Thirty-Three

It’s that time of year again when I get all navel-gazey and write that self-indulgent post everybody else was writing a week ago about how their year went and what they want to do differently this year. You know the one–about all the ways they’re gonna be thinner and taller and shinier in 2018–except I’m gonna be thinner and taller and shinier for my 33rd year.

    1. I started off this year by quitting my day job. Not a new story, but a scary one.
    2. It was a difficult adjustment. I spent most of the first couple months crippled by anxiety that we were going to go broke. It didn’t help that I was exhausted from working a full-time job with two babies around and taking care of a house and just in general being a human in modern times.
    3. I spent months doing nothing but reading and playing with the kids.
    4. There is absolutely nothing wrong with doing only that if that’s what makes you happy.
    5. But it was not what I wanted to do.
    6. I came back slowly by adding in a mostly-daily yoga practice, which I kept up most of the year. If I wasn’t doing yoga, I was out walking and playing with the kids. Sometimes I did some light weightlifting.
    7. The decision to do something–anything–active everyday helped shake me out of my anxious funk. (This is 64,000,000,000 times easier to write than it is to do.)
    8. That and a continued positive balance in our bank account.
    9. In March, I started  the final revisions on my first finished novel, The Other Lane.
    10. Old news, I know. I’ve talked about that to death. But the other night, my husband and I were playing around with a book cover maker, and he made me a cover for it.
    11. It looked like it was a book written by Graham Greene or John Updike about something that only gives rich white dudes anxiety, and he called it The Other Lane, or Prepare to Be Devastated.
    12. This is not an inaccurate alternative title since it’s meant to be a reimagining of Jane Eyre. (Does me saying that make you want to read it, or just make you roll your eyes?)
    13. Speaking of Jane Eyre (and Sense & Sensibility), I highly recommend Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine
    14. That and The Bookshop on the Corner.
    15. I listened to the latter, and it’s set in Scotland (both of them are, actually). Every time I went back to reading whatever silly romance I was on at the moment, the cowboys all had Scottish accents.
    16. Not sure what it says about the caliber of the book that I remembered they were cowboys, but not where they were cowboys.
    17. Sometimes, I also enjoy reading horrible books.
    18. When I do, I tweet a lot, because they get my inner editor all riled up.
    19. Oh that’s right. I was supposed to be telling you how I’m gonna get taller and thinner this year. Oops. Forgot.
    20. Funny story, tho. When I went to the doctor in April, I measured in at 5’6″. I’ve been 5’5″ since high school.
    21. So, I actually did get taller last year.
    22. *Checks “getting taller” off the list.*
    23. Sometime during the summer, I got up the guts to start querying The Other Lane to literary agents.
    24. Get this. I was also finishing up the first big revision of Ethan & Juliet, my second (finished) novel. At the same time. (No, this one is not based on Romeo and Juliet, but it is about a doctor and a midwife.)
    25. The combination of those two things made me feel like I was worth a million bucks.
    26. So I promptly went out and started a YouTube channel about knitting.
    27. Holy shit you guys, I just checked and I have 27 subscribers now! Last time I looked, I seriously had like, 3.
    28. Which tells you how much attention I’ve been paying to YouTube.
    29. But seriously, it’s been a lot of fun, and I plan to continue. Someday.
    30. In the meantime, I am working on a couple other writing projects, like revising my 2017 nanowrimo.
    31. And I’m playing around with doing some self-publishing.
    32. Oh, and I still plan to do yoga everyday. How’s that for taller and thinner?
    33. Now, if I want to be shiny, all I have to do is add glitter.
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Yellow Birthday Cake Recipe – Gluten Free, Dairy Free

I love sprinkles.

 

I don’t talk about food much on the blog anymore. I don’t like to interrupt other people’s journeys with talk of where I am and what I’m doing, because it is 100% tailored to the things that don’t make me feel like shit. And it bugs me when people get evangelical about their diets, like veganism can save the world and all cavemen go to heaven. Whatever and ever. Amen. Plus, along with the spiel, there is usually some sort of implied (or overt, let’s be real) fat shaming, and that’s just not cool. But, one of the things I do enjoy is experimental baking, and let’s be honest, when you can’t eat much fun stuff, everything is experimental.

But, in case you are like me, and you don’t feel like experimenting, here is a cake recipe that works.

If you aren’t like me, and can eat all the wheat and dairy you want–you should be able to substitute regular flour, butter and milk for all the gluten free, non-dairy ingredients in this cake. If you do, let me know how it goes!

I had big plans before the holidays to make myself a French Opera Cake, which is super complicated, and basically takes the whole day. Sometime around Christmas–probably about the time I was making my third batch of frosting in as many days–I decided that I didn’t want fancy and complicated. I wanted simple and classic.

Ah, yellow cake

 

Enter my favorite standby: yellow cake with chocolate frosting. It doesn’t get any better than that. And this is my favorite recipe. I love this recipe because it makes a nice, light, moist, spongy cake, and that’s not too sweet. It’s a texture that can be hard to achieve with gluten free flour. If a cake recipe has too many liquids in it, the texture can turn gummy, which is just gross. Ew.

Ingredients:

Cake:

  • 1/2 cup butter substitute, I use Earth Balance Soy Free Vegan Buttery Sticks, softened
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil, softened
  • 3 eggs (or 3 flax eggs to make vegan)
  • 2 1/2 cups gluten free flour blend. Use your favorite, and don’t forget the xantham gum if you need it. If you’re new to gluten free baking, try Bob’s Red Mill 1-to-1 flour that already has the xantham gum mixed in. It’s very close to the blend I mix myself.
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 1/4 cups coconut milk (I used 1 cup full fat canned coconut milk–shaken–and added 1/4 cup filtered water to dilute.)

 

Frosting:

  • 1 cup buttery sticks, softened
  • 4-5 cups powdered sugar
  • 3/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1-3 tablespoons coconut milk (or other non-dairy milk–I didn’t want to open another can of coconut milk for two tablespoons, so I just used water.)

 

Now here’s a pet peeve of mine. When I read baking blogs, no one ever whips their butter. Sure they’ll tell you to cream your butter and sugar, but no one ever says to whip your butter (or in this case butter-like-stuff and coconut oil) before you add the sugar. In this recipe that step is crucial. Don’t skip it. In fact, don’t skip it again, ever. If a recipe starts “Cream butter and sugar” whip your butter first, then add the sugar a little at a time to keep your butter fluffy. Trust me. It works.

 

Note, this recipe includes a lot of whipping and mixing. While ideally, a Kitchen Aide mixer would be used, not everyone has one of those. If you’re like me, you think, “Oh, having one of those would be so nice. Maybe for Christmas.” Then you look at your kitchen, snort, and say, “When I have someplace to effing put it.” So, if you have a fancy Kitchen Aide, whip out that paddle attachment and get going on that butter. If not, a hand mixer will work. And if you don’t have one of those either, no worries. I have made this recipe with a wooden spoon and a whisk. Make sure your butter is very soft before you begin, and it’s a totally cool way to get rockin arms, I promise.

 

Layer cake for the win!

 

Instructions

  1. Spray and flour 2 8- or 9-inch round pans. (You could use a 9×13 cake pan, but let’s be honest, we all know sheet cakes are lame–unless it’s Texas Sheet Cake, and really, that’s almost brownies anyway)
  2. Preheat over to 375F
  3. Sift flour, salt and baking powder together in medium bowl and set aside
  4. In large bowl, whip butter, scarping the sides until silky and light. (If you’re beating something, you better be scarping those sides, I’m just sayin.)
  5. Add sugar to butter 1/4 cup at a time, whipping until smooth in between, beat for one minute after last cup of sugar
  6. Add eggs one at a time, whipping for about 30 second in between eggs
  7. Add vanilla (and yellow food coloring if you want a really yellow cake) and whip until combined
  8. Alternate adding flour mixture and coconut milk until everything is well combined. You should have a fluffy, silky smooth batter that’s almost too thick to pour.
  9. Divide evenly into two pans and bake for 25 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.
  10. Allow to cool in pans for 10 minutes, then turn out onto cooling rack to cool to room temperature.
  11. Once cool, frost and build cake. Decorate as desired.

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

  1. Whip buttery stuff until smooth and creamy, scarping sides
  2. Sift in two cups of powdered sugar and beat until smooth
  3. Sift in 3/4 cup cocoa powder and beat until smooth
  4. Sift in remaining 2-3 cups of powdered sugar to taste, adding no more than a tablespoon of liquid at a time thin the frosting as needed.

I like a thick, rustic looking frosting job. Cake decorator I ain’t. If you like to get out pastry bags and rummage through drawers for icing tips, good on you. Have fun with it, but you’ll likely want to make a slightly thinner frosting. Be careful about adding too much liquid at once. Always add it little by little until you get the consistency you want. It doesn’t take much to go from frosting to glaze.

 

Happy Birthday to Me!

 

So yes, tomorrow is my 33rd birthday. I’ll have my typical birthday post up then. And if you follow me on instagram you can watch for updates as I go on my birthday adventure.

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What I Learned From Nanowrimo 2017

Victory manhattans with the husband at Burgerstand.

Scroll down for an (unedited) excerpt from Sparkle & Shine, this year’s Nanowrimo!

Going into nanowrimo this year, I had three goals.

  1. To win
  2. To write everyday in November
  3. To have a complete first draft by the end of the month.

Not to pat my own back or anything, but I totally rocked each of these goals. *pops champagne cork* I might have only written something like 300 words on Thanksgiving, but I still wrote every damn day.

On the whole, I averaged about 2000 words a day, which is double what I’ve been doing–and is not exactly sustainable long term. I’m glad I know I can do it, but writing was done to the exclusion of almost everything else. Finishing a manuscript, even if it’s just a first draft, in 30 days takes a single-minded focus that often left me scrambling to make sure everyone had clean clothes, and my husband taking on more than his fair share of the household chores.

I am not new to this whole writing thing–this was my 5th novel. (Nevermind that 2 and 4 are incomplete first drafts. 2, my second nanowrimo win will likely stay as is in all it’s incomplete 50,000 word glory. 4, last year’s unfinished nanowrimo will be getting the full treatment after the holidays. I have been dying to finish it for a year. It’s a romance that centers around a haunted house, because it’s fiction and I can.) This was also my 3rd nanowrimo win, and while meeting each of my challenges wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be, it wasn’t easy either.

Writing everyday isn’t comfortable.

Composing a new story from scratch takes effort.

But when it came to deciding whether to write everyday or stare at my phone or knit or make that holiday soap I keep putting off making, the choice was easy. Of course I was going to write. Writing is way more fun than all that other stuff, even on the days that it’s painful–and that was a huge revelation to me.

So, onto What I Learned, Already:

  1. Writing fiction is more fun than anything else.
  2.  Perfume Genius is amazing. (Thanks, C!) No Shape was the soundtrack to most of Sparkle & Shine, which I feel is more than appropriate.
  3. I probably can’t write with this much intensity all the time, which draws out my overly ambitious revision and writing schedule just a tad, but maybe that’s OK.
  4. While I’m still querying agents, I’m more open to the idea of self-publishing. I like the idea of doing a bit of both, which I can admit, I used to be enough of snob to never ever want to think about self-publishing.
  5. I have zero desire to do freelance work. I dabble in it every now again to earn a few extra dollars, but honestly, I’d rather put the effort into my own work and figure out how that’s going to pay me rather than getting distracted by writing and editing things for others.
  6. 30 days is about all I can give in full-steam-ahead mode before I’m due for a refueling break. November has been a rewarding month, but also an exhausting one. I am rewarding myself with a manhattan, a whole stack of new romance novels, a nap, and maybe a cookie.

 

Now, onto the excerpt. This is what a shitty first draft looks like.

 

Sparkle & Shine

Chapter One

Alex Stafford was at the end of her rope. She’d just spent twelve hours in the studio at the University of Kansas perfecting her bezel settings, and her nerves were fried. She needed pizza and tequila, and idealistically, a good lay. But since Ben, her ersatz boyfriend had been MIA for the last two weeks as he also finished his own final projects, Alex would have to settle for pizza and tequila and the vibrator in her nightstand.

She flipped through the mail while she waited for the pizza to arrive. Alex hadn’t checked it all week long, so there was a stack a mile high. She found a coupon for the pizza she’d ordered halfway through, and wondered if she could convince the delivery guy to accept it when she happened upon the only important piece of mail in the whole lot.

Juliet’s wedding invitation.

Alex was the maid of honor, so of course she was invited. She’d helped plan half the fucking wedding. She’d been the one who picked out the invitations because Juliet claimed she couldn’t look at one more scrap of lacy burlap, but here it was, physical proof that her former best friend was actually getting married.

“Former’ was completely accurate of course. Alex and Juliet were still good friends–they just weren’t friends like they had been before Alex had screwed up royally and slept with Juliet’s ex boyfriend, repeatedly, for two and half months.

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The Fortunate Ones by R.S. Grey

While today is Nanowrimo kick off, it is also the day that one of my favorite authors launches her new book. I am so proud to be able to share the details with you! Pick up your copy today. Reading a chapter of this book is my daily reward for reaching my word count.

What are you doing for yourself this November?

 

R.S. Grey’s next romantic comedy, THE FORTUNATE ONES, is available now! Read a sneak peek below and be sure to pick up your copy today!

 

 About THE FORTUNATE ONES

At Twin Oaks Country Club, there are the fortunate ones, and then there are the rest of us: the waiters, the caddies, the valets, and in my case, the cabana girls. Most days, I’m poolside in a pleated skirt, dishing out margaritas to tycoons and titans. It’s not exactly my dream job, but it does come with one perk…

James Ashwood.

He’s my silver lining in a custom black suit.

Besides being a legacy member at the club, he’s a tech mogul and Austin’s most eligible bachelor. Oh, and those dimples? Yeah, they make my stomach dip too.

On good days, I catch his sleek Porsche winding down the tree-lined drive. On better days, I steal a glimpse of his handsome profile as we pass in the hall. And on the absolute best day, I find him alone at the bar, looking for company.

“Come have a seat.”

Those four little words set me down a path I never could have imagined. Private planes, penthouse suites, and temptations around every corner make it impossible to keep my distance. His world feels decadent and wild—but overindulgence comes with a cost. Every kiss comes with strings. Every erotic encounter is a promise I’m not ready to keep.

When I pump the brakes, he hits the gas. James doesn’t want to go slow—he wants a commitment.

And the thing about the fortunate ones?

They’re used to getting what they want.

Add THE FORTUNATE ONES to your Goodreads list here!

Get your hands on THE FORTUNATE ONES now!

 

Get a Sneak Peek of THE FORTUNATE ONES:

“I missed you today,” he says, his heated gaze lingering on my body.

I step back, and he follows.

He looks like he’s cornering his prey.

“Apparently not enough to make it to dinner,” I point out icily.

“I called the restaurant and told them I’d be late. Didn’t they tell you?”

I cross my arms and glance away.

“Brooke.” He steps closer and gently lifts my chin, forcing me to look back at him. “Fight with me tomorrow.”

I narrow my eyes, angry with him for shelving this discussion so casually. To him, it doesn’t matter that I sat in that restaurant alone, looking like a fool for nearly two hours. He’s brushing off my anger, stepping closer and forcing his way past my defenses.

“I think I’d like to talk about it now.”

I catch the beginning of a smirk just before he leans in to kiss my cheek.

“Are you sure there isn’t anything you’d rather be doing right now?”

He uncrosses my arms and brings them up over his shoulders then steps closer, towering over me. My arms tighten around his neck, but still, I turn away, keeping my mouth from him. His breath hits my neck and he pulls me taut against his hard body, growing more impatient with every moment I try to resist.

“Brooke,” he whispers huskily.

My eyes flutter closed as he bends and presses a kiss to my cheek, my chin, then lower, tipping my head back so he can reach the smooth recess at the nape of my neck. I shiver and he groans, obviously aware of what his touch is doing to me.

 

 

About R.S. Grey

R.S. Grey is the USA Today bestselling author of thirteen novels, including THE FOXE & THE HOUND. She lives in Texas with her husband and two dogs, and can be found reading, binge-watching reality TV, or practicing yoga! Visit her at rsgrey.com

Website | Twitter | Facebook | R.S. Grey’s Little Reds Facebook GroupNewsletter | Instagram 

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How To Transform Any Mitten Pattern into Flip-tops

I do a lot in a day. I have a word count to hit, videos to make, knitting to get done, food to cook, cleaning to do, a job that actually pays, and oh yeah, kids to take care of. Most days, I don’t get all of this done. And let’s be honest, I throw over cleaning in favor of word count most of the time. Even then, words come in starts and fits in stolen moments between all of the other tasks.

Still, it’s a lot, and I get a lot of, “How do you get everything done?” questions. I usually joke that I just don’t sleep.

Last night, that was no joke.

2am Rufus/Mommy selfie because woke baby is woke

This is a photo I snapped around 2 am when I gave up trying to get Rufus back to sleep (he woke up as we were trying to go to bed) and we came downstairs. We didn’t get back to bed until 4. While I don’t sleep much, I usually get more than 2 or so hours.

You know what I have accomplished today? I got the kids to and from school. I got meals made. I showered. It’s 9pm and I am just now writing a blog post I usually have up and promoted by 11am (and written no later than the day before it goes live, but we’re not talking about yesterday.) The word count hasn’t been touched. Next week’s videos were not filmed, etc.

But I try to count the important things. The kids were taken care of. I get to spend the evening with my husband instead of working. There’s a big batch of soup and some leftover spaghetti in the fridge to make meals easier tomorrow. And Nanowrimo starts in a week. Thanksgiving will come just a few weeks after that, and all of my siblings are coming home. There are so many good things coming.

And then there are flip top mittens.

This is my longest video yet, but I feel like it’s comprehensive.

The pattern I am using in this video is my free simple chunky mittens, but as the title said, you can translate this technique to pretty much any mitten pattern.

If you make a pair of these mittens, I’d love to see them. Tag your post with #simplechunkymittens or take a #mittenselfie. I’ve got a few on instagram myself.

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It’s Almost Nanowrimo Time Again!

I I know it’s been all mittens all the time around here lately, but I have been writing more than ever. And as always, it’s the middle of October, so I am gearing up for Nanowrimo. Though I’ve probably spent more time this past year writing daily than any other, I am still super excited for Nanowrimo. In my daily writing, I usually average 1000 words. Which means the 1667 goal for Nanowrimo is still a push for me.

I’m hoping I set myself up well this year. I’ll be working on a companion to the book I was working on most of this past year, so I know the characters well, and I have a basic plot outline in my head. I even brainstormed and wrote a loose summary. This is so not my typical writing by the seat of my pants behavior.

I even made a cover for this year’s project, because I recently found Adobe Spark’s book cover maker.

This is my first go. I’ve made a few others since then. I am especially enjoying the one I made for The Other Lane. (This is just for fun, mind you. I am not publishing these books myself.) It’s very calm and serene and spare–which is nothing like Lane herself, but something she is searching for.

I even updated some information about The Other Lane on my Nanowrimo page. It’s the first nanowrimo I ever won, and I will always love this book. I even put together an official playlist on spotify because I felt the need to share my sad bastard writing music.

Gonna do Nanowrimo? Be my writing buddy this year won’t you?

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How to Knit a Thumb onto a Mitten

Here is the final mitten video! When you finish this you should have a complete mitten. Don’t forget to knit two to make a pair. The great thing about plain stockinette mittens is that you can knit them exactly the same and they are interchangeable.

I’m working on a pattern with cables that I hope to share in a couple weeks that will have a rigjt and a left mitten. But first, if you want to learn how to make any mitten pattern into flip-tops, that’s what we’ll be learning how to do in my next video.

So, when I filmed this video last week, I was so proud of myself for getting it done. You might not be able to tell, but while I was editing the footage, all I could think about was how sick I looked. Even my hair looks sick compared to other videos.

I was suffering from what those of us who are unlucky enough to not be able eat wheat, barley, or rye like to call “getting glutened.” It was an awful couple of days, somewhere between your worst hangover and the most miserable days of morning sickness with a little bit of sea sickness and other digestive distress thrown in. And I was fighting a headache and twingy muscles for the rest of the week. I wanted to crawl back in bed and shut out the rest of the world, but I made a commitment to doing these videos, and being there for my kids, and meeting my wordcount. So I kept going.

And I’m glad I did, because working through sickness is tough, and it’s a good reminder to take care of myself so I don’t have to. Take care of yourselves, ya’ll, whatever that means for you. And don’t forget to knit that second mitten.

As always, here is the link to the written pattern, and if you would like to start the videos over from scratch, you can start the series here.

And let me see those #mittenselfie (s)!

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How To Decrease the Hand of a Mitten


Happy Monday! I am excited for another week of querying literary agents, knitting mittens and writing, writing, writing. What are you excited about working on this week? I mean, I know you’re knitting mittens, and I’d love to see how those are going, but what else?

Here is this week’s installment of the Simple Chunky Mittens knitting tutorial. Today we learn how to k2tog and create an even, round top to our mittens. We even check for fit and weave in an end.

We’re so close to having a finished mitten! Next week we’ll knit the thumb and that’s it!

If you like, here is the written pattern we are using.
And if you need to catch up with the videos, they begin, here.

Don’t forget to share your progress photos with #mittenselfie and #simplechunkymittens. I’ll be searching for your photos on instagram.

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How to Customize the Hand of a Mitten

This is an exciting step in knitting your mittens, in that it finally starts to look like a mitten. You can even try it on and see how it looks. I do that later on in the video, and man, do I look good in pink.

Oh, and if you want to reference the written pattern, as always, you can find it here.

How are your mittens coming? I’d love to see a selfie of you and your mitten. Use #simplechunkymittens, and go see mine on instagram.

Oh, and I totally submitted my novel query to that agent. Fingers crossed as I submit to a few more and wait to hear back!

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How To Knit a Thumb Gusset

I had a little scare over the weekend. I dusted off my first novel to start querying agents again. I had my query letter ready, my synopsis done. I had a sample of the first few chapters all neat and shiny and decided to check in on the full manuscript to look for errant typos and formatting issues.

When I open the document, I scan the whole thing, so far so good. Not too much work to be done. Then I see it. The word count in the corner.

106,000 words.

Holy shit. No.

When I last closed this document, it read 90,000 words. And that still is a little too long for the genre I write in, but 106,000 words? Oh hell no.

I panicked, scanned to doc again in case I accidentally duplicated a chapter. Nope.

So I took a breath and went in with my mental machete sharpened and prepared to hack 16,000 words out of my book.

A few chapters in, I’d gotten it down by about 2000 and was despairing when my husband suggested I email him the story. He popped it into his copy of Word, and looked at me like I was crazy.

His word doc said 90,000 words.

I copy and pasted my whole book back into google docs, where I do all my writing, and got roughly the same word count he did. We tried a few shorter documents with similar results

Turns out, the free word processor I downloaded when I got my new computer last spring can’t count words for shit.

But what a relief. I will rely on my google docs word count from now on. It’s seen me to winning two Nanowrimos, so I think I’m good.

Word count is a finnicky thing, which is why I love the thumb gusset we’re working on today. It is neat, simple, and beautifully symmetrical.

Want to get started on this project, visit the written pattern to find a materials list and links to earlier videos.

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