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!!

Monday, February 6, 2012

This week's theme: A Dream Come True

Technology. It's a fickle mistress. This week we'll be writing about dreams come true; those small (or big) moments of success that make us want to kick up our heels and shout with joy. These are things we've achieved off of wish lists past, and they help remind us that those lists are possible. But, thanks to technology (and a massive migraine), I will be adding my dream come true to this post tomorrow morning. See you then!


Okay. So. Now that my internet is cooperating again, I can actually write this post. YAY! 

I wanted to write about this because January was a rough month for me, yes, but it did have some good things happen, too. One of which was a dream come true. A tiny dream, but a dream, nonetheless.

A few years ago, my husband and I went to the zoo that I now work at and discovered how adorable wallabies are in person. I mean, I'd known they were cute. They're basically mini kangaroos. How can that not be adorable? (Note: I love any and all things miniature).

But in person, they were just so much more... special. We took lots of crappy pictures and forced everyone to look at them. Okay, maybe that was just me. But I couldn't get over how darn hilarious they were, and every time we went back we'd go see the wallabies first. I even included them in my sidebar description when we started the Archives.

After a couple years, I sort of settled down. I got hired at my current job and there were LOTS of cute animals there. Even mini ones. But wallabies always had a special place in my heart.

Where am I going with this?

Well, a couple months ago, I started volunteering at a local facility that has a wide range of exotic animals just to get some more diverse experience. They happen to have three wallabies there. I was excited, but trying not to get my hopes up. I had a lot of training to go through before I could get near them.

And then, last month-- it happened. During all the craptacular parts of January, two shining moments stuck out. I got to play with my wallabies. I gave them carrots, I petted that ADORABLE FUZZ BEHIND THEIR EARS OMG. I watched them hop around in the rain. I watched them do wallaby yoga. I just got to sit with them and soak up the fact that there were wallabies a few inches from me.

So yes, in January, a dream of mine did come true. It's not the first, and it won't be the last, but it's something to hold onto when life gets a little rough, right?

Have you had any dreams come true recently?

Friday, February 3, 2012

My Wisht Lisht

Welcome, beautiful new year! That started a month ago! Which is okay because I'm so behind on stuff that it's taken me this long to acknowledge the new year! I'm reminded of an OK Go (okay, originally by the Zombies) song that runs through my head every time I dare to start making resolutions.

Go on, this is worth a listen:

This will be our year, guys! And although it may have taken a while to get here, it's here and we're gonna LOVE it, right? Yes, love the ever livin' crap out of it. So here's my wisht lisht for 2012. If they happen or not is not the goal, but all that matters is that I'm working TOWARDS these goals. Any progress is success, right? Sure! Why not!

Ahem. Behold:

Be more proactive in my creative ventures, art and writing included: Sometimes I fall into the "I wish" stage of my artistic endeavors, like "I wish I could finish a book in a few months" or "I wish I had my illustration portfolio together." Well you know what? I CAN FIX THAT. There's so much we can't control in our lives, but there's a billion things more that we CAN. I aim to just PUSH myself, to get out there and DO those things I wish I could do, failure be noted and damned. Proactive: not just for acne anymore.

Completely ROCK the house at my new job: Teaching English composition to non-native speakers! Woot! Note to future students: I suggest not using as many exclamation points as I do.

Finish my 365 days of drawing with a bang (or a whimper, depending what I feel like drawing that day): I'm almost at 200 days now and despite the recent worker's strike my scanner is holding, I think I can do it. It was a tough goal to set and I've certainly stumbled here and there, but by and large I think my art is getting just a tad better. Fingers crossed for the next 175 days!

Learn some frigging Japanese: If I can't do it here, I won't ever do it. My inner 14 year old Sailor Senshi obsessed self would never forgive me.

Get into marathon running shape for the Nagasaki Marathon in October: I can do this! I did an 8 mile run today and despite not being able to feel anything above the knees now (the pain), it was rather nice (really?) Only 9 months (and 18 more miles) to go! (Oh dear.)

I have wishlists for things out of my control, too, like book deals and lottery wins, unlimited funds to travel and the like, but hopefully I can work hard enough on the things I can control to keep my mind off the things I CAN'T.

This will be our year, guys! Good luck and happy living!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Make a Wish

I think I've read too much of One Thousand and One Nights to throw wishes around lightly. Those tricksy Jinns love nothing better than to give people exactly what they asked for but not what they wanted. Like the poor gardener who wished he was a prince so he could marry the princess but when he went to woo her as a prince she said she was already in love with a young gardener who didn't know she existed. So I will do my best to wish for only what I actually want. Not what I think I will need to get it.

Hopefully that's enough.

Here goes.

in 2012 I wish . . .

To finish White Hart. I'm pretty close to this one actually. I'm at about 170 pages and although I started it in January of 2011 70 of those pages I've written in the last month so I'm hoping to keep up this pace until I'm finished.

To query agents until one likes my writing enough to represent me. Yeah. Last year I said the same thing. I think I sent out maybe ten queries all year? I'm not sure if it's fear or laziness that's holding me back but I'm not going to let it anymore.

To publish at least one short story. I do actually have quite a few of those finished but I get so absorbed by my bigger writing projects that I forget to look for homes for them.

To move out of my mom's house. Right now there are so many things that would need to change for that to happen that I feel like I'm wishing for the moon but last year at this time I thought I would never own my own car. Or have a driver's license for that matter. Now I do. Maybe sometime in the not so distant future I will have what Virginia Woolf would call "A Room of One's Own." Besides. One of these days I'm going to own that moon.

To make a pumpkin roll that rolls instead of falls apart.

To go to ALA.
Because there are free books! And it is in Anaheim. Anaheim. As in next to Disneyland!

To read a book that changes my life. I believe it was the introduction to Neil Gaiman's American Gods that made me worried about this. He said something to the effect of "back when a book could still change my life" I was horrified. Is it really possible to be such an experienced reader, fiction reviewer, or writer, that you can lose the ability to really be changed by a good book? To let it speak to you on some level deeper than you thought existed. I pray not. I always want a good book to come along and blow what I think of as my life out of the water and hang it up to dry.

To experience life. This is an important one for me. I can get really caught up in To-Do lists and goals and forget simple things like a cup of tea or a friend who's willing to talk to me or the gentle patter of the rain. Life is meant to be lived and I want to embrace every heart-breaking, soul-wrenching moment of it.

So those are my wishes. What are yours?

"Who says that every wish will be heard and answered,
When wished on the morning star?
Somebody thought of it and someone believed it.
Look what it's done so far."
--Rainbow Connection by Paul Williams and Kenneth Ascher

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

My Wish List (Such As It Is)

It's Wednesday, and I suppose that means it comes down to me sharing what my 2012 wish-list is with all of you fine folks. Which is good because I nearly forgot I was supposed to post today. Whoops! Anywho, here's my wish-list for 2012:

  • Make Doctor Fantastique's Show of Wonders magazine profitable. As you all know, I'm the Publisher/Executive Editor and Owner of that there website/magazine. It's been a challenge so far to make any sort of money off it, but I've got a lovely staff of volunteers who are sure to help the publication get there.
  • Finish and query at least one novel. I've got one novel in pieces, one that needs to be rewritten, and a novella that needs to get finished. I want to be done with at least one of them this year. 
  • Make a dent in the money I owe. I've got waaaay more consumer debt than I want, and part of my wish-list for 2012 is to have half of it gone by the time December rolls around. We'll see if that happens.
  • Become the best I can be at my full-time job. I started a new job in the new year, and there's a decent learning curve. I've been assured I so far have the ropes figured out; now all I have to do is make sure I can go above and beyond ... which is important because I can directly impact the bottom line here.
  • Try to keep in touch with friends better. Two of my good friends are getting married (to each other) in a few months, and Her Highness the Missus and I have sadly not spent time with them since our own wedding more than 2 years ago. We've become somewhat of a pair of hermits, and this isn't a good thing. 
That's pretty much all I've got for 2012 folks. Anything else you want to offer up?