Saturday, October 24, 2009

Pancakes—mix or scratch?

I love all the conveniences we have today. I grew up in a home that had a wringer washing machine, clothes that were hung on the line to dry and then had to be ironed, floors that had to be waxed, and so on. We had an electric stove but my grandmother cooked on a wood stove until the early ‘70s, and she was in her early ‘70s at the time. She was an early riser, up every morning before sun, and would get a fire going with wood that had been chopped the night before, put on a pot of coffee and start making breakfast. Porridge, pancakes, bacon and eggs, toast, hand-squeezed orange juice... Breakfast wasn’t just a meal, it was the most important meal of the day and it had to be something that would “stick to your ribs.” I still love that saying!

Everything my grandmother served was made from scratch, including pancakes. My mother kept up the tradition and so did I. Pancake batter is one of the easiest things to whip up—even kids can make it—and the ingredients are staples in every kitchen.

When my daughter was ten or eleven, she was invited to a friend’s house for a sleepover. The girls decided they wanted pancakes for breakfast, but the host mother said they couldn’t have them because she was out of pancake mix. My daughter—who already had the recipe memorized—stepped in, and when I picked her up later that morning, her friend’s mother was still stunned that a child knew how to make pancakes from scratch.

Here’s our favorite pancake recipe.

1 egg
1 cup milk or buttermilk
2 tablespoons melted butter (or vegetable oil)
1 cup flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
Beat the egg, and beat in the rest of the ingredients in the order listed. Heat the griddle. Pour on the batter with a large spoon or ladle. When bubbles appear on the surface, flip the pancake and cook the other side till golden brown. Serve with butter and syrup.

Pancakes are still a stick-to-your-ribs breakfast favorite at my house, and we still make them from scratch. How do you make them?

Until next time,
The Writer Side of Life

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Writing Tip

I thought I'd take a turn at sharing writing tips for the next few months. Please feel free to chime in with your own tips and advice, too!

I sure still have a lot to learn about writing, ('conflict' seems to be my arch enemy!) but one thing I'm pretty good at is getting my story on paper. I write every day, no matter what. And, I write fairly fast. That's not to say it's all very good...I just have a far easier time revising and expanding what I've written than simply writing ten quality pages in one sitting.

If writing fast is a challenge for you, I found some tips for 'writing fast' in the book, A Novel Idea.

1) Set a timer. Write for fifteen or twenty minutes. Just write, don't delete or revise.

2)If seeing mistakes on the screen bothers you, turn off or cover your monitor. Remember, spelling and editing mistakes can be fixed later.

3)If you are too tempted by the Internet, make a plan to only check email at certain times of day.

4) When typing, if you forget a name or place, mark the spot with an XXX, then move on. You can go back later and fill in those blanks.

5) And finally, if you're about to write a pivotal scene, prepare for it by jotting down notes about the five senses or the key elements you want to incorporate. Then, when you're typing, you can just plug in some of those notes.

Has anyone ever tried any of these ideas? I, for one, would have a really hard time covering my monitor! But I'd love to have more notes by my side whenever I begin to write.


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Small Town Here We Come!

After living in large cities all my life, I'm finally going to be a small town girl! We look the plunge and bought a lake house in Mineola, Texas, which is about an hour and a half from Dallas. The house we found is a Victorian farmhouse style, two story home on Lake Holbrooke. Yes, it's peach, but it kind of works! Even my husband likes the color. There are big trees all around it. The house looks old, but it was built in 1994 and is modern where it counts - central A/C!
Living in Mineola, at least on the weekends, will be a real treat for me. It was one of the first places I visited when I was going to set a book (The Bachelor Project, HAR#844, Sept 2000) in a fictional small town. As program director of Dallas Area Romance Authors, I organized retreats to a wonderful bed and breakfast there in Mineola. We would sit out on the second floor balcony and talk writing (and maybe drink some wine) until we were all so sleepy we couldn't keep our eyes open. We usually went during the Iron Horse Fall Festival, the first weekend in November. The weather was cool and crisp and I think everyone had a great time. For me, though, the small town atmosphere of parades, local restaurants and stores, families and friends, really made an impression. I interviewed the chief of police in Mineola to get a feeling for law enforcement in a more rural area. Mineola had about 5000 people then and 5600 now.

The kitchen in the lake house is so cute. There are white cabinets with glass fronts, curtains instead of bottom cabinet doors, a gas stove (I haven't cooked on gas since 1971!) and a screen door that goes out to the back porch. The porch stretches the entire back of the house and is one of my favorite features. I can imagine sitting out there, much like we used to sit on the balcony of the B & B. I don't think I'll ever get tired of looking at the lake. It's just beautiful. We went there on Sunday and the water just glistened from the autumn sunlight. There is a small dock for fishing or to tie up a boat, which we don't have. My son-in-law is in charge of getting a boat! My husband and I know nothing about boats. But then, I don't know a lot about country living, either, and I'm willing to learn. Maybe I'll turn into a small town girl yet. After all, Mineola does have at least one coffee shop that sells books, and I'll bet I can order up some good local gossip with my latte.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Parent-teacher conferences etc.

Today, Oct. 20, I am working from 6:55 AM to 7:30 PM. While I get off at 2:30 PM, I'm headed straight to parent-teacher conferences. I'll do the same thing Thursday.

I teach two sections of freshman English, so I expect to see at least 1/2 of those parents. There are two types of parents who usually attend conferences: the A student's parent who comes to say hi and hear how wonderful her child is, and the D & F student's parent who comes to find out what she can do to get Johnny back on track.

I love seeing both.

I have to admit, freshman year is hard. It's a transition from that sweet coddling of middle school to the harsh reality of high school--where every grade counts toward college admission. In middle school if you show effort you get a C. In high school, that's not the case. Write an F essay, get the F. In many subjects, there are no "redo's".

It sounds harsh, but then I think of how many times I've been rejected, or how many times any author is rejected, and we've given it our A effort. Kids oftentimes haven't learned what their A effort is. They're going to do the minimum of work they can get by with. That's why I make anyone who didn't get an A on an essay rewrite their paper. (I won't get into the point structure.)

More work for me to read them all again, sure, but at the same time, they have to learn. And writers learn by rewriting.

I'll keep you posted on how it goes.


Sunday, October 18, 2009

My New Granddaughter

August and September were very trying months for my family. My newest granddaughter, Payton McKenzy, was born in the afternoon of August 10. She was four weeks premature. Late that night, it was discovered she had Transposition of the Great Vessel (TGV), a congenital heart defect. Two holes in the wall between the two chambers of her heart (Ventricular Septal Defect VSD) were keeping her alive.

Payton was airlifted via helicopter the next day from Wichita to Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City. Because the staff wanted to her to grow a little, Payton’s surgery wasn’t done until September 8 and expected to go very well. But at some point during the operation, she had a reaction to something, but the surgery had to continue. The reaction produced edema, which caused acidosis, and her respiration and blood pressure dropped to dangerous levels, prompting the staff to call for the crash cart. My daughter called at 7:30 that evening, after the surgery was over, to tell me that Payton wasn’t expected to last an hour.

It was nearly 9 p.m., after finding places for my other four grandkids to stay, when we started the 3+ hour drive to Kansas City. We kept in touch on our cell phones, but there’d been little change. We made good time, in spite of driving through thunderstorms, and arrived at Children’s Mercy at 12:20 a.m. Around 4 a.m., my oldest daughter, her husband and 7-year-old daughter arrived, and the staff had started to see some slow improvement. By 10, Payton was considered out of immediate danger, and we were on our way home.

Payton came home September 28, with her heart working as it should, but she returned to CMH October 3, this time by plane, because she was having some feeding problems. Her second homecoming was October 10, and although it’s been an adjustment period for everyone, especially her, she’s doing well.

Thanks to the many friends and family for their prayers and thoughts. Even the staff at CMH calls Payton their little miracle. As a dear friend said, this is the kind of story books are made of. Maybe someday…

The Discovery Channel - The Surgery That Saves Little Lives

My favorite four-letter word...S-A-L-E

I know this is squeaking in just under the wire, but it’s still the 17th in my part of the world. (smile)

It’s a good thing I learned to touch type in high school, because my eyelids are drooping as I write this and I couldn’t see the keyboard if I tried. I’ve been on the go since eight this morning, on a mission more perilous than any man has ever known.

Yes, you guessed it--I hit the clearance racks at the local mall.

This involves an all-day marathon that would put most Ironman triathletes to shame.

First, my friend and I warmed up by making a dry run through a local department store, where the discounts were respectable but the crowd provided only a minor challenge. Disappointed but undaunted, we forged ahead.

To get ready for the real deals (no pun intended!), we fortified ourselves with a long lunch, hot gossip, and chocolate. Plenty of chocolate.

Finally, we arrived at the mall at the peak time to jump into an arena filled with avaricious shoppers, bored spouses, and cranky kids. Let me tell you, this is not the place for amateurs!

The oh-so-simple-sounding task of scouring the clearance racks requires the endurance of a long-distance runner, the strength of a champion weight lifter, the keen eye of a skeet-shooter, and better math skills than an Olympic judge.

There are people out there who would doubt the truth of this statement.

Then there are those of you who have been there, done that, and lived to shop another day.

The shopaholics among us are eager to celebrate your victory. And I know you just can't wait to share. After all, half the fun of finding a real bargain is being able to brag about it afterward! LOL So, please, tell us about the best deal you’ve ever found.

All my best to you,



Barbara White Daille