Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Let's Talk Turkey

Last year my husband and I hosted our first Thanksgiving. Since Andy and I have been together as a couple Thanksgiving has been a time to go see family. We went to Park City, Utah for our first Thanksgiving to see Andy's mother. Then for the next few Thanksgivings we went to Palm Springs in California to spend it with Andy's father and stepmother. However, last year everything changed because we had a six month old baby. It was decided, without any need of discussion, that attempting the holiday travel gauntlet with a child who was still working on sitting up without assistance was not a good idea. So, Andy's mother flew in from Utah and we began to plan our first Thanksgiving dinner.

Now I like to cook, so I saw this as more of an exciting challenge rather than something to get stressed about. I started watching the Food Network Thanksgiving specials, searching the Internet for the best recipes, and even bought an Everyday Food Magazine with some recipes in it. When Andy's mom arrived she also brought some recipes with her.

We ended up cooking an insane amount of food. Bacon wrapped and goat cheese stuffed pears for an appetizer (insanely good btw), all the fixings for the main course including: stuffing (my MIL was in charge of this and it was amazing, made with Ciabatta bread), mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, rolls, turkey, gravy, and roasted squash. As if this wasn't enough we also had TWO desserts. I made an apple pie (my husband says it is the best apple pie he ever tasted, but I was a bit disappointed with how my crust turned out. Those lattice tops are harder to make then they look) and my MIL made pumpkin bread pudding. As you may imagine this was wwwaaaayyyy more food than three adults could consume in one sitting, it was however, the perfect amount for three adults to consume over the course of a long weekend.

This Thanksgiving we will once again be away from home. We're flying up to Minnesota to spend the holiday with Andy's grandmother and his mom is meeting us there as well. However, even though I am not cooking a turkey I thought I would share three simple tips that I learned while cooking my first one.

1. Brining.

We decided to use Alton Brown's turkey recipe that involves brining the turkey the night before. Our refrigerator is pretty small, so we decided to use a little cooler that we have, and this way we could leave the turkey out on our porch. The next day we brought the turkey in, dumped the leftover brine down the sink, and then put the cooler back on the porch to clean later. Much later. That is where the cooler sat for days, weeks, and then months. Finally when the warm spring weather came around it could be put off no longer. Andy took the cooler to the car washing area to see if a high power hose could remove the kind of mold that grows from whatever it is that raw poultry leaves behind. Unfortunately, in the end the cooler could not be saved, and it was trashed.

The lesson: be careful what you decide to brine in, and if it is something you wish to use again, clean it sooner, rather than later.

2. Turkeys are not chickens.

I've roasted many whole chickens, using this great garlic and citrus recipe I got from Giada on the Food Network. So, I figured a turkey is really nothing more than a really big chicken. In some ways this is true, but in one important way it is not. Whole chickens only have one plastic wrapped bag of innards that you need to pull out before cooking, but turkeys have two such bags. I didn't find bag number two until we were carving the turkey. It wasn't a huge disaster - the bad didn't explode or melt or do anything terrible. Still it was kind of gross and really takes several points away for presentation.

The lesson: don't be shy about frisking your turkey before putting him in the oven.

3. Timing.

Our turkey took a little longer to cook than we had expected... at least according to our meat thermometer, whose accuracy has always been in doubt since it always seems to give readings that are much lower what they should be. Since my mother instilled in me a lifelong fear of ingesting undercooked meat (especially poultry products), so we decided to let the turkey cook a little longer. In the meantime we cracked open another bottle of wine. When we finally took the turkey out it was delicious and juicy, but not in a way that might give us Salmonella poisoning.

Lesson: Have lots of wine on hand and no one will care how long it takes to get dinner on the table. Also, some things are worth waiting for!

Hope these tips help someone and most importantly I hope everyone has a Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

My Blog Has a Personality!

Through a cool blog called Shrinking Violet Promotions I found this even cooler link to a site that gives your blog a Myers-Briggs personality test.

Instantly intrigued I typed my blog address in and here is the result:

ISFP - The Artists

The gentle and compassionate type. They are especially attuned their inner values and what other people need. They are not friends of many words and tend to take the worries of the world on their shoulders. They tend to follow the path of least resistance and have to look out not to be taken advantage of.

They often prefer working quietly, behind the scene as a part of a team. They tend to value their friends and family above what they do for a living.

There was also a cool little brain diagram that showed where most of the brain activity happens while I was writing, but alack it was one of those flash things and I could not figure out how to post it here.

**Update** The awesome Archetype gave me the code so I could show you my brain picture.


This show what parts of the brain that were dominant during writing.

Anyway, it is always cool to gain a little insight into how your brain (and blog) works, even if I am not sure that I completely agree with everything - for example: I believe that I am "friends of many words" and I certainly do not have any word enemies that I know of. On the other hand, I am rather quiet worker and I do value my friends and family pretty highly.

So, what's your blog type? And how accurate is its assessment of you and your blog?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Word Count Update

Since it's been about a month since I last posted my wonderfully exciting word count, I thought I should for once try to be a little consistent in this blog and do an update.

So, here it is.

43696 / 90000 words. 49% done!

I added about 10K words from last month, but I also recalculated my final word count total to be about 10K less, which together brings me right to the brink of my mid-point!!

On the downside, though, it also brings me closer to the end. This is not to say that I am not looking forward to writing "the end", I am just not looking forward to writing the end of my story, because I am not exactly sure how exactly it will all go down. I know some things that need to happen, but up to now I've been thinking of it as the "all the shit hits the fan" moment, but obviously that needs to be clarified. A lot. However, I still have a while before I get there, and until that time I will be working on figuring it out.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Reading about Writing

It's blog chain time again! And we all know what that means - there's a shared topic that a group of writers blog about and pass along with links from one person to the next. It is super easy to follow too. Want to start at the beginning? Michelle McLean started the fun over at Writer Ramblings. After Michelle, Sandra of Dual Citizenship in SpecFic and Mundania gave her take on the topic, and now it is my turn. Cool, right?

Now for this weeks topic:

Share a favorite poem, quote, joke, anecdote, or anything of the sort that deals with writing, writers, the publishing industry, or the other strange and unusual tidbits that belong to our little world.

I am going to start with a quote that is equal parts funny and true.

"Many people hear voices when no one is there. Some of them are called mad and are shut up in rooms where they stare at the walls all day. Others are called writers and they do pretty much the same thing."
(Meg Chittenden)

Next is a column that is written specifically addressing screenwriters, but which can apply to any kind of writer. It was written by Terry Rossio who along with his writing partner Ted Elliott wrote a few movies you might have heard of - among them: Aladdin, Shrek, and Pirates of the Caribbean. Clearly, these two guys know a thing or two about finding success as a writer. However, this particular column titled, Throw in the Towel, is more about failure. I recommend reading the whole thing, but am going to excerpt a few key parts. This is how the column starts:

You don't get to hear the truth much in this town, so listen up. I'm gonna back up the truck and unload. Harsh truths, right here, right now. And we're gonna start with the most brutal:
You people really aren't much good at writing screenplays.
In fact, your writing pretty much sucks.
You think that's harsh? It gets worse.
-- oh --
-- oh, wait a second, that's right --
-- I almost forgot --
-- you're the special case.
You're the once-in-a-generation manifestation of talent personified. The exception to all the rules. You know that there's only a tiny amount of room in this business for only the absolute most talented, but it's always all those other people who're gonna get squeezed out by the numbers game. Soon, very soon, the industry is just gonna fall all over itself to recognize your unique genius. If only you could juuuuuust get the right people to juuuuuust read your work, they'd see how very SPECIAL you are.
Hmm, funny how all those OTHER people out there trying, they each think THEY'RE the special case too, and that you're part of the loser crowd.
How could that be?
Could it be you're ALL part the loser crowd?

He then goes onto list 15 traits or characteristics that a writer must have to succeed, and with each one points out how you and me do not possess these traits. Depressed yet? Or just pissed? Well, he actually goes on to list another SIX reasons more why we will never succeed.

Okay, now before you start composing angry, "who the hell do you think you are?" emails to either myself or Mr. Rossio, please read just a little bit more.

In truth, anxieties and fears and second-guessing are things we all go through. It's easy enough to write about characters who never say die -- but that sentiment can be tough to live out, in the face of continued rejection, when the rent is due.
In this column, I've tried to put all the negative thoughts you might have in one place. I hope the nay-saying and insults have stirred you up. Maybe along the lines of, "Who the %#$@!!&* does that +^%$*@! think he is? I have talent, I'm as good as anyone, and I'm going to prove it!"
Because you should be pissed if someone tells you you're no good, that you can't do it. And you should be able to shrug off the negative thinking, and prove them wrong. You need to have the confidence to tell everyone they're full of crap. That you know the right path, and you don't need anyone's help.

He finishes the column with two simple ways to know when you really should throw in the towel.

1.) You've given yourself a legitimate shot.
2.) Trying is no longer fun.

You really should read the whole column (And the other columns too. Yes novel writing and screenwriting are different in many ways, however, things like: coming up with a concept, naming your characters, finding a good title, story momentum, and many many many other topics - are concerns that all storytellers share.

That's it from me. Want to read more cool thoughts on writing? If so I suggest you hurry on over to Mindless Musings. Go now.

Friday, November 14, 2008

I Love Your Blog

As you can see directly to the right I have recently been awarded with the highly coveted I Love your Blog award from the fabulous Debora Dennis aka The Saucy Scribe. As the age-old tradition dictates this is not an award for Scrooges, but one that is paid forward to other worthy blogs. However, before I pass the torch, or more accurately -the jpeg image, I want to take a moment to thank everyone who made my receiving this reward a reality.

Thank you to the Academy, the Foreign Press, my mom, husband, baby, Debora Dennis, and finally Blogger for making it all possible. I would like to specifically not thank Wordpress whose site was so difficult to figure out that it almost scared me away from blogging forever.

And now the five blogs that I want to pass this great honor along to:

1. Rebecca Claire's Weblog - A blog from a fabulous photographer in the Knoxville area. She posts some of her beautiful photographs here, and recently had a series of posts with some excellent wedding tips.

2. Thinking Outside the Box Office - I met Faith in film school and think it's really cool that she's chosen to share some of her film insights with a movie review blog. Her most recent post was a 2008 winter preview.

For my last three I wanted to highlight some of my fellow blog chainers who I do not link to as often, but whose blogs are well worth reading not just during the chains, but at all times.

3. Mindless Musings - A great mix of writing and life related posts here.

4. Michelle McLean's Writer Ramblings - Another blog with a great mix of all things concerning reading, writing, and life.

5. H.L. Dyer's Weblog - Yes, another writer from the chain gang - and she just recently celebrated her one year blogging anniversary! If that is not reason for an I <3 your blog award, then I don't know what is.

Well, I think that sums it up and I also think it is clear by this point that I have a clear bias towards people who either A.) Use alliteration in the name of their blog or B.) Refer to their blog as a weblog. Okay number two doesn't fit into A or B - but you have to admit - it is a damn clever blog title.

Hope everyone enjoys receiving this award as much as I did, and passes it along to worthy recipients as well!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Angst, angst, angst

It's time for another blog chain, and this time I am at the end of the chain. If you want to follow it from the beginning start here with Archetype. Or if you want to read in reverse order you can find the blog preceding mine at Mary Lindsey's Weblog.

So this month's question is:

Some people argue that creative people need “angst” to produce good work. Do you? What emotions drive you as a writer?

My answer to the first question is easy. No, no, no, no - a thousand times no. Angst is what stands between me and my work - whether it be good or bad.

For me, angst is the chatter inside my brain that drowns out my story and makes me decide to sit in front of the TV instead of the computer. Or at other times when I decide to push past the angst and just write, damn it - then the angst is more like having the car covered with a pile of snow that needs to be brushed off, or in some cases maybe even chipped off , like when a nice layer of freezing rain covers it, and then maybe the locks are frozen too - this used to happen to the car I drove when I was in high school, and my mother's solution was to throw a mug of hot water at the lock, which got me in the car, but during the drive to school the lock would refreeze, which meant that I would have to crawl into the passenger seat and then kick the door to get myself out of the car. Sometimes, getting past the angst so I can write feels just like this.

So, to answer the second part of the question - if it's not angst that is driving me, then what emotion is? My answer here is a little less certain, because honestly I don't really feel emotional at all when I'm writing. At the point where I am writing and in the story, I feel more analytical than anything else. I don't laugh at my own jokes, cry when I hurt my heroine, and shake my fist when the villain gets away with something terrible. And while I am thinking about what emotions my characters are experiencing, I am not going through them myself.

If anything the emotion that drives me to write is ambition. The ambition to tell my story the best way possible and in a way that rings true.

Archetype began this question and she will wrap it up too over at Archetype Writing. The next question will start in a few days with Michelle McLean over at Writer Ramblings.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The Rainbow Connection

A while back when I was updating the look of my blog and wanted a cool picture for the header, I Googled the name of my blog - "the lovers, the dreamers, and me" - to see what I would come up with. Well, for a lyric from a song that was first sung by a frog puppet in the 1970's - it turned out to be pretty popular. It was the name of other blogs, myspace pages, and I even found a page dedicated to the song on a Muppet's Wiki.

Okay, so my link to this particular song is clearly not the most original thing ever, but my connection to The Rainbow Connection is still my own.

I've never seen The Muppet Movie, which is where the song is from (although I have seen The Muppets Take Manhattan more times than I can count). The place where I first heard and learned the song was from in fifth grade from my chorus teacher. At the Catholic school that I attended at the time, our version of chorus wasn't typical. We didn't receive the music, learn parts, or any of that. Instead we just chose songs we liked, (Bette Midler's "Wind Beneath My Wings" and selections from "Sound of Music" were some favorites) got the words, and sang along while the teacher played the piano. It was actually pretty fun, and when I reached high school several years later and learned about having to sing parts and how as an Alto I would almost never get to sing the melody again... well, my love of chorus soon dwindled away.

It was my chorus teacher who wanted us to sing The Rainbow Connection, and I think I fell in love with it almost immediately. A song with a title like that should be the equivalent of cheese in a can, and maybe to some people's ears it is, but while many things that I loved in fifth grade I have since lost interest in, (The TGIF lineup on ABC and New Kids on the Block come to mind.) this song has withstood the test of time, and if anything I get more out of it as I get older.

In high school I used "the lovers, the dreamers, and me" as my senior quote that would go below my picture in the yearbook. After college a bar that my friends and I would go to on Tuesday nights for karaoke, had a bartender who for the last song of the night would sing The Rainbow Connection in a Kermit the Frog voice. And now as a mom, with aspirations of having a writing career, I was drawn to those lyrics once more for the title of my blog.

The reason that song and those lyrics are so perfect for all three of these instances is because it is a song filled with yearning that talks about "someday" and being called or pulled towards something. Whether it's facing life after high school, closing time, or reaching towards a goal that can feel impossibly far away - this song is ultimately hopeful about the future and our ability to find what we're looking for.

The Rainbow Connection

Written by Paul Williams and used by Kermit the Frog, of The Muppets, Jim Henson Productions
Why are there so many songs about rainbows
And what's on the other side?
Rainbows are visions, but only illusions,
And rainbows have nothing to hide.
So we've been told and some choose to believe it
I know they're wrong, wait and see.
Someday we'll find it, the rainbow connection,
The lovers, the dreamers and me.

Who said that every wish would be heard and answered
when wished on the morning star?
Somebody thought of that
and someone believed it,
and look what it's done so far.
What's so amazing that keeps us stargazing?
And what do we think we might see?
Someday we'll find it, the rainbow connection,
the lovers, the dreamers and me.

All of us under its spell,
we know that it's probably magic....

Have you been half asleep
and have you heard voices?
I've heard them calling my name.
Is this the sweet sound that calls the young sailors?
The voice might be one and the same.
I've heard it too many times to ignore it.
It's something that I'm supposed to be.
Someday we'll find it, the rainbow connection,
the lovers, the dreamers and me.
La, la la, La, la la la, La Laa, la la, La, La la laaaaaaa