The unvoiced thoughts and ideas of a septegenarian.



AT THE CLEARING                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           

            In the process of packing to move I discovered a folder containing about twenty short pieces I wrote several years ago for a creative writing class I took at the U. of Chicago.  Among them was a description of The Clearing, an adult retreat center for those who want to spend some time working in a creative area be it writing, woodworking or spinning yarn.  Driving home from a week I spent there, I had written something about that idyllic place and there it was, in the forgotten folder. See my post, “A Memorable Time.”  Here it is.  I wish you such an experience.


It was a week of t-shirt days and sweat suit nights

Watching the Artist scarlet the maples.

It was logs and stone and pine needles and glistening red berries;

Morning sunshine filtered through pine trees

And white birch trees that marched forth

From a black forest ‘neath the moon’s spotlight.


The bay, a smooth blanket of sapphire,

A lone sailboat drifted by.

Rolling green hills, blackberry bushes,

White clouds webbing the sky;

Bright new condos along the shore

Like sea gulls facing the wind;

Weathered log cabins hiding deep in the woods.


Red barns, blue silos, white lighthouses,

purple asters, pink mums, goldenrod,

Hummingbirds and screeching crows;

A rocky cliff, a sawdust path, a white-tailed doe.


A time to share the joy of a woodcarver

Caressing his first sandpiper into being;

To hear a poet bring her soul to light.

A time for such stillness only birds bickered in the trees

And the sea lapped gently at the shore.

It was new faces, new voices and oatmeal with raisins;

A small room and thick wooly blankets and loons on the water.


It was mood-setting Chopin on the way,

And Charlie Parker on the way home,

And me in the middle

Stretching, sinking, swallowing.

It was all of that and more.

Don’t ask me what I did there.

I was.


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Julie Rose


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Over time I have collected some quotes about the craft of writing which I think are worth sharing with others who write. It’s questionable whether to call writing a craft, an art, a talent  or an obsession but that is another matter.

“Writing is a journey into memory and the soul . . . after a few months without writing I fear going deaf, not being able to hear the silence.”  Isabel Allende

“If my doctor told me I had only six minutes to live, I wouldn’t brood. I’d type a little faster.” Isaac Asimov

“When you make music or write it’s really your job to have mind-blowing, irresponsible, condomless sex with whatever idea it is you’re writing about.” Lady Gaga

“Minds so small you could put them in a gnat’s navel with room left over for two caraway seeds and an agent’s heart.” Fred Allen

“Writers will go to stupefying lengths to get the infernal roar of words out of their skulls and onto paper.”  Barbara Kingsolver

“Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self.”  Cyril Connolly

“There are many reasons why novelists write – but they all have one thing in common: a need to create an alternative world.” John Fowles

“If you ask me what I came to do in this world, I, an artist, will answer you, I am here to live out loud.” Emile Zola

“It’s tougher than yak jerky in January, but as any creative person will tell  you, there are days when there’s absolutely nothing sweeter than creating something from nothing.” Richard Krzemien

“Detail makes the difference between boring and terrific writing . . .  As a writer, words are your paint. Use all the colors.” Rhys Alexander 

“I am the literary equivalent of a Big Mac and Fries.”   Stephen King.

“If  you have any young friends who aspire to be a writer, the second best thing you can do is to present them with The Elements of Style.  The best thing  you can do is to shoot them while they’re still happy.” Dorothy Parker

And finally, my favorite quote about writing:

“It is a delicious thing to write, to be no longer yourself but to move in an entire universe of your own creating. Today, for instance, as man and woman, both lover and mistress, I rode in a forest on an autumn afternoon under the yellow leaves, and I was also the horses, the leaves, the wind,  the words my people uttered….”  Gustave Flaubert

Which one really screams at you?

Julie Rose





Aside from the good guy characteristics – kindness, consideration, generosity –  there are two characteristics I value above all others.  One is creativity; the other is imagination. Discipline runs a close third – discipline of both mind and body. I sometimes wonder if imagination and creativity are one and the same.  If not, where is the line that differentiates them?

It seems to me that one can possess imagination without being creative but I don’t think one can be creative without imagination. Consider an artist.  Certainly his imagination combined with creativity to produce  a painting. Is it possible to produce a  painting without exercising some  imagination?  I think so.   A woodworker can build a birdhouse – a creative talent – without imagination.

I can be imaginative in the kitchen – change a recipe, play around with various spices – but that is not creativity.  It becomes creative when I develop an entirely new recipe. Conversely, the act of assembling a 500 piece puzzle demands some creativity, but no imagination.

Are we born with those characteristics or can they be learned? Handed a box of crayons a toddler will begin to scribble all over a sheet of paper.  His ‘picture’ may be indecipherable but his creativity was in full gear while he scribbled. Was he imagining something when he drew that picture?

Whether innate or learned I think either characteristic can be drummed out of a child. When that happens a child grows up to be a robot, a turnip.  Only when our teachers’ colleges and curricula recognize the value of creativity and imagination and are taught how to encourage those traits will people benefit from life-saving and labor saving devices, and a new galaxy found, for progress is not made by one lacking those traits.

What is creativity?  Imagination?  William Plomer (?) describes creativity as “. . . the power to connect the seemingly unconnected.” Einstein calls imagination “…everything. It is the preview of life’s coming attractions.” I’ve also seen creativity described as: “…. Your job is to have mind-blowing , irresponsible, condomless sex with whatever idea it is you’re writing about.”  Don’t laugh. Applaud the writer’s creativity.

Both, I think, call upon one’s ability to squint: to see beyond the black and white of things: to experience the many shades of gray; to visualize a rainbow as a lasso, a plate of spaghetti as a confused mind, a garden hose as a snake.  Squinting is exercise of the brain in a manner that feeds one’s creativity and imagination. Go outdoors and look at a tree with a squint. What do you see?

See previous posts:  Flying High and Squinting.

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Julie Rose


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           I love to cook but I’m neither the PB&J nor the meat and potatoes type.  If I’m going to spend hours in the kitchen I want them to be spent somewhat creatively.  I’ve recently begun to host out-of-the ordinary themed dinner parties. There is no way I’d do one based, for example,  on the Fourth of July, with teeny-tiny flags all over the table and a cake frosted in  red, white and blue. It is a culinary challenge to dream up such a theme and an appropriate menu.  Makes me feel like a contestant on The Food  Channel,  competing with Bobby Flay,  only I don’t  have a mystery ingredient – I have a mystery theme.  In the hope of stimulating your kitchen creativity, here are the menus for the last two

          The Feast of the Seven Fishes – an Italian tradition on Christmas Eve commemorating the wait, the Vigilia di Natale , for the midnight birth of  Jesus. (I’d like to know how it  is possible to determine he was born at midnight.)  I admit this was an odd choice since my guests were neither Italian nor Catholic but I couldn’t resist the challenge it posed.

Appetizer:         Smoked salmon spread on crustini; marinated asparagus spears.

Salad:               Greens tossed with shrimp and crab, Asian vinaigrette dressing –                        melon slices

Entree #1         Japanese pan-fried trout filets; roasted tomatoes and peppers

Entrée #2         Broiled salmon steaks, lemon yogurt sauce,  mushroom risotto

Intermezzo;       Codfish Balls with lime sherbet

Entrée #3         Deep fried ocean perch nuggets on a bed of ricotta stuffed   manicotti

Entrée #4         Whole sweet & sour red snapper, sweet rice pilaf,

Green beans, slivered carrots & toasted almonds

Desert              English Trifle

Drinks:           Irish Coffee

Italian Souave

It was no easy tri ck to come up with seven fish dishes.  That was a lot of kitchening but I was well rewarded by rave reviews.  A couple of months later I decided to do it again, this time featuring international foods.  Here’s that menu:

International Menu

Appetizers:       Egg Rolls (Chinese) and dipping sauces

Spanakopita (Greek)

Salad:               Israeli Salad

Entrée Buffet:    Paella (Spanish)

Pad Thai (Thai)

Gorgonzola Pasta (Italian)

Mongolian Beef with Pea Pods

Cuban chicken

Sweet & Sour Pan Fried ocean perch filets (Japanese)

Persian rice with raisins and almonds

Deserts:            Apple Crumble (Irish)

Krumcake  (Norwegian)

Drinks:           German Beer

Italian Red and White Wines

Along the way I found the following dipping sauce recipe and it now occurs to me that maybe the next such dinner will consist of various such sauces and the ingredients to be dipped in them.

Now let me think – avocado dip, humus, smoked whitefish, blue cheese, something lemony, something minty, something hot/spicy, key lime salsa, spiked apricot marmalade – and  chocolate and caramel, of course.  Won’t that be fun?


Blend:   1 ½ C peanut butter, 1/2 C coconut milk

3 T each: water, lime juice, soy sauce

1 T each: fish sauce, hot sauce, minced ginger

3 crushed garlic cloves

1/3 C chopped cilantro

Bon Appetite

Julie Rose


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There are those who shy away from the stove and depend on frozen TV dinners. I’ve no doubt General Mills and Sara Lee applaud them. They can’t, however, count me among them. Nor can the makers of Ketchup and mustard – camouflages for poorly prepared food or lousy ingredients.  I like to cook and I’m quite good at it. I abhor fast food and most carry-out stuff and happily wander between sink, stove and refrigerator. There are times I am convinced I was born in a kitchen, not in a hospital. (See poem following.) .  Why, you might ask, do you like to cook?


The answer is I find cooking to be a creative exercise.   How many twists can I put on mashed potatoes? What’s another way of making chocolate cream pie? What can I do to perk up this dull salad?  Can I safely substitute V-8 juice for catsup? I avoid having dinner parties with themes based on the Fourth of July or Thanksgiving. Where is the creative challenge to be found in celebrating those holidays?  I have no wish to spread an American flag on my table nor have little plastic turkeys scattered around between the wine glasses.   I much prefer to plan dinner parties for about twelve to fourteen based on themes other than Halloween or Mother’s Day.. Here are a couple I’ve done that tickled my imagination and offered a challenge. Recipes are available by request to my email address below.


I once read about “The Feast of the Seven Fishes,” an Italian, Catholic, tradition on Christmas Eve, supposedly commemorating the three day wait for Jesus’ resurrection.  I can’t imagine why an event that occurred at Easter should be celebrated at Christmas but, nonetheless, that’s what it is. Although I am neither Italian nor Catholic that “Feast” struck me as a culinary challenge.  Preparing seven fish entrees and accompanying side dishes for a dozen people is no small trick.  After tweaking a menu about 35 times guests were first served a smoked salmon spread on crosini, followed by codfish balls, then five different fish entrees. All fish dishes were accompanied by a starch of some kind and a vegetable. The Chinese whole sweet and sour red snapper and the pan fried Asian trout filets stole the show.


A few months later the dinner-theme bug bit me again.  This time it was to be a casual affair, with pillows on the floor, using paper plates and plastic utensils. Guests were invited to partake of an International menu. which consisted of: Israeli salad, Egg Rolls (Japanese), Spanopikita (Greek), Paella (Spanish), Pad Thai, Gorgonzola Pasta (Italian), Mongolian Beef, Persian Rice (Iranian), Asian Sweet & Sour Fish with Danish Apple Crumble and Norwegian Krumkaka for desert – all to be washed down with French wine and German beer.


It seems appropriate at this time of year to celebrate summer but I’ve yet to decide on a summer menu.  Briefly – very briefly – I thought about a “Kiddie Food” theme but macaroni and cheese, chicken fingers and PB&J sandwiches is not my idea of a culinary challenge. Summer?  Summer?  What would be on my summer menu? Maybe cold vichyssoise or gazpacho, apple cole slaw,  potato/onion gratin, Drunken Drumsticks, thin slices of rare roast beef atop a bed of sautéed spinach and, for desert, fresh strawberry or blueberry pie with Kailua flavored crème frache.  Gotta tune that up a little.


The Kitchen follows.


Post a comment – share a recipe.


Julie Rose



THE KITCHEN (abbreviated)


I’m convinced I was born in a kitchen, not in a hospital.

The oven was my womb; my umbilical cord led to the sink.

I came out smelling like garlic, whining like an old mixer. . . .


My kitchen is my inner self . . .

The oven affords me time for reflection

The blender scrambles my thoughts into new ideas. . .

It is my internal clock

Wakes me to the aroma of fresh brewed coffee. . .

Lulls me to sleep at night with warm herbal tea


The kitchen is my smile.

I grin at a plate of chocolate brownies

Beam at a tasty pasta creation

Clap for a stack of crispy potato pancakes.

Glow when others applaud some dish

It’s also my frown.

Aerated foam is not whipped cream

Burnt bottoms on muffins are cause for divorce

And sticky rice is not nice. . . .


My kitchen demands balance and imagination,

Judgment, prudence and patience

There my visa is stamped, a passport to adventure.

An introduction to food from other cultures

. . .

Bury me, please, not with a headstone,

But with a sprig of thyme under my nose

And a cherry tree at my feet.