Friday, June 27, 2014

Carry On My Wayward Son AND Better Chocolate Chip Cookies

While there are tons of things that need to be done around here, I decided a much neglected activity must take precedence: baking cookies. Chocolate chip cookies, to be more precise. Why? Because when asked what treat my children had a hankering for, they freaked out, hollering "homemade cookies and watermelon!" Interesting choices.

The watermelon only needed slicing. The cookies? Well, let's just say that I was on a quest: how to bake a better chocolate chip cookie. I didn't go insane and create my own version of an Alton Brown episode, but I did do a tiny bit of reading. I can't believe how much is on the internet on this subject. Well, yes, I can, considering that these are one of the most popular cookies in America.

I decided not to brown and then chill the butter or bother with mixing ratios of bread flour to cake flour. I stuck to my tried and true recipe: the one on the Nestle Toll House chocolate chips bag. Instead of spending hours experimenting with baking soda vs. baking powder and pouring over all the amateur and professional research painstakingly recorded on blogs, I mixed up the ingredients as instructed.

Supernatural Fandom Princess
Then, when I was ready to start the experiment, I blasted Carry On My Wayward Son by Kansas, because, well, my daughter asked me to. She's a huge Supernatural fan. So am I, but a twelve year-old takes fandom to a level I ain't got time for. But I digress. Back to the better cookie experiment...

Because this isn't my first cookie rodeo, I realized the batter was too smooth for the kind of cookie I was looking for: thicker and chewier on the inside with crispy edges. The batter should be more, um, rough looking.  Here. Like this------------->

But, just to be sure, I baked a few test cookies with the batter as-is, and that includes letting it sit on the counter on a warm, June evening.



This was the result of test batch #1.


Notice the cookie is smooth and flat, and a wee bit over brown. According to the advice of several blogs, in order to achieve my better cookie ideal I needed to add a couple tablespoons of flour to "lift" or "leaven" the cookies. So I added two tablespoons of all-purpose flour and carefully folded it into the dough. Apparently, over working the batter created the too-smooth effect in the first place.

                                         This was the result of test batch #2.
Almost perfect.

I added a minute to the baking time and Eureka!

A better chocolate chip cookie. And the taste? Fabulous, darling! Just the right amount of salt to sweet and that great chewy texture highlighted by the wee bit of crunch around the edges.

Oy. My stomach hurts from taste testing.

A few more tips for baking your own better chocolate chip cookie:

1. I noticed the last batch was smoother and flatter than the first, so I recommend putting the dough in the fridge between batches rather than adding more flour. If you keep adding more flour, at some point your cookie will *cough* crumble. That's one dry cookie.

2. Cool your baking sheets between batches. I use two, large air bake sheets, so one is chilling on the back deck with a Margarita while the other is in the oven. That way, your dough doesn't start to melt as soon as it hits the hot metal, which will lead to flat, over-browned cookies. And nobody wants that.

3. Call for taste-testing volunteers or don't eat an entire cookie each time you need to taste. Save your tummy and the bicarbonate.

That's it. Just wanted to share my cookie baking evening. I forgot how much I enjoy baking. I don't bake as much as I used to; watching my carb intake and all, but its still a relaxing hobbie. Grant it, I'm no Betty Crocker. I tend to use simple recipes and forgo all the lavish steps that more accomplished pastry chefs or Susie Homemakers use. Frankly, I just don't have the time or inclination.

But I do appreciate a better chocolate chip cookie. And Kansas. And Supernatural.

Carry on my wayward sons.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Walking on My Road Walkcast Episode #6 - Skrillex and Super Foods

In which I sing my peoples' praises of Skrillex, profusely expound on my profound faith and hope in the new generation, and snivel a little. Geekwalker, be warned. I call you to task.




Saturday, June 21, 2014

Time to Do Nothing or Anxiety Provoking Vacations

We're on our way home from the beach and I was just thinking about how hard it was for me to relax this week. On vacation! It's crazy how I drag my baggage with me everywhere. I worry about deadlines, the dripping faucet back home, book sales, the health insurance premium I'm not sure I remembered to pay, and whether the dog feels abandoned at the kennel this week.

Sheesh! It was enough to make me sick in my stomach and I found it hard to do anything except sit on the porch and stare at the ocean...and drink. And does any of this worry accomplish anything? I doubt it, other then set me up for an ulcer or worse. 

And I've read all the platitudes, all the advice about living in the moment, meditating on the present, practicing letting go. Blah blah blah. Seriously, I get it. I meditate, I practice yoga, I lift weights, I walk for miles, I eat super foods. I still worry.  But I think I'm figuring something out. 

I think all that worry is really about perceiving my life as a cluttered, hot mess. I mean I've bought into the idea that I should be busy if I want to be fulfilled. And also the nasty, soul-sucking idea that I have to have neat, organized, clearly defined and separated life piles. Work. Family. Spirit. Health. Housecleaning. Good citizenship. Pet whisperer. 

I don't know if anyone has the organization skills to keep anxiety at bay when we're overloaded with so much crap. The reality is while I love to make plans and execute them with the best of intentions, as soon as the first shot is fired my carefully crafted to do piles scatter. I have to do lists a mile long that should include the item "feel guilty for not getting all this shit done". 

But here's the break down:

 1) Work pile. 
I'm an author trying to make a living off my books so I feel the need to publish often.  That means a writing schedule, editor deadlines, publishing hoops to jump through, a blog to maintain, be happy and sociable online across many social media platforms, taking criticism on a daily basis about not only my books but the fact that I chose to independently publish, arranging promotional materials, hosting online parties, and generally networking all the time. And that's just what I can remeber off the top of my head. 

2) Family pile.
 I'm married with kids. I have a relationship to maintain with my husband and kids to raise. As a wife, I'm supposed to stay in shape and be sexy and arrange hot dates while teaching my kids how to be happy, confident, well-adjusted adults all while maintaining an immaculate house, keep up with the termite contract, insurance policies, HVAC maintenace, monthly bills, weekly grocery shopping, menu planning, and the other hundred of things that pop up on a daily basis. Oh, and take care of the dog's butt problems. Seriously. 

3) Everything Else pile. 
And somehow I'm supposed to be a real, authentic person pursuing hobbies, reading, keeping up with world events, new local county regulations, politics, environmental crap, which plastics are bad for my family, which fundraiser needs which cupcakes, oh and go out with my friends and have fun too. 

Did I mention the guilt over the things I've had to give up like volunteering at my kids' schools?

Of course I'm a nervous wreck when I pack my bags with the intent of ignoring it all for 7 days. I have bought into the idea that everything will fall apart, break, or otherwise self-implode if I'm not hovering over my life piles, worrying and spinning my wheels in a wasteful effort to keep things afloat that would most likely float on their own. Crap floats, after all.

What I'm learning is that what is important gets done. The rest? Clutter. Don't get me wrong, organizing and planning have merit and are indispensable when trying to live a life and navigate a career. But everything is not that important and the clutter just gets in the way and steals my peace and the energy I need for the important stuff.

Like down time with my family. Like writing my books. Like staring at the ocean and having a beachy drink with good friends. 

Yeah. So that. 

Namaste.


Friday, June 13, 2014

In Which I Answer Your Questions and Hoop!

So, I asked if anyone had any questions for me over on my Facebook fanpage and I got quite a few, so I answered them all in this video. And then I hooped. *covers face* Enjoy, anyways. ;-)

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Why We Fail

First, let me say that failing has gotten a bad rap. When did it become a horrible thing to fail at something? Failure is part of life; EVERYBODY fails. Including yours truly and that know-it-all cousin of yours. And even more important, failure is a necessary part of life. Now, before you go tweeting that Melissa has given up or gone mad, consider the following:

You probably failed the first time you tried to sit up as a baby, but no one gasped in horror and whispered about a wasted life. At least, I hope not. And then you tried again...and...again, until one day you made it. For about five seconds and then you toppled over. 

You probably fell over a lot those first few months trying to master the fine art of sitting up and staying up. Heck, I've fallen over once or twice since then myself. But you never gave up and no one ever, ever thought to tell you it was time to give up. Again, at least I hope not.

So failure, once upon a time, was expected and accepted. We were encouraged to keep trying because it was the only way to strengthen our muscles so we could eventually sit up...and crawl...and walk. You get the idea.

So what happened? When did we became afraid to fail? When did it become shameful to try and not succeed? We probably shame ourselves more than any one person, but I know people who like to point out others failings as if it proves something is wrong with them.

But failure is actually a symptom of effort. Failures are the people who don't give up after just one failed attempt...or 100. Failures keep trying new things until they succeed. And I for one am proud to count myself as one. I'm in good company, too. Some famous failures are Albert Einstein, Stephen Hawking, Oprah Winfrey, Steve Jobs, Micheal Jordan, the Beattles, and Eminem.

So ultimately we fail because we take a chance on new ideas, we step outside our comfort zone, and in general, because we try.

If you've never failed, you've never tried anything new. 




Friday, June 06, 2014

LimeLight - #4 in the Little Flame Series is HERE!

Buy LimeLight at:





Coming soon to
Kobo


Description:
The 4th installment to the Little Flame Series


The Big Apple is the next stop on the Maximillian Dubstep tour, and I’m about to bite off more than I can chew. A new friend is asking for the kind of help I’m not sure I can give.  Saving his dying son is going to cost me, but I’d do it in a heartbeat if my life were the only price.  But, I’m about to learn that there are worse things than dying. Falling in love, for one.

I've faced blood, pain, and even excruciating loneliness, but nothing has prepared me for the choices I’m about to make. Death? Pfft. Child’s play.


Love is a far scarier thing.

Get caught up on the series:
#1 Nine30
#5 Echo available for pre-order at iBooks; Release Date 7/30/2014

About the Author
Melissa Lummis considers herself a truth seeker, a peaceful warrior, a paranormal and fantasy writer, an avid reader, a thru-hiker GAàME ’98, a Penn Stater, a wife, a mother, and a free thinker.  She believes the universe conspires to help an adventurer.   And if we live our lives as if it is a daring adventure (and it is!), then everything we need will find its way to us.

Her books have been described as new age suspense in a fantasy setting, but they are also straight up, steamy Paranormal Romance.  The Love and Light Series is currently available at most ebook retailers, as well as the Little Flame Series, a spin off focusing on the character Fiamette from the Love and Light world.

She lives in rural Virginia with her husband, two children, an Alaskan Malamute, and a myriad of forest creatures.  The nature of her mind dictates that she write to stay sane.  Otherwise, her fertile imagination takes off on tangents of its own accord, creating scenarios and worlds that confuse the space-time continuum. Namaste, dear friends.