Monday, September 9, 2013



When last we met, I was organizing years of accumulation of boxes of photographs. The closet where most of the photos were stored, looked like this.

and this.

My office looked like this.

And this.

And this.
When I had the closet emptied and everything piled around my work table in the office, my closet looked like this.
This is where I am no Diana Nyad, the 64-year-old swimmer who, on Monday, September 2, 2013, completed a swim of 112 miles from Cuba to the Florida, accomplishing a 35-year goal.
My goal was considerably smaller, and it didn't take as long to accomplish, but there is a similarity. Both activities called for steady persistence.
I stuck with it, and after a few weeks my office looked like this. (I loved this look so much, I was tempted to just leave the table up instead of returning it to the basement.)

And my closet looked like this.

The albums on the left I gathered from their hiding places in the basement and family room. They were already filled with old photos of ancestors, our early married years, and our daughter's baby pictures. They are arranged in chronological order beginning on the left. The boxes are titled with subjects such as Vacations, Holidays, Birthdays, Friends.
As I was working on this, I related my experience to a group at lunch. Okay, I didn't "relate" it, I bragged about getting organized. One of the group trumped my organization with her organization. She "related" to me that she had put all her pictures into Heritage Albums and created an album for each of her children. And written an accompanying genealogy. That is fabulous and her children are lucky, but I know that isn't the plan for me.
I am satisfied with my imperfect job. If you have read my "Write Your Life Story in Eight Weeks Workbook" or attended one of my classes, you know my motto is "Good Enough is Good Enough."
I plan to label each album on the spine with the years it covers, and in that stack of boxes, there is a small box of slides that need to be viewed, printed and filed, or tossed. Whether or not, I get that done, it is still good enough.
The Writing Tip? In our writing, we can all be little Diana Nyad's. Keep working on your memoir. Keep adding to your life story. Keep writing your novel or poetry. Keep at it and you will experience success.
Next time, I'll tell you what other wonderful things I learned while doing this project.
I once sat at a table where . . .
Because I love the image of that empty table, I am thinking about tables: empty tables, full tables, tables of food and friends, or stacks of mail and bills.
I once sat at a table where my grandpa, wearing clean overalls for supper, dipped the end of his celery stick into a little mound of salt he had poured onto his plate. Next to the mound of salt, was a small puddle of molasses into which he dunked his bread. I tried to sneak a reach across the oil-cloth covered table tor the condiments so I could create a plate like his, but my mother stopped me with a frown and shake of head. Now, why wouldn't she let me eat like Grandpa?
Write about a table where you sat. Or write about a series of tables. Maybe you were a waitress or waiter. Maybe you had six children to control around a table. When you were a child maybe you got under the table when it thundered.
Start your own Diana Nyad-type project. Write about your life. It's easy and fun when you use the Write Your Life Story in Eight Weeks Workbook. You can order the workbook at

Brownie Candy Corn - It isn't even October yet, but I have been looking at Halloween recipes. Isn't this one cute? Looks like giant candy corn, but it is actually brownies. Or, the recipe says it can be made with Rice Krispy treats. The recipe? Well, I didn't include it here because it contained one of the words that causes me to skip over a recipe -- fondant. However, the result is so cute, I thought it was worth including. I'll bet you can figure out how to make it without using fondant. Or -- hey, maybe fondant isn't scary to you. The recipe includes directions for making marshmallow fondant. And, you already know how to make brownies or Rice Krispy treats.

 candy corn snack cakes(c) 2008 Elizabeth LaBau, licensed to, Inc.

All rights reserved 2013 There's An Angel In Your Inkwell®

Wednesday, March 20, 2013


(Lifetime -- that's a clue)
Recently I cleaned out and organized the bookcases in my office. (That little adventure is detailed in a couple of previous blog posts. And, yes, I am aware that referring to organizing bookcases as an "adventure" reveals what a pathetic life I lead. But that is not the point.)
That felt pretty good so I decided to tackle the years of photographs tossed into boxes and closets. Not just years of photographs -- a lifetime. The boxes include baby pictures of me.
(Yes, they had cameras when I was a baby.)
In fact, there are photographs of my mother when she was pregnant with me. Or as they said then, PG. Or was it pg. Actually, the subject was considered unsuitable for print so we will never know. Take your pick. 

 Here are some of the boxes. That looks like a photo album in the cardboard box, and it is. Still wrapped nicely in plastic. Never opened. Ready for 200 photos.

And here are some pictures that didn't even make it into boxes.

What could be in this hat box? I thought all my hats were hanging on my office wall. Why gracious me. It is crammed full of more photographs.

And then my Gentleman Friend said, "You want me to bring up the boxes from the basement? There are lots of pictures down there." I said maybe I would hold off on those for a while.
This was going to take more than one 200-picture album. I hit upon another plan. This plan would replicate the three-stage writing process.
Several clear plastic boxes with lids from Walmart were labeled according to subject: Christmas, holiday, vacation, house and yard, daily activities, friends and family, baby pictures, and a few others. You get the idea.

In the first stage, I am doing a rough sort. Bad photos, duplicates, and who-cares photos are discarded. If I can remember or figure out the year and event, the picture is labeled on the back in my not-pretty handwriting. Sometimes I later figure out I have labeled something incorrectly and I cross out and re-label. I wish it were neat and perfect, but it is not. I am too old to try to be perfect, not enough time left. (I mean that in a fun, freeing way -- not a morbid I'm-gonna-die-someday way.)

Last night, I finally brought up another box and armload of pictures from the basement.
After those are sorted into their subject boxes, I plan to do Stage Two. Some of the subject boxes will need to be divided into two or more subjects. For example, I have all the vacation and business trip pictures in one box. Each of those subjects will need a box of its own. I will quickly go through the pictures again and get rid of more and maybe do more labeling on the back.
My plan for Stage Three is to pile the photos in their labeled plastic boxes in rough chronological order, put on the lids, and stack them back in the closet. Young Advisor had this idea and liked it. The photos are accessible.
Seems like an easy, middle ground approach. Better than pictures thrown into boxes, but not something impossibly arduous.
However, in the middle of the night it occurred to me that closed plastic boxes probably would not be good for long-term storage of photos. I need something acid free.
I need a Step Four -- a trip to Archiver's to look for suitable boxes. Or, if any of you have a suggestion for permanent storage boxes, please send it along.
So, basically what I have done is apply the three-step writing process to organizing my photos. First, I thought about how to approach the task (pre-writing). Then I created a first draft (rough sorting of photos), and finally, I edited and polished (final sorting, discarding, and arranging).
Of course, you know what has happened. In the process of going through all these photos, memories have come rushing in. Writing ideas. To last a lifetime.
You don't have to set out to organize a lifetime of photos, just reach into the box and pull one out. You have a story. You can write it as memoir, fiction, essay, nonfiction or anything you desire.

See that black and white photo in the lower middle of the last photo? That's my maternal grandmother. Until she died when I was fifteen, I had not thought about the fact that she had a name other than "Mom." To friends, family, casual acquaintances, she was Mom.

What did you call your grandmother(s)? Why did you call her that? What is the first memory of her that comes to mind?


I just discovered Wonderful recipes and photos by Rachel, a nineteen year old  San Diego, California student. The good part is her recipes are simply fabulous and do not call for any Cool Whip. I really dislike a blob of Cool Whip masquerading as dessert. HOWEVER, using Cool Whip  is quick and easy and so much easier on the digestive system. (Your pancreas has to process all that fat, you know.)  For that reason, I would add a disclaimer to the following recipe: it would be easy to substitute a cake mix and Cool Whip for the made-from-scratch cake and whipped cream. Or make the cake from scratch and substitute Cool Whip. Of course, you would also be substituting yumminess. It's your call.

Oreo Cake |

photo courtesy of

Oreo Cake
Yield: 12 slices
    For the cake
  • 1 1/2 cups (6.25 oz) all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup (7 oz) sugar
  • 1 cup cold water
  • 2/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 (.75 oz) cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon white vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • For the Oreo whipped cream
  • 50 Oreo cookies, finely crushed
  • 4 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
    For the cake
  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees F. In large mixing bowl combine all ingredients. Beat with electric mixer on medium to high speed until well combined. Pour batter in a greased 9-inch baking pan (or two, if you don't want to split the cake later).
  2. Bake 20-25 minutes (12-15 minutes if you're doing 2 pans) or until a toothpick inserted near center comes out clean. Cool completely, and place in the freezer for 1/2 hour before assembling.
  3. For the Oreo whipped cream
  4. Carefully cut 6 Oreo cookies in half; set aside. Chop remaining cookies into 1/4-inch pieces; set aside.
  5. Make the Oreo whipped cream in 2 batches. In bowl of standing mixer fitted with whip attachment, whip 2 cups cream on medium-high speed to soft peak, spoon into large bowl. In same mixer bowl, whip remaining 2 1/2 cups cream, sugar, and vanilla to soft peak. Fold into already whipped cream.
  6. Place about 1 cup whipped cream in a different bowl and refrigerate until ready to decorate cake. Fold crushed Oreos into remaining whipped cream.
  7. For the cake assembly
  8. Remove cake from the freezer. Slice cake in half horizontally to create 2 layers. Place bottom layer on serving plate. Spread about 1/3 of Oreo whipped cream onto cake. Top with second cake layer and use remaining Oreo whipped cream to frost top and sides of cake. Chill in refrigerator for about 2 hours to allow cookies to soften.
  9. Place reserved whipped cream in pastry bag fitted with star tip (re-whisk if necessary). Pipe 12 whipped cream rosettes around perimeter of cake and garnish with reserved Oreo cookie halves. Serve.

For more ideas and helps for writing your life story, visit Click on FAQ for answers to your questions or click on Buy to get a copy of my Write Your Life Story in Eight Weeks Workbook.

At,  you also can do two good turns with one click of your mouse. Buy my original, exceedingly clever photo birthday cards: make a friend happy and help support Meals on Wheels for seniors. What could be better?

All rights reserved 2013 There's An Angel In Your Inkwell®

Friday, January 11, 2013

Houseclean Your Brain


A while back -- quite a while back -- I showed you this picture of my office cleaning in progress. It hasn't taken me all this time to accomplish it. I finished it a few days after the last post, but I did take my time and thoroughly enjoyed the process. A cup of tea, dusty books -- what's not to love?

The second picture is of the completed project. I know what you're thinking. Wow! It still looks like a mess. I'll have you know that six grocery bags of books were removed and donated to the library. At least another three bags were sent to recycling and maybe five more sent out to the trash. Yes, the shelves were packed upright, sideways, and on top of each other.

Now I have the old books I really could not part with. And I can see them. They are at my fingertips, ready for me to revisit.

Even though it doesn't look like it, the top shelf and walls were purged too. My favorite things remain. Vintage hats, a page of Betsy McCall paper dolls, an empty Valentine's candy box (even bad chocolate is good when eaten from a heart-shaped box), and, yes, that is a calendar from 2010 -- it has pictures and quotes about chocolate on it.

Now when I enter my office, my brain feels refreshed and ready to go. If I'm feeling a little down, I look at the mementos from friends and good times, and my energy returns.

It's like housecleaning for your brain. Cobwebs swept away creating space for new ideas.


The Advanced Life Story Writing Group met this week. I gave them their Launching Pad for February so I'll just share that with you -- since we're talking about Valentine chocolates. Here it is: What is your favorite Valentine candy? Or, what words or sentiments would you write on those little candy hearts that appear at Valentine's? Some clever writer in the group e-mailed to ask if swear words were okay. (Yes, that was Donna.) Well, sure. Tell that current or ex-Valentine sweetheart what you really think.

Chocolate Inkwell

Chocolate Covered Strawberries - These look beautifully Valentine-y. You probably already know how to make chocolate covered strawberries, but read on. This recipe from gives you a little trick for creating really pretty strawberries.


  1. In a double boiler, melt the chocolate and shortening, stirring occasionally until smooth. Holding them by the toothpicks, dip the strawberries into the chocolate mixture.
  2. Insert toothpicks into the tops of the strawberries.
  3. Turn the strawberries upside down and insert the toothpick into styrofoam for the chocolate to cool.joyed the process

Do you love to teach? Wish you had a life story writing group? There are writing groups in cities surrounding Kansas City, Missouri and in other states which have been started by someone who loved to teach, gathered a group looking for fun and affirmation of life, and using the Write Your Life Story Workbook - Second Edition. Discounts apply to orders of eight or more books. E-mail me,, for more information. Go to and click on Buy for information about the workbook.
All rights reserved 2013 There's An Angel In Your Inkwell®