Wednesday, November 23, 2016

In the Kitchen Baking Pies With My Baby




The alternate working title for today's post was, "This is pie-related but you know I didn't have any of the actual ingredients but it still came out gloriously" 

I like baking. I do. But, it seems usually to be so much more of a precise type of cooking, with science-y type chemistry involved and not the kind of slapdash, off-the-cuff, inspiration of the moment type of cooking I normally gravitate towards. 

But, it's Thanksgiving week, which means that it is almost Christmas time, which further means that my long-suffering soul is coming back to life to the smells of cinnamon and balsam and the crooning loveliness of Nat King Cole and Bing Crosby and the incomparable Karen Carpenter. 

This time of year I begin feeling festive and homebody-ish and I feel a little bit like I still want to be a child and a little guilty that I haven't gotten around to being unselfish enough to have one of my own...and dang it I need to make a pie. 

I'm going to make Pumpkin Pie, as it is Thanksgiving, though neither myself or the Mr. are looking much forward to it. But Apple Pie? I can get behind that every day of the week and twice on Sundays. 

But, as the alternate title might suggest, I didn't actually have any apple pie ingredients besides butter and apples. No sugar, no cornstarch. So, I did what I do best and improvised. If you want a proper apple pie recipe, you're in the wrong place. (and the pie crust? I can't be bothered with flour or shortening or whatever it is people use to make them. I bought an organic overpriced one at Whole Foods and it's awaiting contents in my freezer as we speak.)

Without further bother or ado;

Apple Pie Filling
Ingredients:
4 medium apples. (I used 2 large and slightly dodgy honey crisp apples and two pink ladies)
3 tbsp water (I just splashed an indeterminate amount of water in)
2 tbsp butter (I used more like 5. Because...butter.)
1 tbsp (or more) cinnamon
1/3 cup honey (substituted for sugar as I hadn't any)
1 tbsp ground flaxseed. (or you could use 1tsp cornstarch prepared in water and added at the end) I use flaxseed for thickening most things. It adds fiber, it's good for you, and it works the same as cornstarch. 

Method:
1. Peel, core and slice apples. (I sliced thinly and haphazardly)
2. Melt butter and cinnamon over medium heat and then stir in apples, honey and water.
3. Cover, and cook. Stir occasionally for about 5 minutes, or until the apples are slightly softened.
4. Add ground flaxseed or cornstarch mixture and continue to cook until apples are soft but not mushy. Allow apples to bubble for a minute or so. Cool, and then pour into pie crust or freeze. Will freeze for up to one year. (but why, why, why would that ever happen?)

Anyway, Happy Thanksgiving. I'm grateful for this blog and anyone who reads it, and for all of the magazines that publish my work. But I am mostly thankful for my handsome husband and that my newest book, The Word Collector, has garnered such favorable praise. 

Lord love a writer. 

xx

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

A World Away





Recently, I took a trip with my husband out to west Texas. My husband is from San Angelo, which is a “big city” in that part of the state, but we found ourselves farther west than even that. Seven hours west of Houston, three hours west of Austin, is the tiny town of Rowena, Texas. A town with two halls--two gathering places for any kind of celebration or meeting the little town might have, which was confusing to me. Surely, there was no reason for two halls? Not in a town this size? 

The town itself was only dotted with a few houses, a couple stores here and there, and with a good arm you could probably throw a baseball down the entire main street of the place. But, it was a gathering point for all of the ranchers, farmers and others living  in that area. A place to come together for a wedding, a birthday party, a graduation, a dance. A place to hold town council meetings. Rowena is small and seemingly remote, but a gathering spot nonetheless. 

For me, a Flint, Michigan native and proud daughter of blue collar manufacturing, this might as well have been a different planet. I’ve traveled to countries all over the world, rural communities, big cities, suburbs and Medieval walled villages, but I can truly say I have never felt more alien than in that quiet part of western Texas. 

This is where my husband comes from. And when I looked at it through a lens of my own experience, it seemed as though it couldn’t be more different than my own. Not worse, or better, just so completely out of the scope of my own experience that I felt disconnected from it.  In short, no matter the negativity that surrounds Flint at the present moment, I  know I would never trade in the whir of my grandfather's machine shop for the sunshine and endless fields of my husband’s childhood. 
.
After a night spent with his family at one of the halls, we drove home. The night sky in the country is unbelievably dark, and the stars are brilliantly bright. The darkness is quiet and the wind is cool, and it’s easy to pretend out there, away from street lamps and city lights, that you’re the only people on earth. There’s a romance to that, certainly, but also a loneliness. 


As much as I’ve traveled, and as far as I’ve roamed, it took that starry-skied night in west Texas to break my heart with missing my Michigan home. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Around Old Town Edinburgh








Ain't Edinburgh charming? It was definitely difficult to come home and look at the ugliness of Houston after being surrounded by such splendor. The best thing about Edinburgh is walking around, eyes glued on the buildings. Each one seems to tell a different story. And each edifice most assuredly has a story. Several. Several hundred or thousand most probably. It seems impossible to consider the history these windows have winked out on and the souls that have passed in and out of the doors. How many sunrises and sunsets, tourists and locals have came and went? That's the beautiful thing about history, isn't it? How connecting it is. 

On either end of the Royal Mile sits two castles. Edinburgh Castle and Holyrood House. Both are majestic, vast and awe-inspiring. Both are worth touring and have their own stories of mischief, murder, and intrigue. Just a few streets behind High Street is the bulk of the University of Edinburgh and its own histories and museums, students grabbing coffee and heading to the library. Just before you get to High Street you are at Waverley Station, trains arriving from all over the UK every few minutes. And near there, Princes St. gardens with sweeping lawns and green and gold and orange everywhere. The National gallery is nearby as well, and is free, the most spectacular art dotting the walls with no expense to the viewer except your eyes and attention and endurance of seeing so many works all at once. 

That's Edinburgh. 
Well, kind of. We have't even scratched the surface. 

xx




Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Edinburgh, Cityscape






Well, as you can see, it's a beautiful place. Old town Edinburgh is all that you hope it would be, and then some. Absolutely dripping with stateliness, history, beauty. The air is cool, but not over-cold in October, and the leaves are just beginning to change color. On both ends of the Royal Mile are castles, and in between is the finest array of tourist nonsense that you could ever find. Tartan everything, Walker's Shortbread, whiskey, antiques, more whiskey, tourist walks and sights and tours. There are kilts for hire and kilts for purchase and oddly, several Christmas themed stores. There are taverns and pubs and restaurants, most sadly owned by the same company. There are churches and plaques announcing a historical event of some sort in this spot or that one. A man was hanged here, or executed there, or a whole swarm of people were annihilated over yonder. 

But, we loved it. And so, I'll share some favorite stops. 

The Fudge House- This one comes with a caveat. I can only recommend the Highland Cream fudge. It tastes like butter and sugar, as it should. The rest of the fudge we sampled was rubbish. But the highland cream was to kill for. 

Ensign Ewart- Cosy little pub tucked away near Edinburgh Castle. It appears to be privately owned. The sandwiches were quite good and the soup was top notch. 

Hula- In the Grassmarket area. This little green juice/healthy eating/turmeric chai supplying place was a favorite. We ate here four times. FOUR TIMES. The vegan chili was incredible and the soups were lovely. Mr. Nolandia was a huge fan of the avocado toast (but isn't he always wherever we go?) and their date and maple raw pie was superb.

Henderson's- This vegan eatery was a must after a few days of not enough vegetables. We eat a lot of veg at home, and so after a few days of traveling, we need to load up. My husband loved the vegan haggis and mash (it really was wonderful) and I had the glow bowl which had tahini and all sorts of lovely things in it, and it made me feel healthy. I wish we'd gone again

Ship on the Shore- We had the Fruits de Mer which was basically a huge platter of seafood. And we had a bottle of white wine and a glass of Pedro Ximenez. Enough said, I think. 

Woollen Mill-Among the hordes of cashmere and lambswool scarf hawkers on the Royal Mile, we though this shop was the nicest. 

A rough guide, but it should get you started. Check back next week for the last edition of the Scotland series here on the dotcom. 
Also... I'm working on a new book. I think you're going to like it. (my mom says it's brilliant)

xx

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Highlanders






What comes to mind when one hears the words, "Scottish Highlands"? Probably a romanticized version of brave men in tartans and green hills and craggy rocks, perhaps bagpipes play in one's mind.  It's a pretty picture. But though the Highlands are romantic and green and craggy... they are also cold, wet and terribly out of the way. 

We had been spending the past few days in Edinburgh. Touring castles, churches, and walking the streets. We'd bought our tartan scarves and explored the museums and galleries, and somehow Terrence got the Highlands on the brain. 

Without much discussion on the topic, he reserved a car, decided on a route and the next morning, off we were. The first challenge was getting out of Edinburgh, with its labyrinthine passages of one-way streets. But once we were out, almost immediately the landscape was green and the cows and sheep dotted the grasslands on either side of the car. We sang  along to the radio and drove, and drove, and drove. 

And drove. Our destination was Glen Coe, and a range of peaks called the Three Sisters. My companion had identified a path between two of them that was an easy walking path that we were to take to explore something charmingly called "the Lost Valley". After a little more driving, stunning scenery, and a few head-scratching moments about if we were there yet or not, we pulled the car over and stepped out. 

I should have known that there was a problem when there was no sign at all that said "path to Lost Valley" or anything of the kind. In fact, there was no information at all. Just a few different places in the brushy foliage that looked as though a human may have trespassed there before. Mr. Nolandia though, was jubilant. Wasn't this wonderful? Wasn't it gorgeous and amazing and awe-inspiring? 

Well, it was. But... where was the path? 

It turned out that he was certain he could find it, if we just wandered away from our vehicle for a while. Farther and farther away, until it was no longer in our field of vision at all. On and on we wandered, up craggy steps and jagged rocks, through boggy grass and up, up, up. The rain came in fits and starts and the wind blew one way, and then jerked your body the other. “Isn’t this beautiful?” he called down to me. “What a gorgeous view!” he exclaimed merrily as he scrambled up ahead of me. 

Now, my shoes were leather lace-ups with no traction. My coat was not rain proof and my hair was tangled up in front of my face in a hopeless mess. I was fighting tears and though, yes, it was beautiful, I was cold. I was wet. My shoes were slipping, I couldn't see the car, and I’d almost fallen off the cliff several times. The ‘Lost Valley’ was certainly up this peak we were climbing, and every step away from the car was a step I would have to take on the way back, and the path wasn’t getting any less treacherous. 

And then I slipped. My body slid down a ravine, small stones tumbling down around me. I called out, voice full of desperation and fury and Mr. Nolandia's strong arms and sure feet hauled me back up. The climbing-hike was officially over.  I swore and cursed through clenched teeth all the way back to the car, and most of the way back to Edinburgh.

The Highlands are a gorgeous, romantic windswept place when you see them in your mind’s eye. Beautiful to drive by, or to stop and marvel at. But if you’re looking for the ‘Lost Valley’, know that perhaps it’s gone missing for a reason. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Word Collecting



Yo. I've been working hard on a short novel before I finish up the Starlight Symphonies Series with the 3rd and final book. 

And this short novel, I think it's pretty rad. It has been a lot of fun and very low stress to write as I'm coming off the monster of human emotion that was The Word Collector.  I am thinking it will be ready for publication by Christmas. But in the meantime, if you have some holiday shopping to do for the bibliophile in your life, look no further than this ever-expanding pantheon of Alexandria V. Nolan books.  Support your indie makers, writers and artists, folks--we need it. 

Also, Scotland posts are at the top of my to-conquer list, so buckle up for a romp through Edinburgh, Stirling and the rest of our adventures--next week on the blog. 

Anyway, all books available here: THESE BOOKS WERE MADE FOR READING

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Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Boston





Boston, in two days. 

Did I see everything? No. Did I even really know what there was to see? Nope. 

But, I did my darnedest. First, Mr. Nolandia wasn't there, and since he is a human GPS, finding our way around (My mother, Courtney + I) was a bit of an experience. I was literally lost without my husband. (See what I did there?)

But, other than that, we ate some seafood, we went to the sky observatory thing in the Prudential Tower, we had clam chowder, we walked the Freedom Trail, someone said the words "wicked smaht" to me and all in all, my experience was complete. (AND we got to meet the ladies of Brass Clothing, so that was wicked awesome.)

So, my favorite spots:
Eat:

Hang:

And guys, use uber in Boston. The uber drivers I met when there were the most interesting, funny, kind and wonderful bunch I've ever had. 

That's all folks. I was only there two days for goodness sakes. 

Heading to Scotland for a bit, an update coming your way when I get back. AND.... have you read the new book yet? THE WORD COLLECTOR on AMAZON 


xx



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Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Brass Babes






Let me tell you a quick story about Brass. 

First of all, this isn't an advertisement. More like, an ode. 

I discovered Brass over a year ago, I'm not certain precisely when, through a Facebook ad. I clicked over to the website, and ordered a dress that very day. And then over the next few weeks, I ordered another. And then another. And then a month or two later I ordered more. And with each purchase, because I am obnoxious, and most definitely that girl, I started to send quirky emails to the women in the company. Asking questions. Sharing photos. Telling them stories about how I was going to wear the items.  And I began to really like them. 

Now, truth be told, fashion isn't really my thing. As I write this, I am wearing a men's tailored oxford shirt, un-ironed, with the sleeves rolled up and some jeggings that are 2% spandex away from being yoga pants. And with how often we travel, we both have become extremely careful about clothing that packs well, travels well, and can be repurposed throughout an adventure. And Brass is perfect for that. And it also lends me a little polish. 

But not only did they make clothes that I found stylish and useful for my lifestyle, the more I learned about the women who started it all, the more I realized that the clothes weren't merely fabric and stitching, but representative of a lifestyle and a group of like-minded women I wanted to know better. 

So, Brass Babes began. A small group of us on Facebook talking style, ethical fashion, trends, simplifying our closets, our pantries, our lives. And then it expanded further, growing into a community of rad ladies. I had an opportunity to meet a member of the group when she was traveling in my city for work, and then we met again, and then we planned a trip to Boston together to meet Katie and Jay, the Brass ladies themselves. Boom-3 new friends.

And now, they are looking for more Brass babes to join the conversation. You don't have to buy their clothes. You don't have to buy anything. We just want your ideas. Your experiences. Your thoughts about pockets and necklines and tailoring and the best way to start conversations about  things that matter and how to find people all over the world who you might connect with--all because of a few dresses. 

Check out Katie's post on the Brass Blog if you're interested in becoming a Brass Babe, or to see a little more of what it is about. The Lowdown on the Chief Babes

Or, if you want to be as posh as I have become (sort of, still not ironing anything), check the clothes here: Snag some Brass



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Wednesday, September 21, 2016

I'll be wearing black.


Hey lovers-- mama's busy this week.

Last week I traveled on up to Boston to hang with my mama, my pal Courtney (who is also a chief babe) and the ladies over at Brass for a Babefest! Courtney and I are two of the Brass Clothing Chief Babes, who mentor other Brass fans and aficionados. I've written about Brass before, but, in a nutshell, they're a badass female owned company of superladies who create curated wardrobes of fabulous clothing.

The trip to Boston was to finally meet these CEOs in person and to have some cocktails, lunch, snap some pictures, attend some events like a total BAMF and wear some lovely dresses. 

So, here's a referral link, I think it gives you some kind of discount or free shipping, or tells people we're buddies, or something. Snag some Brass here.

Anyway, I'll get my life together and put out my travel post of these adventures next week. 

In the meantime, keep it Brassy...sassy lassies.
 Too much? 
No, not enough. 

xx

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

New Orleans, Again








This past Labor Day we took a trip on over to New Orleans, and though it was much looked forward to, it was a disappointment. 

The hotel situation was fraught with billing issues, the drive from Texas to NOLA was a nightmare, the tours were lackluster, we packed the wrong clothing and we were worried about our animals at home. 

Not every trip is destined to be the greatest ever taken. 

But, I think the most important thing about traveling is what each trip teaches us about ourselves and each other. And, in this regard, the trip was a success. Because even against the setbacks and the bad times and the money spent and gone, we always adore each other. Even after I've screamed "I hate you!" 30 times while driving through pouring rain in a traffic jam, or he's taken his 14th work call in 2 hours, we're still glad to be together. There's something important about that, I think. 

On the bright side, we bought some beautiful original art, had some incredible gumbo and a damn fine Pimm's Cup in America's oldest stand-up bar. 
Art: Gustavo Trujillo Art
Gumbo: GW Fins--(y'all, check their Lobster dumplings too. So good!)
Pimm's Cup: Tujague's Bar
Bonus--Cool 19th century house: 1850 House

xx

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Mackinac Island





The jewel of the north, indeed. Isn't it simple to see why I would choose to base a few of my books there? Mackinac is unbelievably beautiful, with sparkling crystal blue water, and balsam and fir, pine and limestone. 

I've said before that I'm not as big of a fan of the sea, I much prefer the fresh water of the lake, and the water in the straits doesn't get any clearer or fresher. I realized on this latest trip up north that I have spent a majority of my life's worth of birthdays on the island. It was only fitting then to be on Mackinac for the big 3-0. Maybe because I was also there for so many other birthdays, I also felt like I was 3, and 13 and 22, and all the ages in between. Memories of riding behind my dad in my baby bike seat and my hair blowing in the wind on the ferry. Or the time when I was 20 when my mother rolled her eyes as I used a really terrible fake ID to get a daiquiri, only for me to leave the ID at the restaurant, and I not drink most of the too-sugary drink. 

Biking around Mackinac is a tourist highlight, but I prefer to bike through. The bike trails within the island are smoothly paved and take you through tunnels of trees with sparkles of sunshine falling through like snowflakes. The scent of balsam is so strong and the sounds of the modern world so far away that it is easy to forget what time you are in, or that time exists at all. 

No cars, cellular reception that is spotty at best, fudge and horses and buggies and carriage rides through the dark woods on a cool night. A quick bottle of champagne at the top of the cupola of the Grand Hotel and the sounds of the waves and the lights from the bridge as I swing on the playground of the tiny island school. 

Mackinac, a gem and a jewel, and a sparkling beacon of memories past and present. No wonder I love writing about such a magical place. 

Links to my current books set in Mackinac, and don't fret, the last book in the trilogy will be out in 2017. 
Sunlight Serenades of Wind & Iron, Book 3, coming late 2017

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Amalfitana






What can I say that I haven't already? Amalfi is...glorious. If it wasn't, we wouldn't go back every other summer. It's like the whole coast has a magnet that attracts its opposite, which is located somewhere under our ribcages.

Although it has gotten more and more touristy over the years, it still feels like home. Or, at least familiar, like a favorite aunt or family friend. Anyway, it's a dazzling place for my eyes after living in Houston. Although, it does make one realize how little actual beauty you take in on a daily basis. It's strangely sad, to become aware of all the color and brightness and the voice of the sea that you are missing out on the daily. 

Geography is super unfair that way.

Anyway, here's a refresher:

Ravello:

Amalfi:

Atrani:

Beaches:
Santa Croce
Lido Degli Artisti

xx





Wednesday, August 24, 2016

How about those Naples?




Naples is a strange creature of a city. I've written before about the city, but it really can't be captured. There's a vitality, a rawness...a feeling of....? I'm not certain. There's something special in the loud voices, the dirt, the grit and grime and pizza. The saint-like depictions of Diego Maradona and a woman handing out coupons for gelato from the steps of the Basilica. It's as if a rag-tag juxtaposition of elements come together that shouldnt, but somehow, they fit anyway. Like a bunch of pieces from different puzzles are forced together into some kind of glorious modern art. 

There's something endearing about the strange man that used my husband to metro-hop and the couple at the table next to us who each ate two pizzas, and the little boys playing soccer in the middle of traffic as if the street wasn't full of cars honking and people screaming. It's a wonderful madness and it is easy to understand how the people that live here think a little less of you if you don't have the privilege of a Naples address yourself. 

Some favorites:
Pizzeria Sorbillo - the best pizza on earth. Confirmed. Signed, sealed. 

That's all for today. Pizza and chaos for you, you're welcome.

xx

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Capri for Free






It’s good to have friends. Well-connected ones? Even better.

So, we’re in Amalfi, and we’ve arranged with one of my dearest local friends to spend the day on the Isle of Capri. Our ferry tickets are purchased, we’re patiently waiting above said ferry, and there is no Maria. The boat will leave at any moment and we’ve had not a phone call, nor a text, nor seen hide nor hair of her. 

Until she emerges on-board. She is talking to the captain in her sing-song Italian and gesturing about, smiling and laughing. We are getting off the boat she says. We are getting on another boat she says. It is a private speedboat and we are going for free she says. Her uncle’s cousin’s son has a charter company that usually charges $100 a pop for a ride to Capri, but for us, for family, it is free. And if we are Maria’s friends, then we are family. 

We walk over to the other dock, where the sleek, white luxurious speedboat is bobbing in the water. The paying customers are clustered in the back, eyeing us newcomers with goodwill, and some confusion. We hustle up to the front, towels are laid out and we are meant to lay and sun ourselves while everyone else sits in the back. If I have never felt important before, I certainly do now. 

The boat slips away from Amalfi, and quickly gains speed. The blue is so blue it is almost painful, the sky above so clear it’s almost unreal. We laugh and talk,  friends from across the ocean, as the boat skims over waves and past the gorgeous terraced coastline. We stop for a swim, the salty ocean water already permeating my skin and hair through the wind that has been blowing through my hair, and we jump in, like children, splashing and flipping about in the sapphire blue. 

We’re back on board, having had a chance to converse a little in the water with the rest of the party. A married couple from Turkey, two ladies from New York, a lone Australian. All smiles, united,in a blanket of blue water and sunshine. We cruise up to the Isle of Capri, passing the grottos and circling the island, allowing all of us to take in the sights. There are a lot of oohs and ahhs, but not from me, as I do not personally like the island very much. Too touristy, too expensive, too many stairs to climb for my already almost-broken-by-the-Roman-steps legs.I would prefer to stay aboard the speedboat, flying around on the waves, bronzing in the sun.

But, we alight on the island and climb, climb, climb, to the top, sweat pouring and tempers flaring. It is hot, unbearably so. We seek out fresh lemonade made from local lemons, and a cool place to have a light lunch, if any lunch including a bowl of pasta can be considered light. The view from the top of Capri is lovely, though, and well worth the trouble to get to the top. Pictures taken, hunger and thirst satisfied, we make our way back to the speedboat.


They let my husband, who, again, did not pay, drive the boat on the way back, much to the continued confusion of the other passengers aboard. And as we came closer and closer to the the twinkling white city of Amalfi, the glittering waves tumbling under our speedy boat, my husband at the wheel, I had to agree—It’s good to have such friends as we have.

xx