's last day in print is TODAY. *sob* If you want to make my final royalty check a nice big one and benefit We Need Diverse Books while you're at it, buy your copy now
. (The bundle with Hidden Youth
is an especially sweet deal!)
A couple of months ago, I joined the space_swap
fic exchange and wrote a 7500-word story about Steven Universe and the Gems going to the Empire City Polyamorous Families Conference
, because once I got bitten by the idea it would not leave me alone. The story is about figuring out how to be happy even when you feel weird and different and alone. It's also a wry love letter to all the polyamorous folks and communities I've known, with their joys and flaws, and has a blink-and-you'll-miss-it alt.poly shout-out. The tags include "fusions use they/them pronouns" and "I didn't mean to write an entire episode". (In fact, I was actively trying not to write an entire episode. But I couldn't really do the idea justice in a shorter space.) It's the first work where I've ever gotten past writer's block by outlining and I am extremely proud of how well I outlined it and stuck to my outline and pulled it together.
The only snag is that my gift recipient, for whatever private reason, declined the gift. I've been really sad all week that no one was enjoying the story and I couldn't promote it because author names hadn't been revealed yet. My only goal with fanfic is to make people happy and it stung to have that rejected. So now that the anonymity period is over, I would really appreciate any of you Steven Universe
fans taking a little time to read the story
, leave kudos or a comment if you're moved to do so, and share the link with anyone who might like it.
I grew a plant from a seed. It is a tiny adorable little plantling, visibly larger every day. It will, in theory, grow up to be a great big nasturtium bush. I'm just astonished that a little dry seed can turn into a little plant that can turn into a big plant. It's the same astonishment I feel when I watch my child practice standing up and remember that they used to be a little white dot on an ultrasound. Like... how?! But that is how life works, somehow, some amazing way.
Our repotted basil is also growing so well that I may need to set up some sort of trellis for it. I used to feel too protective of it to actually eat any of it, and now I'm eagerly pulling off the big leaves so that the smaller ones have more room to grow.
It has been a rough few weeks of mostly bad sleep and occasional panic attacks and arm pain and not going outside enough—not just because of the unseasonably cold wet weather, though chilly rain does not encourage me to take walks—but there are many good things. I just want fewer unpleasant things, is all.
EDIT: Apparently my gift recipient has sent some people over here (or they came over just because they felt like it) to explain how and why my gift was not the correct gift, and some of them have left useful comments and some have not. I appreciate the useful ones and am now disabling comments on this entry.
Yuletide reveals are revealed! My stories this year were "Two for Tea"
, a Questionable Content fluff-fic about Faye and Bubbles opening a tea shop with Hannelore as their tea sommelier, and "The Odds"
, a mashup of both* Ghostbusters
films and Daniel José Older's Bone Street Rumba books, in which Holtzmann and Reza make out on the firehouse roof and Patty and Winston join the battle against the corrupt Council of the Dead.* 1984 and 2016. There are no others.
Both stories were pinch hits. I've been on the list for ten years but this is the first year I've actually done anything with it, which is ridiculous! "Two for Tea" was done within seven hours of picking up the pinch hit; I got the central idea right away, and the only question I had was whether to do it as a story or as a series of scripts for comics. Then I started writing it as scripts and it worked and I went with it. When it was done it was done, minimal tweaking, totally painless. I am desperate for some Questionable Content fan artist to illustrate it.
While I was in fanfic mode, I started thinking that it would be fun to do a Holtzmann/Reza crossover sometime. Then a Holtzmann prompt came across the pinch hit list and I leaped on it.
"The Odds" took me a week, including pretty extensive workshopping. It was a really good week. When I reached the 1500-word mark the first night and realized how much more story I had left, I was a little daunted, but I kept going and kept going. One night I hit the wall of tired that usually means I need to stop for the night, and I thought "I'm not actually that tired, I bet I can write more" and I wrote another thousand words. I want to bottle that feeling.
Every time I needed inspiration, I found it somewhere. Of course there were some factual things I had to research—Baptist funeral customs, double underarm holsters, what kind of nuclear physics people do at Berkeley and how many women are in their physics PhD program, what the roof of the Ghostbusters firehouse looks like—and I reread Midnight Taxi Tango
and rewatched Ghostbusters 2016
to study character voices and make sure I had my references right. But to my eyes the story is one long litany of other nods: to the original film and the awesome backstory for Winston that was cut from it, to Daniel's phenomenal word-portraits of Brooklyn and of black women building amazing lives for themselves (it's not coincidence that Patty has to leave the Ghostbusters world for the Bone Street Rumba world to find fulfillment), to a friend's experiences as a female physicist and other friends' experiences of being neuroatypical and hard of hearing, to someone I knew once who is way too much like Kevin, to my own queer New York life before and after my years in California, to the early days of my relationship with X, to my collections of books on urban history and astrological phenomena, to what it feels like to be building a happy life on the brink of a troubled era, and to my beloved city. I personally recommend every one of the Chinatown restaurants named in the story, by the way, and Ginger's is a pretty good place to shoot pool and chat up queer ladies. And if you're in Lower Manhattan in the summer, you'd better hope a thunderstorm comes through and makes it smell nice for a bit.
Being on vacation was essential
. If I'd had work on the brain I don't think I could have sat down every evening and written a couple thousand words. Of course, if I hadn't been on vacation I wouldn't have been picking up pinch hits.
I was really nervous about the amount of AAVE in the dialogue and ended up haunting #yuletide and emailing people on the beta list and even spamming friends of mine in search of a native speaker who had the time to read a 6500-word story right before Christmas. (I did eventually find one.) I'm also not the biggest GB2016 fan and know nothing about how Holtzmann fanfic is typically written, so I found more betas who could cover that. Then one of the betas pointed out that a black woman having nothing to do except set up her white friend with a love interest was a racist cliché, and she was totally right, so I wrote the Patty and Winston scene and that made it 8000 words. I did a lot of nitpicky revision, pass after pass after pass, and made my last update about two minutes before the archive opened. And then I spent something like 24 hours feeling high as a kite on accomplishment. IT FELT SO GOOD. The writing, the critting, the revising, all of it just felt amazing.
After the bulk of "The Odds" was done, I beta-read a bunch of stories for other people, which was fun and a good use of all my post-writing energy. A long time ago I gave up on the idea of writing groups, but I had such a great experience both beta-reading and being beta'd that I started thinking maybe I should reconsider that stance.
When I came down off the high I started poking at my original fiction projects and immediately froze up. I don't know what it is about prompted, tight-deadline fanfic that frees me to write so fluidly. I hope I can figure out how to write other stories that way, because it felt so good and I want to feel that again. I'm not one of those people who feels coerced by the muse; if I don't enjoy writing, I don't write. But I enjoyed writing these stories tremendously and want to enjoy writing Valour
that much too. There must be a way to do that, right? Even after work picks up again? I really hope so.
Tonight I went to a civil rights speak-out organized by Jesse Hamilton, my state senator. I wasn't sure what to expect, but it was actually really useful!( Politics )
Hamilton is going to start holding monthly civil rights task force meetings, which I plan to attend. He said the next one is going to be specifically queer-focused. It's really nice to see non-queer people doing these things.
Bonus: a high school acquaintance was there and recognized me, so we caught up a bit and swapped contact info and like that. So I got everything I wanted out of it and then some.
A month and a half ago, I stumbled across this link
on changing habits, specifically with respect to nail-biting. I figured I'd give it a try, since I've been a lifelong nail-biter and absolutely nothing has gotten me to stop for more than a week or two at a time. I didn't bite my nails at all the week that Kit was born, so I knew it wasn't a stress response; it was something I could be distracted from, or too busy to do. Habit reversal training seemed like a good match for that.
I identified my nail-biting trigger: rough skin, corners, bits that stick out or catch or feel not-neat. I dug back in my brain for the self-observation techniques I learned from Headspace
and practiced observing myself as I noticed the roughness and felt the urge to gnaw it smooth. I redirected the urge into filing or moisturizing, or just sat there with it and experienced the feeling without judgment. I treated it the way I treat Kit trying to punch themself in the eye: "I see that you want to do that. I'm not going to let you do that. I will hold your hands as gently as I can while not letting you use them that way."
Within a month I'd entirely stopped biting my nails. Entirely. I wasn't even using my thumbnails as sacrifice nails. The urge itself is gone. Now I can put my fingers in my mouth or fidget with my nails and not want to bite them.
Two weeks ago I got a manicure, with beautiful iridescent beetle-wing-green nail polish. A week ago I got another one because I use my hands all the time and no nail polish is going to last for long--but I didn't gnaw any of it off. As I type this entry, my nails click on the keys. This is a very annoying feeling, so I'm going to get another manicure either tomorrow or Friday and get them filed a little shorter this time. I can see a near future in which I become one of those people with a fancy nail polish collection, though I will always prefer having someone else do my nails to doing them myself. emilytheslayer
has promised to put nail wraps on me at Readercon, and I might try making my own nail wraps with nail polish
or origami paper
, as it seems easier than painting directly onto my nails (which I am spectacularly bad at).
I'm very lucky that my nails grow very fast and are thick and strong and healthy. If my nail beds weren't so short, you'd never know that I used to bite them. I hope that if I leave them just a little longer than I actually want them, over time the nail beds will regrow--though it's hard to know whether that can even happen after 30 years of biting.
Meanwhile, on the front of forming a new habit rather than breaking an old one, I've flossed my teeth every single night for almost 28 weeks, with the exception of the night X was in labor. That one I did by keeping a tally in dry erase marker on the bathroom wall--dry erase markers write very well on shiny white tile--and telling myself that if I missed a night I'd have to erase my entire progress and start over. My goal was absolute compliance. (I feel entirely justified in giving myself a pass on the single exception; it was an exceptional night.) This is a pretty hard-line approach, but I'd previously tried simply tracking my progress as a positive incentive and it wasn't quite effective enough; it had worked for getting me into a twice-a-day brushing habit, but flossing eluded me. Obviously, the longer my streak went, the less I wanted to break it, and the combination of increased practice and increased incentive was very powerful. After meeting my initial goal of 26 weeks I stopped keeping the tally, but the habit appears to have stayed. It's now just a thing I do.
It feels really good to be the sort of person who works on self-improvement at age 37, and is successful. I'm glad I didn't give up on myself. And I'm really looking forward to bragging at my dental check-up on Friday. :)
Tuesday evening I went out to see Laura Miller interview Peter Straub (which was delightful) and when I got home the baby was bigger. It's so surreal when this happens. It's not just illusion, either. Kit has a favorite onesie (well, it's our favorite; the baby doesn't care) that only has snaps on one leg, and suddenly getting the other leg on is a lot more difficult than it used to be. I think we've got another couple of weeks left in these three-month clothes and then it's on to six-month ones.( Babbystuffs )
Every time a longtime friend visits and meets the baby, I say "Look at me! Look at all this!" with some bewilderment, and we agree that back when we met we had no idea this was where we'd end up. Tuesday was my 15th self-wedding anniversary and I had a similar conversation with myself.
I still vividly remember writing down those wedding vows in my dream journal, back in my slightly shabby room in the mint-green Jersey City house. It was two months before my nervous breakdown but I was definitely already feeling the strain. My lease was coming up in March, I was moving to California in June, in between I had grand and rather daunting plans to tour Europe with my mother and then take a train across the country for alt.polycon, my relationships were coming apart at the seams, my physical health was precarious, being prescribed the wrong dose of Zoloft had completely fucked me up mentally, and I had a job but no career and savings but no goals (other than the move, which ended up entirely consuming those savings faster than I could have thought possible). I knew a lot of things in my life were broken and I had no idea how to fix them.
Making vows to be good to myself--as good to myself as I was to my partners--was an essential first step on the road to making things better, the road to where I am now. I'm in a beautiful house with a wonderful family, my mental and physical health are the best they've been in my adult life, my relationships are rock-solid, my job and career are deeply satisfying, and we're almost done paying off our debt. I've had a lot of good fortune, no question, but there's also no question that I got here because I insisted on loving and valuing myself and continually reshaping my life into one that made me healthier and happier.
In mid-2000, as my mind and my life were slowly falling apart, I wrote this little ditty:
I am here and all is well
And all the world can go to hell
As far as I'm concerned
There's one thing that I've learned
Standing on your own two feet
You beat a path along the street
Sometimes you walk alone
I'm okay on my own
There are people in my life
Though I may never have a wife
But I think that's okay
I'm living day by day
Moderation is the thing
Though I may never be a king
But that's all right with me
It's better to be free
If I never have a throne
I will always have a home
I carry it inside
A place where I can hide
Someday I would like a cat
Perhaps a house and all of that
But that's a ways away
I'm living day by day
No matter if I walk on glass
Or concrete or green growing glass
Don't mind if I'm alone
'Cause I'm on my way home....
I've been singing it a lot lately, with a smile. Here I am, living in someday. It's even better than I dared to imagine. It's true that the particulars aren't quite what I might have predicted, a decade and a half ago. But I have a cat, and a house, and all of that. And even though it's nothing like what I expected, it's exactly what I wanted.
- thinking about:
behavior.accomplishments, behavior.love, body.health, events.anniversaries, experiences.history, mind.wiring, people.kit, people.my wife, places.home, words.songs, words.songs.day by day
Here it is mid-October already. The time, it does fly.
This is what we've done so far in October:( Long list is long )
Not included on there is all of us having day jobs (including big projects/crunch time on all fronts), date nights, hobbies, chores, constantly working on being a better family (improving conflict resolution, practicing asking for things we want and need, supporting one another through our various anxieties around pregnancy and birth and parenthood), etc. Fortunately the list for the second half of October is slightly less daunting.
is on my lower back, about 5 cm by 2.5 cm, and totally benign. It's been there for years and years. I wouldn't even bother having it removed except that it does get a very little bit bigger every year and is starting to occasionally ache a little, which means I'm going to have to have it out eventually. Better to do that now while it's moderate-size (which means a quicker procedure and faster healing) and while I'm not picking up a baby all the time (stitches on my lower back = no lifting heavy things for a couple of weeks). So there will probably be an outpatient procedure for that sometime in November, whee.
On the hobby front, I've been obsessing over annotating the Hamilton lyrics on Genius
; just putting the subject line on this post reminded me of an annotation I'd wanted to make and suddenly it's half an hour later. (I've so far resisted the siren song of annotating every TMBG song ever, because a) I do not have time and b) no, really, I don't have time. I permitted myself to mark up "Vestibule"
and that is it.) (For now.) I've also been growing some nice virtual succulent gardens in Viridi
I finally finished knitting a pair of baby booties, and I'd like to try making a blanket or sleep sack next. The booties were pretty tough on my arms but I'm hoping working with larger needles will be easier. Now I just have to survive the rampant gendering in the comments of every single Ravelry pattern for babies. THE BABY DOES NOT CARE WHAT COLOR THE SLEEP SACK IS. Anyway, this looks cute
and I might try to make it, maybe using this technique
for ribbing to see whether it makes me hate ribbing any less.
I've turned in my Best Books list for 2015, which in theory means I can read for fun now, but I have no idea what I actually want to read. Maybe I'll reread some old favorites.
It's very firmly fall now. Right now it's 40F outside. Inside, the heat's come on, but I haven't put plastic over my window or taken out my air conditioner yet, so there's still a bit of a draft in my room. The cats think this is the best weather ever, and have been super cuddly. Sam keeps walking all over me. Alex usually avoids X's bed, which is Sophie's territory, but the other day X woke up from a nap to find all three cats hanging out on the bed together (though all carefully positioned at the maximum possible distance from one another). Even the usually aloof Sophie sat on J tonight while X and J and I were cuddling! We were all completely astonished.
Our early wintergift to ourselves was heaps of warm clothing from L.L. Bean: robes, slippers, flannel shirts, insulating undershirts, a fits-over-the-bump winter coat for X, all that lovely stuff. I got a Black Watch plaid flannel nightshirt that goes down to my knees and it's the best thing ever. I think I'm going to snuggle up in it and go get lots of good sleep.
- thinking about:
behavior.accomplishments, body, body.health, body.skin, experiences.books, experiences.reading, experiences.seasons, experiences.seasons.autumn, experiences.theatre, experiences.theatre.hamilton, experiences.work, food, food.cooking, people.cats, people.josh, people.kit, people.xtina, places.home, projects.crafts, projects.crafts.knitting, stuff.books, stuff.clothes
Today I:( did a lot )
I'm making this post because I still feel like I didn't get enough done today, and X suggested I write it all out to prove to myself that I did. I guess the real problem is that there's still so much to do. We have a plan for doing it, and that helps a ton, but the bulk of it won't be done
for another few weeks.
J was an absolute hero today. In addition to making the pot roast and doing all the dinner cleanup so I could rest my arm, he hauled book boxes out of the baby's room and into his room, moved all the flatpacked pieces of baby furniture into the baby's room so our library/hallway no longer looks like an IKEA warehouse, and took two more boxes of giveaway books down to the curb. I'm hoping that having the furniture out of sight will help keep it out of mind until friends descend upon us on the 25th for moving and building things. Having it heaped in the library was definitely stressing us all out.
Hopefully my arm will be better tomorrow and I can do laundry. That always makes me feel calmer. Who knows why.
- thinking about:
behavior.accomplishments, behavior.domesticity, body.arms, body.hands, experiences.driving, experiences.housework, mind.feelings, mind.feelings.restlessness, mind.wiring, mind.wiring.anxiety, places.home, stuff
Today the three of us got up at what X calls "fuck o'what in the morning" and endured a seven-hour advanced child care and infant/child CPR and first aid course. We are now all certificated for the next two years. Maybe when the cert is up we'll hire someone to do a CPR training party for us and our local child-having and child-caring friends. (Thanks for the idea, and_rayna
Major props to X for doing the course while six months pregnant. They needed help getting down on the floor with the CPR dummies and getting back up again after, but they did those chest compressions like a champ.
Today would have been my grandfather's 100th birthday. I think he would have been very proud of how I chose to spend it.
I took Celebrex before and after the class, and brought an instant ice pack that I slapped on my right arm the instant the class was done. Real ice followed when we got home. Thanks to these precautions, my arm is only in moderate agony. Chest compressions are hard work
. I have been forbidden from doing laundry tonight; I hope I'll be able to do some tomorrow. Mostly I need socks and underwear, which are easy to load into the machine and don't require folding, so I think I should be able to manage that.
Right now, maybe another round of ice on both arms--I always forget that my left arm gets just as inflamed but is quieter about it--and then a whole lot of healing sleep.
Today, after months of planning and stress, we spent three hours surrounded by friends and family at what was unquestionably the best baby shower of all time. We are so lucky to have so many wonderful people in our lives. <3 <3 <3( Party report )
J's uncle took a great picture of the three of us:
Yes, X's belly has a name tag.
After the party, J and X and J's mom went home, and I went to a TMBG concert, because I have interesting priorities. It was an Apollo 18
show! How could I pass that up? ( Show report )
The show ended in time for me to catch the totality of the lunar eclipse, which was very cool. And then I came home and smooched my beloveds and patted my cat and drank some water and left the heaps of gifts and cards to deal with tomorrow.
Wednesdays are often slow work days, and today was especially so. That suited me fine. I don't fast or take time off work for Yom Kippur, but I try to observe it as a quiet, low-key day.
So after I finished my work, I put on sunscreen and took my laptop out to Prospect Park. I had a picnic lunch, honoring my grandmother's scandalous custom. Then I opened up Scrivener and reread everything I'd written so far, and decided to tackle the scene where Nathaniel comes out to Algernon as trans.
Whoof, that was a hard one. Usually I can write 1500 words or so in a couple of hours. Today I wrote just over 800 words in two hours before J met me for dinner, and then another couple hundred just now to wrap it up. I know I can fix a lot in revisions, but this scene is so important to get right, because of how it influences their relationship development and their own individual stories. J and I talked it out a bit and he reminded me of the importance of maintaining dramatic tension, which is good, because of course I personally don't want to leave Nathaniel hanging for a minute
, but it is kind of important for the book's arc--and for character accuracy and historical authenticity--if Algernon isn't perfectly understanding and cool with it from moment one. So I wrote the ending I wanted the scene to have, and then I cut that ending and put it in a separate file to attach to a later scene where Algernon (spoilers) decides he really doesn't mind if his boyfriend is a somewhat unusual boy. Poor Nathaniel, and the poor reader, will just have to endure the wait for that scene. (Fortunately there are plenty of other things that can happen in the meantime.)( A snippet )
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.
- thinking about:
behavior.accomplishments, body, body.arms, body.body clock, body.exercise, body.legs, body.pain, body.sleep, body.strength, events.cons, events.cons.readercon, food, food.nutrition, food.nutrition.carbohydrates, stuff.games, stuff.games.video games
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.
- thinking about:
behavior.accomplishments, behavior.hosting, behavior.planning, behavior.volunteering, body.arms, body.body clock, body.digestion, body.legs, body.pain, body.sleep, events.cons, events.cons.readercon, experiences.dancing, experiences.driving, experiences.fun, experiences.joy, experiences.socializing, experiences.transit, ideas.feminism, people.family, people.friends, people.josh, people.kit, people.xtina
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.
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, 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.
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
Tonight we hosted a Rosh Hashanah dinner for my mother, her inamorato, and my brother (who ended up working late and didn't arrive until dessert--his loss). It was the first my-family holiday dinner hosted by someone of my generation, so we wanted to make it extra special.
The menu:Pomegranate sangrias.
Alcoholic: Sauvignon Blanc + pomegranate juice + honey. Non-alcoholic: white grape juice + pomegranate juice. I just happened to have frozen pomegranate arils*, so I put them in an ice cube tray, filled it with pomegranate juice, and made ice cubes that wouldn't dilute the sangria as they melted. These were a big hit.* Having written this, I think I am no longer allowed to tease my mother about the time she said, "Of course you can come over for dinner, I just happen to have roasted a turkey."Apples and honeys.
This was set out for people to nosh on while we finished cooking. The Ginger Gold apples, from our local greenmarket, were peeled and cut into thick circular slices, and the core sections removed with a heart-shaped cookie cutter. We had dishes of pohutukawa and blue borage honey from New Zealand (brought to us by auntyglory
), buckwheat honey from New England, and Brooklyn wildflower honey from regyt
, whose hive has supplied our Rosh Hashanah honey for years now. We served the apple slices and honey on small dishes laid out on a carved wooden tray, all filched from J's stepfather's apartment in Osaka.
Dinner was served with dishes passed at the table, very comfortable and cozy and informal.Chicken stewed with apricots and autumn spices.
We based this on the Moroccan chicken stew that was such a hit at Arisia. Six pounds of chicken thigh filets from the neighborhood butcher, one yellow onion, a great many quartered apricots, homemade chicken stock flavored with Balinese long pepper and dosed with honey and lemon juice, and a spice mix of sweet paprika, za'atar, cumin, ginger, urfa-biber, ground coriander seed, and cinnamon. We cooked it all together until the chicken was falling apart, and then I shredded the meat by hand and returned it to the pot, where it happily soaked up all the broth. The texture was very similar to pulled pork. We served it garnished with toasted silvered almonds and chopped parsley, with lemon wedges for those who felt like lemoning it a bit more. It was incredibly rich and delicious.Sweet noodle kugel.
A very basic recipe, with cashew ricotta and almond cream + cider vinegar and coconut oil substituting for cottage cheese and sour cream and butter, and Jovial gluten-free egg noodles. It was mostly custard and raisins, with noodles more for the sake of tradition than for flavor or texture. My mother arrived while it was baking and said the house smelled like Cinnabon; I'm pretty sure this was a compliment.Maple-glazed carrots.
Carrot coins with a glaze of maple syrup, Earth Balance, cinnamon (this was a very cinnamon-heavy meal), and fresh thyme (though not NEARLY enough of it; I blame myself). I love this recipe, but it was completely drowned out by the considerably more complex flavors of the chicken. Oh well. It'll be great to snack on.Cruciferous vegetables.
Broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts, tossed with olive oil and salt and pepper, roasted for half an hour, and garnished with fresh pomegranate seeds. Simple and perfect.Greenmarket salad.
My mother contributed this: long beans, watermelon, pears, micro greens, picked watermelon rind, some other delicious things. It was a lovely refreshing finish to the meal.
Dessert was delayed while we waited for my brother to arrive, and it's just as well because we all ate a whole lot of dinner and needed some time to digest it. Apple crumble with vanilla ice cream.
More Ginger Golds, tossed with cornstarch and sugar and (all together now) cinnamon, topped with chopped oats and gluten-free flour and almond meal and brown sugar and a bit more cinnamon because why not. The directions say "Mix topping with coconut oil until it resembles wet sand" and that's basically what it was still like when it came out of the oven with syrup bubbling up all around it: delicious, delicious sand. Of course we do make twice as much topping as the original recipe called for. Anyway, it was phenomenal, and we had Häagen-Dazs Vanilla Bean for the dairy-eaters and Soy Delicious Purely Vanilla for me and X, and I had a second helping even though I was super intensely full.
Our agenda looked basically like this:
08:00: X and J get up.
09:00: J goes to the farmer's market. X lets in Angela, our superb house cleaner.
11:00: R gets up.
12:00: EVERYONE EATS LUNCH. NO EXCEPTIONS. (Cooking while hungry is a bad, bad idea.)
13:00: R and J start cooking. X naps.
14:00: Angela leaves.
15:00: R and J take a break. X cleans up.
16:00: R and J go back to cooking. X sets the table.
18:00: R and J take turns showering and getting dressed while cooking continues.
19:00: Guests arrive.
20:00: Dinner is served.
22:00: Everyone go hoooome.
We didn't stick to it precisely--we started cooking at 12:30 because we were all energized, and for a while we were way ahead of schedule so we took more breaks--but dinner was on the table at 20:02. I am very, very proud of that.
My mother and D left at about 22:30; my brother stayed and chatted with me for another hour or so.
I think X ran the dishwasher four or five times. Maybe six, counting the current load. J and I cooked together splendidly, as we always do, and whenever we sat down for a bit, X whisked in, tidied up, and whisked away again. The three of us are such a phenomenal team. We were relaxed and happy the whole time, joking and smooching and smoothly navigating around one another. I don't think a single cross word was spoken all day.
My mother was thrilled and impressed, and she stayed at the table the whole time--no bustling in the kitchen!
My feet hurt and my back hurts and I ate too much and I'm basking in the glow of getting exactly the holiday dinner I wanted.
The subject line is what jamessacorey
said when I claimed that J and I had made almond mozzarella. But we did! Here's photographic proof:
And here's what it looked like on pizza:
Yes, it shreds and melts, thanks to the magic of kappa carrageenan, though it doesn't get stretchy (I'd have to add xanthan gum for that) and it doesn't love direct heat. I made that pizza with 10 minutes in the toaster oven preheated to 450F followed by 4 minutes under the broiler, and it came out fine. But when I put slices of the cheese (not shreds) on top of bread and toasted it, with the toaster oven starting out cold and heating the toast from both above and below, the cheese got an odd sort of thin crinkly skin on top, though it was lovely and melty underneath. It had only started to brown slightly when I took the toast out, but I'm sure it would brown well if given the chance.
It is far FAR better than any storebought vegan mozzarella I've ever had. The flavor is perfect, milky and mild. The texture is a little solid, almost rubbery; it would be perfect for something like deep-fried cheese sticks but it's not quite right for eating on crackers. There's a "buffalo mozzarella" recipe that cuts the carrageenan from 4 tsp to 3 with all other proportions the same, and I might try that next, since I still have some almond milk in the fridge.
Oh yes, this is made from homemade almond milk: almond meal + water + Vitamix + 2 minutes. (I love the Vitamix so so so much; very grateful to auntyglory
for that housewarming present.) So the complete and total ingredient list for the cheese:
Tapioca starch (aka tapioca flour)
Refined coconut oil
Lactic acid powder (lemon juice can be substituted)
That's it. And making it was pretty simple, though it required some elbow grease (provided by the mighty sinboy
): blend the non-acid ingredients*, heat in a nonstick pot over medium-low, stir frequently until it goes through the curdled stage and becomes glossy and goopy and thick (and reaches 175F internal temperature), remove from heat, rapidly mix in acids, pour into a mold and let cool, put in the fridge to set. I keep it wrapped in paper towels to absorb excess moisture that gradually rises to the surface, so the cheese gets firmer over time.* The recipe recommends blending everything except the acid and the oil and adding in the oil in the pan. This doesn't make sense to me, since the Vitamix can emulsify the mixture far better than a person could manage by hand. Maybe the oil becoming fully incorporated into the mixture would be a sign of cooking progress? Still, I should probably try it the way the recipe recommends, to see whether that affects the cheese's texture in some way.
In short: chemistry is pretty incredible. And delicious.
The recipe is from The Non-Dairy Evolution Cookbook
, which is nonstop amazingness from cover to cover. The book is inexplicably self-published; I don't know why it isn't being brought out by a trad publisher and marketed the way Miyoko Schinner's Artisan Vegan Cheese
was, but the only place to buy it is from the author's website
. So if you're interested in making your own vegan cheese (and butter and whipped cream and sour cream and all sorts of other fake dairy products), please support awesome queer vegan self-publishing chefs and buy a copy. I recommend the PDF edition, which is full of seriously impressive photos.
Now to decide what to make next: mild cheddar or Swiss. The Swiss calls for extra-dry vermouth, and I'm not sure we have any... must check with J, who's in charge of the liquor cabinet.
A freelance check came in, so I bought men's pants! Men's Wearhouse was having a two-for-one sale and the 31–30 slim fit 100% cotton slacks fit me perfectly. Another gap in my wardrobe has been filled.
Tonight J and I made lentil soup and then I made mint chocolate chip ice. Both came out reasonably well but could have been better. ( Recipes behind the cut. )
Ever wonder whether something is really as awful as you remember? X and I watched Blues Brothers 2000
tonight. It is actually more
awful than we remember. Considerably more. That said, we're now very inspired to hunt down some good live music when we're in New Orleans for World Horror/Stokers Weekend next month. (Will you be there?) And it turned out she hadn't seen the video for "Q.U.E.E.N." so we rectified that as soon as the movie was done, and that made the world considerably better.
Last weekend I got both my inboxes down to zero, and I've kept them there all week. I have also been way WAY more productive at work and more relaxed at home. (I read a book--no, two books! I watched two episodes of DS9
!) I don't think this is coincidence. I really had no idea how much stress I felt looking at unanswered things in my inbox until they weren't there anymore. Now I tab to my inbox, smile, and feel like I really get to choose what I do next--no pressure, no stress. I recommend this highly. (I explain my process in the comments on the DW version of this entry
After consulting with my therp, I'm tentatively planning to go off the Zoloft once Readercon is done. (The timing is not coincidence.) I'll wait a month to make sure I'm doing okay without it, and then try very carefully drinking some flavored tea and see what happens.
Readercon stuff is not actually that stressful right now, because we're in the part I love best: collecting data and building the program. I'm also organizing a really exciting thing for Saturday night that I hope will be stupendously awesome. Yay for friends who know what they're doing and can reassure me that my plans are feasible and unlikely to become "a clusterwhentwopeopleloveeachotherverymuc
h". Yay for feeling much better about trying this new-to-me thing now that I've actually got the ball rolling.
I wonder what I will do with all my free time and energy once Readercon is done. I'll still be on the concom and progcom and safecom, but I'm stepping down as program chair, and that's a huge weight off my shoulders. I don't go dancing anymore, and even if I took it up again, I wouldn't volunteer to nearly the extent that I used to (if at all). I don't cook for Arisia anymore. I have Long Hidden
to co-edit, but that's a freelance project and I'll do it in freelance time. For the first time in a long long while, I will have no unpaid volunteer gigs to occupy me.
Maybe domesticity will be my next thing. It's what I most love doing right now: bustling around the house, talking with X and J about household projects, cooking, building and buying things, having people over, family time. More of that would be really nice.
Maybe I'll knit more, read more, do a better job of keeping up with the rewatch.
Or maybe I'll just improvise, be spontaneous, do whatever I feel like doing. I'm not very good at spontaneity, but the only way to get better at it is to make space for it.
Augh, is it really getting light out? I am not doing very well with sticking to anything resembling my sleep schedule. Having a week off from work isn't going to help with this. Oh well.
- thinking about:
behavior.accomplishments, behavior.organization, behavior.planning, behavior.volunteering, body.body clock, events.cons, events.cons.readercon, experiences.drugs, experiences.drugs.zoloft, experiences.movies, experiences.music, food, food.cooking, food.cooking.ice cream, food.cooking.soup, food.cooking.soup.lentil, food.recipes, stuff.clothes, stuff.tech
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.
- thinking about:
behavior.accomplishments, food, food.baking, food.baking.cake, food.baking.cake.chocolate, food.baking.cake.mug cake, food.cooking, food.cooking.cheese, food.cooking.meatballs, food.cooking.sandwiches, food.cooking.sauce, food.cooking.sauce.bechamel, food.cuisine.vegan, food.nutrition.dairy, food.recipes, stuff.books
Today was a fucking epic rockstar day.
1) I slept. Not a ton, but it was good sleep and I got up feeling well-rested.
2) I did every single thing on my to-do list plus two things I had forgotten to list, and every part of the day that was about timing went like clockwork.
3) I bought plane tickets for the London trip!
4) I went to lunch with zia_narratora
, and ate spicy curry, and my ear unblocked! And the curry was yummy and the conversation was too. Tea is such a lovely person.
5) I had exactly enough time for a haircut between lunch and workout, and Yelp led me to a great barbershop. My head is finally fuzzy again! Five weeks between haircuts is really way too long.
6) At my workout I did PUSH-UPS. And TRICEPS DIPS. And they felt so good that I did them again. And I still had enough arm afterwards to high-five Chelsea, the awesome trainer I've been working with. (I also had a less fun moment when I was doing a lot of core work, which means tensing my abs--those very same abs that I have carefully taught myself to deliberately relax as an antidote to panic attacks--while leaning against a balance ball. Being literally wobbly amplified the emotional wobbly and I had to take a breather. Chelsea was lovely and brought me water and then stepped out of the room so I could center myself. I sat there and thought, Well, I have paid $85 to have this studio for an hour, and if I want to spend 20 minutes of that hour crying I can do that. But I don't think that's how I want or need to spend that money and time, so let's keep going.
We did and it was just fine. So I call that a net win.) Chelsea even gave me homework, so I can keep working out my arms in between sessions. I cannot even explain how exciting this all is. I never thought I would do another push-up, ever. Today I did thirty of them! From the waist, not full-plank, but still. Tremendous.
7) I edited 4000 words of the book I'm working on.
8) "At some point I must try Julia Child's chicken waterzooi," I said
, and tonight I did, since J and X and I were dining with friends who weren't interested in fish. The creaminess of it reminded me of many years ago when Mi Cucina on Hudson & Jane was a good restaurant and served utterly sublime pollo y rajas con crema with wonderful crispy cubes of potato (if there's a name for those in Spanish, I don't know it), so crispy potatoes became our side dish. We drank Thomas Henry chardonnay
, with which I promptly fell in love--glorious notes of caramel!--and sopped our bowls with French bread and it was very, very good.( Crispy potatoes )( Chicken waterzooi )
Both recipes supposedly serve four, so we doubled them. They just barely served six. Fortunately the waterzooi is intensely rich and we had bread as well as potatoes, so no one went hungry.
(recipes crossposted to omnomnom
Afterwards we went out for gelato. I am so full, my goodness.
Many thanks to our hosts d_aulnoy
(who shopped) and schrodingersgnu
(who helped with cooking) and our dining companion vschanoes
(who cleaned), all of whom made delightful conversation as we stuffed ourselves. What a marvelous evening.
9) I briefly entertained the Gnubaby and felt only somewhat awkward and at a loss. This is an improvement over my usual interactions with babies. I am not a native speaker of baby, but X is planning to have one in a couple of years, so I'm taking every opportunity to learn. (This is an extra reason why I'm really looking forward to hanging out with my friends in London who are parents, and especially the poly parents.) The Gnubaby was getting a bit tired-cranky, but I distracted him by tapping his shoulders in waltz time, which worked very well. d_aulnoy
says we can come over and practice baby anytime we like, and I think we may take her up on it once X is out of crunch mode at work and J and I are done traveling.
10) On the way home, J and X helped me sort out some of my feelings about charging for advice. More on that in another post.
11) I brushed the cats and now they are all sleek and soft. Well, Sam was already soft, but now she's softer. Java's getting lazy and arthritic in his old age and he doesn't always crane his neck all the way around to lick his back, so he gets mats there sometimes, and I like to brush them out. He tolerates it. Sam doesn't need the brushing, but she loves it and boofs the brush and purrs like a Harley and is all cuddly after. They are such good kitties.
And now I have stayed up far too late reading the archives of "Scandinavia and the World" because I sent the link to schrodingersgnu
, so I will feed the kitties and pass the out.
- thinking about:
behavior.accomplishments, behavior.planning, body.arms, body.ears, body.exercise, body.hair, experiences.joy, experiences.socializing, experiences.travel, experiences.work.freelance, food, food.cooking, food.cooking.potatoes, food.cooking.stew, food.cooking.stew.waterzooi, food.drinks, food.drinks.wine, food.recipes, mind.wiring, mind.wiring.anxiety, people.cats, people.children
Horchata v0.6b: near-complete success!
1) Make cinnamon infusion. Bring 4c water to a boil in a small pot or pan with a tight-fitting lid. Place 2 heaping teaspoons of ground cinnamon in a disposable paper tea bag and put it in the water, holding it in place with the lid. Boil ten minutes. Discard the tea bag. (DO NOT squeeze it to try to get the last of the liquid out. You'll end up with shreds of wet paper and cinnamon all over the place.) Take the infusion off the heat, let it cool, and store it in the fridge in a container with a tight-fitting lid.
2) Make 1:1 sugar syrup. Put equal parts sugar and water in a pan, bring it to a boil, and whisk until the sugar completely dissolves. Immediately take it off the heat, let it cool, and store it in the fridge in a container with a tight-fitting lid.
3) Make the horchata base. In a blender, coarsely grind 1.5c white rice and then .75c slivered blanched almonds. You want to release the rice starch and almond oils, but you don't want to turn them all the way into powder. Place the ground rice and almonds in a two-quart glass jar. Pour in 4c boiling water and .75tsp vanilla extract. Stir with a long wooden or plastic spoon (carefully--the jar is full of boiling water!) and store in the fridge. Check it twice a day; if the liquid layer on top is still mostly clear, give the jar a good shake and put it back in the fridge. When the liquid layer has turned cloudy white (which will take a few days), it's ready. The longer you leave it, the thicker it will be, so patience is definitely rewarded here. When you can't bear to wait any longer, strain the liquid into a bowl through a regular strainer. Rinse out the jar and strain the liquid back into the jar through a fine strainer. You should end up with about 3c of horchata base.
4) Make horchata! To the base, add .75c cinnamon infusion, .25c sugar syrup, and 2c cold water. If you want it more cinnamony or more sweet, adjust the proportions. To avoid over-diluting, a good rule of thumb is that the total volume of infusion, sugar syrup, and water should be about equal to the total volume of horchata base. Remember that horchata should have a milky texture, and err on the side of less dilution as it's served over ice and the melting ice cubes will dilute it further. Store it in the fridge.
I say "near-complete success" because a) I used 4.5c of boiling water, which I think is too much; b) I strained it after two days and the liquid wasn't quite thick enough yet; and c) I over-diluted it while trying to figure out the cinnamon infusion proportions. But I think the recipe as given above should work basically perfectly.
The third quadruple batch of vegan chocolate cakes is in the oven. I am AWESOME.( Vegan chocolate cakes, four at a time )
This cake has a nice crust on top, almost brownie-like, and is fairly fluffy and very chocolatey. To my taste it's quite sweet; cutting the sugar by a third would do it no harm. It goes brilliantly with raspberry jam or other tangy fruit.
I suppose I should have something other than cake for dinner.
Doing four pans at once makes this super-quick! Managing a dozen batches of brownies tomorrow should be no problem. I heart my lovely DeLonghi mixer, I do. Now off to write up an ingredient list.