Friday, February 28, 2014

Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Cookies

Okay, so by now you should've guessed that my life is all about writing and cooking right now.  And since I've been a toad this week, there's more cooking than writing.  To that end, here's a new recipe I tried and found to be delicious.

Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Cookies

1/2 cup margarine
1/2 cup white sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar (packed*)
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup old fashioned oats
1 cup dark chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350F.  In a medium bowl, cream the margarine and the sugars together.  Mix in the egg until light and fluffy. Stir in peanut butter and vanilla until well combined.  In a separate bowl, sift together flour, salt and baking soda.  Add to wet mixture until just combined.  Stir in the oats and the chocolate chips.  Drop by rounded spoonfuls onto cookie sheet.  Bake 10-14 minutes or until lightly browned. 

This made about 2 dozen cookies for me, but your mileage may vary.  The original recipe, which I tweaked - naturally - said it made 3 dozen, but they must've made small cookies.  We don't do small cookies here.  I mean, I didn't make them HUGE, but still...

If you want to play with this one, try semi-sweet or milk or white chocolate chips.  I used dark chocolate because that's what we had in the house.  I guess you could also try chunky peanut butter.  Whatever blows your skirt up.

*on a side note, have you ever seen a recipe that didn't call for the brown sugar to be packed?  If it always has to be packed, why do they have to keep saying 'packed'?  Just one of those things I think about.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Sunday Update - Week 8

First off, I smashed my pinky finger yesterday, so it's making typing a pain in the butt.  If you didn't already see the drama on Facebook, I was unpacking groceries and when I lifted the ice cream out of the bag, I misjudged the distance to the underside of the cabinets.  Got stuck between a cabinet and a brick of chocolate ice cream. 

Anyway, this last week hasn't been the most productive.  But here goes...

I wrote about 2100 words on the beginning of Djinn 3.

Then I got distracted working on the edits for Wrongful Termination because I got a wild  hair to rewrite the beginning of that.

I did manage to get some more submissions out.  Just one or two a day - and not every single day - but it's something.  One of them did result in a response...

I got an email back from an agent's assistant asking me for a tiny bit of clarification.  Also, they said they liked the beginning, though, so that's something.  We'll see if my response encourages them to ask for more pages.  I've got my fingers crossed but I'm not holding my breath. 

So that's the long and the short of the week.  Nothing much worth talking about in the old personal life.  (At least nothing I'm willing to spend any time yammering about here on the blog.)  Everyone's still alive, so that's something.

What happened to you this past week?  Remember, even if it was craptastic, try to think of something positive, even if it's only 'I managed not to piss anyone off this week'.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Meatball Soup

I adapted this from a recipe I saw on Mystery Lovers' Kitchen over the weekend.  Mine doesn't follow that recipe, though.  Really I just ran with the idea of using pre-made frozen meatballs to make soup.

20-25 frozen meatballs
1/2 can whole kernel corn
3 whole carrots
3 large potatoes
1 package onion soup mix
2 beef bouillon cubes
1/2 T parsley
1-2 bay leaves 
salt & pepper to taste

In a 5 qt dutch oven type pan, dump package of onion soup mix.  Fill pan 2/3 full of water.  Bring to a boil.  Add in bouillon cubes.  Add in parsley and bay leaves.  Gently add in meatballs.  Boil until meatballs are tender.  Dice carrots.  Add in and boil another ten minutes.  Slice or dice potatoes into whatever size you like.  Boil ten minutes.  Add in corn.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Continue boiling until potatoes and carrots are tender.  Serve with crackers.

It made a nice lunch today and plenty of leftovers.  You can certainly change up the seasonings to make it however you want.  I might've thrown in some celery seed, but I don't remember now.  And you can add other veggies like peas or beans or canned tomatoes, if you like.  I just used what I had available and basically I keep adding and tasting until I have the flavor I want. 

PS.  Your boiling time may vary.  I don't mind if my potatoes and carrots are a little mushy.  With yours, keep checking the tenderness of the carrots and potatoes until they reach the texture you like best.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Sunday Update - Week #7

Hey all!  I'm really quite proud that I've kept this up for seven Sundays in a row.  Go me!

Anyway, here's what I did last week...

I watched a lot of Olympics.

But seriously, I did get some other things accomplished.

For instance, I swapped out my old keyboard for this one I had in my BIG BOX OF ELECTRONICAL THINGS.  It's actually the keyboard that came with my computer 4 years ago, but I liked the Logistics keyboard I ordered better than this Lenovo one, so I used that.  Now I'm on this, and kinda remembering why I used the other one.  This one's keys are closer together and the spacebar is LOUD.  Sheesh.  But it's better than using the old keyboard that had most of its letters rubbed off.  And since I used the backspace key so much, it was starting to squeak.

Oh, and I read a shit-ton of books.  I was just a reading machine this past week with 5 books read and 21 for the year.  Woohoo! 

I re-re-revised my query letter for Djinnocide with the help of a couple friends.  And yesterday, I sent out the first couple with the new and totally awesome wordage.  Cross your fingers!

Let's see... what else... Oh yeah, the reason why I had the opportunity to read a lot - and probably part of the reason why the letters were rubbed off my old keyboard...

I finished that rewrite!  And I did it a couple days ahead of schedule.  It tops out at around 76K.  I've sent it to my Kindle so I can start reading through it and noting flaws.  It's not done - but hey, I rewrote 76K words between 1/3 and 2/11! Yay!

And lastly, but not leastly, I started the planning and some early writing on my next book - called Djinn 3, for now.  Yeah, I know... I should get the first one going before I write more, but I can't help myself.  I want to play in Jo's world for a while again, so that's what I'm gonna do.  So there.  =op

What happened in your world last week? 

Remember, you can talk about whatever you want, but try to find something positive - even if it's only I managed to keep my cat alive for another week.  (Some days with Max is easier than others but despite his malaise last week, he turned it around and is back to his demanding and drooly self this week.  That darned cat.)

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Re-Adjusting to Life in the Boonies

I grew up in the boonies.  We lived in a dirt road about a half hour outside Flint, MI.  The nearest grocery store was... I dunno... three miles or so.

After I left there, I lived in cities for the most part - Flint itself, Tallahassee, Salt Lake City.  I adjusted to that.  It was a faster pace, more people = more headaches, etc.  The grocery stores were actually farther away, but when you're zooming with the rest of traffic, it doesn't seem so far.

When I left SLC, I moved to a tiny town on the eastern plains of Colorado.  And I adjusted again.  The grocery store was less than a mile away, but if I wanted anything major - like Walmart or Barnes and Noble, I had to drive an hour or more.

Now I'm here.  In the boonies again.  The nearest grocery stores are 15-20 miles out - including Walmart, so I got a shorter distance there than before.  (We won't talk bookstores.  I use Amazon now.)  We're also in the Ozarks, which means everything here is uphill/downhill. 

Back in CO, I went to the store several times a week.  It was right there, so skipping over wasn't a big deal.  Here, I had to cut back.  Gas prices alone make it hard to jaunt back and forth that much.  Since winter struck, though, it was doubly hard. 

You see, I live at the top of a hill.  And the top of my hill is amidst several other hills.  Just getting to the highway looks like this... Down, Up, Up some more, down, up, down, UP and down to the highway.  That last UP is a killer after it snows.  So, part of the adjustment is waiting for the road to melt.  (I think they don't bother salting the neighborhood roads out here.)

And waiting for the road to melt means stocking up when I finally do make it out.  Fill that grocery cart, load up that car (I now refer to my Cavalier as a stealth pickup truck - I move so much stuff with it.), and hope you remembered everything you needed, because if you didn't, it'll have to wait a week. 

It's been just under a week since I got out last time.  Today, I'll be hitting the Walmart (which I couldn't do last time because Arkansas has no concept of blading the highways) to load up on all the stuff we're running low on, plus the stuff I can only get at the big box store.  Then I'll be swinging by the Feed store so I can get whole corn for the deer. 

Ah, the country life.

It's all an adjustment.  But I'm not having a problem with it.  Life is all about making adjustments, right?  And hey, that's just how I roll, baby.  Ziggin' when I need to zig and zaggin' when I need to zag. 

How's life where you're at? 

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Rebaiting the Hook

I don't know how many of you have been fishing, so bear with me here. 

You've got the perfect spot picked out right where the fish traditionally are.  Maybe it's like our old fishing hole - not far from the bridge, just around a bend, under a leaning tree.  You set out with your tackle box, your rods, and your bait.  It's a beautiful day for fishing.  So you set up your chair, bait your hook, attach your bobber and cast that sucker into just the right spot.  And you wait.

And you wait.

Sometimes you see the bobber jiggle a little, but no strikes.  Just more waiting.  After a time, you reel in to see if you can figure out the problem.  Often, you're reeling in an empty hook because all the little fishies have nibbled your bait off.  Occasionally, you see your bait looking just like it had when you threw it in the first time, only wetter.  So, you rebait your hook or not, and cast again. 

After a few hours of this with still no fish on your stringer, you reel in again and maybe try a different bait.  Maybe the bass aren't biting on nightcrawlers today.  Maybe they want a different kind of worm.  Maybe they're looking for a fat frog or a chunky bug - which you can provide in the form of a lure.  You ditch the bobber, add some sinkers, and try the cast and reel method. 

Sounds a lot like where I'm at in the querying.  Well, actually, right now I'm at the rebait your hook method.  Not quite sure what the analogy would be for using a lure.  It's possible I just don't have any lures in my tacklebox (i.e. tasty reasons why an agent would want me over Author X).  All I have is my hook and my bait.  I have to hope that will be enough. 

To that end, I'm swapping out that drowned nightcrawler I've been using for a lively little redworm, and casting again.  We'll see if anyone bites. 

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Sunday Update - Week 6

I totally lazed out this past week, so this ought to be quick.  But let's see if I can pull some positivity out of Week 6.

I wrote 3000 words, roughly, which isn't great but it's 3K more than I had.  I'm still shooting for being done by Valentine's Day, but we'll see.  I really only have about 30 more pages that need to be rewritten, and I don't think I have any major changes left to do. 

I read a three book this past week and I'm a good ways into another.  Right now, I'm at 16 books read for the year, and according to Goodreads, that's 6 books ahead of schedule.  Yay!

I created a new snack - Chocolate Chocolate Chocolate Bars with Coconut.  Totally scrumptious.

I sent out a couple more queries.  I don't know why I was so distracted this week, but I'll get myself back on track.  I'm still committed to the resolution of taking my writing more seriously.  Still, sometimes life intrudes and I have to cut myself slack when it does. 

In world news, the Olympics has started and as of last night when I typed this up, the USA had two medals.  If you look over there on the right, you'll see that I got my widget up to keep track.  =o)

Well, that's about all I can think of right now.  What happened in your week?  And remember, think of something positive to add even if you had a craptastic week.  Unless, of course, a comet fell on your house... then you get a pass.  ;o)

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Chocolate Chocolate Chocolate Bars with Coconut

First off, let me start by saying that since we moved out here, I've been going to the store a whole lot less often than I used to.  So, I've been stocking up, but no one can prepare for everything.  And the first things to go are the snack items.  (We finished off the last of the ice cream on Thursday, for instance.  And the party bag of peanut M&Ms died a few days before that.) 

Okay, so I was sitting around yesterday craving something chocolate, but totally disinclined to venture out into the snowy wasteland.  Time to crawl through the cupboards.  Still had a package of chocolate graham crackers... a can of sweetened condensed milk... chocolate chips...  coconut... Time for layer bars!  But seeing as how that would be pretty boring, I looked for something else to add to the layers.  You know those sandwich cookies that you buy in a huge pack where one row is vanilla and the other two are chocolate Oreo knock-offs?  I had six of those cookies left - 3 white, 3 brown.  Crushed those puppies and Voila!

Chocolate Chocolate Chocolate Layer Bars with Coconut

1 package chocolate graham crackers (crushed)
1 stick margarine
1 bag of sweetened shredded coconut
1 bag dark chocolate chips
1 can sweetened condensed milk
6 leftover sandwich cookies (crushed)
1 bag semi-sweet chocolate chips

(You will not use all of the coconut or the chips, but it's nice to have extras hanging around.  If you don't have full bags, don't sweat it.)

Preheat oven to 350F.  Unwrap one end of the stick of margarine and use it to butter a 9x13" pan.  Melt the rest of the stick in the microwave (on high for 30-60 seconds or until it's clear.)  Combine crushed graham cracker crumbs with melted butter.  Press into pan so it covers the bottom.  Sprinkle liberally with shredded coconut (but no so liberally that you can't see at least a little brown through the white.)  Sprinkle with dark chocolate chips (again, so that you can see the white through the brown.)  Open the milk and drizzle it over the chips, as evenly as you can.  Shake the cookie crumbs over the milk later - again making it as even as you can.  Sprinkle with semi-sweet chips until you think you've got about as much chocolate as you can handle.  (But don't be ridiculous.  You should still see some cookie crumbs through the chocolate.)  Sprinkle more shredded coconut over the top.  Slide it into the preheated oven and bake for about 30 minutes or until the coconut is toasty brown and the milk that's bubbled up on the sides is golden, too.  Allow to cool completely before cutting (or you'll make a yummy yummy mess.)  How many bars you end up with depends on how piggishly-large you cut them.  I prefer a cut that makes a bar about 1.5 inches wide by 2 inches long, but I'll go bigger if I really need the chocolate.

I don't need to say it, but these turned out awesome.  Om Nom Nom.

You, too, can create your own layer bars with stuff you have around the house.  Just remember to layer it such that the wet or melty layers alternate with the dry layers, so when it bakes it all goos together and then when it cools it'll be a bar cookie and not a pile of glop.  And always use a cookie/butter base, so it doesn't stick to the pan and always use the condensed milk in the middle.  (It's the glue that holds the whole thing together.)  I suggest using this method of building...

Base - dry - melty - wet - dry - melty - dry

Then you can use chopped nuts or butterscotch chips or marshmallows or crushed cookies or nutty  topping or caramel or peanut butter chips...  Use your imagination.  Just don't forget to keep in mind what the flavors will taste like together once it's done. 

Hmmm... I wonder what a layer of raisins would take like with coconut and chocolate...  Heh.  Next time maybe.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Olympics Time is Here!


I do love the Olympics - both winter and summer.  I love watching these athletes do what they've trained their whole lives for and succeed.  All the athletes.  Sure, I root harder for the U.S.A. team members, but seeing someone who is infinitely talented in their chosen endeavor crosses border lines.  For instance, did any of you catch the short-program for the men last night in the new team figure skating?  The guy for Japan was amazing!  So fluid.  So confident.  And there was such joy on his face.  You could really tell he loved what he was doing.  Since our guy kind of bombed last night, I hope this Japanese guy wins.  (Especially since I can't stand the Russian dude.  I seem to remember he was kind of an ass during the last Olympics.)

I can't wait for the short-track speed skating to begin.  And the half-pipe.  And the moguls (which had preliminaries on last night).  Hell, I'll even watch curling if there's not a more exciting sport on.  I can't wait for the medals to start pouring in. 

I'll also put up my typical Medal Count thingie over in the sidebar once medals start getting awarded.  (And once NBC fixes their medals webpage.  Right now, it's showing 2010 medals still.  :shrug:)

What about you?  Do you watch?  Do you care?  Which events are your favorites?

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Well... Crap

I had a great idea for a blog today.  Unfortunately as soon as I opened this window to type it all in, the idea went scampering into the forest with the bunnies where it will most likely become a snack for Mittens and Whiskers (the bobcats).

Since I'm now emptied of fresh ideas, go read JB Lynn's post at Killer Chicks: 5 Tips for Keeping the Writing Dream Alive.

And then go make some breakfast...

Crostata with Walnut Filling 

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons white sugar
10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, chilled, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
 3 tablespoons ice water
Flour for dusting, as needed
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup butter (melted)
1 T flour

Sift together flour and white sugar. Add the butter. Using fork or pastry blender, mix together until the mixture resembles a coarse meal. Stir in the ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until moist clumps form. Gather the dough into a ball; flatten into a disk. Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour. Position the rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Roll out the dough on a floured surface to an 11-inch round. Transfer the dough onto a heavy greased and floured baking sheet. Stir together butter, flour, walnuts and brown sugar until well-combined. Spread the walnut mixture on top of dough, leaving a 2-inch border. Fold the dough border over the filling to form an 8-inch round, pleating loosely and pinching to seal any cracks in the dough. Bake the crostata until the crust is golden, 35 to 40 minutes. Allow to cool. Slide a spatula under the crust to free the crostata from the baking sheet, slice and serve.

If you're not into nuts, you can always substitute a generous dollop or three of your favorite fruit preserves or jam.  Make the dough using the directions above, but when you get to the walnut part, plop the jelly into the center, spread it evenly around the dough, and follow the rest of the directions.  Mmm, yummy.

Enjoy!  I'm outta here to go write. 

Peace out.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Sunday Update - Week 5

Well, it hasn't been the best of weeks here, but I'll try to make this as positive as I can make it - even if I have to spin it up a little.

I finally got a response from the publisher I've been waiting on for 16 months.  The answer was that I can now proceed with querying again.  And so I have.  Back out into the world.  Maybe this time will be the charm.  Also good news is that my book was in the top 6% of all submissions (maybe even lower a percentage since the last update they gave on submissions left to decide on was a month ago and I was one of the last they contacted).

As I said, I'm querying again.  The first four went out.  I'm using the Premium Membership functions at QueryTracker to both research the agents for a good fit, and to keep track of my submissions.  It's only $25 a year or if you don't want to do a year, it's $8 for three months.  Works for me, man.

I had some weird shit happen a couple days ago which totally took my mind off just about everything else, which is always good.

In writing news, I rolled over 60K yesterday.  Not the biggest week I've had, but like I said, stuff happened which by necessity, made the word count slip.  Still, 10K for the week is nothing to sneeze at.  And hey, I wrote 60K words from 1/3 to 2/1, so I'm calling it a win.  I'm still hoping to have this rewrite completed by Valentine's Day.  And out of those29  days, I wrote every day but three.  So...

I managed to keep up with my resolutions through January.  1) Take my writing more seriously.  Check.  2) Reduce irritation from my life. Check.  3) Take myself for who I am. Okay, so this isn't a full check.  But at least I'm not berating myself for every freakin' pound.  Like Popeye, I am what I am.

As for reading, I read 12 books in January!  Most of them were ebooks - which read quicker for me - but I did manage some hardcopy books, too.

And that's all the positivity I have this morning.  How did your week go?  Remember, with these posts, you can talk about anything you want, but try to find something positive or try to find a positive in your negatives - even if it's only "I fell down, but being flat on the ground made it possible for me to see a tiny flower up close."  ;o)