A Little Planning Goes A Long Way

by: Tammy Trail

We all like keeping life simple. Cooking shouldn’t be complicated with strange ingredients that might be questionable for picky eaters. A couple of years ago when Tim and I were still fostering teen boys, my crockpot was a lifesaver. Especially one summer when I decided to spend two weeks away from home visiting my mom in New Mexico.

Tim was a bit nervous about my leaving for that long a period of time. How was he going to feed the boys? Going out to eat every night for two weeks was not an affordable option, and he didn’t feel confident in his cooking skills to attempt to feed them on his own. Lucky for him, I had already planned a bit before I bought my train ticket.

I began to scour the internet, Pinterest, and my cookbooks for a solution. I came up with enough meals to sustain them while I was away. Some meals were made ahead and put into tin pans, and covered with foil. Other meals were uncooked and stored in plastic gallon storage bags. All of the meals were intended for the freezer and could be pulled out the night before and either placed in a crockpot, or in the oven after thawing to cook. I even took a permanent marker and labeled all the meals, oven temperatures, and how long they needed to cook on the outside of each meal.

A week before my trip, I made my menu and shopping list. After shopping, I started meal prep. This consisted of chopping all my vegetables into separate containers. Then I cooked all the meat that would be put into the frozen casserole tins.  I did casserole meals one day, and crockpot meals the next in an assembly line fashion.

Now, I covered my pans with heavy-duty foil, but there are some storage options that have lids already provided. There are also newer type storage containers that can be used in the microwave and can be used once again as they are also dishwasher safe.

The only item I did not include when making my casseroles, was shredded cheese. Most of the casseroles can be cooked without being covered, so in my instructions, the cheese was to be added before cooking or cook for 20  minutes and then cover in cheese.  I found that you can basically cook ahead and freeze anything.

Here is a family favorite that is so simple and filling. I call it Goulash. I know I didn’t make it the traditional way, but here it is:

1 lb. ground beef, cooked

1 15. oz can of tomato soup

1 15 oz. can of cream of mushroom soup

1 cup of elbow macaroni, cooked

Mix it all together well, add Italian seasoning, salt, pepper to taste. Put it in a casserole dish.

Add shredded cheese on top.

Cook until bubbly.

Enjoy!!

 

Writing Prompt: Tell a story using your Grandmother’s recipe that you loved as a child.

Click to Tweet – Writers need to eat too. #Freezer meals: A lifesaver

A Little Sparkle In My Life

Before I tried my hand at writing, I belonged to a women’s bible study group. In this group were women of different ages, backgrounds, denominations, and faith levels. I learned a lot about God, the Bible, and jewelry.  Yes, you read that right.  One of the lovely ladies in the group is a wonderful designer and maker of beaded jewelry. I always admired the pieces she made. Then my new friend Valerie invited me to her home to learn to make some jewelry of my own, and I was hooked.

So when I’m not writing, working, or spending time with my grandsons, I’m making jewelry pieces for myself, or as gifts for friends and family.

I’m going to attempt to show you through pictures how it is done. Here are some of the supplies needed. There are wire cutters, needle nose pliers, and regular pliers.  Some coiled wire, beads, charms, and a head pin.

 

 

 

 

 

Here is a picture of the beads and charms close up. First I cut a length of wire off the coil that went two and half times around my wrist. Then with my straight nose pliers, I bend one end.

Take the round ended pliers and made a curl in it. This is the hardest part, because this wire does not manipulate well at all.

At the open end of the wire you can string your beads.

I used a total of 17 beads, cut the wire again, made another loop, and attached it to the other end. The bracelet is expandable. The charms add a bit of interest that I like. If you are interested in learning more about making your own jewelry, there are tons of YouTube videos you can watch, and your favorite craft store sells most supplies.

I hope you liked seeing a bit of my hobby. It can be very rewarding after a piece is finished. I like the creative part of making jewelry. You can match it to your own taste and wardrobe.

Happy Summer! 🙂

Writing Prompt:

Valerie danced about the room, pour lemonade in tall glasses for her guest. She suddenly remembered that she had forgotten the napkins, and set the pitcher down at the sideboard to retrieve the them from the kitchen counter. As she swept the napkins off the counter she noticed that her favorite piece of jewelry was missing. She spied the ladies enjoying their refreshment and wondered…………( please fill in the blank)……

Click-to-Tweet: #A Little Sparkle In My Life. #What I do when I’m not Writing.

Take Time to Look at the Past

Writing in the Historical Genre.

When I started writing it wasn’t hard for me to choose a genre.  As a young girl I loved reading Nancy Drew. Nancy was everything I wanted to be, smart, popular, and fearless. When I turned thirteen all that changed with a book I checked out from the bookmobile. It was called “The Distant Summer” by Sarah Patterson. Romance had taken hold of my page turning habits.  Boy meets girl just made my heart zing. In high school I found a new love, history. Putting my love of history together with romance just made my world complete.

My first novel is set during the American Revolution. With some help from a writing group; a brainstorming session created my hero and heroine. The historical facts took a bit longer. A lot of research goes into historical fiction writing.

There are many sources available to research a historic period. Books, the internet, libraries, and historical societies are all a wealth of information. This summer my husband and I went to Washington, D.C. for a short trip. About two hours south of that city in Virginia is  Colonial Williamsburg, a living history museum. I fell in love with the place! Doing a research trip is totally worth it. I found so many interesting stories while doing my research. There are truly so many real characters who played instrumental roles in forging our country that adding  your interpretation of those historical characters to your novel can add a bit of authenticity.

Throw a dart at a map of our original thirteen colonies and land on a spot rich in history to use in your historical novel. You could choose any time period and do the same. Some of my favorite historical novels are not necessarily considered romantic. You can weave a historical tale without the romance. A character study of a type of historical figure like a spy during the American Revolution, or the Civil War, who happens to be a romantic is a great historical story.  The possibilities are endless.

I have learned through this writing journey to listen to the advice from those who have traveled this worn path. Save everything. Not that you need to become a hoarder mind you, but there may come a time when your historical facts need to be proved. Keeping track of your sources will make this less stressful. A notebook, or three ring binder for keeping documents and the ideas you’ve chicken-scratched on little bit of paper. I also keep a notebook on my nightstand, I can’t tell you how many times an idea will present itself while I lay in bed at night.

There is also a computer application called Scrivener which will allow you to keep all your sources, documents, notes, pictures, and your manuscript all in one place. It will even help you format your book. So, think about those days gone by, there just might a story there.

 

Take a page from the #past

 

Writing Prompt: You just found a diary in a dusty old trunk in your Grandmother’s attic. It tells a story of one of your long lost ancestors. Tell me about him/her and the time period they lived in.

Research: The Inspired Prompt Way

Research. We’ve spent the month of March dissecting this topic from all angles. From how to start, to research on the road, and current events research, a way to gather information should be coming clear.

I’ve asked the Crew to share their go-to source when it comes to research. Here’s what they said:

Harriet Michael: As a Christian nonfiction writer who writes a lot of Biblical pieces—devotions and essays to a Biblical theme, my go-to resource is Bible Gateway where I can look up passages, do word searches, find commentaries, and find passages in all translations. Here is their link: https://www.biblegateway.com/

Jennifer Hallmark: Sometimes when I write, I just can’t think of the right word so I use an online thesaurus. Even if I don’t find what I need, it often gets my creativity flowing so I can move forward in my writing. Their link is http://www.thesaurus.com/

Kristy Horine: I find the Blue Letter Bible www.blueletterbible.org to be a great resource due to its interlinear concordance, cross references, language explanations, and access to commentaries. It has an app that is free that can be downloaded to your phone.  In addition, www.biblestudytools.com is helpful in the commentary area.

Another source is www.thoughtco.com. This is not a Christian-based resource, but it sure is fun for those strange and unusual questions like if brain cells regenerate, or the difference between racism and prejudice. It is based on the idea that we should be lifelong learners and seeks to teach just that. Plus, it has a really neat daily email you can sign up for. And, for numbers: www.barna.com and www.pewresearch.org

Betty Thomason Owens: I attended a class on researching at the Mid South Conference. The instructor gave us the Library of Congress website. It’s huge. You can find articles, photos, and lots of other interesting studies and stories and books. https://www.loc.gov/  I also love History.com  https://www.history.com/ and the Smithsonian.com https://www.smithsonianmag.com/.

Gail Johnson: I use the Bible, Webster’s dictionary, and the Strong’s Concordance. Also Bible Gateway and the online versions of the dictionary and thesaurus.

Bonita McCoy: I love  Biblehub.com because it gives you the verse in several translations. I use it for my Beautiful Pieces of Grace blog. Also the good old library for articles for the Inspired Prompt site and my Courageous Writers blog.

Fay Lamb: My research varies on what the subject happens to be. If it is medical, I will look up medical research on various sites, but I also look for journals of people who have undergone medical procedures. I also use slang dictionaries for slang for certain times. I even have a surfers’ slang dictionary.

Tammy Trail:  I tend to look for historical societies. There is a blog I like to catch up with too, Colonial Quills. Lots of historical information there for me. I use the Colonial Williamsburg website also. For writing related information, I love Seekerville.

Carlton Hughes:  Like others, my research varies depending on the subject. I’m mostly writing devotionals now, so usually I’m searching for a specific scripture on Bible Gateway. Blogs like Novel Rocket are good for general advice on fiction writing.

Shirley Crowder:  I use Blue Letter Bible — lots of commentaries, words studies, etc. https://www.blueletterbible.org/

Karen Jurgens: I use Google for whatever I need to know when I’m writing about Paris and other parts of the world. I study maps of the city, and I use reference books I’ve purchased while visiting. For example, I bought lots of historical books and maps of Cayman Island when I vacationed there a couple years ago. I always write about settings I know personally or have visited.

Cammi Woodall: Started in September of 1998, Google is the world’s largest search engine. You know how I know that? I googled it! When you can use your search engine name as a verb, you know you are doing something right. I love other sites like AskJeeves.com or Yahoo.com, but I always come back to Google. In one research session, l learned that the world’s oldest church is the Dura-Europos house church in Syria, arsenic poison will still show up in your fingernails 6 to 12 months after ingestion, and a ten-gallon hat really only holds three-quarters of a gallon. Who knew? Google did! And now I do, too.

Thank you, Inspired Prompt Crew! As you can see, there are research sites galore for the fiction and non-fiction writer. Do you have a go-to site that’s not listed above? In lieu of a writing prompt, we’re asking you to share that in the comments below…

Click to tweet: The Inspired Prompt Crew shares their go-to source when it comes to research for writers. #research #Google

Let Me Call You Sweetheart

By Tammy Trail

Valentine’s Day is just days away. Have you gotten your sweetheart a gift yet? I have done a bit of research on the history of Valentine’s Day. It is rooted in a pagan holiday that ensured fertility.

Roman Emperor, Claudius II ruled that young men in the Army were to remain unmarried. He felt that this would make single men more aggressive in the field of battle. The Emperor put a young cleric by the name of Valentine to death for secretly marrying young couples.  Valentine was later made a Saint by Pope Gelasius and given the date of February 14th to celebrate Saint Valentine.

In the 13th Century, it was synonymous with love and romance because it was believed that this was the beginning of mating season for birds.

In the 15th Century, written valentines were given to sweethearts.

In the 17th Century, valentines were exchanged between those who were smitten with one another.

In 1840, the first mass-produced valentines appeared in the United States. Valentine’s Day is the second most popular card giving occasion. It is celebrated in Canada, Mexico, United Kingdom, France, Australia, Denmark, Italy, and Japan.

As a child, I remember my mother scouring the house for shoe boxes to be made into valentine mail boxes to decorate for my desk at school. There would be a party, of course, with lots of good treats. After school, you would open your box and read the paper gifts of admiration your classmates gave to you.

I have tried in years past to make my own valentines to give to family members and friends. Last year I made these for my grandsons.

I filled the little sack with treats. They really enjoyed getting a valentine from their Mimi!

I am already diligently looking for options for this year. You may find it just as rewarding to make your own as well. I find a great source of inspiration with Pinterest. What a treasure trove of ideas!

Whether you make your own, or buy a card for that special someone, I believe it’s a good holiday to celebrate. Who doesn’t like candy? And you will make mate, child, or friend feel important with a valentine that you especially picked out for them. You can never go wrong by making people feel loved and important.

For the writer, especially the romance writer, Valentine’s Day is a reminder of why we put words to paper. That boy meets girl stuff is what makes the story, especially when they lived happily ever after.

So, in keeping with that thought! Here is my valentine for all of you.

  1. Writing Prompt: Jessica expected a great big box of heart-shaped candy.  What she found was……..?

Click to tweet: Romance is #alive https://ctt.ec/53mP6