Tag Archives for " rambling "

Aug 03

Things I Don’t Understand: Cauliflower Trends

By Melinda VanLone | Thoughts


The current trend toward pretending cauliflower is a potato.

It’s not. It’s a vegetable, and a rather icky one at that. It does not now, nor will it ever, taste like a potato. If I liked cauliflower, then I’d just eat that, without the pretend. But I don’t. So I’m not going to disguise it by mashing it,  throwing butter and cheese on it, and calling it a potato. It’s still icky cauliflower, though now it’s ruined perfectly good butter and cheese.

I’ve noticed cauliflower is being used in everything from brownies (seriously?!) to biscuits (no, just no) to “potato” salad. It’s a way of going low-carb or gluten-free, and while I understand the desperation behind the experimentation, and while I do try to eat low-carb, I’d rather give up brownies or just know I’m going to consume carbs for those few delicious moments than sully the experience with a vegetable that doesn’t belong in the mix.

Cauliflower is not a pasta. It’s not a flour. It’s not bread, or cookies, or pizza dough, or anything else. It’s a white, bumpy, bland version of broccoli, which is another vegetable I don’t like at all.

Have you tried using cauliflower in place of other things? “Mac” n Cheese? The basis for chocolate cake perhaps? Why’d you try it, and did you like it? And most importantly, did you like cauliflower before you tried disguising it as a brownie?

Does it still count as a vegetable if it’s pretending to be a brownie?


Jul 08

Do You Need A Little Noise?

By Melinda VanLone | Photos , Thoughts

Coffee Shop

Sometimes when I’m working I prefer absolute quiet, almost like I’m in a library. It helps me get into my own head so I can then get into a character’s head. When I was in school, I preferred to study that way, too. It drove my husband crazy. He likes a bit of background noise and did his best studying with either the tv on in the background (usually sports of some sort) or he’d spend quality time in a local pub.

It turns out that according to studies, creativity is enhanced with some low level background noise. (Check out this article) Who couldn’t use more creative thinking during the day? I tested this theory out last week, and I’m now in love with a website called Coffitivity. It plays a continuous loop of diner sounds. Yes, it’s just like you’re sitting in a crowded diner, complete with conversations and clinking dishes. It transformed my writing day from working alone in a vacuum to working in a public place, without ever leaving my chair. And after using it for three days I’m able to say that yes, it helped my creativity. I was able to delve into my character’s head faster, and easier, and then able to torture them in more unique ways.

I think this site would work for others, rather than just writers. Everyone has moments in their job where they need to think, to reason, to create…whatever. Having also been part of the corporate world, I wonder how meetings would be enhanced if this played in the background?

Here’s some others I found around the interwebs. Check them out, and let me know how it worked for you.


Ambient Noise Makers

(click the name for a link to the website)


Diner noises, with clinking dishes and conversations and occasional laughter. You can adjust the volume, that’s it.


Rainy Mood

A lovely thunder storm. This one made me very sleepy, and I ended up taking a nap. Great for sleep, not so great for getting work done. But that might just be me.



Gives you a choice of four different backgrounds: City, Coffee Shop, Rain, Forest, Ocean. I did best with the Coffee Shop but the City one works too. Forest is very relaxing, as is the Ocean. Rain, like Rainy Mood, put me to sleep.


Nature Sounds For.Me

This one is cool because it’s essentially a sound mixer. You can select different sounds and volumes for each to make your own mix of noise. You can then save the link so you don’t have to re-do it every time you visit, or even download a file. You can also borrow from other people’s compositions instead of playing DJ. The sheer number of sounds was a bit much for me. Since Coffitivity worked so well, I didn’t see a need in this one but…it’s still pretty darn cool and I might use it for different scenes that require more than clinking dishes.


Simply Noise

This one labels the sounds with colors: Pink, White, Brown. It’s more like a white noise generator than anything else. It reminded me of having a fan running in the background. For me, this didn’t really work for enhancing creativity, but I think it would be fantastic for blocking out noisy neighbors or traffic noise.


Simply Rain

This one is done by the same people who bring you Simply Noise (above). As the name suggests, this is another rainstorm generator. But this one lets you play with the intensity of the storm and the volume. So you can turn the thunder up or down, depending on your mood. And once again, this one makes me sleepy. Great for meditation or relaxation though.




May 20

Shopping for Giants

By Melinda VanLone | Thoughts


Yesterday I dragged my husband out by his hair took the husband outside for fresh air, and ended up wandering into a big warehouse superstore. You know, the kind you need a “membership” to enter, which is just a really cutesy way of getting you to pay for the mere privilege of giving them more money.

But I digress.

I wondered if there were any bargains to be had therein, so we snuck past the armed guard poor woman standing at the door, grabbed a cart like we knew what we were doing, and proceeded to explore the depths of this warehouse.

Have you ever been in one of these? The building is endless. The rows of products look like something a Greek God would be comfortable shopping at, except nothing is gilded in gold. Shelves stack all the way to the ceiling, and everything comes in mondo huge plus sizes. Have I mentioned we have no children? It’s just the hubby and me and one furbaby. That’s important to know, for future reference.

The first aisle filled my eyes with electronic stars. TVs and computers and cameras, oh my! I could really use all of those things. Actually that’s not true. I don’t need any of them, but they sat on those shelves and begged me to purchase. I turned my head and passed them by, quickly. We don’t need that, I said out loud.

The next aisle contained beverages. Actually, the next three aisles contained beverages. Every sort of non alcoholic liquid refreshment your throat could desire.

“Look! They have that water you like.” I pointed, and hubby dutifully grabbed a case of it and chucked it into the basket. He had to do that because the sides of the basket were up around my ears. Then…

“Look! They have the water I like too! and it’s cheaper!” He picked up a case of the indicated liquid and heaved it into the basket too.

A stack of paper plates taller than me went in next.

As did a giant bag of pretzel chips and a case of diet candy bars. (yes, diet! I’m sure they’re quite healthy too. Really. They have chocolate, and how could that be bad?)

By now we’re only halfway through the place and I’m giddy with all the money I’m spending saving. “Look how much cheaper the toilet paper is!” I exclaimed as I tossed 100 rolls of it into the cart.

We reached the candy aisle and my better judgment started to kick in. I grabbed hubby’s hand and pulled him clear of the caseloads of chocolate, gummies, and treats. I heard someone crying/throwing a temper fit/screaming…I’m pretty sure it wasn’t the hubby protesting. Really.

I’m not sure how long we were in hell the store, but by the time we’d perused every aisle we had a giant cart load of giant products and stood in a giant line to leave. At which point I remembered we weren’t supposed to be there in the first place.


I did manage to go purchase a membership and get back to the line before hubby was escorted out by security. I’m also pleased to report that our purchases actually fit into the car. Barely.

The ride up the elevator was interesting.

Did I mention we live in an apartment?

“Where are we going to put all this stuff?” The hubby asked over a mountain of beverages now stowed on the counter.

“The bathroom?” *

At least when the next snowstorm or paper shortage hits, we’ll be well stocked and prepared with paper products and bottled water.



*Please note, I only stored the toilet paper in the bathroom. Really. The paper plates are on top of the washing machine.



Chinese New Year
Feb 25

10 Tips For Your Next Photo Safari

By Melinda VanLone | Photos , Thoughts

Chinese New Year

As you might have figured out by now, Feb. 10th was the Chinese New Year. The Town Square here in Rockvill celebrated this last weekend with a parade and exhibits. I couldn’t resist going on Photo Safari because, well, how convenient is that? The parade passed right by my front door. It’s nice when the world conspires to bring pretty costumes and festivities right to your doorstep.

I grabbed my camera, threw on a sweatshirt and head out for the fun. That’s when it hit me. I might have been a teensy bit arrogant to think that just because it’s right outside the door, that I didn’t have to plan. I might have been a teensy bit unprepared. Okay, I was a lot unprepared. Here’s what I learned:

1. If you’re going to be outside on the East Coast in February, you should probably wear a scarf, coat, hats, and gloves. I didn’t take any of those things. It didn’t take 10 minutes for my fingers to freeze right off and my cheeks to turn into ice cubes. I dashed back to the apartment to get them, and felt much warmer on my second attempt.

2. It’s nearly impossible to get a good shot with a glove on your trigger finger. One of those gloves with no fingertips might come in handy. I ended up taking my glove off, and then I ended up going for coffee just so I had something warm to hold.

3. Finish your coffee before you have to take photos. Especially don’t try to hold a half full coffee cup while attempting to push into the street to take photos of a passing parade. You might end up wearing it.

4. If it’s February, and you’re in the Northeast, your hand will get frostbit. Just accept that. With the coffee gone, there was nothing to keep my fingers warm while I took pictures. I decided it was the least I could offer to the creative muse and lived with it.

5. P2160450If you’re short, you’ll have to get creative and/or rude. There’s just no way around it. When I’m in a crowd, I’m invisible. I’m below most people’s eye level, so they walk right over me without noticing. Those who actually see me push their way around because they’re used to having to do that. I gave up and joined them, and ended up with a few really nice shots because I wasn’t trying to be polite.

6. The crowd will surge if something cool passes by. Get ahead of it or get eaten. See #5.

7. P2160404The best photos are in unexpected places. Everybody is going to have the same shots of the parade passing by, since most people have the same vantage points. Try going out before the even starts and getting shots of them setting up. Or stick around as it finishes and the performers relax. Take a peek into quiet corners where people take breaks. Children before they get tired. Or even after they get tired.

8. Take it as it comes. You can’t control the timing, the weather, the people, or the show. Relax, and stay open to the possibilities as they parade in front of you.

9. Wear clothes that let you move around. I wore a sweatshirt because my bulky coat would have made it difficult to climb over benches and get into tight spots. Yes, I was cold. Art is suffering, right?

10. It’s impossible to get a good photo if you don’t actually leave your house. This should probably be tip #1  because it’s really the most important. Get up, go out, and see stuff. And be sure to take pictures!


Jan 30

Change The Light, Change The Mood

By Melinda VanLone | Photos , Thoughts

Old Courthouse in Rockville, Maryland

What sort of evil is happening in there?

It’s funny how ordinary things during the day can seem so out of the ordinary at night, or during a storm, or after a scary movie. The right lighting (or lack of it) can take a regular scene and turn it into something worthy of a horror film. I think the same is probably true in stories. Shed just the right light on a character and they can seem like the hero, or the villain. After all, every villain is the hero of his own story.

The same scene, but with more light. Not nearly as scary!

The same scene, but with more light. Not nearly as scary!

I went to see Hansel and Gretel, Witch Hunters yesterday. I ended up going by myself because that sort of movie is really not the hubby’s idea of a good evening out. I’ll have a review of it on Friday, but after watching something like that alone, in an empty theater (almost empty…there was one other person in there. It startled me every time he shifted in his seat), I was more than a bit skittish leaving the theater at dusk. The happy scenes I’d seen on the way in became more Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil on the way out. Especially with the empty tree limbs all over the place. Luckily, I had my camera with me so I could take advantage of the mood and then laugh it off with a frappuccino.

It did make me think, though, about the power of lighting and the power of the story teller. With one flick of a spotlight, a writer can make you fall in love with a character or afraid to open your door at night because that same character might be on the other side.

So the question is, what kind of story will you tell today? Will there be sunshine? Or, dare I say it, shades of gray?


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