Thursday, March 31, 2016

Food is Love: Betty Crocker is My Gal

Now that Kate has her own home, she and I have been enjoying Thursday night cooking/baking together in her gorgeous kitchen. Last week, she wanted to make snickerdoodles. I'd never made them before, because I would glance at a recipe and realize I didn't have cream of tartar in the pantry.

Frankly, I can't pronounce cream of tartar. And it makes me think of fish, not cookies.

All that aside, I turned to Betty Crocker for assistance and -- as always -- she came through. This recipe rocks. SCRUMPTIOUS and easy. Ovens vary, but Kate pulled the cookies out at 7 minutes and they were perfect. Enjoy!

P.S. Tonight, Kate doesn't have to do any of the work. I'm baking her favorite cake, as the birthday week celebration continues. Give it a try: Hershey's Perfectly Chocolate cake and frosting. It's perfectly delicious.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Creativity Tips: The Cure to Distracted Living

Call it distracted living. Call it squirrel syndrome. Call it monkey brain, scatterbrain or simply multi-tasking. Whatever you call it, I've got it. So, after Monday's post, several of my friends chimed in with good advice: Slow down. Set an alarm and get away from the computer once an hour. Breathe. Say no.

One friend sent a link to this fabulous post. It's about 100-day challenges and animation, not distracted living, but it included this perfect comment:

"You should be a person that cannot stand to let yourself down. Be your own boss. But always know: you can't fire yourself. So don't burn yourself out."

I have part of it covered: I am, literally, my own boss. What I need to get better at is saying NO to some of the demands of life -- hell, forget demands. I need to say NO to some of the ridiculous, self-imposed interruptions. So I don't burn myself out. So I don't let myself down.

And that brings us to the cure. You remember the stop sign approach? I use it to stop negative self-talk -- especially the kind of negative self-talk that endangers creativity. Now, I'm going to expand the concept.

The cure for distracted living is to STOP. 

Before I get in the car and drive, I'm going to STOP and see if I have my purse and my driver's license. (Yeah. I drove off without it last night.) Before I clean the stove top, I'm going to STOP and think about the burners. (Yep. Brushed those crumbs right over the hot burner. Ouch. Ouch. Ouch.) Before I put my iPhone in the car's cupholder, I'm going to STOP and see if there's an open cup of water already there. (Don't ask.)

I'm going to picture that big old glorious stop sign in my head, and force myself to halt.

And, if that doesn't work, I'll picture a sign with a squirrel in a circle, and a line through it.

I'll keep you posted on progress. Meanwhile, if you have any other cures, bring 'em on! I'll be glad to consider them. Slowly. One at a time.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Creativity Tips: Never Miss a Chance to Celebrate

Twenty-six years ago today, this amazing person -- Katherine Sophia Harness -- came into the world. 

Can  you see how her left eye is half-blue, half-brown? When she was little, we called that her eagle eye. And she told me once, "I see things other people can't, 'cause I've got eagle eyes."

Today, she still sees things other people can't. Kate is insanely, sometimes aggravatingly, perceptive. She's also smart, talented, opinionated, kind, good, stubborn, loyal, generous and ... wait for it ... hysterically funny. Kate makes me laugh all the time. She communicates more with an eye roll than most of us do in a full conversation.

My birthday wish for my dear Kate? I hope your eagle eyes see all the love that surrounds you and the possibilities that await you. I hope you see a year ahead that brings good health and happiness and unexpected delights. I hope you see a future filled with good companions, fun adventures and all the joy your heart can hold.

Keep those eagle eyes open, birthday girl, and you'll see what I see: The world is better because you are in it.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Creativity Tips: The Danger of Distracted Living

If I told you about the foolish mistake I made this weekend, you'd question your own sanity for reading the blog. Suffice it to say, the only logical response to my action was, "What were you thinking?"

And I'll tell you what I was thinking:

I can't believe it's already 8:15 at night and I haven't eaten yet and god I'm tired and I had no idea it would take so long to run those errands and is it really going to snow tomorrow and I'm not sure we have food for dinner and I hope mom is feeling OK for bingo in the morning and Kate's birthday is almost here and Mary will be in this weekend and I forgot to print my work calendar for next week and I don't remember if I have a meeting on Monday so I need to check and damn why is that driver right on my tail and oh I need to buy peanut butter.  

Let me take an educated guess: I'm not the only person with those brainwaves. We're all suffering from distracted living. 

Oy. Squirrels are everywhere. This week, I'm going to ignore them. This week, I'm going to focus. Every time I start thinking of 30 things at once, every time I get distracted from the topic at hand, I'm going to congratulate myself on recognizing the issue* and reel it in. 

Join me! Focus on focus. What do you think? 

P.S. Squirrel! (Sorry. I couldn't resist.)

*Concept stolen from Shanna, who was talking about real focus -- meditation. I'll work on that next. 

Friday, March 18, 2016

Friday Fun: Creativity Is In The Bag

You know the bags airlines keep tucked into seatbacks? You know what they're for? Yeah, well ... think again ...

Your creativity assignment for the weekend? Take an object that is "always" used for one thing -- and use it for something else. Cheers!

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Creative Inspiration: After Years, by Ted Kooser

And, if you like that, listen to the wonderful Ted Kooser read The Beaded Purse. His description at the start of the reading -- of hearing the story and wanting to write it on the tablecloth -- that's it. That's it exactly. Listen, and the poems come to you. 

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

#Creativity Tips: Lose the Fear

One of my favorite artists is Laura Bolter -- you can check out her beautiful work here. While I don't know many of the artists and writers and other creative folk I admire, I have the good fortune of calling Laura a friend. So when she posted this pic -- and comment -- on Facebook, I was all over it:

"This has always been a struggle for me. So in an effort to stop striving for constant perfection, I'm sharing this with filled in counters, blobs of dried paint and other imperfections." -- Laura Bolter

Laura, you're not alone. When it comes to creativity, fear is the big stumbling block. We're afraid of being wrong, of being misunderstood, of not being appreciated. We're afraid of hurting someone with truth in our writing. We're afraid we'll choose the wrong words, use the wrong colors.

The first step in losing the fear is acknowledging it. Only then can we deal with it. .

By the by, if Laura hadn't pointed out the imperfections, would you have noticed them?

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Fabulous Phrases: Stolen from the NY Times

As promised long ago, I will periodically share fabulous phrases. And if you see a line you love, send it my way!

Today's phrase comes from Louis Bayard, plucked from his New York Timessummary of the Downton Abbey finale:

“For better or for worse,” 
my grandmother used to say, 
“but not for lunch.”

Tom, my dear retired husband ... if you read this, don't take it personally. ;-)

Monday, March 7, 2016

#Creative Community: Want to be in my book?

Think he'd buy one? It could happen!
Shhhhhh. I'm going to tell you a sorta-kinda secret: I'm working on a book proposal about creativity in business -- basically, my creativity presentation in book form, with a ton of fun exercises and quotes and more.

If you like the blog, you'll like the book.

I'll babble more about it in the days ahead, but right now the agent has me hard at work on the marketing section. This, my friends, is where you come in. I need to demonstrate that I can sell books. And I'm not above bribing you to do that:

Tell me you'll buy a book, 
and you'll be named in the acknowledgement section!

That's right! You too can be published. Post a comment here, send an email, Tweet at me, whatever. Tell me if you expect to buy one for yourself, two for gifts, or 50 for the office. (Ooh. Promise to buy 50 and you'll get extra goodies. I might even make you a sock monkey.)

P.S. Ya'll deserve to be in the acknowledgement section anyway. Such a gift to have you along on the ride!
P.P.S. Have you read the free Creative Chai ebook yet? 

Thursday, March 3, 2016

The True Story of Dr. Seuss

This could fall under the "day late and dollar short" category, since we celebrated Dr. Seuss' birthday yesterday, but the info is too good to pass up ...

  • Do you know what drinking gin has to do with his now-famous name?  
  • Did you know a random encounter led to his first book deal?
  • Can you tell me why he liked nonsense?

You'll find all the answers in yesterday's Writer's Almanac, under the poem. Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

#Creativity Exercise: Name Your Book

Truth: I write while I drive. Now, I should hasten to say that I write in my head -- if I need to make a note, I pull over and park.* And I do that fairly often.

What do I brain-write? Most often, titles for stories or books or poems or whatever. So I'm driving along and I think, "Floating Goldfish. That would be a cool title."

Yeah, it's probably a sickness. Oh well. My quirk provides the prompt for today's creativity exercise. If you were going to write the story of your life, what title would be on the cover?

*You do carry pen and paper with you everywhere, right? OK, good. Just checking.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Creativity Exercise: Wordle

Is it cloudy where you are? It's cloudy here. So, the perfect time to make a word cloud on Wordle! Go. Play with your words.

What word in my cloud resonates with you?