Surviving the Crash and Burn: NaNoWriMo Wrapup.

And that's it. The end of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) for 2016. The aim: to write fifty thousand words in 31 days - a short novel from start to finish. For more information on NaNoWriMo click HERE.  Those who 'win' gain glory and prizes - including discounts for writing software and editing, free eBook creation, and a free masterclass by James Patterson. Mostly it's for the glory - the satisfaction of finishing the first draft of a novel. This year my project was the third journal in Viola Stewart's adventures - The Illusioneer & Other Tales.

Did I win? No. I managed just over 17,200 words. Technically I crashed and burned on day sixteen. november Did I fail? No. "But you only managed half the word count goal?", you say. "So what," say I. And here's why:

There is more than one way to win in NaNo. Just participating - getting off my butt, putting pen to paper, cajoling my brain into production and not giving into procrastination is a huge win.

The week before NaNo, I had given into anxiety (What if I haven't got another book in me? What if it's crap?) and devoured chocolate in an effort to feel better. NaNo loomed. Two days to go and I wasn't ready! Out came the notebooks. I dove into the internet, researching nineteen century illusionists, Victorian beach holidays and the Loch Ness monster (amongst other things).

November started with promise. I had a goal. I had a deadline. I was going to make it! Then real life happened. Doubts crept in. By day sixteen I was exhausted. The migraines started and I still had Supanova (convention) to content with. I tried to push through. I got frustrated, annoyed, anxious.

Then I remembered writing is like an iceberg. The reader glimpses but a fraction, the final product. There's a lot more to a novel than just the final words on paper. The foundation is the important thing.

Once I gave myself permission to 'fail' at NaNo, I managed to relax. My migraine faded. The anxiety abated. I could think more clearly. My health improved. I wrote notes. Lots of notes. Clues required later in the story; plot threads to be gathered and finalised. I drew a map, vital to follow the action and make my life easier when I returned to work on the first draft.

If I hadn't had those NaNoWriMo statistics staring back at me,  I may have continued to wallow. I didn't moan that I had a block  or I was going to fail. Instead, I asked myself: what else can I do to help achieve my final goal?

NaNo was just one of many tools in my writing box. A way to get closer to my final goal. By the end of the month, I had completed more than one-third of my final goal - the third installment to Viola's adventures. In turn, this encouraged me to start looking at the final book cover. I even got out of my chair and got some gardening done (yeah for exercise and endorphins).

So, how did I really do for NaNoWriMo? If you only look at the numbers on my dashboard then, yes, technically I did crash and burn. But in my heart, I beat this bout of anxiety. In my heart, I won.

And that's what really matters.

Photo Friday: In the Garden

Last week I partook of 'feel good' Tryptophan and Phenylethylalanine via (way too much - is there such a thing?) dark chocolate. This week I've added Endorphins* to my arsenal to dispel the gloomy funk set in after weeks of anxiety. And what better way to get exercise than pottering in my garden in an effort to catch up on several months of garden neglect? Here's to sunshine, fresh air and endorphins.

Front yard:

First, I pulled out a few of the self-seeded lavender to liberate a couple of rose bushes near the path from being smothered - and discovered some asparagus was still alive behind them. The path needed some serious clearing. The lavender hedge (and more errant self-seeded lavenders) had grown across the side path and needed trimming back...

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... as did the path for the postie, near the verge (below). There is oh so much weeding, to remove errant grass clumps in the vege garden and stone paths (I decided to leave the parsley for now and pull them out as we need them).

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The path from the verge to the house is now swept and the irises trimmed.

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I also pulled the multiplied succulents from the garden beds. The cuttings and removed plants waiting to be re-homed (I'm giving them away).

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Next, I set to clearing the footpath around the house (there was only about thirty centimetres to wiggle past) and cleared out part of the overgrown 'fairy' garden, where I discovered some long lost solar Christmas lights - just in time to put up for this year.

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Back yard:

I've also been hard at work in the back yard, doing a clean up for the inevitable Christmas parties. I did some more weeding, discovered some surviving strawberries, rejuvenated two potted bushes - a rose and the blueberries (replacing some of the old potting mix) - and potted a self seed tea camelia into a new home. Dearheart mowed the grass - the seed stalks stood over four foot high - and now we can access the garden beds and more of my roses.

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We're so fortunate to have healthy soil. I don't use chemicals if I can avoid it. Then I opt for ecologically-friendly options. Companion planting and using the natural predators helps also.

I took this photo before the grass was mown. I stand with the First Nation of Grassy Narrows in Ontario in their bid to have mercury removed from their land. You can support the youth of Grassy Narrows at Go Fund Me.  #standwithgrassy

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Sciencey Stuff:
*Endorphins are released from the pituitary gland (brain) during of strenuous exercise, emotional stress, pain, and orgasm. They aid in the relief of pain and induce feelings of pleasure or euphoria.
  1. The Benefits of Exercise for the Clinically Depressed: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC474733/
  2. The Exercise Effect: http://www.apa.org/monitor/2011/12/exercise.aspx

Photos:©2016 Karen J Carlisle. All Rights Reserved.

Chocolatey Strawberry Goodness

It's been a long month and I'm in need of some chocolatey goodness - and the caffeine and Tryptophan and Phenylethylalanine* to pick me up. So I went searching for some new recipes and found this on Hugs and Cookies XOXO. I've adapted it to metric and for Aussie cooking.

Dark Chocolate Strawberry Brownies.

What you need:
  • 1/2 cup margarine (I'm lactose intolerant. You can use butter if you prefer)
  • 225g dark cooking chocolate for brownies.
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs (we used fresh from mum's chook run)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup self-raising flour
  • 225g strawberries (just under a punnet )
  • 250g of 70% dark chocolate for the topping.
1-ingredientswm
How to make it:
Brownie base: Melt the cooking chocolate and margarine, until smooth. Stir in the sugar. Add vanilla and eggs and self-raising flour. Pour into pre-greased or non-stick 20 x 20 cm baking dish. Bake for 20 minutes at 175 deg C. Allow to cool. Topping: Slice strawberries and place on top of brown base. Melt dark chocolate and pour over the strawberries. Chill for one hour (minimum) and cut into slices. Yum! finish
Changes I made to the original recipe:

Self raising flour has flour+baking powder. In Australia we don't have salt in our self-raising flour, as they do in the US. I removed the salt in the original recipe to make this healthier. I'm also using 70% dark chocolate which is not as sweet (and less milk - see lactose intolerant comment above). I also increased the amount of chocolate for the topping to ensure the strawberries would be covered.

Changes I'll make next time:

The extra thickness made it harder to cut and made them very, very rich. Next time I'll try my 85% dark chocolate to reduce sweetness. I may also decrease the amount of chocolate to 200-225g for the topping so it is not as thick.

Suggestion: The brownies were soft and gooey (which I love). If you prefer your brownies more 'cake-like', then you will need to cook the brownie base for longer.

And for those who like video:

[embed]https://youtu.be/OMnuSp4MO3U[/embed]
Sciencey Stuff:

*Tryptophan: amino acid found in small amounts in chocolate and is used by the brain to make serotonin (neurotransmitter producing feelings of happiness). Phenylethylalanine: has been found in chocolate. It promotes feelings associated with the initial euphoria of falling in love. It also acts as an anti-depressant, combining with dopamine in the brain.

Bibliography:
  1. A natural compound in red wine and chocolate may halt Alzheimer’s, study finds http://www.sciencealert.com/a-natural-compound-in-red-wine-and-chocolate-may-halt-alzheimer-s-study-finds
  2. Can chocolate give me a happy high? http://science.howstuffworks.com/life/inside-the-mind/emotions/chocolate-high1.htm
  3. Compounds in dark chocolate can make you feel calmer... http://www.sciencealert.com/compounds-in-dark-chocolate-can-make-you-feel-calmer-and-more-content-study-finds
  4. Why does chocolate make us happy: http://www.sciencefocus.com/blog/why-does-chocolate-make-us-happy

Photos and Video:©2016 Karen J Carlisle. All Rights Reserved.