I’m a wing-it kind of cook. After thirty years in the kitchen, my stock meals are things like stir fry, where the only crucial chemistry is oxidation. Measuring and procedure can be casual and adjusted to the materials at hand. My introduction to serious baking was in the pages of The Cake Bible by Rose Levy Birnbaum, which I bought for its recipes for wedding cakes and kept using for its analysis of the chemistry involved. It’s baking for wonks as well as cake lovers; one recipe goes into detail about how the cake will brown so you can use it to determine whether your oven thermostat is accurate. Read the rest of this entry »
My current TV binge is Arrow, an adventure melodrama based on the Green Arrow comics. A playboy billionaire, missing presumed dead for five years, is finally able to return home. He’s learned things about his city and his family, though, so he’s back with a secret vigilante quest. Back to his family, who also have secrets.
Nicole Peeler recently wrote about her current TV crack, Sleepy Hollow. I submit that you can’t truly know that a new show, with no back catalog, is cracktastic–you haven’t tested the premise until you’re still up at 2 a.m., having watched six episodes in a row and cuing up the next one (“I can stop any time! But first I’m going to finish this season!”)
There’s a season of Arrow available on Netflix, which I worked though pretty fast–the faster to return to regularly scheduled life, right?–all the while questioning the appeal. It’s not heavy on the nuance: the actors spend a lot of time shouting at each other, or speaking through clenched teeth, making some impassioned statement about duty to family before throwing sidelong glances at everyone in the room and running off to perpetuate their secrets.
Stunt archery, though, and fabulous abs!–although even there, my second reaction was that there must be a dedicated staff person making sure that the scar and tattoo makeup gets placed on Our Hero accurately for every shoot. It turns out the show has just started its second season, and–okay, okay, yes, I’m still watching, the occasional days that it’s on. Waiting for next week’s episode, which won’t be posted for . . . another . . . week.
This is when people start making gif sets, isn’t it?
If you think the premise of Sleepy Hollow or Arrow is crazy, may I also recommend Haven.
We baked something recently (probably that rhubarb pie) that means that every subsequent preheating of the oven results in clouds of smoke, bad enough that I swear that this time, this time, I will clean the oven thoroughly once it cools off. Then of course I forget until the next smoke bomb and dinner deadline. Today is perfect weather for sitting in front of the open oven and writing (what to do when you don’t have a fireplace), however, and I am about to embark upon a baking project with Elizabeth Able; time to deal with whatever is in the bottom of the oven.
And lo! I have a tool for this project: a bottle of oven cleaner bought at an Amway presentation I was dragged to many years ago. The label required my glasses to read, but since the instructions comprised about two sentences and the rest of the label was warnings, I decided these would double as safety goggles. I donned rubber gloves. I removed the lid—or tried—squeeze here, twist there, consider the various vise grips and X-Acto knives in the building, squeeze and twist, and bingo, we’re back in business. Read the rest of this entry »
Kid the Elder, the one who can do some serious yardage with a snow shovel, and I just devoured lunch. Central Missouri has had its second big snowstorm in less than a week, and we’re dancing out that “Food is fuel” tune. I’ve cooked for every meal, baked cake and panettone, in part to have an excuse to turn the oven on but also because my usual strategy–leftovers for lunch–doesn’t work when you don’t have any leftovers. That’s one part kids home all day due to canceled school, but the other part snow shoveling is hard work–even more effective than standing by the open oven door.
This second snow was not as thick as the forecasters thought it could be, but it’s at least as heavy. The storm started as rain and switched to sleet, then to big gloppy flakes; in the early hours of the morning the temperature was 32, and during my first round of shoveling I was enveloped in a thin Scotch mist. We share a driveway with college-kid neighbors who have had classes canceled today as well. One was up to clear their back stoop–as it turns out, so she could get into the downstairs apartment. Read the rest of this entry »
I’ve been to Bali. I used to eat lobster for lunch. I had a Filofax. Today, the thing that excites me is that my new vacuum cleaner has a nozzle that fits between the ribs of the radiators. I am dusting spaces that haven’t been dusted in years, and I finally have a vacuum cleaner with a nozzle that fits (I’m of an age that I’ve owned several vacuum cleaners; I’ve lived in this house for more than one vacuum). Under the hall radiator, I found a screwdriver with interchangeable tips. In the living room, I found a quarter. Read the rest of this entry »
I got an editing lull for an early Christmas present–a week where the manuscripts were all with other people–and so a chance to get some other kinds of jobs done. I finished the shopping and the wrapping, baked some treats, and knocked back some home repair projects that had been waiting (and waiting and waiting) for uninterrupted blocks of time in which to do them. The result was extra space and new brain waves–it was refreshing to work on a different kind of problem, and to exert different muscles.
The lull is over, though: the work is back and it’s time for me to get back to my own writing. But, ahh, the rust! It has caked onto the joints during this break! Netflix is frighteningly close to the top of the frequently viewed pages list. The clothes I wear to the gym are at the bottom of the laundry pile. And writing . . . why, yes, I’ve heard of writing. A year (or maybe two) ago, I launched the year with a new notebook and a commitment to try morning pages. I’ve gotten frustrated with other attempts at journaling–the entries feel like an ever-more-petulant whine away from a very real list of duties that gives even the Inner Critic a craving for tropical getaways. Read the rest of this entry »
“The stories of childhood leave an indelible impression, and their author always has a niche in the temple of memory from which the image is never cast out…”
My son goes to the same junior high school that I went to. There’s a new wing, but the main part of the building, the entryway, the band room, and the gym are the same. He plays in the pep band for basketball games; I played basketball one season and kept stats for another. He’s there for eighth and ninth grade; I missed eighth because my family went to Manchester for a year.
My Anglophile grandmother was ecstatic over this development. Granny Becky was a not-so-closeted royalist—she’d once squired an Anastasia Romanov claimant, who she totally believed, around Chicago—and watched any BBC that was broadcast in those days before cable and satellite, including Doctor Who. Read the rest of this entry »
The next reason for not blogging: NaNoWriMo. Sitting on the sidelines last year was a drag, so even though I’ve got things in line to revise, I’m going for the fast draft.I’m in a totally different place with this story than I’ve been other years I’ve NaNo’ed, which so far has been . . . uncomfortable. But already the time spent deciding to do it has resulted in questions answered. Some issues that came up when I was poking at this project last spring now seem obvious. As usual, yes, it’s hard; as usual, it gets easier if you stick with it rather than leaving it.
And as usual, November is being its hectic arrhythmic self. We’ve got days off school, an election that I’m working (not just voting in), teacher conferences, and a major holiday. For the next five weeks, I’ll have to be ruthless about sending the Inner Critic out of the room (the Inner Editor has to stay on task with a book about health policy and genome mapping).
The three principles I (re)engage:
- I’ll figure out what I need to know to go forward by thinking about the story and going forward.
- Any and all progress is success.
- Don’t think (freak) about the total; think about what’s next.
It’s a timely mood to go into Halloween with: the thrill (setting up a new world! new files! new characters!) and the terror (how the hell is this going to play out?) of starting something new.
With the help of a coupon, I ordered a sampler of different-flavored macarons for an after-school-snack adventure.
We have a household of three in a two- or four-per-box world, so we have tactics: I cut everything in half so everyone gets “one,” and then we can negotiate for the leftover halves. Invariably someone likes one better than the other, or isn’t that hungry, or is willing to trade for other goods. I started carving and told the kids to notice which color macarons they liked: they were all different, and we could look up what flavor each color was–did they really taste like that, and we might want to try making some.
While I’m trying to remember if the green ones are pistachio or the yellow ones are mango (I knew there was one in this mix I was allergic to), the chart to the right is going up on the new chalkboard wall. The younger has just started middle school, and they’ve been learning about the scientific method and recording observations in lab notebooks. Have data? We’ll collect it.
Exasperatingly to the data collector, older brother liked them all.
What is it about little kids and the moon? We’ve always lived in town—where there were plenty of other lights—and their personalities are quite different, but at a certain age, they each were the first to spot the moon when we went out at night. On Twitter and Facebook, it’s the parents of toddlers who are posting things about the moon’s phases. When I was a child, I called the moon the cookie, and my father the linguistics professor used that anecdote to open a paper about metaphor.
Now that my kids are teens, they aren’t as impressed. We drug ourselves out into a moonlit night recently and I tried to take them for a walk on a trail that it helps to be able to see. (One joy of our neighborhood is that we’ve got this little pocket darkness within walking distance of our house.) It was already late, we hadn’t planned this, so I had to settle for a few yards into the woods and an agreement to try again next month when I’d given everyone fair warning. Read the rest of this entry »