Tag Archives: tips

Swaying Palms

The Write Time … for a Summer Treat

Like most writers I know, I feel like I don’t have enough time to write. We juggle a ton of other responsibilities, so that even when we carve out time at our computer or with a notebook, things often interrupt and push writing to the back seat.

One of those things currently stealing my writing time is cooking dinner for me and the hub, something I’m adapting to since we married last year. Because I work from home, I have more flexibility in my schedule. And, though very challenging mentally at times, I have to concede my daily physical workload is not quite as exhausting as my hub’s is as a contractor. So, most days making dinner falls to me.

Those who know me know I wasn’t much of a cook when I got hitched. I’d lived in the West Village and worked in Hell’s Kitchen (love that name) for all of my 17 years in Manhattan, and world-class cooking and cuisines greeted me whenever I stepped outside.

To say I hardly cooked during those NYC years is massive hyperbole. I boiled water for pasta, ate cheese and crackers and pepperoni (thanks, Uncle John!!) and occasionally heated a can of soup or scrambled a couple eggs. Could’ve ended in tragedy, considering my love of food, but with a decent salary and so many readily available scrumptious options, I had no choice but to indulge my restaurant craving.

Fortunately for me, for a relatively small city St. Augustine boasts a disproportionately large quantity of fabulous eateries. But that’s a topic for another blog. : )

As much as I’ve enjoyed the culinary additions (yay, a Thai restaurant finally opened downtown), one cannot live on restaurant food alone, said someone somewhere, surely. And since neither my hub nor I are rolling in dough (hello, can we say “whole-house reno,” anyone? Another writing-time-suck, BTW.), I’ve taken up cursing—I mean, cooking—to keep us eating tasty, healthy food on a reasonable budget.

Well, now. Shopping and cooking for more than one person is quite the experience.

But I’m getting used to juggling both. And to my hub’s ears’ and stomach’s delight, I’m improving. I won’t bog you down with my best tips and tricks for shopping fast, healthily and affordably. There are so many other more worthy sites you can check out for better tips than I could give. Here are two to try:
http://www.eatthis.com/best-supermarket-shopping-tips-ever
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/news/grocery-shopping-tips/

So what I’ll do here is share a few fun summer dishes that I tweak to fit what I find in my kitchen, along with links to a couple great recipes. Check out these fun yums:

–Old Bay Shrimp:

Spicy Shrimp over Rice

http://oldbay.com/Recipes/Shrimp/Appetizers/OLD-BAY-Steamed-Shrimp-with-Cocktail-Sauce.aspx

Ridiculously easy and incredibly flavorful, especially if, like me, you love OB. Bonus: shrimp are healthy; something about that low-mercury, good omega-fat thing. : ) For kicks, I make my own cocktail sauce using ketchup, horseradish, lemon juice and Tabasco. I don’t have a recipe; I just mix everything until I like how it tastes.

–Cold Pasta Salad:

Pasta Salad
Easy Pasta Salad

Yeah, there are a bazillion varieties out there. Try them all. ; ) Pasta salad is a great, easy way to have a healthy, cheap-ish summer dinner (or lunch) without going crazy in a hot kitchen. One of my versions includes: mini shells (try the whole wheat or fiber pastas), store-bought cooked chicken (like those Perdue shortcuts, if they’re on sale; otherwise, use whatever leftover protein-y substance you have in-house, like a can of chickpeas), grape tomatoes, cucumbers, a few onions (the hub loves onions), olives, cheese (feta’s great, so’s pepperjack), peppers and zesty Italian dressing. Dice up the bits, add to the pasta and mix it all with the dressing. Easy part: cook a large quantity of pasta for dinner some night, then reserve some unsauced to use the next day in the PS. : )

–My hub’s Czech Cucumber Salad:
So good, if you like vinegar, as we do. And super-easy: peel, then grate (with the big holes) 3-4 large cukes into a bowl. Add white vinegar, salt, pepper and a dash of sugar to taste. Stir. Almost like having cold cuke soup, but not pureed.

–Easy Smoothies:
I make these with an immersion blender; it’s so fast, easy and healthy, because you start with frozen fruit instead of ice. Toss in your fruit—I use froz mixed berries, plus whatever fresh I feel like: banana’s great, watermelon, peach. Then add milk and some fruit juice or lemonade to reach your desired consistency. I sometimes add Greek yogurt (great protein), applesauce, etc, too, for extra health or flavor. Or try some avocado!! Zip the whole thing for about 30 seconds, then pop in a straw and sip. Sometimes when we’re needing a “special smoothie,” I’ll add a splash (or two) of vodka. Healthy and mentally refreshing. ; ) Once in a blue, we get wacky and refreeze the smoothie into pops:

Pops
Smoothie Pops

So there are a few of my go-to, summer faves. I do actually cook many more things, including chicken, fish, pork and beef. Plus actual real veggies and carb-y things.
AllHomemade

But this post would draaag if I listed them all. Plus, I’m—happily—finally getting the hang of (somewhat) cooking on the fly. I find a recipe that sounds good (check out allrecipes.com), but I never seem to have all the ingredients, so I throw in whatever’s hiding in the cabinets. So far, no one’s gotten sick.  : )  But that does make it hard to share recipes! Whoops.

Do you enjoy cooking? What do you prepare during the dog days of summer? Please share some of your favorite dishes, either to cook or to eat, in the comment section. I LOVE food! Almost as much as I love writing. Happy eating and happy writing. : )

Oh, and as a bonus, follow this link to a delicious Gambas al Ajillo recipe. Courtesy of Lauren Aloise, the recipe is similar to one used to prepare the Gambas San Martin dish Lexy and Claire salivate over at Las Ramblas Tapas Restaurant in Emerald Obession:
http://spanishsabores.com/2014/04/10/gambas-al-ajillo-recipe-spanish-garlic-shrimp/
If you’re ever in NYC’s West Village, stop by for the real deal at Las Ramblas on West 4th Street: www.lasramblas.nyc. It’s one of my favorite tapas joints. <3

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Sunlight through trees

5 Writing Tips for a Spring Refresh

Spring’s here, and I’m so glad. Signs of a refresh are everywhere: budding trees, longer days, spring training. Life reinvigorating itself. Noticing the new season’s changes made me take a closer look at my writing routines. And that prompted a question.

How do I spruce up my writing habits to better manage everything that needs doing?

That’s the rub, isn’t it? Every day in a writer’s life is about more than the words on the page. What happens when it’s time to refresh not only your words, but the habits that frame your writing? I’m sure you can relate. Like others in charge—of households, businesses, et cetera—now that I’m the boss (ha, I like that one), I juggle more tasks than just the basics. My time is split between doing what I love and doing what makes my business grow.

When I published my first novel, I went from simple wordsmith to: website designer, book marketer, blogger and social media content provider, office manager, accountant and help desk technician (yes, I’m awful at that last role).

With all these parts to play, often on a daily basis, how do you keep up? Especially when you have a day job and a life that requires at least marginal attention.

Since taking on these additional duties, I’ve struggled with how to make sure everything gets done, well and reasonably on time. Wearing several hats isn’t new to me, but being the boss is. I’m the one responsible for my business, and being in charge requires a heightened level of discipline.

Now that I work as a professional writer, I’ve discovered how to make my routine manageable.

Here are my top five strategies for organizing my writing and business habits:

1—Practice writing 5 days a week. Many sources (and famous writers) say to write every day. I’d love to, but that doesn’t work for me. Does that mean I’m a lousy writer? No. Will it take me longer than some to improve or get ahead? Maybe. But I’ve recognized my limitations, and for now, writing seven days a week rarely happens. I’ll still try, but I won’t beat myself up for missing a day. There’s enough pressure on, and all those other hats need wearing, too. As always, pick your battles.

2—Vary where, when and how you write. Sometimes I’m on my computer in my home office. Other times, at one of the coffee shops downtown. I type on my laptop outside. I grab one of my ever-present notebooks and write longhand, preferably in blue ink (blue makes me happier than black). I write in the morning, afternoon, evening and middle of the night, though not usually in the same day. The upshot: write when- and wherever you can.

3—Work with a critique group. I mentioned mine in my post, “Under Pressure.” I cannot stress enough the huge help those guys are, nor the support they give on many levels: sounding board for story ideas, insights into the writing business, founts of info and resources, and obviously critiques and camaraderie, which I absolutely need. Family, friends, loved ones…all crucial in life, but other writers? Sanity when you think you’ve lost it.

4—Make friends with a content marketing editorial calendar. Mine’s on the lean side at the moment, but it’s enough to keep me on track with the big-ticket items, like blogging and marketing. There’s nothing like seeing what needs doing in black-and-white (or blue-and-white, in my case) to keep me accountable. Hello, whiteboard, my old friend. You can add in dates for financial reporting, ordering supplies, whatever you need so you stick to a schedule. Here’s a calendar source to check out. I don’t endorse or use their products, nor get compensation for the mention, I just found useful info there. Find what works for you.

5—Embrace a To Do List. On a smaller scale, you’ll usually find me with my To Do List somewhere handy. My editorial calendar lives on my office wall, letting me see the month at a glance and know my basic tasks, while my To Do List drills into the down-and-dirty, like specifying details for a contest submission or picking up research materials at the library. When I feel overwhelmed, I’ll even write down something I’ve finished, just for the relief of crossing anything off my list. Yes, I’m one of those people. : P

So there you have it, a few things that keep me mostly on the straight-and-narrow. Do they work all the time? Hell, no. But they’re helping, for sure.

What about you, readers, writers, fans and friends? What are the writing and business habits that work for you? How often do you revisit your routine? I’d love to hear what keeps you motivated, so leave a comment below or shoot me an email. Thanks for reading and please share.

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