Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Stop the Presses! (And pass the treats.)

Over the last three days I've eaten waaaaay too much of this amazing new cereal treat my friend Sherral invented. Just melt peanut butter and chocolate chips (in any denominations of your preference), combine and pour over raisin bran. Chill and eat. Oh, my, goodness! What a great way to impose my double standard of no-candy!

I love my double standard, and I'm sticking to it.
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Last week? Whew! What a ride. I can't believe a lot of it happened. The Centennial Celebration was a blast. I ended up doing a ton of writing about it, and the article I wrote for the local paper featuring our delightful centenarian got some attention from a national outlet. On Monday morning I got a call from the editor and she offered me the chance to redo it for Reuters. Yeah, Reuters, the international news service.

Well, shut the front door.

I reinterviewed her and whipped something up (which had the chance to be revamped almost entirely by the very nice "real" reporter for Reuters) which then got released on Valentine's morning and went out to be published in outlets such as Yahoo News, msnbc.com, and the Chicago Tribune. (I still can't believe the "real" reporter went ahead and put my byline on it. Seriously nice.)

Holy crap. (That's the phrase that went through my head about 1400 times.)

Seriously, that was one of the more traumatic writing experiences ever. But interviewing the lovely LaVona Evans was wonderful. What an honor! She bakes 10 loaves of bread a week. Kneads it by hand. What a woman!

The other exciting wiritng thing that happened was Meridian Magazine published a couple of my essay articles. One was "Seeds Grow in Dirt" which I featured here last Mother's Day. Then on V-Day they ran an essay I wrote about love. I mean, not a love story, but how I really had bad postpartum and got all offended at something a guy said and then had to eat my words and really truly came to love and appreciate the guy.

All in all, it was a whirlwind writing week. And I didn't get a single word done on my NaNo novel, which languishes.

But I'm working on it today. I MUST finish it. I will be the Little Engine that Could. I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.

Just probably not before lunch. Or before I eat another three cups of that amazing raisin bran choco-peanut butter stuff.

In Japan they call it peanuts butter. That's cute, right?

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Getting Excited for the Conference

I'm getting really excited for all the fun stuff this month.

Since fall I've been involved in the planning of our county's celebration of the Arizona Centennial. That all comes to fruition in the next week. There will be a parade Saturday and then a variety show on Tuesday, Valentine's Day, the day of Arizona Statehood. It's been great to get to know all the cool people in our community who make things like this happen, who make memories.

The next weekend I'm taking my son to see Wicked, the Broadway show. It's my first time to see it (as we live in a rural area and it's hard to get out sometimes.) We're so excited! He's counting the days, which makes me smile. What a cool kid I've been given.

THEN, the next weekend is the annual ANWA Conference. (Exciting music here, please.) This will be my fourth time to attend, and it is going to be fantastic! I can't believe all the speakers and agents and publishers the organizers have lined up. I'm really looking forward to the critique camp (and am working furiously to finish and polish a portion of my NaNo project to take with me) and to the fun girls-getaway it will be with other writers. I'm excited to see the other women in the ANWA groups that I've met at previous events, and to meet even more people. I'm excited to meet the agents and publishers. Seriously, I thrive on meeting people. It's so fun. Every time I've gone I've come away with information that has changed me for the better in some way, changed my writing, changed ... me. I love it.

So, yeah. Fun in February! A little stressy, but a great time, like Christmas. Very exciting!

Speaking of Christmas, it's almost Valentine's Day. I've heard the day after Valentine's Day referred to as "brown Wednesday" because it's the day all the chocolate goes on sale. I'm still reeling from my overdose of candy on Saturday, but I'm thinking it might be a good time to stock up on Dove dark chocolates for my husband. He loves those things! I mean, who doesn't? Seriously. Good chocolate, at the grocery store. So creamy. So fantastic. Milk is good too. I'm not particular. Give me some of each!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

The Hangover

Um, I think I have a sugar hangover.

How many berry-glace-filled crepes does it take to create this disastrous situation?

Six? Eleven? More?

I stopped counting, so we don't know when the cutoff point would likely be.

Here are the fillings I sampled today at the Primary Brunch:

Strawberry glace (with whipped cream on top)
Raspberry-blackberry glace (more whipped cream)
Granulated sugar sprinkled amidst fresh-squeezed lemon (my favorite)
A cream filling made from cream cheese, sour cream, a smidge of milk, and powdered sugar
Various combinations of the above

Of course, I didn't skip the savory crepes filled with a cream of chicken soup/shredded chicken/sour cream sauce.

There was also a fruit tray, plus a selection of sausage, and a chocolate syrup I completely forgot about.

It was a delicious morning, and an afternoon spent wondering if someone could please bring me a Tylenol. Complete, delicious gluttony. It might be time to reexamine my self-control.

Meanwhile, I'm back on the NaNo attack. I've done another (almost) 20,000 words, and I'm thinking it's possible I'll get the whole first draft done this month (in spite of about a dozen other projects I probably shouldn't have taken on.) I love that when I'm done with the draft I'll actually be able to work on the rewrites so it has a hope of being readable.

Oh, back to crepes again. Every time I make crepes for other people, they act so shocked or impressed, like there's some big mystery to making crepes. Uh, not. I don't make things that are tricky or involved. Here's the recipe I used:

2 eggs
1 1/2 cups milk
1 cup flour
2 T oil
2 T sugar

Place all ingredients in blender. Blend until smooth. Heat a small frypan (spray with Pam). Pour in about 2 tablespoons of batter and lift the pan and swirl it until it reaches all around. Cook just on one side. Flip out onto a plate. Place a strip of waxed paper (a thin strip will do) between crepes to make them easy to separate. Serve with any filling. (If you're doing savory, switch the sugar for 1/3 tsp salt.)

Not tricky. Sorry. Now I realize I'll be less impressive now that everyone knows that my ancient Chinese secret (Calgon) is so ridiculously simple. Go make some. But don't OD. I don't recommend it!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Japan, Ahhh

I have been thinking a lot about Japan this week. I met the Secretary of State (for AZ) yesterday. He, too, served as a missionary in Japan years ago. We had a brief, stilting (on my part) conversation in Japanese, and he seemed to have adored the country as much as I did.

A couple of weeks ago I decided I was going to check out Google Plus. It's still not capturing me as a social media snag-of-all-my-time, which I should be thankful for, and I might go back and check out my circles sometime, but for now I have to say one really spectacular find did come out of my venture into Google Parts Unknown. It made me stumble across Shoot Tokyo.

Shoot Tokyo is a blog of a guy, Dave Powell, who lives in Tokyo and goes to different neighborhoods and takes pictures and posts them and comments on them. A post a day. So many of his pictures for me are what I'd call in Japanese "natsukashii," or nostalgic~. They make me sigh and wish I could see that beautiful place again.

Maybe a zillion people will buy my sumo wrestling book and I can use the proceeds to take my family to see Japan. Wouldn't that be a dream?

One post of his in particular was a doozie on my nostalgia-ometer. It is of an alley in a neighborhood called Shinjuku, which is where I lived. This is yakitori alley, a narrow, narrow street where they sell yakitori (cooked bird/chicken on a stick. Tender meat, soy and sesame seasonings, salty perfection.) Since I spent so much of my time in that city on foot walking around meeting people, this is the Tokyo I saw very often. It was warm, with smiling faces, friendly merchants, giggling school girls, grinning grandmas, good feelings.

I loved Japan. I still love it. The Japanese people I met were more than kind to me, they were embracing. It's a beautiful place for a thousand reasons. I had to write a novel about Japan--and I hope when the book comes out that those who read it get a similar sense of wonder. My goal was to take readers on a virtual trip to the islands of the rising sun, tell them a story, and let them dream. I hope I succeeded, even in a small measure.