Friday, January 18, 2019

Note to Self: Fly on the Wall

Welcome to a monthly Fly on the Wall group post. Today 3 bloggers are inviting you to catch a glimpse of what you’d see if you were a fly on the wall in our homes. Come on in and buzz around my house. At the end of my post you’ll find links to this month’s other participants’ posts.

Fly on the Wall, a multi-blogger writing challenge | | #MyGraphics

Note to my readers: This month's Fly on the Wall post has a theme. I hadn't planned it but as I was writing, I realized that the notable moments this month seemed to revolve around my own behavior and, well, the frequency with which I was needing to make these little mental notations.  

Note to Self

Note to self: put on your glasses before looking out and screaming your damn fool head off about the mouse just outside the door.

Not a mouse. Fly on the Wall blog post | Picture property of | #funny #humor

Yes, that's a leaf. 

Fly on the Wall, a multi-blogger writing challenge | | #MyGraphics

Note to self: When you want to defrost something fairly quickly, by all means put it on the counter, and keep an eye on it.

However, once it's defrosted, until you're ready to cook it, put it in the fridge not the freezer. Turns out if you put it in the freezer, it'll freeze again.

Fly on the Wall, a multi-blogger writing challenge | | #MyGraphics

Note to self: Sometimes it's fun to just shock them.

College Boy: Love you.
Me: Love you.
College Boy: Love you more.
Me: Love you less.
College Boy: {{blink, blink}}

Fly on the Wall, a multi-blogger writing challenge | | #MyGraphics

Note to self: Don't let him bait you.

You are not going to be able to get away with explaining to your older son that you love both of your boys evenly when you're handing him a plate of spaghetti for dinner and the younger one prime rib.

Even if spaghetti is your older son's favorite meal and your younger son is eating prime rib leftovers from a family birthday dinner he'd been unable to attend because he was sick.

Because, facts aside, you know the older son is never going to let you live down the optics of that one.

Fly on the Wall, a multi-blogger writing challenge | | #MyGraphics

Note to self: When you make dinner and Hubs tells you he likes this new recipe, don't waste the rest of the meal explaining to him that he's had this dinner many times, just take the compliment.

Because, although it may at first seem insulting that he doesn't remember having had the dish the last 5 or 10 times you made the damn thing {{sigh}}, if he thinks it's new and he likes it, just take the win to the bank, OK?

Crockpot Ranch Chicken, mix and cook, it’s that easy to put a flavorful dinner on the table. | Recipe developed by | #recipe #dinner

Crockpot Ranch Chicken
Crockpot Ranch Chicken, mix and cook, it’s that easy to put a flavorful dinner on the table. | Recipe developed by | #recipe #dinner

Note to self: Stop freaking out, hang up your coat and put the car keys away. No one broke into the house, you just left the TV on. You don't want to scare the pants off yourself? Turn it off next time.

Fly on the Wall, a multi-blogger writing challenge | | #MyGraphics

Note to self: Go ahead, announce your presidential bid. Everyone else is.

Oh, and side note to self: You may want to try to figure out how many pictures there are out there of you dancing while in college.

Fly on the Wall, a multi-blogger writing challenge | | #MyGraphics

Note to self: The next time it snows on a weekend and Hubs goes out to snow-blow the driveway, don't ask if he needs any help, just lay down on the couch and pretend you fell asleep. Unless you actually want to put on your boots and coat and gloves and hat and scarf and shovel the front steps . . .

Side note: Be smart, "wake up" just before he finishes and tell him to walk up the street and get the mail.

 Fly on the Wall, a multi-blogger writing challenge | | #MyGraphics

Note to self (sad lesson learned the hard way): If you're an extremely light sleeper (and I am), ear infections ensure an amazing night's sleep. You know, in case you ever get really really desperate.

When the kids were little, I heard everything. When they got up in the middle of the night whether they needed me, were sick, or were sneaking a late night snack, by the time they were out of their rooms I was up, out of bed and standing beside them. Last week I had 2 ear infections (don't ask me how that happened, I'm talented I guess) and I slept like a baby. People were up, showering, eating breakfast, opening garage doors . . . nothing. I woke up hours later and everyone was gone.

Of course there are down sides to not being able to hear anything during the waking hours, but I did say this nugget of information is for when (if) I ever got really desperate. 

Fly on the Wall, a multi-blogger writing challenge | | #MyGraphics

Note to self: Try to remember where you left all of these notes to yourself.

Now click on the links below for a peek into some other homes:

Never Ever Give Up Hope 
Spatulas on Parade

Baking In A Tornado signature | | #MyGraphics

Crockpot Ranch Chicken

3 large boneless skinless chicken breasts
garlic powder
1 bottle Ranch salad dressing
1 packet dry Italian salad dressing mix
8 oz cream cheese
1 TBSP stone ground mustard
1 cup white wine
3 green onions, chopped
8 oz mushrooms, halved

*Cut the chicken breasts into 3 - 4 pieces each. Sprinkle both sides with garlic powder. 
*Grease your crockpot and turn on to high. Mix together the salad dressing, salad dressing mix, cream cheese, mustard and wine. Heat and mix until smooth.
*Turn the crockpot down to low, add the chicken pieces and the green onions.
*Cook for 3 hours, stirring now and then. Add the mushrooms and cook one more hour.
*Serve over noodles or rice.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Mystery at the Castle: Chapter Four: Reckoning

Today I'm sharing the conclusion of our current Progressive Story Project. Just as a reminder, this project is an exercise in creative writing. A group of writers craft a piece of fiction together, not by discussing the story, but by adding a section of the story to whatever those before us have written. The point is for each writer to contribute to but not control the story.

Progressive Story Project, one piece of fiction written by a group of bloggers, each contributing to but not controlling the story | Graphic property of and story presented by | #blogging #collaboration

Our current story is called Mystery at the Castle. Before continuing on, here are the links to the first 3 chapters:
Chapter One: Friends for Life
Chapter Two: Suspicion
Chapter Three: The Past is Present

It's bittersweet for me to publish the culmination of these stories. Although I am excited to share how this piece ends, it's also the conclusion of a fun collaboration. 

I want thank, once again, all the talented writers who have gifted me with their time and effort and artistry in creating this piece of fiction. At the end I've listed them all and, where appropriate, provided a link to their blogs. Be sure to stop by and see what else they have to offer.

Mystery at the Castle, a Progressive Story Project, one piece of fiction written by a group of bloggers, each contributing to but not controlling the story | Graphic property of and story resented by | #blogging #collaboration

Chapter Four: Reckoning

Kimberly of When I Grow Up

"I had a hunch I was following up on," said Jill, breathlessly. "He doesn't belong here! Kath was trying to get away from him."

"Now why would my fiance try to get away from me?" said Phil with a sneer.

The officers looked at each other, confused. No one had mentioned the deceased was engaged.

"Everyone out of here, now!" said Jones. "This room has not been processed yet. You two will need to come with us to straighten this out."

Baylor gave Phil a shove toward the door while Jones took Jill by the elbow. The other women took the hint and left the room, heading for the stairs.

When they got to the hallway, Jameson was standing there. He cocked his head to the side. "Who's he?" he asked. He thought the man looked vaguely familiar and not in a good way.

"This is Phil," spat Jill. "My long lost step brother."

Jameson looked confused, then his face hardened and his fists clenched. He knew he had to keep it together. "So you were in it together!"

Quickly realizing how this looked, Jill panicked. "No, no. I didn't know it was him. We've never met. I only know because he looks and sounds like his brothers, who I detested."

Phil turned then, "Enough to murder?" he asked with a snarl.

This got everyone's attention. Ash shifted nervously. This was moving into very uncomfortable territory.

Baylor took charge, "We need to ask more questions of these two. I think we need to move this to the station. Jameson, you wait here with the other ladies." He pulled him aside, adding, "And pull yourself together or I'm pulling you off this case."

Jenniy of Climaxed
Jill's mind raced while she rode in back of Detective Schmidt's sedan. One of the other officers volunteered to transport Phil - the only good part about the last few minutes. He was guilty, she knew it, and she knew it was a long con to get back at her. Crazy as it sounds, that entire family wanted to see her suffer for being absolutely honest about her stepfather's behavior, and this was yet another way to hurt her, and oh man had it worked this time.

Phil's subtle accusation worried her. There was no way he could have known what happened that night. She was the only one with Mikey. He'd made sure of that. Kath and Ash had shown up later, but they had all sworn secrecy. They'd all participated in covering up the murder and had promised to be one another's alibi. So how exactly did Phil know anything? Did Kath spill the beans? She couldn't have! What kind of proof could he even have?

She was so lost in thought that she didn't realize they'd pulled into the Newport Police Station. There she was parked right beside the car bringing in Phil. He was staring at her with the creepiest grin she had ever seen in her life, and she realized he intended to end her, one way or another.

She'd felt a lot of things since finding Kath earlier, but the icy cold tendrils of terror that gripped her now were new, and she knew without a doubt that the truth was going to have to come out. Finally.

Detective Schmidt opened her door and directed her into the small department doors. He was trying to explain to her what would happen next, but she couldn't focus on the words. Behind her, Phil was laughing maniacally sending chills up her spine.

and Me! 
There was no way to keep track of all the thoughts flying through Jill's mind. Her friend was dead. Phil had to pay. But Mikey is dead too, justifiable in her mind, but does a price not still needed to be paid? After all, isn't this what she does for a living, expose the deceased's true story and let the justice system sort it all out? But she had not, she had broken the rules by which she professed to live. And now karma had taken a much heftier toll and not on her, on her innocent friend.

Yes, most prevalent was the guilt. Kath had died because of her. Jill could condone Mikey's death in her own mind, vindicate herself, but this one fact is inescapable: she had thought things through from what she was sure was every angle, had rationalized, compartmentalized, even exonerated herself. For years. The truth is that you can never know, never, what path the ripples of your actions, your secrets, can take. You cannot ever know what's in other peoples' minds. Jill had misjudged, she now knew, thought (arrogantly so, she now realized) that she had it all figured out. She had not. You never can. And now Kat is dead.

She had been brought to the station as a witness, for the most part anyway. She knew that she was about to become so much more. She owed it to herself, she owed it to Ash, who shouldered the burden of keeping this secret for way too long, to Kathryn's long time detective friend who truly seems to have loved her, but most importantly she owed it to Kath, who had paid an incomprehensible price for being Jill's confident. All the scenarios that had played out in her mind all of these years and never had she even begun to fathom where this would end. But end it will. Now. Jill closed her eyes, took a deep breath, looked at Detective Schmidt and spoke "I'd like to speak with Detective Jameson . . ."

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ The End ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I'd like, once again, to thank the talented writers who collaborated to come up with yet another amazing piece of fiction. Be sure to visit their blogs and see what else they have to share:

Sarah Nolan
Diane of On the Border 
Dawn of Cognitive Script and Spatulas on Parade 
Rena of Wandering Web Designer
Tamara of Part-time Working Hockey Mom
Kimberly of When I Grow Up
Lydia of Cluttered Genius
Jenniy of Climaxed
Jules of The Bergham Chronicles

and me!

And for today's recipe, let's celebrate another successful collaboration with cake! 

Limoncello Sheet Cake, this quick and easy sheet cake is bursting with lemon flavor. | Recipe developed by | #cake #lemon

Limoncello Sheet Cake
Limoncello Sheet Cake, this quick and easy sheet cake is bursting with lemon flavor. | Recipe developed by | #cake #lemon

Baking In A Tornado signature | | #MyGraphics

Limoncello Sheet Cake        

Printable Recipe

1 box lemon cake mix and ingredients specified on the box (minus 1/4 cup water)
1/2 cup Limoncello, divided
1 tsp lemon zest

1 1/2 heavy cream
1/4 cup Limoncello 
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1 box instant lemon pudding mix 
OPT: a couple of drops of yellow food coloring

*Grease and flour a 9 X 13 baking pan. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
*Set aside 1/4 cup of Limoncello. Beat the cake mix, lemon zest and the ingredients specified on the box, using 1/4 cup less water than suggested and replacing it with the other 1/4 cup Limoncello. Pour into the prepared baking pan and bake about 25 minutes or until the center springs back to the touch.
*Cool cake completely. Once cool, pierce the cake (not fully to the bottom) all over with a fork. Drizzle the 1/4 cup of Limoncello that was set aside over the cake and allow to sink in.
*Beat the heavy cream until soft peaks start to form. Mix in the final 1/4 cup of Limoncello, the powdered sugar, the lemon pudding mix and the food coloring if using, until stiff peaks hold. Frost the top of the cake.
*Store in the refrigerator.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Coping, Coding, and Cookies: Use Your Words

Today’s post is a monthly writing challenge. If you’re new here, this is how it works: participating bloggers picked 4 – 6 words or short phrases for someone else to craft into a post. All words must be used at least once. All of the posts will be unique as each writer has received their own set of words. That’s the challenge, here’s a fun twist; no one who’s participating knows who got their words and in what direction the recipient will take them. Until now.

Use Your Words, a multiblogger writing challenge | | #MyGraphics

At the end of this post you’ll find links to the other blogs featuring this challenge. Check them all out, see what words they got and how they used them.
I'm using: cast ~ ray ~ trick ~ aligned ~ shades ~ coded
They were submitted by Tamara of Part-time Working Hockey Mom.

Parenting is tough, yo (northern speak for y'all). And although I'm sure if you're a parent you already know that, but truth is most of us convince ourselves it'll get easier. No such luck. Bigger kids bring bigger problems.

Starting to write this post actually took me some time. I had to try to get over my visceral reaction to the first word, cast. I am still traumatized by not just that, but also how my son broke his leg while in college 10 hours away and all that had entailed . . . long distance. Hospital visit, I wasn't there. X- rays, I wasn't there. Being in excruciating pain, unable to even make it to his room for days, I wasn't there. Doctors visits, casts, medications, getting to classes, knee scooter rental, even just eating and staying hydrated, he had to handle much of it with his frat brothers and the rest I had to do from far away. 

It was already in the forefront of my consciousness before I even got these words because, just about a month ago, my blogging friend Rena broke her leg. I'm so glad she had her family with her to help her through the process, especially those first days of sheer agony, but it brought up all of those feelings for me, knowing someone was in pain and far away, nothing I could do about it.

All of this got me on a path to thinking about the highs and the lows of the past few years and the learned art of coping. 

We all know that there are times in life when you could easily just pull down the shades, climb into bed, yank the covers over your head and refuse to deal. The trick to getting through these times without having a complete meltdown (full disclosure, partial meltdowns have been had), is in the aftermath, the lessons learned. 

It's possible I'm putting this into computer programming terms because my son is an application developer (or maybe it's my next word prompt, "coded"), but it does help make my point. Looking to the past can often result in finding the best strategy for the present, coded just like you'd program a computer. Life lessons write the code, instructions supplying the learned raw information needed to solve the current problem. There are fewer regrets in life when we find ourselves in not the same situations but similar circumstances, and are capable of dealing in a more meaningful way because of the raw data collected from the past.

A few years ago I wrote a post, When You're Not There, Again about the heartbreak of my son's suffering a loss, the death, of a frat mentor while away at school. It was the second emotional blow in a very short time, when I wasn't physically there for him. I even thought seriously about flying out to Indiana, I did offer to fly him home.

It was a difficult and heartbreaking situation at the time, but it also brought perspective when PurDude later broke his leg. I had been programmed with information, what I was able to comfortably leave to him, what he was best served if I to handled myself, and what I needed my friend (whose daughter was also at Purdue) who lives an hour and a half from Purdue, is a trained pharmacist and has a husband who's a doctor to help me with.

And then, of course, there are the glorious opposites of those pull-the-blankets-over-your-head days. The times when it seems as though all the stars are aligned and everything just goes right. They are like a much needed respite, a chance to catch our breath. Like when that same son who had broken his leg, now a college graduate, gets a great job at a Fortune 500 company 35 minutes from home. Not ten hours . . . 35 minutes.

Or when that cookie recipe that had been rolling around in my head finally came together and OMG, fudgy chocolatey deliciousness.

Fudgy Quadruple Chocolate Cookies are made with four different chocolates, rolled in confectioner’s sugar and baked to fudgy perfection. | Recipe developed by | #recipe #cookies

Fudgy Quadruple Chocolate Cookies
Fudgy Quadruple Chocolate Cookies are made with four different chocolates, rolled in confectioner’s sugar and baked to fudgy perfection. | Recipe developed by | #recipe #cookies

And knowing that with just a half an hour's notice, I can once again have both of my favorite taste testers sitting at the counter, eating warm chocolate. And just like that, all is well once again.

Here are links to all the other Use Your Words posts:

Fudgy Quadruple Chocolate Cookies

3/4 stick butter, softened
4 oz unsweetened chocolate
1 cup dark chocolate chips
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla 
3/4 cup flour
2 TBSP baking cocoa
1/2 tsp baking powder 
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup mini semisweet chocolate chips

about 3/4 cup powdered sugar

*Melt the butter, unsweetened chocolate and dark chocolate chips together until completely smooth when stirred.
*Beat the eggs, sugar and vanilla for 2 minutes, then beat in the melted chocolate mixture. Carefully beat in the flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt. Mix in the mini chocolate chips.
*Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour and up to a day.
*Cover baking sheets with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place the powdered sugar in a small plastic bag or on a plate.
*Using wet hands, roll the dough into about 1 inch balls. Roll the balls in the powdered sugar, then bake for 12 minutes.