Friday, November 29, 2013

Mr. Toodles is Watching, So Behave Well



Toodles the Elf Observes Behaviors | Navigating Hectivity by Micki Bare
Mr. Toodles watches from his perch
an the top of the curio during the day
and reports back to Santa each night. 
Before our first cups of coffee on Black Friday, our nephews and niece pulled us into the living room to meet Mr. Toodles. While were were sleeping off our Thanksgiving gluttony fest, Santa Claus dropped off Mr. Toodles. He will be, they informed me, hanging about the house from now until Christmas Eve.

From what I now understand, Mr. Toodles uses his special powers to return to the North Pole each night and report on the children's behavior.

The first, most very important fact about Mr. Toodles is we cannot touch him. It is extremely important for everyone, especially newbies like Uncle Dave and myself, to keep as safe distance. If Mr. Toodles were to be touched, he would lose his magic powers.

Our oldest nephew told us a story to illustrate the severity of a lost-magic injury. He explained that there was an elf observing from a very low shelf. The little girl who lived in the home accidentally touched him. The poor elf lost his magic and had to walk all the way back to the North Pole. When he finally arrived, he had to undergo lots of medical procedures, including surgery!

After telling us about that poor, magically-injured elf, our nephew told us about the time Mr. Toodles fell off of one of their shelves last December. Our nephew thought quickly and threw a blanket over Mr. Toodles. Then, he told his little brother and sister to stay away from the blanket. When he knew Mr. Toodles was protected, he reported the incident to his mom. She immediately went to the blanket, grabbed a tissue, and carefully helped Mr. Toodles back to his perch on the shelf. She was careful not to touch him and Mr. Toodles survived the incident unscathed.

This year, to ensure his little brother and sister remembered all of the important things about Mr. Toodles, he snuggled on the couch with them and re-read the book.

From what I now know about him and his elf friends, I believe Mr. Toodles is going to have a wonderful report for Santa tonight.

Learning about Mr. Toodles and his elf friends was a great way to begin day two of our Thanksgiving weekend.

Micki Bare, mother of three, wife, daughter & writer is the author of Thurston T. Turtle children's books. 
Email: mickibare (at) gmail.com
Connect with Micki on Google+
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Saturday, November 23, 2013

Thankful for Bread Recipe



Reader request for bread recipe | Navigating Hectivity by Micki Bare
Thanks, dear reader, for your creative
request for my favorite bread recipe.
Thanksgiving is a great time to reflect on our blessings. This year, I outlined a few of my 2013 gratitudes in my weekly column. However, not long after the newspapers hit folk's driveway puddles and thorny bushes, I received an email from one of my readers. She was distraught. Not because I was thankful, but rather, because I listed the easy recipe I now use to make bread as one of my blessings. However, after describing why the recipe was so great, I continued on to talk about something else rather than actually include the recipe. In an effort to right this egregious wrong, here is my version of the recipe my mom shared with me from one of her magazines:

My favorite bread recipe:


Pour 3 cups of hot tap water in mixer bowl.
Dump 1 1/2 Tbs of sea salt into the hot water.
Sprinkle 1 1/2 Tbs of yeast on top of the hot water.
Combine 6 cups of unbleached all purpose flour with 1/2 cup whole wheat flour

Dump the flour mixture into mixer bowl.
With a dough hook, start mixing, slowly at first, then faster, just until it balls up, about a minute of total mixing time.

Remove the dough hook, scraping excess dough back into bowl.
Cover the bowl with hot, damp cloth. Let it rise for an hour.
Place a pan of water on the lower rack of oven. 
Preheat oven to 450
While the oven preheats, scrape dough into floured surface and create two balls of dough. No kneading is required, but you can knead a little if desired to get your loaves shaped.
Place your "loaves" on a greased and floured cookie sheet. When oven is ready, cut the slits across the top of each loaf. I use a bread knife to make the slits.
Place the cookie sheet in the oven above the water pan. The water pan is what creates steam for a better
crust.

Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and brush with olive oil.
Transfer the loaves to cooling racks.

Homemade Pepperoni Pizza | Navigating Hectivity by Micki Bare
Sometimes my boys like pepperoni on
their homemade pizza. 

For pizza dough:

Reduce the amount of salt to HALF of a Tablespoon.
Follow the above directions until the dough has risen for an hour.
Preheat the oven to its hottest setting.
Dump the dough and a floured surface, divide, knead and roll into pizza crusts.
I flour my pizza pans before transferring the crust.
Brush with oil and top with sauce, toppings and cheese to taste.
Bake until crust is golden and cheese begins to bubble and brown.


Artisan herb breads:

It's just as easy to create your own, homemade artisan breads. I use the above recipe, adding dry herbs, freshly chopped garlic, sundried tomato pieces, or anything else my tastebuds desire or family requests. I add these items to the dry flour mixture before dumping the flour into the hot water.


Enjoy and HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

Micki Bare, mother of three, wife, daughter & writer is the author of Thurston T. Turtle children's books. 
Email: mickibare (at) gmail.com
Connect with Micki on Google+
Like Thurston T. Turtle on Facebook
Follow Micki on Twitter: @TurtleAuthor
View Micki's pics on Instagram @mickibare

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Freedom Means I Don't Have to Care



Homemade gifts are better for Christmas | Navigating Hectivity by Micki Bare
My sister made me my favorite
kitchen aprons one year for
Christmas. I cherish them much more
than the coffee gift cards of the past.
Polls asking when radio stations should begin playing Christmas music abound. Opinions regarding Black Friday sales beginning on Thursday are being solicited via every social media outlet known to mankind. I have been doing my best to avoid these debates. Not because I have a heated opinion one way or the other, but rather because the topics or irrelevant and frivolous.

Ask me what I think about managed health care or immigration policies. Then make sure the world, especially my representatives, know where my peers and I stand on these issues. But please don't waste my time with ridiculous opinion polls and news features on issues that serve no purpose other than to distract and entertain the general public.

As Americans, we are privileged to enjoy freedoms and opportunities others envy. As a lifelong citizen born in New Jersey, I hereby exercise my freedoms in regards to these inane topics.

On the topic of when to begin playing Christmas music on the radio, I don't care. Start November 1. Play it in February. Have Christmas music scheduled every Saturday all year long. It doesn't matter to me, Mr. Radio Station Guy, what you decide. We live in a free country. If I don't like the music, I can change the station. Better yet, I can stop listening to the antiquated radio altogether and rely on my collection of downloads and the personalized Internet "radio station" I created several years ago.

In regards to stores offering ten-minute-only, door-busting Black Friday deals on Thanksgiving, I don't care. Offer your best deals of the year all day long on Thanksgiving, if that's what you want to do. I won't be there. I've never shopped on Black Friday and I certainly don't intend to shop on Thanksgiving. I'll be enjoying great homemade cuisine and making lasting memories with my children, nieces and nephews. I feel no loss at missing the big blowout deals offered on the few days off we all have together. I can shop another time. Better yet, I can make the majority of my gifts this year. Homemade gifts are more meaningful, anyway.

Now that we've got the non-issues out of the way, wouldn't it be great if our media spent more time on important problems? Oh, right. Freedom. News outlets are as free to cover and report on whatever they deem most important to their readers as I am to not consume their content.

Micki Bare, mother of three, wife, daughter & writer is the author of Thurston T. Turtle children's books. 
Email: mickibare (at) gmail.com
Connect with Micki on Google+
Like Thurston T. Turtle on Facebook
Follow Micki on Twitter: @TurtleAuthor
View Micki's pics on Instagram @mickibare

Friday, November 1, 2013

Writing Away November



NaNoWriMo 2013 | Navigating Hectivity by Micki Bare
My bifocals and my keyboard will be my
dearest, closest friends during November.


11/30: I cannot believe I pulled it off! And the story wrapped up beautifully. I am so excited!! I cannot wait to dig into editing. One of my resolutions for 2014 will be to get it in front of agents. Wow! What an amazing feeling.

11/23: Yes, I've fallen behind. But I will catch up. I have not written tens of thousands of words since November 1 just to give up now. My characters deserve better. I will keep going.

11/12: Today, I broke 25,000! I'm halfway to reaching the NaNo goal. What a great feeling. The story line is shaping up nicely, my characters are coming alive in ways I never expected, and to top it all off, it snowed in North Carolina tonight. I was not sure I'd make it to that halfway mark today, because I not only wrote, edited, and submitted my column this morning, I also published a new blog post this afternoon. Typically, I run out of writing steam after I submit a column. Maybe the discipline of writing an average of 2000 words specifically for NaNo has had a positive overall effect. Maybe my muse is as charged as I am. Maybe the cold air and fluffy, white flakes provided a boost of motivation. Whatever the reason, I'm now officially halfway there! HAPPY DANCE :D

11/7: I surpassed my old high-score, if you will. The closest I have come to realizing a word count of 50,000 was 15,000 words. Today, I hit over 16,000. Here's what I've learned about my personality as a writer thus far:
     * I have to write in Times New Roman 12pt font and my document must be double spaced, otherwise I become too distracted to write. I believe this quirk derives from 14 years of weekly column-writing, and three children's book manuscripts, completed in that format.
     * While I am more creative in the early hours of the day, I can write any time of day. I'm not as productive at 8 p.m., but as long as I pull out my laptop and write, I will accomplish something, and that in itself helps keep my momentum going strong.
     * I will not be able to write as much for NaNoWriMo on the days I have to write or edit my weekly column. I shouldn't expect to be able to write as much on those days. I don't have to write as much on those days. I've actually nearly convinced myself...
     * I can write a novel. I always knew I had the potential, but the way my NaNoWriMo 2013 story is developing and the process I'm experiencing as a result has me convinced writing novels is something that I can and will do.
     * I now completely understand why authors become emotionally attached to their characters. Characters do have a life of their own; they are entities. Being the conduit that releases them from imagination to the written word, giving them meaning and credence, is humbling, cathartic, and mystical.
     * I don't think my novel will be done when I hit the 50,000 mark. My new goal is to finish the novel, regardless of the final word count. However, my sub-goal is to reach 50,000 by November 30.
     * I am actually looking forward to the editing process, which I plan to do after I complete the first draft of the entire novel. And while it was hard at first, I'm finally at a point where I can let the editing go for now for the sake of moving the story forward. It's what my characters, especially Amelia, would want.

11/3: I woke up this morning worried that I wouldn't be able to keep up the momentum. But I began writing in the morning again. Morning has always been the most productive time of day for me. It's also when I'm most creative. Getting up, hitting my personal word count goal for the day, then starting the usual stuff--cooking, cleaning, shopping, hanging out with family and friends--is definitely working for me. I'm not getting the same level of chores completed as I was able to accomplish before NaNoWriMo, but that's okay, because I am fine with using NaNoWriMo as an excuse. And, on day three, I'm thrilled to have churned out another 2565 words in my novel which, at this point, is beginning to take on a life of its own. This year, for this project, I went somewhere different for inspiration, because I honestly had no idea what I was going to write about on October 31. Then it came to me. My great grandfather was an artist. Several of his paintings hang in our home. I decided to gaze into one of them and draw my inspiration from it. So far, I've been more inspired to write than I've ever felt in my life. What was your inspiration for NaNoWriMo 2013?

11/2: Just added my widget, above, so my word count will be automatically updated on this blog. I've accomplished 5018 words and 17 pages thus far. I just wrapped up chapter two, so I'll begin with chapter three, and word number 5019, tomorrow. I feel great about this strong start this year and hope to be able to keep up the pace and hit that 50,000 work mark by the 30th. I'm also happy with my characters and story line. This novel is truly taking on a life of its own. Also, I'm thrilled about adding Hubby as a buddy on the NaNoWriMo site. I was ahead of him on word count last night, then he surpassed me this morning. I currently have a higher word count, but I doubt he is finished for the day. Let the household competition begin!

***

As if the holiday season doesn't zip by fast enough, I've decided to participate in another time-consuming activity above and beyond the chaos indicative of the last two months of the year. I decided to participate in National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo2013 as it affectionately shows up in social media hashtags.

This isn't my first go at the 50,000-word writing challenge. I attempted it in 2005, at which time I was able to crank out about 4,000 words. In 2008, I made another attempt. But by December 1 of that year, I had only 15,000 words--a great improvement over 2005, but still far short of the NaNoWriMo goal. In my defense, all my children were still at home and I was still employed full time. Not that either of those excuses should inhibit others from participating. People with far busier schedules than mine meet and exceed the NaNoWriMo goal every November.

This year, however, with only one child still living at home full time and no other jobs outside of writing, I decided to officially track my progress and be more diligent about keeping up the pace. It is possible to write 1,667 words a day and still participate in life. All it takes is willful determination and prioritization. The fact that we no longer subscribe to cable television will help me greatly in efforts to prioritize my writing this month.

Tech and science geeks have their Comic Cons. Theatre geeks have their summer musicals. Athletes have their triathlons. Those of us who write have NaNoWriMo. Therefore, in addition to logging word counts and other updates on the NaNoWriMo site and participating in local NaNoWriMo activities, I will update this post on my blog. We are midway through day one and I've already written 2112 words. And just so we are clear, the word counts I will be reporting toward the 50,000-word goal are in addition to my column writing, blogging, and any other writing on my plate. I am only counting words written for the novel I began this morning for the purpose of participating in the 2013 NaNoWriMo event.

It is November. It is time to release the novel within.

Micki Bare, mother of three, wife, daughter & writer is the author of Thurston T. Turtle children's books. 
Email: mickibare (at) gmail.com
Connect with Micki on Google+
Like Thurston T. Turtle on Facebook
Follow Micki on Twitter: @TurtleAuthor
View Micki's pics on Instagram @mickibare