By Tara Dairman, Children’s Book Author
People who’ve read my novel All Four Stars and its sequels often ask me how I became a writer. Sometimes they also want to know where my book ideas come from. (Ha, if only I knew! I’d go back and grab a few more.)
But recently, a friend asked a different question: How did I get interested in “the food side of things”? Cooking, and eating adventurously, play a huge role in my books—and I bet a lot of readers assume that (like my foodie heroine, Gladys), I’ve been passionate about food since childhood. But they’d be wrong about that.
I don’t talk about my “foodie awakening” as much as I should. But here goes. Though I wasn’t like Gladys as a kid, my parents were in some ways like her parents. They weren’t cooks. They didn’t own any cookbooks, or clip recipes from magazines. And neither of them had been taught to cook when they were younger. It was a skill that had, between generations, slipped out of use in our family.
As a result, the kitchen was like a foreign country to them—and a kind of scary one. Sharp knives could cut you! The stove burned! They didn’t have experience using these tools, so they only saw the dangers. The microwave seemed safe enough, so they cooked pretty much anything they could in it (and some things that you probably shouldn’t). And when our freezer ran low on microwaveable meals, we ate cereal or got takeout.
So perhaps not surprisingly, I was not an adventurous eater when I was a kid. (I was a lot more like Parm in my books than like Gladys!) I hadn’t been exposed to a wide range of good-tasting food, so I didn’t like much of it. Finally, in high school, I started trying new cuisines, thanks to a club advisor who made it his mission to blow our minds with Indian, Ethiopian, Malaysian, and Japanese food.
But it wasn’t until much later—when I was a college student, on the verge of living on my own—that I took a hard look at my future as an eater. I could go the way of my parents, relying on frozen-meal companies and fast-food joints to feed me for the rest of my life, or I could roll up my sleeves and learn how to cook.
I bought a copy of Mark Bittman’s How To Cook Everything, asked for a food processor for my birthday, and never looked back.
Those first days of cooking, on break from school at my parents’ house, were slow and a little painful—especially when I’d promised everyone dinner at 7, only to get it on the table at 9. But with practice, I grew more confident, and the results grew more delicious. My parents may not have cooked much for me, but they let me cook for them, and soon we were sitting around the table together, enjoying a homemade meal. I had turned a pile of raw ingredients into something nourishing for the people I loved—and I was truly shocked at how powerful that made me feel.
So, that’s my story about “the food side of things.” I kept enjoying new cuisines and making food for others. I finally got brave enough to attempt my dream of writing a novel, and I wanted to make my newfound passion for food a part of it. When I got the idea to write about a young girl whose parents ban her from the kitchen after a cooking mishap—a girl whose dream is to become a restaurant critic—I knew I’d struck gold.
When I meet readers today, some tell me that my books have nudged them to try a recipe out for themselves. It’s not often that we fiction writers get to hear about our stories affecting people’s real lives. But knowing that Gladys’s foodie adventures have inspired kids to develop a skill that I know will serve them—and others around them—for the rest of their days…well, I can’t help but weep salty little tears of happiness.
Saturday, December 3, is #FCSDay, when tens of thousands of people commit to “dining in” with family and friends. To celebrate, the American Association of Family & Consumer Sciences (AAFCS)—with support from my publisher, Penguin—will be giving away several sets of the All Four Stars trilogy to participants as prizes. To learn more and sign up to “Dine In,” visit www.aafcs.org/FCSDay, and follow the #FCSDay and #healthyfamselfie hashtags on social media.
To learn more about my books and experiences in cooking, please visit www.taradairman.com!
By Sara Tantillo, AAFCS Professional Development Manager
Tuesday started bright and early, with a walk around Bellevue to take a look at the site for this year’s “FCS Completes the Circle” Fun Run/Walk, a beautiful park near our conference hotel. Once we had our morning walk, we hopped in the car and headed into Seattle for a busy and fun-filled day!
We began the day at the Starbucks Reserve Roastery & Tasting Room, a one-of-a-kind space where they roast several different kinds of beans, offer exclusive roasts and give you the chance to try brand new and unique food and drinks. The excursion that includes a visit to the Roastery will give
you a chance to learn about how coffee is grown, selected, and roasted, along with a tasting session and tour of the Roastery. We met with Events Specialist Renee Frechin, to get a quick tour along with a lesson on the many ways to brew coffee! Once we’d finished the “work” part of our visit, we grabbed breakfast—lattes with a coffee exclusive to the Roastery, Paradeisi, and two breakfast sandwiches—one with fennel sausage, spinach, and egg, and one with squash and sprouts! Delicious!
Our next stop was the iconic Pike Place Market. Seattle is very walkable, so we took a stroll down to the Market, located right on the Elliott Bay. Pike Place was established in 1907 to allow farmers to sell directly to consumers and prevent price-gouging by wholesalers. The commitment to providing the community with local produce, fish and meats, and goods remains today. Eventually stores, arcades, and restaurants were added—including the very first Starbucks. There’s more to Pike Place than the famous Pike Place Fish Market—fruit and vegetable vendors, cheeses, chocolate and other desserts, pasta, and many artisans! Private Events Coordinator Ashley Coggins walked us through the Market and gave us a taste of the tour, and then we spent some time exploring on our own—we had to stop each other from buying perishable items, since we had to fly home, but we definitely picked up some non-perishables in a few of the stores!
After Pike Place, we continued our walk through the city—stopping briefly to admire these vintage sewing machines used as a window display! Our next stop was at the Seattle Architectural Foundation, where we met with Grace Travaglini to discuss the Art Deco tour of the city. We’re so excited about this tour, which will give you a chance to see many of the buildings with Art Deco influences, while getting a taste of the city on foot!
Once we finished at the Foundation, it was time to head over to Seattle Center, home to some of the city’s best museums! We stopped for lunch at the Seattle Center Armory, where those who are attending the Global Perspectives on Wellness excursion will eat. The Armory contains many local eateries—and attendees with have the chance to select their favorite! We had delicious and healthy salads at Plum Pantry, a vegan restaurant where you can also get fresh juices; smoothies; “protein rich bowls” with grains, legumes, veggies and more; pasta; soup; and sandwiches. Of course, we had to take a moment to get a quick shot with the Space Needle!
After lunch we headed over to the Nordic Heritage Museum, which showcases Seattle’s vibrant history of Nordic immigrants. Adult Education Coordinator Jeremy Ehrlich showed us around the museum, both in the public galleries and a few “backstage” peeks! We were very excited to see their textiles collection, and excursion attendees will enjoy a lesson on historic Nordic clothing along with one on preservation of textiles.
Once we finished our visit to the museum, we headed right back to the Seattle Center to visit one of my favorite museums of all time, Chihuly Garden & Glass. We were lucky enough to enjoy a full tour of the museum with Tourism Development Sales Manager Lisa Schmidt, who gave us lots of info about glass artist Dale Chihuly—but also allowed us to quietly experience the majesty of his work! We were able to explore both inside and outside, where the glass pieces integrate seamlessly with the vegetation.
After a stop in the gift shop (of course!), Lisa sent us on our way over to the Space Needle. The Space Needle will be an “add-on” option to the tour of Garden & Glass on Saturday—you’ll tour the museum with everyone else, but stay longer to head up 520 feet to the Observation Deck, where you’ll enjoy 360 degree views of the city. I’m a wee bit afraid of heights—but the deck is so safe that it didn’t bother me at all!
By this time, the sun had set—both literally and metaphorically on our visit! The Space Needle was our last stop on the trip. The Gates Foundation, located a short walk from the Seattle Center, will also be part of the Global Perspectives on Wellness excursion—but we were not able to fit a visit into our packed schedule!
Finally, it was time for dinner! We headed over to my favorite Mexican restaurant, Agua Verde. If you’re taking the time to explore Seattle, I highly recommend it—particularly the Bacalao tacos, but also the mango quesadilla—if you’re eating on your own, make sure you get a half portion, as the quesadillas are huge!
After dinner, we headed back to the hotel, packed up our souvenirs, and headed straight to bed, as we had to leave the hotel at 5am—as you can tell from this blurry photo! We were sorry to say goodbye to Bellevue, but so excited to get into planning this year’s conference! We are SO looking forward to the 107th Annual Conference—and we hope you are too! As well, this year we have a comprehensive rundown on our website of many of the things to do in Bellevue and Seattle—along with a few fantastic deals to help you extend your trip!
Registration for the conference is now open—and the early-bird pricing is good through April 15th. Please visit our conference site to learn more, and we hope to see you in Bellevue!
By Sara Tantillo, AAFCS Professional Development Manager
In early November 2015, Director of Professional Development and Market Research Daila Boufford and I traveled to Bellevue, Washington, to check out the AAFCS 107th Annual Conference hotel–the Hyatt Regency Bellevue on Seattle’s Eastside, learn more about the city and its surroundings, and visit the sites of our educational excursions. We had a wonderful time, and we’re so excited to share what we’ve learned with you!
This year we once again were able to spend two days in the city, which allowed us to spend more time at the excursion sites and go into more detail with our hotel contacts! Daila flew into Seattle-Tacoma International Airport on Sunday night, which is just about a half hour from the hotel depending on traffic. We rented a car as we had so many places to visit, but you’ll be able to save money using our deal with Shuttle Express! If you’re planning on spending some time exploring the area on your own—and we recommend that you take a few extra days to do so—we also have a great deal with Hertz Rent-a-Car. As I have friends who live in the area, I came in early for a visit, and explored Tacoma–only an hour away–and its nearby park, Point Defiance! Well worth the trip, if you have time. Of course, taxis are also readily available at the airport. Sunday night, we both arrived at the hotel and headed right to bed, since we knew the next few days would be long!
We got up Monday morning bright and early—ready to meet with our hotel and AV representatives. We ate at one of the hotel’s restaurants, Eques—it just serves breakfast and brunch, but boy does it do that well! It opens early—6:30am on weekdays—so you’ll have time to start the day with a great breakfast before your conference day begins! Daila and I sampled their signature Eggs Benedict. There are multiple versions to choose from and they were all fantastic! We recommend that you make a reservation—the restaurant gets pretty busy when there’s a conference happening! After breakfast, we headed out to explore the space—and we’re so excited with what we saw! It’s a gorgeous hotel that highlights the natural beauty of the Seattle area.
One of our favorite spaces was the Foyer of the Grand Ballroom, where we’ll be holding “Elevate Your Health,” our welcome reception on Wednesday afternoon (4-6pm). The spacious foyer offers scenic views of downtown Bellevue.
After touring the meeting space with our Hyatt rep, we headed over to Uwajimaya, our first excursion location visit, to eat lunch! Uwajimaya is an Asian grocery that has its roots in Seattle. Its first location opened in 1928. The Bellevue location is a bit newer—only 30 years old—but has deep roots in the community and we’re excited to be holding an excursion there! The café options at Uwajimaya are extensive! There is quite a bit of sushi and sashimi available, but you can also try some great hot entrees. Once we ate, we sat down with Store Manager Hiroshi Hibi and discussed the store’s origins, how they work with their community, and how he and his department managers will be sharing information about culture, business, nutrition, food waste, and more during the excursion tour. If you enjoy Asian cuisine or if you are curious to know more about the culture and sustainable practices in many Asian countries, this tour is for you!
After we finished up with Hiroshi, we did a bit of shopping—I came home with a gyoza press and tea infuser for myself, and some great Christmas gifts! We then headed over to the Bellevue Botanical Garden. Two of the volunteer docents gave us a lovely tour, where we learned about how the Garden was founded and how the unique climate in the Seattle area supports a vast array of vegetation. While it’s hard to see the full beauty of a botanical garden in the winter, the alpine garden was flourishing, and may of the fuchsia plants were still in bloom. We were especially lucky—not only did we see a few beautiful hummingbirds, which we don’t see out on the East Coast, we caught a glimpse of a bald eagle up above the trees! It was breathtaking.
After a quick gift shop stop—museums and botanical gardens have the cutest gifts!—we headed back to the hotel to drop our things and explore the area before meeting with the Annual Conference Local Advisory Committee for dinner.
The hotel is connected by several skybridges to different shopping and eating locations. We headed out to the Bellevue Collection to check out some local shops and see what the city has to offer! The Bellevue Collection is made up of three different spaces—Bellevue Place, the location of our hotel and several different fantastic restaurants; Lincoln Square; and Bellevue Square, our final destination! The first bridge from the hotel takes you to Lincoln Square, where you can find several different restaurants, along with a bowling alley, billiards lounge, and movie theater. We came back there for dinner—but more about that later. After a quick stop in Lucky Strike Lane to see whether it might be a good location for a group night out, we headed over the next bridge to Bellevue Square, the mall—of course, stopping on the way to admire a gorgeous chandelier fixture by glass artist Dale Chihuly!
Bellevue Square holds many “normal” mall stores—there’s a Macy’s and Crate and Barrel attached to the main mall space, there are plenty of clothing stores like American Eagle, Chico’s, Talbots, and Ann Taylor, there is the ubiquitous Apple Store, and of course a Williams-Sonoma—but this mall also holds a Tesla store! There are also a few PNW-specific stores, like the Seattle Team Shop. We were pretty excited to head into jcoco, a pop-up chocolate shop by the Seattle Chocolate Company! They sell unique, all-natural chocolate bars with chocolate sourced from all over the world—inspired by fashion, in many cases! Not only is jcoco a unique chocolate company—they are also very much about giving back to the community. With each chocolate bar purchased, they donate a healthy meal to someone who would otherwise go hungry, through food banks all over the US where their products are sold. The pop-up may not be there any longer by the time you visit—but jcoco products are available at Sea-Tac airport and the Made in Washington store in Bellevue, along with other locations all over Washington—and possibly in your state as well! I came home with a chocolate sampler—if you get the chance, I HIGHLY recommend the peanut strawberry baobab bar, as well as the agave quinoa sesame seed bar.
Once we finished exploring, we headed back to the hotel to meet a group of our local members for dinner. This year’s committee has been working tirelessly to bring you a fantastic experience—you may remember all the samples and info they had to offer at their booth last year in Jacksonville! Hopefully you’ve seen many of the tidbits about the state in the newsletters—and stay tuned for many more! We’ll also have quite a bit of information on the website regarding things to do in the area before and after your visit.
We met up with Co-Chairs LynDee Lombardo and Vivian Baglien, along with Karen Bergh, WAFCS president; Donna Graham, WAFCS affiliate officer and leader of the Community of Business & Entrepreneurship; and one of Vivien’s students, Kathryn Stephenson. We walked right across the street to Maggiano’s Little Italy, where we had an absolutely delicious dinner—learning more about each of our members and quite a bit about Washington state. Maggiano’s was one of many easily walkable restaurants—several of which are located within the hotel itself!
After dinner, we headed back to the hotel for a good night’s sleep as we knew we’d be heading out bright and early!
Stay tuned for part two of our blog, which will talk about our second day in Washington, when we headed into Seattle—just a 20-minute drive—to visit the rest of our excursion locations!
By Sara Tantillo, AAFCS Professional Development Manager
Thanks for coming back to read more about our trip to Jacksonville!
Tuesday started bright and early, with breakfast at Trellises again—they have a great breakfast buffet, perfect for a hearty start to the day. We then headed over to Jacksonville Landing for the start of our Jacksonville Top to Bottom Tour—part of AdLib Tours! Owner Gary Sass led the tour—dressed up as Andrew Jackson, the city’s namesake! While Gary holds this tour regularly, our version will be specifically focused toward FCS. Gary took us all over the city—from the underground tunnels to the city’s highest point! We learned so much about Jacksonville, and got quite a walk in! The Top to Bottom excursion at conference will pick up and drop off right at the hotel—remember to wear comfortable shoes!
We stopped for lunch at a great and affordable Thai restaurant, Indochine—check it out if you have time. I recommend the green curry, along with the Thai coffee. Daila got the Pad Thai, and recommends that as well!
After lunch we headed over to Interiors Trading Company (ITC), a wholesale retailer for Interior Designers and Decorators. Jennifer Bean met with us and gave us a quick tour, with information about their suppliers, how the company works, and more! We think this will be a great option for anyone who works in the industry, as well as those who are just interested in looking at the wholesale side of textiles and interior design. ITC expanded from just one location to three in Florida, so we will have the opportunity to learn about that process and how it has increased access to a myriad of textile options.
After our visit at ITC, we headed over to our final excursion location, the Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens! The Cummer is home to art spanning the ages, from 2100 B.C.E. through the 21st century, and its collection is just amazing. Most of the excursion will be focused on its two fantastic gardens, an Italian and an English garden, which were developed by members of the Cummer family. Attendees will also enjoy time for individual exploration of the museum and grounds. And remember—check out the gift shop to head home with some great souvenirs!
We finished up our trip to Jacksonville by dining with Lina Ingraham and Eleanor Cavanah, co-chairs of the Annual Conference Local Arrangements Committee. It was so nice to chat about plans for the conference, and learn even more about the city!
We are SO looking forward to the 106th Annual Conference—and we hope you are too! Registration is OPEN—learn more at www.aafcs.org/meetings/15!
By Sara Tantillo, AAFCS Professional Development Manager
In mid-November, Daila Boufford and I traveled to Jacksonville (Jax) to check out the site for the 2015 AAFCS Annual Conference. We were excited to learn more about the hotel, the city, and preview the educational excursions planned for conference. We had a fantastic time, and we are eager to share what we learned with you!
Daila and I flew into Jacksonville International Airport on Sunday night—the picture at left shows one of the beautiful sculptures you walk by on the way out of the building. Be sure to take a moment to look at the featured art as you exit. Taxis are readily available, and we will also have great discount deals on rental cars and shuttles! We arrived at the hotel, the Hyatt Regency Jacksonville Riverfront, and headed right to bed, since we knew the next few days would be long—but did take a moment to appreciate our great view of the St. Johns River before collapsing into the very comfortable Hyatt beds.
We got up Monday morning bright and early—ready to meet with our hotel and AV representatives, along with a rep from Visit Jacksonville! We ate at one of the hotel’s restaurants, Trellises—the shrimp and grits is quite a generous portion and we had a great breakfast! Afterwards we embarked on a tour of the facility. The Hyatt Jacksonville is a gorgeous space that is going to be the perfect place for our 2015 Conference.
One of our favorite spaces was the River Terrace, where we’ll be holding the “Sun and Sandals” Welcome Reception on Wednesday night! It opens onto a patio that overlooks the river, and is a beautiful spot to take in the views of Jacksonville. Be sure to arrive early enough on Wednesday to attend this event, which will showcase some of the tasty recipes the South has to offer. A ticket to the event is included in full and Thursday-only registrations, but please plan to bring your checkbook, as we will be raising funds to further awareness of Family and Consumer Sciences.
After exploring the hotel, we walked down the riverfront to Jacksonville Landing—a two-minute walk—where we enjoyed some delicious Mexican food al fresco! There are many restaurants to choose from, along with shopping options. If you’d like to explore restaurants and shopping on the South Bank, you can catch a water taxi nearby.
After lunch, we headed over to the Duval County Extension office, to visit the Canning Center. While the Canning Center is associated with the Extension office, it’s run entirely by volunteers, which is a big endeavor! The space holds canning equipment for both jarred items and canned items. Members of the community can schedule an appointment with the volunteers and come in to can their own produce or other items. The Center also holds classes throughout the year, with the gift classes during holidays being the most popular! This visit was one of our most inspiring excursion visits—we added a canning class with local produce on Wednesday as part of our Food Safety & Processing Tour, which will visit the Beaver Street Fisheries, the Farmers’ Market, and the Canning Center. We will offer a shorter trail mix canning class on Saturday, which will cover the basics of canning. Wednesday excursion attendees will also spend time in the Urban Garden, learning from a Master Gardener.
Once we were done at the Canning Center—and we did not want to leave!—we headed down to historic Amelia Island. We began our time there at the Amelia Island History Museum, meeting with Tour Coordinator Thea Seagraves and learning about the history of the area. Eight flags have flown over Amelia Island—can you guess which ones? The museum is located in a space that used to be a jail—and they use the space very creatively. It’s fun for all ages! Be sure to visit the gift shop—in my experience, museum gift shops are the best!
Next, we headed into Fernandina Beach, where the walking tour of the town’s historic buildings will be held, and where attendees will have time to explore! The town, right on the water, is very quaint and offers a variety of small shops and eating options. Excursion attendees will receive a Visa gift card, which can be spent at any of the many restaurants. Daila and I stopped for a mid-afternoon snack at Amelia Island Coffee and shared an Island cookie. It was delicious, and the perfect stop on a cold and rainy evening (not weather to expect in June!).
We made it an early evening and headed back to the hotel to get some rest, as we knew Tuesday would be even busier!
Check back next week to read Part Two of my blog post. Registration will be opening very soon, so stay tuned!