a garden in riotous bloom
Beautiful. Damn hard. Increasingly useful.
fresh cuttings 
rosefox: A man and a woman holding hands, labeled "INVISIBLE QUEER". (queer-invisible)
Some ignorant person wrote a piece for Wired about the Hugos that included the following:

Since 1953, to be nominated for a Hugo Award, among the highest honors in science fiction and fantasy writing, has been a dream come true for authors who love time travel, extraterrestrials and tales of the imagined future. Past winners of the rocket-shaped trophy—nominated and voted on by fans—include people like Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, Harlan Ellison, Philip K. Dick, and Robert A. Heinlein. In other words: the Gods of the genre.

But in recent years, as sci-fi has expanded to include storytellers who are women, gays and lesbians, and people of color, the Hugos have changed, too. At the presentation each August, the Gods with the rockets in their hands have been joined by Goddesses and those of other ethnicities and genders and sexual orientations, many of whom want to tell stories about more than just spaceships.


This is wrong. I went on a long Twitter rant about how wrong it is. (Thanks to [twitter.com profile] tehawesomersace for Storifying it.) Specifically, it erases the marginalized people who were writing and reading SF/F from the very beginning of the genre--including erasing Arthur C. Clarke's homosexuality--and thereby erases the active and passive oppression that kept many of those people marginalized. The idea that SF has "expanded" in "recent years" is false and extremely damaging.

Among the many responses to my rant was this from [twitter.com profile] adamndsmith:

Genuine question: In your op, what's the best way to fight whitewash? Education on minority history? More critical editing/editors?

I replied:

It needs to be fought on multiple fronts. Most important is a self-check step by both editor and publisher. "Whose story am I telling here? Whose story am I not telling? Why am I not telling that story?" You train yourself into it, like "what's wrong with this picture" games.

For example, look at the 1960 Hugos shortlist. You have to train yourself to look at that and see what's missing: the minority writers, the minority content. Maybe it's hard to see until you compare it with the 2013 shortlist. And then you have to be careful not to draw the wrong conclusion (that no great work was being created by minorities). That process of self-education is the only defense against bigoted enculturation.


Adam emailed me some follow-up questions, asking how someone outside the field could know to look for the missing history. My response was that there's always missing history. And since I was already feeling wordy, I provided a case study, which I'm replicating here in case anyone else might find it useful to have an example of how to apply general missing-history-finding techniques to an unfamiliar community or context.
Tiny skateboards )
A couple of footnotes to this:

1) I'm not perfect, and I'm sure I'm missing obvious questions that could be asked about minority and marginalized people in the fingerboarding community. (EDIT: For example, as [personal profile] seyren points out in comments, I didn't think of looking at ability/disability, which is often an overlooked axis of oppression.) I threw this together in under 15 minutes. It's just meant as a starting point, as an example of how to begin to look at a completely unfamiliar group through the lens of "which stories aren't being told?", and as an illustration of how easy it is to find the traces of missing history once you get in the mindset of looking for them.

2) I owe a tremendous debt to all the minority and marginalized people in and outside of SF/F who've taken the time to educate me and others on how to look for what's missing in mainstream narratives, especially [personal profile] karnythia, [twitter.com profile] djolder, [twitter.com profile] chiefelk, and the late and greatly lamented [personal profile] delux_vivens. Self-education is obviously critical, both because we learn best and most thoroughly when we put things in our own words, and because leaning on marginalized people and asking them to pour their hard-earned knowledge into you is exploitative. But there are some generous folks out there who have spent a lot of their time handing out free clues on the internet, and I'm extremely grateful for the clues they've handed me.
rosefox: A sci-fi landscape and the words "DISSENT IS PATRIOTIC". (fandom-dissent)
* Hugo Awards results
* Full Hugo stats
* Alternate universe Hugo ballot
* Stats analysis by [livejournal.com profile] nwhyte
* Quantifying the Puppy votes at ChaosHorizon

And now it's DONE. DONE DONE DONE. OVER. FINISHED.

I hope the alternate-universe ballot spawns some good conversation about anything other than puppies. I weary of puppies.
14 August 2015 02:03 - "To say my gas cap is unscrewed"
rosefox: A giant X and the word "IRRITANT". (annoyed)
World Fantasy update (following part one and part two of a discussion of the con's financial costs):

I decided to buy a membership. If I change my mind later I can always get a refund.

On August 3 I emailed the conchair and the registrar to say I would be buying my membership, and I sent the membership fee to the convention's PayPal address.

On August 10 I emailed the conchair and the registrar asking for confirmation that they had received my payment.

On August 14 (today) I emailed again:

Hi Joseph,

I'm starting to get concerned. I sent you a significant amount of money, which was definitely taken from my bank account by PayPal. I haven't heard from you and my name doesn't appear on the WFC site list of members. Can you please confirm that you received my payment and that I'm getting a membership?

I'm glad I checked the site because I saw that banquet tickets had gone on sale. My primary reason for purchasing a membership was to have access to purchasing a banquet ticket. However, the ticket sale page doesn't say anything about being required to be a member in order to get a ticket for the banquet. I have purchased a banquet ticket. If a membership is not required for this, then please refund my membership.

Thank you,
Rose Fox


In late July, I'd had a back-and-forth email convo with the conchair over several days; during that time, my emails were answered very promptly. Now that I've sent them $327 of my hard-earned dollars, they're incommunicado. This is... a bad look.

The membership list on the site hasn't been updated since July 30.

Has anyone else had similar issues with being offered a waitlist membership, buying it, and then not getting confirmation? Has anyone heard from the WFC chair or registrar in the past two weeks? Has Albany been suffering from a massive power and internet outage and I missed the news?
rosefox: In 1813, a lending library clerk discusses books with a customer. (valour advances)
Thank you all for the awesome fanfic prompts! This is really getting the creative juices flowing. :)

I wrote this little ficlet last night to [twitter.com profile] leonicka's prompt of "Nathaniel organizing a surprise birthday party for Eliza". Birthday parties and surprise parties don't seem to have really been a thing in Regency England, but I went with it because I could immediately see poor Nathaniel starting to sweat. :)


There wasn't much room under the sloped roof for pacing, but Nathaniel did his best. )


Feel free to prompt me some more! I probably won't directly reply to all of them, but they're all helping me see my world and characters from different angles, which is tremendously useful. Thank you v. v. much.
rosefox: In 1813, a lending library clerk discusses books with a customer. (valour advances)
Remember how I started writing a novel and then the whole pregnancy thing happened and I kind of dropped it for a while? I'd like to get back to it, but it's hard to regain my momentum.

A technique I've seen for getting past a writing block is to write fanfic of your own characters--it feels less serious, and you can play around and get to know them a bit without being constrained by your plot outline.

To that end, I would really appreciate it if you could toss a fanfic prompt or two my way. Obviously you haven't read the canon, because it doesn't exist yet. :) And I'm not quite certain enough of my outline to share it. But here's jacket copy of a sort:

Nathaniel Axton is in a bit of a bind. The printing shop he works for, Carroll & Co., is losing money hand over fist. Everyone expects him to marry the shop's owner, Eliza Carroll, but he's mostly interested in men, and she's mostly interested in printing salacious Sapphist poems to sell to her bluestocking friends. Cautious Nathaniel isn't sure the potential profits are worth the risk to the shop's reputation--or the chance that someone will discover that he too was once a bluestocking.

Sir Algernon Smythe enjoyed his years in Canada, hiking through the woods by day and fooling around with his fellow explorers by night. Then his father summons him back to London to start building the family fortune. Algernon hopes to marry Sarah Silverthorne, the daughter of a well-known and wealthy adventurer. But she's looking for someone to build a home with, not another man who will abandon her for years at a time. And Algernon soon realizes a wife isn't what he wants at all.

When Algernon strolls into Carroll & Co. and locks eyes with Nathaniel, both men are smitten. When Sarah approaches Eliza about publishing a book of poetry, sparks fly. Can the four lovebirds find a way to make all their dreams come true?


And here's the backstory of the protagonists. ) And to refresh your memories, a bit of Nathaniel and Eliza at work and Algernon's grand entrance.

Is that enough to inspire a prompt or two? Perhaps? Help me out here, folks; I'm really struggling to get anything like back in the groove.

EDIT: No AUs, please, but I'm willing to introduce speculative elements.
5 August 2015 01:56 - "Now I'd walk through blizzards"
rosefox: A tentacle and a finger touching, with "<3" in a speech bubble above them. (LDR)
Today I got to have lunch with a school friend I haven't seen in nearly 20 years (and have quietly missed for much of that time). We talked nonstop for two full hours before reluctantly tearing ourselves away, with many promises of spending more time together soon. It was incredible.

I feel profoundly lucky that we crossed paths online, and grateful that she reached out to me (she was using a pseudonym and I never would have known it was her) after all the years of keeping her distance, and proud that I have grown up into someone who says "Yes, let's have lunch!" instead of holding any kind of grudge over those years. She needed space from me then, and now she's ready and able to reconnect. I understand the former and I'm thrilled about the latter.

It was just a purely good thing and I'm so happy to be in the timeline where it happened.
3 August 2015 03:08 - "I'm not your only friend"
rosefox: Lots of hearts with lines connecting them and the caption "Love begets love". (polyamory)
Hey poly parents: my pal T is in a stressful situation and would like some reassurance/info from people who've been there. They're married and newly pregnant (a first, planned pregnancy, which both T and their spouse are very happy about), and worried about how this will affect their relationship with their non-resident boyfriend. The boyfriend was fine with the thought of a hypothetical pregnancy but now is likewise anxious about how an actual baby will change things. T wrote to me, "I think it's tricky for [boyfriend] because he has friends with babies who seem totally swept up in BABY and we don't have models for any poly folk doing this to point to.... I would love to hear about people in a similar situation to mine. I'm sure they must exist more often than not but I don't hear much about them. And so many poly people that I know believe babies ruin relationships/friendships. But I'm sure there must be people with non-parent partners whose relationships stay good throughout."

Any advice or reassurance for these folks?
rosefox: A cheerful fellow with a giant chaotic jumble on a leash. (busy-good)
"My arms aren't that sore, I can totally go to the gym and work with a new personal trainer," I said on Monday.

"Ow, ow ow ow," I said on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.

Arms blah )

Other than my perennially cranky limbs, my health's been very good. I've been moving around enough to keep my knees happy. I don't remember the last time anyone in the house had so much as a cold. My ears are being very well behaved. I have a weird ongoing thing where it sometimes feels like food is caught in my throat, but my ENT checked it out and says it's just congestion.

I finally went to a decent allergist (after years of thinking I should) and learned that I'm allergic to roaches and dust mites; we don't have roaches but we do have a lot of dust, given all the books and all the cats, so I guess that's a good reason to change my sheets weekly, have the sainted Angela over to clean the house monthly, and maybe get an air purifier for my room. I could also get allergy shots but there's no guarantee they'll help, I hate injections, and it just seems like more than I can emotionally cope with right now. Ask me again when I've slept.

Still not caught up on sleep post-RWA. Hoping to fix that this week.

=====

Being good partners )

=====

J went out of town for a week. Every day he was gone, Alex got more and more vocal and unhappy and lonely and affectionate. When he came back Alex glued himself to J and would not leave his side until J went to bed and shut the door. Then Alex plunked down sadly outside J's room, looking woefully at me every time I walked by. Apparently he has decided that he's J's cat. J wasn't consulted about this but doesn't appear to be displeased. He still gets to pick our next cat. :)

The cats are generally getting along very well. There's still occasional chasing and swatting and hissing, but you know, they're cats. Sam and Sophie generally hang out on X's bed all day, grudgingly managing to get within a foot or two of each other. Alex sleeps in my room at night, up on top of the dresser; Sam sleeps on my bed or windowsill.

We still have no idea how they'll all react to the appearance of a baby. We'll figure that out when it happens, I guess.

=====

Baby prep )

=====

And because I totally needed a new side gig while all this is going on:

Introducing Reading While Cooking! [livejournal.com profile] mrbelm and I are collaborating on this literary and culinary advice column. Submit a request with your preferences and restrictions, and we'll recommend books and recipes for you. The first post went up today and we plan to do at least one a month, maybe more.

We're very grateful to the people who have put requests in our queue, since we couldn't really do an advice column without people who want advice. If you want some tasty things to read and eat, send us a request!

It's the first time I've tried using Patreon; so far we have one backer who's pledging a whole $2 per post. :) But it's a start. If we're not profitable by the end of the year, we'll probably consider the project a glorious failed experiment--as so many books and recipes are--and move on to something else. In the meantime, we're having fun.
27 July 2015 05:12 - "Outnumbered a million to one"
rosefox: A zombie from a Nintendo game. (zombie)
The next time I say I can do RWA in NYC without taking time off from my regular work, tell me I'm wrong. Tell me loudly and firmly.

This post brought to you by my very sore arms from doing a whooooole lot of catch-up work tonight, and more to do tomorrow.

Poor arms. I quit PT too soon, I think, or maybe it just didn't do enough good. I've upgraded my insurance so I'm going to try some fancier physical therapists and see whether they can help more. That means commuting into Manhattan but oh well, arms are worth it, and at least once a week I can do it on a day I'd be in Manhattan anyway.

RWA was mostly exhausting. I didn't get to any program items at all. I went to five cocktail parties in one night and two the following night. I skipped the award ceremony, though I watched from home until the livestream cut out (and cheered [twitter.com profile] tiffanyreisz). I felt lost and alone in the sea of people I didn't know. I saw a lot of people I probably know on Twitter but didn't recognize. A few people who knew me from Twitter said hello. I met a few people who were really nice. I hung out with a few people I already knew. I wore my pronoun button and it was consistently ignored, including by people I'd just finished explaining it to. Everything was very white and Christian and het and cis and I felt very uncomfortably marginalized pretty much the whole time, all the more so because my experiences at Readercon were so totally different. Now I'm more wary of going to WFC, where I won't know as many people as I do at Readercon and where there hasn't been a massive cultural change toward treating people like me as human beings, but I don't know whether that's exhaustion anxiety talking.

I got no good sleep last night, and I only know that I slept at all because I had a really unpleasant dream about being sexually assaulted. My SleepBot motion tracker looks like a ventricular fibrillation ECG. I was so exhausted that I burst into tears midday for no reason at all. I pulled myself together to spend a little time with J before he left for a week-long business trip. Then I caffeinated, got work done, went to an absolutely stellar TMBG show (one of the best I've ever seen, approaching the awesomeness of the 2007 Bowery Ballroom shows but with a totally different vibe; once that wiki page exists I'll put my full comments up there), and came home and got in a quick videochat with Josh and did more work and iced my sad sad arms (and my inexplicably sad left thumb--no idea what's up with that). Now it's nearly 6 a.m. and I don't even know what I'm feeling other than all the way through tired and out the other side. But I think I should sleep.
rosefox: A cartoon cockroach in a bow tie counting gold coins. (money)
Okay, folks who've been to the World Fantasy Convention, talk me through why anyone does this.

* $270 for my half of a shared hotel room (Thursday/Friday/Saturday nights)
* $120 for Amtrak tickets if I buy them now, more if I buy them later
* $275 for convention membership (!)
* some unknown amount $55 for the awards banquet, probably comparable to the Nebula Banquet price of $80 (and who knows whether the banquet food can be made safe for people with allergies)
* let's say $150 for food over the course of several days without access to a supermarket and a kitchen

Total: $895 $870. At a time when all costs are seen through the filter of impending babyness.

I can't remember who suggested to me that one's publisher is supposed to pick up the tab when one is award-nominated. I would not dream of asking Crossed Genres to do this thing; they have many better uses for that money. It's not the sort of event that PW would cover, so even if WFC gives press passes (which I'm not sure they do), I couldn't justify requesting one. This is 100% out of pocket.

As far as I can tell, all the membership buys me is access to two tracks of panels and two more of readings, and first crack at banquet tickets (noting that if banquet tickets entirely sell out to members before the con, there's no way for a non-member to get one at the con). I don't really see why I should bother with either. I almost never go to programming at cons except for Readercon*; all cons are barcons to me. If the banquet were some incredibly important part of being a WFA nominee, presumably they'd comp it for the nominees, which they don't. So that cuts $355 $330 off the price right there. $540 looks somewhat more reasonable for a three-day convention. ($620 $595 if it turns out the banquet is worth going to, and if banquet tickets are made available to non-members at the convention.) If I need to drop it further I can go up Friday instead of Thursday, which reduces my costs to $400. As far as I can tell from looking at past programs, award nominees get their pins and are generally fêted on Thursdays, and the whole reason I'm going is to enjoy being a nominee... but is that worth an extra day of hotel and restaurant food? Maybe not.

* I might make an exception for RWA this year, but that's because it's so refreshing to go to a professional conference; the programming is completely different from what we get at SF cons. Incidentally, to give you an idea of why I think $275 for WFC is so absurdly high, RWA's admission fee ranges from $450 to $675 (depending on whether you're an RWA member and how early you buy a ticket), but that gets you 10 full tracks of workshops specifically aimed at professional development plus access to pitch sessions, pro headshots, meals with keynote speakers who excel in their field, and the mass book-signing, in the company of 4000 writers and publishing professionals. That is a professional conference.

The next question is, would it be worth $400 to me to go to WFC at all, even if Long Hidden weren't nominated for the WFA? Because if it's not worth $400 as a barconning attendee then it's not worth $900 as a nominee.

Everyone talks about WFC as a place where pros hang out with other pros. That's cool; I know and like a lot of pros. There are plenty of familiar names on the membership list. I'd be willing to pay $400 for a long weekend of socializing with my friends, and even to pay $620 $595 for that plus being celebrated as the co-editor of an award-worthy book; that sounds like a blast. But to be more specific, people talk about WFC as a place where pros hang out and network with other pros. The only thing I hate more than networking is being networked at. I'm happy to meet people in the field and get to know them, but once networking-minded folks realize that chatting with me won't get them a more favorable PW review, they tend to wander off and find someone more productive to network with. Even if I have lots of friends at WFC, I won't really see much of them if their priority is making connections with people they don't know. This sort of setup is not terribly conducive to me having a good time.

So if you've been to WFC, please do tell: is it possible to do it as a three-day barcon, with actual socializing rather than networking, if one already knows a great many of the people who are going? And if you've attended WFC as a WFA nominee, what was the experience like for you at the convention, especially if you'd never been before?

EDIT: I'm told by a past attendee that one must purchase a membership in order to attend the awards ceremony at all. Even as a nominee. Wow. So that $275 really is not optional. CORRECTION TO EDIT: The WFC chair (whom I'm happy to regard as an authority on this topic) says that no membership is required for the award ceremony; it's open to the public. And the banquet tickets will be $50 to $55, so I've updated my calculations above accordingly.

I have a second post here looking at the cost of attending WFC vs. the cost of attending other conventions for award nominees who wouldn't otherwise go. It's not pretty.
18 July 2015 01:46 - "I will leave and I'll return"
rosefox: A woman's muscular arm. (strong)
Readercon is like my New Year's, in that I say "After Readercon I will totally go low-carb again/get to bed on time/start going to the gym/start meditating again/stick to my daily and weekly schedule". So far I've been doing pretty well on the sleep, and Wednesday and today I went to the gym (trying to get in the M/W/F habit), and yesterday I started Headspace over from day one. I'm still catching up on work but determined to really get and stay on track, and good sleep at good hours is helping with the scheduling. I also ate pasta for dinner and half a bar of chocolate for dessert, so I remain an imperfect human being. It was really tasty and I regret nothing.

Pumping iron, with numbers )

I'm doing Headspace as walking meditation, or on the exercise bike on gym days, so that gets me out of the house and moving around every day. The three of us are also going to try to get in the habit of post-dinner walks on family dinner nights. Yay, solidarity in fitness. :)

So far I think the exercise and meditation is making it a lot easier to calmly wind things down and go to bed when it's bedtime. I have not played a video game in over a week, which is pretty major. I've only had a couple instances of opening Twitter or leaving it open well after I'm supposed to be asleep. Setting up my new phone led to a couple of days of my alarm not waking me (my "sleep" profile in Profile Scheduler+ was blocking alarms, oops), so I've been very well rested if also somewhat late. :) I just need to stay on track.
17 July 2015 23:38 - "Or saving my appetite"
rosefox: A head with challah for brains. (food)
Very important info for people who eat a lot of rice and rice-based products, especially celiac/GF folks:

In January 2015, Consumer Reports put together a major report on arsenic in rice, including recommended consumption quantities for adults and children.

Primary takeaways:

1) Eat grains other than rice (CR's report includes info on arsenic content in various grains); if you really want to eat rice, eat rice grown outside the U.S.; if you really want to eat rice from the U.S., eat basmati rice from California.

2) For once, white rice is healthier than brown rice.

3) Rinse rice before cooking it, and cook it like pasta: use lots of water, and drain the excess water when the rice is cooked.

4) If you eat products made with rice, like GF pasta or rice crackers, check the manufacturer's website for a statement about arsenic testing and/or rice sourcing. There's a good compilation of manufacturer statements here.

I strongly encourage reading the entire report; it's pretty sobering stuff. Please share this info widely.
13 July 2015 00:43 - "We would throw such a party"
rosefox: The Readercon logo flipped to read R F. (readercon)
Readercon in bullet points.

Lots and lots of bullet points )

Last year I cut way back on my Readercon volunteering and left the concom, and I just now sent an email resigning from the program committee and safety committee. It feels really good to be done, and to go out on such a high note.
rosefox: An adult and a child lead a group of people fleeing from disaster (long hidden)
Long Hidden is a World Fantasy Award finalist.

I'm sharing an award ballot with Ellen Datlow, one of the greatest SF/F anthologist to ever walk the earth.

*screams*
*faints*

I wasn't going to go to WFC because X will be seven months pregnant by then, but this is a pretty good incentive, and it is only a train ride away this year. So I've put my name on the membership waitlist and booked a hotel room. I'll get the whole nominee experience! How exciting! I'm anxious already!

Honestly, I'd totally forgotten that the WFAs even had an anthology category. Once the Locus Awards were done I figured that was it. So this was a complete shock and I'm still reeling.

On Twitter, [livejournal.com profile] hrj said, "Eventually you'll get used to having your work recognized." But it's entirely possible that Long Hidden is the only anthology that will ever have my name on the cover. It might even be the only book that ever has my name on the cover. Almost everything I do is behind the scenes, professionally and as a volunteer. So being recognized this way is a big, big deal for me, and not likely to happen again, and I'm going to savor every minute.
rosefox: Green books on library shelves. (books)
Note to self: when books feel like they're somehow too much, too intense or daunting or demanding, you might just be struggling with the idea that you get to have leisure time. You do. Don't fixate too much on the idea of reading, or of choosing exactly the right book, and turn it into something big and complicated. It isn't. Just pick up any good book--the house is full of them, your hard drive is full of them--and let yourself fall into it. It's not a commitment or a chore; it's a pleasure.

Don't do this at 2 a.m., though, or you'll be up far too late reading.
rosefox: Origami boxes. (helpful)
In the past week, fires have started at seven churches in the American South, most of which have predominantly Black congregations. At least three of the fires have been determined to be arson--which is to say, acts of domestic terrorism. Media coverage on this has been scant, and most of the reports that do appear say things like "the events did not appear to be linked"; what they mean is that no single organization or individual appears to be behind all or most of the fires, but that phrasing rather appallingly elides the part where a specific community is being targeted in the context of other recent bias crimes.

An Episcopal church in St. Louis has started a collaborative effort to fund rebuilding the damaged churches. In addition to soliciting donations from individuals, they're asking congregations of all kinds to take up special collections for the cause. Info is here:

http://www.icontact-archive.com/M5YFYDA07SZXyilTdrSHc_yzvu9vHEAs?w=1
https://cccathedralstl.dntly.com/campaign/2571#/

(Thanks to [livejournal.com profile] mactavish for the links.)

Please donate if you can, and spread the word, especially to community leaders who can organize larger collection efforts.

If you regularly read or watch the news, and you haven't seen any coverage of these events, write letters to your favorite news organizations and ask them to cover the fires (ideally using the words "arson" and "terrorism") and to signal-boost the fundraiser. Make sure to mention that you're a subscriber or frequent reader/viewer.
26 June 2015 21:24 - "She's lost from the beginning"
rosefox: Me pulling hair away from my face, trying to see. (confused)
Parental folks, talk to me about planning parental leave. How do you know how long you want to take? Does it ever make sense to save some for later? Should we all take leave at the same time or stagger it? We all have some combination of parental leave and vacation time that gives us each at least 9 paid weeks off in 2016 (the baby's due in early January, which meshes nicely with the benefits year), and have no idea what to do with it.
rosefox: Me blowing out a birthday candle. (birthday)
Ever since I was a wee child, my mother's traditional cake for my birthday has been a vanilla or marble cake with chocolate ganache and "roses" made from raspberries and sugar-frosted mint leaves. I have so many memories of coming upstairs on my birthday morning to see her hovering over wire racks covered with mint leaves, fretting about whether it's too humid and hoping they'll dry in time. (Of course they always do.) There have been variations--square cakes and round cakes, semicircle cakes for my half-birthday, cupcakes the year I had a picnic party, dairy-free cakes (with dairy-free ganache!) after my pernicious allergy developed--but the soul of the cake has always been the same.

This year we're upstate visiting J's mom, so I made sure to buy raspberries while we were shopping for the weekend, and then tonight after dinner I mixed up a vanilla mug cake and dropped in chocolate chips and decorated it with a raspberry and two fresh leaves from the mint plant on the windowsill.



It was exactly as good as it should be: delicious and satisfying, while manifestly not a patch on the original. It'll last me the weekend. Maybe next week she'll make me the real thing. :)

Also, I got the BEST birthday present: getting to watch our proto-baby squirm and flail around on the 11-week ultrasound yesterday. "This one will play sports," the ultrasound tech said as she patiently waited for the wriggler to wriggle around in the correct way so measurements could be taken. X has been superstitiously waiting to use our chosen name for the proto-baby until it felt right (we've been calling them "Kiddo" in the meantime), and apparently seeing them so magnificently manifestly indubitably alive was sufficient to flip the "it felt right" switch. So now I get to call them by their name and that is making me very happy. (We haven't decided how to handle name stuff online yet, so for now they're still FutureKid in tweets and blog posts and so on. Hopefully we'll figure that out before FutureKid becomes ActualKid. :) )

If anyone wants to do anything in honor of my birthday, I ask that you do what you can to make the world safer and kinder for my child and everyone's children. Every little bit helps.
rosefox: A woman holding a bag of groceries. (shopping)
I'm starting to put together a shopping list for babystuff. It's in a Google Sheets spreadsheet. Any experienced parents out there want to take a gander and tell me what I'm missing? If you're interested, leave a comment with the email address I should share the sheet with--all comments are screened--or email me.
rosefox: An adult and a child lead a group of people fleeing from disaster (long hidden)
I dreamed that I was at a convention in a big hotel somewhere, hanging out in the hotel lounge or lobby. Someone said "Oh, the Locus Awards are going on, let's watch!" and everyone turned to watch them on a big overhead TV. I realized that I hadn't asked anyone to give a thank-you speech for me in case Long Hidden won. In the dream there were people who could do Harry Potter–style magic, and so I thought I might be able to apparate over to Seattle, but the magic was like UNIX commands and needed passwords and proper syntax. I kept reading the manual over and over but I couldn't correctly pronounce the uppercase letters. Then I tried to magically transport a candy bar wrapper into a trash can (with accio, I think) and couldn't even do that. I woke up extremely frustrated, and my first waking thought was "Well, of course it didn't work, I didn't have a wand".

My second waking thought was, how do I even know so much about Potterverse magic?!

Also, I should really write a thank-you speech and give it to someone who's going to the awards. Just in case.
rosefox: Batman feeds a baby while saying "We'll both be just fine" (futurekid-yay)
X is pregnant. :D

There is one (1) embryo. So far it appears to be entirely healthy. Due date is early January. We've known for a month and not telling people has been AGONY. But now the news is out!

I will probably discontinue use of the babyfilter and just post under a cut tag--I know some of you folks have zero or negative interest in other people's babythings. Many thanks to everyone who's offered words of comfort, support, and advice over the year of IUI and IVF; it's been a pretty wild ride. But here we are!

:D :D :D
rosefox: In 1813, a lending library clerk discusses books with a customer. (valour advances)
Tuesdays appear to be my writing days. 800 words, woo. :) And I get to introduce Nathaniel and Algernon, which I've been waiting for.


A bit of banter )


Nathaniel does get to banter too, later on. It's just that Eliza and Algernon are both natural wits, and Nathaniel... has other talents.

I'll probably stop posting excerpts at some point but I'm just enjoying this too much not to share it. :)
rosefox: In 1813, a lending library clerk discusses books with a customer. (valour advances)
Shiny new userpic! The typeface is Grit Primer and the image is from an 1813 painting by James Green that was used to illustrate "The Library" in Rudolph Ackermann's Poetical Sketches of Scarborough.



That library is about five times the size of Nathaniel and Eliza's little shop, but it gives you a sense of the space, and the customers. I love this drawing so much.

On Sunday I felt frantic and overwhelmed by overdue work. I spent all of yesterday working my way through the heap and catching up. Which meant that today I could write. And I actually wrote, putting down the opening scene that's been in my head for months. I cannot begin to articulate what it's like to have the text overlaid on the more nebulous mental concept, or vice versa; there are places where it doesn't quite feel right yet, and somewhere in the back of my head (and trying to come to the front, though I won't let it) I'm already writing editorial notes to myself. But: draft first, revise later. I even caught myself starting to revise when I was about 500 words in, and I made myself stop revising and keep writing. And now the scene's done, at about 1270 actual honest-to-gosh words.

Writing at this length is so freeing! There's room for banter, for character development, for delicate lashings of exposition! I can sneak in the occasional reference to obscure historical figures! (I have helpfully footnoted them in the excerpt below.) I plan to write long, long, long, gloriously long, and cut it down later. 1270 words for just one scene--not even a full chapter! Such a luxurious change from reviewing a book in 200. :D

It's a rough draft it's a rough draft it's a rough draft. I will tattoo these words on my eyelids. But since you've all cheered me on so much, you deserve a peek at the fruits of my research, and so I will stop tweaking the damn thing and just post it. You all understand it can and will change between now and whenever I consider the book actually done, right? Right.


A taste )


Positive and supportive comments only, please; I am v. vulnerable around this and not equipped to handle even the smallest and most helpful suggestion. If you think it sucks or you want to go on a rant about people speaking with contractions in 1810 (p.s. they totally did) or you want to make sure I know about the very obscure law forbidding people named Hawthorne from becoming butchers or whatever, I'm sure you can find another place to express those feelings, secure in the knowledge that I will re-research every word of this book once I write those words.
rosefox: A cheerful chef made out of ginger. (cooking)
I actually don't remember how long it's been since the last time I had dairy products. As a long-established dairy-defier, I frequently give advice to people who are reducing or eliminating dairy, and I figure it makes sense to have that info all in one place.

Allergen note
Almost all of my preferred creamy/buttery dairy substitutes are nut-based. I've done my best to make non-nut suggestions for those with nut allergies, but I'm not really an expert on that front.

Equipment note
If you're going to go fully dairy-free, I highly recommend investing in two kitchen tools: a high-speed blender and a food processor. Mine are made by Vitamix and Cuisinart respectively, and I don't know what I'd do without them. These tools will let you easily make dairy substitutes that are tastier and usually cheaper than the storebought ones. A less essential but still useful third tool is an ice cream maker, which will let you experiment with sorbets and non-dairy ice creams.

Shopping note
When buying packaged prepared foods, look for the word "parve" or "pareve" under a kosher symbol. Keeping kosher requires separating milk from meat; "parve" means that something contains neither milk nor meat and can therefore be eaten with either. This will save you a lot of time checking ingredient labels for sneaky things like whey in sandwich bread, casein in shredded fake cheese, etc. Note that parve things may still contain eggs, honey, and other non-vegan ingredients.

Essential reading
The Non-Dairy Evolution Cookbook has amazing recipes for butter, cheese, whipped cream, and other dairy substitutes. Throughout this piece, I'll be referring to NDEC recipes. I've read and used a lot of non-dairy cookbooks, and NDEC is by far the best. That said, note that almost all their recipes call for either nuts or soy as a base.

Now, on to the substitutions!

Milk (for drinking, cereal, smoothies, etc.)
This is totally a matter of taste. Try a bunch of different store-bought milks and see what you like. I prefer almond milk for cereal and soy or hazelnut milk for drinking. Hazelnut milk can be used to make amazing Nutella-like hot chocolate! You can also make your own nut milks in a high-speed blender. I use the NDEC recipe for almond milk, which is just almond meal (aka almond flour) and water, and it's intensely almondy and delicious. Coconut milk (the sort intended for drinking, not the sort that comes in a can) is the best non-nut non-soy option, in my opinion, but some people prefer rice milk. I do like making my own horchata, and should really try it again now that I have a Vitamix.

Proportions for almond milk: 3.75 c water to 1 packed cup almond meal/flour or 5 oz. blanched almonds

Proportions for almond cream: 4.5 c water to 1 POUND (one full bag) almond meal or blanched almonds

Butter (spread)
Earth Balance is the standout spreadable butter substitute. There are many varieties, including soy-free. NDEC has a butter recipe but I haven't tried it yet.

Butter (baking)
Melted butter can be replaced 1:1 with canola oil or melted REFINED coconut oil. (Unrefined coconut oil tastes like coconut. Refined tastes like nothing.) For butter sticks, try Earth Balance sticks, but be warned that they are pre-salted; if you use them, you'll probably want to reduce or omit any salt you usually put in your recipes. Fleischmann's unsalted margarine, which is kosher parve, is reportedly very good for baking, but I'm allergic to another ingredient in it so I can't personally vouch for it.

Cream
NDEC has an excellent almond cream recipe that substitutes well for heavy cream, including whipping up into schlag. Coconut cream—the thick stuff at the top of a can of coconut milk, not to be confused with pre-sweetened cream of coconut for cocktails—can also be put in coffee or whipped. There does exist canned non-dairy whipped cream, but it's quite hard to find outside of hippie specialty groceries.

Crème anglaise
My four-ingredient vegan recipe is here.

Sauce Hollandaise
My recipe is here. (Contains egg yolks, so not vegan.)

Sour cream and buttermilk
The easy way for making ingredients to use in recipes: add 1 Tbsp cider vinegar per cup of cream to make sour cream; add 1 tsp cider vinegar per cup of milk and let stand 5 minutes to make buttermilk. NDEC also has recipes for sour cream and buttermilk that stand well on their own.

Cream cheese
I never liked it, so I couldn't tell you which substitute is best, but NDEC has a recipe and there are a few packaged vegan cream cheese varieties available.

Yogurt
There are many, many soy and coconut yogurts out there. WholeSoy unflavored unsweetened yogurt is the best for cooking, and can be used as a starter if you want to make your own yogurt. I've never been a fan of eating yogurt qua yogurt, but I expect brands etc. are mostly a matter of taste anyway, so try some and see what you like.

Cheese
Cashew ricotta was one of the first substitute dairy products I ever made, and it was life-changing. Soak raw, unsalted cashews for four hours, pour out the water, put the cashews in your food processor, and drizzle in fresh cold water as you process them until the texture becomes creamy and ricotta-like. Add salt to taste. When I use it for lasagna, I process in fresh basil and nutmeg.

Regal Vegan makes a basil cashew ricotta called Basilicotta that's out of this world. Unfortunately, it goes off very quickly. If you buy it, make sure there's still plenty of time before the expiration date, and use it up as soon as you can.

NDEC has superb recipes for a wide variety of cheeses: some for slicing, some for shredding, some for eating by the fistful. I made NDEC's mozzarella with homemade almond milk and it was incredible; the texture wasn't quite perfect, but it was splendid on pasta and pizza, and yes, it melts! It doesn't get gooey, but next time I might add a bit of xanthan gum to help with that. The cheese melts best in steamy/liquid environments, such as when stirred into a pasta sauce. Under direct heat, it will brown but hold its shape. To get an effect like near-liquid melted mozzarella on pizza or lasagna, I recommend shredding the cheese, melting it in the microwave, and pouring it onto the dish. Then bake until browned and bubbly.

Miyoko Schinner's Artisan Vegan Cheese isn't quite as good a cookbook as NDEC, but I do really like her gruyère recipe; it makes killer fondue and croque monsieur. Schinner's recipes frequently call for rejuvelac, which is made by soaking and fermenting grains. It's very easy to mess up rejuvelac and get a jar full of mold. My usual substitute for 1 cup of rejuvelac is 1 capsule (1/8 tsp.) of vegan probiotic powder in 1 cup filtered water. It's not quite as live-culture-y as rejuvelac but it works well enough.

Cheesemaking does take a bit of time and effort; if you're not up for that, try the many packaged shredded cheese substitutes. Lots of people like tapioca-based Daiya cheeses. My personal favorite packaged vegan mozzarella is Follow Your Heart (the shreds, not the block cheese). But homemade cheese is always the best.

As far as I can tell, there is no such thing as non-nut non-soy vegan cheese. If I were to try to make some, I'd probably make my own rice milk and then try it in a cheese recipe, but I don't know how well it would work without the soy/nut protein.

Frozen pizza
My preferred brands are Daiya and Amy's, not least because their pizzas are gluten-free. Udi's and Schär pizza crusts are also GF and DF.

Pre-sliced sandwich bread
Stroehmann Dutch Country whole wheat bread is my preferred brand, but any brand that's kosher parve will do.

Milk powder
If a recipe calls for both milk powder and water, replace the water with your preferred non-dairy milk. I haven't tried powdered non-dairy milk but apparently it exists.

Frozen desserts
I recommend exploring homemade sorbets and granitas before you try tackling homemade non-dairy ice cream. Williams-Sonoma has some good recipes. A Vitamix blender can also be used to turn frozen fruit into frozen desserts; there are instructions for this in the manual.

Once you're ready to make your own ice cream, check out the recipes in Mark Foy's Desserts of Vitality. Almost all of them call for lecithin, an emulsifier that's extremely useful for making smooth, creamy ice cream; you can get liquid or granulated lecithin (and many other useful ingredients, especially for cheesemaking) at Modernist Pantry. Those with soy allergies can look for sunflower lecithin.

For store-bought ice cream, Turtle Mountain brands—Soy Delicious, So Delicious, Purely Delicious, etc.—are consistently excellent. In my experience, all coconut-based vegan ice cream tastes basically like coconut, no matter what else it's supposed to taste like. As a rule I prefer nut-based ice creams over soy-based ice creams, but tastes vary a lot. Try things and see what you like.


What did I miss? Is anything unclear? Ask all the questions you like!
rosefox: "Angsty about it?" "No" "Yes you are" (fussy)
I kind of fell out of the habit of keeping a media log, but I wanted to note this one down. On a random Twitter recommendation, I watched The Brothers Bloom tonight, and really liked the first 75% of it or so. Then it went completely off the rails from my perspective--because I kept trying to see Penelope as a real person, and the movie kept trying to make her a symbol and an object.

I am so tired of this.

SPOILERS etc. )

The person who recommended it saw it as "a straightforward existentialist narrative". (We had a whole long conversation about it here.) So if you like that sort of thing, it's the sort of thing you'll like, I guess. I just found it profoundly frustrating, a word I use way too often to describe movies and books. It's so tiresome. Why can't people write stories that are interesting and complicated and have female characters who deserve to be happy and realize their dreams and shape their lives?

The worst part is that the writer created a really splendid and amazing character in Penelope. She's smart, she's funny, she's interesting, she has a powerful personal philosophy and moral code, she has a wealth of talents. But once he'd written her, he had no idea what to do with her other than objectify her. A criminal waste.

Bah. Bah, I say.

On the bright side, this bit of TBB/The Avengers crossover fic, which hinges on Mark Ruffalo coincidentally playing characters in both films, fixes the ending of TBB in a pretty fantastic (if cracktastic) way. Superhero Penelope! Yes!
12 November 2012 02:36 - "Tasty tasty monster"
rosefox: A cheerful chef made out of ginger. (cooking)
Recipes, as promised!

Vegan gruyère )

Vegan béchamel sauce )

Greek meatballs in olive tomato sauce )

Chocolate mug cake )

Tonight I started a batch of fresh mozzarella and a half-batch of sharp cheddar. (Note to self: half-batches do not have enough mass for the blender to work.) Wednesday my lovely nearby natural grocery will get in unsweetened unflavored soy yogurt and then I can make meltable mozzarella! I was never this excited about cheese back when I could have dairy, but right now it seems like the most exciting thing in the world. That croque monsieur made my week.
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