Friday, November 30, 2012

NaNo Fail


I failed pretty severely at NaNoWriMo this month, and I've therefore failed at goal number 7 - finishing the novel by the end of the year. Yes, I still have a month left. But if November was any indication, I'll get a maximum of 2,691 words written next month. Which is not anywhere near enough to finish the whole novel.

I'm disappointed, but I'm also trying to be lenient on myself. Many of those days were spent on out-of-town ventures, and shortly after the New Mexico trip, I was run over by the depression train. It faded into the distance after a week, but I'm in recovery, which means I still feel the pain of it in one or two ways. The last phase of depression is clinging to me in the form of novel apathy.

I have no doubt that I'll pick it up again; I'm in the exciting part of the novel, and I have faith in the storyline. I just have to get back the part of me that cares about those things. It will come when I'm ready, but these things take time.

For now, I'm practicing patience and self-esteem.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

A Letter to Spousal Unit


Dear Spousal Unit,

Please explain why you delight in tormenting me. We have been married for almost two years. This should not happen for another year or two, I'd think.

Spousal Unit, let me explain something to you about the movie The Shining. It's about a writer and his family, in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by cold and snow. It's about the writer's descent into madness and his attempt to kill everyone around him. In short, it's not a family film.




Let me be blunt: that movie draws a close parallel to our current lives. Do you really want to put that poster in the room where I plan to write? It not only sounds like a foolish idea, but a dangerous one. I'm already teetering on the edge of socially acceptable behavior; do you want to push me over entirely? On second thought, don't answer that.

True it may be, that you'd hang that terrible memorial to insanity, rage, and supernatural revenge in the library's hallway, where I won't be able to see it as I pluck away at my wordy ventures. But you're missing two very important points. The first is that it's almost creepier to know that poster's in the room, but not be able to see it.

The second is that I'll likely see it every morning when head to the kitchen.

Spousal Unit, you do have one good point about this monstrosity. Our last domicile was tiny, and the Batcave is much larger. We have plenty of wall space for all our art, and putting up with loving each other's quirks is a marital prerequisite. Which is why I propose the following: you hang up that poster for a trial run of one week. If, at the end of that time, I've managed to live out my days in relative ignorant bliss, it may stay.

If I start having nightmares or searching the want ads for an ax, it's probably a good idea to take the poster down. I tell you this in advance because once those cravings strike, I'll probably be too crazy to remind you of the idea.


Sincerely,
Your wifal unit and a writer who doesn't want to end up like all the others,
Allison

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Sunrise, Sunset

We've had some good light action in the last week or so. Here are three different instances of that: two sunsets and a sunrise.




The last one is from this morning. See what you missed while you were brushing your teeth? Let this be a lesson to you: dental hygiene leads to... um... nothing, if you don't let the sun shine on your pearly whites.

Anyway. Have a happy day.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Cookies Galore


It was a good weekend for cookies.

Rather, it was a good weekend for making cookies; I'm sure these little guys object every time I pull one of them from the cookie jar/tin.

I went to friend Sandy's house and made cookies all day with her and friend Kirsten. You may be wondering what I mean when I say "all day." I arrived at around 11 a.m., and we pretty much jumped right into it. We didn't call it quits for the evening until 11 p.m. or so, at which point we had consumed at least two bottles of wine throughout the day, not to mention a fair amount of dough.

Despite that, we still ended up with about 1,000 cookies. What you see above is my share.

From the top left, counterclockwise, we made: M&M cookies, lemon poppyseed cookies, jam thumbprints, cranberry-orange swirls, snickerdoodles, chai spirals, mint hideaways, chocolate crinkles, peanut butter kisses, Sally Anns, candy canes, gingerbread, and pumpkin walnut cookies. They are all delicious, and we only burned a couple of trays.

Cookie parties are awesome.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Post-Thanksgiving Hibernation


For Thanksgiving this year, Spousal Unit and I had a pretty bizarre (but delicious) meal. At the last minute, we changed our main course to garlic tofu sushi (which may become the main dish every year - so easy!), with sides of twice-baked sweet potatoes and broccoli. For dessert, we had cranberry-glazed pumpkin pie and, of course, rømmegrøt. We followed that with a viewing of our movie, Princess Mononoke.

Today, I'm curling up inside while the occasional flake floats by the windows. I'll do some work, but I love staying in on days like this - especially when the outside world is all madness and obsession and Black Friday tramplings.

I'd rather stay in and try to conquer the demon in my sewing machine. Or look up weird cupcakes on the internets.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Buy Nothing Day, Featuring a Strike


Friday is Buy Nothing Day, and I'm really excited for it this year.

Every year, I do my best not to buy anything on national holidays, like Thanksgiving. Buying things on days like that tells retailers that yes, people will buy if you are open - and they say to themselves, "Why aren't we open more?" That leads to employees having to work Thanksgiving Day, which should be a day spent with family and friends.

This year, my sister works 8:30 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day to 5 a.m. the next morning. That means trying to sleep all of Thanksgiving, waking up for a rushed meal at my grandparents' place, and running back home to get ready for work.

Her hours are all thanks to Walmart, the leaders in corporate holiday ignorance. They open at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving this year. This year, their workers are striking to protest such ridiculosity. It's about time.

Buy Nothing Day was started by the group Adbusters, who also started the Occupy movement. The idea is to boycott the greed of Black Friday through not buying a single thing that day - it's extended, I'm sure, to sales that begin on Thanksgiving.

Buy Nothing Day isn't about being a scrooge; it isn't even about hating corporations (though it is pro-small business). It's saying yes, I need stuff... but at what cost?

Every year, I suggest to readers that they give Buy Nothing Day a try, though by the time this post goes up, many have already made up their minds as to whether they're going or not. This year, if you don't want to give it up all together, try this: don't shop at retailers who open their doors for Black Friday on Thursday. Especially avoid Walmart; not only do they take people away from their families on Thanksgiving, they are also the reason all retailers open their doors earlier and earlier each year. As Walmart goes, so go other retailers.

Tell them this year that enough is enough. Retail workers are tired of being mistreated, yelled at, and sometimes even injured on Thanksgiving and Black Friday. They're facilitating an air of tension and greed - all to kick off the Christmas season.


The thing I'm most sick of at this time of year is the illusion that the retail Christmas season starts on Black Friday. Yes, there's a whole shit-ton of shopping that day, but I saw Christmas displays in July this year. It's time to stop pretending any of this is about Christmas to big-box retailers. It's just about money, and it's not worth it.

Put up some posters. Protest with Walmart workers. Even a simple act like sharing this blog or replacing your Facebook picture for the week will help spread the word and make more people ask the question...

"At what cost?"


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Geisha-Headed Teacup

Among our many adventures during the recent 3-day trip to New Mexico was a visit to an antiques shop. Rough Rider, in particular. They had a gorgeous 5-setting tea set that Spousal Unit and I wanted to cram into our luggage. Seeing as it was very, very delicate, that would have been a bad idea.



On top of that, this gorgeous set - complete with creamer and sugar bowl - would be for display only, and we have no china cabinet. Something would have been broken in transit, and then we would have been sad.

Luckily, we found a teacup and saucer all by themselves.



The best thing about this? When you hold the cup up to the light, a geisha's head appears at the bottom.


 So pretty. Plus, Spousal Unit and I like the color of this one much more. An awesome find.

Monday, November 19, 2012

A Thesis Defended

This weekend, Spousal Unit and I went back to New Mexico together. While it was wonderful to see our friends there again, we came with a different purpose in mind. On Friday, he defended his thesis.


He's a great public speaker, and he's even better at explaining complex ideas to people outside the field (like me) without making you feel like an idiot. Below, he explains the difference between two skulls to a group of psychology students, who came to see what a defense looks like.



He did an excellent job, and after a nervous wait in the hallway, Spousal Unit's thesis chair came out to shake his hand: he passed, and he's getting his Master's this semester.

"So," said the thesis chair, "I guess this means you'll be calling him 'master' from now on."

Fat chance. But I am very proud of him.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Winter Primroses?

I thought primroses were summer flowers, but mine are apparently very happy by the porch door. I have two blossoms and three more on the way.


If only I'd known long ago that the key to gardening was giving up on the freakin' plants...

Short post today because Spousal Unit is defending his thesis - wish him luck!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Trekkies and Star Warsians: Engage

Spousal Unit and I have decided to decorate a room in our new apartment with a space theme. Only problem is, we don't have enough space-stuff for a whole room, so I've been browsing Etsy for awesome space art. I've found so much warp-speed/hyperdrive geekery that I just couldn't keep to myself.

For example, surely you remember this moment from Star Trek: The Voyage Home. (Along with the whales. Who could forget the whales?)



Best. Pun. EVER.

This iPhone case makes me wish I had an iPhone. Or just the iPhone case.


And who wouldn't want this lovely cross stitch at their bedside? Buy the pattern, and it will be transported straight to you.


I'm totally okay with decking a kid's bedroom out with this piece - yes, even a girl's room. Girls like Star Wars too (obviously).


What better way to say, "Who's your daddy?" than with a print that says it all for you?


And who wouldn't want a pop-art version of the original trilogy in their living room? (On the other hand, who would want a white couch?)

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Batcave's Doomful Basement

Behold: the basement. I must warn you - what you're about to see may shock and/or disgust you. Put aside the cereal bowl.


As you can see, there are stains on the carpet from bodies being dragged downstairs. I can only imagine it's from the life juices seeping out of them.


These crooked supports make me worry a little. Plus, you can't tell, but the lowest beams are only about six feet from the floor. (I left the date on these pictures just in case someone found my bludgeoned body and they were wondering when I was murdered. Hopefully, the murderer would leave the camera behind. Anyone who murders in this basement isn't after the camera, methinks. They're just after my sweet, sweet blood candies.)


The gateway to the storage area. Note the storage room door, strategically removed from its hinges.


Our lovely storage space. The wall spot on the left is a bit of graffiti; the streak in the corner is mold. Below the empty forklift skid is a hole in the floor, covered with rocks. Obviously, we have the most recent interior decorating updates.

Luckily, we're not planning to keep anything valuable down there. And I'm glad our apartment doesn't anywhere near resemble this.

Book Sales Are a Girl's Best Friend

This weekend, I went to the Memorial Library Book Sale with a group of friends. It's part of the Wisconsin Book Festival every year, and this was my first year attending. (Last year, when I was in the book business, I was required to work rather than go to it.)

This book sale is terribly exciting because on the last day, you get to fill up as many bags as you can carry, and each one is only $4 (though some friends were charged $5 for an extra-large bag - still a great deal). At an event like this, when all the good stuff has been picked over in previous days, you don't expect to find much that you've been meaning to read, but you do always find some little treasures that make you squee in delight. Following are some of mine.

Legends of the Ferengi by Quark, a.k.a. Ira Steven Behr 

I'm excited about this one because I'm a geek (obviously), but especially because Spousal Unit and I have been watching lots of Deep Space Nine lately. I tried to get him to watch Voyager, but to no avail, so I figured DS9 would be a better gateway drug option. The Ferengi have quickly become his new favorite species, and this book features all the Rules of Acquisition, including Rule 239: "Never be afraid to mislabel a product."

Women Who Run With the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes

For real now: this is one I've been wanting to read since I discovered it at A Room of One's Own. It comes highly recommended, and I've been very interested in fairy tales, myths, and folklore for quite some time now - especially because of my novel. I regard reading something like this as part of my research (though this definitely blurs the research/fun line). Now I have a nice hardcover copy of it.

Sonnets from the Portuguese by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

I love the story behind this book of poetry: Robert Browning, Elizabeth's spousal unit, nicknamed her his "little Portuguese," hence the title of this book. They're not poems in translation - they're love poems. Her most famous poem (How do I love thee?) appears in this collection.

There were plenty more wonderful books I discovered, but seeing as I have to leave for work, they will wait. I hope you find some wonderful treasures of your own today.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Dreaming of Fuzzy (See-Through) Critters


Two different friends (from the same New Mexican bookstore) gave me Knit Your Own Cat and Knit Your Own Dog in the last year. The books, by Sally Muir and Joanna Osborne, are quite adorable. I haven't made anything from them yet, but this is the year for it: along with making myself a pair of socks, I plan to master gauge.

Crazier words have not been spoken; I know there are knitters and crocheters who've studied their crafts for years and not been able to do the same. My problem, I think, is just that I haven't devoted the time to it yet. And how better to start, than with something tiny that will be both adorable and useful in the end?

(Okay, I made up the bit about usefulness. But I'm going for gauge here, most importantly, and usefulness can be overrated. It's time I knit something fun.)

Each book has instructions on how to choose yarn, stuffing technique, making whiskers, and special stitches; I plan to read these in full before I choose which pattern to make. But I'll likely choose a cat, because they're on my brain lately. Now that we're in our new place, we don't have to make a $150 deposit just to allow something to shed on our furniture, so we're hoping to get a cat. Which is probably why I had this dream the other night...

My mom had just moved into a new home in the Madison area. For some reason, my sisters and I were spending the night there too. In one corner of the house, I discovered a very friendly, very emaciated kitten, covered with burrs, knotted hair, and fleas.

It was a little grey thing, with a faded blue collar and the softest fur, despite not being brushed or cared for (or fed) in ages. Someone had clearly abandoned it, and the only appropriate response was to love it and pet it and name it George. Or Georgina.

Only problem was, at some point I lifted the little guy and held it up to the light. The light went straight through it, and it was like looking at an X-ray: all of the cat's ribs were clearly detailed. Only one problem - I was pretty sure cats were supposed to have organs, and I didn't see any.

My sleeping brain just thought that meant it needed to eat; the organs had shrunk due to malnutrition, and would grow back to normal size once it received love and nourishment. That, or it was a zombie creature.

In other words, my subconscious is weird. And I want a cat.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Procrastination and Carrot Soup

So I'm sitting here, getting ready to write the blog, and I start pulling up inspirational Google images for desktop backgrounds. Things like this.


Yep... Time to start writing.

One problem with blogging about food is that if you don't know how to take really good pictures of it, it has a tendency to just look like an unappetizing blob of goo, regardless of how good it may look in person. You could have made a national award-winning chocolate mousse, but without amazing photography skills, it will still look like poop in a cup unless you do it right.

The other option, of course, is to not take a picture of it. I know - what kind of madness do I speak, to have no pictures on a food blog? Well, fine. I didn't get any pictures of this delectable soup before it disappeared, but I can show you the remnants in the bottom of the slow cooker.


Not exactly tasty-looking. But it was incredible. I'd never had carrot soup before - let alone made it - and I was amazed at how delicious and filling it was. I have no reason to lie to you - I could make more of this tomorrow and be equally happy with it. And maybe more the next day. And the one after that.

My inspiration for this carrot soup came from three places: 1) A Moosewood Cookbook recipe posted here; 2) the book Love Soup by Anna Thomas, featuring delicious vegetarian concoctions; and 3) The Simple Little Vegan Slow Cooker by Michelle Rivera, a book I mentioned once upon a time. The first is the one I followed most closely; the others provided additional ideas and helped me turn an intense dinner 3 to 4 hours in the making into a forget-about-it crock pot meal.

The best part is, all you have to do for it is chop up some veggies. (But this is great with baking powder biscuits, too.) One of the  Love Soup recipes had a citrus component - give that a try if you want a vegan soup. Instead of the yogurt, add the zest and juice of a whole orange along with all the other ingredients. Also try using fresh ginger, or replacing half a pound of carrots with parsnips.

Carrot Soup

2 lbs carrots, sliced
1 medium sweet potato, chopped
1 small onion, chopped (about 1/3 c.)
3-4 Tbsp butter, sliced (or margarine)
1-2 cloves crushed garlic (or 1 tsp. powdered)
4 c. vegetable stock
2 tsp. whole cumin, crushed
1 tsp ground ginger
Dash of salt
1/3 c. vanilla yogurt

Add all but the yogurt to the slow cooker. Cook on low 8 to 9 hours. Just before serving, puree about 2/3 of the solids in a food processor with the yogurt until you have a tasty-looking mush. Mix the mush back in with the rest of the soup and allow to reheat if necessary, though it should still be warm enough to serve immediately. 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Vote. I Don't Care For Whom - Just Vote.

 



I was going for nonpartisan images in this post, but this is a good one...


All of this is by way of saying: VOTE. Find your polling place, stand in line for however long it takes, register if you need to (no photo ID required), and let your voice be heard.

I'll be watching election coverage tonight with bated breath, hoping they don't screw up the absentee ballots like they do every year.

Monday, November 5, 2012

NaNo Fail - And Picking Oneself Up By the Bootstraps

This was a terrible weekend for NaNoWriMo.

My personal writing goal this weekend was small and simple: about 700 words, and more if I could manage it. Apparently, I could not. There was so much unpacking and so many friends and so many ways to procrastinate that Monday morning dawned on a wordless writer.

I shall not allow it to happen again.

It's times like this that I must remember my cause and redouble my efforts. That usually involves: 1) Remembering the internet is not my friend at these times, and 2) Reading through all of the inspirations I've tucked away. Some are simple quotes; some are longer. But they all help me remember that writing is just one word followed by another, and that helps me get things done.

Neil Gaiman's 8 Good Writing Practices

Snoopy always helps me out. Keep your writing mascot at your side!

Neil Gaiman's NaNoWriMo Pep Talk (Hey, he's good at giving advice. And I totally love everything he's ever written, so that's a good reason to take advice from him.)

"We need to write, otherwise no one will know who we are." ~ Garrison Keillor

On Writing by Stephen King - lots of good advice and things that make you feel a little better about your personal struggle. After all, most of us can still pay for food at this point, yes? I hope?

Advice from famous authors - these are nice to use as desktop backgrounds. When you're stuck, just go back to the desktop and you'll be ready to go again.

"I write for the same reason I breathe: because if I didn't, I would die." ~ Isaac Asimov

I've said it before, I'll say it again: I love Making Shapely Fiction by Jerome Stern. It was great advice and guidance in college, and it still is now. Even though I have some of these segments memorized, I like to reread them - it makes me want to go do the thing I'm reading about. If I'm having trouble with a plot point, I read about plot, which takes me to the narrative section, then to the cliche section, then to character. After about ten minutes, I'm refreshed with new ideas and ready to try again.

Hopefully these will help my fellow NaNoers, spitting out words as vigorously as they can. We all reach that wall - but the real test is whether we can climb over it.

What are some of your favorite writing inspirations?

Friday, November 2, 2012

The Great American (Science Fiction and Fantasy and Zombie) Novel


It's the beginning of NaNoWriMo. Over the course of the next month, I plan to spend every day writing my novel. I'm not tackling NaNo with my past intensity, though; my goal here is to finish the book. I don't think I'll need 50,000 words for that, and I don't want to rewrite all of them. So I'm taking the time to do it right - or if not right, at least better than I might otherwise.

Yesterday on my lunch break, I wrote 313 words. Today, I'll have to get those words in before work, as there's a staff lunch today and I'm required to be social. With people. People I don't know, congregated in a large group, who will force me against the wall to blend in with the half-redecorated decor. (Seriously - half the building has wallpaper and dark accents, the other half has green paint and light accents.)

But that's the lunch time concern. Right now, my concern is getting out at least 300 words before 8 a.m.. At 8, I turn into a pumpkin. One who needs to get ready for work.

In the meantime: zombie world.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Enlightenment

One of the best things about our new place is the light. The old place had huge windows along a whole wall, which was great, but they faced north-northwest, so we never got much for direct sunlight. Right now, we're getting sunrise and sunset, thanks to having a corner apartment.


It's been quite a while since I got to see this many sunsets and sunrises in a row. I love it, and I don't mind the fact that the sun comes up so late in winter - because I get to see it happen.

Sunrise...

Sunset.


Sunrise!

We've also enjoyed the moon lately - the skyline here doesn't really tower over us, so there's more horizon (and less light pollution).


 Here's this morning's progression: a hint of light behind the clouds...


...and a burst of color.


For that alone, I like our new place.

Update: Holy crap, it's not done yet.


It's like the Energizer Bunny of sunrises.
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