Here’s my idea of a perfect summer evening: Lisa Lillien, Mignon Fogarty and I sitting on my deck drinking Poolside Cherry Pom-artias and splitting infinitives. Oh to dream!
Hungry Girl (aka Lisa Lillien) and Grammar Girl (aka Mignon Fogarty) have both written books and are out on book signing (or is it “book-signing?”) tours. Not together, but how cool would that be? Both of my “girls” in one book store? I think my head would explode.
I’ve subscribed to both Lillien’s and Fogarty’s newsletters or podcasts almost since their inceptions. One gives me great tips on how to save a calorie (or 4,000) and the other gives me great tips on how to write better. Can life be any more balanced? I don’t think so.
Lillien’s book, "Hungry Girl: Recipes and Survival Strategies for Guilt-Free Eating in the Real World," is a compilation of many of her already-published recipes from her Hungry Girl website as well as several new ones. I’d give you more specifics than that, but my daughter “borrowed” my book and told me she’s not returning it. She’s nothing if not honest. I have a replacement on my wish list on Amazon.com, and as soon as I’ve sold another piece of my Christmas village collection on eBay, I will buy it.
I haven’t been so happy about pumpkin since I first watched, “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!” when I was 5. Lillien does so many things with pumpkin puree that Libby’s ought to have her on their payroll. Packed with fiber and yet sinfully sweet, her simple pumpkin plus pudding recipe is an almost daily treat for me.
Many of Lillien's recipes call for Splenda, which I don’t tolerate very well, but I easily substitute stevia in several of them. I like the Trader Joe’s brand of stevia more than Sweet Leaf, but Sweet Leaf will work in a pinch. I find it leaves an aftertaste. TJ’s doesn’t.
But there’s a lot more to Hungry Girl than Splenda and pumpkin. She has great ideas for lower-cal margaritas and other drinks, onion rings, salads, and oatmeal. Without Hungry Girl, I’d never know you can turn butternut squash into hash browns, which, I discovered, makes a better substitution for pasta than its sister veggie, spaghetti squash. Shred a cup of butternut squash, cook it along with some minced onions and ground black pepper in a pan sprayed with non-stick spray until a little brown and then top it with sauce or pesto. It’s fabulous.
Educating the other side of my brain this summer is "Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips For Better Writing." I never thought a blue aardvark would help me remember the proper use of the words affect and effect, but Fogarty’s little cartoon character is just the visual I needed.
Fogarty’s attitude is that “learning about language should be fun.” With her upbeat, casual writing style and memory tricks, she fulfills her philosophy.
I listen to the Grammar Girl podcasts at the gym and replay them at home when a particular episode hits on something I struggle with. I also subscribe to her weekly newsletter. I used to believe language was finite, that there wasn’t anything “new” to discover about usage, but Fogarty tackles some of the “hard and fast” rules of usage (i.e. “generic pronouns”: is it proper to use “they” as a singular pronoun?) which is what makes this book so interesting and useful.
Move over Strunk & White, Fogarty refers to many style guides and dictionaries when making her case for or against common usage faux pas or seeming faux pas. She also recommends what have become two of my favorite books on language: “Woe Is I: The Grammarphobe’s Guide to Better English in Plain English” and “Words Fail Me: What Everyone Who Writes Should Know About Writing,” both by Patricia T. O’Conner.
We’re all writers, even if “all” you write is e-mail or notes to your kid’s teacher as to why Little Jimmy wasn’t in school the other day. “Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips…” is written in plain English, and her tips and tricks offer simple ways to remember proper usage of common words, punctuation and references that most of us, at one time or other, screw up.
So if you're looking for some fun and educating reading this summer, pick up Hungry Girl or Grammar Girl or both! Bon appetit and happy writing!