Oops, I did it again (and stuffed acorn squash)

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Oh.  Oops.  I said that thing about the writing… you know, that I was going to do it and keep it up and not let so much time go by between postings.

Sigh.  I guess I lied a little bit.

So.  What’s new?  Well, Brian is running and talking (and talking back).  Eighteen months flew by.  Strange, how the middle of the night marathon rocking sessions make it seem like time is going by so slowly, then BAM.  He’s -doing that think that parents don’t mention because they are afraid they will jinx it and make them stop doing that thing.  You know, the quiet, all night thing in their crib…  that thing!  But, anyway.  Moving on.

It’s fall.  Crunchy leaves, chilly nights, unexpectedly warm(ish) afternoons.  Pumpkin, pumpkin, pumpkin.  Oh, pumpkin.

Pumpkin and I have a long-standing love-affair.  But, that’s a story for another day.

Today, my story is about a dish that smells supremely fall, looks absolutely fantastic, and tastes delicious.

Eric wanted stuffed peppers for dinner, and I’m not really into the slimy green pepper with meat inside.  Gimme my veggies, please.  I had an acorn squash so I improvised.  So, to end my (latest) blogging hiatus, I present to you:

Apple and Barley Stuffed Acorn Squash
(Serves 2 as a side, 1 as a meal)

Ingredients
1 acorn squash, halved and seeded
1 small mcintosh apple, peeled and diced
1/4 onion, diced
A combination of spices, you choose! (I used ginger, marjoram, garlic, and basil)
Leftover barley (or prepare fresh 1/4 cup barley and 3/4 cup water, simmered 20 minutes and drained)
Olive oil
Protein of choice for a meal- chick peas, gardein chicken strips, tofu

Preheat oven to 350*

1. Rub the inside of the squash with a little olive oil and set aside.
2. Heat olive oil in a pan and saute the onion, apple, and your choice of spices.
3. Mix the apple mixture with the barley, then spoon it into the squash.
4. Bake squash, covered, for about an hour.  Uncover.
5. Top with cheddar cheese, if desired, and bake another 15-20 minutes.
6. Serve with your protein choice if it’s the main dish.

Brian kept asking for more!

Enjoy!

Outlining

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Okay, so apparently my Flash Fiction Fridays goal has fizzled.  Not to worry.  I’ll be back on board soon enough.  Promise.  You try to write anything with a toddler that thinks you’re unnecessary until you sit down to work on something…  Once I sit down, it’s all over.

The good news?  I’m outlining a new story.  Hooray!  I just made an account with LitLift so I’m spending my “free time” (Ha!) losing myself in a different world.

What outlining tools do you use?  Do you have any go-to programs for writing, organizing, or editing?  Please share!

Cardamom Orange Scones

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Cardamom, how do I love thee?  Let me count the ways.

In all seriousness, people.  Cardamom and I have a love affair going back years.  I love the smell of it, it makes me feel warm and fuzzy- like a big fluffy sweater right out of the dryer in January.

I’ve used it in everything.  Pancakes, muffins, cinnamon rolls, banana bread, curry, tea, coffee.  If I can make it, I try to add cardamom at least once.

And now for some sad news: I tipped my jar of fairly expensive cardamom right out of the cupboard and it fell to the ground with a SMASH.  Cardamom everywhere.

Confession time:  I cleaned up the mess, but saved some of the cardamom.  Yes, it hit the floor.  And I cooked with it.  Gasp.  Someone call the authorities, I used a spice that fell on my (freshly steam cleaned) floor.

Because I wanted to use it rather than throw it out, I had to come up with something quick.

I chose scones.

Obviously, the lot of you that gasped and muttered and whispered to each other about how “Scones aren’t quick!  That’s crazy!” have never made scones.

Sure, you can make it complicated with heavy cream and cutting butter into the ingredients and blah blah blah.  Ain’t no mama got time for that!  Try this recipe on for size.  If I could come up with this while my toddler napped, then they have to be quick.

If you’re feeling particularly naughty, top these with a the Rum Icing recipe at the bottom.  If you’re enjoying them for breakfast, skip the icing.  Or don’t.  Your call.

Cardamom Orange Scones (With Rum Icing)

Ingredients (Makes 8 wedges)scones
1 1/2 cups flour
1/4 cup sugar (less if you like a more traditional scone)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
a little salt
6 tablespoons butter, very cold or frozen
1 egg
1/2 cup milk of choice (I use whole)
1 teaspoon cardamom
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon orange extract
Orange zest (optional)

Preheat oven to 400*

1. Mix your flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices into a large bowl.
2. Using a cheese grater, grate the hard butter into the bowl with the dry ingredients and toss it all together.  Let the butter stay in shreds, it makes everything flaky and delicious.  (Alternatively, cut the cold butter into the flour using a pastry cutter.)
3. Crack the egg into a measuring cup, then measure your milk into it to the 1/2 cup line.  Put your orange extract into the cup and whisk it all together.
4. Pour your wet ingredients into the bowl with the dry ingredients.  Stir until it is all mixed in, then knead briefly until it all comes together.  Sprinkle more flour into the dough if it seems too sticky and unmanageable.
5.  Shape your dough into a thick disk shape, place on a buttered (or otherwise greased) baking sheet and cut into 8 wedges most of the way through the dough, leaving the dough still connected.
6. Bake at 400* for 12 minutes, then turn the oven down to 350* for another 8-10 minutes, until cooked through and lightly browned on top.

If you’re feeling particularly naughty, top them with this Rum Icing from King Arthur Flour.

Rum Icing
(Adapted slightly from King Arthur Flour)

1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
1 to 2 tablespoons rum
~1 tablespoon milk or heavy cream

Blend softened butter and sugar, then add rum a tablespoon at a time.  This is pretty thick, so if you prefer an icing for drizzling (I do), thin with heavy cream or milk a little at a time until it’s to your desired consistency.  Or, skip the butter and use 1 tablespoon of milk, adding a little at a time until you get your desired consistency.

Naturally Sweet Toddler Muffins (With Veggies!)

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Wow, I suddenly have a toddler.  Tantrums, and picky eating, and independence- oh my!

My sweet little baby went from goo-goo-gaa-gaa to “I want to go outside right now and nothing can stop me, not even this huge thunderstorm that’s currently over our heads!” (Which comes out as “WAAAAAAAAAAAAA!” because he is only one and he can’t actually talk like that yet.  But trust me, I got the translation loud and clear.)

So, since I’ve got no advice when it comes to tantrums and hitting and all of that fun stuff, I’ll tackle the one thing I’m good at dealing with.

Picky eating.

I’ve got a husband that thinks vegetables are poison.  Anything that isn’t a slab of beef is a snack.  Breakfast must include more bacon than an army of grown men should need.  It really amuses me that this carnivore married me, the health-conscious vegetarian.

Well, apparently my kiddo that used to eat his meal, then mine, then my husband’s, has decided that he doesn’t want to eat anything.

Until, that is, I made these tasty toddler muffins.  You’ve all seen the toddler muffin recipes all over the internet.  You know, the ones where the second ingredient is brown sugar, then the third is regular sugar.  Yeah, no thanks.  I’m not pumping THAT into my kid.

Disclaimer: I’m not one of those “NO sugar ever” moms, but I don’t see any point in putting sugar in something that’s supposed to be healthy for my kid.  So I limit it as much as possible.  If you give your kid sugar, cool.  The good news is that these muffins are pretty sweet on their own- so you don’t need any!

Naturally Sweet Toddler Muffins (With Veggies!)
(Adapted from Seeking Shade)

Ingredients: (Makes 12 muffins)
1 cup of whole wheat flour
1/2 cup of oatmeal, uncooked
1/4 cup of coconut oil (other oil or even butter would work, too)
1/2 cup of no sugar added applesauce
2 jars of baby bananas, or 2 ripe bananas
2 eggs
1 tsp of baking soda
1 tsp of cinnamon
1/4 tsp of ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp of ground ginger
1/4 tsp cardamom
1/4 tsp of salt (optional, but it helps the baking soda work)

Mix and Match additions (pick a few, or all!)
2 carrots, shredded
1 zucchini, shredded
1 cup pureed spinach or kale
1 apple, diced small or shredded
1 cup blueberries, frozen or fresh
1 cup strawberries, diced or sliced, fresh or frozen
or any other fruits and veggies you see fit!
(I used carrots, apple, and blueberries this time around.)

1. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees F.
2. Mix together dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl.
3. Mix your oil, applesauce, and eggs together, then add your mix and match fruits and veggies to the wet ingredient.
4. Mix your wet ingredients into your dry ingredients, careful not to over mix.  This can cause them to collapse or be tough.
5. Spoon muffin batter into greased muffin tins, fill 2/3 full.
6. Bake for 18-20 minutes, until a toothpick or knife comes out clean.  Let muffins cool before removing them from the muffin tin.

These can be easily frozen, then popped into the microwave to defrost when you want one.  Or, if you’ve got a teether on your hands, hand them a frozen one to gnaw.  Muffin-cicle!

Friday Flash Fiction Challenge: 100 Word Story

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This week the challenge from terribleminds is to post a 100-word story that hits people right in the feels.  When it has to do with feelings and people, there’s one surefire way to get a reaction: pets.  So, here is my 100-word story about my childhood cat, Cooper.

Cooper

It was late when I got home, a bouncing ten-year-old high on exhaustion and too much sugar.  A “mew” sounded from behind the couch, and instantly I was in love.  My daddy knew just what would make his girl smile. Cooper met me at the bus stop every day straight through until I graduated, never missing a day.  I cried into his fur through break-ups and laughed at his antics.  As he grew older he seemed slower and quieter, but he was still Cooper.  He was always there, until that one night when he didn’t come home.  Again, I cried.

Friday Flash Fiction Challenge: Human-ness

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This week, the challenge at terribleminds was to write a 1,000 word piece of fiction using the theme “We’re all human, even when we’re not.”, so I went the predictable route and wrote about a non-human-being that has some very real human emotions.  This could easily be a story about any human with only a few words removed.

I was obviously harboring some deep, dark feelings when I wrote this.  I haven’t even really read it back to myself.  I sat down, typed for about fifteen minutes, and this happened.  It’s rough.  It’s depressing.  It’s…  well…  here it is.

Leaving

I stand on the bluff with my arms spread wide, daring the gusts of wind to pull me over.  My heart longs for the crashing waves to drag me under, down to the darkest depth of the sea.  The gulls scream above me, daring me to jump, willing me to take matters into my own hands.

To jump would be an easy fix.  To jump would end the pain, the trauma, the shock.  I can already hear the mocking, the echo of their laughter in my ears should I return with my tail between my legs.  I thought he loved me, I was sure of it.  I can make anyone love me, that’s the nature of my DNA.  Just one breath in their ear, one brush of my fingertips.  Love is mine, should I want it.  All I need is to act.

But he was different.  From the first smile, I knew.  It wasn’t like the others, I didn’t need to breathe my seduction into him.  I don’t think I could have accomplished it even if I had tried.  Strangely, he was drawn to me without my intervention.  That had never happened before.  I wasn’t sure I liked it.  I resisted, but still he pressed on.  He sent me flowers, emails, texts.  He persisted, even when I avoided him in my confusion.

Eventually, I forgot about ducking his advances.  I was still unsure, but he was so determined and I was becoming weak.  We became lovers, and then friends.  I fell in love, something that was advised against.

Nobody approved.  My parents and friends, their DNA proclaiming their species to be the same as mine- siren, all reminding me that it wasn’t natural for me to love a human.  They were our prey, we were supposed to use them and send them away, a broken shell of a being.  We weren’t supposed to love them.

But I did.

We chose to have a life together, but we couldn’t do it with my clan demanding my death or his capture.  We had to leave, and we knew just the place to go.

He isn’t here.  He is supposed me meet me here so that we can make a life together, away from their judgment and politics.  Hours, I’ve waited hours.  He isn’t here.

I give in to the shrieking of the gulls, the screaming of the wind, the crashing of the waves.  I throw myself over the cliff toward the waves, backwards so that I won’t see the rocks coming toward my fragile body.  I’m not as tough as I like to think I am.

As my toes leave the cliff, I see him cresting the peak at a run.  His eyes look for me, and they are frantic as he sees me.  A scream escapes him.  It is pained, and long, and loud.  It echoes in my ears and I yelp, kicking to find solid ground yet again.  There is nothing there, and I am falling.  I have a second to act, a moment to fix my horrible mistake.  I have nothing to catch myself on, no way to stop the spiraling fall I am destined for.

Miraculously, my fingers catch the edge of the drop off.  I dig my fingers in, my fingernails bending and flexing with the effort.   I crash into the cliff side and all of the air leaves me.  I try to breathe, to replace the oxygen that I’ve lost, but I am unable to make my lungs work.  My blood freezes and boils at the same time, my stomach roils and a strangled cry blankets the landscape.  The tears I’ve been holding back break through the dam that is my eyelids and their hot tracks burn along my wind-whipped cheeks.

I feel his fingers against mine; I hear his panicked voice telling me to grab his hands, to hold on.  I try with everything I have, but I am not strong enough.  I never have been.  I feel myself slipping away from him and there’s nothing I can do about it.  I’m going to fall, I accept my end.  I look into his eyes and tell him I love him, one last time, to be sure he knows.

He doesn’t respond, he is not giving up; I feel him tug me by my arms and there is progress.  I don’t notice anything but the waves beneath me, the drop and the jagged rocks below.  Debris crashes against them, over and over.  If I survive the fall, I won’t survive the wrath of the wild sea.  I turn my mind off and shove my feet into the cliff face, gaining some purchase.

It’s not enough.  He can’t pull me up, and I can’t climb it.  As hopeless as our love, his rescue attempt is failing.  I sob; my wet, stringy hair clinging to my face and I cling to the overhang as best as I can.  It’s just not enough.

His fingers slip from mine and I’m hurling toward the sea.  I am falling backwards, arms and legs flailing in an attempt to slow down or catch myself on something.  I force my eyes open.  My last thought will be of him.

The next thing I see is him, throwing himself into the wind and waves.  He jumps over the cliff and pulls his arms and legs tight to himself, hurling himself toward me.  He crashes into me and we embrace, still tumbling toward our murky aquatic demise.  His shouts of love and devotion echo in my ears and I wrap myself around him, pull myself tighter to him.  My tears stain his shirt as we plummet, together.  We kiss each other frantically, it seems ages though it is only seconds.  We have each other.

Faster and faster, farther and farther, we fall.  The sea reaches to swallow us up, we are hers.

Blackness.

Sweet Potato Quinoa Patties

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My kid’s got an adult-sized appetite.  He’s also not into that “baby food”, thank-you-very-much.  Since we followed the baby-led weaning method of introducing foods to him, he has been pretty happy eating whatever I am eating.  In fact, he prefers to nibble off of my plate most of the time.

I’m sure you’re sensing a theme here.  Sweet potatoes.  I use them.  Always.  They are delicious, and so full of good-for-you stuff.  They are also a pretty bright orange color, and nothing makes me happier than pretty colored food.

We needed a quick and easy meal the other night, it was just the two of us and I wasn’t in the mood to spend forever cooking just to have to clean up a kitchen full of dishes.  It was the end of the week, and I didn’t have much left in the fridge.  The day before grocery day is one tough customer!

I hopped around the internet for a while and came across a recipe for Sweet Potato Quinoa Patties.  We love sweet potatoes!  We love quinoa!  We love vegetarian patties!  Score.

I was thrilled with how they came out, they were so tasty, and oh-so-easy.

No photos because, well… you try taking photos of your food before a hungry one-year-old digs in.  Next time.  Maybe.

Sweet Potato Quinoa Patties
Adapted from A House in the Hills

1 large sweet potato, baked or microwaved and skins removed
1 cup cooked quinoa (1/2 cup quinoa, 1 cup vegetable broth or water)
1/2 red onion, diced
1 small parsnip, diced
2 cloves crushed garlic
1 Tablespoon olive oil
Herbs, spices, flavoring of choice
Salt, pepper
Panko or bread crumbs
Oil or butter for cooking, I used olive oil

1) Prepare quinoa according to package instructions, or use left overs.  I used 1/2 cup dry quinoa and 1 cup of vegetable broth.
2) In a saute pan, cook onions and parsnip in olive oil over medium heat until the onions become slightly translucent.  Add garlic and herbs of choice, I used dried sage and parsley.  Add salt if desired.  I didn’t because I was cooking for Brian.  Stir a minute more.
3) Mash cooked sweet potato in a bowl.
4) Add onions, quinoa, salt, and pepper to the mashed sweet potato.  Stir until well combined.
5) Form the mixture into patties, coat with panko.
6) Cook them in oil or butter, a few minutes per side, until they are crispy and browned.  Serve hot.  I served them over a spinach salad and topped each with a few slices of avocado.

Makes about 6 patties

Flash Friday Fiction Challenge- Five Characters

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A day early!  Even on top of the volunteering I’ve been doing at the library, and the meeting I had at the museum about doing some event coordination with them.  Yay!

This week’s challenge from terribleminds was to pick five characters out of a list of fifty.  Fifty.  Fifty crazy, random characters.  It was hard to pick my five, so I took the lead of my friend over at Contrast Solution and used a random number generator to give me a few different lists of numbers, then narrowed down from there.  I think that the ones I came up with were fun to write!

My characters, randomly generated from a randomly generated list (how random!) are:

The aggravated thief needing a friend
The athletic, tired, arrogant bounty hunter with no hope
Mysterious, Heroic outlaw
The unpredictable hunter who is considered the worst in his/her profession
The domineering assassin looking for a challenge

And with those characters, this:

Forest Fiends (A working title, my apologies.)

Tippet cringed as he watched the rabbit bound past him into its warren.  It was the second one to bolt past that afternoon, and he had yet to release the bowstring.  He held his breath and watched for another chance.  He waited for what seemed ages, then suddenly heard a crashing noise in the woods behind him.  A raucous crowd, each carrying a few rabbits apiece on their belts, came to his side.  The largest man patted him on the back in a rough manner, laughing.

“Tippet!  Did you find yourself dinner?  A man such as yourself could stand to eat a few extra helpings of Marla’s rabbit stew!”

Tippet frowned at the rabbits hanging from the belts of the men.  He felt his chest heave with a forlorn sigh, shook his head, and finally remembered to relieve the tension on his bowstring.

“Didn’t catch a thing, men.  Not for lack of trying.  These rabbits are quite fast, and I guess my skill doesn’t match yours.”

The men laughed and carried on, drunkenly singing songs about “the hunter that couldn’t”.  Tippet let the men leave, and then wandered back to gather his cloak from a nearby maple tree.

A moment after snatching his cloak from the branch, the ground disappeared from beneath his feet.  After falling for what seemed ages, he hit solid ground.  He regained his composure and sat up.  His head peeked out of the hole, eyes at ground level.  The trap, which he had not even noticed, had been dug out carefully.  He scanned the tree line for his captor but saw nothing.  He brushed himself off and stood up slowly, bemoaning the crackling in his bones.

“State your name!” Came a deep rumble from above him.  Tippet threw himself back into the hole in the ground, startled.  A man, dressed fully in black, leapt from a tree branch above.  He landed in a crouch directly in front of Tippet, looking into his eyes with a self-righteous smirk.

“Tippet…  Tippet Sandmore.” He told him.

“Tippet Sandmore.”  The man repeated, his voice dripping with arrogance.

“At your service.” Tippet greeted.  “And you are?”

The man pulled himself into a standing position, stretched his arms over his head and cracked his back and knuckles in one swift motion.

“Mangus Bladeborne, master bounty hunter.  Whether you be wanted as a thief or for treason, whether you be dwarf or dragon, I’m here to ensure…”

An arrow whistled through the air and smacked into the bark of the tree behind Mangus.  Tippet ducked into the hole he was still sitting in, tucking his head between his knees and covering it with his arms.  Eventually, he braved a peek.

Mangus was by the tree, fingering the arrow that had just nearly taken his head.

“Where did that come from??”  Tippet stammered.  “Someone nearly killed you, and you’re just standing there like nothing happened.  Who shot that arrow?”

Mangus tutted at Tippet, smiling.  “Arrows are often hurled in my direction, it is all part of the job.  I’m no more scared of an arrow than a simple beetle.”

“And what if that beetle has a stinger drenched in venom?”  Another man stepped from behind a tree.  “Release this villager, he was only out for a hunt.  Doesn’t seem to have been too successful, but those baby rabbits are pretty quick little critters.  No matter, I believe that you are looking for me?”

“Mylo Albright!” Both Tippet and Mangus exclaimed, staring at the outlaw’s easily recognized face.

Mangus pulled his sword around and pointed the hefty blade at Mylo.  “A hefty ransom awaits your captor!  ‘Tis my lucky day!  Prepare yourself, for now we duel!”

Mylo shrugged and removed his sword from his scabbard.  He readied himself, prepared to fight, when another arrow came from nowhere, catching his cloak and pinning it to a tree.

“Avast!  Mangus, stand down.  I have been on this bandit’s trail for three days.  This is my fight.”

“Who are you?”  Tippet asked, still hiding in his convenient hole.

“Tuck Lin, here to dispatch this criminal.”  He nodded toward Tippet, then turned back to Mangus.

“We meet again.” Mangus eyed the assassin.  “I’d shake your hand, but I’m a bit busy.”  He smiled and winked at Tuck, then lunged for Mylo.

With a quick motion, Mylo swung his sword backward and cut his cloak from where the arrow held it.  With another swift movement, his sword was again pointed at Mangus.

“I don’t believe the odds are in my favor.”  Mylo joked.  Mangus flashed his perfectly straight, gleaming teeth and held his sword ready for a duel.  Tuck dropped his bow in favor of a razor sharp blade and prepared to join the attack.

A woosh sound cut through the air, followed by a resonating tink!  Mangus and Mylo looked toward Tuck, taking in his weapon, now on the ground behind him.  All three men turned in unison, surprise on their faces.  They stared at Tippet’s still vibrating bowstring framing his deliberate face peeking out of the hole.

“Lucky shot?” Tuck questioned.

Tippet shook his head and shrugged.  “Just because I’m a lousy huntsman, it doesn’t mean I’m a lousy marksman.”

At that moment, Mylo took advantage of the distraction and lunged for Mangus, twisting his sword hand in an attempt to get him to drop the weapon.  They wrestled to the ground with manly grunts and groans, putting on as much of a show for each other as they were for the spectators.

Tuck snatched his steel from the ground and headed toward the melee, battle cry escaping his lips as he ran.  He was a few paces from the fight when a lump of a man fell from the tree branch above him and pulled him to the ground.

Tippet yelped and shook his head, muttering.  “What kind of forest is this?  This is ridiculous.”

The man that took Tuck to the ground was working to keep him there, but Tuck was well trained and strong.  He got himself up, but was tugged back to the ground in an instant.  Though the newcomer was smaller than the assassin, he was doing well.  After a brief moment of struggle, he tumbled off of Tuck and landed in a crouch.  He stood up, flipping his cloak back where it belonged, and eyed the crowd.  Tuck remained on the ground, hands and feet tied.  When Tuck tried to get up, the unknown man used the heel of his foot to knock him unconscious.

“Hi.”  He wiggled his fingers in some semblance of a wave.  Tippet waved back enthusiastically.

“And you are?”  Mangus grunted, still pinned underneath Mylo, one arm bent uncomfortably behind his head.

“Just somebody passing through.” The man told them.  “You look like you’re on the losing end of this battle.  Why don’t you just take your leave?  I don’t think this is a fight you can win, what with this man sitting on you and me ready to run you through should you make the wrong move.”

The newcomer casually walked toward Mylo and Mangus, he gestured for Mylo to release him.  Out of sheer amazement, he stood and backed away.  Mangus uncurled himself from the knot he had ended up in and leapt to his feet.  Mylo readied himself to fight again, if needed, but Mangus gathered his composure and began to walk away, muttering quietly.

“There’s some kind of madness that’s run rampant in these parts.”  He shook his head and turned toward Tippet.  “Good luck.”  Mangus sprinted off, running into the trees and disappearing.

Tippet cocked his head and laughed nervously, not quite sure if he was being left with the good guys or the bad guys.

“Those were some fancy moves,” Mylo commended the man.  “You’ll have to tell me where you learned that.”

Without response, he walked toward Tippet and shook a burlap pouch above his head.  “Tuck’s moneypouch.  Perhaps you could buy some rabbits for your stew and not give Marla the satisfaction.”  He dropped the jingling pouch into the hole.

Tippet raised an eyebrow in question.  “Thanks, but I don’t eat meat.”

The man looked at Mylo, a quizzical grin cracking his face.  Mylo laughed back and shook his head at Tippet.

Mylo turned away from Tippet and addressed the stranger.  “Strong, acrobatic, and a swift pickpocket.  I could use someone like you.  That is, unless you’re already member to another assembly.”

“I am alone,” the thief admitted with a lonely sigh.  “My wife left me, my band of fellow thieves have betrayed me, and the forest is a lonely place at night.  A traveling partner would be welcome.”

Mylo nodded and gathered up his effects and set out, the wayfarer eyed the woods and followed him.  They disappeared into the trees, quietly getting their introductions out of the way.

Tippet smiled to himself, sitting back on his heels in his little hole.  He surveyed the land around him, flinching as his eyes fell on the still unconscious body.  He scrambled out of the pit, snatched his belongings from where they had landed, and set off for home before the man had a chance to wake.

Friday Flash Fiction Challenge (A day early): In Which a Knight is a Knight

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Week two of the Friday Flash Fiction Challenge from terribleminds.  This week we read through the 500(!!) entries for the opening line challenge from last week and picked our favorite.  I had a few options that I really liked, but I settled on one that made me giggle at the possibilities.

The line I loved was this:

It was common knowledge that a knight was in need of a princess to rescue and Sir Gillian Lovejoy McManus had looked high and low for a lady of sufficient title in a sufficient amount of danger.

Why did I love it?  Well, because it reminded me of something that I would read.  But also, because the line makes you think that the story is going to head in a certain direction.  Brave and gallant knight, damsel in a distressing situation.  Here he comes to save the day!!  Kiss, kiss.  Hug, hug.  The end.  What more could you want out of an opening line?  A line that throws you into the story, comfortable with the situation and absolutely sure you’re going to get a happily-ever-after out of it.

Enter: me.  Hi, how ya doin’?  I can’t just let things happen the way you want them to, ya know?  So, I present to you- my as yet untitled…  work of flash fiction.


 

It was common knowledge that a knight was in need of a princess to rescue and Sir Gillian Lovejoy McManus had looked high and low for a lady of sufficient title in a sufficient amount of danger.  He was meticulous in his search, ensuring he didn’t miss even the smallest sliver of the kingdom.  There was surely a damsel in need; she just needed finding.

This particular Tuesday had started as any other: saddling up his trusty steed, donning his shining armour, and picking a suitable section of his map to scour.  His chest puffed and head high, he swung his leg over the top of his stallion.  “Onward, Bellguard, a damsel awaits!”

Rescuing maidens was serious business, but he wasn’t overly concerned.  Sir Gillian Lovejoy McManus feared little in the world, for he was a brave and gallant knight.  Of all of the stories of all of the things that should be terrifying to Sir Gillian, he had only come across a dragon or two.  Even they were far from fearsome, tiny hatchlings, barely able to latch on to the tip of your finger- venom only a tingle for an instant.  He was sure that the lack of danger in his general vicinity was due to the fear his brave name struck in the hearts of dangerous beasts and beings.

The block he had chosen this dreary day was a brisk trot away, adjacent to the King’s castle and along a large body of water – perfect for a romantic picnic with a freshly rescued dame.  He was sure today was his day, and he found himself trying to picture the soon-to-be-rescued lady’s face as he swung, or climbed, or leapt, or swam, or otherwise fought to her rescue.

Sir Gillian was quickly startled from his musing by a shriek coming from around the bend.  He rushed into action!  He was more than ready to save the lucky lady.  Sir Gillian leaned forward to urge the horse onward.  The stones and turf kicked off of the horse’s hooves and scattered across the ground behind them.  His speed continued to increase as he heard yet another shout.  The urgency in the cry pulled him ahead.

He suddenly came upon a disturbing scene.  A beautiful woman stood in the middle of the road trying to defend herself from a gang of monstrous bandits.  Her long auburn hair was plaited down her back and tied with a green ribbon.  She wore a traveling tunic of green and men’s brown leather breeches.  Sir Gillian shook his head at the situation; she was being robbed and wasn’t even going to be dressed in the proper attire for a rescue.

“Halt, roguish fiends!”  He shouted, pulling his blade from its scabbard and leveling it at the mob.  They looked at him with what Sir Gillian assumed had to have been fear.  He was, after all, the bravest knight in all the land.  They must have been terrified.

The leader of the pack raised his hands slowly and the rest of the men followed.  “You’ve got the wrong scoundrel, Sir Knight.”

The rest nodded in agreement, eyes nervously darting between the woman and the knight.

“You lot have been caught raiding this fair maiden’s carriage, surrender or fight!”  he demanded, swishing the tip of his sword menacingly.

Another of themen stepped forward cautiously.  He raised his hands high, his head ducked slightly and his eyes avoiding Sir Gillian’s own.  “Honestly, Sir.  It is not as you assume.  You have indeed come upon a theft, but we are not to blame.”  He shrugged and tilted his head toward the woman.  Only then did Sir Gillian begin to notice a few oddities.

The woman stood near the carriage with a look of mild annoyance seeping into her face.  Her shoulder leaned on the rear of one of the horses, the toes at the end of her kicked back leg tapped at the ground.  She casually observed the debacle whilst picking at her fingernails with a rather unladylike dagger.  He noted her arms wrapped in leathers fit for an archer of skill, a bow and quiver rested near her feet, an arsenal of blades strapped to every available limb.  She raised her eyebrows and pursed her lips impatiently.

After taking in the scene and deciding that there must be an explanation, Sir Gillian Lovejoy McManus turned the point of his sword toward the woman.

“Is it as they say?” he questioned the lady.

She pushed herself off of the horse, tucked her dagger away and walked toward Sir Gillian, fluttering her eyelashes.

“A knight?” she asked.  “It must be my lucky day!  They came upon me as I was journeying.  I am only trying to make my way back to my family in the next village over.”

One of the men attempted to protest, but the knight was enthralled by the lady’s unfortunate tale.  He held up a single finger and insisted upon silence.

“What, dearest, can I do to be of assistance?  I am Sir Gillian Lovejoy McManus, and I am at your service.”

The woman smirked and ran her fingertip along the edge of his chest piece.  “I’m feeling awfully exposed in this outfit that I am wearing, and I would quite like to cover myself.  This looks comfortable.”

Sir Gillian nodded and began to unclip his armour for her.  “Of course, lady.  You have only to ask.”

He turned away to give her privacy as she clipped the armour over her chest.

A moment later he offered a hand to help her back up into her carriage and she embraced the knight and slipped his money-pouch from his side before climbing up into her seat.

Sir Gillian Lovejoy McManus stood watching her escape, lighter of armour and coin but no less sure that he was in fact the bravest knight in all the land.  The men all gaped at the oblivious knight, shaking their heads and getting themselves ready to start the long walk home.

Sweet Potato Gnocchi

Standard

Baby food jars.  Holy crap. We have been given enough jarred baby food to last through the zombie apocalypse, and then some.  Jar, upon jar, upon jar.  It’s intense.

Normally, this would be awesome.  Except, we chose to embrace our (read: my) crunchy ways and follow the baby-led weaning method of feeding our little piggy.  This means no mush, no purees, goop, and no spoons.  Just flavor, texture, and fun (messy) times.

We started Brian on solid food at 6 months old, as recommended when following a baby-led weaning method.  He started with avocado, banana, sweet potato, and whatever else he felt like stealing directly from my plate.  We quickly upped the flavor and introduced him to some of our favorite things: curry, stir fry, frittata, pasta.  Here is Brian’s first taste of sushi.  Oh, the delicious possibilities!

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We weren’t so concerned with allergies and we aren’t afraid of flavor, so we just went for it.

But, I digress. Jarred baby food.  What the heck do you do with a ton of jarred baby food? Put it in adult food, of course! I’ve experimented with making banana bread, fruity muffins (with hidden veggies!), omelettes, and cake using the jarred foods.  It works pretty well.  Usually…

Throw part of a jar of sweet potato or carrots into your eggs the next time you scramble them.  Trust me.  it makes them kind of puffy and delicious!  Jarred banana or apple replaces sugar in a recipe fairly well, which makes it easy to give the kiddo some sugar-free treats, which means I get to let him snack guilt-free.  (Mommy guilt.  It’s something special.  Just wait, I’m sure I’ll post about it soon enough.)

I got down and dirty with the experimentation the other night, though.  We wanted gnocchi, but I didn’t have any potatoes.  So I thought I’d try sweet potato gnocchi.  Oops.  No sweet potato either. Earth’s Best to the rescue!!  I threw some jarred sweet potato in with flour, popped in some flavor, stirred, kneaded, rolled, cut, and cooked.  Easy, peasy.  And absolutely delicious.  Nobody would even be able to tell I used jars of baby food to make it.  And the mini-human and husband devoured it.  I call that a win.

Sweet Potato Gnocchi
With pesto

3 (4 ounce) jars of sweet potato baby food (Or you can use real mashed sweet potato, I won’t tell!)
2 to 2 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
1 egg
1/4 cup cottage or ricotta cheese
1/4 fresh shredded Parmesan cheese
Nutmeg, cinnamon, cardamom, salt, and pepper to taste

Beat the egg in a large bowl, then add the sweet potato, spices, and cheeses.  Mix well.

Add the flour a little at a time to your liquid.  You want it to form a soft dough that’s not too sticky.  You might not use all of your flour, or you might need more.

Sprinkle some flour on your work surface, flour your hands, and grab a chunk of dough.  Roll it out like a little play-doh snake, then chop it into little pillows of gnocchi goodness with a pastry cutter or knife.  I tend to go for about 1/2 an inch per piece, but it’s all about preference.

If you want the classic gnocchi look, press the gnocchi pillow onto the tines of a fork, then roll it up and off of the fork.  This step is not necessary, but it’s fun!  Place the finished gnocchi onto a cookie sheet with a dusting of flour or corn meal.  Continue until you’ve used up all of the dough.

If you’re not ready to cook it, put it in the fridge.  It will last this way for a while but it will dry out so I always try to cook it within 24 hours.

When you’re ready to cook the gnocchi, boil a large pot of water with some olive oil and salt, if desired. Drop the gnocchi in, boil them in small batches to make sure they don’t stick.  They are done when they float to the top; use a slotted spoon to lift them from the water and drop them into a colander to drain while you finish boiling the rest. Toss with some brown butter or pesto and cheese of choice, serve hot.  Yummy.

Serves 4

Try with Kale-Chickpea Pesto for a healthy boost. (Recipe coming  soon!)