Step Away From the Deep Fryer!

Being from Alabama, I grew up on fried chicken, chicken fried steak, fried potatoes, fried green tomatoes, fried Okra, fried squash, fried bologna and fried pickles.  Notice the key word here is … fried.  Yup, in Alabama we fry stuff.  I’m amazed we haven’t figured out a way to fry Sweet Tea.  Or maybe they do fry it?

Not that Alabama is the only one who fancies frying.  Recently my adopted state, Texas, had a state fair with a deep-fried menu that left almost nothing to the imagination.  We’re talking fried butter, fried beer—seriously?—fried coke—do they have that in diet?—fried jelly beans, and fried peanut butter banana cheeseburgers.  (If your head is spinning at the last one, you aren’t alone.)  How about some fried salsa?  Or you could tickle your taste buds with some fried kool-aid, fried pizza or a fried pop tart.  Not to your liking?  How about some fried pig ears?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a firm believer that a little batter and a lot of hot oil can make anything tastes twice a good. But I do believe we might have taken it to the limit.  And as much as I like touting the southern states, we aren’t the only frying fools.  

And I think I have a winner for the state offering up the most absolutely-absurd deep-fried item.  You ready?  Arizona touts their fried scorpions.  You want that plain or with chocolate sauce?  My response… are you freaking kidding?  I refuse to batter and fry anything that I’d yank my shirt off in public if it accidentally crawled on me.  Yeah, I know China is famous for their backyard creatures-turned-snack-options, like crickets, grasshoppers and lizards.  And I’ll turn my southern nose up to them, too, but scorpions?  No.  Just no!

I’ll confess, I’ve eaten fried Oreos, fried Twinkies and even fried gator.  The last was not my favorite. What’s the craziest fried food you’ve sampled, or even heard of?  Are you brave when it comes to trying new delicacies or do you have a sensitive palate? 

On My Mind…

The subject has always been an issue, but recently it’s become more of an issue for me.  I’m talking about expiration dates.  I checked and found out that they only started appearing on our food in 1970.  But honestly, I don’t remember my mom ever checking dates when I grew up. 

To be honest, she still doesn’t.  I visited her in California several years ago and was making a sandwich.  When I went to spread the mayonnaise, I noticed it looked funny.  I checked the date and it expired three years ago.  THREE YEARS!!!  

“Are you trying to kill me?” I asked Mom.  I went for the mustard, but it was even older.  As I cleaned out her fridge, I reminded her of all the times she’d called me to say her stomach had been upset.  Then I went through her pantry and wow.  She had cans of food that was old enough to get their driver’s permit. 

She claimed she didn’t even know canned food had expiration dates.  I think the only reason my brothers and I are alive today is because we were a family of five and food didn’t last that long.

When I got back to Texas, I went through my pantry.  Lurking in the dark back corners, I found a can of black beans that should at least have been in kindergarten.

The expiration-date issue is on my mind because I’m doing a lot more cooking.  But mostly because I’m ordering my groceries and having them delivered.  The milk they brought us today has a three-day life expectancy.  The flour tortillas and the dozen eggs has four days.  Something about the whole quarantine dilemma has made me not want to waste food.  So, I’m going to be drinking milk and eating breakfast tacos for the next few days.     

Because my hubby has a compromised immune system due to his transplant drugs, we have to be extra cautious.  But I know a lot of people who treat expiration dates as merely recommendations.  They say, “Oh, those are sell-by dates.”  And yes, I know that’s true, but especially now with the shortage of toilet paper, I’m not taking a chance. Honestly, I’ve always tossed out milk the day before the expiration date. I never was big on the this-tastes-funny-try-it-and-tell-me-if-it’s-bad line.  If I even feel the need to do a sniff test, I usually toss it out.

How about you?  Are you sniff tester? A taste tester?  When’s the last time you checked your pantry for expired food?  Do you abide by the expiration dates or do you treat them like a suggestion?  On what products do you least take the expiration date seriously? 

Oh, Those Titles!

Titles are important. They set the tone of the book.  I’m working on an adult series, a Western Romantic Suspense, and I’m proud of my title:  Secrets of Sweet Mesquite. For C.C. Hunter I have one titled, Sole Survivor. 

But when I started thinking about titles, I couldn’t help but to think about song titles. Being quarantined I had some time on my hands, so I googled a few. And let’s just say I spent about an hour with tears in my eyes.  There are some songs with titles that brought some powerful emotions out of me.

For starters, Johnny Cash sang  a real heart tugger, “Flushed From the Bathroom of Your Heart.” All I can say is, hmmm. Roger Miller sang one with a title that kind of baffled me, “You Can’t Rollerskate in a Buffalo Herd.” 

Trace Adkins entertained hundreds with one song titled, “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk.”  And the song has some lyrics worth mentioning, “Got it going on like Donkey Kong. Shut my mouth. Slap your grandma.”  Now I’m betting Grandma didn’t appreciate that.  I think I heard that song, but I still don’t know what it’s about.

But that bit of lyrics had me thinking about a Christmas song, “Grandma Got Ran Over by a Reindeer,” sang by Elmo and Patsy. I love that song.  Sorry Grandma.

Loretta Lynn and Conway Twitty sang one with a title that really spoke the truth,  “You’re the Reason Our Kids Are Ugly.”  David Allan Coe harmonized to one clever melody, “You Never Even Called Me By My Name” and some of the lyrics are worth mentioning: “Well, I was drunk the day my mom got out of prison, and I went to pick her up in the rain. But before I could get to the station in my pickup truck, she got runned over by a darned old train.”  Yeah, wow! That’s a head scratcher.

Now, Frank Zappa sang one with a title that had some good advice in it that I do follow, “Don’t Eat the Yellow Snow.”  The Cramps also had one that offered some counsel I try to abide by, “Don’t Eat the Stuff Off the Sidewalk.”

Aaron Wilburn gave meaning to a real love song that every woman would love to hear, “If My Nose was Running Money, I’d Blow it All on You.”  But Ruby Wright made my heart heavy with one titled, “Billy Broke My Heart at Walgreens And I Cried all the Way to Sears.” I’d love to add some lyrics to it, “But I found someone new and was happy as a daisy before I got to Macys.”  (Maybe I’ll stick to writing books and not songs.)  

Dan Hicks had a song with great title that would make a good quarantine song, “How Can I Miss You If You Won’t Go Away.” Frank Serafino, had a real love ballad titled, “If I’d Shot You When I’d Wanted to, I’d Be Out by Now.” That might be a quarantine song too.

Jimmy Buffett’s song title, “If the Phone Doesn’t Ring, You’ll Know it’s Me,” made me crack a smile.  Bill Anderson sang one with the title, “Walk Out Backwards,” and the lyrics read: “When you leave, walk out backwards, so I’ll think you’re walking in.”  I think she left due to his drinking, don’t you?

How about… “May the Bird of Paradise Fly Up Your Nose” by Little Jimmie Dickens,

Last but not least, Billy Walker sang one titled, “I’m so Miserable Without You, It’s Almost Like Having You Here.”  Do you know any funny song titles or lyrics?  Let’s have a chuckle.

Lost My Culinary Mojo

I’m from Alabama, which means by the time I was sink high, I knew how to fry a mean bird, mash a tator, and press a pie crust. I even like to cook. It’s one of those chores that relaxes me.  The hands-are-busy-mind’s-on-a-mini-vacation kind. And not bragging or anything, I’m not bad at it.  But I like to play Martha Stewart when I want to play Martha Stewart. Not because some spiky virus named after a beer takes the dinner-out option off the table. 

And my lack of inspiration has materialized in some of my less-than-glowing meals.  Hubby knows better than to complain—I didn’t marry an idiot—but that doesn’t stop him from snickering. Especially when I set the fire alarm off the second time. Do you know how bad burnt cabbage smells?  And how long that scent hangs on?

I’ve tried getting my culinary mojo back by trying some new recipes. I posted about this on Facebook and got some great recipes.  Below I’m posting a link to one that I tried and enjoyed. It is to Crispy Hasselback Potatoes with Rosemary and Garlic. Yummy. (Thank you to authors Laura Drake and Cynthia D’Alba.)

How are you faring in the kitchen?  Any cooking calamities? How about new recipes that might help keep the culinary gods on my side or chase the smell of scorched dog fart out of my house? 

https://tinyurl.com/ybtbe3bh

How will this change us?

My grandmother went through the Great Depression and it left her with a waste-not-want-not mentality.  In addition, her father had died when she was eight and there were six siblings, so I’m pretty sure there were nights she went to bed hungry.  

Even in her eighties, she wouldn’t throw anything away.  I loved that woman, but eating at her house was more dangerous than eating sushi on a clearance rack at a convenience store. You never knew how old something was.  God forbid she cleaned out her fridge the day you came over.  We were taught to never eat her soup.  The family even named it, fridge-clean soup. And it wasn’t just food she fretted over.  She reused aluminum foil, and if someone didn’t dirty up their paper napkin too much, she’d use it again.

When at restaurants, she’d guiltily slip a few packets of sugar in her purse.  And if she had more than a bite of a sandwich left, she’d put that in her purse too.  

I still remember when hubby and I flew to Florida for him to meet her.  Before arriving, we picked up a few groceries and he bought cranberry juice. When he went to get some later, she’d poured half of it into another bottle and added water so the juice would last twice as long.  I told him like I was told growing up, “It’s not really her fault, she went through the Great Depression.”

Now, while I haven’t ever gone to bed hungry—except for nights when I stayed over at Grandma’s house—I’m wondering how the corona virus is going to change me? Already I buy extra when ordering my groceries.  I mean, why not have some extra can tuna or chicken in the pantry?  And when I get an option to buy a larger portion of anything, I go with the large one without even thinking.  My friends are telling me that they too are fighting the compulsion to stock up on things. 

It’s not just the food issues either.  Texas is slowly opening up, but with hubby on immune suppressant drugs, we are still sheltering in place.  And I wonder how long it will be before I’ll really feel safe standing in a crowd.  Others tell me they will forever be aware of handwashing. 

I can’t help but wonder if when I’m in my eighties someone will say, “It’s not really her fault, she went through the corona virus.”

Do you think this time is going to tweak your behavior?  What will you do, or view differently when this has passed? What item will you stock up on after this is over? 

Ten things to do that can boost your mood.

  1. Listen to music.  Happy music lifts your spirit, but they say sad music provides emotional release.  Maybe even listen to music you normally wouldn’t. And sing along with the music. Singing lifts your spirits.
  2. Connect with strangers.  (In person, at a social distance, or do it online.  Reach out to someone you normally don’t reach out to. People are lonely right now, try offering the gift of conversation.)
  3. Stay connected, at a distance.  We have been doing happy hours and even dinners out, or I should say dinners outside, on our front porch.  Everyone brings their own food, drinks, and serving ware.  Sort of a picnic. We sit about ten feet away and enjoy visiting.
  4. Make someone else smile.  Like a yawn is contagious, so is a smile.
  5. Find beautiful things to look at. Several studies have been done that prove just looking at beautiful things reduces stress and creates calm.  Try searching online for beautiful images. Or simply look around.  Hubby and I have been walking and a while back he said, “You know how people who live by the ocean stop appreciating the beauty of it?  Well, we have all these beautiful trees and I think we forgot they are beautiful.”  So, we’re trying to appreciate our surrounding a little more.
  6. Count your blessings. I know, this is a very trying time, but we can all find something in our lives to be thankful for. And if you can, give to help others.  
  7. Work a puzzle.  While the hands are busy, the mind can wander, or focus.  I have worked two jigsaw puzzles during the last few weeks.  Experts say that while we work on puzzles, or brain is sorting and making sense of random patterns.  We aren’t consciously aware of the work.  We focus more on images and shapes which are more pleasurable. It’s sort of a brain vacation.
  8. Read.  You knew I was going to list this, right?  Reading is an escape and like music, you can read a funny book to give you a boost or even a sad one to offer emotional release.  
  9. Use this time to learn something new.  Learning not only opens your mind, but it feeds your soul.  Even if all you do is watch a documentary on something, it can give you a learning high.
  10.  Take care of yourself.  It’s hard right now to eat healthy and to exercise, but the truth is we feel better when we are eating right and staying active. I don’t think we should constantly be depriving ourselves during this time, but don’t let yourself go off the deep end and neglect your health.  

What are you doing to chase away the blues during this difficult time?

Surviving Quarantine

How are you doing during this trying time?  What are you doing to pass time?  To keep yourself and those around you sane? 

Hubby and I are doing okay.  As hard as this is, we both realize how fortunate we are.  I think like most of us, we are trying to limit how much news we watch.  Too much news seems to equal a quicker path to panicking.  

I have been working.  I’m finishing the revisions on Don’t Look Back, my last book in my Christie Craig Texas Justice series.  I’m getting it done, but it’s coming slow. It’s hard to be creative when life feels so bat shit crazy.  

To hold off boredom, I’ve been working a jigsaw puzzle.  In the evenings, we’ve been binge watching a few shows. I’ve been reading, but even that is hard.  I walk every day.  In fact, I’m still walking with a friend—we take turns driving to each other’s house, we walk, talk, but stay ten feet apart of each other and don’t even go into each other’s homes.  Then hubby and I go for a shorter walk in the afternoons. As much as I dislike this quarantine time, my dog is loving it.

We order groceries and have them delivered. So far, we are not out of toilet paper.  Then there’s cooking. Hubby fixes his own breakfast and lunch, but I cook dinner.  With hubby being a transplant patient, it’s imperative that we keep him and myself virus free, so even ordering in is too risky. Now, I actually like to cook, but when this is over, I’m making hubby take me out for a month.  

I hope everyone is doing okay and staying safe.  Tell me what you’re doing?  What shows are you watching?  What books are you reading?  How are you staying sane?

Mortal Sight

I met Sandra Rhoads at a conference years ago. We ran into each other at writer’s events and kept in touch. Now, I’m so excited to announce Sandra’s debut novel, Mortal Sight releases today, April 14th. I’m excited because Sandra is a friend, but I’m even more excited because Mortal Sight sounds like an amazing YA.

I am fortunate to have Sandra as my special guest this week. She agreed to answer a few questions.

1. Mortal Sight is the first book in your Colliding Line series. I can’t wait to read it. It sounds amazing! How many books do we have to look forward to in this series?

The Colliding Line series is a duology, so Mortal Sight is the first of two installments.

2. Was there a defining moment when you realized you wanted to be a writer? How did that come about?

For me, the lightning strike moment happened in middle-school. I was given an assignment to write a descriptive paper. The whole class grumbled about it, but I was thrilled. I drew with words the first scene that came to mind. It was a place that time forgot: a place with a dirt road, a field, and a wire fence where trees swayed with joy. I crafted somewhere I could step into and escape from the numbing madness of the middle school world—a place I thought no one cared about but me. It was my teacher’s note that flipped the writing switch. At the top of the paper, scrawled in green ink she wrote: “You possess a gift.” I don’t remember her name, but her words sparked a desire to keep telling stories. And I did. Poetry, short stories, script-writing, journals, and now a novel.

3. You studied literature in college, and John Milton in particular, getting your masters on his work. Milton’s poem, Paradise Lost, is widely regarded as the greatest epic poem in English. In Mortal Sight, Cera often finds herself thinking about Paradise Lost. Was that poem your inspiration for this book, or was it something else?

Milton sort of forced his way into the story. The original story seed came from a “what if” question. What if someone never felt like they belonged—because they didn’t, they were really born for a place they couldn’t see? And if so, what things in the everyday world would shout out this truth, point to this other world, and trying at whatever cost to get their attention in order to let them know that the restlessness is intentional. The verses from the poem kept popping in my head (not unlike Cera) and as I skimmed through the poem, I carved the idea that artists could play an important part in pointing to this other realm; Milton’s words in particular because he speaks of invisible battles and unseen wars.

4. Who is your favorite character from this book, and why?

Oh, I love them all so much, but in Mortal Sight, besides Cera, I think my favorite character is Gladys. I loved writing her. She’s such a balm for Cera and the epitome of grace. And I’d want to eat her cooking all day long.

5. In Mortal Sight, all Cera wants is a normal life, but instead, her life is turned upside down. She has visions and is drawn into a war against unearthly creatures. Why do you think the story of the reluctant hero resonates so well with readers?

I think a reluctant hero’s tenacity is what resonates. Standing up for what is right, seeking the well-being of others, and putting their own needs aside are admirable traits. Cera has a heart to do what is right, but ends up making a lot of mistakes. Those mistakes keep her from thinking she has the power to do anything “great” but gets up, dusts herself off, and she tries again.

6. You were born in Queens, N.Y., but now live in Dallas, TX. Is there anything you miss about N.Y.? What do you like about Dallas?

Snow—but only for so long. I’ve lived in Texas for so many years now (Houston, Austin and now, Dallas) that my blood has thinned. I also miss how the trees look to be on fire with the changing fall season. It’s not quite the same in Texas.

As far as Dallas? I like the weather (which at times feels like SoCal) and I love Mexican food—fajitas and street tacos, in particular.  I also love the arts culture in Dallas.

7. Is there anything else you’d like us to know about you or your book?

I am so excited to share this story. I have a deep love for artists and the creative community and love encouraging others to tell stories through art, whether it’s visual, music, poetry, dance or writing. Art is so needed in the world. 

I also have a book trailer coming out that can be found on my website: sandrarhoads.com and It will be on Instagram @sfrhoads.author as well as my FB author page, Sandra Fernandez Rhoads – Author. 

Thank you so much for letting me share a little about this story!

Mortal Sight

When Worlds Collide, Shadow Wrestles Light

Seventeen-year-old Cera Marlowe wants a normal life; one where she and her mom can stop skipping town every time a disturbing vision strikes. But when a girl she knows is murdered by a monster she can’t explain, Cera’s world turns upside down.

Suddenly thrown into an ancient supernatural battle, Cera discovers she’s not alone in her gifting and vows to use her visions to save lives. But why does John Milton’s poem Paradise Lost keep interrupting her thoughts?

In a race against time and a war against unearthly creatures, will decoding messages embedded in the works of classic literature be enough to stop the bloodshed and protect those she loves? 

You can order Mortal Sight now from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

What Am I Working On?

What am I working on?  I get asked that a lot.  While I have two partially completed young adult novels in the works, right this minute, I’m doing revisions on my last Texas Justice novel, Don’t Look Back, which is an adult suspense. Then, I’m half way finished with another adult novel, a humorous romantic suspense, which is also part of a trilogy.  

I was hoping to get one of the young adult books done first, but my agent—yes, you can blame her—requested I do the adult books first.  

The two young adult novels are both going to be series.  The first one, Sole Survivor, is about a seventeen-year-old girl who is the sole survivor of a plane crash. Since her parents died in the crash, her uncle becomes her guardian.  Then, she finds herself drawn to a boy who is also the sole survivor of his family.  Both of them start experiencing premonition dreams and learn they have the ability to change fate and even might have the power to bring their families back.  

The other book, Glimmer, is about a young girl who discovers she is a descendant of a fallen Grim Reaper.  Whenever she bumps into someone who is close to death, she gets visions of how they will die.  Not yet understanding her powers, it turns her world upside down.  Does she tell people, “Don’t go swimming in that lake today, don’t drive on that freeway, don’t get on that plane?”  Does she do it even when she knows people will think she’s crazy? And what happens when the boy she loves won’t listen to her?  

So while I’ve written several chapters of both of these young adult stories, I’m hoping to finish the edits on my Texas Justice book first and finish the next adult novel before diving back into the young adult novels. 

Which idea do you like best, Glimmer or Sole Survivor? 

How are you doing with this whole quarantine issue?  Sending virtual hugs to everyone and hoping everyone stays safe.

Keep reading!

CC

Social Distancing

These are strange times. School suspended, stores closed and toilet paper is becoming its own currency. So, as I’ve said before, since my husband had a kidney transplant a few years ago, we have to be extra careful he doesn’t pick up a bug.

And I’m just talking a normal, run of the mill bug, not this crazy super virus we are all facing now. Because of COV19, we are having to self-quarantine to be safe. Which is pretty normal for me because I’m a writer. Writers are known to be recluses. But even I get antsy at times, and I thought you must be, too. So, I did some research and came up with a few ideas of things you can do while you’re staying home.

  • Read a book (or several). Didn’t you know that would be at the top of my list?
  • Start journaling. Yes, it’s something you’ve said you were going to do for years.
  • Bake! Try that 4 tiered cake your grandmother used to make, or just experiment.
  • Interact with your family. You might be surprised at how much you like them.
  • Take an online class. There are lots of great cooking, photography, language classes, etc.
  • Learn to knit or crochet. If you already know how, make something for me. J
  • Start an online book club.
  • Play video games (but limit your time).
  • Take a walk, but stay away from others.
  • Use Facetime, Skype, WhatsApp, Zoom, or any other means to hold an online party to chat with your friends.
  • Clean your house. Why not? What else have you got to do?  (This one didn’t work for me. LOL.)
  • Do yard work. You’ll feel great when it’s done and it looks great.
  • Binge watch a fabulous TV series
  • Play cards or games.
  • Tackle a project in the house. Yes, it’s finally time to build that new book shelf!
  • Write that book you’ve always want to write.

Well, that’s about all I could think of for now, but I’d welcome any suggestions you want to add. What are you doing to pass the time while social distancing?