💜 5 Things to Try on Week 3 of 2022 💜

2022 is already shaping up to be a little more challenging than we’d all hoped, and it’s already Week 3 of the new year.  If you feel like you are already slipping on that resolution you felt so good about just last week, don’t fret.  It’s never too late to re-commit.  Try these things today:

#1. Set an intention for your day first thing in the morning.  Monday morning is a great time for setting intentions, make a ritual out of it.  Do it when you have your coffee.  It goes like this:  today I will go for a walk during lunch to get those steps in.  Simple as that.

#2. Break your goal to smaller goals.  Start with something more manageable and grow from there.  It goes like this:  today I will walk for ten minutes during lunch, and tomorrow I will add a minute or two.  

#3. Do not judge yourself if you didn’t get to do what you said you would do.  Self judgement is bad for you, so let it go and move on.  It goes like this: I didn’t get to do my walk today, tomorrow is a new day.

#4. Try journaling.  A simple notebook will do, treat yourself to a pen you like.  Every day, jot down a couple of thoughts.  You can start small, one paragraph, or even one sentence.  And see how you like it.  Your journal is a great place to work out your goals, and celebrate success.  Which brings us to…

#5. Celebrate your wins!  Take the time to show yourself gratitude.  Get yourself beautiful flowers, and have a cup of hot tea.  You did it, and you can do it again!

Take a small step every day, and before you know it, you’ll be miles ahead.

2021! It’s a Wrap!

Unlike previous years, this year I couldn’t easily find a photo to use for our holiday greeting email.  There was one where I am at home with hair not washed, in another my husband and I are having dinner in front of the television, the food looks great but none of the photos of us are suitable for prime time.  Others show a backyard family birthday celebration where we are all masked, and only one or two after I got the long awaited haircut, seated outside at a restaurant at dusk after the second dose of the Pfizer vaccine.  Do not worry!  I will not bore you with the actual photos.  And there were a lot of great photos of birds, and flowers, and bridges… This year I picked up the camera, and saw life through a different lens.  Seemed this was a year for self reflection, and a collective questioning of what is.  

In January 2021, a young poet’s reading in the presidential inauguration ceremony brought me a moment of rare hope for our collective future. Amanda Gorman’s words still resonate for me today, when my hope has dwindled as I look forward to January 2022.  

“When the day comes we ask ourselves, where can we find light in this never-ending shade?”  With her red beret and bright yellow jacket, she filled us with optimism that we can actively search for the positive within the darkness of the moment we were living.  That we have the power to isolate that light and use it to illuminate our path forward.  

Thus started a year of upheaval, turmoil, with a tumultuous ride on the hope rollercoaster.  At times, it was hard to remember that we were still “a nation that isn’t broken but simply unfinished.”   From the US Capitol insurrection, to mass shootings, to buildings collapsing, to winter storms and power outages, it was not easy to find that light.  But we got vaccinated, rejoined the Paris Climate Accord and WHO, cried with Simone Biles, and watched Meghan and Harry when they sat down with Oprah.  Broadway reopened in New York, and Juneteenth became a Federal holiday.  And that’s not even the tip of the iceberg for 2021, which seemed like a bizarre extension of the infamous 2020.  We are still battling voting rights and the right of women to choose.  It’s hard to believe, but on the brink of 2022, women are still not guaranteed a choice; and not all Americans are guaranteed a chance to vote.  To quote Amanda Gorman again:  We are a nation unfinished.  

On New Year’s Eve 2020, like many of us, I had big plans for the new decade.  There was no way to know that by March 2020 we would be sheltering at home.  Nearly two years later, we are still dealing with the uncertainty of this virus, our ability to find the light is still being tested.  Working exclusively from home, shopping online, not seeing friends and family, still don’t seem too natural.  I remember the first hug I gave my adult children, after we were vaccinated, after a year of no hugs.  That was where I found my light.  And in the between moments, I learned that perfection was not the goal, something our Founding Fathers understood way back when they set out to “form a more perfect union.”  Sounds like they handed us a work in progress, our nation is a work in progress, and so is each and every one of us.  How liberating it is to know you get a chance every day to make yourself better, to make a difference, to make our nation and the world, little by little, more perfect.  

I recently learned that the word apocalypse means revelation  in ancient Greek.  That what we, in our current culture, see as destruction, could be approached as a revelation of great knowledge.  As Amanda Gorman said:  “for there is always light, if only we’re brave enough to see it, if only we’re brave enough to be it.”

The photo I chose is of the Pacific Gold Mustard flower off the Northern California coast, on a gray and windy day.  What I left out of the photo was the Pacific Ocean foaming like an angry beast.  I zoomed in on the tiny petals, some of them wilting in a sea of bright yellow, which when used as a spice can create the ubiquitous prepared mustard.  It’s not a perfect photo, nor is the flower itself perfect, but it’s beautiful and it reminds me of a day in 2021 that was more perfect in so many ways. 

I wish you a revelatory, inspiring, and empowering, more perfect 2022!  

READ: Youth poet laureate Amanda Gorman’s inaugural poem

Mind Mapping for Rich Creativity

Hello Writers and Creators,

Brainstorming is a critical piece of writing and creativity.  Mind mapping is one of the best ways I know to brainstorm effectively and quickly.

You can use the traditional pencil and paper for mind mapping, but if you want to be even faster, and have a neat presentation that you can use easily to develop your product you can use an app.  There are various apps that can be used for mind mapping, my favorite and the one I use regularly is Scapple.

On Scapple your mind maps are customizable, flexible, and you’ll have endless space, as well as the ability to create as many mind maps as you’d like.

Here is a quick and simple example:

Scapple is made by Literature & Latte, the maker of the amazing Scrivener.  It is available for $17.99 on the Apple App Store if you a Mac user here:

https://apps.apple.com/us/app/scapple/id568020055?mt=12


One of the great features of Scapple, is it’s seamless compatibility with Scrivener.  More on that next time.


Do you use mind mapping?  Let me know how it helps you in your writing?  

Thinking Like a Writer

It sits on my desk, keeps me company, and it’s one of the best and most inspirational books I’ve read.  Bird by Bird by the amazing Anne Lamott provides “Some Instructions on Writing and Life.”  

Besides Anne’s amazing insights that come from real writing and life experience (seasoned with fantastic humor), I found the book helpful when I am stuck, when I am not sure a particular morning of writing is going too well.  In fact, most mornings are difficult, hard to wrap my head around the writing.  When that happens, Bird by Bird is one of several books I open, read a few lines, and I’m back on track.

If I cannot possibly get back on track, even after reading those lines, and no matter what I try, simply does not work, and I see my fingers hover over the keyboard, muted.  Then I take one of her pieces of advice that are just genius. They really work!  

One of the most insightful revelations for me was about when things don’t go well, and how it’s just ok sometimes to do something else, until your thoughts settle enough and you can go back to your work, all refreshed and ready.  The ideas sometimes come when you don’t expect them too, on a walk, while taking a bath.  And then you have this moment in which you run to your desk, because something happens in your brain that simply cannot wait, you put it down on an index card, and…  You’re on track again.

Anne’s advice about index cards has been the most life changing for me.  I buy them in bulk now, different colors, I love the 4×6 size, and I just scribble away whatever comes to my mind.  You just never know when you’ll use it, or where it would lead.

So if you are like me, you get stuck often, you stare at your computer screen or notebook, and nothing happens.  It may not help to tell you not to panic, but it might help you to open Anne’s book and read a few lines.  The ideas will flow, your fingers will type words and sentences, Bird by Bird, you’ll get your writing done.

“One of the things that happens when you give yourself permission to start writing is that you start thinking like a writer. You start seeing everything as material.” ~Anne Lamott

#48 Mastodon – Crack the Skye, 2009

Mastodon_Crack the Skye

Number 48 on the list of Prog Report Top 50 Prog Albums, 1990-2015, is Crack the Skye, by Mastodon.  I found it on Apple Music.

Crack the Skye is powerful, and from the first note I knew I wanted more.  The drumming is busy with great energy, and with so many vocalists on board, my ears were satisfied with harmonies, and a range of vocal colors.  The rock/metal/progressive blend, combined with the full heavy sound of the band, is consistent throughout the album.  The more I listened, the more I loved it.  I would very much recommend that you take a listen to Crack the Skye.  I am confident it will take you on an emotional and intense musical journey.

The title of the album, with its unusual spelling of the word “Skye”, was very curious to me.  I learned that Skye was the sister of drummer Brann Dailor, who committed suicide at age fourteen.  The song, Crack the Skye, as is the title of the album, is a tribute to Skye, and features vocalist Scott Kelly of Neurosis.  This powerful song examines the emotional complexity associated with loss, and I found it particularly compelling.  Of course, the title, could have so many meaning.

Crack the Skye is one of my favorite tracks.  Other favorites from this album include:

***Quintessence – the instrumental section is heavy and cool, reminds me a little of Porcupine Tree.

***Ghost of Karelia – reminds me of Tool.  Amazing depth and energy.

***The Last Baron – the last track is long and builds intensity in an amazingly effective way.  Great vocals.  I love the frantic feeling the song creates as it builds up.

Crack the Skye was new to me.  I would definitely recommend some focused listening so you can grasp the depth of this band.  Also, check out the lyrics for this album.  Super cool.

#49 The Flower Kings – Desolation Rose, 2013

Desolation Rose

Desolation Rose by The Flower Kings is number 49 on the list of Prog Report Top 50 Prog Albums, 1990-2015.

All eighteen tracks can be found on Apple Music for streaming/purchase, and on Amazon Music Store for purchase.  By the time I listened to this album three times, I developed some definite favorites.  I particularly enjoyed listening to it with headphones, which is when I could appreciate the vocal harmonies and the sound of the band.

The harmonies are present throughout the album, and soon enough I started to hear influences like Yes, King Crimson, and even Jeff Lynne’s Electric Light Orchestra.  If you like any of these, you are sure to like this album.  If you are a Jon Anderson fan, you are sure to love Roine Stolt, with his raspy and, at time, dramatic voice.

If, like myself, you haven’t heard Desolation Rose before, listen a couple of times.  This music really grew on me and I enjoyed it more on the second and third listen, and again… don’t forget your headphones.

Some of my favorite tracks:

***Sleeping Bones – very cool sounding song, fun groove, great dark guitar

***Desolation Road – dramatic intro, melodic, great tension in the instrumental section, a variety of sounds

***White Tuxedos – just a fun song to listen to

***The Resurrected Judas – beautiful ballad, I like the instrumental build up

***Silent Masses – I just like it

***The Wailing Wall – instrumental, deeply beautiful and filled with longing

I took the time to find them on Facebook.  If you like their music, just click Like.  I did.

https://www.facebook.com/TheFlowerKings

On to number 48 on the list!

#50 Enchant – Wounded, 1996

Unknown

Album number 50 on the list of  “Top 50 Prog Albums for 1990-2015” is Wounded by Enchant, which was released in 1996.  As it was new to me, I listened to it for three consecutive times.  In general, I enjoyed listening to this album, as the songs are melodic and the vocals are amazing.

While listening to it, I felt that there was some simplicity to the music, and I was starting to want more heaviness, and more harmonic complexity.  I would have liked it to be a little darker, since I felt that too much brightness was coming through the songs.  I couldn’t really relate to that aspect of the album, that seemed consistent throughout.

Things I really liked about some of the songs:

Fade to Grey – a great instrumental section.

Pure – beautiful acoustic guitar intro, and the song is mellow.

Hostile World – I loved the cool bass riff, and fusion feel.  The song has great energy.

Distractions – I thought the melody line was interesting, and it was a lot of fun to follow along with the lyrics.

Missing – is cool and heavier in nature.

I found the album on Amazon Music, as it is available to stream for free to Prime members, with the exception of the songs Armour and Man of Our Times (Bonus Tracks).  Check it out on Amazon Music and let me know what you think:

http://www.amazon.com/Wounded-Enchant/dp/B000003ZBJ/ref=sr_1_1?s=music&ie=UTF8&qid=1452024806&sr=1-1&keywords=enchant+wounded

*Looking forward to sharing my experience listening to album number 49!

Baked Sole Fillet

Who hasn’t wondered around the food store hunting for good dinner ideas?  A few days ago I was doing just that and my feet stopped at the fish counter at the new Whole Foods store in my neighborhood.  A feast to the eyes, the selection of fish and seafood, combined with the expertise of the store employee was sure to make this a fruitful trip for me.

I have never made Sole before.  The store employee confirmed the challenge of cooking sole, saying that it flakes and breaks easy.  He told me about a woman that came back to the store complaining about how fragile the fish was when she attempted to prepared it.  Nothing like a little cooking challenge to inspire me to make something new.

A few hours later, with eight pieces of fillet (I am known to make giant portions of food for my family, and often there is enough for lunch the next day), I was contemplating how to make this delicate yet stubborn fish.

Here is what I did:

Started the over at 350 degrees.

Lined up a cookie sheet with foil paper.

Brushed olive oil on the foil paper.

Placed the fillet pieces on the cookie sheet, flat.

Seasoned with olive oil, Italian style bread crumbs, and a couple of roasted garlic cloves (can be found at Whole Foods).

Just like this….

Sole Ready for Oven

Then…

Bake in the oven, and remember that every oven is different.  So… I baked it for about 20 minutes.  But if you like it a little less dry, then you will need a little less time in the oven.  The quote I got at the store was 7-10 minutes, which did not work for me.  Just don’t leave your kitchen to for for a 5K run, and keep checking on the fish to make sure you don’t overcook it.

When you take it our of the oven, cool if off.  Here is the tricky part:  with a stainless steel spatula, carefully remove the fish portions and place in a serving dish of your choice, to look like this:

Baked Sole

I served it to my beloved family with some lightly buttered pasta (not real butter, but don’t tell them), and some sautéed fresh broccoli.  They loved it!!!!