Thursday, December 4, 2014

This post has no theme except: hey! time is passing.

A couple days ago I wrote this post about all the stuff I was going to do in November. Only it wasn't a couple days ago, it was a whole month, and now November has gone and done a disappearing act.

NaNoREADMo count: 1.5 books. Pathetic really.

Research: more productive. Except now the book in question has decided it's something else entirely. Typical.

Thanksgiving roundup

Miles driven: ~220
People seen: >40
Food consumed: lots, and then more lots (including an entire meal of desserts)
Illnesses acquired: 2 (one for me and one for the boy)
Fun: had

Also there was a very minor car accident (but don't worry, mom! it doesn't even count as a fender bender, and it was in no way whatsoever my fault).

Now we're home and diving straight into December and chaos and "tis the season." (A rather frigid dive, if you ask me. Too much rain.) Tis also the season, apparently, for teething. All four of my son's molars are coming in at once, and they are as brutal as everyone says. All those people who told me sleep gets better after the first year? A bunch of lying liars who lie, I'll tell you what.

But despite the absolute mess I have become after several nights of being awake from 3:30 to 5:30, or rather because of it, we get such comedic gems as this one last night:

My husband: Where's the baby monitor?

Me: *Heads to desk to fetch it. Sees phone.* Oh! Almost forgot to charge my phone. I've been forgetting everything today. Left my purse in the car when I went to CVS. Luckily there was nobody behind me in line so I could run and grab it. *Returns to husband.*

Him, with barely-contained exasperation: Um... the monitor?

Sooooo that's how things stand in the Lockwood house. Happy December, and if you're looking for a quick, humorous read, check out my agency sister's post from Monday. It was right up my alley.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Confessions of a Collector

So here I am, sitting at my keyboard, having a debate with myself. It goes a little like this:

Me; Do I really want to tell people that I, um... do that thing?

Myself: Sounds like time for a true confession.

Me: Now that's just silly. All sorts of people do it! That's like "confessing" to having a piece of chocolate after dinner.

The thing in question is World of Warcraft. Yes, I play. And yes, it is a tad embarrassing if only because it's the big behemoth of MMOs. While I loudly proclaim my love of gaming, I tend to keep a lid on my enthusiasm for WoW. It's not like one of those Korean games that you play "for the artwork" or whatever. It's a guilty pleasure--the sort people can get addicted to. As a friend of mine put it: "it's that awful ex you keep going back to."

Nevertheless, I play, and I have to admit I kind of love it, particularly right now. The latest expansion came out last week, and it's the most fun I've had playing the game since I started years ago. (With several long breaks between then and now (she hastily added).) What makes it so good?

Well, a lot of things, but in particular, for me, it's the collection aspect. World of Warcraft capitalizes on the human instinct to collect, in the past through pets, gear and achievements, and now through a new feature that allows the collection of "followers"--non-player characters who assist your character.

Though I wouldn't say I'm a hoarder, I do like to collect things, and sometimes those things are a bit strange. Books, ink stamps, key chains, crocheting yarn--those are all pretty normal. Toothbrushes, not so much. (Ostensibly they are for cleaning, but I'm not exactly the most meticulous of housekeepers, so really, there isn't much point to them.)

Anyway, in musing on these things, I got to thinking: can I tap into that instinct to collect in my writing?

Books delve into so many other human desires. We love to fall in love, thus Romance. We love self-description, thus the appeal of the Hogwarts Houses in Harry Potter or the magical Ajahs in Wheel of Time.

Surely there are books that resonate with our passion for collecting. Isn't that a staple of fantasy, to go on a journey searching for various items to complete a quest? The signs in The Dark is Rising come to mind.

And yet, I can't think of any books that give me the satisfaction of collecting vicariously through the characters. I'm wondering why that is. Have I not been reading the right books? Or is that feeling just too difficult to get across on the page?

What do you think?

Thursday, November 6, 2014

The Strange Beast Called November

It's November, everyone! That lovely month of good food and festive feeling and not quite hating winter's guts yet.

Who is doing NaNoWriMo? Who is wishing they were doing NaNoWriMo? Who is lamenting that NaNoWriMo even exists? (I see you, Patrice.)

Personally I've just finished editing a final-ish draft of a new book, and I'm not quite ready to write the next one, in a month or otherwise. So no NaNo for me. Instead I find myself in the challenging but optimistic position of not knowing which of many tasks to take on first.

Exhibit A: Reading!

If I'm not writing a book this month, maybe I should take some time to read a few extra books. I started off strong with Maggie Stiefvater's The Dream Thieves (which was just as good as I was hoping), and now I've gone and picked up four more books at the library today. Three are by authors I already know and love (including Clariel by Garth Nix!!!). The other was an impulse grab. If I do nothing but read, maybe I can get through all of them before they're due in two weeks. But that's not likely because of...

Exhibit B: Research!

I absolutely have a new book in mind to get started on writing, but the trouble is, there are a lot of historical elements that need investigation. What do 17th century Holland and 1920s Appalachia have in common? Well I'm not spilling the beans on the answer yet, so I'll have to leave you in suspense. If you do have an answer of your own though, leave it in the comments. I'd love to hear it!

Exhibit C: *mumble mumble*

[Super secret project here.]

And if that weren't enough, there is, after all, a holiday at the end of the month. Happy November!

Friday, October 24, 2014

A Writer Mom's Guide to Housekeeping

So I have this friend who is a wonderful housekeeper. She has three kids of her own and is nanny to a fourth, and she is great at balancing motherhood and cleaning.

Today on our baby group page she posted this handy little cleaning chart:


Now I'm not such a great housekeeper. I maintain that I am a writer and a creative, and therefore I have other priorities, but sometimes that's more excuse than reality.

The real truth, in all its laughably awful glory, is that I generally go by this simple flow chart:

There. Now you know. And if you never want to come to my house again, I understand.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Adventures in Food Land

I used to be the sort of person who would walk past the kitchen aisle of a store and have no interest in it. My tastes have always been a bit like my personality: plain and unassuming. I grew up a very picky eater of the "less is more" mentality when it came to flavor.

Turns out, though, that there was hope even for me of developing a passion for food. Some food, at least. Well, two types of food: Italian and desserts. And where there's passion, there's suddenly an interest in related gadgetry. (Doesn't hurt that kitchen toys are now so cute and colorful.) Which in turn means that the percentage of food prep items on my wish list has steadily increased over the past few years.

Luckily for me, my family has been known to indulge me from time to time. For my birthday a few months ago I got a bunch of nifty kitchen toys, and I've slowly been putting them to good use.

Experiment #1: Pasta

My father-in-law's family gave me a wonderful book recently that has been the source of much culinary delight in my household. It is Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan. Her basil and garlic tomato sauce is so easy and soooooo delicious. I tried it out with store-bought pasta at first, and I thought the result was the most amazing thing I'd ever tasted.

But then! Oh, but then. My dad's family gave me a pasta maker for my birthday, and I used it (on my birthday, in fact) to make a batch of spaghetti. (I had a bit of help from visiting friends.) Paired with the sauce, the pasta was beyond incredible. It was a revelation! I was completely enraptured.

Me, super excited about using my shiny new toy.

Experiment #2: Truffles

Chocolate-making has been an interest of mine for even longer. I started off with marshmallow fudge bonbons, as described here. Slowly I've progressed through peppermint fondant candies, along with orange and almond flavored. (I collected a double boiler and candy thermometer along the way, gifts from my mother-in-law.) So I was pretty psyched when my dad and step-mother also gave me The Art of the Chocolatier by Ewald Notter.

I picked up a few molding trays and set to work on one of the simpler recipes in the book: chocolate truffles. Here's a shot of the assortment I made for my church's annual tailgate:

Personally, I liked the extra dark chocolate the best.

Bonus: Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cupcakes

For my son's birthday I made a lion cake with cupcakes for the mane.

In hindsight, buying a whole bag of Twizzlers
just for the mouth and whiskers was a bit much.

When I was finished I had a bunch of frosting left over since I had used two different types of frosting. Seeing as I tend to let things go to waste in my fridge more often than I would like, I decided maybe this time I would find a use for that frosting.

What goes with brown and orange frosting? Why, pumpkin and chocolate chips, of course! So I searched online for a good pumpkin cupcakes recipe. I found this one (and added the chocolate chips at the end). The resulting cupcakes were suuuuuuper fluffy. In fact, they were a bit difficult to frost since they came apart so easily! But I finished off the frosting at least...

Not the prettiest frosting job ever, but they tasted just fine!

How about you folks? Any recent culinary adventures?