Covid Cooking. And Eating.

And drinking. It’s totally a thing. My kids have stayed healthy, thank the Universe, but my daughter missed the end of her senior year in high school, and my son missed the end of eight grade. No big deal compared to what some are suffering. I get that. But it does make me want to nurture them. For me that means food. (Shocking, I know.)

Since I was working four ten hour days for a few months, that meant I had three days off a week. What that REALLY meant was that I had no good excuse to get out of cooking dinner!

I’ve made some old favorites and discovered some new ones, thanks to Pinterest and my FB friends. My favorite finds of 2020 thus far are: Homemade falafel, veggie burger breakfast sandwiches, and ramen bowls. All vegetarian, but not vegan, because of our pescetarian kid. Oh! And I put everything bagel seasoning on a pizza crust before I baked it. That was good, too. It’s raw dough from the grocery store, but the trick to making it awesome (which I learned from my husband, lol) is to let it proof, press it out, let it proof, press it out, let it proof, press it out…until it stays at the edges of the pan. Then top it. Let it proof…and ta da!

I’m a falafel fan, and this one from Foodie with Family is great. Don’t double it. I made that mistake. The recipe will make enough! If you make the tahini sauce, add water. It really needs it. This pic is from our Quarantine Birthday Passover Fafafel fest.

I can’t stop eating these:

Three friends and I go on a yearly writers’ retreat to an Airbnb above a vegetarian cafe where I had the most epic breakfast sandwich ever. Of Covid-course, it got canceled this year, but the cafe lists the ingredients on their menu! Wheee! TRY IT. My version goes like this: broil a quinoa crunch veggie burger for eight minutes. Flip it. Hard fry an egg while you broil the veggie burger for another six minutes. Okay, fine, maybe you prefer your eggs over easy or whatever. Do that then. 🙂 Get a bun. I like brioche buns. Put your veggie burger on the bun. Add cheese if you, like me, believe everything needs cheese. Put your egg on there too. Now, you are gonna have to trust me. Spread peanut butter, apricot preserves, and Sriracha on the top bun. I know. Sounds weird. Maybe you’d rather combine those ingredients and THEN put them on the bun. I’ve done it both ways several times. Like I said, I can’t stop eating this sandwich. OH MY GOD SO GOOD.

And I don’t know about you, but I love me a ramen bowl, and the kids do, too. HOWEVER, I am not spending hours in the kitchen making broth. Nope. I spend hours doing a ton of other shit. SO! I needed a recipe that was good but not too time consuming, preferably vegetarian. BOOM. Pinterest via Supper with Michelle delivered. I’ve made this a few times, and it’s super. My cheap hack: I use the packaged Ramen noodles minus the flavor pack. The in-laws gave us a space-age egg cooker for Hannukah, so I add egg, avocado, grated carrot, barely cooked zuccini noodles, scallions, baby pepper rings, kimchi…and I usually grill a chicken on the side for the omnivores in the family. Slurp, slurp, yum! And I don’t have to agonize over the broth.

Last, but certainly not least…an oldie but goodie. Since my husband built a bar in the garage…since the bar-age has recently acquired a commercial grade drink blender…since it’s June…since the past four months have been a little blurry anyway…my favorite homemade margarita!

I hope you are finding ways to nurture yourself, your people, and strangers during these strange days.

XOXO,

Amanda

Don’t Miss This Mother’s Day Sale!

May the Fourth be with you! LOL. I saw these wookie cookies on Pinterest and had to make them at work, even though I had about forty other things I should have been doing. It’s the little things sometimes, even when the big things are looming!

Warning: I am struggling this morning. WordPress changed its format when I wasn’t looking, and I can’t seem to make this post behave. Or I could have the menstrual migraine I’ve been fighting off all week with Naproxen. Or maybe it’s the impending menses. Or the pandemic. Who even knows at this point? Bear with me. I have news.

Do you enjoy romances with kids/babies/pregnancies in them? Entangled Publishing has a dozen books on sale for .99 for Mother’s Day, and my book, Impulse Control, is one of them! The heroine has a fourteen-month old baby, and the tough-guy hero falls in love with him just as fast as he falls in love with her. The diaper-changing scene cracks me up every time, even though I wrote it. It also chokes me up a little because it reminds me of how hilarious and awesome my husband was with our kids. “Laugh it up, poopy pants,” Russ says, as he tries to convince the barely-walking baby of the merits of peeing standing up. Impulse Control is one of my favorites because the hero is a smoking-hot badass alpha dude, and he really and truly appreciates the curves and imperfections of a REAL woman. A mother. Who still has baby weight. Some stretch marks. Leftover baggage from a failed relationship. You know, A NORMAL WOMAN. Like all my books, it’s pretty sexy, and if you want to read part of why I love the hero so much, click here for a thrill. The excerpt is at the bottom.

And the sale page for all the books can be found HERE. The sale runs May 4th through May 11th, and I hope you download some of the books and enjoy them.

May the Fourth be with you, Happy Mother’s Day, and stay safe!

XOXO,

Amanda

E-book available  from AMAZONBARNES & NOBLEKOBO, GOOGLE, APPLE BOOKS, and more.

FREE and Discounted Books from Entangled Publishing!

I’m on my way out the door to work in the grocery store, but I wanted to tell you all about this sale in case you are having a particularly stir-crazy day!

Entangled Publishing, LLC has made over a thousand category romances .99 and 176 first-in-series single title books FREE on ALL retailers, as far as I can tell! STOCK UP, bookworms, and stay home in your happy place! I have direct sales links for the Barnes & Noble sales pages, so maybe shop there and then search out your picks on your favorite retailer?
B&N category romance: http://tiny.cc/BNcategoryrom
B&N free romance: http://tiny.cc/BNfreeromance
And, of course, here’s a link to all retailers for my HOT NIGHTS series: http://tiny.cc/HotNightsSeries
HAPPY READING from Entangled Publishing! 

XOXO,

Amanda

In Like a Lamb…then ROAR!

I work in a grocery store. Last week was mostly normal. I was crunching numbers for Pi Day (3/14) and the only thing I was concerned about was the fact it was happening on a Saturday. I wondered how many teachers and math loving parents wouldn’t bother buying pies…

Fast forward a few days, and the shelves are bare of paper products and meat, and every bakery employee who is able to cash (including the department manager) is on a register. Bakery employee who can’t cash (that’s me) are cleaning like their lives depend on it, which they kind of do, or putting away the very unpredictable deliveries. In some cases, we don’t even stock the display, we just drop a pallet near the display. It’s faster.

…and NO ONE is buying pies. Or cakes. Or cookies. Or basically anything in the bakery except bread. Me? I’d totally bring home a sheet cake for the apocalypse, but evidence puts me in the minority.

My kids are home until late April AT LEAST. I’ve always know I’d be a terrible homeschooler, but I’m trying to keep up with the e-mails from teachers about how this next month will proceed. Even though I’ve always made their grades their responsibility, I suddenly feel the need to micromanage. My children are, for the most part, tolerant of my parental anxiety.

My oldest is headed for college next year. What will that look like? I just signed both of my girls up for expensive college-credit classes…now cancelled. Let’s not even look at the stock market.

What to do in this time of uncertainty? Well, I want to stick my nose in a book and leave it there for two months. That’s what I do in times of adversity. I retreat. Pull inward. It’s easy for me. I read Pat Conroy’s Beach Music through most of an induced but “natural” labor. I read Bryn Greenwood’s The Reckless Oath We Made while planning my father’s funeral. Currently, I’m binging KA Tucker’s The Simple Wild series and Kari Lynn Dell’s Texas Rodeo series AT THE SAME TIME. (They’re great. Just in case you need a new book.)

I also made these.

The spring roll wrappers have probably been in the cupboard for five years. AT LEAST. And the black soy bean noodles have been spinning on the lazy susan for months, rejected. The cilantro somehow escaped taco night a few weeks ago and is still mostly fresh. Put them all together with this sauce and you’ve got black soy bean, cilantro, romaine, cucumber (and chicken for the non-pescatarians in my house) spring rolls! Culinary creativity at it’s finest. LOL. Which actually gives me an idea, as I sit here at my kitchen table. My son likes to cook. He might enjoy a “mystery basket” experience in the kitchen. Do you think *I* can handle the resulting culinary consequences? And the bomb that will be my kitchen? Maybe it will be fun?

Isolation isn’t easy for some people. Introverted bookworms like me are pretty okay. We hang out with fictional characters. Plus, I still go to work. At present, my job in the grocery store continues. But the people who thrive on social contact will struggle. Are you one of those people? How do YOU find ways to connect that don’t involve actually being near another person? Please share. 🙂

I’m off to work. Namaste (from six feet away) and stay healthy!

The Super Bowl is NOT a Holiday

Oh but it is…in a grocery store. I can’t believe I haven’t blogged since November! To be fair, I did send out a few newsletters. (If you want to get my cat pictures and oversharing, sign up HERE.)

In my day job, I live from holiday to holiday. There are a few quiet days in January, but then it goes Super Bowl, Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Easter, Mother’s Day…and on and on. Lately, I’ve realized that I’ve allowed my day job to completely take over my life. I’m an overachiever. I pour myself into EVERY project like it’s my only project. Bakery is a beast. We never get enough done. The work is overwhelming. The expectations are endless. And I don’t know how to quit.

One of my daily goals for last month was “leave on time.” During January, the slowest month of the grocery store year, I left on time SIX TIMES. I can do better than that. I must do better than that. Because I want to have energy for other things that matter. And when I work twelve-hour days, I don’t. It’s as simple as that.

Do you have a goal for February? What is it? How are you going to crush it?

You are NOT your own worst enemy

I’m not doing nano this year because (many reasons) but I get the pep talks in my inbox, and, MAN, they are great. Anne Lamott telling me I must begin writing, “As is,” and not wait for the “right” time…or the right ME. Maurene Goo reminding me that I must have follow through. That “No one creates art half-heartedly. Even when they pretend to. Because writing is really hard. And only the tough survive.”

Why is it so hard FOR ME?

It might be that ANY activity I desperately want to do would become difficult because I like to feel like a failure. I never feel like my efforts are good enough. I deny myself success, or, at least, ENJOYING success, even though on paper I’m doing great. Healthy, happy family. Employed. Paying the bills. But I never FEEL like a success.

My counselor asked me last week: What do you think you have to be?

I stared at her blankly.

Perfect. Invulnerable. Infallible. Beautiful. Funny. Thin. Strong. Right. All the time.

*cue hysterical laughter*

If I believe that bullshit, I AM my own worst enemy. And maybe you are, too.

At least, that was the direction I was planning to take with this blog until I drove my middle kid to jazz band this early morning. As I drove and wrote in my head, I realized that I was BLAMING MYSELF for not feeling successful. I was putting MYSELY DOWN for feeling down. Why on earth would I do that? I tell my girls at work every single time I hear them putting themselves down that there are enough things and people in life who will make you feel low, so don’t do it to yourself, at least not where I can hear you.

I am NOT my own worst enemy. I am my biggest supporter. My biggest fan. And you should be your biggest supporter and fan, too. We are enough. BELIEVE it. FEEL it. Now the work begins.

AS IS.

It’s Release Day for DARK AWAKENING!

At long last…

To say I’m excited is an understatement. The e-book is available from AmazonBarnes and Noble, Kobo,  and Apple Books. It’s on sale for release week, so if super-sexy, super-powered, and super-twisty urban fantasy is up your alley, grab it! And I’d love to hear what you think of it, here or anywhere, but especially in a review on a retail site. 😀

Bounce, boounce, booounce. BOOOINGGGGGG! I’m off to work. Have a SUPER day, folks!

Is Your Heart on the Back Burner?

No, I’m not talking about grieving or counseling. What is blowing my mind this morning is how easy it is for me to put my writing, which is really freaking important to me and the project of my heart, on the back burner.

I got home from Cincinnati on Tuesday, spent Wednesday picking up the threads of family and financial life, went back to work on Thursday…and BOOM. I worked overtime every day and completely (well, almost) lost of all the creative inspiration that welled up during my two-week “break.”

The books I want to write really aren’t going to write themselves.

A Monday suggestion for anyone out there who puts something they love last on their to-do list: Do it first. Do it now. Don’t do it as a reward for getting all the have-tos done. Do it because it gives the mundane stuff more meaning. You WILL get all of your have-tos done…because you HAVE TO. But you won’t get your want-tos done unless you prioritize them.

Do you put your passion project last on your list? Why?

And if you don’t, do you have any suggestions for how those of us who do can stop? Me, I’m going to go back to writing FIRST thing in the morning. I’M DOING IT.

What’s your goal for this fine Monday?

How Do You Unpack a Life?

Where do you start? That’s what I asked my new counselor. I mean, I probably would have benefited from counseling decades ago, but the thought of explaining ALL THE THINGS to someone is flat-out exhausting.

But I went. I sat on the couch. I started talking. I tried to explain what brought me there and what I wanted to get out of it. The next day, I felt more steady, as if beginning the process gave me some power back, which makes sense, I guess. I’m working on my struggles not denying, enduring, pickling, carb-loading, or sleeping on them.

And then my Dad passed away on Tuesday. If you’ve read my books, my characters’ daddy issues run rampant through them. Or sometimes the mommy issues because you gotta mix it up a little! My relationship with my father is probably the most complicated one in my life. I’ve been wondering for months, because his death was not sudden, how you go on when the person who created you, physically, mentally, and emotionally, doesn’t exist anymore. He got a surprising amount of discussion in my first counseling session, or not so surprising, really.

There’s a lot to unpack.

Currently, I’m with my mother and sister, doing the things you do when this sort of thing happens. There are a lot of things! And a lot of talking. Lots of casseroles, wine, and pie. Lots of pictures. Lots of leftovers. Lots of tears. Lots of laughs. We are doing a very difficult thing, but we are doing it together. The Fabulous Baker Girls, as my friend Jessica Topper dubbed us, are heartbroken. End of story.

But love goes on.

Depressed and Anxious, but Killing It!

Hi guys, I can’t believe I haven’t posted since June, but I kind of can because I’ve been slowly losing my shit over a period of months. Maybe a year. Maybe more because it takes me a long time to admit I can’t do something. To admit I need help. To rest in my mess because I am performing my job with tears rolling down my face, and even *I* can’t pretend that is normal!

It’s not necessary to feel the way I’m feeling even with good reasons. I have good reasons. My father is dying, my job is uber-stressful, it’s time to find a college for my oldest, I’m not writing, the cat keeps peeing in the house…the list goes on. And on.

And yet – I’m performing at a high level. My to-do lists are epic, and I am crossing off stuff that’s been on them for months! I assume it’s because I feel overwhelmed, and that’s a good way to assert some power in my life?

This is not a cry for help, my people. I know how to get help. In fact, all the while I’ve been sinking I KNEW I could get 6 FREE counseling sessions through the EAP program at work, and I called yesterday. You’d think that making that call would have been the hardest thing to do.

Nope.

Getting my ass to the gym for the first step aerobics class I’ve taken in 20 years was the hardest thing I did yesterday. So hard. Even though my primary told me last year that doing cardio would help with my fatigue. Even though my chiro poked me in my butt cheeks and told me I was losing muscle mass. Even though my creatinine levels came back low, which can be another indicator of losing muscle mass. Putting down my book and getting off my bed and really and truly taking a “step” toward rebuilding my physical health was more difficult than taking a step toward rebuilding my mental health.

Go figure.

Anyway! A huge fist bump to all of you out there taking care of your heads, hearts, and bodies. It isn’t easy to take care of your family AND your SELF. At least, it isn’t easy for me. I’m hoping the counselor has some insight into how I can sustain a healthier, happier me. I’ll let you know! Meanwhile, I’m going to attempt to focus on the positive while I mend. Hence the image of the homegrown tomatoes sitting on my counter. HAPPINESS! Any tips for sustaining joy, my people? What’s keeping you sane and chipper these days? 🙂