Friday, April 30, 2010

Food is Love: Peanut Butter on Toast

I know, I know. I can hear you ... "Peanut butter on toast?" Hey, in my Food is Love world, peanut butter on toast is near the top of the list.

Years ago, when the girls were little, we used to go with my in-laws to Arkansas for the annual family reunion. While Heber Springs and Drasco were totally rustic when the folks grew up there, the area has spruced up. We always stayed in a lovely condo, with a long deck overlooking trees and a gorgeous lake.

Every morning, my mother-in-law would chide me, "Stop fussing around. I'll watch those girls. You go outside. Enjoy the deck." I'd go outside with a cup of coffee, plop in a deck chair and do nothing -- just sit, sip my coffee, and watch the sun play on the water. Then, just as I started getting hungry, Mom would magically appear, bringing me peanut butter on toast.

There are a lot of ways to say, "I love you." This weekend, try peanut butter on toast.

P.S. I found the photo here. Mom just spread the peanut butter, which was perfectly fine. She wasn't a "draw cute pictures in the peanut butter" kind of gal. I cut the toast in half and then make it into a butterfly. I even do this for myself. (You're not surprised by this, are you?)

P.P.S. Were you hoping for a fancier recipe? Check this out. Peanut Butter and Banana French Toast. Sounds good ... I haven't tried it.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Creativity Tips: World Laughter Day

There is nothing more creatively instigating than laughter. Thanks to everyone who came out to the Greater Kansas City PRSA Solo Pros event yesterday --- what a treat to laugh with all of you!

This Sunday is World Laughter Day, an event Lance at Jungle of Life pointed out to me. Lance and friends are launching The Levity Project. As a first step, they're taking it to the streets of New York City this Sunday to create "playfulness and fun, with the idea that through joy, we can all experience a bit more peace in our world."

If you're in New York, go party! The event is free, but you need to register.

By the by, I will be in Manhattan on Sunday. Manhattan, Kansas. For international CI team members, I couldn't make this up.

Oh! Almost forgot. This is Poem in Your Pocket Day! I decided to go with Cascando, an old favorite by Samuel Beckett. It's in a poetry book so beloved it's now held together with tape. I've lost track of Joel, the boy who gave it to me, but I still have his book!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Creativity Tips: Move On

I tell lots of personal stories on the blog, generally with the hope that the lessons inherent in the stories are useful. The lesson in this one is simple: There are times you have to say something before you can move on. I need to say this ...

During the past few months, a small group of us spent a lot of time with Duana -- at her home, in the hospital, and then at Hospice House. Did she need us? Absolutely. But our caregiving wasn't purely altruistic. We needed her too. And we knew our time with her was limited.

So, when people lavish praise on us -- and they have -- here's my response: All we did is what friends do. We showed up. We helped. Each in our own way, we helped.

It will take a long time to fully comprehend the gifts Maureen, Mary Jo, Janey and the rest of us received by being with Duana during her final days. I already know this: I wouldn't have missed a moment.

I also know that the whole "live like you were dying" concept is a helluva lot more romantic when it's a song than when it's real. There was no sky-diving at Hospice House. Take the meaning of the song to heart: Go Rocky Mountain climbing now.

For my own creative sanity, I need to write a long piece about Du -- not a blog entry. So I will. But, for now, I'm moving on. Which is exactly what she would want me to do.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Creativity Tips: Celebrate Poetry

It's National Poetry Month and I've done nothing about it. NOTHING. It's just wrong. So, I'm fixing that right now.

Thursday is Poem in Your Pocket Day. It's a simple idea: Select a poem you love, write it down or print it out, and carry it with you on Thursday. Share it with people throughout the day. Or, just feel better, knowing it's there.

I asked the hubby which poem he'd choose, and I love his selection: Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost.* Our daughter Kate did this painting, inspired by Frost's poem, in 6th grade. She had a wonderful teacher, Mrs. Hannah, who had the kids memorize and recite poetry. Sigh ... makes me happy just to think of it.

But, I digress. I'm telling you about Thursday's event now, so you have time to participate. What poem will you carry?

*Oh, sure. There's a classic poem with "harness" right in it. Try to find one with "Sokoloff."

Monday, April 26, 2010

Creativity Exercise: Write a Pop Song

Here's one from Bud: Write a pop song. Apparently, it only takes four chords. Bud says he "worked them out as E, B, C#, A but D, A, B, G work too."

I don't know chords from cords, but the video cracked me up. And laughing is always a good way to start a week! Thanks, Bud!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Food is Love: Key Lime Bars

Yesterday, Leslie made these incredible key lime bars* for my birthday. Scott made blondies, Renee made a chocolate raspberry cake and Tom made brownies. I gained 2,000 pounds in one day, and it was worth it.

I feel very loved. And, as I write this, I'm reminded of how lucky we are that life is continual change. Last Friday, I was giving a eulogy for a dear friend. Today, I'm basking in the abundance of a most-excellent birthday.

It may sound trite, but it's true: Life is good. And all our losses and tears make the happy times so much sweeter.

*Note to Leslie: There were 9 million key lime recipes on the Martha Stewart site, so if I grabbed the wrong one, would you let us know? Thanks! Or, we could just eat our way through the recipes. Hmmmm ...

Thursday, April 22, 2010

My Theory on Birthdays

Why do I schedule my posts to publish at 4:22 a.m.? All together now:

Because April 22 is my birthday!

Very good. And here's my theory on birthdays and other important issues. If something matters to you, don't expect/hope/worry that people will realize that and come through for you. Even people who love you cannot always read your mind. (And isn't that fortunate?)

Birthdays matter to me. Thanks for being part of my celebration!

P.S. A lady never tells her age. I'm 55. Ugh. Celebration aside, that looks relatively hideous in print. At some point, I may have to claim middle-age. But not yet. Not yet.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Creativity Tips: Be Specific

Want to paint a picture with your words? Be specific. Details bring copy to life, whether you're writing an ad, a grant proposal or a sermon. The Red Coat by Idris Anderson is a wonderful example. The details "we aren't supposed to notice" make this real and carry us through the poem to the wonderful conclusion.

The Red Coat
by Idris Anderson

It's sleeting when we walk from the white church,
the ground frozen, the brown grass brittle.
I am somewhat back in the long black line of mourners,

behind my sisters, their husbands and children. I see it
all as it's happening as though it's not happening.
The roses on the polished oak of my father's coffin

are sheeting with ice and I know the red coat
is too thin to keep my mother warm. She's not shivering.
She walks across the breaking grass behind the coffin

slowly and with great dignity—without her oxygen tank,
her mouth open, a rose filled with snow.
She's walking toward something silver and mechanical,

like a fence around the grave. There's a canopy imprinted
with the logo of the funeral home, Herndon and Sons,
and four rows of white plastic chairs and the artificial grass.

A blue tarp covers a red clay pile of earth. We aren't supposed
to notice these things. Bits of color in wool hats and scarves
and the red coat. My mother was determined to wear the red coat

which I'd bought for myself but gave to her because she loved it,
because it is the color that he loved on her,
because I could not bear her not having anything she loved.

"The Red Coat" by Idris Anderson, from Mrs. Ramsay's Knee. © Utah State University Press, 2008.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Site Seeing: 1000 Awesome Things

OK, this is just fun ... a blog that creatively instigated a book and a song ... enjoy!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Creative Inspiration: Apollo 13

This past weekend, Apollo 13 astronauts James Lovell and Fred Haise gathered with ground crew members at the Kansas Cosmosphere in Hutchinson, where the space capsule is displayed. Together, they celebrated the 40th anniversary of their astonishing and safe landing.

Jack Lousma, the main communications link between the ground crew and the flight crew, told the Kansas City Star he was "dumbfounded" when someone asked him later, "What if the astronauts hadn't made it?"

"It never entered my mind," he said. "We were all positively focused on getting those guys back."

And that, my friends, is the way to generate productive, creative energy. It's a new week. Let's shoot for the moon.

P.S. If you've never visited the Cosmosphere, it's amazing. I highly recommend it.

Friday, April 16, 2010

What a Wonderful World

My mentor and dear friend Duana Linville Dralus died this past Saturday. Family and friends will gather today to celebrate her life.

Since I have shared Duana stories with you in the past, thought I'd also share a bit of the service today. We're starting with Ben Harper, Waiting on an Angel. (She did not go alone.) And we're wrapping it up in perfect Duana style with Louis Armstrong.

What a wonderful world. All the better because Duana was in it.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Creativity Tips: Rule Out Imaginary Rules!

How often do you follow rules that don't exist?

I presented a creativity session this past weekend and my young buddy Ellie attended. She promptly grabbed my props and started playing ... drawing pictures, writing in the journal, wearing the crown.

I've never told anyone NOT to play with the props. But the session is generally filled with adults. You know, well-behaved people who seldom make history.

My tip for today? Follow Ellie's lead. Until you're told otherwise, assume you have permission to play!

Amuse Amber Update: Amber is home from the hospital! Thanks to everyone who sent links, ideas, etc. I'll use some of the remaining ideas in future posts. Let's wrap this series up with an amusement courtesy of Andrew. He's a 6-year-old friend of Neil's son Jackson. Again, kids know fun.

Knock knock.
Who's there?
Pizza who?
Pete's a lot cleaner after he takes a shower!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Creativity Exercise: Write a Letter

According to this fun site that Leslie found, April is National Card and Letter Writing Month. So, your exercise for today is simple: Write a card or letter to someone and mail it.

Yes, I'm talking about taking 10 minutes for an actual pen-to-paper, look up their mailing address, find a stamp, lick-the-envelope communication. It's a tad more effort than an email, IM or text. And the lucky person who receives your missive will know that.

P.S. It's also International Twit Award Month. Don't make me go there ...

Amuse Amber #16: Check out the Online Sketch Pad!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Creativity Tips: Well-Behaved Women

It won't surprise you to learn that I have a T-shirt with the Laurel Thatcher Ulrich quote, "Well-behaved women seldom make history."

So, you can imagine my horror when I recently saw a bumper sticker announcing: "Women who behave rarely make history."
  1. It's fine to steal an idea and make it better, make it your own. It's not fine to steal someone else's words, make them worse and then sell them.
  2. "Well-behaved women" is a precise description. "Women who behave" is not. We all behave. Some of us just behave a tad more outrageously than others.
  3. Yes, I realize that taking a red pen to random bumper stickers is a sign that I've been a writer/editor for too long. It's a sickness. You gotta love me anyway.
Amuse Amber #15: The image is from Just reading the bumper stickers should amuse you for a bit!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Creative Community: Write for Charity

Recently, I've been receiving more emails and requests from people re: the CI blog and including information about their projects or products. I've chosen not to include most ... I'm picky. But after an email exchange with Beth Davis at Write for Charity, I'm passing this one along to you:

Write for Charity is accepting submissions for an anthology of poems and short stories on parenting. Proceeds from sale of the anthology will benefit children's charities. Deadline for submissions is April 15, 2010.

Oooh. Tax day, for those of us in the U.S. Are you ready?

Amuse Amber #15: Check out Shit My Dad Says. Is it vulgar? Absolutely. Is it funny? You betcha.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Food is Love: No Knead Hot Rolls

With this foolproof recipe from my good friend Lynn J., there's no need to knead! These rolls turn out perfectly every time -- and you can use the dough for cinnamon rolls. Mmmmmm.

No Knead Hot Rolls
2 pkg. dry yeast
2 cups warm water
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup shortening
2 eggs, beaten
6 to 6 1/2 cups flour (I spelled that "flower" at first. That would not work.)
a little vegetable oil

Dissolve yeast in mixing bowl in warm water. Add sugar, salt and about 1/2 of the flour. Add eggs and shortening and beat by mixer two minutes. (You probably do need a mixer with those bread hook dealie-bops.)

Beat in remaining flour gradually.

Grease the top of the dough with oil. Cover with a damp cloth and let rise in a warm place until double in size -- about one hour.

Grease your baking pans. Stir dough down, shape into rolls or two loaves of bread. Put in greased pans. Cover again with damp cloth. Let rise until double, another hour or so.

Take the unsalted butter out of the fridge and let it get soft so you can spread it easily on that scrumptious bread after it bakes. You do have unsalted butter, correct? Surely I've taught you something by now.

Before baking, you can brush the tops with egg whites or milk. Or egg whites and milk. (I keep experimenting with this part. Let me know what you think works best.)

Bake at 400: 10-15 minutes for hot rolls. (It takes a little longer in my oven, but this is what the recipe calls for.)
Bake at 375: 50 minutes for two loaves. (I've never made the loaves, only the rolls, but this is the time Lynn wrote down.)

Stand back so you're not trampled in the stampede for hot bread and butter!

Amuse Amber #14: The perfect video for Food is Love day. I dare you to watch this and not smile. And you'll be doing the dance. Thanks for the link, Bud!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Creative Inspiration: Billy Dead

Here's a wonderful paragraph from Billy Dead by Lisa Reardon. I haven't read the book, but this paragraph completely kicks tush. Listen to the rhythm, the power of repetition, the alliteration, the power of threes. And, on top of that, what she's saying is damned true:

"People lose people. I don't know why we're all so damned careless. Folks lose their kids, men lose their women, even friends get lost if you don't keep an eye out. I look through the windshield at the houses going by. For every person sitting in them houses, watching TV or eating a ham sandwich, there's someone somewhere wondering where and why they lost them."

Amuse Amber #12: I love coffee. I love MahJongg. So playing Cafe MahJongg is a natural!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Creativity Exercise: Twist My Words

I recently wrote a very, very short poem. My writing buddies liked it -- but one suggested that I could have written it as a haiku. You know what? That sounds like a good exercise for you! Remember the haiku rules -- three lines, the first is five syllables, the second is seven syllables, the third is five syllables. 5-7-5.

Post your haiku version or email it to me. You can change the title, whatever. Just use my poem as your starting ground:

After the Affair
The biggest lie
we tell each other
is everything's all right.

Amuse Amber #10: Hey, Amber! This is a creativity exercise day. So we're turning the tables. Your assignment, should you choose to accept it, is to post something that will amuse us! That should keep you busy and out of trouble for a while ...

P.S. Why do people think poetry is autobiographical? Do you think every short story you read is autobiographical? Get your mind out of the gutter, people. I mean, really ...

Monday, April 5, 2010

Creativity Tips: Feet to the Fire

OK, it's April. How's that New Year's resolution coming? Heck, forget resolutions. How are you doing on any goals -- creative or otherwise -- you've set for yourself?

If you're not accomplishing what you want, consider the accountability factor.

My sister Eva and I had been doing great on losing weight and maintaining our weight loss. Then, we stopped the monthly weigh-ins. (Before, we each weighed on the last day of the month. Then, Eva would call me and we'd have to report the results.)

Turns out, that teeny tiny bit of accountability made all the difference in the world. Fortunately, we figured that out before too much weight crept back.

Want to succeed? Set a measurable goal. And have someone hold you accountable!

Amuse Amber #9: Speaking of Eva, and our food issues, here's a link she suggested: Cake Wrecks!

Friday, April 2, 2010

The Peeps Show

Well, I didn't know how to label this one. Is it a Friday Fun feature? Or Food is Love? It will definitely count as entry #8 in our Amuse Amber series! Because she is one of our peeps ...

Enjoy the "Peeps Show" and I'll see you back here Monday!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Gotta Love It

I live in Kansas. I have to share this.

Site Seeing: Your Creative Beast

Several people have pointed me toward Betsy Streeter's "Let Out Your Creative Beast" presentation, and it's great! You might also check out her blog, where you can find a printable beast.

Moving from your beast to your brain, an email from TED yesterday reminded me that I hadn't looked at Jill Bolte Taylor's famous Stroke of Insight talk -- she's a brain scientist who analyzed her own stroke. The presentation is about 18 minutes long and it flies by. I love the part where she's telling herself she doesn't have time for a stroke ...

And I think we'll just consider this entire post part of the Amuse Amber campaign!