inspiration + a new project

There is nothing in the entire world that I love as much as I love Pinterest. (Well, perhaps that is an overstatement, but it is definitely my favorite social media.) I love having a place where I can collect inspiration for myself + my life in a digital format. In other words, no mess involved…Anyone else remember the days of inspiration notebooks with magazine clippings?

Recently I was pinning to my writing inspiration board when I realized that the inspiration pictures I was pinning would make a lovely series for the blog. It’s a new creatives project called the creative files, with the goal being to write a creative piece based off an inspiration image and post it every Friday (although let’s be real: it may be every other Friday). For a bit of accountability, I thought I’d post the first few pictures I’ve picked for inspiration.

inspiration10 source  //  project

inspiration13 source  //  project

inspiration3 source  //  project

inspiration5 source  //  project

inspiration1 source  //  project

I’m excited about to have a new project. I think it will be just the creative push I need. Happy Weekend!

love, sarahash

currently // aug 2014

currently, I am

loving::

kingsofconveniencesource

these guys, kings of convenience. they have an awesome sound to match their awesome hair, plus they’re Norwegian. I have them on repeat these days. 

reading::

anne-of-the-island

source

an old favorite and comfort book for my soul, Anne of the Islandnavigating college is so much easier with my dear friend by my side. 

trying:: 

to find time to work on my novel. I’m scared of it, I think. it’s hard as a writer to push through the smog of getting ideas from your head onto (literal or digital) paper and not discourage yourself in the process. even Anne Lamont admits it; good writing starts off as bad writing. the amount of work it takes to make your ideas be as nice for other people as they are for you in your head is staggering. it is hard work to create and create well, but it is something I can’t not do. it’s that tension between the have-to and want-to but can’t-just-yet that makes it easy to put it off for yet another day. 

discovering::

that this place where I now live is so beautiful. I think it is its beauty that is allowing my heart to put out tiny little soul-roots. I can’t wait until I am actually settled.

campus life curently aug 2014

learning::

that it is for freedom Christ has set us free. can’t get enough of Galatians 5. freedom

source

looking forward::

to fall. the last golden days of summer have finally come with bonfires and picnics and last-hurrahs before school. I love them dearly, but I am so ready for fall and the quiet it brings.

bonfire currently aug 2014

what is happening in your life, currently?

 

SON // A Review

I think if I could do just one thing for the rest of my life, it would be reading books. All the time. For forever.

I’ve really been powering through books recently because it’s summer and free time is abundant. I set myself a goal to read 52 new books this year, and so far I’m at 18. (I should be on book #29 in order to meet my goal by December 31st. Maybe I’ll make it…) Not only am I (usually) entertained by the stories, but I am also able to learn things about good writing as well. Most successful authors say that in order to become a great writer you have to do two things: write constantly and read when you are not writing. The idea is that reading teaches you what good writing looks like in context. I have found this to be true.

So not only am I reading for pleasure, I am also reading to learn. Thinking about it that way makes me feel a little bit better for reading straight through a book in one sitting and neglecting less important things like…laundry. Ahem. I’m bad at segues, so to format my review, I’ll include the book blurb from Goodreads, my lasting thought, and what I learned as a writer from the book.

 

son

SON — Lois Lowry   ||   4/5 stars

Goodreads Blurb: They called her Water Claire. When she washed up on their shore, no one knew that she came from a society where emotions and colors didn’t exist. That she had become a Vessel at age thirteen. That she had carried a Product at age fourteen. That it had been stolen from her body. Claire had a son. But what became of him she never knew. What was his name? Was he even alive? She was supposed to forget him, but that was impossible. Now Claire will stop at nothing to find her child, even if it means making an unimaginable sacrifice.

Son thrusts readers once again into the chilling world of the Newbery Medal winning book, The Giver, as well as Gathering Blue and Messenger where a new hero emerges. In this thrilling series finale, the startling and long-awaited conclusion to Lois Lowry’s epic tale culminates in a final clash between good and evil.

My thoughts: The Giver is one of my all-time favorite books. It is a very thought-provoking commentary on the importance of feeling and remembering, even when it causes pain. The Giver has an open ending, and Lowry’s first intention was for it to stand alone. However, she did write an additional three books to follow it. That being said, Son was a decent conclusion that did answer some questions, but I feel like there were too many holes in Lowry’s world-building attempts to answer all questions as completely as I wanted. She never really attempts to give answers to questions like “What happened to make Jonas’ original village that way? Why aren’t other villages like it? Why don’t the villages communicate? Why are some more advanced than others?” and so on, and I think that part of this is because she does not know herself. Regardless, I’d recommend Son to readers who loved The Giver and would like to know what happens to Jonas and Gabriel. However, don’t expect it to be The Giver‘s equal.

What I learned from the book: Lowry separates the book into three sections: Before, Between, and Beyond. This brought clarity and focus to each part of Claire’s life, but I disliked that at times it was like I was reading an entirely different book from the one I started with. The section ‘Before’ had the strongest story line, probably because it was The Giver told from Claire’s perspective. ‘Beyond’ was disappointing to me, with a very anti-climatic and improbable conclusion. The section entitled ‘Between,’ however, was my favorite and beautifully written, and the reason why I gave the book four stars instead of three. Lowry’s command of language to create tone is masterful. She describes the village from the section ‘Between’ in this way:

The village nestled at the foot of a forbidding cliff in the curved elbow of an arm of land. The peninsula jutted out from the main coast in an isolated place where time didn’t matter, for nothing changed. No newcomers had ever appeared, not in anyone’s memory, and only an occasional discontented man had climbed out (for that was what they called the leaving) or tried to.

As I was reading that, I could see the coast line, hear the waves breaking on the shore, and feel the quiet content with which the villagers lived. Reading ‘Between’ made me nostalgic for the years when time didn’t matter for me. I loved that Lowry was able to create such a specific mood and feel with her words. It pays to spend careful thought on word choice.

And then of course, there was the whole issue with world building. Successfully creating a realistic and convincing world from scratch is hard. Like, I-don’t-know-that-I-ever-want-to-try-it hard. In order to escape the problem of there being holes in the world, there is so much thought that has to go into everything. I’m not sure how you could keep so much information organized and accessible as you write. Still, seeing the less polished places in Lowry’s writing serves a lesson. It’s something to remember, that if you don’t know what’s going on, it’s going to translate into your writing, and your reader will be able to tell.

 

In conclusion, I would recommend The Giver quartet, especially the first book, The Giver.  Next review is going to be a book called Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell. Spoilers: I cried.

Have you read any of  The Giver quartet? What have you been reading recently? Let me know in the comments.

love, sarahash

jam tarts

pie5     Sometimes a certain smell or sound can bring back a memory. That happens for me every time I sprinkle flour on the counter and start rolling out the dough for Sunday morning brunch. With every roll of my pin, I remember our Saturday morning tradition. The sun would come up over the horizon and barely peek into the lace-rimmed curtains when my Nan would be up, puttering around in her spacious farmhouse kitchen. I would usually wake up about the time that the coffee started filtering down into the pot, and find my way down the stairs into the room lit with musky morning light. Soft tinkering noises and cabinets creaking open and closed were the only sounds heard for the first few minutes. Nan had to set out her ingredients, and I had to wash the sleepies away with a glass of milk before any substantial conversation could take place. Soon enough though, all would be ready, and I would say “Good morning, Nan” as I walked from my chair to her side, grabbing the recipe card off the refrigerator.

I began cubing the butter and she would measure out the flour and salt and ask me about my girlfriends first and my boyfriend last, always saying “Remember Marge, the boys will come and go, but your girlfriends are gonna be the ones for heart-keeping, remember that.” Then we would cut in the butter and add the milk that had been chilled over ice and grab and push with our hands until the dough was smooth and firm. The dough would go into the fridge and the preserves would come out as Nan would ask me what I was planning on doing with my life. The answer changed on a regular basis, the longest streak I had being when I wanted to be a ballerina. We talked about ballet for eight Saturdays straight. Pop would come downstairs at this point, looking for a cup of black coffee and the morning paper. He’d always be ready to talk, right off. First he would read the weather, then we would solve the word puzzle. He would call out the letters and blanks and pretend to come up with answers as Nan and I laughed and called out the real answers. Then he would fall silent for a while as he read the headlines, and his brow would pucker and furrow as he continued reading and I mixed together the preserves and sugar with the big wooden spoon.

pie4     Then things would start getting loud for real. Pop snapped his paper shut and laid it on the hutch for Nan to read after breakfast, Nan grabbed the chilled dough out of the refrigerator and plopped it onto the floured surface, and I would push at the dough with the pin, loudly banging it on the counter as I misjudged my reach.  Bruno would appear with a stretch and a yawn when Pop clanked the watering can into the sink to fill it. Nan was convinced that the metal from the can contributed to the consistent growth of her prize-winning geraniums, so Pop faithfully filled the can every morning. Then Pop would call Bruno to follow him out into the yard, and I would begin to cut circles in the dough with my glass. One Saturday Nan surprised me with a thin glass with roses and ivy hand-painted around the bottom edge that she had picked up from a estate sale the week before. This was the same Saturday I was going to be an artist, so naturally that was a sign, and I firmly declared it to be the only glass I would use from then on out. My opinion changed two Saturdays later, but the glass remained my favorite. Nan kept it for me on a shelf I could reach, and no one else was allowed to use it. “Sometimes the joy is in the little things, yes?” she would smile at me with a crinkle around her clear blue eyes.

Nan would turn to preheat the oven and wash the dishes as I filled a circle with a dollop of preserves and placed another circle on top, pinching the edges together. One by one, they’d make their way onto the pan, my fingers turning sweet and sticky in the process. Then the pan would go in the oven and I would set the timer ticking before we wiped the counter tops and set the table. Some mornings Nan and I would head out on the porch and cut a few sprigs of fern and a climbing rose for the table. Regardless, she insisted we use the nice dishes and set out the silverware the correct way. Once Pop protested that so much use was a sure way for the china to be broken, and that it should be saved for a special occasion. Nan quickly put that reasoning to rest. “We are alive today and we are happy. Life is occasion enough.” Pop would come back in about the time the tarts came out of the oven and wash his hands. My favorite glass would be clean again and filled to the rim with vanilla-milk, Nan’s special treat. We would all sit down to eat, and Bruno would crawl under the table and lay down on my feet.

pie3     These days, when I pull tarts out of the oven in my modest apartment kitchen, my mind goes over snippets of conversation I still remember after all these years. I remember the years worth of Saturday conversations punctured with happy laughs every other sentence. I remember the quieter Saturdays, where our voices became softer and our words became heavier without Pop around to lighten the mood. Then somewhere along the way Saturdays turned into Sundays and I started making the tarts by myself, and loading a plate of them into my car for the hour trip to Meadowside Assisted Living, because only the best was good enough for my Nan. Tears gather in my eyes as I remember the Sundays towards the end, when Nan couldn’t have the tarts I had brought, or even leave her bed. I sigh quietly as the timer dings and pull the fresh tarts from the oven. Picking up the recipe card with brown-stained edges off the counter, I return it to its place on the refrigerator.

Until next week, Nan.


 

Jam Tarts // Prep time: 30 minutes // Bake time: 20 minutes // Serves 4

Crust:

  • 1 1/4 cup all-purpose Gold Medal Flour + extra for rolling
  • 1 stick COLD unsalted butter (1/2 cup)
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 3-5 Tb. ice cold milk

Filling:

  • 3/4 cups preserves (strawberry, blueberry, cherry, etc)
  • 1/4 cup white sugar

Directions:

  1. For the Crust: Cut the butter into small cubes and place in the freezer to make sure it’s very cold. Add the flour and salt to the food processor and pulse. Pour a couple ounces of milk over ice to chill. Then add the cold butter to the flour mixture and pulse until it’s finely chopped and mixed into the flour. It should resemble oatmeal or little pellets. One tablespoon at a time, pulse in the milk (not the ice cubes) until it clumps together. It should be firm, not sticky. Dump the dough onto a piece of plastic wrap and form into a disk. Wrap and refrigerate for at least thirty minutes.
  2. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Once chilled, roll the dough out on a well floured work surface, and using a glass, cut into small circles. Set half onto greased baking sheet and set aside.
  3. For the Filling: Mix together preserves and sugar in a small bowl. Once thoroughly combined, spoon a tablespoon of mixture onto each pie crust circle. Top each filled circle with another circle, and brush tops with butter. If desired, sprinkle top with powdered sugar.
  4. Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes, or until the tops are golden brown. Remove and allow to cool for 5 minutes. Enjoy with a glass of vanilla milk.

pie crust recipe loosely adapted from A Spicy Perspective

 

 

for the creatives

hey, creative soul. your art matters.

You there.

Yes, you, with the starry eyes and the wildly beating heart…

you, with a love for beauty, truth, and that which is meaningful…

you, the writer, painter, composer, sculptor, singer…

you, the artist.

Can I tell you something?

You are important. You matter, and you matter a lot.

I know–believe me, I know–the whispers you hear everyday from the culture, from your friends, from inside of yourself.  The whispers that say to you “Art is silly and frivolous,” or “You’re an artist? But what else? You can’t be just an artist,” or “Nobody cares if you make art. It doesn’t matter.”

I want to remind you, you beautiful, creative soul, that we–and others–will use any excuse to keep from creating things that are valuable and meaningful. Pablo Picasso once said that

Painting is not done to decorate apartments. It is an instrument of war.

I want you to remember the reason why you started making art, whatever that reason may have been. Whether it was to leave something that would last beyond your lifetime, or to declare truth and justice, or to entertain with a brilliant story, or to make something that echoes the beauty you can’t help but notice, you started with a reason, and I want you to remember it.

Because it is going to be with that reason that you will be able to wield your instrument of war best.  “I didn’t know I was fighting a war,” you might remark to me. Oh but dearheart, we are.  It is a war that started long before us, and will continue on long after us.  This war is the fight that every human fights, whether they realize it or not. It is the battle to make life something more than living and dying with no thought to the in between. It is the struggle of doing something meaningful with the life we have been given.  As artists, it is our job to record the stories of people (real and otherwise) who have succeeded, to help others see the beauty of the struggle we all experience, and to highlight everything in this world that makes life meaningful.

What a magnificent opportunity you have been given, creative soul.

Your art matters.

in which the blog gets a facelift, and I head off in a new direction

Well, it has been a while, hasn’t it?

When I started this blog, I wasn’t entirely sure what I was going to do with it. Twelve posts and a little over a year later, I’m still not entirely sure where this thing is going.

But I do know that as gather my thoughts and start again, I’m going to be shoving off in a slightly different direction.

You’ll notice (if you’re a web reader) that I’ve changed my blog name.  Not because I hated ‘The Song Without Words’, but because writing along that vein is incredibly specific, and I’m not there right now. Writing is my passion and my calling, and I need to practice it as much as I can, but with my old blog name I was a bit more limited than I wanted to be. Limitations can be good for creativity, but so can freedom.

My very very first post (which has since been removed for a couple of reasons) talked about leaving beauty; making the world a little better because we were here. That is still very much at the heart of who I am and what I write and how I write it, but I want to apply that vision in a wider variety of ways.

So, what next?  I’m going to keep writing, and I suppose that the what about will come to me as it will.

Here’s to fresh starts and new adventures.

love, sarahash