Thursday, December 20, 2012

#391: Torching the Sugar on Top of a Creme Brûlée

 Reason to Be Happy #391:
Torching the Sugar on top of a Creme Brûlée
I've already told you that cracking the top of a creme brûlée is one of my reasons to be happy (Reason #235 to be exact). But I only recently had the opportunity to witness the making of thisone of my top five desserts—in person, and to use the torch myself.
Scorching the sugar on top is a VERY satisfying activity. Who doesn't love to play with fire?
Who especially doesn't love to play with fire...with such delicious results? Many thanks to Libbie Burgan, who is truly the Queen of Creme Brûlées!

Friday, December 14, 2012

#390: Mashing Ice Cream Into Cake

 Reason to Be Happy #390:
Mashing Ice Cream Into Cake
 It's an art. Each bite must be carefully mixed with a fork to contain just the right amounts of cake, icing, and ice cream. It looks messy, but it's well worth the effort.
 Some of you inquired if I wasn't very happy in November? I'm pleased to report that although I didn't post any reasons to be happy in that month, it was indeed a very fine month. I have no complaints—other than not enough hours in the day. Just in case you're joining this party late, I set out to list a reason to be happy every day for a full year on July 1, 2011. I did it. Never missed a day all the way through July 1, 2012. Since then I've been continuing to list reasons when they occur to me and I have time. All of this, of course, was to commemorate my novel Reasons to Be Happy, which came out in August 2011.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Book Gift Suggestions Part Three

Here’s Part Three of my holiday gift book suggestions (be sure to check out Parts One and Two if you missed them).

Books make amazing gifts—they’re not perishable, and you don’t have to worry about versions, sizes, or colors. If you give any of the following books, the recipients will owe you. Bigtime. Oh, there are so many! How do I decide? Here are some of my true loves from this year.

You want to get your hands on Martha Moody’s SHARP AND DANGEROUS VIRTUES, just released this fall. Set in 2047 in Dayton, Ohio, it is mesmerizing. In response to food and water shortages, the U.S. government has developed a successful agricultural area—known as "the Heartland Grid"—just north of the city. The Grid and its valuable human and agricultural resources are now being threatened—or possibly, seduced—by a multinational enemy force, and all of America feels threatened, too. I heard Martha read from this two summers ago at the Antioch Writers’ Workshop and was so taken, I thought it would kill me to wait for this book’s release! Obviously it didn’t kill me...and it was well worth the wait!
I highly recommend the haunting, beautiful, poetic THE SALT GOD’S DAUGHTER by Ilie Ruby for any woman on your list. The Huffington Post called this novel a “…a lyrical, luxuriantly mystical meditation on being female.” The gorgeous imagery and exquisitely drawn characters haunt me still.
 I love Marisa de los Santos’ newest FALLING TOGETHER (but you can’t go wrong with any of her work!) I fall head over heels for all of her characters, but this protagonist—Pen Calloway—takes the cake for embedding herself in my heart. A book about our deepest human connections, and study in life long friends looking at the truths about who they were before and who they are now. You’ll want to read everything she’s ever written (if you haven’t already). I’m such a fangirl that I can’t help but mention how thrilled I was to get to have coffee with Marisa in NYC two summers ago. She’s lovely and wonderful in “real life,” as well as being a kickass author who makes my Christmas shopping so easy.
Looking for a mystery? Thriller? Perfect for men or women: GONE GIRL by Gillian Flynn. This is dark, twisted fun. I find that, reading as a writer, it’s rare that I’m truly surprised anymore. Something about a third of the way through this novel made me say “Holy shit!” aloud, totally alone, (well, except for the cat in my lap who looked up in alarm). I was so delighted and enthralled to be genuinely startled by a plot twist. But I tell you what: Flynn did it to me that drastically two more times before that book’s end. It’s fantastic, delicious suspense. 
Barbara Kingsolver has a new novel out, which is always cause for celebration! FLIGHT BEHAVIOR would make an excellent gift for any literary book lover. I haven’t read it yet, but you can’t go wrong with Kingsolver. Most of you know she’s my very very very favorite (and meeting her last year was a dream come true—the photographic evidence has a place of honor on my fridge). I’ve read everything else she’s written multiple times.

Remember, if you’re in the Dayton area and thinking of buying one of my own novels as a gift, please please email me and I’ll happily make arrangements to personalize it for you however you like. katrinakittle (at)

If you’re in another state, please check out the wonderful bookstore Saturn Booksellers in Gaylord, MI. They have all my titles, already signed, and will ship anywhere!

Shop your local, independent book stores!
Happy Holidays & Happy Reading!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Book Gift Suggestions Part Two

 Here’s Part Two of my holiday gift book suggestions (be sure to check out Part One if you missed it).

Books make amazing gifts. Here are some that will make the recipients want to kiss you! (You know...if that’s appropriate. Or they may just feel really warm and grateful, and that’s okay, too).

Just finished THE ROUND HOUSE by Louise Erdrich and was crazy in love with it. Just gorgeous and haunting, like her works always are. After a brutal attack on a woman living on an Objiwe reservation in North Dakota, the novel is narrated by the woman’s thirteen-year-old son Joe. Joe’s father is a tribal judge, but when the quest for justice bogs down in complications, Joe sets out to get answers and justice of his own. One reviewer said this will come to be known as the “Native American TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD” and I think that’s perfect. Note: don't skip or skim ANY of it (why would you want to?!). Every single detail, image & story counts and is vital to the plot. Genius.    

 Looking for inspiration? Kick-ass advice? Need a gift for a reader who never sits still long enough for a novel? Then pick up TINY BEAUTIFUL THINGS by Cheryl Strayed. A compilation of the “Dear Sugar” advice columns on The Rumpus. Don’t know “Dear Sugar” at the Rumpus? Oh, do yourself a favor and remedy that, Sweet Pea. Full of quotes like “Nobody will protect you from your suffering,” “Forgiveness doesn’t just sit there like a pretty boy in a bar,” and “Be brave enough to break your own heart.” I now own a coffee mug with my personal favorite quote on it: “Write like a motherfucker.”
Kristina Riggle’s latest THINGS WE DIDN’T SAY is fantastic. (As would be ANY of her previous novels). You know when you hold things in and keep secrets and bite your tongue? You know how none of those things are sustainable and eventually something has to give? Well, this is a gorgeous, moving book about what happens when a woman hits the point where she has to start speaking the words no one else will say. (And Kris Riggle is a fun, warm, wonderful person in “real life.” I love when we’re at book events together, but I don’t envy folks trying to introduce us—our names together sound like a comedy act!)
Have someone on your list who loves historical fiction? You can’t go wrong with the newest novel from Kelly O’Connor McNees. I was lucky enough to read a galley of IN NEED OF A GOOD WIFE and fell head over heels for it. Set in the American West, centering around main character Clara Bixby’s business venture into mail-order brides for an isolated Nebraska town, this is a book about second chances and new beginnings. I was honored to write a blurb for this book! The three central, compelling women are each, in turn, terribly lost and deeply brave. I adored them all and rooted for them in their struggles.

So…if you're considering buying one of my books as a gift, not only would I be eternally grateful, but I'd happily personalize it for you. If you’re local, email me at katrinakittle (at) and we’ll make arrangements.

If you’re in another state, please check out the wonderful bookstore Saturn Booksellers in Gaylord, MI. They have all my titles, already signed, and will ship anywhere!

Where ever you are, always do your best to patronize your independent book stores!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Book Gift Suggestions Part One

Doing Your Holiday Shopping?

One of my favorite sayings is: "A book is a present you can open again and again." It's so, so true. If you're looking for book ideas to give as gifts, please check out part one of my list below, for books I loved lately. Today’s list features three books that are classified as “young adult” but were fantastically enjoyable to this adult (and several other adults I am allowed to call myself an adult, right? Even though I sometimes eat cake for breakfast?)

WONDER by R.J. Palacio is a book I can’t stop raving about. Since the main character is a fifth grader, this is an obvious choice for the middle grader on your list, but honestly, I believe this book should be required reading for every human being! August Pullman opens his story with, “I won’t describe what I look like. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse.” Auggie was born with a facial deformity that, up until now, has prevented him from going to a mainstream school. He wants nothing more than to be treated as an ordinary kid—but his new classmates can’t get past his extraordinary face. WONDER begins from Auggie’s point of view, but switches to include his classmates, his sister in high school, her boyfriend, and others. Auggie must be extraordinarily brave and change and grow to embrace the world, but the world must also change and grow and be brave to embrace Auggie. This is a beautiful book about empathy, compassion, and acceptance…and how difficult all those things are.

I also recommend Kristina McBride’s new novel ONE MOMENT. Kristi blew me away with her debut novel, THE TENSION OF OPPOSITES (if you haven’t read that one, put it on your list, too). The opening chapter starts off with a cliff diving accident that leaves Maggie’s boyfriend dead...and she can’t remember what happened in the moment before they were supposed to dive. As Maggie’s memory returns in fragments, each piece leads to more questions. This is a mysterious, searing look at secrets and how an instant can change everything you believe about the world around you. Warning: This book make me stay up until 3 AM!

For any age (another book I tend to be evangelical about) I’d gift
THE BOOK THIEF by Markus Zusak. Oh, this book... It was first published in 2006, but I only recently found my way to it. Now I’d like to go door to door handing it out to people. Narrated by Death, this story is set in Nazi Germany (a time and place, our narrator notes, when he was very busy). I can tell you the plot (a young girl’s relationship with her foster parents and a Jewish boxer who hides in her home), but you gotta trust me: no description can do it justice. Every single sentence made me want to be a better writer. Every single page made me want to be a better human being. Although it’s often shelved in young adult, I’d recommend this to any age.

The only thing better than receiving a book as a gift is receiving a book that is personalized to you and signed by the author.

So…if you're considering buying one of my books as a gift, not only would I be eternally grateful, but I'd happily personalize it for you. If you’re local, email me at katrinakittle (at) and we’ll make arrangements.

If you’re in another state, please check out the wonderful bookstore Saturn Booksellers in Gaylord, MI. They have all my titles, already signed, and will ship anywhere!

Monday, October 22, 2012

#389: Zebra Stripes

Reason to Be Happy #389:
Zebra Stripes

Have you ever really stopped to look closely at zebra design? It's intricate and stunning. The markings, especially on the face and legs, just astounds me with its exquisite detail. I love the way the stripes continue on up into the mane. Ever noticed those lighter, thinner, more brown stripes between the black and white stripes? Kinda takes your breath away.

This photo was taken my lucky friend Jan-Marie Kurdin on her recent trip to Namibia.
I'm still trying not to be pea green with envy...

Monday, October 15, 2012

#388: Making Gyoza

 Reason to Be Happy #388:
Making Gyoza
 It is a specific choice that this reason to be happy is MAKING gyoza and not just gyoza. Gyoza, by the way, are those lovely Japanese dumplings or potstickers, and I just learned how to make them this weekend in Louisville.
 I was in Louisville to teach a workshop and speak on a panel at the Writer's Block Festival, but the big bonus was getting to stay two nights with my my lovely friend, talented writer Katy Yocom and her wonderful husband, Jeff. Jeff was an exchange student in Japan when he was in college and his Japanese host mother taught him to make gyoza.
 Making gyoza is a party in and of itself. There's a lot of assembly, lots of rolling up the cute little dumplings (with what I liked to call "pleats" even though that's not technically the term, I'm sure).
 You don't really sit down and eat them at the table. You eat them standing up, as they come off the stove, after being fried (and then steamed). You eat 'em hot and you eat a LOT. And they are so, so good. I kinda have a thing for food parties like this, where lots of assembly is required. There's nothing better than hanging out with friends, catching up, and making something delicious.

Friday, October 12, 2012

#387: Homemade Biscuits with Butter & Honey

Reason to Be Happy #387:
Warm Homemade Biscuits 
with Butter & Honey

Oh, such a divine treat. My friend Ted makes The. Best. Biscuits in the world. I could eat a whole tray of fresh biscuits. With honey? One of my very top comfort foods. Their aroma, their taste, their simplicity, their fluffiness—I love every single thing about them.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

#386: Catching Someone Singing in Their Car

Reason to Be Happy #386:
Catching Someone Singing in Their Car

You pull up beside someone at a stoplight, or you look in your rearview mirror and catch someone absolutely rocking out, drumming the steering wheel, tossing their hair, belting it out. Always makes me laugh. The other day I saw an older man who looked like he was conducting with one hand and singing with gusto.

And, of course, who hasn't done this themselves? :-)

Thursday, October 4, 2012

#385: Sunlight Through Glass

 Reason to Be Happy #385:
Sunlight Through Glass
Okay, my photography skills are not advanced enough to truly capture this, but I trust you know what I mean. Always so pretty when it happens. This is my view from my writing office. I have a lot of colored glass in my windows and glass objects in my garden to prompt more of this reason.

Friday, September 28, 2012

#384: Getting a Movie Theatre All To Yourself

Reason to Be Happy #384:
Getting A Movie All To Yourself

Okay, so it's not such a great thing for the movie theatre itself, but every now and then, this is a lovely treat. No one's talking, no one's texting, no one's answering their damn phone. Clear, unobstructed view. It's fantastic.

So is the blog by James Napoli for Huff Post Comedy which is the source of the photo:

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

#383: The Little Black Snip on Joey's Pink Nose

Reason to Be Happy #383:
The Little Black Snip on Joey's Pink Nose

I admit it. I know I'm obviously very partial, but I love my cat's face. I've already used his crazy eyebrows as a reason to be happy. Another facial feature I'm fond of is his pink pink nose, and that little snippet of black that curls into one nostril—like the makeup from his black mask dripped. 

This is his "I'm very serious and thoughtful" expression.

Monday, September 24, 2012

#382: Chilly Autumn Nights for Great Sleep

Reason to Be Happy #382:
Chilly Autumn Nights for Great Sleep

I love love love opening the windows on a chilly autumn night and snuggling under lots of quilts and blankets. Best sleep in the world. The fine fellow in this photo is Montgomery, a big yellow tom I was lucky to know for almost fifteen years. He was a big ol' snuggler.

Thanks to Tracy Wasmer for listing this great reason to be happy on my Facebook Author Page.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

#381: The Old Man Who Sits In His Yard & Waves When I Run By

Reason to Be Happy #381:
The Old Man Who Sits in His Yard & Waves at Me When I Run By

I don't know his name. He doesn't know mine. But we'd recognize each other anywhere. On nice days, he sits in his yard in a lawn chair. He always looks happy and content. As I jog by he waves and we both call, "Hello!" and comment on the weather.

Every fourth or fifth time he'll tell me, "The cops are gonna ticket you for speeding!" I laugh like he's never said it before. (It's never, ever true, by the way, about my speed).

When I round that corner and he's not there, I'm disappointed.

When I round the corner and see his baseball cap and his cheery smile, I'm genuinely happy.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

#380: The Wrinkles on Puppy Foreheads

 Reason to Be Happy #380:
The Wrinkles on Puppy Foreheads
 This adorable cutie patootie's name is Wilbee, and he belongs to Jean Howat Berry (lucky Jean).
This is a wonderful reason to be happy. I wish I'd thought of it myself, but it came from a reader on my Facebook Author page. Cathy Nigg Thayer won a copy of the wonderful new novel by Kelly O'Connor McNees called In Need of a Good Wife (and even though you didn't win a copy, you should check that book out! It will be published in October, and it's really, really good!)

While you wait for that publication day, just admire this sweet puppy's forehead wrinkles.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

#379: Play Dates With Humphrey

 Reason to Be Happy #379:
Play Dates With Humphrey
 I love goats. I think that's no secret. I love them because they're smart and mischievous and funny. I probably love them because I'm Capricorn and a little bit of a tenacious, stubborn goat girl myself. But as much as I love goats in general, I love one particular goat in specific.
 Humphrey is my very favorite goat in the whole wide world. He's a very fine fellow and getting to go hang out with him is always a reason to be happy. He's very playful, but also very affectionate. If he's in the mood, you can get him to rear up and come charging at you, which is kind of a riot. He looks very fierce and comedic at the same time when he does his infamous rearing pose, with his pretty little head cocked to the side.
 He has beautiful markings and a very noble face, in my humble opinion. And his long white beard makes me grin. His funny atonal voice? It's like an infusion of happiness. You kinda have to giggle when you hear it.

Humphrey belongs to dear friends of mine, and I think they are very lucky people to get to bask in Humphrey's presence every day (and they are wise enough to know that, too).
All these photos were taken by the very talented Libbi Burgan.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

#378: Fields of Sunflowers

 Reasons to Be Happy #378:
Fields of Sunflowers
 One of the happiest flowers in existence, when they're gathered in great groups they're like a big ol' shot o' joy. It's nearly impossible not to smile when they gang up on you like this! It's their season. Go and find a field to play in!
 These great shots were taken by my talented friend Rick Flynn. Check out his blog called

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

#377: Hot Air Balloons

 Reason to Be Happy #377:
Hot Air Balloons
 I have always, always wanted to go up in a hot air balloon. We sent my mom and dad up in one on my mom's 50th birthday, and it looked like so much fun. They both loved it! So, it's on my list.
 I love spotting them in the sky, and get a kick thinking of the lucky folks in the baskets—wondering if it's their first trip and if it's in celebration of some momentous occasion. (The only time I don't love spotting them is if I happen to be on the back of a horse. Even the most reliable horses in the world tend to be wary and freaked out by hot air balloons...)

These great pics were taken by my talented friend Erin Gross. She writes a funny, fantastic blog called Life in the Mom Lane: One Mom's Road Trip Through the Mother Hood. You should check her out!