Category Archives: Real Life

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.

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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.

When Life Gives You Lemons, It’s Okay To Cry

Moving Dear Daughter into college last week was difficult at best. Watching parents hug their kids goodbye and climb into their vehicles with tears in their eyes was too common to count. It was the rare student who did a fist pump as his family rounded the corner and drove away. Mostly, it was a day filled with hastily wiped cheeks, glassy eyes and runny noses. Neither DD nor I were immune to the blues. Heck, we’d had coffee together every morning and shared lunch nearly every afternoon for her last two years of high school.

I know the saying, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade,” but I firmly believe it’s okay to cry about those lemons first. Denying our emotions is just as bad as, if not worse than, ignoring everything that happens after someone hands you a bushel of lemons. Validating our pain and fear and frustration is helpful. It allows us to move on. It’s only when we suppress those feelings that we end up with a sour life in the long run.

Bad things happen. Sad things happen. That’s okay. In fact, those experiences are what give us a refreshing perspective on the rest of our lives. They allow us to appreciate the lemonade.

Dear writer friends, please remember this post when you pen the life journey of your MCs. Know that we must put them through a little pain and discomfort. Let them hurt. Let them cry. Then give them the strength to carry on and overcome.

Same to you, parents. We can’t protect our children from everything, and we shouldn’t even try. They must learn to live despite falling down.

What life lemons have been sent your way? How do you validate someone’s feelings when you would rather tell them to suck it up?

Curious minds want to know.

Survival of the Fittest: what’s your writing adaptability

This morning Dear Hubby packed for yet another work trip. After several years of packing and unpacking and forgetting and remembering certain items, you’d think he’d have it down pat. But alas, he says to me just before heading out, “I almost forgot my running shoes again.”

DH is a workout fanatic. He likes to work out hard, pushing himself to the next level and then the next. Because of this, Shawn T is a big name around our house. We have a love/hate relationship with him. I hate him, and DH loves him. Insane, yes, I know. But despite DH’s go-get-em attitude, he has one teeny, tiny flaw. He has plantar fasciitis so bad he can barely walk from the bedroom to the bathroom without his inserts in. Shoe wearing is a must nearly every minute of the day.

Me, however, I have perfect arches. I’ve tackled Shawn T in my bare feet. I stairmaster shoeless and have even been known to attempt to run on the treadmill sans footwear.

Needless to say, these differences led to a conversation about how DH would have never survived in ancient times. We giggled over the outcome of what this would have looked like back in the day. In particular, because we always joke that if a bear was chasing us, DH would only have to outrun me to save himself–an easy endeavor on any given day, as I don’t run. Period. That said, I wouldn’t need to run fast or far if we were in a barefoot race, because my buff hubby and his plantar fasciitis would take the finish line last every time.

This, ironically, is a conversation I’ve had with my big sister in times past. She’s legally blind and can’t even see herself in the mirror to put her contacts in, while I have 20/20 vision. “If we lived in the wild,” she’s been known to say, “our parents would have eaten me so they’d have more energy to save you.”

Guess what, writers? There’s survival of the fittest in the literary world, too. As writers, we all have fatal flaws that can kill us off before we ever get started. Triumphing in the publishing wilderness takes savvy, perseverance, talent, time, patience, motivation, huge pots of coffee, refusal to succumb to a little pain and learning to flourish despite it. We must be flexible and able to adapt to the changing market, to our own down falls and to the obstacles that get put in our way.

Survival of the fittest is a brutal process that we face each day in writing and in life.

But, as my Dear Hubby so eloquently says, “I only need to outrun you.”

In reality, sometimes the only person we need to outrun is ourselves.

Do you have what it takes to survive? What are your fatal flaws and how have you overcome them?

Curious minds want to know.

Viral Ice Buckets

So, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking since this whole #IceBucketChallenge got started and it makes me proud. Proud that so many people in such a seemingly calloused world stand up and make a difference. Sure, it’s a fun way to donate and raise awareness…I mean, who doesn’t want to shock their systems with a cold shower to the noggin?…but you still have to do it.

And do it, we have.

To the tune of $88.5 million in the days between July 29 and August 26. (Figures found on the ALS site this morning)

But that’s not the best thing. One point nine million new donors have emerged during this time and millions more have watched the countless videos circulating in the cybersphere.

Awareness goes a long way in the daily living of ALS patients. While many of those currently diagnosed with ALS may not see the benefit of these generous donations, the support that has been shown to the ALS community cannot be measured. Nor can the outpouring of funds be dismissed for the much-needed research to alleviate the symptoms of ALS and help find a cure in the future. 

Wouldn’t it be lovely if all the good ideas and compassion we have bottled up inside could go viral every day? We could inundate the world with peace and love and hope in a mere 30 days. (I hear a Miss America speech in here somewhere : ) 

But of course, there are the naysayers. Every cause has one (yes, you dolled-up, plastic surgeried actress with the fake implants and new lips, I’m talking to you). And the trolls…you know, the people who deliberately antagonize and create heartache in the midst of all things good. For every uplifting or heartbreaking story, a thread or a post exists to rip it apart. Yet despite the ratio of good to bad, these cruel comments have more power than all the good vibes floating around. We just have to see past the trash talk and focus on the generosity of spirit that we have within us. We have to peek at the reality behind the bite and understand that some people just like to rain on others’ parades. And when we can do this, we can accomplish anything.

So, thanks to those who have donated. Thanks to those who have soaked themselves in freezing water for a cause they didn’t know existed. Thanks to all you wonderful people who are smothering the voices of the naysayers with your good deeds and generous hearts.

Go viral. One bucket at a time!

What is your cause? If you could pick anything at all to go viral what would it be and why?

Curious minds want to know.

P.S. Mine would be literacy.

 

Does Writing From Home Affect Your Worth?

The other day, a fellow writer lamented that she’d been brushed aside at a social gathering simply because she was an author, not an employee. Not surprisingly, this sentiment is echoed by many Write at Home Moms.

WrAH Moms are given the hand wave, the shoulder shrug and the scrunched-in-disgust face by women who nine to five it off the homestead. They acutely feel the disdain of the working. As if being there for their kids while writing, editing and marketing a novel equates sitting on the couch watching Family Ties reruns while downing copious amounts of soda. As if their contribution to their families and to society is somehow inferior–less than–the work these other women do.

I suppose it comes from the idea that respect is tied to a paycheck, and that being home is as old-fashioned as June Cleaver’s hair-do.

“You just stay at home,” says the working mother of two with a cleaning lady, a nanny and her summers off.

Yep. Just.

Compounding this feeling of failure is the fickleness and speed (or lack thereof) of the publishing industry. Not every great manuscript gets published. In fact, many never find homes as publishers navigate the technology rush that has changed the face of book marketing. And even when novels earn a contract, it can take up to three years before they hit the bookshelves–cyber or otherwise. To the paycheck mentality who doesn’t understand the nuances of the literary world, this is a whole lot of wasted time and a lot of reruns.

So this post goes to my fellow WaH Moms. I believe in you. I understand what it’s like to be looked down upon for pursuing your passion. I get how hard it is to carve out time to write while balancing the volunteer activities you do, the families you raise, the business mind you must have to market yourself, the part time jobs you keep and the disdain you endure for doing most of it quietly behind the closed doors of your home–all for paychecks that might take years in the making.

Your time is worth something. Your words do matter. You are a viable thread in the tapestry of the world. Without you, picture books could not be shared between parent and child, schools would have no material with which to teach, vacationers would have no beach reads, scholars would have no way to enhance their learning and countless editors, marketers, publishers, illustrators, designers, carpenters, architects, store clerks, librarians, CEOs, janitors, teachers, etc, etc, etc, would be without jobs.

The written word has power. It can be responsible for cultural movements. It graces humanity with possibilities. It is vital to our society’s success. And you are a part of that–sitting on your couch, agonizing over word choices, disseminating fact from fiction, sharing your thoughts in only the way you can.

To hell with the naysayers and dust bunnies. Take pride in your work–and even more so, the process. Writing is some of the hardest work I have ever done.

If you have encountered similar situations, how do you handle them?