Steena Holmes's Blog, page 3

April 2, 2015

Scalloped Potatoes for Easter Dinner   Print Author: adapted from Food Network's Tyler Florence Ingredients 1½ cups of heavy cream 3 bay leaves 2 sprigs of fresh thyme, plus more to finish 2 garlic cloves, chopped ½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg Salt and fresh ground black pepper Unsalted butter 2 lbs russet potatoes, peeled and cut into ⅛-inch-thick slices ½ cup grated Parmesan, plus more for broiling Directions Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. In a saucepan, heat the cream with the bay leaves, thyme, garlic, nutmeg and some salt and pepper. As the cream is heating up, butter a casserole dish. Use a slotted spoon to remove the bay leaves and thyme from heated cream mixture. Pour the heated cream mixture into a large bowl with the sliced potatoes. Mix gently to coat the potatoes completely. Dust Parmesan over the potatoes. Season the entire mixture with a little salt and pepper. Mix gently to incorporate. Pour a little bit of the cream into the bottom of the buttered casserole dish. Spoon the potatoes in gently. Make sure the potatoes are level/even for uniform cooking time. Pour remaining cream over the top. Top with more Parmesan and fresh thyme leaves. Cover the casserole dish with aluminum foil. BE SURE tot pull back one corner for the steam to escape. Bake for 40 minutes. 3.2.2925
 

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Published on April 02, 2015 13:49 • 8 views

March 30, 2015

My oldest daughter turns 16 today and if you’ve been following me on Instagram or FB then you’ll have seen I took her on a trip – something I promised my kids I would do for this special birthday years ago.


This trip was important for a few reasons:

~I want her to have amazing memories.

~I want there to be a connection between us that goes beyond the average mother/teenage drama we’re going through right now.

~I want to help cultivate a desire to travel and see new things.


I think I accomplished all of these things. My oldest isn’t one who likes to try new things – but she walked away from our trip asking if we could do it again and go to a different place next time. She also opened up to me about things in her life and for three days we didn’t have one disagreement.


That in itself is a miracle! (if you have a teenage daughter or have ever had one…you know exactly what I mean!)


Young couple in love outdoor.Turning 16 is a pretty big deal for her. It means she also gets to date. (gulp)


Now, if you’re friends with me on FB you might have seen a post a few weeks ago about my daughter being asked out on a date and I asked a question – should I be the nice mom and let her date 2 weeks before her birthday or do I stick hard to our rule and make her wait. I already knew what I was going to do…but it was so interesting to read the responses.


Yes, you read that right. We have a rule in our home – you have to wait till your 16 to date. Now, before you shake your head at me, let me explain my reasonings.

~I want to protect my daughters from unnecessary heartache. It’s going to happen, I know this. But it doesn’t need to happen at ages 12, 13, 14 etc.

~I want them to respect themselves and teach the boys in their lives to respect them as well. (I realize it might not happen, but hey…)

~The rule began as a joke – one daughter had a crush on a boy at the age of 12 and we teasingly said she had to wait. She believed us and when her other friends started to date early and had their hearts broken, she would come back and say, I’m glad I’m waiting.


So…did I (and by I, I mean we – my husband and myself) give in and let her date early? No. We asked our daughter to respect our rules but in all honestly, we didn’t have to ask. She’d already told the boy that she had to wait and he agreed. He even went so far as to say he would make sure her first date was a special one. (awww…)


In that moment my daughter realized something…she was worth waiting for. 


Just writing that brings tears to my eyes. Our roles as parents are to teach our children, to train them, to protect them and prepare them. Something I’ve realized while raising daughters is that it’s also our jobs to teach and show them what they are worth.


We all raise our children differently and we all raise each children different as well. With three girls, I’m not naive in thinking they will all wait to give their heart to a boy. But I hope, that in this journey, they will all know one thing – they are special and worth being treated like gold.


Happy 16th Birthday to my daughter. May your smile always light your heart and bring joy to those around you. May your soul always remain pure and may you know you will always be loved.


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Published on March 30, 2015 06:28 • 13 views

March 27, 2015

Cinnamon Streusel Loaf   Print Author: adapted from Canadian Living Ingredients ½ Cup butter, softened ¾ Cup granulated sugar 2 eggs 2 tsp vanilla 2-1/4 Cups all-purpose flour 1 tsp baking powder ½ tsp baking soda ½ tsp salt ⅔ Cup buttermilk Streusel: ¾ Cup packed light brown sugar ⅔ Cup all-purpose flour ½ tsp cinnamon ½ Cup cold butter Directions Streusel: In a small bowl, stir together the sugar, flour and cinnamon. Using a pastry blender or 2 knives, cut in the butter until in coarse crumbs. Set aside. In a large bowl, beat the butter with sugar until it is light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, 1 at a time. Next, beat in the vanilla. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Stir this into butter mixture alternately with buttermilk; therefore, making 3 additions of flour mixture and 2 of buttermilk. Scoop half of the batter into parchment paper–lined 9 x 5-inch loaf pan. Top the batter with half of the streusel mixture. Scrape remaining batter over top and sprinkle with remaining streusel mix. Bake at 325ºF until cake tester inserted in centre comes out clean (about 65 minutes). Allow the loaf to cool in the pan on a rack for approximately 10 minutes. Turn loaf out onto rack; let cool completely. 3.2.2708
 

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Published on March 27, 2015 12:28 • 11 views

March 26, 2015

education, school, technology and internet concept - little studThere are days that I want to take away my kids electronics and place them in a bubble where they are completely protected – even though I know that in today’s world, that type of protection isn’t possible. Whether it’s on a game site where my child creates her own village with animals and interacts with others or my teens are texting their friends…feelings can get hut and things will often be said that perhaps shouldn’t.


Cyber-bully. It’s a phrase we didn’t have growing up, but it’s something my kids know more about than I do. It’s one thing to experience it as an adult and as a writer, but it’s another to see it happening to my child.


Just like school shootings are a part of our life now, so is hearing about a child who committed suicide because of being bullied…sad fact, but it’s true.


I recently posted some links on 10 apps that you don’t want your child to have access to. It’s good parenting to be aware of these things. Thankfully, I found 2 apps in my search that I also wanted to tell you about. These are apps every child should have access to, I feel.



WeHeartIt – Think Instagram except no one can respond to the images posted. No nasty comments. Just love.
StopIt – allows a child to take  screen shot of a photo, text, message etc where they are being harassed and send it to an adult to see.

Can you recommend any others?


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Published on March 26, 2015 06:51 • 9 views

March 19, 2015

Skinny Lasagna Soup   Print Author: Adapted from Skinnytaste.com Ingredients For the soup: cooking spray 14 oz sweet Italian chicken sausage, casings removed ½ onion, chopped 2 cloves garlic, crushed 4 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley, divided 3 Cups low-sodium, fat-free chicken broth 2½ Cups water 2 Cups marinara sauce 2 bay leaves fresh cracked black pepper 6 oz broken lasagna noodles, of your choice For topping: 6 Tbsp part skim shredded mozzarella cheese ½ Cup part skim ricotta cheese 3 Tbsp grated parmesan cheese 2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley ¼ cup fresh basil chiffonade Directions Heat a large pot or Dutch oven sprayed with oil, over medium heat and add the sausage. Cook until completely browned, breaking it up with a wooden spoon while cooking, about 4 to 5 minutes. Add in chopped onion and crushed garlic and cook 2 to 3 minutes. Add parsley, broth, water, marinara sauce, bay leaves and fresh black pepper. Bring all ingredients to a boil; cover, reduce heat and simmer for about 30 minutes. In a medium bowl combine the ricotta, parmesan, and 2 Tbsp parsley and mix. Heat a large soup pot or Dutch oven over medium heat, spray with oil and add the sausage; cook until browned, breaking it up as it cooks with a wooden spoon about 4 to 5 minutes. Add the chopped onion and crushed garlic and cook 2 to 3 minutes. Add the parsley, broth, water, marinara sauce, bay leaves and fresh black pepper and bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat and simmer about 30 minutes. In a medium bowl combine the ricotta, parmesan, and 2 tbsp parsley and mix. Add in the broken pasta and cook uncovered according to package directions. Divide amongst 6 bowls. Top each serving with 2 Tbsp ricotta cheese mixture, mozzarella, fresh cracked pepper and fresh basil on top. Makes about 8 cups. 3.2.2708
 

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Published on March 19, 2015 08:18 • 13 views

Is Your Child In Danger From These Apps?Parenting in this age of social media is not easy. We have to always be on guard and watchful, walking the fine line of protection your children and giving them a little bit of freedom. I don’t know about you, but my daughters are on their phones or tablets constantly and I get worried about the apps they’ve downloaded and use on a regular basis.


As much as possible, I friend my daughters and have them friend me back (on apps like instagram) so I know what pictures they share, how they talk on these sites etc but there are apps they use that I have no ideas about and I decided it was time to take a look to see what apps they shouldn’t be using.


Because my daughters are getting older, we’re at the point where ‘because I said no’ just doesn’t work. They need to understand why, the issues, my fears and I need to listen to them as well. Lately the issue of trust has come up when I talk about wanting to protect them. (lovely conversation btw but at least it’s a conversation).


In my searching for what apps my girls should NOT have on their devices (my children range from 12-16 yrs old so keep that in mind), these are the top 10 apps I feel as parents we need to be concerned about: (any parent and find these apps, do a search for apps kids should not use etc…there are a lot of sites out there to help us parents in this!)



Skout:  A flirting app where your child is placed in an ‘age appropriate’ category and can flirt with other users through posts and pictures they upload. Who’s to say the one flirting with your child isn’t an adult?
Snapchat: Through this app, your child can send photos and videos to their friend list and then have the image delete after a length of time. Main issue for this app is that it’s used a lot for sexting and your child’s image may be used as porn photos.
Secret: Speak Freely:  It’s an app similar to Whisper, where people can voice their thoughts anonymously. They try to take precautions but they do require personal information and the language can be quite colorful.
Whisper: A confession app where your identity may be a secret, but your location isn’t.
Kik Messenger: Can we sexting made easy for kids?
Yik Yak: Like Twitter but GPS tracking is involved.
Omegle: Video chatting where strangers are paired – the main reason for the pairing is sexual in nature.
BurnBook: Recent allegations say it exposes kids to cyber bullying – kids post anonymous about classmates (they can click on their school and write negative remarks about others in their school).
After School: Allows kids to post anything they want about anyone they want – anonymously. Perfect set up for cyber-bullying.
Chat Roulette: You never know who you’ll chat with – or see.

So what can you do? Talk to your child. Take their age into consideration. Be open with them, ask for their openness back.


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Published on March 19, 2015 06:28 • 6 views

March 18, 2015

Bullying is such a critical issue today no matter where you live. It’s become incorporated into our lives on a daily basis – and it doesn’t matter if you are a student or an adult – we all experience it. Wether it’s over our body shape, our family, our looks, how we act or dress or even our lifestyle – everyone deals with bullying in some way or another.


And it’s not okay.


There is an organization in the UK called Ditch the Label and the are dedicated to stop bullying in its tracks. They have a fundraiser going on right now on Ebay and I’m honored to have one of my books – Finding Emma – as part of that charity. If you are in the UK – please take a look. Bid on the book.


I will match the sold amount as a donation to the charity.


Finding Emma


Bid Today!

The post Ditch the Label – Bid and I’ll Match! appeared first on Steena Holmes | NY Times & USA Today Bestselling Author.

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Published on March 18, 2015 10:46 • 8 views

March 13, 2015

Flourless Morning Glory Muffins   Print Author: Adapted from Running With Spoons Ingredients ¼ Cup creamy almond butter (or nut butter of choice - SOY works too) 1 Large ripe banana 1 egg ¼ Cup honey ½ Cup rolled oats 2 Tbsp ground flaxseed 1 tsp vanilla extract 1 tsp baking soda 1 tsp ground cinnamon ½ tsp ground ginger 1 Cup carrots (about 2 large), peeled and grated 1 medium apple, peeled, cored, and grated ⅓ Cup raisins ⅓ Cup walnuts (optional) Directions Preheat oven to 375F. Prep a muffin pan by sprayingwith cooking spray. Set aside. Add all ingredients except for the carrots, apple, raisins, and walnuts (if using) to a high-speed blender. Blend on high until oats are broken down and batter is smooth and creamy. If you don't have a high speed blender, you can mix all ingredients by hand. Simply grind the oats into a flour and mash the bananas before combining all the ingredients in a bowl. Be sure to mix well. Fold in the carrots, apples, raisins, and walnuts. Mix by hand. Pour the batter into prepared muffin tin. Fill each cavity about ¾ full. Bake for 15 minutes, or until the tops are set and/or a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Allow the muffins to cool in the pan for ~10 minutes before removing. Store in an air-tight container for up to one week. 3.2.2708
 

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Published on March 13, 2015 14:16 • 38 views

January 19th I had the pleasure of guest posting on Writers In the Storm  and since this subject keeps coming up, I thought I’d share it here as well.


My house is quiet and I’m nursing a hot cup of coffee (my third actually) while staring at the screen and wondering what else I have left in me to write today. I don’t think there’s much. You see, last night I stayed up until the wee hours of the morning working on some chapters that literally yanked my heart out of my chest and I haven’t quite recovered. Which isn’t a good thing because the story isn’t complete and I am on a tight deadline.


This is only my sixth novel where I’ve experienced this (out of countless others) but I’ve learned something about the process I wish I had known back when I wrote my first book. I’m sure the more I write the more I’ll learn and I may discover a better way to experience the heartache but for now, it’s a process.


What process? Of realizing when to write those scenes that destroy me and when not to.


You’d think it would be simple right? It was when I wasn’t on a deadline, when I could write or not write whenever I wanted. If I needed to take time off from writing the next chapter, then okay … whatever it took. I heard of authors who took a year or more to write a novel so it must be okay. My first novel took six months to write. Now I average less than three months, although this one I’m working on now has been less than that thanks to poor planning on my part and the holidays just being here. (edited to add…I’m not in the revision part of this book and the emotions continue to hit me as I go deeper into the story).


I’ve learned that I can’t write those scenes that are dark or painful while my kids are around. So that means on weekends or holidays or even at night before they go to bed. And if I wait until everyone is in bed and stay up for hours (like last night) then I need to make sure my family will not be home the following day either.


There’s a reason for this.


When I write a story about a woman whose marriage is falling apart because she can’t handle her grief, or about a woman so lost in her own mind that she can’t tell truth from reality, or if I touch on subjects dealing with abuse…I become those women. I am those characters in that moment while I’m writing about them. It’s my marriage that is falling apart, it’s my child that I’ve just lost, it’s my husband that was killed and my baby who died in my arms, I am the one reliving the memory of being raped…it’s hard for me to walk away, to close the screen and go back to my every day life as if what I’d just wrote didn’t matter. (I will always remember hearing Jodi Picoult tell an audience that she is able to do this and wondered what I was doing wrong because I couldn’t).


So you can image I’m an emotional wreck. I’m low, quiet, needing space, alone time in order to regroup. My husband once asked me if it was worth it – if the emotional toil was normal and worthy of my energy. Normal? I’m really not sure (if it is, and you go through this as well – I’d love to know how you handle it!) but worthy of my energy – absolutely. Writing these type of stories…it’s what fuels me. I face my fears as a woman, a mother, as a wife in these stories. It’s my happy place (as odd as that sounds) – when I feel the most fulfilled and energized and excited! Worth it? When I read reviews from people who believe that I must have gone through these experiences, that I write them as if I know first hand what it feels like…yes, it’s worth it to me as a writer. I’m always afraid that one day he’s going to ask me if it’s worth our marriage. I hope that day never comes.


There is an emotional toll, make no mistake about it. In order to write a story that comes from your heart (and every story should if you want to touch your readers hearts) then you have to be willing to go to that level. How everyone reacts will be different. I would love to be able to walk away after a scene and be fine – to be able to distance myself from my characters and not have it affect me so much. Maybe one day I will. But maybe by then, I’ll realize that I don’t want to. That this is the process that works for me.


In the meantime, I sit here, sipping my coffee (I should get a refill) and waiting for that boost of energy to open up my laptop where my story is stored (yes, I have a ‘writing’ laptop and a desktop computer where I do all my ‘other’ work – helps me to ‘switch gears’ when I need to.) If I wasn’t under such a tight deadline, I’d take a few days breather, enjoy the slightly warm weather, maybe make a cake for dessert tonight and just enjoy life. But I can’t – and so with my choice of profession comes discipline, and that means pressing on. Or as my mother would say suck it up buttercup.


Tell me…how do you handle dealing with those dark places?


The post Being Destroyed By My Writing appeared first on Steena Holmes | NY Times & USA Today Bestselling Author.

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Published on March 13, 2015 09:34 • 39 views

March 6, 2015

It’s 2015 and yet it feels like we’ve stepped back a few years when it comes to authors insecurities.


In 2005 when my first book was published, I remember the condescension from other authors when they realized my book was published by winning a contest with a small publisher. In 2010 I remember the disdain from other writers seeking publication when I decided to try my hand at self publishing. In 2011 I remember both the flack and admiration from authors – some felt I’d just burned the bridges on my career by self publishing Finding Emma and others congratulated me.


I also remember being on of those authors who couldn’t understand why everyone wasn’t self publishing, why writers were still trying to get that publishing contract. I’ll admit it. I was narrow minded back then.


But that was back then. Only 4 years ago and yet, it seems like a lifetime ago in regards to the publishing world, doesn’t it? We now have indie authors who are firmly entrenched in their career. We have traditional authors still believing there is benefit in their chosen path. We have hybrid authors who see the advantages and disadvantages of both ways and are willing to walk the tightrope and make it work for them.


So why can’t we all just get along? It seems redundant that I’m even writing this, doesn’t it? I mean, we are in 2015 after all.


Except, I still see the infighting amongst authors in various loops I’m involved in (whether its via email or FB). I believe the reason we are still seeing this is due to insecurity. No matter where we are in our publishing journey, no matter the changes we see or the strides we take…insecurity is always going to be there.


Whether it’s from a traditionally published author watching their sales dwindle, from indie authors not seeing the success the outliers are, or from midlist hybrid author who believes they should be the one seeing the books hit the lists and their bank accounts grow…either way, it’s there and it’s showing its ugly head once again.


Here’s the thing: my journey is not yours. Your journey is not mine. It’s that simple. We all write differently. We all have different voices. Different styles. Does it really matter if someone decides that being an indie author is the way to go if you are a hybrid author? Does it really matter if someone who used to be a traditional author is now considering dipping their toes into the indie world with their backlist titles?


NO.


So let’s stop, shall we? Any well known conference today will have both indie and traditional focus. But we’re now into the era where it doesn’t matter … we all have the same goal, the same problems and are looking for the same answers. Discoverability. Increasing sales. Finding new readers. Growing our social media. New markets.


I’m tired of authors picking sides. I’m tired of being told about a fence between the sides or even an invisible barrier that people are afraid to cross. Get over yourselves please.


THERE IS NO FENCE. And if you want to argue that there is indeed a fence – then the fence is one of your own making. You’re the one who has picked a side. Who cares if one author prefers a certain path … a path different then your own? Who cares if they disagree with your journey? It’s YOUR journey, not theirs! If they want to argue with you, then just walk away. If you feel insulted because of a certain tone that you’ve read into an email or post or something else…then the issue is with you (as much as I hate to say it…sorry, but it’s true).


I have a author friend I’ve known for years who just signed 2 contracts for 6 books. I’m absolutely thrilled for her – because this is her path and it’s been her goal, her dream. We may have different views when it comes to self-publishing, but who cares. I have another friend who is seeing a lot of success in her indie journey and I’m thrilled for her as well…because it’s her path! Two different writers, two different paths than my own…why can’t we all just be happy for one another? Listen to each other when we are faced with issues. Celebrate when we see success, commiserate when something fails…


Why can’t we just stop the fighting amongst ourselves? How about, instead of focusing on ourselves and our own journey, we celebrate someone else? Do you know of an author who is walking a different path than you? Tell us about them!


 


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Published on March 06, 2015 11:01 • 12 views