Food Crimes: Lavender Misdemeanors

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I like lavender, I do. In calming oil, in the vapor misting at the yoga studio, and in my shower gel. I have a few bushes in my yard, love to pick a sprig or two for the patio and to bring in the house to scent the air.  When I travel, I have a roll-on oil that I put on my scarf. Not only does it calm me, but it masks any odors left behind by previous travelers or brought on by the snugly conditions on airplanes.

lavender4I am not ignorant to the lavender cookies, ice cream, drinks and everything else floating around shopping aisles at the local markets and calling to me from the bakery store windows.

When I went to San Juan Island, I discovered there’s a lavender farm with, I think they said, 40 different varieties of lavender from all over the world. It’s absolutely beautiful.

Lavender has a light floral scent, not at all over powering, and it’s lovely to look at. It’s lavender3musk reminiscent of the sweet earth on which we thrive.

But, I have recently discovered, I’m not a fan of lavender infused food. While they are beautiful creations, the lavender macaroon I tasted at a nearby bakery was barely flavorful, made with a synthetic extract barely hinting of the purple flowering plant. The made-for-me lavender cupcake was moist and not overly sweetened – both of which I appreciate – and I ate it, liked it. But, ultimately, decided, what’s the big deal?

Overall, I’m not a fan of cross-over and maybe that’s what’s tripping me up. I have no lavender6desire to scrub my pores with chocolate scented exfoliate nor spread a mocha cappuccino mask over my hands, I don’t want a minty fresh eye gel or an apricot foot cream.

I desire separation. I don’t want to be tempted to lick a pineapple-coconut shower spray, and I’d prefer my cake not to reek of argon and tea tree oil.

Enjoy your fluff and fold mango laundry detergent and your vanilla frap leave-in conditioner; night-shade dryer sheets and white chocolate cookies are good enough for me.

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Food Crimes: How PSL Saved My Life.

We’ve all had those days. For one reason or another, we didn’t get enough sleep, on the verge of exhaustion, or worse – near ill, but we need to make it through, we need to show up and be functional.

Enter: Caffeine. psl3

Every day I read a different article about caffeine, it’s good, it’s bad, tea has more, coffee has more, they have antioxidant effects, people live longer, live shorter. No one study has definitively come up with one right answer.

But here’s the truth:  Too much caffeine can cause anxiety.

psl2See me two months ago for my first set of anxiety attacks. There’s a lot going on right now, but I’m usually the queen of calm. But too much caffeine and not enough physical exercise, and the onset of anxiety happens.  I know this because my sisters have anxiety and the first thing their doctors said is “cut out the caffeine and chocolate.”

Well, before I let a doctor tell me to cut out chocolate, I decided to ease back. During the summer, I’d been drinking three or four cups of tea by 2pm and sometimes an added cup of coffee by 4pm.  I know some people drink coffee all day long and are not affected; it’s what you’re used to and what your body can take. Mine decided too much was too much. I cut back to one cup a day. It wasn’t too hard. I actually still had two cups made from one tea bag; my way of cheating.

Then, school begins. Not related to caffeine, or coffee, psl1tea, chocolate or any guilty pleasures, but to a new schedule and my body trying to get used to it – I spent one night tossing and turning and getting up and laying down, breathing deep and keeping my eyes closed, but to no avail – I ended up falling asleep around 4 in order to wake up at 6am. I felt zombie-like.

I made it through my first class, but had another class to teach after an hour of office meetings.

Enter: PSL.

pslStarbucks sent me an email (yes, me personally, about their early release of Pumpkin Spice Latte), but I ignored it, telling myself I was off the hard stuff. I didn’t need any espresso and sugar to get me through the day, just good healthy food and clean, clear water. Besides, it’s far too early to imbibe on pumpkin anything.

But, see, it was one of those damn dirty lies we tell ourselves. When our next sleep is off on some unknown horizon, we must continue to function. My car turned, almost automatically into the Starbucks parking lot, and I found myself in a mist, floating to the barista as they handed me an iced-grande-half-caff-PSL-no whip.

The mixture of caffeine and sugar, the delishness of it all, kept me awake so I could earn a living, not fall on my face in front of 30 some students, and hold worthwhile conversations (I hope), with my colleagues.

Good, bad, friend or fiend, crime or not, caffeine isn’t going anywhere. Thank goodness.

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Writer Wednesday: Critique Partners – a little bit of heaven!

Some years ago, I belonged to a critique group. critique-3-300x225Of the four writers, none had been published and I became the only one who expressed specific goals. In one session, a women writer spent the whole time helping another writer without responding to the rest of us. It sometimes happened, so we weren’t offended; but the following week, the same woman spent two minutes on mine and said something to the effect, “I don’t even know what to tell you with this…” before moving to another person. I realized I was wasting my time there.

Years after that, at a meeting, I sat next to a colleague I barely knew. She mentioned she was a writer, and we soon struck up a friendship and critique partnership.

critiqueWe’d meet once a week or once every other week to read and review each other’s work. Timing and responses began bumpy but smoothed out rather quickly. We were near the same writing level, although I give her credit for being better than I. As we got to know one another, we understood what the other was attempting to accomplish in their own fiction. This helped us read one another’s work more productively.

The most important elements in a critique partnership is respecting the other, giving honest opinions without being brutal, and accepting criticism. As professionals, we didn’t experience issues in offering or receiving the feedback. At some points, we may have disagreed, but we didn’t let it interrupt what had (and has) become a successful venture.

My writing has vastly improved because of this partnership. I benefited from the critique1authentic and detailed critiques with increased confidence, which lead me to more submissions, and ultimately more publications.

 

How you might form a successful alliance:

  • A mutual understanding of writing goals and aesthetics.
  • Similar level of writing experience (or someone who has more than you. You want to grow from this experience and you’ll have a chance to give back.)
  • Trust & honesty – go hand in hand.
  • Time and availability to meet or exchange work.
  • Although it may help if you write in the same genre, it’s not required.

 

For those of you who have partners or experiences, did I miss anything?

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Food Crimes: Always Ask a Local

What I learned traveling is to not settle for the food that is offered to most tourists, but to ask a local. By doing this, I’ve eaten at the most wonderful places.

Recently I visited the San Juan Islands; while browsing the shops, I began to grow hungry, so I asked the clerks for a recommendation. They all said Mike’s.

20180819_192147I wandered the streets on the hot day, pleasantly surprised when I arrived at Mike’s Cafe and Wine Bar and read: The Islands Tallest Waterfall.

I had images of a cool mist wafting over with the breeze. I entered and asked for the patio. Even more surprised when the waterfall was a mere four feet from the ground.  An island joke – it is actually the tallest!

Being too late for lunch and too early for dinner, I had the place nearly to myself.

20180818_161700Famished, I ordered the Tomate plate. A vegan version of caprese salad. I began with that. Farm-fresh, warm tomatoes: Mmmmm…. delish.

Another secret to eating a good meal is to ask the server for suggestions: 20180818_163559(0)

The Pulled Jackfruit Tacos, she told me, were only on the menu for a limited time, a summer special edition. I was not disappointed.

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For desert: a vegan berry cheesecake.

This is the best meal I’ve had in quite a long time!

On the way

I like to ask locals their ideas for activities as well. The next day, a woman recommended I visit the small town of La Conner.

I ended up at the WaterFront for fish and chips where the server introduced their special: Guinness battered Fish. I opened the menu and asked her what she liked best. She pointed to another plate of fish and chips. This, she said, we make fresh here.

Their special came in a bag and was deep fried. It might have been good, but when I travel I want to get a flavor for the area as well as a fresher, healthier choice.

In Florence, a side street tattoo artist led me to a grande deserto: authentic tiramisu.

Lost and found at a skate park in Paris, teenage skaters pointed out a corner cafe serving Galletes.

I’ve gotten lost in every major city of every country I’ve ever traveled too. This is where you meet the locals, eat the best food, and have the most authentic experiences. Get off the beaten path and explore! Ask the locals for food and other ideas.

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Friday Feature: Building a Community of Writers – Rebecca Clark

Hi, All.  Today, I asked Rebecca Clark to tell us about The Writer’s Point.

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My name is Rebecca Clark. I am the founder of The Write Point, a free social networking community for writers, editors, publishers, beta readers, and literary agents.

Here’s my story.

For the past 15 years I’ve been writing fiction stories. Mainly for myself. It wasn’t until about 7 years ago that I thought maybe I could actually publish something! I wanted to share my make-believe worlds with others. So, I dug deep into the Internet to see what I could find about agents, publishing, the editing process, and what ever else a successful book entailed. I found several forums full of knowledgeable authors.

Forums are messy, in my opinion. I was a brand new writer lost in a world of writers who knew everything I needed to know, but somehow I felt that I didn’t fit in. There was one forum website in particular that made me feel like I shouldn’t be a writer at all. Every question I asked was answered with “google it”.

So, I googled it. I learned so much on my own, but I really just wanted to be a part of a community, some place where I felt at home with people just like me.

Last year, I decided that if I couldn’t find a place to call “home”, I’d create one. So, I did! Fortunately for me, a couple of years ago, I graduated with a degree in Computer Information Systems: Website Development and Design. I could take the time to build upon the idea, and actually understand what I was doing in the process.

The Write Point is a FREE community that I hope will become a place for new writers to feel welcome, and experienced writers can share their expertise without making anyone feel like they aren’t good enough!

Noreen, thank you for allowing me to share the story of The Write Point. To learn more about us, visit https://thewritepoint.com.

The Write Point Facebook page is: https://www.facebook.com/thewritepoint

You can also find me tweeting here: https://www.twitter.com/bekkahclark and here https://www.twitter.com/twp_network

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Many thanks, Rebecca.

Writers, Enjoy!

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Writer Wednesday – The Mystery of Flow

Door-Into-MindIdeas come easily to some writers, not so smoothly to others.

There’s a little door to our writing mind which must always remain open and then things will flow in and out. it’s a frame of mind, to be open and to listen, or to always have writing on your mind, like a song playing in the background.

In a supermarket, the cashier says something to me. It could be an every day comment that strikes me a little strange. That (creative) door is standing ajar and a shadow is leaning against the frame when the cashier, red hair piled 50’s high, said something about “blueberry pie.” But I heard Blue Pie. My writer mind twirls within possibilities. That idea that lingered at the door-frame to my writer mind smacked right into the blue pie and it became a dog named Blue and Grandmother’s award-winning pie at a local fair in the height of the home-making 50’s.

I’m standing in the window of my little home watering plants; the catnip falls to my feet and I remember a dream I had the night before. Catnip Dreams begins whirring.doors

Enough of the bleating sirens, says an annoyed neighbor upon hearing yet another car alarm as my dog anxiously howls at the buzz. He says sirens. I hear a howl. I see ancient mermaids sitting on a rock caterwauling.

The space between our everyday life our creative brain must not close. Between kids and to-do lists, work and school, it must become a screen which catches things and holds them, even somewhat distorted, until we race to a notebook and write.

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Food Crimes: A Lover’s Revenge

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Many years ago, in a suburb north of Los Angeles, Eat My Cupcake was in danger of becoming another victim of the gluten-free, sugar substituted society when Zin stepped in.

People wanted choices, she said. Eat my Cupcake changed to Eat My Muffin and featured exclusive, secret recipes that other bakers tried to duplicate but none succeeded; the some sweet, some savory, some healthy, some masquerading as healthy became a much sought-after experience.

Therefore, in the once nondescript neighborhood with the small bakery, lines around the corner formed beginning early each mornings, people waiting for the one and only Zin’s famous muffins.

Among one of the favorites was a Millet Muffin. The savory-sweet combination of light and fluffy grain pastry was a hit. muffins1

Zin was offered money, lured by head baker guarantees at more established places with promises of salary, health insurance, assistants.

But she liked where she was, who she was, and the freedom to create.

Rob became Zin’s lover years before she became almost-famous. Rob followed her from place to place, always a second to her baking but accepted the position. They loved each other.

But more hours meant more workers meant more people in Zin’s life. Zin had two weaknesses, fresh white flour and sweet young flesh. She slipped into an affair with one of her assistants, Rob was heartbroken and angry.

muffin3One night, crying over a tequila sour, the recipe came out in a drunken slur. Friends who sympathized turned for a single moment to make a note.

Zin begged forgiveness and agreed to work fewer hours, no assistants. Rob forgave her. He barely remembers his drunken night but thinks something may have slipped. Zin is blissfully unaware that her recipe is being shared in whispers like a friend’s quite insinuations.

What follows is the rumored recipe from a once famous bakery and a once famous baker.

Millet Muffins

½ cup of millet

1 ½ cup of flour

1 tsp baking soda

Dash of salt

½ – ¾ cup of brown sugar

1 (room temperature) egg

1/3   cup of butter (room temperature)

¾  cup of buttermilk (room temperature)

Mix the wet ingredients

Mix the dry ingredients

Oil the muffin pan/preheat the oven to 375.

Mix the wet and dry ingredients together and place the muffins in the oven.

Bake for 18-20 minutes.

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*Based on a true story. Names/places changed.

To the best of my knowledge, this is the original recipe. Although I have not baked them myself, I’ve been the beneficiary of the final product. Mmmm.

There are two lessons to this story. First – don’t cheat on your partner who may have your secret recipes. Second, don’t trust a writer with your stolen secret recipe.