Friday, January 30, 2015

Baked Buffalo Wings Recipe for #SuperBowl Time!

I love the Superbowl. This is not to say I am an avid football fan, though I do like to watch games every now and again, but the Superbowl was always something of a holiday here in our home. Mom used to drive around the neighborhood looking for any places with affordable football pools, we'd get all excited about all of the fun commercials coming, and, best of all, there would be plenty of truly delicious (but possibly deadly) food to eat. One of the things that topped the list of football foods was Buffalo Wings.

After getting married, my husband and I discovered that we didn't like only having these delicious delights at Superbowl time, so we started making them more frequently. Problem? The fried wings would likely kill us! I decided there must be another way to make them that wouldn't be as terrible for us. What I have found has become my husband's favorite wings, which is why I started calling them Bob's Baked Buffalo Wings! The wings are delicious and, I think, a much healthier option for wing lovers.

Bob's Baked Buffalo Wings
Yummy!!

Ingredients

    • 1 lb chicken wings
    • 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
    • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
    • 1 tablespoon salt
    • 1/2 cup Frank's Red hot sauce
    • 1 tablespoon Earth's Balance buttery spread (you can use butter or margarine if you are so inclined)

Directions

1. Fill a large pot half way with water. (Make sure you have a lid for this pot!)
2. Add the first 4 ingredients.
    Important note about McCormick's spices: They do not add gluten to their single ingredient spices
    (Read here for more information about their gluten and allergen policies.)
    3. Bring water mixture and wings to a boil and then boil for 15 minutes. (During this time you may want to get out of Dodge! Put the lid on the pot, if you can without it overflowing, because the steam this mixture kicks up can be quite powerful!!)
    **An interesting, and accidental, discovery: if you want some KNOCK-YOUR-SOCKS -OFF fiery-hot wings, extend this boiling time (I did this once while my husband went out to the store so the wings would be fresh out of the oven when he came home. Throughout eating them we were teared-up, hysterical laughing, and, as a result, couldn't stop talking about the wings for weeks!)**
    4. Put the wings on a sprayed cookie sheet, or some other oven-safe dish. Make sure the wings are not on top of one another. 
    5. Bake wings on "Broil" (high) for 15-20 minutes on each side. (The longer you keep them in, the crispier they get, but watch them as you get close to the 20 minute mark, or longer, so that they don't burn. 
    6. While the wings are in the oven, get a sauce pan on the stove top  to combine the Frank's Hot Sauce and buttery spread (or butter) over a medium heat. Stir continuously until butter melts and is evenly mixed. (The longer you cook the sauce, the thicker the sauce). 
    **Also, if you wish to play with the sauce's hotness scale, simply play with the "butter" to hot sauce proportions. More "butter" = milder; more sauce = hotter.**
    I swear by that Frank's Red Hot Sauce!!
    (But you can use your own favorite hot sauce if you like.)
7. The last step is the most fun. Find a container that you can safely put wings and sauce in to shake up. If you have to do it in batches, so be it, but have fun shaking what your Mama gave ya. (*Note about this step: you could just pour the sauce over the wings, or even put each wing in the sauce pot to cover them. I stopped doing the shaking step a while ago because one day I shook sauce into my eye somehow = NOT COOL.)
My Lock & Lock container is perfect for this job!!

This batch is ready to go! We're ready to party!
I wish I could just give one to you right now!!
Make sure you have some side to balance the hotness of these wings. Typically we'll do a potato salad that I learned to make from my mother-in-law (you can still find my pseudo-recipe for it on my old blog Searching For Sustenance).

Enjoy!

What's your favorite game time food?
Do you enjoy watching the Superbowl, or is this just another Sunday to you?
      

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Why I Haven't Published My Novel Yet

The question plagues me: Why haven't I published my novel yet? I changed the title of this post to a statement in order to force my hand into answering this question. The boring answer is "I don't know," but that is unacceptable. This summer I bought myself a necklace in order to inspire me to get to work on my memoir (slowly, but surely, I'm plugging away at it!), but it applies - quite perfectly - to the discussion of my novels and the role they play as space hogs (and nothing more) on my various technical toys. On the pendant there is a quote from Walt Disney that says,
"The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing."
The message is quite clear. I need to do the work required to make this happen, even if it is self-published, given away for free, or just posted here on my blog. The fact is, I need to share my stories!

Step 1: Let Go of Perfection

Whether I am willing to admit this to myself or not, I have been living in fear of rejection in all forms. Obviously, rejection on the professional front is a very real fear - writers get rejected all of the time with works that are much more worthy of publication than my cute, fun little tales. However, I am also afraid of a casual kind of rejection that could come from just posting some of my story here on my blog and getting real-time, brutally honest. negative feedback. For both of these reasons (and I am sure many, many more) I have been living in a mental space where I can't do anything with either of my novels until they are "perfect." I put the word perfect in quotes here because I have no idea what its true definition translates to in this idea I have. Is there truly a perfection anyone can reach when it comes to literature? I'm sure if you can think of one, it will be different that the one I come up with! The fact is, I have to let go of the idea of perfection.

Step 2: Do a Serious Rewrite - with an unbreakable deadline

Keeping step 1 in mind,neither of my novels are what I would deem "reader-ready." At least one rewrite needs to be accomplished before they can move forward. Putting an unbreakable deadline on the rewrite can help me avoid falling back into the quest for perfection.

Step 3: Be Responsible With Your Files

Throughout this post I have been writing about novels - in plural, as if there are still two to discuss. There might be, but right now I have been unable to find a full copy of my second (and maybe favorite) novel. My laptop died this past Thanksgiving, in that "never to be recovered" type of techie death. Of course I backed up that laptop many times! Of course I saved my novel on a flash drive in addition to the hard drive! However, neither of these has come to my rescue. The backup appears to be a non-readable file (what the heck does anyone need that for?!) and the flash drive is MIA. This was devastating to me when I discovered it, but it has also taught me a valuable lesson: I need to be more vigilant in saving and keeping my writing files. I need to have a full comprehension of what type of backups I am creating and - though the environmentalist in me is cringing - I should also have at least one printed copy of my completed projects somewhere.

Step 4: Get the Family On Board

Finally, life is incredibly different now, so I need to accommodate for that. If I am striving to work seriously on my writing projects, then I need some serious time to work on them. Right now is wonderful - nap time when the hubby is at work - but will it be enough? Only time will tell. If it turns out not to be, then we will have to work together to find a way to schedule in the time to make it happen.

Looking Ahead

I have completed the first drafts for two YA novels. The first, Dear 302. still exists in many forms - digital copies, printed copies, even one copy downloaded to my nook! I have started rereading it this week in order to get a sense of the details of the story and also how intense of a rewrite is required (as a first novel it is cute to see how many silly writing mistakes are there that I would never make today!). I am enjoying the story, but I'm still unsure if that's due to the nostalgia I have for having written the story, or if it can honestly stand on its own.


The second novel, Now What? (even the title needs to be changed!), may only exist in my mind. This is disconcerting to me because, while I have the larger structure of the story still in my memory, fun things like dialogue or little details here and there will be lost. I'm not giving up on it though! I had too much fin with that story to let it go.

So I have three major writing projects to deal with - these two novels and my memoir, Hindsight is 20/20, Even If I'm Not. I've never been a big fan of working on multiple projects at once, but I do believe it is time for me to stop trying to stay comfortable in my work. I needed to do that for a long time because my chronic illnesses would allow nothing else, but I am going to challenge them both a little bit to see how far I can stretch my abilities. Stay tuned to see what comes next. I promise to keep you updated!

Questions for you:
Do you have a project - writing or otherwise - that keeps getting pushed to your "back burner"?
How would you feel about reading one of my YA novels in some sort of serial form here on Rivera Runs Through It?

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

#365Books for Alexander

Alex's library wall in his nursery (a fraction of his books!)
In the week leading up to New Year's this year an online friend of mine, Morgan Dragonwillow wrote a post about deciding on some sort of #365challenge for 2015. It made me wonder if there was anything I'd like to do. As the days rolled on I kept thinking that it should be something related to my brand new obsession - my son Alexander. I thought about doing 365 selfies with Alex, 365 different outfits or costumes (did I mention Alex was ten different things on Halloween?!) and I thought about coming up with things to write about concerning Alex, motherhood or just about anything. Then it finally occurred to me - I love reading to my son and we have a ton of books for him! What if I made this challenge into an opportunity to make sure we read as many different books as possible, rather than repeating the same ones all of the time?

I missed my baby, but enjoyed the sun!
That is how #365Books was born. Starting on January 1, 2015 I challenged myself to read Alex a brand new book every single day. I've done pretty good, but there were a couple of setbacks. The first day of missed reading was the 5th of January, when I had to escape the chill of New York to be present for my cousin's surprise wedding in Coral Gables, Florida. Not too long after I returned, Alexander had his first real sickness with temperatures getting as high as 104.2ยบ! Needless to say, story time was not high on my list of things that needed to be accomplished then. So, right now I am five two books behind (update: I realized I didn't jot down a couple of books on my list! we have read 22 25 different books so far!), but that's easy enough to catch up on being that children's books are so short and easy to read. The more difficult part is finding a fun way to share our reads with others. While I'd love to take pictures every day, my phone seems resistant to this fact since my memory keeps maxing out on me. So I have decided that I will keep a list here on my blog of all of the books we have read so far (I'm sure I am going to need this reference myself as the year goes on to make sure I don't repeat any books!)
At some point, I do plan on adding my thoughts about each book here on the blog as well, but in the meantime, we'll have to settle for the list of books we read (it will be kept in the header for easy access) and the pictures I have been able to take so far. Enjoy:












Tuesday, January 27, 2015

When Optimism Bites You In The Ass

This post could also be called "How Parenthood Made Me Cry Last Week." For fans of this show, you know this is a post that could have been written weekly after each episode! Unfortunately for us, the sob-fest is coming to an end - get out your tissues and connect with your Parenthood-junkie support groups - Parenthood is ending this week!
I have always prided myself on my ability to see the best in all things and all people. If people asked me to describe myself, one of the first things I would say is, "I am an optimist," and I'd be proud that the statement was unequivocally true. For the most part, being an optimist is a pretty awesome thing, but watching last week's episode of Parenthood - "We Made It Through The Night" - reminded me of one time in my life when being an optimist turned on me in the cruelest of ways.

Zeke getting the happy news.
For those who are unfamiliar with the show or what's going on currently (SPOILER ALERT!), it is simple: one of the main characters, Sarah, has been proposed to at the same time her father, Zeke, is going through a major health complication which he has decided against further surgical treatment for. In the episode she tells her father who is laying bed, obviously too weak to deal with the typical family drama that is taking place at a gathering in his home, about her proposal. He weakly responds that he can't wait to walk her down the aisle. Through her tears, she responds that she also can not wait. In the following scene she tells her new fiance that she would like to get married as quickly as possible and close to home to ensure her father is at her wedding.

It all makes complete sense. You rush your wedding to make sure those who you love the most are there to share this life celebration with you. It is what anyone in that situation who cherishes their parent would do, isn't it?

It is not. Particularly if that person is living in a world of blind optimism.

My mother was diagnosed with stage IV cancer approximately two weeks after I was proposed to. Since my father passed away unexpectedly on Thanksgiving morning in 1988, one would think that I had enough experience to know nothing is guaranteed, but I was foolishly optimistic. I stood strong in my belief that my mother would conquer this disease, that God would not take another parent from me before their time. Most of all, I had hope.

Hope is the lifeline of optimism. Without it nothing seems possible and the world starts to look pretty bleak. With it, you don't have to give any worry a second thought. Not even if your mother is dying before your eyes.

I can honestly say that in the six months my mother wasted away before me I never once even thought about rushing my wedding. I never imagined that was even necessary. And, while I was thinking about writing this post this weekend, Dowager Countess of Grantham in Downton Abbey (episode #5.4) expressed, so succinctly, why I did not when she said the following:
Hope is a tease designed to prevent us from accepting reality.
Whoa. There it was. My hope thoroughly succeeded in blinding me from my reality. My optimism bit me in the ass, and hope's little gig was up on Memorial Day weekend, less than six months after my engagement began. That weekend it became abundantly clear that none of the treatments were working and that my mother had lost her battle. That Thursday, we brought her home from the hospital and put her on Hospice care for the final ten days of her life.

So there I was last week, sobbing (as usual) while watching Parenthood because these writers got it. They knew what was really important when it appeared I did not. However, (and here is some evidence that my optimism is alive and well and that hope still has its claws sunk deep inside my soul) part of my sorrow was for the implied admission of defeat. Wasn't it possible that Zeke, the father, would make a complete turn around? Isn't it still possible that - having seen his great-grandchild born (and named after him!) and his daughter ready to get married - he will decide to try the possibly life-saving surgery?

The happy day!
The promos show us there will be a wedding in this week's final episode of Parenthood. I expect Zeke will be there to walk his daughter down the aisle. It probably goes without saying, but my mother was not (physically) at my wedding which took place over two years after her death. I don't know that I will ever go so far as to say that I regret that, but I can see that some opportunity was missed. As I watched the episode I was left asking myself what was more valuable - providing hope and optimism for someone you love when they feel all else is lost, or taking an opportunity to express your love for them by creating an experience for them to share with you before they go? I have no answer because I think the "right" answer depends on the individual. For me, I take the hope any day of the week, but the tears flow and the questions arise only when I wonder if that is the path my mother had truly preferred.

In the comments:

Are you a Parenthood junkie? If so, how are you preparing yourself for this finale?

On a more serious note, given the "big decision" which path would you take? Have you already been faced with this decision in the past?


Monday, January 26, 2015

Audiobook Review and Reflection: BUCK by MK Asante

I decided to go ahead and judge a book by its cover again. Not that the cover of Buck is anything all that unique or creative. It just struck me. And, by the end of the read, that's exactly what the book did.

When an audiobook is read by the author it is usually hit or miss whether or not I deem the endeavor a success. In the case of Buck, written and narrated by MK Asante, it was not just a hit - it was a home run. Asante's delivery of his work lifted his words off the page in such a melodic rhythm that you could feel the very intention of every sentence written. After finishing this book I have found a word lust growing in me that is going to take a long time to satiate. His story and his delivery have left me craving more - not only am I craving to read more, but Asante has awakened my desire to write more. It is an inspiring read and, for anyone who is passionate about their relationship with words - either reading or writing them - in MK Asante I believe you will find a kindred spirit. 

Having said all this, I do not want to mislead you concerning the content of this book. Buck is MK Asante's memoir, but it is not the story of a young man born and bred in the realm of academia. It is a story of a young black boy growing up in Philadelphia - which he calls "Killadelphia" - looking up to an older brother who ends up in prison, raised by a father who is heavily involved with the Afro-centric movement and a mother who loves dance, but has her own inner demons to deal with before her passions or her family can become any real part of her life. From the moment the book begins it feels as though Milo (this is MK's name) is doomed to lead a life of crime. Throughout the entire book I had to keep reassuring myself that Milo was going to "be okay" because that boy grew up to write this book. 
The gorgeous Curtis High School where I spent 12 years of my life.
For me, this book hit incredibly close to home. While working as a teacher in a New York City public school for twelve years, I had countless "Milos" sit in front of me in class. I have known them, seen the challenges they faced every day in making the simple choice to pass by all of the temptations on the street just to get to school, but most of all, I have loved them. From the exterior these kids seem like thugs, hooligans, and the "bad influence" you want to keep your own children away from - most people forget that they are children too. Asante's memoir paints a clear picture of a boy whose world nearly swallows him whole. He walked the walk of the damned and, by some miracle, found a passage out. I love this book (in case that wasn't already obvious!). I have already taken up the task of trying to get it into the school I used to teach in (it's nice to have an English teaching hubby!). I believe this should be required reading in high school - whether a child is growing up in a world just like Milo's, or in a pristine suburb with manicured lawns and neighborhood watch groups, this story exemplifies that we can move beyond our own setting once we have found our passion(s). On a personal note, Asante's descriptions of the joys of writing and reading felt as though they poured directly out of my soul. This may be the first time that I seek out my own print copy of a book I listened to from the library - I wish to see the words, I need to underline them, quote them, and cherish them physically. It is for this reason that I find myself conflicted over what to recommend to you today - MK Asante is a fantastic narrator making the audiobook a "can't miss," however, the physical words in certain chapters are so captivating I do believe you may actually want to see them. I leave the choice up to you, but whatever you choose, I say you should choose to read Buck when you find the time!
In the comments section:

What was the last book you read that inspired you to revisit your passion(s)?

Given the choice would you pick the audiobook or print copy of BUCK? Why? (Let's make an assumption that the cost is equal for the purpose of this question!)

Which book(s) do you think need to be read in high schools today? Why?