Wednesday, November 26th, 2014 | Author:

Usually, we’re a two Thanksgiving dinner family. We host a big Thanksgiving dinner at our house for my side of the family, and then have dinner with Wes’s family on Thanksgiving day. We’ve always been quite fortunate that my family is not particular when it comes to which exact date we get together to feast. So long as I save my mom a turkey leg and my step dad brings sweet potato pie, we all get along just fine regardless of what day of the week it is.

This year, however, my mom and step dad are on an RV trip until next May so no pre-Thanksgiving feast for us this year. That means I have a curious excess of holiday energy prior to the big day. Normally, I’m so tired from grocery shopping, meal planning, house cleaning, cooking, baking, hosting, cleaning dishes, and cleaning the house again I have very little to put into Thanksgiving day proper. Not a big deal, usually, because my mother in law cooks most everything and I just have to show up and wash dishes. Easy peasy.

So here we are, the day before Thanksgiving 2014 and I’m not sick of my kitchen yet. So what do I do? Bake a pie from scratch for absolutely no reason at all. Pumpkin pie, in case you’re curious. Why for no reason? Well, my mother in law, the inarguable Queen of Perfect Pies, is baking a pumpkin pie for dessert tomorrow. My pie is GUARANTEED to be less delicious than hers, and yet? I felt like baking pie while I baked rolls today so I threw a pie together for no reason.

But then, because no Erika Tries to Cook story would be complete without some kind of failure, this happened:

The last ingredient, by the way? Was sour cream. The pie crust turned out okay in texture, I think, but was extra sticky and difficult to wrestle into the pie tin. And who knows how it’ll taste? But, you know, the pie looks like a pie and I’m sure it’ll taste like a pie. Maybe just a sort of Russian-y hybrid pie because of all the extra sour cream.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you! Here’s wishing you hot food, sober relatives, and non-weird pie!

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Monday, November 24th, 2014 | Author:

Being young is hard. I know I’m not that young anymore (hello, 29! Who’s your friend there? Oh, it’s 30? No, no, I don’t think I’m quite ready to follow you guys into that coat closet over by the bathroom. Thanks, though. Trot along now, 30. I’ll deal with you next year), but I still feel like I’m young enough to be able to state, categorically, that being young is hard.

There’s a literal world of stuff you don’t know. Youth is change. Constant change, both in yourself and in the people around you, and yet throughout the change you’re somehow supposed to cobble together a sense of self and purpose all while avoiding crippling debt, baffling loneliness, and the kinds of cautionary tale mistakes you see at the backs of those teen magazines you used to read when you were younger.

For many people, their twenties is a whirlwind. Most people graduate college, start a career, change jobs, date, date some more, find a spouse, maybe have a kid or two, maybe buy a house, maybe take a trip, probably change jobs again, and possibly even have another kid. It’s a jam-packed decade full of massive life changes, and it’s the kind of singular, important epoch nothing but experience can prepare you for. The very experience you are, sadly, lacking, because you are in your twenties and when have you had time to gather experience?

Enter mentors. I have been blessed by solid female mentors most of my adult life and I can say emphatically that I’m a better person for it. These are women I look up to who’ve come out of the crucible of ages 20-40 with intact marriages, well-adjusted children, and strong faiths. I’m blessed to have two, both of whom I lean on when life throws me into the dunk tank.

If, when you look at me, you see anything admirable or wiser than my years, you can probably thank either one or both of these two women for that. Without them, I’m fairly certain I’d be less than half as awesome.

Not to be forgotten, I have a writing mentor, too, because apparently I suck at independence and need help with everything? Still, what good is it to walk the road alone when you could be walking it with awesome friends who know where all the potholes are?

Category: Lifestyle  | Tags:  | Leave a Comment
Wednesday, November 19th, 2014 | Author:

Something amazing has happened: After much searching and shopping and futility, I finally found…The perfect trench coat! This is it, it’s The One. If my life were The Matrix (and who’s to say it isn’t?), this trench coat would be Neo. Or, rather, the trench coat Neo wears in The Matrix, which would mean it’s all ones and zeroes and not actually a trench coat at all, which brings us full circle in kind of a disappointing way.

Bummer.

Anyway, I’m thrilled. Thrilled, I tell you. And what’s even better is, my mother in law is going to work her seamstress magic and poof! Make the sleeves longer because one truism that will always be true no matter what happens is this: When you’re tall, sleeves are almost never long enough.

Until I can show you a picture of how incredible I look in this coat, here’s a picture of it on a strangely concussed-looking model:

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Glorious, no? I assure you, it looks fabulous on me. So let it rain, I say! No wind or rain in the ‘verse can stop me, for I have a coat, and lo, it is trench-y.

Category: Fashion  | 2 Comments
Monday, November 17th, 2014 | Author:

slacker

I’ve been a slackersaurus about updating my blog this week, many apologies! I’m sure the ten of you who read my blog regularly are terribly disappointed by the radio silence. What have I been doing? you ask. Where have I been? Well, I’ll tell you:

  • Revising. I sent first round revisions of Bai Tide (book #1 of the series) off to my editor a week or so ago and I’ve been working as fast as I can to whip Take the Bai Road (book #2 of the series) into shape well enough to send it to my beta readers. I’ve been promising to send book #2 to them for months at this point but there just isn’t enough time to get everything done so it gets shunted to the back burner more often than not. Revision is not a fast process. You have to sit with each sentence, each word, really, tearing it apart and putting it back together until it lands against your ears the way it should.
  • Planning. My best friend is having her first baby in January and I’m throwing her a massive baby shower next month. I’ve been planning, coordinating with other people, and getting invitations and ideas together. We’re having a blast but it’s a time-consuming labor of love. It’s going to be a…Wait for it…MURDER MYSTERY BABY SHOWER, with a roaring 20’s theme where guests get to solve the murder of the stork to win an awesome prize. I’m so excited. Trust me, this is the perfect shower theme for my friend. It’s going to be a hoot.
  • Hiring. I finally, after much searching and follow-up, found and hired a book publicist to help me spread the word about Bai Tide. Book promotion is a tiring, relentless, time-consuming process. If you can find someone fantastic to help you with it, you’ll be much happier for it. I hired Authors, Large and Small to help me out and so far I’m thrilled. I’m looking forward to seeing what kind of magic they can work for me.
  • Podcasting. My friend A.C. Fuller has asked me to put together some short segments to put into his podcast, Writer 2.0. I’ve been working on putting those segments together and it’s going well but is, as you may have guessed, time-consuming (noticing a theme, here?). They’re one-to-two minute segments I’m calling Amuse Bouche Inspiration, and each segment explains how a famous writer got his or her start, and what we can learn from them. I like how they’ve turned out and can’t wait to hear them on air, so to speak.

As you can see, I’ve been busy, just not busy blogging. If you’re an author and you can say you’re busy, you’re lucky. I should be getting round two revisions from my editor for Bai Tide this week, which will mean no more revisions for book #2 and I’ll be under deadline again.

By the time I’m done revising Bai Tide and Take the Bai Road, I’m pretty sure I will have completely forgotten how to write new material. When the time comes to write book #4, I’m going to feel like a newb again!

Category: Writing  | Tags: ,  | Leave a Comment
Monday, November 10th, 2014 | Author:
Look how skinny I was! Makes me so proudsad.

Look how skinny I was! Makes me so proudsad.

Once upon a time, there was a woman named Erika. Erika had one child, writing novels was a hobby, and her husband definitely did not own his own company. In short, Erika was busy, but not too busy.

She was also overweight, so she decided to take a stand and do the whole weight loss thing right. Twice a week personal training sessions, fastidious calorie counting, and six workouts a week and five months later she was the skinniest she’d ever been. She kept that weight off for two whole months before breaking a bone in her foot and then getting knocked up again.

Now, Erika is a very busy mother of two. She’s right back to being overweight again, though now she has twice as many tiny humans to care for, a busy writing career that is very nearly thriving, and an entrepreneurial husband with his own busy work life. Don’t feel too sorry for her, though. Erika is chubby but she’s happy.

Though, sadly, way more woman than she’d like to be. Alas. And this concludes my tale of weight loss woe.

I’ve been thinking about juggling lately, and I’ve developed this theory about how parenthood gives us just enough room to do two things well. Like, there’s this whole spectrum of options out there, and when you have kids, you can pick two things to do well and that’s it. You can half ass a few things at a time, I suppose, but that’s never been something I’ve been good at and besides, it goes against Ron Swanson’s advice. I try to never go against Ron Swanson’s advice.

never-half-ass-two-things-whole-ass-one-thing

Here’s a list of things I came up with that you can choose from to do really, really well when you’re a stay at home parent:

  • Keeping a clean, organized house. A place for everything, everything in its place. Kids well dressed and presentable, laundry always folded and put away, dishwasher emptied promptly, clear counters, clean floors, sparkling toilets, handy lists in strategic places, etc.
  • Friends. Being a really involved, thoughtful, caring friend who intentionally makes room and time for important people. Throwing amazing parties for people, going out for regular coffee dates to keep in touch, dinners/drinks out on the town together, remembering birthdays and important anniversaries, etc. (Think Leslie Knope from Parks and Rec)
  • Fitness. Getting in shape, staying in shape, setting and attaining fitness goals, running races, training for triathlons, doing boot camps, cooking and eating healthy, balanced meals, sticking to calorie goals, no junk food, etc.
  • Hobby. Putting in the time and effort to hone your craft, perfect your technique, attend workshops, practice, showcase your work at local events, network with other people who like doing what you do, making a name for yourself, etc.
  • Kids. Reading stacks of books every day, regular trips to the library, planning out fun activities and play dates, being involved in school activities, researching child development and amending parenting techniques to reflect what you learn, intentional conversations, socializing your kids with other kids in a similar developmental stage, etc.

I’m sure you can probably come up with more, but for me these are the big five. I constantly feel like I should be excelling at all five, and yet, I don’t think it’s possible without either burning out, developing a Ritalin addiction, or half-assing some of them.

Every time I feel like I should be doing more, better, I’m reminded of that scene from The Office where Angela and Phyllis are trying to plan the launch party and Phyllis holds up her fingers with Post-It Notes on them and tells Angela to pick two, because she can’t do them all. And then, when Angela is a huge jerk about it, Phyllis wads the whole lot of Post-Its up and throws it in Angela’s face. Just like this:

phyllis-throws-paper-at-angela-o

Click for the .gif.

And so that’s where I’ve landed. I know I’m capable of being super skinny again. I loved it, and would be delighted to go back there again. I just know how much work and focus that takes, and it’s not possible right now. Not with my kids being the age they are and my writing career being where it is right now. And so, I’m chubby. I’m chubby, but my kids are thriving and my writing is improving and my husband likes hanging out with me. I have occasional coffee with my friends, I workout two-to-three times a week but still eat junk food when I’m stressed, and my house is occasionally a little messy.

I’m whole-assing my kids and my writing career, and everything else gets shoved in wherever there’s room. It’s not ideal, but it’s tenable. How about you? What are you whole-assing vs. half-assing?