Saturday, May 28, 2011

Pudding Perfection

Every once in a while, Keith has to remind me that I am not a baker. I am an excellent cook. And I love the idea of baking. And I especially love (like every other sane-minded person) the end result of baking. The part I have trouble with is that middle part, somewhere in between the idea and the finished product. Somewhere in the meticulous measuring, the extremely exact and necessarily precise ordering of step by step by step. It's so mathematical, it's so rigid. There's no room for sudden inspiration, or for dreamy distraction, or heaven forbid making it up as you go along. Baking requires perfection, and I just don't have it. I'm more of a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kind of girl.

So, every once in a while, Keith has to remind me that I am not a baker. He has to remind me, because sometimes I forget. I become bewitched by the dream of creamy frosting, entranced by the idea of separating eggs. I crave the sight of something rising like a perfect puff of goodness as I peek into my oven door. And we've learned from experience, through various distasters and melt-downs that it's better, far better, if I resist the urge. Oh, it always ends up tasting just fine. Always. But it hardly ever looks like anything you'd even want to bother tasting. I simply lack any and all finesse when flour and eggs and butter and mixers are involved. The things I create when I bake are never pretty. And I need all the things I create to be pretty. Thus, meltdown.

So, when I find myself, as I have this week, with a shower to throw for a friend and the need to attempt something sweet and tasty for it, Keith kindly reminds me that I am not a baker. I racked my brains and the internet for some kind of less bake-y dessert to profer. And the Muse (aka Martha Stewart) delivered...banana pudding. Mini banana puddings, actually, tucked into adorable phylo shells and topped with whipped cream.

And maybe it's because it's not technically baking, or maybe it's because the recipe is fool-proof, but I have to say, the finished product from my test run today is outstanding! I was supposed to the let is set in the fridge for at least an hour but I Just. Couldn't. Resist. I would have taken a picture if I'd thought of it, but I was too busy enjoying. I didn't come up for air until spoon hit bowl. And then I seriously considered licking every single centimeter of that bowl clean as well. This dessert is pretty, it's delicious, it's (dare I say it?) perfection. And I'm gonna make it again and again and again.

Thursday, May 26, 2011


So, I've been (actually I still kinda am) missing in action lately. We were in South Texas for Mother's Day, and then in North Carolina house hunting, and then in Mexico celebrating Keith's sister's wedding and relaxing. And now we're trying to sell a house and plan a move and prep a company sales meeting, and throw a baby shower, and attend a conference and it's just been never ending lately.

But don't worry. I have pictures. I have stories. I have plans. I have thoughts and things to say. And I'm not (I'm really not) going away anytime soon. Well, I'm not going away from the blog anytime soon. I am going away from home soon. A lot.

That's really all I have to say. I'm here but I'm not here and I'll be around more soon but not just yet, and I'm not really sure when, exactly.

You still love me right?

Friday, May 13, 2011

Carolina In My Mind

In my mind I'm goin' to Carolina
Can't you see the sunshine
Can't you just feel the moonshine
Ain't it just like a friend of mine
It hit me from behind
Yes I'm gone to Carolina in my mind

Karen she's a silver sun
You best walk her way and watch it shinin'
Watch her watch the mornin' come
A silver tear appearing now
I'm cryin' ain't I
Gone to Carolina in my mind

There ain't no doubt it no ones mind
That loves the finest thing around
Whisper something soft and kind
And hey babe the sky's on fire,
I'm dyin' ain't I
Gone to Carolina in my mind

In my mind I'm goin' to Carolina
Can't you see the sunshine
Can't you just feel the moonshine
Ain't it just like a friend of mine
It hit me from behind
Yes I'm goin' to Carolina in my mind

Dark and silent late last night
I think I might have heard the highway calling
Geese in flight and dogs that bite
Signs that might be omens say I going, going
I'm gone to Carolina in my mind

With a holy host of others standing around me
Still I'm on the dark side of the moon
And it seems like it goes on like this forever
You must forgive me
If I'm up and gone to Carolina in my mind

In my mind I'm goin' to Carolina
Can't you see the sunshine
Can't you just feel the moonshine
Ain't it just like a friend of mine
It hit me from behind
Yes I'm gone to Carolina in my mind
Gone to Carolina in my mind
Then I'm on to Carolina in my mind
Gone to Carolina in my mind
Gone - I'm gone - I'm gone
Say nice things about me
'Cause I'm gone south
Carry on without me
'Cause I'm gone

Compliments of Mr. James Taylor, 
as performed by Allison Krauss & Jerry Douglas

On My Writing Genius

For the last four years, I've been responsible for directing and writing most of the professional communications for a regional, family-owned agricultural company ... newsletters, business letters, the website, our product catalog, training presentations, sales tools, business proposals ... the list goes on. Most everything communicated by our company has my fingerprint on it somewhere, if not everywhere. I even finish people's sentences for them. You know, just to help them state things as eloquently as possible. It's a compulsion I have. Talk to Keith about how incredibly charming it is.

In preparation for the imminent move, I've been a training a new hire who will be taking over some of my duties after I'm "gone to Carolina." This morning I put together a brief list for her, enumerating some things I try to keep in mind whenever I’m writing for the company. I thought it might help our newbie begin training herself to think and write professionally. I finished the list, read back over it and thought, "Wow, that's good! I need to do writing advice more often. And then do a better job of following my own advice." 

So here is my list, for your own edification. Or, really, for mine. But it'd be great if you found them helpful, too. Or interesting, or even just amusing. Feel free to poke fun if you're so inclined. Snark is, as always, encouraged.

Things to Keep In Mind When You Write 

  • Consider Your Audience – get your mind wrapped around their perspective, then focus on what is most meaningful, appealing, or compelling to them
  • State Your Objectives – readers should have a distinct sense of what you are trying to accomplish and why you’re writing
  • Organize Around a Logical Flow – sometimes I’ll re-order my paragraphs several times before they seem to flow correctly from one to another
  • Practice Lucid Brevity – Be clear and concise, avoid ramblings or needless repetition
  • Incorporate a Strong Call to Action – what is it you want the readers to do? Make sure you've told/asked them to do it
  • Set the Tone – adopt a tone/style that is warm and casual, but also clean and professional. Avoid jargon. Use terms you’d expect everyone to understand,. Avoid slang and folksiness, too. Try to be as plain spoken as possible
  • Tell a Story – our industry is so technical it’s easy to get lost in a monotony of detail. Figure out a way to tell a story with the information you’re conveying. It will capture the attention and imagination of the reader and stay with them longer
  • Don’t be Afraid of the First Blurt – if you find yourself staring at a blank page, just start typing. Get the writing flowing. Even if you come back and completely rewrite (or even delete) the first three paragraphs later, it will give you momentum and usually by the time you've reached the end of the piece your mind will have sorted out the best way to present the information
  • Edit - Read what you've written. Change it. Read it again. Add to it. Read it again, delete a ton. Work it, and re-work it, and re-work it. Sometimes we fear that editing removes the fire, the creativity, from our writing. And maybe it does when you're writing a novel. But in the business world, edit. Then edit again. And again. And again. Complete assignments early, just to make sure you have plenty of time to edit.

And the final reminder is "Don't answer questions no-one is actually asking." Which probably invalidates this entire blog post, as I don't recall any of you (three) readers asking my advice. But I am curious ... what would you add to the list?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

From "The Fantastic Imagination" by George MacDonald

If a writer’s aim be logical conviction, he must spare no logical pains, not merely to be understood, but to escape being misunderstood; where his object is to move by suggestion, to cause to imagine, then let him assail the soul of his reader as the wind assails an aeolian harp. If there be music in my reader, I would gladly wake it. Let fairytale of mine go for a firefly that now flashes, now is dark, but may flash again. [...]
The best way with music, I imagine, is not to bring the forces of our intellect to bear upon it, but to be still and let it work on that part of us for whose sake it exists. [...]
If any strain of my “broken music” makes a child’s eyes flash, or his mother’s for a moment grow dim, my labour will not have been in vain.
HT: Mr. Pond at The Hog's Head

Thursday, May 5, 2011

An Introduction

If you're new to this blog...if you recently just stumbled along here by accident....or found me through links on a friend's blog....or Twitter.....or Pinterest.....however you got here, whoever you are, welcome! If you're wondering a little bit about me, who I am, what I do here, well the answer is a little bit of lots of things. Here are a few posts that might help you and I get acquainted.

I am a wife....a daughter....a granddaughter....a sister....a friend

I am a believer.....a pilgrim....a dreamer....a seeker

I am a writer....a reader....a truth-teller....a woman of words

I am a cook....

And I am also (most unfortunately) a klutz....

A Measure of Grace

Some mornings it seems like every single slow driver in Waco is between me and where I want to go. I'm headed to work, boxed in on all sides by vehicles that are perfectly content cruising five to ten miles below the speed limit. Seriously in my way, and with no intention of getting out of it. Especially lately, since Keith and I found out we are moving across the country in ninety days.

It feels like someone put my life in fast forward and then hit the pause button on everyone else. You know that scene in all the romance movies where the lovers are in slow motion and everything around them is blurring and whizzing by, like time has stopped just for them on their own little euphoric island? They still have that scene in most romance movies, right? I mean, I think they do. Romance movies aren't really my cup of tea these days so forgive me if I'm out of touch. Anyway, it's like that scene in romance movies, only in reverse. The rest of the world is crawling blissfully along around me, and Keith and I are in frantic, hysteric, faster-than-light speed mode. Just a series of twitches and whirls and spastic motion. Even my heart rate feels perpetually elevated, my breathing a little faster, a little more shallow.

On mornings like these- the mornings of the past few days, and of the weeks and months ahead- I know I need a little extra measure of grace. Need to stop, just deliberately stop, and be still and be quiet and breathe in deeply. A flood of oxygen gulped in. Pressed all the way down to the tips of my toes. Pushed out slowly, gloriously, through the top of my head. I need to close my eyes and let the wonderment wash over me. Ponder the magnitude of this great adventure we're about to embark on. Feel the gratitude for these long-awaited answers to our fervently whispered prayers.

Pause. Deep breath. Grace, grace, grace. And then a big smile, and keep running along.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

A story is a way to say something that can’t be said any other way, and it takes every word in the story to say what the meaning is.

Monday, May 2, 2011

We're Moving to North Carolina!?!?... literally all I have time to post today. A single phone call late Friday afternoon managed to hit the fast-forward button on my life and now there is barely time to breathe. More details here!