Thursday, September 30, 2010

Links to Good Writing

I am passing along some recommended ideas from members of my writing group that might be of interest to you.
The first one is called Stay Connected Group. This is an opportunity to join a group of writers who check in online with each other daily Monday through Friday. Writers will stay connected with each other to support, encourage, advise, and answer one another in the writing process. The first session runs Oct. 4-29 and is limited to 10 people. Follow this link for more information
www.laurasalas.com/pdfs/stay/sc_info.pdf.

The second one is a book called Self Editing for Fiction Writers: How to Edit Yourself in Print by Renni Browne and Dave King. It is a book that teaches writers the techniques of the editing trade that could turn a manuscript into published novel or a short story.

The third recommendation is a book called The Plot Thickens: 8 Ways to Bring Fiction to Life by Noah Lukeman. In a previous blog I had written a summary of his first book The First Five Pages which gives insights on how to get your manuscript out of the slush pile and into a published piece.

Lastly, Since I missed fall peak colors up North this year some of my family were more fortunate. Check it out their photos.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

An Interesting Encounter

As I was contemplating several possibilities on how to spend my time on such a beautiful fall afternoon, my thoughts were interrupted by this energized Viking fan. And it was at this very moment I wished for my camera.
As I was in line to pay for gas when this petite elderly lady with perfectly white coiffured hair descended on the scene. I could see by her attire that she was a dedicated Viking fan. I marvelled over the white sweats topped with a Viking jersey, stylish purple coat, multi-colored beads and the fact her nails were awesome shade of purple. What she seemed most proud about was her new snappy accessory:a quilted handbag with the Viking logo on it. She also showed off her jeweled whistle necklace and told us how it gets blown whenever the Vikings score during the game. But I was puzzled??? What was she doing here at a gas station during the Vikings game? She assured me it was halftime and was feeling so lucky since the game was going well decided a purchase of lottery tickets was in order. I burst out laughing with her parting remark to me and the lady at the cash register... You know girls just gotta have some fun! And that's just what I am doing to today! And with a wave to us both, she seemed to practically bounce right out the door and into her car!
So I hope you were able to put some fun in your day enjoying this wonderful Fall weather. And just maybe you even had a bit of luck.
Did you know the moon had a very long evening last night? It was still brightly shinning in the wee hours of morning.
With weather like this I imagine the following light salad will be a good spillover from summer as you continue to enjoy outdoor dining.
__________________________________________________________________
Black Bean Corn Salad
Ingredients:
  • 3 ears of fresh corn or 1-1/2 cup frozen corn thawed
  • 3 pieces of grilled chicken-sliced
  • 1 can black beans drained
  • 4 tomatoes in chunks
  • 1 avocado in chunks
  • slices of red onion
  • 1 red bell pepper sliced
  • optional: jalapeno pepper and 1/2 cup fresh cilantro chopped
Dressing:
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 TB. fresh lime juice
  • 1 TB. fresh lemon juice
  • 2 TB. rounded sugar or could use honey as a healthier choice
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1/4 tsp. cumin
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • 1 dash hot pepper sauce
  • 1/4 tsp. chili powder
Note: Use sparingly chili powder and cumin
Directions:
  • Mix all ingredients in a bowl and set aside
  • Make dressing in blender and toss with chicken ingredients
  • Refrigerate for several hours till chilled
To Serve:
  • Place dressing/meat mixture over chopped Romaine lettuce
  • Serve fat free tortilla chips on side or lime chips
  • Add salsa on the side
  • Sprinkle with low fat cheese








Friday, September 24, 2010

Weather Watch

Plan ahead.
It wasn't raining when Noah built the ark
Richard Cushing

There is little chance that meteorologists can solve the mysteries of the weather
until they gain an understanding of the mutual attraction
of rain and the weekend.
Arnot Sheppard
Dodging raindrops and blustery winds tells me there will be more indoor time than outside time the next few days after reading the forecast. I posted a picture of our new dog Bella who spends the majority of her indoor time on Squirrel Watch. She runs between windows and patio door keeping track of squirrels and other wildlife.
As for me, good time to bake and finish The Wednesday Letters by Jason Wright. It is an interesting story about a couple who have been married for 39 years. Their lives are cut short and as their three grown children arrive for the funeral they discover boxes and boxes of Wednesday letters. These are letters their father wrote to their mother each week on Wednesday. But as the children begin to open and read the letters they discover shocking truths about their past. The story has a powerful message and pulls the reader in as mysteries are unraveled and solved.
_____________________________________________________________________________________
Apple Cream Cheese Tart
Ingredients and Directions:
  • 1/2 cup butter softened
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • Mix with beaters and form into a ball.
  • Press into a springform pan and up the sides of the tart pan
  • Beat 8 oz. cream cheese, 1/4 cup sugar, 1 jumbo egg, 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • Pour cream cheese mixture into crust
  • Arrange on top of cream cheese, 2 apples peeled, cored and sliced thinly
  • Mix 1/3 cup sugar and 1/2 tsp. cinnamon sprinkle this mixture on top of cream cheese mixture
  • Sprinkle crushed almonds on top
  • Bake @ 400 for 25-30 minutes

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Take Me Out to the Ballgame

I had to wait till the 7th inning to hear that song played! And wow did the crowd ever rock it. They were pumped up to see their home team win the division.
What an experience seeing the new Target Field. Not only was the weather perfect for an evening outing, but the Twins manged to pull through an late-winning comeback 6-4. The ending of the game was spectacular with everyone waving their Homer Hankies and bit of fireworks to celebrate the Twins clinching their sixth American League Central title.
Spectator watching was at a all time high. Over 39,000 people were in attendance and they were up and down, in and out, getting drinks, eating food, meeting up with friends and basically just having a great time. And who ever knew there could be such a variety of Twin clothes and hats to wear!
I would like to add that the stadium is an engineering feat nestled within the city surrounded by enormous buildings of different designs and heights.
An extra bonus was the appearance of the almost full moon which indeed did rain on Jupiter's light parade.
I posted some photos.
Autumn begins today enjoy the new season.

Winter is an etching,
spring a watercolor,
summer an oil painting
and
autumn a mosaic
of
them all.
Stanley Horowitz

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Early Appearance

Fall has made an early appearance up north. My plants and flowers managed to squeak by another night before Jack Frost nips them in the bud. I posted a few autumn pictures. Also note that corrections have been made to the Wild Rice soup. I forgot to type in some of the spices.

How beautifully leaves grow old.
How full of light and color
are their last days.
John Burroughs

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Don't Rain on My Parade

If the planet Jupiter could speak it might say Don't rain on my parade to the moon.
It seems Monday September 20th is a big day for the planet. Jupiter will be making its closest pass by earth since 1963. Jupiter will rise in the east as the sun sets. It will be directly overhead at midnight and will set in the west just before dawn. The solar system's largest planet will swing by Earth to within a mere 368 million miles for the rest of the month. It will be 4 % brighter than usual because one of its brown cloud belts has gone missing! But there could be trouble on the celestial scene since the full moon makes an appearance above Jupiter on September 23 and that may dim the planet's glow.
So keep a watchful eye on the night sky this week. If you happen to miss Jupiter's lighted display you will have to wait until 2022 when it is this close again.

I often think that
the night is more alive
and
more richly colored
than the day.
Vincent Van Gogh

___________________________________________________________________________________
Wild Rice Soup
Ingredients:
  • 4TB. butter
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped celery
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped carrots
  • 1/2 cup blanched finely chopped almonds
  • 1 cup chopped mushrooms
  • 4 TB. flour
  • 1 can chicken broth
  • 2 cups cooked wild rice
  • 1-1/2 cups finely chopped meat (chicken or ham)
  • 2 cups half and half
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/8 tsp. curry
  • 1/4 tsp. dry mustard
  • 1/4 tsp. paprika
  • 1/8 tsp. marjoram
  • 2 TB. parsley
  • 2 TB. chives
Directions:
  • Cook wild rice in boiling salted water and drain
  • Saute mushrooms, celery, onion, carrots and almonds in butter
  • Mix flour with chicken broth in a bowl and add to mushroom mixture
  • On low heat add half and half, 2TB fresh parsley, 2 TB. fresh chives and rest of spices
  • Add rice, and meat and cook on low heat till slightly thickened, do not boil
  • Add 4 TB. sherry



___________________________________________________________________

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

It all started with...

a catchy Japanese phrase Wabi Sabi. I recently read an article in the business section of a local newspaper that talked about Wabi Sabi and home decor. I was intrigued to learn more how this Japanese phrase is infused into our daily living.
I did uncover information, via the Internet, that Wabi Sabi means the art of finding beauty in imperfection, profundity in nature and an acceptance of the natural cycle of growth, decay and death.
Wabi means harmony, peace, tranquillity and a balance that is in tune with nature.
Sabi means to grow old, taking pleasure in those things that are weathered and faded. Paying attention to beauty that comes with age. True sabi cannot be acquired, it is a gift of time.
Wabi Sabi's roots lie in Zen Buddhism. This phrase has also been been associated with names of restaurants, furniture, a type of house design and jewelry.
In home decor, Wabi Sabi inspires minimalism so that our possessions are pared down until we have only those things left that are necessary for their beauty and utility or letting go of excess.
So my take on all of this is perhaps we can take a second look at the things that surround us. Maybe ask ourselves can we pare down some of the excess? And do we need to make changes in the way we buy? Can we reuse or redefine what we already have?
Wabi Sabi is something to stop and think about!
And my last thought, as the season changes to Fall, find some places to explore that will add peace and tranquility to your life.

Let you life
lightly dance
on the edges of time
like dew on the
tip of a leaf
by
Rabindranath Tagore
Bengali Poet
1861-1941
__________________________________________________________________________________
In keeping with minimalist philosophy...less is more
Raspberry Chicken Salad
serves 4
Ingredients:
  • 2 grilled chicken breasts
  • 1 large bag prepared mixed greens
  • prepared bottle Newman's own Light Raspberry & Walnut salad dressing
  • 1/2 cantaloupe sliced in thin slices
  • 1/2 cup green onions
  • raspberries
  • cucumber slices
  • 1/2 cup toasted almonds
  • sea salt and pepper
  • optional avocado slices
Directions:
  • Grill chicken breasts, let stand for 5 minutes before slicing into strips
  • Season meat with salt and pepper
  • On each serving plate place greens, cucumber slices and sprinkle green onions over lettuce mixture and lightly toss with dressing mix
  • Arrange cantaloupe slices on side of lettuce mixture
  • Place sliced chicken strips on lettuce and sprinkle with almonds
  • Add fresh raspberries on top


_


Sunday, September 12, 2010

Take Note

Take Note title of the fall arts and entertainment calendar in the Sunday Life section of St. Paul Pioneer Prheess 9-12-2010 offers quite a comprehensive guide to a variety of things going on in the Twin Cities area. In the Book Arts section there was a whole page of book titles by Minnesota authors. Some books that seemed noteworthy are the following:
Kate DiCamillo and Alison McGhee have written an adventure story titled: Bink and Gollie. It is a about two precocious little girls who share three comical adventures and the love of words.
Phyllis Root has collaborated with artist Betsy Bowen on Big Belching Bog. This picture book teaches young readers about the secrets of the mysterious peat bogs in northern Minnesota. It also describes the plant and animal life which inhabits the bog.
In the adult section Wishing for a Snow Day:Growing Up in Minnesota by Peg Meier had a title and cover photo that caught my attention. Oh how we all can remember waiting in anticipation for that bulletin to come across the TV screen: No school today. This book is a collection of children's diary entries, newspaper columns and old photos written by a former reporter for the Minneapolis Star and Tribune.
In early summer I wrote a blog entry about my desire to read more YA novels in upcoming months. I am still in the summer reading mode and have two recommendations.
The first is a historical fiction book called Mary Ingalls On Her Own by Elizabeth Kimmel Willard. This is the story of Mary Ingalls, Laura's sister. She lost her sight as a result of a devastating bout of scarlet fever. The story focuses on Mary's years at the Iowa College for the Blind where she gets an education to learn skills for more independent living. It was interesting to learn more about a Ingalls' family member we do not read much about.
Another recommendation is Out of my Mind by Sharon M. Draper. It is a poignant story about 11 year old Melody who can't talk, walk or write. Being stuck inside her head is what is making Melody go out of her mind until her friend helps her discover a computerized device called Medi-Talker.
Readers: Any noteworthy titles you'd like to pass along? Please forward and they can be included in a blog entry.

The happiest people don't have the best of everything,
they just make the best of everything they have

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

End of the Season Specials

A recent art crawl adventure on Saturday brought me to several new undiscovered locations around northern lake countryside. Each place visited was a visual display of showy gardens with an array of interesting art works that included fiber, pottery, jewelry, wood products and photography. Actually a shopper's paradise!
Toward the end of our 6 hour journey moving from one location to another I was excited to see that we were so close to the Fairyland Cottage. I told my friend that I wrote about discovering this cottage on a canoe ride to a nearby lake in a July 7th blog entry. The front entrance seemed more impressive than I had remembered. The lush arched entrance and winding paved walkway certainly was an invitation to step inside the store. But for me the sign: End of the Season Sale scheduled for Labor Day is what really caught my attention. I knew in instant that a shopping trip there would be a must for Monday.
Imagine my surprise when I arrived at the Fairyland Cottage on Monday to see Will passing out fliers advertising in store specials to customers entering the store. My guess is that in July he and Holokai did such a good job with the crowd at the Sock Mart Sock Competition that the Fairyland Cottage owners knew he was able to draw in a crowd.
I inquired where his sock monkey friends were and it turned out the Sock Mart also had a big Labor Day sale going on and they were needed at the store to entertain the crowds. Will said all this work was coming to an end now with the start of school this week. But he hoped Holokai would get hired again next summer at the Sock Mart.
One of the best purchases I made at the sale was buying Sock Sacks. These sacks are paper bags (lunch size) with directions inside for making your very own monkey socks. And even the right amount of yarn was included. I am anxious to make a pair since the weather has turned rather chilly as of late.
I posted some pictures for your enjoyment.
But before I start a knitting project I think I will make this apple bread recipe.
___________________________________________________________________
Apple Walnut Carrot Bread
Ingredients:
  • 1- 3/4 cups of white flour-option: do half white and whole wheatflour
  • 3/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 TB. baking powder
  • pinch fine sea salt
  • 1-1/2-2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp. each of ginger and allspice
  • 2/3 cup apple juice
  • 5 TB. butter melted
  • 2 large eggs beaten
  • 1-2 large tart apples chopped in very small chunks
  • 1 cup grated carrots
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
Directions:
  • Grease well a loaf pan
  • Mix flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and spices set aside
  • In another bowl mix apple juice, melted butter and eggs
  • Gently fold this mixture into flour mixture
  • Use your hands to squeeze out any extra moisture from carrots and apple before adding to mixture
  • Stir in walnuts
Bake 350 check at 45 minutes bread is done when toothpick comes out clean
Recipe adapted from Lunds and Byerlys Real Food magazine Fall issue





Sunday, September 5, 2010

Gentleman, start your engines

As the loud voice boomed Gentleman, start your engines over the microphone the crowd waited expectantly for the rows of cars to fire up and begin the race.
Today was one of those out of the box days for me. My husband and I were invited by some relatives who were working the Trans Am races at Brainerd a.k.a BIR to be their guests. Which meant we got to be in the pits and have a real close up view of the cars, meet staff and drivers. Both of us got to ride in pace cars and go around the track before the race. Speeds up and over 100 mph are not for the weak. At least the pace car driver slowed down when taking the tight corners around the curves. I did try to act calm and cool but I thought surely I'd fall out on one of inside the curves.
Even though the dress code for this affair was black, few women were working the race and all the drivers were male.
Have you ever heard of a radar gun marshal? I learned that cars coming into the pit lane can not exceed speeds of 45 mph. So this marshal has a radar gun and clocks the drivers as they roar into the pit lane. If drivers go over the speed limit, they get a fine. It looked like a big power trip to me having a radar gun in your hand!
But the thing that intrigued me most was looking at a car that was being repaired with its entire roof off. I posted a picture of the inside of the car. Look at the cooler that is strapped in next to the driver's eat. It is filled with ice water. The driver wears a vest of cooling tubes that are connected to this cooler. Are you wondering why? Apparently the inside temperature of the cars that are in the Trans Ams Race gets very hot (like over 130 degrees) and these tubes cool off the driver.
The roar and I might add drone of the cars going round and round reminded me of the State Fair races every Sunday years ago. We lived only blocks from the fair.

Correction needed on my French spelling from previous blog quote So I went to to the Internet for French translation: joy of living or enjoyment of life...joie de vivre

Friday, September 3, 2010

A Year of Bodacious Living:9-3-2009 to 9-3-2010

Does a title such as this capture your attention and peak your interest? Do you wonder what type of living I might have lived this past year? Or do you think this is just a made-up word?
Bodacious actually exists as a slang word more commonly used in the US. It combines two words bold and audacious. Some meanings attached to the word are remarkable, impressive, gutsy and bold.
This past year I did take on several new challenges, stepped out of my box on several occasions, and learned new skills. But no all that was not enough- I needed to live life more boldly and gutsy by taking on a challenge with a dog named Bella. I told my husband our lives surely would be more complete with a dog just like Marley from the book Marley and Me.
But wait... did I lose my mind along the way as I searched for ways to live a more impressive, remarkable life? What was I thinking bringing a 83 lb. needy being into the house who leaps and bounds throughout the rooms craving constant attention, whose head rises above the dining table silently begging for food as we eat our meals, who slobbers water in all directions drinking from its bowl. It must have been those bright brown eyes that silently begged at the animal shelter take, take me I want out of here! And then... we fell in love.
It has been a week of adjustment but I am happy to say we are all doing quite well. But I will have to say I bought myself an extra long leash (6 feet) just to keep up better with fast paced walks.
I own a copy of The Bodacious Book of Succulence:Daring to Live our Succulent Wild Life by Sark. It is a humorous self-help book with author insights to empower your life and be inspired to search for ways to find creative freedom. Sark has written several other books and is an inspirational speaker from Big Sur CA area. All of her books are printed in her own handwriting accompanied by whimsical drawings.

so as I continue to follow Sark's advice to live a succulent life how about trying a recipe for a very moist carrot cake better known to me as a mom cake. It was my mother's favorite one.
MOM CAKE
Ingredients:
  • 4 eggs beaten
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 TB. cinnamon
  • 1 cup crushed pineapple (drained)
  • 1-1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1-3/4 crushed carrots (use Cuisinart)
  • 1 cup white flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1-1/2 cups chopped walnuts
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • optional 1/2 cup coconut
Directions:
  • Spray glass 13x 9 pan with PAM
  • Mix all ingredients for 2 minutes
  • Bake 30 minutes at 350 or until toothpick comes clean from center
  • Frost with cream cheese frosting
jor de vivre
loose translation in French for
joy of living


Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Looking Back

For those who might be interested in statistics: this is my 160th entry!!! It all began last September 3. And what a journey it has been for me. I have really enjoyed the process, thinking up new things to write about, finding pictures to go with each entry and trying new recipes. Your comments and feedback are always appreciated and helpful.

So as I enter year two I will begin with a book review of First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman. This book was suggested by a someone in my writer's group who found the book particularly helpful in their writing process. It is a practical guide written from the perspective of an agent who gives ideas on how one can keep their manuscript out of the slush pile by spending the most time on the first five pages. The author notes that 99% of manuscripts are rejected on the basis of the first five pages. He points out the overuse of adjectives, adverbs, and comparisons as being problem markers. He devotes one entire chapter on the importance of sound, rhythm and grammar. I found it helpful and hope one day my writings will indeed rise out of that slush pile into a publisher's hands!
I have eaten my way through the month of August with several lunches and dinners with friends. The good news.. I have lots of easy recipes to share-the bad news... requires more trips to the Y to break even with all those extra calories consumed.

PS. Photos from the Northwoods Arts Book Festival on Saturday are posted at
northwoodsartscouncil.org
______________________________________________________________________

Raspberry Razzle Dessert
Ingredients:
  • Prepared pound cake
  • Raspberries
  • Lemon Sorbet
  • Raspberry Liqueur
Directions:
Use clear sherbet glasses
  • Cube pound cake in each sherbet glass about half full
  • In each glass sprinkle pound cake with 2 TB. raspberry liqueur
  • On top of pound cake place scoop lemon sorbet
  • On top of sorbet add fresh raspberries
____________________________________________________________________
Flower Power
Ingredients:
  • clay pots(miniature size)
  • peanuts
  • 2 kinds of your favorite ice creams: chocolate, vanilla, coffee, butterscotch etc.
  • Carmel sauce prepared
  • crushed Oreo cookies
  • flowers from garden
Directions:
  • spray bottom of clay pots with PAM
  • place pots in freezer for 30 minutes or until cold
  • layer each pot with the following ingredients
small handful nuts-crushed cookie crumbs-1TB. carmel sauce-one large TB. of ice cream-peanuts-other type of ice cream-crushed cookie crumbs
  • freeze till serving
  • to serve pick a flower from garden place a straw next to stem and wrap straw and stem with tape-press into flower pot
  • optional one gummy worm hanging over the edge
Almond Appetizer
Ingredients:
  • 1-8 0z. softened cream cheese
  • 2 cups shredded Swiss cheese
  • 1/3 cup Miracle Whip
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 TB parsley flakes
  • finely chopped onions about 1/3 cup
  • 3/4 cup crushed almonds
  • 1/3 cup Panko crumbs
Directions:
  • Grease a glass pie pan
  • In a bowl beat cheeses, onions, Miracle Whip
  • Spread evenly in pan
  • Mix parsley flakes, crumbs, almonds and sprinkle on top of cheese mixture
  • Bake uncovered at 350 15 -20 minutes until bubbly around the edges

Spread sunshine. Scatter joy!