Sunday, January 30, 2011

Creativity Tips: Do Nothing

This mental health break is brought to you by Bud:
Turn your computer speakers on and enjoy Do Nothing for 2 Minutes.

Then enjoy it again tomorrow. And the day after. And the day after.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Food is Love: Chocolate Crinkles

For a recent birthday party, Scott and Leslie both baked the birthday girl's favorite cookie -- chocolate crinkles. I hadn't ever tried these little wonders before. Ohmilord. So much goodness in such a little cookie.

Today, it's your turn for a double dose of wonderfulness -- the recipe and Scott's guest post. His post further explains why I call this ongoing feature, "Food is Love." Thanks, Scott!

I didn't grow up with Chocolate Crinkles. I was introduced to them by Tim's paternal grandmother. For some years, she would prepare a batch of each grandchild's "favorite" cookies around the holidays, mailing a tin to each some time between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Later, she wisely spread her effort across 12 months. Cookies were sent around birthday times instead.

While Tim likes the crinkles, they are not his "favorite." Nor were they ever. But Lucy continued sending us crinkles each year. Could it be because I told her the first time I experienced them that they were my new favorite? Tim jokingly started saying, "Now we know which one of us she likes better." (Coincidentally, our birthdays are back-to-back.) Tim shared the story of his "favorite" cookies when he spoke at Lucy's funeral.

A few years before she died, Lucy decided that she couldn't keep up with the baking any more. So she carefully prepared the applicable "favorite" recipe card for each grandchild. Now I can't remember if she mailed the Chocolate Crinkles recipe in Tim's birthday card that year -- or mine.

As with the assortment of yellowing cards I have in the recipe file written by my own grandmothers, pulling out the Crinkles card a few times a year helps me keep something going. Though, I swear my Chocolate Crinkles will never taste quite as good as Lucy's.

I wonder if a few decades from now, a great-niece or nephew of mine will say, "My Chocolate Crinkles will never taste quite as good as Uncle Scott's"?

2 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips, divided
6 Tbsp. butter, softened
1 c. sugar
1-1/2 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs
1-1/2 c. flour
1-1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
powdered sugar for coating

Preheat oven to 375 F.
Microwave 1 cup of chocolate chips for 1 minute; stir; repeat until melted and smooth; cool slightly.
Cream together butter, sugar and vanilla.
Beat melted chocolate into butter/sugar mixture.
Add eggs one at a time and beat until fully incorporated.
Fold in flour, salt and baking powder.
Stir in remaining, unmelted chocolate chips (1 c. -- or more if you have some extra and want to add them).
Shape dough into 1" balls and roll heavily in powdered sugar.
Place on greased or parchment-lined baking sheet.
Bake 10-11 minutes; cool 5 minutes on pan then remove to wire rack.
Approx. 3 dozen cookie

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Creativity Exercise: Luv is in the Air

As you know, I love poetry. I'm also pretty dang fond of Southwest Airlines. Now, they've come together in a haiku contest that's too good to pass up.

If you win, take me.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Creativity Exercise: Create a Holiday

Here's a news flash for you -- today is National Compliment Day. Not to be confused with National Complement Day.

I'll go first: You have wonderful taste in blogs.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Creativity Exercise: The Best Part of Wakin' Up

I was going to just send this link to Lezlie, but there may be other singer/songwriters on the CI team. Folgers has launched a new jingle contest. The best part of wakin' up could be winning major money.

Bonus: Read Lezlie's post on walking in the snow. Beautiful.

Double bonus: The coffee contest reminded me of a beautiful passage in T.S. Eliot's The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock:

"For I have known them all already, known them all --
Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,
I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;"

Triple bonus! (Wow. My brain is working. It must be the Folgers.) T.S. Eliot sparks another creativity exercise. Tell me: What measures out your life?

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Copy Crank

While I am kind, good and loving on Creative Instigation (stop laughing), I am myself on Copy Crank ... one of the other blogs I write. Why write more than one blog? Because they're free and easy. And, when you own the blog, you only have to post when you want to.

Today, I wanted to.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Here's Why It Matters

And now I'm going to tell you why it's important to leave hearts on windshields and love notes in lunchboxes.

Because life changes as fast as a gunshot. One moment you're part of a happy, enthusiastic crowd. The next moment, you're watching mourners walk under a 9-11 flag at the funeral. Or your family and friends are thrilled because you can open your eyes. You can squeeze a hand.

In Tucson, it was a gunshot. In any city, any country, any day, it's a gunshot, a heart attack, a phone call at midnight. And life, as we know it, is forever altered.

This is not a political blog and I have no intention of making it one. I am not going to tell you to write your congressman or how to vote. Those of you who read the blog regularly can easily guess how I feel about the Tucson tragedy and the events leading up to it.

However, this is a Jewish mother's blog and -- in that role -- I am very comfortable telling you this:

Don't take opening your eyes for granted. Don't take squeezing the hand of someone you love for granted. And, when you're with those people you love, say the words. Often. While you can.

As George Eliot said, "I like not only to be loved, but to be told that I am loved. The realm of silence is large enough beyond the grave."

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Creativity Tips: Random Acts of Creativity

When I went out in the frozen arctic Monday, this is what I saw. My hubby had been out shoveling snow and decided to decorate my Bug.

Come on, say it in unison: Awwwwwwww. Isn't that cute?

You know what? It is cute. And it's the perfect example of how creative expression -- even in its simplest form -- makes people happy.

It can be a cold, cold world, my friends. Random acts of creativity warm it up. Give it a try today ... and let me know what happens!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Creativity Tips: Oh, Baby!

Here's a link from Deb, just to make you laugh on what is a cold, snowy Monday in KC! My favorite is the fishing baby ... although the Mary Poppins is hard to resist.

Imagination is a wonderful thing.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Friday Fun: Paint a Garden

If it's too cold to plant a garden where you are, here's the next best thing. Paint one.

I've gone back to playing with paints, using a Rorschach technique I used when I was in college. Basically, plop paint on paper, press the paper against paper and call it a day. If you want, you can pick up a brush and add a few strokes -- I did that here.

This painting wasn't folded -- I pressed it against another equal-sized sheet. The folded ones turn out really cool. I generally cut out one side, so you can't immediately see it's a Rorschach print.

You can try this whether painting is your passion or not. There's no pressure: The final product isn't completely within your control. The paper blots the way it blots. And, now and then, you'll come up with something amazing.

Then, of course, take full credit. I do. Because, like you, I am an artistic genius.

Happy weekend!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Creativity Tips: Think Small. Measure Up.

This is an awesome way to present the blizzard of 2010. Check out the little additions as the timelapse sequence goes on, like the yardstick. In creativity, the tiniest moments -- one word, a touch of color, a random fern -- often become the measure of art.

Another good reason to spend 40 seconds with this video? Looking at it makes me feel better about living in KC, where it's 18 degrees this morning but at least we're not digging out from a blizzard.

Random notes:
If I were posting every day, I wouldn't have posted this when I read it on Steve's blog -- I'd have thought, I should use that on CI. Then, I'd have written myself a note. Then, I'd have lost the note.

Thank you for all the sweet comments re: my decision to stop posting daily. What a wonderful team! Mary Anne, I got your comment right when I was descending into a bad mood over something trivial, and you made me so happy it turned everything around. Thank you!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Creativity Tips: Show, Don't Tell

In creativity, rote is bad. Rules are good -- although often meant to be broken.

One of the rules in writing is "show, don't tell." Let me use myself as an example. In the first draft of yesterday's post, I wrote:

I do a fairly phenomenal job of taking care of my family, friends and clients. I do a fairly hideous job of taking care of myself.

While I liked the parallel structure of the sentences, I didn't like the whiny "telling" of the second sentence. So, I changed it to:

I do a fairly phenomenal job of taking care of my family, friends and clients. I go full speed all day, then collapse around 11:30 p.m.

I haven't been to the gym in a year, I forget my vitamins regularly and I probably read two, maybe three books in all of 2010. Because reading books requires sitting down.

Longer? Yes -- and I do favor short. But word count is less important than impact and this version is far more descriptive.

This year, after you write something, read it again. Make sure your talent is showing.

(Today's writing advice goes along with my favorite parenting advice: Don't worry that they're not listening to everything you say. Worry that they're watching everything you do.)

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Creativity Tips: Slow Down

I'm going to share a secret with you: I put the Energizer Bunny to shame. I'm up at 5:45 a.m. most mornings, off and running. I do a fairly phenomenal job of taking care of my family, friends and clients. I go full speed all day, then collapse around 11:30 p.m.

I haven't been to the gym in a year, I forget my vitamins regularly and I probably read two, maybe three books in all of 2010. Because reading books requires sitting down.

And I'm a role model for some people. Scary, huh?

Fortunately, it's a new year, people -- and I've decided to slow down and take better care of me.

I'm not starting at the gym ... although I'll get there. I'm starting by officially moving the Energizer Bunny into slipper and jammies and a good book mode. I'm going to relax.

I discovered over the holiday break that it can be done. I was sprawled on the couch one night, glasses off, enjoying the unfocused Christmas lights as only a severely nearsighted person can do. (Monet wasn’t nearly as impressionistic as you think.)

“What are you doing?” said Kate.

“Nothing. Looking at the reflections,” I responded.

“Ah. You’re reflecting,” she said.

Reflecting led me to this ...
I still love the Creative Instigation blog and our incredibly talented team, but I don't want to post Monday-Friday at 4:22 a.m. any more. I want to write things like this and post them at 1:11 on 1-1-11. Why? Because that makes me laugh.

And it's my blog, dang it.

So, in 2011, I plan to post whenever I want. That could be twice a day. It could be twice a month. Finding out will be part of the fun ...