cooking

My Experience with Cooking Seafood

Image from Pixabay

I love seafood, both fish and shellfish. Now these days, though, I prefer shellfish more, not just because of the taste and textures, but also that they’re quicker to make.

Sometimes, you can have lobsters steamed in the grocery store. However, that varies. Sometimes, you can buy just the tail. Other times, you have to pick something else.

That’s the thing with seafood. Its availability is not always consistent, especially if it’s fresh. I suggest buying the wild-caught kinds as farm-raised seafood can have some issues about them. I’ll stop there with that.

Anyway, there are a lot of ways you can cook seafood. The sky is pretty much the limit. With certain shellfish, though, it’s best to steam them. Those include lobster and shrimp. You can boil them, but then they lose their flavor. Maybe that also removes their nutritional value.

I learned to steam them after boiling them for a while. Guess what? They tasted better—way better. I like to have butter with my lobster and garlic seasoning on my shrimp.

Regardless of all this, some people can’t eat seafood, whether they’re allergic or for other reasons. But it’s rare that I’m in situations like that.

I will admit that driving has spoiled me a bit and made me too lazy too cook at times. Instead, I’m getting takeout. However, I want to change that—at least slightly.

My family has been kind of strict with protein at every meal, certainly when I was a kid. Now they’re more laid back. Yet, because of that guideline from the past, I’ve kind of developed that rule as a routine. If I don’t want meat or poultry, I get seafood.

art

Mayhem with Multi-Page Website-Making

As a writer, I am passionate about my books’ world, characters, magic laws (they’re fantasy), and more. I don’t know if I got inspired to expand more because J.K. Rowling does it with her “Harry Potter” franchise. But a while back, I did plan on having a print guide about my books’ universe. However, I was told that things like that are usually reserved for big, popular franchises. So, I decided to come up with a website.

I have a main author site, too. And now I have a website dedicated to my books’ world and content called magicalmissionsworld.com. While I admire the homepage, I am not fond of the articles about my characters. It’s not easy to make several pages with Wix. Therefore, the only solution I could find was making my word docs PDFs. I am not happy about that now.

I want to change the web builder and make a more professional multi-page website using Adobe Dreamweaver, as there wasn’t a lot that I could find online. I looked at other multi-page sites and theirs look way better and easier to use than mine.

So, now I plan to experiment with Dreamweaver and rebuild my franchise’s site using that. I believe you can still add text, images, and more. You can also code, which I’m just okay at.

Anyway, as soon as I figure out Dreamweaver, I am going to take down my current book series’ site and launch a new one.  

art

Picture Cards for (Hopefully) Perfect Test Results

Ugh…studying for exams. Who doesn’t get stressed out over that? After all, we need to get good grades.

You might be wondering why I am talking about tests when academics and studying aren’t in my specialized topics. It’s because for my last final exam in college, right before graduating, I came up with a technique to make studying not only more enjoyable, but also easier. I was an art major, so I created picture cards and added humor.

The class I took was for meeting a certain learning goal, and it was quite difficult. I didn’t fail anything, but I barely passed the midterm. So, I met with my professor for extra help several times.

When finals week was approaching, I had to find an effective way to study. That was when I decided on picture cards.

They didn’t have to be artistic, and they weren’t meant to be. Regardless of my art skills, I used simplistic stick figure and shape drawings. They were for a different purpose, anyway.

I no longer have these cards as I tossed them a while ago. However, I do recall some funny ones, such as a crying alien when I needed to define and discuss alienation. Another was a factory and I even drew a stick figure Willy Wonka.

If you struggle with drawing, no worries. Pretty much no artistic abilities are needed. However, this is more likely to help if you are a visual learner.

No matter whether you’re in K-12 school, college, or grad school, this technique may work out for you. It certainly helped me, even though I ended up with a C on the final as well as the overall grade.

cooking

Fudge with Just Two Ingredients

Fudge is delicious. It comes in many flavors and those are good, as well, even if they’re kind of expensive at times. While trying to find a healthy dessert recipe, I came across a fudge recipe with only two ingredients: chocolate and almond butter.

You read that right. Here’s how you do it. You melt the chocolate and combine it with the almond butter. I believe it’s an even level of the ingredients (i.e. both being a cup), but I’m not a hundred percent sure. Anyway, let’s presume it is. After combining the ingredients, you spread them in a pan and freeze them. You don’t bake it. Leave it in the freezer for approximately an hour. Then let it thaw for a few minutes, or maybe ten. Then enjoy.

While I usually like fudge, even though I rarely eat it, this one was honestly only okay. I ended up tossing half of it in the trash because I didn’t eat enough of it. And I added a little bit of coconut sugar, which was not part of the original recipe. I wanted to make it just a little sweeter, but not use white sugar.

I don’t recall if there were ratings and reviews. But my mom recommends I use only recipes with great feedback and reactions. I think it’s good advice.

Writing

Back Cover Blurb Issues

Image from Pixabay

If you publish the commercial route, a copywriter in the publishing house writes the blurb for your book—that is, if your manuscript gets accepted. But if you self-publish, you retain control over your book, including the blurb for the back cover. That’s right.

Writing the blurb that’ll sell your book, whether it’s fiction or non-fiction, is no easy task. In fact, it can be super-difficult. At least for me, it was. I recrafted my blurb for my series’ first book several times, especially after I re-published it as a new edition and eventually changed the title. Not only did I fail to create a strong description, but I also had trouble judging it. It would feel strong to me, but weak to others, and I was unable to pick up on the weaknesses.

Frustrated, I searched for services that edited blurbs. I didn’t find anything relevant—except a service that writes your blurb for you. So, I hired that person, and I think it made a difference. I used this same service for my second book, as well. From that point on, I told myself, you don’t illustrate your own cover image, quit writing your own blurb. That’s how it is in traditional publishing, anyway.

That being said, I am re-considering that for the future. I want to improve my copywriting skills for a certain career change, regardless of earning a bachelor’s degree in fine arts. I haven’t been producing much art, anyway, these days.

But back to the point, I shouldn’t just give up on something I could eventually improve on. The struggles with blurb-writing were the same with prose writing in my late teens years ago. I’m now in my mid-twenties. It took me around seven years to go from poor storyteller to being able to produce great novels. When I say great, I mean that. The reviews are a lot better than they were even just a few years ago.

Hopefully, I’ll become a better copywriter later. But for now, to stay on the safe side, I will hire others to write my back-cover book descriptions. If I master copywriting, then I’ll return to crafting the blurbs myself.

Writing

Your Story Might Work with Fewer Words

Image from Pixabay

Sometimes, less is more with writing. If you write regularly and have studied the craft for years, you may have heard the term, “kill your darlings”. That means you should eliminate anything in your project that isn’t necessary, whether it’s content, like a subplot, scene, or character, or unnecessary words.

This was a big struggle with my own writing. In my early writing days, I would write too little. However, as my skills improved, so did my ability to produce more words in my work. Little did I know that a good number of those words were not needed.

This was especially an issue with my series’ second installment, “Wizardry Goes Wild”, which is now retitled “The Unruly Curse” and has been given several changes, including…a shorter word count. I’ve discovered, when editing that story, that nearly 20,000 words weren’t necessary. Reviewers had even complained about the writing, and I’d thought they had been crazy, as it’d felt perfect and flawless to me. In fact, I’d thought it’d read like a traditionally published bestseller.

Anyway, due to the unsatisfying reviews (but not enough that the overall rating was poor or even just neutral), I pulled “Wizardry Goes Wild” off the market and edited it. I had eliminated 13,000 words and republished it as “The Uncontrollable Curse”. In spite of the reworking, the reviews were, at most, just as unpleasing, if not, more.

That was when I got a content edit from an editing service. Although this wasn’t their idea, I removed two chapters from the story. They didn’t serve much of a purpose.

When I republished book 2 the third time as “The Unruly Curse”, the readers gave better reviews than the previous times.

So, remember, always read through and edit your work, as well as have someone else do the same. And I suggest it’s NOT somebody you know personally, as he or she may be biased and afraid to hurt your feelings. After all, your story may need fewer words than you might realize.

cooking

A Trick to Crispy French Fries

Image from Pixabay

Most of us love French fries, even though too much of them aren’t healthy. Technically, that applies to everything, including food that is good for us. But that’s a different topic.

Anyway, many recipes will tell you to soak your fries for some time before you put them in the hot oil. I supposed that’s a good trick. However, here is the technique I use. It is far quicker and maybe even better. That is…to microwave your potato strips until they are soft enough to poke something all the way through them.

You could boil them, too. But then you have to wait for the water to heat up. Anyway, what I do is cut the potatoes into strips, microwave them till they’re soft (I can’t remember the number of minutes at the top of my head now), heat the oil in a pot or deep pan, put the potatoes in them, and cook them till I like them.

Did you notice that I omitted the peeling stage? You can still peel the skin off, as that’s conventional for making fries. However, I’m too lazy to do that. So, I keep the skin on. Believe it or not, the skin is actually kind of good for you. Or it’s, at least, tolerable.

Another thing to know is that if you use steel pans or pots, you need to heat the object first before you put in the fat, like oil. Then the base has to get hotter, too. Otherwise, your food will stick and cleaning up will be a pain in the butt.

So, there you have it. Does this sound like a good way to make French fries?

cooking

Making Mac and Cheese Without Following a Recipe

Yeah, you read that right. You probably would look at me like I had four heads. But I assure you that this is correct.

It’s no easy task making a meal without a recipe. However, the reason I did that was because I couldn’t find the recipe anymore. Thankfully, though, I’ve used that one enough that I had it pretty much memorized.

That being said, I made a lot of the mac and cheese—perhaps too much. Without a recipe in hand, I couldn’t cut the measurements in half. So, I just had to estimate.

I probably used half a box and elbow pasta, a quarter cup of butter and flour, some salt and pepper, maybe a teaspoon of mustard powder, two cups of milk, and two 8-ounce packages of shredded cheddar cheese. After I cooked the macaroni, I mixed the other ingredients in a pot, blended it in with the pasta, topped remaining cheddar on the mac and cheese (so it doesn’t burn), and then baked it for 10 – 15 minutes. It still came out delicious.

I’ve been cooking since I was twelve. I’m now 25, and will be turning 26 in November, a couple months from now. Anyway, have you noticed that it’s easier to cook savory dishes without a fixed recipe than sweet dishes? That is because there are necessary precise chemical reactions that need to happen for the sweet food to successfully cook. With stovetop savory meals, you have more freedom.

Writing

Why I Don’t Base My Characters Off of People I Know

You’ve probably heard this from many authors: base your characters off people you know. A lot of writers do that, including big ones like J.K. Rowling. However, unlike them, I never base characters off people I know.

That being said, I do often develop them like people I know. Many characters in my books were developed like family members and people I went to school with, including teachers.

However, the ideas of those characters were often for plot convenience or inspired by other fictional sources, such as movies, books, or even legends. In fact, the antagonist in my second book of the “Magical Missions” series was inspired by the Grim Reaper. Believe it or not, in early drafts, he was more like the death figure: pure evil and carrying a scythe. But now he is not like that. I developed him to make the readers sympathize with him more. I won’t spoil anything else from the story, though.

Why don’t I base characters off people I know, you might ask? Because I just feel uninterested and find basing my characters off of other fictional sources better. My life has been pretty straightforward and ordinary. While I’m more social than I used to be, real people inspiring me for characters just doesn’t happen.

Writing

Music Makes Editing Much More Fun

Image from Pixabay

Who doesn’t love music, regardless of genre, mood, and everything else? I like to play it when I do chores, sometimes drive (only when I stop, of course), and when I edit. But not just any kind of editing—the text-to-speech kind.

Yes, your computer probably has it—if it’s a more recent model. And you know what? It’s a huge savior for spotting spelling, grammatical, and pretty much every kind of error. At least for me, it is.

While I don’t usually play music when I’m having text-to-speech reading for shorter documents, they make a big difference for longer documents, like novel manuscripts.

Before I discovered music makes the reading more pleasurable, I would use text-to-speech for one chapter a day. And that would take forever. Then, came along my discovery for music playing when using the text-to-speech feature. Boom! I had a grander time editing and would have the voice read at least a few chapters. I sometimes didn’t want to stop.

What kind of music do I play, you may ask? Pop, showtunes, and Disney—but in instrumental versions, like piano pieces. Lyrics would probably distract me. Plus, the tunes still sound great on the piano, if not, better—sometimes.

Reading your work aloud always makes a difference and you can spot errors more easily. But if your voice is tired or you’re in public, just look up how to use the text-to-speech feature. Then sit back, relax (and wear earphones if in a public setting), and enjoy your text being read to you as well as music on your computer (or phone if you are at home and you can play things without earphones). Yes, you can have more than one form of audio on your computer. I’ve done it before. What do you think?