Spring

I am so tired of this weather. Yesterday, we had another seven inches of snow with drifts up to two feet high. Icicles are hanging off the roof, and the temperature last night before I went to bed was 4F. I don’t want to know what it was toward morning. The little Snowdrops that started to bloom so hopefully at the end of January have now been buried four times by snow. Can’t wait to see if they are still alive once all this stuff melts.

So I looked around the computer to see if I could find something that would pick me up. I knew I had some signs of spring somewhere in my picture files. What I found was stunning, and so I want to share it with you. Maybe it’ll pick you up as well.

[To enlarge a picture, click on it, and then use the back arrow to return to the blog.)

 

 

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Daily Dose of Beautiful #3

IMG_1450Today, I felt a bit down myself. Massive writer’s block, I think. Or indecision. So here’s picking myself up–and you–with this little tune.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_pGaz_qN0cw

Then I came across another tune.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=46k7Gp5L0v4

I feel much better now!!!!!!!

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Daily Dose of Beautiful 2

IMG_5366If you feel a bit down today, see if a tiny dragonfly (called Libelle in German) won’t pick you up. Turn up the volume.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-QFAOkiqbts

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How long did it take you to write this?

FrontCoverforTheTenant-1My new novel, The Tenant: A Love Story, was published in February. It’s not your usual fare of rampant violence, blood-thirsty vampires, and unbridled sex. If that’s what you’re looking for, it’s not your book. It’s just a simple, heartwarming story about a beautiful man, who feels self-conscious about having to walk with a cane after an accident. Having long given up on love, he constantly sabotages his own happiness, because he can’t imagine that any woman in her right mind would think him a good catch. But when he rents a cottage to a young woman, who struggles to survive with her ten year old boy, he is in for an emotional roller coaster. 

You can check out the book at Amazon, The Tenant: A Love Story,  or at your favorite bookseller. 

Once I had published the book, a good many of my readers asked me how long it took me to write it. The question always surprises me, because why should it matter. Would it be less of a great read it if I had written it in a week? Or if I had labored over it for twenty years?

But once I thought about it, I wondered myself just how long it took me to write it. It certainly wasn’t the five months I actually spent sitting in front of the computer, stealing time to write among the hundred other things there were going on at the same time such as the plumber, the computer crash, the laundry, the cooking, the company, the days I felt out of sorts, the paying the bills, the phone calls, insomnia, running errands, and a good many other things that come with living life.

The book actually began about sixteen years ago, only I didn’t know it. I don’t consciously keep track of a scene I’ve witnessed, a revelation that’s come to me, or an image that stands out. I don’t think: Oh, one day I will write a book about this. But I am in the habit of writing down things that intrigue me, because—well—they intrigue me. Sometimes, not always, I think that one day, I might work this moment into a book. I might. But I might not.

Trying to follow The Tenant back to its beginnings, I can see that it began with an observation—the interaction of two brothers I know who don’t like one another very much. The underlying enmity in their otherwise very civil encounter intrigued me enough that I wrote the scene down and even wrote a couple of chapters about the possible root of their rivalry. Then I put these musings side, because they didn’t really go anywhere in terms of a story. I just found them interesting. Once in a while, in my dearth and desert moments of writing, I’d pick them up and work on them a little, and let them go again. What’s interesting to me is that the name ‘Sam,’ though fictitious, offered itself quite naturally as that of one of the brothers in my little draft piece.

A couple of years later, I met a man who had to give up flying, because his eye sight had begun to fail him. I wrote that encounter down, and some months later, I met a man who had a construction accident. The fates of these two men almost immediately connected themselves to Sam. I have no idea how and why my mind determinedly makes these connections that, later on, prove to be dead-on in something I write.

A couple of years later, I happened to look out at a cabin that is way up near the top of a mountain that I can see from my window. It may well be a house, because that mountain is so far away, I can barely make out the house. And it’s not as if I hadn’t looked out at that cabin/house for years. But that day, it caught my fancy, and I thought how lovely it must be to live there with the phenomenal view of nearly the whole of the Shenandoah Valley in one’s lap. Instantly, I remembered a friend of mine, who had rented a cabin, because she had no money. The cabin had no electricity, and she and her young son had to bring in water from a well even in the dead of winter and haul in wood to keep warm. Just how this cabin instantly became Sam’s, I will never know.

But some months after I was done with my novel, Diary of a Naïve, I played around on my computer, looking for what I could write next. That’s when I found these seemingly disconnected pieces: a cabin (which suddenly struck me as awfully romantic), a young woman and a boy, and two brothers, who didn’t like one another very much. How all these pieces connected themselves, I will never know. But connect they did, as if it all was meant to be.

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Daily Dose of Beautiful 1

IMG_5365Just in case you’re involved in something utterly mediocre, trivial, and frustrating, here’s something that might pick you up. Turn up the volume:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2F4G5H_TTvU&feature=related

 

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Mini Mundus

1. Shwedagon Pagoda, Burma

So you’ve had ‘Trip Around the World’ on your bucket list forever, right? Only, you’re not within the two percent demographics that have money to burn. But not to worry. If you have a little cash to spare, you could travel to Germany, make your way to a phenomenally beautiful lake called Lake Constance (Bodensee) and visit Mini Mundus, a miniature world of nearly all the amazing monuments all over the globe. The scale is 1:25 and care has been taken to build the monuments, whenever possible, with the materials used in the original architecture. Wherever called for, they also function like the original, such as the Tower Bridge and Niagara Falls.

When you go, pick a sunny day, and take the whole day to see these marvels. When you get tired, there is a great restaurant with a beautiful terrace, where you can take a break and nourish body and spirit. Then, keep going—it’s a pretty amazing place. During the winter months, mid-October to end of April, the monuments are covered by protective structures, built exclusively for them every year, to protect them from the elements.

Here are a few pictures—a very few in comparison to all that is there, but they will give you an idea of what’s there.

Sorry to have cut off the top of the Great Pyramid at Gizeh and the face of the Sphinx, but I’ve published the photo anyway, because it gives you a sense of the height of the structures vs. the tiny human beings modeling in the foreground.

Unfortunately, the website is in German, but I’ve attached some links. As for how to get there, google-earth or mapquest the address. (I guess I just turned these into verbs.)

http://www.minimundus-bodensee.de/

info@mini-mundus-bodensee.de

or Google as minimundus bodensee

Enjoy!

 

 

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Chicken Pot Pie — Quick, Easy, and Yummy

One of my all time favorite cook books is Peg Bracken’s, I Hate to Cook Book. Published in 1960, it was an instant bestseller, and I was lucky enough to find a used paperback at some yard sale years later. The find was a godsend to me for three reasons. One, I hate to cook. Two, I was not the only one in the Universe to feel that way. Three, I could stop feeling guilty, which I instantly did. Obviously, this book, being a million dollar bestseller, proved that millions of other women felt exactly the way I did, which made me feel ecstatic. Being a woman, I used to believe with every fiber of my being that cooking came with my genes. Therefore, and worse yet, I was supposed to take to it like a duck to water. Not so.

Nothing bores me more than standing in the kitchen, assembling tons of ingredients just right—cleaning them, cutting them, dicing them, spicing them, sautéing them, mixing them—to cook a meal that is eaten in fifteen minutes. The mere thought of it makes me want to flee. The guy or gal who invented the microwave deserves a place in Heaven, as far as I’m concerned.

Given the choice between cooking a meal and writing a novel, I take the novel any day. But—my family had to eat, and even I had to eat, and so I did my best, with the help of Peg Bracken’s book and with all the other recipes I could find that took rarely more than 15 minutes to put together. And, actually and to my surprise, they were mostly healthy and wholesome.

The thing is—everyone who has ever come to my house loves my cooking. Beats me! Those “I hate to cook” recipe creators must have done something right. Even I, in rare moments of enlightenment, have unintentionally come up with a pretty darn good recipe, and so I thought I’d pass one of them on to all of you who’d rather write a novel or prefer a root canal to cooking.

Chicken Pot Pie

How fast do you want it? Is ten minutes prep time and thirty minutes in the oven fast enough?

If yes, here’s a quick and easy—and might I add yummy—recipe for which you need the following:

  • 1  9in. Pie Plate
  • 1  9in. frozen pie crust which will be the cover. (Take it out of the freezer before you do anything else, so it has a chance to soften a little. Or if you want to be ambitious, make your own pie crust, though none of us women who hate to cook would dream of it.)

Then mix together:

  • 1 can cream of chicken soup
  • 1  12.5 oz can of chicken breast or 1 ½ cups of cooked, diced chicken                    
  • 1 and ½ cups of cooked, mixed vegetables
  • 1 small tub (4 oz.) Eggbeater eggs (or one egg)
  • ½ cup of milk
  • 1 tsp Curry
  • 1 tsp Poultry Seasoning
  • Salt and Pepper to taste. (I add a little of both, and sometimes, when I feel like it and when I have it, I add ½ cup of diced, fresh celery, which makes it even yummier.)

Now:

  • Spray the pie plate with a little butter flavored cooking spray, if you have it. (Cleans up easier this way.)
  • Pour the above mixture into the pie plate.
  • Turn the frozen pie crust upside down directly from the aluminum straight onto the top of the pie mixture as a cover. If it breaks, no big deal, patch it together as best you can. I do. Once it’s baked, no one can tell the difference, and it always comes out looking yummy.
  • Cut slits into that cover to vent.
  • Bake at 400 degrees for 30 min or until golden brown.
  • Serves four.
  • Enjoy!

A couple of hints:

  • I use 98% fat free Campbell’s, but any other will do.)
  • I use the chicken breast that comes in the Costco six-packs, but you  may have some left-over chicken, or you can buy half a pound of roasted chicken breast from the Deli on the way home. As for the Costco brand, I mash the chicken, which is bit too chunky for me,  with a fork in a soup plate before I add it to the mixture.
  • I usually have some left over veggies from some meal. If not, I use the frozen kind that you cook in the bag in the microwave, which would add about 6 or 7 min to your prep time.
  • The pie rarely comes out of the pie plate like a clean wedge, but what does it matter. It’s delicious, and that’s what counts.

And while it bakes, you can read a couple more chapters in my novel, Diary of a Naïve, if you’ve bought it, or go to my blog, http://umandel2.wordpress.com and read a chapter there. Or try The Good American, if you haven’t read it yet. And then, eat!

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