“And I love the indented border
Every word’s in alphabetical order
Ergo, lost things
Always can be found”
William Finn

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

different ways of being self-indulgent
Tue 2015-07-14 00:28:51 (single post)

So sometimes Mondays aren't for getting things done. Sometimes Mondays are for recovering from the weekend. I had a very full weekend, and, considering Monday is not a work day under my current schedule, I spent most of today luxuriating in not having to get out of bed.

That said, I really wish my favorite self-indulgent "Not being productive today, thanks" activity, that of alternately napping and devouring books whole, didn't universally result in headaches and cricks in my neck. There's no right posture, no correct amount of pillows, no position whatsoever that's comfortable for long or doesn't result in the abovementioned afflictions if I fall asleep. I think this must be one of those "getting older" things, along with taking longer to heal from minor injuries and not being able to make it through the night without an extra bathroom visit. Dammit.

But I went to the Rush concert Saturday night! That was awesome. Lots of great music, good humor, lovely memories, a stage design that was itself worth the price of admission, all of it only made a little bittersweet by having gone alone to what was likely to be the band's last tour "of this magnitude". Besides, I wasn't entirely alone--I spent a small amount of the second half tweeting back and forth with an old high school friend who'd seen the tour a few stops earlier, so I had someone to share happy thoughts with during the concert after all. Yay!

So that was awesome. And since that's all I really have to report today--here's a recipe! There may be no writing content in today's actually writing blog, but, darn it, you get a recipe. I call it...

"Wait, This Isn't Shakshuka, What Is This Mess?"

I'm a heedlessly adventurous cook. I will throw things together that do not go together, just because the thought of them together sounds good in my mouth. It is a good thing that I am also an extremely non-picky eater. If the experiment had gone poorly, I would probably have eaten it almost as happily as if it went well. As it turned out, the experiment went rather well. It made a dinner that was almost as deliciously self-indulgent as today's reading-in-bed session was.

Defrost and brown a pound of bulk (not link) sausage. I used breakfast sausage, but anything would do, really. Ground beef would have been fine too. Anyway, while it's browning, chunk and crumble it up as best you can. You aren't going to need to drain the oil. Well, you can if you like. I don't.

Chop up and toss in all the tomatoes burning a hole in your fridge. Between a friend's contribution to the housewarming potluck feast and my husband's experiments with pizza, there were a bunch of tomatoes in the refrigerator, in danger of being forgotten until they composted themselves. This was the main reason this meal happened, actually. "Oh, Gods, I have to use up those tomatoes. Why don't I simmer them with sausage and... oh! with some of that kimchi that I also need to use up?" I have thoughts like that. There may be something wrong with me.

Add a generous portion of kimchi. I am guilty of having about four different half-ful jars of kimchi in the fridge at any given time. Look, they're all different kimchi, OK? After a tour of the available varieties, my nose told me I should use the classic daikon kimchi from MMLocal. It smelled slightly sweeter and less sour than the others, thus matching the flavor profile my mind was reaching for when it said, "Let's put those tomatoes in with some sausage and kimchi."

But wait! It gets better.

Add the juice of half an orange, which also needed using up. These were leftover from another of my husband's cooking projects, tofu marinated in orange juice and soy sauce, then baked until delicious. He bought rather more oranges than he needed, and I keep forgetting they're there. I do not know why I looked at tomatoes, sausage, and kimchi, and said to myself, "This needs orange juice." I may be a genius. A very strange genius.

Add a handful of basil, because there's some in the garden on the back porch, and because when orange juice and tomatoes are on the stove, they obviously need basil. That's the herb that goes into the orange juice tomato soup I make for Winter Solstice, from the Cooking Like a Goddess cookbook.

And also a generous splash of fish sauce, because you already put kimchi in there, so what have you got to lose?

Simmer, stirring often, until the sausage looks fully cooked. Then, because the sight of sausage simmering in juices with vegetables reminds you of that time you attempted (with some success) to make shakshuka, even though this dish really doesn't resemble shakshuka at all, considering the kimchi and orange juice and the total lack of cumin or paprika, crack a couple eggs on top of the mess. Do not stir from here on out. You're going for poached, not scrambled.

When the eggs are done to your taste, spoon them out into a bowl along with a heaping helping of the juicy sausage-tomato mixture that they poached in. Then exercise supreme restraint and same the rest to eat later, probably over pasta shells.

Cover art incorporates public domain photograph by Nancy Heise (Wikimedia Commons)
this fictionette proceeded from a sinister game of mad libs
Fri 2015-07-10 23:57:04 (single post)
  • 1,149 words (if poetry, lines) long

Oh my goodness, two on-time fictionettes in a row. It's like she's finally got her act together, folks. And here it is: "Ill Met by Moonlight," a Friday Fictionette whose title aptly demonstrates the value of serif fonts. It's about long nights spent talking to yourself and being startled when something answers back.

As I mention in the author's note, the original freewriting session resulted not so much in a plot as a plot template. I used for writing prompts the two words assigned to the morning and evening "dashes" over at Virtual Writers' World; for June 12 they were "blench" and "angle". I had no idea what to do with that. Also, I was terribly distracted. That was the Friday I spent in the car driving to Lincoln, Nebraska for a roller derby bout on Saturday, and the car was full of people being fascinating and entertaining pretty much nonstop.

But I tried! I took the two words and I recast them and I made a sentence: "He looked at it from a different angle, and went pale with horror at what he saw." I mistook "blench" for "blanch" there. I'd have looked up the definition online via John's smartphone's wifi tether, but we were passing through a dead zone at the time. If you like, you can rewrite the sentence to say "flinched with horror" and get the same results.

After a few minutes I got frustrated with just staring at the screen and/or rephrasing the basic premise ("Main character discovers the horrific underbelly of his daily life! Which will never be the same again!") and gave myself an assignment that would force me to get specific. You may of course borrow this assignment for your own use, should it look useful.

Basically, the assignment was to make four arbitrary decisions. Decide on the REALM, REALITY, FACADE, and METHOD involved.

REALM: In other words, the context in which the character makes a discovery. I mentally flipped a coin/rolled some dice/threw a dart and got "Corporate office."

REALITY: What's the secret the character discovers? What's the true nature of reality that they've hitherto been been unaware of? "The corporation is sitting on an exclusive trading gateway with Faerie."

FACADE: What's the nature of the deception? How is the REALITY covered up from everyday eyes? "Import of cheap goods for distribution to dollar stores."

METHOD: Whereas REALITY was the secret fact about the character's world, METHOD is the action being taken which is premised upon that reality. So. Given a corporation secretly sitting on a gateway to Faerie for economic exploit, how does that corporation in fact exploit their exclusive access? "Smuggling magic items into our world, and into particular pairs of hands, via dollar store distribution."

Thus the "plot template" got filled out with a viable story idea. Finally.

Depending on your plot template, you may pick different key words. But the point is to identify the key decisions you're holding back from making, and then darn well make them.

Remember, writing fiction is about making arbitrary decisions. There are no wrong decisions, except for the decision not to decide. Every decision moves you closer to the story you're going to write. Ta-da.

why bother having a patio if it's going to rain all morning
Thu 2015-07-09 23:58:20 (single post)

It went from baking hot last week to raining constantly. Didn't we do this back in May? And it makes me grumpy, because it is affecting my writing routine.

Since we brought home patio furniture, I've begun taking my morning tea and my Morning Pages outside just about every day. No matter how hot it's predicted to get, it always stays nice and cool out there. During the hottest part of last week, when even the house got too warm, the patio was a cool refuge. It only gets a little direct sun every morning, just this narrow stripe that travels over fifteen minutes between the outer edge of the table and the flowers (which are blooming at last, and fit to riot too). Aside from that, the spot is entirely shaded by the second and third floor walkways.

Sometimes the neighborhood cat comes to visit me. He'll poke his head around the privacy wall, or he'll yowl out in the cul-de-sac to get "someone! anyone!"'s attention; the moment he sees me looking at him and hears me calling, he'll come running up to me. That's how I wind up writing with my right hand and petting a cat on my lap with my left.

And--this is going to sound weird and maybe a little egotistical--another enjoyable thing about it is imagining myself being seen as a sort of "fixture" in the neighborhood, like, "Oh, there's number 17, he rides his bike down the walkway at this time on his way to work. There's the cat, everyone knows the cat, we think he lives at number 41. Don't worry, he doesn't claw or bite. And there's number 15, she's out there scribbling around this time of day. Later she might bring out her spinning wheel."

To put it another way: On my way to and from high school, we'd pass this one house on Poplar Street, just after we crossed the little bridge over the Bonnabel Canal. This house had a small front porch. On that front porch was a rocking chair. And on that rocking chair, at certain times of day, there was an elderly man sitting there, rocking, and waving at everyone who went by. And everyone waved back.

I always wanted to be able to sit on my front porch and greet the people going by. I've never had a front porch before! I have one now. And when people go by, I darn well say hi.

I have begun to depend upon this morning ritual. I don't always look forward to my Morning Pages--sometimes I downright dread them (which is how I know I need to keep doing them)--but I look forward to sitting at the table with my tea and my notebook and my fountain pen, and maybe getting some quality kitty time, and saying hello to people going by.

This is why rain in the mornings makes me grumpy. Because it means I don't get to do that. Why even bother getting out of bed?

Today and yesterday, the mornings were dry again. I unfolded the table and a chair and I had my morning outdoor ritual. And that was nice. But then it started storming in the afternoon and I had to run out there and fold the furniture up again.

Seriously, can we stop this now? At least slack it off a little?

and it's no wonder i sleep so late so often
Thu 2015-07-09 00:27:57 (single post)
  • 2,850 words (if poetry, lines) long

As if I don't have enough to work on already, I got up this morning in a terrible excitement about two brand new story ideas, straight out of dreams. That's a gift. That's a precious, unlooked-for gift--the dreams themselves, handing me the kernels of new stories on a silver platter, but also the excitement. Excitement about a new story--it's been way too long since I've felt that. That's absolutely a gift.

It's also very much a mixed blessing when I'm trying to get other things done. Thanks awfully, subconscious!

In one dream, all the statues had come to life, humans alongside animals both fantastical and mundane passing through the city as animate marble, cement, iron. As the bus I was riding on passed through a neighborhood full of old oaks, we saw a big old house whose decorative copper-verdigris fence was waking up. Green deer were untangling themselves from the knot the artist had worked them into, and were picking their way over and around their fellows out onto the sidewalk. Suddenly the neighborhood was full of deer, centaurs, and men and women on horseback, all the color of copper verdigris. "Look," I said to John, who was sitting next to me on the bus, "it's the perfect color for them."

In another dream, an owl I thought I'd shot dead in a careless and much-regretted moment turned out to be alive after all, but the relief of that turned into horror when it changed shape to reveal itself a nefarious spirit in disguise, to whom we both would be in thrall until it finished feeding off of us and we died.

"I had these wonderful mythopoetic dreams this morning," I said to John, "one of them a pure delight and the other a fantastic horror movie. I can't wait to make them into stories. All I have to do is excise all the Daffy Duck bits and give them more of a narrative shape."

"Daffy Duck bits" are the parts of the dream that are too banal or just too silly for the story the dream inspires. My calling them that comes from the dream that gave rise to the short story "First Breath." The dream's main plot repeated itself, as dream elements often do. The first time, I was in a crowd of people in a large cave, and someone pointed out to me a figure in a grey hooded robe. "Don't let her touch you," I was told. "You mustn't let her touch you." Or what? Or she'd become me, and I'd become nothing at all. I ran and ran through the caves, the hooded figure getting closer all the time... Then the chase scene started over, but with an oblivious and sputtering Daffy Duck in my place, comically falling hip-deep into a hole and asking the hooded, robed figure to pull him out.

As you might expect, Daffy Duck appears nowhere in any draft of the story, let alone the version published in Blood and Other Cravings. Similarly, there's some utterly ridiculous things in my dreams from this morning. Some of the verdigris centaurs were cobbled together backwards, such that their human halves face their horse's asses. And when we attempted to lock the owl-demon out of our house, it ran pipes up through the floor, spewing a noxiously yellow sleepy gas into the house to knock us out so it could gain entrance. Which we knew because the gas left a yellow stain wash up and down my legs. Also there was frozen corn defrosting in the oven that happened to be built into the back wall of our bedroom... See? Daffy Duck bits.

Regardless, so much of both stories is already there, fully formed, in the dream. Not an occurrence I can plan for. All I can do is be grateful when it happens. I certainly can't complain, except maybe a little about the timing.

Dreams are awesome! They're what make sleep worth it!

quality blogging takes time, like, all tuesday
Tue 2015-07-07 23:58:56 (single post)

Hello, Tuesday! You start my writing week off. You started this week off well! Five hours of writing every Tuesday through Friday, that's the idea, and by the Gods I have done that today. And not because I was frantically trying to finish an overdue fictionette! No, I am all caught up (more or less) on fictionettes, so I just did my daily half-hour on the upcoming one. Bliss! I get to fill my writing hours with other writing things.

Like that Boulder Writing Examiner gig I used to do almost regularly, but haven't done at all since February. I done did summa-dat today! Only the post is not up yet because it is not yet finished. Which is frustrating.

Since it's Hugo voting season, I'm working on an article explaining that yes, you too can vote on the Hugo Awards, here's what you need to know, go do it! It's just a Hugos 101 post, mind you. I'm not going to be getting into the Sad/Rabid Puppies mess, other than a link or two where appropriate. ("Some reasons why voters use the No Award option...") Even so, two hours were not enough time to get the post done and uploaded. I don't know what it is takes me so long with Examiner articles--finding good links? Finding the right way to word things? Sourcing an image? (I haven't even gotten to that part yet.) But it does. It reliably does.

Just to be clear: In terms of money, the hourly rate of return on writing this Hugos 101 post is minuscule. One does not do it for the money. One does it 'cause one's got something topical to say, because one wants to do one's part to get out the vote, to get that vote out just about as far as it can possibly be gotten. (One may also feel slightly ashamed that one's Puzzle Pirates Examiner posts outnumber one's Boulder Writing Examiner posts. Makes my priorities look a little whacked.)

So that was two hours. Two other hours already went toward those daily tasks that are mandatory for a work day--warm-ups, daily maintenance, that sort of thing. And the remaining hour starts off right here with ye olde actually writing blog. If there's time left over in the five hours, I'll work a little bit more on the Hugos thing.

It is possible that five hours over four days isn't enough in a week to get everything done. But I'm not futzing with the overall goal until I'm actually meeting it every week. That I'm reaching the five hour mark today is kind of a wowzer. I'd like it to be more of a routine occurrence before I step back and evaluate whether it's the right goal for, well, my goals. The long-term goals. Like "submit more fiction" and "get published more often" and "get a novel ready to meet the nice people."

So, that was Tuesday. It was a good Tuesday! (pats Tuesday on the head.) Tuesday gets a cookie! Good Tuesday.

a successful monday, with all the stuff taken care of
Tue 2015-07-07 01:32:45 (single post)

Monday is "get stuff done" day--the more stuff, the better, and better still if it's stuff that's overdue. Today was a very good Monday. It involved the following stuff:

Reconfigure bedroom electricity access. This was a complex process of furniture-moving, electric application inventorying, and delicate negotiation. As such, it got put off for weeks. We finally took the time to assess today: Which things can just get plugged in and stay there? Of the other things, which need three prongs and which need two? How far may cord travel before someone's going to trip over things in the dark? Oh, and you've got two less sockets over there once the lights go out because they're on the light switch circuit.

Things appear to be stable, which means all phones will get charged, neither laptop need run out its battery, other necessary appliances will be reliable, and peace will reign at bedtime henceforth.

Found a place for the remainder of the office board-and-brick bookshelf. There are five 6-foot planks and ten bricks that make up the bookshelf that, for my entire childhood, lived in the "toyroom" upstairs in my parents' house. When Mom and Dad were ready to get rid of it, John and I brought it up to... oh, goodness. To Oregon. We were still living in Oregon at the time. That means we've had this bookshelf since 1997. Anyway, it stood five shelves tall there, and in our first apartment in Boulder, and in our house that we just moved out of. When we moved into the new place, I put three of its five shelves together under the window in the office, but that left two planks and four bricks just sitting around doing nothing.

Today we tried putting them on the dresser in the bedroom, which also happens to be six feet long (or close enough). With pillowcases on the bricks to make them look a little less brickish, the effect is surprisingly nice. The room suddenly feels uncluttered and open. Probably because the dresser had to get decluttered before this and the previous item could happen; probably also because some of the remaining clutter got organized onto the new shelving.

Did the books. On time for once, too. So the bills are paid again, and my inbox is once more empty. Ahhh.

This task included an hour on webchat with Comcast's support staff. Our transfer of services to the new address created a new account number, which did not automatically connect itself to my online billing account. This was awkward, because our billing is only online. We haven't gotten a statement since we moved, which meant last month I had to visit the Comcast office and pay three months' worth of bills all at once.

Well, the techs were able to get our current account linked to the login, but I can't do much with it until I have a PIN, which the system keeps failing to send me. But they processed my payment for this month's bill, so things aren't urgent. Yet.

Connected the Xfinity Digital Voice signal to the landline jacks. Because I was tired of waiting out in the living room for Comcast to call with my PIN, because that was where the sole "landline" phone in the house was, because that's where the Xfinity gateway was. I'd much rather wait in the office, where I could usefully get stuff done while I was waiting. So I put together a frankensteinian mess of phone cords connected to more phone cords using old Qwest DSL filters as glue, and I ran the resulting length of cord from the Xfinity gateway to the nearest landline jack...

...which happened to be in the kitchen because I don't know what the people who built this place were thinking. I guess they figured that the living room/dining area/kitchen really were only one room, albeit a very long one, so why have two phone jacks? Why have a phone by the sofa when you've got one you have to stand up to answer in the kitchen? Why indeed?

Anyway, once I'd run a line from the gateway to the "nearest" phone jack, the rest of the landline jacks in house got dial tone. I can take landline calls in the office again. Whee! Now all I have to do is run another frankensteinian phone cord across the room, because the jack doesn't happen to be on the wall where I chose to put my desk. (Also I need to find where I hid the cable tacks.)

But of course the Comcast call with the PIN never did come. Nor did the email. I'll give it a week to arrive in the postal mail (the analyst swore up and down she'd sent it and it would arrive in 2 to 5 days) before I gripe at them again.

Cleared Gardens 8 and 9! Woo, one of these things isn't like the others, is it? Those being work and this being a game. Too bad. I get to play games sometimes. I did my daily writing work almost as soon as I got out of bed! I deserve some game time. Thththbbbp!

And I hadn't played Eden in so very long. Not for many months before we moved, in fact. I recall being very frustrated with the end of Garden 8, where the last Spectra is barricaded in behind a bunch of movable rocks; you have to hit a bunch of switches in the right order and quickly before everything resets. I think? Maybe they aren't on a timer and I just accidentally reset things because I was panicking because I was running very low on energy--I mean, my "oscillator" was almost completely "out of tune"--

In any case, with John's help (point "That one! Now--back onto the right side--" point "That one! No, the one below it!") I got that sucker. Then, after we took care of the bedroom electricity and furniture rearrangements, I bulled my way through Garden 9. Now my hands hurt.

Going to bed on time. Maybe? Let's find out--

The grave markers in the cover photo are neither of them the one that says Kneebone.
too much sun on this fictionette's bones
Fri 2015-07-03 23:53:00 (single post)
  • 1,078 words (if poetry, lines) long

So this is a Friday Fictionette that is actually on time. Yes, it took staying up until stupid o'clock at night, but, shut up, I don't care, it got done on time. Pretty please to enjoy the crap out of it, OK? That would be keen.

In any case, it is called "All the Flowers of the Field" and the field is a memorial lawn with graves and, yes, flowers. And an exceedingly proud skeleton. Also a live dude who wasn't intentionally modeled off of the caretaker in Peter S. Beagle's A Fine and Private Place, but turned out to bear a family resemblance.

The skeleton's name is Mr. Kneebone. How can you not love that? I'd have to revisit Mountain View Memorial Park to be sure, but I think I nabbed that name from an actual grave marker. I remember walking past it last month and thinking, "Oh, how perfect!" So, with respect to the real-life Kneebone family, here you go.

The reason I'm up so late is, I was flat all afternoon. And the reason I was flat all afternoon was, I went skating outside at the Bob L. Burger Recreation Center in Lafayette. They have a skate part and a roller hockey rink. We skated around the rink. "We" consisted of myself and a handful of Boulder County Bombers members who were back on skates for the first time, or one of the first times, after a leave of absence: skaters recovering from injuries large and small or from time during which skating hadn't fit into their lives. John was in the latter category; he'd last been on skates in December. He was determined to improve his transitions today (i.e. reversing one's orientation from forward to backward or vice versa while skating). He succeeded, and in a big way. I'm really proud of him!

Here's where the afternoon flatness came in: It was bright and sunny and stupid hot outside. We had a blast, but we also got pretty damn blasted by all that direct sunlight. John caved in first, and I stuck it out for another fifteen minutes before pleading oncoming heatstroke. (Seriously, there were a few moments between pulling the car around and acquiring various liquids from the vending machine when I thought I might actually die, or at least pass out. Thank goodness for well-stocked vending machines.)

So we got home and I immediately began applying a cold soda from the fridge to every part of my face. While reading in bed, of course. (I was rereading C. J. Cherryh's Downbelow Station from the beginning, having discovered that I'd lost the thread of the plot due to having lost track of the characters.) Didn't manage to get out of bed until something like 8:00 PM--just in time to acquire the cover photo in the Memorial Park--and still didn't manage to get back to work until ten.

But I got it done on time, dangnabbit!

We'll go skate outside again next week Friday, but it'll be in the evening, when the temperatures will be more tolerable. Presuming it doesn't rain, of course.

Meantime, happy July 4 to everyone in the U.S., and a happy weekend to all!

This is the mini-loaf pan calzone to be eaten cold. Once cold, it becomes hand-held food because the innards hold their shape better. It's just like winter solstice pie that way.
a tale of two pot pie calzones
Thu 2015-07-02 23:52:53 (single post)

OK, so, Pot Pie Calzones. These are something you might do if you have leftover pizza dough and would like to use it up in a non-pizza kind of way. Mine were carnivorous, but yours don't have to be. This is a very flexible sort of use-up-the-leftovers meal.

Here's the short story version: Take sufficient pizza dough as for an individual-sized pizza. Roll it out just as thin as you can make it. Cut it into two pieces. Drape these in/over two mini-loaf pans. Fill with some kind of filling. Fold the ends of the dough over the top. Bake at 350 degrees F for 45 minutes. Eat one "calzone" hot today and the other cold tomorrow.

Here's the longer story.

John's been doing a lot of cooking lately, which makes me very happy and also well-fed. For our housewarming party, he made a large batch of pizza dough and offered to make pizzas on demand for anyone who asked for one. No one took him up on it, possibly because there was also red beans & rice, orange baked tofu, stuffed mushroom caps (contains dairy), sauteed mushrooms (contains no dairy), cookies, cherry tomatoes, a watermelon, potato chips, and I forget what else. (I bought some andouille sausage to serve as an optional side to the red beans & rice. What with the rest of the menu, I forgot to take them out of the refrigerator, and wound up eating them all by myself alongside homemade creamed corn. I WIN AT DINNER. Also, I saved the drippings, because I'm from the south and it's, like, a rule.)

So a couple days later, John made pizzas for the two of us for lunch. Which was delicious and induced serious food coma--but it did not use up all the dough. He was all set to throw out the remaining two lumps ("It's only good for six days or so, and I'm not going to make pizza again that soon") but I wouldn't hear of it. "I'll use it up somehow," I said.

A week passed. "Will you please use that dough?" "Oh, right, yeah. Will do! Any minute now."

Finally, I took one of the two lumps, worked it into as thin a sheet as I could (it is important to let the dough warm to room temperature before attempting this! Trust me), and draped it over a single normal-sized loaf pan. Into this "deep dish pizza" cavity I stuffed a stuffing which involved

  • a quarter onion, chopped, sauteed
  • one pound ground beef, browned
  • the leftover non-dairy sauteed mushrooms from the party
  • gravy made with the reserved drippings from the andouille sausage
  • enough frozen peas to comprise a comfort food ratio

And baked this as described above.

It was delicious. Only problems were, the middle tended to fall apart due to its high volume-to-surface-area ratio, and I didn't know when to stop eating. I damn near devoured it all before I realized I was ready to burst. Between that and a bottle of beer, I was down for the count.

Next night, I did it again, only in two mini-loaf pans instead of a single normal loaf pan. And the filling was much more simple: a pound of bulk italian sausage, gravy made from the drippings left in the pan after browning the sausage, and more frozen peas. The results were much less unwieldy and, very importantly, included a natural stopping point. I ate one of the resulting "calzones" on a plate with knife and fork and put the other away. That one (pictured here) I ate tonight, cold, with my hands, over a plate.

(Leftover pot pie calzone tonight because the Bombshells footage-watching party had to be rescheduled. Vegan dal and curry paneer will happen some other night. Not sure when, but it'll be soon.)

One last snafu: You can see in the photo how I rolled up the dough on the long sides of the pan, right? OK. Don't do that. The resulting extra-thick ridge of dough was difficult to chew and almost impossible to cut without smooshing the loaf. Probably better off to just lay the excess flat in layers rather than try to make fancy edging.

And that's the story of Pot Pie Calzones. Go forth and enjoy with whatever filling your tummy most desires.

This is a reenactment. I forgot to take pictures during the actual boil.
It was a nice coincidence that the milk jug fit so exactly into the Ziploks, and the whole fits so well in the refrigerator door.
So much easier this way. Perfectly rectangular! Except for the bit I sliced off to nibble on. Cook's privilege, OK?
painless paneer and a fictionette freebie
Wed 2015-07-01 23:53:35 (single post)
  • 1,571 words (if poetry, lines) long

I've got more recipes to share! Why? Because I win at leftovers, and that is a fine, fine feeling.

I've also got this month's Fictionette Freebie for everybody. I decided on "You Could Go a Long Way in Shoes Like Those" because I think it's funny and I wanted to show it off in full. You can download the PDF ebooklet or the MP3 audiofictionette, be you subscriber or no, just as you please. Enjoy!

OK, so. Recipes! Here we go. Today, it's How to Make Paneer Without Making a Mess.

This is not originally my recipe. It isn't even a recipe, no more than instructions on how to turn cream into butter is a recipe. (Step 1: Put heavy whipping cream in a sealed container. Step 2: Shake container until the contents are no longer sloshing. You've got whipped cream. Step 3: Shake container some more until contents are sloshing again. You've got butter and buttermilk.) Paneer is just a form of fresh house cheese, which is to say, curds separated out of milk. You can find out how to make it on the internet. So did I! I follow the instructions linked from a Tea & Cookies blog post from June 2007. (I also use the Tea & Cookies recipe for saag paneer. It's the best.)

But I have also developed a method that makes it less of a pain in my butt.

But first--why do I make paneer when I can easily buy it in the store? Well, for one thing, it's very satisfying to make my own. For another, I'm terribly prone to letting the better part of a half-gallon of milk go to waste. I do not want to waste milk! Thus I make cheese.

The main innovation: I no longer boil the milk in a pot over direct heat. I got heartily sick of scraping burnt milk solids off the pan when I was done, see. Now I take my biggest stainless steel pot, and I fill it with enough water such that when I nest the next biggest pot inside it, the nested pot's bottom is only barely submerged. Milk goes in the nested pot, of course, with a lid on top to keep the heat in. Then I turn the heat to full boil and I just walk away.

Well, not too far. But from my desk in the office I can easily hear when the water in the big pot reaches full boil. It sounds weirdly like footsteps. The milk, meanwhile, not being over direct heat, isn't quite so prone to froth over and make a mess on the stove. It will also leave no worse mess in the pot than a ring of (unburnt) curd crumbs that I can knock off in seconds with a sponge.

(Caution: If water keeps slopping over the side once it's boiling, take the milk pot out of the boiler pot, then take a sturdy coffee mug and scoop out about half a cup of water. Replace the milk pot. Repeat until water no longer slops over the side.)

Milk reaches boil, lemon juice goes in, stir stir stir, strain. For straining, I use clothespins to secure a folded-over piece of cheesecloth to the top of my largest resealable leftovers container--the square-bottomed tall one I call my "soup tupperware." This is for retaining the whey. I don't like the whey to go to waste, either. (Note to self: Acquire more recipes that use whey. Besides roti.)

Drip drip drip squeeeeeeze, OK, now what? Now I have two smaller resealable containers--I think they came in a Ziplok set of four--ready to mold the cheese. It's important that they be identical, because what happens next is I nest the containers one inside the other with the cheese in between them. Very important to note that the cheese remains wrapped in cheesecloth! The cheesecloth helps wick away excess water, and it also makes it easier to extract the cheese from the mold. So the cheese-molding sandwich, from bottom to top, goes like this: Container, cheesecloth, cheese, cheesecloth, container, milk jug filled with water (better compression through gravity!). Then the whole shebang goes into the refrigerator overnight.

In the morning, the paneer comes out the cheesecloth, gets wrapped in Press-and-Seal or plastic wrap, then sealed inside a gallon-size freezer bag, then put in the freezer. Eventually I'll feel I've accumulated enough to make saag paneer with, and that's a happy day.

That's what usually happens, anyway. This week, however, the paneer is just going in the refrigerator. My roller derby team is coming over to watch film of our most recent game, and the paneer's going into my potluck contribution. My plan is to fry the paneer in ghee and add it to some sort of curry. I'm also going to cook up a big pot of vegan red lentil dal and a batch of rice. HUNGRY ALREADY.

Tomorrow I shall share the other recipe I'm quite pleased with, the one that made me say "I win at leftovers." I'm calling it Pot Pie Calzones. Stay tuned.

This is my flute. I've had it since 1986. I mostly remember how to play it.
this fictionette can carry a tune
Tue 2015-06-30 23:44:29 (single post)
  • 1,103 words (if poetry, lines) long

Behold! On this very last day of the month, we have the Friday Fictionette for the fourth week of June 2015. It's called "Every Note Passes Away Forever." It's got music in it, and also another funeral. Possibly a tiny bit derivative--I mean reminiscent--of the beginning of Tepper's Raising the Stones, now that I think about it. Sorry?

Patterns! After weeks of doing these freewriting sessions every day (or almost every day, shut up), patterns tend to emerge in the way I respond to writing prompts. After a while, it's like a metro bus system, and each writing prompt is like a stop on a bus route. Turns out, some of these stops are on the same bus route. They go to the same places, but maybe they see different sights along the way.

I'm still a bit behind and will have to choose the June 2015 Fictionette Freebie tomorrow. I'm also like two months behind in posting Wattpad excerpts. Backfilling the audiofictionettes? Have not even begun to think about it. But this is a good week for getting caught up. My roller derby team is taking the week off (a well-deserved break after the game on June 27) and some of our friends are out of town, so hopefully I'll be able to put all that sudden glut of free time to good use.

Meanwhile, I have begun reading Robert Jackson Bennett's City of Stairs. I brought it home from the Boulder Bookstore on June 19, the Friday that was declared TorsDay in response to a threatened boycott of Tor Books. (The threatened boycott was in fact laughable, but we're SFF fans. If we can at all afford it, we'll jump at any excuse to buy more books.) Now, I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, "But Bennett isn't published by Tor, is he?" Indeed, City of Stairs falls under the Random Penguin umbrella. (OK, Random House Inc. But "Random Penguin" is more fun. It sounds like a chapter of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.) But while my arms were full of books by Elizabeth Bear and Jo Walton and Cherie Priest and an anthology by the VanderMeers (and if you think that sounds like a heavy armful, you are right!), I spotted the Bennett and I pounced. Without dropping any books.

Bennett is also the author of the Shirley Jackson Award-winning American Elsewhere, which persists in being one of my favorite books ever. It lives on the horror end of the SFF street and it's got beings from beyond space and time, a female protagonist who kicks ass while dealing with seriously strange mother-daughter issues, no romantic subplot whatsoever, and supernaturally unreliable architecture. I am a fan of supernaturally unreliable architecture. (Speaking of which, have you read this fantastic House of Leaves/Sherlock Holmes crossover fanfic? You're welcome!).

Bennett's Locus Award-nominated City of Stairs also has supernaturally unreliable architecture (the eponymous stairs, miraculous walls that are sort of transparent and opaque at the same time, buildings stuck half inside other buildings), but the beings from beyond space are less cthulhuoid and more, well, Gods.

I'm only three chapters in, mind you. I would very much like to be four chapters in or more, which is why I'm going to end this blog post here.

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