“Here's the kind of writer I want to be: a better writer today than I was yesterday.
John Vorhaus

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

Cover art incorporates public domain vector images from Pixabay and Public Domain Pictures.net
this fictionette is entering a world of longer days and shorter nights
Fri 2017-12-22 23:43:20 (single post)

As hoped for and expected, the Friday Fictionette for December 22, 2017 did not suffer for the two days I took off from writing for Yuletide preparations, observance, and clean-up. It is out and ready for your perusal, should that sound like a good time to you. It's called, "The Croquet Lawn, and What They Found There." Here's your usual bouquet of links: ebook ($1/month patrons), audiobook ($3/month patrons), and teaser excerpt (available to all). It is about portals and why you might not want to go through them. Also entomophobia, nicknames for golden retrievers, and needing to buy a new Christmas tree.

It's the Christmas edition of Friday Fictionettes. Well, sort of. I mean, there's a Christmas tree in it. Only there isn't, but that's the whole point, really. Nothing that should have been in that closet is there, and a whole lot of something that oughtn't to be is. Portal fantasy, y'all.

All the above-mentioned Yuletide preparations went to plan. All the food got cooked, sampled, and declared delicious. I now have a lot of leftover pie, which takes care of the majority of my meals for the next three days. Egg nog got drunk on rum. People got drunk on rum. People came over! Some people stayed until very late at night! It was swell.

I even managed to convince my Pandora station to behave and play me songs like "The Holly King" and "Dark Mother." (Also a bunch of random Celtic tunes, a selection of Arthuriana set to harp and guitar, and a whole lot of Loreena McKennitt. Which near misses beat the heck out of random Pete Seeger. "I hear you like folk music so I brought you some folk music." That's nice, Pandora. Good try.) But I didn't end up listening to it much once I stopped cooking, because by then I was either socializing or playing Rock Band.

I played a lot of Rock Band. Rock Band got me through those final few hours after the last guests left (around... 3:30 AM? Maybe?) and John went to sleep (ditto) and staying awake became a real struggle. On the downside, my left wrist is extra sore from curving awkwardly around the controller to get to the overdrive trigger. (Also from mildly spraining it doing dishes the next day.) On the plus side, I've gotten a lot better at sight-reading for pro keys.

Then the sun came up and I went down. I woke briefly as John was leaving for work. He gave me the news that scrimmage had been canceled due to icy roads and stupidly cold temperatures. So it turned out I had only two things to do with my Thursday: 1. Clean up after the party. 2. Continue improving my Rock Band 3 scores. I did those things. In quantity.

And then today happened and I got back to work. For the results of which, I refer you to the first two paragraphs of this blog post.

In addition to my regular Friday writing tasks, I had my very first solo Boulder Food Rescue (BFR) groceries delivery. I've just started volunteering with them. My roller derby league turned me on to them; they were on the list of community organizations which members were encouraged to go pitch in with toward the end of the year. I joined them as a last-minute volunteer sous chef for their "lunch bunch" event back at the beginning of December, and subsequently decided I'd like to work with them more. So I went to the orientation last week, shadowed one of their veteran volunteers Monday morning, and had my first solo shift this afternoon.

It went OK! I arrived at the donor grocery, loaded up the BFR bike trailer with some 150 pounds of donated produce, and rode that sucker the couple miles up to the recipient community. The delivery was a success. I did not bump the trailer into any cars, curbs, or people. The bike did not fall over in what was left of the ice and snow. No food fell off the trailer. One volunteer fell over once trying to get off the bike, having forgotten that the bike's crossbar was too high for her usual dismount maneuver, but she picked herself up again and carried on.

BFR are pretty well known around here, and their trailers are distinctive. Several people recognized the trailer while I was sorting the food, loading it up, or riding it to its destination, and they thanked me. I didn't know what to say. I thanked them back and wished them a good evening. It was awkward and sweet and it kind of made me glow.

I like the gig so far. I'm going to do it again next week.

"So, uh, who wants some cake?"
Tue 2017-12-12 23:48:05 (single post)
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Because Aubergine of Metafilter might need a little help eating all that cake.

I had happy news of my own to share tonight, and I still do, but the news out of Alabama right now takes, um, all 40 cakes. I mean. I just. I--

(be right back.)

*Running footsteps diminishing in volume*

*Inarticulate screaming from several rooms away*

*Running footsteps getting louder until--*

OK. OK, thanks. Sorry. I'm back. I just--aaaaugh! Look. I didn't want to be glued to the hour-by-hour election results today. (For one thing, I had a cake of my own to bake.) Thanks to roller derby practice, I couldn't glue myself to the screen. So I went to practice and derby, as per usual, ate all my extraneous brain-power. (It also gave me what feel like lovely shoulder bruises which I will be very disappointed in if they don't color up by tomorrow.)

And then I came home, and I looked at my phone, and there was a text, and the text said, "Thank. Whatever Gods. That be." Or something like that.

I wrote back, "Are you telling me the good guys won?"

And the response was "YES." Just that. Just one word, and I started hyperventilating.

Y'all. Y'all! It happened. All the combined efforts of every allied organization to get out the vote--they got out the Gods damned vote! Postcards to Voters volunteers mailed a handwritten postcard to every registered Democrat household in Alabama. (I wrote 55 of them!). And what the NAACP did was huge. (Seriously. Read this twitter thread detailing their efforts. The opposition shooting themselves in their feet at every opportunity didn't hurt, but that's not a thing you can count on. GOTV! IT WORKS!

OK. OK! So. Much shadowed by this, and that's a fine thing, but: I do have happy news of my own. I have been given the go-ahead to announce that one of my September 2014 Friday Fictionettes, "What Dreams May Hatch," will appear at the podcast Toasted Cake in April of 2018. All the happy dance! This will be my second time getting to hear Tina read one of my works (here's the first). She does a beautiful job. I'm very much looking forward to it, and so, I think, should you.

I had more to say, but it can wait until tomorrow. I think I'm going to just go bask in the celebration on Metafilter and the PTV Facebook right now.

so you make new happy memories to override the old ones that hurt
Thu 2017-12-07 22:51:36 (single post)

"Blackbird" came home yesterday with rejection note in hand. I sent it back out on its way again today. That's what you do. It's going to be hard to place, I know--not only is it a story with a writer protagonist, but it's a story whose writer protagonist has supernatural writing block, seriously, how pathetic is that?--but someone's gonna love this little story. So it's back out there fighting the good fight as we speak.

Meanwhile, it is that time of year again. Winter solstice is in two weeks. I picked up the fruitcake ingredients today, and I'm planning to have the Yule Log All-Nighter this time around. I haven't done it since we moved into the new place, so this'll be the first one in three years as well as the first one at the current address. I guess I'd better make sure I have batteries for all the Rock Band instruments and review how to set it up for All Play mode.

My relationship with fruitcake turned weird last year. Every year, I bake a fruitcake, and about half of it gets sliced up and mailed to friends and family, or shared around locally, while I eat most of the other half for breakfast every day until it's gone. Which generally takes 'til mid-January. But last year not everyone on my mailing list got a piece. I was too slow. I had fallen behind in other tasks, so getting fruitcake to the post office was just one more thing. And then I got injured, which seriously reduced my spoon supply. And then, probably because I also wasn't re-boozing the cheesecloth often enough, or generously enough, or something, the last quarter of the cake began to mold. Like, bread mold, that kind of mold. I have never had fruitcake mold on me before. Talk about embarrassing.

So I never got a slice out to my mother-in-law. And she was the best mother-in-law in the world, and then, without any warning, right about the time I was discovering the mold on the fruitcake, she died. And now I have this guilt-cloud hovering over the very idea of fruitcake because these were my reactions to the news:

  1. Shit, was she worried? Did she think I had forgotten her? I'll never know! And I'll never be able to tell her "I'm sorry, I just got behind on things and fell out of touch, but I still love you," and that sucks, and
  2. Shit, my husband and my sister-in-law are grieving the loss of their mother, and I'm sitting here feeling guilty about failing to send her fruitcake? Seriously? Way to make it all about you, Niki.

So there's feeling guilty, and then there's feeling guilty about feeling guilty, and underneath all that guilt is the just plain shock and sadness of very suddenly losing someone who was, in a very real sense, my second mom. And what with all of that, fruitcake now occupies a kind of painful place in my brain.

But I am going to make this year's fruitcake, dammit. Only I'll keep the cheesecloth well-boozed this time, and I'll get through the mailing list promptly. And everything will be fine and not painful at all, and fruitcake will go back to being a thing of comfort and joy (and booze).

And even though it's more of a Samhain thing than a Solstice thing, I'll set aside a piece for Mom Sorsha on Solstice night.

Love you. Miss you. Never gonna forget you.

i also like anchovies don't judge
Fri 2017-11-10 00:15:56 (single post)

Congratulate me. I have logged my first 1700 words for NaNoWriMo 2017. I'm a week late getting started, but it's early days yet. And every day that I post a word count is a victory. So huzzah for victory!

I've been avoiding writing the first words. The first words are scary! Brainstorming and worldbuilding is fun and low-stakes; none of the worldbuilding babble I've typed over the past year counts. But writing actual draft, now, that's real words, that's the actual story, am I ready to write the actual story? Do I know enough? What if I get it wrong?

Which is exactly the sort of meebling that NaNoWriMo is supposed to help curtail. So.

I haven't managed the blog backfill yet, but I'm in process. I wrote the post for Tuesday, October 31 (which ends on a depressing note, I'm afraid) and got halfway through the post for Wednesday, November 1 (which is more fun, though I admit it indulges in a bit of whining). I'm... no longer sure what happened on Thursday, November 2? I think not a lot happened after all, when I think back on it. There was breakfast--Dad made me breakfast every day, I think what with Mom in the assisted living community he misses having someone to cook for--and then I think we visited Mom, and then I had a nap, and then later I visited my brother. The nap might be the problem here. I have this feeling like, more must have happened, but I guess maybe not, it was pretty much all domestic stuff and napping. OK.

Speaking of napping, and needing to nap more often than I'd like, HEY YOU KNOW WHAT I FOUND OUT?! I got my blood lab results back Tuesday, and it turns out I'm vitamin D deficient! By a lot! You know what some of the symptoms of Vitamin D deficiency are? Fatigue and feelings of depression. GEE THAT SOUNDS FAMILIAR. At least it's actionable! I have added a D3 supplement to my daily routine, renewed my habit of a daily walk in the sunshine, and, to my daily banana, I have added a daily glass of fortified milk and a daily can of some sort of canned fish. (I'm cycling between salmon, tuna, sardines, and smoked oysters.) If this goes on--I mean, the adding new things to the "try to eat daily" list--I fear my meals will become as regimented as September's in The Girl Who Raced Fairyland All the Way Home. I quite like canned fish, though.

(Maybe I don't have to have it every day.)

To be clear, I still need to have a chat with an Actual Medical Professional about this and also about the fact that my lipid panel results got flagged this year for the first time. But in the meantime, the fish/fortified milk/sunshine/D3 supplements thing isn't gonna hurt me. It might actually help. But it's way too soon to tell.

I didn't nap today, in any case. I got a lot done today. Got up early, put in about six hours of writing throughout the day (six! usually I barely manage three!), picked up the car from the mechanic, took myself out for a late lunch of kimchi jjigae, went to scrimmage, started my day off with a leisurely breakfast of sardines on toast with onions and peppers, and ended my day with a tasty bowl of Dal-Style Lentils and Stuff (the Stuff being eggplant, spinach, kimchi juice, and a poached egg--hey, egg yolks are also a source of vitamin D!) and also a nice long soak in the tub. I mean, that's one packed day. Packed with writing and derby and TASTY MEALS.

It was a good day, is what I'm saying.

ending on the right note
Fri 2017-11-03 21:19:57 (single post)

Rabbit stew was indeed on the menu yesterday. And for lunch today, we had boiled blue crabs. Then it was time to go to the train station.

But first, I had an errand to run at the post office. (Not unrelated: Fictionette Artifacts for August 2017 are in the mail!) And as long as I was biking over to Seventeenth Street and Severn, I might as well enact the ritual of beignets and cafe au lait.

This used to be a pilgrimage every time I came to town. I had to have at least one early morning bike ride to the Morning Call and attempt once more the feat of writing while simultaneously eating beignets covered in powdered sugar. (Once upon a time I was pen pals with a Morning Call waiter who, also being a writer, noticed my frequent scribbling visits and said hello. We exchanged short manuscripts by post over several years before losing touch somewhere in the late '90s.)

Somewhere along the way I fell out of the habit. But today--why not? I'd be in the neighborhood anyway. OK, well, I'd already had breakfast, but since when is "I already ate" a good reason not to indulge in good food? I mean, it's just three beignets. And I'm biking! When you really get right down to it, it's negative calories. (Look, I'll pedal really really hard, OK?)

So that happened. And as long as I was going to be snacking and errands-running along the north face of Lakeside Mall, I might as well also go shopping at Scriptura, right? And buy some gorgeous "moss green" Graf von Faber-Castell fountain pen ink? And a handful of New Orleans postcards for my next batch of Postcards to Voters? Oh, and surely there'll be something I want to buy at the Lakeside Plaza Fleurty Girl...

So I went shopping and ate too much. Which is the proper New Orleans experience, come to think of it.

now i'm tired
Wed 2017-11-01 21:13:59 (single post)

So tonight I did derby. And then I made kimchi. "Now I'm tired."

I went to the Big Easy Rollergirls Rec'ing Krewe practice tonight--that's primarily their "fresh meat" class, similar I think to our Phase 1--which is why I am now exhausted and sore. One thing I've learned as a veteran skater is that circumnavigating the holes in your skating abilities is as much a skill as all the other skills. The more advanced you are, the more advanced your coping strategies. They can get so advanced that you don't even know you don't actually have plow-stops mastered, or that your cross-overs aren't as efficient as they could be, until a coach laser-focuses on the skill in question and makes you do them right. So. We did all the things and now I am sore in all the parts.

Also I did 29.5 laps in 5 minutes, which is reassuring.

Their practice space is in New Orleans East, in an area off the I-25 Louisa Street exit that my Dad identified as "the seedy part of town. One of the seediest. I'm not real happy about you driving there." In vain did I protest that BERG practices there multiple times a week without sustaining any Tragedies Due To Bad Neighborhood. He was not going to let me borrow the truck. He was instead going to drive me there, which meant I had to pin him down to a schedule and then, when we got to the neighborhood, deal with his particular style of responding to lack of street signs, which is to just keep driving until he's satisfied we've gone too far. (I would have turned around and gone back to the street that I suspected of being the right one rather than turn right on the big street that obviously wasn't it and driving down it for a mile.)

I asked Dad, before I left Boulder, about the car situation. Just the one, he said. Sure, I could borrow it. No, I didn't need to rent a car. Honestly, I don't know why I bothered--there always seems to be some reason why he'd rather drive me than just let me borrow the truck. I mean, it's nice that this means we're spending more time together, I won't deny that. And it was damn near saintly of him to be willing to drive me to the French Quarter for Halloween, despite really not liking the idea. But turning me-plans into us-plans increases the difficulty of making plans. I came in thinking I was going to be in charge of my own movements around the Greater New Orleans area, and I'm really not, and it's been kind of exhausting to have to renegotiate my itinerary.

And but so anyway, Dad made himself a martini, drove us to the BERG warehouse, and sipped his drink while watching us practice. He admits he napped a little. He was also very kind and fetched me extra water bottles from the truck when it became clear two would not suffice.

Then we went home, and Dad ordered us a pizza (sausage and pepperoni and anchovies, heaven), and I made kimchi.

So, back around Christmas 2015, I created a monster. One of Dad's friends had just outright given him a 40-pound sack of oysters, so we spent a bunch of Christmas Eve shucking oysters. And I said, "With all these oysters, I should make kimchi." Dad was unfamiliar but intrigued. He ventured that one of his hunting buddies was notorious for his taste in spicy foods, and it would be interesting to see how some homemade kimchi went over with him. So. Dad drove me out to the Asian grocery store that's on Transcontinental, we bought napa cabbage and Korean radish and Asian chives and hot pepper flakes and fish sauce and so on, and I damn well made kimchi.

And Dad shared it around with his hunting buddies--not just the guy notorious for eating ghost peppers and Carolina reapers, but everyone--and next thing you know, this becomes something they request I do every time I roll into town.

So before today's roller derby outing, we went shopping and I set the vegetables up to get salty. After today's roller derby outing, I made kimchi. I made the napa cabbage and Korean radish kimchi featured in the recipe linked above (here it is again!) and the stuffed cucumber kimchi. It was a lot more work than I am accustomed to doing in the post-derby portion of the evening. The pizza helped. Also the prospect of knowing we'll have cucumber kimchi alongside breakfast tomorrow morning.

I may complain about Dad's overprotectiveness (and also his reactionary politics but let's not go there), but I will never complain about his taste in food. He's a Cajun. He eats all the things. Kimchi at breakfast? Not a problem. Complements the venison sausage nicely. And rabbit stew is on the menu tomorrow.

tfw you wake up in tennessee and go to bed in
Mon 2017-10-30 22:27:46 (single post)
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Hello from Metairie, Louisiana. After two very pleasant days on trains, I have arrived. Have not done anything particularly exciting beyond biking some postcards to the post office on 17th street and piecing together a this-n-that dinner from Dad's leftovers (although that can be very exciting, because Dad's leftovers include venison sausage, crawfish boudin, and seasoned trout in wine sauce with green onions). But that's OK. The week is young yet.

I made very good use of my time in the sleeper cars. I finished up last week's Fictionette (ebook, audiobook, excerpt) in time to send it live from a pub in Chicago (Haymarket, which brews, among other beers, a robust porter and a magnificent lemon saison). I made progress on this week's Fictionette so that hopefully it will go live on time. I got a reprint flash fiction submission package together and ready to email tonight to a very nice editor. I also played a lot of Two Dots/Dots & Co. and solved today's jigsaw sudoku.

And now I am inexplicably exhausted. Aside from today's bike ride and yesterday's street-skating between Chicago Union Station and Haymarket, I have done very little since Saturday afternoon that didn't involve sitting on my butt. I guess being shuttled across the country, however passively, takes its toll. And it will be nice to sleep in a bed that isn't rocking back and forth all night long.

Big day tomorrow. Lots of driving, visiting, and skating planned. Also it'll be Halloween. I'll be out late, so tomorrow's post will come early or, more likely, not at all. You have been warned.

Yes, it is a stout.
just a minite ago it was last week where did the time go
Mon 2017-10-16 23:14:39 (single post)

I saw this great tweet this morning about how A NEW EVIL ARISES but it is MONDAY so EVIL HAS A HARD TIME GETTING OUT OF BED. It was funnier in the original, but the paraphrase will do. This goes double for the first Monday back from a week of productive and mildly adventurous out-of-town introverting.

The challenge is always to continue in ordinary life the good work practices I found room to practice during my getaway. There is less room in ordinary life for good work practices. Ordinary life has household bills and cleaning and other chores and also a 4:45 appointment and my shift on the monthly roller derby training calendar at 6:30. But I am happy to say I rose to the challenge. If I did not get to revisions on "White Noise" before having to leave the house at 4:20 PM, that's probably because I took the time to mildly polish up "The Blackbird Is Involved in What I Know" before sending it out to a pro-paying literary magazine. Can't complain.

The remainder of my mountain adventures were quiet but rewarding, and they were as follows:

Saturday morning I set my alarm so I could be at Taquería No Se Hagan Bolas right at menudo o'clock. Word is they make the best menudo for miles around, but you have to be there early, because once they run out, it's gone. So I got there shortly after they opened and, yea, I acquired menudo.

There's this one Yelp reviewer who docked them a star (thus giving them only 4 out of a possible 5) precisely because they run out of menudo by noon "while customers continue to request it all afternoon. How about making a 2nd pot?" I wondered whether this reviewer also docks stars off great donut shops because they, too, run out of product by noon. My friend, this meal is not something you just whip up another pot of if you're running low. To give y'all an idea--and this will sound delicious to fans of bone stock, and gross to everyone else--after my leftovers had cooled in the fridge (maybe 10 ounces left of the initial huge portion; a good menudo is too rich for me to finish in one sitting), they were no longer liquid but rather gelatinous, indicating thorough integration of the collagen from the bones used to make the stock. That takes hours to achieve--this article suggests overnight.

Anyway, it was delicious and I got to eat it two mornings in a row and I am docking that reviewer a star for unreasonable expectations.

Saturday afternoon I took a trip into Edwards to visit the Bookworm on the Riverwalk. After that, I went back across the river to spend some quality beer-and-Puzzle-Pirates time at Crazy Mountain Brewery. Pictured above is my favorite of the beers I tried there--and I tried the whole flight, even the IPAs and ESBs I knew I wouldn't care for. The winner is a stout. I know it doesn't look like one. They warn you it doesn't look like one. But, hell, if you can have black IPAs (when the P stands for "pale"), why not a golden stout? It was delicious.

Sunday morning I checked out of the resort. My original plan was to hang around to watch the Saints game at Bob's Place. Then I thought, I'm going to have an ice chest with things inside that should stay cold, I should just get that stuff home and put it in the fridge. Also I expect the traffic heading east on I-70 on a Sunday afternoon is worse after 2:30 than it is before 10:00. So instead I set my alarm a little earlier and got out of town by 9:00, got home by 11:30, unpacked the car, refrigerated the ice chest's contents, and headed over to the 28th Street Tavern.

This turned out to be the right choice. The bar wasn't too crowded, I had a great view of the game and a place to plug in my laptop, and John, whom I hadn't seen all week and whom I missed dearly, was able to join me midway through the third quarter about the time that things got really entertaining.

The Saints won. I'm not really sure what else to say. It was a very weird game.

So that was the rest of my Avon weekend and the beginning of my reintegration into ordinary life. Hi.

fresh seafood in a landlocked town (but then you already know about the sushi)
Wed 2017-10-11 22:51:43 (single post)
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Well, here's a thing I never thought I'd do in a Colorado ski town. I just went to the butcher shop next to the bakery (you know, on the City Market side of town?) and ordered a pound and a half of live lobster for Friday. BECAUSE THEY SAID I COULD. Also the price per pound is exactly the same as the discount price for that expensive wine at Northside I restrained myself from splurging on, so it all comes around.

I'm torn between making bisque and just boiling the critter along with some sweet potato and squash. And maybe some Cajun seasonings 'cause HOT DAMN.

I also bought a pound of currywurst for the next time I make dal (or an omelet, or, hell, the next time I heat up the frying pan). Currywurst is exactly what it sounds like: bratwurst seasoned with cumin, cinnamon, coriander, garam masala & etc. (Not so much on the tumeric, I am told.) Also bought a fresh tomato because, incongruously, the butcher shop had a display of local farm-fresh tomatoes on their counter, and I've just about used up the Diaz Farm tomato I brought from home. So my sandwiches are also set.

This after I went to the grocery to replace the lip balm I suspect popped out of my pocket on the trails yesterday (a fair exchange for the time my camera fell down among the sagebrush in the "picnic area" and I only noticed at the last minute) and also the La Croix I drank all up because I am an addict. And while I was there, I could not resist a couple of limited edition Oreo flavors (Hi Kerri! I was thinking of you and those PBJ Oreos!)--the cookie butter flavor, which is perfection, and the apple pie flavor, which has a disappointing tendency toward Jolly Rancher. The graham-flavored cookies are a nice touch in both.

No, I was not brave enough to try the "mystery flavor." I want to know I will enjoy my Oreos. "Mystery flavor" could give me no such assurances.

In other news, I sent "Caroline's Wake" back out into the slush. TIL HELL WON'T HAVE IT, UNCLE JIM!

(this is what we call burying the lede)

I get vertigo just looking at this picture. I kind of can't believe I sat for it.
the writer should get adequate exercise daily; one small mountain should be sufficient
Wed 2017-10-11 00:58:35 (single post)

First off, I'd like to correct any misunderstandings from yesterday's blog post. I was not, and am not, particularly displeased with the way yesterday turned out. In some ways, it turned out better than today. I did find time to spin, for instance. (I did not get to the spinning wheel today.) I did type up an entire Fictionette Artifact all in one go. (I only managed one page today.) And I visited a roller derby league to join them for practice, which is completely optional while I am on vacation. (I did not put on skates today. But I did exercise. A lot. Read on.)

Yesterday wasn't bad by any means or definition. It was disappointing from only a single point of view, that which asks, "Did I spend time revising short stories and brainstorming the novel, as is my Goal For My Week in Avon?" If the answer is "No, because I did other awesome things with my first day in Avon," then, realistically, the disappointment quotient is limited.

I still haven't gotten to short-and-long-fiction today, either, but after this post I plan to put in a couple minutes on each. Just open up the respective Scrivener files and reread a bit, give my subconscious mind a chance to play in those spaces during dreamtime tonight. It won't be much, but it's something.

Remember: If you can't do a lot, do a little.

Meanwhile, this feeling keeps encroaching on my contentedness, this sort of guilt/shame/regret feeling, this sense that I have to justify being up here in the mountains this week. Like, OK, I typically spend the week holing up in my room to write, venturing forth only to acquire library books or to visit a favorite restaurant (or, occasionally, try out a new one). Perhaps I might take my writing session to the library or a coffee shop, but--aren't those all things I could have done back in Boulder? What extravagance, to drive all the way up here and spend the week in a fancy vacation resort just to do things I could have done at home! Guilt. Unease. Shame!

I have to beat that feeling down with a stick. Whack! "It's about the solitude, dummy!" Wham! "I can't realistically hermit back home, you know!" Thwack! "It's about escaping responsibilities, the sort I can't just pretend don't exist when I'm at home!" Bap! Bop! Boffo! "They surround me when I am at home! I'm available to them when I am at home!" Whap! "I'm on serious me-time this week and you don't get to ruin it!"

Kablammie! Boom! Thud!

Nevertheless, when, via a casual search for charging stations on PlugShare.com, I discovered the existence of the Walking Mountains Science Center, I thought it would be a pity not to check it out this week. So I made time for it today.

I got there around 4:00, an hour before closing. I wanted to get there earlier, but I mistook the turnoff for being just the medical center parking lot and wound up driving pretty much the whole of Buck Creek Road from Nottingham to Metcalf, passing all the big beautiful residences with intimidatingly gated private drives as I went. (EV report: I left the garage with a 30-mile range estimated on the battery. At the highest point of my drive that got down to 19. After coming all the way downhill again to the Northside Kitchen parking lot to grab some internet and check my directions, the car was estimating a 30-mile range again. Mountain driving. I'm telling you.)

(The Walking Mountains Science Center does, by the way, have EV charging stations. They seemed to be working as advertised, contrary to Johnny V's recent comments on PlugShare.com. At least, both were in use by staff vehicles, and I'm sure the center's staff wouldn't let them get into a state of disrepair if they mean to use them for their vehicles. I can't tell you for sure; I didn't get to use them myself. But that's cool. I have discovered two additional parking spots in my hotel's garage with access to a wall plug on the support column between them. I am all but assured a convenient source of charge now regardless of what the driver of the black sporty not-electric-at-all car does.)

Anyway, with only an hour until the center closed and only some two hours and a bit until sunset, I thought it would be best to save the indoor science exhibits for another time and instead hit the nature trails.

The nature trails were fantastic, full of fabulous playspaces and outdoor "classrooms" that must really excite the kids around here. The kid inside me was sure delighted. But the real adventure began when I headed up the steep and alarmingly slippery switchbacks that took me up to the very top of the mountain, at an elevation of 8,050 feet according to the little trail map they gave me in the center. (HikingProject.com says the switchbacks belonged to the Saddle Ridge trail while the trail running the top of the ridge was the Overlook Trail.) The views from up there were stunning. The trail deposited me at the feet of three burly towers whose support cables and, I think, power lines were chittering in the wind. To the north, the ridge-top trail followed a couple saddlebacks to another peak, which I investigated, and beyond that a steep downhill trek into the valley, which I didn't. South of the towers was what the map called a "picnic area," leading me to expect some tables and benches strategically positioned to overlook the town of Avon. In fact, it bottomed out in a wide plateau covered in sagebrush and other flora: taller bushes with coin-shaped leaves gone red, shorter bushes with thorns and the serrated oval leaves of the rose family. The only furniture was a long-abandoned camp chair folded up in the grass, its canvas rotting away. (I stood it upright and took a picture.)

The headland ended at a steep drop-off above I-70. I found a great big boulder to sit on, and I baited my acrophobia by dangling my legs over the drop and forcing myself to identify the buildings below--Sheraton Mountain Vista, Four Seasons, Lodge at Avon, Comfort Inn, post office, Walgreens, Vin 48 and Blue Plate, the rec center--like sort of telling rosary beads or creating my own non-Dune-related litany against fear. Baiting acrophobia from a more-or-less safe spot can be kind of a thrill. I imagine it's the sort of thrill bungee jumpers and sky divers get, only way down the intensity scale and a lot quieter.

So that was about an hour and a half of intense walking and climbing. I felt that was an admirable amount of exercise for the day, for me. It is important for writers to get adequate exercise daily, to compensate for the sedentary nature of our work. Chuck Wendig says, on Day 13 of 30 Days in the Word Mines, that you should "[g]et up and move from time to time. Again: usher that sluggy blood around your floppy, galumphing human frame." I would say I unslugged my blood and unflopped my frame quite well today.

(Don't worry, Papa Whiskey; I still did my half hour core workout tonight!)

Certainly I felt it was enough exercise to justify dinner at the Northside Kitchen when I got back down the hill. I had only been to the Northside once before, a year or two ago, for a late breakfast, so I was expecting the same high-quality greasy spoon experience I had back then. Turns out, though, they fancify at night. They put out tableclothes and candles. They distribute wine lists with the sorts of wine on them that are $19 a glass at a discount. Their menu includes giant sea scallop, halibut, filet mignon. I said "what the hell" and indulged in their current special, a 3-course meal for $29.95 ($5 upcharge if you choose lobster ravioli for your entree, which I did). I also had iced tea. (I did not have the discounted $19-per-glass wine, but I was tempted.) Everything I had was wonderful. Only, everything the next table over ordered looked wonderful, too, and they ordered all different things than what I ordered. I wanted to come back and do it again with what they ordered. But, really, one $50 meal per week is plenty and possibly too much.

To be fair, I have been doing a lot of eating in house, at least two meals in for every one meal out. That is pretty darn good for being on vacation! I'm staying in the non-deluxe half of the resort's lock-off, which means I don't have a stove-top. The resort does, however, provide electric hot plates of the two-burner type, one large and one small, on request. I asked for one. They brought it right up.

Then I tried to cook with it.

It was going to be a potato-squash-greens-egg hash, like the sort I make at home all the time. No grater was available, but whatever, I am capable of slicing root vegetables and gourds thin. Problem was, after the veg was in the pan on HIGH for about five minutes, no sizzling nor indeed any cooking at all was in evidence. I took the pan away and place my hand palm-down on the cooking surface. It was... warm? Like a hot bath, or the sides of my mug after the tea has cooled down just enough to drink.

I made potato-squash-egg casserole in the microwave/convection oven instead and called down for a replacement.

Today I tried out the replacement. It represented a fifty percent improvement in that one of the cooking surfaces was functional! The small one, but still. It was enough that I was able to cook dal with baby kale and a poached egg for lunch today, albeit somewhat slowly.

Would you like to cook dal with baby kale and a poached egg? I just bet you would. You will no doubt have your own favorite recipes, but just in case you want to compare notes, here's my process. (You will note it differs somewhat from the classic/traditional process. To that I say, Oh well.)

  1. Sautee about half an onion, chopped how you like, with two or three cloves garlic, minced, in cooking oil. I prefer about one tbl canola oil and one tbl mustard oil, but you do you.

  2. While the alliums sautee, add whatever greens you have on hand. Thanks to my CSA membership, that's most often kale or chard for me. Destem the kale, even if it's baby kale. Destem baby beet greens, too. I mean, unless you like tough little strings in what ought to be a very tender meal. This is a good time, by the way, to add like a half tsp of salt; it helps the veg wilt and release its juices, and besides I find the whole dish benefits from a generous application of salt. Black pepper, too.

  3. When the greens are wilted and the onions soft and yellowish, add about a tsp each tumeric and whole cumin seed, maybe make it 2 tsp cumin seed. Also a tsp or so hot chili flakes, to taste. Let spices heat up about a minute. The fragrance will get quite strong.

  4. Add like half a cup of dry red lentils. Maybe three-fourths a cup. Stir 'em around. I don't know why I do this. Maybe because I used to cook Rice-a-Roni and the box instructions had you heat up the dry rice and 'roni in the sautee before adding the water? Maybe I have acquired a useless habit? Anyway, when you're ready, add the water. About twice as much as your lentils plus a few tbl more. Maybe this is an altitude thing, or a low humidity thing, but I find I have to use more water than I did in Seattle or New Orleans. More water seems to boil off in Colorado.

  5. Let it come to a boil, then simmer, covered, for some 20 minutes or so, whatever it takes until the beans aren't chewy anymore. It took more like half an hour on the fifty-percent-functional hot plate.

  6. Once the beans are tender, crack an egg into the middle of that hot mess. Push the beans up around the sides of the egg. Tuck that egg into bed. Replace the cover, allow to simmer for 5 minutes more or until the egg is whatever level of cooked you like.

  7. Ladle it into your bowl, let it cool as long as you can bear to wait, then hopefully don't burn your mouth when you scarf it all down.

Now my whole hotel room smells wonderful.

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