THE OPEN BOOK

30
Jan

Friday Favorites

Me, doing my homework this week.

Me, doing my homework.

The first week of the semester is officially in the books! So far, I am really proud of how much I’ve stuck to my schedule and my goals. All my reading and posting was done in two days and I completed my first assignment early. The best part, though, is that I’ve been able to keep my writing promise to myself. I vowed to write everyday, even if it is only for five minutes. Though some days were super busy, I made sure I carved at least a little time to focus on writing. And I feel so good because of it. Writing is such a release, such a way to unwind. When I write, I get to clear my mind of all the worries and unfinished tasks of the day. I get to step outside of my life and just enjoy the story.

Every writer is different, but I’ve found that my favorite time to write is the early morning. It is by far the most productive time of day for me. This week, I’ve set my alarm 1.5-2 hours early and dedicated that time to either writing or homework. Which leads me to my Friday Favorites:

Organic Hazelnut Coffee Syrup

Yummmm....

Yummmm….

Waking up earlier inevitably means that I am drinking more coffee. I worked in coffee shops through high school and college, so anything in my coffee has to be good. This organic coffee syrup is sweetened with agave nectar and flavored with hazelnut. My favorite coffee flavor. Just a tablespoon of this syrup and your morning mug is transformed into an inspiration jump-starting treat (that just happens to go well with chocolate butterscotch chip cookies).

Sunrises

I’ve seen my fair share of them this week. It’s a perk of actually dragging yourself out of bed and functional before anyone should be. The sunrises I’ve witnessed have been absolutely beautiful reds and pinks against the backdrop of snow up here in the frozen north. Consequently, sunrises seem much prettier if you have already had at least one mug of hazelnut coffee.

Seriously, though, I do love this time of day. It is so quiet and peaceful. I think that’s why I’m able to get so much done. When I wake up early, it feels like I can just shut the world out for a while, like I’ve stolen a few secret hours that are mine to do whatever I want with. Whatever else happens during the day, I am grateful for those few extra hours.

The Hundred-Foot Journeymadhavabody

I finished Lost Lake on Wednesday night–stayed up way too late to do so, actually. Today, I began The Hundred-Foot Journey by Richard C. Morais. What drew me to the story was (what else?) food. The novel revolves around a young Indian teenager who grows up above his grandfather’s restaurant in Mumbai. After the family moves to France, their Indian restaurant becomes a rival of the traditional French restaurant across the street (100 feet away). The young Indian boy learns not only to bridge the gap between restaurants, but between cultures as well. The story promises a world of food culture and a good coming-of-age journey. I’m excited to begin! To set the tone for this the book, I think I’m going to make butternut squash curry and homemade naan this weekend.

Happy Friday!

What are you reading this week?

28
Jan

Chocolate Butterscotch Chip Cookies

Cookies to the rescue!
Cookies to the rescue!

 I’m all about being and eating healthy. I practice yoga six days a week and stay away from processed/artificial “foods.” However, I do not follow any strict food rules and I abhor (that’s right, abhor) diets. I just do my best to give my body the best nutrition possible through whole and organic foods. That being said, I sincerely believe that it is perfectly healthy to treat yourself to something that you just eat because it is delicious and brings you pleasure. Especially during the first week of graduate classes. Or the second. And every other day between now and the end of the semester.

Enter the best cookies I’ve ever made: chocolate butterscotch chip. These cookies were sent from heaven on a cloud of chocolate. Inspiration came to me when I was passing a vending machine this past weekend. Usually, I don’t give vending machines a second glance. That particular day, I was craving sweets. I saw the Butterfingers and had a hard time holding myself back. For the rest of the day, I kept thinking about the flavor combination–how the mysterious crunchy middle always reminded me of butterscotch–and thus the idea for chocolate butterscotch cookies was born.

I love butterscotch. I love it so much. I have wanted to bake a butterscotch-based dessert for so long. Why haven’t I? As much as I pride myself on being a great cook, I am not the best baker. Shane says it is because I substitute too much. And he is right. When I see the amount of butter and sugar on cookie recipes, I think, “Yikes! Surely, I can reduce that!” The result? Well…not cookies. Fortunately, Shane was with baking with me this time (and, for the record, he wears the baking crown in our house). When I started suggesting substitutions, he put his foot down. “These are cookies. Let them be cookies.” So, I did. And they are delicious.

We scoured the web together and found the perfect chocolate butterscotch chip cookie recipe. The only changes we made were to use organic ingredients, Earth Balance instead of butter, and replace the refined sugar with Sucanat. We also omitted the toffee chunks because Shane is not a fan. The batter came together in minutes. We rolled it into about 24 2-inch sized balls and they baked into cakey-sweet wonder cookies. I am in love.

Found on prettybooks.tumblr.com
Found on prettybooks.tumblr.com

Suggested pairing:

Curl up with a hot mug of coffee, two chocolate butterscotch cookies, and the sneak peek first chapter of Seven Stones. Make sure to leave a comment!

Cookies and books! What could be better?

Happy Wednesday!

What is your favorite cookie?

26
Jan

So It Begins

Just realized today is the first day of grad classes

Just realized today is the first day of grad classes

After a long and truly wonderful winter break from my grad classes, I’m back to the grindstone today. For those of you that do not know, I am currently in my fourth semester of my Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) degree. It is my dream to one day become a Youth Services or Reference Librarian. I am passionate about libraries. Libraries are the guardians of intellectual freedom and represent the best aspects of democracy. Seriously, where else can you go where everything is free and people just want to help you? For free. No ulterior motives, no sales gimmicks.

I love libraries.  I love books. And I’m a big nerd (my husband calls me Hermione and I love it), so I even love school. But this is the first semester I have not looked forward to starting classes. This semester is different because I’ve never launched a book before! My goal for winter break (and I think I’ve done a fairly good job keeping pace) was to work on book release stuff and write, write, write the sequel to Seven Stones (more on that in another post!). First and foremost, I wanted to get the website up and begin blogging. Thanks to my FABULOUS web designer and the wonderful folks at RiverPlace, those goals have been achieved.

However, there is still so much to be done. I have come to accept that there simply will never be enough hours in the day to write as much as I want. The hardest part of going back to school is that all the free time that I set aside for writing will now be devoted to homework and term papers. Usually, during the school semester I will maybe get one good day of writing a week. ONE. It kills me, and my writing seriously suffers. My goal for this semester: write every day. It doesn’t matter if I write for five hours or five minutes, but I want to at least practice my craft daily. It is true that writing anything helps foster creativity and motivation, so I am hoping that this blog will keep me on track and accountable in my novel writing.

Goals for the school year:

  1. Uphold my 4.0 GPA
  2. Write every day
  3. Have a successful book release (!!!)
  4. Maintain illusion of sanity

​Can all of these goals be accomplished simultaneously? Only time will tell…​

Happy Monday!

What are some of your goals for the year?

23
Jan

Friday Favorites

Most days, I have to actively make time for writing. Sometimes, life just gets in the way and despite my best efforts, no writing gets done. Those days are tough. Fortunately, this week has been good to me in a variety of ways. I’ve been able to write fairly consistently (even if it’s only a few snatched moments in a day), and I’ve been lucky enough to enjoy a few treats. Here are a few of my favorite things of the week:

Irish Breakfast Tea

When I do get time to write, it is often veeeery early in the morning. And I’m not quite human yet. The first thing I do when I wake up is make a BIG pot of strong Irish Breakfast tea. Never had Irish breakfast tea before? Think of English Breakfast tea, only with a kick. It is not for the faint of heart, my friends, and it has been the fuel for many a writing splurge. Tea is one of my daily joys. A cup of tea can perk me up, help me unwind, inspire me, be a decadent treat, or a healing medicine. I don’t feel fully human until I have that first mug in the morning (yes, mug. Delicate china cups are beautiful, but let’s face it. They just aren’t big enough).

I started drinking tea when I was about ten years old. I read the Hobbit and became completely obsessed with all things English. What better way to become a hobbit than by adding afternoon tea to your list of meals? Honestly, I didn’t like tea much at first, but I kept trying different varieties and found some I loved. My tastes have definitely matured since that first cup, and I’ve learned quite a bit about brewing the perfect cup.

So, to begin our Friday morning, let’s brew the perfect cup of Irish Breakfast Tea. For black tea, you want to get the water nice and hot. I’m talking a full rolling boil. Immediately pour the boiling water into a mug with 1-1.5 tsp. of leaves (I’ve been known to use 2 full tsp. of tea leaves. Yeah, I live on the edge).  Steep 2-3 minutes (3-5 if you like it strong and sassy). I used to think tea needed to steep 20 minutes. Don’t ever do that. TADA! Your tea is ready! If you really want to be English, add some milk and drink with your pinky out. For more information on brewing, check out the Teavana website, but be warned: this site is addicting.

Homemade Cinnamon Rolls

Need something to go with your tea? This week, another one of my favorites has been homemade cinnamon rolls. What more needs to be said? Sweet, gooey cinnamon rolls with maple cream cheese frosting are the perfect accompaniment to a nice cup of tea. This apple dumpling cinnamon roll recipe is my favorite. I substitute organic virgin coconut oil and Sucanat in place of refined sugars and oils, and the result is absolutely amazingly delicious! I’ve made this recipe countless times, and have used a variety of substitutions and add-ins (pumpkin cinnamon rolls, anyone?). This time, I left the apples out and just had traditional cinnamon roll goodness. What could be better inspiration than that?

Now that you have a perfectly brewed cup of tea and a warm cinnamon roll, you are ready to curl up with your favorite book!

My favorite book of the week: Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen. I love this author. Her stories are sweet, meaningful, and always have more than a little magic sprinkled into them. Allen is a beautiful writer who can transform the simplest of plots and characters into spellbinding stories of heartache, identity, and love. I’m about half-way through the novel, and here is my favorite quote so far:

“After you finish a book, the story still goes on in your mind. You can never change the beginning. But you can always change the end.”

Happy Friday!

What are you reading this week?

21
Jan

My First Post!

On the scene with Catherine Silver!

On the scene with Catherine Silver!

This is my first blog post EVER. Can you feel the excitement? Well, then, get ready for some more: it is officially two months until the release of my debut novel, Seven Stones!!!! If you are reading this, thank you so much for checking out my website. Though you cannot purchase the book quite yet, I will announce as soon as we begin taking preorders! Feel free to look about and contact me–I’d love to hear from you.

This blog will be a place where I post updates about the book, upcoming events, book giveaways, and daily tidbits into my writing life. I’ll also be sharing the occasional recipe and yoga poses. I absolutely LOVE food, and try to find healthy, tasty recipes to make for my husband and I. Yoga is another big passion of mine. It helps center and calm me when I feel like I can’t focus. I find that getting creative in the kitchen and on the mat helps foster creativity in writing. Plus, then I have a tasty snack to eat while writing, so it is a win-win situation.

Other exciting news: I was featured in the news! Lakeland News did an In Focus story about me and my upcoming novel. For those of you living outside northern Minnesota, In Focus is a weekly news segment that features local artists. It was such a thrill and honor to be interviewed by the great Catherine Silver. Here is the link, if you’d like to view the story! Two months and counting!