Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Tasty Tuesday ~~ Italian Two-fer

Mm-mmm. Enjoy one of my favorite go-to recipes (spaghetti) and a new fav by friend Scott Mitchell (zucchini cakes).

Spaghetti Sauce with Meatballs & Eggs

3 or 4 pounds meatballs (your own recipe or frozen) 
15 large eggs 
5 large cans Hunt's Spaghetti Sauce (2 Cheese & Garlic, 2 Mushroom, 1 Traditional)
Seasoning (garlic powder, black pepper, sea salt, Italian blend) 
2 medium white onions, diced 
2 cups each Pecorino Romano and Parmesan cheese  

In giant pot, saute onions in olive or canola oil until clear. Add in Hunt's sauce [it often goes on sale for $1 per can, and is just as good as homemade!], meatballs, and seasonings to taste. Add cheeses and about two cups of water. Stir well. Simmer on medium-low covered for an hour. 

Turn heat to medium after stirring well and tasting. Adjust seasoning if needed. When sauce begins to bubble, break and drop eggs into sauce. DO NOT STIR. Return cover to pot and let simmer for an hour. When yolks have hardened, stir gently just to mix. Return temperature to medium-low and continue cooking slowly for three or four hours. 

View inside the pot after adding eggs. 
Serve over angel hair pasta garnished with Parmesan. (Serves a ton of hungry folks. Leftovers make for a great casserole! Just spray a glass casserole pan, add pasta and sauce, and cover with a layer of Mozzarella and other favorite Italian cheeses. Bake covered with foil until thoroughly heated.)

Scott's Zucchini Cakes

1 Large Zucchini - grated
1 large egg
1/4 tsp paprika
1/8 tsp nutmeg
salt & freshly ground pepper to taste
1 Cup Panko Bread Crumbs
1/2 Cup Parmesan Cheese
2 Tbsp Olive Oil

Before beginning, grate zucchini onto a large dish towel, wrap tightly, and squeeze out as much excess water as possible. 

Mix all ingredients except bread crumbs and Parmesan together in a large bowl. Add bread crumbs and Parmesan - mix well. Heat oil in pan. Cook patties for 3-4 minutes per side, until golden brown. Enjoy! 

Add Ins - finely grate an onion, crumbled bacon, whatever. 


What have y'all been up to in the kitchen?! 

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Writerly Wednesday ~~ Creating Vignettes

I dug this out of files & folders in my cyber Back 40 for friend Jink Willis when we got to yappin' about her blog post on the similarities between home staging and writing. This little article uses photographic concepts and pointers to (hopefully) help us hone the writing craft. Enjoy! 



Vignette: (n.) Any small, pleasing picture or view; a small, graceful literary sketch. (v.) Finishing a picture/photograph in the manner of a vignette.

Whether crafting a setting for a short story or novel, a scene in a play, or framework for poetry, writers who think in terms of vignettes create sharper, more concise, and more memorable work. (Think "snapshot" or "scene.")

Visualize your keyboard or pen as a photographer’s favorite camera. If you take the time to look carefully through the viewfinder before clicking, you’ll be happier with your finished product. Conversely, if you grab and snap in a rush, you’ll produce blurred, amateurish work. All art takes time and practice to perfect, but with persistence, we can hone our writing skills. To this end, following are a few “picturesque” tips on setting up good vignettes: 

Invest in good equipment: If you think you can produce high quality work with a throw-away camera, think again. The quickie writer submits the first thing off the top of his head without taking the time to edit with a critical eye. The professional (one who invests in classes, workshops, critique group membership, and other learning opportunities) knows by taking his time to learn the rules and techniques, his work will shine.

Get down (or up) on your subject’s level: Think and write from your characters’ perspective. See what they see, hear what they hear, etc. When this is done, the writing will come off as realistic vs. fabricated.

Move in close: The best photographs are those which get as close to the subject as possible. This is one reason macro shots have so much impact. Leave off extraneous descriptions, unneeded words. Crisp and sharp writing increases your publication odds.

Try different poses, angles, points of interest, and components of composition: Your vignette staging is important, so spend time thinking of the overall word picture you are composing. Would a change in Point of View work better? Have you given your characters enough depth through character sketching? What might be added or subtracted to create a clearer portrayal?

Frame your subject through the lens: Think of all aspects of your vignette and consider how it will be transmitted to your readers. Give your story plot or poetry balance on all sides. Is every single thing you are considering including in your vignette necessary? Beware of having trees sprout from subjects’ heads (fantastical plot lines). Savvy readers know when you’re overreaching. Make sure your thumb is out of the way also; remove all traces of yourself from your writing so the plot and characters can be heard and the author forgotten.

Research your subject: Always check your facts. A bit of research on products, eras, and other germane data adds unique, fresh details to your work. Editors and readers will appreciate the extra effort.

Now you’re locked, loaded, and ready to create better word photos. Your vignettes will be sharply focused, as will their tone, mood, and quality. Leaving readers with an unforgettable mental snapshot (of characters, plot, or evocative use of words in a poem) is a hallmark of good writing.

If you’re having trouble with a particular passage or stanza, why not post it here on the blog? I’ll gladly see what I can do with my editor's red grease pencil to help out. 

Monday, July 9, 2012

Creative Collaborations

Hellooooooooo, Blogland friends! I've been captivated by several ongoing creative projects, endeavors, and "things" lately, but decided it's a good time to be more active here, and yes, I've missed you. (More on what all's been going on with me later.) :)

I've just completed one of the most fun projects I've ever been involved with -- an altered book swap with Janice Williams Phelps. I forget how the idea came about, but we decided a couple of weeks ago to make small altered books, swap out halfway through to complete each other's books, and each keep one. Before even beginning really, Janice and I had the notion to keep and work on one book each, then exchange them, thus eliminating the question of who gets to keep which book and also the need to mail the books back and forth for completion. Smart gals, us. 

Before I delve into the project more completely, a bit about Janice. We've never met in person (but hope to one day), and share a similar background and interest in all things creative. Whereas I consider myself a doodler/dabbler in the arts, Janice has mad skills. She's an awesome artist in several mediums, photographer, has a beautiful way of waltzing with words on several dance floors -- book illustration and design, editorial services -- oh, I could go on and on! Check out some of her recent work HERE. I'll just post a photo of her fine art below (which piece was one of the first to "hang" in Rose & Thorn Journal's art gallery), and hope she forgives me for not asking permission beforehand. 

In other words, I love Janice's work! Be sure to sign up for and check out her blog. It's chock full of creative goodness. 

Now, on to our Altered Book Swap Project. I'll describe how I treated each page of the children's book I made for Janice page-by-page. {If you're ever looking for a fun project to work on with a friend, this is it. You need NO particular skill; just a willingness to go where the book takes you, and a few basic art supplies. You'll be glad you did it. As a bonus besides the LOVELY one-of-a-kind personalized gift book I received in exchange, I learned a few things about myself in the process.} 

The original child's book cover, unaltered. (Found it at Goodwill for $1!) 

I loved the butterfly shape of the book because it reminded me of Janice -- colorful, beautiful, and full of life. Not knowing she had a butterfly book project on her back burner, I was happy I chose it. (The collaboration was full of synchronicity and personal symbolism, which I'll post about another time.) ;) 

I used various Sharpies and markers throughout the pages, as here on the altered cover. How glad was I when Janice told me that sanding these slick pages made other materials adhere easily? Anywho, I added a title -- A WOMAN, AN ARTIST (which I also added to the thin spine with my name and date, using a white gel pen), collaged on a picture from an artist magazine I liked, doodled around with markers and a bit of Gouache around the wing edge, added some self-adhesive bling around the outer edge and on the eyes to make the butterfly look more feminine and interesting. The antenna are two small pieces of wire affixed with Gorilla Glue. (A must-have for this kind of project!) Each page was finished with Majic Crystal Clear Spray to keep them from sticking together and to hold everything in place. I hole punched front & back covers and laced in a piece of leather strip so the book can be tied in a loose bow to hold it shut if desired.

The inside cover is a combo of marker, collaged words and photos cut from magazines. I circled around the text already there to form a new sentence, blotting out the words I didn't want to use. I kept part of the original shiny butterfly wing as is.  

The opposing page is collaged with tissue paper, magazine pictures, and one of Janice's own poems I decorated with markers and affixed with a small sponge tab thingy beneath so it stood away from the page. ModPodge glue was used on just about every page.


Next, I wanted to add to the size and texture of the book's pages, so used a heavy piece of art paper from Michael's that looked ferny and natural (except for the purple color), using the book shape as a template, and folded over to make a double-sized extra "wing" flap. A partner-less old earring became the door handle. If you look closely, you can see the word "Open" on one of the leaves. The Gorilla Glue came in handy for this page. 

When the flap is opened, the "secret" page is revealed. It's a lovely magazine pic of a timeless woman on top of the sanded and painted page. I added a sticky 3-D flower and some prose with "found poem" before varnishing with the Majic spray. 

The page at right is a combo of ModPodged items such as the little Victorian photographer girl, pink tissue over the overly-loud flowers in the original book, paint, a 3-D paper bird, and a real feather. I've blotted out all the words except, "fly." 

This page was really fun. Some of the element ideas to add actually came to me right before I fell asleep one night. I painted the whole page a rosy color except for the original text I decided to keep, Sharpied in the heart strings, and added an old iris greeting card cover. Then I added the words, "she is a PEACOCK!" to "Then one morning Caterpillar wakes up and . . ." The bird is a photograph of an albino peacock I took and printed out on regular paper, then decorated with various markers (except for its head). I couldn't bear to cut off all that beautiful tail, so I ModPodged it several times and sprayed a couple of coats on it and let dry, extended away from the book. Below, the tail is extended in a pull-out.

The next two pages were fun to do. I left the sun and some of the rays exposed, added a little Sharpie art I did on a piece of thicker artist's paper with the word "grow" added, left some of the words as the originally appeared, and covered up the rest with stick-on borders. I added on a few peel-and-stick butterflies, glued down and collaged on the flowers/sun marker picture I drew, then extended the sun rays over the artwork with some metallic gel pens. 

The page below, I wanted to reflect some of Janice's 
artistic interests and talents, and some of her many roles. These are depicted on the artist's palette and personalized paintbrush I drew on thick paper and tore out with rough edges showing. Magazine pictures and words were added to the collage, and a fortune cookie paper. ***I think I got these two photos in the wrong order, and am too stoopid to figure out how to switch them! 

This back inside cover was a lot of fun to do! It says, "Wishes can come true!" And I forget what I altered or changed. LOL. I cut up a piece of a Chinese takee-outee box because it had awesome colors and factory creases for folding. Then I cut the same size piece out of the book so I could insert the green tissue (like a present you unwrap), the folding box piece, and a small artwork I made on tiny canvas paper with fine markers, a collaged tree and bird pictures cut from magazines. All put down with Gorilla Glue. When closed, the box flap piece appears as below. I hole-punched through the layers of the box flap and hooked in another earring to keep it closed. (Pic below) 

And finally, here's the back cover! Paint, collaged tissue paper, the tissue paper-covered piece poking through from the inside cover (which forms an abstract flower pot), more 3-D flowers, and stems I cut from a pad of white peel-and-stick art paper (what a fabulous pad to have on hand!) I colored green with a Sharpie. 

WHEW! That's the story of the little butterfly book that morphed into something completely altered by one woman's handiwork. 

And here is a photo of the AWESOME altered book swap project that arrived on my awaiting doorstep last Friday from Janice. Visit her blog where she is posting today about this cooler-than-skool exchange, and where I'm heading as soon as I hit publish! 


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