Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Year's Eve Ramblings

I have never quite understood the hoopla of New Year's Eve. The date seems rather arbitrary for one thing. It would make more sense to have it at Winter Solstice. The days are as dark as they're going to get, the light is beginning to lengthen. Or perhaps the Vernal Equinox would be a good time to start the New Year. At least in the Northern Hemisphere. The Southern Hemisphere is opposite, so the Solstice/Equinox system wouldn't make any more sense than January 1st.

Making pious resolutions while celebrating by getting very very drunk doesn't make much sense either. Starting off the new year with a hangover? No, thank you.

I don't remember the last time I stayed up to count down the last minutes of the old year. I'm an adult; I go to bed whenever I want, so staying up to midnight is not a thrill. No matter how late I stay up, I wake up around 5am. That really takes the glamour and fun out of late nights.

I started The Artist's Way last fall. If I had done one chapter a week, as the book suggests, I'd be done now. But some chapters have taken two weeks, chapter 7....I think I might be in the third week. Nanowrimo and holiday production took a toll, and then I went and added writing for to the mix. So, I'm a bit behind. But the process has already caused significant changes to my life. I would not have jumped into writing a novel without it. I would probably not be writing at all without it.

I remember wanting to be a writer more than anything, from the time I was very young. So why did I spend so much of my life not writing? Because I have a terrible case of perfectionism. There are no telethons for perfectionism, no medications. Just a lot of soul crushing, time wasting, vicious self-criticism that kills the creative spark before it has a chance to become more than a faint ember.

The Artist's Way and NaNoWriMo probably saved my creative life. "Exuberant imperfection" is the credo of Nanowrimo. Being given written permission to suck was liberating. The willingness to be bad at something is infectious; it's spilling over to other areas of my life.

I have no idea what to expect from 2010. Not having expectations is probably a good thing. I do have some plans, but nothing set in stone.

  • edit novel into a decent read by May 1st, so that I can take advantage of's free printing offer.
  • set up a schedule with my accountabilibuddies to make sure I edit novel into a decent read by May 1st
  • write enough articles for to get paid at least once in 2010. (at 1 cent per page view with a $25 minimum for payout, it's going to take a while. Writing is more about the love than the money).
  • use the recreation center gift card Bevin gave me to finally take a fencing class, something I've wanted to do for years.
  • find a balance between writing posture (butt glued to chair) and life-in-general posture (butt up and moving).

So here's to 2010 - the Year of Exuberant Imperfection. May we all find the courage to follow our hearts and dreams, no matter how silly we may look along the way.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Holiday Madness 2009

I really miss NaNoWriMo; that adrenaline-fueled rush to the deadline was exhilirating. Even if I somehow stressed myself to the point of getting shingles (which was not even close to being entirely NaNo's fault) it was worth it just to pass that goal and reach "THE END". Now begins the months of editing. I entered a drawing for a free spot in an online editing workshop. Cross your fingers for me.

While perusing Craigslist for a part-time job, I came across an ad for writers for an online paper called The Examiner . I applied for the position of Dessert Examiner, and pending the outcome of the criminal background check, I have the job. Although it may be called Baking Examiner instead. I think Dessert Examiner is sexier. The pay is minscule, but it's a start. As soon as I'm approved and my page is active, I'll post it all over the place. The more readers I have, the more I get paid, so......hint, hint. The really cool part (aside from being paid to write) is that I can write about whatever I want, so long as it falls within my category.

The kitchen is very busy (it's that time of year) but thanks to my wonderful assistants and the two tempering machines, there have been no meltdowns. It's going very well. Knock wood. I am rather disappointed that Chef has decided not to do Buche de Noels this year. Oh well, I have guests coming for dinner on Solstice, so I'll make Buche de Solstice. It's a skill every pastry person should practice at least once a year.

Last night we had a laidback Chanukah dinner with roast chicken, latkes and pound cake with whipped cream and drunken strawberries. Our guest is half Jewish, and we haven't seen her in a long time, so we had the Chanukah part of SolstiChrismakah. I don't think we'd seen Kendall since her mom's funeral a couple of years ago. Our moms, Annyce and Mira, were really good friends. It's weird to think think that if I had made different bad choices, I could have had a child Kendall's age now. She's 24.

I'm a bit shocked to realize that I'm 46. I don't feel anything like my concept of what 46 should be. So, clearly the sane thing is to throw out any preconceived or socialized ideas of what 'acting my age' should be, and just be who I am. It's not as if I can be someone else anyway.

Saturday night I've been invited to a Solstice party with mummers. I have no idea what to expect. It's a potluck, so I'm probably going to be reckless and try a recipe I've never used before: Cranberry Macarons.

On the actual day of Solstice I will be up well before sunrise for the annual Drumming Up The Sun at Red Rocks Amphitheater. Followed by the traditional breakfast at Sunrise Sunset. Vegetarian Benedict and coffee is probably not how my Celtic forbears celebrated the Solstice, but you have to adapt.
Then my friend Judy is coming for Solstice dinner. That same night. There's going to be work in between. Hello, crockpot my old friend......

Christmas - the traditional hanging out in pajamas until it's time to go to the movies. This year - Sherlock Holmes, with the oh-so-attractive Robert Downey Jr. Sigh.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Sunday, November 22, 2009

I did it!

I not only reached the goal of 50K words, I exceeded the goal. Probably due in no small part to the numerous repetitions of 'flying vampire monkey demons' in the 'flying vampire monkey demons attack the elementary school during recess' chapter. I'm hoping to come up with a better name for them during the editing process.
I have a personal goal of 75,000 words (25,000 words in 8 days, 4 of which are days off from work. I can do it!) I still have an ambush, a desperate duel, a destiny revealed and a Conjuration of Doom to get through. Not to mention a tidy wrap up that lays the ground for a possible sequel. Right now though, I will take my victorious self to bed. 5am won't come any later just because I HAVE WRITTEN MY FIRST NOVEL!!!!!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Stalled at 41,348 words

I don't know what comes next. I have an awful feeling that I have 40,000 plus words of back story. Oh well. The plot has given hints of making an appearance, it's gotten very dark, and is demanding additional sacrifices (in addition to sleep, sanity, and several not so important characters). One of my favorite characters is probably going to die so that another character can reach his destiny. Sucks to be a supporting player, doesn't it.

I was going to go to a cafe with my shiny new laptop, which now sports a NaNoWriMo sticker (from Monday's write-a-thon at Valhalla's. I also won two tiny tubs of playdoh and some coffee in the word wars). Instead I came home to do my exciting Friday night routine of laundry, cleaning, and bill paying. Virtuous procrastination, that' s the ticket.

Tomorrow I will go to the weekly write-in at Borders. The NaNoites take over the cafe for a few hours every Saturday in November. I have fallen in with the sci-fi/fantasy, Goth, RenFaire, role playing, pagan liberal writers. Really cheerful Goths - must be some kind of sub-sub-culture.

The point of word wars is to write as much as possible in an allotted time span - usually 10-15 minutes. If you want to win, you can't stop to correct, so I spent as much time after the word wars going back to fix all the typos as I did in the word war itself. They're still fun though.

I completely forgot to do Chapter 6 in the Artist's Way this week - I may try again on Sunday, or I may wait until the end of the month, when NaNoWriMo is over. Once it's done, I 'll have a few months of normal until Script Frenzy starts in April.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Where have I been?

Let's see, first there was week 4 of the Artist's Way, which involved reading deprivation; no books, magazines, email or internet. Or tv or radio with words. It was great - it's amazing how much more time there is when you aren't being sucked into a vortex of other people's words and images. Week 4 ended up being about 10 days long, I don't remember why...oh, right. Lots of Halloween festivities.
I've kept it up pretty much; no TV except for Project Runway, maybe Robot Chicken once in a while. Not a whole lot of reading going on yet.

I haven't transferred my photos over to my new laptop (I love it! Acer Aspire 5532) yet, so I don't have pictures of my Halloween costume for you. I'll get them up eventually. I made an absolutely fabulous hat, and discovered a previously unknown talent and passion for making hats. Go figure.

NaNoWriMo is taking up a great deal of time. It's day 12, and I have passed the halfway point: 25, 615 words as of 8:13pm this evening. Feel free to applaud or to bow before me. I mean that. I don't really have a plot outline ( or an actual plot, really) so I write in the freewriting style, just like I did in my writing group and in Morning Pages. So, that probably helps, as I am not bothered with such pesky details as 'does this fit into the plot', 'where did this character come from' or 'what's going on here'. No, it's just a way to get the voices out of my head, and have some fun along the way. I've reached a point where anything that isn't writing is just getting in my way. I don't want to be doing anything else. Except sleeping, making hats, and taking Puppy to the park.

I have another 24385 words to meet the 50K goal, although I will keep on writing through the 30th, just because I love it. So, if you don't hear much from me, don't worry. I'm off in a world far far away, glued to my shiny new laptop.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

No so Random

I am starting Chapter 4 of the Artist's Way tomorrow. This is the week I've been dreading, since there is no reading of any kind outside of the book & the exercises! No tv! No radio! No computer! What awful timing! Nanowrimo starts on Sunday - I can't check in with my accountabilibuddies until Tuesday night. I just joined a very chatty e-coven. I have to skip a week as soon as I did my intoductory post. Project Runway is on tomorrow night! Ack! This is going to be rough.

So, everyone have a great week, Happy Halloween, and for everyone in the Denver area - I hope you get a snow day Thursday :)

Thursday, October 22, 2009

random thursday on....Thursday! Wow!

I have dishes to do, a sickle to make, a costume to finish, and a sister to pick up at the dentist office, as soon as she calls.
But all of that pales in comparison to actually making this uber-flexible deadline.
I began a new batch of sourdough starter on Sunday. It starts with rye flour and water, and goes from there. I just did the third refresh about half an hour ago, and my little dough balls (one for home, one for work) are already beginning to rise. Yeast and I play well together.
The chocolate and I.....well. It seems to be back in the 'on' phase of our on-again/off-again relationship. Mostly. At least I'm not the only one having the same problem.
I am seriously considering further my education and broadening my options by attending culinary school. I'm leaning toward Cook Street (short commute, short intense program, month in France & Italy, lots of wine....). I'm searching for grants, because I really don't want to take on a massive amount of debt. If you know of grants for middle-aged, childless women (doesn't Obama want us to better ourselves too? Why just "Obama wants moms to go back to school" ads?) please let me know.
The roofing saga continues. 2 sections of the new shingles need to be replaced. At the company's expense. The gutter guys mistakenly put gutters on the garage. We get to keep them. At the company's expense. So...yay.
I have about a dozen or so iris bulbs to plant. I keep waiting for that magical combination of good weather, a day off and feeling well. Saturday or possibly tomorrow afternoon may be that day.
The Witches Ball is Saturday night. I have finally decided to go. (Yes I made a costume. Just for fun. It was my Artist's Way project this week). I was invited to participate in the opening ritual, but declined. Najah told me the planning meeting got a bit contentious, what with people trying to blend various pagan traditions, taking exception to certain words and making assumptions about other people's practice. Glad I missed that.
Project Runway tonight - I think the only reason Logan is still on the show is because he's pretty. If he was plain or homely, he'd be long gone.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Shadow Shot Sunday -

A snake in the grass.

I like the way the shadow frames the light coming through the hole in the log. I also liked the puzzled looks the orienteering folks gave me as they walked by while I was taking it.

Random thoughts, Wildlife, and a Very Happy Dog

If it weren't for the park, manual labor and morning pages, I might have gone crazy this week. I am having a bad time with chocolate this week. So much so that scientific explanations mean nothing, and it just boils down to ...SHE HATES ME! IT'S PERSONAL! I'm more kinesthetic than visual or auditory, so movement is soothing. Walking, writing, weeding, kneading, rolling dough - it's all good.
On Wednesday's walk, snakes posed for me, rather than slithering off as they normally do.
I like snakes, when they aren't venomous, and are outside where they belong.
Same goes for spiders, like this one. I was off the trail at Chatfield State Park when I saw him. I went there for my first weekly artist date (part of the Artist's Way thing I'm doing). At one point, I came across a lot of people with maps and compasses. Was this a scavenger hunt? No. It was an orienteering class. Oh. My explanation was more fun. Although if one wants to test one's orienteering skills safely, Chatfield's a good place to do it. It's big, but bordered on all sides by roads.

Yesterday, my sister came with us for walkies. She is a more focused walker than Puppy and me, so we kept a brisk pace, and walked the entire loop of the park. The sun was setting as we headed back toward the car. Just as we reached Tabor Lake, an owl called. It called again, and I spotted him in the bare branches of a tree. He called again, and then flew off into the sunset. This is not that owl. He was at the Highlands Festival. My camera is not capable of long distance twilight photos.

Here is Puppy, at the beginning of the walk. She was still this happy two miles later.

Today was massive yardwork, after the artist date at Chatfield.
Then up to Prospect Park, with tarp and body bag to load up on free mulch. Yes, we have a body bag. Bevin got it from work. It's not used. It's new. It's 'FEMA blue', has handles, and is very good for hauling mulch.
I am making a new batch of sourdough starter tonight. Baking bread makes me happy in a way that is physically and spiritually fulfilling.
Am still not sure I want to go to the Witches' Ball this year, but I'm having fun planning costumes. I haven't made one, but the planning is fun. It's next Saturday. I love Project Runway. It's so inspiring. I loved the week they made clothes from paper. And the costume week was fun.

Friday, October 9, 2009

random sort of thoughts

If an opportunity presents itself
do I walk through that door
do I leave what I know behind
do I make that leap
walk off that cliff
or stay in the familiar
If the path leads in a different direction
than the one I expected
do I open myself to the possibility
that the map in my mind might not be the best one
or go
or something else
but I think I'm ready
for another adventure
This week I finally got all our scraps of paper, parchment, legal pads, printout and copies into a coherent, legible, organized recipe notebook. I have been trying to get this done for about two years. Today, I was alone in the kitchen and took advantage of the solitude to rearrange the kitchen into what is hopefully a more efficient and functional space. This involved lifting a table over my head in order to get between the stove and the sink and get one leg of the table between the wall and the gas line. Yeah, I'm a bit sore from that.
The distasteful chore of the weekend: buying a new bathing suit. The one I have is one Ai Chi class away from an arrest for indecent exposure. I'm guessing a sporting goods store is my best bet for a reasonably priced, modest, functional suit. We'll see.
I'm hoping to get some bulbs planted this weekend, but it's supposed to be cold and wet this weekend. Planting may be postponed for a few days until the sun and milder temperatures come back.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Random something resembling thought process

My sister/friend Laura gave me the best key chain ever : Pocket Vlad, (PV for short). His tag says that he will protect me from harm when I am outside past my bedtime. That doesn't happen often, so PV will have an easy life.

Note his classic formal attire; PV has old-school standards. He wouldn't be caught undead in polyester, leather or denim, or Dracula forbid....sparkling. He's going to be my version of the gnomes and barbies and suchlike that people take on trips and photograph in front of tourist attractions.

He's posing in front of cairn-of-the-day. Building cairns in the creek at Prospect Park is a hobby. It's oddly soothing, and very satisfying in a get-your-zen-on kind of way. It's a practice in non-attachment, both in the falling rocks as I build one, and in knowing that it won't stay up after I leave. Wind, water, critters, people, gravity.....something will knock it down. It's sort of like making beautiful pastries and confections knowing that they will be devoured and gone. Impermanence in action.

I am slowly figuring out how to work training an intern into the work schedule. I tend to focus on the production list, and getting everything done, and things like teaching the intern how to do something properly sort of gets pushed off to the side. So, today I delegated something I love to do (making tart dough) and spent some time one on one with the intern, showing her how to shell and fill truffles. She didn't tell me she'd had almost no experience with that when I asked her to fill the molds yesterday. So, there was a lot of overfilling, which makes backfilling (putting the bottoms on) really, really difficult. So, now I know to watch her more closely, and walk her through every new thing, and she knows to speak up and tell me when she doesn't know something. Tomorrow I'll show her how to backfill, and she'll find out why filling the shells with ganache is such an important thing to do correctly. Because some of her filling was a little over-full. It's a great learning tool though, trying to deal with overfilled molds. Mwah hahahaha.

Cold weather is coming in tonight, and I want to make soup and whole-grain bread. I like chilly days, like bundling up in fleece or flannel sheets. I like that the cooler weather and darkening days has prompted Chef to change our start time from 6 back to 7. That hour makes a real difference. Today was the first day, and Puppy was confused and disappointed that sleeping in did not mean this was a day off, and that there would be no morning visit to the park.

I'll be making a new sourdough starter tomorrow. I will try not to kill this one. I think whole grains would be more appealing in sourdough bread.

I finally tried my pumpkin marmelade (aside from the initial tasting when I made it). It makes an absolutely lovely sandwich with smoked turkey & harvarti. My friend Marla said she has been putting it on everything, including French toast. That does sound good.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Broken Random Thought Process Whatever

It sounds like the roofers are wrapping up - the incessant thumping has reduced to sounds of sweeping and dragging and clattering ladders. Hopefully it's all done today, and tomorrow will be peaceful. At least on my roof. Some neighbors are still waiting for roof and window repair.

Puppy still smells of skunk. I've learned over the years that it will take several baths and several weeks for the smell to go away completely.

I have the house to myself for a few days while Bevin goes to California to see Laura. Nice.

Today was a learning experience for me & my intern. Somedays I miss working alone. I am still finding my way as a sous-chef/kitchen manager. I forget how much supervision and training people need in order to be successful. I must be looking at this the wrong way. Instead of seeing interns as free labor, I should see them more as a student. A student who can't be trusted to do something as simple as making meringue or loading a tempering machine or cleaning up after themselves without supervision. Ok, meringue isn't that simple until you've done it for awhile.

My brief tenure in the foster department of the animal shelter I worked at was an epic failure. Largely due to the abysmal lack of training and supervision provided by the manager. Eventually, she sat me down for the "help me help you" talk. She told me to provide her with a list of what I thought would help me be successful in this position. So I did. A thoughtful, detailed list of the areas I needed training in, as well as a schedule for doing so, and ways to arrange the necessary time. She said " This are all valid points. It's very practical. It's just not how this department works." I resigned.

I don't want my interns to feel that way. Somehow, I need to make the time to teach them what I need them to know, while still getting my own work done and keeping on top of the production schedule. Especially as we gear up for fourth quarter. There's no time for massive do-overs.

Today really didn't go well in the kitchen. I have trouble letting go of the things I consider "mine". Twice now I've delegated something that's "mine", and both times it's been done wrong, wrong ,wrong. Clearly, I'm not teaching correctly. So, next week, the intern and the assistant will watch me do it. The week after, I will watch them do it. And I will be more diligent
about checking on them as they go along. I will try to remember that instructions have to be repeated. Although 'clean up after yourself as you go' seems like something I shouldn't have to still be saying 3 weeks into the internship.

The roofers even redid the roof of the well. It looks really cute now. Right now, brawny men are picking nails up out of my lawn. Nice.

It's chilly. I'm tired. I think we'll skip the park tonight and go in the morning. Maybe just a walk around the block for Puppy tonight. And early to bed. Looking forward to a morning with no alarm clock.

I never planned to be in charge. Or to be a teacher. Somehow, it just keeps happening. There must be some kind of lesson here. I'm very alpha, in a lonewolf, not-a-joiner sort of way. I have an unfortunate tendency toward a "do it my way or I kill you. oh, just get out of my way,I'll do it myself" management style. Really not that useful unless one is leading barbarian hordes. So....yeah.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Bless me, Blog, for I have sinned....

It's been exactly a month since my last entry. It's not that nothing has been happening, it's that I have renewed my practice of morning pages, and I find that it satisfies my craving to write. I've rarely posted on Facebook or Twitter in the last few weeks either. I haven't used my camera much. All my technolove has been saved for iPod & my minimalist ecophone.

Last weekend, Bevin & I went to the Longs Peak Scottish & Irish Highland Festival. As usual, the Scottish weather came to Estes Park. I learned a lot about how to attend festivals. Never, ever go to an outdoor festival without a rain poncho. It wasn't just misty, it poured. It was still great fun, made all the more so by braw laddies in kilts (a muscular guy in a utilikilt and Doc Martens - omg). The shot of Glenlivet 12 year old didn't hurt either.

One of the raptor rescue groups was at the Fest. This beautiful guy is showing his good side. He's missing his other eye. His injury also caused brain damage, and although he is physically capable of flying, he doesn't remember how. I hope for his sake that he doesn't remember flying at all. Remembering that power and freedom, knowing that he's capable, but not being able to figure out how to do it.......what utter torment. Now he helps educate people about raptors, and he's well cared for. He seemed content.
The Frying Scotsman had all things fried, including Scotch Eggs and Deep Fried Mars Bars. The Mars bars were a bit of a disappointment. It sounds so good, but it was a bit bland and overly sweet. The batter needs to be kicked up a notch. Or three.

On the way home, we got caught in a snowstorm. That's right. On September 12th, we got caught in a snowstorm. Tonight a cold front is moving in, and although we'll probably have more 80 degree days soon, a few days down in the 50's & 60's is a welcome change from the heat.

Our new roof should be going on this week. The garden is slowly coming back, just in time to die back for fall. Most of the trails have been cleared at the park.

Last night, I went to my second concert at Red Rocks. Jason Mraz & K'nann. After an uphill climb from our roadside parking spot, through a meadow filled with deer, we began the really steep climb up and up and up the stairs into the amphitheatre. Remember the stairs up to Shelob's tunnel in Return of the King? It's quite similar. Thanks to Ginger's jumping the gun on her birthday present, we had awesome seats. And perfect weather. And music so good that I, the person who tries to be invisible, was up and dancing in public. All through both shows. And singing along during the frequent audience participation segments. After all, as Jason said - "Never let your mind get in the way of a good time". Jason Mraz is very spiritual, in a hip & groovy, non-preachy kind of way. His song 10,000 Motherf***ers is one of my absolute favorite spiritual songs. It feels like an invocation, and I like to play it on the way to work, or when I'm cooking or baking.

So, in the spirit of Jason's Gratitude Cafe tour:
I'm grateful to have been at Red Rocks on such a magical night.
I'm grateful for Ginger, and that she wanted to go to the concert, and that she wanted to go with me.
I'm grateful to reminded of the beauty of my adopted state.
I'm grateful for the hawk that came into my yard and perched on my clothesline.
I'm grateful for the hawk that can no longer fly, yet still has a life of purpose.
I'm grateful for my family, for my friends, for my companions, human, furred and feathered.
I'm grateful to Julia Cameron, for coming up with Morning Pages.
I'm grateful to Najah, for reminding me to do them.
I'm grateful to and for the Source, by all Its Many Names.
I'm grateful to be reminded of the importance of gratitude.
Blessed Be.
I'm grateful, just to be.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

random thought process thursday

Today we filled a massive, last minute order for Cirque du Soleil's Denver opening night party. I have never been to Cirque du Soleil. I've seen some of their shows on Bravo, and the clowns freak me out. I don't like clowns. Not Bozo, not Ronald McDonald, not Red Buttons, not the creepy clowns of Cirque. No clowns. Something about them makes my skin crawl.
The acrobats and aerialists are amazing though. The costumes are very sparkly.

Got through an entire day without touching the snack bin at work. The snack bin is where the reject truffles & confections go. I kept telling myself: I am not the snack bin's bitch. I am not the snack bin's bitch....
Took Puppy to the park this evening. Some of the downed trees still have green, vibrant looking leaves. My favorite trails are still mostly closed. Puppy doesn't care as long as she's at the park.
The water level of the creek has dropped to its low summertime levels. Someone has been building piles of stones in the shallow water. They look both organic and unexpected. I made one myself this evening.
Ready for the canicular days of summer to be over. Love the chill in the air when I let Puppy out at 5am. I like that darkness comes a bit earlier. It's easier to slow down and go to sleep when it's actually dark out.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Let them eat....something other than cake

The bagpiper came out of the woods, through a meadow of tall grass and wildflowers. He lost his footing on the hill, went down on one knee, and kept playing. He got a standing ovation from the wedding guests.
The officiants asked everyone to take a moment of silent reflection and in their own way to bless Leah & John's marriage. They called in the friends and family who couldn't make the trip, and the family and friends who'd passed away. I missed the rest of the ceremony - I was working.

Leah used to work with us at the kitchen. She decided to skip the traditional cake and go with a dessert buffet. More brides should do this. Three kinds of truffles, two kinds of barque, two kinds of chocolate bars, tiny brownies, tiny blondies, lemon curd tartlets with blueberries, pecan pralines, tiny lemon chess tarts, tiny coconut cream pies, three kinds of hard candies, and a smores bar. The guests loved it, praise flowed freely, and Chef and I ran our butts off keeping the table stocked.

The folks from Aspen Specialty Foods & Catering loved it too, and it was mutual. We kept trading food back and forth in the prep area. Craig, Sandy and their 16 year old assistant were super nice, super professional, and super talented. We sent them home with leftover goodies, they sent us home with tapenade and red pepper hummus.

The host's son, Connor, who is about 9 or so was very enthusiastic. He kept coming to check on our progress, beg for samples, tell us how excited he was about dessert, ask if he could help. I did give him a job - protecting the tables while we were setting up. He was thrilled. He sampled everything - every appetizer, every hot dish, every cold dish, every side, every condiment, every dessert. He made Chef a smore. He caught the bouquet. Yes, he did.

Chef has a Garman GPS system he calls Nanny McVee (for v-chip). She has an English accent and sounds rather put out. It was handy to have as we drove on twisty mountain roads up to Evergreen, but it's rather odd to be told to 'turn left' or 'turn right' when the road is merely curving.

I got home a bit after midnight; tired, sore and overall very pleased. I love being praised, and I really love it when Chef introduces me to people. "This is Kate, my sous chef".

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Monday in the Gardens, with Najah & the Dinosaurs

How fair is a garden amid the trials and passions of existence. ~Benjamin Disraeli

Gardening is civil and social, but it wants the vigor and freedom of the forest and the outlaw. ~Henry David Thoreau

Earth is here so kind, that just tickle her with a hoe and she laughs with a harvest. ~Douglas William JerroldGardens... should be like lovely, well-shaped girls: all curves, secret corners, unexpected deviations, seductive surprises and then still more curves. ~H.E. Bates

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Melted Thoughts and Pie

Why does my computer reject my camera? Tonight none of the usual measures worked, and I ended up putting the memory card in my sister's camera. Vexing. The usb cords are not interchangeable.

My friend Najah got an e-vite to a 70th birthday party that came with attached pdf instructions. Potluck 5:30 to 7, Honoring Ceremony 7 to 8, Drum Circle 8-?. Rules for the Honoring Ceremony: Come before X, say 3 words that reflect your experience of X.
Uh huh. I wondered aloud if the guests were supposed to bow when it was their turn to "come before X", if they were supposed to back away & give a final bow after they said their 3 words. Megalomaniac, presumptuous & self important come to mind. The invitation also stipulated that $70 donations be made to X's favorite charity in her name. Miss Manners would be appalled.

The book signing for Mrs. Rowe's Little Book of Southern Pies was today, and was a great success. Mollie (my friend & the author) told me that non-fiction signings are considered a success if four books are bought and signed. We sold 16 books, over 50% of the amount we had . Mollie told me that many of the reporters, interviewers and readers she's spoken to think she is Mrs. Rowe, and that these are her recipes. Clearly, none of these folks read the introduction.

The tiny sample pies were also a hit. The Coconut Cream Pie was far and away the most popular - I made a dozen tartlets for sale - they were all gone by the time the event was over. They are going on the regular menu. People who don't like cream pie love this pie. A customer from Kentucky who said he has never found a coconut cream pie to match his mama's loved this pie. His eyes rolled back in his head and he made happy noises. He bought a book just for this recipe.

Friends I haven't seen for a while came to the shop. It was great.
To the left - Mollie, her husband Eric,
and their daughters - Tess (in yellow)
and Emma (in green). To the right, my friend Bev. Sean came with her triplets. The girls were toddlers when I met Sean in pastry school. Now they're are getting ready for first grade. Ginger came by, with delicious vegan chocolate chip cookies.
The heat is getting on my nerves. It was 84.7 degrees in the kitchen yesterday. It may not sound like much, but a chocolate kitchen should be 66-68 degrees. I miss winter. It's easier to cope with ice on the inside of the windows than it is to cope with sweltering heat.
I think we should put chocolate cream tartlets on the menu.
Wondering if Mollie & company are up for a day trip. Estes Park/Rocky Mountain National Park - elk wandering around, Bear Lake, Lily Lake. Or maybe Manitou Springs, with Garden of the Gods and Caverns of the Winds. Maybe Mount Evans, although that drive seems about as long as either Estes or Manitou.
Have spent the last few minutes staring blankly at the screen. Should probably call it a night and get some sleep. I owe Puppy an early morning walk. Neither of us likes the heat.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Broken Thoughts & Pie

I'm feeling very overscheduled for the next few weeks. Most of it's good stuff, aside from the work stuff it's all self-inflicted, but I'm not used to having so much planned in advance.

Here's some of what's been going on at work:

The nine wedding cakes for a client who had no requirements other than that the cakes "taste amazing". No requests other than "that lustre dust would be nice" . No wedding colors, no theme, no bridezilla nonsense.

3 chocolate cakes filled with pain d'epices (gingerbread spice) ganache, decorated with leaves.
3 white cakes filled with the Violette ganache, decorated with dragonflies.
3 red velvet cakes filled with Vrtnica Malina ganache (cranberry, raspberry & rose), decorated with sea shells & pearls. It's my subtle invocation to Aphrodite, the shells, the roses, the pearls.

Tarts of the week, clockwise from top: chocolate chess, mixed berry, cherry with kirsch & pandora spices in chocolate sucree, pear frangipane in chocolate sucree.

I have the pie song from Waitress stuck in my head. I want to make pie. Lots of pie. There is no recipe for Chocolate Strawberry Oasis, but it seems to be nothing more than a bittersweet chocolate pudding with a hint of spice poured over sliced fresh strawberries. It sounds really good right now, in spite of the cool, rainy weather.
Carmelized Onion pie. Tomato & Spinach pie. Tart Apple with Drunken Currants pie. mmmmmmmm, pie.

I'm housesitting for Najah this weekend, and what is usually 48 hours of uninterrupted solitude is being disrupted by family obligations. Both of the two nights away have been claimed. I rather resent this, but there is no graceful way to avoid it. Last night Najah showed me how to work her dvr & the multitude of remotes. We watched a couple episodes of True Blood. It has a dreadful effect on my accent, an effect that lasts for hours afterward unless I pay attention when I speak. (True Blood is set in Louisiana, in case you don't know).

The adjuster from Allstate took nearly 3 hours to complete what he said would be an hour-and-a-half appointment. We're getting a new roof out of it, so that's something positive. Everytime it's rained since the big storm (about every day or so), I keep looking up at the ceiling expecting a flood. So far, so good. I have a recurring waking nightmare that the roofers show up and rip the roof off while Mollie & her family are here for dinner. The adjuster, Mr. Carter, has a strong Southern accent and likes to over-explain. Read this with a drawl. "This is a five step process? Step one was when you called your agent to file a claim? Step two, that was when I called you to set up this appointment? Step three...that's this appointment?" And so on. I may have mentioned this last week. It's hard to remember that far back.

Another wedding &the book signing next weekend. Another wedding and a bellydance class field trip the weekend after that. Somehow, I am taking classes Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays starting next week. Two more weeks with Sammi, the Wonder Intern. Then an as-yet-to-be-determined new intern, who has already been named Not-Sammi.

Trying to come up with a menu for next week's dinner with Mollie & company that is easy, tasty and allows time for maximum visitation over a leisurely meal. Any ideas?

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Better late than never...

Thanks to advice from tech-savvy friends, the computer & camera are back on speaking terms. So, here are photos that go with Insert Photo Here. Read that first. Or not.

The daredevil ducks and the curious squirrel.

The devastation of Prospect Park.

Box of therapy.

The overseer: "Get back to work! Don't make me come over there! Oh, you made me get you're in for it!"

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Insert Photos Here

There are photos to go with this entry, but my computer is refusing to recognize my camera. I reinstalled the software, but to no avail. It has similar issues with the iPod - I am beginning to wonder if something is wrong with the usb port.

So, anyway. Cleanup from the storm is proceeding throughout the neighborhood. At the Jefferson Methodist church the sermon board now reads "Free Holy Firewood".
At Prospect Park,.....well, it's bad. Trees were uprooted, pulling soil, rocks and sometimes the bike path up with them. Big trees. Old trees. They block the paths, cross the creek, changing the familiar and beloved landscape. Insert desolate photo, with the following caption "Many of these trees were my friends...trees I have known from seed and acorn......".Treebeard Although I haven't known the trees quite as long as that, I did know where they were, enjoyed the shade of their leaves in summer and the patterns of their branches against the sky in winter. Now they're gone.

Puppy seemed oblivious to the damage, happily trotting along, nose to the ground , tail curled up in the question mark of contentment. Birds were singing, butterflies flitted about, and a very fat squirrel sat up and watched us go by. Insert photo of fat, curious squirrel here. The ducks are still shooting the rapids of Clear Creek. These are the daredevils of the duck world. Instead of floating on a quiet lake, these ducks like the fast moving water of the creek. I've seen them ride the current, get out, walk back up the bank, and do it again. Insert photo of mallards shooting the rapids.

We finished bagging up the backyard. Kitty made a nest in one of the piles of leaves. Insert photo of handsome grey cat basking in the sun. I consoled myself by replanting my container garden with new flowers in shades of purple, pink and white. I added fresh compost to my few survivors. I marvelled at the little rhubarb that could - so tiny, but still there, with fresh new leaves on delicate ruby stalks. Insert photo of restored container garden here.

The city picked up branches and debris on the roads, but the wreckage in our yards is our problem. But..the city made arrangements with the good people at Rooney Road Recycling
to take Lakewood residents' yard waste for free through the 27th. They were really nice, all 6 times we went today. Yep, 6 trips to haul the 60-some bags of leaves and branches to the recycling center. (I love my station wagon). At the time we finished, the pile was about a block long , about 20 feet tall, I'm not sure how wide. But it was huge. It will all be chopped into mulch, as will all the branches the city and county pick up from the roads and the parks. Mulch that's free for the taking. So, you get your trees back, just in a different form.

It feels good to have most of the wreckage gone. It feels good to have replanted the containers I see from the kitchen window. It will be good to meet with the insurance adjuster on Tuesday (read this with a strong Southern accent, end each sentence with an upwards inflection - This is a five step process? Step one is when you called your agent? Step two - is now, when we're setting the appointment? Step three is the appointment? ". Every step toward back-to-normal feels good.
We lost one window in the garage. Our roof is damaged, but so far, not leaking. We lost branches, but not trees. Our garden is flattened, but much of it will come back. Eventually.
We didn't lose our roof, our windows, or part or all of the house. Some people did. So I feel blessed. Tired, sore, grungy - but blessed.

On my last trip, the guy at the recycling center smiled and said "6 trips....God's mercy on you, dear". I smiled back and said "thanks, and on you too". "Yep," he said. "We all need it right now". He waved me on, and I unloaded and emptied the last few bags. I looked at the massive pile, at the other people unloading cars, trucks, u-hauls..... So many people, putting their individual worlds back together.

In my militant pagan phase, I would have rejected that nice man's blessing. Fortunately, I've grown a lot since then. Kindness is kindness. No sense in getting offended by terminology. God, Goddess, Jesus, Buddha, Muhammad,Jehovah, Great Spirit, The Powers That Be, the Force......the Infinite Source Behind All The Names loves us. Bring on your blessings. Accept mine. May Mercy be on all of us, everyone.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Broken Thought Process Actually Thursday

Still mountains of cleanup to do after the storm. Some neighbors orderly & methodical, some puttering around their yards while their broken windows go uncovered. Old Bob across the street is especially disorganized, but rejects all offers of help. He has several rental houses in the neighborhood, and seems to be putting most of his energy there. He does a bit of work at home, then crosses the street to show us the alumni yearbook from the private high school he attended on Oahu. He shows us Barack Obama went to the same school, although much later. We all agree that Obama has probably the worst job in the world, that none of us would want it.

Expecting a call from Allstate adjuster. Got a call from Allstate this afternoon, was very pleased until it turned out to be a sales call for the roadside assistance program. That isn't going to get the roof fixed.
Cleanup made more unpleasant by the heat - it's in the nineties again. Took a break from the yard and cleaned the house. Much more manageable task.
The vultures and looky-loos seemed to have moved on - within hours of the storm roofers, door & window and yard cleanup crews were cruising the neighborhood. Strangers drove slowly through the neighborhood gawking.
My nextdoor neighbor loaned me her leaf blower. I've always hated the noise, but the speed with which leaves & twigs were removed from gravel driveways, paths, and from the flower beds was impressive. That probably saved a few hours.
I found three dead birds in the yard, buried until leaves & hail. A sparrow, a red-headed finch, and a mourning dove. So small, so broken. I buried them next to my fish.
One rose bush is still in decent shape, leaves & buds about to bloom. 2 of the 1o or so lavender plants still have some blossoms.
Exhausted and sore, but when I feel like whining, I think of all my neighbors with their downed trees, smashed fences and boarded up windows. I think of the farmer whose crop was wiped out. I think of the little Italian bakery/cafe near work that lost power for almost 24 hours and lost all their refrigerated inventory. Roughly a $10,000 loss, they said.

Not sleeping well at night, which is normal for summer. Naps are good, but they interfere with sleeping at night. But I don't sleep much at night, so I nap. So I don't sleep well at night....

wondering if I should purge my cookbook collection - I probably have about 4 shelves worth. Plus a bunch of 3-ring binders full of recipes.... I have a hard time applying the 6 months rule to books. The 'if you haven't used it in 6 months, sell or donate it" rule.

I need to get on with something productive. But I just don't feel like it.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Shadow Shot Sunday

Mr. Frog/Toad, wearing the shadows from the cattails in the pond.

Update: froggy was named over the weekend. It's now Mathilde, which I guess makes it Mlle. Frog/Toad.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Broken & Melted Thought Process Day

It's so hot....Puppy jumped over the bank to get into the creek this afternoon. She's usually better behaved than that.

I broke down and put the little window air conditioner in tonight. I smashed my pinky finger in the process. It's not severely damaged, just throbbing.

I feel like I am going nowhere. It's too hot to figure out where to go.

I'm kicking myself for not acting young when I was young. Now I'm middle-aged. Yes, I said it. Middle-aged. How the fuck did this happen? Obviously, it happened because time passes, unless you die, which really isn't in my 5 or 10 year plan.

That's about the only thing in my 5 or 10 year plan. I'm not much for life planning. I tend to drift along, moving from one thing to another without really plotting a course. Maybe I should try that. Having a direction. What a concept.

We have a client who wants 9 cakes for her wedding. Which is now 2 weeks away. Weddings are usually planned way ahead. We gave her a bid, 3 flavors, 3 of each - 9 cakes at the regular price of $18. She got back to us a week past the deadline, and she wants something much more complicated. For the same price. This demand was sandwiched in between over the top compliments. Compliments so excessive it was clearly an attempt at manipulation. I don't appreciate that.
The kitchen is so damn hot. It's almost impossible to work after 11 or so. Chocolate won't go into temper, buttercream's vexing.

SPOILER ALERT: For anyone who didn't read Harry Potter & the Half Blood Prince, or hear about the plot when the book came out, skip this paragraph.

Going to see the new Harry Potter movie tomorrow. I don't remember much about the Half-Blood Prince. Except that it was dark, a bit tedious in places, and Dumbledore dies. I don't think there was anything as scary as Delores Umbridge, her pink tweed suits, and her office full of kitten plates.

Puppy has decided that 4:30 is a great time to get up in the morning. She has no concept of weekends. So we'll be up with the sun. And probably at the park shortly after. The air will be fresh and cool, the wooded trails by the creek will be inviting, and stillness will be giving way to birdsong and the whirring of the early morning cyclists. And after about 20 minutes or so, my brain will stop spinning, and there will be nothing but the rhythm of my steps, the sound of the water, the touch of the breeze. This is the real reason why I walk in the park. Not for fitness, not because I should, but for those moments when movement and stillness become one and the same.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Photos from Wen Pond

Chef & Loren built a new koi pond this spring. It's about 4 times the size of the old one. So, the big koi, seen in their aquatic jungle, took advantage of the space and spawned. Pretty much the same day they went into their new home.
See the tiny little koi - they are newly hatched and about a 1/4 to a 1/2 inch long at this point. Hopefully at least some of them will live - some will be eaten by the other koi, and some will probably be eaten by the pond's newest resident.

I'm not sure if this is Mr. Frog or Mr. Toad - he's very aquatic, which would indicate frog, but has what seem to be large paratid glands, which indicates toad. According to some sources however, there's no real difference between the two, except for one small subgroup, which are considered true toads.
Remember that animated version of the Hobbit? Here's Mr. Frog/Toad doing his impression of Gollum:

Here is my favorite flying insect, the dragonfly. See the stripes - I've only noticed this wing design in the last year or so. This one spends a lot of time flying around the pond, perching on the cattails and rushes.I did actually do some work while I was house/kitchen-sitting. Here are tarts of the week - cherry almond with a hint of lemongrass, pink peppercorn and star anise, and not-your-grandma's rhubarb, with cinnamon, brown sugar, and a balsamic reduction.