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My Writing Process Blog Hop

I was tagged by the talented, Ronni Arno (author of Rene Reinvented), in the My Writing Process Blog Hop.

So if you’re interested in how I write, read on. If you’re here for a recipe, go to the bottom for the best banana pudding ever!

What am I working on?

I recently finished a middle grade novel, Drive-Through Miracle. It’s about a girl who’s given up all hope that anything good will happen to the people she loves.

That sounds kinda depressing, but I promise there are some funny parts. Like her mom is the head cashier at the local Piggly Wiggly. See, you can’t say Piggly Wiggly without smiling.

You can read the query here.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

My favorite children’s author is Kate DiCamilllo. I love how she makes the reader laugh and cry throughout her books.

Remember in Because of Winn Dixie when the librarian gives Opal a Littmus Lozenge? It tastes sweet—like root beer and strawberry. But there’s also something else—a secret ingredient.

“Sorrow,” Miss Franny said. “Not everybody can taste it. Children, especially, seem to have a hard time tasting it.”

I wish children (and adults, for that matter) never had to taste sadness, but without the storm, there’s no rainbow.

A good book evokes all kinds of human emotions and leads the reader to consider all sorts of possibilities.

Why do I write what I do?

I’m a school counselor in my day job and I love helping kids find their way. One of the best feelings in the world is seeing how you’ve influenced another person.

Writing is like that. It’s reaching one reader at a time and hoping that you leave him or her somehow… different. Happier. Encouraged.

How does your writing process work?

My writing process is a simple three-step process:

1) Observe,

2) Investigate, and

3) Ask what if?

Here’s how it worked with Drive-Through Miracle.

Because I work during the school year, I do most of my writing in the summer. I try to write a first draft during June and July and then I spend the rest of the year revising – working late at night and on the weekend.

Observe. Last summer, on the way to a park where I walk/jog, I noticed a sign along the road.

FullSizeRenderI passed this sign 5-6 times a week. And each time I had the same thought: It’s hotter than Hades out here. That’s really nice of someone to sit outside and pray with somebody.

Investigate. Each time I drove by, I’d crane my neck to see the set up. The church was on a hill, and from the road all I could see was the top of a canapycanopy in the parking lot. I just had to see what the drive-through looked like.

So one hot afternoon, I packed a chilled Gatorade and my 14-year-old son in the car and we drove up the hill. I figured this was a one-time trip, so we needed to take note of everything we saw.

As we slowly drove up, we saw a man sitting in a lawn chair under the canopy. His feet were propped on a cooler and he was reading. We stopped at an orange cone and the man walked to my open window.

After some brief introductions, I handed the preacher the Gatorade and told him we appreciated that he was helping people with their burdens. He thanked us for the drink and we were about to drive off when he asked, “What about you folks?”

“Us?”

“Yeah. Can I say a prayer for you?”

My son and I looked at each other. I don’t know why we hadn’t anticipated this, but we hadn’t.

We agreed and he prayed that we would feel God’s blessing that summer.

My son and I drove to the park in silence–both considering the experience we’d just had.

Later that night we talked about how maybe we’d, in some small way, been a blessing to the preacher.

Ask what if. I wondered, what if a girl rode to the drive-through on her bike and asked for prayer? Or what if she rode up on her bike, but she hid in the bushes? And she watched as other folks asked for prayer. What if she saw her best friend ride to the drive-through? What would his burden be?

And that’s how I came to write Drive-Through Miracle.

So, yeah, I felt a blessing that summer.

And that’s my writing process.

I’ve tagged two fellow writers. They will post their writing process next Monday.

If you don’t know them, take some time to meet both. They are incredibly fun and talented writers.

Elizabeth Dunn  liz pic

http://elizabeth-dunn.blogspot.com/

Twitter: @elizabethdunn89

Ella Schwartz   OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

http://ellaschwartz.net/

Twitter: @ellaschwartz

Oh, and here’s the best banana pudding ever!

Luscious Banana Pudding

Ingredients: 1 large package of vanilla (or banana) instant pudding, 2 cups of whole milk, 1 can of sweetened condensed milk, 1 box of vanilla wafers,  4 bananas, and one large container of whipped topping.

Mix pudding and milk until firm. Stir in sweetened condensed milk and whipped topping and mix well. In a large container, alternate vanilla wafers, sliced bananas and pudding mixture. Repeat 2 more times. (For a different look, reserve some of the whipped topping and end with a layer of that on top.)

Luscious Banana Pudding
Luscious Banana Pudding
Lessons Learned, Uncategorized

Poor Punctuation and the Dangers of Facebook

Facebook should be banned.

It’s been blamed for damaging relationships, costing people their jobs, and now for almost ruining my life.

Let me explain.

My 18-year-old daughter has taught both of her grandmothers how to get on Facebook. I tried to warn her – Do you really want Grandma and Nana on Facebook? But she wouldn’t listen and now it’s come back to bite…

me, of course.

The other day I got a phone call from my mother.

After five minutes of small talk, she got to the real reason for her phone call.

She was concerned about her granddaughter. And I quote, “I’m a little concerned about your daughter. According to Facebook, she had five guys at the pool yesterday.”

Excuse me?

I’m not sure what she said next, because I immediately went into a dissociative state—you know, the outer body experience where you watch yourself in a very stressful event. Usually,  it’s some sort of life or death situation  like a car accident or major surgery.

Or as in my case the moment you discover your daughter might not be studying for that biology exam like you think.

When I rejoined the conversation and my actual body I said, “A…..she was referring to noticing five guys at the hotel pool when we were in Charleston last weekend.”

Yeah, that’s it.

My mother seemed satisfied. And while she began giving me the updates on the extended family, I logged onto Facebook to take a look myself.

And there it was… Good day so far – had five guys at the pool tanning then work at 3.

Once my heart rate returned to normal I noticed the date on her post and remembered she indeed had five guys –

as in Five Guys Burgers and Fries.

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times – punctuation is important! One lousy comma and a little capitalization could have prevented this near catastrophe.

Whew, I really dodged a bullet this time.

But there’s always the next post…

Have any Facebook stories you’d like to share? I’d love to hear them!

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Sunshine Award and Lucky Seven Tag

Thanks Sharon  for the Sunshine Award and Lucky Seven Tag!

Favorite color: Blue
Favorite animal: Dog, but who doesn’t love a polar bear?
Favorite number: 18
Favorite non-alcoholic drink: Diet Coke and Orange Mango Sparkling ICE
Facebook or Twitter: Facebook…but just barely!
My passion: My faith, family, friends, and telling a good story.
Getting or giving presents: um…getting
Favorite pattern: Paisley
Favorite day of the week: Friday
Favorite flower: Orange Tiger Lily & Gerber Daisy

Here’s how this works:

1. Go to page 77 of your current MS
2. Go to line 7
3. Copy down the next 7 lines – sentences or paragraphs – and post them as they’re written. No cheating
4. Tag 7 authors
5. Let them know

Here’s 77-7-7 from Riding the Dam

     The packages of new underwear were always opened the fastest. I never understood why we each, including Dad, got a fresh package of underwear each Christmas. Underwear, as I saw it, wasn’t really a gift. Maybe a gift for Mom; I am sure she took pleasure knowing we were all walking around in clean underwear should the “unthinkable” happen. (The “unthinkable” always involved an ambulance ride with our underwear being exposed for all of humanity to see.)

Tag – you’re next 🙂

KT Crowley – she hosted the first critique I ever participated in on her blog and she is always so encouraging

Ruth Lauren Steven – so very generous with her time

Cassandra Marshall – wonderful editor

Brenda Drake – she hosts some really cool contests

Krista Van Dolzer – she’s taking a break from blogging to care for a very sweet new baby

Jennifer Eaton – you’ll enjoy her rants

Jennifer Lowery – she recently signed a contract with Lyrical Press. Congratulations!

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A sure remedy for a complaining heart

Some days when things don’t quite go my way…say for example,

someone says something I don’t appreciate, or worse

I say something I regret, or

my plans don’t turn out like I had hoped, or

others don’t do what I want, or

I experience some sort of disappointment, or

I feel the need to complain about something,

ANYTHING

I try to remember this –

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UH943Az_lPQ

And I remember…

WOW!

….and that I am blessed beyond measure.

You can read the story of this father and son here http://www.inspirationpeak.com/shortstories/fatherandson.html

Recipes, Uncategorized

Super Yummy, Super Easy Pork Loin

If you like pork, you’ll love this super easy recipe for cooking a pork loin in the slow cooker. Enjoy!

SLOW COOKER PORK LOIN & RICE

Ingredients:

2-3 lbs pork loin

3 tablespoons of flour

salt & pepper

2 tablespoons of olive oil

1/4 cup Dijon mustard

two large sprigs of rosemary

2 packages of Uncle Ben’s Chicken flavored, 90 second mircrowave rice

Sprinkle all sides of the pork loin with salt, pepper, and flour.  Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet. Place the pork in the skillet and brown on all sides. After it cools to the touch, spread the Dijon mustard over the entire pork (sides and ends). Place the pork in a slow cooker and top with the rosemary sprigs.

The cooking time really depends on the size of the pork loin. I suggest cooking it for 4  hours on high, then turn the cooker on low and cook it for 2 more hours. Depending on the amount of fat on the pork loin, you may need to add some liquid, such as 1/4 cup of chicken stock. Check it after a couple of hours and see if you need to add any stock. If there is a lot of fat in your pork, you may need to pour out some of the fat liquid as it is cooking.

Cook the 2 packages of rice according to the instructions and then pour in the slowcooker, around the pork. EVERYONE will love this meal!

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Riding the Dam – Pitch and First 150 Words (genre, middle grade)

Title:  Riding the Dam                                                                                                 Genre:  Middle Grade                                                                                                   Word Count: 40,000

Pitch: 1952 San Angelo is a boy’s paradise providing ten-year-old Allan with endless adventure. When his mother becomes ill, Allan discovers it’s not excitement he longs for, but the comfort of family and gift of friendship.

I’d been waiting for this day for three solid years. Today, Raymond and me were going to ride the dam. This was not just any dam, but the biggest dam in the world. If it was in Texas, it had to be the biggest.

We both had bicycles, but I had decided early on that it was a lot of work to pedal around looking for adventure, so I convinced Raymond to let me ride on his handlebars while he did the pedaling. I told him riding this way allowed for easier conversation.

This arrangement came with some risks. Kids were known to get their toes cut off in the spokes of a bike riding like this, so I learned to wrap my toes around the front axle like an eagle wrapped his talons around a branch during a windstorm and hold on for dear life.

Thanks for hopping by! Please share your comments.

And thanks, Brenda, for hosting the bloghop! Those interested should check out, http://brenleedrake.blogspot.com/

Lessons Learned, Uncategorized

New Year’s Resolutions You Shouldn’t Make

I’ve really been enjoying my Christmas holidays and break. Lounging around the house in my pajamas until 10:30 each day, has allowed me to ponder the resolutions I plan to make this year. I’ve not been able to narrow the list down to a good three or four, but I have weeded out several resolutions I will NOT make. I thought this list might be helpful for you as well.

UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES RESOLVE TO:

Let the neighbor kid convince your kid to shoot them as target practice with their new airsoft gun they just got for Christmas.  It doesn’t hurt, really!

Clean out the pet guinea pig cage…with the guinea pig still in it….with two hungry dogs looking on…without making plans to purchase a new pet guinea pig.

Stop sneaking in your sister’s medicine cabinet to “borrow” the drugs left over from her surgery.

Discover the only pair of slacks you can fit into are dirty and you’re out of laundry detergent so you wash them in the dishwasher.  Just wear a skirt with elastic.

Let your teenage nephew choose the movie for Family Movie Night.  Note: Unrated means really bad.

Allow your daughter to show every family member how to get on Facebook. (That’s not exactly what you meant by having more “family time”.)

Promise friends and relatives Next year I’ll send out Christmas cards. You didn’t keep that promise this year.

Allow your husband to save a few bucks on Universal tickets by buying “discount” tickets from a girl, named Svetlana, at the Orlando Walgreens.

Say you’re going to get in shape by having “Two a days” just like the high school football team.  And have your son ask each and every day, “How are those two a days going for ya?”

Agree to get the Words with Friends  app when asked by a very competitive friend. It’s possible your behavior could make Alec Baldwin blush.

Use chocolate cupcakes to bribe a group of your son’s friends to read and give positive feedback on an excerpt of the book you’re writing. Gushers work much better and take less time.

Get more Omega 3 in your diet by eating Swedish Fish.

Feel free to share the resolutions you plan to not make.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Recipes, Uncategorized

Christmas Carols and Two Chilis

We just got back from a weekend trip which allowed us some quality family driving time. I didn’t mind much because it gave us 6 hours (each way) of  uninterrupted radio Christmas music.

Is it me, or are there more sad songs this year? Sure, there’s Christmas Shoes.(Last year, it was touching, but this year, it’s just annoying.  I’m sorry, but why can’t the sales person just buy the shoes for the kid?)

Then there’s All I Really Want for Christmas, which is about a kid who wants to be adopted. And there’s The Heart of Christmas, which was inspired by a true story about a family who wanted their son to experience one more Christmas before he died. They’re killing me!  Now I have to have tissue handy when I’m listening to the radio. What ever happened to Holly Jolly Christmas?

The trip also brought out some healthy competition between my husband and me. The challenge was to see who could come up with the correct artist we heard singing. I beat him with the Perry Como’s Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.  I had an advantage here. I can still remember watching the Andy Williams and Perry Como Christmas specials on TV as a kid (a very young kid).

We had a draw on The Christmas Song (aka Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire Song). For some reason I thought it was Johnny Mathis and my husband claimed Harry Belafonte. Harry Belafonte? Paleeze!

We were both wrong – it was Nat King Cole. Of course! I can’t believe I blew that one!

These songs brought back some really great memories. I can clearly remember hearing these crooners playing on my grandpa’s stereo which took up almost one entire wall in my grandparent’s house. Bing, The Ray Conniff Singers, Dean Martin…man, I’m old.

My kids heard Gene Autry singing Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer and said he was singing it wrong. If they only knew…

Tell me your favorite Christmas song and have a yourself a merry little Christmas!

I promised two chili recipes and here they are. They can both be cooked in the slow cooker for two-three hours or in the dutch oven on top of the stove. Both of these chili recipes can be used to make Frito Pie. https://momslifeponderings.wordpress.com/2011/12/08/pet-peeves-and-frito-pie/

Ground Chuck Chili

Ingredients:

1 ½ pounds of ground chuck

1 small onion, diced

½ cup green bell pepper, diced

1 can of diced fire roasted tomatoes

1 can of red kidney beans

1 teaspoon of cumin

1 teaspoon of chili powder

1 package of chili seasoning

1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes

1 cup of beef broth (give or take depending on amount of liquid desired)

Salt and pepper to taste

Brown the ground chuck with the onion and green pepper. Add the cumin, chili powder, salt, pepper, package of chili seasoning, and ¼ cup of the beef broth. Simmer for about five minutes. Add the remaining broth and other ingredients. Transfer the chili to a slow cooker and cook for two to three hours on low or continue to simmer in a dutch oven on top of the stove for 30-40 minutes. Serve  with grated cheese on top.

Super Simple Chicken Chili

2 cups of rotisserie chicken, diced

1 small onion, diced

½ cup green bell pepper, diced

1 can of diced fire roasted tomatoes

1 can of red kidney beans

1 can of navy beans

1 can of corn (optional)

1 teaspoon of cumin

1 teaspoon of chili powder

1 package of chicken chili seasoning

1 cup of chicken broth (give or take depending on amount of liquid desired)

Salt and pepper to taste

Sauté the onion and green bell pepper in a little butter until soft. Add all ingredients in a slow cooker and cook on high for two-three hours.  Check after an hour, and if bubbling, turn it down to low.

Recipes, Uncategorized

Barely Homemade

If you’ve been with me  since the beginning and read my first post, https://momslifeponderings.wordpress.com/2011/08/04/a-year-of-change-taking-risks-and-eating-triple-chocolate-cupcakes/  you know I have a bit of a fascination (read obsession) with the Food Network, which borders on dysfunction. Thankfully, after some therapy, my attraction has come into the normal range.

Another thing that helped, was watching all the crying on that channel. If I want a good cry from TV, I’ll watch Love Story or Steel Magnolias. I don’t want to cry while watching Cupcake Wars and Chopped. Even my favorite chef, Robert Irvine, got teary after being told he would not be the Next Iron Chef. It’s just too sad.

But even with that said, I’d love to pitch my idea for the show,                      Barely Homemade.

It’s just like Sandra Lee’s Semi-Homemade, only there’s no matching tablecloths and curtains, no fruity cocktails, and not cute blonde host.

Here are a couple of barely homemade recipes for the show that will never be. They are great when you have a big appetite, but not a lot of time. Enjoy!

Chicken and Sausage Gumbo

Ingredients:

Kielbasa (or some sort of smoked) sausage (sliced), ¼ cup diced onion, 1 package of Bear Creek Gumbo Soup Mix (another brand may work as well, but this is the one I use), 1 cup of chopped rotisserie chicken, 1 package of frozen okra, and 1 bay leaf.

Pour a little olive oil in a pan and sauté the sausage and onion. In a dutch oven, bring 8 cups of water to boil. Whisk in the soup mix and add the sausage, onion, okra, chicken, and bay leaf. Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer on low for 30 minutes. Remove the bay leaf before serving.

(Note: the longer it cooks, the thicker it gets. If it gets too thick, add some chicken stock. If you have some bell pepper, chop it up and sauté it with the sausage and onion. There is not enough rice in the soup mix for my liking, so I cook more rice and pour the gumbo over it.)

Caramel Cake

Cake Ingredients:

1 white cake mix, 1 cup of whole milk or cream, 1 stick of butter (melted), 3 large eggs, and 2 teaspoons of vanilla.

Mix all of the above ingredients well and pour into 2 greased and floured round cake pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes.

Frosting Ingredients:

1 stick of butter (melted), ½ cup of light brown sugar, ½ cup of dark brown sugar, ¼ cup of whole milk or cream, 1 teaspoon of vanilla, and 2 cups of confectioner’s sugar.

Melt the butter in a pan then add the other ingredients, except the confectioner’s sugar. Mix well. Remove from heat and add in the confectioner’s sugar. Frost the cooled cake. (This makes a yummy and beautiful cake).

Leave a comment and share your barely homemade recipes!

Recipes, Uncategorized

Good-bye boring pumpkin pie, Hello Pumpkin Cheesecake!

My absolute favorite part of the Thanksgiving meal is cornbread dressing and this Food Network Almost Famous Cheesecake. (I don’t know why they call it almost famous, because in my house it is famous!)

Almost Famous Pumpkin Cheesecake Courtesy FoodNetwork

Make it early and eat it on Tuesday or Wednesday so you can enjoy it before you are stuffed.  (As an added bonus, it will help stretch your stomach before the big day.)

Whip up some heavy cream to go with it. (At this point, what’s a few more calories?)

Ingredients:

Crust:  12 tablespoons unsalted butter (melted) and 2 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs

Filling: 2 3/4 cups sugar, salt, 2 pounds cream cheese at room temperature, 1/4 cup sour cream, 1 15-ounce can pure pumpkin, 6 large eggs, at room temperature (lightly beaten), 1 tablespoon vanilla extract, 2 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, 1 teaspoon ground ginger,  and 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

Directions:

Brush a 10-inch springform pan with some of the butter. Stir together the remaining butter with the crumbs, 1/4 cup of the sugar and a pinch of salt in a bowl. Press the crumb mixture into the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Bake at 325 degrees until golden brown, about 15 to 20 minutes.

Beat the cream cheese with a mixer until smooth. Add the remaining 2 1/2 cups of sugar and beat until smooth. Beat in the sour cream, then add the pumpkin, eggs, vanilla, 1 teaspoon salt and the spices and beat until just combined. Pour into the cooled crust.

You will need to use a water bath to evenly cook the cheesecake. Wrap the bottom and side of the pan in foil so that nothing can seep through. Place the  pan in a large roasting pan and then pour enough hot water so that it comes up about halfway on the springform pan. For a more detailed description of this technique, see http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/food-network-kitchens/almost-famous-pumpkin-cheesecake-recipe2/index.html

Bake about 1 hour and 45 minutes or until the outside of the cheesecake sets but the center is still loose. Turn off the oven and open the door for a couple of minutes to let out some heat. Leave the cheesecake in the oven for 1 more hour, then take it out of the oven and remove it from the roasting pan.  Run a knife around the edges. Cover and refrigerate the cake at least 8 hours or overnight.

In the words on my son, It’s so good it will make you want to slap a pilgrim.

I’m guessing that you’ll love it so much,  you’ll make it again for Christmas.

Happy Thanksgiving!