Call them comfort foods or treats, some things we eat make us feel good— inside and out. Try a few of these noodler recipes to put a snap in your step: Mock Waldorf Salad, Chocolate Fondue, Homemade Macaroni and Cheese, and Orange Cranberry Scones.
If you’re in the mood for a quick and tasty lunch, try RITA Award-winning Historical romance author Diane Gaston’s Mock Waldorf Salad.
Diane’s Mock Waldorf Salad
One apple cut into chunks 1/8 cup chopped walnuts 4 oz. lowfat cottage cheese 1/4 cup chopped celery 1-2 tsp splenda
Mix everything together and enjoy.
302 calories, but it tastes like a treat!
Diane Gaston http://dianegaston.com Scandalizing the Ton, Oct 2008. Still available online"...sensitive, compassionate and sensual romance ..." Romantic Times BOOKreviews
What would an offering of Feel Good Recipes be without chocolate? Here’s a recipe from noodler and 2008 Golden Heart finalist Priscilla Kissinger. “My girls, Brian and I looooove easy chocolate fondue. It's an easy, fast treat for special occasions, or to just brighten a regular day with a delicious treat.”
Dipping items: (almost any fruit, but here are our preferences)
marshmallows (mini mallows or slice large mallows in halves)
chunks of angel food cake
peanut butter (drop a spoonful onto your plate and drizzle chocolate on top)
Heat fondue pot/small crock pot at low heat. Pour whipping cream and chocolate chips into pot.Stir until melted.Keep on low.
Technique: Using fondue forks, pierce dipping item with fork, dip into chocolate and enjoy.For less mess, we usually place dipping items onto a small plate, drizzle fondue over the pieces then sit back and enjoy.
Harlequin American author Lee McKenzie’s favorite feel good recipe is homemade mac-n-cheese. Try this and win raves from your family.
Lee’s Macaroni and Cheese
8 ounces macaroni
1 tablespoon butter or margarine
1 tablespoon flour
freshly grated nutmeg, to taste
salt and pepper, to taste
1 cup milk
2 eggs, lightly beaten
8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated
Cook the macaroni according to the instructions on the package. While it cooks, melt the butter in a small saucepan, whisk in the flour, nutmeg, salt and pepper, milk and eggs, and simmer till it thickens, stirring constantly. Stir in the cheese.Drain the macaroni and put it in an oven-proof skillet or shallow baking dish. Pour the cheese sauce over the macaroni and mix well.Bake at 425 degrees for about 15 minutes or until the top is bubbly and golden. Lee McKenzie www.leemckenzie.com
For me, baked goods equal comfort. The following is a recipe for Cranberry Orange scones that is similar to the one I cannot find, so I can’t call it my own. Don’t you hate it when you lose a favorite recipe?!
Cranberry Orange Scones courtesy of Bon Apetit November 1998 on Epicurious.com
3 cups all purpose flour 1/3 cup sugar 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder 1 teaspoon salt 1/2 teaspoon baking soda 1 tablespoon grated orange peel 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces 3/4 cup dried cranberries 1 cup chilled buttermilk
Preheat oven to 400°F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Sift flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda into large bowl. Mix in orange peel. Add butter and rub in with fingertips until mixture resembles coarse meal. Mix in dried cranberries. Gradually add buttermilk, tossing with fork until moist clumps form. Turn dough out onto lightly floured work surface. Knead briefly to bind dough, about 4 turns. Form dough into 1-inch-thick round. Cut into 8 wedges. Transfer wedges to prepared baking sheet, spacing 2 inches apart. Bake until tops of scones are golden brown, about 25 minutes. Let stand on baking sheet 10 minutes. Serve scones warm or at room temperature. (Warm is better!)
How about you? What are your comfort foods? Do you have a recipe you’d like to share?
I can't remember the first time I heard someone mention the importance of finding the little "pockets of time" to accomplish whatever it is you want. Time for yourself, time for a project, time for working on a goal. Whatever it is you keep thinking about doing, but just never do. Or, whatever you might not be thinking about, but what you need to do.
Life is busy. Intellectually, we all know that. Physically, many of us feel that, too. We're working, parenting, spousing (is that a word?), volunteering, exercising (okay, maybe I need to do this more, but, I that's another blog), cleaning, errand-running, the list goes on and on.
The problem is, we get so busy "doing", if we don't make a point of finding those little pockets of time during which we can re-energize ourselves-- our minds, our bodies, our souls--pretty soon we hit a wall that stops us from being able to "do" anything at all.
I'm not talking about anything big, like treating yourself to a spa day. Although hey, I'm always up for a facial, massage and manicure. :-)
What I'm really talking about are the 10, 15 or 20 minutes you can group together for yourself. And only you! To help you regroup and recharge. Maybe it's driving to your kids' school 10 minutes early for pickup, setting your alarm on your cell phone and taking a 10 minute catnap in the car (yes, I've done this). Or getting dinner started and simmering, then enjoying 15 minutes to read a good book or magazine. Or perhaps you'd prefer syncing up some soft music on your ipod while you sit in a recliner, close your eyes and enjoy the peace. Whatever makes you feel good. Relaxed.
What if you need more than 20 minutes? Not a problem, especially if you're organized. Or even semi-organized. This may take some planning, but sit down and look at your daily schedule for the next few days. There's got to be a day when you can carve out 30 minutes or an hour for whatever your heart desires--writing, exercising, reading, gardening (maybe not in the winter weather but hopefully soon!), whatever hobby or activity your heart desires. I know you can do it!!
The bottom line is this... Someone once told me that as much as I love my family, I will be a better mom/wife if I'm happy, and not feeling overwhelmed or overrun with responsibilities for others. And you know what? They were right.
My day has 24 hours in it. There's enough time for me to have a few moments to myself. Doing whatever helps me feel good about myself. When most people feel good, they want to spread the wealth, helping others feel good about themselves, too.
It's a great cyclical effect.
So you see, find those pockets of time for yourself and it'll be just like reaching into a pocket and finding gold (or that $20 you forgot about). A precious investment for yourself and those around you.
Look at your day today and let me know when you find your pocket. And what will you do with your time?
Can you imagine a life without books? I can’t. Nothing makes time fly like a good book. When I’m waiting for an appointment, I never have to worry about watching the clock if I have a book on hand. Books relax me. They teach me new things and take me to faraway places. They make me laugh and cry and cringe and sigh.
It’s all subjective. Right now I am reading New Moon by Stephenie Meyer. My sixteen year-old daughter and all of her friends are crazy about Edward Cullen. I wanted to see what all the hype was about so I finished Twilight and moved on to the second book. I am almost finished with New Moon and I have to say it has been frustrating…waiting for Edward to pop back into the story…and it took way too long for him to arrive, IMO! I still have another 50 pages to go, but so far I’m giving this book a 6 out of 10. Despite the low score, I must admit, Stephanie Meyers did a good job of keeping me reading, turning the pages, eager to find out what the heck was going to happen. And isn’t that what it’s all about?
To be perfectly honest, I was never interested in reading books with vampires until I judged a contest and one of the entries happened to have a vampire protagonist. I loved the story! That experience taught me to never say never when it comes to what type of books I’ll read. Anything goes!
This year I plan to read a lot of Noodler books. I think I’ll try a little bit of everything…Trish Milburn’s A Firefighter in the Family would be a good place to start. I’ve read most of Terry McLaughlin’s stories. I love her humor. I must read Diane Gaston’s Mysterious Miss M, especially since that book happens to be on the Romantic Times list of 1001 books we must read before we die! My daughter and I love Stephanie Rowe’s young adult books. I think I will broaden my horizons with Jill Monroe’s hot and spicy Primal Instincts. The Bride Price by Anne Mallory looks good…Sebastien Deville has waited his whole life for revenge…what’s not to like? And after a hectic day, I think I’ll sit down and read Merrillee Wren’s Mommy’s Hometown Hero. And if I read a little faster maybe I’ll finally get to read M. J. Fredrick’s Hot Shot, Lee McKenzie’s With This Ring, Maureen Hardegree’s More Sweet Tea, Esri Rose’s Bound to Love Her, Janet Mullany’s Dedication, Dianna Love’s Dead After Dark Anthology and Colleen Gleason’s When Twilight Burns! And this list doesn’t include books by Sandy Blair, Tori Scott, Anna DeStefano, Jennie Lucas, and others. To be Continued…
Wear a Brightly Colored Item of Clothing. Be it scarf, sweater, or blouse, your spirits will be lifted. The sight of your red sweater might even cheer those around you.
Make your Favorite Meal and Serve It on Your Best China. Whether it’s Pot Roast or Beef Wellington, your favorite meal on your Royal Dalton will make you feel special.
Contact an Old Friend. Use the phone, e-mail, or MySpace. Better yet, write a letter, you know the kind that requires a stamp and some stationary.
Declutter and Reorganize One Thing in Your House or Office that Hasn’t Seen Any Attention in a While. Make sure to pick just one, so the task isn’t daunting. You’ll be amazed at how much easier it’ll be to find your scissors or that necklace you love but never wore because it was tangled up with your earrings, bracelets, and pearls in your jewelry box.
Sit in a Comfortable Chair, Close Your Eyes, and Listen to Your Favorite Music. Closing your eyes and being still is important. Let your sense of hearing come to the forefront.
Light Some Candles or Build a Fire in Your Fireplace. Flames soothe.
Get in a Little Lap Time. If you have pets, scratch behind their ears and under their chins, run your hands over their soft fur. You’ll be rewarded with loving glances and purrs.
Read Your Favorite Book of All Time—Again. Each time you read a favorite, you’ll be reminded of why you love the characters, the setting, and the author who brought this novel to life for you.
Buy Fresh Flowers from the Grocery Store. If you’re like me, you probably walk by the floral department when doing your weekly shopping. But inexpensive bouquets and potted plants are available. Look for the items that have been marked down because they aren’t as fresh as newer shipments. It doesn’t hurt to ask the floral department manager when they get new shipments, then you’ll know when to shop for bargains. FYI, after Valentine’s Day, roses will be priced for quick sale.
Hug Someone You Love. Or hug several someones. Spread a little love.
How about you? Which one of these suggestions will you try? Can you think of another inexpensive way to be good to yourself?
Our theme--Be Good to Yourself--is all around you if you look. Take your pick--books, songs, movies--the theme is there. Today, let's talk about movies that express the be good to yourself theme and its progenitor Carpe Diem--Live for the Day. Two I can think of are The Bucket List and Last Holiday. Both have protagonists who learn they don't have long to live, so they do the things they've always wanted to do.
What movies have you seen that fit the Be Good to Yourself theme? Why do they fit?
As Maureen talked about yesterday, exercise is very important for your health. We need to be good to ourselves, not only by exercising, but by making sure we monitor our health with regular checkups. Women should go once a year for a pap test and a mammogram. As women, we know these tests are not the most pleasant experiences, but they are important tests. Don't skip them. In between the yearly mammograms, you should do a breast self-examination each month.
You should also monitor your cholesterol and your blood pressure. Every time I go into a store that has one of those places to check blood pressure, I sit down and check mine. Although it is important to have this done by a professional also, these machines can be helpful in between visits to your doctor. Measuring blood pressure should be an average of a number of readings over time, not just one reading. If you notice a pattern of high blood pressure, you should see your doctor. Also a good thing to check is your heart rate recovery after exercise. To do this you should count your heartbeats for 15 seconds after regular strenuous exercise, then multiply by four to get your heart rate. Sit down and wait two minutes and then check again. Subtract the second number from the first. If it is under 55, your heart rate recovery is higher than normal and you should check with your doctor.
Your skin is another important thing to monitor. Every three months get naked and check your skin from head-to-toe, even in places like the underside of your arms, between your toes and fingers and your scalp. Look for for any new moles, changed moles, suspicious spots or rashes. If anything looks suspicious, see a dermatologist. I have a regular yearly exam with a dermatologist. Since I live in a very sunny climate and spend a lot of time outdoors, I believe this important.
You should also examine your feet. What can your feet tell you? You can check to see whether you have a good pulse in your feet that indicates you are getting good circulation in your legs. You should also check your toenails and be on the lookout for toenail fungus. We want to keep those tootsies healthy. After all, we need something to stand on and need them to exercise.
You have all been taught to keep an eye on your weight, but a better measure is your body mass index because it relates your weight to your height. A normal body mass index or BMI is about 19 to 24. You are overweight if your BMI is 25 to 30. A BMI of over 30 means you are considered obese. With a Google search, you can find a number of places on the Web to calculate your BMI.
If you are over 50 years old, there are a few other tests you should have to monitor your health. Your should have a colonoscopy to check for any signs of colon cancer. Another important test for women is a bone density test. This test monitors bone loss as you age. Keeping healthy bones is particularly important as you age. Unhealthy bones can lead to breaks that can have long-term consequences to your health.
These are some of the important ways you can monitor your health and be good to yourselves in the process. Something you can do every day that doesn't require a special test is making sure you get enough fruits, vegetables and fiber in your diet, exercise, relax and get enough sleep.
Are there any other things that you do to monitor your health?
Many words in the English language qualify as “dirty,” but exercise shouldn’t be one of them. The health benefits are enormous. People lose fat and gain muscle when they exercise on a regular basis. Their cholesterol lowers, their circulation improves, which decreases their risk of heart attack and stroke, and exercising can even lengthen a person’s life.
So why do many of us hate something that makes our lives better? Some people will tell you that exercise isn’t fun, that it’s hard, and that they don’t have time. Rather than spout excuses, they should find a form of exercise that is fun for them and carve the time out of their busy lives. Besides the previously mentioned health benefits, if they don’t overdo it, they’ll find that exercise leaves them happier and more well-rested. Yes, happier.
Exercise equals endorphins. Endorphins are those lovely polypeptide compounds that we release during strenuous exercise that make us feel good and are, therefore, fun. Now, I fully admit that when it’s cold outside and the wind chill makes it feel even colder, I have to convince myself that I should exercise rather than sip some hot coffee. What convinces me? If I walk my miles, I will be rewarded with a biological treat—a sense of well-being or happiness. Thank you, endorphins. It’s much like having a couple Lindt truffles without the calories.
Exercise also guarantees a better night’s sleep. Sleep is important to our overall well-being and happiness, too. When I don’t get a good night’s sleep, I am cranky and generally no fun to be around. I tend to see everything around me in a more negative light. The days I exercise, I sleep more soundly and wake up refreshed. The key to success with making exercise a vital part of your life is to ease into it. A couple of years ago, I started my walking regimen at fifteen to twenty minutes in my neighborhood. It didn’t require equipment other than some good running shoes (better cushioning than athletic shoes made for walking). I won’t lie to you. Those fifteen minutes weren’t easy. I was forty pounds heavier and my knees and ankles hurt. Slowly, I increased my mileage and pace, and now I walk between three and four miles five days a week. It takes an hour out of my day. I view that time as an hour for me—where I know I’m being good to myself. Yup, that’s the WNP theme for this month’s blogs.
So how do you get your endorphin fix? Do you swim, run, rollerblade? Do you dance? Do you wii? It’s all good.
Barring illnesses such as the head cold currently making her miserable (thanks to her husband who will here forth be known as Typhoid Wesley), Maureen Hardegree completes her exercise quota for the day, then writes. Her story “A Tale of Two Kitties” will be included in BelleBooks’ tentatively titled Critters of Mossy Creek, which is due in bookstores in 2009. http://www.maureenhardegree.com/
MUSIC: The most mundane chore can be fun if you have the right attitude. Ever fold laundry to the Rolling Stones or the Beatles? I can’t run on the treadmill without my ipod to get my body and mind inspired. Music makes me happy. Nothing cheers me faster than a great song!
A LITTLE HEALTHY COMPETITION: Helping your kids learn can be fun too! I’ve been helping my daughter learn new words every week in preparation for the SATs. We have about 50 index cards at this point, adding more every week. Every chance I get, I grab the stack of cards (keep them in the kitchen for easy access) and we race through them to see who can spit out the answer the fastest.
WHAT BRINGS YOU JOY? If you love to play a musical instrument but never find the time, make it a priority to play at least thirty minutes a week or a day. When you set aside a doable amount of time, it’s easier to make it happen and you feel so good afterward! Everybody should spend at least thirty minutes a day doing something they love, something they're passionate about that brings them joy. I have been playing the piano almost every morning for at least fifteen minutes. I have also been reading every night before bed in 2009 and I’m so glad I’ve carved out that time for myself. Spending thirty minutes a day doing a few things I love to do has made all the difference. I feel as if I’ve given myself a wonderful gift.
What do you love to do but never seem to have time for? Sing? Dance? Play the guitar?
That's me in the picture when I was visiting New York City having fun. :)
"I, not events, have the power to make me happy or unhappy today. I can choose which it shall be."– Groucho Marx
"Be happy. It's one way of being wise."– Colette
“In every life we have some troubleBut when you worry you make it doubleDon't worry, be happy”—Bobby Ferrin
“Happiness is a choice, not a reaction.”—me!
I really believe this. I really believe we can be happy even when things are pretty rotten in our lives. Oh, maybe not if our very existence is threatened, but otherwise, even if bad things are happening. We just have to decide to be happy.
As a social worker, I once had a client who had little money and no family around her. Nonetheless, she did not feel sorry for herself. She walked to the coffee shop and made friends there. When she could no longer walk to the coffee shop, she stayed home and enjoyed TV. When her TV went on the fritz, she enjoyed reading books. When she couldn’t buy new books, she enjoyed re-reading her old ones. She had more bad things happen to her in her life than you could count, but she chose to be happy with whatever she had. She taught me that there is always something in life to be happy about.
This week I was riveted to the TV coverage of the plane crash in the Hudson River. These people survived a terrible trauma. In coming days, weeks and years, the survivors have two choices: to lament that they had to suffer through such a frightening event, or to be happy about how they reacted, how they survived. All reports are that everyone--from the wonderful pilots to the air crew, to the passengers, to their rescuers--did the right thing. In so many cases they chose to be heroic. Many of us are experiencing adversity these days; we can also decide to handle our adversity heroically. We can decide we will not let go of happiness, even in hard times.
One important benefit to being happy is it is infectious. Saturday my husband and I went downtown in Washington, D.C., to look at the inaugural preparations. What struck me even more than the lines and lines of Portapotties, was the happiness that pervaded the numbers of people who were doing the same thing. It was impossible not to smile, no matter what one's politics might be. The more we choose to be happy, the happier others around us will be.
Even at the worst of times we can marvel at a sunrise, enjoy a TV show, have a laugh with a friend. How many times in my life have I lost myself in the pleasure of a book when things outside of me were going bad? Too many to count!
So when I’m struggling to figure out a plot problem in my writing, when I’m desperate for a new story idea, when my deadline looms and I have tons more to write, I hate to complain, because I'm happy about this life I've chosen, even when it is full of problems.
We can’t stop stress. We can’t stop problems. We can’t stop tragedy from coming into our lives. No matter how clever we are, how smart, how careful, there is always something we can’t control. But we can control how we react to our experiences, and we can decide to be happy.
Soooo....do you think I’m nuts? Feel free to argue with me. Or prove my point. Share a time when you made a decision to be happy, even when the events around you gave you every reason in the world to be miserable.
Diane is staying home and watching the Inauguration on TV, but you can visit her website and still enter her contest to win your choice of one of her books. Or for more photos from Saturday, including the PortaPotties, visit her today on Risky Regencies.
Happy frigid Friday! As those of you experiencing the joy of the artic chill all the way into the deep south can attest, it's definitely winter. The thermometer at my house registered 16 this morning--a true rarity in Georgia.
This week we explored recipes that are good to us and ways to keep our energy up. We discussed setting goals and rewards earlier in the month. And today, we'd like to discuss what rewards people give themselves for achieving their goals.
How do you reward yourself for achieving your writing goals? How do you reward yourself for achieving goals outside of writing?
As always, questions about writing are welcome. Ask away! And stay warm.
Everyone I know has a busy, busy life. The temptation for most people is to go and do, trying to fit everything in. And when you’re an author, you always have writing hanging over your head—it doesn’t matter whether you’re published or unpublished.
About fifteen years ago, I found out the hard way what happens if I push myself past my energy limits. I was in graduate school at the time, in addition to working and everything else I was doing. I remember feeling stressed and fatigued, but I had a few projects to finish. My intuition kept saying, “Rest.” I’d answer that I’d rest once I’d completed everything, just a few more days….
Then I heard the message, “If you don’t stop, I’m going to force you to stop.”
I gave the same answer, so, sure enough; my body forced me to stop by making me sick. What a lesson!
Ever since that time, I’ve paid attention to what my body tells me about the stress I’m feeling, what my energy levels are, and if my immune system feels compromised. I’ve learned the little signals, personal to me, that tell me what I need to do to help myself. Consequently, I’m rarely ill.
In my work, both as a therapist and as a crisis counselor, I give a lot of my energy to help others heal. Therefore, I need to make sure I replenish my energy.
One of the best ways to take care of your energy is to know if you are an introvert or an extrovert. The way to determine if you’re an introvert or an extrovert is to ask yourself how you replenish your energy. “Do I replenish my energy through solitary activities (reading, writing, gardening, playing on the computer) or through people-oriented activities (going to parties or events, participating in clubs or organizations, or hanging with a group of friends)?
Most people make the mistake of thinking an extrovert is someone with an outgoing personality. Yet, you can be (like me) an outgoing introvert. Or (like most writers) you can be an introvert who’s not comfortable around a lot of people.
Once you know if you’re an introvert or an extrovert, you’ll know what to do to restore your energy. If you’re an introvert, and your extrovert spouse wants you to go to a party, you know that won’t help your energy levels, and in fact might actually deplete them more, even if you enjoy yourself.
As an introvert, it’s important for me to balance my people-oriented work and social activities with solitary time for myself. Otherwise, I’ll drain my energy too much.
What else do I do to keep my energy up?
1. I exercise semi-regularly. I say “semi” because crisis jobs tend to drop into my schedule, disrupting my routine. Also some times in my life, I’m more self-disciplined than others. I keep hand weights at home because on busy days it’s easier to take 20 minutes doing weights at home then to drive to the gym. Other days I do complete weight and cardio workouts at the gym.
2. I try to eat healthy. I say try because I’m too fond of chocolate, cheese, and pizza to be completely healthy. I keep healthy snacks handy that I can grab and eat in the car, such as hard-boiled eggs, apples, yogurts, protein bars, nuts, turkey hot dogs, string cheese. I love salads, but don’t like to make them, so I go to the salad bar at the grocery store and buy a big enough one that lasts for several meals. For each meal, I add avocado and cottage cheese to the salad.
3. I prioritize sleep. I need a LOT of sleep—more than normal. I take naps to make up for not enough sleep at night. I love long naps. Today (Sunday) I sent my boyfriend off by himself to see a “boy” movie, so I could nap without feeling guilty for not spending time with him. Once awake, I had enough energy to write and catch up on some of the tasks I’ve put off this week from fatigue and working long hours.
I’ve also found catnaps to be helpful. In the afternoon, if I doze for a few (two to five) minutes in my chair between clients, I’ll feel refreshed for the rest of the day and long into the evening.
4. I take a novel everywhere I go, so I can read every chance that I have. During a difficult consulting job, I make sure to close the door, take a lunch and read, if only for a few minutes. Another way to refresh.
5. I take vitamins, minerals, Co-Q 10, and salmon oil. On days I feel my immune system dropping, I add a fizzy Airborne tablet to water or green tea, take extra vitamin C, and suck on Zinc lozenges.
6. I try to say no to people or opportunities that I don’t want to do, or that I know will take too much of my energy.
My life still gets away from me sometimes, but by focusing on “self-care,” I manage to maintain my energy level (most of the time) and stay healthy.
Sometimes it seems the most valuable commodity on the market today is time. Our hectic lives make it almost impossible to grab long stretches of time for ourselves, but almost everyone has five minutes each day. Let’s use that time to nourish our bodies with some easy vegetable soup and energize our spirits with some me-time.
The next time you go to the grocery store, take this list: 1 bottle of a nice white wine (I like J Lohr Bay Mist Reisling) A bag of crusty rolls 1 can cut green beans 1 small can sliced mushrooms 1 can carrots (cubed are nice) 1 28-32 ounce can crushed tomatoes 1 package Hidden Valley salad dressing/dip mix (dry)
Here’s your quick dinner: In a large pan, over heat, combine crushed tomatoes and Hidden Valley mix Open and drain the liquid from the green beans, mushrooms and carrots. Replace that salty water with clear water and add to the crushed tomato/Hidden Valley mixture. Bring to a boil; immediately reduce heat to a simmer. Set oven to preheat for rolls. Put rolls on a baking sheet. Ask hubby and the kids to set the table. Open the wine and pour a glass. Set a timer for five minutes.
Now here comes the hard part…leave the room. Let your family take care of the dinner set-up chores. Singles, you might want to think about taking a few seconds in the morning to set the table before you leave for the day. The idea is that when you step away from the stove, you step away for a few minutes of solitude. In this case, you aren’t stopping to smell the roses, you’re stopping to smell the vegetable soup.
There are no rules here. You can do whatever refreshes or relaxes you. You don’t even have to drink the wine if you don’t want to. These five minutes are just for you. Use them well. When you return to reality (more commonly known as the kitchen) pop the rolls in the oven, dish up the soup, take the rolls out, and dinner is ready!
NOTE: On the Weight Watchers food program, this soup is “free.” If you want to pump it up, add a can of cubed white potatoes and a can of corn. Add one point per cup.
ANOTHER NOTE: If you don’t indulge in alcohol, try one of the flavored seltzers available on the soft drink aisle.
What would you do with your five minutes? Do you have a quick meal idea to share?
Karen splits her time between careers as a professional librarian and a writer of contemporary romance. She spends her five minutes imagining a repainted, redecorated house, but never actually gets around to calling the painters.
An aside before getting down to business: I want you all to know, my hubby decided to take a copy of my up-coming release, APHRODITE'S BREW, to show his boss. I handed him the same copy I'd taken to a workshop yesterday to show around. With a studied frown, he looked it over thoroughly while I sat waiting for his "critique". (He prefers to give me an "honest evaluation" rather than useless praise-- I think you can interpret that.) Finally he made his pronouncement. "That's a pretty good cover," he said. "Just the right amount of nudity to get attention."
There is no question in my mind that writing poses some strain on my family. I think sometimes they'd really rather I have a more lucrative job, or spend more time mopping floors and scrubbing toilets, sew up more ripped pockets and bake more bread, more like I used to be. Sometimes their frustration shows. Yet at the same time, they all seem to appreciate who I am and what I must do, and they don't hesitate to brag about me when the occasion calls for it. I'm really pretty lucky to have a family who divide up chores reasonably well and understand following dreams. Not everyone does.
The trouble with writing is we feel guilty if we write, but we feel guilty if we don't write. We feel guilty if we catch ourselves "wasting time" when we "should have" been writing. We should have been more organized so we could have sneaked in some writing minutes on our break while we ran to the bank. We took time to go to a movie with our best guy or played volleyball with the kids, when we really should have been writing. We blogged and we FaceBooked, and we MySpaced, Twittered. We even logged in a few interviews and judged twenty contest entries. We should have been writing. Somehow. Or we wrote twenty more minutes when the cats were crying for dinner, or Daughter Number Three smashed her thumb while we were finishing the chapter, and she wouldn't have if we'd only paid more attention to the fact that she had been messing around in the garage looking for a hammer.
Writers live by guilt. They motivate all aspects of their lives with it. And to be truthful, I think a lot of them like it. They'll deliberately dream up sins of omission or commission just to have something to shove themselves along through life. And conversely, when they somehow don't get their over-scheduled day completed with sufficient satisfaction, they have guilt to fall back on. The price they pay in guilt is used to balance the scales. It's almost as good as buying time.
It doesn't work for everyone, though. Some authors become so guilt-ridden, they become enervated. Some of them pay their writing debt with guilt instead of pages turned in, and they get so accustomed to this pay-off plan, they pay this price every day. One of the clues is the almost daily recital of their personal put-downs of laziness and dis-organization. It's too easy to fall into the excuse trap, and they have become completely ensnared.
Some authors have become intimidated by their own failings, and would rather burden themselves with guilt than dare to fail at writing. For them, when the guilt doesn't work, they can always find a toilet to scrub.
All of this is really poisonous to a writer's mental health. The pay-off for their procrastination and self-bullying may have relieved their fears temporarily, but it can become a full-fledged writers block or worse, depression.
So how do you dig yourself out of that sinkhole int the road? How do you keep from falling into it or even stepping into a mere shallow rut? There's only one way. It involves changing the negative thoughts you're using to poison yourself, and following that up with changing your behavior.
Did I say this would be easy? I sure hope you don't think I did. It's darn hard. These habits are deeply ingrained ones and they persist because we secretly get a pay-off from them. All negative behavior has a behavior somewhere, and this is no different. What's the pay-off? Guilt in exchange for not writing. The one thing they say they'd rather do than anything else.
So begin with finding what your pay-off is. If you are raking on guilt as payment for the permission to not write, why? You know you want to write, but why do you want to NOT write? What pain do you not want to face that is worse than guilt? You wouldn't make this trade-off fir nothing. What is it?
Could it be that you can avoid finishing, thus submitting, thus being rejected, thus proving one more time you're a lousy writer? Could it be that you don't want to face the page when it stays stubbornly blank, thus proving you've lost your voice, if you ever actually had one, thus proving you're a lousy writer and always were? What if no matter what you do get written, you just don't get that incredible buzz you used to get when characters took over the crimson corners of your imagination, because now they're just like carved chess pieces moving on the black and white squares?
What are you telling yourself? Is it a lie? Or are you afraid it might be the truth? Think about it, and think hard. Take out a notebook and a plain, ordinary ball point pen and write down one side of a page every single negative thing you're telling yourself. That's your list of Beliefs. If you get stuck, then go sit at your computer and start to write a story, and listen to yourself if the words don't come. Pick up your notebook and write those thoughts. Write everything that keeps the story from getting to the screen. Everything.
You'll know when you've got the ones that matter. Then go back over them and make notes. This is your list of Truths. Exactly how true are these thought-fears-beliefs? Don't waste your time with false bravado. That's just as dangerous. Be really frank with yourself.
The truth is that you are likely confusing your success in this cruel industry with your skills, talent and self-worth. You may be confusing fame and wealth- or even just self-sufficiency- with self-worth. That's really easy to do in this culture, which ties our personal value to our ability to make daily bucks.
We know we're struggling in an ailing industry, in an ailing economy. We know most authors never get published and very, very few published authors actually make a living at writing. We know a figure of $6-12 thousand a year average is pretty much what most do. But somehow we compare ourselves to Nora Roberts, Linda Howard, Suz Brockman, and we don't measure up. BIG THINKING ERROR! WE'RE NOT THEM!
Where you've likely slipped a cog is in thinking the joy of writing comes in the joy of success. Back when you began to write, and it was so ridiculously easy, you were also dreaming of the success you were going to have, and you mapped out mentally your path to stardom. Every success you had put some paving on that path. But it was the wrong path to pave.
I don't mean to say you shouldn't have dreams or goals. You should. You need them. You need a planned or hoped for career path. But that is not the joy of writing. If you want to get back onto the track where writing is a joy (a difficult one, but at least a joy), you must write for the sake of writing. Aim your story at a target if you want, but change the things you tell yourself about what you write, and about your ability to write. You know you did it once, and it was good. It still is. Yes, it is.
Yes. It is. And that's not hype.
Maybe you have to look at fresh material, aim at a different market, go learn something new. That wouldn't be surprising because the market is constantly changing and so are we. Do that. Experiment. Sit down and writer, just for yourself, a story you know you could never sell, something maybe 10,000 words long. Write a piece of fan fic about a story no one else but you cares about. The Lone Ranger, say. Sponge Bob Square Pants. Give him a lover. Something totally outrageous just to amuse yourself.
Then read it. Not bad, huh? Even if ole Bob did fall in love with the Little Mermaid and they... Oh, no, I'm not telling you how the story ends. But see? You really can write. Your writing skills and the market are not the same thing.
Your writing is yours. If you could write before, and you haven't lost the skill of typing or spelling, then my guess is going to be pretty accurate. You can write. So stop lying to yourself.
Give yourself the gift of carving out the time, a specific chunk you know will be yours. Make it minimal. If it's fifteen minutes, then that's what it is. Set an alarm clock so you can't forget it. Sit there. Now, begin developing your next skill, that of delayed gratification. No surfing. No email. No scrubbing toilets while you type away for fifteen solid minutes. Then get up and leave. Do not continue. Do the same the next day. When the first delaying doubts and guilt-ridden self-lies sneak in, look at your list of Truths. Start typing. Don't stop even if you find yourself repeating the same word over and over. At the end of fifteen minutes, get up and leave.
Do not advance your schedule until you have this one down firmly. You may double it, but no more than that. Repeat, repeat, repeat every day. This is the pattern you ruthlessly follow until you are sure you can give yourself a larger gift. And every day. for that small amount of time, you drum the real truth into your head. Pretty soon you'll get sick of denying yourself your greatest pleasure, because you will begin to see it really is your greatest pleasure. And the truth is--
You are a writer. And writers write. You are writing. And you no longer need guilt to hide from your greatest love.
Are you guilty? Or have you been telling yourself you're guilty? What secrets have you been telling yourself about yourself, and what's the real truth about them?
Anyone who knows me will laugh at the idea of me offering beauty advice. I am not a expert, I seldom wear makeup, and my bad hair days far outnumber the good ones. What I really love about spa treatments is the total sense of relaxation and well being—so it’s as much about what’s happening on the inside as it is about the outside.
I’d love to indulge myself every month or so but simply can’t afford it, so the next best thing is to treat myself to a spa day at home. This is a relaxing and refreshing alternative, and it can be done with simple, everyday ingredients like oatmeal, honey, yogurt and avocado, so it’s also affordable. Gotta love that!
Whether your spa day is solo or done with a spouse/sister/daughter/friend, I’m sure you’ll find it’s time well spent. On my websie I’ve posted a detailed outline of a possible spa day at home. Just click here and scroll down to “Maggie’s Tips for a Spa Day Home.”
And here are a couple of great recipes for homemade spa goodies from Spa Index.
Chocolate Facial Mask
1/3 cup cocoa powder 3 tablespoons heavy cream 2 teaspoons cottage cheese 1/4 cup honey 3 teaspoons oatmeal
This is one of my favorites! Blend all the ingredients together and smooth the mixture onto your face. Relax for ten 10 minutes, then wash off with warm water. Your skin will be nice and soft, although be forewarned. You may find yourself craving chocolate!
And did you know you can make your own pore cleaning strips? It's super easy, and so economical.
Mix the two ingredients and microwave for 10 seconds till slightly warm. Using a clean cosmetic brush or spatula, apply to nose and chin area. Avoid delicate eye area. Rinse brush/spatula immediately. Allow mixture on nose and chin to dry for 10 to 15 minutes. Mixture will dry to form a stiff film. Peel off the film and be amazed!
Do you have any at-home spa tips or special little indulgences you’d like to share?
Until next time,
~ ~ ~
Lee McKenzie writes for Harlequin American Romance. With This Ring (December ‘07) is available as an ebook from eHarlequin.com and Amazon.com (Kindle edition). Her next two books are a series set in beautiful San Francisco.
We began the week with a blog on creating a bucket list for 2009. Since Dianna posted her blog I've been trying to come up with a list of my own. But I've only come up with two. One is to enjoy the moment. Often, while doing something fun, I'm thinking about what I have to do later. Crazy, huh? The only other item on my 2009 bucket list is to spend more time with friends, which sort of goes with the whole enjoy the moment theme.
How about you? Now that you've had a few days to ponder, what's on your Bucket List for 2009?
As always, if you have a writing question, please post it. We're happy to give it our best shot.
I'm a big fan of setting goals, but I'm also a big fan of rewarding yourself for meeting those goals. These rewards should be on a par with what you've accomplished -- small rewards (a piece of chocolate) for small accomplishments and large ones (a spa day) for bigger ones. For instance, I've been working on a new book this week, and thankfully I've surpassed my daily goal each day. As a reward, I get to watch a movie each night. Not big, but it's a nice incentive. If I've met the goal, I can take those couple of hours for myself guilt-free.
You can break it down into mini-rewards for mini-goals throughout the day. Though I'm going to use writing examples, you can adjust them to whatever you need to get done each day. I've found that writing in set time slots works well. For instance, I look at the clock. Say, it's sitting at 8:30 a.m. I make a deal with myself that if I write until 9:30, I can get up and do other things -- get something to eat, take a short walk, check e-mail. But limit the reward time to perhaps 10-15 minutes so that you can get in another writing (or house cleaning or paperwork or whatever) spurt. Or you could say, I can take that break/reward when I've written five pages (or cleaned the bathrooms). This is a good way to increase production while also tricking your brain into thinking, "I only have to do X before I get a treat."
That's small rewards. On the other end of the spectrum, there are bigger rewards for bigger accomplishments. Finish a book or complete a demanding project at work or finish painting the house? Take a totally guilt-free spa day or a day filled with a movie, lunch and shopping with friends. I like to do this between projects to get away from the computer for a day. If you've been getting lots accomplished for a good amount of time, maybe you deserve a beach vacation. I have lots of friends who when they sold their first books, they rewarded themselves with something like a really nice piece of jewelry. When I sold my first book, I bought myself a TiVo! No more appointment TV! :)
It's important to reward ourselves for good behavior. Hey, we start this practice young for children, so why stop when we're adults. It helps us accomplish more and feel good about ourselves in the process. So get out there and accomplish great things...and then reward yourself.
As Diana Love said in her monday post, "If the only person you ever thought about was you, then that would be selfish. On the other hand, if you rarely think of you or dedicate time/money to YOUR happiness then that’s negligent."
Well said, Diana! I couldn't agree more.
I don't tend to take shopping trips or exotic vacations or spa getaways. My indulgences are a little more mundane, but no less nurturing to my soul. And they're available a lot more frequently!
In reverse order, here they are:
5. Watching my beloved Toronto Blue Jays play baseball on TV. Yes, they're on almost every day in the summer, and I used to watch almost every game, which takes on average a 3 hour chunk out of the day. That is not an indulgence, my friends. That's an addiction. I finally found some discipline, and now watch only a few times a week. And it's wonderful!
4. Walking in the woods with my dog. There are more convenient places I could walk, but as nice as the walking paths are in my city, there's nothing like the sights and scents of a woods walk, and a happy dog off its leash. Truly food for the soul.
3. Parking myself at the specialty tea shop for a few hours with my Alphasmart and a lovely Formosa oolong. Pure happiness.
2. Curling up with a great book for an uninterrupted day of reading. Mmmmm, bliss. If great tea is involved, even better.
1. Sneaking off to the movie theatre alone. This is my absolute favorite indulgence! I get to see exactly what I want to see without worrying about anyone else's tastes or preferences. I don't have a running critique from my sister in my ear as I try to watch. I don't have to control my drooling when Daniel Craig heats up the screen. I can completely lose myself in the story and be transported. Pure heaven!
So, what are YOUR top indulgences? What's your number one, no fail, self-nurturing activity? Maybe you'll inspire me to pick up some new ones!
I learned long ago to indulge myself in things I'd probably do anyway. Telling myself these small everyday habits are actually luxuries makes me appreciate them more, and I discover my day is filled with delights.
Is there anything as delicious as curling up in a warm bed with a good book? Setting my morning alarm a few minutes early or skipping a late-night activity lets me begin and end each day doing one of my favorite things: reading. Spoiling myself like that is bliss.
My favorite perfume isn't saved for special events--I often spritz a bit just for me. I steal time to fill my vases with fresh flowers, or I take a different route through town to catch a glimpse of sailboats on the bay. When I think of it, I treat myself to a five-minute concert, closing my eyes to let the orchestration of a favorite tune envelop me. I'm incredibly fortunate to have so much beauty available with relatively little trouble–and to be able to enjoy it.
There may be a few chores and annoyances associated with owning a dog, but when I return from an errand, I'm welcomed home with such adoration I can't help but feel special. And there's nothing as relaxing as pausing to rub soft, furry ears and share a quiet moment with a creature who thinks I'm the most wonderful human on the planet.
Stepping beneath the shower spray, or finishing a task, or stretching my arms above my head after a long stint in my desk chair feels absolutely fabulous. So does laughing with friends or letting chocolate melt in my mouth.
What daily experiences delight you? What ordinary things do you do to treat yourself?
Welcome back to the Wet Noodle Posse Blog.2009 is going to be a great year.It started off really terrific for me. To share some good news, my current release – Dead After Dark anthology that includes my urban fantasy novella MIDNIGHT KISS GOODBYE – debuted at #5 on the NYT in December and spent the past four weeks on the list.
The Wet Noodle Posse is an amazing group of talented writers who will bring you fun and interesting blogs all this year so please come back often to visit.
What comes to mind when you
hear the term “Bucket List”?
If you’re under thirty, you probably think of your parents and wonder what “they” might like to do before they kick the bucket. Ifyou’re older than thirty, you may immediately think how much you’d like to ________ (you fill in the blank) while you’re still young enough to enjoy it.
What if you had an annual Bucket List?And – that Bucket List was more about staying in touch with what brings joy to your world?Notice that I didn’t include what would bring joy to your spouse and childrens' world or your best friend's world or anyone else's.
What would make Just YOU happy?
Sound selfish just to think about your own happiness?Why?If the only person you ever thought about was you, then that would be selfish.On the other hand, if you rarely think of you or dedicate time/money to YOUR happiness then that’s negligent.It’s not wrong to want to enjoy life more or to fulfill a dream you’ve always had.In fact, being responsible for your own happiness is a very healthy concept. I am the worst one for saying “yes” when asked to do something and am finally learning that passing on a request does not make me a bad or inconsiderate person.Just that I need a little time for me.
What if at the start of every year you chose one “thing” or a list of things you really wanted to do that year before the year kicked the bucket?You have the advantage of knowing each year you’ve got 365 days to fulfill one desire.That’s not impossible.
Here’s the secret to how you do it:
Start out simple and list several things, any one of which you can accomplish in five days.
You deserve five days out of 365, right?Mark those 5 days on the calendar as if they are your best friend’s wedding date or your child’s graduation or your parents’ fiftieth anniversary party.Treat those days as if they are set in stone.You don’t even have to know what you want to do yet on those days, but DO NOT give up those dates to anyone else for anything less than what it would take for you to cancel out on your best friend’s wedding date or your child’s graduation or your parents’ fiftieth anniversary party.
I have an old yellowed piece of paper on my monitor stand I cut out of a magazine many years ago with a quote by Goethe that says, “Nothing is worth more than today.”I believe in that completely and make the most of every day of my life, but that means I tend to also fill many of those days with work since I write and run a
Watching the movie Bucket List got me thinking about how people set huge/expensive goals to accomplish before they “kick the bucket,” but often miss the smaller joys along the way that make life special.Take for example someone who is determined to cruise the Mediterranean before they die who might also harbor a secret desire to learn how to ride a motorcycle, write a book, meet their Aunt Jessie who has never left her home in a remote mountain town or simply wants to visit museums.
Those less important sounding “wants” fall to the back of our mind with “when I get time I’ll do that,” because we think we can do any of those things any time we want.But that never happens.I always had it in the back of my mind I wanted to see Mount Rushmore.I’m a portrait artist and sculpture.
I’ve painted 100 feet long murals and a person’s face twenty feet tall and sculpted huge pieces for marketing projects so it takes a lot to wow me when it comes to sculpting.I knew that seeing Mount
Rushmore would bowl me over.To see what mere mortals had done with nothing more than antiquated equipment, a mountain and a vision.
On the next to the last day of a 4000 mile motorcycle trip Karl (husband) and I made in 2007, he told me we could alter our route and visit Mount Rushmore, but it would be a push to reach the park an hour before they closed.I was on a tight schedule to get home since I had to leave the next day to join Sherrilyn Kenyon on her book tour.But Karl and I had put this trip off for several years since it was tough to for us to coordinate 10 days to make the ride so we rode hard and made it to the park in time.
Mount Rushmore really is a huge WOW and made that motorcycle trip even more special and one I will never forget. However...I did not get time to ride my motorcycle in 2008 at all. Nada. I had an insane schedule, but I should have found ONE DAY to take a ride.
Back to the Bucket List...
I do have some big “want to dos” on my long-term list like seeing the Sistine Chapel in Italy before my bucket is kicked, but starting this year I’m writing an annual Bucket List of things I know are realistic to make happen in one year...that will make me happy.Like fishing more, playing golf again with my friends and riding my motorcycle more often.I know I can find at least 5 days to do these activities at some point this year if I make them "my priority."
I am determined to make sure these things happen with or without other people involved (TIP – Don’t base your plans on anyone’s schedule except yours if it is something you really want to do), and if it means using that powerful word “no” when it’s time to make a choice between doing something for others that is optional and taking a day for
You deserve FIVE days.That’s less than 2% of the entire year.Print out the following and tape it to each of the FIVE days marked on YOUR calendar:
NOTHING IS WORTH MORE THAN TODAY
NOTHING IS WORTH MORE THAN TODAY
NOTHING IS WORTH MORE THAN TODAY
NOTHING IS WORTH MORE THAN TODAY
NOTHING IS WORTH MORE THAN TODAY
Okay, what’s on your 2009 Bucket List?
Come back tomorrow to visit award-winning author Terry McLaughlin whose blog is on Everyday Delights.
NYT Best selling author Dianna Love writes thrillers and urban fantasy. Her next release will be WHISPERED LIES (Pocket/May 19, 2009), a Bureau of American Defense (BAD) Agency novel. For more on Dianna visit www.AuthorDiannaLove.com
Be Good to Yourself--Or Else month kicks into high gear this week with the following posts. Please join us.
Monday, January 5th: Dianna Love Bucket List for 2009—Motorcycles and Fishing Tuesday, January 6th: Terry McLaughlin Everyday Delights Wednesday, January 7th: Norah Wilson Spoiling Yourself—Top Five Indulgences Thursday, January 8th: Trish Milburn Rewarding Yourself for Accomplishments Friday, January 10th: Q&A topic: What’s on Your Bucket List for the Year?
When you’re a writer, being good to yourself often involves setting and meeting writing goals. How do you set realistic goals? What are some tips you can share?
Sometimes being good to yourself involves a warm afghan, a cup of hot tea, and a good noodler romance. Our January new releases are sure to meet your goal of savoring a happy ending.
Delle Jacobs Aphrodite’s Brew
It’s just an old family recipe for a restorative tonic for women that Sylvia secretly sells to fund her step-daughter's coming Season. But when the Tons most confirmed bachelors begin to elope, the Earl of Vailmont suspects fraud. Fearing he will expose her dabbling in trade or, worse, her weakness for handsome men, Sylvia concocts an old family charm to protect her fragile heart from disaster. But neither logic nor charms can combat the stubborn love that sweeps them into a whirl of unbridled passion. And, from somewhere in the forgotten mists of time, a nameless god is laughing.
Jennie Lucas Italian Prince, Wedlocked Wife Single mom Lucy Abbott is working as many hours as she can, but still can barely afford to feed her baby daughter. Then Prince Maximo d'Aquilla offers her millions, and a way out of her desperate life. Max whisks her away to Italy…and soon she's totally his! Max has seduced her completely. But is he driven by revenge, or desire? And is he ruthless enough to walk away from his captive bride?
Merrillee Whren Mommy’s Hometown Hero
His objective: marriage. His opponent: a stubborn single mom. After ten years, Rachel Charbonneau is finally back in South Dakota. But she intends to sell her family's farm and rush "home" to the city. Ex-solidier Matt Dalton won't let her go without a fight. Well, a secret fight. He can't let her know he's loved her since they were kids. Or that thoughts of her saved him through the worst of times. And Rachel seems scared to tell him the real reason she wants to leave. So, his strategy: arm himself with all the faith and love necessary to be her hometown hero.
Anna DeStefano “Weekend Meltdown” Winter Heat (along with Vicki Lewis Thompson “Weekend Fling” and Jade Lee “Weekend Tigress”)
Unforgettable For two cynical best friends who believe beginning an affair would be too much of a cliché…until they decide to share a vacation—and a bed! Unbelievable For a schoolteacher eager to exchange her schoolmarm nature for that of an insatiable tigress and the undercover agent who knows how to bring out her wild side! And completely mind-blowing! For a corporate gal looking to shed her office shackles with the one man who can't afford to get carried away…
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