Tuesday Tips – How To Avoid Smudges When Coloring

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As much as I like the color of water color pens, they are still wet when you’re using them.  They don’t dry quickly and this can lead to smudges – from ink that gets on your hands while you’re coloring, or from ink that gets on whatever surface you’re coloring on.

Here’s what I’ve learned works for me:  I use a clean sheet of paper when I’m coloring.  If I leave the pattern in the coloring book, then I use two sheets, one on each side of the design.  If I remove the pattern piece from the book, then I use one sheet under my coloring, then I rest my hand on the other one so that I don’t accidentally transfer color with the heel of my hand.

The only thing you want to be careful of, is if you have a particularly wet pen, you don’t want it to transfer from your blotter sheet to the design.

What about you, Dear Reader?  What tips for coloring do you like to use?

Make Something Monday – Coloring

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Image drawn by John Green, from Dover Publications Little Seashore Stained Glass Coloring Book; colored by A. Catherine Noon.

 

Okay, ever since I started knitting, I’ve discovered that I’m hip.  Not because I’m, like, hip, or something; but because, apparently, what I’m into is the new black.  My theory is, it’s all us X-Geners putting our collective spending power together and making stuff popular because we want to buy it.  Take coloring books, for instance.  I’ve adored coloring books for years.  My two favorites are the Dover line of Stained Glass Coloring Books and mandala coloring books.  The latter were hard to find up until this holiday season when, apparently, booksellers started listening to me and my X-Gener pals and poof – lots of options.

Just in time for me to be on a budget, of course.  🙂

But I figured I’d share some of what I’ve been up to, particularly because it dovetails nicely with the whole yoga-meditate-getinthemoment-beinthebody vibe that I’ve got going lately.

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This one is held up against my monitor so you can see it by the glow of the light.  That’s why I like these, because they are translucent.  One project I’d like to do at some point is make a Japanese-style paper lantern using these colored designs.

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Here’s the back of the book so you can read a little more about it.  (If you click on the image, it will jump you to the Amazon page if you’re interested in shopping.)

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I figured a discussion of pens is warranted, especially since there’s such an interest in adult coloring books now.  I’m a pen snob.  This will not surprise any of you who have been reading me a while, but I say it because I’m extraordinarily picky about what pens I like to use.  Pentel pens are, by far, my favorite for luminosity and lasting power of the pens themselves.  I know there are more expensive and higher quality pens (I made the mistake of telling a graphic artist friend of my love affair with Pentel and got an ear-full).  But here’s why I like these:  I’ve owned this specific set for OVER 20 years.  No, that’s not a typo.  The red’s a little dry now, and so is one of the greys, but by and large it’s still working for what I need it to do – color coloring books so I can relax.  I don’t use them for serious Art with a capital A.  (Well, that’s not true – I have used them for that; my point is, I’m not saying these are the best pens out there, just that they’re my favorite).

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Here’s the inside of the set; I like this wallet type.  I saw online that there’s a version in a rectangular case, but this one allows me to put them in the order I want them in and they stay organized.  They do sell smaller sets, if you don’t want to fork over the money for all 36; I used a smaller set for years too.  They really seem to last.  I’ve put a hyperlink to Amazon in the image so if you click on it, it’ll jump you to the shopping page.

Tell me, Dear Reader, what are your favorite coloring books and tools?  Pens?  Pencils?  I’d love to know.

(I think I’ve fixed the comment problems, but holler if not; email is a.catherine.noon AT gmail.)

 

L Is For… Lace!

Image Copyright 2014 by A. Catherine Noon, All Rights Reserved

Lace | Art | Fun

Lace is to a knitter what oils are to a painter:  something toward which to aspire, elevated from craft to Craft, and darned fun to work with.  Tricky, too; did we mention that?  You can’t just clean your oil paint brushes in water, and it takes 24 hours at least for a layer to dry so you have to have commitment to paint in oils.  Knitting lace is similar:  it looks complicated to do (but isn’t always); it requires concentration; and it’s a ton of fun.  But it’s tricky – if you lose count of your rows or stitches, you can get lost in the middle somewhere without the breadcrumbs to come home.

I would be mistaken to say that lace knitting and knit lace are the same; there’s a hot debate in the knitting community, (yes, Dear Reader, knitters have our quibbling over details just like readers and writers do).  The difference, simply put, is lace knitting is putting holes in regular (plain) knitting, and knit lace is making lace with knitting needles.

Wow, that’s a really obvious distinction, huh?  Not.  🙂

I have found that I like lace knitting.  I have found knit lace more challenging, because it’s easier to mix oneself up; however, if you concentrate and start with a simple pattern with just a few row repeats, you’ll be off to the races in no time.

What about you, Dear Reader?
What complicated tasks can you perform today, that seemed hard before you learned to do them?

K Is For… Knitting

Knitting is magical.  You take a continuous filament of fiber, two sticks, and make art.  How cool is that?

Despite how it looks, knitting isn’t all that old.  Crochet is a much more ancient art; the earliest known knitting artifacts are from Turkey about a thousand years ago.  If you’re a fiber geek, here’s a look at the first known knitting, along with an engrossing article about knitting history on the popular online knitting magazine, Knitty.

One of the reasons knitting wasn’t done more frequently is that the metallurgy technology to make consistently-sized needles didn’t exist in Europe until the Renaissance.  What makes knitting repeatable and consistent is the diameter of the sticks used; in earlier times, knitting needles were actual needles made of metal.  Nowadays, of course, we can find needles made with all sorts of materials – acrylic, bamboo, ceramics, and wood, to name a few (and I unintentionally alphabetized the list, thank you A-Z Challenge!).

Aside from the art and history of it, I knit because of the Zen of it.  I find the magic of knitting in the simple fact that putting one stitch after the other makes something beautiful, it’s relaxing, and it warms my hands.  I can do it around other people and carry on a conversation, I knit while watching television shows, or I knit on the train.  It’s something I can do anywhere, in all kinds of weather unless it’s swelteringly hot – though even then, I’ve managed to make tiny things like amulet bags.

What about you, Dear Reader?
What made you start your favorite hobby?

 

F Is For… Fancywork

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Fancywork.  It means fancy needlework or crochet, even tatting, that is decorative.  It was popular during the Victorian era and brought us all sorts of neat things like tatted lace edgings and crochet doilies and such.  For anyone interested in textile arts, fancywork comes up in the lineage of our art even if what we do now is ultra-modern.

Interweave Press, the popular publisher of many different kinds of textile arts books, magazines, DVDs, and sites (Knitting Daily is inspiring even if you’re an occasional knitter), re-released the historic needlework collection, Weldon’s Practical Needlework.  What I found fascinating about the collection is its emphasis on figuring it out oneself.  There’s a lot of knowledge that’s assumed, that for modern craftspersons isn’t necessarily part of the repertoire.

And then came Jane Sowerby, with Victorian Lace Today.  She looks at several historical sources, including Weldon’s, and reinterprets them for modern artists.  While the book focuses on knitting, it gives a fascinating look into historical craft and gives modern interpretations that are sure to have you reaching for your needles.

What about you, Dear Reader?
What historical craft speaks to you, even if its skill isn’t within reach right at the present moment?

E Is For… Embroidery

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Piece from a kit; original company unknown. Embroidered by A. Catherine Noon. Photo copyright A. Catherine Noon, All Rights Reserved.

Embroidery.  It was the first textile art I ever learned.  Crewel embroidery is an art with a long history.  The Bayeux Tapestry, in fact, is not a Tapestry, nor woven:  it was, in fact, embroidered.  The Victoria and Albert Museum in England has a fantastic page on the history of English embroidery, here.  Embroidery has a wide history, not just in Europe, with some of the oldest references dating back to China 500 B.C.E.

I find it relaxing.  I have started to work on my own designs, usually modifying an existing one as from a kit, like the one from the left (which is one of my oldest pieces, and I did not modify it; I think I made it around 1987).  Embroidery artists are able to translate their graphic ideas into needle, thread, and fabric, and do so either from their own original designs or by adapting from paintings and other art.  I find that pretty darned amazing, to be honest.

I confess, though, that I adore kits.  I find ones that I like, and then it’s like coloring in designs in a coloring book.  My mind relaxes while my hands are kept busy, and I get to play with color and texture.  While embroidery seems intimidating to the beginner, needlepoint and cross-stitch are both needle arts that similarly have kits and can be done with little to no experience.  If you’ve a mind to try embroidery, though, give it a shot – I made this piece before I learned anything from another textile artist, and was able to follow the instructions.  Most of the stitches are fairly simple ones; the only more complex bit the French knots (which, in the spirit of full disclosure, I found horridly difficult – so after this kit, I made sure to pick ones that didn’t require them).

But for the adventurous artist, and for those of you who are able to translate flat, written instructions and graphics to the three-dimensional world of canvas and thread, the world is your oyster.  There’s a burgeoning interest in needlework and some amazing books that have come out recently that are sure to delight both the novice and experience needleworker.  My favorite of the new artists is Jane Nicholas, but beware: viewing her site may consume many hours of your time because her art is captivating.  You have been warned.  🙂

What about you, Dear Reader?
What classical art catches your fancy?

Saturday Showcase: Elizabeth Brooks Answers the Question

Elizabeth Brooks is amazing.  She’s talented.  She’s a writer and an editor and a darn fine human being.  And when I asked her, do you craft, she laughed.

Laughed.

Here then, is Elizabeth Brooks and “Sampler Platter.”  Enjoy!

Sampler Platter

So Noony put out a call, asking for blog posts about all kinds of things, including crafts.

Do I craft?

Oh, do I! I’m not actually that good at any of them, though, mind you, because I take a rather “sampler platter” approach to all kinds of crafts: I get interested in something, and I get deeply invested in it for a while… usually just long enough to learn the basics and assure myself that yep, I can do that… and then I lose interest and move on to something else.

I’ve done latchhook and needlepoint and embroidery. I’ve made my own clothes (both everyday — which were mostly miserable failures — and some fantasy/sci-fi garb for cons). I spent most of grad school making a counted cross-stitch piece involving a dragon on a castle in a lake that was huge and gorgeous and by the time I was done, I never wanted to see another cross-stitch pattern again in my life. (To this day, I haven’t seen a pattern that’s made me want to pick it back up again.) I’ve been an on-again, off-again amateur photographer since my parents gave me my first camera at the age of ten, and of course, with all those photographs, I got into scrapbooking for a good while, too.

There are tons of other crafts that I’ve toyed with, but never quite gotten fully into: cake decorating, jewelry-making, and assorted flavors of ethnic cooking, to name only a few.

But yarncraft, oh my goodness, yes. I learned to crochet when I was 13, more or less shamed into it by my great-aunt, who made gorgeous pieces despite being blind. I learned to do little bits, then dropped it for a decade, only to pick it back up after that cross-stitch overload I mentioned. I’m terrible at maintaining a gauge, though, so I mostly made things like afghans, where that’s not quite as important. I made about four afghans (they make fantastic gifts when you’re fresh out of school and poor), then transitioned to crocheting thread instead of yarn. I made a whole slew of lace-covered Christmas ornaments [photo at left] and some breadbasket cloths before dropping it again. After that, I decided I needed to teach myself how to knit, so I did — I made a scarf and a couple of Christmas stockings, but I found it lots slower than crochet, and then I had my first kid and my free time went away, and I put all the yarn away.

But my kids are older now, and just a few months ago, the (unintentionally) combined efforts of several friends and acquaintances got me hooked (hah! I love puns!) on making amigurumi (crocheted toys, essentially).

I love that they’re generally small and easy to make — my favorite pattern is a palm-sized octopus that I can whip out in about an hour and a half, but I’ve made dozens and dozens of different things in the last three or four months. I started with food, then made flowers. Then it was Easter time, so I made a bunch of eggs and bunnies.

I’m an enormous geek who’s just gotten into a Doctor Who obsession, so I made a bunny with a fez and bow tie. Then I made a couple of Daleks in wacky colors, and a weeping angel.

Then I found a little chibi-Cthulhu pattern (did I mention I was a geek?). And after I made one for myself, a friend of mine made some crack to me about Cthulhu porn (“Cockthulhu: The Throbbing Tentacles of Pulsing Purple Passion“) and just to punish him for putting that image in my brain, I made him a chibi-Cthulhu with penises instead of tentacles. (No photo for that. You’re welcome.)

Just about the time I was finishing that up, my friend Lynn showed me this picture of some adorable Elder Gods.

It rather lit a spark in my brain, and now I’m trying to make all of them, though since I’m working without patterns (except for the Cthulhu, of course, since he was already done), it’s a bit slower-going. I’ve got Hastur done, and Nyarlathotep, and Yog-Sothoth. I’m doing Shub-Niggurath now, though it’s slow going because working in black yarn is hell on my eyes. I’m saving Dagon for last, because he’ll be the easiest, actually. But here’s a picture of my Little Horrors family so far:

…Yeah, I’m not quite right in the head. I know. But just for enduring my wrongness, I’m offering up a contest! Leave a comment, and in 1 week?, one random commenter will be drawn to receive an octopus in a color of their choice! (NB: you need to be willing to send us a private message with a working mailing address that can receive a smallish package.)

And if you ask really nicely, I just might include a top hat for him.

* * *

Masquerading by day as an uptight corporate cog, Elizabeth spends her nights concocting gleefully smutty stories. She writes erotic romances for a wide span of worlds, genres, and orientations, and is also a senior editor for Torquere Press. When she’s not writing or editing, she loves a wide range of generally nerdy hobbies, including reading, photography, tabletop games, geeky yarncraft, and silly smartphone games. You can find her online at her blog or on Facebook.

Elizabeth’s latest release is Foxfur, available from Torquere Press on November 13.

Blurb:

Pleasure-slave Cheng takes no particular note of the red-haired woman when she purchases his services. But the morning after her departure, Cheng is taken into custody by the Emperor’s own guards and brought before one of the rare and terrifying Chained Mages. Already frightened and confused, things go from bad to worse for Cheng when the mage reveals the demonic nature of the red-haired woman. Now not only Cheng’s life, but the lives of everyone around him, depend on their finding the fox-demon as soon as possible.

As a Chained Mage, Jin is at best feared, and at worst, despised. But he can’t allow his personal feelings to interfere with his mission, not even when his admiration for the slave deepens. In fact, Jin’s love may result in a disaster. The fox-demon has placed a spell in Cheng, a spell designed to turn his sexual energy to a murderous ends, endangering himself and everyone around him. And worst of all, they’re not the only hunters on the fox-demon’s trail!

Saturday Showcase – Upcoming Releases!

I’m so excited.  I’ve been emailing around the interwebs and am tickled pink, purple, and yellow to report that I have TWO surprises for you coming in October!

October 19th, author Tina Holland will be coming to KK to talk about her craft of scrapbooking.  Tina is a trip – she lives on a self-proclaimed “hobby farm” in Minnesota, writes sexy romances with the tagline, “Have You Been Naughty Today?” and hopes one day to open a bed and breakfast with her husband, a pilot and something of a mad scientist himself.  My kind of people!

When I asked Tina what crafts she likes, she said none.  None?  NONE?  Well, scrapbooking.  It’s really her aunt’s passion, she told me, but from the sounds of it I think Tina qualifies as a crafter.  Have you seen some of these scrapbooks?  But I want to know more about why she focuses on writing and what niche it fills for her in terms of creative expression, and how that ties in with scrapbooking.  I can’t wait.

On October 26th, author and textile artist Maddy Barone will be coming to play!  I so want to marry Maddy and hide her away as my kept woman to write books and make stuff.  Multi-talented, she can design period clothing, knit, write awesome books, and I wouldn’t be surprised to find out she can do magic too.  We haven’t yet managed to meet in person, though we’ve talked on the phone, but one day I will make her part of the Noonypod.

Noonypod.  I just made that up.  I love it!  🙂

Now, don’t be like that.  You won’t be assimilated, silly!

At least not until October…  o.O…

Saturday Showcase – In the Garden with J. M. Cartwright

After I did the call for authors who craft, J. M. Cartwright contact me and mentioned she loves to garden. Given all the work that goes into creating a garden, I absolutely consider it a craft as much as knitting or woodworking are. I asked J. M. some interview questions and here are her thoughts on life, the universe, and dirt:

K.K. Tell me a little more about what crafts you do. What do you like to make?

J.M.C. My craft is gardening, which is a fairly unforgiving craft, since we depend on sunlight and water and good soil to be successful. Oh, and a boatload of elbow grease. Uh-huh.

K.K. When did you learn to do crafts?

J.M.C. Hah. Gardening is a learn-by-doing exercise in frustration. The gardens continue to evolve because the product is a growing one. Literally. I’ve learned from other gardeners and from a fabulous magazine, Fine Gardening. It helps to see what others are doing, learn from their mistakes and copying their successes – though I do tend to add my own touches to things. I like to take an idea and twist it, bend it, enlarge it, make it my own.

It struck me this season that my gardens are ten years old this year. Whoa. I look around at the beds around my home and I’m amazed. When I moved to this home in 2002, there were some good foundation shrubs and a bounty of beautiful deciduous trees, plus two gorgeous blue spruces. Most of the trees are probably as old as my home (55 years), so the shade, the shape, the impact they have on my home are substantial. My airconditioning doesn’t have to work as hard as the systems in other homes, which is mighty nice. So I’ve been actively gardening with ground gardens and pots for these ten years. Prior to that, it was baskets and pots on decks and balconies. However, I’ve been an indoor plant person for a lot longer than that.

K.K. Have you ever given a craft to a character? How did you go about it? What research did it require?

J.M.C. Absolutely! One of my first books, A Change Of Scenery, had MC Stephen owning and operating a gardening shop in a small city in West Virginia. I used my work experience of dealing with landscapers (designers and installers), plus my own personal experience of being a consumer. Lots of consuming going on there, let me tell you.

K.K. What effect does your writing have on your crafting and vice-versa? Does one fall off when the other is stronger, or do they synergize?

J.M.C. It’s definitely synergy. How can it not be? The more I do it, the better I can write about it. The more I write about it, the more I want to do it – and have my characters enjoy doing it, too.

K.K. What do you dream of making when you have the time or skills?

J.M.C. I’d love to have several acres where I could expand my gardens. Currently I have two distinct gardens, one full shade and one full sun. The other beds are a mix. So having more land to work with would allow me to create individual spaces that speak to the different loves I have for growing things. I’d create some outdoor rooms, which is what these spaces are now called. They bringing seating, tables, hardscape into the garden, allowing people to experience the gardens while performing life activities.

K.K. Where do you get ideas for your crafts?

J.M.C. Magazines, other gardens, my imagination!

K.K. Any other questions you want me to ask that I haven’t yet? 😉

J.M.C. In the last two decades, I’ve noticed a substantial increase in the number of people who garden. A garden can be three or four containers on a balcony or it can be several acres in size. The point I’m making is that more people are recognizing what a difference it makes, whether we live in urban, suburban or rural settings, to have beauty surround us. It softens our hearts, eases our souls, brings out the joy and kindness in us. We need more of that in our lives, not less.

So I say, grow, baby, grow!

Biography

A little bit of info…

I’ve been a mix of a dreamer and a doer for pretty much my whole life. The doer part is usually in charge. But I think it’s the dreamer that adds the spice, the panache and the zest.

My stories come from both sides – the doer helps me get the damned things done while the dreamer lets me express my creative, artistic side. My day job of running a small business appreciates both parts and I’ve learned to be more patient, more thoughtful as I go through the day-to-day tasks and interact with people. I’ve learned to appreciate a lot more things about my life since I started seriously writing, and I’ve had an entire world opened up to me from the day I was brave enough to click send and submit my manuscript.

Saturday Showcase – Sitting with Selena Robins

Selena Robins is a kindred spirit. We met through shared writing acquaintances and have become fast friends through Facebook and similar passions – writing, food, craft, and family. I’m excited to bring you an interview with Selena in which she discusses her pursuit of culinary perfection. Please held me welcome Selena to Knoontime Knitting!

KK: Tell me a little more about your passion for your craft. What do you like to make?

SR: My craft is the oldest profession in the world—cooking. I’m a big time foodie, so I watch a lot of cooking shows. I love Iron Chef. I then try (the operative word here is try) to replicate what the Iron Chefs made. However, I won’t attempt anything that involves organ meats or gooey duck. My favorite things to cook is anything Italian.

Italian food is food inspired from the soul, simple to make, delicious, nutritious and shared with family and friends with pride. Italian recipes are handed down from generations of great cooks from the mother country.

Disclaimer: When I say recipes handed down, I’m not talking about the traditional cook book, detailing ingredients and exact measurements.

KK: When did you learn to cook?

SR: I learned how to cook at a young age from my mom, who was the best cook in the world. I know we all say that about our moms, but in my case it’s true. She could produce a seven course meal without ever turning a page in a recipe book or having state-of-the-art kitchen appliances or gadgets.

It was a rite of passage in our family (daughters and sons) to learn how to make homemade pasta and tomato sauce. Emphasis on homemade. Heaven forbid an Italian is caught with store-bought sauce or worse have a can of Spaghettio’s in the cupboard. Open one of those babies and your FBI status (Full Bloodied Italian) would be taken away.

My mom taught me to cook using my senses; sight, touch, taste, smell, listen. The latter was ultra important in our household. Always, listen to mamma.

KK: Have you ever given your love of cooking to a character?

SR: With my published novels, both my heroines do not like to cook, not only do they not like it, they can’t be bothered learning. However, I did give the skill to the hero’s. So sexy to see a man in the kitchen. With my two works in progress, the heroines do love cooking as much as I do.

KK: What effect does your writing have on your cooking and vice-versa? Does one fall off when the other is stronger, or do they synergize?

SR: The same techniques I use in cooking I also apply when writing, adding a lot of love into my writing craft. Using all the senses: touch, taste, sight and smell, creating characters, dialogue and plots that will give the reader not only a visual experience of what’s happening, but hopefully they can taste what the characters are tasting, smell the scents of the scenery, close their eyes and hear the voices (not the ones in our heads, that’s another story), but the tone of the characters, and most importantly feel the passion I (and other writer’s) have put into creating a wonderful story to draw the reader into a comical, suspenseful, mysterious and romantic world.

KK: What do you dream of making when you have the time or skills?

SR: The perfect pie crust recipe. I cannot master a pie crust. I can make homemade bread, cakes, pastas, pizza, but that perfect pie crust still haunts me.

KK: Those of you who have been following the Saturday Showcase know that I include pictures of the authors’ art. Selena has taken that one step further and included a recipe that we can try ourselves! If you try it, we’d love to hear how you liked it in the Comments.

Pasta e Fagioli

This recipe can be made and eaten the same day, but it tastes even better if you make it a day ahead of time and serve it the next day, as all the ingredients and goodness marinate together.

Ingredients:

  • olive oil
  • 5 chopped tomatoes (or a can of plum tomatoes)
  • 1 cup onion (finely chopped)
  • 2 cloves garlic (minced)
  • 6 cups beef broth (or vegetable stock)
  • 1 can red kidney beans (drained and well rinsed)
  • 1 can white kidney beans (drained and well rinsed)
  • 1 can chick peas (drained and well rinsed)
  • ½ cup fresh basil (chopped)
  • **3 cups meatballs (use your favorite meatball recipe and make them tiny bite sized)
  • Pinch red pepper flakes, optional
  • Freshly grated Parmesan Cheese
  • Pasta (your choice: penne, elbow, tubetti)

**Note: If you don’t want to make meatballs, you can use ground beef, or skip the meat all together.

Directions:

  • Coat soup pot with olive oil and heat oil on medium. Once oil is heated, add onion and cook until onion is transparent, then add garlic and keep stirring until garlic is infused with the onion.
  • Add tomatoes and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring.
  • Add broth and let cook (uncovered) for 45 minutes.
  • Add red beans, white beans, chick peas, meatballs or sautéed ground beef if you are using meat, and let cook for 15 minutes
  • In a separate pot, boil water and make pasta according to package directions
  • While the pasta is cooking, add the chopped basil, red pepper flakes and salt and pepper to taste and let the soup keep cooking.
  • Once pasta is cooked, drain it and add it to the soup pot.
  • Ladle the soup into bowls. Sprinkle with freshly grated Parmesan cheese and drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil just before serving.

Note: If making soup the day ahead, then don’t add any pasta, make the pasta the day you will be serving the soup.

Buon appetito!

Biography

Genre-defying, witty, humorous, suspenseful, romantic and sexy — words used to describe Selena’s novels. A self-professed foodie and chocolate guru, Selena loves to dance with her dog, sing into her hairbrush and write in her PJ’s. In love with her family, friends, books, laughter, hockey, lively discussions and red wine, (sometimes all at the same time). Selena is a dragon slayer who enjoys reading and writing sassy heroines and hot heroes (the ones your mamma warned you about, but secretly wished she’d dated a few in her life).