Wednesday, March 3, 2021

SPRING IS JUST ABOUT TO SPRING... AN IWSG POST...

 

Hi All,

Sorry for posting so late, but when the first Wednesday of the month is in the beginning, I tend to forget...

BUT...Thanks to our WONDERFUL host, Alex, and co-hosts for the IWSG, I am reminded to post no matter how late I am. For any newcomers to the IWSG, Welcome! If you would like to join our group, here is the link to Alex's blog and sign-up page.

I love this time of year. The snow is melting at a heightened pace because the temps are rising. The earth is beginning to wake-up from a LONG winter's nap. The days are longer, and there is a positive ring in the air with every fluttering bird's chirp. Finally, our minds can clear away from the winter blues and all the reclusion we have experienced from the stressful year. 

We are able to walk through the parks and throughout our neighborhoods and see the beginning signs of spring. With this rebirth, inspiration is all around us. It certainly is for me. I finally have dived back into my writing. It took quite some time. But I am thankful and it mostly is because of spring. Breathing in crisp, fresh air is so invigorating. My senses are awakening and this is SO important in writing. To improve any scene, any dialogue or any description, incorporating the "senses" in your writing will make it come alive. Readers want to experience you writing first hand. They want to be 'in the moment" with your characters. So, the next time you are writing a new scene in your MS, don't forget your senses: smell, touch, sight, hear, and taste...

Wishing all of you a HAPPY SPRING!

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

AS WINTER SURGES....AN IWSG POST.



 


Hi All, and welcome to another IWSG Post. 

Thanks to the creator, Alex J Cavanaugh, writers get to meet once a week to air out our

insecurities and also to give advice to others. 

If you would like to join our group, please visit this link: link

For all of us in the north, winter is main part of our daily lives. So much snow has fallen in my town, that we have five-foot snow hills. As I walked through my neighborhood earlier today, the trees glistened with early morning light. For the first time, the beauty of this magical season introduced itself to me. I wished I had my phone to take pics, but one doesn't think of these things while taking their pup for a walk.

This beauty awakened the writer in me. It had been asleep for so long, I had honestly thought it would never come back. With so much stress from life's everyday dilemmas, a creative mind is often clouded. Thankfully, it is slowly coming to life. So, for those experiencing similar feelings, perhaps it's time for you to take a stroll through you neighborhood to find your "awakening."

Yesterday one of my major house projects came to a close. My upstairs bath was FINALLY completed. Although mostly functional, the freestanding tub needs to be reset. Sigh. Tomorrow the plumber returns and hopefully I will have a fully functional bath.  Of course there are still many more projects to go in rehabbing "this old house," but I am happy to say two major projects are out of the way, and the third should be completed by the end of the month.  It is so nice to have an accurate vintage-looking bath without the old '60s and '80s previous remodels. The bath was a horror, but now it is loaded with the original charm from 1915, including the original restored pine floor. Imagine standing on floors that were installed over a century ago. I am not sure we can say that with modern construction a hundred years from now...



Well, that is all for now. I hope everyone is safe and healthy. Keep positive and keep looking for inspirations to write. I am WANTING to pick up on my MS and with sub-below zero weather in our upcoming forecast, I will have no excuse NOT to write. 

Also today, we are having a blogfest for the wonderful and sweet, Jo Wake. She was so full of life and really LOVED her food. I had saved countless recipes from her...all DELICIOUS! I know Jo really appreciates everyone who is posting a recipe in her honor...sorry I am late with mine, for some odd reason, I thought the blogfest was on the 6th. 

The recipe I chose today is a real favorite of mine and I know MANY people LOVE home-made biscotti... here is my recipe for them... JO, I hope you are enjoying all your treats in heaven! We miss you!

Michael's Biscotti Recipe...

First, if you want the ULTIMATE biscotti, you should caramelize the almonds. I mix both in the recipe. About half and half. 


To do this is quite easy. In a bowl place the amount of almonds you wish to caramelize. I usually do A LOT, so I have enough for three or four batches. They don't go bad, and they are also great to toss in with a salad for that extra zing!


Add distilled or spring water mixed with sugar. I NEVER use tap.. But if you have 'good' water than great. Since you DON'T want them to be too sweet because of the calories use about a half a cup of organic sugar. It's better. Mix in a two to three tablespoons of cinnamon and two tablespoons of vanilla extract. I like mine very cinnamonny, so I use three. Pour the sugared water over the almonds just enough to cover them ... If you have too much add more almonds, if not enough add more water. Easy. Mix well and set for a half an hour. Now if you REALLY want them amazing, soak them overnight. Don't refrigerate, nothing will happen to them. The longer they sit, the more solution they absorb.


Preheat oven at 250 degrees. Use a nonstick cookie pan. Make sure it has some lip on it so the liquid stays. Place them in the pan and spread them out well. Just enough liquid to coat the almonds, you don't want them sitting in liquid. Just use a bit extra. Keep the left over and do another batch. You can do more almonds, pecans, or walnuts, they are all fantastic caramelized.


Bake about a half hour and then mix them up a bit and bake another ten to fifteen minutes. SInce all ovens are different check them on occasion. It could take longer or less time. You want them toasted and dry before taking them out. When done, remove and loosen them in the pan. Cool in pan on a rack.


Now, here's the recipe for the biscotti... This is my double recipe, it makes about twenty five to thirty, three inch biscotti. 


Ingredients :


3 cups unbleached all purpose flour (add extra half cup if using all extracts. dough shouldn't be sticky so add as much as needed after mixing original recipe)


2 teaspoons of baking powder


1 teaspoon of baking soda


1 cup organic or natural sugar (can substitute regular) I use a few lines less than a cup so not a full cup.


6 tablespoons of butter, softened


3 JUMBO eggs or 4 large eggs (I prefer jumbo for this recipe)


2 teaspoons of almond extract


2 teaspoons of anise extract


1 cup or more, depending on preference of slice almonds. (half regular-half caramelized)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.


Combine flour, baking powder, and baking soda in medium bowl. Mix with spoon. place aside.


In large bowl beat butter and sugar until creamy. Add eggs and extracts and beat well. SLOWLY add flour a third at a time, mixing all flour in before adding more. At this point it should be a thick dough. Again, if too sticky add more flour but not TOO MUCH... it shouldn't be crumbly. lt should be workable in your hands. Add almonds a bit a time. Mix into dough well. You want almonds EVERYWHERE in the dough. OR if you prefer less use less. I love lots of almonds in mine.


When dough is workable, it should be easy to divide. If sticky add more flour. BUT DON'T make the dough crumble. If this happens add a bit of water.


Roll into about twelve inch lengths and flatten on ungreased cookie sheet. Flip it, an flatten again. It should be about a half an inch thick. I usually get two twelve inch rolls and one around ten inches. You want it to be about two to three inches wide when flattened. On top I usually encrust a few more caramelized almonds.


Bake for about twenty-five minutes or until firm. Don't overbake or they will crumble when you cut them. Cool on baking sheets for five minutes. Cut into slices of about 3/4 inch. I cut mine on a diagonal, but you can cut them across if you desire.  Arrange cut sides down on sheet and bake another fifteen to twenty minutes. Watch them... You want them toasted and crunchy not doughy or burnt... Remove and place pans on racks to cool. 


Now if you want an extra bit of punch.... melt semi sweet chocolate morsels and drizzle on top. Of course this adds calories, so keep that in mind. Perhaps on a special occasion or when you feel like you want a REAL treat. 



Well that's it... after cooling store in a tin. Not plastic... they will get soft. Put some paper towel on the bottom of tin and place cookies carefully inside.


ENJOY! Let me know how they turn out!



Michael



Wednesday, January 6, 2021

A NEW YEAR...A NEW BEGINNING...AN IWSG POST.

 

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

It's time for another IWSG post. Thanks to Alex and all the IWSG hosts, we can catch up and air our anxieties and share our advice with others as well. If you would like to join, please click on the site and sign up!

Well, we made it through another year. This one was certainly challenging. But through all the trials and tribulations, we have grown stronger. Life is never easy, and 2020 was probably one that we will NEVER forget. 


2021 will also be another challenging year. We start with a new government and with the pandemic still haunting us all. We will persevere, and we MUST. Haven't all of our journeys in writing taught us this? It certainly has for me! It is the proverbial waiting game, and sadly we must wait this year out as well. Yes, we have a vaccine, but that will take time; this virus is not going anywhere for quite some time, so we must continue to live with it as part of our lives. We will make it as long as we keep a level head and patience.


Winter has taken a stronghold in Illinois, so I will be writing after I finish my bathroom reno. It is time to finish up with my WIP and move on. This will be a year of many new beginnings, and we need to roll along with them. Making time for writing is important for me, especially this year. I seem to be the last holdout of writers who has started their journey with me over a decade ago. All of my wonderful friends have works published or to be published this year. I had many letdowns in the past; now, it is time for me—no more excuses.  I hope to regain the tenacity I once had to pour all my anxieties and energy into making it happen. 


May we get through this year together, learning from each other and growing in a healthy and happy new world. Keep safe, my friends, and I will see you all next month!





Wednesday, December 2, 2020

A DECEMBER IWSG_HAPPY HOLIDAYS!


 Hi Everone!

Sorry I am posting so late. I just realized it is the first of the first Wednesday of the month. Thanks to Alex and all the IWSG hosts, we are able to catch up and air our anxieties and share our advice to others as well. If you would like to join, please click on the site and sign up!


I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving. Even in these troubled times, I was able to have a few friends over. I had two tables separated by twelve feet and one family was at one and the other was with me and a few close friends. It was a cool day, but we managed to enjoy ourselves with throws and the help of an outdoor heater. One of my friends said it was one of the best Thanksgivings she had ever had. It was a wonderful day and it was nice to have some normalcy.

For the past few months, I have been deligently working on the exterior of my house. I tried several times to sit down and write, but with such limited time to finish before winter set in, I felt it was more important to spent my time away from writing. But now that the holidays are upon us, I will have time to write. YAY. This week I plan to finish putting up the Christmas decorations. Trying to stage a 2400 sq ft house plus the huge front porch is quite the challenge. For the first time in my life, I have a large enough space to actually put out ALL my decorations. And believe me, there are TONS. I can actually open up my own Christmas shop. I have four trees to decorate, a fireplace hearth, LR, DR, and kitchen... not to mention the entry and staircase. I have about half done, and I hope to complete the rest by the end of the weekend. THEN, and only then, can I work on my writing in between baking. Even though I don't foresee anyone spending Christmas Eve or Day with me, I hope to have an outdoor cocktail party for about eight people out on the front porch. I will be enclosing the porch with heavey canvas, and there will be a patio heater, so it should be warm enough with our coats on. I will have a real tree decorated out there, so it will look quite festive. The porch is such a wonderful space because of it's size. I'll post a pic on how I set it up for Thanksgiving.

I want to wish all of you a SAFE and HEATHY Holiday season. Please be careful in your travels and gatherings. We are not though this pandemic yet. Holidays can still be special with the proper planning. 

Sending you all a huge HUG and PRAYERS for you happiness and safety.











         

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

AUTUMN...A TIME FOR REFLECTION...A IWSG POST

 

Hi All!


I hope everyone is doing well. This time of year is certainly my favorite, even though allergies for me are at their highest. But, this does not damper my love for this time of year.

As the year closes, I tend to reflect on what had happened in my life during this time. Sadly, for most of us, Covid has taken a heavy toll. In 2008, I had to reinvent myself by looking for alternative income because my design business had closed for several years. That is when I picked up writing. Now, I find myself back in the same situation. Writing saved my sanity once, I am hopeful it will do it again. 

Shortly after my first novel, I had joined the blogger community and THIS community. I had met some of the most AMAZING people I had ever known and to this day, I still feel that way. Alex, is one of them. Without him, we would have the IWSG. Astonishing. To think, I was in the community when Alex first created this group. I am honored to be apart of it. Thank you, Alex, and all the countless others who have given so much of their love and time to help others in our community. IF you have not signed up yet, do so at his site.

Although this year has certainly been taxing, I am thankful for many things. I finally found the home of my dreams, and although it is a nightmare trying to pull it together, I have never been more happy with my residence. I did have to give up my Florida condo because of lack of business, but I am fine with that. I can now breathe again financially. And once again, I managed to use my time well, including getting back to my writing. After another readthrough and edit of my second novel, I have submitted it into the mentee program of PitMad. So, I am hoping one of the talented people who are giving their time to mentor, will find my novel intersting enough to take me on. For sure, it is a LONG SHOT, but you just never know. This may finally be my time. I had a lot of interest in this novel in the past, but I never managed to get signed by an agent. So, with a mentor's help, I may get over the next hurdle. 

As for my current WIP,  I hope to finish it by the end of the year. There are a few snaffu's with the person who's life I am writing about. We have a few areas that need to be ironed out before I complete the last few chapters. This has been a GRULING project and has taken me three times as long as my other two novels to write. But, with a bit more time and PATIENCE, I hope to get through it. Like my second novel, this one has great potential and I NEED to get it right.

Most writers know how difficult our journeys are, and I hope that we all get there in the end. It has been ten LONG years since I completed my first novel and I believe that this year will end well. Hope and prayers are our most powerful allies. 

Take care everyone, and stay safe!

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

COOL AND CRISP-A NEW SEASON, BUT THE SAME OLD ANXIETIES- AN IWSG POST


 HI ALL Happy September!

Once again,  I am posting late. Thanks to my blogger pal, Michelle Wallace, I saw her FB post to remind me this is the first Wednesday of the month!

Thanks to our friend, Alex J. Cavanaugh, we get to post our anxieties or help others with theirs... A WONDERFUL day of the month. If you would like to join our group, hop over to Alex's site and SIGN UP.

As I prepare for my journey south, I am trying to finish up my current WIP. Most of us know the stress of moving, but when one has to travel almost 1500 miles to clear out their vacation home, then they have to load a truck and drive back the same 1500 miles in a fifteen-foot truck, the stress is epic. So, you can imagine how difficult it is to write, especially when you find out you have to add another story/chapter to the remaining chapters. (I am writing narrative non-fiction) I feel as though I will never finish. Just when I think I am down to the last two chapters, I have to keep adding more. UGH. But, at least I am writing. Many of you know I haven't written anything in months, but I am managing to write a chapter in a week to ten days. 

Thankfully, the weather is cooling and fall is definitely in the air. The nights and mornings are cooler and the sun sets earlier bringing down the heat in the early evening. I am also trying to squeeze in the remaining sanding and priming of my front porch. With only a few more months of painting weather before winter, I am crazed...nothing new there. LOL 

I thank you all for your good vibes and prayers as I prepare for my journey. Like most of you had said, masks, sanitizers, and washing hands will hopefully keep me safe as I journey to and from Florida. 

Next month I should be all settled back in and preparing for my much-needed vacation to Colorado for three weeks. November should be beautiful there and I am really looking forward to it. Of course, with the pandemic, it will not be as wonderful as it could be, but a change of scenery and escaping the house rehabbing, will do me good. 

TAKE CARE my Friends, and STAY SAFE! Sending a virtual hug to you all...


Wednesday, August 5, 2020

LIVING THROUGH THE WAVES OF ANXIETY...AN IWSG POST.

Hi All,

Once again it is time for another IWSG post. Thanks to Alex, we all get to meet once a month and share our insecurities. Please drop by his blog to sign up and JOIN OUR GROUP! 

I hope and pray all of you are healthy and well. In today's pressing times, we are all under a great deal of stress and anxiety. But how do we cope with it all? Trying to function in a world gone "WILD" is not an easy task. So many of us are reclusing, others are ignoring the situation and living their lives as if nothing is wrong. But sadly, life's situations are taking its toll. How on earth can any creative person keep up their momentum? 

Many of us are using other creative outlets which really does help. Cooking and baking have skyrocketed since March. I know I am still having a hard time trying to find basic baking essentials. Home projects are keeping many of us sane and busy. I should know. LOL, rehabbing a 1915 Craftsman home is a neverending battle. But what about staying focused on our writing? For me, I have definitely been affected by the times we live in, and my writing certainly has been on hold. LIFE is so crazy for many of us right now. But the funny thing is, I have started writing again. Not a lot, a few pages here and there, but I am writing! For which, I am very thankful. I have been on hiatus for so long with my WIP and it is taking me so much time just to finish up the last few chapters. I keep asking myself why? I wrote the first draft in about six months. After I had an editor look at it, her suggestions were, "Add more. I want to see more of everything and finish the story." I had thought it was finished, but she wanted me to write about Mommy Kay's complete life. Not just her life from the 50s-70s. 

The story is written from the POV of her daughter. Since this is, in reality, Kim's story, I have to include Kim's life and how it was affected by her mother. I realized this aspect of the story is far different from the zany and often insane world she grew up in with Mommy Kay. Now the story focuses on her marriages, child, and her work. A far cry from most of the book. How do I keep this section as exciting as the rest of the book? Will these final chapters drag down the story? I am honestly anxious and worried about it. There are a few MK situations woven into these chapters, but the focus has definitely shifted. This is my answer to why I have been procrastinating for so long. But how do I do it? All writers feel that parts of their manuscripts fall flat. And in fiction, I feel it is much easier to overcome these obstacles. But in non-fiction, how can you achieve this? You are working with a specific person's life. This is the question I ask all of you, non-fiction writers... Any suggestions? I could use some help on this one. 

I am hoping to wrap this up within the next couple of weeks if I can. If not, my writing goes back on hold. Another one of life's interventions. I have to return to Florida. I sold my condo and it needs to be cleared out. COVID is so bad there, I am freaking out about it. But I need to do this. Prayers and positive vibes would be greatly appreciated. Once I am safely at home again, I will breath easier.

Keep safe and healthy my friends. My prayers and good thoughts are always with you.