Highs and Lows

Hello, friends! It’s been a little bit, and mostly that’s because I’ve been busy (but also, a little lazy).

So we *moved*. The Navy Yard area of DC is so fun and surprisingly pretty (I’ll admit, I was expecting a lot more concrete, but there are parks and tree-lined streets not far in the beautiful Capitol Hill neighborhood). I will definitely need to post about the great food and drinks we’ve experienced thus far!

I also started a new job! It happened a lot faster than I expected, which is mostly good because I was already starting to get a little stir-crazy–though a little extra time between jobs may have provided more writing opportunities.

Who am I kidding? I started the querying process shortly after the move, so rather than putting pen to paper, I was crafting letters and cramming the happenings of my story into a single page (double-spaced). This process gave me terrible writer’s block, because my brain was so focused on the nittiest, grittiest of details rather than letting my imagination roam free.

So my lack of creativity mingled with my lack of hearing back from agents I queried, sprinkled with stress over starting a new job in a new city with a new, hellish commute has had me bouncing from high to low and back again. The best way to explain how I’ve felt this past month would be to say I vacillate between “High Hopes” by Panic! At The Disco and “Special” by Shinedown with very little neutral ground. Though, I’m pleased to report things just might be looking up for me in the writing world. To be continued…

That’s all I’ve got for right now, I’ll try to get back to semi-regular posting once I’m more settled into a routine. I’ve definitely got the commute for composing rambles!

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2019 Reading Challenge: Accomplished!

Maybe it’s all this free time on my hands (definitely that) but I blew through 40 books this year. I’m also the sort of person who crams entertainment into every few minutes she can (reading for the 2 minutes it takes to brush my teeth, listening to podcasts while I get ready for the day, driving or cooking to Spotify playlists…) and I need at least an hour of unwind-reading-time before I fall asleep. I’ve made my stretch goal 65 books…let’s see what I can do to read 25 more books before New Year’s Eve!

To Recap:

  1. The Memory Keeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards
  2. The Adventure Zone: Here There Be Gerblins
  3. Wildcard by Marie Lu
  4. Brightly Burning by Alexa Donne
  5. Seafire by Natalie C. Parker
  6. Spindle Fire by Lexa Hillyer
  7. The Emotional Craft of Fiction by Donad Maass
  8. Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery
  9. Grace and Fury by Tracy Banghart
  10. The Greatest Love Story Ever Told by Megan Mullally and Nick Offerman
  11. Ace of Shades by Amanda Foody
  12. Courting Darkness by Robin LeFevers
  13. The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg
  14. The Glass Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg
  15. The Master Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg
  16. The Alice Network by Kate Quinn
  17. “I Give You My Body…” by Diana Gabaldon
  18. Vengeance Road by Erin Bowman
  19. A Question of Holmes by Brittany Cavallaro
  20. Bridge of Clay by Markus Zusa
  21. The Firethorn Crown– Lea Doué 
  22. Shatter Me – Tahereh Mafi
  23. The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein – Kiersten White
  24. King of Fools – Amanda Foody
  25. Girl, Stop Apologizing – Rachel Hollis
  26. Legacy of Kings – Eleanor Herman
  27. Girls of Glass – Brianna Labuskes
  28. Nine Perfect Strangers – Liane Moriarty
  29. The Last Voyage of Poe Blythe – Allie Condy
  30. Dance of Thieves – Mary E. Pearson
  31. Mirage – Somaiya Daud (A young woman is taken from her family to be the stand-in for an enemy princess–who just so happens to be her doppelgänger. Once at the palace, though, she learns things aren’t what they’d appeared)
  32. Queen of Ruin – Tracy Banghart (excellent sequel to Grace and Fury, all about girl power, sisterhood, and trust)
  33. Captivate: The Science of Succeeding With People – Vanessa Van Edwards (ever see the show Lie to Me? She discusses micro-expressions and how to read people quickly to overcome social anxiety and awkward interactions…I’m still pretty socially anxious, but I learned a lot of interesting things reading this!)
  34. Shadow and Bone – Leigh Bardugo (A girl discovers she has a great power that’s been repressed her entire life, but could be the key to saving her people from the monsters who lurk in the darkness)
  35. Yes, Please – Amy Poehler (as funny and heart-warming as she is, Amy Poehler’s memoir is full of interesting life advice, anecdotes about Parks and Rec, and features a stellar cast of voices if you listed to the audio book)
  36. The Ladies’ Guide to Petticoats and Piracy – Mackenzie Lee (sequel to The Gentlemen’s Guide to Vice and Virtue and just as charming and witty. Featuring an asexual leading lady who just wants to be a doctor and/or go on an adventure–and ends up getting much more than she bargained for)
  37. The Lost Girls – Heather Young (told from two POV, that of the sister to a young girl who went missing in 1930s Minnesota, and her great-niece trying to start a new life for her family. Family secrets are uncovered, long buried mysteries are solved, and a family finally finds peace)
  38. Wicked Saints – Emily A. Duncan (a girl is hunted for her ability to commune with the gods and combat the blood magic used by the heretics of an enemy country. She places her trust in one such enemy, with their joint goal of ending the war between their countries. But when she arrives at the enemy king’s court, she isn’t sure who she can trust)
  39. Mistress of the Ritz – Melanie Benjamin (told through competing POVs–that of Blanche and her husband Claude–we see the Nazi occupation of Paris during WWII and the lengths people go to in order to protect everything they love–including a glamorous hotel)
  40. Broken Things – Lauren Oliver (this was very much along the lines of Sharp Objects, Gone Girl, and Girl on the Train. Friends are accused of murdering their best friend when they were 13. Five years later, they’re thrown back together with a new clue to finding the actual murderer. Everyone’s a suspect, and everyone has something to hide. I’m usually good at figuring out these twists, but I didn’t realize who the murderer was until shortly before it was revealed, despite the well-laid clues.)

There you have it, 40 new books in 2019! My bookshelf is full in the Libby app, and I have four unread books in my den just waiting for me, so I’m looking forward to seeing how many books I can experience before the year is out!

Sheet Pan Sausage and Veggies

Hi guys! We are all settled in to our new apartment in the Navy Yard area of D.C.–and I’m loving it so far! Our neighborhood is nicely walkable (even in this heat!) and really close to other fun neighborhoods like Capitol Hill and Eastern Market. Plus, our building has a pool, so I’ve been spending a little time up there, feeling like I’m on a true vacation (rather than technically unemployed).

Brown like Bey
#goals

Rooftop pool aside, I *love* my new kitchen. We’ve got almost double the counter space compared to our St. Louis apartment.

activities
me, every time I walk into the kitchen

I’m excited to start trying a bunch of new recipes and old favorites, but unpacking, applying for jobs, and exploring the new location has left me pooped most nights. The recipe I’m sharing today (based on this one) is a *lifesaver* for those days when you’re just too tired to get creative in the kitchen. All you have to do is chop up some veggies and sausage, toss it all with olive oil and spices, and pop it in the oven for a half hour. Presto, easy peasy, delicious dinner!

Sheet Pan Sausage and Veggies

Ingredients:

  • about 8 small potatoes, cut into small cubes (I used small white, red, and purple potatoes)
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into squares
  • a handful of green beans (sorry it’s not more scientific, I literally grabbed a hearty handful from the bag)
  • 1 medium head of broccoli, cut into florets
  • 2 andouille sausage links, sliced into thick coins
  • 6 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 Tbs oregano
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • Pinch red pepper flakes (up to 1/4 tsp if you prefer more heat)
  1. Preheat the oven to 400ºF
  2. Wash and prep the veggies and sausage. Cover baking sheet in foil and spray with cooking oil.
  3. Spread prepped veggies and sausage on the baking sheet in a thin layer.
  4. Whisk the olive oil with the spices, then drizzle over the veggies and sausage. Toss gently to thoroughly coat.
  5. Roast 30 minutes, stirring/tossing once about halfway through.

Notes: We enjoyed them over spiced rice (rice seasoned with a dash of ginger, turmeric, and season salt). This could be just as good on its own, or over a bed of quinoa, barley, or other grain of choice.
You can use any veggies you prefer–asparagus would probably be really good, a little onion, maybe some spinach added immediately after removing to wilt it just a bit.
The original recipe suggested garnishing with Parmesan cheese, which I *so* wish I’d remembered to do–it was amazing without it, but come on, everything is better with cheese!
This also reheated really well the next day–I popped a plate in the microwave for a minute, which was all it needed to warm through. The sausage was a *little* dry, but not inedibly so.

Enjoy! Let me know in the comments if you give this recipe a try 🙂

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2019 Reading Challenge: 10 to Go!

I’ve hit 30 books read, with 5 1/2 months left to go in 2019. I think it’s safe to make a stretch-goal of 60 books. Especially since I’ve pre-ordered a few books by authors I love, and I *just* downloaded the Libby app (which gives me access to e-books through libraries) so I don’t need to be as choosy about which books get my dollars.

To Recap:

  1. The Memory Keeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards
  2. The Adventure Zone: Here There Be Gerblins
  3. Wildcard by Marie Lu
  4. Brightly Burning by Alexa Donne
  5. Seafire by Natalie C. Parker
  6. Spindle Fire by Lexa Hillyer
  7. The Emotional Craft of Fiction by Donad Maass
  8. Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery
  9. Grace and Fury by Tracy Banghart
  10. The Greatest Love Story Ever Told by Megan Mullally and Nick Offerman
  11. Ace of Shades by Amanda Foody
  12. Courting Darkness by Robin LeFevers
  13. The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg
  14. The Glass Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg
  15. The Master Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg
  16. The Alice Network by Kate Quinn
  17. “I Give You My Body…” by Diana Gabaldon
  18. Vengeance Road by Erin Bowman
  19. A Question of Holmes by Brittany Cavallaro
  20. Bridge of Clay by Markus Zusa

  21. The Firethorn Crown – Lea Doué (12 sisters become cursed to dance each night in an enchanted garden until the eldest agrees to release the cursed prince by marrying him–and forfeiting her own crown, and chance at happiness)
  22. Shatter Me – Tahereh Mafi (SO GOOD. A girl who can kill with merely a touch is kidnapped to become a weapon, but escapes with a boy she remembers from her childhood. The villain is really well written, and the language is poetic without being too flowery/overdone)
  23. The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein – Kiersten White (what if Victor Frankenstein had a playmate who tried to temper his more sociopathic tendencies?)
  24. King of Fools – Amanda Foody (the sequel to Ace of Shades)
  25. Girl, Stop Apologizing – Rachel Hollis (I thought Girl, Wash Your Face was good, but this one was even more empowering for me. Highly recommend!)
  26. Legacy of Kings – Eleanor Herman (plops Alexander the great into a fantasy world)
  27. Girls of Glass – Brianna Labuskes (A detective whose young daughter was kidnapped and murdered now works a very similar case for a high-profile judge and a family with a lot to hide…)
  28. Nine Perfect Strangers – Liane Moriarty (I was expecting an And Then There Were None, Agatha Christie type murder-mystery, but this took me by surprise. Nine people check into a health retreat for various reasons, only to find out things are not what they seem)
  29. The Last Voyage of Poe Blythe – Allie Condy (my gifted book from this post, a fantastic story about loss and redemption and finding a path forward beyond vengeance)
  30. Dance of Thieves – Mary E. Pearson (super sexy male MC and badass-yet-relatable female MC, a queen’s soldier is sent to find a traitor amongst an outlaw family’s kingdom, but a joint kidnapping throws her together with the leader of the outlaws, joined in their goal to survive and maintain order and peace)

 

Any suggestions for the last 10 books to round out my 2019 reading list? Have you read any of the same books? I’d love to hear what you thought!

Blood and Bones: Mix 5

I’m back with another playlist of songs that I’m jamming hard to! Some are new(ish), some have been around forever. It’s not the most cohesive list, but they all make me crank up the volume!

  1. Halfway Right – Linkin Park (“All you said to do was slow down, but I was already gone…”)
  2. Reflections* – Lucidious (I’ve got to have a Lucidious song on here–I’m convinced he’s me in rapper-form: “I ask myself would I write this shit if nobody loved it?”)
  3. Hostage – Griffin Oskar (the chorus gets me belting it out like “‘Cause love don’t wanna let me leave AND-I’M-A-HOSTAGE!”)
  4. BKCBD* – The Blancos (“And we don’t know who we are, just Broken Kids Chasing Broken Dreams”)
  5. Someone to Rely On – John Allred (from the first strum, this song *feels* as reliable as the title implies. Definitely a song for every couple I’ve ever written, but especially fits for my future piratey story)
  6. Play That Song – Train (so the melody of this song is totally “borrowed” from Heart and Soul by Hoagie Carmichael, which is my #1 song for my WWII series I’ve been working on, which immediately made me love it. That it’s so peppy and fun only makes it better)
  7. Old Town Road (Remix) – Lil Nas X, Billy Ray Cyrus (this one just makes me think of the OBC–my husband’s friends from business school)
  8. Secrets – Tribe Society (this song is really badass, and one I’m definitely saving for some powerful, dark character someday)
  9. bury a friend – Billie Eilish (another fun one to bounce along to, with a kind of dark twist. Also works for Solvi heading into Book 2)
  10. Someone You Loved – Lewis Capaldi (this song gives me all the feels. Also perfect for my pirate story, but could fit Einar/Solvi, too…)
  11. Never Really Over – Katy Perry (I *adore* this song. Every shift in the music is amazing, and I love bopping around to the “just-because-it’s-over-doesn’t-mean-it’s-really-over…” part)

Like I said, it’s a weird mix, but if you’re interested in listening to the entire playlist, you can find it here.

My Neighbors Might Hate Me (alternatively titled: Dammit)

I’m probably annoying my neighbors. I’ve discovered after switching through what felt like every playlist Spotify offers, I keep landing on their Pop Punk Powerhouse playlist for cleaning/cooking/packing. All the songs are nostalgic and catchy and angsty, and I love adding my voice—loudly and off-key. I can’t help screaming along with “Until the Day I Die” or belting out “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” in a way that’s becoming increasingly less-ironic with each play.

Ok, fine, it was never ironic. I loved the All-American Rejects and Simple Plan and Green Day way back in middle school, and I loved them in college, and I love them now. And since I’m anxious about moving, and sad about leaving St. Louis, and missing my husband, I think I’m allowed to be a little emo and find comfort in the whiny pop-punk classics of my youth. At least my neighbors have been alerted to the fact that “The Kids Aren’t Alright” in this apartment.

In the words of Blink-182: Well, I guess this is growing up…

My Husband’s Gray Hair

My husband turned 30 last week and he just found a gray hair in his beard. He was distinctly unimpressed (possibly closer to depressed) but I was excited because I’m all about that salt-and-pepper look–even if he’s currently all pepper (minus 1), or more like paprika because his beard is weirdly red (weird considering how dark his head-hair is). Another thing I don’t complain about.

Basically, I like looking at my husband.

So I missed posting on his birthday about his birthday. He’s the big 3-0, and it’s a little crazy to think he’s been alive for three whole decades. I remember when thirty was so old but now it feels like thirty is when life just starts to really begin. I’m sure I’ll have a lot more philosophical thoughts surrounding turning the dirty thirty when my birthday rolls around near the end of the year, but for now, I just wanted to publicly say a belated happiest of birthdays to my handsome, barely gray-haired man. I’m super proud of all you’ve accomplished this year, and really looking forward to what your thirties will entail!