Monthly Challenge: Popular Paranormal Completed!

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Monthly Challenge: Popular Paranormal Completed!

Dang, Dean Koontz… I think that was the sound of my heart breaking…

Odd Thomas is not for the petty or unromantic. I think the main character, Odd, was one of the most endearing characters I have ever read and his narration was beatific. Written in first POV, Koontz gives so much heart and soul to this character that I don’t think it really fit in the “horror” genre. In a bleak world, Odd was such a lively and hopeful soul… his story wasn’t fast-paced, but it was full to brimming with emotion.

For the January Reading Challenge, I am pleasantly surprised at this book. I chose it because its series member, Saint Thomas, was number one in Goodreads’ best horror books of 2015. In all honesty, I wouldn’t peg Odd Thomas as a horror series at all. If anything, it’s somewhat thrill-ery with a touch of fantasy. There are ghosts and demons and special powers and even a hint of theology (which I personally love!). Odd is a young man who specializes in being a fry cook… and also a paranormal beacon. He values his friends and his girlfriend more than his own parents (who are despicable!), and he lives a simple life outside of the fantastical abilities that had been bestowed upon him since birth. These powers allow him to forecast a terrible attack on the people of his small town of Pico Mundo, and it is up to him to stop it.

I did like this book, and I’m glad I picked it up. I think the pacing was slow, but that may just be something that has been ingrained in me based on the kind of books I usually read. This book was more literary than I had expected, actually. What makes a book more literary than genre, you ask? Well, in a very simplified version, it means you can actually discuss a book without saying what it’s about. You can talk about the themes and the metaphors and what you think about the characters without actually discussing what the characters are going through. In this regard, Koontz wrote a fairly literary novel in a “horror” genre. Pretty astounding, if you ask me.

All-in-all, it was a very enjoyable book. It was entertaining and engrossing (and goddamn some of the lines in this are so poetic… they’ve stayed with me for days). But, if you’re looking for an actual horror book, I would stay away. Sure, there is an air of despair about it, but you kind of get that with any book about ghosts. It’s more of a romantic piece than anything. So, if you need a break from typical scary stories and want a lighter version with love and friendship, I would say go for it!

Now, have any of you seen the movie? I may have to watch it just to see if it can capture the emotions of the book. I feel like first POV books are harder to make into movies because the narrative is so internal.

Until next time! And if you’re interested in following my reading throughout the month, follow me here on Goodreads!

Live,

Morgan Paige

Writing Prompts: Inspiration and Creation

Hello, friends!

I am so pleased to announce the brand new addition to my blog: Writing Prompts! The section will comply with the traditional sense of the term… but, it doesn’t end there. Because, my intention is not only to get your creative thoughts bubbling, but also to help you learn more about yourself and what inspires you.

What are writing prompts?

Surely you’ve seen those helpful photo prompts, similar to what you’d find on a page like  this one on Tumblr, or are a dedicated follower to a blog like Alloftheseprompts who churns out creative ideas to lift you out of the doldrums. A writing prompt is essentially an inspirational quote or image that allows you to flesh out an idea or further explore your creative outlets.

In my opinion, however, there is more to creativity that needs to be explored. Namely, how you as a writer identify with yourself and your creative output. What is it that draws you into a story? How are you reflecting that in your own writing? What do you think of when you see a certain image and why is that your response?

I plan on exploring not only the facets of writing but the multi-dimensionality of you as an author. I want to know what makes you inspired, what makes you interested, and together we can figure out a way to expand your creativity into realms you never would have thought of exploring.

Aspiring authors need to be challenged, and to do that they have to be forced into seeing the world in a new light or experiencing something they have never felt before. To aid in this growth, I will post some of my own responses in the future so that you can all see how I’ve interpreted a certain prompt or quote. This way, writer’s like yourself can learn and grow and then maybe tailor your responses differently.

For my first prompt, however, I will be posting a quote I found that has forced me to reanalyze why I write. It’s essentially beginning at the very foundation of creativity. All of our personal histories and backgrounds are different, so everything we do is motivated by something entirely individualistic. But either way, we want to share our writing with the world around us. We want to connect. So here is a quote by Gottfried Von Strassburg, author of Tristan and Isolt, and is featured at the beginning of Tad Williams’ The Dragonbone Chair.

I have undertaken a labor, a labor out of love for the world and to comfort noble hearts: those that I hold dear, and the world to which my heart goes out. Not the common world do I mean, of those who (as I have heard) cannot bear grief and desire but to bathe in bliss. (May God then let them dwell in bliss!) Their world and manner of life my tale does not regard: its life and mine lie apart. Another world do I hold in mind, which bears together in one heart its bitter sweetness and its dear grief, its heart’s delight and its pain of longing, dear life and sorrowful death, dear death and sorrowful life. In this world let me have my world, to be damned with it, or to be saved.

Von Strassburg writes for the love and sorrow of life itself. His life was not an easy one, and yet he still saw the beauty in it every day. He wanted to share this multitudinous worldview and spread it to his readers. Compassion in the face of disaster, seeing the hope and despair coexist together so perfectly and so disastrously. He wanted to rejoice in the balance of life and share the stories that made life worth living even in the darkest of times.

So… what about you? why do you write? Who is your audience? What’s your connection and why do you think it resonates with others? Do you build your ideas out of sadness or hope? Do they grow from learned experiences that you hope others have/have not experienced?

Let’s chat 🙂 And if you feel like writing a post in response, please link it here so I can read it!

Live,

Morgan Paige

Dare to Pair: Vegan Pizza and Shiraz

90+ Cellars  

Dare to Pair: Vegan Pizza and 90+ Cellars Shiraz

Hey, everybody!

This month’s Dare to Pair features the oh-so-satisfying 90+ Cellars Shiraz and the most comforting of comfort foods- pizza!

In all honesty, November and December wore me out in terms of cooking. I wanted to make something that appealed to the worn-out, chilled-to-the-bone side of me that seems to rear its head during the winter. Ours has been a mild one, but when it’s cold, it’s cold. We have sheets of ice to greet us in the morning and a deadened winter sky to say goodnight… and the only way to combat these seasonal blues is with some good friends, good entertainment, and good food!

I have a hard time finding satisfying pizza, however, because I am lactose-intolerant. I haven’t had that nice creamy flavor of stringy, melted mozzarella for a long time, but what really draws me back to pizza is the dough. I’ve always been a huge pizza dough fan- I’d steal your crusts if you weren’t paying attention. So I excitedly picked up a local pizzeria’s dough, one that I tend to dream about when I go through bouts of not having a good Italian dish.

This is the Portland Pie Company’s dough that they make with Shipyard’s beer. They have so many flavors (garlic, wheat, original, basil to name a few) and even offer a gluten-free option, but the beer dough is by far my favorite. It’s just tangy enough and super flavorful and I think it gives the dough some heft. Portland Pie Company is one of my favorite local restaurants- there’s one in Nashua and Manchester, New Hampshire, and if you go, think about picking up one of their pizza pockets!

Anyway, I decided to go kind of peppery with this pizza by topping it with arugula, marinara sauce, yellow tomatos, “bacon,” and shallots. The dough is so easy to work with and so agreeable to every topping. I paired it with some beer-battered fries and a nice Italian-inspired salad, and then came the fun part.

The wine!

I chose 90+ Cellars Shiraz, because shiraz tends to be peppery and super drinkable (syrah, the same grape but grown in France, tends to be earthier and more robust). In case I messed up the pairing, I knew I would still love this wine and could drink it on its own. A group of friends and I did a blind wine tasting once and tried this shiraz up against an incredibly expensive French Rhone (it was 100% syrah) and the Petite Petit petite syrah (California)- the 90+ was the most inexpensive of the group, but unanimously we agreed it was our favorite of the three!

Alas, I did end up fudging the pairing. I thought that a cheese-less pizza would be just enough oomph next to a hearty shiraz, with the spicy arugula and salty “bacon” (I’ll add a link to the fake bacon here… none of the boys at dinner realized it was fake bacon, just FYI). However, I was sadly mistaken. The shiraz paired super well with the salty fries and the sweet salad, but the tomato-based marinara sauce just amplified all of the acidity in the wine and killed the flavor. It was so overpowering, I could only sip the wine when I ate the sides instead of the main dish. It was kind of disappointing, but just goes to show that flavor profile isn’t the most important part of what to look for when you’re pairing- acidity and tannin absolutely needs to be taken into account.

Case in point, Jay offered me his 90+ Cellars Riesling (can you tell we really like this brand? you can clink on the name for the link to their website), just for the hell of it, and it knocked my socks off. I couldn’t believe it. Who would pair a Riesling with pizza? But then again, it made sense with the peppery notes of the food being cut by the sweetness of the wine and the acidity of the food being matched by the acidity of the Riesling (typically very high for a wine!).

I think the reason most pizza is paired with heartier reds normally is because of the cheese. The lactic acid in cheese cuts the high tomato-based acidity of the marinara base, which in turn makes it more pleasing with a zinfandel or a syrah. So… if you are making a regular pizza, go for the red, and if you’re making a cheese-less pizza, go for a white.

Next time, I think I’ll make a pesto-based pizza (without the parmesan 😉 ) and see how that goes. This journey of trying to find good red wines to pair with vegan meals sure is enlightening! It’s such a learning process, but that is the world of wine, right?

Let me know what you think! Do any of you have any tried-and-true pairings in regards to pizza and wine? Pizza and beer is like peas in a pod, but wine just adds that little extra exotic touch 🙂

Until next time!

Live,

Morgan Paige

New Short Story: The Center of Earth

Hey everyone!

I’ve been writing nearly every day for the past couple months, and though I’ve focused primarily on my full-length story, I’ve been keeping my creative flow going by writing a few short stories as well. This one was inspired heavily by my October Challenge, a monthly challenge that revolved around H.P. Lovecraft (you can find my book review here). It involves a scientist, an ominous darkness, and the center of the Earth. I hope you all enjoy, it’s a nice quick read for those of you who’d like a not-too-terrifying bedtime story 😉 Click Here for the story!
  
Until next time! 

Live,

Morgan Paige 

A Collection of Thought Bubbles: Outlining VS Freeform Writing

  

Outline Writing VS Freeform Writing: 5 Tips to Enhance Your Preparation

 

I was sitting at my desktop and staring at my monitor, when I realized- I may have writer’s block. 

How embarrassing…

I’ve been trucking through the story that I wrote during last year’s NANOWRIMO, and though I’m getting further than I had expected, I still find myself coming up against a creative cement wall.

This spurned me back to the drawing board of the story, because clearly the characters refused to continue on the path that my mind was paving. And this gave me pause… the story was going so well without an outline, why would it change now that we were more than halfway through?

Outlining and freeform writing are two of the most distinctive yet opposing approaches that an author can take in his or her creative writing. Short stories, poems, novels, all can either stem from a single, blooming idea or a chapter-by-chapter plot that an author dreamed up. Most of us, I’m sure, have tried their hand at outlining. It helps keep the blizzard of ideas in line and also allows us to live halfway in the world that we’re creating. Most authors, like JK Rowling, have their own approach to make sure that they keep their subplots, main plots, and character growths in line without losing a thread in the shuffle.

 

JK Rowling’s Outline
 
However, there are many other authors who approach their stories with a shovel and immediately begin heaping the ideas out onto the page without a clear path to travel… but usually with a destination in mind. People like Stephen King use this approach (and can we say we’re surprised? The man churns out books like we pleebs go through shampoo).

“Outlines are the last resource of bad fiction writers who wish to God they were writing masters’ theses.”-Stephen King

Wow. A little harsh… only because I’m nearly positive no one wishes they were writing a masters’ thesis… But, I digress. Although King’s quote may make it seem like authors are polarized to either be an outliner or not, I feel like there is more of a mix amongst those of us who like to write. I have played at the task of outlining each chapter, but found that it takes a lot of the fun of writing out of it for me, and if I’m not having fun creating it, then who would enjoy reading it?

And yet, with my story I found my content separated by a plain of unmapped territory. So how do I get from here to there? It’s times like these where I need to figure out a step-by-step process of how my characters are going to get where they need to be. Yes, it’s a first draft, but the structure is lacking and that’s messing up my idea of the world and its inhabitants. Time to throw caution to the wind and plan it out!

Despite what some authors would say, I would tell you writers to mix up your approach next time you hit a creative block. Here are some tips just in case you do find yourself in a rut and need that extra push to challenge yourself and your story:

  1. Freeform <-> Outline. Switching halfway through from one approach to another won’t hurt anybody… so why are you afraid? It’s common to feel discomfort when breaking out of your literary comfort zone, but usually stretching these unknown muscles can yield something spectacular. Give it a shot!
  2. Give yourself a time frame. Are you painstakingly trudging away one paragraph at a time? Does something just feel off? Is your project becoming stagnant? I’m never an advocate to give up on a story, and I think changing your approach is a huge way to make something fresh again. Your imagination needs fuel, too. I feel likes story has a first life of about three months… If it’s not growing within those three months, start over with the opposite approach. Maybe an outline can give it life or free form can give it spirit.
  3. Try the opposite approach on a short project. If suggestion number two is too radical, try it out on a smaller project. Are you a short story author? Try a 500 word limit. Do you write poetry? Try a few haikus. Just make sure you take a different creative approach so that you can get a good feel of whether or not ith helps.
  4. Resources are your friend. If you aren’t used to outlining, look up helpful templates or programs that can help keep things in order for you (I like to scour Pinterest for outlines and have made a few of my own that I’ll be posting, and there’s Scrivener, a great plotting program to keep you neat and organized). They’re like the trainer that you never knew you had! And if spontaneous word dumping isn’t your thing, try looking up prompts or images to inspire your creative muse. My favorite website for this is Deviantart where talented people post photos and artwork they’ve created.
  5. Be mindful of your genre. Sometimes, it isn’t you thats the problem. If you’re a prodigy at freeform writing, but you’re writing your first mystery novel, your issue might be the fact that you haven’t neatly tied up every loose end on the page. Getting some structure for a crime thriller or allowing some freedom with your science fiction epic isn’t a bad idea. Just be mindful of what each genre tends to promise their reader and go with that approach.

I hoped this helped a bit! Until next time!

Live,

Morgan Paige

Alan Rickman, Passed Away at 69

  

Rest in Peace

Alan Rickman, a man of intriguing character, work ethic, and personality, has passed away at the age of 69.

As an actor, Rickman was ambiguous and ever-changing just like the numerous roles that he played: ranging from the notorious villain in Die Hard to an amorous husband in Love Actually. His most reputable role must be his part as Severus Snape in the Harry Potter movies… a character known for his loyalty, love, and cruelty.

It is with a heavy heart that we say goodbye to this incredible man. My first experience with Rickman on screen was the movie Dogma, where he played Metatron, the voice of God. He instantly won my heart! He was vivacious and cynical and still somehow managed to see the world with such a bright light. I think that Rickman allowed much of himself to shine through in some of his bigger roles, allowing us to see him as the dynamic, enigmatic, and talented man that he was. Even with the serious antagonist parts he played, he also balanced these with light-hearted roles such as the Caterpillar in Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass (his last film, coming out this year).

Farewell, Alan Rickman.

It is grounding that we’ve lost another artist to a disease such as cancer, but his creative and influential impact on this world will not be forgotten.

And here’s something that has stuck with me since my first time watching Dogma, one of Metatron’s best quotes, spoken by the voice of God himself:

“Well, I say we get drunk, because I’m all out of ideas.”

I’m sure Rickman would concur 🙂 Stay strong, fans and friends.

Live,

Morgan Paige

2016 Book-to-Movie Adaptations

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Book to Film Adaptations for the New Year!

One of the biggest accomplishments in the literary world is a story’s transition from book to silver screen. Some movie deals don’t always happen (I’ve been waiting for a TV adaptation of Garth Nix’s The Old Kingdom series for years…), but the ones that do, tend to cement the author in a celebrity status that writers only dream about. Last year, we had a couple of awesome adaptations hit movie theaters across the world: Mortdecai starring Johnny Depp (based off of the Mortdecai Trilogy by Kyril Bonfiglioli), The Last Apprentice starring Jeff Bridges (based off of the series of the same name by Joseph Delaney), Frankenstein (by my favorite, Mary Shelley) starring James McAvoy and Daniel Radcliffe, and not to mention some awesome sequels like the last installment of The Hunger Games and the second in the Divergent series.

There are a couple of new additions this year that I think all of us horror/ fantasy/sci-fi/ classic literature fans can get super excited about. There are some TV releases, too, proving that the literary world is expanding and reaching new audiences. Did you know that the published novel industry has actually grown this past year? Yay! More people are reading! I just love that the book culture is getting more popular, based on seeing the rise in film adaptations, booktubers (Youtubers who focus on Young Adult books and reviews), book-based merchandise on etsy, and book blogs.

But for now, here’s the list of upcoming film and TV adaptations to expect in the year to come!

Movies

  1. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by J.K. Rowling
  2. Allegiant by Veronica Roth
  3. The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling
  4. Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs
  5. Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll
  6. The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey
  7. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth-Grahame Smith
  8. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
  9. A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
  10. Amityville: The Awakening based on the book by Jay Anson

TV Shows

  1. The Shannara Chronicles by Terry Brooks
  2. Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire) by George R.R. Martin
  3. The Expanse by James S. A. Corey (pen name of Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck)

 

There are talks in the works about adapting J.K. Rowling’s Cormoran Strike series to BBC One (and HBO??) and also a movie AND TV deal for Patrick Rothfuss’ The Kingkiller Chronicles (thanks, Lionsgate!). Hopefully he publishes the third in the trilogy soon!

 

Is there a movie or show coming out that I forgot to mention? Or one that’s already been released that you just couldn’t get enough of? Let me know!

Until next time!

Live,

Morgan Paige

 

Sources:

http://movieweb.com/movies/2016/horror/?page=2

http://www.buzzfeed.com/ariellecalderon/books-to-movies-2016

http://www.imdb.com/search/title?year=2016,2016&title_type=feature&sort=moviemeter,asc

 

Reading Challenge 2016

Year-Long Reading Challenge

Hey all! This is a short post, but I just wanted to make sure to begin the month with a Year Long Reading Challenge to go along with our monthly challenges!

It may seem daunting, but I actually managed to reach my goal this year- so, naturally, I want to challenge us further! I aimed for 25 new books last year and made it in JUST the nick of time (12/30 I finished The Well of Ascension by Brandon Sanderson and capped off the sweet, sweet challenge). It’s not about pages read or following trends, in my opinion (“Read just Young Adult novels! Whee!”… no thank you). To me, setting a reading challenge is supposed to keep your brain active and open-minded. When I am constantly filling my time with books, I find myself happier, more productive, and more creative.

So, why don’t we give this a shot!

I figured I would raise my number to 30 books this year. I’m not going to set any limits on how big a book should be or if audiobooks count or not (they totally do, by the way). As long as I get through a story by a published author, I will count it. You can all participate with me, too!

I’ll be posting my progress and to-be-read books on Goodreads. I’ll write posts once I’ve reached the completion of a novel, give honest reviews, and chat up whoever feels like joining/ whoever has read what’s on my shelf. Goodreads is such a convenient website/app, you can go ahead and download it for your phone/tablet/whatever and send me a friend request.

Click the link below if you want to join me, and let me know how many books you plan on reading this year! It’ll be easier with a good support system, especially when you’re reading a book you particularly don’t like or need help finding something to start next. And don’t limit yourself! Choose different genres you never would’ve chosen, authors you’ve never heard of, and mediums you’ve never tried. Audiobooks, graphic novels, anthologies, all of them are your friend in any reading challenge.

My Goodreads Profile

Until next time, friends!

Live,

Morgan Paige

Monthly Challenge: Reflection and Popular Horror

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January Reading Challenge: Popular Horror from 2015

Hey all! This month’s reading challenge is going to be a bit of a reflection of last year, as the Goodreads Reader’s Choice 2015 list has just been released. It’s a very interesting contest where readers get to vote which books were the best in certain listed genres. I did vote for my favorite books, but none of them actually made it to the winning position (my heart just about broke when The Cuckoo’s Calling didn’t win in the thriller genre). For the sake of educating myself, this month I decided to read some of the books that won and discover why they were so popular.

For the horror section, Dean Koontz’ book Saint Odd was the winner… which is a bit of a problem, because apparently it’s the seventh book in the series. Cue me being overwhelmed by the amount of reading I would have to do to catch up…

There are some other amazing books on the horror genre list, like Alice by Christina Henry (a twisted take on Alice in Wonderland), Suicide Forest by Jeremy Bates, and another story by Clive Barker’s expertise, The Scarlet Gospels (a new installment in the Pinhead stories, I believe). I decided to pick just one this month, as for 2016 I’m trying to break out of my norm and pick authors and/or genres that I wouldn’t normally choose.

So, since I’ve never read a Dean Koontz book before and he’s one of the most popular modern authors of the day, I will be picking the first book in the Odd Thomas series, aptly named Odd Thomas, and hopefully one day will work my way up to reading Saint Odd (maybe then I’ll understand this year’s hype!). I honestly don’t know anything about the series (I tried not to read Saint Odd’s synopsis for fear of spoilers), but I’ll be happy to share the story with you soon!

Is anyone in the process of reading any of the books that were featured on the Goodreads Book Choice Awards? Or have you read any and already formed opinions on them? I’d love to hear about any of the books, any genre, because this was my first year knowing about the awards and I’m not sure if the voting system is legitimate or not. Is it basically a popularity contest? Or is it more biased towards main stream books/authors? Let me hear what you think!

Until next time,

Live,

Morgan

PS. So, in doing a tiiiiny bit of research, I’ve found that this book was actually made into a movie. If I finish the book in time, I’ll also include a comparison review for those that are interested! Could be interesting, right? 😊

(Happy) New Year

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(Happy) New Year

I was going to write this post about how truly inspiring this past year has been. For months, I’ve felt a renewed sense of energy and drive, and have made some pretty incredible life changes that I never dreamed I’d be able to do.

I’ve discovered more about myself and am finally learning who I am (27 years old and I’m finally getting there…), and this, in itself, is the most important change I’ve made. I’ve watched my friends and family grow so strong and capable, it brings me hope that things could possibly, potentially, change for the better.

But this post has been a little difficult to write, because I know there was a single catalyst that had caused such a momentous change in all of us. And that was the loss of a very dear, very beautiful friend early in the year.

I have never seen someone effect as many lives as he did, but the loss had brought about a rippling change that had taken my friends, my family, and me by storm. Death affects people in crazy ways, but never before have I seen so many people rally in a similar fashion. It was like we were all gripped in a furious storm of hurt, despair, and yet… hope. I’ve watched all of us make changes for the better, yearning to live as good and fulfilling a life as our friend had in his too short of years.

And so, in greeting this New Year, I recognize all the good that I have accomplished and experienced and say thank you to my friend. He has given us so much, and most importantly, had given us something to yearn for. We all desire the will to live, to experience. Looking back, I finally accomplished so many things that I never had the guts to do before: like getting my Masters in English, committing to my creative endeavors, focusing on the best relationship that I have ever had, and striving for that job that I never thought I’d get (and I did!).

In short, losing him had taught us to believe in ourselves, and this is one of the greatest gifts anyone could ever had hoped for.

I have goals, not resolutions, for this coming year, because I’ve found that I don’t need temporary ideas… I need life changes. In order to get the most out of life, you have to commit and be ready for change. And most of all, not be afraid to listen to yourself when it comes down to it.

Just in case you guys are wondering, I plan on finishing this first draft of my story and writing a second draft. I know it’ll need a heavy rehaul, but I really believe in it and want to make it the best it can be. I also plan on submitting more short stories for publication and hope that you guys would be interested in reading some 🙂 I’ll begin posting them here, soon, as well as some prompts that have helped me amp up those creative juices. I also am continuing to grow my relationship with my SO, and am working very hard at my job to continue learning Technical Writing techniques in order to buff up my skill base.

I also want to reach out to you all, as my readers, and say thank you for everything. The fact that you’re all following this blog and helping support me is mind blowing. I am so appreciative and grateful, and really plan to bring you great content and fun posts throughout the next year.

I wish I could say thank you to you all individually. After reading through a bunch of bloggers New Year’s posts, I see that many of us have had to endure many trials and tribulations. I wish you all strength and hope in this coming year, and look forward to everything that this next year has to offer.

And to perpetuate my family’s tradition, I present to you a dish of our lucky southern black eyed peas and collards! I hope luck follows you through 2016,

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Black eyed peas and Gewurtztraminer!

Until next time!

Live,

Morgan