Trends in Writing, The Arts, Regional Events, and High Desert Living

Summer Frozen Treats by High Desert Community Food Bloggers’

Summer Frozen Recipes by High Desert Food Bloggers

July is the time for summer frozen treats! Popsicles have been “popping” up like crazy in blogs lately. And no wonder. Hot days call for cool refreshments for little kids and adults big kids. READ MORE »

How Does One Write Non-Fiction?

Guest Post by Ann Miner – Author and Freelance Writer

High Desert Author

Ann Miner

 
Some people tell me they have lived an uneventful life. I often think that would be like a dream for me.
My life may sound like fiction, but, as the saying goes, you can’t make this stuff up. I write non-fiction because when I tell about my experiences, people say, “You should write a book.” What do they mean?
Let’s see, born in a farmhouse, neglected, adopted at one year. Lived the good life for eight years with two wonderful parents; lost Daddy when I was nine; new father, died when I was 14; mother died when I was 18.
In addition, I had my first and last names changed over the years. Let’s see, first and middle names changed twice, last name changed seven times. Good grief, no wonder I don’t know who I am!
Lived with manic depressive, abusive husband; lived with schizophrenic father-in-law, (loads of stories from both of these); divorced, ex-husband died a dramatic and tragic death (not suicide); went back to college at age 52, went bankrupt because I couldn’t get a job at age 56, 57, 58.
Then, after 22 years of single bliss, married again, lost that husband nearly ten years later, married again, lost that man a year later. Was a caregiver for my mother when I was 18, for my manic-depressive husband, and for my last two husbands. One had Parkinson’s disease for years. Never wanted to be a nurse, but God had plans he disclosed on a need-to-know basis.
Was despised and mistrusted by step-children of both husbands, and those stories alone would make a novel. But not a fun one.
Did I mention that I have moved more than twenty times?
So, what’s not to write about in the non-fiction genre? Just write what you know. Begin with a pencil on paper. Don’t stop the pencil until your brain stops. You can go back later and correct any spelling or grammar, or change phrases.  If you stop writing while you are thinking, you will forget the words that were flowing through your mind. Some of them never return, trust me.
An important thing that I have learned is to make an outline as your thoughts come. What stories do you want to share? I have remembered so many events after I have finished a chapter. Where do they fit in now? Why didn’t I write them down?
If you feel that your life has been uneventful, lacking drama, look at it again. How did you interact with family members? Brothers, sisters, cousins. Did you argue? Play pranks? How did those work out? What vacations did you take and what happened? Was there one that stood out because it was so wonderful or so fraught with disaster?
Everyone has a story to tell. In fact, you – yes, you – have many stories to tell. Just start making notes and then see how they fit together. You can make a complete story describing one vacation. I know I can. I have one about a trip to Acapulco when I was seven. Car trouble, high jacking by a truck full of Mexican marauders, that sort of thing. Not fiction.
My two children’s books are actually based on non-fiction. Polly Possum’s Wandering Path, and Buddy Finds a Home. Polly was actually a little possum that was wandering around my back yard, never looking up. Buddy was a cat that came to live with us. Everything in Buddy is true.
My adult inspirational books, I Lift My Eyes and Bugs in the Baptismal, are short vignettes of my life or someone else’s. The book I am working on now, A Cow is a Cow, (I’ve known that I was adopted since I’ve known that a cow is a cow), is autobiographical/memoir/documentary. It is filled with true stories about my life growing up adopted (twice), and the accounts others have shared with me about their experiences of being adopted, adopting a child, or surrendering one for adoption.
A caveat: even non-fiction may need some research. That can be frustrating or fun, interesting or intimidating. But you want your story to be as authentic as you remember it. Then you can go back and take a bit of license if it would be more complete. Or just add more true detail.
For instance: “My granddaddy taught me to play dominoes and also played the fiddle.”
Okay, but the reader may want to know more. How about:  “When we played dominoes I was fascinated by his big hands with long, slender fingers.  He could hold all his dominoes in his hand.” Actually, that is not embellished because it is true. But I could further describe what he usually wore at age 88, how his voice sounded, and so on. The audience wants to get acquainted with this man that you adored. Oh, did you say that you adored him and why? License could come into play here.
Then there was my grandmother who killed a chicken for fried chicken dinner. The chicken tasted good.
Or: When Grandmother planned to cook chicken for dinner, she went to the backyard in the afternoon and chased down a hen. She grasped it around the neck, and swung it in a short, tight circle until the body and head were separated. Then she let it hop around, headless, until it was still, after which she hung it on the clothesline to let the blood drain. After a good soaking in a bucket of boiling water, she held it by the legs, plucked the feathers, and singed the pinfeathers over open flames. Now it was time to take it into the house and finish the cleaning. A delicious fried chicken dinner followed.
The part I like best is this:
Her two daughters – Daddy’s only sisters out of the seven siblings – told the story, years later, of a time when their mother was ill and they wanted to fix her some chicken soup. So the young girls went out to the backyard and cornered a hen. One of the girls took the hen by the neck and started swinging it in wide circles, like a lasso, over her own head. Somehow the hen got loose and ran away. I can just picture that hen clucking loudly as she flew around in a circle at the end of the girl’s arm and then, literally, running for her life. Oh the trauma! Needless to say, there was no soup for dinner that night.
So, that’s how I do it.  Take notes, make an outline, write it down. Good things will happen!
Never at a loss for words.

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Organic Nutrition Inspired by Farmers Market

Need an idea of something to do in the high desert? Think healthy…nutrition. Think food. Organic food. Earthy. Aha! Farmers Market. Visit the local farmers market on a Thursday morning between 8:00 and 12:00. It’s the perfect place to take your children while they’re out of school for the summer.

Don’t worry about making coffee before you go. You’ll see a coffee vendor on the left as you walk in. Prefer organic coffee? READ MORE »

What is Memorial Day All About?

Fireworks with flagMemorial Day is being celebrated in the high desert by many at the San Bernardino County Fair. This weekend holiday is a time for barbecues and partying as people gear up early for the summer. But what is the real meaning of Memorial Day?

Memorial Day originated on May 30, 1868 as an occasion to decorate the graves of Civil War soldiers. Twenty years after that the name was changed from Decoration Day to Memorial Day. On May 11, 1950, Congress passed a resolution requesting that the President issue a proclamation calling on Americans to observe each Memorial Day as a day of prayer for permanent peace and designating a period on that day when the people of the United States might unite in prayer.

I wonder how many will unite in prayer tomorrow. A resolution  was passed by Congress on May 11, 1950 requesting a proclamation to be issued by the President for the people of the United States to unite in prayer during each Memorial Day.

Memorial Day, declared a federal holiday in 1971 by President Nixon, is now observed on the last Monday of May in honor of all who have died in wars.

Join with me in a moment of silence to honor men and women who died in wars so that you and I may be free and enjoy life.

Inspiration for a Poem

bird feeders

Inspired by a Bird Feeder and Bird Seed

How does poetry inspire you? What inspires you to write poetry?

Maybe you get inspired when you sit on a bench in a serene setting outdoors.

Poetry Inspiration

Serene Bench Setting

Or does a hummingbird stir your creativity?

hummingbirds

Inspired by a hummingbird

High Desert Blogging occasionally hosts poetry contests and guest posts by writers. Recently hosted by our blog was an incredible writers’ retreat at a desert facility. It was inspiring and motivating. The retreat included mini-workshops to inspire writers by various fun exercises.

Currently, High Desert Blogging is hosting a poetry contest that ends May 25, 2016. Winners will be entered into an anthology published by JoyLife Press. If you are interested, read the contest guidelines on our Events Page. Tell your friends about it, too. You have a great big chance to win. It’s worth writing your poem and emailing it to us as directed in the contest details.

Need a little boost to get you writing? Here is an exercise for you. Go get a pen and notebook. Bring your cell phone with you so you can time yourself. Now read this then go outside (come back to this blog post after the exercise). Sit down and listen to the sounds around you. Observe. Notice colors, flowers, leaves, birds, lizards or whatever comes into your view. Set your timer for 15 minutes. Write until the timer goes off.

How did you do? Did you want to continue writing? I did this exercise today and had to keep writing. It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you set a timer. By doing this, you allow yourself the time to do things you think you don’t have time for. You also can use the timer to do those tasks you’ve been putting off.

If you love to write poetry, whether you consider yourself a beginner or advanced, enter our contest. Yes, the poems will be judged. But it’s fun to try. Who knows? You might win. Set the timer if you need to.

Poetry – Write When Inspired and Enter Contests Inspite of Rejection

Poetry Inspiration

writing poetry, poetry contests, rejection

Poetry Inspiration
(photo from morguefile.com)

What inspires you to write poetry? Have you ever written a poem, entered it in a contest, and received a rejection?

Writing Poems and Entering Contests Means Facing Rejection

The poem “I Am Odd, I Am New” by an autistic boy expresses how most of us feel at times. We all have traits, quirks, or some aspect of ourselves that we wish we didn’t have. Become the best that you can be by using your knowledge and strengths. Learn the knack READ MORE »

Crayon in Hand — Create a Colorful Poem

National  Poetry Month and

Our Poetry Contest Continues

If you’ve ever sat to color with your siblings or your own children, you’ll notice that they usually grasp the brightest color on the table. They start with youthful enthusiasm.

Then, depending on their age, they pull back on the light glowing in their eyes and they

crayon color choices

Does Your Poetry Feel Like Pudgy Fingers Holding a Stubby Crayon?

become more thoughtful, more aware of their choice of color and where they use it. They also become more self-conscious of what they are doing in front of you.

Do they ask what color to use? Do they sort through them to find a better one? Do they find the challenge of getting the crayon to stay inside the lines? Do they give up because it’s too hard?

Simple Structure

These decisions are mostly made by the environmental influences of how others are perceiving them. Freedom of creativity is only free in your mind. We have too many other influences that can redirect us from our poetry goals. Choose your colors wisely and determine what message you are trying to convey. Stay focused and choose the form that works for you. Stay inside the lines but don’t be afraid to experiment, too.

Do you feel awkward and clumsy when trying to write a poem? Maybe it’s because you haven’t felt you could create something  worthy of calling it a poem. Poems come in all shapes and purposes. We place meaningful restrictions on ourselves — for no apparent reason. We demand better of ourselves, even when we don’t know why. It’s no surprise that so many writers don’t become poets. Crafting a poem is different than writing a story — even though they seem so similar.

This reminds me of my favorite Haiku poem in grade school. First, let me explain that Wayne (not his name) was a clown in class and always tried to get everyone to laugh out loud so they would get in trouble — not him. But when it came to the new stuff like Haiku and poetry in general, most boys whined but Wayne hunted for his best victim to taunt into laughter. Wayne was a brat.

Haiku, as an easy Oriental poem structure, has a simple form of three lines with five syllables in the first and third lines, and seven in the middle. It forces young minds to see a form and it offers shortness to adhere to their creativeness without beleaguering it.

Easy and Fast

So with our assignment in hand, we were told to come back the next day with a Haiku poem and the best five would be read in front of the class. Wayne sulked in the back of the room. He didn’t like the assignment or how the students were showing so much interest in a stupid poem. He couldn’t bait anyone to start giggling.

The next day our teacher announced that she had never seen such wonderful Haiku poems in all the classes she ever taught. She told us how much she enjoyed reading them and specifically she wanted to share her favorite right away.

This is a Haiku from Wayne:

Dum De Dum De Dum

I’m not the creative type.

Dum De Dum De Dum

Even though he thought he was being clever and silly, he accomplished what all of us wish to do — become memorable 50 years later. He fulfilled his assignment, and I love him for that, wherever he is.

Please consider entering our annual poetry contest, (Go to Contest Page above) whether you are a pro at contests, or if this is your first time, half the fun is sharing what you’ve created from within yourself.

And maybe you’ll be memorable 50 years  from now.

Rusty LaGrange

National Poetry Month — Create a Poem

Poem about Trail

Create a Poem From an Experience

A Poem is Not Rocket Science

I thought this might be a good time  to explain some of the creative ways poets bring a new poem to life. Your first experience with poem construction probably came in grade school classes where rhymed poems and maybe Haiku was introduced.

Poetry is foreign to many of our minds at that age — even though children create songs and play rhymes all the time when they’re not in school. Sometimes it’s the teacher that brings the love of poetry to them — other times the dread of “poetry time” is all consuming,  almost like taking a test.

Later you may have been introduced to “free-verse” where you don’t need to rhyme at all. But that doesn’t make it easier. Some poem crafters of free-verse work on it for weeks looking for the right words to convey their deep feelings, intellect, or concept.

Create a Poem From an Emotional Experience

Think about a special situation that brought your feelings into raw perspective. Let’s say you hiked a mountain trail and it was a life changing experience.

Now take those thoughts and write them down. Put them in chronological order or mix them with the level of emotion you felt. Find some strong emotional words with good visual meaning. Try to use your natural senses as motivation to help others understand how you feel: see, smell, touch, taste, hear. Use them all if you can. Make it a free-verse. Have fun with it.

So I thought about my first time I climbed to the cliff top trail of Bright Angel in Grand Canyon. I struggled with the idea of even going. You’ll see how I tried to talk myself out of it. (My excuses are part of the poem) I made plenty of excuses in my head. Everyone has a photo of that point. Millions have been there. Why bother? For me, the weather was growing stormy. I really should have gone back to the car but my sister and I were on the last days of vacation. We just had to go see — take a chance — it might be worth it.

Bright Angel Trail

I struggled to get here.

The parking lot was full.

I heaved thin air, lungs, ached.

I should never have come.

Then I forgot my camera.

Those batteries are so expensive.

My final step transcended magic.

No one will believe I came here.

Clouds billowed like sails below me.

How will I prove it?

Red cliffs rose like layered-cake bluffs.

I can even taste the fresh air.

I cried like an eagle … then soared.

I’ll remember. It’s carved in stone.

I just created this poem (really) and it was a wonderful jump back to 1976. What I didn’t say was the lightning that struck across the point while my sister was holding me steady against the wind so I could get a photo with her camera. I captured the lightning in my photo! We were giddy, hoping the shot would actually show the lightning! We had to wait until the film was processed to find out how awesome it was!

Our annual Poetry Contest begins this month and runs until May 15th.  I wish to personally invite you. Check out the contest rules  and fees on our Contest Page above. Submitting to a regional contest is one of the best ways to get good feedback from a cross-section of readers. I hope you’ll try to break the barrier of seeing poetry as too difficult for you to master. Take a chance. Share it with our judges and be sure to say you were inspired by this poem.

I’ll say it again: Take a chance.

 

Rusty LaGrange

I will read your poems but I may not be a judge. No decision has been made yet. We’re still working on the prizes for First, Second, and Third.

Flavor of Pumpkin in Spring

Craving an Old-Fashioned Pumpkin Flavor

Why should pumpkin breads, pastures, and pies be reserved for the Fall months? Sure that’s when they ripen on the vine and holidays soon follow. But we’re in the present age where you can have pumpkin any part of the year. I love pumpkin cookies in the Spring!

Recipe for Pumpkin Cookies

Light Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Puff Cookies

I looked around the Internet for the yummiest pumpkin recipes I could find. I’m a sucker for Pumpkin Mousse or those quick recipes where you don’t even have to bake the pie. Those are the modern recipes — I want the flavors that children were anticipating while sitting on the back porch deeply breathing in those rich pumpkin-scented wafts of goodness fresh out of the wood stove. I’ve been sharing a few recipes with chefs from KitchenHospitality.com and  PattiCake’sPantry.com — they both do more cooking in one year than I have in ten.

Melt-in-your-mouth Duo

However, I wanted an old-fashioned flavor that I hadn’t seen in awhile. I craved pumpkin and chocolate, so I dug back into my history files to find the melt-in-your-mouth duo. I came across this but I did ramp it up a bit:

PUMPKIN CHOCOLATE PUFF COOKIES  (WITH SPLENDA)

2 c. Bread Flour                                                    1-1/4 c. Brown Sugar

1 tsp. Baking Soda                                                 1/4 c. Splenda

1-1/4 tsp. Baking Powder                                     1/4 c. Sugar

1/4 tsp. Ginger                                                       1-1/4 tsp. Vanilla

1 tsp. (or more) Cinnamon                                   2 c.Pumpkin Puree

1/4 c. Chia Seeds                                                    2 eggs

1/2 tsp. Salt                                                            1 bag Chocolate Chips

(Add 2 TBLS. of Old-fashioned Molasses for that rich tangy flavor)

INSTRUCTIONS: Preheat oven to 385 degrees. Mix dry ingredients in one bowl. Beat all wet ingredients in a second bowl. Fold in until wet dough is incorporated. Add chocolate semi-sweet chips. Fold in slowly. Scoop by round tablespoon onto a lightly oiled or sprayed cookie sheet.

BAKE: 13 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cookies should stand tall and browned lightly. Cool on rack. Makes 3 dozen.

OPTIONS: add medium apple, chopped; remove chocolate for Craisens; remove Molasses and Chia seeds

Bonus Recipe:

Vegan, Paleo, and More:One Health Desserts to Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth

Pumpkin Cheesecake Mousse: 

Pumpkin Moouse Dessert

Smooth Pumpkin Mousse

 

1 cup low-fat cottage cheese

1/2 cup pumpkin puree

1/4 cup milk of choice

2 tbs sugar-free instant vanilla dry pudding mix

1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice

1/2 tsp cinnamon

Try  a 1/4 cup of Chia Seeds

3-6 tsp. of Splenda or other sweetener of choice to taste

Dense light whip cream (like Dream Whip) your choice

Instructions: Simply mix everything except the puree. Add it last so the whipped topping doesn’t get too heavy. Refrigerate for at least an hour. You can also add some crumbled vanilla wafers or graham crackers to the bottom of a globe style dessert glass before you serve. Place a large spoonful of mousse in the glass, add a wafer and a sprig of mint to the side. Then enjoy!

Rusty

Pesky Snakes in Your High Desert Garden

Know Which Snake is Intruding

Most gardeners will have a basic skill in identifying bugs and unwanted critters in their gardens, but sometimes the intruder just scares you into leaving first  — then wondering what to do. It helps to know that the skin patterns on snakes are helpful in identifying them. If you stop and get a quick look before you run, you’ll have a better chance of knowing what your next steps are.

Good Snake Versus Bad Snake

A “good” garden snake like the “Gopher Snake” has a splotchy pattern of cream and brown but with a distinct narrow pattern of aligned squares running down its back.

snake in the garden by PestKill.org

Gopher Sanke pattern

Pattern is more square for a gopher snake

 

 

 

 

 

 

A “bad” snake like the Diamondback and Mojave Green Rattlesnake have patterns that look more exotic, wider, and in a diamond-styled pattern. Some have a green or pink tinge to them.

Diamond pattern for Rattlers

The distinct diamond pattern is most common for Rattlers

Also, if you happen to be close enough to see a snake’s head, the good snakes appear more pointed, narrow, and shiny. In general their bodies are slimmer than rattlers. here’s a photo of comparing their two heads.

two heads

Rattler on left, Gopher snake on right

The bad snake’s head appears much wider, eyes are narrower, and they have “fat cheeks” — their glands and jaws fill their heads — making them look more aggressive.

Knowing these identifiers will help you be more aware of good snakes that your garden can benefit from to keep away other pesky visitors. However, if you see a rattler, back away carefully and call for help. Your local fire department can be called in most cases or phone a friend with a stronger constitution than yours.

Exterminators at “PestKill.org” recommend these methods to reduce snake intrusions:

 Find the nest. To chase any type of reptile away and to get rid of all garden snakes once and for all, you should find their nest and destroy it. Start inspecting the area around to look for shelters. Normally, they give their preference to well-hidden nooks and secluded corners, piles of wood, and compost holes. Even if there are no creatures inside, level the ground.

(Note: leveling your whole property will not stop snakes from crossing it.)

No garbage. Stop accumulating garbage outside. Do you know that such places are just perfect hiding and feeding areas for many types of these nasty reptiles?

No debris. Keep your backyard clean and remove debris, branches of trees and dried leaves regularly. Make some landscape changes in the area to modify the environment.

Keep grass low. If you have the luxury of growing a lawn, it is not a secret that snakes adore tall grass as this is a hiding place of mice, rats, squirrels, crickets and grasshoppers – their main food. To get rid of rattlesnakes, mow the lawn weekly!

Eliminating compost heaps. Gardeners need composts but they should be removed at some safe distance from your home. They are perfect hiding and leaving places in your backyard, attracting reptiles and their food sources right to you.

Erecting snake proof fencing is another alternative of how to get rid of snakes in backyard fast. A fence only 2-3 feet high made of fine wire mesh helps to prevent them from entering your yard and eventually your house. Be aware that snakes do climb — this is only a deterrent.

Use mothballs. Practically all types of snakes hate the smell of mothballs. So why not use this option in your garden right away? Don’t scatter the balls here and there. Just bury them into the soil in different parts of the yard instead. Though they may be toxic to their nature — when used carefully — they help to keep snakes at a bay.

No cool places. Sacks, bricks, and wood attract them as much as tall grass. Keep them far from your property and dealing with snakes won’t be your problem anymore. Also consider where you have water buckets and water feeders for your outdoor pets. Water containers stay cooler and will attract mice and snakes.
Read more: http://pestkill.org/other/snakes/

Rusty

Thanx goes to PestKill for posting their recommendations online

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