Laura Offers Wine and Velveeta



wine glass for blog Casal Garcia for blog

Sometimes it’s all about the wine. Casal Garcia. A faintly effervescent rose Vinho Verde from Portugal. A perfect spring wine!

Time: 30 seconds.

Paired with the first outdoor hamburger grilling of the season topped with a healthy slab of (Velveeta) cheese. Oh, yeah, I went there. And it was awesome. I’m still drooling.


Added potato chips, some nuked (that looks weird!) fresh corn and asparagus in butter, and a side of applesauce. Yum!

Time: 10 minutes

Note from Mala: Is Velveeta cheese? I’m not sure. But it does make a very creamy base for cheese sauces. My favorite real cheese is Manchego sheep cheese with a little bit of quince paste on top. And a glass of wine. Let’s not forget the wine!

We Should Have Moved the Tree

I have a small weeping Japanese maple in my garden. I bought it as a rooted stick at the Philadelphia Flower Show twenty years ago. When we moved to St. Michaels ten years ago, the tree came with us. It liked the place I planted it and has thrived.

When I put in my raised vegetable beds there was plenty of room between the end of the bed and the small tree. Five years later the tree was encroaching on the bed and I was afraid I’d break something every time used that shortcut to get to other parts of the garden.

moving the raised bed

My husband and I looked at it and I decided we needed to move the garden bed. This required removing most of the dirt out of the bed. The drip irrigation system will have to be reworked as well. We started shoveling yesterday. It was warm and late afternoon and in the sun. We didn’t last very long.

This morning we worked again. Cooler, not in the sun, but we still had to sit down every once in a while. Sitting at the computer does not prepare you for this kind of work. I reminded myself it was that horrid cardio I’m supposed to get in every day. It had rained last night so the dirt stuck to the shovels like heavy, wet snow. We made a lot of progress and got the bed mostly emptied, levered up with bricks underneath.

Tomorrow we’ll see if we can move the wooden frame two feet away from the tree. At one point, on my knees in the mud, I said to my husband, “It would have been easier to move the tree.” He looked at me and said, “I didn’t know that was an option.”  I rocked back on my heels and wondered. Was moving the tree really an option? Probably not. But at that moment, I might have been persuaded.

Laura Blogs about Seared Duck Breast

I love cooking. I love cooking shows. I love talking about food. Ask friends, and even not so close friends, I love talking about food. I actually drool. Seriously. It’s disgusting.

I love thinking and writing about food and once penned a screenplay called Secrets of the CIA. No, not the spooky alphabet agency- the Culinary Institute of America.

Mala and I manage to add food into just about anything we write. I just plain love food. From pate and caviar, to Big Macs and fried bologna sandwiches, count me in. And Bugles? Don’t get me started. They make the BEST witchy fingernails ever and then – YOU GET TO EAT THEM!!! Does food get better than that??

The subject of dinner comes up in the office every afternoon and especially when Mala and I are writing. We tantalize each other with what we had the night before or what’s to come tonight.

Mala thought it might be fun to share. I liked the idea because (I’m the REALLY crummy, sluggy, non-contributing partner in this blog.) plus it would give me a way to remember some of these dishes. (Don’t blame the wine. I try not to.)

Dinner usually starts with a survey of the fridge, freezer, and pantry and no pre-planned menu. Last night’s sortie turned into:

Duck Medallians

Seared duck breast medallions with parmesan mashed turnips drizzled with a brown butter duck jus and a red cabbage/Granny Smith apple, honey and balsamic vinegar slaw.

Time: 35 minutes (for 2 or 3)

Chop turnips, boil
Pan sear duck breast in butter/olive oil. Then put in oven for 10-20 minutes at 350 degrees.

Chop ¼ of red cabbage, ½ Granny Smith Apple and add honey and Balsamic to to taste. Refrigerate.

Smash/rice/whip turnips. Add butter, parm, cream, etc. (whatever you have).

Salt and pepper EVERYTHING. To taste.

Then Plate. Make it pretty! (Good plating is like lingerie- a feast for the eyes that whets the senses, and makes everything taste better! Which results in, as my friend Speedy calls it, “The big food O!”

Note from Mala: Laura’s plate looks like it came from a restaurant kitchen. Mine never look like that. I love cooking, but we have a lot of food sensitivities in our household which makes cooking challenging. Laura has inspired me to try to make my plates prettier. But her comment about lingerie?  Just ask my lucky husband.

Getting Into the Zone

market umbrellas

In our last Working Writers Forum one of the members talked about getting into the zone with his writing. He said when he was in that place he seamlessly moved forward. Wikipedia gives this definition: zone is the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity.

I’m working on the third book in my Caribbean romantic suspense series, but getting in the zone has been difficult. In part because it has been ten years since I wrote the last of book. It’s set in the Caribbean on the island of St. Lucia. We had a home there for many years and I was on the island frequently. It was easy for me to imagine the settings, the smells, the sounds. We sold that house about the time the second book in the series was published. It’s harder to get into the Caribbean zone now.

My other problem is that my zone doesn’t happen all in one stretch. It comes and goes. Something like what happens to our Direct TV when we have a heavy rainstorm. This morning at my yoga class we settled into savasana, the deep relaxation at the end of the class. Suddenly I was in St. Lucia, in the Castries market place on a busy Saturday morning. This was not relaxing! I walked through the outside venders, past women under colorful umbrellas, piles of produce arranged around them. Past the fish guy, his cart full of this morning’s catch. Inside the market building, I headed for a booth in a dark corner where an old woman was selling herbs and bush remedies. I seemed to know where I was going. Clearly this was a scene I’m supposed to put in the book. Bush medicine is part of the story. But, accessing the zone during savasana?  Hello, Brain. You are not cooperating.

Why can’t I be more in the zone when I’m at my computer? Why do those moments seem to happen in the middle of a steamy shower, at 3 in the morning when I’m snugged into a warm bed, or on a long walk when I’m a mile from the house with no paper or pen in my pocket? It’s probably left and right brain issues. I’m wondering how I can make my computer space more Caribbean. Maybe that would help get my zone on a more reliable schedule.

Dialogue When a Character Can’t Speak

Before Laura and I worked yesterday she showed me the photo of the Easter eggs she and her husband made. She said they organized all the necessary components for dyeing eggs she’d boiled the day before. They had a pizza delivered, and then they made martinis and started coloring eggs. I imagine just about any activity is more fun with martinis. She said next year she’s having an Easter Egg Party. That sounds like fun.

Easter eggs don’t really have anything to do with script writing, but we usually spend the first ten minutes of each work session bringing each other up to date on what’s happened in our lives.

eggs - Laura

Yesterday we worked on a script after lunch, tweaking dialogue according to notes we got a week ago. We’re making progress.

A challenge with this script is that one of the characters can’t talk because he lost his tongue to cancer. Mute characters make dialogue tricky. The notes we got wanted us to ramp up the conflict between two of the characters; when one of them can’t speak we have limited options. He can write a note or someone else can speak for him. Or he can act his ass off. Maybe we can give him a bell or buzzer like that character in Breaking Bad. If this gets made into a movie, it will be a fabulous part for somebody.

We should probably watch The Piano, a film in which Holly Hunter plays a mute woman. However, she can sign. I remember that as being one of the most depressing movies I’d seen. Everyone came out of the theater silent and downcast. It won three Academy Awards out of ten nominations. So much for my discriminating taste.