Potato Soup

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This is a perfect dish for cold winter nights. Soothing and flavorful, pair it with your favorite book in front of a cozy fireplace and you’re in for a delightful evening.

As with all my recipes, feel free to play with it and make it your own. Details and pic below. Enjoy!

Until next time . . . just love, Collette

potato-soup

Ingredients:

  • 5-6 medium red potatoes
  • 1 medium sweet yellow onion
  • extra virgin olive oil (approximately 2 tablespoons)
  • 1/2 teaspoon Tony Chachere’s or salt & pepper to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion salt
  • 13 ounces chicken broth
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried sweet basil
  • 1/3 cup instant potato flakes (baby reds) – you can add more to create the consistency you desire
  • 1 pint 1/2 & 1/2
  • toppings: chopped green onions, grated Cheddar cheese, crumbled bacon

Recipe:

Peel and dice potatoes into small cubes. Slice onion and sauté in olive oil until soft. Add the diced potatoes and cook until potatoes are almost tender (about 5-7 minutes). Season with onion salt, Tony’s (or salt and pepper). Add chicken broth and sweet basil. Simmer covered until potatoes are tender. Mash the potatoes as you like and add the instant flakes. Stir well until blended. Add the 1/2 & 1/2 and heat over low heat until hot. Do not boil.

Garnish each bowl with toppings and serve. Enjoy!

Organization 101

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It’s that time of the year. Out with the old, in with the new. 

To be honest, I started on the path of clearing out and reorganizing in late 2016, but I still have a few things left on my to-do list. The feeling of starting over fresh with a clean space and a new set of goals is, well, refreshing and something I’ve wanted to do for a while. Starting was the hardest part. Knowing what I wanted to accomplish was only part one. I had to outline a plan with an end goal in mind.

One of my big areas was creating not only a space, but defined goals I wanted to achieve with my writing. I don’t know about you but I’m a big fan of organizational tools. Calendars, planners, storage boxes. All of these things make me happy. Of course, I’d also like to say that I use them to their full advantage, making my life easier and more productive, but I’d be lying. Don’t get me wrong. I have a calendar above my desk that I use regularly. It keeps me on track with appointments, school/extracurricular activities for my child and this blog schedule. However, I felt like my writing and goal-setting could use revamping.

I did some searching and came across this planner and fell in love! It’s portable, customizable and and just too cute. I started using it about two weeks ago and I’m already experiencing the benefits. I’ve used it to map out plot points, flesh out characters and set daily/weekly/monthly word goals. It’s great!

This designer also has one geared for meal prep and kitchen planning, which I plan on purchasing soon.

Decluttering is another hot topic for me right now. I’ve been cleaning out my house, room by room, and find that so freeing. Now, I’m not saying that I’ve gone full force with the KonMari Method, but I have refocused my way of thinking, keeping only what is necessary and truly important. It’s amazing what an impact a clean, organized closet can have on your life!

With only one room to go and my goals in place, I’m ready to take on 2017. Have any of you made changes this year? Please share your tips and tricks below. I’d love to hear about them.

Until next time . . . just love, Collette

 

Shrimp and Avocado Salad

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Sunday Fun Day!

Today I thought I’d share one of my favorite quick and light recipes that just happens to contain one of my favorite ingredients – avocado. Healthy, versatile and good for you. I use sliced avocado in my wraps daily that I bring to work for lunch. And please, don’t get me started on guacamole!

The salad itself consists of three ingredients: shrimp, avocado and red onion. Add the delicious and simple dressing I include below and you’ve got a tasty and healthful salad.

Light doesn’t have to mean bland. I promise you’ll love this one. Give it a try.

Enjoy! Until next time . . . just love, Collette

shrimp-avocado-salad

Recipe:

  • 1 pound cooked shrimp, peeled and deveined (I saute mine in a pan with a little extra virgin olive oil and Tony Chachere’s seasoning. Boiled or steamed shrimp can be used, if you prefer.)
  • 1 avocado, cut into bite-size chunks
  • 1 tablespoon diced red onion
  • Dressing:
    • 1/8 cup extra virgin olive oil
    • 1/8 cup red wine vinegar
    • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
    • 1/2 teaspoon parsley, chopped
    • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
    • Tony Chachere’s seasoning or salt and pepper to taste
  • Once you’ve cooked the shrimp, toss with the avocado and red onion in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the ingredients for the dressing then add to the shrimp mixture. Toss together and enjoy!

Write. Rewrite. Repeat.

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Hi Lovelies! Hope that wherever you are, you’re enjoying your writing.

I thought it was time to give you all an agent update. No, I don’t have news to share, just a tally of my querying so far.

  • 11 agents queried
  • 1 partial request (ultimately a rejection)
  • 3 rejections
  • 8 no response

And so it goes. I’ll keep plugging away while starting on something new. Onward and upward.

My current WIP is a YA Paranormal. It’s quite different from my previous story, which is a MG Fantasy, but I’m enjoying it. YA is my preferred age range to write in; fantasy and magical realism are my preferred genres.

In my last post I talked about outlining. It’s a structure I’m learning my way around, but I can see the benefits. Having a guideline with the different plot points along the way is proving to be more useful than I expected. It’s like having small goals to work toward with each chapter – each scene – and baby steps tend to work well with me. Who knew?

Now, I’m not saying I’ve completely abandoned letting the writing muse take me wherever she wishes, but I think giving her a hint of what I want to accomplish is not such a bad idea. And I also find having a map for my story helps with writers block, something I’ve experienced more than once and know that no writer likes.

With that thought in mind and being new to blogging, I’ve been checking out other bloggers and their posts and found several I like. I’ve included a link from one blogger I recently discovered with her post about how to handle writers block. Check it out and let me know your thoughts.

May your words and ideas flow freely! Until next time . . . just love, Collette

Dark Chocolate Bark

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Happy Friday everyone!

Today I thought I’d satisfy my chocolate craving with a super easy dark chocolate bark recipe.

As with most recipes, I encourage you to play with it and make it your own. Add dried fruit, peppermint candy pieces, sprinkle with cinnamon – whatever!

I prefer the basic bark with nuts. In this batch I used almonds, but I’ve also made it with pecans.

Recipe and pic follow.

Enjoy! Until next time . . . just love, Collette

img_3446

Recipe:

  • 1 pound dark chocolate (60-70% cacao)
  • 1 and 1/2 cups roasted whole almonds
  1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Using a knife, finely chop the chocolate. In a bowl set over a saucepan of gently simmering water, heat the chopped chocolate, stirring occasionally, until it is almost melted. Do not let the bowl touch the water. Remove the bowl from the saucepan and stir the chocolate until it is completely melted and the temperature registers 90 degrees on a candy thermometer. If the chocolate has not melted completely and is still too cool, set it over the saucepan for 1-2 minutes longer, stirring constantly. Do not overheat.
  2. Stir the almonds into the chocolate and spread onto the prepared baking sheet in a 1/2 inch thick layer, making sure the nuts are completely covered in chocolate. Refrigerate the bark for about 10 minutes, until hardened. It can refrigerate longer if necessary. Invert the bark onto a work surface. Remove the parchment paper, break into pieces and store or serve. *The broken bark can be stored in an airtight bag or container at cool room temperature for up to 10 days.*

 

Write Like You Mean It

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Hi guys and Happy Friday! Today I thought I’d share some helpful articles for wherever you may be along your writing journey. They offer advice, encouragement and tips on how to better yourself as a writer.

Writing is a personal endeavor, but it’s almost meant to be shared. You have a story to tell so take the time and energy to make it your best. After all, when you pick up a book to read you’re not looking for some ho-hum story to put you to sleep. You’re searching for that world where you can get lost, forget what’s going on around you and feel like the characters you meet are your new best friends.

One of the most important things writers do is read. Read books in the genre you’re writing, read outside your normal choices, read things that will surprise you, scare you, comfort you, teach you, just read. Last year one of my favorite books I read was Stephen King’s On Writing. I know I’m a little late on checking this one out, but better late than never, right? It’s part memoir, part lessons on craft and full of excellent advice and stories. If you haven’t read it yet, be sure you do.

I also attended an online writing webinar recently that was about getting your novel idea onto paper and working through that long middle. A big chunk was about outlining and various structures for that. Of course, outlining isn’t for everyone. You’ve heard the debate – plotter vs. pantser. There are writers who can go on for hours arguing the virtues of each. Honestly, I think most of us fall somewhere in the middle. I myself lean more toward being a pantser, which is why I took this class. Outlining can be helpful and it’s something that can give you a clearer vision of where your story is going. A structure, a guideline, the skeleton of your book, if you will. It can help when you get lost in that huge middle section of your story and feel like you’re drowning in a sea of words that don’t mean anything.

The first article below is about carving out time for your writing. We are all juggling different things and multi-tasking has become a way of life, but committing to taking time out of every day to write is important. And writing doesn’t always mean drafting. This is a thought process I’m trying to get rid of. I’ve always believed my writing time = drafting in my WIP. Not true! Any writing is good and a part of the creative process – outline, make notes, do character summaries, write a blog, take a walk and daydream, etc. All of these things help stimulate your mind and your writing. If you’re at a part in your novel where you’re just not sure how you want the next chapter to unfold, step away. Let it rest. Work on something else. I promise when you come back to it you’ll have a fresh pair of eyes and things will start rolling again. Trust me, give it a try!

Now for those articles:

http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/there-are-no-rules/make-more-time-for-your-writing

http://www.writersdigest.com/online-editor/7-steps-to-creating-a-flexible-outline-for-any-story

http://www.writersdigest.com/online-editor/the-5-essential-story-ingredients

Please let me know below how you liked these. Until next time . . . just love, Collette

 

Foodie Friday

TGIF – am I right?

For my first Foodie Friday installment I thought I’d make one of my favorite pizza dishes, which is my homemade version of the pear & gorgonzola pizza served at California Pizza Kitchen. It’s easy and delicious!

For this pie I used a Bartlett pear to give it an extra sweetness, but Bosc pears are usually best for baking due to their firmness. Feel free to experiment with it. Add and subtract things as you like to make it your own.

I also used a sweet Vidalia onion and my favorite part – spring mix with Ranch dressing and crumbled gorgonzola. Yum! This topping is the best part, in my opinion.

Recipe and pic below. Until next time . . . just love, Collette.

img_3439

Recipe:

  • Frozen pizza dough (or if you’re feeling more adventurous, make your own)
  • 1/2 large Vidalia onion sliced
  • 1 Bartlett pear sliced thin
  • Spring mix lettuce
  • Ranch dressing (enough to toss with greens)
  • Crumbled Gorgonzola cheese (approximately 6 ounces)
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Dried oregano

Lightly brush oil across dough and sprinkle oregano around the edges. Top with pear and onion slices and sprinkle with Gorgonzola. Bake according to package instructions.

Toss Spring mix in a bowl with Ranch dressing and remaining cheese. Place the Spring mix on top of the cooked pizza and enjoy!

 

Writing Wednesday

Hi guys! Welcome to the first installment of Writing Wednesday. Hope everyone is enjoying their week.

I’d like to use this space to share thoughts, experiences, notes, etc. of my writing journey.  Reading about other people’s journeys and how they got from Point A to Point B, with all the cool little places in between, is interesting to me. Hopefully, I’ll be able to share some helpful tidbits along the way and we can all move a little farther down the road to publication.

As with most writers I started writing quite some time ago, here and there, as time and creativity permitted. I’ve dabbled in screenwriting, novel writing and picture book writing (sans the illustrations), but novel writing is where my heart lies. After completing four books – all rough drafts – I circled back to my first and polished it. Then I polished it some more. Once I hit that moment of “I’m done!” I enrolled in a couple of workshops and made more revisions until I felt I’d fleshed out the story and made it the best it could be. Whew! Cue the applause ha ha! Truth is, there was still more work to be done – research. After all the next step was to start querying agents, but preparation is needed for such an endeavor and I was ready to dig in.

Step One: I had to compile a list of agents who represent what I’d written. Writers Market is an excellent resource for such a task. I recommend it to every writer whether you’re actively seeking publication, writing resources or a community in which to connect, this is a great place to begin. Once I made my wish list, I narrowed it down to newer agents actively taking on new clients. This is a great place to start since these agents are looking to build their lists. Another recommendation is to send out 5-10 queries and see how the response goes before sending any more. This way you can determine how well your query is working. Are you getting any requests for partials or full manuscripts or are you getting rejection after rejection or worse, crickets. I understand agents are very busy and receive hundreds of queries every week, but no response is the hardest one to take. At least for me.

Step Two: I wrote my query and rewrote it, revised it, trashed it, started over, took a breath, read articles on successful queries and finally, finished it. But wait, there’s more . . . a SYNOPSIS! OMG how could I forget this fun little writing exercise? How writing an ENTIRE NOVEL seems less daunting than a 1-2 page synopsis is beyond me, but it’s so true. Compressing a whole book into 2 pages, double-spaced, is like squeezing a size 10 foot into a size 5 shoe – painful! However, many agents ask for this little gem so it’s best to have it at the ready when you begin sending out queries. And by all means, hit the high points, share the beginning, middle AND ending, don’t go overboard with detail but let your writing style shine through and as with everything else when writing, hook them with the opening. Easy, right?

Today I thought I’d share a snippet of the opening chapter of my current MG novel that’s making the querying rounds with agents. I’ve submitted to only a few to gauge how my query is working and whether I need to tweak it. Out of five agents queried, I’ve had one request for the first three chapters.

Stay tuned for postings on how it goes. Good luck to everyone wherever you are in your writing journey. Until next time . . . just love, Collette

The water rippled and shivered as the hole expanded. Tiny waves churned and spread across the surface in perfect form. The air stilled, heavy with determination and promise.

The scent of wilderberries filtered through the air. A deep, spicy aroma with a hint of flowers snaking through it. It was both warm and invigorating. And dangerous. One taste could render a person motionless.

The red-haired beauty smiled as she waved her hand over the growing puddle of water, “Drag and pull. Will her near. The one you seek is already here.”

The water tossed and turned like a mad sea, its fury growing with each passing minute. Soon she would arrive. The Eye and all.

***

 Maggie leaned on the glass window pane and watched the last droplets of water roll away and drip to the ground below. She hated the sun for showing its superiority and chasing the rain away. The storm mimicked her mood and it gave her comfort knowing something else felt as angry as she did, even if it didn’t last. She took a deep breath and released letting the fire inside her escape. None of this was Gram’s fault and she wouldn’t hold it against her.

She stared at the large expanse of land sprawled out in front of her grandmother’s house. Tiny rooftops of farmhouses reared their heads in the distance. The outlines of weather vanes stretched above them and waved at Maggie as she tapped her head against the glass. Bored.

She held up her phone and stared at its darkness. It, too, was as empty as her. Summoning the tiniest bit of hope she tapped the surface, scrolled to her messages and watched for any sign of a signal. Even one bar might work. Her eyes bore into the phone as if they could will life into it. Nothing. Heat filled her fingertips curling them under into a small fist. She banged the lifeless rectangle she clinched in her hand and walked away from the window and the empty countryside that mocked her.

Maggie had a cell phone habit that would rival anyone’s. If she wasn’t texting, she wasn’t breathing. Simple as that. Her phone was her lifeline. The tiny metal instrument wrapped in a black case with a purple star splayed across the back was her whole world and she had been cut off. Stranded out here in Nowhereville, as she liked to call it. A tiny speck of a town officially named Stillwater. Appropriate enough considering the air was thick and heavy and nothing ever seemed to move. The heat was brutal. The humidity, suffocating. It was like wading through a warm jar of Vaseline – sticky and thick and not at all pleasant.

Exasperated, she plopped on the bed and slammed the phone down beside her. She was hundreds of miles from home, cut off from her friends and any semblance of a life. Two weeks stretched in front of her with absolutely nothing to do. By the time she returned it would take forever for her to catch up on all she missed.

Her heart ached and a flicker of a fire burned inside her. The unfairness of it all weighed down on her crushing her chest into the mattress beneath her. She could disappear and no one would notice.

Feel free to share comments or questions below.