When Daniel gets caught up in the demands of a cheeky wedding planning app, his fiancé Erik grows frustrated with his preoccupation with adhering to heterosexual traditions. Will Daniel’s groomzilla ways give them the wedding of their dreams, or ultimately lead to their relationship’s demise?
This story is wonderful. It’s a little bit funny, a little bit quirky, so emotion filled and completely perfect. The tears and the laughs, sometimes together, had me not wanting to put the story down. All of the characters create this fun cast with their own personalities and added dynamic to the story. Even the app, Aurora, is a character in itself because of how much she, it, effected the story. The ending though. I absolutely adored the ending and how these two proved to each other they were in the relationship for the long haul.
I absolutely loved Daniel. He was sweet but a little but broken because his view on relationships and what love means wasn’t exactly conducive of a lasting love. But his love for Erik was so all encompassing I swooned at these two right from the start. They truly were perfect for each other. Watching Daniel fall apart was so hard but I felt like the story wouldn’t have worked any other way. It needed to happen and progress exactly the way Daniel and Erik needed it to.
Erik was my hero. He loved Daniel unconditionally and was just what Daniel needed to help Daniel rearrange his view of himself and love. Erik was constantly supportive even if he may not have been as obvious about it. Erik was someone I just want to meet and hang out with. He was such a well written character he came alive on the page.
The rest of the cast of characters in this story really added to Erik and Daniel’s relationship. They didn’t overwhelm the story but were there enough to realize their purpose. I’m curious about Annika. It seems there’s more there based on what Daniel hints at. I kind of want her to get a story so I can find out. I would love to see more Erik and Daniel. These two are so in love and so happy together I can’t help but want more from them.
I’m so excited Daniel stopped by to join us today. Daniel shares with us one of his favorite recipes. He takes something as simple as macaroni and cheese and makes it so much better. I will definitely be making this recipe for the family and I hope you do as well. Read and enjoy!
Hi there, Daniel here. Here’s my favorite recipe for homemade macaroni and cheese. I think cooking is kind of like a choose-your-own-adventure kind of a thing. I hate following recipes right down to every detail, so this is going to be kind of wordy recipe, because I’m throwing out some options for you, and letting you know when you’re going to need to make a choice. It requires a leap of faith, but I promise, it’ll work out.
3 cups milk
½ cup butter
½ cup flour
If you’re not making this ahead of time, you’ll want to have your shredded cheese ready to go, because this recipe can just keep rolling and you can have your mac & cheese sooner rather than later. If you make this first section ahead of time, you’ll have time to choose your cheesey deliciousness later.
You’re also going to need a whisk, a metal spoon and two pans (one sauce pan, one sauté pan. Or two sauté pans, man. Just so long as it has sides and a flat bottom and isn’t cast-iron, you can use it. The pan you use to make the roux has to be big enough to take all the milk – don’t use one of those one-egg-omelet sauté pans.)
Also, don’t forget to make the pasta. You can start the water boiling for that now, in a separate pan.
So, you’re going to make a bechamel sauce, and before you freak out that it’s too difficult because you think it’s some sort of fancy French chef thing, you just need to take a deep breath and relax. Cooking is only as hard as you make it.
Okay, so put that milk in a sauce pan, and start to warm it over low heat. LOW heat. You want it to warm up as slowly as possible and never ever ever let it boil. Once it starts to bubble slightly, take it off the heat. You’ll need to stir it every once in a while, just so that nasty film doesn’t form on the top of it. (There. That’s the one and only “OH MY GOD DON’T DO THIS” stressful part of this whole recipe.)
Now, while that milk is slowly heating, you’re going to take a sauté pan (see above note about pan choice) and you’re going to melt the butter, again, over low heat. You don’t want it to start sizzling.
As soon as the butter is all melted, add the flour and start whisking. You gotta whisk it constantly; It doesn’t have to be frenetic or crazed whisking, you just have to make sure you move all of it around. You’re going to draw Zs all over the bottom of the pan (that’s whisking!)
You’ll start to see the mixture turning brown, which is exactly what you want. After 3 minutes of whisking that, take it off the heat. It will get progressively more brown the longer it’s on the heat. 3 minutes should be about a dark tan color. If it looks like it’s heading for dark brown, it’s very much done and might not taste so great. If it’s black, it’s burned, and you will need to start over.)
At this point, give yourself a super-quick pat on the back, because you just made yourself “roux”, which is the part of so many other things you can cook, and another thing people think is freak-out-time Fancy French Cooking. I totally snuck that one past you, but look at you! You did it! HELL YEAH!
The water for your pasta is probably boiling by now, so add in your pasta now. If you’re feeling a little stressed by that roux you just made, turn the water off and don’t add the pasta. Once the sauce is made, you can always reheat it later to add to the pasta, so don’t freak out and think that everything has to be done all at once. If you can handle keeping an eye on more than one thing on the stove, go for it. If not, you can always make the pasta once you’re done with the sauce. If you’re thinking “no, I am totally going to take this right through to the end” and you want to bake it, start preheating your oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees, Celsius)
Ok, now that you’re a total boss at making roux, you’re going to add that warm milk into roux, slowly. (No, you cannot mix the roux into the milk pan. It won’t work. I do not recommend trying it.) Remember that both pans should be off the heat, now. Add the milk about 1 cup at a time (don’t bother to measure. Just add it in in thirds.) Whisk, whisk, whisk your little heart out.
It will be hella-thick trying to mix the first cup of milk in, but don’t freak. Just do your best to mix it all in, and keep whisking. The more you whisk, the less clumps of roux you’ll have, the tastier your mac & cheese will be. It’ll get thinner and easier as you add in more milk, and just keep whisking.
Now, this seems random, but go get a metal spoon (teaspoon or tablespoon, it doesn’t matter) and go put it next to your stove. You’re gonna need it later.
Now the milk is all mixed in, and you don’t have clumps, you’re gonna put it back on the stove, on medium-high heat, and here’s where the whisking needs to go into serious mode. Okay, fine, this is the second slightly-stressful part of the recipe. You have to keep that milky milk moving constantly, and don’t just stir it in circles, because it’ll clump in the center. Draw Zs all over the bottom of the pan, keeping it constantly moving (but don’t go crazy and slosh that stuff over the side of the pan. You need constant, swift motion, not crazed flailing, ‘kay?)
Here’s the coolest part of the whole friggin’ recipe. In 2 or 3 minutes, that sauce is going to thicken up and looking all silky and sexy. You’re going to grab that metal spoon you put next to your stove earlier, and you’re going to dip it in to your mixture. (it’s okay to pause whisking long enough to dunk the spoon and look at it. It’s not okay to pause whisking long enough to cross the kitchen and rifle through a drawer to find a spoon, so I really really hope you listened earlier, and put the spoon where you needed it.) If it runs off the spoon, it’s not quite ready. If it sticks to the spoon, and you can run your finger through it and have the finger-track stay, it’s ready. Turn the heat off and take it off the burner unless you’re ready to keep truckin’ on to adding the shredded cheese. (You can even let it cool, then put it in the fridge to make your mac & cheese the next day. Don’t keep it in the fridge more than a couple of days, though. It’ll turn nasty.)
And now, you can totally relax. Maybe even pour yourself a glass of wine, because now comes the totally easy part.
I, myself, prefer to not stick to just one kind of cheese, for anything. I use mostly whatever I’ve got on hand. I am total sucker for cheddar cheese, but it really doesn’t melt that well on it’s own (it separates, becomes grains of cheese, and oil.) So, I use some cheddar, some mozzarella, some swiss cheese. Hell, you could probably add brie if you wanted to (I’d take the rind off first, if you do.) If you don’t have that much cheese, or you’d like to stretch your money-for-cheese piggy bank, you can use cottage cheese, which will make it uber-creamy and use the “real” cheese more like a flavoring. It’s all up to you. You decide. It’s all good. Nothing is ever bad about mac & cheese, you know?
You’re now ready to add the cheese to your awesomesauce bechamel. If you didn’t move directly on to adding the cheese, you’ll probably notice that the bechamel sauce has thickened while it was off the heat – no worries. Put it back on low heat, add a little bit more milk and stir it in. Low heat = no worries.
Starting stirring, and start adding your cheese, bit by bit. You don’t need to go wicked slow, but don’t dump it all in a once, either. It’ll be easier to make the sauce smoother if you add the cheese bit by bit. If you’re adding cottage cheese, you can put it all in now, and stir to mix it in and get it heated along with the bechamel, and then add in your flavoring cheese. It’s the heat of the sauce the melts the cheese, so it needs to be thoroughly warm before you add the cheese.
Here’s also where you can mix up the flavors. I love to add a little bit of thyme and rosemary to the sauce. Some sautéed diced shallots or onions are also amazing (don’t add raw onions or shallots.) It’s your choice. It will still be completely amazing just as it is.
Now you’re totally ready to mix this into your already-cooked pasta. If you didn’t make your pasta earlier, you can make it now. You can eat it right away, more like an Alfredo sauce, or you can go totally old-school and put this in a baking dish, maybe sprinkle some more shredded cheese or a little bit of bread crumbs on top. Put it in the oven that’s been pre-heated to 375 degrees Fahrenheit, and let it bake until the cheese on top is all melty and golden. If you’ve got a deep baking dish, you can put a piece of tinfoil on over it if it looks like the noodles on top are getting too brown before you think it’s warm through.
Now, all you have to do is try not to eat it all yourself in one sitting!
With a surge of excitement he thought was ridiculous, Daniel grabbed his hammer and chipped away at the corners of the plaster surrounding his find. Once most of the plaster was gone, he used his fingers to break away the remaining chunks. His artifact was a small plastic box with a slightly domed lid.
“What do you suppose this is?” he asked Alan, who was absorbed in unearthing the last of the plastic bones in his block.
“It’s a pirate treasure box, duh.” Alan sniffed. “What’s inside it?”
Daniel popped open the box top. Nestled inside was a Hershey’s Kiss. He beamed at it. Erik had hidden a kiss in the block he’d made specifically for Daniel. How incredibly adorable, and sweet and… dorky.
“What’s inside?” Alan demanded. Daniel clutched it to his chest. “A secret message. I have to go talk to Dr. Kappel after class.” “Cool.” Alan dropped his tools in his box, swiped ineffectively at some of the plaster dust on the table and grabbed his pile of unearthed plastic bones. “See you, Daniel.” “Bye, Alan!”
Daniel lingered in his seat while the tumult of kids swirled around Erik and Antonio and out the door. As the last kids walked in a straggling line to their bus, Daniel walked slowly toward the front of the room where Erik and Antonio were beginning to clean up.
“Do you guys, um, need any help cleaning up?” Daniel shoved one hand in his jeans pocket and smiled hopefully.
“Thanks, Danny, but, as I was just telling Erik, I’ve got this.” Antonio look amused, then turned to glare at Erik. “Why don’t you two get out of here?”
Erik flushed, but rubbed his hands together briskly. “I could show you where to wash your hands, maybe get some of this plaster dust off.”
“Thanks,” Daniel said, nodding. “That’d be nice.”
He could swear Antonio winked at Erik as they walked out the door. He was surprised when Erik marched him past the door to the men’s restroom, down the hallway and out the front door.
“I thought maybe you could wash your hands at the coffee shop in the student center?” Erik stammered as they went down the steps. “Maybe we could just have a cup of coffee or something? If you wanted to?”
“That’d be nice. I’d like that.” “Yeah?” Erik asked, his whole face relaxing into a wide relieved grin. “Yeah. That’d be nice.” They walked slowly and silently down the sidewalk. It was nice. It was really nice. It was comfortable and warm, and Daniel felt bubbles rising up in his chest. Erik was something different.
“So,” Daniel said. “You made that block of plaster for me?” “Yeah.” Erik nodded, smiling. “You gave me a kiss.” “Too much? Too corny?”
“Definitely corny, and nerdy and amazing and wonderful. Definitely not too much. It was really sweet.”
“You liked it?” “Yeah. I like corny. I really like corny.” “Good to know.” Erik stared down at his boots, still smiling. “I mean, you know, you can kiss me,” Daniel blurted. “Whenever you want to, or whatever.”
Awesome, now he sounded like a blithering idiot. A slutty blithering idiot. “That’s also good to know,” Erik replied. “I don’t think I’ve quite worked up the courage again, but I’ll let you know.”
K. E. Belledonne is a writer, editor and translator. A native New Englander, Kat spends her spare time listening to Glenn Miller records, reading history books and cheering on her beloved Red Sox. Her first novel, Right Here Waiting, was published by Interlude Press in 2015.
23-Jun: Prism Book Alliance, Unquietly Me, Book Lovers 4Ever, Man2ManTastic, Three Books Over The Rainbow, BFD Book Blog
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27-Jun: Oh My Shelves, Wicked Faerie’s Tales and Reviews
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1-Jul: Attention Is Arbitrary, Alpha Book Club
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5-Jul: Nephy Hart, Bayou Book Junkie, Divine Magazine
6-Jul: A.M. Leibowitz, Two Chicks Obsessed With Books and Eye Candy, 3 Chicks After Dark
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