Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Simple Art of Giving Thanks

Today is a simple blog. A blog of thanks.

First of all, I’m thankful for today, which is the one year anniversary of the first day of the rest of my life. Two simple yet life altering things occurred on this day last year. One, I finally mailed my Golden Heart entry, cutting it so close that I had to overnight it. Two, I received a short, inauspicious email on one of my Yahoo loops about a little contest that would occur the next day called Deidre Knight’s “She’s Just That Into You” Speed Dating contest. I was exhausted from the marathon of putting together the GH entry, but I thought, what the heck—I’ll give it a shot. Man, am I glad I did!

You all know of the amazing, dream-like year this has been for me. I’m constantly thankful for the amazing support each and every one of you has shown. I have no idea how I came to be so lucky to have you all in my life, but I’m so happy that you are :)

I’m thankful for my little house, and my three pups, my tall, dark, and handsome hubby and our Thanksgiving dinner for two.

I’m thankful for Alton Brown and his ridiculously awesome recipe for the world’s best turkey. There is nothing like bringing that iconic, perfectly browned bird to the table and watching it disappear before my eyes.

I’m thankful for traditions, for gigantic balloons, for overzealous flag girls and smartly outfitted marching bands. I’m thankful for the dog show that I would never want to watch on any other day, but somehow has me riveted on Thanksgiving. Oh, and I’m thankful for the movie “Best in Show” which makes me snicker while watching the dog show.

I’m thankful for generous offers from neighbors, for delicious desserts, for the joyful screams of sugared-up kids . . . and the blissful silence of our own home.

I’m thankful for cyber-shopping and free shipping, ‘cause there ain’t no way I’m losing precious sleep to stand in line at o’dark thirty for a cheap tv or one of three Xboxes. Jus’ sayin :)

I’m thankful for fresh-cut Christmas trees, and good ol’ boy farmers with long grey beards, overalls, and a ready laugh.

I’m thankful for gaudy, multi-colored lights covering the yard in house in the most National Lampoons Christmas Vacation-esque way. It’s so much more fun to be colorful than tasteful ;)

Last but not least, I’m thankful that this week, I learned I am not the only one who screams like a girl when a radioactive spider pops up out of nowhere. Not naming any names, but his name rhymes with lurk and is regularly preceded by ‘Captain’ thanks to a certain Starship Enterprise commander in the 60’s.

Tell me the one thing you are most thankful for this holiday season! What traditions are you looking forward to this Christmas? And have you ever heard your husband scream like a pre-teen at a Justin Bieber concert?

Today’s recipe is one that I originally got from my mother-in-law, and have used at every pot-luck and Thanksgiving day feast since. It is simple, utterly delicious, and wonderfully easy.

Homemade Cream Corn

½ block of cream cheese, softened (4 oz.)

2 Tbsp butter, softened

2 Tbsp water

2 tsp sugar

1 bag frozen corn

Combine in crockpot or in a medium saucepan on the stove over medium low heat. Stir occasionally until well-heated through. Enjoy the deliciousness and numerous accolades :)

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Dream a Little Dream

After the excitement of Thursday's post (yay gorgeous new cover!! If you haven't seen it yet, look below), I felt inspired to write about following one's dreams. Stop by and tell me what your dreams are if you get a chance!

Click Here for my post at Lady Scribes

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! I don't know about you, but I have A LOT to be thankful for this year!!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

It's Here! It's Here!!

Without further ado, I present to you...


Isn't it beautiful? Isn't it glorious? I hope someday to meet the incredible artist and lovely design team who put it together so I may give them a big, fat, inappropriately long hug :-) Now I can hardly wait to have the cover added to Amazon, where the book is already available for pre-sale (click here). I'll keep you posted!

Now - somehow I must now figure out how to get my head out of the clouds and actually get to work! Happy day all :-)

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Dear Mr. Firth

If you have heard the rumors (or even if you have not), I am here to confirm them: Yes, I, Erin Knightley, met, spoke with, hugged, and took a picture with the one, the only Mr. Colin Firth on Wednesday last. And yes, I am still swooning at having actually touched Mr. Darcy.

I also must, regrettably, confirm another unexpected truth of myself. Though I am a writer by trade, trained in the art of the manipulation of language into the most pleasing arrangement possible, there were only two words I was able to spit out when faced with communicating with the Oscar-winning, British accent speaking, taller-than-expected actor. Despite the clever and perfectly droll little bits of conversation I had dreamed up on the way there with just such a fortuitous meeting in mind, I took one look at the handsome, long-admired figure advancing upon me and my brain cells promptly abandoned me, fainting like preteens at a Justin Bieber concert and leaving me with this blathering bit of nonsense:

“Er, uh, you’re… you’re wonderful!”

*palm to forehead* Really? Really? A good half million words under my belt as a writer and that’s what I say in that crucial moment? Was this what Ralphie had felt like in A Christmas Story, plotting and planning for weeks what he would say to Santa (Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle!), only to choke the moment he was face to face with the fat man himself, nodding dumbly at the prospect of a nice football?

But alas, it’s not quite the same. Ralphie, after all, seized the moment to stop his descent on the red slide of death, claw his way back up, and spout off the exact thing he had wanted to say in the first place, albeit with a somewhat maniacal gleam in his eyes. Now, this tactic may have earned him a boot to the forehead, but at least he had taken the opportunity.

Alas, my moment was over almost as soon as it had started. Colin was humble, and gracious, and very patient with us dumbstruck fans, but the man had a job to do, and he was quickly whisked away back to the set, ready to resume filming. So here I am, a speechless writer so lost for words, she couldn’t even convey to her romance idol exactly how much he meant to her and the romance world at large.

Well, guess what. I may not have clawed my way up the red slide of dumbstruck silence at the time, but what is a blog if not a forum to write out all the things I want to say? So here it is. Carpe Diem, no matter how late:

Dear Mr. Firth,

I think every woman can remember the moment that she witnessed what love must truly look like, what it must truly even feel like. There are movies aplenty where love is presented in all of it’s passionate and over-the-top glory, but we, the critical viewer, knows that this is merely the kind of obvious and too-quickly-resolved romance that is manufactured to evoke a smile or perhaps a few tears. But then, there are those precious few that seem to get it all right. They invites their rapt viewers to watch, to dream, to envy, to imagine what it must feel like to not just observe, but to actually be that heroine, gazing into the eyes of her very own hero.

You, Mr. Firth, have evoked these feelings from the audience for not just one or two movies, but through many. You are the leading man in no less than three of my favorite movies, Love Actually, Bridget Jones’s Diary, and of course, the incomparable Pride and Prejudice. The last is truly a masterpiece, so beloved that even fifteen years later, it is every bit as powerful and compelling as the day it first came out.

The words were the author’s, but the delivery was all yours. Your glaze slid through Elizabeth Bennet right to our own hearts. We weren’t just watching a movie, we were experiencing it. Your effortless portrayal of one of the greatest heroes of all time moved us, drawing us in to this timeless story, making our hearts pound and our breath catch. You mastered the complexities of Mr. Darcy’s character, conveying his love and inner struggle with little more than a searing look or a pregnant pause. You made him human, approachable, real to the extent that we could imagine Mr. Darcy’s intense gaze settling upon us, loving us, wanting us with a reserved passion that supersedes all else.

For those of us who have known the joy of true love, your performance reminded us of that feeling when the world slips away, and it is just you and your beloved. It made us turn to our loved one with refreshed joy, remembering those days of butterflies tickling our stomachs at the mere sound of his voice. For those who have never known love, watching your portrayal of Mr. Darcy could, for some small moment in time, fill that place for them, showing them the depths of the heart and all the goodness that could come from it.

I must clarify that it is you the actor, not the just character that you play. It is the softness of voice, the certain indefinable quietness that makes one wonder if shyness lurks beneath that handsome, movie-star fa├žade. It’s a vulnerability that, no matter how brazen the character, somehow still simmers in the background and manages to tug at the heart strings. It’s that certain approachability, that talent of drawing us in and making us believe.

Some people may look at the gathering of women waiting around for an autograph or a photo with their favorite actor to be silly or even a bit pathetic. But I see woman who have known joy from the work you have done. The flushed cheeks and shining eyes—not to mention tied tongues—reflect the sigh of bliss they have all experienced at some point thanks to a smile, a character, a perfectly delivered speech or even a single fathomless look.

Is there any better measure of success for an actor? To know that what you do matters because someone is better off because of it?

Thank you for your working to bring our favorite characters to life in such a way that we cannot help but love them. Be it Mr. Darcy, Mr. Mark Darcy, or even Jamie Bennett or King George IV, you make us truly care about their struggles, and therefore rejoice in their triumphs. Your portrayals inspire those of us who peddle in creativity, making us strive even more to create that perfect hero in all his perfectly flawed and inherently human glory.

And that, in my eyes, makes you a hero in your own right


Erin Knightley

So, what would you say to Colin (or your favorite star) if you saw them in person? Please say you would be more eloquent than me!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Things That Go Tap in the Night

It was a dark and stormy night. Okay, so not so much stormy as mildly cloudy, but still. It was late, and I still had much work to do. Hubby and the pups were making too much racket for my creative side to be happy with, so I banished them to the top floor of the house while I retreated to the basement.

The air was cool, but the space blessedly quiet. Finally I was able to get into the groove of writing, and before too long I was deep in the story, my surroundings falling away as I immersed myself in Regency England. I was typing happily away when a sudden scratching sound brought me screeching back to the present.

Scratchy scratchy scratchy…

There it was again! I froze, my heart beating in my ears as I evaluated the situation. I knew Kirk and the dogs were still upstairs—the sound of the basement door opening is unmistakable, so I knew they couldn't have sneaked downstairs.

Scratchy scratchy scratchy…

Oh God, there was something down there with me. Right. Behind. Me. I swallowed, my whole body rigidly tense. It was going to be a mouse. I just knew it. I was going to turn around and a freaking little mouse was going to dart away, escaping into some unseen crevasse and leaving me unable to sleep for days.

Scratchy scratchy scratchy…

There was nothing for it; I had to turn around. Without a doubt something was there walking behind me, and be it mouse, rat, or something even more sinister, I had to know what it was. Taking a bracing breath, I slowly, carefully swiveled in my chair, spinning until I could see the ground directly behind me and then…


In utter horror, I flailed around looking for something on my desk substantial enough to smite him from the face of the earth. Generally I prefer the live and let live philosophy, but once you are big enough to wear tap shoes and pound out some Fred Astaire moves, I’m sorry but you gotta die. Immediately.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t wearing any shoes and all I really had on my desk were loose papers. I found a pack of index cards, but I couldn’t risk him bench-pressing them off and coming after me.

Meanwhile, I’m screaming at the top of my lungs, for once in my life perfectly okay with sounding like a six year old girl. I can hear the dogs scrambling down the stairs and pacing back and forth in front of the basement door, but damn if they hadn’t opposable thumbs to open the door and come rescue me. Kirk, however, with is wonderfully dextrous hands and multitude of weapons to choose from upstairs (butcher knife, anyone), is nowhere to be found. He would later claim that he couldn’t hear me, but I firmly believe that he heard the I’m-about-to-be-eaten-by-Aragog scream and decided to sit that one out.

The spider started to move at this point, looking like nothing so much as Thing from the Addam’s family, only slightly more hairy and WAY more creepy. At last my hands find something much more substantial on my desk—my go-to research book, What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew. Its shiny, unblemished cover glinted in the light, and I paused in indecision.

And then he moved again. Towards me.

And I threw the book at him.


So therein ends the tale of the tap-dancing spider and his death by Charles Dickens. I’m beginning to think living out in the sticks isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Overdramatic snakes? Check. Radioactive spiders? Check. Please next time can it simply be an ax murderer or a boogy man – in other words, something less horrifying?

What is your most heebie-jeebie inducing critter story? And really, have you ever in your life heard of a spider so big you could hear him walking behind you?? *shivers*

For today’s recipe, I thought I’d find a recipe both yummy and tasteless under the circumstances. How do you think I did? ;)

Click Here

And because I thought a tribute was in order...

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

A Walk in the Woods

Nine years ago, when Kirk and I first moved to Raleigh and we were still poor, starry-eyed newlyweds, we stumbled upon a little-known spot on the city’s reservoir where we could truly get away from it all. We didn’t have a boat, or even know anyone else who did at that point, and this perfect little place could not have been a better find for us.

There wasn’t a beach or a parking lot or anything remotely organized there, just a dead-end street with a long, snaking trail leading through the woods and popping out on the main lake some half-mile later. Another trail wound around the peninsula, giving us the option of hiking for miles if we wanted.

Our first fur baby was still little more than a puppy, an exuberant one-year-old who had never seen such a glorious expanse of woods, nor experienced the soaring freedom of leash-less living. She bounded through the forest, crashing through underbrush and leaping over logs. Many a squirrel was treed by our lightning-fast Sadie, each holding her attention for a frustrated minute or two until she relented and sprinted off to the next great thing.

As Kirk and I hiked the well-laid trails, Sadie explored the wildness extending beyond the beaten path, crisscrossing in front of us just enough for us to know she was still close by. Occasionally we would linger on the shore, soaking in the sun and listening to the quiet lap of water caressing the rocky beach. It was here that our little rock-hound discovered her obsession, watching us with laser-like focus until we threw the next rock for her, and then the next.

Soon, we added Maggie to our little clan, and the trips to the trail doubled in fun. Black lab Maggie could hardly believe her eyes when the trail opened up to the expanse of shoreline, and she happily frolicked and played like the pup she was. On the way back to the car, she and Sadie would dash in and out of the woods, somehow perfectly capturing the look of carefree joy, tongues hanging from their mouths as the wind ruffled their fur.

And then we finally bought our first boat, and the trips to the trail became less frequent. Instead of hikes to the shore, we could finally have our fun on the water, wakeboarding, swimming, and surfing until our hearts were content. The girls remained behind those days, their faces watching forlornly as we pulled from the driveway without them.

About five and a half years ago, we found our current home, and they once again knew the joy of frolicking out doors. Unfortunately, we still lived in a neighborhood, so they had to keep their wandering down to a half acre or so. Though they ran freely though the back yard, they never quite recaptured the same verve for life they had discovered in the woods. Every fall, Kirk and I would think of the old trail, of that special place where freedom lived. With the lake behind us, it just didn’t make sense to pack up our now three-strong pack of pups and drive the near hour to the reservoir.

But something occurred to me this past Sunday morning. The drive was never going to get any less. Either we made the priority to go or we didn’t; we couldn’t just keep saying, ‘but it’s so far.’

So, we pulled out the old towels, packed up water bottles and leashes, piled our three eager and slobbering dogs in the car and headed for our place. It had been so long, even the roads themselves had changed, and we had to google the new route as we drove. Fifty minutes, a few quick stops, and a whole lot of dog breath later, we were there. Despite the changes going on only a mile away, the dead end street was still the same—exactly as it had been half a decade earlier.

The air was crisp and cool, the delectable smell of autumn heavy in the air. Sadie and Maggie cried with impatience as we untangled their leads and prepared for the hike. As always, we hiked the first quarter mile with them on their leashes. They strained and pulled, their noses lifted to the air and their bodies quivering with energy. Little Darcy had never been here, but she sensed her sisters’ excitement and shook with the thrill of it all.

When we found the right spot, we made them sit, poised to unclip their tethers and set them free. In that moment, I eyed Maggie’s graying muzzle and Sadie’s clouded eyes. Our girls were getting old, and seeing them in the place of their youth suddenly drove home the truth of it. We’d let way too much time march by, depriving them of this special place with a thousand little excuses.

It had been years since Sadie had let loose and really ran, would she still have it in her? Maggie played in short bursts with Darcy in the backyard, but what about a two hour romp through the woods? Would she be able to keep up?

The world seemed quiet in that moment, as they all sat and waited. At last the scrape of metal on metal met my ears as Kirk unclipped their leashes…and then they were off.

Like the puppies they had once been, they streaked through the underbrush, soaring over the land so fast I marveled that their paws even touched the ground. As Kirk and I smiled and began our hike along the old familiar path, we listened to the rustling of foliage and the pounding of feet as they whisked by, zig-zagging back and forth just as they did so many years ago.

When the light began to wane and the crispness in the air turned to nippiness, we at last made our way back to the car, not even needing to clip the leashes to their collars. They were spent like a trio of 5 year old kids after a particularly spectacular Christmas—happy, exhausted, content to be by our sides. As we packed them up and started out on the long track home, I watched the trailhead diminish in the sideview mirror, growing more and more distant as Kirk drove onward toward home. I felt somehow . . . grateful. Grateful to have rediscovered this place, grateful to have given my pups a day of pure joy, grateful to have reawakened the memories of how things used to be.

Sometimes the greatest joys in life are the simplest ones, are they not? A quiet wood, a long empty trail, and the company of those we love is all it takes to make a perfect day become a perfect memory—one I hope we will repeat with much more frequency from now on :)

Is there a place you love to go, that reminds you of who you were and where you’ve been? Do you make time to visit, or has it been a while since you’ve been back?

In honor of our trail adventure this weekend, I thought I would do a Trail Mix inspired muffin. The original recipe is here.

Happy Trails Muffins

2 and 1/4 cups all purpose flour

1 cup granola

¾ cup packed brown sugar

2 tsp baking powder

½ tsp salt

2 eggs

1 cup milk

1 tbsp sour cream

1/4 cup oil

1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/3 cup mini chocolate chips

1/2 cup chopped dry roasted peanuts, lightly salted

1/2 cup raisons

1/2 cup dried cherries / cranberries/ blueberries/ or apricots

Pre-heat oven to 375

In a large bowl, combine flour, granola, cereal, brown sugar, baking powder, and salt. In a separate bowl, beat eggs, milk, sour cream, oil, apple sauce, and vanilla. Stir into dry ingredients until moistened (don’t overmix). Fold in remaining ingredients.

Fill paper-lined muffin tins 3/4 full. Bake for 15-18 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean.