Thursday, March 28, 2013


                   I settle myself onto the brick wall for my coffee break. It's hard and a little too tall for me to get comfortable, but it feels good to be off my feet. I've been selling coffee and bagels since 6am. There are comfy chairs in the lobby and little cafe tables as well. But I don't feel right taking them up. There are people here with sick babies. They shouldn't have to hunt around for a good spot to rest. Besides, I like it here where I can see the whirly-gig. Someone told me it's really a kinetic sculpture or something like that, but I just call it the whirly-gig.
                   I don't watch the machine so much anymore. I've seen it so many times I have it memorized. I watch the kids who watch it. Some of them are real sick―their hair is falling out and they look too skinny. Some of them have big casts or bandages. But there is something about that whirly-gig. It makes them forget for a little while. They forget to be scared. They forget they're sick or injured. They forget they're in a hospital. They're just kids with their eyes wide open to watch the pool balls go up the little elevators and race down the ramps. They listen to the chimes clang and they giggle and cheer. Sometimes they pick their favorite color ball and follow its journey around the whirly-gig.
                   Sometimes I watch the parents too. They have too much on their minds to watch the whirly-gig. They have doctor's appointments to keep and prescriptions to fill and bills to pay. They stop in my shop  and buy a coffee for themselves and a treat for their kid. The lucky ones stop for a while and sit in those comfy chairs and cafe tables and watch their kids. For a while they forget about what brought them to Children's. They smile and watch their children watching the whirly-gig.

                   This is in response to two prompts this week. The folks at Trifecta gave us the word “lucky” to write about this week. Write on Edge gave us the word “wonder” and a video of a kinetic sculpture from Boston's Musem of Science called Archimedean Excogitation, by George Rhoads. We're fortunate enough to visit that museum pretty regularly and that exhibit is one of my sons' favorite things at the museum. When they watch it, I cannot help but think of another Rhoads piece that is in the center of Boston Children's Hospital. My son James had hand surgery a couple of summers ago and the sculpture provided a very welcome distraction for us.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Thrifty, Tasty, Tuesday: Grilled Chicken Ideas

                   I'm busy. I bet you are too. It's part of the parenting gig. We're all trying to balance work, school, shuttling kids from point A to point B, and hopefully squeezing in a little time for ourselves. Having something quick and healthy for dinner is not going to happen without some planning, unless you can afford a personal chef. So today's Thrifty, Tasty, Tuesday, isn't going to be a recipe as much as an idea.
                   Boneless chicken breast is high in protein and very inexpensive. Usually one of my local grocers has giant packages on sale for $1.99 a pound. And there is no end to ways to use it. If you type “boneless chicken breast” into Google, you'd fine millions of recipes. But are you really going to whip up a batch of Parmesan encrusted chicken between Sally's karate class and Tommy's piano lesson, while helping little Suzie with her multiplication tables?
                   If you're like me, you're going to be very tempted to stop at Wendy's or whip up a batch of blue box mac and cheese. With a little planning you can do something much healthier that only takes a few minutes longer. When I have time, I buy one of those giant packs of chicken and pre-cook it. That way I have it on-hand for a quick and easy dinner.
Grilled Chicken for the Freezer

You will need:
                   a large package of boneless chicken breast
                   olive oil
                   salt & pepper

1.)   Pre-heat a non-stick grill pan to medium heat.*

2.)   Trim fat off chicken breasts and pound until they are about ¾ of an inch thick.

3.)   Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper

4.)   Cook first side until it's nice and brown and the top is beginning to look cooked.

5.)   Flip over and cook the other side.

6.)   Remove from pan and let cool

7.)   Once the chicken is completely cool, cut into strips and store in a freezer bag. Try to spread the chicken out into one layer within the bag.
Cute penguin print totally optional.

8.)   Place flat in freezer for 1-2 hours.

9.)   Take bag out of freezer and toss the chicken onto the counter to keep the pieces from sticking together. Then put back in the freezer. This will make getting them apart easier later.

*You can also do this on your outdoor grill. Mine is still covered with snow.

            Here are three ways to use your chicken:

1.)   Chicken Quesadillas. Smear refried beans on ½ a flour tortilla, add chicken, and sprinkle with cheese. Pop them in a 350-degree oven for about 10 minutes. Serve with salsa.

2.)   Caesar Salad. Top salad greens with chicken and croutons for a quick Caesar salad.

3.)   Chicken Broccoli & Pasta. Toss chicken with cooked pasta, broccoli and olive oil. Sprinkle generously with Parmesan cheese.

In the coming weeks, I'll offer more ways to use your pre-cooked chicken. I'd also love to hear your ideas! Check out my new page called Thrifty Tasty Tuesday, etc. I've compiled all of the recipes I've ever posted on this blog in one place.


Friday, March 22, 2013

100 Word Song: Galileo

This story picks up where I left off here.
                   “How long 'til my soul gets it right,” Danny prayed.
                   He had fought to serve as deacon in his hometown against the warnings of his advisors. With so many factories closing, things were getting worse. He wanted to minster to the people he understood best―hard workers who knew how to take a punch.
                   Karen was still here, like a wild flower growing out of a crack in a rock. Danny always thought someone would pluck her out of Brockton and bring her someplace filled with light.
                   “Now I'm serving time for mistakes made by another in another lifetime.”

My Blog Can Beat Up Your Blog
It's been ages since I've linked up with 100 Word Song over at My Blog Can Beat Up Your Blog. This week's inspiration is one of my all-time favorite songs, Galileo by The Indigo Girls. It was nearly 100 words of memoir this week. But 100 words couldn't do justice to the story of my roommates and I serenading a hockey team in a Montreal elevator in the '90's. Three part harmony and the confidence of youth need much more than 100 words―another time perhaps.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

So My Friend Wrote this Book... Untouched

                   One of the great things about having LOTS of snow this winter (perhaps the only great thing), is the time I've had to read some wonderful books. And one of the great things about being a blogger is meeting other writers. So I decided to combine those two great things by creating new feature on this blog to help promote some of the fantastic authors I've come across in the blog-o-sphere. Welcome to the first edition of, “So My Friend Wrote this Book...”
                   This week I'm starting with the book that has been on my nightstand the longest. Sara Humphreys sent me a copy of her paranormal romance novel Untouched months ago. It is the third in her series about an ancient society of telepathic, dream-walking shape-shifters called the Amoveo. [You can read my review of the first book Unleashed here.] With so much going on in my life, Untouched sat on my nightstand far too long. So long in fact, the next book in the series is slated for publication in May! On the plus side, if you like it, you won't have to wait long for the next book.
                   All Amoveos have a predestined mate they must meet and connect with before they're thirty. Otherwise, they lose their abilities and die a slow and painful death. In the first two books we learn that for the first time, some Amoveo have found their mates among humans. These matings have created Amoveo-human hybrids. Often times, these hybrids grow up not knowing about their shapeshifting heritage. They do however, grow up knowing they are different than the other kids on the block. Such is the case with heroine Kerry Smithson. She wears gloves constantly and avoids shaking hands with people. The world believes Kerry, a well-known model, is an eccentric germophobe. She allows this misperception to flourish in order to hide the truth. She is a powerful telepath for whom human contact is excruciatingly painful.
Available at
                   Then she meets Dante Coltari. Hired to protect her, Dante's touch is far from painful for Kerry. For the first time in her life, the human touch is not just painless, but deeply pleasurable. Dante has recognized Kerry is his predestined mate and initiates her into the world of the Amoveo. His job is to keep her safe from the purists who believe Amoveo-human hybrids are an abomination that weaken their race.
                   If you like your romance, with a side of paranormal, I encourage you to check out the whole series. There are great characters, drama, action, danger, and enough spice to heat up these chilly New England days. Maybe Mother Nature ought to read this series!

                   To celebrate the first in what I hope will be a long series, I am having a give-away! You could win this cool 39 For the First Time bag and copies of Unleashed and Untouched by Sara Humphreys. If you leave a comment below, I'll enter you once. If you can't comment because Blogger is acting up, send me an e-mail and I'll include you. If you tweet this post, I'll enter your name twice. Be sure and include @vic39first in your tweet. I'll pick a winner on April first.

                   If you're an author and would like me to feature your book on “So My Friend Wrote this Book...”, drop me a line at victoriakp39(at)gmail(dot)com.

Mama’s Losin’ It

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Thrifty Tasty Tuesday: Smoothies for Breakfast...

...and Dessert!

            I started this feature to share ways of feeding my family well while sticking to a budget. We probably all know by now that one of the best ways to eat better is to fill our plates with fruits and veggies. But let’s face it, fresh fruit can get really expensive this time of year—and often the quality doesn’t match the price tag. Fruit that is harvested for shipment over long distances is picked before it’s ripe, whereas frozen fruit stays on the vine longer and often has more flavor and vitamins than “fresh” fruit. There is a great variety out there and the cost is very reasonable.
Of course, you lose a lot in the way of texture when you freeze fruit, so you probably aren’t going to want to chow down on a bowlful of defrosted strawberries. But frozen fruit make fantastic smoothies. We have smoothies a couple of times a week for breakfast. The first few times I made them I had to tinker with the amounts of fruit and yogurt to get just the right balance. I’d add a little more of this and a little more of that, until finally I had more smoothie in my blender than we could drink at one breakfast. We don’t like to waste stuff in this house, so we poured the remaining mixture into popsicle molds and had them for dessert the next day. They were a hit—sweet enough for dessert and full of vitamins, protein, calcium, and probiotics.

Mango-Berry Smoothies & Pops
2 Cups low-fat vanilla yogurt (I use Stonyfield Farms)
1/2 banana, cut into pieces (frozen or not)
1 1/2 cups frozen mixed berries
1 1/2 cups frozen mango chunks
Optional: milk or orange juice to thin smoothie

Put first four ingredients in a blender and mix on the highest setting until smooth. You may need to stop blending and push the fruit towards the bottom a couple of times.

If the smoothie is too thick to pour, add a little milk or orange juice.

Pour smoothies into glasses and enjoy for breakfast.

Pour remaining smoothie mixture into popsicle molds and freeze overnight for a healthy and delicious dessert.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Blame it on The Ides of March

            Hi there! Sorry I haven’t been blogging a much lately. I thought for sure I’d be blogging all over the place once Moon Over Buffalo closed. But somehow, other priorities snuck in and took up a lot of my time. I know there have been Tuesdays without Thrifty Tasty Tuesday and a few Fridays without any fiction. But a few things have kept me from blogging, although not from writing.
            The first distraction has been an avalanche of projects, standardized testing, and Scouting commitments for my kids. It seems like every week there is another book report, diorama, or science project due. And I’ve been desperately trying to offer support and encouragement without taking over the project. I find stepping back to be one of the tougher (but most important) aspects of parenthood. It’s a tricky balancing act, but I think we’re getting there. Anyone else have trouble with this?
            Second has been the weather. You’d think lots of snow would make me hunker down to the keyboard. Alas, it made me want to crawl under the covers with some of the books that have piled up on my nightstand. I’ve been having a wonderful time reading some of books written by friends. In fact, I’m going to start a new feature on this blog called, “So My Friend Wrote this Book...”  Watch for the first edition next week—I’ll even be doing a give-away. If you have a book you’d like me to talk about, drop me a line.
            Another distraction is the result of all that reading. I’ve been inspired by my friends who’ve published their words—on their own, with traditional publishers, and some have even started their own imprint. A couple of weeks back, I opened up the novel I wrote for NaNoWriMo in 2011. It had been months (maybe even a year) since I had looked at it and I wondered if it had the potential to be published. I came to the conclusion that it isn’t the “great American novel”, but it’s a good story with interesting characters. So, instead of writing anything new, I spent some time making changes, did a little editing, and this week I sent it off to be read by two people I trust to be honest with me. Hopefully, they’ll remember to ply me with bourbon before they get too honest.
            Finally, the least interesting reason I haven’t been blogging is my need to get myself back in shape. It isn’t just about fitting into my favorite jeans anymore. Last summer I started having problems with my back. It’s nothing terribly serious—we all get a few aches and pains in the years after we turn thirty-nine. You know how it goes—I didn’t exercise because my back hurt and my back got worse because I wasn’t exercising. I got to the point where I was popping ibuprofen like M&M’s. My back even froze on me a couple of times. Thanks to my chiropractor, yoga, floor mats at work, and yes, exercise, I’m on the mend. I’m down to taking anti-inflammatories once or twice a week instead of four or five times a day. I even managed a four-mile jog yesterday. It’s a huge relief to be feeling better, but it has been a time-consuming process. Yet another thing to balance, but I’ll get there.
            So if you’re reading this, thanks for hanging in there. Next week, “Thirty-nine for the First Time” should be back to its old self. On second thought, next week you’ll see a new and improved blog. I have a new Thrifty-Tasty-Tuesday in the works, the first edition of “So My Friend Wrote this Book...”, and hopefully a little fiction thrown into the mix. See you then!