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On Having Lists

As writer and a dyslexic one at that, I am all about organizing, categorizing and filing. I have piles and lists and scraps of paper with important tidbits written on them. I have notebooks, and binders, folders and loose leaf paper by the sheaves. It’s something we do naturally as humans, we find ways of categorizing things, putting them in groups for easier assimilation by the computers in our heads. And it’s a tricky thing, because the slot we put things into isn’t always the ideal one, but we do our best, and as long as we remember that this is a tool and not a hard and fast rule, we’ll do okay by it.

My husband and I watched Avengers again this weekend, second time for him and third time for me and I was struck anew by the excellence of the movie. I commented that this movie is now on my top ten list of all time favorites and he agreed. It was a throw away line in a way because while I was sincere, the meaning of what I had said didn’t really sink in until I was laying in bed this morning, luxuriating in warm husband and warm blankets.

How would I really make a list of my favorite 10 movies of all time? What criteria would I use? Over all excellence of story telling? Most compelling characters? Most immersive? Could I count whole trilogies as a single entry? Star Wars and Lord of the Rings would make my list, as would all the Indiana Jones movies and right there I’ve used up nine slots and there are other movies I would just have to add. The Dark Crystal, The Dark Knight, and The Last Unicorn come to mind, so how to choose? Heck, I would toss Gladiator on there too if I had room simply because I love so much about that movie that I re-watch it regularly. And the beleaguered Sucker Punch as well. Honestly I like everything Zack Snyder has done. When it comes to mood and sheer artistry, that man is amazing.

See the problem I’m running into now? Too much good stuff to choose from. So maybe I’d have to break it up by genre and pick my top 10 that way. But what about those movies that straddle the line? Like Starship Troopers, which yes, I love because it’s awesome. I could put that in Sci-Fi or satire. I guess, since my satire list would be light and Sci-Fi brimming with entries I could put it there, but is that fair? Aren’t I playing games with the lists now? And they can’t really be definitive because tastes change, new movies come along that shuffles the whole list around and just time of year can effect how I’d rate them.  Star Trek IV is still my favorite Star Trek movie and sometimes I forget about it because it’s so old.

So in the end, I guess I don’t have a top ten, I just have a list in my head of movies that I love. I’ll call that enough, because for me it really is. Putting them in order is less important than being able to articulate WHY they are on the list in the first place. And yes, Inglorious Bastards is on my list too. My husband likes Kill Bill more, but I think Inglorious Bastards and Django are better. I mean come on, any movie that can make a scene of people drinking milk so tense you can’t breath has got to rank. And they killed Hitler! (fan girl moment)

I can tell you that I am old enough now to follow directors and writers and here’s my list. Nolan, Tarantino, Whedon, Snyder. I’ll see anything these guys touch, even tangentially. Somehow this post went off the rails there. Sorry, but it is Sunday after all. Stay tuned for meringue cookies later in the week. And my flash fiction, which will have the word Hitler in it. There, all tied together, even if the knot is super messy.

And Chinatown is a terrible movie.  Just terrible.

 

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Cashew Noodle Salad

If you have never tried this dish, then you are not living life to its fullest. My mother and I discovered this dish years ago at a health food store in Memphis TN. It was part of a fondly remembered Saturday morning trip we took every few weeks. We’d get up early and go to a bakery that made chocolate cherry bread, a bread so popular they’d sell out in an hour or two of opening and only made for the weekend. And it was an old style peasant bread, heavy, dark cocoa colored and thick, with warm chunks of bitter sweet chocolate and dried cherries. served warm with butter, it was sheer ambrosia for the chocolate dependent. Yes, duplicating that recipe is on my list, never fear.

After that we’d hit the health food store, pick up some sushi if they had some fresh made and a quarter pound of cashew noodle salad. Served cold, it was rich and creamy with bits of chopped cashews, buckwheat somen noodles and hot pepper. It’s best when it’s just hot enough to make you tear up. I can’t eat it that hot anymore, because my lips now puff up like I’ve been stung by a bee, but if you like hot food, try it hot. If not, it’s still wonderful without the heat.

3.5 teaspoons peanut oil
4 teaspoons sesame oil
2 Tablespoons plus 1.5 teaspoons tamari soy sauce (If you are sensitive to salt, then use light soy sauce, it works fine)
3 Tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon cashew butter
1/2 buckwheat somen cooked, rinsed in cold water
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
3.5 Tablespoons unsalted cashews chopped
1/4 cup green onions or chives.
fresh ground pepper to taste
*I have made some modifications to this recipe for various reasons which I’ll explain with the pictures. I would also like to note that this recipe does not list salt. That’s because there is plenty in the soy sauce, and you can always add salt, but you can never take it away if you add too much.

Cashew Noodle Salad 01 photo Cashewsalad01_zps56d44b31.jpg

In a small saucepan combine oils, soy sauce and cashew butter.

Warm on low heat and stir until it all melts together. It might look like gritty, but that’s fine, that happens with mine because my cashew butter isn’t as finely smoothed as peanut butter is.

Set the pan aside and chop the nuts, or you can do what I do and just smash them up in a ziplock bag with the butt of a knife.

Add the somen noodles, chopped nuts, pepper flakes (I only use 1/8-1/4 teaspoon of the pepper) and onions to the cashew paste in the pan. Mix until well combined and the noodles are well coated.

If you want a lower calorie option or if you are going for gluten free, grain free or any other variant on that theme, then try kelp noodles. I found them at my local health food store and while they are a bit stiff and odd fresh out of the package, a night in the cashew mixture fixed that right up and they were delightfully tasty. Using them reduced the calories per 1/4 batch from 440 to 255, so that was quite a win. While I do love buckwheat somen, this recipe doesn’t suffer from the loss because you don’t really taste the somen, you taste the cashews.

Put the whole thing in the fridge and let it sit over night. You can try some fresh, but it’s a let down and really needs that time to let the flavors meld and it’s better cold by far.

Enjoy!

 
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Posted by on March 11, 2013 in Food, Just to be Random, On a Personal Note

 

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Flash Fiction

I’m not getting a lot on the writing front done, which is quite typical of me really.  I have an inner critique that could make Simon Cowel look like someone’s dotting grandmother talking to her favorite grandchild.  I will often not proceed with any project that I don’t think, on some level, I can do well.  It’s a paralyzing thing, and I am working on.

Okay, flash fiction.  That’s what I’m doing right now.  While I think about what I want to do next, pick up an old project that I’m probably not competent enough to write yet and do any justice too, or start something a little more simple, I’m doing some flash fiction.

I like it for a couple reasons.  First is that it’s short and fairly easy to do, without the rigors of long plotting, world building and character developing sessions.  Second, it keeps you writing and with the word limits, keeps your writing tight.  It teaches you to drop the extraneous word clutter that slows down the reader and bores them to tears.  Everyone could learn to write lean.  Third, and perhaps my favorite reason, my inner critique is SILENT when I write flash fiction.  I don’t worry about messing it up, I don’t care if it’s good or not.  Well, I care if it’s good, but I’m not concerned about ruining a long, arduously built world and story.  If it comes out being terrible, it’s okay, I haven’t wasted months on it and I’m not going to have to spend a month trying to fix it.

Reason four, I don’t mind sharing it either.  And here’s the picture I used as a prompt.

Flash Fiction 03-07-2013

Lacruse put one steel shod foot on the rail and looked up, trying to ignore the sweat running down his back. The tree was enormous, not only the largest he’d ever seen but beyond what he’d imagined possible. It was as big around as the walled city of Padfeal and was rumored to hold more people. The forest that grew around it looked more like clumps of tall flowers than proper trees.

He wiped a gloved hand across his damp forehead and took in the shallow lake, mazed with roots from the monster that reached to the shores like drunken bridges, allowing access from every direction. People in simple, colorful clothing walked them, burdened like pack mules. They looked a lot cooler than he felt in the thick, humid air.

The first level of the Great Tree Dwelling was visible, the sun low enough to reach it and set its brightly colored decorations to glowing even from across the water. Blue lights that hung in the darkness of the upper levels winked through the leaves reaching up and up, out of sight.

And the whole damned thing was completely indefensible.

He kept his face neutral, betraying nothing to the natives around him.

“Gentke, how high is the city from the water?” he asked his translator and official leason.

The dark eyed young man considered. “Dry season now, so six men, maybe seven.”

“The dry season?”

Gentke nodded, fingering a bright yellow and blue feather that adorned his much thinner and far more comfortable looking shirt. “Rains flood the lake in two moons time. Will be much higher then.”

He ignored the impulse to take off his helmet and throw it in the lake. “How high does it flood?”

The native pointed to a passing tree.

Lacruse looked, running his eyes up the trunk, along the thin tendrils that reached to the water from it like roots. Twenty feet up the tendrils disappeared and the trunk became smooth bark, like any tree. He felt relief flood him. No army would have enough boats on hand and then he realized that there weren’t any boats on the water around them. They’d taken a boat from the highlands, this wasn’t a native vessel.

“Do you have boats that you use in the rainy season?”

Gentke blinked. “No. Only fishing men need boats.”

“So you stay in the city in the rainy season?”

Gentke looked up at him as if he were a child asking if the sun would come up tomorrow. “No.”

Lacruse felt his face flush in the tropical warmth and asked, teeth firmly clenched. “But you don’t have boats. How?”

“The branch-ways.” He pointed up at the huge branches that radiated out from the trunk. They were easily as large as the roots and he thought he could just make out small shapes moving along them.

“Where do they go?”

“To the high places.” He said slowly and nodded to the hills that rose around the lake.

The Lord Protector of the great highland kingdom of Rarimor wanted to laugh. In the dry season an army could walk to the city along the roots and in the rain they could walk along the bloody branches.

He closed his eyes and with great deliberation unbuckled his armor. The breast plate fell to the wooden floor of the boat with a clang, followed closely by the back.

Gentke looked on with interest while his man servant looked horrified and came running to collect the piece. He grinned. “Come on Fourt, help me get the rest of this mess off.”

“Sir.” The man said with a bow of his head but his tone clearly said he thought his Lord was touched.

“Gentke,” Lacrouse said, shucking out of a boot with a sigh as fresh air cooled his wet clothes. “I hope you might provide me with clothes in the style of your people?”

Fourt made a strangled sound behind him, but he ignored it.

Gentke grinned. “You will be more comfortable.”

“I’m begning to see that.”

“Fourt, bring me a fresh set of clothes.” He looked down at the heavy wool of his shirt and frowned. “Make that a fresh set of under clothes. Anything else would be foolish in the extreme.”

“Sir?”

“We aren’t in Rarimor. I have three moons, maybe less to try and defend this place. I think I should learn about it first.”

“I did not think there was wisdom among the mountain people. I am glad I was wrong.” Gentke said.

Lacrouse laughed.

 

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2 eggs and Bacon!

Ah, the first day of being able to eat fats again was a glorious day indeed. I looked forward to it like a child…okay like I look forward to Christmas. I dreamed of the foods I would be able to eat, I thoughts about them every waking hour of that last week and in fine fashion, I made things before I could even eat them, just to be ready you understand. One of those things was pimento cheese. Now I lived in the south for a number of years, but I never had pimento cheese. It wasn’t made in my house, because we’re from New England and such things are not made in the homes of the cold north. But while trolling YouTube for tasty things to fantasize about eating I came upon this video about a chicken fried hamburger of all things. And while the burger itself looks really good, I fell in love with cheesy goo he put on the burger. So I set forth and made it!

Now, when I first make a new recipe, I follow the directions and don’t adjust anything, I write notes about things to change when I’m done. So this is the recipe in the video, thought there are things I will change about it, but I’ll cover those at the end. Here’s the recipe I used.

Pimento Cheese (Original)

16 oz shredded cheddar cheese
1 Cup Mayonnaise
7oz jar Pimento red bell peppers chopped
1 Tablespoon fresh chopped parsley
1 Tablespoon fresh chopped cilantro
dash of cayenne paper
juice from 1/4 of a lemon
fresh ground black pepper
dash sea salt

Pimento Cheese 01
I put the cheese in a bowl, added the parsley that was already chopped from the night before and then chopped things.

Pimento Cheese 02
These things are pretty slippery so cutting them was a bit of a pain. Next time I’m using a food processor on them!

Pimento Cheese 03
Everything’s chopped, measured and added. While I do prefer to use my own mayonnaise, I find that Safflower mayo is incredibly tasty and a good alternative to the crap made with the horrible-for-you canola oil that every other mayo on the planet is made with. It also has no sugar in it, which is key for me right now. And why is there sugar in mayo anyway?

Pimento Cheese 04
This looks really nice just like this, but I found it to be a little runnier than I would like, so I strained some of the mayo out and saved it for later.  And traditionally you whip it up in the food processor, which I ended up doing to make some pimento cheese sandwiches for entertaining friends. I was a little jealous since they got to try it before I could even eat it, but it was a big hit. One of the guys is gluten intolerant so I served it up to him as a dip with corn chips and he found that to be an excellent solution. He also said it was better than the stuff he used to get as a kid, and while I’d like to take credit for that, I can’t. I’m pretty sure the cilantro and parsley are the key to this recipe.  And the mayo.  Seriously, if you haven’t tried safflower mayo, you should.  Just saying.

Pimento Cheese 05
And finally I get to eat it! I put it on my eggs and it was very good, though a little too salty for my taste, and that’s saying something on this diet. I’ve never been one to eat what most people would consider a normal amount of salt. Most things made for me by someone else, such as in restaurants, tends to be too salty. On this diet, I was craving salt like it was illegal. And this was too salty, so in future I would not add salt. And I would cut the mayo by half. This lowers the salt further, but also gives the mixture a firmer texture that would make using it as a sandwich filling a great deal easier and cuts some unnecessary calories as a bonus. And I do like it enough to add it to my recipe box.

 

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Bicycle seats weren’t made with lady bits in mind.

I was reminded of this fact last night. When I joined my gym, I had been biking around the neighborhood for the last month or so. My bike has one of those really big squishy seats with the short…protrusion. That made my first round of spin classes a little less traumatic, since I was far more used to the tiny torture devices they put on exercise bikes and expect us to use.

I was reminded painfully of that fact. I took my first spin class after a seven month hiatus and my lady bits are not pleased, and my butt isn’t speaking to me right now. I had completely forgotten how awful they are. By the end of the class, I stopped doing the sprints altogether and just focused on staying on the bike til the end of class.

Men generally have much smaller butts than us women, which accounts for the extra trim width of the seat. And they have a muscle running from the…bum button to the base of their…man bits which acts as a cushion between the seat and their hipbone. Girls don’t have that muscle. Nope, just a bone and lady bits. With all our weight on that tiny seat, which do you think suffers? Exactly.

There are seats out now that are made by Schwinn and I’m going to get one, bring it to class and install it on my bike of choice for the duration of the class. At the end, I will replace said torture device for the next sap to use. I’m already there to beat myself into a quivering sweaty mess, I don’t need to kill my ability to sit for a week while I’m at it.

 
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Posted by on March 11, 2011 in Just to be Random

 

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Raw Milk > Vitamin C

I started drinking raw milk late last year, some time between Halloween and Thanksgiving. It took a tiny bit of getting used to, it costs more and I can’t get it at my regular grocery store.

But it is worth it! Since I’ve been drinking it, I feel so much better. I drink more milk, get hungry less often and I haven’t had a full cold or flu all winter. It’s better at cold prevention than vitamin C. Normally I get sick at least twice for a good week because of my husbands job. He spends his days in an office which is bad enough, but he also teaches other engineers how to use engineering software a week or two most months. Those other engineers come in sick all the time, being very generous with their wonderful diseases. So he brings it home, and we get to content with the little viruses for a few days. We can feel it coming on a day or two after exposure, a vague feeling of unwellness, fatigue, a slight fever. We have this for a day or three and then we’re good. No runny nose, coughing, sneezing, aching, stuffy headed misery for a week. Now, I’ve had to have days like that four or five times this year, but it beats the hell out of being sick for four or five weeks this year.

I’ve always been pretty healthy, but there was a notable change in our health this year when every year before that I would get sick at least once, but usually twice. And the Hubby usually gets sick far worse, loosing days of work to this nonsense. Part of it is recognizing it early and taking precautions, such as taking a day off to sit at home eating, sleeping and watching movies, so our bodies can fight it off. That helps a lot. better one or two days down, than a week or more of misery. We also let the low fevers rage without medicating. The body is trying to kill the virus and they do that by cooking them out, let the fever go!

But even with all that, this year has been clearly far more disease free. How does raw milk help you ask? Part of it is that raw milk has live bacteria and enzyme that take up residence in the digestive track and help out there, making you far more resistant to other nasties. Those new tenants also break down the milk far more efficiently so your body can actually use whats in the milk. The other part is that raw milk is very high in Vitamin D, which we are low on in the winter months. Pasteurized milk kills the good microbes and homogenization changes the molecular structure of the milk, making it far harder for the body to absorb the good stuff in it.

And the benefits of milk fat are enormous. It helps cut down on the amount of fat you store in your belly, mine is noticeably flatter now, it’s a good fat that the body can use for energy, skin and hair moisture and it has a lot of the vitamin D the body needs and calcium.

Pasteurizing made sense when we didn’t have refrigeration and bad stuff got in the milk, but it’s become the way to go, even though it isn’t really necessary anymore. If anything, it allows the dairies to be less clean because they are just going to cook the milk anyway. The farm my milk comes from is clean, has only grass fed cows that are the older genetic lines, and their milk is amazing. Pasteurized milk just tastes gross to me now.

 
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Posted by on March 9, 2011 in Just to be Random

 

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When authors cross the line

I’m a big fan of Nora Roberts’ In Death series. I’m not huge on her romances, but that’s a tough genre for me and my standards are a bit on the niche side. Still, her writing strength is her snappy dialogue. She writes some of the best in the business in my opinion. It’s like the witty repartee in a good movie only it last through the whole book. And she has a really good sense of humor as well. The relationships Eve develops through the series are really the center of the story, and flow through and weave together the various murders that we see her life through.

I’ve read them all, including short stories, except the latest one. Waiting for the audio book version from my library, and I have to say that the narrator for the series, Susan Erickson, is amazing. She sounds just like I would expect Eve to sound. Sorry, couldn’t help the plug. I’ve been re-reading them over the last few months and I’m noticing a trend, one I’m not really on board with. It seems that in the later books, Eve is starting to get, dare I say it, almost worshiped in each book by the other characters.

The character of Eve has a lot of issues. Fine and dandy, I’m all for that and she spends the series working through those issues, also good. But at some point the other characters in the book are giving her too much praise for things. It seems that in every book at least two people go into a long monologue about how great Eve is and how something she did was just so deeply touching to them. Not just her husband, which is fine, or her best friend, but most of the supporting cast has had this kind of conversation with Eve at least once. This I have to call BS on. People just don’t have those kinds of conversations with each other on a regular basis. These are the kinds of conversations you would have maybe twice in your life. They are deeply revealing conversations that leave you open emotionally to the person you are talking to. Eve isn’t the kind of person you would bear your soul to, because you’d expect her to make a very cutting remark in response. To her credit, she doesn’t, but still, not everyone she knows would take the risk.

If someone saves your life, you’d thank them, sure. Probably profusely the first time. After that, it would be a more simple expression of thanks, not several long, heart felt and gut spilling conversations. Conversations that go only one way in most cases. Eve just acts flustered and embarrassed by the compliments and rarely responds in a positive way. Which makes perfect sense for her. It’s the other characters I wouldn’t expect this from.

It just seems like overkill in a couple spots, like the author is really feeling an emotional bond with her main character, seeing some of herself in the character, or who she wants to be in her character. Nothing wrong with that, all authors pour some of themselves, and some of the selves they want to be into their main characters. It’s the heaping of praise upon this MC in a way that strikes me as heaping such praise upon the self you wish you could be that seems off. Unrealistic and heavy handed. It’s not narcissistic, it’s just uncomfortable for me to read at times. It feels like I’ve just walked in on a couple making love. Too intimate and it takes me out of the fantasy and to far into the author herself.

And it kind of feels like seeing that girl who’s wearing the tee-shirt that proclaims that she’s ‘hawt’, or the mother who gets a license plate that says MILF on it. (Yeah, I’ve seen that plate. More than one I’m afraid.) There’s nothing wrong with being confident, but that takes it a step too far. You can not declare yourself to be hot. You can think you look hot, but you can’t go around telling everyone else that you are. It seems really pretentious and people feel a bit insulted by someone taking it up on themselves to tell you how you are to see them. Who can stand the guy who tells everyone he’s the best on the football team? Who likes the prom queen who makes sure to work that into every conversation? Let everyone else make up their own minds and we won’t be embarrassed for you. And no, I’m not jealous. I have days when I feel pretty hot and I tell my husband and he’s happy to tell me I’m right. And he’s supposed to, but I don’t go to the 19 year old guy at the mall and tell him I’m hot. He might not share that opinion.

I could be reading this wrong, that’s just how it’s striking me. It’s a line and I feel it’s starting to get crossed. Let me decide to love or hate Eve Dallas. Don’t tell me how to think of her, show me who she is, and I’ll decide for myself.

 

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