Monthly Archives: October 2009

Recipe of the Week – Caramel Dip

I am spending the week trying to get a book in my head (NaNo starts Sunday) and trying to get the crud out of my sinuses. Still, when my neighbor brought over a huge bag of apples the other day, I had one thought: caramel.  I love caramel-dipped apples, and adore caramel on ice cream, so I thought I would share a little dip I made up last night.

Ingredients:
1/2 stick salted butter
2 cups brown sugar
1 can sweetened condensed milk

In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium-high heat. Add sugar and stir until moistened by butter. Add milk slowly by thirds, stirring after each addition. Allow to boil for 15 minutes, adjusting heat accordingly and stirring frequently so it does not burn.

Now this step is vital – allow to cool for 1/2 hour. Otherwise your first bite might lead you to the ER. This stuff is hot when it comes out of the pan.

Can be used to dip fruit, put over ice cream, as a cake or pie topping – anywhere you’d use caramel!

I brought a little bit to work with me today, and will heat it for about 30 seconds in the microwave before dipping my apple. Yummy!!

 

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Long Absence

Sorry for being invisible around here for so long – thanks to one heckuva virus, I’ve been sidelined since last Tuesday. The antibiotics are kicking in, though, and I’m climbing my way back out of the hole.

In even better medical news, the husband’s doctor said the magic words – complete remission. There is no trace of the cancer in the hub’s blood work. This is great news! The bad news is to keep him in remission, he still requires chemo, but we can do it at home with a pill. Bonus!

He will still need a stem cell transplant to get off the chemo, but we can take our time, get him back to work for a bit, and get him to build up his strength.

Yep – we’re getting healthier all around!

Any bets as to whether my next post includes the letters H1N1? God forbid!

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The “Rules”

Years ago when I completed my first “professional” novel, I anxiously scoured the internet to find out how to get it published. I got a lot of advice, from split it into two books to put it on scented paper to get an editor’s attention. Seven years on, I have learned a lot, not the least of which was most of that early advice was wrong. Not just wrong, but ommigodhowcanpeoplebesonaive-wrong.

So today I’m going to start a series that will explore some of the myths out there that new authors fall for – and rightly so, since the source of the “advice” is generally someone who seems to be a seasoned pro. Which I’m not. However, I have learned a few things the hard way, and am willing to share.

First off, let’s talk about manuscript formatting. Oh man, are there a million ideas out there on this one! I was told that if my margins were not just so, if my itaclics were not underlined, and if my mauscript was not at EXACTLY 25 pt, it would never sell. Yeah, whatever. As a general rule, I like to write double-spaced with one-inch margines and in Courier Dark. However, if your manuscript is in Times New Roman, and your italics are underlined, if it’s a good story, it will still sell. The key here is to do your research. For example, Samhain wanted TNR, so I changed the font on my manuscript before I sent it in. If the agent/editor you want to submit to wants it in a specific font or with specific characteristics, follow their rules. It proves you can read and follow directions. However, if they do not specify specifically what they want, basic proffessional formatting is perfectly acceptable, italics and all.  Don’t put it on colored paper, don’t put it on scented paper, and don’t get cutesey. Those are the things that will get your manuscript shoved into the slush pile faster than you can say “I’m the next J.K. Rowling.”

Then there’s the whole, “You have to have an agent before you can sell” myth. While it helps to have an agent first, and sometimes advisable, I am living proof you can sell without one. In fact, I would say there are certain times that selling a book prior to being agented is a good idea, and I believe my situation is one of them. There’s a variation on this one that goes, “You have to enter contests/attend conferences to get a book deal.”  Not that I am anti-contest, by any means, but contest wins, with a few notable exceptions, mean very little to most agents and editors. That doesn’t mean you don’t gather valuable information from feedback recieved from contests, and if you’re into it, go for it! However, don’t feel it’s a requirement. As for conferences, I highly recommend them. You get to know other writers, agents, editors, and even readers in a face-to-face situation. You can make yourself memorable this way – in good ways and in bad, so remember to be a professional. Have fun, but keep it business-like. (And no, do NOT pass your manuscript to an agent or editor under the bathroom stall. Bathroom time is alone time.) However, conferences are not manditory, either. I live in a part of the country where I am far away from most everything. I allow myself a conference every year or two, but life has gotten in the way and I’ve not managed it. Don’t go bankrupt getting to a conference, but do try to attend. Really. Great time and valuable eperience.

Enough lecture for today? Don’t worry, I have more coming soon.

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Recipe of the Week – Tater Tot Casserole

Notice how I started with upper-crust recipes from Let’s Dish and am heading toward more day-to-day meals? Kind of a commentary on how my life really works, I guess. I do the complicated stuff sometimes, but most of the time we have some good old standbys we go for around here. This is one of them.

If you’re from the Upper Midwest, you know this recipe already. Heck, you probably were weaned on it. As for me, it was something I never heard of until I moved here from Wyoming eons ago. Now it’s something warm and cozy I can make that the kids will eat.

Ingredients:

1 pound ground beef
1 bag frozen mixed veggies
1 can Cream of Mushroom soup
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 bag tater tots

Brown the ground beef and season as desired (I use onion and pepper). Mix in a casserole pan with the vegetables, soup, milk and cheese. Top with tater tots (I sprinkle tots with some kosher salt) and bake in a 350 dgree oven for half-hour to 45-minutes or until tots are golden brown and crispy.

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A Sign of Survival

I went out to dinner tonight. With my husband.

That may sound pretty ho-hum, and when I say we just went out and ate meatloaf and grilled chicken, it gets even more boring. But the amazing thing about it is that in the last six weeks, the only places he’s been are to doctors’ offices and therapy.

I keep wondering when I can call him a cancer survivor.  Honestly, with the prospect of a stem cell transplant barreling down on us like the proverbial freight train, we’re not there yet. But the more I think about it, I realize just how far we’ve come in the five months since he was diagnosed.  He was late in getting diagnosed. We’ve never heard the official “stage” he was in, but it was advanced enough to toast his kidneys and bones pretty effectively. So we have two major milestones out of the way: with chemotherapy, his blood work has normalized and kidneys work again; and his hip, which had been eroded terribly, was replaced six weeks ago today.

So tonight we headed to the physical therapist to start weaning him off the walker that has been his source of balance and protection since his surgery. All’s well, said the therapist, and he’ll probably be off the walker in the next week or so. Great news! So great, in fact, that the husband’s spirit returned. He was feeling great, and was ready to get out of the house for something more than poking and prodding.

Most people see a walker as a sign of weakness and illness. Yes, he’s weak and needs help, but tonight I saw that walker as a sign of survival. He’s gotten so brave fighting this bastard cancer and all that comes with it that he no longer worries what people think of his thin chemo-hair and his walker. He wants to live again. He wants to get out of his chair and get back to work and play.

So yeah, we have a long road ahead still, but we’re making our way down it pretty well so far. There will be more bumps, but somehow I think we’ll get over them. Thank God. I’m ready to live again, too.

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