Sunday, January 31, 2016

A Warm Saturday

Yesterday was in the 40s, and during this time of year (and considering how the weather has been) that is a heatwave! I was itching to get outside pretty badly, so, since my husband and son were gone, I decided it would be the perfect time to get my daughter out for some much-needed mom-daughter time. We grabbed a light lunch, and then headed down to Fontanelle Nature Center. They have a very long boardwalk that I figured would be perfect for getting in a good "hike" since whatever trails might be free of snow would just be a sloppy, muddy mess. It was gorgeous out, and I feel like I got my batteries recharged.



A view off the farthest end of the boardwalk. You can see all the way across and just make out the Omaha skyline, including the Desert Dome at Henry Doorly Zoo.





A cute turtle inside the nature center, where we spent over an hour after our long walk, which was my daughter's favorite.





While my daughter played with other kids inside the nature center, I relaxed in the bird watching room. I literally sat here for over an hour just watching the squirrels and the birds eat. I felt so connected to my favorite of favorite places to be: outside.



Tuesday, January 26, 2016

The Box - First Look!



Hey everyone! It's January, and it's time for me to give you a first peek into my fourth book "The Box". A small sampling for you to enjoy! Let me know what you think by either emailing me, or commenting below. Have a fantastic day!





        She moved into the living room where she had been sorting some of Liam’s things. She sat down on the couch, determined, now that she would be gone over the weekend, to pack up the remainder of his things and leave them on the front porch for him to collect. She was on vacation until the middle of next week, and she needed to get these things done. Besides, the last thing she wanted to see when she got home from her grandmother’s house this weekend was a reminder of her failed marriage.
She sighed, and the urge to cry was strong. She would have cried too had she not seen something else out of the corner of her eye. This time it came from her left, over by the front door. She felt uneasy and quickly jerked her head in the direction of the door. She closed her eyes, began to count, and chanted: “It’s not real, there’s nothing there. It’s not real, there’s nothing there,” over again until she had counted to ten.
When she opened her eyes, she looked around. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary and she breathed a sigh of relief. She didn’t want any of that nonsense to start all over again. It had been a long while since she had seen the shadows, and she sure didn’t want to go down that road again.
Memories of childhood flooded her mind, taking her to another time and place. She could see the ceiling of her old bedroom as she stared at it in the dwindling daylight that streamed through the window. She lay there, unable to sleep, as she listened to her parents argue and fight somewhere within the house. It was there, in her childhood bedroom, that she first saw the shadows in her peripheral vision.
She continued to see the shadows periodically as she grew up, especially when things weren’t going well. As her parent’s own marriage deteriorated and their arguments escalated, so did her anguish, and the presence of the shadows increased. In time, Heidi blamed the shadows for her parent’s divorce. 
As she grew older the shadows would return whenever the going was tough, and, as such, she began to acknowledge the shadows with dread. Wherever the shadows were, bad times were sure to follow. She kept the shadows a secret until she was 19 when she made the mistake of telling her mom. Her mom thought she was crazy and committed her to a mental hospital for a month.
      When she left the ward, she promised herself two things: she would never mention the shadows to another person, and she would never talk to her mother again. The only good things that happened on the ward were meeting her friend Sandra, who she still talked to weekly, and having Dr. Mansell for her psychiatrist. Dr. Mansell helped her understand that the shadows weren’t real, and gave her better ways to cope with her stress. It’s where she learned to count to ten with her eyes closed and tell herself 'the shadows aren’t real'.


Sunday, January 24, 2016

Burns Nicht


Bringing in the haggis




My friend giving his annual Robert Burns' Address to the Haggis




Bagpipers (it wouldn't be Scottish without this)




Last night, I finally made it up to the annual Burns Nicht that has happened for the last six years. I'd been wanting to go for the last few years, but had never made it for whatever reason. I'm half Swede, but the other half of me is predominantly Scotch-Irish. My ancestors traveled into America, through the Appalachians where they eventually settled in Southern Missouri. I also own a small plot of land in Scotland, in County Glencoe, so it was only fitting that I went.

It was a lot of fun. There was plenty of Scottish food (which I didn't partake of as I've been a vegan for awhile now), bagpipers (obviously), and, of course, haggis. It was nice to be able to celebrate my Scotch heritage while hanging out with my husband and friends.

Burns Nicht mean Burns Night and is aptly named after the 18th Century Scottish poet Robert Burns. Burns is most famous for writing Auld Lang Syne and and Scots Wha Hae, which as the unofficial Scottish Anthem for several years. He also loved his haggis so much that he wrote the Address to a Haggis for it. A friend of mine delivers the Address to the Haggis every year at Burns Nicht here and I was glad I finally got to see him do it. 

Long live the kilt!  ;)



Thursday, January 21, 2016

Orange Cauliflower


I love cauliflower. A lot. I've always liked cauliflower over the years, but I typically always ate it raw with dip, or steamed as a side. As I began moving towards a vegan diet, and especially after going vegan, I realized the true potential of this amazing vegetable. It's sturdy and can hold up well. You can slather it in a good sauce and bake it whole, you can make cauliflower steaks on the grill, and you can break it up into florets and do a myriad of things. When I break it up into florets, I like to make a light batter to dip it in (seasoned to preference for the particular style I'm going for) and then either bake or fry it until crisp. I've baked savory chunks served with mashed potatoes and gravy (try it), or, my other favorite, fry it crisp and make an Asian-style sauce to cover it with. Put all of it over some basmati or jasmine rice, and you've got a drool-worthy dish.

Monday is one of my days off, and my only day off before a long work stretch, and I realized that I never have time during the week to have a decent meal. I remedied that by prepping a bunch of vegetables, bagging, and labeling them. One of those bags was labeled Orange Cauliflower. It was so easy to whip up the other day since it was all prepped and ready for batter, and completely, thoroughly delicious.


Orange Cauliflower

Ingredients:


1 head of cauliflower, cleaned, trimmed, and broken up into florets

For the batter:

1/3 c. whole wheat flour
1/3 c. rice flour (Rice flour imparts a unique, amazing crispiness so skip it if you must, but if you have some....please use it.)
2 T. cornstarch
1/2 t. each salt and pepper
1/4 c. - 1/2 c. water (You want a thin batter, not too thick, not too thin so start with a 1/4 c. and slowly add as needed up to 1/2 c. from there. Basically, you want to sauce to coat the florets, not fall off or stick to it in globs.)

For the sauce:

1 c. orange juice
2 T. soy sauce or tamari
1 T. rice wine vinegar
3 T. sugar
1/2 T. red pepper flake
1 t. each of granulated garlic and granulated onion
1 T. corn starch
Oil for frying

For the rice:

1 c. rinsed rice
2 c. water
1/2 t. salt


Instructions:


1. Bring 2 c. water to a boil in a saucepan, add rice until it reaches a boil. Turn down heat to medium-low, cover, and let cook for approx 15 minutes, or until tender.
2.. Whisk batter ingredients together in a mixing bowl until incorporated.
3. Heat oil for frying in a large frying pan over high heat.
4. Toss the cauliflower florets in the batter. Add half the florets to the frying pan, giving them space to fry without touching. Fry until crisp on one side, roughly 5 minutes, and then turn and fry until crisp on the other side as well. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate and repeat with the rest of the florets.
5. Whisk together the sauce ingredients and add to a saucepan set to medium-high. Whisk sauce on stove until it boils and starts to thicken. Turn off heat and let sit for a few minutes, whisking every minute.
6. Mix the sauce and cauliflower together, toss to coat. 
7. Serve with rice.


Notes:

This recipe would be great to add a few veggies or a can of Mandarin oranges if so desired.


Monday, January 18, 2016

Seasons: The Rebirth



The spring has arrived with warmth,
the sun is high in the sky.
My thoughts on this day,
are thoughts of you and I.
I realize how far we've come,
and how I thought we'd never make it.
But we did make it,
we just go together, we fit.
We begin again today,
we hold hands as we go forth.
We look back with wisdom,
before beginning our rebirth.
The flowers bloom, and the leaves open.


Sunday, January 17, 2016

Vegan Breakfast Tacos - 2nd Version



I have a tofu press now (see last post) and, so, the other day, I decided I needed to use it of course! I also have a surplus of tortillas and decided on breakfast tacos. They came out so good!


Vegan Breakfast Tacos

1/2 block of tofu, pressed
1 large potato, washed and cut into chunks
1/4 of onion chopped up small
1 clove garlic
1/2 can of black beans
1 t turmeric
1 t smoked paprika
1 t red pepper flake
1/2 t each of salt and pepper
1 t lemon pepper
1 T parsley flakes
oil for frying, I used coconut
1/2 c salsa 
1/2 c. grated Daiya cheddar (or your favorite vegan cheese)
tortillas


1. Heat a few tablespoons of oil in a large skillet on medium-high heat.
2. Add the potatoes and onions. Fry until golden on one side, flip.
3. Cut up the tofu into chunks, or tear up with your fingers, and add to the skillet, along with the garlic. Fry for a couple of minutes.
4. Add the black beans and all the seasonings. Stir to incorporate.
5. Fry for another few minutes then turn the heat down to medium. Fry for another 7 minutes, stiring occasionally, until potatoes are cooked through.
6. Turn off the heat.
7. Add the salsa and cheese and combine well.
8. Fill some tortillas and enjoy.

You can top this with a variety of good toppings that you prefer. You can easily double this recipe if you want to use your whole block of tofu.

Friday, January 15, 2016

What's in my Mail?

For the last few months, I've been posting my Ipsy subscriptions as they come in. Yesterday, it arrived, but it arrived with some other fun stuff that I had ordered from Amazon with my holiday gift cards. Anyway, I thought I'd share all the things that came in.





A few weeks ago I made a quick stop at Akin's to pick up some supplements and, of course, I perused the aisles for awhile. I found the neatest little tea press for loose leaf tea. I occasionally drink breakfast tea (something I picked up from a trip to Ireland), and I also keep a few different kinds of loose leaf herbal tea around as well. I have a tea ball, but sometimes I want more than one cup of tea. I decided not to buy the tea press I saw at Akin's because I had Amazon gift cards. This coffee press was cheaper than the tea presses and does the exact same thing, so I got it. I'm looking forward to drinking some English breakfast tea this weekend!






I do so love my music, and I have my favorite genres, but I really grew to love the band Alabama Shakes. I liked a few songs off their first album, but after they put out their second album I was properly impressed. So, I purchased it and it's going to be blasted in the car on my way to work today.






You all know from reading the posts here on my website, that I am obviously a vegan. To that end, I've been collecting some good vegan cookbooks. This is the fourth one I've purchased, and I've heard nothing but good about it. I cannot wait to start making some of the awesome staples that Miyoko has developed. Look forward to some related food posts!






I love me some tofu, but it needs to be pressed of the majority of its liquid before using. I usually accomplish this by taking a plate, covering it in a small stack of paper towels, setting a block on tofu on that, covering it with another stack of paper towels, adding another plate on top of this upside-down, and then stacking a bunch of cans on top. If I'm not careful, my cans come crashing down and my tofu quits pressing! The remedy? An actual tofu press! I can't wait for my next tofu scramble.






Last, but not least, my monthly Ipsy subscription arrived. From left to right:

*theBalm's Mr. Write Now eyeliner in Jac. It's a brown color, and I had just been lamenting the day before that I need a brown eyeliner (I've been using an old eyebrow pencil) so this was a pleasant surprise.
*hey honey's eye countour lifting fluid
*Mitchell and Peach's English Leaf body cream (smells heavenly)
*Hikari's cream pigment eye shadow in Mink. It's a brownish color and will go well with the eyeliner, which I'm sure was planned. 
*Lastly, a Beau Gachis smudge brush. I got a bunch of new brushes for Xmas, and I am excited to add this to my collection as I don't have enough really good eyeshadow brushes.



So, there you have it. I got all kinds of fun stuff in the mail yesterday! It was like Christmas Part 2.

Have a fantastic weekend my friends.

-H.A.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Seasons: The Thaw




The Coldest Winter has left me chilled to the bone,
as I prostrate myself before the fire alone.
The fire crackles and roars with the heat of years,
while the frost around my heart melts into tears.
I weep for all the wasted time that I spent,
mired in hatred and anger that would not bend.
Outside, the icicles begin to fall,
as the renewal of spring begins to call.


Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Writing Update



The other day I revealed the cover for my forthcoming book "The Box". (If you didn't see that post, go to the Home or Author tab and check it out.) As I'm sure you can tell by the cover itself, I've moved away from the paranormal thrillers I have been doing and am working on a scary tale. It's another story genre I've always been fascinated with so writing one of these kinds of stories seems like a natural progression for me. After taking a few weeks off from writing over the holidays, I'm currently working on Chapter 5. I'm hoping to complete the book sometime in either late March or April. Time will tell! I will publish a teaser sometime next month, so stay tuned for that.

Another project I'm currently working on is re-editing "The Station". As a self-published author, it's easy to miss a lot of little things that can distract from the story itself. In my usual haste to get my completed work out, I often don't take the extra time to go over the story with a fine-tooth comb, and, as a result, the story can look sloppy here and there. Also, up until now, I've been using Word to write my stories and when I convert it to the required html format for download to Kindle, the spacing and indents get messed up. I've remedied that as well by using a new program that will convert my text to html without any issues. I'm not going to re-edit my first two books as it's a time-consuming project, but I want to make sure my 3rd effort looks as good as it deserves.

I'm also working on a couple of short stories that I'm planning on submitting to publications at some point. One of them has a supernatural bent, while the other is more of a true-life, very dark, and gritty kind of story. I'll keep you posted on what I do with these as well.

As you also saw from yesterday's post, I'm still interested in poetry. I had started, early last year, a book of poetry that I plan on selling for Kindle for a mere $0.99. I've never been an avid poetry writer by any means, but lately I've felt the urge strike up again, so I'm going to publish tiny snippet poetry here and there along with one of my photographs.

So, that's the latest with H.A. Larson in the Author World.

Have a fantastic day!



Monday, January 11, 2016

Seasons: The Coldest Winter





I am here, you are there,
close together but miles away.
There are things to do,
and so many things to say.

Cut the tension,
corrupt that which hinders.
As I walk along the path,
of the coldest winter.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Cover Reveal for my Upcoming 4th Book

Most of you are already aware of the fact that I've been working on my 4th book. It's called "The Box" and today I'm giving you an exclusive look at the cover. 






So...what do you think? Are you going to be ready to read this one? Comment or send me an email with your opinions/comments/questions.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

A Winter's Walk

Yesterday, my folks were in town for an appointment, and so they stopped over afterwards to spend some time with me and give the kids their Christmas gifts before heading back home. We had a few hours to kill before the kids got home and so I drug them out for a quick visit to Hitchcock Nature Center over in Crescent, IA. It was brisk, but gorgeous. No matter what season, I love the beauty of that place.





A view from the lodge deck.




Frost-covered foliage.




A view down the boardwalk.





Through the trees.




Saturday, January 2, 2016

Felix Novus Annus



Well, it's now officially 2016 and I'm back at my computer after taking a much-needed breather from everything. I had to work all of the holiday days, and while it did kind of suck in terms of my general mood and celebrating with my little family, my bank account really thanked me. I didn't complain too much though because, truth be told, I know all too well how fortunate I am to have a good job working for a good company. When I see other people struggling I remind myself of this. 

Celebrating the holidays after everyone else already has had its advantages. I was able to buy Christmas wrapping paper, bags, candy, and other festive items for 75% off, and many other items were marked down as well since everyone else is pretty much done with shopping for awhile. Mine and my husband's paychecks were much larger than normal and we were able to spoil the kids just enough for our upcoming Christmas celebration. I didn't have to deal with the crazy crowds while shopping like I would during the time leading up to the holidays. I'm celebrating New Year's Eve tonight on New Year's Day so I won't have all the craziness out there to deal with. All these things have been a plus.

2015 was a decent year. The beginning of the year marked a year without smoking, I wrote two books, I went vegan, I lost 70 pounds and got healthier, I started a good job that I like, and I strengthened my relationships with my friends, family, and children. I did a lot of soul searching and self-reflection and came to some hard truths about myself that have always been hard for me to admit openly. This last part helped me most in repairing one of the most important relationships I have, and I am thankful for that even though I didn't have any desire to repair it before. I also hit a milestone in a woman's life, perimenopause, and it's been a real bear to deal with. 

Through it all, I am thankful. Thankful for all that have and hold dear. Thankful for the opportunities I've had. Thankful for so many things. 

I'm grateful to 2015, but I'm more than ready to bid it adieu. On to 2016! I hope it proves to be my best year yet. I also hope it proves to be a great year for you as well. It's new, so grab it by the horns and do that thing you've always wanted to do, whatever it is.

Much love, 
H.A.