“Life is long. If you're still drawing breath, you still have time to be the kind of writer you want to be.”
John Vorhaus

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

Days 3-5: In which we arrive, share some good news, and make plans to depart once more
Mon 2018-11-05 23:57:27 (single post)
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  • 3,453 wds. long

So remember when I said that my first pro sale, "First Breath," would be on the Tales To Terrify podcast this year sometime only I had no idea when? Well, it's up now! It went up on October 12 in Episode 350, and you can listen to it here.

I had the weirdest reluctance to listen to it. Well, maybe not so weird. Maybe it's related to the way I have to leave the room if someone is reading something of mine; if I stay there, I'll be on pins and needles, trying to read reactions into every shift or sigh--"They yawned. Are they bored? They keep recrossing their legs, are they uncomfortable? Do they think I'm a freak because I thought up stuff like that and put it in a story?" I guess I had similar discomfort with the idea of hearing someone else read my story out loud. In my gut I was sure that, hearing it, I'd finally see what an awful, stupid, shameful thing I'd written and put out into the world--

Stop that, I told myself; you know perfectly well that a prestigious editor already thought this was worth putting in an anthology. And this is a Hugo-nominated podcast; its editor clearly has good taste--and he chose to run your story. Your story has not suddenly become awful. Press play.

I listened to the episode on my drive out of Avon Sunday morning. My story comes first, narrated by Michelle Kane, and she does a good job. I mean, I have quibbles, as I expect I would no matter who read it because it's my baby and they're not me; but they're only quibbles, and not worth going into. Most importantly, I was gently crying by the end, so, go her, and go me.

Thing about that story is, I keep forgetting it's a horror story, and, moreover, a vampire story, or at least it has a sort of vampirism at its heart. I didn't write it with vampires or the horror genre in mind. But it's clear the vampire aspect was a factor in the choice of story to pair it with: Victoria Glad's "Each Man Kills," originally published in Weird Tales in 1951. Now, there's a vampire story, one springing from under the cape of Dracula himself.

Anyway. I hope you get a chance to wander over and take a listen.

Time now for the NaNoWriMo Rebel report, covering today and the weekend we just left behind us. The short story is, I'm still at 100% on my self-challenge. Here are the details.

Morning Pages: (Weekdays only.) Did them today, but lollygagged on my way there. It was like I couldn't bear to admit it was Monday. Used them mostly to make sense of my vague sense of dread about all the things I had to get done today: it's my first full day back in Boulder, but also my last full day in Boulder before I leave again, so we're back in travel prep stress mode. It helped to write down the specific things I had to do, make a concrete list of them, and make a plan to hit each one. It made the scary big cloud of dread into an achievable agenda.

Freewriting: I'm happy to report that I did this faithfully each day of the weekend as well as today. But I'll admit that on Saturday and Sunday I put it off until almost the end of the night. Saturday I actually played Puzzle Pirates again--my crew on the Cerulean Ocean was defending an island, and I wanted to help. After four rounds, I pulled myself away and got to work. I had to put off all my writing work until evening today, too, but for a better reason--I had to prioritize some travel prep errands first.

Over the weekend I began using the 50 Creative Writing Prompts at NowNovel.com. This is a series of exercises for focused writing practice. They feel a little like classroom assignments. They remind me of working my way through Ursula K. LeGuin's Steering the Craft, which was also full of classroom-like exercises for focused writing practice. I did exercise 1 on Saturday and exercise 2 on Sunday.

Today's writing prompt came from Chuck Wendig's series of flash fiction challenges; I've been working my way backwards through his archive, doing one a week. Here's the one I did today.

Fictionette Development: Pretty much part of the same writing session as freewriting over the past three days. Each session was kind of small, in keeping with the philosophy of "at least do a little." By the end of Sunday I had finished the Monday Muse post and set it for scheduled release--I love it when I can do that, it means I am perfectly on schedule--and today I babbled to myself on the page about what the piece due Friday will look like.

Commercial Fiction Production/Revision: (Weekdays only.) More babbling. Made a list of questions that would have to be answered as I expanded the original flash piece into a full-length story. May have encountered some answers along the way. Will have to sleep on it.

Submission Procedures: (Weekdays only.) So, about Friday. You know how I said it was late and I wasn't going to do anything more than just think about where to send "Survival, After" next? Well, turns out, I figured out where to send it next--and discovered that they'd be closing to submissions Saturday afternoon. So I sent them the story then and there. Go me!

Today was just for record-keeping. Logged that "First Breath" was now published at Tales To Terrify; logged that the place I sent "Survival, After" had sent an acknowledgement of the submission. Pretty much left it at that.

Blogging: (Weekdays only.) And there you go.

Tomorrow's work day will be prioritized according to what must be done before I get on the train, which is to say, while I can still access the internet. So Tuesday's blog post should show up sometime in the afternoon rather than stupid-o-clock at night. At least I won't have to stress about getting in my daily 444 on 4thewords.com; since I have continued writing this post well after midnight (its date stamp notwithstanding), I've extended my streak through Tuesday the 6th already. That's a relief. However, I'm currently battling a 24-hour 3,000-word monster, and I'm not finishing that sucker tonight. Guess I'll have to blog it to death from Denver Union Station tomorrow afternoon.

'Til then!

things return to normal, for fairly decent values of normal
Tue 2018-07-24 12:47:39 (single post)
  • 3,541 wds. long

Yesterday I got to everything but the blogging, so today I'm starting with the blogging. This my occasional strategy for making sure I do all of the writing things--start with whatever didn't happen yesterday, to make sure it happens today. I am very clever that way. *pats self on head*

Among the things I did do yesterday was a solid editing pass on "Survival, After." It came back from Shimmer with rejection in hand; I'm getting it ready for its next outing. Mainly I just need it to be about 350 words shorter, so I'm going over the manuscript with a Scalpel of -10% (two-handed weapon, imbued with curse: Perfectionist). But yesterday's pass also uncovered a lot of typos, cut-and-paste artifacts, and gerunds that ought to have been changed to simple present tense when the sentence got restructured. And vice versa. All of which were there on the story's last outing. So Much Embarrassment. This is the sort of thing that happens when it's a rush job to squeak it in under deadline. Go forth and do not likewise.

Anyway, I hope to finish this edit today so I can resubmit the story.

I'm back in Boulder now, back to the normal weekly schedule of writing and roller derby. There's still a touch of travel journaling for me to wrap up. Here it goes:


Thursday, July 19, 2018: I get out of town. My timing sucks.

Travel anxiety got me out of bed early, which meant plenty of time for a shower, laundry, packing, and last-minute printouts. I'd gotten as far as the shower and was starting on the laundry when Dad got up from the computer and shared the bad news: One of his oldest friends--the one whose garden had produced the tomatoes we had in yesterday's sauce piquante and also the cucumbers and squash we used in the kimchi, had just died that morning. He'd been less than two weeks out from receiving an artificial heart, but his all-natural original just wasn't able to wait that long despite all the day-to-day medical support he was receiving. Dad had volunteered to email mutual friends, seeing as how his friend's widow was obviously not in a space where she could handle that right now. I'm not sure really how able Dad was to handle it, but he muddled through.

So that was deeply sad. And it seemed like adding insult to injury that it happened the same morning I was leaving town, so that I was abandoning Dad right when he'd suffered an unexpected additional blow. But we made space in that morning's itinerary for extra hugs and a few stories about Dad's friend.

I headed out about two hours in advance of my train, leaving myself time to top up the rental car's fuel tank, return the rental car, and walk from the Hertz office to the train station. I could have had them shuttle me over, but if I had, I couldn't have stopped at Cochon Butcher for a sandwich and beer to go. Now, the smart plan would have been to ask Hertz to hold my luggage, walked down to Cochon for to-go, walk back to Hertz, then let them shuttle me down. Because after Cochon there were about six very long blocks to walk, and six blocks of New Orleans in July is a lot. Because I was not as smart as I could be, I arrived at the train station a lot sweatier and dehydrated than I might have. But my beer was refreshing and the sandwich was worth waiting for.

There was wifi on the City of New Orleans. I made a good-faith effort to get the Friday Fictionette done while I was still able to upload it; nevertheless, it would not go up until Saturday evening. It was "Mardel's Salamander" (ebook, audiobook), an irreverent romp through a fantasy future in which computer programming is magic and magic has consequences. I also got my Saturday morning AINC reading done later that night. Audacity's noise reduction filter worked astonishingly well; you could hardly tell from the finished MP3s that I was on a train. Given how well I could hear my next-door neighbor's phone call, though, I was probably not my next-door neighbor's favorite neighbor. I tried to keep my volume down, but you never know.

I could not possibly have been my next-door neighbor's least favorite neighbor. That prize had to go to the room across the aisle from me in which two pre-teen boys were roundly enjoying their mobile sleepover. They boarded the train at, I think, Jackson, Mississippi, and the shrieking, squealing, shouting, and roughhousing began almost immediately. Their parental units were just down the hall and sometimes poked heads in to adjudicate some point of sibling rivalry (not sure they actually were brothers, but you see what I mean), but never, so far as I could tell, to tell them KEEP YOUR VOICES DOWN AND STOP USING THE HALLWAY AND SLEEPER DOOR AS YOUR PERSONAL PLAYGROUND. Thankfully they fell asleep early and didn't rise until late. And I actually slept pretty well that night.


Friday, July 20, 2018: A little work, a little play, and once again we're on our way.

We got into Chicago Union Station more or less on time. I made my way to the sleeper lounge and staked out a spot at the workstation counter downstairs. Here I could sit at an actual desk with my computer and work or play comfortably. Also I did not have to listen to the ubiquitous televisions because here they were silent; if you wanted to listen, you connected your smart phone to a particular "Hearing Hotspot" wifi network and downloaded an app. That was useful intel. The official Amtrak Wifi network wouldn't let me connect to game servers, but the Hearing Hotspot did. So after I uploaded that day's blog post I got to play Spiral Knights until it was time to board my train.

The rest of the ride was much like the previous leg of the journey, only minus the disruptive pre-teen boy sleepover element. And no wifi, of course. I continued work on the fictionette, cleaned out my email spam folder, solved jigsaw sudoku, and read ebooks. I also even got a small amount of physical conditioning to make up for spending the whole day on my butt and Saturday's crossfit (which I would because tired). See, there are these vertical bars in the bathrooms for you to hold onto when the ride gets bumpy, and it's possible to use them for a sort of assisted squat/pull-up exercise, and then do a set of ten each time one is obliged to visit the facilities.

So things were productive and peaceful. And on Saturday morning I woke up in Colorado.

The end.


Food talley for the remainder of the trip:

  • 2018-07-19, 12:00 - Pork belly sandwich with mint and cucumber on white bread (Cochon Butcher)
  • A bunch of Amtrak meals that were adequate or even tasty but not particularly worth reporting
the saga continues: skating happens, much venison is eaten
Fri 2018-07-20 10:31:52 (single post)

Have just arrived at Chicago Union Station. Will be boarding the train for Denver in just under four hours. Going by my experience on the outbound journey, there won't be a wifi hotspot on the California Zephyr (or if there is one, it won't get much reliable signal after the first couple hours), so if I'm going to upload a blog post today, I'd better compose it now-ish.

The Friday Fictionette for July 20 will also be late; I'm going to have to finish it on the train, but I won't be able to upload it before Denver Union Station. Still, it'll be a sight closer to on time than last week's "sometime this weekend, I mean Tuesday" release (see below).

Anyway, to continue the travel journal...


Tuesday, July 17, 2018: Mini family reunion over venison backstrap

Was deliberately antisocial when I woke up so I could get caught up on some writing tasks. Among other things, got the much-delayed Friday Fictionette for nominally July 13 recorded, packaged, and uploaded.

Breakfast: Made myself a little omelette-on-toast. Had an unexpected boiled egg on the side (I expected it would be a raw egg when I cracked it open BUT IT WAS NOT) which I chopped up and mingled with some kimchi. The kimchi turned out just fine, though if I had to do it with yellow squash again (and I might--the Diaz Farm back in Boulder is starting to harvest their squash and zucchini), I'd slice it into rounds and include it with the traditional cabbage kimchi. It didn't benefit as much from the stuffed cucumber treatment as I'd hoped.

So. Got those things done. Then Dad pokes his head in the door and says, "Let's go find some oysters for lunch." Which is how we ended up at Seither's devouring a dozen oysters on the half shell each. NO COMPLAINTS. NONE.

After that it was time to run some errands. I had postcards to write and mail and also I needed fountain pen ink. (Forgot to refill my pens before leaving Boulder.) Plus I figured while I was out I could finish illustrating the April Fictionette artifacts (still running a bit behind on them) and get them ready to mail out, too. So I headed over to the 17th Street end of Lakeside Mall where all three errands could be conveniently accomplished within a two-block radius.

OR SO I THOUGHT. I mean, well, they could, but not the way I'd imagined. I'd imagined visiting Scriptura for fountain pen ink, then walking across the street to Morning Call for coffee and beignets and postcard writing and artifact illustration, then dropping off all mailables in the blue drive-up boxes at the post office. In fact the coffee and stationery enjoyment phase happened at Puccino's because MORNING CALL IS GONE FOREVER AND I AM BEREFT. Oh, they've still got a location in City Park, sure. But is that within an easy biking or skating distance of Dad's house? No. Is that where I got taken to all through childhood for beignets and chocolate milk? No. Is that where I faithfully wrote every morning around 6:00 AM during my visits home from college and struck up a brief correspondence with a waiter who was also a writer? No. No, it is not. The location of so many formative memories is GONE. Some sort of smoke shop appears to be going in, but not a smoke-and-news shop of the sort that used to be next door to the Morning Call and where I often used to pick up copies of OMNI and F&SF for market research. Just a smoke shop, going by the sign. And it's not even open yet. There's a big blue garbage roll-off in front of the shop because apparently they are ripping out all the marble counters and mirrors and little round tables and crappy chairs and I AM GOING TO CRY FOREVER.

So, yeah. Postcards and watercolors at Puccino's. Dammit. And a latte. And a sad little slice of cranberry poundcake.

Meanwhile Dad's getting ready for dinner, because the time between meals should always be spent prepping for the next meal. (Food is important in New Orleans. You may have heard.) He's working on a particular Dad special, which is venison backstrap seared to medium-rare on the grill and served with a homemade béarnaise sauce. Also rosemary potatoes slow-roasted in a heavy, lidded pan on the stove. Also a package of frozen broccoli florets.

The occasion--not that it needs an occasion, really--was my brother coming over for a bit of a visit. Usually I visit him when he's tending bar at Hurricane's, but most of the nights I was in town he had off. He works the bar fewer nights now that he works full time during regular hours at an Uptown emergency vet clinic. So instead of us having a long, disjointed conversation over several hours of beer at the bar, we had a long continuous conversation over delicious food and red wine and a live DVD of Three Dog Night. It was a superior experience. I could actually hear what Ricky said on the first try, no one was smoking anywhere near me, and there were 100% fewer drunks demanding I get off my laptop and "have fun," or putting their arms over my shoulders and arguing with me over my right to tell them HANDS OFF. Yay for non-bar family reunions!


Wednesday, July 18, 2018: Mini high school reunion, mini derby meet-n-greet

Wednesday got off to a similar start: Anti-social productive beginnings to make room for socializing the rest of the day.

Social activity #1: Lunch with a high school friend at Giorlando's. This is something I try to make time for in all my visits home. In addition to giving us a chance to catch up on things since last time, it's a bit of an oasis politically. After tip-toeing around the news Dad always seems to have playing on the TV and biting my tongue so I don't yell back at the news anchors giving only half the story or the Republican senators on live cameras saying things like "Sure ICE operatives have raised performative cruelty and homicidal neglect to a fine art, but how do you think liberals pushing to have them shut down makes them feel?"... it's really, really nice to sit down to someone who's on the same page with me about, oh, human rights and fact-based education and diverse representation in media, those sorts of REALLY IMPORTANT THINGS.

Social activity #2: Public skate session at Skater's Paradise, the rink in Slidell. The whole afternoon after lunch I was fighting a case of the sleepies--well, not so much fighting it as not fighting it but hoping I'd be able to stop napping and get out of bed on time. I was starting to worry this was a pattern. When I was in town last October, I really wanted to go skating around the French Quarter on Halloween night; unfortunately, having already skated from Covington to Abita Springs that day, I had used up allotment of oomph, and so instead I stayed in bed and binged Stranger Things 2. I hadn't been quite so extravagant today, so thankfully I did manage to get up not only in time to make the skate session but also to enjoy another damn fine Dad dinner before I went. It was venison sauce piquante over pasta shells. Also some more kimchi.

(I told him that some time later I'd probably be picking his brain for the recipe over the phone; I had the recipe from Talk About Good! but I suspected his recipe was better. He said, "If it doesn't involve two cans of beer, forget about it." Which, fair.)

Anyway, Skater's Paradise is a pretty nice rink! Very smooth floor, polished concrete I guess but no trouble on my 88s. Good sound system, decent music selection given the audience, although the DJ did have a tendency to suddenly change songs midway through. And I got to meet and hang out with some of the skaters from Northshore Roller Derby. And also make up a little for missing a week's worth of my usual derby practice, alway an issue while on vacation.

So I got to skate and it was awesome. Then I drove home, set my alarm for stupid early, and went to bed. The end.


Food Talley for Tuesday and Wednesday, also something I forgot from Monday:

  • 2018-07-16, 18:30 - Venison hot tamales! I knew the tomatoes were an appetizer for something, I just couldn't remember what. (Home: venison from Dad's hunting trips, tamales made by one of Dad's friends)
  • 2018-07-17, 08:30 - Scallion omette on toast, yellow squash kimchi (home, made by me)
  • 2018-07-17, 11:30 - Oysters on the half shell (Seither's)
  • 2018-07-17, 13:00 - Sad little slice of cranberry poundcake (Puccino's)
  • 2018-07-17, 20:00 - Venison backstrap with béarnaise sauce, rosemary potatoes, and broccoli. Also more squid-dressed tomatoes. (Home, thank you Dad)
  • 2018-07-18, 12;00 - Crawfish fettucini (Giorlando's)
  • 2018-07-18, 18:00 - Venison sauce piquante, Korean radish kimchi (home, thank you again Dad)

That sure is a lot of venison. Dad and his friends maintain a hunting camp in Alabama, so, no surprises there. ALSO NO COMPLAINTS. NONE. I will complain, however, about the lack of beignets on this trip. (ALL THE SADS FOR MORNING CALL.) I guess I'll have to make some when I get back to Boulder.

in which real derby hits happen and kimchi gets assembled
Thu 2018-07-19 14:16:49 (single post)

Departure day dawns. It has been a morning of laundry and leftovers and last-minute printing out of things. My right hand is dyed orange from having packed up a sampling of Monday's kimchi to take home (insert "caught red-handed" jokes HERE). I've gotten my exercise walking from the Hertz rental office along Andrew Higgins Boulevard/Howard Avenue to the train station, and I've had a fantastic lunch thanks to one more visit to Cochon Butcher.

And now I'm relaxing aboard the train that'll leave New Orleans in about 20 minutes. Guess it's as good a time as any to continue the travel journal.


Sunday, July 15, 2018: When we tire of hitting pedestrians with fat-bats, we hit each other for reals

Woke up, as planned, at stupid o'clock. Got all the stuffs packed and ready. Walked out the door in search of the nearest Blue Bike hub, which I found without any trouble at St. Claude and Elysian Fields. Checked out a bike by means of the computerized interface in back, and off I went.

I hope that I will never not get that surge of delight as I pedal up the street of "WHEEEEEEE I'M BIKING! YAY!" Skates are my wings, but bikes mean freedom. They open up all of the immediate environs the way a car, with its bigness and its need for gas and to follow one-way signs and find parking, does not. On a bike, I feel like I could go anywhere.

Where I went was Daisy Dukes, a 24-hour diner on Chartres just off Canal. I had the fried oyster half-size po-boy with a cup of the gumbo. Also a coffee and an orange juice. They were hopping-busy, but they quickly found me a high-top for one right in the back.

Once I was fed and rested, I re-rented the bike and pedaled over to Hertz for my rental car. It was a black Chevy Sonic and it did what it was supposed to. It got me back to the airBnB to pick up my stuff and then it got me down into to New Orleans East and the Big Easy Rollergirls warehouse in time for the post-ROTB Hangover Mashup.

It was a good game. The score stayed fairly close right up through to halftime, after which the gap began to widen as patterns established in the first half replicated themselves in the second. Far as I could tell, a good time was had by all, and I hope I'm not just saying that because my team, the Matadors, won.

Last time I got to participate in a post-ROTB Mashup, three years ago, I was decidedly a beginner. An advanced beginner, sure, and if you saw me playing with BCB's Bombshells you might even call me an intermediate-level skater; but in a group of people I'd never skated with before, all of them from other leagues and many of them outranking me in years and skill, I was a bit of a mess. I hoped to acquit myself somewhat better this year, and I think I did. I had some good hits and some great stops, I called a lot of plays, I braced when the wall rotated, and, in the second half, I performed some decently effective dedicated offense for my jammers right off the line that I do believe helped widen our score differential.

I love feeling like I know what I'm doing. It's still kind of a new feeling for me.

To be clear, the skill level across both rosters seemed to skew high. Even the gals who said things like, "I'm sorry, I don't really know what I'm doing" right before the whistle, they did just fine. Everything felt friendly; I'm told that some years you get a certain amount of revenge hits between people from rival leagues, but there was none of that going on that I could see.

Dad came to watch, and I was super proud that he got to see how far I've come. He came to my last post-ROTB Mashup three years ago, and his main comment was an amused "You sure took a beating!" This year he sounded a little more taken aback: "There were some vicious hits out there!" I was all like, "I know. I gave some of 'em!"

(HAY HAY BCB YOU GUYZ I DID THE FOREWARD-FACING HIT THING IT WAS AWESOME. I missed a crossstep check though. My timing on that one's still kinda iffy.)

Dad's other comment was, "I don't know how you can do all that in this heat." He had a point--it was very hot in that warehouse. No surprise; it was very hot in New Orleans my whole trip. As I knelt by Dad's lawn chair to talk to him at halftime, sweat rolled down my face and torso in free-flowing rivulets. I went through a can and a half of coconut water, a couple cans of La Croix, and a whole lot of water from the Igloo cooler kindly situated between the two team benches. By the time we were done, we were all ready to throw ourselves in the pool.

The pool was at Pontchartrain Landing, the traditional site of the post-ROTB Mashup afterparty. Pontchartrain Landing is a marina and RV campground with a restaurant and bar. The pool is for residents only, but they have a running agreement with the Mashup hosts to let us use it. So we did.

For lunch, I had a "frozen alligator" daiquiri (mint and kahlua and chocolate chips) and the Salty Pig (pulled pork and fried oysters on top of toasted french bread rounds).

Eventually I got sun-dried enough to change clothes (I hadn't realized I'd need my own towel) and head home--home home, this time, the house in Metairie where I'd grown up. I let myself in and collapsed on the sofa. Dad vee-jayed his favorite live concert DVDs for us. That was about all I had enough energy left to do: be an appreciative audience. Also to eat. Dad had made chicken and andouille gumbo ("it has never come out so good!") and a neighbor brought us a bunch of boiled blue crabs (so, yes, I did get my boiled crabs fix after all).

It was a great start to my half-week at home.


Monday, July 16, 2018: The kimchi is now a tradition

My Mom lives at The Atrium, in the memory care unit. Every Monday and Wednesday, Dad picks her up and takes her for a ride in the truck. It doesn't much matter where. Just being in an automobile is enough to make her giggle. And that's about all she does anymore. She giggles, she taps her forehead slowly against the armrest, she repeats "One, two, three, four, five" (all she can remember or at least access of the rhyme that continues "Once I caught a fish alive") in a gruff and teeth-clenched voice, and she giggles some more. That was about 99.9% of her activity that I witnessed when I went along for the ride today.

I've done my mourning already. This is what is, and I'm resigned to it. But every time I visit, I'm a little shaken by how much farther the dementia has progressed. At least last visit she was able to respond to direct questions and would spontaneously say things to Dad like "I just want to be with you" and "You're so good to me."

It's strange and backwards and sad when the daughter moves into the role of comforting her father. Parents are mythically big and invulnerable and all-powerful. Even when we're all grown up, some of us sometimes still seek out their approval and appreciation. It's always a shock to see them helpless with illness or grief. It was a shock when I was eleven and newly diagnosed with leukemia and the two of them broke down crying in front of me, and it's a shock now to see Dad having to bear this burden of care and grief. Mostly he doesn't let it show. Sometimes, though, cracks appear.

Sometimes all I can do is just give him a big hug. At least I was there to give it.

On a lighter note, while we were out driving Mom around, we stopped at the Korean grocery on Transcontinental at Vets Blvd, and I went in for kimchi ingredients. I am simply not going to get away without making kimchi during a visit home. It's inevitable. It has become tradition. I'm not fighting it anymore. And I admit it's a kind of fun role reversal to be the one directing kitchen traffic and giving Dad food prep instructions.

We did this kimchi recipe (minus the oysters, which we did not have on hand) and also that one (but with yellow squash in addition to the cucumbers). We also had some sliced, seasoned squid that I'd picked up on a whim; it was a salty, spicy treat on fresh sliced tomatoes.

Every time I make kimchi with Dad, I am surprised all over again at how easy it is, and why don't I make some more the moment I get back to Boulder? And then I never do. It probably has to do with how far I have to drive to be sure of finding Asian chives. Like that's even necessary! They have a great flavor, but so do scallions and even leeks. So! No excuses this time.

Oh and hey--lunch was at Mr. Ed's. Not the one on Live Oak I used to bike to for muffulettas back in high school. They have multiple locations these days. This was their fish house and oyster bar on 21st Street, couple blocks over from Andrea's (which I did not have occasion to visit, more's the pity). They still serve that amazing turtle soup, but I didn't order it this time. I was distracted by oysters and other delicious things. That's kind of how most of this trip went, really: "Something blah-blah yadda-yadda OH HEY OYSTERS!"


Food Talley for Sunday and Monday:

  • 2018-07-15, 07:15 - fried oyster half po-boy, gumbo (Daisy Dukes French Quarter)
  • 2018-07-15, 14:00 - Salty Pig: fried oyster and pulled pork on french bread (Pontchartrain Landing)
  • 2018-07-15, 17:30 - chicken and andouille sausage gumbo with boiled blue crab appetizer (home: Dad's gumbo, a neighbor's seafood acquisition)
  • 2018-07-16, 12:15 - oysters rockefeller and bienville, softshell crab almondine with Meunière sauce (Mr. Ed's Oyster Bar & Fish House)
  • 2018-07-16, 18:00 - fresh sliced tomatoes dressed with Korean seasoned squid (home: tomatoes from Dad's friend's garden, squid from Oriental Market)

What? No. The kimchi has not been eaten yet at this time. We're letting it ferment overnight. And the squash and cucumber are busy mingling with the seasonings in the fridge. Don't worry, we'll be tasting it tomorrow.

after a small interruption we continue with our tale
Wed 2018-07-18 22:54:28 (single post)
  • 3,843 wds. long

Had a late night last night and didn't have the oomph left over to continue the travel journal. Late night tonight, too, but enough is enough. Skip two days, you wind up skipping three, then a whole week, then nothing gets blogged at all. So! Picking up where I left off the other night...


Friday, July 13, 2018: The train arrives in New Orleans

Well, not until 3:30 PM. Slept well, felt a lot better, got a significant amount of work done on the short story before the train arrived. Spotted wildlife from the train: wild turkeys just outside a town in Mississippi (can't recall exactly where) and a ton of egrets at Port Manchac. (Sometimes you get pelicans. Sometimes you get cormorants. Today it was mostly egrets.) Had a perfectly terrible excuse for a muffuletta for lunch. I'd forgive the substitution of the hoagie roll--I allow a lot in an out-of-town muffuletta, just so long as they get the innards right--but the microwave did horrible things to that hoagie roll, and the result was just sad.

No, wait, I misremember, the awful not-muffuletta was last night over dinner, because we were with that nice couple who got off the train in Memphis. But then I have no memory of what I had for breakfast or lunch on the train Friday. Clearly these were not memorable meals.

Had a phone conversation with Dad during which he tried very hard to get me to accept his offer of ferrying me around downtown once I got in. I don't think Dad's ever gotten comfortable with the idea of me being downtown by myself, not even after all these years. He also wanted to know why I thought I needed a rental car when he has no plans and is happy to drive me around. Which was very sweet of him and all, but, I don't know, y'all, I did not expect to still be defending bids for independence to my father at my age.

So the train arrived. I'd planned on having my luggage held at the station while I skated up to the Sugar Mill for my ROTB packet, then retrieving it and taking the streetcar to my lodgings for the night. When I found out how much that would cost me, I rearranged my plans. I would instead take the streetcar to my lodgings immediately, then skate all the way back to the Sugar Mill, then skate all the way back to the airBnB. Fine. I like skating. Let's do this.

The streetcar system is more confusing than it ought to be. The line I boarded was the 49, but you couldn't tell it from the car. The car said 03. It also said Uptown/Loyola, which, correct me if I'm wrong, has absolutely nothing to do with where it actually went, which was St. Claude and Elysian Fields. I dunno. I think I have a decent handle on navigating New Orleans, but I've never taken the streetcar with intent before. (Taking it mainly for the experience of WHEE I'M ON THE STREETCAR doesn't count.) There may be some subtleties I'm missing.

It's OK, you don't have to @ me about it. I'll figure it out as and when needed.

So that worked. Got to the house. Let myself in. Sat down in the blissful air conditioning (four blocks of New Orleans in July is a lot). Eventually got into my leggings and cut-offs. Packed my bookbag to be more lightweight for skate travel, leaving in only the things I imagined I'd want that evening.

Went out on the porch to put on my skates AND WAS IMMEDIATELY SURROUNDED BY KITTENS.

(eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee)

They were black and tabby and muted calico and tortie and gray. There were at least seven of them. They were half-grown and half-feral. Their favorite game seemed to be Who Can Get The Closest To The Human Without Getting Pet. They arranged themselves around the chair I was in, some where I could see them and some not. When I finally tore my eyes away and toe-stepped down the stoop to start my evening's journey, they scattered, then rearranged themselves proprietorially on the porch where I had been.

It was a long trip. It took me about half an hour, maybe forty minutes. Followed a pedicab most of the way down Decatur and North Peters. "You make a nice safe lane," I told the bicyclist. He suggested I hold onto the back and let him tow me; I declined, citing a need to see potentially hazardous bits of street before I rolled over them. It was a kind offer, though.

Stopped on the way at the terribly convenient Hertz on Convention Center Boulevard to reserve a rental for Sunday AM pick-up (and, incidentally, put to bed any future arguments about whether I needed a rental car; it was already rented, too bad).

After I'd done my required pre-ROTB business at the Sugar Mill, I headed the couple blocks down Andrew Higgins Boulevard toward Tchoupitoulas and Cochon Butcher. And there I not only worked some more on my short story, but I also had the muffuletta to make up for Amtrak's utter disgrace of an alleged muffuletta.

Got back to the airBnB eventually and met the neighbor lady who feeds the kittens. Sat on the porch and talked awhile. Finally went inside, geared down, changed into regular street clothes, walked to the nearby grocery for skater fuel--protein/energy bars, coconut water, fruit, that sort of thing. Came back. Started laundry. FINISHED THE SHORT STORY AND SUBMITTED IT. Promptly keeled over. The end.


Friday, July 14, 2018: Rollerbull o'clock

Woke up at 5:30 with plans to leave the house at 6:00 so as to be at the Sugar Mill for 6:30. That is frickin' early. What's more depressing is how hot out it already was when I started skating back toward the Sugar Mill. When a block later I encountered another rollerbull waiting for an Uber, I gratefully accepted her invitation to share the ride.

6:30 was indeed early--too early, really, to be there, despite that this was what the welcome packet told us to do. Not much to do, and no one to talk to if you don't know anyone and are sort of awkward at getting to know people. Was saved by some skaters from Big Easy Rollergirls who recognized me and also a crew from Steel City who'd been chatting with me on Twitter the afternoon before. So now I had some people to "bull around" with, and it was fantastic.

Dad was out there waiting to get a sweaty hug from his derby daughter and watch the fun and take pictures. (He was already beside himself with amusement/shock that several of the bulls were going topless except for pasties. I imagine he will wind up telling this detail to his hunting buddies, bar pals, and other friends and family about three billion times over the remainder of the year.)

So we received the blessing of San Fermín and were released to chase down the runners and swat their butts with our toy bats. Yay. I mean, honestly, I'm there for the skating, not so much for the butt-swatting. I am not thrilled by 1. dudes who say things along the lines of "ooh, yeah baby, hit me harder" (ew) 2. mostly dudes but some women too who holler after you that you "hit like a girl" or "got nothing" or other stupid challenges to my imagined machismo (this is not where my machismo lives, sorry, thanks for playing, try me again when I'm parallel parking or considering spicy food) 3. runners of all genders who insist that their friend "needs a beating" (bull does not take request, bull hits request-er instead). Or, in the case of the dude accosting me after the run while I was trying to talk to my Dad, dudes who come and put their hands/arms around my shoulders or on my back or other places without my consent and I have to extricate myself firmly but, alas, without breaking their gropey-ass appendages because violence is frowned upon by event organizers.

Basically I'm in it for the excuse to skate multiple laps around the course and then skate-dance to whatever the band is playing at the afterparty.

Eventually I peeled off, texted my goodbyes to the Steel City gals, and made my way into the Quarter. Greeted runners doing the same with "Great run this morning! Did y'all have fun too?" Stood for a selfie request with a couple tourists who said they'd had a blast.

Discovered that it's harder than I'd imagined to find a bar open before 11:00 AM on a Saturday. Found my way to Johnny White's for a beer and a photo uploading session. A party of runners descended on the place while I was thus occupied and took over the jukebox. When I finally got up to leave, I said hi and great run and all that, and one of them said, "We had a running bet whether you were deaf and maybe blind, that you were able to just keep working on your computer with us there." OK, I guess.

Now it was past 11:00 and all sorts of lunch options opened up. Too many options. I was too tired for decisions. So I fell back on my usual, which is the French Market Restaurant--you know, that place on Decatur Street with the green-and-white awnings and the constant tantalizing smell of boiled seafood wafting out the door. What I really wanted was boiled blue crab--I'd been assured they were in season--but they didn't have them. So I had a pasta dish instead. It was amazing. It involved spaghetti in a generous crawfish cream sauce topped by a central tower consisting of two slabs of fried eggplant and one damn fine crab cake. So that was fantastic.

I just want to point out that I have never yet been told anywhere in the New Orleans area, "You can't come in here with those skates on." Every single place I've been, restaurant or bar or hotel or Hertz rental office, they've been all, "Roll on in! Just be careful, OK?" The French Market Restaurant is no exception, but its restrooms are up a flight of stairs. Not a problem. Derby teaches the proper use of toe stops. So I'm toe-stopping my way up the stairs, and someone on her way down is all, "You are so talented," and I'm all, "Not talent, just good training." I mean, it beats the exchange several years ago on a post-ROTB bar crawl when the whole way up the stairs at Saints & Sinners someone kept repeating "Girl, you are gonna fall and break your leg." Like, why? Why would you say that? Having said it, why would you say it again?

Made it to the house. Tired. Full stomach. Clothes can't come off fast enough. Brief shower. Crawled into bed. Out like a light and stayed that way for about five hours.

Ventured out on the street again after dark--in shoes this time, thank you--looking for dinner and maybe if I was lucky a little wifi. The problem with Frenchmen Street is, mostly what you'll find are rockin' clubs with awesome shows and a one or two drink minimum and huge crowds. Would have been great if that was what I was in the mood for. If I'm in the mood, it's a treat just walking down the street and hearing the music coming out every door. But I just didn't have the energy for it.

Found my way instead into a courtyard and up some stairs and onto a rooftop patio with a pop-up called Rogue Cafe. They made me some tasty nachos. Thus for food. Then I remembered Envie at Barracks and Decatur, and settled in for coffee and an omelet and a bit of internet errand-running. This included making myself a Blue Bikes account. I'd noticed the rental hub on Frenchman Street at Washington Square and liked the idea of biking rather than skating to the Hertz office the next morning.

Stayed up a little late to get my Sunday morning AINC reading done--I'd already missed the Saturday shows, so I didn't want to miss Sunday too. Set my alarm for 6:15 and went to bed.


Food Tally for Friday and Saturday

It occurs to me I should be keeping track of what-got-et-when. I mean, we're now in the ACTUALLY IN NEW ORLEANS part of the travel journal. Food is going to be important. Thus:

The pasta takes the prize in that list with the muffuletta coming in a close second.

Cover art incorporates and modifies public domain image from pxhere.com - provided pxhere are not lying about that. I have some concerns.
with a hot bath and a huge RPG monster all things are possible
Tue 2018-05-29 23:52:02 (single post)
  • 1,432 wds. long

Actually Writing Trivia! DID YOU KNOW? Niki composes some 80% of her blog posts in the bathtub after derby. It's getting to where some nights I can't make myself get started at all unless I'm sitting in hot water. Especially those nights when I have derby practice. And I had quite the derby practice. Hard on the heels of the Mayday Mayhem tournament, I'm heading to Topeka this Saturday as a last minute substitute into the Bombshells roster. And we did a weird new thing with how we field blockers! It was hard on my brain. Then it was hard on my body. Then we did ten minutes of interval sprints and ten minutes of plyometrics. And all that came after my post-tournament massage, which was like an extra workout in which someone else makes your muscles do the hard stuff for you.

So, yes, the bath. The bath and the beer and the recovery dinner. The beer is Lazy Magnolia's Southern Pecan. The dinner was Dal-style Lentils & Greens with Poached Egg. (The greens were radish sprouts chopped fine. I know, I know. Cooking is a crime against microgreens. I can live with that.)

But back to the writing!

Even considering Mayday Mayhem, everything was late. Later. It took me the better part of four hours yesterday to get the Friday Fictionette polished and ready to read into an MP3. No, I didn't manage to nibble at it over the weekend. I got as far as my freewriting Friday and Saturday, and not even that much on Sunday. So I didn't actually push the release until this morning. Tuesday. Tuesday is apparently the new Friday. I don't like it any more than you do.

But it's up now! The Friday Fictionette for May 25, 2018 is, belatedly, "Payback" (ebook and audiobook for Patrons, teaser excerpt for everybody). It's... well, I don't entirely like it. The protagonist is a whiny, entitled twenty-something in his backstory and an angry, resentful, stalled-out 40-something/60-something in the main story. I don't think he deserves a second chance, honestly, although if pressed I'd admit that no one deserves to have twenty years of their youth siphoned off without their consent. I dunno. This is another one I'm not selling very well. I guess it's not that bad. It's just, I've committed Mainstream Literary Anti-hero under a thin veneer of Life-shattering Fae Interference, and it makes me feel dirty.

Welp, it's what we've got. Have at it.

After the delayed release, I buckled down and made a solid start on the June 1 fictionette. I put up the Monday Muse (late, obvs), wrote the first draft of the author's note, and wrote most of the first draft of the fictionette itself. Which is huge for a Tuesday. My motivation, on top of needing to get the June 1 fictionette out early (Friday's probably going to be all road trip all the time and Saturday's the bout), was having begun a battle with a Suulan. A Suulan is worth 3,500 words which you must produce in four hours. My attack and defense stats mitigate that somewhat, but it's still a lot of work with very little room for futzing around. So there was nothing for it but to keep babbling rough draft until I'd hit my target. Yay! 4thewords for the win!

Between being in full-on Friday Fictionette catch-up mode up 'til this morning and moving into preemptive catch-up mode today, I haven't made it back to the short story revisions and am not likely to get there this week. Alas. And I have three bout weekends in June, so crunch time will continue right through the fourth weekend of the month. But there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and that light is JUNE HAS A FIFTH FRIDAY, HUZZAH! I look forward to doing absolutely nothing on that day.

there are games and then there are games
Fri 2018-05-25 23:00:29 (single post)

First, the good news. Boulder County Bombers won against Pikes Peak Derby Dames (Colorado Springs), 205 to 145. That means we go on to play Crossroads Roller Derby (Las Cruces, NM) at 3:30 on Saturday the 26th. It will be our second time facing them this year. The first went very well for us; we hope to do as well or better tomorrow.

Next, the not so good news: I didn't finish the Friday Fictionette in time to release it today. (This had a lot to do with sticking around after our game to watch our probable Sunday opponents play, then going out for dinner and games with one of the blockers from my "pod." About that latter, more in a moment.) Probably won't tomorrow, either. All I can do is nibble at it as often as I can over the tourmament weekend so I can have it up Monday at the latest.

Now for something completely different:

So right around the corner from the tournament venue is The Summit, an all-ages arcade. There's bowling, laser tag, and a bunch of the sort of arcade game that you pay for by swiping a card and that you can win tickets at for prizes in the little store. There is also a restaurant, the Crossroads Tavern & Grille.

John and I went there for dinner yesterday. This was right after some of the team went to the venue to preview the floor we'd be skating on. There were enough of us there, plus our coach, that it turned into a sort of capsule-sized practice session, with agility drills and wall work and so on. So by the time we were done, I was unexpectedly hot, tired, sweaty, and hungry.

Right at the top of the restaurant's burger menu is a Mac 'n Cheese Burger, kinda pricey at $19.99 but plenty enough food to be worth it. It's two full-sized patties each served open-face and covered in their signature three-cheese mac 'n cheese. The whole is sprinkled with bacon pieces and comes with a side of fries or whatever. That is what I ordered, mostly because both burgers and mac 'n cheese looked tasty and I was too hungry to decide between them.

Probably the first clue that something beyond the usual was going on: It arrived at the table and John asked me if I thought I could finish it. This is not a question he generally asks me, familiar as he is with my post-derby appetite. I was like, *shrug,* there's a refrigerator and microwave in the hotel room if I don't.

Time went by. We ate our meals. I read things on the internet. It was peaceful.

I was on my last couple bites of burger and just beginning to pay attention to the sweet potato fries when the server came back. She looked at my plate, looked at me, and then she told me, "You are the first person I have ever seen finish that burger all by themselves in one sitting." I'm all, huh? What? This? Seriously? Yes, she said. First time. Even the big burly guys who purport to be ready to eat a truck fade out somewhere in the second patty. "I am so proud of you," she said, "and I'm so happy that the first person I saw do that was a girl!"

All I could say was, "You must not get many roller derby skaters eating here."

But here's the kicker--apparently that Mac 'n Cheese Burger entree is a challenge entree. It's not listed as such in the menu--I probably wouldn't have ordered it if it were--but it is the case that if you do indeed eat it all by yourself in one sitting, they give you a $20 game card to spend in their arcade.

So that's what my podmate and I were doing there tonight. We were spending my windfall arcade money. And then I took all the tickets I earned playing those games and bought some fun little trinkets to share with the rest of our pod tomorrow.

It's a surprise, so don't tell!

Click through for excerpt and full cover art credits.
They came in 1 lb baskets. I had 2 to start, and a milk stout.
where i'm at and where i'm going
Sat 2018-04-07 16:46:54 (single post)
  • 1,217 wds. long

No Puzzle Pirates/Spiral Knights blogging today. Had as much as I could do getting the Friday Fictionette for April 6 out on not-quite-time, and then it was half past noon and time to go eat crawfish. More about both in the paragraphs what follow.

I swear, as late as I was all through March, a Saturday morning release for a Friday Fictionette feels practically on time. I finished up production this morning and scheduled them for release at 1:00 PM today. Well, 1:00 for the ebook, 1:01 for the audiobook, and 1:15 for the HTML teaser excerpt. It's called "Contract Negotiations" and it's about the games goddesses play when they're bored and, possibly, in a mood to provoke each other.

So, here's the thing I just discovered about that. I mean, about the Friday Fictionette production process, but really about the process of drafting in 4thewords and copying the results into Scrivener? Turns out, 4TW introduces a bunch of non-breaking space characters and other invisible, unpredictable factors into the text where bog-standard word processor functions like copy/paste and turning italics on or off is concerned. It wasn't obvious until I'd already created the ebooks and was working on the excerpt and noticing "Huh, why's it look like there's double-width spaces sprinkled throughout the text? Please tell me those aren't visible in the ebooks...." THEY WERE. I had to do some really detail-oriented manual replace-and-find-next maneuvers and then recreate all three ebooks. Which was kind of infuriating. But oh well.

About crawfish: There seem to be more crawfish boils in the Denver/Boulder area all the time. Used to be, I knew one place to go, and I went there once a year: NoNo's Cafe in Littleton. Sometimes a bar would announce a very special party, but that was random and not to be counted upon. But this year I'm seeing crawfish events popping up all over my Facebook feed, like the one today at the Dark Horse in south Boulder. Which I went to. And it was fantastic. And apparently this was their third this year HOW DID I NOT KNOW ABOUT THIS BEFORE NOW and they might do one more maybe. Oh, I'm still going to go to NoNo's; they do them the best and have the most generous serving for your buck, and I'm not just saying that because the owner's practically family. But Dark Horse has become a surprisingly close second.

In case you're wondering, I can't recommend French Quarter Brasserie on Pearl Street for boiled crawfish. The one time I went, they were overcooked and underspiced, like maybe they tried to skip the post-cook seasonings soak time and instead just boiled them a few minutes longer. You can't get away with doing that and charging $14 per pound. By comparison, Dark Horse was $12 per pound, and NoNo's comes to about $11 per pound when you do the math (they do all-you-can-eat 'til they're gone, like a proper Gulf South neighborhood crawfish boil, pouring them out onto newspaper-covered tables for everyone to dig in).

(Don't get me wrong, I am happy with FQB for oysters on the half shell. I'm pleased enough with what they call po-boys despite that what they call po-boys involves remoulade instead of mayonnaise and soft hoagies rather than French bread; for me, the hard crust that crackles to pieces, sprays a five-foot radius with crumbs, and cuts the roof of your mouth is not a selling point. Maybe that makes me a heretic. Whatever. I prefer soft bread. And the amount of fried crawfish they put on my so-called po-boy was delightfully generous. I'm not a po-boys purist, OK? But I have standards when it comes to crawfish, and, much as it pains me to say it, FQB did not meet them.)

So that's where I'm at today as of right now: pleasantly full of crawfish and finally done with the April 6 Friday Fictionette. As for where I'm going, that'll be a reprise of last week's pizza-cocktails-and-Spiral-Knights date with John (at Beaujo's in Longmont and Vapor Distillery in Boulder). Saturdays are good.

does everything from posole to queso blanco
Wed 2018-02-14 22:13:48 (single post)

I was going to blog about cooking yesterday, but I was obliged to sacrifice yesterday on the altar of Overdue Household Administration Tasks. So you get the cooking blog post a day late. Here it is.

A few weeks ago, I woke up from a dream about cooking posole. It seemed like such a good idea that I resolved to do it for real. And I did! But also I made a mess of the kitchen. I used dried hominy instead of canned, since that happened to be what I was able to lay hands on soonest. And I thought, well, it'll plump up as it reconstitutes, but it'll soak up a bunch of broth as it does, so it's OK that there's not a lot of head room in the pot, right? WRONG. My poor old 4-quart slow-cooker overflowed all over the kitchen counter.

On the plus side, it was full of posole, which is amazing right after a three-hour roller derby practice. That almost made up for having to clean up a lake of ancho chili broth and pork fat right after a three-hour roller derby practice.

Not for the first time, I was reminded it was probably time to upgrade to a 6-quart slow-cooker. And I was reminded again when I found myself shopping at McGuckin a couple days later. They have a nice selection of slow-cookers in various sizes and brands. But I did not bring home a slow-cooker after all. I brought home a multi-cooker. (We pause now for the audience to go "ooh" and "aah" appreciatively.) I admit it: I am weak and easily tempted and also susceptible to the fear of regrets. As in, "Yes, the multi-cooker has a bunch of functions I probably don't need, and it costs about a hundred dollars more than the crock-pot I'd planned to buy. But if I do just buy the crock pot, will I come to regret not having bought the multi-cooker instead? I mean, define false economy. Besides, it's got pressure-cooker functions. Haven't I always kind of sort of wanted a pressure cooker? NOW'S MY CHANCE."

That very night, I used its WHITE RICE function to make rice. Badly. (I've gotten better since.) The next day I used its SAUTÉE, BROWN, and SLOW COOK functions to make the tea-braised chuck roast recipe at the end of this article.

But what I've used it for most frequently is cheese.

The multi-cooker does not boast of a cheese-making function. It boasts instead of a yogurt-making function, which is apparently for cooking the yogurt-to-be after you've mixed in the live culture. I didn't actually use that function. (Also I don't like yogurt.) But the yogurt-making instructions start off by having you heat your milk using the SLOW COOK function, which is also the first step in making paneer. So.

I never manage to drink a whole bottle of milk before its expiration date. "That's OK," I tell myself, pretty much every time. "I'll just make paneer with whatever's left." And then, pretty much every time, I put it off. And I put it off. And then next thing I know, it's too late. The milk has not only begun to self-curdle, which by itself mightn't be so bad, but it has also started turning surgical-appliance pink, and I'm not touching any pink milk that didn't come labeled STRAWBERRY, thanks.

But since acquiring this multi-cooker, I've made cheese multiple times. No putting it off at all. Partially, that's because I'm still all excited about using a brand-new kitchen appliance. But, more to the point, the multi-cooker makes the process simpler. I mean, not the entire process. The whole routine of getting out the cheesecloth and setting up for draining the curds and pressing them into a mold and draining them some more, that doesn't go away. But the multi-cooker does obviate the anxious half hour of running into the kitchen every five minutes to make sure the milk isn't boiling over. It also heats the milk up more slowly and with less potential for scorching.

I probably could have done this in my old 4-quart crock pot. But the idea just never occurred to me until I read the hype on the box the multi-cooker came in. "Does everything from rice to yogurt!" It is possible that a creamed corn experiment gone wrong had left me irrationally averse to heating milk or cream in a slow-cooker. The yogurt instructions reassured me. (I might actually try the slow cooker creamed corn thing again this summer, come to think of it.)

So I've made paneer in the multi-cooker. I have also fried paneer in the multi-cooker (using the BROWN function) preparatory to a sort of random-greens version of saag. Additionally, I have made queso blanco, which is what happens when I leave the curds draining too long so that the finished cheese is a crumbly mess that's fantastic on tamales. I've even experimented with pouring the whey back into the cooker, changing the function from HIGH temp to LOW, adding a tiny bit more acid, and then waiting to see whether this would produce ricotta/ricottone. IT DID. I got like a whole tablespoon of ricotta.

What the heck does one do with a tablespoon of ricotta? Bake a very tiny lasagna? Fill the world's smallest calzone? Stir it into the next batch of macaroni and cheese? Or something else?

TO BE CONTINUED! ...or not, depending.

working around a broken gold star dispenser
Wed 2018-01-10 23:56:50 (single post)

Announcement: I have begun to mail fruitcake to people! This involved taste-testing it, of course. (Also I hadn't had breakfast yet. My taste-test was rather thorough.) Past taste-tests indicate that rum really isn't the right flavor for fruitcake, at least not in my opinion. It's just too sweet. The right answer is cognac. Brandy will also do. I used cognac to re-booze the cheesecloth wrap a few days ago, and the flavor is much improved.

I was trying to remember what went into the fruitcake so I could list the ingredients on one of the accompanying greeting cards. Raisins, black and green; currants, black; ginger, candied; dates, pitted because there are limits to how much work I'm willing to do. But... was that all? I mean, yes, and slivered almonds, of course, but--no other fruit? Maybe dried cherries, but--no, I remember in the grocery store thinking, "Not both cherries and strawberries." But I certainly have no memory of julienne-slicing several ounces of dried strawberries by hand. If I had done it, I would remember. Trust me. Having done the same to the dates and the candied ginger was extremely memorable.

Well. Guess what I found in the back of the Volt this afternoon. That's right. A sealed pint container of dried strawberries. From December.

It's cool! It's fine. Dried fruit is fairly shelf-stable. But I'm thinking, dang, that's a lot of oatmeal I'm going to be eating those strawberries with.

OK, so, anyway, what I came to blog about the first time: Writing Gamification and Brain Hacks, Part Lots of Many.

Writing is not a job with a lot of external validation. Not at my stage of the game, anyway. There's a lot of time spent churning out words that no one cares about but you. There's a lot of story submissions that result in mostly rejection letters. There may be some self-publishing but very few eyeballs successfully attracted.

Common wisdom says that, for this reason, this is not a job for someone who needs external validation. The only validation that counts has to come from within. You know that what you're doing has worth; that knowledge has to be enough to keep you going. And if it isn't, maybe you aren't really cut out for this writing gig. Many people aren't. It's OK.

Y'all, common wisdom is mean.

I think most of us really do need some form of external validation. We're not robots, for goodness sake. Simon and Garfunkel's "I Am a Rock" isn't self-congratulatory; it's ironic, and the irony is bitter. We're not rocks, we're not islands, and if our internal validation process doesn't get the benefit of an external reality check from time to time, at least a little, maybe we start to doubt.

And what if your internal validation process is broken? See, I'm not actually very good at telling myself a did a good job and believing it. I'm much better at finding reasons why what I just accomplished doesn't count. Look, I've been spending more hours writing per day, or doing affiliated writing tasks that need doing. My daily word count has gone up. I'm submitting more stories more frequently. Two of my previous publications will debut in podcasts this year! The writing is going great...

And yet that little self-sabotaging voice in my head says, You're just making yourself a lot of busywork so you can feel accomplished.

It says, So how many of those 4,000+ words went toward actual publishable works?

It says, Easy to surpass five hours in a day when that's how far you are behind schedule.

It says, But what are you submitting lately? Not new stories. Not full-length stories. Certainly not good stories. You're scraping the bottom of the barrel in order to check off the Submissions Procedures to-do list item on a technicality.

There is no private workday writing-routine accomplishment so great that that little self-sabotaging voice can't tear it down. It will find a reason why the latest thing I did doesn't count.

So if I'm not getting external validation from acceptance letters and reviews and fans and stuff like that, and I'm not getting internal validation because that self-sabotaging jerk voice is overwhelming any sense of legitimate accomplishment, then where am I supposed to get any validation from at all?

Possibility one: Self-administered gold stars. Respond to the accomplishment by awarding myself some small tangible pleasure. It can be a literal gold star sticker, a small piece of chocolate, a walk in the sun, a few minutes playing a fun game. Main thing is, it's enjoyable. Self-sabotaging jerk-voice can make me question my right to feel accomplished, but it can't stop chocolate tasting good or gold stars being shiny and cheerful. Establishing a pattern of "accomplish something--get a yummy treat" can over time help dislodge the pattern of "accomplish something--realize it was worthless." Or at least give it some healthy competition.

Possibility two: Self-initiated external validation systems. Otherwise known as--you guessed it--gamification.

Take 4thewords as the example, since I'm using it right now this minute. 4thewords doesn't care if the 1300 words you defeat a dust-zombie Villager with were story draft, blog post, freewriting, or even a bunch of incoherent babble. Write 1300 words, defeat the Villager, get rewarded. You'd think that this would further fuel the Jerk-Brain--It would have rewarded you for pasting in 1300 words of lorem ipsum, so it doesn't mean anything--but, weirdly, that doesn't seem to be the case. Possibly because I know that I wouldn't just paste in 1300 words of lorem ipsum and call it writing. Possibly because the incoherent babble has a purpose.

And definitely because it's like that piece of chocolate: It still tastes good. It still feels good to see the pop-up that says "You WON a battle against Villager. You received 4 dust and 136 XP."

That last bit is the brain hack. It's magic. It should not work. I'm the one pulling the marionette's strings. I'm the one starting the robot on its preprogrammed sequence. And yet when the sequence completes and the robot says "Good job!" I react emotionally like my old Null-kitty getting belly rubs. Because even though I'm the one awarding it to myself, chocolate still tastes like good.

Basically, I've installed an artificial connector between "write a bunch of words" and "feel good about having written a bunch of words" to replace the built-in connection that got broken somewhere along the way. It's actually "feel good about the game quest that writing a bunch of words enabled you to complete," but it doesn't matter. It is still a direct line between writing and feeling good, and that line is vital to keeping me motivated to write.

Now, there's a whole 'nother speech Jerk-Brain likes to give me about what a pathetic specimen I am for needing all these brain-hacks and artificially induced belly rubs and chocolate when Real Writers Don't Need Tricks to Get Themselves to Write... but that speech, at least, I've learned to shrug off. "That may be so," I tell Jerk-Brain, "but I'm still writing."

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