Category Archives: Food

Dude, Paleo Is So Rad

I spend my days, Monday through Friday, staring at books on a screen. Then I come home and stare at actual books— or Book TV, blogs, or other reading material that feeds my addiction. In the course of a day, the publishing world marketeers have great fun with me, sticking ads for all kinds of books in my face in the hopes that I will buy them— which I do, to the tune of almost a couple million dollars a year, but only children’s and teens’ books. However, the ads I see are for all kinds of books, and if I’m particularly interested, I’ll look them up.

wild dietLast week, a new Paleo book came out, and since I am a low-carber, I had to take a peek. Paleo is a diet and lifestyle that emphasizes eating food the way our very distant (as in, pre-row crop agriculture) ancestors did, as well as strength training, rather than aerobic exercise. The new book is called The Wild Diet, by Abel James, and as I continued to search, I saw that Mr. James has a website with a blog and a long series of podcasts. I sent a reminder to my home email so that I could listen later, since I doubt that my employer would be able to see a connection between Paleo bio-hackers and Pete the Cat.

Abel James is known as the Fat Burning Man, as seen on his website www.fatburningman.com, where he tells his life story and interviews all sorts of other health-conscious types. I listened to the podcast with Mark Divine, a former Navy Seal and founder of Sealfit, and they talked about de-stressing and the importance of life beyond biceps and burpees. I also listened to the one with Dr. Alan Christianson about thyroid, since hypothyroidism seems to be an epidemic among women these days.

Abel James

Abel James

The next day, I looked around at Paleo in general and found Robb Wolf, who wrote The Paleo Solution Diet five whole years ago, and who also happens to have a website with podcasts, called, very simply, www.robbwolf.com. When I looked at his latest podcast, guess what! It was Abel James. Apparently, it’s a very tight little world out there in PaleoLand. James has a great story to tell, though. He was a sickly child, but his mother, who was a nurse, understood nutrition and herbal medicine very well, and he grew up to thrive. Then he went to work in D.C. for the evil food industry and had to eat the foods he represented, and consequently, he became weak and sick. His doctor continued to give him more and more medication, until he didn’t know if his symptoms were caused by a disease or his medication. (This is uncomfortably familiar to me.) He was also placed on a low-fat, “heart-healthy” diet and felt worse every day. In the meantime, his brother, who was tall and scrawny at 140 pounds, started lifting weights and eating the high-protein and fat diet common to body-builders, and gained 60 pounds of pure muscle. Abel started to do some research, tried Paleo, and is in the best shape ever. I found it fascinating that he could not tell the whole story in his first book, because he was still under the non-disclosure agreements that he signed for the food industry! I think he got to reveal more in The Wild Diet, just because enough time has gone by. Can’t wait to get the scoop there.

These guys are so smart, with years of scientific information about nutrition and strength training, but their world is so testosterone-soaked it is hilarious sometimes. They can go from a meaningful exchange about some obscure chemical in the body to a conversation that sounds something like this:

“So, we were out there bouldering, man,…”

“Dude, that is so rad.”

“Totally.”

By the time we got to the end of the podcast this morning, I was wiping tears of laughter from my eyes, but my husband thought it was great, which is so terrific! Let’s face it, most diet and exercise books are for women/ by women, so getting guys into caring about health is an achievement. Granted, most of these men are on the radical fringe of health, bio-hacking with measured amounts of coffee with coconut oil or “intermittent fasting,” which is probably not a spiritual exercise. However, they are getting into the deep weeds of biological research, and we can benefit from their discoveries without all the discomfort. Furthermore, what guy doesn’t want to hear about mud runs and dead lifts and bouldering, whatever all that may be? Totally.

Ladies, the Fat Burning Man website does have recipes and articles on misleading food labels and such, so it really is interesting. But guys, there is also a podcast called “100 Awesome Ways to Eat Bacon.”

Haven’t you clicked over there yet?

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Salad Love, by David Bez

Salad LoveEvery weekday morning at six-thirty, I pack a salad to take to work. Every weekday afternoon at one-thirty, I eat my salad.

I am not fond of salad.

As a diabetic, it is tough to come up with portable meals that are nutritious and can be eaten at a desk. Sandwiches are out, of course, and there are not enough leftovers to be assured of a satisfying meal every day. Plus, it works very well to have all of my meals except dinner take place on automatic pilot: David makes eggs for breakfast, late morning is plain yogurt with fruit-only jam, lunch is salad. No thinking required, which is good, because thinking does not engage until around eight AM. I try to change up the ingredients in the salad, but I really just vary two basic recipes.

David BezWhen I saw the book Salad Love come into the library, my first thought was, “Salad. Bleh.” Then I opened the book, and “love” is exactly the right word for what I felt. Author David Bez, who is a very friendly-looking guy, decided to make a different salad at his desk every day for three years! Here, he has chosen 260 different salads, one for each workday of the year, arranged by season.  Each recipe is on one page, with a stunning picture of the salad at the top. Every single page has a picture. So gorgeous! Yet there are really very few exotic ingredients. Hemp seeds were probably the most unusual item I saw.

Bez begins by explaining the five layers of successful salad building, and then has four pages of dressing recipes—24 of them!—each with a picture of a tiny white bowl holding that dressing. Then he goes into the salad recipes, and gives alternatives for all of them according to diet. For example, a salad with roast beef in it may feature a vegan alternative, or a salad with cooked grain may offer a raw foods alternative.

I am happy to say that when you look up this book on Amazon, you can see the beautiful photography inside. At the library, we just riffled through the pages when someone walked by, and every single person took it home. I might have to buy this one.

As David Bez says, “Buon appetito!”

Disclaimer: I read a library copy of this book. Opinions are solely my own and do not reflect those of my employer or anyone else. I do not receive money from Amazon when you click through, because Amazon does not play well with us in North Carolina.

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Shine On!

2015-02-07 17.32.11Last week, we went to my mother’s house in South Carolina, where most of my family was gathering to visit with my brother from New Jersey. We had all the usual family activities planned: playing bridge, walking my sister’s beloved dogs, and eating huge meals. Within the last year, though, a new business has opened up in Lexington that just demanded our attention: The Moonlight Distillery. Yes, makers of moonshine, that hitherto illegal brew tucked into a wooded holler and guarded from revenuers by shotgun. Despite its checkered past, however, legitimate moonshine distilleries are becoming quite au courant, at least in the South. Since we have such a close connection to this one— my sister’s next-door neighbor’s son’s wife’s parents own it—we had to have a look-see. And maybe more than a look.

2015-02-07 17.16.53Have you ever seen such a happy group of people? And we hadn’t even gone inside yet! It must have been the anticipation of tastiness that had my extended family looking so gleeful. That and the fact that we’d all been singing Earth, Wind, and Fire songs at the top of our lungs on the way over. We quickly discovered that we didn’t actually know the words, so we just faked it until we got to the brilliant chorus: “Ba-de-ya! Dancing in September! Ba-de-ya!” What in the world does that mean, anyway?

Once inside, and after license checks all around (even my white-bearded, 66-year-old brother), the owners poured out teeny tastes of all their many flavors for the whole crew. The most amazing, to me, was the Apple Pie flavor. It didn’t just taste like apple, it tasted like apple pie. My brother liked the blackberry, but brought home the Twisted Cinnamon for his daughter, since she loves spice. We bought a Fuzzy Peach, although I’m sure it has way more sugar in it than I should have. We haven’t opened it, but later we did taste some of my sister’s batch mixed with diet ginger ale. Yum! I can imagine this concoction in the summer with lots of ice and a mint sprig. We had received the plain moonshine for Christmas and I can attest that it is very good without extra flavors. Kind of on the idea of vodka, but with a hint of a sweet flavor that I can’t quite place.

The Moonlight Distillery website is under construction, and I have a feeling that you can’t buy it online. State laws, perhaps? Anyhow, you can ask your local establishment to get it for you. In the meantime, the website now boasts its first few recipes that look absolutely delectable. And just to prove that moonshine and moonlight lead to good things, here is what we saw written on an old loading dock door just outside of the distillery:

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Call Me Eowyn

House of HealingThis is probably the longest stretch between posts that I’ve ever had! We have been holed up here in the House of Healing for the fall. I returned to my doctor last week to receive a clean bill of health, although I have to remain on Nexium until the Saturday before Thanksgiving. If I have problems after that, it’s swallow-the-light time. However, I feel so much better that I hope for good things.

TrubioticsRight now, I am on a kick in which I eat everything with good bacteria in it, since I have effectively killed every bit of bacteria I ever had with nuclear doses of antibiotics. Eating bacteria on purpose has never been a goal of mine before, but now I can direct you all over the grocery store for gut-gratifying foods. The pharmacist recommended a 30-day course of TruBiotics, the One a Day brand probiotic supplement, so that was step one. I already eat Fage yogurt every day, and I decided that I would also drink kefir, since I used to drink that in my ‘70s health food days. GoatLet me just say that the fruity—obviously sugary—kefir that I drank then was much more pleasant than unsweetened kefir, which is a serious assault to the taste buds. I’ve tried sweetening it up with different things that are acceptable to diabetics, but , well, *shudder*. Sauerkraut that is found in the deli section, as opposed to canned sauerkraut with vinegar, is also filled with busy little creatures.  The hot dogs I’ve eaten it with are probably not so healthful.

A few weeks ago my son went in for some minor surgery, so we’ve been worrying over him and helping as much as we can. We are all getting better here! We have had flu shots! We have excellent digestive health—barring any unexpected Ebola outbreaks! Soon we will have our fireplace tank filled with kerosene, and we will be ready for the snowy winter forecast!

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Has Grain-Free Gone Mainstream?

Grain Free LogoIt used to be very difficult to find great low-carb recipes, and older low-carb cookbooks tended to rely on artificial ingredients, often sold by companies that had a corner on the market. We’ve all gotten smarter over the years, including the chefs. No longer do we switch to low-carb for a short time to lose weight. Many of us are living without grains for the rest of our lives, sometimes because The Grain Formerly Known as Wheat is making so many people so sick. Now the market is filled with cookbooks that have low-carbohydrate recipes that feature whole foods and healthy ingredients. For a diabetic, it is still necessary to analyze a recipe carefully for sugar and starch, but most Paleo and some gluten-free cookbooks can be very useful. Here are three new cookbooks for your perusal.

Stella Complete Low CarbFirst of all, one of my favorite low-carb chefs from years ago is George Stella. I have many of his cookbooks, and some of my favorite recipes are his, such as Anaheim Shrimp Scampi, Bourbon Barbecue Sauce, and New York Style Cheesecake. Mr. Stella and his family, particularly his son Christian, have been evolving over the years away from artificial ingredients and soy toward a more holistic, health-conscious approach. Christian Stella is a co-author of the latest offering, The Complete Low-Carb Cookbook. George starts off by telling the story of how his family of four lost a total of 560 pounds, and since I had read this inspiring story in the past, the best part for me is that they have kept it off for over ten years! George is a professional chef, so he had to completely change the way he cooked, while being able to create dishes that still pleased his discriminating palate. In this new cookbook, he has included some of the classics mentioned above, but he has also tweaked some old recipes to make them even better! For example, I love his Cauliflower “Mac” and Cheese recipe and make it all the time, but now he has the Ultimate Mock Mac and Cheese Casserole recipe that adds chicken and bacon to the original recipe, turning it from a side dish to an entree. We loved it. Furthermore, there are loads of brand-new recipes that look scrumptious: Reuben Chicken Roulade, Claire’s Stuffed Pumpkin, and Chocolate Walnut Bon-Bons, just to name a few. He includes a nutritional analysis for each dish. One of the best things about the recipes in George Stella’s cookbooks is that, as a diabetic, I can make all of them without any changes. My old Stella cookbooks are falling apart, I’ve used them so much, and I’m sure this new one will soon be spattered and covered with notes, too.

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Ultimate Mock Mac & Cheese Casserole

 

Meals Made SimpleDanielle Walker, of Against All Grain fame, has been reviewed in this blog when her first cookbook was released. Now she has a new one out called Meals Made Simple. I have tried a few of these recipes with excellent results. As a young mom, Ms. Walker does not have time for exotic ingredients or fussy preparation, so her Paleo dishes are possible for busy people everywhere. Since Ms. Walker has struggled back to vibrant health after nearly dying from an autoimmune disease, she has done a great deal of research and is a wealth of information on how the food that we eat affects our bodies. She shares some of her knowledge in the generous extra pages filled with notes on the various special diets her readers may follow, meal plans, ingredient lists and suggestions, lists of tools needed, grocery lists, and more. This is all incredibly helpful, of course, but this book truly shines in the recipes she offers with a beautiful picture for each one.

Ever since I sank a ridiculous amount of money into a waffle maker, I have been searching for the perfect low-carb waffle recipe. It is not easy. Most are too eggy. I can make eggs in a skillet, so that doesn’t work. Others are too heavy and soggy. Danielle Walker’s Freezer Waffles are the best I have found. I did use the coconut oil, as suggested, and they came out crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. Delicious. This recipe calls for 2 cups of her pancake mix, which is on another page. 2014-09-09 17.15.45I have made waffles twice so far, and I still have a zip-lock bag of pancake mix in my freezer. Very handy! I have not actually put any leftover waffles in the freezer, since, if I leave them in the refrigerator for a day or so, they seem to disappear.

Following that success, I made the Lemon-Roasted Asparagus and Brussels Sprouts. This very simple recipe combines two of my favorite vegetables and adds a light, zesty flavor that goes perfectly with fish. The Brussels sprouts were shredded in a food processor, but you could do it by hand with a sharp knife and a great deal of patience.

After that, we went Asian with her Ginger Chicken and Broccoli. We seem to have a lot of ginger in the house these days, what with our tailgating Ginger Bourbon Cocktails, so I am always on the lookout for recipes with ginger. Again, this is a very simple recipe that is cooked entirely on the stovetop in one skillet. Since I am not gluten-sensitive, I used soy sauce—which I had in the fridge—in place of the coconut aminos, and the results were fabulous. In this dish, Ms. Walker uses tempered egg yolks to thicken the sauce, and it worked! I will certainly remember that trick for the future.

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Asian Chicken & Broccoli

Dr. David Perlmutter comes from an entirely different direction from Danielle Walker, although I’m sure they’d agree on the need to ditch grains from one’s diet. While Ms. Walker takes the digestive disorder perspective, Dr. Perlmutter presents pretty terrifying scientific evidence concerning grains’ effect on the brain, particularly Alzheimer’s Disease. If you haven’t read his original work, Grain Brain, I highly recommend that you do so, especially if neurological issues or dementia are hereditary for you.

Grain Brain CookbookThe doctor gives a quick summary of his medical research in the first section of his new book, The Grain-Brain Cookbook, and then explains how to set up a new pantry, trying along the way to help the reader change his mindset about what one should or should not eat. The recipes that follow are easy and often basic. Dr. Perlmutter’s aim seems to be to show the nervous patient that she can continue to live happily and stay healthy while eating familiar foods that are naturally gluten-free or have been easily modified to become gluten-free. There are not as many pictures in this book as in the first two I’ve reviewed, but there are occasional sections with glossy, color pictures. Nutritional analyses are offered for each recipe. This book is an excellent place to start for anyone switching to a low-carb or gluten-free diet, and since the man is, after all, a doctor, he relies completely on fresh, whole foods.

All of these new resources make low-carb, Paleo, and gluten-free cooking so much easier than they were just a few years ago. The low-carb crowd, in particular, seems to have moved in the same direction that we have, going away from using artificial ingredients to create fake versions of the foods we used to eat and transforming our diets with more non-starchy vegetables and less bacon or cream. Someday I hope to reverse my diabetes to the point that I can give up the little bit of artificial sweetener I use now and use honey or maple syrup instead. I have not gotten there yet, but it’s a goal!

But wait, there’s more! One of the next books I plan to read will be Wheat Belly Total Health, where we will tackle the other issues beyond eating. This may require getting off the couch, but we’ll see.

Disclaimer: I own a copy of George Stella’s cookbook, and I read library copies of Meals Made Simple and The Grain Brain Cookbook. Opinions expressed are solely my own and do not reflect those of my employer or anyone else. As I am a reader and reviewer, not a doctor, nothing in this article should be taken as medical advice.

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Two Teals Cooking

Make Ahead PaleoOn Independence Day, as David was working his Yard Warrior routine, I was puttering around in the kitchen, groovin’ to Lake Street Dive (“You Go Down Smooth“) and whipping up five different recipes. We had David’s grandmother’s recipe, “Mama Teal’s Famous Barbecued Chicken,” on the menu, and since that naturally goes with cole slaw, which I make with my food processor’s shredder blade, I decided to get some extra work out of it and shred up veggies to make “Breakfast Muffins” from the new cookbook Make-Ahead Paleo, by Tammy Credicott.

2014-07-04 15.33.01This cookbook has several sections featuring different ways of preparing food in advance: cooking for the freezer, preparing crockpot recipes in advance, and, as in this case, prepping all the complicated parts of a recipe a day or more in advance of finishing or serving. On July 4th, I put all of the dry ingredients together in a bowl, covered it and put it away, and then I processed all of the “add-ins”—shredded carrots and zucchini, chopped walnuts, pumpkin seeds, and coconut. I covered the container and put it in the fridge for the next morning. All I had to do after that was mix up the eggs and such, and then put it all together.

Since I am a low-carber, not really a Paleo die-hard, I had to replace the maple syrup with two other ingredients. I used Splenda in the dry ingredients for sweetness, and then used coconut milk to replace the liquid. It worked perfectly. These muffins were sweet and delicious, and much lighter than I expected with all of those added ingredients. If you have children, this is a terrific way to sneak some serious vegetables into their diets without a struggle. However, I cannot guarantee success unless you listen to mellow music while you work.2014-07-05 09.38.04
Deviled Eggs Debbie MooseThe next day, with the satisfaction of a perfectly manicured lawn behind him, David spent some time in the kitchen creating a batch of “Deviled Ham ‘n’ Eggs.” This was his second round with this recipe, as it was the first one we made when I brought the book home. David is a specialty chef. He grills brilliantly, of course, and is particularly adept with fish on the grill. He also makes breakfast every weekday morning, which is an excellent arrangement, since he wakes up perky every morning, whereas I would start to think about breakfast around 10 AM— which would be unfortunate, since I’d be at work at that point. So he gets me off to a good start every morning. And then, for some reason, he has had a fascination with deviled eggs for several years since my friend, Julie, gave me a copy of a cookbook by Debbie Moose with nothing but deviled egg recipes. David is working his way through this little gem, and we are all happily sampling the results. Lately, we’ve been traveling so much that we’ve missed our connection with Elaine, our egg lady at church, and I think we panicked and overbought eggs at the store. Time for a special recipe!

David uses our friend Darlene’s instructions for egg boiling. Darlene is a botanist from Ontario, and this method is a result of scientific experimentation from her graduate work, so we call them Canadian eggs. We do not question why botanists would need to study hard-boiled egg preparation. David puts the eggs in the pot, covers them with salted water, and brings them to a full, rolling boil. He begins timing the eggs when they come to a boil, and he boils them for two minutes. He then removes them from the heat, covers the pot, and lets them sit for ten to fifteen minutes, depending on the number of eggs. He hypothesizes that more eggs, and therefore more water, will take longer to reach a boil, so they can sit for less time. At that point, he pours off the hot water and immediately plunges them into ice-filled water until they are completely cool. Using this method, he gets perfectly cooked eggs without that gray-green ring around the yolks.

2014-07-05 13.40.22“Deviled Ham ‘n’ Eggs” is a great recipe for summer, when we have the fresh thyme and parsley growing in the garden. I will not divulge that David always has to ask which herb is which. He digs the soil; I’m the plant person. I’m not complaining. Besides the ham and herbs, this recipe calls for lemon juice, and the end result is a fresh, savory snack. The “make-ahead” element of this recipe is that you can make these the day before a picnic and they will travel well in your cooler. Again, we are not Paleo hardliners, so we ignore the dairy-free rule when it’s convenient. Here you can see some of the eggs topped with chopped parsley (the authorized version) and some topped with shredded sharp cheddar (unauthorized, but yummier). Take your pick.

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The Paleo movement continues to evolve, concentrating more on whole, unprocessed foods, rather than food that would actually be available in the Paleolithic era. Coconut aminos? Furthermore, natural sweeteners, such as honey and maple syrup, are showing up in more and more recipes, whereas Paleo cookbooks used to consider these very occasional treats. However, Make-Ahead Paleo is filled with wonderful recipes that I intend to sample, including “Macadamia, Garlic, and Basil-Crusted Chicken,” “Cashew Lime Hummus,” and “Creamy Cilantro No Potato Salad.” One brilliant feature is the “Week in a Day” section in the back that helps you to cook one day for a week’s worth of dishes. There are also resource lists, guides on how to store various ingredients, and grocery shopping and freezer inventory forms that you can download with a QR code. How well-planned is that? I can definitely recommend this large paperback cookbook to all busy low-carb or Paleo cooks. Bon appétit!

Disclaimer: I used a library copy of this book. Opinions expressed are solely my own and do not reflect those of my employer or anyone else.

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We Went to New York!: Book Expo America #1

ImageLast Tuesday, I made a trip to New York with these fine ladies for Book Expo America, a huge convention held in the Javits Center for booksellers, librarians, publishers, and other people in the book trade. New York is an exciting city of over eight million people, all of whom are walking up and down the streets 24/7. We met all of them when we decided that our first adventure would be to walk from the New Yorker Hotel on 34th Street and 8th Avenue to “the discount ticket place,” which Google told us was on 52nd Street and Broadway. It’s pretty easy to find your way around the numbered grid of streets (east-west) and avenues (north-south) until they get tricky on you and start naming the avenues instead. Despite their reputation for rudeness, New Yorkers will answer questions from strangers, such as, “Is Broadway this way or that way?” They don’t stop, of course, but they will point.

The picture above was taken just after we scored four tickets for Jersey Boys, which was our first choice. We had come up with a list of our three choices, in order, before we got up to the ticket window, because there is no waiting on people in New York. At the first sign of dithering, the clerk would yell, “Next!” and we’d be pushed out of the way. 2014-05-27 18.14.34Since we had a two-hour wait, we decided to walk around and see the sights. This is when I found out that the well-reviewed Aravon shoes that I had bought especially for the trip were not going to be kind to my feet. Granted, I bought a pair that look like pumps, and they did have excellent arch support, but I could feel blisters starting up all over. We kept on walking, and here in this vast city there would suddenly be places that made you feel as if you were in your own living room, they were so familiar.

Jersey Boys was amazing. If you are not aware, it is the story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, and the actors and actresses, especially the one who played Frankie, had stunning voices. Of course, we all sang along at the tops of our voices, as did the rest of the crowd. We loved it. Sitting next to me were a mother and teenage son who were visiting from Leeds, England. They told me that the dad had decided to tour around Europe in an RV, and that was just not their thing, so they decided to hop on a plane to America and wander around New York. I can just imagine myself saying to David on a Friday afternoon, “Dahling, what say we do London this weekend?” Ah, for disposable income!

Carnegie DeliAfter the show, we walked to Carnegie Deli, where I had said no to a piece of chocolate cheesecake in 1998 and regretted it ever since. It was to be my one indulgence for the week, but alas, there were others. Anyhow, Carnegie Deli is well known for its gigantic sandwiches with gigantic prices to match. I ordered a Reuben that was so big that I boxed up two-thirds of it so that it could smell up our hotel room for the night. I ate more of it in the morning. (Yes, corned beef and sauerkraut at 7:00 AM.) I did order my luscious cheesecake, as well, and ended up eating half of it for breakfast, too. It was a glorious start to the day. At Carnegie, customers share a picnic-style table with total strangers, and interesting conversations ensue. I am sure that one of the older men who sat with us was famous, but I can’t quite place him.

New Yorker NightWe walked all the way back to our hotel in the dark, pushing through a relentless river of humanity, and sometimes daring to cross on the red when everybody else did. What is life without a frisson of danger occasionally? By the time we got back to the New Yorker, every single toe had a little blister on the bottom, and I found that I was not the only one who had packed Band-Aids for this very purpose. However, I was jubilant! I had accomplished two of my goals for the trip—a Broadway play and Carnegie Deli—and it was just the first day! The working part of the trip was still to come.

I plan to write up bits of the trip this week, along with book reviews and a detailed post on picture books, so stay tuned! I learned a great deal and met so many interesting people that I’d like to share with you. Wednesday was an intense session on children’s books from early morning until late at night. Fun!

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