Just Finish It

Lately I have found myself not making the progress I want on a few projects.

I’ve been writing, querying the last book, trying to stay on top of the yard to avoid the dreaded HOA letter, and (I think this is what solidified my feeling of non-progression) reading The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss.

First of all I loved the book, but it is longer than my usual nighttime reading choices and the description I got for what it was about was a little misleading (what I thought it was about didn’t happen until almost sixty percent into the book-I was confused). I read this book off of a Kindle so I couldn’t refer to the back cover and I really only had percentage points and how many minutes left of the chapter to go on. I also blame myself and my household’s new interest in a tv show called Midsomer Murders and its near two hour episodes for keeping me up and away from my reading.

Anyway, so here I was writing the first third of my Work in Progress and not progressing as much as I anticipated. I was reading a thick ole book that I wondered if (with the confusion in story line) I had picked up mistakenly. And then battling the ever growing lawn and fixing the patio which had been torn up since January that we loving referred to as the “pit of despair” while we decided what we wanted to do with the space.

So I prioritized. First, it was not going to get any cooler so once we (Honey rocks) removed the roots from the misplaced tree on the patio I started putting the patio back together. One paver at a time because it was a hard jigsaw puzzle that I needed a rubber mallet and an evening board to complete. Sometimes I could only put in a few a day with the heat and burning stones under my ass.

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Until one day when I was too close to the end to let things like heat indexes, unexpected new roots, and an emergency trip to the store for more pavers get in my way.51802819526__263E4D49-AEE0-4288-AB5B-43B7C0ACAD9B.JPG

 

And I finished. I won’t lie, I did a happy dance. It’s been a long time since I had completed a physical task that wasn’t going to change in a week. A clean house gets dirty, food gets eaten, and the yard-whew- changes daily =) But the patio is going to relatively stay there and it’s done. Task checked off the list. Now we can have friends over again.

The book I’m writing, well…I’ve met my word count some days, not every day. Being only a third of the way through and scenes taking longer than I planned has been distressing, not to mention the story can be hard to write. It’s women’s fiction about a band and heartbreak. The subject matter is tough, it has made me had to dive into some old scars on getting my heart broken and use what I know about marriage to make up this fictional situation. It is uncomfortable diving into that combination of feelings.

Originally I had a plan to NaNoWriMo this thing, just get out and over with and pick up the pieces later. So far I have been unable to write the story everyday. The closest I came was when I headed out to the Atlantic Coast  and spent three days alone while I housesat for some friends. At the end of my visit I only had 8,000 more words, an outline, and sleep deprivation from low battery fire alarms I was scared to mess with (story for another time).

You may be asking, why do I keep on writing it if it’s hard? Because it is hard. It won’t get easier by letting it knock around in my brain for a year, it will become that “pit of despair” we had on our back patio for a few months… always nagging, always reminding me there was something I needed to do. Now I look at that patio with the table and umbrella on top and see there is a place I want to have breakfast with my husband or maybe a glass of wine in the evening with friends.

That’s the feeling I get when I finish a first draft. The possibilities seem endless for what you can do with it, what to add to it, and now truly ponder if you want your friends around it 😉

I won’t meet my self-imposed deadline, but that’s ok I am going to keep on chipping away at it until it’s done. And who know it might be like when I read The Name of the Wind, when I got to the 83% mark I just kept on going until I finished. But from now on while I am writing the first draft I will just stick to the shorter 200-350 page novel. When your on long term project sometimes you need something/anything to just finish.

 

 

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Garlic & Rosemary Chicken

After I finished the first draft of my novel I waited the few weeks I gave myself to let it rest in my mind. I then picked up my trusty red pencil and began making the edits. I now have a very red hard copy of my novel.

I took a break from blogging because honestly I didn’t know where I was going to go from here.  Was I going to share the ins and outs of my writing process here, would I form another blog to make connections with other writers, or was I just going to go “June Cleaver” of this thing and let the novel part just be a cute pun?  The truth is that I still haven’t decided but I’ve really missed writing here… so here I am.

I have been enjoying the summer.  We have explored new places in town and a few out of town, I have won courageously against the Battle of the Beige in our house (even with the summer weather), my sister Firefly came back for a visit and got to see some sunny days this time, our garden has shocked us with how much it has produced in such a short time, and we have really enjoyed getting to know our new friends out here.  Oh and we discovered one of the most addicting board games ever…Star Trek Catan.  Seriously don’t start playing the game unless you have time for a couple rounds.  Thankfully (for our sake) it requires three people to play, so we have to wait until we have a willing guest to dive back into it.  Anyone free Sunday afternoon? 😉

Today I am keeping close to the kitchen because I have an enormous pot simmering on the stove.  I am making my first homemade chicken stock from a chicken I roasted over the weekend.  It’s one of those days where they have been predicting rain, but the sun is shining and our plants are threatening to wilt if they don’t get a sip of water soon.  While I debate the merits of a pre-storm watering I have been organizing and categorizing files on my computer.  I’ll let you know how the stock turns out, but I happen to know that the chicken that I am making with it was delicious, so I will share that reipe with you now.

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This is my own hybrid of a recipe, I have seen parts of it in books and around the web, so if you have any feedback I am all ears.  Now I treat raw chicken like it is acid so I wash my hands a million times when I make it and I try my best to make it so I don’t touch anything I don’t need to while I handle the chicken.

So with that in mind I highly recommend taking everything out of the pantry/fridge before you unwrap the chicken.  I found that grinding the pepper into its own little prep bowl helps, same with the salt. Make sure your garlic cloves our peeled and the rosemary is clean.

Garlic & Rosemary Roasted Chicken:

(1)one whole chicken 3-5lbs

(4-6) sprigs of rosemary

(2-6) whole cloves of garlic

(3) Tbsp Olive Oil

(2-3) tsp Ground Black Pepper

(2) tsp Kosher Salt

(2) tsp dried rosemary (or fresh if you want

large Dutch/French oven capable of being in a 450 degree oven (I use use the 6.5 qt Costco Le Creuset knock-off)

meat thermometer

enough aluminum foil to cover the chicken

 

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

2. rub around a tsp of olive oil all over the inside the oven pot with a paper towel

3. empty chicken cavity of its insides, wash inside and out and then dry with paper towels.  Once it’s dry put chicken into oven pot

4. put 1-2 tsp of pepper and 1 tsp of salt into cavity of chicken.

5. put 4 springs of fresh rosemary and the garlic into chicken cavity

5. OPTIONAL: stuff a few springs of fresh rosemary between the chicken breast and its skin.

6. rub bird with remaining olive oil.

7. Sprinkle the rest of salt and pepper onto the bird.

8. sprinkle dried (or fresh rosemary) onto the bird

9. Put on the middle rack of the oven with a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh. Do not cover.

10. Cook until internal temperature has reached 180 degrees, it should take around an hour to get to that temperature.   (Just to be on the safe side I usually cook my chicken until 183 degrees).

11. Once it is cooked, remove it from the oven and put a piece of aluminum foil over the bird.  Let it cool for ten minutes and then transfer to another plate or board to serve.

Enjoy with potatoes and steamed vegetables, or if someone at the table has been very good: biscuits.

NH Tip: Citrus On Hand

Since moving to the East Coast we have had a few issues with stocking fresh citrus.  A few of my favorite dishes call for one lime or lemon but they go bad ridiculously fast here. I usually have to use them within 48 hours of purchase or risk having an leathery textured fruit.  Since I only go to the store once or twice a week this can present a problem, but I have found a way to fix it…juicing.   Kudra told me about this years ago but it wasn’t until we got here that I did it regularly. She also likes to freeze her homemade pesto and use small cubes of lemon juice in her iced tea.

If you have a problem with keeping fresh citrus and want to save a few pennies do this:

Buy a bag of limes and or lemons (I get mine from Costco and its like $6 for over two dozen limes, much better than the $.69 ea I pay at the store)

Zest the citrus and seal it into a freezer bag-be sure to get as much air out as possible.

Juice the citrus and pour into ice cube trays.  Be sure to measure how much of your lime or lemon goes into a cube because a lot of recipes call for the juice of one lime or lemon, not a volume measurement.

Freeze the bag and the trays.

Once the juice cubes are frozen put them into a freezer safe zip lock baggy.  Please remember label the outside of the bag, it my be hard to tell them apart once they are in identical baggies.  You could also put them in different ice cube trays.  For example I use the large 1x1x1 tray for the lemons and my Tiki tray for the limes if I am juicing them around the same time.

Juicing limes

Addition

It’s always bad when WordPress logs you out due to nonuse, I get it WP- it’s been a while.

I have been keeping busy with the new house, it seems as though the decorating and organizing will never end.  We are also preparing the yard for our first fall because now we live in a place where seasons actually mean something.  We have also been trying to keep up in the midst of birthday season.  In just our little area here we have 8 birthdays from mid August to the first days of October.  Luckily people don’t mind sharing a celebration, but still.  And the other thing we have been keeping ourselves busty with is the new addition to our family, Hitchcock or as well usually call him Hitch.

Hitch

Photo by John

I have always had a thing for black cats.   My first real pet was a black cat named Sheba, I think part of my attitude in life came from her.

shebaIt was only as I got older that I found out what a bad rep black cats have.  I thought they were always beautiful and refined looking but black cats are the least likely to get adopted of their more colorful litter and kennel mates.  They don’t stand out as much in dark cages and of course there are the superstitions.  When we got Bailey from my mother’s house there were four kittens running around: three brown tabbies and one black cat.  I had preferred the black cat but it ran away from me.  Bailey looked me right in the eye and didn’t run away, I figured he liked me and we took him home.  Since then I have mentioned on more than one occasion that when the time came I would want to adopt a black cat because I knew we could give it a good home.  It wasn’t until we moved here and Bailey was an only pet for the first time in his life that we had an option to.

We debated on getting another cat for a while, Bailey was so sweet and affectionate with us now and we didn’t want to jeopardize his attitude by bringing in someone new.  But then he started to get a little weird.  He would cry for us if we left the room, he would wail when John went to work, he had to sleep between us in our bed like a darn chaperone, and then the days I was out for hours at a time he would seem morose for the rest of the day.    We figured it was time for him to have a buddy to play with.  We went on and off this wagon several times.  A few weeks ago when we were on the off wagon I went by the grocery store and by chance decided to look at the adoption board that was propped up in front of the next door pet store.  The cats are from a rescue organization at this store, like the one I used to volunteer with.  I had poked my head in in once or twice to visit with the cats, but I had yet to see a black kitten or cat.   I looked on the board that day and saw they had a black five moth old male kitten.  I bit the bullet an went in to see him.

By chance one of the volunteers was there cleaning the cages and we talked for almost a half hour.  She let me hold him and pet him, he made eye contact with me too and nuzzled my chin.   When I told her about my love of black cats, my volunteer work, and that I am at home most of the time she encouraged me to fill out an application.  Then she saw the black cat tattoo on my ankle she made a phone call to the origination’s leader on my behalf.  She too was a big black cat fan.  I called John and told him I had filled out an application and sent a picture, it turns out he was playing it cool but he said if I wanted to get him I could.  Turns out he was really excited about getting a new kitten.  Several hours later after the Rescue had called Bailey’s vet to make sure he was in good health and up to date on shots. I got a phone call and I had an interview with the Rescue Leader, ten minutes in she said we could adopt him if we wanted.  We definitely wanted to.  We picked him up the next afternoon and have been enjoying his personality and energy ever since.

So has Bailey.

Bailey and HitchAs for the name, well that was tricky for me.  I am bad with names, seriously I rename my characters constantly and I have always been jealous of the brilliance people have in naming their pets.  We had a list of various names, I wanted to give him a literary name or after a famous author (Neil, Harlan, Stoker),  then when went towards the more traditional black cat names like Midnight or Shadow.  He seriously was like a little black shadow running around the house and hiding in various, unexpected spots.

Hitch on the stairsWe even toyed with Moonshine for a while because well he is Southern and nontaxable, but it was too long of a name to call him with.  Guinness was on the list too, but if we named him that we would be obligated to name our next cat Whiskey. For a day he was called Binx after the cat in Hocus Pocus, but I didn’t like naming him after a cursed creature-black cats have it rough enough.  Hitchcock had been on the list throughout and I liked calling him Hitch, but I didn’t want to name him that just because I liked the director I wanted his name to reflect him.  Poor Hitch was referred to as “Kitten” and “Little One” (because Bailey will always be “Baby”) for his first four days here.  When I found his favorite new spot was in shower of the guest bathroom, behind the shower curtain and he loved darting out of the dark hallways to surprise us I figured he had earned the name.  He cemented the naming by dunking his head in my thankfully cold cup of tea, how British of him.

We are enjoying him in our lives and we are all slowly adjusting to the new pace of the household, which is much more lively now.

Hitch in the window

 

 

Green Bean Recipe

I have a confession to make, up until a few weeks ago I was not what you would call a Green Bean enthusiast.  I avoided the Green Bean Casserole at family holidays, I passed on the meals in restaurants that listed it as a side, I walked by them at the supermarket… but now I have converted to a Green Bean Lover.

We have been going to a local farmer’s market for the last few weeks and every week we are picking up a new item we don’t usually eat.  The first week was Green Beans and now we get them every time we go!  Below is a recipe that helped me take the leap.

Green Beans

Ingredients:

1 lb Fresh Green Beans

2 chopped up green onions

2-4 Cloves of Garlic (depending on how much love garlic)

1/2 of aGreen Bell Pepper (chopped)

1 Tbsp Olive Oil

1 Tbsp Butter (I prefer salted)

1 cup low sodium Chicken Broth

1/2-1 tsp salt (Kosher is best)

1-2 tsp Ground Black Pepper

 

1. Snap stems off of green beans (or cut if you prefer)

2. Over a low medium heat, warm the butter and olive oil in a skillet pan.

3.  Add Garlic & Onion, cook and stir for one minute

4. Add the Green Beans to pan and cook and stir until green beans become bright green (should be a minute or so).

5.  Add the chicken broth, green bell pepper, salt, and black pepper.

6. Turn the heat down to low, leave the lid cracked so steam can escape.  Cook for 20-30 minutes or until liquid evaporates.  The beans should still be a little crisp.

ENJOY!

NH Tip for the Cat Owners

We all know that all too familiar sound or God forbid the feel of cat litter on the floor.  You can get one of those rugs that they have at pet stores or even at Target, but those things can run you $20+ and they usually are not 100% effective.   I found that getting a small roll of grip shelf liner ($4.99 role is enough for two) to put underneath the cat box works just as well and is easily disposal if a real mess occurs.  The little holes keep most of the litter from escaping, the cat usually wipes off the extra litter on it, and you can just lift it up and sweep underneath to clean up.

cat mat

“Feed Me!”

After a couple of months of hiatus my husband has started making bread again!  There have been a few dishes that I have made since the move that has filled the house with smells that remind us of “home”, but none could compare to the smell of baking bread.  I love it when he makes bread; it makes the house smell good, he enjoys it, and it saves me from buying the bread with the nasty preservatives.  He usually makes whole wheat bread but now he would like to expand his horizons.

A few weeks ago hef asked if I would mind if he did a sourdough starter.  Sure! I said-who doesn’t like more bread?  And sourdough…mmm…good.  He said it would take a while.  Huh?  He explained that it takes like a week to get a sourdough starter going and you have to feed it.  Feed it?  Like Feed Me, Seymour!  Great, I already have Bailey that nibbles on my fingers and I suspect would be one of those cats that eats its owner if I was a heavier sleeper.

I said yes, but explained that he was responsible for feeding it and cleaning up after it. And if it needed a walk a one am in the freezing rain he would have to do it. =)

So here is our little sourdough starter in between meals.  I asked him if we could name it, he said if it made it to Sunday-maybe.

sourdough