Tag Archives | cooking

A Wednesday List

Punkins

Punkins, ready for the big night

So, I've had this idea lately. 

What might that idea be, you ask?

I shall tell you.  It's that maybe, once in awhile, more often than a blue moon, maybe even weekly, I'm not sure yet, it likely depends on you all react, I shall write a post that is more personal in nature.  In case you hadn't noticed, I just about always find a way to relate my posts to writing. 

Like, always.

Mostly because it is my firm belief that when you are a writer, everything does relate back to writing. But, still.  There are other aspects of my life that might be fun to comment on once in awhile.  

Thus beginneth the idea of the Wednesday List, with today's post being the first one.  Consider it a glimpse into my world beyond writing. Are you ready? Here we go.

1.  I'm cooking a lot.  Ha, news flash!  To some of you, this might not seem like much, but I am a Lazy Ass Cook Extraordinaire.  As in, buying something to throw on the grill and a prepared salad at Whole Foods.  Or even better, convincing my husband we need to go out.  (This generally does not take much work.)  But in France, I appreciated sun eggs (that's what they called them) so fresh they didn't need to be refrigerated, and tomatoes that tasted like they used to, back in the dark ages.  And so I vowed to cook more when I returned, and I have.  Mostly soups and quick breads so far, but still. And I have purchased two pieces of cooking equipment–a gigantic crock pot and a Madeleine pan. Haven't actually baked any Madeleines yet, but I will.  Maybe this weekend.  I shall report.

2. A story about how knitting saved my writing.  I am a knitter from way back, like birth, even. And yet I don't have much to show for myself, because I, um, tend not to finish things.  It's the idea of the finished object I like, apparently, and the process.  I am trying to change this, but in the meantime, I was recently reminded of how beneficial a knitting project can be.  Because I am trying diligently to finish my projects, I had my most recent one, a sweater made from lovely heathery blue/purple yarn sitting out within easy reach.  Thinking I was procrastinating, I sat down to knit.  I was procrastinating because I was stuck in the writing of my novel, trying to figure out how to fit in a couple of new scenes.  I shall think, I told myself, in order to justify the procrastination.  And guess what?  It worked! Within minutes, I had it all set in my mind.  So then, of course, I didn't get much done on the sweater.  Julia Cameron advocates repetitive activity as a creativity booster in the Artist's Way but I hadn't experienced its benefits in quite some time.

3.  My crazy Tub Wad cats.  They are two tabby brothers we rescued from the Humane Society

TubWad

Lieutenant, the fattest Tub Wad, in his favorite position

several years ago and they are fat.  I mean fat. (See photo for proof.) I used to tell people they were just big-boned, and they are, but I have to admit that even factoring that in, they are fat. And they love to eat.  Their evening feeding time is 5 PM, and long about 2, they start complaining that they are hungry.  But the other day, they were both happily asleep on the couch at that hour and I couldn't figure out what was going on.  Then I remembered the strange noises coming from the room we grandiosely call the library (if you could see it now you would laugh because it is serving as a storage and junk room) where their food was stored in a gigantic plasticized bag.  (We have to buy special food from the vet for them.)  I had secured the top of the bag with a clip, but Captain and Lieutenant made quick work of that.  Turns out they were helping themselves to food at all hours of the day and night. I'm pretty sure it was Captain who figured it out.  He's the smart one.  I always say he's studying to be a human in his next incarnation because he's constantly observing, with his ears perked up so you know he's listening to every word.

4.  Halloween.  I love it.  And its this Friday.  Yay.  But I'm not even sure why I like it so much.  I don't eat the candy, preferring dark chocolate or something more dessert-ish.  And I loathe dressing up in costume.  I think it is the fall color that I like, and the feeling of the crisp air, and all that (though this year our color here in Portland is the worst I've seen in years).  I even like–wait for it–the time change, so that it gets dark early.  Blame it on my Danish heritage, but the dark days of late fall are my favorite time of year.  This year, as always, I'll make my famous chili with the secret ingredient that makes it the best chili you've ever eaten, and my family will come over and the grandbabies will go out trick or treating (maybe–they are still a bit young) and there will also be wine, and beer for the men.  And fat Tub Wad cats lying in the middle of everything.

5.  Overwhelm.  I've been in it since I returned from France.  And I realize I do not handle it well. When I'm overwhelmed, I procrastinate.  Since I'm having problems getting things done, why not make it worse by not doing anything?  Yeah, it works real well, let me tell you.  I'm starting to climb out of it, with only two manuscripts left to read this week (and don't get me wrong, I love reading my client's work) and some forward progress on the rewrite of my novel.  Part of the reason I get overwhelmed is that I have a busy social life, with obligations to family and friends.  Obligations, ha! It's pure pleasure and I know it.  But every once in awhile I have to call enough and quit saying yes to things.

Owlies6.  I got a tattoo.  You can see by the accompanying photo that is it the best thing ever.  Owls are the family symbol because my Mom collected them for years, long before they enjoyed their current moment.  My daughter got a huge, complicated tattoo on her upper arm featuring an owl, and my sister is getting one in December (she had to get an old tattoo removed first). My tattoo is in honor of my grandchildren, with the symbols of their astrological signs in the body of each owl.  And guess what?  It didn't hurt much at all.  I was lying on the table squeezing my eyes shut, telling the tattoo artist to be sure and warn me when he was going to start, certain I was going to flinch and ruin it all. And then when he began I said, "Is that all there is to it?"  Now I'm ready to get another one.

Okay, so a whole novel later, that's what's going on in my life at the moment.  What's up with you, writing or otherwise?  Please leave a comment!

 

2

The Benefits of Preparation

I made Panna Cotta* yesterday.  And potatoes for Easter breakfast.  But it was the Panna Cotta that taught PannaCotta me something about writing.

It is not a complicated recipe, and doesn't have a lot of ingredients, basically milk, cream, sugar and honey (it is not particularly good for you). Maybe for that precise reason, yesterday I decided to make like a Food Network star and have all the ingredients measured and prepared ahead of time.

And this turned out to be a revelation, making the cooking of the pudding go quickly and easily.  Which is not usually the case when I cook.

And that is because my blasted right-brain gets in the way.

Now don't get me wrong, I love my right-brain tendencies.  They are the source of my creativity, which I cherish.  But when it comes to logic and details, they can also get in the way.  When I cook, I'm usually all over the place–measuring sugar here, washing the dessert cups there, making space in the refrigerator as a last-minute after-thought.

Oh, and did I mention I'm lousy at following directions?  So sometimes I skip a step or skim the recipe and forget something crucial.  Not only that, my measuring skills are horrible and I usually end up estimating rather than measuring exactly.

And now I realize it is for all these reasons that I hate cooking.  Because yesterday, for some unknown reason, I actually followed the directions.  I carefully measured everything ahead of time, and then I simply followed the recipe step by step.

Um, revelation of gargantuan proportions.  I know.  Duh.  But work with me here, I'm the ultimate right-brain creative type.  And I think I've always thought that I should just sort of know how to cook things without following directions.

As I measured and stirred heavy cream yesterday, I thought about writing.  My next newsletter article (sign up to the right if you haven't already) is going to be about the steps it takes to write a book.  And guess what? Only one of them actually concerns writing.  The rest are all about the preparation.  Because I'm a huge believer in preparation when it comes to writing.  If you have some idea of the road ahead, you'll make much quicker progress.  Not knowing where you are going is the fastest route to writer's block.

Now excuse me, I've got to go put the Marinara sauce for tonight's pasta on.

*I actually used the recipe from Giada's first cookbook, but this particular link tells about the dessert and presents a good recipe, since Giada isn't giving up hers online.

Since I'm starting to like to cook, feel free to comment with ideas for favorite recipes.  Or if you want to stay on point, tell me how you prepare for writing projects. 

9

Lasagne for Lewis, Pineapple-Upside Down Cake for Emma Jean

Pineapple_upsidedown_cake_9I've just finished making a pan of lasagne for my son's birthday dinner tomorrow.  (Brief aside: on Twitter, the spell check wanted me to spell it lasagne, which I thought was correct.  Here on Typepad, the spelling gods insist it is lasagna.  But I sticking to my e ending.  I like e endings.)

I'm sort of famous for my dislike of cooking, but lately I've been trying out new recipes (cooked pineapple and cheese–thank you, Candace), making old favorites I'd forgotten about (apple, celery, and walnut salad), and creating new dishes (brown rice, black beans, burger, onion garlic, other interesting things I can't remember.  My Mom would call this Icebox Cleanup.)  Fall is in the air and it makes me want to cook.

I've always seen cooking as one more thing that is taking me away from writing, one more thing to rush through so I can get back to what I'm working on.  I've been known to set a pan of some slapped-together concoction on the stovetop and wander away to get back to my work–only to return to find the food a burned mess.

Ah, the writing gods are harsh masters, demanding such fealty that we scribes have time for nothing else.  Certainly not for cooking, or any other hobbies.  Alright, I do knit–but it is a rare occasion when I actually finish something.  Writing always beckons before I have a chance.  And then there's the fact that it is difficult to knit or cook while reading, and let's face it, reading is a critical aspect of writing.

But I'm starting to think I've been missing out.  People always yammer on about how grounding and relaxing cooking is and I roll my eyes and tell them cooking bores me, implying, of course, that I have way better and more important things to do.  And the thing is I admire people who cook.  Deeply admire them.  I think that people who cook are very likeable.  They cook to feed others, to please others, to make others happy, right?  So most cooks are very good people, except those snotty ones who will only use a certain kind of cheese from France and the finest olive oil and all that crappery.

My point in all of this is a confession of sorts.  Part of the reason I've started cooking is that the heroine of my novel is cooking.  Emma Jean has recently informed me that she loves to bake (pineapple-upside down cake and cookies to present at her readings) and cook (I don't know what yet).  I'm happy that Emma Jean has told me this because she is a kick-ass, larger than life character, and kick-ass, larger than life characters are sometimes difficult to write in a sympathetic manner.  But because Emma Jean loves to cook, particularly for others, this will make her more likeable.  Right?  Right? 

And so I have some catching up to do in the cooking department.  Hence the lasagne–everything from scratch–for Lewis.  Try as I might, however, I could not convince him that he needed to choose pineapple-upside down cake for his birthday dessert.  I'll just have to bake it another time, seeing as how it is Emma Jean's specialty.

Photo of Pineapple-upside down cake by Mark Pellegrini, used under Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike 2.5 license.

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