Absolution UPDATE

There are a lot of new exciting project that I am up to my eyeballs in and I am happy to share some of them with you. Some of these projects are for pay, so any donations that you can afford to give would be extremely humbling, but not required for all of my works.

So first of all, Absolution is out at Scrivener’s Circle. Now, if you were at Balticon, you received a free promotional CD for coming to see me at the autograph signing. OH MY GOD that was so cool. Thank you to Starla Hutchton and Philippa Ballantine for sharing such a wonderful experience. These two fantastic ladies were a great part of my weekend a month ago.  From Starla asking me to step in and read for Antigone’s Wrath, to Pip dragging me to my own reading… and everything in between. There are too many people I met for the first time and some who I got to see again. I love you all, my extended family!  And thanks to Val Ford for providing transportation and great conversation.

What was I saying… oh yes, Abosolution. So tomorrow, chapter 3 will be released on Monday, and we have been successful in releasing on a regular basis. Fingers crossed that trend will continue. Chapter 3 was the last track on the promotional CDs so in two weeks everyone will be getting previously unreleased episodes! I have gotten a lot of feedback on this story. Not all of it is good, but I thrive on constructive criticism, so please keep it coming.

I have also been working on a series of articles for Flying Island Press called “Please Spay Your Tribbles”. These are quick blog posts about what the world would be like if the gadgets and tools of scifi and fantasy were available in the 21st century. I also narrate stories for each issue of Flagship, so please check them out by subscribing or purchasing a single issue.

I have a few other projects that are not quite ready to be released yet, but they are coming.

2019 New Years Resolution

Well it is 20191 and I hope you all had a wonderful and safe holiday. Mine was filled with a lot of laughter, great food, great people (thanks Val and Bri), and (I will admit) a little bit of alcohol. So everyone makes resolutions for the new year… and few stick to them. As for me I make goals.

Sometimes I reach them and sometimes I don’t. Last year my goal was to finish the novella Gone without the wind, with my partner in crime, David. We succeeded and I also finished the first draft of another novel, which was pretty damn cool. It makes me think that a lot more things are possible having made those goals and I am very grateful for the people who supported me and challenged me all the way. I always did love a good competition (thanks Brand).

It was also stock full of new opportunities for me through meeting all my wonderful new friends at Baltimore. I am doing everything in my power to get there again this year, hopefully as a guest or panelist. I have made more friends through that convention alone that I ever would have thought possible. You all know who you are and I am extremely happy to have you all in my life and to be a part of yours and I can’t wait to see you all again in May.  That opportunity also indirectly brought me into the FIP group and now I get to be the bitch of the pirate ship and keep them scurvy pirates in line (yar)!

So what is in store for this year. First there are my goals:

  1. Write: I will write at least 500 words per day on one of my stories (I am pretty sure I have 6 works in progress).
  2. Stargazers: Ah my first born love child with Gwendolyn Jensen Woodard. I have not forgotten you but the muses were pulling me away. The goal for the year is to get up to episode 10 written and produced this year. Then we will look at the next season.
  3. Voice Acting: I have several large roles in my future and I am happy to say that some of them are almost done so I can take on more roles because, let’s face it, I really enjoy acting. Anyone who wants to cast me as a villain, I am so there.
  4. Get Published: Among my works in progress there are a couple of short stories that I will be submitting for publication. I have my fingers crossed that it will get approved, but early beta reads are promising.
  5. Scriveners Circle: David and I have been on a hiatus but we are working to bring you new content. Once I get another WIP completed I will be casting for another audio book. I am debating if it will be my spy novel or my urban demonic fantasy… what do you all think?
  6. Lose Inches: Every time I say I want to lose weight, I feel like I am doing well until I hit the scale. So, while I am listening to my friend Doc and his diet tips, I will be measuring my progress more by my waist size than anything. I will be doing the NutriSystem diet for a while. Currently I wear a size 14 in pants. I want to get down to a size 12 by March and possibly a size 10 by the end of the year.  To do this I have to make several life changes. I can’t have bread anymore, so that helps. I have also chosen to stay away from potato chips and soda (except at restaurants). I will also be working out 2x per day 5 days per week, and working out when I get bored to avoid snacking (my major weakness). Wish me luck.

So those are the major goals for me this year. Today I will likely get to writing a little for Stargazers and writing up the goals in pretty letters to post on the wall behind my monitor so that I keep on track.

I hope you all are doing well and I look forward to hearing from you and your efforts for the new year, as writers, voice actors, producers, and my friends. May 2019 give you all that you need and the means to go after what you want. 

Flax Seed Gel Experiment

As the viking market of Birka approaches, I understand that several members of my household will be wearing Elizabethan garments. They have asked me to recreate a specific style that requires me to roll back the front of their hair to give dimension and frame their face. I have heard and read of the wonders of flax seed being set into water that then creates a gel. Therefore, I have set five tablespoons of flax seed in a pan with two cups of water. I am leaving it to sit while I pack for the event.

The benefits of flax seeds is amazing and after learning more about the amazing results people are having, I’m excited to see what transpires here. It has been four hours since I set the flax seed in water. The seeds have all settled at the bottom of the pan. As I mix the substance and lift the spoon from the mixture, the liquid is thicker, almost like syrup but less sticky. I attempted to filter the seeds from the liquid using cheese cloth. The cheese cloth proved too small for the pan that I was using and half of the gel batch had seeds in it. I was able to secure three small tins of the gel without seeds. Off to the market we go.

We have returned from the market. The gel proved to be very light and useful in the recreation of the Elizabethan hair styles. I have requested a portrait of my household members to be commissioned. The gel did prove to be too liquid and two of the tins that held the substance spilled their contents in my satchel and hair box.

I have received a copy of the portrait of the fair Fortune St. Keyne and Bianca Anguissola. Their hair held up very well through the hustle and bustle of the market. Today I shall attempt another batch of gel, this time putting the flax seed in the cheese cloth and submerging it in water for 10 hours.

Cool Summer Cooking With Joy

Spring is finally upon us, bringing with it both fresh produce and lots of very warm weather. With temperatures rising it’s time to think about planning foods that don’t heat up your kitchen and raise your air conditioning bill. My grill and smoker are always an excellent choice in summer. Along with steaks, burgers, and dogs, try some new ideas to keep appetites satisfied! Finally, it will be time to remove myself from my house and get outside with some friends and familes and give me the opportunity to break out my propane smoker for the second time. I’m looking forward to cooking for some of my close friends and enjoying the nice summer weather.

The weather lately has been crazy that’s for sure. With record high temperatures all over the US and record amounts of rain all of the world. I’m hoping things will calm down but by the looks of it things are only going to get crazier and crazier. In the meantime I still hope to do some cooking and I thought I would share with you guys some of my favorite things to cook in the spring and summer outdoors, when the weather is nice.

My New Propane Smoker

My friend Jennifer introduced me to her propane smoker last summer and I was just blown away by the flavors of the food. Never have I tasted anything like this before and it was my first time seeing a propane smoker in action. Basically, it’s similar to a grill but instead of throwing the food on the grill, you allow smoke to fill the chamber of the smoker and it gives you some outrageous flavors!

For those of you unfamilar with cooking on a smoker, it’s pretty simple. What I like to do is measure out foot long pieces of extra-heavy aluminum foil. Cut up your favorite veggies, toss in some beans, tempeh, or tofu for protein, and fold the foil to make a packet. Leave one side of the packet open, and pour in several tablespoons of your favorite sauce.( My current favorite, Orange Miso, is a slight variation on the sauce a friend introduced me to.) Seal packet, and toss on the grill until the veggies are done (about 10-15 minutes). Serve alone, or over rice or noodles.

You can use packets for desserts, too. Sliced fruit and berries stewed in a packet with port and cinnamon makes a delightful shortcake or ice cream topping. Packet cook some pears and hazelnuts with maple syrup, cinnamon, and a bit of butter, then spoon over Brie.

Smoked Fruit!

There’s nothing sweeter in the summer than smoked fruits of all kinds. Smoking caramelizes the natural sugars in fruit perfectly. Smoked pineapple spears are everyone’s favorite; but, I also love smoking peaches and nectarines. Slice the stone fruits in half and remove stones. If desired, marinade in a dry or sweet white wine. Brush with butter (or leave plain), and put on the grill sliced-side down.

Allow to cook until the sugars are caramelized on the cut surface, and the fruit has softened a bit. Serve on their own, or put in a glass tumbler with marscapone cheese and top with a bit of chilled dry white wine for a truly elegant dessert.

Another wonderful way to keep the heat out of the kitchen this summer is to use your slow cooker. Most people save their slow cookers for winter, but we use ours even more in the summer. There are so many things you can do with a slow cooker besides soups, many of which are perfect summer foods.

Homemade BBQ Sloppy Joes

Slow cooked pork or chicken barbecue is easy in the slow cooker. Just toss in all your normal ingredients, and let it simmer all day. Side with some baked beans, slaw, and grilled sweet corn for a traditional summer meal without raising your thermostat. You can do the same thing with sloppy joes.

Indian Cuisine

Ever get tired of driving an hour to eat good Indian? Make it in your slow cooker at home. Most Indian dishes are best when they’ve had a chance to stew a while, making them perfect for slow cooking. There are many places to find recipes online, but my favorite is Maunika Gowardhan.

Look for her Indian chicken recipe, which is the base for my own recipe (I add more spices, as well as onions and veggies). My partner has perfected Saag, another interesting Indian dish made with greens. Put the chicken or Saag over brown basmati rice made in the rice cooker, serve with naan and a thick mango-yogurt drink called “lassi” for a complete Indian meal without the drive, or the hot kitchen!

 

 

Quinoa Salad on Bondi Beach

Over the holidays I traveled to Sydney, Australia with my family. The initial reason for traveling there was a family wedding, which also became a family reunion- we had 4 generations of family members congregate from different parts of the US, London, Canada, South Africa, Israel, Singapore, Hong Kong, and all over Australia.

Staying in a house within walking distance to Bondi Beach gave us the opportunity to easily take advantage of this world famous attraction. We started many of our days with the Bondi to Bronte walk, a 6 km path along the cliffs from Bondi Beach to Bronte. Each new step presented a view more breathtaking than the last and we had to consciously refrain from constantly taking pictures. I kept reminding myself to take it all in, it all being too beautiful to even seem real.

Walking up from the beach, the streets are lined with one cafe and restaurant after the next, with juice bars, gyms, bathing suit shops, and boutiques in between. My sister and I were looking for an afternoon coffee (tea for me) when we stumbled into a bookstore called Gertrude and Alice. A step into the shop felt like entrance into another world.

Time felt slower, softer, and more dream-like… surrounded by cookbooks, classics, magazines, and mystical texts, it was a place I could see myself getting lost in for hours. We resisted temptation and stuck to our plan of tea and coffee, mentally bookmarking the spot for a return visit.

couple days later, we bumped into my aunt on our way to eat lunch, and she suggested we try a quinoa salad she had just eaten. At first, quinoa did not sound so appealing since I had eaten so much of it while there, but she insisted it was worth getting anyway. When she told us it was from Gertrude and Alice we were also happy to have an excuse to return. We decided to share the Griddled Halloumi salad my aunt had recommended, minus the halloumi, for which the chef had offered to substitute in avocado.

Being the small cafe it was, we eagerly watched as the chef assembled the salad behind the counter, warming the vegetables on a small griddle. When we were handed our salad we immediately regretted not each getting our own.

The salad was an immediate success; Red quinoa, mixed greens, and warm roasted butternut squash, griddle onions and tomatoes, topped with sprouts and fresh slices of avocado. I had almost forgotten about red quinoa, since white is more commonly served and what I make myself, but the red variety is firmer, chewier, nuttier, and so different it almost seems unrelated to white quinoa. It also held up well with the warm vegetables. Before we had even finished the salad we agreed we would have to come back for our own before the trip was over.

Being back home less than a week and still suffering jet-lag,  this salad seemed like the most appropriate way to deal with my post-vacation blues. I roasted the vegetables first, since the butternut would take the longest, and then cooked the quinoa.

The tomato only needs to be in the oven for about 10 minutes, enough to soften and warm, but it should still hold its shape. Since the onions and tomato take less time than the butternut, I warmed them again in a pan on the stove right before assembling the salad. I also brewed a berry tea similar to the one I had enjoyed in the Bondi cafe, having it warm not iced since I was now back in the cold winter.

Sitting at my table I sadly couldn’t replicate the view and company I had cherished in Australia, however, this salad was truly delicious, and the perfect meal to enjoy while reflecting and reminiscing on my incredible, one of a kind, vacation.

On our last day in Sydney, we made sure to have a final lunch at Gertrude and Alice, each ordering a Griddle Halloumi salad, minus the halloumi.  I made special note of exactly what was in the salad, planning to replicate it when I was back in my own kitchen.

 

Warm Vegetable Quinoa Salad

Inspired by the restaurant: Gertrude and Alice, Sydney, Australia

1 cup Red Quinoa

1 cup Butternut Squash, peeled and cubed

1 Tomato, any variety

5-6 Shallots, peeled and cut in half

About 2 Tablespoons Coconut or Olive oil

Course Sea Salt

4 cups Mixed Greens

1/2  cup Sprouts

1/2 an Avocado

 

Lemon Vinaigrette:

2 tablespoons Lemon Juice (about 1 lemon)

3 tablespoon Olive Oil

1 teaspoon Dijon Mustard

Pinch of each Salt and Pepper

 

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and preheat the oven to 375′ F. Place cubed butternut on baking sheet and cover with 1 tablespoon of oil and a sprinkle of salt. Bake for 45 minutes, or until squash is tender and slightly browned.

Line a second sheet with parchment paper. Cut the tomato and shallots in half and place on baking sheet. Cover with oil and salt and bake for 10 minutes. Remove tomatoes and roast onions for an additional 15 minutes.

While the vegetables are cooking, prepare the quinoa. Rinse quinoa and place in a medium saucepan with 1-1/2 cups of water and 1 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil then turn down heat to simmer until most of the liquid has been absorbed, about 15-20 minutes. Fluff with a fork.

Combine all dressing ingredients in a jar and shake.

Place quinoa and mixed greens in a large bowl. Mix with dressing and transfer to a serving dish. Layer roasted vegetables and sprouts, and top with sliced avocado.

 

Vanilla Almond Granola

Not being a huge fan of dried fruit, I kept my usual nuts and seeds and added some coconut. I also used almond extract in exchange for my usual vanilla. My favorite part of the granola is the different textures. I like to use both slivered and sliced almonds, making the granola that much more interesting. This particular recipe takes a little more patience than my usual one; It slowly bakes in the oven for 2 hours at a low temperature. The granola is just slightly sweet, but it is easy to sweeten more or less based on your taste preference for sweetness.

There is something special about mornings… the quiet in the house and sleepy feeling in the air. While I often choose to sleep in on the weekends, there is something about getting up early to take advantage of the stillness.

With the jar of granola sitting on the counter and the aroma still strong in the air, I can’t help but think of the magic of granola; Each individual ingredient is delicious on its own, but once you combine them all you get something even better. Aristotle said it best: “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”

Cinnamon Almond Granola

2 cups Rolled Oats (Gluten Free if needed)

1/2 cup Unsweetened Coconut Flakes

1/4 cup Raw Sliced Almonds

1/4 cup Raw Slivered Almonds

1/2 cup Raw Sunflower Seeds

1/2 cup Raw Pepitas (Pumpkin Seeds)

1 tsp Cinnamon

3 Tablespoons Coconut Oil, melted

1/4 cup Maple Syrup

1/2 teaspoon Almond Extract

Preheat oven to 250’F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl, combine all dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, whisk together oil, syrup, and almond extract and pour over the dry ingredients, stirring well to coat evenly. Transfer to the baking sheet and bake for 2 hours, until golden and dry.

Remove granola from the oven, and allow to fully cool, before using a spatula to release and break up the granola.

Book Review: Super Natural Every Day

Heidi Swanson is the luminous author of the blog 101 Cookbooks.  She’s been writing for years (years!) and is literally almost a goddess in the food blogging community.

I immediately checked her website out and was amazed.  There are hundreds (probably thousands) of posts, each carefully and lovingly perfected, with gorgeous photography.  The recipes are detailed and easy to follow.  But aside from that, I just love Heidi Swanson’s voice.  You get the feeling that she’s talking to you like you’re her friend.  She teaches without being overbearing, encourages without making

I jumped at the chance to review her new cookbook because it’s vegetarian!  And we all know how I feel about vegan and vegetarian cookbooks (hint: GOOD).  I cracked it open and barely got through the first pages before having to stop and make food.  The very first recipe – Cucumber Salad – was divine.  Swanson states in the heading of the Cucumber Salad that she hopes this recipe will set the tone for the book, and it does.

It was simple – I had every ingredient except lemongrass already in my pantry – but sophisticated.  The dressing also didn’t use any oil, which I very much appreciated, since I usually have to substitute oil.  I then only made it to the next page before making the Fennel Stew, and then the Red Lentil Hummus.  I would have never thought to make something like her Mashed Yellow Split Peas, but I’m terribly glad I did.

The book is split into two main sections, Near and Far.  Near includes recipes inspired by her life in California.  Far includes recipes from Morocco, Japan, Italy, France, and India.  From Harira in Morocco to Baby Artichoke Salad in France, the recipes span cultures, ingredients, and tastes.  I personally found myself staying in the “Near” section of the book more.  I’m not sure if that’s because I liked the recipes more, or if I’m just more comfortable and familiar with those ingredients.

There is no way I can top the gorgeous photography in Swanson’s book, so I’ve included a few photos from her website below so you can see the mouthwatering recipes for yourself.  As a note for vegans, many of her recipes include dairy and eggs.  Some of them are easily substituted for vegan versions or left out, but I wish a larger percentage of the total were completely vegan.  Still, the simplicity and deliciousness of the meals as a whole makes it worth it to me.

Swanson’s book Super Natural Every Day can be found on Amazon, or where any vegetarian/vegan cookbooks are sold.

Planning Ahead: 6 Ways to Make Dinnertime Painless

We’ve all been there – rushing home from work late, already feeling as though we’re about to starve to death…and then staring at the pantry and fridge with no idea what to make for dinner.  Nothing is prepped; we have no plan.  The growling in our stomach grows louder until it drowns out all reasonable thought, and we reach for processed convenience foods that can be made in a jiffy.

Worse yet, we order takeout!  The amount of processed ingredients, sodium, and fat in vegan convenience foods and most takeout is astronomical.  We satisfy our hunger in the moment, but don’t do any favors for our health.

The only way to beat the hungry monster is to have a plan for dinner!

It’s hard to eat healthful, life-giving plant foods when you have nothing prepared.  Unless you’re eating a raw salad, most plant dinners require some cooking time.  In this post, I’m sharing my top six tips to make dinnertime painless.

1. Make a master list of recipes from your favorite cookbooks or online (make sure you save the link if it’s an online recipe).

Pick one, two, or more each week from this list to make.  This recipe list will cut out a lot of time you may spend flipping through cookbooks or trying to think up dinner ideas.    When you’ve chosen the recipes for the week, you can quickly flip to the correct page in the correct cookbook and add any ingredients you may need to your grocery list.

2. Have themed dinner recipes for each day of the week!

This is especially fun if you have children.  A few examples of themes you could use are:

Slowcooker Sundays
“Meat”loaf Mondays
Taco Tuesdays
Leftover Wednesdays
Veggie Burger Thursdays
Pizza Fridays
Spaghetti Saturdays

Of course none of these themes are prescriptive.  You can make up your own themes, or switch the days around.  Stick with what works best for your family!  It will put your mind at ease to know that on Thursdays, all you have to do is whip up some veggie burgers for dinner.

3. Make a meal plan before you go grocery shopping.  This is CRUCIAL.  Don’t go to the grocery store without a list.

You’ll end up wandering the aisles, buying food items that don’t go together, just because they look good.  It’s okay to buy a unique fruit, veggie, or grain to work into your week’s meals; but buying a hodge podge of foods with no plan for how to integrate them will only set you up for failure.  It may also increase your food waste at the end of the week, when unused items have spoiled and must be discarded.

4. Prep meals or portions of meals in advance if you can.

If you’re putting a meal in the slow cooker, have everything chopped and ready the night before so you can dump it in before you leave for work the next morning.  If you’re making tacos, make a double batch of the taco filling and freeze half so you can easily thaw it when you’re short on time.  If you have mashed potatoes in two meals in one week, make enough for both meals at one time.

5. Batch cook one pot of rice and beans at the beginning of each week and store in your refrigerator. 

This will ensure you have something that can be heated up in the microwave for a meal in a snap.  Rice and beans also make great lunches throughout the week – it’s a filling meal that won’t weigh you down in the afternoon like animal based lunches can.  If you don’t want to cook beans, keep a few cans in your pantry.  Microwaving a bowl of rice and beans takes less time than going through a drive-through or ordering food that has to be delivered.

6. Keep frozen veggies stocked in your freezer.

Veggies are a great way to add bulk to leftovers and turn something into a brand new meal.  Have a little spaghetti and sauce left?  Add a pound of steamed broccoli and some vegan parmesan.  Have a veggie burger patty but no bun?  Serve it in a lettuce wrap instead with some edamame on the side.  Leftover “meat”loaf?  Sauté frozen collard or turnip greens, microwave a potato, and presto!  Dinner in a snap.

A little planning will give you a HUGE advantage.  Plan because you love your body, and what you put inside it is important.  Plan because you and your family deserve meals that promote health instead of harming it.  Plan because it will save you money!  Plan, so that you are set up for success before you take your first bite that week.  Plan so you never have to be stressed about “What’s for dinner?”

Plan and beat that hungry monster.

Warm Cinnamon Sugar

I might actually come to the finish right at 50k. I’ve expanded on Trixie’s relationship with Erik as he gives her a ride home and I spent some time really analyzing how she sees and feels things from her four inch tall perspective. I also got to play around with why, since fairies can enlarge and shrink other objects but not themselves. Here is what Trixie says about that.

…the scent of warm cinnamon sugar engulfed me. My wings fluttered in response to my stomach’s growl. When I turned the corner to the kitchen, I found Erik just putting the glaze on the buns. “Don’t be skimpy on the sugar,” I warned him. “I’m going to need all the energy I can get today.”

“How many do you want?” He asked as he took the spatula to the baking sheet.

“Two please.” He quirked an eyebrow at me. “I only do this on special occasions.” I glided down to the floor and used a spell I had only cast a few times on myself. The room got smaller as I got taller. I had to focus on keeping my wings flat against my back so as not to knock anything over.

Erik stared at me, slack jawed. I smiled at him and walked over to him. Leaning in I could taste the cinnamon on his skin as I kissed his cheek. “I… I didn’t know you could do that.”

“It’s been a trial and error process. The first few times I forgot about including my clothes in the spell. That was tricky. Ended up having to replace two of my best jackets when I did that. Besides, at my normal size, I don’t spend very much in food or rent, or decorations.” I looked through his cabinets until I found the small plates and grabbed two of them.

“Why don’t you do this more often?” He said as he served the rolls onto the two plates.

I took them over to the breakfast nook that he had in the corner. The north facing window brought in just enough light where it wasn’t blinding to sit on one side or the other. After savoring the first bite, my wings instinctively tried to flutter with joy. “That’s why,” I said using my thumb to indicate the iridescent offending appendages behind me. “They get in the way.”

Well that’s it for me today. I’m dragging this out so that you all keep getting content. Hopefully, when this is done I will be able to post more about my writing misadventures. Keep writing, the finish line is in sight. Writing goggles down.

Shadows of the Leaves

Solar glare and shadows on the wall from the leaves

I wandered through a monument of conventional learning. Walls of stone, colored with warmth held none, save for where the sun shone brightly through the windows. I followed the light out to the parking lot where dozens of cars baked in the midday sun and wandered some more. I took a path around the building and across a set of railroad tracks to where a small trail, shrouded and hidden by lush summer foliage invited me to explore. The trail had been occupied before by those who had no home. Empty food cans and remnants of winter clothing were strewn across a patch of shorter shrubs covered and with discarded toys and books were all left behind.

It was a wonder that such a grove of natural splendor made me feel so distant from the world of man that I was just in. Was I just there? How long had I been on this path? The current of a great river triumphed over the traffic just barely visible through the trees. The warm air caressed my senses with a gentle relief from the humid river air, and a musky sweet scent from the flowering trees nearby.

I continued to wander and I watched the shadows of the leaves dance along the ground and give the illusion of other beings lurking in the shadows. A long willow branch bade me farewell with a light touch from its extended tendrils carried by the breeze. Once again I was at the railroad tracks behind the buildings of man’s learning.  However, should I need a reprieve from the cold walls and closed air; I know that not far away is my escape to the untamed natural haven.