Pinterest Addicts Need Not Apply…Themselves

It’s International Creativity Month. Oodles of noodles, what do I want to create? Wouldn’t it be funny if this one came with the condition that you can’t use Pinterest? Seriously, if I got a quarter every time somebody mentioned something from Pinterest…Wait, Ben Silbermann is doing that already.

Pinterest case in point: Right before Christmas, I had a friend who left burnt bread in my fridge. He said it was a new recipe he’d tried from Pinterest. It was called “Good Bread,” and the recipe consisted of slathering butter on both halves of the bread and broiling it in the oven to blackened perfection. My husband said, “Hey, maybe we can find a recipe on there that tells us how to put meat and cheese on the bread!” Novel thought, that.

English: , a science fair experiment. Utilizes...Actually, I’m kind of out of creative ideas at the moment. This is science project month—to help those prepare who are going to Regional. I decorated for our science banquet by making kits for simple experiments to do at the table. (I didn’t even look at Pinterest. Really.) No, there was nothing chemically toxic to mix and nothing that required flame. We were all able to experiment and eat simultaneously. It made for great conversation pieces at the very least.

So I’m all done inventing. Okay, I’m never done inventing, but I’m finished inventing this post. Have a creative day, friends!

Eat More Pie, Half-Pint

Apple pie
Apple pie (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s National Pie Day—the edible kind with the ‘e.’ Please don’t make me watch another video with a song to memorize 3.14…blah, blah, blah—and what is the point of knowing all those numbers again?

My favorite pie was once Peanut Butter. I had a boyfriend in college who told me he tried to make a peanut butter pie for me but accidentally dropped it while taking it out of the oven. I still think he was lying because any peanut butter pie connoisseur knows it’s a chilled dessert, and the few that touch the oven should only do so at the crust stage. But what do you say to a guy who makes up something he thinks will please you? You kindly say nothing—and then you begin to wonder what else he might be coming up with just to make brownie points. (Looking at it from his point of view, it would’ve been a good idea to get out of a relationship with a paranoid girlfriend.)

My favorite pie is Apple now. Very American of me, eh? My quest for the perfect apple pie began when the kids and I read Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Almonso’s family ate apple pie for breakfast and lunch. They were always eating apple pie. I thought if they could do it, so could we. So we did. We ate thick servings of mouth-watering, tart Granny Apple slices topped with a beautifully browned lattice crust and cooked in caramel sweetness.

I make one a month on average. I tell myself they are much better than the Oreos and powdered donuts that my husband and kids would eat if I didn’t. When he calls from work to check if I’m still alive, I like tell my husband, “There will be apple pie when you get home!” Then I feel like I have my own Little House on the Prairie.

 

Apple Goodness with an Apricot Twist

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Voila! Scrumptious Baked Apples – but next time I’m cutting around the stem of the apple to prevent cracking. 😛

It’s Apples and Apricots Month! I made this cozy, healthy recipe for breakfast, replacing the sugar-free apricot jam it called for with puree canned apricots (adding a little agave nectar). I also replaced the apple juice with frozen apple juice concentrate to make up for the sweetness I took out by not including the sugar.

20130107aMaking this was completely kid-friendly, but it doesn’t compete with Peanut Butter and Chocolate Puffs cereal. The consensus was that it was good, and that’s all. (One would’ve gone with ‘meh,’ but was persuaded to change her vote by the kinder votes of her siblings.)

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Warmed the leftover apricot juice and added a cinnamon stick to that, too. The picture wasn’t complete without bunny ears.

My rating system is ever partial to foods that taste a little more real. So I gave it five stars, and my vote counts as ten. It’s a wonderful way to start a crisp January morning—warm and wholesome-tasting. And the aroma of cinnamon and apples that wafted through the house was incredible!

Veggies that Begin with ‘A’ Go Here

Craving artichokes and asparagus lately? That’s because January is the month to celebrate these funny veggies! Asparagus is in season in the spring, but you can get the canned kind at least. I celebrated by making a mayo-free spinach artichoke asparagus dip.

My Spinach Artichoke Asparagus Dip before it was demolished
my Spinach Artichoke Asparagus Dip before it was demolished

I found the recipe on Ree Drummond‘s site, the Pioneer Woman. It’s called, “The Best Spinach Artichoke Dip Ever,” and it definitely lives up to its name. I tweaked the recipe (I’m a rebellious cook) by adding asparagus tips, cooking them with the artichokes. Mmmmm…

Say Puh-roon, California

It’s California Dried Plum Digestive Health Month. No, I’m not making this up; and yes, in California they call it a dried plum. It’s wrinkly, it’s amazingly sweet, and you’ll have the trots for days.

Guess who proclaimed the first California Dried Plum Digestive Health Month? Oh, come on, you know. In Terminator 2 he said something like, “Eat dried plums if you want to live.”

Come to think of it, this might be the reason it’s also Bath Safety month.

Um…I’m Thinking Buffet

It’s National Buffet Day!

Don’t go crazy.

Keep calm.

Walk slowly up to the buffet line, or people will think they’ve refilled the pan of steamed crab legs and start a stampede.

Do not put your head under the glass. It’s see-through for a reason.

Do not leave your kid unattended. Attend him as he sticks his fingers in the Jello. It’s a rite of passage; you used to do it, too.

Always get a clean plate when returning to the buffet. That’s right; just wipe that morsel of dishwasher grit off the plate with your shirt.

Refrain from the temptation of getting the soup because that woman with the fake eyelashes just sneezed over it. Yeah, we’re all pretending we didn’t see it, either.

And don’t hover. It’s rude.

Celebrate Buffet Day with me with this old Rhett and Link ditty:

This is a Piece of Cake!

Guess what I’ve been doing? (I bet you’ve guess it already because you’re brilliant like that. You must be; you read my blog.) Just in case you’re stumped, I’ll give you a hint: food writing. I have a friend who contacted me about a project with CakeTheater. The job description was something like, “creative writer to come up with blurbs for cake categories.” Within seconds I responded with, “Me! Me! Me!” Decades later, (okay, maybe just days) I was asked about my hourly rate. Thankfully, I didn’t send my immediate response, which was something like, “Somebody is going to pay me to write stuff about cakes?” Yes, confectionary delight of delights, all is right in my world! And, oddly, I’ve started making cakes. I think I must be very persuasive.

At first I tried to be all healthy about it. A carrot cake was my first attempt. The icing was made with cream cheese, whipped up to a fluffy cloud of sweetness. It melted on my tongue like butter. And, yeah, I used real butter anywhere it called for shortening/oil.*

It was completely fattening.

It was irresistibly good.

I couldn’t stand the longing looks the cake received from the fridge repair man when it was placed on the counter. I did not share with him. I was more generous when my sister and her boyfriend came over. (Actually, I was pretty much carrot-caked out by then.) Then they told me they’d been filching thin slices so I wouldn’t notice.

Jam & Tea Cake

You can see, cake decorating is not my forte. I’ve even taken a course. Isn’t that sad? That doesn’t seem to stop me, or anyone else at my house, from eating them. For this reason, this cake-writing project could be the death of me in terms of caloric overload. Otherwise, I am living in a dream… that funds the butter supply.

Here’s a cupcake idea I tried:

A mini Cat in the Hat birthday cake. Yes, I wrote a poem to go with it. (My creativity is good, though my artistry is lacking.)

Let’s do a recap of what you can know about me from this post: (1) I can’t decorate cakes well at all, and (2) my photography is just as bad. (Oh, and I’d better be keeping to a serious daily workout.) But know: if you’re drooling, or thinking about how long it’s been since you’ve had proper cake, then my work is complete. For you connoisseurs of our fine-floured friends, come be inspired by the cakes at CakeTheater. Not to tempt you or anything.

Oh, you talked me into it. One more:

Iced Lemon Cake for tea time

*Most shortenings and basic cooking oils are made with soybean oil, and I’m soy intolerant.

I Write of You, Solanum tuberosum

You know how I said I wasn’t going to write when I was really hungry? Scratch that. I was thinking about potatoes today. Potatoes are really one of the easiest foods to make. You basically put them in the oven on a low setting. Sometimes I even remember them a few hours later. I’m not the most reliable cook because of the “out of sight, out of mind” thing. If I remember to set a timer, everything’s fine. Otherwise, it better be potatoes in the oven. Can they be overcooked? It’s been my luck they are always done when I recall where they are.

They have a starchy satisfaction to them. Everybody understands what it means to say, “A real meat and potatoes kinda guy.” You can take him at face value; no need to ask about salad dressings or anything. Potatoes are the same way, hearty and dependable.

A potato complements almost anything. Simple butter, some salt and pepper, and it’s done. Restaurants add all kinds of toppings, like broccoli and red onion. Have you ever watched a person’s eyes when the server begins listing the toppings on the “loaded,” “super loaded,” and “add more pig” potato? Me, either. I wasn’t ordering potatoes.

Recently, my sister found out she wasn’t eating enough starchy carbs in her diet, which resulted in her body working to convert the proteins. She was lethargic and losing weight. She and I happen to ascribe to the same diet, consisting of lots of cruciferous veggies and meats. For me white carbs, like rice, potatoes and noodles, are flavor squelchers. They don’t originate with the flavor, and they can even be known to mute it. I prefer a piping hot tray of mushroom tops with freshly minced garlic simmered in butter, or sautéed green beans.

So, I’ve decided to give ol’ Idaho a chance again. I’m thinking of composing a verse as an ode to this incredible tuber of the nightshade family. I plan to compliment its eyes, of course.

In case you think I’ve forgotten the point of this post, here it is:

A writer’s story is not like a potato.

Brilliant, eh?

1. The potato baking in the oven will forgive you when you forget about it, but your story may not forgive your neglect. Inspiration can be fleeting. If you don’t cultivate the plot and invest the time in seeing the story through, it may dry up to become but a few flecks of dull, unreadable scenes.

2. The potato’s starchy makeup will leave you feeling full. While I think an ending should leave one satisfied, a good story should leave one hungering for more from that author. It also doesn’t hurt anything to keep the reader wondering whether there might be a sequel.

3. Potatoes can be better with toppings, a.k.a., fillers. Stories? Bleck.

4. The flavor of a potato doesn’t change. Good old potatoes. They are the same all the way through. If a book were like that, it would have no readership.

Now I will return to my mountain top to meditate, and you may go on with your journey through the wilds of WordPress.

Secrets, Wordchefs and Insta-pies

Here’s a thought I loved from the children’s book, From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg:

Claudia doesn’t want adventure. She likes baths and feeling comfortable too much for that kind of thing. Secrets are the kind of adventure she needs. Secrets are safe, and they do much to make you different. On the inside where it counts.

When I think of keeping secrets, I often think of negative secrets dealing with hurt. But there are good secrets, too. There are secrets that are fun that people keep for the pure effervescence they bring.

The thrill of keeping a secret is why I never write down the ending when I’m planning a story. When I have a story idea, I jot it down to exorcise it out of my system while I’m working on my current project. If I return to the story premise and can’t remember the ending, it wasn’t that good. To tell the ending is to spoil the secret. I’d rather it well up in me so that I have a goofy grin on my face when I think about it.

A writer is one who creates a story like a set of courses for a dinner. It’s very exciting because there’s all the expectation of experimenting, recording, and perfecting the textures and flavors of every verbarian dish. As a reader, one enjoys being the guest rather than the chef. I think most readers become writers when they realize that writing the story can be just as pleasing to the literary palate as sitting down at another wordchef’s table. Perhaps more so because the one telling the story has the joy of inventing each scene to his/her own taste.

Imagine the meal: It begins with the summary appetizer: bold in flavor and promising better courses to come. The salad is the intro: pert, crisp. The plot opens like thick slices of a warm, crusty, herbed baguette. Perhaps the style has a nutty, quirky quality, like the cheese accompanying the bread, or perhaps it has a smooth, sophisticated approach, like roasted garlic truffle oil. The personalities of the characters are revealed in tantalizing spoonfuls, like the soup. Then the conflict, the entrée, is set before the reader. The drizzle of ambrosial sauce (like a simmering rivalry), the mouthwatering bursts of infused spices (perhaps the thrilling knowledge of an impending event in the story) make it evident the reader is now basking in the delicious splendor of the tale. The subplots bring variety and freshness, like a summer vegetable medley, and extend the anticipation. Now the turning point is expected, the dessert! The reader knows it will be accompanied by a tying up of all the loose ends, taking the form of a soothing beverage, like coffee (in my case you know I prefer tea).

What would you expect for dessert? Perhaps mousse or a crème brûlée? A delectable slice of Italian cream cake? What if a tube-like box labeled ‘apple pie’ was flopped down before the reader? What if the ending is like a microwaved, fast-food substitute?

A McDonald's apple pie.
Image via Wikipedia

There are stories like that.

It’s also how I feel about writing out my own story’s ending in the planning stage. Writing the skeleton outline of the conclusion looks like twice-warmed-over, faux-apple smoosh to me.

An ending is the result of the process. At its culmination it has to bloom naturally or it has the chance of becoming synthetic and lifeless. So, the end stays my secret. When I finally write it, I want it to contain the initial emotion of the final piece being fitted. Not that it won’t go through a gamut of rewrites, but the ending should be… saved for the end.

(Note to self: Never write while really hungry again.)

Dealing with the Bean Burrito

I did it. I sent my first query.

Manuscript Rejected.

Here are some excerpts from the rejection letter and my responses (which I didn’t email back or anything – I wasn’t feeling that indignant):

Agency: Your manuscript isn’t right for us at this time.

Me: But you only saw the first 50 pages! Are sure? Are you really sure?

Agency: There are numerous agents that might be the right fit for your manuscript.

Me: Well? Who are they? Do you have a list?

Agency: “Don’t give up!”

Me: That’s nice. I can’t dislike you as easily now.

So, what am I doing? Am I jumping in with both feet, composing query letters like a madwoman? Nope. I’m reediting the editedly overedited, edited-again version of Dragonfly Prince. It must need sprucing up, including the 350 pages the agency never set eyes on. And I know this is wrong. I know I need to let it go and concentrate on researching literary agents’ backgrounds to find that perfect fit. But… it… has… to… be… perfect!

Obsessed. I’m completely obsessed at this stage. I want to present the story, but I can’t present the story because it might be rejected if I present it with its current flaws. So I don’t present the story to anyone, and it haunts me like a bean burrito. This stinks.