Tuesday, October 30, 2007

NaNo Notes Edition 1

Hints from "No Plot, No Problem":
The founder of NaNoWriMo wrote a really fabulous book called "No Plot? No Problem!" that is packed full of useful hints and hilarious anecdotes. I know my Swiss counterparts will probably be unable to find or order the book in time, so I plan to include a few choice tidbits in this blog throughout the month. (Note to Chris Baty: I promise to donate to the NaNo site in exchange for haphazardly shortening and sharing your wisdom!)
  • Focus on "low expectations, high yield" with your writing - remember this is about completion more than genius
  • Stock up on snacks and rewards. Go through your music and set aside some good "novelling" music. I plan to treat myself to new I-tunes every 10000 words or so.
  • Find a writing area you like and are comfortable in, isolate yourself there (with snacks and caffeine of course) for a set amount of time, when you are finished, be sure to clean the area up so it is ready for your next visit.
  • Pick up a new notebook, preferably pocket-sized, and a new "favorite pen." Keep these on you at all times for jotting down ideas as they hit you and tidbits of conversation you overhear. Make note of interesting things you see that could be included.
  • Make two lists in your new notebook: one of things you LOVE in books (mine would be things like quirky characters, lots of descriptions, all things food-related and modern takes on mythology) and one of things you HATE in books (some of mine would be historical romance, most chick lit, cheesy horror and excessive bad language). Reference these lists frequently throughout the month, including as many things as you can from the LOVE list and trying to avoid the items on the HATE list.
  • Don't stress out too much about having a plot before NaNo starts. As Chris Baty put it in the book, "As intimidating as it seems, plot is simply the movement of your characters through time and over the course of your book. Which means that by having characters in your book, you're guaranteed to have a plot."
  • Choose a point-of-view to write your novel from: is it first person, narrated by your main character ("I-based") or is it third-person, giving a bird's eye view of the entire story ("he-or-she-based").

"How I plan to deal with writer's block and pad my word count":
Not sure what a character should do next? Check their horoscope. This works really well with multiple characters and gives you an excuse to add drama and tension. Wikipedia is a great place to go for random topics to include as well. If you're really stuck, go for a walk and observe the other people around you. Watch people on the bus and in the grocery. Go find some public place and just sit and watch until something good hits you. Go back a couple thousand words and try to fill in some backstory. Go to Epicurious.com and find a bizarre new recipe; "feed" it to your characters and describe their reaction. Don't forget to fill in info about where they ate the dish and why and how they got there, etc. Go to Flickr.com and look at random photos until something inspires you. For more ideas, check out all the tools available on iGoogle. (More on iGoogle near the end of this post)

Other Tools:
Question list of help flesh out your characters
How to Write a Novel Badly (ha ha!) My plan is every time I get stuck, I reference this list and try to add something from it. My goal for my novel this year is "deliriously wretched"

iGoogle is the Best Around:
Have you checked out and configured your iGoogle homepage yet? It's full of a huge number of really helpful tools... and plenty of ways to waste time as well. I created a tab called "Writing" and found several great tools, including a writer's idea bank that is so funny.

Friday, October 26, 2007

NaNoWriMo - who wants to play?

Hello! As the end of October approaches, we reach my annual join-me-and-write-a-novel drive. November is National Novel Writing Month - and since the "nation" in question isn't specified, I'm going to go ahead and claim at least a small part of it in the name of my new Swiss home. National Novel Writing Month (or NaNoWriMo for those in the "kno") started in 1999 in California (of course) with the aim of turning free-time into novels. The goal is to complete the first draft of a 50,000 word novel in only one month. I have participated several years and actually reached the goal for the first time two years ago.

Some important things to know:
* First and foremost: the goal is not to write a good novel.. just to write any novel
* You can totally do it - its just over 1660 words per day - and don't most of us type that much while sending all our daily IMs anyway...
* NaNo is a great excuse to give yourself treats, to whine, and to cancel plans for things you didn't want to do anyway
* The more people you know participating, the better
* Having such a large goal is a great way to get your house cleaned and laundry caught up and long-lost penpals contacted - anything to procrastinate from the actual writing
* I heard Paris says bragging about your novel is hot.

Ok, all rambling aside, its really a great experience and I highly encourage everyone I know to at least give it a try. If you plan to try, let me know so we can keep tabs on each other! Wanna know more? Check out http://www.nanowrimo.org or look for the book "No Plot, No Problem" written by the creator of this whole mess... and coincidently, about 50k words long.

Happy whining!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Tiny Post #3

Today I am very cranky. Outside, everything is cold and gloomy.

Also the other day I saw a nun talking on a cell phone while crossing the street. It would have been funnier had she been jaywalking, but she used the crosswalk.

Monday, October 22, 2007


Originally uploaded by hellomizk
Welcome to our tiny fridge!

Top shelf: beer and Lipton "Snowy Orange" tea - brand new and on "action" for 1 franc. Tasty!

Second shelf: poulet schnizel (I think), baby new potato, fresh mushrooms = dinner tonight

Third shelf: cherry tomatoes, poultry salami, blood orange yogurt and vanilla yogurt. This shelf is my breakfasts.

Fourth shelf: Tasty and cheap Prosecco for knitting day, garlic cheese spread (should be on breakfast shelf) and Laughing Cow cheese, Haribo sour cola bottle gummi candies, fresh basil, Egyptian olives from the farmer's market

Fifth shelf: Leftovers from Taco Night, sour cream, non-bubble water (blah), more cheese, eggs (which are not refrigerated in the grocery store here)

Drawer: OMG more cheese

Door shelves:
cheese, cream, pesto, blueberry jam, fig jam (for grilled cheese with prosciutto), Coke light, bubble water, milk, ketchup

Favorite part: see the little blue "x" shape next to the cheeses on the fourth shelf? That is spicy mustard in the tube that looks like toothpaste. Its how mustard and mayo and various other condiments are sold here.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Scattered, smothered, covered, and Swiss

Rösti on my plate!
Originally uploaded by hellomizk
Last night we were invited for dinner at the home of a couple we met at Kasia and Peter's party from a couple weeks ago. We arrived at 6:30 in the evening (1830) and, after exchanging our Swiss cheek-kisses, immediately "got our drink on." Mr K and Dani both had beers to start what turned out to be a pretty alcohol-laden evening while Steph and I demurely sipped Baileys. Dani and Steph were treating us to a traditional Swiss dinner of Rösti which I learned translates to "oh my god can I have another helping, please?!?!" All kidding aside, Rösti consists of grated potato cooked in a skillet with oil or butter and can include bacon and onion and spices and cheese and an egg tossed in to hold everything together. The potatoes are cooked to form a crust on the bottom layer and then tossed to distribute the crust throughout before being allowed to form another crust on the bottom and then being flipped to brown a matching crust on the other side as well. After being inverted onto a plate, the Rösti was topped with eggs cooked sunny-side up. With this, we had more Gruyere cheese and potato nut bread. After this course, we had a wonderful salad with tomato and lettuce and red bell pepper tossed with a sesame oil dressing. With dinner we had a pinotage red wine Dani was given by a friend who brought it back from South Africa. It was a wine "first" for all four of us and was very very nice. After dinner, we had a really wonderful dessert. For more on dessert, check out Mr K's blog. With dessert, Dani and Mr K had scotch that made Mr K swoon. After that was cigars and then cookies and green tea and more scotch. Needless to say, everyone was feeling pretty comfy at this point. We had a wonderful time and look forward to the opportunity to entertain Dani and Steph at our home soon.

The other really funny part of the evening: watching their cat go completely insane over a packet of tissues - the cat flipped and spun and tossed the tissues before sliding into a wall and taking a nap.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

IKEA + BK = <3

Burger love
Originally uploaded by hellomizk
Egad - I'm starting to get behind in the blogging. I will throw together a quick catch-up post and then try to do better in the future. The reason I'm behind is... we finally got moved in! Now, by moved in, I mean we and our luggage are out of the hotel... we're still furnitureless. Our air shipment will be delivered next Tuesday and we still don't know about our sea shipment.

Monday was one of the busiest days we've had since arriving - and one of the most fun as well! Early Monday morning we did all the paperwork to get our apartment - very exciting. We did a walk through and then were given our magical keys that work all the doors and elevators. We ran downstairs from our apartment to the grocery (yes, you heard correctly - downstairs to the grocery... amazing) and grabbed a salami sandwich and a Coke Zero. Purchases in hand, we ran across the street (yup - across the street) to the train station. With 3 minutes to spare, we caught the train to Peter and Kasia's. From their house, we all piled in a car and headed to IKEA - the land of happy!

I was amazed to see a pile of catalogs right at the entrance - at our home IKEA in Virginia, the catalog bin was always empty and I have in the past resorted to buying my IKEA catalog from Ebay! Kasia and I raced around IKEA until it was obvious our husbands could stand no more...and our cart would hold no more (mainly stuff for Chris and I, since we have nothing nothing nothing right now) We checked out and loaded the car, which we managed to fill pretty nicely.

After IKEA-ing, everyone was famished, so we headed over to Burger King for a little taste of home. A few differences from home:
1) The girl working the counter managed to understand orders in French, English, and German. At BK in the US, we occasionally run into problems ordering in English...
2) The food, as you can see from the picture, looked gorgeous and tasted fresh. The bun was puffy and the cheese gooey and the fries crispy. The paper wrapped all the way around the burger neatly, rather than just in spots like we're used to.
3) Ha ha ha "Long Chicken". Ha ha ha "King Pommes"

Afterwards, sticking to well-loved stereotypes, the husbands went to look at electronics and Kasia and I went to look at shoes. So many cute shoes! After the IKEA trip, though, I was good and didn't buy any. Next we went to the yarn store and stocked up while the husbands went to have a drink and avoid the yarn store. Kasia is teaching me to knit and its so much fun!

This post is getting a bit overly-long, so I'll end it here and try to update some more tomorrow!

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Taco Loco - Oh No!

El Taco Loco
Originally uploaded by mrphrtq
So last night we ventured out to what may be Fribourg's only Mexican restaurant. We took a roundabout route to get there and had a very nice walk as the sun was setting. When we arrived we found that all the tables were reserved but we were able to sit at the bar and order some supper. The TV in the corner appeared to be tuned into the all-Futurama-all-the-time channel, which was a nice bonus. The fact that the sound was turned off didn't matter since it would have been in French anyway. We looked through the menu for a few minutes, however we couldn't find any listings as "tacos" oddly enough. I had a 'Gringas' which was beef in Mexican spices and cheese in a flour tortilla. Mr K had a 'Burrito Pollo'. We both had Mexican rice and pureed (not to be confused with refried) beans as our side items.

Things that made this meal funny and weird:
1. Mr K's burrito had parmesan cheese in it - ha ha ha!
2. The Mexican rice had PEAS in it - ha ha HA!
3. The Mexican rice was completely white with no apparent spices or seasoning...
4. We got chips, which were tasty, but... no salsa!
5. We spent almost 60 francs on two burritos, two side items, 2 beers and a coke light - no refills.
6. We could actually touch our plates without fear of needing skin grafts directly afterwards.

When we lived in Virginia, we used to go out for Mexican food at least once a week, usually with friends. For any Swiss readers, when you go to a Mexican restaurant in the US, the waiter immediately greets you at the table with a big basket of tortilla chips and a bowl of salsa. This is always free and you usually get your chips and salsa before you get your drinks or even menus. The menus at these restaurant usually feature around 60-100 items and most people order by number. "I'll have a number 119 and he'll have the 213." For Mr K and I to go out and have an appetizer, two entrees, a dessert and several drinks would run maybe 40 dollars US. The food was also in huge portions and usually had a random pile of shredded iceberg lettuce somewhere on the plate - called "salad" but more for decoration. The plates were always scalding hot because after the food was prepared, a handful of cheese was usually thrown over the top of everything and it was put under a heat lamp or in an oven to melt everything. Seriously, the plates would burn your skin if you touched them, even on accident. Additionally, at our favorite restaurant, we could get a big pitcher of sangria for 11 or 12 dollars. Yum!

Anyway, our trip to El Taco Loco was fun and funny but just didn't satisfy the craving for the Mexican that we're used to. Regardless, we'll probably go again! When you come visit, Kyle-and-family, we promise to take you!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Tag - I'm it?

Kasia tagged me for an 8 random thing meme, so I'll jot down a little list, however I'm going to refrain from tagging people simply because I don't know anyone to tag!

1. I don't eat swimmies. No fish, no shell fish, no crustaceans, no fish sticks, no tuna, no dolphins and no sharks. No swimmies. I've heard your tastes change every six months or so, so I still try a nibble of seafood on occasion but have yet to find anything I can stand, much less enjoy. Yucko! (I do wish I liked sushi though - pretty food!)

2. I'm scared of the dark. When I turn off lights in the hallway, it takes all my willpower to walk calmly to a lighted room and not sprint. I have no idea why.

3.Heights don't bother me at all. Mr K can't stand them.

4. I've written a short novel. Keep in mind I didn't say I wrote good novel or even a passable novel... I merely wrote the number of words required to be a short novel. In one month. (The process was a blast and the product terrible!) Interested? Check out: http://www.nanowrimo.org/ I'm writing novel #2 this year... unless la vie Suisse gets in the way...

5. This is the farthest I've ever been from my family and I miss them so much. I had not left the US since my family moved back from Italy when I was very very young. Before this, I was always around 3 hours - by car or by plane- from my family. Mr K and I still don't know if we can go home for Christmas this year, so I'm trying to not think about it. I want to see my brand new little niece and my sister and parents and everyone else!

6. I read almost constantly and have for as long as I can remember. I hate getting books from libraries because I like to read and reread them and I love just having them around.

7. I don't feel like myself with long hair.

8. I'm thoroughly ready to stop living in a hotel - I'm tired of washing clothing in the tub and sleeping in twin beds and being surrounded by an all-mauve decor. I'm tired of eating out every meal and I'm tired of not having a refrigerator. I miss my bed and the rest of my clothing and my books and art supplies.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Washing machine swoon

Originally uploaded by mrphrtq
We think we've finally found an apartment. Does it have enough space for us? Yep! Does Miz K like the kitchen? Totally! Is there a pretty view? Of course! Is there a balcony? Yes - and also a bonus glassed-in room for those inclement weather days! Is it conveniently located? The train is across the street and a grocery is down the elevator. But the biggest bonus of all would have to be our very own teeny tiny washer and dryer!

We visited a total of seven apartments and this place was the last one we saw on Friday - it was a complete surprise to us and to our relocation woman as well - it seems that next to no one in this area knew there were apartments above the shopping center... much less a huge private rooftop garden. Despite being in the middle of town, the apartment is very quiet. We reserved it on Friday to think it over but we had decided within an hour that it was just perfect for us, so Mr K emailed today to say we want it!

Friday, October 5, 2007

The Hunt: Day One

The view
Originally uploaded by mrphrtq
After a week of looking at places online, yesterday we finally went out with our relocation person and looked at four very different apartments. Mr K took a ton of pictures so we could remember what we did and didn't like about each place and posted them on Flickr to share with family and friends - feel free to comment away. Pictures are posted at http://www.flickr.com/photos/mrphrtq/

Quick run down: place one was nice and a great location, but needs flooring and paint and won't be ready for another 2 weeks, so that makes it a maybe, as we're pretty much hotel-ed out for quite some time. Number 2 was a huge duplex (bigger than our place in the US) but on the first floor and we would definitely like a little height between us and the ground. Number 3 was pretty much perfect. Nice place, decent sized - great location and great view, as you can see from the picture. Number 4 was just completely amazing - an old barn converted into lofts. The kitchen was easily the nicest one I've ever been in and the bath room with its TWO tubs was even more fun. Ultimately, though, the open floor plan wouldn't work for us - we need to be able to stow toys, hobbies and guests and thats more difficult with only one room. Also, despite the place being more square footage than any of the first 3 we looked at, it just didn't feel that way because the space wasn't really used to its fullest. It was odd that the biggest place felt like the smallest. Still, though, its sad to know it isn't the place for us - it was by far the most interesting. Number 3 is just a nice well-rounded place with everything we want BUT a washer and dryer, but I suppose I can learn to live with the shared washing area just like everyone else does, right?

Anyway, we're going back out for Day Two in a few hours, so watch for more updates!

Monday, October 1, 2007

A new addiction

Kinder toys!
Originally uploaded by hellomizk
Mr K has gotten me completely hooked on Kinder Surprise eggs even though he's normally the chocolate person, not me. To be honest, though, the draw isn't the chocolate, but the tiny plastic toys they contain. The eggs are about the size of large-size chicken eggs (maybe a bit bigger) and are hollow but with a plastic capsule about the length of my thumb in their middles. They are almost impossible to find in the US because of some 50-plus year old law about non-edibles encased in edibles or something, but here they are everywhere. After dinner tonight (San Marco again) we stopped by a gas station near our hotel for a little snack and some drinks to tide us over until tomorrow afternoon. Right next to the register - oodles of Kinder eggs! In the little store in the hotel basement? Oodles of Kinder eggs! I decided that we're decorating our Christmas tree with all these tiny toys I'm collecting... but that could just be an excuse for more eggs.

In other news, I told my parents I would blog about the Horrific Pants Incident of 2007 tonight... fortunately for me, it turned into a non-horrific pants non-incident. As we've been stuck in a hotel for the past two weeks, laundry has been kind of a pain to deal with. I've been doing alot of hand-washing of clothing in the hotel, which works great on everything but blue jeans, which just never dry. I found a laundry a couple floors down from out hotel, but was pretty sure the woman working there would not speak any English and I wasn't convinced I knew enough French to differentiate between "Dry Clean and Press" with "please just wash these yucko jeans" so I was nervous about trying. Earlier this afternoon, I steeled myself and took a small stack of jeans down. I greeted the woman with a 'bonjour' and immediately followed it up with my most useful French phrase: "I only speak a little bit of French." She smiled and took the stack of pants, filled out a little receipt and then pointed to a number - the price - and held out her hand. After I paid her, she pointed to 3 October on the calendar and wished me a good day - easy as can be! Apologies, mom and dad, for the lack of humor and drama... I'm sure something embarrassing will happen soon enough! Just keep your fingers crossed Chris doesn't end up with expertly creased jeans on Wednesday....

P.S. Dinner tonight: spaghetti and pesto pour moi et tomato and veggie risotto for Mr K... mine was good but his was amazing.