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Sunday, April 13, 2014

Home Cooking: Potato Soup and Fried Apples

First, it may be spring per the calendar, but, here in Texas, we are having a rainy day, and tomorrow it will be stormy and cooler. So that makes it perfect weather for soup, right?

Second, I don't understand why the apple recipe I'm talking about is entitled Fried Apples, because, to me, they are cooked, sautéed, caramelized even (as in just some cream shy of being homemade caramels).

Regardless I'm craving both the soup and the dessert, and am enjoying them again this month.

I love The Pioneer Woman's Perfect Potato Soup recipe, and it's great even without the heavy cream added. Although I would happily add it, if only it were found in my fridge. For added convenience when making this soup, I use frozen veggies (whether labeled for soup, for fajitas, or simply a seasoning blend containing the Holy Trinity), and I also bake extra potatoes one night to dice into the soup I plan to make the next day. Find Ree Drummond's recipe here: http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/2013/01/perfect-potato-soup/.

For a quick and easy Fried Apples recipe, here's a good one: http://southernfood.about.com/od/apples/r/bl80905e.htm. I must admit the smell of cinnamon makes me think of Thanksgiving and Christmas, even if it is April.

Enjoy!


"If your vocation isn’t a vacation, then quit, leap, change careers."

Denise Barker, Author, Blogger, Copy Editor
Books that Build Character(s)



What lies behind you and what lies in front of you pales in comparison to what lies inside of you. Ralph Waldo Emerson
When you give someone a book, you don’t give him just paper, ink, and glue.  You give him the possibility of a whole new life. Christopher Morley
The best inheritance you can leave your kids is an example of how to live a full and meaningful life. Dan Zadra


Monday, April 7, 2014

Random Q&A

Think of this as the inkblot test but with words.

  1. Winter or summer? SUMMER
  2. Spring or fall? BOTH
  3. Ocean or mountains? OCEAN
  4. Morning or evening? MORNING
  5. Coffee or tea? BOTH
  6. Sweet or salty? BOTH
  7. Southern or northern? SOUTHERN
  8. Convertible or sedan? CONVERTIBLE!
  9. Cats or dogs? BOTH
  10. Books or movies? YES!
Have a great week, all!




"If your vocation isn’t a vacation, then quit, leap, change careers."

Denise Barker, Author, Blogger, Copy Editor
Books that Build Character(s)


What lies behind you and what lies in front of you pales in comparison to what lies inside of you. Ralph Waldo Emerson
When you give someone a book, you don’t give him just paper, ink, and glue.  You give him the possibility of a whole new life. Christopher Morley
The best inheritance you can leave your kids is an example of how to live a full and meaningful life. Dan Zadra

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

My Top Seven Favorite Reads of All Time

I'm an avid reader. Not counting the books I read as a freelance copy editor, I still read at least one book a week. When I have a rare week off, I read at least one book a day. I started my love affair with books at an early age, so, over the decades, I've read thousands of books. I wish I had kept count now.

But there are a handful that I read over and over, plus those I have read once that linger and I promise to read again. Soon. With that said, here's my initial list of all-time faves:
  1. Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. This was a life changer for me. Maybe it was because I first read it when I was only thirteen going on fourteen as part of the required reading in my ninth grade Honors English class. But it confirmed that, while I may not think like the norm, I belonged somewhere all the same. Even though this novel is 1,074 pages long, I reread it at least once a decade and usually in one engrossing twenty-hour-long sitting. What I've learned is: if you don't fit in, you are in the wrong place.
  2. First Impressions by Nora Roberts. What favorite readings list would be complete without something by Nora Roberts and/or J. D. Robb? Here's one of at least three from my favorite author. Both main characters have secrets and their current actions are at war with their inner wants. I love the premise that what we see is only part of the story.
  3. The Fall of Shane MacKade by Nora Roberts. I'm a collector of great first lines. This is one of them (if you don't count the Prologue): Shane MacKade loved women. He loved the look of them, the smell of them, the sound of them, the taste of them. He loved them, without reservation or prejudice. Tall, short, plump, thin, old, young, their wonderful and exotic femaleness pulled him, drew him in. Now what woman wouldn't love that in a man? The takeaway point here is: love who you are.
  4. Out of Sight by Cherry Adair. Love her T-FLAC series. This one has an unforgettable sex scene. Once you read the book, you'll know exactly which one I'm talking about. It has stayed with me ever since reading it anew. A tip for us authors out there: don't hold back.
  5. Naked in Death + Glory in Death + Immortal in Death all by J. D. Robb. I list these as one entry since it takes these first three In Death books before Eve and Roarke are truly a couple. This series is my addiction. An an author, I'm thinking two things: I lust after creating a lifelike fictional couple that rivals Eve and Roarke, who live on in the readers' imagination, and also I'm searching for my own ongoing series idea that would spawn sixty or so installments.
  6. Innocent in Death by J. D. Robb. This book shows a jealous Eve, a rare event for sure, when one of Roarke's earlier lovers from a serious past relationship returns to the scene. This woman could be a real threat to Eve and Roarke's long-term happiness. Of course, true love wins.
  7. Any Philip Marlowe novel by Raymond Chandler. I have an affinity for tales about 1940s detectives. Especially the way Chandler wrote them. What is it that draws me so? Is it seemingly bad boys with a streak of honor and morals within or just honesty that attracts me?
Since I am forever reading, I'll be updating this list. Watch for later installments. Share your own list with us too.

"If your vocation isn’t a vacation, then quit, leap, change careers."

Denise Barker, Author, Blogger, Copy Editor
Books that Build Character(s)


What lies behind you and what lies in front of you pales in comparison to what lies inside of you. Ralph Waldo Emerson
When you give someone a book, you don’t give him just paper, ink, and glue.  You give him the possibility of a whole new life. Christopher Morley
The best inheritance you can leave your kids is an example of how to live a full and meaningful life. Dan Zadra

Friday, February 7, 2014

Thank You, Tristar Plumbing


Many thanks go out to Ron and John and all the crew at Tristar Plumbing in the DFW metroplex. I had a leaking hot water heater discovered about 7:00 p.m. Saturday night, a frozen spigot on the heater itself that refused to budge, a house main line turnoff valve that didn't fully stop the water supply (hence three days playing bucket brigade as the garden hose trick didn't work) and ... you get the idea.

After dealing unsuccessfully with one of the home improvement chain stores and all the conflicting statements I was getting from their representatives, I began calling plumbers, and Tristar was the winning quote simply based on the amount. But now I have much more to appreciate about Tristar.

Not only did Ron come out almost immediately to see the system firsthand, but his crew and their equipment and supplies were at my house in a couple hours and after several more had my house equipped with running hot water in the pipes, not in the carpet. There was no emergency service fee added (as some would do), and yet emergency service is what I got.

Plus John from Tristar had to deal with the aftermath of one highly emotional woman about 8:30 p.m. Monday night when my first attempt to fix this plumbing problem had me sending away the contractor once he mentioned the third upcharge needed before any work commenced.

Thanks again to everyone at Tristar Plumbing.

Denise Barker

Thursday, January 23, 2014

An Author's Perspective: Tracking Your Characters' Names


I've had earlier posts regarding picking and choosing your characters' names for each work, especially not to have repeating first consonantsso don't have them all start with S for example within one tale. And I've also talked of where to look for names: the phone book, baby name books, obituaries, movie credits, your high school yearbooks, etc. Keep a handy list of your favorites for future use.

But this time I'm thinking we should have a notebook that lists all the characters within each book that we write, then cross-referenced by names, first and last plus any nickname. Yes, create a computer file as well or a spreadsheet.

So for my novel, Good Ole Boys, I would list under the Gs my title along with an alphabetic listing of all names used therein. So my hero and heroine, Holt Seville and Geneva "Neva" Tate, would make that list. I would then also place Holt Seville under both H and S. Geneva would end up under G, N and T.

I doubt Nora Roberts expected to be writing over two hundred novels when she finished her first. I wonder if she tried to not duplicate names along the way. Maybe she created her own system, like I'm describing here, after having twenty or so books published.

For our convenience, I suggest we start one now.


"If your vocation isn’t a vacation, then quit, leap, change careers."

Denise Barker, Author, Blogger, Copy Editor
Books that Build Character(s)



What lies behind you and what lies in front of you pales in comparison to what lies inside of you. Ralph Waldo Emerson
When you give someone a book, you don’t give him just paper, ink, and glue.  You give him the possibility of a whole new life. Christopher Morley
The best inheritance you can leave your kids is an example of how to live a full and meaningful life. Dan Zadra

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

All the Uses for Baking Soda, the Skin Protectant


I was cleaning my kitchen sink pipes this morning with combos of baking soda, vinegar and boiling water.

Have you ever read the back of a baking soda box? It's uses are amazing. Here's the list (more or less quoting its own wording):

  • In the kitchen, use it for scratchless cleaning of stains and grease on appliances both big and small, and china plus pots and pans, even stainless steel.
  • In the bathroom, it safely lifts off dirt and soap scum on tub, shower, sink, toilets, counters, tile, grout and more.
  • In the rest of the house, it deoderizes the garbage pails, litter boxes, carpets, disposals and drains and can be run in your dishwasher in between uses.
  • In your beauty regime, add 1/2 c. to your tub for a refreshing bath or foot soak.
  • In your shampoo, add 1 teaspoon once a week for "fuller, more manageable hair."
  • In place of your exfoliant, after washing your face, apply in a circular motion a paste of 3 parts baking soda to 1 part water. Rinse for a fresh, clean face.

I loved the last two points as those were news to me.

But here was the biggest surprise. On the side panel chart labeled Drug Facts, see this:
Active ingredient: Sodium Bicarbonate 100%
Purpose: Skin Protectant [emphasis added]
Did you know that baking soda is a skin protectant? I did not.

So read those product boxes, folks.


"If your vocation isn’t a vacation, then quit, leap, change careers."

Denise Barker, Author, Blogger, Copy Editor
Books that Build Character(s)



What lies behind you and what lies in front of you pales in comparison to what lies inside of you. Ralph Waldo Emerson
When you give someone a book, you don’t give him just paper, ink, and glue.  You give him the possibility of a whole new life. Christopher Morley
The best inheritance you can leave your kids is an example of how to live a full and meaningful life. Dan Zadra


Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Yellow Prussiate of Soda = MSG?


Do you know what yellow prussiate of soda is? It's supposed to be an anticaking agent. It was in my "fine sea salt."

Which I have tossed in the trash.

Once ingested by my body, it gives me allergic reactions just like any other MSG misnomer. I've got the itchy eyes and scalp and face to prove it. I was eating a snack of leftover roasted potatoes, drizzled with olive oil, garnished with parsley and this sea salt (more than three hours after eating anything else).

It has to be the yellow prussiate of soda added to the sea salt that my body is reacting to.

Unless the food manufacturers are adding MSG to:

  • ten-pound bags of whole russet potatoes or
  • bottled olive oil or
  • dried parsley flakes

without disclosing that fact to consumers who are buying these products.

See my earlier posts about my MSG allergic reactions regarding "natural flavor(ing)" and/or "modified food starch." Remember, I found unsalted butter has MSG in it under the guise of "natural flavors" which is not added to the salted butter variety in two different brands that I checked.

Makes me wonder, when I say "No MSG" to the waitstaff at any restaurant, am I still getting "yellow prussiate of soda" or "modified food starch" or "natural flavor(ing)"?

Now I will start saying:

  • No MSG.
  • No yellow prussiate of soda.
  • No modified food starch.
  • No natural flavoring.

Is anything untainted with MSG at any food establishment? Scary.

I was watching a video of Dr. Vincent Bellonzi, a doctor of chiropractic medicine and certified clinical nutritionist, who states MSG is added to our foods because it makes everything taste better, even dirt. Here's the link: http://completelynourished.com/2010/09/28/40/.

And the government wonders why Americans are getting fatter each year. 

Could be because current laws allow MSG to be hidden in our foods. It shouldn't be added in there at all.

Beware.

"If your vocation isn’t a vacation, then quit, leap, change careers."

Denise Barker, Author, Blogger, Copy Editor
Books that Build Character(s)



What lies behind you and what lies in front of you pales in comparison to what lies inside of you. Ralph Waldo Emerson
When you give someone a book, you don’t give him just paper, ink, and glue.  You give him the possibility of a whole new life. Christopher Morley
The best inheritance you can leave your kids is an example of how to live a full and meaningful life. Dan Zadra