It’s fall baking season! These oatmeal chocolate chip cookies are a favorite in my house and I make them every year. I love to mix up a double batch all at once. I flash freeze half, then transfer the cookie dough balls to a freezer bag. It’s nice to have them ready to go in the freezer for those times when I just want to pull out a few to bake. They bake up great from frozen! I just add a few extra minutes of baking time. Now, let’s be honest, no one likes to read through a blog for half an hour just to get to the recipe. So let’s dive right in!
1/2 cup (1 stick) of butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 tablespoon molasses
1 1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
a few tablespoons of ground flax seed (optional-I like to add it “for health”)
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips or chopped chocolate (I like to mix and match-I often will chop some milk and dark chocolate bars and/or use a variety of different types of chocolate chips)
Cream the butter and brown sugar together until smooth. Add the egg and mix until combined. Add the vanilla and molasses and mix until combined. (The molasses really takes these cookies up a notch, in my opinion. Yum!😋)
In a separate bowl, combine the oats, flour, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, and flax seed. Add to the wet ingredients and mix on low until combined. Fold in the chocolate. Then chill the dough in the fridge for 30-60 minutes. This step is important because it allows the oats to soak up moisture and flavor.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper. Roll balls of cookie dough. Bake for 12-16 minutes (or until lightly browned on edges).
*Remember, you can freeze the unbaked cookie dough balls, then bake from frozen at a later time. Just add a few extra minutes to your baking time.
I love fall, especially Halloween – all the spooky decorations, candy, and scary movies are so much fun! One of my new favorite Halloween traditions is writing my entry for Susanna Leonard Hill’s Halloweensie contest! For this contest, you have to write a super short (100 word max!) story that must include three specific words. This year those words are skeleton,creep, and mask. Last year, my entry received an Honorable Mention for Good Kid Voice! My entry for this year’s 10th Annual Halloweensie contest is below. Good luck to everyone who enters! I can’t wait to read all the amazing stories!
A Spook-tacular Party Word count: 99 By Lindsey Hobson
The witches have gotten New hats that are black. They open their spellbooks And whip up some snacks.
The skeletons creep up, Their bones go click-clack. They carry in pizzas In towering stacks.
Over the years, I’ve learned one quick way to my hubby’s heart…and it is my homemade chicken pot pie. This recipe has become one of our favorite comfort food meals. It also works with leftover Thanksgiving turkey, though the chicken version is our fave.
Here’s the recipe:
1. Cook and shred your chicken. You can cook your chicken in whatever way you like it best. I typically use the slow cooker and cook 2 chicken breasts per pot pie (I often make two or three pies and freeze the extras for a later meal). I cook the chicken in chicken stock and add plenty of salt and pepper. Reserve some chicken stock.
2. Chop onions, celery, and carrots (shortcut tip: I buy diced frozen onions because I can’t stand chopping them). Sauté in butter until onions are translucent. If you choose to, add diced potatoes and some of the reserved chicken stock. Cook until the veggies start to become tender. Add plenty of s&p.
3. Add one can of cream of chicken soup and one block of cream cheese. Add more of the reserved chicken stock if the mixture seems too thick. Add plenty of s&p.
4. Stir in the cooked chicken and any frozen veggies you’d like. I always add frozen peas and sometimes frozen corn. Frozen green beans would also work well. Again, add plenty of s&p.
5. Unroll a pie crust into a deep dish pie plate. Pour the chicken mixture from the skillet into the pie plate. Cover with a second pie crust. Pinch the edges together and poke a few holes on top.
6. Bake at 350 degrees for about an hour, or until the crust is golden brown. Enjoy! 😋
Some of you know my story. In 2018, I was launched headfirst into motherhood with precious little heads-up whatsoever. Zero notice really (more on this incredible story another time!). We were living in cold, wintry New York. And suddenly, I found myself in the unfortunate head space of juggling both winter blues and baby blues.
(I’m using these moderate euphemisms, but please know that I’m referring to the very real, very suffocating conditions Seasonal Affective Depression and Postpartum Depression).
As a first-time mama, I felt utterly overwhelmed. Although family visited as often as possible, we had no family and few friends in New York, so I felt lonely. I was in physical pain-recovering from a C-section, breastfeeding, pumping. My hormones were going haywire. And I was tired. Oh. So. Tired.
All the time.
Exhausted. Weary. Drained.
That almost covers it.
If you are a new mama in the trenches of the first year, I see you and I understand. It is hard.
So when my son, a notoriously poor napper prior to this, finally took a THREE hour nap one afternoon…I felt like a new woman. I’d had a small reprieve. And I now had hope. Hope that maybe it could happen again…and maybe again…and some of my sanity might return.
My mood was lifted and I bounced into the nursery when my son awakened. As I laid him on his changing table, I excitedly told him, “You took a long nap today! A super long nap! Samuel’s super long nap!” I paused. “Hey, that sounds like the title of a children’s book…Samuel’s Super Long Nap!”
And just like that, my first picture book manuscript was born-Samuel’s Super Long Nap. I loaded Samuel into his stroller and we went for a walk through the neighborhood. My head spun as the words and the rhymes formed. It took me only about 4 days and my first draft was written.
I joined Facebook groups for KidLit writers and I found a freelance editor who I hired for poetry coaching and developmental editing. I’d always loved to write. I’d gotten my degree in English and I’d kept journals for years. It had always been a, seemingly unattainable, dream to be a published author one day. But my sparkly new manuscript, and the thought of writing KidLit, had ignited a new fire under me. I wrote several more manuscript drafts over the coming months.
Then, life happened and I wasn’t spending as much time writing as I wished I could. I went back to work in a part-time capacity when my son was 8 months old. Someone said to me, “I bet it’s nice to use your brain again.” As if being a full-time mama of an infant wasn’t using my brain? That comment has stuck with me and rubs me the wrong way every time I remember it. In fact, I would argue the exact opposite. The day I started back to work, my creativity for writing began to subside.
Add to that, a major cross-country move from New York to Florida, and my writing took a backseat for a few months.
When my son turned two, I left my job for good. And, the creative energy in my brain was once again free!
Now, I am spending every waking moment pouring myself into my writing, in one way or another. I’ve independently researched and studied meter and rhyme. I have several picture book manuscripts I’m working on now. I’m also writing a memoir about the birth of our son (remember I mentioned that it’s an incredible story?! Stay tuned.). I’m regularly interacting with the writing community on Twitter and Facebook, and maintaining my shiny new blog. I’m a member of SCBWI, and I participate in an active online critique group, as well as additional ad hoc manuscript swaps from time to time.
Samuel’s Super Long Nap has been re-titled and has changed almost entirely from where it first started. But, over the course of the last two years, it’s gotten so much better! In fact, I’m now querying literary agents and hoping to sign with one eventually. Have I received rejections? Yes! It takes some people years, and hundreds of rejections, before breaking into the publishing world. But I’m here for the ride!
My critique partners call me a rhyming wizard (Ha! Love y’all!). I wouldn’t go that far, but I will say that there’s more to rhyme than meets the eye! If you want to write in rhyme, it’s essential that you learn meter. Let’s explore 4 types of meter below.
IAMBIC-An iamb is a metrical foot that starts on one soft beat and is followed by one hard beat.
TROCHAIC-A trochee is a metrical foot that starts on one hard beat and is followed by one soft beat.
ANAPESTIC-An anapest is a metrical foot that starts on two soft beats and is followed by one hard beat.
DACTYLIC-A dactyl is a metrical foot that starts on one hard beat and is followed by two soft beats.
It’s a common mistake to think that you need to count syllables in each line of your poem. It’s not necessarily syllables that matter though. It’s the STRESSED and unstressed syllables (in other words, the HARD and soft beats) that matter. It is possible to have varying numbers of syllables, but the same number of hard beats per line. It’s also possible (if meter is off) to have the same number of syllables, but an inconsistent pattern of hard beats.
It’s so important to keep a consistent pattern of hard beats. A line with two metrical feet (two hard beats) is called dimeter. Three metrical feet (three hard beats) is trimeter. Four metrical feet (four hard beats) is tetrameter. Five metrical feet (five hard beats) is pentameter. And so on! A poem as a whole can alternate hard beats per line, but the pattern should stay consistent for readability.
When your meter is inconsistent, your readers will be tripped up and your poem won’t read the way you’ve intended. Conversely, when you nail that meter, readability is greatly improved and your poem will sing! Is there some wiggle room for a headless iamb or a truncated foot, for instance, or an extra soft beat here or there? Yes. But the more consistent you keep your meter, the better!
Let’s look at some examples of each type of meter. Here is a stanza from one of my own picture book manuscripts:
The moon, you say? He thought he’d go.
So into space, he zipped!
He wished upon a shooting star
Then moonwalked, danced, and skipped.
Can you tell which type of meter I’m using here? If you guessed IAMBIC meter, you are correct! Each line starts on one soft beat and is followed by one hard beat. I’m also alternating iambic tetrameter (4 hard beats per line) with iambic trimeter (3 hard beats per line). Let’s look at the same stanza with the HARD beats in CAPS. It always helps me to get a visual for understanding.
the MOON, you SAY? he THOUGHT he’d GO!
so INto SPACE, he ZIPPED!
he WISHED upON a SHOOTing STAR
then MOONwalked, DANCED, and SKIPPED.
Do you see it now? It’s not so hard after all! The other important thing to keep in mind here is that we want those hard beats to fall where we would naturally place the stress on the word. Meter doesn’t work well when words are forced for the sake of the rhyme. Take the word “into” from above, for example. We naturally say INto. We don’t naturally say inTO. For good meter, always aim to use natural language that isn’t forced. Now, let’s move on to another example.
Good Night, Little Blue Truck by Alice Schertle
Thunder crashing! Lightning flashing! Two good friends were homeward dashing.
Do you hear it? Let’s look at the same lines with the HARD beats in CAPS.
THUNder CRASHing! LIGHTning FLASHing! TWO good FRIENDS were HOMEward DASHing.
While you will find variation and mixed meter in much of Alice Schertle’s writing, these lines are written in TROCHAIC meter.
Ready to keep going? Take a look at this line:
‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house…
And now, with the HARD beats in CAPS:
’twas the NIGHT before CHRISTmas, when ALL through the HOUSE…
Do you have it figured out? This is ANAPESTIC meter. Author Clement Clark Moore’s classic Christmas tale is a beautiful example of anapestic tetrameter.
We’ll look at an old nursery rhyme line for our last example:
Hickory dickory dock
HICKory DICKory DOCK
This line is an example of DACTYLIC meter. We see two dactyl feet (hard beat followed by two soft beats) and one truncated dactyl foot at the end of the line. A truncated metrical foot occurs when the hard beat is there, but the foot is missing one or more of the soft beats (in this case, the hard beat DOCK is there, but the soft beats are not). It may even appear as if the meter has changed, at times. And sometimes it’s true that you may have (for instance) a dactyl foot followed by a trochee followed by another dactyl foot. But usually, in meter that’s written well, there will be one dominant meter throughout, despite some possible variations.
There is so much to study about meter and rhyme schemes! I am only scratching the surface with this blog. I am a big believer in sticking to a consistent meter and pattern throughout a poem, but I recognize that many authors make mixed meter work as well.
Do you have a favorite type of meter? What are your biggest challenges when writing in rhyme? Leave me some comments if you found this blog to be helpful!
Earlier this month, I entered a writing contest called Fall Writing Frenzy. Contestants were given a choice of fall-themed images to choose from and told to write anything the image conjured in our minds. There were no writing restrictions, other than word count. Stories could be sweet, sentimental, funny, creepy, etc., just not longer than 200 words. It was such a fun contest and really got me into the fall spirit. I also met three new critique partners and we have formed a critique group we aptly named “Frenzy Friends”. Learn more about the Fall Writing Frenzy here. https://lydialukidis.wordpress.com/fall-writing-frenzy-contest-2020/