Monday, January 27, 2014

Delicious Snack - Parsnips

Things are busy here as they are busy everywhere I am sure. It is pretty amazing how freezing temps makes you productive in ways you could not imagine. I found a solution to a sensory type blanket I have been working on for my godson. I am embarrassed that it has taken me as long as it has, but believe it or not, I had an epiphany and will now be able to complete it, hopefully by the weekend.

This past Sunday I was lucky enough to meet a dear friend at our favorite tea house which was wonderful.

Now it is Monday and routine is back.

Let's talk food shall we?
I had some parsnips hanging out in my bin and wanted to do something with them other than a soup or gratin or cook them with maple syrup. Deborah Madison, I am looking at you. See: Breakfast Parsnips

I did a search and came across Baked Parsnip Fries with Rosemary on Bon Appetit.


They were not necessarily crispy and I did not care. They were damn delicious and I am looking forward to making them again. They would certainly make a nice side dish and I bet there are quite a few homemade dips that would go nice as well. So go ahead, have fun with them.

Okay my dears it is time for me to work a bit on my novel, then shower.


Monday, January 20, 2014

Movies and a Meal

In the past few weeks I finally got to see two major classic films I have always had on my list, but never got around to watching. Ironically, both pictures starred Jack Lemmon. First one I viewed was "The Apartment" and I LOVED it!! Loved Jack and Shirley MacLaine and everyone else in the film.

The second movie was "Some Like It Hot" and I am ashamed I have never seen it before because it was a pretty good laugh riot.

So we are due for some big time winter weather tomorrow. Snow, snow and yes, more snow.  I normally do not mind winter, but for some reason this year, I am pretty much over the bitter cold and want to see the daffodils. Not yet MissFifi, not yet.
Anyway, winter does mean delicious, hearty meals and with that I figured I would share a few soup recipes that I have not yet tried, but hope to at some point.

Sweet Potato Quinoa Stew with White Beans and Spinach from Dishing Up The Dirt looks so yummy and warm.

Fat Free Vegan has this tasty looking Vegan Cream of Broccoli Soup. I want a bowl. Right. Now.

Frank at Memorie di Angelina posted a recipe for Carabaccia (Tuscan Onion Soup) and it has my mouth watering. Just hand me a loaf of bread and a bowl and leave me in the corner. Thank you.

Have a good evening and if you are in the line of snow like me, stay warm and safe!


Sunday, January 19, 2014

Not In My Kitchen

Trends do come and go as most of us know. A few that I would like to see fade away in the design world are antlers EVERYWHERE, Eames Chairs, stainless appliances, the word "curated" being used for items in homes when you really mean "collected, hoarded or purchased" and the ever dreaded open shelving.

Now, I am not saying you cannot have these things if you find it suits your needs. What I am saying is why does everyone think HGTV, Houzz, Dwell, Architectural Digest or Apartment Therapy should tell you what to do and like? They are merely there to suggest and perhaps inspire. Unfortunately, people see is as the "written word" and have made certain elements mandatory.

I found this post on Just Me With... called "An Argument Against the Open Floor Plan" and I have to say I agree with a lot of her points. It is pretty amazing how most have been convinced that your house has been laid out incorrectly and you must rectify the matter immediately.
Now, I live in a small bungalow. Small by US standards is 1400 sq ft. And since it is from the 1920's, it has quite a few quirks. Luckily, we have learned to live with said quirks, rectifying some and planning to improve others. That being said, as of right now, we have no plans to blow out walls to make our kitchen the size of a small country. Wouldn't look right anyway ;-)
With the open floor plan it puts you in the thick of things which is nice. I do like to be involved with my guests in conversation, but I also use the kitchen as my sort of getaway when I cook. I put on a movie or episode of a show and cook to my hearts content. I can't say if I would enjoy having a space where everyone can watch while I cut carrots. I do think an open kitchen into a family room is nicer than having it open to the whole darn house.
Our dining room is right next to the kitchen and I can see in there fine and can participate in conversations. The only thing I do wish is that we had a breakfast area in our kitchen but it is way too small to make that happen. And you know what? That is okay.

To me, the true design nightmare is this ongoing obsession with open shelving. I don't live in the country in France and I am not a restaurant. You want to display your fine collection of Fiesta good on you, but for myself, I don't want to dust anything extra. Everyone who has opening shelving will tell you nothing gets dusty, etc. Don't care. It is not my style and I refuse to have it in my home. 

Here is a fine example of a renovated kitchen with serious open shelving that most people adored, but gave me a twitch.


I don't deny the below looks lovely, just not to me. Remember, the photographers and staff go home and then you are left alone to keep this kitchen looking this pristine. If you have that kind of time, please come to my house.

I have to say I love the kitchen below, especially the window, but having an island in ours is not possible unless serious construction happens. I can still incorporate certain elements though.

I like this too. Those windows!

I did a search for "Cottage Kitchen" and had to share some of the photos that came up. Perspective is pretty funny in different people's hands. Here are some that made me chuckle.

I would not turn down a one of them, but cottage?? Come on now. LOL


Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Black Bean and Tofu Dairy Free Enchiladas with Homemade Sauce

Sometimes I like to get ambitious in my cooking. What that really means is that I want to make something and am missing a key ingredient or two or a whole jar of sauce. Not to be daunted by my lack of jarred enchilada sauce, I searched until I found one I could make and went forward. First off, I do have dried ancho chilies but was in no means prepared to go all authentic. I decided to save that for the weekend and amusingly, chose a sauce listed in the comments in one of the recipes I was looking at. The reason I chose the sauce I did was I had all the ingredients, no tomato paste was used and it seemed like it was a no fail.

There are the enchiladas right before they headed into the oven.

They were fantastic and the sauce pretty much burned had a heat that would make Arizona do a double take. My stomach is like steel, my husband's, not so much. Because of that I would ease up on the amount of chili powder next time, but hands down, this sauce came out superb and now I never have to buy the jarred stuff again.

As for the actual enchiladas, they were very good and I added spinach to mine.

Mexican Red Chili Sauce - I chose to use the recipe posted by Tyson. 8th comment down. But please feel free to use the one by Elise Bauer.

Black Bean and Tofu Dairy Free Enchiladas - Obviously you can throw cheese in these if you like. They were good without it, but I am sure they would be extra gooey and tasty with the cheese.


Thursday, January 9, 2014

Toddlers and Kindles, Purchases Happen

For some unknown reason I decided to turn my Kindle on for a moment. One of the things I truly enjoy about owning one is being able to download samples of a book and then decide if I want to read more.
My two year old got hold of it and in the fears of him ordering some $35.00, I grabbed it put it on the Table of Contents of one of my sample reads. He held it while I changed his diaper then went about his merry way. I put the Kindle back on the table and that was that. About half an hour later I get a text from my husband that read "Just wanted to make sure it was you that ordered Kindle book."

Oh crap.

Of course I replied with "What Kindle book?"

He sent me the Amazon "Thank you for buying" page and saw it was Carolyn Jourdan's Medicine Men: Extreme Appalachian Doctoring. Thankfully it only cost $3.20, but more so I was grateful that he had not clicked on my little erotica sampler from Joey W. Hills' Knights of the Boardroom series, Controlled Response. Then again, it was the same price and my husband might have thought I was flirting with him via Amazon. Kinky.


Wednesday, January 8, 2014

And the Query Letter Process Begins

One thing that most trying to get published writer's hate with a passion is writing a query letter. It is a wretched process because you basically have to condense 70 to 95k words into about one to two paragraphs and hope you sound like yourself and not some demented Alfred Hitchcock introduction. Or maybe that would work? Hmmm...

Anyway, my darling husband suggested that I try getting my bounty hunter book looked at again. And me being a lover of all things torture I agreed. I looked up examples of query letters and began to panic. (Please see "How to Write the Perfect Query Letter" on Writer's Digest.) I have no writing degree, have never been published and could not survive at times if it was not for the spell check. Every agent wants a small bio. Do I say I am a stay at home mom? Shall I list my past jobs as Executive Assistant and Oncology Massage Therapist? Do I mention that I have entered numerous writing contest and have been rejected by every single one without any feelings of despair? Do I get cheeky and claim I work for Xavier Inc (our son), but manage to get a chapter done during nap times? Who am I to the literary world? Who does the literary world want me to be? Who am I at all? How do I make sure this complete stranger feels the love I have for what I have written? I want them to be enthralled and moved by my dystopian suspense/romance as much as I have been. I don't want to put it in a drawer and let it rot.

Writing a query letter brings up every flaw and passive aggressive horror about oneself. They are not easy. You may write a story and adore it, but then you need to explain it in as few lines as possible. Agents are busy people. They get bombarded all day long by people just like me hoping to be the next Neil Gaiman or Margaret Atwood, oh I should be so lucky. Why can't I write something as succinct as the creator of Breaking Bad did in regards to his plot? "What would happen if Mr. Chips turned into Scarface?" There it all is. In one question no less. You already know you are in for a serious ride. I refuse to hide my envy here, that is pure brilliance.

For starters I have sent a first draft of a query to my husband and I am sure I will be working on that a dozen more times. I feel like an ass saying that my third novel would be easier to query, but I have not written that letter yet. Or maybe I should. Maybe it would help. Maybe I can write it and pitch the novel before it is even finished. Then I can get back to reworking the bounty hunter query letter. Or by then, I would not have to because they would buy it since my other book is selling well. Oh yeah, dream big lady!!

Nerves are an incredible thing. And I need ones made of the strongest steel I can find.


Monday, January 6, 2014

LeapFrog, Never Again

A few years ago someone was nice enough to give us a My Pal Scout from LeapFrog. Our son liked it and played with it and I programmed it to say his name and what not.
Recently I decided it was time for me to upgrade the information in the toy and lo and behold, it is not compatible with Chrome OS or iOS since those systems do not use.exe files. A Word program.


I contact customer service informing them of my dilemma and that I was hoping to not have to throw out the toy. I clearly got someone from a far off land as they could not understand my issue. They sent me links on how to do LeapFrog Connect. Uh,  did that already buddy hence how I knew there was an issue. I explained again what computers I was using and after a few more misses, I was told the toy would not work and they were sorry for any inconvenience. Okay, well, will there be any upgrades to these toys at some point to be used with those systems?

Not at this time.

Well that sucks. I contact them again since it states on said toy that you cannot just throw it away so I wanted to find out how to recycle the toy. (I can't go on and erase the information already uploaded so I am not going to just donate and give it away either.) On their site it says to contact DRM Recycling in California. NJ was listed as a state they deal with I contact them, it is a no go. So I email LeapFrog once again and according to their representative they do not have a recycling program.
So you make electronic toys but don'tr concern yourself with their end life? Real nice.

If anyone ever asks if we really are a throwaway society, please refer them to this post and make them aware that some companies are complacent in this. Not every town in the US does e-cycling and most people do not have time to try and figure out what the alternatives are so that means these electronic gadgets will end up in the landfill. I am going to contact  Staples, who takes old computers and printers and more for recycling to see if they would take this toy.

This whole situation really bugged the beejesus out of me. No it is not life threatening to earth shattering, but all this time and effort spent on my end to figure out what to do with a toy seems so silly. For goodness sake it is a TOY. On that note, I don't think I would be inclined to purchase one of their products, and if someone gets one for the boy like a LeapPad, back it goes. No reason for one anyway since we have an iPad. So sorry LeapFrog, you may make cool stuff for kids, but you exhausted me.


Saturday, January 4, 2014

Not Bad

My duvet idea has helped a lot in our son's room. We also ran the heater in our son's room last night so it was a warm night's sleep for everyone.  And that means we allowed our elderly cat in with us as well. We have held back due to her proclivity for vomiting on carpet when a wood floor is a few inches away. Can't have the new bedroom carpet get ruined, but can't let her not share our body heat either. Go ahead, say it...Suckers.

Weird having this extremely cold weather since the last few winters have been mild in a sense. I was able to walk our son almost everyday when he was born, Dec 2011, which makes being housebound so odd. Snow is not even the issue, it is the damn wind chill that keeps us inside. I would like to take this moment thank PBS iPad and Reading Rainbow for being able to entertain my child when I need to cook or take care of something. He does a lot of his own imaginative play, but there is no questioning the power and awesomeness of Curious George or Peg + Cat. He is also on a big Charlie and Lola kick since we have a couple of the books. Cute show as well and I would have no issue if my son began to speak with a little English accent. "Please, do sit down." Okay, enough of that.

I am in the middle of a knitting frenzy since my husband realized yesterday he needs a hat. So we looked and I am going to try a pattern from Kiwiyarns Knits called A Man's Basic Chunky Hat. :) I have a nice black wool that should do and I hope to get started on that once I complete a neck warmer for a neighbor.

Now, wait. Can you feel the giddiness coming through your computer? You should as I am thrilled to report that my writing has picked up! Envision me tap dancing across the table right now thank you very much. There is something wonderful about reconnecting with characters and moving forward with their world.
One thing I am debating is if I should start working longer at night or wake earlier in the am to get this novel done. Part of my motivation is the thrill of seeing the story unfold, the other is that it seems "religious type" stories are starting to get some traction in Hollywood and I firmly believe my story could, hell should, get optioned. But that is where I believe one needs some serious luck, and a friend as head of a studio. Since I lack knowing a studio head, it looks as if luck will have to be my lady. It is prudent that I get this done and out before the market gets flooded, insert Noah joke here, like it has with the Dystopian YA adventures, zombies and vampires. Someone has to be first, I would at least like to be in the top ten instead of the bottom ten so I have got to push. One thing I really need to do is move the last updated draft from Google Docs over to iA Writer where I have been working. No point in retyping everything you know? I have taken so long doing this because the direction of story changed, but I realize I still need the original draft and some of the great dialogue already written. I have also balked at having to move the novel in case that could not happen and then I would have to go and fly out to Silicon Valley and throttle Google techs once and for all.

May your Saturday be chipper and filled with warm drinks if you are dealing with brutish cold. For those of you enjoying summer, have a gin and tonic for me!


Friday, January 3, 2014

Snow Day

Outside right now it is quite pretty. Silent with lots of snow. Not ideal to many people but I have seen our tax dollars at work. Sand trucks and plows keep everything pretty functional here so folks will be able to drive around with no problem soon enough. Today's temperatures will keep most of us indoors. It is 12F as I type and will be going "up" to a mere 13F with tonight's temperatures at a -7F. I cannot remember the last time it was this freakin' cold.
Since there is a serious lack of insulation throughout the house, our new bedroom not included, I looked up ways to help keep our son's room from turning into a full fledged ice box. One thing I found was doubling up layers on the windows. So last night I hung a duvet cover over our son's curtains hoping to keep his room warm. I have my fingers crossed that it worked. When I went in to check him last night the room did not feel cold as it usually does. As for tonight, he will sleep in layers with two blankets and we will have the space heater running for him until we go up to bed. Normally we turn it off after we put him down because the room is nice and toasty. But hey, a -7 temperature is nothing to mess with.
I am also thinking that we may need to change how the heat comes on overnight as it is usually off from like 10pm until about 6am, but with negative temps, that may not fly. I fret that our little one may be too cold when in reality he should be alright, but we shall see.

We recently ordered roman shades for our room and for our son's room. Too bad they did not arrive yet as we have no window coverings and while we have a toasty room, a little extra privacy and warmth would be good. I had to wait until I found a stellar deal and thanks to JC Penney Home, we got one. Those shades can be insanely expensive and we purchased the one pair for only $18.99!! The other was about $25.00. While researching I saw some starting at $150.00!!

My cat has become a pill once again, meowing at the crack of Jesus for food. We feed her, it is not enough or she wants something different. As I sit in the living room right now, she is here meowing loud enough that the next town can probably hear her. I call her to me so she won't wander upstairs and wake everyone. She will be 18 in April, if she get that far.

Hope wherever you are the weather is treating you a little more gently.