Do little kids still do show-and-tell in class? It’s been too long since I had a preschooler around, so I really have no clue. And working from home as I do, it’s maddening to stumble on something really cool, as there’s never anyone around to share it with. (Unlike back when I worked in radio, when thousands of kids harked on my every word. Sigh.)
Nowadays, I can almost hear crickets. Or my dog scuffling about in his sleep. Derisive, mocking noises that remind me of how lonely it is to be a freelancer at times.
But back to some really cool stuff that I just have to share.
I just about fainted with joy over this idea of blackout poetry, a mode of expression thought up by Austin Kleon. Quite simply: instead of wringing words out of an unyielding brain, why not take a sea of words that are already there and black out the ones you don’t need?
What makes me think I can write? Why do I even dare call myself an artist of any kind (the label is a badge; oh yes it is, and one of the main ingredients of coolness which is why I covet it so)? There are days (like today) when everything I jot down is quite simply, just painfully awful. And I just want to curl up in a little ball and make Alternative Life Plans that have less to do with creative pursuits, and more to do with raising eight cats, or watching other people’s children.
Many years ago, a musician friend and I were fantasizing about our future fantastic rockstar selves over really bad coffee while the entire In Uteroalbum played softly in the background. I rambled on and on about the plot of my pending Great Breakthrough Novel; he rambled on and on about his ideas for The Great Breakthrough Indie Film he would write, produce, and direct.
“Dude. You have a muse,” he said, squinting as he sucked deeply on his cigarette. (He said it in the same way someone might say “Dude, you have a flake of dandruff on your shoulder.” Matter-of-factly with a touch of gentle concern. Or warning, even.)
“Seriously. Dude. If you don’t listen to what she says, she’ll go find someone else.”
I believed him. Still do. And then I stumbled upon this video. Elizabeth Gilbert shares her theory about creativity, which came to her as she pondered what she calls the “freakish” success of her novel Eat Pray Love.
What goes around once comes back again, and then kicks you right in the butt.
No, you didn’t miss any posts. I just didn’t know what else to do for a title, and I just had to share this wonderfully cheeky tip. The video’s a hoot too. Could this insanely simple little doodad really be the key to looking as fabulous as The Goddess Herself?
I’m kidding! We all know Angelina has a personal hairstylist (who probably sleeps in her walk-in closet). Moreover, everyone knows that it’s illegal to be ugly in Hollywood. Mere mortals like us have the Japanese and their extremely cool hair gadgets.
I braised turkey legs in Guinness today, and made apple turnovers, mini versions of November classics that always make me feel warm and fuzzy inside. I guess you could say it’s practice for the real thing, when you’re not ready to go whole hog (or in this case, whole turkey) just yet.
I’ve always liked mini versions of all kinds of things: lotion and soap for your travel kit, half bottles of champagne for gift baskets, a collection of small scented candles arranged just so in the bathroom. I’m a youngest child, the baby of the family, so I suppose tiny little things have always held a place close to my heart… the place that reminds me of home.
But in the kitchen, mini versions of food just make a practical choice. I opted for turnovers today, using the apple pie recipe that I’ve shared with my sister as my guide. I normally make the whole pie, but then… who’s going to eat it? Since it’s best served warm, right out of the oven, a whole pie sometimes turns mushy after everyone has had their slice. Turnovers make a cute and easy alternative: I bake about six, then freeze the rest. Served with The Hooligan’s heavenly bourbon whipped cream and a dash of cinnamon, it’s winter holidays in one bite!
The turkey legs were fun to make. As avid foodies, The Hooligan and I rarely make a menu; we just go to the store and see what’s fresh. Turkey legs were the big winner this time. Braised in Guinness with veggies and a hint of allspice, it’s an easy, one pot dish that you just chuck in the oven for a few hours. All the better to linger over that second cup of coffee with.
Oh, make sure you sprinkle your stew with crushed garlic, lemon zest and parsley before serving on a bed of polenta. Dining fireside is optional.
Learn to type with all ten fingers (otherwise you look unschooled). Dress up when you go for a plane ride. When conversing with someone, let the other person do most of the talking. These were tips I included in an article I wrote a few years ago, when I interviewed successful career women on the best advice their mothers ever gave them. To this list I added a few examples of my own: Before you date a guy, watch how he treats his mother; and teach your children how to drink wine at home so they don’t make complete asses of themselves in college. (Media Guy’s helpful input: Teach them what it feels like to get drunk and they’ll never attempt it on their own. Ever.)
I came across a few more life lessons you’ll never learn in school. There are 45 of them. Some of them (a lot of them, actually) are a bit too touchy-feely for my tastes. But I do try to abide by #13 and #17.
Many girly talents are exhibited early in a young female child’s life. Mothering instincts are practiced on dolls; business skills are learned while babysitting; socialization is demonstrated by hosting little tea parties for stuffed toys.
I never kept dolls (I liked books and baseball equipment); I watched my younger siblings for free; and when I was in kinnygarden, my mother gave me a delicate tea set made of porcelain and it had taken me less than five minutes to send one dainty cup crashing to the bathroom floor. My mother shook her head, and sighed.
I was never much of a girly girl, lacking as I was in basic skills that came so naturally to much of the sisterhood. Like braiding hair, one of those early abilities that I have never been able to develop was baking brownies. My cookies are killer and I’ve made brilliant cupcakes; but the gift for turning out a batch of moist brownies has slipped through my grubby fingers. I’ve avoided making them Brownies scare the bejeezus out of me and the fact that I can’t donate a batch to bake sales has made palpable dents in my self-esteem. It’s just not normal.
The real culprits are those wonderful gourmet brownies that are a far cry from the ones baked from an instant mix. Dark as sin and baked with Guinness, for example, these uber-brownies just raised the bar for me. Surely I’ve made batches that were more than edible. I’ve watched my galpals swoon in delight while I served them my early attempts. But my palate is just spoiled that way, and I had fallen short yet again.
Until today. Today, I have had a brownie epiphany. Craving combined with writers block does crazy things. I have made personal history today, my friends.
This recipe by Jamie Oliver took me about 20 minutes to whip up. When I saw how beautifully silky the batter was, I knew I was over that hump. Like everything Jamie creates, these brownies, with the surprising addition of dried tart cherries, are sexy and edgy and unconventional. And toe-curlingly awesome with vanilla ice-cream.
No wonder my friends were making brownies by the time we all turned 8. I thank my patient mother-in-law for her advice to beat well after each egg, beat well after each egg, beat well. After. Each. Egg.
Media Guy – my husband and the father of my two children – is away on a business trip all week. Not only do I get the bed to myself, but this means options. Not just the possibility of hanging with my galpals – although some of that is definitely in order and will no doubt involve plenty of alcohol; but bonding opportunities with my daughter, Muse/artist-in-residence. She is truly the most awesome kind of roomie. With the token male away, the house becomes a beehive teeming with estrogen; a space where Muse can work on her art and I can try and get some writing done, uninterrupted.
Yesterday she asked me to go and buy “art stuff” with her. We lugged home a sizeable chunk of terracotta which, at 20 lbs, weighed about as much as a small child. Following which I went for a run with my galpal Marie, who is also my editor. Then while Muse and I polished off take-out salad from Carls’ Jr for dinner, I dashed back and forth gathering ingredients for a pie I promised I’d bake. I finished past midnight. By 2am, Muse was busy working on a paper comparing Voltaire’s Candide to the movie Being There; and I helped (a lot) by making sure she wasn’t dozing off. In and out of sleep until 4am, neither of us got any pie until teatime today.
But I am utterly amazed that I had this wonderful productive day that, with the exception of the terracotta baby, did not involve shopping, catching up on accumulated episodes of Fringe, or consuming any kind of alcoholic beverage. Some of my very-married girlfriends have asked how I cope with a husband who travels so much. Easy: you make a girl baby, and then wait seventeen years.