November 13, 2011

NaNoWriMo 2011 - Day 13 Update

Today is day 13 which means I at the halfway mark for the month in 2 days. My goal was to be at 22,000 words by the end of writing today and I did it. Just barely, but I did. Week Two is notorious for slumps, doubts, and no inspiration and I had my share of all three. I feel better now than I did earlier in the week. I did a lot of research this week and worked on my outline. Now I just want to write. Do you think my boss will let me take the week off so I can finish my book? No, I don't think so either.

My goal for this time next week is 34,000. I'm looking forward to hitting 25k - the infamous halfway point. I'll probably get there by Monday or Tuesday.

Sundays in the Kitchen - Pecan Tarts

This weekend I made Pecan Tarts (or Pecan Tassies) for my husband's birthday. They are his favorite cookie and I only make them twice a year: his birthday and Christmas.

Whether you call then Pee-kens or Pee-cahns I'm sure you will love them too!

These cookies are not difficult but require time so it is important that the baker fuel up on caffeine first. My drink of choice today was a pumpkin spice latte in my RENT mug.

First, you have to make the dough. In a bowl, mix 1/2 cup of softened butter and 3 ounces of softened cream cheese.

Slowly add 1 cup of flour until it's all mixed in well and looks like dough.
Wrap it up (I use tin foil) and put in the refrigerator for one hour. Trust me. You will thank me later --probably in about an hour

After 45 minutes has passed, you can now make the filling. In a bowl, mix 1 egg, 3/4 cup pf packed brown sugar (I use light), and 1 tablespoon of melted butter. Mix it together until it becomes syrupy.

I, apparently, blacked out as I was taking this photo but this is all I have of what it should look like after you mix it. Add in 3/4 cup of coarsely chopped pecans.

Has it been an hour? Good. Grease a mini cupcake pan. Take your dough out of the fridge and pinch off a piece. Shape it into pan like mini pie crusts. Since you had the dough in the fridge for an hour it will be easier to shape and mold. Are you thanking me yet? Well, you should be because the fridge part is not in the recipe. I thought of that part myself!

This next part I also added in myself. Take a piece of pecan and place it in the bottom of each mini crust. It adds a little something when you bite into it.

Spoon your filling into each mini crust. You can fill them pretty full because they won't rise much. I fill it at about 95% full. If it's too full the filling will stick to the pan and make it a pain for you to get the tarts out after baking.

Put in the oven at 325 degrees for 25-30. Any more than 30 minutes and they dry out. After you take them out of the oven, allow them to cool until it's bearable for you to touch. Do not let them get cold.  Pop them out of  the tin and onto a cooling rack, or, if you are like me and don't have a cooling rack, then they go right onto a plate. Both work just as well.

Sprinkle powdered sugar onto the cookies while they are still warm. That makes for some extra goodness later.

Looks like I'm going to have to refill my cup before I get some pecan tarts. Yum! Yum!

November 6, 2011

NaNoWriMo 2011 - Day 6 Update

Today is Day 6 which means I am one-fifth of the way there for the month. My word count has shot through this week. I was hoping to be at 10,000 words by Day 6 but instead I am close to 13,000. I couldn't be happier with my progress so far. I hope I can keep it up another week. Week One tends to be the easiest because everyone is excited and super motivated. I have a set writing schedule through the week and spent most of the weekend writing to keep up this pace.

In one week - by this time next Sunday - I hope to be at 22,000. I'll write another update half-way through the week. Keep checking back to keep tabs on my progress and if you don't hear from me email me, call me, send rockets to my apartment because it is quite possible I have passed out in NaNoLand.

Sundays in the Kitchen - Taco Shells

I forgot to take photos of most of this but it's really easy.

Brown 1 pound of ground beef (or I use ground turkey). While that is browning, cook large shell pasta in boiling water. Cook until pasta is soft. Drain and rinse. Back to the meat: Drain the fat. Add in 3/4 cup of water, one packet of taco seasoning and some diced onion. I just added enough onion to our liking. You can add as much or as little as you like. Mix it altogether thoroughly and bring to a boil. Stir and simmer.

Allow pasta to cool enough so you can touch it. Open the shells and put 1 1/2 to 2 spoonfuls of taco meat into each shell. Place in a baking sheet. Once all the shells are filled, sprinkle shredded cheese over all the shells.

Now this I have a picture of.
Half of them are covered with cheese, half are uncovered. I put cheese on all of them but it was at this point that I realized I wasn't taking any photos.

Put in oven at 350* for 5-7 minutes - just until the cheese is melted.

Finished product! I added some sour cream to mine and YUM!

November 1, 2011

NaNoWriMo Kick Off 2011!

NaNoWriMo has begun and hopefully it goes better for me than the failed warm-up prompts I had lined up. I was just so sick that I couldn't keep up.

After Day 1 though, things are looking up. My goal is to try to get to 2000 words each day. I met that goal today and could have gone on for more but I was feeling tired and thought it was best to rest so that I can make it through the rest of the 29 days.

I'm feeling confident and my head is swimming with ideas. It's been a long time since I've felt this creative.

October 30, 2011

Week Eight

I am sick. Really sick.

My doctor doesn't want me to get on a scale for awhile so I won't be updating with weekly weigh-ins for a few weeks. My body is a mess and I'm off to go multiple specialists.

I will continue to help my body by eating healthy foods. I'm not giving up but I am being realistic.

October 26, 2011

Countdown to NaNo Warm-Up #4

Ten Creative Writing Prompts in Ten Days
Seven days until NaNo!

Ode to My Sweater

I love that you are black
And fir perfectly across my back

You warm me up when it is cold
I will even wear you when you are old

You wait on the back of my chair
Until there is a chill in the air

One time I lost you  my sweater
I didn't know how I would handle the weather

I looked for you wide and far
And found you in the backseat of my car


Ok, let's be honest here. This one sucks. I don't like rhyming but I thought I would try it. It doesn't work for me. Also, I was supposed to post this last night and didn't Note to self: Finish blogging before you take cough syrup. Moving along....

October 24, 2011

Countdown to NaNo Warm-Up #3 -- The Near Year's Resolution

Ten Creative Writing Prompts in Ten Days
Eight days until NaNo!

The New Year's Resolution
"Happy New Year!" Alan leaned over to kiss his wife, Marla, before he took another sip of champagne. After another dance with Marla, they left the party and headed home.

"Hey, Al, what do you think your resolution is going to be this year?"
"A resolution? I haven't made a resolution since I was in third grade and my teacher made us write one. That was the same year I decided I hate resolutions."
"Hate resolutions? What?" She laughed. "It's just like making a goal. This year, my resolution to lose 20 pounds."
"Marla, honey. First of all, you can be more creative than that. And second, you don't need to lose even one pound."
Marla laughed again. "Oh Alan. Come on. Make a resolu-- make a goal with me."
"Ok. I resolve to not kill anyone this year."
"Not kill anyone?"
"Well, it should be pretty easy to accomplish."

Two weeks had gone by. Life was returning to normal after the usual holiday craziness. Marla had taken down all of the Christmas decorations. Alan was hiding the last of the cookies from his two children. He was busy at work and knew he would need a little sugar rush when he got home.

He kissed Marla good-bye and headed to work. Alan felt a little dizzy but shook it off and thought to himself that maybe he shouldn't have had that third cup of coffee.

All that he remembers of the rest of that morning was turning right onto Maple Ave and a sharp, hard pain in his head.

He woke up in the hospital. Marla was next to him with her head on the side of the bed. He softly stroked her hair. She sat up.

"Oh Alan!" She hugged him tight. It hurt but he didn't stop her. "I was so worried and scared."
"What happened?"
"You passed out while you were driving to work. You have a broken leg and arm and some cracked ribs. The doctors are running tests to find out the cause."
"Did I hit a tree?"
"A street sign then?"
"No." She looked away. She couldn't look him in the eyes.
"Marla. Tell me what happened after I passed out."
"You hit a pedestrian on the sidewalk. His name was John Milner. He was 79 years old and out for his daily walk."
"Was? Honey, what did I do?" He was shaking because he already knew the answer.
"He died yesterday."

October 23, 2011

Week Seven

Week One: 225.0
Week Two: 222.0
Week Three: 220.4
Week Four: 219.8
Week Five: 218.0
Week Six: 218.6
Week Seven: Break from the scale

I have been sick for over 3 weeks and am taking medication for it. Due to this, my thyroid medications is interacting with it by NOT WORKING. Instead of getting upset by the numbers on the scale over something I can't do anything about, I thought I would take a break from the scale this week and instead measure my progress in another way.

This is me in jeans that I haven't been able to wear for a long, long time! I feel awesome in them! Yay for victories off the scale as well.

Sundays in the Kitchen - Russian Tea

Boil 6 tea bags in 8 cups of water.
Steep for 15 minutes.

Add in 6 more cups of water, 1 cup of sugar, 4 cups of orange juice, 4 cups of pineapple juice, 2 sticks of cinnamon, and 1 tablespoon of whole cloves.


The finished product is darker than shown above. Russian Tea doesn't photograph well.

This is go good and is perfect in the winter time and for the holidays.

Harry Potter sings Gloria Gaynor

Countdown to NaNo Warm-up #2 -- Punxsutawny Phil

Ten Creative Writing Prompts in Ten Days
Nine days until NaNo!

Punxsutawny Phil
Punxsutawny, PA

Punxsutawny Phil, born in Punxsutawny, Pennsylvania, died on February 2, 2012. He was 12 years old and died doing what he loved: predicting if there will be six more weeks of winter or six more weeks until spring.

He leaves behind a wife, Philippa, and 2 children, Philipina (age 2) and Philip Jr. (age 3).

Punxsutawny Phil was most known for his celebrity on Groundhog's Day. He predicted correctly 38% of the time but people still came from miles and got up before the sun rose to watch Phil make his year  prediction. He was also featured in a movie, he has Beanie Baby named after him, and was a guest on the Oprah Winfrey Show.

He will be missed by many until next year when he is replaced with another groundhog.

October 22, 2011

Countdown to NaNo Warm-Up #1 -- The Cookie

Ten Creative Writing Prompts in 10 days!
10 days until NaNo!

The Cookie
I looked at the clock as I strolled into the office. 8:33. Eh, not too bad for leaving 10 minutes late. I walked past my mailbox. Empty. I love when my mailbox is empty. Less work to do before my second cup of coffee. I dropped my bags on my desk and chair and went to the kitchen in search of more coffee.

When I returned to my desk with a steaming cup of java in my hand, I saw something on my desk. Was this here earlier and I missed it or did someone just put it on my desk in the past 5 minutes?

I look at it closer. It's a cookie. I look around. No one is watching me. No one is walking around with a basket of cookies, delivering goodies to everyone in the office. I look at the cookie again. Chocolate chip. Mmm. It smells good. I wrap it up and put it in my desk drawer to save for after lunch. An hour later the cookie is calling to me. What's wrong with a mid-morning snack? Nothing. And I eat it.

The next morning I walk into the office to find another cookie on my desk. I asked my co-worker next to me if he got a cookie. He said no. I asked him if he saw you put this cookie on my desk. No again.

This continues for weeks. And months. I'm grateful for the cookie every morning and I've wondered if maybe I was being poisoned. I wasn't getting sick even after eating the cookies everyday for 3 months.

Then, one day, I come into the office and instead of the usual cookie sitting on my desk there is a deck of cards with a note attached. The note reads "Meet me tomorrow night at 7:30. 325 W. First Street. When you walk in, ask for Smith."

My curiosity won out over my apprehension. The day crept by. The next day was worse in anticipation for what was coming in just a few short hours.

Finally, I was standing in front of 325 W. First Street. The sign read Bengal's Bar. I looked at my watch. 7:33. I walked in and was greeted by an attractive woman who was dressed all in black. Her blonde hair was pulled back in a tight pony tail. "Hello" she said with a smile showing off her bright white teeth. "Can I have the name please?" "Yeah, umm. Smith?" I cleared my throat trying to read her reaction. "I mean, I think." I sounded as unsure as I felt.

"Great!" she said with another bright white smile. "Follow me please."

She led me through the dark bar. I looked straight ahead as I followed her, weaving through tables and chairs. She took to me to back of the room to a red door. "Right in here, sir. I'll send a server in to check on you in a minute." Bright white. She tossed her hair and strolled off. I stood there staring at the door for a minute. Why was I here? What was I doing? I checked my cell phone. No missed calls. No new messages. 7:36.

I opened the door.

October 19, 2011

12 days!

12 days until NaNoWriMo and I am super excited to get started. I finished a rough outline of my plot. Next I just need to iron out the wrinkles and develop my characters a little more and I am set.

Everything is top secret for now. After NaNo I will divulge the plot description.

October 16, 2011

Week Six

Let's get right to it.

Week One: 225.0
Week Two: 222.0
Week Three: 220.4
Week Four: 219.8
Week Five: 218.0
Week Six: 218.6

I gained .6 this week. I have mixed emotions about it. First, my thyroid is out of whack again and my medication had to be changed. Anytime there's a change in thyroid medication it reeks havoc on a person's body until it has regulated itself. I may even see a gain next week until my thyroid levels stabilize again. Second, as my WL buddies helped me to see, this is about a lifestyle change. Of course, it stinks to gain but I have to keep focused on the long run. My focus is on better health and getting these health issues resolved, not on the number on the scale. The number on the scale is one tangible way to measure the steps in this journey but it's not the only way to measure.

Just keep swimming, just keep swimming. 

Day Zero #23 Learn how to bake bread/Sundays in the Kitchen - Bread

I just HAD to try out my new KitchenAid stand mixer. It was a wedding gift and I love it! I decided to try making bread. I had never made it before and I learned a few things along the way for next time. 

The recipe I used is from the KitchenAid mixer book.
6 to 7 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
3 1/2 teaspoons salt
3 packages active dry yeast
1/4 cup butter or margarine, softened
2 cups very warm water

First I had to make sure I had some good jams going. This is a crucial step. I decided to play songs from our wedding since I was using a wedding gift.

Next I gathered all of my ingredients together. I am notorious for starting a recipe and then realizing I don't have all of the ingredients.

I put the dough hook in my KICK ASS mixer.

Now. On to the mixing.
5 1/2 cups of flour, the sugar, salt, dry yeast and butter all go into the bowl.

Turn the mixer to speed 2 and slowly add the water. Let it mix for about 1 1/2 minutes. It will look like mush.

Continue mixing on speed 2 and gradually add the remaining flour 1/2 cup at a time. The dough is ready when it is clinging to the dough hook and the sides of the bowl are clean.

Tightly wrap the dough in plastic wrap and then wrap that in a towel. Let rest for 20 minutes.
I made the mistake here of not wrapping it tight enough. The dough will rise (duh) and if it's not wrapped tight the dough will pop out the sides. Oops.

Next, the recipe calls to pull the dough apart in half. (The loaf pans that I had were smaller than what was stated in the recipe so I separated the dough into thirds.) Roll out the dough to get rid of bubbles and shape the dough into a loaf. Place in greased loaf pan and brush each loaf with oil. Loosely cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2-12 hours.

Pull loaves out of the refrigerate and let sit for 10 minutes.

Bake at 400 degrees for 35 - 40 minutes. Remove from pans immediately and let cool.

Mmmmmmm! This was a hit in my house. Warm bread with melted butter. Yummy! I will definitely be making bread again. Next time, I need to get actually loaf pans and a rolling pin.

The Power of Cinnamon

The medication I have to take for PCOS can increase my blood sugar levels. I have to get my blood sugar levels checked every so often because it can lead to diabetes. I've been on this medication for over 3 years and so far my blood sugar levels have been normal. This is good news, but at the same time I am always careful of the amount of sugar I eat and look for ways to combat this issue so that it doesn't become a problem. I would like to not cure one disease by contracting another.

Turns out that cinnamon has a lot of health benefits. It helps to increase metabolism and lower and stabilize blood sugar levels, and helps to reduce triglycerides or LDL -- the bad cholesterol. How can you add cinnamon into your diet? It's very easy. Sprinkle some in your coffee, tea, protein shake, smoothies or yogurt. It adds a great taste. This past week I've been sprinkling it in my coffee. It's tastes great but doesn't always dissolve completely and I had a few chunks of it floating around. I don't like things floating around in my drinks so I'm going to start adding some into the coffee grounds before I brew the coffee. Hey, I'll take any help I can get.


Preparing for NaNo

15 days until NaNo starts and I am getting so excited. Yesterday I spent a lot of time on the forums and reading up on tips from writers who have won in the past. To win you just have to have your finished book and all 50,000 words submitted before midnight on November 30th. November is for writing. December is for editing.

I'm looking forward to reaching out and attending some write-ins in the area. A write-in is when a group of people meet up at a coffee shop or cafe and write together for a few hours.

I have 3 ideas for a novel that are swimming around in my head. I have 15 days to narrow it down. I started my character list and possible traits to go along with each idea. It's exciting to see how it's starting to come together and I'm even starting to grow an attachment to some of them.

I've also planned a writing schedule. I'm really looking forward to it and am thinking about starting it but work on smaller pieces until November.

It's going to be a long 15 days. I'm ready to start writing NOW!

October 12, 2011

Day Zero #92 Inspire someone to make their own 101 in 1,001 list

On day one no less! Awesome! My friend Jess at Points of Interest is making a list and I can't wait to see it. If I've inspired you to make your own list, please let me know. I would love to see what you aim to accomplish and keep up with your progress.

If you post your list to your blog, I would be happy to link you.

Update 10/16/11:
2 more people have deiced to make their own Day Zero list. I'm so excited that my friends have decided to join me. Jess (yes, another Jess) at A housewife who bakes....How shocking has started her list. You can find her list on her blog. Also, Alex at Good Girl Gone Wife has started her list too. Good luck ladies! Much love!

Day Zero #17 Write a letter to myself to be opened in 1,001 days

I thought this was a great one to start with. I promised I would blog about each item but this one I don't want to share here because I don't want to look back on this blog entry and see what I wrote to myself. Doesn't that defeat the purpose?

So anyway, I wrote the letter to myself (which is weird to do. Do I address myself as I, or you?) and it's now in a sealed envelope. I need to find a place to keep it for 1,001 days where it won't get lost. I think I'll put it in the black nightstand in the top drawer. Now I just hope I'm smart enough to remember or to think to come back to this blog post.

One task done. 100 to go! :)

October 10, 2011

I've decided to write a book.

November is National Novel Writing Month or NaNoWriMo. Every year I think about participating and every year I end up not doing it. This year I've decided to try it. The goal is to write a novel that is 50,000 words starting Nov. 1 and ending on midnight Nov. 30. That's roughly 1,667 words a day. Seems doable when it's broken down by day.

I've always wanted to be a writer. I wrote a lot in high school and for the first year of college. After that I just sort of slowly stopped writing. I considered NaNoWriMo last year but I just felt like I was too busy starting a new job and planning my wedding. What's my excuse this year? I don't have one. So I guess I'm going to do this. At the end of it I can cross something off of my bucket list even if I never get published.

Well I have 3 weeks to dwell on it until I can begin writing. I'm excited and nervous and anxious all at the same time.

October 9, 2011

Week Five

Wow. What a rough week. I've been away from blogging this week because I have been very sick. Friday was the only full day I worked this week. Yikes. I'm starting to feel better but am still struggling with a few symptoms.

Week One: 225.0
Week Two: 222.0
Week Three: 220.4
Week Four: 219.8
Week Five: 218.0

Lost this week: 1.8 pounds
Lost total: 7 pounds

First, I am very happy to be in the 200-teens. That was one of my immediate goals. Second, I am well on my way to my first milestone goal of losing 10 pounds by New Year's. You (read as I) have to remember that even though these are small goals, I spent close to 2 years gaining weight every week. At its worst I was gaining 12 pounds a month. So to lose any weight at all is a huge victory for me.

In other news.... I really need a pedicure. Come on 3 more pounds.