Dream Big: My Thoughts on Meeting Cat Winters

Somewhere in the depths of my drafts folder is my original review of The Cure for Dreaming by Cat Winters. It’s nothing like the review I wrote that was printed in the local newspaper, which detailed many of the reasons why I thoroughly enjoyed the book, but did not discuss the plethora of personal reasons behind those feelings. My original review delved into the severe depression I’d been stuck in for some time and how I’d lost sight of myself and my passions, including reading. It was deeply personal, raw, and in the end, too uncomfortable for me to share with the world. I talked about why I found hope in Olivia Mead’s strength and resilience, her desire to be herself despite the backlash from others. I took in every word of The Cure for Dreaming slowly, carefully, as if it could help piece me back together, and in a way, I believe it did. Reading The Cure for Dreaming was the first time in a long while that I felt like a little piece of myself was restored, and I was able to block out all of the chaos happening in my life at that time and just enjoy reading. It spoke to me, told me not to let the monsters overpower my sense of self worth, and for that reason, it will always remain one of my favorite books. It took some time to put myself back together, but I treasure The Cure for Dreaming as one of the catalysts to that recovery.

The Cure for Dreaming wasn’t my first book read from Cat Winters. I discovered her thanks to her debut young adult novel, In the Shadow of Blackbirds. I fell in love with her haunting and mysterious takes on historical fiction. Her work was inspiring, a style so fresh and unique that my most common remark was that I wished more than anything that I could write like her.

Every two years, my library hosts the Ohio River Festival of Books. When they started planning the 2016 festival, my boss asked for suggestions of authors we might want to try to contact about speaking at the festival. I don’t think she even got to finish her sentence before I was throwing out Cat Winters’s name. In all honesty, I never thought it would happen. I knew Cat lived all the way in Portland, and I didn’t think she’d want to make the trip all the way to little ol’ Huntington, West Virginia, but I thought it was worth a shot. Dreams can come true sometimes, right?

It happened. It really, REALLY happened. October 1st, I had the pleasure of meeting Cat Winters at the Ohio River Festival of Books. I had already sort of built up in my head what she would be like just from our brief interactions on Twitter and such, but I can tell you this – She is everything I thought she would be, and so much more!

Cat talked at length about how she’d spent her entire life writing, and the struggles she faced in her journey towards publication. She’d fortunately always had the support of her family, and to further illustrate that, she introduced the audience to her parents. They had driven several hours from northern Ohio to be able to see her speak at our book festival. Her mom and dad were just as sweet and kind as their daughter, even asking for a photo of Cat and me together. Her mother was especially beaming with pride as she watched the presentation and when she later spoke with the local news about the festival. Seeing them all together made me very thankful that my family has never discouraged my interest in writing…now, if only I could stop discouraging myself!

Cat read from each of her books, discussed the history behind them, and even bribed some audience members (myself included) with chocolate from Oregon to act out two parallel scenes from Hamlet and The Steep and Thorny Way.

Photo credit goes to my lovely cousin, Traci, who was in attendance to make sure I didn’t pass out from fangirling too hard.

After her presentation, Cat did a signing. I consider myself a pretty lucky girl because my boyfriend had taken the reviews I wrote for the local paper for The Cure for Dreaming and The Steep and Thorny Way and had them matted and framed. I love that I was able to have Cat sign this, as well as my copy of The Cure for Dreaming, where she wrote, “Dream big”. That phrase has been in my mind since meeting her, which was a big dream of mine in the first place, but now I’m consumed by other big dreams. Mostly, I dream of actually publishing a book of my own, to finally have my name on the cover of something I have created, to have a space on the bookshelf where anyone can find it. These are big dreams, and to make them come true, first I will actually have to finish a project. I know that my life is beyond hectic this year (see the note at the end of this post), but it will also be my fifth year as a NaNoWriMo Municipal Liaison for my local region. I love National Novel Writing Month and the motivation and urge to create it sparks. While I know the likelihood of me actually busting out 50,000 words in probably my busiest month so far this year isn’t very high, I currently have two young adult projects that I’ve been going back and forth between. Hopefully, with the extra motivation from all of my local Wrimos, I’ll be able to make a considerable dent in working towards my dream.

Julie Kagawa tweeted last month saying, “Tell a writer whose book you loved that you loved it. A kind word means the world to us. #EncourageAwriter”. There was an outpouring of author-love all over Twitter, and I took this time to tell a few of my favorites what an inspiration they’ve been to me. Cat Winters was one author who I felt truly needed recognized. Open any of her books and you’ll find a wealth of research, genuine talent, and truly immersive stories. I really encourage anyone and everyone to read her books. It just might change your life. 🙂

You can find out more about Cat Winters by visiting her website: www.catwinters.com

One last thing…

You may have noticed that there’s been a pretty long stretch of time between me getting to meet Cat Winters and finally posting this (not to mention, a long time between this and my last blog post). I promise, there’s a real reason behind it, and it’s not that I’ve just been lazy.
I am incredibly thrilled to say that I’ve accepted a new job as a branch manager for one of the libraries in our system! It’s very exciting and, at the same time, very bittersweet, since I’ll be leaving behind my incredible work family in Youth Services. BUT this is definitely something I’ve dreamed of since beginning my career in libraries, and I will still be working with all of the same wonderful people, just in a different capacity! I’ve been pretty busy transitioning between the two locations and also balancing my life at home, in grad school, and my writing time, so I promise I’ll be getting back to posting regularly. I’ve been granted early access to some popular upcoming YA titles, and I can’t wait to tell you all about them! Until then, dream big!


HomeChef: Six Month Subscription Review

I know it’s unusual to see a review on this site that isn’t book-related, but a few months ago, I posted Subscription Showdown: Blue Apron vs. HomeChef, a comparison of two meal subscription services I have tried. That post has quickly become one of the most popular posts here on Among the Authors, and I’ve heard a lot of great feedback from those who gave the services a try thanks to the review. The short version is this: I subscribed to Blue Apron for six months, until I made the switch to HomeChef and never looked back! We’ve now been subscribing to HomeChef for six months, and I don’t foresee that changing any time soon. Since we’ve hit our six month home-chef-iversary, I thought it might be time for an update so that anyone still on the fence about meal subscriptions could see why once you try it, you won’t want to give it up.


So what is HomeChef?
HomeChef is meal delivery subscription service. That means, each week we receive a refrigerated box packed full of fresh ingredients to make the meals we’ve preselected. There are about 12 options each week that always include a variety of meats, at least three vegetarian options, a breakfast, some smoothies, and a fruit assortment.

What does it cost?
Meals are typically $9.95 a serving (although sometimes you can select a premium option which is a bigger meal, but also costs more), and shipping is free over $50. We typically order three meals for two people each week. Sometimes, we even select an extra meal just because the options are so great we can’t pick just three. So… Two People + 3 Meals = $60 a week. The value is even greater when I consider just how little I go to the grocery store anymore, other than for essentials. Not going to the grocery store as much means I’m less likely to impulse buy, so no more of that “I spent $200 and barely bought anything” feeling after leaving the store.
Want to make it an even better deal? If you use this link, you get $30 OFF your first week of HomeChef!
(A green banner will pop up in the window after you’ve first clicked the link, and it just says that your $30 discount will be applied at checkout)
So if you’re buying for two and select three meals, that takes your first week down to $30 (shipping is still FREE). Can the two of you dine out three times in a week for under $30? Not likely.
$30 OFF your first week of HomeChef!

What’s the food like?
Ridiculously good. Seriously. I think we’ve only skipped one week of service the entire six months (only because we were on vacation), so out of ALL of those meals, we’ve never had a meal we totally disliked. The ingredients come super fresh, the recipes are simple, and we look forward to new menus being released so much that we always have our dinners planned out a month in advance! No joke. We really like the fact that, while there are a lot of great ‘safe’ choices (steak and potatoes, fried chicken, spaghetti and meatballs, etc.), there are also so many adventurous choices that have led us to try new things and discover foods that we never knew we liked (I just had a chayote for the first time!).

Here are a few photos of some HomeChef meals we’ve made. If you asked me to select a favorite, I don’t think I could. Pictured:
– Patio BBQ Steak Sandwich on buttery hoagie with charred onion, cheddar, and grilled corn
– Backyard Seafood Boil with lobster, shrimp, and spicy sausage (Premium meal)

-Beef and cheese enchiladas with sour cream, sweet corn, and cheese
– Lasagna Bianca with cremini mushrooms and spinach

Are the recipes actually simple?
Even if you’ve somehow lived your life without ever operating a stove, I’m pretty sure you could cook a HomeChef meal. When you place your first order, HomeChef also includes a free recipe binder so that you can preserve the recipe cards they send with your meals. These cards explain everything! What kind of pans you’re going to need to use, how to prepare the ingredients, and even down to how long it should take you to make a meal. I don’t believe we’ve ever had a meal that took over an hour to prepare.

It’s also nice to have the recipe cards on hand if there’s an especially good meal that you’d want to try to make again on your own. Caution though – it always costs me more when I try to recreate a meal myself, mostly due to the fact that when you get the ingredients through HomeChef, they are already portioned out rather than having to buy a bulk amount at the grocery store just to get the amount you need. I’m also bad about waste because then that leftover bulk amount sits in my fridge forever because I’ve forgotten to use it. That’s why HomeChef’s pre-portioned ingredients are such a money saver – I get exactly what I need without spending big $ and without wasting anything.

Recipes are broken down into no more than six steps that include photos. It also includes reminders if an ingredient is going to be used more than once in a recipe so that you don’t use it all at once. The only additional ingredients that you need to have on hand that Home Chef doesn’t include are olive oil, salt, pepper, and occasionally some water. If you cook at all, you probably already have those items in your kitchen.

Final thoughts?
I’m sure there are a lot of great meal delivery services out there, and I always intended to try several. We’ve just had such great experiences with HomeChef, though, that I don’t really want to give it up, even for just one week. So, we’ll be sticking with HomeChef! The meals are delicious, you can’t beat the price, AND it increases my love of cooking! I’ve always enjoyed cooking, but HomeChef has really opened me up to different techniques and different ingredients that I otherwise wouldn’t have ever tried.

Ready to try it? Click here to get $30 off your first week of HomeChef.

Subscription Showdown: Blue Apron vs. HomeChef

It’s a little strange, isn’t it, seeing a post on this blog that has nothing to do with either books or writing? True, this post won’t fit with the general theme of this blog, but it does have to do with another passion of mine – food! I’ve noticed lately that the most visited post on this site is Uppercase vs. OwlCrate – A Review, where I reviewed two young adult book subscription boxes. While receiving those fabulous bookish goodie boxes was an awesome experience, I was actually inspired to try those because of another subscription we regularly receive – meal deliveries. You see them advertised all of the time – Plated, Hello Fresh, HomeChef, Blue Apron, Freshology, etc. But are they worth it? My short answer – absolutely. Long answer – We spent six months receiving Blue Apron boxes each week, and we only recently made the switch to try out HomeChef. Keep reading for a detailed review of the strengths and weaknesses for those two services, and see why meal subscription boxes are the best thing ever, at least in this house.
Continue reading “Subscription Showdown: Blue Apron vs. HomeChef”