I’m a Writer?

Participant-2014-Facebook-ProfileIf you’re visiting this site during late October through November 2014, you’re seeing a special banner. I’ve decided to participate in this years National Novel Writing Month, known as NaNoWriMo.

I’ve seen other folks I know participating and could never imagine myself trying to accomplish something like writing a novel. I’ve watched friends posting their daily word counts and thinking, “wow, that’s a lot of damn words” and couldn’t figure out how they had the time to work, take care of their families, and still write. I guess I’m going to figure that out for myself…

I always had in the back of my mind that I’d eventually write a memoir but, emotionally, I know it’ll be very difficult to get through. I never thought I’d be any good as a fiction writer – even though TJ has been on me for nearly 30 years to try. She’s certainly gloating now that I’ve discovered that I love writing the super short flash fiction stories. I’ve gotten good feedback on those but can I write a long story? Can I pull off more than one scene? Can I create something that will be engaging and flow and move readers? I have no idea but I’m going to give it my best shot.

I’ve got one close friend participating who’s already pushing me and holding me accountable and a few others who will either join up or not but will still be shoving me and holding my feet to the fire. I’ll need it. I’m not known for follow-through or finishing projects.

Changing my profile picture to the graphic in this post and changing the banner here are just a couple of the things I’m doing to help myself stay focused and dedicated. And TJ is raring to go as my number one supporter and critic. With all this love and support, how can I fail?

My Big Little Brother

GradTo be fair, all three of my little brothers are bigger than I am, but Chuck is the biggest. He’s also the one most like me so we have a very strong bond. Which is strange because I left home when he was nine years old and we had very little contact for about a decade after that.

Now, even though we don’t see or speak to each other as much as either of us would like, I feel like we have an incredible connection. There’s nothing he could do that would make me love him less and I’m certain he feels the same way about me. There’s no upset when we have to break plans and I’m never mad when he doesn’t reply to my calls, texts, emails, or posts on G+. I know he’s seen them and he’s just sort of busy and forgetful but has the best of intentions. I know this because I do the same things to other people. It’s not malicious, it’s usually just because I’m in a bad emotional place or overwhelmed or just can’t bring myself to communicate with anyone at all in that moment. It’s not something to take personally, it’s how we’re wired.

Even after living in the same city for the past dozen years, I’m still amazed sometimes at how similar we are considering we’re half-siblings who spent 17 years apart. We share so many of the same interests and the same emotional responses, sometimes I feel like I’m hanging out with another me. The funny, caring, sarcastic me, which, of course, is awesome!

There’s another reason I feel so close and connected to Chuck, and that’s my son, Micah. Without Chuck, there would be no Micah and there’s no way I can ever repay him or thank him enough for that gift. People often comment on how much alike Micah and I are and it’s true. We are JUST a like. I see so much of my very young self in that kid. I imagine he’s what Chuck and I would have been like if we’d had a safe, loving, and supportive home when we were kids. Not to say that our kids have it easy, Chuck and I both have very quick and hot tempers but we also listen and apologize when we’re wrong. And we make sure that our kids know how much we love them and how important they are in our lives.

Another big similarity is that we tend to keep our soft, squishy, emotional bits safely inside. I think we’ve both gotten better about showing our funny, caring, and giving sides more easily but we tend to save the softest, squishiest parts for those who are close to us. I believe Chuck is even better at showing his true self to others than I am but I’m also much more easily overwhelmed by people than he is. His wife, Molly, has really helped with that because she’s super-social and always has an event or party or something so he’s been able to move past a lot of the awkward and overwhelming stuff that I still feel. My wife is even less social than I am and has been known to hide in dark rooms during large family gatherings. I move more toward simply avoiding gatherings the older I get. I’ve discovered a love of quiet and large chunks of alone time. Now I have to find a better balance. I’ll get there.

I’m done now. I was feeling a lot of love for my big little brother and wanted to share it. So there.

New England Clam Chowder

5 from 1 reviews
New England Clam Chowder
 
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I love this recipe. It's pretty easy to make so it makes a good weeknight dinner if you've got an hour or so. It's really good when served with fresh, crusty bread.
Author:
Recipe type: Main
Cuisine: Stews & Soups
Serves: 8 servings (ends up being 4 bowls in our house)
Ingredients
  • 4 slices bacon, diced
  • 2 green onions, tops included, chopped
  • 4 medium potatoes, peeled, diced (I used yellow potatoes)
  • 3 tablespoons flour (I use unbleached)
  • 2 cups bottled clam juice and/or milk (I use clam juice only)
  • 2 cans (6½ oz each) minced clams, including liquid (I used chopped for bigger clam pieces)
  • ¾ teaspoon salt (less is fine)
  • ½ teaspoon white pepper (I double this - and then sometimes add a touch more)
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • Chopped parsley, for garnish
  • Fresh basil leaves, for garnish
  • (I never bother with garnish but I would have if we still had some fresh basil leaves)
Instructions
  1. In a large heavy saucepan, saute the bacon until crisp.
  2. Add green onions and potatoes. Saute for a few minutes. Sprinkle with the flour.
  3. Add clam juice or milk. Stir to blend well. Bring to a boil.
  4. Simmer, stirring, until potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes. (Depending on the size of your potato chunks, this can take longer.)
  5. Add salt and pepper.
  6. Add clams with liquid and whipping cream.
  7. Heat soup, stirring, just until simmering. Do not boil or clams will toughen.
  8. Sprinkle with parsley or basil leaves. Serve immediately.

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Liqueur-Infused Chocolate Strawberries

TJ rocks at making these.

5 from 1 reviews
Liquor-Infused Chocolate Strawberries
 
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Labor intensive but they make a great gift. I'm guessing at the prep and cook times.
Author:
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: Candy
Serves: 16 Berries
Ingredients
  • 16 large, fresh strawberries with leaves
  • ½ cup Grand Marnier (brandy-based orange liqueur)
  • 1 lb bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons shortening
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • ¼ cup Grand Marnier
  • 1 ounce square chopped white chocolate
Instructions
  1. Rinse strawberries and dry thoroughly.
  2. Use a syringe or clean marinade injector to inject about 2 teaspoons of liqueur into each berry.
  3. Place berries on baking sheet and refrigerate for about 30 minutes.
  4. In a metal bowl over a pan of simmering water (or a double boiler), combine bittersweet chocolate and shortening. Stir occasionally until melted and smooth.
  5. Stir in heavy cream and ¼ cup liqueur.
  6. Place white chocolate in separate bowl and when the dark chocolate has melted, place the bowl of white chocolate over the pan of simmering water, stirring occasionally until smooth. Be sure to remove from heat as soon as it is mostly melted, white chocolate can be sensitive.
  7. Dip strawberries into dark chocolate and let the excess drip off into the bowl before placing on waxed paper to set.
  8. When the strawberries have all been dipped in dark chocolate, dip a fork into the white chocolate and drizzle back and forth over berries to stripe.

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Quick Chicken Stew – Pressure Cooker

5 from 1 reviews
Quick Chicken Stew - Pressure Cooker
 
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I found this recipe on YouTube while searching for meals to make in the Instant Pot. Super fast and super good.
Author:
Recipe type: Main
Cuisine: Stews & Soups
Serves: 2 servings
Ingredients
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 2 frozen skinless, boneless chicken breasts
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 small potatoes (I used yellow)
  • 3 carrots cut in half
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • broth from Instant Pot after cooking
Instructions
  1. Add broth, chicken, bay leaf, potatoes, carrots, salt, and pepper to the Instant Pot.
  2. Secure the lid and close the steam vent.
  3. Cook on manual setting for 8 minutes.
  4. Release the steam, and remove lid.
  5. Combine butter and flour until it's lumpy - don't melt the butter first.
  6. Add butter/flour mixture and broth from the Instant Pot to a sauce pan on medium high heat. Whisk until the gravy thickens. If you want it thicker, mix a tablespoon of flour and a tablespoon of water and add that slowly while whisking.

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