Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Cleaning Up the Mess

Those of you who come here regularly know that Pots ’n Pens is all about the writing and the cooking. Today I’m going to take a little tangent from that to highlight one of the support players in both tasks: cleaning up the mess.
Dishes already accumulating two days after Mom left.

For the last week, we were fortunate to have a helper in our house keeping the dishes washed and the kitchen in order—thanks, Mom! But for most of us, most of the time, staying ahead of the mess in the kitchen, in the office, and in the manuscript is half the work. It’s also a task that’s easy to put off, much to our shame. Still, as any top cook will tell you, maintaining a clean workstation is essential to preparing top quality food. You want your kitchen to be sanitary and every dish to be washed right away so it’s available the next time you need it. Otherwise you’ll end up with one of those monster stacks of dirty dishes that threaten to swallow you whole.
My desk area at the moment. Yes, those are rodents!

The same thing can happen in an office space. It’s easy to add one more thing to the pile and then to start another pile, to shove a few papers to the side with the intent of dealing with it later. But we all know that “later” never comes. And soon it’s a struggle just to find the space for your laptop. Even at the end of one project, we jump in so excitedly to the next that cleanup never happens.

While it’s not my main focus here, manuscript messes can start out in similar ways. They can be the result of a finished project that leaves drippings all over your next work in progress: an old character’s voice you love so much that it infects your new characters or a manuscript that you never finished editing because it seemed too difficult/messy. Manuscript messes can be as simple as a logic problem on page 3 that you choose to ignore until page 200 even though you knew it was there. But by that point, so much of the plot has wrapped itself around the problem that fixing it requires rubber gloves and industrial strength cleaner.

Whatever your mess, here’s my suggestion: CLEAN IT UP! . . .  DO IT NOW! It’s not going to get easier later. As evidenced by the pictures above, I’m a master at making messes, so trust me on this. Your cooking, your writing, and your family will be a lot happier if you do.

And just to prove that I’m not a hardhearted wretch, I’m sharing a recipe for Valentine’s Day. It’s an old classic I loved in my childhood that’s also available in variations all over the internet. But in case some of you don’t already know about these sweet, simple treasures, I present some tartly treats.

Miniature Cheesecakes

1 box vanilla wafers
16 oz. cream cheese (I usually use reduced fat and they’re still delicious.)
¾ c. sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract (or almond)
1 large can cherry pie filling (or blueberries or chocolate chips, etc.)
18 cupcake liners

Preheat over to 375°. After softening the cream cheese (by leaving it out fully wrapped or microwaving for a few seconds), add sugar and beat together. Mix in eggs and vanilla until blended.

Place liners in muffin pan cups. Put one vanilla wafer in the bottom of each liner. Fill each cup one third to one half full of cream cheese mixture. (Fill all a third of the way, and then spoon in whatever is left.) Bake for approximately 12 minutes until set and slightly golden, being careful not to overcook them.

After the cheesecakes cool, spoon cherry pie filling (or topping of your choice) on each cake. (You may wish to have more than one can of cherries ready if you want yours to be extra fruity.) Serve or refrigerate until ready.
Jonathan Schkade is the author of six books for children, including Icky Sticky, Hairy Scary Bible Stories. He's also a  network co-representative for the Southern Ilinois region of SCBWI. To learn more about Jonathan, you can study his dirty dishes or visit his site: www.jonathanschkade.com.

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