Saturday, December 14, 2013

snowponies | i change my name

i'd like to thank you all once again for your prayers and kind words you left on my last post about Charlie. it seems i've been asking for prayers quite a lot lately, but you always come through.
 thank you. 
it wasn't long after we lost Charlie that we realized we couldn't live with the paralyzing stillness that invaded our house or the left behind toys. we contacted the breeder and learned that by some miracle she had a litter ready to go from Charlie's own parents! So meet his younger brother Tuppence. :)
Is it pathetic that I am over the moon about having a sick day? at last! finally i'm ill enough to stay in bed and work on that mountain of photos and blog posts! Yup, pathetic.
 Despite the cold snap we suffered last week (-30* was the lowest temp recorded by our brave little thermometer) that kept us indoors and close to the fire (I am Lord of the Flame), I have remained up to the nostrils in busyness of one kind or another. I still nanny my nephew (hence forward known as 'Bug') full time, and musically preform at various functions & social gatherings with my friend Songbird.
 Then there has been the enormous task of decorating the house for Christmas, but there will be a post about that in future. I hope.
Turning to blog/writing related things, I've been meaning to - after four years - perhaps... change my Blogger name? I chose 'Gwyn' when I first started because that was Cilla's name all that long time ago, and I had planned on using this blog to write TLOS. That obviously didn't pan out.
 And now that I have a proper nom de plume for my novels, I see little point in keeping the name Gwyn when it is no longer attached to anything of importance. So from now on, if it's not terribly confusing, call me Hazel?
 My pseudonym Hazel Marie has ties to two very important women in my life who have influenced me a great deal and whom I love so very much. It just feels right to honor them, even if in such a small way.

I hope to write up a few more posts before this sickness passes, so that there won't be such a gaping holes between hearing from me. I also plan on introducing more writerly-related posts and perhaps even challenges in future!
xoxo Hazel Marie

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

it hurt because it mattered

I do not know if there is anyone left to read my words, but I am filled with an unexplainable need to be heard. Even if my voice is small and my words only have meaning to me.

You have not heard from me at all in a very long time. And that is because I had no words. No things I could say, no insight in a time that for me and many close to me was black as pitch. I did not need to speak then, but to grieve. But now I am tired of tears and silence.
 I cannot give a full report on all that has left me paralyzed -- I still don't have the words and neither is it something to foist upon the ears of passing strangers.
 But I can tell you the last straw in a string of sharp, heartbreaking events that broke this camel's back.
My Charlie is dead.
 Just like that.
Momma's cancer therapy dog, he was. The puppy that brought smiles even to the bleakest of days is somehow gone.
 All because one boarder at my neighbor's barn was late for work and sped on our gravel road.
I still don't get it.

Do you ever feel like Job?
Two months and two-thousand miles removed from all that, I have, for the first time since, picked up my novel and pen. Only to find I am extremely out of practice. Oh, for a magic key that will let me back into what I once believed was my own world! Or better yet a magic pen that will write my story for me. That is every writers' dream, right? My favorite quote on the subject remains, "I don't like to write, I like to have written." I know there are those who enjoy the actual process, hacking out the details and so on, but I confess I am not one of them.
 I quit writing, drawing, music, and even taking pictures for the month of September. I had no desire for any of it. But now that Black September is over, I want to come back to my art-loves only to find one of them — my favorite, writing — a stranger.
 I need a new start so I was sent to visit my sister, where I am currently writing from. But even here, in perhaps the most inspiring city in the States, there is no magic cure.

 'It's hard to wait around for something you know might never happen;
 but it's even harder to give up when you know it's everything you want.'

 So I'm going to roll up my sleeves and try again. Because that's all I can do.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

what to do with the harvest (when you're semi-incompetent)

This year has been amazing for produce. Like cucumbers/peppers/beans/tomatoes-coming-out-the-ears kind of amazing. For once my gardens, the hay, and all the wild fruits & flowers have all done well in the same year.
But the questions arises, usually after an overly-enthusiastic raid on the kitchen boxes, what the devil to do with all the produce? And until this year, I have had no answer. Which looks a lot like growing things just to pick the fruits later and watch it rot so you can have a hay-day catapulting squishy veg and giant squash over the cliff. Not exactly ideal if your goal is to learn the basics of self-sufficiency.
 My family gamely endeavours to eat the harvests fresh, but inevitably, when you're hauling in a basket of bounty every other day, they're going to dig their heels in and cry 'uncle!' over a pea pod. We're not really a family of ruffage-eaters, anyway.  
So this year I'm attempting to be more eating-the-garden savvy. And this it what I've done so far....

Peas! I planted one pack of new and two packs of old peas this spring because I thought the majority of the old ones would not grow. I was wrong. oh so wrong. So how am I coping with pea-overload? *wat.
(Let's try that again...)
So what am I to do with results of my miscalculation? Freeze them! The freezer is a marvelous and mysterious thing, allowing us to store our wonderful bounty for months on end and sparing us from the dismal frozen foods section at the grocery store, where culinary aspirations go to die.
Preparing Peas for Freezing
- de-pod all peas and rinse.
- bring saucepan of water to a rolling boil
- pour in peas & blanch for 90 seconds to kill bacteria
- drain and rinse with cold water
 allow to air dry before freezing to prevent frost.

Next the peppers & jalapeños. This time of year I never know why we bought so many pepper plants in the spring. Probably with some vague and hopeful thought of homemade salsa, but I think we must reexamine this annual impulse and perhaps expel it. I have yet to find a salsa recipe that doesn't taste sweet. I hate sweet salsa.
I brought in a large haul of peppers and jalapeños and was determined to dispatch them immediately while they were still crisp.
It took but a moment to think of the family favorite recipe for Cheddar Pepper Cream Cheese. With the garden peppers it was A LOT hotter than usual, and the texture was more chunky, but on the whole it went down very well on a freshly toasted bagel. I think I had it for lunch for three consecutive days (then the bagels ran out). 
Cheddar Pepper Cream Cheese
2 bricks of cream cheese
1 c. shredded cheddar cheese
about 6 medium sized jalapeños 
- allow cream cheese to soften at room temperature; dice jalapeños.
- in medium bowl, blend all ingredients together with an electric mixer.  
Voila, mon ami! Bon, non? Oui!
(aaand that is nearly the extent of my French)

Forget 'a hill of beans' - I have a mountain. Nothing for it but to give them the same treatment as the peas! Except this time they must boil for a good 3 - 5 minutes, depending on the size of your batch, because beans are bigger than peas and have many more hidey-holes for bacteria & such.

My cucumber vines have gone mad. They're acting more like zucchini with the amount of bats they're churning out. 
I was brave and told Momma I'd like to attempt making pickles. A brave thing indeed for the last batch we made many, many years ago yielded such badly tasting results that the memory was still burned into our consciouses even as I begged for a way to get rid of the million cucumbers in the sink.
She said yes and even helped me with the scary pressure cooker/canner (which ended up burning my wrist like you wouldn't believe). But I chickened out of trying a recipe for homemade brine and bought a Dill Pickles for Idiots packet at the store.
In the end, I think I made a good call going store-bought. For though fairly strong and assertively dill in taste, they are quite edible. I wish I had bought several more packets, because below is one batch, and I have enough cucumbers for about eight!

 The end of July through mid-August is chokecherry season. These bush/tree/things grow wild in patches all over our farm. When I was little chokecherry picking felt akin to being sent out in the desert with a bucket & spade to build a sandcastle. It's hot and there's just so much and you've been abandoned in the wilderness.
Nowadays I kinda like going berry picking. It's a chance to be outdoors in the morning (and baby nephew get's to spend some quality time with Grammy back at the house).
Speaking of Grammy/my Momma, she makes the best chokecherry jellies & syrup in the county, no lie.
Nothing quite says toast-for-breakfast like this stuff.

So that's the stats so far in my preserving & gardening experience. I must say adieu! now, 'cause I've got a horse who's waiting for me at the hitching post. Life is still good.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

a farmer's life for me

I love country life, and all it has to offer. I love feeling accomplished at the end of a long day of working outdoors. Whether gardening, or mowing; riding skittish mares or teaching ornery ponies new tricks - living with the land is the life I will always want. This is where I belong.
While our farm isn't as 'working' a farm as perhaps I would like (our only crop is hay & we never sell any of the critters we say we will :), there is always plenty work to be done to keep things running smoothly.
And climbing on top the haystack is the best for watching sunsets (or brooding, as Little Brother was in this photo). Yes, it's a grand view up there, unless an angry yellowjacket lands on your leg - then it's every man for himself.
I should let it be known that bees and wasps are my phobias. I nearly jumped off, but reason still had some control (however impaired) and I ended up sliding down the side to the ground. Not a good day to wear shorts.
A fox got most of our chickens last month, and now we only have five laying hens. I saved two from the mouth of the mangy beast, running through the pasture barefoot in my Sunday dress. I think this is one of the survivors ^.
These are our little pullets that we got back in May, growing nicely. We hope they'll start laying as soon  as September, and maybe then we can get back in the egg business. 
I think this is the first photo I've posted of this girl since she lost her eye last Christmas. She's getting on well without it, and you can hardly tell, though she sometimes runs into things on her left side (me, for instance). She's a very brave and steadfast little pony and will be an wonderful kid pony for Nephew, when he can reach the stirrups.
Double Stuff on the other hand, still needs some work. He's a silly, slightly devious little man, emphasis on "little". He's had an on-again-off-again education under the saddle, the primary reason being that we (three of us now) out grow him so fast. Though I can't hardly make contact anymore when it comes to kicking, I still ride him occasionally, and LB has been working on him.
Stuffy is a free-spirit, whose intelligence is almost scary, and who believes with every fiber of his being that he is the Stallion of the Cimarron. 
I love hanging out with these guys. All the other horses are in the big pasture, more interested in seeing how much weight they can put on between rides than talking to me. But the ponies are a captive audience, kept in a pen so that we can control their diet. They have a tendency to become massively obese. 

I have no idea where I'll be this time next year. I'm 18, half graduated, nannying full time, attempting to run the farm, and trying to keep projects important to me - like my horses and my stories - afloat.
My family is at a crossroad, and I don't know what things will be like after. But God, I pray & I plead, let us always have the farm.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

actually finishing something wk 4

Week Four Questions
How goes progress?
Better than last week, but not so good as the week before.

Do you have a Pinterest inspiration board, or other collection of images, that inspire your story? If so, share one or two of them with us.
Why, yes I do! here's the LINK to my TLOS board, but these are my favorites....
i would love this as the cover for book 1 because it's just so perfect!
How would the main character of your story react if she were introduced to you?
Even though (or perhaps because) we share some personality traits, I'm sure she would be singularly unimpressed with my comparatively simple and uneventful life. And perhaps my lack of impulsiveness.

Introduce us to one of the secondary characters in your story. 
I'll introduce you to Tyrel. He's freckled, clever, selfish, silly, and because of his red hair and thin frame, I believed I describe him for the first time in my book as looking like a flaming matchstick. I thought at first that he would be kind of the clown of the bunch, happy-go-lucky inspite of things, a source of entertainment. He's actually much more of a beast, which surprised and alarmed me, at first. Not to say that he's mean spirited - he's not. He just looks out for himself before others, always. I've just realized while writing this, that a lot of books romanticize this way of thinking and often give it in trait to their hero, as a branch to the Independence movement, I suppose. While it may work for them, Tyrel's story is going to be the reverse side of the coin. There's a price to saving you own skin, one that someone dear may have to pay.

If one of your characters were allowed to choose a super-power, which power would he most desire? 
I think Tovah would choose Timelord (your argument is invalid). There are many things he would like to go back in time to change. Many.

We're nearing the end of this summer challenge! Is the completion of your goal in sight?
Oh, that depends :/ I'm not quite sure how long some of my more important scenes will have to be. If I can keep them tight and trim and to the point - maybe, just maybe I'll make it. Maybe. *meep!*

-That's all I have time for if I want to catch up today!-

Saturday, July 20, 2013

actually finishing something wk 3 (a day late, but who's counting)

can you believe i scored these at walmart for $7? whoot!
Week Three Questions
Were you able to meet (or exceed!) your goal this week?
*le sigh. Unfortunately not. I missed two days of writing because I had to keep the baby until late at night twice this week. Which is not fun because I'm getting excited about my storyline and want to charge ahead! (Though, there is a massive amount of minor & major conflicts coming up, and no doubt I'll be steamrollered by them.)
 I hope to make great strides today & tomorrow.

Where did you get the bulk of your writing accomplished? In the quiet of your room, outside on the patio, on the bus?
My haven of a room. Propped up on temptingly fluffy pillows, wrapped in my quilt, with the fan running full-tilt. :)

Share a couple of your favorite snippets!
Bah! I have made no great favorites this time around :( But here are some 'meh' ones for the sake of the game.
The Westerner's eyes took on a new intensity. "Did you touch the horse?" He looked less friendly and more desperate. Fearful, Cilla retreated to lying.
 "No, sir .... he wouldn't come near."
The window was wide open and it wasn't a long drop to the ground. She should make a break for it before this 'Aidan' changed his mind and called in some type of law. People were like that. They would fill you full of confidence and maybe even a pie or two when they heard your orphan plight, but as soon as they turned their backs and you had a chance to dip your fingers into the sweets jar, here came the guards to catch you redhanded, with cries for 'no quarter!' usually being shouted by your new 'friend'.
 Well, that was one particular time....
Cilla watched as Aidan, with low words and small gestures of his hands, commanded Uraeus. The horse did not immediately obey, but tossed his his head before moving off at a showy trot, as if to say, 'I'll do it, but only because I want to'.

Have you introduced a new character into your story? Tell us about his/her personality.
Well, there's Aidan. He's the newest. Somewhere between 27 and 30 years old, he's from the Western marches beyond Ithreal's border where the people are renowned (even {grudgingly} among Ithrealians) for their horsemanship. Aidan is a young horsemaster whose original intent when he left his homeland was to be a sort of free-lance trouble horse fixer, selling his talents where he could and thus seeing the world while still being in touch with his calling. That worked up until a few weeks before we meet him the story.
He's quiet, somewhat reserved, and prefers the company of horses.

List the favorite foods of your main characters.
Cilla's favorite is strawberries and honeycomb. She's got as much of a sweet tooth as a medieval diet allows :}
Tovah will probably eat anything, so long as it hasn't been salted or dried for months. If he were to live in this day and age, I'm sure he would be on the crest of the fresh-organic foodie wave.

Introduce us to the antagonist in your story. Does he/she prefer crunchy or creamy peanut butter?
Oh, I haven't yet met him in person - just heard his rumblings. So far my impressions of him have been somewhat Thorin-esque, in that he is determined (to the point of fanaticism) to win the cause of his people. Very stubborn, very blunt, and very angry with the Crown's rulings. He must be a crunchy man.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

first fruits | actually finishing something wk 2

 Something's different this year... something has made all our fruit trees want to behave like fruit trees...
As a High Plains dweller, this is quite novel to me. Getting anything besides weeds to grow here is exciting, but having it produce? First there's shock and then elation - somewhere on the feelings scale between Christmas morning and rescuing a meadow lark chick. :-)

Week Two Questions
1) How time flies! Did you reach your weekly goal?
meh, yes and no. I was hoping to check off several boxes on my events-that-have-to-happen list, but didn't really think that through. There turns out to be many, many more details between the events that took up most my time.

2) Is this challenge pushing and encouraging you to write more often?
I think so! I've also started another 30 days of writing no matter what challenge, which also helps. But this has encouraged me to write more than just a scape-goat sentence at midnight the times I'm worn out after a long day.

3) Did you accomplish most of your writing in the morning, afternoon, evening, or at random intervals during your busy day?
At night. Always at night. My weekdays go like this, without fail: 7am wake up. 7:30 - 5:30 I have the baby. During his naps (when he chooses to take them) I try to do either school- or housework. After he goes home it's supper, then maybe I'll ride or garden or otherwise revel in my freedom. After dark Momma, Little Brother, and I might play a card game, or (more likely at the moment) gather in the living-room to watch an episode of Merlin (we're working our way to the last season) :-) Then it's prayer and then bed for everyone else, and writing for me. I write usually until the end of an idea/scene or until I start spelling 'of' o-v and wondering why the heck it looks wrong (hint: sounding it out doesn't help).

4) Any particular musical tracks inspiring your prose?
Nothing new. But there's always Esca's Freedom [click here] to help inspire me with visions of an archaic world when I sometimes would rather write modern. It usually always cures me.

5) Share a snippet (or two!) of your writing!
Mm. I don't feel entirely comfortable sharing, since it's all very first draft and written close to midnight. but here it goes...
Tyrel took a bite of the stuff and the girls watched closely. He chewed thoughtfully for a moment. Then, "Fish," he announced.
 "Ah," said Cilla, and took a slice of bread instead.

[Cilla] knelt on the planks and dipped her fingers into the cold tide to press them against her still stinging cheek. Salt water ran down her face to speckle the front of her tunic. Not all the drops came from the sea.
 "Save us," she pleaded to a God who seemed as cold and indifferent as the stars overhead.

6) Share your three favorite bits of dialogue.
"Are you sure it's all right?" Emy hesitated, her fingers on the window ledge.
"It's fine." Cilla said with exasperation. "Just so long as we don't get caught." she added when Emy dropped down inside.
"Isn't he gorgeous?"
"He looks bored out of his mind."
"It's not white."
"Fairytale horses are aways white. The good ones anyway. Don't black one's like him usually represent death or plagues or something?"
"Oh, Emy! Why can't you like horses?" 
"You make it sound like a fault,"
"Emy, you are full blooded Ithrealian and you don't worship horses. It is a fault."
"Well maybe if I had a chance to like one. A sweet one. And not ever, ever have to deal with Brogdan's wretched beast ever again. Then I might like them."

7) How are you going to move forward in this challenge? Are you changing your word-count goal, or other such battle plans this week?
Same battle plans as last week: Whenever + Whatever. I might try and get ahead this weekend.