I should be writing. Instead, bird watching…

bird-feeding apple
I spent time watching the robins attack the golden delicious that still dot the tree. All kinds of questions arose, like…

  • If the apple the bird is eating falls to the ground, does the bird follow it?

  • Do the birds ever fly away with apple flivel left on their face, thus opening themselves up to all kinds of avian verbal abuse?

  • Do some birds prefer to dive into partially consumed apples while others opt for unsullied ones?

  • Do the robins send just one robin ahead to conduct a recon before the others decide to swoop in?

Amazing how curious and creative we can be when we probably should be doing other stuff. [I can see now why my students were ever more inventive when I had other plans for the day.]

An interesting parallel thought on the intersection of writing and bird-watching…

“Until I went out looking for birds, I did not understand how much I hungered to leave the self-consciousness of the writer behind.”

–Katherine Towler [Why Do Writers Love Birding So Much?]


Speaking of other stuff…managed to dodge the Cyber Monday craze.

Black Friday was another story, as we ‘treated’ ourselves to a new clothes washer.

I guess it was time. Neighbors fled as I approached. On Allied Waste pick-up day, some looked away as I walked by, choosing to linger over their open trash barrels. Subtle…but I finally got the hint. ;-]

Speaking of other-other stuff…

https://retirerenew.com/

https://ednotions.com/

I should be writing. Duuuhhh, I AM writing.

National Novel Writing MonthAt midnight of Nov. 1, fueled by a mug of strong Winter Blend, I started National Novel Writing Month.

I decided this would be the time I would use it to my advantage rather than snag some idea out of midair and dive in.

Some observations:

  1. The weather is not at all cooperating. It’s been gorgeous and clear and beckoning me to soak up the rays. It’s not easy to peck away at the laptop when the shafts of sunlight provide the enticement of ‘C’mo-o-on, T, you’d better get out here because you know what kind of cold and gray and dark and wet awaits you any day now.’
  2. I tried some voice-to-text to crank out the words a little faster, but it’s going to take a little practice. The character’s voice doesn’t come out nearly as readily when I’m having to assume the role via my own voice.
  3. I have a whole box of books of ideas at the ready to fuel my plot, [One of my favorites from my teaching days [If You’re Trying to Teach Kids How to Write, You’ve Gotta Have This Book!  by Marjorie Frank], but I just found that keeping a ‘sharpening the saw’ file on my computer is more helpful.
  4. The doubts are there, as usual. ‘Geez, the action is dragging along.’  And ‘You need to make the main character’s pace more urgent, more manic, more frantic.’  But I am trying to plow past those doubts. So far, I’m at 8000 words, so I’m decently ahead of pace and I’m having enough fun to keep it going.
  5. To keep in touch with my character’s voice, I read excerpts from Ellen Degeneres’ book, Seriously, I’m Kidding.

I should be writing. Instead, celebrating an important holiday.

Buddy is almost always camped out wherever I’m writing…honest, he has a bed in this room! Why he chose this spot is beyond me.

National Make a Dog’s Day…

Essentials for the day:

Order him a new toy.

–Donate to Senior Dog Rescue of Oregon.

–Follow through on the three daily walks.

–Hide treats around the house beneath stuffed animals or under well-worn yogurt containers. [Not exactly Martha Stewart Living material, but it keeps him entertained.]

And finally, give his highness time on his throne.

And let’s tie in the importance of dogs to writers with this post from Writer Unboxed.

I should be writing. Instead, prototyping cinnamon bun alternatives…

cinnamon buns
They ain’t pretty. Thus, the ‘prototyping’ label.

October 4 was National Cinnamon Bun Day in Sweden and clearly I had no choice but to honor the good folks from the way-up-north.

But ssshhhh, don’t tell them, I was too time-strapped [I.e. impatient, lazy, and disorganized] to use a yeast-based recipe.

And there it was–a lonely, neglected sheet of puff pastry in the freezer.

Time to experiment.

1. Thaw that baby out**.

2. Make up my own filling.

  • Hydrated raisins
  • Allspice
  • Gobs of cinnamon [the appropriate unit for my favorite spice]
  • Softened butter/vanilla shmear
  • Chopped almonds

3. Use the Pepperidge Farm baking instructions for a cheese-and-spinach something-or-other as a general guide and hover.

Nope, not pretty. But the ratio of pastry-to-filling–goooood stuff.

I’ll try it again…and maybe even work on the aesthetics.

True, not exactly buns

Will I be adopted by the Swedes anytime soon? Probably not. But I thank them for their special day.


**Writers and grammar-wonks, I probably should have juxtaposed ‘thaw’ and ‘out’, but it just wasn’t as pleasing to the ear. Sorry.

I should be writing. Instead, delivering comfort…

bowl of soup

…in the form of Wor Wonton Soup.

L has been going toe-to-toe with a virus and nothing fortifies her better than this.

1. Shortcut:  I didn’t actually make the won tons. I just cut the wrappers into strips and added them late in the process. [Okay, okay, it’s actually ‘wor wonton wrapper strips soup’.]

2. What’s the difference between wonton soup and wor wonton soup?

3. One definition of ‘wor’ in the Chinese language is ‘everything’. Works for me. Think ’empty the fridge and cupboards’.

4. One of my favorite parts of making soup: watching it grow…and grow…until “we’re gonna need a bigger pot”. Leftovers? Absolutely.

5. This recipe https://noshingwiththenolands.com/wor-won-ton-soup/ outclasses the broth from the local Chinese restaurants. It’s the ginger, I’d say, though the early addition of Chinese five-spice and elephant garlic in the sesame oil-infused heat didn’t hurt.

6. Why do I keep weaving cooking into my writing?

This piece https://writingcooperative.com/want-to-write-better-try-cooking-b918272b7025   helps explain.

I should be writing. Instead…comfort food.

chicken and dumplings
So, can you overcook dumplings? Not a question that’s ever entered my mind…until yesterday.

It’s been years since I’ve made chicken and dumplings, but I wanted something different from the rotisserie birdzilla I bought at Costco.

And that something was comfort.

The tablespoon of bacon grease that mysteriously found its way into the broth didn’t hurt.

Nor did the half-glass of Sauvignon Blanc.

Prior to that…a little pepper, thyme, a good dose of Trader Joe’s 21 Seasoning Salute, and some dehydrated garlic joined the sauteeing onions, celery, carrots, and potatoes for a little blooming.

After that, I added the chicken cubes, gave it 20 minutes and completed final steps for the dumplings.

They needed seasoning, so out trotted L to the garden for some chives. She was, of course, escorted by the ever productive Buddy.black dog on his back on the lawnI slapped–okay, I was gentler than that–the dough on the broth/chicken/veggie concoction [let’s just call it ‘soup’]. This recipe called for just five minutes of cooking time. Hoping a longer dip in the soup would enhance the flavor, I gave them 20 minutes and they were just fine. We both enjoyed how those skimpy balls o’ dough puffed into substantial orbs of comfort.

Ruminations from the kitchen:

  • I marvel at how I repeatedly tempt the cruel nature of gravity by plopping food-filled bowls and plasticware just off the edge of the counter.
  • I still maintain that food tasted straight from the pan rates higher than eaten from a plate.
  • Want to make a racket in the kitchen? Just try being quiet. Seriously, every time I saunter out in the morning for a silent early exit, I inevitably bump one glass container in the fridge into another, ram my elbow into the coffee maker, and pull a glass from the drainer, setting off a chain reaction of tumbling mugs and dishes.

 

I should be writing. Instead…orange marmalade cake.

Orange marmalade cake
My wife added orange marmalade on top after the photo was taken.
Here also is one of the three bambinos.

Orange Marmalade Cake Recipe

On Super Bowl Sunday, as I watched, paused, watched, rewound, paused…well, you get the idea…the game, I took on this new recipe.

Thanks to Virginia for the inspiration to bake this O.M.C. She had blogged about this once-a-year cake a few years back.

It’s so big–needs five whole eggs and four egg yolks–that I have to abbreviate the name. [Shape Shifters Fitness Trainer–avert your eyes.]

A few broken rules:

  1. I would double the syrup and poke even more toothpick holes into the baked cake.
  2. I didn’t go three layers high. Reason? I didn’t have three round cake pans.
    Instead, I went with a two-layer rectangular cake with leftover batter for three mini-cakes. I actually preferred this approach so I could experiment with other accompaniments for the bambinos. [My favorite: key lime marmalade mixed with sour cream as a ‘dip’.]

Anyway, I enjoyed the result. [Thanks again, Virginia!] And so did my work colleagues the next day. [Plenty for them and for us at home.]

Drawback: I didn’t enjoy the way the first part of the recipe was written.

Excerpt: Cake: Sift flour, baking powder, & salt twice in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, beat butter on MEDIUM (~4 minutes). Add sugar steadily with mixer running; beat until light & fluffy. Add eggs & yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition; scrape down sides at least once. After eggs are added, continue to beat on MEDIUM for 2 minutes; add oil & beat for 1 minute on LOW. In a third bowl, combine orange zest, vanilla, & buttermilk. Using a rubber spatula, fold in half of dry ingredients. [This is where confusion set in. Based on these instructions, wouldn’t you fold half of the dry ingredients into the bowl of the zest, vanilla, and buttermilk?]

If I rewrote this, I would have gone with:

Set up three bowls for the varied ingredients.

  1. The largest bowl for the butter, sugar, eggs, and oil. You will be adding the rest of the ingredients here.
  2. A bowl large enough for 3+ cups of sifted dry ingredients.
  3. A bowl large enough for the orange zest, a cup of buttermilk, and the vanilla.

I valiantly rose above the confusing instructions because, well, we’re talkin’ dessert here.

Give it a try.

Gooooood stuff!

I should be writing. Instead…a quick bread.

IMG_2035

CHOCOLATE CHIP KABOCHA BREAD

http://dishingupthedirt.com/recipes/chocolate-chip-kabocha-bread-recipes/

The moist center is from the ‘swirl’ ingredients.

  • 3/4 cup chocolate chips
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup

But I skipped the chocolate chips in the swirl and added some molasses. [My wife is having the lawyer draw up the divorce papers as I write this.] I also added dried cranberries.

Notes:

  • The bread looks a little flat. Rationalization: I like ‘dense’. She suggested that I use more leavener. I actually [this time] followed the recipe and added the suggested amount of baking powder. I wonder if I added too much–Bridget Lancaster of American’s Test Kitchen once warned against overdoing it because the result might be a welcome rise…followed by an unwelcome slump. Shrug. Hand me another piece of the bread. The coffee’s ready.
  • Amazing how much post-baking cleanup can be accomplished when you set the timer for five minutes.
  • Siri loves a good countdown.

IMG_2030