Monday, February 28, 2011

It's been eight wonderful years.

Eight years ago, I made a decision that changed my life, my mind, and plastered a smile on my purse. Well, sort of. I quit smoking! This is the story of how it happened.

I sat at home, watching a movie, drowning my frustration about life in alcohol and texting with a guy I was madly in love with. It went back and forth and back and forth and....
He lived about three hours away and our mobile phones were basically our connection. I lit another cigarette and inhaled deeply, closing my eyes, willing for my mobile to announce the next message. It stayed quiet. Another drink, a movie and some fags later, I looked at the almost empty packet. Only seven left.
The cigarette-machine in front of my house didn't hold my favourite brand. There was petrol station just around the corner, but I couldn't be bothered to get dressed and present myself to the public in my drunken state.

The weird thing is: I would've gone to top up my phone, texting was more important to me than smoking that evening. That's when somewhere inside me, a switch flipped. I took another long look at the packet of fags, then said aloud, 'I'll enjoy the remaining cigarettes and after that, will never touch one again.'

I kept my promise and didn't regret my decision.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

I declare WAR!!!

You see, I do like to share food with friends, in fact, I'm a very good hostess, or so I've been told. Now that only applies for invited guests. But I have acquired a rather unwanted flatmate: a teeny tiny dark-grey mouse.

It lives in my kitchen and I hate it! I heard it already a few weeks back, when it run behind the walls, problem is: if you have one you always have more of them. Last year, my neighbour 'borrowed' her cat which lives with her friend. And shortly after that, we were mouse-free. This year, I looked out for droppings and didn't find any and was relieved.

Then, I went into the kitchen the other evening and I just saw something that looked like a tail disappear into the cooker. (I've got one of these museum pieces: a Bellini cooker). No kidding.

Haven't heard anything, so I thought my eyes might have tricked me. Yesterday, I, again, went into the kitchen and when I turned on the light, the little bugger stuck out its nose, then decided it's better to flee. Unfortunately, my reaction time wasn't good enough. I grabbed a pot to cover it, but it ran away. How can a l creature as little as that run so fast? Amazing. I was angry, because they are dirty, full of germs and leave their dropping all over the place.
A few minutes later, I found it, running on the floor, along the wall. Oh that's my opportunity, I thought, and chased it, but it escaped. I learned they can make themselves really thin and get through the smallest gaps. It went straight towards the living room, hiding behind a board. When I disturbed it again, it ran back into the kitchen, under the fridge and was gone.

Later, I found the live-catching mouse-trap to be closed, but no mouse inside. Now I'm declaring WAR to this animal. It will go down, no matter what! I have my hands full with my iguana, if I wanted another pet, I'd go and get one, you hear me, teeny tiny cheeky mouse that squats in my kitchen??

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Tip of the week:

Some of the things that annoy me most is that we live in a throw-away society. There are people starving in the world, yet we bin a massive amount of food. Left-overs aren't used for the next day's snack, fruits that have some small brown patches are considered as not edible and thrown away. I find this ridiculous.

What do you do if you have an almost black banana lying around? Well, I could bet that many just toss it into the bin. No need for that; use it.

They make a wonderful sweet milkshake; for breakfast, in between meals or just for fun.

1 banana, a cup of milk, blend. Done. Enjoy! And yes, I should have cleaned that table beforehand, sorry.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

When gaining editing skills means losing the desire to read

How come, you might wonder. Well, I'm inclined to tell you, because I think you know exactly how it feels like. Since March 2009 I've written three books. Now you might think it's not many, but I'm quite happy with this. I'm also published as a contributor to the anthology Words to Music, which is available on Amazon now. All profit goes to several charities. Yes, that's a hint. :-)
I've just started the forth, a cook book with a theme, but I still need to do the proofing for my second book, which is the most 'ready' to be published.
The first book needs rewriting, for I'm turning it into a series and the third book, which I don't have on show anywhere, apart from some excerpts, will go through its first edit, too. So I have three books that need work to get them out there, one that needs to be written and I've started a venture that will take up most of my time, let alone another book-project that I'll co-author with a dear friend of mine.

What I find peculiar is that I do have trouble to read, I mean really to enjoy it. It's like my editing skills have killed my desire to let go and step out of my life into the story. As a teen, I used to read stacks of books, always brought home half the library. Even as a slow reader, I got through a vast amount of novels. I would forget eating, sleeping - everything around me. As an adult I continued, perhaps not as many books anymore, but still, I read every night before going to sleep. Since I began to take writing seriously, I stopped. Completely. First, because I was busy with editing my own work, then with editing other people's work, I read, but it was still work, second, because I started writing on my next novel.

But I actually began reading again about a month ago. At the moment I'm reading Eats, shoots and leaves and am enjoying it immensely while learning. I don't have the red pen in my head, I don't roll my eyes and I don't sigh over cliches. I only laugh and nod a lot. It's a wonderful book if you want to learn about punctuation, which was my intention. Every night, I will take time out from my day and read. Even if only a few pages, but I really want to get back to loving a good story, because I always have.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

How to grow bean sprouts.

If you look after a green iguana you want to make sure it get's fed properly. A good variation is of much importance as they are fussy eaters. I remember my big boy being rather complicated when I 'rescued' him about 2.5 years ago. He didn't like eat what I offered, turned up his nose or would ignore it, because he didn't know it. Though it took a while, he's now basically tucking into anything I present him. He's learned I'm a good food provider, the little bugger.

Recently, I decided to dust off my biosnacky germinator and went back to growing my own sprouts again.

Bean sprouts

Not only for the iguana, but also for me. I grow mainly alfalfa, but I also love bean sprouts and purple radish and ordinary salad cress. The iguana loves all of them, so do I. Alfalfa and radish sprouts are brilliant on a salad. I particularly like the radish sprouts on fresh rye or sourdough bread, on PHILADELPHIA cheese with a pinch of salt. Delicious. To grow your own sprouts is also much cheaper, given that the iguana eats so much now, that he's so huge.

Here a comparison, him 2.5 years ago and today:

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Yes, I do like children: preferred marinated and barbecued

Soon, my collection of comical short stories, Excuse me, where is the exit? will be available to download. I need to write another story and make it pretty, then you'll have the chance to get it into your greedy little fingers. Here's another excerpt, fresh from the press, first draft, actually, of my newest piece:

Or when it's time to order razorblades.

You settle down with a tea and a good book, window open to let fresh air into the room when an ear-splitting scream forces your nerve-system to react. You jump into a stand, the hair on your body turning you into a human cactus-impression. When you make an attempt to stick out your head, like a relaxed turtle, you look over to the little yard across the street. Had you known that a nursery would destroy your daily peace when you viewed the flat, you'd not signed the dotted lines, that's for sure. You wonder why it is that children seem to only come in one model: high-pitched voices in loud. It would be so much nicer if they had a knob like a volume control or even a mute-button. They then could giggle, cry, scream and be defiant as much as they like, at least you wouldn't be torn out of your story or die of a heart-attack every time this happens.

When you watch them for a while you wonder how easy to please they are. Running around in circles or hopping on the spot, accompanied by frantic clapping, they shriek and laugh. Will change soon enough, you think. Try to get a few adults to do that. They'd declare you nuts. The scene reminds you to call your friend, mother of one. After two tones, you are greeted by her daughter's voice.

'Hello?' an almost non-audible whisper. Answering the telephone is the exception of the rule. No child is able to say a firm 'hello'. It's usually a long gum-like question, followed by an even longer silence.
'Hi, is mum at home?' you ask as friendly as you can. If you're lucky, you get to speak to the parent. Not this time it seems. You hear a 'click', informing you that the phone has been put down at the other end. The people who are responsible for this girl with the rude behaviour will probably never learn that you called, for the information will not be transferred. Great, you think and dial a second time. If, by any chance, you are lucky enough for your friend to pick up the phone now, you will certainly very soon be interrupted by the infant.
'Hello?' Your friend's voice.
'Hi, it's me,' you answer, relieved you don't have to play this game again. For a whole two minutes you are exchanging news when her daughter is feeling robbed of her attention. You know from experience she will do everything in her power to disturb your conversation. Be it through tugging at mum's clothes, or by falling from whatever height, screaming so loud that you are sure to have gained a tinnitus for life.
'Yes, I think it would be a good.....What now?' shouts your friend, interrupting her speech. In the background you hear the thick tears dropping, literally. You hold the phone a few inches from your ear.
'Sorry, I need to go, she's hurt herself, I need to check on her,' your friend informs you when the crying doesn't stop.
'No problem,' you answer flatly. Life was so easy a couple of years ago.

Frustrated about the abrupt end of the phone call, you go out to do some shopping. This will be the next hurdle....

To read the rest, you will have to be patient until the book comes out. :-)

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Operation weighing successful!

Today, I took Zorro to a nearby vet in order to check on his weight. The reptile specialist I usually go to is too far away and it would be ridiculous to put Zorro through the torture of being stuffed into a bag for hours, traveling through London.

The head nurse was absolutely wonderful, so was the rest of the team. They welcomed my big boy with open arms. (I knew the head nurse was into reptiles as she told me before.) We put him onto the scale and I couldn't believe my eyes. He put on 1.3 kilograms (that's 2.8 pounds) since the last visit at the vet in September. I guess I know now where my money has gone: into good iguana food and plenty of it.

Zorro wasn't really impressed with all the fuss that has been made and wandered around the surgery, investigating each corner; once in a while he would look up at each of us three standing there talking about him. He's now back in his vivarium, immediately climbed his high lazy-hangout, looking at me with suspicion. I think it might take a few hours until he's back to the normal hating me again.

I would like to thank the team of Abbey Vet in Stamford Hill who have allowed me to weigh him, it's essential to keep an eye on it with reptiles, too.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

It's over, finished, done!

My latest project, that is. My novel The Unexpected Serendipity On Novelsite. It's a weird feeling. When I spoke to my friend earlier, I said, I don't know what to do tonight. For the past seven months, my answer has always been: writing. Now, I will have to find a different 'hobby'. But lucky me, there are still some short stories to write for my collection part two.

However, I can't believe it took me so long to write it. There were days when I didn't want to write at all, but then I got this itch to continue, felt guilty when I didn't write at least a paragraph. It was a challenge and despite from often being hard to write, I loved it nevertheless. I've received wonderful critiques from my beta-readers and after a few days break, I'll start with the major edit/rewrite in parts before sending it out to agents/publishers.

Next, I'll be co-authoring a young adult book, which I'm really looking forward to. We did some outlining a while ago and I can see it going really well. Something light and funny, before I go ahead with the next serious manuscript. 

For now, I'll celebrate the finishing of my beloved novel.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Let out the French in you!

The only French thing her is the baguette, to be honest, but I thought it deserves a bit of a pimping up. If you are lazy, can't see pizza anymore or just suffer from hangover, here's a great and delicious grilled baguette, that will pick you up in no time.

 My choice of ingredients is not to everybody's liking, so please adopt accordingly:

Half a broad French baguette (or ciabatta)
iceberg salad 
1 tomato
cooked ham
cheese (Edam)
1 boiled egg
1 big fresh mushroom
sauce of your choice (I used coronation sauce, though I admit the home made version was not successful. Need to improve here.)

Layer all the ingredients onto the lower half of the baguette, shove it all under the grill, even the upper half, so it gets crunchy. Keep an eye on it. When the cheese is melted, take it out, pour the sauce onto it, put the upper half on, crunch it down (otherwise you won't be able to eat it) and enjoy.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

How about another sneak peek?

I'm almost done with the first draft of my novel. I got some really great and useful feedback from my beta readers (thank you so much, guys), and there are some more reviews to come. The next step will be padding out, altering the syntax, tweak and smoothing out - the hardest part of writing. 

Hope you enjoy this excerpt:

Getting up early might win you extra hours, you thought and set the alarm on 5 o'clock. The result is that you are too tired to think. After the drain of working on both jobs, energy has gone out of the window. A nap would be wonderful.
Unfortunately, not the best idea you had since forcing your eyes open this morning. You look at your desk, scanning the surface. The mug with the remainders of coffee and an overfilled
ashtray effusing the disgusting smell of cold smoke, are witnesses of your presence all day.
You get up, take them to the kitchen, empty and clean both, then return, the steam of a hot beverage now heading toward the opened window. The fresh air might just be what you need. Soft summer rain plays a familiar melody on the palm trees. You close your eyes.
Every time you hear this sound, you are distracted, its wonderful calming effect lets your mind wander off into another world. It transports you away from reality, the stress and decisions you procrastinate to make. Though you are not a dreamer, rain is your element.
And while you listen to its quiet drumming, you think of your favourite place you spent so many days in the past few years: the one on the island, the beach where you go when you need to think or want to write. Where you can be alone on this overcrowded planet.
Without any sign or warning, she appears, sharing your daydream. Her mesmerising gaze on you, wanting you to follow her invitation. 'If only I would be strong enough,' you whisper. She smiles, still holding out her hands. 'Don't worry, you will be safe,' she answers.
It feels good to have her here, to see her relaxed features, friendly, caring and full of love. You are in your own little haven, cocooned by the warmth of the one person you would share your deepest thoughts with, share your soul. 'Don't be afraid,' she says.
'I want to,' you reply, 'but I can't move. Like in concrete, your feet are firmly connected to the ground, no matter how hard you try to step forward to get closer to her, the distance doesn't lessen. 'I won't hurt you,' she says, then, with an ear-shattering noise she disappears.
You suddenly open your eyes widely, sit bolt upright, limp arms hurting. You nodded off. And when you pick up the ashtray from the floor, you wish you wouldn't have been brought back, wished you would still be with her, without the fears your dreams have exposed.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

I've discovered something new today.

Okay, it's not exactly new to me, but to drink sorrel as tea is something I never heard of. I smelled it and thought it's rosehip, and actually it tastes very similar, but it's not out of a teabag, it's comes in dried chunks and loose from the market. With a little honey and some orange-cest... let me tell you this is a damn gorgeous drink. Hot in the winter, cold in the summer. I'm so glad I've found it.

After I came home with the big smile on my face, I went straight into the kitchen to nurture another hobby of mine: cooking. Today, it was Thai prawn red curry. Yes, I admit I stole the recipe from Jamie Oliver, but it doesn't matter where you get your inspiration from, as long as you cook from scratch, right?

What's in there?
grilled red peppers
spring onions
kaffir lime leaves
tomato puree
coconut milk
soy sauce
fish sauce
sesame oil
raw prawns

Accompanied by Jasmin rice

Cut everything into tiny pieces, except from the lemon grass and the prawns, of course. If you have a food processor, bang it all in there.

Bring pot with hot water and rice to the boil, and get your wok ready. Fry the prawns until orange, then add the vegetables, stir for 30 seconds. Add the tomato puree, stir another 30 seconds. Then cover with coconut milk, add the soy sauce, fish sauce and sesame oil. Turn down the heat. Important: don't put in too much fish sauce, it has quite a strong taste. Put in the lime leaves. Add as much coconut milk as you like. I don't like it too sweet, just a faint aftertaste on the palate.

Bash the lemongrass and add to the dish, again, stir for 30 seconds, then let the sauce reduce until the rice is ready.

Serve and enjoy.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The iguana's back to hating me and other good news

It's nothing new, that he loves to bite me. The only time I'm allowed to touch him is when he has food right under his nose. Then, he can't be bothered with sinking his teeth into something else. I've discovered that he's very much into tangerines and physalis. Obviously, he gets them as a treat.

I'm also happy to announce that the insurance company, specialising in reptiles, has taken him on. After he cost me over 2k in the past two years, I had enough and applied for a cover. He was turned down back in September, for he had just finished treatment. As you can see, he's perfectly healthy now and I'm a happy owner.

On a different note: I'm officially published. Well, with a short story. Words to Music, an anthology written by authors around the world is available now and Amazon. All money goes to charities. It was great fun to participate and I've just ordered my own copy.
The authors featured in this rare collection are:
J.D. Revene, Geoffrey Thorne, S.P. Miskowski, Dania El Kadi, Dave Loftus, Marcella O'Connor, Shayne Parkinson, Bradley Wind, Dan Holloway, Peter Morin, Eric Mutch, Kay Christine Fenton, Michael Wells, Andrew Meek, Richard P. Baker, T.L. Tyson, Sterling, Anthony Saunders, Robb Grindstaff, Ann Marie Dockstader, Pat Black, Sian O'Leary, Kira Morgana, Patrick Whitaker, Joanne Ellis, Sandie M Zand, Freddie Omm, Greta Van der Rol, Allie Sommerville, Noelle Pierce, Adam Sifre, Suzannah Burke, Phil Van Wulven, Sue Edwards, Cheri Lasota, Suzanne Adams, Kenneth Wayne, Richard Dowling, Heikki Hietala, Amanda Leck and Stella Deleuze.

A wonderful read. Go and check it out.