The other day I made Christina’s turtle candies for Grandpa Tony’s Father’s Day present. Normally when I cook, I have a recipe firmly in hand to make sure I’m doing everything right. But this time I was in a hurry and, having a general idea of how to make the turtles, I decided to just wing it.
Which may not sound like a big deal considering that the turtles only contain three ingredients. But for me the idea of asking, “Am I supposed to use bittersweet chocolate or semisweet chocolate?” and then answering, “It doesn’t matter; they’ll be good either way” was awfully daring.
I thought of this yesterday afternoon when Lexie told me she’d written the first chapter of her book (more than 3,000 words!) that morning and then sent it off to an online writing forum for critiquing. My jaw dropped. This eleven-year-old had done more before lunch than I’d done in a year.
So how does this tie in with pudding pops? Well, after that conversation with Lexie I was trying to figure out what my problem is. Why is it that I had no trouble writing textbooks or news releases or even creating a magazine when someone asked me to, but I can’t manage to send out a simple essay to save my life?
And one of the things I realized is that I struggle with the open-endedness of writing. In the same way that I like to know how a book ends before I read it (I know, I know), I want to know what will happen with my writing before I write it.
But of course it doesn’t work that way. No one is going to e-mail me and say, “We want you to write a novel about a 50th anniversary party. Send it to us by October 1st and we’ll publish it for you.” The real courage in writing—or any risky venture—is to open that vein even when there’s no soft landing in sight.
Don’t you think that one of the ways to get comfortable with taking risks is to, well, take risks? It occurred to me that it might be helpful to exercise my risk-taking muscles in an area where the personal stakes aren’t so high.
Right on cue a small child appeared and asked, “Why can’t we ever make pudding pops?” Pudding pops! What a great way to explore creativity and risk-taking. I mean, you can’t really mess up pudding pops, can you?
So here’s the official challenge: To create a new kind of pudding pop every week. The rule is that it has to be completely original. No scouting around on Pinterest for ideas, no sneaking off to the Jello website for “official” recipes. No net of any kind.
Will this exercise make it easier to send essays off to unknown editors who don’t already know or love me? Who knows? But no matter what happens, we’ll have a glorious orgy of pudding pops this summer.
Here’s our first attempt. They turned out great!
Chocolate Mint Oreo Pudding Pops
1 small box instant chocolate pudding
2 cups half-and-half
1 teaspoon peppermint extract
1 cup crushed Oreos
We blended one small box of instant chocolate pudding with half-and-half. I said two cups here, but I think it was actually a little less to get to “pudding consistency.” We added a teaspoon of peppermint extract (Lexie would like to recommend that you not put in too much because you don’t want to overwhelm the chocolate).
Meanwhile, someone can put a bunch of Oreos in a large plastic bag and start smashing them up until you get to about a cupful. Lily used a rolling pin to do the job. After the Oreos are crushed, stir them by hand into the pudding mixture.
Next, pour the mixture into official pudding pop molds if you have them or just use Dixie cups. Insert a popsicle stick, freeze, then eat!
This only made four small pudding pops, so you might want to double the recipe. We used half-and-half because it was about to expire, but you could use regular milk, too.
If you’ve found other ways to grow your risk-taking muscles, I’d love to hear them!