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On this, the eve of publication of my third (and long-awaited) novel, Starting from Scratch, I figured I needed to post about book reviews.

I don't intend to speak for every author in the world, but there's generally a reason they climb out of bed each morning, shuffle their way into the kitchen and turn on the coffee maker, and then sit in front of their computer screen until they have a headache and they can't feel their butts anymore:

They have an idea for a story, and they can't rest until it's written down. 

Yes, being an author is so charming and quaint and it's such a cool lifestyle, blah blah blah. You can wear hipster glasses and go to coffee shops and drink huge steaming cups of tea. And obviously you'll be rich, right? The reality of it sucks so much more.

You have an idea, great! It's turning that idea into a 300+ page novel with realistic characters, a believable plot, momentum to keep the story moving, mind-blowing sexual tension...that's the difficult part. And I haven't even talked about editing and formatting and re-writing, or any of the other crap that comes after you finish writing.

So why do authors do it? Why did I spend a year and a half writing and re-writing a story that I promised my readers would be out in the Fall of 2013? Why not just give up? It certainly wasn't the book sales from Baking Bree or Passion's Tide. So why do it at all?

"This is truly one of the best books I've read in awhile. I easily found myself engrossed in it and had a hard time putting it down. I found myself saying , "5 more minutes" and looking at the clock thirty minutes later knowing that I needed to put it down and go to sleep. Looking forward to the next book in the series."
"This was such a cute, heartwarming story, and a great read - in fact, I found myself laughing out loud several times at the many comedic moments in the book - totally my sense of humour. Bree's quirky personality was authentic and adorable, and as one who started out learning to cook by burning spaghetti, I loved reading about her misadventures in cooking. I'm definitely looking forward to more books by this author!"
"This is an amazing book! I couldn't put it down. There were a lot of emotions in this book. I was laughing my butt off in lots of it, then there were parts that I was actually really irritated at the characters( the mom and sister). Then times that I felt a tug on my heart. Not all books can do this, but when it happens, it is a wonderful combination. The love story is....wow....I was completely smitten. Can't wait to read the next book about the sister Emily. I will definitely be reading any books that Sarah West comes out with."

I am so touched by the positive reviews I get on Amazon. Hearing that I made people laugh and cry makes me want to write another book that will do the same! Learning that readers related to so many characters inspires me to bring the characters back in a new story that will keep my readers happy. Getting irritated emails from readers demanding to know where the book that I promised them six months ago is, really makes me write faster.

And you know what? I love my negative reviews, too. I know that not everyone who picks up a book is going to love it. Hell, I've written some pretty negative reviews myself. But as long as they are honest, clearly state what they didn't like (typos? I can fix those. Hated the sex scenes and swearing? Sorry, mom, that's not going to change) I appreciate all feedback. I am always looking to improve, and I'm not afraid of some constructive criticism.

So the next time you finish a book you read, take two minutes and write three sentences explaining what you liked or didn't like. You're helping other readers, who might be on the fence about buying a book, decide whether or not to get it, and you're helping me by giving me feedback about what works in a story and what doesn't work.

In fact, if you're bored at work or stuck inside on a rainy day, go to amazon and click on your recent purchases. You can go down the list and review everything you've purchased. It's sort of fun! And the authors, sellers, and other shoppers will thank you for your opinion.

And now I'm going to climb down off my soapbox and publish my damn book! Recipes to follow.

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I'm not doing any real blog posts until I get my website settled (moving to a new server, bear with me), so this is just an old photo set I never got around to posting.

You might remember that I made Doctor Who cupcake toppers for the 50th anniversary episode last November (holy crap that was a long time ago) to go with Tracy's amazing jammy dodger cupcakes. I also got curious about my sculpting abilities, and tried my hand at crafting a small bust of one of my favorite Doctor Who species, the Silurians.

I decided to sculpt one wearing the cool mask we see in The Hungry Earth episode, mostly because I wasn't certain I could sculpt the actual lizard-sapian face accurately enough to satisfy my OCDness. I think, looking back, that I could have done it justice. But for now, I'm proud to show you my Silurian. Silurian, Doctor Who, sci-fi, alien, fondant, sculpted, buttercream, rice krispies, crispy, edible, sculpture, BBC, Vastra, Matt Smith, Capaldi, I finally decided to post her after watching the new season of Doctor Who this weekend, with the brand new Doctor, Peter Capaldi. While I miss Matt Smith very much, I am eager to see what Capaldi, a brilliant actor, will bring to the character.

The episode also brought back some delighful characters that I'm always happy to see, Madam Vastra, Jenny, and Strax. Madam Vastra is, of course, a Silurian. And a beautiful one at that. Silurian, Doctor Who, sci-fi, alien, fondant, sculpted, buttercream, rice krispies, crispy, edible, sculpture, BBC, Vastra, Matt Smith, Capaldi,

...continue reading

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Oh hey, internet. Remember me? It's been awhile.

If you've forgotten about me, allow me to jog your memory. My name is Sarah, I'm 26 years old, I live in Western NYS, and I like long walks on the beach. I am recently engaged, and I spent two amazing weeks this summer on a Birthright trip in Israel, which is the main reason I've been so bad at blogging. Firstly, you know, being out of the country makes it difficult.

And secondly, when you are gone for 15 days you come back to a LOT of stuff piled on your desk, and some unhappy coworkers who are angry at you for extending your trip an additional four days without notifying them. I also had to juggle jet lag, a huge pile of laundry, a book that needs to be published, 2k photos that had to be edited, a wedding to plan, Bioshock Infinite that needs playing, TV to catch up on, and battling depression from missing all of my new friends.

And the food.

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Oh, man. The food.

I love the food there. Granted, I got pretty sick of it by the end of the trip, but now that I'm home and can't find authentic Israeli food I miss it like crazy. You can see more of my pictures on FB, but for now I'll walk you through some of the different foodie adventures I had!

10530765_10202836736744083_7937800979033206851_nFirst up is Shawarma. Made famous by Robert Downey JR in the Avengers, Shawarma is awesome. 10411008_10202895602375687_3008836517927407288_n

See that log of meat roasting in the back there? That's shawarma. They shave the meat into a pita (which are nothing like the stale, brittle pitas we have here. In Israel they are like fluffy clouds). The meat is typically turkey, and you can get it made with all sorts of sauces and vegetables. These top three pictures were taken in Tsefat. ...continue reading

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This Dash has finally met her Pinch Charming!

photo 3WHAAAAAAT?!?!?!

Kevin proposed last week while we were having my birthday dinner at Aperativo in Schenectady, which has been our favorite restaurant since we started dating. The ring is absolutely stunning, and he got my style so perfectly. It's unique and antique and shiny and really pretty and shiny!

photo 2The funny thing is, I had joked about him proposing at this dinner for weeks, saying it would be so perfect and convenient, not really expecting that he had purchased a ring and had hidden it away in the pocket of his shark shorts:

10403969_10202492918028830_8002313760625845671_oHow romantic :P

To be fair, as we were getting dressed for the evening, he offered to change. I believe my exact words were, "hells no, I want you to propose wearing shark shorts!"

cartoon-tyrannosaurus-rex-15156091After I got out of the bathroom and my creme brulee showed up, he reached for his pocket to grab the ring. Too bad I was hyper alert and was like "WHAT ARE YOU DOING?" So he took out his phone for a birthday photo instead. Then, when I was distracted by sugar, he got down on one knee.

photo 1I was crying and laughing, and pretty much unable to see the ring in close enough detail because I was wearing contacts, but all in all, it was a great night.

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We had to keep it secret for a day so that we could tell our families in person, but we had a lot of fun announcing it. His caption for this photo was "I've made a huge mistake."

So basically, super stoked. No idea when/where the wedding will be, but we've started looking at places online together. It's adorable that he's involved, and I'm just so lucky to have a wonderful guy to put up with my craziness. Plus, he's got a sweet present coming :)

In other news...one week until I leave for Israel!

 

 

 

 

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salmon, grilled, foil, cajun, filets, summer, oil, butter, evoo, lemon,

Don’t get me wrong, I adore grilling salmon on a cedar plank, or even directly on the grill grates, but sometimes you dry out the fish that way if you’re not paying attention. Throwing the salmon into a foil packet, along with something to keep it moist and something to add flavor works perfectly, and is more forgiving of a little negligence.

My favorite for years has been to make Cajun rubbed salmon, but just as often I’ll throw some garlic, lemon slices, and basil on top. Experiment with some flavor combinations and find one you and your family will love!

My very first post on this blog, almost three years ago (wow), was cajun salmon in foil on the grill. IMG_0531-1024x768

Gross. It did taste pretty good, but obviously I've learned a lot in three years. Mostly, never use these horrible plates.

salmon, grilled, foil, cajun, filets, summer, oil, butter, evoo, lemon,

A cost friendly way to make this dinner is to buy a large filet of fresh salmon, and cut it into filets yourself.

salmon, grilled, foil, cajun, filets, summer, oil, butter, evoo, lemon,

Alternatively, and how I usually make this meal, is by using frozen salmon filets.  ...continue reading

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I was late to work today because I got stuck behind a bus with its lights on. It was stopped in front of a house, where I could clearly see two parents standing around a tree. I thought maybe there was a cat stuck in the tree?

Nope. It was a kid.

A kid who didn't want to go to school, and climbed a tree. And wouldn't come down.

Eventually the bus drove off, and so did I, but not before I decided that that kid hates Mondays as much as the rest of the world, and his coping mechanism seems pretty foolproof to me. So if you need me, I'll be in a tree, avoiding responsibility.

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Apparently, it's the centennial celebration of Igor Stravinsky's Rite of Spring, which is just...crazy.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MrR7z3RBrGw

But the main reason you should watch this video and share it is because it's being performed by an amazeballs musician who just happens to be...

My best friend from first grade, and pretty much all through high school too.

I like to think that if our elementary school teachers could see us now, the two weird kids who huddled together in the corner with our legos, hid under tables, bit people, and got in quite a bit of trouble...they would be surprised. And hopefully pleased that the nerds who made up really weird games on the playground would turn out so well-adjusted and productive.

Obviously we're still nerds, but to record a 50 minute long piano solo in one take? That's just nuts. FreeGreatPicture.com-2186-photo-nutsAnd also quite nuts is that I am finishing my final round of edits before I send Starting from Scratch off to my beta readers and editors! My Israel trip sort of falls right in the middle of my planned publishing date, so I'm shooting for an August 1st release party! Who's super pumped? Meeeeeeee.

Okay, I'm going to bed.

 

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Last summer I started a little herb garden, and then created a teeny tiny vegetable garden that produced quite a few eggplant and zucchini. Pleased with how they both turned out, and eager to expand, this summer I dove headfirst into the dirty world of gardening and landscaping. I spent hours and hours each day, out in the sun, with dirt up to my elbows and a crick in my back from lugging bags of mulch and topsoil around my yard. And I won't even go into how much I spent at Home Depot...

Sarah, Westendorf, Pittsford, Rochester, New York, NY, garden, soil, clay, herbs, vegetables, ground, container, cage, beans, peas, arugula, caesar, romaine, red, tomatoes, peppers, squash, summer, trellis, zucchini, eggplant, leeks

But I love it! Isn't it darling?! I've doubled the size since last year, and just about tripled the variety of plants in it. In addition, I actually did a minimal amount of research this time, instead of just shoving plants into the dirt and hoping they grow.Sarah, Westendorf, Pittsford, Rochester, New York, NY, garden, soil, clay, herbs, vegetables, ground, container, cage, beans, peas, arugula, caesar, romaine, red, tomatoes, peppers, squash, summer, trellis, zucchini, eggplant, leeks

Sarah, Westendorf, Pittsford, Rochester, New York, NY, garden, soil, clay, herbs, vegetables, ground, container, cage, beans, peas, arugula, caesar, romaine, red, tomatoes, peppers, squash, summer, trellis, zucchini, eggplant, leeksI've got arugula, romaine, and a variety of red lettuce. The larger plants in the picture I started from seeds in my aerogarden with the seed starter kit, and the smaller ones were just seeds I dumped into the ground willy nilly, not really expecting them to grow. But they did! You can't see, but behind the lettuces I have a tomato cage. ...continue reading

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Toy, Story, cake, topper, fondant, gum paste, pixar, disney, characters, sculpt, Woody, Buzz, Jessie, Cowboy, Spaceman, Dinosaur, Rex, Slinky, Dog, Mr, Mister, potato, head, Hasbro, Playschool, cake, edible, amazing, sculpted.

So I thought I would show you my process of making six of the characters from Toy Story out of fondant and gumpaste.

*As a disclaimer, I am in no way a professional. Anything that comes out successfully took roughly 3x longer to make than if a professional did it. I make a lot of mistakes (you will see these in the process photos) and have to redo things over and over again until they are good enough to satisfy my OCD-ness.

So lets begin!

Toy, Story, cake, topper, fondant, gum paste, pixar, disney, characters, sculpt, Woody, Buzz, Jessie, Cowboy, Spaceman, Dinosaur, Rex, Slinky, Dog, Mr, Mister, potato, head, Hasbro, Playschool, cake, edible, amazing, sculpted.

Day one: Monday. I decided to start with Mr. Potato head, thinking I could knock him out quickly. Turns out, potato brown is a hard color to achieve. I spent almost an hour mixing this stupid ball. Then I molded him into a potato shape and left him on the syrofoam to dry a bit.

Toy, Story, cake, topper, fondant, gum paste, pixar, disney, characters, sculpt, Woody, Buzz, Jessie, Cowboy, Spaceman, Dinosaur, Rex, Slinky, Dog, Mr, Mister, potato, head, Hasbro, Playschool, cake, edible, amazing, sculpted.Made Mr. Potato head's shoes and facial features, set them to dry, and went to play video games with Beth. ...continue reading