Autumn, contests, awards and more

It’s September! A bright and shiny new month! And the start of fall, my most favorite of all seasons! Though the leaves are still that bright-and-shiny green, I’ve decided to throw caution (and sanity) aside and already whip out my fall wardrobe. According to my sister, today I’m rocking a look that screams “college girl in 1952.”

It’s really just an excuse to wear both my new red cardigan and houndstooth scarf — even in 86-degree weather. In an ideal world, I would look like an extra on “Mad Men” and channel Audrey Hepburn in my daily wardrobe . . . especially if that meant wearing a little extra something from Tiffany daily. But in this world, I’m just a run-of-the-mill writer who hopes she doesn’t look like a crazy vagrant most days. And she can keep her hair from frizzy badly enough to block out the sun, all the better.

I love the fall and seem to write these sorts of posts yearly — updates about life turning a new corner and exciting things that are afoot. On my mind now is the Indie Lit Awards, honors given by literary bloggers to the best of the best in new books out in 2011. I served on the literary fiction panel last year and had the best time — especially since that’s how I discovered Peter Geye’s Safe From The Sea, one of the most powerful novels I’ve read in a long time.

Now in its second season, the Indie Lit Awards are a great way to discover notable books in a variety of genres — and nominations are now open. Think about the books published in 2011 that you’ve devoured whole, then pushed into the hands of every reader in your life. We want the books that blew your mind. That changed everything. Nominate now using a simple form in categories including biography/memoir, GLBTQ, fiction and more. I’m proud to again serve on the fiction panel and look forward to our “reading list” being established from the nominations.

Next up on my list of random Meg thoughts: um, how delicious is Dunkin’ Donuts’ pumpkin spice latte?! It’s out now and sent me tumbling into a delightful sugary rush yesterday afternoon. Starbucks is a bit behind the times this year, not bringing their concoction back until next week, but I’m all right with that. As long as I can get my ridiculous pumpkin fix, I’m happy. (And I promise not to post too much on my pumpkin obsession this year — I think I’ve already got that covered.)

I also wanted to thank everyone for their nominations in this year’s Book Blogger Appreciation Awards, which are happening Sept. 12-16! I’m thrilled to have been long-listed in the Best Written Book Blog and Best Eclectic Book Blog categories and really appreciate the support! I’m looking forward to participating in this year’s festivities — it’s always a great time and a wonderful way to meet new faces in our book blogging community.

In somewhat related news, I recently learned that I did not win the “Jane Austen Made Me Do It” short story contest — and though disappointing, the talent on display in that competition was tremendous. Laurel Ann Nattress, editor of Austenprose, will debut her Austen-inspired anthology Jane Austen Made Me Do It on Oct. 11. Congratulations to Brenna Aubrey, author of “The Love Letter,” for penning the winning short story — and thank you all for your votes and encouragement in February. Writing “Spinning White Hair Gold” was an exciting challenge and I really appreciate having made it to the Top 10! Can’t wait to read the book this fall.

. . . Well, this was an amazing amalgam of material. I’m getting ready to venture north and visit Spencer’s family in New York over Labor Day weekend, and Laurie Notaro’s It Looked Different On The Model will be my eight-hour-car-ride companion! I’m also super pumped for my friend Erin’s wedding on Sept. 10 and am still depriving myself of anything chocolate, carb-heavy — or flavorful. My “diet” has been intense, but that bridesmaid dress is not going to wear itself.

Though it is snug enough to stand on its own.


P.S. Don’t forget to enter my giveaway for Kristine Gasbarre’s How To Love An American Man, one of my favorite reads this year. Krissy and her publisher were kind enough to increase the giveaway to two copies, and I’ve extended the deadline to Tuesday, Sept. 6. Just share your family memories here to be entered.

Spicy pumpkin cookies are heavy, delicious — and sure to please

Friends, family and occasional visitors of write meg! will know that I’ve become a bit of a nut about pumpkin. I can’t tell you quite when my obsession with the gourd began, but I do know that I’ve become known in some circles for my devotion to all things pertaining to that bright orange vegetable.

And, you know, I have a reputation to uphold.

Months after I began my search, I finally found cans of pumpkin — not pumpkin pie mix, friends, but just plain ol’ pumpkin — at my local Safeway this week. I have this booklet filled with cookie recipes and, since it’s officially fall, I knew it was time to try my hand at these little babies.

Though cupcake-baking has lately superseded any of my other culinary attempts, I’m trying to branch out and make/bake other things. So I won’t weigh 600 pounds in the near future, for one, but also so my family can have a well-balanced meal every now and then. Cookies and cupcakes do not a dinner make. (Um, most of the time.)

For the moment, though, I just can’t shake my fascination with dessert — and my excitement at the prospect of actually being able to make something like this on my own. My latest batch of goodies come in the form of Spicy Pumpkin Cookies, a recipe I pulled from a tiny Betty Crocker booklet, “Great Cookies,” I’ve kept in my purse for weeks. Yes, I seriously walk around with cookie recipes on my person at all times . . . just in case, you know, I get the urge to bake.

And I do get that urge. I do.

And now you can, too.


Spicy Pumpkin Cookies

From Betty Crocker’s “Great Cookies booklet” (2010)

Prep time: One hour

Start to finish: One hour and 30 minutes

Yield: About 30 cookies

Ingredients:

1 box (1 lb. 2.25 oz.) yellow cake mix with pudding in the mix
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1 cup canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix)
1/4 cup butter or margarine, softened
1/2 cup raisins, if desired
1 cup vanilla creamy ready-to-spread frosting
Ground nutmeg or cinnamon for garnish, if desired

Instructions:

1. Heat oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly grease cookie sheet with shortening. In large bowl, mix cake mix and pumpkin pie spice. Stir in pumpkin and butter until well blended. Stir in raisins, if desired.

2. Drop dough by generous tablespoonfuls about 2 inches apart onto cookie sheet.

3. Bake 11 to 12 minutes or until set and light golden brown around edges. Cool 1 to 2 minutes; remove from cookie sheet to cooling rack. Cool completely, about 30 minutes. Frost with frosting. Sprinkle with nutmeg or cinnamon.

Meg’s notes:

Delicious! This is a heavy cookie — not light and fluffy — but I think that works well for the autumn-infused pumpkin flavor. The recipe was very simple and I left out the raisins, since no one in my house is a fan. I was a little generous with the frosting, but can anyone ever be too generous with frosting? And I think the creamy vanilla was a great complement to the cookie. Overall, very tasty — and I’d wager a crowd pleaser. Mine took longer to bake than 11-12 minutes — it was probably more like 15 — but keep an eye on them . . . the bottoms brown quickly.

My growingly alarming pumpkin obsession

My Friday off — also to be known forevermore as the day my pumpkin obsession reached a fever pitch . . . and a point of no return. If I’d gotten over to Starbucks for my pumpkin spice latte, I think I would have had to enter gourd rehab. Instead, I got this early this morning, having breakfast with my sister and grandparents at Einstein’s:

A pumpkin bagel with pumpkin cream cheese! Now, if that doesn’t cure your pumpkin hankering . . . nothing can.

After I got my haircut (yay!), we came back home to take our family holiday photo and regroup. Then it was off to the pumpkin patch! Earlier in the month, I fretted over the possibility that it wouldn’t open this year — the first year in my recollection that we wouldn’t be able to gather up our favorite orange gourds. Well, rest assured — the stand is open, we got the pumpkins — and now all that’s left is to carve those babies.

Then we followed it all up with a little of my grandmother’s homemade pumpkin and cranberry bread. I only wish I were kidding.

And I’m wearing an orange sweater today!

Another delightful, pumpkin-filled afternoon! And once Halloween is over, I’ll still have Thanksgiving to look forward to . . . all those pumpkin pies . . .

Pumpkin Pie Blizzard? Are they trying to kill me?

So I know I’m always harping about delicious pumpkin-flavored foods, but that’s just because they’re so insatiably delicious I can hardly catch my breath around them! Palmer and I were out running errands last night and, as a special treat, he suggested we run over to Dairy Queen for some little snacky treat. Sure, innocent enough. He wasn’t really too hungry and I wasn’t either, but when has that ever stopped me from getting dessert?!

Honestly, I wasn’t planning on getting anything. I’m going to be taking a break from my busy retail job in the near future — so I will be spending more and more time at my desk at my day job (I got a promotion, though — yay!) and less time walking around and on my feet, getting what little exercise I can. This roughly translates to “I really, really should be better watching what I eat.”

But HOLY GOD — what do we have here?!

A Pumpkin Pie Blizzard?! Are they trying to kill me? If you think I got a bit overly excited about the Pumpkin Spice Latte, you should have seen me standing there palpitating with my poor boyfriend on my arm. I literally couldn’t order it fast enough. I was stringing word after word after word together with hardly any of them making sense. The agony — but the ecstasy! Who knew they even had such a thing.

Dessert drama Wednesday

Kelly's birthday cakes

Kelly's birthday cakes

It was a fun-filled day of desserts and birthday celebrations as we all gathered for Kelly’s big day . . . before the big day. In true office style, we had cheesecake, cookies and chocolate cake . . . a fruit punch (courtesy of Brandon!). I missed out on the fruit punch but did have plenty of other treats! And I had pumpkin cakes my grandmother gave me yesterday . . . I saved a few and left them locked in a desk drawer. Sweet!

Needless to say, I didn’t have much trouble polishing everything off.

The carnage

The carnage

Then dinner came around, and Mom, Kate and I were more than happy to kick off the real start to autumn with — what else? — pumpkin pie. Pumpkin pie! With whipped cream! I love you, Bob Evans.