Thursday, June 30, 2016

Tea with Jane: Sally Lunns

     Sally Lunns...I'm sorry what? What kind of name is that for a pastry? What kind of name is that in general? I keep wanting to say "buns" instead of "lunns"...I'm working on it!
     So yes, this week's historical pastry is called "Sally Lunns" which is basically a bread roll that you would either eat with butter, or, if you want to go real old fashioned/british here, clotted cream. I thankfully had all the ingredients from the past two recipes (thank goodness), so no shopping was involved. And the recipe was so basic! Strong bread flour, eggs, sugar, yeast, heavy cream, and salt. Literally, that's it. Although, there was one oddity in this recipe. Instead of mixing the yeast immediately with the flour, I mixed it first with the sugar. Then you add eggs and cream, and THEN the flour and salt. I wonder what the difference is, or if there is a difference at all? Do you guys know?
      Anyways, there was some more waiting this time. I'm kind of getting excited to do a recipe that doesn't involve waiting. After kneading the dough for a good ten minutes, I had to let it rise for 1.5 hours, form 6 buns (although I think I should've made more), and let them rise again for 30 minutes to an hour. Then you brush them with egg whites and pop 'em in the oven at 400 for 13 minutes.
As I said before, I think I should've made more buns because the 6 buns were HUGE!! Like, basically that's all you need for breakfast.
But guys...these things are the! They came out golden, warm, light, fluffy, and are just all around wonderful goodness. I think this is my favorite recipe so far. Next time, I'm definitely making smaller buns. But overall, I'd call this recipe a 100% success. Maybe it's because of the weird name :)

Can't wait for next week,

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Creative Writers Surviving High School English

      I'm jumping back in time a few years here and thinking back to my years of secondary education english classes. As a reader and very non-technical thinker, English was always my favorite subject. There's no question about that. If I could just get to English class, I could make it through the day. I know I'm not the only one who thinks this way. You guys are out there.
      But it was also extremely frustrating to me that my only options for English classes were the general 1, 2, 3, and 4--which was language and literary criticism. I enjoyed most of it, but what about creative writing? What about modern literature?
      Schools today are so highly focused in math and science that the humanities are really suffering. They teach to the test. Sometimes, we didn't even discuss what we read. We would just take a quiz over it and move on. I mean, don't get me wrong, I can whip out an academic paper like nobody's business. My English teachers did a wonderful job of preparing me for the frequency of papers necessary at college. And my grammar skills are stellar. (Blog posts are more casual, so don't judge me off of this haha. I know not to start a sentence with a conjunction).
       My only other options for english electives were Newspaper, which only came out maybe once a semester in a good year and Yearbook, which I didn't really consider my type of English. Thinking back, I definitely should've started a creative writing club in high school. But oh well, I've started one at UTC, and that's what counts. We're called Chattanooga Writer's Society, and we're awesome!
       I guess that's what I'm here to tell you. Yes, you have to focus on your main curriculum, and while it may not be your cup of tea, there are other ways to get your creative writing fill. If you think  a teacher might be interested, ask him/her to read some of your more creative work on the side. Start a creative writing club in your high school. Have any questions? Want some help? I'm available to give some advice. Find a writing community in your town, or even an online writing community. There's plenty of them, I promise.
       What's most important, just write. I know school's hectic, and you have a billion and one papers to write, but even if it's just a journal entry at the end of the day, or a silly blog post like this, just get your words out of your head. It's a really good feeling, I promise!
      And here's a little bit of hope for you--there are SO MANY awesome english classes in college. And I'm just starting to scratch the surface. So there's some incentive for you!

Keep writing,

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Tea with Jane: English Muffins

Today was my second week into my Tea with Jane Austen cook book, and I'm still going strong! I'm getting pretty good at multitasking while letting the dough rise. I mean, there's enough going on with all the book stuff that's happening right now :D
Anyway, we're here today for English Muffins--a classic breakfast dish that is delicious with butter and jam! This process was a tiny bit shorter. Instead of rising for 3 hours, the dough only had to rise for an hour the first time. Then I formed the muffins by cutting them out with a cup then let them rise again for another 30 minutes.
My dough was still a little bit sticky and gooey. I probably should've added a little bit more flour to make it easier to work with, so note to all you other bakers out there. Adding more flour is an okay thing.
Cool thing about English muffins that I never knew (or I guess thought to ask about) is that they aren't baked, they are made on a griddle like pancakes. You let each side cook about 8 minutes, and pull them off, ready to go! I served mine with butter and my favorite blackberry jam from the farmer's market. Maybe one of these days I'll try making fresh jam...hahaha
Anyway, I hope you enjoy trying your own English muffins--I definitely suggest trying them. Serve with tea in the morning and have yourself a great breakfast--yum yum!
I have no idea how next weeks treat is supposed to turn out. Never heard of it in my life. So this'll be a surprise both for you and me!

Keep on baking,

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Happy Father's Day!

     Today is the day on which we celebrate our fathers, uncles, grandfathers, and any other father-figures!  Because these men sacrifice so much for us, and we don't even realize it. Yes, we know that they pay for the roof over our heads, the food in our mouths, the clothes on our backs. But what are they giving up for us that we don't even think about? Time, hobbies, friends, adventurous lives? But I guess all that doesn't really matter, because it's in the past.
      I'm a very lucky girl with an awesome Dad. He works super hard (it's actually kind of exhausting to watch). But he's also hilarious and kind. He's taught me how to be a "dog whisperer;" that I love baseball even though I can't play; that no matter what music I'm into at the moment, I'll always have rock; that life can't always be taken too seriously; that family matters, even when we get too busy for each other; that it's a good thing to embrace your roots but you can always rise above; that determination is everything; and that sometimes, I'm way too much like him. At least I haven't started twisting my eyebrows when I'm stressed out.
      And I realized how present the lack of parents are in YA fiction, which really doesn't make sense to me. If parents aren't necessarily a huge part of young adults' lives, they are still active, still there, still have a voice. Yet a lot of books make it seem like 16 and seventeen year olds are just completely independent of their parents. And I just don't get it. So I've tried to find a few books, and I have compiled the Father's Day Book List:

1. The Last Song by Nicholas Sparks 
2. Twilight by Stephanie Meyer (she does have a sweet relationship with her dad) 
3. The Fault in Our Stars by John Greene
4. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak 
5. Inkheart by Cornelia Funke
6. Percy Jackson by Rick Riordan (Poseidon slowly becomes more prominent, right?)

Pretty small list, right? I mean, I haven't read all the books in the world, so I'm sure this list is not complete in the least. If you know of any other's please let me know! 
Some books do a great job of representing a strained relationship with parents, or no parents at all. But we have to understand that parents are a part of young adult life. It's not just completely shaped by romance or action. 

So give your Dad a big hug! Pick up one of these books and remember how much your dad means to you! 

Until the next holiday (just kidding),

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Tea with Jane Austen: Bath Buns

During her travels to London and Paris, my wonderful, dear friend brought me back the cutest souvenir. A little recipe book called Tea with Jane Austen: Recipes inspired by her novels and letters by Pen Vogler. Even though I am unable to eat the recipes myself, I thought I'd try to bake my way through the book, like in the movie Julie & Julia, although hopefully these will not be quite as complicated.
      I've already attempted the first recipe in the book: Bath Buns! This semi-sweet pastry is wonderful for breakfast or afternoon tea! I'm not quite sure what size they are supposed to be...the recipe says it makes 12, but I think I ended up with 11. Oh well.
      You'd think the time consuming part would be in the baking. No. Nope. This is old fashioned bread making. After mixing all the ingredients, you let the dough rise for 2-3 hours, and, the fun part, you get to punch the air out of the dough! I felt like a real baker for the first time in my life. Also, once you have your buns formed, you let the dough rise for another hour. So all in all, just the prep took about 4.5 hours. But it only bakes for about 15 minutes. No time at all.
This is definitely not a slapdash pastry. You need to take time, read the instructions fully, measure things out. As my friend Kylee likes to tell me, baking is a precise art. And I am not a precise person. But I tried to do pretty good with these.

Well, mom said they're pretty good! I might get myself a few other opinions. She's biased!
Tune in to see what recipe is on the next page!

From the mouth of the chef,

Saturday, June 11, 2016

My Vampire Reading List

Obviously, my vampire novel was inspired by all the vampire and magic-related books that I've read over the years. Some might be pretty old, but if you're interested in this genre, these books are great!!

  1. Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead
  2. Twilight by Stephanie Meyer
  3. Marked by Kristin and P.C. Cast
  4. Blue Bloods by Melissa De La Cruz
  5. Night world Trilogy by L.J. Smith
  6. Interview with a Vampire by Anne Rice
  7. Evernight by Claudia Gray
  8. The Coldest Girl in Cold Town by Holly Black

So if you haven't read these, put them on your list now! Along with Ascension, of course!! Let me know what you think. I have to say Vampire Academy and Blue Bloods are my absolute favorites. I'm obsessed with them! I reread Vampire Academy in one day. 

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

What's a Pen Pal?

Dear Readers,      
     Six years ago, I met one of my dearest friends, Isidora! We don't live in the same state, and we only see each other once a year. So how do we keep in contact, you might ask? Emailing? Nope? Texting? Occasionally, more recently. Why, letters of course!!! Yes, I, Hannah Rials, have a pen pal, and I absolutely love it! We're not exactly the most dependable, sometimes it takes us awhile, but we never forget. 
     I know this is not a common practice nowadays because we have phones and computers--such easy, simple ways to keep in contact with each other. No one needs to bother with snail mail. To quote Urban Dictionary, a Pen Pal is: 

A species of human made nearly extinct by the advent of electronic mail, penpals communicate via the ancient art of Penmanship – the inscription of meaningful symbols on filaments of pulped wood. After their creation, these Letters would be entrusted to government officials for transportation and delivery to their intended recipient – often over great distances.

    Ha. Ha ha ha ha. Funny, Urban Dictionary. But note that they said "nearly extinct." Isidora and I are two of the few Pen Pals left. I can't recommend this type of relationship enough, especially to tweens and teens. We met when we were 14, and even though we're separated by 9 hours of distance, it's like we've grown up together. Yeah, it takes dedication. But when you get a letter in the mail, it's honestly so exciting that you might just run to your room and write him/her back immediately and have your letter in the mail before dinner time the same day! 
    It takes dedication and focus, but it's very worthwhile. We connected over books (of course), and our friendship has grown from there. By having a Pen pal and forcing yourself to write an actual letter on paper with a pen, there's just so much more of a connection! And you get to learn about your differences and your similarities in a much cooler way (in my personal opinion). 
    I'm writing this post to celebrate my wonderful Pen Pal/friend who is getting married in 3 days!!!! I'm so honored that I get to be a part of their special day. This just shows you what a wonderful relationship you can have through paper. I'm in Isidora's wedding. We are more than people who write the occasional letter to one another. We're dear friends. And it has been so amazing to see her grow into a beautiful, still awkward, loving, brilliant young woman. And you can see her growth in her letters (that I've saved haha). I'm so super beyond excited for her and her fiancĂ©! 
     So I encourage you all to go out and find your pen pal. Form new relationships through pen. And make a new friend! Besides, you get mail, which is one of the most exciting things on the entire planet. If you disagree with me, you're wrong. Accept it and move on! 


Saturday, June 4, 2016

Busting Those Writing Myths

There's hundreds of thousands of pieces of writing advice circulating the web-o-sphere. There's no possible way that you can follow all of them. Believe me, I've tried. But here's a few that I've proven are not necessary. 

All Day, Every Day: 
You don't have to write all the time. You don't have to write everyday. Writing is a talent, something that's a part of you. It's not something that's going to go away if you don't do it for a day or two. However, just like any talent, it needs to be cultivated. You will always improve. I can say that most certainly. But don't panic if you don't find the time to write for a week or you just don't have the inspiration. It'll be okay! 

Write What You Know: 
This is probably the biggest piece of baloney ever. If I only wrote what I knew, my stories and books would be SO boring. I wouldn't be writing about vampires or magic or some of the other topics my short stories are about. Stories can be based on something you're familiar with, like a friend, a place, or a concept. However, it's not restricted to that. So imagine what you don't know and write about that. 

Outlining is not necessary at the start. It works for some people, but I am not one of those people. I didn't outline a single thing in my first draft of Ascension. During my time listening at book panels, I've learned that there are two types of writers: Pantsers and Planners. Pantsers write by the seat of their pants. They write first, think later. And there's absolutely nothing wrong with this. Sure, there might be holes and questions, but that's what editing's for.

One Project at a Time: 
It's taken me eight years to get Ascension published, which means that I have been writing, rewriting, editing, and tweaking for Eight. Years. If I had only spent my time on Ascension, my writing skills would be sorely lacking. I would have no short stories, articles, papers, or other drafts of books sitting in my desk drawer. It's a good thing to step away from your work. It's easy to get so wrapped up in the world you are creating, and sometimes, you need to step away and work on something else in order to fix a problem or look at your work with new eyes. 

Not all writing advice is a piece of gold. Find what works for you and go with it. And if you ever have a question, I'd love to help! Just leave me a comment or message me through my Facebook page. I'll do my very best!

Bye for Now, 

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Challenge Yourself

     It's always a good thing to challenge yourself in your reading! You have to keep your brain fresh and alert, and sometimes, we get so wrapped up in the beautifully crafted stories of YA fiction that we just blitz through book after book without taking a breath.
     So I've decided to challenge myself this summer. Don't worry, I'm still reading current books. I have a TBR pile that's taller than me. But amongst my fun reads, I'm mixing in some old English classics to keep my brain sharp and improve my reading skills. I know, you think we get enough of that during school, but really, our challenging school reads are pretty guided, even in college. I definitely have the opportunity to have my own thoughts about what I'm reading, but I also get the professor's thoughts and my classmates' as well. Now, it's all on me.
     Thus far, I've completed Little Women, which I know isn't a British classic but I wanted to read it nonetheless. Now, I'm about halfway through Wuthering Heights, and can I just rant for a moment? Jane Eyre is one of my favorite books, so I assumed that, naturally, I would like its sister book. But no! I mean, I'm kind of into the story now even though all the characters are driving me up a wall! Even Nelly, who's supposed to be the sane and normal character, is getting pretty annoying. And I'm just thinking--how can there be this many awful people under one roof? It's impossible! But I'm determined to finish this book, even if I want to strangle all the characters. It's fine. I'll be fine.
      Rant over.
      I'm also taking notes in my books, underlining significant or nicely written lines. And because my vocabulary is not as vast as I would like it to be, I've been circling words that I don't know or vaguely remember, and writing them down in my notebook to look up the definitions. It might be a pointless waste of time, but oh well! I'm enjoying it.
      Written in the Stars by Aisah Saeed. I started it during finals, and just didn't pick it up again because life got crazy hectic. So that's next, and I'm pretty pumped about it. I just have to get through Wuthering Heights before I strangle Heathcliff or Catherine.

Next on my list is

See you at the end,