food, Personal Life, Travel

Traveling, and the End of the Plums.

Let’s start with that second item first. The plums. They are finished. The tree is bare of fruit, and even the counter holds only what we’ll eat today on its surface. The rest has been frozen, eaten, given away, or otherwise preserved. We are well-set with plums for the year!

The reason spousal unit and I wanted the tree’s “Closed for the Season” sign raised is that later today I’ll be leaving on a week-long trip. I’ll stay with a writing friend and visiting two others. (Sorry, Adam, I can’t find you online!) We all met at Taos Toolbox, so that just shows that lasting friendships can be made at workshops, even for introverts like me.

My bag is packed, and right now the dog is asleep on my lap, blissfully unaware (well, mostly; he did see the suitcase and had a bit of a freak, which is why he’s on my lap even though he’s nearly 30 lbs!) of my imminent departure. I’m excited, I’m happy, I’m hoping the trip is uneventful, I’m sure I’ve forgotten a thing or three. I’ll be out of touch until after I return–let’s just call it July–when I’ll post an update here, probably with pics!

Until then, carry on, and happy Wednesday.

food, Nature, Personal Life, signal boosting, Writing

When Life Gives You Cracked Plums…

…make Jam!

The rain and the birds are conspiring to give me a bumper crop of split, pitted, or cracked plums. The week-plus of drenching rains has swollen the fruit too quickly, and the birds sense the nearby bounty, so they peck an unripe plum. Once its skin is breached, it splits and ripens fast, falling to the ground, where the birds will feast.

That’s where I step in. Several times a day, whenever the rains let up long enough, I step outside and scan under and around the tree. I scoop up the fallen fruit, and pick any cracked fruit still hanging on the branches. These get cleaned, then pitted and tossed into sugar and a bit of lemon juice to macerate. The following day, I make a small batch of plum jam. So far, I have one half-pint jar in the fridge (which didn’t “take”), 5 on the counter that did, and another batch (which should yield about 3 or so more jars) ready to cook later tonight or tomorrow morning. All I can say is “yum.”

In novel-land, I’ve printed out my first, very rough, draft. Today, I get to spread it all out on a table and begin the painful process of whacking, slicing, dicing, deleting, and rearranging words and scenes. Inserting new bits will come later. Right now, I’ve got to adjust the flow and pace, and cut the excess (I always write to excess, and must trim back later), and make notes where I’ve changed things mid-draft so I can correct those once I get back to the electronic file.

Why in print? For me, it’s easier to visualize how long a scene is when I can see it plainly laid out before me. And I can see how 3 long scenes running together might be too much–or how too many short ones are creating a sense of rush that the narrative isn’t justifying. Or…well, you get the idea. I can’t see all that when I’m scrolling on a computer. I’m hoping that one day I’ll be able to hold all this in my head. But that day? It isn’t here yet. So I’m doing what I have to do in order to make this novel work. After that, I’ll work on making it sing.

Oh, and how about a bit of good news? Another one of my VP classmates has had a novel sale! Read about it here. I’m so excited for him! (In case you missed it, the first of my VP classmates with a traditional novel publication offer is written up here; I think I may have only tweeted this one, so I’m putting it here on my blog where it belongs now.)

food, Nature, Personal Life, Writing

Mid-May Already?

Time is flying, like it always seems to do. But I have some lovely fruit coming into harvest right now, and just have to show you today’s harvest:

The plums are just hanging in thick clusters on the tree, dragging the branches to sweep the ground. I have to duck low and creep under the higher ones to get inside their barrier in order to harvest–and to clean up the ones the previous two days of rain have knocked off! Fortunately, if I leave them on the counter for a day or so, even these have ripened nicely. This certainly makes up a bit for last year’s harvest of 6 plums (due to a late frost!).

The blueberries are in their first year. We just planted them in early April, so I can’t take credit for their bounty this year. But we are definitely eating said bounty with gusto!

And the strawberries. Well, if I can keep the pill bugs and the squirrels away from them, they are delicious, as always. They just keep popping out scrumptious fruits now and again, throughout the season. It’s all yum.

After having gone through some rather scary health issues and followup physical therapy, I’m now getting my head back into writing, as well. It’s a relief to get back to the novel, but not so pleasing to still be writing the first draft I thought would be finished by April!

It is what it is, though, and all my angst won’t make the draft done if I don’t write it. So, I’m off to do just that, right now.

Happy May, everyone.

 

food, Magic of the Everyday, Nature, Personal Life

Catching Up is Hard to Do

I was gone for the past two weeks, up north in New Jersey where I got to visit the burgeoning autumn weather. You’d better believe that fresh, tart Winesap apples were stowed into my carry-on for the trip home. When I pulled out the sacred bag of Apple, Spousal Unit dove into one right there at the airport, while we waited for luggage to arrive on the carousel. Mmmm, the things you miss when you move…

Visiting fall was wonderful. Apples in season (I made two apple pies!), fall foliage turning lovely, cool nights that brought out blankets and closed windows (one night dipped to 38F), and recipes that matched the season–braised root veggies with chicken, mushroom risotto, currywurst. Bracing winds one day, lovely weather the rest of the time. Even though I was kept busy, I really enjoyed my time on the Shore.

But this weekend brought another kind of fun: the Gainesville Orchid Society’s Orchid Show at Kanapaha Botanical Gardens! I only joined GOS after last year’s show, and am happy to admit I’m a rank novice and total beginner at this “orchid thing.” But it’s a lot of fun, and I’m learning so much about an amazingly diverse group of plants. And the show was amazing. So many types of orchids on display, and more for sale from various vendors. I couldn’t pass up one particular plant–Bratonia Shelob ‘Tolkien.’ I mean, really, could I consider myself a fantasy writer if I didn’t buy one of those?!? Here’s a link to what it will look like should I get it to bloom. (Some report it has a slight fragrance, too–extra bonus!) Just now, mine is a tiny bit of green–healthy, but nowhere near sending up a bloom spike. Cross your fingers that this little spider orchid will grow and bloom wonderfully for me.

But it’s time to dive back into writing. I’m looking forward to it, especially since the dog seems to have gotten over his “stick to her like a burr to flannel” phase. I’m behind on where I expected to be at this time, but life happens–as it should–and I’m okay rolling with the flow. Good writing is ahead of me. I can feel it. Like fall, it’s in the air.

Now I’m off to eat a persimmon. You know what they say–whether in NJ or in Florida, eat your local seasons. Happy fall.

food, Guest Post, Reading

Guest Post: Call of Fire Author Beth Cato…and a Recipe!

Today we have a special Guest Post by fantastic author Beth Cato, who has graciously agreed to provide a homemade gluten-free granola recipe for readers of my blog. You should really click that link to her website–part of her blog is Bready or Not, where she’s posted scads of amazing recipes (as I type this, I have her Korean BBQ Beef Ribs cooking, and it smells amazing in my kitchen)! You can also sign up for her mailing list, and view more of her writing, including links to her short fiction and poetry, as well as to her other novels.

Her current novel, Call of Fire–with its absolutely gorgeous cover–is now available. Let me reassure you that her books aren’t just pretty covers, either; the first book in the series was a rollicking fun read!

So, without further ado, let me present:

Author Beth Cato

with Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Granola
and her novel, Call of Fire

I’m Beth Cato, the author of two steampunk fantasy series with Harper Voyager. The second book in my Blood of Earth Trilogy is Call of Fire, and it’s out on August 15th. These books feature a 1906 America that is allied with Japan as a world power, and in the process of dominating mainland Asia.

My heroine, Ingrid Carmichael, has spent much of her young life working as a secretary, housekeeper, and cook, all while hiding her powerful earth magic. I do a fair share of cooking myself–I run a food blog called Bready or Not. Every Wednesday at BethCato.com, I post a new recipe. I’m most famous/infamous for my cookies, which I’m known for bringing to conventions and signing events. I also do a lot of healthy recipes for my personal consumption.

This recipe for Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Granola is easy to make gluten-free with GF oats and mini chocolate chips like those from Enjoy Life. Plus, it’s a LOT cheaper than buying granola in a grocery store!

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Granola

2 1/2 cups rolled (old fashioned) oats

1/4 cup creamy peanut butter

1/4 cup honey

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/3 cup mini chocolate chips

Preheat oven at 275-degrees. Line a large, rimmed cookie sheet with aluminum foil and rub with butter or apply nonstick spray.

Place the oats in a large bowl. In a small bowl, microwave the peanut butter and honey for 30 seconds; the peanut butter should be starting to melt. Stir them together, then add vanilla extract.

Pour the peanut butter mix and stir until the oats are completely coated. Spread the granola on the foil-lined sheet and bake for 15 minutes. Stir. Bake for another 10 to 15 minutes, then set out to cool. Note that it will continue to crisp up as it cools, so don’t overbake!

Once the granola is cool, mix in the chocolate chips. Store in a sealed container.

Original post can be found at:

http://www.bethcato.com/bready-or-not-peanut-butter-chocolate-chip-granola/


More about Call of Fire, book 2 in the Blood of Earth Trilogy:

At the end of Breath of Earth, Ingrid Carmichael had barely survived the earthquake that devastated San Francisco and almost crippled her with an influx of geomantic energy. With her friends Cy, Lee, and Fenris, she flees north, keenly aware that they are being pursued by Ambassador Blum, a cunning and dangerous woman who wants to use Ingrid’s abilities as the magical means to a devastating end.

Ingrid’s goals are simple: avoid capture that would cause her to be used as a weapon by the combined forces of the United States and Japan in their war against China, and find out more about the god-like powers she inherited from her estranged father. Most of all, she must avoid seismically active places. She doesn’t know what an intake of power will do to her body–or what damage she may unwillingly create.

A brief stopover in Portland turns disastrous when Lee and Fenris are kidnapped. To find and save her friends, Ingrid must ally with one of the most powerful and mysterious figures in the world: Ambassador Theodore Roosevelt.

Their journey together takes them north to Seattle, where Mount Rainier looms over the city. And Ingrid is all too aware that she may prove to be the fuse to alight both the long-dormant volcano…and a war that will sweep the world.


More info and purchase at Amazon

More info and purchase at Barnes & Noble


Nebula-nominated Beth Cato is the author of the Clockwork Dagger duology and the new Blood of Earth Trilogy from Harper Voyager. Her newest novel is CALL OF FIRE. She’s a Hanford, California native transplanted to the Arizona desert, where she lives with her husband, son, and requisite cat. Follow her at BethCato.com and on Twitter at @BethCato.

 

 

food, plain silliness, publication

Pi Day Publication News!

So yes, it’s Pi Day–you know, March 14? 3.14…

Okay, yes, I’m making pie to celebrate. Key lime is about right this year. Something tart and sweet and refreshing. Yum.

Oh, it’s also publication day for my story over on the Colored Lens website! If you haven’t purchased the entire issue, you can read my story “Sanachi’s Escape” on the website now. Unlike key lime pie, this story is a grim little thing. More than a bit depressing. It’s a speculative fiction story set on another world that takes a look at the children who grow up amid violence and war. So brace yourself, then click the link.

I hope you enjoy it. And happy Pi to you!

food, Magic of the Everyday, Nature

Life in a Garden (or, Who Wants Pumpkin?)

Behind all that writing, I have a garden–as you may have heard around these blog parts. Since coming back from Taos Toolbox, I’ve been furiously trying to play “catch up” with the weeds and plants that went haywire for 2 weeks in wet, rainy north central Florida’s July…and I’m finally feeling some modicum of success. Let me show you what (besides words) I’ve been up to:

Seminole Pumpkins

First 2 Harvests = ~30 lbs
First 2 Harvests = ~30 lbs
Yesterday's Harvest--yes, one day; ~30 lbs.
Yesterday’s Harvest–yes, one day; ~30 lbs.

 

Yes, the pumpkin vines have gone crazy! I planted 6 vines grown from seed from a heat- and drought-tolerant Seminole pumpkin bought last year for this reason. I harvested the first 3 pumpkins over a couple days, and let Dasher pose with them for scale. Yes, the pumpkins weigh more than the dog does. Yesterday, I got fed up with the pumpkin vines sprawling on the driveway (despite my pruning them back and edging them aside with my feet every 2 days or so, they kept trying to cover the entire driveway in their lovely, silver-speckled greenery). And so I decided these were “ripe enough.” In comes another 30 lbs of fruit!

Today is pumpkin processing day. I’ve split, de-seeded, and baked the first 4 pumpkins, and bagged the first 2.5 pumpkins (the last batch out of the oven is cooling until I can touch them). Already, seven 2-cup bags are resting in the freezer, each destined for pumpkin pie (2 pies per baggie), pumpkin bread, pumpkin soup, cookies, muffins, bisque, ravioli, etc. And have I mentioned that at least 5 more pumpkins are growing in my garden? Oh, and at least another 4 or 5 across the fence in the neighbor’s yard…which means I can’t abandon any on their porch  give them any of this homegrown treat. However, the flesh is soooo sweet and delicious; just scooped out of the shell without anything added, it tastes like it’s been sugared for pie.

 

Passion Flower Vine

passionflowerYesterday, before the pumpkin picking began, I noticed these flowers outside my dining room window. A wild passion flower threaded itself through the holly tree and bloomed beautifully, as if posing for the photo. I shoved my nose into it (later, when I went outside; not through the window!), and it smelled like the heady, pollen-heavy scent of dandelion crossed with the lighter, sweeter floral of white clover. Not bad for a free “volunteer” in the garden. It’s also a host for the larva of the zebra longwing, Florida’s state butterfly, and there are tons of them about!

How would you even describe that shade of purple?
How would you even describe that shade of purple?

Finally, here’s a picture of something that really just makes me smile. It’s an American Beautyberry bush growing like gangbusters in my garden. It’s native to this area, and you see them growing wild in undeveloped areas, but oddly enough, rarely in people’s gardens–although up north you can pay a premium for them thanks to the recent interest in native plants. Last fall, husband and I “liberated” it from a strip of land destined for development, and which now is being steamrolled into submission to make another through street. The beautyberry limped and gimped through winter, sulking at being moved like that without even being asked, but now it’s decided it pretty much likes domestication and has put on the full show of berries turning that awesome shade of purple.

That’s about it. The remaining baked pumpkin is cool enough to handle, so off I go to process more. Guess what we’ll be having if you come to visit?