Category Archives: cooking

The Road to Discovery

The keyboard and the stove are both major tools in my world. I literally burn through multiple keyboards a year. Fortunately the stove holds up a lot longer.
 
However, I approach both pretty much the same way.
 
There’s a reason I don’t teach writing. Well, first, I don’t wanna. But over and above? I can’t tell you. I can’t analyze the process, break it down into parts and steps because I run on instinct.
 
I don’t write from an outline, or have a board filled with sticky notes, character points, photographs. I don’t have a notebook where I sketch out the ebb and flow of a story in chapter blocks. I don’t use colored index cards to track plot, setting, dialogue. And seriously, I can’t tell you about POV shifts, scene transitions, pace and rhythm. They just happen. I do scribble notes along the way, then often go back and scratch my head over them.
 
What the hell does that MEAN?
 
I start with a basic concept, a setting, character types. I ask myself who are these people anyway? If she’s a photographer like the female protagonist in the upcoming The Obsession, I know I’m going to be researching that area, and in researching (which is why I do my own) I’m going to discover something that ends up weaving into the story, often in a major way. But I also need to know–or find out–why she chose that profession. Why isn’t she a lawyer instead, or a musician? WHY photography?
 
I have to give her a name, have a mental sketch of what she looks like, how she speaks. I need to know why she lives where she lives–and what it looks like there. Smells like there, feels like. And in researching the where, I’m going to stumble on something else that ends up being important to the story.
 
I only know the bare bones when I begin, so I sit down with those bones and start writing. I discover as I go. That’s why the first draft of a story is called the discovery draft. It’s a process that works well for me–my temperament, my skill sets, my instincts.
 
Other’s mileage not only may but does vary. No right way, no wrong way to approach the art and science and mystery of storytelling. What works for any individual writer is absolutely correct for that individual writer. Anyone says otherwise? Bullshit. And arrogant bullshit at that.
 
I cook pretty much as I write, which is why I not only don’t but can’t answer the calls for recipes after I post a blog on cooking. Please, please, don’t ask me!
 
When I cook, I generally have a baseline. Yesterday my Kayla and I spent a long day in the kitchen. She wanted to make pretzel bread, ham and potato soup, and my mother’s famed pound cake. Okay, kid, let’s see what we’ve got.
 
I have a launch point for the bread and soup, but I spring off that. It’s more fun, more creative. And I like to think it teaches a young girl to be creative, that everything doesn’t have to be precise and exact and set in stone. I substitute. Don’t have any of that, use this. Or I don’t like that anyway, we’ll use this.
 
Like writing, some is trial and error, some is layer as you go, then go back and tweak. Some is experience.
 
For the bread, Kayla uses the baseline recipe with the tweaks or changes or the what-the-hells I’ve added in or taken out. And I watch her learn, enjoy. I loved showing her how to knead the dough, watching her discover how it changes texture under her hands. How she gets the feel, rather than the precise recipe direction of ‘knead for ten minutes.’IMG_1339
 
Then, while the dough rises, it’s onto the cake batter. How long do you mix the butter and sugar together? Until it looks right–and since she’s been learning under my process, she gets this. A little vanilla, a little lemon extract–and she’s pleased with the scent, notices, comments. This is no whimpy cake, so I’ll tell you recipe hounds it calls for a half pound of butter and three cups of sugar. I think the extracts were a teaspoon each. Maybe there’s two of the vanilla. Then it’s six eggs–one at a time–which she likes cracking (and no shells in the batter). It might be three cups of flour–unsifted. My mother called for cake flour, but I didn’t have any, so I used standard. Some salt, some baking soda, mixed together. And a cup of sour cream.IMG_1340
 
Kayla diligently alternates adding the dry mix with the sour cream, and mixing, mixing, mixing. How long? Until it looks right.
 
She’s charmed by the angel food cake pan. I don’t know if that tool is standard for pound cake, but it’s what my mother used. So we use it. Spraying it with Pam, lining the bottom (again, fascinating my girl) with waxed paper. It bakes at 325 for thirty minutes, then at 300 for another 60 or in our case about 65 until a toothpick comes out clean. That’s the closest I can tell you. I’m marginally more precise with baking than cooking.
 
While the cake’s in the oven, we start on the soup. Though there was a break in there for a pb&j for a hungry girl. And a beater and bowl to lick. I had a lick myself, and my mother was right there with us. That’s as sweet and real as cake batter on the tongue.
 
Again, I have a baseline for the soup, but there’s nothing remotely precise about it once we start. How many potatoes? I don’t know. I do know I’ll be sending about half the finished product home with Kayla, so a lot of potatoes need to be peeled, washed, chopped. Some carrots. Some garlic sauted in olive oil. Some water, some bullion, some wine. How much? Until it looks right. Herbs and spices. Stir it up, let it simmer.IMG_1343
 
Years ago, when our Kat married our Jason, she asked me for a book of my recipes. I did my best, typing them out, adding little notes, compiling them in a pretty book. One day shortly after, she sat in my kitchen and said she didn’t get it. She’d wanted to make my deviled eggs (a crowd favorite) but it didn’t say how much mustard, mayo, various herbs and spices. And neither, she’d discovered, did the vast majority of the other recipes (using the term loosely) have precise measurements. How much???? she asked.
 
I don’t know, I told her.
 
Her solution, as Kat is a very clever girl, was to watch me make deviled eggs, and to figure out it’s–for me–about how it looks, smells, tastes. And so she can (and does) use my recipes as her baseline, to make them her own. It’s how I taught both my boys to cook. It’s how I’m teaching Kayla.
 
Kayla’s interest and enthusiasm are strong right now, so I’m taking full advantage.
 
When it’s time to punch down the dough, I let her go for it. I show her how to pull some off, make it into a tight ball, then let her go for that. She’s a little bummed the dough has to rise yet again, but we have more to do elsewhere.
 
The ham has to be diced and added to the soup, and given some time to cook. The cake’s looking like a cake in the oven, and it smells fabulous. Butter needs melting, then flour added to thicken it, then milk to that. Whisked, whisked, whisked until it thickens enough to add to the soup. Precise measurements? Nope. And you know I think more wine wouldn’t hurt that soup at all.
 
A glass wouldn’t hurt me either.
 
The cake comes out to cool. The dough balls have risen. It’s time for more fun. Boiling water, baking soda. I give her my big slotted spoon, so we can drop the balls in–and Grandda, who’s joined us, sits at the counter and times them with his phone. About thirty seconds, flip the balls over, another thirty, take them out, put them on the parchment-lined baking sheet, drop in the next batch.IMG_1349
 
Stir the soup, drop the balls.
 
We first, use our knife sharpener to get our blade perfectly sharp, then we make crosses on the puffy balls with the knife, sprinkle on some sesame seeds, some sea salt, and pop them in the oven. It’s about 12-15 minutes mostly. I set a timer, but I keep an eye. They’re done when they look done, when they’re a nice golden brown.
 
And the smells in the kitchen are incredible. Fresh bread, creamy soup, lemony cake. The top of the cake’s crackly, and Kayla and Grandda decide they should sort of peel that off and eat it. After all, when we take it out of the pan, turning it over, shouldn’t it be more even on what will be the bottom?
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Why would I argue when they’re having such a good time? And making yummy noises? Plus, the kid baked the cake. She baked it by following her great-grandmother’s baseline, learning, discovering, and making it her own.
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She baked the bread–I was barely sous chef on that–the same way. And the soup was a partnership of whatever works.IMG_1350
 
I know the bread worked as she snagged a roll off the cooling rack so quickly I worried she’d burn her tongue. She didn’t. And had a second one.
 
I sent her home with a tub of soup, a bag of rolls, and half a pound cake. Her family will enjoy the bounty of her labor. More, she spent the day learning, creating, experimenting. As she goes, she may decide her process works better with the precise. But I have a feeling she’ll continue on the road, discovering as she goes.
 
Like the first draft of a book, it’s the joy and effort of that discovery that draws the–we’ll say organic–writer and what’s-in-the-pantry cook to create the unique to them with the hope it pleases others.
 
I’m here to tell you, when it was time for me to sample the day’s labor, it pleased me.
 
Tomorrow, I go back to the keyboard and my scribbled notes to see what’s cooking there.
Nora

How to Survive February

What is up with this month? It can never seem to make up its mind. How many days should I have? it wonders. And every four years it decides to toss in one more. Should I dump two or three feet of snow–yeah, why not. And why not follow that with temperatures in the 60s, just to tease everybody before I throw out some ice, more snow and drop that temp to freeze butts off.
 
February’s a sociopath.
 
I deal with it by staying home, out of its chuckling way. And if I have to go out, I simply count down the time until I’ll be back inside. And in that way, I use February’s mad ego to get lots of stuff done.
 
I write, I cook, I workout, I finish my full-house purge, I read, I watch TV. While I might think wistfully of spring, of digging in the dirt, throwing open the windows, I remind myself I don’t have to go out there to get things done. I’m thinking that right now as the chilly rain’s pounding outside in the dull, gray February gloom.
 
When I finish this blog, I’ll go out to my little gym and for about 90 minutes, I’ll be too focused on me–the sweat, the doing–to care about the stupid rain or the lumps of snow that have yet to melt.
 
I did the same yesterday–I run on routine–then (as Laura predicted) I spent a big chunk of the day in the kitchen. If it’s got to be winter, you might as well spend some of your Sunday making a good, rich beef stew–and drop in some dumplings. [Note from Laura — there’s no recipe, Nora just went with the flow on this one.] I had, for some reason, a surplus of eggs, so made my man very happy by deviling some.
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Stew with dumplings
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Deviled eggs
 
Today, I may fuss around the house. I might bake some bread. Since a rainy day provides the perfect backdrop, I may sit in front of the fire and read. February, for all its smirking smugness gives us all the opportunity to reflect on what we like to do in our own snug spaces. Surviving it just means allowing ourselves to do just that before spring comes and we throw open the windows again.
 
If I choose the fire and the book today, it will be To Kill A Mockingbird. We lost a literary luminary in Harper Lee. For me, Mockingbird is as close to a perfect book as ever written, and its beauty, its power, its voice lives on. I’ve read it countless times, and each time it grabs my heart, engages my mind, enlightens and entertains me.
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As does the movie adaptation. Every time I’m told: No, no movie from your books–they’ll ruin it, they always do, I think of the brilliant film based on Harper Lee’s masterpiece. Again, for me, as close to perfection as it gets. There are other adaptations that hit that mark for me, but this is the standard. Yes, it can be done, and done beautifully. In fact, I may pull out my DVD and watch the movie again, too.
 
Thanks, February, you crazy bitch, for giving me a crappy Sunday to do just exactly what I want to do.
 
Now, just a little note. As often happens when a new In Death comes out, we revisit the calls for babies, kindly grandmothers–and Brotherhood’s no exception. I’ll repeat here Eve is NOT pregnant, not getting pregnant, and will not find some loving blood relation. I won’t get into all the reasons as I’ve done so before. But I also realize there are people new to the blog and/or FB who may not have read the previous blogs where I explain those reasons.
 

Enjoy your countdown to February’s inevitable demise, and take a day to do what you most want to do.

Nora

Cooking with Kayla

We’re in a deep freeze here in my neck of the woods. Frigid temps all last week. I believe it was a ridiculous 3 degrees when I got up this morning. BW lets me know how vicious the cold every day when he gets home. Fortunately for me, I work at home, and had a good, solid, warm writing week.
 
I ain’t going out there till I have to.
 
Poor guy even had to go out on Saturday, twice. Me? I had a stellar Saturday in the kitchen, cooking with my 13-year-old granddaughter. Kayla has a fresh and fun interest in learning to cook, and I’m delighted to have the time and opportunity to tutor her. In fact, Friday night when her mom and brothers came for dinner, I served as her sous chef, and had her make the bulk of the meal. And very well, too.
 
But Saturday gave us the whole day.
 
I’d decided on chicken and dumplings. It’s really cold, and who doesn’t like some comfort food in February? Since my girl came up mid-morning we pretty much dived right into the day. After she–claiming starvation–ate a bowl of three bean and ham soup I had leftover from earlier in the week.
 
I show her an easy marinade–just Italian dressing and white wine. And while the chicken’s soaking that up, we decide we should bake something. She looks through my personal cookbook, finds my mother’s outstanding sour cream pound cake. I don’t have any sour cream in the house, it seems, but it goes on the list for next time. I think, when we make that pound cake, there will be three generations in my kitchen.
 
But today, we settle (ha!) for chocolate chip cookies.
 
I’m reminded as I now serve as the cookbook, sitting back and letting her do it all, of first guiding her little hands through the process, and the mess made when she was surely no more than two. Now she’s as tall as I am, so grown up, and I’ll just say: Now add this. She’ll measure it out, say: Is this right, Nana? As I give her the nod, I imagine her baking in her own kitchen one day, and hope she’ll remember lessons at Nana’s.
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Naturally we have to sample the cookies, warm from the oven, and I love she’s excited she’ll take a bunch of them home, surprise her family. I love she’s excited for Grandda to get home and find cookies (one of his favorite things) she baked. When he does, his reaction is just what she was after.
 
But now BW is starving, and gets out the left-overs from Friday night’s dinner. Which prompts Kayla into starvation yet again. So it’s warm up some pork loin, roasted potatoes and carrots, some herbed up steamed broccoli. She has two servings. I don’t know where she puts it. She’s my height, 5’4″ (though I have a quarter inch more than that, she’s really anxious to beat) and weighs 90 pounds.
 
The very first time I saw her, in the warmer in the hospital after birth, I thought: Oh, look at you, my long, lanky girl. That hasn’t changed. She’s all leg, slim as a wand. And eats like a stevedore.
 
Now it’s time to head into the main meal. I didn’t have a whole chicken, as I’d usually use, but am adapting to the boneless, skinless chicken breasts I do have, so I have her use my handy-dandy multi-tool (shout out to Laura for telling me about this wonder) and mince up some garlic, which she sautes in olive oil. I have her add a whole carton of chicken stock and a good dose of white wine. Then herbs–some harvested from my garden and in freezer bags. This interests her, the little cubes of frozen herbs. In they go. I’ve run out of my own rosemary, so show her how to crunch up the dried herb with her fingers. Salt, pepper, so on. Stir it up! Add the chicken. This is my job as she refuses to touch raw meat, something she’ll get over one day.
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I have her use the wonderful multi tool, dice up carrots and potatoes–let’s add some hearty to the comfort. She adds them in, and while they’re simmering along, we sit, talk, surf the web for dresses for her Eighth-Grade Formal this spring. We just hang out awhile.
 
And as she objects to touching the cooked chicken, I show her how I shred it. But she does slide it off the cutting board and back into the pot. She hangs with Grandda awhile, helps me with a couple chores as the aroma of cooking fills the kitchen.
 
I tell her how to make the slurry with flour and water for thickening the broth, how to add it, stir it. When it’s time, I sit back again, telling her how to make the dumplings. Is this right, Nana? You bet–exact measurements are not my thing when it comes to cooking. The girl loves dumplings, and gets a charge out of making them, out of just dropping them into the simmering stew in the pot. And how they change with the cooking until we have a very pretty pot of chicken and dumplings on the stove.
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She asks how the dumpling mix still on her fingers will taste. You won’t like it. (It’s not like cookie dough!) But she has to try. Then drink a very large glass of milk to get rid of the taste.
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Now I’m starving. The two of us each have a bowl of the meal we’ve made together, and we’re very happy with the results. She wants to take some home, so I tub some up, bag up a bunch of cookies.
 
When she leaves, she hugs me–she’s a champion hugger–and says: Thank you for letting me cook, Nana. Thank you for loving me.
 
That’s my long, lanky girl, and I’m honored, truly, to know I’m not just teaching her to cook, but showing her cooking is love.
Nora

The Cranky Publicist answers a question

Cranky PublicistCostumes are always part of the TTP signing near Halloween.  Last year, Nora dressed as a cowgirl but I’m not really into costumes.   I said I’d dress as what I am, a cranky publicist.  Kat kindly made me a button that said just that.  I was very happy.

So I thought I might use The Cranky Publicist moniker from time to time to answer questions or address comments, starting with this:

For nearly 11 years, I’ve watched trends in reader questions come and go.   Usually the top three are:

  1. Can you add another book to the [fill in the blank] series?
  2. Why do we have to wait so long for the next book [In Death or trilogy]?
  3. The dread In Death baby question (applied to nearly every character except Anna Whitney and Sheila Feeney).

But the question currently trending with a bullet (as Billboard magazine used to say) is:

Can you share your recipe? 

For soup (after a Nora-at-home blog) or pancakes, bread, stew (after reading a book).   Most recently it’s for Mr. Mira’s Hot Chocolate.

hot choc

Nora and I have explained quite a bit that she doesn’t actually have the recipes she creates in books.  She imagines food as the characters would create them and charts the ingredients, some of the prep, usually amid conversation that’s propelling the story.

But still there are the requests —  pleading, straightforward, sarcastic — to share a recipe so a reader can really feel like she/he is living in the book.

In the seven days since Brotherhood in Death hit the shelves, the Mr. Mira Hot Chocolate requests have escalated to the point where I decided to refresh my memory of the scene.  I grabbed the book, a notebook and started reading chapter 6 when Dennis first puts a pot on top of a pot, then adds chocolate.

Ok, I thought, melt the chocolate in a double boiler.   Wrote that down.

He puts a bowl into the freezer, to Eve’s confusion.  Ahh, I thought, the cold bowl for homemade whipped cream.  (Side note for those interested:  Nora and I have long discussed how homemade whipped cream is both delicious and easy to make.)

Eve questions, Dennis answers and as he does, he adds milk to the melted chocolate.  Then puts a bean in a bowl and crushes with a wooden dowel.  I’m going to go with vanilla on that one, which he adds with sugar to the milk.

Then he gets the frozen bowl, pours cream in it, adds some sugar and then beats it until — to Eve’s utter amazement — he has whipped cream.

I finished the scene and thought — OK we have the process, not the amounts.  What would I do if I were curious about that?

I googled “double boiler hot chocolate recipe” and there were five immediate results — the first was pretty much the same steps I’d read.

(Which set this Cranky Publicist to wondering if I somehow am magic with the Google searches or if people really just want things handed to them.  That’s an entirely different post.)

If you’re itching to try your hand at creating something akin to Dennis Mira’s Hot Chocolate here are a couple fun ways to do it.  But really, the best part is that you can take the basic recipe and add dark chocolate or a little chili or some mint or coffee — to make it suit your tastes to a T.

Fancy-Ass Hot Chocolate via A Cozy Kitchen (this recipe has the chocolate going into the milk instead of Dennis’ method).

This one just has chocolate added to hot milk: Ina Garten Hot Chocolate Recipe 

Belgian Hot Chocolate (via David Lebovitz)

Since there may be questions on other techniques, you might enjoy these two links:

How to melt Chocolate in a double boiler (video)

How to make Whipped Cream via The Kitch’n blog

Enjoy!

Laura

 

Snowzilla

Here, at least, the weather guys nailed it. They told us it was coming, be prepared, and so it came. We’ve been there, done that many times before, so being prepared is winter routine.
 
We have a plow for the lane, and usually that’ll do the trick. However, Snowzilla mostly came at night, (and laughed and laughed) started late enough so plowing at dusk or dark wasn’t wise.
 

I woke to about sixteen inches and still coming hard. BW had put out his dad’s old, kitschy snowman snow gauge, so I could basically judge the amount without using my old standard, a yardstick.

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Stalwart Snowman gauge
 
By the time my own personal Mr. Plow got himself geared up, we had about 18″. Which proved too much for Mr. Plow. Jeep now stuck. Snowblower’s enough to clear some paths, and the dogs frolic.
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Stuck Jeep, happy Parker
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The narrow driveway path
 
We have a guy–my landscape guy–who does snow removal and asphalt parking lot surfacing in Houston TX. We get on the list, knowing he’s got plenty ahead of us. Doesn’t worry me–I’m not going anywhere.
 
I’m still into my January purge. Hit what I think of as the kids’ room as they use it when they sleep over. Hit the bathroom–the linen closet needs attention, hit the library. Then decide I can sit right down in there and read a book in front of the fire as my reward.
 
Snow’s now up to two feet, and still coming. My guy has decided to grill steaks for dinner later. Not odd for us as we grill year-round, so I figure I’ll make soup on Sunday.
 

I talk myself into a workout. No reason I can’t step outside, walk two feet to the gym. I put on my Uggs for the trip. BW’s cleared the path again, so no big. After my righteous workout, I’m grateful for the boots. Path has a good two or three inches on it again. I can hear all you boot nerds saying “wear real boots for winter from shoesfella.com!” but I dont care.

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The roof of the house (left), the roof of the gym (right)
 
It’s gorgeous out there, no question, and a little spooky. On the deck, the snow’s just below the top of the rail. We’re heading toward three feet. But unlike my first experience living here with three feet of snow, I have plenty of provisions, I have a generator if power goes out, and I don’t have two little boys who need time and attention.
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Post storm, snow on the deck
 
I eat steak, I watch a movie. We have that three feet by the time the snow stops–well after dark.
 
Sunday, when I get up before dawn (I just do) the world is absolutely hushed. It’s always quiet here, that’s country living, but the snow cushions all sound so the world is an empty church. I watch the birds attack the feeder for seeds and suet, watch the sun come up. The day brightens with that incredibly sharp contrast of hard blue sky against pure, untouched snow. Nothing but trees, sky, snow, birds as far as I can see. I love it–as long as I’m inside.
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Post storm Sunday look down the drive
 
More purging. The master bedroom this time, and it needs some serious work. Satisfying work. Then it’s time to make some chicken tortilla soup. Yum.
 
Quiet night, with me pleased my entire main level’s now been purged, a good bowl of soup–and the X-Files! Oh, how happy I am to see Mulder and Scully again. Now it’s time for a long, winter’s nap.
 
At about one in the morning, Parker barks like a maniac. And we hear the plow. That’s our Bryan, plowing the lane in the middle of the night. Bless his heart.
 
This morning, we have a plowed lane–but Bryan called to alert us our ‘main’ road is only plowed for one lane. I expect BW will take another day at home. How do you handle meeting another car with only one cleared lane and three feet of snow on the rest? No need to find out, at least to my way of thinking. The man, however, may think differently.
 
Me, I’m going to sit in my warm office, get to work, and look at the snowy postcard out my office window.
 
Hope everyone who got hit with Jonas stayed warm and safe.  
Nora

Winter Week

In winter, I typically take the way of the bear and hibernate. My form of hibernation equals socking in, staying home, working. And on weekends starting in January, doing my annual full-house purge.
 
Last week wasn’t at all typical for this bear.
 
Monday I played hooky. Not much can pull me out of hibernation and into the world. Star Wars is an exception. The prospect of hitting a matinee–IMax, 3D–of the new installment of one of my all time favorite franchises? No-brainer. So BW and I headed out into the cold, met up with Jason–Kat, who’d set this all up, had to work (but she’s already seen it twice)–Laura and Laura’s husband, snagged some popcorn and settled down.
 
No spoilers, so I’ll just say I loved every minute, right from the first note of the iconic opening theme to the roll of credits. I will ask why, does anyone know why, a group of people would choose to sit directly behind another group of people in a HUGE theater that’s nearly empty? And then regularly push or kick the back of my chair? I have no answer for this.  (Laura’s note:  loved, loved, loved the movie.  I was further down from the kicker so the annoyance for me was the eating/crackling of paper in the quiet moments.  Eat during galactic explosions!!! NR and I are a pair.)
 
In any case, I enjoyed my playing-hooky day tremendously.
 
Mid-week, I had a routine annual screening–the medical sort–all good there. But another venture into the cold rather than being attached to my keyboard. And that evening yet another trip out to watch my grandson’s first chorus concert. Absolutely adorable.
 
As it happened, our Logan proved to be quite a trooper, as it turned out he was running hot. So the next day, with a 101 temp, he snuggled into Nana’s bed. I know how to work around a sick boy, got plenty done while keeping him fed and entertained. Plus I had a spanking new DVD of The Martian, which made him very happy. Because it was a short school day, his sister came up mid-afternoon. So a short work day for me. Kayla agreed to help me with dinner–her little brother was coming up later, and we’d send food home to their mom, who had whatever bug Logan had.
 
I decided rather than letting her help me, I’d play sous chef and instructor. We both really enjoyed me walking her through making scalloped ham and potatoes, with a side of roasted carrots. Both dishes the gang enjoys.
 
And she did a terrific job of it.
 
It’s incredibly satisfying to pass recipes down the generations, tutor a grandchild in basic cooking skills. She has good instincts on top of it–more satisfaction. And asked if I’d make her a cookbook with my recipes. That’s a big pleasure, and something I’ll spend some Saturday putting together for her. I have many of my mother’s, and my father’s recipes in my book. Whenever I cook one of their dishes, they’re right there in the kitchen with me. I like to think when Kayla uses mine, the same holds true.
 
I freely admit, that I ended the day by conking out by ten p.m.
 
But Saturday, after my workout, the purge began. And began in earnest in my office byclearing out dozens of old research books I’ve held onto for far too long. Many were ridiculously out of date, and while I still have more dozens, I lean heavy on the internet anyway.
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Office shelves
 
My office and my one-more-room are purged and organized. And my embarrassment of a hall closet is an embarrassment no more. I confess, without shame, to being a scarf slut. I still can’t figure out how I still have three tubs full of them on my closet shelf when I filled an entire bag with what I’ll pass on.
 
Anyway.
 
A good Saturday start. BW hauled out boxes and bags of donations, and I have more bags for the annual clothes swap. And Laura and Kayla can have a grudge match over the scarves. (Laura’s note:  I can take her!)

 

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Vegetable soup
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Rosemary sourdough bread
Sunday, cold with snow flurries, means making soup and baking bread. (Note from Laura:  I know Nora cooks soup the way I do — with what’s on hand and to suit my taste — so there’s not going to be a recipe. ) A hearty vegetable soup in this case, with beans and pasta, and a couple rounds of rosemary sour dough bread. And since I was hooked to the kitchen, it was a good time to purge and organize that area. I can now open doors and drawers in the areas addressed this weekend without shuddering. That’s a good deal.
 
The better one is knowing I can now begin my hibernation. I have a clear week, intend to fully hunker down. And I’m hoping nothing and no one tries to poke the bear.
Nora

Hibernation

As you read this, keep in mind I’m posting this for Nora while staying in a hotel in Long Island where the winds are up and the temps are down. I like her anyway. ~Laura
One of the biggest perks of being a writer is working at home. Even bigger is working at home when the thermometer reads one frigid, bitter, ridiculous degree. While I always do a February signing, I try not to venture out otherwise during this short, nasty little month.
 
I love hibernating. I’m an unsocial, solitary creature by nature, and winter gives me the perfect excuse to say: No thanks, not going anywhere. Mostly, I can always come up with an excuse, but winter builds one in for me.
 
There was a time I worked every day–a little less on weekends, but every day. Now it’s mostly a five-day week, but depending on where I am in a book there may still be some writing on weekends.
 
So that’s not an excuse, but a reason not to venture out. Hey, working here! I pull that reason out of my hat regularly. People who know me don’t ask me to meet them for lunch or go out to dinner or attend an event. People who don’t know me get the reason or the excuse.
 
A lot of them are sincerely baffled. My husband gets it, but there was a time. Several winters ago he said: You haven’t been out of the house is like six weeks. My response was: And your point is?
 
I understand perfectly that many people enjoy socializing regularly. My husband’s one of them. He went out in this deep-freeze yesterday to visit some pals. I stayed home, did some basic domestic stuff, baked bread and made an excellent pot roast–and got a solid workout in.photo 2
We were both happy.
 
Today the wind’s howling and I’m not going to even look at the temperature. I won’t be writing, because after all the shifting of books and files and clothes and shoes, our One More Room is a pure disaster. It’s the last on my purge list, and it’s getting the Big Treatment today.photo 3
 
After that’s done, I’ll get my workout in, then it’s time to pick a book off my TBR pile, pour a glass of wine, cozy up in front of the fire and go into someone else’s world for a couple hours. I hope it’s warm there.
 
Wherever you are–in the frozen tundra or some sunny spot, try to do one thing this weekend that makes you happy.
Nora

SOUP-er Bowl Sunday

Note from Laura: even the strongest of friendships benefit from opposing points of view.  This is NOT how I will spend Super Bowl Sunday — but I know plenty of people whose plans concur with Nora’s.

I don’t watch football–not even the Big Game. A couple days ago my granddaughter quizzed me on basic rules and scoring, certain because I don’t watch it I wouldn’t know. It surprised her I did.

I know how the game works (mostly), but it’s not my game. I like baseball. I like baseball a whole bunch. And oddly enough, I like sports movies, and the sport doesn’t matter.

In any case, my husband watches football, and he’s been gearing up for today. Part of that was getting some heavy lifting done yesterday–for both of us. Moving a zillion books from one space to another is a major undertaking. I’ve had my copies in this area for decades–and I’ve written a bunch ‘o books. But the newly selected area will serve better–once we get it done.

shoes glorious shoesMy shoes now live on the shelves that used to hold my hardcovers–those that weren’t still in boxes (the books, that is). And this I deem good.

We worked until we both decided, jeez, that’s enough for the day. Then, most excellent timing wise, enjoyed a visit with our oldest grandson who didn’t want to go with the rest of his family on an outing. Fun for us.

But today is another day.

No hauling, so I got a workout in, then rolled up my sleeves. I promised my football guy ham and potato soup–which I’ll enjoy as well. We won’t enjoy it together. soup er bowlHe’ll be down in the family room shouting at the TV, and I expect to be reading–and maybe giving myself a facial. He will come up and excitedly tell me plays or the score–he’s got his annual bet going with his pal. I’ll make mouth noises, then go back to my book–or by that time it might be a movie.

Maybe I’ll pull out my DVD of The Natural–hey, spring training’s right around the corner.

But I’m starting my holiday Sunday early, with my book in the library. I expect to finish it, then hit my TBR pile. And that equals Super Day for me.

NFR tbr cozy read

For those of you–like Laura–who love football, enjoy the big game–and the commercials! For those–like me–who don’t, have fun with whatever you’re doing instead.

I’ve got a book calling my name.

Nora

 

 

Mondays Happen

I’ve decided not to feel guilty that my own purging hasn’t been as thorough and systematic as Nora’s.  In fact, I assuaged my guilt by deciding to read The Liar (out in April) and telling my husband I was working all weekend.  ~Laura

Sometimes I wonder how. But here we are, back at the start of the week. And it’s snowing again. It’s pretty from my office window–and I’ll dive back into the book shortly and won’t notice it anyway.monday snow monday snow 2

I’m hoping the week will be as productive as the weekend before it.

Purging moving right along. We tackled the Laundry Room–or as it has become: The Dumping Ground.

I made him watch a “how to” video about tidying up, I recalled this video after wseeing an ad for those domestic cleaners Bournemouth & Poole on TV. Just to get him on the right track.
I really hate that, but at least there’s satisfaction after spending a couple hours getting rid of stuff that has no business in there. Had to enlist BW on this one as most of the stuff that had no business in there ended up there by his hands. Why, I had to ask him, is this ancient computer monitor in here, under the shelves were I keep kitchen tools and such that are needed but used rarely?

He couldn’t say, but out it went, along with two old DVD players and other assorted electronics that had passed their prime. All will now be given away or recycled. And best, they’re out of my space.

Fortunately, once we started, he was as happy as I was to move things out, put the room back in order. And best of all, it’s done.

I tackled my office alone, and had to ask myself a variation of what I asked BW. What is this doing in here? More satisfaction as my office hasn’t been this clean in a year. So I’ll start this work week in a good space.

soup on sundayI made us both happy on Sunday and put together a big pot of tortilla soup. Nice, as we’ll have leftovers on this snowy Monday, and I can stay at my desk a bit longer without worrying about what’s for dinner.

Wherever you are, and whatever’s outside your window, I hope you had a satisfying weekend. And are ready for the start of a new week. I’m thinking of this Monday as a fresh page. Now let’s see what gets written on it.

Nora

Winter Weekend

Nora sends a weekend post card from her favorite place — Home.  ~Laura

This was a busy one around here. We’re repurposing two areas–shifting them, and since one is my sub-office where we’ve stored all my books, and the other is my closet, this entails much tubbing, boxing, purging, hauling. Both areas are up a set of stairs, so it involves a lot of climbing.

We’d earmarked this weekend for the major work here, but we took a pause on that Saturday as my oldest grandson had a basketball game.

Watching a bunch of 10 and 11-year old boys race around a court, dribbling, passing, shooting is enormous fun–and when one is yours, exhausting. And really exhilarating when your boy scores a basket and makes a key steal. Our guys won, which is great, but the very best was the big, beaming grin on Logan’s face when we saw him after the game.

At least we came home cheerful to face a solid three hours of work. I believe my Fitbit registered 50 sets of stairs by the end of it. Though my new closet space still needs some tweaking–ordered more shoe and boot boxes–it’s in pretty good shape. And the new storage area won’t be my problem!

Purging the closet will net my pals plenty. I’ve already sent out an SOS for us to get together soon and tear through the small mountain of bags we hauled out.

I did a little of that tweaking on Sunday, and will do more yet, but had set that cold winter day aside mostly for the kitchen. I finally got the Thanksgiving turkey carcass out of the freezer to make turkey noodle soup. BW’s particularly fond of pretzel bread, so I added that to the menu. When he came in from manly outdoor chores, I got another big, beaming grin when he saw the rolls cooling on the rack. Good deal all around.

turkey noodle soup pretzel rolls

Somewhere between chopping vegetables for the soup and punching down dough, my granddaughter popped in. She’s still afraid to change her own earrings (we’ll work on this) and has decided I’m the only one who can do it. So we did that–and I bought a load of Girl Scout cookies from her. That netted me one more happy face for my weekend.

The closet shift has delayed my full-house purge, but I hit the utility closet while I was chained to the kitchen, so can now check my kitchen off the purge and organize list.

With BW mired in football, I had myself a nice bowl of soup, some quiet and a book to end the weekend.

Today, after all that hauling and climbing, I’m looking forward to sitting on my butt and writing. I hope you all had a weekend with some happy faces, and can do what makes you smile through the week.

Nora