Monday, November 30, 2015

Snowy Monday


Snow is finally here. I'm watching the big, soft flakes come down outside the window as I type this. I used to love the snow when I was younger. Even into my 30s I appreciated the Winter as a time when I could wear sweaters and jeans (two of my favorites) and curl up after work with slippers and a blanket. Somewhere in my mid-30s I started to grow weary of the cold and began to favor the temperate climate and beauty of Spring and Fall. 

The last several years, this year being no exception, Fall has lasted longer than usual making me a happy camper. I was dreading Winter and the snow, like I have for the last several years, but now that's it's here I'm filled with a sense of calm. Everything is awash in brilliant white, and it's almost as if nature is erasing the old to make way for the new (which is kind of what happens). 

Instead of my usual melancholy of not being able to get out and enjoy a good hike in nature for several months, I am admiring the beauty outside and thinking of all the great writing I can get done. There is a lot of inspiration to be had in the chill of the season. I'm also looking forward to herbal tea, puffy blankets, silly movies with my kids, and some good Winter reading as well.

Maybe this will not be the Winter of my discontent. 

-H.A.


Sunday, November 29, 2015

Old Photos

Happy Sunday! I hope you've all 'recovered' nicely from the past several days of food & family. I had two good meals, one with my little family on Thursday, and the other with friends on Friday, both vegan. Yesterday, I was mostly lazy but managed to give the house a good cleaning and spent time with the kids. Today has been more relaxing as I have to go back to work tonight. 

Of course, in and amongst all of that, I kept up with my writer's duties. A writer's work is never done after all! I started on Chapter 3 of my new book, and I'm excited daily to see how well "The Station" is holding up in the book ranks. It's encouraging to feel validation for all of my hard work and dedication.

I have still been going through old pictures on my computer once in awhile to see if there's anything I want to get rid of, keep, or maybe even print off. I came across some old hiking photos from 2011, which is only about a year after I decided to get back into hiking after a long, long dry spell from my youth when my dad would take me out on weekend, fall afternoons. This particular day, we also spent a gorgeous, early fall afternoon up in the Loess Hills (which is incidentally one of my dad's and mine's old hiking haunts from way back in the day). It was nice to stroll down memory lane and I've chosen a few of my favorite photos from that day.



A nice shot from inside the forest. You can see the forest at it's in-between stage of summer and fall as the leaves are both green and brown. Some remain on the trees while others have already descended to the ground.


This panaramic view of the Loess Hills showcases the nice scenery we have here in the Midwest.




 A view from along the ridge line of the hills. The pines will stay green while the grasses turn from various shades of green to various shades of brown and gold.



A gorgeous view as we came down from the hills and into the forest of the valley. A man-made lake borders the forest near the parking area, and you could see the sun shining off it like a mirror from the canopied darkness of the forest interior.



Thanks for taking a brief walk down memory lane with me! Enjoy the rest of your weekend!  -H.A.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Giving Thanks



Well, it's that time of year again when we sit together around a table enjoying a huge feast while giving thanks. This feast can take on many forms whether it's done at your home, some else's home, or at a restaurant. It can be traditional, modern, or something completely different. It can be an excuse to get all the people you care about together, or an excuse to have your little family to yourself. It might go smoothly, it might go badly, or it might be somewhere in-between. It might be done for tradition, to honor the first Americans, or because you want to show that you can, indeed, make a large meal without burning down the house.

We're talking about Thanksgiving, of course, and there are many different ways, kinds, and reasons to celebrate. Traditionally, Thanksgiving was a way of giving thanks for the year's Harvest and for the bounty of the year in general. A big feast would be made using the fruits of everyone's labor as a way of indulging in what otherwise would have been just another year of being thankful that there would be enough food to tide everyone over for the Winter and into the Spring.

Plenty of people do try in earnest to be thankful in today's world during this time of the year, even if we don't have to rely on a good Harvest to survive the harsh winters. Now, we live in our comfy homes and run to the store when we need to restock our supplies. We are truly a lucky bunch, and there is still much to be thankful for.

It's been a simultaneously great and rough year for me. For all the good that came my way, there was still plenty of strife, much of which I documented right here on my website. As the year winds down and we head into the last month of the year, I look back in reflection as I so often do many times throughout the year. Through it all, I am very thankful.

I am thankful that I know who I am and what I want from my life. I'm thankful for finally being able to make peace with the bad and move forward. I'm thankful that I have a good job and can still do what I love in my free time. I'm thankful that I've made steps in the right direction as far as my health is concerned, and that I'm healthier now than I have been in a very long time. I'm thankful that I can finally see the future I envision just off in the distance. I'm thankful that I followed my dreams and that my latest book is doing well. Finally, and most importantly, I'm thankful for the people in my life who give it so much meaning. 

That last one can't be stressed enough. The family and friends I have cannot be beat, and I'm grateful for their presence every day. I'm most thankful in the whole world though for my children and their love. All the times in my life I wanted to give up, run away, or hide have been numerous, but the love for my children has given me the strength to always pull myself up from the bottom of the pit and discover the light again. 

Lastly, I am very thankful that I have a roof over my head, food to eat, and a quality of life that eludes so many of my peers the world over. It's easy to forget how fortunate we are sometimes when we perceive only the things in our life that cause us grief. Perception then, is one of the biggest enlighteners and barriers to being thankful, and, in turn, happy. Happiness in life can often be found the littlest of things.

I hope on this holiday that you find a reason to be thankful, no matter how rough things might be. If your life seems great, then be in the moment, and if things seems dark, remember that sometimes it's our perception of things that makes all the difference.

Happy Thanksgiving my friends: I am thankful for you and your support. Keep on being you.

-H.A. 

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Tuesday's Musings


Happy Tuesday! It's my first day of my work week, but it will go quickly. Thanksgiving will be here Thursday, and it will be the first time I've made a full vegan Thanksgiving (a Vegansgiving)! I've found recipes for some of the old favorites that are vegan, and I'm hoping my non-vegan kids will still enjoy the meal. The day after Thanksgiving I'm going to a friend's house for another vegan Thanksgiving meal, and I'm pretty excited about that one as well. 

As you all know, I live in the Midwest which has always been famous for it's wildly fluctuating weather. I took the kids out hiking the previous weekend thinking it might one of the last nice days before the winter snow hit. Well, even though the temperature has dropped, we never did get the snow that hit North and West of here. Yesterday, the temperature hovered just under 60 and, since it was my day off, I took the kids out for a nature walk.




I love this shot. The best thing about having kids is having them run at you excitedly in greeting. My daughter is always excited to see me, and the feeling is quite mutual. The teen, not so much. He still loves me though. :)




This time of the year, the sun begins to set after 5 p.m. and as we were finishing our walk, the moon was out, close, and nearly full.




The creek on our walk was scattered with brown leaves but some green ones as well. It was a gorgeous contrast.




Fields of wild grasses are a cross between white and brown. They will retire to the earth before Spring comes.


Monday, November 23, 2015

Observations at Work


Hello there. This is me at work. Shocker I know, as I'm sure you've probably assumed that I make a lavish penny off my writing skills which allows me to stay home and write all day. Oh, how I wish! ;) No, I work a real job. I work a semi-graveyard shift for 10-hour shifts, four days out of the week, in a call center, and it's a good job. I dig it, I dig the people who work there, the benefits are great, and you'd be hard-pressed to find a company that treats their employees better.

This shift definitely has advantages and disadvantages. It's not quite a busy late at night so it gives me time here and there to work out plot lines in my head for books; I love the solitary drive home in the wee morning hours; the people I work with at night are interesting; and the house is quiet when I get home. The drawbacks are never seeming to get enough sleep; not being around in the evening with my kids; and wishing I had more time to get things done.

The people I get to interact with are an interesting bunch, and it makes my job enjoyable. However, whomever has programmed Adele's "Hello" to play every hour through the music system needs to be stopped. lol

What's your job like?

Have a fantastic day!  -H.A.




Sunday, November 22, 2015

Progress Report


Good afternoon, and Happy Sunday! For most of you, Sunday is the last day of the weekend before Monday arrives, bringing the new week with it. For me, it's a day back to work after a two-day off stretch that is followed by another day off. There are advantages to working 4-10 hour shifts! 

Anyway, I worked overtime on Friday, so yesterday was my only real day off and I tried to be as unproductive as possible. I find myself keeping busy every day (it's the life of an Indie author) and sometimes I just need to say, "Okay, today's a real, complete day off." It was needed, even if I kinda feel guilty for not accomplishing anything. lol

"The Station" is still doing fairly well on Amazon. It's gotten three reviews already, and it's pretty encouraging:

"...when the scary stuff got going, it did not let up! H.A. Larson really knows how to spin a skillful, suspenseful tail! The story was deliciously spooky, and how all the characters’ encounters with ghostly entities finally came together was well done! I had my suspicions early on about who the, shall I say, bad guys could be, but I hoped I was wrong. Alas, I wasn’t.

Overall, though, I thought the story was well done! It was a great paranormal thriller, and the author does a great job presenting the material in such a way as to send a wonderful thrill up the readers’ spines!"


It's exciting for me, as an author, to see my work slowly but surely getting recognition for being good pieces of fiction. I know how much I've grown, learned, and improved from "Cold" to "The Melody" to, now, "The Station". 

As I mentioned briefly before, I've already begun working on my fourth book. I am already pumped for it as I have a really, really good vibe from it already. 

Have a great Sunday my friends, and grab a copy of one or all of my books (only $2.99 each!). It's the perfect kind of day for curling up with a good book.

-H.A.


Tuesday, November 17, 2015

I Long for a Place...


-The shores of the Atlantic on the Burren in Ireland-


I have some serious wanderlust. When I was about 10 years old, I happened across a travel brochure for guided tour-vacations to Europe, and ever since then, I've wanted nothing more than to travel to Europe. I finally realized that dream last year when I made a fateful trip to Ireland. It was everything I'd ever dreamed it would be, and I came back home with a new perspective on life. More than that, it filled me with a stronger drive to work harder, be healthier, do more...be better.

It also instilled in me a burning desire to see more of the world than what I have seen. Earlier this year I wrote down an actual bucket list, and at least half of it are trips I'd like to take. After starting that list, I also decided that if nothing else, when my youngest child moves out, I will fill up a backpack and travel around the world. Will I be too old? Of course not. Is there ever really an expiration on your dreams?

Where would you like to travel? 




Monday, November 16, 2015

A Day in the Life...



I'm sitting here on this blessedly quiet Monday morning enjoying the solitude of an empty house. I have a nice, hot cup of coffee sitting here next to me, and Faun is playing in the background. Combine that with an overcast sky and a touch of remaining Fall on the landscape outside, and I'm feeling pretty creative. 

"The Station" is doing fairly well, relatively speaking, and that really puts a smile on my face. It's a tough life being an indie author, and building your readership takes time and effort. It's only $2.99 so make sure and get a copy for yourself, I'm pretty sure you're going to love it! 

Today, then, I am gathering up all my notes that I made during the time I was writing "The Station". It's been a bit of a walk down memory lane as I peruse my words and see where I started and where I was heading. It's a glimpse into a writer's mind to see the progression of their stories through their notes, and I can almost look at mine as if they belonged to someone else.

I'm filing away my notes because I've started a new page. Yes, that means what it sounds like: I've started a new book. Usually I wait a few weeks after writing a book to start a new one, but I felt the new story playing out and had to put it down. I won't mention any more about it right now as I don't want to take anything away from "The Station". I am solid in my conviction of how good it is and don't want anything to detract from it.

I have other writing work to do as well. The magazine I write for sent me an urgent email late last week. They changed up the topic of my editorial and doubled the length, so I have my work cut out for me as I wade through that. I also have an editing job to do, and I'm starting a new peer review group. 

A writer's job is never done, not really. 

Have a great day, a great week, and may you be happy.

-H.A.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

A Walk Through the Woods

Happy Sunday! I have to get ready to go to work soon, but I wanted to share some pictures from yesterday's hike. You all know how much I enjoy my hikes in the forest. There's nothing quite as calming, relaxing, therapeutic, or inspiring as being in the woods. It's always been a place for me to recharge my batteries, hit the reset button, and get my creative juices flowing (if you've read any of books, you know exactly what I'm talking about).

Earlier in the week, snow hit the western side of the state, and it had cooled off considerably. I was sure our Indian Summer was over, but then Saturday came bearing nice weather. The kids and I went out to one of our favorite places, Schramm State Recreation Area, and took our traditional hike there. We didn't need jackets, and I took one of the side paths I had always avoided before. 











I'm happy that we got to take in some of the last vestiges of Fall before Winter heralds it's arrival by taking away the color. It's gorgeous here again today, and if I didn't have to work, I'd be getting ready to get out there. Maybe tomorrow....


Have a great Sunday, and get outside today if you can! 

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Ipsy's November Glam Bag



So, November's Glam Bag by Ipsy arrived this week! As you might remember, I started the impossibly easy $10/month (no taxes-free shipping) subscription to Ipsy. For that you get a small, usually-cool, makeup bag with a handful of samples of beauty products. It's easy, it's fun, and I love it! This is my second, and I'm sure I'll update you every month when my new ones arrive...at least until I get tired of sharing them.  lol  Anyway, the bag this month was a cool, colorful, celestial-themed bag.



Here are the contents.




First up, a Luxie eyeshadow pan, No. 290. It's a plum-type color, and it reminds me that I should really peruse Ebay for a palette to put my loose pots in.



Next is Jelly Pong Pong's Liquid Gossamer face luminizer. It's a shimmery kind-of copper color and would be great to lightly contour my face or just add a bit of warmth under my makeup.




This is a mini version of Smashbox's Full Exposure mascara. I can't wait to try this one out!




This is called a skin booster and is made by LeeAnni. The directions indicate to tap some on your face gently after toner but before moisturizer for an "extra boost". *shrug* I'll try it out and see what happens!




Last, but not least, is treStique's mini-matte lip crayon in Chile Red. I cannot wait to wear this! I'll wait until I go out some night, it's not a color I'd wear to work. ;)


So there you have it, my custom-tailored Ipsy Glam Bag for November.

-H.A.


Thursday, November 12, 2015

Vegan Breakfast Burritos




I admit it. I've been so busy lately that I haven't been eating properly. On the plus side I've dropped more weight, and on the other side, I haven't eaten a proper meal in awhile. Today, tired of toast and Boca burgers, I decided it was high time for a decent, hearty breakfast, and, man, I did not disappoint myself! I made a pretty typical tofu scramble, made up some crispy tempeh bacun pieces, stuffed it all into a tortilla, and added some crumbled up chunks of Daiya cheddar. It was heartily delicious, so much so that I ate it for lunch and dinner as well. I have enough leftovers for tomorrow too, but I'll probably give a break until Saturday morning.

Pair this with a cup of tea, coffee, or a cold cup of almond milk, and you got a pure winner. Enjoy!


Vegan Breakfast Burritos


Ingredients:

1 block of tofu, drained and pressed
1 large potato, rinsed and cut up into bite-sized chunks
1/2 c. chopped onion
1/2 c. chopped peppers, any kind will do
2 t. chopped garlic
1/2 c. sliced mushrooms
1/3 c. chopped black olives, optional
1/4 c. coconut oil
1.5 t. turmeric
1 T. steak seasoning
2 t. red pepper flakes
1 t. salt and pepper
2 t. smoked paprika
tempeh bacon (recipe from an older post of mine here)
1/2 c. crumbled vegan cheese, I used Daiya cheddar
8-10 tortillas


Instructions:


1. In a dutch oven, heat the coconut oil over med-high heat until the oil is melted and rippling. Add the potatoes and brown lightly on both sides. 
2. Add the onion, peppers, garlic, mushrooms, olives, and seasonings.
3. Crumble up the tofu and add. Stir well to incorporate. 
4. Cover the pot and let cook over medium heat for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes and tofu are cooked through.
5. Add some of the cooked scramble, cooked bacun,and cheese to a tortilla and roll it up.*
6. Eat!



*If you're anything like me, you go big or go home. I fill these babies up so full that they barely close, hence the unsuredness of how many burritos this recipes makes. ;) You can add salsa or whatever else you want: it's delicious no matter how you add it up!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Small Makeup Haul


This last weekend I stopped by the drugstore and grabbed a few beauty items. Here's what I got. (P.S. Don't mind the background I chose for this, I thought it would look much cuter and it really doesn't. I didn't want to start all over though, so I'll remember for next time!)





I've been going through different kinds of moisturizer/regenerating serum items for awhile. I haven't been able to find the best item, or combination thereof, so I decided to give this a try. It's the Walmart version of Olay Regenerist Serum, which is a combination of moisturizer/regenerating serum, and not quite as expensive so I thought I'd give it a try. I've been using it for a few days now, and I really like it so far. Time will tell if it's a keeper, but so far so good.






I've watched enough beauty vloggers at this point to have noticed that several of them use a face primer after their moisturizer. I use primer on my eyes before putting on eye shadow, so it makes sense right? I have to say, there's definitely an improvement in my makeup's overall appearance since I've added L'Oreal's Magic Perfecting Base face primer to my makeup routine.






Oh the quest for the perfect mascara. Seems like I always get the dry ones, or the ones that clump way too easily. I actually did some research on this one, and this Butterfly Intenza mascara by L'Oreal seemed like a good mascara to buy. Another so far so good. It elongates nice and no clumping! It's a good thing.






I've been a fan of NYC's eyeshadows for years. I saw this interesting set of colors and knew I had to get it. The colors are great, especially for an evening look, and if you look at my picture here on the site, you'll see me wearing all the makeup you see here in this haul!






I've had my eye on a few makeup items by Hard Candy, but had yet to purchase any. I am a fan of liquid eyeliner pens as they make putting on precision eyeliner so much easier than any other way (and more quickly too). When I saw this one by Hard Candy, I knew I had to try it.






Look at that point!



Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Reflection




"The Station" is now two days old and I hope you're enjoying it! If you haven't already purchased it, there's a link on the sidebar that will take you right to it on Amazon. It's only $2.99 and if you like a good paranormal thriller, or anything in-between, then you really should read it! Not that I'm biased or anything. ;) Also on the sidebar, you can find links to my social media pages so go check them out and give them a like or a follow to show your support. It means so much to me!

The last couple of months have been sort of harrowing for me. Dealing with crazy hormones, helping my kids through some tough times, and trying to finish my book--all while working and freelancing--has taken a toll on me. I went out on Saturday night, my first time out since the beginning of the summer, and that helped shake off some of the stress. I also got a few nights in a row of well-needed, restful sleep, so now that I've finished the book and everything else is back to normal, I'm feeling reflective.

For me, being reflective typically means looking back on recent events and thinking about them with fresh eyes. It's a way to look at what has happened and determine what, if anything, could have been different and, if so, in what way? How could I improve the way things played out? Did they need to be improved? I've definitely done plenty of this kind of reflection over the past few months as I waded through stressful times.

Today, I'm indulging in a different kind of reflection. One where I look deep within my soul and decide some truths about myself and my life. I don't reflect in this manner nearly as much as I do in the other, but it's needed just the same. As we move in and through certain periods of our life, and manage to come out alive at the other end of these periods, we need this kind of reflection in order to grow.

I started a new path a year ago and I thought that this period of time would take me through next year when my life will change. Little did I know at the time, nor did I think, that I would go through other, smaller periods in my life between then and the future. I can chuckle about it now, because I can be naive sometimes about how I think things are. The truth is: life is constantly throwing things at you, whether changes, stress, good things, or hardships, and you're going to have to deal with it.

It's when these things happen that I don't always deal with things in the best of manners. I could chalk it up to being imperfectly human, but if I don't acknowledge and deal with my shortcomings sometimes, how can I grow into the person I wish to be? I definitely have an idea of the person I'd like to evolve into, but will I ever get there? Or will I constantly ride the ebb and flow of life's ever-changing presence in my life?

I'm hoping that if I deal with the tide in a direct, honest manner that I will become who I want to be, but that I will be able better to handle the stressful times. That folks, is my inner reflection. I can see the person I want to be staring back at me, but the person on my side of that reflection has some growing to do.

I hope you have a great day, a fantastic week, and that you're having a stress-free, easy period in your life.

Always,

H.A.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

The Station is Published!




Good afternoon everyone! I'm so very excited to announce the publication of my third book The Station! It's available right now on Amazon--exclusively for Kindle--for $2.99. Find it here! I hope you enjoy it as much as I think you will. If you like a good creepy, ghost story, then this book is for you.


A personal thank you too to you, my family, friends, fans, and readers. I appreciate each and every one of you so much for all your support.

-H.A.




NOW SHARE THIS LINK! TELL YOUR FRIENDS! BUY IT FOR YOUR MOM! (She'll like it.)  ;) 

Thursday, November 5, 2015

A Free Book!

Good morning! Today only, you can pick up a copy of my book "Cold" for free! I'm giving it away today for free in honor of my third book, "The Station", which will be out this weekend. Head over here on Amazon to grab your copy.



Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Chipotle Ranch Dressing - Vegan Style!

Back in my former life as an omnivore, one of my cannot-live-without condiments was Ranch dressing. I put that stuff on everything: french fries, salads, burgers, pizza, etc. After going vegan, giving up Ranch was hard, but I put it out of my mind and tried to forget about it! Mostly I did, but the desire for a good Ranch every once in awhile persisted.

The other night, I positively decided that I wanted a Ranch dressing, and remembered that I had a bottle of Hampton Creek's Chipotle Just Mayo. Now, if you haven't heard of Hampton Creek, they are an amazing company that has figured out how to make vegan versions of products that actually taste like the "real" deal. Their mayo tastes like omni mayo, and they make flavored versions that are to die for! Anyway, I digress.



Here is the Ranch right after I made it. Yum!




Here it is slathered on a wedge salad with a side of vegan mac 'n cheese. How good does that look? Okay, okay! Here's the recipe.


Chipotle* Vegan Ranch Dressing

1/2 c. Just Mayo chipotle-flavored mayo
1/8 c. unsweetened vegan milk (I used almond)
2 T. vegan sour cream (I used Tofutti)
2 t. each parsley and chives
1 t. each granulated garlic and granulated onion
1 t. salt
dash of pepper


Put all the ingredients in a bowl and whisk to combine. Allow it to sit for about 10 minutes to let the flavors meld. 


*If you would prefer the non-chipotle version, just use regular unflavored vegan mayo. Also, if you don't have chipotle mayo and want chipotle flavor, you can use chipotle powder (to taste, start with 1/2 t. and work your way up) or some chipotle-in-adobo sauce. 


And that's it! Perfect vegan ranch. BTW, it was just awesome on that wedge salad!