Archives for posts with tag: writing

This little essay was prompted by a blog I read about having a space of one’s own to create, however messy it may be. Thanks to Angel at I recommend her blog and its downloadable patterns to anyone who seeks inspiration for sewing projects and more. She’s a good writer and clever crafter.

My Beautiful Messes

By Beth Kalet

The little plastic Barbie shoe I kept beside my computer — as anchor, reminder, curious icon of a wrongheaded worldview — both comforted me and confounded me. That tiny high heel landed on my desk like so many other irrelevant items, tossed there by my kids or scooped up from the floor and deposited on the nearest surface by me in a half-hearted attempt at cleaning.

But even as I had then yet to master wearing heels, it was that single doll shoe that told me simply: life has its own path. Sometimes a shoe is just a shoe and not a symbol of conformity. And also: Cleaning up is perhaps overrated. It’s creativity that counts!

One day I would learn to wear and even enjoy wearing heels. One day things might be neater. But for now, for my two daughters, flexing our minds was what counted. We’d play, draw, build, sew and create together endlessly and joyfully.

So often work space and play space overlapped. It was not always a happy thing, especially when that creative play got in the way of my ability to concentrate on work. But I am glad now — so very grateful to my younger self, who allowed it — that play and work, that disorganization and reorganization factored together into my life.

Now my children are grown, leading independent lives. I have my own space aplenty. One room for my office, one for sewing and crafts and yet another for lounging (and also overflow.) Am I neater than before? I like to think so but honestly, I’m not sure it’s 100 percent possible for me. Not when there’s baby quilts to be pieced, fuzzy hats to be stitched, books to be written and ideas to be sketched out.

Surely a certain amount of order puts me in a state conducive to creative dreaming. But order alone is not stimulating. I need those mementos of days past. The Barbie shoe, the Gumby and the Troll dolls, the little slips of paper with childish drawings, the notes to Mommy and all that wonderful detritus. My mess is beautiful to me.


Here's my current sewing and crafts room... with projects aplenty all in progress.

Here’s my current sewing and crafts room… with projects aplenty all in progress.

Gotta have my Trolls and photos nearby.

Gotta have my Trolls and photos nearby.


Hello friends,

I am very pleased to announce that my story “Out of Work” has been published in the magazine Carrier Pigeon, and beautifully illustrated by Jensine Eckwall.

Check it out at:

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!


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. 


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:


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!


This morning The Cursing Mommy drifted into my thoughts and I tried with difficulty to dredge up some facts about her. Doesn’t she have a video on Youtube? She was caught in one of those Paparazzi style videos that reverberate around the Internet? She is actually a self-styled product tester? A sick self-promoter with her own TV show?

Ultimately I recalled that she is a fictional character I’ve been reading about now and then in a New Yorker column by Ian Frazier. She is amusing. And I only have to spend a few minutes with her. I don’t have to commit to following her on Twitter or a weekly show. I don’t have to fret that she’s ruining her life and her fictional children’s lives. Precisely because she is fictional. And also because I can choose not to read her now. But of course I do. It’s just one page.

Sometimes it’s like that. Sometimes I think that free-associating is a wonderful thing; sometimes it’s a devil. That’s good fiction for you: It’s sticky. When you are not consciously thinking about it and it leaps at you – when it inhabits your thoughts, moves in and hangs out, overtaking the important stuff in your real life that you have to remember and keep track of; when it gets in the way. That’s when you know it’s good fiction.

I like to think there are cozy niches in my brain inhabited by the characters I don’t want to let go. It’s a comfort sometimes to imagine they are living with me. That they haven’t disappeared just because I have not read them into life lately.

And even though you and I may both love, say, The Little Prince or Heathcliff or Conor Larkin (See “Trinity” by Leon Uris), my Conor is mine and your is yours. Right?

Sometimes knowing The Little Prince is close by is comforting, even to an adult.

Just now, I hunted down my copy of “The Little Prince” to re-read it and make sure I am still sympatico with the winsome fictional prince. I am. And happy, too, to be reacquainted with him and with Saint Exupery, his creator.

A few digressions:

Inside the book, between pages 30 and 31, I found an index card bookmark. On one side I had written: Hat Day, Pizza Day. The other side was addressed to my daughter, in her own handwriting, and said: “bring invatiteions (sic) to school and don’t forget.”

My copy of the paperback was marked 75 cents. As an aside to this aside, my Macbook Pro keyboard does not have a visible cent-sign marked on any key.

I also keep a companion copy of the book in French. I must have read it in its original language once upon a time, possibly for a course, and it’s nice to see myself in my mind’s eye struggling over it in French, turning to the English version for translation. For the record the cover price on this one is 95 cents.

But back to the original topic: digressions. I had intended this piece to be about how I’ve been baking up a storm lately and how one recipe has led me to another to another and how I’ve made the following things, one after the other: Fruit cobbler, spicy brownies, ice cream, meringue cookies, frozen yogurt, corn muffins with strawberries.

But I’ll save all that for another time. I think Ian Frazier has a new installment of The Cursing Mommy. Image