Friday, April 17, 2015

Catching Up, Part 2 and Writing

Back again.
So Mr. K is now 31, and I'm sorry to say, that happened last month. Sorry!

Here are some fun photos of the first party, Easter, and the second party.

I had a blast decorating the main room of our rental home.


Sam and Rosie are supposed to represent us. 

Great quote. 

My ring cake with the quote "In a hole in the ground lived a hobbit."

Map of the shire on top of the ring plus Tolkien's signature.

We had friends come over for a bit of board game fun the Friday before his actual birthday.
I call it first party.

Then on the actual day, I made him a chocolate cake with caramel frosting. And Lego candles just happened to find their place on the cake.


It was so fun to see Mr. K get all excited about it.


Then we had a glorious Easter Day. And I had to take out my camera for the peach tree.

Peach blossoms from the tree in our yard

I must say that I love peaches. And the tree itself is just gorgeous.
The blue skies here really help too.


Of course, we also had to get our annual Easter picture before going for one of the most amazing meals with friends later that day.


Just an FYI, plan more time for 24 deviled eggs than you think. I ran out of time to make a dessert. Oops.
But Smith's, our grocery store here, had a fantastic brownie cake that saved the day!
Yay!

Other than that, I've been a bit busy.

You see, this month is Camp NaNoWriMo and I've committed myself to writing a 50k word novel in 30 days. A large undertaking, yes, but I'm enjoying the crazy writing part. Even if I don't always manage to make my word counts for the day. 

All that matters is getting the count by the end, right?

Then I'm going to be critiquing a novel for a friend and sending her back some feedback by the 5th of May.

The rest of May is my big month of reworking my contemporary romance novel which I'll be trying to get out to query. I got some great feedback, so I'll have to go through it and actually read it.

The great thing about feedback? You don't have to change everything just because someone said so. You can consider where they're coming from and the point they made, then see if maybe all you need is a little sentence here and there to flesh out your idea better. 

Or, the person could be spot on, as is the case with my friend and writer buddy, Amy. (Go check out her blog; she's awesome.)

Seriously, she's one of my writing friends who really kicks my butt (in a good way) and pushes me to write better and more frequently. She writes everyday and it shows. 

By the way, have I mentioned that she has two hobbits under 5 years old?

Well, she does. And yet, she still manages to get her writing in. 
(Coffee helps, too, but I think that's a given when you are a writer.)

Anyway, my goals in writing have dramatically changed since when I first started picking up a pen and journaling in middle school. Nowadays, I try to write everyday, but more often it's about four times a week, when I'm not doing a NaNoWriMo stint. I find that works better for me. 

And since my time in France, I've begun to see myself as a writer with writing as a profession, not something to be shy about and not just as something to do when I have free time. This is HUGE coming from a lab bench chemist who was used to an 8-5 job.

Writing's a lot of work and it's wonderfully hard. I admit that somedays I struggle to get a paragraph, let alone a sentence, down the right way. 

Anyone who says writing is easy is either: 
1) lying 
2) not really writing seriously 
3) an alien

To do it well, you have to, pardon the cliché, put your heart and soul into it and also treat it just like any other job. 

Writing is not a hobby. 
It's not a free time thing. (If it were, I don't think novels, scripts, poems, and stories would ever get completed.)
Yes, I have a flexible schedule, but it does not mean I can just forget it. By me putting off my normal hours of writing and researching to do (X), it just means I'll have to make up for it later, usually late that night or early in the morning. Or both. (Research is a beast that just grows and grows, just so you know.)

Every time I enter my office, it's a concerted effort to put my butt in that chair and work out situations, dialogues, and scenes on a computer screen. Sometimes on paper with pen. Characters make demands and refuse to do what you want them to do. It's a war somedays in that little office. 

So yeah, when people ask me what I do now? 
I tell them I'm a writer and I tutor in my spare time.

And I wouldn't trade this job for the world.

Until next time,
Bisous



Saturday, April 04, 2015

It's Madeleine, It's Madeleine...

So guess what?

We have a new tradition!!!


Yep.
You heard that right.

It's now a thing in the K family to make Madeleines for Easter.
They look like eggs and also like little stones. It's perfect.


I'm sharing with you one of my absolute favorite recipes, given to me by a wonderful French friend.
And, what's better, I've adapted it for us non-Europeans.

So here we go.

***
Les Madeleines de Mme G

You'll need:

2 large eggs
3/4 cup (150g)  sugar
1 1/5 cup (150g) flour (basically 1 cup, very rounded)
1 stick (125g) unsalted butter
1 pinch of salt
zest from 1 lemon (or 1 orange)

Directions:
1. Melt the butter over low heat on the stove in a small pan. While this is melting, grease and flour your madeleine molds, making sure to get in all the crevices. Set your oven to 285 F (140 C) and let it preheat.
(Note: I use Baker's Joy because it's easy and works like a charm, but the basic idea is to get your molds greased and floured really well, otherwise the madeleines may stick after they're baked.)

2. In a large bowl, mix the eggs with the sugar and salt. Beat them until they are foamy and pale yellow about 3-5 minutes. Don't over mix.
(Note: When you lift your whisk out of the mixture, the mixture should 'ribbon' or fall in long flat strands from the whisk to rest on the surface before sinking, resembling fabric ribbons.)

3. Add the flour and butter, a little at a time, and mix until.

4. Add the zest. (I didn't have any lemons or oranges, so I added almond extract and a splash of lemon juice).

5. Fill each mold only halfway, very important! It'll look small and dinky but trust me, the batter will spread and fill the mold.
(Note: If you have too much, it WILL overflow, and then you'll be sad because you could have had more madeleines.)

6. Bake the madeleines in the oven, already set at 285 F (140C) for 5 to 8 minutes. Then, without opening the door, raise the temperature to 350 F (170-180C) for about 10 minutes. They're done when the edges are slightly golden brown.
(Note: Because of the high altitude here, I increased the temperatures to 300F and 365F, respectively, and lengthened their times slightly. 8 minutes at the first temp, 11-12 minutes at the second temp.)

These are great served at tea time. Or with fresh berries or ice cream, or with both! I like them plain though. Miammm!

Enjoy!
****

Of course, even with this new tradition, we can never get rid of the old one: Dyeing eggs.


So, to all who celebrate, Happy Easter!

Until next time,
Bisous!

Catching Up...

Wow, I really have to be better about this...

So a few weeks ago, my mom came to visit us and I finally got a chance to participate in my birthday surprise Mr K so dutifully kept a secret.

Turned out we were going to make glass flowers in Santa Fe with the artist, Elodie Holmes. You can read more about her here. Trust me, she's amazing.

Anyway, we pulled up to the studio and got taken right to the firing room.  The glass frits were already on the table when we walked in.

So pretty. It was hard to choose two colors.

The class made two flowers a person and we were told to choose two colors per flower.
Decisions are not my strong point, just going to say. But I managed to pick some after a little hesitation: aqua and purple, and then teal and bright green.

A grandmother and her 10 year old granddaughter went first.
Then my mom.

The instructors made it look so easy. But mom was a trooper with her Bruins colors. Yay UCLA!




The end result flower would look like this:


Then it was my turn. You gathered some molten glass on the end of the rod and then smushed it into the glass frits.


Then you put it in the hot oven to melt the first of the frits (say that ten times fast).

After it was melted, all the while turning, you came back and added your second color.


Turning and turning, you take it back to the little oven and melt it again.


Then one person rolls it on a stand while you snip with just dunked in water pliers.

I'm smiling because that's the easy part.

Then it goes back in the fire and you dunk the pliers. It comes out again and you then take the pliers and pull the glass like taffy. But you have to be quick otherwise the glass cools too much and shatters.

No more smiling, just concentrating.

Then you pull the entire flower off and Elodie took it from there, cutting it off the rod and blow-torching the rough ends.

Mr. K was after all of us, and of course, towered above the instructor.



I love this shot of the glass going into the kiln.

Pull Mr. K, pull!

Here's Elodie breaking the flower off the rod just by adding a few drops of cold water to the base of the stem.


 Then she used the blow torch to smooth the rough edge away.


After that she put them in a hot oven where the temperature would gradually drop over time and cool the glass flowers without shattering them. We were told to wait until the next week to pick them up, minimum 48 hours so that they would be completely done.

Fine by us. We had other things at home to do...like celebrate Pi(e) Day!

And how do you do that, you ask? Why with Shepherd's Pi(e) and Berry Crumble Pi(e) of course!


This year was epic. March 14, 2015. Or... 3/14/15. But only if you do it the American way for the date. The European/ rest of the world way wouldn't work.

Anyway, that Tuesday we were able to go get our flowers!



I love how each flower turned out different. And the colors are really pretty. Great job, Mr. K.

A few days later we returned to Santa Fe to go to a great little place called Jackelope's. For those of you unfamiliar with the legend of the jackelope, it's known as the "warrior rabbit", with antlers sprouting from it's head that he's not afraid to use in a fight.

Anyway, at the fun store, they didn't have jackelopes, but prairie dogs that you could watch!


I've never seen a prairie dog. EVER.


They're so cute.


I wanted to take one home, but Mr. K said Mochi might not enjoy that.
So I had to bid adieu to the prairie pups.

So long Buddy.


The cool part about this store is that it is not really one store but many. They even had a section devoted to petrified wood.


I got really excited because we're going to see the Petrified Forest this July. Yay!

And turning around, I saw the classic windmill, complete with cow skulls.
You can't get more Southwestern than that!


Couple shot!

 We went into another store on the property and this wall was perfect.

So Western, it's beautiful.

 The drive home was fun, seeing the approaching thunderstorm.


What's neat where we live is that it can be gorgeous and sunny ten feet from the darkness.

Like here.

Sun, sun, sun.

Or, better yet, like this shot.

Darkness and sunshine

We stopped at the overlook coming up the main "hill" (mesa).

The rocks are naturally eroded with holes. It's so interesting to photograph.

 But I personally love this view best.

The mountains in the distance are the Sangre de Cristo mountains.

Group shot from the roof of our car before the rains came.

Cheese!

We went all over Northern NM with my mom, even got some wine tasting in (which if you didn't know, NM has some good wines). But after a glorious stay with us, she had to return to FL.

It was a sad day, but I'm so glad she came to see us and got a taste of the Southwest where we live.

So on that note, I say until next time,

Bisous!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Spring Is...Almost Here

Good morning everyone!

Thought I should show you the beauty we had in our backyard just last week. See, it snowed. Then snowed some more. (Totally unfamiliar to the Northeast, I know.)

But the cool thing is...between the two snow storms, it completely melted away. Because of the altitude and the constant sun here, we don't get snow that lasts forever. Which is sad. Makes for a rushed sledding day and if you don't get out there the exact day it snows, forget it!

But, we have a pup. And we must go outside (or go crazy). 

Mochi is kind of like the Postal Service in some ways. 

Neither rain, nor sleet, nor hail, nor snow will keep this puppy from her mission of flushing all the birds from our yard.

Anyway, onto the snow!

This is a random vine thing that just looks like a fairy haven.

In case you don't know, I love snow.

I mean, seriously love it.

I grew up in Florida and seeing snow fall from the skies when I was a freshman in college was something I'll never forget.


That and attaching a cactus to the roof of someone's car during a snow storm.
Ah, memories...

After it snowed, it began to fog. I've never seen that before. This just looked so romantic.

But you know what else is pretty in winter?

Icicles.


Let's take another look at that fog, shall we?


It was so neat to see it happen in a matter of minutes. I felt like I was on a movie set.

Though, my brain told me that fog can be for a romance or a horror.

That kind of put a damper on my enjoyment.

Until I saw this chica.


She was apparently practicing for her next starring role in Harry Potter and the Cloaked Beast, the unknown 8th book in the series.

Hehe.

Yes, I made that cape/cloak/cover thing.

Yes, it's from my pajama pants.

And yes, my pajama pants had help in becoming pajama shorts. Those freshly trimmed puppy talons are sharp!

I like to think of myself as a woman who repurposes things, hence the cape. I know it won't last long.

But a caped puppy avenger makes me feel less mad about losing my favorite pair of flannel pants.

You really can't be mad when you see her run in her cape.

Anywho...that snow melted. Then right after my birthday, it snowed again.  This time it was a bigger storm. We got a whopping 10 inches!

Horror of horrors, I cry in jest.

I used to pray that we'd only get 8-10 inches when we lived on Long Island and in upstate New York. That would have been a kind storm. More often than not we'd get 3 feet overnight that I'd have to scrape off my unprotected car the next morning at 4am before driving to work.

But here in New Mexico, it's better. I don't have to drive to work (because I work out of my home these days) and, well, I know it'll melt before too long.

So right after it stopped, we went outside.


Okay, maybe we went outside when it had lightened up a little.

Then Mochi, the terror beast, discovered that with that much snow, she could make tunnels.

And so she tunneled all over our yard.

Meanwhile, I had more fun with the obscenely long icicles we had on the far side of our house.

Scary!

Of course, the best thing to do with snow is make SNOWMEN!

I like to call this our family portrait.

 Mr. K took the pup out front and she immediately had to inspect the snow beast.


Satisfied that it was frozen and wouldn't move, she began playing on the hill of snow Mr. K just made.

This picture really sums up NM in winter: Snow that is melting, sun, blue skies, and cold.

Front of the house shoveled and done, I decided to have some fun with the pup.
Scroll through these photos for a stop-motion movie.
I think you'll laugh.

The toss

Bat-ears deployed

The attempt

The miss!

I just looked them over again and cracked up at the last one. Again. For the fiftieth time now.

It never fails to make me laugh.

We were interrupted in our game...by the sounds of a tractor (!) plowing our street.

We're not in Kansas anymore, Toto.

So yeah.

Snow. Gotta love it.


Until next time,
Bisous!

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