Monday, February 27, 2017

Recipe of the Week: BBQ Cauliflower

Oh cauliflower, how I love thee! There isn't anything more versatile than cauliflower, seriously. You can grate it, turning it into "rice"; you can baste it and bake it whole; you can boil it and blend it up into a dip or add it into a sauce (I suggest spaghetti sauce); you can cut it into thick slices and grill it (I highly, highly recommend this Forks over Knives recipe...it's amazing); you can eat it raw; or you can break it up into florets and do countless numbers of things with it. 

This last way is how I often cook it, either by dipping the florets in batter, baking them, and then adding a sauce; or just simply cooking the raw florets in a sauce. I have the good fortune of living in the same town as Isa Moskowitz' ground-breaking vegan restaurant Modern Love. Even before I fully embraced a vegan lifestyle, I found this restaurant to have the best food I've ever eaten at a restaurant, and each visit since has proven my point. One visit saw BBQ cauliflower on my plate and I fell in love. I never thought of combining the two before, so I tried it at home and found it to be just as great. 

I've made it a few times now, and it's very simple to prepare. I serve it over rice and a side of some kind of veggie, in this case it was brussel sprouts. I know, I know...I'm always making brussel sprouts. (Don't judge me!) I love brussel sprouts, and I freely admit it. You don't even know how often I would eat them if I could! In fact, at the grocery store the other day, they had bags of them on sale for 95 cents (!!) a bag, so many came home with me. Okay, now that I've gone off the rails, let's get back on track. Here's my simple, but delicious, recipe.




BBQ Cauliflower over basmati rice with a side of miso-roasted brussel sprouts.


BBQ Cauliflower with Rice


Ingredients:


2 T. coconut oil
1 head of cauliflower, cleaned and broken up into florets
2-3 c. BBQ sauce
2 c. veggie stock
1 c. basmati rice


Instructions:


1. Bring the veggie stock to a boil in a saucepan.
2. Add the rice and bring to a boil again. Turn it down to medium heat, cover, and cook for approx. 15 minutes.
3. Heat coconut oil in a frying pan until the oil ripples.
4. Add cauliflower florets and turn to coat in oil. Stir regularly while keeping an eye on it. You're just looking to lightly brown the cauli.
5. Turn heat down to medium and add BBQ sauce. Start with 2 cups, but add more if needed. Stir to coat evenly, cover, and cook for about 15 minutes, or until tender.


To Serve:

Put a bed of rice down on a plate, then add the cauli. Spoon a bit of the sauce over the entire thing. Garnish with chives. I like to serve a side of roasted or sauteed veggies with this, preferably a green one. Broccoli, green beans, snap peas, brussel sprouts, zucchini, or anything like that would be perfect.


Notes:

*You can use any kind of oil you prefer, but coconut oil really gives it that "something" in the flavor department.
*You can use any kind of BBQ sauce as well, but a smokey-sweet one is my preference.
*You can easily increase the size of your meal by adding another head of cauli and more bbq sauce. In this case, you would want to fry the cauli in batches, and then add them all together for the sauce.
*You can reduce the amount of oil you use as well, to 1 T., but I think 2 works best.







Saturday, February 25, 2017

Artist Portrait: Lisa Wells

Sugar Skull Wallet by Lisa Wells


Good morning! A few years back, I did a short feature on a musician that I knew, and reviewed an album of his. I'd like to do a little more of that, as I love art, music, and anything creative in general. This artist's portrait is about Lisa Wells, a personal friend of mine, who's into making art of many mediums. I had a chance to sit down and talk with her, and I'm going to share that with you today.




Magic Woman by Lisa Wells




Hi Lisa, can you tell us a little bit about yourself? 


I’m a Nebraska native who’s just recently relocated to Portland Oregon. I received by Bachelor’s of Studio Art with a K-12 teaching certification from the University of Nebraska at Omaha in 2009. Since graduating, I’ve had a lot of different experiences from teaching English in Thailand to helping build a cob house at the Gypsy CafĂ© in Oregon. I love being surrounded by the natural world. I have always been very interested too, in sociology, psychology, ontology -the fields that pose existential questions and spark the imagination. 




What inspired you to start making art? What inspires your art now? 


I’ve always created art. As a kid, it was almost a compulsion. I’d space out in the middle of math class and come to moments later to realize I’d drawn all over my desk. That never went over well. Over the years, a lot of inspiration has come from the natural world and then throughout college it was very existentially-focused. Currently, my work has taken a couple paths: there’s the more heady academic work and the lighter, utilitarian project. My drawings and hand-painted leather items are inspired by the desire to offer art that is playful and easy to access. They feature the kind of designs, subjects, and bright colors that have delighted me since childhood. Most recently, I have been inspired by my work on a sorting, and researching project concerning an extensive collection of antique engravings and lithographs from the mid 1800s to the early 20th century. It’s a lot of Art Noveau work and naturalist library prints. Look to see this new influence in my upcoming leather paintings and drawings.




What is your favorite medium? 


Hmm, that’s a hard question. I really love 3-dimensional art because of the endless possibilities- It’s very outside of the box. I did a sculptural piece where I painted a 6’ x 6’ wall and then mounted plaster casts of faces along with tassled curtains. There is so much I long to explore in this medium. You can use sound, light, tangible objects, time. It’s heavy stuff but totally open. Painting, though, is soothing and very meditative. I can do it anywhere which is great for my current situation working and living in such a small space. I can just focus on how the colors interact with each other and on the repetitive, yet exacting motion of the brush. 




What kind of art are you currently making? 


I’m currently doing a lot of hand-painting on vintage/lightly worn leather. It feels great to give something new life and to be able offer more affordably priced items. I’ve also done some drawing, and currently offer custom drawings of pets. A lot of the work is very representation yet stylized and design oriented. They’re the more commercial sort of pieces that one can wear or hang on the wall, but of which the artistry can still totally be appreciated. 





Is there any kind of preparation, mentally and physically, that you do to get ready to create? 



I have to be at peace with my self. My conscious and subconscious minds have to be on good terms. That means I need to address worries, distractions and any other cognitive clutter before I create. I try to be in a meditative state. Whatever I’m drawing or painting I intensely contemplate. I often unlock great new insights while in this state. 




Is your art for sale? If so, where can we find it?



You can find my art for sale at 



also check out my other work at





Friday, February 24, 2017

Coffee Talk: Bad Weeks, Late Starts, and Lagging Behind


It's another edition of Coffee Talk, and I'm going to admit right off the bat that I do not, in fact, have a cup of coffee. Today's caffeine is courtesy a cold soda. What?! I know, I know. Look, sometimes I prefer a cold soda as opposed to coffee. I don't know why, but I just do. If it will make you feel better though, I am going to stop and get a good cup of coffee on my way to work today. There, see? Okay, now that we got that out of the way, let's get to chattin'!

So, the weather turned icky, just like the weatherman said it would, and just like I mentioned in Monday's post. Because of this, my job (which is at the local university) is going to start two hours late. This gives me some extra time this morning, which I've already used being productive here in front of my computer. I got some future blog posts primed, some other unrelated-to-writing work done, and I will get to work on The Box after I've finished here.

I'm glad we're starting late today anyway. The last few weeks have been very stressful, for various reasons, and it all came to a head yesterday. Luckily, the day ended with some much-needed relief in the form of a family discussion about working together to help each other out, and to work on finding solutions to problems together. I finally feel like my body isn't in a perpetual state of tenseness, and I'm thinking a bit more on the positive side.

Because of all that's been going on, I'm not as close to finishing my latest book as I had hoped. I had fully intended on being ready to edit within two weeks of my announcement, but I am definitely not going to make that. I'm not concerned about putting it out later than intended, but I am worried that it might take too long. I hate to rush anything, trust me, I've learned from past experience on that, but I also don't want to finish The Box much later than I had hoped either. At least, that's the way I have been feeling lately, but I imagine the stress hasn't helped me out there. Now that I feel more positive today, I'm feeling better about that as well. I might be lagging behind a bit, but I'll make up for it.

Well, I guess that's all for me today. I'm going to get to work on the book before I get ready to go to work (and don't worry, I won't forget my coffee). Have a great Friday, and Happy Weekend! It's finally here.

-H.A.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Nature and Wildlife

This past weekend brought gorgeous weather to our neck of the woods, and we spent the majority of it on house tasks. We cleaned up the front yard, the backyard, the garage, and defrosted our deep freezer. I was so productive that I even got Nature Girl's room clean and the oil changed in my car!

After Sunday's work was complete, I realized that we hadn't gotten out into nature at all, so after we did our last task (taking glass in to the recycling center) we decided it was time for a nature pit stop. We drove up to Wild Heron Haven just so we could take a leisurely stroll and catch some wildlife. I grabbed my camera, of course, so I could take pictures.





Wild Heron Haven (WHH) has a decent-sized pond for ducks, heron, and geese to visit or stay for awhile. The Sun is starting to set later and later, thankfully, and I captured this beautiful photo of it setting against the pond.





Nature Girl ran to the end of the wetland pond boardwalk to check out the water fowl.





Of course the geese mostly flew away as we were walking up to them, but I was able to get a good photo of the last group of them on the pond before they took off.





There they go!





WHH built this cute little viewing spot a couple of years ago, and here we have NG and Daddy relaxing here for a moment. There was another couple here as we arrived, and they were just leaving this spot with an empty bottle of wine. Smart idea!





The big pond is fed from smaller inlets--or feeds into them--and it was in one of these that we saw a muskrat. It took a few minutes of patience to get a good shot of him.





This is the muskrat's home. I love how beautiful the reflections of everything were. I find beauty in nature, no matter what time of year.





A view up a tree.





We saw a group of mallard ducks as well. Their green heads are so vibrant!





We saw this guy on the walking trail. He thawed out (prematurely I might add) as the weather was unseasonably warm, and is supposed to grow cold again (with snow) this weekend.





One more shot of the sky before we went home. Ahhh, what a pleasant evening's stroll. Truthfully, it was so pleasant that I didn't want the weekend to end. The fact that it was at or near 70 degrees all weekend definitely helped with that.

Have a great rest of your week, and I'll be back Friday with a new post!

-H.A.

Monday, February 20, 2017

February's LVJ Subscription

Good morning and Happy Monday! Another weekend has come and gone, and, man, was it beautiful. The weather was in the mid to high 60s all weekend, and we managed to get a lot of things done that needed to get done. We cleaned up the front and back yards, cleaned up the garage, and defrosted the deep freeze. It's nice to start getting ready for Spring and Summer. I have a post coming up on Wednesday about my weekend, so look for that. Today, however, is about my lastest Louisville Vegan Jerky subscription.





This month's box and sub card. The woman on the postcard is Enid Yandell. I took a minute to look her up, and she was a semi-famous sculptor from Louisville, KY (which is where LVJ is located) who was lucky enough to study with Rodin. Here's the Wikipedia entry for her.





If you've seen any of my other posts about my LVJ sub, you'd know that each month's box comes with two standard flavors and one test flavor. Sriracha Maple is a standard flavor and is always good.





The second standard flavor I got is my all-time favorite: Smokey Carolina BBQ. If they sent me nothing but three bags of this every month...I'd be a happy, happy camper. Hands down their best flavor, and to think, it started out as a test flavor. (You can bet I was one of the lucky ones to receive that original batch.)





This month's test flavor is Cherry Chipotle. O.M.G. This is probably my second all-time favorite flavor, next to Smokey Carolina BBQ. It has cherry juice and actual cherries as well as chipotle, and the combination is heavenly!

So there it is, the latest LVJ sub. This ranks up there as one of my favorite monthly boxes! As usual, if you're interested in their sub, here's a link to their website, and check out Ms. Enid Yandell...what an interesting life she had.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Ipsy's February Glam Bag

Good morning and Happy Saturday! I'm on my second cup of coffee on this lazy Saturday morning, and I'm sitting here getting some writing in before the day really gets going. It was 75 degrees yesterday, and will be just as nice today. This means that we can start working on cleaning out the garage and get the back yard ready for Spring. Since we live in a small house, having outdoor space to sit in--in our case the front porch and backyard patio--helps us to feel less crowded during the warmer months. It also helps our plain-Jane house feel a bit more bungalow-ish and cute. 

Anyway, I got my February Ipsy Glam Bag this week, and it's cute. Of course, I've really liked nearly all of them, so it's what I've come to expect from Ipsy. So, let's dive in then, huh?





Here is the bag and the card that comes with it. This month's theme is about our girlfriends and how much we love them. That little denim bag is sooo cute! And it's accented in orange, which just happens to be my favorite color.





Here are the five items that came inside.





First up is Luxie's Blush Brush. I only have one real blush brush, and this one is better. I wear different colors too, so this will more than come in handy. Who doesn't love makeup brushes? I have a ton, and it reminds me that I really need to wash mine. I'll have to make a post about washing brushes one of these days.





Another Trust Fund Beauty item. This one is the second fingernail polish I've received from them, this one in the color Latte. If that doesn't tip you off, I can tell you that it's a deep brown color, but not dirt brown. It's more of a light coffee color, hence the Latte name.





This is Rosehip Cleanser by Indie Lee. It's a facial cleanser, and I love trying new facial cleaners. This is a small, trial size, so will end up in a travel bag next time I scoot out of town.





This is Nyx's butter brand lipstick in the color Ripe Berry. I love the deeper colors in this month's pallette. It will a nice color scheme for the end of Winter, although I use whatever colors strike my fancy. Who needs to limit themselves? I wear darker colors in the evening, typically. This one will be great for date night. 





Last, but not least, is a Hikari eyeshadow in the color Latte (again!). It's a coffee color, like it alludes to, but it also reminds me of copper. One of my favorite eyeshadow colors was a brown Hikari shadow I received about a year ago in Ipsy. This one will go perfect with the other one. Add in a cream color and I'll have the perfect eyecolor trio!



There you have it, another month's worth of Ipsy. I'm off to work on The Box and then some yard work before heading out to the woods today. I'll share my adventures with you this coming week.

Until Monday,

H.A.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Basic Financial Fitness: Why Savings Matter



I was involved in a conversation recently that got me thinking about money and saving.

It all started with the question: Could you come up with $1000, right now, if you needed to? This isn't even the first time I've heard this question, as my dad and I had a similar discussion about a year ago. If you were asked this question, what would be your answer? If the answer is no, you should probably begin taking steps to remedy that. But, "Why?" you may ask. Well, the answer is simple: saving is important.

If you read through news websites as much as I do, then you see what I see. There is a steady flow of articles out there about how to save money. Many articles just regurgitate the same information over and over again to a small minority of people; many others are targeted to people who are looking towards the future (i.e. retirement); and then there are some that give people easy, small ways to save money. I fall into the last two categories, but it's the very last one I'd like to focus on today.

There was a time in my life that I thought I'd never be able to save money.

Actually, I was fiscally challenged, but I've grown and changed a lot since those days. I realize now that everyone can save. It may not be very much, but if you're persistent and consistent, it will pay off in the long run. What exactly do I mean by that? Well, say you're a broke college student, working a part-time job to help you get by. You think there's no way you could save money...but you're wrong. Take $1 (yes, $1) out of every paycheck and put it away. When you have some extra, put a little more in, and when you get a monetary gift from someone (think Grandma at Christmas), put some of that in there. 

I'm sure you're thinking, "That's not going to build any real savings?" Well, you're wrong for two reasons:

1. If you're that college student, and you put aside $1 from each paycheck, and you got paid every two weeks, you'd have $96 dollars after four years. If you added Grandma's $5 every Christmas, you'd have an additional $20, and if you were able to save an additional $25 over the years, you'd have a total of $141 after graduating.

2. $141 isn't very much in the scheme of things, but, still, you've saved $141 dollars with no effort, and you've gotten so used to that $1 investment that it doesn't affect your life in any real way. You are still young, and, now, you are used to saving. It might not be much, but you've created a good habit. Now that you've got a degree, you can go out, get a career, and start habitually saving more money.

You don't even have to be young, nor a college student, to start saving. If you can, save $5 a paycheck, but save something. It's never too late to start, so don't delay. 

But, why is saving so important? 

The reasons for that are many, but include the following:

*What if you find yourself unemployed for several months (or even one month)? How will you get by? How will you pay the electric bill, buy food, or make rent?

*What if your car breaks down, and you are either faced with a hefty car repair bill, or need to replace the car altogether? How will you come up with the money?

*You're still a few decades away from retiring, but how do you want to spend your retirement? Do you want to sit around your house just getting by? Or are you planning on doing some traveling? Will you be able to afford to retire?

There are plenty of other reasons for saving money, but those are some of the big ones. Most of us don't think about future scenarios when we think about saving. Many people think they have plenty of time, or don't really worry about money until they're in a crisis situation. Neither of those are productive nor responsible thoughts. 

Now, I'm not saying that putting away $5 a week is going to solve all your problems, but it's money you'll never miss. If you save it and forget it, your persistent dedication will add up. If you saved just $5 a week for 20 years, you'd have $5200. That's a nice little chunk of change for saving no more than the price of a value menu meal at a fast food restaurant every week. Most people, myself included, will frivolously spend $5 every week on something, so why not invest it in yourself?

If you'd like to start saving money in small ways, here are some links: (These aren't endorsed by me, per se, but there are some good tips, hints, and strategies in these, so pick and choose ideas that work for you...and start putting away $5 a week.)








Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Coffee Talk: Balancing Act, Signs of Spring, and The Box


Good morning, and welcome back to my site! I'm glad you're here. If you haven't been here before, wander around up top where the tabs are. There, you can find out about me, what I do, and the various things I blog about here. Right now though, I've got a fresh, hot cup of coffee and I'm ready for Wednesday!

As I mentioned recently, I've added more responsibilities/interests to my personal life, and trying to get them configured into my already hectic schedule proved to be a challenge. I'm happy to report that two weeks in and I'm good to go. I've got everything worked out (as far as tasks go), and have now incorporated them into my current routine. That's the key, really, to balancing everything in your life: routine. If you have a lot of things on your plate, you need to get some kind of steady routine in place--and one that offers some flexibility--if you want to juggle everything without losing your mind. Keeping that in mind, then, I figured out a flexible schedule for myself that allows for everything to get done with time to relax and time for unexpected things. 



Sunday at Lake Cunningham, Omaha, NE.

As you know from Monday's post, we had fantastic weather this past weekend, and so I made sure to get out and about both days. It was too sloppy and muddy to even attempt a decent hike, so we had to settle for just taking some pictures and walking where the areas were dry. It felt so much like Spring that it put me in a fanciful mood. Spring, while not my favorite season, is always a welcome one. After the cold and dreariness of Winter, being able to spend time in nature again while the green comes back is a good feeling. It's a time of renewal and the prospects for a good year start to creep up in our minds.




Cover for my upcoming book The Box.

I hope you read the last teaser I put up on Friday for The Box. I'm down to the last few chapters before it's time to edit. I'm anticipating it to be ready within the next few weeks, give or take a few days depending on time. Like I mentioned, I've got a good time schedule going, but things don't always go exactly as planned. 

I'm excited too, as I've also mentioned before, as I have big plans for a spin-off from this book. I have a whole series in mind. I have another book that I'm interested in writing as well, so I'm not sure if I will start that one next, or move on to my huge idea. We shall see!

Thanks for having some coffee with me this morning, and I'll be back again on Friday with a new post. Until then, have a fantastic journey!

-H.A.





Monday, February 13, 2017

A Midwestern Saturday

I have to admit, there's nothing like Midwestern weather. Not only do we run the gamut of weather (90 below F windchill factors in Winter and 100 degrees F in Summer), but we have wildly fluctuating weather on any given week. For instance, this last week. On Wednesday we woke up to a few inches of snow. Normally, this wouldn't be an issue, but it was so sloppy and slick that people were getting stuck everywhere, and most of us were late to work...some by as much as two hours. By Friday, the temperature had soared to 63 degrees F. The snow had all melted and the weather was gorgeous enough for shorts and t-shirts. 

This weather held out through the weekend, although not as warm on Sunday. Saturday, we knew we needed to get outside, and a friend of mine mentioned that there were flocks of geese on the western end of Lake Manawa over in Council Bluffs. I grabbed my camera and off we drove across the river into Iowa. Not only did we find geese, but other birds as well. The scenery was lovely too, making for some great photos.




I'm no bird person, but I think these are a type of gull. 






Some of the geese that brought us to Lake Manawa. 





This was one of two bald eagles we saw out on the lake. It was quite a ways out (thank goodness for zoom), and with all the other wildlife out enjoying the weather, I can only imagine that it was waiting for a food opportunity.





The early evening sky looking gorgeous. The Sun was just peeking out from some clouds, providing me with a good photo op.





Another beautiful shot.





A view out into the lake and it's clear demarcation. On the right is where the ice from the cold weather is clinging to existence, while on the left is the melted lake from the warm temperatures. The sound of the two as they crashed against each other was akin to the muffled sound of light, thin glass breaking.





The water near the shoreline was mostly melted away in certain areas, including this one. You can see the rippling waves, a reflection of trees, and the numerous rocks & stones that help compose the shore.


I hope you have a great Monday, and that you have a pleasant week. I hope you enjoyed the teaser I put up on Friday for The Box, as well. Let me know what you think in the comments.





Saturday, February 11, 2017

The Orb and EVP 7

It's officially Saturday and I'm sitting here--cup of coffee in hand, of course--plotting out the next major ghost hunt for myself and my friends. While I've done minor ghost hunts with no real luck, I had better luck with the one major ghost hunt that I've done: Edinburgh Manor (which you can read all about right here and here, if you haven't already).

It was such an exciting and fascinating experience, that I've pored over the evidence a few times. If you've read the big blog post I did about the Investigation, you'd know that I posted a few pictures and six EVPs (or electronic voice phenomena) as evidence. The truth is, I actually got another decent photo (although questionable), and quite a few other EVPs while we were there. Most of those EVPs, however, were either indistinguishable or questionable. 




This, out of all the photographs I took (besides the blurry photographs), is probably the only real, albeit questionable, photographic evidence I have from Edinburgh Manor. You can see, in the middle of the photograph, an orb "streak". Is it real, or something else? Keep in mind, this was late October, frigid and cold, without a bug in sight. Also, we captured plenty of dust orbs while there, and this is nothing like that. I tend to think it's a manifestation (or a manifestation trying to happen). This was in the hallway near where we did our second spirit box session.





Now, about those EVPs. I mentioned at the beginning of this post how I had captured other EVPs that I didn't post, either because they were questionable or indistinguishable. I did, however, post the most distinguishable one on my Soundcloud account, but never posted it with the other EVPs in the original post. The reason for this is because I couldn't understand what was being said. After listening to it several times, I finally figured it out. Remember in the original post, EVP 5, where I asked questions and got answers. One was when I asked what their name was, and they answered something that sounded an awful lot like "Seven", or maybe "Stephen" (like Steh-fen).

When we did our last spirit box session in the boiler room (where we got EVP), I got this other EVP later. Listen here:




Did you hear it? Right after I asked, "Is there anyone here with us right now?" I get an answer right around the 14 second mark. It says, "I already told you, Seven." 

I've tried doing some research into Seven as being a name for anything, and I come up with only religious answers, which are not applicable in this instance. If you, or anyone you know, has experienced this number as a name thing, comment below or shoot me an email.

I hope you enjoyed my last little bit of Edinburgh Manor reveal, and have a fantastic Saturday!

-H.A.






Friday, February 10, 2017

Last Teaser from The Box

Good morning! Well, the weekend is finally here, so what better way to get things rolling than with a book teaser? Actually, this is the last book teaser I'm putting up before The Box is finished. Yep, that's right: this means that my book is almost complete! I anticipate two weeks plus editing time, so roughly three weeks. I've learned from past mistakes to be patient and cautious while editing, so I'm going to give myself more than a day or two to complete that process.



Cover for my 5th book, The Box

So, without further ado, I present, The Last Teaser:



The moon, even obstructed by the trees, shone down well enough over the neighborhood for Heidi to see fairly well, even from a distance. She saw a flash of gray as it moved behind a large tree in the neighbor’s yard. She moved closer to the front gate, trying to see exactly what it was.
            Her instincts told her to pay attention to her peripheral vision, because thoughts of the shadows came to mind. While she saw nothing there, as she hadn’t the whole time she had been at Rebecca’s house, she saw movement from the next house again in her fore vision. She concentrated all her energy in that direction, a sinking feeling in her gut. Scanning the neighbor’s yard, what she saw next to the side of their house caught her breath.
            Standing there, the mild breeze blowing it’s gray robe around, was a shadow. While it was similar in appearance to the ones she could never get a full glimpse of, this one was larger and more menacing. A hood covered it’s head, and the space where it’s face was was black as night. Even so, she could tell it was staring straight at her. Startled, she moved a few steps back, but the creature remained motionless.
            The phone in her pocket buzzed to life, making her jump. She kept a watchful eye on the hooded figure as she took the phone from her pocket and answered it. “Hello?”
            “Heidi, it’s Sam,” announced the familiar voice of her cousin.
            Surprised, she asked, “Sam? For real?”
            “Yeah,” he answered. “Look, I just saw one of those fucking shadow things in my apartment.”
            Her eyes grew wider, “Oh yeah?”
            “Yes, and get this, I could actually see it standing right in front of me!”
            “Oh my god.”
            “Right? What’s more, it was bigger than those shadows in my peripheral vision.”
            “Is it still there?”
            “No, it just vanished in front of my eyes.”
            “How long ago?”
            “Not more than five minutes ago. I’m still shitting bricks, Heidi, and my hands are shaking.”
            “Um, I’m not sure if it’s the same one, but I’m staring at the exact same thing right now.” The shadow hadn’t moved one bit, and Heidi almost wondered if it was real or not.







Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Coffee Talk: Breakfast, Writing, and Life


Good morning! Welcome to another edition of Coffee Talk, where we sit around together behind our mutual devices and drink coffee while I wax poetic...or not. 

This morning I actually have my breakfast and coffee, so I think I'm on top of things. I made a yummy omelette with FYH's vegan egg, some vegan brats chunks, mushrooms, and Daiya cheddar. It's very yummy, but something I don't make often. Maybe it's laziness, or maybe efficiency, but I usually end up making breakfast sandwiches or tofu scramble. I used to eat omelettes a lot in my omnivore days, but not so much anymore. Anyway, I'm glad I made one today, as it didn't really take me any longer than putting together a breakfast sandwich. So, in hindsight, maybe it's a preference thing.

The Box is moving along now at a good pace, and I anticipate having the rough draft done in two weeks. Then, of course, I'll have to edit it, but that's to be expected. I'm definitely going to devote more time to editing it this time as I usually, in the past, get in a hurry to finish it and don't go in for that one last pass. Friday, I'm going to put up the last teaser for the book, so stay tuned for that.

The writing process is so amazing to me sometimes, a fact that has been solidified for me while working on my latest effort. Some people use structured outlines before writing their book so they know how they want it to specifically go, while others, like myself, use stream-of-consciousness writing. I usually start by thinking about an idea for a few weeks, then I start writing the things that come to mind. I keep track of details in notes, and every so often I'll sit down and write a line or two about how I want the next few chapters to go. Then, during the editing process, I always make changes. 

Anyway, the point I'm getting to is that sometimes your story takes drastic turns, or ends differently, than you had originally anticipated. The Box for me is especially true. It's definitely more unique and different, and that's not a bad thing. I needed to have a more drastic change than where my other stories landed. It's no good to be stale.

I told you about the RenFaire After Dark event that I'm going to in May. Well, I decided to dress up for this event, and my costume came yesterday. I tried it on, and it fits! This is exciting because buying things online can be tricky. This is particularly true if you're buying clothes and you're a plus-size person. Luckily, it fit as expected. Bring on the debauchery!

So, that's it for me today on this Wednesday. We're halfway through the week already and I'm looking forward to the weekend. Have the greatest of days!

-H.A. 

Monday, February 6, 2017

A Perfect Winter's Sunday

Good morning, and Happy Monday! Another week is here and I'm ready. After last week's hecticness, I was finally able to get everything done over the weekend. In addition, I got to relax and spend time with both of my kids, in nature no less! I'd say that makes the perfect scenario for a good weekend.

Saturday I caught up on all the work I needed to get done, as well as wrapped up another chapter of The Box. I managed to have some time to relax and get to bed early. Sunday, then, I was raring to go. I got some writing done, and when The Teen came home, he announced he wanted to go hiking. Nature Girl and I were already planning on doing just that, so his timing was right on.





We headed out to Hitchcock Nature Center, where we started out on the boardwalk trail. I know many people who don't like to hike/walk out in nature during the Winter. The absence of colorful foliage discourages many from getting outdoors, but I love it. The stark contrast of color stands out, and the lack of foliage means that one can see for miles in a place such as this. Nothing deters me though, as I see beauty in nature everywhere. 





One of many trails that can be seen from the boardwalk trail. They aren't normally very visible in the warmer months because of the foliage.





The Teen and Nature Girl spend some time together, and admire nature around them.





When we first arrived, the Sun was partially hidden behind the clouds and the temperature was 27 degrees F. By the time we got off the boardwalk trail, it had risen to 31 degrees F.

I used my nice camera on the boardwalk, but when we reached the end of it, we delved deeper into the forest. It's not feasible to lug around a big camera, so I put it away in my backpack.





After a chilly but vigorous 2.5 mile hike, we drove over to the Visitor's Lodge. The Lodge has an enormous deck that provides one with stunning views from high up in the Iowa Mountains (Loess Hills). Even in Winter the view is incredible.





While I've taken and posted dozens of photos from HNC from every season, I've never really shown you what it looks like inside the Lodge. It's a great place for kids to learn about the Loess Hills and the various raptors that visit here.





I usually park myself here, on the large, dominant fireplace, while Nature Girl plays over in the kid's nook. The Teen took advantage of the comfy bean bags to relax and text his friends.


It was so nice to finally get back to normal this weekend, and indulge in my favorite activities, particularly hiking. For me, nothing brings balance to my life like time spent in nature. Hiking does, not only wonders for my physical health, but for my mental health as well. A good hike through the woods is the ultimate way for me to bring myself back to center.

I hope you had a good weekend as well, and that your Monday is the start of a great week.

-H.A.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Medieval Merriment


Good morning! This is the breakfast sandwich I made for myself on this wonderful Saturday morning, and, yes, it's vegan. After the busy & stressful week I've had, it was nice to stay up late last night, drink some beers, and have a lazy kind of morning. I also got to see one of my best friends last night, and we had a great visit. I've got my cup of coffee next to me, and I'm ready to tackle the day.

It's no secret to anyone who knows me, yourself included, that I love Renaissance Faires. I love everything about Ren Faires, and I mean everything. I'm even listening to Renaissance Folk music right now as I type this. Anyway, I always go to our local Ren Faire every year in the Spring, and also go to a major one in the Fall--usually Minneapolis or Kansas City. 





So, knowing how much I love Ren Faires, you can imagine my excitement at discovering a smaller Ren Faire in a neighboring state is going to hold it's First Annual Ren Faire After Dark. It's for adults only (21+) and includes camping, merriment, and debauchery. I got tickets for my husband and myself right away.





Now, while this event won't have a joust such as pictured above, it does have many other fun activities, all spaced out so everyone can enjoy every event. The merriment is scheduled to last into the wee hours of the morning when we can then go back to our tent exhausted. I can't wait for this event! My poor husband is probably already tired of hearing about it. Haha! I even, for the first time, will dress up for the event. It has a pirate theme and so I got a proper pirate wench costume, hat, and long stockings. My husband is also looking foward to dressing up. No worries for you, I will undoubtedly make a great post about the event after it happens in May.

I'm finally hoping to get out and about today and tomorrow like I had hoped I would last weekend. Between feeling off and having a ton of stuff to do, I just couldn't get out. I'm going to get caught up on stuff today, and then enjoy the good weather that is happening this weekend.

Have a great weekend, my friend. 

-H.A.