Guest Post on Change it Up Editing

I’m thrilled to be guest blogging today over at changeitupediting.com, where I reveal a few of my writing secrets, namely how I’ve wriggled out a few creative blocks. Come on over and check it out and share your own tales of creative inspiration. While you’re there, indulge yourself in the some wonderful writing insights of editor Candace Johnson. Here’s to a prolific 2014!

The Long and Short on Memory

photo by Adrian Serghie

photo by Adrian Serghie

How’s your memory?

Certainly, if you’re anything like me you’ve probably had questions like these pop up from time to time: What’s her name again? Where do I know him from? Why did I open this closet? Where did I put my keys? What’s her phone number?

Some forgetfulness is innocent and normal and happens to everyone no matter their age. Some forgetfulness is more serious, or is a sign of more serious problems to come. Regardless, memory loss at the very least is frustrating and at the worst, tragic.

Personally, I’ve been concerned about my poor memory since I was in my twenties. I developed what I refer to as “police paranoia.” If while driving I’d see a police car in my rearview mirror, I always feared I’d be pulled over and questioned for something I had no recollection of doing. Okay, I’ll admit that’s a little extreme, paranoid and wacky (and perhaps a sign of something else I should be worried about!). But on the positive side, I used this crazy sense of imagination and my own memory paranoia to write my debut suspense novel, The Memory Box, due to release early 2014, about a suburban mom who Googles herself and discovers a past she’s unaware of.

In research for my book, I became intrigued about memory and the advances in science to thwart or reverse memory loss. And that’s why I decided to launch a new blog: thelongandshortonmemory.com. It will feature news from around the world about the complexity and prevalence of memory loss and groundbreaking advances on reversing it.

Why have I chosen to curate news on memory? Simply put, I’m fascinated by the topic and concerned for my own. And while I used to be reluctant to admit my own shortcomings, the more I do, the more I discover others with similar experiences.

It’s also true that memory loss is afflicting more people now than ever. Whether it’s hereditary, stress or poor diet, pregnancy or menopause, early onset due to repeated head injuries, or even cultural changes, more and more people complain of memory loss. Even our reliance on computer search engines, like Google, has affected our ability to remember facts.

You’ll also find personal stories from people who’ve experienced firsthand how memory loss can deeply affect the course of one’s life or that of a loved one. If you have a story to tell, please contact me, I’d love to give it a home on thelongandshortonmemory.com.

The first post is a positive one on the power of nostalgia. I hope you’ll check it out and please stop by often. Or at least whenever you remember to.

Visit here: thelongandshortonmemory.com

Beach Buzz

photo by temporalata

photo by temporalata

A sunny day at the beach is a sugar high. A shot of euphoria.

Warm crests of sand meet the underneaths of your knees. It molds to the small of your back and clings to your toes like sugar to a cruller.

A light breeze carries the frothy laughter of others. It lifts the ends of your hair and swirls around your neck. Your shoulders feel the warm tingling love of the sun. The water is crisp and clean and tickles your toes but not your ankles because you’re a camel not a dolphin. Your family teases you for it, and they splash you from afar.

So you read a thoughtful book that has you contemplating what you’ll be when you grow up. What you could be. Most of all, what you want to be.

At the end of the day the beach crashes you like a sugar high. You curl into yourself and draw your towel up toward your chin and sleep a half sleep. Lazy waves succumb, collapse and inch up the shore. The soft pop of clam holes appear magically along wet sand. Metal pulleys clank listlessly against the mast of a sail boat.

You float in and out of your half sleep and its sweet dream, and lucky for you, as good as this dream may be, it’s not nearly as good as your reality.

How I Forgave Jamie Oliver

Jamie Oliver's Sticky Chicken Thighs

Jamie Oliver’s Sticky Chicken Thighs

If you have the time and the patience, and room in your heart to forgive chef Jamie Oliver for referring to his Crispy and Sticky Chicken Thighs with Squashed New Potatoes and Tomatoes as a “simple pan-baked chicken dish” then I encourage you to try this recipe.

But for God’s sake, know up front that it is not “simple.” Okay perhaps, technically, it is “simple” but “simple” implies “quick.” Doesn’t it? To me it does. And quick it is not. The time alone that it took to de-bone and trim the chicken thighs of the cheesy fat clusters could have driven me to chase Mr. Oliver through his English potato garden with a pair of kitchen scissors. To say nothing of the time-consuming tedious task of individually stabbing, then peeling the skins off all those little cherry tomatoes. Peeling skins!

I typically have a rule in the kitchen never to cook anything that takes longer to prepare than it does to eat.

But alas, if I had stuck to that rule I would not have experienced this glorious masterpiece. Could I have skipped the tomato disrobing? Yes. But then I wouldn’t have tasted how “lovely and sweet” the tomatoes become when cooked stripped to their flesh, and the claim from Mr. Oliver that “their intense flavor will infuse the potatoes.” And after all, “Sometimes in cooking, you know what, it’s not all bish-bash-bosh, you need to put a bit of love in it, a bit of care, and it will taste fantastic.”

I got seduced into preparing this dish after seeing an episode of Jamie at Home. He looked tenderly at his ingredients, calling his potatoes “darlings” and “underground jewels.” Everything was “lovely,” from straining veggies to surgically removing the bones from chicken thighs. He even urged viewers to plant potatoes in their own backyard, claiming they’re super easy to grow and there’s nothing quite like using “freshly dug” potatoes. I’m sure he’s probably right about that. Though I have some pretty solid experience using potatoes which are weeks old−in fact, they’re one of the only vegetables that will last and last, even after they’ve practically grown a clone of themselves right there from their own skin. But maybe I should keep that to myself.

There was something charming about Jamie Oliver serving messy portions of his meals into chipped plates and pottery. And the sight of his charming country kitchen, a busy affair with brick walls and jelly jars cluttering counter tops and stacks of dishes and terra cotta, shelves practically leaning to one side. No granite or marble in sight. Not a stand mixer or cappuccino maker to be found. This cozy setting shouted “You can do this too! You American Food Network viewer, sitting on your overstuffed couch in the suburbs!”

Yes, he was talking to me. Thank God I was listening.

He told me to take the fresh oregano and “bash it up a little. Smash the oregano for butt-kicking flavored oil. You can’t chop it up and be nice about it.” It felt so comfortable, the spills and the clutter, the ruffled shirt. It was like I was cooking in the kitchen with my younger brother, if my younger brother could cook. (Of course you can cook, dear! That was just a little joke!) Did I mention the adorable English accent? Who can resist someone who pronounces oregano with the emphasis on the third syllable? Certainly not me.

I can’t explain to you why or how it happens that a mere six ingredients can produce an aroma transcendent. It leaks from your oven door when you least expect it. When you’re not even in the kitchen! You’re upstairs folding the laundry and bam! It finds you. And you go a little weak in the knees. Oh my gosh, you think to yourself, is that coming from my kitchen, from my oven?

Yes it is.

Thank you, Jamie Oliver. I forgive you.