Friday, February 26, 2010

Just For Fun

I’m in a silly mood today, so don’t say I didn’t warn you!

Last night Hubby and I were giggling over some of the funny things that happened during our childhoods. It was good to reminisce, and we honestly laughed until our sides hurt. If we had been drinking milk, I’m sure it would have squirted out our noses! Yes, that’s one of the ridiculous things we giggled over during our walk down memory lane.

Do your childhood memories inspire nose-squirting laughter? Or were you of a more serious nature?

Me? I’m a bunny hopper from way back. Maybe someday I’ll share the story of a slumber party turned middle-of-the-street midnight bunny hop parade—but only if you promise not to snort milk from your nose!

See? I told you I’m in a wacky mood. Hope you have a nice day!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

February Garden News

I know it sounds nutty to talk gardens in the middle of winter, but my thoughts are definitely on this year’s vegetable and flower gardens. It might be snowing and blowing outside, but in here things are warm, sunny and blooming—at least in my mind!

The Burpee seed order has arrived, and I am psyched to get this gardening show on the road. In another week or so I’ll trek out to the greenhouse and retrieve a stack or two of black plastic six-pack planting cells as well as the trays and covers that go with them. I bought little rounds of growing material which, when dropped into the planting cells and watered, expand to fill each cell with planting medium. I’ll start some seeds (peppers, eggplants and tomatoes) in the family room beside the wood stove, just so they get an extra boost from the heat. By March they’ll be out in the greenhouse and by April I’ll be planting seeds that don’t take long from germination to seedling (annual flowers, cukes, winter squash, melons and a few others) right out in the greenhouse. The racks in my little house will be full, and every ray of sunshine will go to good use.

I love this time of year! We grow most of our own produce—and I mean for year-round use. I can and freeze what we don’t use fresh during the summer months, and we eat homegrown fruits and veggies even during the cold winter months. What’s not to love about that?

Last night we had salmon (not homegrown), roasted broccoli, garlic mashed potatoes and grilled zucchini. All the veggies came from last summer’s gardens. For dessert we had gingerbread with berry sorbet. The gingerbread was not homegrown, obviously, although it was homemade. The berry sorbet used berries from our own backyard, and tasted so sweet it wasn’t hard to remember the warm, sultry days of summer.

So, what about you? Any gardening plans? If you’ve got any gardening questions, shoot me an email and I’ll be happy to lend a hand, if I can. I love the idea of growing our own food, and I’d love to see others get into the groove of gardening.

Just a thought…When I hold a potato grown in our backyard, I never wonder who handled it last or what kinds of pesticides and fertilizers were used in its production. That’s something I don’t know when I stroll through the grocery’s produce aisle.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Small Pleasures

Last winter I had just suffered my first migraine so we were gung-ho on eliminating any factors which might bring another of the horrible bouts on. One of the things the doctor suggested cutting from my diet was chocolate. If you know me well, you’ll know I love chocolate. Really, I love it. But since I’m no t a fan of having a monstrous headache, I gave up chocolate.

Sad. Very sad, when I realized hot chocolate was out of the question for chilly evenings! Ahh! No cocoa? How would I survive?

I did survive, but I was not thrilled to be limited to non-chocolate beverages.

The good news? Chocolate is not one of my migraine triggers!

The very good news? This year I’ve been sipping hot chocolate with my honey, looking out at the falling snow and feeling very, very content. It doesn’t take much, does it, to make one happy?

Small pleasures sometimes make the biggest impact.

What about you? Any simple pleasures you most enjoy?

Friday, February 19, 2010

Change of Heart

When you’re on a roll, I think you should try not to deviate from the rolling streak. That is, of course, if the rolling is positive.

Me? I’m on a roll, thanks to JaNoWriMo, so I’m keeping on track. On the first of the month I began working on book three in a series I’m writing. I wrote book two in January, so the setting, characters and feel of the project is fresh. Hubby asked if I was going to take some time away from the series, but I figure I’m on a roll so I should keep at it.

The new book, called Change of Heart, is going well. The characters are developing nicely, and each have quirks and issues which make them unique. They support each other and for the most part get along pretty well. Still, one American in a sea of Londoners is going to find that there’s more than societal issues to separate a cowboy from a peer. I have a feeling he’s going to overcome his “disadvantages” and find his way to his lady’s heart—but who can tell? Maybe this’ll be the novel where no one ends up together! HA! You know I wouldn’t do that!

Anyhow, back to my roll—ah, manuscript. I hope you’re having a nice month. Anything rolling along in your world?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

A Question About Reading

I promise, I’m not trying to be nit-picky here, but something’s bothering me. It’s nothing earth-shattering so don’t let your palms grow clammy. I just wondered if this bothers you, too. Who knows? Maybe it’s just me who gets shaken (not stirred!) when this happens.

I’ll cut to the chase. Recently I bought a book by an author whose last book I adored. I couldn’t wait to read this new book, but I put it aside for a time when I could really enjoy it, rather than reading it on the fly. Then, February’s resolution (exercise!) came along, and with it the perfect opportunity to dive into the book. My thirty minutes of stationary peddling provides the best chance for uninterrupted reading, so on the first I eagerly opened the book and began to read.

Mid-way through the first chapter I put the book down. I don’t think I’ll ever finish it. And I doubt I’ll buy anything else in this series. Why? The heroine is ill. Not just sniffly ill, but seriously ill. I don’t expect she will pass away, but I do know that if the author is true to the disease and its circumstances, things are going to be tough for the character for a while, if not for the rest of her life.

I can’t do it. I just can’t read the book, knowing the possibility of “watching” her suffer—even to live!—will appear in the coming chapters.

How do you feel about this issue?

I’m not trying to stir up controversy, be mean or disrespectful. I’m just saying that I can’t “escape” into a story filled with heartache, even if the ending is positive (which I sincerely hope it is!) for the heroine.

So there you have it, my reading question. Any thoughts?

Just so you know, I began reading a Regency romance instead, and have kept to my thirty-minute exercise resolution. Reading something interesting makes the time fly, and I’ve noticed that some days I’ve spent an extra ten minutes or so pedaling just so I might finish a chapter. All good, I think.

Friday, February 12, 2010


Yesterday I received a note from a reader about my first book, Snowdance. She just finished reading it for the second time. Her note said she enjoyed it even more with the second reading, although she was kind enough to assure me the first time around had been pleasant, as well.

If she only knew how she brightened my day. Don't you just love it when unexpected kindnesses bring sunshine?

Hope you have a wonderful Friday!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Hunker Down

Here in the middle of nowhere, about this time of year we hunker down and really—I do mean really!—settle in for what feels like the longest haul. Last week we had sub-zero temps; this week the thermometer has at least crawled into the teens but still, it feels icy.

Fortunately we who are crazy enough to live in what neighboring towns call “The Snowbelt” come equipped with a vast repertoire of interests with which to while away the bleak hours. Hubby carves. I write. We both read, play chess and cards. We have marathon Monopoly games. Winter is the time we fiddle in the kitchen, creating new dishes with unlikely ingredients.

We snuggle. Yeah, snuggling’s big here.

So while the wind howls and winter’s icy fingertips rake down the windowpanes, we hunker down and know that sooner or later, spring will find us. Until then, it’s hot chocolate, roaring fireplaces, snuggling and classic movie marathons.

What about you? How’s winter going in your neck of the woods? And please, if you live in a place that’s warm and sunny right now, don’t tell me about it! (This means you, Judy!!) I don’t mean to be rude, but if you get me drooling over sunny skies, barefoot sand walking or grilling, I might start to drool. Believe me, in these temps drooling could be a very tricky endeavor, one of those “don’t try this at home” things!

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Really Big Here

I guess every family has favorite recipes, old standbys that can practically be made by heart at the drop of a...chili? Anyhow, this is one of our faves. I pulled it together last night, long after dinner was over but way before bedtime. It was warm, yummy and actually went well with hot chocolate. Go figure!

Hope you enjoy it as much as we do!

Jalapeño Cornbread

1 cup cornmeal
1 cup flour
1 cup milk
½ t. baking soda
1 t. salt
1 cup corn niblets
1 cup cream-style corn
1/4 cup Oil
4 Jalapeño peppers, chopped
2 eggs
½ cup finely chopped onion
1 cup grated cheddar cheese

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl.

Pour batter into a buttered, hot, cast-iron skillet or into a buttered 8x8-inch square baking pan.

Place in preheated 350-degree oven and bake for 55 minutes

Monday, February 08, 2010

Pass It On

If you’re reading this blog you’re most likely a lover of books. Yeah, we bibliophiles tend to stick together, don’t we? And if you love books as much as I do, you’ve probably got a glut of novels you’ve read and won’t ever reread. I know I do. At least, I did.

We spend a good deal of time in a medical facility. I wish we didn’t, but we do. And don’t get me wrong, I’m from-the-bottom-of-my-heart grateful that the facility and its amazing staff are here to help us. I thank God every day that they’re here!

Still, long hours, day after day, in a medical setting can be tedious—unless you’ve always got a book tucked in your bag. I’ve gotten into the habit of bringing along not only the book I’m currently reading, but a few others I’ve read, enjoyed and probably will never read again. I leave them in the facility’s small bookcase or on the table in the room we’ve occupied.

Nurses, patients and cleaning staff have all told me how much they appreciate finding a good book—instead of an outdated magazine!—here and there. Many patients spend all day long in some of those rooms, and the thought that maybe my spare reading material might help pass the long, often painful, hours really makes me feel great. It is a small thing, but at least I feel like I’m making a tiny difference.

So, the next time you’re wondering what in the world you’re going to do with the books falling out of your bookshelves, why not consider donating them to your local hospital, cardiac wing or cancer center? Your old favorites might bring joy to someone struggling to get well. An added benefit is knowing you’re making a difference in someone else’s life. The way I see it, it’s a win-win situation.

Hope you have a great day!

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Berry Overload

Our freezer is still full of last season's berries. We had bumper crops of blueberries, blackberries and raspberries, so I'm still trying to use them all up. I hate wasting food, and I know we'll have more berries coming before long so...I'm getting pretty creative.

Made this yesterday afternoon, and it was a hit. I should've taken a picture of it (before Hubby dug in!) because it was really very attractive--in a warm bubbling berry sort of way.

Any ideas on how to use the gallons of berries we've still got lurking in the deep freeze? All suggestions are appreciated!

What about you? Anything taking up space in your freezer? Hey, I'm still feeling very creative here...

Bang-Up Berries

2¼ cups flour
½ cup butter
1 t. salt
2 t. baking powder
½ cup milk
3 cups blueberries
1 cup granulated sugar

Combine berries, sugar and ¼ cup flour in a saucepan. Cook over medium heat until mixture bubbles. Remove pan from heat and pour berry mixture onto a buttered baking dish. Set aside.

Combine reserved flour, butter, salt, baking powder and milk in a large bowl. Stir all ingredients until a soft dough forms. On a lightly floured surface roll dough until it is the same size as the baking dish.

Place dough over berries in dish.

Place baking dish in a preheated 350-degree oven.

Bake for 25-30 minutes.

Serve warm.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Brownies for Lovers

Happy Almost-Valentine's Day!

Brownies for Lovers

3/4 cups melted butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs
1/2 cup cocoa powder
3/4 cups flour
1/2 t. baking powder
1 t. salt
1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Grease a 13x9-inch pan.

Combine butter, eggs, sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy. Add cocoa, baking powder, salt and flour and stir until mixed. Then add chocolate chips.

Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake for 25 minutes.


Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Butt on Fire

You read it right. Lately I’ve been feeling like I’m writing like my butt’s on fire.

Why? I’ve gone from one book to the next without stopping to “smell the roses” for months now. The good thing is that I’m getting a lot of writing done. The bad thing? I’m not sure there is a downside, unless you count the fact that I always seem to be on a self-imposed writing deadline. Even that is positive, I think. At least that’s what I keep telling myself!

So, the butt on fire writing does have a sort of end in sight. I’ve got plans for February and March. April is going to be the time for sitting back and reading—other people’s books, that is!—to my heart’s content. The hope is that by May I’ll want to plant my behind back in the chair and begin writing again. We’ll see…

What about you? Do you ever do something you love to such an extent that you feel like you’re on fire? Hmm?

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Got Beans?

Last night we were hungry, but not really hungry. You know the feeling, don't you? We'd eaten a late lunch, so by the time dinnertime arrived neither of us had an appetite. We waited, and by nine o'clock we were beginning to feel kind of empty. But the dilemma--eating a large meal that late, just a few hours before bedtime?

Seemed not a good idea, so I pulled together a fast soup. I added the leftover half of a loaf of bread I'd made on Sunday and we had a meal. Easy, tasty and available on a moment's notice. All good, right? I thought I'd share the recipe, just in case you find yourself in the same sort of mood sometime. I hope you enjoy it!

Fast Bean Soup

1/4 cup chopped onion
2 cloves minced garlic
1 T. butter
1 T. olive oil
3 cups vegetable broth
1/4 cup uncooked small pasta
1 can cannellini beans
2 diced tomatoes
1/2 cup spinach
1/4 t. salt
Parmesan cheese

Saute onion and garlic in butter and oil. Add broth, bring to a boil, and then add the pasta, beans, tomatoes, spinach and salt. Simmer until heated through. Sprinkle with cheese and serve with hot, crusty bread.

Monday, February 01, 2010

A New Resolution

Oh, how on earth did February arrive so quickly? Why, it seems like just yesterday that we toasted the New Year, doesn’t it? I guess that whole “time flies” adage is true!

My resolution for January was to forego cookies. Now, anyone who knows me will assure you that I do love my cookies, so this was a big thing for me. I’m happy to report that once I made my mind up, I didn’t have a hard time sticking to the resolution. I haven’t had a cookie since 2009 and am truly pleased with myself. It’s a small thing, but sometimes small things matter.

I’ve been asked a number of times if I’m going to keep up the no-cookie rule. Now that I’ve broken the daily cookie habit I’d hate to fall back into the trap but I’d also miss sampling some of my favorite treats. Besides, around here we bake heart-shaped sugar cookies near Valentine’s Day and that’s one tradition I have no intention of giving up so I guess the answer is that I’m going to resolve to practice moderation in the cookie arena of my life. Like I said, I’m out of the habit so I don’t see myself gobbling cookies any time in the near future.

So, what’s it going to be for February? I thought you’d never ask!

Exercise. Yep, that’s the resolution for the second month of the year. I’m going to force myself to get on my exercise bike every single day this month and pedal for thirty minutes.

I’ve fallen out of the habit of “formal” exercise these past months, so I think I should make a conscious effort to get back into the practice. Lately I’ve let myself off the exercise hook. I’ve convinced myself that hauling firewood, tilling gardens, clearing snow and stacking wood pellets should exempt me from an exercise regimen. That’s hogwash—my chores aren’t a substitute for aerobic activity so, for February at least, you can be sure I’ll have my butt on the bicycle seat for a half-hour a day.

Let’s hope this goes as easily as the cookie resolution did. I’ll keep you posted.

So, what about you? Did you make New Year’s resolutions? If you did, how are you doing with them?