Thursday, August 27, 2015

Food Daydream #3: The Greatest Taco Salad In ALL The Land!

I'm from California and I love Mexican food so much I wish I could marry it. But it's sad because it can be heavy and fatty and *unbelievably delicious*. Just look up the calorie count for Chipotle - and that's not even GOOD Mexican. It's tex-mex fast food. (Not that I'm knocking fast food, I love me some Taco Bell. I genuinely believe they have perfected the taco. It's not a Mexican taco, but it's the perfect taco for me!)

More than tacos and burritos, my favorite Mexican meal is a taco salad. I adore them. I love the fried tortilla, the beans at the bottom, the crisp lettuce, tomatoes, cheese and the range of meats at the top.... Smothered in sour cream and guac... and hot diggity, we're looking at over 1000 calories. 1000 delicious calories.
*weeping*
 "It's just so beautiful..."

If I had 1500 extra calories to spare, I would eat this every day. But alas, I do not. So I decided to make my own version of Taco Salad, cut the calories down and add more veggies. I was also inspired by Thai salads, so there is a hint of fusion here.


Obligatory Thai Salad Photo
 

Now I don't know how much I cut down the calories, because I hate calorie counters and I am not going to spend 15 minutes adding it up for you. Google it. But if I were to guess, I'd say we're looking at somewhere between 450 - 600 calories total, depending on how much sour cream/cheese you use.

I've always thought salad dressings on a taco salad were... heresy. It ruins the entire flavor of the salad. This is not a recipe with a greasy "avocado ranch dressing", nor a soapy "cilantro vinaigrette" but feel free to make those if you want to die a slow and painful death... By my hand because you ruined a perfectly good salad. There are always enough ingredients in the taco salad that it barely needs a dressing at all. I do make one though, don't fret. There will be no dry salad on this day.

Without further ado... I bring to you: The Greatest Taco Salad in ALL the Land!


Ingredients

1 head of romaine lettuce (chopped or ripped apart)

1/2 cup shredded carrots

1/2 cup of cucumber

1/2 cup chopped tomatoes

1/2 chopped peppers (red/green/yellow)

1 avocado (chopped)

1/4 cup of chopped red onion (optional)

1 can of kidney beans (drained and rinsed)

1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese
 
1 bag of tortilla chips

Sour Cream

Lime wedges (optional)

Hot sauce (also optional)


For Taco Meat

1 lb of ground beef

1 packet of taco seasoning


For Salad Dressing

1/2 cup of your favorite salsa

2 tbsp Olive oil



Instructions


1. Brown beef in pan over medium heat until there is no red meat anywhere. Then drain the fat (you can keep this and use it later like bacon fat).

2. Per taco seasoning instructions, add seasoning and water, stir and set aside.

3. Place all the ingredients down to the kidney beans in a salad bowl and toss. Then add the cheddar cheese.

4. Grab two BIG handfulls of tortilla chips, crush them between your hands and toss into the salad. 

5. In a separate bowl, mix the salsa with the olive oil and dress the salad. Use as much or as little as you want. Toss and separate into plates or bowls.

6. Top the salad with the ground beef and a dollop of sour cream. Then set a lime wedge on the side of the salad. It serves about four people

7. Eat everything, come back for seconds and then thank your lucky stars you read this post.

8. Leave a comment here about how I changed your life for the better.

9. Dance.

You're welcome.


All my love,
L.B.


Monday, August 24, 2015

Pop Up Ads: A Rant

There's something about editing that inhibits blog writing.

Writing a story involves the mindset of creation. When editing a story, you fold your imagination up and put it away and rely on learned grammar and past reading memories to make your original ideas stand out and become more clear. The editing mindset is active reading. Where as writing is story building, left to the wild fancies of your whimsical imagination.

This has been the fascinating reason behind my lack of posts recently. When I'm writing I will have a backlog of 20 posts, but when I'm editing I'm sucked into the rational fixing of "things". I'm currently in a mind-numbing editing phase... It's been weeks....


"Me."

But something happened today that distracted me from editing and spiraled me into a rage unfit for human consumption. I came on here today to discuss something far more sinister and insidious than editing could ever hope to be: Pop up ads.

~~BEGIN RANT~~

Pop up ads are the worst thing ever invented and the longer I use the internet, the more my hatred for them increases. I can't forgive Ethan Zuckerman, even though he publicly apologized last year for creating them in the first place. Even though he says, "Our intentions were good," I can't help comparing him to other's who also felt their intentions were just. I would be specific but I'm not starting a political debate, just feel free to insert any dictator's last name for "others."

One thing I've noticed is that these pop up ads now are placed strategically throughout news/magazine websites. No longer are they shown at first click of the website, or deceive you by pretending they are your website when in reality they are a new window - No, now, they are *^$&## everywhere.

In the above article about Mr. Zucker-jerk, the author claims that pop up ads "were horrible." As in, past tense. NO. THEY ARE NOT PAST TENSE. THEY ARE RIGHT NOW.

They are evil and lurking behind a seemingly innocent-looking article about which Kardashion is the most fashionable (Not that I would ever read those, or purposefully misspell their last name to keep my ruse...). It waits until I am halfway through the second paragraph of a very important scientific study, happily reading when the screen will freeze, some horrible music will start to play and I'm stuck in hell. If I'm lucky (Read: unlucky) I'll be at the computer that shuts down completely while the pop up is loading, then reloads with a dramatic moving advertisement for some film coming out in theaters that I'm not going to see (on principal!). I wait the five seconds before the "Close Ad" X pops up and I can finally get it out of my sight - Or at least have it confined to its 3"x3" square in the upper right hand corner.

But more than the annoyance: I have no idea who any of the advertisers are, or why... Dear god why? In these situations, my mind turns off completely and I'm running on blanks, while my rage against the website increases exponentially. I stare at the corners of the ad waiting for that "Close X" to appear in a corner after the five seconds that feels like hours. If my brain didn't shut off until the ad was over, I would actively hate the product being advertised.

Now, to be fair, I understand the need for advertisements and quite frankly, I don't mind them when they don't make music on their own and they stick to their square. But pop up ads are a different breed of advertisement that make me want to throw my laptop across the room. If the pop up advertisement were a character, their death in my novel would take an entire chapter to describe.


~~END RANT~~

*Sigh* I know, I know, cool my jets. I'll get over it.

In other news, my sister had a bouncing baby boy! So this day isn't all bad!

Welcome to the world, Baby J.D.!

All my love,
L.B.

PS: My friend just asked what I was up to and I said, "Editing my blog post on... Editing." I gotta come up with better blog topics. The next one will be food, I promise.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

'Scouring' Your Writing: A Rambling Nightmare

I sanded down my oven hood last Saturday.

I spent an hour, with bleach and a metal scrubber, scouring it up, and slowly brought it back to it's original gleam. While it was happening, I thought my oven hood was bronze. In my stupid mind, I was in a secret garden moment, 'It's been bronze all this time!" Like when people remove their carpet and find wood floors underneath. But it wasn't bronze, I was scrubbing down the sealant because I'm an idiot. And now I need to buy new sealant for the oven hood.

But it turns out this is an excellent metaphor for a book thrown aside. IG: When you are working on a project that isn't going anywhere, you may find beauty underneath. Or, you may find that it's all crap and you've wasted the last year (or hour) scrubbing away the filth to find you have broken down the core of the project, (the base metal), and it's a bad idea.

Now, this would be the time to give up and say, "This is the worst, I'm an idiot." (I can relate) or you realize it's potential. When the sealant is gone, you can put a new sealant on the hood. Now, your hood is clean, and it looks brand NEW! SHINY!

(Yes, this is a metaphor based on my idiocy, but it's a good one, stay with me.)

If you clean out your original copy, get rid of what isn't working (grease, in this case), and then you can "paint on" what does work. You can start anew.

My point: Don't completely give up on a idea you believe in. Learn from your mistakes.

I'm all for redoing your failures. Finding what doesn't work and working HARD to insert what does. Delete and clean your first dream. You never know, what was once stupid and irrelevant has about 30 years to come back around. If fashion is a good timetable to base trends on -- Which, it is -- We can learn a lot from what came back around ten years ago. What was dead in the 80's because it was "overdone," was (past tense, thank god) "back in style" in the early 2000's (Here, I would talk about how 90's stuff is back in right now, but I think that three 90's references in three posts in a row is pretty ridiculous).

What was once a sad remake could now be a genius retelling. Take stories from the 70's and rewrite them, better, with your years of improved talent. Or, look at the early 2000's, that's coming around in ten years. 

Now, you could be me, and scrub down the sealant and end up with what I did: A piece of crap. It could very well be a waste of your time.

Or you could scrub down an idea, make it relevant with your new skills and try again with the new version. You may find that everything you had written was great, but it needed a brush up. You could re-create an idea and make it as amazing as you once imagined. You could be creating a masterpiece.

As an architect friend of mine once said, "Nothing gets erased. I could draw five houses, and the client only wants the one that's chosen."

But that's the point. What isn't chosen doesn't mean its a bad idea, but that it's wrong for that client. You can rewrite it to be right. It's all about revision. It's about re-imagining what didn't work.

Remake your old failures.

But only after you're out of new ideas. Don't waste the wealth of inspiration.


All my love,
L.B.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Fiction Short Story: "End-All"

I've never liked the news. I avoid it when I can. It always sends out the same depressing information: murders, car accidents, heists, and cop killings. I block it all out. All it does is give me anxiety. Instead I like to watch reality TV shows about redecorating houses with my border collie, Houston. I know, weird name. My ex-girlfriend named him. Whenever he made a mess or destroyed something, she would put on the shuttle voice,  "Houston, we have a problem," and she would laugh at me. I never found it funny, but the dog's name stuck.

Today was different. After a long day at work, I was exhausted and done eating my microwaved Salisbury steak dinner. I was in the middle of yelling at Houston for begging and licking his damn chops - When the news came on. I tried turning it over but it was on every channel. So I turned up the volume from the mellow drone I'd been watching my show at and listened.

"Good evening everyone, I'm George McNare. We interrupt your evening broadcast to inform you that there have been reports of hundreds of sightings of UFO's around the San Francisco Bay Area. These are not large alien spaceships, but flying orbs. According to eye witnesses, these orbs glow in alternating shapes against our understanding of physics. The orbs range from small disks to large ovals in the sky. They appear harmless for now, but should anyone see anything unusual, please contact the hotline number at the bottom of the screen immediately. Thank you, and now back to our regularly scheduled programming."

The show crackled and went back to my show about fixing up houses. I went to my window and there was nothing I could see outside. I closed the curtains behind me, shrugged at Houston and went to get another beer. I sat back down to my show and learned about different wood floors and the benefits of tile in high traffic hallways. I had almost fallen asleep when the harsh horn played four times announcing the emergency broadcast, and the same newscaster came back on TV.

"Breaking news. We apologize for interrupting your regularly scheduled program. Thousands of unidentified flying orbs have landed around the San Francisco Bay Area. If you take a look at our newsfeed, Sarah Bates brings you a live broadcast from the closest UFO sightings. Sarah, can you tell us what you are seeing now?"

The TV cut to a black woman in her early 30's wearing a crisp white shirt.

"Thank you, George. I'm here at Dolores Park where a crowd of more than three hundred people have gathered. As you can see behind me, seven unidentified objects are floating in the sky above us. I'd say they are about two hundred feet in the air -- pure orbs of green light. We can't measure their size correctly at this time due to our inability to calculate their distance. People around us have described the light as being close to five feet wide. What we see here are disks and round balls. Our cameraman Jordan here will attempt to show you now."

The camera zoomed in to five orbs in the sky. They were bright green disks and orbs, just as the newscaster had said. They floated in the sky behind her. The camera cut back to the woman,

"Back to you in the studio, George."

The TV cut back to George,

"Thank you, Sarah. That's all the breaking news for this evening. Please continue to call in with stories and send videos to the hotline number at the bottom of your screen. Hopefully we won't be interrupting your program again tonight. We will keep you updated as this story progresses. This is George McNare."

Confused, I stood up and walked over to the windows. I ripped apart the curtains and I could see them now: Green lights. Orbs that lit up the sky. I closed the curtains again and sat back down with Houston who began to whimper. Over the course of twenty minutes I told Houston to shut up five times. All of my shows continued uninterrupted, and I began to forget about the earlier newscasts. At 11:15pm, the same newscaster came on. This time he looked disheveled and like he hadn't slept in days.

"Ladies and Gentlemen of the Bay Area. We are interrupting your regular broadcasting to inform you that a large flying saucer is now hovering over the San Francisco Financial District. It lowered down upon the town about a half hour ago. NASA has been working to make contact.United Nations has been notified and armies across the globe are standing by. People of the Bay Area, get under ground. If you do not have an underground basement, run to the subways. Get to subway stations right away. NASA wants us to warn that the UFO's are hostile, killing five in Texas moments ago. Five in Texas have died shooting these orbs. I repeat, the unidentified objects are not friendly. San Francisco Bay Area: Plan for attack. All civilians get underground immediately and wait for further instructions on radio station 740 AM. I REPEAT, ALL CIVILIANS GET UNDERGROUND IMMEDIATELY!"

The broadcast cut out and went back to my regular TV show about rebuilding houses. I sat numb, staring at the goofy-faced man telling me how best to paint my dining room. It all felt so stupid now. I stood up and walked back over the curtains I had shut so many hours before. When I pulled them, I saw hundreds of the greens orbs floating above the skyscrapers around the city. I could see the enormous flying saucer hovering above the TransAmerica Building.

I froze staring at it all. It couldn't be real. Maybe I drank more than three beers? I put my beer down and watched the first laser beam from the flying saucer hit a skyscraper. My jaw dropped as the skyscraper caught on fire and collapsed. I shut the curtain again behind me. I drank too much. I knew it. I'm drunk and imagining things. My TV show stopped again and the news anchor resumed his position in his chair. This time he had tears in his eyes, his hair was all over the place, his armpits were drenched with sweat and when he began speaking, his voice was cracking,

"Breaking News: Get Underground. If you have not left San Francisco City, get underground. Everyone above ground will die. I repeat, everyone above ground will die. Get underground and God help us. God help us all."

The newscaster's face shattered into a million pieces and was replaced by static. My show didn't come back.

That was an hour ago and Houston won't stop barking. I can't bring myself to stop him. His barks ring out around me. I want more than anything not to open those curtains again. I'm scared. The last time I pulled the curtains apart, I ... I can't even describe it... The orbs are attacking. I'm afraid to leave my apartment. I fear this may be the end of humanity. Please. If someone finds this, my name is Sam, I want you to know how it

Thursday, August 6, 2015

A Short on Skipping Chapters

Writing the first draft is so personal. I find myself intrigued by the excitement of important plot turns and twists. When I started writing RTS, I wrote, in order, every chapter and had tiny notes for the important plot points that followed. Around Chapter 6, I changed my mind, and skipped to Chapter 10. I threw myself into the next dramatic plot moment and I skipped the rest = I had a vision and I was excited.

But is that bad? When one is inspired by a scene, why not write it, right away? Similar to when you are doing a maze puzzle and you start at the end and work your way back to the "START". You aren't the reader, you can skip ahead while the ideas are bubbling around in your head, threatening to burst out at the first person who asks you, "How is your book coming?"

But self control is everything. So you lie and pretend that you aren't excited about what scene you're on, because the person you're talking to hasn't read any of your work, and they'll be left confused and bewildered if you tell them. (This is a universal experience, right?)

Why not let that excitement run wild? Write the story you want to write *when* you want to write it. When you get the main points out of your head and your characters stop screaming details and plot twists at you, you can go back and fill in the rest.

More importantly: When the plot is done, you can go back and make the boring scenes as exciting as you like. You can add beautiful scenery, bickering and humor. I find that when I've finished the *exciting* plot turns, I can go back and make the "boring" scenes their own beautiful story. They aren't rushed anymore. They're free. The scenes I find the most funny and I'm most proud of, come out of a scene I found became too serious or too boring. I brighten it up to entertain myself, but in the end, I entertain the reader.

Give IN and let your inspiration write the page.

Genius comes out of boredom.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Food Daydream #2 Crab Garlic Fries : Splurgin'

A friend of mine posted to Facebook that she went to the Gilroy Garlic Festival and added a photo of the most glorious thing I've ever seen: Crab Garlic Fries. I was immediately intrigued, grossed out, and salivating. I had to know. So I jumped onto Google and hunted around. It turned out that the Haight Street Fair had these babies waiting to be devoured, so I told the Irishman my plan and we hopped on a bus. (Somehow most of our outings begin like this...)

It turns out this delicacy is quite well-known in the Bay Area at local street fairs, city fairs, baseball games and pretty much all concerts that have a brain. And my GOD, LOOK AT IT!


*angels sing*

What we are looking at is beer battered garlic fries with a spicy aioli topped with fresh crab. That, my friends, is happiness in a bowl (or a trough).

The one's we had at the street fair were not beer battered, but none the less, fantastic and ready to be made at home. So once again, I will not disappoint: I've brought you a recipe.

Now don't fret, these don't have to be deep fried. The baked fries are *fine* I suppose, but why would you do that to yourself? This is a splurge meal. Eat salad the next three days. I believe in you.

Are you ready for this?!

Ingredients

2 quarts vegetable oil

2 1/4 pounds russet potatoes, cut lengthwise into french fry shapes.

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

4 garlic cloves, minced

2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley

1 lb of fresh, cooked crabmeat

For Aioli

1/2 cup of mayonnaise

2 tbsp lemon juice (the rest cut into wedges for the crab meat)

1 tbsp hot sauce (Sriracha is a winner)


Instructions

1. Fill a large bowl with water and soak potatoes for at least 30 minutes up to 24 hours. This stops the potatoes from oxidizing and removes excess starch.

2. Heat a heavy stock pot (or deep fryer) filled with oil to 325 degrees F.

3. Remove potatoes from the water, and dry thoroughly with paper towels.

4. Working in batches, add two handfuls of potatoes to oil at a time.

5. Deep fry until golden brown, shake off excess oil and drop into a large metal bowl for seasoning.

6. When all french fries are golden and delicious, add the garlic, parsley, salt and pepper to the bowl and toss until well coated. Keep seasoning until you like the taste (I am a salt fiend).

7. Mix mayonnaise, lemon juice, and hot sauce together in a small bowl. Taste and season accordingly.

8. Pile a plate or bowl high with garlic fries, add as much aoli to the garlic fries as you'd like, and spoon fresh crab meat on top. Set a lemon wedge on the side and sprinkle with fresh pepper.

9. Dig in! Savor that insane blend of flavors! The cool crab meat, the spicy garlic and the hot aioli is truly magical.

10. Schedule your next workout.

11. Look up a recipe for a simple salad for dinner.

All my love,
L.B. 

Saturday, August 1, 2015

A Post About Overusing Words Post

When I did my first read-through of RTS 500 years ago I noticed that I had a serious problem with the word, "just." When I finally did a word search for "just" there were so many the search wouldn't go through. Thanks for that, Word, you got your point across.

While this was alarming and frustrating, I took my time removing them from my masterpiece (that's what MS stands for, right?). I realized that unless the character was exasperated, "Just do it already!" 'just' is a filler word. It makes the sentence longer and adds nothing to the original content. In fact, it takes away from the original content by apologizing for it.

Ex: They went to the store.
They just went to the store. (Sorry, not sorry!)

Then there is this article and this one that discuss how women overuse "just" in the business world and how it "damages women's credibility" blah blah blah. Well it turns out in books this is also true, but with less "damage" coming from the word and more annoyance.

Overusing words in general is a mistake. For instance, back in the 90's everyone peppered their language with "like." It's taken this long (60 years) to finally die, or maybe I haven't been hanging out with teenagers enough recently.

Now I know I'm over doing it with the 90's and J.K. Rowling examples, but they are the first that came to mind, and again, relevant. A friend of mine was re-reading the classics and came to notice that J.K. had a love affair with "as ever." Example: Ginny's hair was as red as ever. My friend said, "Get over it, J.K.!" (Which I thought was a bit harsh, but she wasn't sitting there.)

This tends to happen more frequently with qualifiers (good, just, very, quite), which when writing fiction, literally add nothing to the description. In fact, even using the words "beautiful" or "ugly" are rather meaningless. "It was a beautiful sunset" is probably the worst description I've ever heard. That's what you tell your friends when you get home from the beach. Give the reader something to work with!

Another one I've noticed is the overuse of adjectives. You should not use the same adjectives to describe anything in a single paragraph. Break it up! Nothing should be shining and glittering twice in one paragraph, especially if you are talking about different things. Buy a thesaurus.

If you think these articles and examples changed my writing, you're wrong. I still overuse words constantly and don't find them until I'm editing. I also have a weird habit of adding a comma if I take a break in my thought process. Sort of like pressing "enter" when you send a chat even though your thought isn't complete. But these are my editor's burden to bear now.

All my love,
L.B.