Monday, January 31, 2011

Random Thoughts Monday: A Kitchen Slave In The Making!

Posting late today as I'm just coming over from my kitchen. Yup, these blokes have turned me into a cooking slave! Today I made Spanish Rice, Refried Beans, and Salsa. Now if anyone comes up and asks for dessert, I'm gonna blow my top off! :)
Kinda getting into this whole cooking deal. Over the weekend I made pitta bread twice, chicken shawarma, garlic sauce, Chow Mein (or what we call here Fried Noodles!) with chilli-lemon sauce, and homemade Mediterranean/Greek yoghurt. Didn't really 'get' what the whole fuss over Greek yoghurt was until I made it and tasted it. Lots, lots smoother than regular yoghurt. I'm a die-hard Greek yoghurt convert now!
Cooking isn't really that bad really - I was losing a lot of time in the preparation phase. Now since I came across a video on cutting skills, I have to say things are much faster and more efficient. Almost makes you want to cook!
Not to mention the money I'm getting to save. Taking 4 people, of that 2 growing boys who eat exactly like their dad (ie ginorminous portions that they burn off without putting an ounce on! Grrrr!) - let's just say this total adds up. For a third of the cost, I got us all this food at home and we also knew what we were eating, know what I mean?



But something else is nagging at me today. It's just 'one of these days', you know... The thing is, I had set January 31st as a personal deadline for my current writing project. Instead of Done, I'm looking at the gauge being slightly past the halfway mark. Not at all pleased.

Now I know life happens. Sh*t happens too, and I also know a brush with cancer definitely falls in that S category. But then I also think - everyone is dealing with his/her own type of S material. What qualifies me above the lot that I can evoke excuses? I know that since I started this story (start of November 2010), I've had surgery, post-op recovery, daily radiation therapy sessions for 5 consecutive weeks. Still... I don't know. I'm annoyed at myself, because I should've been able to make it, you know?

Oh well... Tomorrow's another day, innit?

Speaking of, yikes - let me tell you what my week will be like!
Monday - Normal (kiddo in school from 8am-3pm, hubby at work 8am-5pm)
Tuesday - Public Holiday (everyone at home, and of course, on my back!)
Wednesday - Normal
Thursday - Public Holiday again *me making a face, coz I'm in one of those rare professions that don't do well with 'impromptu' days off for everyone else*
Friday - Normal

Can anyone hope to get anything 'normal' done in such a setup? I wonder... Wish me luck!

From Mauritius with love,

Zee

Friday, January 28, 2011

Progress Friday

I'm jumping up and down here! In the past week, my story went up a a full 10%, clocking in at 52% today. Over the halfway mark! Whoo-hoo! I know, nothing to be "so" excited about but with my recent health & fatigue track record, 10% on the WIP is astounding progress. To think that this week I only had 4 days really 'free' from the spectre of hospital visits - will I be able to ramp up the pace when I have 6 free days? (1 day in that full week's got to be for my family, lol). Let's tune in next week to find out, okay? :)

I'll consider the following progress - that my health should be back to normal now, at least in the coming month. I've still got a burnt side that needs healing, but thank goodness it's not looking like zombie flesh (sorry if I gross you out.) I like to remember how bad it was the first time around so I won't complain of the nagging little pain and pull in the skin now.

Now, sigh... something I haven't touched in ages now is exercise. I mean, I was fatigued, yes, but that's an excuse really. Not to mention the fact that I'm not supposed to let water get in touch with the radiation-treated area. Hello? Try that Pilates workout (or better still, that Black Swan hyped, ballet-inspired workout doing the rounds on iVillage.com atm) and you're sweating like a *insert the animal's name here, you know which one! If you're a writer and you don't, well, you should find out what I'm talking about!* So, sweat = water, and uh, you're supposed to shower afterwards too, innit? Unless you wrap your chest in saran wrap every single day, a full contact shower is just not possible (don't ask me how I've survived the past 5 weeks. I, uhm, bent the rules a bit... by having my regular shower...). So I should get back on that horse. Soon... I promise...

One place where I'm coming out of my comfort zone a lot lately is the kitchen. I used to have an awfully crappy Internet connection before and now I've got something similar to broadband. I opened the treasure gate on YouTube, where I watch like 5 video recipes, minimum, a day! All there are inspiring me to try new things in the kitchen, especially stuff we love and which cost a pretty penny when you add it all up at the end of the month. I'm trying to make pitta bread today - will let you know how it comes out. :)

What have you peeps got planned for the weekend? I've not slotted a lot. My MIL is in the hospital, on observation for pain lancing up on one side of her face. We'll be going to and fro to see her over the next few days. Yeah, I know, hospital again (not the one I go to. That one, my husband calls our second home!). But hey, there's a huge, huge difference in going to the hospital as a visitor and as a patient!

Hope you all have a great weekend.

From Mauritius with love,

Zee

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Link Thursday: 5 Friends Who Sabotage Your Relationships

Hey peeps

Need a realistic antagonist/catalyst/villain-ess for your contemporary story? Look no further - here are 5 'people' you better beware and think twice before leaving into your life.

In Real Life too, check out whether these 'types' are not hampering you.

The article is from MSN Lifestyle Love Relationships, accessed on January 11, 2011. The piece is by The Nest Editors.

*****

Five Friends Who Sabotage Your Relationship

Some friendships can take a serious toll on your relationship with your honey. Here's who to watch out for before your misguided "pals" push your partner away for good.

By The Nest Editors

1. Ex-Boyfriend's Mom
You and your ex called it quits, but that doesn't mean your newfound shopping friend did. The only issue? It's your ex's mom! She emailed you saying how much she wanted to stay friends. You always liked her, so you said yes — and now you're Facebook friends, email buddies and, about once a month or so, brunch dates.

The risk: C'mon, let's be honest: Would you appreciate your spouse hanging out with his ex's mom?

If you're hanging out this much with an ex's anything or anyone, it might be a sign that you're not over him, or that you're not ready to leave that chapter of your life behind. Find a new brunch friend and end it. It's not worth jeopardizing your relationship.

2. Husband-Hater
Ever since you got married, she rolls her eyes whenever you mention anything having to do with your guy. She just can't get over that you got married and that you have a new person you tell all your secrets to. Meanwhile, she expects you to talk for hours about every detail of her relationship.

The risk: All those negative comments only sour your relationship with your man. Bottom line: Her malicious comments about him aren't helping anymore. Whatever you do, don't turn to her to vent when you have a tiff with your guy — she'll definitely only make matters worse.

3. Baby-Crazed Friend
One of your best friends is now a mama, and while you had fun picking out onesies and nursery swag, now everything she talks about is baby-related. She's so consumed with being a mom that you feel like you barely know each other anymore — plus, she just won't quit asking when you and your guy are going to start "trying" (a discussion you two haven't even had yet).

The risk: You'll start to worry about timing with your spouse, and she might just talk you into having the discussion a little too early for his (and even your!) liking. If you don't want a baby just yet, don't let anyone pressure you into addressing that stage too early. So ask her to cool it and enforce a "no baby talk" get-together once a month.

4. Schoolgirl Crush
Before you met the now-love-of-your-life, you had a thing for that cutie you've known forever — and you're still friends. You always wondered "what if?" but nothing ever seems to happen. When he calls, you can't help but break into a smile.

The risk: Those grins haven't gone unnoticed. This provides perfect ammo for any argument you have with your partner, because why is he still in your phone anyway? Do yourself a favor and delete him. You had your chance, and it never worked out for a reason.

5. The Party Dude
You were best friends in college and inseparable till graduation. But while you've moved on to bigger and better things, he's still staying out all hours of the night and having one-night stands. It doesn't help that his most recent one-nighter was with your boyfriend's sister (whom he begged you to set him up with and then never called again).

The risk: Besides totally angering your boyfriend and his sister (who now thinks you're a total jerk for setting her up with someone like him), his remarks on how you're "so whipped" start to hit a nerve after awhile. Try to see him for special crazy nights once in a blue moon ... And please, stop setting him up with people you or your boyfriend know.

*****

From Mauritius with love,

Zee

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Writing Wednesday: ...is In The Zone...

... With Zee over at Tabby's Nocturnal Nights!

It's the 26th of the month today, and I'm up for my monthly slot as Agony Zee over at Tabby's blog.


Here's the query for today:



Dear Agony Z


I keep being urged to “show, not tell” by my crit partners. They say what I give isn’t enough, but I don’t understand, since I do give descriptions and explanations. Can you please enlighten me here?


Signed — The one who doesn’t get it.


The topic I talk about today is about the quintessential writing dilemma: Show, don't tell!

Hop on over and check it out!

If you can't access the link, here it is: http://tabithablake.blogspot.com/2011/01/in-zone-with-zee-original-dilemma-show.html

From Mauritius with love,

Zee

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Tidbit Tuesday: Dreams...

Today I have good news! Lol, nothing major, but it's a big day for me. My hospital treatments are over, got the green light from my doctor.

So I'm celebrating, basking in all the positives of life! I dreamed of this day but never banked on it happening, because you know, sometimes when you wish for something so much, you end up jinxing yourself. Not the case this time though. :)

A few weeks ago, one of my BFFs, Angela Guillaume, sent me a video of this song. I'd heard it before, who hasn't really, but in the maelstrom of my life then, these words resonated with me on another level.

Dreams that you dare to dream come true...

I tried to feature the official video, but it's embedding feature is disabled. The one I thought came closest, audio-wise, is this one.



Stop for a moment, listen... and think upon your own dreams...

From Mauritius with love,

Zee

Monday, January 24, 2011

Random Thoughts' Monday: Zapping Twitter...

Inspired by a post on Jodi Hedlund's blog that I read a few days ago, I have been giving a lot of thought to where I am and how I can be in all places to the best of my capacities. After lots of deliberation, to-and-fro-ing, pondering, thinking... I agree with what she says:

That we can't be everywhere and do a good job about it.

This got me thinking about my Internet presence. I agree, I am not all over the place (and totally not as socially prolific as a lot of people I admire!) but even this is, as many writers can attest, a huge time-suck.

I started the year committing myself to writing at least 4 books. 3 of the 50K length variety, 1 of the longer variety (80K+). And these are not gonna get written if all I'm doing is hopping all over the place. As my health takes another look-over and forces me to be expressly where I want to be, I have to prioritise...

...and decide where I want to be. Namely, Facebook and this blog. Sadly, I'll have to let Twitter go.

I didn't come to this decision lightly, but things are pointing me in that direction, and I'll try to explain.

First of all, I'm not good at Twitter. It feels so much like talking to myself. Yes, there are @whoever replies, but that's another issue (scroll down).

Second, my location. Not many people in Mauritius are on Twitter (as opposed to Facebook), so the site doesn't get the same kind of bandwidth support here. Yeah, true - I'm not even sure if what I just said is possible (bandwidth-wise), but this does look to be the case.

Third, bandwidth/connection woes again. Every time I'm on Twitter, I time out. I'm either told I timed out, or I get that huge whale being lifted by little birds image (the one up here. Yeah, totally unnerving, innit?). Not conducive to tweeting, you'll agree.
Try to tweet - time out and you have to re-type the tweet... to maybe time out again.
Check your followers' page to see who is connecting with you... sorry, you timed out, try later.
Check your @replies - seems like you timed out, try again later.

Fourth - I'm a zero at navigating Twitter. Watching the sheer amount of Tweets that flow in gives me a headache. And how can you expect people to follow you when you're not following them? Tweet-pics, I know what they are, have no idea how to see them, use them, add them. I tried a few times to read the scroll, reply, check profiles. A few hours had gone by me...

Fifth - location again, and the time difference. A big feature of Twitter is the immediacy of the medium. I mean, look at the #AmericanIdol discussion that went on during this season's premiere. Sadly though, when most of the people I can interact with are Tweeting, I'm asleep. I'm 8-12 hours ahead of US time, so that makes my working day Americans' sleeping time. As a rule since the fiasco of my 2010 time/family/marriage management, evenings are pretty much off limits for 'work'. Yes, I do drop by my email and Facebook sometimes at 8 PM, but it's a cursory zip-through, which I can't do on Twitter.

Sixth - my phone balks at connecting to Twitter. Again, it seems that since Mauritians don't use Twitter, it doesn't get the kind of direct link I need to access it via my 3G service provider. The link, if accessed, takes ages to load, takes ages to let you log in, and (see a pattern here?) most probably it'll time me out.

Seventh - I hate being one of those who only self-promote on their Twitter feed. The only reason I can even do that is because I've linked NetworkedBlogs with my Twitter feed. If I try to go in and add my link, I'll (you guess it!) time out!

I really would love to be able to handle Twitter, but you gotta admit defeat when you're fighting a losing battle. I have to prioritise, I have to time-manage, I have to write, I have to have a life outside of the cyber world, I have to be a wife and a mother and basically a person who takes a minute a day to look after herself.

This means de-junking, de-cluttering, simplifying.

So from now on, peeps, I'll be here and on Facebook. Join me, won't you? :)

From Mauritius with love,

Zee

Friday, January 21, 2011

Progress Friday

In a week where I've been sick and tired of going to the hospital, and sick and tired of dealing with the drastic cuts in running water, it's a miracle at all that I got any writing done.

Mauritius is experiencing one of its worst droughts ever. Reservoirs are nearly dry (and it's only now that it's in such critical states that the authorities decide to 'look into' options such as desalinating sea water and finding new water boreholes! But that's another tangent I can rant on about, so let's not go there.) So yeah, we have running water only from 4 AM to 10 AM everyday. After that, your problem, not the authorities'. Have a water tank installed, you might say. Got not one but two on the building, and most of the time, there's not enough water pressure to allow the tanks to fill up (authorities again. See a rant pattern?)

But once again, 4-10 AM everyday ain't really that bad... if you're at home to get everything done. Let's see - shower, laundry, dishes, cooking: all need running water. Fine... if you're home at that time! What happens to working women/households? What happens when like me, you're stuck in a hospital waiting room every morning? You get nothing done, and after a while, that becomes an awful bugger!

Speaking of hospitals, how can it be that people wake up one day and are perfectly civil and cordial to you, and the next they couldn't give more of a damn than to kick you all over the place without a hint of information? Happened this morning, when I had to a) 'supposedly' see a doctor who is not my physician, b) see a doctor when I have just 2 more days to go, c) wait for my doctor when today's not her day to come in (that kinda killed my patience, yeah!), and d) be made to feel that I was a total pest when I asked what was going on. Took me asking where my medical file was (oh wait, it's floating around the departments!) for the people in charge to figure there was absolutely no reason for me to see the doctor today when on top of everything, she wasn't even supposed to come in! I mean, 'sheesh'! No wonder people rant about the Mauritian services' sector. A day like today (and the Monday I had last week!) would turn anyone into a Tasmanian Devil.

All right - back to progress. In all this mind-numbing hoopla, I did manage to turn in another chapter and trod along with the WIP. Totally not close to my desired target, but at least I'm moving ahead, which isn't a bad thing.

Lifestyle-wise, nada. Yes, I'm tired, washed out, with my right side feeling like it's had a bad case of sunburn (which puts exercise out of the equation, coz I can't even stretch my arm). But I'm not making excuses. I'm just resolute that I'll get more done next week. More, better.

So on that thought, I hop on into the weekend. Hope you have a nice one!

From Mauritius with love,

Zee

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Link Thursday: 7 Types of Guys Who Don't Make Good Husbands

Hey peeps

This article is a very good one because

a) if you're still lookin for Mr. Right and the Mr. who's gonna make you his Mrs., you'll know what to look for.

b) need to write a man who's totally not for your heroine? Look no further.

c) need a starting point for your hero-that-has-to-be-redeemed? Take a gander at all the departure points you can have in this list.


The article is by Meredith Bodgas and appeared on Glamour, accessed by me a few days ago via the MSN Lifestyle Love & Relationships page.

Enjoy!

*****

Seven Types of Guys Who Don't Make Good Husbands

Some men are super fun to date, but for whatever reason just aren't marriage material. Or they're exciting to be around but don't really want to settle down. One Glamour writer details seven "types" of men to look out for.

By Meredith Bodgas

[Editor's note: Meredith Bodgas writes for the Glamour.com wedding blog, Save the Date. This is an excerpt from that blog.]


All sorts of guys make wonderful husbands. And then there are some who would be anything but. Ladies, I caution you not to marry these types of men …

The Guy Who Broke Your Heart and Never Really Apologized
Just because he sees love and marriage in your future doesn't mean he's sorry for hurting you that one time (or two or three times). Though everyone screws up, being able to admit when you're wrong — and being with someone who can do the same — is crucial to a happy marriage. For my fellow "Friends" lovers: Ross and Rachel may have wound up together, but you can be sure the "We were on a break!" conversation still haunts them.

The Cheater
I don't necessarily believe in "Once a cheater, always a cheater," but I have a hard time believing you'll be happy if you marry a repeat offender — especially if you were the cheated-on. Admit it: A small part of you would never be able to trust him. What kind of marriage is that?

The Me-First Man
A big part of love and marriage is being able to put yourself second sometimes. Guys who are too occupied with themselves to do the occasional (and preferably, frequent!) nice thing for you don't make solid partners.

The Con Artist
You may have swooned when he swindled his evil boss and made some quick cash. No matter how much the jerky superior deserved it, your guy just showed he can't be trusted. Even if he'd never do the same to you, con-men are shady characters, and you never know when you might wind up in hot water for his actions.

The Addicted-to-Work Worker …
Being ambitious is admirable. Working 60-hour weeks every week? Maybe when he's just starting out and it's the only option to get ahead (my lawyer friends come to mind). If he loves his job more than he loves being with you (as in, he anticipates working crazy hours for the rest of his life, whether or not you like it), you won't be the happiest wife on the block. It's not much fun having a partner if he's never ever around.

… and His Opposite: Mr. Lazy Days
Maybe you can't wait to be the sole breadwinner and have a house-husband. But said husband has to contribute in some way to making your home a happy one, whether he cooks, cleans, or cares for any kids you may have together. You'll grow frustrated with a guy who does nothing more than sit on the couch.

The Can't-Handle-Tough-Times Guy
I hate to be the one to tell you this, but love and marriage aren't always easy — there's a reason you have to promise to stay together for better or worse. A man who shuts down when the going gets tough won't be there when you need him most. Trust me: You don't want a husband you can't count on.

*****

From Mauritius with love,

Zee

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Writing Wednesday: Twist, Spin, Flip

Lol, no - that's not the 'surefire way to make pancakes'. I know I was in recipe mood lately but today we're not talking of food. We're gonna talk about how you can twist, spin, and flip to bring fresh, new, and original to your writing.

Before I continue, let me post this disclaimer. I have no idea if the notion of 'twist, spin, flip' is copyrighted to anyone, or if it's the brainchild of anyone out there. I read literally hundreds of writing advice articles every year (been writing for 6 years now, do the math) so I dunno who said what and where. If the owner of this notion sees this and can show me s/he originated this idea and has a copyright over it, get in touch with me and I'll take the post down and give you due credit.

So, back to the topic at hand. I started the series of writing posts on originality back in December. The posts I've had up so far covered difference in similarity, and how using backstory can be a treasure trove of originality. Today I talk about the techniques that can be used to bring fresh, new, and original to your writing.

Let's go through it one by one.

Twist
What does this word mean? The definition that interests us in writing is the following (Merriam Webster Dictionary) :

 to make (one's way) in a winding or devious manner to a destination or objective

Let's wrap this around to say that in writing, 'twist' means an unexpected direction/manner in the story or the characterization.

Take the idea of 'students'. Automatically, you think 'school'. Which in the writing world, pretty much goes to 'YA".
Add a twist to the idea:

What if those students were adult immigrants who don't speak English? (the very popular sit-com Mind Your Language back in the 70s & 80s in England)
What if those students are people in a certain profession who have to go back to school to brush up their skills/knowledge?
What if a middle-age parent finds himself/herself thrown back into high school? (17 Again, starring Matthew Perry & Zac Efron)

Now take it back to YA:

Are the kids rich and famous? (Beverly Hills 90210 in the 90s, on the California coast. Gossip Girl on the East Coast, Manhattan Upper East Side, post-2000, plus more modern technology with the blog of Gossip Girl)
Is the academy 'special'? (Sky High, where the kids of superheroes go)

Like the above, you take an idea. Figure out the 'expected' where it is concerned. See what you can do differently - break the cliche, slant the characterization, take it into a whole setup.
Find what 'threads' there are in the yarn of the idea and twist them.

Spin
The Free Online Dictionary has this definition that interests us writers:

To provide an interpretation of (a statement or event, for example), especially in a way meant to sway public opinion

So spin in writing can be said to provide one's own interpretation/slant on an idea.

Let's take a few examples of concrete spinning.

The subject: Chick Lit

Spins:

Cami Tang - Romance with a kick of Wasabi: she takes normal girl chick lit and spins it with the life and experiences of a modern Asian-American. Expect wasabi and other Asian references in her stories. Case in point, she has a Sushi series.

Nisha Minhas - she writes chick lit about Indo-Britons with a thick dash of Indian massala. Expect references to chappatis, saris, bindis and other related Indian lifestyle stuff in her chick lit.

Marian Keyes - chick lit again, but Ms. Keyes writes mostly Irish characters living in Ireland. The spin = total Irish culture and slant in her writings.

Sophie Kinsella - her slant comes through her writing voice, which is light, airy, funny, and totally loaded with humour.

You can take every idea, every genre, and insert your own personal slant/spin on it. Overlaps a bit with 'finding your niche', but this is completely doable. All of the above authors have heroines in their 20s in the first decade of the 2000s. Basically, they should be pretty much one and the same character (same age, exposure to same happenings, technological advancements, etc). But each one infuses something different into the narrative and characters and this results in fresh, new, original.

Another take on spin would be literally, 'put your own spin' on a theme/idea.

Case in point: Twilight series v/s the Sookie Stackhouse series.

Both deal with vampires, but one has a chaste, forbidden love approach, while the other is sexy and very lustful, with a grown up and totally adult-mature slant to it. Following upon their differentiation, both series then focus on aspects pertinent to their approach. Twilight has young love as its focus, while the Sookie books have things like war and battle of species/clans and nefarious/devious intents and behaviour.

Flip
Merriam Webster dictionary defines this one as:

to toss so as to cause a turn over in the air

So applying this to a story idea, we'd thus 'toss it' and watch how it falls back down (and no, this is not like toast that always ends up buttered side down!)

Examples - let's take the idea of 'pregnancy'

The ripped condom/missed pill/contraceptive failure = a flip depending on which you use and how you use it

The heroine in a romance does not end up with the baby daddy (The Back Up Plan has this, even if the baby daddy in question is only a number on a vial of donated sperm.)

Unexpected, late in life pregnancy

Multiple babies pregnancy (and in today's world, does that make you a contender for competition in the arena of the Duggars' 19 and Counting and Kate Plus Eight?)


I've used all of these techniques in my writing. I've twisted elements - my novel The Other Side asked about HEA after divorce. In Light My World, I had a modern version of Cinderella-like-in-love looking for Prince Charming and coming up against frogs. Storms in a Shot Glass was a pregnancy story that took place in the realm of the rich and famous, the kind pursued by paparazzi and tabloids.

I've spun on genres - the first two mentioned here were about modern young women but of Indo-Mauritian origin. I brought Mauritius on the romance-writing map and showed what looking for love was like on the island. I've spun the notion of romantic comedy and made it lead towards comedy of errors where the last book is concerned.

I've flipped ideas - marriage is not the HEA fairy tales promised (The Other Side). Prince Charming appears as a frog with a serious need for manners and civility in Light My World. The baby daddy and the man the heroine ends up with in Storms in a Shot Glass are two very different people.

Try making a 3D pancake next time you're writing a story. Twist, spin, and flip it all over so you can end up with something fresh, new, and original.

What techniques do you use to make sure your writing is different? Ever twisted, spun, and flipped?

From Mauritius with love,

Zee

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Tidbit Tuesday: Apple Pie Recipe

Yesterday I spoke about the tea party I had over at my place on Saturday. I promised the recipe for my apple pie, so here it is.

Before you read any further, I must tell you I'm one of those cooks who follows a recipe scrupulously the first time. If I get the dish right, the next time I make it, I'm gonna start tinkering with the recipe. Biggest 'places' I do this are with fat and sugar content. I'm appalled at the amount of fat some recipes ask for, when much less will still do the trick. As for sugar, my husband is diabetic so I always work the sugar low on everything I make. And before you ask, no, I don't 'believe' in those sugar substitutes. Too much bad associated with aspartame and sucralose and whatever else passes for 'no-sugar' in today's culture.

I followed a basic cookery course while in high school. So I know my basics, and this allows me to tinker and experiment. The recipe for apple pie calls for a version of the shortcrust pastry so I don't really follow an established recipe for the pastry and just make mine like that.

Here goes! This makes a 9-inch pie, which easily serves 6-8.

Ingredients

2.5 cups of plain flour
125 g butter (or shortening)
Handful of sugar
3-5 tablespoons of water

5-6 red apples
A handful of sugar
A sprinkle of cinnamon
A few drops of vanilla essence/extract

Method

For the pastry:

Sieve flour in a bowl.

Cut fat into small cubes and dump in flour. Keep cutting the butter with the knife in the flour until it becomes small globs in there. Ditch the knife, go in with the tips of your fingers (just the tips, mind you!), and rub the fat into the flour until the mixture resembles fine sand.

Sprinkle sugar in the 'sand'.

Add 2-3 tablespoons of water and start bunching the mixture into a ball. If all is not 'pulling up', add another tablespoon of water.
Now if your dough is too sticky, don't despair. Sprinkle some flour on the dough and keep kneading until it no longer sticks.

Cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

In the meantime, peel, core, and cut apples into small cubes.

Place in a saucepan, cover with water up to half the apples' level, add sugar, cinnamon and vanilla essence and set to boil. At boiling point, bring heat to low and simmer until apples are tender.
The water should not evaporate - it will form a light syrup in the saucepan.

Take dough out of fridge. When you handle it, it should have the same texture and consistency as Play-Doh (so very easy to handle. This dough also doesn't break and flake off as usual pie doughs, which is the biggest nightmare of pie making, I admit)
Break into two balls - one is two-thirds of the dough, the other the remaining third.

Roll the bigger ball of dough out on a floured surface in a round (or somewhat round!) disk. Lift up and place in your pie dish. Prick with a fork all over the dough and bake blind in a moderately-hot pre-heated oven (200 degrees C, 425 degrees F).

Take pie dish out of the oven. Let cool slightly. Fill pie shell with the apples.

Roll out the remaining dough and cover the pie with this, making sure you seal the edges using pressure from your fingers.
Cut slits into the pastry top. Sprinkle with sugar (or if you want, some of that syrup from the apples if you have too much).

Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until pie is golden.

There you are - an easy apple pie!

From Mauritius with love

Zee

Monday, January 17, 2011

Random Thoughts' Monday: From Robot to, uh, Human...?

Hey beautiful people

How was your weekend? Mine was pretty good. I had some family over on Saturday for tea (and no, there weren't any scones and clotted cream coz my scones always end up like flat brick slabs!). There was however an apple pie (recipe I'll share tomorrow), 2 types of muffins - date & apricot and choc chip/vanilla, as well the usual assortment of Indian fried savoury snacks (Madras curry potato dumplings - that's for another Tuesday's recipe, btw - and vegetable pakoras served with 2 types of chutney. What we call chutney in Indian traditional is not the sweet stuff of America. It's basically a dip involving chillies and either coriander/mint and tomatoes). I think it went well, coz all the food was eaten. :) It was good to see the kids get together (my two and my brother in law's four). Noise and fun - that was my Saturday. I didn't even feel tired.



Speaking of tired, I'm made to recall my teenage days lately. My whole family gave me 'grief' for being able to sleep 15 hours straight when I was a teen. I haven't done that in 10 years, and certainly not after my son was born (that over-enthusiastic morning tweeter). Still, lately, I'm getting tired and the only remedy to somewhat help with the fatigue is sleep. Indulged this weekend and found out I was no longer bumping into the corners of all the furniture and plates weren't slipping from my hands as easily as last week. So, yeah - felt a tad like a teenager again. Was tempted to resurrect my Goth dressing tendencies and my Rob Zombie, Rage Against The Machine and Marilyn Manson tracks (the ones where my mum asked whether they were singing or puking their guts out), but... *shame* they're on tapes! My son didn't even know what a tape was! MP3 all the way now... Talk of a tech divide!



Ah, last week - a total fiasco where time management was concerned. I made a resolution this week - to take the day as it comes and not try to push and tug everything on my agenda on every single day. Took that slant today and I do feel lighter. I'd allowed my email to accumulate during the weekend and I just sat down today and whittled through my inbox. Nothing more, nothing less. I don't feel like a train wreck at the end of the day now and I hope I'll be able to keep this up. Days for writing = writing, days for other things = other things. Is it really that simple?



I also decided I want to have at least one laugh per day. Had a spectacular one this morning - if I'd been eating or drinking at the time, well, let's just say my laptop would not be in functioning order any longer. What was so hilarious? Check this link about what every guy needs in his bathroom. I was like, there's not even that much stuff for me in my bathroom, now a bloke needs all this? Frankly, if I'm ever single again and I meet a guy who's got all this in his bathroom cabinet, I'm running away as fast as my legs can take me! Have a laugh, I swear it's well worth it. :)

From Mauritius with love,

Zee

Friday, January 14, 2011

Progress Friday

My progress this week is not as stellar as I'd wanted it to be. Still, beggars can't be choosers so I'll take what I have. I am moving along, the story is unfolding, but...

The fact remains that I didn't expect the week to turn out the way it did. This was supposed to be my freedom week, with kiddo back into school and me able to focus on my writing without being summoned every two seconds. This wasn't supposed to be a week where I lose most of my mornings in the hospital waiting room. When I did make it home 'early', I was simply too beat to do anything really constructive. Plus don't forget that 'life' still calls - understand by that cleaning, cooking, family-looking duties. All these don't stop even if all you wanna do is bail out and just go hide inside a hotel suite with room service and housekeeping.

So I did my mandatory tasks/duties this week, clocked in about an hour of exercise in all (over the course of seven days. Ha!). I sleep and it seems I haven't slept a wink when I wake up. I nod off every time I 'let go' when I sit down. So not conducive to writing...

But! Big 'but' here... I've put at least 2,500 words down, and that's not nothing, especially given the awful week from hell.

I'm glad it's Friday and the weekend is just behind the door. Though, lol, knowing my crazy life, I shouldn't expect any rest...

Hope you all have a happy weekend.

From Mauritius with love,

Zee

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Link Thursday: What Guys Notice About Women

Hey peeps

I'm back on the roll, ready and bouncing! That forced rest did me a world of good (thanks, hubby! Even if you force-weaned me from my Internet addiction...)

So, trolling my Links folder today to find the article to post, I saw this one. I'd read it a few weeks ago and I thought it was very good advice to a) know what makes a guy 'look twice', and b) what would make a hero too look twice - why does the heroine catch his eye? What is it about her specifically that draws him in?

Here's some insight, and some of it surprising to say the least...

The article is by Bethany Heitman, and appeared on the Cosmopolitan site. I accessed it on Dec 14, 2010.

*****

8 Things Guys Notice About You Instantly

The second a man sees you, he starts ticking off a checklist to determine if he’ll ask you out. Shocker: A nice badunkadunk is nowhere on that list.

By Bethany Heitman

You know that look where his eyes slide past you...then turn back? Wouldn’t it be great to know what stopped him? You totally can. “There are a few things men instantly observe when they meet a woman,” says Jackie Black, PhD, author of Meeting Your Match. Learn what they are and you can maximize your, um, assets. Then you’ll have your pick.

1. How Thick Your Hair Is
This is all about evolution. Since caveman days, dudes have been drawn to lush locks, which signal that a woman is healthy (translation: shaggable).

2. If Your Smile Is Genuine
Sometimes your eyes crinkle a bit when you grin. Most men are good at distinguishing the vibe of this kind of smile, which says you’re relaxed and fun.

3. The Size of Your Group
You don’t want a big bunch (it’ll be hard for him to approach) or just one friend (he’ll figure you wouldn’t desert her to talk to him). The perfect crew size? Three. Your two buds can keep each other company when you slip away.

4. The Pitch of Your Voice
Studies show that men are drawn to voices in a slightly higher register (think Kristin Bell’s), probably because — yep, evolution — they’re reliable signs of youth and reproductive health.

5. Your Hip-to-Waist Ratio
Yet again, blame eons of human history. Men instinctually look for baby mamas. If your waist is noticeably smaller than your hips, it signifies fertility — a huge point in your favor. A wide belt will emphasize that hourglass shape.

6. Your Glowiness
Guys associate a radiant complexion with good mental health. That’s because stress and anxiety usually cause breakouts and dull skin. So those lotions and bronzers you sweep over your cheeks? Totally worth it.

7. What’s Fake About You
Not personality-fake, but artificial-accoutrement- fake: lashes, hair extensions, etc. To guys, these things shout high-maintenance! Not good.

8. Your Eyes
People focus on eyes more than they do on any other body part. And dramatic eye makeup will have him zeroing in on your peepers even more.

Sources: Daniel Amen, MD, author of The Brain and Love; David Feinberg, PhD, Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology, Neuroscience, and Behavior at McMaster University; Helen Fisher, PhD, Professor of Anthropology at Rutgers University and author of Why Her? Why Him?; Lisa Shield, dating coach in Los Angeles

*****

From Mauritius with love,

Zee

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Writing Wednesday: Joker!

Hey peeps

I'm gonna pull out my "Joker" card today because I simply do not have it in me to think and write anything coherent right now. You all know what an awful Monday I had - Tuesday and Wednesday haven't been that better, especially since I'm also starting to feel the fatigue which accompanies my hospital treatments. I've bailed out of cooking dinner tonight, and the hubs has banished me to the bedroom with a 'real' book (the wifi signal is kinda weak in there, so no hopping on the Net for me in that case). Still, he's been a darling and tried to lift me up - knowing I needed to write today, he also knew I needed a break and we drove to the beach where I could clock down some words while breathing the rejuvenating air.

I'm sorry I'm bailing out today, but I know you peeps will understand. I promised to look after 'ME' this year and now's a time I really have to do that.

Big hugs

From Mauritius with love,

Zee

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Tidbit Tuesday: Hero Inspiration...

I had one hell of a day yesterday. Today was better, but still not out of the woods.

Now what does an author of romance do when feeling down/needs a pick-me-up? She goes looking for the hero, of course! Except, sometimes, we need the fantasy to really get us flying high. That's when we fall on the current hero, the man we're writing about, whom we're two-thirds in love with already, and whom we're convincing the heroine to fall in love with completely.

My current WIP is a category romance featuring an analytical heroine who meets the bloke-next-door and push coming to shove, has no other option but fall for this man when he comes to the rescue of this different kind of modern damsel in distress.

Like many authors, I have an 'inspiration' for each hero, and this one is no exception. The man in question is... the sexy, hunky, yummy Jared Padalecki. Yes, I'm a Supernatural junkie.

So scroll down and enjoy. There's something for every taste and every level of 'liking' of this handsome hunk.

If you're pressed for time, the goodies in a short vid (the iconic Supernatural towel-only shot is on at 1:15!



If you've got time for more... :)

Intensely hot:



Getting on the dark-er side (Supernatural fans adore...) And at 5:52 on this vid, you get the Sam smile *swoooon*



And what the hype about Supernatural's Sam is all about... The man himself talks!



And finally, this one is traying into not safe for anything but personal, private viewing pleasure... The vid's embed code has been disabled but this is better watched, ahem, in private... More sexy Jared, in the love scene with the werewolf, and the towel shot... :) And when you do watch this one, listen to the song. That's my love theme for the current WIP (more on that in another Tidbit Tuesday posting!)

So I hope this made your day, and made the rest of the week bearable *wink*

From Mauritius with love,

Zee

Monday, January 10, 2011

Random Thoughts' Monday: What a wonderful world... Not!

*Hear my head going thunk on the table/surface in front of me*

Hey peeps

That line above has been pretty much my state of mind today. Oh, I knew today wasn't gonna be easy, but sometimes things conspire to make the world a really tedious place to be. Okay, yes, I'm gonna whine!

Kiddo started school today. Great! Brilliant even! First day at school means new class, and this time, new teacher. Had to wait until all the organizing was done, classes sorted out, kids channelled to said classes, parents cutting in front of me as if they owe the place to go talk to the teacher. Now, some people really have no manners, and they make you blow your top off. But that's not a good reason to be as rude as they ae and cut in front of them to just drop a word with the teacher, even if you're already gonna be late to your hospital stand-in appointment for treatment. So I wait - 1 hour at the school. Finally do manage to talk to the new teacher, and off we are to the hospital.

Get there in one piece and I'm Number 11 on the treatment roster. Number 3 has just gone in. An average of 5-10 minutes for each patient in there - do the maths, equals... More waiting! Yay (not!!).

10.30 am - finally done with the radiation therapy round. By now my butt is flat from sitting on that waiting room bench (at least I got to sit down. A really nice gentleman stood to give me the seat. At least gallantry's not dead yet.), and my back is as stiff as that bench's nonexistent back rail.

Head over to my next appointment, the surgery post-op review. Appointment at 11. Sit down on yet another stiff wood bench, and... tada!! Wait again!
Now I've learned my lesson at the government hospital - always ask if the doctor you've come to see is working that day or is he/she on leave (in which case you see his stand-in replacement, who literally kicks you to next month's new appointment like Beckham delivering a free kick into the goal post!). So I ask, and I'm told, yes, the doctor is in. Great. I resort to waiting.

Quarter past noon (and I had breakfast at 6 am, nothing since! Stomach screaming bl**dy famine by now), and it's my turn. Not to see the doctor, mind you - to go and sit in the to-see-the-doctor inside waiting room. Now would you believe this? An old woman sits next to me (we're placed literally in the order we have to go in, on another bench (!!) next to the door to the consultation room). On the other side is a man. Halfway through the wait, she leans over, taps the man on his shoulder, and tells him, "I'm after you, aren't I?" The man shrugs, but she's passed the message. I'm "intruding". I'm not one to kick up a fuss (and by then I was already bone tired), so I get up and move to her other side, so she can go in first. Now I dunno why something is not sitting well with me with me, and when the nursing officer doing the patient roster comes in again, I ask him where exactly I should be in the queue. He asks for my name, and frowns, before looking at the old woman...

Turns out, after all, that it was indeed my turn. The old witch jumped up when they called my name and I didn't show up right away because I was helping an old man get over the small step to go into the waiting room. Turns out... she made them believe she was Mrs. Monodee! I mean, the cheek of her! And the best is, turns out it's not the first time she's done this. The old man I'd helped would've gone in after me, and he leaned over and told me to not worry coz they knew what she was about. Talk of being flabbergasted! And she had the gall to intone that she was "sick and couldn't sit outside, she was getting dizzy sitting outside". Thank goodness the nurses dealt with her and made her wait for her turn, or else I swear I would've blown my top off this time and racked up hell!

Still, my plight is not over! My turn to see the doctor... and it's not him, but one of his resident minions, who, as swiftly as Beckham and Zidane in the penalty box, shoots me right through the net to... an appointment next month! Yes, the doctor is 'on leave'! Sheesh!

By the time I got home, all I wanted to do was to *thunk* my head on the desk, the wall, the counter, anything. Having the mother of all headaches right now.

To think this was supposed to be my first day of freedom, what with kiddo in school finally. Sigh... What a wonderful world...

Sorry for the rant. I had nothing else on my mind/brain right now.

From Mauritius with love *and another head thunk*

Zee

Friday, January 07, 2011

Progress Friday

Progress... Let's see...

My WIP counter is up to a staggering (to me at least, lol!) 31%. Soooo didn't expect that to be happening this week, what with the crazy lifestyle I'm forced to endure right now, what with dashing to the hospital for my current health regimen everyday. Thanks to the trusty phone, I am keeping my word count up, and managed to clock down a full chapter on the WIP, all while sitting in the waiting room. I'm staving off to write chapter 4 on the phone because it involves a lot of dialogue and it's kinda tricky to hit 2 menus to get quote marks which are necessary for dialogue. Kinda makes you lose the flow of the argument that is supposed to be taking place. Any new writing, at least to start Chapter 4, will have to be on the laptop. Hopefully, that's for this weekend. Next week my son starts school again (thank God!) and I will have more time on hand where I can really concentrate and get stuff done without requiring autopilot.

Now I'm a heavy plotter, but this WIP is the first time I'm writing per an already written synopsis. Not much room to wander, I admit - having a synop and an outline are two very different things. The way things are going, if I can keep things constant, sees me contemplating that this story will probably clock in to about 11 chapters total. This implies 3 down, 7 more to go.

Doable? Yes...

I know I usually keep this spot for my writing progress but inspired by Beth Ciotta's The Year Of Me project/blog, and the fact that Beth has gracefully listed me as a Co-Me on her page (thanks, girl!!), I'm gonna start stating the progress on other aspects of my life. A big goal for me this year is to lose the jelly belly. Started the journey towards that today, the active journey that is (I'm also eating better as per Chrononutrtion guidelines). Remember I had mentioned the Pilates for Abs workout a few weeks back? Put this to the tryout just a couple hours ago, and whoa! At some points, I was trembling all over, in parts I didn't know could tremble! Muscles were working overtime, especially in the Rollover move. I'm not that supple yet, I could only get my stomach to crunch in that one, but the way my back and arms were quivering! Unbelievable!

At the end of the workout, 1 hour later (I did do all the reps, except for the Mermaid With Twist one, where I only managed 4 on the left and 5 on the right. Really need to strengthen my arms). I was drenched and out of breath at the end, but once I got up and walked a bit, would you believe that 10 minutes later, I wasn't feeling tired at all? It actually felt like my body had cleansed itself and I felt lots lighter. I bet I won't be saying this tomorrow, when I wake up, but I loved the feeling just after working out. Gonna aim for doing this workout twice a week now. Hopefully I'll start seeing some tangible results soon. *smile*

Looking forward to a good weekend now. It's the last one of the kids' vacations, and thank goodness I've already done all the back to school shopping.

Hope you all have a great Saturday and Sunday (and Friday too, since for many of you it's still morning, innit?)

From Mauritius with love,

Zee

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Link Thursday: 5 New Year's Resolutions You Shouldn't Bother Making

I'm not one for making resolutions, not the New Year kind. I do decide to do things, achieve goals, etc, but that's a daily process. Everyday is a new day and what we make it to be.

Still, when I came upon this one, I so couldn't resist. Why? Because most of these resolutions can be taken and applied throughout the year, things we really want to do day in, day out. *husband's behind me* Uh, I'm definitely guilty of the trashy TV... We don't get the big US stuff here, but mind you, French TV is not that far behind the USA on junk TV (Dance Street, yes - I'm pinpointing you).

French - already know. Try to learn Italian/Spanish/German? Uh... not sure.

The rest - yes, does apply, in varying degrees. All but the last = totally doable. :)

Here goes! The article was up on MSN Lifestyle on January 1 this year, and is by Samantha Neal.

*****

5 New Year's Resolutions You Shouldn't Bother Making

Has "lose a few pounds" been one of your resolutions for three years running? Start the new year guilt-free by crossing it off your resolutions list. That one and...

By Samantha Leal
"Stop watching trashy TV."

What kind of a resolution is this? Okay, so maybe if you think of LC (yeah, we're still calling her that) as your BFF and you feel like a lost sister to the Kardashian family (and write letters to the producers telling them so) you should dial it down. But come on, how awesome was it when Teresa flipped that table? And when Catelynn and Tyler got engaged? (By the way, if you understood those references, you don't have a shot at keeping this resolution anyway.)

"Finally learn French."

Not gonna happen.

"Make nice with my ex."

This one's a no-go for three reasons: 1) Just talking to your ex makes you want to vomit. 2) Telling your friends about this resolution will make them want to vomit. 3) Five years from now, telling the story of how you once made nice with your ex only to have him or her humiliate you in a crowded bar will make you want to vomit.

"Be more tolerant of family members."

Okay, so your goal is admirable -- but let's reword, shall we? "This year I will be more tolerant of family members...unless they say or do something really really dumb or annoying." That one's keep-able.

"Stop cursing."

F*** that.

We're kidding. If you swear like a sailor, it's probably a good idea to break out the old "curse jar." Put in a dollar every time you say a curse word. Then, at the end of each month, give the dough to your spouse or sister. Better yet, give it to charity. That'll make you feel okay about cursing.

*****

From Mauritius with love,

Zee

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Writing Wednesday: What makes a character him/her... and how that makes you original!

I started a series of writing advice posts about Originality a few weeks ago on this blog. Then I got side-lined by the holidays, health mishaps, vacuum-suctioned time - you name it. I'd promised to bring this series back though, so here it is. Wanna go check what I'd said at the very start? The Difference in Similarity post holds it all.

Now what's today gonna be about? Backstory.

*I can hear groans out there* Bear with me, people!! :) I swear it's worth your while.

Not too long ago, I was chatting with a writer-wannabe (you'll understand why I describe him as such because frankly, he is clueless about the real writing world). He wanted to hit the writing hard and fast. Though he didn't have the high big hopes of hitting bestseller lists and making his first million right away, he was, well, clueless. His words: well, how hard can it be really? You pluck two people, put them in a setting, and make them fall in love.

Uh-oh, I thought. Mate, you got it completely wrong!

Him: Well, that's how it happens in real life!

Me: True, but before you pitch 2 people together, don't you stop to wonder if the bloke is maybe a football die-hard fan, and will the girl accept to become a football widow? Will she, on the other hand, maybe thrive within that position? What if her fave dish is seafood, and he carries an epinephrine pen always with him coz the mere smell of shellfish can send him into anaphylactic shock? What if, he has slugged to get his degree, and she never wanted to go beyond her O-levels?

Him: oh, why would I bother with stuff that's irrelevant? That's the past, babe (yes, he did say, babe.) I'm looking at the present, towards the future. Why bother thinking up stuff I'd never get to tell about, eh?

At some point after that, I politely wheedled out of the 'conversation'. No, really, I didn't want to burst his bubble. Someone else would do it (probably an agent or even a CP who doesn't hold back the punches.)

The point being here - people are who they are because of all they've been through. Their backstory shapes them into what they are, into how they view and attack/savour life, how they approach people, what makes or breaks situations/relationships for them.

You might not get to make your absolutely scintillating backstory shine out out to everyone's eyes because that part of their life is not gonna get written, but don't think you can scrimp on that aspect. Just Don't!!

Why? Because this utterly scintillating and riveting backstory can in fact be your treasure trove of originality. It can give you new directions, give a complete Botox+Restylane lifting to your sagging middle, provide a bombshell ending.

Here's an example - Gossip Girl, Season 1.

Cliffie note: IT Girl of the former summer, Serena Van der Woodsen, is spotted back in Manhattan after she disappeared off the map for a year. Everyone recalls the party-loving, booze-chugging, drug-snorting, shag-anything Serena, but the girl who's come back in a new Serena. She's looking for a second chance, and has to face the very human demons she left behind - her best frenemy, Blair Waldorf, aka B; B's boyfriend since kindergarten, Nate Archibald, whom Serena, aka S, had shagged just before she did her disappearing act; S's socialite and serial-divorcee mother, Lilly, who's eager as always to hide the family secrets in the deep, dark corner.

All right, this is the start of Season 1. We know that S's backstory is that of the uber party girl. The story of Season 1 is how S comes back and wants to start a new life, especially with Dan, the guy from downtown who's always been in love with her. The bitchiness runs riot between S and B - B will stoop to all levels to get revenge from S for sleeping with Nate. Throw in some Chuck Bass in there, and you get total mayhem.

Fast forward, middle of the season. S and Dan are together. S and B have made up and are BFFs again. S and Nate have called a truce even though Nate still loves S and not B (typical of GG). S's mother is getting married to Chuck's father.

What else can happen? Think, think, think people! Uh, I admit I hit a blank...

Then Serena receives a gift package. And another. In there, stuff reminiscent of her 'old' lifestyle. Is it a prank by the devilish Chuck, who's about to become S's stepbrother... or is it something... someone... else?

That's how the biatch of all biatches, daughter of Satan himself, psychopathic sociopath and former BFF of S comes into the season. Her name? Georgina Sparks. She wants the old S back, and will stop at nothing to get back the kind of depraved life the two of them used to live.

**Pause button** Where does this biatch come from?

Uhm... Serena's backstory maybe...? Damn right!

The last third of Season 1 then has S facing her real demons. It has Blair, Nate and Chuck (the most unexpected of all unexpected love triangles) rallying and overcoming their differences to help S get her life back from the evil Georgina. It also sets the scene for the downward slope of S and Dan's relationship - will they survive Georgina who is now passing herself off as Dan's good friend Sarah, and will S's past play against her, when it is already obvious she made a heck of an effort to change and be a better person?

A lot of the GG fans say that the Georgina episodes were among the most riveting ones of the whole season. Yet, all this wouldn't have been possible, Georgina herself wouldn't have existed, if the creators of GG hadn't beefed up Serena's backstory. That's where they went when things slowed and lagged. That's how they took this series from a possibly boring rich upper crust slice of life full of bitchiness and boyfriend thieving to one that had an original twist, all through the 'history' of one of its main characters.

Another perfect example of backstory giving originality in GG is the relationship between Lilly, Serena's mother, and Rufus, Dan's father. Socialite Lilly had wanted to become a photographer, and her model of choice was rock star Rufus, in their youth. 20 years later, their children are dating, but the flame is still burning strong between these two. On the eve of her marriage to Bart Bass, Lilly has a one-night stand with Rufus. Who will she choose - future, or revisit the past?

Next time you are beefing up your characters before you even start telling their stories, take a turn into their lives, their pasts, their backstories. You never know when and how you might hit gold and have that perfect twist/detail that will take your story from generic to wow, and also, totally originally yours!

And who am I? That's a secret I'll never tell. You know you love me. XOXO, Gossip Gir-- Oops, wrong siggie... :)

From Mauritius with love,

Zee

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Tidbit Tuesday: Jaffa Cake Recipe

Hey beautiful people

The place I most hate to be in in my house is the kitchen. Nopes, not for me - I'm no Nigella by any scope, and certainly not a domestic goddess by far or near!

Still, what do you do when it turns out you have 2 men (occasionally 3) who are total foodies at your place? And no, they don't cook (without turning said kitchen into a bombed out zone). What you do then is turn your nose up all you want, deep breathe for 15 minutes to give you the confidence, and you stroll into that damn kitchen and prepare food. Urghh! I. Hate. Cooking!

That being said, I'll also admit I'm thrifty. I mean, come on - buy prepared food/cakes/cookies and get totally ripped off of a) my husband's heard-earned money (one breadwinner household here, folks) and b) our health. Have you seen how much fat and sugar there is in those prepared store cakes? Not to mention that they drown what passes for cake under layers of butter and icing sugar cream??? Prepared food - don't mention the fat, and the salt!
What then happens is you really gotta get yourself in gear and cook healthy stuff, even if the cooking will kill you.

So, on that intro, here's how I went looking for Jaffa Cakes' recipe. We absolutely love eating Pim's, but only 12 little cakes (so inconsequential really you have no idea you've eaten one after you're done...) for about 85 bucks minimum (roughly $2.50 for the US-ans). I can actually cook 12 Jaffa Cakes (and you actually get a 'cake' to eat!) for half that amount!

Here's the recipe, the original of which can be found at the BBC Food's site and which I somewhat adapted to my thrifty ways. :)

Homemade Jaffa Cakes

Makes 12 - can be stretched to 20 if you like really thin cakes

Ingredients

2 eggs
50g flour
50g sugar
Vanilla extract/essence

Marmalade (or any other jam if you don't have the orange one. Though it's true the 'real' jaffa cake is in orange flavour) Tip - store it in the fridge and take it out just before you'll dollop it on the cakes.

100g Dark chocolate
30g butter

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C.

Grease a 12-hole muffin tin. You can also grease a second such tin so you get 20 'moulds', since the batter can be stretched if you like really thin cakes. 12 holes-pan gives a cake that's about an inch thick.

In a double boiler, or if, like me you don't own one (and are no Nigella!), get a bowl that fits over a pan. Place the pan on the heat, and add just enough water so that the base of the bowl doesn't touch the water when you place it on the pan. Bring the water to steady boil.

In bowl, break eggs, add sugar and vanilla essence.

Place bowl over boiling water pan and whisk until the mixture doubles up and turns pale yellow and very fluffy.

Take bowl off heat, sift flour directly into bowl. Place bowl back over heat and whisk just until all the flour is incorporated.

Take bowl off heat. Scoop a tablespoonful into each muffin hole, until batter is used up.

Bake for 8-10 mins (mine always takes more time, about 15 at least, but this could be due to my oven).

Take out and let cool. Remove the 'cakes' from the tin and place on a tray/baking sheet/plate.

When cool, place a teaspoon of marmalade over every cake disk.

Again using the double boiler (or if you have a microwave oven!), melt the chocolate. Be very careful no water gets into the chocolate or it'll become a thick unmanageable mass. I usually add butter to the chocolate in a 1:3 ratio to stretch out the chocolate and make it easier to handle too.

Cover marmalade-laden cakes with the melted chocolate.

Place tray/baking sheet/plate in the fridge so the chocolate hardens, as the jaffa cake choc shell should be hard and crackly when you bite into it.

There you are - homemade Jaffa Cakes. Easy and very cheap to make. :) Needless to tell you, I no longer buy the store stuff now.

From Mauritius with love,

Zee

Monday, January 03, 2011

Random Thoughts' Monday: Out with the old, In with the new


Hello beautiful people!!

Happy 2011! Oh yum, the new year is finally here. I can't tell you how much I'm looking forward to this year. Why? Because it looks like it can be a new beginning...

I'm a firm believer in the thought that we can change our lives with every second that passes. But there's a great symbolism in attempting a twist and turn around the time a year changes. So I thought the passing into 2011 would be my time. The time to be me - the new 'me', that is.

What has she been up to, this new 'me'? Has she been able to achieve anything?

I usually start things all revved up and then go out of steam halfway. Tried to keep this at bay this time around and so far it seems to be working. Okay, you can tell me 'it's only 3 days into 2011, Zee' and shake your head like my son does, when he is trying to explain to his 'absolutely perky and girly-pink-loving brainless twit of a mother' something 'boy/manly and techie and just plain awesome that a girl can totally not understand' (forgive him, he's only 7.5 years old...). But no, I'm quite proud of myself, because this Zee is much more comfy in herself and doesn't hesitate to assert her needs and thoughts when necessary.

For example, I give myself a manicure when I want it, not when I can afford to find time for it.
I plan my stuff and make it happen - like I already have the school supplies' shopping done when all parents will hit the stores like mad this weekend to buy stuff at the last minute before school starts on Monday 10 (ah, bliss, here I come!!).
I am making my big boy laugh - doesn't matter how, whether 'accidentally on purpose' I play the ditz to his 'super brain', or I poke or tickle him at every opportunity. We're also talking more, even if hubby says that talk sounds like the prelude to WWIII at the diplomatic table... :)
I am more in tune with the man. Okay, I might concede that I am making good meals and even baking jaffa cakes for this absolute foodie. The end result though, what matters, is that even if I'm going through his stomach, I am conquering his heart all over again. Yes, peeps, my man is not a clone of George Clooney met Brad Pitt and Thomas Kretschmann along the way. He whines, he's got a horrible temper that makes me smash china on a regular basis in frustration, he moans as if on the brink of death the minute he starts to sniffle... but he is mine and I love him. What can I say? :) I'll do all I can to make him happy, because he makes me the happiest woman on Earth through the big, but mostly, the little, tiny things he does for me all the time.

Writing-wise, the new 'me' is doing better too. If she can afford to write, great. If she can't one day, no big deal. My motivation is there, and I'm getting the job done when I look over the goals at every weekend. 30 pages in 2 days, 30 pages in 6 days, 28 pages in 7 days - the job is getting done. Full stop. Quite proud of myself there!

Now, uh-oh, here comes the letdown... Exercise. I haven't done an ounce of exercise yet this year. I have big plans for this one though - Pilates for Abs workout using a ball (click here to see this one), treadmill walking, push-ups, stretches. All this on my agenda. I'm not giving up, will definitely aim to lose my jelly belly, up my fitness level, strengthen my upper body. Exercise will also help keep me healthy. Hopefully will have better results to show next week here.

Speaking of exercise and change, I am inspired a lot by this quest of an author I met and friended on FB, and whom I found out is an absolutely amazing lady. Author Beth Ciotta is starting a year-long non-fiction project, and her motivation and goals are all chronicled in this blog, The Year of Me, as she calls it. Pure inspiration - I urge you to drop by and encourage her on her journey. She is being a formidable booster and motivator for me this year.

So that's all for today (*finally*, I can hear you say, lol). What have you been up to in 2011, and how does this year look like for you?

From Mauritius with love,

Zee
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...