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Thursday, July 19, 2018

Thursday Recipe - German Potato Salad

Yes, I'm still on hiatus, but as I find recipes I've overlooked, I'll add them.

Thought I'd posted this one. It's a family favorite.

Hot potatoes, crisp bacon, sweet onions, all wrapped in a creamy, tangy vinegar sauce. How can you possibly pass it up? I get to, because I haven't found a good potato substitute and me and potatoes are no longer friends.


German Potato Salad

4 medium potatoes, sliced in half lengthwise
4 slices bacon
1 medium onion, chopped
1 T. flour
1 T. sugar
1 t. salt
1/4 t. celery seed
1/4 t. ground black pepper
1/2 c. water
1/4 c. vinegar

Put potatoes in a saucepan with enough water to cover. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, simmer for 20-25 minutes, until barely done.

Cook bacon in a large frying pan until well-done and crispy. Remove bacon and set aside.

Cook onion in bacon grease until tender. Stir in flour, sugar, salt, celery seed, and pepper. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture gets all bubbly. Stir in water and vinegar. Heat to boiling, stirring constantly. Boil and stir for one minute. Remove from heat.

Crumble bacon into sauce, then slice warm potatoes and add to sauce. Put back on low heat. Stir gently just until potatoes are coated and everything turns into a nice, starchy mess.

Serve hot.

Gluten-Free version:
Follow all directions until you come to adding the flour.
Skip the flour. Stir 1 T. cornstarch into the water. Stir into the onion and spice mixture with the vinegar. Cook and stir until it thickens and comes to a boil.
Continue with the rest of the recipe.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Hiatus, Again

My apologies to the few regular readers of this blog. Life is overwhelming right now. I need to pare down the things I commit to, and unfortunately, this blog is not a priority right now. It takes time and effort to write posts, even weekly ones, and I think I've about run out of my go-to recipes to post.

I might pick it back up in a couple of months. And maybe not.

I'm thinking of putting the recipes together in a cookbook. Anyone interested in a paper copy? Please comment. Ebooks are easy to throw together so I'll probably do those, but paper ones mean I need to go through a cookbook publisher to get the spiral binding and coated paper which means I have to order a whole pile to get a decent per-book price which means boxes stacked in my garage which is not necessarily a good thing at this point. And that was a very long sentence.

So, please comment if you want a paper cookbook. Please comment if you want me to keep posting stuff. Please comment if you read this blog regularly.

Have a great day!

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Thursday Recipe - Hibiscus Punch Take 2

Remember that hibiscus syrup recipe I posted a few weeks ago? I made punch out of it the other night. It was delicious - light, cool, refreshing, and a lovely shade of red. Try this instead of that kidney-stain punch mix next time you want a fun party drink.

Look for dried hibiscus flowers online or at a local Latino grocery store. They make a really fun syrup with a sweet floral flavor. If you want to make Hawaiian punch that tastes like the name brand, try the recipe with the Hibiscus Syrup Take 2. Or try this recipe. It's a lemon/lime/orange-ade with mint and hibiscus.

And here is another version of the punch.

Hibiscus Punch Take 2

2/3 c. hibiscus syrup (the kind made with ginger and lemon)
1 quart ice
1 quart cold water
2 cans lemon-lime soda

Mix everything. Serve immediately.

Makes about 3 quarts.

Monday, July 2, 2018

Writer's Block vs. Burnout

"Writers write! If you aren't writing, you must not be a real writer."

"The only cure for writer's block is butt-in-chair, hands-on-keyboard."

I understand the sentiment behind these statements. I really do. If you want writing to be your job, you have to treat it as a job. If you sit around waiting for inspiration to hit, you're going to be doing a lot of sitting and not much writing.

Writing is a creative pursuit, though. If your job is manning a cash register, it doesn't matter if you are inspired or not. If your job is to create worlds and characters and adventures, you can try to force it but that usually results in crap on the page that not even heavy editing can fix. Getting in the habit of channeling your inner muse is great advice. You can train yourself to be more receptive, to be in the habit of putting words down. That makes for a much more productive writer.

But sometimes it just isn't working.

If it's writer's block, that usually tells me that something is wrong with the story. Or I need to dig deeper into the characters. Or I need to re-read things. Or move to another project. Maybe it needs abandoned completely. But the desire to write is still there. It's just that particular story that isn't working for whatever reason.

Burnout is a totally different ball game.

If I push too hard for too long, if problems and crises suck all my energy, if stress and depression eat up everything I have and still want more, I have nothing left for writing.

Burnout means I need to curl up on the couch and nurse my inner muse. I need to feed it books and movies and tv shows. I need to give myself permission to just relax. I need to take a break. When the well is empty, you can't keep pulling up water. You need to give that well a chance to recover and fill up to overflowing again.

Sometimes I make the mistake of not giving myself enough time. A few days might work some times, but when the burnout is severe, it may be months or even years before I have enough to give those projects again.

I've put out very few new things the last few years. I've got some short stories out there, but the novels are taking too much focus and more creative juice than I've got. But I'm slowly regaining that desire to spin tales, to tell stories, to create new worlds and let my imagination loose.

And I still consider myself a REAL writer.

Please keep your memes and platitudes. If they inspire you and make you a better, more productive writer, good for you! But don't push them onto me. Don't judge me for my output or lack thereof. My journey is different from yours.

And at the end of the day, all that matters is that we're kind to each other and we support each other and that we celebrate the triumphs no matter how small. Some days, we cheer for finishing a novel. Others, we cheer because we got out of bed. Each day, we do the best we can and let go of the guilt if we don't do what we thought we should.

Plan for the future, learn from the past, but live in the present. Be kind to yourself and your muse.

And when the words start flowing again, chase that muse and write that story.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Thursday Recipe - GF Chicken Pot Pie Gravy

So I wanted chicken pot pie, but I didn't want to bother with the crust. Or with turning the oven on. I ended up throwing everything in my crockpot. Delicious, easy, and bonus, no heat from the oven. I tossed rice in the rice cooker to go under it but you could do mashed potatoes or biscuits or whatever you want.

GF Chicken Pot Pie Gravy

1/2 onion, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and diced
2 chicken breasts, about 1-2 lbs, cut in bite-size chunks
1 c. sliced mushrooms, OPTIONAL
1 T. bouillon OR 1 cube
1 t. dried parsley
1/2 t. garlic powder
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. black pepper
2 c. hot water
3 T. cornstarch
1/2 c. cold water
1 c. frozen peas

Dump the onion, carrot, chicken, and mushrooms in a medium crockpot, 1/5-2 quart size should be fine. Sprinkle parsley, garlic, salt, and pepper over the top. Pour the 2 c. hot water on top. Cook on low for 3-4 hours.

1 hour before serving, stir cornstarch into 1/2 c. cold water. Pour into chicken gravy. Stir well. Add peas. Cover and cook for another 45-60 minutes, until thick and hot. Add more salt and pepper to taste.

Serve over rice, mashed potatoes, biscuits, toast, quinoa, or whatever you like.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Author Interview - C H Lindsay

Please give a big welcome to C H Lindsay (who also goes by Charlie Harmon)!

Charlie is a writer, poet, housewife, and mother, but not necessarily in that order.

While she hasn't worked at a regular job since her kids were born, she spent thirty years as an event planner, organizing and running science fiction, fantasy, and horror conventions. She also spent a decade acting in musicals. Now she prefers to stay at home with her family and write novels, short stories, and poetry. She runs a fleet of online text-based roleplaying simulations.

Mostly blind due to a degenerative eye disease, she collects print books for her library and audiobooks for herself.

She is a member of SFWA, HWA, SFPA, and LUW. She is a founding member of the Utah Chapter of the Horror Writers Association.

She lives in Utah with her "seeing-eye husband," youngest son, two of his friends, and two cats, who also consider themselves to be children.


twitter: @softcomfychair

Tell us about your writing - What genre do you prefer to write? What books, stories, other publications that you've written are your personal favorites? Anything new coming up? What I prefer and what I end up writing can be very different. lol I prefer fantasy, light or dark. But sometimes I write more horrific tales because that's where the story wants to go.

I have three stories coming out in anthologies this year.

"Looking for Love" is a short story about a single zombie female who doesn't have the best of luck. "Mottephobia" is a poem about killer moths. Both are in "The Hunger: A Collection of Utah Horror" from Twisted Tree Press. It came out in April.

"Cowchip Charlie and the Giant Brine Shrimp" is a tall tale about a short little man who is half horse and his adventure saving a Western town from a giant brine shrimp. It will be in "Weird Wasatch" coming out soon from Immortal Works.

Another story about Cowchip Charlie and the Tumbleweed Gang is in "Wandering Weeds: Tales of Rabid Vegetation" on Amazon.

'Sagittarius Rising" is about an artist who begins to paint her nightmares, and the dark path they lead to. It will come out in August in "A Year of the Monkeys" from the Infinite Monkeys Genre Writers.

My stories come from whatever idea strikes my fancy. Sometimes, I hear about an anthology, or a writing opportunity, and I get an idea. Sometimes, it's something I see or hear. So my writing tends to change based on what the story dictates.

I don't know if I have a favorite story. I like different stories for different reasons.

I'm working on two novels (when I'm not writing short stories or poetry) that I'm quite enjoying. Both are fantasy and both take the female protagonist on a journey of self-discovery. I'm quite pleased with the worlds and the characters. We'll see how they shape up as they go.

I've submitted a short story and a poem to two anthologies. I'm putting the finishing touches on another story I will submit to a third, and I have ideas brewing for two more short stories.

Oh, and I submitted a short story and two poems to a writing contest. We'll see how that goes.

What about you as a person? What do you do to relax? Favorite movies or tv shows? Hobbies?
In college, I got involved in the science fiction and fantasy community. I joined the club, the committee for an annual symposium, and the speculative fiction magazine. I decided I wanted to be a writer. I started writing short stories and poetry on a more regular basis. But then, I got married, had three kids, spent a decade acting in community theatre with my husband and later my kids. I continued to work on the writing symposium (LTUE). That, and raising kids, took up much of my free time. Writing came in spurts. I sold a story to an anthology edited by M. Shayne Bell. Sold him a poem for a magazine where he was the poetry editor. I sold a few other poems. Then, I got wrapped up in other things, and the writing slowed.

I have a degenerative eye disease that is causing me to slowly go blind. When I became too blind to act on stage, I got involved in a text-based online roleplaying game. That got me writing again. I sold two short stories to two anthologies,

Then, in 2016, I officially "retired" as a conrunner after 30 years. Suddenly, I had less stress and more time, and I started writing more regularly. I completed my first NaNo last year.

Writing is both hard work and fun. When I'm not writing, at least a little bit every day, I feel the need to DO something, to WRITE something. After two or three hours, I need to do something else. lol

Simming, the text-based roleplaying, is for fun. I get to write with other people and play in other people's worlds. I enjoy the camaraderie of the simming community.

I listen to TV, since I can't really watch it. Perry Mason is a favorite. The plots and characters still work and I find them relaxing. My husband and I collect old TV series. We try to get one a year for Christmas. Usually, they're series my husband and I loved when we were growing up. We've introduced our kids to Burns and Allen, M*A*S*H, The Andy Griffith Show, and many others.

I also love old radio shows like Danny Kaye, Burns and Allen, and Bob Hope. I'm now listening to the old Danny Kaye TV show that runs on cable.

There are several shows I follow on network TV. I'm drawn to good characters and good storytelling.

I listen to audiobooks. I have a large library of print books I've collected over the years. I still collect print books, but now I also get them on audio or ebook so I can listen to them. I love turning out all the lights at night and laying in bed with a good audiobook. I've recently listened to a lot of Anne McCaffrey (The Dragonriders of Pern series, The Tower and The Hive series), Shannon Hale, Mary Robinette-Kowal, David Farland (Runelords and The Golden Queen). I quite enjoyed the Sisters Grimm books by Michael Buckley.

I find listening to audiobooks to be very relaxing.

What gets your creative juices going? Do you write to a music, and do you want to share your playlist?

I often have something playing in the background when I write a first draft. What it is doesn't matter. I have mild ADD, so having something helps me focus.

However, when I'm editing, I need something really soft, without words, or silence. Gregorian chants work well.

I find that giving myself time to daydream, or just let my thoughts wander, helps with the creative juices. That's when I get ideas for where a story should go, or how to tweak a scene. If I'm not near my computer, I set myself a reminder for the next day. And then I write a list of things I need to do in the story or poem.

But the thing that works the best to get my juices flowing is to go over the last page or two, if it's a short story, or the last chapter or half chapter of a novel (I like to edit novels a chapter at a time, if I can). That gets me back in the story, it gets the ideas going, and it gets me ready to start editing the next section.

If I get stuck, I free write. I simply start typing and see where it goes.

"All writers must have cats, especially if they write fantasy or speculative fiction." Do you have a stand on this one? Any cute pictures of your kitty or other pet?
I have no stand on this. But I do have two cats. They have their humans well-trained. One of my cats knows to lay on my keyboard when she wants attention. She will also jump from the bed to my hand and then across to the desk and back just to get me to stop what I'm doing and pay her attention.

I will most likely grow into an old cat lady one day. :)

What organizations do you recommend for those wanting to become writers? Any advice you'd like to share about writing?
It depends on where you live. I live in Utah and highly recommend the League of Utah Writers.

If you're serious, look at the professional organizations. SFWA, HWA, SFPA, RWA, SCBWI. Connect to other writers. Go to writing conferences and conventions. Utah has a ton of them. Meet other writers, take workshops and classes to hone your craft. Learn.

I belong to five organizations. I also follow a number of people and groups that send out writing tips. I highly recommend David Farland's Writing Tips and Writing Excuses podcast.

Even if you live out in the bush somewhere, you can connect to writers online.

What writers inspired you to become an author?
So many... Primarily, Orson Scott Card, Tracy Hickman, Michael R. Collings (for his poetry), Anne McCaffrey, David Farland, Madeleine L'Engle, Patricia C. Wrede, and Jane Yolen.

Any special appearances or events coming up that you want to mention?
I'll be at Spring Into Books on June 2 at the Viridian Library in West Jordan, Utah. I'll also be at Fyrecon June 21-23 in Layton, Utah.

If you could travel to any time in history, when would you visit? Ooh... Good question. I would love to go to stratford-on-Avon around 1600. 

I would also love to visit ancient Central and South America long before the Spanish "discovered" it.

If you could have dinner with any of your characters, which ones would you choose? What food would you serve?
Mel, from the book I'm writing. We'd have pizza in the palace.

If you could travel anywhere, on earth or off, where would you go? Scotland, Machu Picchu, Teotihuacán, Tikal, Romania.

What color would you wear if you had only one choice?
Green. But I like to wear red when I'm at conventions because it makes me easier to spot.

Describe your dream writing spot.
A house with good lighting, thick carpet, a comfortable writing desk and chair for my computer, and a great view of woods out the back window.

Sounds perfect! Thanks for stopping by. Good luck with your writing. It sounds like you keep busy.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Thursday Recipe - Hibiscus Syrup, Take 2

I posted a recipe for hibiscus syrup a while back that used just dried flowers and mint leaves. This is another variation that makes an awesome Hawaiian punch.

Dried hibiscus flowers are available usually at Latino markets, at least that's where I've had the best luck finding them. Or you can order them online.

Give this a try. It makes wonderful punch. Or use it as a flavoring for frosting or pudding.

Hibiscus Syrup

1-2 c. dried hibiscus flowers
1/3 c. sliced fresh ginger
1 lemon, sliced
4 c. water
2 c. sugar

In a large saucepan, mix hibiscus, ginger, lemon, and water. Bring to a boil. Turn heat off, cover, and let sit for about an hour.

Strain liquid, discarding the solids. Pour liquid back into the saucepan.

Stir in the sugar. Turn the heat back on and bring to a low simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 1-2 hours until the syrup is reduced to about 2 c. of liquid.

Cool and store in the refrigerator. The syrup will keep for several months.

Hawaiian Punch

1 c. hibiscus syrup
1 quart pineapple juice
1 quart lemon-lime soda OR 1 quart lemonade

Mix all together. Add ice as desired. Serve chilled.