Thursday night was the end of an era, the last Harry Potter midnight movie showing. My aunt, my sister, and her boyfriend journeyed up to the farm for the experience and we even talked my husband into coming with us.

My aunt, me, Munchkin, and boyfriend Nick

I’m a huge fan both from reader and writer points of view, but especially because of one fact: without Harry Potter, my sister would not have been an Honors student. She hated reading, an unfathomable thought for me and probably my Mom, a teacher. But then Munchkin started telling me about this series of books about a boy wizard named Harry Potter. The fourth book had just come out, so I devoured the first three and, using my perks as a library page, put my name on the top of the hold list for the fourth. Munchkin and I both pre-ordered the last three books and raced to read them so we could discuss. They were the first books we shared.

Our first midnight showing was for the sixth movie. My aunt and sister’s birthdays are one day apart in the middle of July and Half-Blood Prince came out on my aunt’s 50th birthday. She said the only celebration she wanted was to go to the midnight showing with her nieces (did I mention she’s a really cool aunt?). She was worried about being the oldest person there, but she wasn’t. We waited in line, played games, ate sugar, and had an epic time. Ditto for Deathly Hallows Part One, although the line-waiting was much colder in November. For this last time, we had butterbeer, cockroach clusters (praline pecan candies), trecle tart, chicken pot pies, and Harry Potter-themed sugar cookies before heading to the theater. My Mom sent along Harry Potter silly bands (which were fun to explain to my husband) and three of us sported Harry Potter shirts. It was just as epic as we’d hoped.

Delicious cookies

Banner for the occasion; truly "A Magical Day"

Banner in the guest room (I'm so proud of this)

So thank you J.K. Rowling and everyone involved with the books and movies. You all brought my sister and me closer together and gave her a love of reading. You gave us a chance to create memories that we’ll tell our children over and over when we introduce them to Harry and his world. You inspired a generation and revitalized an industry. Thank you.

Anyone else have Harry Potter memories to share? Did you go to a midnight showing?



Last weekend was the most productive two days I’ve had in a very long time. I did housework, I did farm chores, and I even finished a book map to start my next round of revisions! So, of course, today I’m rather lackluster. I figure it’s either because it’s a Monday or because I’m out of writing snacks.

I really think my writing productivity is tied to consumption of Diet Coke and Dove dark chocolate squares. And strawberry licorice from Licorice International. And marshmallows.

I can’t be alone in this. What spurs you on to productivity? Snacks? Music? Gold stars? Or is it all in my head…

Display of delicious

Most writers I know prefer to be caffeine-fueled, either with coffee or pop (that’s right, in the Midwest it’s “pop”). And most also have favorite writing snacks, like pretzel M&Ms, chocolate, bacon, and vegetables (it’s true).

But my absolute favorite writing snack is strawberry Kookaburra licorice twists from Licorice International and, thanks to a recent trip to Lincoln, Nebraska, I have a fresh supply! Pair them with Diet Coke and I’m good for hours.

Do you write with snacks? Any favorites to share?

Well folks, it’s time for this year’s last Cheese-A-Topia post (I know, so sad). I am currently tasting as much cheese as possible to find more recommendations and I hope you’ll add some in the comments!

Obviously there’s tons more cheese around the country than I’ve mentioned this week, but there are a few more favorites I want to highlight:

Aztec Cheddar (hello gorgeous)

  • Blau Wein Kase – Flat Creek Lodge, Georgia. Flat Creek has some of the best flavor combinations and this cheese, washed in berry wine made on the premises, is my favorite. Also try their Aztec Cheddar, made with chiles and cocoa, for some seriously cool looking slices.
  • Grayson – Meadow Creek Dairy, Virginia. If you like (slightly) smelly, earthy cheese, try this award winner from Meadow Creek.
  • Barely Buzzed – Beehive Cheese Company, Utah. This cheddar is rubbed with a special coffee and lavendar blend, and the name doesn’t hurt either 🙂 While you’re checking out the Beehive offerings, also enjoy Seahive, rubbed with honey and sea salt.
  • Golden Greek – Ballard Family Dairy, Idaho. This halloumi style cheese is the perfect party or tailgaiting food; when heated or grilled, the flavor just explodes in greasy, gooey deliciousness.

Thanks for putting up with my cheese geek-outs this week! Happy eating.

Go west young…readers…and discover more cheese 🙂

  • Flagship Reserve – Beecher’s Handmade Cheese, Washington. Another cheddar (there are just so many good ones!), the older the better.
  • Awesomeness in a can

    Cougar Gold – Washington State University Creamery, Washington. This cheese is sold in a can. Literally. But what’s inside is creamy and absolutely delicious. And I love that it’s made at a university creamery. Support the few remaining dairy programs, folks!

  • Any blue cheese from Rogue Creamery, Oregon. You can’t go wrong. My favorites are the Echo Mountain Blue, Smokey Blue, and Oregon Blue. Also, you can get Smokey Blue Cheese truffles from the nearby Lillie Belle Farms.
  • Up In Smoke – Rivers Edge Chevre, Oregon. A small round of soft goat cheese smoked while wrapped in bourbon-soaked maple leaves gathered from the farm. If that description doesn’t convince you, I don’t know what will!
  • San Joaquin Gold – Fiscalini Farms, California. If you like aged, crumbly cheese, this one’s for you. I can find this one out in Iowa, so look for it near you.
  • European Style Goat Butter – Meyenberg Goat Milk Products, California. This butter made a huge splash at the conference. It’s clean, sweet, and delicious without any of the typical “goaty” flavor.

What others are your west coast favorites?

The week of cheese continues! When you think “Midwest” and “cheese,” Wisconsin probably comes to mind, and for good reason. There’s some true cheesy fabulocity coming from that state. But there’re also some great local options in other states, too:

Carr Valley Cheese, Wisconsin. Instead of making a list, I’m just going to recommend trying anything made by Carr Valley. Seriously, the cheese is that good. But, if you insist, my favorites include the 4 Year Cheddar, Cranberry Chipotle Cheddar, Bread Cheese, and Cave Aged Marissa.

Pleasant Ridge Reserve

• Pleasant Ridge Reserve – Uplands Cheese Company, Wisconsin. Any conversation about American original cheeses has to include this hard, nutty, complex cheese made only during the summer while the cows are grazing.

• Prairie Breeze – Milton Creamery, Iowa. A cheddar with hints of buttery-gouda goodness made right here in I-O-W-A. And it topped the year-old cheddar category at ACS judging last year. Enough said.

• Merlot BellaVitano – Sartori Foods, Wisconsin. There are several BellaVitano flavors and the Merlot is my favorite, although Raspberry is delicious too. A great, creamy cheese with just the right amount of flavor.

• Pumpkin Spice Chevre – Stickney Hill Dairy, Minnesota. Like eating pumpkin pie-flavored butter with a hint of cheese at the finish. So yummy, and puts me in the mood for fall.

• Ole Hickory– Homestead Creamery, Missouri. A smoked artisan cheese that won a gold medal at the World Jersey Cheese awards this summer. Also check out their Golden Glow.

Anyone have other recommendations from the Midwest?

Mmm festival of cheese

I’m off at my favorite work-related conference of the year: the American Cheese Society meeting. That’s right, I’m getting paid to go eat cheese. Lots of cheese. Lots of really really good cheese. So, to spread some of the cheese love, we’re moving off the writing subjects to feature some of my favorite cheeses from around the country. If you have some to add, please do so in the comments, and I’ll eat a slice for you!

If you live in the Northeast, you are a very lucky person, because there are some fantabulous cheeses in Vermont alone, not to mention the rest of the states. Some of my favorites:

  • Tarentaise – Thistle Hill and Spring Brook Farm, Vermont. Tarentaise is a hard, nutty, alpine-style cheese that has tons of mellow flavor.
  • Buffalo Wing Cheddar – Yancey’s Fancy, New York. If you like spicy cheese, this is for you. It may not be ideal for the “aged, artisan” folks, but I love what Yancey’s Fancy does with flavors. My other favorite is their New York Maple Cheddar, which tastes like a pancake breakfast (in a good way). Note: their green Wasabi Cheddar is only for the brave or those who don’t need their taste buds in the near future.
  • Herb Garlic Capri – Westfield Farm, Massachusetts. I love good flavored cheeses and this is a great combination.
  • Hand Dipped Ricotta – Calabro Cheese, Connecticut. This is amazing stuff, so sweet and creamy, and the Calabro folks are super friendly.
  • Cabot Clothbound Cheddar aged at Jasper HillCabot Creamery, Vermont. A past Best In Show winner (cheese, not the dog movie), this is one of those great crumbly, crunchy, old cheddars.

    Cultured Butter

  • Cultured Butter with Sea Salt – Vermont Butter and Cheese Company, Vermont. No, you read that right, this is butter, not cheese. But doyourself a favor anyway and try this butter (I mean, just look at the picture! Hello fabulous.). They ship nationwide and you will thank me.

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