Monday, November 30, 2015

How'd I Do With My Autumn To-Do List?

I know that technically winter doesn't start until December 21st, but I always feel like winter begins December 1st, so I'm ending this here.

Although my summer to-do list was such a great motivator, I was not as successful with my autumn list.  I blame this on teaching more school in the fall, plus Cowboy being gone on a lot of work-related trips.  When he's gone a week at a time, I tend to just put my head down and doggedly survive each day until he returns.  And between the beginning of September and now, he's been gone Five Weeks, though not all at once, thank the Lord.  I did get some movies watched in the evenings while he was gone, so those goals got met, but the reading, not so much.  Here are my results:

~ Transfer my languishing lavender plants to the ground.  Fail.  They're stuck in their pots until spring again.  Totally ran out of time because Cowboy wasn't around so often.

~ Read 3 books about Robin Hood.  Fail.  I tried reading Dauntless by Dina L. Sleiman, but it was only tangentially related to Robin Hood, in that he got mentioned a couple times, and after a hundred pages I realized I didn't actually care about any of the characters, so I took it back to the library.  I have pretty well failed my quest to read 6 Robin Hood books in one year, though I did watch 4 movies about him.

~ Read 3 other books from my TBR shelves.  Fail.  I only read Luther and Katharina by Jody Hedlund.  I did re-read a couple of books, but didn't finish any new ones.

~ Read 3 other books from the library.  Fail.  Didn't even read one.  Sniffle.  This was not a good autumn for books.

~ Watch the Ioan Gruffudd version of Great Expectations.  Fail.

~ Watch 5 other movies from my TBW shelves.  Check!  I watched Dear Heart (1964), Zorro (1974), The Bourne Identity (1988), Westward the Women (1951), and Gunless (2010).

Watch the Patrick Stewart version of North & South.  Fail.  I have it on hold at the library, but it has yet to arrive.

~ Finish rewriting my current WIP, "The Rose-Covered Cabin," and begin editing it.  Check!  In fact, I've nearly finished editing it, and will be submitting it soon.

~ Make mushroom soup from the recipe in An Unexpected Cookbook.  Check!  It was delicious.  Here it is, compared with the picture in the book:

~ Make Mr. Thornton Cupcakes.  Fail. 

~ Make one more trip to the local ice cream spot before it closes for the winter.  Fail.  Oh well, I'm sure we'll be back many times next year.

~ Take my kids to the state park forest.  Check!  In fact, we got there twice.

~ Make leaf crafts using all the leaves we collected last year and never used.  Sort-of check.  We tried to decorate candle holders using our pressed leaves from last year and Mod Podge, but the pressed leaves held their shape too well!  So we ended up running out into our back yard and collecting new leaves for that project, which turned out rather well:

(They have battery-operated tea lights in them, so totally kid-safe!)

~ Finish sewing my autumnal layered skirt.  Check!  And here it is:

~ Make jumpers for my daughters from the fabric they've chosen.  Check!  I think that's the first thing on this list I finished.

So a few of these are going on my Winter To-Do List, which I will draw up shortly.  I did better at finishing projects this fall than at reading books, I guess.  Not all bad!  Just a little unusual, for me.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Guest Soundtrack Post Up: "The Monuments Men" (2014)

This week, I've posted about the music from the lovely WWII movie The Monuments Men (2014).  You can read about it here on J & J Productions.

I really wish I had seen this in the theaters.  But at least I can watch my DVD copy over and over!  I reviewed the movie here a while back, if you'd like to see what I thought of it as well.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

The Awesome Food Award

Heidi tagged me with this here back in October, and Miss March tagged me with it here this week, so I guess I ought to go ahead and do this tag at last, huh?  I'm going to answer both sets of their questions in one post here :-)  Thank you, ladies!  I'm sorry it's taken me a while to answer.

The Rules: 

1. Thank the person who nominated you, as well as link back to their blog.
2. Answer the 10 questions provided.
3. Come up with 10 more questions that relate to food.
4. Nominate at least 5 people.
5. Let those people know they've been nominated.

Heidi's Questions:

1. Your thoughts on cheese? 

I am a firm fan of cheese.  I really miss living in Wisconsin, where we were surrounded by delicious, inexpensive cheese.  Here, we have access to lots of cheese at our grocery store, but much of it is pretty spendy.  What really cracks me up is that in the "imported cheeses" section, they sell Carr Valley Cheese from Wisconsin -- we used to live about half an hour from one of their factories, and could buy cheese directly from there, but now we have to pay twice as much because it's "imported."

2. Favorite pizza? 

Pepperoni Lover's from Pizza Hut.  Alas, now that I no longer have a gall bladder, my system has trouble handling that much awesomeness, so I can only eat one slice.  But at least I can still eat it!

3. Have you always had a “traditional” dinner (i.e. turkey and all the fixings) on Thanksgiving?

Usually.  This year and last year, we've been at Colonial Williamsburg, but we had turkey and everything at a restaurant here.  The two years prior, we had Thanksgiving with a bunch of Cowboy's relatives.  When we lived in Connecticut, it was just our family, but we still did turkey and stuffing and cranberries and rolls and pie, and usually Green Bean Casserole.

In Wisconsin, we had all sorts of Cowboy's relatives to gather with, and I often got TWO turkey dinners because I worked 3rd shift at Walmart, so we'd get up early and go eat with Cowboy's relatives, then I'd go to work and they'd have a turkey dinner provided for us in our break room.  Thanksgiving Night was always Blitz Night at Walmart because we'd be rolling out all the stuff for Black Friday and getting the store as perfect-looking as possible so that people could trash it the next morning.  Everyone had to work Blitz Night, except one year I asked off for that week waaaaaaaaaay back in like April when the supervisors didn't notice that was Thanksgiving week and approved it, and then Cowboy and I went to Myrtle Beach, SC, with my parents and my grandma.  That was quite fun!  I think that year we might have had seafood instead of turkey, to be honest.

Before that, I went to friends' houses during college for Thanksgiving break because I went to college in Minnesota, and it wasn't practical to go all the way home to North Carolina for a 4-day weekend.  So I went to several different places over those years, but we always had that big turkey dinner thing going on.

Before college, we often spent Thanksgiving with some dear friends of ours who attend the church where my dad is pastor.  They would just add us into the mix of their family.  I have good memories of playing with some of the younger kids to keep them out of the way while the ladies upstairs finished up the feast, and then the men would all come in from deer hunting and if one of them had bagged a deer already there would be a lot of excitement.

Before North Carolina, we lived in Michigan, and we usually spent Thanksgiving by ourselves, other than going to church.  Mom would make a big spread, though.  I especially looked forward to the cranberry relish and crescent rolls, and especially the pumpkin pie :-9

4. Favorite Thanksgiving dish to prepare? 

Pumpkin pie!  It's so easy, so fun to see it all blend and cream together, and... pumpkin is my favorite kind of pie!

(From our trip to Williamsburg last year)

5. Your favorite breakfast? 

Hot, buttered cranberry English muffins.  I only get those around Christmas-time, though.  Otherwise, hot, buttered toast :-9

6. Favorite kind of bread (i.e. whole wheat, French, sourdough, cinnamon-raisin, etc.)

Our grocery store sells "Marco Polo" bread that is dusted with rice flour -- it's very crusty outside, and then oh-so-soft inside.


Aside from that, I'm perilously fond of pumpernickel.

7. Favorite vegetable? 

Spinach.  I especially love to cook up some fresh spinach in just a smidgen of olive oil with a generous sprinkling of garlic salt.

8. Do you like sweet or sour? 

Both!  Sweet more than sour, though.

9. Most unusual/unexpected ethnic dish you’ve ever had? 

When I visited Ukraine many years ago, I had beef tongue in smetana, which is a kind of ultra-yummy sour cream.  It was wonderful!  The tongue was firm, yet easy to chew, and I fell in love with smetana for sure.  From then on out, I tried to get as many dishes with smetana as I could whenever we ate out during that trip.

Also on that trip, I ate Kasha, which is boiled buckwheat, and which I hated.  And I had a hot dog with shredded carrots on it, which was okay.  And many other interesting foods.  Vereniki, which is dumpling-like pockets filled with cheese or fruit or meat or veggies.  Borshch, of course -- and borshch with smetana is delicious!  I think the oddest thing I had was mushroom-flavored potato chips.

10. Hamburgers or hotdogs?

It is hard to beat a really good burger, though I do enjoy hot dogs too, especially grilled.  But a good, juicy burger with cheese, ketchup, mayo, pickles, lettuce, slaw, and tomatoes -- I'd have a hard time finding reasons to resist that.


Miss March's questions:

1. Which do you prefer, salad or bread? 

Bread :-9

2. As a child, were you a picky eater or did you like to try new things? 

Kind of both?  I would try new things if they looked like I would like them, I think.

3. What was one meal you abhorred as a kid? 

Porcupine Meatballs.  Blech!  I still don't like them.  They're meatballs with rice in them, and the rice gets weirdly crunchy when they're baked.

4. Do you prefer cooking or baking? 

Baking.  I especially love to bake cookies!


5. Are you the sort of person who always has your meals planned out, or do you tend to toss things together at the last minute? (Or if you don't have your own home yet, how do you imagine you would be?) 

Well, usually Cowboy makes the shopping list.  He picks out a week's-worth of recipes based on what's in season and if anyone's had a request, and so on.  He selects tried-and-true recipes for me to make during the week, and new ones for him to try on the weekend.  Then we buy all the ingredients and we're set for the week.  We've been doing things that way since we were first married because our first year, I was working and he was still in college, so he'd be done with classes a couple hours before I was done with work, and he'd get the shopping list ready so I could just pick him up and we'd head to the store.

6. What is one of the worst (or most hilarious) food-making blunders you've ever made? 

Well, I memorably put baking soda instead of baking powder in a batch of cornbread the first time I ever made it, back when I was a teen.  Even our dog wouldn't eat it.

7. Would you rather have steak or ice cream (or both together, like Pollyanna)?

Um, depends on the flavor of ice cream and how the steak was cooked.  If it was my dad grilling the steak, I'd go with steak.  If it was chocolate-chocolate chunk ice cream from Kilwin's, which I haven't had in many years, then I'd go with ice cream.

8. What is your favorite kind of cake? 

Chocolate.  The more chocolatey, the better!

9. Do you eat combinations of food that other people think strange? (For example: my little brother once dipped his cookie in ketchup. Yeah, that was a bit over the top...yours definitely doesn't have to be that crazy. ;)) 

I really like to dip sausages in chocolate syrup.  Don't do it anymore because I don't want my kids to demand chocolate syrup every time we have sausage, but I do love that flavor combo.

10. What is your favorite meal of the day?

Hmm.  Probably supper, because that's when Cowboy is home.


My Ten Questions:

1.  Would you like condensed milk or honey on your bread?  (Or both, but never mind the bread, like Pooh?)
2.  What do you like putting on oatmeal?
3.  Are there any foods you used to dislike, but now like?
4.  Are there any foods you used to like, but now dislike?
5.  Do you have certain foods you only eat around Christmastime?
6.  Do you have any food allergies/intolerances?
7.  What is your favorite restaurant?
8.  Who is the best cook in your family?
9.  Do you put anything interesting in hot chocolate?  (I like chili powder in mine, for instance.)
10.  Do you have a favorite cookbook?

I nominate:

Play if you want to!

Friday, November 20, 2015

Three Pinterest Story Boards

BLAST IT!  I had this post all written up yesterday, and then I never actually hit "publish" for some unfathomable reason.  So here, one day late, is my post for Elisabeth Grace Foley's Pinterest Storyboard Party!  Today I'll be sharing three boards I've made, one for each novel or story I've got going right now.  Be sure to check out the party for Elisabeth's story boards, and links to other people's too.  (EDIT:  She's leaving the link-up open for a whole week now, so if you want to participate too, you still can!)

At first, when I saw people making inspiration boards for their WIPs on Pinterest, I was kind of amused in an eyebrow-cocked way.  Was this really helpful?  Was it a good way to procrastinate?  Did it really provide inspiration?  I admit I was skeptical. 

Then I decided to create this board for my short story "The Rose-Covered Cabin" when I shared the news that I'll be submitting it to the Five Magic Spindles contest.  I'd actually pinned a bunch of stuff to a secret board that was helpful for my story -- things about the so-called "walking wheel" or "great wheel" spinning wheels and so on.  So I tossed that all onto a new board, and added shots of the various actors I'd "cast" in the story.  And guess what?  It was fun!

But I still didn't start making any new boards for new writing projects, not until Elisabeth announced this party.  Then I was like, "Well, I shared the board for RCC already... I should make one for my new story!"  So I did.  I hereby unveil my board for Patchwork Autumn, a novel that grew in my head over the course of little more than a week and which I've only just started writing.  But I'm already loving how it mixes the Appalachian mountains with the Wild West -- it's sweet and tangy and salty and smooth all at once.

And then the other day, I was having so much fun adding to the PA album that I just went ahead and created a board for my last novel, Fickle Creek, because I could.  That's my first-ever YA novel, and my first western in a long while -- I started writing it way back in 2012, and am in the slow process of revising it now.

So now you've seen all three of my "inspiration boards."  I do add to/tweak them from time to time.  But I don't use them for inspiration so much as for gathering and storing links and information, and for looking back at fondly after I've finished a story and saying, "Oh, yes, wasn't that fun?"

I'm pretty bummed I forgot to post this yesterday.  I blame it on baking an apple pie.  Does things to one's brain, pie-baking does.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

"Anastasia" Soundtrack Guest Post

Good morning!  My review of the Anastasia (1997) soundtrack is now up over at J and J Productions.  Listening to this album always takes me back to my college years, especially winter in Minnesota with lots of wonderful snow outside and lots of friends inside.  Happy times!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

My Ten Favorite Maureen O'Hara Movies

To honor Maureen O'Hara after her recent passing, I'm sharing a list of my ten favorite films that she starred in.  Comedies, westerns, swashbucklers, dramas -- she could handle them all.

1.  The Parent Trap (1961)

Twin sisters (Hayley Mills as both) with divorced parents (Maureen O'Hara and Brian Kieth) scheme to bring their parents back together.  It's been one of my favorite movies since I was a teen.

2.  The Rare Breed (1966)

A British widow (Maureen O'Hara) and her daughter (Juliet Mills) accompany the prize bull they've sold on its way to its new owner (Brian Keith) with the help of a determined cowhand (James Stewart).  I've seen this so often, the characters all feel like dear old friends.

3.  The Black Swan (1942)

Captain Jamie Waring (Tyrone Power) renounces piracy, falls in love with a fiery noblewoman (Maureen O'Hara), and dashes about having swashbuckling adventures.  A perfectly delightful movie.

4.  Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation (1962)

Roger Hobbs (James Stewart) and his wife Peggy (Maureen O'Hara) vacation with their family in a decidedly eccentric house, encountering many gently comic adventures. This is one of those movies I quote all the time in my head.

5.  The Quiet Man (1952)

An American ex-prizefighter (John Wayne) moves to Ireland and marries a feisty native (Maureen O'Hara) who believes he is a coward and refuses to live with him as man and wife until he proves her wrong.  A dramatic and beautiful movie.

6.  Miracle on 34th Street (1947)

A skeptical little girl (Natalie Wood) and her busy single mother (Maureen O'Hara) meet a man named Kris Kringle (Edmund Gwenn) who tries to convince them he's the real Santa Claus.  Heartwarming.

7.  McLintock! (1963)

A rich rancher (John Wayne) battles his estranged wife (Maureen O'Hara), daughter, land-grabbing bad guys, and various other adversaries.  Almost a western version of The Taming of the Shrew.

8.  The Wings of Eagles (1957)

The true story of a Navy pilot (John Wayne) who is paralyzed after an accident, and regains the ability to move with the help of his best friend (Dan Dailey) and wife (Maureen O'Hara).  Such an inspiring movie!

9.  Spencer's Mountain (1963)

A hardworking man (Henry Fonda) has to decide if he should build his wife (Maureen O'Hara) the home he's promised her for years or send his son (James MacArthur) to college.  Based on the novel by Earl Hamner, Jr. that also inspired the TV show The Waltons a few years later.

10.  Big Jake (1971)

A rich rancher (John Wayne) returns to his home after years of roaming when his estranged wife (Maureen O'Hara) telegraphs him that their grandson (Ethan Wayne) has been kidnapped.  The more modern setting (1909, with cars and motorcycles) saddens me in many ways, but it's a solid story and has lots of familiar faces.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

I'll Be Joining the Pinterest Storyboard Party -- Will You?

Elisabeth Grace Foley has announced on her blog, The Second Sentence, that she is going to hold a Pinterest Storyboard Party next Thursday, November 19.  One week from today!  I'll for sure be sharing my board for "The Rose-Covered Cottage," the story I'm submitting to the Five Magic Spindles contest.  It's changed a little since I previously shared it, which I'll talk about next week.

I might also share the board I'm making for a story/novella/novel that has landed in my brain and gelled over the last couple of weeks.  I know I've made a poor showing in NaNoWriMo this year -- I had great intentions of writing at least 25,000 words and doing a half-Nano with a novel I've had in my head for two years, Son of a Gunfighter.  But then I frittered away my evenings at my parents' house by watching episodes of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. with my mom, got ambushed by this new story idea, and have had to spend my writing time doing edits on "The Rose-Covered Cabin" since it has an actual deadline.  Sorry, Nano!  Next year.

Anyway, again, details on the Pinterest Story Party are here.  If you're a writer and make storyboards on Pinterest, I hope you join the fun!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

"The Untouchables" Soundtrack Guest Post

I've got another post up here today on James the Movie Reviewer's blog.  This time, I'm spotlighting Ennio Morricone's unbeatable soundtrack for The Untouchables (1987).  I remember getting this soundtrack as a gift while in college and listening to it allllllll the time while studying.  And yet, I'm not tired of it like I am of many other albums I over-repeated back then.  Good, good stuff.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The Sweater Weather Tag

Kara at Flowers of Quiet Happiness has tagged me with this charming, seasonal tag :-)  Thanks, Kara!  Because this is linked directly to the season which we happen to be in right now, I'm going to do it before all the other tags that are patiently awaiting my attention.

Favorite candle scent?

I got this candle once called "Dragon's Blood" that was kind of a blend of citrus and musk and something spicy -- oh, I loved that candle.

Coffee, tea, or hot chocolate?

I like all three, actually.  I drink coffee every morning, and sometimes in the afternoon too.  I drink hot chocolate on snowy days or in the evening when I'm writing.  And I drink tea when I'm writing or when I have a sore throat.

What's the best fall memory you have?

When I was ten or eleven, we went to visit some friends who lived on top of a hill, and we spent ages rolling down the hill.  I got so many leaves stuck in my long, long hair that the matriarch of that family took a photo of it and then gave me a copy when she got them printed.  I was convinced I still had that photo, but I looked all through my photo albums just now, and it's not there, so my parents must have it.

The countryside near where my parents live in North Carolina, as it looked last week.

Best fragrance for fall?

Burning leaves.

Favorite Thanksgiving food? 

Pumpkin pie!  Happens to be my favorite pie flavor.

Most-worn sweater?

I don't like sweaters.  Blech, too hot.  Also, often itchy.  I can't stand to be hot, and I hate being itchy.  However, I do have one loose, cool, non-itchy sweater that I bought for Christmas last year that is very comfy -- it's cream-colored and very simple, and I like to wear it in the winter to church now and then.

Football games or jumping in leaf piles?

I have zero interest in football.  Leaf piles for the win!

The woods not far from here last autumn.

Skinny jeans or leggings?

I've never worn either, but my girls wear leggings a lot.

Combat boots or Uggs?

Combat boots, though I still don't have a pair.  What's wrong with me?

Is pumpkin spice worth the hype?

Few things in this world are worth the hype.  I do like pumpkin spice-flavored things now and then, though.

Favorite fall TV show?

The Granada Television version of Sherlock Holmes, starring Jeremy Brett.  There's something deliciously autumnal about it.

(Jeremy Brett as Sherlock Holmes)

What do you want to be for Halloween?

I went as the Armie Hammer version of Illya Kuryakin from The Man from Uncle, complete with cute hat, black turtleneck, and a bright blue sport coat.  I didn't get any good pictures, so here's one of me in the hat and my Illya t-shirt.

Me at my parents' house

Hats or scarves?

Hats!  I am exceedingly fond of hats.  I own lots of them.  But I like scarves too.

What's your #1 favorite thing about fall?

How creative I get as the weather cools off.  I write much more in fall than in summer, and craft more as well.

I'm not going to tag anyone in particular, so if you feel like joining, go for it!  If you don't, that's fine too :-)