How to Celebrate Easter + Passover?

How to Celebrate Easter + Passover?

An excerpt from Rita Hayworth’s Shoes shows how it’s done. Happy Passover, Happy Easter, and Happy Spring everyone!

How Amy and Her Extended Family Celebrated the Holidays

She didn’t know what she had expected to find when the front door of the apartment swung open, but it certainly wasn’t what had greeted her: Zoë outfitted in a quasi-Playboy Bunny getup, wearing a set of oversized bunny ears and an expression that could only be described as humiliated. “No. Not Elijah,” Zoë called back into the room and then added just for Amy: “Only Vashti.”

“Oh, very funny,” Amy smirked, as she leaned over to give Zoë a giant hug and kiss.

“I have to find the humor in all this somehow, Auntie Amy. Do you see what they have me in this year?” she asked.

“What’s wrong? I think you look cute.”

“If I was sixteen and decided to wear this myself, my mother would ground me until I left for college. I mean, look at this,” she said as she turned around to give Amy a look at her perky cotton tail. “Seriously,” she said. Then she looked Amy up and down. “What are you wearing?” she asked.

“Why? What’s wrong?” Amy asked, immediately self-conscious. “It’s just a turtleneck and a jumper.”

“A jumper,” Zoë repeated, in a flat tone.

“A jumper,” Amy replied, wondering what the big deal was. “Auntie Amy,” she shook her little blonde head. “A jumper is a person who’s given up on life. Someone who sits on a ledge or a bridge somewhere ready to say ‘good-bye cruel world’ and take a leap. It isn’t something you wear.” She looked away, ashamed. “It’s dreadful.”

“Zoë!” gasped Jane, who had just come over to welcome the new arrival. “Nice little girls…”

“I know, I know. Nice little girls let their friends walk around looking like bag ladies if that’s what makes them happy.”

“That’s not what I meant, young lady.” Quite the opposite of Amy, Jane wore a gauzy yellow sundress with a white, loosely buttoned cardigan sweater casually tossed over it. New white espadrilles adorned her otherwise bare feet, and showcased a bright peach pedicure. She was perfectly dressed for a spring celebration; Amy, on the other hand, was dressed more along the lines of…

“It’s Urban Amish,” said Zoë.

“Sorry?” both women asked, looking to the girl.

“Urban Amish. I’ve been trying to figure it out for years and now I know,” she said, folding her arms across her chest as she nodded at Amy. “Yep. That’s her look.”

“Zoë, nice little girls…” Jane stammered, embarrassed, yet more than a little bit intrigued.

“Think about it, Mama. When’s the last time you saw Auntie Amy wear any other color but…” she started naming on her fingers, “black, navy blue, beige, gray.” She looked to her mother. “Am I missing one?”

“No. It’s true,” Jane said, looking pained. And then, as though Amy had ruined Zoë in some horrible way and for life, she added, dramatically, “What’s wrong with having a little color in your life?”

“There she is!” came a voice from the living room. “There’s our Amy!” Saved by the rabbi. Joshua Austen-Rabinowitz, along with Lauren, joined the party at the door, and took Amy into his arms. “Come on in,” he said as he hugged her, taking the bottle of wine she’d brought and passing it to Lauren.

“Nice to see you, dear,” said Lauren, as she planted polite air kiss on each of Amy’s cheeks, and took her hand into her own, which was slightly cold and bony. “You over him yet?”

Amy, caught off guard, smiled weakly. “Oh, well. You know how it is. It takes time. I don’t think I’ve ruled out reconciliation and—”

“I think I have the cure,” Lauren cut her off, without emotion. “There’s only one cure for a broken heart, you know.” And then Lauren let out a boozy, uncharacteristically hearty laugh.

Amy didn’t know what she was talking about, but nervously laughed along anyway.

“Come! The egg hunt is about to begin,” Joshua beamed, his eyes on his granddaughter.

“And our little bunny’s done one heck of a job with the hiding this year! Haven’t you, Zoë?”

“Sure,” said Zoë, wincing as she looked down at her barely covered form.

Following an hour-long egg hunt that essentially consisted of Zoë having to find every single egg she had hidden earlier as the adults found the bottoms of their glasses again and again, the family gathered around the large, festively decorated table in the center of the dining room for the much-anticipated annual Easter-Seder feast.

A spectacular spread was laid out before them—one that celebrated both the Jewish and Christian traditions of the varied members of the Austen-Rabinowitz families assembled. There were miles of matzoh and mountains of maror. There was a rack of lamb and asparagus and roasted rosemary red potatoes. There enough brisket to feed an army. There was challah bread with colored eggs baked into it (though there wasn’t a single drop of Italian blood to be accounted for here)—St. Yosef’s bread, as Joshua liked to joke. And, to ensure the evening would be rich in tradition, and loose in inhibition, there were four wineglasses set at every place.

“We’re at the kids’ end,” Zoë said to Amy, as she led them to their seats at the foot of the table. “We get to sit with the Happys again,” she joked. Amy couldn’t help but let a giggle slip, as this could only mean they’d be sharing their end of the table with the gloomiest people she had ever met.

As if the seating order ever changed from event to event, everyone searched out their place cards. Joshua was at the head, with Lauren to his right and Jane to his left. To Jane’s left was Joshua’s younger brother, Morty, who looked to be about ten years older than he. To his left sat Lauren’s ancient Aunt Clarabelle, followed by Amy. On the other side of the table, there was an empty seat next to Lauren, and beyond that sat Joshua’s own ancient aunt, Enid. Next to her sat her long-divorced, morbidly morose son, Grant. And next to him sat his miserable thirteen-year-old daughter, Ava, whom, Zoë had explained to Amy as they walked to their seats, she was expected to entertain. Except not even the bunny suit had sparked even a mocking smile.

The doorbell rang and Zoë cringed. Joshua and Lauren grinned at their granddaughter through a haze of pre-dinner wine and Zoë buried her face in her hands.

“Maybe that’s Elijah!” slurred Aunt Enid.

“Go on and get it!” screamed Clarabelle, with a hint too much enthusiasm.

“But I’m really not into any of this,” Zoë pleaded. “I’m a Buddhist.”

Everyone laughed, charmed as ever by the adorable little girl. Except for Amy, who gave Zoë a supportive little hug. And except for Grant and Ava. Because Grant and Ava never smiled.

Zoë took a deep breath and slid out of her chair. “I wonder who this could be,” she said, monotone as she dragged her feet to the front door and opened it.

“Hi, Zoë,” came a man’s voice from the other side of the door.

“Oh. Hi, Brendan.” Zoë said, bored, as she turned back to the table. “It’s just Brendan.”

Amy didn’t know a Brendan and immediately turned her head toward the front door when she saw how excited the other woman at the table appeared at the mere mention of his name. She nearly choked as he entered, as the man––whom Zoë had dismissed as just Brendan––was the most beautiful man Amy had ever seen. Brad Pitt would have looked like a pile of vomit next to this strapping, sandy- haired, green-eyed Adonis. Amy must have been staring, for when Zoë came back to the table, she leaned over and whispered loudly in Amy’s ear, “Stop staring.” Amy promptly took a sip of water and tried to refocus on the dinner party.

“You can’t fall in love with a body,” Zoë said pointedly to Amy.

Jane quickly jumped up, urging Uncle Mort to take the seat next to Lauren on the other side of the table. “Come. Sit here,” she gushed to the new addition, tapping the seat next to her. “How are you, Brendan?”

Lauren stood. “No, dear. He’ll sit by me,” she said. Jane glared at her mother. “Not for you,” Lauren mouthed, as Jane crossed her arms and sulked and Brendan made his way over to Lauren.

Amy leaned toward Zoë. “Who is he and why haven’t I met him before? I mean, he’s here in your house for the holidays. He must—”

“He’s no one. Believe me,” Zoë said, letting out an exasperated sigh.

“Seriously. He must be someone special. An actor?”

“He’s just a guy Nana found lurking around at Starbucks one day. Some college dropout.” Zoë looked at Brendan, who began schmoozing with the others. “He’s one of those ‘strays’ New York liberals like to bring to these kinds of events. You know, just some loser with no family and nothing else to do.”

“Oh.” Amy looked away, embarrassed.

“Oh, God—I didn’t mean you, Auntie Amy. Of course you’re one of us.”

She smiled. “Thanks, Zoë.”

“Gooble gobble.”


Before Zoë could explain the reference, Joshua lifted his wineglass and stood. “Now that we are all present and accounted for, we may begin our celebration. The glorious union of centuries-old traditions that could only be possible here.”

“Cheers, everyone,” said Lauren, raising her glass. Everyone drank. And then drank some more as a long, uncomfortable silence followed.

Impatient, Joshua nodded to Zoë. “Come on, child. You should know this cold by now.”

Zoë sighed deeply and then began. “Right. Sorry,” she cleared her tiny throat. “Why is this night different from all other nights?” she said in what had become her trademark monotone this evening.

As the ritual unfolded, Amy tried to sneak a quick inconspicuous glance at Brendan, mortified to find he was staring at her. He waved, throwing her for a bigger loop. She turned her head to make sure no one was standing behind her, causing him to chuckle and shake his head. He waved again and mouthed a small “Hello.” She waved back and quickly looked away as the four questions ended.

“Bon appétit,” said Lauren, and everyone dove in.

“So, Amy,” said Joshua. “Tell everyone how you killed your boss.”

“Joshua!” Lauren gasped.

Clarabelle shouted across the table at Enid. “What did he say?” And then to Morty, “What did he say?” Morty leaned in and whispered to Clarabelle. “She did what?!” Now Clarabelle gasped.

“Dad! Honestly,” said Jane, shaking her head. “Amy didn’t kill anyone. Her boss choked to death on a cookie.”

“How do you choke on a cookie?” asked a puzzled Enid.

“It was a biscotti,” Amy chirped, thinking this would help somehow.

“Oh,” said Enid, as if it had.

“Pappy, come on,” laughed Zoë. “Amy’s not a killer. I mean, seriously. Just look at her outfit.” Now Ava looked Amy up and down, and nodded in agreement when Zoë added,

“Doesn’t exactly scream ‘femme fatale’.”

“Zoë Mary-Alice Austen-Rabinowitz!”

“I kind of dig a chick in a jumper,” said Brendan from across the table. “Seriously,” he said, as if no one believed him.

“I still don’t see how you could choke to death on a cookie,” said Enid, looking worriedly at Grant, who had just taken a large bite of a macaroon. Sensing his mother’s displeasure, he immediately tossed the macaroon back onto his plate. When she turned away, he picked it up again, considered it, and shoved the rest of the cookie into his mouth.

“I’m Brendan,” Brendan waved to Amy. “I think I was invited here to meet you, right?” he asked, now looking around. Lauren pretended to be looking at her fingernails when his eyes fell on her. He smiled again at Amy. “You know, I’ve hated every boss I ever had. So I have to say, it’s especially nice to meet you.”

Amy flushed bright red. “Well, thanks. But I didn’t kill—”

“You never did like that Heimlich, did you?” asked Joshua.

“And those shoes,” said Ava, out of nowhere, and miraculously now smiling at Zoë. “Yes, I see. I think I know exactly what you mean—”

“Speaking of shoes,” said Amy, coughing as she desperately tried to change the subject.

“I had the strangest experience yesterday with a pair of shoes.”

“Really,” said Zoë, now enjoying an audience with Ava. “Because I—”

“Zoë!” shouted Jane.

Amy cleared her throat and continued. “I was walking by Smitty’s—you know, that second-hand store down on the strip?”

“Yes!” exclaimed Clarabelle. “Such bargains. I bought this scarf there and for such a bargain,” she nodded to Enid, who looked crossly at Clarabelle. Clarabelle looked away and absently tugged at the hairs on her chin.

“Right. Well, anyway,” Amy continued. “There were these shoes there, shoes like I’d never seen before. They were red and so shiny and…” she drifted off. “I can’t explain it.”

“Did you buy them?” Ava craned her neck to look under the table.

Zoë joined her. “Those aren’t them, are they?” asked Zoë. “Because you know those aren’t red, right?” Zoë taunted, and Ava actually laughed.

“I don’t get it,” said Brendan.

“What? No.” said Amy, getting annoyed that Zoë was entertaining Ava at her expense.

“Well did you?” asked Grant. “Did you buy them?”

“That’s the ridiculous part,” Amy said. “They were two hundred and fifty dollars. Used. I mean, could you imagine?” she looked around for support from the other women, but not even Jane would look at her. “You don’t think that’s just a little ridiculous?”

“What price can you put on what you’re worth?” asked Morty, seemingly to the air.

Amy was amazed. “That’s so weird,” she said. “That’s kind of what the saleslady said,” and she looked around for a response. She got none. “Anyway, she also said that the shoes had belonged to Rita Hayworth, like that was supposed to decide it.”

“Rita Hayworth,” mused Joshua. “Now that’s a name you never hear anymore. Big in my day, but—”

“Dad, you’re in your sixties,” said Jane. “Were you even born when Gilda came out?”

“Well, in my father’s day maybe. But, oy. What a knockout she was. Hair red as fire. And the most gorgeous set of––”


“Sorry. Well… Anyway, tragic story. Tragic girl,” he shook his head. “Started out bad,” he said, draining the wine from the bottom of his glass. “Drunken horrible parents,” he said, and poured himself another. “Ended badly.”

“What happened?” asked Amy.

“Drank herself crazy,” said Clarabelle, grabbing another bottle from the table and filling her glass. “Alzheimer’s and a slow death.”

“Abusive childhood. Bad marriages,” said Joshua. “Divorced five times,” he said, looking right at Grant.

“And here I thought one was a pain in the ass,” Jane smirked.

Grant was not amused. “Sometimes once is enough,” he chortled, and looked as though he would burst into tears at any moment. “It’s like being cut off at the waist. Every day a new struggle. I just don’t—”

“Oh, are you still sensitive about that? Sorry.” Jane said snidely. She collected some dirty plates from the table as Grant glared at her.

“Let me help you with that,” said Brendan. She blushed and as he followed her into the kitchen.

Zoë looked at her grandparents and then back at Amy. And then at her grandparents. And then back at Amy.

Joshua reflected for a moment and stood. “I have to agree. Two hundred and fifty is too much for a pair of shoes,” he said, as Lauren coolly looked the other way. She stood, collected more dirty plates, and headed for the kitchen. Joshua dutifully piled up the plates in front of him and followed.

Zoë waited for her grandparents to be out of earshot before she leaned in and said, “Except he didn’t tell you the important part.”

“What do you mean?” asked Morty.

“The legend,” said Zoë. “About the shoes?”

“I don’t think I know anything about the shoes,” said Enid. Now they all looked to Zoë, as they often did. “Well, from what I read,” she began, and looked around.

Clarabelle leaned over to Morty, “That child is always reading,” she nodded. “She would know.”

“From what I read, Rita Hayworth was kind of plain and boring when she was young,” Zoë said. “A little like you, Auntie Amy.”


“But then she made a decision that would change her life. She fell in love with a pair of shoes. A very expensive pair of shoes. And, after passing them in a store window day after day on her way back and forth from her job in a factory during the height of the Great Depression, she decided she just had to have them.”

“But how could she afford—” Grant started to ask.

“She always had to give all her earnings to her father on payday, it’s true—”

“So he could drink it!” growled Enid, in disgust, and then swallowed down the rest of the wine in her glass.

Zoë smiled. “That’s right. But this one week, she decided no. That it was her money and that she would spend it the way she wanted to. So…”

“So?” Ava wanted to know.

“So she stopped in the store and bought the shoes.”

A collective gasp came from the group.

“And her father?” asked Clarabelle. “What did she tell her father?”

“She pretended she got mugged,” said Zoë.

“Did he believe her?” asked Amy.

“Oh, no,” said Zoë.

“Then what?” asked Morty.

Zoë looked around before speaking. “Then he beat her, of course.”

Another gasp.

“But it never mattered again, because after that, everything changed,” said Zoë.

“Margarita, her real name, went out in the shoes the very next day, and she met Darryl Zanuck.”

“You mean the big Hollywood producer?” asked Enid.

“The same,” said Zoë. “He offered her a role in his latest film, and she left for Hollywood two weeks later.”

“I heard that story!” said Clarabelle. “I remember that!”

“I don’t quite remember it like that,” said Morty, looking a little confused.

There was a moment of silent reflection, but only a moment. “Are you going to buy the shoes, Amy?” asked Clarabelle. “They could be the ones!” gushed Enid.

“Buy the shoes, Amy!” urged Ava.

Amy tried to make sense of it all, while trying to pull herself out of the spotlight. “I don’t think I knew any of that, Zoë. Thanks. But two hundred fifty dollars for shoes. I mean, come on.”

“Some people just don’t understand the power of shoes,” Lauren said, catching the end of the conversation.

“Personally, I don’t think all that much of it,” said Zoë. “Yet I can’t scientifically rule it out.”

Brendan returned with Joshua. Jane, looking annoyed, walked a few steps behind them.

“So who’s taking over for Heimlich?” Joshua asked.

“Right now? His classes are being covered by a few of his graduate students and some other members of the department. But going forward––”

“What about you?” Lauren asked. “Are you taking on any of them?”

“Me?” Amy blushed. “Oh, no. I couldn’t possible teach his classes.”

“But don’t you have a Masters degree in English Lit?” asked Lauren.

“All she has to do is defend her dissertation at this point and then it’s PhD all the way.”

“Jane!” said Amy, horrified.

“Well, I’m sorry, Amy. But it’s true. She downplays how far she’s gotten, and how brilliant her paper was. All she needs to do now is defend it.”

All eyes were now on her. “I have a little, uh, stage fright.”

“Perhaps if you had the shoes…” mused Clarabelle.

“What’s that?” asked Joshua.

“Oh nothing, Pappy,” said Zoë. “Don’t worry about it.”


Buy it now!

Rita Hayworth's ShoesHer magic shoes may have brought new love into her life… But is her new prince really just a frog?

Amy Miller gets dumped on her wedding day and everyone knows it’s for the best her relationship with David had eaten away at her for years. Except for Amy… When her best friend, Jane Austen-Rabinowitz, and Jane’s sagacious six-year-old daughter, Zoe, convince Amy to treat herself to an extravagantly priced, super-cute pair of shoes, which purportedly once belonged to a siren of the silver screen, she balks at first, but their allure soon wears her down.

Once they are hers, her life turns around. She gets refocused on her career and meets a true kindred spirit, the also-jilted English professor, Decklin Thomas. She’s not attracted to Deck at first. But when circumstances lead to them spending more time together, they bond, and Amy starts to believe she may have found her soul mate. But when Deck’s former wife goes missing, again, the perfect romance may not be what it seems… Sparkly and witty as a 1940s screwball comedy, and filled with quirky characters and lots of delightful surprises, Rita Hayworth’s Shoes is a story of bouncing back, a heartwarming and potentially heartbreaking romance, and even a mystery rolled into one fun, hilarious page-turner.

Also by Francine LaSala – The Girl, the Gold Tooth & Everything

539286_10200439346445319_1446602713_nWho can you trust when you don’t know who you are…

Mina Clark is losing her mind-or maybe it’s already gone. She isn’t quite sure. Feeling displaced in her over-priced McMansion-dotted suburban world, she is grappling not only with deep debt, a mostly absent husband, and her playground-terrorizer 3-year-old Emma, but also with a significant amnesia she can’t shake-a “temporary” condition now going on several years, brought on by a traumatic event she cannot remember, and which everyone around her feels is best forgotten.

When a trip to the dentist leaves Mina with a new gold crown, her whole life changes. Slowly her memory and her mojo return. But when everything begins to crash down around her, she’s not sure if what’s happening is real, of if she’s just now fully losing her mind… especially when she realizes the only person she can trust is the one she fears the most. What’s it all going to cost her in the end?

Buy it now!

Books Are Like Babies – Sort Of

Books Are Like Babies – Sort Of

I don’t have any babies. Not any more. Now I have small divas who live in my house, who like to make messes and crazy demands and fight over things like Barbie dolls. This is what my kids fought nearly to the death over this morning. By the way, it’s a magnet:

What’s the stupidest thing your kids ever fought over because this one seems hard to top.

And that’s okay with me. I mean, not having babies in the house anymore is okay with me. The other part… Well…

Ah, just kidding. I love my children. As much as anyone can love an incessant whirlwind of chaos and distraction, because there are also the sweet kisses and soft snuggles and gaggles of giggles. When they are sweet, I feel like I’ve produced two of the most amazingly magical efforts of my life! And when they are not… I think every honest parent has had the thought: Why did I do this!? What was I thinking?! WHY?!

Book are like this – the ones that you write. They are like needy babies, who demand your constant attention. And like children, who turn your world upside-down in other ways. Plot lines commandeer your grocery lists in sometimes insanely incoherent scribbles. Characters whine for your attention in the middle of the night.

BTW, this is what my 3-year-old thinks of your book. (You should see what she’s done to mine.)

And like children, who pain and stress and aggravate you until you feel like you can’t breathe anymore… Who delight and entertain and enchant you until you feel they are the only reason you breathe… Like children, the books you write eventually leave you. Your kids head off to school and college and on with their lives; your books head to the publisher and the market. Like any good parent, you know that what you’ve nurtured and put out into the world is not perfect, and this is mostly, if not entirely, your fault. But you hope with all your heart that your labor of love will land in a world of affection and appreciation. (And, if you’re honest, will be successful beyond imagination.)

Also like children, your books are never totally alike–or even like you. Like your children, they’re threaded with strands of you, but ultimately, they are who they decide to be. You can guide them with your firm sentence structure and chapter breaks, feed them with interesting conflicts, dress and accessorize them with fancy adjectives, but they pretty much roll over you if they’re true to themselves. You know, like your kids.

My first “kid”, Rita Hayworth’s Shoes, is out there already. She’s kind of a sweet and quirky little nerd. A charming misfit, much like the characters that make up her story. For the most part, I have to say, she’s doing all right. My second, The Girl, The Gold Tooth & Everything, is in final revisions by me and about to be handed over to my publisher–and to the world. She’s definitely darker, a little edgier. I worry about her, like I still worry about her sister, that she’s not going to snap easily into any comfy literary cliques (read: obvious markets), but I’m confident that she will find her place.

In any case, when any writer tells you that their book is like their child, don’t dismiss them. Even if that person has never had a child. Even if you have never written a book. Simply clasp their hand in yours, look intently in their eyes, and tell them, in the gentlest way possible, “You tried your best.” And if you have to say, “But your kid’s kind of an asshole,” well, I suppose that’s up to you. Just be kind, or, at the very least, constructive. Remember: That’s someone’s baby you’re talking about!

“Hangover” is a light term for the aftermath of having written one. “Psychotic break” may be more fitting.
Five For Friday: Virginia Patterson–Pienography

Five For Friday: Virginia Patterson–Pienography

The latest in a series of interviews with cool, kickass people making the time to do what they love!

Virginia Patterson

5 Questions with Virginia Patterson
Virginia and I go way back. While we attended the same high school, it wasn’t until I dated a mutual acquaintance that we really started to get to know one another. I’m thrilled I didn’t lose her in that breakup as through the years, in addition to having a lot of laughs together, we’ve also worked on some cool projects–a book about Painted Furniture among them.

One of the really amazing things about Virginia is that her creative life is something she accomplishes on the side: She has an MBA and a pretty big job in Internet marketing for a huge publication. And she is the only person I know who can design in Excel. (Don’t believe me? Keep reading!) Talk about combing talents! She inspires me because she’s all about the “Stolen Moments”, finding the time to do what she really loves despite a hectic schedule.

An incredibly creative and talented woman, Virginia helped me promote Rita Hayworth’s Shoes recently by creating a slew (more than 200–amazing, right?) of pretty, delicious red shoe cookies to distribute at this year’s Book Expo!

Check out some of her amazing creations at:
And follow her on Twitter: @pienography

1. You’ve loved doing inventive, creative things as long as I’ve known you (I still have that gorgeous Chagall-inspired bowling pin you painted!). Tell me how you got into baking.

My family has always been big on baking, so I grew up making every kind of baked good from scratch. However, my least favorite thing to make from scratch was pie crust. So after a few years of defaulting to a Jiffy pie crust mix to make Thanksgiving desserts (I insisted on making all the pies for the holiday), my sister pulled me aside one year to tell me just how bad the crust was. Of course I was horrified, especially because she is an exceptional baker, and I don’t take criticism well. But rather than get upset, or give up on pie crusts entirely, I challenged myself to find a pie crust recipe that I could perfect. The recipe that I’ve been using ever since is the basic pie dough from Williams-Sonoma’s Pie and Tart Cookbook. Once I felt comfortable with the quality of my pies, I started challenging myself to other baking projects, as well as entering pie baking contests, starting a blog about baking, etc.

Cupcakes made for a Mad Men party. The inspiration and steps are all on Virginia’s blog. Go check it out!

2. Everyone whose had the pleasure of tasting your creations know they aren’t all show–that your stuff is as amazing to eat as it is to look at. Where do you get your inspiration to design your treats so beautifully?

I’m big on presentation and a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to decorating. I’m also very much inspired by the amazing talent of Martha Stewart. I really admire her creativity and do my best to emulate her style. Also, I have made some treats as favors for bridal showers and weddings, so the presentation really has to be perfect for those types of occasions.

3. What made you decide to create the Pienography blog? And has it motivated you to bake more than you normally would otherwise? And how do you find the time!

In 2009, I had entered and won first place in an apple pie baking contest. I started entering more contests and I felt like it would be fun to write about and document the baking process and the challenges I set for myself. There was one pie contest I had participated in at a hipster bar in Brooklyn, which resulted in an invitation to partake in a pie-focused episode of the Martha Stewart Show. Every member of the audience was asked to bake a pie, which Martha and her team of experts judged. In the weeks leading up to this event, I thought it would be really amazing to document everything. So that’s where the blog was born. It definitely has motivated me to bake more since I started the blog, and has evolved to encompass a lot more than just pies. A group at work formed a baking club about six months ago, which has led me to bake and blog a lot more than before. It is very challenging to post entries, and I’ve never claimed to be a good writer, so I try to focus on the imagery and come up with a few interesting quips here and there.

A whole sweet Mario Bros.-inspired world created for the Baking Club!

4. Can you tell me about some of your other creative endeavors?

Well, I was born and raised in cold Minnesota until the age of 12, so my family spent many long winters trapped indoors. To cope with the situation, we’d work on various creative projects–sewing, knitting, drawing, and painting–though it wasn’t until my family moved to New York that I discovered quilting, and made and sold a few quilts before I graduated high school. I recently picked up quilting again, doing mostly baby quilts. I also enjoy sewing simple home decor textiles, such as curtains, bedskirts, and throw pillows. Painting and drawing are other hobbies I have kept up with, although I feel they are not my strongest creative activities. I enjoy re-purposing items (such as painting images on old bowling pins, or refinishing a piece of furniture to give it new life) and I would really like to get into upholstery.

A quilt Virginia made as a gift for a friend expecting a baby. Beautiful!

5. Do you ever think about throwing in the proverbial towel on the marketing game and pursuing baking or a career in the arts full time?

Believe me, I would love to do that. But for now that is only a fantasy of mine for when I win the lottery. For now, I’m satisfied with keeping this as a hobby and I especially enjoy the happiness I bring to others through my baking. One area that I feel might have career potential down the road is in party/events planning. I really enjoy making favors on a large scale (I once made 180 jars of homemade jam for one friend’s wedding favors, and 200 bags of heart-shaped frosted cookies for another’s). I also create and print my own labels. I don’t own any design software, so I make due with what I have…I found that Excel works pretty well. If there was an opportunity to make a career change, I might invest in the proper software!

BONUS QUESTION: Any chance you’ll share your Lemon Squares recipe?
Of course! It’s an old family recipe:

Lemon Squares
Pastry (covers bottom of 9×13″ pan):
2 cups flour
1 cup butter
1/2 cup powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix together and pat into 9×13″ pan. Bake for 20 minutes or until light brown.

2 cups granulated sugar
4 beaten eggs
3 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
Juice and grated rind of two lemons

While first layer is baking, beat eggs and add remaining ingredients. Pour over baked crust and continue baking for 15-20 minutes until set and custard like.

Yields: 24 2×2 squares


A huge thanks to Virginia for visiting the Shed! If you’re new to here, stay a while and have a look around. We’ve had a few interesting people visiting here, and more are lined up for the summer. If you’re a fan of Lemon Squares, be sure to try out Virginia’s killer recipe. And please leave her a comment. She will see it! Don’t forget to head to her blog at to see the latest from this super-creative, talented gal!



Welcome to my stop on the Blog Hop! A huge THANK YOU to Tracie Banister (Blame it on the Fame) for making all this possible!

As you hop from stop to stop, don’t forget to post a comment with your email address on each blog for a chance to win FREE e-books and a $150.00 Sephora gift card! Speaking of winning, you’re also about the win the experience of discovering 34 different authors! Being kind of a novice blogger, I checked out the 33 other posts before posting mine to try and figure out what the heck I was supposed to be doing here and I can tell you in all honesty, there is much fun to be had on this hop! (I can also tell you that I still don’t quite have it all figured out, but I tried my best… Really I did…)

Anyway, what you need to do is to collect all the italicized words you find in each blog and email them to! All the rules and related information appear at the end of this post. (Hint for the italicized word in this post: It’s part of a conversation.)

Enjoy your “visits,” good luck, and have fun!

The Shoes That Launched 68,000 Words! Or… A Good Soul In Bad Shoes
The assignment here is to write a blog that’s chick-lit-centric. I figure the actual experience of turning the discovery of the most-adorable-ever pair of shoes into a novel probably qualifies, right? So here’s how that all turned out…

When you write a novel, people always want to know: “Did that really happen?” So you kind of take a breath and smile your kindest smile, the one reserved for puppies chasing their own tails and average everyday simpletons and you say… “No dear. That’s what you call non-fiction. A novel is fiction.”

Which we all know is kind of a lie…  Because behind every great story, there’s always a glimmer of the author’s own experience that made it spark to life.

So did “Rita Hayworth’s Shoes” really happen to me? Well, it’s true that I was lost for years in a quasi-functional relationship with a reptile enthusiast. And it’s true that in another lifetime, I had started graduate work towards a Ph.D. in English Lit. And it’s true that Voltaire’s “Candide,” the book my book is loosely based on, and which is the favorite book of my leading lady and man, is indeed my all-time favorite book. But my parents were never captured by pygmies. And my husband, while compared to me is enormous, is whatever the opposite of hairless is.

But perhaps the most fundamentally true element of “Rita Hayworth’s Shoes” is the shoes.

It’s always been a joke amongst my friends and me that I have, in my time, had awful taste in shoes. That I could ruin any outfit with a terrible shoe choice. I used to love this pair of comfy black sandals and I clearly remember a conversation that transpired more than ten years ago over a night of drinking with my adorable friends.

CVT: Why are you wearing those shoes again.
MT: Look at you. Your shirt, that skirt. So great! But those shoes…
SG: Hideous!
CVT: Those shoes are ruining you.
SG: I’m just so ashamed for you.
Me: But I like these shoes.
MT: You look like a gladiator.

We all had a great laugh about all this, but the ladies were right. (And for the record, this was about four years before gladiator sandals came into fashion.)

So on another day, with another friend, I came upon “the shoes” in Ann Taylor. They were called “Hayworth” and they were magnificent. They were peep-toe and they were black and they were just adorable. And they were almost $200. And I bought them.

In that store on that day I thought, wouldn’t this make a great premise for a book: A woman lost in her life finally understands that she’s “worth it,” and buys herself a great pair of expensive shoes to prove it–then her whole life changes! And voila! “Rita Hayworth’s Shoeswas born.

So Rita Hayworth’s shoes were originally black, not red. And my life didn’t change the instant I handed over my credit card, but I did meet my husband shortly thereafter. But the most real part of the story is this: Shoes can totally be magic. Don’t ever forget it!




BLOG HOP RULES: Please read ALL rules and instructions!  
*Each of the 34 participating authors has written a special Chick Lit-centric piece and these posts will go live on Monday, May 14th.  At each blog hop stop, you will have the opportunity to enter to win a FREE Chick Lit e-book from that particular blog’s owner/author. All you have to do is leave a comment on the blog post, including your name and e-mail address, and you’re automatically entered to win.  If you visit each blog hop stop, that means you have the chance to win 34 different e-books!

*The blog hop will start at Natalie Aaron & Marla Schwartz and end at Jen Tucker.  You will find a list of all the stops on the blog hop at each author’s blog.  Authors’ blogs will be listed in alphabetical order according to last name.

*In each of the author’s blog posts, there will be a “secret word.”  This word will be italicized, so it will be easy to find.  All you have to do is make note of this secret word at each blog hop stop.  Collect all 34 secret words and submit your list to before midnight on Sunday, May 20th and you will be entered into the Grand Prize Drawing!  The winner of this drawing will receive a $150 Sephora gift card! $150 to spend on make-up, fragrance, bath and body goodies, skin care, and hair products!  How fun is that?  This gift card can be redeemed online, or at any Sephora store in the US.

*Winners of each of the participating author’s e-books, as well as the Grand Prize winner of the $150 Sephora gift card will be announced on Monday, May 21st.

*Contests are open to residents of the United States only.
CLICK HERE for the link to the other author’s blogs!