Monday, December 10, 2012

Foodie Mondays: Black Bean Soup (w/ a twist!)

I don't usually have much time after coming home from work to get dinner on the table, so my black bean soup has become a staple. It takes roughly 30 minutes to prepare, it's easy to take it vegan*, and it's frickin' delicious! My family, including the kids, eat it without complaint so that's a winner in my book.

But one can get tired of the same ol' version over and over again. So recently, when I stumbled across a package of panchetta in my local grocery store (and at a reasonable price) I couldn't resist. I used it as my base flavoring agent and viola! An old favorite with a twist! Perfect for a chilly winter's night.

Here you go:

-one handful panchetta
-one medium onion, chopped roughly
-one bell pepper, chopped roughly
-two stalks celery, chopped
-1tbsp cumin
-1tsp coriander
-1/2 tsp oregano
-freshly cracked black pepper
-2 15oz. cans of black beans, drained
-4 c. chicken or vegetable stock (or 2 c. stock & 2 c. water to make it stretch)
-salt to taste
-shredded sharp cheddar cheese, tortilla strips, sour cream for garnish

In a large stock pot, saute the panchetta until crisp and the fat has rendered out. Remove from pan. Add chopped onion, bell pepper, and celery. Saute until vegetables are soft and onions are translucent, about 7 minutes. Add in cumin, coriander, oregano (crushing to release oils), pepper, stirring. Gently stir in black beans. Add stock and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Afterwards, puree with stick blender or transfer to blender and carefully puree until smooth. Season with salt to taste. Garnish with panchetta, cheese, tortilla strips, and sour cream. Enjoy!

*To make it vegan, take out the panchetta and use 1 tablespoon of olive oil to saute the vegetables and use only vegan stock. We're meat-eaters, but we love this version just as much.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Writer Fridays: The Long Awaited End... of Nano.

It's the last day of Nanowrimo.

There are many people who have already passed that wonderful 50k word threshold. Some passed it today. Some yesterday. Some lucky bastards incredible writers passed it near the middle of the month. Kudos to them all. I am not one of those people this year.

No, I am not looking for your pity or condolences. Not this year. As of 3pm today (November 30th, 2012) I am still at barely more than 30k. Many years before I would have lamented it or given up a week ago. But not this year. You see, I've done this before.

Two years ago I began writing the Agara Saga. It was easy. The words flew from my fingers. I only had one day where I had to push out more than 5k. This year was different. It was a story I'd started writing the year before but failed. I had to scrap chapters before starting Nano and the ideas just wouldn't come after a while. How could Agara have been so easy while this one was like pulling teeth?

Then I realized something. This novel (which has become known as Blood and Shadows) is in the middle, the dreaded middle, the messy middle, or whatever you want to call it. This was new to me. All of my other novel attempts (and there have been SEVERAL) have been ditched at about this point. Left at the wayside when the going got tough. The beginning is always a fun breeze, a romp into the wonderful world I've created. The middle is where the real work begins. This is where you prove yourself as a writer.

That is why I'm not looking for pity this year at the end of Nano. I'm not sad at all. I may be nearly 20k shy of the goal, but I'm farther along in this project than any before and I can see the finish. I can actually see the end of this book. I will finish it and type those wonderful words that bring such relief and joy to every novelist.

The End.

So, if you've written 50+k or just 1k this wonderful November, give yourself full permission to celebrate. This year we're all winners because we've tried. We've put in the effort that many don't even care to. We've put words down on paper, telling stories that only we could tell. If this was your first attempt at writing, celebrate! You just became a writer. If you're a seasoned vet, celebrate! You weave the stories that keep us coming back for more. If you're just doing this for kicks, celebrate! That piece you just wrote will entertain you for years to come.

So, it's the end of Nanowrimo for another year. We all have a reason to be proud of ourselves. Until next year!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Crafty Wed.: Gearing up for RoundCon

I have now entered crunch time. Welcome to the time of year (it actually happens several times of year) when I realize that I don't have as much time before a show than I thought I did. Yes, I am a procrastinator to the nth degree. I should have a PhD in it by now. Yes, I have better organizational skills than this. Yet, it's at this time that my creativity seems to get an extra jolt of energy.

Right now I'm furiously getting ready for RoundCon Expo. It's probably the oldest convention in Columbia, SC. It caters to geeks of all sorts from tabletop gamers to otakus (that's anime geeks including yours truly). After attending last year I was determined to get a table in their artists alley. I mean, after all, this was the crowd I'd originally intended to sell to. Somehow (*wink*) I ended up going from just intending to be part of the alley to being in charge of it. So now, my table has to look stellar.

Which brings us back to crunch time. RoundCon is in a little over a week: August 3-5. My inventory has yet to fully recover from Crafty Feast earlier this year and the sales I've had since. But between my day job, writing, and general life, I've had little time to prepare. We're now down to the wire, but somehow I'm not worried.

As usual, I've had a million ideas for new projects that get me even more excited about the ones that have been stewing in my head for weeks. It's like having no time sets my creative brain into overload with a redbull/jolt chaser. I thrive on this stress and added pressure and I have no idea why. It's just always been this way. I would pull all nighters when I was younger and produce fabulous work. At crunch time before Crafty Feast I had my idea for my super cute headbands which I didn't expect to get much attention, but boy was I wrong!

There's a part of me that wants to change. I really do, but this works for me. I try my best to get a little work here and there done, but when I have that looming deadline, more gets done. My creativity lives on stress. I guess I'm going to have to find a way to feed it without raising my blood pressure.

What fuels your creativity? Are you a careful planner or do you rush at the last minute like me?

Friday, July 13, 2012

Writer Fridays: It's a Sword and Soul Celebration!

I need to tell you about a little sub-genre named Sword and Soul. Like me, it was born in the seventies and, like me, it had a really great father. Sword and Soul was nurtured into being by the great Charles R. Saunders when he penned his Imaro books. You see, while the country had made great strides towards equality, fantasy novels and their characters were still in a mostly Euro-centric world. Mr. Saunders created a black character to be a hero in a black country (something still missing from a lot of fantasy today).

Fast forward a little bit and many other writers put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard, to create new, fantastic imaginings of Africa and African characters. One of the greatest is Milton Davis who wrote the Meiji series. Together with Mr. Saunders, they created a new anthology of Sword and Soul short stories called Griots.

It contains fourteen stories, including two by Mr. Saunders and Mr. Davis. The plans were made for a second one, this time concentrating on tales featuring female protagonists. It will be titled Griots II: Sisters of the Spear. The call was put out earlier this year for submissions. I answered it.

And made it in!

After much toil, and gnashing of teeth, I made my first fiction sale! It is such an honor to be included in an anthology with masters of the craft. The book with be in both print and electronic versions. So look for it early next year. I have the story titled, "Marked."

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Foodie Mondays: Open Faced Creamed Chicken Sandwich

(I know it's Tuesday..... I'm running a bit late this week......)

Today's recipe review: Rachael Ray's Hot Open-Faced Creamed Chicken w/ Tarragon.

 This is a simple recipe where you take poached chicken breasts (and make your own stock in the process) then combine it with a creamy sauce and serve it on thick buttered toast.

It was super easy to make, but there were a few ingredients that I didn't have/don't like to use. In my grocery trip I couldn't find fresh tarragon, sage, or thyme. (Note to self: Never shop for produce at Wal-Mart) Also, I'm not a fan of wine in cooking. Not that I'm worried about the alcohol, but me and my husband just don't like the taste.
Here's the original recipe:

  • 3 tablespoons butter, plus more softened for the toast
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken stock, recipe follows
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground white or black pepper
  • 3/4 cup baby frozen peas
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • One 4-ounce jar chopped pimientos, drained
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon
  • 1 rounded tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • Freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 1/3 to 1 1/2 pounds shredded Poached Chicken Breasts, recipe follows
  • 4 slices (1 1/2 inches thick) good-quality white bread
  • 6 bone-in, skin-on chicken breast halves (or 3 full breasts)
  • 4 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 2 to 3 celery stalks, quartered
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 carrot, quartered
  • 1 lemon, sliced
  • 1 onion, quartered
  • Herb bundle of fresh parsley, rosemary, sage and thyme tied with kitchen string
  • Kosher salt


    Heat the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and cook, whisking, for 1 minute. Whisk in the wine and cook until slightly reduced, 1 minute. Whisk in the stock and simmer until thickened. Season with salt and pepper. Add the peas, heavy cream and pimientos and return to a low simmer. Add the tarragon, mustard and a few grates of nutmeg, then stir in the chicken.

    Toast the bread, then liberally butter and cut corner to corner. Ladle the creamed chicken over the toast points and serve.

    Cook's Note: The creamed chicken can be covered and refrigerated for a make-ahead meal. Reheat over medium heat, partially covered.
    Put the chicken in a medium stockpot. Add the garlic, celery, bay leaf, carrots, lemons, onions and herb bundle and sprinkle with salt. Add enough water to cover the chicken. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 45 minutes. Remove the chicken from the liquid and let cool. Strain the stock. Remove the skin and bones from the chicken, and shred the meat using your fingers or 2 forks.
    My Version
    Despite my restricted pantry, I managed to pull it off. I had to cut back on the salt because of my husband's high blood pressure. Instead of the pimentos I used a fresno pepper and instead of the cream I added plain greek yogurt. That yogurt added a wonderful creaminess and incredible tang to the sauce. We also bought a large loaf of sourdough for the bread.

    But the best part of all my daughter's ate it without complaint or procrastination. So this recipe is completely kid approved!! We definitely will be doing this again!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Bad Fiction Breakout!

I found this video via the wonderful Denyse Cohen. I had to share because I can only imagine this was happening behind the scenes of some of my early novel ideas.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Ready for Sunday

Today I gave myself a challenge (something I do every now and then). I wanted to start sewing a dress for my daughter and finish it by 3pm. I started a little after 9 this morning.
Challenge met! Sooooo..... do I unlock any extra attributes for this? I sure could use at least 200 rupees or -10 insomnia.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

A White/Pink Custom Kanzashi Order

Here's what I've been up to for the past couple of days. An admirer from Crafty Feast remembered my booth and her husband contacted me for a custom order. I'm certainly glad he did. I remember why I love working on hairsticks. They may be more time consuming than my hair pins or combs, but the end result is always worth every minute and spot of glue stuck to my fingers.

(I don't know why I love adding those little butterflies! ^_^)

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Rebirth of a Blog

Hello everyone,

I need to let you know that this blog will be changing. Dramatically. I had initially conceived this blog to be a place where I would explore fantasy and the many faces of it. I still will be doing that. I promise. But with the lack of subjects to talk about on a regular basis, this blog has fallen by the wayside. Like all my other blogs.

You see, I had several blogs. You may or may not know this, but I'm a writer, an avid cook, an artist, and a seamstress, and a crafter. I had a separate blog for nearly all of these facets of my life. And it just wasn't working. I mean, I'm not just a writer, a cook, an artist, or a crafter. I'm all of these. And with a blog who's address is my full name why shouldn't I reflect that.

So after much thought and deliberation, this blog will no longer be just a blog about fantasy and writing, it will be a blog about me, but even more so, about creativity. And believe me, I have a lot to talk about on that subject!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Concerning Fairies, Part II

Alright! Let's get back into it!

In our last fairy installment we left off with Asia. Little did I realize that I’d left out a little magical spirit of Russia, the Bannik. Their favorite hangout is your family’s bathhouse. If you manage to spy them through the swirling steam, they may appear as a close family member. To show him respect you should always leave after the third firing so he can have his own bath.

Now that we’re all done with Asia, I think we’ll head down to Africa, starting with South Africa. They have the Abatwa. Curiously enough, they live with ants and only reveal themselves to wizards, children, and pregnant women. If a pregnant woman is lucky enough to see one in her seventh month, she’ll be guaranteed a boy.

In West Africa you can find in the forests of the Dahomey, the Aziza. These tiny, shy spirits are bringers of luck and stories say that they’ve taught humans much over the years.

I really wanted to include these next fairies from Europe because not all of Europe’s mythologies are equally represented in today’s fantasy. I’ve chosen three different breeds of fairy that I personally found interesting. The first comes from Spain and Catal├ín mythology. These are called Aloja and preside over human fate (much like the famous Greek fates). Their power also extends over childbirth.

For our second European example, I found an interesting Saxon fairy, the Altercroppe. It’s a malicious little thing whose name means “Little Poison Head.” Unlike many fairies that have a humanoid shape, these look like snakes with human arms and legs. Creepy!

Finally, I want to introduce a Slavic fairy called the Vila. They appear as nymphs in streams, lakes, fields, and forests. It’s believed that they’re the spirits of virgins and children. Each night they leave their graves to dance. People should be very wary of joining in their merriment. Once you join their dancing ring you’ll dance until your death! (I think villainous laughter should go here.)

Next time we have a little discussion about I think I’ll cover dragons. Or would you prefer something a little more obscure? *waggles eyebrow*