Monday, August 13, 2018

Crock Pot Curry Chicken

I'm recuperating from gum surgery, so today I'm reposting one of my favorite recipes -- one that I won't be able to eat for another two weeks! I can't enjoy it any time soon, but I hope you will!

I've come to realize that people either love Indian food, or they hate it, because of all the exotic spices not normally found in plain old American fare. 

Then there are those who enjoy it, but their bodies can't tolerate all those wonderful spices. 

I fall into the category that absolutely loves Indian food! And it doesn't cause me any digestive issues.

The recipe I'm sharing today is from Rebecca MacLary over at Paleohacks. It's the first Indian dish I've ever tried for the crock pot and it's extraordinarily delicious!  In addition, it's easy to prep, and tastes just as good as the chicken curry you can get in an Indian restaurant. Hope this is something you'll enjoy!

Crockpot Curry Chicken 

Yield: 4 servings
Ingredients:
  • 2 lbs skinless chicken breast
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp organic, cold-pressed coconut oil
  • 1 cup full-fat coconut milk
  • 3/4 cup chicken broth
  • 1 thumb fresh ginger, minced
  • 2-6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 medium fresh green chilli, minced
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 medium red bell peppers, diced
  • 3-4 tbsp Garam Masala
  • 1/2 - 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • salt
  • pepper

Directions:

  1. Take your crockpot and give it a big sloppy kiss because, believe me, it’s about to provide you with a life-changing gastronomic experience!
  2. Optional: Heat the coconut oil in your crockpot and add the Garam Masala and cumin seeds, gently heating them until they begin crackle. The idea here is to infuse the oil and gently roast the spices, so have the rest of your ingredients ready to throw in right away.
  3. Add the tomato paste, coconut milk, ginger, garlic, chilli, salt, and pepper, and mix thoroughly.
  4. Give your spicy, coconutty mixture a hearty sniff and then throw in the onions, peppers, chicken, and broth.
  5. Make sure everything is thoroughly mixed together and then cover, ready to cook.
  6. Now for the most difficult part, time to play the waiting game! Depending on your level of patience you can cook on a high heat for around 4 hours, or if you’re feeling particularly disciplined (yeah, right!) you can place your curry on a low heat and cook for 7 or 8 hours.
  7. Remove the lid and savor that wondrous, magical smell of the spice-infused coconut goodness! Serve up and you’re good to tuck right in!
Do you like Indian food? Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Monday, August 6, 2018

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words: The Art of Writing Dialogue

Reposting some useful writing information today.

Think of your plot as a blank linen canvas stretched over a stiff wooden frame, and your dialogue as the oil paint you will use to create a masterpiece. Well written dialogue produces a vivid image that truly brings your story to life in living color!  It’s also one of the first things agents and editors look at when reviewing a manuscript.

If dialogue is choppy, wooden and stilted, a potential agent will assume that that sets the tone for your writing, and then reject your manuscript.  For the indie published, poor dialogue is what makes a potential reader either skip a purchase, or write a very bad review!

Dialogue has many functions, but two of the most important are to advance the story and intensify the conflict, all the while keeping it natural.  So here are a few ways to craft dialogue into a more compelling and natural sounding work of art.

Red: Tension, Conflict, Emotion
In Writing Fiction For Dummies, Randy Ingermanson and Peter Economy say, “Dialogue is war! Every dialogue should be a controlled conflict between at least two characters with opposing agendas. The main purpose of dialogue is to advance the conflict of the story."  

·         Skip the pleasantries.  No one cares about the “Hi, how are yous?” Jump right into the heat of the moment.
·         Stay away from the info dump monologue.  Providing information without tension is boring.
·         Never use dialogue as filler.  Dialogue has to  heighten conflict, advance the story or display character development.  If it does none of this, hit delete.
·         Show emotional tension in dialogue through your characters actions and reactions. Perhaps a he falls silent, she interrupts, or the teen changes the subject.  

The Abstract: Loose and Free Flowing
Dialogue has to have a natural flow, but a common mistake among many new writers is to make it stiff and formal. Use these guidelines to make yours sound real:

·         Read dialogue out loud.  Does it pass the “ear test” and sound like actual conversation? Avoid fancy words.  In The Elements of Style Strunk and White say, “Do not be tempted by a twenty dollar word when there is a ten-center handy.”  "Seeing her confused him” is plain and simple. “Upon looking at her, he became discombobulated" is not.  It’s also too wordy. Streamline your dialogue and cut out unnecessary words.
·         Use contractions:  will not/ won’t, do not/ don’t, we will/we’ll, etc. They’re much less formal.
·         Think about real conversations with family and friends. It’s okay to be grammatically incorrect by ending a sentence with a preposition. “So what was that about?” sounds more realistic than “So about what was that?”  In stressful situations, you can use sentence fragments and one word answers.
·         Avoid the lecture.  A character expounding in detail about a subject will bore your reader. You’ve done your research, but it’s not necessary to show how much!

Flesh Tone: Make it Real
Stay away from unnatural dialogue.  Would your sister really say, “How’s your husband Ed and your step-son Frank, the child by Ed’s ex-wife, Beth?”  Using dialogue like that sounds artificial. Find a subtle way to convey those facts.  For example:
     “So where’s Ed?”
     “I left him at home working on my honey-do list.”
     “Is Frank helping him?”
     “No, he’s with his mom, this weekend.”
     “Beth, the wench?”


The Portrait: Provide a Distinct Voice for Each Character
Dialogue is an important part of characterization. Keep in mind the time period, age, gender, social status, education and geographic locale.

Imagine how different a Wall Street executive would sound compared to a Georgia factory worker.  White collar professionals are more likely to use correct grammar and speak in longer sentences, whereas blue collar workers might use rougher language and shorter sentences.

Take into account individual personalities: quiet, talkative, cruel, manipulative, compassionate, insecure, outgoing. Be mindful of the situations they’re in; dialogue has to be suitable for their action and reaction.


The Difference Between the Male Still Life and the Female Landscape   
According to Richard Drobnick from an article in YourTango:

“He believes communication should have a clear purpose. Behind every conversation is a problem that needs solving or a point that needs to be made.”

“She uses communication to discover how she is feeling and what it is she wants to say. She sees conversation as an act of sharing and an opportunity to increase intimacy with her partner.”

So keep in mind that men are more direct and brusque in tone. They use simpler vocabulary with fewer modifiers, and are likely to use one word responses and shorter sentences.  Instead of talking about people and feelings, they’d rather talk about things.  Also, dialogue is action for men.  Instead of discussing a way to save the heroine, the hero plans and executes it.

Women, however, love talking about people and relationships.  Their language is softer, and they’re more likely to talk around a subject.  “I’m not too happy about this,” she might say, while he says, “I’m mad as hell!”  Women express themselves in complete sentences, and want to share their feelings.

In closing, always keep your dialogue tension filled, loose, naturalistic and distinct for each individual character to create your masterpiece!

What do you like most about writing dialogue? Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Monday, July 30, 2018

Advice from Anthony Hopkins

I stumbled across an entertaining interview with Sir Anthony Hopkins from Fox News. He shared some fascinating facts about his life and also provided some great advice.
Sir Anthony Hopkins discussed his battle with alcoholism in a speech to students at the University of California on Wednesday.
Hopkins, 80, was a guest speaker at the LEAP conference and addressed a crowd of about 500 students, according to the Hollywood Reporter. The Academy Award-winning actor told the crowd he was not the easiest person to work with.
"Because that's what you do in theater, you drink. But I was very difficult to work with, as well, because I was usually hungover,” Hopkins admitted.

“The Silence of the Lambs” star said he was "disgusted, busted and not to be trusted" when he drank. However, the actor said his life turned around in 1975 after a conversation with a woman from Alcoholics Anonymous.
“Why don’t you just trust in God?” the woman asked Hopkins.
The “Westworld” star said he did not have the urge to drink after the conversation.
Hopkins also told the crowd why he got into acting because he “had nothing better to do” and was “not all that bright in school.”
"I believe that we are capable of so much," he told the crowd. "From my own life, I still cannot believe that my life is what it is because I should have died in Wales, drunk or something like that." 
"We can talk ourselves into death or we can talk ourselves into the best life we've ever lived. None of it was a mistake. It was all a destiny,” he continued.
As for his advice to students, Hopkins told them to not chase money and success.
"If you chase the money, it's not gonna work. And if you chase success, it's not gonna work," he said. "You just have to chase whatever you want to be, but live it as if it is happening now. Act as if you're already there, and it'll fall into place.”
Is any of this information about Anthony Hopkins new to you like it was to me? Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Monday, July 23, 2018

Mission Impossible

The newest Mission Impossible movie, Fallout, opens July 27. I'll probably wait for it to come on DVD. Although I enjoy the movies, I'm a bigger fan of the original TV show. When I was a kid, I loved that show. Perhaps I'm showing my age by admitting this, but such is life. The post below is from June of 2015, so if you missed it then, I hope you'll enjoy it today, especially if you're a Mission Impossible fan!



Peter Graves as Jim Phelps
Not long after I got married, there was a Mission Impossible marathon on one of the cable stations. I believe this was around 1996. I couldn't wait to camp out and watch it. My husband, however, admitted that he'd never seen the show. Since we're in the same age group, that led me to believe he'd grown up under a rock! Needless to say, after the first episode, he was hooked and enjoyed all the shows as much as I did.

If you are of a younger generation and only familiar with the Mission Impossible movies starring Tom Cruise, here's some information about the original television series from Wikipedia:



[The series] chronicles the missions of a team of secret government agents known as the Impossible Missions Force (IMF). In the first season, the team is led by Dan Briggs, played by Steven Hill... Jim Phelps, played by Peter Graves, takes charge for the remaining seasons. A hallmark of the series shows Briggs or Phelps receiving his instructions on a recording that then self-destructs, followed by the theme music composed by Lalo Schifrin. [Click here to hear it!] Mission Impossible aired on the CBS network from 1966 to 1973. The series was reprised in 1988 for two seasons on ABC, retaining only Graves in the cast.


The series follows the exploits of the Impossible Missions Force (IMF), a small team of secret agents used for covert missions against dictators, evil organizations and (primarily in later episodes) crime lords. On occasion, the IMF also mounts unsanctioned, private missions on behalf of its members. The identities of the organization that oversees the IMF and the government it works for are never revealed. Only rare cryptic bits of information are ever provided during the life of the series. 


The leader of the IMF is initially Dan Briggs, played by Steven Hill... Hill was replaced without explanation to the audience after the first season by Peter Graves playing the role of Jim Phelps, who remained the leader for the remainder of the original series and in the 1988–1990 revival.In theory, Briggs and Phelps are the only full-time members of the IMF.
As the series was originally conceived, they would form teams made up of part-time agents who came from a variety of professions, choosing their operatives based on the particular skills necessary for the mission. In practice, however (especially after the first season), Briggs and especially Phelps would choose the same core group of three or four agents for every single mission, leading these regulars to be considered de facto full-time IMF agents. Still, many episodes also feature guest stars playing one-time additional agents who have special skills.

Although the Tom Cruise movies are fun and action packed, I still prefer the TV series! What about you?


Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Monday, July 16, 2018

Passion for Change with Clinical Trials

Ancient Clinical Trial
There's nothing new under the sun, including clinical trials. Wikipedia says, "The concepts behind clinical trials are ancient. The Book of Daniel chapter 1, verses 12 through 15, for instance, describes a planned experiment with both baseline and follow-up observations of two groups who either partook of, or did not partake of, 'the King's meat' over a trial period of ten days. Persian physician Avicenna, in The Canon of Medicine (1025) gave similar advice for determining the efficacy of medical drugs and substances."

According to Wikipedia, "clinical trials are experiments or observations done in clinical research. Such prospective biomedical or behavioral research studies on human participants are designed to answer specific questions about biomedical or behavioral interventions, including new treatments (such as novel vaccinesdrugsdietary choicesdietary supplements, and medical devices) and known interventions that warrant further study and comparison. Clinical trials generate data on safety and efficacy."
Lisa McKenzie
Creating Change Through Clinical Trials
In my opinion, one must be brave as well as passionate in making a difference in the cure and treatment of medical diseases, such as Lisa McKenzie who has been  participating in clinical trials of multiple sclerosis for over ten years. During this time, she has put her body on the line to help researchers understand more about this devastating disease.

In addition, she is creating change by blogging about life with MS, and by collaborating each day with other bloggers to improve quality of life issues faced by all those with MS. Follow Lisa's Ms. Lab Rat blog here, and join me in endorsing her for the #WEGOHealthAwards Patient Leader Nomination here.

Lisa has been a great friend to me for over a dozen years, as well as an amazing writing teacher to me and many other students! While she has battled MS, Lisa has never stopped giving of her time and talent to her students, and through clinical trials she's providing even more to the medical community and those afflicted with MS.

Have you ever participated in  clinical trial? If so, did your participation create a change? Thanks for visiting and have a great week! And don't forget to endorse Lisa!