Ever notice how blogging can be like whistling in the wind? Swirling around in a raging storm? Just about the time you think you have a handle on your topic or audience, a huge cloudburst of doubt or writer’s block rolls in. Soaks you to the skin. And you’re not sure which end is up.

 

LOTS of It

That’s kind of what rural life on the Olympic Peninsula is like. Yep, it’s green. Outdoor opportunities abound. But the lush landscape, soaring evergreens, and feral beauty of western Washington come with a price: Rain.  Lots of it.

 

In fact,  in the largest temperate rain forest in the world, we measure rain in feet, not inches. Locals joke that the four seasons are:

 

  •  Raining
  •  Almost Raining
  •  Just Finished Raining
  •  Construction

 

Only tourists argue with that. Because by this time of year we’re starting to feel like Noah. Sunshine seems like a distant memory.

 

What’s a blogger and writer to do besides sprout gills and webbed feet, especially when hitting a writer’s block wall? Well, I dive in to an old favorite: Under the Tuscan Sun.

 

Incongruous?

Under the Tuscan Sun seems incongruous. But a favorite is a favorite, regardless of weather:

 

  • Two hundred and eighty pages redolent with France Mayes’ delicious descriptions of her restoration of an abandoned villa in the spectacular Tuscan countryside.
  • Incandescent, the text drips with the beauty and simplicity of life in Italy.

 

Because Under the Tuscan Sun is the kind of tome you tuck into a summer picnic basket. Or wrap yourself around during one of the wettest PNW winters on record.

 

 

Meanwhile, Back on the Peninsula

Diving into Tuscan Sun, I’m soon adrift in a sea of Italian terra cotta, palazzi, gelato, and padrones. Sun-soaked vineyards and Chianti.

 

 

What’s The Hurry?

I envy Frances Mayes and her villa’s fireplace, large enough to sit in. “I think most Italians have a longer sense of time than we do,” she writes. “What’s the hurry? Once up, a building will stand a long, long time, perhaps a thousand years. Two weeks, two months, big deal.”

 

A severe storm? Two hours, two days, two weeks, big deal.

 

I can’t quite wrap my head around that.

 

The wind howls like a banshee. Frogg-Toggged, I take Kimber the pup out, snatching a few minutes from the elements.  Frances and Ed Mayes try to decide on what to renovate/upgrade first – the leaky roof or central heating.

 

Stormaggedon?

By nightfall passing cars have switched their windshield wipers off. Somber prognostications of Stormaggedon seem far-fetched. Even if the wind is tossing buckets of rain from gray-cement skies.

 

Kick Writer’s Block to the Curb

Does your keyboard ever look like gray-cement? Is dredging up new blogging inspiration like trying to recover the Titanic?

 

When this happens – and it always does, sooner or later – take a blogging vacation. If you can’t swing a change in scenery physically, take a mental vacation. Stop trying so hard. Take a break from writing and disconnect:

 

  • Go for a walk
  • Play with your kids.
  • Eat a banana split
  • Take up line-dancing, a watercolor class, or wood carving.
  • Find a new author
  • Make a new friend
  • Change the oil in your car. Quit stressing about your next blog post or series. There’s something therapeutic and bracing about shifting gears, trying something novel, exploring new territory
  • Whatever it takes to replenish the well.

Rest to Recharge

A “rested” mind is a more creative mind. Some of my best ideas and creative bursts arrive after I’ve turned off the computer and gone “on vacation.”

 

How long should your writing vacation last? That’s up to you. But running on fumes isn’t doing you or your readers any favors. When you start feeling like writing is fun rather than a chore, or something to check off your To Do List, you’re on the right track.

 

Aftermath

Suddenly it’s Monday.  The storm has passed, subsiding to a soggy threat.

 

 

Kimber chomps her breakfast. The Etruscan wall necklacing Frances’ villa is rebuilt. The weed-choked cistern cleaned. The roof fixed. Aging interior polished to its former patina and newly planted herb gardens blooming, Frances’ restored villa gleams in the Tuscan sun.

 

Blue and gray, overhead skies here clash like troops at Gettysburg. But the worst, it seems, is over. The sun is elbowing flannel-gray clouds out of the way. Wait! Is that a patch of blue?

 

Well. I’ll be ‘et fer a tater if I don’t sense some writing inspiration on this rise…

 

 

How do to kick writer’s block to the curb?

Hello February!

‘Tis the month for love and romance and all things heartfelt. That includes good books and good food! In fact, what better way to kick off Valentine’s month than with pairing some great love stories with great food!

The titles below feature love stories flavored with rich, robust writing. Also links to a culinary idea or two you can savor before, after, or while you’re turning pages.

Some of these titles may be familiar. Some may be new. Some may surprise you. Just don’t get so engrossed in the plot that you neglect to mind the stove, okay?

Ready? Set? Grab your book. Head to the nearest kitchen and Let’s Go!

1. Under the Tuscan Sun: At Home in Italy – Frances Mayes, 1996.

Chockful of picturesque settings and luscious scenes, this delicious memoir introduces us to Italy via the author’s restoration of an Italian villa, Bramsole. Part autobiography, part history, part travelogue and part cookbook, Mayes treats readers to the sights, sounds, textures, and tastes of the lovely Tuscan countryside and culture on every page, revealing their glory one paragraph at a time. What’s not to love?

Pair With:

Tuscan Style Chicken and White Bean Arugula Salad and crusty bread. For an entire cookbook chockfull of the hearty, rustic fare from central Italy, check out Lori de Mori’s Savoring Tuscany. Que bella! (No movie trailer here. Saw it. Ugh. One of the worst films ever. Don’t waste your time. Read the book instead and savor the author’s love for all things Italian.)

 

  1. The Bridges of Madison County – Robert James Waller, 1992.

I know, I know. Sappy, sappy, sappy. But it’s also one of the best-selling romance novellas of all time.

Set on an Iowa farm in the 1960s, Bridges tells the story of a lonely Italian-American woman (war bride) who meets a traveling photographer while her husband and children are at the state fair for the weekend.

Intense, poignant, and beautifully written, the story became a beloved film starring Meryl Streep and Clint Eastwood.

Call me a sap, but I cried.

 

Pair With:

Grab some tissue and sit down with Robert Kincaid and Francesca Johnson over hearty Iowan fare like tangy Herb Roasted Pork and Fresh Corn Salad or Garlicky Summer Squash & Fresh Corn.

3. Nights in Rodanthe – Nicholas Sparks, 2002.

Abandoned by her husband for a younger woman, 45 year-old Adrienne Willis is struggling to care for her sick father and raise her teenage children alone. She spends the weekend at a North Carolina inn. A storm is brewing. While there, Adrienne meets a divorced father and former surgeon running from his past. Set in Rodanthe, North Carolina.

I’d stock up on tissue ‘fize you.

 

Pair With:

Start with Sparks and end or continue with some favorite North Carolinian fare like Sweet Potato Biscuits and Country Ham or Crook’s Corner Shrimp and Grits. Be sure to save room for some Banana Pudding or Moravian Sugar Cake.

 

  1. Born Free: A Lioness of Two Worlds – Joy Adamson, 1960.

A profoundly moving story of the remarkable bond between an orphaned lioness, Elsa, and the humans who loved her enough to set her free.

 

Set in Kenya, Born Free is the true story of one of the most heartwarming relationships between humans and animals ever put to print. Beautifully illustrated with evocative photography.

I first read Born Free in 1969. I re-read it again last summer, 50 years later. I still love this story. A true classic.

 

Pair With:

Wind down your Kenyan safari with Elsa and the Adamsons with Kuku Paka (Kenyan Chicken in Coconut Curry Sauce) and Githeri (Kenyan Corn & Beans) or Sukuma Wiki (East African Greens Simmered with Tomatoes).

 

  1. Two From Galilee: The Story of Mary and Joseph  – Marjorie Holmes, 1972.

Frightened, alone and in love, a teenage girl and a young carpenter must withstand family conflict and a hostile world in order to carry out a responsibility that will change human history.

A compassionate, evocative tale of divine love for young and old and anyone who finds beauty and wonder in the timeless story of events surrounding the first Christmas. A best-selling classic.

 

Pair With:

Serve up a sumptuous Christmas feast celebrating this book with Dry-Brined Lemon Rosemary Roasted Turkey, Roasted Maple Pears With Cranberries & Thyme, Green Beans With Orange & Almond Gremolata, and Sour Cream Mashed Potaotes and Bacon Crumbs. Or try Pineapple-Glazed Ham.

 

What pairings are your favorite?

 

 

 

Banana pudding image credit: Flickr.