cooking

Food, Wonderful Food, & Great Dietary Accommodations

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Nearly one year ago, about a month after graduating from college, I had developed an “allergy” toward tomatoes. Now why do I put the word, allergy, into quotation marks, you might ask? Well, although anything with tomatoes would cause my face to break out or my lips to tingle, I got tested for that, and it turned out to be an intolerance. So if somebody else consumes tomatoes around me, I’m fine. However, if I ate tomato products, it would lead to a problem.

For the next few months, I was let down on how I couldn’t have all those goodies I used to be able to enjoy, like marinara sauce, ketchup, salsa, barbecue sauce, and more. I would only be able to eat pasta with pesto, alfredo, or garlic and oil.  I would also have to ask about dish ingredients in restaurants.

However, in September, I found a new solution to my tomato intolerance. That was red bell peppers, which my body could still tolerate. I would make nearly everything I’d listed above (except barbecue sauce) with peppers. I would broil them, let them sit in brown paper bags, peel them, and prepare them like tomatoes. They taste a little similar, but not really close to alike.

Bu a few months ago, or so, I mixed carrots with peppers to make marinara sauce. And guess what? It really made a difference. The carrots made the sauce taste more like tomatoes than ever. And I didn’t receive an allergic reaction.

So if you ever develop an allergy or intolerance to certain foods, you can experiment with substitutions. I actually have a couple friends with dietary restrictions. One has come to my past parties in recent years. She is allergic to peanuts, which are in so many different products. I had to make a lot of my party food from scratch. Not only that, I would have to check ingredients and research them. I have even contacted companies to confirm, whether or not, the products had nuts.

You can always substitute ingredients for cooking, whether it’s for you or someone else. You would be surprised how easy it is and how much you can learn.

movie

Teacher’s Pet: A Movie Needs a Great Review

Despite the lack of success Disney had gone through in the 2000’s after experiencing a big golden age in the 90’s, with the exceptions of “Lilo and Stitch” and the Pixar movies, I happen to like a lot of those films. Movies such as “Brother Bear”, “Home on the Range”, and “Chicken Little” were huge failures. However, I enjoyed all three of those movies.

But one of the biggest flops and most forgotten Disney films of all time happens to be one of my favorites. That is, you guessed it, 2004’s “Teacher’s Pet”. This started out as a TV show on Toon Disney from 2000 – 2002. I didn’t have Toon Disney on my television at the time. But those years, I watched Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon. It was not until my senior year of high school in 2011, when I discovered that “Teacher’s Pet” started out as a TV series. But it only made a couple seasons until the film in 2004.

I was ten when the theatrical release came out. And I absolutely, times a million, loved it. I went to go see it a second time, but it was the last showing and I was pretty disappointed. But when the DVD came out, I would watch the movie every single day.

At seventeen, I reunited with the movie. While I didn’t watch it everyday, I still enjoyed it very much. Even now at twenty-four, I consider it one of the best movies I’ve ever seen. I have even fantasized about how I thought (and still think) it would have made an excellent Broadway show or honest trailer on YouTube.

So the story is about a dog, named Spot, who wants to be a boy. He disguises himself as a fourth grader and attends school with his master, Leonard. He has gotten away with the disguise. And now he wants to actually become a boy. Spot discovers a mad scientist who claims he can turn animals into humans. Regardless of the principal’s rule about no dogs in his special vehicle awarded to Leonard’s mom and teacher, Spot manages to find the Helpermans and makes it to Florida. Things change from there.

Aside from the story, the songs were fantastic. I also admire the wacky distorted style of the cartoon, compared to classic Disney movies such as “Cinderella” or “Aladdin”.

That being said, “Teacher’s Pet” does have some flaws. For instance, Leonard is in fourth grade, so probably 9 or 10 years old. But he cannot handle being away from Spot. I’ve always thought, “Spot isn’t going to go to college with him,” but that’s another story. Another imperfection is that the characters are the opposite of believable and will believe and fall for anything the other characters want just for plot convenience. Other instances in the story didn’t make sense, either. But that doesn’t bother me.

I would rate “Teacher’s Pet” 5 stars, and I am proud to call myself a fan.

Writing

My Writing Process: It Starts Short and Sloppy

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(Writing Pen Man from Pixabay – Royalty Free)

I love to write stories. In fact, I have two published novels part of the same series available to buy online. The second book came out two years ago. That was when I started working on the third book.

However, until January of this year, I could not finish one single draft. I would constantly brainstorm, outline, write, and give up. By the tenth or eleventh chapters, I would become bored of my ideas and quit. I would even read articles on when you should stop writing a particular story.

And then, at the turn of this year, I discovered the reasons behind my constant attempts and surrenders. I had set my expectations too high. And while other writers can type 100K-word first drafts and cut after that, it’s the opposite for me. I needed to lower my expectations and word counts. So for five weeks, I hand-wrote my first draft and made it to just under 15K words. I decided to break and ignore as many writing rules as possible just so I could finish. And then I would expand my word count after that draft and worry about quality writing.

I compared this to playing a video game or raising a child. When you first play a certain video game, you need to start easy, at level one. Then, as you improve, you move on to the harder levels. When you first have a baby, you have very low expectations for them. And then you raise the expectations as the child grows and their brain develops. For instance, the expectations of a newborn would obviously be very different than that of a toddler and so forth.

I am still in the second draft of my third installment. I have also started handwriting my fourth installment and have plot ideas for the rest of my series. So for all you aspiring and current writers out there, try different techniques, and see what works for you.

 

short fiction

Somebody Has Lost a Sheep: A Flash Fiction Piece

I scanned the surrounding as I pushed my barrel down the field. The sun hadn’t risen yet. It was probably not even six A.M. yet.

I returned to my house, after exceeding the distance I had intended to push the barrel. I then returned inside, eying the chocolate morsels on the counter.

Oh darn it, I didn’t clean up well enough before, I told myself. At fifteen, I knew how to make pancakes from scratch. I had since I was eleven. I loved to put chocolate chips in them. But I should have checked the counter last night. My childhood dream of becoming or turning other things invisible would never come true.

I swept the candies with my hands and threw them away. My family hadn’t woken up yet, so they couldn’t yell at me. But the moral of cooking was always to tidy up after you finished.

I flicked my long, dark hair behind my shoulders and headed back to the stairs to relax. But a sheep from outside baaed.

I turned to the window. A white sheep roamed across my backyard. My family lived on a farm, and we had sheep, goats, and chickens. But this sheep did not belong to us. It wore a purple collar. Some other farmer must’ve lost it.

The creature buried its head into the barrel and ate the hay in it. I couldn’t think of any action to take.

My parents and sister still slept. But maybe I could call the number for lost animals and see if whoever lost his or her sheep could have it back.

I returned upstairs and took out my phone. I dialed the number on my device’s Internet and waited. But no one answered. So I left a message. “Hello, this is Rebecca Arbuckle on fifty, Gray Stone Street, Petunia Town, NY. I found a lost sheep in my backyard and wanted to know if you could tell the owner. The sheep is white and wearing a purple collar. Please give me a call back at 631-555-1234 when you get this message. Thank you and have a good day.” I hung up.

My eyes drifted to my bedroom window. The sheep ran away. It galloped down the street.

The sun also began to rise. I decided to get ready, but would not give up on making sure the sheep is returned to its owner. Today would involve lots of work, but in a good way.

Writing

Describing Characters in Books: My Unique Views on That

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(Narrative image from Pixabay)

I am not like many readers when it comes to reading physical descriptions of characters in books. A lot of readers dislike the author telling them what the characters look like. They want to picture the characters their ways. In fact, some readers rebel against what the authors say in describing the characters.

However, my views are different. Recently, I’ve been acknowledging that the characters in books are, indeed, somebody else’s creations. So I think it’s silly for me to get upset if a character doesn’t look the way I want. I support character descriptions greatly. I like to describe my book’s characters and encourage other writers to do so. In fact, I cannot really picture a character or keep a consistent image of him or her in my head unless they’re described with at least one trait. Otherwise, they don’t feel real enough to me.

I also wondered why people are accepting of character appearances on movies, TV shows, comics, and more, but not novels. That is because novels are not visual, so the idea is to use your mind to visualize the images. But I see it as the same. Visual works and non-visual are someone else’s creations for my entertainment. Just because novels don’t have pictures in them (with the exception of chapter books or graphic novels), that doesn’t mean the characters become mine to own. If I were to declare their physical appearance and promote that, I could get sued. But that’s a whole different topic.

Because the author created the characters, I believe they have every right to tell me, as the reader, what the characters look like with whatever descriptive traits they want—as long as it’s not too many (because that’s too much to remember and bogs down the narrative-up to a few are good enough) or offensive (you can figure that out).

But other than that, I accept descriptions of any trait. What I usually describe is a character’s hair and one or two other key features (i.e. glasses or beards). I never do eye color, because there are just too few choices, in my opinion. I also don’t do nose shapes or face shapes.

You can continue to approach character descriptions your way. This is just how I view them.