Archive for the 'wanting the life you have' Category



Who Knew Egg Drop Soup was SO Easy?

I have a question for all of you. How have I loved Chinese food (or at least the Americanized version of it) for so long and not known how simple it was to make my own egg drop soup?

I love stir-fry. I mean really love it. To the tune of 3-4 times per week. It’s the simplest, cheapest way around to eat healthy. But I digress. Stir-fry is a great one-pot meal (maybe two pots if I put it over quinoa, which I usually do). But sometimes I wish I had something to go with it to round it out a bit. Eggrolls at home are too much trouble and too many calories. At a restaurant, I usually order a bowl of egg drop soup, but I never thought about what was really in the soup, thus I never thought about trying it at home.

I stumbled across a quick explanation of egg drop soup the other day and had a “duh” moment! So I gave it a try, and wow, is it a tasty, easy to make,  low calorie, low fat, meal. I like it so much I had it for breakfast the next two days. And it is easy to make one serving at a time, so I can make it fresh each time and don’t have to hassle with leftovers.

This isn’t exactly a recipe, so you just have to add the ingredients a little at a time and taste as you go!

Start with two cups of organic, lower sodium broth. I’m vegetarian, so I use vegetable broth, but most people will probably want chicken broth. Put it in a saucepan on medium-high heat.

If you have some fresh ginger, grate a little into the broth as it heats. If you don’t, no worries. Tastes fine without it.

Just before it starts to boil, add a little lower-sodium soy sauce. Be sure to use that lower sodium version. Even so, it will easy be 1/2 your daily allowance of sodium! Start with a tablspoon and add from there to taste. Then add one squirt of sriracha, the red asian chili paste. Go easy…a little goes a long way, and if you make it too spicy, you’ll have to add more broth to thin it out so that your lips won’t burn off when you eat it.

Crack an egg or two in a separate bowl and whisk to mix the yolk and white until smooth.

When the broth mixture comes to a boil, remove it from the heat. Take a large spoon and swirl it around the inside of the pot in one direction to get a good vortex going. Then quickly pick up the egg and drizzle it into the vortex going the opposite direction. Of course, none of that fanciness is really necessary, but it gives the soup a prettly little swirly appearance and keeps you from having a blob of cook egg in the middle of the pot.

Serve piping hot and enjoy!

Even with the low sodium ingredients, this soup is high in sodium, so you might not want to indulge too often. But it sure is good!

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Recipe for Life

Admittedly, I came to cooking late in life. My parents put solid meals on the table for me as a child. In college, the dorms provided 24X7 food service. My young adulthood (and much of my not-so-young adulthood) was spent in fast food drive-thru lines and popping boxes into the microwave. I was well into my forties before I finally got fed up (more appropriately “unfed” up) and tried my hand at cooking. I became enamored with the slow cooker, which I still love and use frequently, and eventually ventured out into meals requiring more skillful preparation. I’m actually a pretty good cook now. I don’t have an extensive list of dishes at which I excel, but my favorites, the ones I make often, are quite tasty.

I have learned one thing about myself in the process, though. I can’t follow a recipe to save my life. See, not having grown up cooking, I didn’t have that intuitive understanding of what flavors work together or which ingredients will overwhelm a dish if you add a tad too much. 

So, in an attempt to minimize the number of meals best served to the garbage can, I tried to follow recipes. I really, really tried.

Huh-uh. Ain’t happening.

3/4 teaspoon of salt becomes, “Oh, look. I have garlic salt. Maybe that would be good.” Or, “Ick, I don’t like celery in soup. I’ll just add twice as much onion instead.”

A little of this and a little of that. Experimentation and failure. Substitution success (sometimes).

I’ve finally given up following recipes exactly. I dutifully write them down…and then do what I please.

But none of that is really the source of my enlightenment. What I have recently come to understand is that I live like I cook. A little of this, a little of that.  Experimentation. Substitution. And occassionally I take a big investment and chunk it in the garbage can–and feel good about that.

I don’t want to be bound by measurements and timers. I love to ride horses and write and read and train dogs and be in the thick of disasters. I love spur-of-the-moment lunches with friends and dropping in on family. I love to cook and eat and enjoy a glass of good wine. Schedule-schmedule. I like to do different things on different days in no particular order. I’ll get wherever it is I’m going in my own time.

That’s my recipe for life.

Stand and Deliver

Years ago, during my lengthy stay in Purgatory (also known as corporate management) I had a boss who insisted we all stand during meetings in which an important decision needed to be made, especially if that decision would require compromise.   His premise was that people are much more motivated to solve a problem after an hour on their feet than they are after four hours (or days) sitting on their asses pontificating. 

Instead of “standing their ground,” people are more likely to “stand and deliver.”

I’m thinking we need to send someone to remove all the chairs in Congress.

What do you think?

Scent – the pathway to the subconscious

Those who study the brain have long said that scent is a powerful memory trigger. One whiff of snickerdoodle cookies baking, and we’re five years old, back at Grandma’s kitchen table.

I believe scent is also a strong creativity trigger. The right aroma can put us in a thunderstorm, a rainforest, a field of wildflowers or between linen sheets. I know a lot of people carefully create a new music playlist before the start a book, selecting tunes that create the proper mood and tone for the work. I have been known to do that, but honestly, I spend more time selecting the perfect scents.

Let me stop a moment to interject that I am NOT a salesperson for the product I’m about to endorse. I am, however, a big customer.

I use the Scentsy warmers to create scent in my workspace–you know, those little pots that warm scented wax with a low-wattage light bulb. It’s part of my writing ritual to pick out just the right scented wax, and to turn on the warmers before I sit down to create. Right now I’m working on a book set in a fictional south American country. I found the most delicious rainforest scent. It’s heavy, and green and moist, if you could attribue those adjectives to an odor. As soon as the wax warms, the jungle surrounds me, grounds me in my story.

I’ve used homey scents like apple pie for those hearth-and-home scents, linen and cotton for love scenes, peppermint when I worked on a sub-plot with a bright, active child character. The possibilities may not be quite endless, but they number in the hundreds, if not thousands. New scents are introduce each month, and I love to peruse the catalogue.

As for the more practical aspects, Scentsy warmers are less likely to start a fire in the home and more eco-friendly than candles. And as someone with a houseful of dogs and cats, they’re a necessity even on my non-writing days. I have one for the living room, one for the kitchen/dining area and one in my bedroom.

Here is my living room Scentsy (I live on a ranch in Texas, remember):

So if you’re having trouble finding the flow in you current work-in-progress, consider using scent to put your head in the “write” space.

Don’t blink!

I blinked, and somehow April became July. I feel like I’ve experienced a “time slip,” except I know I was here these last three months. I trained dogs, I wrote, I travelled.  I took a great trip to Shawnee National Forest with my horse and my friends Shirlee and Shi. I’ve continued freelance writing and picked up a new gig, freelance manscript critiquing and copyediting. But somehow I sorely neglected this blog.

So today I offer a token of apology: an awesome, simple recipe to beat the heat.

If you’re living anywhere near me this summer, you’re seeing signs like this pop up:

So here’s a way to beat the heat without blowing the diet or the healthy-eating resolution: Pineapple Sorbet.

Pineapple Sorbet

 1) Buy one 20-oz (or so) can of pineapple chunks in 100% juice (no sugar added). Pour it all into a freezer safe, preferably glass, storage container. Leave until frozen solid.

2) Take dish out of freezer and break apart with a strong table knife. Put chunks into a feed processor and blend well, stopping frequently to push the chunks which rise to the top down under the blades. The friction from the blades will heat the pineapple a little and make it a smooth consistency. Serve–and cool off!

If you like it sweeter, add a little sugar. If you like it creamier, add a little milk or coconut milk.

You can also throw in other fruits or some shredded coconut.

Ta-dah! A cool, healthy summer treat for the whole family.

The Quiet Mind

There’s no avoiding the truth: some days it’s darned hard to sit down and get started writing, even though I love what I do and (usually) love the story I’m working on. It’s hard to jump into a fantasy world with all the real-life worries vying for attention in my mind. Did I pay the electric bill? What time is that dentist appointment? Will my editor call today with news about that new contract I’ve been waiting on? The dogs are fighting. The kids are fighting. Hubby is pouting because I spend more time with my manuscript than with him.

Sometimes I think what we writers call procrastination, or even <gasp> WRITER’S BLOCK is really just an inability to hear our stories above all the other clattering and chattering going on in our minds.

Over the years I’ve tried multiple techniques to achieve the quiet mind and hear my story, all with varying degrees of success. As my tip today, I offer a few of these to you.

1) Trained Yoga or Meditation. Take some classes at the gym. Learn to do it. It helps.

2) Poor Writer’s Meditation. Buy a guided meditation recording and practice it. Usually this involves sitting still, focusing on breathing, then visualizing a scene or series of scenes as the guide talks you through it. Focusing on that one scene washes all the other junk out of your brain.

3) Even Poorer Writer’s Meditation. Record your own guided meditation. Talk yourself through sitting still, breathing evenly and deeply. Then take yourself on a trip through some calming places and into your story world. I actually did this during a rough patch a couple of years ago. My first scene afer the breathing part was on a beach. I felt the hot sand between my toes, the sun in my eyes and then on my shoulders. I turned off the beach into a tropical jungle where it was cooler and darker. I walked down a path to an ancient stone ruin with high walls. Inside those walls was my story world. As I walked on the beach and into the jungle, I consciously left outside concerns behind. Inside the ruins, I watched my story play out for a few moments (the part I’d already written). By the time I finished the meditation, I was firmly grounded in my story world, other cares were banished behind the wall, and I was ready to write.

4) Breathing exercises. At a minimum, learn to do this, and practice before every writing session. Just Google it. You’ll find pleny of instructions online.

5) Stretching exercises. Feel oh-so-good and help clear the brain. If you take a break during your writing day and feel your mind wandering before you sit down to start again, do some stretches. It gets the blood flowing. Again, many instructions online.

6) Scents. Scientists say our sense of smell has great ability to impact our brain. Light a scented candle before each writing session. Pretty soon you’ll have trained your brain that when you smell that odor, it’s time to write.

Hope that helps!

100-day challengers, how are you doing??????????????????????????????

Publishing Industry Turning Itself Inside-out

Borders announced this week it would file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. A statement from management said they did not have enough capital to continue as a viable competitor in the industry.

This doesn’t mean all the Borders stores will be closing their doors, as far as I know. But it certainly doesn’t bode well for brick-and-mortar bookstores, and that is such a shame. What if they were to fail in the restructuring attempt? Barnes and Noble would remain as the last man standing, a virtual monopoly, and how long would they last against the online sales markets?

I guess the good news is that books aren’t going the way of the dinosaurs (yet) just bookstores.

I love bookstores. I could easily lose a whole Saturday or Sunday afternoon perusing the shelves, skimming through opening chapters and backcover copy to decide which were worth purchasing and which went back on the shelf for someone else. Online outlets like Amazon.com just aren’t the same. Sure, they provide easy home access and huge selection, but I can’t run my fingers over the spine. I can’t turn to a random page and read to see if the exciting opening holds up for the rest of the story.

I can’t smell the paper and ink.

Then there’s the e-book revolution. We knew years ago it would come, and it sure has. More titles are available. Sales are skyrocketing. Last week the New York Times even started publishing an e-book bestseller list.

Authors can publish without spending tens of thousands of their dollars on a vanity press or going through the traditional publishing house system, which has been killing whole forests to make enough paper to print the tons of rejection letters they send each year. Literary agents are unnecessary middlemen when a writer can upload her book and sell it herself a major outlet like Amazon.com, right?

Maybe, maybe not. There are still plenty of kinks to work out in the business model.

But it does seem as if the whole publishing industry is turning inside-out.

What remains to be seen is, when it’s done, will the new being be a beauty, or a beast?


Available Now!

western romance novel boxed set

7 men as tough as the West. 7 women ready to Cowboy Up

Available Now!

Psychological Suspense short story with a bonus inspirational short story included

Coming Soon from Vickie Taylor

Fantasy Romance Novella

What am I reading today?

GOOD OLE BOYS - Denise Barker - Just started, but I'm intrigued so far!

Last five books read:

TEXAS GOTHIC - Rosemary Clement-Moore - Awesome! Great fun and spooktastic at the same time!

MISS PEREGRINE'S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN - Ransom Riggs - Really creative idea. Enjoyed it very much!

BOOTSCOOTIN' BLAHNIKS - D.D. Scott - Very enjoyable, fun book!

THE GOOD DAUGHTER - Diana Layne - Awesome! Get it now!

GOT YOUR NUMBER - Stephanie Bond - Fun little mystery!

What’s on my TBR List?

GOOD OLE BOYS - Denise Barker

Reader’s Guide to E-publishing

Find your next e-book here!

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