1. My husband, Roger. He has supported and loved me, held me when I cried and laughed with me. He’s given me everything and anything my heart desires, and he’s the mate of my soul. I can’t imagine my life without his smile, his laughter, his love. He’s the other half of me, and I am so very grateful to have found him early in my life.
2. My partner, Kris. Kris has been there through so much, and she’s become as important to me as Roger. I love her, and I can’t imagine my writing, Storm Moon Press, RainbowCon, or KS Charms being half of what they are without her. She makes me laugh, infuriates me, appreciates my cooking, and shares half a brain with me. Our worlds are rich and varied, and she can finish my thoughts so very easily. I am thankful for having her in my life and heart.
3. My mother, Gail. Despite those rocky teen years, my mother has been one of the greatest foundations in my life. My mother taught me to be who I am no matter what, that who I am is nothing to be ashamed of, and that her love came without strings, without conditions, without judgment. She has struggled so much in her life, and she’s done without so I could have, and I am so very lucky to have her in my life.
4. My father, Don. When Roger and I were flat on our asses and in need of help, guidance, and a home, my dad was there. When some parents would ignore a call for help, my dad always had his hand out, ready to help me back up. He gave me the opportunity to have what I do today, and I am forever thankful for that.
5. My brother, Christopher. Though we were very adversarial growing up, in my adult years, I came to appreciate my brother for the loving, hardworking man he’s become. He makes me so proud to see who he is.
6. My pets. As a woman who cannot have children of her own, my cats and dogs are my children. I love and pamper them as if I gave birth to them myself, and they help soothe so much hurt that I’d be a miserable mess without them. They bring me joy and peace.
7. My home. This is the first single family, detached home I’ve lived in since my parents’ home, and I am so utterly grateful for it. I am truly happy in this home. It suits our needs, and it allows me so many joys I never could experience in an apartment. I am deeply grateful to have a roof over my head, but even more so to have that roof be exactly what I dreamed of.
8. The staff of Storm Moon Press. It took a lot for me to realize I needed help, and when I did, I was so very lucky to have the support staff I needed so close to me. Amanda, Dionne, Kat, and Cat are the greatest assets SMP has, and I am so very thankful for all their hard, diligent work.
9. Roger’s job. Though it takes him away for vast parts of the day, I am so thankful that he found a job in this economy.
10. My artistic talents. I sometimes take for granted that I was born with a talent for art. Painting, singing, writing, jewelry, cooking, baking, photoshop, etc. If there’s an art form that draws my interest, it doesn’t take much for me to be able to pick it up and excel at it. I have been gifted in that, and I forget it far too easily. I’m so glad I’m an artist, even if it drives me crazy sometimes.
11. For being alive. Every day I wake up. I walk. I talk. I eat. I breathe. I laugh. I cry. I do thousands of little things some people simply cannot. I am alive. I am in relatively controlled health. I am 95% happy most of the time. I have awesome friends, a great support system, and I am alive. For that, I am thankful every day I wake up.
Bonus Thankfulness: Annie and Matthew. OMG, meeting them, loving them, has been one of the highlights of the last almost five years. I know my life wouldn’t quite as full without them.
I have been remiss in blogging. I hope to be back on schedule in the new year.
Storm Moon Press and RainbowCon have sucked all my time. XD I haven’t had time to write since I complete Immortal Symphony: Overture (only a couple of weeks left to grab the season pass with its bonus content!). September and October were spent on Necronomicon prep and attendance and Halloween, and November has been spent on SMP, my husband’s birthday, and Thanksgiving. Of course, next month is all about Yule and Christmas. @_@ I wish I didn’t have to sleep!
But, I’m doing some reorganizing of SMP and my life to make more room for my own writing and for KS Charms. I miss writing. I have two half-complete manuscripts (Human Rights and Lessons in Cowboy) that I want to finish, plus I need to begin working on the second season of Immortal Symphony. I miss my characters! Right now, the extent of my writing is in IM windows with K. Piet as we just role play with our characters, and it’s not as satisfying as writing for publication.
And, to top it off, I have a very sick kittle. This has really taken my focus this past week. Our youngest cat, Dorian, has lost a lot of weight recently, and he’s taken to vomiting and dry heaving daily. He’s not as active, and he’s more clingying. Several times a day, he just crawls into my arms, settles, and sleeps. I don’t have the heart to shoo him away in order to work when he’s so unhappy. We have a vet trip planned for Friday afternoon (though I hate trying out new vets) because I’m just so worried about it. And worry and stress don’t help with the creative juices, either.
I do plan to have a blog post here for Friday with a bit of a social commentary rant. XD But, I just wanted to let folks know I’m not dead! I’m just really busy.
This past Saturday, we had a bunch of friends over to celebrate Mabon with us. There was laughter, games, a small ritual, and a feast. I made an autumn beef stew that was a huge hit, and I thought I would share the recipe here with you! But first, I want to also discuss a small change that will be happening on this blog.
I signed my family up for a weekly produce box. Every Tuesday, a local company delivers a large box of fruit and a large box of vegetables–organic and locally grown–to our door. I did this for a couple of reasons. One was to encourage us to eat more fruit and vegetables. If they’re here, I’ll cook with them. Another was to save of money and food waste. Usually, my husband-thing goes shopping twice a month, and the vegetables will spoil quickly because we don’t use them fast enough. I thought this would be better since we receive a fresh influx of vegetables and fruit once a week, and so he doesn’t have to buy them and we don’t have to throw away spoiled food.
This is part of my Mabon-Samhain decision. I am taking control of my life in a lot of ways. My husband’s job loss last month really helped put things into perspective for me, and now that he’s found a new job, and we’re in a new house, we’re turning over a new leaf. Part of this was me creating The Strawberry Kitchen Witch blog, where I will share recipes, reviews of my NatureBox and my produce boxes, and our meal planning. If you like my Recipe Monday, then this is a blog you should follow. I will no longer post the recipes here directly, but I will do posts on Mondays here linking to my cooking blog. Mondays here, I think, will also be dedicated to my KS Charms endeavor. So, Mondays will become a bit of a hodge podge of stuff.
I want to say something very important about this–and most–stews. Doing a first cook of the stew (cooking it a couple of hours), cooling it, and refrigerating it overnight (or two!), improves the flavor like you wouldn’t believe. Stew is a special, lovely sort of hearty meal, and when you allow all the flavors to meld overnight in the fridge, magic happens. I highly, highly suggest that you plan for this meal to be serves a day or two after you cook it, and that’s what my directions here assume you’ll do.
The yield for this recipe is about 18-24 servings, and if I hadn’t made this for a large crowd, I would have split the recipe up into three meals. It freezes very, very well.
4lbs london broil, cubed
1 large onion, roughly diced
6 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 butternut squash, large cubes
6 medium potatoes, large cubes
6 large carrots, thickly sliced
3 large celery ribs, thickly sliced
1lb mushrooms, thickly sliced
32oz frozen pearl onions
8oz tomato paste
2 cinnamon sticks
1TBSP dried parsley
1TBSP steak seasoning
52oz beef stock
24oz chicken stock
3/4C red wine
1. Generously salt and pepper the london broil and brown it in batches in a stock pot over high heat, adding more oil as necessary. And I do mean brown the meat. Make sure there is a lovely, deeply brown, crusty exterior to the meat. This is where a lot of flavor comes from. Set cooked meat aside in a bowl.
2. Lower the heat to medium and add in the diced onion and the sliced celery. Add 1/2tsp salt and a pinch of pepper. Cook for five minutes, and then add the minced garlic.
3. Add tomato paste. Cook for five minutes. Add red wine. Cook for five minutes. Add back cooked meat and all its juices.
4. Add liquids, and then add carrots, butternut squash, and potatoes. Add honey, parsley, 1TBSP steak seasoning, 1/2TBSP salt, 1tsp pepper, and the two cinnamon sticks. If liquid does not just barely cover all the vegetables, add water to cover. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, simmer for one hour.
5. At this point, taste the broth. I usually need to adjust the salt, pepper, steak seasoning, and honey. Remove the cinnamon sticks. After adjusting seasonings, cook another half hour. Taste again and make final seasoning adjustments.
6. Split the stew up into containers and cool completely to room temperature. Store in the fridge overnight or up to 48 hours.
7. On the day you plan to serve, separate the solids from the liquids by using a slotted spoon. Add solids to a large pot. Set aside.
8. In another pot, add butter and flour. Cook over medium-high heat for 2 minutes. Slowly add 4 cups of the stew liquid. Cook for five minutes. If it’s too thick, add more liquid. I like the liquid to be pretty loose as the stew does need to reheat, and it will continue to thicken. Add the liquid from the pot to the solids, place that pot over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Add in pearl onions and sliced mushrooms. Reduce heat and simmer for another hour to an hour and a half. Serve when mushrooms and onions are cooked through.
This is a delicious and amazing stew. There are a lot of steps, some wait time, but… man. It’s good.
This is my third NatureBox box. I got a random box the first time, but the second and third, I chose my snacks. I thought to dedicate one Monday in the month to reviewing the box that I receive.
This box contained 2 bags each of Lemon Tea Biscuits, Teriyaki Twists, Cocoa Waffle Wafers, Sunny Trails trail mix, and Far East Rice Crackers. This box also contained a bonus bag of Guacamole Bites as a free gift. The thing about NatureBox is that their snacks tend to contain no artificial ingredients or HFCS. A lot are non-GMO.
Far East Rice Crackers
This mix contains rice crackers, chili crackers, and peas. It smells dusty and of little else.
Saundra: Very crunchy, but very dry. They’re also on the bitter, bland side. I get an odd aftertaste of nail varnish. I rate this one 2/5
Kris: The flavor on the front end of each piece is very nice. Texture as expected with rice-based snacks. Bad aftertaste. Rating, 2.5/5
Roger: I would have liked the peas to have been wasabi peas. Most rice cracker mixes use wasabi peas, and it was disappointing not to have them here. It’s a pretty bog standard mix. 3/5
Teriyaki flavored rice crackers.
Saundra: Has a strong soy flavor on the front end, but there’s nothing else. Teriyaki should have notes of ginger and garlic, a bit more sweetness, and this is just… soy. And I still get the nail varnish aftertaste. 2/5
Kris: I get the nail varnish aftertaste, too, and there is a serious lack of depth that teriyaki should have. Soy + sugar does not equal teriyaki. 2/5
Roger: Echoing the same thoughts: sweet soy sauce doesn’t equal teriyaki. Not bad, but nothing impressive. 2.5/5
Guacamole-flavored corn sticks.
Saundra: I would have liked to see cilantro in the spice listing. I would prefer the texture to be crisper. 2/5
Kris: The flavor comes out in layers. I like the citrus-y punch in the middle. The aftertaste is just… yeah. No. 3/5
Roger: I don’t like the choice of corn chip to put this seasoning mix on. Not a fan of the texture. Something thinner, crispier, would have been better. 3/5
Lemon Tea Biscuits
Saundra: These are tiny. About an inch in size. I get no citrus at all. It’s more like a Danish butter cookie. Highly disappointing. It’s a sweet butter cookie, nothing more. 2/5
Kris: Meh. 3.5/5
Roger: If you’re going to call something a tea biscuit, they should be big enough to dunk into tea. These aren’t. I get a hint of citrus at the front. 3/5
Cocoa Waffle Wafers
Saundra: Just smelling the bag, it smells very chemically. On their own, not bad. It would be great in ice cream, mousse, or with fondue. 4/5
Kris: This is the best of the bunch so far. 4/5
Roger: It’s a little too bitter to eat a lot of on its own, but would be excellent balanced against something a little sweeter. Ice cream or yogurt… 4/5
Sunny Trails trail mix
Dried fruit and almond trail mix
Saundra: It’s your standard trail mix. It’s mostly as advertised. I could have done with more almonds, as I LOVE almonds. 4/5
Kris: It needs more almonds. 4/5
Roger: If you’re going to call something a ‘fruit and almond’ trail mix, you shouldn’t have to hunt for the almonds. I like the apples and dates. It’s something you don’t see often in these mixes. 4/5
Over all, very disappointed with this box.