Friday, May 25, 2012

The Return of the Stennifer Lunch Tour Contest

In honor of my 42nd birthday, which happens to be today.....

The Stennifer Lunch Tour is BACK!

We are adorable.  Don't you want to have lunch with us?

 That is right, my bestie Jennifer Lancaster, NYT bestselling author of such literary masterpieces as My Fair Lazy, Such a PrettyFat and the brand new Jeneration X (all of which have some cameos by yours truly) has agreed once again to take our tabloid selves, known to all as Stennifer, on the road to support the release of my new book OFF THE MENU.

OFF THE MENU is the tale of Alana Ostermann, the executive assistant chef to bigtime bad-boy celebrity chef Patrick Conlon.  Her job is 24/7, and has no boundaries, but is lucrative and exciting.  She gets to develop recipes, help him write his cookbooks, travel to exotic locations and eat at fabulous restaurants.  She also gets to fire people who annoy him, break up with his girlfriends when he tires of them, and generally try to keep him out of trouble.  It can be frustrating, but she makes enough money to help out her retired immigrant parents, and be a doting aunt to her eight nieces and nephews, and mom to Dumpling, an oddly arranged mixed-breed pup who is her mostly companion.  It all suits her reasonably well, until a fluke online connection brings RJ into her life.  A Southern gent with a sparkle in his eye, a quick wit, and a deep appreciation for Alana’s qualities, RJ quickly makes Alana want and need to rearrange her priorities, much to Patrick’s chagrin.  And a potential career change offers its own temptations, but would require some sacrifices Alana isn't sure she is ready to make.  Will she be able to keep the guy AND keep her job?  You’ll have to read it to find out!

 I am indescribably excited about this book, and so are some other people.

 Stacey Ballis dishes up another fabulous and soul-satisfying meal in her newest novel.  With the perfect blend of humor and heart, Ballis' writing is powerfully honest and genuinely hilarious, and embodies everything I love about contemporary women's fiction.  Off the Menu is an irresistibly delicious five-course read! 

                 --Jen Lancaster, NTY bestselling author of My Fair Lazy and If You Were Here

 A wonderfully joyful ode to good food, best friends, tough choices and great love.  Off the menu = one delicious read...that comes complete with recipes! So much fun.

                --Alison Pace, author of Pug Hill, and You Tell Your Dog First

 Smart, sexy and delightfully buoyant, OFF THE MENU is, in a word, scrumptious. Stacey Ballis has managed to capture happiness between the covers of a book.

                --Quinn Cummings, author of Notes from the Underwire

Pre-orders are very important to authors.  Pre-orders can make the difference of a book going all bestseller, and fizzling out.  Here is how that works:  Publishing is expensive.  All that paper and ink.  So, especially in this economy, publishers try not to produce more books than they think they will sell.  And when the sales force looks at the size of the print run, that tells them where they need to put their energy to sell the books to bookstores.  A lot of pre-orders show the publishers that a book might be very popular, so they print more copies.  When they print more copies it tells the sales force that they better get behind the book so that all those copies sell and don't sit around the warehouse all sad and frumpy, so they tell the bookstores to get excited and that they should order lots of copies.  Bookstores look at all those copies they ordered, and tell their staff to work to sell them to consumers, and then the trickle down effect is that authors get exciting things like getting to live indoors with electricity.

 So while I am grateful for every copy of a book I sell, pre-ordered books hold a very special place in my heart.  And last year, to encourage pre-orders and reward those who participate, the Stennifer Lunch Tour was born. 

 Last year we got to travel to Dallas, a fave place of Jen’s and my first trip there, for a fabulous lunch with the winners Alyson and Bertta.  We had a terrific time, and are so excited to see where we end up this year!

SO MUCH FUN!!!!  Don't you wish this was you?

The winner of the contest will get lunch for themselves and a guest with Jen Lancaster and myself in their hometown, along with a gift basket of some signed books, limited edition promotional items, and other goodies.

That’s right, Chickens, STENNIFER hits the road to come take your fabulous self and your bestie to an elegant lunch in your area. And we bring you presents! Are we not the greatest?

 This year, a fun new option…if you and your bestie are sick of your hometown, and want to use this as an excuse for a little getaway, Jen and I will meet you in another city!  Want to hit NYC and catch a show and do some shopping? Stennifer LOVES New York.  Have a town you’ve always wanted to visit?  As long as it is in the contiguous 48, we’ll meet you there. (And if that town you always wanted to visit HAPPENS to be Chicago?  BONUS FOR YOU!  We’ll shift your lunch into a dinner at an amazing restaurant where we know the chef, who will cook us a special one-of-a-kind eight  course dinner with insanely fantastic wines from Charming Suitor’s personal cellar, AND Stacey will help you plan the rest of your trip by suggesting cool stuff to do and delish places to eat.)

Here is how it works…you go (no, go NOW!) and pre-order a copy (or many) of my new book OFF THE MENU. E-mail the confirmation (or receipt or a scan or screen shot of your order) to staceyballisinfo (at) gmail (dot) com.

IMPORTANT!!!!  Please make sure you read and understand all the rules at the bottom of this post and make sure that the SUBJECT LINE of your e-mail reads:  I accept the rules of the Lunch Tour Contest. We legally cannot accept entries unless they specifically state that you accept the rules.   
EVERY BOOK YOU ORDER IS ITS OWN ENTRY.   Enter as often and in as many ways as you like.

Order 10 copies? You have 10 entries. Want to give them out as Holiday Gifts to everyone in your company? Order 200 and you will have 200 chances to win. (The entries are connected to the e-mail address from which I receive them, so if you have a lot of friends you think might enjoy the book, but they don’t care about the contest, have them pre-order their copies, forward the receipt to you and you send them to me for multiple entries. So easy!)

Even better? No purchase required to win, you can also get entries for helping Jen and me to spread the word!

For every 20 people you tell about the contest, you get yet another chance to win! Just CC staceyballisinfo (at) gmail (dot) com on an e-mail (again subject line I accept the rules of the Lunch Tour Contest) with 20 different e-mail addresses (I will not store these addresses or sell them or use them in any insidious way, I just need to see that you actually sent it to 20 people.) with a link to this blog post or a link to pre-order the book on Amazon and a brief description of the contest, and you’ll get another qualifying entry. Know a lot of people? Send 20 e-mails (to 20 different people each) and you’ll get 20 more entries. Get 20 people to Like a Facebook post about the contest (of which the first line must be I accept the rules of the Lunch Tour Contest) with a link to this post or a link to pre-order the book on Amazon and tag me in the post or send me a screen shot, and BAM! Another entry.   If you get 100 people to like that post, that is five entries!

We have not been able to figure out a way to reward tweeting or getting people to follow us, but we do hope that you will tweet about the contest, and the book, and encourage people to follow us just in a good-faith karma kind of way J

 Did you find out about this contest from a pal by word of mouth and HATE technology?  Send either a copy of your receipt for your pre-order or a postcard or note saying STENNIFER LUNCH TOUR ENTRY with your name and contact information and a line saying I accept the rules of the Lunch Tour Contest to:

 Lunch Tour 
PO Box 471225 
Chicago, IL 60647. 

(We cannot be responsible for the US Mail system, so if you are using this option, please send in your entries no later than June 20 to ensure that they get to us by the deadline, as we are working with entries in hand and not postmarks.)
The winner’s lunch will be documented on both
Jen’s Blog and my own.

Already pre-ordered? Just send in that receipt! And maybe go order a second one for a pal….

On Kindle? Pre-orders now available! OFF THE MENU KINDLE EDITION

Lunch to take place on a date between Sept. 15, 2012 and Sept. 15, 2013, specific date based on mutual availability.

Contest ends at 11:59PM CST on July 1, 2012, and the winner will be announced on my blog and Jen’s and notified via e-mail on July 3, 2012.

NOTE: Contest NOT open to blood related family members of either of us. That would be unfair. Friends and friends of family are welcome. And family of friends are awesome!

Now, what are you waiting for?
CLICK HERE to pre-order your copy or copies right now!

And please follow me on Twitter
@staceyballis. And Jen @altgeldshrugged.

And thank you in advance for all of your support.  If I had it in me to take each and every one of you to lunch, I would.  But know that even if you don't win, I think you are going to love this book, and more importantly, if we really get the numbers for pre-orders high, maybe I will get to go on a book tour and meet you in person!

Yours with much love, and in Good Taste,
The Polymath

Rules/Fine Print/Legal Stuff:

This is a contest, not a lottery or sweepstakes.  NO PURCHASE IS NECESSARY TO WIN.  All entries are equal, regardless of format or number of entries per person.  Each entry will be numbered in the order in which it is received, and a random number generator at will be used to choose the winner.  Contest runs until 11:59 PM on Sunday July 1, 2012.  Winner will be announced on Monday July 2, 2012.  Winner will have one year (September 2012-September 2013) to schedule their prize at the discretion and availability of the authors.  (Authors request that when looking at scheduling, that you avoid times when your hometown might have large events or conventions that make airfare and hotel booking difficult or extra-expensive!)

 Means of entry:  E-mail either a screenshot, jpeg, scan, or forward a copy of a receipt for a pre-order purchase of OFF THE MENU by Stacey Ballis.  EACH COPY LISTED is one entry, you can enter as many times as you want, and do not need to have separate receipts for each one.  Stacey Ballis and Jennifer Lancaster are not responsible for technological glitches or errors, and cannot be held liable for corrupted files, or entries not received.  One entry for every 20 people on an e-mail CC’d to staceyballisinfo (at) gmail (dot) com about the contest, and one entry for every 20 Likes on a facebook post about the contest- both e-mails and Facebook posts MUST include both a link to the contest post on The Polymath Chronicles Blog, AND a link to pre-order the book on Amazon.  In the event a question regarding a winner’s identity arises, entries will be deemed made by the holder of the e-mail account associated with the entry.

 For snail mail entries, end a either a copy of your receipt or a postcard or note saying STENNIFER LUNCH TOUR ENTRY with your name and contact information to Lunch Tour  PO Box  471225  Chicago, IL 60647.  Mail entries must be RECEIVED by 1:00PM on Friday June 29, 2012.  Stacey Ballis and Jennifer Lancaster are not liable for failure of the USPS to deliver your entry by this date, so you are encouraged to mail entries no later than June 20, 2012 to ensure timely delivery.

 The retail value of this prize is $400, which is the estimated cost of lunch for four hungry girls with wine at a schmancy restaurant.  You may not request the money in lieu of the prize. If you choose to travel to another city to have your prize, all expenses EXCEPT the lunch which you have won are your responsibility.

 Odds of winner are dependent on number of entries received.  In 2010 there were 609 entries, so odds of winning for each entry in the last contest were 1 in 609.

 Anyone is eligible to enter, but lunch MUST TAKE PLACE in the contiguous 48 states.  If you want to enter and you are from outside that area, you must travel to a city in the contiguous 48 for the prize.

Stacey Ballis and Jennifer Lancaster will make every good faith effort to ensure that the winner receives their prize.  They are not responsible for cancellation of travel due to acts of God, illness of any involved party or spouse, airline issues.  Stacey Ballis and Jennifer Lancaster reserve the right to cancel, suspend, modify or terminate this contest in the event of any technical malfunction, including any unauthorized tampering, or anything beyond the control of the promoter.

E-mail addresses and contact information will not be stored, sold, traded, or in any way shared with any other party.  Entries received through e-mail will automatically be added to Stacey Ballis’ e-mail list for newsletters and other information unless specifically requested in the e-mail to not be added to the list.  Participants can opt out of this list at any time.

Void where prohibited.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Scale Winner!

Thanks to the lovely people over at, many congrats to....

Lori Ashford!

Lori, please e-mail me your shipping address to staceyballisinfo (at) gmail (dot) com and I will get your snazzy new orange Escali scale to you ASAP.

For the rest of you, while I know you are disappointed, here is a link to buy your own scale...SCALE

As a consolation, while you can certainly get the orange if you love it, it also comes in Black, White, Electric Blue, Deep Purple, Red, Silver, Pink, and Lime.  And it is only $34.95, which is pretty great for such a useful appliance.

And for those who were interested more in helping with weight loss or managing carbs, the nutritional scale is $51.95, comes in black and silver, and is available HERE

Stay tuned next week, more contests coming, and the official rules for the Stennifer Lunch Tour: The Sequel.

Have a terrific weekend!

Yours in Good Taste,
The Polymath

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Scale of Things

I never thought of the scale as my friend. 

Because let's be honest, since about 1979, the scale has never given me the number I wanted.  The scale is the most dreaded part of any doctor's visit.  The scale is a cruel master, not just instantly responding to a single binge-y night, but famous for refusing to respond at all to an entire week of monklike deprivation and Herculean exercise.  The scale is changeable, move it two inches in any direction and the numbers can jump around like toddlers after trick or treating. 

I'm gonna say it.  I HATE the effing scale.  Or I did.  Until now.

As a cook, I love testing new recipes, trying new things. I especially love cookbooks, and cookbooks from other places are like mini vacations.  But I don't like Math, and trying to convert a recipe from metric is a mind-numbing exercise well beyond my interest.

But with the interwebs full of fun food blogs from parts abroad, and cookbooks dangling delicious sounding recipes full of grams of this and liters of that, it was time to get my stuff together.

It started simply.  We missed a pal's 60th birthday.  And she and her husband were coming up to the Farm for a weekend, and I wanted to make her a small birthday cake to celebrate.  I was informed that her favorite cake is yellow cake or white cake with vanilla frosting.  A cake I did not have in my repetoire, being more of a chocolate/banana/nut cake kind of gal.  But technology would help me!  I found a recipe online for a cake.  It sounded delicious, a simple vanilla scented yellow cake.  And lucky for me, the recipe contained both standard and metric measurements.

Except it didn't work.

The cake turned out sort of dry and leaden.  Not inedible, and our guest actually claimed to love it, but I was deeply disappointed.  I looked back at the recipe and realized something important.  In converting the metric to standard, the amounts had gotten a little imprecise.  And I recognized that there is no way to mess up measuring things by weight, but that depending on everything from the type of container to the way you scoop it, flour measured by volume can be as much as DOUBLE the weight you need, which I believe is what happened to me.

Then something wonderful happened.  Escali, makers of not only precise, but funky and fun kitchen scales, sent me a package. 

Oh yeah.  That my Chickens is a glass digital kitchen scale in a very sassy tangerine orange.  And it is, despite my original fighting, changing the way I cook.

For starters, it is really easy to use, the glass makes it easy to keep clean, and the color and clean lines mean that if I leave it on the counter it becomes decor and not clutter. 

Less than 2 minutes out of the box and I was confident in my usage, which is a pretty good curve for a new piece of equipment.  And the most important part, within a couple of weeks I had pretty seamlessly integrated it into my cooking.  Especially when I started to play with the other item in my package...

While slighly less snazzy on the looks, this nutritional scale is a dieters and diabetics dream.  Because it comes with a book of every food you can imagine, giving special codes for each.  Put your food, even pre-cooked foods like lasagna or cookies, on the scale, punch in the code, and it will give you the nutritional value....calories, carbs, sodium, someone who is both trying to lose weight AND needs to be very careful to manage carb intake, this thing is a godsend. 

Between the two, I can now bake with confidence, try out some of the recipes in my metric cookbooks, and stop hearing Michael Ruhlman in my head chiding me for waiting so long.  (If you have not bought his book Ratio yet, do it now.  It will change your cooking forever.)  Plus I can be a smart girl and make sure I am staying on track with my carbs.

Which of course, makes the bathroom scale, that fickle bitch, somewhat more pliant. 

And since you know how we love to share, Escali sent me one of the fabulous orange scales to give to one of you!

So, comment below by Thursday May 17, 11:59 pm CST, telling the class either a metric recipe you are dying to make (feel free to post the recipe so we can all have fun) or how you think an adorable tangerine orange kitchen scale will change your cooking, and the old random number generator will pick one of you as the winner!

Yours in Good Taste,

The Polymath

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Happy Mother's Day!

I am the luckiest girl in the world.  Because I not only have the world's best Mom...

(and adorable sister)
And Grandmother...

I also have the super bonus of the most amazing Mom-in-Law...

And some extra Moms-by-Choice!

Thanks to all of you for showing me what it means to be a woman, a wife, a mother, a sister, and the best possible human being.  What it means to love, to live, to be strong, to work, to play.  I would not be the woman or the person I am without having had every one of you in my life, and today, as every day, I am deeply humbled and so very grateful.

Love you all, thank you for being.


Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Jumping Genres, But Hopefully Not The Shark

Hello Chickens!  Today I want to share some lovely news about a new project with you.

But first, a teeny bit of backstory.

I always thought I was going to be a lawyer.  From the age of six or so, I would tell anyone who would listen that I was going to be a lawyer when I grew up.  And anyone who ever heard me negotiate with my parents for a second glass of pop or one more chapter before bed had no doubt that was a smart path for me.

In high school I served for a year on the Illinois Bar Association’s Young Lawyers Division after-school program.  I was on my school’s mock trial team, and we took our show to the statewide competition where we went up against a school from Leaf River, IL, and I made one of their team members cry during cross examination.  The Illinois Supreme Court Justice moderating the trial indicated I might want to skip college and law school and just start litigating.

When I got to university, I was leaning towards a career in international law.  Being that this area of law is all about treaties and trade agreements, and that China was going to open to the West the year after I was due to graduate from Law School, I signed up for Chinese 101, and started imagining my junior year abroad in the exotic Far East.  Chinese 101 met five days a week at 9am.  I went to one full week of classes, learning to say “Hello”, and then proceeded to sleep thru it not only the rest of the semester, but the entire last day to drop classes, garnering me my very first F in history, and plunking me solidly on Academic Warning. 

My parents were so proud.

Since International Law was out, I shifted my focus to Entertainment Law, having been both a musician and actor, and imagined making millions protecting the interests of artists, and then retiring from practice young (with plenty of money) in order to serve as a judge.  This was my goal for a full two years, right up until I spent the three months between my sophomore and junior year living in a mud hut in Kenya and teaching at the local secondary school.  I realized there that I could be a good lawyer, and a wealthy lawyer, but not a happy lawyer.

I returned stateside to pursue a career in education.  One MA in Education and four years teaching high school English in the Chicago Public Schools, was followed by eleven years running education programs at not-for-profit professional theaters, and consulting with both education entities on arts integration in the classroom, and educational program development for arts organizations, as well as teacher and teaching artist training and curriculum development.

Leaving the world of arts education for full time writing was the hardest decision I ever had to make, but also an important one.  And making a life as an artist is a source of unimaginable joy.   But I do miss the contact with young people, the connection of teaching, working with passionate educators.

My once fervid desire to be a member of the legal community was replaced by a deep and abiding love of the legal procedural, in television, print, and on film.  Name a Law and Order episode, and I’ve seen it.  I own L&O Trial By Jury on DVD.  If cops are fighting bad guys and lawyers are defending the innocent, it is on my TiVo, much to the chagrin of poor Charming Suitor who loves me in spite of it.

Our schools, it is no surprise to any of us, are in a state of disaster.  No Child Left Behind should have been called Every Child Left Behind, with essential areas of the arts and civics education lost to budget cuts and standardized testing.  Teachers are desperate for interesting and compelling curriculum and resources, and kids are being given short shrift, especially in the area of Civics and education about our legal and judicial systems. 

So when a friend of a cousin approached me nearly two years ago about potentially working with him to co-author a young adult legal thriller that would be a fantastic fun read for middle-schoolers, but also a source of actual information about the legal system and constitutional law that teachers could integrate into their classroom curriculum, I was intrigued.  When he said we would not only write the book, which could hopefully be the first in a series, but that we would be developing student guides and teaching study guides, and creating a website to serve as a resource for educators, and that everything we did would be appropriate for use on both Constitution Day and Law Day in the schools, I was in.

As a writer, working in a totally new genre is exhilarating.  Since writing tends to be solitary and isolating, working with a wonderful collaborator is refreshing.  And as an educator, working on something of genuine academic value is the work of my heart.

Wainwright for the People has been embraced by the American Bar Association, which will publish it in March of 2013.  As I do with all my books, I would like to ask you to pre-order your copy.  Unlike my other books, I am going to ask you to do it this month through Kickstarter.  There is much work to be done, especially on the website development side and working on the educational materials, in addition to the actual writing of the book, and for all of that to happen, we need some support.

Any donation of $15 gets you a copy of the book, same as if you pre-ordered from a bookstore or online bookseller, but in addition to the book, you will know you are helping make the educational elements of this project come to fruition.  The campaign runs for exactly one month, so if you do want to pre-order your copy (or copies!) you have till the end of the month to do so. 

You can get all the info on the project you might need here, including reading the (very rough draft) of the first three chapters:

 Feel free to post this on Facebook, tweet about it, send it in an e-mail to whomever you like.

 And thanks in advance for your support, it is an unbelievably exciting new venture and I am thrilled to be a part of it, and to share it with you all.

 Yours in Good Taste,
The Polymath

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Happy Day

One year ago today, I married my Charming Suitor, my best friend, my confidante, my muse, my partner in crime.

Are we not a bucket of adorable???
I recieved as a wedding gift an extra set of wonderful parents, a new sister and brother, and two incredible nieces, all of whom I could not love more if they were mine my birth instead of choice.  I got to watch my own family open to embrace and include my CS, and watch them all come to be family in such a seamless and effortless way that it makes my heart smile whenever we are together.

In the past year we have turned two households into one home, two groups of friends into one rollicking gaggle.  We have filled the year with amazing travel, laughter, and a love that really does, despite the cliche of it, grow stronger and deeper every day.  We have supported each other through some difficult and trying times, and celebrated milestones.  We have cooked together, for each other and for others, and frankly, everything really does taste better. 

So, on this very special day, I just wanted to say as out loud as I can, thank you to my extraordinary husband for the best year of my life, the best love of my life, the best life of my life.  I am the luckiest, happiest girl in the world.  Here's to year two.

With my whole heart,