Wednesday, January 17, 2018

A Day of Beauty...Birds Edition

 A Day of Beauty...
Birds Edition

Erie is cold and snowy, so it was time to get out for another day of beauty.  And of course, I always know where to go to find some beauty...I headed downtown to the Erie Art Museum.  There was a new exhibit I was anxious to see.  But first, I stopped by Erie's newest coffeehouse, Ember and Forge. (You can see my reflection in the door...I try to get one in each Day of Beauty photo.) I think finding a new coffee hangout is definitely beautiful, so it fit my day's theme!  

Coffee in hand, I walked the block to the Erie Art Museum.  I so enjoy taking a walk through the exhibits and just browse, but this time I went with a purpose...I wanted to see the Daniel Burke collection.

Dan Burke is a local artist and teacher.  I love that so much of his art centers on birds. He talks about why on his bio page in a video

When I wrote Hold Her Heart, there was a younger character who was engrossed by birds.

“You like birds?” I asked.

She nodded, sending more wisps of hair bolting from the ponytail holder. “Yeah. I like ’em all. When we used to go to the beach, I’d take bread for the seagulls. Logan says they’re flying rats, but I like ’em. Did you ever read Jonathan Livingston Seagull? I think that’s why,” she said, not leaving me time to answer. “They’ve got snowy owls out on the peninsula now and bald eagles. And blue herons. Oh, and there’s a whole part of the beach they close down every spring ’cause they hope some birds nest there. Plovers I think. I’d like to go to the peninsula and spot them, but Mom’s not really up to that, so we just watch them back here. I got her garden certified as a wildlife habitat last year for her birthday. There’s a little plaque near the house.”
From where we sat at the back of the garden, the house was only just visible through the bushes and trees. In the summer, when all the leaves were full and green, I didn’t think you’d be able to see it at all. “I’m sure Piper loved the present.”
“I think so.”
“I don’t know much about bird songs, but I’ve always liked learning what groups of birds are called. They’re all something different,” I said. “A murder of crows, a raft of ducks, an unkindess of ravens.” I thought about Jonathan Livingston Seagull and added, “A squabble of gulls.”

I think that's why Burke's art spoke to me.  Like, Fiona, I love birds. He inspired me to try my hand at birds in the studio.  I don't think I quite have the heads right, but for a first attempt, I'm happy with them.  He said in his video that you need 10,000 hours to be proficient at anything.  I've got a few hours to go! LOL  Spring term started, so I'll be getting a few more hours in!

If you're in Erie and haven't seen Burke's Callings exhibit at the museum, it's time to head down and give yourself a Day of Beauty.  And if you're not from Erie, come visit!  And you can visit us in Hold Her Heart and so many of my other books!  I love my hometown and I love bringing readers here for a visit. 


PS. Here's my view while I work...the birds give me endless hours of glee!

Cooks and Books...Mexican Lasagna

In my last Cooks and Books video, I made Taco Seasoning I'm making Mexican Lasagna with it. Watch until the end, I mention how to get young hockey fans to try it!

Hope you enjoy!


Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Back to School...Again. (A Novel Freshman Experience)

 The new term starts today at the University!

Ceramics II here I come. 

I spent last evening thinking about what I want to do this class.  And it struck me...I've been here before.  You know the place when you're learning a new's when you know just enough to be dangerous.  

When I started last term, I hadn't taken a test in...a very long time.  And other than a ceramics class in high school, which worked with slip and molds not clay, I'd never done anything like our ceramic class.  But I so love it.

As I was thinking about projects I want to try, I was suddenly reminded of when I started writing.  I'd been a reader my entire life.  I met some lovely writers online who supported me and cheered me on (the Dreamweavers were amazing!) and I wrote with sheer joy.  I'd been a reader all my life and wrote with just enough knowledge to be dangerous.  I'd never given thought to POV or hooks.  I read articles and talked to people, but that was all secondhand knowledge.  I learn best by doing, so back then I just did.  I just wrote.

That's what Ceramics was last term.  I read assignments, listened to lessons, but I learned the most when I just made stuff.  Not everything was a success.  LOL  But everything taught me something.  I made mistakes and hopefully I won't make them again.  

I can't even begin to tell you how much I enjoyed the class.  And it influenced my writing in so many ways.  I wrote an article that will be out in February about creativity and new experiences.  I wrote a short story that will be out free for newsletter subscribers sometime soon.  (Not a subscriber?  Join here.)  And my agent and I were talking about my success with the Maid in LA series (Quincy is one of my bestselling series) and she asked me to consider putting together a new cozy mystery series.  You might see shades of my going back to school in it! 

All in all, my first term back in college was a huge personal success.  I found something I love and it pushed me to new insights about me and my career.

Just imagine what my second term might bring!  Have you tried out something new lately?


You can check out my first term's Novel Freshman Experience posts at:Part 20Part 19Part 18,  Part 17, Part 16,  Part 15, Part 14, Part 13, Part 12, Part 11, Part 10, Part 9Part 8Part 7 Part SixPart 5Part 4Part 3Part 2Part 1

PPS Hold Her Heart is on sale today!! It's a good book to talk about today because it's a story of discovery, too!

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Works In Progress

 There's a term that writers in progress.  It's a book you're currently working on.  I like to think my life is a work in progress.  I keep working on it and I'll confess, I'm pretty pleased with where I am and the direction I'm heading!  I start Ceramics II next week.  I spent the winter break working on projects, experimenting and hope to continue that this term. 

I have a recipe that's a work in progress as well.  I'm looking for the perfect oatmeal bread.  I'm getting closer.  I sometimes use left over steel cut oatmeal.  I think I'm going back to that.  It's a heavier loaf, but it's very moist.  I didn't have leftover cooked oatmeal yesterday and so I adapted and tried this variation.  It was very good!  I had a piece with wild blueberry jam for dessert last night...and toasted some for breakfast.  It's still a bit delicate if you're slicing it thin, but it really is very tasty.  My friend Brenda asked for the recipe, I'm posting it here for her and anyone else who wants to try it.

Oatmeal Bread (a recipe in progress)

1 1/2 cups oatmeal (I use a thick cut oat)
2 Cups of hot milk

Put them in your mixing bowl and let them soak a half hour...a lot of the milk will be absorbed and it will cool to a yeast acceptable temperature.

Add 1-2 Tb yeast
1/2 Cup brown sugar
2 tsp salt
3 Cups bread flour
another 2-3 cups whole wheat.
(This half and half has enough whole grains to make me happy, but with the bread flour it's lighter than a pure whole grain)

I added a bit of warm water as I mixed because I thought the dough looked a bit too dry.

Let rise until double.

Punch down.  Divide in two and put in pans.  Let it rise again.

Bake at 350 for about 45-50 minutes.

I'm definitely getting closer to my perfect recipe!

Keep an eye on my blog over the next few weeks...there will definitely be more school projects posted.  

And if you're looking for something to read, Hold Her Heart is on sale today for $.99!!  If you haven't read it, I hope you'll check it out and don't forget, my entire PTA Mom Trilogy is finally all out! If you've read these, or any other books, and have a moment, I'd really appreciate a review!

Oh, and last but not least, keep an eye out.  I was working on ceramic spoons at the studio and had an idea for a short story.  I'll be including it in my next newsletter for subscribers to read for free.  Not a subscriber?  You can join here.  I try to do special things for subscribers and it's a good place to keep up with new releases!

I'm heading out to the kitchen make a sandwich on my bread!


Monday, January 08, 2018

Cooks and Books, Homemade Taco Seasoning

There's a new Cooks and Books out!  

I know, it's been a while!  Join me in the kitchen as we make homemade taco seasoning. It's cheaper than store-bought packets and has no fillers, preservatives or food coloring in it! 

Someone asked me why the cornstarch, and I realized that I hadn't mentioned to add a bit of water, just like the bagged stuff. The cornstarch turns it saucy.

And check out my new series, PTA Moms


Friday, January 05, 2018

National Bird Day!!

It's National Bird Day again!
I had so much fun with this last year I thought I'd talk about it again this year! Just to recap some of my bird quips: OWL tell you about #NationalBirdDay!

Can you SPARROW minute to talk about #NationalBirdDay? I've been HERON a lot about birds today. I know it's hard to SWALLOW all these bird puns. It must GULL you to keep reading these silly bird puns.

Someone should give this silly GOOSE a sTERN talking to. I can't DUCK the accusations that these are absurd. These bird puns are getting FOWL. People are starting to GROUSE about my puns.
Alas, no one is RAVEN about my bad puns. I hope you find some Bird Glee today! And if you haven't picked up Hold Her Heart yet, I hope you do! It's one of my Romance+ stories...books that focus on a woman's journey, a journey that includes a romance although romance isn't the reason for it!