SOL#17 Interesting Read

A great read today –

I love Roxane Gay and tiny houses! https://www.curbed.com/2017/10/25/16526872/tiny-house-hunters-roxane-gay

 

 

 

 

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Poem: Do Not Touch the Water

DO NOT TOUCH THE WATER

 

Pixies swirl and twitter

Conjuring memories

I do not want to remember

Pixies disguised as trolls

Is what they really are.

 

Do not shatter my dreams

I scream

To no one

And everyone

I have ever known

At the same time.

 

They are precious

And mine.

Let me hide behind

What is really true

Do not fracture my illusion.

 

I am teased by the

Pixies empty promises.

Do not torment me

Leave me be

To my own fantasy

In the trees.

 

One ripple on the lake

Will remind me

Do not touch the water…

DO NOT touch the water.

 

Being A Better Cook and Food Gossip

I can cook well but have been out the habit lately. I do have a few signature dishes which makes it appear like I am a better cook than I actually am. Some of my recipes are ones that I have graciously stolen from friends and then made them my own. Some are fancier than others but all are delicious. Otherwise, what would be the point?

There might not be a perfect meal, but there are perfect recipes.

When talking to others, if you mention an unusual ingredient you have cooked with like bok choy that not too many people are familiar with then your cooking street cred goes way up. Having a few signature dishes makes it appear as if you are a better chef than you actually are. My husband is really good at taking what’s in the refrigerator and producing a meal out of it or taking leftovers and making it look completely different. I have not honed that particular cooking skill myself.

What seems like another lifetime ago, I was a Pampered Chef consultant and worked my way through the cookbooks. The goal was to not only try new recipes but also practice cooking because I wanted to get better. I learned how different things went together to combine to have a new taste. I learned what lemon zest was used for and how baking needed to be exact. The first time I heard about working your way through a cookbook was when Calista Flockheart said in an interview she was working through a cookbook with her husband, Harrison Ford one recipe at a time. It sounded romantic and fun.

Honing my cooking skills was intrinsically rewarding. The people I lived with at the time were not so enthusiastic about my culinary adventures. He frequently did not eat the dishes I prepared not because it tasted bad but because it was the wrong mix of texture or used an ingredient that he didn’t like.

 

 

 

 

 

In my quest to be better at something I read. As with all my other obsessions, I have books that I refer to when thinking about any topic. Now I have expanded the digital repertoire to interesting websites as well. Michael Pollen is popular food writer In Defense of Food , and I enjoyed the book Seven by Jen Hatmaker. It was a life experiment for her and she chose only 7 foods to eat for a period of time. Which of course made me think of the 7 foods I would choose.

 

There is an online magazine called Life & Thyme which has beautiful photography and articles about food. There was a whole issue about nostalgia and as I read I made notes of what food is nostalgic for me. Most of it is what my Oma used to make. I had forgotten so many dishes until I was reading someone elses writing. That often happens. Some ideas just seem to appear out of no where to me.

 

 

 

The food memoir MY BERLIN KITCHEN was written by a woman raised in Germany who had the knack to cook for her friends without a recipe. The idea of being able to make several things without a recipe that are more complicated than a peanut butter and jelly sandwich intrigues me. She writes about food she makes for her friends. I imagine a time when people would come over and I could just whip up something with items from the fridge. I made her recipe for chicken with tomatoes and wine and shallots and garlic. I should have put it over noodles.

When I was living by myself I would stop at the store and see what struck my fancy and then I would use what I had in the fridge. Whatever protein was on sale was what I made. I experimented. I made dinner for my parents. I tired new recipes on the weekend. Coconut bread, avocado taco salad, but nothing too crazy.

Food has become part of my family’s entertainment and it has been fun along the way! It is always fun to talk about food! Almost as much as book gossip! Is there food gossip?

#happyreading!

 

 

 

The Perfect Meal #SOL17

slice of life_individualIs there such a thing as a perfect meal?

I think there are perfect recipes.

There are favorite meals, memory meals, and the storied snack.

Favorite meals are the ones you eat because they are delicious. My husband makes his signature spaghetti that is requested on birthdays and special events. A book club friend always makes her food with so much love and care that we can taste it when she serves it. I have “stolen” several recipes from her including Birthday Pasta. A relatively simple meal that is so good it is requested on birthdays…hence the name. It is made with butter, cream, mushrooms, and parmesan cheese. In my own version, I add chicken and spinach. Almost all her recipes have a story to go with them too.

Memory meals remind you of a specific event or remind you of someone or a certain time in your life. My brother dropped an entire plate full of spaghetti and sauce down the stairs in the house I grew up in which makes me laugh to think about it. My mother in law makes smoked butt and rutabagas because it reminds her of her childhood. Cabbage soup, scrambled egg sandwiches,  and crepes remind me of my Oma.

The storied snack is what you bring to someone and it has a story. In the Southern Living cookbook, there is a recipe for Praline Grahams that are always a hit and so simple to make.

The experience matters too. Creating hygge with candles, a fire, and the special people around you can add to the delight of a meal. I have made roasted lemon chicken with potatoes and carrots (Ina Garten recipe) with my son so many times at his request. We have eaten the whole dish just the two of us! It is about the food, the people, the lighting, the conversation, and the plates! I am a big believer is real plates for special occasions, even when there are 40 people in the house for dinner!

One of my new favorite recipes is the prosciutto wrapped chicken thighs with pesto cream sauce and asparagus. It will be the recipe of choice when we have dinner guests over. Last weekend, we made brown sugar balsamic pork loin that was a huge hit too.

What is your perfect meal? I am making myself hungry!

Welcome to November!

Today has been a good day!

  1. An early morning run
  2. Coffee routine with my hubby
  3. Good morning meeting
  4. NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) started today! Today’s word count: 1,807 – The goal is to write 50,000 by the end of the month
    1. This did not go as well as I thought it would. I had plans in place and then sat down in front of the BLANK screen and I panicked a bit. It is ok. I have many more days to go.
  5. Book of the Month selections came out today!My Pick!
  6. Great evening planned!

If I can squeeze in some reading, it will be even better!

#happyreading #happywriting

Commute #SOL17

screen-shot-2017-03-14-at-1-30-42-pm15Over the past two years, I have cultivated a closer relationship with my car than most people in my life.

My commute is the longest it has ever been in my professional career. The time can range from 50 min to 90 plus.

There are a few behaviors that make these daily miles more tolerable than others.

The most effective activity for me to keep my sanity and not be bored is listening to PODCASTS on my commute.

This is the key to my sanity and anti boredom. Most of the podcasts are writing and reading related which adds to my TBR list. I am always looking for great recommendations. There is lots of coming and goings so I have time.

I spend way too much time in my car. I heard on a podcast this morning there was a woman that went to her car to write because that was the only place she could find silence. The idea of spending more time in my car makes me physically ill. Being in the car is necessary and I have found some ways to tolerate it.

One of the underlying reasons WHY I tolerate the commute is because it brings me to people that I honestly enjoy working with. I have never worked in a building with such professional, well rounded wonderful people. I probably should use a better word than wonderful…They make my heart happy. Truly, Not an easy feat in my world.

The drive time is good transition time from home to work and work to home. I can think about my day on the way in and send emails and texts and make my burn list (what I am currently calling my to do list). I do get some work done. One pitfall is that I drive East in the morning and West in the afternoon. Happy am I on days that are cloudy and/or rainy because I do not get blinded by the sun. The driving is easier. The transition time also allows me to really be home when I am home, and at work when I am at work. This has not always been the case for me. I used to do hours of work at home. The time also allows me time to think and create and dictate to my phone.

According to an article titled, “Commuting: “The Stress that Doesn’t Pay”

Commuting harms our psychological health and social lives.” from Psychology Today from Jan 12, 2015 the average commute is 25.4 minutes. Anything over 90 minutes according to the article is categorized as a “mega commute”. If the traffic is flowing I tolerate the drive better, partly because the drive is then shorter. I cannot control the unpredictability of the traffic. I cannot push the people in front of me to go faster or to get out of the lane that I think that they are driving too slow in whatever lane they have decided to mistakenly drive in. I also do not have the magical ability to snap my fingers and move cars over on the road…or off the road. If there are issues, then I push into the mega commute time frame which makes me cranky….quite cranky. Which is not good for my health – or the wellbeing of the people around me.

There are many health risks associated with a commute that is longer than 30 min including high blood pressure, lack of sleep, higher exhaustion levels, back pain, and higher risks of anxiety and depression (TIME, Feb 26, 2014).

There are days I am physically uncomfortable and I can’t settle into a comfortable position in the driver seat. I readjust to no avail. I do positive frame a lot of situations on the way to and from home. There are things now that make me happy and less stressed that never even crossed my mind before: new tires, a fresh oil change, a full tank of gas, an open road with no construction. Another idea that makes me happy is when I have a day off the first thing I think about is that I don’t have to spend 2 hours in the car.

There is a ritual and a routine to it. I check my WAZE app to anticipate an alternate route so I have a better chance to have the shortest drive possible. I also make sure that the PODCAST for the drive home is cued up and downloaded.

Stress is a fact of life that will not go away anytime soon. I can positive frame as much of the commute experience that I can and make it as tolerable as I can.

I will continue this pattern until I just cannot anymore and then this season will be over. There is always a chance that lottery ticket in my wallet is a winner!

Ray Bradbury’s Writing Triggers #SOL17

screen-shot-2017-03-14-at-1-30-42-pm15The more I find out about Ray Bradbury, the more I love him.

As much reading about writing as I have done, I have never come across Ray Bradbury’s NOUN writing exercise. It is brilliant! I love lists and I love writing! It is perfect!

Here is the link to the Brain Pickings article outlining his unusual writing practice.

I started my own list and have been writing 100-200 word pieces using one noun from the list as a trigger. I am hoping this exercise is the key to unlock some of the stories that are hiding in my mind.

My First List of Nouns:

The night. The Dark. The empty. The foot. The drawer. The book. The manuscript. The eve. The house. The fireplace. The castle. The moors. The pool. The date auction. The class. The ring. The roller skates. The pen. The candle. The heart. The mirror. The run.

My Variation

I asked some friends over the weekend to text me a short list of nouns to use as springboards for writing. This variation is more in line with the random word prompt. The lists are not my own so the emotional story unlocking potential is not as prominent.

Here are opening lines of a story I wrote using this noun list: The Horse. The Banana. The Table. The Peanut Butter. The Glasses.

It was a rainy,  too warm October day when the horse dropped dead in the middle of the pasture. He didn’t know what to do with death. Peanut butter freed a six year old’s horses around the corner. The little one hid in a closet and wasn’t found for 2 days. A peanut butter and banana sandwich can be deadly in more ways than one. One bite taken out of the square white softness was enough to change a whole family, and the town they lived in.

Jack took his glasses off and set them on the table and rubbed the space between his eyes with the two fingers of his right hand. They were stained with dark black ink as they always were. They were calloused and rough. He could hold balls of fire without pain. Maybe they could even resist death. He hadn’t had the opportunity to experiment. Jack joked and told people that he could handle the heat because of all the evil his hands had done.They never knew if he was kidding.

My plan is to try this prompt with students as well to see what unlocks in their minds!

#happy writing