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Forget spring cleaning. I’m doing a pre-Christmas sweep of the house, trying to organize the odds and ends and simplify as much as possible. Tonight that means sorting through old papers, filing some and disposing of others. It’s tedious and I’m looking forward to it being over. But in the meantime, here are the three best parts of the job:

  • Being kept company by the cat, who has made a bed out of the cardboard box filled with recyclables
  • Rediscovering music I used to listen to, which is a fun blast from the past
  • Finding notes on scraps of paper

Regarding that last item, I just found a scrap with notes I appear to have jotted down in 2004. They’re for a writing exercise. They go like this:

Sit in a public place. Watch people’s behavior, appearance, speech. Write down character adjectives that come to mind. Write down specific details that led you to those conclusions.

I couldn’t remember where the exercise came from so I did a quick internet search and, sure enough, it’s paraphrased from Roy Peter Clark of the Poynter Institute. Once upon a time I thought it was worth remembering, and then I forgot about it–and Clark’s great writing tips. Thank goodness for found scraps of paper!

What scribbled treasures do you have scattered around your workspace?

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Writer’s Kitchen: Wassail Punch

On December afternoons, while trimming the tree, doesn’t it sound nice to have a pot of wassail simmering on the stove, filling the house with its aromas of citrus and spice? This has been one of those lovely late-fall Seattle weekends: fair, sunny weather, tree lots bustling but not yet chaotic, and plenty of cars driving with the perfect Christmas tree strapped to the roof. It’s the type of weekend that makes one want to get outside and breathe in the fresh air for a while, then return home to warm up while decking the halls, maybe even jotting down story ideas that pop up while basking in the festive delights of the season.

Wassail Punch
Adapted from The Kitchn

While the original recipe calls for sugar, you may want to taste the juice first after adding the lemon to see if it’s sweet enough for your taste. Keep in mind that the drink’s flavors intensify while simmering. This is an alcohol-free version, perfect for the whole family, though bourbon would also be a nice touch.

3 cups apple cider
1/2 cup orange juice
2 cinnamon sticks
3 whole star anise
1/2 Tablespoon sugar, optional
Dash of allspice
Juice of half a lemon

Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a low simmer and cook for several hours, allowing the flavors to develop and mingle.

Serves 3.

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Daily Writers’ Fix: December

Dear fellow writers,

What a lovely autumn we’ve had here in Seattle: long sunny days, brisk yet bright mornings, and finally even a little early snow! I hope you’ve enjoyed the daily inspiration with our Daily Writers’ Fix posts. Now that December and the holiday season is upon us, I’m going to take a break from the daily posts and do them sporadically as they come to mind. You still have over two months’ worth of inspiration, so I doubt you’ll find any excuse for writer’s block this month. However, in the odd case that you run through all the prompts more quickly than I’m posting new ones, please let me know. Otherwise, Daily Writers’ Fix will be back soon.

In the meantime, happy writing, happy holidays, and Merry Christmas!