Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Great Tomato Paste Debacle

I made pasta and tomato sauce for dinner today, and it reminded me of something that happened when I first got to Egypt...

I've never been the best cook, but in the US, I did okay.  I could even cook some French and Mexican things and had a wok to stir-fry Chinese food when I felt like it.  When I got married over here, I figured pasta was the quickest and easiest to whip out, so I went to a corner store to buy the makings.  There was plenty of macaroni -- but no tomato sauce.  They only had jars of tomato paste.  Lots and lots of 'em.  So ... um ... I bought the paste.  I could make sauce out of that, right? 

Not so much.  It was thick and awful and bitter -- even when I added sugar to it.  (Yeah, I was that desperate.)

I discovered that I was really spoiled.  My idea of tomato sauce was that it came in jars marked "mushroom flavored" or "with cheese."  I was actually surprised when my Egyptian husband suggested I make sauce the way his mom did -- with fresh tomatoes.  But how do you do that?  I've grown up in a culture where grocery shelves are stocked with so many ready-made, great tasting, quick-n-easy choices, you can think you're really a cook when you're not.

Image courtesy of Ambro / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Since you can only buy vegetables that are in season here, I now plan meals around what's available.  I don't buy jars of things with preservatives, chemicals, and additives in them.  Everything's fresh and natural.  Yeah, cooking from scratch is a little harder, but I'm sure I'm better off for it. 

And I've learned how to make a mean tomato sauce! :-)

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Research vs Writer's Block

One of the most frustrating things for writers is a blank page and the lack of any "brilliant" ideas to fill it.  It's not that there aren't any glimmers of inspiration, but sometimes, the cup of "fresh, innovative and exciting ideas" does not runneth over.  There are so many YA books available it can feel like all the cool ideas have already been taken. 

There's good news and its name is Research!  There are weird and little known facts out there just begging to be made into novels.  Check out the Odd News reports on Yahoo.  Look at headlines and make up your own story to go with them.  You can even just Google things that interest you personally and all kinds of stuff comes up.  Let one link take you to another and another until you find something that sucks you in.  Just keep digging around until you find gold!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Goldilocks Syndrome

One of the hardest things for me to get used to in Egypt was the weather.  Yes, it's sunny 350 days a year.  Yes, there's an almost constant wind that makes it a dream-come-true for windsurfers.  Blah, blah, blah.  I want seasons, dang it!  I love the crisp air and new buds of spring and the colored leaves and nippy temperatures of fall.  Egypt only has two months of spring (April and May) and two of fall (October and November). 

This one's too hot!  There are four months of summer with temperatures ranging from 80-110 degrees.  Ouch!

This one's too cold!  From December to March, temperatures range from 30-60.  I'm sure that doesn't sound bad to people used to snow and ice -- but here's the difference.  There's no indoor heating in Egypt.  None.  Zip.  Nada.  You end up putting three blankets on the bed and wearing clothes to sleep.  Lots and lots of clothes.  Two pairs of socks, two sweat-pants, turtlenecks, and assorted sweaters.  I have an angora scarf I wrap around my head. 

The biggest problem is once the temperature dips in December, you never thaw out until March.  You spend days, nights, weeks, and months in jackets, sweaters and woolen footie-slippers.  I sometimes type in gloves.  My mouse hand frequently gets so cold I can't feel it.  Yikes!

Ah, well.  No place is perfect, right?

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Be a Mule

Sometimes, it's not so easy to keep a positive attitude. Revisions wear you down, rejections disappoint, or real-life problems just drain your energy away. I have two ways of coping. 

1) Take a break. If your mind isn't really in the writing, don't write for a few days. Either relax and take in some TV, or do something that keeps your head in the game but isn't stressful, such as: blog, catch up on emails, post in forums and on blogs, or write critiques for people.

2) Be a mule. (This is the one I do most often.) Plow past the problems miring you, ignore the self-doubt, turn your nose up at the rejections and criticisms, and just be as stubborn and determined as a mule to reach your goals.

The Insecure Writer's Support Group exists so the community of blogging writers can share and support each other. I love the encouragement the members give, and I especially enjoy blog-hopping to cheerlead and commiserate.

To find out more, visit: Insecure Writer's Support Group

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