Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Writer = {Amateur} Photographer



Fireworks Grab Attention | Navigating Hectivity by Micki Bare
I watched this firework display
through the lens of my camera.
It is no longer enough to be able to write well. You could be so passionate about writing that you are compelled to put yourself out there and share with the world like the eccentric, older, plumper neighbor who runs to the mall in leggings and a tube top. You could be as talented as the hypothetical lovechild of Emily Dickinson and Ralph Waldo Emerson. However, if you cannot snap and upload a decent photo, you might as well stop typing and take up knitting.

Double Yolk | Navigating Hectivity by Micki Bare
This needs cropping before it can be
used, but I couldn't pass up snapping
this one in the kitchen last spring.
In today's world of online content, you have to catch your audience with more than a great title. You have to provide enticing imagery. The tools of today's writer includes more than a notebook, pencil, laptop, and Internet connection. Today's wordmonger needs also a smartphone with at least an 8 megapixel camera as well as a pocket-sized, waterproof 12-megapixel digital camera.

Cathedral in Savannah | Navigating Hectivity by Micki Bare
A raw cathedral pic from my brief
stop in Savannah, Ga.
Of course, tomorrow this blog will be outdated, as the pixel capacity of smartphone camera apps and handheld cameras will have increased beyond our wildest dreams.

My point, however, remains the same. Without eye-catching photos sprinkled amongst written content, a writer's efforts are destined to dissipate into the white noise of cyberspace, never to be digested by the eyes, minds, and hearts of the masses. Social media platforms rely heavily on pictures to grab the attention of folks quickly scanning Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, and Twitter during those nuggets of time throughout the day they require a break from the rigors of real life—or need to quickly cyberstalk an old friend during the twelfth of a 67-slide webinar presentation. 

NC Ice Storm | Navigating Hectivity by Micki Bare
No one wants to see this now,
but next year it might come in handy.
As a contemporary writer embedded in a highly digital environment, I'm indebted to my father and uncles for being novice photographers who couldn't let family or friends achieve firsts in life without hearing, "Hold it! Wait. Okay, SMILE!" I am even more appreciative of their willingness to mentor me from my very first 110 camera, through several 35-mm cameras, which included a hand-me-down or two, all the way into the digital age when I bought a miraculously efficient, film-free, 1-megapixel camera.

Gulf Coast Sunset | Navigating Hectivity by Micki Bare
You can't beat a good sunset over water photo.
On a recent trip to the Gulf Coast, I snapped
a hundred or so over the span of three evenings.
Everywhere I go, I snap pictures. Whether on vacation, taking an after-supper walk with the family, picking up groceries, or having my hair done, I snap pictures. I've become even more annoying than my dad and uncles. Some of the images are immediately deleted because they are blurry, didn't capture what I hoped to, or are just plain awful. I'm a writer, not a professional photographer. But I do keep thousands because, as a writer, I never know what image I might need to go with my latest blog post, column, or story snippet.

Photographs also provide inspiration. Scrolling through pages and pages of digital images can cure even the most stubborn case of writer's block.

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
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Families First Monthly

Monday, March 24, 2014

Dancing Update: The Beginning



Working Diligently to Dance | Navigating Hectivity by Micki Bare
I must watch my feet while
Dr. Bill glides across the floor.
The music has been selected and the basic dance chosen. Now it's time to work. And work we shall. Rehearsals are going well. We've already accomplished understanding that we have a long way to go. It is clear that Dr. Bill is the dancer on this team. I still struggle with the basic steps, although our instructor did give me a tip that miraculously produced immediate results. Now if I can just stop looking at my feet so much.

A few glimpses into one of our early rehearsals...

DWRS Practice Session | Navigating Hectivity by Micki Bare

Learning to Dance | Navigating Hectivity by Micki Bare

Moving Across the Floor | Navigating Hectivity by Micki Bare

We are clearly working hard to put something spectacular together for our May 31 performance. Now we need you to CLICK HERE and vote for us. One $10 voteno more than the cost of two mocha lattes or two value meals; less than the price of most movie ticketshelps us raise money for college scholarships. It also gets us one vote closer to winning Dancing With the Randolph Stars 2014!

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
YOU MIGHT ALSO ENJOY READING:
Families First Monthly

An Italian Conquers Chicken & Dumplings


While I love to cook, and do so more from the heart than a recipe, chicken and dumplings always intimidated me. It being an old southern tradition, typically handed down through generations of southern cooks, I figured it was a meal you could only make if you were brought up watching it magically come together in your grandmother's kitchen.

Marinara sauce, for example, is something for which I've never read, consulted, or owned a recipe. Years of practice mimicking my mother, recalling stories she told of her grandparents making it, and relying on my sense of smell and taste are my "recipe." But I'm half Italian. I was raised on homemade Mediterranean cuisine.

Chicken and dumplings seemed out of my reach. Sure, I've lived in the South for my entire adult life. Sure I've seen, smelled, and tasted amazing chicken and dumplings. But it was not a customary dish of my childhood. Even if I could find a good recipe, could I replicate it?

And my family, the boys in particular, can be awfully unforgiving at the Sunday dinner table. I could make an amazingly rich, thick marinara that would knock the socks off Marco Polo. But one of my children would notice, and call me out on, the fact that I'd been short on bay leaves and used one less in a particular batch. And while I know they know even my under-herbed marinara is still way better than store bought or even restaurant quality sauce, they are still compelled to offer their unabashed commentary.

Could you imagine what they'd say if I tried chicken and dumplings?

But one day, after Hubby kept droning on and on about a cooking show he'd watched on how to make chicken and dumplings, I decided to give it a whirl. Actually, I thought about giving it a whirl. It wasn't set in stone until I bought the whole chicken a couple of days later. My mantra became, "If I can boil a chicken, I can make chicken and dumplings."

The pressure was really on when I verbalized to my mom that I would be serving chicken and dumplings for Sunday dinner. Once I said it aloud, there was no going back.

It was obvious to me that Hubby began to panic a bit when he started offering to go to the store and buy self-rising flour and buttermilk. I declined the offer. I was prepared, after lengthy recipe research, to jump in head first and old-school it. But it wasn't until I hopped out of bed on Sunday morning that I even decided upon fluffy ball dumplings over flat strip dumplings.

As I lost myself in the process, the smells and sights came together beautifully. When my youngest son said, "Finally! Dumplings!" and then proceeded to eat Sunday dinner without complaint or commentary about the food, I knew for sure I had successfully conquered chicken and dumplings.

After reading lots of recipes, including tons of positive and negative commentary about each, I did not actually select and use a specific recipe. Here's my version:

Chicken Prep | Navigating Hectivity by Micki Bare
1. Clean and rinse a whole chicken.
Give some of the raw liver to your cat.
He will love you forever. 
Onion & Carrot Prep | Navigating Hectivity by Micki Bare
2. Dice half a large onion and five or
six medium carrots. I use organic
due to my irrational fear of pesticides.
Also add freshly ground sea salt 

and black pepper. It was physically difficult 
for me to not throw in garlic, but I refrained.
Boil the Chicken | Navigating Hectivity by Micki Bare
3. Fill the pot with water, cover, and
cook for an hour or so. You want it
to boil so as to cook the chicken. You
don't want your Hubby to run into
the bedroom screaming, "Is this
supposed to be boiling over?"
Cool Skim Reassemble | Navigating Hectivity by Micki Bare
4. When the chicken is completely cooked,
remove the chicken from the pot and let the broth
and the chicken cool for 30 to 60 minutes.
After cooling, skim some of the fat off of
the broth and put aside. I skimmed off
about half a cup before I tired of skimming.
Pull the chicken meat off of the carcass with
your bare hands. You do not need a knife if
you cooked it properly. As you pull the meat off,
peel off the skin and put it aside. Treat your dogs
to some of the skin when you get a chance.
They'll love you forever. As you pull the meat off
the carcass, add it back to the broth.
At this point, I also added frozen peas.
I like peas. It's a matter of taste. If my middle
son was home, I would have skipped the peas.
Put the pot back on the stove over low to
medium heat to slowly reheat the broth and chicken.
Dumpling Prep Cool | Navigating Hectivity by Micki Bare
5. Remember the bowl in which the chicken cooled?
That's what I used to make the dumplings.
Add 4 cups flour, 6 teaspoons baking powder,
1 teaspoon cream of tartar, 4 teaspoons sugar,
and a pinch of salt to the bowl (after removing
the carcass, skins pieces, and bone debris, of course).
Thoroughly mix these dry ingredients.
Remember that half a cup of skimmed fat? Add
enough milk to the skimmed fat so that you have
1 1/3 cups liquid. But don't pour it in the flour yet.
Room Temp Butter | Navigating Hectivity by Micki Bare
6. Add two sticks of room temperature butter
to the flour mixture. I do not recommend using 

the microwave to soften the butter. It just doesn't 
come out right and ruins the dough.
Then use a pastry cutter if you have one, or, if not 
(like me) use a fork, and cut the butter into the
flour. Once you have the butter and flour combined,
you can make a well in the middle and pour the
fatty milk mixture into it. Then mix it all up. Sounds
like a biscuit recipe, doesn't it? Yes, the fluffy
dumplings are basically boiled biscuits.
Dumpling Balls | Navigating Hectivity by Micki Bare
7. Rather than roll out your dough as for 
biscuits, roll the dough into balls. This part is suspiciously similar to making meatballs. 
Don't make them too big.
Once your chicken and broth comes to a boil, you
can carefully, slowly, deliberately drop the
dumpling balls one by one into the broth. Try not 

to splash the burning hot broth on your hand 
or all over your stove, wall, and floor. When
the last ball is in, set your timer for 10 minutes.
Do NOT cover the pot, yet!
Simmering Chicken & Dumplings | Navigating Hectivity by Micki Bare
8. This is what it will look like while it
simmers for 10 minutes. At this point, I feared
I had failed and readied the number to the pizza
place. When the ten minutes are up, it is time to

cover the pot and turn the heat completely off. 
Let the chicken and dumplings sit for another 
10 to 15 minutes.
Chicken and Dumplings | Navigating Hectivity by Micki Bare
9. No one was more surprised than me at the
results. The chicken and dumplings meal is
now ready to be served. It will still be
molten-lava hot, so let it cool in your bowl for
a few minutes and blow on each delicious spoonful.
We had enough for five, plus lots of leftovers for on of the boys to take home, Hubby to take to lunch the next day, and for me to freeze for one of those nights I'm too tired to make something new for supper.

It took me some time to figure out how I could be so successful with chicken and dumplings on my first try. Then it dawned on me. Yes, it is a southern delicacy. But it is not drastically different from its Italian cousins, chicken and gnocchi soup or chicken cacciatore. Plus, I've been in the South long enough to understand some of the technical points to creating hearty southern food.

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
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Families First Monthly

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Family Photobombs #ThrowbackThursday


In honor of Hubby's birthday month, Throwback Thursday (#TBT) seemed a good opportunity to expose our children for what they are—photobombers. Our children seem to have a knack for timing when it comes to obstructing otherwise perfectly sweet family pictures. Considering they've had cameras pointed at them since birth, I suppose the development of photobombing talent was inevitable. 

Ten years ago, I attempted to take some pictures of Hubby during his birthday celebration. Opening presents makes for memorable subject matter, so I had my camera ready as he opened his birthday bounty. Our two oldest were also at the ready.
Offspring Birthday Gift Photobombing | Navigating Hectivity by Micki Bare
The oldest attacked with the "lean in" bomb.
The middle child assaulted with classic "rabbit ears."
Of course, as you can see, Hubby was on the phone at the time. Considering he rudely took a birthday call while we were in the middle of our family party, I had no sympathy for the carefully strategized siege unfolding in the perimeter of the images.
Candle Blowing Photobomb | Navigating Hectivity by Micki Bare
The candle-blowing "mimic" photobomb.
With two goofy, attention-grabbing, photobombing older brothers as mentors, our youngest easily developed his own photobombing finesse. Years later, Hubby is still the victim of the attacks.
 

Jump in Front Photobomb | Navigating Hectivity by Micki Bare
This extraordinary photobomb took
precision timing and solid athleticism. 
Our youngest achieved a perfectly timed forefront lens block to ruin Hubby's kilt photo a couple of years ago. Notice the extended arms ensuring a near-complete subject obstruction. Poor Hubby. 


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
YOU MIGHT ALSO ENJOY READING:
Families First Monthly

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Imagining Riding to Write



Train Writing Excursion Dream | Navigating Hectivity by Micki Bare
Dreaming of a train adventure.
Since childhood, I've been enamored by trains. My dad had an immense train collection when I was a little girl. He built the track on plywood. It had hills and tunnels, trees and buildings. The terrain was dotted with people and various farm animals. It was quite a detailed landscape created especially for Dad's HO-scale trains. He would set up the plywood countryside on his ping pong table. I could barely see over the table, so I had to kneel on a chair to watch the trains. I can still see Dad manning the controls. I can still hear him barking, "Don't touch!"

Riding the subway in New York City also resides in my reservoir of memories. My grandmother and great grandfather lived in Manhattan, so I was introduced to the subway at an early age. I loved the breeze from a passing train. I loved standing and holding onto a pole, trying to keep my balance as the train stopped and started. I can still see Granny putting a token in the turnstile. I can still hear Mom barking, "Stay back! You'll fall onto the track and get squashed!"

As a young teenager, I loved to lay on the bow of my dad's friend's sailboat while drifting on the Hudson River. From the boat, we would watch the trains traveling into New York from a track that ran parallel to the river. I can still smell the murky Hudson River. I can still hear Dad barking, "Don't lean too far, you'll fall into the river!"

Conductor Dad Mans the Trains | Navigating Hectivity by Micki Bare
Holiday Trains with Poppy
As an adult, visiting my parents' house at Christmas included sitting amongst Dad's new trains. He started collecting a much bigger gauge as part of his empty nest adjustment strategy. The tracks wound around the formal living room. A smaller track encircled a Christmas tree. My boys relished their time on the couch not touching the controls as Poppy brought the magical train room to life.

It is no wonder trains hold such a special place in my heart. To combine my passion for writing and wanderlust gene with my love of trains would be a dream come true. That is why I had to apply for an #AmtrakResidency. Each day I open my email, I hope to find an acceptance notification for the program.

With a temporal lobe full of train anecdotes, a laptop sporting an addictive typewriter sounds app, and my long-weekend travel suitcase, I dream of being whisked away in a sleeper car. I fantasize about standing and holding onto a handrail, trying to keep my balance as the train stops and starts. I imagine gazing out the window and finding endless inspiration. I even have a conductor's hat just in case I am fortunate enough to be selected. And you never know, such an adventure might be just what I need to produce that coveted, all-American, best-selling novel.

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
YOU MIGHT ALSO ENJOY READING:
Families First Monthly

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Travel Feet: Snowbird Edition


My feet were back at it recently when I decided to jump in my car and visit with my aunt and uncle. They live in Minnesota, but were vacationing in Florida. Their annual trip offered them a nice break from the snow and bitter cold. As it turned out, by visiting during this year's trip, I missed North Carolina's worst ice storm in years. But when it comes to family, you have to make sacrifices. If escaping power outages, ice-related damage, and Hubby, Ma & my youngest going without electronics for a few days—and the crabby side effects thereof—had to be the consequences for connecting with my aunt and uncle, than I was willing to pay the price. My feet paid right along with me.


Relaxing Feet | Navigating Hectivity by Micki Bare
After leaving early to escape the ice storm, my
weary feet needed some rest overlooking a pool
in which they would never dip. I bet it was heated, too.

Historic Savannah | Navigating Hectivity by Micki Bare
My left foot got a good look at the majestic
trees dripping with Spanish moss framing
the streets of Historic Savannah.

St. John the Baptist Cathedral feet | Navigating Hectivity by Micki Bare
My toes rested in the park across from
St. John the Baptist Cathedral in Savannah, Ga.
My feet were very disappointed about not having
time to go inside and look around.

Gulf Coast Beach Feet | Navigating Hectivity by Micki Bare
My feet forgave me for lack of time in Savannah
as they relaxed in the soft Indian Shores sand
on the Florida Gulf Coast.

Blogging Hearts | Navigating Hectivity by Micki Bare
My feet did have to work during the trip.
They captured heart shapes in the sand at
Clearwater Beach, Florida.

Gulf Sunset Feet | Navigating Hectivity by Micki Bare
After long days frolicking along the
Gulf Coast, my feet enjoyed the beautiful sunsets.
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
YOU MIGHT ALSO ENJOY READING:
Families First Monthly