Thursday, September 26, 2013

Writing Research

For those who have written anything, whether it be assignments for school, articles in the paper, or a simple blog post, there is a certain amount of research that goes into what you write. For me, writing a historical fiction set in nineteenth century England created a large amount of research. Books and the internet are still my best friends while writing. Reading books by Jane Austen, Georgette Heyer, Sarah Eden, and of course Julianne Donaldson helped in large amounts. Thanks to all you wonderful ladies (perhaps the two that have passed on will know of my gratitude. :)

I decided I wanted to share some of the things I've learned while researching. Some of them are off the wall weird. You might wonder why I'd need to know about such things, but just so you know, some of theses things I've learned by accident and won't use in my books. Most of my info comes from a book called What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew by Daniel Pool. I highly recommend purchasing this book if you're writing anything set in 1800 England.

A couple of my books are set in modern day England and in the year 1808. My character travels in time, and therefore I needed to study both time eras. This is what I've learned . . .

*In one year alone during the 1800's, close to 700 people were killed by simply getting lost in the London fog. It was so thick you couldn't see your hand in front of your face. The poor souls who'd find themselves alone and disoriented (I tend to believe alcohol was a factor in these numbers) ended up run over by carriages or had stumbled into the Thames and drown.

*If you wore white clothing during the thickest time of the fog, you'd come home from an outing and find your white turned to grey.

*In 1800, people didn't drink water, as it was riddled with diseases. That is why the British drank tea or alcohol on a daily bases.

*A common British saying, "Cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey" has nothing to do with what you might think. The brass triangles that supported stacks of iron cannon-balls on sailing ships were called monkeys and that in cold weather the metal contracted, causing the balls to fall off.

*Rucksack is what the British call a backpack.

*When a lady and gentleman ride together in a carriage, the gentleman will always ride facing backwards. Unless they are married or closely related, then they will never sit next to each other. When exiting the gentleman will always exit first and hand the lady down.

*"Mind the gap" is repeated several times over when exiting and entering the Tube (the subway) in London. (I didn't learn this in a book. I experienced it first hand.)

*They don't have Milky Ways in England. Only Mars Bars.

*In 1800's to make love means to flirt, or to have conversation, not what it means today.

*Chip and Pin is what the British call a number code for accessing your bank account. (Pin number)

*A lady doesn't wear diamonds or pearls in the morning or dances with a partner more than three times in one evening. If a gentleman were to dance with a lady three times, then it was as good as saying, "Hey, ya want to go steady?"

*Fairs and Markets were the best diversions for country folk during the spring and summer months in the 1800's.

*In grand houses in the country, the largest bedchambers had their own sitting rooms attached, along with a dressing room.

*The poorest of the poor in 1800's London would spend their time working the Thames. They would wade about in the shallowest parts of the river, looking for treasures to sell. Many times they found bodies stuck in the thick mud.

*In Edinburgh, Scotland, the hospitals would pay people for bodies. The fresher the bodies, the more money they received, the more decayed the less they were paid. In the underground (the vaults under the streets that were once used as storage units for merchants) was where the poor and/or criminals would reside. Two such criminals figured out that if they held the nose and mouth of their victim and sat on their chest, they could kill without detection and then sell the bodies to the hospital. Several people were killed from them before they were caught. Some say that the spirits of these criminals still reside in the vaults. After visiting there myself and experiencing how it felt in one particular room, I tend to believe them.

Well, that is all I can think of off the top of my head. I know there is lots more, but I might need to save it for another day. I hope you've enjoyed reading this post, and I hope you've learned something as well. Thanks for spending time on my blog and have a fabulous day.

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Friday, September 20, 2013

Easy Garlic Cream Sauce Recipe

This little dandy of a recipe has seen many meals with my family. I came across a recipe like this years back and quickly adapted it to my own liking. It's a simple way of getting a cream sauce for your pasta without using a cube of butter or heavy cream for an alfredo sauce. It might not be the healthiest thing out there, but it's healthier than most.

Easy Garlic Cream Sauce
1 can 2% evaporated milk
1 Tblsp flour
1/4 tsp Italian seasoning
Olive oil (extra virgin is always best)
2 tsp minced garlic
1/4 to 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

First, pour milk into a cup meant for mixing drinks (like a GNC cup).
Then add flour and Italian seasoning.
Shake well.
Add oil to pan at medium heat. Add garlic and cook for only 20 to 30 seconds (Don't burn!).
Quickly pour in milk mixture and stir.
When milk is starting to bubble, add cheese. You can add as much as you'd like. The more the merrier in my opinion. If sauce thickens up too much, add a little milk to thin. It's done after cheese has melted and is at desired thickness.
Serve over pasta (I used whole grain pasta).
Add a little cheese to the top and enjoy!
You can also substitute the Italian Seasoning with fresh basil or parsley. This is one meal I can only eat once in a blue moon because of the aged cheese. As long as I don't OD on the stuff, I'll be alright ;)
Let me know what you think!

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Thursday, September 19, 2013

Healthy can be scrumdiddlyumptious too!

Most of you may poo poo the healthy foods and those who like to eat them. Believe me, I used to shun the health food aisle and wrinkled my nose at anything that looked like it was made up of anything outside the norm. However, over the years and after being diagnosed with different health issues I've changed my tune. I've been on a low salt/sodium and low Tyramine diet for nearly 9 years. I've seen and felt the difference in my health from following the diet. I don't cut out these food completely, but by simply not buying processed foods, canned goods, frozen meals, and boxed meals I've improved my quality of life.

How? I don't have to live my life on medication and I was able to have 2 more children by simply changing my diet. Had I not changed I would still be on meds and had to adopt, and if the meds quit working I could easily lose my sight, which is a pretty significant thing to lose.

Over the last two months I've changed my diet again, this time cutting out the high Glycemic foods. Such as sugar, honey, and some fruits and veggies. It's only been two months, but I've noticed an even bigger difference in how I feel everyday. Plus I've not caught one illness, which is unusual. I used to get sick all the time.

Yes, it was hard, but it's getting easier. At first I would grumbled when I would see my kids eating peanut butter and jam sandwiches, cookies and chocolate. BUT, I've been finding things I can enjoy as well.

Here are a few of my new discoveries...

When I visit the grocery store with my kiddos, most of the time I stop by the bakery, because they always give free cookies to the children. While I was there the lady asked if I would like a sample of their bread. I gave my usual answer, "Thank you, but no. I can't have sugar." She informed me that their bread didn't have sugar or honey. So I asked more questions and found the starters they used for their artisan breads didn't have sugar either.

Eureka! I have found a way to enjoy eating bread! Artisan bread might not be the soft breads I was used to eating, but, hey, I'll take it where I can get it. So today I had my first sandwich in months.

 First, start off with your choice of artisan bread. I used seven grain wheat. Because I can't eat the sugar in any of the mayo's, I used avocado. Just spread it on as thick as you like. Next I used fresh mozzarella cheese (it's not aged, so it has no tyramine) then lean turkey and tomatoes. Then for my dessert I eat fresh sliced peaches from my tree. It doesn't get much better than that.

Wait... yes it does...

At the store today I came across a piece of heaven. Just so you all know, I'm really excited about this next item I found.


Yes! I can eat chocolate again!
Weeks ago I thought I could get away with eating sugar free chocolate made with Splenda, but alas, it wasn't meant to be. Splenda doesn't agree with me (I become musical in areas that aren't meant for music). So I gave up on the idea of eating chocolate. I even went so far as to say that I won't be making my traditional chocolate candies my friends and family have become dependent on over the years.
BUT! At the store I found this wonderful chocolate called Amberlyn. It's all sugar free. They use only a natural sweetener made from wheat that contains no gluten and is completely safe for anyone needing to watch what they eat. Plus it tastes yummy.

Great news is, they said it melts well enough for me to make my own chocolates! Now I can make my cherry cordials, peanut butter cups, turtles and truffles for the neighbors and not feel left out. I'm excited to try my hand at making my own sugar free treats this year. I'll keep you posted on that ;)

Next on the list of discoveries is my bottled peaches.
  I had a tree full of peaches to bottle and didn't know if I could get away with a 'no sugar' way of doing things. I went online and found that by simply adding sugar free apple juice to the bottles instead of sugar and water I could satisfy everyone without sacrificing taste or their shelf life.
All you need to do is blanch your peaches, peel the skins and pit them, shove them into the bottles and fill them to the top with apple juice. Then wipe the rim with a clean towel, place the lid on tight and boil in canning pot for 20 minutes.
Easy peasy lemon squeezy.

See, you can eat healthy without risking taste.

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Sunday, September 15, 2013

A Sweet Adventure!

You all know my passion for art and writing, but only a few of you know how much I love to bake and cook. When I was nine years old I began my training in the kitchen. At first it was an excuse to get out of pouring concrete, framing walls and hauling boards for whatever house my family might be building at the time. Because of my success in making delicious biscuits and gravy it became my job to feed my hard working family. It took several tries to perfect the heavenly deliciousness that is cookies (my brother still calls them bullets), but from what everyone says now, they are superb.

To tell you the truth, it's been awhile since I spent quality time in the kitchen making anything more than cheese quesadillas for my kids. With the amount of weekdays my husband travels and the dramatic change in my diet, I've lost my fever for cooking and baking.

Today that changed a bit. I have three large bags of peaches sitting on my counter, nearly ready for canning. The weather has always affected my need for baking, and with fall coming on and the peaches calling my name, I decided to figure out how to make peach cobbler without sugar.

This recipe of peach cobbler will kick start my adventure in baking without sugar or honey (yes it sucks that I can't eat either, but my health has improved and it's getting easier). I finished making this recipe only an hour ago, and as we speak I am devouring the warm goodness of the peaches and fluffy perfection of the cobbler.

Without further ado...

Sugarless Peach Cobbler

5 cups fresh peaches, sliced
1 cup no sugar added apple juice
1 1/4 Tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon lemon juice
3/4 teaspoon Cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon Stevia (Sweet Leaf's Sweet Drops (liquid form))

1 1/4 cup flour
2 teaspoons of powdered Stevia
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
4 Tablespoons butter
1/2 to 2/3 cup milk

Add sliced fresh peaches, half of apple juice, lemon juice, cinnamon and liquid Stevia in pot over medium/high heat. Mix the remaining apple juice and cornstarch together then add to bubbling mixture in pot. Stir until liquid thickens.

Mix together in bowl: Flour, powdered Stevia, salt, baking powder and cinnamon. Then cut butter into flour mixture until crumbly. Slowly add milk while cutting with pastry cutter. Mixture needs to be a bit sticky, but not too sticky.

Pour peaches into large pie dish or 9x9 glass dish. Spoon topping over peaches and bake at 400 for 30 minutes or until dark golden.

I hope those of you who don't eat sugar will enjoy this recipe, for the rest of you lucky ducks who eat sugar without restraint, I will someday post my recipes I used to make (I know there are several who would love my oatmeal chocolate chip cookie recipe). Until then, try this cobbler out and let me know what you think.

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Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Partying like it's 1820

Julianne Donaldson know's how to throw a party--regency style. ;)
I promised pictures of the book release party and I haven't let you down. I showed up early, like 30 minutes early, so I could have a chance to chat with Julie before all the hustle and bustle. So, lucky little me got some rockin' awesome pictures with just the two of us.

 Doesn't Julie look perfectly stunning in her get up. She's so pretty.

 Here I am, with the beautiful Kate drawing inside the book. It was surreal to think I'm officially a published artist. LOOK! That's my artwork! SWEET!

So, anyway, I'm standing in line, chatting with Sarah Eden and her husband and people start coming up to me and asking if I drew the picture in the book. Then they start asking if I could sign their book. I was like--holy poo! You want me to sign your book? Someone got me a pen and I stood there with my hand holding the pen, wondering what to write. This is how I felt...

There I am, signing books. What did I end up writing? "Keep it real"
You would think because I'm a writer that I would come up with something inspiring and fantastic.
"Keep it real" was all I could think of to say. I'm so awesome.

Poor Julie. Her dainty hand is going to be sore from all those books she had to sign. 

True to her word, Julie had her characters there to take pictures with.

I might have to sew my husband one of these suits. 

It was a fabulous evening and I was thrilled to be apart of it. Thank you Julie, for loving my artwork enough to make it apart of your book.

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Today's the Day!

It's here! For those who have been anticipating the arrival of Julianne Donaldson's new book "Blackmoore" wait no longer! Tonight I will be attending the fabulous book release party with hopes of getting some pictures to post later. For those who would like to purchase a copy, click the link to her blog here.
If you don't want to purchase a copy, go there anyway. Julie is an amazing person to read about.
I'd love to hear what you thought about the book and if you enjoyed the drawing of Kate, so leave a comment.
I'll post again soon!

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Sunday, September 8, 2013

ANWA Retreat

I thought I'd take a moment--several actually--to write a little about my experience I shared with several wonderful ladies. American Night Writer's Association had their first Inter-mountain Retreat over the weekend, and I had the privilege to attend. It was perfect. Friday morning I headed out with Anna, Chris, Jodi and Tara along with all our junk and climbed Ephraim canyon to the Great Basin Environmental Education Center to fill our creative buckets to the rim.
Let me tell you, we all needed this chance to get away and write. Most of us needed the break from kids and life to focus on our writing. With no phone calls or internet to distract us we were able to get something accomplished. Finally!

Friday night, after an afternoon of writing, we had the opportunity to listen to Marsha Ward, the founder of ANWA, speak to us about how ANWA was started. I loved the story she shared and loved how it was divinely inspired. It was no happy accident that this writing group started the way it did. I am thrilled to be apart of a group that is spreading good uplifting books to those who want to read clean stories. Thanks Marsha.

That night Marsha asked me if I would draw the cover of her next book for her. I was surprised and thrilled. Outside I might have looked calm, but inside I was doing the happy dance (my dancing isn't that impressive, just so you know. I look like Elaine Benes from Seinfeld).
I slept very little that night. Marsha's character in her book wouldn't leave me alone. I kept picturing them and studying how I was to draw them. I woke early and sketched a picture for her to approve, and she loved it. I hope it all comes together and my drawing can be good enough for a cover.

After our fabulous lunch made by Liz Adair we listened to the wonderful Carla Kelly speak to us about researching and connecting with our characters. In her speech she talked of a book she wrote about the Scofield Mine accident that happened over one hundred years ago. The book "My Loving Vigil Keeping" has real people that she studied and researched about. I cried as she spoke of these hard working husbands, sons, fathers, and brothers who died in this accident. I felt drawn to this story and I can't wait to read it. When I returned home I spoke to my grandma about this book and she informed me that my Great Great Grandpa Charles Walton and his brother Andrew worked in that mine during that time. Charles would have died that day had it not been for his cow that got loose. Andrew was close enough to loose his hearing, but not his life. If not for that wonderful cow I wouldn't be here today. :)
Charles moved not long after the accident and married Ida Ann Paxman, then had a daughter that grew to be the Great Grandma (Iona) that taught me how to oil paint when I was 13 years old.

Left to right: Bottom-Jodi, Pam, Carla, Chris, Anna, Michelle, Andrea. Middle-Marsha, Liz. Top-Pauline, Tara, Jen, Susan and me.

As I sit here and write my thoughts and experience I can't help but believe that I was inspired to join ANWA then attend that retreat. I know I was meant to go to listen and learn. It was such a blessing to sit with such a great group of women. I learned so much from all of them. Thank you Liz, for the food and conversation. Thanks Michelle for your help in getting my first paragraphs up to snuff. Thanks Marsha and Carla for your words of wisdom. Thanks Pam and Jodi for all your hard work in putting it together. Thanks to everyone who critiqued my work. Thanks everyone for your friendship.
And most of all thanks to my Heavenly Father who guided me there then helped me make it home safe through the storm of all storms (the rain storm was the worst I've ever seen).

Experiences like this are a wonderful reminder that I am meant to be a writer. I may not be at my best, but I'm learning and loving it. I have a passion for storytelling and I know I can't quit. So, onward and upward I will climb!

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Tuesday, September 3, 2013

One week left!

Hey howdy hey y'all!
It's only a week away from Julianne Donaldson's new book release "Blackmoore". I know! I'm excited too! I can hardly contain myself! Now I'm officially a published artist! SWEET! I've been dreaming of it since I was a wee little one.
I can't wait until you've all read it--maybe we'll have a book reading party to celebrate!
Here's the link to Julie's blog where you can purchase the book.

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