October, November, December…and then 2018 is a memory.
This is the time of year where I try to wind up all my projects, and leave myself at least a portion of December to breathe, grow, rest. To refill my mental, emotional, spiritual wells, so that I can enter into the following year with a sense of grace, balance, and a plan.
That the plan always gets derailed, or goes sideways at some point, doesn’t matter as much as actually making the plan.
Right now, October is about both endings and beginnings. I’m wrapping up a novel – this one will be out in December, in the Rite to Reign box set (only $0.99!). Pre-order it here.
Then, from October 17 – 21, I’ll be in the Tampa, Florida area for Autumn Meet. I’ll be giving three talks – one on Meditation with Tarot, one on my brother, Scott Cunningham, and one on Writing the Paranormal Romance. It should be fun, and I’m so looking forward to unplugging for five days! If you’re in the Tampa area, check it out – I’d love to meet you.
After I get back from Tampa, I’ll dive into first round edits. November will bring second round edits, and also it’s National Novel Writing Month. I *think* I’m going to participate this year. We’ll see…I have lots of thoughts brewing about my direction for 2019 that didn’t look like this a week ago! Oh…and I’m hosting Thanksgiving for the family this year, which means massive housecleaning starts yesterday.
And December brings the holidays, and a vacation. This year, the hubby and I are planning a stay-cation, and we’re going to play tourist in Los Angeles. Quality time with my man…a lovely way to wrap up the year.
One of my goals for the rest of this year is to blog more. I’ve been putting my thoughts on FB, but I think it’s time to move back to the blog.
The year is winding down, the season is changing. Pumpkin spice fills the air (not my favorite, but that’s fine) and in Los Angeles, we’re hoping for a wet winter. The days are getting shorter and that’s just the cycle of this planet we’re on. In due time, the light will return; but for now? Take a rest. Wind down your projects. Find time to rest, recharge, relax.
Sending you love and hugs, always.
I was discussing, on Facebook this past week, the fact that I couldn’t find my favorite cassoulet recipe. My husband, bless him, dug through my many cookbooks and a three-inch, 3-ring binder of recipes, and found it for me. As several people wanted a copy of the recipe, I decided to put it here. Enjoy!
Christine’s Cassoulet – Made on November 4, 2017
This recipe is an amalgamation of what I remember from the Food & Wine version, and from a version that I found on the Internet in September 2004, on a website that no longer exists (yes, we checked). My husband found the printed version after I bemoaned the fact that I couldn’t find my original F&W recipe. However, I love this one, as it sticks close to the F&W recipe. I’ve made several changes, as noted.
Time: 30-45 minutes preparation time. At least 8 hours in a crock pot on low.
Servings: At least 8, possibly 10. It’s a terrific wintertime meal with good friends. Just pair with a crusty French bread and a good red wine, and you’ll have a meal that will make memories.
½ pound small white navy beans (can substitute 2 cans white beans if you forget to buy the navy beans…which I have).
4+ cloves garlic, peeled and crushed, plus 2+ cloves garlic, minced
1 large onion, chopped
2 carrots, cut into chunks or rounds, as you prefer
2 cups cored and chopped tomatoes, with their juices, or canned diced tomatoes
3 or 4 sprigs fresh thyme, or ½ teaspoon dried thyme
2 – 3 bay leaves
¼ pound salt pork in 1 piece
Note: If you can’t find salt pork, use ¼ pound whole slab bacon. If you can’t find that, use 5 or 6 bacon slices.
4 sausages I’ve used sweet Italian, or chicken apple sausages – you can also use spicy Italian if that’s your style
1 pound boneless pork – shoulder, boneless rib meat, pork chops (whatever you can find)
1 turkey leg (or 2 duck legs, if you can find them, or 4 chicken legs)
½ pound any type of good beef steak (or stew meat)
Note: The second or third time I made this, I forgot what type of meat I needed to put into the cassoulet, and bought a steak. After I got home I realized it didn’t call for steak – but I used it anyway, and I find it gives the whole dish an added boost of flavor.
Chicken, beef, or vegetable stock, or water, or a mixture, as needed…probably 4 – 6 cups
Salt & fresh ground pepper to taste
Fresh chopped parsley for garnish
Chop all veggies.
Brown all meats (including the salt pork) in a large skillet and transfer them to the crock pot.
Add crushed garlic, chopped onions, and chopped carrots into the crock pot. Add beans, tomatoes, thyme, and bay leaves.
Add stock mixture to cover by 2 inches, IF possible, as your large crock pot will be full. Cover, and cook on low for 8 hours (high for 5 hours). Don’t feel like you have to be home the entire time – go out! Have fun! Enjoy! When you get home, your kitchen will smell like heaven, I promise you!
<– I like adding 1/2 chicken bone broth, and 1/2 beef bone broth.
Note: Most cassoulet recipes that I’ve found have you leave all the meats whole when serving. When I first made this recipe in the late 1990s, I had two boys who were under the age of 10. Leaving anything whole, in a hot broth, was not practical. Therefore…
After 8 hours, when the meat is falling off the bone of the turkey leg, pull all the meats out of the crockpot and let cool enough to touch, while setting the crockpot to “Warm.” Once the meat is cool, shred the meat, extracting any fat and bones, and put all the meat back into the crockpot. Feel free to give the extra fats and skins to the dog. He’ll thank you for it.
Taste the broth – it should be rich and meaty, and need little extra seasoning. However, add the reserved minced garlic, and S&P to taste if needed (this one didn’t). Keep on warm until you’re ready to eat.
Note: The French typically put a breadcrumb crust on this. I never have, and I’ve never missed it. But if you wish, by all means, please do!
Note: This recipe can also be made in a Dutch oven; do everything in one pot, including sautéing the onions and carrots and garlic in the fat left behind by browning the meats. Cover with stock by 2 inches; cook on low for at least 5 hours. Check to see if the meat is falling off the bone before you take it off the heat.
It’s true! Guarded Star, the first full-length book in the StarTide Agency series with Boroughs Publishing Group, is on sale for the ENTIRE month of May across ALL platforms!
Bestselling author Louisa Bacio said this: “Guard your heart because Christine Ashworth has done it again. Despite all their differences, Evie and Jake share combustible chemistry, and a past that won’t stay behind. You’ll enjoy the sweet music of this romance.”
Singer/songwriter Evie Marcherand is about to begin her first three-city tour when someone threatens to stop her music—permanently. Private investigator Jake Wells is about to give up his vacation—and his heart—to see that doesn’t happen.
MAKE A WISH
Everyone leaves twenty-five-year-old Evie Marcherand, but with her naturally husky voice and musical talent she’s done okay, and her star is rising. Her songs and her guitar? Those she can count on. She’s just booked her first three-city tour. Too bad someone else wants to stop her music. Permanently.
Jake Wells. 39. Private investigator. Tall and lanky, with brown hair that’s going silver at his temples. What does he want? To go on vacation. But with four younger sisters, “protective” doesn’t begin to describe him, so a promise to a dead man means he’ll play bodyguard instead. Threats of violence against an up-and-coming singer/songwriter have been escalating, and there’s just no way that’s going to happen. But after he gets a taste of Evie’s music—and her lips—there’s no saying what will.
Find Guarded Star here: (sorry, I couldn’t figure out how to copy the link to iBooks! sigh.)
Amazon, Kobo, iBooks, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble,
There’s been a lot of personal turmoil in my life, and I haven’t been here very much at all. I aim to change that. As well, I have a newsletter that was sent out today for the very first time. If you read that newsletter and are here because of the super sekrit contest, then you know what to do. *vbg*
If you aren’t on my newsletter list but want to be (freebies, etc), leave a comment here with your email address and I will add you to the list. Right now, I have no idea how many I’ll be sending out, but I swear unless I have amazing news or giveaways, it won’t be more than once a month, and probably a lot less.
A huge thank you to Boroughs Publishing Group who have worked with me on this promotion. Another huge thank you to Rebecca Hamilton, and to all the friends and family who have been there for me during a really rough patch. Sending love to all.
Now…go on and grab Guarded Star! You know you want to…
My parents bought a cabin in the Laguna Mountains in the winter of 1965-66. It’s in the Cleveland National Forest, and you buy the cabin – but lease the land from the government. They are considered summer homes, and won’t allow you to buy with the intent to live year-round. They won’t even let you buy one if you don’t own another home.
Yesterday, July 30 2016, my father, my oldest brother, and I took the pilgrimage back to the place we were all happiest.
The windows are new. The roof is, too. The paint job looks fresh, and they put skytubes into the kitchen to open it up, as well as the sliding glass door on the right which is new. The place looks well-loved and taken care of.
The cement slab, though, was poured by my father and my brothers. You can still see our names in it.
My mom’s writing.
I won’t lie…this was an emotional day. Before we saw the cabin, we went to Major’s Diner, in Pine Valley, for lunch…the best burger I’ve had in a very long time.
I remember sitting at that counter, 45+ years ago,and feeling like a “big girl” because the counter was the perfect height for littler kids.
And Dad…well, he had a quarter of his waffle. I won’t say he’s getting too thin, but…note the cardboard between the back of his watch and his wrist. (He’s an innovator.)
So, we got to the cabin. I have more photos on my big camera, but these were all taken with my phone and are more readily accessible, so.
My brother Greg parked the car, and I was itching to get outside. Dad wanted to, as well, so we helped him out. Walked up a short hill to within the steps to the slab (top photo). He was dizzy, out of breath, and couldn’t go further.
I left them there, Greg hanging onto Dad, because this hill right here was calling to me.
Up there, along the ridge line, in the summer of 1993, we scattered my brother Scott’s ashes. I was, oh…maybe six months pregnant at the time.
The next time I visited the cabin, it was in the late spring of 2007, when we scattered my mother’s ashes. At the time, I thought the next time I would be there would be to scatter my father’s ashes, but luckily that was not true.
I took many, many photos. I stuck my nose in the bark of the Jeffrey Pine trees and smelled the rich vanilla scent. I laughed at the woodpeckers and the blue jays even as I brushed my tears away. And when I hiked to the top of this hill, my feet sank into gopher tunnels that I had once been able to spot and avoid. Dirt got into my shoes. The air was muggy, and sweat rolled between my shoulder blades as I stocked up on photos and memories.
The outhouse had been taken down; there were only a few bricks left in the soil to mark where it once stood. The big oak tree that my dad had shimmied up (about 30 feet) in the summer of 1966 to tie a rope swing on was also gone; not even a stump remained. We used to swing high and try to push off the outhouse…never quite made it…
This side of the mountains, the trees were lush, and green. The rains had done good here. The oaks and pines both looked amazing. All the ground fifty feet surrounding the cabins had been cleared, as by law. The place looked beautiful.
Going back to the car, I saw Greg helping my dad inside. He laid the seat back and closed his eyes, and a part of me hurt for him…Dad had sawn logs, gone arrowhead hunting, taken us for hikes. He cleared land and created a volleyball court. He brought a litter of puppies up in one box, and a month later had to take them home in two boxes. He strode these lands in the prime of his life…everywhere I looked, I saw that young man who, when he wasn’t working with his hands, was writing novels.
Greg Cunningham and Chet Cunningham, July 30, 2016.
I had an incredible, safe, loving childhood filled with remarkable people and this oh, so amazing place in the mountains. I am blessed.
How does the saying go? I wish I weighed what I did when I first thought I was fat? Well – I wish I were as in shape as the first time I thought I was out of shape. But at 25, I had no clue what being out of shape meant.
But now I do, and I am partly putting the responsibility for it on my sedentary work writing, and sedentary Day Job, and partly on menopause.
Menopause happens for a reason. Women’s bodies stop preparing for pregnancy (thank goodness!). But with that, comes a loss of hormones. Our bodies gain weight in weird and unpredictable spurts even when we’re doing everything “right” in order to protect us while we go through this transition.
When you add stress to that situation, which includes everything from aging parents, adult children who will not leave home, death or divorce of a spouse/parent/child/other loved one, job issues, and so on, the normally sane woman can easily find herself munching on anything she can find in the middle of the night, as well as downing a bottle of wine. Or two. Depending on the circumstances and the
enablers loving family around her.
So here I am, post-total abdominal hysterectomy (August 2012), post-hormones (because they went up to $100 a month and nobody got time for that), post-emotional growth spurt last year…without the benefit of a gym membership – and here I am, once again. Staring at myself in the mirror, and thinking, oh hell. I am so out of shape. Not only that, but my balance is beginning to erode again. Sigh.
Is there vanity involved? Hell yes. I have great feet and great legs, and I’d like to look respectable in clothes that will show them off. Which means I need to get back into the gym and start walking on the treadmill (did you know that CARDIO exercise can help keep you mentally sharp? Go here to check it out). I would also like to be able to take walks with my husband without getting dizzy and having to hang onto him.
It also means that I need to get back to ballet. Simple barre exercises, stretching, balancing exercises, eventually the joy of moving a bit across a wooden floor, even if it’s in socks and yoga pants and a big, enveloping t-shirt.
My first day back to the Barre was on Friday evening. I was fine until I attempted grand plies. I have decided that at my age, I no longer need to do grand plies. I am hoping my right quadricep will forgive me soon, and we can continue this odyssey.
(And when I’m not at the gym, I’ll be doing yoga in my front room.)
So, yes. There’s vanity involved. But I also want to be healthy for as long as I possibly can. My father is 87; he has a bad shoulder and a bad ankle. His hands are twisted with arthritis, and he hurts every single day. But he’s walking, his mind is clear, and his arms are strong enough to give me hugs when I see him.
I want to be like my dad, only stronger. And without the pain. I think it’s a worthy goal.
Me at 50
I did the girl thing this morning, spritzing and moisturizing my face. As I did so, I remembered the dry and flaky skin on my mother’s face. Toward the end of her life, she was wheelchair bound by MS and didn’t get the skin regimen she used to give herself.
So, I remembered, and moisturized. And as I did, I looked at my face of 55, soon to be 56. I have bags under my eyes that have been there since birth; I have laugh lines around my eyes, also there since birth I believe, only now they show when I am not laughing. The rest of my face is smooth; maybe a forehead wrinkle or two, but nothing earth shattering. A bit of the jowl thing going, because of the weight gain, but still there’s nothing that breaks the illusion I hold that I am still in my forties, ha.
I wore makeup in my twenties; powder, eyeshadow, thick mascara. In my thirties and early forties, I went back and forth between full liquid foundation, powder and eye makeup, and just doing the eyes. When I turned fifty, it was as though I dropped the mask of makeup entirely, and was fine with it.
And to my surprise, no one cared.
March 2011, RT – 3 months after brain surgery, with Donna O’Brien – 51
I would like to figure out how to put makeup on this face; it’s not the same face as it was 30 years ago. If I treat it as theater makeup, I think it will be easier. That, after all, was the first makeup I’d learned to apply.
As I went about the rest of my early-morning, pre-breakfast, pre-work routine, the thoughts on aging and face/body image rumbled around my head. My body is definitely not the ballerina body I had; it has borne two children, run a marathon, and had two major surgeries plus a couple broken bones since then.
There is so much out there about women and body awareness/fat shaming/ageism. I find when I really think about it, that in this body of mine that is carrying probably 30 pounds more than I would like, I am more sexual and sensual, more loving, and happier than I have ever been, including back when I was 55 pounds lighter than I am now and dancing every day.
Almost as if with age (and the weight gain), my fear has lessened and my empathy has grown. My heart has grown, and I am more connected to people than I have ever been.
Over all, I have to say that this year of being 55 has been one of the best years of my life so far, in so many ways.
But maybe it’s time to wear mascara again.