A Heavy Topic

photo courtesy of pixabay, JuAnnun

For those of you who may not be aware, I’ve been trying to lose weight.

It’s not easy. I’m not following any fancy diet or regimen, just eating less and exercising more. I have been building time into my day for more exercising (being a writer, I have a pretty sedentary job). It’s the “eating less” that gets me. I love to cook and bake, so it’s hard for me to avoid making the desserts I love. But I’m plodding along. Not losing weight quickly, but as they say, slow and steady wins the race. Right?

Right??

So my post today may seem a little counter-intuitive, but what I’m learning is that by keeping track of the calories I consume, I can budget room for small amounts of those things I love (chocolate and cheese, I’m talking to you) and still keep the pounds off.

I’m going to share with you two of my favorite recipes today, both of which still fit into my repertoire as long as I make sure I’m eating healthy (for the most part) and getting daily exercise. One is for a dessert that is pitifully easy and uses ingredients most people have on hand all the time. The other is for a salad that uses mayonnaise, but is so good I just haven’t been able to bring myself to substitute anything else.

Chocolate Pudding Cake

recipe courtesy of my mother

1 c. flour

2 t. baking powder

¼ t. salt

¾ c. sugar

¼ c. plus 2 T. cocoa powder, divided

½ c. milk

2 T. butter, melted

1 c. brown sugar, packed

1 ¾ c. hot water

1 c. chopped nuts (optional)

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, sugar, and 2 T. cocoa. Stir in milk and butter.

In another bowl, mix brown sugar and remaining ¼ c. cocoa.

Spread flour mixture in 9” square baking dish. Sprinkle with brown sugar mixture.

Pour hot water over entire batter. Do not stir. Bake about 40 minutes.

This is best served warm with ice cream or whipped cream.

 

Greek Chicken Salad

recipe courtesy of my father

2 cucumbers, peeled, seeded, and chopped

3 c. diced cooked chicken

1 c. crumbled feta cheese

2/3 c. sliced black olives

1 c. mayonnaise

1/2 c. plain yogurt

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 t. oregano

2/3 c. chopped fresh parsley (I use a sprinkle of the dried stuff)

pocket pita bread

Place cucumbers, chicken, feta, and black olives in a large bowl and mix well. In another bowl, combine mayonnaise, yogurt, garlic, oregano, and parsley. Mix well and fold into other ingredients. Chill before serving in pita pockets.

Until next week, everything in moderation!

Amy

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Meet Sally Cronin

DSC_0869 a

Please welcome Sally Cronin, author of a short stories, a copious and impressive blog, novels, and a number of books on health, wellness, weight loss, and media training. Her most recent book is called Tales from the Garden. I’m particularly thrilled to have Sally on Reade and Write because she is a tireless and selfless promoter of other authors.

Hi, Sally!

Thank you so much Amy for inviting me along today to talk about my books and blog.

Tell me about your new book.

My latest book is a collection of fairy stories called Tales from the Garden and the stories cover the usual fairy story themes of love won and lost, evil witches and handsome princes.

Tales From the Garden small- Cover

Who is the audience for the book?

Judging by the comments it would seem that fairy stories appeal to all ages and I was surprised by the reaction from men and women when they read the stories originally on my blog. It would seem that ‘Happy Ever After’ is still popular.

I love “Happy Ever After” stories. Tell me about the setting of your book—how did you choose it, what kind of research did you have to do, why did you choose it?

The setting is primarily my garden here in Spain in the mountains to the north of Madrid. Most people assume that Spain is hot the entire year but being at 900 metres we have alpine weather. At night in the winter it can be minus four to five but in the wind shade, with the sun out, you can sit out and tan. The garden reflects this with evergreens and colour most of the year around. We bought the house 17 years ago and the original owners had collected stone statues that were dotted around the garden and sometimes hidden in the hedges.

We have the house on the market and apart from the glorious weather and views, I will miss the large figures that are far too heavy to take with us. I realised that if I created stories for each of them, I could take those with me instead. I did do some historical research on the area in general for some of the stories based in previous centuries but apart from that it was just letting my imagination run riot.

What a charming way to take the statues with you wherever you go! What was the hardest thing about writing the book?

Probably the hardest thing was to keep up to date with the photographs as there are 80 in the book. I also took some pictures when back in the UK and Ireland in gardens of my family to enhance some of the stories and also to add more snow or grey skies when needed for a story line.

If your book were made into a movie, who would you like to see playing the main characters?

I would love to see the book as an animated film in which case I think there would need to be a central narrator with a great voice. Someone with gravitas such as Patrick Stewart… Captain Pickard from Star Trek… Make it so!

Tell me about the other books you’ve written.

I published my first book in the late 90s based on my weight loss and the programme I designed to lose that weight. Size Matters is now in its fourth edition and Ebook. This was followed by three other health books: Just Food For Health which is one for the whole family, Forget the Viagra; Pass me a Carrot which is a men’s health manual, and Turning Back the Clock which is an anti-aging guide. My fiction is a romantic comedy for ladies of a certain age called Just an Odd Job Girl and a collection of short stories – Flights of Fancy and Sam, A Shaggy Dog Story, the book co-authored by our Rough Collie. I also have a Media Training guide that I have used in my training consultancy in the UK.  They have all been converted to Eversions in the last 18 months which has been a great opportunity to promote them again.

You must be a very busy woman. Are you in one or more critique groups or partnerships?

Actually only a personal one. My husband is a book designer and we work closely together not only on my own books, which David reads and adds constructive feedback, but also for our authors we work with.

Do you write every day?

I do write every day but not always on my current book. I find that particularly with books on health it helps to take a break and write in a different style with a more creative topic. I post on my blog at least once a day and if I am promoting another author it is more likely to be twice a day.

When you read a book, what authors do you like best? What genres do you like best?

I was weaned on Wilbur Smith and fell in love with epic novels that brought terrific characters and adventures together. I am currently reading Bernard Cornwell again, alternating between Viking novels and Sharpe. That will probably keep me busy for a couple of years!  I also love books that explore our origins so have Jean M. Auel, author of the Clan of the Cave Bear and the rest of her books in the series about Ayla in hard and paperback.

Where would you like to go more than anywhere else on earth?

We have travelled a lot in the last thirty-six years and I also lived in South Africa, Malta and Ceylon as a child. We have lived abroad for 22 years of our marriage although I have been back and forth to the UK for extended periods to look after my mother. Once we move back to Ireland we have one more long haul trip to make and that is to take the train across the Rockies in Canada, visiting friends and family and taking in that stunning scenery.

It sounds like your own life would provide you with lots of ideas for books and stories, both fiction and non-fiction. What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Don’t force yourself to write in a genre because you think it will sell better than another. Your first book should be about something you are passionate about, understand and can communicate well. Once you have finished the writing… At the very least spell check and then if you feel you cannot edit yourself find someone who can. If you cannot afford to pay an editor then check your local colleges or university for someone who is majoring in English or your native language; see if they will take the book on as part of their course. Read and read again and it helps if you read out loud to establish how the narrative flows. Then decide how you are going to publish the book but do not be too disappointed if you do not get an agent or mainstream publisher. That may happen if your first book is successful in time. These days there are plenty of ‘how to’ blogs and books that will guide you into self-publishing especially in Ebooks. Nothing should stop you if that is what you really want.

What is your favorite movie and why?

I have loved the movies since early childhood from “Lawrence of Arabia” through to “Mama Mia.”  If I had to pick a movie that I can watch at a drop of a hat, “The Last of the Mohicans” would be the one. From the opening scene as the three men chase a stag through the forest to the last scene as they look out over the changing world they now face, it keeps the pace and flow beautifully. The cast is magnificent with Daniel Day Lewis in the lead role, the script is brilliant and the music superb. You cannot beat an incredible story brought to life with exceptional direction and acting.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

That the decisions that you make on the spur of the moment can have long lasting effects on your life but that is not necessarily a bad thing. And to be grateful for what you have and delighted when you get more than you thought possible.

Describe yourself in three words.

Writing, music and chocolate.

A woman after my own heart! Can you see yourself doing what you are right now for the rest of your life?

Absolutely. I would like to publish a book at 100 years old and still be able to make people laugh.

Where can readers connect with you?

My blog: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com

Social Media: http://uk.linkedin.com/in/sallycronin1
https://twitter.com/sgc58
https://www.facebook.com/sally.cronin
https://www.facebook.com/sallygeorginacronin
https://plus.google.com/+SallyCronin/about

Where can readers find your books?

All my books can be found via my Amazon author page: http://www.amazon.com/Sally-Cronin/e/B0096REZM2.

Also I have my own bookstore and the books are slightly cheaper there links can be found along with reviews. https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/my-books/.

Thank you again Amy for your hospitality.

And thank you, Sally, for your thoughtful and inspiring responses to my questions. I’ve loved having you on Reade and Write.

Until next week,

Amy

P.S. My end-of-winter newsletter is now out! You can view it by clicking here. If you haven’t signed up to receive it yet via email, click here. All my subscribers are entered for a chance to win a Hawaiian Swag Bag to celebrate the release of House of the Hanging Jade. Void where prohibited.