I have started and restarted this week’s edition three times. I just don’t know where to start this week with so much wrong going on.
So, let me just share what I have, and my hope is that one of these things will make you smile.
Have you seen the preview for Enola Holmes on Netflix? Well, here it is:
Go ahead, watch it, I’ll wait.
It had me at Henry Cavill. Coming next week on Netflix.
I know right now that an outside fire is the furthest thing from most of our minds. But just before the entire west burst into flames, I went with a few friends to a beach and one of them had this Flatpack grill.
It is the coolest little gadget, allowing you to have a small, outside fire just about anywhere, plus it works as a nifty grill. We cooked dinner on it and then enjoyed watching the sunset with a beach fire. And then it all folds up flat and cleans up in a flash.
Might make a great gift for someone you know or yourself. For better days ahead.
Speaking of thinking toward the holidays, (I know, I can’t even believe I’m advocating Christmas before Halloween, but there it is) I found the cutest site recently, Redbubble. All kinds of neat and unique pieces done by artists–artwork, prints, phone cases, coffee mugs–that you won’t find elsewhere.
Fall is my favorite time of year for a variety of reasons but mostly because the Fall Writing Conferences are in full swing. Sadly, they’ve all gone virtual, so I won’t get to hang out with friends, but happily with them virtual, lots of people can jump into a writing conference without the added expenses of travel.
So if you’ve ever want to write, but the costs or just the idea of walking alone into a huge conference seemed too daunting, here’s a way to try it out without all the added stress.
Added bonus to these two conferences? You’ll know someone who is attending. Me.
This is a smaller conference, but packs a lot of variety into a small footprint. Experienced speakers, a variety of subjects for writers at all the stages of their careers. Take a look at the brochure here. This would be a friendly, easy place to venture into the writing world.
This is the BEST writing conference in North America. Bar none. A very well curated list of speakers and topics that reach toward writers of genre fiction, poetry, nonfiction and everything in between. I am always humbled and proud to be a part of this conference. Register and then get ready for a writing experience like no other.
So I hope you found something to smile about. I know five of you who were notified that you’d won last week’s audiobook giveaway. Never fear, I have another audiobook contest in the works. Just keep an eye out.
Hugs and love to all of you. Times are hard, but we are not alone. Not when we have books, friends and Fridays.
As I look out the window at nothing but smoke, my heart goes out to everyone affected by the wildfires on the West Coast. Prayers going out for rain and relief.
That, and four day weeks throw me. What? It’s Friday already? Hence, this is a little late this morning.
So let’s get going with something to lighten our hearts.
A few weeks ago, I told you I was diving into A Queen in Hiding by Sarah Kozloff. Since then, I’ve read all four books in the series. I have been binge reading. Leave me alone reading. Staying up too late reading. Such a fun fantasy series. So I am recommending it twice.
Over Labor Day weekend, my best friend invited me up to her time-share in Port Townsend, Washington, and we spent the weekend at the beach. Being so like minded, we did all the things we love: we beachcombed, hiked in the woods, read books (see #1) and played way too many games of Splendor. Have you ever played Splendor? It took me a few games to get the hang of it, but I enjoyed the ruthless, cribbage sort of strategy it demands. If you like games, give this one to try.
May you be visited by a noble. LOL
Looking for something super nummy this weekend? This is my new, I want a special dinner, way too delish recipe to trot out: Grilled Chicken with Red Pepper-Pecan Romesco Sauce from Eating Well. I love their recipes, but this one is super good. Best part–it makes A LOT of sauce, which you can repurpose for pasta later on.
And if you are like me, you might just have the tomatoes in the garden.
Photo credit: Eating Well
Time for another audiobook giveaway!
Because I can, I have lots of fruit in the house, so it is inevitable that I end up with those wretched little fruit flies in my kitchen.
But I have a fool-proof way to get rid of them.
Grab a canning jar (LOL) or glass, and put a/3 cup of apple cider vinegar in it, a few drops of dishsoap, swirl it around, then cover the jar with plastic wrap, secure the wrap with either a rubber band or canning ring, and then poke a few small holes in the plastic with a skewer.
There you have it, the perfect DIY Fruit Fly Trap. Set it on the counter, then cackle with joy as those little pesky devils go to their doom.
As always, share something special with a friend–like this newsletter. Send someone a note. Read a great book. Tell the world. My wish for you and yours is that your days and week ahead are filled with joy and kindness.
“It’s never too late change old habits.” Florence Griffith Joyner
And isn’t September about change? I’ve always thought the new year should ring in September 1st. Kids go back to school, seasons change, life shifts. There is a sense of moving forward when September rolls around. So I offer the above quote as my Autumnal prod.
Time to change.
In the vein of trying something different, have you read A Man Called Ove? It is a Swedish book that is ever so delightful–an elderly man who has to learn to live. It is his September of sorts. It was very popular a few years ago, and if you didn’t try it then, give it chance now.
I am so addicted to these minute long videos that show you a dozen life hacks that are jaw dropping smart. I love this one.
I have been canning. A lot. And having picked up 60 pds of peaches . . . Yes, you read that correctly, 60 pounds. . . I got down to the last few pounds and knew I had to make my Great Aunt Sissy’s Spiced Peach Jam. It is so easy–follow the instructions for regular old peach jam inside the pectin box, but add to the peaches and pectin a 1/2 teaspoon each of the following: cinnamon, allspice, and ground cloves. Then just cook and can as usual.
This small addition turns ordinary peach jam into something so very special. Not that homemade jam isn’t already tops in the special department, but these homey spices turn it into comfort jam. Friends and family will cheer for more.
You’ll thank me one cold January morning as you slather it onto toast and bite into sunshine and spice.
When I can, I try to remember to write at least the year on top of the jar lid, if not the contents. I hate putting labels on jars because they are such a pain to get off the jars, then I remembered that I had bought these Avery Labels #22828 a while back and realized they are the same size as canning lids.
Voila! The perfect labels for canning, because they fit on lids, they are waterproof and it is so easy to print out exactly what you need.
And since you don’t reuse canning lids, you don’t have to worry about scraping them off the jar.
Best of all, when you gift something, you will know that it actually is Raspberry Jelly and not Balsamic Pepper Jelly. Which I might have done once.
New month, new Instagram challenges for all the booklovers out there. Like you!!
I LOVE these challenges because you can do all 30 some days or just hop around to themes and prompts that make you smile. You can just follow the hashtags and see each day’s posts.
National Book Day? I’m in. Pirates? Arrgh! Yes!Cozy Reads? Curl me up!!
Come on in and dip your toes in posting some fun book shots. Never done it before? Try something easy to begin with, just a shot of a cover, then get adventurous and pull out all the stops for a gorgeous stack.
Like this one:
Here are the September challenges I found with a little bit of searching, along with their hashtags so you can check out some new to you books and book people are sharing. It is so much fun to see the books bloggers and booklovers from all over the world use as inspiration and are thrilled to share.
Hello all my lovely friends! I hope your week has been full of good things and moments of joy. To everyone in the path of fires or hurricanes or storms or just struggles, I send you my best hopes for a brighter week ahead.
Also, huge hugs to all of you who wrote me about The Blue Castle (my favorite book)–those of you who have loved it as I do, and those of you who gave it try and found it delightful. Shared books are the best!!
Maybe one of these Five Things will be something you can share, or just lighten your heart.
Refrigerator Pickles are the bomb. I had extra pickling cucumbers left and a few cucumbers from the garden (Okay, I deliberately had extra) and I hated them to go to waste. So I got out two canning jars and made these simple and easy pickles. They will last several months in the fridge, but don’t expect them to last that long if you have a household of pickle lovers.
The recipe says you can use English cucumbers, but try to find fresh pickling cukes–at the farmer’s market or a local fruit stand.
Tyler is my son’s friend. And he said he wanted to be famous like me. After I got done laughing, I offered to put him here in my newsletter and tell you all about him.
Matthew and Tyler met in a special education preschool. Tyler has spent his entire life in a wheelchair, and Matthew is hell on wheels. LOL.
When they were little, Matthew would run circles around Tyler’s chair and Tyler would laugh hysterically. Now, with Covid and both of them at high risk, Tyler Facetimes Matthew every single night to talk about their days. Before Covid, Matthew (who has autism) wouldn’t do anything like this, but now . . . well, necessity (and Tyler) has forced him out of his comfort zone. We are so thankful for Tyler.
He and Matthew miss each other terribly and wish they were back at school or riding the bus together. But until then, Tyler, you are one of a kind and very famous at our house. And now, you are the rock star of my newsletter.
If you would like to meet Tyler:
I promise, Tyler will melt your heart.
I always think that anyone who knits or crochets knows about Ravelry, but then I will meet someone who doesn’t and I am shocked. So I want to make sure everyone knows about this wonderful place–it is Facebook for knitters, the wikipedia of knitting and crochet, and the coolest place on the internet.
You can friend me there and see what I’m knitting–I’m Elizbo.
I’ve been a huge fan of Lucifer for ages, and was thrilled when Netflix picked it up and continued it. And now Lucifer is back for its final season, so if you haven’t watched it, it is a great show to binge–especially if you love mysteries, romance, and one wild devil.
Now that my library has reopened for pick ups, all the books I’d been requesting during the lock down are coming in fast and furious. I started one this week that I think has all the hallmarks of being great, and bonus, there are four books in the series. So if you are looking for something new to read, give A Queen in Hiding by Sarah Kozloff a try. At least that is what I’ll be doing this weekend. Stop by my Facebook page and let me know what you are reading!
Have a great week! Drop me a note and let me know if there is something I should be posting here! And as always, if you know someone who might like something here, please feel send them the link or share it on your social media.
This week just flew by. I completely lost track of the days and now, here it is Friday. And since I am neck deep in canning peaches and pickles, (not in the same jar, I promise!) let’s get straight to it:
My husband and I finished the Second Season of The Umbrella Academy on Netflix last night. We are huge fans. I loved Season One so much, I think I’ve watched it like three times–there is so many details that are just so subtle, it really does require a second viewing.
At least, that is what I tell myself.
While I will warn you, it does have some serious violence, I watch it because I LOVE the characters. Klaus, Number Five, and Ben, steal my heart.
I picked a ton of blueberries last month and tucked them in the freezer for winter, but my family keeps sneaking a bag out so I will make the Blueberry Muffins from this book, Muffins, but Elizabeth Alston. My copy of the book is ancient and well thumbed and I don’t think there is a bad recipe in it, but the Blueberry Muffins are to die for. And happily, there are some used copies of the book on Amazon that won’t break the bank. I think I love cookbooks almost as much as fiction.
When I was in Chicago, I sat down with a group of my son’s friends who all want to be writers and we talked about the process and of course the conversation turned to favorite books. When asked about mine, I never hesitate–I absolutely adore The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery.
I love all her books (Anne of Green Gables, Emily of New Moon, Jane of Lantern Hill (a lovely story if you can find a copy), but The Blue Castle is my touchstone. The book I reach for when I need a friend, a cozy romantic read.
Garlic Roasted Cherry Tomatoes If you have a bunch of cherry tomatoes or just love tomatoes, this has to be my favorite way to make them. I roast them and throw them on pasta with some shrimp for an easy simple dinner. We eat them right off the pan. They go on pizzas. They are just the bomb. A cherry bomb. LOL.
And thank you for the suggestions of using coffee grounds to keep the little devil snails away. It has worked like a charm and saved my zuchinni plants. Now I am overrun in zucchini. And also peppers and beans and . . .
So the other morning I went through and gave the garden a good picking, bagged up all the food and donated it to the food bank. Usually I hand out food from the garden to whatever hapless friend happens to be over and they have no choice but to leave with bags of garden produce. I also usually sneak a zuchinni in the backseat of their car as well.
But this year, with so many people out of work and in need of help, and a general lack of gatherings of friends, I am committed to taking every bit of extra food to my local food bank. If your garden is overflowing, or you have a fruit tree that produces more than you can use, please consider donating that food to your local food bank. We all need to pull together.
Please stay healthy, safe and socially distanced. And try the Roasted Cherry Tomatoes. Really.
Well, this is an abbreviated list of sorts–part vacation slides, part yummy recipe, and finally, a good listen.
First the roadtrip. My son and I drove 2329 miles in four days. Through Washington, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Nebraska, Iowa and Illinois.
Secondly, I learned what a Derecho is. Thankfully, not up close. It traveled a few hours ahead of us, but we were very sobered by the damage we witnessed in Iowa and Illinois–trees ripped apart, flattened corn fields and semi trucks flipped over.
I then helped him move into an apartment in Chicago which is a third floor walk up in an old apartment building. Walk up as in walking up a very rickety set of old stairs. Ah, college apartments. But he’s thrilled to be back around his roommates, and we had a really fabulous trip.
Also, a huge thank you to everyone out there who is wearing a mask and doing their best to social distance. This has to be a community effort and we met a lot of people doing their best. To the places we passed through who are doing their part, you are most appreciated.
Driving over the Bighorn Mountains in Wyoming and through the Bighorn National Forest. Just amazing vistas and views. Breathtaking at times.
Finally getting to see the Medicine Wheel in the Bighorn Mountains. (Hence the slight deviation from I-90 in Montana and into Wyoming).
The hike up to it was beautiful and then just the reverence of visiting a place native peoples have held sacred and visited for 1000s of years was amazing. We climbed up past meadows and looking out at the mountain tops around us, just added to the joy. Sadly we missed the bears everyone else saw and told us about, but we were followed by ravens that kepy up a lovely conversation with us.
All the laughter and stupid jokes and lame things we shared as we drove all those hours together. Ask me sometime about our new favorite driving game: Hay Corn. Inspired by the lovely state of Nebraska.
Slow-Cooker Paella. We stayed one night with my sister-in-law and her family and she had this ready when we arrived. It is so easy and so good. I can highly recommend. She also added more vegetables–broccoli and edamame, which really rounded out the entire meal. Spoon this into a bowl and enjoy!
Audiobook sale–Lorraine Heath’s delightful historical, The Earl Takes a Fancy, is on sale through Chirp for $3.99. I’ve never used Chirp, but I do like the price. And if you prefer just a good read, the Kindle version is currently $1.99. Your weekend reading or listening is all taken care of.
Here we go again! Another week and another Friday. And I am in a whirlwind.
I start off on a big adventure tomorrow–I’m helping my college son move back to Chicago. We will be driving from Seattle to Chicago, via Butte, Montana, Casper, Wyoming, and Lincoln, Nebraska, before we roll into Chicago.
You can follow along on our bubble adventures across the west and into the great midwest on my Facebook and my Instagram accounts. Wave at us if we are motoring through your neck of the woods.
And don’t worry, we have face masks and Clorox wipes I recently scored at Costco.
Please keeps us in your thoughts! And if you have any travel advice for these times, send it along! I’d love to hear about your experiences.
In the meantime, lets find Five Things to get this weekend going!
I’m going to give you homework while I’m gone. On road trips, I always take some very easy knitting–dishcloths that I use for homemade Christmas gifts. I love this pattern: Grandmother’s Favorite and invite you to knit with me.
“But, Elizabeth, I don’t know how to knit,” you say.
Come on, you know you want to learn. And crocheters, I found a pattern for you here.
Since I am in a travel vein, there is a fun book coming out on Tuesday, Eighty Days to Elswhere by kc dyer. She wrote the beloved book, Finding Fraser. Eighty Days to Elsewhere is a take on Around the World in Eighty Days, but this time the heroine is drawn into a competition that will help her save her family’s bookstore. Sounds like the perfect road book.
Hashtag alert! I’ve found two really fun Romance challenges running on Instagram during August: #inspiredbookchallenge and #summerflingscavengerhunt.
Each day you’ll find fun prompts to share or discover new books. My favorite prompt so far? Puffy Shirts. I think I know a thing or two about that:
This pasta is the perfect summer dinner when you really don’t want to work to hard to put something on the table. Yummy and perfect. Thank you to Cooking with Alison for the lovely online recipe. My recipe is just a post it in my cupboard.
So maybe you don’t want to knit, well, I have something else to mesmerize you. Napkin Folding. Don’t ask how much time I spent watching this video. Who knew there were so many ways to fold napkins? Amaze your family this weekend.
If you’ve never read Georgette, now is the perfect time to curl up with her delightful Regencies and bask in her extraordinary wit and sublime romance. I adore The Grand Sophy–it is always the Heyer book I recommend people read first. But my favorite is The Foundling. You’ll have to read both and let me know.
Did you know there is a graham cracker shortage? I’ve been trying to find them for a month. I have recipe that I wanted to make but needed graham crackers for the crust.
Well out of desperation (and a bit of inspiration) I grabbed up a bag of Teddy Grahams at the grocery store with the notion of “what the heck?”. Well, I will tell you that Teddy Grahams make a great substitute if you want to make a graham cracker crust, but be warned when you go to make it, there is always one Teddy who is going to know his fate.
Looking for something to watch this weekend?–other than the second season of The Umbrella Academy?? We watched The Old Guard this week and I really enjoyed it.
It actually inspired me to consider a new word for my Bullet Journal and writing life: Purpose. We should all have purpose in what we do.
Of course that I found this in a comic book movie with a lot of violence, might say something about me, but if you are looking for an adventure with great characters, give it a watch on Netflix.
Contest Winners!! A lot of you missed the contest in last week’s newsletter, but four lucky folks (Johanna L., Elaine M., Sandra M., and Stephanie F.) won download codes for the audio book of This Rake of Mine. I’ve got more codes to give away in the coming weeks, so make sure to keep a sharp eye out here, and if you didn’t get a chance last week, I’ve actually posted a contest for one last code for This Rake of Mine on my Facebook page–so you can enter there.
If you were wondering what was the recipe that needed, nay, demanded graham crackers, it was this Key lime Pie. I made it for a small luncheon of friends (socially distanced and wearing masks). We’ve been friends for more than 30 years, and recently learned that one of our group has terminal cancer. We haven’t lunched together since February, so now it was critical that we not waste any time.
Best bit I can share with you this week: Love your friends, keep them as close as possible, reach out, and when you can find graham crackers or Teddy Grahams, make them this pie.
It’s Friday! Hurrah. We made it through another week. I hope your days have been bright and you have a weekend ahead full of things that make you smile.
Here are five things that have me grinning.
Mark your calendars: The Australian Romance Readers are putting on a virtual reader’s conference, A Romantic Rendezvous: Locked Down, August 1-2. So if you’ve ever wanted to go to a reader’s conference or go to Australia, here’s your chance–all from the comfort of your own home.
Take a look at the schedule, but just know I am not going to do the time zone math for you. LOL
The conference features over 50 sessions and 70 authors, including yours truly. You’ll find me I’m in a session with Cathy Maxwell and Lorraine Heath, two of my favorite people.
So mark your calendars and settle in with some snacks and enjoy.
Giveaway!! This Rake of Mine is now available in audiobook and I have three downloads to give away.
Rules: To use the download code, you will have to open a free account with Audiobooks.com, but after that you can listen away.
Cabbage Ramen Salad. You know the one, that ends up at every potluck and picnic? But this one is truly the best ever Cabbage Ramen Salad.
The trick, it turns out, is in toasting the ramen, almonds and sesame seeds beforehand. Pure Magic.
Also, make a note to add the sesame seeds to the toasting pan in the last minute or so, because those little suckers cook fast. As in burn fast. Just saying.
We devour this salad. Plan for seconds and thirds.
Star Trek. I know that there has to be a few Star Trek geeks out there–of which I count myself one–who will love this beautiful documentary by Adam Nimoy, Leonard Nimoy’s son, looking at his father and iconic role as Spock.
For the Love of Spock is available to rent through Amazon Prime and other services and is so worth the viewing if you love Star Trek. Even if you don’t–it’s a great look back at the 60s and 70s.
Fun fact: I didn’t realize how much live theater Leonard Nimoy did.
In case your tastes run more cultured or you just want to see something utterly lovely, here is the Swan Lake Bath, featuring 27 professional ballet dancers from around the world performing Swan Lake from their bath tubs and showers. It’s only three minutes long, so you don’t even have to worry about getting your opera house clothing in order.
Have a great week and hope you find something new and exciting that lights up your heart. Please feel free to share my newsletter with your friends or anyone you think might like a little bit of something new every Friday.
Summer has finally arrived in Seattle. We never call it summer here until well after the 4th of July. But this week has been lovely and warm. And I keep hoping to catch sight of the Comet Neowise. I know, always with my to do list.
Also, some of you emailed me about last week’s recipe for Dutch Babies with questions about the pan. The recipe calls for a paella pan, but I have to confess, I make mine with a plain old cast iron skillet. As far as I can tell, any oven safe pan should work. Saturday breakfast, anyone?
So without further ado, here is this week’s list of Five Things.
Katherine Kingsley. Have you read her? Recently I saw someone post one of her books on Instagram and it was such a blast from the past. She’s one of those early romance writers who rose to fame in the 80s and early 90s and I LOVED her books. I was so inspired by them. I wanted to write these big, romantic books just like she did.
Not long after I sold my first book to Dell, I ended up seated next to her at a dinner. She was everything I thought she would be–amazing, interesting and just an outright character. She was an enchanting as her books.
So, what author got you hooked on romance novels, and have you met them?
Granchester. I love British shows–but British mystery series are really, really, my jam. I had watched the first few years of Granchester with the dashing cleric, Sidney Chambers, and then recently–like last week–found two new seasons. I’ve been streaming it from PBS. A little history. A little mystery.
I also have a thing for Foyle’s War . . . and . . .
I came to the end of a writing journal the other day. It is completely filled with my chicken scratched notes and scenes and a to do list (of course). And I went to get another one out of the closet and realized I was out of notebooks. What? Panicked, I had that moment of “what if I can’t get these any more?”
These being, the 8″ x 10″ Eccolo World Traveler Journals. I love these journals. The paper holds up. The notebook holds up. Here’s the one I just filled– it looks like its been through hell and back and still it is intact. And much loved.
Best journals ever. And happily, still available. So I ordered a bunch more. ‘Cause I got stories to write.
It’s summer so that means the grill is on. Honestly, in Seattle, we grill year round, but summer grilling is my favorite. Less rain. And plenty of fresh corn on the cob. So when find good, fresh corn, and I know we will be grilling that night, I throw it on the grill just like this.
I have two quotes on post-its that are on my computer that I read every morning before I start to write and they are:
Make a simple but profound change.
Morning after morning he opens my ear that I may hear. ~Isiah 50:4
I hope in this coming week you hear the words that guide you, and that you find an opportunity to reach for change.
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