Sizzling Ideas: Finding Your Creative Outlets

by Suzette....

My best friends are those that facilitate (and tolerate) my constant brainstorming. After one such session of exchanging ideas in rapid-fire succession, my friend and business partner sent me a document entitled “Suzette’s Sizzling Ideas” so that we could continue the discussion in digital format. That shared document always helped me visualize our creative thinking as a sizzling skillet of smokin’ hot fajitas – grilled up to perfection. You can see it too, right?

It’s probably natural that we refer to our creative processes as “sizzling,” “hot” and “smoking,” just as we think of that “a-ha moment” when a flash of genius emerges and the light bulb goes on in our minds. And that ability to serve up some creative thinking is in demand more than ever. A recent interview with the CEO of a global law firm noted that creativity is the most important characteristic he looks for when hiring people. He also says that creativity is what distinguishes leaders from managers. And where did he learn this? From his mom, of course: “She taught me early on the difference between management and leadership, which is about creating the circumstances for creativity. The people who become leaders are not just creative themselves, but they create circumstances for others to be creative.”  

Thinkers of all kinds have been obsessed with creativity. Scientists have highlighted the parts of the brain that are active and engaged when creative thoughts are produced. Others have promoted methods for tapping your creative self, which include engaging in physical activity. Personally, I find I cannot always predict when creative thoughts will emerge, so I am sure to keep various forms of recording my thoughts at easy disposal at all times – and I generally have multiple running lists of ideas on paper, in my phone, and on my computer. However, I also turn to electronic sources of inspiration from time to time. Whether it’s music (John Mayer often seems to be my creative muse), websites or TED talks, I am in constant search of creative inspiration. That way my sizzling skillet of ideas never fully stops simmering!  

To discover some sizzling ideas of your own, check out these creative resources.

  1. Life Development – a website to help
    creative thinkers develop businesses.
  2. 99u – for all things creative.
  3. Why Not? – a website for exchanging ideas and solving problems large and small.
  4. Creative Boom – for daily creative inspiration on the web.
  5. Emergent by Design – a hub of creative and inspirational videos, websites and commentary. 
  6. TED Talks on the Creative Spark.
  7. TED Talks on Where Ideas Come From.

Photo credits: lorraine santana, ginnerobot

Feeling the Heat: A Story of Grief and Healing
by Suzette....
I never thought I would be here. It’s funny how quickly things can change. And when tragedy strikes, one has to be ready to respond – but also to go with the flow.

This is how I ended up in the Middle East in July – when the heat is heavy and unforgiving. A tragic event and the loss of a young life required my professional response, as well as my personal support. As a higher education professional responsible for young lives, I had always hoped that we would never have to manage the tragic loss of a student. We were prepared, as we had to be, but always in the hope that the time would never come.

Unfortunately, it did. My team and I jumped into action, but for me the situation was complicated in that the student we lost was also very close to my daughter. Knowing the young student we lost made a very painful situation all the more difficult, but I had to stay focused – on managing the crisis, on providing support to the student’s family, and on helping my daughter through her pain and anguish. You dread the day it happens: when your child loses her youth and innocence because she must face the very adult realities the world inevitably provides. But dread or not, that time ultimately comes.

As my daughter and I spent the next two weeks grieving, waiting, traveling, and grieving even more, I asked her what she would like to do after the funeral services were complete and it was time to take the next step toward healing. She and I both felt a need to get away, but I was a bit surprised by where she wanted to go: Israel. I had visited the country for a short work trip before, but my daughter hadn’t been; yet she had a keen fascination with the area. I booked the tickets, reserved an apartment, and we took off – just like that – for a three-week hiatus in the Middle East.

Sizzlin' Sexy Times Playlist
I’m No Demi Moore: On Stripping to Pay Tuition
by Lauren
In the 1996 movie Striptease, Demi Moore’s character, in the midst of an ugly divorce, takes up stripping as a way to earn money to pay her lawyer and fight for custody of her daughter. She’s not stripping for the fun of it, but rather using her position as a stripper as a means to an end. And though the film was an infamous bomb – both critically and at the box office – its subject matter remains surprisingly relevant.  

With tuition costs increasing, some college students may find themselves in a similar situation, using stripping as a means to pay their tuition. In recent years, there have been a multitude of stories from ABC News, Cosmopolitan and others on this trend. Given the cost of college attendance and the trillions of dollars owed in student loan debt, it sounds like a pretty good idea to me. Trying to maintain a full load of classes while working full-time or while working multiple part-time jobs to pay for tuition, fees, rent, and groceries, all while still having any sort of social life, is a difficult balancing act. A well paying job where you can set your own hours is hard to come by, but stripping offers just that.

In the not-so-distant past, I took an undergraduate class on gender, sexuality, and popular culture. The professor, Dr. Catherine Roach, specializes in the study of both ethics and gender at the University of Alabama's New College. She had recently finished her book, S tripping, Sex, and Popular Culture, which was assigned reading in my class. At first, I was a bit hesitant to read and write about stripping and sex with the person who literally wrote the book on it, but this turned out to be an incredibly liberating opportunity. Dr. Roach's foray into strip culture began when a close friend left her PhD program and took up exotic dancing. She wanted to know what type of work her friend was doing – was it dangerous? Exploitive? Fun? To answer these questions, she went to the club to see for herself.  

Dr. Roach was, at first, taken aback by the nudity, but she also noticed the seeming reversal of power dynamics in the club. In the strip club, men weren’t chasing women. The women were friendly, seeking out the company of men – not because they wanted to, per se, but because they were doing their jobs. As she continued her research, she began to think more about gender stereotypes and body image, and she wondered if from a power perspective, becoming a stripper could be the female equivalent of a male becoming a high-level business executive. She compared the ogling experienced in a strip club to her yearly faculty review – where her work is put on display and its validity subject to the opinion of others.

Sizzling Chicken Parm
by Jacque
This recipe for chicken Parmesan is not the traditional baked, soft chicken Parmesan, but a crunchy chicken with a crispy Parmesan coating.

2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese (you can use the pre-grated package)
2 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper


Cut chicken breasts in half and then down the middle (see video) to make thin, small pieces.

Place cut chicken breasts between 2 pieces of plastic wrap and pound in to thin, quick cooking pieces.

Place chicken in cold water.

In a large bowl, combine all dry ingredients.

Remove chicken from the water (don't pat dry. The moisture helps the flour and cheese mixture stick to the chicken) and add to the dry mixture one at a time, coating and patting as you go. Place on a plate that has been dusted with the dry mixture. Add a dusting of dry mixture between each layer of dredged chicken. 

Let coated chicken rest in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes to form a sticky coating.

Fry coated chicken in 350° oil until golden brown. Don't crowd the pan. Place cooked chicken on a sheet pan with a rack in a 350° oven after each batch to keep it hot and crispy.

Serve fried chicken over your favorite pasta and sauce or just serve it as is with a yummy side.

Sizzling Trends in Summer Shoes
by Suzette....
I admit, I am a bit of a shoe freak. I can’t (and often don’t) pass a shoe store without at least lingering for a quick glance, and possibly a quick buy. But I also admit I am not always into the latest trends when it comes to fancy footwear. Having traveled to three different continents this summer, both for work and (fortunately) pleasure, I have packed (too) many pairs of shoes – and have returned with even more. I also couldn’t help but notice that this summer’s hot shoe trends are global! Mules, platforms, mini-block heels, slides and sneakers are in vogue from the United States to Brazil to Italy to Israel. I even found, gratefully, that my espadrilles and lace-up sandals from last summer are still in fashion as well.

If you also fancy a great pair of shoes, check out Harper’s recommendations for your sizzling hot summer!

What do you love (or hate) about summer?

Thank you to everyone who responded to our proFasks question! Here are some of your answers:


Summer loves: Having a more flexible schedule with my kids.


Hates (or at least don't love): having to shoulder the bulk of child-care and activities (in terms of cost and time). I am a single-parent academic, and while I am mostly free over the summer I can't be as productive as I would like because child-care is expensive. 


I love Shakespeare in the Park! 


I love that parking is plentiful although I do miss the students' energy! 


I love rolling the windows down on the way home from work while blasting music, watering the plants barefoot, ice cream runs, sunshine until 9 p.m., sun tans and freckles, and an overwhelming sense of warmth and joy! 


I love the smells of summer! The pleasant ones...fresh cucumber, watermelon, sunscreen, outdoors after a rain shower, a freshly mowed lawn, the grill on a patio. 


I love the relaxed vibe, ability to go to the pool and beautiful summer nights! 


What I love about summer is that it is still light outside at 8:30 pm so you can spend more time outside! 


What I love about summer is that I am busier than ever, with teaching, grading, studying abroad - but I am NOT in meetings all day! And I do love the heat, but not too much - and I absolutely love summer evenings. 


I hate the mosquitoes! I'm not too keen on the heat. I hate the Oklahoma weather and the way a hailstorm or excessive heat wave can kill my vegetable garden. I hate that Oklahoma isn't on a coast or near what I'd consider a beach. I like the absence of students. I need these couple of months of sloooow. 


Summer is usually when I get the most opportunities to travel - I love that. It is also the time when I get to reconnect with family and more far flung friends. As I am on an academic schedule, my teaching load is much lighter in the summer but I do wish I could take those mythical "long summers off" I keep hearing hearing about. 


I am an Oklahoman and a teacher's daughter, so summer has never begun with the first hot day (since 100 degrees is not unheard of in April), but when the last grade is turned in for Spring Semester. While I may have plans to work on research, revise a class, or (since I also practice law) prepare for hearings, it does not matter; all my stress melts away. I am able to work on a schedule that is mine (mostly) and I accomplish more by noon than I can all day in the Winter, as though time has slowed to allow me to enjoy more of the long, sunny days. Even in our legendary heat, I look forward to going outside, breathing the hot, fragrant air, puttering ineffectively in my garden, listening to the kids in the neighborhood play, and swimming in sun-warmed pools. 


I love the unstructured time because as educators we cram 12 months of work into nine! The heat where I live can be oppressive, so I love the air conditioning, reading a novel, writing my next one, and doing a little pre-planning for next semester. Ahhh!