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.