Sunday, September 26, 2010

Chocolate for Writers (or anyone who wants a treat)

Any writer worth the salt they’re licking off the margarita glass knows that chocolate cures writer's block, aids in dealing with rejection, enhances procrastination, and is always eaten in celebration. With Christmas just around the corner (and it IS, you know, even if Halloween is only just on the horizon as I write this), I figure now would be the best time to share a family recipe; to give you a head start for those Christmas preparations.

This is easy. There is no stress. Honestly. No need to over-think it. Just follow the directions, and it will work out JUST fine.

Here we go:

Chocolate Marshmallow Roll


1 egg, beaten
1 cup icing sugar
4 squares semi-sweet chocolate, melted
2 tablespoons butter
120 mini coloured marshmallows
1 – 1 ½ cups sweetened coconut

Before you do anything, pull out a sheet of wax paper. Not parchment paper. Not clear cling-film wrap. Not foil. Not freezer paper.

Just WAX paper.

Pull out maybe 17 to 18 inches of it, and sprinkle about half the coconut along the middle of the WAX paper, but not all the way to each end. Eventually, you will need to ROLL the whole thing up, twisting the ends closed, as this recipe is for a ROLL.

Now, before we begin, a few notes about the ingredients.

The eggs: this is an OLD family recipe, so the exact size of egg is not clear. But let’s meet halfway and use a medium-sized egg. If you crack one open and it’s one of those double-yolk-ers, although good luck in some parts of the world, DON’T USE it. Save it in the fridge for making a face mask (there ARE recipes for such a mask). I don’t think brown eggs make a difference, and I don’t know the measurement for those pre-beaten eggs from a carton. And forget about powdered eggs. Gag.

The icing sugar: just use NORMAL, everyday, icing sugar. Not FINE sugar, the kind for strawberries. Not pre-made icing from a container. Don’t try to use granulated sugar, brown sugar, raw sugar, artificial sweeteners, liquid sugar, or finely minced sugar cane. IT WON’T WORK.

The semi-sweet chocolate squares: don’t try to substitute with a million chocolate chips (eating them while you make this is fine). Don’t try carob chips; another gag. Don’t get bitter chocolate, sugar-free or organic. Just use good old fashioned, sugar-laced, calorie-laden, non-organic, semi-sweet chocolate squares. They come in a box, each square individually wrapped - very cute, actually.

The butter: real butter is fine, but if you have margarine, that’s fine too. I know that margarine is supposed to be unhealthy for you, but if that’s all you have - fine (you’re already using semi-sweet chocolate squares, so you might as well go all the way). DON’T use any of the margarines that are made with olive oil, are vegan (you’re already using eggs, don’t forget), are salt-free, are packed with Omega3, reduced-fat, fat-free, dairy-free….the list goes on. Who cares if it contains yellow dye? Just use regular, cholesterol-laden ordinary margarine. You’re eating all that chocolate anyways. And for the love of chocolate, do NOT use those sprays. If this is too stressful for you, just use real butter. But don’t use salt-free, lactose-free, or clarified butter. And don’t use….oh never-mind.

120 mini-coloured marshmallows: when I say 120, I mean 120. Not 119. Not 121. Specifically 120. Count them out by tens if you must, putting them in little groupings on the counter. You will need 12 groups of 10. And yes, there IS dye in those coloured marshmallows (like the yellow dye in margarine). But they are technically FRUIT flavoured marshmallows, so they can’t be THAT bad for you.

Sheesh….you’re looking a little too deeply into all this, aren’t you? This is a SIMPLE recipe.

The coconut: remember, this is a SIMPLE recipe. Don’t buy a whole coconut and burst a hernia trying to crack the darn thing open in hopes of shredding the gunk inside. It’s messy, painful, and you will end up with hairy things from the husk everywhere. Don’t use canned coconut, dehydrated chunks, or coconut milk powder (yes, there is such a thing). Just use regular, over-processed, over-sweetened, preservative-laden, packaged coconut. No-name brand is fine.

Okay, now for the process.

1. Melt chocolate and butter/margarine in a saucepan over low-medium heat. Remove from heat.
2. Stir in icing sugar until well mixed, then the egg.
3. Mix well until smooth and shiny.
4. Fold in marshmallows.
5. Spread mixture in a ‘log’ formation on top of the coconut on the waxed paper.
6. Sprinkle remaining coconut over roll.
7. Roll into a chocolaty, wax-papered log, twisting the ends closed.
8. Chill for up to 3 hours (overnight is best), unwrap, slice into ½ inch slices, and serve (looks pretty with the coloured marshmallows).

See? Wasn’t that easy? And there was NO stress involved. You didn’t have to over-think anything.

Enjoy, and happy writing (and eating, and baking)!

(author’s note: I am not an epicurean expert - I know my own slices are not round in the picture. Who cares – JUST EAT IT!)

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Writing with Waterproof Mascara

Ahhh…Maybelline Great Lash® Mascara. A true classic and basic staple for most women. And to think it’s been around for almost 40 years, according to a magazine advertisement I came across the other day. That iconic pink and green tube helped transition many girls from their tweens to their teens; those same girls who likely shed a mascara-laced tear or two during those hormonally imbalanced teen-years.

Those days are long gone for me and, since then, I have sometimes paid $10 - $20 for mascara I was told would transform my look (umm…I have never really had a ‘look’ but…whatever).

I was promised THIS mascara, with its high-tech wand and revolutionary formula, would plump, thicken, lengthen, and strengthen my ever-batting eyelashes. I was assured THAT mascara would make my eyes look bigger, wider, brighter, younger, and bluer. And of course, I would look thinner, younger (again!), sexier and ever-alluringly more mysterious.

And none of them worked.

I am not a ‘Vogue-esque’ kinda girl. I am just simple little me. I am just a mom, just an employee, just a writer.

And I still do, occasionally, succumb to the ever-trending, ever-increasing promises I know deep down will never come true, and try something different – something new.

Just to say I tried. Just to know I tried.

And sometimes I end up going back to the basics; the classics. What I know works - for me.

Good ‘ole Great Lash® Mascara, every time.

As a writer, I try to branch out and try something new; a new idea, style of writing, or genre of writing. I work at being brave, ignoring that inner-critic. And I figure trying something new has to be good for all writers – for anyone. It’s important to flex those creative muscles, to try something else, and see how far you can push yourself in your writing and in your creativity.

But what about those times when a project just won’t work? When no matter what you do, or how you do it, it just won’t work the way you thought it would? Do you have a fit, cry and wail uncontrollably, then give up and quit? (If it makes you feel better, do have a fit, but do it privately and wear waterproof mascara.)

But for the love of mascara, whatever you do, don’t give up! Just put it aside – for now.

It’s common for a writing project, or idea, to fall flat and loose its steam. DON’T THROW IT OUT for God sake! You spent time and effort writing your heart out; there will be something in there that can be used one day, in some way. Try it again when the timing is right. Rework it; reword it. Maybe you need to wait for a renewed sense of direction. Thoughts, tastes, and abilities change.

Go back to the basics – to what you know – for now.

Like that tube of $20 mascara that was too clumpy/flaky/chunky/dark/light and basically just didn’t fulfill its promise. Unless it gave you an eye infection, DON’T THROW IT OUT for God sake! You just spent $20 on the darn thing! Put it away in the bottom of your make-up bag or at the back of your bathroom cupboard (but not behind the calamine lotion – you might forget it’s there). One day, maybe, you might try it again (or you might be out of Great Lash® and need that $20 tube in a pinch!)

Go back to the basics – to what you know – for now.

As for the 40th Anniversary of Maybelline’s Great Lash® Mascara? The creation fell into make-up bags everywhere in 1971, and hasn’t stopped enhancing eyelashes since. A tube is sold in drugstores every 1.7 seconds, according to Maybelline® of New York (, and is always on hand, backstage, at fashion shows.

Not bad for a little tube that usually sells for around $6. There’s something to be said for the basics.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Writing with the Toilet Seat Down

Virginia Wolff had it right; a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.

Well, the money part might be a long time coming for me…but the room part? Well, read on…

I spent too long moaning, groaning, whining and crying about not having any where to write. Um…hello!? There is a whole world out there in which to write. Not EVERY human being can fill EVERY little nook and cranny. There is ALWAYS somewhere to write: on the bus, on the couch at 5 am, on a park bench, and in the bathroom.
The bathroom? Yes, it’s possible.

I will explain in a minute. So, for now, just cross your legs and read.

During a brief break from all the moaning, groaning, whining and crying, I finished blowing my nose with Kleenex-by-the-foot (toilet paper), and reflected on the past year. Armed with a set of goals set at the beginning of the year, I had ALWAYS found a place, and time, to write. Maybe not as often as I would have liked, and maybe not in a fancy oak desk with a leather swivel chair with my tea brought to me hourly by a Chippendale’s dancer....but I always managed to write.

And I guess I paid my dues because, so far as it seems, and although I am still in the early organizing/planning stages, my time has come.

I will have my own office.

Where I KNOW great things will happen.

Before you flush this down the toilet at my self-indulgent smugness, read on.

I live with three men; a husband and two sons. I am the minority. Space has always been an issue, what with everyone growing. Finding time to write, finding space for myself, has always been a challenge. But somehow, I have managed. Between refereeing at home, going to various extra-curricular activities, homework, meals, laundry, laundry, laundry, never mind forever cleaning the bathroom…..

And so very often, the bathroom is often my refuge. As long as I have super smelly soap that NO ONE is allowed to use, I am happy. As long as the bathtub is rinsed of sand, grass, and pine needles after their bath, I am happy. As long as the toilet seat is down, I am happy.

But what makes me most happy is finally having my own bathroom. Just a little powder room, but I don’t care. It’s mine.

We moved, and not only did I acquire a kitchen window, but an extra bathroom.

And I had a flash of brilliance, as I so often do, of TRULY making it mine.

Why not make it my office?

And of course I have told anyone and everyone about this; the bus driver, the girls at the grocery store, and everyone else in between.

A writer friend of mine had the brilliant concept of converting a commode to a chair, able to fit over the toilet. Another friend of mine came up with having a drop down table suspended by chains, from the wall.

THIS is going to be perfect.

I have yet to get to it; boxes are still being unpacked, furniture still being re-arranged. I still get confused as to where I am now keeping the Hello Kitty Waffle Maker. It will come together eventually. I have already stored ‘writerly’ things under the sink, awaiting the bathroom transformation - but it will come.

I am patient.

I’ve waited this long.

And get this: all through the move, through the packing/unpacking, chaos, and too many nights of ordering pizza (which really isn’t a bad thing), I continued to write.

Even, still, without the ‘office.’

Stay tuned….and while you’re at it, go change the empty toilet paper roll.