Sunday, December 8, 2013

Happy Holidays 2013

"The first fall of snow is not only an event, it is a magical event. You go to bed in
one kind of a world and wake up in another quite different, and if this is not
enchantment then where is it to be found?"

J. B. Priestley

Happy Holidays to you and yours from the House of Tystad.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Countdown to Thanksgiving

I was invited to be one of author Terri Giuliano Long's guests during her "For the Love of Love" event and, fortunately for me, the topic I was asked to write about was food. Followers of this blog know how I feel about food and my contribution to Terri's event allowed me to get a little more specific. In anticipation of one of my favorite holidays, here it is again. Bon appetit.

For the Love of Food
by Todd R. Tystad

Most people agree that it was Socrates who first said, “One should eat to live, not live to eat.” Far be it from me to disagree with one of the world’s greatest thinkers, but I just have to wonder if we really can have it both ways. I propose, “Live to eat and share food with those you love.”

Love of food for me isn’t simply about the food itself. It’s about enjoying a multi-sensory experience with the people you share it with. We all need nourishment to survive, but sharing food with the people we love allows us to thrive.

When I think back to all of the food I’ve enjoyed with family and friends over a lifetime, it takes me back to the moments and experiences that make up the very fabric of who I am. I remember corn on the cob in my grandmother’s kitchen, scallops wrapped in bacon at a friend’s wedding, roasted red bell pepper soup with friends in the mountains, PB&J, Thanksgiving turkey… the list goes on.

I come from a family where love is expressed through the food that is served and, sometimes unfortunately, through the quantity of food on the plate. The events that are anticipated and planned most meticulously are the shared meals that give us a moment away from the world outside and allow us to break bread with the people we will hold in our hearts forever.

For me, the effort put into creating a meal and serving it to the people I care about is the best way to say, “I love you.”

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Jalapeno Peppers Wrapped in Bacon

Football season means food on the grill, whether you're tailgating or watching the game at home. Here's one of the all-time favorites at the House of Tystad.

Jalapeno Peppers Wrapped in Bacon

small Jalapeno peppers
softened cream cheese
brown sugar

Clean, cut, and hollow out the peppers. Some prefer to cut them in half lengthwise to make the stuffing process easier, but I like them whole. Also, tenderfoots like to blanch the peppers before stuffing them (which will aid in bringing down the heat of the peppers, as does the cooking process), but I prefer them au naturale.

The classic version of this recipe calls for the peppers to be breaded and fried. But at the House of Tystad, we believe that bacon makes anything better. And so it goes a little something like this...

Stuff each pepper with cream cheese, wrap it in bacon, roll it in brown sugar, and secure the bacon with a toothpick. Then, bake or grill the peppers until the bacon is fully cooked. I always use foil underneath because you never know how much the cream cheese will leak.

The beauty of this recipe is the brown sugar. If you get it right, the brown sugar will caramelize and create a sweet balance to the salt of the bacon and the spiciness of the peppers. I'd advise you to make a lot more than you think you'll need because they're going to be popular.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Football Season 2013

The annual calendar at the House of Tystad always begins with football season. Summer is over, a new school year has begun, and our attention is now focused on a sport that is absolutely greater than the sum of its parts.

Our shared American culture is diverse enough that a person could conceivably grow up not knowing the meaning of the word huddle or the responsibilities of a quarterback. But cultural literacy requires at the very minimum a proficiency in the basic terms that are associated with the game of football. The language of the game is a part of our shared language, whether the speakers have played the game or not. Football is a part of who we are.

So, as we begin another football season, I want to wish the very best to the players, the coaches, and the fans who make the game what it is. Let's not forget that before it's a broadcast program, it's a game played in grassy parks and empty lots in every community. Before it's a high dollar ticketed event, it's a sport that teaches players the meaning of teamwork and character and dedication. Before anything else, it's an endeavor that has taught life lessons to countless athletes who may have not otherwise had opportunities that football provided.

I'm a football fan. This is the time of year that I wait for. It's a brand new season and anything is possible. See you at the game.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Growing Up on the Front Lawn

I was out walking Pablo around the neighborhood a while back when I came across a moment in time that's stayed with me. I could see a boy, about 12 years old or so, mowing a lawn and being directed by a man who looked like he was probably the boy's father. Nearby, two other men stood watching. As I passed by, I figured that this was the boy's first time mowing the lawn. The smile on his face and his careful attention to the task told me it was a moment that he would remember for a long time.

As I came near one of the two men watching, I said hello and commented that it was a great moment when a young man can take over the job of mowing the lawn. The man smiled and agreed, adding that the boy had been looking forward to it for a long time. There was pride in his voice and it made me happy to have come across something so simple and yet so profound.

In America, we don't have a singular rite of passage that formally marks a young person's transition into adulthood. We've got church confirmations, Bar and Bat Mitzvahs, Quinceaneras, and Sweet Sixteen celebrations. Getting a driver's license or registering to vote might be as universal an experience as you can find. But I think the real coming of age happens in moments like the one I witnessed.

Families live together and care for each other and deal with the good and the bad, sometimes on a minute-by-minute basis. Washing the dishes, changing the baby, and mowing the lawn are the things that families do together. You can help take care of the people around you whether you're young or old. But when you can take over a family responsibility and make it your own, you're really growing up. And that's what I had the privilege of seeing as I was just passing by.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Finding Peace in the Dog Moments

I was looking for peace. Pablo the Chihuahua and I were out for a walk around the neighborhood and, between the exercise and the near-death experience brought on by an angry Irish Setter on the loose, I think we both got a lot out of it. Pablo got some serious cardio and a newfound realization that he isn't nearly as intimidating as he thinks he is (a hard life lesson for a Chihuahua). I got to breathe in some fresh air and feel an important connection to nature and the value of life... my own and my dog's.

One of the most peaceful people I've ever known was a religious man, a man of the cloth. He was the leader of his congregation when I knew him and I count him among the most influential people I've ever known. He used to say that his most spiritual moments came not in a house of worship and not among other people, but late at night when he took his dog outside for a walk. He said that having that time alone with his dog, walking in the darkness, he was able to reach a point of having an honest and satisfying spiritual experience. Those moments gave him peace.

I'll never forget that lesson, that we can sometimes be surprised where we can find our own peace. My friend clued me in to the idea that we need to pay attention to the moments that come unexpectedly and allow us to look deep within ourselves and realize who we are in the world. And that these moments can bring us true peace.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Independence Day 2013

Happy Birthday, America. It's time to take a break from everything else going on in the summertime and celebrate the great country we live in. Between the barbecues, the community events, and the fireworks, be sure to remember the real meaning of the holiday.

While we're celebrating, take a moment to think of our men and women in uniform. Our military doesn't take the day off. Ever. Thank you to those who have given us so much.

Take some time to think of our pets too. Protect them from the sounds and the heat that can endanger their health.

Happy Independence Day!

Friday, June 7, 2013

Summer Vacation 2013

Summer vacation has long at last arrived at the House of Tystad. With it has come all of the hopes and excitement of a season almost entirely unencumbered by schedules and deadlines, to-do lists and routines. Following the traditional school schedule allows both students and adults the pleasure of casting off the shackles of a long and demanding school year and joyfully transitioning to a well-deserved break from the ordinary. Every day of summer can and should be a new adventure, so long as the sunscreen is plentiful and the bug spray is DEET-free.

The creative mind runs wild with the possibilities of what a summer day can hold. Nature enthusiasts plot their paths through the forest, sporting types pump their bike tires and arrange backyard ball games, and homeowners from coast to coast dig and mow and till until nightfall. It's nothing short of breathtaking to think of an entire country's populace coming alive under the warmth of the summer sun.

And so, in keeping with the long-standing summer tradition of all proud citizens of Los Angeles - or, in this case, proud Los Angeles expatriates - we shall vacate the House of Tystad and go to the movies. Exercising our constitutional right to spend time in a darkened and air-conditioned movie theater is one that must be cherished and practiced frequently, especially during this all-too-brief season of the summer blockbuster. Matinee prices are simply Hollywood's whispered message to come early and come often.

So, out of our way, joggers. Step aside, sightseers. Our showtime draws near. And we need to get this out of the way before it's time to light the bar-b-que and contemplate which Netflix movie we'll be watching tonight. There's only so much summer, you know. And you've got to make the most of it.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Happy 2nd Anniversary

This month, the House of Tystad celebrates the two-year anniversary of this blog. Like I promised, it has not been about cats, weight loss, bass fishing, or the new rules of dating. It has, however, been about dogs, creativity, important moments, and motorcycles. I've tried to touch on all the important things in life (oh yeah, I forgot food) and I've barely even started on music.

Thanks to everyone who's followed along. As we approach 10,000 pageviews, I feel honored to know that so many people have looked in on what I've shared. I appreciate your interest and it means a lot to me. Happy anniversary.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Time for Recreation

Spring brings us a fresh outlook on the world. It's time to think about new growth and taking advantage of what hasn't been available during the dormant season. I like to get outside, enjoy the sunshine, and think about what it means to be alive. That's my favorite type of recreation.

A close friend once clued me in to what recreation is all about. It's not just simply fun and games. He explained that it's actually re-creation and it's vital to the health of every human being. So when a person finds a form of recreation that they really love and they engage in it totally and fully, they're recreating themselves over and over again. It's re-creation.

My wish is that you can be fortunate enough to find what you truly love in this world and enjoy it not only as recreation, but also as re-creation. Life is short, so let's enjoy it.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Finally, Spring

Finally, Spring
by Todd R. Tystad

Unfortunate news for the skiers and snowboarders among us is the fact that spring has, undeniably, arrived in our fair burg. Signs are everywhere and even though the possibility of snow and icy cold winds will remain for a few weeks, the worst of winter is over. Whine if you must, but spring has arrived here in the Midwest.

Those who know me well know how fond I am of the climate in Southern California. I spent the better part of 15 years honoring the changing of the seasons by making hard decisions like whether to wear a short or long-sleeved t-shirt, whether I could eat outside, and whether it was an SPF 15 or 30 day. If I ever wanted to remember what winter felt like, I'd head up to the Bay Area for an afternoon.

As many of us do in America's heartland, I watch carefully for any sign that winter is on its way out. At this very moment I can see baby blades of grass struggling to rise up above last year's growth, lilac leaf buds preparing to burst open, and the triumphant return of yard sales telling me that it's time for authentic warm weather.

With spring's new growth comes our traditional occasions that symbolize new life and freedom, Easter and Passover. As we all prepare for the time we'll spend with our families and friends, I'd like to share some reminders that will help us all make it to summer without any gloom, despair, divorce, or assault charges.

First of all, please remember that we all have to put up with some crazy relatives at holiday meals sometimes. If we didn't, it wouldn't seem at all like a holiday meal. Secondly, please do not give baby rabbits, chicks, or ducklings to children as gifts. Few households are suited to safely adopting such animals and giving a plush pet is a much better choice. Seriously. And finally, get outside and enjoy the weather while you can. Like Mom always said, there's no reason to stay cooped up in the house all day when there's beautiful weather outside.

Celebrate spring. Celebrate family. Celebrate the fact that you don't need to hide indoors for fear of frostbite or collapsed lungs. Spring is here. Now go out and enjoy it.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Happy St. Patrick's Day 2013

St. Patrick's Day is a couple of weeks away and now is the time to make plans for how you're going to celebrate. Here's a lucky seven list of ways that the House of Tystad marks one of the best days of the year. You've only got a few days to get ready, so get on it.

1. Watch a movie about Irish blokes. I really like and highly recommend The Commitments. The soundtrack is outstanding.

2. Listen to some Irish music. My short list includes The Killigans and The Dropkick Murphys.

3. Cook up some Irish food. There has always been and will always be corned beef, cabbage, and potatoes on St. Patrick's Day at the House of Tystad.

4. Wear some green. Keep it under control, but this one is just a given.

5. Visit a St. Patrick's Day community festival. There's nothing like celebrating with some kindred spirits.

6. Watch a St. Patrick's Day parade. Sometimes even better than a festival because the good ones are a festival in and of themselves.

7. Stop in at an Irish pub. Some might say that St. Patrick's Day is too busy and crowded, but... you ever notice that those people aren't Irish? Don't listen to them. Live a little.

And, as if you need any more inspiration, I leave you with my favorite Irish blessing.

May those that love us, love us.
And those that don't love us,
May God turn their hearts.
And if He doesn't turn their hearts,
May He turn their ankles
So we will know them by their limping.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

I Heart Indie Authors

Valentine's Day is the time to share the love and I do love my fellow indie authors. They are a dedicated bunch and many of my favorites gather at The Indie Exchange. I was the first featured author at the exchange and, in tribute, I'd like to give you ten reasons to love indie authors.

10 Things Readers May Not Know About Indie Authors
by Todd R. Tystad

Modern media has given birth to independent musicians and independent filmmakers and now to independent authors, more popularly known as indie authors.  In the spirit of the indie musicians and filmmakers that came before them, indie authors are now blazing their own trails outside the publishing establishment.  With this new category of artist, readers may be unfamiliar with what defines an indie author.  So, let’s get to know the indie author and why the breed is so rare.  This list certainly doesn’t define every indie author, just as no list could ever define every indie musician or filmmaker.  Every indie author is different from the next and that’s one of the many reasons they’re deemed independent.  Here’s a list of ten things you may not know about indie authors:

  1. The indie author is a dedicated reader, just like you.  She loves books and what she earns from her work is often put back into buying books, often from other indie authors.  She can’t help it because she fell in love with language and the printed word at an early age.  Creating stories and sharing ideas through her writing is second nature and a life without books is unimaginable.  Reading and writing is just another necessary behavior, like breathing, eating, and sleeping.
  2. The indie author is a regular guy who goes to work, comes home, takes out the trash, feeds the kids, and walks the dog.  The difference is that when the day job and the chores are done, he summons up the creative energy needed to spin all sorts of tales with the hope of entertaining his readers.  It takes Herculean strength to create characters, build cities, and poetically describe feelings of passion just minutes after cleaning out the litter box, but the indie author can do all that and more.  He’s really quite remarkable.
  3. The indie author believes that books are a medium that will never grow old.  Storytelling will always be a part of the human experience and books will always be a way that we share our stories.  The form that books take has been changing, but the value of reading a well-written story never will.
  4. The indie author dreams that her main character will overcome every obstacle, slay every dragon, and fall in love in a way that has never happened before.  She has faith that true love will prevail and she knows that if you believe, anything can happen.  All she wants is for you to join her on her journey.
  5. The indie author is a renegade, a rebel, and a force to be reckoned with.  In quiet ways and armed only with language and some carefully laid-out ideas, he will not rest until he has delivered his story to his readers.  He sits for hours composing what he has dreamed of sharing and rejects the traditional publishing rules that tell him it must be done in a certain way.
  6. The indie author is the author you’ll be hearing about in the future.  She’s a rising star.  She knows that even if she becomes successful enough that the next computer will be newer or the paper more plentiful, she’ll still write with the same zeal that she had when she wrote her first book.  Read that first book now so you can say you knew her back when she first got started.
  7. The indie author is not a franchise figurehead leading a creative staff and an editorial team producing books by committee.  The indie author is an individual writer, toiling away in the early morning or late at night creating stories that emerge organically and are handcrafted with the love a parent has for a child.
  8. The indie author is inspired to be a writer, but is usually not inspired to be a marketer.  Since the task of promoting an indie book falls entirely onto the shoulders of the indie author, he must become an independent businessperson (by default and usually not by choice).  Treat him kindly when he visits your doorstep selling his wares.
  9. The indie author is technologically proficient (also by default and also usually not by choice).  Indie publishing requires that he be expert in managing data, formatting, uploading, creating cover art, and interacting with various indie publishing websites.  If not, he must scrounge up the money to pay someone else to do it for him and that can often be a significant obstacle.  He sometimes wishes technology could be set aside so that all of the time he spends on technological proficiency could be used for writing.
  10. Most of all, the indie author is, in her heart, the defender of the independent spirit and the keeper of the faith.  As fresh ideas become more difficult to find, the indie author becomes more determined.  She has refused to be bound by the shackles of the establishment and she has no intention of backing down.  The indie author writes and publishes independently and, through her work, she helps to keep us thinking independently too.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Nebraska Writing Project Youth Writing Festivals 2013

The Nebraska Writing Project, a network of professional educators and writers, is sponsoring its second annual NeWP Youth Writing Festivals. The two festivals are designed for high school students and educators and will allow participants to learn more about writing, share written work, and interact with other students, educators, and writers.

Omaha - Elkhorn South High School: March 23, 2013
Grand Island Senior High School: April 27, 2013

I was honored to contribute in 2012, presenting a session on screenwriting and also participating in a panel discussion on writing and publishing. It was a great experience.

This year's festivals are also sure to be outstanding events. I encourage you to forward this information to any Nebraska student or educator you think might be interested.

For more information, click on the NeWP link above.