Sunday, June 26, 2016

Pots de Creme - #‎thebookclubcookbookCC

These glorious little Pots de Creme are a simple nod to why I love chocolate...

...and they are also a great nod to the book, Chocolat by Joanne Harris.

For June, as part of The Book Club Cookbook Cooking Crew, Sarah invited us to read and cook from Chocolat with her. I was thrilled. I was a huge fan of the movie from 2000 starring Juliette Binoche and Johnny Depp - *swoon*. I remember watching it almost nightly when I worked in a little campus video store (remember those?). It was one of my favorite movies to pop in as I waited for closing. Cute music, witty banter and ... lots of chocolate!

Be sure to keep reading, there is a giveaway for a copy of The Book Club Cookbook at the end of the post. I have had so much fun reading a selection and cooking as inspired by the book. Our year is coming to a close soon, but I still have more books to read and food to enjoy. I hope you will keep going with me.

I was excited to finally read Chocolat. Sadly, as a college student my time was usually spent in textbooks, and I rarely had the time to read "good" books.

I have to tell you, the book is far better than even the magic of film! Vianne's internal dialogue is much funnier than even what Juliette Binoche could portray on screen. Even as she helped those around her with the magic of her chocolate and understanding, the complexity of her character was wonderful. She came in as an outcast and ended up bringing the community so much more than they could have imagined.

I ended up going for a classic treat, Pots de Creme (pronounced "Po de Krehm"). Lusciously smooth and chocolatey, I am sure it is exactly what Vianne would have selected for me. I just love how in the book she claims to know everyone's favorite! This dessert really makes my heart sing.

Besides tasting divine, this is also an easy treat to make.

Of course, it begins with chopped semi-sweet chocolate.

I have seen a few different ways to make this simple dessert, but decided to cook my custard over the stove and then add to the blender to melt and whip up the chocolate.

The eggs, milk, cream and sugar are ready when they coat the back of a spoon easily.

Then pour into ramekins or small dishes and chill for 2-4 hours before serving.

Serve with whipped cream, and garnish with fresh mint and fruit. My daughter insisted we go with the chocolate mint here. I think it worked nicely.

Pots de Creme

You will need:

  • 9 oz. semisweet chocolate chopped
  • 1 tsp. espresso powder
  • 1 1/2 c. whole milk
  • 1 c. heavy cream
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 5 Tbsp. sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
Place the chopped chocolate and espresso powder in a blender and set aside.

In a saucepan, combine the milk, cream, egg yolks, sugar and salt. Whisk over medium heat until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Stir in the vanilla and pour the hot mixture into the blender. 

Take care to cover the blender and lid with a heavy towel. I like to vent my top slightly, but cover with the towel to prevent messes. Blend until smooth.

Pour into ramekins or glasses and chill for 2-4 hours. Serve with whipped cream and garnish with mint and fresh fruit, if desired.


This month Sarah at Thing I Make (for Dinner), this month's host, is giving away two copies of the book.* Enter to win a copy of the cookbook so you can join us in future months, if you wish!

TWO of our lucky readers - US and Canada only! - can enter to win a copy of The Book Club Cookbook, Revised Edition: Recipes and Food for Thought from Your Book Club's Favorite Books and Authors by Judy Gelman and Vicki Levy Krupp, courtesy of Tarcher-Penguin. Giveaway runs from June 1st till June 30th at 6 o'clock PM, Pacific time. Please see terms and conditions in the rafflecopter widget below. Many thanks to Tarcher Books. You may find Tarcher: on the web, on Facebook, on Twitter, and on Pinterest.

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*Disclosure: Sarah received a complimentary copy of The Book Club Cookbook, Revised Edition: Recipes and Food for Thought from Your Book Club's Favorite Books and Authors by Judy Gelman and Vicki Levy Krupp as an opportunity to give a copy away. Opinions are our own. We received no further compensation for our posts.

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Sunday, June 12, 2016

Bahamian Chicken Souse and Johnnycake

Warmer weather and busy days does not mean we can't have a comforting home cooked meal ready to go for dinner. This month I brought out the slow-cooker to take a little culinary trip to the Bahamas.

I was inspired by Ellie, the talented blogger behind The Hobo Kitchen. I feel very fortunate to have found her blog because despite being another SRC member, she is in a different posting group from me. When I heard her group needed help covering a blogger this month, I agreed to get to know Ellie better and dive into her recipes! ...I had no idea how big of a treat it would be. So this makes my second Secret Recipe Club post for June.

I have never been to the Bahamas.

It would definitely be a place I would like to visit someday, but farm life doesn't really lend itself to vacations. All of my previous globe-trotting has been around Asia. Someday I hope to expand my travels. Luckily, I can enjoy recipes like this one right at home.

Ellie was born in Nassau, Bahamas. So, I had to pick a recipe from her site that would be true to her roots. Once I spotted these recipes, I was hooked. My only change was to put the Chicken Souse into the slow-cooker - for time.
Of course there were several recipes that caught my eye on her site, a recent Pecan and Goat Cheese Encrusted Chicken looked amazing, And I just must have some of her Nutella Bread Pudding in my life... and soon!

The Chicken Souse sounded both simple and delicious with chicken, potatoes, habanero peppers, whole allspice and a whole lotta lime! The flavor combinations really interested me. Ellie suggested serving this alongside warm and buttered Johnnycake, so I made that as well.

This Johnny cake didn't use the usual cornmeal base I was used to. It is simple, hearty and a great side to complete the meal.

Ready to get cooking? Grab your slow-cooker... a few simple ingredients and let's get started.

The original recipe shared on Ellie's blog is not made in a slow-cooker. As a busy mom of 3, dinner time can get a little crazy, so out comes the slow-cooker... a.k.a "dinner time machine". I also cut the recipe down by half for my family of 5.

Bahamian Chicken Souse
recipe adapted from The Hobo Kitchen

You Will Need:

  • 5 lbs. chicken, skinned, cleaned and cubed
  • 1 1/2 medium sized onions
  • 3 celery ribs, sliced
  • 1/2 habanero pepper, sliced
  • 2 Tbsp. + 2 tsp. whole allspice seeds
  • 2 Tbsp. salt + more for potatoes
  • juice of 3-4 limes
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 c, water
  • 2 lbs. potatoes, washed and cubed (about 4 medium russets)
Combine all the ingredients in the slow-cooker, except the potatoes. Set for 6 hours.

With an hour and a half remaining. Place the cubed potatoes in a small saucepan and fill with just enough water to cover them. Salt the water and bring to a boil. Turn down to a simmer for about 10 minutes or until the potatoes are softened, but still firm. Add the potatoes and potato water to the crock pot to simmer for the remaining hour.

Taste the broth before serving and add additional salt or lime juice as needed.

Bahamian Johnnycake
recipe adapted from The Hobo Kitchen

You Will Need:

  • 1/2 c. butter, softened + more for greasing the pan
  • 3/4 c. sugar
  • 4 c. flour
  • 1/2 c. water
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 3/4 c. milk
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Grease a cast iron skillet with butter, set aside.

Cream together the butter and sugar. Mix in the flour, water, salt and baking powder. Add milk slowly until the batter is sticky.

Pour into the skillet. Put a little flour on your hands and spread the batter out evenly. Bake for 1 hour, or until the edges begin to brown. The johnnycake doesn't rise much. Cool for 10 minutes before slicing, serve warm with butter.


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Sunday, June 5, 2016

Browned Butter Chocolate Chip Blondies

I used to love baking cookies...

I actually think it was the only thing I baked regularly before leaving for college. There was even a little kitchen-ette in our dorm, hidden away but dorm residents could request the key, I didn't know about that little perk until I was a resident assistant... the secret was closely guarded so it didn't become a mess... or worse, cause the whole complex to burn to the ground...

But I hadn't baked cookies because my oldest children couldn't eat most cookies. Don't worry, we have alternative treats to make them. But with an almost 3-year-old, cookies are back on my radar big time!

With my little-est cookie monster on my mind, I was thrilled to find June's Secret Recipe Club recipe at Emily's Life on Food with these delicious Browned Butter Chocolate Chip Blondies.

Emily is another fabulous food blogger I know through The Secret Recipe Club, as well as The Book Club Cookbook Cooking Crew and other fun foodie events.

Emily shares all her favorite recipes and juggles her food with a young child. Yeah, I get that. Toddlers rarely wait while a sauce is thickening on the stove or keep tantrums in check while tempering eggs...


But I love that Emily is still adventurous in the kitchen, even when her hands are a little full. I need to try her Steak with Chimichurri Sauce - it looks so fresh and vibrant. I also need to try her recipe for Coconut Rice Pudding - because, well... I NEVER turn down a good rice pudding but coconut would definitely take it up a notch!

So, back to those delicious blondies!

I know the browned butter kick has faded it a bit, but this was a fun and tasty kick on a classic bar cookie. Browned butter is a little magical, don't you think? I highly recommend doing this in a cast iron skillet, if you got it. Otherwise, be sure it isn't non-stick...

Once melted, whisk to prevent the butter from burning. Brown flecks are good - blackened, burned bits are bad.

The rest is pretty much, straight up, the classic blondie recipe. So, let's get started, shall we?

Browned Butter Chocolate Chip Blondies
adapted from Life on Food

You will need:

  • 1/2 c. unsalted butter
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 1/4 c. bittersweet chocolate chips
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Prepare an 8"x8" baking dish with greased foil, or I like to use disposable with a lid.

Start by making the browned butter. In a large cast iron skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Stir constantly. The butter will foam then begin to develop brown flecks and smell nutter. When the flecks begin to form, remove from the heat and pour into a bowl. Continue stirring for an additional minute, so the butter doesn't burn. Set aside for an additional 10 minutes to cool.

To the cooled butter, whisk in the egg and vanilla extract till smooth.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour and salt. Gently fold into the butter mixture. Take care to moisten all the dry ingredients but do not overmix. Fold in the chocolate chips.

Pour the batter into your prepared pan. Smooth out the top. 

Bake for about 20 minutes, until the top is set. Do not overbake. The blondies will firm up as they cool. 

Wait at least an hour before slicing into bars. Enjoy! 

Ready to check out all the great June Secret Recipe Club recipe posts?

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Sunday, May 29, 2016

Strawberry Rhubarb Sweet Focaccia

Happy Memorial Day Weekend!

Hopefully you have great weather and plans to spend time with family. I am nursing a bit of a cold, but hope to get outside for some fun for the holiday. If you are still looking for any last minute picnic/BBQ food ideas, I would like to introduce you to this easy and crazy delicious Strawberry Rhubarb Sweet Focaccia.

Focaccia is an Italian flatbread, but the addition of seasonal strawberries and rhubarb really  is a fun twist and great for packing along to the park or for a picnic. Pair this with some fresh squeezed lemonade and caprese salad... and you are good to go!

This marks a special holiday post. Not only is it Memorial Day, but a special Themed edition recipe for The Secret Recipe Club. Yes, that is two SRC posts this month. Be sure to also check out my Lemon Boysenberry Danish post from earlier this month.

For this post I was matched up with Camilla from Culinary Adventures with Camilla. I was really excited about this assignment since I know her from The Book Club Cookbook group, as well as a few others. If you haven't checked out her blog yet, you are going to want to give it a look.

I am not even sure where to start.

Camilla posts her fearless culinary adventures and I think she has tried just about everything. From the local, to the rare, or just using what she has on hand, she is cooking/baking up a storm and sometimes even her boys get in on the fun!

I started looking through past recipes an even by narrowing my search to something picnic ready, my recipe wish-list was long. I still want to make this Rhubarb Salad with Beets, Feta and Spring Greens or even this Cuttle fish ink pasta. I imagine it is similar to the squid ink pasta I enjoyed in Japan, but it looked like a lot of fun to make at home!

Ultimately her passion for rhubarb won me over. Seriously. Check out how many amazing recipes she has posted with this ingredient. She is now my hero.

Even then it was hard to narrow down to just one recipe... but the Rhubarb Focaccia eventually won out.

I have a long history with rhubarb. From what I can remember growing up, it was always a staple in my Mom's garden. When we moved, a new rhubarb plant was established. Some original root stock was sent over from my Grandfather's garden. So, once I was firmly planted in a house with a yard, I planted 3 rhubarb plants.

Sadly, the past few year's drought has taken a toll and my plants are not as robust as they used to be. So, I decided to take a page from Camilla's book... I used what I had on hand... namely a whole field of ripe strawberries, and decided to add some to the sweet flat bread.

One thing I love about Camilla's recipes is she isn't afraid to modify or substitute items. That is a skill every cook she have. She is often incorporating items from a CSA box, or using local seasonal items she finds to create her dishes.

This combination of strawberries and rhubarb reminds me of the sauce my Mom would make to pour over our French Vanilla Ice Cream. Yum!

It all starts with a sweet focaccia dough.

If you have never made a focaccia dough, it is super easy! Much less problematic than a risen loaf. It is really okay with being abused and dimpling the dough can be a great stress reliever!

I chose smaller, firmer strawberries since the juicier ones could add too much moisture, then topped my dough with the sliced berries, sliced rhubarb and


Strawberry Rhubarb Sweet Focaccia
adapted from Culinary Adventures with Camilla

You Will Need:

  • 2 c. warm water
  • 1 Tbsp. active, dry yeast
  • 1 Tbsp. honey
  • 5 c. flour + additional for kneading, as necessary
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 c. olive oil
  • 1/4 c. coconut oil
  • 2 c. (combined) thinly sliced rhubarb and strawberries
  • pearl sugar
  • simple sugar *optional - 1/4 c. sugar, 1/4 c. water + any additional rhubarb
Let the yeast bloom in a cup with the water, yeast and honey. The mixture should become nice and frothy after about 10 minutes.

In a large bowl, or stand mixer, whisk together the flour, salt and oil. Knead until a soft dough forms. Only use flour if necessary. The dough should still be soft.

Place the dough in a greased bowl and cover. Allow the dough to double in size. This will take about an hour, depending on the temperature of your room... and eagerness of your yeast! 

Spray or grease a jelly roll pan. Once the dough has risen, stretch it to fit the pan. Top the dough with rhubarb and strawberries, sprinkle liberally with pearl sugar. Cover loosely with plastic wrap or a tea towel. If desired, brush the top of the dough with a little simple sugar. 

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

After the dough rises a second time, bake it for 30 - 35 minutes, or until the top is golden. Brush the top with additional syrup if desired.

Cool, cut and enjoy!

Now check out the other Secret Recipe Club fun going on this Memorial Day!

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Caribbean Rice and Peas - #TheBookClubCookbookCC

I was provided with a copy of The Book Club Cook Book to use for this year-long endeavor of reading and food fun. All opinions and experiences and individual book purchases are my own.

This month's #TheBookClubCookbookCC selection, Love in the Time of Cholera, took us to the Caribean with an abundance of inspiration for diving off into our own food exploration. This is not a cuisine that I am familiar with, but am now loving. 

Danielle of Mostly Food and Crafts chose our selection for May and The Book Club Cook Book lists two delicious recipe suggestions, a mojito or a mango, jicama and corn salad. You can read Wendy's welcome post as she stepped in to cover this month's selection.

The many food references in this month's book sent me off searching the internet for Caribbean Recipes and I found myself looking through some mouth-watering jerk seasoning recipes. Ultimately I decided my dish would need to include Jerk seasoning.

What is Jerk seasoning?

Caribbean Jerk seasoning gets its kick from a blend of ingredients such as chiles, thyme, cinnamon, garlic, and nutmeg.  It usually includes allspice and Scotch bonnet peppers and can be a wet marinade or dry rub.

I also learned that amazon had some option for mild jerk seasoning - essential if I am going to get my heat-phobic husband to try it.

I think I have mentioned here, a few times, that I walk a thin line with spicy or hot foods. My husband doesn't mind a bit of warmth in food, but he likes his salsa mild and hit jalapenos with no heat. I always try to compensate for this while cooking.

But the heat here in this Caribbean Rice and Peas dish is easy to adjust. Even on the milder end of the spectrum it was full of flavor and very satisfying.

So what of this month's book selection?

Love in the Time of Cholera

In their youth, Florentino Ariza and Fermina Daza fall passionately in love. When Fermina eventually chooses to marry a wealthy, well-born doctor, Florentino is devastated, but he is a romantic. As he rises in his business career he whiles away the years in 622 affairs--yet he reserves his heart for Fermina. Her husband dies at last, and Florentino purposefully attends the funeral. Fifty years, nine months, and four days after he first declared his love for Fermina, he will do so again.

Despite being a hopeless romance and an ode to the many forms and power of the heart, I just couldn't get into this month's read. 

Ever had a book that you keep picking up and putting down so many times that you eventually give up? That was the way for me on this selection.

Now, one of the things that made me select this recipe to try were the black-eyed peas.

I am an Oregon gal and haven't had the pleasure to eat black-eyed peas... or even see them often in our local stores. So when my daughter's class planted their own black-eyed pea plants in First Grade, I decided it was time to figure out how to use them. Garden willing, by the end of the season, I will have an abundance.

This was a lovely one-pot dish and really stuck to our ribs. With kielbasa, peas and brown rice, it was hearty and left us with amazing left overs. I already plan to make this again.

Like I said, even a rural gal, like myself, was able to find a delicious Jerk Seasoning option on Amazon. This may now be my favorite condiment. I can't wait to try it on chicken.  And don't worry, there were plenty of "melt-your-face" options online, as well. I would say, go as hot as you dare!

Everything was sauteed, then simmered in my largest pan. All that garlic and spice created quite the welcome home at the end of the day.

And one of my favorite parts to this dish were the collard greens.

I only became hooked on collard greens in the past few years. I am always looking for an excuse to buy them... they are so dark and inviting. Though you could substitute another green in this recipe, I wouldn't suggest it. The collards bring an earthy tone to the dish that would be missed with spinach or chard.

Everything simmers together till the rice is tender and the collards have wilted. It is just magic to behold!

Okay, ready to start cooking? Be sure to check out the giveaway at the end of this post for a chance to win your own copy of The Book Club Cookbook. And as always, come join in on our reading/culinary fun next month with Chocolat by Joanne Harris. Be sure to look for the announcement coming soon.

Caribbean Rice and Peas
recipe adapted from The Food Network

You will Need:

  • 10 oz. frozen black-eyed peas
  • salt
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 6 oz. turkey kielbasa, thinly sliced
  • 1 large bunch of green onions, sliced and whites & greens separated
  • 2 ribs of celery, diced
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 jalapeno, finely diced
  • 2 tsp. jerk seasoning (or more to taste)
  • 2 tsp. fresh thyme, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp. tomato paste
  • 1 c. brown rice, uncooked
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 c. collard greens, stemmed and chopped
Put the black-eyed peas in 3 cups of water in a small saucepan. salt the water lightly. Cover and bring up to a boil, then turn off and set aside.

In a large skillet, heat olive oil and kielbasa to brown. Add the green onion whites, celery, garlic, jalapeno, jerk seasoning along with a large pinch of salt. Cook until the vegetables start to brown, about 5 minutes. 

Add in the thyme and tomato paste, cooking till fragrant and stirring constantly. 

Add the bay leaves, rice and black-eyed peas along with their cooking liquid. Do not stir. Add the chopped collard greens to the top, reduce the heat to a simmer and cover. Cook till most of the liquid has been absorbed, about 50 minutes.

Let the dish rest for an additional 10 minutes before discarding the bay leaves, adding in the green onion green and giving it a good stir.


This month Danielle at Mostly Food and Crafts along with Wendy at A Day in the Life on the Farm, this month's co-hosts, are giving away a copy of the book.* Enter to win a copy of the cookbook so you can join us in future months, if you wish!

One of our lucky readers - US and Canada only! - can enter to win a copy ofThe Book Club Cookbook, Revised Edition: Recipes and Food for Thought from Your Book Club's Favorite Books and Authors by Judy Gelman and Vicki Levy Krupp, courtesy of Tarcher-Penguin. Giveaway runs from May 1st till May 31st at 6 o'clock PM, Pacific time. Please see terms and conditions in the rafflecopter widget below. Many thanks to Tarcher Books. You may find Tarcher: on the web, on Facebook, on Twitter, and on Pinterest.

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*Disclosure: Danielle and Wendy received a complimentary copy of The Book Club Cookbook, Revised Edition: Recipes and Food for Thought from Your Book Club's Favorite Books and Authors by Judy Gelman and Vicki Levy Krupp as an opportunity to give a copy away. Opinions are our own. We received no further compensation for our posts.

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Thursday, May 19, 2016

The Silent Sounds of Chaos by Kristina Circelli

*Disclaimer - I received an e-copy of the book through Promotional Book Tours in order to facilitate my review. All opinions are my own.


The Silent Sounds of Chaos

TSSOCEbookAmazon (1) A silent call for help began the friendship between two children. A bond unlike any other kept them together. Finn was just a kid when he first heard Snow’s voice inside his head, two children in need of a friend and finding one in mysterious strangers. Never meeting in person, the pair grows up as opposites – Finn the boy who loves to get in trouble and works for the toughest drug lord in town, Snow the good, sheltered girl who wants to be a doctor.

The bond built upon a strange ability to hear each other’s thoughts is threatened when Snow is abducted, her screams for help consuming Finn’s mind until they disappear completely, submerging him in a terrifying silence he’s never known before. Now it’s up to Finn to save her, led only by Snow’s sporadic thoughts as she floats in and out of consciousness.

But the search for Snow leads him to a truth he isn’t prepared to face, a truth that has the power to unravel his entire world. The people he thought he knew, the life he thought he’d made, the best friend he thought he could protect – all point toward a brutal reality should he fail. And as Finn struggles to find Snow before she slips away, he must fight to keep that reality out, lest he let the chaos in.

Purchase Amazon  / iBooks /  Smashwords / B&N

This is not the first book I have featured by Kristina Circelli. A few years back I had the chance to review The Never.  Her newest book is definitely one I plan to add to my summer reading list!  Be sure to check out the excerpt below for a taste of what this book has in store, and check out the giveaway at the bottom of this post.

The Silent Sounds of Chaos – Excerpt 1
The boy huddled in the farthest corner of his tiny closet, bony shoulders pressed up against the
cheap, paneled walls of an already falling-apart trailer. In his hands he twisted the thin metal of
a paperclip, creating loops and shapes until they formed a stick man, just one of many he’d created to
distract himself from the sounds filling his run-down home.

Through the thin walls of his bedroom he could hear the source of his fear ‒‒ two voices
engaged in a verbal sparring match in the next room. One of them he knew, a shockingly thin woman with unwashed blonde hair and sunken blue eyes that, in the past, may have matched his own. The other he knew from many nights such as these, a tall and wide man with frightening pictures on his arms. Their shouts filled him with fear, the woman accusing the man of doing terrible things, the man ordering her to pay or else he’d do those terrible things again.

Their hate, their anger, sent him into the closet, where he often hid when his mother’s visitors
gave him those strange and calculating looks. His arms wrapped around a soft, yellow blanket almost
as big as he was, one he’d kept at his side for as long as his young mind could remember. Face buried in the yellow comfort, he tried hard not to be afraid.

Tonight his fear felt different. He felt different, so tired and scared and hurting from a night he’d
lived too many times in his young life. But, more than tired – he felt a part of himself fade away
into nothingness, only to be replaced by the same hate filling the voices outside his room.

One tiny hand pressed over an ear, the other holding the blanket to his chest, as his body
began to rock ever so slightly. He concentrated on the roaring in his ears rather than the thud of a body hitting the hollow floor, or the whimpers from a broken woman who’d given up long ago.

Make it stop.

In his head he whispered the silent plea to anyone who could help him, anyone who could hear
the unspoken words of a little boy trapped in his bedroom closet. No one had ever heard him
before, but maybe, just maybe, tonight would be different.

Please make it stop.

And then, by magic or miracle, his plea was answered.

I will protect you.

The voice whispered inside his mind, fluttering through his senses in a way that almost tickled.

The boy stilled, listening carefully for the voice again, a quiet, high-pitched tone he felt like he should know, but couldn’t quite place.

When he heard only the rushing in his ears, he reached out. Hello?

I will protect you, the voice said again, a girl’s voice.

He knew he should probably be afraid of a stranger magically talking to him, but he liked the
sound of this particular stranger. It sounded like music when she spoke, and distracted him from the
screeching and thudding going on outside the safety of his mind.

Who are you? he asked, and could almost feel the hesitation on the other end.

I’m not supposed to tell strangers my name … Are you real?

He huffed. Of course I’m real.

How can I hear you?

He thought about it, not coming up with an answer. Nor did he want to admit to silently praying
for help, help that came in the form of her innocent proclamation. Dunno.

I heard you, she insisted. I heard you crying in my head.

I wasn’t crying.

Well, if you say so … Are you sure you’re real?

Are you? he countered, trying to comprehend the fluttering in his mind amidst the shouting
through the walls.

I think so.

How old are you?


Me too. He felt a strange twinge of satisfaction that she wasn’t older, and that they had
something in common. Who are you? Again, he sensed hesitation. I’m not a stranger.

Are too.

Fine. He huffed again and squeezed his eyes shut. It was almost fun, blocking out the entire
world and focusing only on the person living in his brain. Then let’s pretend to be other people. I
wanna be … an explorer, and have lots of adventures and cause lots of trouble, and run away whenever I feel like it.

He heard her giggle in his mind, and instantly loved the sound. Who are you?

I wanna be … a princess! The prettiest princess in the world who makes friends with everyone
and talks to all the animals.

What a girl.


He grimaced at himself, forgetting that this strange new girl could hear all his thoughts. Sorry …
I don’t know what to call you. You need a name.

You think of one, she giggled at him.

He thought, long and hard. Okay. How about … I know! Can I call you Snow? Like the princess
all the girls at school talk about?

Can I call you Finn? Like the little boy I saw in a movie at school who ran away to live on the

They agreed upon their new names, and, with their introductions, the two children were no
longer strangers.

He talked to her through the night, the menacing sounds around him disappearing as he
listened to her talk in her youthful, high-pitched voice. She told him about her life living by the beach, with a mother and father who were very nice to her. She liked to read, and watch movies with princesses, and wanted to learn how to swim. It was a happy life, he could tell, and yet, he sensed loneliness in her tone, though he couldn’t identify its source.

She listened to him until morning, wondering why he sounded so scared when his words first
filtered through her mind, enjoying the way his tone relaxed as the night wore on. He told her about his life in a run-down trailer park, with a mother who paid more attention to strange men and things with weird smells. He liked to skateboard, and hang out with his friends, and hoped to be on a football team someday. It was a hard life, she imagined sadly, and yet, she knew he faced each day with the kind of mischievousness only boys could cause.

When she grew quiet, no longer responding, he worried she had grown tired of his stories.

“Don’t leave me,” he whispered out loud, not wanting her to hear his childish plea. Deep down
he hoped she was only tired, that he’d kept her up too late. Her, the voice in his head, a stranger
who probably didn’t really exist. But he didn’t want to give her up, because giving her up would mean
accepting the reality around him. And so, instead of saying good-bye or goodnight, the boy now
named Finn decided to make her his.

Just before they both drifted off to sleep, one in a closet, and one in a bed an unknown number
of miles away, he needed to hear her voice one last time.

Will you be my friend, Snow?

Forever, Finn.


Meet the author:

kristina-2Night owl, Dorito lover, and quiet eccentric – Kristina Circelli is the author of several fiction novels, including The Helping Hands series, The Whisper Legacy, The Never, and The Sour Orange Derby. 

Her latest series, The Whisper Legacy, features Beyond the Western Sun. This book is what all fantasy adventures must strive to be: a complex, intricate examination of human emotion set within the context of worlds known only in our imagination.

Melding fantasy and legend in an epic quest, this series signals the arrival of Kristina Circelli as a master storyteller and an important voice in Native American literature.

A descendent of the Cherokee nation and niece of a Cherokee elder, Circelli holds both a Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts in English from the University of North Florida, where she teaches creative writing. She also heads Red Road Editing, a full-service editing company for independent authors and commercial clients. She currently resides in Jacksonville, Florida with her husband, Seth, and cats, Lord Finnegin the Fierce and Mr. Malachi the Mighty.

Follow Kristina on

Facebook | Twitter | Website | Literary Addicts | GoodReads

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Monday, May 9, 2016

Summer Strawberry Tote DIY - With the Silhouette Mint!

Are you looking forward to summer?

Are you ready to haul all of your necessities around? There are the glasses, a reusable water bottle, sunscreen and either a tablet or good book... but, what will you be using to lug it all around in? Whether you are popping out for some groceries, heading to the berry patch for U-Pick, or just taking your kids to the park, a fun and personalized tote is perfect for summer.

This month for the Silhouette Challenge, I wanted to use my newest addition from the Silhouette line, the Silhouette Mint. The Mint is a stamp lover's dream! With thermal printing, I can design a stamp in the Mint Studio on my computer, print it onto a stamp blank, then use their line of inks to stamp my design.

For my daughter's Valentine's Day cards we created a custom stamp with her image. I just love how it turned out and it made her cards unique and memorable.

But only recently did I hear you could use the stamps along with Silhouette's ink to stamp on fabric.

That was a really exciting moment!

So when I was planning out my "summer" themed Silhouette Challenge project, I knew it had to involve fabric and stamping.

Summer here on the farm starts with strawberry season. Right now we are up to our ears in planting and transplanting vegetables, even cutting the year's first hay, but the farm really comes alive with the first strawberries. This year we have been lucky enough to already have found a few early berries... those hidden gems are always the best!

To commemorate our favorite red berries, I wanted to create a simple stamped tote. It is the perfect bag to haul my water bottle, book of the week, as well as all my other necessities into the strawberry patch while I pick. I will probably also take it along to the park, or the beach and personalizing it makes it all mine.

Let me show you how easy it was to create.

First start by choosing or importing your design. I purchased this simple strawberry from the Silhouette Design Store. It doesn't matter whether it is in color, or already black and white. It is easy enough to preview and adjust as necessary like I did with the photo of my daughter above. Simple graphics are much easier to use for creating a stamp though.

Choose the size stamp you want to create and the software will change your working area. That white square is a 30 x 30 mm stamp size.

I played around with a few different strawberries till I found one that was easy to modify. Please tell me I am not the only one who buys several similar images and plays around forever till I get it ...just, right.  I decided to separate the stem and strawberry for other projects. 

I just used the eraser tool to delete the portion I didn't want. You can add different color ink to the different sections if you want.  I wanted the parts separate, and I was worried about the ink bleeding around the edges of the stem.

At any time you can click on stamp filters to see what your image will look like and play around with different options. I used the comic outline for this project.

After your image is ready, when you go to create your stamp, the software automatically mirror images the design for you. I really enjoy this part being automatic. I can't tell you how many times I have messed up a project because I forgot to reverse the lettering!

So in the case of my "Berry Nice", I used the curved text option to create it...

Then when I clicked to send it to the Mint, it gave me the mirror image of the text so my stamp would stamp the words correctly.

This stamp is a 30 x 60 mm size which was perfect for my saying.

If you already have used a Silhouette Mint, you know how easy it is to print. Once you send it to the machine, you feed the stamp blank through the back and it stamps it and rolls through.

Break open the sheet and peel off the printed stamp. Then adhere it to a stamp mount which slides onto a changeable stamp grip. Then you can stamp a label to mark your stamp lid for storage.

Once the stamp is ready, I covered my image in Silhouette Mint Ink. Let it soak in completely for about 10 minutes, stamped off the excess ink on scratch paper and then went about stamping my project area.

I picked up a simple canvas tote. I always have a stash of these in the car for grocery shopping or just collecting our "stuff". Yeah, a family of 5 always has more stuff than I have room for in my hands.

Through trial and error I stamped and stamped and created my tote. Not a masterpeice, but it is all mine. 

So, let me know down in the comments below what you thought of my "Berry Nice" tote as well as what you would put on your own stamped summer tote. I would love to hear how you would personalize yours!

Want to Check Out More Silhouette Projects?

I've got two great Silhouette treats for you today! First off, my Silhouette Challenge buddies and I are all sharing projects on our blogs today, so peruse the projects below for a wealth of Silhouette inspiration!

Sunshine. Sea Salt. And Ice Cream Shirt Personalized Lawn Chair DIY Summer Strawberry Tote DIY - With the Silhouette Mint! How to Use Multiple Colors of Silhouette Sketch Pens Patriotic Hand-Scripted USA Shirt Herb Garden with Personalized Tin Outdoor Pillow for Summer How to Make Huge Paper Flowers Make A Half Moon Printed Pouch DIY Nautical Pallet Sign Vertical Herb Garden Ladder Kyltit yrttipenkkiin / Labels for herbs Pineapple Cup Decal DIY Flamingo Nail Art Sunshine Straw Toppers Summer Planner Stickers 1. Sisters, What // 2. Small Stuff Counts // 3. Adventures in All Things Food // 4. Creative Ramblings // 5. Where The Smiles Have Been // 6. Curly Crafty Mom // 7. Architecture of a Mom // 8. Create & Babble // 9. HaberdasheryFun // 10. Coral + Mint Design Co. // 11. Designed Decor // 12. Tehtaisk√∂ nyt? // 13. Tori Grant Designs // 14. Morena's Corner // 15. It Happens in a Blink // 16. unOriginal Mom   Silhouette Portrait Giveaway   And I've saved the best for last! Silhouette America has graciously sponsored our giveaway of a Silhouette Portrait! One lucky grand prize winner will receive their very own Silhouette Portrait, and two runners up will each receive a Heat Transfer Vinyl Starter Kit. (If you already own a Silhouette, just think how great a gift this would make for a friend!) To enter: just complete the entries in the Rafflecopter widget below. You have 18 potential entries, which means a lot of winning power. So, hurry up and enter! (This giveaway runs from 8:00 am on May 9 until 11:59pm on May 16, 2016, and is open to readers with a US mailing address.) a Rafflecopter giveaway  

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