About Emily Smith Pearce

I'm a children's author. My first book, _Isabel and_the_Miracle_Baby_, is a middle grade novel.

Super Quick Italian Bean Salad

Italian Bean Salad

This is my weeknightified version of a Foster’s Market recipe. It’s super simple and really hits the spot when I want a tasty deli-style salad with next to no work. You could dress it up as much as you like with fresh veggie add-ins. The original recipe is lovely, though not super fast (you cook the beans yourself and make their delicious dressing from scratch, among other things). Again, this is more a list of ideas than a real recipe, but it’s not hard to eye the proportions.

Ingredients:

Rinsed and drained canned white beans (I like navy beans)

Italian dressing—-I like the Penzey’s mix

Capers

Sundried tomatoes

Chopped fresh parsley

Mix beans with enough dressing to coat and enough capers and tomatoes to give it a little color. Let marinate a few hours if you have time. Add parsley. Enjoy!

Got some more feedback on my nonfiction manuscript this week. Things are finally moving forward. So excited.

Still working on the last few chapters of my young adult novel. It’s slow-going, but I do think I’m getting somewhere.

And in other news this week, I’ve been talking to 4th and 5th graders about writing an early reader (i.e. Slowpoke). Fun times! Love getting their questions.

For more food-related posts, click here. Have a great rest of your week.

 

Mixed Pattern Tank Top

Mixed Pattern Tank Top

This was another little experiment playing around with pattern mashups. I traced a favorite T-shirt to make a pattern, then played around with the shoulder width (the original shirt had sleeves) until it felt right. I finished the arm and neck holes with a banded treatment. I especially like the floral edging with the stripey part.

I’m pretty happy with the results, though there are plenty of imperfections. I’d like to try another using a walking foot on my machine. I think I can get a smoother finish that way.

Unfortunately the color didn’t come out so great on these photos, so I don’t think they quite do it justice, but what can I say? There are only so many hours in a day a girl can spend on modeling, am I right?

My nine-year-old wants to steal this shirt, so that makes me feel pretty successful. The fabrics are once again from Girl Charlee, and I love their softness and fun prints, but I’d also love to see more fabrics that are over 90% natural fibers and am willing to pay. It gets too hot so quickly around here to be wearing fabrics with a fair amount of poly. My two cents.

Okay, back to work. I have to prepare a presentation I’m doing with some fifth graders next week about writing an early reader.

Hope you have a great weekend. I finally have plans to see The Grand Budapest Hotel. Yippeee!

If you want to see more of my sewing adventures/ experiments, click here.

Colorblock Tank Top

Chicken and Rice Soup with Lemon, Tomato, and Oregano

Chopped Chicken  How about a final soup to say good-bye to cold-weather? Am I jinxing us just writing that?

I was going to call this a Greek chicken soup, but it’s really just Greek-inspired. I like to make it when I’m feeling a little tired of our usual chicken noodle with carrot and onion version.

This is less a recipe and more an idea for flavors.

You need:

–chopped cooked chicken (I usually poach* some breasts. Roasting bone-in is probably the most flavorful way you could go, but poaching is quick and painless)

–chicken broth (I use chicken base and water)

–cooked rice

–pre-cooked or drained and rinsed canned white beans. I like navy beans.

Assemble and heat gently until hot. Then add:

–chopped tomatoes (I used cherry ones since they’re always available and good)

–oregano (I grow it in the back yard, but dried is also ok—-as I look at my photo I see what appears to be parsley. hmmm…well, that will work, too and is also growing in the back yard)

–juice from 1/4 to 1/2 lemon

Enjoy! For more of my cooking and eating adventures, click here.

Chicken and Rice Soup

Hoping the weather is sunny and warm wherever you are.

Things making me happy this week (besides the lovely weather): I discovered the NPR Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast. Smart people talking about tv and movies. A dream!

Speaking of dreaming, I’ve been tweeting what my imaginary personal chef would make me for lunch if she existed. If you want to dream-eat with me, find me @emilysmithpearc on Twitter.

Also, Call the Midwife is back! And, I finished a draft of my nonfiction manuscript and sent it off for comment. Wahoo!

And now, trying very hard to focus on finishing this draft of my novel. Nose to grindstone.

*Poaching is like allllmost boiling something, but don’t let it come to a boil. Cook slowly at the almost boiling point until done, and you’ll have tender chicken. Boiling will give you a rubbery mess.

See you again soon!

Supper Smorgasbord

Muffin Tin Smorgasbord

I got this idea from the Instagram feed of Meg of Elsie Marley (one of my blog faves).  I’ve done it twice now, each time it’s been a big hit with the kids. It’s just a way of dressing up a simple meal made out of odds and ends. I realize it’s not a true smorgasbord, but that’s what we call it.

Full disclosure: I served GF boxed mac and cheese as a side with this supper. It’s all my kids would eat if I let them, but I serve it very rarely. I’m trying to establish mac and cheese as “just a side dish that we eat on a very occasional basis.” Good luck to me, eh?

My cooking mojo has been kind of depleted lately, maybe because I’m sick of soup season but it’s been too cold and wet for grilling and salads. That and the fact that my little one grumbles about complex flavors (curries, etc.) and I haven’t felt like fighting that battle in the last few weeks.

My writing mojo has been a bit down as well though I’m still plugging away. This week I’ve been making spreadsheets of my works-in-progress to chart how certain elements are working out. It’s a way of seeing the forest rather than the trees, which were all I was seeing.

For the novel I’ve made a column for each chapter, and for the nonfiction piece I’ve made a timeline-spreadsheet. Soooo revealing on both counts, though I have to admit sometimes it feels like it’s not “real” writing and like I should be doing that instead. Still, I think it’s essential to take a step back now and then so you can see what needs adjusting.

What about you? Discovered any good recipes lately? Read anything good lately?

I can’t wait to see Wes Anderson’s new flick, The Grand Budapest Hotel. Currently reading One Summer by Bill Bryson (about the summer of 1927) and on deck: Kids These Days by Drew Perry and Little Failure by Gary Shteyngart.

For more food posts, click here. For more on books, here, and for writing stuff, here.

Mixed Pattern Playdress

Mixed Pattern Playdress

This is one of my favorite sewing projects ever. It’s simple, was really fun to sew, and my daughter’s face just glowed when she put it on the first time. It’s just so her, but I love it, too.

As I’ve mentioned before, she pretty much refuses to wear anything but knits. I’m always trying to find knit play dresses, and I fell in love with some from a certain British catalog that rhymes with Odin. I’m sure they would rather me write “catalogue,” am I right? Their prices are pretty steep for such simple dresses, though, and I thought, hey, I could make that! I’m kind of famous for saying that, but in this case, I actually did it.

From the catalog, we borrowed the idea of mixing patterns (which is also a big part of my daughter’s style) and went to the half-yard clearance section on Girl Charlee. Little Miss picked out the fabrics. I tried to get her to go with a contrasting color mix, but that was a non-starter. She specified no sleeves and a higher waistline with a full skirt.

For the bodice I traced another dress’s bodice. The skirt part is just a gathered rectangle. I used to be so scared of sewing with knits, but really, it’s not so bad once you get the hang of it. I definitely do better with slightly weightier knits. I used a regular machine (not a serger) and used zig zag, serger-ish-like, and triple stitches, depending on the seam/ application.

For some great tutorials on knit finishes, check this and this out.

This time, there are no booty issues (like here).

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For more of my sewing adventures, click here.

Gluten-Free Crepes

Gluten Free Crepe

My friend Jamie first introduced homemade crepes to me when we used to do Thanksgiving together in Boston. Oh, those were fun times! We’d make crepes in the morning and just cook, cook, cook all day and listen to “Alice’s Restaurant,” that classic Thanksgiving tale.

Before that crepes had seemed so mysterious and fancy, but really, once you do them a couple of times, they’re no more difficult than pancakes. You just have to get the knack of how thick the batter should be (not very) and when to flip them (when the first inch or two of the edges are dry). Turns out it’s super easy to make gluten-free crepes, and they’re quite a bit faster than waffles.

Once again I used Artisanal Gluten-Free Cooking with great results. A similar recipe is here on their blog (I didn’t use cinnamon). The one thing I would say is that the batter was a little bit thick, so I had to add a little more milk (I think I used almond milk). You want the batter to be just a bit thinner than regular pancake batter. The photo above is of the very first crepe, before I thinned the batter, so the shape is kinda crazy. But normally the crepes look and taste the same as regular ones. They were a big hit with the family.

Lately I’ve been making blueberry syrup with a big handful of frozen berries and just a tablespoon or so of maple syrup. I put them together in a microwaveable container, heat for a little bit (30 seconds?) and voila!

I’ve been slogging away at my novel, revising and adding new material. Also reading One Summer by Bill Bryson, a history of the summer of 1927. Very interesting. Crazy times!

Also, Wes Anderson’s new movie, The Grand Budapest Hotel, is now on my must-see list. Not sure if it’s related, but I’ve been dreaming about weird European hotels lately. Hmmmm…

Coming soon: pics of a recently finished sewing project. Hope you’re having a good week!

Marco Polo and the Explorer Book

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At the recommendation of a friend (thanks, Catherine!) I bought Into the Unknown: How Great Explorers Found Their Way by Land, Sea, and Air for my six-year-old boy for Christmas. It’s a beauty of a book, written by Stewart Ross and illustrated by Stephen Biesty (of Incredible Cross-Sections fame). Each chapter follows a different explorer and includes a gorgeous fold out map and diagram of the explorer’s route and travel style.

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 I highly, highly recommend it. Reading it straight through from beginning to end isn’t something my son is ready for (the text is geared toward a slightly older audience), but he likes to pick a small section for me to read at a time, and he always chooses a fold-out to study. He wants to read every label for all the parts (not unlike his fascination with Richard Scarry’s books).

I love that feeling of just sort of soaking in the book, meandering through and getting to know it bit by bit, landing on favorite parts and coming back to them again and again on a nonlinear journey. It reminds me of my own love for the Oxford University Press story collections as a kid. Beautifully illustrated by Victor Ambrus, they were these great kid-friendly versions of the Canterbury Tales, the great ballets, and King Arthur’s tales, among others. Sadly, they look to be out of print now, but I think I’ll have to chase down some copies to have as our own. Click here for a few cover images from Victor Abrus’s website.

I didn’t understand everything about those tales at the time, but when I re-encountered them later in school, it was thrilling to realize I already had a framework in place. The stories were familiar and felt like they were already mine. I’m always hoping to give my kids some experiences like that, and I hope Into the Unknown will be one of them.

The elementary school had its book character parade last week, and my son wanted to dress like Marco Polo. We didn’t find a picture of him in the book, but we found an 18th century illustration online:

 We found a silk jacket at the thrift store (100% real! reversible!), along with a faux fur shrug we could use for the hat. I made the hat (two U-shaped pieces sewn along the curve) from an old T-shirt with a double-thickness of sweatshirt underneath for body. I tacked the fur band around the bottom.

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Marco Polo costume

Since I’m working on a nonfiction children’s book myself, I have a new appreciation for just how much research goes into something like this. I can’t imagine how long it must’ve taken Mr. Ross and Mr. Biesty to create this handsome book. Bravo!

Speaking of nonfiction for children, I just ordered a couple from my favorite local indie, Park Road Books. Amy Karol of angry chicken recommended two comic-type books, one about the presidents and another about the Greek myths: Amazing Greek Myths of Wonder and Blunder, and Where Do Presidents Come From? They sounded so good that I called up Park Road right away. I’ll be there tonight for the spring author line up, sponsored by the local chapter of the Women’s National Book Association.

For more posts about books, click here. For more posts about costumes, click here. (Boy! I seem to make/ assemble a lot!)

P.S. Family: I’d like to get this book (Into the Unknown) for the oldest nephews, so I’m calling dibs now. Sorry!

Not-Fried Rice with Roasted Veggies

Roasted Vegetables

I used to make fried rice with stir-fried vegetables on a fairly regular basis. Everyone liked to eat it, but no one liked to help clean up. Also, by the time I was done cooking, I was exhausted. After one too many complaints about the mess it made (from someone who will remain nameless) I vowed never to make stir fry again! Take that!

I stuck to my promise for several months, but I missed the flavors. So I tried to find a way to simplify the process.

Step one: I found a great recipe for baked fried rice. Yes, it involves less oil, and that’s nice and all, but even better, I don’t have to tend to it, and I still get that yummy chewy texture. So much less work! I don’t add the Sriracha that the recipe calls for at this stage since the kids wouldn’t touch it if I did. And I’d love to try the pineapple and cashews she uses—they look so yummy—but so far I’ve just stuck to whatever “usual suspect” veggies I have on hand. Broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, onions, that kind of thing.

Step two: I pared down my list of vegetables to cut out some of the chopping. I usually feel like I have to put in a little of everything, but really, I don’t.

Step three: I roast veggies instead of stir-frying. Nope, it’s not just the same, but the veggies are still delicious. I cooked everything at about the same temp as the rice until the rice was done, and then I think I turned up the heat a bit.

I let the kids choose the veggies they want before we mix them all together for us. If I have time, I like to make this peanut sauce and of course, the grown ups always get  Sriracha.

Now I’d be lying if I said this version isn’t messy or time-consuming. It still requires a fair amount of prep and cleanup. But somehow being able to cook it unattended, all at the same time (rather than in batches) makes it less of a pain to make. Works for me, anyway.

Finished My Berlin Kitchen by Luisa Weiss. Sigh. I miss it now. Are you reading anything good? I need something to curl up with. The weather here has been horrible this week, and I’m sorry, friends in northern climes, because your weather must be ten times worse. It’s starting to feel like that Ray Bradbury story where the people live on a planet where the sun comes out only once every seven years (“All Summer in a Day”). We can make it to spring, right?

The school’s book character parade was this morning and as usual was pretty much the cutest thing all year. Hope I can show you a pic of our little Marco Polo soon. The costume is pretty sweet. Marie Antoinette also looked great, though her costume was just a fancy dress we found at the thrift store.

Have a great weekend! And now, back to novel writing….

Knit Chevron Playdress

Chevron Dress

This was an experiment to see if I could whip up a knit playdress without too much fuss. My nine-year-old’s top priority, when it comes to clothes, is comfort. I can’t say I blame her. But this means she wants only knits, and it can be difficult to get everything she needs/ wants in the knit variety.

After a not-great experience with thin jersey in the past, I wanted to try knits again, this time with a beefier weight. It can be hard to find a good selection of knits in stores (certainly around here), so I ordered a few things from Girl Charlee, which I’d heard good things about.

One of the things I love about Girl Charlee, and they’re not paying me anything to say this, is that you can order swatches of fabrics so you know what they’re like before you order. They have a very interesting and varied selection, and the site is well-designed, not overwhelming like some fabric sites.

The thermal knit tunic I made recently is also made with Girl Charlee fabric. Their prices are very reasonable, and they have a half-yard clearance section that’s perfect for trying things out, like this dress.

I was going to try making a T-shirt, but Little Miss wanted a dress. She asked for a full skirt, but since there was only half a yard, the best I could do was a tank dress. For the top I just traced a tank top she already had. The bottom is just a rectangle with the ruffling added.

The pattern placement isn’t perfect, true, and there’s not quite as much space in the booty as I’d like. Ample booty space is one of the few things on my list of girl clothing musts. But I may have to let it slide, because I think it’s time to move on to other projects. Next time, I’ll get enough fabric for that full skirt.

I just turned over and zigzagged the edges. Not fancy, but I rather like it. I may try another finish next time. For more on my sewing, click here. More coming soon.

Still reading and loving My Berlin Kitchen by Luisa Weiss. Highly recommend! Meanwhile assembling simple costumes for the school’s book character parade. The kids asked to be Marie Antoinette and Marco Polo (!). Luckily the thrift store gave us a big leg up, but I still have a little work to do.

Knit Fabric Neckline

Peppermint Marshmallows

Peppermint Marshmallows

We actually made these around Christmas, as a rainy day activity with the kids. We just followed Martha Stewart’s recipe and added some crushed peppermint candy on top.

We loved the way the concoction of sugar and gelatin morphs into white foam. It made me feel like a chemist (my chemist grandfather, by the way, loves to make candy and measures things out neatly on little squares of waxed paper).

Candy Making

True to form, I tried to cut out some of the sugar, as drowning the finished cubes in yet more white stuff seemed a bit excessive. Turns out, though, that you kind of need the powdered sugar on top at the end to keep the marshmallows from being a total sticky mess. It’s like flour, I guess, when you’re rolling out pizza dough.

Uncut Marshmallow

Marshmallows weren’t hard to make but they were definitely messy, even for my high mess threshold. I would totally recommend a giveaway plan, since even my kids, who were sure they’d want to eat the whole pan on their own, couldn’t finish them before they were past their prime (a couple of days).

The best part for me was having a giant marshmallow (we call them marsh planets) to put in my hot cocoa, which I made not-too-sweet on purpose.

Marshmallow in Cocoa

For more of my cooking and eating adventures, go here.

Around these parts we’re still being absolutely buried by fourth grade homework (what’s up with that?). I’m still loving, really loving My Berlin Kitchen by food blogger Lisa Weiss of The Wednesday Chef. It’s got love, travel, international friends and family, and recipes to boot. Currently dreaming of baby artichokes with potatoes and separately, braised endive. Never thought I’d be interested in endive, but she makes it sound so exciting! As an added bonus, the book is making me want to keep writing, and in my mind that’s the best kind of book.

I’ve been sewing a bit, some of which you can see on my Instagram feed. You can find me there under Emily Smith Pearce or in the lower righthand corner of my blog homepage.

This interview with writer/ director David O. Russell (of Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle) was so good I may have to listen to it again. I also loved reading this interview with the author, the illustrator, and the translator of Sydney Taylor Award honor book The War Within These Walls. The translator (Laura Watkinson) is a friend of mine in Amsterdam, and the interviewer (Joyce Moyer Hostetter) is a friend here in North Carolina. Small world!

Also just sent out my nonfiction manuscript to some early reader friends. So excited to be moving ahead with it. How are you? Cooking/ reading/ watching anything good?