothing’s in the oven” panic.

I knew dinner was important to my kids; I just didn’t know how to make it happen. So I gave it a try with three girlfriends and was amazed at how it blessed my life.

I didn’t set out to write a book. I simply want to simplify my family supper. But when I discovered the simplicity and adaptability of supper swapping, I knew I needed to share this with other moms who could be blessed by it like I was.

Why do you think this idea of swapping meals is helpful for busy moms?

Today’s research shows that only 50% of American families eat dinner together regularly. That is an amazing loss of family time, time to communicate and connect with each other.

Even when families are eating together, 34% of those meals are fast food or take-out. That is so unhealthy, with added fat, sodium, and cholesterol; not to mention how expensive it is.

Let’s face facts — moms everywhere need help to re-claim dinner. I think most moms would easily agree that the family supper is important; they just don’t know how to make it happen.

When a mom begins to swap suppers, how is her life impacted?

Supper swapping is ideal for busy moms not only because it simplifies dinner, but it also reduces stress and adds deeper friendships to their lives at the same time.

Supper swapping:

* Cuts cooking time 80%
* Saves families up to $4,000 a year
* Reduces a mom’s stress
* Helps families to eat healthier
* Creates a greater sense of community
* Adds deeper friendships to your life

If we wanted to start our own supper swapping group, what steps would we need to take?

I always tell moms to start simple. Ask one girlfriend or neighbor to begin swapping supper two days a week. See how it goes. You can always add another mom to your group down the road.

In other words, don’t stress about getting four friends to swap with to cover the whole workweek. Don’t put off trying it because you can’t get that many. Just start with who you have and see where God leads you.

Here’s how you can get started:

* Get Organized — Ask a few close neighbors or friends to form a supper swapping group. Use a 3 month trial period to see how it goes.

* Plan Meal Calendars — Plan meals for three months and mark who is bringing what meal on what days and times. (You can print free calendars at my website.)

* Be Honest — Be honest and up front about food likes, dislikes, and even possible food allergies to avoid problems down the road.

* Have a Back-up Plan — Try to have a back-up plan for meal delivery if you can’t be home to receive the meal when it is delivered.

* Use Recipes That Work — Choose recipes to start with that are your family favorites.

* Cash in at the Check-Out — Buy in bulk and plan your grocery trips to save money.

* Pan-Damonium — Either buy identical 9×13 glass baking pans with blue snap on lids or use disposable pans to swap meals in to save chaos.

* Enjoy the Ride — Relax and enjoy the ride. Remember to cherish the friendship above the swapping group when someone chooses to leave.

What do we have in store for us if we pick up a copy of your book?

The Great American Supper Swap has so much packed between the pages.

Of course, I share some funny and touching stories about my own supper swapping experiences. Like the time Carla spilled a gallon of Taco Soup in her minivan, (and how to avoid that yourself!).

Or how my supper swapping girlfriends fed my family during the weeks when my newborn was in the hospital with RSV.

There are also tips in each chapter like how to get started, cash in at the check out and save up to $4,000 by supper swapping, and advice to help moms along the way.

There are also practical things like a pan formula so you know how many new pans to buy depending on how many moms are in your group. It’s a lot less expensive than moms think!

But supper swapping is also about family and friendship. At the end of each chapter there is a Potluck Activity, a fun game to play with your girlfriends.

And there is also a chapter with kid-friendly, fun mealtime prayers you can say or sing at the dinner table.

And, of course, our BEST supper swapping recipes are included to help you get started.

Do you have a favorite recipe?

Oh, wow. That’s a tough question. I love Teri’s Autumn Soup, Carla’s Mandarin Salad, and yum, Grape Delight for dessert. Sorry, that was more than one!

Thanks so much, Trish. You’ve given us so many great ideas! Do you have a last bit of advice for us?

Though I have been a supper swap mom myself for almost five years and LOVE supper swapping, my passion is to get families back to the dinner table. Supper swapping is just one great way to do that.

Each family needs to find what works for them, whether it’s once-a-month cooking, buying meals from Dream Dinners, or simply eating Mac & Cheese. The food is secondary to the importance of gathering around the dinner table as a family.

Each and every mom out there needs to know that your family dinner is vital to your kid’s success for their lifetime.

Studies have shown that children who eat dinner with their family on a regular basis are 60% less likely to smoke cigarettes, 50% less likely to use drugs, and 66% less likely to drink alcohol.

So I guess my advice would be to find a way that works for your family and get back to the dinner table however you can.

I hope and pray that The Great American Supper Swap does help families gather around their dinner tables again. That’s my biggest prayer for this book.

Trish Berg offers a bounty of goodies at her website,, where you can read some of her articles, blog posts, and sign up for her free “Trish’s Tip of the Week” newsletter that is packed with fun ideas and recipes for busy moms. You can also read a great article by Trish in Today’s Christian Woman

P.S. If you leave a comment here by Friday at 5 pm, you’ll be entered into a random drawing to win a FREE copy of The Great American Supper Swap, mailed to you by Trish!