Some weeks are very tough. Close your eyes and point to the calendar to any day and I guarantee that day was not a typical one for me. I start my day at around 4:45 a.m. I do a little reading and sometimes a little writing, but I go back to bed for another hour. It may sound strange, but in college when I had writing assignments for English class and woke up early (and went back to sleep for a little more), I was able to will my mind to think of themes and story ideas. It happened several times so I knew it was no coincidence. Maha reads to Ramzy and SamerBalancing home life is very hard sometimes. My teen daughters are a blessing. They are very independent and help me out with my younger boys. In the summer especially, they help with babysitting. One of my daughters loves to cook and she’s really good at it, so she takes over the cooking. During the year it’s hit or miss. I try to plan ahead, but sometimes you get things from left field so you have to improvise. Usually things tend to work themselves out. Writing gets squeezed in very early or very late in the day, or both.Picture books are still a tough sell. Any advice for those hoping to break in?
I think that if you enjoy writing picture books keep on writing them. Don't worry about the market. Write for your own personal enjoyment first, which makes for better writing, and this leads to publication. I think the key is to want to write for writing itself, versus having publication be your main focus. Also, try to constantly read as many picture books as you can. It's amazing how that can spark ideas.What's next for you?
I sold my second fiction picture book to Boyds Mills Press, and I'm working on a third, which is a little different, because it is nonfiction.QUICK BITES
Describe yourself in 5 words.
Always wanting to do more.Passions besides reading and writing.
I love antique stores and yard sales; I've also recently learned to bead bracelets. I enjoy doing watercolor painting with my son, who recently started art lessons with renowned watercolor artist Lou Negri.3 fondest wishes.
I wish for my children to all find a field of study that gives them lifelong enjoyment.
I wish to find that magic button that once pressed gives one total peace of mind.
I wish for world peace and the end of stereotyping and alienating of people and nations that choose other ways of life.5 favorite foods.
Anything my mother cooks. I hate to brag, but my mom cooks Asian, Italian, and Mediterranean food like an expert gourmet chef. I also love seafood from my days living by the sea. Fishermen walked along the shore in front of our house with boxes filled with fish so fresh they still moved!Please describe your favorite childhood food-related memory.
I grew up in a close-knit family of four. On weekends my dad had a ritual of getting up early to make a special breakfast dish that had hummus as its main ingredient, but which is served warm. So we would have stations. My mom would make the hummus, my dad would toast the bread (which went into the dish); my brother would mince garlic, and I would squeeze lemons.
We had a little garden so I also got to get the fresh herbs. Then the ingredients were mixed together with hot water and the dish was dressed up with pine seeds sauteed in olive oil. This breakfast dish is tangy and with green olives its flavors danced on your tongue. Of course we would have this with mint tea. The dish is called Fatet Hummus.Please share a recipe with us, something you might prepare for Iftar (meal taken at sunset to break the fast during Ramadan).
food often starts with soup and then mostly stews and savory pastries, but the thing most associated with the month is the Ramadan desserts. I make five or six different desserts through the month. Some take a long time to make, while others have fast prep time and are just as tasty.
For instance, I make a basic bread pudding, but the moment it's done baking, I drench it with sweetened condensed milk and whipped cream. It is awesome. I also make pastries with homemade pancake-like pastry, filled with walnuts (or pecans), cinnamon and sugar, deep fried and drenched in homemade syrup. This dessert is also perfect with substitute sugar and works with store-bought puff pastry which you can bake, instead of fry.BREAD PUDDING WITH CONDENSED MILK TOPPING
8 slices of white bread (hand shredded into small pieces)
4 eggs, lightly whisked (or 5 egg whites)
1 12-oz can evaporated milk (you could use fat-free)
1 T sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/3 cup raisins (optional)
1 T butter cut into small pats
1 can sweetened, condensed milk
1 8-oz tub of Cool Whip
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
Spray an 8" x 8" baking dish with non-stick spray.
Place bread in baking dish.
In a separate bowl, whisk eggs, evaporated milk, sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg (and raisins, if you are using them), and pour over bread in baking dish. Use a spoon to push down the bread to ensure it is soaked well with the milk mixture.
Put pats of butter on top.
Bake uncovered for 25 minutes at 325 degrees F, and for an additional 5 minutes at 400 degrees F, or until golden brown.
Remove from oven, scoop immediately into individual serving ramekins/glass bowls. Drizzle with sweetened condensed milk (to taste). Add a dollop of Cool Whip.
*Store extras covered in fridge. This pudding tastes great the second day. Just microwave for 30 seconds and add condensed milk and Cool Whip and it tastes just as fresh as on the first day.
*You could add chocolate chips and toasted pecans to this recipe over the Cool Whip, but it tastes really good plain.
Thanks to Maha's daughters, Serena and Diana, for the lovely photos!
For more about Maha, visit her website
and Live Journal blog.
To learn more about Ned Gannon, who created the beautiful oil paintings for this book, visit his website
Boyds Mills Press website is here
Lovely review in the Jordan Times here
.SPECIAL BOOK GIVEAWAY
: Just leave a comment here by midnight Friday (EST), September 19th, for a chance to win a signed, personalized copy of The White Nights of Ramadan
!!*Interior images posted by permission, copyright © 2008 Ned Gannon, published by Boyds Mills Press. All rights reserved.