Saturday, December 30, 2017

Latest Libations: 10th Edition

As most of you are already aware, I like to enjoy a few beers here and there. I like to pick up mix-a-six packs often so I can try new and different beers. It's a good way to expand your palate and find new favorites. Here's what I've been drinking lately.




I first tried Abita beer several years ago when my husband brought home a six-pack of the Strawberry Lager for me. It was the first fruit brew I'd ever had that wasn't sweet, and I wasn't real fond of it at first. By the time I finished the six-pack, I changed my mind. A non-sweet brew lets the flavors shine through without masking it in sugar. This particular brew by Abita is their Andygator. A Helles Doppelbock, it is a high-gravity brew with an alcohol content of 8%. Bold on taste, it's a decent beer.





Glacial Till recently began canning their quality Cider, making it available for the general public to purchase. They are a vineyard in my state with a tasting room in a different town in my state. I've been to their tasting room with a friend, and that's how I first learned about them. Their Cider is crisp, lightly sweet, and for purchase in small growlers. Their Hibiscus Ginger Cider is to die for, and I look forward to the day they sell that in cans as well (if they don't already).





Another Abita brew, this one is Amber, and surprisingly, it's not an ale but rather a lager. Brewed in the Munich style, it's no Munich lager, but still a decent brew. I don't think Abita beers are top notch, but they're pretty good, and definitely a cut above your average brew.





Ahh, Boulevard, you have yet to disappoint me. Their Bully Porter is a dark, strong, delicious brew, perfect for sipping. The roasted flavor mixes well with the hoppiness, creating a good balance that doesn't leave it being IPA hoppy. I like hops in moderation.





Kros Strain Brewing Co. is another local brewery right here in Omaha, NE. This one is called Dark Paradise, and is an actual amber ale. I like amber ales for their drinkability. They're bold enough to not be watery, yet light enough to drink several without feeling rough (I'm looking at you Porter, haha). This is a decent amber ale, and I'm looking foward to checking out their brewery. I never even realized they were local! Honestly though, I've only had this beer one other time.





Last, but not least, I'm including Baileys Almande. I've been an Irish cream fan for many years, enjoying a double-shot over ice alongside a nice beer, like an amber ale. Since switching to a plant-based diet a few years ago, finding a vegan Irish cream was laughable....until now. Baileys has stepped up their game by offering an almond milk version of Irish cream. It's not quite the same as the original, but it's very tasty and I'm thrilled to drink Irish cream again.


So that's what I've been drinking lately. This time around, I've included links to all the brewers, so you can check out their websites and, hopefully, find a retailer near you that sells any you might be interested in trying. Happy indulging!



Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Coffee Talk: Holidays, Newletter Series, and Patreon


If you're feeling anything like I am this morning, then you know your holidays have been pretty great so far. I'm still recovering from all the festivities and the food, especially the food, and I'm hoping a cup of fresh-brewed coffee will snap me out of it.

I'm fortunate to have a job that affords me decent time off. In addition to vacation and sick time, we shut down completely for 10 or more days over Christmas & New Year's. It gets pretty stressful at my job before the shutdown, so when the shutdown arrives, it's much appreciated and very needed. Our last day before shutdown was December 22nd, which just happens to be my birthday, so I kicked off the week with dinner and The Last Jedi. I've pretty much sequestered myself in the house since then, affording myself some much-needed do-nothing time, but now that Christmas is over, I'm ready to have a relaxing but productive week.




One of my tasks this week is to release the first of four special newsletters I will be sending out in as many months. As most of you are already aware, I've been encouraging people to sign up for my newsletter so they can read a short story I'm going to release exclusively via email. It's called "The Scream" and it takes place in a big city. Helena is a resident of the city who's usual path home after work in the wee hours of the morning is rerouted by construction. The new path takes her by a building that seems to harbor a victim of some kind....one that screams. 

If you want to find out what happens, sign up for my newsletter up in the right-hand corner of this website. The email will be going out in the next couple of days, and you don't want to miss it!




I've talked recently about creating a Patreon. If you're unfamiliar with what Patreon is or how it works, I've added a new tab - up on the menu bar on this website - to include my Patreon. It's here where I talk a bit about my Patreon; what it is, what rewards I'm offering, and what I hope to accomplish. I'd be much obliged if you could check it out. You can be my Patron for as little as $1.00/month! And for that patronage, you get fun rewards. So, check it out and help support my work.  Thank you!


Sunday, December 24, 2017

The Winter That Almost Wasn't


Lately, I have been lamenting about Winter. It's looked like the above photo now for, well, the entirely of November and December. I know I shouldn't complain, but Winter just doesn't seem like Winter unless it snows. And truthfully, if we don't get snow over the Winter, the ground remains really parched and that would not be good come Spring.




Fortunately, I woke up this morning to this! Now, it truly feels like Winter...and Christmas. Christmas just isn't the same without some snow, and Nature Girl was super excited to see the white stuff when she woke up. 

Tonight, we celebrate our family Christmas, and I'm just as excited as the kids to see what they get. I hope your Holidays are relaxing, fun, and filled with love. From my house to yours:








Wednesday, December 20, 2017

New Beginnings

Recently, on a cool Saturday, Autumn morning, The Teen and I drove an hour away to visit the college he plans on attending next Fall.

As we toured the campus, it felt like the quintessential college experience. The campus was filled with old, beautiful, brick buildings surrounded by trees covered in Fall foliage. Around the buildings, students in college gear walked the leaf-strewn pathways on their way to the big football game.

I watched The Teen look around in awe, and it brought back memories of my own time at Mizzou where I walked around the beautiful, Autumn campus in much the same manner. He talked to me more that day than he had in a long time, excited and happy, as he thought about all the things he could do and experience. I was excited and happy for him.

Watching him grow up, I've seen his movement through life. From a baby, to a toddler, to a tween, to a teen, I've seen a great deal of growth. More than that, watching him grow up has been a reflection of where I am in my own stage of life. Where I was once a mom of small children, I'm now the mom of a full-grown adult. It's this understanding of just where I am in the timeline of my life that gives me pause.

Next Fall, he'll go off to start a new life and so will I. While he's navigating the world on his own, learning, struggling, and thriving in his new role as an adult, I'll be navigating life as an older woman moving closer to being an empty nester. He's ready, and I am too - for the most part. It's a new beginning...for both of us.






Saturday, December 16, 2017

Once Upon a Time

Once upon a time, I wanted to be a rock star, and I'd be a liar if I said that I never entertained that notion now and again. The fact is, I do sometimes - in the far recesses of my mind - envision myself as a rock star.

My dad thought television was pollution for the brain, so we spent our time listening to records and the radio. When I was growing up, I would turn up the stereo every time a kickass song would come on or if I put on a record album, and I would play air guitar and belt it out at the top of my lungs.

I no longer belt out songs in my living room while playing air guitar (okay, so maybe I do....sometimes), I still imagine myself being a musician. While I don't envision myself being a bonafide rock star, I do see myself making music one day.

It's funny how, as you get older, your dreams change from ones of grandeur to those of realism. I know I'll probably never be a famous musician, but I also know that making music is completely in the realm of possibility. In this day and age, one can create anything they want and easily put it out there for the world to see. I'm a poster child for this, making, creating, and publishing my own books.

No longer does a writer have to wait for a chance at a publishing contract in order to publish a book. No longer does a director have to wait for studio backing to make a movie for the world to see. And, no longer does a musician have to wait for a record label to notice them in order to make their music. While getting contracts and studio backing are still the ultimate dream for many creative people, it's not essential anymore to finding success. Writers can publish their own works (like me) through places like Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Directors can shoot movies on their phones (yes, on their phones!) and upload them to YouTube. And musicians can record music with a few simple pieces of equipment and a free computer program, then upload them to places like Soundcloud and YouTube.

So, someday when my kids are all grown and out on their own, I'm going to try my hand at making a little music. Will I ever be a big rock star? No, probably not, but I'll make sure to not rule that possibility out entirely. Go forth then, and create that thing you want to create. The only thing stopping me, you, or them, is ourselves.

Have a great weekend friends.



Don't forget to sign up for my newsletter in the upper right-hand corner of this site. I'm going to release a short story, in four parts, exclusively for my email subscribers. You do not want to miss this opportunity!

I also have a Patreon now, which you can find here. Thank you to those of you who have already signed up! There's a special post just for you now. If you want to unlock it, it will only cost you as little as $1.00/month! Yep, $1.00 per month. What have you got to lose?


Wednesday, December 13, 2017

The Short: Review of Sound and Color


Hey everyone! It's been a hot minute since I've done The Short. If you're unfamiliar with it (which isn't hard as I've only done a couple of installments), it's a segment where I do short album reviews. This review has been a long time in the making, and I do mean a long time.

I bought this album nearly two years ago, which I documented here, and I have been meaning to review it ever since. I'm mainly a metalhead, as you already are well aware of, but I do have a fondness for a few other types of music, mainly rock, blues, Renaissance rock/folk, and some 50s & 60s pop music. Other than that, I just have an occasional band here and there that resonate with me. Alabama Shakes are one of them. 

I first heard of them, maybe around four or five years ago, when a friend of mine posted a song on my facebook timeline off of their debut album. The song was "Hold On" and the album was "Boys & Girls". I listened to a few songs off that album, and while I liked it, I wasn't totally blown away. What drew me in and kept me in was the impassioned vocals. Then...Sound & Color came out.

Released in 2015, this album is a beacon of light in a veritable sea of music. It's intensity is palpable, both in musical quality and depth of lyrics. Covering an array of styles, their sound, as always, is carried by the powerful voice of their front-woman, Brittany Howard. Besides some operatic pieces I've heard over the years, no voice has ever touched me as emotionally as this one. Even now, when I listen to some of these songs, they bring tears to my eyes. On top of that, the music itself resonates far inside.

And, that...is what music should be about. It should touch parts of you that are buried deep, and connect with you in a way that nothing else can. It's food for the soul. Thank you Brittany and Co.



Don't forget to sign up for my newsletter in the upper right-hand corner of this site. I'm going to release a short story, in four parts, exclusively for my email subscribers. You do not want to miss this opportunity!

I also have a Patreon now, which you can find here. Thank you to those of you who have already signed up! There's a special post just for you now. If you want to unlock it, it will only cost you as little as $1.00/month! Yep, $1.00 per month. What have you got to lose?

Sunday, December 10, 2017

I've Gone and Done It


I've done a thing. A big thing. I've created a Patreon page. I've been tossing around this idea for awhile, and I even had a page mostly edited and ready to go...but I hesitated. I wasn't sure if I was "good enough" to get anyone to give me money to create. But, I've been thinking a lot recently about myself, my work, and what I am passionate about, and it's always been the same: I'm a writer that is passionate about writing. It's what I was meant to do. 

My goal is to make just enough money to create better and create more. I struggle now, but a little boost would go a long way towards making my dreams of creating fiction for everyone more of a reality. 

And, you know, I am "good enough" to get money to create, and, like with everything else I do, I throw myself into it head-first and hope for the best. That's all anyone can do, and it's what I've decided to do here. If it doesn't work out, then it doesn't work out, but I'm not a quitter and I don't give up easily.

So, take a look at my Patreon...then share it and share it wide. It's going to be a fun, new adventure that we can take together, and I will make it worth your time. If you want to support me in other ways besides buying one of my books, this is it. If you want to indulge in something different and cool, this is it. Am I crazy? Maybe, but I never half-ass anything.

Are you ready? I am.


-H.A. 

Saturday, December 9, 2017

What's Cookin'? Chickpea Noodle Soup & Rustic Country Bread


Ahh, it's that time of the year when I love making big pots of warm soup and homemade, rustic breads. I've done a few of them recently, so I thought I'd share one of them: Chickpea Noodle Soup and Rustic Country Bread. Back in my meat-eating days I loved the homemade chicken noodle soup and rye bread my grandma would make. The rye bread would always be fresh-baked and butter would just melt into the warm deliciousness of it. Now that I follow a vegan diet, I have no desire to eat boring or forego all the old favorites, so I've learned to "veganize" them over the years. 

I made the bread - because I was out of yeast - using this recipe. It was delicious and a good complement to the soup, fresh from the oven. Here's how I made the soup.


Chickpea Noodle Soup


Ingredients:

2 medium carrots, peeled and diced
1 medium onion, diced
3 cloves roasted garlic, mashed*
1 tablespoon coconut oil**
8 cups vegetable stock*** 
1 small fistfull of spaghetti noodles****
1 can garbanzo beans/chickpeas
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon each salt, pepper, paprika
1/2 teaspoon cayenne*****
1 teaspoon turmeric

Instructions:

1. Heat the oil over medium to medium-high heat in a dutch oven (or any large, deep pan good for making a batch of soup).
2. Add the carrots, onion, and garlic, and sautee until softened, about 5-7 minutes.
3. Add the seasonings and sautee for another minute.
4. Add the vegetable stock, chickpeas, and noodles. Bring to boil, and turn down to simmer.
5. Simmer until the noodles are tender, then remove from heat.
6. Serve with bread. Enjoy!

Notes:

*You can use regular garlic here, chopped small. You can even use granulated garlic if you want. If so, use a teaspoon of it. I roast my own garlic, and it really imparts a depth of flavor that makes this soup stand out. It's easy to roast, so if you want to, follow this recipe.
**Olive oil or canola oil works fine as well. Any oil with a high heat-point will work.
***I use Better than Bouillion Vegetable stock. It's the best tasting stock, hands down, but your preference is fine.
****I break the spaghetti noodles down into equal fourths. It should equal around 2 cups after broken down, but it's not exact. Add as much or as little as you want.
*****You can add less cayenne, or omit it altogether. I like a little heat! You could add red pepper flake too, and it would be tasty.

Last, I get my soup going while the oven is warming up, then make and bake the bread. They're usually done close to the same time and are nice and warm on a cold day/evening.




Don't forget to sign up for my newsletter in the upper right-hand corner of this site. I'm going to release a short story, in four parts, exclusively for my email subscribers. You do not want to miss this opportunity!

Monday, December 4, 2017

A Saturday at Waubonsie


Last Saturday, the weather was in the high 60s, so I packed up a picnic lunch and forced everyone out of the house. We headed South for about an hour until we reached Waubonsie State Park. Located on the Southern end of the Iowa Mountains, it's a beautiful place to hike. It's more beautiful in the Fall/Winter when the foliage is down and you can see across the landscape (Waubonsie has a lot of foliage along the trails that obstruct views).




It has a few scenic overlooks and we hiked around/near a couple of them. We started at the first one and hiked a ways down the hills. We then came back up, passed the overlook, and followed my favorite trail. You wind up and around the hills until you make it to this spot in the picture: another scenic overlook. This one is my favorite though, as I'm sure you can gather from the photo itself. That view is everything.





If you turn to the left from that bench, this is the view you see. Everywhere you look is miles and miles of landscape, and you feel like you're on top of the world.





Look at that view!





There was a little "nook" off of the path where you could look out over the valley, and we stopped here to do just that.





The Teen and Nature Girl, conquering the old, fallen tree.


We ended up hiking around 4 miles that day, and really got a good workout. I remember a moment when all four of us just quietly admired the view of that top overlook point. It's almost a cathartic experience to hike and be one with nature. We finished our hike, ate the lunch I had packed, and then we headed towards home. Luckily, Sugar Clay Winery is on the way, so we stopped and got some of their fantastic wine to bring home. It was a really great day.


Don't forget to sign up for my newsletter in the upper right-hand corner of this site. I'm going to release a short story, in four parts, exclusively for my email subscribers. You do not want to miss this opportunity!

Friday, December 1, 2017

A Frightful Tale...for You!


I've decided to do something special for you. Yes...you! Well, you do have to do one thing: sign up for my newsletter. How do you do that? Easy enough - it's right there in the upper right-hand corner of this website. I put out a newsletter once every month, usually right around the end of the month. I used to try and put a new one out every two or three weeks, but once a month works much better. At any rate, I've decided to do something special for my email subscribers.

Once a month, like I usually do, I will send out my email newsletter with the same tidbits, musings, and information, but for a few extra months, I'm going to give you more: a short story. I'm not sure how many parts I'm going to do the short story in, but I anticipate it to be at least a serial of four. 

Now, if you're unfamiliar with my writing, I tend to write gritty stories or creepy thrillers of one kind or another, so, if this sounds interesting to you, sign up! As you read and absorb this story, I'd like to get your feedback. It's going to be a whole new kind of experience between you and I, and I'm looking forward to it. I hope you are too!

The next newsletter will go out at the end of the month, not long after Christmas. Again, to sign up, just go to the upper right-hand side of this website, and you'll see it right there. If you do, you'll start getting a frightful tale from me. Do it...you know you want to. *winkwink*

-H.A. 

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Late Fall in the Forest

Neale Woods: Where Settler's Path and Deer Trail meet.

I love the Thanksgiving holiday for a few reasons, but my favorite is that it gives me a nice, long, four-day weekend in which to enjoy life a bit more. This Thanksgiving was much warmer than usual, so I took full advantage of it by getting out and about a few times. Friday, it was t-shirt weather here in the Midwest, so I grabbed my gear, left my family at home, and headed out to Neale Woods for a solo hike.



Another shot of the same, just a bit further down the hillside.

Neale Woods is my favorite place to hike. It's the most serene of all the places I go to get away from it all, and even if I see other cars there....I rarely see another person. In fact, most of the time, I am the only person there. It's a nice feeling to think that you have an entire place such as this to yourself. You can truly think and reflect here.



After climbing down into the valley, I connected from Deer Trail to Raccoon Hollow.

A gentle breeze was blowing, and I hiked along my favorite trail, which makes a good circle up and down and back up the hills.



Getting towards the end of Raccoon Hollow. From there I hit up the Jonas Trail, cut through Bittersweet, and ended up adjacent to the old Nature Center.


The old machine shed at the end of the first leg of the Jonas trail leading away from the old Nature Center.

These last two pictures should technically come first in the sequence, as I always start my hike walking past this one second, and the next picture first, but this time, I came back around to here when I was done to snap these photos. Sequentially then, they are in the right order.




There's an old observatory here that is no longer in use, and these old lights used to light the way to it. It's very close to the old Nature Center on the first leg of the Jonas Trail. I don't know if the lights still work, but it's doubtful that they light them up anymore as there's no reason to. I wish I had gone to the Observatory before it fell into disuse. 




Where the end and beginning Jonas Trails meet sits a bench. I sit here and rest after coming back up from the valley. From here, you can see the Omaha skyline off into the distance.

It was so peaceful and soul-mending to take that solo hike. I came out feeling refreshed and rejuvenated. Afterwards, I stopped by one of my closet friend's house as it's between Neale Woods and my house, and we chatted for a few hours over some nice beers. All in all, it was a perfect day. 

If you live in Omaha, or are ever in the area, and would like to visit Neale Woods, here is a link to their trail map brochure. Happy hiking!


Saturday, November 25, 2017

Giving Thanks



For those of us stateside, I hope you had a lovely Thanksgiving holiday. We indulged in the same tradition that we've carried out for the past decade: the four of us (maybe an occasional friend) and NO traveling. For us, it's a time to relax and indulge. I make enough food to feed a family of ten, we stuff ourselves, have plenty of drinks and desserts, and generally enjoy a nice, long, set of days off. I get things done that I don't have time for generally, I get out and hike a few times, relax plenty, and visit with friends that time doesn't allow for me to see as often. For these reasons, I look forward to this holiday every year.

This year, I started thinking about the holiday and the idea of giving thanks. Giving thanks is how the holiday got it's name in the first place, but where did the idea come from? Thanksgiving has it's roots in the Harvest Festival - a festival that occurs every year around the harvest season in any given region, which can vary with crops & climate. People would celebrate - both with family and the community - the plentifulness of food and a time to relax from working in the fields.

The holiday is also rooted in the ancient practice of giving thanks for one's blessings. Early settlers in America were already practicing both traditions and, over the years, it evolved into the holiday that we celebrate now. Indeed, this is why the feast is so large and the reason we see all those "I'm thankful for..." posts on social media.

Do we need to wait for Thanksgiving to realize what we should be thankful for? The answer to that is: no. We definitely don't need to (and shouldn't) wait for the Thanksgiving holiday to give thanks. I'm thankful for all the good things in my life all the time. However, there's also nothing wrong with setting a time aside every year to be especially thankful for what we have. It's a nice way to ensure that we, indeed, do take a moment to realize our good fortune, no matter how large or small that might be. 

I hope you have something to be thankful for. I know I sure do. 


Wednesday, November 22, 2017

The Latest from the Write Life

Not too long ago, I talked about how my ebook publisher, Pronoun, was shutting down. It was a real blow, to say the least, and it put me in a funk for a week.

Having all my books in one place for distribution to numerous places was pretty great, and my author/book pages there were pretty cool. Alas, it was not meant to be.

After letting me feel sorry for me for a minute, I decided that that was enough of that, and that I needed to start figuring out my next moves. So, after much careful thought, I've decided to publish directly through the major ebook publishing sites - and not just Amazon exclusively like last time.

There are some pros to this. For example, I get to keep more of the profit, and that's never a bad thing, and even though I don't have that nifty author page anymore, I have this whole website to showcase who I am. I've got this, right? At any rate, I've updated the "My Body of Work" and "Who is H.A. Larson?" sections to reflect the changes.

Where can you find my ebooks now? You can purchase directly for download from AmazonBarnes & NobleKobo, and Smashwords where you can purchase directly or through other retailers. If you haven't read any of my books yet, now is the perfect time! And, if you have read one of my books, but haven't yet reviewed it, please do! Even a short one-sentence review helps my book...I'm serious, so go show them some love now. I'd appreciate it more than you'll ever know.

I hope you have a good rest of your week, and if you live stateside, Happy Thanksgiving tomorrow! I hope you have a great holiday.

Much love,

H.A.


Saturday, November 18, 2017

Latest Libations: Breweries of Lincoln


Last month, I had to go to the Lincoln, NE, area - about an hour from my home - for business. Two of the people I was there with just happened to be the two ladies that I took the Central Nebraska Brewery Tour with. With three beer aficionados around such as ourselves, there was no way we weren't going to end the day on a frothy note.

There are a few breweries in the Lincoln area, but the two we decided to visit that day were Zipline Brewing Co. and The Boiler Brewing Co. I've had, enjoyed, and reviewed here, plenty of Zipline brews in the past, but had never had the chance to visit their brewery. 




First beer of the day was Zipline's Coconut Stout. A true, heady stout with notes of coconut, this brew is not to be missed. For those of you who think you hate coconut, try this. The flavors of toasted coconut really complement the chocolateness of the stout.




Instead of going for a second beer, I decided that I really ought to have a flight. From left to right:

1. Calaveras Stout: an impressive Imperial Stout that was strong, delicious, and a cut above. If you are unfamiliar with an Imperial Stout, they are typically barrel-aged, this one in bourbon barrels, and are often brewed with a variety of flavors. This one is chocolate, vanilla, chilis, and cinnamon.
2. Green Phantom: This is a Farmhouse Ale that is brewed with a new kind of hop. While hoppy beers aren't typically my favorite, this one was light and sharp, making for a nice contrast to the headiness of the Calaveras.
3. Tangerine Sour: Ahh, these kinds of beers are my favorite drinking beers. Fruity, sweet, and sour, it's very lovely.
4. Neapolitan Brown: a standard brown ale, only brewed with chocolate, strawberry, and vanilla. It's like a neapolitan cake in a glass! Delicious.




After some fantastic brews at Zipline, we headed over to The Boiler Brewing Company on the suggestion of our Lincoln friend. It's housed in the basement of The Grand Manse, an old building that was once the U.S. Court House and Post Office of yesteryear. You have to go through the main floor to get to the brewery, and it's like walking back in time. 




The building has retained much of it's original decor and design, and it has pictures on the walls to help share it's history.




Just walking down the hallway to The Boiler Room was interesting. I really admired this neat sign they had made with old newspaper clippings.




As we had already had a good amount of beer - and needed to drive an hour home - we only ordered one beer (well, at least those of us driving the distance home). I settled on something that seemed fruity and mild: Orange Whip Mimosa Gose. Oh, this is heaven in a glass! It was so delicious that I actually brought home a crowler of it. A crowler is their version of a growler, which is really just a 32-ounce can that they fill and seal. This gose is full of orange juice pulp, and it's perfectly balanced in sweet and sour. I could drink this all day, officially making it the most dangerous (and delicious) beer I've ever had.


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I hope your Saturday is excellent. I'm set for a busy weekend, working in my other endeavors. I'll be back soon for something fun. Stay tuned!

Monday, November 13, 2017

A Sunday Hike


Yesterday, I really needed to get outside. Last week was really busy & stressful, and ended on both a low and high note. While I've been doing cardio during the week before work, hiking is still my favorite way to get my blood flowing. Even when the weather is cold & icky, I will still manage to get a hike in on the weekends. Unfortunately, I hadn't been out hiking since our trip to Missouri, so I made a point of getting outside this weekend. 




Sunday, then, we headed out to one of our usual haunts: Schramm State Recreation Area. The weather was decent for this time of the year at a pleasant 50 degrees F, and the forest wasn't completely barren of Fall foliage.

Hints of green, yellow, red, gold, and brown were still evident here and there. It was gorgeous and really stood out amongst the burgeoning Winter landscape.




One of my favorite parts of the park is the fish pond that sits at the end of the trail we always hike. The green of the water gave everything a spring feel, while we could see the beautiful reflections of  Autumn-adorned trees. 

The three-mile hike was just what I needed to reset my batteries after a long, busy, stressful, and emotional week. There's nothing better, emotionally & physically, than a beautiful walk through the forest. 

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Coffee Talk: My Newsletter, Pronoun, and other Tidbits.


There's nothing like a good cup of coffee to get your day going. If you're new here, let me just say that every few weeks I have a kaffeeklatsch, or coffee klatsch. Kaffeeklatsch is German for coffee gossip, but it's more like a chat. Today is one of those days, so let's get this kaffeeklatsch going.


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Did you know that I have a newsletter, or that you can sign up for it right in the upper right-hand corner of this website? I put one out once every (approximately) three weeks. My newsletters are neat. I will give you a personal glimpse into my world; give you a closer look at some of my recent posts by sharing stories and pictures not shown on my website; or give you a taste of my work in progress. If you enjoy my postings here, you'll definitely want to sign up for my newsletter. It only takes a minute of your time! 


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I publish my work through Pronoun, a move I made earlier this year when I was over and done with Amazon's restrictive and unfriendly self-publishing platform. I was completely taken aback then yesterday when I received an email from Pronoun informing me that they are shutting down. Apparently their parent company Macmillan, can no longer support them in their current form, or any other form they've suggested. It's a kick in the gut, and, while I have until January of 2018, I'm understandably upset. I know they did the best they could, but now I have to find a new home (i.e. publisher) for my work. If you know of a good online publisher, comment below. I'm open to any suggestions and would appreciate them all.


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My road to health is still kicking along. The weather has grown colder, so walking back and forth to work isn't an option much at this point. I spent about a week not really getting any exercise and I could feel myself slipping into my old, unhealthy routine. Last week, then, I started doing cardio exercises. I load up 15 minutes cardio videos right here at home, and do them in my living room before I head out to work. I definitely burn more calories than walking, and my upper legs were killing me this weekend! 

I took The Teen out to an arboretum this weekend and took some photos of him for Senior Pictures. You all know that I'm an amateur photographer, and I've gotten really good at editing, so I thought I'd give it a go. I don't have all the equipment a pro would have, so we chose the day we did as it was supposed to be overcast all day. It was...until we got out to the place, then the sun started to shine! Go figure! We did the best we could anyway, and out of the many photos we took, I got a handful that turned out quite well.

I'm really starting to get a bit of cabin fever (already!). You all know how I love getting out in nature, and it hasn't been since our trip to Lake of the Ozarks that I've gotten out for a reset hike. I'm determined then, to get out there this weekend, especially now that we've set the clocks back and it's mostly dark when I get off work.


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Okay dear readers, that's it for this kaffeeklatsch. Have a good week, and I'll be back with a new post soon. Leave me a comment if you'd like, I'd love to hear from you!

-H.A.




Saturday, November 4, 2017

The Autumnal Shift

It is now November, and I'm scrambling to figure out where the time has gone. Remember recently when I was excited about how August - and therefore Autumn - was right around the corner? Well, that was a little over three months ago already! One minute, I'm looking forward to the gloriousness that is Fall, and the next, I'm staring down the barrel of Winter.

Don't get me wrong, I love Winter. There's a tranquil beauty that comes from the stark white against the landscape; the ability to see far, far into the forest; and the glint of light that shines through icicles that hang like stalactites from the precipices of overhangs. I love bundling up and taking forest walks if the ground isn't sloppy. I love putting on comfy tights, mukluk slippers, and fuzzy sweaters then curling up in a chair with a blanket. Beside me will sit a mug of something warm & comforting (think mulled cider, hot cocoa, or herbal tea), and either a good book or a movie will be cued up.

However, I always mourn the passing of Autumn...it is my favorite season after all. This year has been very busy, so busy in fact that I've missed a few of my never-miss things, one of those being our annual trip to the pumpkin patch. This makes me forlorn a bit, as I feel a trip to the pumpkin patch is a nice bridge between Fall and Winter for me. As I see the leaves falling more rapidly from the trees and hear the breeze howling low through the empty spaces in buildings, I feel a twinge of repose as I reflect on life.

For most people, Spring signals the beginning of the new year, but for me, it's Winter. Why? Well, I see the foliage dying off as a sign of the end, and when the landscape is bare, that just means nature is starting over from the beginning again. As Autumn winds down, and the trees start to become skeletons, the grass is starting to turn shades of brown & gold, and the temperature drops, it signals a rebirth. That first stage, that rebirth, is signaled by the starkness of Winter.

While we're not fully into Winter yet, I can see it lurking in the shadows, waiting to take hold and begin life anew. I reflect then, on what life has been like this past year, and I can certainly say that - while it's had its ups and downs - it's probably been one of the best years of my life so far. Many interesting things have happened, many adventures were had, and opportunity grandly presented itself. Life for me, much like nature, will begin again - fresh and new - and while I miss the year I've had and long for the things that were missed, I look forward to the birth of another year. May she be filled with grander and exciting things.


Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Shocktober!



October, at least in my world, wouldn't be complete without watching a handful (or more) of horror movies culminating in Halloween night. Last year, I spent the month watching classic horror movies like Dracula and The Mummy. This year, I've been watching newer films. The reason for this is twofold: First, I like to change things up, and secondly, I invested in a Shudder subscription a few months back. For $4.99 per month, I can watch a huge variety of scary movies and/or series. So what have I been watching then? Read on and find out...


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1. Last Girl Standing

This film explores what happens to the last girl standing -- the lone survivor of a vicious killing spree. It starts off where a standard slasher film would end: the heroine overcomes the attacker that has already killed all of her friends. After some time has passed, we see our heroine trying to navigate day-to-day life...but can she move past her past? 

This movie has an unexpected twist ending that I enjoyed. This ambitious story fails in a few ways, but the masterful portrayal of the heroine by Akasha Banks Villalobos elevates this otherwise lackluster movie. I recommend it anyway, as it is quite good. 




2. The Interior

When I read the byline about this movie - in which a young man with a bad diagnosis retreats to the woods for solitude, only to find out he's not alone - I was intrigued. I watched this during a week day when I was suffering from sickness and everyone in the house was gone, so I closed the curtains, turned up the stereo, and started the movie with glee.

This movie was not what I had hoped it would be, leaving me ultimately disappointed. The first disappointment came from a twenty-minute long opener. While it set up the rest of the movie, it was painfully long and I kept wondering if I was watching the wrong movie. More than once, in fact, I exclaimed out loud, "Get on with it!" as if I were a troupe member of Monty Python. When the movie did finally "get on with it" my disappointment continued. While I'm sure this is considered an art movie, I was looking for more of a horror movie. What I ended up with was a boring movie with a slow plot and a terrible ending. 




3. Hell House LLC.

Now this was the kind of horror movie I look for! A "found footage" film, this story is about a group of people who create haunted houses in different locations each year. In 2009 they take over an old, abandoned hotel with a dark past. Weird things begin to happen, and ramp up until opening night. On opening night, fifteen people, including most of the crew, are killed. Several years later, a documentary crew talks to the lone survivor and she shows them the video footage she's saved. What happened at Hell House? 

Filled with well-executed frights, creeps, and genuine scares, this movie did not disappoint. If you like movies that build up some slow fear & dread, you should watch this movie.




4. Rigor Mortis


This cinematic offering from Hong Kong is a unique film that is supposedly a tribute to a film series entitled Mr. Vampire. This movie was a creepy yet fun movie to watch. Combining elements of Kung Fu, old-fashioned horror, eerie vampires, and classic ghost tales, this movie was a bunch of fun and scares mixed together.

A former movie star moves into a large tenement building, where he's placed in room 2442 - a room that is obviously haunted. He's heavily depressed about the death of his son, and has come here to die. During a failed suicide attempt (thwarted by Mr. Yau), he is momentarily possessed by the spirit of twin sister ghosts. The story takes off full-force from there, and many of the aforementioned elements come into play.

My only main critique of the movie is that is can be a bit vague. For instance, I assumed that the actor's son had died, and possibly his wife (or that she had left him after their son's death), but reading up on the movie later indicates that the wife left him taking the son with. Some other areas of the movie could use a bit more explanation*, but it is what it is, and doesn't take away from the action-packed story or the great acting. Subtitled.




5. The Oregonian

This movie is mostly panned, but has a good amount of praise as well. An unnamed woman leaves her husband, gets in a terrible car crash, and the rest is a strange trip. She wakes up in the wreck of her car and navigates a strange landscape in the Oregon forest where she meets many weird characters. Likened to a surrealist dreamscape, the story fails to come to any sort of conclusion. Even other surrealist movies I've watched have some kind of conclusion. On top of all that, the plot is disjointed, and the visuals & audio can literally make you sick.

I don't recommend watching this movie unless you have a fondness for the truly bizarre and senseless. If you do, then you might actually like this movie.




6. Lovely Molly

Molly, a working-class, recovering drug addict, has straightened up her life. She works with her sister in a big store as a custodian, and she has just married the love of her life. Her mother died years ago, and her father died in an accident more recently, leaving their house to their daughters. Her husband convinces her to move into her old family home, and while she's bit hesitant, she agrees as it could save them money.  Molly's husband is a truck driver and spends time away from home, and during the times he's gone, strange things start to happen in the old home. 

We start to piece together the life Molly lived growing up, and see how it's shaping her life now. While the plot needs some explanation*, this movie is truly frightening. The scares are jolting and raw, and will stick with you long after the movie is over, plot be damned. Watch this movie if you are brave enough to find out what happens to Molly.



*A tendency of movies, and I'm sure this is a way to save time, is to give you snippets of things such as: flashbacks, ominous symbolism, or dreams, as example. What you, the viewer, is then meant to do with these snippets is fill in the gaps of the story that the director doesn't want to spend precious movie time on. This tactic can work well for some movies, but if it's not executed correctly, can instead leave viewers scratching their heads. In both the movies here where this is true, I actually had to research the movies after watching them to figure out what these snippets added up to.


And there you have it, another year of Halloween Creeps! I enjoyed my time watching these movies - well, maybe some more than others. If you're interested, check some of them out for yourself. Happy scares!

-H.A.