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Photo album to celebrate my parents’ 60th anniversary

After a short burst of effort, I completed this photo album for my parents’ upcoming 60th anniversary.

I hope it prints as good as it looks on the screen.

And, OK, I admit the project was spurred by the free coupon I got from ShopRite. 

When life gets confusing make brownies.

When I started writing a story tentatively called Reasons to be Happy I don’t think I realized I’d need to invoke that title on a personal level. It’s not about me. It’s about a fictional character whose mother leaves her when she’s 10, and ultimately, after reconciling with that, growing up with an older dad as her single parent and moving on in life, she discovers that she was adopted. So, the mother she pined over was not the first to leave her. And, now as an adult, she must come to terms all over again with the feelings of abandonment she thought she’d successfully pushed aside. At the same time, she unravels the surprising history of her birth mother and the family she might have had.

Geez.. now that I’ve written that synopsis, I feel compelled to just stop this entry and go back to that story. I’d been procrastinating on that one in a way I think is typical of writers. I just open the story and start from the top recasting sentences, editing and re-editing without adding much substance to the story.

 

That said,  Even though I have many reasons now to be sad, to be depressed, to feel hopeless — (desperately ill friends, lack of job, fear of financial ruin) — I remain unable (or should I say unready, if that is a word?) to accept defeat. Not that I’m doing anything heroic about it. I probably should be.

A lot of the blogs I enjoy reading are relentlessly perky. That’s not why I read them though. I read them because they offer me great ideas: patterns for toys or clothing or crazy objects I want to make. Most of these wonderfully cheery creative types seem to be young mothers living in Utah. Go figure! Once in a blue moon I find myself happily reading the creative blog of someone from New York, and I feel somehow more kindred spirit with that East Coaster.

Cynicism is our stock in trade out here. Maybe it’s the weather. 

And now, as Mother Nature wavers in her resolve about whether to bring on the cold or reward us with a few more sunny, warm (temps in the 50s) days, I am once again an East Coaster with a cynical attitude but an inability to really get down. I feel in my heart of hearts that something will change. We will emerge from this purgatory of joblessness. And, while we cannot fix some things we will do our best to appreciate all that is good. 

Crap! That just sounds so Pollyanna… How do I ever reconcile these two aspects? 

How about with a great recipe?

Please make these amazing brownies and feel happy!

Nick’s Brownies

with thanks to my friend Nick K.

3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa

½ teaspoon baking soda

2/3 cup butter

½ cup boiling water

2 cups sugar (you can use 1-3/4 cups)

2 eggs

¼ tsp salt

1-1/3 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350. Grease a 13x9x2-inch baking pan.

Combine the cocoa and baking soda in a bowl. Melt the butter and blend half of it with the cocoa-baking powder mixture. Add boiling water. Stir until mixture thickens. Stir in the sugar, eggs and remaining one-third cup of melted butter. Stir until smooth.

 Add flour, vanilla and salt. Blend completely. Stir in chocolate chips. Pour batter into pan. Bake for 35-45 minutes. When corners start to darken, brownies are done. Cool and then frost with Buttercream Frosting; recipe below.

 Buttercream Frosting

 6 Tablespoons butter (Nick’s recipes call for light butter in both the brownies and frosting, if you want to use it.)

½ cup unsweetened cocoa

2-2/3 cups confectioners sugar

1/3 cup milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

 Melt butter. Transfer to a small bowl and add, a bit at a time: milk, cocoa and confectioners sugar until each is blended in. Beat to spreading consistency. Blend in vanilla. If frosting is too thick, add more milk.

Cut the brownies into small two-bite pieces. They’re very rich and most people feel compelled to make a statement about how they shouldn’t eat so much or whatever, so save them the guilt. If you cut them small, they can eat more!

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Just put this photo in because I am a huge Lincoln fan and I had no photo of these amazing brownies. Trust me. Make them. They’re amazing. 

Orange is working for me! Egads, it’s my first post of 2013 and I’m showing this dynamic photo of a bedroom painted juicy orange… Yep, we’re still reclaiming our house from the damage (not life-threatening) from Hurricane Sandy. Now, we are so close to repainting and color is what we’re after… Thinking of putting this color in the living room!

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I have just a few hours now to say something meaningful about 2012. I’ve been trying to think of a way to approach the topic, to write something sweet, heartfelt but not saccharine. Or to say something momentous in just a few words.

That’s not going to happen so let me give a big thank you to all who’ve inspired me this year. To those new virtual colleagues whose writing, cooking, baking, stitching and artistic turns have given me ideas, encouraged me to keep creating and to try new things. To my old friends and to my family, too, whose continual support I sometimes fail to acknowledge.

 

Thanks to all of you I have self-published a book of my short stories this year.

 

Here’s a link to the site:

 

http://www.blurb.com/search/site_search?search=Beth+Kalet

 

I know I have a lot more to learn about self-publishing and especially about promoting myself and I will get there.

 

Also, thanks to all of you, I’ve enrolled in a graduate program in English and Creative Writing. My first class starts just days from now and I’m very excited. More on that in the future.

 

The vast community of creative people online has become a ready source of inspiration for me. I hope this year I have inspired someone too.

 

Wishing everyone a happy, a healthy and creative new year. All the best for 2013!

 

It started with this.

It started with this.

Then, there was this guy. Primo. Here he is at the beach.
Then, there was this guy. Primo. Here he is at the beach.

That lead to this: Primo's little cousin Charley.

That led to this. Meet Primo’s little cousin Charley.

And along came this guy

And along came this guy… and then!

tableful

When a surprise snowstorm blew through our area last October, and we lost power for several days afterward, I grew enamored of the  silence that enveloped my life. Afterward, I wrote this piece, a version of which was published in the newspapers I was working for at the time.

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about a similar topic: Slowing down and silencing the cacophony in my brain… No, I’m not nuts but there’s a lot of stuff vying for my attention in there and typically I fuel the fire with a continual stream of coffee. You can imagine.

Between those thoughts and the latest threat of strange late-October weather for our area, I’ve dusted off this column and made some changes so it’s a new piece. I look forward to hearing from anyone out there about how you tune out the noise now and then.

In Praise of Silence

Shortly after that crazy October snowstorm blew through here and well into our second evening without power, just as the novelty of doing everything by candlelight was beginning to wear off, I noticed another welcome novelty. It was silence.

A type and quality of soundlessness quite unknown anymore, it was remarkable.

I could almost hear the air. And a relaxing peace, like an exhale, took hold.

Quiet enveloped me as each ambient sound stopped. No more hum of the refrigerator, buzzing light bulbs, thrumming water pump.  No flushing, no phone rings, no answering-machine beeps, no clicks of the light switch, no printer clack. Even the purring of my computer’s inner workings, so vital to me, now temporarily silenced.

All of these sounds we live with; most we don’t even register. They are background noise. That it took me so long to recognize their absence proves to me how quickly I move through my life, how cluttered it is with chores, To-Do lists, yadda, yadda, yadda, blah, blah, blah. Noises that I don’t even hear.

This newfound quiet worked its magic. It said: Slow down. Think. Rest.

This must have been what it was like to live here 100 years ago. Just the sound of the wind, the creaking floorboards under foot, my own breath, in and out. The pace of life had slowed to “real time.” Really.

But then, the power returned. Life resumed where we left off.

And, though I sketched out a column about how much I appreciated the silence, well, things just got busy again. I was never able to marshal my thoughts around the concept. Too many must-do’s pulling me in too many directions.

But on New Year’s Day, an article in The New York Times pulled me back to this theme.  In “The Joy of Quiet,” writer Pico Iyer talks of the emergent need to escape information overload, and how some people have created technology sabbaths, specific days when they put aside the computer, phone, TV, and revert to a more primitive lifestyle: talking, walking, reading. That’s all in the name of disconnecting from our cultural pressures and reconnecting with ourselves. Iyer even mentioned a study done at Intel a few years back in which a group of employees were given “four hours of uninterrupted quiet time every Tuesday morning… They could not use the phone or send e-mail, but simply had the chance to clear their heads and to hear themselves think.”

Iyer talks of those who go on monastic retreats, himself included, and savor the solitude, their distance from our fast-paced world full of sounds, noises and demands upon our thoughts. For me, this kind of quiet world holds great appeal. About a month ago I learned of a silent retreat: No one speaks. Instead, they walk, think, read, do what they wish, but silently. What a beautiful idea. This is something I’d like to try, if just for a few days.

If ever “Tune in, turn on, drop out” needed a revamping, it would be today. When was the last time you tuned out, turned off and dropped in to let yourself think, let your thoughts rove from present to memory to idea and back around again?

Just as I’d recommend a good book or a favorite author, a good recipe or a great restaurant, may I recommend a bit of silence? Unplug, detach and power down for a bit and breathe. If you can think of no place or time so free in your daily grind, here are a few suggestions:

In your car, windows up, radio off, even while driving.

The library.

A park.

The bathtub.

I wish that everyone may find time to reflect, to go noise-free, no sound bites, no iPods, ear plugs, heavy metal or soft rock, but peace and quiet.

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