Bowlin’ (read: Ballin’)

!erin-eats

The fiance and I are forever on the quest to eat healthily yet deliciously. Like most young adults, we work a lot, not leaving much time for cooking, which is why eating out or grabbing some unhealthy fast food thing is so tempting. We recently got a charcoal grill and have been smoking chicken and steaks in large quantities to save for leftovers, and keeping quick sides around the house (i.e.: black beans, green beans, spaghetti squash, etc.).

This week, we wanted to switch it up and try making quinoa bowls! I cannot eat mass amounts of the same thing over and over, which is why I usually try to keep leftovers to a minimum. I wanted a few different bowl options with cross-utilization of ingredients as not to have too much food on hand.

Pesto Bowl:
– Homemade Pesto (finely minced basil, garlic, cashews, parmesan, basil evoo, garlic salt, freshly ground pepper)
– Baby Greens (baby spinach, kale, arugula, romaine) [superfood+veggie power]
– Avocado [healthy fat]
– Roasted Cauliflower [for veggie power]
– Egg [hey, protein]
– Quinoa, of course [starch+protein+hella amino acids]

Fiesta Bowl:
– Sauteed Onions & Bell Peppers [for veggie power]
– Baby Greens [superfood+veggie power]
– Pulled, smoked chicken [protein goodness]
– Homemade Pico de Gallo (tomato, onion, cilantro, lime juice, jalapeno, s&p)
– Avocado [healthy fat]
– Black Beans [starch]
– Quinoa, of course [starch+protein+hella amino acids]

Summer Salad Bowl:
– Baby Greens [superfood+veggie power]
– Strawberries [fruit+vitamin goodness]
– Avocado [healthy fat]
– Cashews/Almonds [hella vitamins/minerals/antioxidents+quality protein+cronchy]
– Balsamic Vinegar [do it for the polyphenols, okay?]
– Quinoa, of course [starch+protein+hella amino acids]

To prepare for the week, I prepped all the ingredients ahead of time and stored them all separately so we can freestyle bowls as desired.

PREP IT UP:
– 1 cup quinoa yields about 4c quinoa. (TIP: Toast the quinoa in butter before cooking. I also used homemade veggie stock for flavor rather than just adding water. 2:1 liquid:quinoa is the magic ratio.)
– Pesto (The extra time allows the flavors to meld together and make it more yummy.)
– Salsa (See above.)
– Cook & Pull Chicken
– Dice Strawberries
– Julienne Onions & Peppers

As always, I don’t like to give measurements. I included my reasoning for the inclusion of each item in the bowl to show how to try and hit each food group and make a (mostly) balanced bowl. Add more or less according to your dietary needs. For example: the Fiesta bowl has two starches (beans and quinoa), just use less of each as not to make the bowl overly starchy.

Go forth and bowl out.

Cheers,
Erin

Looking Back

I’ve been posting gratuitously about #ThursdayAesthetic on here, but last week’s theme was a really cool learning experience for me. The theme was “past project”, and I decided to go all the way back to the first manuscript I ever completed: OF MONSTERS & WOMEN.

Now, this isn’t the first thing I ever wrote, and it’s best that my early days of Harry Potter fanfiction are lost to antiquated fan forums and dead hard drives, but finishing a full manuscript was a big hurdle for me. I started writing when I was around 13/14, and didn’t finish an entire story until I was 21.

I used to write out of order, simply writing whatever scenes I felt inspired to write. This ended up with a lot of half-finished stories, because once I ‘discovered’ the ending of a story, I didn’t have much motivation to go back and finish the journey. OM&W was the first story were I wrote chronologically, and I think that’s why I actually managed to finish. I’ve continued to write chronologically ever since.

Anyway, as prep for this week’s aesthetic challenge, I went back and revisited this manuscript. I braced myself for the worst, and surprisingly, it wasn’t as bad as I expected. Sure, there were lots of comma splices, run-on sentences, and paragraph-long dialogue tags. The fact that I could identfy these flaws, however, just shows how far I’ve come as writer since writing OM&W. The plot, however, was so much stronger than I remembered. The subplots were all necessary and subtly interwoven. There were far too many secondary characters, but I fell in love with the main characters all over again.

OF MONSTERS & WOMEN is about two girls:
Veronica: The dreamer. She hoped this was going to be a love story. Instead, she discovers she’s the last descendant in a long line of witches. As such, she is the only one who can break the curse placed on the pack of alpha wolves that now stalk her and her roommate.
Blake: The realist. With the werewolves go, hunters follow. Blake begins training with the hunters to protect herself and her roommate. When she stumbles upon lore of warrior women sworn to protect the witches, she realizes that her and Veronica’s fates might have been entwined all along–and it might be the very key to breaking the curse.
It’s a silly, tropey self-insert paranormal romance with more love insterests than you can shake a stick at, but it’s a fun read (if I may say so myself). I’d love to revisit/rewrite it one day and let these girls kick ass, take names, and get the guy in the end, too.

 

[AES] PAST PROJECT

top mid: veronica hale; bottom right: blake bennett

 

 

SaveSave

HOW TO: Thursday Aesthetic

Since I began participating in #ThursdayAesthetic, the wonderfully fun Twitter hashtag started by @literarilyjess, I’ve seen multiple posts on how to create moodboards via apps, but none for Photoshop (which is what I prefer).  Here’s a brief overview of my process. Feel free to ask questions if you have any!

  1. First, create a new project, 500 x 500 pixels.
  2. Create your squares using the Rectangle Tool on the left sidebar. You’ll need nine squares at 166.67 x 166.67 pixels. (One will be slightly smaller because math.)
  3. Each square will be its own layer. I put my squares in order from top left all the way to bottom right, and I change the layer name from ‘Rectangle #’ to the coordinating position on the board (i.e. Top Left, Top Mid, Top Right, Mid Left, etc…)
  4. By double-clicking on the squares, alternate their colors like this:
    [AES] BLANK 9
    I’ve seen tutorials suggesting three base colors, but I work more easily with two and find that I end up with a cleaner end product.
  5. Search Pinterest, Tumblr, whatever photo source you like for your photos. I prefer Pinterest, and my friend Claire has a great color-coded aesthetic page that I use often.
    * Search tip: Add the word ‘aesthetic’ to your searches. I.E. if you’re making a green-themed Legolas moodboard just search “Legolas aesthetic” and “green aesthetic”
  6. Gather your photos and arrange/crop them into the squares! For easy cropping, I use the Rectangular Marquee Tool to select the portion of the photo I want to use, right click on the selection > Layer Via Copy. Click the eye to make the original photo layer invisible. Or delete it. I tend to keep it until the very end so the original image is there if I need it.
  7. Once you have the nine photos you want, sharpen each one individually. I prefer the Smart Sharpen option.
  8. Don’t forget to color! There are lots of tutorials on this and I’m not the person to explain this, but it really helps bring your color scheme together.

Miscellaneous Tips:

  • I suggest gathering more than just nine photos because even though you’re going to find something AWESOME, it may not work with the set.
  • The color-coded blocks should be like-colored aesthetic photos. For me, the grey squares usually end up being photos with white backgrounds and the black squares end up being darker photos. I also try to pick one color that epitomizes the “mood” of the moodboard (get it?) and find photos that have that color. Not every square has to have it, but try to spread the photos with the color theme throughout the board.
  • Also, try to balance your photo choices. Space out your photos that are heavy on texture with minimalist ones. Text squares and pins/patches are great for de-cluttering your moodboard.
  • Have fun with it! When I get frustrated that a board isn’t turning out the way I want, just save it and come back later.

This week’s theme is “Beginnings”, so I’ll be back tomorrow with my board.

Cheers,
Erin Connor

currently writing 05.10.18

!CW

Again, this header is a lie. But I wanted to share this week’s #ThursdayAesthetic. The theme was ‘future project’. I’ve had this idea bouncing around in my head for years, and I’m still not entirely confident that it’s done brewing.

TOUCHED is a wlw romance that’s PLEASANTVILLE x THE GIVER.

The Continent is a hyper-conservative land where physical touch and magic have been banned. Calleigh is a magical land of sexual freedom and expression. The two lands have coexisted for years, but Calleigh fears that The Continent is no longer content to let them be, and will soon attempt to overtake them, squashing out the love and magic that makes Calleigh great. To preserve their way of life, Calleigh spies infiltrate The Continent, but even the best-laid plans can go sideways.

Billie, the daughter of two Calleigh spies, quickly falls in love with Shiloh, the daughter of The Continent’s president. And Shiloh, who has only known the bland, colorless life of The Continent, is completely enamored with Billie and the freedom Calleigh offers. If discovered, their love could spark the tension between their two worlds and be the end of Calleigh. So they must fight, both for themselves and for their countries.

[AES] TA WIP

currently writing 05.10.18

!CW

This header is a lie, I haven’t written anything lately. I was in Spain and Portugal for a week at the end of April and haven’t stopped working since I got back. May is always a crazy month for me-both work-wise and personally. However, I have a free day this weekend and am hoping to get back to work on DB’s sequel now that I got over the hump of rewriting that one scene three times haha.

It’s Thursday, which means #ThursdayAesthetic! I’m a week behind on posting so this was last week’s theme of ‘minor characters’. You hear enough about Alba, so here are my other three POV characters as well as a bonus fave side character:

 

[AES] TA MINOR-CORA

CORA 
-Lord of Tartarus, the Underworld’s prison realm
-Death’s Second in Command
-Demon Twin
-Disaster Gay
If you’re not sure if you’re terrified or turned on—don’t worry, that’s normal.

[AES] TA MINOR-DOM

DOM 
-Death’s Third in Command
-Demon Twin
-Prince of Hell
-God of Nightmares (dressed as a daydream)
Enjoys long walks through Hell, pushing everyone’s buttons, and always having the last word.

[AES] TA MINOR-BANE

BANE
-Emissary to the Realms
-Son of a witch (literally)
-Heir of Chaos
-Always Broody
-Concealing at least four weapons at all times
Hella bossy, lonely af, really needs a hug—and a way out of his blood oath to the gods.

 

 

[AES] TA MINOR-HARLOW

HARLOW 
-Love’s Second in Command
-Heir of Chaos & War
-Favorite Book: 174 Ways To Kill A Man
-Just wants to paint
“That’s why her hair’s so big, it’s full of secrets,” said by someone at some point, probably.

currently writing 04.19.18

!CW

Slowly but surely, DB’s sequel is now at 24,000 words! I had to rewrite a scene three times to finally get the right vibe and pacing, so hopefully, I can pick back up the pace again. The sequel has evolved a lot in this rewrite, and the subplots are much stronger for it, but I’m excited to get back to the core of the action in the coming scenes.

It’s Thursday, which means #ThursdayAesthetic!! aka my favorite writing twitter hashtag. This week’s theme was ‘antagonist’ to juxtapose last week’s theme of ‘protagonist’. I struggled with this one as I didn’t want to give away who my villain was, so I went with a broader theme, that of Alba vs. the gods. So, here’s an aesthetic for the gods, who are far too extravagant and very fond of golden decor, secrets, and getting away with murder.

[AES] TA VILLAIN CHALLENGE

!CW

DB’s sequel is currently at 20,000 words!! I actually had two full days off in a row and I wrote 12,500 words this past weekend, which is insane. I have a feeling this sequel is going to be a lot longer than anticipated, but it’s still the first draft. Either way, I’m excited! Anyways, #ThursdayAesthetic is now officially a *thing* on Twitter. This week’s theme was ‘Protagonist’, so here’s my Alba aesthetic.

[AES] TA MC CHALLENGE

!CL

Alisa sent me a Snapchat dancing to this in the car earlier today and I was immediately hooked. I live for songs that immediately pick up your anxiety and crappy mood and throw them straight out the window. Kehlani absolutely owns this song, sorry KYLE, this is Kehlani’s song now. Anyways, this is going to be stuck in your head for days and I won’t apologize. In fact, you’re welcome.

((Also, I have totally failed at weekly updates. I’m thinking I’m just going to post within my previously established “currently” categories whenever I have something I want to share. It’s be spontaneous, which is totally not me, so, we’ll see.))

!CW

I just hit 10,000 words on the sequel to Death Becoming! I had about 30,000 words written before deciding to scrap it all and start anew, given all the changes DB underwent in edits. I can’t begin to describe how good it feels to be writing new things again after nearly a year of edits. To celebrate, here’s a moodboard I made for the #ThursdayAesthetic challenge on Twitter.

[AES] CR

 

Week In Review 03/02/18 & 03/09/18

I would apologize for not being the best at updating every single week, but, in my own defense, the weeks where I don’t update are weeks where I’m traveling, have friends&family in town, or it’s a holiday. Plus it just makes for a more exciting post the next week! So without further ado:

!CLU

Last week my best friend Karrie came in town from Toronto, and stayed with Lucas and I for five days. It was probably the most laid back trip we’ve ever had. If you know us, you know all of our vacations have spreadsheets and color & icon coded google maps. It sounds like a lot, but when going somewhere you’ve never been, the pre-planning makes the trip itself a lot less stressful. (Perhaps I should do a post on trip planning?) This time, however, was Karrie’s fourth time to Chicago, so we didn’t need to do any of the usual sightseeing cliches.

We spent all day Thursday watching Lord of the Rings (yes, all three–extended versions) and eating our weight in guacamole. I introduced Karrie to the wonders of an espresso cured ribeye, and she helped me clear out my stash of small production, estate Rieslings. Friday, we went for a hike with Freya, took Karrie on her first “Target run”, and had dinner at Parkers. Parkers is one of my work accounts, and also one of my favorites, and they sent us way more food than we could eat. Cheese board with local goat, sheep, & cows milk cheeses, oysters, clam chowder, gumbo, lemon-butter whitefish, mushroom risotto, beef shank with chorizo potatoes, apricot & white chocolate bread pudding, and last but not least: three foot tall maple cotton candy.  After we rolled home, full-to-bursting, to burn calories, we played Mario Kart for a few hours.

[CLU] Soph

Saturday was the real reason for Karrie’s visit: the Chicago Heroes event. She has been a fan of Chicago Fire/PD/Med since the start. I only jumped on board to watch Chicago PD because of my love for Sophia Bush, who is much more than just the girl from One Tree Hill. She’s incredibly intelligent and very politically outspoken, and generally just a great role model of someone in Hollywood using their platform for good. Needless to say, we both jumped on the opportunity to meet her. Having attended conventions before, we expected it to be a similar experience: the handlers and photographers yelling at you to hurry you up and rush you in and out, giving you only roughly thirty seconds to interact. This was nothing like that, and it was so lovely. The whole event was incredibly relaxed, each actor took the time to speak with each person before their photo. They were engaged with each fan, down to do some ridiculous photo poses, and checked to make sure the photo was good before moving on to the next person. Karrie also purchased an autograph to go on her gallery wall, and asked Sophia to write a quote on cardstock for her frame. Sophia thought for a moment, and taking inspiration from Karrie’s “RESIST” shirt, wrote “Resist. Insist. Persist.” I’m always afraid that when I meet these people, they won’t be as lovely as I anticipated but she was very genuine and real as she munched on a pretzel, complaining about high heels, dancing to the music one of her co-stars had brought out for his neighboring autograph table. Karrie also purchased an autograph from LaRoyce, having always loved his “Be Powerful” motto, and he too was more than happy to oblige. He also had her message his brother so he could send her a Be Powerful hat, which was above and beyond. Everyone was so lovely and happy to chat. It was truly a special event.

!CW

I should probably make a separate post for writing/editing/publishing updates, shouldn’t I? Maybe next week. These past two weeks were full of firsts. I wrote my first synopsis, and I think it’s decent, just taking a little break before diving back in. Yet again, Susan Dennard has the best advice on how to tackle this. It’s based on The Hero’s Journey, and helps keep you on task with only hitting the major points of your novel without drowning in subplots.

This week, I participated in #PitMad on Twitter, which is a one day pitching contest where querying writers can pitch their novel in 280 characters or less. Agents can request a query by “liking” your tweet. You have to use the appropriate hashtags for your genre, age group, and #PitMad, all of which detracts from your already limited number of characters. I didn’t get any likes from agents, but it was a good learning experience. Skimming through the pitches, it’s very much a popularity contest, as more popular pitches skyrocket to the top. I definitely need to delve further into the writing community on Twitter and make more writing friends. I got quite a few hits from fellow writers who enjoyed my pitch, which was very heartening. By perusing the popular tweets, I found a lot of agents who were currently requesting YA Fantasy, which is invaluable information. So, now, back to the querying trenches I go!

!CD

[CD] disciplesIf you’re a wine aficionado, and perhaps even if you’re not, you’ve heard of The Prisoner, a Zinfandel based red blend out of Napa. But this post isn’t about that wine. The Prisoner was started by the visionary Dave Phinney, and also sold by him, so it’s not even the same wine anymore. But before I get on my soapbox… Back then, Phinney was sourcing grapes from growers throughout Napa, but his true vision and passion was to have a vineyard of his own. So when the GB Crane vineyard was available, he jumped on it. A mere 8 acres, it is the oldest vineyard in Napa, planted in 1885 to what was then called “mixed blacks”: Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Carignan, and a wee bit of Alicante Bouschet, Mourvedre and Valdiguie. Of those eight acres, four are the original plantings. The “new” four acres were replanted in the 1930s, which isn’t anything to turn up your nose at either. So, if you’re looking for the real Prisoner wine, from it’s winemaker, look no further than The Crane Assembly, specifically Disciples Red Blend: 76% Zinfandel, 13% Charbono, 6% Grenache, 5% Petite Sirah. And in true Phinney style, it’s big, bold, and jammy, complete with an obscure, artistic label. If you’re a true Phinney-fan, also check out El Coco Red Blend (with the boogeyman on the label) and the Cabernet.