Change of Pace: Panzanella

The high temperatures that we have in Raleigh keep me indoors more that I would like. The thermometer on my kitchen counter tells me it’s 99 degrees outside as I write this at 4 pm.

Our home is comfortably cool so I could just knuckle down and write my weekly post that is due tomorrow.  However, I am just procrastinating as usual and I can’t think of anything to write about.

I need a change of pace. I love food and, sometimes love cooking, so rather than write about nursing and nursing problems and aging and aging problems and my book, I will post my favorite summer salad recipe, Panzanella.

Panxanella

Panzanella. My Italian grandmother made this salad but I never heard the word Panzanella growing up. Grandma just cut up tomatoes and left-over bread and occasionally served the salad at Sunday family dinners. One course of many.

Panzanella is perfect for hot weather and the best use for tomatoes, which are now plentiful at our farmer’s markets. I like the heirloom German Johnson tomatoes.german johnson tomato

This year, I have a bumper crop of basil in the Earthbox* outside our screened porch. The cucumber and green peppers come from the Earthboxes that my grandson and I planted in his backyard. Every year he chooses what to plant. I am hoping this encourages him to like vegetables but so far it hasn’t. Oh well.

I use a leftover baguette from Yellow Dog bakery. Yellow Dog makes the best baguettes in the area. Get a good quality bread.

yellow dog baguette

For the salad:

1- or 2-day-old crusty baguette, cut into 1-inch cubes, about 5 to 6 cups

1 teaspoon kosher salt

2 large, ripe tomatoes, cut into 1-inch cubes

1 cucumber, unpeeled, seeded, and sliced 1/2-inch thick

2 bell peppers, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes

1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion

1/2 cup coarsely chopped basil leaves

3 tablespoons capers, drained

For the vinaigrette:

1 tablespoon finely minced garlic

1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard

3 tablespoons Champagne or red wine vinegar

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

 

For the vinaigrette, whisk all the ingredients together.

In a large bowl, mix the tomatoes, cucumber, peppers, red onion, basil, and capers. Add the bread cubes and toss with the vinaigrette. Season with salt and pepper. Let the salad sit for an hour for the flavors to blend.

This salad will be good the next day or two as the ingredients blend together and the taste becomes richer.

 

*Earthbox is a container gardening system to use when you have limited space and little interest in working a large plot.

Countdown to Publication Date: Four Weeks

PrintMy book: Stories from the Tenth-Floor Clinic: A Nurse Practitioner Remembers is due to be published on November 6, Election Day. Now isn’t that a bummer? In spite of the competition for attention, I plan to get an announcement out a couple of days before via Blog, Facebook and Twitter. Maybe folks will enjoy a distraction.

This is my first book and my first stab at marketing and publicity. My husband tells me it will be easier with my second book.

Most days, I am frozen with indecision where to put my attention and energy. Not being a detail person only encourages procrastination. I have a large legal pad where I list all I need to do. This is not in any priority order so you can imagine that every time I review it, I break into a sweat. Just last week, I made a time line on an old 18 X 24 sketch pad, noting what I need to do when, and the dates of the events I am participating in. No, I am not using an Excel spread sheet or any other computerized aid. I like the feel of paper in my hands, adding new information with a pen, and the satisfaction of crossing out items.

Somehow, just writing stuff down eases my anxiety.

to do list
To Do List

I am learning things that have nothing to do with writing. Like designing a postcard size advertisement for my book. It took me almost two days to finalize this. I ordered 250 copies and I plan to drop them off at various locations, like the Community Center down the block, restaurants, stores, etc. I will slip one into our Christmas Letter that I snail-mail to friends and family who are not computer savvy. Quiet a few years ago, a young woman stood outside my neighborhood library and handed out flyers announcing her new book. I wonder how many of us who took her handout purchased her book? Not me. But that won’t stop me from distributing my own handouts.

Last Friday, I listened to a webinar sponsored by my publisher, She Writes Press, on tips for public speaking given by another SWP author, Betsy Graziani Fasbinder, from page to stage.

She cited two important skills.

  1. Eye contact: Speak to or connect to one person in the audience at a time for about 3-5 seconds, or 2 short sentences, and then randomly connect with another. Avoid darting or scanning the room.
  2. Silence: Using pause will allow your audience to absorb and remember ideas, feel suspense, and adjust for a new vocabulary. The speaker uses silence/pause to help herself think, breath, and relax.

Betsy had more helpful suggestions. Many I have heard before, but now reminded of these skills, I will take time to hone in on them prior to my taking my book on the road. And that, taking the book on the road, should be the fun part. Or so I’m told.

Four more weeks to go.

The Old Faded Picture

Recently rummaging around in my office closet for my watercolor materials, I came across an old envelope with a faded 5 X 7 picture inside. Years ago I had planned to frame it. Obviously, I forgot all about it. Most of what is stored in the closet fits into the category: out of sight, out of mind.

This closet is stuffed with past journals, yearly calendars dating back more than 20 years, greeting cards, and evidence of my artistic endeavors: pastels, watercolors, acrylics and scores of papers for each medium, along with canvases, and a variety of paint brushes. However, the significant items sharing the confines of the closet are the photographs spilling out of albums, in shoeboxes, and in dilapidated wooden frames.

Over our many moves, I boxed my memorabilia without weeding anything out but only adding to the collection, always promising myself that I would organize the stash.

And as the years passed I became more reluctant to tackle the task. Maybe the constraints I have placed on the act of clearing out do more to deter me than support me. I will need two days since I will pull everything out of the closet, not returning anything until I have handled it and made the decision to toss or save. Did I say I needed only two days?

I can see myself sitting on the floor surrounded by these old pictures, fingering each while nostalgia washes over me. I will be revisiting places I lived, missing family members who have long since died, dealing with changes that the passage of time had not only had on me but my spouse and children. Yes, I know how this all will affect me and I am not anxious to deal with such an emotional task.

Getting back to the picture.

 

We rented a house on Sister Bay, Wisconsin after I read about the area in the Chicago Magazine: the best place to see the fall colors and beautiful sunsets. Since we were “poor”—my husband was in graduate school and we were living on my salary as a part time nurse—I wrote the owner of a rental home asking for a discount. Since we didn’t go during the annual Fall Fest, the owner agreed. Our children loved that we were steps from the bay. They explored the large room on the second floor with rows of single beds and at least two cribs. We took out the rowboat on that first visit, catching the winds of an abrupt storm and just made it back to shore without capsizing. We rented bikes to survey the fall colors. Our favorite breakfast restaurant had a goat grazing on grass that grew on the roof.

We rented the same house over the years, without the discount. Each time the owner had made improvements: a porch, a wrap around deck, bedrooms replacing the one large room on the second floor, and finally he declared “no children. “

On our last visit, my mother came with us. Late one afternoon she must have picked up my camera on the deck and took this picture of my daughter and me. She also captured my son sorting stones on the narrow strip of beach. My husband probably was grilling hamburgers on the other side of the deck. Perhaps after another magnificent sunset, we went inside for dinner. Perhaps afterward, my son would show us the best stones he picked at the water’s edge to take back home.

Perhaps sorting through the old pictures won’t be too daunting after all.

GET ON WITH LIFE

Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion. 

~C. Northcote Parkinson, 1958

This Tuesday I leave for a four-day stay at a writer’s center not far from my home. As an act of desperation, I will seclude myself with my manuscript and concentrate on incorporating changes that have been percolating in my brain but somehow never found their way to the memoir.

In an attempt to finally finish the book I had, naively, cut back on social activities, travel, and other commitments. Well, silly me. It only became easier to avoid writing knowing that I had less pressure. Days became weeks and now two and a half months after my beta readers returned the manuscripts, I have yet to act on their feedback.red pen editing

I have four days to edit the book. While I can’t predict I will accomplish my goal, I’m going to give it my best shot. The last thing I want is to be writing this book for the next ten years. I have to get on with my life.

Let you know how I did in my next post.

Time To Get Serious

the time is nowI woke up one morning this past January and decided it was time to get serious about losing weight and finishing the book.

First of all, I have been carrying around ten extra pounds for years until they magically morphed into twenty extra pounds.

Second, over the past seven years I have written and rewritten my book of nursing stories. And I have written and rewritten the first chapter at least five times, not counting changing from past tense to present tense and back again. Furthermore, I hadn’t followed any of the many outlines I generated because I was constantly changing the structure of the book.

Why I decided that particular morning to stop procrastinating baffles me. However, I don’t intend to waste precious time analyzing why as long as I continue to make advancements.

What I have accomplished so far:

  • Engaged my friend and mentor, Carol Henderson, to monitor my progress and coach me to succeed. There is nothing like having to be accountable to someone.
  • Met my first month’s goal by writing three new stories.
  • Developed a working outline of the complete book, which I intend to follow.
  • Set a date for completing the draft: September 1, 2012.

By the way, I have lost ten pounds.

What is it you have been putting off?

Writing the Book

I’m writing a book. I’ve been writing this book for the past five years. Longer if you count the time I worked with a friend to co-author a book of nursing tales until I knew I had to take this journey alone. Add the amount of time it took for the book to take form and we’re talking ten years. There have been many renditions. It started out as a chronological account of my nursing career. Then it morphed into a story about a particular job I had. I added more about my immediate family. My mother ambled into the book complicating my theme and opening old wounds. I changed the book from past tense to present tense and back to past tense again. I’ve had many more working titles than I can remember. Over the years I paid large amounts of money on writing classes and workshops and to consultants to look over my work only to disregard what they recommended. The book remains incomplete.

I don’t believe any of my efforts were worthless. In fact with each rendition of my book, I grew into a better writer. But now enough is enough. I am ready to declare what this book is really about and proceed to complete the manuscript. That’s the scary part. Maybe it’s the real reason it’s taken so long to be done.