So we’re coming up on Christmas FAST, which means this will probably be my final blog post for the year while I spend the next 10 days navigating turkey, out of town family, and prepping my writing and business goals for 2017.

On top of all that I have to remember to make my New Years Castile soap. Because castile soap is at its finest when it has been cured for at least a year, it has become a bit of a tradition for soapers to make a batch of castile soap on New Years Eve.

Mmmm soap.

Stephanie Marks -  Queen of the Nile Soap

Stephanie Marks - Queen of the Nile Soap
My soap isn’t a true castile, which is pure olive oil. But the oil blend I use, olive/avocado/palm gives it enough properties of a castile that it really benefits from a year long cure as well.

I love making soap while I’m not writing. It uses a completely different creative part of my mind. Sometimes it’s nice to quiet the voices, put a pause on the world building and build something with my hands instead. There is something incredibly soothing about measuring out oils and lye and watching everything come together.

Speaking of which. It’s the holiday season, which means I can’t talk about pouring and measuring and not talk about BAKING!

Now, I love to bake but this year there isn’t a square, pie or tart in sight at my place. So instead of posting my recipe for butter tarts, I’m giving you my mom’s recipe for lemon bars instead. She has made them for Christmas so many times over the years now that they pretty much signal the heart of the holiday season for me:

Lemon Hazelnut Bars

Base:

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup salt

3/4 cup butter

1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts or pecans

Topping:

4 eggs

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

1 tbsp grated lemon peel

1/2 cup lemon juice

1 tsp baking powder

*sifted icing sugar optional

Base: Preheat oven to 350F (180C)

Combine flour, sugar, salt in food processor. Add butter and nuts. Process to fine crumbs. Press firmly into 13″ x 9″ (3.5L) cake pan. Bake at 350F (180C) for 18 minutes.

Topping:

Combine first 5 ingredients in food processor until smoothly blended. Pour over base. Bake for 23-28 minutes or until edges are starting to brown and filling is just set. cool. Cut into bars. If desired, dust lightly with icing sugar before serving.

*Note: If food processor is unavailable, mix base with pastry blender and mix filling with wire whisk.

*Note 2: This is not my mother’s original recipe, she got it out of a magazine. Unfortunately she cannot remember which one. As soon as we figure it out I will update this post with the appropriate credits.

Preparation Time: 15 minutes

Baking Time: 46 minutes

Makes: 4 dozen bars

Freezing: Excellent


Writer Radio

Because I have so much planned for 2017 I’ve been working on a few books at once this December. And I’m drowning in the feels! Being immersed in the relationship drama of your characters in one book can be crazy enough. But three different couples, with three different problems all trying to fight it out inside your head? Wow. That can actually get a bit exhausting. Of course I like the tension in my books to be about much more than just the boy/girl stuff. Conspiracies, back stabbing, murder, vengeance, and saving the world all come with their own  different levels of intensity. When your story has any kind of love story within it, it has to have conflict. It it’s too easy it just gets… boring. So I was really thrilled when I realized this song worked as great writing music for each of the different projects I’m working on. Because love, pain, confusion and (hopefully) reconciliation are so universal.

I’ve been loving this song by Britney Spears right now and it seems completely fitting. Because, you know, So. Much. Drama. So for the final installment of Writer Radio 2016, I give you…

Britney Spears – Inside Out