Making Soft Pretzels at Home

CompletedPretzels Making those soft, buttery mall pretzels is really easy to do at home. It is a fun recipe for the kids to help make, and a great snack for them too! These can be great for movie night, or game day.

 

 

 

 

 

Making the dough

In a large mixing bowl, dissolve 1 package (or 2¼ teaspoons) of yeast in 1½ cups of of warm water and 2 tablespoons of brown sugar. Stir in 1 cup of all-purpose flour, 1 cup of bread flour and 1 teaspoon of salt. Continue slowly adding 2 more cups of flour until the dough comes together. Kneed until the dough is smooth and elastic.

Place in a bowl sprayed with nonstick spray, and then spray the top surface of the dough to prevent it from drying out. Cover and let rise for one hour.

 

CutInSections

Prepare your Factory/Cut the dough

Preheat an oven to 450º (230º C).

In a small baking dish, combine 2 cups of warm water with 2 tablespoons of baking soda. This helps to give the outside that brownish, crunchy texture. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Note in the picture to the right, I have a little assembly line set up.

After the dough has risen, roll into a log, and cut into 12 pieces.

 

RolledOutRoll out the dough

Roll each section out into a three foot long rope. The pretzels will swell quite a bit when baking, so don’t worry too much about making them too thin.

 

PretzelShapeRoll each rope into that familiar pretzel shape. Push down on the ends a little to get them to adhere to the pretzel body. Dip into the baking soda water, and place on the parchment lined baking sheets.

 

 

 

Bake in the preheated oven for 8-10 minutes, or until golden brown. While cooking, melt the butter and prepare your surface for  adding the topping(s).

BakingSheet

 

 

Top and Serve

Once they are done, brush with melted butter, and top with coarse (Kosher works) salt, or other desired toppings. We love cinnamon and sugar as a topping as well!

FromTheOven

 

 

 

 

It makes one dozen pretzels.

CompletedPretzels

 

 

 

 

 

 

Recipe

1 package (or 2¼ teaspoons) of yeast

2 tablespoons of brown sugar

1 teaspoon of salt

1½ cups of warm water

3 cups of all-purpose flour

1 cup of bread flour

2 cups of warm water

2 tablespoons of baking soda

2 tablespoons of melted butter

2 tablespoons of kosher (or other course) salt

 

 

 

 

 

 

Google Drive as a Tool for Writing

Writing on the go, to me, is just called writing. I am always on the go. I have an active life, and I am busy with many things. Therefore, an important part of any tool for me is portability. I have a smartphone, a tablet, a laptop, and a desktop that I use for writing. I prefer my desktop over everything else, but I have the others because life has other demands for me. One big thing I looked for in my writing tool is the portability, and the ability to work across multiple platforms.

Google works well on my windows desktop and laptop, and also works via apps on my smartphone and tablet. One drawback to the android app is that spell-check does not work. This can be an advantage sometimes, when I need to keep writing and suppress my need to constantly edit as I am writing. As it is, I switch to the desktop or laptop for final edits, and access to the spell-checker.

Another great tool inside the online version of the Google word processor program is the ability to research topics. I can highlight a word, and then go to the tools menu and select research. This will open up a side pane with relevant links. This is nice when I am doing some quick research for a story I am writing. It can be distracting, as I do have a tendency to love research.  The word processor offers all of the basic formatting features I need, and allows for the exporting of documents in commonly used formats, so that I can port it over to Adobe InDesign or Microsoft Word as needed.

The spreadsheet also comes in very handy. I use it to keep a “plot workbook” as I call it, with my notes for each chapter, POV, and character and place notes. This helps me to keep ideas, and to re-orient quickly when I resume working on a particular story.

In the future, I hope to band together with some other authors and publish an anthology.  Google Drive allows me to collaborate easily with others. I believe it is even now possible to track who made what specific changes to a document.

It took me a while to settle on my writing tool. I do not like to post public criticisms, so I will not mention specific software, but I did try many. I tried dedicated writing apps, designed specifically for writing stories. I tried various combinations of software in conjunction with cloud storage, I even tried some popular note-writing apps to see if they would work out for me. Google docs is what I ended up coming back to.

I remember reading a review of an app, and it really resonated with me when the author of the article stated that power users often like more simple app interfaces, whereas newbies usually like “flashier” apps. I am not sure about the power user versus newbie distinction, but I know that I do appreciate a simple interface. Google Docs does provide that simple interface that I appreciate.

One more great thing about using the Google Docs on Google Drive, is that Google Docs do not count toward the space limit. In other words, you can have an unlimited amount of Google formatted documents on Google Drive.

You Already Failed Your New Year’s Resolution, Now What?

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Setting and achieving goals is an important part of therapy, and also very important in everyday life. As a therapist, I have to be able to help people set and achieve goals. As a writer, of course my goals are about making sure I fit writing into my life.

There is something motivating about starting fresh. When I was in public school, I can remember the start of every new academic year would begin with my proclamation that I was going to be more organized and do better in school that year. I graduated high school with a 2.79 GPA, so you can guess how that went.

Similarly, I think there is something to the new year that welcomes setting new goals and trying to achieve new things. Many people set resolutions for the New Year, but New Year’s Resolutions are notoriously not followed through upon. If you have already failed in your New Year’s Resolutions, then don’t give up! You can still do this, and here are a few suggestions to help you.

Is Your Goal Realistic?

It is important that goals are achievable. Losing twenty pounds a month may be hard. When the going gets tough, the tough grab a milkshake and watch How I Met Your Mother re-runs. Make sure your goals are actually achievable, or you are setting yourself up for failure. There is something intrinsically motivating about setting goals. There is also something intrinsically motivating about a achieving goals. Keep your long term goals high, but consider re-evaluating your short term goals to be more realistic. You can celebrate each small victory, which will be motivating as you continue toward your long-term goal.

Make a Public Commitment

When we make a commitment to other people, we are much more likely to follow through on it. My wife and I have been encouraging each other to eat healthy, exercise, and lose weight. It is motivating for both of us that we get encouragement from each other. It is also helpful knowing that we will hold each other accountable for achieving our goals.

Consider a Further Breakdown

I alluded to this above, but consider making short term goals that use the “baby steps” mentioned in the film, What About Bob? One gentleman I knew came up with a goal that he would exercise before opening a beer after work each night. He started by walking around his living room. Then each step was only slightly larger than the last. Since each step was only a bit bigger than the last, it was easy to stay motivated and follow through. The last I heard, he was up to several miles.

Reward Yourself

People all work for positive reinforcement, recognition, and rewards. This is something that sounds true for kids, but do rewards really work for adults? Think of it this way, would you still go to work if you did not get paid at all? Probably not. Consider rewarding yourself with a trip to the coffee shop, a new CD, or whatever works for you. It can be incredibly motivating to know that you get to go to have a coffee because you worked so hard for it.

Most Importantly, Never Give Up

If a goal is important to you, then keep working toward it. Avoid the all or nothing type of thinking that often leads to abandoning a New Year’s Resolution. Just because it didn’t work out for you one week, does not mean that you have to let go of the idea of meeting your goal. It may be time to re-examine the goal, come up with more baby steps, or find some way to motivate yourself some more, but don’t allow yourself to give up over one small defeat!

Wherein I Muse that ALL Fiction is Fantasy

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I have thought recently about some of the principles that I believe in when it comes to fiction stories and genre. I am not speaking about genre in the more traditional sense. When I go to Amazon, I realize that if I go to the Fantasy section, then I will get results that reflect books having to do with magic, mythical creatures, swords, and the like. I am speaking in this post more to the general idea of a fantasy. A fantasy is something created in one’s imagination. Something that has not actually happened. See how that fits into fiction? Fiction is a story that never actually happened, created from someone’s imagination.

Of course the next question you have, after accepting that premise, is, “So what?” I hear you. I notice many writers and readers get caught up in the “reality ” of stories. In science fiction, I have seen some argue about whether or not space travel in X manner (notice I dodged the argument by using a variable instead of mentioning a specific method.) Some people only want to write or read those science fiction stories that reflect realistic technology. My take on it is that it is called science FICTION for a reason . If it was real, it would be called a science textbook.

What I see many authors gloss over these days, however, is what I call internal consistency. This applies to everything that is created within the story. It applies in many ways, and it requires the writer to be somewhat cerebral. Before he became delusional and arrogant, M. Night Shyamalan created the Sixth Sense. He created certain rules that he followed throughout the movie. For example, anything the dead interacted with in the physical world was red. After the surprising ending, one could go back and see all of these rules in place throughout the movie. I remember seeing an interview with him, where he described going through scenes and looking for discrepancies in the color scheme, sometimes finding a problem right as they were starting to shoot.

This, to me, is internal consistency, and is very important to me in the stories that I enjoy. I want stories to be consistent with the rules created in that world. If this is a story where the ghosts cannot speak to the living, then I do not want to catch a ghost talking to a living person, unless there is a development in the story that accounts for this. I don’t want to see a character that acts wildly outside of their established personality. Internal consistency, in my estimation, is critical in any fiction story. As far as whether or not certain elements are realistic? It is all fantasy, which is not real by definition.

How do you find you eBooks to read? Please respond.

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pixabay
public domain

The USA Today does not always publish the most reliable of polls, but this recent article on how eBooks are changing reading habits seems significant. It also just makes logical sense. More people are purchasing and using eReaders to read their books. Along with this comes a transformation in  the way that people shop for books. When one relies on an eReader, then it is less desirable to go to a brick-and-mortar store to browse books. Particularly, when people stated in the poll that their biggest reason for not reading is because they do not have the time. With a time crunch, who wants to strap on galoshes and traipse to the bookstore?

This brings up an interesting problem though. When something transforms in this way, there becomes a new way. I have often struggled with how to find new books to read. I feel much like I am stabbing in the dark, rather than using a reliable method of finding new, quality books.

I love to support independent artists as well. So for me, that introduces another layer. How do I find indie authors that have amazing books that I have not heard of? I do really believe in quality as well though. That means I also want to weed out those poor quality works.

An example here is that I recently read a book that has been recommended on my Amazon page for numerous months. Probably years. I jumped into the first book of the series. There were typos, but not so bad that I could not enjoy the book. However, there were numerous, gaping plot holes, where the book did not follow its own logic (a big problem for greens such as me.) There were also numerous instances where characters acted outside of their given personality, with no explanation. One example: there was a king and a queen, where the king absolutely adores the queen. The queen is a horrid, evil, power-hungry person, while the king is compassionate and just person who is touted to be able to read and know people very well. If he knows people so well, and is so compassionate, why on earth would he adore this horrid person as his wife? The book offered no explanation.  I loved the characters, and I loved the world-building, but the inconsistencies were a huge disappointment for me, such that I will not be reading any further books in the series.

So, how do I find books from indie authors that are high quality, that fall within what I like to read? Right now, I use the Amazon recommendations quite a bit, but I must admit that it is really hit-or-miss, and I end up buying many books that I do not finish reading. Yes, I do read the reviews for the books before purchasing. I also cannot help but to think there are some gems out there that I would love to read, but I have just never heard of the books.

If you would not mind responding please, I would love to hear from you. 

Do you primarily read eBooks, or psychical books? What methods do you use to find new books to read? Do you ever read indie authors, and if so, how do you find indie books to read?

What is Your Reader/Writer Personality? A Quick Test

There are many different personality tests, and they are often used in organizational psychology, where consultants work in the workplace to help co-workers understand one another. I recently took one at work, as I have also done in the past, and I thought of how it applied to those who read or write fiction. I have decided to use the True Colors personality type here because of its simplicity and applicability, but as I mentioned before, there are many others available.

True Colors was started by Don Lowry in the seventies, and still has a strong following. It categorizes personality types into four broad categories, based on a color. The green in me (you will know what that means soon), feels compelled to warn you that the human condition is not easily simplified into four discrete categories. In other words, the accuracy and applicability of this personality test will only get you so far. You know you the best, and you may have more than one color personality type that influences you, or it may vary based on the particular topic or situation. Overall, however, I think this is a good metric for building understanding.

For those in critique/writing groups, I think that understanding ourselves and others also goes a long way toward dealing with conflict. When we see these personality colors in ourselves and others, we can appreciate our differences, and view others as different instead of viewing them as wrong.

I am going to explain each personality type is it applies to fiction writers and readers. Please note that this is based on my own subjective view of writers and readers, as well as my knowledge of the True Colors personality types. I like to think I am a pretty effective therapist and manager, but I am also human.

Click here to take the personality test. Then return here to see what you personality type means for you as a reader or writer of fiction.

WikiMedia

Gold: Consistency

The gold personality is one that thrives on rules and traditions. They have a strong sense of duty and commitment. They desire things like punctuality and organization. They measure worth by completion. They are likely to be a part of groups, and like to be respected. They enjoy being in positions of authority, and like to bring stability.

As a Reader

These are the so-called “grammar nazis” that everyone refers to. Rules exist for a reason, and golds do not like to read the work of people who refuse to follow the rules. They appreciate worlds, characters, and stories that are internally consistent, and follow the rules of writing. They have no use for works that are riddled with grammar, spelling, or punctuation errors. Golds can sometimes get lost in the nit-picky details, to the exclusion of the more emotional aspects of writing. Writing is a science, not an art.

As a Writer

Great at editing, golds go the extra mile to ensure every last typo is tried, convicted and executed. They tend to put a lot of thought into their stories, and like it when all of the rules of their fictional worlds are explored and adhered to. The three act structure. show don’t tell, and other traditional rules of writing and publishing are their bread and butter.

In a Writing/Critique Group

They make it a point to be on-time, and to follow through on their commitments. They appreciate others who are also punctual and follow-through on their commitments. They like to set up the rules and to help govern the group. They have little tolerance for people who are late, do not follow the rules, or do not follow-through on their commitments. They are the person everyone turns to for grammar advice, or when they believe a general rule or guideline will assist them. They can come across as harsh, rude, judgmental, and overly concerned with “rules.”

WikiMedia

Blue: Feeling

The Blue personality values nurturing, relationships, and emotions. They are very much drawn to literature and love symbolism. They love expression and creativity, and encourage the same in others. Blues need harmony, and make decisions based on feelings.

As a Reader

They want to connect with characters, and love stories that convey an inspirational message. They tend to like stories that have happy endings that neatly tie of all conflicts with a nice, silky bow. They love stories that are creative, and can be bored with stories that are too far “inside the box.” Some typos and mechanical errors are okay, as well as some minor holes in the plot, as long as they have a good feel for the characters and the characters are creative and compelling.

As a Writer

They tend to be “seat-of-the-pants” writers, and really like to develop their characters to the fullest. Conflicts in their stories will often force their characters to examine their feelings and character flaws, and grow as “person.” They thrive on positive feedback from others, as that is really why they write. They strongly believe in ideals, and bring that into their writing. They have a difficult time dealing with confrontation, can move at a slow pace, lose sight of important details, and do not tend to initiate.

In a Writing/Critique Group

The group cheerleader, they want to make sure everyone knows they are valued and heard. They can sometimes have a hard time with not taking criticism personally. They often do well at finding compromise. They love opportunities to be creative and connect with others emotionally.

WikiMedia

Green: Thinking

Innovative, and logical, they like to be seen as being competent. They are curious, require intellectual freedom, and can question authority. They seek perfection in all that they do, including play activities. They seek intellectual stimulation, and value trying to solve intriguing problems. They can be oblivious to emotions at times and can be seen as being detached.

As a Reader

Grammar, spelling and punctuation errors bother them, but a small amount can be overlooked if the rest of the story is compelling. They prefer stories that are well thought out, and have little tolerance for poorly developed magic or other systems that do not seem to follow a logical trajectory. They value brevity and concise communication. They like to analyze any systems that may be at play in the fictional world.

As a Writer

They tend to spend a lot of time thinking and researching. No detail is too small to spend an inordinate amount of time researching and thinking about before proceeding. They tend to overlook the more emotional aspects of stories, such as scene descriptions and emotional expression by characters. They like to bring innovation to their writing. They are constantly seeking to improve their writing skills. They can be hesitant to try new things. Sometimes they can get so lost in the details of a story, and “thinking things through,” that they forget to write the story, or get bored and move on.

In a Writing/Critique Group

They are curious, and value differing viewpoints. They want people to respect them, and to feel valued as a part of the group. They are good problem-solvers, and at organizing a workable system for the group and the group structure, such as how and what is reviewed in the group. They can have a hard time making decisions in an effort to fully think things through. They can be seen as being cold, detached, on unemotional to others, particularly those strongly connected to feelings. They do not tolerate “fools.”

WikiMedia

Orange: Adventure

Oranges are free, spontaneous, and impulsively take risks. They are active, optimistic, and thrive on crisis. They are animated and dynamic, love to be the center of attention, and are very competitive. They are generous and optimistic. They are fun, and bring excitement.  They need public recognition of their abilities. They are enthusiastic, but tend to over-commit and overestimate results. They act first and think second.

As a Reader

They appreciate stories that cater to their sense of adventure. They like bold books, and love variety on their bookshelves. Formulaic novels bore them to tears, and they may often switch from one story to the next, depending on their current whims. They like stories filled with adventure, in one form or another. They will tend to avoid stories that they see as overly depressing.

As a Writer

They don’t like deadlines. Rules can be important, but sometimes it is just as important to find creative ways to break all the rules. They do not like to feel controlled in their creative endeavors. They like to write big, bold and beautiful. They like to write about action and adventure. Writing is an art, not a science. They are the ultimate, “seat-of-the-pants” writers. Oranges can “figure out the details later, when they get there.” They believe stories should be fun to read.

 In a Writing/Critique Group

They can sometimes have trouble fitting in and finding acceptance. They can be competitive, when others do not perceive something as a competition. They bring a spark of fun and adventure to the group. They do not like to make commitments, and may often not keep them, as they prefer to live in the moment. Logic and objectivity do not factor into their behaviors, and they may have a hard time connecting with people who are driven by logic. They prefer a casual feel to the group, rather than a formal structure. They love to talk, and can sometimes dominate conversations.

Concluding Remarks

Anything that is a generalization will always have some margin of error. I meant for this to be fun, and maybe useful,  but it no way is it a rigid rule manual for all human behavior. So definitely take things with a grain of salt. Be aware that people usually have one color they are really strong in, one that is a runner-up, and then a distant one (fourth place) that they have the most difficult time with in others.

I would really love to get your feedback. What did your personality come out as? Did the description fit you as a person who loves to read or write fiction? What parts did not fit? Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment!