Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Artist Portrait: Eric Sartana



Anyone who knows me well, knows that I am a total music buff.  As I've gotten older, I find myself watching television (and movies) less & less, and listening to music more & more.  To that end, I'm going to try and do short, honest reviews of albums that I have listened to, and hopefully give them a boost as well.

I have an eclectic range of music I like to listen to, but one of my long-standing favorites is metal.  In this capacity, I became acquainted with Eric Sartana, who happens to be the front man for the doom/black metal outfit Throne of Malediction.  Over the last few years, I've acquired an appreciation for melodic music of many types, and this is where this album comes in.

Acoustic Paths is a haunting album of original music with a couple of covers (I Don't Mind the Pain - Danzig, and Desecration Smile - Red Hot Chili Peppers).  The album is melancholy, it's underlying theme is the end of a love between two people, ripped apart by deceit and anger.  One person has to deal with the fallout, which comes across beautifully in the emotive voice of Eric Sartana, and it's not hard to feel what he feels.

Eric's voice is perfectly accentuated by his evocative, yet powerful, acoustic guitar playing.  It's a dynamic combination that needs no other accompaniment.  The poignancy of the love's death is expressed in the moving combination of voice/guitar, and the covers just add to the overall theme from beginning to end.

This album is available on the Throne of Malediction's Bandcamp page, get it here.  I highly recommend it!  While it's free for a listen, try and give the guy some money.  He's earned it.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Day Trip Adventure: Loess Hills Scenic Byway

This weekend, I focused on spending quality time with the kids: individually and together.  I had a slumber party with my daughter on Friday night, and House of Cards/movie night with my son on Saturday night.  I think it's important to give your kids some undivided one-on-one time every so often.  It reminds them that they are important to you, boosts their self-esteem, and helps cement the parent-child bond you have.

Yesterday, I thought we'd round out the weekend by doing some adventurin'.  I made a picnic lunch, and we hit the road.  I decided to take the kids down Old Lincoln Highway and then follow that along the Loess Hills Scenic Byway.  If you ever want something to do on a lazy day when you have plenty of time to kill, I highly suggest doing this journey.  There are quite a few scenic byways in Western Iowa that wind their way along the Loess Hills, and into its communities.  There are plenty of things to see and places to explore.

We stopped first at one of three old cemeteries we passed (where we honored those who are no longer with us), then Missouri Valley, the Iowa Welcome Center (which is a great place to visit as well as pick up tourist pamphlets, including the ones concerning the byways and the counties they wind through) where we ate our lunch, Logan, Fountainbleu byway, Murray Hill overlook, Mondamin, and then back down through Sawmill Loop.  The Loess Hills Lavender farm, Small's Berry Farm, and many other stops are along the way, but the aforementioned do not open until May 1.

Incidentally, we had a tire issue, which wasn't a problem as I have skill at changing tires and have the proper tools, but a perfect gentleman in Mondamin guided us to his house where he had the professional tools to change out the tire in about 5 minutes.  He also gave the kids ice cream treats and myself a bottle of water.  We made note of his address and will send him a thank you card.  Helping others in need is not dead.



A tombstone from 1882.  He was only 27 years old when he passed.  R.I.P.


Another view of the cemetery, overlooking the Loess Hills.  Cemeteries are serene and beautiful in the morning light.


The Rialto Theatre in Missouri Valley.


The county courthouse in Logan.


Breathtaking view of the Loess Hills from a vantage point on Murray Hill Overlook.


An old, abandoned barn.


Treetops and the signs of spring against the warm sun.


An barn/grain silo combo along the Fountainbleu byway.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Dollar Tree Haul

Yesterday, I made a routine stop at the Dollar Tree.  It's a great place to grab things like toothbrushes, garbage cans, cheap socks, candles, and lots of other goodies.  It's also, fortunately, a great place sometimes to get beauty products.  Where I live, I have more than one Dollar Tree which is a good thing, because you really need to hit each one once every month or so to get the "good" stuff.  Anyway, here's the items I got yesterday for a whopping total of $7.00.


As most of you are aware, most items at dollar stores are there because they weren't selling in regular stores.  I got a little bit excited when I saw that White Rain's paraban-free, Boutique Collection items were on the shelves!  I grabbed all five.  Here we have the shea butter body lotion and the gentle facial scrub.


Continuing with the White Rain, we have the facial cleanser & makeup remover, and the daily foot & heel cream.


The last of the White Rain Botique Collections items:  moisturizing shower gel.  I cannot wait to use these products!  I'll let you know how they work.


Of course, I cannot go into the Dollar Tree without buying some makeup, and yesterday was no exception.  I don't really wear much blush because I have a rosy complexion, but I do have a bronze one, and kind of needed another.  I grabbed this pretty pink L.A. Colors one.  Then, because I need some more matte shades of eyeshadow, I got this cute little elf palette that I will use today.

So there you have it, my Dollar Tree haul!  Hope you enjoyed this, and go hit up a dollar store today.  ;)

Friday, April 24, 2015

Hiking at Hitchcock Nature Center

Look at that gorgeous sky!  I have been cooped up all week trying to get many necessary things done (testing for a p/t work-from-home job, my latest editorial for the magazine I write for, spring cleaning, as well as my regular writing duties) that I was feeling grumpy.  My best friend, Keith, stopped over, and since it was a gorgeous day, I decided we should get outside.  I don't know about you, but whenever I get out of the city and into nature, I feel renewed.  One of my favorite places to go is Hitchcock Nature Center in Honey Creek, and it never disappoints.


The green is really asserting its dominance over the landscape.  I've hiked out here several times over the winter, and even though I love being able to see farther distances through the woods, I love the foliage cover that spring and summer provide.


My daughter is 8 and so funny.  She always says she never wants to go hike, but the minute we get to the woods, she's full of excitement and ready to explore.  She found all this on the trail we were on, plus many rocks for her "collection."



What do you like to do when you just need to 'get away from it all' for a little bit?  

Monday, April 20, 2015

Logo

I decided I wanted to have a logo, so I found a free logo maker and came up with this.  I want to use it to stamp my photos and things.  Let me know what you think!



Sunset

Yesterday was a rainy, dreary Sunday.  Typically, I have always been a fan of bleak days, but when the Sun spread its rays out for just a few moments as it was setting yesterday, I was awed by its simple beauty.  



Saturday, April 18, 2015

Vegan French Toast


Yesterday, I had friends in from out-of-town and we had a fantastic morning.  We drank coffee, fed our bellies, and took an amazing hike out in the forest.  After that, we made a pit stop at the grocery store in order to get some items to make a delicious supper.  While perusing the aisles, we came across the day-old bread shelf.  There were tons of goodies, in particular we found long loaves of French and Italian breads that were slightly stale.  At 39 cents a piece (yes, I said 39 cents!) I grabbed about $2.00 worth.  

Last night, while looking at my pile of bargain bread, I was hit with a super idea.  These slightly stale loaves would make the perfect vegan French toast!  So, that's exactly what I made the troops for breakfast this morning, and I thought I'd share.  You'd never know they were vegan, and everyone gobbled them up.  

Now, I made a double batch as I had two out-of-town guests, the four in my own family, and an extra child who was spending the night (for those of you counting, that makes seven).  Anyway, you can easily halve this recipe.  Enjoy!


Vegan French Toast

Ingredients:

1 1/2 c. flax milk (any vegan milk will work perfect)
1/2 c. vanilla coconut yogurt (again, any vegan yogurt will do)
2 T. ground flax
1/2 c. chickpea/garbanzo bean flour
1 t. cinnamon
1 t. nutmeg
1 1/2 - 2 loaves of slightly stale French or Italian bread

Instructions:

1.  Cut your loaves of bread into thick slices.  I cut mine about 1/2 inch thick.

2.  In a mixing bowl, combine all the other ingredients and beat lightly for a minute with a whisk.

3.  Warm up a frying pan on medium heat on the stove.  When the frying pan is warm, spray with cooking spray or add a tablespoon of your favorite cooking oil.

4.  Dip two slices of bread in the batter, making sure to coat both sides well.  Let the excess batter drain off for a second back into the bowl.

5.  Add the two slices of battered bread into the frying pan.  Cook on each side until brown, like you were cooking regular french toast or pancakes.  The batter will get brown around the edges, and that's usually a good guideline.

6.  Serve immediately.  If you prefer to make all the slices before serving, you can put the slices on a cookie sheet and put into an oven set at 175 degrees to stay warm until you're ready to serve.

Notes:

The toppings you can serve with this are nearly endless!  Be creative and use fresh fruit, powdered sugar, syrup, jams, or whatever else you think sounds great.  Also, you can add whatever spices you prefer.  Apple pie or pumpkin pie spice would be great, as would a splash of vanilla.  It's not going to affect the final product, so again, dare to be creative.  Don't forget to enjoy!  You're going to love these.  

Thursday, April 16, 2015

A Visit to L'Occitane

My favorite beauty vlogger, Julia Graf, has mentioned L'Occitane a few times in her videos.  She often gets product sent to her to try out or for giveaways, and I can remember one time in particular when she said that L'Occitane's foaming makeup remover worked great.  She said she could use it safely on her eyes, and that it even removed the waterproof stuff.  

The other day, I made a trip to Trader Joe's to get a few items, and I had noticed a L'Occitane store in the strip mall surrounding it.  So, I decided to make a quick pit stop there.  I was pleasantly surprised at the level of customer service the two ladies working gave me!  Even though I couldn't stay long, and didn't purchase anything, they gave me some awesome samples!  They even bagged it up cutely.  

So here we go:  

 Here is the product booklet I grabbed, and next to it is the cute little bag of samples they gave me.  They even sprayed the red paper in the bag with some parfume.  Very nice.

 Here we have the Amande milk concentrate body lotion with almond oil.  It's supposed to visibility make your skin look smooth and firmer.  Next to that is the Creme Mains.  It is highly-concentrated in shea butter, and is designed for dry hands without leaving that pesky oily feeling.

 The top two are facial moisturizers.  The first one is a gel and provides 24 hours of moisture, while the other one is a creme and provides 48 hours of moisture.  Not too shabby!  The bottom sample, Divine Eyes, is strictly an eye cream that is supposed to firm the skin, achieving a youthful look.

 This is a sample of a conditioner designed to restore hair that is dry and damaged.

 These are samples of what I believe to be a few of their signature "blue" items.  The first, Precious Cream, is a facial moisturizer that claims to visibly reduce wrinkles, while the other, Precious Eye Balm, is along the same lines, but is designed for use around the eyes.

 This is the tiny spoon they gave me to use with the "blue" Precious Eye balm.  One needs a chocolate chip-sized portion.

 Here is the product booklet I snagged.

 A page talking about the Divine Eyes, a sample of which I have.

Another page describing their "blue" Precious line.  


Overall, it was a good experience.  Every Thursday, starting when the store opens, you can come in for free facials and other product demos.  You can bet I'll be going very soon!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

The Melody is Available!

I am proud to announce that my sophomore effort, "The Melody", is now for sale on amazon for kindle or for download to your computer as a pdf.  Find it here:  The Melody !  I'm proud of my latest work, and I hope you enjoy it as much I did writing it.  Like my "Cold", it is also available for the attractive price of $2.99.  Happy reading.

Much love,

H.A. Larson

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Book Promotion!

I've decided that since I'm editing my second book, "The Melody", for upload to Amazon, that now would the perfect time for a promotion.  Starting tomorrow (Sunday) for a couple of days, you will be able to download my first book "Cold" for free!  Yes, free!  If you haven't yet read it, the next few days will be the perfect time to get a hold of a copy.

My books are exclusive to Amazon, so if you have a Kindle, perfect!  If you don't, then you can get the Kindle app for your smartphone, and it's always free.  Download it from Google play or the i-store, and you're good to go.  This means that it will be all free, so there's no excuse not to read "Cold"!

You should be able to purchase and download it to your computer as a pdf as well.  Find it here:  Cold  On your Kindle, or app, you will have to search for H.A. Larson.  I hope you enjoy it, and look for "The Melody" coming out next week!

Much love,

H.A. Larson

Friday, April 10, 2015

"The Melody" Update!

Good morning!  I have exciting news to share today:  I've finished my second book, "The Melody"!  Of course, that was the hardest battle, but certainly not the last.  Now, I have to wrap it up by editing and preparing it for upload to Amazon.  My plan is to have it edited by Sunday or Monday, and then ready for sale on Monday or Tuesday.

I will be running a promotion for this weekend only, my first book "Cold" will be available for free, but just for this weekend only!  So keep an eye out for that.  If you haven't read "Cold" yet, this would be the perfect opportunity to do so now.

Have a great Friday everyone.

Much love,

H.A. Larson

Black Bean Burgers!



Yesterday, as I have many many times in the past, I was craving a good, hearty burger.  I have been a burger fan ever since I can remember, and nothing seems more satisfying when you're really hungry.  

Over the last few years, as many of you already know, I've been moving more and more away from a carnivore diet and closer towards a full vegan diet.  To that end, I've also been finding myself lately trying to move away from eating so many fake, vegan meats, and truly trying to find a whole food alternative - not that I want to give up fake meats altogether, because they are pretty great oftentimes.  I have a black bean burger recipe that I have been making for a few years now, and I have been perfecting it over those same amount of years. 

Get ready for a taste explosion!  These burgers are hearty, filling, and delicious!  Now, to be fair, do NOT expect these to taste like hamburgers or you will be disappointed!  If you expect them to just taste mighty delicious you will be pleasantly surprised.  Okay, on to the recipe then.  You can make substitutions where noted, and if you're feeling really ambitious you can play around with it and make it your own.  Enjoy!


Black Bean Burgers

Ingredients:

1-15 oz. can of black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 c. of quinoa, rice, or your favorite grain.  
1 c. vegetable broth/stock
1 tsp each granulated garlic, granulated onion, chili powder, cumin, salt, smoked or regular paprika, and pepper
2 T. olive oil, or favorite cooking oil
2 sun-dried tomatoes, re-hydrated in water and drained, or packed in oil and drained
1 T. ground flax
1/2 c. flour, any kind will do, just use what you have. (More flour will make a firmer burger, and less flour will make a softer burger. I recommend firmer as it won't squish out of your bun.)

Instructions:

1.  Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Spray a baking sheet lightly with cooking spray or brush/rub it down with a tablespoon of your favorite cooking oil.

2.  On the stovetop, bring your vegetable broth/stock to a boil.  While it's working on a boil, rinse your grain in a colander thoroughly.  When the broth begins to boil, add the grain, lower to med heat and cover for about 15 minutes, or until tender.  (Cooking times will vary depending on the grain.  Most grains cook in about 15 minutes unless you're using brown rice, for example.  Adjust time for this.)  When the grain is cooked, remove from heat, uncover, fluff with a fork, and let cool.

3.  While the grain cools, add the beans, seasonings, sun-dried tomatoes, and olive oil to a food processor or high-powered blender.  Puree until smooth, or leave it a bit chunky.  Either way is perfectly fine.

4.  Add the puree to a mixing bowl, then add the cooled grain, and the flour.  Using a spatula, or mixing spoon, mix together until well-incorporated.

5.  Form your burgers.  I find the best method that works for me is this:  take a 1/3 c. measuring cup.  Moisten with water and pack it with the black bean mixture.  Turn it out onto the greased baking sheet, and then use the bottom of the measuring cup to flatten the burger a bit into a burger shape. If you want larger burgers, use a 1/2 c. measure, and if you prefer sliders, use 1/4 c. measure scant.  Repeat until the mixture is gone.

6.  Put the burgers in the preheated oven and bake for 15-20 minutes until brown on one side.  Flip the burgers and bake on the other side for an additional 15 minutes. 

Notes:

Times are approximate.  Remember, everyone's appliances work differently, and you definitely need to adjust for different altitudes.  My suggestion is to keep an eye on things until you know for sure if these cook times work best for you!  You can make the burgers smaller or larger depending on preference, and it will not affect the cook time much, but again, keep an eye on them.  If you want to double to recipe (as I like to do often) then you just double the ingredients...that's it!  Now, slap 'em on a bun, pita, toast, or whatever, and slather it with all the condiments and accoutrements one can handle!  Happy eating.  :)


Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Arkansas Adventure Vacation

We made it back home alive & well!  I'm not going to lie though, I'm still stiff and sore.  We (the kids & myself) spent five days on vacation.  We traveled down through Iowa and Missouri to get to Arkansas.  We stopped in Carthage, MO at the Civil War Museum and then again at the George Carver National Monument.

In Arkansas we went to Petit Jean State Park where we hiked over 7 miles to get to Rock House Cave and the Cedar Falls, which was no small feat as we had to hike up and down switchback trails in the Ozark Mountains.  Then we spent a day checking out Fort Smith's Fort, Museum, and Visitor's Center before packing out again to spend the weekend at a cabin at Lake Fort Smith.  There, we hiked another 7 miles, fished, and grilled out.

On the way home we made another two pit stops, one at Pea Ridge National Military Park which is a Civil War battle site, and at Squaw Creek Wildlife Refuge (north of St. Joseph, MO) where we engaged in another long strenuous hike up the Loess Hills, which afforded us gorgeous views of the refuge.

It was an action-packed vacation that the kids and I loved.  We drank healthy smoothies every morning for breakfast, and ate good food while getting plenty of exercise.  It sure was a win-win all the way around, and we had lots of fun.  It was just what I needed to recharge and renew.  Now, back to life and back to work.

Enjoy the pictures, the man in them is my step dad who tagged along while my mom was at work.

Much love,

H.A.