Thursday, August 21, 2014

On Sharing Your Work

I’m sure I have mentioned before that writing is a very frightening, paranoid process. If not, let me tell you that writing is a very frightening, paranoid process. Frightening that what we are writing is actually not any good at all, that it’s been said before, that it’s grievously unoriginal and that we are almost offensively boring.
And that’s before we even have to share our work!
For many years (starting in about the 2nd grade) I would write only when I felt like I had some really brilliant idea, or when I was having fantasies about my life as a famous, hugely admired writer with a fabulous sweater collection and a fan club.
Then I’d come back six months later and reread what I’d written only to realize that it was about as revolutionary as raccoon poop and was ashamed of myself for at one point thinking it was quality writing.
Needless to say, I didn’t share it with anyone. Mistake #1.
But I tried to right this by continuing to read, to develop my own voice, to imitate the styles of other writers, to look for themes and patterns in their work.  I wrote some very moody poetry, and I started sending work to two or three trusted friends for constructive criticism. (Rather, I sent it to them because I knew they would be mostly complimentary, out of love for me and my delicate self.)
After being sufficiently encouraged, I took some writing classes and started talking with other creators about their processes and their inspiration. I started following bloggers. And most importantly… I wrote.
It was largely not inspired at all. I wrote out memories, stream of consciousness, and little fictional scenes. As Anne Lamott suggested, I gave myself short assignments. I set the goal of writing a minimum of 350 words a day. I gave myself grace when I wrote just… absolute mushy trash. It was fine because no one read it but me. There was still some safety in it, you know?
 I read one of Shauna Niequist’s posts that encouraged people to chase their passions and work towards goals, and all that stuff that she is qualified to say because she does stuff. Specifically, she encouraged fledgling writers to share their work…on a blog.
So I burned everything I had written and became a homesteader in Alaska.
Actually, I texted Robin and told him I wanted him to help me set a deadline by which to have a blog started, and to help me figure out a posting schedule. I was expecting maybe 3-6 months was a reasonable range. Robin was thinking “tonight!”
So “Tonight” it was. And Our Art and Soul was born. *cue inspiring soundtrack*
And it’s still so vulnerable and intimidating and I feel like I’m about to have a seizure every Tuesday when I realize that I’m supposed to post something Wednesday and my brain is absolutely out of commission. But then I push through that and write something. And I put it on the Internet. Because I need to get over myself. I’ve learned to extend grace to myself and to my work by honoring the process and just posting stuff.
I imagine that sharing your work is like having a baby (stick with me here.)
(Y'all knew an awkward analogy was coming, didn't you? That's what this blog should have been called : "Awkward Analogies and Soul.")
You have this idea inside you for a long time, and it forms and develops, and then one day, it’s born (baby, idea, painting, song, recipe, whatever.) And it’s a good thing. It might still throw up on your friends and keep you awake at night, but it’s already got everything it needs to be great, some day. I mean, imagine if no one let people hold their babies... “No! Don’t look at her! She won’t be finished for several years!”
And seriously, no one would mercilessly criticize your baby. Like, “Oh, still drools, I see. And what’s this, leg rolls? Pathetic.”
(Are you enjoying all my dialogue here?)
Share your work because it’s good for your soul, and because it might be for someone else’s as well. Share it because sometimes there are very few opportunities to be brave and this is one of them. Share it because vulnerability builds something very sweet into you and reminds you that you still have a lot to learn.
This extends beyond writing, too! Share your songs, your thoughts, your inventions, your sculptures, your visions for a business, your hopes for your Church, your personal journey.
And selfishly, share all this because I am nosy and want to know what y’all are making.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Spiced Oatmeal Cookies!!

Remember that time when I said I was going to include a tutorial for how to do your own backyard movie party?
Well. That’s not happening this week.

Mostly because I’d be photographing the process in our backyard, which is currently the nesting ground for about a billion mosquitoes and Rob and I would probably get all manner of mosquito-borne diseases and would never get to do our Killer Tomatoes Eat France party!!!
So here’s this instead. And it’s still in the spirit of wishing that fall was here ;)

The fun thing about these is that I INVENTED THEM ALL BY MYSELF!!!!!! (So don't tell me if you don't like them.)

Also fun is the fact that I combined two of the fallsiest things (namely, mulling spices and oatmeal cookies) into one delicious snack. Making these is like doing some sort of welcome-fall rain dance. Not to toot my own horn, but…. *bum ba da dummm* Spiced Oatmeal Cookies!!!!

Spiced Oatmeal Cookies
These are an adaptation of Robin’s Granny’s cookies. Even though they're actually quite different. That’s okay.

1 c. softened butter (2 sticks)
1 c. white sugar
1 c. brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
½ tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. ground nutmeg
½ tsp. ground cloves
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice 
1 tsp. orange zest (about 1/3rd of an orange)
1/2 tsp ground ginger
A small dash of salt
2 tsp. baking soda
2 large eggs
1 ½ c. white flour
1/3 c. whole wheat flour (or just an additional 1/3 c. of white flour)
3 1/3 c. rolled oats


Preheat oven to 350.
Cream sugar, brown sugar and butter with a hand mixer until they are VERY fluffy. Add in eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Stir in vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, pumpkin pie spice, ginger and orange zest.
Add in your flours and oats. The mixture should be pretty thick. I've usually ditched the electric mixer by now.

Roll your dough into small balls and place on a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper. This keeps them from burning onto the pan and you can just throw away the paper afterwards which means one less dish to wash!
(No offense, Environment. I’m just draining Lake Travis trying to hand wash all my friggin’ dishes.)

Bake for 10-12 minutes.  
This could probably also be really great if you substituted almond meal for the whole wheat flour, or used apple pie spice in place of pumpkin pie spice. You could even get crazy and incorporate a little bit of apple or pumpkin butter! 
**Granny suggests putting a slice of white bread or apple slices in the container with the stored cookies to keep them moist and fresh.

Ideally, these should be eaten with friends and family, everyone all be-sweatered and gleeful because you’ve turned the AC in your house down to 65 for the sake of the party. Or if your friends aren’t readily available, maybe just get a book and some coffee, and spare the electric bill. Even better yet!! Wait for fall, have your backyard movie party and make these!! There. Everyone's happy.

You're welcome, Environment.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Beginner's Guide to Theme Parties

For those of you who know me well, you know that Theme Parties are my life blood. Ever since I hosted my first murder mystery Italian dinner in 10th grade and got third degree burns from making bruschetta, I’ve realized that theme parties are my calling.

I’ve also realized that summer in central Texas is hot and that air conditioned activities really shouldn’t be frowned upon so much. Hence, the movie party.  I love making food an activity that everybody gets to participate in, so most of these involve cooking together! 

Here are some of our favorite ones.

For you… ma best peeps.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Watch Party (with Homemade Pizza!)
First thing you need to know is that this doesn’t work with the new TMNT. It has to be the original. Like. From the 80’s. Or else it just won’t work. Then you need to know that it is best to use this here recipe for pizza dough because it is so easy and you have no excuse not to try it. Have it ready before your people come and have bowls of toppings already prepared.
Oh, and make sure everyone washes their hands. Because, obviously.

Julie and Julia Date Night (with Chicken with Mushroom in white wine cream sauce.)
Robin and I did this when we were trying to invent our own married equivalent of spring break while all our friends were like, climbing mountains and riding unicorns while we were working. *Not bitter.* It was actually his very romantic idea since he knows this is one of my favorite movies! For us, it looked like getting halfway through the movie, pausing it, googling a Julia Child recipe that doesn’t take four hours to make, running to the store, making dinner, then snuggling on the couch while eating this crazy delicious meal and finishing the movie. For you it could look like that, or it could look like planning ahead. Your choice.

Find the recipe here.  
Crepes and Mustaches… Party.
The theme is a little sketchy here, but basically make crepes with your friends and wear mustaches while you do it. Then eat them and play board games. Even though board games aren’t expressly French. Have a crepe flipping contest and listen to Carla Bruni.

We use the crepe listed on our Recipe page and usually have bowls of sliced bananas, strawberries, and blackberries with Nutella, almond butter, and fruit dip. You could also make our favorite savory crepes with caramelized onions, pulled pork, and gruyere, but that is expensive and requires planning, neither of which are generally our strong points.

This is a recipe I’ve made but a movie I haven’t seen. So I’m taking the plunge and really expecting it to be good. This one is next on our list….
Linguine Bolognese with Killer Tomatoes Eat France.
I don’t know how a movie that involves gigantic tomato puppets and France could not be good. I’ll watch it and let you know though.
And also I’ll put the Bolgonese on the Recipes page, because I can’t find it online.
(Optional: recycle mustaches from crepe party. Or wear tomato costumes.)

Coming up next: How to Host your own Backyard Movie Party!

You know, in the fall, with friends and sweaters and blankets. 

And low humidity.

And a Pumpkin Spice Latte in hand.

Do you sense me daydreaming?