Monday, August 21, 2017

Creamy Tomato Slow Cooker Chicken

When it comes to cooking, I love quick and easy! Over the summer, my oldest son decided he wanted to cook three meals a week--gourmet meals with Mom's help. We're talking labor intensive with lots of time in the kitchen! The results were wonderful, but crock pot cooking is more my thing. Here's something that sounds really delicious from BettyCrocker.com. Enjoy!


Creamy Tomato Slow Cooker Chicken

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts (about 1 1/4 lb) 
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 teaspoon dried basil leaves
½ teaspoon dried oregano leaves
¼ teaspoon pepper
1 jar (15 oz) Alfredo sauce 
1 can (14.5 oz) Muir Glen™ organic fire roasted petite diced tomatoes, drained
1 can (8 oz) Muir Glen™ organic tomato sauce
1 box (12 oz) uncooked pasta (such as penne or mostaccioli) 
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons water 
½ cup shredded Italian cheese blend (2 oz), if desired 

Spray 3- to 4-quart slow cooker with cooking spray. Arrange chicken in bottom of slow cooker. Top with garlic, basil, oregano and pepper. In separate bowl, stir together Alfredo sauce, tomatoes and tomato sauce until well combined. Pour mixture over chicken.Cover; cook on Low heat setting 5 to 6 hours.

Ten to 15 minutes before serving time, cook pasta as directed on package. In small bowl, stir together cornstarch and water; stir into mixture in slow cooker. Increase heat setting to High; cook uncovered 5 to 10 minutes longer.

Do you prefer quick and easy, or do you like preparing gourmet meals?

Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Monday, August 14, 2017

Deanna vs. Judy

Garland and Durbin in Every Sunday
(neither one of them look fat to me)
I love film trivia and the story of Deanna Durbin and Judy Garland is interesting and amusing at the same time. 

Although few remember Deanna Durbin, practically all of us know superstar Judy Garland! Perhaps that's because of The Wizard of Oz, which used to be shown on television every spring when I was growing up, or the fact that those old MGM musicals used to be shown on TV before the days of cable and Turner Classic Movies.

Both actresses started out at MGM as young girls. When they appeared together in Every Sunday singing a duet, Garland using her powerful jazzy vocals and Durbin in her extraordinary operatic voice, MGM executives wondered if it would be wise to keep the two young singers under contract. 

Here's what happened next from Deanna Durbin Devotees:

Judy Garland
The story goes that while Louis B. Mayer was away on a trip he instructed his people at MGM to "drop the fat one." They misunderstood and mistakenly let Deanna go. 

When Mayer found out that Judy Garland was still at the studio and that Deanna was gone – he was very upset. That's just one of the reasons Mayer was never overly fond of Judy. He also preferred Deanna's classical singing over Judy's jazzy repertoire.

Soon after Deanna was released by MGM, Universal Studios gave her a contract on the 13th of June and cast her in the September production of THREE SMART GIRLS which became a major smash hit. An executive from MGM was overheard speaking about the two girls saying: "Universal got Tiffany's and we're stuck with Woolworth's."


Deanna Durbin
To this day, Deanna Durbin is the only actress in motion picture history to have ten hits in a row. The first ten were both artistic and financial successes. All of that money rolling into Universal certainly bothered Louis B. Mayer.

And the rest is history... Judy Garland eventually became a huge star at MGM and she certainly has greater name recognition to this day!

I know you must be familiar with Judy Garland, but have you ever heard of Deanna Durbin?

Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Monday, August 7, 2017

What Inspires You?

"You see things; and you say 'Why?' But I dream things that never were; and I say 'Why not?'" George Bernard Shaw

Are you a writer? If so, what inspires you? A spark of imagination, a snatch of conversation, a true story or a real life experience?

I always find it fun to discover what exactly inspires a writer to conceive a story.

Stephenie Meyer had a dream that inspired her to write Twilight. Margaret Mitchell modeled Pansie O'Hara (who later became Scarlett O'Hara) in Gone with the Wind after herself, and her experience of falling in love with the wrong man.

Those Who Save Us, by Jenna Blum, is fiction based on real stories of Germans living in the United Sates during World War II. The Reader, by German judge and law professor Bernard Schlink, focuses on the generation of children born to parents who lived through World War II in Germany. During the 1960's, as adults, this generation (including Schlink) questioned what their parents knew and didn't know, and asks how they could have let the atrocities occur. Schlink's moving story focuses on a young teenage boy who has an affair with an older woman. Only years later, as a law student, does he learn of her direct involvement with the concentration camps.

One of my favorite movies is Finding Neverland. In it, the audience sees how Scottish dramatist J.M. Barrie, through imagination and his real experience of befriending three boys (and their evil Captain Hook like grandmother) came up with the idea for the stage play Peter Pan. "With a wee bit of imagination," Barrie (portrayed by Johnny Depp on film) says, "anything is possible."

Right now a short story is running through my head. I heard Oprah Winfrey say at the conclusion of her show one day, "Our cameras will be at Celine Dion's performance with today's guest at Madison Square Garden next month, but I won't be able to attend."

"Hmm," I thought, "what if she had a clone?"

As writers, we allow our imaginations to grow wild with just a seed of inspiration. What fun!

What inspires you? Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Originally posted 7/19/10.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Life is Stranger Than Fiction

If you're a writer, you're sure to have a pretty wild imagination! Today I'm re-posting a piece about my wild imagination from July 16, 2010.

"Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; truth isn't." Mark Twain

My husband, a commercial and residential home inspector, had a rather interesting experience this week when he did a well test for a customer who was a Vietnam veteran. There were actually two veterans at the site, the owner of the property, and a friend who rented from him.

The men, both tanned, tattooed, pot bellied and shirtless, fit the stereotype of "rednecks," my husband said. He was, however, fascinated by their home, situated on several acres out in the country, and their life style of living off the land.

I realize any war vet experiences trauma, but Vietnam vets had their trauma compounded by a hostile homecoming. Perhaps some of them prefer living in isolation. Just my thoughts.

"They let their guard down with me," my husband said, "and let me into their world. They appreciated my interest in their way of life, and I learned a lot. They had wisdom to share, they were fun to be with, and they had lots of cool stuff to look at." He placed a bag on the counter. "They gave me some apples. There's a tree in front of the house. It's a deer magnet! It attracts them like crazy. As a matter of fact, the guy can just look out of his living room window--and bam! He doesn't even need to leave the house to hunt!"

"Oh..." I said. Not that I have anything against hunting, as long as it's for food, and I do like venison.

"And they taught me all about shot guns, high powered rifles, and pistols."

My eyes widened to saucer proportion.

"They do all the dressing themselves. They have a huge butcher shop and a walk-in freezer."

Well, at this point, my writer's imagination began running out of control. "So," I said, "didn't you start to wonder if there were any dead bodies buried out there, or hidden in the basement--or in that walk-in freezer?"

Now my husband took offense. "It's comments like that, that make Vietnam war vets feel like outcasts!"

"I'm sorry. If I'd been with you, I certainly wouldn't have said anything like that. And I wouldn't have been scared--unless I'd seen an ax."

"Oh," hubby said, "I saw an ax alright! Actually, it was a two handed cleaver about three feet long. You'd use it for cutting off a leg." Now I had a deer in the headlights look. "The leg of a deer! They also had a vertical band saw for cutting apart carcasses, a meat grinder for sausage, and a smoker for venison jerky."

My imagination was on fire now, but I didn't say a word. No more snarky comments from me. These were brave men who'd served our country and carried emotional scars, and probably physical ones unseen by my husband. One had done three tours of duty and wanted to serve more, but was told he'd had enough. If I hadn't seen the movie Hurt Locker, I wouldn't have understood the desire to go back again and again.

On to the apples. As I pulled them from the bag, each appeared more grotesque than the next. Some sported gray spots or deep black marks, while others were globular in shape.

"Eeew!" I exclaimed horrified. "Were these picked over by the deer and left behind?"

"No! They came right off the tree! There not gonna be perfect like what you find at a grocery store!"

Okay, call me a city girl. I'm used to pretty apples cultivated with pesticides and gussied up with wax. "Well," I said, "they'll probably taste better than what's at the store, but they're too scary looking to eat like this." I smiled. "I'll make an apple crisp." And despite how ugly the apples were, the apple  crisp was delicious!

Any life stranger than fiction stories come to your mind? Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Monday, July 24, 2017

Show, Don't Tell

"Show, don't tell." If you're a writer, you've probably heard this as advice from other writers and read about it in craft books many, many times. I was recently asked to explain it to a new writer, but after using a few "for instances", I decided to find something that would do a better job of describing it.

Here's an excellent article by Erin over at Daily Writing Tips.  If you're new to writing, this information will help you clearly understand how to show and not tell! By the way, I just discovered Daily Writing Tips, and it's a great place to find answers for any writing questions you may have!

Show, Dont Tell 

Anyone who’s ever written a short story or taken a freshman composition course has heard the words “show, don’t tell.”

I know those words can be frustrating. You might not know exactly what “show, don’t tell” means. Or you might believe that you are showing when you’re really telling.

While “telling” can be useful, even necessary, most people don’t realize how vital “showing” is to an effective story, essay, or even a blog post. Showing allows the reader to follow the author into the moment, to see and feel and experience what the author has experienced. Using the proper balance of showing and telling will make your writing more interesting and effective.

“Okay, I get it,” you’re thinking. “But how do I do it? How do I bring more ‘showing’ into my writing?”

I’m glad you asked. Here are some tips that will help make your writing more vivid and alive for your reader.

1. Use dialogue
This is probably one of the first things I talk to my students about when I have them write personal essays. Dialogue allows the reader to experience a scene as if they were there. Instead of telling the reader your mom was angry, they can hear it for themselves:
“Justin Michael,” mom bellowed, “Get in here this instant!”
Dialogue can give your reader a great deal about character, emotion and mood.

2. Use sensory language
In order for readers to fully experience what you’re writing about, they need to be able to see, hear, taste, smell and touch the world around them. Try to use language that incorporates several senses, not just sight.

3. Be descriptive
I’m sure everyone remembers learning to use adjectives and adverbs in elementary school. When we’re told to be more descriptive, it’s easy to go back to those things that we were taught. But being descriptive is more than just inserting a string of descriptive words. It’s carefully choosing the right words and using them sparingly to convey your meaning.
The following example is from a short story I wrote.

Telling: He sits on the couch holding his guitar.

There’s nothing wrong with that sentence. It gives the reader some basic information, but it doesn’t create an image. Compare that sentence with this:

Showing: His eyes are closed, and he’s cradling the guitar in his arms like a lover. It’s as if he’s trying to hold on to something that wants to let go.

The second example takes that basic information and paints a picture with it. It also uses figurative language—in this case, the simile “cradling the guitar in his arms like a lover”—to help create an image.

When using description, it’s important not to overdo it. Otherwise, you can end up with what I call “police blotter” description. For example:
He was tall, with brown hair and blue eyes. He wore a red shirt and jeans, and a brown leather jacket.

4. Be specific, not vague
This is another one I’m constantly reminding my college students about. Frequently, they will turn in essays with vague, fuzzy language. I’m not sure if they think this type of writing sounds more academic, but all it really does is frustrate the reader.


Instead of writing, “I had never felt anything like it before in my entire life,” take the time to try and describe what that feeling was, and then decide how best to convey that feeling to the reader. Your readers will thank you for it.

Hope this information from Daily Writing Tips is useful. If you're a seasoned writer, have you had to explain "show, don't tell" to a novice?  If you're new to writing, have ever had questions about it?

Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Originally posted 10/7/13