Tuesday, November 30, 2010

What a Character

(Prompt from Room to Write by Bonni Goldberg)

Pick someone you know either intimately or superficially and see on a fairly regular basis. Describe this person. When you are finished, notice what you concentrated on first, what aspects you have included and what you have left out. Did you include a physical description but leave out the way this person talks? Spend another half page on an element of the character that didn't appear in the original description, or rework the portrait by beginning with the last category of characteristics to show up in the original description.

"I think what we do is take what we understand of both ourselves and what we see around us. Our own nature makes a selection; it selects which things please you more." ~~ Louise Nevelson

Favorite Cousin

She is tall, imposing. She has a baby face with straight dark hair and brown eyes. She wears her jeans way too tight but she doesn't care what anyone thinks. She is funny and loud, naive at times. She scrunches up her face when she laughs. Her style is definitely more urban than anything else. Sometimes she seems more naive and unaware than she should be, but that is a defense mechanism. Sometimes she is very much a bully and puts on a tough act, but she has a heart of gold and takes things personally but you would probably never see her react to it.

Reworked from the last characteristic.

Heather portrays a tough exterior, but she has a heart of gold. She can rough house with the boys and put makeup on with the girls so she makes friends easily. She has a very urban street flow to her words but she is sweet and thoughtful. She might seem unapproachable because she has a lot of abrasive traits, but she is a kind person who has little encouragement at home. She is tall and imposing, but has this extra youthful smile when she is laughing that makes her seem so naive. She has long, straight dark hair almost always in a ponytail and brown eyes --- beautiful eyes! She always bites the tip of her tongue when she laughs.


I had a difficult time with this exercise because I felt like I was cheating myself of it's benefits. I felt like I was focusing my character scope too widely because that was the point of the redirect. When I am writing, I fill out character interviews for each of my main characters and summarize my secondary characters so I don't think description is an area I truly need to focus on, but it was neat to "observe" my favorite cousin for a prompt.


(Prompt taken from Room to Write by Bonni Goldberg)

Today, begin by copying the word destiny in your own handwriting and see where it takes you for two pages. Or, record a dialogue between the characters in one or two of your pieces on their beliefs about destiny.

"Our wills and fates do so contrary run that our devices still are overthrown; Our thoughts are ours, their ends none of our own." ~~ William Shakespeare

I think I believe that destiny is a mix of free will and fate. Throughout our lives we have so many choices to make and I believe those choices lead us to our fates. I can choose to take my son to school every morning and fate may get us there on time or it may not. I also think fate is relative. We don't attribute fate to the mundane things that happen in our lives, like getting the kids to school on time, but we casually toss the word around when something catastrophically bad happens or when something exceptionally good happens. But think for a minute how many times destiny may intervene and we don't realize it. I could have left the house just forty seconds early one summer day going to visit my mother and it could have been me and my son who were in the roll over accident at the four way stop. Was it my destiny to avoid the accident? I guess we'll never know.

As a kid I guess I leaned more toward destiny as fate. It is what every little girl fantasizes about; you're a princess in a big castle and one day Prince Charming comes to rescue you. In one sense I understand how believing in fate can be taken to the extreme to the pint you do little outside of survive because you're waiting on fate and destiny to find you, but while you're waiting on life to find you, the world is passing you by. If you want to realize your potential, you need to give destiny a push in the right direction and make it happen.

Right now I am waiting on fate to find me. Hoping through some holy, unexplained miracle to be a published author some day, but without submissions, I am doing little more than waiting for nothing. I can't expect success or failure to find me if I don't go looking for it.

Fate is not tangible. Destiny cannot be held in your hands and studied. It is a lot like faith; you cannot see it or hear it but you can feel it and perhaps you feel it most when you perceive a lack of it in your life.

I have noticed I keep referring to destiny as fate. I'm not sure if that is the writer in me or the person in me. Most of my stories have a mixed belief of fate/free will. I think very rarely do I mention it, but is is always lurking in the plot just below the surface.

Believing in fate makes you a hopeless romantic; the kind of person who believes if you ride the subway at the same time to the same destination every night for twenty years, you'll meet that guy who gave you his number but you washed the jeans and never got to call him. He'll find you on the crowded subway car and tell you he hasn't stopped thinking about you for twenty years.

Believing in free will makes you a realist, but what fun is it to believe that life isn't some cosmically predestined event that we all happen to be attending?

Sounds to me like believing in fate makes a much better story and much more flavorful life.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Half Priced Books

Anyone who knows me, knows that I am a devoted, card carrying, Borders book store lover. I love the atmosphere, I love the people who are so helpful, I love the Seattle's Best Coffee (large hazelnut latte). I love the incredible coupons I get ...

... but I love Half Priced Books like no other. I love that I can go in there with $20 and come out with an armful of books. I don't always find what I'm looking for, but I always find something.

And a few months ago, when my writing was at its peak, I found a book I couldn't walk away from because I am obsessed with "how to" and "tips and tricks" books for writers. Anyways, shortly after I bought the book it was lost in the car among beach towels and snack wrappers and empty water bottles. Only today did I finally reach into the back seat and bring it inside the house. And I'm excited to dig into it and see what it has to say!

It's called The Confident Writer by Carol Kanar, and I will let you know how it goes. It seems to have tips and tricks for stronger writing and construction as well as prompts and exercises to get the writing juices flowing and some vocabulary building too. I don't want to promise any exercises from the book will show up on the blog in the near future because I want to work my way through Room to Write by Bonnie Goldberg first.

But yay!

NaNoWriMo is Complete!!

I completed NaNoWriMo a few days ago if you consider reaching the 50,000 word goal finished, but I actually finished my story completely last night with 52,842. It is not a fabulously put together short story/novella, but it could be a diamond in the rough just as the first one was last year during NaNoWriMo. I think with some tweaking, editing and a little more research, it could be turned into something great and it is the fantasy genre, which I never write in except my two attempts at NaNoWriMo.

I'm so excited though! I did it, even when I thought I couldn't and wouldn't and even though I was feeling less than motivated with my writing for the past several months!

*happy dance*

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Thanksgiving Stuffs

Here we are getting the desserts ready for Thanksgiving the day before.

Two pumpkin pies and an apple pie

Pecan bars cooling and starting the deviled eggs.

Thanksgiving day, waiting for the turkey to finish so we can put the sweet potato casserole and green bean casserole into the oven.

Ham in a bag.

Playing Uno while we waited for the turkey to finish.

In the garage as we started bringing food out.

Me and Christian

Me and my brother, Scott

Me and my mom

Me and my Favorite Cousin, Heather

In Loving Memory of Uncle Steve

This Thanksgiving was so different. Usually we go to my grandparents place and the entire family gets together. There are about 30-40 people at any given time and it's just pure chaos. This Thanksgiving was so easy. There were seven of us and there was no need to start preparing a week in advance doing anyone else's house cleaning. We kept the dishes clean as we went along and cleanup was a breeze as well. I totally enjoyed the holiday.

NaNoWriMo Complete!!

For the second year in a row, I have completed NaNoWriMo!

I finished last night around 11pm with 50,279 words. I am not finished with the story. It will take about 1200 more words, but I will finish that tomorrow. I already have a general idea for the ending so it won't be too hard to finish even before the 30th, even though I've already reached the goal.

I'm so excited because I truly did not believe I would complete NaNoWriMo this time, but I am so happy that I did! I also am so excited to start work on Penalty Killer again!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


I took pics of the rice and pesto stuffed chicken I made for dinner last night, to get rid of the Chicken Bellagio ingredients I had still in the fridge. I meant to post them but got sidetracked. I don't know if I will or not now, it just depends on what kind of time I have after working on NaNoWriMo today and starting my Thanksgiving prep.

By the way, I plan on doing a lot more with writing prompts and updating on my writing progress once NaNoWriMo is over, but with Christmas around the corner, things might be a bit slow for the next month.

NaNoWriMo Update

Last night I finished a chapter before I went to bed and managed to get just over 41,100 words. I'm over the suggested cumulative word count by about a day or so. I have plans to start working on Thanksgiving day prep tonight so I am going to try to get another chapter hammered out but first I have to brainstorm what happens next. I have a general idea of where the story goes, but no fine tuned plan on how to get there, so that is what is holding me back at this moment.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Last night we had a family night and went to see the new Harry Potter. I was really excited to see it. I guess I expected this movie to be exciting because of the way the last one ended.

Here's Joe and Christian, giving the camera crazy faces right before we left.

Joe being crazy ....

Christian being crazy ....

I was going to take a pic of us in front of the marquee but by the time we got out of the theater, it was pouring down rain.

Wasn't very happy with the movie. I thought it was boring, not as much action as I figured would come after Dumbledore's death in the last movie. I haven't read the books so I didn't know what to expect. I'm hoping that Part 2 will be fantastic, but if I'd never seen any of the Potter movies, Part 1 wouldn't draw me back to the series.

Monday, November 22, 2010

NaNoWriMo Update

I have been working on NaNoWriMo since about 9:30pm, although not exclusively. However, I'm so thrilled with my production! I wrote two complete chapters today!

For some reason, my NaNoWriMo stats have not updated to include 11-22-10 suggested word counts but I will post 11-21-10.

Today's word count: 38,532
Suggested count: 35,000

If I'm not too exhausted and my brain isn't too fried to do the math, I am thinking that 11-22-10's suggested count would be 36,167. So, I am a day or two ahead of the suggested cumulative total. Perhaps I can finish before Thanksgiving. I don't know how much writing I'll get done tomorrow though because Joe has Mondays off for the next few weeks, which puts a little dent in my normal schedule.

I will keep you updated though! I am determined to finish this story before November 30th!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Once Upon an Ocean Nightmare (Ch. 10)

**A little bit of what I've been working on for NaNoWriMo** (I won't dilute myself by thinking this is some kind of literary genius. I know it isn't strong and is in desperate need of editing, but considering I didn't start NaNoWriMo until 11-5, I am pleased with the idea so far.)

The sun poked over the eastern horizon, lighting the sky long before I felt all my energy return. Ronan’s sealskin was still under me and I considered, for a moment, pulling magic through my fingertips and enclosing the island bed with thick ice, just so I could rest here for a while longer and enjoy the closeness. I could have felt guilty, loving the feel of Ronan’s seal skin under my cheek, knowing that my husband was out there, probably half the distance from what we believed was the true location of Atlantis. That’s what I should have been doing. I should have been focusing on the mission at hand, but I felt no guilt for loving him.

“My queen, it is time to wake. We must head back to the Arctic. If we pace ourselves, we could be there by tomorrow morning, if we slow our pace a bit.” Ronan’s voice felt like a dream I didn’t want to wake up from.

“You know me better than that, Ronan,” I said, stretching to sit up. The other Selkies were already in the water, silently cutting into the water, no doubt scouting for any dangers that may be lurking under the surface.

“Aye, but I was hoping for once you wouldn’t be quite so stubborn, my queen.” I felt him reach out to help me to my feet. I stretched, watching for the sun on the horizon. It already warmed the surface, or maybe that was just the lingering warmth of Ronan’s sealskin.

“We will keep a less strenuous pace, but we will continue to Azores. I will not let Abellona claim victory over me.” I turned to him, hoping I could see his handsome face again, but he was already slipping into his sealskin, the transformation a seamless silence that reminded me much of the way merpeople transformed from fin to legs and back again.

I jumped into the water, leaving Ronan on the quickly dissolving ice.

The water was cool, and as three of the Selkie guard fanned around me, I felt stronger than the day before. Ronan splashed into the water, taking his place in the lead. Now that we were in the water touched by light, I could tell Ronan over the other selkies. I could see the scars on his fur, the patch of slightly silvery fur that had grown in around the part of his fur he had used to make me a sheath seven years earlier. I wanted to reach out, to touch the fur, to trace my fingers along his spine but I resisted the urge. It was inappropriate. He was obviously doing his best to keep what was between us less than what we had once thought it could be. I was thankful to him for not tempting me, for not asking me to make a choice, even if it were only for as long as we were on this journey.

Maybe that was part of the reason I’d even insisted we travel to Azores. At least as long as we were on this journey, we were together. It was torture, being so close to him, knowing that loving him and wanting him was forbidden, except for the anniversary of the war, but I couldn’t stop the way my heart sped up each time he glanced back to catch my eye.

The ice around us began to shrink until there was little more than chunks haphazardly drifting past us. The water had warmed a few degrees and I could feel the sun overhead, high above us, but the light filtered down as if through a child’s toy, dancing on the current. All the noise of the sea had returned, fish darting to and fro, whales hunting in the distance, seals swimming in the far distance. They were just seals, not Selkies and I’m sure Ronan heard them too.

“Ronan, you said you would answer my questions today,” I said, suddenly remembering his promise from the night before.

“Aye, my queen, but you have not asked any questions of me today.” He slowed, as if he expected the steady pace were starting to get to me. Truth be told, it probably would have had more affect on me if he wasn’t so near.

“What happened to the guards?” It should have been the first thought in my mind, more important than sleeping or basking, but only now, as we swam against the current, did I think to be more curious.

“We heard trouble coming. Your guards tried to prepare for a fight, but whatever it was that attacked last night, had no intentions of physical force. The guards never saw it coming. It was a ball of magic that exploded right before them. It was one of the deadly curses. I will not tell you which one, just that if we defeat Abellona before the month’s end, you will not have to inform the families of your royal guard of their demise.” This time he didn’t turn back to face me. His voice as a selkie sounded so different and I tried to remember him speaking to me before, tried to recall his seal voice from the last war but the memory was far too hazy.

Now I thought back to Arion and those weeks he’d spent under the Density spell. Grannus had told stories of his recovery, of how he’d been so near death when the allies had sought his help in recovery. If the guards were healthy, they’d have another four or five weeks before death set in. As if I needed another reason to bear down and move forth with this mission.

“I need to send a message to Arion, telling him where the guards are. Maybe Levana can send a healer to break the spell.” I said the words but I didn’t stop swimming, following Ronan. We both knew what sending word to Arion would mean. As soon as he heard that I was out in the ocean unprotected, he’d clear a path in the sea to get to me. That meant no more longing glances at each other, no more affectionate hugs, no selkie skin to cuddle against at night, but if it was for the good of the kingdom, it had to be worth giving up.

“I’ve already sent Loki with word to Levana. Your guardsmen will not be rescued by a healer. I assume they have been taken prisoner by Abellona or one of her minions. Do not worry about them, my queen, they will be alright as long as we claim victory over Abellona and Atlantis. Atlantis is the key.” He kept swimming, his pace slowed but his movements so graceful and elegant, as if he could read the current before the waves.

I should have realized there was one less selkie in the formation. What was wrong with me? I could not be this narrow minded if I expected to claim victory for my people. And of course Abellona wouldn’t have left her handy work at the depths of the ocean floor. She would have claimed them, probably using some black magic to call them back to Atlantis.

“What do you know about Atlantis?” I asked, feeling there was more to the story than he’d yet to share with me.

“There was a faint trail in the air, a scent, I suppose in the direction of Atlantis. I truly believe, and have for as long as we’ve discussed Atlantis in the war room, that Azores is near Atlantis. Last night, the trail led southeast for quite a way before I lost the scent.”

“Why did Levana let you come to me?” She was adamant that her magic could not lift the selkie curse if Ronan and I wanted to be together in my kingdom. We could only see each other every seven years, unless of course I hid his selkie skin. Then he wouldn’t even be able to step foot in the water.

“She couldn’t have stopped me even if she wanted to. I was there, sitting behind you, listening and watching. I wanted to come to you, to hold your hand, to tell you how proud I was of how strong you are, but I knew it wasn’t the time. You needed to focus on your child, on being strong for the two of you. So I waited until Levana said you needed me and I left when I did because I knew it was best if Arion did not know I had returned to the guard.”

I could be thankful for that. With all the stress of the war and then the questions he’d had Deva answer, seeing Ronan at the palace would have triggered more resentment and anger. My heart began to thud in my chest. What if he already knew that Ronan was there? What if he’d seen or heard or word had spread through the palace and found its way back to him? What must he be thinking. And then my thoughts flashed to Boreas and how wonderfully perfect he was.

“Did you see Boreas?” The words just sort of slipped from my lips, but the thought of my little one brought about new comparisons I couldn’t forget. The blue lagoon tail that was more a cold water trait than a warm water. The dark tufts of hair that suddenly seemed so much like Ronan’s. And those eyes of his. A perfect match for the color of Ronan’s selkie skin.

“Aye,” he said, his voice gruff. I wasn’t sure if it was annoyance or hurt.

Once upon a time we thought that something great would come out of the war for all the sacrifices we’d had to make. He’d lost the wife and child he’d loved and I thought I’d lost Arion forever. We dreamed of starting over, together, of ruling the ocean together and having children. Of laying under the moon at night, making love. Memories of his palms on my naked body brought back such desire I almost uttered them aloud. How could so many dreams be created in so little time, hurt so much when they are taken away?

I was quiet now, thoughtful. So much would be different if the war had ended differently.

“Deva said that a part of you will always be in my children because of the sacrifice you made for me.” The other selkies kept their gazes straight ahead, as if they hadn’t heard any of the conversation.

“Aye, she spoke to me as well.”

“Ronan! Please, turn around and say something!” I stopped, the selkies halting movement almost simultaneously. I didn’t know what I expected him to say, but I had hoped he would say something, or at least feel something. Maybe I was being too emotional. Maybe I had let too many memories of the past overwhelm my feelings in the moment.

There was no use thinking about the what ifs. Seven years had passed and I was happy. Arion was my love and we had a family. Sobek and Astraea were as much our children as Dagon and Boreas. I had no reason to be unhappy with him and with the life we’d worked so hard to build, but here I found myself, questioning the last seven years and what was right.

“What would you like me to say, my queen? That I let myself hope and dream of the life you and I would build only to see the king take it all away from me. That I wish more than anything for your children to be my own. That I can hardly stand to call him my king because I know that you are his. Or would you have me say that I hate myself for hating him because none of this was his fault. Do you want me to say that I love you and I hate that he has more of you than I ever can?” His eyes reflected nothing but hurt, maybe even a little betrayal. I hated this. I hated that the gods had chosen such trials for me.

“You should have told Levana that you couldn’t take this order.” I felt tears start to burn my eyes but I refused to let him see me cry again.

“You are more than my queen. You have been since the day that I laid eyes on you. I cannot change that. It is the test the gods have chosen for me that I cannot help but fail.” He turned back to the east and started to swim, faster than before, but still not too fast for me to keep up.

I swam along behind him, fighting the tears, wishing the other selkies would disappear so that I could disappear too. I wanted to float away, to watch the sun, where it lay in the sky as it arched toward the west. Or maybe sink to the bottom, find myself a cavernous wall to swim into, and wait for the moon to come out. At least then I wouldn’t have to feel Ronan’s distaste and his resentment. It radiated off him like the current we swam against. He’d gone back to Levana and her royal guard in hopes of seeing me, but I wished he’d just left it alone. Then we wouldn’t be here right now, both of us hurt and disappointed. How could Levana have even thought that sending me out with Ronan was appropriate? Why would she have knowingly deceived Arion?

“Zarya, I love you. As much as it kills me to know that you are Arion’s, I take solace in the fact that he loves you the same way I do. If I weren’t sure you were happy too, then I’d be angry. Then I would be furious. Then, I wouldn’t stand by, but I love you enough to let your happiness be enough for me.” He didn’t stop, his body as one with the current as could be.

I did not say a word. I just followed along, letting my tail flicker in the current and propel me forward. The other selkies that surrounded me kept swimming too, looking neither tired not particularly energized.

When we surfaced for the night, I was happy to have an excuse to close my eyes and forget the emotions running through my veins.

Getting Ready for the Holidays

Christian and I did a little Christmas decoration shopping today. Every few years we make our own decorations. We get some glitter, other craft stuff and just glue some stuff on regular Christmas bulbs. I couldn't find the kind we usually buy so we just picked up a big pack of 50 variety bulbs.

This is always so much fun! It's definitely a mess, even when you're trying to be neat and tidy, but it is well worth it!

NaNoWriMo Update For Yesterday

I forgot to blog about my NaNoWriMo update yesterday. I hadn't sat down to write on Friday so I really needed to get some writing done yesterday. I finished a chapter. I don't remember what the suggested word count was, but I know I went over it by a few hundred words. I finished last night with 33,775 and for today I think I need to be at 35,000. I will try to sit down and write at some point, maybe after the game.

Are You Ready for Some Football??

Today is a big day in our house because the Colts play the Patriots. Why does this matter? Well, my husband and his son are traitors to Indianapolis by being Patriots fans, and anyone who knows anything about football has to know that the Colts fans loathe the Patriots.

Why? It's pretty simple. More often than not, Brady and the Patriots hand the Colts their what-fors and win the game. So there is always tension in our house when the Colts and Patriots play because, although I'm not a real big football fan, I will always root for my hometown team, especially against the Patriots and Tom Brady, because well, just because.

So this is me getting ready for the big game. After I pick up Christian I'm sure he'll change into his Patriots jersey and we'll watch the game together. I didn't get a pic of Joe before he left for work but I'm sure he is wearing his Brady jersey today.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Favorite Cousin Time

My Favorite Cousin spent the weekend with my mom. I saw them this morning for brunch and I was so glad to see her. I am so proud of her! She'll be graduating in the spring!!

(My Favorite Cousin)

(My Favorite Cousin in her Ninja stance)

(Me and my Favorite Cousin)

Sometimes Being a Mom Feels Like a Betrayal to Myself

You know how you always hear people talk about being a parent means doing what's right for your child? Well, what you don't quite as often hear them say is that, sometimes what's right for your child makes you want to claw your eyes out with a melon baller. Yep. That's right. Melon baller.

Last night, Christian was acting very strange. For those of you who have no idea what's going on, we've been having some extending family issues with my grandparents. Well, it's been about six months or so that we've seen them. Which means we've gone from seeing them every day to not at all for half the year. I didn't think it bothered Christian. He never said it did. Whenever I would ask him if he wanted to see or speak to his grandparents he always said no. I made sure to tell him that it wouldn't make me mad or hurt my feelings, but he just didn't show any interest in speaking or seeing them again so I let it go, because I'm mad as I can be at them.

Well, last night Christian was in a mood and I asked him what was wrong. At first he didn't want to tell me but I knew something was wrong. So I told him, I can't fix anything unless he tells me what is going on and it doesn't matter what he says to me because he won't be in trouble. I just need to know. So he says he misses his papaw Sam.

This doesn't sound all that devastating, right? I mean, a parent can totally understand that and all you do is call up the grandparents and say, "hey, your punky wants to visit, do you have time this weekend?" Well, not in this family. Not when the grandparents turn a simple disagreement into high school popularity contests. They're the prom king and queen and I'm the quiet little nerd hoping she doesn't get shoved into her locker. Yep, it's that trivial.

Well, I thought that by keeping Christian away, it would make me feel better and then he would, in turn, not have to put up with all the craziness of their drama, but turns out, I think I let myself convince myself it was best for him. He loves his grandparents, as he should, but I let my anger make me make decisions that were more about wanting to not deal with them than actually dealing with the problem and Christian suffered because of it.

On top of that, he didn't even feel like he could talk to me about it and I think that's what hurts the worst. We have always talked about everything. I know when he's lying and I know when he's upset, but I never saw this coming. I never saw it affecting him like this.

So as hard as it was for me to accept, I called my grandfather this morning and asked him if he'd like to see Christian. He picked him up at 12:30pm and I will pick him up in a few hours. I don't plan on going in, because this doesn't change anything about how I feel with the situation that occurred and the way they handled it afterwards, but if sacrificing a little of my pride means Christian won't be upset, I'm willing to do that.

Because he means everything to me, and even though being the one to call them, being the one to ask if they want to see him, even though all of those things seriously makes me want to cry and scream and kick, I did it because that's what a mom does, and even though I have, do and will make mistakes with the things I do, say, or way I raise my son, no one can ever say I didn't care or put any thought into my actions, words, and thoughts. I love Christian more than anything in this world, and if sacrificing a little bit of who I am means it takes away a little bit of his sadness, confusion, and hurt ... then I will do it without hesitation.

Even though it made me sad to let him go.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Wasting Time

Today I woke up with the sole intent of working on NaNoWriMo, but I got distracted because I wasn't really feeling wordly creative. So I just started playing around with Power Point and for some reason started a slideshow with chapter overviews for No One's Puck Bunny.

I didn't feel well last night before I went to bed. I was burning up, not with fever, and when I stood up I felt a little dizzy like I was overheated or something. This morning I was tired but felt fine, now I'm tired again. Probably because I'm wasting time.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Chicken Bellag-almosto

This is my version of the Chicken Bellagio you might find at the Cheesecake Factory. I had this a few weeks ago when I had dinner with friends and it was delicious so I thought I would try to make it on a budget. I think I already posted my ingredients and cost list on another post but I'll edit after posting and add it here as well.

First, you need to get a pan of water on the stove for pasta. Add a dash of EVOO to it and sprinkle in some salt. Set it on medium heat until it comes to a boil, that way you have plenty of time to work on the chicken prep.

I started off chopping the basil (sage, because I apparently picked up the wrong package at the store). You could leave it in stalks and probably make it a little more presentable on the dish, but I chopped mine into confetti sized pieces. And just so you know, I started with the basil so that my chef's knife wasn't contaminated by the raw chicken before using on the basil.

Put that aside and flip the cutting board over to the meat side to work on the chicken. I ran the side of my knife blade over each piece, pressing it down evenly to tenderize it. Flip the chicken over and do the same on the other side, then season with salt and pepper. Start a skillet on medium to medium high heat with 2 or 3 tbsp. of EVOO. Let it heat up while you heavily coat the chicken in flour.

Then, dip in bowl of 2 beaten eggs. Press onto plate of Panko crumbs, and press down with a bit of force to make sure the crumbs stick. Coat both sides with Panko crumbs.

Lay in skillet and let cook. Be sure to occasionally swipe any stray crumbs from your skillet to minimize smoke and burning. Depending on the size of the chicken and the power of your stove, you should turn the chicken between 5-7 minutes. You want the Panko crumbs to be a nice golden brown, but make sure you slice into the chicken to check how done it is.

By this time, your pasta water should be boiling. Turn up to high heat and toss in some pasta. I used whole wheat linguine because that's what we had on hand, but I think Cheesecake Factory uses angel hair pasta because I remember it being much more round and thin. Whatever pasta you have on hand will do, or whatever you prefer. Give a good, quick stir and continue to let boil.

You may need to turn the chicken at this point, and start getting your pesto sauce ready. Mine was just a ready to mix package that called for 3/4 cup of water and 1/4 cup EVOO. Next time I will use a little less of both to get a little thicker consistency from it.

I turned the oven to 400 degrees, greased a cookie sheet and put a few slices of prosciutto on it to crisp. I don't care what you do with your prosciutto. It's delicious as is, but I knew Christian wouldn't eat it if it didn't "look" done. I think I left it in the oven about 7 minutes, but it really depends on how crisp you want it, if at all.

And this was what it looked like when it came out of the oven.

When all is said and done, drain your pasta, toss it back into the pan and pour pesto sauce over it. Mix it together until well blended.

The chicken should look something like this, perhaps a little less crisp on top if you remember to sweep away stray crumbs as you cook and turn.

To serve, toss a good sized helping of pasta onto a plate and sprinkle with the chopped basil, as much as you wish. Place a chicken breast on top of the pasta. Garnish the chicken with a slice of prosciutto and sprinkle with basil again. It should look something like this ....


It was delicious, and Christian loved it, minus the basil (sage). Also, after doing up the dishes, I put a 1/4 cup vinegar on each side of the sink to help clear out the drains from any stray flour, crumbs, sage that might have clogged it up. I'll let that set for half an hour, pour a tablespoon of baking soda inside and another 1/4 cup of vinegar, then run some hot water and all should be copasetic on the prevention front.

These are the ingredients for dinner tonight, minus the flour, eggs, and seasoning.

3 boneless skinless chicken breasts ... $4.31
Pesto sauce mix ... $0.58
Basil ... $1.89
Panko Crumbs ... $1.58
Pasta (estimation per serving) ... $0.90
Prosciutto ... $3.98
Estimated Total Cost ... $13.24
Estimated Total Cost per serving ... $4.42 (3 servings, one for each piece of chicken)
It's definitely more expensive per serving than I usually serve but was nice to pretend to be a fancy Italian chef for a night!

11.18.10 NaNoWriMo

Started out with a few hundred less words to write to get to my daily average, so that was great. I finished chapter thirteen and have 78 pages written (only 1.5 spacing)

You know the chapters I said I would brainstorm last night? Yeah, didn't happen. So Tonight after dinner and some evening chores, I will have to buckle down and get some chapters brainstormed so that I can continue writing at this pace. Once again, over my suggested cumulative total so I'm thrilled about that. Glad to be beyond the halfway point. For a while, I wasn't sure I'd even participate in NaNoWriMo this year and now I feel like it's definitely within the realm of possibility ... as long as I don't lose any steam during the last half of the month.

My unofficial goal is to be finished with the story by the 25th, but I will be happy to finish by the 30th.

Today's Count: 31,366
Suggested Count: 30,000

Hectic Morning

So I had this wonderful idea to recreate this dish I had at The Cheesecake Factory with my friends a few weeks back. It is Chicken Bellagio, or something Italian like that. It was a couple pieces of breaded chicken on top of basil pesto pasta, topped with prosciutto, and arugula. Well, we have the chicken, pesto, pasta and I figured I could make a quick trip to the local Kroger for the basil, arugula, Panko crumbs, and prosciutto.

Take Christian to school, head on over to Kroger and head straight for the produce section. They have arugula, nice and pre-packaged for your convenience, but much like a department store that keeps certain items locked on the shelves and rods, the arugula I desperately needed was locked on the rod. None of the other herbs were. Basil was free to roam around, sage was free to slide off the rod and into a cart at any given moment, but arugula was a prisoner. So I fidgeted with it for a minute because I wanted to make sure I wasn't having some early morning, still tired, hallucination. But I wasn't. And as embarrassing as it felt to ask a clerk to unlock the arugula, I asked the produce guy. His response was, "I've never seen this before. Maybe we aren't supposed to sell it."

Well, I would have thrown a fit and told him that the arugula was on display with a price tag shown so obviously they were supposed to sell it and if they'd stocked it on the rod then obviously there was a way OFF the rod, but I was too embarrassed to make a fuss. Instead, I go looking for my other ingredients. Apparently, our neighborhood Kroger is a little less than well stocked when it comes to anything other than chips, soda, and frozen ready to heat foods. No Panko crumbs and no bread crumbs at all. I checked the bread aisle, where the stuffing crumbs were and although well stocked on stuffing, no Panko. So I checked the ethnic foods aisle and no bread crumbs or Panko. I checked the baking aisle, none there either. I thought I might at least get the prosciutto, but nope, none of that either.

I left Kroger with a measly pack of basil, but figured Marsh was just down the street so I'd try there.

Well, as I pulled into the choppy, cracked, disarrayed parking lot with faded paint lines, I remembered why it is I never shop at Marsh. I went inside to the produce aisle and guess what, no arugula, Panko crumbs, or prosciutto. So I decide, rather angrily, to head to Wal-Mart. After all, it's a much bigger store so they have to have these things, right??

Get to Wal-Mart, peruse the produce aisle and guess what ... apparently Kroger was right to bolt down their arugula supply because Wal-Mart had none to offer either. I had no idea fresh arugula was such a hot commodity. (Should I be talking to a stockbroker about this and transfering my 401k?) Anyways, I just settled for the basil and headed to the deli. They had prosciutto and Panko crumbs. So I bought it, and thanked my lucky stars I only had to waste $974,286 in gas getting the ingredients for a cheap knock off dinner.

I'll come back after dinner with pics and turn this into randomrecipeswithpicsblog.

These are the ingredients for dinner tonight, minus the flour, eggs, and seasoning.

3 boneless skinless chicken breasts ... $4.31
Pesto sauce mix ... $0.58
Basil ... $1.89
Panko Crumbs ... $1.58
Pasta (estimation per serving) ... $0.90
Prosciutto ... $3.98
Estimated Total Cost ... $13.24
Estimated Total Cost per serving ... $4.42 (3 servings, one for each piece of chicken)

NaNoWriMo 11.17.10

Didn't start writing today until about 10:00pm. But I at least had a plan for the second half of the chapter, which made it easy to meet my daily goal. I am going to brainstorm a couple more chapters and head to bed. I think I may do some early writing tomorrow, just depends on how quickly I get my housework done.I already have the next chapter outlined, but I will definitely need some ideas already strewn together to keep up my progress.

Today's Total: 28,884
Suggested Total: 28,334

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Remembering Uncle Steve

Uncle Steve passed away three years ago. About a year ago I found a lamp that was his but was in storage. It was slightly damaged so I took the lamp mechanism out of it and turned it back into a vase.

The memories are a little hard to deal with sometimes. I miss him so much and I just didn't realize how much I would miss him until he was gone.

Anyways, I started putting little Post-It notes in the vase with a date on it. Whenever I think of Uncle Steve, I jot the date on the Stick-It and toss it into the vase. If something specific triggers the memory, I will write that down on the Post-It as well. It sounds silly, but it helps.

Homework Time

This was Christian, doing his homework after school while I started dinner.

His crazy expression ...

And laughing hysterically ...

Wednesday Dinner Time

Wednesdays are the only day that Joe has off from work, the whole day, so today I wanted to do something quick and easy to clean up after, but still a sit down meal we can enjoy as a family.

Today's Menu: Turkey burgers, sweet potato fries, and salad.

This isn't a recipe blog, but today I will post a bit about how I prepared it.

Sweet Potato Fries:

3 large sweet potatoes (which ended up being too much for our family so one large or a large and a medium might be better)
2 tablespoons EVOO
Salt, pepper and garlic to taste

Peel the sweet potatoes, slice into fry shapes. Rinse, then drain really well.

In a bowl, drizzle EVOO and toss until evenly coated.

Spread onto pan, and sprinkle with salt, pepper and garlic. I mixed a bit of each together, gave a shake, and sprinkled.

Place in oven at 400 degrees and let bake for about 30 minutes, turning once.

With the turkey burgers, I put a little salt, garlic pepper, crushed red pepper, and Worcestershire sauce in with two pounds of ground turkey. Tossed in a little bit of Italian bread crumbs and mixed.

Then formed into eight patties for the grill.

I turned the sweet potatoes after a half hour and put them back in the oven. This was the final product.

The potatoes weren't as crisp as I had wanted them to turn out, but they were still delicious. Joe and Christian really enjoyed!

2lbs. ground turkey ... $3.00
Hamburger buns ... $1.00
3 sweet potaotes ... $2.75
Spices, herbs, etc. ... $0.75
Salad ... $3.00

Estimated Cost: $10.50 (but I had the spices and dressing on hand so it was a smidge cheaper but I tossed a high ball figure in there just to be fair.)
Estimated Cost Per Serving: $1.32 (8 turkey burgers so 8 servings)
And for our family of three, that left plenty for lunch today for me and Joe.

Hamless Ham

I told Christian to smile for a quick picture this morning as we were walking out the door to take him to school. For as much as he loves to get his picture taken, the boy can't give an authentic smile on cue.

He was quiet on the way to school and almost fell asleep while we were waiting. I think we need to readjust bedtime.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Merpire or Vampaid

So I was just working on Once Upon an Ocean Nightmare, which is the second installment of Zarya, Arion, and Ronan. Well, I was writing a scene that takes place during the day on the surface of the water and I realized, I think my merpeople have mingled with vampires over the course of their evolution.

Why did I so suddenly come to this conclusion? Well, I offer for your consideration, what I'm listing as evidence.

Evidence A

Merpeople need the moon to draw energy. The moonlight energizes them and strengthens their magic. Now, they do not need to bask under the moon every night, unless they are a.) a newborn, b.) just given birth within the last thirty days, and last but not least, c.) waiting for their love to return from a long journey.

Evidence B

Merpeople cannot handle the sunlight. Infant merchildren cannot withstand the sun at all. It drains the energy they gathered during basking so they must be under the surface of the water before the sunrise. Young mermaids cannot see a sunrise until they are married. Their male counterparts can be unaffected by the sunrise before marriage, but it also drains energy and magic from their bodies at a quicker rate than if they had just gone back into the ocean at sunrise. Sunlight is also not good for mermaids who have given birth within the last 30 days. Their bodies are weak and susceptible to massive energy and magic drain from the sun.

Evidence C

Ronan isn't a merperson. He's a selkie, which is a seal who can change into human form. Anyways, selkie blood is what gives the rogue merpeople their excessive energy and ability to heal so quickly. When Zarya is weakened from travel and childbirth and impending war, Ronan offers enough of his blood to her to help heal her and replenish her energy.

So, I wrote the first edition, Once Upon an Ocean Lullaby, last year at NaNoWriMo and I never noticed until now that a lot of my merpeople characteristics are very vampire.

I guess the question now is should they be "merpires" or "vampaids"? LOL

NaNoWriMo 11.16.10

Today is the 16th and I had meant to post a blogcast yesterday but blogger was being extra super slow so I nixed the idea. I'll consider remaking a video in a couple days and posting it.

Worked on NaNoWriMo today. I am barely above the suggested cumulative count for the day, which makes me feel great.

Today's Count: 26,703
Suggested Count: 26,667

It's What's For Dinner

Click Here For Recipe

I found a recipe blog the other day called Fantastical Sharing of Recipes. Check it out! The blogger has dozens of recipes with pics of the steps and the final project. I found the Grands Taco Melts on there the other day and knew I had to try it, especially since Christian saw the pics and said they looked delicious.

Here is how ours turned out, but make sure to click the link above to check out the recipe and leave the blogger some love. Her recipes are quick, simple, and budget conscious!

I used a couple tablespoons of milk in the refried black beans to make them a little creamier and topped with a little cheese.

And they are yum! Just had a few bites and wanted to post for the blog. I'm going to go enjoy dinner now!
I won't post all the ingredients here because I want you to click on the recipe link above and show my fellow blogger some love, but I will tell you the estimated cost of my meal, and the estimated per serving cost.

Estimated Cost: $8.31
Estimated Cost per serving: $1.04 (8 biscuits so 8 servings)