"The notion that such persons are gay of heart and carefree is curiously untrue. They lead, as a matter of fact, an existence of jumpiness and apprehension. They sit on the edge of the chair of Literature. In the house of Life they have the feeling that they have never taken off their overcoats."
- James Thurber, My Life and Hard Times

Friday, November 29, 2013

At least I didn't punt

You remember my post about making Alicia Bien's recipe for chicken and rice? I tried to follow the directions, except that I didn't have quite all the ingredients. When it comes to cooking, if in doubt, I punt. For Alicia's recipe, I punted and it still turned out well.

Of course, I was emboldened by the fact that only Dale and I would have to try to eat the results of my off-the-cuff cooking.

Which leads us to Thanksgiving. Our family shares the holiday with our friends, the Derbys. We take turns hosting, and on the years they host, I supply two items: pumpkin pie and sweet potato casserole.

The pumpkin pie is easy. I get a can of Libby's pumpkin, a box of Pillsbury Pie Crusts, and follow the directions on the can. It's always a sure hit.

Sweet potatoes are another thing altogether. I'm never happy with the casserole. I've tried various recipes over the years and I just don't like them. At one point, Dale said he liked the sweet potatoes whole, not mashed, so I spent a lot of time with recipes that kept them in chunks, but the melted butter-orange juice-cinnamon seasonings made the whole thing too soupy, in my opinion. There weren't enough marshmallows to cover that sin.

This year, I decided to try a recipe from The Pioneer Woman. I mean, Ree Drummond's recipes look pretty easy and are usually a matter of "take a pound of butter, then add a glop of sugar, then whole milk, then more butter, and perhaps some bacon fat..." In other words, not always good for you, which is the trademark of a good Thanksgiving side dish.

I was also determined to follow the recipe exactly. None of this substituting one spice for another. I was serving this to friends. Yes, they would forgive me for a misstep, but you like to put your best dish forward for other people. Ree would not steer me wrong.

The first wrong turn occurred in the grocery store. The recipe called for sweet potatoes. Going to the big bin o'root veggies, there were regular potatoes of several varieties, including sweet potatoes, and yams. Yams are oddly shaped and a burnt orange color. Sweet potatoes are a tad less oddly-shaped and more of a golden color.

Ree said sweet potatoes, so that's what I bought.

On Thursday morning, I happily popped them in the oven for baking (none of this micro-nuking for me - I'm Mini-Pioneer Woman). While they baked, I chopped pecans for the topping. Here's my nut chopper:

It used to be my grandmother's, and I feel very rustic and somehow connected to her when I use it.

The potatoes did not all cook through at the same time, so I reached in with the oven mitt to take out one of the baked ones and the skin peeled off, revealing a rather beige meat. Not as white as a regular potato, more of an ecru, but definitely not the traditional orange of a traditional sweet potato.

I should have gotten yams.

After I spent about thirty seconds in a panic, I considered my options. I could go to the store and get yams. I could continue down this road with the non-orange sweet potatoes. I had a can of sweet potatoes in the pantry I could use instead. I briefly considered using food coloring, to dye the baked sweet potatoes an appropriate color.

In the end, I went ahead with Ree's recipe and also prepared the canned sweet potatoes. Call it hedging my bet.

The more I forged ahead, the weirder things got. The directions called for two eggs and a cup of milk - when added, it made beige sweet potato soup. Then I added the vanilla, which gave it kind of an ice cream smell. I turned to making the topping, which called for flour, brown sugar, chopped pecans, and butter, 3/4 of a stick. At first I read it as 3/4 cup, then re-read it two or three times. No, three-fourths of a stick.

It's not a bad mistake to make, not as bad as, say, reading it to say the butter should be at room temperature.

I'm not sure how I added the word "softened" to the directions, but I did. When I began to combine the mixture with the pastry cutter, I realized my mistake. Not one to be discouraged by reality, I went on, boldly chopping through the dry ingredients with my gloppy butter, stopping to clean the mush from the blades every once in a while. Sooner or later I ended up with a topping that, while not crumbly, was serviceable.

I assembled everything, popped it in the oven, and hoped for the best. Kind of sounds like my life, but we won't go there. In the meantime, I mashed up the canned sweet potatoes with spice and butter and orange juice and topped them with marshmallows. Just in case.

Marcus and Dale looked at the results and advised me to take both to the feast. What were the results?

The non-orange, previously soupy casserole had firmed into a sweet treat with a crunchy topping, and was the clear winner.

Thank you, Pioneer Woman! I shouldn't have doubted you. (But next year, I'm buying the yams.)

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Thank you

Happy Thanksgiving. On this day, we remember all that we have and we are thankful. If we want more, this is not the day to make that wish. It's the day to recognize that others may have less. My only regret during this holiday season is that we do not help people more the rest of the year.

What am I thankful for? My life. I always think that other people live their lives on a line graph, going mostly up, or mostly down. Mine's been more of a scatter chart, with points at odd and random locations on the X,Y graph.

Had I stayed on the planned path, I would have a lot fewer regrets.

Had I stayed on the planned path, I would have also had a lot more regrets. Because of my first divorce, I had to get a job. Because I stumbled upon a computer job, I was able to move to California. Each random event forced me to a decision that brought me to the Here and Now. I have a family I adore, I am doing things I love to do, and I am living my life in an environment of love and support.

In addition, I am thankful for the readers who like what I do and are always asking for more. God knows I'm addicted to writing, but you keep me focused on telling novel-length tales. Thanks for buying my books. Thanks for the notes and emails telling me you liked what you read. Thanks especially for writing reviews. You are all angels.

I was going to post a few fun videos revolving around giving thanks, but the one I like most is this one.

They may be having a Christmas feast, but I'll join in their toast: God bless us, every one. (In whatever form you believe God exists.)

Happy Hanukkah

I am not Jewish, so I always have to look the word up, mostly because I am intrigued by the other spelling, Chanukah, and between the two I can't figure out how many Ns, Ks, or Hs there are. I suppose I should just wish all my Jewish friends a Happy Festival of Lights.

With Thanksgiving so late and Hanukkah so early, the whole holiday season seems to be askew, but I've promised myself to not stress about it, so this is me not stressing.

This is where I'd post a video. I know you're all expecting me to post Adam Sandler's Hanukkah Song, but I was feeling a little more informational today. For my non-Jewish friends (and to remind myself), here is a short and rather delightful explanation of the holiday.

I suppose I should apologize to my Jewish friends if I try to make a huge deal out of it. I realize it's not one of the major holidays, like Christmas is for us. I'm just always excited about any celebration that involves presents, lights, and blessings.

Enjoy, and shalom.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Giving back: Deadly Little Secrets

I met Marla Miller years ago at my first Southern California Writers Conference. She has helped me and who-knows-how-many other writers hone our craft with her workshops. As a result of her teaching, I've build a better blurb, tightened my pitches, and learned what to leave in and what to rip out of a query letter.

Blurbs, queries, pitches - did she help me with my novels? You bet. Every piece of editing wisdom applied to one of those three items helped me tighten my writing all around. Through Marla, I learned what is essential, and sometimes I learned what I was even writing about.

Today Marla has released a novel of her own. I was lucky enough to read an early copy and it grabbed me from the start. It's set in the early days of AIDS, as one small-town nurse tries to educate the public and they try to resist.

Here's where to buy it - http://www.amazon.com/Deadly-Little-Secrets-Marla-Miller-ebook/dp/B00GW6SXI2

I'm thrilled for Marla and hope her book climbs the charts.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Giving it all away: WIN THE SPAMMY!

I tried giving away some promotional items earlier, with a contest to see who could tell the most interesting story about what they had done for a friend. A few people told some wonderful stories, but they were so poignant I thought I might weep. I confess, I was really looking for stories of bailing each other out of a Mexican jail or lying to all the parents in order to hitch a ride to Woodstock.

So now I'm going to get more specific - this is a contest about spam.

No, not that Spam.

I don't know about you, but I get spam mail ALL the time. As in, sometimes over 200 messages a day. On the same day, I will get offers to increase my boob size and my masculine virility, along with great rates on new cars and discount prescriptions. Sometimes I get spam-mails from gaylecarline with what appears to be a string of Chinese characters in the subject line.

Don't you hate it when you start sleep-emailing in a foreign language?

My favorite spam-mail arrived last week. The subject line said, "gaylecarline, Be the Man You Used to Be."

Perhaps it was the time I was accidentally enrolled in Boys' P.E. in high school. Or maybe it has to do with visiting my great-grandfather in the nursing home once. "Dad", my grandmother said, "You remember Gayle, don't you?" Great-Grandpa looked up through his very hardened arteries and said, "Yep, he's gonna grow up to be a fine man some day."

It's hard to take offense to a little spam-err.

So I'm introducing the SPAMMY Awards, for the best, funniest, most creative spam emails you've ever received.**


1. Only one entry per person.
2. You may submit entries in any way that reaches me: the comments below, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, email, or semaphore (BTW, I'm not good at semaphore so your message may be misinterpreted).
3. The spam mail submitted should be a legitimate one, but how am I to check for this? Basically I can't, so if you can come up with something that blows my socks off, well... oh, well.


I will award multiple prizes, from free books (paperback or Kindle), to promotional items, to gift cards. In addition, I have twenty-four (24) free copies of my Audio book of Freezer Burn to give away. Perhaps I could even give away some Spam.

Go ahead and advertise this. Tell your friends and neighbors. Everyone who enters should win something. The best ones will just win more stuff.

So go ahead - what's your favorite spam email?

**Please do not assume I want you to OPEN the spam-mails. DON'T OPEN THEM! I'm just looking for funny subject lines.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

I did my best

I love my pal Alicia Bien. She's funny and smart, and even if she wasn't, she has a big, kind heart and I'm just a sucker for that. Although she mostly writes scripts, she recently wrote a book, The Evolution of a Wine Drinker, that I bought and read and adore. It's a great collection of essays about her journey toward being an oenophile. They're all really informative and fun and funny, because she's the nice, adventurous kind of wine connoisseur, not the snobby I-Don't-Drink-California-Wines kind.

Recently, she's put a couple of recipes on her blog (New House Girl), recipes that look so delish and so simple, even I might be able to cook them. And I'm the woman who knows how to ruin a recipe in a thousand different and unique ways.

I was at the store tonight with the following grocery list: dog food, kitty litter, Excedrin, and dinner. I looked up and down several aisles but could not find a box, bag, or can marked "dinner" so I had to punt. What could I toss together in a short time?

Wait - what was that chicken and rice recipe that Alicia made? I remembered the ingredients (or thought I did) and made a quick run through the store, gathering what I didn't have at home. When I did get home, well... here's how it went down.

Alicia says:

Rice; 2 dry cups (plain, not Jasmine or any other flavored rice)
Water; 4 wet/fluid cups for the rice (American measurements are so confusing) 
Chicken legs; 10 (they cook faster than chicken breasts and aren't too large so guests can eat one or two without feeling piggy. Or maybe I'm talking about me feeling piggy?) 
Soup stock; 2 cubes (Use to flavor the rice. I use the low salt or sea salt stock varieties)
Bread crumbs; 1/2 cup (In advance, I grate hardened rice flour bread or rye flour bread and store the crumbs for just this type of impromptu dinner. Plus I like knowing all the spices used in the bread crumbs--in this case zero)
Onions; 2 diced 
Celery; 6 stalks diced
Carrots; 5 peeled and diced
Ground coriander; 2 teaspoons
Cumin; 2 teaspoons
Saffron; 1/2 teaspoon. (This will color the rice yellow and is purely used for cosmetic purposes and therefore not necessary since Saffron is expen$ive)
Salt; a couple shakes.
Parsley; chopped (I like the curly variety)
Red wine; 3/4 cup for the pot. The rest for you and your guests. 
Gayle did:
I remembered the chicken, onions, celery and carrots. At home, I knew I had rice, bread crumbs, salt, and red wine. The rest ran through my brain like water through a sieve.
Alicia says:
1) Bring a pot of the water to boil on the stove top with the soup stock cubes and saffron. Once water boils, add rice. Bring rice to a boil then turn to simmer. 
2) Heat olive oil in Dutch oven over medium high heat. 
3) Open a bottle of red wine and pour yourself a glass.
4) Pour bread crumbs into mixing bowl and coat drumsticks. Put drumsticks into Dutch oven. Chicken needs time to cook, but once both sides of drumsticks are browned, add salt, onions, carrots, celery, coriander and cumin. Cover.
5) Add wine. Cover. The moisture will help imbue the chicken with these flavors and help cook it. 
6) When the meat is falling off the bone, dish into shallow bowls, garnish with fresh parsley, stir rice and dish up.
7) Serve. Voila!
Gayle did:
1. We have a rice cooker and I wanted brown rice and I forgot the stock cubes and the saffron was optional anyway, so sue me.
2. Check. Olive oil heated.
3. I actually did this step first. Check.
4. I opened the package of drumsticks and saw there was only five, not six. Did I need to reduce everything by 16%? Punting, I coated them with bread crumbs and browned them in the Dutch oven, then added the onions, celery, and carrots.
Um... here's the thing... I dismantled my spice cabinet and could not find cumin. I did find coriander seeds, but they were from a spice rack I got for my first marriage in the 70s. Is there an expiration date on spice?
Again, Gayle the Punter to the rescue, I thought about the glass of wine I poured in step 0. It was a Barbera, and a damn fine one. Hmm, I says to myself, if I use the Barbera* to cook the chicken, and Barbera is an Italian grape, why don't I substitute Italian seasoning?
*I know what you're thinking: that chick is wasting perfectly good wine to cook? Because I subscribe to the philosophy that once the alcohol has been burned away, what's left should be deliciousness, not cheap-bitter-fakery.
5. Wine added, to the pot and my glass. Check.
6. It took about 40 minutes for the meat to fall of the bone. I didn't have parsley, but here's how mine turned out -

7. Voila indeed.
So maybe I took a few liberties with Alicia's recipe, but it was easy and completely delicious, even with the substitutions.
Thank you, Alicia! If you write a cookbook, I'm in!

P.S. BeeTeeDubs, Alicia is having a book signing next Tuesday, November 19, at the V Wine Room, 903 Westbourne Drive, West Hollywood, from 7:30 to 9:30. I have to work in Chino Hills until 5:00, but I plan to schlep my horsey self to WeHo just to pick up SEVERAL autographed copies of her book!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Happy Tuesday!

I'm a little too rushed to give you much of a post today, as I must dash in a million directions until late into the eve. I don't even have time to scamper. But I didn't want to leave up the last post and lead you all astray, thinking you had one more day to get a discounted copy of THE HOT MESS. Sorry, folks, the offer's done, and I'll tell you all about it later in the week.

Instead, I thought I'd give you the inspiration for the name of my publishing company, Dancing Corgi Press.

Duffy (my Corgi) does do a little dance at breakfast, although it's mostly a bunch of circles, interrupted by a few impatient taps of the front feet. I'd record it, but seriously, who is THAT awake at 7 a.m.?

BeeTeeDubs, yes, Dancing Corgi Press has only one author. She's a real witch and I am simply too exhausted to take on any others.

Monday, November 11, 2013

One more day

THE HOT MESS is available at the reduced price of $1.99 for only one more day. Two dollars off. Yes, that's over 50% discount.

Here's the link where you can buy it: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00AD94TDW

Here's a musical interlude to entertain you while you hop over to Amazon:

Have a great Monday!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Let the countdown begin!

Amazon is always looking for ways to entice authors to entice readers to buy their books. I wholeheartedly agree with this, as it's a win-win situation. Their latest effort is the Kindle Countdown Deal, where an author can discount their books for a limited time and still retain the lion's share of the profit.

Of course, I thought I'd try it out with The Hot Mess, so it will be on sale for 99 cents for three days, then $1.99 for three days, before going back up to $3.99.

So you can get it now for a GREATLY reduced price. If you dawdle, you may miss out on GREATLY, but you can still get it for a VERY reduced price. If you are a true procrastinator, it's okay. It's still a good deal at $3.99 - I mean, you can't even get a good pumpkin spice latte for that.

Already got it? Get it for a loved one's Kindle - it's never too early to do a little Christmas shopping!

Here's the link - http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00AD94TDW


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