The fun factor

I saw
this video
via Alison Kent, and several things about it struck me. First, I want those stairs! And second, this is the approach I need to take to writing.

How do you put fun in your work? If you haven’t lately, watching the video might make you think about it.

New things

I need to start adding pictures of the new things I’m doing, because visual aids are always fun. But in the meantime, new things:

1. Pan-seared a roast before roasting. It really does make for a better roast, well worth the few extra minutes it takes to add this step.

2. Ranch dressing; making my own took about 5 minutes, was almost ridiculously easy, and scored universal approval from the household. I’ve spent way more than 5 minutes just reading ingredients on salad dressing labels trying to find a brand not loaded with sugar, so this is even a time-saver.

3. Suzanne McMinn’s cheddar bay biscuits. Made a batch last night and only a few crumbs remain. Husband asks, “Where these hard? Can you make them again?” Not hard, and yes, I can. Pretty easy to mix up and bake to round out a meal.

4. Today’s new thing: her hot pocket recipe. Because everybody’s tired of sandwiches and hot lunches are always good in January. Since I mastered making bread a very long time ago (we will not discuss how long, but there may have been dinosaurs roaming the earth) I figure this will also be fairly easy.

5. Yoga, which is actually returning to an old thing but I’m counting it. It gives me an easy indoor workout when it’s not good outdoor weather and it’s also doing wonders for me. It’s calming and energizing and focusing. Why did I ever stop doing this?

So what does all this have to do with writing? Lots. Getting in a rut in one area leads to getting in a rut in lots of areas. Get in a cooking or fitness rut and it all becomes dull and routine. And it’s equally easy to get into writing ruts. In fact, if your sensory input is dull and routine, it’s almost inevitable.

So vary your fitness routine or take up a new sport all together. Stop making all the old standby recipes and start trying new things; the worst that can happen is that you end up feeding the family scrambled eggs or going out after scraping the failure into the trash. Make the same old thing in a new way, like pan-searing a roast first. 

As we feed our senses on sights, sounds, tastes, tactile experiences, we feed our writing. And it becomes easier to try something old in a new way or to experiment radically, not fearing disaster, because it can always be tossed out and another thing tried. 

Which leads me to #6 new thing, writing in Scrivener, which does have a learning curve, but now that I’ve got the basics down, I’m really glad to have a new tool to keep myself organized and to help me do things differently on the page, too.

What’s cooking?

I’m off to a good start on my more adventurous cooking. I’ve been swooning over Forgotten Skills of Cooking. The book itself is gorgeous; gorgeous cover and layout and photography, beautiful quality, and a lovely purple silk ribbon attached to the spine for marking your place, if you can bear to put it down. I want to eat everything in the book, from the soup made from fresh greens to the layer cake with cream and jam for filling.

In addition to mouth-watering recipes, there’s a wealth of information on finding and harvesting local plants, seafood, mushrooms and what to do with them after you’ve foraged. I’d love to find a similar resource for this area; the information is mostly specific to Ireland and the neighboring regions. But the book is certainly giving me ideas, and the more I learn about traditional ways of eating, the less appeal anything packaged or served at a restaurant has.

I haven’t tried out any Greek recipes yet, but I have started doing fun things like carmelizing onions and roasting peppers, which are fairly quick and easy to do in batches and then you have a wealth of flavor to add to dishes. I’m also making my first batch of ranch dressing this week, since it’s our favorite but there’s always a major hunt to find a brand that isn’t full of sugar or chemicals and the kind that isn’t is pretty spendy. It’s fairly simple so I’m sure with a little trial and error I can hit a balance of ingredients we all like.

Cooking and eating real food is addictive, and I’m glad I’m making more time for it. If you’re bored with eating at home, trying picking up a new cookbook or try experimenting with making your own version of something you like to eat out. A little experimentation can lead to all kinds of culinary adventure.

Yoga with Tara Stiles

Around here we usually walk for fitness. It’s almost always decent weather, there are miles of walking trails through woods, along beaches, up hills; plenty of variety. But some days it really is too windy/icy/muddy/cold, so for alternative activities I’ve got the pool plan (waiting for maternity swimsuit to arrive) and something I’ve been meaning to try out, the Tara Stiles yoga channel.

Today for the first time I went to the yoga channel, picked the first routine available, and went through it. I found her instructions easy to follow, and I liked that she suggested alternatives as she went along to modify if you needed to do less or more. There’s a good mix of stretching, balance and strength in the first routine, and although some positions I really couldn’t do pregnant, I can see how doing more of this will improve my balance. Which, if you’ve ever been pregnant, you know is pretty challenged right now.

I actually had fun, and I think adding a yoga routine to my mornings will perk me up and stretch me out, not to mention making me feel okay about skipping a walk when it’s really too windy/icy/muddy/cold.