12/16/14

Driving Dumb-ass-ery

*slightly strong language alert*

As I was driving my kiddo to school today, I realized how many dumb-asses there were on the road.

I knew I was in trouble when at two different stoplights, people weren't paying attention to the light. Sitting and putzing around on your phone while waiting at a light is all fine and dandy providing you are actually paying attention to the aforementioned light.

The first problem was the woman who was chit-chatting in the left turn lane into school property. Three cars from the opposite direction turned before she got a clue. No horns were honked.

Finally, she turns--still yapping away on the phone--at about two miles per hour. When she pulls up to drop her kid off, she stops at the door instead of proceeding further down the drive--as indicated by the teachers waving her on. This allows only six cars to enter the property.

Too bad there were eight cars who followed her, which resulted in a blocked lane.

My lane of traffic, of course.

When I can finally move, I drive about a mile toward the expressway and am stopped at another light. The first three cars move, but dude in front of me is at a dead standstill. My hand hovers over the horn, but with my kiddo in the car I don't want to show her a bad example, so I explained that this is why we don't talk or text while driving a 2000-lb killing machine called a car. I don't honk, but dude finally gets a clue.

As we proceed up the on ramp, dude is all over the shoulder of the road because he's still texting.

Without another incident, I drop the kiddo off at school . . . now for the 20 minute drive home.

Getting onto the Broken Arrow expressway is a challenge depending on which onramp you use. 21st street is difficult, but not as blind as some other ones. I merge seamlessly because the car riding in the right lane adjusts his speed to back off so I can accelerate onto the expressway.

Ten minutes later, I make a move from the third lane (out of four) to the right hand lane to merge onto another expressway. I look. I signal. And I seamlessly cross over two lanes . . . or so I think.

Someone must have been constipated because the car I crossed in front of got his panties in a wad over this, even though I always allow more than enough room for him (I could see his entire car in my side AND rear view mirrors. So It's not like I cut him off.).  In a fit of dumb-ass-ery, this car gets in the right exit lane to pass me on the right and then cuts over in front of me.

Now, this did nothing for me. It didn't make me mad. It didn't upset me. It didn't incite anything other than, "Oops, someone doesn't know where they're going." comment from my mouth. It wasn't until dude didn't exit on the next off ramp to the expressway that I figured out he was driving mad.

Look, people, it's time to chill out.
  • the roads are more crowded than normal. Plan to have extra time to get from place to place.
  • People from the smaller towns are in town shopping and might not know the quirks of the various stoplights or roads.
  • People from out-of-town are visiting relatives and might not know what's going on or the quickest way from point A to point D.
  • Expect people to do dumb ass driving. Maybe they are having to follow a GPS that is telling them to turn right into an empty lot...or cow pasture (yes, that happened to us--the real road was another 1/4 mile further down the road.)
  • People will be crossing over numerous lanes to get to the one entrance to the mall that is right in front of you . . . without realizing there are three more entrances down the road.
  • People will be on your bumper, so stay off the bumper in front of you. --just yesterday there were two cars that bumped into each other right in front of me as I exited the expressway.
Keep your distance.

Keep your patience.

Keep your music turned up, because a little rock-n-roll cures all ills.

And keep safe!

Later, Peeps!

12/6/14

Foodie Friday -- Molasses Bourbon Pecan Pie

Here is a pecan pie with a little bit of a twist.

Molasses Bourbon Pecan Pie


Crust:

1 ½ cups flour
¾ tsp. salt
6 Tbls. shortening
5 to 6 Tbls ice water

Filling:

¾ cup brown sugar, packed
¾ cup corn syrup
½ cup molasses
3 Tbls. butter
½ tsp salt
3 eggs, beaten
2 Tbls. Bourbon whisky
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups pecan halves

In large bowl, combine flour and salt; cut in shortening until crumbly. Gradually add water, tossing with a fork until dough forms a ball. Wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 1 to 1 ½ hours or until easy to handle.

Roll out pastry to fit a 9-in. pie plate. Transfer pastry to pie plate. Trim pastry to ½-inch beyond edge of plate; flute edges. Refrigerate.

Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, combine brown sugar, corn syrup, molasses, butter and salt; bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cook for 2-3 minutes, constantly stirring, until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature. (Mixture will thicken when cooled.)

When filling is cooled, stir in eggs, bourbon and vanilla. Stir in pecans. Pour into pastry shell. Bake at 350 degrees for 55-60 minutes. Cover edges with foil during the last 30 minutes to prevent overbrowning.

Cool on wire rack.

Tips & tricks:

·         The crust that came with this recipe was easy and quite good.

·         The molasses (Brer Rabbit—full flavor) that I used was pretty strong, overpowering in this recipe. If I made this recipe again, I would use ¼ cup of molasses and ¼ cup more corn syrup.

·         This recipe calls for pecan halves. The problem with pecan halves is that they are difficult to cut when you are ready to serve the pie. I would suggest chopping the pecans, but retaining a few halves to use as decoration on top.

·         If you have any pie leftover after cutting, then refrigerate the remaining pie.

 

Foodie Friday-- Walnut Streusel Pumpkin Pie

 
 I've been really busy making the various fillings for my Christmas candy. Fillings are finally made. Christmas decorations are up. And now, I can finally catch up on my blog posts before I start the candy molding process on Monday.


Walnut Streusel Pumpkin Pie


Pastry for single-crust pie (9-in.)

Pumpkin filling: 
 
1 can (15 oz.) solid-pack pumpkin
1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk
½ cup sugar
½ cup dark brown sugar, packed
2 eggs
1 Tbls. flour
½ tsp salt
1 ½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp nutmeg
¼ tsp ginger

Cream cheese filling:

1-8 oz. pkg. cream cheese, softened
¼ cup sugar
½ tsp. vanilla extract
1 egg, slightly beaten 

Topping:

¼ cup old-fashioned oats
¼ cup dark brown sugar, packed
2 Tbls. flour
¼ tsp. cinnamon
¼ tsp. nutmeg
2 Tbls. cold butter, cubed
¼ cup chopped walnuts 

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Line a 9-inch deep-dish pie plate with pastry: trim and flute edge. Refrigerate while preparing filling.

In a large bowl, beat pumpkin, milk, sugars, eggs, flour, salt and spices until blended; transfer to crust.

In another bowl, beat cream cheese, sugar and vanilla until smooth. Add egg; beat on low speed just until combined. Spoon evenly over pumpkin layer.

In a small bowl, combine the first five topping ingredients; cut in butter until crumbly. Stir in walnuts; sprinkle over filling.

Cover edge of crust with foil to prevent overbrowning.

Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees; bake 50-60 minutes longer, or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean.

Remove foil. Cool on wire rack. Refrigerate covered, until cold.

Tips & tricks:

·         I got none. Sorry.

·        Okay, you can buy pie crust in the freezer section or you can make your own. I made a Pâte Brisée from a Martha Stewart recipe that I happened to have. Just google ‘pie crusts’ and you will get a plethora of selections.

·         If you do make your own crust don’t be afraid to add enough ice water. Yes, too much is a problem, but too little makes for a dry, crumbly crust.

·         The key is to have the fat in miniscule amounts that it causes a ‘mini-pocket’ to form from the melted fat when the crust is cooking. This helps the flakiness of the crust. Overwork the crust, or allow your hot hands to melt the fat pre-baking will result in a tough crust from the overworked flour.

·         I wasn’t much of a fan of this pumpkin pie, but then again, I’m not much of a fan of ANY pumpkin pies, which is why I usually try to make a pumpkin cheesecake!

 Enjoy!

11/29/14

Foodie Friday -- Cranberry-Orange Tart


For Thanksgiving 2014, I made four desserts that I never made before. I posted the pics on FB and here are the tweaked recipes, as I tend to not follow the original exactly. This tart was the favorite by most of the crowd. It does have a lot of sugar in it, but the tart cranberries keep it from being overly sweet.
 
Cranberry-Orange Tart
 
Crust and Crumb topping:

2 cups crushed cinnamon graham crackers (about 14 whole crackers), divided
½ cup sugar, divided
6 Tbls. butter, melted
¼ cup flour
¼ cup brown sugar, packed
¼ cup cold butter, cubed

 Filling:

 1 large naval orange
1 cup sugar
3 Tbls. quick-cooking tapioca
¼ tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. allspice
4 cups fresh or frozen cranberries, thawed
2 Tbls. Grand Marnier 

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Crust: In small bowl, mix 1 ¾ cups crushed graham crackers and ¼ cup sugar; stir in melted butter. Press onto bottom and up sides of an ungreased 11-inch tart pan with removable bottom. Bake 7-8 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Cool on a wire rack. Turn oven temperature up to 400 degrees.

Topping: Mix flour, brown sugar, remaining ¼ cup crushed graham crackers and ¼ cup sugar. Cut cold butter into the mixture until crumbly. Refrigerate while preparing filling.

Filling: In large saucepan, mix sugar, tapioca, baking soda, cinnamon and allspice. Add rinsed cranberries and toss. Zest and juice orange, add to cranberry mixture along with Grand Marnier. Cook on medium-high until mixture boils and cranberries pop, stir constantly to help dissolve sugar, about 3-5 minutes.

Pour filling into cooled crust. Sprinkle with topping. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until topping is golden brown. Cool on wire rack.

 Tips & Tricks:

 
·        Fold a piece of aluminum foil in half and place under tart pan. Press the edges to the sides of the pan, but don’t fold over the top edge. This helps in two ways, 1) it keeps you from popping the tart crust out of the pan while taking it in and out of the oven, 2) it catches the excess butter that will inevitably leak through the tart pan’s rim, preventing grease from burning in the bottom of the oven. . . don’t even ask me how I know this . . .

·         Even if you have some excess crust mixture, restrain your urge to add it to the topping. See note on above tip. Don’t ask questions and I won’t have to explain my stupid mistakes . . .

·         If you don’t have Grand Marnier, you can use brandy, cranberry juice, or any other orange flavored liquor.

·         The original recipe called for the oven to be turned up to 425 degrees, but that was when I managed to set the smoke alarms off, okay, not really, but I did smoke out the kitchen and had a grease mess to clean up in the oven. Try the lower temperature, since you aren’t ‘cooking’ the tart as much as browning the topping.
 
Enjoy!

11/16/14

Figment contest

And who could resist logging onto a website called Figment. Sorry, guys, but I have a soft place in my heart for Disney's Figment dragon!
 
Through  a weird roundabout way (a writer mentioned it, but didn't give any details and I went to work googling the internet, took me less than 2 minutes to find it.) I discovered this Bandon Sanderson contest on Figment. Brandon Sanderson is the writer who finished Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series, but also has a bunch of his own books.

Anyway, I discovered this short story contest, 1000 max. words, which has a log line of,

“If you were a super-villain, what would your one power be? And how would you use it to conquer the world?”

So I started thinking about my Goblin's Apprentice stories and wondered about Mike and his story.

And I started writing. . . and wrote a bunch of backstory crap that really didn't need to be written. I realized this when I started talking to Meg. I think I knew it, but she helped me 'see' what I was doing. So I rewrote it, did a little bit of editing and submitted it to this contest.

According to the rules, I can't publish it anywhere except on their contest page until after the contest, but I can provide the link.


When you get to the page, just click the big red 'start at beginning' button.

Read it if you are curious about Mike and why he did what he did. I don't think you can comment or score it unless you are a member of this community.

And I don't expect you to join.

I hate the fact that so many of these contests are 'popularity' contests, where people try to force writers into reading their story just to get someone to comment on your story.

I hate, hate, HATE that. Tit-for-tat doesn't do anything but load the stories up with false scores.

Read the story, if you like it or don't like it, score it or don't score it, but don't ask me to read your story just so you'll come back and read mine. Do you really think I'll believe that you will come back to my page and score it? Really? I also have the deed to a popular bridge in New York City, just send me a moneygram for a gazillion bucks and you can have it--the deed, not the bridge.

I don't play those games, home girl.

And yes, one person asked this of me and I went all '*itchy' on her in my comment in response to her comment . . . less than an hour later another chick asked the same darn thing!

If you want to read how I went off on someone, then click the link and head to the comments. It probably wasn't professional of me, but I'm really tired of this popularity crap. I was never popular in high school and I'm certainly not popular in my crotchety old age.

I will ask one thing of you--anyone who reads this blog and is interested doing for me--read my story, and if you like it enough, then tweet it on your twitter, click like for facebook, or t+ for tumblr. It won't earn me any points, but all I ever wanted to do was to share my stories with other people.

And I can't do that without your help.

Later, Peeps!

11/5/14

Dem Bones . . . Gotta Have Dem Bones

No, not Halloween. It's done for the year.

I'm talking about the bones of a story. My good friend and writer, Meg Reid, and I were chatting the other day when I confessed that I had a hard time sitting down to write the next scene in my book, DRAGON DAYS OF SUMMER. It's a tough scene, an emotional one, where two of my characters witness a scene featuring a third character.

Have you ever been out and about and witness an explosion of anger? Even with people you don't even know? Or been in the room where two people are arguing, getting louder and louder.

I have. Not often, thank God. I'm one of those witnesses who curl into themselves, frozen in fear. Should I even say it? I'm the rabbit who freezes, and prays that the fox doesn't see me.

Just like me, they don't know how to react or what to do. They are frozen as they watch this scene unfold, just like many of us would be if we had to witness something similar.

It isn't a fun scene. We're talking drugs, poverty, abuse, threats and violence. The two characters who witness this scene finally realize how sheltered their life is and just how horrific this third character's life has been. An "Ah-Ha" moment, if you will.

I have to write this scene. It's pivotal to all the characters. And I don't want to because it's overwhelming, brimming with emotion. And I have a very difficult time writing emotion, especially something as tense as this situation is.

So Meg suggested that I simply write the skeleton of the story. Simple facts that would allow me to place the characters in their positions, like a stop-action type of movie. Write the scene as I watch it unfold in front of these characters, but don't worry about the emotional impact--yet.

That part of the story can be told during the second draft, AFTER the story is written.

In fact, this story is riddled with bold red comments that I've made when I've thought about how to deepen one section, or delete another scene and add something more pertinent to the character. Or characterization for one of the secondary characters that seemed to know stuff she shouldn't know, etc.

That emotion/characterization is the meat of the story to lay over the bones of the skeleton.

And guess what the third layer is?

The flesh, the skin that covers everything and ties it all together, the finishing touches, the grammar tweaks, the word choices, along with the pacing, etc.

This story has taken me a long time to write, but by following Meg's suggestions, I'm not as scared as I once was to tackle uncomfortable scenes.

Time to get another cup of joe and open up my document.

Later, Peeps!


10/29/14

FREE!

In honor of Halloween, this little gem is free.

It's a chapter story (kid speak for 'short story' with chapter breaks).

Download the Kindle link, read the story, and give it a rating! Good or Bad. This little story hasn't had the recognition it deserves.

Read it to a younger child, or let a 7-12 year old child enjoy it at his/her own pace.

Please spread the word and share the link, A Maze of Monster Mix-Ups. This is the US link, but this story is free in all the countries that support Amazon. The picture is also linked.

Thanks!


http://www.amazon.com/dp/B005JTXYXM