Thursday, May 28, 2009

Veggie Update

I promised I'd keep you up to speed on how the Baart family is enjoying our 1/2 share in a local all-natural farm. Not much to say other than: we love it. Nothing, and I mean nothing compares to fresh from the garden produce. The butterhead lettuce has been so divine it doesn't even need dressing; I nibble leaves as I clean it. And we resurrected an old Dutch favorite with the kale: Boerenkool. It sounds disgusting, but it's delicious and one of my top-ten comfort foods along with peanut butter and honey toast. Feeling adventurous? I'm including the recipe. You can tweak as desired, changing the type of potatoes or the "extras" you use to mash them. But this is our all-time favorite combo.

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Boerenkool (Dutch potatoes and kale)

8 baby red potatoes
1 large bunch fresh kale
1/4 cup chopped green garlic
sour cream
sea salt

Wash the potatoes but don't peel. Chop into small pieces. Place in a saucepan and cover with water and a sprinkling of salt. Boil until potatoes are tender. As the potatoes are boiling, dice the green garlic and the cut the kale into bite-sized pieces. Fill a pot with an inch of water, a sprinkling of salt, and the green garlic. Bring to a boil. Add the kale. You may need to do this in stages; it will seem like a lot of kale at first but it will quickly wilt. When the potatoes are done, drain the water. Add sour cream and butter to taste (a spoonful at a time) or until the potatoes are the desired consistency. Drain the kale and green garlic. Add it to the potatoes and mash together. Sprinkle with fresh ground pepper.

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Don't judge the boerenkool! You can't knock it 'til you've tried it. Oh, and I almost forgot a key ingredient: sausage. You're supposed to serve boerenkool with sausage. Traditionally, it should be rookworst, a Dutch pork sausage, but we love it with Polish sausage and even ring bologna. You can make do. Yum, yum, yum. I'm drooling, even though we had it for supper last night.

Okay, your turn. What's your favorite weird food? I admitted to loving boerenkool and on my bio page I confess that I succumb the occasional peanut butter and pickle sandwich. How 'bout you?

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


Yup. I was right. We were having too much fun with my mom and dad-in-law in town this weekend to worry about blogging, checking email, or even working. Thus, I am behind. With a capital B and that rhymes with T and that stands for trouble. Thankfully, I seem to work well under pressure.

Anyway, I had one of those wonderful, life-is-so-beautiful moments on Friday, and though I should be writing I had to quickly post...

We were at a science museum with the kids and decided to take in the IMax show. It was called Amazing Caves, and though it didn't sound very interesting, we thought the boys would like the experience anyway. So we bought a big bag of requisite movie-theater buttery popcorn, tucked ourselves into over sized seats, and marveled at the four-story screen. When the film began, my five-year-old was sitting next to me peering between crisscrossed fingers with his knees pulled up to his chest. But by the mid-point, he was leaning forward, mouth agape, and eyes so wide I could see the movie reflected in them. He caught me staring at him in mommy-awe and whispered, "I think I'm going to be a cave man when I grow up." At my startled look he added, "Don't worry, I'll send postcards."

I find it adorable that my son wants to be a cave man (his term for cave explorers--I think the correct term is spelunkers?), even if it conjures up a mixed bag of images for me including overgrown beards from the Geico commercials and bright colored carabiners. But, as far as I'm concerned, even more important than the specific object of his current obsession is the fact that my son continues to dream. Last week he was going to be a football player, a fireman, and a cowboy. If we try to gently prod him one way or another, he digs in his heels, going so far as to call pastoring and writing (what his daddy and mommy do) "too boring for me." How cute is that?

At any rate, I blinked tears through the rest of the movie. The whole IMax experience and my son's reaction made me choke up with the realization of all we are and all the potential we hold. Our dreams are so boundless when we're young. We imagine sending postcards home from the edge of whatever reality we hope to construct for ourselves, and we can almost taste the stamp as we lick it. And then we grow up. Dreams change. Life gets in the way. And instead of exploring a cave in far-flung Malaysia, we're enclosed by the walls of a cubicle or a classroom or a kitchen. I don't mean to imply that those things are bad or that those of us who find our dreams changing are quitters or lack vision. But no matter where life takes us, I do think we have to keep dreaming.

At least once a year Aaron and I ask each other the question: What is your life's dream and what are you doing to accomplish it? In the ten years we've been married, the answer to that question has changed more times than I can remember. But it's a beautiful question to ask all the same. Several years ago my dream was to publish a book. I still can't believe that dream came true. And yet, I'm not done... It's taking me a while to articulate the new goals and dreams for my life, but that's okay, too. They're still there. I'll keep you posted. In the meantime, it may be too personal to write, but I'm going to ask all the same: What's your life's dream and what are you doing to accomplish it?

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Experiencing Skype

I had my first book club Skype chat today. Anybody Skype? Maybe I'm way behind the times, but I found it very strange to see a mirror image of myself (postage stamp sized) beneath a screen full of ladies who were gathered to discuss my book. Not bad strange (I actually really liked the experience!), but out-of-body in that I saw myself having a conversation. It was like watching a stranger. Or hearing my voice on the answering machine. (Don't you hate your voice on the answering machine?!?) Anyway, we had a great time, or at least, I did. The group asked excellent questions, and I hope I was able to shed some light on my writing process and where The Moment Between came from. I've been dying to talk about this book with people--this was a great start.

If you have a book club and would like to discuss The Moment Between (or any of my other books, for that matter), I'd love to join you in person (if you live within a 60 mile radius), or via telephone, email, or Skype. Drop me an email!

In other news, I have yet another chance for you to win a free copy of my newest book. Amber Stockton just posted an interview about the book and a giveaway. Just follow the link, leave a comment, and cross your fingers! This book will be a signed copy, and if you win I'll write you a love letter. Okay, maybe not a love letter. But it will be a nice note, I promise.

My in-laws are flying in from British Columbia today, so I may not blog for the rest of the week. I'm guessing we'll be having too much fun to worry about blogging, checking email, or doing anything besides enjoying each other's company. Have a great week!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Favorite things...

It's 80 degrees outside and I'm downright tingly with joy. Giddy. Ecstatic. It seems like everywhere I turn I come face-to-face with some scent, sound, or sight that is hardwired into my personal happiness index from a lifetime of coming alive in spring. I always say that I want to live where it's 75 degrees year round... But then I wonder if I'd feel this sweeping, almost epic delight in every little precious warm-weather experience. Somehow I doubt it.

Rather than try to be coherent, I'm going to leave it to lists today. These are the things I especially love when the sun-warmed grass turns green...

-The street washing ceremony before the Tulip Festival parade. For some reason the scent of water on warm cement heralds summer and all it holds.

-Throwing all the windows in my house wide open. Who cares if I have to dust daily?

-Marching bands. Spring and early summer in Iowa seems synonymous with parades, festivals, and fairs. And I love marching bands. They make me choke up. Weird, I know, but there you have it.

-The first radishes (just got mine today!). Soft white bread, real butter, thinly sliced radishes, and a sprinkle of salt. There's nothing better.

-Kissing all the bumps, bruises, scratches, and raspberries that my boys accumulate when their arms and legs are bare and vulnerable to every sharp edge and uneven sidewalk. Of course, I don't love it that they get hurt, but I love it that my kiss can still make it better. Even my 5 1/2 year old believes in the power of his mommy's kiss.

-The warm skin smell of little boys who have spent the day in the sun and wind. Mix in the tropical-sweet coco-nutty goodness of sunblock and you have a fragrance to rival any $100 perfume.

-Eating nearly every meal off the grill. We grill frozen pizzas, peach halves, all our veggies, bacon and sausage for breakfast... Carcinogen or not, everything takes better with a little char.

Yay for summer! I was a cheerleader in high school (imagine that--ha!), and if I was fifteen years younger and still capable of executing the splits I'd make up a summer cheer. But I won't. Lucky for all of us. I will, however, ask you to share... What do you look forward to when the days get long? What's your favorite thing about summer? We have three and a half months left--I plan on enjoying every minute of it.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Tulip Festival Signings

On Friday and Saturday from 10-1 I'll be signing books at the Tulip Festival. If you live nearby you know what that is, and I'm not above begging: come say hi! I feel like such a tool at booksignings... And it's compounded by the fact that they're making me wear a traditional Dutch costume and wooden shoes. Or are they? You won't know unless you come and see. How's that for tricky? ;)

But seriously, come. And not just for me. Vicky Myron (of Dewey, NYT #1 Bestseller fame) will be there and so will twenty other authors of varying disciplines and backgrounds. Poets, novelists, children's authors... It'll be fun. Besides, you wouldn't want to miss the Straat Feest or the Volksparade. Oooh, don't forget my personal favorite the Street Scrubbing. Talk about good, clean fun. (That was bad, I know. Sorry. I have a relative who is the king of puns and from time to time his influence manifests itself in a very, very lame joke. Sorry. I'm done now.)

See you at the Author Corner!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

At long last...

My brain is mush. I wrote well over 4,000 words yesterday in the hopes of completing my fourth book by next week. Can I say I love it? I do. I absolutely love it. It's very hard for me to discern at this stage in the game if the book is "good"--if it's something that my agent and publisher will like, if it's something audiences will respond to--but I think it's a positive sign that I hop out of bed in the morning ecstatic to keep working on it.

Again, this book is a different bird for me. After the Leaves Fall and Summer Snow were sort of sweet and reflective. The Moment Between is weighted and gripping. And my fourth book is a bit of a mix of the two with moments of real humor and... fun. Yeah, there are a lot of fun things in this book. One of my characters, a young woman named Meg Painter, is an Avril Lavigne sort of girl--tomboyish, tough, a little wild. She makes for many interesting scenes, and I had to learn a lot about BMX, football, and hitchhiking to make her come to life. No, I didn't hitchhike; Aaron wouldn't let me. Yesterday I wrote a chapter that kept my heart pumping from beginning to end... Sometimes it's hard when your characters grow and evolve in ways you never planned. I'd love to tell you more, but I'll have to leave it at that for now.

However, I can tell you that in my scene from yesterday I believe I finally unearthed the title of this book! Hooray! I'm so sick of calling it "My Fourth Book," though I do think it would be funny to actually title a book that someday. Maybe when I make it to my tenth I'll just call it that. #10. Anyway, without further ado, the bit of dialogue that contains the title:

“Hey,” Dawson said before she could muster the courage to speak. “It’s okay, Meg. You’re still my girl. You’re just my sometimes girl. Sometimes I have you, sometimes I don’t. It’s enough.” He didn’t say "for now," but the limitation was implied.

Did you catch it? Sometimes Girl.

Hmmm. I loved it last night and so did Aaron. Now it seems a little... I don't know. We'll see. Titles are the hardest part of writing for me and I always come up with them at the very last minute. More accurately, my agent and editors steer me in the right direction at the very last minute. I was dead-set on calling The Moment Between by a much grittier title: The Body Broken. Maybe Sometimes Girl will change. Maybe not. What do you think?

Help me out here. If you're a writer, how do you come up with a title? If you're not a writer, what are some of your all-time favorite book or movie titles? I'd love to hear what sorts of titles grab you.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Pre-Grad & TMB Reviews

My Big Boy graduates from preschool today. Yes, I am wiping a tear, and yes, I know that's pathetic. But he's my baby. Okay, not so much a baby anymore at the ripe old age of five and a half. I'm continually astounded at how he is growing into such a handsome, gentle, intelligent young man. Yesterday we spent the afternoon and evening on 95 acres of gorgeous Iowa land with some friends of ours who are in the process of restoring it to original prairie and grasslands. (Think untouched beauty.) My Big Boy was in his glory, riding quads (4-wheelers for you Americans) through the hills and trees, and fishing on the pond. He caught a grand total of ten fish (mostly bullheads--yuck--but a few sunfish, too), roasted his own hot dog on the fire, and made his mommy's chest hurt every time she looked at him. Oh, time flies.

Anyway, I don't have time to blog today (graduation is in 1/2 an hour!), but I wanted to leave you with a few recent reviews of The Moment Between. Enjoy!

From Rel Mollet at Title Trakk:
Nicole expresses the gamut of human emotion with tenderness and lyrical artistry with sentences like this commonplace, "The word snagged on an exposed corner of Abigail's carefully veiled heart and floated there, a balloon anchored by the sharp edge of her skepticism." As an artist wields a paintbrush, Nicole uses words to create an agonizingly beautiful picture of a broken mind struggling for freedom and the repercussions for those who choose to love through exquisite pain and sacrifice... To read the rest, click here.

From Katie at Brain Throw Up:
The story is rich in psychology, dealing with family dysfunction and the impact of mental illness. Nicole Baart's prose are captivating and beautiful, reading like poetry and gliding over the tongue like a fine wine, which is appropriate, as wine is used symbolically throughout the novel. The characters are deep, the plot is piercing, and the message is subtle, yet profound. If you are looking for a story that will stick with you long after you shut the book, this is a must read... To read the rest, click here.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Ten Years

Yesterday Aaron and I celebrated our ten-year anniversary. What is that? Gold? Diamonds? Paper? Ten and a half years ago when I was engaged to the man of my dreams and planning the wedding of my dreams, someone gave me a chart that explained what each anniversary meant and what we were supposed to give each other to celebrate it. Nah. That's not our style. Instead, we hired a babysitter and skipped town for the evening. We did shop a bit (Aaron found the white belt and flip-flops he had been hunting for, and I fell in love with a perfume called Sexy Little Things Noir--so I guess ten-years equals belts and perfume to the Baarts?), and then we went out for a three-hour supper overlooking the river. Baked shrimp with Havarti, pineapple glazed salmon, and cheesecake for dessert. It was perfect. We talked about books, work, our kids, and the highlights of our decade as man and wife. The birth of our son, traveling to Ethiopia to claim our second son, and buying our first house ranked high. But then, so did the Saturday morning tradition of our first year of marriage (Pillsbury cinnamon rolls in bed), the crappy apartment that we called home after we said "I do," and bumming on the couch in flannel pjs watching Hockey Night in Canada. Oh, life is sweet. Marriage is sweet. Here's to ten amazing years. May there be a hundred more.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Au Naturale

Aaron and I have a yearly goal: every year we choose one thing in our lives that we want to work on. At the beginning of our marriage we made a commitment to treat each other with the same kindness and patience we would offer a stranger (isn't it sad how we often forget to respect our loved ones with little common courtesies?). A few years ago we made a pact to give sacrificially of our money and resources. It hurt at first, but we're slowly getting to the point where we don't see our money, our possessions, or even our home as our own. And this year we've decided to take better care of ourselves and our family--by upping our activity, eating healthier, and going organic as much as possible.

I won't lie to you. It's hard. At 12:30 when my kids are hungry, tired, and more than ready for their afternoon nap, you can bet a box of Mac n' Cheese is the fastest and easiest way to pacify them. But have you ever looked at the so-called nutritional value? I might as well feed them cardboard spread with butter. Eating healthy takes a work, and a lot of creativity--especially when two eaters in your family are little and think nothing could compare to a pudding filled long john with buttercream icing and chocolate stripes. Mmmm... I'm not sure I think anything could compare to that!

Anyway, in a grand effort to change my family's eating habits, I just bought a half-share in a summer program run by a naturally grown vegetable farm in my community. Every week I get to look forward to a box of fresh, homegrown, organic vegetables that have been harvested directly from sweet Iowa soil. The first pick up is this coming Tuesday, and I've been told I can look forward to lots of greens, spinach, asparagus, radishes, and other early spring offerings. In the coming weeks my box o' veggies will change to reflect the season, from broccoli and cauliflower mid-summer, to tomatoes, potatoes, and peppers near the end. It's kind of silly, but I'm giddy with excitement. Over vegetables.

I love buying things that are locally grown. I love it that our summer will be filled with fresh, pesticide and herbicide free foods. I love it that I'll be expanding my culinary horizons, and I'm even looking forward to eggplant--a food I've never tasted in all my 31 years. I love it that we're taking steps, however small to living a more simple, healthy, and green life.

I'll keep you updated as the summer progresses. Apparently, in addition to receiving an overflowing box of fresh produce, I'll also receive recipes and ideas for how to prepare it. As I come across good ones, I'll pass them on. And I'll let you know how my kids are reacting to fresh crudites and homemade dips for their after-nap snack. Sorry Keebler. Your elves have been officially banned from the Baart house. Well, I suppose they could still sneak in for the occasional visit.

How about you? Do you have any good recipes? Any tips for eating healthy and reducing environmental impact by buying locally? I think my next step is to join the local food co-op, but Aaron's afraid that I'll make him stop cutting his hair and force him to wear clothes made out of hemp. Come now, I can't imagine I'll ever lose my love for my hubby in a slim-fitting J. Crew dress shirt. But hey, never say never...

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Guest Blog & Giveaway

Dar at Peeking Between the Pages has just posted a review and guest blog pertaining to The Moment Between. Her review is incredibly well-written and thorough--I really enjoyed reading her reactions to the book. And I wrote the guest blog a week or so ago. It's all about wine and how it ties into the book. Head on over and browse around Dar's fabulous site. Don't forget to leave a comment on the guest blog! Dar and Tyndale are giving away two free copies of The Moment Between. Free books seem to abound these days. :)

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

CBD Interview

Gotta love Google-Alert. About once a day I get a nice, little email in my inbox telling me where The Moment Between is popping up on the web. Usually, I'm completely surprised. Anyway, today I was told that CBD just posted an online interview about my latest release. Want to know more about the book, my writing process, authors I love? Check it out. And while you're there, buy the book! How's that for shameless? ;)

Monday, May 4, 2009

Character Spotlight

Another quickie... blog that is. Just wanted to direct you to RelzReviewz where the the lovely Rel has just posted a character spotlight of Abigail and Hailey, the sister duo that is showcased in The Moment Between. The blog is full of interesting information about these ladies including appearance, quirks, and my inspiration for the characters. I wrote this spotlight a few months ago and was surprised to re-read some of my own words. Apparently, Ingrid Michaelson's music played a role in inspiring the relationship between Abigail and Hailey... Music definitely factors in to my writing process, but after the book is finished sometimes I forget just how important the soundtrack was. Maybe I should post my soundtrack sometime soon. Anyway, check out the post, and while you're there, spend some time enjoying Rel's site. She has a remarkable collection of reviews, interviews, and many more character spotlights.

PS - If you're here from AuthorBuzz, welcome! I hope you enjoy peeking around. Don't forget to send me an email if you'd like to be entered in a drawing for a free book. More info in the post below.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Author Buzz & Free Books

After a delayed flight, an unexpected sleepover in the windy city, a mild sunburn, and eight days of pure bliss in sunny southern Florida, we're finally home! And no, there were no python sightings (but Aaron told me that pythons drop on their prey from the branches of trees and I did have a very hard time walking under trees the entire time we were there). Though I loved the pool, the hot tub, the beaches, the sun... I have to admit it feels good to find underwear in my drawer instead of the sandy bottom of my suitcase. Dorothy was right--there's no place like home.

Anyway, I have much to write about but I need to scour off the final remnants of potential swine flu germs (did I mention I HATE to fly?), and after that there is a bottle of Chenin Blanc calling my name. Well, not the whole bottle. ;) But, I couldn't let another day pass without saying hello, and extending a special welcome to any visitors who found their way here through the Author Buzz website. The Moment Between is one of the featured books on Author Buzz this week, and in celebration of the official release we're giving away five copies of the book! All you have to do is email me at with one reason why you'd like to win. Please write Giveaway in the subject line. Buena suerte!