Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The End to a Beginning?

Well, I'm not really sure what that title means but I'm sure I'll figure it out as I continue to type. Of course, it's New Year's Eve and that in itself, signifies the end of the year... and also the beginning of a new one. So okay, it makes sense, huh?

It's all par for the course today. I also typed THE END on my current work-in-progress this morning. It was about 1 1/2 weeks over deadline and my editor was very gracious about me being somewhat late, so I vowed that the next one would be on time. Next year. Oh, that would be tomorrow.

Right!

Tomorrow. Fresh start. New beginning. It's a good thing. For me, often, it's a state of mind as much as anything.

My SisterWriters and I have set our goals. We share them and we check them off when we can. It's a virtual celebration and pat-on-the back when we achieve one or two. Will we share them here? Um, probably not. Well, not the lists, I think. But I betcha if we achieve a big one, you'll be hearing about it!

Personally, I'm avoiding my routine non-writing goals this year--lose weight, walk more, pay off credit cards. Seems I've had those same resolutions for the past few years. Hm, not working. Instead, I'm going to concentrate on anything BUT those goals and see where it gets me. Oh yeah, I love it when I try a little reverse psychology on myself. I wonder if I realize I'm doing it?

Anyway... while I was watching Oprah today I jotted down something she said and sent it off to share with my SisterWriters. The statement resonated with me for a reason, and I'll share the statement and the reason with you.

Here is what Oprah said (I think I got it right): The ability to make a decision is the forcefield that moves you forward in your life. Her show was about resiliency and how some of us bounce back from really bad times and change our lives.

I found this interesting because recently, I made a pretty big decision. (not that I've had a bad time or anything, it's just TIME) I've felt very okay and at peace with my decision for several days now. It's a part of me and there have been no reservations. The decision I've made will become more apparent over the coming year as I make some changes in my life.

Just like my writing, I guess I'm still a work-in-progress. Aren't we all? I'm just not very eager to type THE END anytime soon. In fact, I'm very eager to writing the beginning of the rest of it.

Happy New Year everyone. Be safe.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Daily Sunrise

It's coming. There. Can you see it? Sneaking up over the horizon?

Oh sure, yeah, it's the sun. But is it really? Or is it a new day. Perhaps a new year dawning.

Ah, yes. That's it. I feel it more than see it.

The new day, new year, renewed sense of purpose, whathaveyou, is peeking at us. Winking, perhaps.

Taunting? Tempting?

What will you do, it asks, with this new beginning? This fresh start that is coming this week? Will you make goals? Reinvent yourself? Resolve to make change?

Find a new job?

Save money?

Pay off the credit cards?

Tell your mother you are sorry?

It's all up to you. Because very soon, it's a new day. What? It's a new day everyday? You are so right. Let's all take advantage of it.

Start over every day... your best foot forward. Forgive. Forget. Breathe. Stay positive.

Enjoy your life.

Friday, December 26, 2008

What To Do With Leftover Bread and Mulled Cider? Bread Pudding!

For several years, I've had this thing with bread pudding. Maybe it is because I did not discover bread pudding until I was an adult and I had some at the fabulous Seelbach Hotel in Louisville, KY. This dish, I tell you, is to die for. The bread pudding is fabulous and the bourbon sauce they pour over it even more so. I've heard, and I cannot tell you from where, that the chefs at the Seelbach use whatever bread is left from the day before--croissants, muffins, rolls, etc.--to make their daily batch of pudding. I find that very interesting and quite resourceful!

So from time to time in my travels, I'll visit a restaurant and bread pudding is on the dessert menu. I'll try it and well, even though it might be good, it's not the Seelbach's bread pudding.

I believe bread pudding is a southern thing. Perhaps, since I grew up north of the Mason Dixon, this is why I'd never experienced as a child or young adult. Now, living in the south (sorta) I see and hear of it more often.

I never thought about making bread pudding, that is, until yesterday.

I could have searched for a recipe, but didn't. You see, even though I've never made bread pudding, I've made something similar for years -- my turkey dressing. I know, I know... entirely different, right? Well, perhaps the ingredients are different but the preparation method, I believe, is very similar.

You see, I grew up making dressing with bread of all kinds. Not cornbread, just bread. Fresh or day old bread, not dried and crumbly bread. So thinking about this, I deduced that bread pudding is the sweet first cousin to my savory Thanksgiving dressing. (without the giblets, of course)

And seeing that I had some leftover ingredients to use up before I went out of town for a couple of days, I decided, well, heck, let's try our hand at bread pudding.

Here is how I made it, using ingredients I already had on hand.
  • First, I buttered a medium-sized casserole dish
  • Next, in a mixing bowl, I pulled apart a half loaf of white bread and a quarter loaf of oatnut bread (both of these needed to be used up)
  • I added 1/4 cup of sugar on top
  • Two eggs were next
  • About a 1/2 cup of eggnog (needed to be used up as well)
  • And last, I poured over some spiced/mulled cider (also leftover and I had been wondering what to do with besides drink) I poured a little of the cider over at a time while folding and stirring into the bread. I didn't want the mixture to be too wet or too dry, so gauge the addition of your liquids carefully. You don't want runny but you do want moist.

Now, I could have added all sorts of stuff at this time, like raisins or other dried fruit, or different spices, or even chocolate chips or caramel, depending on the mood. (kind of like adding mushrooms or celery or onions or sage or chopped up giblets to your dressing). I didn't add any spices because the cider was very spicy already.

Last, I poured the mixture into the buttered pan and dotted it with several pats of butter on top, then baked at 400 degrees until the pudding was set and the top a bit crispy.

For a sauce, I used more of the eggnog spiked with the mulled cider and heated it in a saucepan. I poured that over the hot pudding in each dish. All I can say is, YUM. The only thing better could have been a little Woodford Reserve in the sauce... Or an actual visit to the Oak Room at the Seelbach.

Maybe next time on the bourbon. I have to drive later today.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

A Day for Cooking!

Merry Christmas, everyone! I hope you had a fantastic day with family and friends... or if you are like me, that is all coming in the next few days. My Christmas with family will come tomorrow and over the weekend. So what did I do on this Christmas day? Let's see...
  • Slept until I woke (without the alarm!) and that was a blessing
  • Finished wrapping presents
  • Worked on my current novella
  • Did a little Internet promo
  • Made two kinds of fudge--chocolate and white chocolate walnut
  • Made bread pudding (wasn't bad! more on that tomorrow, perhaps)
  • Made Lima Bean and Ham Soup

It had been a while since I'd made lima beans from scratch... you know, from the dried bean. I knew I had some ham in the freezer left from Thanksgiving and was thinking I had navy beans in the pantry. So on a search I went and realized, hey! I've got baby limas! I have to say, they turned out fantastic. Here is how I made them.


Ingredients


1 16 oz. pkg of dried baby lima beans

Olive oil

@ 2 cups of diced ham or ham pieces

1 lg. onion, chopped

4-5 stalks of celery, chopped

4-5 lg carrots, sliced

2 cups of stock

2-4 cups of water

salt, pepper, thyme and rosemary to taste


Directions

  • Pick through the beans, wash and soak them overnight. Drain the beans the next morning.
  • In a soup pot, lay down 2-3 T of olive oil in the pan.
  • Heat and add ham, onion, celery, carrots and 2 t salt. Saute for a few minutes.
  • Add stock and 2 cups of water and bring to a boil.
  • Add lima beans, cover with water, add spices to taste, and bring again to a boil. Lower heat and simmer until beans are tender and flavors melded. Great with cornbread


Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Oh, for Rainy Days and Mousaka

There once was a weary traveler who longed for several consecutive days of vacation. They were out there, scheduled and waiting, for her to seize the day. But first, there was one last business trip for 2008 and she thought, well, the best part about it was that she was going west and south... Phoenix, to be exact. A little sunshine and desert in the dregs of winter never hurt anyone, she knew, and could do lots to chase away the gray Kentucky winter doldrums.

So the traveler traveled and watched the Weather channel as her coworkers were headed to places like Kansas where there was a snow and ice storm, and thought about her family back home, who were in the midst of another snow and ice storm.

But she was headed to sun and sand and perfect 70 degree winter weather.
What she got, however, was this:

Yes. Rain. And lots of it!

In addition, there was a flood warning scrolling across the television screen in her hotel room which was a little scary... since she didn't know what flood warnings in the desert really entailed. (She'd heard of those washes that rush through dangerously...)

So why was she concerned and a bit annoyed that there was no sun and 70 degree weather?

It doesn't rain like this in Phoenix. Not that often anyway. And well, it was gray. Like home. And she was looking forward to sun. But at least, she reasoned, it is not snow and ice. The weary traveler supposed she should be thankful it was not snow and ice for there was plenty of that north elsewhere in the country and even in Arizona that week.

So what better on a rainy evening, she thought, to tuck into a nice restaurant for a great Greek dinner? So that was exactly what the weary travler and her friends decided to do.

It didn't take them long to decide. My Big Fat Greek Restaurant sat on Mill St. in Tempe near the Arizona State University campus and it always was a treat. The traveler, quite fond of Tempe and its funky Mill St. downtown, knew the restaurant would fit her mood this evening. She settled in with a warm cup of Earl Grey and took in the ambiance while waiting for her friends who were shopping and getting haircuts.














She ordered a Greek salad....

...and the supersized Mousaka, it would seem. And she was, well, quite pleased, for the food was hearty and scrumptious on this cold and rainy day... and double-treat, there was plenty enough food left for lunch the next day.









And the weary traveler was glad for a little rain in Phoenix and the warm and cozy Greek restaurant and the company of her friends.

Oh, and the Earl Grey.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Buy the Gift that Lasts Forever - Books!

A couple of days ago I reposted the letter from the president of the Author's Guild, Roy Blount, Jr, talking about buying books for Christmas. I'm giving a lot of books this year, too, which makes sense because, a) I'm an author, and b) I work for a non-profit literacy organization. Books, and all they entail, are a passion of my life.

I've put together some favorite lists, all available on Amazon, and thought I'd repost here for those of you who are interested in buying books for Christmas.

Oh, and a trick I learned from my sister about buying on Amazon. She has children and grandchildren scattered all across the world. She has them go to Amazon and create their wish lists, then she picks books from their list and has them shipped straight to their homes. Cool, huh?

Here are a few of my lists.

1. Some Favorites of Maddie's

2. Books by Maddie's Friends

3. Maddie's Favorite Cookbooks

4. Maddie's Favorite Books for Infants and Toddlers

5. Maddie's Favorite Books for Preschoolers

6. Maddie's Picks for School-age Classics

7. Books by Resplendence Publishing Authors

If you are looking ebooks, you may also be interested in the wonderful books written by Resplendence Publishing authors available at their website or on Fictionwise.

So, go buy a book and give it away this Christmas. Books are a gift that lasts forever!

maddie

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Were you Naughty or Nice this Year?

Drum roll pleeaaasssseeee...... Dadadadadadadaaa...

I was an Angel. Yes, I know. But really, I was, because the survey said so. See?

You Were An Angel This Year
You Were 20% Naughty, 80% Nice

You know you've been a super good girl this year
So good, that you may have missed out a little...
Don't worry, Santa will make it up to you!

So what about you? Naughty or nice? You, too, can take this quiz at Blogthings and find out for yourself!

http://www.blogthings.com/wereyouanaughtygirlornicegirlthisyearquiz/

Oh, and by the way, my kinky half-sister Mia Jae has been really naughty this year. You can find out more about that by visiting her website and reading her new release, Nice and Naughty.

Go ahead. I dare you...

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Economy, The Books, The Bookstores...

Happy Friday, everyone. I was fortunate to have a half-day off of work this afternoon. I was able to run errands, get groceries (having kids and grandkids for dinner tomorrow night) and get home by 3:00 p.m. While a few things are in the oven, I decided to check email and found something interesting in my inbox from another writer. I'm going to post the letter here, as the author shared that permission to forward was granted. I think the subject is important.

We all know that the economy is rotten and it has affected all of us in some way or another. We've had to cut back at my office and let go some staff. It's very difficult. Bookstores, publishers, and authors are feeling the crunch, as well.

I'd been planning to blog about buying books for Christmas and that still is my plan for this weekend. Before doing that, however, I'd like to reprint this letter from Roy Blount, Jr., president of the Author's Guild. His letter follows.

Sent: Thu, 11 Dec 2008 10:20 am
Subject: Subject Message from Roy Blount

I've been talking to booksellers lately who report that times are hard. And local booksellers aren't known for vast reserves of capital, so a serious dip in sales can be devastating. Booksellers don't lose enough money, however, to receive congressional attention. A government bailout isn't in the cards.

We don't want bookstores to die. Authors need them, and so do neighborhoods. So let's mount a book-buying splurge. Get your friends together, go to your local bookstore and have a book-buying party. Buy the rest of your Christmas presents, but that's just for starters. Clear out the mysteries, wrap up the histories, beam up the science fiction! Round up the westerns, go crazy for self-help, say yes to the university press books! Get a load of those coffee-table books, fatten up on slim volumes of verse, and take a chance on romance!

There will be birthdays in the next twelve months; books keep well; they're easy to wrap: buy those books now. Buy replacements for any books looking raggedy on your shelves. Stockpile children's books as gifts for friends who look like they may eventually give birth. Hold off on the flat-screen TV and the GPS (they'll be cheaper after Christmas) and buy many, many books. Then tell the grateful booksellers, who by this time will be hanging onto your legs begging you to stay and live with their cat in the stockroom: "Got to move on, folks. Got some books to write now. You see...we're the Authors Guild."

Enjoy the holidays.

Roy Blount Jr.
President
Authors Guild

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

A Mention on Publisher's Weekly

Wow! I received an email this morning from Barbara Vey to tell me that A Legendary Christmas was mentioned on her blog today. I dashed off...of course! to read and found that our friend Joysann (who won our Legend basket at Lori Foster's event in Cincinnati this past summer) had given the book a very nice recommendation! In fact, she wants to move to Legend.

Don't we all?

Anyway, if you'd like to read the blog post, here it is! The ladies have provided us with a lot of Christmas story recommendations. Go take a look here!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Proof in the Picture ~ SINGING Puffy Snowmen

In case anyone doubted me. The saga continues....




Puffy Singing Snowmen -- with sound! Enjoy!

p.s. In case you missed my previous post about the Puffy Singing Snowmen, click here.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Snow? ... Check. Mistletoe?... Check. Red Garters???

Looking for an escape from the holiday madness? How about an erotic holiday read times four!

Check out this series from Resplendence Publishing and authors Demi Alex, Tia Fanning, Catrina Calloway and Mia Jae.



Available now in ebook at Resplendence Publishing and Fictionwise. Print anthology coming soon to Amazon.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Chicken and Wild Rice Soup

Last winter, I was up in Minnesota visiting a couple of schools I work with. While there, I had a chance to eat at the original Famous Dave's restaurant and had his yummy wild rice soup.

I even took pictures of the inside of the restaurant--I know I did! But I think they are filed in some strange way and I can't locate them. A blog for another day.

But back to the soup. This was a first for me and oh, it was a great stick-to-your-ribs soup. And I wondered, could I replicate it?

On the way back to the airport we saw several signs for places selling wild rice so we stopped and I bought 5 lbs worth. Guess what, that 5 pounds sat on my pantry shelf for months--until yesterday. Fortunately, there was a small recipe booklet that came with the rice that gave me some pointers on how to cook the rice. I searched the Internet for some wild rice soup recipes and ended up improvising on my own with ingredients I had on hand.

I first had to cook the rice, which takes a little longer than regular rice. I read where it's good to cook up a bunch at one time and that it will keep on hand nicely in the refrigerator for a week or more. It freezes well, too, they say. So I cooked a bunch.

Cooking Wild Rice

2 cups of uncooked rice
6 cups of water
salt

Wash the rice and drain.


Add salt to the water and boil. When boiling, add the rice and stir. Bring back to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to a simmer for about 1 hour. When rice has burst open and most of the water is absorbed, fluff with a fork. Cook for a little longer if necessary. When done, drain any remaining water from the rice.


Chicken and Wild Rice Soup

This is how I made the soup. I used what ingredients I had on hand and honestly, I didn't measure so I'm estimating in some cases. It was a cold and blustery day and I had no desire to run to the store, so this is totally a what-was-on-hand kind of soup.

cooked wild rice
chicken stock -- I had a @ 3 cup container of homemade stock in the freezer
about 6 cups of water
1/2 package of shredded carrots
@ 2 T flour
1/2 can of evaporated milk
1-2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 stick of butter
1 large chicken breast, baked, leftover from the previous night, shredded
rosemary, thyme, salt, pepper, chives

I thawed the frozen chicken stock in the soup pot and added the water and brought to a boil. The carrots went in next to cook but since they were shredded it didn't take long. If I had onions or celery at home, I would have added some at this point, too. I added fresh rosemary, dried time, frozen chives, salt and pepper. While simmering, I shredded the chicken. When carrots were soft, I made a paste with the flour and water and added to the broth to thicken and cooked for a few minutes. The milk, butter, and cheese followed. When the cheese and butter melted, I added the cooked chicken and about 3 cups of the cooked wild rice.


The rest, as they say, is history. It was VERY good. I had to freeze part of it to keep me from eating it all in one day!

I will play with this recipe but I was happy with the results. And, I had three 1 1/2 cup containers of wild rice left to put in the fridge, so I'll be experimenting with other dishes this week, I'm sure.

What do you think? A keeper?

Friday, December 05, 2008

A Pan is a Pan is a Pan?

I don't have a fancy set of cookware... although I covet this one.

Maybe someday, when I have the extra dollars, and when something else isn't taking precedence, I'll splurge and buy it.

It's kind of like, for years, I coveted a Kitchenaid mixer. I'd used a hand mixer forever and still, I think there are times a hand mixer is better. But finally, I broke down one day and bought a Sunbeam.

Now, I know it isn't a Kitchenaid but this one was extremely reasonably priced and I love the Sunbeam. I thought at the time that perhaps it would be my transition mixer until I bought the happily-ever-after mixer. Not so, I think. This baby works fine and dandy and I love it. I doubt I'll wear it out in my lifetime! And I'm happy! Ever. After.

But I was going to talk about pans, right? Yes. I have a mish mash of pots and pans. They've lasted, they've been loyal, they know their jobs. How can I let them go for a new shiny set? Not yet. We're doing just fine on our own.



Take this one, for example.


It's an old Revereware saucepan. It was part of my mother's set. For some reason at the last minute, she gave it to me when I went away to college. She said, "You never know when you'll need a pan." That was 1975. I still have it. I'm not sure how it got bent but it's still great for heating soup.

Then there is this little number.


The preferred egg pan. The PERFECT egg pan. I cook nothing else in this pan but my one (sometimes two when I'm splurging) morning eggs.

I have several "skillets" I use for various purposes. One is not good for much of anything besides grilled cheese. It doesn't heat evenly all the way around but the center is wonderful for browning a nice grilled sandwich. But just one. If you want to make two, forget this pan.

The there is the Farberware soup pot that came with the set my grandmother gave me for my first wedding. It has one handle off but hey, it's mine, and I still love it. Imperfections never bother me! I'm not sure what happened to the rest of the set. I do have a small saucepan but who knows where its sisters ended up. How DO we lose things like that over time?

But the creme de la creme is my new favorite pan. I call her Pink Bling. See?


I found her on the center sale aisle at Macy's. She was a good price and she was PINK. Now, I'm not a pink girl. I'm more of a blue or green or even black girl when it comes to colors. So, I hesitated, but the price was good. It was a nice size, cooking for one most of the time. So, I bought her.

Wow. She cooks like a dream. Cleans up like a dream. Looks like a dream. I'm in love.

But that doesn't mean I don't love my old pots and pans, too. We have history. But Pink Bling, well....

So, what about you? Is a pan is a pan is a pan? Do you have a fancy set and if so, what would you recommend? (just in case I decide to splurge?) Or do you have and prefer a mishmash like mine?

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

The Saga of the Singing Puffy Snowmen

It started last year. I believe it was about this time in the evening. Let me check. Yep. Around 10:38 p.m. Yes. I remember.

I'm winding up my night behind the computer screen, yawning and stretching my back and longing for my bed.

I move to my bedroom at the back of the house and settle into my bed and nest of pillows (I don't know why I do that but recently I've realized that I do make a little nest of sorts out of four pillows...maybe it comes from sleeping alone? Ah, well, I digress...) when what do my wondering ears does present itself but--

Singing. Music. Lalalalala happy, jovial sounds coming from across the street.

Loud.

At 10:39 p.m. And on a school night.

I peel myself out of my nest and stumble back toward the front of my house and what do my blurry eyeballs spy?

This.



(okay, so I fudged on the blurry effect, okay?)

And guess what?

It's a year later and, oh yeah... they are BACK.

The Puffy Singing Snowmen are back. Across the street. Blinking and bobbing and...

Wait. Where is the bouncy, jovial Christmas music? The gay tunes of puffy snowmen on crack singing carols?

Silent.

They sit. They flash. They bob. They even do a Miss America wave.

But no singing.

Sigh.

Back to the nest I go. Smiling. And wondering which one of my neighbors turned them in to the homeowner's association.

A Cinnamon Morning

I'm having coffee this morning. Nothing unusual about that. But this morning, my coffee is flavored with a hint of cinnamon and I believe, this is the perfect start to my day. It feels like a treat but I plan to make it a daily treat.

You see, last week, while on a business trip to Albuquerque, I stayed at the Cinnamon Morning Bed and Breakfast on Rio Grande. I'd stayed there once before this past summer, in one of their casitas. This time I stayed in the main house and upon rising, was immediately struck with a remembrance.

I loved the cinnamon coffee I had here before.

Funny, I'd not thought about it until the smell of the brew hit me in the face when I entered the kitchen.

Ah. Ummmm... Yes.

So I asked Sue, the proprietress of the establishment, how she made her coffee. Cinnamon sticks, she said, broken up on the coffee. A good grade of coffee. And oh, I get my cinnamon in Mexico. It's softer. Hmmmm.... I don't get to Mexico often. In fact, I've only been to Mexico once. But how...? Or, she added, find a Mexican market in your area.

Yes. I can do that! There are a number of Mexican markets where my daughter lives.

So that is the plan. But in the meantime, I fudged and broke up a bunch of cinnamon sticks that I already had in the pantry, into the coffee I already had in the pantry. This was the experimental batch and well, yes, it does the trick. In a pinch.

Now, I need to get to a market. This IS my new favorite coffee.

How do you like your coffee in the morning?

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Happily Ever After

A few weeks ago, my son Kyle and his long-time girlfriend Kelli got married. It was a great day and a wonderful wedding that went off without (nearly) a hitch. Kelli did a great job planning things to a T and Kyle, well, he said he did his part by buying the ring, popping the question, and showing up on time. (smile) You have to understand my son's dry humor, possibly, to appreciate that.

As I sat in the front seat, looking at him as Kelli walked up the aisle... and then a moment later as she looked up at him during their vows, I'll always recall the expression on their faces.

I remember thinking that I wished I could remember that look forever and capture it in my stories somehow. They only way I can describe it is love.

These two have been together since high school. They didn't rush anything and have waited for several years before making the permanent commitment. Oh, it wasn't all hunky dory as relationships go over the years but they worked at it and have settled into their lives. The other evening I called and they were enjoying a Sunday evening together playing Yahtzee. I had to smile.

I hope for the happily-ever-after for these two. It's something I've been unable to find in my own life but I would gladly forgo that goal for me should they be blessed with it.

I guess many of us search for that happy ending. So maybe that's why I write romance. We might not have it in our real life but it's great to read about it!

In Home for the Holidays, my recent release from Resplendence Publishing, the heroine Chelly has sought and lost her HEA and has given up hope--even as a young women--of finding it again. But she discounts the fact that her coming home for the holidays puts her in close contact again with the man she left behind. Thing is, how will he react when he sees her again?

Home for the Holidays is now available on Fictionwise and the Resplendence Publishing website in ebook form. It is also available in the print anthology, A Legendary Christmas, available on Amazon and at Resplendence.

So, what about you? Do you have your own Happily Ever After? We'd love to hear about it.


maddie

p.s. The singing snowmen are still deflated! A snowman cannot sing when he is deflated. So stay tuned and I'll be bringing pics of them soooooooon!