Thursday, November 16, 2017

T Minus 1 week and counting

With one week to go here's what's happening at the hearth.

Well, the stock I said I was going to make yesterday is simmering, as we speak.

I know, the first picture is beautiful, fresh, and lovely. The second picture is ew. But hopefully it turns out tasty and my gravy is a hit. I'm using this bon appetit recipe but not exactly. The way I figure it, stock should use what you have on hand. I don't have white wine, peppercorns, chicken wings, or a ham hock.  Right, apparently I'm only barely following this recipe.

Instead, I am using several grinds from my pepper-mill that doesn't open (which is why I don't have peppercorns), a roasted chicken carcass that I froze a few weeks ago, a couple pieces of bacon, and a giblet. Don't even ask me what a giblet is. All I know is my grandma made turkey neck and giblet gravy. They didn't have turkey necks so I went with the giblet.

Tonight's dinner prep is also happening. We're having breakfast for dinner. The Mister is headed home after being on business for a few days, and my young declared breakfast was what he'd want to eat most of all upon returning to the good old U. S. of A.

Well, breakfast for dinner in this house means sourdough pancakes or waffles. So that means, make the sponge!

My starter lives in this quart jar and gets quite neglected. I really should feed it once a week. Which I  often do, but only if we're eating pancakes on the weekends. If we're not eating pancakes regularly... it'll go two, maybe three weeks between feedings. Bad sourdough starter mama. Bad.

I'll go into more detail on what's happening here, but not today.

The view from my table: Sponge sponge-ing and starter gobbling up its first meal in a while. Plus the pile of backpack detritus my oldest left before heading off to school this morning.

As all this is happening I'm also scrambling to do a mountain of laundry. Don't want the Mister to see the squalor we live in when he's not home.

Basically, my children wear dirty socks and subsist on soup straight from the can and cold hotdogs, while mama wears her sweatpants for the third day in a row and eats whatever is left on their plates and anything we have floating in jars in the fridge. I try not to cook or clean while the husband is away.

Oh, remember to buy your frozen pie crusts before they run out. Do it soon. They'll probably get a shipment but were running short this morning, and I don't want to mess with that crap.  I no longer make scratch pie crust, it ruins my day.

That's about it. Off to fold some more towels!

If you haven't done so yet, check out my pages above. I've added a new one about what I'm writing. Or click here to get the scoop. Let me know what you think.

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4 1/2 hours later...

Here's what I pulled out of the stock pot. Lots of little bones. 

And the final result. Nice hue, good flavor, and not too salty. Making stock for Thanksgiving wasn't hard, and hopefully it will result in superior gravy.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

T minus 8 days and counting

Alert! Alert! Thanksgiving is eight days away!

Time to panic.

I've never done this before.

Why did my mother have to go and replace her knee now of all times? She could've waited until after the holidays. That would've been much more accommodating... to me.

Okay, deep breaths.

Repeat new mantra: You can do this. You are a capable human being who has cooked for yourself for twenty years now. This is like, nothing. Delegate. It's bloody time you hosted Thanksgiving, did you think Mom was going to keep doing it forever, stupid? Grow up and grow a pair.

Eeks. My mantra is getting increasingly hostile.

Luckily for me I have a to-do list. I read my Bon Appetit Thanksgiving issue, and it's making me feel pretty good about things.

I even have a picture of my first list (of many to come) to prove I've got this.

If you'll direct your attention to the upper right you might notice a happy little breakfast raisin.

Yup, that's how we do it here, rogue raisins. I so got this.

It's not very detailed yet. As I get closer the panic will set in and I'll get into the nitty-gritty. As for today my task is to make stock. This is so we can have loads of amazing gravy. Gravy is the worst, it always seems to be the first thing to go. Not this year. Not on my watch.

Future tasks include:

Practice deep breathing techniques.

Consider writing a new mantra.

Shop. Shop. Shop. I'm buying new dishes. Who else feels like they've got to up their game? No crummy chipped plates at my Thanksgiving. Not this gal. We still won't have matching silverware or glasses, though. That's for the next time I host. Hopefully years and years from now.

Time to get to work. 

Friday, October 27, 2017

Cover Art?

Step one: Write a manuscript. 

Step two: Edit the heck out of it. In fact, never stop editing. Every time you let somebody read it to give you feedback, edit the entire thing all over again. That is until The Mister entices you with bribes to just send it for once and not edit it beforehand. This may have happened yesterday. And I only edited a bit. Just the opening line. Because, I can't stop messing with it. Also, let it be known the Mister needs to up his bribe game.

For your FYI, the first line is called the hook. It's meant to hook your reader into asking questions, wanting answers, and keep bloody reading.

Step three: Publish. I guess.

Nope. Not even close. There's all these little details that follow writing a manuscript. You know, the minutiae you never thought about until right this second. And the step I'm talking about today is the shiny red ribbon perched on the package. That is to say, the cover art. The enticement for readers to choose your book over all the others they could read. 

But, where do I go from here? How do I find a digital artist to turn my vision into reality. The web? Ha! Have you tried looking up that crap? There's a million and one web pages all devoted to E-Book cover art. Gah!

So, I figure, I'm an artist (insert scoff here). Just look at all my quilts and that one time I made a vest for my daughter's Annie Oakley project.  I'll make my own darn cover art. 

It's pretty great.

Pretty, pretty great.

e-book cover art

So, this was my first attempt. I was going for a mysterious lady in the snow packed woods. Barefoot. Whoa, right? With FIRE engulfing her. I wanted it to be mainly white-ish in the background so my girl would stand out. 

Problem. She's more standing in profile when I wanted her looking behind her back coquettishly. And The Mister said he didn't like her skirt on fire. That, instead of looking magic-y she appeared as though she was actually on fire. 

That prompted effort number two.

ebook fantasy cover art

Okay, yeah. Yeah, this is pretty good. Aside from the fact I drew her too big so had to add another piece of paper. But, I've got the Little Red Riding Hood thing going on which I like. Still barefoot and now looking over her shoulder, though not right at you as I had wanted. Hmmm, eyes are complicated. 

And her smile needs to be more enigmatic. Like she's got a secret that you're just dying to figure out. But the only way to learn more is to BUY THE DAMN BOOK!

The Mister says he likes this one, but likes the first one's perspective better. That is, her standing further back, more in the distance, almost swallowed by the woods.

Whatever. We've had drawing contests before and I'm always the winner.  I'm thinking just maybe I should find an actual graphic designer to turn this into a more photo-realistic image. Maybe. I'm still thinking about it. What do you think?

Also, do you like image A or B?

Thanks for reading!

Monday, October 16, 2017

Everything I disliked about An American Paris and the one thing I did like

Wow. That's a loaded title, I know.

Disclaimer: if An American in Paris is on your wish list of Broadway plays to see and you don't want spoilers, you've been warned. I'm going to gripe a lot. In detail.

why i hated an american in paris
The Mister and I before the crushing reality of An American in Paris destroyed my zest for life
Maybe the movie is better, but I've not seen it. The play though, uggh. Let's begin my tear down of a beloved classic.

Jerry. Just, why? The hero I never liked. The American with the hokey, it's all about me attitude. The song where he changes Lise's name from Lise because it's too sad--aww, precious--to Liza. Like men on the street telling women with resting bitch face to smile. No, you smile.

Adam. In love with a figment of his imagination. Why, oh why, were you not the hero I wanted? At first I hoped Lise would turn the story upside down and choose you. But that changed when I learned you were content to love your version of Lise; the beautiful ballerina with a smile pasted on her face. You forget, to love a woman means to love the negative that comes along with the good. I'm someone who loves a tragic love story. But not yours.

Henri. The hero that should have been. Why weren't you the hero I needed. Where was your story? I got a taste of what could be, but it wasn't to be. Yours was the only story with heart, but were deemed nothing more than a secondary plot line. All you got was a wink, winkdon't you like girls? Where was the suspense regarding why you didn't fight? Where was the intrigue?  Where was the grand reveal that no, you weren't in fact a coward but had protected Lise all along. Instead it was merely, meh.

Henri's parents. So not a factor I don't even remember your names. Where was your dignity in the end? You were merely a comedic device where all we got was a few lackluster laughs at your stodgy expense.

Milo. The McGuffin. def. An object or device in a movie or book or play that serves merely as a trigger for the plot. Gag.

The songs: Fidgety Feet and S'wonderful. So mind-numbingly stupid I want to rip their putrid melodies from existence as they continue to recycle through my brain.


Now for what I liked.

The ballet dancing was beautiful.

I appreciate the artistry and the talent of the actors, but never again, An American in Paris. Never again.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Changing Gears

A bit.

I'll still share crafts and cooking as those topics are dear to my heart. But I've been an aspiring romance novelist since I was 18 or so. Sitting in my room in my parent's house furiously plotting and writing up characterizations. Not always in any order. Sometimes my protagonist spoke to me before any semblance of plot did. Sometimes I had every twist and turn laid out but didn't know who starred in it. But always the ideas.

indie author
My set up. I work standing up at my kitchen counter.
But I was a dumb teenager and decided money needed to line my pockets.

So, instead of going to school and learning about the craft I so dearly loved I joined the working masses. I jumped from police dispatcher, to call center drone, to finally land as a medical billing specialist. Don't despair, there were a few positives. My husband, namely. And money is an unfortunate necessity.

Now though, now I'm back to my original plan. And even have a manuscript to show for it.

But now what?

how to indie author
Only high tech office equipment for me
If you're an aspiring novelist you might be thinking the same thing. So, as I'm sure there are more of us who don't know what we're doing than do, I'm going to show you how I'm doing it. It doesn't mean it's right. It's just what I'm figuring out as I go along.

So far, I have completed two steps out of goodness only knows how many and am working on step 3.

Step 1: Write manuscript
Step 2: Edit the crap out of it. Never stop editing.  I even hired an editor which was eye opening if costly.  Edit some more.
Step 3: Find agent. This is h.e. double hockey sticks. Here's the thing, apparently, I've written in a genre that's currently not being picked up by publishing houses. Pararomance. Blah. So that means self-publishing is up my alley. Fine. But...

How the heck do I do it?

indie author la croix
Me: need la croix. Kids:need art supplies 
Going forward I'll chronicle the life of an indie author and how I got there. Hopefully. Right now I'm just a gal who has 103,000 words giving me the evil eye.

I'd love it if you stick with me through it all.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

The bees knees

I like bees. It could be because I'm from the beehive state. It could be because I grew up eating butter and honey toast. And Honey Nut Cheerios. And my Great Grandma's honey popcorn balls. And... yeah, I like bees.

So when colony collapse disorder became a thing I panicked and began planting things bees like.

Save the bees became my mantra. Not really. But now that I think about it, I need a mantra. Other than the golden rule, I guess. Nah, that's a good'un. I'll keep it. Different than the golden ratio, but no less important.

I also began sewing bee-related stuff. I had a fever inside. Full disclosure, I have been stung, and I still like them. And if I had a bigger yard, I'd have a hive of my own. The Mister has reservations.

I do have a need to replace this wall hanging, though. I've got a vision floating inside my head of denim-dyed linen. Yeahhh.

Plus, my kids will always choose honey on their PB&J's over jelly. Guess they're their mama's girls.

Speaking of which,

Definitely mama's girl. And man, you should see this girl chain. One day in and I'm about ready to start her on single crochet. As I was teaching her all I could think about was this long ago beginning and how cute is that little 5 year old. But she hasn't wanted to touch a hook since. I also love that she's hanging around in a swimming suit. As a wee-one I couldn't get her out of her "swim poot".

Then, my oldest decided if her baby sister was crocheting she was crocheting. Which reminded me of this: My proudest crafting moment when my oldest crocheted herself a rat tail. Miss the days she let me piggy tail her hair.

I do enjoy that my daughters both crochet while sitting the same way.

Aww, summer. Bees, lazy days of crafting, and fussing. Oh, the fussing.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Needle Minder Time

I don't know, I've been sewing a long time and have only just heard about needle minders. Maybe it's because I'm spending all my time writing, but really, where have I been? They're all over the internet.

Now, I have never been the type of person to just buy something. I want to make it. In fact, the Mister just suggested to me that I need to go into blacksmithing. Uh, yes please. Let's just add it to the list of all the other things I want to learn. Glass work, knitting more better, refurnishing furniture, tailoring (I might have to practice making vests), sashiko embroidery, tomato grafting... it just keeps going.

But, as soon as I learned of needle minders I needed one.

So, I busted out my button-maker, aida, thread, needles, a couple rare earth magnets, and some sturdy craft glue.

Then, I cross-stitched a cute little something. Turned it into a button. Glued one magnet to the back of the button. Let it dry.

And finally, using a second rare earth magnet I affixed the needle minder to the back of my work and hopefully the days of stepping on lost needles are gone.

My mama's needle minder

And this one is mine. In action. I've lost my mind and am making a millefiori quilt. Why? I thought I needed something to do while the girls are at water polo practice.

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

How hard is it to make a &*$#@ vest?

Due to the emotional trauma suffered in the making of my daughter's Annie Oakley vest expect few pictures. In fact, you get only one.

I fancy myself a decent quilter. That means I can make anything I want, right? Wrong.
I've made pajamas and a Little Red Riding Hood cloak. That means I can make a vest, right? Wrong. Well, right, because I made it, but wrong in assuming I can just waltz in and make anything and have it work out seamlessly. Ha! See what I did there? Sewing humor.

I chose to make McCall's pattern M7416 F. Why? I knew my baby would get a kick out of the swingy fringe.

There were words like: understitch, dart, lining, and most horrific of all band facing. This pattern broke me. The part where I needed to "open out lining" sent me straight to the bottle. Luckily, after copious amounts of googling, crying, and hair pulling I figured it out.

fringed vest

But in the end, it turned out pretty great. Fudged bits and all. And she made one heck of an Annie Oakley. Never again, though. Never again. Alright, you know that's not true. Like childbirth I'll forget the horror and try something I'm unqualified for and soon, no doubt.

Thanks for reading.

Monday, July 3, 2017

It's a Deadpool miracle

Last post I threatened to stop making the Mister sweet treasures. This caused sadness and tears, as you can imagine. Well, loving wife that I am I gave him one more chance.

deadpool mugrug

The Mister has decided, erroneously I might add, that Deadpool is the coolest superhero flick (it's actually Kingsman). As a result of that conversation a Deadpool/perler bead inspired mug rug was born to much gladness and smiles.

Imagine all the itty-bitty 1 inch squares. Yeah, 1 inch!

Full disclosure, that's actually my mug posing on the mug rug. The MOM might give it away. But I wanted to show you the mug rug in action.

Now, the Mister is the envy of all geeks, I'm the hero, and I can see in his eyes that he will love every homemade item I make him from here on out. Feels pretty good. Sweater uni-suit coming up.

Thanks for reading!

p.s. It's that time again. If you're at the farmer's market and come across gooseberries grab 'em and make this Gooseberry Pie

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Mug Rug Time

What's a mug rug, you might ask. It's smaller than a placemat but bigger than a coaster. Just the thing to enjoy your afternoon snack: a cup of tea and a small treat.

They're fun to make because they whip up quick, and you can experiment with different designs without needing to commit too many resources to them.

The Mister commissioned me to make his buddy at work a mug rug as he was leaving for greener pastures. His buddy loves Captain America. I have to agree, Cap is the best Avenger. Anyway, back to the mug rug, and after that, a tragic tale.

Here it is, and I have to say I love how it turned out. This is by no means an original, it comes courtesy of a Pinterest search and a woman by the name of Lilja Björk Sigurdórsdóttir. It's called Captain America's Shield.

Now, here's the tragic tale, are you ready? I made The Mister a mug rug for Christmas and like all the projects I make for him, ahem:

His own, The Mister action figure crocheted in his likeness as Lord of the Dance, complete with chest hairs, nipples, and Neil Diamond bedazzling.


A, if I may say so myself, fabulous interpretation of Darth Vader free-style embroidered on a poncho for him to wear when he's banished to the basement where it's very, very cold because I refuse to turn on the heater.  Did I mention this is a woman's poncho. To be fair, I couldn't find a man's poncho anywhere.

Maybe it's the giant hand. Did I also mention this was free-styled? Yeah. Artisanal is what it is. Like bread. It's not supposed to look perfect. Flaws are desired, even.

Sorry, I was telling you about the tragedy.

He hates them. He hates everything I make him. He hates when I make him things and I don't know why.

The poncho, he's never worn it to work. I mean, rude. Most men would love to have their wives make them something this cool.

The dolly, errr, action figure, he had it hidden away in a drawer, and I had to blackmail him to get it back. The details are sketchy and we don't need to go there, suffice it to say, he doesn't appreciate my craft.

You see, turns out he was jealous of his buddy's Cap mug rug. I asked him why he never uses the mug rug I made him. And you want to know what he said? He said, if you actually made me something rad, I would use it. I'm pretty sure he used the word rad. It might have been gnarly or bodacious...anyway, he has one last chance to actually like something I've hand-made him or I will NEVER make him anything ever again.

Not true. Ha! I will never stop.

But, stay tuned for a reveal.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Solstice Block 12

Just sharing pics of what I'm working on at the moment. That's as good as it gets friends.

So, each week I'm working on Pat Sloan's Solstice Quilt. I went with a Christmas quilt as I've always wanted one, and I had a bunch of Christmas fabric giving me the evil eye as it sat collecting dust. The Cotton + Steel fabric was almost too cute to cut, and tragically I'm almost out of the pink ornament now. le sob.

And, because I can't follow the rules I threw in an extra fabric choice.

But I like how the pink makes this a fun intersection of fabric yumminess.

And, the half-square triangles I cut incorrectly for block 13. OF COURSE! Look, it really does pay to read the instructions carefully. And to not cut the fabric to the finished dimensions.

Tossed in the scrap basket. The kids'll like 'em. Plus, if I ever lose my mind and decide to make a postage stamp quilt there they are, just waiting.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Keto Cauliflower Cheese Soup

I've gone on and off low-carb diets throughout my adult life, but this is the first time doing it because I want to put my health first (over weight loss). 

I want to reduce inflammation. I'm hoping to reign in what's been a life-long, low thyroid. I really don't want to get Type II Diabetes. And, let's be honest, want to lose a pound or 50.

Keto can get a bit dull, if you ask me, it's a bit one-note. I just get tired of eating cheese. Plus, I've never loved meat. Also turns out incorporating more fat into my diet, for the four days I've done it now, has been a struggle. I'm ironing a few things out: what I like, don't like, and really don't like.

keto cauliflower cheese soup

This, I like.

Keto Cauliflower Cheese Soup
2 lbs. chopped cauliflower
1 onion, diced
3 Tbl. butter
1 Tbl. olive oil
1 C. Heavy Whipping Cream
5 C. Chicken broth
2 C. Shredded, sharp cheddar cheese
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
salt and pepper to taste
Garnish if desired

In large stock pot, combine butter and olive oil over medium heat
Add onions and saute until transparent, about five minutes
Add broth and cream and bring to a simmer
Add cauliflower and bring to a boil, simmer until tender, approximately 12 minutes
Blend, either with an immersion blender or as I did, in my big old Blendtec
****Please, do not burn yourself when blending. If you're using a blender, make sure the lid's on tight and hold onto the lid with a towel, the hot soup shoots up!****
Return to the pot
Add the cheese and Dijon and salt and pepper to taste. Warm to melt cheese and bring to desired temperature


Serve with diced ham or bacon. You could also add add'l cheese or a garnish of green onions.

I love the bite the Dijon gives and it's so creamy, warm and yum! I'll try not to think how good a buttered roll would taste with it.

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, October 20, 2016

When you go apple picking

The ladies and I went apple picking this weekend. Quintessential Fall activity, right? Well, this is the first time I've done it. The ladies had fun picking up rotting apples from the ground, climbing trees, searching for grasshoppers, sorting A and B apples and deciding if the worm holes were too big to be a B apple.

Now what do you do when you have a giant pile of apples? You make apple desserts, of course.

First I made this pie

Did I take a picture of it? No. Mostly because it was ugly as heck. I used store-bought pie crust, because easy, and had to let my top crust thaw out then sort of mush the double crimped edges together, it looked awful. Tasted great.  Topped it with a drizzle of cream. Swoon. That's the old fashioned-y thing my family does with apple pie and chocolate pudding. Cream. On top. I'm sure it'd be great on lots more things.

This recipe has you par-cook the apples, and I didn't think it went overboard on spices. No idea what variety apple we used. The person in charge didn't know, so I just went with it. I like that it used both cornstarch and tapioca for thickening.

A few days later, my baby and I made apple cupcakes using this recipe. She gathered her own apples specifically for her apple cupcakes. She wanted to make apple frosting, but I convinced her, because of her great love of pancakes, to use this maple frosting recipe instead.  The frosting is different. It was extremely soft. You use an entire cup of real maple syrup. When I dumped it in the mixer, I felt I'd made a huge mistake as it started whipping. So I upped the powdered sugar. Maybe my butter was a little too soft, but it turned out yummy. Just be aware it'll feel like a lot of syrup.

The cupcakes were a hit! People were declaring left and right they want these for their birthday cake. The cake was moist and heavier than a regular cake.

Be aware though....hand-grating apples is not awesome. If you have an electric grater, use it, save your fingers as well as your kitchen from all the sticky bits of apples flying everywhere.

I didn't peel the apples. If you look closely on this picture (full disclosure, I ate this cupcake for breakfast the next day...and it was so good) you can see the red peel. And we topped them with white pearl candies. Yum!

Sunday, October 2, 2016

It's never too early to start thinking about Christmas

Yes, I know, you rarely expect posts anymore. I've been embarking on an experiment, of the romance novel kind. If anything happens, I'll keep you updated. But, in the meantime, let's talk Christmas.

It's coming, you know.  We have less than three months.

stainless steel cake tester

Mother-in-law, sister-in-law, brother-in-law, you know, those people who you never know what to get? Plus anyone who's into cooking, but has most everything, they don't have one of these!! And people who like to cook and bake love hand-made items. It makes us feel special.

stainless steel cake tester

Don't panic, there's still time!!

Get them a hand-made, food grade, personalized, stainless steel cake tester. And yes, I have two of them. Don't be jealous, you can have one. Karen (the lady over at Feral Turtle who hand-makes these) taps into my wild side with the skulls. If you're not into skulls, that's cool, too.

Go check her out at The Feral Turtle, by clicking here and you can have a quick chat about how many you want to order.

magnetic cake tester

The best part, it's not just a cake tester. Can you see it? It's got a strong little magnet so you can hang it on your fridge and not lose it to the dreaded junk drawer. That way you know exactly where it is, when you need it. Plus it adds a little bling to your fridge art. Yes, this is the actual fridge here at the Hearth. Notices, beautiful art and all.

So what did I do? Made a carrot cake to celebrate the specialness. Had to do it. Used this recipe.

Put the ladies to work grating the carrots...might have been a bad idea. Used fresh pineapple. Yum!

Cake tester in action. Worked like a charm and I felt so pretty using it.

Make sure to add the flour to your raisins and walnuts, otherwise they'll sink to the bottom.

Nom, nom, nom.

K, the thing about Karen, she's like my own personal MacGyver. Not even kidding. Not that she's MY personal MacGyver, but since she's my bff, I kind of think of her that way. But you've got to see the crazy stuff she does, woman is freaking amazing. Have you ever even thought about blowing out a wall in your house, and doing it YOURSELF? No. Nobody thinks that. Except for her.

Alright, enough bragging about Karen, but I could keep going, seriously, how about a little bragging about my young.

making Pusheen

Gah! Can't even stand the cuteness. My baby decided to make her cousin a mini Pusheen because she won't be able to come to the school party in a few days.

Don't know what a Pusheen is? It's a cat.

Making Pusheen

So she went down to the craft room, found the right color of fabric, drew out her Pusheen, had mama cut with her big scissors, sewed it together herself and stuffed it with some fluff. 

homemade Pusheen

Had to make it mini so it could fit in this box. That's Pusheen with shades on. Just want to squish her so much!!

Alright, that's enough. Don't want you to get the idea that I'm actually going to start doing this again, regularly.

Love ya more than carrot cake.

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