Baking in the Fall Flavors: with a bonus pumpkin bread recipe

Confession time: I’m not a baker. I don’t do cookies, cakes or pies as a general rule–not because I don’t know how–but because we don’t eat them. In fact, my mom is an amazing cook who taught me well, but her lessons can’t undo the following equation.

Desserts + my fam = uneaten waste.

Except in the fall. I could eat pumpkin anything until I passed out. I make a mean pumpkin muffin with delicious cream cheese filling. I have been in charge of baking the family pumpkin pies at Thanksgiving from the wee age of about 10–homemade crust included. My kindergarten teacher first hooked me on pumpkin cookies with raisins decades ago…her recipe is heavenly and has been passed on numerous times over the years. More recently, we’ve adopted a pumpkin cheesecake recipe, and for early morning appetites there’s pumpkin bread. I even think that eating baked squash for dinner is sinfully divine and should be classified as a treat.

Beyond that, I make apple crisp whenever someone passes along extra apples.

That’s it. Maybe it’s something about the fall and harvesting fresh produce that makes me love pumpkin so much, or maybe it’s my body naturally wanting to fatten up for the winter. Personally, I don’t care about the reason behind it, because nothing in the world is as delicious as the scent and flavor of fall baking.

And so I give you a touch of my childhood via my mom’s pumpkin bread which was handed down from her mom. Where the original recipe came from, I can only guess, so cannot attribute it properly if such attribution exists.

1. Place raisins in a large mixing bowl, cover with hot water and set aside to cool.

  • 1 1/4 cup chopped raisins
  • 1 cup hot water

2. Sift together the following ingredients and set aside.

  • 3 3/4 cup flour
  • 3 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 3/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 3/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 2 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 3/4 tsp salt

Mix together the following ingredients with the raisin mixture.

  • 5 eggs, beaten
  • 1 1/4 cup oil (I personally use olive oil)
  • 2 cups pumpkin
  • 1 1/4 cup chopped nuts

Add dry ingredients and mix well. Pour batter into 3 greased loaf pans and bake at 350 degrees 1 hour (until done). Cool in pans for 10 minutes before transferring to a rack to cool completely.

As an added bonus, here’s my mom’s personal notes: Flavor improves after a couple of days. Also, loaves will keep for several weeks when stored in an airtight container in the fridge.

What are your favorite fall flavors, and why?

Curious minds want to know.

Wear Orange On Wednesday

Yes, you. Tomorrow morning, don your orange and unite against bullying. Use this color to visibly stand up for kindness and community and compassion.

What Unity Means to Me

  • I believe that all people are equal. We all deserve respect, love and acceptance regardless of where we came from, what we have, what we do or why we do it.
  • I believe there is a difference between acceptance and tolerance. Acceptance implies compassion and understanding. Tolerance implies self-import and civil disdain.
  • I believe that kids deserve a safe educational environment free from harassment and intolerance–certainly they deserve one free from bullying. I believe the same goes for adults whether at work or in the home.
  • I believe that many bullies are often victims of bad circumstances, and their behaviors are learned as a reaction to those life stresses. While this doesn’t make it right, it does make it easier to deal with.
  • I believe that teaching is better than punishment. If we understand the why, we are more apt to respond positively than if we view things through a negative lens based strictly on the what.
  • I believe that learning the intention behind the action is more important than knee-jerk reactions to things that seem cruel, odd, disgusting or rude. If we never understand something we can’t ever hope to help.
  • I believe there is no such thing as common sense. The world is so big and the population so vast that there isn’t one common experience to rightfully base our assumptions and expectations.
  • I believe that I have no right to judge others based on my moral compass. We all earn our compasses through our own personal experiences, therefore the things I hold dear might be meaningless to someone who lives a vastly different life than myself and vice-versa.
  • I believe the only thing strong enough to bring peace to this world is a communal desire to accept and care for others different than ourselves.
  • I believe we are all equal, and as such, we all deserve a life of hope, compassion and respect.

I know, I sound a little like Miss America, but without the slim stems, the luscious locks and the poetic prose. I’m just an average mom with big beliefs, and tomorrow, October 22, I will wear orange in honor of PACER’s Unity Day. I hope you will, too.

What does unity mean to  you?

Curious minds want to know.

It’s almost that time of year again…

Taking on the world, one novel at a time!

Crazy, I know, but super fun and dream-worthy, none-the-less!

In fact, just this morning, I ran across my high school graduation invitation. Our class motto is far more meaningful to me now than it was two and a half decades ago…

I didn’t always dream of writing, but once the bug bit me, I’ve never been able to shake it. NaNo, while crazy and intense, is an amazing annual event that inspires and motivates me. It’s like a runner’s high. Only better because my thighs don’t burn and I don’t have snot running down my face.

Since I started participating in NaNo, I’ve had nearly a dozen short stories, several articles and a novel (with a second one coming out next year) published, as well as edited a short story anthology and served on the acquisitions board for five others. I am firmly wrapped up in the beauty of my dreams.

And the hard work…

Once November hits, I’ll batten down the hatches and come up for coffee, kids and Thanksgiving. I’m not sure what my writing project will be, but I’m actually thinking of something a little lighter this year.

If anyone wants to join me in writing (or attempting to write) 50,000 words in 30 days, I make a great cheerleader. I also make a mean pumpkin cheesecake that I plan to bake for a local write-in. What could be better than good company, beautiful dreams and divine desserts?

Go ahead, click on the National Novel Writing Month icon above and sign up for a unique adventure. If you do, drop a line and let me know what your user name is, so we can get through the month together. If you live close enough, I might even throw in a margarita and homemade guacamole for incentive!

Share your dreams. What motivates you to reach them? Do you ever feel as if your dreams are so wild and crazy they are not worth pursuing? If so, how do you push on despite the devil on your shoulder?

Curious minds want to know.

Cover Reveal: Tales from the Bully Box

Available Soon!

Thanks, Sarah Tregay, for the beautiful cover to an exciting middle grade anthology.  You Rock!

Thanks, authors, for your inspiring stories. Some of them brought me to tears!

Thanks, Bully Box Brigade, for putting together an informative website for kids, parents and teachers. The Bully Box is filled with fun stuff for youth, helpful hints for parents and educational info for teachers, as well as ordering discounts for classrooms.

Thanks, Elephant’s Bookshelf Press, for kicking off your Colors for Causes campaign with the color orange and its theme of bully prevention. I love that you are donating money to help make this world a better place.

Thanks, PACER, for making October a month of awareness for how we treat others. You also rock!

I’m Not A Total Idiot: I Promise

I’m not a total idiot. At least not all the time.

Case in Point 1: I am a fairly decent mom and dogmom. After all, I have graduated two children and haven’t eaten my last two yet. (That was a joke, by the way.) I’ve also house broken more kids and dogs than I care to count. But…I can be a little too trusting at times. Take our Tiny Dog for an example. I was checking out new blog widgets and snacking on peas. Tiny Dog politely asked for one. I shared. She jumped off the chair, hopped back up and asked for another. And another. And another. It wasn’t until Youngest Son saw the conglomeration of nibbled-on peas in the middle of the floor that I realized I’d been duped. Tiny Dog was stockpiling her veggies.

I wasn’t being a total idiot. I was simply being more nurturing than was necessary. Unless, you don’t consider letting Youngest eat a partially masticated pea pod nurturing. Then I was just being stupid.

Case in Point 2: I have pretty good success with technology–or at least the basics of it–for someone who was born and raised in the dark ages. However, sometimes I have “aha” moments that are downright embarrassing. For instance, I didn’t know I could connect to another blog and have a snippet of a post show up on my sidebar. I’d seen other bloggers have these fancy little doodads, but could never figure out how to get my own. Of course, I’m claiming this is a new feature on this particular blog template since I revamped it a handful of years ago, which is why I didn’t notice it before.

But now that I’ve found it, I want to revamp my whole blog yet again. I mean, how many more cool things have I missed in my technological stupor? Seriously, check the sidebar for a glimpse of my kid blog…without actually having to go to my kid blog. Sweet, right? And it was actually pretty simple, too. I just didn’t know it.

Case in Point 3: Even though I don’t always know my way around technology, I’m a living map of sorts in the real world. I know road signs and street names instead of landmarks. I can tell north from south without a compass. But until two days ago, I had no idea that interstates were named in the most simplistic of all manners–a thought that had never occurred to me. Basically, Interstate numbering starts on the west coast and heads east. Likewise, the smallest numbered Interstates belong to the south and grow larger as you head north. I would go into detail, but my brain can’t hold all the nuances that Wikipedia can. If you are truly interested, click here for more details. I did, and got lost in the history of Freeways for so long I needed a map to find my way back to reality.

All this is to say that no matter how good we are at something, we can be incredibly dense at times. The reverse is true, as well.

In other words, we’re human. And that’s not a bad thing: I promise.

In A Handful Of Dust Book Giveaway and our technoligical plight

In the wake of Apple’s new watch unveiling, I got sucked into a world wide web of articles on technology. Eventually, my browsing led me to a story about autonomous driving and how easy it would be to hack the systems of these newest toys-in-the-making

Is anyone else troubled by the abundance of technology in our lives? Does anyone else pine for the pioneer days when you lived by your own doing and died by your own poor choices and laziness? Does anyone besides me think that having a lazy human behind the wheel of a vehicle is a bad idea?

I mean, seriously, one article boasted how the automatic system would hand over the controls to the driver if the car got into trouble it couldn’t handle alone, such as slamming on its brakes to avoid hitting a car in front of it. I don’t know about you, but braking seems like a pretty fundament part of driving. Needless to say, I see a huge flaw in this:

  • The driver relinquished control for a reason: he doesn’t want to pay attention to the mundane task of driving.
  • By applying logic, this means he is no longer an attentive driver of the vehicle, but rather a passive passenger sitting in front of the steering wheel.
  • Inattention requires time before reaction: said driver must be alerted to a problem via the car, he must then assess why the distress signal has been sent, then he must determine what needs to be done to avoid the peril of smashing into the car that just swerved into his lane.
  • By my calculation, way too much time has elapsed to allow the now-panicked driver to avoid the crash when Rosie the Robot could have simply stomped on the brakes solo.
  • Ie: autonomous cars seem MORE dangerous.
  • When you add up the time and financial costs of the wreck for rear-ending another car, Mr. Lazy Driver has wasted vast resources when he could have simply set his cruise and crooned to the radio–with hands on wheel, eyes on road and foot poised near the brake–during his morning commute.

Suddenly, autonomous driving doesn’t sound so convenient after all. Well, it never did… News flash: I like being in control of my own life. I don’t want 1984 to come to fruition. I like independent thinking and acting. I like making decisions and living with the consequences.

I don’t want to reside in a dystopian world unless it is one I’m reading about. Big Brother is for fiction. Or, at least, it used to be.

Throw in those hackers I was talking about, and I see chaos to the max. Pray tell, where do I sign up?

Not with Apple. I am not ready for personal technology that is controlled by private companies, can be shared with the government and stolen by hackers. I’ll keep my pulse to myself and get in my own car accidents, thank you.

I will also continue to read survival novels by author Mindy McGinnis, where nature is a force to be reckoned with, technology is limited. and human interactions are tenuous at best. In a Handful of Dust is due to hit  bookshelves on September 23, 2014. It’s the companion novel to her debut novel, Not a Drop to Drink.

Follow me to Mindy’s blog to save on your e-copy of Drink (a steal at $1.99) and to enter a chance to win one of five free copies of Dust!

What kinds of technology can’t you live with, and what can’t you live without? How do you feel about technology driven novels?

Curious minds want to know.

Cleaning Bathrooms Is Exactly Like Editing

I have three boys, which means lots of resident testosterone. Add in friends, and the testosterone count increases exponentially. Throw in one daughter with finger nail polish, make up and ponytail holders to spice things up. Now you’ve got a glimpse into my house. As you can imagine, bathrooms quickly become a place I detest while maintaining a firm spot at the top of my TLC list. I can clean and clean and clean again, and yet every time I walk into a bathroom, I could clean it once again. Toothpaste on the mirror (how the heck does it get there?), soap scum in the sink, empty shampoo bottles, emptier toilet paper rolls and overflowing wastebaskets. Not to mention the toilet. I walk out, and someone else walks in. Scrub, restock, repeat.

Same with editing. No matter how many times I revise, rework and edit, my manuscript is never perfect. It just looks that way until the next time I pick it up.

Tiring: yes. Frustrating: even more so. Worth it? Heck yeah.

I just scrubbed my middle grade manuscript this weekend. It required a little picking up, not a major cleansing. Now to send it off to my editor, which is a bit like inviting the proverbial mother-in-law into the bathroom with a white glove…

What do you love about editing? What do you hate about it?

Curious minds want to know!