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Over the holidays I got a chance to imbibe various media. 


Yes, folks, I have actually read some novels!  This hasn't happened in at least a year, I think.  In addition to my recent JD Robb binge....
Loretta Chase, Lord of Scoundrels and The Last Hellion, historical romances.  Both of these include determined and competent women clashing with rakes.  There's some violence, a bit of scandal, and some truly lovely sentence structure. 
After the Night, Linda Howard.  Contemporary romance (early 90s).  Includes the classic Howard-style dub-con relationship, so beware if that kind of thing bugs you.  There's also plenty of skeevy class stuff going on, but at least it recognizes class issues.  I suspect that if you have not already fallen in love with this sort of story, you likely won't enjoy it, but it's an old guilty pleasure of mine, so.
Amanda Quick, Deception.  Ridiculous premise.  A piratical viscount gets himself a job as a tutor in the household of a brainy redheaded bluestocking.  Romantic romp ensues.  Highly recommended for those who enjoy historical romance.  Sweet and silly and fun. 

Hogfather, Terry Pratchett, read by Nigel Planer.  SUSAN STO HELIT, baby.  
The Fifth Elephant, Terry Pratchett, read by Stephen Briggs.  This is, I think, Briggs' first Discworld book.  This is one of my favorite guards books. 
The Amelia Peabody series, Elizabeth Peters, read by Barbara Rosenblatt.  This has to be the best unreliable narrator I've ever run across.  And I want to be Ramses when I grow up, so. 

The Student Prince, written and read by Fayjay.
Drop Dead Gorgeous, by Maia, read by I'm not sure. 

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This is such a strange time of year.  The short days, the brightness of cold sun on sharp snow followed by the bitter nights.  The holidays rich with food and busy with people, but the cold loneliness at other times.  The busyness of work at work and the odd doldrums of quietude.

A brief review, then.

This past year I struggled once again with the joint trouble, but that's boring, so I'll skip it.  Other health issues, ditto. 

I have not been blogging, talking, commenting, as much.  I've been feeling very quiet, mostly, or have been what a dear friend calls cocooning--curling up and resting, recharging. 

I joined my second yarn club and interacted with other knitters (a first for me).  Unfortunately, the club crashed and burned in a huuuuuuuuge way, and our last pattern remains wrong and uncorrected.  The whole mess soured me a bit on knitting, which was dumb of me, but I maybe needed a little break in that hobby anyhow.  I'll be back at the needles soon, I'm sure.  Even so, I made several 'fancy' projects and a bunch of charity hats and socks.  My favorite project of the year was the socks I made for my mom--she has very unusual shaped feet (in part because of wearing too-small shoes in her early years).  They fit her great and she loves them.  I designed the pattern using an outline of her foot and some reference volumes. 

As a present to myself, I bought my first sewing machine, after using my ancient hand-me-down Singer for thirty odd years.  This new Brother sews like a dream and does not use a presser foot!  That means it has no joint impact at all.  I've completed four quilts since I bought it in late November.  As in, from start to finish, yes. 

I put in a glorious garden, including over ten rose bushes, and a wide variety of vegetables, fruits, and flowers.  I have transformed my front yard from a barren wasteland of crab grass and dandelions to a pleasant spread of grass and flowers and small bushes.  The grass, I'm happy to say, will shrink even more next year.  (I don't really believe in front lawn grass.)

I turned forty, which pleased me.

I also celebrated a full decade of the Pook.  We adopted him almost exactly ten years ago--the week between Christmas and New Years of 2002.  We have traveled so many paths together.  He is my constant companion, my best friend, my familiar.  Ever curled at my feet, a dark shadow of power and calm. 

This year I made my first full-length comic and posted it for others to see and enjoy. 

I wrote stories and essays and book reviews, but fewer than I have in the past. 

I cooked countless meals and ate at new restaurants and tried new foods.

I took an art class, my first in many years, and completed an art journal--a goal from years past now done.

I did my best to connect, in an appropriate way, with my dad and my sister and my niece.  That cost me effort and emotional reserves, but it was important.  I saw my dad renew his vows on a beach in Mexico, and ate truly delicious tres leche cake and large tropical mangoes. 

I worked hard at work, much of which was both boring and important.

With my mom, I made great progress on our tiny little cottage.  We got foundation work done, put in new insulation, improved plumbing, renovated my bedroom walls, redid the basement, cleaned and stained the porches, and completed redid the bathroom (patched the hole in the wall, ripped off wallpaper, painted, fixed tile, changed the fixtures, regrouted, painted, etc.)

On the last day of the year, I curled under quilts and watched the snow fall.  The Pook was at my feet and coffee was in my hand.  I was sitting on a couch in a house of my own on my own land.  It is small and old, but it is mine, and very dear.  I thought of all my friends and loved ones, thought of the new year ahead, and was glad.

I hope you are glad, too. 

May 2013 bring glorious joy to you all. 

Later, I will talk a bit about what I hope to do in the year to come....
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Yesterday, my mom and I went out to buy supplies to make a painted stained glass window for our bathroom.  It was a joyous occasion, and we'd planned to end the shopping trip with lunch at Whole Foods buffet, a treat mom and I have both eyed, but never tried.  However, we weren't expecting the Whole Foods to be packed (yes, we're neither of us big shoppers) so we went to the local Vietnamese pho place instead.

When we drove up into the driveway, I stopped the car and stared.  "Oh my god, look at that hawk!" I said.

Mom turned and visibly started.

There, in the middle of our yard, was a great big hawk.

I've seen hawks before, sometimes quit close, but never one so huge.  What was especially striking, however, was its fetching leg-warmer feathers.  Fuzzy fuzzy legwarmers all the way down to its tootsie toes.  Great big regal bird, absurd little 80s leg-fashion. 

After allowing us to stare upon its beauty for a bit, it leaped into the air, beating its great wings.  In its talons it held a squirrel who had perished by car that morning, but which was probably still 'fresh' because it is so freaking cold here. 

When I say the hawk was big, I mean it was huge.  Ginormous.  Nearly eagle-sized. 

It felt like being visited by an omen, and that is how I am taking it.  After considerable thought, I have decided that the hawk brought me a message of plenty even in winter, of using that which would otherwise be of waste, of not needing to strive so hard, but to accept the bounty that is here.  That while the squirrel might be sad to have perished, it would probably just as soon its earthly shell went to good use.

Also, being a librarian, I felt the urge to rush out and figure out what sort of hawk it was, since it was sure as heck not our usual peregrine falcon, lovely as those are.

I'm pretty sure we were visited by a Ferruginous Hawk.  Not only did our hawk have the light colored body, rusty-red edged wings, and bright v under the tail, it was also huge and 'booted'.  There are only two booted hawks in North America--booted being the fancy hawkish term for 'wearing adorable feathery leg warmers to the piggie-toes'. 


May you have a year of plenty, of food even on one of the darkest days of the year, and if nothing else, may you have the most adorable piggy-wiggy fuzzy feets in existence.

quick note

Nov. 13th, 2012 10:16 am
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I am currently VERY behind in emails and projects. 

So far I've racked up twenty hours of comp time already this week.  Don't ask.  The system is still confused and Monday was a holiday and a payroll processing day and blah blah blah whatever. 

I will not be able to do much today, because I have to catch up on some (more) work stuff.  Even longer story. 

I hope to resume my regularly scheduled having a life tomorrow.  Or Thursday.  At least by Friday.  I hope. 

Hot Toddy

Nov. 6th, 2012 05:25 pm
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Yesterday, I was stuck at home with a horrible cold.  Sniffly, sad, and pouty.  I laid on the couch, surrounded by rumpled kleenex and supervised by the dog.

A friend sent me a hot toddy recipe with the promise that it would make me feel much better.  I tweaked it (for science!) and I must admit, she was right.  I did feel better.  Enough to mooch around the block with the dog and then sprawl on the couch again.  And if it doesn't make me feel better per se, I certainly care a lot less.  Heh. 

In a mug, mix:
Read more... )

Good for what ails you. 

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1.  Get up extra early to drop mom off at her car.  (done)
2.  Take shower. (done)
3.  Pick up meds. (ran out of time, must do later tonight or tomorrow AM)
3.5 Gather photo ID, backup proof of address, voting locale roll-call sheet, etc.  (done, stupid new voting laws)
3.75 Get soothing mocha/coffee product. (ran out of time)
4.  Vote. (done)
5.  Work. (in process)
6.  Refuse to read web/listen to radio/watch tv until it is all over.
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I do not like eggs.

Not even a little bit.

In fact, I hate eggs.  I won't eat them, unless they're heavily disguised in a bread product.  Eggs are the only food that I refuse to eat (except for things that I'm allergic to, which doesn't count). 

When an angry friend who thought she was God's Gift To Cooking decided to serve tofu, dredged in yellow cornmeal and then 'fried' in Pam cooking spray on a non-stick skillet until the tofu got kind of funky tasting and the cornmeal bits turned sort of black and charry, accompanied by Uncle Ben's instant, frost-burned microwaved wet and slimy broccoli, I actually consumed that food with a pleasant smile like unto a statue.  I wasn't happy about it, but I did it.  I put that food in my mouth, chewed, swallowed, and finished my serving. 

But if I am served with a plate of eggs, I have to look away.  

They are gross, creepy weird things, and I do not like them. 

Which brings us to this evening.  The Pook's ultra-natural single ingredient special dog diet was delayed because of the storm, so he's been eating nothing but rice and yogurt for the past few days. Yogurt is one of the few proteins his IBD digestive system can have.  Normally, he likes the occasional yogurt meal, but this morning, he sighed over his dairy product and looked peaky.  The only other proteins are venison, duck, and....eggs.

So tonight....did I?clicky clicky for the poll )
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Here's a few things:


I forgot to bring lunch the other day.  I'd heard that Taco Bell had released a new Chipotle-knockoff.  It was supposed to be as good, but much faster and much cheaper.  I don't normally eat traditional fast food, but about once a year I head out and try it.  So I wandered off to Taco Bell.  Ordered the chicken bowl and a backup Mexican pizza.  Good thing I got the pizza, because the bowl was horrible. 

It's supposed to be cilantro rice, roasted corn salsa, marinated chicken, lettuce, actually avocado guac, and lemony dressing.  It was, as far as I can tell: reconsituted Uncle Ben style instant rice, weirdly wet (saline injected?) chicken with dark brown marks that are almost certainly from a painted on marking rather than any kind of 'charring', weird frozen corn, some sort of deeply slimy....green....stuff, and tangy dressing with oddly gritty texture.  The lettuce was sad and limp. 

I ate the Mexican pizza gratefully.  It's salty and greasy and terrible, but it does not pretend to be anything but what it is.  Greasy salty Ameri-Mex fast food. 


I joined a sock club again this year.  It started out great, as I mentioned, but it has since crashed and burned.  It's really depressing me.  The July shipment sock patterns still have errors, the September shipment went out in mid-October, the September shipment's sock pattern has errors, the mystery pattern not only had a major error but its update is now almost a week late, and the designer is basically off the grid.  I'm not naming names publicly, because I don't want to hurt the designer's rep, but it's really bumming me out.  It was really expensive, and while the designer did eventually say she had some life stuff happen, she also launched two other businesses this year.  I think she's just disengaged totally and kind of mentally 'moved on'.  Which I can understand, but at the same time, it was one seriously spendy club, dammit. 

My tomatoes were still producing when we got what I suspect is the first big killing frost of the season.  We wrapped them with sheets, but I suspect it got cold enough to kill the main vines.  If they didn't croak last night, they will for sure tonight (it's going down to 26).  I'm going to take them into the garage and hope for the best for the last tomatoes hanging on the vine.  I also put in over a hundred bulbs in the back yard and another mumblety-mumble are on their way to my house for planting out front.  *rubs hands together gleefully*  My roses are still performing, and my Jayne Austin has yet again hoofed up to at least eight feet (!!!). 
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Work is moving to a new payroll system.  It is not going well.

I am just back from a visit to family down in Mexico (long story).  Still jetlagged.  Did get to eat some amazing food. 

There is still sewer water in my basement.

I have a headache.  I want to use the sink.  I am going to have a soothing lie down Real Soon Now, dammit. 

But for now?

Coffee is as good as it gets. 
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As part of Hooded Utilitarian's blogiversary, Noah's running a Hatefest.  He invited us to write about the comic we thought was most overrated, that we hated the most, or that we found the worst in whatever way.

I chose Alex Ross and wrote four thousand words about why I think it's terrible art. 

(If you are uncomfortable with negative type reviews, this probably will not be something you'll enjoy.)

vom_marlowe: (Default)
For [personal profile] coraa 

Vom's Sunday Supper Chicken Soup. 
Read more... )

Serve with homemade no knead challah (recipe here!  pretty good!) and some butter. 

For the ultimate in Sunday decadence, I made baked apples for dessert. 

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This turned out rather well, so I thought I'd share.  It's vegetarian and can be made vegan (just substitute oil for the butter).

I had a uniquely difficult day.  It resulted in me eating very little because of an upset stomach and when I'd gotten home and calmed, I made a late night snack.  (I'm going for Ethiopian on Sunday with a friend, but sometimes a girl needs some wat Right Now.)  If you have berbere on hand and spiced butter, your own recipe is likely to do you better.  This is a makearound for a late night snack or an inexpensive adventure.

You will need:
1/2 package frozen onions
Most of a stick of a butter (you don't have to use that much, but me and my not eating meant I was happy to use as much as I saw in the more generous recipes).  You could also use oil.  Ideally clarified spiced butter, but I didn't have any, I love butter, there you go.  
1/2 cup red lentils, WELL WASHED and make sure there's no gravel in there
1 tablespoon cheapish Hungarian paprika (the kind in the red can)
1 tablespoon ancho chili (I ran out of aleppo)
1 tablespoon really good sweet paprika
1 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp cardamom powder
a few fenugreek seeds or a pinch of fenugreek powder
An inch of peeled ginger, finely chopped or grated
3 large cloves garlic, chopped
Salt, the saltening, added later
3 or chopped tomatoes
Water, various amounts

In a large pot, melt the butter and toss in the onions, heat on medium while you wash the lentils and gather the spices.  You can let the lentils soak a bit after washing them a couple times.  That helps get whatever weird stuff is on them off again.  Or not.  Up to you.

When the garlic is chopped, add it.  Ginger, ditto.  Then let those cook a bit.  You want the onions to cook to a mellow stage.  Frozen onions are usually sharper, ime, and mellow after cooking. 

Add the powdered spices and cook for a couple minutes. 

Drain your lentils and add them.  They should be thoroughly stirred in so they get coated and cooked in oil.

I then added about 2 and a half cups water and then add the tomatoes.  Bring to a gentle boil and then lower to a simmer for about thirty or forty minutes, stirring only occasionally (they'll be soupy for about this long).

As they get mellower and soak up liquid, they will get stickier, so you'll need to stir more often. 

I like mine very very soft, so I cook them over an hour total.  At this point, add some salt to taste.

When they're done, you will need to stir each time to serve, as the oil separates a bit.  OK, a lot. 

Serve with flatbread, toast, rice, pita, injera, etc.  This is not terribly spicy, because it's paprika instead of, you know, actual berbere.  Adjust to your own palette.  If it's a bit spicy, eat with cottage cheese, a traditional way to mild things out. 

Or you can do as I did, which was add some additional grated ginger and salt, and then eat it with a spoon.  


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Summer's zinnia
droops her head, like a lady
tired of parties.
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My amazing new paints arrived today.  They're mica filled acrylics and similar to Twinkling H20s.  The paints are called Silks and I'm taking an class on them in late August!  (Super excited about this.)

Anyone want to toss a prompt my way?

These are very experimental, so it's likely to turn into conceptual, abstract, or meaningful flower paintings more than traditional figure work. 
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Driving out to work, past Evening Star Road
What should be green is gold
Honey brown waves upon our hills
Whose sky starts low and goes high, high
What should be green is gold
Sharp-toothed combines shining outside John Deere
Dust hanging above every white gravel road, haunting forever
In the valley dips, sharp bladed plants are only waist high
What should be green is gold
The corn is dead.

If you have prayers to spare, pray for rain.  We need it.
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I've been working hard to do more relaxing things.  These days, when it isn't too hot (we've been in a big 100 heatweave so not those days, basically), I've been going outside in my gorgeous back yard and sitting in the grass under my oak tree to have my coffee. 

I am so glad I bought this house.  It took many years of hard work to get here, but guys, guys, it is fantastic.  

With the help of the neighbor kid, we've built several raised garden beds and as you'll see in the video below, I've put lots of pots on the porch and built a small bed next to the old hot-tub enclosure.  The vines are all rare heirloom beans, by the way, and the big spiky things are zinnias.  The other day I had a yellow chickadee and his mate come and land on the zinnias and pluck at the seeds or pollen there.  So amazing!

We have butterflies of all colors, a yellow and black young garter snake, lots of small chipmunks and squirrels, but so many glorious birds.  The usual loud black-green starlings, sure, but also wonderful robins (including a nest on the garage light and in the rose bush), sparrows, cardinals (red and brown), blue jays, a very much browner dark sparrow-sized fella I'd never seen before, and the shockingly yellow chickadee. 

I wanted to share a bit of the relaxation, so I shot this video yesterday.  It was a spontaneous thing.  I was on my blankie under the oak with my laptop (yes, my wifi carries that far--how awesome is that?) and I saw the Pook laying there, guarding the main entrance, and even with the crappy webcam, I thought, well, why not capture some of this.  

Totally worksafe.vid below cut )
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I've got a new post over at HU talking about Lackey's Arrows trilogy.  I'm planning to write one about Vanyel, too, eventually.  Come say hi!
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I think I may be the only person on the planet who disliked Komarr, A Civil Campaign, and still hasn't read Cryoburn.  I adore Ivan, but I don't think I'll get that book.  Oh, there was another book or two in there, wasn't there--forgot what they were. 

I feel horrible saying all of that.  For years Bujold was a favorite.  Now I feel traitorous and guilty. 



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