My Snowy Day Warm-up

What do you do when you’ve shoveled the walks front and back and you aren’t expecting anyone but the mail carrier? You won’t be driving anywhere today. You going to just sit there and read?

Not today. Write? Maybe. But first I’ll make an inordinate number of trips between the best window and door views–taking photos again–repeating myself in awe-filled tones on how light and easy the frozen raindrop pebbles were scraped and tossed. “Just like granulated sugar,” I’ll say. Again.

Then as predictably as snowfalls beautify our northeastern landscape in January, I’ll start to bake. Or cook. But no Chef–like The Ranting Amateur whose postings I admire — I may try something I fancied on a recent magazine cover. I’m thinking I’ll make Anadama bread in all its molasses glory another snowy day before spring. That Betty Crocker Cookbook (first edition–1950) recipe, brown finger smudges and all, isn’t going anywhere.

ChickenBroth

Yes. On the first snowfall of the weekend I’m thinking soup. I set oven temp at 425 degrees and start cutting into 1-inch cubes the butternut squash I brought home weeks ago with good intentions. Softer now, cutting 1/2 to 1-inch discs across the solid end is a snap for paring.   NOTE: Select butternut squash with smallest bulbous end for fewer seeds and fiber to discard.

SquashBroth

A half dozen nice-sized carrots (thinly scraped with a peeler) get cut to 1-inch pieces and tossed in a big bowl with a half dozen (if small) whole garlic cloves and a sliced medium onion. 2 tbsp of olive oil and a scant shake of salt and pepper (to taste) will coat the tossed vegetables. On a cookie sheet, turn all with spatula halfway through 30 minutes in oven.
I set timer for two 15-minute segments so I can’t forget.

VeggiesOven

In 3-4 batches (depending on food processor capacity, puree vegetables along with the 4 cups of chicken stock. Mine was pretty and more textured (just the way I like it) with bits and pieces of the two shades of orange. Rather than sweeten with the whole TBSP of brown sugar, as in the original recipe, I pared and microwaved 2 smallish Gala apples in 1 tsp water  4-5 minutes while vegetables were baking, pureeing together.
GalaApples

CookedApples

When bringing soup to simmer for serving, add 1/2 Tbsp brown sugar and 1/4 tsp nutmeg to the pot. (panini croutons optional)

I have two lovely Pfaltzgraff tureens–one gray, one blue. But my smaller ceramic pumpkin was the perfect size for about 9 one-cup servings. Perfect color to warm up my snowy day!

Tureen

A LUMP of COAL

How hard could it be? A three-letter word. And the ad writer got only one out of the three letters correct?

I’m one of the few persons I know who, if I like it, will happily read a story–a book– more than once. So the Hallmark holiday story I had seen in a previous season was holding my interest. Good writing. Fine acting. Just the right amount of pathos.

Santa with list

The end of the Kris Kringle saga was approaching and I might have been resting my eyes. That’s how excited I am about the interminable commercials. I should not have looked up, but so close to bedtime (for normal folks) the side-by-side beds alternately humping up and down looked kind of inviting while amusing. Then what to my wondering eyes did appear–a 3-letter doozy, not fuzzy–real clear!

DON’T JUST LAY THERE

GET COMFORTABLE

What? Kris Kringle, the matress-ad writer goes straight to the top of your naughty list and gets a BIG lump of coal in his/her stocking. And for good measure, you might tuck in a note that says, “Go back to the third grade and unless you’re a chicken, don’t just lie there. Learn.”

 santastocking

Cure Your Fear of ME

First let me introduce background to My Wife and I, a charming musical written and produced in the 1960s, both locally and Off-Broadway. The whole book and score reflected the talent of a small radio station owner. Bill Mahoney knew–lived–family dynamics well enough to write and direct real, memorable characters and he had the skill for penning melodies and orchestrating those tunes that hummed themselves long past CURTAINS.  My Wife and I is the story’s title, the title song, and except for how I introduced it up front, would not, as a rule, be preceded by a pesky pronoun.

 

And here is where my almost-title Pet Peeves would have come in. I ditched that because it sounded too, well–peevish. And my intent is to point out a simple way to sound more schooled than a whole bunch of otherwise educated folks who routinely avoid the word ME.

My wife and I are so very much in love . . . I can still hear that beautiful opening phrase–subject of the sentence, obviously. But place the stage couple after one of these words, for example, and you will sound ignorant:  to, for,  by, of, after, from, etc.  TAKE AWAY THE PARTNER (or some other such) and it will cure you forever because you would never say “Thanks for giving a ride to I.”  Or “I’m making lunch for I.”

“The driver splashed mud when he passed by I.”  “It’s not the fault of I.” “She followed after I.” “They could not learn from I.”  Now when you put the partner words back in, your ear should be happy and forever automatic in allowing ME to take its rightful place in your speech. “It’s not the fault of Marti and me.” There! You have it!

It’s good to remind oneself occasionally that despite the best of training, how we speak may well show up on paper–or online as a blog, e-mail, or document. Colloquialisms in moderation can lend authenticity to dialogue, but grammatical errors in the narrrative show nothing but ignorance. If you know you need the cure, take it!

Critiquing? or Criticizing?

Whenever a fellow writer trusts me with a work-in-progress, giving me a chance to read it–ready or not–I am delighted. I would read it with a critical eye, even if the author of the piece were to tell me it’s already as good as it’s going to get. I have honestly considered that I may be a better editor than writer because I am a stickler for all that I have learned as correct while diligently accepting that writing styles have changed. Example: In today’s stories, one is more likely to read a reference to women than ladies. I won’t name my source, but she’s a prolific writer and much-published author of books on every age level. She should  know.

My patience is lacking when it becomes obvious that a writer has never studied the craft, but probably basks in the phrase “You have a way with words.” Not good enough.

If a writer has asked me to do so, I eagerly point out backward sentence structure, overloaded descriptions which interupt forward action, run-0n sentences, and other marks of amateur writing. But I do not rewrite. That is not the job of critiquers. Nor is it my place to out-and-out criticize. I just discovered a so-called REVIEW of a new book series for which I know the author,  and I was not just surprised. I was stunned. While the review might have been solicited (although I doubt it) the wording was nothing short of cruel and slanted to discourage any possible buyers. How mean-spirited is that? And I’m guessing nothing short of a pick and shovel would remove that from online.

Sometimes there’s no better suggestion than the one offered by Thumper’s mother: “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothin’ at all!”

Writing’s The Easier Part–of Writing

You can have the best ideas pop into your head. You may have beautiful penmanship (in which case I haven’t met you, but you may be out there). Words may fall onto your page almost publishing ready. But if your off-the-top-of-your-head writing needs no editing, I don’t know you. My educated guess is that your work needs an edit–or two–or three–or . . .     The best of writers instinctively recognize what can be left out to make their work even better. Easier for the reader to grasp–first time over, with pleasure.

So I’ll make this blog uncharacteristically short for me. You don’t need to know that even my detiorating handwriting is sometimes better than what lands onscreen. Poor eyesight, late-life computer learning–sort of–all the twists and turns and unwaranted screw-ups–give me fits.

My favorite part of writing is getting the thoughts on paper. And in long-hand on any
paper–Post-its, tablets, journals. Tapping out one letter at a time on a keyboard is not me. But unpublished, we would not have met otherwise. THANKS for reading. Love to hear from you on COMMENTS.