More Than Words

December 4, 2009

A quick and easy dinner solution that is sure to be a crowd pleaser

Filed under: Uncategorized — CaffeineFiend @ 9:50 am

It’s late afternoon, and you just got home from a long day at the office, in the classroom or you have been chasing a wild pack of children around all day. You’re tired and there is nothing for dinner. The answer? Chicken enchiladas and Spanish-style rice.

Green Enchiladas

Photo from FamilyFun Magazine

Ingredients: 2 ½ cups of shredded, pre-cooked rotisserie chicken, 2 cans of Cream of Chicken soup, 1 cup of shredded cheese, ¾ cup of sour cream, a small can of sliced black olives, a 28 oz. can of mild green enchilada sauce and flour tortillas.

Optional: half of a diced onion, ¼ cup cilantro

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
  • In a large bowl, combine the chicken, Cream of Chicken soup, half of the cheese, the sour cream, olives, onion, cilantro and half of the enchilada sauce — you’ll need the rest later
  • Spray the bottom of a 9”x13” baking dish with non-stick cooking spray
  • Taking a tortilla, put one or two spoonfuls of the chicken mixture into the center and roll it up
  • Place the filled tortilla in the pan with the edge of the tortilla down and repeat the process until the pan is full
  • Pour the rest of the enchilada sauce over the top and cover with the remaining cheese
  • Bake for 35-40 minutes, until the cheese is melted and starts to golden

Depending on the type of rice you choose to use, it may be a good idea to start it before the enchiladas. For brown rice, that usually takes around 40 minutes to cook, I suggest starting it first. White rice has about half the cooking time, so you can get away with putting it on when the enchiladas are halfway finished baking.

Follow the normal cooking instructions on the package, and add ¾ cup of salsa to the water while it is boiling and viola — zesty and delicious rice.


November 20, 2009

Six-Word Memoirs

Filed under: Assignment — CaffeineFiend @ 1:23 am


Memoir #1

The cables going up Half Dome in Yosemite

Photo by Catherine Bowen

Memoir #2

Abby wearing a fadora

Photo by Catherine Bowen

November 6, 2009

The best of Wurstfest

Filed under: Assignment — CaffeineFiend @ 3:48 am
Two men in lederhosen celebrate Oktoberfest

Cheers! Two men in lederhosen celebrate Oktoberfest. Image courtesy of

The hat should have been my first clue that this was not going to be a typical evening. Made of green wool, with a giant plume of a feather sticking up from the left side, it looked like something straight out of an Alpine fairytale. But this was nowhere near the Alps. Or Switzerland. Or Germany for that matter. This was smack-dab in the middle of Texas, a state known for its belt buckles and cowboy boots — not lederhosen.

But here I was, in the small town of New Braunfels, about to have an up-close and personal encounter with Wurstfest — the “wurst” in this case referring to “bratwurst.” That’s right, “Wurstfest” is the annual “Salute to Sausage,” a tradition that started in 1961, according to the Wurstfest Web site.

When my friends picked me up from my hotel in Austin and said that they wanted to take me to Wurstfest, I had little idea of what to expect. My most educated guesses came only to the very general conclusion that it had something or other to do with German food, music and beer. However, nothing could have prepared me for the incredible display that would greet my eyes and ears.

Nearly a 50-minute drive from downtown Austin, New Braunfels is a town rich in its German heritage, according to the city’s Web site. And each year, they set aside the last Friday in October to kick off this 10 day long tradition that draws hundreds of thousands of visitors each year, according to

As we drew closer to the gate at Landa Park where the event is held each year, sounds of yodeling and polka music assailed the night air. I thought that someone was in pain. Then I was informed that that was a normal part of yodeling.

The event itself is like Heidi meets German heritage month, meets the merry barmaids at Oktoberfest.

Once inside, the delicious smells of fried food hung in the air, tantalizing festival-goers to stop at the various vendors and sample their wares, ranging from batter-fried onions, smoked brats, brats on a stick, on a bun, or covered in sauerkraut, potato pancakes and a beer of every hue and variety to wash it all down.

Children wearing lederhosen and dirndls eating ice cream

Photo courtesy of

As we wound our way through the crowd, I couldn’t help but notice more green hats interspersed among the throng — many covered with pins, indicating diehard supporters who make Wurstfest a yearly tradition. Even more eye grabbing was the fact that underneath many of these hats, the wearers had taken their Wurst-spirit to new heights, completing the look with white button-up shirts, red vests, knee-high socks and olive green or tan lederhosen — which are leather shorts or trousers.

In addition to drawing those who could be seen walking around the grounds drinking beer out of their very own 64-ounce pitcher, this display of cultural heritage is also very much a family event, and attracts more than its fair share of parents pushing their children through the crowd in strollers, decked out in miniature versions of their own costumes.

Those sitting in Wursthalle, a building set aside for use only during the 10 days of the year that are spanned by the festival, were serenaded by the sounds of the lilting accordion and assortment of horns and trumpets that make up the Jodie Mikula Orchestra, playing polka after polka, and occasionally transforming into the well know refrain of “the chicken dance” long into the night.

Whatever your age, Wurstfest is bound to have something to offer, from the costumes and strangers randomly toasting each other — and you — with a loud choruses of “heys!” to the amazing food. Plus, you never know when another 80-year-old man will stand on the top of a table and chicken-dance his heart out — but it is something that you shouldn’t miss out on.

So if you’re ever in Texas during the last weekend in October, or the first week of November, take your lederhosen out of moth balls or dust off your dirndl and stop by Wurstfest to celebrate the “Salute to Sausage.”

October 23, 2009

Practice makes perfect — or the basketball team

Filed under: Assignment — CaffeineFiend @ 9:50 am

Source #1

The echo of basketballs swishing through the net and occasionally clanking off the metal rim reverberated throughout Acker Gym.

A young man, probably in his early 20s, was located at the far side of the gym, practicing his midrange jumpshot, while the funnel-shaped ball return located underneath the basket continued to feed him basketballs.

His athletic build was partially obscured by his baggy gray T-shirt and black shorts that hung below his knees. White Adidas featuring their signature three diagonal black stripes and white socks up to the middle of his shins rounded out his athletic ensemble.

He wasn’t particularly tall — around 6’ or a little under — most likely putting him at one of the guard positions.

His long, jet black cornrows were drawn back into a thick ponytail that fell between his shoulder blades.

All of his movements were fluid, and there was no wasted motion as he caught and fired up shot after shot.

He was incredibly focused on his task of shooting, and never once broke his perfect form: feet squared toward the hoop, good elevation from his muscular legs, right arm extending straight up and ending with a textbook “goose-necked” snap of the wrist.

When he finished shooting, he caught the three basketballs that were being circulated through the return and walked over and turned off the machine. He rolled the ball return to an in-wall storage space and placed the basketballs on a ball rack. After making sure that the sliding storage doors were lined up just the right way, he replaced the combination lock at the top of the door and slowly started sauntering back toward the locker room, leaving a completely silent gym behind him.


  • “Dumb jock”
  • Liberal
  • Partier
  • Crazy college student
  • Black people are better athletes


Even though Chico State students are primarily know for their party habits, a serious athlete would be more concerned with health and taking care of their body than partying. Also the fact that he was practicing in the off-season seemed to support the idea that he was serious about what he was doing.

He was obviously trusted by the coaching staff, or someone involved with the gym’s equipment management because, not only was he in the gym by himself, but he also knew the combination of the lock to get the ball return out of the storage area — and to get three basketballs, which are like pulling teeth to get.

In general, college students have the tendency of being liberal. Coupled with the fact that he was a Black student, it makes it doubly as likely.

Quad hocker

Filed under: Assignment — CaffeineFiend @ 9:48 am

Source #2

She stood in the quad between the library and the Student Services Center, a folding table with the words “AP Presents” stretching across the front in large letters sat behind her.

She was petite, with long brown hair and an olive complexion. She had a thin face, but that seemed to match the rest of her. Dressed in black leggings and knee-length black boots, her long gray off the shoulder sweater was belted around the middle to accentuate her tiny waistline.

She tapped a small stack of fliers against her hand as she waited for a group of students to approach.

“Do you like country music?” she asks four young women who are walking by.


“We don’t have time.”

“We’ve got class,” came the immediate and somewhat brusque responses.

Unflapped by this rejection, she immediate turned to another passing student.

“Do you like country music?”

At his affirmative response, she jammed a flier to him as she chipperly replied, “You should check out Eric Church.”

She shifted her weight from side-to-side, rocking one foot back onto the 2-inch heel of her boot, toe in the air.

A friend stops by and she momentarily forgets her task.

She shrugs her shoulders and hesitantly reaches her arms out as she asks a passing group of students, “Do you guys like country music? Country music? Anybody?”

No response.

She holds out a flier, lifting her eyebrows causing her forehead to wrinkle as she once again asks a passing couple, “Do you like country music?”

Amazingly, she manages to hand out her last flier and walks over to check the time on the cell phone in her oversized white, leather-looking purse nestled under the table.

Her replacement, armed with another stack of fliers and a full-color poster arrives and immediately gets to work.

With cries of “Country music fans — do we have any country music fans here?”, it was reminiscent of a carnival and it wouldn’t have been a surprise to hear it morph into “Hurry, hurry, hurry! Step right up ladies and gentlemen! For one night and one night only, get your chance to —!”

This provided the first and less enthusiastic promoter with the perfect chance to slip away. She slung her purse over her shoulder and picked up the two folding chairs and disappeared around the corner of the building.


  • She looked like the type who eats a breath mint and then jogs 10 miles to burn it off.
  • Ditzy
  • Stuck-up/self-assured
  • Spoiled college student
  • Girly girl


I was actually floored when I heard what she was passing out fliers for. Her? Eric Church? Really? It was really a wakeup call on the boxes that I mentally place people in when I first see them. I would have thought that she was out spreading the word about some inspirational speaker who met a guru and has spend the last three years of his life in silence, with nothing but squirrels to keep him company (or something along those lines).

When I first started observing her she was eating some kind of snack — and it wasn’t a breath mint.

I was also surprised by the fact that she could carry two folding chairs — they looked almost as big as she did.

Many times her tone sounded unsure and almost apologetic, maybe making her not quite the self-assured person brimming with confidence person that I originally saw her as.

October 12, 2009

Life on Ivy

Filed under: Assignment — CaffeineFiend @ 10:10 pm

Part I

Watch your step -- Walking down Ivy's broken sidewalks

Watch your step -- Walking down Ivy's broken sidewalks

224 to 342 Ivy St., 647 and 709 Second St., 642 Third St. and 644 Forth St.

At first glance, Ivy might look like any other quiet Chico street. However, upon closer inspection, this neighborhood has seen more of life and the college experience than the average city street.

Conveniently located within the toss of a beer can from the Chico State campus, and a leisurely stroll from the heart of downtown Chico, its location couldn’t be more ideal.

Tall, statuesque trees line the cracked, uneven sidewalks, in front of historic, if not slightly abused houses. Crushed red cups lay in a dejected heap of leaves clogging a gutter – their only company a forgotten 12-pack of Anheuser-Busch, flattened and soggy from the rain the night before.

Greek letters boasting of sorority or fraternity pride decorate the front of nearly every house and window. While flowers are a rarity, barbeques abound. An overturned black Weber barbecue rests in a neglected flowerbed, its legs bent and broken, while the lid lies 20-feet away across the grassless front yard.

Part II

October 2, 2009

Capturing conversation

Filed under: Assignment — CaffeineFiend @ 8:33 am

Conversation 1

“How am I gonna’ find the health clinic?”

“It’s at the two.”

“Where’s it at, at the two?”

“Right there by where Kentucky Fried Chicken is. Right there by your appointment.”

“…You got things you got to do tomorrow.”


“Drop me off…”

“Take ya to the bus stop…”

“Then go pick up your uniform… How long do you think it’ll take me to get there?”

“From right there? Shit, 20 minutes. I dunno’, cut over from 16 and you’ll be right there.”

“At the fairgrounds or at the park?”

“No at that park right there. Hooker Park.”

“You’re gonna’ have to give up that ______.”

“What ______? … Even though I would like to keep that _______.”

“What if he asks me what kind of symptoms I have?”

  • Thursday, Oct. 1, 2009.
  • Route 5, 9:53 a.m.
  • This conversation took place between a man and a woman sitting behind me at the back of the bus. The man looked quite a bit older than the woman and had his arm around her. Their conversation grew quieter as I took my seat on the bus, making it quite a challenge to catch what they were saying and making it impossible for me to turn around and really observe them.
  • The man was heavy set and wore a white T-shirt that pulled tightly around him, black jeans and tennis shoes and a black 49ers hat.
  • The woman wore a brown T-shirt, jeans and white sneakers. She was petite and had hair that had been dyed blond but her own natural dark roots had grown out about six inches. She also wore glasses and carried and had a red backpack.
  • Story ideas
  1. The usual demographic of people who utilize public transportation. This couple in particular utilized KFC as a geographical point of reference…
  2. The quality of care offered by health clinics.
  3. The most cost-efficient places in Chico to get your hair cut and colored.

Conversation 2

“Hello, how are you?”

(Grumbled response)

“You ready?”

(Grumbled response) “How are you?”


“Oooh, there’s no one on the bus.”

“Oh, you know I like these ones. And one more… This one, I just love this one.”


“Almost.” (Sigh) OK, there you go. And no left though, right?”


  • Thursday, Oct. 1, 2009.
  • Route 5, 9:39 a.m.
  • This conversation took place while I was sitting on the bus. The bus driver pulled over at one of the stops where a woman in a wheelchair was waiting. Because the passenger’s disability, the driver lowered a lift that the women could roll herself onto and then lifted her into the bus. Once she was inside, she wheeled herself to one of the first rows that is especially designed for passengers in wheelchairs. The bus driver followed her to the row and then began to fasten her wheelchair into place using a set of harnesses. The driver grumbled about the many buckles and their placement as she reached around and over the women to fasten them into place. However, while she was sighing and groaning, she did it in a lighthearted, joking manner that made the woman laugh, making what could have been an awkward ordeal funny.
  • The driver was of medium build and wore a navy blue hoodie and pants and comfortable looking black shoes. She had short, choppy blond hair and dark sunglasses with a brightly colored pattern on the side that completely hid her eyes.
  • The passenger being picked up was probably in her late 50s with long, graying hair. She wore a white sweatshirt, glasses and had a black backpack hanging across the back of her wheelchair.
  • Story ideas:
  1. Is public transportation doing all that it could (and should) to help disabled passengers? And is there a better way that they could be going about it? s
  2. Bus drivers being more than bus drivers. This particular driver went the extra step in getting this passenger situated, literally getting “up close and personal” with her. I wonder if there are any other “extra” things that the drivers do that you wouldn’t normally think of in their job description.
  3. Is it really worth it to run a bus route with only two passengers?

Conversation 3

“With everything I’ve got on me? As long as I don’t…  screw up, I can make part of it. But I don’t see that happening.”

“I’ll be making $120 a day. So, uh… do you know of anybody else around there?”


“The only thing is, is that I don’t want my name mentioned and you’ll be the only one doin’ it.”



“Sure, perfect.”

“’Cuz I’m — ‘cuz I actually pulled myself up with that. And I’m actually in the _________ for a while.”

“Well, no I’m not — no I’m not really worried. That’s not about it. But uh, so anyway, and so that’s where it stands. I have — besides you I have nobody helping me out.”

“What I need to do — I need to find somebody who has a metro phone that’s shut off that will let me use it.”

“And car insurance — I’m not driving the truck. I have no money for gas. So…”

“Yes. That’s the 15th.”

“No, no, no, that’s due on the 15th.”

  • Thursday, Oct. 1, 2009.
  • The corner of Second Street and Normal avenue. 3:50 p.m.
  • This cell phone conversation was overheard at the bus stop. The man talking was sitting astride his bike.
  • He wore a gray T-shirt that the sleeves had been cut off of, work boots, cargo pants, sun glasses, fingerless black gloves and a faded Dallas Cowboys baseball cap on backward. He had a knife in a nylon holder on his belt and had a well worn, leather wallet sticking out of his pocket. He had a tattoo on the right side of his neck that said “Judy” in big cursive letters and other tattoos running up and down his arm; some of clowns, some of clown skulls and some that were just hard to make out. As he talked, he rocked back and forth, forward and back on the bike, allowing the bike tires to roll ever so slightly.
  • Story ideas
  1. Are high gas prices keeping drivers off the roads?
  2. A breakdown of jobs and their salary per day.
  3. Tattoo art: what possesses people to get clown tattoos?

September 25, 2009

My Magazine Project

Filed under: Assignment — CaffeineFiend @ 8:57 am

Theme presentation – October 5th

Group members:

  • Catherine Bowen
  • Liz Dunne
  • Danielle Ghiglieri
  • Gene Smith
  • Sara Tompkins

September 10, 2009

Remembering 9/11

Filed under: Assignment — CaffeineFiend @ 8:46 pm

A NYC firefighter looks out on the rubble

A NYC firefighter looks out on the rubble

Waking to a new reality — the aftermath of 9/11

The radio woke Michael Hawkins up. It wasn’t blaring or fuzzy, it was news.

Hawkins immediately got up and turned on the televisions. Every channel had the same message: The United States had been attacked.

As Hawkins watched the coverage unfold, he knew that the world was going to be different.

Hawkins arrived at the Chico State campus midmorning, where he stands and encourages students who pass by to exercise their civic responsibility by registering to vote.

Classes were cancelled.

He sat outside and watched people wander aimlessly around the campus.

“It was all anyone could talk about,” he said. “Even strangers talked to each other.”

In the days following the attacks, Hawkins observed “a rare display of national unity,” unlike any other to be witnessed since the 1960s, he said.

* * *

Filling the gaps and remembering the lost

Three firefighters raise an American flag at Ground Zero

Three firefighters raise an American flag at Ground Zero

Many of the events of Sept. 11, 2001, are a blur to Megan Hoffman.

In fact, she had no idea of what had taken place until she was sitting in history and the teacher took the entire class into one of the classrooms and turned on the television.

“He told us that the Twin Towers had been hit and it was an act of terrorism,” Hoffman said. “We all sat and stared and had no idea of what was going on.”

Like many others, Hoffman was afraid of what would happen next. Because of her proximity to Los Angeles, she feared that as the most densely populated region on the West Coast, it would be the principle target of any future attacks.

* * *

Out of the wreckage

A businessman emerges out of the wreckage

The day the U.S. stood still

When the first plane was flown into the World Trade Center, Jennifer Moffitt was still asleep.

As the then eighth grader got up and got ready for school, she was still unaware of the horrifying events that had already taken place that morning.

She came face to face with the gripping reality when she turned on the TV. Moffitt had planned to catch a few minutes of “Saved by the Bell” before she left for school, but was greeted with the news channel that had been left on from the night before.

She immediately knew that something terrible had happened.

September 4, 2009

Talking points: Isolating the voice in writing

Filed under: Assignment — CaffeineFiend @ 1:22 am

3. In nineteen minutes, you can mow the front lawn, color your hair, watch a third of a hockey game. In nineteen minutes, you can bake scones or get a tooth filled by a dentist; you can fold laundry for a family of five.
Nineteen minutes is how long it took the Tennessee Titans to sell out of tickets to the play-offs. It’s the length of a sitcom, minus the commercials. It’s the driving distance from the Vermont border to the town of Sterling, New Hampshire.
In nineteen minutes, you can order a pizza and get it delivered. You can read a story to a child or have your oil changed. You can walk a mile. You can sew a hem.
In nineteen minutes, you can stop the world, or you can just jump off it.
In nineteen minutes, you can get revenge.

In this lead, the narrator appears in second person form, talking directly to you, the reader.

I think the author is trying to appeal to the “average” reader — if it could be said that there is such a thing. All of the activities that are mentioned are things that the normal, working, walking, driving, TV watching, pizza eating sports fan with teeth would do. And yet, the writer widens their demographic even more by choosing activities that are relatable by both men and women — regardless of their age. It has something for almost everyone.

The story sounds as if it is unfolding right now.

Although the overall tone of the story is very informal, it undergoes a shift in the last two sentences. In the beginning, it is light hearted and humorous but in the last paragraph, it takes a turn and becomes serious and suspenseful. This lead in particular caught my attention and left me wanting to read more.

The author used short, kind of choppy sentences — almost Hemingway-esque. They do not try to “flower things up,” but rather get right down to the details.

Because the book is written directly to “you,” and because of its familiar tone, it is difficult to see where the authors stops and the narrator begins — and visa versa.

4. Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the Western Spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small unregarded yellow sun.
Orbiting this at a distance of roughly ninety-eight million miles is an utterly insignificant little blue-green planet whose ape-descended life forms are so amazingly primitive that they still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea.
This planet has – or rather had – a problem, which was this: most of the people living on it were unhappy for pretty much of the time. Many solutions were suggested for this problem, but most of these were largely concerned with the movements of small green pieces of paper, which is odd because on the whole it wasn’t the small green pieces of paper that were unhappy.
And so the problem remained; lost of the people were mean, and most of them were miserable, even the ones with the digital watches.

The story is being told from the point of view of a third person or an omniscient narrator. The subjects are handled in a very detached and calculated — almost robotic way.

Depending on how the rest of the story plays out, the author may have been trying to target science fiction readers or fed up stock brokers.

As far as the time period goes, the best that I can narrow this particular lead down to is any time that has digital watches — basically spanning from the 1970s to today. Mind you, that is nothing more than a guess.

I found this lead very interesting because of all of the different elements that it provided. The opening sentence sounds like something directly out of a science fiction novel, harkening back to the good old days of “Star Wars.” I halfway expected it to transition into “…in a galaxy far, far away…” Still, despite this unlikely beginning, the story takes on a lofty, almost condescending — no, I take that back, it is a very condescending tone, with a hint of cynicism.

The situation with the omniscient narrator also blurs the line between author and narrator, making it difficult to distinguish between the two — or it could just be something I need to work on recognizing.

5. He was tall, about fifty, with darkly handsome, almost sinister features: a neatly trimmed mustache, hair turning silver at the temples, and eyes so black they were like the tinted windows of a sleek limousine – he could see out, but you couldn’t see it. We were sitting in the living room of his Victorian house. It was a mansion, really, with fifteen-foot ceilings and large, well-proportions rooms. A graceful spiral stairway rose from the center hall toward a domed skylight. There was a ballroom on the second floor. It was Mercer House, one of the last of Savannah’s great houses still in private hands.

This story is told from the first person perspective — possibly from a woman narrator and/or writer. I think my tendency of assuming that the narrator of this story was female may have had something to do with the term “darkly handsome” — not a term often found in the vernacular of your average Joe.

I think the audience being appealed to is mainly women who would be interested in a “darkly handsome” man in his 50s.

I was thrown for a loop while trying to figure out what time period this story is set in. At first, I wanted to guess early 1900s to the 1940s, but that was quickly ruled out when the man’s dark eyes were compared to the tinted windows of a limo. Going out on a limb, I am going to guess that this story is set between the ’80s and present time.

The lead was full of very detailed descriptions — details that women often take note of; not once have I met a man who had “graceful spiral stairway” register on his radar.

7. On a very hot day in August of 1994, my wife told me she was going down to the Derry Rite Aid to pick up a refill on her sinus medicine prescription – this is stuff you can buy over the counter these days, I believe. I’d finished my writing for the day and offered to pick it up for her. She said thanks, but she wanted to get a piece of fish at the supermarket next door anyway; two birds with one stone and all that. She blew a kiss at me off the palm of her hand and went out. The next time I saw her, she was on TV. That’s how you identify the dead here in Derry – no walking down a subterranean corridor with green tiles on the walls and long fluorescent bars overhead, no naked body rolling out of a chilly drawer on casters; you just go into an office marked “private” and look at a TV screen and say yep or nope.

This story’s narrator is speaking in the first person. While reading this excerpt, I got a mental image of the narrator as an average looking, middle-aged, blue collar man.

I think the audience that the author had in mind was anyone who would enjoy a good mystery.

Thankfully in this lead, the narrator was kind enough to let us know that the story begins in 1994 — where it goes from here, however, is anyone’s guess…

While informal, this lead also has a mysterious tone — what happened to his wife? On a wild hunch, I am going to go out on a limb here and guess that the rest of the story is dedicated to discovering how exactly his wife met her untimely demise.

In this story it was easier to see the disparity between the author and the narrator. The author uses phrases such as “subterranean corridor,” while the narrator says “yep,” and “nope” — it doesn’t get much more clear than that.

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