Thursday, October 20, 2016

10 Ways To Avoid or Blast Through Writer's Block

I'm getting myself ready for NaNoWriMo which happens during the months of November.  This is as much for me as it is for you.

When it comes to writer's block, I fully believe that the brain stumps itself due to two things: over-thinking and lack of inspiration.

1.  Exercise
Either stick with your regular exercise workout or start one.  I find that if I stop going to the gym early in the morning, I start to feel like my blood is coagulating after a day or two, especially if I'm writing for most of my day.  It's also a good time to let your mind wander or focus on writing issues.

2. Do Something Social
I'm an introvert by nature and often feel anxiety when I'm out among people I'm not familiar with.  I still make myself get out there and be social every so often.  My godfather runs a local weekly wine club, so sometimes I go to that.  Other times, I will try to go out with some friends for lunch or have a game night or something along those lines.

3. Nature
Enjoying nature is a great way to relieve stress and to reinvigorate the mind.  Go for a walk in the woods or on a trail, take a boat ride, visit the zoo (if that's an option), go bird-watching, go to the botanical gardens...go be one with nature somehow.  When I lived in Oregon, I really liked going out to Old Salmon River Trail, even if it was raining or a little chilly.  I always felt so much better afterwards.

4. Allow Yourself Relaxation Time
You may meditate, do yoga, knit, paint, etc.  Whatever it is that relaxes you, make sure you let yourself do it.  It doesn't have to be every day, but it needs to be as often as you need it.  For me, I love reading a magazine in a hot bath while listening to music.

5. Hour of Music
If you feel stumped, dig in your music archives and listen to a solid hour of music.  No writing allowed.  Just really try to feel the music.  If you want to push it further, turn it into an hour of playing music on your preferred instrument.

6. Take Time For Food
Take the time to make some good food.  Make enough to last a few days.  Try out new recipes.  The better the food is (and healthier), the better you will feel.  It might be a good time to try out that new lasagne or casserole recipe.  It might be a good time to make your favorite comfort foods or discover new favorite comfort foods likes bacon-topped roasted asparagus, roasted brussel sprouts, homemade chicken noodle soup, gourmet mac and cheese (try with seafood or chicken or veggies), or pie.  Cooking is often seen as being cathartic, so treat it that way.  Take pride in your meals.

7.  Set Goals & Rewards
Sometimes you need a little incentive to reach your next goal.  NaNoWriMo has goal badges set at: 1667, 5000, 10000, 25000, 40000, and 50000.  Each time you reach a writing goal, however you set it up, reward yourself with something.  Perhaps a new book or a haircut or a special dessert.  If you need 1000 words to reach that next goal point, you might just find it in yourself to get there.

8. Pinterest
I really like pinterest.  I have so many boards on there for various things.  I keep track of recipes that sound interesting.  I have some boards for my sewing interests, others for the holidays (ideas for presents and food and stuff), and even some for my writing projects.  Get on pinterest and form a board for your writing project.  Spend a little time looking for inspirational pictures, art, or even items that your characters might wear.  It's a great way to form a visual collage for your story.

9. Writing Journal
I have a writing journal.  I try not to write about what I'm working on.  It might be a random scene or some bad poetry or some dialogue between characters.  I tend to write in my journal when I'm in bed or waiting for the oven timer or something like that.  It doesn't have to be much, just one page.  What this does is change your thoughts so you focus on this other writing.

10. Learn Something New
Learning new things can help your writing immensely.  Perhaps you visit a museum and walk away inspired by something as simple as the pattern on some old fabric or some old indian beadwork.  Maybe it's a documentary and you simply learn more about a topic of interest.  You will start to notice that it affects your work.  Try it out by visiting a museum, art gallery, watching a documentary, etc.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Horror Night #6

Nutty Cinnamon Bars

2 cups Walnuts
1/2 cup Almond Flour
1/2 cup Applesauce
1 tsp Baking Soda
1 tsp Cinnamon
1/4 tsp Clove, ground
1/2 tsp Ginger, ground
3/4 tsp Salt
Pumpkin Seeds, shelled (aka pepitas)

  1. Preheat oven to 375F.
  2. In a blender, nut chopper, or food processor, grind your walnuts down to a flour.  I have a bullet blender.  It took a few sessions of using the blender, then emptying out the ground down nuts.  It didn't take long.  Place your walnut flour into a mixing bowl.
  3. Add in the almond flour, applesauce, baking soda, and spices.  Mix this together.  If it's too sticky, add in a little extra almond flour (1 TBSP at a time) until it isn't sloppy.
  4. Use a silpat mat on a cookie sheet.  Spread out the batter, trying to get it around 1/4" thick, then sprinkle pumpkin seeds over it.  If you don't have pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds will work just fine.  You can lightly pat the seeds down with your hands or use a piece of waxed paper to help press the batter to about a 1/4" thick.
  5. Once your bar batter is as thin as you want it, make sure you throw away the waxed paper, and bake your batter for 15-17 minutes.
  6. Cut the bars immediately after removing from the oven.
These bars are not sweet.  They're a savory bar with a slight cake texture.  If you want to make them sweet, try adding 2 TBSP honey to the batter.  To make them more of a spicy gingerbread bar, replace the spices with this combo: 1 TBSP Cocoa Powder, 1 tsp Cinnamon, 1 tsp Ginger, 1/2 tsp Allspice, 2 TBSP Honey, 1/2 tsp Salt.

5 Witchy Films
These are my top 5 films with the theme of witches.

1. Warlock (1989)
Julian Sands stars in this film.  It's a little cheesy, but I love it.  The style of witchcraft in this film is based on Early American stories of witches and warlocks.  Julian Sands plays the warlock and Richard Grant plays the witch hunter.  They have a little time jump into 1989.

2. The Craft (1996)
This is one of those films that came out when I was in high school and every alternative chick seemed to start copying.  Some were more into the witchcraft side of things, others just liked the clothes.  This is more of a wiccan style.

3. The Witch (2015)
I just recently got around to seeing this film and it was awesome!  It's based on Early American witchcraft stories.  If you really aren't familiar with that style of witchcraft, lets just say that it's pretty heavy with the gore.  Spells in the style often called for blood or innards or the fat of a child, stuff like that.  This film is about an early homesteading family, pretty much in the middle of nowhere.  They have witch problems.  I won't say any more than that.  Just check it out.

4. Practical Magic (1998)
On the lighter side of things, you have a film like this - which isn't entirely on the light side.  I love this movie because it shows us the more practical side of practicing witchcraft - like making lotions and tonics and stuff.  That might not sound exciting to anyone, but you still have to know your shit because you never know when your red-headed sister is going to really fuck things up and call you for help.  I would suggest a spicy black tea and a slice of pumpkin pie when you watch this film.

5. Witchfinder General (1968)
I absolutely love Vincent Price, so this shouldn't come as a complete shock that I listed this film.  What you might not know is that this film is based on historical facts.  It takes place during the 1600s.  Price plays Matthew Hopkins, an English lawyer who was appointed "witchfinder general" by Cromwell, who seeks out witches and warlocks round England.  Ronald Bassett wrote the original novel that the film is based on.  This takes place mid-1600s, so about 30 years or so before the Salem witch trials.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Horror Night #5

I present to you EYE-SCREAM!  I posted this last year (I have an open house to get to tonight), but it's a good one!  It's easy and it's great for a little dinner party.  You can prepare it the night before.

This particular recipe was inspired by the old Beetlejuice cartoon series.  This could be a fun dessert for kids or adults.  You can make this small (as I will show) or as one huge eyeball.

You will need:
- Any type of white ice cream (I used coconut bliss which is a brand of coconut ice cream #paleo)
- Chocolate chips (regular size for small or jumbo size for larger)
- 1 can Cherry Pie Filling
- Food coloring (blue, green, and/or brown)
- Toothpicks
- Spoon
- Mini Half-Dome pan (shown) or larger half-dome pan

Thaw your ice cream until it is somewhat soft.

Fill in as many half domes as you need, then put this back in the freezer.

Once your ice cream is solid again, you can pop them out of the pan.  Have your items ready!!!

With a spoon, remove a circular area from the top of each half dome.

Use the spoon to mix the removed ice cream with a touch of color (use the tooth picks).  Put this back into the scooped out hole and push an upside down chocolate chip in the center of it.  You might want to pop each eyeball back into the freezer as soon as it is done to prevent additional melting.

Once your eyeballs are all in the freezer, you have time to get out the bowl you are serving your dish in.  Open your can of cherries and fill the bottom of the bowl.

Once your eyeballs are solid, place them on top of the cherry filling.  Use some of the extra filling goo to drizzle on the eyeballs.
This is a goofy dish that is fun to make and fun to eat.  I will warn you that coconut bliss ice cream melts pretty fast.  If you have color that runs down the side of your eyeball, have no fear.  Gently scrape away the color that ran with a spoon as soon as you pull it out of the freezer.

For large eyes, you could also use slightly softened ice cream that is scooped out into a ball.  It really depends on how you want to present it.

5 Under-Rated Horror Films
These are 5 films that often get over looked.  Give them a chance!

1. Wolf (1994)
I don't know why people always forget this werewolf film.  It has Jack Nicholson and Michelle Pfeiffer.  If you are into werewolf films, with a more serious nature, and you like these actors, WATCH IT!

2. Event Horizon (1997)
I saw this one at the theater with my best friend when it first came out.  We are both big fans of Sam Neill, sci-fi/thriller genre, and creepy films.  This movie is still pretty creepy, but it is definitely a sci-fi/thriller/horror film.

3. Shadow of The Vampire (2000)
You've probably heard, watched, or have at least seen clips of 'Nosferatu' 1922.  This film is about the making of that film, but with some fiction thrown in.  Willem DaFoe plays Max Schreck.  John Malkovich, Carey Elwes, and Udo Kier are all in it.  This is a fabulous film!

4. Don't Look In The Basement (1973)
If you like films about crazy people, look no further.  This one takes place at an experimental psychiatric house.  It has that early-70s kitsch to it.  If this was to be remade, I would totally have Lindsay Lohan as Nurse Charlotte.  I think she'd do well with it.

5. The Thing (1982)
A film from the year I was born.  This is a creepy film about a group of scientists finding a weird alien thing in Antarctica.  It's a John Carpenter film and the special fx aren't terrible.  It's full of isolationism and terror.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Strawberry-Mint Pickles

These came to me in a dream about two months ago.  I share a greenhouse with my parents and we had a ton of cucumbers and tomatoes.  I don't normally make pickles, but this summer I made some refrigerator dill pickles and they were okay.  Anyway, I decided to give this weird dream pickle a try.  I mean, you can make a salad with fresh cucumber chunks, strawberries, and a little mint, right?  Why not just pickle that combo?
Jar (left) is my test jar.  Jar (right) just made!
 Strawberry-Mint Pickles
Jars (I find that 2-3 small/medium can fit into 1-2 pint jars)
6 Strawberries per jar
15-20 Mint Leaves per jar
Apple Cider Vinegar
1 TBSP Agave Nectar or Honey per jar

Light rosy color when they are done.
1. In your jar, place a 1/2 inch of apple cider vinegar and the agave/honey.  Microwave this for 30 seconds, then stir until the agave/honey is dissolved.
2. Slice up the strawberries into quarters.  Toss some into the jar along with some mint leaves.
3. Slice up your cucumber as you want.  I prefer rounds that I can toss into my salads.
4. Place some cucumber into your jar.
5. Layer some strawberries and mint into the jar, then more cucumber.  Do this until the jar is packed full.  I like to put a mint leaf and a strawberry piece on the very top.
6. Fill the jar with apple cider vinegar.
7. Screw the lid on tight.  I always tip the jar upside-down a few times, slowly, to let the sweetened vinegar on the bottom permeate the jar.
8. Refrigerate for 5-7 days before eating.

When I made these, I really didn't know what to expect.  To my surprise, the cucumbers turned a rosy pink color!  They're also delightful on a bitter green salad (like spinach, kale, arugula, etc) along with feta, fruit pieces, and nuts or sunflower seeds.

When I mentioned this to my mom and sister they thought I was a little crazy.  As it turns out, these are super easy to make and they are delicious!