Monday, September 30, 2019

Crockpot Monday: Turkey and Wild Rice Soup

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Autumn is here. Football season is in full swing, which means having something bubbling away when we walk in the door at night.

Turkey & Wild Rice Soup:

2 cups of cooked turkey
8 cups of chicken broth
2/3 cup uncooked wild rice
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped carrots
1 teaspoon sage
2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 cups baby spinach leaves


Pour broth into the crockpot and add the meat. Chop up the vegetables (not the spinach), and add to the pot. Dump in the wild rice. Add the sage and balsamic vinegar. Stir.  Add two heaping handfuls of baby spinach to the pot.

Cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours, or on high for 4-6. The soup is done when the vegetables have reached desired tenderness.

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Friday, September 27, 2019

Book Review: In the Garden of Rusting Gods

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In the Garden of Rusting Gods delivers sixteen tales from the imagination of multiple Bram Stoker Award-nominated author Patrick Freivald. From time travel and broken monsters to glimpses into the minds of honeybees and ordinary people dealing with unbearable loss, Freivald burrows into the weird, dark places that lurk beneath the everyday to unearth twisted stories of our world and worlds that could be.

Freivald’s range is on full display with In the Garden of Rusting Gods. Here lies science, horror, humor, and the weird. Action, panic, and dread. Loaded with energy, you’ll be tapping to the beat from page one. –Josh Malerman, New York Times Best Selling author of Bird Box and Unbury Carol

Smart, funny, intriguing, horrifying; Freivald shows us the wide range of his talents. –Kaaron Warren, Aurealis Award winning Author of The Grief Hole

A haunting collection of beautifully desperate characters creatively mingled in the agony of their realities. –Kelli Owen, author of Teeth and Wilted Lilies.


Wow, where to start....I guess where I always do, eh?

The Good -
All of it. The entire book is incredible. I joked with the author that it was so good that it had made me reconsider my future as a writer and perhaps he didn't realize it, but I was only half joking. These stories are written with a skill that aspiring writers can only dream about. There wasn't a single one that didn't pull me in and make me wonder what's next. There was at least one that left me hoping that it'd be expanded out because I wanted to know more.

The Bad -
Heck if I know! Honestly, I usually don't struggle to find something in a book that just didn't sit right with me, but I couldn't find anything for this book. In fact, when I finished it, I kept hoping that the author will release another book of stories.

The Summary -
Sometimes you don't want to curl up with a good book. Sometimes all you want is a couple of stories to tide you over until morning. If that's the case, I can't recommend this book enough. The stories are just the right length to read before bed, while waiting in the car, or any of those times where you don't want to be pulled into a full book.

For those interested, In the Garden of Rusting Gods is currently available on Amazon.

 I received a copy of this book in exchange for this review. All thoughts, comments, and opinions are my own.

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Thursday, September 26, 2019

Writing Post Thursday: Diary Entry

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I'll confess that I saw a sneak peek of this week's prompt and all week I've avoided thinking about it because it causes anxiety. I'm not at a point in my life/mental health journey that I let myself think long term. But, I'm going to try to relax and just write...after all, that's the night before my 53rd birthday. Who knows what that time will bring?

This week's prompt:
Write a diary entry, dated 10 years in the future.

Well, happy birthday eve to me. There were times that you never thought you'd get here, but you did. The boys are all grown up and doing great. You have a daughter-in-law and grandkids are on the horizon. Do you remember being in high school, thinking you'd never have kids? It's funny now, but it wasn't at the time. You were already so damaged.

Here you are though. You've come through everything that the universe could throw at you and you have a thriving editing and writing career. You get to work with the best indie authors that there are and you're receiving fan emails asking when your next book will come out. Ten years ago, you were just getting started, afraid that you'd never finish that novel, but you did. You did and people loved it. Now, you have an entire series of young adult novels as well as your children's stories. You chose not to choose and it was the right decision. People doubted you. People said you couldn't do it and you did it anyway. You. Nobody else. I'm proud of you.

You've moved to a home that you love, in an area that you love, and you're surrounded by people who love and celebrate you. Life is good and that's because of you. You turned your life into what you wanted it to be and that, girl, is awesome.

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Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Wordsmith Wednesday: On Being a Failure

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Comics were easy when I was a kid.  I’d put my pencil to the paper and make it up as I went along.  No planning, they just happened.  After a few days of nonstop drawing, I’d entertain my family with stories of dinosaurs eating cavemen and pooping them back out.  I’d set out to do something and it’d be a success.

This method got me through high school, albeit with more mature story ideas...usually.

I was in college before I gained enough knowledge to entertain the idea of putting together a proper “professional style” comic book.  A good friend of mine, Eric Myers, was pretty well embedded in the early webcomic community and we teamed up to develop an idea that we had discussed about 10 years prior when we attended high school together.

We settled on a format that would be a quarterly comic book with a biweekly companion webcomic strip.  We’d split art duties and write together.  It wasn’t a terribly unrealistic goal and we got off to a good start.

In all of our excitement we announced our work to the world with some previews and synopses.  During production I got an itch to resurrect the comic I’d made famous at my high school as a kid, "Adhesive Man."  I decided Adhesive Man would also be quarterly and I announced the return of my hero.  Eric Myers also began working on a comic strip called "SMS" around the same time.

Not long after, I was talking to a friend of my sister’s at a party and some ideas started forming about another property.  We started plotting and scripting this idea and, predictably, we announced it to the world.  This one was coming soon with no frequency decided.

In no time I was drawing books, writing books, and even developing spinoff books for books I hadn’t even produced a single issue of.  Basically, it would be about 9 books a year.  I was living the dream of being a creator.

One day I made a post on LiveJournal that had updates on my various projects and announced another in the works.  That is where reality hit me like a freight train.  A regular commenter asked a simple question: “Will any of this actually be released?  You make more announcements than comics.”

He was right.  I hadn’t put out a single comic.  By that point I’d put out a handful of comic strips with my buddy and a handful of Adhesive Man comic strips.  But ultimately I’d failed them by moving on to new things.  It’s one of the curses of being a creative: Having more ideas than you have time for.

I ended up dropping everything and focusing on Adhesive Man, which ran for a few issues before I stopped to work on something new.  Despite ending sooner than I had hoped, 2009’s "Adhesive Man" was a success for me.  I had finally finished something and had something to show for the work I’d done.

I’d also learned my lesson when it came to announcing projects.  I would no longer announce projects going into development.  I’d announce projects as they came out of development.  It was a great time of growth for me.

Even though I recognize the importance of that failure, I still feel the pain of that LiveJournal comment to this day.  But as Lance Armstrong said, “Pain is temporary. Quitting lasts forever.”  And I had no intention of quitting.

After eventually producing an Adhesive Man trade paperback, I turned my sights toward continuing the series in an anthology comic, this time with Myers joining me, and my oldest friend, Darren Fitzpatrick, on board.

Kickstarter was all the rage among creators and our product seemed viable, so we pitched it on that platform.  Our goal was modest.  Most of our cost was in printing and shipping, as we produced the book ourselves.  The campaign was a success!  It was followed up with another successful campaign.

In 2016 I wrote a novella called “Blister: A Punk Rock Memoir.”  It was well received and I was encouraged to bring Blister into the comic world.  I also thought it was time to up my Kickstarter game and I asked for double the goal of my previous campaigns.  It too was a success!

A year later I was riding high on some great successes.  I was playing things smart and getting things done.  I teamed up with a newer friend, Gene Hoyle, to write a story I’d had on the back burner (and knew not to announce).  We assembled one hell of a team of indie comic creators and we launched "Dulce: The New Guy" on Kickstarter.

Dulce Base is one of the crazier conspiracy stories I’d stumbled upon, thanks to some crazy television viewing habits. It revolves around a joint operation between humans and extraterrestrials in the New Mexico desert.   A million ideas ran through my head as I processed what life in this place might be like for a new recruit.  Hence, the character of Marcus came into existence.

The idea seemed sound and people seemed to like it.  The expanded art team required a considerably higher campaign goal, and it took every last minute to raise the funds, but we did it.  The Kickstarter was one more success under my belt.

That success was nice, but the reality was that my personal life was not going very well.  After 12 years of marriage, my wife and I were filing for divorce and it was devastating.  Of any failure I have ever endured, this was the most important.  The repercussions of this failure will haunt me the rest of my existence.

Art has always been a positive emotional outlet for me.  As had happened many times in my life, art became my security blanket.  I worked through a script with Gene and we sent it off to our team.  While managing the production of "Dulce: Tour of Duty," I worked on a second Blister comic.  "Blister: Hot for Teacher" was the follow up to "Blister: Angela."

The Blister comic was released low key.  I sold it at shows and on the website, but the cost of producing it was not great enough that it warranted the torture of a Kickstarter campaign on top of everything else I was dealing with.

"Dulce: Tour of Duty" was different though.  So we funded the product out of pocket, with plans to recoup the cost with a Kickstarter.

The premise of the story was that Marcus has been working at the alien base for a short time now.  It picks up with an investigative reporter hunting him down and hijinx ensuing as we spend some time showing off the operations of the base and reveal a new “big bad.”  It was an insanely entertaining ride and we were proud to put it out on Kickstarter.  It would be an awesome return to comics and while it certainly wouldn’t do much to reconcile the greatest failure of my life, silently I envisioned a bit of a phoenix moment.  Rising from the ashes and all that dramatic nonsense.

Unfortunately, I was so eager to release the book that I didn’t consider promotion too much.  Despite the great success the year before, the second issue Kickstarter launched to the sound of crickets.

That failure hit me hard.  I’d only had successes on Kickstarter prior to that.  Four of them.  I hadn’t even considered failure as a possible outcome.  It was easy in the moments following the “Unfortunately, your project, New Dulce Base Comic Book! Dulce: Tour of Duty, was not successfully funded.” email to feel like a massive failure, and I did.

I put on a front, like since I knew why it failed, it didn’t matter and I’d just try again.  But that sucked.  I was beginning a  failure streak.  While it might not match my early failures in quantity, the quality of these failures dwarfed any others.

But, again, pain is temporary, but quitting lasts forever.  Quitting is just not an option.  In the time since the divorce I had pulled my personal life back together.  I was proud of what I had accomplished there.  I was not about to let Dulce die.  I don’t require a dramatic phoenix moment, but those characters deserve a second shot and my team worked too hard for Dulce to be a failure. 

The truth is that failing and being a failure are two different things.  I’ve demonstrated here several times I’ve failed.  But I am not a failure.  And I’m excited by the progress that Dulce has made in its current Kickstarter campaign.  It is tracking to be a success. 

I am certain that you have felt failure in your life.  Maybe a lot of it.  Maybe you’re lucky and have had very little failure.  Regardless of all that, you are not a failure if you don’t quit.  Take some time to learn the lessons of that moment and you can go on to that great success that you deserve.  I know I needed to hear that myself in recent history, and I hope that message catches somebody else at the right time.


Eric Cockrell is an Aster Award-winning video producer, comic book creator, author, and a co-host and producer of the web video series "Strange Tales Weekly." He is best known for the comic book adaptation of his book "Blister" which follows a group of punk rock kids in their formative years and is very loosely based on actual people and events.  His comic book “Dulce” has it’s second issue running on Kickstarter right now!

Monday, September 23, 2019

Crockpot Monday: Traditional Minestrone

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Happy Birthday to me, Happy Birthday to me....ahem...hi, all! Today's soup is a classic and I hope you enjoy!

Traditional Minestrone:

8 cups beef broth
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 cup dry beans of your choice, rinsed in hot water
1 cup chopped carrots
1 cup sliced celery
1 Tablespoon dried minced onion (or 1 small onion, finely diced)
1 Tablespoon Italian seasoning
1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
1/2 cup uncooked pasta (to add later)
Parmesan cheese (optional garnish)


Use a 6-quart crockpot. Pour broth in and add tomatoes and the beans. Add vegetables, seasoning, and thawed spinach.
Cover and cook on low for 8 to 10 hours, or until the beans are soft. Add dry pasta, and cook on high for about 30 minutes or until pasta is done.

Serve with some warm, crusty bread and yum!

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Sunday, September 22, 2019

Birthday Giveaway #1 : The Tether: None Good

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It's not a birthday without presents! So, over the next few weeks, I'm going to be giving away copies of all three of my books that are on Amazon! I'm going to be giving away one each week and some entries can be done each day so make sure that you come back and enter again!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Thursday, September 19, 2019

Writing Prompt Thursday : Art

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Sometimes a question seems hard when you first read it and it turns out that it's super easy. Ready for this week's question? I am. I love these weekly prompts!

What is your favorite piece of art? What do you love about it?

I want to start out by showing you some of my favorites. Then, I'll tell you all about why I love them so much.

This is the wall behind my table in my studio/office. Every one of these pieces were done by Nick Davis (yep, co-author of The Tether Saga) and all but the bottom right corner one is an original. Why do I love them so much? Well, that's easy but has multiple parts:

  • Nick just happens to be one of my closest and favorite people on the planet.
  • I seriously just love his drawing style. He's switched over to digital art now which looks great, but nothing can take the place of a hand drawn and colored piece for me. 
  • He sold these to help raise funds in his custody battles for his children even. Even though he loved the pieces, he loves those kids more and how can anyone not love that?
  • Some of my all time favorite characters are on this wall: Paddington, Winnie the Pooh, Eeyore, Tigger, Tristan...
There's another larger piece that doesn't show in this picture that has to be included in my favorites list. It was a surprise birthday gift a couple of years ago and I can't help but smile whenever I see it. These are all hung right in front of where my laptop sits when I'm working in this room. Whenever I get stuck, I can just look up and remember how much Nick and others believe in me and how strong he's had to be to keep his own journey happening. I'm surrounded by amazing creators and all of this inspires me to keep going.

What's your favorite piece of art? I'd love to see it!

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Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Wordsmith Wednesday: World Building in a Fantasy Novel

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We have a guest this week! I'm super excited to introduce y'all to Russell Nohelty, one of my favorite writers.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~
I’m doing a lot of promotion for my new Kickstarter, Ichabod Jones: Monster Hunter, and as such I have been participating in several AMAs around the internet.

Most of the questions tend to be about the project, or one of my other projects, but sometimes they turn toward writing, and specifically writing fantasy, which is something I am acutely qualified to talk about, being as I’ve made my career writing fantasy novels and comics.

The biggest question I get related specifically to writing fantasy is about how to go about world building in a fantasy story without an info dump.

An info dump is when you explain the world at length in the middle of a scene without explaining it through action. It could be through a song, or a story found by one of the characters, or just somebody explaining the world at length to another character.

This kind of world building stops the story dead and is dreadfully boring both for the author to write and the reader to read. It also demystifies the wonder of the world, which is one of the greatest parts about fantasy.

So, how do you do world building the right way, then?

Good world building is done through the eyes of the main character, or characters, if you have multiple point of view characters, a la Game of Thrones.

In good world building, the world unfolds for the character much like it unfolds for the reader, with each scene building on the next and revealing more and more about the world.

Good world building is like building a train track while a train is barreling forward. You should only lay that track moments before the train arrives, but always with enough track that it doesn’t fall off the rails.

This means that you should strive not to reveal something to your reader until right before they need to know it, so that it’s fresh in their mind when the action happens.

If you reveal a part of the world a hundred pages before the information is needed, readers will forget and become confused when the action happens.

Instead, it’s important to reveal necessary information within two chapters of when the characters will need to act on the information they’ve received, and it is best to do so in the preceding one or during the same chapter when they experience the threat.

For instance, if your characters go into a town and learn about a beast that roams the mountains, and then head into the mountains…they are going to either have to encounter the beast OR learn that there is something else in the woods that is not the beast.

This either reinforces or subverts the information given, and thus cements it in the brain of the reader, because they have just read about the information, and then soon after seen the information for themselves through the actions of the characters.

I also like to use another trick, which is not to disclose any information for my readers until after the characters experience it.

In Ichabod Jones Monster Hunter, the first issue starts with the main character creeping through an asylum unaware of what is happening and scared out of his mind, until he runs into a great, big monster which chases after him, and the rest of the issue is spent trying to figure out what happened and how to kill the monster.

This plants the reader directly into the action, but it is also jarring for the reader, which means it needs to be used sparingly.

In the case above, I used the jarring pace of meeting the monster to show that nothing is safe and Ichabod could be put in life threatening peril at any moment. It drew the reader in immediately and helped them connect with the character.

Conflict is what bonds the reader with the character, and conflict shows the true nature of the character. Good world building is all about how to show the mettle of the characters and put them in conflict with the world.

When you write an info dump, you do nothing to show the conflict of the world with the character, and thus, it serves very little purpose.

The world is only as interesting as the conflict it creates with the characters, which means that showing the world in conflict with the character is the best way to build empathy between your reader and the world you’ve created.

You can check out the Ichabod Jones campaign, and even download the first issue for free at:

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

For more information about Russell, check out his website at The Complete Creative. Also be sure to check out all of his novels and comics! He's an immensely talented writer who I am proud to know.

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Monday, September 16, 2019

Crockpot Monday: Taco Soup

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Mmm....tacos...That's all I have to say to introduce this next recipe!

Taco Soup:

2(15-ounce) cans of kindey beans, drained and rinsed
2 (15-ounce) cans of pinto beans, drained and rinsed
2 (15-ounce) cans of corn
1 large can (26-ounces) of diced tomatoes
1 (10-ounce) can tomatoes and chilies
1 packet taco seasoning
1 packet ranch dressing mix
1 pound browned ground turkey or hamburger (optional)
shredded cheese
sour cream


You’ll need a 6 quart or larger crockpot.

Brown meat if you plan on using it. Be sure to drain the fat and then add the meat to your crockpot. Sprinkle your seasoning packets over top of the meat. Add your beans and then the cans of tomatoes and corn.  Stir together.

Cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours or on high for 4-5.

Stir well and serve with a handful of shredded cheese and a dollop of sour cream.

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Friday, September 13, 2019

Book Review: The Rose Girls

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Life With Katie - The Rose Girls - Victoria Connelly
Thirty-year-old Celeste Hamilton’s life is at a crossroads: she has just left a disastrous marriage, and her estranged mother has recently died, leaving the family’s rose business in jeopardy. Reluctantly, Celeste returns to the family home, a moated manor house in Suffolk, to help her two younger sisters sort out the estate and revive the business.

Having endured the fallout from her mother’s Narcissistic Personality Disorder when she was younger, Celeste is filled with self-doubt and crippling insecurities. But she must find the strength and courage to take charge and make some tough decisions to keep the old house from falling down around them.

The Rose Girls is an uplifting, tender and romantic story of courage, perseverance and the healing power of family.


It's been ages since I've written a review. Then again, it's been ages since I read a book that didn't belong to a client. It's felt really good to reclaim that bit of time each evening. I hope it's something I can continue because I've missed talking about books with all of you.  Now, for this review...

The Good:
Reality. This book felt grounded in reality. There was no insta-love, there wasn't grand drama. It was simply three sisters trying to find their own places in a world where things have changed. I think that we can all relate to that. Life happens even when we don't want it to. The characters also fell under this. Each one was unique and had their own personality, which I appreciated. No cookie cutter characters.

The Bad:
While there was no insta-love, I felt at times that things happened really fast within the book. Perhaps it's because the author never really mentions time passing, it just passes. Also, bits of the book felt rather predictable but that may just be to me. After all, I can never figure out a mystery before the big reveal, but I have friends who have sorted it out by page 10.

The Summary:
A really enjoyable, light read that's perfect if you're looking for some casual reading. I finished it in a couple of evenings and it's really reminded me how much I love getting lost in a book...and taking the time to smell the roses..erm..pages...

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Thursday, September 12, 2019

Writing Prompt Thursday : Speaking Up

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It's time for another writing prompt! I know it seems just a little bit silly, but I'm so excited for these. I haven't had a lot of time for writing lately as my editing business takes off so these are perfect little bites for me right now.

Today's prompt:
Have you ever spoken up when you saw something going on that was wrong? Were you scared? What ended up happening?

I'd love to take the time to really sit and think about this one but the one rule that "the man" has about this book is that I'm not allowed to think about it. I have to just sit and write.

So, part of me wants to just answer no and move on, but I feel as if that may need a little bit more explanation. As some people know, I live in a pretty rural area and I don't get out a whole lot. Because of that, I probably don't have many opportunities to see people being "bad".  The things that pop into my mind all have to do with correcting my youngest son's friend on how he was treating his mother. Was I afraid? Nah...he was like one of my own kids and knew if I was correcting him, he needed to listen.

Have there been other times, in other situations? Possibly. I honestly don't have a single one popping to mind. I'd like to think that I'd speak up without being physically afraid or afraid of repercussions, but I need to be honest. I deal with PTSD from certain things that have happened in my life and I can't guarantee that the flight side of things wouldn't kick in. I tend to be good in emergencies and situations and then fall apart after so I suspect that would happen. I would be fine in the moment and then after it was all done and everyone was safe, I'd break down.

Hmm...turns out that writing without thinking led to some interesting (at least for me) writing.

How do y'all handle these kinds of situations?

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Monday, September 9, 2019

Crockpot Monday: Salsa Chicken & Black Bean Soup

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Autumn is almost here and it's my favorite time of year for things like apple cider, pumpkin everything, and soup!

Salsa Chicken & Black Bean Soup:

1 pound chicken breast tenderloins
2 cans black beans, drained and rinsed
4 cups chicken broth
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1 cup frozen corn
1 jar prepared salsa (16 oz)
1.5 teaspoon cumin
1/2 cup sour cream (to add later)
Shredded cheddar cheese (optional)
Avocado slices (optional)
Cilantro (optional)


Drain and rinse the beans. Add to the crockpot. Put in the chicken and add the broth and salsa. Pour in the corn and mushrooms and add the cumin. Stir but try to keep the beans at the bottom of the pot.

Cover and cook on high for 9 hours.

If you'd like to thicken the broth, you can use your immersion blender to blend a bit of the beans and chicken. If you don't have one, scoop out 2 cups of the soup and carefully blend in your traditional blender. Stir the mixture back into the crockpot.

Stir in the 1/2 cup of sour cream before serving, and garnish with shredded cheese and avocado slices.

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Thursday, September 5, 2019

Writing Prompt Thursday : Lazy Days

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"The man" got me this fantastic book of writing prompts for our anniversary this year and I've been looking at it for a few weeks now. Why? Mostly because I've been swamped, but there's also been the tiniest bit of procrastination in there. Well, that ends today. He has believed in me longer than most and he truly believes that I have what it takes to be a great writer. I love him for that (and a ton of other reasons). So, starting today, my goal is to post a new question from the book on Thursday and then do some free writing under it. I think that we might all learn some things about me! Free writing without planning is a challenge for me so I'll be stretching outside of my comfort zone.

What is your favorite way to spend a lazy day?
The answer to this 100% depends on who I'm with. If I'm with "the man", I love to snuggle up and talk or possibly watch something. We don't really get many lazy days so each one is pretty special. It'd be a day of just doing whatever we felt like doing and celebrating the freedom to do it. Now, if I'm with my boys, it probably involves playing games, watching movies, and just catching up on each other's lives. On my own? These are especially hard for me because I'm really not good at relaxing. I feel guilty if I'm being lazy. I never could understand why my ex-husband would accuse me of being lazy. It's like he had no idea who he was talking to. I could have a perfect lazy day, it would involve me sitting in the shade of some trees with my feet dangling in the water while I read a good book. I'd be out in nature enjoying one of my favorite things. I have dreams of finding a cabin somewhere that I could escape to for a week or two of writing, enjoying nature, and reading. Maybe wandering through the woods taking some pictures...I've yet to make it happen, but it's still my dream every summer.

What about you? What's your favorite way to spend a lazy day?

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Monday, September 2, 2019

Crockpot Monday: Broccoli with Toasted Garlic

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Don't tell people, but veggies can be good!

Broccoli with Toasted Garlic:

2 pounds broccoli florets
1 cup large raw hazelnuts
1 head garlic, peeled (12 cloves)
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 lemons, juiced
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper


Use a 4 quart crockpot for best results. Wash and trim broccoli, and add to crockpot. Peel garlic, and add with salt and pepper. Add hazelnuts. Squeeze lemon juice evenly over the top. Toss.

Cover and cook on high for 2 hours, or on low for about 4. This is finished when broccoli has reached desired tenderness.

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