Anniversary Dinner – Pinterest Style

The picture you see above is the finished result of our belated third anniversary dinner. I decided, since it was cold and rainy on the one night we could do it, to have an indoor picnic in the tiny bedroom that I share with my little dog in the four-bedroom apartment I share with three other women, two other dogs, and a cat. My little bedroom was really the only space we could use for any privacy.

All you need to duplicate this is you or your significant other’s favorite recipe (the one that you can stand), a few things from the dollar store and cheap section at Target, and lots of love. (I know, I know, cue retching noise.)

The things I got from the dollar store are: tea lights, a plastic tablecloth, and wine glasses. The things from the cheap section of Target are: a bunch of fake roses in a glass vase, a short string of battery-powered lights, and more candles. Because I am a college student, I also didn’t have wine glasses, so those were procured at the dollar store as well.

I made the boyfriend’s favorite dish: chicken parmesan, or a variation thereof. I made the sauce myself, using no recipe at all, just prior knowledge from watching my mother and grandparents’ make endless batches of sauce. After heating the olive oil in a saucepan, I seasoned it with garlic, salt, pepper, oregano, and basil, and added the onions. Then the canned tomatoes were poured in, and I crushed them with a wooden spoon in the pan. Unfortunately the tomatoes, being whole, had seeds, but this was overlooked during consumption. A splash of red wine, and I let it stew for a while on low heat.

The boyfriend helped with the chicken and the salad like the decent adult he is. I forgot the flour step of the breading and had him dip the chicken in egg, then Panko breadcrumbs. The chicken cooked in a pan for about five minutes, then was placed on a baking sheet, drizzled with sauce, and covered in mozzarella. He slid it into the oven, set at 350 degrees, until the coating was golden under the white and the red of the cheese and the sauce.

The pasta being boiled and the salad made (nothing special, just a lettuce mix, cherry tomatoes, and diced apples, dressed with honey and apple cider vinegar), dinner was ready. Beverages were red wine for me, beer for the boyfriend – while I love wine and dislike beer, he’s a beer drinker to the core.

I had spread the red plastic tablecloth on the floor, and the boyfriend helped me move my trunk to serve as table to the center of it. I draped the battery-powered lights across the trunk, lit the candles, and we brought in the food. It was romantic with candlelight and delicious, especially so since we made the meal together.

Please feel free to like, comment, share, and replicate!

Five Favorite Movies

In no particular order:

  1. Midnight in Paris (2011)

Though this film is a Woody Allen film, I absolutely loved it. The premise of this film is strikingly similar to games I used to play and stories I used to write as a child. Plus, it takes place in Paris! With an all-star cast of characters we all know and love from the Lost Generation, this is a delightful movie.

2. Moonstruck (1987)

A classic, this film reminds me of my own family on the maternal side, albeit my family is much larger. A film that at first glance seems serious, it is a comedy that capitalizes on everyday hilarity and the awkwardness of family.

3. It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)

One of the best movies of all time, in my opinion. Jimmy Stewart is charming, and the whole film you’re rooting for him, even when that means he doesn’t get what he thinks he wants or needs. Funny and touching, a film for the family, never gets old.

4. Rebecca (1940)

This is one of my favorite books, and one of the few book-to-movie adaptations whereI believe the movie told the story better than the novel. Though it’s difficult to believe that Joan Fontaine is as plain as the heroine in the novel, everything else about the characterization remains consistent to the novel. A great book, the story really shines in the form of a film. Alfred Hitchcock does not disappoint.

5. Ever After (1998)

A retelling of the Cinderella story. As previously stated, I am a sucker for a Cinderella story. The relative historical accuracy of this film is gorgeous and lends a sense of truth to the story. Danielle is feisty but obedient, because she desires what we all do: love. Her stepmother, played by the beautiful Anjelica Houston, is a formidable but understandable villain. The ending is most satisfying.

 

Four Favorite Children’s Books

DISCLAIMER: Though these books all feature strong female protagonists, this list has not been assigned a title that excludes any gender. It is important for true feminism that all genders see many different types of people in positions of strength, whether those positions follow traditional gender roles or not.

  1. A Wrinkle in Time – Madeline L’Engle

An excellent introduction to science fiction, this book is engaging, chilling, and enlightening. This book is important not only for this reason, but also because it stresses Meg’s worthiness, despite her lack of conventional beauty and traditional academic success. It showed how her intelligence was in other areas, and just as valid as any other type of intelligence. This book forces the child to think while it never lets them go until the last page.

2. Ella Enchanted – Gail Carson Levine

(DISCLAIMER: Judge not this book by its movie, despite Anne Hathaway’s talent.) I’m a sucker for any iteration of the “Cinderella” story. Ella, though, is not the traditional Cinderella. Inflicted with a curse from birth that forces her to be obedient, Ella Enchanted offers an explanation besides traditional societal roles for her remaining with her abusive family. Ella disobeys to the best of her ability, and she is brave and charming and considerate. The book is full of adventure. A great read for girls and boys alike.

3. Anne of Green Gables – L.M. Montgomery

Anne is the funny, lovable, imaginative protagonist of these books (yes, it’s a series – eight books long). Her imagination inspires the imagination of the reader. The descriptions of Prince Edward Island are utterly beautiful. A delight.

4. The Diary of Anne Frank – Anne Frank

I need not tell you why this book is important. Though this book is for the middle-school age reader and older, it is an essential read. Anne is wise beyond her years, even as she goes through typical and universal adolescent struggles. This book shows the resilience of the human spirit and keeps alive the legacy of one of the best writers of the twentieth century, who was struck down in an untimely manner, and torturously and inhumanely.

Social Media

If you follow me on other social media you may have noticed that much of my information is no longer visible, and some social media accounts have been deleted entirely. The reasons for this have their source in my Digital Rhetoric class.

Firstly, in Digital Rhetoric the knowledge that my information is recorded and surveilled was reiterated to me. This disturbed me. Even though I have nothing to hide, it disturbs me that something that is supposed to be fun and a way to keep loved ones updated on my life is something that can be used against me, even if that detriment is just to advertise products I do not need and promoting consumerism and materialism through those advertisements. That is one of the minor evils, but an evil nonetheless.

The other thing Digital Rhetoric has revealed to me is the pervasiveness of social media. In Digital Rhetoric I have been required to create a blog, an Instagram for that blog, and a Hootsuite account for the Instagram. These interconnected medias are almost necessary in today’s supersaturated society, if one wants to be noticed.

Obviously I want this blog to be noticed. But the rest of it? I’m fine with keeping it to myself. I would delete Facebook entirely if it wasn’t for the following reasons: I use it to log in to just about everything else because remembering passwords is not a forte of mine; I have family and friends who do not use any other social media and it’s an easy way to keep them updated on my life; I use it to share this blog; and there are others in my life whom I want to see succeed, and again, Facebook is an easy way to stay updated.

So do not be alarmed that my social medias have become limited or have disappeared. I’m fine. Everything is fine. I was not hacked. I’m just over it.

The Block and the Sludge and the Muse

The block is coming.

The writer’s block.

I know what needs to be written, for the most part. The thing to do is to write through this less-inspired moment until I reach inspiration again. The only way to reach inspiration is not to rest and expect the mountain to come to Mohammed. Resting is all well and good and can help on the journey, but it won’t get you anywhere in and of itself. The only way to reach an inspired place again is to work through the sludge. To write anyway. To write and write and write, even if it’s trash, to write even though you hate every word, to write.

Like I’ve said before, the only way to do the thing is to do the thing. Even when you don’t want to do it. Even when you feel like trash and everything you’re writing is trash and why are you doing this and maybe you should wait until you’re blessed by the muse once more.

Except, the muse won’t work unless you do. While a benevolent deity, she won’t bless a lazy writer. She won’t bless the writer who isn’t already actively trying on his own. She sees the effort, she appreciates it, and then she nudges the writer along to keep the work going. An object in motion tends to stay in motion, but something has to be the first mover.

I am the first mover.

Excuse me, I’m going to go write.

Frustration

My story is coming along well. Vivien (I’ve changed the spelling of her name) and her adventures are slowly gearing up to begin. I’m on chapter five, and I’ve written over thirty pages total.

Still, I feel the story is very much lacking. Or, not so much very lacking as slightly lacking, which is somehow worse. There’s a transition within it that skips “the better part of a year,” and it’s a little awkward. I have nothing to fill that almost-year with, though. There isn’t any major action that occurs in that space of time, so I don’t know what to do with it. Also, the rising action, after a diversion, will culminate soon. But I only have a little over thirty pages!

I oughtn’t worry; I can always go back. This is just a first draft. I can always expand and refine later. I just have to get the words on the page.

Besides, I know this story isn’t my masterpiece. I do think it could be a decent novel or, on my current path, novella, though. It must be written. It must be finished. I don’t know if it will go anywhere. I’d love for it to be published, but if I only finished it and it never saw the light of a bookstore, I’d be content as well.

I guess I’ll just keep rolling along.

Toolkit

Writing is a trade, and a skilled one. Like in any job, some days are more productive than others. Some days you write a (if I may say so myself) a witty nostalgia piece about your summers at camp, and some days you start a blog posts with a subpar introduction.

And, like any job, there are tools that make it possible and tools that make it more efficient. Of course there’s the standard pen and paper, which, if I am carrying any type of bag, you are unlikely to find me without. There’s the last measure of any number of applications that one can use to type on a phone, though that tends to be a cramped and limiting experience. Never forget the older technologies, like typewriters.

Then there’s my personal favorite, typing, especially on a laptop. There’s something about the sound of typing on a keyboard that makes me feel productive, especially if I actually am being productive. I like the fact that as I think, I can see my thoughts take shape as letters, sentences, and paragraphs.

No matter what, how many, or what type of tool you use, if you want to be a writer, always carry some kind of tool for your trade with you. You never know when the muse will rain down inspiration upon you, so make like a Girl Scout and be prepared.

Soundtrack

The arts are all related. Some are siblings and some are cousins, but they all are connected by indelible bonds. Dance relies heavily on music while music is enriched by dance, for example.

Many writers have a soundtrack to their writing. Some listen to a certain genre, or a certain album, or a certain playlist. Some need silence.

I have a lifelong love of and relationship with music, so I cannot listen to it without devoting my attention to it. When I write, I need to listen to music, typically a specific album (think Les Miserables and The Greatest Showman) I know so well it has become a part of me, so it’s not overly distracting. Most of the time, though, I just need background noise. Silence is oppressive when too frequent. For me to only write in silence would mean I would almost never write.

I like places like the library or coffee shops, or even class when I’ve already finished the assignment and am waiting for the lesson to move along. I like that element of the forbidden; it works as an increaser of urgency and so is motivation for me. Writing something non-academic in a traditionally academic setting isn’t totally breaking the rules, but it’s bending them just enough to add a feeling that I’m doing something I shouldn’t be doing and that I shouldn’t be caught. This causes urgency – just finish that chapter, that thought – and motivates me. Sometimes I write something good, and more often it’s trash. But I’m writing, which opens the door to more writing, more ideas, and more creativity.

Another reason I like the library, coffee shops, and sometimes classrooms is that there is typically a soft to moderate background noise in them. The sounds of conversations, snippets of gossip, anecdotes, the music playing softly from the speakers, are just enough to distract me a tiny bit when I’ve been focused for awhile, but not enough to continue to distract me for long.

So that is my soundtrack. The conversations of others and soft music emitting from speakers, just loud enough that I know it’s a melody, but not loud enough that I can discern the lyrics.

What’s your writing soundtrack?

It’s Happening

Well, it’s happening. I’m writing. I’m doing it. I’ve got a story idea that I’m excited about and an outline.

The outline is a new addition, for me, a suggestion from someone I love and respect. It’s brilliant. I have direction. I know what to do with the story. The major plot points are catalogued; I just have to fill in the blank spaces. It’s made everything so much easier, seem so much less daunting. If I get stuck, I know where to go. The only thing to do is to ask myself why on earth I have never done this – unless required in academia – before now.

The main character, Vivienne, might look a little familiar. But hey, they say to write what you know. She’s just different enough that I’m getting to know her. You may hear about her more in the future, especially if she gives me grief.

Just wanted to let you know, there should be less posts about writer’s block now. God willing.

Authors I Love Series, Part III

IMG_0077L.M. Montgomery

Why I Love Her: Why don’t I love Lucy Maud Montgomery? The Anne series is one of my forever favorites. Anne is my friend. Gilbert is my first love.

Montgomery was a true poet. Her prose is utterly poetic. It reminds me of late springtime and the overabundance of colors and scents and sounds in the flowers and animals and plants. Montgomery has a gentle sense of humor and a grand sense of everyday romance. She delves into the human experience and describes it so gorgeously that the most commonplace experience becomes a romantic, universal, and significant one.

If you are ever in need of rich descriptions of a certain season of the year, look no further than Montgomery’s stories on Prince Edward Island. She transports the reader, engaging all senses.

Favorite Book: Rilla of Ingleside