Friday, July 18, 2014

Friday Photo: CAT bookshelf



I hope everyone had a lovely week!  Ours was spent mostly running around town choosing the major items for the house we're building so we can have -- here's an idea!! -- an actual construction budget before we break ground.  Yesterday's bathroom granite choices negated Tuesday's bathroom tile choices, but I think we finally have everything pretty much settled. 

All that unplanned activity did put me a little, okay, a lot, behind schedule, but I'm back to waking up at four in the morning thinking about stories instead of tile and flooring. So, that's a plus.

These days it seems everyone in the book business is talking about metadata.  Which basically, is just info about your book. Data about data, essentially.  So, while doing the final checks before Tangled Hearts goes on sale, hopefully by the end of next week, I've been thinking a LOT about how important book CATegories can be. 

Thus this week's photo:





Have a great weekend everyone, and happy reading!

xo,
JoAnn 

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

New House!

Three years after building this house while living three thousand miles away, we're doing it again! Though this time only five minutes away, which should make it much easier.  While I LOVE this area and the idea of downsizing in theory was appealing, it just didn't work for either of us or the dogs. 

 Those of you who've read this blog for a while may remember that mulch was once my life.  I miss my office, but I mostly miss my gardens.  And while he's no longer building his beautiful wooden boats, Sweetie misses having his own shop space instead of being in the corner of the garage, having to set things up every day, then putting them all away again to get the cars in. Then there's the wood dust all over everything. 

So,  a new adventure begins. . .

We've been spending the past weeks trying to decide on all the stuff that actually goes into a house.  Although we haven't broken ground on our lot yet, a construction contract has to be written up, so we need to have some idea of what we're doing so we'll know the cost ahead of time. Which is always a good idea.  :)

Yesterday, after spending way too many hours on pinterest these past weeks looking at hundreds of kitchens, we pretty much chose the floor (all hardwood except in the baths).  It's finally been nailed down to two choices and nothing like what I first started thinking about.  Also, we think we have the kitchen counters (will probably make decision on that tomorrow), we DO have the bath and kitchen styles and colors of cabinets picked out, the bath and shower surrounds,and the bathroom floors.  The bathroom floors are actually one of my first wants for the entire house, so now I have the best of both. 

I also have my paint colors.  I think. Sweetie's picking up a gallon after exercise at the gym today and I'm going to paint a wall here and live with it a while.  It's very close to the colors I have here, so all our furniture and accessories should work.  We're going with a single, uniting color at first because I like living in a house at least a year to watch the light through the seasons before deciding on individual room and accent colors. 

Meanwhile, I found this sink I really like for the Master, office, and guest baths.  It comes with either the three holes or one (haven't decided about that, but there's plenty of time) and the pretty sloped sides are actually functional, supposedly keeping the water from splashing out.  


For those of you waiting for new books, yes, this has admittedly gotten me behind. BUT, the important house things have been chosen, or will be tomorrow, so now I can buckle down and instead of waking up at four in the morning thinking about shower floors, I can wake up  at four thinking of characters and plot points! I hope to be caught up soon, but I also don't want to rush a story and not give you my best work.  

Thanks for visiting and happy reading!  I hope you'll come back for Friday's photo! 

xo,

JoAnn 



Friday, July 11, 2014

Friday Photo: I left my heart...


Today's Friday Photo is of a city where I spent my Flower Child days and one Sweetie and I love bunches. (It's true... you do leave at least a bit of your heart in this City by the Bay!)  San Francisco is truly one of the most beautiful cities in the world, which is why I set Tangled Hearts, which is coming out next week in all ebook formats and print, there.  



Here's a sneak peak at Tangled Heart's cover. Designer Syd Gill created a different look for this story and I think it's so romantic! 


Thanks for visiting and have a great weekend!  

xo,

JoAnn 

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

OWH VCMP Winner!


Thanks to all who participated in my Christmas/Winter challenge during Operation Write Home's gala Independence Day weekend Virtual Card Making Party!  Your cards were so special and it was grand fun seeing them all. 

The winner of this shiny new wooden Penny Black stamp, chose by Random Dot Org, is #15, Diane W!!!  Diane, if you'll email your post office mailing address to JoAnn AT JoAnnRoss DOT com, I'll get your stamp off to you!



I hope everyone had as much fun as I did playing along with the challenges, although I'm STILL running behind.  Hopefully tomorrow's Midweek Throwndown will work with one of them so I can pull off a two-fer.

Have a great rest of your week!  Tonight's cooking class at the waterfront is an Italian seafood dinner.  One of the best meals Sweetie and I ever ate was a seafood dinner on an island in Italy's Lake Como (I suspect George Clooney must not have heard  we were there, because we never received an invitation to his house, lol), so we're really looking forward to this one.  I'll undoubtedly be sharing at least one recipe from the class here on the blog.

xo,

JoAnn 



Sunday, July 6, 2014

Operation Write Home Virtual Card Making Challenge Cards

So, I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday weekend! Mine was kind of crazy since along with hosting a Bring on Winter challenge for Operation Write Home's Virtual Cardmaking Party, Friday was also a full writing day, except for the time spent grilling Sweetie some ribs. (The 4th is the one day a year I make them.) Then I stayed up way too late putting pics on my Pinterest page, second guessing the hardwood floors and kitchen counters I chose on Thursday for the new house we're building a mile away. And yes, I did change them, but fortunately before the budget meeting with the builder on Tuesday.

In case you didn't catch them, here are three cards I made for my challenge, which was to make two cards, one using Christmas colors, the other using winter colors. (I meant to add to use the same image, but it worked out well, because everyone made wonderful cards and I'm glad for Random Dot Org, because I couldn't choose a favorite to win a brand new one of these cute stamps. Winner to be announced here Tuesday.)




Although I was a day behind, Saturday I began making cards for the other challenges.  Which tended to mess up my card making room, because unlike when I can plan a card ahead and get out the supplies out, these presented surprises every two hours, so I started taking stuff off shelves and spreading them over my table: 


Sybrina's was one of my personal favorite things to do: to make his and her cards using an OWH sketch.  I used #168, which is one of my favorites, but this time I changed the squares to rectangles. 



Since I don't have any spray inks -- okay, I have a couple, but I've never tried them -- I originally skipped Michelle's challenge, then later noticed that, oops, that was a bonus part of the challenge. The actual challenge was to make a Thank You card for one of our heroes, so I CASED one of my own cards from an earlier challenge because although for some reason I usually have trouble with red, white, and blue, I liked the way this turned out. 


Next up was Kelly's Paper Piecing for Kids. Since I mostly make cards for OWH kids and Cards for Hospitalized Kids, this one was right in my wheelhouse.  The body of the girly monster is from a paper set. 


Writing this I just realized I missed Lori's Red, White, and Blue Birthday Card challenge, which was one I really wanted to try. Because, did I mention, I have trouble with those colors?  But I totally forgot it, so I'm going to add it to the mix next week for either the Midweek Throwdown or Sunday Sketch challenge. 

Then came Beth's Colorful Backgrounds, which I was really happy to see because I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE making scrappy backgrounds and use them every chance I get. Even if I have to cut up fresh pieces of paper to make scraps to use.  We were supposed to use five colors, but I figure white counts. Right?




So, I'd finally made it to Saturday's cards and next up was Kristie's Our Daily Bread Designs challenge, which was Things with Wings.  Okay, I wandered a bit off on this one, but there is a bee there.  And a ladybug, although the glossy accents I added to her caught the camera flash and doesn't show the pretty red coloring on her wings.


By now, in a hurry to catch up from missing Friday, I wasn't putting things away as I used them, so I'd overrun my craft room and moved on to destroy my kitchen counter.  Oh, and those sea glass and lipstick coral walls don't look as odd when you see that the entire area is the sea glass greenish blue and just the nook is coral.  Did I mention that the reason we're building a new house three years after building this one, is because downsizing just didn't work for our current lives?  Trying to make cards and have a writing office and business space for my new publishing company, just isn't working out.  At. All. 



Anyway, moving on. . . 

I also somehow skipped past Cherie's Miss You circle and two banners challenge, so I'm going to try to catch up on that one next week, too.  

Then I momentarily despaired at Andrea's Vintage for the Boyz masculine card challenge because, although I like making cards for guys, as you can see, I'm pretty much a bright color gal who doesn't do vintage. Then I remembered that -- yay! -- somewhere in that chaos, I had some paper that would work!  



Bobbi's Three Textures challenge had me whimpering again for a moment, because just as I don't do vintage, other than layering, my only texture is usually dry embossing.  However, challenges are all about going outside your comfort zone, right?  So I did my usual dry embossing with my Cricut, then used tape and cloth rick rack for this.  Which is a purer whiter than it looks on the screen. 


After two puzzlers, I was relieved to see Marilyn's Travel challenge because it let me take one of my favorite stamps down off the wall where I keep all my wooden stamps on floating shelves so I don't forget about them. I especially love the image because we're down at our Puget Sound waterfront at least once a week watching the boats, and I bought this at a beach store on the Oregon Coast.  So, traveling was even involved!  lol


By the time I'd worked my way down to Tami's Red, White, and Blue Christmas challenge, I think I was getting brain dead because although I tried and tried to make a snowman card work, it was a total fail. So, that's going on my upcoming challenge list, as well. 

I love Marlene's Sunday Sketch this week, but didn't get to it.  So, my to-do list is growing.  

I'm not sure I'm going to be able to manage Annette's thick and thin challenge, because I also don't really do embellishments, but I do have chipboard, so I figure I can dig some of that out and try it. 

I also had an image already colored that would work for Becca's Teen Time challenge, but somehow forgot to make it.  Maybe because the chaos that had now spread to the breakfast nook was scrambling my brain.  (And, admittedly, I'd begun to rethink the floors yet again, so my mind kept wandering.) 


While we were up at Mt Rainier a couple weeks ago, I colored an an image that worked perfectly for Yvonne's Furry Love challenge, so this one was easy.  Again, the white is brighter than it looks on my screen.


I LOVE making cards with inchies, and wanted to play on Sherry's Inching Toward Christmas, but if we're going to have the steaks I've been marinating all day, I had to start cleaning up.  But I usually start my Christmas cards in July, so hopefully I'll get to that one before the month's out.  Though Monday's choosing cabinets (which I think I already know), then Tuesday is our meeting with the builder and evening Italian seafood cooking class at the waterfront, so this is a short week, especially since I swore to myself I'd finish my book that I've been rewriting the first two-thirds of for weeks.  Sigh.

I'm also going to have to catch up with Kara's Faux Technique card.  Which I can do with my Martha Stewart and Fiskars button punches.  I'll try to combine them with one of the other missed challenges for a two-fer.  :)

So, that was my Independence Day weekend.  Thanks for visiting!  I hope yours was fabulous and that your next week is wonderful! 

xo,

JoAnn 




Friday, July 4, 2014

OWH 4th of July Virtual Cardmaking Party with Giveaway!


Happy Independence Day!!!  I hope you're having a grand day of card making and other festivities.

So, it's been a busy day and there's so much more to come this weekend! This week's Friday Photo is going to be cards I've made for Operation Write Home's gala 4th of July Virtual Card Making Party! 

For those who may be new to OWH, it's a wonderful organization of volunteers who've helped deployed military men and women stay in touch with family, friends, and loved ones by making more than two-and-a-half MILLION greeting cards for them to send back home.  OWH also sends Any Hero cards to thank our heroes for their service.

My challenge, if you choose to accept it, will be to make two winter cards. One in Christmas colors, and another that can be used any time during the season. One lucky person (chosen at random) who  joins in the challenge will win this brand new Penny Black wooden stamp that's just like the one I used.
One of the things I love about OWH sketches is that they give actual measurements. Sometimes I go way off the chart, but other times they serve as a handy guideline.  Sketch #191 is one of my go-to sketches and one I use on the rare occasions when I make multiples because it's pretty straight forward and doesn't use circles, which tend to be my kryptonite.  lol  As you'll see, I flipped this one.

Here's Mimi and her beary best friend in reds and greens:
And in pink and winter blues.  And no, the background isn't pink!  Crazy camera day again. I should've dragged out my lightbox!
And finally, I just had to make one more because I thought these little houses would have people thinking of home.
 I can't wait to see what cards you make!  To share, just click on the link below my name.  To give everyone time to make the cards and enter, I'll keep the link open through Monday night and announce the winner here Tuesday morning.  And since I'm here in the Pacific Northwest, if you live on the East Coast and are an early riser, you may have to be patient.  :)  

Thanks for visiting and have a super and safe holiday weekend!

xo,
JoAnn 

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Tuesday Tasting on Wednesday: Grilled Prawn Salad with Asparagus, Chilled Tomato Crema, and Strawberry Vinaigrette

First of all, I'm still missing some addresses to send books to the winners of my recent Legends Lake and A Woman's Heart giveaway.  Those winners are: Gretchen, Laura Van Guilden, Bonnie K., Lisa Richardson, and Corduroy7!  If you haven't sent me your post office mailing address, please do .

So, Monday night Sweetie and I went to a cooking class at a school on the waterfront where we had a grand time and amazing Northwest food prepared by Chef Richard Bretana of HG Bistro in Puyallup, WA.  

The first course, and the one I'm sharing with you, is a scrumptious grilled prawn salad with asparagus, charred tomato crema and greens with strawberry vinaigrette.  

Serves four:

Twenty 16-20 size prawns
28 asparagus (I’d cut that down to 4-5 per person unless you were using it as a main course salad)
Charred Tomato Crema salad mix (recipe below)

Peel and devein prawns, season with salt and pepper, a little olive oil, and grill.  Your heat may vary, but when I cook prawns on the grill, I average about two minutes a side, until you can see the pink in the middle when you turn them.

Clean, oil, season and grill asparagus.  
Set aside.

Charred tomato crema salad mix 
1-2 whole tomatoes
1 cup sour cream
salt and pepper
Strawberry vinaigrette (recipe below)
Mixed lettuce greens

Char tomatoes on the grill on in a sauté pan, then cool.  Once cooled, place in a blender with sour cream and blend.  (You don’t have to peel off the charred skin; it adds a smoky taste.)  Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.

Strawberry Vinaigrette

1 shallot, chopped
1 teaspon Dijon mustard
1 cup olive oil  (You can use extra virgin or a blend, depending on your personal preference.)
1 1/2 cup champagne vinegar
5 large ripened strawberries
Salt and pepper

Place the chopped shallot, mustard, vinegar, and strawberries in a food processor.  Puree, slowly adding the oil to emulsify.  Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.  Toss with the greens, saving a tiny bit back. 


Plate with the crema on the bottom, top with asparagus, then top that with the greens and prawns and dribble a bit more vinaigrette on top.  

Then impress your friends and enjoy the yum!  

Thanks for visiting!  Friday I'll be back with the weekly photo, along with a card challenge for the Operation Write Home gala 4th of July weekend blog hop, along with a wonderful Penny Black wooden stamp giveaway.

Have a great rest of your week and a super and safe holiday!

xo,
JoAnn 

Monday, June 30, 2014

Legend's Lake and A Woman's Heart Giveaway Winners!

Huge thanks to all of you who commented on my blog post about my early writing and my Irish family!  As I said, these books are especially close to my heart, so it's wonderful to hear other people have enjoyed my Castlelough series.

 I have more Irish books coming out beginning with Briarwood Cottage,  later this summer, then a Christmas story that doesn't yet have a title in mid to late October, then A Sea Change after the first of the year.  This is Sedona's story so many readers have been waiting for! After her perfectly perfectly planned life in Shelter Bay is turned upside down, she escapes to Castlelough, where Irish musician Conn (one of the sexy Brennan brothers) rocks her world. 

I'm so grateful for Random Dot Org, because I never could've chosen a winner!  The lucky readers who'll receive copies of A Woman's Heart and Legends Lake, book one and three of my Castlelough trilogy (like so many of you, I can't buy new copies of Fair Haven, the second one, either), are, ta dah:

Gretchen, Laura Van Guilden, Bonnie K., Lisa Richardson, and Corduroy7!

If you five winners will email your post office mailing address to JoAnn AT JoAnnRoss Dot Com, we'll get those books sent out to you!  

Oh, I almost forgot!  I have a revised reprint, Tangled Hearts, coming out in July.  You can read more about it here

Thanks to all who visited, a special thanks to those who took the time to comment here and on xoxo After Dark, and have a wonderful rest of your week! 

 I'll be back over the holiday weekend (my scheduled day is Friday, at 3 p.m.) with a card challenge for Operation Write Home, a wonderful organization of volunteers who've sent over two million (!!!) blank inside greeting cards for deployed military men and women to send back home to their families.  I'll also be giving away a darling never-used Penny Black wooden stamp.  

xoxo,

JoAnn 


Friday, June 20, 2014

Friday Photo -- Irish Castle, plus Legends Lake & A Woman's Heart book giveaway!

To celebrate the re-release of Legends Lake,  a story of love and second chances, which is
the third book in my Castlelough, Ireland series, I'm having a giveaway!  Read on for details! 
My grandda McLaughlin was a seanachie. An Irish teller of tales. My earliest memories are listening to the music of his lyrical brogue spinning grand stories of kings and castles, battles and banishments, magic and miracles. Inheriting his love of storytelling, I wrote my first novella—a tragic romance about two star-crossed Mallard ducks—for a second grade writing assignment when I was seven-years-old.
The story did NOT have a happily-ever-after romantic ending. After being shot by a hunter, the female duck died of lead poisoning. Unfortunately, she did not go quickly. It took several chapters for her to finally fly off to that heavenly wetlands in the sky, leaving the drake a grieving widower, forced to raise their baby ducklings alone. After receiving a gold star for my three-Kleenex Mallard romance, I immediately decided to become a writer when I grew up.
The land of my ancestors, which has always felt like home, is one of unbridled spirit, whitewashed cottages, storybook castles, and ancient legends. One of the things I especially love about writing my Castlelough stories is borrowing from those Celtic legends while making up a few of my own. The Lady in Legends Lake, which Simon and Schuster has just re-released, is a blend of both legend and imagination. With a bit of Irish magic thrown in.
I also love sharing my own family history, such as my grandda kidnapping—with her consent!—my grandmother, when her wealthier “lace curtain” Cavanaugh family wouldn’t permit them to marry. I gave that to Nora’s father in A Woman’s Heart, the first book in the series.
Hardly a day goes by that I don’t think about the fact that by exploring my favorite themes of love, loyalty, family, and, of course, my favorite, redemption (and Alec MacKenna definitely feels in serious need of redemption), I’m following in Grandda’s footsteps. In all his tales, heroes and heroines ventured forth on quests against seemingly impossible odds, slaying myriad dragons along the way. Tyrants were toppled, lovers united, the wicked were punished, justice prevailed in the end, and the good always lived happily ever after. And isn’t that what romances are all about?
To celebrate Legend’s Lake‘s re-release, five lucky readers who comment here will receive a copy of the book, along with A Woman’s Heart. Winners will be chosen at random with entries limited to the U.S., Canada, Great Britain, Australia, and New Zealand. The contest will begin Friday, June 20th, and to give everyone a chance to enter, I’ll announce the winner here on the blog and my website on Monday, June 30th.

Good luck and have a wonderful summer! 

xo, 
JoAnn



Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Tuesday Tasting: Brandy Flamed Spot Shrimp

This week's Tuesday Tasting is one of the yummiest I've ever made.  So much so, Chef Maddy stole my recipe to use at her On Lavender Lane restaurant. 

 Spot shrimp, which are also known as Spot Prawns, although actually they're a true shrimp, not a prawn, are only available a few weeks a year here in the Pacific Northwest, and there's always a rush to find them because they sell out from fish markets really fast!   Fortunately, the wonderful fishmongers at Olympia Seafood saved us some when the boat came in last week. Although I'm obviously no food photographer, as you can see, the shrimp are already pink when they're raw, so you can't use color as a cooking test as you can with other shrimp and prawns.

These are incredibly yummy and since they taste like lobster, they don't really need a lot of ingredients to make them shine.  You can shell them before or after cooking, but because the shells impart so much flavor, I leave them on and shell later.  The cool thing is that the water they come from is so clean, they don't need the tiny vein removed like with many shrimp, so you can peel and eat at the table. 


Ingredients:

1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil 
1/4 cup chopped parsley
2-3 minced garlic cloves
Lemon zest
Brandy (optional)
White wine
pasta (I use whole wheat linguini.)

Cooking instructions: 

Saute garlic just until soft in butter and oil.  Add parsley and stir for a couple minutes.   

While that's cooking, put pasta in a large pan of boiling salted water to begin cooking. If it finishes before you've finished the shrimp, just drain it, put it back in the pot on a very low heat and toss it with a bit of olive oil, which will hold it for a short while.  It's a restaurant trick Sweetie learned at an Italian cooking class. 


Add shrimp and cook approximately two minutes on each side.


This step is optional, but the taste is so rich, it's worth it, and you're not getting any alcohol, because it burns off.  

Pour in 1/4 cup Brandy.  It's safer to take it off the rangetop when you light it with a long lighter, like one you use to light fireplaces or barbecues. Burn off the brandy, then, if there's not much liquid left in the pan, add a bit of white wine.  Sweetie couldn't get the photo taken quickly enough because it flared up and died back down really fast, but if you look right to the left of the shrimp in the center bottom of the pan, you'll see a tiny finger of flame left.  


You can shell them now (they'll be hot, so be careful) or as you eat. Which is messy, but fun and reminds me of eating piles of shrimp in Louisiana's bayou country and New Orleans. 

I served mine over linguini with the pan juices, salt, pepper, a bit of lemon zest and the remaining parsley. And yes, that is way too much pasta, which didn't all get eaten. I grew up cooking for six, so I ALWAYS cook too much.  I keep swearing that I'm going to buy one of those measuring things with the holes in it, but I as much as I love buying kitchen gadgets, I've never gotten around to it. 

The taste of this shrimp is so lushly rich, I like to pair it with a very simple mixed greens salad topped with an equally simple vinaigrette.  


That's it for this week, but hopefully not for the season!  I usually make marinated grilled lime/cilantro prawns with a tequila orange sauce for my Mexican prawns, but although they don't have the flavor of Spot Shrimp, I'm going to try this recipe with them, too.  

Thanks for visiting!  I may be back with a Wednesday Operation Write Home greeting card, but if not, I'll definitely have a new Friday photo. 

xo,

JoAnn 
http://joannross.com


Friday, June 13, 2014

Friday Photo: Oregon vineyards

This week's Friday photos are from RIVER'S BEND. These are the Oregon vineyards Cooper and Rachel drive through -- and where they stop to have lunch -- on their way from River's Bend to Shelter Bay.



Thanks for visiting and have a great weekend! I hope you'll come back for Tuesday Tastings, where I'll be sharing a Spot prawns recipe where we get to set brandy on fire.  It's not only scrumptious (they taste like lobster!), but quick and easy peasy. 

xo,
JoAnn