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Daily Writer’s Fix: New Year’s Idea Generator (December 31-January 4)

Happy New Year! One of the things we love most about starting a new year is a fresh opportunity to determine goals and settle into new routines and positive habits–especially related to writing. We’ll be talking a lot in January about how to set–and keep–writing goals and get the new year off to a good start. But in order to write, you need ideas, right? One aspiring freelance writer asked me recently how I come up with ideas. That got me thinking about creating a Nooks & Cranberries “Idea Generator.” That’s one of the new things you’ll be seeing here regularly, and this week’s edition of Daily Writer’s Fix seems like a great place to introduce it.

And with that, here is this week’s Idea Generator:

Make a list of things you’d like to learn more about. Examples could be include how to fall asleep more quickly, good nutrition for kids on the go, how to bridge the marriage or kids gap with single friends, or anything. List as many things as you can think about. Divide your list into five little lists–one for each day of this workweek. Each day, take your mini list of topics and develop each one into a series of article ideas. For example, how to fall asleep more quickly could lead to the following articles: 10 ways to clear your end for a good night of sleep, relaxation techniques for bedtime, bedtime rituals for the whole family, the sleep “diet”: how to eat well for sweet dreams, expert advice on how to fall asleep and stay asleep, etc. You get the idea. Think in terms of headlines, if that helps.

If you do this each day this week, by Friday you’ll have a large pool of potential ideas just waiting to be developed! Further refinement is necessary, but that comes with time as you start delving into a particular topic when preparing the query letter. In the meantime, you’ll start the new year with no excuses for having nothing to write about!

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Capturing Holiday Moments

Ethan's ornament
Ethan’s ornament

The holidays are full of friends, family and precious moments that you’ll want to remember.  Having a camera at hand is the perfect way to record those times. But what if there’s a moment that the camera missed? Painting word pictures to capture what the camera couldn’t is a priceless post-holiday gift.

Writing a descriptive account of a holiday moment not only helps to beef up your albums, it can also make for a very special thank you note or end of year letter. Look at the photos you’ve taken so far, write the moments in between and enjoy reliving your holiday memories!


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A New Magazine for Photographers and Moms!

Click Magazine

Wondering how you’re going to spend the money you received for a Christmas gift? If you’re a writer who has a blog, chances are you’re interested in photography. And if you’re a mother (or at least have kids in the family) and a photographer–aspiring or professional–you might be interested in Click Magazine. Recently launched by Clickn Moms, this new magazine is full of tips for improving your photography, ideas and inspiration for new techniques and projects, as well as reviews and listings of products ranging from camera equipment to gifts and accessories for anyone who has a camera. It’s geared largely toward women who either want to capture their family life in photos or are building or maintaining professional family photography businesses.

I subscribed in advance of the introductory issue, and have been referring back to it time and time again. This magazine appeals both to the side of me who enjoys reading what other writers are up to and the side that is trying to stay up to date on the latest photography trends without getting too technical.

As writers, particularly if we’re also bloggers, we need to be able to take good photographs. Click Magazine is a fun resource that’s sure to inspire you to improve upon your photography!

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Daily Writer’s Fix: Holiday Edition (December 24-28)

Merry Christmas Eve! This week, in lieu of our usual daily writing prompts and inspiration, we’d like to encourage you to do something a little different. This week, dedicate your writing time–at least as much of it as possible–to blessing and encouraging others. Drop a handwritten letter in the mail to a good friend who lives in another state. Write a love letter to your spouse. List all the wonderful and endearing attributes you can think of about your child in a letter they’ll love reading for years to come. Try to do something like that every day. Who knows, by the end of the week you might just have a new habit you’ll want to keep in the new year!

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Friday Forum: 12/21

Photo from
Photo from

According to the Mayan calendar today, 12/21/2012, is the end of the world. Whether it is or not, the notion makes you stop and think, “Have I done all I wanted to do?”. As writers, the question may be more appropriately phrased, “Have I written all that I wanted to write?”.

What are some writing goals you want to accomplish before the end of the world? What thoughts come to mind when you think about the supposed impending Apocalypse?

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Writer’s Kitchen: Last-Minute Holiday Appetizers

Yesterday we covered last-minute host/hostess gifts, and today we have the answer to what to bring to a potluck when you’re strapped for time (perfect for when you’re on deadline!). Served with baguette slices and endive leaves, a Caesar salad-flavored dip will be a hit. And who wouldn’t enjoy the salty, briny flavors of baked feta cheese topped with warm olives? Keep reading for the recipes–complete with a last-minute trip the grocery store, you’ll have both recipes ready about two hours from now!

Caesar Cream

Caesar Cream
Adapted from Simply Classic

2 garlic cloves
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup packed fresh parsley
6 canned anchovy fillets
3 tablespoons freshly-squeezed lemon juice
1 cup sour cream
Sliced baguette, for serving
Endive leaves, for serving

Combine garlic and Parmesan cheese in a food processor until combined. Add parsley, anchovies, and lemon juice, and process until the mixture takes on a paste-like consistency. Turn into a bowl and fold in sour cream until combined.

Serve with baguette slices and endive leaves.

Serves 12.

Baked Feta and Olives

Sexy Baked Olives & Feta Cheese
Adapted from Dishing with Kathy Casey

1 1/2 cups mixed imported olives, pitted and drained
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes1 teaspoon fennel seeds
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 thick 8-ounce piece of feta cheese
Pita chips, for serving

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Combine all ingredients except cheese and pita chips in a small bowl. Lightly oil a medium-sized cast-iron skillet and place the cheese int he center. Top the cheese with the olive mixture, taking Kathy Casey’s advice to use a spatula to scoop out all the oil and seasonings.

Bake for 20 minutes and serve out of the pan with pita chips.

Serves 10-15.


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Writer’s Kitchen: Last-Minute Host & Hostess Gifts

Spoiler alert! If you’ve invited me to a holiday party between now and the new year, stop reading right now. I’m about to tell you what I’m giving you for your host/hostess gift.

Hotel 1000 Holiday Infusions Class

There. Now we can get down to business.

Christmas is less than a week away, and party season is in full swing. I don’t know about you, but no matter how much I try to plan ahead, I always end up caught off guard by how quickly the time passes by and how all of a sudden I need a host/hostess gift to bring to a party that’s just a few hours away.

The good news is that I recently learned how to make a lovely and personal gift in a matter of minutes from BOKA restaurant + bar’s Chief Mixologist, Mi-Suk Ahn. I was invited to attend a Holiday Infusions Class last week as part of Hotel 1000’s Holiday Throwback schedule of events, and I came away with wonderful ideas for making liquor infusions.

Hotel 1000 Holiday Infusions Class

I’ve made infusions before, as the concept is not exactly new, but our host and teacher took the idea to the next level for me. While in the past I followed recipes for things like limoncello or fumbled my way though trying to recreate a dill aquavit I enjoyed in Norway several years ago, I now have a wealth of ideas in my head for how to incorporate leftover herbs or fruits that are lingering in my refrigerator into infusions customized for any number of palates.

In a nutshell, all it takes to make an infusion is a glass jar or bottle, the spirit of choice, some herbs or fruits, and a little bit of creativity. At the end of the class, Mi-Suk helped each attendee create an infusion to take home and enjoy. I wanted to make something that a Scotch aficionado might enjoy, so Mi-Suk suggested using a base of whiskey or brandy (I went for the Old Crow) and infusing it with pear, Meyer lemon rind, and rosemary. After a few days of infusing, the pear was ready to remove, while the rosemary needed to steep a little longer. I think my infusion will be perfect in about a week.

This past weekend I placed half a pomegranate, a vanilla bean, and a cinnamon stick in a large canning jar and filled it with whiskey, wrapped the whole thing in a pretty Christmas dishcloth, and tied it with some twine to bring as a host/hostess gift to a Christmas party. With some simple instructions for how the recipients were to tend to their infusion over the next two weeks, it was a beautiful gift with a personal touch. I think I’ll be bringing a jar of a homemade infusion to every holiday party this season!

For a full schedule of Holiday Throwback events, contact Hotel 1000.

Disclosure: I attended the class as a guest of the hotel and my ticket was complimentary.