Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween!


My favorite story of Halloween is of my very first one. I was three and wore my bunny pajamas and my dad carried me around the apartment complex where we lived. Such an adventure! And candy too!

Do you celebrate the holiday? Have a Halloween story, fun, silly, sad, scary to share? Please do.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Fall Musings: What is Failure? Success?

Fall views from my daily walk on the Oregon Trail

Several posts of my fellow bloggers such as Beth, Helen, Kathy, Sandra, Enid and Lynda made me think about how every time the seasons turn it is a opportunity for reflection on a life's course, past, present and future. This time of year when the ground goes fallow is especially conducive to contemplating the past. Not only the past, but what it means for the present and the future. And though the past is gone, it still impacts our behaviors and attitudes today. And while judging our experiences is a bit of a folly, still it's human.

But I've discovered that in judging the past, I'm continually...wrong. Which brings us to the topic. Because, what is failure? Success? It might seem easy to say, "I wish I'd been a bestseller with my first novel and therefore I'm a failure." Except that my first novel was written when I was 11 and much of it was written in colored markers. Now I believe that attempt was a success--certainly I knew I had the passion and discipline to write at an early age! And who can know what a "success" might bring?

And what is success? Again, the definition shifts like fine sand in a loosely grasping hand. I grew up in a posh ski resort and rubbed my hand-me-down Kmart coat elbows with the children of the rich and famous and "successful." And while having money is quite useful--still I'll never forget my friend who could never be without her nanny's supervision (we couldn't go outside often--fear of kidnappers) and who had never tasted peanut butter (chef didn't approve).

I suppose we'd all agree that failure is when we hurt someone, a successful life is when we leave the world a little better off for us being in it--but what about the less important aspects? For me, I count successes when I remain true to my writing passion and true to the love I feel for friends and family. I count when I forget those truths as my failures.

How about you? What do you see as past failures? Successes? Or perhaps more importantly, how has your perceptions changed over time of what might be a success or failure?

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Basil and Creativity

Clipped basil re-rooting along with coasters I won in a contest by Enid of Steamy Darcy.

This year, none of the tomatoes were successful. But the basil exploded, witness the photo above, these are the leftovers. So what to do with all the basil? Ah, and there's the link to increasing creativity, because after using it in spaghetti sauce and in tomato cucumber salad and giving it away to friends...what's next?

Here's a few of the recipes I created:

First, preserving it:
Rinse the basil, chop fine and bottle with olive oil. Can use as is for the basil flavor alone or add garlic, onion, pepper, lemon, etc. and make salad dressing. Keep refrigerated when not using.
Hang it upside down and dry it, although this is my least favorite way of preserving it. It loses a lot of flavor, IMO.
My favorite: Rinse the leaves and put whole into a plastic bag and freeze. When the basil is frozen, crunch it up in the bag into little bits and use. A thank you to my s.o. Bruce for this, it works great.

Now for three recipes:
Add basil to any curry to make it "Thai" style.
Basil is great added to any Chinese dish, especially fried rice and chicken dishes.
Add basil to ground chicken or any ground meat when making meatloaf.
Puree basil with garlic and butter or margarine and spread on a halved French bread loaf, bake in oven (low temp or the basil will burn) for a twist on garlic bread.
And my favorite:
Tomato Basil soup:
2 cups of tomatoes (for spicier soup, can use 1 cup green tomatoes)
2 cups milk
1/2 cup of basil (it will taste strong)
Tablespoon of olive oil
2 tablespoons nutritious yeast (optional)
touch of pepper (optional)
Puree tomatoes. Heat olive oil in soup pan and add tomato puree and cook 5-8 minutes then add slowly the 2 cups of milk and simmer for 10 minutes, then add basil, yeast and pepper and simmer another 10 minutes. Soup will be thin, if you like thicker add 2 tablespoons of flour when adding milk and stir well. And my disclaimer: I'm not a professional chef so your results may vary.

Now the creativity piece--I discovered that having such a wealth of one thing, basil, led me to be creative in how I thought about basil. It became much more than "one of the spices that goes into spaghetti." It expanded and took on a more complex role in my cooking in some unexpected ways. And showed me a way to be more creative in my writing. With a character, for example, expand the character so it becomes more complex and then use the character in unexpected ways. Same is true for the plot--try thinking of it as many different ways as possible, play the what if game. What's an unexpected event? Another? Twist and turn the elements of your creativity and then jump out of boxed in expectations to another level.

Anybody got any other recipes for basil? How about a story where a plethora of whatever led to more creative thinking?