For FALL 2010's delicious offerings of books, art, food, film, and unique travel--check out the NEW ISSUE of our online magazine FEAST--you will not go away hungry-- http://www.feastofbooks.com/

Between issues, read our blog posts as we and our special guests share thoughts, ideas, and recommendations about books, art, food, film, and travel. We love to hear from our readers, so please post a comment! Thanks-- Rosemary Carstens, editor

SNAX ONLINE is moving during the first quarter of 2011 -- stay tuned!

Snax Online is undergoing a redesign and will be moving to a new location. Check back from time to time for a link. In its new format, this blog will cover a wider range of topics but also its usual five. In the meantime, keep up with what's happening in the world of books, art, food, film, and travel at http://www.FEASTofBooks.com --

See you in 2011!!

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Living in Italy is MORE than it's cracked up to be . . .

Our latest guest hails from ITALY part of each year. DEE MONTALBANO loves the lifestyle and friends she’s found there and, in addition to being an accomplished writer, she is a keen observer of unique details around her. Here is an excerpt from a recent letter, received just before Easter and shared with her permission— Rosemary


My time on the Web is limited to 25 hours a month in my apartment . . . I’m not sure what happens to me after 25 hours [since] I haven’t gotten that far in my language development with Stefano, my landlord. I have learned to tell Stefano, “Yes, I know there’s a dial tone on the kitchen phone, but I still can’t make or receive calls on that phone.” Also, I’ve learned how to say “band-aid” and “three way plug” in Italian, all things they didn’t teach me in my language classes.

My life here is simple. In a little while I will walk about four blocks to fill my empty water bottles at the public fountain. There’s a more interesting water fountain under a statue of a bare-breasted woman, but that’s another five blocks away and the filled bottles are heavy, especially when I have to carry them up the 44 stairs to my apartment.

Tomorrow I will take my shopping cart to Esselunga, the King Soopers of Lucca, and that’s about a two-mile walk outside the walls. The last time I did that I filled the shopping cart so much that I couldn’t carry it up the 44 stairs and had to make two runs. It keeps me in shape. Other than that, Lucca (probably any place in Italy) has the best take-out in the world: small shops that have their own freshly made eggplant parmigiana, lasagna, frittatas, amazingly prepared vegetables, ribollita, risottos—you name it. And then there is the foccaccia and the breads at Giusti, one of the best bakeries in town, where at least thirty people are lined up in front of the long counter and I finally gathered enough courage to push forward and speak my order with the best of them.

My first two weeks here I was house-sitting with Ugo, a split-personality border collie mix. It was great, except that the caldaia, the water heater, broke down three different days leaving me without hot water and heat on those days. Finding the language to get that fixed was another lesson they didn’t teach me.

Ugo was a demon out on the street; he lunged at male dogs while I shouted, “Questo cane e’ aggressivo. Meglia che girare.” This dog is aggressive. It’s better that you turn around. At home Ugo was a loving delight, so on balance, we had a great time.

Yesterday I went to Florence; today I took the local bus to visit a new friend who lives in a suburb; Sunday five women will be gathering at a friend’s house in a hill town for a vegetarian Easter feast. And I’m writing 4-5 days a week. In between I’m seeing what I can of the American elections on BBC World, and trying to stay calm while our country appears to be going down the drain economically and otherwise. It’s a little unnerving to have the decline of the dollar in your face each day, but I think it’s another lesson in giving up my fears. The latest poll that I saw showed McCain gaining, and if that’s the case, I may stay here indefinitely.

Buona Pasqua (Easter is very big here) and saluti affetuosi a tutti,

-- Dee

DEE MONTALBANO is a teacher, teacher of teachers, corporate consultant, grandma, quester, writer, and Tuscan housesitter. A resident of Boulder, Colorado, she has traveled annually to Lucca, Italy, since 2004, has found a community of friends there, and is now becoming part of the ‘hood where she rents an apartment and tries to write every day.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Where Have All the Readers Gone?

We hear so often these days that people aren’t reading anymore, that many college graduates haven’t read an entire book since they graduated, that most Americans have not been in a bookstore in the past five years, and other—to me—shocking statistics. When I think of all I’ve gained from reading over my lifetime, and all I look forward to learning and enjoying through books, that’s pretty depressing. I feel sorry for those folks. Recently, though, I found a new source for book lovers. It’s “social networking for books” and it’s fun and fills the need to “talk books” when no one around you gives a rat’s.

It’s a partial answer to the question, “Where have all the readers gone?” Here are a few links for websites that focus on reading, what YOU are reading, what you have on your bookshelves, who else is reading what you have loved the most and who has it in their library. Book reviews and suggestions are posted and each is a good resource for checking out books by favorite authors or topics. There are special pages for author-members. Although some sites have upper levels of membership (as with many social media sites) with costs attached, basic memberships are free and probably all most of us want anyway. Check these out and let me know what you think:






I’m sure there are others. I especially like Library Thing. But, if you are not particularly looking for interactivity and social connections with other readers, don’t forget that FEAST offers a delicious assortment of reading suggestions in each issue. I promise that there will be a brand new issue very soon! In the meantime, you can always search the archived copies linked to the last issue and find fascinating and memorable fiction, nonfiction, art, food, film, and travel recommendations. These are selections that are not necessarily best sellers—which is often dictated by promotional budgets—but gems that may have faded from sight because there WASN’T promotional money available. Often “best selling” is code for those brought to our attention through advertising—some of those are wonderful, too—but there are many beautifully written, compelling books that drop below the horizon way too soon. FEAST tries to highlight those.

Happy spring! -- Rosemary

Friday, March 14, 2008

Magic in the Land of Volcanoes

Today's guest blogger is a creative freelance writer who seeks adventure and inspiration in exotic spots around the globe, keeps in shape mentally and physically with her yoga practice, and continues to progress on her novel. It's a pleasure to welcome LAUREL KALLENBACH! -- Rosemary


by Laurel Kallenbach

In February, I attended a creative writing and yoga retreat at the glorious
Villa Sumaya resort on Guatemala’s Lake Atitlán. It was the perfect blend of three of my favorite pastimes: writing, traveling, and yoga.

As our group did our early-morning Warrior pose, the volcanoes across the lake were a deep purple. Later, propped on colorful embroidered Guatemalan pillows, I scribbled away on my novel. From time to time, I looked up from my pages to gaze across the water at the volcanoes, now showing their green foliage in the full afternoon sun.

This was my sixth international retreat led by either
Writing Journeys or Patchwork Farms. Over the last eight years, I’ve stretched and written in Mexico, Ireland, Wales—and now Guatemala. There’s something magical about the camaraderie of fellow writers and yogis who share a spirit of adventure. I also believe there’s magic in combining yoga, writing, and travel. Yoga loosens me up, gets the juices flowing, and creates a physical and spiritual practice that frames my writing practice.

Guatemala provided inspiration and transported me out of the ordinary. Our group visited the lakeside village of Santiago de Atitlán, a bustling market center for the area’s craftspeople. It was a riot of color, especially the rich textiles of skilled seamstresses who weave exotic birds, such as the quetzal, into their clothing designs. I could feel the country’s creative (and entrepreneurial!) pulse while bargaining with the market’s sellers.

A Mayan shaman came to Villa Sumaya to perform a protection ceremony for all us gringos. After offering sugar, cinnamon, chocolate, and taper candles to the gods, he entreated them to cleanse our spirits and keep us safe throughout our Guatemala journey. How could I not feel creative in the hands of chocolate-sated deities?

And last but not least, there was the sheer, transcendent magic of writing. I’m working on a novel set in Kentucky—a world and culture far away from Guatemala—yet while I was imagining a Midwestern tornado, the Mayan winds blew a violent thunderstorm over Lake Atitlán. The lightning and deluge of rain eerily echoed the scenes I was writing. I felt the same weather-induced fear my characters experienced as the tornado hit their town.

There are many types of journeys, but I’m especially fond of these writing and yoga retreats. They stretch my personal borders—taking me to unique locales and into that most adventurous of places: my own creativity.

I'd love to hear about your own best places to write or be inspired--is it a cozy nook at home, an exotic location that brings you new connections and ideas?

LAUREL KALLENBACH is a novelist, freelance magazine writer, and world traveler who lives in Boulder, Colorado. You can contact her at
Laurel@ecentral.com. Read Laurel's article about staying healthy and fit while traveling in the March 2008 issue of Experience Life magazine at http://www.experiencelifemag.com/issues/march-2008/fit-body/have-body-will-travel.html

Friday, March 07, 2008

It's All About Change . . .

Do you get the feeling there’s a longing for change in the air these days? Not just when it comes to our present administration (where longing for change could easily turn to begging or demanding), but for change in our everyday lives to include more fun, better money, more slow dancing, faster horses, better-looking men, more candlelit picnics on the beach, and so on? I know for me right now, that longing lingers at the back of my tongue like the last bitter-sweet memory of dark chocolate.

My friend and colleague
CYNTHIA MORRIS has decided that her time for change has come. After quite a few years in Boulder, Colorado, coaching others to have the courage to make their dreams come true—and following quite a few of her own, including completing a wonderful new novel—Cynthia is leaving Boulder in search of adventure. She’s started a new blog called Journey Jujuhttp://www.journeyjuju.com – where she’ll discuss creative, magical travel and share her journey, which begins in Milan, Italy, in May. She’ll sell or store everything, hop a flight, head for parts unknown and see what the world brings her way—that’s the plan. Always an artist at heart, she has designed 100 unique and very special travel shrines (see photo, then visit the website for more details about ordering).

Cynthia, I wish you good juju in your travels, new friends, lots of art, books, delicious feasting of all the best kinds!

How about the rest of you readers? If you jumped the tracks today to follow your own new paths, where would you go and what would you do? Just thinking and writing about it brightens these drear winter days-- Rosemary