A Picture is Worth a Thousand Trips to the ‘Fridge

My family has a Christmas tradition of using men’s tube socks as stockings. Realm’s family does not, and he finds it disgusting. I do understand his disinclination to put candy into something that actual men’s gnarled feet can fit into, but I do not understand the virtue of using those awkward, red objects that look like baby elephant booties. I’ve assured him I have no intention of using already-worn socks. I’ve tried to cajole him by pointing out the socks can be washed and worn after the goodies are dumped out (including the apples and oranges, which look so funny in the tube socks). My utilitarian pleas hold no sway. He just can’t handle my tradition.

I, too, have trouble with certain traditions. For example, I cannot physically sit through those Christmas claymation movies. They were even dull when I watched them as a kid! There were no streaming videos then, so I had an excuse. I sometimes wonder what it would be like to have to make a movie like that. Or to tell someone, “I spent this many hours moving a ball of clay two hundred centimeters today.” Now that’s a nightmare before Christmas.

The one tradition I hope will continue is the family picture card. I love getting family pictures! I put them on my refrigerator door and look at them all year round. They make me smile. And it doesn’t matter if Gerard has his eyes closed and darling Evangeline is picking her nose. So what if Lilly has her tongue hanging out? It’s natural. It’s real. It’s having loved ones waiting right there at the door when you reach for the milk.

rilla2016

For you, may the season be festive and fun;
And the New Year, may it be a happy one!

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Bubble Trouble

Do you writers ever find yourself stymied by having to do things just so to get the creativity flowing? The ritual must be performed, or you end up not writing at all? My desk has this powerful, just so aura around it. (I posted a tribute of sorts to my desk in all its unsorted glory called Desktopsy.) My characters surge to the forefront of my antsy brain when I sit down in my cushy desk chair. (I wrote about my chair, too. Twice. I’m beginning to see a pattern in my blog topic choices.) When I take my place in front of my desk, I enter the word crafter’s bubble, invisible to the naked eye… and probably to the clothed eye, as well.

The boundaries of this bubble must not be breached for any reason. If the house is on fire, save yourselves! My mind is afire and must not be interrupted! For this reason I’m thinking of wearing pajamas every time I write. Just in case. They are all made of flame-retardant material now, which might come in handy. (It sure doesn’t do a bit of good for sleeping. My kids have not combusted yet, fortunately, but they do wake up sweaty and smelly in their flame-retardant jammies.)

Rituals are good and all, but this desk dependence needs adjusting. I want to take my bubble with me. It should be the slave of my quill, not the master. So, my friends, I’ve done the impossible. I am, presently, not writing at my desk. I’m writing in bed. Yes, I’m onto something here. I’m on my bed. (Ugh.) You see, I knew I’d have to spoil myself to make any true change. My Pandora RillaWriter station is playing through my ear buds, and it’s time to immerse myself in the enchanted world of King Draill and Lady Esda. I’ll let you know how it goes.

P.S. My deepest sympathies go out to all of the flame-retardant-jammied children. My legs are already feeling moist in these sticky pajama pants. 😦

Clash of Priorities

I’m not a writer. I only play one on my blog. How’s that? Well, really, who has time to write and play Clash of Clans?

By Kolele22 (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
Seriously? Rilla plays Clash of Clans? Yes. Yes, I do. And I don’t even like video games.

It all started a couple of months ago, when my son, Magne*, said, “I wish you’d play Clash of Clans with me, Mom.”

I thought, “Aw. He wants me to play a video game with him.” Yeah, I thought I would be playing with him. Silly me.

So, here I am, sitting between my husband and son on the couch, saying, “I think I can get three stars on eight, but seven is iffy. If you give me hog riders, I can get at least one star on seven.”

“What if I give you a dragon?” Realm asks.

“Hey, give me a dragon! I need it to take down five!” Magne tells him.

We have pow-wows going into a clan war. When we’re neck and neck with the enemy clan, I get serious.

“Mom, it’s okay. It’s just a game,” my son reminds me.

“I know, I know,” I say, but I sneak out of the room to text a friend of mine whose son is in our clan.

“Can you tell Battlegade we need him to attack?”

She has no idea what I’m talking about. She thinks I’m asking if her son can come over to actually play. Who ever heard of that?

On the way home from our vacation, we had two hours to go before our clan war ended.

“Okay, they’ve got two players who each have one battle left,” I say, looking over our opponent clan’s scores. “They could still get more stars and win if we don’t get more players to participate.”

So, I look up a friend through Facebook. I message her, “Can your son, who’s in our clan, can get on and attack number six?” Then I write, ‘See you at church services tomorrow!”

She writes back, “Now or tomorrow?”

I tried to explain myself, but there is no explanation for the social disaster I’ve become.

I have no shame.

I dream of millions in my gold storage. That way I can upgrade my town hall. I’m so close to a dark elixir barracks that I can almost smell it. And it probably stinks.

*Pronounced “mane.”

Rilla Scriptzilla

“Bing Crosby Gary Crosby 1951” by CBS (eBay item photo front publicity release) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
In the past two years, I’ve become more acquainted with scriptwriting. This is odd because I’ve never though of myself as a scriptwriter. Scriptwriting requires me to utilize crisp segues to get to the point, which I think I have a knack for. It also challenges me to write out my vision of what is happening. I don’t get to practice this type of descriptive writing enough—oh, I write action, but not action this mapped out. So, tackling the tricks of the script is a fun exercise for me.

But there is another aspect to writing a script that I can’t get used to: the actors. These are people who don’t want to do things the way the script is written. Ever. I go from scriptwriter to patcher-upper, working to bring the actor-revised script back around to its point, the punchline of the joke or the principle message.

I’d prefer to write the script, turn it in, and watch the result without having any part in the massacre that takes place in the middle. I’d rather view the aftermath, saying, “Wow, nothing I wrote was used except that joke in Scene Two. And it wasn’t funny because it was set up all wrong.” Then I might cringe while my name rolled through the credits and be done with it.

“Stumme Coronation of Mary jpg” by Creator:Absolon Stumme (imgc.artprintimages.com) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
You see, scripts are a temptation to the control-prone writer, which I happen to be. When a writer works out the specifics of every movement and word of an actor, it can have one waxing a tad dictatorial. I want complete control. There, I said it! I want everything to go exactly as I see it in my mind. Well, sometimes I let things go when I see it played out and realize it doesn’t work as smoothly as it did in my head. I’m okay with changing that. You know me, I’m generous that way.

When I was young, my cousins and I would put on skits at family gatherings. I was in charge of these skits. Every year my cousins would revolt against my direction. Oh, all right, my tyranny. I shouted. I threatened. I hovered. It’s true.

Every year I became more and more convinced that I was not going to do another skit the next year. I tried letting a cousin direct it one year, saying, “You do the skit. No, do it this way.”

Obviously, that didn’t work.

I tried, “Oh, you guys should definitely do a skit! I think I’ll watch this year.”

That came off like I was sulking or something. I wasn’t. I just knew I’d take over and be hated for the rest of that visit. I could never seem to help myself.

Then came the skit-less years. No one understood why I didn’t head up those fun skits anymore. One cousin in particular, who’d been captain of the skit mutiny every year, came to me and asked, “Why don’t you put together our skits anymore? I miss it.”

I laughed good-naturedly and said, “Because you were always mad at me for being so bossy.”

She crinkled her nose and smiled.

“And I am bossy,” I admitted. “I wish I weren’t, but it just comes over me.”

I don’t mean to be bossy. I really don’t. To be honest, becoming a mother confused me a great deal because, suddenly, I was completely within my rights to take charge. It was necessary. Someone needed to direct and instruct those crazy kids. Could that somebody actually be me? Yes! I was perfect for the part! And I have gotten, far and away, my fill of being in charge as a mom.

So, all that to say, I need to learn to loosen my choleric grip as a scriptwriter. And I can do it. I can let go. Just don’t overhaul the whole script on me, okay?

What I Knead

I beg you not to hate me for what I’m about to tell you: I make my own bread.

I know, I know! I’m one of those people. I probably have my own wheat fields and store my scythe next to the 200-year-old quilting loom, which I’ve used to make intricate quilt patterns since I was three.

Okay, it’s not that bad. I just make bread. After breaking three bread machines, I went back to basics. Yes, it takes a big chunk out of my day, so I make about eight loaves at a time. This lasts us almost three weeks…if I don’t give any away. But I like to give it away.

Yum!

I’m soy intolerant. It’s tough to find store-bought bread that isn’t made with soy products—the flour, the oil, the lecithin. Mainly, the soybean oil. That one really messes with me.

I could buy some specialty breads, but they cost at least twice as much. Homemade bread is equivalent to the price of the regular, store-bought varieties. That cost includes using butter, milk, honey, wheat germ, and sea salt. So, it’s healthier, heartier, and it tastes incredible.

It’s also a perk that my children think store-bought bread is a treat. Whoo hoo! We get Nature’s Own and Skippy today? Suddenly, I’m the greatest mom ever.

Punch that dough into shape!
Punch that dough into shape!

My sister came over to learn how to make bread. When it came time to knead it, I asked, “Wanna try?”

She worked the dough for a while. “Is this good?” she asked, showing me her progress.

“It needs to be more elastic. Punch and roll it.” I showed her what I meant. “Remember the Tae-Bo fast punch? That’s a good one.” I demonstrated.

She started laughing. “So this is why you like making bread,” she said as I socked the dough with a right uppercut.

“Totally.”

Here’s my bread recipe presently. It changes. (Currently, I’m experimenting with yeast substitutes, since that’s the most expensive ingredient.) Feel free to substitute bread flour, since the bromate makes the bread less likely to fall apart. Using all-purpose flour means having to work the dough more to get a firmer loaf.

Homemade Honey Wheat Bread

(Makes 4 loaves)

2 cups scalded milk
½ cup honey
5 1/3 Tbsp. butter, melted
2 Tbsp. salt
2 pkg. (1 ½ Tbsp.) active dry yeast
2 cups cold water
1 cup wheat germ
2 cups whole wheat flour
6 cups all-purpose flour

Mix melted butter, honey, and salt, pouring in scalded milk. Add the cold water. Sprinkle yeast over the top and stir until dissolved. Add wheat germ, whole wheat flour, and 1 cup of all-purpose flour. Beat well with electric mixer. Add enough remaining flour to make a soft dough, stirring with a wooden spoon or dough hooks.

Turn dough onto floured board and knead for 10 minutes. Place in a greased bowl; let rise until doubled in bulk (1 ½ hours). Punch down; let rise again until doubled (1 hour). Shape into 4 loaves, and place in greased loaf pans. Let rise until doubled (1 ¼ – 1 ½ hours).

Bake at 375, keeping low in oven for 25-30 minutes for freezing or 35 minutes, or until golden brown, for serving.

One of these days I hope to get my own grain mill. Electric. No, I don’t intend to grind wheat by hand. Really.

Home. Drive.

I grew up on the First Coast. My family still lives there. I don’t. Yes, I miss it. I even miss the sweltering summers, though the heat we meet with every summer should have cured me by now. We came down in tropical storm Debby two years ago; and while we were there, the water stopped running at my parents’ house. Ironic that. The roads were flooding, and we couldn’t flush a toilet. But that got fixed, and then my sister’s boyfriend had the nerve to show up. (I guess I should add that his plans to visit had been made before we jumped in the car and sped down there, but I really don’t think that’s important—we were there first.) Nobody kicked us out of the house or anything, but my sister was there, and my 91-year-old grandmother was there, and my mom and dad were there (being their house and all). Then the boyfriend arrived.

By ABC Television (eBay item photo front photo back) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Stuffing our Cunningham family of five into the house was a bit much, we thought. So we asked folks in the congregation there if we could bunk at someone’s house for a couple of days. Seriously, there is nothing like having church family! You get all up in each other’s business and aggravate one another to no end, and, somehow, you can’t get enough of ‘em.

The couple who took us in must feel the same way about us because they didn’t mind telling us, “You guys can stay here or not, we just wanted to keep the kids.” My husband and I felt we could accommodate them and promptly made plans to spend a night in St. Augustine, which happens to be my absolute favorite place to wander around. Realm picked the place we stayed. While it wasn’t solely based on what we were having for breakfast, he admitted that was a big factor in the decision-making process. The style of our room was ‘vintage,’ quaint and lovely, and I had a delightful assortment of hot teas to choose from in the morning. The breakfast was hearty. Our host shared his recipes and experiences, which had me wishing I ran a bed and breakfast—a wish that is rekindled every time I stay in one. I was very pleased.

Then we went all around the city, wherever I wanted to go. I almost killed Realm because I had him trekking in direct sunlight halfway up the boulevard and back. He came close to having sunstroke, I think. He became increasingly nauseated while I was paying for my raspberry sorbetto, handed me the keys, and got out two words: “Home. Drive.”

Advice to St. Augustine tourists: The Old City should be taken in doses and not in the midday heat. The locals know a siesta is more than just about a nap. You’d think that, as many times as I’ve been there, I’d heed my own advice, but I become too giddy with the adventure of scouring the city again for more tidbits of history.

It ended up being a refreshing visit to Florida after Realm recovered. And when it was time to leave, I toted out my suitcase to find a go-kart strapped to the top of our minivan. (We stored a go-kart in my dad’s shed when we moved from Florida.)

Yes, that's me on the go-kart before we moved. As you can see by the lack of glaring sun and my bulky sweater, it's a typical Florida winter.
Yes, that’s me on the go-kart before we moved. As you can see by the lack of glaring sun and my bulky sweater, it’s a typical Florida winter.

Now, I love go-karting. It releases some crazy, competitive monster in me when I race around a track breathing in oil fumes and tire particles. But it’s just not the same feeling, the wind whipping the bungee cords and ratcheted straps of the go-kart tied to the roof of the van. As though it wasn’t enough that Realm drives like a maniac, we were perfect targets for any annoyed driver who wished to pinpoint our location by satellite throughout our trip.

About two hours into the drive, Realm began to regret his great idea:

“We are getting terrible gas mileage.”

“Oh, really? You should see the stares we’re getting from the drivers we’re passing.”

“We aren’t getting any stares.”

“No? Try slowing down and driving in the right-hand lane for a while.”

My backseat driver sarcasm didn’t faze him. Early on in our marriage, he dubbed me “The Naggravator.” Besides, he was too busy scouting out a semi to draft behind.

And you know what? I’m missing Florida again. I guess it’s time to “Home. Drive.”

Wooed by Smoke and Flame

I’m married to the grill master of my dreams. We’re having beautiful weather here, and Realm has been grilling out once a week. He’s a charcoal grill connoisseur. We tried gas once. The flavor’s not the same.

By Brian Chu (Own work) [CC-BY-2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
My favorite cologne for Realm is eau de Grill. I can smell it in his hair when he walks in from the porch. Some people sniff markers and glue; I tiptoe up to my husband and breathe in smoky bliss. He thinks it’s funny. I think it’s delicious.

He cooks steak to perfection…and herbed salmon, honey Italian marinated chicken, shish kabob—Oh! Shish kabob with garlic and onions, mushrooms, zucchini, and tomatoes is my favorite! I eat up all the cloves of garlic and onions before they reach the table. (My scent is eau de Halitosis.)

Of course, there’s the occasional burnt fare. Realm hates when this happens. I lurve it! The only thing better than grilled meat is charred grilled meat! I’m not saying I want ash here, but a burger that’s blackened is so yummy.

Realm and I just celebrated our 18th anniversary. Our marriage is an adult now. I’m very much in love with him. I think one secret to a happy 18 years is having a husband who knows how to woo his wife long after the “I do.” I like flowers. I like chocolate. But there is nothing like, “Honey, I cooked dinner.”