Monday, October 21, 2013

Where did October go????

The Week in Review – More or Less -
The man at the end of our street puts out so many Christmas decorations it’s spectacular (or a spectacle – opinions vary). I drove past his house last week and saw him getting it all set up (he won’t turn the lights on until after Halloween at least – but it takes him this long to get it all set up – seriously). It seems like just a couple of months ago he was taking it down! Seeing him with all that stuff gave me a moment of panic. This year will be over before we know it!

SO I had an interesting week. On Monday I broke a tooth so on Tuesday I had to go to the dentist. I expected bad news – root canal, crown, dentures . . . but he was able to fill in it instead so I was grateful. On Tuesday night Clay had youth baptisms at the temple and Jamie and Paris wanted to go to the 8:00 session. So I picked Clay up after football practice and ran him by the house to shower and change then we drove to the temple in Gardendale (about 30 minutes away). He was late but not too bad. Then Jamie and Paris brought the boys to me and we rode back home. It was a lot of driving around but we got everything done! And I got some time with two handsome gentlemen. I taught seminary on Wednesday night and Thursday morning which always gives me such an appreciation for our wonderful seminary teacher and these great kids (about 24 in our ward this year) who get up very early every morning and drive to the church to have some spiritual time before school! Then on Friday night we went to the Alabama Birmingham Mission Home where Butch was set apart as a counselor in the Mission Presidency. We are so excited and mildly terrified (me) about this new opportunity. I know that if I am going to talk the talk I’ll have to walk the walk so I’ll apologize in advance to any of my friends from other faiths who may not have any interest in learning more about my religion – because you’re probably going to!!!! After Butch and the other counselor were set apart we went out to dinner with Pres. and Sister Hanks (fabulous people). On Saturday Clay had a service project at the temple planting flowers while us girls attended a baby shower for Brittany that was so nice. Then Abbie and Andie and Avery and Banx and Thad came over to the house and made Halloween cookies (Brittany was of great assistance here). Then the kids watched a movie and ate popcorn while the adults watched ballgames. It was fun and crazy. The boys spent the night but the girls had to go back to Mississippi because they had their primary program yesterday. Anyway, on Sunday the missionaries were coming over to eat dinner right after church. I had been warned that the new sister had to have gluten free foods (no flour/wheat). So I planned my menu carefully. I found a recipe for chicken covered with breadcrumbs that could be adapted by putting only Italian seasoning on hers. It also had Parmesan cheese and sounded good. I made rice and green beans. I did make rolls but I was sure she was used to just passing on those. Then for dessert I made four-layer delight but did one in a separate little bowl with no crust. I thought that I was so prepared. Then I burned the rolls. They were almost done – almost perfect – but I decided to turn on the broiler for just a minute to get them a little more golden brown. I got them charcoal black – just on top. We ate them but they had that kind of campfire taste. Then I overflowed the rice. I have made rice a million times but for some reason I forgot to turn it down once it got to a boil and had rice water all over my stove. Worse, I had to estimate how much water to replace in the pan so the rice would cook properly (I guessed a LOT and that worked out okay). Then I splattered Crystal Lite on myself while I was mixing it up (the powder just jumped out of the pitcher when I added the water – it’s never happened to me before). But finally I had them all settled around the table. Then I found out that the new sister is not only on a gluten free diet - she's dairy-free TOO!!! That means no eggs, no butter, no milk, no crust-less four layer delight. She had to scrape the cheese off her chicken breast. She could eat the rice and green beans. I gave her a sugar-free Jello cup for dessert. She kept apologizing for being so much trouble and assuring me that she would just eat what she could and it would be fine but I wanted to cry. I felt like I fed her a lousy meal. You can be sure I’ll be better prepared next time!!!

“So You Think You Want to Write a Book???” Tip for the week
The Importance of Editing – It’s hard not to take it personal when someone changes or corrects your work. I remember when Covenant first accepted Hearts in Hiding I thought that the editing process meant that they were just going to add commas. I was wrong. An editor will (hopefully) catch all the grammatical mistakes but may also request changes in wording, content, even character names. An example is when I wrote Murder by the Book I had a couple of lines (referring to Kennedy’s ex-husband) that said basically, “At that point my marriage was over. I might have been able to get past Cade’s infidelity but knowing my sisters had seen him naked, well, that was just too much.”  Covenant didn’t want me to use the word ‘naked’. That seemed a little strict to me but it was pointed out to me that it only takes one parent – who buys my book for their twelve year old daughter – and then objects to Deseret Book or Seagull about the word and the bookstores might decide not to stock my book. And maybe not to buy my next one. So, it was changed to something like “knowing that my sisters had seen my husband with another woman”. I didn’t like it as well, but I accepted that my editor knew best.

And editing doesn’t begin after you turn your book over to a publisher. You will be the first editor of your book. Self-editing is the most pleasant part of writing to me. Once I have the basic story in the computer and I can just go back and fix things – that’s fun. But when you’re sure that you have it the way you want it – now it’s time to share it with someone else (or several other people). It’s hard to share your work with others – especially your first book – but you need fresh eyes for a fresh perspective. You know your characters, you know why they do what they do, why they say what they say – so you might not realize that your words are not conveying all this to the reader. A volunteer editor can help you correct this. Choose someone you trust but I don’t necessarily recommend your spouse at this point. You want a volunteer editor that can give you an honest opinion without damaging your relationship. If you don’t think you can take criticism well from your family or friends – hire someone. There are many editors who charge a minimal fee to read a manuscript and while it still might not be fun to read their criticism – it might be easier. I have my daughters critique my manuscripts. They give me enough encouragement to keep me from hitting the delete button but are honest too. Of course you want to hear your book is perfect – but you know it’s not, so be glad for constructive criticism wherever you get it. And remember that just because some things need to be changed doesn’t mean the book/concept is bad. I have a student who showed me a rough draft of a paper he had written. His teacher had corrected mistakes and there were a lot of them. He was discouraged by this and pointed to the top of the paper where the teacher had written “Good Job!” He said, "Why did she say it’s a good job if it’s all wrong?” I knew exactly how he felt and tried to explain that she liked the paper, she just wanted a few improvements. I’m not sure he bought it.  But it’s true. A written work can be good AND wrong! Content vs grammatical correctness. Both are important. I had this conversation with my high school English teacher who consistently gave me low grades for mechanics and high grades for content. The two were averaged for a very unimpressive composite grade and I was frustrated because to me the content was more important than the grammar. But she insisted that the bad mechanics reduced the quality of my work and so the mediocre grade was just. I didn’t agree with her then, but I do now. You can’t send a manuscript to a publisher that is a mess. The harder it is to read – the less likely it is that anyone will read it.

Feeding the Missionaries Fiasco Recipes –

Italian Cheese Chicken for Missionaries (made one without breadcrumbs)

6 large chicken breasts – cut in half lengthwise
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup Italian Breadcrumbs
1 tsp garlic salt
½ tsp pepper
6 slices of Swiss cheese – cut in half
3 TBSPs olive oil
2 eggs – beaten well

Pre-heat your oven to 350*. Put eggs in a bowl. In another bowl combine these ingredients and mix well:
1 cup Parmesan cheese
1 cup breadcrumbs
1 tsp garlic salt
1/2 tsp pepper
½ cup chicken broth
½ cup baking sherry (mix with broth)

Put olive oil in a large nonstick flying pan on medium heat.  Dip each breast in egg and then the breadcrumb mixture until well coated. Then put them in the frying pan. Brown on both sides then place in a 13" x 9" baking dish.  Add 1/2 slice of Swiss cheese to the top of each chicken breast, and pour broth/cooking sherry mixture around the chicken. (If you prefer not to use cooking sherry use a cup of broth) Cover tightly with foil and bake for an hour. Serve with rice.

Note – I had three breasts left over and people coming over for dinner so I cut up the chicken, made another batch of rice and mixed it together with a can of Cream of Mushroom soup. I put it in a casserole dish and topped it with some of the breadcrumbs and more Parmesan cheese and I liked it better than the original recipe!!!

Four-Layer Delight

1 ½ cups flour                          1 large Cool Whip
1 stick butter                            1 large Chocolate Instant Pudding
8 oz. cream cheese                   ½ cup powdered sugar
3 cups milk                               1 Hershey bar

Preheat oven to 300. Melt butter in the microwave and pour it into a large casserole dish. Add flour and mix. Press to the bottom of the pan to form a crust (you may have to add a little more flour to get a dry, crust-like texture). Bake for 10 minutes and cool. Mix softened cream cheese with powdered sugar and 1 cup of Cool Whip. Spread over crust. Mix pudding according to package directions. Pour over cream cheese layer. Refrigerate for 30 minutes to get a firm set. Then top with remaining Cool Whip. Grate Hershey bar on top and serve.

Don't forget to COMMENT on any October blog post for a chance to win the Thanksgiving book giveaway!!!!


Mary Walker said...

We use potato powder (from the little pouches of instant potaotes they sell) to bread chicken. It tastes as good as real bread crumbs and comes in a lot of flavors.

Corey and Amie Aycock said...

Those recipes sound delicious!! I love your fun stories and blog posts!!

Corey and Amie Aycock said...

Those recipes sound delicious!! I love your fun stories and blog posts!!

Trina said...

I can totally sympathize with you - whenever I bake something for anyone other than my family, I have problems, even if it's a recipe I make all the time. I don't know what my problem is!

Shantelle Spackman said...

I love your books and can't wait for "Danger Ahead"!!!! Thank you for the awesome writing tips, my dream is to write something one day.... I also fed the missionaries last week, what sweet young men, but I never know what to feed them, I think I'll use one of your recipes next time. :)

Shantelle Spackman said...

I just have to say I love my rice cooker.. for this exact reason, in fact, I actually have 2 of them! Love your stories and recipes.

Stephanie said...

Congrats on the new calling! And thanks for the recipes. That last one sounds like it could get me into some trouble...:)

Stephanie Graham said...

We found out that one of our 4 sister missionaries is gluten intolerant, and had not said a word to anyone! She has been sick eating all of the southern yummies and didn't want to hurt anyone's feelings. I lovingly "chastized" her and told her that her health was far more important than any dish we could prepare, and it would do us all some good to experiment with alternative cooking - after all, isn't life like a great experiment? :) You and Butch will be awesome in your new callings!

Krisann Ashcroft the biggest fan said...

that's such a funny and sad story i love it!!!!!!!