Monday, May 23, 2016

The Long Last Mile - A Poem

The Long Last Mile

I couldn't deal with life today
Depression has set in;
Thoughts running away
To find where I had been.

Life has tipped; gone wrong
I cried on simple things.
The day felt way too long
Hung on puppet strings.

Think of lives I could have bore
A happier life shown,
But my heart is bruised and sore
From the life I have known.

I must not dwell on pain and scorn -
Things considerably hard;
All those burdens I have born,
Burned and left me charred.

Told to think a happy thought
One to make me smile
And think less of the pain I sought
Down the long last mile.

When I finish with my travel
Will I then be cured
Of that which will unravel
And happiness endured?

The Long Last Mile ©Robin Allen 2016

All rights reserved.  This poem, or parts thereof, may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including recording, photocopying, offset, or by any information storage and retrieval system without permission in writing from the author, except by reviewers who may quote brief passages to be printed in a magazine or newspaper.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Chai Doughnuts with Ginger-Lime Glaze

Oh boy. Your house is going to be permeated with its wonderful aroma even before the batter is done. This smells so good!

Have you ever made your own chai? I would say chai tea, but it's redundant, as chai is an Indian based tea made with milk and spices. I will admit, this is the first time I have gone as far as the actual making of chai, though I have used traditional chai spices in other baked goods. Just never seeped in milk.

Since I am bringing the doughnuts, someone bring on the coffee (or tea - though that may be overkill)! This month's ingredients are black tea and lime. Nothing too crazy thus far during my participation.

Do you ever have one of those days where there don't seem to be enough hours in the day, but you cannot wait for it to end? Yeah... one of those. Compound it with a cold front littered with giant rain drops and though I wished I had more time to get everything done, it also seemed to stretch out longer than I wanted.

I had little choice, however. Budgeting can be stressful, especially when you need ingredients for something like this and you have to wait until there is a little wiggle room... which happened to be today (Thursday). So not only did I have to go out and do the shopping, but then come home to try a recipe I haven't made before (and with my track record, it is terrifying).

Got the recipe started as soon as I returned from the store. The Big Guy played Arkham Knight and I found a few minutes to order something online (literally minutes - 6 or so). I just started applying the glaze to the first dozen when it came time to take the boys to baseball. I rushed to take a few pictures and was dashing out the door in shorts and sandals.

It was so wet and cold - the later game really should have been called after the first inning, but they kept us there until the bitter end. We were there from 6 - 10 PM with school still in session and TBG getting a 3 AM wake up call. One of those days for sure.

Now it's after midnight and I am binge-watching the final season of Buffy and finishing this post while spring rains down upon the earth in torrents. At least I do not have to water my lawn...

...and good thing I nailed this recipe on the first try. Boom. *drops mic*

Chai Doughnuts with Ginger-Lime Glaze

Preheat oven to 350° F. Lightly grease doughnut pan. Makes 2 dozen.

For Doughnuts
  • 2½ cup milk
  • 1 tbsp loose black tea - I used Earl Grey, but English Breakfast or Oolong would work too
  • 2-3 whole (large) black peppercorns or 5-6 (small) peppercorns
  • ¼ cup fennel seeds
  • 3-4 cinnamon sticks
  • 2½ cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp ground cloves
  • ¼ ground cardamom
  • 3 eggs
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil
  • 1½ cups sugar
  • ¾ cup buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. Bring the 2½ cup milk to a slow boil and add the tea, peppercorns, fennel seeds, and cinnamon sticks. Lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes, then remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.
  2. Meanwhile, mix together the flour, baking soda, salt, cardamom and cloves in a medium-sized bowl until well blended. Set aside.
  3. Once the milk tea mixture has cooled to room temperature, strain through fine mesh sieve. Set aside. (This is the chai and you will only need ¾ cup.)
  4. In a large bowl, mix together the eggs, vegetable oil, and sugar until blended. Add the buttermilk, chai, and vanilla until combined. Slowly add flour mixture until just blended. Spoon or pipe into greased doughnut pan.
  5. Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until the donuts have risen and an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Remove pan from the oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes before removing the doughnuts. 
  6. Put on wire rack and allow to cool completely before dipping in glaze.
For Glaze*
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • ⅓ cup Ginger Simple Syrup (see recipe below)
  • 1+ cup powdered sugar
  1. Juice lime into a bowl, minding the seeds. 
  2. Add simple syrup. 
  3. Whisk in powdered sugar until it forms a smooth, creamy glaze. 
  4. If your glaze is soupy, add more powdered sugar, a little at a time, until consistency is more like cinnamon roll icing. If it's too thick, add more simple syrup or a dash of milk.
*Because this recipe makes 2 dozen, you may need to double the glaze recipe, but I suggest starting with a single batch first. You will not need to double the simple syrup recipe, only the amount in the glaze.

Ginger Simple Syrup
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 small, fresh ginger root, cut into large chunks
  1. Combine ginger, sugar and water in saucepan. 
  2. Bring to boil and reduce to simmer for 5 minutes. 
  3. Strain out ginger slices before using.

Monday, May 16, 2016

No Way Out: A Poem

I originally wrote this in high school, but I made a few changes, so here it is:

No Way Out

I see it all around,
I feel it pull me down
Smother me, holding me;
No way out.

The pain inside,
Keeping it within -
Held me, stabbing me;
No way out.

Tearing my soul,
Coming undone.
Stabbed me, killing me;
No way out.

Hot then cold
Out of control.
Killed me, bury me;
No way out.

A tightness in my chest
I claw my way through.
Buried me, saving me;
The only way out.

No Way Out ©Robin Allen 2016

All rights reserved.  This poem, or parts thereof, may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including recording, photocopying, offset, or by any information storage and retrieval system without permission in writing from the author, except by reviewers who may quote brief passages to be printed in a magazine or newspaper.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Flawed (Flawed #1) by Cecelia Ahern - A Review

I am perfect.

I am imperfect.

I am perfectly imperfect.

I am Flawed.

Title: Flawed
Author: Cecelia Ahern
Genre: YA Fiction, Teen, Dystopian

Synopsis: Celestine North lives a perfect life. She’s a model daughter and sister, she’s well-liked by her classmates and teachers, and she’s dating the impossibly charming Art Crevan.
But then Celestine encounters a situation in which she makes an instinctive decision. She breaks a rule and now faces life-changing repercussions. She could be imprisoned. She could be branded. She could be found FLAWED.
In this stunning novel, bestselling author Cecelia Ahern depicts a society in which perfection is paramount and mistakes are punished. And where one young woman decides to take a stand that could cost her everything.
(verbatim from website)

It's a fairly new release - April 5, 2016 - and despite the author's bestselling titles (including her inaugural novel P.S. I Love You), this was her first young adult novel. It is one hell of a debut!
About the Author: There is a lot to know about Cecelia, so I will send you over to her site for her bio. It's impressive!

First Impression: The U.S. cover on this book is gorgeous. With its frosted glass dust jacket branded with an F, you can just see what is underneath - a likeness of the main character. It is a style I  have not seen before and I dig it.

Despite the draw of the cover, I am not sure I would have picked this one up, whether judging from the cover or the synopsis. When I received it in the book subscription box OwlCrate, of course I was excited - I mean hello: new book! But it took a few days before I even opened it and a few days after I started it to really get into it. The rest is history... I finished it in a day.

It has been a while since a book has affected me on a visceral level as well as an intellectual one. At first I was unsure what classified this book under the dystopian tag, but it became crystal clear soon enough.

Told in the first person present tense, it can take some getting used to, but at the same time, you connect to the main character on a different level than a more omniscient point of view.

As for the plot, imagine if you were required to be perfect or risk being ousted from society by a Guild formulated specifically to judge you by your indiscretions. When found guilty, they brand you Flawed.

Bad decisions: the temple.
Lie: the tongue.
Steal from society: your right palm.
Disloyalty to the Guild: your chest, over your heart.
Step out of line with society: the sole of your foot.
(taken from the book)

Now imagine you are the epitome of societal expectations until you make a decision... a decision which seems right and everything changes. Your whole life, irreparably changed by simply being human. 

There are the required romantic interest, the self-esteem issues, and the drama, but I dare you not to identify with Celestine North.

Final Thoughts: I was disgusted. I laughed and I cheered. I cried. I gasped in moral outrage. And in the end, realized I would have to wait for the sequel.

My Suggestion: Buy. This. Book. Read it. Reread it. Let your teenagers read it. Read it to the dog (or cat). Let it sit for years, then read it again. It will still be relevant.

Other fine retailers

Star Rating:

Disclaimer: I have not been compensated in any way for this review and all opinions contained herein are my own and in no way reflect the ideas or opinions of people or sites I may reference.  This is intended for entertainment purposes only.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Reviewing Your Old Writing May Require Time Travel

There was a picture circulating recently and I can't recall where I saw it. It could have been in one of my writers groups or Facebook, but the most likely candidate would be Tumblr - where keen insights happen amidst the fandomonium, sarcasm, and truly laugh out loud funnies.

It was this still frame from the movie Monsters, Inc.

But it wasn't the picture so much as the caption I saw with it:
  • Reading your old writing.
    • I don't know which face is most accurate.
For some reason it stuck with me. I could not stop thinking about its validity. It is a realistic testament to the writing process and how we grow as writers, honing our craft, learning, creating, and making shit up as we go.

I was curious about these faces, so I may have delved into some old notebooks of mine, reading many starts to stories I do not remember the plot to and poems I wrote in angry, depressed, bipolar angst. And the love poems! I cannot even. I will go so far as to say Mike's face (the green one, in case you are not familiar) is the one I make most when reading those love poems. Ugh.

Still I cling to the writing, rehash and revise the words because it is that voice I remember being the strongest. I was unsure of myself, angry and abandoned, clinging to the fragile ropes of my sanity. But my writing - it was truth, authenticity, my safe haven, my splash of red in a monochromatic world.

Like time traveling through old photos we ask ourselves: What were we thinking?

Now I am older (but not necessarily wiser and definitely not more mature), I can look back in horror or laugh at my naiveté, but I am coming to realize I am no longer sure of my voice. While writing is still truth, authenticity, and a safe haven, my brain slings mud with my fingers against my will. It seems present-me has not quite learned from the side-ponytail and flannel of past-me.

It feels a little something like this:

Disney paper finals big hero 6 hiro hamada

All this rides in on the back of the fact I recently came crashing down after the longest manic episode I have ever experienced, during which I made the decision to find my voice again, to become my own person both here and in my writing, and break away from my cozy little corner of group writing challenges. Instead I want to curl up in a ball, eat sugary death, and cry. It is like I broke up with myself or my bipolar has PMS. Such a coincidence this comes during National Mental Health Month.

Does that sound odd? It is certainly aggravating. And it does not help I am reading Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell right now either. Not only am I reading the words of an amazing book, but the writer in the book is getting more writing done than I am. I wish I was kidding.

To prove my point, next Monday I will be sharing an old poem of mine I am finding vaguely relevant during my current depression. Nothing new yet, but I am working on it.

Eye, Moon, Birds, Trees, Eyelashes, Clouds, Fantsy

May your pencils and mind be sharp, your caffeine and batteries charged, the notebooks and imagination full, and your blood, sweat and tears roll slowly so as not to mar the page. 

Remember, the writings of today are the old writings of tomorrow... no time travel required.