Monthly Archives: November 2016

What’s on Your Thanksgiving Table?

thanksgiving

Thanks to Ronna Benjamin of the Better After 50 blog for this writing prompt. Visit her here: http://betterafter50.com/

In 2016, I bring to my Thanksgiving table:

  • Our decidedly un-Thanksgiving-ish Provençal tablecloth, which we bought in Spain, because why not? It’s mostly orange, and that feels like Thanksgiving to me.
  • Memories of the twenty-seven Thanksgivings I celebrated in in Europe, mostly in Germany. Frohes Fest, ihr lieben, und guten Appetit!
  • A relaxed attitude. I’m not trying any ambitious new recipes this year. I don’t have a bin full of November decorations—that’s just not my style, and that’s OK. Our home is welcoming, comfortable, and clean, and that’s good enough.
  • Stretchy pants. It has not been a good year for my waistline, but Thanksgiving is not the time to worry about that.
  • Joy at being able to spend Thanksgiving with my husband’s side of the family and Christmas with mine. No more melancholy Christmases for two, missing our loved ones across the ocean.
  • A spiny knot of worry about the state of our dear country, which I will try to soothe with pie and laughter.
  • A new song for our family guitar circle: John Lennon’s Imagine.
  • Gratitude for our good fortune, comfortable circumstances, and opportunities.
  • Freshly-sharpened determination to make new connections in my community, to do my part to hold back the wave of hate that threatens to drown our democracy. I only have my one little bucket to bail out the ship of state, but if we all bail together, we can stay afloat.

Steak and Potato Soup in the Slow Cooker

slow-cooker

In an alternate universe, I’m a food blogger. Today I’m zipping through the wormhole to share a recipe I tried that worked out well. No photo—we ate it all before it occurred to me to write down the recipe. But this turned out well, so I’ll share in hopes that someone might enjoy this hearty soup—and perhaps share his/her favorite slow-cooker recipe with me.

We recently visited the Newport Hills neighborhood of Bellevue, Washington, where my husband lived many moons ago. Of course, much has changed, and one new addition is the Mustard Seed Grill and Pub, a casual sports tavern where I had their delicious Pepper Pot Soup, tender cubes of beef and velvety potatoes in a creamy white base–perfect dish for a soggy, chilly fall day.

To lure our vegetable-phobic friend in for a weekday jam session—R and D on guitar and me on uke—I did my best to recreate this soup. Haute cuisine it ain’t; nevertheless, it’s delicious.

I diced up a big yellow onion, about a cup and half of celery, including the leaves, and three big carrots. Into the slow cooker that went, along with three diced cloves of garlic, two bay leaves, a generous grinding of black pepper, and about 2 teaspoons of Herbes de Provence.

I trimmed the biggest chunks of fat from a big ol’ beef chuck steak, a bit more than a pound. I diced the meat up small, about ½ inch cubes, peppered it generously and dredged it in flour. I browned that in olive oil in two batches, adding each to the slow cooker atop the vegetables. I peeled and diced up a monster russet potato—again, about ½ cubes. Then I filled the pot with four cups of beef broth and one can of Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom soup—the kind with roasted garlic. More pepper, a generous dash of Worcestershire sauce, and on goes the lid.

I intended to cook it on high for a few hours and then turn it down to low. Well, I forgot to switch to low, so I ended up leaving it on high for a good six hours. The result was perfect: tender meat, velvety potatoes, and a nice peppery bite. This made enough for at least six main-course bowlfuls. Our meat-loving friends were pleased. I’ll make this one again.

What’s your favorite slow-cooker recipe for a drizzly winter day?

Book giveaway: Piper Morgan to the Rescue!

piper-morgan-to-the-rescue-jpegheadshotsf

Because we’re all deeply mired in serious matters these days, a little levity is badly needed. How about an adorable little redhead with a heart for puppies? Here’s the latest release in Stephanie Faris’s Piper Morgan series, a perfect holiday gift for the little readers on your list. She’s giving away copies here!

https://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/share-code/YmE3MjA1ZmE3NmM3MjJlOTUyMzIyZjViYzk5OWQ3Ojc=/?

Piper helps some four-legged friends find the perfect home in the third book of the brand-new Piper Morgan series.

Piper is super excited to help out at Bark Street, a local animal shelter in town. Who wouldn’t want to be surrounded by adorable puppies and dogs all day? And when Piper sees Taffy, the cutest dog she has ever seen, Piper is determined to find a way to bring Taffy home. But it won’t be easy—especially when she finds out someone else wants to make Taffy a part of their family, too!

Stephanie Faris knew she wanted to be an author from a very young age. In fact, her mother often told her to stop reading so much and go outside and play with the other kids. After graduating from Middle Tennessee State University with a Bachelor of Science in broadcast journalism, she somehow found herself working in information technology. But she never stopped writing.

Stephanie is the Simon & Schuster author of 30 Days of No Gossip and 25 Roses, as well as the upcoming Piper Morgan series. When she isn’t crafting fiction, she writes for a variety of online websites on the topics of business, technology, and her favorite subject of all—fashion. She lives in Nashville with her husband, a sales executive.

https://stephaniefaris.com/

http://stephie5741.blogspot.com/

https://www.facebook.com/stephfaris

https://twitter.com/stephfaris

https://www.instagram.com/stephfaris/

 

Dystopia Now

I’m in shock. I woke this morning up to find my familiar home adrift in an alligator-filled swamp. Where do I go from here?

Those of you who’ve been divorced will understand this feeling, that hollow thunk as the heavy realization lands on your guts. Someone I trusted, felt safe with, has just done something so out of character, so unforgiveable, that the marriage is irreparably rent.

Only it’s not my spouse, it’s my country. People I believed were smart, sturdy, good-hearted—they’ve voted like a pack of jeering twelve-year-olds, and they’ve elected the playground bully. My country is not what I thought it was. It no longer feels like home.

And the clown they’ve elected is abominably unqualified for the job. I pray that he gathers around him advisors with experience, education, and good will. So far, it’s not looking good.

When the smoke clears and we sweep up the debris, I’ll probably be OK. Even though the resultant stock market plunge will chew up large chunks of our safety net, my family won’t be out on the street. But I fear for my country.

Throughout my career as a teacher, I’ve promised kids that education was the key to a life with choices, opportunities, security. But now the reins have been grabbed by the kids who scoffed at school, who sneer at smart people, who think their white skin entitles them to stomp on anyone who doesn’t resemble them or toe their toxic line.

These are not my people.

And I have it easy: I’m white and, if not prosperous, at least in no immediate danger of losing my home or going hungry. Rabid packs of neo-Nazis aren’t likely to burn any crosses on my lawn. I can avoid the high-crime parts of town—I have that luxury. What about the people who are stuck there?

I’m an action-oriented person. I recover best from a dizzying blow when I can do something. It’s not in my nature to hunker down and wait. As disgusted as I am by the Trump voters, I recognize that they have some legitimate outrage. I don’t know how to fix meth-riddled Kansas, reality-TV-addled Louisiana, rusted-out Michigan—but I can reach out a hand in Tacoma. Divorce isn’t the answer here. Connection, dialogue, compassion—that’s our challenge during the next four years.

Right now, as I stare dumfounded at my computer screen, connecting Trump voters is the last thing I want to do. But there must be Republicans out there who still cherish the ideals of democracy, of opportunity, of respect for our fellow humans—even those who don’t look and act just like we do.

Please, God, let there be Republicans like that

IWSG Question of the Month

Insecure Writers Support Group Badge

http://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/

It’s the first Wednesday of the month, when all the IWSGers post on their blogs about their writing insecurities or offer some encouragement to others.

November’s Question: What is your favorite aspect of being a writer?

I’ve always had a hard time answering questions about favorites. How could someone possibly narrow down all the best songs, books, movies, foods to one shining pinnacle? I’m just not that decisive, I guess. That said, here’s a list of what I love about being a writer.

  • Working in my PJs. After years of jetting out of bed before dawn, I now roll out when I’m good and ready, pull on something comfy, pour the coffee and head straight for my office, located right between the bathroom and the kitchen. The only better location I can imagine is a magical wi-fi equipped treehouse.
  • treehouse
    • Working undisturbed. Few other jobs give one the opportunity to sit for hours at a time in focused concentration. Teaching high school sure didn’t.
    • Putting my imagination to use. All that daydreaming finally has a productive outlet. Though I’m not a fantasy writer, I’ve created a fictional town on the Northern California coast, full of the kinds of people I’d like to surround myself with. And I get to visit every day. Cool.
    • Revenge! Evildoers beware—I shall slay you (symbolically, anyway) in my stories.
    • Discovering the good side of bad people. This is often too difficult in real life, but on the page I must round out my villains.
    • Finally having the last word. In real life, when someone says something insulting or snotty to me, the perfect retort arrives a few hours later. But on the page, my protagonist can rip off the perfect zinger. Zap! (Picture a verbal lightning bolt obliterating the snotty person.)
    • The company of other writers. Even though our stories and preferred genres vary widely, we’re all creatives walking/hiking/slogging/clambering on the same path. We understand each other deep in our bones.
    • Feedback: I trust (most) other writers to point out issues with my writing that merit my attention.
    • More than any work community I’ve belonged to, writers cheer each other on, prop each other up, comfort each other when bad reviews arrive like flaming bags of dog poop on the front stoop, when editors/critique partners call for yet another revision, when a promising plot thread fizzles. And they point me toward craft books, websites and workshops that give me tools to climb out of the whole I’ve dug. Thank you.

    And you, fellow writers? What are your favorite bits?