April 27, 2012 § 2 Comments
I have no idea what to call these cookie bars. This wasn’t going to be a recipe post (hate doing two food posts in a row, sorry) but I made these yesterday and people wanted the recipe, so here it is! The result is a barely sweet oatmeal cookie-like base with yummy chunks of dried fruit and chocolate.
Vegan Gluten-Free* Trail Mix** Cookie Bars
adapted from Mama Pea’s Vegan Almond Joy Cookie Bars
makes 18 or 24 bars, depending on how big you cut
- 2 c. oat flour (or gluten-free flour mix of choice)
- 1 t. baking soda
- 1 1/2 t. salt
- 1 c. oats
- 1 c. dried cranberries, chopped
- 1 c. sweetened shredded coconut
- 1 c. dark chocolate chips
- 1/3 c. + 2 T. sugar
- 3/4 c. peanut butter
- 3/4 c. unsweetened applesauce
- 1/2 t. vanilla extract
- 1/4 c. plain soymilk (or vegan milk of choice)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9×13 baking dish with foil, spray with cooking spray, and set aside.
- In a large bowl, combine flour through chocolate.
- In a separate bowl, whisk remaining ingredients. Add wet mixture to dry and stir until combined. If mixture is too dry, add a splash more soymilk. Dough will be VERY thick and sticky.
- Spread dough into bottom of pan and bake for 25 minutes, until set and golden brown around edges.
- Let cool before cutting into bars.*I understand oats are not always gluten-free. If you don’t eat oats or certified gluten-free oats are too expensive, replace with extra flour. I haven’t done this (and have made these a lot), but given the oats help with the thick consistency of the dough, I feel like it needs to be replaced instead of simply omitted. If you try this, let me know how it works.
** I call them Trail Mix cookie bars because the mix-ins are really variable. The original calls for almonds instead of dried cranberries. You could probably add both, or other dried fruits, or all chocolate, or – you get the idea. Have fun with the mix-ins. Truth be told, I almost always mix in more than 1 c. of each, even if it’s just a couple tablespoons extra. I want to really taste the mix-ins.
April 25, 2012 § 3 Comments
I am a HORRIBLE photographer, but I don’t let it stop me. I’ve been photographing what I eat because I’ve been cooking a lot more and wanted to kind of document it. Also, tempt you. Although the photos are so bad I don’t think that’ll happen. Note: My diet is a work in progress. I’m lactose intolerant, so shouldn’t have dairy and try not to (I use soy milk), and I’m seeing how I feel on a gluten-free trial right now. I’m a former vegan who only eats meat or eggs maybe twice a week now. All that to say, things I’ve made in the past, you might not see again! Here’s what I’ve been eating.
Once more I apologize for the horrible photography. So, what are YOU eating lately? Got any recipes? The fish and hash up top can be found on Cooking Light’s website although they use flounder, and the pizza dough recipe came from here.
April 23, 2012 § 4 Comments
[Pretty Girl Syndrome] involves a confusion of your identity with your appearance. (“People don’t like me/my looks, thus they must be jealous of me/my looks.”)
…buying into one of the favorite stories that our culture likes to tell itself about women: that we’re vain frivolous creatures at each others’ throats as we compete for male attention.
Pretty Girl Syndrome happens partly because of the way a girl gets used to seeing herself reflected back by the people around her. If people in general find you attractive, you tend to know, because they tell you (not all of them, but enough to get the point across). What you think of your looks can be beside the point: nobody can be beautiful to anybody all of the time, particularly ourselves to ourselves.
I was fascinated by the concept because it’s one I’ve become more aware of since leaving my marriage and spending some time single. I would broaden it to be not just personal confusion but the idea that everyone else also thinks your self is your looks. If you dress up, you’re only doing it so people notice you – people meaning guys – never could you just like being dressed up, or want to look nice for yourself. And if you don’t dress up, you don’t care what you look like, you’re lazy, you’re ugly, no one’s going to like you – no one meaning guys.
It’s a catch-22 in other ways, too. If you know you’re pretty, you aren’t supposed to acknowledge it or you’re conceited, but if you don’t acknowledge it, you’re falsely humble and nobody believes it, which Justine also touches on in relation to Samantha Brick.
You can’t win.
And yet far be it to be the pretty girl with this dilemma than someone society doesn’t deem worthy – that is, hot. Society’s logic is as follows: the only way a woman means anything is in relation to a man, that is, she only has any worth if she can secure one, and she can only do that by keeping up her appearance, which must meet an arbitrary standard to begin with.
(I have to say, society isn’t very flattering to men in this cycle, either, since clearly they’d never like a girl for her brains or personality either.)
But let’s look more at the part Justine mentions: personally confusing our identity with our looks. It’s really easy to do. Ask anyone who has ever had tendencies for disordered eating (myself included). And I’ll take it a step further: self is worth. If I’m not comfortable in my identity, I probably don’t value my identity, or self, enough to become so; a poor sense of self typically equates to a poor sense of worth. So, that established, let’s continue.
Look good, feel good. It’s not a lie. We dress up to take ourselves to the store; we become confident. I love the anecdote about Marilyn Monroe in Justine’s post; it’s so true. We can create an image, be a person. We can project confidence onto ourselves we may not have.
I’m a girly girl. If I could wear a dress or skirt every day I would do it. I love feeling pretty and polished. Why? Well, easy. I want to be pretty and polished. Look good, feel good. Do I feel ugly and sloppy when I’m not wearing heels? No. In fact, I’m writing this in my pajamas and it’s one o’clock in the afternoon. (Yes, I may do a series of posts on Real Writers, Real Lives, sometime, but I digress.) I don’t feel put together; I recognize I’m not going to turn any heads like this – but that’s okay. I don’t dress up because I want to turn any heads! I don’t feel worthless or incapable because I don’t look “good.” (Let’s not even get into what that means.)
Worth is internal. If you’re conflating your identity with your appearance, you’re not using an internal compass; you’re allowing the transient and unrealistic pressures of society to determine your worth – chances are you prescribe to society’s ideas of what looks good, whether or not you can ever fit into such a tiny, rigid box.
Merriam-Webster defines worth as the value of something. As a unique human being, you are inherently valuable. Nothing anyone says or thinks about you changes that. Only you can be you; you are your own person, and you exist in this world – a tangled mass of experiences and their reverberations. You make a difference to this world just by being in it. That is not without value; it must have value or what are we doing here at all?
But you have to believe it first.
And if that’s true (and it is), then what you look like doesn’t matter.
April 18, 2012 § 1 Comment
You have to start somewhere. The only true definition of a beginning is that it’s a starting point. We tend to use it as a level, too: beginner, intermediate, advanced, usually in reference to a skill. And typically, that correlates to the amount of time you’ve done a thing, right? Beginners are just starting out and so on.
But it doesn’t always. One can be a novice writer for years, and one could write their first book and sell it in a major deal in under a year. What gives? Why is there a discrepancy?
As I mentioned on Monday, I’m totally a beginning dancer. I’ve only been at it a month, and I am BAD. (No, really, really BAD.) Everyone says practice makes perfect. Practice is the key.
I’m not the only one! Justine, one of my inspirations, has written about this idea, although of course I can’t find the post. She argues, and I agree, that it is not the act of practicing that improves your skill. It’s mindful practice. Doing the same thing over and over again wrong is just going to keep you a beginner, and it’ll be even harder because you’re ingraining bad habits!
The trick is to keep pushing yourself as a beginner. My preferred method of learning anything is to jump into the deep end and start swimming, and eventually I get up to speed. It works for me; it may not work for you. But it’s the easiest way to make sure I’m challenging myself, and that’s what turns a beginner into an intermediate sooner than later. So, yes, write every day. But don’t be content to churn out pages! Work on the prose on the page, work on detecting when you’re writing a scene you don’t even need, etc. There are ways.
You can be a perpetual beginner. There are two ways of looking at it: either you’re a hobbyist, which is fine, or you’ve stagnated, which is not. Stagnation kills. Stagnation frustrates. Stagnation makes me ask, why are you bothering? Hobbyists can inadvertently go from beginner to intermediate, etc., but stagnation is when you’re going through the motions of something. It’s become rote, you’re not doing it simply for the love of it like a hobbyist, you’re only doing it to do it, or because it’s what you’ve done. In other words, you get lazy. Lazy is the opposite of mindful practice and gets you, literally, nowhere in life.
So, I’m going practice my swing dancing, and ask the really good dancers to dance so they can give me tips, and hopefully I won’t be abysmal for very long. Eventually the muscles remember what you keep making them do – so make sure you’re making them do the right things, and often, and in increasing complexity.
April 16, 2012 § 1 Comment
In my quest to try things I think I might like, I accepted a friend’s offer to go to swing dancing about a month ago.
Oh my stars, is it fun. I am abysmal, having been at it only a month, but still have so much fun. The local scene is pretty good, apparently. Having tried lindy hop, blues, and blues that’s pretty much just jazz, my favorite is (no surprise) lindy! I used to do musical theatre so I’m down with the more structured, choreographical style.
Here is photographic evidence (and to anyone who knows what they’re doing, you could clearly see by my foot placement in half these photos that I don’t know what I’m doing, if I posted all the photos, which I’m not). This is me dancing with my friend Sloan this past Tuesday night. That’s the other thing about it: dapper guys and having an excuse to dress up.
So, what’s something new and fun you’ve tried recently? Do you swing dance at all? What’s your favorite style? Any tips for a beginner except just keep going and eventually your muscles will remember the damn triple step?
April 13, 2012 § Leave a Comment
This book. You guys. THIS BOOK. Guh.
Why this book? I can’t point out any flaws. The storytelling in this is so seamless. There is no lazy writing; she never lets the story cut corners. The writing is gorgeous, the characters are wonderfully drawn – which is a feat since they aren’t human. Akiva especially, since he was bred as a soldier.
This is the book that has made me swear off reading in public. I only read books I love, so I really get into them. I gasp, I wave my arms, I sputter. I was reading this book in Rittenhouse Square and had a man come up and ask me if I were alright and should he call someone.
Who should read this book? I hate that essentially this book gets summed up as “teen paranormal romance,” because when you think of that phrase you aren’t doing it justice at all. This book is smart. And it’s also not even about the romance, there just is one. This book is what Twilight should have been.
April 11, 2012 § 5 Comments
So. Self-hate. We all have it to some extent. We’re hardest on ourselves. We don’t forgive the tiniest gaffs in ourselves when we’ll overlook huge mistakes by others. The Bible talks about taking the plank from your own eye before pointing out your brother’s speck, and we do that, sure, but frequently we just jam more planks at our faces.
I used to struggle with this a lot. As someone who suffered from crippling depression and who still suffers from crippling anxiety, self-hate was a given. I hated the problems I had, I hated that I had no control over them, or that I failed at what I could control. I didn’t think I was worth anything to anyone, and certainly didn’t deserve any better. I know a lot of people can relate to that, even if you wouldn’t say hate outright.
I don’t struggle with this one anymore. (In fact, now I’m actively trying to check my ego. Life is a funny thing.) I didn’t do any kind of miracle therapy. I started thinking positive thoughts. I’m sure this is a general form of therapy, but I never had any plan formally. So, I would just tell myself I was awesome (not out loud). I would surround myself with people who loved me and would make sure I took care of myself. I would give myself permission to vent all over them, and then ask if they needed me to shut up, and because they loved me they would say, you’re fine, keep going, and I would. I stopped second-guessing everything – things were what they were. And slowly, very slowly, I began to objectively see that my life was pretty good. From there, I was able to internalize that my life was *my* life, and I had something to do with it being awesome, and therefore I was kind of awesome. It finally occurred to me that I had this awesome life and the only thing holding me back from enjoying it was myself, which was kind of weird, so I gave myself permission to be happy. No, really, I actually told myself that.
I also tried the fake it till you make it method of pretending I was hot shit until other people thought I was hot shit, and so then I was. Because that’s a cyclical ego boost – if other people think you’re cool, thus you are cool, then more people think you’re cool. Etc. Talking kindly to myself was really the backbone of the change. If I didn’t get done what I needed to, I told myself it did not mean I was a failure, I could do the things tomorrow, and maybe today I just needed that nap. “It’s okay” is kind of my new motto, despite all the motivational quotes I adore. Have a slice of chocolate cake for dinner? You know what, go head, tomorrow’s a running day. Feel sick from eating cake for dinner? Lie down for a while. The writing will be there when you get up. I really just needed to lighten up. Maybe for you it’s the opposite, maybe for you it’s stop eating chocolate every time you sit down, or, maybe you should close twitter for half an hour every day. Start small, but be kind.
Life is complex. Life is hard. You only get one, and you have to get through it. You may remember me talking about superjess and how I just had to get THROUGH my workout, I didn’t have to be the best runner ever. Life is a lot like that. If you’re getting through it, we call that a win. Tackling my self-hate truly began simply by being nicer to myself.
That doesn’t mean I don’t hold myself accountable, by the way. It’s not like anything goes and I’m awesome. I fuck up. I *fuck up.* And it hurts, and I hurt people. And I apologize and I have to forgive myself, and maybe I do and maybe I don’t, but I don’t have to entangle my self-worth with that. I can still be a good person who made a mistake. Most people would agree that that’s a description of most other people. So why not themselves?
Don’t let yourself give in to feelings of low self-worth or even hatred. It’s an excuse, really, to not take responsibility for the successes in your life. It’s easier to own the failures. You’ve already failed, you’re already at the bottom. But if you’re not a failure, you could lose something. You could stop succeeding, you could then become one. It’s easier to accept when you’re already at the bottom than the loss of getting there. There’s no ping-ponging between okay and not okay. You’re just not okay, and you can accept it. And the other part of it is that what if you’re doing your best and you still fail? The self-hate will be right, then, won’t it? NO. No, a million times no. If you’re doing the best you can, you’re succeeding. You are living your life in the only way one can: wholly. Self-hate says don’t even try. Says your best isn’t good enough. Maybe it’s cos I’m a writer but I think semantically self-hate’s got that wrong – your best is just that – the very best you can do, to the best of your knowledge. If you’re giving that, you can’t give anything else. You can’t give any more.
Self-hate cuts you off before you even get going. Don’t let it. Be kind to yourself. If you have to write a list of things about you that are worthwhile, do it. Keep it private, or if you need to, ask friends what they like about you and compile their answers. If you’re having trouble looking directly at yourself, start externally and work your way in: say, you have a job and a best friend. Well, you’re at least a competently functional member of society. I’m not even joking: the bar can be as low as you need it to be to get over it, then keep raising it. But do keep raising it. When you catch yourself thinking you’re a mess, you need to separate that thought: are you a mess or are you a person in a messy situation? the latter, yes? well then stop equating yourself with your circumstances. language matters, if you’re reading my blog chances are you believe that. so USE your language.
This topic means a lot to me because I do believe that the thing that holds us back most in our lives is ourselves, not our circumstances. and because having been there and now been here, I can tell you where I’d rather be. and because it’s hard to love people who don’t love themselves, because you can see the ways they’re awesome that they won’t admit. So on that note, if you’re friends with anyone at all, don’t forget to tell them things you like about them. why you’re their friend. maybe their self-esteem is just fine, they’ll be glad to hear it. and maybe their self-esteem isn’t, and you’ve just given them something to hold on to.
The latter point is where I’m at now, having friends who don’t love themselves, and it’s opening up a whole new area of this topic for me. I’ve only struggled with it myself and not been able to see past my own issue. Now I can see it in my friends, and it makes me upset. Think of it this way: you like me; you think I’m smart and have good sense and impeccable taste, right? If I choose to be your friend and love you, chances are my judgment didn’t suddenly swan dive. More than likely, you are an awesome person I want to be around. Don’t devalue my choice by refusing to believe that.
You are a good person. Yes, you, whoever you are. I may not know you personally, but I believe this. You are worthwhile. You have talents and above all, you are lovable. The first person who should get to love you is you.
April 9, 2012 § 1 Comment
Short post today. They’ll be like this for a while. I’m really busy offline – not just personally but writing! My writing schedule has blown up as AFTER YOU gets closer to production. I’m finishing the edits on that and drafting a new novel at once. Then I have another novel I need to overhaul. My writing for the new few months is covered, and I will be busy busy! Add to that my part-time job at Barnes and Noble, and a stab at a social life, and the internet is going to get shafted. I may cut blogging back to just Mondays and Wednesdays for a while, but I’ll let you know if I do!
I love the new season, I love the vitality it brings; I always feel like I’m just surviving winter, but once Spring hits, it’s productivity and looking forward and being more than. Spring is an invitation. The weather is warming up, there’s more sunlight; what will you achieve with all that extra time and ability to get out? It’s a promise: if you just buckle down, Jess, think of all the things you can do.
So, I’m off to do them.
April 4, 2012 § 3 Comments
The first Wednesday of every month, lovelies Bria and Abby and I talk about the same topic from each of our differing perspectives. Check out their posts (blog links in sidebar) and show some love. This month is an open topic: What’s the ONE THING you want everyone to know about writing?
It’s the best job in the world…. but it’s still a job.
I’m very lucky. I’m very, very, insanely lucky. I get to spend my days making stuff up. I get to craft the perfect witty comeback to that backhanded insult. I get to fall in love daily. I get to defeat evil and make a difference in a world – every day, from my desk. I love doing it, and I get paid to do it. What could be better? For me, not much. I’m also fortunate enough that right now, writing is my primary income.
So here’s where people forget, or hold writers to a different standard than everyone else: writing in my primary income, which means writing is my job. It’s amazing and perfect and I’m lucky, but it’s a job. And it’s an independent, self-employed job at that. Which means I have no boss giving me projects, or following-up and checking my progress. I have no routine office I go to for forty hours a week. It’s just me and wherever I set up my computer, and if I don’t bother doing that, I won’t hit my deadlines and then I don’t get paid.
It means that sometimes I don’t want to write, and I have to. It means that, like any other job, there are parts that frustrate me – but this is what I mean about a double standard: I’m not allowed to talk about that.
When you get an agent/sell a book/hit the bestseller list/anything at all that looks like success, you lose your right to complain and that’s not fair. I’ve already lost count of the number of times I’ve said something about how editing is eating my brain, omg, and just had the (usually an aspiring writer) other person say something akin to, “At least you have an editor to revise for!”
Okay. I get that you’re trying to help me look on the bright side. And I get that I am incredibly lucky and in a somewhat enviable position being able to do this. I really do: see the first part of my One Thing; this IS the best job in the world. But sometimes to deal with things, we just want to vent a little. We just need to commiserate that, you know, we’re a little tired. When the only response you get to that is basically that you’re not allowed to complain because you’ve made it, it’s invalidating. No, Professional Writer, you’re not allowed to struggle. We’ve set up a worldview that says successful people don’t have problems, or they’re successful because they can easily, breezily dispatch their problems. Or, more true, that complaining is a sign of ingratitude. It can be, but it’s not always.
I don’t talk about writing with people who don’t have book deals as much anymore, as far as writers, or with non-writers in general. It’s kind of like complaining about the overtime you have to put in to someone unemployed. You can’t really expect sympathy, even though your complaints are reasonable.
This whole post probably sounds like an ungrateful, entitled bitch post, and aspiring writers everywhere will hate me for it. That’s not my intent. What I’m saying is, everyone, no matter what stage you’re at, struggles, and they should be allowed to, and not made to feel like that’s inappropriate. We’re all writers. If you’re aspiring, think about the struggles you have: do you expect them to go away once you sign a contract? It’s not like contracts have magical properties that imbue in the writer a better grasp of pacing or the ability to revise for days without sleep (most of us already come equipped with that one anyway). If you’re a non-writer, you generally have no idea at all what goes into making a book, so cutting us off at the legs when we complain is even more a disservice. It’s grueling.
Writers know how lucky we are. Every time I sit down to open up Word, I get a little thrill. I don’t often lose sight of the fact I made a childhood dream come true. There’s perpetually an awe about it, in myself, a pinch-me sense. But the reality is, sometimes work is still work.
April 2, 2012 § Leave a Comment
Just a head’s up – AFTER YOU is coming to a Kindle near you next summer. Which I guess means, by the way, I have a release date! We can all start counting down to JULY 11, 2013* for the wonderfulness. And if you have a Kindle and would like to PRE-ORDER a copy, you can actually do that, right here.
I’m sending back the penultimate version to Editor of Awesome Kate this week and then just one more tiny go-over before we move into that foreign land called production. I have lamented not being there yet and now, of course, I’m all, OMG BUT IT’S NOT PERFECT and such, because that’s how we writers are.
(*Date is, of course, subject to change. This IS publishing, folks.)