Monday, December 20, 2010

Creative Inspiration: The Ghost of New Year's Past

This is the final CI post for 2010. I'll see you back here in the new year!

I considered writing this post about Peggy or Duana, two wonderful women I loved and lost in 2010. But, Peggy wouldn't like sappy and Duana would flat-out smack me. So, in their honor ... here's a happy holiday memory:

My favorite New Year's Eve celebrations were the ones Mom put on for me and Harry and Eva when we were little. (Yes, Dad was there. But the parties were Mom's doing.) There were yummy hors d'oeuvres instead of dinner; Eva was especially fond of the frozen shrimp from Safeway. Mom made mock cocktails, orange juice and Collins mix. No drink has ever tasted better. There were noisemakers and games and Dick Clark at midnight.

There was happiness for all we were and hope for all we would become -- Mom and Dad were 100 percent certain their three kids would turn out special. They thought we hung the moon. Dad believed that his whole life. Mom still does, so I guess we've done all right.

And, of course, the reason we've done all right is because people like Mom and Dad expected nothing less. They believed in us. Now, that's a gift.

I hope 2011 is the year your dreams are strengthened and supported by people who realize just how special you are. May it be a year of good health and good work, of happiness and hope. May it be a year filled with the joy of companionship and the peace of solitude.

May it be a year where the joy we create honors the people we miss.

Thanks for being part of the CI team!


Friday, December 17, 2010

Friday Fun: So You Want to Write a Novel

On Monday, I told you I was going to blog this week and then take a break for the rest of the year. I've changed my mind. I want to share a funny video today and I'll post something brilliant later, before I sign off for the holidays. You can hold me to that: It's good to have a goal.

Here's a video for all of us who still consider writing an art. It's the work of David Kazzie.

And, after we watch the video, let's write a novel! I mean, heck. It's the weekend. We have two days. How hard can it be?

Thanks to David S. for the link!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Creativity Tips: Support Your Team

One of the gifts I receive from this blog is the connection to incredibly talented people. It's a treat for me to point you toward the Best Gifts of 2010, all available from the amazing CI team.

Bud Simpson's photography dazzles me. I don't even know where to begin. His artistic eye, his technical genius. He makes me laugh, he makes me think, he makes me happy. Go. Look. Buy.

Leslie Adams is my daily partner in crime ... oops, I meant "in creativity." And I'm so proud of her for starting to sell her gorgeous work. The set of cards pictured here is just a sample. Check it out. $8 for a set of four, and you can use them as holiday "thank you" cards. (You do write "thank you" cards, right? Of course. Just checking.) We're also selling the official Creative Instigation postcards.

Lezlie with a Z has brought so much joy to my life this year. I love her music, her voice, her lyrics. If you're done with gift purchases, buy a CD for yourself.

I don't even have words to tell you how proud I am of Joe and Michele and their book, Harzfeld's: A Brief History. It's a fascinating story -- and it's published! It's a real book! They've had real book signings! Your library needs this book.

So there's a quick sampling. Fine art. Gorgeous photos. Soul-stirring music. Captivating stories. All you need for the holidays is here!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Headless Chicken and Holiday Windows

I am running around like the proverbial headless chicken. I'm fried. Ha! There's a joke somewhere ... chcken, fried ... but I'm too tired to put it together.

Fortunately, I have a team. So when I'm too pooped to blog, I turn to the team. Joe and Michele have been posting about the cool Holiday Windows on Main contest. Check it out -- voting is open until tomorrow.

Speaking of tomorrow, I'll present my version of the Best Gifts of 2010 on Thursday. And there may be a rubber chicken included ...

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Food is Love: Play With Your Food

Yep, another Food is Love feature that's not on Friday. Blame it on the holidays. And this is a holiday post, because some of you may plan to make the cranberry pie I raved about before Thanksgiving as part of your Christmas meal.

Before you do ... read this and prepare to play with your food. And the recipe.

When I made the recipe again, I didn't like it as much. I discussed this important dessert situation with my buddy Scott, who also made the pie for Thanksgiving. We decided the recipe is perfect for adjusting:

1. It needs more cranberries. We both used more than the recipe called for -- and it still wasn't enough. Scott also mentioned using both cherries and cranberries, which I think sounds really yummy. But more fruit would be good. Which brings us to ... too much crust.

2. When I made the pie the first time, I used a regular pie pan and a bunch of the crust overflowed and had to be cut off. Therefore, the crust left on the pie was thinner. And, frankly, it was better that way. (Creativity! Mistakes can be the best thing ever.)

3. The pecans are good, but they get lost in the filling. Scott said he might use walnuts instead of pecans the next time, and add them to the batter rather than the filling.

Basically, recipes are my Pirate's Code: "They're not so much rules as they are guidelines."

Monday, December 13, 2010

Creativity Tips: Give Yourself a Gift

A couple of weeks ago, I spent Friday - Sunday goofing off. It may have been right after Thanksgiving. Whatever, I didn't do a dang thing that was productive.

You know what happened? Monday, I got up and wrote a poem I really, really like. I edited it a little the next day and my writers' workshop edited it a little more, but ... basically ... it was good from the get-go.

Remarkable? Well, I hadn't written a complete poem in months and this one wrote itself in minutes.

The fact that I was happily creative after a three-day break isn't coincidental. Our hectic lives are creativity killers. Multi-tasking remains a myth. Minds need time to focus and, now and then, the focus must be on rest. So, I'm going to blog this week, then take the rest of the year off for a holiday break.

But enough about me. How are you? Excited about the week ahead? Or stressed about everything you need to get done? Hmmm. That's what I thought. OK, here's what you're going to do:
  1. Take another look at your to do list.
  2. Scratch things off that don't really and truly have to be done.
  3. Sit back and smile.
Time is one of the best gifts we have. And we can give it to ourselves. Ain't life grand?

Friday, December 10, 2010

Food is Love: Naked Ginger Men

OK, we'll start with the obvious. If you have reached this post because you Googled "Naked Men" and this link came up, my sincere apologies. I know a recipe is very disappointing.

For the rest of you, it's your lucky day. Angela's recipe = my new favorite cookies. Seriously. I want a ginger man right now. And it won't surprise you to learn that I like them better naked. Thanks for the cookies and the guest post, Ang!

Faced with the dilemma of wanting to meet Jan for coffee and needing to make cookies for a family get-together, I knew something was going to have to give. Perfect cookies vs. much-needed time with a friend, how could I get both? The ginger men would just have to be naked.

Nobody really cares if the cookies have cute little frosting faces. In fact, I think naked ginger men are better. Not overly sweet and the spices really come through. Frost if you must but leave some bare so you save time to do something else – like catching up with a friend or enjoying a few minutes of holiday tranquility.

Gingerbread cookies, makes 3 dozen
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  1. Cream butter with sugar and molasses. Add egg.
  2. Whisk together flour, soda, salt and spices in a separate bowl. Gradually add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and mix well.
  3. Chill dough in refrigerator for a few hours.
  4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Dust your work surface lightly with flour and roll out dough to desired thickness.
  5. Cut into shapes and place on greased cookie sheets. Bake 8 to 10 mins.
  6. While cookies are still warm, you can add raisins or other decorations. Or let cool and frost. They are really good with no decoration at all -- crisp and spicy like ginger snaps

Note from Jan: You'll find more about this recipe on Angela's new blog, Mom's recipes. The blog is a tribute honoring the memory of her amazing mom -- and it's a gift to us all. Talk about "Food is Love."

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Creativity Tips: A Handy Idea

This could be a case of what my mom would call, Little things amuse little minds. And yet ...

We went to Bob Evans for dinner recently and got a laugh out of the new menu promoting their burgers. It's a little thing, but by simply adding physical interaction to a typically static object, the restaurant chain "grabbed" our attention.

Kate, who's "holding" the burger here, and I ordered what we always order at Bob Evans. Tom, on the other hand, did order a big burger. And I have to say, his meal measured up to the menu!

The creativity tips? Look for ways to add another dimension to your work. And make sure your results deliver on your promise!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

P.S. Doghouse video

For those of you who receive the blog via email ... here's the doghouse link from this morning's post. Funny video. Good ad. Happy Wednesday!

Good Ads: In the Doghouse

This is worth every second ... and, guys, it will help you stay out of the doghouse. Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Creativity Tips: Join the Adventure

One of the most creative women I know, my wonderful Kate, is blogging for a class at college. Check it out: Adventures of a Young Mind.

I love her voice, and the way it comes through in her writing. When a writer conveys an authentic voice, the audience doesn't just read the words ... the audience hears the words.

My first baby. I think I'll keep her.

P.S. Yes, yes, yes. Tom has a claim on her too. And she's a person all on her own. And I sound awfully possessive. What can I say? I'm a Jewish mother. This is what we do. (Hmmm. I bet that explanation would be just as accurate without the adjective.)

Monday, December 6, 2010

Creative Inspiration: Listen to Vanessa

Here's a wonderful quote to start the week, stolen from my friend Vanessa's Facebook page. Thanks, VB!

"Before you speak, ask yourself … is it kind, is it necessary, is it true, does it improve on the silence?" -- Sai Baba

Friday, December 3, 2010

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Eight Tips to Boost Your Creativity

This is the first day of Chanukah. Which means last night was the first night, since the holiday began at sunset. And, if you think that's confusing, try to remember the right way to put the candles in the menorah, and the right way to light them. There are rules for everything.

Are there rules for creativity? Sure! In honor of the eight days of Chanukah, here are my top eight creativity rules:
  1. Get moving. Creativity requires action. Having an imaginative idea is a step in the right direction -- and not necessarily the first step. Creativity, creating, requires implementation.
  2. Breathe. This is your brain. This is your brain on oxygen. Are you rested? Are you exercising? Are you taking care of you? Breathe in, breathe out.
  3. Believe in your own talents. Surround yourself with people who believe in you, too.
  4. Practice every day. Creativity is craft. The more you write, love, paint, parent, bake, coach ... the better.
  5. Experiment. There are approximately 80 gazillion ways to be creative. If writing doesn't bring you joy, try something else. If writing does bring you joy, try something else. You never know where you'll find talents and happiness.
  6. Connect the dots. Let the skills you've learned shooting photos help you edit copy. Approach a medical appointment as though it were a meeting with your child's teacher. Ask yourself, "How would I do this if ... "
  7. Step away from the computer. Give your brain a break. Step away from everything and everyone. Just be.
  8. Go for the goal. We move toward what we see. See the happy ending.

By the by, these are my eight rules for today. Tomorrow they'll be different. Here's my suggestion: Make your own rules. Check out the Linden rules. And fry/try a latke!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Creativity Tips: Cause Happiness

This magnet on my refrigerator makes me laugh every time I notice it.* Why? Because the rest of the Oscar Wilde quote is ... "Others, whenever they go."

Is it OK for Mary Engelbreit to change the context to fit her creative needs? You tell me.

*Have you ever noticed how quickly things become invisible? We get so used to our surroundings -- including people -- that we don't see them. It takes an effort to really see your world. It's worth the effort.