Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Celebrate Your Life



WRITING TIP

For the Fourth of July I had a longing for a dish I had not made in years -- New Orleans Corn Pudding. The recipe is in an old cookbook I used often. Just looking at the cover reminded me of happy times. But when I opened the cover, I saw something I had almost forgotten.






The cookbook was a Christmas gift from my mother. Gentleman Friend and I were living in West Des Moines, Iowa expecting a baby. For that reason, we did not risk traveling winter highways to our families in southwest Oklahoma. This Christmas gift gave me a feeling of home.




This Fourth of July when I read the inscription, my thoughts traveled back to the places we had lived and the fun and friends we had known and the celebrations we had shared. Open House parties at every one of our new homes, a surprise birthday party for Gentleman Friend, a "Tears in the Beer" 30th birthday party for me complete with an icy keg of beer outside in the snow, a summer swim party for the girl with a winter birthday, and more -- many more.

I could chronicle our lives in parties and happy memories.

Sometimes people tell me they don't want to write about their lives because they were too sad. You know I am no Pollyanna; as my mother used to say, "Everyone has their own bag of rocks." Instead of counting the rocks, perhaps writing about life's celebrations would be a way of recalling and recording happy times and happy memories.

LAUNCHING PAD

Make a short (or long) list of parties, holidays or celebrations you have hosted or attended. Pick any one. Write a couple of sentences about it. Tomorrow do it again. Soon you may be anticipating the writing and you can add to it.

Okay, I can't resist a little sermon here. Your life is such a precious gift, don't let it go unrecorded. Write it down -- if only for yourself.

CHOCOLATE INKWELL - Double yummy. Chocolate chip cookies stuffed with chocolate ganache. This recipe is by none other than Jessica Sullivan, the pastry chef at Boulevard restaurant in San Francisco. And wouldn't these be nice for a party?

http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/ganache-stuffed-chocolate-chip-cookies
Photo courtesy of www.foodandwine.com

Ganache-Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookies




ganache stuffed chocolate chip cookies

Yields: 18 stuffed cookies


Ingredients




  • 1 cup(s) walnuts
  • 1 cup(s) all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoon(s) all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon(s) baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon(s) salt
  • 1 stick(s) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup(s) packed light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup(s) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon(s) pure vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup(s) bittersweet chocolate chips
  • 4 ounce(s) bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 5 tablespoon(s) heavy cream
  • 2 1/2 tablespoon(s) light corn syrup
  • 2 tablespoon(s) crème fraîche

Directions
  1. Make the cookies: Preheat the oven to 375°. Spread the nuts in a pie plate and toast for 8 minutes; let cool, then chop.
  2. In a bowl, mix the flour, baking soda, and salt. In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle (or using a hand-held mixer), cream the butter with the sugars and vanilla at medium speed, about 1 minute. Beat in the egg. With the mixer at low speed, beat in the dry ingredients. Beat in the walnuts and chocolate chips. Spoon level tablespoons of the dough onto 2 ungreased baking sheets, about 2 inches apart. Refrigerate for 30 minutes, until firm.
  3. Make the ganache: Put the chocolate in a bowl. In a saucepan, bring the cream and corn syrup to a boil; pour over the chocolate and let stand for 1 minute. Whisk until smooth. Whisk in the crème fraîche. Refrigerate the ganache, stirring occasionally, until thick and spreadable, 1 hour.
  4. Bake the cookies for 12 minutes, until golden; let cool on the sheets for 2 minutes, then transfer to a rack to cool completely.
  5. Sandwich the chocolate-chip cookies with the ganache and serve.

See the updated Resources Page.
See the new Helpful Books.

Photos by Carol Newman unless otherwise noted.

All rights reserved 2014 There's An Angel In Your Inkwell®

Monday, July 14, 2014

There You Are



WRITING TIP

Young adviser and I have a favorite saying: Wherever you go, there you are. 

Recently I visited a friend in Anacortes, Washington. 


You can imagine how we spent most of our time in such a beautiful place -- outside and talking. 



One day as I was telling about the events that led up to Gentleman Friend and I settling in Leawood, Kansas, she said, "You must really love him." 


Valentine Roses - the flower of love

I laughed. It's true, of course, but why had she said that?

Because the events I had been relating constituted a story.A life of ups and downs. Together with Gentleman Friend.  A story of where I had been and how I got there and where I am now.

What I was telling her was a very literal story of where I had been -- where I had lived: Albuquerque, Des Moines, Middletown, Ohio-- and others in between.

Here is what we can learn from this. There is a story in location. How has it formed you? What did you learn? How are you the person you are because of where you have lived? Jerry, a member of our writing group has lived in Germany and France, and other places, too. Louise grew up in Russia. Ronnie is from Brooklyn. Stella has always lived in Kansas City, Kansas  -- yet it was a time of a historic flood and the impact of the meat packing industry on immigrants, families, and the city. Each person has wonderful stories that could only be lived in those particular places. Each person has been shaped by the culture, religion,  food, beliefs and economic and political situations in those places.

I like to say I have lived up and down Interstate 35 -- not very interesting at first glance. Yet, my friend found a story that brought a tug at her emotions.

LAUNCHING PAD

Make a list or a mind map (a non-linear list) of the cities, states, countries, houses or apartments where you have lived. Write about the details and how you were shaped by them. Farm girl? City girl? Where were you then? Where are you now? Because -- wherever you go, there you are.

CHOCOLATE INKWELL

Today's recipe, from Smitten Kitchen, is perfect for summer -- Brownie Ice Cream Sandwiches. Of course, you can use plain vanilla, but the author uses a combination of flavors. On her blog, she also has great photo illustrations of the procedure. Besides liking this particular recipe, I like this blog.


brownie ice cream sandwiches
Photo and recipe from www.smittenkitchen.com


For the brownies
3 ounces (85 grams) unsweetened chocolate, roughly chopped
1 stick (4 ounces or 115 grams) unsalted butter, plus extra for pan
1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon flaky sea salt or 1/4 teaspoon table salt (about 2 grams)
2/3 cup (85 grams) all-purpose flour

For the filling
2 to 3 cups ice cream

Heat oven to 350°F. Line two 8×8-inch square baking pans with parchment paper, extending it up two sides. Butter the parchment and exposed sides of the pan or spray them with a nonstick cooking spray.

In a medium heatproof bowl over gently simmering water, heat chocolate and butter together until about 3/4 of the way melted. Remove from heat and stir until smooth.

Stir in sugar until fully combined, then eggs, one at a time and vanilla. Stir in salt until combined, then flour, until it just disappears.

Divide batter between two prepared pans and spread it evenly — an offset spatula will make this easier.

Bake on different racks for 12 to 15 minutes, rotating once top to bottom and front to back, until a toothpick inserted into the center of each pan comes out batter-free.

Transfer hot pans directly to freezer (you can put down dish towels or a cooling rack to protect shelves). Chill until cold and firm, about 15 to 20 minutes.

Remove first pan from freezer, and, working quickly, cover with ice cream.  Use a spatula to smoosh it down and smooth the top.

Remove second brownie pan from freezer. Run a knife between edges of brownie and pan to make sure it’s not sticking anywhere and use parchment sling to life the brownie out of the pan, remove the parchment and place it on top of the ice cream.

Place the empty brownie pan on top of the brownie lid, to weight it, and press down a little.

Keeping the weighting pan on top, return brownie-ice cream stack to freezer until fully firm, another 30 minutes.

Run a knife around brownie stack again to make sure it’s not stuck, and use the parchment sling to transfer the ice cream sandwich block to a cutting board. Cut into squares —  cut it into 16 (4×4) or make 25 (5×5)

You can store the cut sandwiches in an airtight container or bag in the freezer as-is, or individually wrapped in squares of waxed paper. They should keep for at least two months in the freezer, but good luck with that.



More good stuff about memoir and life story writing can be found at Angel In Your Inkwell website.
(You are at the Angel In Your Inkwell blog right now.)

All rights reserved 2014 There's An Angel In Your Inkwell®





Monday, July 7, 2014

Land a Plane on an Aircraft Carrier


READING TIP - because reading, reading with awareness, is the best "how-to" available to a writer, occasionally I will be devoting a post to a particular book.  COMING SOON - The book posting will then be archived on the new Helpful Books page at www.angelinyourinkwell.com (Webdiva Jane has not received all the information from me yet so the page is not up. I jumped the gun in telling you because I am so excited about it.)

Sometimes I read a book that is so exciting in some way that I want to tell you about it. To make that a better process, the sister website of this blog, www.angelinyourinkwell.com, will soon have a page devoted entirely to book recommendations.

Don't dash out and buy these books. Most are available at a public library and you may want to read only a few pages in some of them. The books will be listed according to most recent posted.

The first book is one I found so exciting I actually read passages aloud to Gentleman Friend and then we talked about the great writing. The book is Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why by Laurence Gonzales.

This is a book you may not want to read in its entirety so in the description on the website, I have listed pages that give you a taste of the writing. Notice how the author creates powerful and vivid writing mainly by good reporting and strong word choice.

LAUNCHING PAD

Just because we aren't writing about aircraft carrier pilots or mountain climbers, it doesn't mean we can't create strong writing. That doesn't mean over dramatizing; it means avoid cliches, avoid abstract terms, and avoid wordiness. Here's what makes this difficult. Choose meaningful details. Make your words do double duty; make them give additional information.

For example, a car might tell us something about you or your character. An over-70-year-old member of my writers group, drove a bright yellow Mustang convertible. I know another woman whose SUV has a dog kennel in back; she trains service dogs. Do you shop at Whole Foods, Aldi, or Price Chopper? Your choice tells us something about you.

Here is the Launching Pad -- Write a paragraph (or book or anything in between) about your everyday life. You might write about a trip to the grocery store or a trip to the dentist or baking a frozen pizza. Follow the example of Laurence Gonzales in his descriptions. What was your car like, what about the setting, what did you hear and feel? . Readers will go along with you and enjoy the trip.

CHOCOLATE INKWELL 

Still feeling the effects of all the Fourth of July food? Let's keep it simple this week.

Fudgsicle<sup>®</sup> Low Fat Pops

Buy a box of Fudgsicles and call it done. Few calories or fat per serving and they are fun to eat.

Here is a question.  Our street has lots of children, five preschoolers in just the house next door and one across the street, so the street is definitely on the ice cream truck route.What do ice cream truck treats cost these days?

Learn more about making your writing interesting by looking in your Write Your Life Story in Eight Weeks Workbook, pp. 14-15. 

All rights reserved 2014 There's An Angel In Your Inkwell®

Monday, June 23, 2014

It is time to update

Time passes. Things change. Become outdated. It is past time for the Resources page on my website Angel In Your Inkwell website to be updated. (You are reading the blog.)

In fact, it is past past time. 

It is ten o'clock on a June morning as I write this. As you can see, my office clock did not "spring forward." 


It's time to update.
(Photo by Carol Newman)
Nevertheless, I have been updating the information that goes on the Angel Resources Page. I am removing non-working outdated links, adding new links, moving things around a bit. Next, I send the changes to Webdiva Jane, (and I mean diva in the best sense) who will "fix them up" (That is low-tech talk for whatever the magic is that Jane does to make the website wonderful for your use.)

So you won't have to wait until everything is all done, here are a couple of examples of things you can find at
Angel Resources Page. (Remember, the page itself is undergoing changes. That's why I am showing you some samples here.)

 www.lexfn.com/ A dictionary, thesaurus, and so much stuff about words, it's scary. 

 www.bartleby.com/reference Supermarket for the writer. Includes reference, quotations, verse, fiction, non-fiction, apples, oranges and the kitchen sink.

 www.archives.gov  National Archives. Any historical information created or received by the Federal Government.

Aren't these great resources? Stand by for more.

Not to worry. The Writing Tip, Launching Pad, and Chocolate Inkwell will be back next time. 

If you have a copy of Write Your Life Story in Eight Weeks Workbook, most of these are listed in the back on the Resources Page there. 

You can share this post on Facebook or Pinterest by scrolling down and clicking on the icons.


All rights reserved 2014 There's An Angel In Your Inkwell®


Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Fast, Fun, Better Writing

WRITING TIP

This week's writing tip combines relaxation and work. No, now that I think about it, it is all work.

What is the best thing any of us can do to improve our writing?

The answer is right here in this picture.

A week ago, chilly enough for a fire -- in June.

Drink tea?

No. The best way to improve writing is to read. Read the type of material you want to write, but read everything else, too. While you are reading, keep your analytic mind engaged. Be aware of the mechanical details -- not just of the words -- everything.

I was reminded of this when Gentleman Friend received a free copy of Western Horseman magazine.



 A horse has never been a part of my life; however, as I flipped through the magazine, I soon was engrossed in reading.

The articles are constructed like articles in most magazines, but because I know nothing about the subject, the structure of the article became apparent. Opening paragraph, reporting, background, flashback, vocabulary, quotes, setting, conclusion that tied back to the opening. It was all there, but it was easier to see.

Read. Learn. Write.

There you go. That's all there is to it.

Oh, and maybe think a little, but that is harder work -- for another day.

LAUNCHING PAD

Go to the library. (This is fun already.) Find two magazines about subjects that are of absolutely no interest to you. Photocopy a story from each magazine.

(Here comes another fun part.) Get out your colored markers (If you don't have colored markers, buy some.) (More fun -- a trip to the office supply store.)

Now mark the opening paragraph. Where does it begin? Where does the writer let you know what the story is about? Mark that. Look at the quotes? What purpose do they serve? Where does the writer give background information -- flashback? Mark those places too. Unsure how to use quotation marks? Look at how they are done in the story. Where is setting described?

If you are writing a book -- novel, memoir, history, how-to, for example -- buy some used books that you can mark up. Look at the contents. Look at the overall organization.

Note the techniques you think would work for you -- as well as those you would not want to use.

You get the idea. Read. Learn. Write.

CHOCOLATE INKWELL 

Chocolate Cherry Bomb Cookies
photo and recipe from www.hungryhappenings.com





Ingredients: 

1 Pillsbury Devil's Food Cake Mix 
1 1/4 cups water 
1/2 cup vegetable oil
 3 eggs 1/4 cup - 
1 tub Pillsbury Classic White Frosting*
30-48 Maraschino Cherries with stems* 
16-22 oz. tempered semi-sweet chocolate (or   dark confectionery coating/candy melts)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare cake pan/s by spraying with no-stick cooking spray. Blend cake mix, water, oil, and eggs in a large mixing bowl until moistened.  Using a hand held mixer , beat on medium speed for two minutes. Pour batter into prepared pan/s.  Bake for 29-35 minutes (see package for specific times for each pan size). Cool cake completely.


Crumble cooled cake into a large mixing bowl.  Add 1/4 cup frosting and mix until well combined. Add more if needed. Scoop mixture out by the tablespoonful.    Roll each scoop into a ball.
-

Drain maraschino cherries and pat dry with paper towels.  Press one cherry into the center of each cake ball.  Bring the cake mixture up and around the cherry.  Roll in between your two hands to form a nice ball. -


Melt and temper semi-sweet chocolate or melt confectionery coating/candy melts. Dip cake covered cherries in chocolate.  Set on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Refrigerate if using tempered semi-sweet chocolate until set, about 10 minutes.  If using dark candy melts, place your cherry bombs in the freezer until set, about 5 minutes.  Bring to room temperature before serving. –


Note: I do not know why the appearance of the recipe paragraphs is inconsistent. So sorry. But if you are truly dedicated to chocolate, you will be able to rise above my shortcomings. Enjoy!
To learn more about how to use reading to improve your writing and to see short examples, refer to the following pages in your  Write Your Life Story in Eight Weeks Workbook: pp. 7, 11, 14, 15, 16, 19, 20, 23.

All rights reserved 2014 There's An Angel In Your Inkwell®