December 29

Plans for the New Year

I’m not a fan of new year resolutions. In my opinion, why wait for a calendar event to do something positive in your life? It’s like saying, “I’ll start that new project on Monday” or “I’ll stop drinking on Friday.” Why not do it right now? Why wait?

With that said, I’m not against setting goals and deadlines. What’s the difference, you ask? To me, a resolution is something like, “I’ll start working out three days a week starting January 1st.” A goal is, “I’m going to lose twenty pounds next year.” Maybe I’m arguing semantics, but I see a difference between the two. One is setting a start point, where the other is setting an end result. It doesn’t matter when you start or how you get there, as long as you arrive.

My goals for the next year are as follows:

My main goal is to finish editing my novel and get it published. The draft has been tweaked over the past few months, but I’ve been focusing on other projects because I wanted to get some time away from the story. I spent months working on the first draft and I felt like I was no longer seeing the story, just words on a page. Now that I’ve gotten some perspective on the beast, I’m ready to dive back in.

Next, to keep my creativity podcast going and to increase the number of listeners. I’ve developed a small group of listeners, which is fine, but I feel my podcast – which focuses on inspiring and motivating people to explore their creativity – could be reaching a broader audience. It’s a labor of love and, really, it doesn’t matter if I have ten listeners or ten thousand. If I can inspire just one person, then I’m happy.

I’m going to complete and publish a second short-story collection. I was inspired by one of the people I follow on Twitter who posts cool little vignettes. I asked if I could use some as story prompts and she approved…and yes, I’ll be giving her co-author credit and a cut of any profits. I plan to complete ten stories based on her posts.

I’m going to also start publishing some cooking videos on my YouTube channel. Nothing fancy. It’s just that I enjoy cooking and see it as another way to be creative. I plan to share some simple recipes that can feed two or more, some tips, and things that I’ve learned as a self-taught home cook. Back in my bachelor days I learned to cook by necessity. It was far too expensive to eat out all the time, so I started experimenting with cooking simple things on the tiny gas range in my tiny, one-room efficiency apartment. There were more misses than hits, but eventually I began to grasp the fundamentals and upped my cooking game. In fact, I started cooking for some of the women I knew at the time and, well, eventually married one of them. Or it may be more accurate to say she married me. I think it was the chicken and mushrooms in a white wine sauce that sealed the deal.

And in between all that, I’ll continue to post on this blog, make music, write in my journal, draw, take photos, and explore the world of creativity.

Most of all, I want to continue to motivate and inspire other creators. I’m not talking about being a social-media influencer or anything like that. I want to be someone who quietly helps others. I spent many years working in solitude with very little encouragement or support from the people around me, and I hate to think that there are other people out there going through the same thing. I want to change that for them, I want them to feel like they can accomplish anything, can try anything, and that they do so without embarrassment or self-doubt.

I hope you have lofty goals for 2020 and beyond. Remember, don’t be afraid to be creative or to be your true self. Enjoy life, embrace opportunity, and above all, be kind.

RB

December 6

Yum

Everyone who knows me knows that I like to cook. I’m not classically trained in the culinary arts, not by a long shot. No, I learned to cook by necessity. I was a bachelor for many years and money was tight. Eating out two or three times a day, even using coupons, ends up getting expensive.

So I started with simple things like boxed food. Mac and cheese, Hamburger Helper, things like that. After a while that became boring, so I started adding extra things, like a can of tuna and can of peas to the mac and cheese, tossing some mushroom or green beans in with the Hamburger Helper. It wasn’t groundbreaking, but it made me feel that I was being somewhat creative.

It wasn’t until I was dating my (now) wife that I tried to push my boundaries. Not only did I want to impress her (women love a man who cooks), but I wanted us to be healthy. And that’s when I realized that cooking is an art form.

Over the years I’ve modified recipes and came up with a few things on my own. One of my favorites (and one the wife always requests during the winter) is butternut squash soup. I recently made a big pot of it for Thanksgiving, which was a big hit with everyone. I thought I’d share it here:

    1 large butternut squash, peeled, seeded, chopped into one-inch cubes (more or less)
    3-4 apples, peeled, cored, sliced
    1 large onion (sweet onion preferred)
    4-6 cups of liquid (vegetable/chicken stock)
    1/4 cup of apple cider
    Salt
    Pepper
    Secret Ingredient (Chinese Five-Spice Powder)
    1 stick unsalted butter
    1/2 cup of a milk-like product (cream, whole, skim, soy, almond, whatever)

Melt the butter over medium heat in a large stock pot or Dutch oven. Once it’s foamy, toss in the butternut squash (you can do this in batches if you have a lot). Saute’ for a few minutes until it begins to tender. Next, add the onions (Note: I generally toss in all the squash, saute’, then toss the onion on top, etc.) and continue to saute’. Once they begin to glisten and become a bit opaque, then toss in the apple.

Add some salt and pepper while you saute’ for another couple of minutes. Then add your stock to just cover, add your slash of cider, then bring up to a boil. Give it another stir, then lower the heat to low, cover, and cook for about ten minutes.

Once the bigger pieces of the squash are fork tender, remove the pot from the heat and grab an immersion blender (you can use a food processor here, but it’s messier). Be careful! The soup is going to be like hot lava. Blend that mess up until there are no more chunks, then add the milk product and a pinch of the five-spice powder. Blend a bit more, then let it cool for about five minutes. You can taste and add any additional seasoning if needed.

I usually serve this in tea cups or coffee mugs.

Enjoy!

RB