Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Fresh start, January 2014

Primary WIP(s) for January:
Final polishing of A Stinkin' Plot (cozy mystery set on garlic farm)
Expand outline for Plowed Under (cozy mystery, sequel to A Stinkin' Plot)

Fun WIP (for mini vacations from more structured writing):
Victoria and the Vapors (homage to Sherlock Holmes)

Status of other Fiction WIPs:
Monkey Wrench (sequel to A Four-Patch of Trouble), first draft about half done
Sisters in Stitches (cozy mystery set in the Berkshires, featuring chemo caps), outlined
Fatal Forfeit (legal thriller) 50+ pages of first draft completed)
Plowed Under (cozy mystery, outlined)
One Cat is Never Enough (post-apocalyptic cozy mystery series; 4 books in various stages of completion)
Arresting Amelia (vague idea for cozy mystery set at general aviation airport)
Tree of Life and Death (holiday novella, sequel to Monkey Wrench), first draft done

Status of other Non-fiction WIPs:
Financial Planning For Authors, languishing in limbo
Legal Research for Authors (non-fiction book, outlined)
Contracts for Authors (non-fiction book, outlined)
Estate Planning for Stashes (refers to collections of yarn, fabric, art, books, beads, Tardises, etc.): four-part series posted on blog, to be edited slightly and formatted into a free digital book on Smashwords.

Guest blog posts
Ruby-slippered Sisterhood, on estate planning for authors, December 19, 2013

Speaking appearances
May 2-3, 2014, New England Chapter, RWA "Let Your Imagination Take Flight Conference." Topic is estate planning for authors. More on the conference here.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas quilts 2013

The first two quilts were made for the kids next door (who are no longer kids). The top one looks complicated, but is just two blocks, alternating (and I played with the coloring to create the yellow star). The second one is mostly simply nine-patches in a variety of holiday prints, with a few simple stars thrown in for some added visual interest. I love quilts with secondary designs beyond the blocks themselves, like the large stars in the top one and the diagonal (Irish Chain) lines in the second one.

This last quilt (throw size, at roughly 40" x 50") was made to go with the quilt below (photographed when it was basted with pins -- that's what the white dots are -- before quilting), bringing a touch of Christmas to the room, without clashing with the teals of the bed quilt. At this resolution, you can't tell, but the non-Christmas fabrics in the Christmas throw quilt are all in the bed quilt.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Ruby slippered sisterhood

An only slightly belated shout-out to the Ruby-slippered Sisterhood, who invited me to talk about estate planning for authors at their blog today: http://www.rubyslipperedsisterhood.com/special-guest-on-estate-planning-for-writers/

I nattered on at length; they listened politely and asked hard questions.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Holiday cards

A few years ago, I got some adhesive-backed magnet sheets, and went hog-wild making fridge magnets. Since then, I've saved my favorite cards each Christmas, for re-use as magnets. I have a teeny-weeny fridge (just a little bigger than dorm-sized), or I'd have more.

They're easy to make, and fun to arrange on the fridge. All you really need is the magnet sheets (check out Magnet Valley, which is where I got mine) and a pair of sharp scissors. (The 20-mil thickness is fine if you're just affixing the cards; you might want the 30-mil if you're embellishing with things that are heavier than the card stock.) I like to use a rotary cutter (don't use a fresh blade, because the paper will ruin it; an old blade that's not sharp enough for fabric will work fine on this project -- I always keep a few old blades on hand for paper and miscellaneous products) for really straight/square edges, and a gridded, see-through ruler, like the ones from Omnigrid, which helps with cropping.

I usually crop the card, and then cut a piece of the magnet sheet about a quarter of an inch smaller, and then affix the magnet to the card, making sure to keep the  magnet hidden. As long as the magnet is smaller than the card, it doesn't have to be quite so perfectly aligned as if you cut the two pieces to identical sizes.

If I have left-over scraps of magnet to use up, I do the opposite, affixing the magnet to the back of the card, taking care to center it as best I can, and then crop the card (and magnet, if necessary).

If you don't have enough cards (probably because your fridge isn't a member of the itty bitty fridgie committee), or you want to have a bit more of a color theme, you can make some filler magnets using a favorite wrapping paper. I find that they're not as durable, though, and are more susceptible to the coating of grease that tends to accumulate on everything in kitchens.

NOTE: I did not get compensated for the mention of any products here, and did not receive any free products. I just really like Omnigrid's rulers, better than others that are out there, and the products I bought from Magnet Valley were as advertised and shipped in a timely manner. 

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The lion and the lamb

I'm not sure which is the lion and which is the lamb here. Todd (the orange) looks more leonine, but he's also an amiable sweetheart.

Emma (the tortie) isn't particularly fond of other cats. She isn't aggressive, but she would much prefer to be the only cat in the world. Which is why it's so amazing that she's curled up this close to Todd, sharing a corner of a quilt on my desk with him.

Emma really doesn't do sharing most of the time. On the other hand, she's no fool, and Todd is big and warm, and I keep my house quite chilly. She likes to sit on the cast-iron radiators, but when they're either too hot or too cool, apparently she'll deign to accept Todd's warmth.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Ginger crinkles

I make these soft ginger cookies every year for Christmas. It's a fairly standard recipe, but I got my version from a restaurant (and later a cookbook the owners published) that I frequented during college.

The Soup Bowl had a limited menu -- a choice of two soups, two breads and two desserts -- but the options changed daily, so it wasn't as limited as it sounds, and it meant that everything on the menu was fresh that day, and everything was the best thing they did, no options that fell in the category of, "oh, well, we might as well offer it, since someone, sometime might want it."

This recipe comes out well, no matter what, but for truly stunning results, use top-quality spices, like Penzey's (or the spice specialist of your choice). I haven't received anything in return for mentioning them; I just love their products. The year I switched from standard grocery-store ginger to Penzey's ginger, the flavor was so much better, I couldn't believe it was the same recipe.

You can make these up ahead of time, all the way to rolling them into balls and squashing them in the sugar, and then freeze them to cook later. Place the balls of dough on a cookie tray in the freezer, wait until they freeze solid, and then dump them into a freezer bag. You don't have to thaw them before cooking, just add a minute or two to the cooking time. You can also make a "mix" ahead of time, of all the dry ingredients (not sugar). I make several batches of the mix to have on hand, or to share with friends, since a lot of the prep time is just finding the spaces and measuring them. I line up four custard cups (to make 4 batches), and measure the spices and baking soda into them, assembly-line style. Measure the flour into a gallon-sized zipper bag, toss in the spices and then mix it all together. Stores in the pantry for a year or so.


Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

4 1/2 cups flour
4 t. baking soda
4 t. ginger
2 t. cinnamon
1 t. cloves
1/4 t. salt

1 1/2 cups shortening
1 pound brown sugar (I use dark brown)

Blend in and mix well:
1/2 cup molasses
2 eggs

Add dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix well. The dough will be quite stiff.

Dump onto a large cutting board covered with plastic wrap. Roll out to about half an inch thick. Cut into 1" squares. (I find this easier than using a spoon to apportion the dough, but that works too.) Roll the dough into 1" balls.

Pour some white sugar into a custard cup or similar small bowl. Drop the rolled dough balls into the sugar and squash them slightly, so that they're pressed into the sugar. This gives them a nice surface texture. Place on a cookie tray, sugared side up, and bake for about 8 minutes. They're cooked when the tops get crinkly. If you leave them longer, they'll get crispy; too long and they'll burn.

I use a silicone sheet in the cookie tray and find that the cookies take an extra minute or so to cook, but they're less likely to burn. Plus, the silicone sheet is easy to clean, when the sugar falls off the cookie and then caramelizes on the cookie sheet.