Monday, May 21, 2012

Friends, loyal countrymen/women, Alliteratus, lend me your ears

You may have noticed that we haven't updated in a while. In fact, on April 2nd I said to come back in two weeks. It's, uh, been a few more weeks than that, and we're not here.

Nor will we be, for the foreseeable future, I'm afraid.

You are witnessing the death of a blog. A much beloved, much belabored blog.

Each of us have loved the Archives in our own ways, and each and every one of you for reading it, but we all agree on one thing:

It's become a chore.

So, no more excuses. No more "we'll be back in ____" and then multiplying ____ by 10. The only thing worse than not blogging at all is blogging poorly.

Plus, we kind of hate the word "blog". Or at least, I do.

Anyway, my friends, while it pains me to say this, the Archives are about to become just that-- shadowy echoes of former selves and lives; a warehouse full of cobwebby thoughts. We may come back someday with a broom and sweep out the attic and dust off a shiny new post, or we may not. We all agree we don't want to make any promises. We don't want to disappoint you anymore.

But! We're still here! We still exist! We still want to hang out and chat! So come find us in our other spaces, where we clean regularly and post more sporadically-often.

You can find me (L.T. Host) at my other blog, updated almost never but a slow simmer in my mind always, with the intent to thrive again:

 My Life is (in) a Zoo

Or on Twitter, as @LTHost .

And I hope you will, and actually talk to me because I'm horrible about starting conversations I always think I'm not cool enough for people so feel free to break the ice first I promise I won't bite. Phew.

Thanks for reading, and thanks for being you.

I'll try and get the rest of the Alliterators to post their preferred contact info here, too. But no promises. We're really bad at keeping those.

Good night, sweet blog. Good night.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

A Regenerated Tradition

Hello *cough* *sneeze* Excuse me while I clear away some of the dust hereabouts. I am here because some of you may remember this post about kitchen disasters and I believe I promised to keep you updated on future attempts.

It's a few days late to report but for Thanksgiving I braved another try at making pumpkin rolls. In fact I upped the stakes a bit. I decided to vegan-ize it. That's right. I decided to take a beloved family recipe that I could not hereto conquer and eliminate the eggs and dairy.

Is anyone biting their fingernails yet? I know I was. To make matters worse I didn't have time to make it until the day of. No room for mistakes.

I was half convinced my late aunt (featured above) would haunt me for destroying her recipe.

But I had made the decision. I was going to try.

I mixed up:

2/3 cup pumpkin

1 cups sugar

Egg substitute for 3 eggs (Not to promote brand names but because there is a big difference between the way different kinds work, I used Ener G)

Baking soda because egg substitute doesn't rise well. I didn't really measure how much I used. I just sprinkled until it looked right.

A sprinkling of cinnamon

A sprinkling of ginger

A sprinkling of nutmeg

and poured it onto a greased cookie sheet. I sprinkled chopped walnuts on top (the recipe said 1/2 cup but, again, I just did it by feel)

I placed the pan in the oven at 350 degrees for 15 minutes.

While it cooked. I mixed up the frosting:

Vegan cream cheese (most vegan cheeses are . . . less than adequate but as a cream it works)

Dairy free butter spread (a lot of margarines are already dairy free)


How much of everything? I have no idea. By this time I was just going with my instincts. I didn't measure any of it.

When the bread was finished I took it off the pan. It *gasp* didn't stick. I spread the frosting, rolled it up and . . .
A pumpkin roll. It didn't fall apart. It wasn't raw. Ok. The edges weren't real pretty but it was delicious and no one knew it was vegan until I told them.

Things I learned:

Keep trying
Trust my instincts
Even baking isn't an exact formula
Be myself (vegan-ized and all)
A tradition can be preserved and given new life at the same time

Monday, April 2, 2012

Friday, March 30, 2012

Dream a little dream for ZZZZZZZ

Aw man, this topic makes me want to take a nap.

No really! My tiny adventures? They're my dreams, people! And I don't mean my "get a book published and have an art show and adopt a kid" dreams...I mean my honest to goodness "I dreamt I was in a tea house with Sailor Moon but Sean Connery was there reciting The Wrath of Khan and I think you were there too but you had octopus legs" dreams.

Now I won't turn this into a journal for my sonambular disturbances because nothing's more boring than other people's dreams...sometimes. But I truly LOVE my dreams. I've been writing them down for a long time and because I do that, I tend to remember them for an equally long time, down to the itty details. (Why yes, I DID have a dream about Sean Connery reenacting Wrath of Kh---oh, you're not listening anyway.)

My dreams often play out like full blown movies in my head. Movie with characters, plot and settings to beat the band...every other night is an adventure in itself! At the risk of sounding like a certain famous vampire author, I have to admit that a good amount of inspiration for my stories comes from my nighttime brain parties.

I know it's not an adventure for everyone. Heck, my husband hasn't remembered a dream in 12 years (he still talks about the Saddam Hussein lunchtime one he had in college). But to me? It actually makes me WANT to relax and go to bed. This, for a chronic stressball who sleeps on her manuscripts, is a big deal.

Have you ever had a dream that found its way into a manuscript? Or a dream that stuck with you for years and years? Come adventure with ZZZZZZZZZZZZZ 

I should get up and go do something and stop dreaming and NOPE ZZZZZ

Thursday, March 29, 2012

I'm Loooooooooooost!

For someone who likes to travel I have a horrible sense of direction. I also have a strong tendency to be uh . . . less than calm when I don't know where I am.

Thus, when I told a friend of mine that I would visit her in Imperial Beach (A whole *gasp* hour and half's drive from where I lived) I was already nervous. Yeah, I wanted to see her but but I don't KNOW those roads. How will I know I'm going the right way? How will I know which lane I should be in? What if I have to pass through down town?

Calm down Taryn. You're going to be ok. You got this.

No. I don't. You're totally lying to me.

Probably. Just go with it.

So I listened to my inner liar and got the directions to my friend's house. Only the directions were coming from my house not the campus where I happened to be when I set out.




Oh, calm down. You know how to get to the eight from your school. You can just start the directions after that.

After taking the one freeway I hate most in all of San Diego unscathed, I was ready to go. On the right track. I could even see all the nice signs telling me I was headed toward the right junction.

Until I stopped seeing them.


Let me back up a bit. (aka this is where I stop the action for an undisquized info dump) About a week after I got my driver's liscence I got in a hit and run downtown San diego. No one got hurt and I was able to fix my car within a week but that was after three hours waiting around in a neighborhood I don't know with a bumberless car, making reports to the police, making sure it was legal to drive home etc. It was SCARY. Also about a month after that I got on the eight west instead of the eight east and ended up downtown instead of home. Also, also, the friend I was with during the acident was the same friend I was going to see in the adventure I am currenly relaying to you. I was really freaked.

So I got off at the next off ramp and called my friend to ask her where I was, where I was suposed to be, if I was going to die. She told me, yes, I'd passed the first junction but there was another coming up. I'd be fine.

Reluctant to believe her, I got back on the freeway. I watched the signs carefully untill I saw the next five junction. I merged into the correct lane. Yes. I got this. Everything is ok. Wait. That sign says LA.

I"M NOT GOING TO LA!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I pulled out of the lane at the last minute and got off the freeway to make another phone call. My friend sighed, told me that yes, that off ramp led to LA, but it also branched off to the correct freeway. (stupid sign, not telling me this) She even patiently looked up how to get to said correct freeway from where I was. So I followed her new directions and was finally on the right path. No more worries.

Until I realize that the five zips straight through downtown.


Calm down. Don't painic. Don't think about getting rear ended. Don't think about one way streets. You're on the freeway. It will go straight through. La la la la la la. I don't even see those sky scrapers reminding me of my back bumber dragging behind me as I look for a safe place to stop my car. Everything is honkey dory. Except without the honking because that means angry drivers and angry drivers are mean and don't let me get in the lanes I need. I'm not thinking about mean drivers.

Finally I got past my inner horrors. Just in time for new ones to set in. My friend didn't tell me how far exactly it would be before I got to the off ramp. I knew what it was called but what if I'd passed it? What if I couldn't get to the lane in time when I finally saw it? What if I suddenly couldn't remember what it was called? I'd never been on that part of the five in my life but I was pretty sure if I just kept going I would end up in Mexico or soemthing.


Calm down. It's ok. The off ramp will be really soon. Any minute now. Probably the next one. Or the one after that. Ok, the one after that. Although that last street name was awfully similar . . .

Eventually I pulled off at the right place. In releif I started looking for the cross street. Eleventh street. Ninenth street. Seventh's street. Ok. I'm looking for third. I'm definately goint the right way.

When suddenly the streets stop having number names. Instead of a residential nieghborhood I am on a long stretch that says "scenic rout". It is very pretty but it tells me I am going to Corodado.


Not knowing, what else to do I stayed on the road for some time, riduculously hoping the number names would come back. Finally I pulled over in what looked like a very private residential neighborhood and called my friend again. She had forgotten to mention that I had to merge to stay on the right road.

I'm not going to lie. I was in tears by then. But I turned around and eventually found third street. And I talked my friend into comeing home with me so I wouldn't get lost on the way back.

I don't like getting lost.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

One Ring to Rule Them All

Mundane adventures can sometimes be the most interesting. The movie "Jingle All The Way" comes to mind, where Arnold Schwarzenegger spends the entire film hunting down a particular toy for his son. He gets into loads of hijinks along the way, culminating in a parade where he ends up on a float as the character who the action figure is of.

My own mundane adventure isn't anything like that, but it was one of the most interesting--and not in a good way--experiences of my life.

Those who've followed me for awhile have heard about Her Highness the Missus before. What you don't know, however, is that the engagement ring she now wears is actually the second engagement ring I bought her.

Let me paint the scene. It's early 2008, and I'm busy making plans to pop the question. HHTM spent much of those weeks emailing me choices of engagement rings to buy her. I was perfectly fine with this, since it meant all I had to do was pick from a list and would be guaranteed to get something she likes.

The ring that I ended up purchasing was a trinity tri-stone ring with princess-cut diamonds, similar to the one below.

This was roughly four years ago now, and I was able to find the same store I purchase the ring from but I'm not sure if this is the correct ring from their stock.

Anyway, I ordered the ring from the store--which ended up being a sole proprietor who traveled around to Renaissance Faires and the like. I mention that piece of information because it's going to be important later.

So we get to Disney World for our August 2008 vacation, and on the evening of August 4, 2008--our one year-anniversary by the way--I propose to HHTM after taking her on a horse-drawn carriage ride at the Port Orleans resort. I even sprang for a pillow made of carnations, which included a tiara and a glass slipper. (Yes, the Cinderella theme is not lost on me.)

HHTM loved the ring. The best part was that she bragged about it coming directly from Ireland. And, after we got back from Disney, she told practically everyone about it.

Here's where the adventure part comes in. The Saturday after we returned from Florida, HHTM was making the bed in her room when she hit her left hand. Then something terrible happened ...

One of the diamonds fell out.

I received a frantic phone call right after it happened and rushed over to calm her down. I got handed a bag with the diamond and the ring inside it, and was asked to take care of either getting the ring fixed or replaced.

So I called the man I bought the ring from. He wasn't available, having traveled to a Ren Faire in Ohio or some such. (Again, nearly four years ago.)

Then I tried to call the manufacturer in Ireland, but I didn't have a phone that could dial internationally. So I sent an email. I waited until Monday to get the reply from the manufacturer, who said I had to go back through the gent I purchased the ring from.

The store owner finally got in touch with me after a few days, and I told him what had happened. He asked me to bring the ring back to his shop so he could see the ring. Only then would he consider refunding my purchase price so I could get another ring.

While we were waiting for a response from someone, we took the ring to a local jeweler. This particular jeweler is the place my father-in-law has patronized for roughly 30 years now. The jeweler refused to fix the piece, and was the one to tell what had happened--one of the arms holding the diamond in had broken clean off. It was poor construction, according to him.

Anyway, I finally got time to take the ring back to where I bought it. The owner looked it over as I told him what the other jeweler said. Thankfully, I didn't have a fight on my hands ... even though I was prepared for one. The owner immediately offered me a full refund, which I gladly took.

I then went back to the jeweler who'd inspected the ring, and bought HHTM a 14 karat gold, 1/2-carat princess-cut diamond ring. This is now the ring she's wearing along with her wedding band. And we've never had a single problem.

So that's my mundane adventure. What's yours?

P.S. The second ring was a few hundred dollars cheaper than the first one, so HHTM likes to say I "cheaped out." This is despite the fact she actually loves the ring, which I quickly remind her of.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

A Quest for Converse

This week's theme at the Archives is "Mundane Adventures." Yesterday, L.T. Host relayed the perilous tale of driving in the rain on San Diego freeways. My adventure was just two weekends ago, during one of my best friends weddings (in which I was the matron of honor - by the way, my speech went very well!).

The bride had ordered a pair of purple Converse from the online store to wear at the reception. Her groom and the groomsmen we wearing green Converse, and she wanted purple to go with the wedding colors. When they arrived, she realized they were just a bit too big so she sent them back and requested a rush order. However, the people at Converse must not have understood that she REALLY meant it. The following Tuesday just wasn't going to cut it. So this is the adventure we found ourselves in, less than 24 hours before "I Do" ...

'Twas the night before the wedding, and all through Orange County, not a purple Converse shoe was in a size 7, not even a knock-off. The bride and her bridemaids rushed from Target to Wal-Mart, the only stores still open at 11pm, to find the elusive purple shoes. One was too faded, another just too hideous. We were glued to our phones and Yelp apps searching for the nearest shoe stores, calling when one looked promising.

And lo! A glimmer of hope! There was a Converse store a mere two miles from our hotel that didn't have purple, but they had some new ivory ones with gold trim. The salesperson promised that they would be perfect (she was a bride-to-be too). Our bride was elated - gold would go well (she was wearing tall sparkly gold heels for the ceremony, after all). We ended our pursuit for the evening.

After just a few hours of sleep, we awoke on the big day! The pouring rain outside wouldn't dampen our happiness and excitement for our friend. The hair stylist and make-up artist arrived a little after 7am to make us look picture-perfect. Myself and another bridesmaid got prepped first, and then we offered to get the shoes even though we still had clips in our hair and make-up undone.

The store was in an outdoor mall. The wind and rain whipped and swirled around us, flipping my brand-new umbrella inside out and mussing our hair. Water soaked through our shoes and pants. After a few wrong turns, we found the store and were presented with the golden Converse.

Our faces fell.

These shoes would not do. They were not the "classic" Converse our bride desired. And to be honest, I thought they were ugly. After confirming with the bride, we began a new quest in the store. Surely we could find something suitable in these many racks of Converse shoes.

In the clearance aisle, in the corner of the store, I found them. A classic Converse shoe with shimmering silver stripes in size 7. They looked like wedding shoes. We snapped a picture and texted it to the bride (which I don't have, but these are the shoes - much prettier in person!).

And she said yes! She was ecstatic!

Our quest complete, we returned to our hotel room and ventured through the hairspray fog (seriously, we had to leave the air conditioning on to filter the air!) and handed the shoes to the bride. They fit perfectly. The stylist fixed our hair and our Cinderella was the bell of the ball in her sparkly Converse shoes.

Mission accomplished.

Have you had any mundane adventures lately?

Monday, March 26, 2012

Big adventure in small places

Most people learn about the hero's journey in high school. It's the standard hero-driven story arc, usually involving a quest, a mentor, a fall/loss, a rise to power, and success, in some semblance of order.

But some days, just getting bananas from the store can seem like a quest--complete with villainous cashier, an evil witch in the produce section, and a perilous parking lot journey. It's how we handle these mundane adventures that defines and prepares us for the real ones. (Or not. I may just be saying that because it sounds important). This week is all about these tiny epic stories, the usual unusual. A hero's quest in a bottle.

My mundane adventure has to be my commute. Some days, getting home from work seems to span three centuries and several monarchies. I work about forty miles from my home, giving me a commute that can be anywhere from forty minutes to-- well, my record so far is about three hours.


Let's just say it's a well-known fact in San Diego that no one can drive in the rain.

The major freeway I take most of the way home has its issues. It's relatively well-managed for traffic volume, but add water falling from the sky and the whole thing seizes up. Mostly because there's little to no drainage on the darn thing.

The last time we had a big storm, I limped my way home around mid-afternoon, pretty much convinced I was going to die. People were in that scary speed range where you're going just fast enough to do some damage if you lose control, and the road was so slick and wet and there was so much wind that my car was getting blown all over. And then I reached a dip between valleys.

Essentially, a small lake had formed on the freeway.

Now, I'll be the first to admit that I'm being a wimp here-- but here's the thing. I, too, am a San Diegan. I hardly ever have to drive in bad weather conditions, so I just plain don't know how to handle them. When I hit that giant puddle, I was all of a sudden blinded by the wall of water kicked up from my tires, and had the sensation that I was floating more than driving. It was pretty terrifying.

It didn't help that I had twenty of my new best friends surrounding me the whole time.

Now, I did make it through. But I'm scared of it happening again, despite the fact that it most assuredly will at some point. Ah well. Maybe I'll take an alternate route next time.

What do you do when the weather's bad?

Friday, March 23, 2012

There's a hole in my bucketlist, dear Liza

Making bucket lists is not a new thing for me. Calling them bucket lists, however, is new and I refused to do so for a while, thinking it was coined by that awful Morgan Freeman movie...but then I relented once I discovered that it was a legit term. End sidebar.

So! I've been making bucket lists since I was a wee lass. Some mildly embarrassing highlights!

From a list made at 12 years old:

-- Be on David Letterman before age 16 (I had a stupid human trick that was GOLD)
-- Safari with the Kratts (I'd still go. No regrets)
-- Become a world famous veterinarian (I'm not sure how one would get world famous, but...)

From a list made at 16:

-- Speak 100 languages (I read an article about a guy that did this. Seemed reasonable.)
-- Become a world famous veterinarian (Still going strong with this one)
-- Visit Skywalker Ranch (I blame the cute guy at the comic book store for planting this idea)

And a list made at 21:

-- Spend a summer surfing in Australia (Ah, to be young enough to think I'd have summers off forever)
-- Go to law school (ha ha WHUT. Go back to being a vet!)
-- Open an ice cream shake stand (ha ha ha SERIOUSLY WHAT WAS WRONG WITH ME)

I still have bucket list ideas floating around now, things like "publish a book" and "have another kid" but somethings just happen in their own due time. And hopefully I don't look back on what I'd like to do now and laugh too hard about it. I've become a bigger fan of "have done" lists rather than "to do"..that way no one can find a half-crossed off list in my wallet when I go on to that spirit in the sky. I'm all about COMPLETION, baby.

(Kratts: call me.)


Thursday, March 22, 2012

Not That I'm Ambitious . . .

Things To Do While I Am Still Alive

Publish a book (duh)

See all the Castles in Britain

Have dinner at the Eagle and the Child

Go wine tasting in Itally and France

Journey across India

See Russia

Live in other countries

Try to figure skate

Try to shoot a bow and arrow

Sail across the Pacific

Open a combination bookstore and tea shop that serves authentic afternoon and "meat" tea

Build a castle

Read every book ever written

Tell everyone how amazing they are

Force them to smile


Watch a thousand sunsets

Watch a thousand sunrises

Prepare a ten course meal

Repair our country's education system

Rule the world

Monday, March 19, 2012

If I should kick the bucket before I ...

Everyone has something they want to do before, uh, you know-- the great blue yonder.

Some even have entire lists of things! A veritable bucket list of sorts!

Mine? (This is going to be one of my shortest posts ever).

It's simply:

1.) Do everything.

What's on your bucket list?

Friday, March 16, 2012

How to Train Your Dragonfruit

Yes, Virginia, there is something called a dragonfruit.

The dark time in my life when I did not know about the stunning deliciousness that is dragonfruit (I call this time BD) surely outweighs the glorious time that I HAVE known about it (the years know as AD) but I don't lament the days I went without. I just try to make up for it by eating as much as I possibly can now.

Now, tastiness of the fruit aside, I have to admit that the dragonfruit looks a little...uh...intimidating.

Looks almost like a cholla catcus after a really long night of partying. Ooh! Or the love child of a prickly pear and Cousin It. Or! or! or! Like an aloe vera plant that got dreads done on Spring Break. I am on simile FIRE!

But just like L.T. notes about the pineapple, it seems to be a long jump from "Hey, weird plant" to "What's that spiky red thing on the ends? And can I eat it?" I suppose our fruit hunting ancestors were a bit more hard up for tasty treats than we were.

Then again, who doesn't want to see what's inside nature's dreadlock bead?

(I kind of imagine this is what Babelfish might look like.)

Well, slice that sucker up and you'll be treated to the most delicious, seederific fruity flesh that you can possibly get your taste buds around:

It's like a party in my mouth and a bunch of seeds are invited! (Don't worry, the seeds are edible. No need to scoop around them.) It's divine, people. It's healthy and delicious and if I would have shied away from the weird little fruit stand I came across a few years ago just because it smelled like durian, I would have missed eating and falling in love with what is now my favorite (albeit a little hard to find) fruit EVER.

People are fruits. We're weird and intimidating and sometimes spiky and maybe a little stinky and hard to understand, but we're really good inside. Heck, sometimes we're even delicious! Thank goodness some people take the time to (metaphorically, of course) slice us up before passing us over. And hopefully we're the type of people to do that, too. In the meantime:

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Why Cucumbers and Avacados Are Also Fruit

No, I do not have the scientific reasons for why these delightful greeneries are classified as fruit. My reasons are much less intellectual and much more definite.

I want to give you some recipes for them.

So look it up. Wikipedia will tell you they are fruit too.

So I can do this without breaking the rules.

Drat. I hate following the rules.

Now for the recipes . . .

Cucumber and Mint Sandwiches
(just in case Algernon ate them all before Aunt Augustest arrived)


1) Eight slices of white bread (normally I prefer dark breads with more texture but in this case you don't want the bread to overpower the cucumber)

2) One Cucumber, peeled and sliced

3) Fresh mint leaves, washed and removed from stems

4) Eight ounces cream cheese at room temperature (make sure it's room temperature. Trying to spread refrigerated cheese over soft bread is not fun.)

Spread cream cheese over four slices of bread. Layer mint and cucumbers on top. Cover with remaining bread slices. Cut off crust. Slice sandwiches into triangular quarters and enjoy. When Aunt Augustus finally arrives tell her there weren't any cucumbers; not even for ready money.

Blueberry, Avocado, Cilantro Smoothies

This is one of my sister's recipes. It is fantastic.


1) Fresh cilantro, washed

2) One cup blueberries, washed (hey, those are even traditional fruits. I am such a good little rule follower.)

3) Two avocados, peeled and pitted

4) Three quarter cup Greek yogurt (honey, plain, or vanilla flavored)

5) Half a cup ice

Blend and enjoy.

OK, now I'm hungry. Which way is the kitchen please?

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

My favorite fruit name to say

As writers, we have a tendency to pick favorite words. Whether it's those we write or those we say, there are certain words that give a particular joy with the way they roll off the tongue. I adore saying the names of the Jewish High Holy Days for example -- Rosh Hashanah continues to entertain every time I say it -- and when I discovered this fruit, well you can pronounce it for yourself.

I've never eaten this fruit. Never even seen one, to be entirely frank. But I did hear of it some years ago, and am always entertained by the way it rolls off my tongue.

It's a bit odd, but my favorite fruit name to say is ... Kumquat.

The kumquat tree. Image from Wikipedia.
The English name of the fruit comes from the Cantonese word "gam gwat." Trust us pesky English speakers to mess up a pronunciation, amirite?

It's a citrus fruit that's cousin to the orange, so I imagine it'd taste something like that. The plant's native to south Asia, and first appears in Chinese literature around the 12th Century CE. The kumquat tree, a small evergreen-type tree, can also be found in Japan, Taiwan, Thailand, Korea, Vietnam, Pakistan, and Nepal. It first came to Europe in 1846 and was shortly thereafter introduced to North America.

According to Wikipedia, folks in the Southern U.S. and California are more likely to have consumed the kumquat. I don't recall having seen any in Massachusetts or New York grocery stores, but then I've never really bothered to look all that much. 

Still, since we're talking about fruit I figured I'd share this.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

In the End, We're All Fruit

One of my best friends is getting married this weekend. I'm the matron of honor (why does that have to sound so...matronly?), which means I will be giving a speech. Naturally, I'm totally stressed out. I've never given a wedding speech before and I want it to be special and meaningful.

One of my favorite movie wedding speeches is from "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" and ties perfectly with this week's theme: FRUIT. Take a look:

I love the message in this speech. We're a different fruits living in the same fruit bowl. We all have our own unique favors and textures, contributing something different to the whole salad. If I were a fruit, I'd be a strawberry. I don't have thick skin. I try to be sweet, but sometimes you catch me when I'm tart and you just have to give me some more time. I love the summer. And I go well with chocolate (really, what fruit doesn't?).

Just a few more days for this fruit to figure out her matron of honor speech. I doubt it'll be as clever as Gus Portokalis, but I hope it will be just like a strawberry: short and sweet.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Peach, Pear, Apple, Banana . . . Pineapple???

This week at the Archives is all about FRUIT!

What about fruit, you may be asking?

The answer is, I don't know!

Well, okay, *I* know what *I'll* be writing about. But my fellow Alliteratus? Well, it's up to them what they'll be writing about, about fruit. Maybe they'll tell you about a time they couldn't find fruit. Or a time fruit saved their life. Or their favorite fruit. Or what fruit means to them. Or what the scientific definition of a fruit is, and whether tomatoes and cucumbers should REALLY count.

Really, the possibilities are endless.

But what I want to talk to you about, about fruit, (wow that's even more awkward the second time), is the pineapple.

Bear with me, my friends.

It's just... okay. Look. Some things, I totally understand. I mean, just look at apples and peaches. They are shiny/ fuzzy, appealing/ attractive/ smell good. Or berries-- berries are smushy and stain your fingers all sorts of exciting colors. I can totally see early man walking up to a blackberry bush and testing that shizz out.

But a pineapple???

First of all, have you ever seen a pineapple plant? No? Well, conveniently, I happen to carry a picture of one around with me at all times here on the internet:

Yeah. There you go. 

What sort of maniac walked up to this spiky plant, took a look at the VERY spiky thing sitting on top, and said, "Hey, that looks tasty!"

(Strange fact... if you plant a whole pineapple [or even just cut off the top and plant it], it will grow! The top of the pineapple= the strange spiky plant seen here. It's pineapples all the way down).

Okay, so I'm glad they did it. If I had to pick a favorite fruit, pineapple's definitely up there. But still. It's weird. 

Not to mention the effort you have to go through just to eat the darn things.

Don't even get me started on coconuts.

What's your favorite fruit?

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Oh, I'm a Rambler...

::pant pant pant:: I KNOW I'm late and I should have scheduled this post before I left a week ago, but ::pant pant pant:: it's not Monday yet! Did I make it?

And honestly? My REASON for being late ties in quite naturally to this week's theme. What can't I live without? Well, among all the other great things mentioned by my fellow Alliteratis...


I spent the week in Hawaii to attend a friend's wedding. And beautiful ceremony aside, the best part of the week was driving around and sighing every few minutes: "I could really live here. I could. I would be okay with that."

I love seeing how other people live. I love getting away from the big resorts and wending into small towns and meeting locals. I spent time relaxing, sure, but I spent the other half of my vacation puzzling out the logistics of how to MOVE there and what I would do once I did. It's like that movie, Sliding Doors: I feel like my life splits every time I travel somewhere and a small part of my brain never comes back to real life. Bad for someone who needs every bit of her brain at all times, but GREAT for a writer.

So I'm back to real life...a little late, but still here. And here's to finding that perfect opening line for the new 1940's epic surfer girl biopic that's been rattling around in my notebook since Thursday.

Don't tell me my bidness, kitty. My ideas are GREAT.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

What I Can't Live Without: People

This is kind of a strange "something" for me to choose since I am typically a very pronounced recluse (read as crabby person who likes to shut herself in her room and lock the door) but the more I think about it the more I realize it is true.

I need people to survive.

I don't just mean the obvious reasons either (I can't grow and hunt all my own food or build my own shelter etc.). Humans are a very social animal. We need other people for basic survival, yes, but we also need them for support, inspiration, and keeping life interesting.

I think that may be one of the many reason I am drawn to fiction. I love how people make life interesting. Books take you inside the mind of two people; the character(s) and the author.

Here are some of the important people in my life.

For support

(Christmas 2011)

For inspiration

(Author, Ursula LeGuin)

(Poet, John Keats)

(Robin Hood!)

For keeping life interesting

(See all of the above. Particularly the first one. They keep things in my life pretty crazy in a frusteratingly wonderful kind of way.)

So who are the important people in your life? How do they make life interesting?

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Something I Can't Live Without

To be honest, the first thing I thought of when presented with this week's theme "Something I can't live without" was cheese.

Yes, cheese. The wonder food.

It's so scrummy (scrumptious and yummy). Second thing I thought of was the Hubs (I'm so ashamed I didn't think of him first).

But after some more thought (and a slice of cheese), the one thing I can't live without is water and sunlight (OK, two things). When I say water and sunlight, it's not for the obvious reasons, like a plant needs it to do it's thing with the chlorophyll or something. I need water and sunlight for my sanity.

I've lived in San Diego my whole life. The sea and the sun are part of me. Just the idea of living in the middle of dry land makes me claustrophobic. Trapped. Suffocated.

The sun has an amazing power over my mood. What's funny is that I love a gray, rainy day too (probably because of the water!) but I can only take a few days of it before I have to feel the sun's warmth. My happiest day is on some tropical beach with the Hubs, snorkeling in the warm water and then lounging in the sun. Preferably with a plate of cheese and fruit.

Two very basic things, but two things I must have to survive. What can't you live without?

Monday, March 5, 2012

Give me ______, or give me death!

We all have stuff we can't survive without. For some, it's coffee. For others, oxygen.

This week's theme asks us what we need to live. Perhaps we'll give you some tongue-in-cheek responses, perhaps serious ones. But either way, we want to know what, exactly, makes us tick.

For me, it's not something I can easily narrow down . In fact, mine's more of a laundry list than a thing. But here goes; the things I cannot survive without:

Animals: Quite literally, if there were no animals on this planet, I would be a very, very depressed person. 99% of my life revolves around animals in some form and the other 1% is only occupied by subconscious brain activity like breathing, and digestion.

My husband: The rock to my crazy scissors. He keeps me on an even keel and brings me back down to earth when my britches fill with air and threaten to carry me away, but he also always reaches out a hand when I need someone to hold onto.

Ibuprofen: Oh, man. If there is a wonder drug, it is ibuprofen. It cures most of my ills, to the point where I sometimes wonder if I have a placebo effect reaction to it. Of course, that's not counting the damage it's doing to my stomach, but I figure by the time that's actually an issue modern medicine will have a solution. I, uh, can quit any time.

Down time: I can't stress this one enough. I call them my "hermit days" and yes, I need a WHOLE DAY. I am not the "an hour here, an hour there" type of relaxation person. No, it's got to be a whole day of laziness or I am not counting it as restful. Unfortunately, I rarely have entire days to do nothing, so I am pretty much always "exhausted."

Quotation marks: What would I "do" without them? How would I "emphasize" "words" on the page if I couldn't "use quotes" around them?

My friends: You know who you are. I love you guys.

A sense of accomplishment: I am so goal driven it's not funny. No, seriously. Quit laughing. That's not nice.

Sugar: Yeah. I think this one explains itself. It might also explain why I get so many headaches that I have to take ibuprofen for. Ah well. I regret nothing.

Writing: I, uh, have a confession to make. In the first draft of this post, I FORGOT TO PUT THIS ONE IN THERE. I know, lame, right? Maybe because I was writing when I wrote it so I didn't think about it. (Yeah, that made total sense). Anyway, I really can't live without writing. Guess what I typically spend most of my hermit days doing??

So those are my things! What are yours??

Friday, February 24, 2012

Under Pressha

"Is the stew done?" my sister Michelle said, peeking around the corner of the kitchen. "The pressure cooker stopped hissing. That means it's done, right?"

"Pretty sure," her twin Heather replied. "And Mom didn't leave any money for pizza. That means we get stew."

"And I'm hungry," my other sister Beth replied. "How much longer?"

The four sisters stood together in front of the silent pressure cooker, frowning. "Well, who's going to open it?"

A quick note on pressure cookers. The whole "pressure" part is not just a clever name, it's the whole way the meal is cooked. Under hot, steaming pressure in a pot that literally locks on the top. It's a prehistoric way to cook stew but by all that was holy, the stew that came out of Mom's pressure cooker was blessed by the stew GODS. It was better than pizza. It was better than Burger King plus a Lion King toy.

But Michelle was right, it had stopped hissing. Maybe it was ready.

Things we did not know about Mom's special pressure cooker: it was a natural release cooker, not a quick release cooker. Natural release meant waiting 15 minutes before opening to avoid a huge explosion.

Things we also did not know at the time: only thirteen minutes had passed since it stopped hissing.

"Yeah, let's go ahead and open it," Heather said. Michelle, Beth and I took cover in a doorway.

Three months later, we were STILL finding bits of potato on top of the picture frames and slivers of stew sodden carrots on the underside of the cabinets.

Like all good after school specials, there was a moral in our disaster. Sometimes things need to simmer a bit before breaking them out to the world. Emotions, decisions, (ahem) MANUSCRIPTS...(I'm ahemming to myself, naturally), etc. Despite what we think, very few major decisions in this world are harmed by a few more minutes of waiting and pondering.

Here's to sitting and waiting, my hungry friends. The stew's TOTALLY gonna be worth it.

Unless we all splode first. Which I really hope doesn't happen.

CORRECTION: My sister Heather just reminded me that it was BETH that told her to open the pressure cooker. Not her. Just so it's clear. 

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Flop? Roll? Same Difference Right?

So this week we've been wreaking disaster around the house. Mostly in the kitchen area. It seems to be particularly disaster prone . . .

I usually pride myself as a pretty decent cook, particularly baking. I had a scratch recipe for rolls memorized when I was eleven (I've forgotten it now) I once brought a dessert to a potluck. It was a trifle but no none else there knew what that was. They examined the gooey mess of fruit custard and cookies in confusion.

My sister shrugged and piled some onto her plate. "My sister's really good with desserts." She told her friends. They followed her example and seemed to enjoy it.

I gleamed with pride.

So when I decided to make a Pumpkin Roll a couple of years ago I didn't foresee any problems. I'd made plum pudding for goodness' sake. How hard could a rolled up cake be?

Let's not answer that question just yet.

When I was growing up my aunt made the very best pumpkin rolls in existence. Sadly she had died but I had managed to get the recipe from her. So I felt like I was in pretty good hands. There was no way these instructions were going to fail me.

So I listed the ingredients and headed for the baking isle. I piled everything on the list down to the vanilla extract into my cart and walked back home. (Yes, I did pass the register first. I think someone would have stopped me if I'd tried to leave the store with an armload of baking goods!)

What I didn't look at were the things I would need that weren't strictly ingredients. Like

Parchment paper
A cookie sheet
Clean rags

I mixed up a triple batch of the batter. I preheated the oven. I looked at the next step.

Spread thinly onto baking sheet.

Oh . . . I don't think we have any. Oh well. A cake pan works just as well. I poured a somewhat thicker than specified layer onto the bottom of our two cake dishes and stuck them in the oven. I set the rest of the batter aside for the third roll.

I made whipped together the cream cheese filling while I waited fifteen to twenty minutes then pulled them out of the over. I looked at the next step.

Pull bread off of sheet immediately before cools and roll in clean dish towel.

Uh . . . blast. I knew I should have done the laundry earlier.

I scrambled madly through the house for a small and clean-enough-to-touch-food piece of fabric and finally settled on tin foil. Meanwhile what was supposed to be the roll had cooled.

And it stuck to the pan.

And it was too thick to roll.

I sighed and frosted the bits I could get out with the filling. At least it would still taste the same and I still had some batter left. I scrubbed the stubborn crumbs of pumpkin bread off one of the pans then decided, that to avoid the sticking to the pan problem this time I would cook it on top of the tin foil. That way it would be easier to roll right?


I am going to stop for a moment here to confess that I am not a very NICE cook. You know that baker who hits everyone with her rolling pin and screams at everyone to get out of her kitchen while she's working? That's me on a good day. Now imagine that I've decided to make a recipe with emotional overtones to distract myself from the stress of finals and nothing is going right.

My mom and siblings were sick to death of the whole idea of pumpkin rolls by this time.

When the last "roll" came out of the oven I pulled it out of the cake pan, foil and all and rolled it up. There! The hard part was done. I sat back and waited for it to cool. I munched on the pumpkin "bars" I'd made. They were pretty good if not very pretty. This final roll was going to be amazing.

At last it had cooled. I unrolled it and tried to peel the tin foil off.

Tried is the key word here. It stuck as badly as the pan did. I tried to frost the pieces I managed to get off and piece them together to roll but I hadn't saved aside enough of the filling to cover it so all I managed was an ugly lump of pumpkin bread and cream cheese frosting.

Everyone stayed clear of me for a couple hours after that.

But wait. I'm not done yet.

This last Thanksgiving I thought I would try to make them again (I can be pretty stubborn like that). I'd learned from my mistakes right? I would get parchment paper. I would read the whole recipe before I started. I would make sure there was enough filling. My mom even bought me a cookie sheet and I did the laundry first.

And so I began. Unfortunately, as I stood at the table, mixing together ingredients and chatting with all the other busy Thanksgiving cooks I poured in too much flour. And once in you can't take it out. So I had to double the batch. But I don't have enough eggs. Or enough sugar.

Blast it.

I left my half mixed batter on the table, dusted the four off my hands and headed for the store. That is to stay the Day-Before-Thanksgiving madness that passed for the store at that precise moment. Miraculously I managed to return half an hour later with no broken bones with the missing ingredients. I mixed them in and put the rolls in the oven.

But alas, our oven doesn't quite work the way it is supposed to right now. Sometimes you have to turn it on a few times before it lights up and sometimes it goes off without warning. I, anxious to follow the recipe exactly this time, left my creations in the oven for the exact amount of time specified. It looked a little gooey coming out but I thought it was best not to trust my instincts after the last fiasco. Besides it had to cool first right? (No Taryn. That's cookies not cake. You know that.) So I rolled them up, let them cool, spread cream cheese frosting on them, and stuck them in the fridge.

Horary! Pumpkin rolls in actual roll form. I couldn't wait to try them.

The next morning I did. They were raw. At least I managed to find out before our guests got there and we started serving them but . . . . whatever secret my aunt knew about making pumpkin rolls didn't translate into her recipe. I'm stubborn enough to vow to try again but I can only imagine what kind of disaster that will be . . .

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The worst cake I ever made

My household disaster happened about 15 or so years ago. This doesn't make it any more or less embarrassing than the ones Keriann and L.T. wrote about, it simply makes it older. (It's also not nearly as terrible now I think about it, but to 13-year-old me this was a disaster.)

Some of my favorite childhood memories involve cooking with my mother. I've always been into food, so it seemed only logical for me to learn how to make this stuff. I also find cooking very relaxing and also highly creative--when I get the chance to make recipes up on the fly.

This particular disaster happened in January of ... I want to say 1996. It was right around Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday, and I remember that fact because of the comment my mother made later after this disaster happened.

It was one of the first times my mother allowed me to fly solo while baking. Prior to this, she was always in the kitchen guiding me and making sure everything went off smoothly. But this time, she decided I was ready, and so I got left alone in the kitchen to bake a chocolate cake.

I was so excited ... finally I could make something by myself and prove how well I could bake. So I got out all the ingredients--I don't remember if I used a mix or not--and had everything blended smoothly in the bowl.

Everything was going well, and I got the oven pre-heated and the two layers of the cake inside without a hitch. The next step was to make the frosting. So I mixed the powdered sugar and other ingredients into a tasty white frosting, and sat there waiting for the cake to come out so I could frost it and serve it.

The timer on the oven dinged, I checked the cake, and then pulled it from the oven. I know now the next step is to let the cake cool in the pan before trying to turn it out and frost it.

Do you think I realized this at 13? (Hint: Not a whit.)

I flipped the cake over and hit the bottom of the pan to knock it out. It didn't come. So I hit the pan again. And again. Until at last the cake did come out ...

... broken into roughly 6 giant pieces.

Yes, my beautiful chocolate cake meant to impress everyone with my l33t skillz ended up in about 6 chunks on the plate.

My mother took one look at the results and said: "That cake looks like Martin Luther King rose from the grave."

Me? I was heartbroken. But my mother patched it together with a bit of frosting and we served it anyway. The cake still tasted good at least.

And that was the last time I ever didn't let a cake cool in its pan before turning it out.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Recipes Are There For A Reason

This week's theme is household disasters! While mine isn't as exciting and dramatic as L.T. Host's glass-exploding-catching-the-kitchen-on-fire adventure, it is by far the WORST food I have ever made. And it was only about a month ago (I'm going to say it was a rookie mistake).

This year at Christmas, I asked for recipe books so I could make delicious soups. My sister-in-law got me a really fancy book from William Sonoma, plus the best ladle they had to offer (it's so shiny!). I was ready to make some kick-ass soup.

One Sunday, I flipped through the book and found "Beef Stew with Orange Zest and Red Wine." I had beef. I had red wine. Heck, I even had fresh oranges. I set to work.

Season the beef with flour, salt and pepper - Done

Cook the beef in olive oil - Done

Remove zest from orange - Done

Saute onions - Done

Stir in garlic, orange zest, thyme (don't have that - skip) and fennel seeds (skip) - Done

Add wine and reduce by half - Uh, how far down is half again?

Stir in broth and canned tomatoes - Hm, no tomatoes. And I don't have chicken broth, only beef. Oh well - black beans are a similar to tomatoes in consistency, right? They've got some juice in the can. I'll just add that. And I'll use beef broth. Beef broth, beef stew - it only makes sense.

Bring to a boil and simmer for 2.5 hours - What? I'm hungry now! I'll simmer it for an hour, what's the difference?

Turn up heat. Waits for it to boil.

Hm, there's not a lot of liquid in here.

Adds more broth. Covers and lets it simmer.


My "stew" slowly turned into a paste. A black, lumpy paste. But hey, I used most of the ingredients. And beef and beans go naturally together. When I couldn't wait anymore, I tasted my creation. And I gagged.

My paste had an overwhelming flavor of orange zest and beans, with chewy beef lumps. I tried another bite just to be sure. I mean, I made this from scratch. I wasn't going to just throw it away. I had Hubs taste it too - he figured it couldn't taste as bad as it looked. Well, it tasted EXACTLY as bad as it looked.

The lesson? FOLLOW THE RECIPE. At least with the main ingredients. In fact, it's probably better to read all of the ingredients before starting. Also, beans and tomatoes are NOT the same.

What cooking disasters have you had lately?

Monday, February 20, 2012

Humble and Hopeful

So, I have to let myself squee for a moment. Today, I totally got groomed by a wallaby. YOU GUYS. CUTEST THING EVER. (Aside from maybe wallabies themselves. Or sugar gliders. I'm quickly gaining a sugar glider infatuation as well). 

Anyway. Moving on.

In the past few weeks, you've seen us dream big and talk about rituals. This week, we're going to show our humble sides and share a little household disaster with you. You know when you have those moments where you're not thinking and you pour bleach in the toilet bowl right after you pee? (What? That doesn't happen to everyone?) (Note: PSA: DON'T DO THIS-- the ammonia in urine reacts with the bleach to make mustard gas. Yikes). (By the way, that goes for any products with ammonia/ bleach in them).

Or maybe you're cooking and something in the oven catches fire. You open the door to assess the situation and it goes from a tiny kitchen fire to an inferno. (This totally happened to my husband before we even met).

We've all had these moments, and while we don't usually like sharing them with other people, it's time. We're going to air our dirty proverbial (or perhaps literal) laundry. We're going to share something stupid we've all done.

Mine is... pretty spectacular. See, in October of 2010, I got married. During this "wedding" business, I had fancy tables set up where people ate, drank, chatted, etc. And on those tables were cylinder vases-- tall, clear glass cylinders. Inside were river rock pebbles and a pillar candle. The candles were lit during the evening, and at the end of the night, all of the centerpieces came back home to me.

A few months later (yeah, don't judge) found me trying to clean out said cylinder vases. A lot of them had wax melted down into the pebbles and stuck to the glass, but they still popped out relatively easily.

Except for one. One little vase, where the wax and pebbles had managed to form a lump so stubborn that nothing was working to get it out. I tried leverage, hot water, and finally-- got the brilliant idea to try and warm the vase on the stove, thus melting the wax and freeing the whole mass.

I'm sure you can see where this is going.

I turned on the burner, inching the vase carefully closer and closer to the flame. 

Thank goodness I had the smart idea to stay in the room. About five minutes later, instead of melting, the whole thing just... exploded. Luckily, the glass didn't go far, but it DID burst into flames. Huge, tall flames.

In a panic, I turned off the stove... but the flames had caught the candle wax and were still going strong. I was home alone, I didn't know anything about gas-powered stoves, and I was pretty sure I was going to die.

So I called 911. The polite operator told me to pack up my animals and, pardon my acronomic language, GTFO. I did, shaking and scared the whole time.

The firefighters got here fast. I'm sure they couldn't help but laugh at the terrified housewife who thought her stove was going to explode and kill her. The fire was a measly two inches high by the time they arrived, and went out while they were there. They were nice enough to clean the wax off my stove and refused the Girl Scout cookies I offered them in thanks.

Then I had the fun task of calling my husband and explaining how I'd almost burned the house down and had to call the fire department.

He still teases me about it, almost a year later. Also, I'm not allowed to try "projects" while I'm home alone. (My idea, not his). 

Also also, I am now petrified of exploding glass, and can't turn on that burner without flinching.

I think my favorite part of the whole thing is how utterly dumb it was to even try in retrospect. Yet, at the time, it seemed like a perfectly valid thing to do (obviously).

Have you ever had a "great" idea go horribly wrong?

Friday, February 17, 2012

In the Ciiiiircle of Liiiiiife

Rituals, rituals...okay, guys. I've got a story.

So as a little kid, I think the one thing that probably drove my parents battier than anything was my affinity for having a FULL SET. If I loved something and there was a full set available, I needed it. Toys, baseball cards, stickers, books, you name it. It was nothing if there were pieces missing!

If there was a sticker book that needed 20 different animals and I could only find 19? Well, charge up the word processor, I had a letter to write to Lisa Frank. And if I had the entire 1992 Oakland A's roster cards EXCEPT for Jose Canseco? Well, I might as well trade out the whole box because what was the point of that? And if Burger King gave away Lion King toys in their kid's meals and I only had six of the seven?

Break out the phone book, Ma. I'm calling every Burger King within 20 miles. I LOVED LION KING.

I realize this sounds spoiled, but hear me out. I really loved to finish things. I loved reaching a terminal point in a collection, saying, "I am done with this. This is all I need." As I've gotten older, this has transferred over to other things (I don't collect toys anymore I SWEAR, but I do like to finish a good book/series if I start one. Good video games must be beaten. I'll usually watch an entire show well into the seasons where they "started to go downhill.")

Anyways, back to the Lion King thing.

I had all of the Lion King toys EXCEPT for Nala. And after a week of phone calls, it turned out that the only Nala in Arizona at the time was at a Burger King 45 minutes away. (Years later, I do realize that it was probably the only place that would bother to check their tub of toys on behalf of a frantic sounding 12 year old on the phone. Thanks, Paradise Valley Burger King!)

When I returned home with my prize, I staged a very public (very embarrassing, in retrospect) very joyous ritual in which I placed Nala on my desk with all the other animals. Complete with the soundtrack, of course. It was one of the proudest moments of my life up to that point: using my own money I bought more kid's meals than I could possibly want to eat, but I had the FULL SET. I did it! I completed the Circle of Life! I had a lovely bunch of coconuts toys!

And the crazy silly ritual that marked completion? It wasn't just weirdly fun, it was necessary! I remember being so happy, so proud of myself for such...uh..."hard" work.

I love seeing certain types of rituals as celebrations, symbolic and joyous celebrations of beginnings and ends. You finish writing a book, you reward yourself with the highly joyous ritual of chocolate and seven straight seasons of The West Wing (okay, that just may be my personal ritual--I like pretending that I'm as witty as Josh Lyman). You get yourself a book deal? You take yourself on a nice vacation! And if you get yourself a huge book deal? Well, by golly you better believe you're taking me.

What rituals do you reward yourself with on completion of a big task?

Postscript: In case you were wondering, it's been 18 years and I still have ALL of the toys---which are now enjoyed daily by my own kid. It's the CIIIIRRRCCCLLLEE OF LIIIIIFE (come on, you knew that was coming.)

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Rituals Inside Our Minds

On the Jewish holiday Passover there is a question that is asked before a family starts to eat.

“What makes this night different than all other nights?”

Passover was always my favorite holiday growing up because, although on every night we ate, this night we ate things that meant something. We sat around the table together and talked about why they were important and why we cared and how other families had been doing the same thing for literally thousands of years. To this day Passover is the only day out of the year I eat meat. Not only because lamb is SO good but because of the symbolism of the animal sacrifice.

To me what separates a ritual from a habit is the significance we give it. We have the power to turn a simple, everyday occurrence like a family meal into something that lasts for a thousand years. And it all happens inside our heads.

Here are a few of the rituals I encounter in my daily life and the significance I see in them.

Reaching for the Moon

When I was in high school I read Howard Pyle's The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood (fantastic amazing book. Go read it now.) In that book the merry men are philosophizing to each other before embarking on their day of robbing, witty comebacks', and getting into fights. Will Scarlet quotes that “He who leaps for the moon and touches it not still leaps higher than he who stoops for a penny.” To which Robin Hood, being the cheeky little bugger that he is, replies “Aye, but he who stoops for a penny still gets the penny while he who leaps for the moon gets nothing.”

Personally I agree with Scarlet on this one. I'd rather grasp for what I want and will never have than content myself with working for things I don't particularly care about because I know I can get them. So, to remind myself of this, every time I find a penny of the ground I jump up and try to touch the moon. No really, I do. Even now at twenty four years old.

Though to be honest I usually pick up the penny afterward.

Never Sit At the Same Desk Twice

Or at least, not too often. I know most people like to find one desk in a class room and sit in it every class session, and I apologize to those people who's seats I periodically steal, but . . . the same spot? Every day? At the same time? For sixteen weeks? It would drive me crazy. So rather that adopting the ritual of sitting in the same place I've adopted the ritual of stepping into the classroom and thinking for about ten seconds about where I should sit.

What does this ritual symbolize in my head? Keeping myself on my toes. Gaining new perspectives. Trying new things (baby steps ok. Escargot and bungee jumping will come later--- Actually no. No it won't. But maybe *gasp* skipping breakfast and staying out past ten will).

Masterpiece Theater and Wine

This my absolute favorite ritual. Every Sunday night at nine o clock I open up a bottle of two buck chuck and switch the channel to PBS to see what that week's Masterpiece special is (AHHHH! This Sunday is going to be the last episode of Downton Abbey. NOT FAIR). Even if I've seen it before or it's not a particularly great program I still watch it.

I usually do this with my mom (although since Downton my sister and even my thirteen year old brother have joined in. Minus the wine for the brother of course.), so in that sense this is a straight forward bonding ritual, but there is also something significant in opening wine for the occasion and in waiting for the time slot on the TV channel rather than prerecording it. It makes it a ceremony, a moment that can't be repeated throughout the rest of the week. Those few hours are a time for me to savor the last remaining moments of the weekend before going back to the same old work drill of Monday morning.

So what about you? Do you prescribe any personal meanings to the things you do throughout the week? What makes this moment different than all other moments?


Desecrate my temple with a candle
With flames that burn beyond the final sleep
Incense drowned in a bequeathed ritual
Lit by men long dead for us to keep
Prepare me for my burial with gifts
As scalded wax drips down sacred pillars
Teach me the truths that ceremony sifts
And learn the innocence hidden by scars
Hear cries of children never born as kings
And pay homage to their everlasting sire
Screams of purity torn from time's sweltering
Defile my memory for every missing fire
Defy the spark dimmed by the fall of breath
As vibrancy passes through strains of birth

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Rituals: Cleaning

This week's theme is ... RITUALS. This could be anything - morning rituals, how you eat a burrito, the most efficient way you drive home. We all have them, usually without realizing.

The ritual I'm going to share with you today is: cleaning.

So exciting, I know! I had a very hard time coming up with the ritual to share (even though this week's theme was my idea ... yeah, that was so smart of me). But cleaning is something everyone has to do, and I'll bet we all go about it differently. Some people set a day every week to clean. Some people hide things in closets or shove piles of stuff along the walls until the sheer lack of floor space FORCES them to clean (this is me a lot of times).  Some people pick up as they go because they can't stand a messy house (I envy these people!). Some people hire a cleaning person (I envy these people too!).

My husband and I have agreed that he does the dishes and I do the laundry. I absolutely hate doing the dishes, and he hates doing laundry so it worked out great. Except I'm a big slacker and we tend to have overflowing laundry bins and run out of clean pants. But as far as rituals go, here's what we do when it's time to really get down to clean:
  1. Start with the easy stuff - Generally, hubs works on the dishes while I start a load of laundry. I know some people work on the hard stuff first, but for cleaning the hard stuff (steam cleaning the floors, wiping down counters, etc.) is usually buried under piles of stuff.
  2. We stick together - Working together makes it not such a lonely task. And we can make sure one of us doesn't find his/her way to the couch or computer.
  3. We blast the Pandora music - Everything is better when you're rocking out.
  4. We take a burrito break - Cleaning really works up an appetite, and generally the solution for a hungry hungry housekeeper is a California burrito from our local Mexican food joint.
  5. We tackle one area at a time - It's more satisfying to get one room nice and clean than working on every room at once, thus only making it slightly cleaner everywhere. This is easier said than done because I get distracted easy.
  6. We reward ourselves with a movie - Hubs tends to fizzle long before I do, and he often tries to get me to take a break and watch a movie. So I usually say that once we're finished, the movie can be our reward.
Do you do it differently? It's a rare day that we actually clean our place from top to bottom, and we generally only get a little bit done. Perhaps just getting rid of all our junk would help!

Sorry again that this post is a bit late. I hope you all had a fabulous Valentine's Day (our at-home fondue was super delicious!).

Monday, February 13, 2012

The Rituals of Our Lives

Oh! Hi! I didn't see you there. I was too busy having deep thoughts about this week's theme: rituals.

Everyone has them. Some of us more so than others. Sometimes rituals are just cycles of life repeated in the same order, sometimes they're hallowed and sacred, and sometimes they're less than pleasant. But this week, the Alliteratus will tell you all about a ritual, or rituals, we find ourselves using in our lives.

Not every ritual has a structure. Some, like getting ready for work in the morning, seem to happen on auto-pilot. (I don't actually remember putting on my clothes this morning, but I appear to be wearing them, so that's good). Some rituals only crop up every now and then, and others aren't really rituals so much as superstition. But all of them have one thing in common-- rhythm. Rituals are the rhythm of our lives. We live our lives in cycles, circles, relationships-- and rituals. Go to sleep, wake up, get ready, leave, drive somewhere, do stuff, come home, make dinner, go to sleep.

The thing is, I find a lot of comfort in rituals. A large part of this has to do with a mental disorder I suffer from. I'll share more about that at some later date, but for right now it's enough for you to know that I have it. This disorder makes me uncomfortable with surprises, especially social ones. I have my daily ritual-- do the things that everyone else wants me to do, and then there's my free time. My free time is especially cherished, it's usually when I write, or decompress from the day by looking at pictures of cats online. If something comes along on a day when I'm really looking forward to my free time, I will do everything I can to avoid it. If a friend wants to make last minute plans, I usually can't make it. Give me a couple days' warning next time, I say.

I have a handful of very impulsive friends. They are the friends I see the least.

It's not that I don't want to spend time with them, or that I think my free time is more important than spending time with them. In fact, I often find myself sitting at home later thinking, "I should have gone. I miss ____, and it would have been fun to see them/ spend time with them."

A large part of it has to do with being physically (mentally) unable to change course on my day once I've decided what I'm going to do with it. That doesn't mean I'm inflexible; in fact, I'm far from it. And I'm not certain exactly where the threshold is. All I know is that once I've reached the point where doing ANYTHING except going home and relaxing sounds fun, I probably can't make myself do it.

I actually really hate this aspect of myself, because I know I've disappointed friends and family with it in the past. Sometimes, I do already have plans. Sometimes, they're self-imposed deadlines on a project I'm working on. Sometimes, I'm just done for the day and have already decided exactly when I'll go into shutdown mode. Either way, that ritual, of coming home and turning off-- usually after a full day of being ON-- is the one ritual I can't seem to break. At least not without warning a day or two in advance.

As for other rituals, well-- I could, quite literally, write a novel about them if I had to. It is, after all, the nature of my disease. Luckily, most of them are mental, which basically means I spend a lot of time stuck in my own head, and forgetting about real-world responsibilities. So if I've ever forgotten to email/ call/ text/ facebook/ tweet you back, I'm sorry. You deserve better. Thanks for being patient.

This was a tad more depressing and a bit more forthright than I'd planned, but you know what? I regret nothing. Sometimes, seeing a window into the head of someone you know helps you understand them a little bit more. Maybe you'll understand me a bit better after reading this.

Do you have any unbreakable rituals?

Friday, February 10, 2012

With cat-like tread, upon my dream I steal

For the last few months, I've found myself lamenting (admittedly more than once twice a million times) that I "just need a tiny success. Not a miracle, just a success." It's no secret that I've been agented and on submission for quite some time with a few dead books in my lap. It's not fun, I'll tell you that. But it's necessary and it's just the luck of the game sometimes.

However, the last few months have been getting to me, hence the need for a tiny success.

I wish this was the post where I got to tell you fantastic news about how it finally all worked out and I'm finally a millionaire and I finally get to meet my silver fox of a crush Kevin Kline who will be starring in the movie adaptation of my NYT bestselling book. But it's not. That dream hasn't come true quite yet.

And I wish I could tell you that some wise old man gave me an inspiring talk about learning to recognize the dreams that come true right in front of our eyes. And that the wise old man was Kevin Kline. But it's not.

And sometimes it's hard to count our blessings when we are trying ever so hard not to be upset over that teensy weensy particular blessing that just hasn't come our way yet. But the theme this week is a dream come true, not Marie writing angsty high school poetry to herself about having to wait and work for what she wants. I pine! I pale! I am late to English.


Tonight we celebrated my daughter's second birthday. At the risk of getting nauseatingly sentimental, let me just say that today's tiny success---heck, let's just make it this YEAR'S tiny success---has been seeing her blow out her candles, pop balloons with her friends and stay up well past bedtime eating enough cake and ice cream to rot out every tooth we've tried to grow so far. She's healthy and by darn, tonight she was happy! I guess that's my dream come least coming true every day that she is.

Is that a cop out? My dream is having a happy kid reach two years old without either of us killing each other. Done! Come true!

Oh yeah, I also moved overseas. That was pretty rad, too.

Any dreams come true for you guys out there? While you're thinking, here's some singing Kevin Kline to roll around in like catnip. I usually end posts with a lolcat, but this will have to do. Me-wow!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Dream Come True: My Magic Carpet

For the past five years there has been something that has been alluding me.

A driver's license and a car.

Sometimes it's not so bad walking to the store, especially in a small town like I live in, and buses can be a pretty interesting place to observe people, but there is definitely a lack of freedom in not having wheels. I remember a particularly bad night a couple years ago when my ride to a drive in theater excursion thought I had another ride home and left early . . .

In such situations I would sigh and say "This would be so much easier if I had a magic carpet." But alas, there was naught I could do but wish, visit the DMV yet again, and remember where my bus pass was.

Until about six months ago

Meet The Magic Carpet

Shimmering in gene-lamp gold and ready to take me wherever I wish to go.

Well maybe not everywhere. I'm still working on how I'm going to drive him across the pacific.

Truth to tell I still walk to the store more often than not (because gas is expensive and I could always use the exercise and fresh air) but there is something now present that wasn't before.


A delicious delectable word if ever there was one.

And believe me this dream did not come easily. It took three driver's permits, a zillion bus rides, endless nagging for licensed drivers to risk their life as my passenger, and I've long lost count of how many hours I've spent in the DMV trying to make this happen.

But it did. Eventually it did and that makes me very happy indeed.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

A Dream (Not) Deferred

I've had many dreams in the past 28 years. Become a nuclear physicist, fly to the moon, write an epic fantasy trilogy, play video games for a living, and so on and so forth. While some of them aren't ever going to happen (nuclear physicist for example), I'm finding out this is an all right thing. Everyone needs dreams, no matter whether they happen or don't, because having a dream is what makes life interesting. Or at least I hope it does otherwise why the heck are we talking about them?

We're supposed to talk this week about our dreams that came true recently. I've had a few of those in recent weeks, so I'm going to devote a little capsule to each.

First is that I found a full-time job close to home. Not just any full-time job either; this is a place where I can have a real impact on the company's future. For someone like me that's a big deal, especially because I've felt like a cog in a wheel for awhile now. It's a brilliant company run by passionate people, and I'm proud to work here alongside them.

Second is that the Kickstarter goal for Doctor Fantastique's Show of Wonders was met at the end of January. This means we can do some fascinating things with the print edition of the magazine, and puts the publication on the road to profitability.

Last, but most certainly not least, is finding out Her Highness the Missus and I are expecting child numero uno. I adore children (convinced I never matured past 9 years old), and the idea of being a father gets me highly excited. It's going to be a tough thing to do right, but when have y'all ever known me to shy away from the tough stuff?

So those are the dreams of mine that have come true lately. Anything you want to add?

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Dreams Come True

"No matter how your heart is grieving, if you keep on believing, the dream that you wish will come true." - Cinderella

This week's theme is A Dream Come True. A dream really is a wish your heart makes. But as we all know, you can't just wish your dreams into reality. Which makes them that much sweeter when you achieve them.

I was going to say that my dream that came true was my promotion at work. While that was an awesome and amazing thing, I don't think it qualifies as a "dream" because I still have room to grow in my career. It doesn't feel like I'm living a dream - yet.

So after some thought, I'm going to use a dream that happened more than a year ago but sometimes I still can't believe it actually happened (I know I've mentioned it before). This place that I live in, the one with the WALLS and the TWO BATHROOMS and the FIREPLACE and many other amazing things, it belongs to Hubs and me!!

No one else!

And when we bought our condo, so many others dreams came true with it. Picking out new carpet and taping those little paint cards on the wall to figure out what color to paint. AND THE WASHER/DRYER! No more community laundry where people steal your clothes and you try not to think about their underwear tumbling in that same machine. (I am a bit of a germaphobe. Please don't ask me to house sit so I have to sleep in your bed - no offense!)

The dream that came true for me was buying a condo and turning it into a home.

And even though we will eventually buy a house with a yard and get a dog (a future dream), I'm not in a hurry. I can see us living here for a solid few years. And considering that a couple of years ago I thought home ownership was so far out of reach, I'm living the dream right now.

What dreams (even small ones) have you achieved?

P.S. - A very small dream will be coming true soon! Ever since my birthday in September, I've been dying to go to Disneyland but the Pirates ride was closed and then I wanted everything to be back to normal after Christmas. So now we finally get to go!! Yay!!