Monthly Archives: October 2014

Time Off and Request For New Ideas

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Hi All!  I know my spinach-tomato soup post was the first in awhile.  That’s because I’ve been busy working on my middle grade novel, and I’d like to take some time off from blogging to work on that.  Also, Picture Book Idea Month (PiBoIdMo) is next month.  (I was going to post the badge on my blog, but it didn’t work).  Here is a link to Tara Lazar’s PiBoIdMo web site: http://taralazar.com/.  While I won’t be posting the actual picture book ideas I come up with, I might do some extra playing around with the daily PiBoIdMo exercises, prompts, and other inspirational posts specifically for new posts in November.  I don’t think I’ll post anything else this month, but you never know.

In the meantime, please let me know in comments what kinds of posts you would like to see in the future.  (Please comment in addition to liking your favorite posts, so I’ll have a better idea of what people like and why).  For those of you who like my poems, try giving me some ideas and methods for writing new poems.  If you’d like to see other types of posts, please let me know that, too.  You can come up with ideas based on what I’ve posted in the past, my “About” page, or anything else you can think of.

I’d really appreciate hearing new ideas for posts.  I’ll admit that besides my middle grade novel, another reason I haven’t posted much lately is that I’m kind of brainwashed for ideas.  I guess I have blogger’s blog, which is even worse than writer’s block, since I have an actual audience to write for.  Sorry about that, guys.

I look forward to hearing your ideas.  Take care, everybody! 🙂

Spinach-Tomato Soup

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The spinach-tomato soup I made, in a bowl and ready to eat with crackers!

When I made spinach-tomato soup, I didn’t want to ever stop sauteing those onions, garlic, and celery, because the veggies and olive oil smelled so good, and the sizzling was like music!  It was similar to something that would happen periodically all through my schooling years, from preschool to college. When we did something in school I really enjoyed, I often did not want to stop doing it. Then I was disappointed when we started doing something else that I didn’t like as much. Not wanting to stop sauteing the vegetables didn’t end up being that similar to it, though, because the second step after sauteing was adding thyme and oregano to the mixture. Those seasonings made the mixture even more fragrant!
The part that was somewhat disappointing came when it was time to add the canned crushed and diced tomatoes to the mixture. When I first put them in, they diluted the aroma of oregano, thyme, and sauteing onions, garlic, and celery. Soon, though, the tomatoes cooked long enough to become fragrant, and the aroma took on a whole new form. The soup became even more aromatic when I added the spinach along with basil. When the soup was simmering in the pot, I could smell all the different ingredients combined.
The recipe said to add balsamic vinegar along with black pepper shortly before serving. I had never heard of putting balsamic vinegar in soup before, so when I first put it in, part of me worried that I was making a mistake. I knew it was the right ingredient, though, when the vinegar added a whole new aroma to the soup.  It smelled right to me.  All the different smells were combined, and at that point, I was ready to see what the soup tasted like!
At first the soup was a little too acid-tasting from all the canned tomatoes, but once I added garlic and onion powder, it tasted better. I knew garlic and onion powder would be good in this, both because garlic is good in almost everything and because the soup already had fresh onions and garlic in it. Even with the garlic and onion powder, though, I knew any kind of tomato soup would taste better if it were made with fresh tomatoes instead of canned tomatoes.  Unlike the canned tomatoes diluting the aroma at first, though, this was not a disappointment.  Since it was made with canned tomatoes, I didn’t expect this soup to taste that much better than it did.  I ate it up anyway, though, because it was healthy (even though fresh tomatoes are healthier).
I am looking forward to making more tomato-based soups in the future, but next time, I would definitely like to make it with fresh tomatoes. There’s a few things I’m not sure of, though. Would a soup taste better with fresh tomatoes than canned tomatoes even if the tomatoes aren’t local or in season? I know tomatoes always taste best when both of those are the case. If I ever get around to canning my own tomatoes, would they taste better in soup than store bought canned tomatoes? Please share your opinions on these questions below.  Until next time!

I Dream of Hosting…

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Having lived in my own apartment, miles away from my mom and dad, for more than six months now, I am finally starting to get the hang of cleaning the apartment and cooking for myself on a regular basis. In order to keep our apartment clean, instead of constantly forgetting to do cleaning tasks, my fiance and I will need to pick chores we can do during the week and chores we should save for one of the two weekend days. We should both stay home on that day, which would also give me time for my writing when I’m not cleaning. In order to keep this day free, I know I will need to pick and choose which events I attend over the weekend and which ones I don’t. I go to lots of potlucks and dinners, and, even with my setting aside one day of the weekend to clean, such events will be much easier once I can host them myself. The apartment I have now is too small for that, but that won’t always be the case.
Someday, after a day of cleaning, I will be able to have my fiance’s parents over for dinner. Then I’ll be able to cook for them, instead of his mom always cooking for us. I will need to make it clear, though, that this is one of my rules: if I won’t eat it, I won’t cook it. This means no red meat when they have dinner at our house. Peppers may be okay, even though I don’t like them, since I can eat around those. No desserts made with bananas or coffee, though, since I don’t like either of those. I know they’ll be happy as long as they get their chocolate, something I definitely approve of.
I’ll be able to entertain other people, too. The sky is the limits for the types of parties and potlucks I can host! I’ve thought about hosting charity parties around the holidays and environmentally conscious potlucks at other times of year. I should think of what types of creativity parties I can host, too. I’m sure I’ll get ideas from the Arty Party this Saturday with the Unitarian Universalist Women’s Group. I can also think about the holiday parties my writers’ group back in Virginia hosted, as well as their Writers’ Block Parties for 4th of July.
The Writers’ Block Party is an obvious play on words. It’s a potluck where we all shared what causes writer’s block for us and how we overcome it. That’s a pretty simple event. The Writers’ Group holiday party was a much bigger deal. It involved a White Elephant gift exchange, swapping regular gifts (usually pens, notebooks, and other writers’ gifts), and usually a raffle for a writing instructional book. A White Elephant gift exchange is definitely something I’d like to host someday. Those are a lot of fun. You never know what you will get or who will like what they unwrap.
The only other idea I have so far for a writing/creativity party is doing group writing exercises together. If you guys have any ideas for creativity parties, environmentally conscious parties, charity parties, or occasions for a White Elephant gift exchange, please share them with me.
That’s all for now, folks! Please check back soon.

Orphan and Dog Story

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“Before we can adopt a dog,” said Betsy “we’ll have to set up an interview. That’s a rule for anyone who wants to adopt from the animal shelter.”
“What’s an animal shelter?” asked Angie.
“It’s like an orphanage for dogs and cats,” Betsy replied.
“So, are the dogs and cats at an animal shelter like us?” asked Angie.
“Sort of,” said Betsy. “They don’t have any mommies or daddies, and they’re all waiting for someone to think they’re cute and take them home.”
“Then we can all be their mommies and daddies!” Jason chimed in, jumping onto Betsy’s bed.
“Yes,” said Betsy. “But this won’t be as easy for us as it would be for our new mommies and daddies.”
“Why not?” asked Jason.
“Well, for one thing, any new mommies and daddies we get would have cars. We don’t have a car.”
“We can walk!” retorted Rachel.
“You think walking ten blocks would be easy?!” snapped Betsy. “Besides, that’s not even half of it! Our new mommies and daddies wouldn’t have Ms. Harquin constantly waiting for them to do something bad so she can scold them!” All the orphans looked at Betsy in silence.  At least some of them hated to admit it, but they all knew she was right.
The whole group had gone quiet in unison.  Angie was the first to speak up after the silent spell was over.
“So, can we still try it?” she asked. Betsy looked around the room at all of the eager little faces, each with his or her own reason to coax her into trying to get a dog to keep at the orphanage.  Angie, the littlest, needed someone to comfort and protect her. Jason needed something to remind him of the little terrier he had lost along with his parents. Rachel needed someone to mess around with when the other orphans were too worn out. And Betsy had to admit that having a dog would cheer her up, too. But how were they going to pull this off? Betsy knew she’d have to think of something soon.

Are Humans Like Voldemort?

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I have been known to say that humans are like Voldemort. If we really want to kill a creature, we can and will. I’ve said this because as we speak, humans are wiping out many endangered animals.  As if that wasn’t enough, when still-plentiful animals adapt to the unnatural surroundings humans have created, we try to get rid of them, too, because they’re supposedly interfering with our quality of life. That really makes me angry.  We have endangered and wiped out so many species that I fear we will also wipe out mice, rats, pigeons, cockroaches, and other creatures that adapt well to development if we try hard enough. That’s why I think if humans really want to kill something, it will happen sooner or later, hence my comparison to Voldemort.
People have told me that this isn’t true. They’ve told me that some so-called pests, especially cockroaches, can withstand anything humans throw at them, and will be around long after everything else dies out. I hope that’s true. I hope cockroaches and other pests ultimately win the fight when we try to wipe them out. But even I have come to question myself on how accurate the comparison of humans to Voldemort really is. Before I get to that, though, let me vent a little.

It’s as though humans are saying to cockroaches and other creatures we consider pests, “How dare you adapt to your new surroundings after I destroy your natural habitat?” I mean, what the heck? When their habitats are altered, animals can do one of two things: adapt or die out. What, Humanity, did you expect all wild creatures, or at least the ones you don’t like, to die out when you developed their land? I’m afraid that doesn’t happen as often as you’d like, Humanity!

Okay, now that I’ve gotten that out of my system, I can talk about my own perception of why the Voldemort analogy might not work with humans. Here’s what I think:  When looking at all those times we’ve wiped out or endangered a species, we often see that it was done indirectly.  For most of those instances, It was not a direct or intentional action. It may be that none of the species that went extinct at humanity’s hands did so because humans wanted to wipe them out. Well, okay, that did happen with wolves, which is why wolves are still endangered today. Wolves were believed by humans to be pure evil, which is why we tried to eradicate them. I’m sure there have been other cases like this, too, but it still seems that the vast majority of animals that have gone extinct at our hands were killed indirectly, not directly, by our actions. Very rarely have we endangered a species because we wanted it to go extinct.
Even when we try to get rid of cockroaches or other “pests,” we’re usually not trying to completely wipe these creatures off the planet. We just don’t want them near where we live, and, since none of these creatures are endangered, wiping them out near where we live wouldn’t be a problem, if the methods we used killed only them and not other living things. But that’s another rant for another day.

Anyway, I really do think we should learn to live in harmony with all living things, instead of trying to wipe them out near where we live. I mean, what’s wrong with cockroach-proofing your house, and letting those bugs live alongside you? Ultimately that’s all we can do, considering cockroaches are predicted to be around for at least as long as we are.
That’s why I think pest-proofing our homes, our crops, etc, is the best solution. In other words, I think making it so these critters can thrive without harming our homes is the best way to deal with them. After all, God made all living things to live alongside each other. I should research the different ways people can pest-proof their homes.
Another solution, of course, is taking advantage of the methods Mother Nature made to control the populations of these pests. One way of getting rid of mice and rats, for instance, is making your yard a favorable habitat for owls. I should research methods similar to that, too, for Mother Nature meant for owls to be the exterminators of rodents, not humans or domestic cats.
I know another example of taking advantage of a natural predator for pest control is making sure crops have lots of lady bugs for eating aphids. Just as owls are an important alternative to cats, which unfortunately kill smaller birds as well as rodents, ladybugs are an important alternative to pesticides, many of which will poison any living thing that comes into contact with it. That brings me back to the point I made before, which is that controlling pest populations wouldn’t be nearly as problematic if the methods we used killed only what we intended them to kill, not so many other living things, including humans in some cases. Everything is connected, and one of the many things this means is that what kills one living thing will often kill others. That is an important message to keep in mind when we want to control pests, and an important reason why it’s best to try to live in harmony with them instead.
In short, I guess humanity isn’t that similar to Voldemort. As a whole, we’re more like a dangerous beast that doesn’t know it’s own strength. I mean, we go to kill just one kind of bug that’s devouring our crops, and we end up killing a vast number of other living things in addition. It’s more that we don’t know how capable we are of killing. Or maybe we do know, but either keep forgetting or try to deny it. Maybe both, depending on the circumstances.

We Are All Responsible

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“The Earth is not dying, it is being killed, and those who are killing it have names and addresses.” This quote by Utah Philips, a folk singer and labor organizer, is true; but not in terms of what it implies. It’s true because we’re all responsible for this dying planet.

This quote, as well as shows like “Captain Planet” and other stories about environmentalism, kind of suggest otherwise. “Captain Planet,” for example, acts like the Planeteers and their followers are guiltless in terms of environmental degradation, just because they take actions that lessen their environmental footprints and encourage others to do so. The show acts like only the big bad Eco-Villains, like Hoggish Greedly, Looten Plunder, and Dr. Blight, who all have the specific goal of polluting the environment, are guilty of environmental degradation. Individuals like the Eco-Villains don’t really exist, partly because nobody has the actual goal of hurting the environment, but especially since all humans are responsible for environmental degradation, not just a select few. That’s why I don’t like Utah Philips’ quote; it implies that environmental degradation is caused by a select few human beings. If everyone keeps thinking like this, blaming environmental degradation and other world problems on individuals besides themselves, no progress will be made in solving these problems.

“Captain Planet” was also wrong to suggest that every Planeteer is without an environmental footprint. No one is without an environmental footprint, but we are all capable of lessening ours. Not just our carbon footprints; our overall environmental footprints.  We all should. The entirety of this belief, in fact, is that we are all part of the problem, but we can all be part of the solution, too. Since we’re all part of the problem, nobody really has a choice but to be part of the solution. I’m sick of people acting like they do.

I used to want to write stories like Captain Planet, where there are evil villains causing environmental degradation and guiltless environmentalists trying to stop them. My most famous idea of this sort has been “Environmental Snow White,” with the Queen as an evil CEO. This is a story I only just recently stopped toying with. Utah Philips’ quote did not make me want to go back to writing stories like this. But I do still want to use my writing to teach about environmentalism.

This belief of mine that we are all responsible for environmental degradation is summed up in a sequence of four poems I wrote.  Here is a link to those poems on one of my old blogs: http://lilyswriting.wordpress.com/2012/09/22/environmental-sequence/.  These poems had two main inspirations: an article I read on how climate change alters birds’ migratory patterns and my own belief that we are all responsible for environmental degradation. Maybe if I think more about this belief and research how climate change affects birds’ migratory patterns, I can turn these poems into a lyric essay about environmentalism.

Treadmill Tales

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Yesterday morning, I did the treadmill for 30 minutes. The bad news: I felt sore and worn out for the rest of the day. The good news: Hmm, where should I begin? I finally started exercising again after being too lazy to do so for awhile (and experiencing the results), I found a way to do more running and less walking while on the treadmill, and I managed to do 30 minutes on the treadmill for the first time in awhile. Before, all I could do was 20.
My trick for doing more running and less walking was this: make the treadmill go just fast enough to do a slow jog instead of a walk, but no faster than that. Then, quite simply, jog for as long as I can before I have to slow down the treadmill and walk for a little bit. My jogging speed is 4.0, and my walking speed is 3.4.
Now let me talk a little bit about what motivated me to do the treadmill yesterday. I will start with a little story about myself. If you have seen my “About” page, you will know it says, among other things, that I have been making up stories since I could talk. That is basically true; I have memories of making up simple stories when I was two, and since I was an early talker, I am sure I was making up stories before then, possibly ever since I could speak in coherent sentences.
Two was when I started making up and telling stories. Starting when I was four or five, I would run around in circles, making up stories in my head. I called this “thinking.” My “thinking” went on well past the age when I started typing my stories up: eight years old. One of the first stories I started typing up was “Dot the Orphan Cub.” It was about a little cheetah cub named Dot, who looses her mother to a poacher and then befriends a hyena cub, a vulture, and a wildlife biologist who takes her under her wing. What follows is many adventures as well as misadventures, especially when dealing with the evil poacher.
What I remember most about writing that story is that I had practically the whole story planned out in my head, but didn’t get very far when typing it on the computer. I don’t think I even got to the part where Dot’s mother gets shot, though I played that and its subsequent events in my head many times while running around. I think the reason I didn’t get very far in typing it up was this: Playing the exciting parts in my head was much more fun than typing the story from beginning to end on the computer.
The keyword here is “fun.” I ran around as a child, making up stories in my head, because it was fun. Lately, though, as an adult, I have not been having much fun writing my stories. I have adopted much of the discipline needed for writing, and I have been working on the middle grade novel which is currently my main project almost every day, but I haven’t been having that much fun. I have started brainstorming ways I can have fun with my writing again. Does anyone have one or more suggestions? If so, please post them below in the comments.
This is why I have started doing the treadmill: I thought maybe the act of running could help me make up stories in my head again, specifically in a way that is fun. Yesterday morning I did the treadmill while listening to songs from a favorite musical, the new “Matilda the Musical,” based on Roald Dahl’s beloved book.  I hoped both that and the running would spark my creativity, helping me come up with ideas for new and existing stories. This time around, all I got were pep talks from Miss Trunchbull and other Roald Dahl villains (I communicate with favorite characters, especially villains, a lot), but no actual stories. This could change, but if it doesn’t, I will need to find new ways of sparking my creativity in a way that is fun. That is why I am looking for ideas from my fellow bloggers.
As an after thought, I’d like to share that growing up hasn’t been easy for me. As I mention on my “About” page, I am in my late twenties, but always a child at heart. Becoming a teenager and then an adult were not easy tasks for me, especially since I had to give up playing make believe. Sometimes I want more than anything to pretend to be a character from a favorite book or movie and have someone else pretend along with me, but I’m pretty sure that’s not an option anymore. That’s why in addition to finding fun sparkers for story ideas, I am looking for activities that can take the place of make believe play. I’m sure there will be much overlap between the two. Once again, if you have any ideas for either of those, please post them below. I would greatly appreciate it.
Take care, everyone! Until next time! 🙂