I RETURN — WHOOSH!

I’m still alive! No need to panic!

I realize I haven’t posted in, like, two months, and that’s pretty sucky of me. To be honest, I haven’t been in the biggest mood to blog, and I don’t think I need to be preachy about it. We all get tired of blogging sometimes, and I’ve been productive in other ways.

BUT I STILL LOVE YOU ALL. (To prove it, cute cat pics ahead!)

As you probably know, I’m a writer by day, so I work on lots of articles (both online and print — exciting!) all the time. You can always check up on the things I’m churning out here. And for fear of spoiling my progress with this, I’ve actually been chipping away at the old novel, which feels … so old by now.

Not surprisingly, in my absence I’ve gotten behind on book reviews. By now, it’s so late that I’ve probably forgotten everything I wanted to say about them, so I may or may not do reviews. But the books I’ve read include two Raymond Carver short story collections and The Girl Who Would Be King. Maybe I’ll do a roundup or something. Would that be cool?

I’ve also been playing (and dammit, COMPLETING) lots of video games in my spare time, which is kind of my job, but I don’t always get to do it without writing involved. Things are going super well right now. Some good prospects are lining up. And I’m doing something really, really fun and secret (for now) with three other girls, and I CAN’T WAIT to see it published.

Life news: I may be moving to Philadelphia, which is kind of no fun. My boyfriend and I don’t want to leave Pittsburgh, but, alas — school stuff. I can go anywhere with my work, but we have two cats now* and everybody we know is here, so we’re keeping our fingers crossed that we can stay put.

Sammy and Merlin 1
This actually was a thing that happened.

Other than that, I finished Breaking Bad, which makes me incredibly sad only because it’s the Best Show Ever Made, and Nothing Will Ever Be As Good Again (sighs).

I’m still on my quest to become the Ultimate Cooking Master, which this winter has involved making the hell out of some awesome chilis and soups and using my crock pot more and trying not to make everything with chicken, because god I eat a lot of chicken, and I should probably diversify.

I am stupidly busy this month, and that’s always my fault (more assignments = more money, yay!), but I will share a couple cool links:

There’s a new app that will let you read novels in under 90 minutes thanks to wearable technology. THE FUTURE IS NOW.

Don’t panic: You can play The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. It’s 30 years old and new again. GO!

So, what’s going on in the book/writing world that I should know about? What adventures have you gotten into? Deets, please!

Sammy and Merlin 2
Sammy (left) and Merlin (right).

*Our newest kitty, Sammy, only has three feet. He was born that way, ALL RIGHT?!

Awesome book cover Friday: Company of Liars

Why not start this Friday off with panic and disease?

By checking out this cover of Company of Liars: A Novel of the Plague by Karen Maitland, I mean.

Company of Liars

Here’s a description:

The year is 1348, and the first plague victim has reached English shores. Panic erupts around the country, and a small band of travelers comes together to outrun the deadly disease, unaware that something far more deadly is — in fact — traveling with them. The ill-assorted company — a scarred trader in holy relics, a conjurer, two musicians, a healer, and a deformed storyteller — are all concealing secrets and lies. And at their heart is the strange, cold child — Narigorm -—who reads the runes. But as law and order breaks down across the country and the battle for survival becomes ever more fierce, Narigorm mercilessly compels each of her fellow travelers to reveal the truth, and each in turn is driven to a cruel and unnatural death.

I absolutely love the detail and attention to design in this cover. It’s very symbolic, and it looks old-timey in an England way. Plus, the book sounds awesome. What do you think?

I hope you all have a great weekend! I’m heading to a friend’s potluck tonight and then rewatching Judge Dredd on Sunday. Making delicious, delicious spinach and artichoke dip, too, and I printed out a recipe for a peanut butter “cheese ball” because YUM. ;) And playing lots and lots of games because I took on too many reviews as I’m clearly nuts.

Also, our furnace broke in the apartment, so we’re getting that fixed. :( It’s been 10 degrees outside, but fortunately, we’re not freezing to death because at least some hot air is getting through.

What are your plans for the weekend? Enjoy!

Homemade pizza might surprise you

I admit. I’ve always been skeptical of homemade pizza. I know the pounds of grease dripping off pies from restaurants and even grocery store frozen food sections are bad for you, but somehow they always added to the taste. Gross, I know.

On a whim this past weekend, my boyfriend and I decided we wanted to make our own—hold the grease, please. So I whipped out my pizza issue of Bon Appetit (thanks, Sarah!) and read about the basics of homemade pizza-making. We didn’t have the time (or desire) to bake our own dough, but we did learn a little thing about cheeses: Pick two soft—mozzarella, stracciatella, ricotta, Robiola, etc.—and one hard, like Parmesan. As for toppings, variety matters.

To save money, we chose only one soft (mozzarella) and settled on Parmesan for our hard cheese. We selected the best pre-packaged pizza crust we could find (about $6—not cheap!) and bought a quarter pound of pepperoni from the deli (it was less expensive and more practical that way). We picked out Classico traditional pizza sauce, a smart decision, and used what we had sitting in the fridge for additional toppings.

We laid down the crust, added the entire small jar of sauce (leaving a border for the crust), mixed a generous amount of shredded mozzarella and Parmesan together, and added chopped pepperoni slices at will. We then broke up pieces of mushroom, cut up bacon (about 4-5 half slices) and ham (1-2 pieces of ham off the bone from the deli), and finally sprinkled a little more Parmesan on top to pack it all in.

All ovens are different, but we set ours on 410 degrees for 16 minutes. The result? Let’s just say I have a new all-time favorite.

A hearty snack: spring vegetable and goat cheese dip

Yesterday I made a great appetizer: spring vegetable and goat cheese dip. I forgot to snap a picture (not that my dish came out quite as presentable as the one in Bon Appétit Magazine), but you can find the recipe online.

Here’s a quick rundown of my experience making the dip:

Since I’m slow, I didn’t bother preheating the oven until I was most of the way through mixing the ingredients. Like the recipe advises, I started by preparing the 3/4″ asparagus pieces. Then I focused on everything else. I couldn’t find mild white cheddar cheese at the grocery store, so I substituted monterey jack. The only other ingredients I left out were the peas, mint, and parsley. I think peas are gross, and others seemed too minor to justify spending extra money on.

My changes didn’t make much difference—the dip was absolutely delicious, although it didn’t turn out as golden-brown as I would have liked and the remaining goat cheese (sprinkled on top before putting the dip in the oven) didn’t melt very well even after 20 minutes.

I made this dip for four people and served it with pieces of baguette. It went fast! :)

A light, healthy weekend breakfast: buttermilk oatcakes with raspberry compote

On Saturday my boyfriend and I made one of Sarah’s recipes: buttermilk oatcakes with raspberry compote. I didn’t really deviate from Sarah’s directions, so I won’t go into detail  about making them when she explains it so well already.

I did choose low-fat buttermilk, though, and we skipped the fancy syrup, using whatever we had on hand (ie., the cheap stuff). Everything was easy to make but took a little time, but to my surprise the cinnamon worked wonders (and smelled so good) with the raspberries, and the oatcakes made me less full than regular pancakes and were healthier, too. So the entire batch was the perfect amount for two people! Maybe three, if you make a nice side. I got really hungry for maple sausage by the time we were done cooking.

A little syrup or butter on top mixes well with the raspberry compote when you’re ready to eat, too. As you can see from my pictures, the finished results looked very similar to how Sarah, a much more experienced cook, made hers.