Unreal. You take a little time off for family and health issues and boom, it's two years later! Very, very surprised I've let the site languish for so long. My email has likewise been lonely for my company.
If you've contacted me in the last two years and got radio silence, I apologize sincerely. When things get tough, I forget about tech stuff like having email, checking email, that I even have a cell phone, etc. And things have been really tough. But the good news is things have been getting less tough...just in time for a lovely pandemic.
I should probably state up-front that if you have been hoarding toilet paper, this site is not for you. Similarly, anyone who bought a ton of disinfecting wipes or hand sanitizer in hopes of cashing in on something that is literally killing people will probably not enjoy my "unique" sense of humor.
The virus isn't even in my county yet but people have gone a bit overboard. I get that you don't want to run out of certain things if you're quarantined for up to a month, but--and I may have mentioned this already--THE VIRUS ISN'T HERE YET! Take a package, and leave some for everybody else. If it comes down to having to buy exorbitantly priced toiler paper from you, I'll use leaves first. Or newspaper. Or old magazines I've got on hand because I'll look through them someday but that day never seems to arrive. I will not let anyone make a profit off of me that hasn't already been doing so.
Anyway, so the things that have been going on include my PCOS (not fun) my depression (even less fun, and in fact rather dangerous), and the adventures of raising teens with autism (also mostly not fun, and sometimes dangerous). For more than a year we were thinking we'd have to put one of our boys in an institution. It did not come to that, and I'm happy to say he's doing very well now, but it was a scary time and everything else went on hold. One of the other boys decided to move out...during a blizzard. That didn't go so well and we're glad he changed his mind.
What do you get when you cross the Bible with modern electioneering and media coverage?
An anachronistic satire of hilarious proportions! My fellow CBB author Jes Saint is posting her story The Campaign in serial form on her blog, and I recommend it for those who enjoy a good pun-filled and irreverent mixture of the old and the new.
I've recommended that Jes add links to the bottom of each post so that the series can more easily be read in order. Until that can be done however, just remember that the older posts start at the bottom of the blog page.
That ended up being a long week. But finally I have emerged from my attempts at hibernation--grudgingly, and caffeinated--to post the finale to my chocolate-y adventure. The image below is linked, but gets me nothing if you buy the cocoas.
Back to the good stuff...
Dec 8, Chocolate Supreme
What sweet, frothy, indulgent comfort is mine as I sip this delicious beverage! Extra chocolatey and smooth to go with it. It's going too fast. This one may be worth a full-box purchase.
Dec 9, Mint
Very nice. Rather like drinking an Andes candy, but less intense. In fact I think it could do with a touch more mint flavor, but it has a nice soft mintiness that I like. Perhaps next time I have this I'll stir it with a candy cane and see what that does for the flavor.
Dec 10, French Vanilla
My supplies are dwindling, and I know the end is near. Well, it's been a mostly good experience, except for Mocha...Mocha sucks. On to tonight's flavor. I've had another brand's French Vanilla cocoa and it was very nice, but the smell of the powder on this one is not making me think happy thoughts. It's a bit...odd. Anyway, here goes. Okay. As with many things the taste is not as bad as the smell. But the oddness remains. It's almost a bit plastic-y, or chemical-y. Definitely not something you want to be the last thing you taste before toothpaste at night. Though at this point the toothpaste will be much more appreciated than usual. May have to wash my mouth out with an Andes candy (the fudge mint cookies are long gone by now).
Dec 11, Hazelnut
Was a bit concerned this might be akin to drinking Nutella, but was pleasantly surprised. The hazelnut flavor isn't overpowering but rather is a subtle complement to the chocolate. Not as frothy as the French Vanilla but a superior taste. This one is soft and mellow, and I could definitely see myself getting an entire box.
Alas, this experiment must now come to an end, for I have no flavors left to try. Land O' Lakes does have a few other flavors, but only eleven came in this package.
[sad, dramatic music]
Hope restored! I have found two of the "missing" flavors at a local store and will be able to add them to my taste journey. I noticed that they had several boxes of French Vanilla, and that flavor was marked down lower than these two I got. *smirk*
Dec 19, Arctic White
I know what you're thinking, white chocolate is not chocolate. And the flavor rather bears that out. There's a nice little bit of foaminess to it, but not what I'd call froth. It's sort of like drinking sweetened milk. Not bad, and certainly nice in its way, which is good because I had to buy whole boxes of these two new (to me) flavors, so there are five more packets of this one to drink.
Dec 21, S'Mores
Nice froth, and a good flavor. I'm getting a definite hint of graham cracker flavor here, but not much in the way of marshmallow. So...since my husband grabbed a bag of mini-marshmallows that were on sale, I'll add some to the cocoa. The two are compatible, and yet somehow the marshmallows detract from the experience. It's S'Mores flavored...the marshmallow flavor is supposed to be present already. And I am reminded of why I rarely put mini marshmallows in my cocoa: the sweetness of the marshmallows makes the cocoa itself seem less sweet, and that ruins the whole indulgence aspect for me. Overall verdict is that while lacking marshmallow (maybe I should get some marshmallow creme and mix a bit in next time?), this is a very nice and highly drinkable cocoa. I don't mind having bought a whole box. Ah, but here is folly, and the fickleness of the human mind: I already have an unfinished box of this in my pantry. I'd already tried it, and just forgot. But to be fair, I was not using cream, so it's almost a different cocoa with that added in instead of being just hot water with the mix.
I'll try to get that box they have of Salted Caramel and add it to the mix.
Dec 26, Snickerdoodle
This has very good froth to it. Subtle flavor, almost like a mix of S'Mores and Cinnamon, not as much chocolate to it. Highly drinkable, but not exciting. It's a safe choice, and a relaxing one, but not indulgent at all. One I wouldn't turn down, but not one I'd specifically request.
Salted Caramel and one or two other flavors continue to elude me, but if I come across them again, I may do an update. For now, farewell and thank you for joining me on this rather silly journey. May the cocoa be ever in your favor.
The mission: one woman will boldly go where surely someone, somewhere has gone before, but for a change of pace she will document the experience of trying out a variety of instant hot cocoa mixes.
The reason: eh, why not?
The method: pour the mix into a mug; add a bit of hot water and mix to form a paste of sorts; then add more hot water to about 3/4 of the desired amount of finished beverage; microwave for 30 seconds at full power; add heavy cream to improve texture and cool the now too-hot chocolate.
The cocoas: Black Tie Mercantile's 11-pack of Land O' Lakes Cocoa Classics. One by one I worked my way through them all, along with a few additional flavors I found available locally. If you wish to order the same pack of cocoas that inspired this adventure, you can click on the linked image below.
Full disclosure: I get nothing out of this, as I do not have an Amazon Affiliate account. Maybe I should look into that.
And now, on with the diaries...
Nov 29, Raspberry
Unusual but nice. It's slightly luxurious but not something I'd like to have every day. Maybe a once a year thing.
Nov 30, Butterscotch
The combination of butterscotch with chocolate gives it almost a coffee like tinge of flavor. Okay but again not something I'd want to have often, and I definitely would not buy an entire box of this flavor.
Dec 3, Mocha
Horrible! Totally coffee flavored. Had to add a generous scoop of Swiss Miss to make it palatable, and even then I still had to wash my mouth out with a Fudge Mint cookie.
Dec 4, Caramel
Smooth and rich. This one is definitely a keeper. And really after Mocha, I needed that.
Dec 5, Amaretto
Having never had amaretto anything before, I didn't know exactly what I'd be getting. Basically a hint of cherry flavor. For whatever reason, this particular packet of cocoa frothed up nicely, so I got a very relaxing luxurious sort of feeling. Overall it was very nice. Not sure I'd order an entire box of it, but I count it as a treat.
Dec 6, Irish Creme
As I sit at my computer typing while the cocoa is getting a little hotter, I wonder how I'll like this flavor. I saw instant coffee on the ingredients list, but to be fair it was the next to last thing in the list. It probably won't be too bad.
It's not bad at all. In fact, I quite like it! It's smooth and rich and creamy, and has barely any coffee taste at all. Very soothing. I could actually see myself drinking this regularly. And since it does have that hint of coffee perhaps there's a caffeine benefit that might help me kick soda once and for all (please, allow me my illusions).
The end of the box is in sight now. This saddens me. But I must soldier on and see this journey to its completion.
Dec 7, Cinnamon
This one was a little underwhelming. It's a good, solid cocoa but nothing more. Didn't froth up at all, and there was no sense of wishing to prolong the taste experience by taking small sips. Could drink it every day, but more likely would make it a second choice to mix things up a little now and then.
Join us again for part two of this adventure in approximately one week. Until then, may the cocoa be ever in your favor.
I know, you're thinking "That's it? That's all you have to say? Where have you BEEN all these months???
Short answer: here but sick.
Long answer: all summer I was having what I thought were much worse fibromyalgia symptoms. Aches, pains, fatigue, unbelievable brain fog. Summer is always a difficult time for me, and I figured getting the kids back in school would help...it didn't. So one day I decided to look up how to lose weight when you have PCOS. You'll never guess what I found out: all of the symptoms I was having can be caused by the PCOS too.
In the past weeks I've been learning a ton about PCOS and about changes I need to make in order to get better. I won't lie, it's quite daunting. Adding supplements, changing my diet, exercising but only certain ways because the wrong exercise will make things worse, and trying to eat for the lowest possible glycemic load and seriously up my protein intake. After the turn of the year I'm going to try going gluten and dairy (except butter) free. Not looking forward to that. I live in Wisconsin. The Dairy State. This is like sacrilege! Not to mention that I love dairy products. I love milk, I love cheese. I LOOOOOOOOVE pizza!
Anyway, getting away from the depressing topics--that reminds me, my depression decided to beat up on me this fall as well--of my health and giving up delicious things to eat things I hate (and admittedly some foods I don't hate), let's talk about writing. Haven't been doing much of it. But I have a plan to get back on track, and the first project I'm going to conquer is my humor novel North Pole: Confidential.
Welcome back to the series. I had intended to get rolling on the blog again a bit sooner this year but a rash of migraines have kept me rather unproductive. With a doctor-approved treatment plan, I hope to eliminate the headaches. For now they are greatly reduced, and I am happy with that.
On to the interview. Catherine Howard was Henry VIII's fourth or fifth wife, depending on how you count them. The young cousin to Anne Boleyn caught Henry's eye, became queen, and was executed for treason/adultery all in less than two years' time.
First off, what is the proper spelling of your name?
Oh, I don’t really care how it’s spelled. I used a K but I never asked my parents how it should be. I wasn’t much for spelling.
You were rather young when you caught Henry’s eye. And he was hardly the dashing figure he had been. Tell us about your feelings when you learned of his attraction to you. Were you surprised?
Goodness, no! Many men were attracted to me. The idea of marriage was somewhat of a shock though.
Did you want to marry him?
I did. I’d never been married, you see and he was so devoted to me. There are a few benefits to being a queen.
So you never considered saying no?
No one said no to Henry. Besides, all my family was pressuring me about it. You wouldn’t believe how many relatives who wouldn’t give me the time of day suddenly showed up to embrace “dear Katheryn.” I knew it was only their ambition, but I enjoyed the attention. Uncle Norfolk made it perfectly clear to me that refusing was not an option. So I decided I might as well make the best of it.
What do you think was your greatest achievement during your time as queen, brief though it was?
I kept Henry happy. That was no mean feat. King or no he was the moodiest man in Christendom and possessed of a foul temper.
It’s widely believed that you were a silly young girl, incapable of understanding your responsibilities or the dangers of your position. How do you respond to those claims?
*shrugs* I can’t really disagree. Though I would like to say that I have improved since my death.
Do you have a favorite color?
One of our readers wanted to know who you consider your true love.
I don’t know that any of them were true to me. I can only speak for my own heart, which when I gave it was given in full. Thomas Culpeper was my great love.
What about Dereham?
Oh please. I was a child then.
He took complete advantage of me. I didn’t know any better where he was concerned.
Is it true that you said upon your execution that you “would rather die the wife of Culpeper?”
Certainly not! I may have been passionate and naïve but I was not that stupid.
If you were going to point fingers, who would you blame for your downfall?
My parents and others who had charge of me. I was taught almost nothing. The people who should have protected me failed in their duty. I was told things but nothing was ever explained to me as a young girl.
Could you give us an example?
Female virtue. I was told to keep myself pure for marriage but not what constituted impurity. How easy it was for Mannox to tell me that what he was doing left my virtue intact! What did I know of relations between men and women? Only what I observed in those around me, and no one explained wrong behavior to me. I could only my heart to follow.
What about after your marriage? Surely then you knew that certain behaviors or activities would be inappropriate for a queen to engage in with a man other than the king.
Show me proof of my supposed crimes.
How about that letter you wrote to Thomas Culpeper?
I loved him, that is true. And I longed for his company, but never was there anything in our behavior which would insult the king. Nothing that could be called sinful. The letter proves my feelings for him, but not that I ever acted on them in an improper way. There was no adultery.
After being tortured.
As did Dereham.
Dereham was guilty; he seduced a young girl of no consequence. Had he any idea that I would be queen someday he would not have done so.
Why did you allow him to be your private secretary?
Foolish girl that I was, I thought I had loved him and that he still cared for me. It seemed harmless enough to ensure him a comfortable position as he said “after all we’d meant to each other.”
If you could have lived in modern times, what would you have done?
If I had the same family, I suppose I’d be on Girls Gone Wild. With a different upbringing I might distinguish myself somehow. I’d be an attorney perhaps, or an actress. It’s a shame we didn’t have films back then.
So you’re a big fan of movies then. Do you have a favorite?
Mmm. Legally Blonde.
That’s all we have for this time. Join us again at our usual time for Katherine Parr. Thanks for reading.
Didn't mean to disappear for quite so long. Even I can't believe I haven't blogged since May. For the last month I've been participating in NaNoWriMo, which has gotten me writing again--something for which I am very thankful. But what about the other months? Here's what happened...
This spring we started having some very difficult challenges with our youngest son. In addition to his autism he has Type 1 diabetes (which is auto-immune, not the result of eating too much, and which I do not recommend to friends). He had previously had behavior problems which had been successfully overcome. Then came puberty. The combination of rapid body changes and hormones flooding the system is difficult for any child, and particularly hard on those on the autism spectrum. All the behaviors came back with a vengeance and we were worried that we might have to place him outside of our home.
Our son ended up with a deferred prosecution agreement (DPA) stemming from an incident at school in May; an incident for which I was present, and after which he ended up not going to school for most of the remainder of the school year. It was too stressful for everyone involved, him, us, and the staff, who I will add were always very understanding.
There aren't a lot of options where we live. There's a school and residential facility about an hour away, but his brother already attends the school there and the two of them cannot share a ride, nor would it be a good idea to have one coming home every day while the other has to stay there. That would be beyond bad, it would be cruel and could cause unimaginable psychic damage to both boys. There's another school/residential program two hours away that would be better, except for the distance and the fact that the only way to get him into such a place would be for the courts to get involved. This would not be an idea solution for a number of reasons.
A lot of prayer and effort was expended with the result of a therapy company based clear on the other side of the state agreeing to work with our son. This has been a wonderful change. His meltdowns have decreased considerably and he is making slow but steady progress in a number of areas. He goes to school for a reduced day and has not had any incidents on par with the one back in May. His DPA was closed a month early, due to his progress and confidence the social worker assigned to the case has in the team working with him.
Not all is well, but it is considerably better. It has only been this November that I have been able to think about writing at all. I did not win NaNoWriMo this year, but I did manage to write 15,000 words on North Pole: Confidential. I'm back into the story and enjoying it, and hope to finish the first draft early next year. In addition I will make an attempt to post on the blog at least twice a month--I'll try for once a week but can't guarantee anything, even if I put it in my Bullet Journal (by the way, I love my Bullet Journal!).
I hope all has been well with you and yours, and look forward to rejoining life both on and off the internet.
Happy December to you!
Welcome back to Historic Interviews, I'm your host Kate Warren. This week we speak with a woman who has been called the fourth wife of Henry VIII but technically should not be called so as the marriage was annulled. Without further ado, our exclusive talk with Anne of Cleves.
Welcome. Thank you for joining us.
It is my pleasure. I rarely get interview requests.
Why do you suppose that is?
I'm probably the least interesting person in the Tudor period. My story isn't considered "sexy" and therefore lacks modern appeal. Actually, it lacked appeal back in the day as well.
I have to say, your English is excellent!
Thank you. I have had a few hundred years to work on it.
First off...I'm not really sure how to address you. Your Highness? Anne? Duke's sister? King's sister?
Anne is fine, though I prefer Anna to avoid being confused with all those English girls named Anne. Anne and Elizabeth--you can't get away from those names in England.
Ok. Anna, you were HenryVIII's fourth wife...
I was not.
Our marriage was invalid and annulled. So we were not really married.
Yes, I'm aware of that, but historians tend to refer to you as Henry's fourth wife for the sake of simplicity.
I understand, but it still irritates me. It is historically inaccurate. Catherine Howard was his fourth wife.
Yeah, about that...what did you think of her?
Flighty, silly little thing. She was pretty and charming, but nothing more.
How about Katherine Parr?
She was all right. A dependable girl with good sense.
What were your feelings about the annulment? Were you upset at all?
No. I was all for it. Henry wasn't my type at all, and given his history I'd say I dodged a bullet there.
I've read the letter you wrote to him regarding the matter. Nicely done! It's not easy to find a way to tell a man you don't mind if your marriage is invalid while at the same time telling him how fond you are of him and how much you respect him.
*smiling* That was a good one, wasn't it?
So what was it like being the king's honored sister?
It was wonderful! I got all the benefits of being royal without the responsibilities, and I didn't have to sleep with Henry. I understand he was quite a looker in his youth, but by the time I got to England he'd seen better days--much better days. As I wasn't a blood relative he wasn't constantly trying to pawn me off for an alliance. I never gave him any trouble and he appreciated that. He knew I wanted nothing from him, unlike his courtiers and advisors.
Did you ever miss your home in Cleves?
Occasionally, but life was far more pleasant for me in England. Had I gone back my brother might have berated me for the whole annulment thing. I much preferred the autonomy that Henry allowed me. I had a comfortable income and lands. I could go to court when I wanted, but mostly I preferred the country. Hever Castle was lovely in the spring.
Little is known about you, other than a few basic facts. You were raised mainly to think of domestic concerns, but in England you developed a love of ales and gambling.
Henry's ales were far superior to what my brother had available. Back in Cleves, I was allowed only a glass of wine with dinner. In England I could drink what I wanted, when I wanted. You have no idea the sense of freedom one gets from something so small.
Was your brother controlling then?
No more so than any brother of our class. But Henry was by far more generous, of course he could afford to be.
Back to the gambling...were you any good?
I was brilliant! People dreaded my coming to court because they knew they would be down a few pounds before the week was out.
So you played for money?
Not always. I also played for clothing, jewels...one time I won a horse.
And you never lost?
Certainly I lost, but I won more often. I only bet big when I knew I could win.
Good strategy. Did you ever bluff?
Yes. That's when I lost.
Tell us about the real Anna.
I'm not sure what you want to know. I liked to grow flowers. I loved pretty clothes. Reading was a favorite pastime.
Were you at all religious?
One of the things we do know is that you seemed to handle all the fuss over your marriage with unflappable calm. Did you ever get angry?
When I saw a child or an animal being mistreated, that made me angry.
What is your favorite color?
Will you be available for any more questions if our readers have something they want to know?
Thank you for your time, Anna.
You are welcome.
***end of interview***
Well there you have it: Anne of Cleves, in her own words. Thanks for reading. Join us next time for an intimate chat with Catherine Howard, Henry's fifth, I mean fourth wife.
Greetings readers and friends! I keep meaning to post, and remembering that I did not do so at around 10:00 PM each night. A month or so ago I announced that there would be some big changes going on, and that I would blog about the details. Better late than never, right? Here's what's up.
Many of you know that three of my four children have Autism Spectrum Disorders. Some of you also know that the youngest of the boys with ASD (who also has Type 1 Diabetes) has a history of aggressive behavior. It's hard to say what all factors are involved in the recent increase in his aggressive meltdowns--the transition to middle school, the start of puberty, the unpredictability of the diabetes--but regardless of the cause(s), the behavior has become a much larger concern over the last few months. In addition to the meltdowns at home he is having them at school as well.
We have connected with a BCBA (board certified behavior analyst) who has agreed to evaluate our son at home and at school and see if we can get these behaviors under control. The alternative is to seek an out-of-home placement. I've spoken with a few people about options and the best recommendation I've gotten is "next time he has a meltdown, call the police." Naturally that's not what the parent of a child with special needs wants to hear, but a sheriff's deputy I spoke with allayed some of my fears with regard to what would happen should that phone call become necessary.
And now, we interrupt this wall of text to bring you a refreshing picture...
A regency style bonnet made by an extremely talented friend of mine.
The picture is linked to her Etsy store, if you'd like more info on her work.
Back to the subject...In the mean time, I've gone back to something I've researched off and on over the years since the boys were diagnosed...a gluten-free and casein-free diet. There has not been much in the way of scientific research devoted to this topic in the States, so mostly I'm relying on anecdotal American evidence combined with information from studies done in Europe. Certainly there is no guarantee that this diet would be helpful, it certainly has not helped everyone who has tried it, but the information I've found indicates that there is a fair chance it would help my boys, at least a little.
Gluten-free is completely doable. My husband was diagnosed with Celiac Disease several years ago, so we're already comfortable with avoiding gluten. Casein-free is more challenging. Casein is in all dairy products, and several things you wouldn't think would have any milk or milk derivatives in them. Even most margarines are out, but there are alternatives available in the area, and what we can't find locally we can drive to LaCrosse for, or order online. If this helps either of the boys, it will be worth the time, the effort, the cost, and any frustration that comes as I figure out which recipes work and which result in excellent doorstops and paper-weights.
Lest anyone worry, we are consulting doctors and a nutritionist about this. The boys have an appointment on Monday where we will discuss the benefits, challenges, research, and see if our GP can find out if insurance would be willing to pay for some tests to see if certain proteins are not being broken down properly by the boys' digestive systems. Why the insurance company can't tell me that information, I don't know, but that's life.
Here's another picture. This time it's a puppy!
This is Arthur. He's actually a lot bigger now, and his ears are up.
Now...how will this impact my writing? Well the simple fact is that I haven't been able to write lately. No ideas will come to me in the midst of all of this. There's a brief window of a few hours between dropping our youngest son off at school and waiting to see if the phone rings and we need to either go and help or bring him home early, and my brain is not at its best during that time. When the kids get home, any chance of accomplishing anything goes out the window. So really the impact on my writing is a moot point. What it boils down to is that I'm taking a sort of leave of absence from the work I haven't been getting done anyway.
My theory is that IF the diet helps, and IF we can attain some semblance of normality day-to-day, I'll be able to finally get back to work. When I do, the priority will of course be finishing The DeFord Chronicles, Part II.
And I will add a self-congratulatory note that I may finally get an office out of this. It will be necessary to add some counter space in the kitchen as I'll be using certain small appliances regularly, and it would not make sense to keep dragging them to and from storage--which means we need to move other things around, and my tiny corner needs to go elsewhere. It may be that my files and research materials go to the "office" and my desk stays in the kitchen area, while the laptop travels between the two locations as needed.
Chances are that in the coming month or three I will be very, very busy baking/cooking homemade GF/CF foods, calculating carbohydrates, and dealing with the inevitable upset when the kids don't like a replacement food. The blog will continue to be updated with interviews (mostly of historical figures, but occasionally of living people) and the odd narrative or musing from yours truly. I will continue to be randomly active on Twitter and Facebook as well. And of course I will answer emails, and respond to any comments or questions. Do let me know about any good books you've read--not writing has no effect on my reading addiction--and drop me a line any time.
See you around,