Thursday, March 30, 2006

Penguins and My Doorbell

I'm a freak about music, and when I find tunes I love I tend to be evangelistic about it. Case in point: I went to a girlfriends' weekend at the lake and took my two latest favorite CDs with me and made everyone listen. Well, not made. I just turned up the volume while we ate breakfast and my chicas asked, "What's that?"

Well, since you asked, let me go ahead and tell you.

Matisyahu. Hassidic Jew, hip-hop reggae king. The music flows in all the right ways, and his lyrics made me cry the first time I heard (understood) them. My friend Candy Havens (Charmed & Dangerous) introduced Matisyahu to me, and I'm eternally grateful. Thanks, Candy!

KT Tunstall. Part Sheryl Crow, part Norah Jones, with an original bluesy sound all her own. If you ever see her do the Black Horse and Cherry Tree song live, you'll do what I did: run out and buy her CD immediately.

Other artists on my playlist:

The Little Willies. Norah and the gang going old school country. Yeehaw!

The White Stripes. The song My Doorbell is on near-nausea inducing volume and rotation levels in my automobile.

Lyle Lovett, Live in Texas. How can you not love someone who sings the line, "Penguins are so my needs."

Weezer. Okay, I'm a sucker for the dork-slash-rocker thing. And Beverly Hills is still a windows rolled down, totally driveable song. I don't care if it is pop. And while we're at it, I'll go ahead and admit: I like Kelly Clarkson.

All right, I've aired my music secrets. Embarrassing crushes, anyone?

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Saucy Life Changes

I'm from Texas and we're serious about our spicy stuff. And I'm here to boldly proclaim: this green sauce will change your life. I am not kidding.

Dip chips in it, pour it over grilled chicken, slather it on enchiladas. For the healthy folks, it makes a nice dunker for carrots and celery. It's excellent on fish tacos as well.

I got the recipe from a lifelong friend (thank you, Kristie!), and since I don't cook I immediately handed it over to my husband, the chef. He whirred it up in no time and I've been in saucy heaven ever since.

Kristie's Kickin' Cilantro Cream Sauce

1 8 oz. cream cheese
1 T. sour cream
1 (7 oz.) can tomatillo salsa
1 t. pepper
1 t. celery salt
1/2 t. cumin
2 t. garlic powder
1 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped
1 T. lime juice

Combine in a blender and serve. Refrigerate leftovers.
(Leftovers? What leftovers?)

Have a favorite spicy food? (I need more things to pour this sauce on...)

Monday, March 27, 2006

The Best Part

As a Southern, church-going gal, one of my favorite parts of a service is when the minister says a blessing over the congregation. It's usually something short, like a prayer, and it makes me feel like someone just baked me a pie or sang me a love song or sprinkled angel sparkles on me or challenged me to a marathon. Special, you know?

Anyway, I came across this recently, and thought I'd share it with you, O readers of the blog.

A Franciscan Blessing

May God bless you with discomfort at easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships, so that you may live deep within your heart.

May God bless you with anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people, so that you may work for justice, freedom, and peace.

May God bless you with tears to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation, and war, so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and to turn their pain into joy.

And may God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you can make a difference in this world, so that you can do what others claim cannot be done.


Consider yourself sparkled.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Writing Tip: Freewriting Fun

If you're a writer, nothing's more intimidating than the blank page and the pressure to be brilliant. Here's a tip I learned from Robert Ray, he of the Weekend Novelist fame, and from the incomparable Natalie Goldberg. If you haven't read her writing books, you're missing out. Writing Down the Bones should be on every aspiring author's Already Read-It shelf.

You know the situation. You're stuck. You don't know where to go next or what to do. Your characters are lifeless and it's entirely possible the Great American Novel you've been pounding away on may actually be...Not So Great.

Here's a solution, and it works every time. Grab some paper. My favorites are the large yellow pads with light blue lines. In fact, I write most of my first drafts on them, page by messy page.

Find a pen, a really good one with fast ink. Black is a good, strong color. Kick off your shoes and sit in a comfortable place near a timer or a clock. Turn off your email (it'll ding and interrupt you) and definitely unplug the phone.

Now, choose a starting line. Maybe your character is entering a room. Maybe he's getting off a bus or she's about to tell her husband that dark secret of hers. Maybe it's an emotional scene or something toe-curling scary. Write one sentence to set the stage, and don't worry if it's not the best thing you've ever written.

Set your timer for twenty minutes and go. Just go.

Use that flat sentence like a swimming pool diving board - the old kind with lots of bounce that could flip you all the way to the shallow end. No lifting of the pen, no spell check, and no crossing out. Let the words flow, whether they're good bad or ugly or hardly make sense at all.

The internal editor is on vacation, at least for these blessed twenty minutes.

Twenty minutes later you'll have maybe three or four pages of illegible scrawl, but I'm willing to bet you'll find magic in all that muck. The next scene, a new character, a string of words that sings out and begs you to build on them.

See? Feels good doesn't it? You've got some good stuff to type into that manuscript and maybe you've broken through a wall, or a point of fear.

You're a real writer after all.

Now do it again. And again. And again.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Still Life with Oysters

My family and I recently visited the Gauguin exhibit at the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth. This painting became a favorite as we asked each other - "What do you notice?"

My husband the cook saw the knife and tablecloth were clean and dry, yet the lemon was split in two. My daughter immediately noted the dead bird on an otherwise pleasant table. The oysters lack a good horseradish sauce, and an apple (not displayed in this pic) is smaller than the lemons.

My son's comment: Gauguin painted the fold wrinkles in the table cloth.

Ha! It goes to show you - it pays not to iron. Consider it fine art, and move on.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Nut Case

I stayed up until 2:00 a.m. the other night reading a book. It's a habit (good or bad, considering I now make my living as a writer) that I've struggled with since my elementary years, getting busted for reading with a flashlight on a school night. Back then, I'd get in trouble. Now that I'm an adult, I just get real tired. And a little nutty the next day.

Totally worth it, though. My latest favorite page turner: Case Histories by Kate Atkinson.
A literary detective story with a shlumpy, likeable lead (Jackson, the newly divorced I'm-not-smoking investigator with an eight-year old daughter who displays an alarming Christina Aguilara fixation), the novel follows three separate cases that span over 25 years. The language is breathtaking, the cases are perplexing and compelling, and it's funny. British humor and characters with all the quirks you'd ever want.

Plus it has a humdinger of a plot, and some twists that will...well, keep you up past bedtime. Check it out. You won't be disappointed.

When's the last time you pulled an all-nighter to read for fun?

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Preach on, Franklin

I have a quote hanging in my office. It reads:

"The only limit to our realization of tomorrow
will be our doubts of today."
- Franklin D. Roosevelt
The quote is taped to a little card, propped in a frame amidst the clutter I call a workspace. It's from one of the dearest women I know, and underneath it she's written, "How is the writing coming, my friend?"

Ah, she knows me well.

Here's to good quotes and lifelong friends. And to realizing tomorrows, one limitless page at a time.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

The Dresses, the Upset, the Jokes, oh my!

Watched the Oscars this's what I loved:

1) Meryl Streep and Lily Tomlin riffing like old school magic. I wondered if some of the younger actors in the audience weren't thinking, "So THIS is what a star can do!" Plus, how gorgeous was Meryl? She wins my best dressed for working it so elegantly, with a class that makes you remember why she's simply the best. Ever.

2) Tim Burton and Helena Bonham Carter showing up looking like they'd stepped off a movie set or a retro eighties party. You could tell they were having a fabulous time and didn't care two hoots for the fashion police. Their ensembles fairly shouted, "Arrest me already. I'm satisfied. I'm brilliant."

3) Uma glowed, Jessica Alba shined - and I hope someone will give her a role soon that goes beyond that otherworldly complexion of hers. I liked J Lo's avocado and Keira's plum, but the jury's still out on Michelle Williams in butternut.

4) Dolly Parton strutting, sashaying, and literally busting out all over Hollywood's glitteratti. Love the song, love the message even more.

5) The smarmy campaign smear ads. A great way to inject some funny into the less visible categories.

6) Jon Stewart as host. Yes, he was a bit stiff at the beginning, but when he loosened up he made for an engaging and truly funny front man for one of the best Oscar shows in years.

7) Jennifer Garner saving a slippery moment with a bon mot: "I do my own stunts." I. Love. Her.

8) All the tributes to the mommies. Any thank you that includes a parental nod is a winner in my book.

9) The chaos the Crash victory created. A truly great surprise - the audible gasp from arguably jaded attendees capped a refreshing night full of excellent films and memorable performances.

Now, your turn. What did you like, what did you hate, and, most importantly, if you could wear anyone's outfit, whose would you pick?