Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Trimming The Tree

Now Playing -  Last Christmas by Dexter Freebish
Life - 

Every year for Christmas, we get a new ornament. It's a tradition I've been doing since I was a little boy. When Lindsay and I started getting a tree together we started choosing an ornament as a family. I've been lax on updating this blog and as we were trimming the tree this year, it struck us how much we like having a diary of sorts on here. The ability to hop on and read about what we did on a certain day or, in this case, what ornament we bought a certain year. So ROUS is back. I hope. And to start, a rundown of ornaments past.

Our first ornament together was a simple, pretty thing. Just a small glass star with blue glitter. We bought it at Pier One and it hung on a tiny tree in my basement apartment in Pocatello, ID. 

 2005's ornament was keeping with the theme - a pretty, delicate glass piece with a bit of iridescence. We bought it at Pier One as well. I think we were in Missoula MT for this Christmas.


 For 2006, we couldn't find anything at Pier One we liked - they'd gone from delicate pretty things to big gaudy colored stuff. Pink and fuscia, etc. So we found this cute guy, made from porcelain and silver paint at Target. This was our first year in our new house in Pocatello, ID. 


 We had a hard time finding an ornament we liked in 2007. We looked all over the place but between the trend leaning big and gaudy and the fact that we were pretty broke that year, we struggled. We finally found this goofy little fellow on a side panel tucked away in the back of a Target and though a bit silly, we like him a lot. He's only about an inch tall and made of metal with a glass bead.


2008 was the year we decided to start making the ornaments more meaningful than just being pretty. We had discovered how much we loved the Pacific ocean and found this cute little articulated enamel and metal seahorse to commemorate it. This was also when we started looking into buying a motel in earnest. I have no idea where we bought it... maybe the aquarium in Newport?

2009 was the year our ambition kind of got the better of us. optimistic about the prospect of leasing a motel in Washington, we chose this ornament which we found at a World Market in Boise, ID because well... it was money! haha. Turns out, that plan fell through and we ended up making much larger changes to our lives that coming year. We've yet to see that money, but it's still a pretty ornament.


This ornament was chosen to represent our move to Maine in 2010. We also liked how it went well with our little seahorse guy. Kind of one for each coast. We bought this in a little jewelry store in Brunswick, ME. We were renting a trailer in Topsham, ME that year.


2011 was our year of frugality. We tried to start paying down our debt and figure out what we were doing for our future. We had no idea how much would change in the next year. Lindsay made this ornament from wire and a bead, including the funky hanger. It's a cute little thing.

Deeply Dapper changed our lives in 2012. Lindsay quit her job to run the shop in November and I retired from Walgreens after ten years in January. One of the main reasons we were able to was our tremendous sales of our Harry Potter themed light switch plates. So we designed and I made us this ornament, in the shape of the Harry Potter lightning bolt, cut from an actual switchplate. It's easily our cheapest ornament, but it signifies the largest change for us.
 This is our ornament for 2013. It's easily ouyr most expensive ornament, costing nearly $40, but well worth it. It's a Maine leaf, metalized in beautiful red-copper. We chose it because this will be our last year in Maine. Plans are in motion to move back to Idaho in January of 2014. (More on that in a future post.) This big, beautiful ornament will remind us of what we came to love about the east coast.  

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

VACATIONLAND - Updates and Plans

Now Playing -  Don't Forget To Breathe by Bitter:Sweet

Life -  

I have been bad. Not just at updating this blog, but all of our blogs, social media sites and in my own writing. It's literally been over a month since I've written a single word on a novel and apart from some last edits on the print version of MR PALE, Lindsay and I have been totally out of the loop on the author end of our lives. There's an okay reason behind some of it, but I feel bad all the same.

Part of the reason it aggravates me is that I genuinely like writing, and I like positing on this blog. If nothing else, I actually think it makes a great little record of our lives and right now our lives are different than they've ever been.

I've said this before, but I'll say it again now – I'll try and be better.

So what's been going on? A ton. This year has been amazing for us in so many ways but in other facets it's actually been one of our hardest years ever. The opportunity to quit my retail job and for both of us to concentrate our efforts on Deeply Dapper and our various other pursuits has been a dream come true. But True Life is never quite as sweet as the dream. We've had some ROUGH months. Rough estimate, we need about $3000 a month in income to pay bills, feed the animals and keep the shop going. There were a few months in late spring/ early summer where we didn't make half that.

When I quit my job I did something somewhat ill-advised – I cashed in my retirement fund from Walgreens. The simple fact is that if things go the way we've planned, I could either use it now to work towards our future or save it and give up our dreams right now. It was a no-brainer to us – we're dreamers.

So that money has supported us at times and every time we sat in the red and needed some new item for the shop or a big load of supplies that had to come out of that savings, it sucked, pure and simple.

So there's that. Money troubles.

In addition, there's the sheer, unadulterated claustrophobia of two people, two large dogs and two cats going from a 1600 square foot house with a huge fenced yard, two sheds and a garage in Idaho to an 800 square foot tin box in the middle of nowhere. Add in the fact that we're both here ALL of the time and are at heart both very alone-time centric, this has been a Challenge. We did what we could – we bought Linz a writing cottage and we cordoned off our place into private zones but we live in a house that takes roughly twenty paces to reach from one end to the other. It takes the dog less than a second to run it.

After a few rough months of living here with the shop hitting a few speed bumps, we made a fateful choice. We needed to get out of Maine. Neither of us have any friends out here. Linz worked the overnight shift at a hotel and I was most of my peers' boss at Walgreens. We don't socialize, especially when we live 40 minutes from any socializing being done. And naturally, both of our best friends are the types that aren't really functional online. I have a few friends that started as online so I had them and I've always been rather content in solitude, but it was especially hard for Linz, especially when it came to writing inspiration and motivation. There are some things that friends can inspire and move along without ever realizing it.

Our plan to move was ambitious, no doubt. The real sticking point was one of the same things pushing us to move in the first place – this house. We bought it out here with the vague allusion that moving to rural Maine would be a smart step company ladder-wise and at the time I bit. We got a decent deal for the place but we still owed a lot on it and unlike a real house, a mobile home is more like a car when it comes to resale. We were gonna lose money. Probably a lot. Luckily, we didn't own the land, so we'd just have to sell the trailer and WEST OR BUST.  The plan was to wait for this coming Christmas, stockpile every penny we could and as soon as the snow receded, get the Hell out of Derry Maine.
One of our home improvement projects, replacing a cracked floor joist.

Unfortunately, once we did the smart thing – Crunch Numbers, things began to reveal themselves. Assuming we couldn't sell the trailer for much and factoring the costs associated with the move – rentals, trailers, gas, tolls, etc., it would cost us approximately $14,000. And that was just back to Idaho, to say nothing of our ultimate goals of getting past the potato and into the Pacific Northwest.

On the other hand, we actually had that much, give or take, between our retirement money and what we forecasted to make over the holiday, so it was doable.  Then things got a bit crappier out here. Maine seemed to close up over us and things seemed more oppressive. We had a few trademark issues with the shop and just plain bad months and we started to get desperate. We had to get out of Vacationland and back West where our hearts were.

Part of it was that we were starting to crunch the numbers in regards to this Christmas. Last year was huge for us and our shop was significantly larger on a day to day basis now. Christmas could be HUGE. And we knew no one out here. If we were to say.... head to Idaho BEFORE the holiday, what would be stopping us from setting up shop in Linz's folks' garage and hiring cheap slave labor under the guise of inviting friends and family over?  It sounded so great. Eating Christmas cookies and packaging switch plates with family and friends.

Enough that the idea seduced any other real logic out of our heads for a while. We started looking at places to buy post-Christmas, figuring out which supplies to buy now and have shipped to Idaho ahead of us...

Then, one day, we looked at each other and said “Crap, it's a good thing we don't run our shop like we run our lives, or we'd be bankrupt.”

For us to get out to Idaho before Christmas, it would not only take every penny of our savings, but we would likely have had to put all of our Christmas supplies on the credit card that we had just spent two years paying off. Additionally, we still owned our house in Idaho. My mom is working towards buying it, but regardless of how the shop does, there's no way we could buy a home in OR or WA while it was still in our name, especially with a new – owner operated business as our sole income. We also had about three months to sell everything in the house that wouldn't fit in a 5x8 trailer and get to Idaho with enough time to prep for the holiday sales to start in October.

SO to sum up, we would be living in the In-Laws basement, have thousands of dollars in debt, not a penny to our name, no way to buy a house to live in and we would be living in Pocatello Idaho... again.

Despite the obvious, we still almost went for it. The day we realized what we were doing was a very hard one for us. It was the same day we realized that if the shop kept having sales the way they were, I'd have to get a job before we left or our bills would tap out the money we'd need to get out of the house in the first place and we'd be stuck here anyway.

On the other hand, if we stayed here in Maine, we'd be in a house that's already being paid on, we'd have enough money in savings to get us to Christmas, buy a few home stuff we really needed and all of our supplies. We'd be in a place that we didn't....hate and we'd be better off financially than we have ever been... Sort of, anyway – at the time, our shop was still a question, but we figured that if worse came to worse, I could work part time during the summer to get us comfortably by in the lean months.

So once again, we did what we do best – we changed our plans. Sigh.



Deeply Dapper - Keep on trucking with Deeply Dapper on Etsy. At the same time, explore alternate avenues of revenue with the brand – as well as shops on Zibbet, Goodsmiths and eBay. Finally get up and running, including the Octopress branch, offering eBook formatting and cover work. Start prepping for Christmas '13 in earnest. Tighten up books and records, become an official business entity. Possibly hire a part time assistant to help out.

Writing – Still write, but let it take a back burner to an extent. We were trying to push it too much and our love of the craft was suffering. Our planned books for 2013 have been pushed back. Unfortunately.

Location – Stay here in the tin can in Maine. Not the best choice, but we've been working on making it more comfortable for us, doing some improvements we've put off, decorating and the like. We've also started exploring the area we live in slightly more.

The Crew – We found the boys a Day Care we could take them to for trips and the like – the person we did have caring for them moved further away and it wasn't fair to them or the dogs. More on that in a later post. On Lindsay and my end, we aren't doing much to change our situation... not yet. The simple fact is that we don't have time to find friends this time of year -XMAS is upon us. We have visits from family this fall too! Linz's folks will be here in about a week for 8 days and my brother makes his first trip to Maine at the end of September.

Addendum – My brother's trip had originally been designed as a bookend to the first leg of our move out West. The plan had been for him to come out, spend a week then he and I would load up Linz's car and drive it cross country with as much of our house as we could do without until the full move. We were looking forward to the cross country trip too. With our move cancelled, we're now planning to take the train back to Idaho, where I'll spend a bit of time. (Hopefully completing the sale of the house.)


Obviously, a lot of these plans are tentative, based largely on how our shop does over Christmas.

Deeply Dapper – DD goes CON! 2014 will see our shop represented in Comic Cons! We aren’t sure how many, but our first con is this November – in addition to our switch plates and stickers, we'll be selling our new line of geeky soaps. Along the way, I'll also be hitting up comic, game and video stores to see if they would be interested in selling our soaps at a retail level. My plans this year are to expand the brand on a wholesale level. Doing so could stabilize our shop to a tremendous extent. More on this to come! If it doesn't pan out, I'll likely try out a few part time jobs over the summer to supplement our income. There have always been jobs I've been vaguely curious about – this would be the ultimate chance to try them out.

Writing – Hopefully, Linz will be able to continue plugging away at her romance novels – despite no new releases or promotions, her novels keep selling, so we want to add to it. We also plan to release them in paperback. She's also working on a top secret novel series that she's been planning for a long time. We're also looking into writing groups in the area, both from an editorial assistance point of view and for that sweet, sweet human contact. I hope to release GRAVES and write the second MR PALE and MOONSTONE BAY novels. I HOPE. Ha-ha

Location – Here still. Keep calm and carry on. And pay off some of Linz's oppressive student loans. Mow the lawn.

We also hope to find time to start e3njoying the area the way a young work at home couple should be able to – Sex in the forest! Oh, I mean exploring the hundreds of old graveyards out here!  Our wholesale and conventions should be a help here, allowing us to phase out some of the extremely time intensive products from the shop.

The other thing is to pay off the house if possible so that when the move does come, it comes much, much cheaper.

The Crew – Our two main goals here are to free our minds from the stress of moving and where we'll be in a month, etc... And concentrate on enjoying our lives. We're finally making money off our interests and talents – we should be overjoyed! Linz will look for some friends; I'll be better about talking with mine. We'll get out more, be healthier, cook even better food, and lose weight.

The one event we are over the moon about in 2014 is that we are finally planning to take our belated honeymoon to Ireland. Aww yeah. That alone makes not moving a little sweeter.

Beyond that, the real plan is to make as much money from the shop and our writing as humanly possible so that in 2015, after the snows melt and while the air is still cool enough for a long road trip to be pleasant, we head west. For reals this time.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

My Gateway Books - Part One

Now Playing -  Ho Hey by The Lumineers
Life -  

 Yesterday, my sister in law asked me for some suggestions for books. This is an awesome thing, because I've never thought of her as a reader. However, when asked what kind of book, she was unclear. That makes it hard, because there are so many different genres and so many great books in each and all very different.

On the plus side, she's also kind of a blank slate. I know she's read books and recently read all six of the books my wife and I have released, which are three radically divergent genres, so that made up my mind for me:

I would write my definitive list of Gateway Books. This is my list of the first book I would want a neophyte to read in each of the genres I love. (Or the first few... I'm not good at being completely definitive...)

 In most cases, these might not be the best book of it's kind in the genre, or completely representative of it. But I think they're books that, when read, would give the reader a good idea of what the genre is about and whether they want to move on to more like it. I also chose ones that were relatively easy reads to the modern reader. As much as I adore Ray Bradbury, HP Lovecraft, Poe and the like, a modern reader has a hard time truly enjoying the reading process with books like that.

  • Middle Grade Fantasy
    • Harry Potter and The Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling.
      •  Easy to read, incorporating elements of mythology and fantasy, this will work.
        • Additional reading: The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents - Terry Pratchett
  • Middle Grade Adventure
    • Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy
      • Clever little noir fantasy adventure, this book incorporates detective, fantasy, humor and action and it a hell of a lot of fun to read. (Technically quite a fantasy novel, but I felt it was more of an adventure.)
  • Middle Grade Mystery/Horror
    • The House With A Clock In Its Walls by John Bellairs
      • My favorite Gothic horror novel growing up, this book is a spooky little tale of a young boy trying to defeat a house ticking its way to doomsday. 
  • Non Fiction
    • In A Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson
      • This is a tricky category for me. I love reading non-fiction but it took a really long time to get into it and I have a hard time finding ones I like. This humorous travel book by the hilarious Bill Bryson is a fantastic read and will make you want to travel. And read more.
  • Light Fantasy
    • The Misenchanted Sword by Lawrence Watt-Evans
      • This was the first "Adult" book I read as a child and I fell in love. Watt-Evans is still one of my top two favorite authors and this novel, about a simple soldier and his magic sword is the perfect intro to the genre. Different worlds, strange spells and ideas, but easy to read and very light-hearted.
        • Further Reading - Anything by Terry Pratchett. I wouldn't recommend starting with the first book however. The humor is a little rougher, and more British. Harder to get into right away. Maybe start with Guards, Guards!
  • Epic Fantasy
    • Touched By The Gods by Lawrence Watt-Evans
      • I know, repeat author, but Epic Fantasy, stuff like Lord Of The Rings, A Song Of Ice And Fire (The Game Of Thrones) The Wheel Of Time Series, can be VERY hard to get into. They're Epic, after all. This single novel by Watt-Evans has a lot of the elements in one great novel.
        • Further Reading - The Runelords Books by David Farland are a good place to start with a larger series. 
  • Light Science Fiction
    • The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy by Douglas Adams
      • Non-stop hilarious and full of the bizarre worlds that Sci-Fi is made of, I think this should be one of the first ten books every person alive reads.
        • Further Reading - Possibly The Hunger Games series. It's quite readable. Might even be a better choice for a first foray into Science Fiction. Dystopian worlds, high tech, pining for boys....
  • Hard Science Fiction
    • Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson
      • Honestly, I wouldn't recommend starting with Hard Sci-Fi until you have a lot of other sci fi and fantasy under your belt. A lot of it can be indecipherable at first glance or maddening even. But if you try this and like it, there's a LOT of great stuff out there.
  • Horror - Supernatural
    • The Strain by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan
      • An odd choice, perhaps but The Strain features a great adventure and a hardcore take on vampires that's very accessible to newbies. 
        • After that, some Stephen King maybe or if his slow burn supernatural stuff is a little hard, hit up Jonathan Maberry for one of his action-y zombie novels.
  • Horror - Non-Supernatural
    • Trapped by Jack Kilborn
      • My 13 year old nephew introduced this to me. It's gory and crazy and very over the top. Not for the faint of hearted but features everything this kind of book needs. A horror where people are the horrors.
        • Further Reading - Psycho by Robert Bloch. The original.
Next time: Mystery and other fiction wonders!

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Recipe Review - Joe's Special: Beef And Spinach San Franciscan Style

Now Playing -  We Are Young by Fun.
Cookin' With Kris

The Uncommon Cook Book, pg95
by Ruth Mellinkoff, 1968


  • 1lb lean ground beef
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 package frozen chopped spinach, cooked and drained
  • 1/4lb fresh mushrooms, finely sliced
  • salt, pepper & garlic salt
  • 4 or 5 tablespoons butter
  • 6 beaten eggs 
Saute sliced mushrooms and onions in the butter until lightly browned, then add beef and cook until it has browned. Stir in the spinach and seasonings to taste. Pour in the eggs and stir until lightly set. Turn over once with spatula and cook a minute or so longer. Serve very hot with sour dough bread and butter.

 I removed the mushrooms and onions from the pan prior to browning the beef so that I could drain it after cooking, then added them back in, along with a bit of butter to compensate. We added a sprinkle of grated Parmesan on the top of the finished recipe. 

Rating (Out of 5)

Kris - 2.5
Linz - 2

Review: Both of us had actually rated this recipe higher upon our initial tastes. It has a nice flavor and the browned eggs made a nice strata for everything. But as the meal progressed, we realized exactly how greasy it was, despite draining the beef fat. It might in part be due to us cutting ground beef from our diets - we used to have Hamburger Helper style meals regularly, but haven't for months, but the meal felt heavy and greasy. The sheer number of eggs and meat makes it a fairly unhealthy feeling meal as well. We will be unlikely to try this one again. Interestingly, the leftovers actually cooked up with a better feel and taste than the original meal. 

Notes & Tips: I don't know how I ever cooked with frozen spinach before I snagged my salad spinner. It eliminates that incredibly annoying process of draining the stuff with a couple of quick spins.


Monday, May 27, 2013

New...Old Recipes Coming Soon!

Now Playing -  The Bomb by Bitter:Sweet
Life -  
 About a month ago, I found a few old cookbooks at Goodwill to go with my beloved Mexican cookbook. I have become a total sucker for cookbooks from the fifties and sixties. Not just their recipes but the way they did things and the little comments and intros are fantastic.But above all else, the recipes themselves take center stage. Food back then was made from scratch. None of these recipes in my other books where the bulk of the soup or the sauce is a can of super-salty, over processed Campbell's Soup. The cookbooks with a focus on crockpot cooking have been especially notorious for that and as we get healthier, I really want to get away from it in my cooking.

Of course, on the flip side is the prevalence of daring, odd or hard to find ingredients that were somewhat commonplace back then. Some I'll never find out here, some I could find, but would end up paying too much, and some of them, like Cracked Pig's Feet.... well.... I'll never cook that.

So we've decided in addition to working through our regular books and reviewing them here, we'll pick a recipe from one of our four "Old" cookbooks every once in a while. (And as I come across them, I'll post the Uncookable Recipes here) To start out with a bang we have chosen one from all four to make this coming week.

I'll do a proper focus on each of these books later but in short...The cookbooks we currently have are:

THE UNCOMMON COOK BOOK by Ruth Mellinkoff [1968]
I'm excited about this book. Not only are they simple, unique recipes with fantastic titles (Like Divine Chicken Divan) but she makes note about how well each freezes and whether you can make it ahead.

The Recipe we have chosen to make this week from it is: Joe's Special: Beef And Spinach San Francisco Style

THE COMPLETE BOOK OF MEXICAN COOKING by Elizabeth Lambert Ortiz [1967]
I've had this book for almost a year and though we've only made a few recipes out of it so far, all of them have been fantastic and the Enchilada's are the best we've had since we moved to Maine.

The Recipe we have chosen to make this week from it is: Otro Pollo Verde (Another Green Chicken)

I haven't investigated this book much yet, but it looks like a nice compliment to the Mexican one.

The Recipe we have chosen to make this week from it is: Canja (Chicken And Rice Cream)

OLD WARSAW COOK BOOK by Rysia (That's right, just Rysia) [1958]
This is subtitled "Hundreds of Polish Specialties with many additions from Cuisines the World Over"  It doesn't lie. There are fifteen recipes just for cold soups alone and an entire chapter on mushroom dishes. Most have 5-7 ingredients and a brief paragraph of prep. Simple but very intriguing.

The Recipe we have chosen to make this week from it is: Chicken With Tomatoes


Friday, May 3, 2013

Family Album - It's Alive!

Now Playing -  End Of The Worlde by Great Big Sea
Family Album
My lovely bride and my slightly less lovely best friend Rob, at our annual Brain Eaters party, back in 2009. Rob always has the best costumes, even when he does something as simple as this. Gotta love it.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Recipe Review - Parmesan Pork Roast

Now Playing -  Brutality by Black Box Recorder
Cookin’ With Kris
Photo from Taste Of Home of the recipe
The Taste Of Home Cookbook
Pg. 129

1 boneless whole pork loin roast (4lb)
2/3c grated parmesan cheese
1/2c honey
3t soy sauce
2T dried basil
1/2t salt
2T minced garlic
2T cornstarch
1/4c cold water

1.Cut roast in half, transfer to 3qt slow cooker. Combine cheese, honey, soy sauce, basil, garlic, oil and salt; pour over pork. Cover and cook on low until pork reaches 160 or 5 ½ - 6 hours.
2.Remove meat to platter, cover with foil to keep warm. Skim fat. Transfer juices to small saucepan. Stir together cornstarch and water until smooth, combine with juices. Heat to boiling – cook and stir until thickened. Slice roast, serve with gravy

Modifications : I didn’t have any dried basil, so I used 2T of italian seasoning, which was essentially just basil anyway. We served ours with mashed potatoes.

Rating (out of 5)

Kris – 4
Linz – 4 ½

Review: An easy to make roast with an interesting mix of flavors. The soy sauce and honey really compliment each other, while bringing out the tanginess of the parmesan. The sauce cooks down to a rich, dark red with pieces of smoky parmesan and basil. I think the sauce could have been improved by using freshly dried basil, rather than the rather old italian seasoning I had to substitute. I should have used my remote thermometer that Linz gave me for Christmas, as the five hour cooking time left the meat quite flavorful but dry. We ended up roughly shredding it and eating it atop mashed potatoes with the sauce as gravy. We’ll try this one again.