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28 October 2010

Tips to Avoid a Novel Distaster

Unless of course, disaster is your thing. In that case, you can stop reading.

As many of you know, NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writer's Month) is soon to be upon us. There will be thousands of otherwise sane (*snicker*) bloggers writing their fingers to a pulp during the month of November. While there will be no time for editing during this process, the finished result will, most likely (read: DEFINITELY) require some revision.

We writer's read all sorts of sage advice: read great books, write daily, lather, rinse, repeat. And while this is all excellent and most needed (especially the rinse part), we're kind of tired of the monotony of it.

Well, I stumbled upon something rather...wait for it...NOVEL!

Yes, that was necessary.

Ahem

About.com has this marvelous little ditty written by author Kris Saknussemm called "Five Tips to Avoid Total Disaster as a Novelist". While they may be obvious at their core, the delivery is most refreshing. I especially enjoyed #5:

Unless you are willing to face the unreasonable in yourself -- unless you are willing to entertain some strange notions (and deal with them when they stick around) -- unless you are willing to get lost, confused and even terrified -- then what you’re doing won’t have any meaning.

Wander on over. It'll only take a minute. You might even learn something. I know I did :)

Happy Wanderings,
Jen

27 October 2010

New Website Worth the Wandering



Ok, how many of you spend more time at work daydreaming than actually working? You know who you are! And I'm not talking about those Great American Novel day dreams either.

I have a confession. It's not so secret. If you've ever spent more than five minutes in conversation with me you'd know I LOVE to travel. That I would love to travel 300 days out of the year. Seriously. No joke.

In the course of this daydreaming (between the howling phones and droning space heater) I found a most marvelous diversion:

Briefcase to Backpack

It's a neat little place that tells the stories of REAL people taking time off to REALLY travel. How did I find them? Heck if I remember, but the site which directed me there talked about the sad fact that Americans don't travel or have the luxury of regular holidays or the opportunity for career breaks and sabbaticals .Sure , we can quit our jobs, but there's no security that we'll have it when we get back. Or the simple fact we aren't given vacation time (or enough of a pay check to put aside for vacation).

Things are different in different places. This I know to be true. But how much healthier and happier of a people would we be if our society endorsed breaks, vacation, time off in general?

Until that time, here's a nice little website to help with your wanderlust. It might also encourage you to make some daring travel plans of your own!!

Happy wandering,
Jen

26 October 2010

NaNo Panic in the Air



Just a quick writing related, non-yak butter tea related post :) I'm feeling a bit better, but now my tendinitis has decided it wants to make it virtually impossible to use my right arm. Nice! Thank God I'm (somewhat) ambidextrous. It certainly makes typing a bit of a challenge!

And just in time for NaNo too. Yippee.

No, my NaNo work won't be about food (though the probability of butter tea or deep fried spiders ending up in a future work is quite high). I'm letting my dark side out to play with some supernatural fiction. Definitely looking forward to that.

Any more NaNos out there? Seek me out and buddy me if you are so inclined :) I'm hiding out over there as JChandler :)

Why do we do this every year? Because what better way to get a novel written than the constant time crunch pressure of thirty days and knowing that 1,000s of other writers are watching?

Madness, plain and simple.

21 October 2010

All in All...

...I'm doing okay. I haven't been able to do any cooking, due to health and time restraints. Thankfully, my fabulous husband has been doing all the cooking. Tibetan, however, has not been on the menu. Seems I just can't get him to cook up any yak burgers or butter tea. Ah well.

That being said, I'm hoping to be back to posting next week. The plan was to trek through Tibet, Nepal and Bhutan during October. Alas, that isn't going to happen. However (and this is a BIG however), there is the possibility that I can do some summarizing of the three countries cuisines next week. Seeing as it's the last week in October, it's my last big hurrah to get to India by November. And I KNOW we can cook up some Indian food (because even if I'm still down and out, my husband cooks some MEAN chicken curry!).

I just wanted to post a quick update so you'll know where this little blog stands. I miss it, I miss you guys. I'm trying to research a new book idea that I'm tackling for NaNo next month at work and that, combined with work obligations, compounded by CFS/Adrenal Stress Disorder, isn't lending me much time for the more enjoyable pursuits of blog browsing :)

But I am working on a new manuscript.
And I AM going to continue this long trek across the continents.

Perhaps I bite off more than I can chew, but the truth of the matter is, I'm not happy if I don't have several burners lit at once. I just can't function as a productive member of creative society sitting at a desk all day, staring into cyberspace oblivion whilst deleting 500 names from a database, listening to people tell me I should tell those they wish to speak to to get off the other line and talk to them instead because they're just as important. That last part is true. Word for word. CA-RAZY.

So, in case your wondering, the blog project, the new manuscript, the health and work issues aren't all that's brewing in the aether. It's become a balancing act, however, and the things that just aren't as important are winning the battle.

But they won't win this war.

Take care, dear bloggers. We shall meet again soon.

18 October 2010

Quick post

Hello dear readers!

I know I haven't been very active in blog-ville lately. I've been under the weather since last Wednesday. Do forgive the absence both here and in reading/commenting on your blogs. I miss your delightful posts!

Hopefully I'll be up and running at full capacity in a day or two!

Cheers!
Jen

14 October 2010

It's a Conspiracy I Tell Ya!


(photo found here)

They're everywhere! They found me in China, hounded my steps, haunted my dreams. I thought I'd left them behind but noooo-they're in Tibet too!

What on earth am I blabbering about?

Dumplings.

No joke. They're here.

Ok, so they aren't called dumplings. They have a better name. A name that kind of makes me snort when I say it. In Tibet, the little meat or veg stuffed dough balls are called...

momos

Yep. Momos. I love it. And I'm going to make some. Soon.

There's more recipes out there for Tibetan food than I thought! Momos, noodle and potato soup, fried bread, sauces, desserts.

Oh. And guess what else I found?

A recipe for butter tea.


(photo found here)

I doubt it will be made with yak butter (there's a shortage of yak this time of year in Georgia) but I'll make due with what I have. I'll let you know how it tastes. If it went down or if it gets sprayed all over the kitchen.

There's a noodle soup called Then Thuck that is made with hand pulled noodles. Sounds fun (and perhaps video worthy?).

I hope your week is going well, dear reader. Mine's been a bit...eh...well...we'll leave it at that. I promise I won't spend weeks making dumplings. I mean momos :). Just one post. Then I'm on to other dishes.

You know.

Like butter tea.

*grin*


(photo found here)

11 October 2010

My Heart and My Hands

My heart and my mind have been here, friends. They have. I think about travel (the real and the virtual kind) and food (always the real kind ;)); they permeate my dreams. I'm always wondering what marvelous culinary concoction I'll discover next. Something I can share here. Something I can cook at home. My hands, however, have been entering quick text for program codes since Tuesday of last week. Hence the unplanned absence. If the posts seem a bit erratic (or rather, more erratic than usual), you now know why.

I'm trying not to get frustrated. You know how it is: you have all these plans, these ideas and they sit...right...there...just out of reach.

I had a couple of free minutes this morning, before the madness, so I'm going to eek out some tasty Tibetan tidbits :).

The main thing I'm discovering about Tibetan food is that it's spicy. As in HOT. They like their food on fire! Which is just fine with me. As long as it has flavor, I can handle the heat (well, that's almost true. There was this one time my husband doubled the curry in an Indian dish...).

Tibetan food has been influenced in some ways by it's neighbors, India and China, but it makes use of many ingredients that are indigenous to the Himalayan Mountains. Their cuisine is similar to that of Nepal (which we'll visit next). Barley seems to be a staple in Tibetan food and there are very few vegetables. Kind of hard to grow veg at 16,000 feet! The barley is made into a dough called tsampa and it is usually rolled into noodles or made into dumplings called momos. Yak, goat and mutton are commonly used in meat dishes. Meat is either dried (out in the elements where the extreme cold kills any bacteria) or stewed with with spices and potatoes. Mustard seed is grown in the country and is featured heavily in their cuisine. Also, yak butter, yogurt and cheese are eaten regularly. There is usually some dairy served at every meal.

So far, the most interesting item I've found is salted butter tea. From what I understand, black tea is boiled and then churned with yak butter and salt. They also make a sweet tea with black tea, fresh milk and sugar. I get the feeling the salted butter tea is faintly reminiscent of a cup of lassi I had in India*. If it is, my stomach is already turning somersaults. Still, it sounds interesting... now if I can just get my hands on some yak butter.

That's about all I have time for today! Not too shabby, huh? I'm off to clatter in some more code. Yay. Have a fabulous Monday and hopefully we'll soon be cooking up some Tibetan dishes and yak butter tea. Mmmmm...

Jen

*a side note about lassi. I have found multitudes of recipes for sweet mango lassi and I've heard countless testimonies of how yummy and refreshingly sweet lassi is. That's wonderful. I'm sure it is. However, I had salted lassi OR a similar drink called chaas. It is NOT sweet. It looked like homemade lemonade (cloudy, rather yellow, with stuff floating in it). It did not, however, taste like homemade lemonade. It tasted like a cup of the Atlantic mixed with soured milk.

06 October 2010

Into the Wild


(photo found HERE)

It took a bit longer to traverse the mountain ranges from China to Tibet (read: work got crazy and I was rather burnt out the past few days), and for that I apologize.

Tibet has always held this mystical power over me. These next three countries, in fact, have carried my imagination since I was a child. “The Land of the Thunderdragon”, Kathmandu, Shangri-la. They exist, in reality; all I need is a plane ticket and about a year and a half to explore them.
Or I could just blog about them, and their food. I’d rather board the next flight out, but let’s face it: the Internet is free and plane tickets into Kathmandu are not. At least, not that I know of. If any of you have any tips on free airfare to the Himalayas, I’m listening!


(map found HERE)

We’ll start in Tibet. It butts up against China and will act as a doorway between destinations. Tibet is roughly the size of Western Europe and is currently occupied by the People’s Republic of China. Tibet’s history is a turbulent one and the people there still suffer under an oppressive government. If you’re interested in learning more about Tibet in general or the fight for basic human rights for the Tibetan people, check out freetibet.org.

I had the honor of meeting several monks from Tibet years ago while in college. Our cultural department brought in a group of Tibetan monks who performed haunting music, several traditional Tibetan dances and told stories in their native tongue. The Telfair Art Museum in Savannah hosted a mandala event and I was fortunate enough to be studying Art History at the time and was required to take a peek at the creation of the mandala. Mandala is the Sanskrit word for circle and is used in Hindu and Buddhist traditions as a means of spiritual teaching, prayer, and meditation. Wikipedia has an excellent entry on mandalas.


(photo found HERE)


The one I saw being created was at least twelve feet across and was “painted” using colored sand. The monks prayed and chanted as they created it, asking for peace on earth. I got to chat with some young monks who were gracious and very joyful, eager to answer my questions about their home and their religion. Sadly, all of these monks were in exile from their home in Lhasa, living at the time in northern India.

When the mandala was completed, a blessing was said over it and the public was invited to walk with the monks several blocks from the museum to the Savannah River for a blessing ceremony. A friend of mine joined me and we watched as the monks chanted and prayed over Savannah while dumping the sand from the beautiful mandala into the river, praying for peace over our city and for the entire world. It was a very moving experience and I’m very thankful I got to participate in such an interesting cultural event.


(photo found HERE)

Since Chinese occupation, the Tibetan religious community has lived in exile in northern India and in Nepal. Their culture, traditions and language are under constant threat of extinction. I was a bit anxious as to whether or not I’d be able to find anything on Tibetan food but LO! The Internet doth prove itself once more.

There’s not a lot (and I honestly don’t know how much of it I’ll be able to reproduce at home), but I do want to share with you what I’ve found.


(photo found HERE)

Tibet is a fascinating country with beautiful traditions that sadly carry the burden of persecution. I hope you’ll join me as I wander the virtual Tibetan realm. I’m really looking forward to this part of our adventure.


(photo found HERE)

04 October 2010

Two Reasons (a choose your own excuses story)

I'm not posting today (well, not a REAL post).

Reason #1: I'm overwhelmed, stressed, and my eyes are starting to melt...I've been staring at this computer at work for far too long.

Reason #2: My trek from China into Tibet is taking longer than anticipated. Our Sherpa vanished, a tribe of yeti have been stalking us and an avalanche has cut off our only way back to safety. We must press on, hopefully making it into Tibet and the safety of Lhasa before the sun sets.

Now excuse me while I go tend to the campfire :)
~Jen