Summer Writing & Smiles

Summer Writing & Smiles

I smiled today. It was nearly involuntary. It emanated like a ray of light piercing through a small hole. That smile was summer.

I’m finishing up my second year of living in Saudi Arabia and a whole two-month writing bonanza stares me in the face. Oh sure, there’ll be family and barbecues and fresh berries and cherries. There will be baseball games and fireworks and long bike rides through the forest. And there will be writing.

Summer is when I become a ‘full-time’ writer. It’s when my brain can focus for long periods of time on items I’ve been itching to get at for an indefinite amount of time.  It begins in five days.

I’ve accomplished a lot this past school year. I’ve produced two original shows which I wrote, and I’m very happy with how they turned out. I finished the editing and publishing process for book three of my trilogy. I’ve written four or five short plays. A couple of which have already been produced. A couple more will be part of next year shows. I’ve even made some series in-roads into my 9th novel — some 10,000+ words already on its way.

So as I sit on my back deck, sipping a cold beverage, with my laptop in front of me, I’m smiling at what I hope to be able to accomplish this summer.

Finish novel #9 – It’s my first novel set in Malaysia. It is also looking like my first YA novel with four of the five main characters being teenagers.  This novel premise wasn’t even on my radar until about 6 weeks ago when a curious phrase popped through my mind. That’s how novels germinate for me. Usually a phrase, followed by an image, which grows into an idea worthy of long-format writing.  Then I develop the characters and let the story loose to see where it will go. This one is flowing, so I hope a good month of steady writing will produce a solid first draft.  Maybe by mid-July? Let’s see.

Start novel #10 – Actually, I already have. This idea I’ve been playing with for over a year and a half. I even wrote the first chapter already and I know where it’s going. But it requires a little research, so it will take some more time. I hope to have a solid start to this novel by the end of August. How about half-written? Nice goal.

Play-writing – I never discount play-writing because that’s the form that comes the most naturally to me. I have a show I wrote last year called Crazy Love, but I want to add one or two more pieces to it, so when the muse strikes, I set aside my novels for the afternoon.

Excited for summer? I hope you are at least half-excited as I am, and if you are, you’re plenty excited.

When was the last time you … ?

Think. What do you love to do but haven’t done it for a long time?

I know. There are reasons why you haven’t done it. Everyone has excuses.

I’ve done something this past week that I haven’t done in about a year and it’s been real enjoyable: guitar playing and song composing.

I won’t go into all the ridiculous reasons that my guitar was packed away awaiting a move that never happened for a year, but I can attest that it really has been a year without playing it.  And I missed it.

And it struck me how that cliched comment about “it’s like riding a bike”  came to the forefront of my mind when I put the fretboard in my hand for the first time in 12 months. My brain and fingers remembered everything. It’s pretty remarkable. I forget stuff all the time, but all the chords and finger positionings came naturally like I never stopped playing.

I plucked out some chords to the melody I created that matched some lyrics I made which are related to a new novel I’m writing. Yeah, a bunch of strange connections there.

But the point it this: I enjoy playing guitar. I enjoy writing lyrics. I enjoy composing songs on the guitar, and it felt great to do it again.

What about you? What do you love to do that you haven’t done in a long time? Try it out again. It’s been far too long.

I’ll leave you with some of the lyrics to my untitled new song.

RANDOM UNTITLED SONG LYRICS

Part of me is reaching, to set upon the stars

To grasp a piece of heaven, to lunge to places far,

       Part of me is crying out, to reach inside your heart,

  But I hold no ill will.

           No, I hold no ill will.

Part of me is trying. To understand this world.

Untangle all the colors that blindness tends to swirl

And form the ground beneath our feet that heaven’s gate unfurls

But I hold no ill will.

Yes, I hold no ill will.

The past it paints its canvas black with speckled sparks of light,

Glimpses to remind me of where I’ve been,

 The future holds the promises of many well-fought fights,

But I’ll never turn away from where I’ve been.

                 Cause I’ve seen the poorest soul be trampled to the ground,

 And I cannot turn away from where I’ve been,

        And I’ve seen the lights of fame adorning all around

Yet even more, it grips my breast, and hold it tight onto my chest

               All the places, good or bad, I’ve ever been

(copyright 2019 Mark W Sasse)

A Blissful Week of Cooking

I got to take a break from my drama teaching, directing, and producing hats this weekend and cook!

I organized a Week Without Walls cooking experience called Hot, Spicy, & Sasse. Yeah, I like the name too. I had twelve students, most of which had never cooked before, and I helped them build their cooking skills and techniques over the course of the week. It was a blast, and we ate a ton of good food.

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Here’s a look at our set-up. We had four booths installed in our loading dock. They were wired for lots of small hot plates, an oven, refrigerator, and, of course, rice cooker. Then I started with a demonstration and let them go at it, walking around to give them guidance as needed.

It was fun to see students who had never cooked before gain some experience, and more importantly, confidence that they don’t have to rely on anyone else for delicious food. They have the power! And now the skills.

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Here are two students making our final dish of the week: garlic butter stuffed crust pizza. Yeah, it was phenomenal.

Here’s the menu boards of ingredients we used for the week. I hope to do it again next year.

 

 

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Boh on Bose, Tea & Music

I have concluded this: Boh Tea is my favorite in the world.

Boh is grown in the lush Malaysian Cameron Highlands, and I started drinking it when I lived in Penang.  I eventually was hooked on unsweetened Boh black tea.  Smooth and flavorful.

I really started missing Boh tea when I moved to Saudi Arabia. I tried a wide variety of teas and eventually settled on a brand name Ahmad tea based out of London. I liked it, and I was happy.

One day, I discovered on Amazon that they sell Boh tea. I was ecstatic and told my kids that’s what I wanted for Christmas. So, sure enough, I unwrapped a bunch of Boh tea boxes which were under the Christmas tree.  I ended up bringing back 16 boxes of Boh tea.

The first thing I did was a taste test – Ahmad Tea beside Boh Tea.

I tried Ahmad. “Okay, that’s good.”

And then I tried the Boh again for the first time. “Wow! Oh my goodness. Throw out the Ahmad!”

Boh blew it away. Flavor – rich & smooth with hints of green tea – so much flavor and I finally remembered why I liked it so much.

The smooth rich flavors of the tea mix so perfectly well with the smooth rich sounds of the Bose, so whether I’m punching out words on my computer or cooking in the kitchen, the Boh and Bose tandem are there to keep me company.

If you are a tea lover, give Boh a try. I am not a paid endorser. I buy the stuff by the Boht load.

So here they are, the perfect pair:

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Boh Sitting on Top its Buddy Bose

 

 

And here’s a photo I took of the Boh plantation in Malaysia when I visited a few years back.

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Enjoy!

Another Recipe: My Take on Thai Curry

I LOVE a flavorful curry.  Thai curries are some of my favorite. When I’m out of Southeast Asia, I miss it tremendously and typically have to make my own if I am to be satisfied.

Here’s a recipe I whipped up today and it turned out fabulous, so I thought I’d share.  It tastes remarkably similar to a curry my Thai lunch lady in Penang would serve me often. It’s incredibly easy, very fast to prepare, and super delicious.  Try it out and let me know what you think!

First, create the spice paste:
1 inch ginger
1 inch galangal
large handful of thai basil leaves OR mint leaves
4 cloves garlic
1 red onion
1-2 stalks of lemon grass (white part)  (NOTE: I didn’t have this today, but still awesome!)
1-3 red chili peppers (per preference)
Put ingredients, along with a little oil, into food processor and mix thoroughly until nearly a paste consistency.
NEXT:
Put paste in frying pan and let simmer until fragrant.
ADD:
1 tablespoon Tom Kha paste (THIS IS OPTIONAL. I HAPPENED TO HAVE IT SO I ADDED IT. CAN BE MADE WITHOUT IT)
3-4 kaffir lime leaves
1 can coconut cream or coconut milk
1 chicken bullion mixed in a cup of hot water
1 pound thinly sliced chicken breast
Simmer until chicken completely cooked.
Serve over white rice.
Enjoy!

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Imagine What’s Ahead for You. It Might Be Beyond Belief.

I’m listening to the audio book “A Personal Odyssey” about the life of economist Thomas Sowell. It’s fabulous, by the way, and I highly recommend it. (On Amazon)

I’ve long been an admirer of Mr. Sowell, and it is absolutely fascinating to hear his story of growing up in the south, moving to New York, struggling with issues of family, schooling, societal racism and the constant struggles of a teenager and young black man trying to make a living by juggling various stints of employment trying to make ends meet. It’s a gripping and vivid story already, and I’ve only made it up to 1952 when he was a photographer in the Marine corps.

What struck me this morning, as I was listening during my walk, is the young marine, in his early twenties, has no idea whom he will one day become – one of the most respected researchers, writers, and economists in American history. All of the accolades that he has achieved in his breath-taking career were not even remotely on the radar in the young life of Thomas Sowell.

By 1952, he had not even finished high school. How would he have ever guessed the academic career which was to come?  graduate of Harvard,  Doctorate at the University of Chicago, professor at Cornell and many other institutions, a Fellow of the Hoover Institution at Stanford, syndicated columnist and author, etc…

How could have a high school dropout ever had hoped as much? It’s remarkable, really, and the truth that comes out it is this: We cannot, ever, foresee the future. This fact is both a great encouragement, but it is also a warning.

This is encouragement for those stuck in the life they don’t want to be in. You never know what’s right around the bend. You never know what how much that extra little effort will pay off. Grit may have its reward far beyond what you could have imagined.

On the flip side, this is also a warning shot for those who are riding high in life: don’t take the good times for granted. Enjoy them for what they are. And be thankful. You never know when the good times will end.

(Thanks for the reminder, Mr. Sowell. Now back to listening. I can’t wait to find out how you repudiated your communist leanings.)

 

 

My Hobby – Cooking (Today’s recipe: chicken broccoli stir fry)

When I’m not writing or doing drama-related stuff, I cook. Here’s one I did yesterday.: chicken broccoli stir fry. Super easy. Super delicious and very nutritious! Skip the Chinese take-out and try this. It doesn’t take long to prepare. Here are the ingredients:p_20190104_163940

Listed from left to right: green onions, chopped garlic (4 cloves), chopped ginger (1 inch), 1 medium chopped onion, 1 chopped chili pepper, 1 med head broccoli. In the bottles: sesame oil, oyster sauce, chili sauce, and go ahead and add some soy sauce.

You’ll also need a pound of thinly sliced chicken breast.

Cooking:

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Large wok: add sesame oil and all chopped vegetables. Let stir-fry on high heat for a minute or so. Add broccoli. It will start to steam and turn dark green.

Once mainly cooked, push to side, add more oil to empty side of pan and add half chicken. Stir fry to mainly cooked, push to side with vegetables and cook other half of chicken.  (That’s what is happening in the photo above.)

Now for the sauces: splash in some soy sauce, a couple table spoons of chili sauce (I use an Indonesian variety, but something like Siracha would work as well) and about 1/4 cup of oyster sauce. (if you want to thin out sauce, add a little chicken broth)

Stir fry on high heat until well mixed. Remove from heat. Add green onions and lightly stir. Serve over white rice. (I like Thai rice, personally.)

Enjoy! It’s super delicious and very easy. Here’s my meal from yesterday.

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All right, now back to book editing.