Experimental Meal 001

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I love to cook. It’s one of the things I do just because it makes me happy. One of the things I really love doing is throwing a recipe together out of whatever ingredients I think look pretty enough to put in the same pan. Today is the first time I ever recorded the progression of my experimental meal as I was making it, and it turned out even better than I had expected.

The interesting thing is that the meal actually started out as my improvising since I didn’t have all of the ingredients to make ratatouille and didn’t feel like going to the store (I have never had ratatouille, but I like the way it chatters off my tongue, so I wanted to make it). Having bought my first-ever eggplant the day before, I intended to grab some random ingredients and make a potluck version of this meal. That idea got scrapped when I cut my eggplant in half and realized it was entirely rotted (so gross).

So, lacking eggplant and being unable to make a passable improvisation of this strange French meal, I decided to go completely potluck, grabbed a bunch of random ingredients from my kitchen, and threw them together. The result is my supper (at 10:56pm, I am finally eating supper) and it is delicious.

I think I’m going to call is Sweet Squash Surprise. :) And because you’re all wonderful and I enjoy hearing what you think, I’m sharing the recipe below.

Sweet Squash Surprise

Ingredients:

Olive oil
1 tbsp Butter
1.5-2 cups grilled chicken, cubed, already cooked
1 15oz can of sweet potatoes/yams
2 small yellow squash, cubed
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 15oz can spicy diced tomates
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
Rice – instant or otherwise, cooked

Recipe:

1. In square ceramic baking dish, pour a little olive oil
2. Add squash, chicken, bell pepper, tomatoes, and cheese. Stir until well-mixed.
3. Open can of sweet potatoes. Pour half of the juice into baking dish and drain the rest. Add butter to can and mix until potatoes are creamy.
4. Spread mashed sweet potatoes over contents of baking dish like an orange blanket of deliciousness. (Note: 2 cans may be required to completely cover contents, if desired.)
5. Cover pan with foil and bake in oven at 450 degrees F for 30 minutes.
6. Remove from oven. Serve over rice.

If you end up making the recipe, let me know what you think! And have a great weekend!

Turn the page to a new world.

- Casey 

Excerpts 01

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She kept looking at him like she had known him for years and not minutes. Her eyes drilled a look into him he was accustomed to on the face of police officers and psychologists – a quiet look that picked and picked at any mask he dared to put up, until it had reached the truth beneath.

The expression didn’t suit her pigtails and grass-stained jeans. It certainly didn’t fit well with the smell of cow dung that clung to her boots, or the tufts of straw that proved she had at one point chosen to lay down in a pile of hay.

There was something about her, though, that made him question his own certainty that he’d never met her before. He was sure he hadn’t, sure enough to bet money, because he would have recognized that face. He didn’t know her, had never seen her before, but looking at her, he could see the sweat-drenched tunic and dirty jeans overlapping with the memory of a crimson dress that reached the floor, Victorian and beautiful. Her hair was done half up and left to fall around her shoulders in curls, a flower the same color as her green eyes tucked behind an ear. It’s name was on the tip of his tongue, even as he knew such a flower didn’t exist. Not in this world.

But neither did she.

“What’s your name?”

“I’m not supposed to tell you that until you remember it.”

“But I’ve never met you before.”

“I know. That’s why.”

That’s All There Is To Learn

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When I was in ninth grade, my math professor told us that everything there was to know about math has already been discovered. There would never be anything else.

I remember the feeling that came over me when she said that. It was a feeling of futility. It was… the feeling of something ending, something that I didn’t know had ever been there and couldn’t name just stopping. Looking back on it from today, it’s terrifying how completely those words affected me, because I remember that the first thought that came to my mind was “Then what’s the point?”

It’s no secret to anyone that I don’t like math, but nor is it a secret that I love to learn. The idea that we have reached the climax of our learning, that there is nothing else in the world for us to know, is beyond terrifying. I do not have a word for what it is. It’s not about the math, really. It’s about everything.

It’s been years since I’ve been in a math class, and more years than that since I’ve sat in my ninth grade Algebra II class, but I remember that day more clearly than any day throughout the rest of my high school life. A teacher told me that this was it. This was all there was, nothing more, and the world sort of ended. It stopped being worth it. Because if there’s nothing more to find, then why bother even getting dressed in the morning?

Since that day, I’ve learned a lot more about the world. I’ve learned about how we have explored maybe 5% of the ocean floor, and there’s depths we can’t yet reach. I’ve learned that they have found water particles and bacteria on other planets. And I’ve learned that the universe, which is already so large, actually keeps expanding and growing, getting bigger and bigger on all sides, and that means that there is always more to explore. More to learn.

More. 

There is a part of me that still lives in that moment, when my professor told us that there was nothing more to learn about math. That moment when I took “math” to mean “anything,” and the world just sort of stopped. There’s a part of me that I think is still trapped in that moment, and might always be. It’s a memory of a fear brought to life, and fear always lingers.

But the better part of me knows that there’s so much out there that we don’t know. So much out there that I will never know. And it makes me lose myself a little in relief, makes me cry just a little to know how absolutely grateful I am that this isn’t all there is, because this isn’t nearly enough. I want the learning to go on and on forever. I want the mysteries to never end. I want to learn so much and always know that there’s another step in front of me to take, and another, and another. Knowing everything would be boring, but knowing there was nothing else to learn would make it all so pointless.

Those words still haunt me, in the late hours of the night when the demons like to torment. I want the world to meet something entirely new, just to prove them wrong.

Can we please prove them wrong?

Turn the page to a new world.

- Casey

Traveling North is Always a Bit Like Traveling Forward in Time

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A couple of hours ago, I finished watching a few episodes of Doctor Who with family. It was a fantastic time, as it always is, and not just because of The Doctor. It brought to mind something that I had been thinking of since I first caught sight of Massachusetts in the daylight: heading northward a few states was a little bit like moving through time.

I’m not talking about the architecture of the buildings – for an area like Salem, the historical society helps keep many of the buildings in their traditional form, but that would be like stepping back in time, which, while fascinating and fun, is not what I’m talking about.

Rather, I am referring to the seasonal changes. The eastern side of the US is very deciduous – the trees lose their leaves and go dormant over Winter, returning in Spring. With that shift to dormancy comes the beautiful changes in color, the green of the leaves turning to the red, gold, and orange of Autumnal fire. I live in Pennsylvania, but we haven’t reached that point, yet. Our trees are still green. In Massachusetts, however, it didn’t take us long at all to realize that the leaves they are already gleaming with color. Autumn has well set in for them, and brought with it not only the color, but also the cool air and chilling breeze of impending Winter.

Sliding back to Pennsylvania on the train was like slipping back to my present day, and here I am, back with green trees and warmer days. But I know what it’s going to look like in a month or so. After all, I got a glimpse of the future up north.

Something to turn your head over a bit. Always a fun thing.

I want a time machine.

Turn the page to a new world. 

- Casey

Casey’s Eight Rules For Traveling Safely

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Hey everyone! I’m back home from my fantastic trip to Massachusetts. I had an amazing time with one of my best friends, but we didn’t travel by ourselves. Murphy tagged along and, as always, he was quoting law as we traveled.

In accepting that Murphy very much enjoys spending time with me, I thought it would be good to share with you some rules that can help keep you safe while you travel.

1. Always, always have a contingency plan. I say this often, and I don’t only mean it to apply to traveling, but it makes a special point here. The only surefire thing about making plans is that you might have to remake them on the fly if something goes pear-shaped. The best thing to do is to have a second plan in place in case something happens to mess up your first. Having a contingency plan for your contingency plan is also not a bad idea, and especially good to have one that is flexible in case of ill winds.

2. When entering an airport/train station/bus terminal, find the information desk first. You might have a one hour layover or three hours to kill before you board your first flight/ride, but when it comes to knowing where you’re going, it’s best to know right away. Things can, and often do, change without anyone else offering up the information to you. The best way to make sure you’re on top of things is to know what’s going on. So find information, make sure your tickets are good, and know where and when and by what means you will be boarding. Knowledge is power, after all, and do you really want someone else to have the power to control your vacation?

3. When finding intercity transportation, quality over cost. This doesn’t mean to pay a couple grand for a limo to take you three miles, but if you’re fetching a cab, you want to go with a service that will get you where you need to go safely. Gypsy cab companies are all about and can be easy to find the number for, but difficult to get to you on time, and safety can be an issue when anyone can be taking you to your destination. Check if your hotel offers a shuttle service to/from the airport/station/terminal, check out trolleys that run through some cities on a set schedule, or look up the Super Shuttle, which makes its way through a number of states. There are also companies like Lyft and Uber which hire independent cab drivers who charge less than some traditional cab companies, but offer the safety that other companies do not – such as sending you a picture of the driver who will be picking you up.

4. Do not travel anonymously. This doesn’t mean blab your coordinates all across Facebook – that’s no safer than telling a stranger what hotel room you’re staying in. But if you travel, travel with someone, or at least make sure that other people know where you are. If a hurricane strikes a city you’re visiting but no one knows you’re there, no one knows to keep an eye out for you. Likewise, if you’re hurt or loss or worse and no one knows, how can anyone help you? Tell your father, your sibling, your best friend or your boss that you’ll be visiting this state or country or county. If you’re traveling alone, it might not hurt to shoot someone a text message with your cab driver’s name and cab or phone number. Don’t go into a strange place completely alone, even if your only company is someone else knowing where you are.

5. Charge your cell phone. Likewise, do not go traveling with a cell phone that doesn’t function, doesn’t keep a charge for more than a half hour, and do not leave it in the hotel room. Payphones are not plentiful and can hardly even be found outside of an airport terminal anymore. Do not go somewhere without a means of contacting someone if you are hurt or in danger, for refer again to number four.

6. Pay attention to your surroundings. Visiting a new area can be exhilarating, but don’t make the mistake of thinking you’ve stepped into a Disney movie. The world is not a nice place and there are a lot of not-nice people out there. Be safe first, know where you are and who you are with, and don’t disappear into a cloud of daydreams when you’re walking down a dark alley. For that matter, don’t walk down a dark alley.

7. Don’t limit yourself to a credit card. Even with the rise of technology and the convenience of apps like Square, credit cards aren’t accepted everywhere. It’s always a good idea to make sure you have some cash with you, even if it’s only enough to pay for a short cab ride or a one-night stay in a two-star hotel. Having some ones on you for tipping and some change for car meters or the rare payphone is also not harmful. And for vending machines, because those things are evil and hate dollar bills.

8. Don’t get stressed out. It can be difficult to keep from going a little crazy when things go wrong, and everyone gets a little grumpy when your flight is delayed, your train is late, or the bus gets a flat tire. Often, things could be so much worse than what they end up being, so while you might be a little stressed out, a little angry, or maybe even a little frightened, don’t let it ruin your vacation completely. If you have a backup plan, or a place to stay, or even just someone to call, you can get your bearings and easily get back in the game. Don’t let the fun end because of one little mishap – roll with it, learn from it, and come up grinning. Have fun!

I love traveling. I don’t often allow myself to do much of it, but I’m hoping to change that. Following these eight rules goes a long way toward making sure I have a fun and safe vacation. My trip to Salem didn’t go completely as planned, after all. Not only did our first cab driver decide to leave us stranded, but a tree fell across the tracks and caught fire, our train was late getting to the station, and we missed our connection, which had left an hour before we got there, leaving us stranded in Philadelphia.

But we had backup plans, a way to contact our families, and we found the conductors and information desk, who together helped us find another train to get at least halfway home. Luckily, both my friend and I are sticklers for having backup plans for backup plans, and now I’m sitting on my computer, writing up this blog post for you.

Like I said, I love traveling. It can be stressful, worrying, and even terrifying, but that’s not going to stop me, because really, that unknown is half the fun. I’ll be going back to Salem next year, and I’ll be taking the train again, and I don’t expect things to go completely smoothly. Of course, if they did, I think I might get bored.

Good thing my friend Murphy loves to travel as much as I do, and he’s made sure I know the basic rule of life. If things can go wrong, they just might, but you’ll be okay. It’s just the little bumps that turn a vacation in an adventure.

Turn the page to a new world.

- Casey

On A Train!!

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For months, I’ve been planning a trip to Salem, Massachusetts with a friend of mine. I’m incredibly excited to visit Salem, but that’s the secondary benefit of the trip. The real reason we’re traveling? There’s a train that goes all across the US and Canada, and yes, my dears, I am on it. o

My first train ride ever and it’s positively fantastic. Easy to navigate and a beautiful scenic view, along with a lot of leg room.

So loving it, and definitely taking another trip at some point. But first, to the city of witch-hunting. My mind is open and just waiting for Muse to start cackling in glee. Let’s go!

The Beginning of the Story

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Recently, an anthology was published in which I was invited to submit a short story. There is another anthology due to be published in December in which one of my stories is available, and so the book I am working on currently is actually the seventh book that will be published with myself as the main or a contributing author. 

It’s really interesting to me to look back and see how everything started. In grade school, writing stories was always a part of education, and one that I was very fond of, but it was when I was ten years old that I really discovered my passion for writing. My mother and I went to the movie theatre to watch the showing of Little Women, a book that we have both been very fond of. It was during watching the movie that I fell in love with the character Jo, and I decided that I wanted to be just like her, creating worlds and writing them out. 

I started right after leaving the theatre, and the first book I ever wrote was called Animal Girl. I can’t remember how many chapters it had, but I can remember much of the premise. While the original story was lost years ago, the characters with in have evolved over the many years that I have continued writing. Now, that very human Animal Girl that I had named Jo after my favorite character has become Zeva, a very not-human character in a high fantasy series that has taken me years to work through. 

There have been other stories that I have worked on – books about black unicorns and about dragons, both good and evil, some of which have been put on a backburner and others which have been scrapped – sometimes with later regret. But I can remember each one of them, and I recall them with fondness as I see how characters I created in the early years of my youth have returned, new, but familiar. 

I really can’t wait to see what continues to turn up, but I will continue to work on the pieces already in progress, some of which you have seen (the DeathSpeaker Trilogy), and some of which you will learn more of in the future (The Chronicles of Senexus). 

I hope you’ll be there with me to watch them grow. 

Turn the page to a new world.