To experiment with the idea of making poetry more fun, I created an anthology entitled ‘Poetry, Comedy & The Modern World’ for a recent project on my English Literature degree. I thought I would share the twelve poems that made their way into the final anthology here on my blog! I hope you enjoy exploring and, hopefully, having a bit of a laugh along the way…
It was a bet I did with my daughter over a Netflix movie, Designated Survivor, that made me think of how much writing is like baking cookies.
It was one of the heights in the series and I exclaimed ‘oh, no!’ – which I seldom do 🙂 Then the episode was over and it was bedtime for school kids.
… Yes, I could have stayed up and watched further since I am a grownup, but Designated Survivor is something we watch together, so I had to take one for the team… (Parents Guide on IMDB is UK 12+, US is TV-PG, and 15+ on Common Sense Media. I say 12+ and I am strict, ask around)…
My daughter and I were contradicting each other over what will happen next. I had a gut feeling that her prediction will be correct (she’s really good at this), but since I was keen on my forecast too, we decided to have a bet.
Whoever looses bakes cookies.
I am sure you will all agree that the boys in our house are the true winners here.
How Writing is like Baking Cookies? Read on.
It all starts with an idea.
We were excited right then and there. It didn’t matter who will win the bet anymore, we were going to have freshly baked cookies.
Whenever I get an idea for a new book (and I do, most of the time, wish I could clone myself) I get this tingling feeling, a surge of energy and I am HAPPY thinking about it. What will happen, where will I travel (most of my novels include some traveling), and will there be a dog? As all my books include (at least) one dog.
How do you feel when you think of freshly baked cookies in your kitchen? I feel bouncy. And I get a Christmasy feeling too.
Planning comes next
I think that even writers which are pantsers, who fly by the seat of their pants, do a little bit of planning when they begin work on a new book. I like to plan quite a bit. I have an outline, with plot points and acts, then I have my copy of synopsis where I write all that will happen, all the little details, the clues, the catches – in neat order.
My synopsis usually looks like a painter’s work. I start with the basics then I go over it again and again and again…
Baking cookies requires planning too, even if it happens on the spur of the moment – like our bet did. The least is co-ordinating the recipe with what’s in the pantry, right? And going one step back, any good cook will agree that a few basic things are always to be found in the pantry. I am just a mom of teens 🙂 therefor my pantry will always contain flour, sugar, oil, eggs – the very minimal basics.
I find the writing process highly addictive. Whether you write a blog, poetry or a book, the entire ritual of creating from scratch is addictive.
The anticipation is there to fill us up with excitement, with adrenaline and serotonin. Our hearts beat faster, there is more oxygenate blood reaching the brain, helping with the writing process. While the serotonin gives us that well-being and overall happiness.
Who wouldn’t want to feel that again and again?
There is anticipation in baking too. Memories of sweet vanilla and rich cocoa flooding our kitchen and sneaking through the rest of the house always come to mind… Shut doors miraculously opening and people with bright eyes and wide smiles emerging, subdued by the unseen power of the cookie scent… I love that.
Which cook doesn’t?
And there is the anticipation of the baking process itself. Baking is such a hands-on approach. Just like writing. The miracle of mixing powdery stuff with wet stuff still amazes me. Much like stirring words together into a story. How do they just work together?
With magic, my child.
The actual process of baking and writing. And the cleaning.
This might be the part where baking cookies and writing differ.
Everyone will tell you what a solitary job writing is.
It is a “leave me alone while I die” kind of activity. A self-doubting, lone-survivor, one-man kind of show.
Writing is the kind of act that makes a hero, but one no one knows. For to show up each day and do that tedious job of writing for weeks, months on end, with the only premise that one day, one day, you would have told that story that only YOU can and no one else wants to hear of right now, because only YOU know it intimately, love it, yet you are not able to make others fall in love with it until you write it – is the stuff that only heroes are made of. Unsung heroes. Writers.
The baking itself and the waiting is pretty awesome and Physical Science classes should include such experiments, don’t you think?
Mix chemical elements, organic compounds, solids and liquids, increase the temperature and prepare to be amazed.
Cleaning the kitchen is much like editing, I think. I don’t mind cleaning after we baked something, since the first wisps of that heavenly aroma begins rising to keep me company.
Editing fits right with cleaning. I find editing to be one of the most satisfying aspects of writing. Plus you get a few positive comments along the way, so craved, isn’t it? Especially after those emotionally fasting and draining weeks of writing.
The opening of the oven and the publishing
Usually our entire family is in the kitchen by now. Is it done yet? What about now? Plates are handed out. Watch out, it will burn. We have to wait five minutes. Ah, noooo. Okay, you can have a bit till it cools down. Yay! Love you, Mommy.
Seeing your book published is, I think, Ladies and Gentlemen, the moment we’ve ALL been waiting for since the idea for the story sparked in our hearts and minds, isn’t it?
And, Voila! Enjoy.
About Designated Survivor
Designated Survivor is a political thriller drama TV show about an obscure cabinet member who finds himself (and his family) thrust into the role of the United States president after a terrorist attack kills the president, vice president and most of Congress. What we like about it is that humanises the president and his immediate political circle. Highly recommended.
One of my favorite episodes was the one when President Kirkman went in a secret mission in Afghanistan, the location of my latest book. It was exhilarating to see him meeting with infamous warlords to determine whom he can trust to hand over territories to the United States – which is part of the political agenda revealed in my Silent Heroes novel (read the opening pages here.
Rich Chocolate Chip Cookies Recipe
125 g butter or margerine
30 ml castor sugar
125 ml condensed milk (in all honesty we used 100 ml water to avoid dairy)
375 ml (210 g) self- raising flour (or normal flour and add 2,5g baking powder)
80 g chocolate chips (we smashed a slab of chocolate – it was fun!)
Cream butter, sugar, add condensed milk / water and beat well. Stir in flour (if using baking powder, add it in the flour). Last, add the chocolate bits. Try no to eat (too many).
Place teaspoonfuls on a greased baking tray dusted with flour. Flatten slightly with a fork.
Bake in a preheated oven at 160 degrees Celsius for 15 -20 min (we baked for over 30 min).
The recipe says turn onto a wire rack to cool. I say that is impossible. Have a glass of milk ready and dig in 🙂 Careful, it will be hot.
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My heartfelt thanks go to lovely author & blogger Sally Cronin for nominating me for the Sunshine Blogger Award. The Sunshine Blogger Award is given out by members of the blogging community in recognition of inspiring, creative, and motivational blogs. YAY!
I am honored to be nominated alongside some really wonderful bloggers I do admire and follow. This is my very first nomination, so I am feeling quite smug 🙂 Having your blogging work appreciated is always a motivation to push for better content, but also to support fellow bloggers. For we are but lonely stars on a dark sky without each other.
During the past year I discovered such a wide range of amazing bloggers. I will use this opportunity to nominate those whom I admire for their kindness and generosity and whose blog posts motivate me.
I know how busy life and blogging can get, so if I nominated you and you don’t have the time to respond with a post, that’s okay 🙂 But I do hope you will take the nomination as a mark of my admiration.
If you choose to
accept the Sunshine Blogger Award nomination, there are a few rules:
• Thank the blogger(s) who nominated you and link back to their blog.
• Answer the 11 questions the blogger asked you.
• List the rules and display the Sunshine Blogger Award in your blog post.
• Nominate 11 new bloggers & their blogs. Do leave a comment on their blog to let them know they received the award and ask your nominees 11 new questions.
Here are the 11
questions set by Sally for her nominees, with my answers:
1.What is the most daring thing you have done?
I moved half way round the world to be with the man I love, my husband.
2.Name one item still on your bucket list.
I don’t have a bucket list, but one thing I’ve been wishing I could do and never been able to (although I’ve been invited once!) is visit Greenway, Agatha Christie’s home.
3.If you had a time machine, would you choose to live in the past or the future?
in the past. I am such a history fan. And I love research. I love planning too.
Am I allowed to research the era before jumping into the time machine? J
4.What is your favorite movie of all time?
I think each decade of my life can be defined by a movie. ‘Gone With the Wind’, ‘The Way We Were’, ‘Love, Actually’. I think this decade it’s ‘A Night at the Museum’. Gosh, the titles speak volumes J
5.What is one piece of advice you would give to your younger self?
Start. Writing. Now. And do no stop.
6.What is one of your guilty pleasures?
I have only one guilty pleasure, and that is Coffee with a capital C. Coffee is my morning joy, my strengths in the wee, lonely hours, my inspiration and my fuel. I love the rhythmic, musically-drum sound of coffee beans as they sing in their container. I adore the smell of freshly ground coffee. I cherish the taste of a good cup of café latte. I relish at the sight of a frothy cappuccino and can appreciate the velvety, creamy taste of an espresso.
7.Do you have any pets?
99% of my books include at least a dog 🙂 We have two.
8.Tell us about one thing that really gets your goat.
cut in line.
9.Who would you invite to a celebrity dinner. List 5, dead or alive?
Agatha Christie. Kathy Reichs. Ingrid Bergman. Margaret Atwood. My daughter 🙂 – she is my hero for handling her life as a teenager during the 21st century as well as she does.
10.What is your most annoying bad habit?
I can think of two. While awake, I tend to speak softly. While asleep, as I transition to and from REM sleep, I tend to act out my dreams and speak out loud. I am told that no one can reason with me during those seconds.
11.Name your current favorite song playing on your playlist right now.
You Go’ by No Mercy has been (almost) the only song on my playlist during the
last six months J
Here are my 11 questions for my nominees:
thing about yourself that would surprise your followers.
you prefer, mountain or sea?
the highest / furthest point you traveled to?
on a 1m high brick wall. Would you jump off or climb slowly?
would only start your writing career now, where would you begin?
animals you feel it represents you best?
an early riser or night owl?
writing your first choice as a career? If not, what was it?
your comfort food?
to relax and recharge? (either than writing J)
your favorite word?
And here are my 11 nomineesfor the Sunshine Blogger Award
I just gotten used to writing 2019 and, in a flash, it already flew by, taking with it milestones and achievements, forgotten plans and stolen moments with my family. Life is faster, we work harder, have more plans, higher goals, yet we are busier than ever before. I grasp at the meaning of calmness through the chaos that my present day translates to. My heart knows it before my mind, achieving some state of calm through all this chaos is a must. Deep breath now…
Some say we are addicted to stress, that our neural pathways thrive on it, on back to back meetings and the adrenaline rushing through our bodies. But is pushing ourselves actually making us more productive?
Is more, always better?
Perhaps spreading us thinner through juggling numerous projects at a time – ours, a co-workers, the kids’ – is not a measure of how much we can achieve. Perhaps doing less, resisting the urge to focus on other’s business, focusing more on our needs, on what really matters, is the true way forward. Being able to say ‘no’.
Asking ourselves: do I really have time for this? Do I need to add this to my schedule? Am I the one that has to do it? – is just as important as the skill needed to solve that extra issue.
Achieving Calm through all the Chaos in 5 Steps
Prioritize: life before work
Ask yourself, which are the most important people in your life? To me is my family. What manners next? Perhaps work, a hobby. And then? Friends, sport, social life?
These are aspect of your life you need to prioritize at the beginning of each year. Put them in your calendar first: birthdays, anniversaries, school holidays, family gatherings, dates.
Do not worry to leave the leftover time for work – it will still be plenty available!
Create a path through all that clutter
I am not talking about desk clutter, but all the bullet points on your daily ‘to do’ list. For some, an Excel spreadsheet works well, for others, a daily planning stuck on the fridge door will do. Start with that.
There you go, now you know in what order to prioritize your daily tasks. Focus on only one task at a time.
Plan, prioritize, but also make time to breathe – every day.
Know your personal and your career goals
If you make them clear to yourself at the beginning of each year, you would have reduced most of the clutter from your daily planner. They say, if you know your yes’s, then your no’s are easier.
Keeping your goals in mind makes it easier to prioritize on a day to day basis and it makes your decisions a lot easier.
And family time? Sharing daily, joyful moment with your family keeps you connected, thus making it easier to keep your personal goals in sight.
Face it, head-on
Often, solving the top issues, the most stressful ones, and reshuffling the rest can remove most of the daily stress our minds deal with.
Next assess these issues that seem to be constantly moved from one day to the next and ask yourself: will I feel a sense of accomplishment if I finish them? Are they important? If you think yes, then schedule one a day, prioritize it and finish it. If no, then they were just cluttering your daily schedule.
Meditate and Sleep
Maybe not for everyone, and I am the first to admit that I have a problem with both – I find them equally time-consuming. But when I do meditate – I realize that my objectives are clearer, what was a conundrum is clarified, I know how to approach a problem and, in conclusion, I feel less stressed.
Sleeping is a whole other issue. Beneficial for all and it does improve the immune system. And, yes, a good night’s sleep does give us a performance-edge and increases our mind’s agility.
It is easy to allow small worries to become big issues, but achieving that sense of calm through all the daily chaos is doable and can be a positive aspect of your 2020. I hope it will!
And read on. Poetry, in particular, calms the mind. Poetry is as good as gold 🙂
As Autumn fades into Winter, I find myself longing for roasted chestnuts. Prickly, like the history of their maroons shades, they are Autumn’s chocolates.
I trust my inspiration to the rich, maroon liquid I came to associate with writing and quiet introversion at home. Its many shade and richness, in the auburn Autumn, are luscious bits of legal bliss. Coffee.
Perhaps autumn found inspiration for its sepia, russet and chocolates between the patterns of birds’ eggs.
Did you know that before naming a color, maroon, already associated with chestnuts bursting in the fire, dubbed a firework’s explosion?
I love how the word maroon escaped from a 17th century label for unruly people… to anyone marooned on an island in 18th century & beyond. It happened because authoritative would sent the wild specimens on an island they could not escape from, nor survive on!
Maroon has richness to it, depths, warmth. It is a promise never disappointing. Burgundy roses, chestnuts, chocolates paired with a glass of wine, coffee, tulips, an aubergines. Yet in art, maroon is perceived as a shade of red, a darker red – near burgundy, carmine, crimson, fire engine red, magenta, rust (like russet?) and scarlet, terra cotta, Venetian red, vermilion… A poem of colors.
One of my favorite spots of maroon in art is in The Wedding Feast at Cana by the Italian artist Paolo Veronese, a massive painting housed in the Salle des États of the Louvre Museum, facing The Mona Lisa. The Wedding Feast at Cana tells a beautiful biblical story of the Marriage at Cana, at which Jesus converts water to wine. And… there are dogs painted right in the center and one other dog with a gorgeous maroon head… on the left side:
I leave you now with a Maroon Haiku:
Of secret islands, It transcended centuries Boom! In my coffee.
Where do our thoughts escape to? The wondrous one that sneaks out while we languidly watch the sea change its colors? The pressing ones that run away as soon as our mind got caught in the seagull’s wing. The long forgotten ones that elope us before we even blink the sun away. Where do they go? Seek refuge in the seashells? Ride the foam of the waves? Or hide underneath the beach chairs only to come out again at day’s end. To balance the fading daylight. To relish into the solitude of the beach. To hide between their own folk.
Last holiday I let the light slip through my fingers as we strolled along the beach. I took these pictures between 18:17 and 19:43 in Mamaia Holiday Resort, by the Black Sea.
I’ll leave you with the fading light and the sea’s ever changing face – and its secrets.
Travel photography depicting beach umbrellas looking at the sea during a magical sunset:
Long after sunset the forgotten thoughts, and the escaped ones, plunge into the sea. As they dive right below its surface their sinuous backs from the waves we see at night, thick and sluggish. They dive in and out and, thus, the slow white crests of midnight waves are born. Sometimes the bathing thoughts forget themselves in their merrymaking and never come out and thus, in the morning, the sea is gray like petrol and the lifeguards raise their red flag, marking a hazardous beach. For they know, they’ve seen it happening, bathers vanishing in those calm, thick waters – although no sea predators were ever spotted. Except for sea-currents circling underneath. But you and I know; those are the long-forgotten thoughts, looming in waiting.
I hope you enjoyed this blog post on travel photography depicting beach umbrellas looking at the sea during a magical sunset.
If you love coffee as much as I do each day is coffee day, but since today my American readers celebrate #NationalCoffeeDay and on the 1st of October everyone will celebrate #InternationalCoffeeDay, I thought I’ll dedicate this post to coffee lovers all over the world!
A Love Letter to Coffee
My beloved, it has only been moments since I’ve left you and… I already miss you!
I will not shy away from my feelings for you! You are my one, true joy in the early hours of the morning. No matter how restless my night has been or how busy my daily schedule is, sharing those special moments with you in the morning, holding you, reveling in your scent and your full body… Oh, nothing can take away the simple pleasure of our time together.
sweet and understanding you are of my living you behind each morning.
You do know that there is no one else for me, but you. I always return
You are so unique, yet your flamboyant personality has me under a spell, I can never get bored with you.
Don’t bend your ear to childish gossip. There is only one for me and
that one is you. The others, as you perceive them, are but mere
acquaintances. No even a fling, but a brush with cruel, ordinary life.
None will ever stand a chance near you, let alone compare itself with
you, my beloved. They are. .. so different, so much more less than you
will ever be. They do not have your charm, the strength of your core,
your unmistakable perfume. They are not you. They can never take your
the way you can change your looks, it never ceases to surprise me! And
the heavenly scent of your voluptuous body, always surprising, yet
always them same; homely, unique, promising.
You can be hot or cold, I’ll take it; I’ll never turn you down.
My Espresso, my Latte, my Cappuccino, my Americano, my Chococino, my Macchiato, my Viennois…
Besides BOOKS, what else can one pair coffee with?
Chocolate, of course! Since both tend to originate from similar regions of the world… Try Dark Chocolate with Brazilian Coffee if you dare…
Sweet pastries, bread, doughnuts, and dairy also go really well with coffee…
Poultry is said to go well with a coffee with fruity notes like the coffee from central and east Africa, while red meat is best paired with a dark roast coffee originating in the Pacific Islands.
Last, but not least, berries go well with the coffee from east Africa, while pitted fruits such as peaches, plums, apricots, and the citrus fruits enhance the taste of coffee originating from central Africa and central America.
I love how Gertrude Stein speaks of coffee:
Coffee is a lot more than just a drink; it’s something happening. Not as in hip, but like an event, a place to be, but not like a location, but like somewhere within yourself. It gives you time, but not actual hours or minutes, but a chance to be, like be yourself, and have a second cup.
Gertrude Stein, Selected Writings
I hope you will have a fabulous day today and will never have to say:
“I’d rather take coffee than compliments just now.”
Louisa May Alcott, Little Women
How do you enjoy your coffee?? I love coffee during any time of the day, milk, no sugar. I am not very fond of espresso though, but I love cappuccino, cafe latte, macchiato, chococino, Viennois… you name it and – in summer – the iced coffee!