Retro Green Beans

Did you know Thanksgiving is in just a couple of days?  While shopping, I am always amazed at the huge stacks of green beans and mushroom soup and of course fried onions.  Did you ever wonder what people ate for Thanksgiving before this dish showed up? Read on for I one clue.

I’m here to tell you, I hate this “classic” green bean dish. I guess “hate” is a strong word. It’s not that it is bad, it’s just that it could be so much better.  How do I know?  When I got married, my darling bride turned me on to the dish her mother made at Thanksgiving for years and years.  After I started collecting cookbooks, I started looking for it. Yes, it exists.  I found it in two (I have thousands of cookbooks). One was a Gladys Tabor cookbook from the 40s.  If Gladys was alive today I have no doubt she’d be on The Food Network.  I also found it in a 1960s church cookbook.  So my hat is off to my wife’s late mom, Martha Cook.  Wherever she got this recipe, she cooked it every year and when I got married, she saved me from “other” casserole.  It is THE standard recipe at our house.

It looks harder than it is. I’m all about easy at Thanksgiving, and this is a type of homemade dish that is still easy.

Swiss Style Green Beans

2 Tablespoons Flour
2 Tablespoons grated onion
7 Tablespoons butter or margarine, divided
2 Tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon white pepper
16 ounces sour cream
8 ounces grated Swiss cheese
4 – 5 Cans French Style Green Beans, drained well
1/2 cup crushed corn flakes

Lightly saute the onions in 4 Tablespoons of the butter and stir in the flour; stir until it is smooth.  Add sugar, salt, and white pepper; blend well.  Slowly stir in the sour cream and mix well and cook until smooth, and it begins to thicken, stirring occasionally.

Add the drained green beans and mix well.  Pour the mixture into greased casserole.  Top with Swiss cheese.  (this can be made ahead and refrigerated at this point)

Melt the remaining 3 Tablespoons of butter and stir in the corn flakes and mix until well coated, toasting lightly.  Spread on top of the cheese.

Bake at 350F for 30-40 minutes.

Trust me, once you eat these green beans,  you never go back.  Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

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Thomas Fenske is a writer living in North Carolina.

His books make great Christmas presents: http://thefensk.com

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NaNoWriMo

coffeeshareIf we were having coffee today I’d be mumbling something about NaNoWriMo.  That’s National Novel Writing Month.  Yes, that’s a thing.  I would be mumbling because the only way I’ve found to successfully participate is by getting up earlier than I usually do. That will be alleviated somewhat by today’s Daylight Savings time transition.

NaNoWriMo is not just another celebratory month.  The celebration is by doing.  Participants actually try to write an entire novel in that month.  It’s a commitment, and it is a challenge to apply yourself to that singular goal.  No, you don’t have to be published in a month; far from it.  Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to write a fifty-thousand-word rough draft within that thirty-day time frame.

I can see you blinking your eyes, but seriously, it isn’t as hard as it sounds.  Here’s what you need in order to do it: An Idea, time to apply yourself to that idea, and perseverance.  Oh, and there is one other rule of thumb: never look back.  If you are going to do NaNoWriMo, you should just keep writing forward no matter what. As founder Chris Baty said in his book “No Plot? No Problem!” you need to send your internal editor on vacation for the month.  I know, it seems counter-intuitive, but seriously, you’ll never hit fifty-thousand-words by self-editing at this point.

In practical purposes, to achieve the goal you need to write at least 1667 words a day. That’s all.  Single-spaced, that is probably about two to three pages. For the idea? We all have ideas.  You see on TV “writers” who painstakingly graph out their entire novel in great detail. That’s fine and good for some writers.  You can do all of that ahead of time, that is if you want. For me, I take my idea and loosely outline enough events to fill out something that will take about that 1667 words a day, one event per day. For me, that sometimes has a notation like “something else happens”  or “a new character shows up.” Well, you do need to know one or two major characters too.

Here’s the deal.  What I’ve found out is that by giving yourself this self-imposed deadline, something does indeed happen. Creativity.  As you push, push, push, cranking out words to reach your daily goal you are bombarded by new ideas.  The story begins to take on a life of its own.  Yes, sometimes you end up straying from your outline, but that’s a good thing. It was just a guide. And you can usually get back to it.

Anyway, that’s my November and now I’m stuck with it. I’ve published two novels from NaNoWriMo projects.  I have several other rough drafts I’ll resume work on one day.  In this context, the base novel is the easy part.  It is editing and revision that take the most time but you know what? You can’t edit a blank page.  The main events are there, and the story arc is complete.  I call that stage crafting the novel.

Don’t even get me started on marketing the danged things.  That’s the real challenge and it is the hardest stage of all.  The rough draft is almost a vacation.

It’s only November 3.  Kick yourself up to 2000 words a day and you can catch up in no time.  That 1667 word goal is just the minimum.  Check it all out at http://www.nanowrimo.org

Get Writing!

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Thomas Fenske is a writer living in NC. Two of his past NaNoWriMo projects are on display at http://thefensk.com … you can further motivate him by buying/reading them.
There is also an Amazon giveaway running for the companion cookbook at:  https://giveaway.amazon.com/p/71bf07b34bec7fd9

The Curse of 29

img_6284If we were having coffee today I’d be lamenting the curse of twenty-nine. 

“What is that?” you might ask.

I’d sigh and tell you about Amazon.

Twice in the past year or so my first novel has breached the number of twenty-nine reviews.  Thirty looks so cool hanging out there on a book listing.

Ah, but twice, for unknown reasons, a review has been deemed unworthy by Amazon and the counter resets to 29.  The interesting thing is, it isn’t necessarily the most recent review that gets swatted away.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy to have any reviews at all.  It is very humbling to get any kind of feedback on one’s work.  I’m even happy to have the ten reviews on my second novel and the two reviews on my cookbook.  ANY number is good.  I just don’t understand this seeming curse with the number twenty-nine.

There is a theory among authors, that Amazon has a mythical number of reviews where they begin to spontaneously help authors with an added marketing push.  I’ve heard several supposed benchmarks for this point, anywhere from twenty-five to over a hundred.  Fifty seems to be the consensus.  What all this has to do with twenty-nine, I don’t know.

A fellow author, Marianne Reese, has noted a similar trend with her books — stuck at twenty-nine.  What are your experiences with disappearing reviews?

Anyway, I had a good two week run this time.  It felt so good.

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Thomas Fenske is a writer living in NC.
Help him beat the curse: http://thefensk.com/fever.html  All reviews will be appreciated by me, even if they are rejected by Amazon.  Hey, it’s on KindleUnlimited … and it’s a good time of year to read it since all the action takes place between now and New Years.

October Notes

close up photography of four baseballs on green lawn grasses

It’s Autumn and you know what that means.  No, I’m not talking about fall colors or Halloween or even Thanksgiving.  I’m talking about BASEBALL.

I’m a lifelong Houston Astros fan.  I grew up with the team.  I’ve lived in North Carolina for twenty-nine years … still a die-hard Astros fan.  Last year, finally finally finally they put it all together.  And here we are again.  The playoffs are full of ups and downs.

Baseball is a wickedly simple game.  And it is played without time limits.  The irrepressible philosopher Yogi Berra said it best (and it is entirely true), “it ain’t over ’til it’s over.”

Still, the ups and downs for fans will continue until the end, so I want to share the other most memorable, yet appropriate quote about baseball, this one from the movie Bull Durham (couldn’t find any other attribute).

Sometimes  you win
Sometimes you lose
Sometimes it rains.

All I can add at this point is another unattributable quote:  “PLAY BALL!”

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Thomas Fenske is a writer and baseball fan living in NC.
http://thefensk.com

Fall Giveaway

giveawaybannerIf we were having coffee today I’d remind you to enter my giveaway.  Yeah, I’m shamelessly using our coffee share to point it out.  Well, it IS what I’ve got going on this week.

Actually, I have had one in quite a while.  I recently had the opportunity to purchase several copies of my ebooks for a reduced price so I got them, basically book purchase redemption links.  I got enough for three sets of all three books.  Yes, they are all kindle copies.  What? You don’t have a kindle?  Did you know you can get a kindle reading app for just about every type of device?  I even have one on my Nook (which still somehow seems so wrong).

So, mosey on over to the contest entry link and try your luck.  While there you can read all about the books and even buy them if you don’t like the disappointment of not winning.

Thanks for your support.  Please reblog this post to get the word out.

Enter here: https://tometender.blogspot.com/2018/10/traces-of-treasure-series-by-thomas.html

 

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Thomas Fenske is a writer living in NC … check him out here: http://thefensk.com

WeekendCoffee Genre Rebrand?

Public domain image, royalty free stock photo from www.public-domain-image.com

If we were having coffee today I might just mention cozy mysteries. Up until yesterday, I didn’t even really know what the term cozy mysteries meant. A reader asked me why I didn’t market my books as cozy mysteries. They were, she said, a pretty close match to the genre.

I’ve struggled with genre ever since I considered publishing.  These ideas came to me and I worked them through a believable story arc.  I polished them.  Worked out the kinks.  A publisher got interested.  Nobody ever mentioned cozy mysteries.

I did a little research.  I’ll admit, The Fever is a stretch, but still, it’s almost there.  I’d call it a quirky take-off on the genre. Nobody dies after the initial hook. But the hero is an amateur sleuth of sorts and he has to work through solving his mystery, with whatever help he can find.  Like I said, I guess it’s a stretch but as a lead-in to the series, it does set the stage.

Ah, but A Curse That Bites Deep fits right into the genre.  I think.  And the third book does too … but you’ll have to take my word on that.  So, I have to wonder, have I suddenly stumbled upon something here?  Sure, they might be sitting in the far left-field corner of the genre, but I think they are still in the ballpark.

If you like cozy mysteries, I honestly think you might like these books.  They’re probably not quite like any other cozy mysteries you’ve read but you don’t seriously want them ALL exactly like one another, do you?  The stories are comfortable and quirky and the characters and situations are down to earth and believable.  Give them a try and let me know.

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Thomas Fenske is quite possibly a cozy mystery writer.  http://thefensk.com

Running Afowl …

If we were having coffee today I’d be in a confessional mood.  Yes, I’d admit, I’ve been feeding the neighbor’s chickens.  There is a hole in the fence and for quite a while a few chickens and guinea fowl have been getting out.  They wander into our yard all the time.

img_9849
Pepe

I’ve never had much experience with chickens.  A couple of them had been lurking really close to the house and a couple of months ago I decided to haphazardly throw out some birdseed.  Big mistake. The primary culprit is a big Rhode Island Red rooster we call Pepe.  If I go outside or if I talk to somebody outside or if I return in the car, I can expect Pepe to come running; really, he RUNS.  He knows ME.   He usually has a couple of his girlfriends in tow, we call them Beatrice and Henrietta.

img_9789
Pepe and Beatrice

For quite a while it was just Pepe and Beatrice.  Then Henrietta started hanging around.  I ran out of birdseed.  I went to a local feed store and inquired about buying some chicken feed.  The conversation went like this:

“What kind?” I was asked.

“I have no idea,” I answered.

“You don’t know what kind of chicken feed you need?”

The clerk looked at me like I was insane.  Maybe I am.  I bought the smallest bag of feed I could, twenty-five pounds.  It’s filled in pretty good.  Some days we have had as many as four or five chickens and maybe a stray guinea.

Okay, yesterday, Pepe was outside when we left for a doctor appointment.  We were running late.  He flapped his wings and crowed.  “No dice, Pepe,” I told him, “we’re in a hurry.”
I could see him in my rear-view mirror, standing in the driveway and plotting.

When we returned a couple of hours later we could see them.  Yes, them.  Pepe had been talking and the word was obviously out.  My neighbor’s side yard was full of ducks.  They were lounging near his carport,  some were roosting on his carport roof and even the roof of the house.  Now understand, we see his ducks from time to time. Mother ducks often come waddling through our yard, cute ducklings in tow on some sort of field trip. Never have we seen anything like this.  And the second I pulled up the driveway they started moving into our yard.

img_9960
note: just the first wave

When I first saw them all in total and saw them begin to move, the opening bars of the Ride of the Valkyries started rolling through my mind.  I wish I had a video of it because the music would have been a perfect backdrop, especially when the ducks started soaring off the roofs.  And yes, from some unseen corner, here came Pepe and the girls too, sprinting over as usual.  When all of them finally made the long waddle I counted twenty-two ducks, plus the chickens.

Obviously, we have bitten off more than we can chew.  I mean, we don’t feed them a lot.  It’s not a meal by any means, more of a snack.  My neighbor doesn’t care.  They eat bugs in our yard too. I usually pick up a tick or two every month but I haven’t had a tick all summer.

img_9967

I guess this isn’t the worst of it.  Others are waiting in the wings …

img_9910

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Thomas Fenske is a writer living in NC.  Kindle versions of his novels THE FEVER and A CURSE THAT BITES DEEP are ON SALE 9/28 and 9/29.  http://thefensk.com/spec.html
There are no birds in the novels.

Cheaper than a Pumpkin Spice Latte!!!

An inviting country trail, a full moon, and an obsession …
desert

This is a great time to explore my Traces of Treasure book series.

Both ebooks on sale this week for $1.99 each.

You can even add The Mossback Cafe Cookbook for another 99 cents.
You can get all three for about the price of a pumpkin spice latte.

http://thefensk.com/spec.html

The sale runs 9/24 through 9/30

Remember … if you search really hard for something, you might find it, but the “it” you find may not be the something you were after.

 

 

Weekend Coffee Hurricane

img_6284If we were having coffee today, a storm out in the Atlantic named Florence would be on my mind.  I keep watching the forecasts and it apparently is aimed at the coast of the Carolinas.

I live a bit inland, but these storms are so big we can get some impact here, depending on where it hits.  In 1996, Hurricane Fran hit the coast just south of Wilmington NC.  In looking at historical tracking maps it looks like that area between Myrtle Beach and Wilmington is the sweet spot as regards deep inland penetration to this area.  Fran caused great damage in the area where I live, mostly wind damage.  Note: wind damage means long-term loss of power.

Here’s a link about Hurricane Fran:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hurricane_Fran … there’s an interesting graphic on that page that details the ranking of the ten “Most severe landfalling Atlantic hurricanes in the United States” … in looking at that I realized that I have been affected by FOUR of the storms on that list.  Hurricane Carla in 1961 I remember very well.  I don’t remember Audrey but I know it affected the area I lived in but I was 5 and we were on the fringes of it.  Hugo didn’t have a huge impact here in central NC but it was so big we got the fringes of it and they were significant. And, of course, Fran.

We lived in a single-wide mobile home in 1996.  Yes, don’t ride out the storm in a mobile home.  I know that.  We also didn’t have any place to go.  We lived in a mostly rural county.  The evacuation center they set up was 25 miles away down an awful road I didn’t like to drive on in clear, dry weather.  By the time we knew it was going to be bad where we were, it was too late.  Even worse, the storm hit in the middle of the night.  The power went out pretty early.  I remember sitting in on the couch watching a half-empty 2-liter bottle of Coke on the coffee table.  Remember that scene in Jurassic Park when the Tyrannosaurus was approaching and the coffee in a cup had ripples in it with each step?  This bottle of Coke did the same thing.  Huge gusts would hit the mobile home and cause ripples just like that, again and again.  Things hit the walls.  Unidentifiable sounds in the blackness of night were terrifying.  Eventually, I drifted off to sleep and woke up to birds chirping. I looked out to a stark reality.  We lost a huge tree in our backyard (one of the terrifying sounds in the night) but it miraculously fell away from the house.  It would have crushed the mobile home and probably killed me where I was sitting.  My neighbor on that side had a stand of pine trees on his lot. This one tree took down SEVENTEEN of his trees (most with a trunk diameter of 8-10 inches).

So, I’m watching this storm.  I bought a generator yesterday.  I’ve been meaning to get one for a long time.  Here we also have ice storms that result in lengthy power outages so it is something I’ve meant to get for a long time.  In the time I was at the store, I saw four other generators purchased.

I’ll stock up on nonperishable supplies today and tomorrow.  I’ll pick up debris around the house.  I just had a roof leak patched.  It hasn’t been completely tested.  I guess it will be tested.  I’ll have a tarp and bricks ready.  Gas in the car, gas for the generator.  With my luck, all of these preparations will likely steer the storm away.

Oh, coffee, I should lay in some coffee as well as some water (but our rural water system supply seems pretty stable).  The one bright spot after Fran: our kitchen range was propane and I had plenty of gas. I also worked at that time as a barista for a high-end coffee purveyor.  We had really good coffee.

Just as I was finishing this post I saw another forecast … bullseye on the NC/SC border.  It’s still almost a week out.  We’ll see …

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Thomas Fenske is a writer living in North Carolina.
Please go buy his books!    http://thefensk.com

Voices

backlit beach clouds dark

If we were having coffee today I’d tell you that I found out this week that my darling bride Gretchen had not been very truthful to me recently.  After she told me the details I was not mad.  I understood her reasons.

When she first told me she had found a lump in her breast, we initiated a series of diagnostic actions that culminated in a cancer diagnosis and major surgery. She’s doing well now, thank you. She still has significant bouts of pain but she came out of the ordeal with no chemo, no radiation, and, so far at least, no cancer.

Ah, but this week she told me it wasn’t as simple as “she found a lump.”  In reality, she had hundreds of lumps and nodes.  This was the main reason she had a mastectomy instead of a lumpectomy.  Every nodule and papilloma was a potential cancer bomb and she was looking at a lifetime of biopsies and surgeries.

So if she hadn’t found a lump, what was it?

She heard a voice.

It wasn’t a physical manifestation but it was just as real as if she had heard it with her ears.  Somewhere deep within her soul a voice emerged in early January and said, “You have cancer.”

It unnerved her. I could tell she was more than just concerned, she was visibly upset when she told me she had found a lump.  I later wondered to myself how she managed to find one cancerous lump amongst the hundreds of targets in her breasts. I attributed it to luck.  Obviously, it was much more.

We’re human. It’s easy to assume others won’t understand if you say you heard a voice.  Now, voices, the potential for a deeper problem exists there.  But I find the notion of a prophetic warning to be quite acceptable.  I cover such things in several of my novels, both published and unpublished.  I believe in ghost stories too and I don’t discount many other prophetic happenings.

Whose voice was it?  Does it matter?  If could have been the massive supercomputer we call the subconscious brain.  That’s a clinical answer.  Myself, I prefer a more spiritual explanation. The voice of God?  Perhaps.  Or maybe what people call a guardian angel.  Sure, that works for me too. It could have been the spirit of a loved one, like her mother or her grandmother. Heck, my mother passed away in the last year, it might have been her.

It doesn’t matter who said it.  Not really.  The real point is: she listened.

There are many things in this world that are far beyond our understanding.  I think it is best not to question the good things.  Miracles?  Who am I to say?

Here’s a fun thing: Gretchen has a notion that I really like.  When she finds a random penny on the ground, she considers it a reminder that her late mother is watching over her and she picks it up because she considers it to be a gift from her mother.  I do it too. Hey, it means someone is looking out for you.  Besides, this notion is much better than that “see a penny, pick it up and all the day you’ll have good luck” saying.

Have you had similar experiences or do you know someone who has?
If it happens to you, my advice is to LISTEN.

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Thomas Fenske is a writer living in North Carolina.  There are prophetic and otherworldly glimmerings in both of his published novels too:  http://thefensk.com