Smoothies

I like smoothies. My Mom got me hooked on them when I was a kid. If she needed a fast breakfast for her five kids, the blender was a real crowd pleaser. She would make eggnog in what I now consider the old-fashioned way, with milk, sugar, vanilla extract, and raw eggs in her blender. No one was talking about e coli in those days. Young athletes were routinely downing raw eggs as part of their training programs and the only real fear factor was it seemed a bit gross. When my mother pointed out that cookie and cake batter also contained raw eggs, most of us stopped being squeamish about it. As long as it was well mixed in the blender, it didn’t technically qualify as icky raw eggs anymore.

Mom would add bananas to make banana nog, chocolate syrup to make chocolate nog, or oranges to make orange nog. It didn’t take long before all of her kids were making their own bizarre concoctions.

A decade or so passed and e coli became a household word. I stopped making nogs, but continued to try out smoothie recipes. My favorite was strawberry-banana, either with milk, buttermilk, or yogurt. I also enjoyed combinations like purple grape juice with pineapple, banana with celery, and banana with chocolate. As an avid dieter, I found these liquid meals to be helpful for keeping my waistline in check.

That all changed when I hit my mid-twenties and became allergic to dairy.  Food allergies are a real bummer, but they can be an interesting challenge. You become very creative in the kitchen and learn all sorts of hacks to work around them. I put the blender away and learned to eat other things for breakfast.

A few years later, I was looking sadly at the blender one day when it occurred to me that the soy milk I was eating on my breakfast cereal might make a good smoothie base. Before long, I was at it again.  My new favorites became citrus rosewater, banana mocha, and pumpkin spice.

When I had kids, they shared my enthusiasm and we would make watermelon citrus slurries and combine them with soda for an after school treat. Years later my son helped me perfect my green blended coffee drink and my grown daughter makes a mean two-frozen-bananas-and-more-strawberries-than-the-law-should-allow milkshake.  Sometimes she throws in some chocolate syrup too.

My own smoothie bases have continued to change through the years. I gave up soy milk for almond milk and then realized I could put a bit of almond butter in a blender with water and have a pretty decent equivalent. I’ve tried coconut milk, which is especially good in a banana mango smoothie. Water or juice often work out fine, and strangely enough, I’ve discovered meringue powder and pasteurized egg whites add a nice amount of protein. If a local source for pasteurized shell eggs should appear, I’ll be back to where I started, making egg nog smoothies.

These days, I keep a collection of frozen fruits in my deep freeze and try to vary the colors to get a full spectrum of vitamins. My blends often contain vegetables as well as fruits, and utilize all manner of spices and extracts. This tendency was aided when my mother bought me an industrial style blender several years ago. I nicknamed the monstrous machine Igor and we had many adventures experimenting in my kitchen laboratory.

Alas, I was rather distressed earlier this week to discover that Igor had reached the end of it’s days. Until I can rake together a sizeable chunk of money I’ll have to make due with the small mainstream type of blender I had in reserve in my kitchen.  Ah well, yet another challenge.  I’m up to it.

Life is all about challenges, and fewer are more delicious than what to make in the kitchen. I’ve not listed recipes because taste can be relative: my “blueberry fabulous” might not be your idea of fabulous at all.  There are tons of recipes on the internet, though, and if you write down your experiments, it’s very easy to develop a whole wonderful collection of your own.

Do you make blender drinks? What’s your favorite?

 

ROW#80 Update

  1. “Average an hour a day setting up Hunt Club for print.”  Nope, but I finished getting  the cover for Hunt Club set up. We’ll be doing a test print tomorrow to make sure it comes out good. Now to get back to work cleaning up the written part. You’re NEVER done proofreading.
  2. “Average ½ hour a day working on new novel.” I put in about an hour since Sunday.
  3. “Average ½ hour a day on promotion and blogs.” Up to date and then some.
  4. “Finish reading a book and write a review.” Nope.

I guess any progress is better than none. This month has been far less productive than I had hoped it would be, but I put in 22 hours towards getting my book ready to print, six hours toward my next novel, and 16 hours of blogging and promotion work. That’s 44 hours total which isn’t bad for a non-NaNo month. Perhaps I can use this as a baseline and try to beat it in September. Here’s hoping.

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She Enjoys Teas

“Stay hydrated,” they said. “It’ll be good for you,” they said.

Thus began my terrible addiction to dihydrogen monoxide.
Eight glasses a day. Seven days a week.  I just couldn’t get the monkey off my back.

That all changed when I moved to Rogers Arkansas. The taste of water is always a little weird when you move to a new place, but I had the misfortune of arriving at a certain part of year in which the lakes were, as a local explained to me, “turning over.”  Due to certain weather conditions, they were rearranging themselves and the result was that the water, despite the utilities filtration system, tasted terrible.

I had a general liking for tea though, and had a few boxes in my cupboard. I began using them. Soon all my water was tea. Big jars of cold brew. Little cups of hot. Jasmine and lavender, green and black, mint and chai.

To be fair, some of those jars in my refrigerator are not actually tea. Occasionally there is cold brewed coffee, flavored fizz water, lemonade, or cucumber water. Not all at once though. There wouldn’t be room for tea.

It is summer and I do a lot of cold brewing. Cold brew is like sun tea, only you put the jar in the fridge and leave it there longer. It diffuses in those nice cool conditions and is delicious over ice. I drink it all summer.

Lately though, I have come to realize there might be a problem. I walked through a store a few days ago and the enticing scent of cinnamon and apples drew me to the tea aisle. The autumn teas were coming out. I was tempted to buy some. Unfortunately, it’s hard to justify purchasing more tea when your cupboard looks like this.

001Perhaps I need an intervention. 🙂

Do comment if you are also a tea lover. Do you have a favorite? A favored brewing method? A collection that takes up half your pantry?

Of course, those still suffering from dihydrogen monoxide addiction should remain in our thoughts and prayers. Do not be ashamed if you are one of them. Instead, speak up and let the healing begin.

 

 

ROW#80 Update

  1. Spend an hour a day formatting Hunt Club for print. Got in a few hours progress setting up the cover and proofreading. It’s really close to being ready so I’m having trouble taking it seriously. I think I may be a little scared of sending my baby out into the world as a print book.
  2. Average ½ hour a day working on new novel. I put in another about an hour.
  3. Average ½ hour a day on promotion and blogs. Up to date and then some. Put in an inquiry for a possible book signing. I’m also working on brevity where blogs are concerned.
  4. Finish reading a book and write a review. Nope.

In general, I feel like I’m standing still. It has been hard in the last few days to motivate myself.

Hopefully this week will be better.

Plays a Harp Much Smaller than the one in her Novel . . .

When we were kids and a harpist was shown on TV, my big sister would say, “I wanna play the harp when I grow up.” I would say “Me too.”

Years passed and Terri, who had taken piano lessons and studied her music theory with due diligence, went to college. She majored in music, performed in band and orchestra on various instruments, and discovered a forgotten old concert harp collecting dust in the basement of the music building. She brought it back into the orchestra and by the time she graduated, the university had added harp instruction to it’s offerings and a picture of the instrument appeared on advertisements for the university arts program.

She and my father built her first harp from a kit. She went on to buy a concert harp and to make a living as a performer, instructor, and recording artist. You can find her website at    http://harpsinger.net/Terri_Langerak/Welcome.html

I am uber proud of my big sis. As she predicted she would so many years ago, Terri now plays the harp.

Uh, me too.

Yeah, that’s what I said and it was a pretty accurate prediction. Like her, I built my first harp from a kit. Like her, I’ve played in a few bands and in lots of fun venues. Like her, I have more than one harp, and can play well enough to earn tips and occasionally do a paid gig. There the resemblance ends. Terri is a pro. I’m mostly an amateur. Big difference. I do have fun playing though. At any given time, there is usually at least one harp under my desk ready for action. Sometimes, if my office is well organized, there are three.

The first is one I made from a kit.

Elisif Sword Harp

I worked hard on this one and am quite proud of it. It actually sounds remarkably good considering that I’d never built a musical instrument before. I’m no master woodworker either. It’s a bit rickety and has undergone several repairs. The nice thing about making your own instrument is you learn enough in the process to make the inevitable adjustments. The runes decorating it were the result of my participation in the Society of Creative Anachronisms (SCA) a historical interest group. I decided to emanate the northern people’s tendency to put graffiti on various objects and got a bit carried away. 🙂

Some months after completion of the above project, I was at an SCA event and found this on a merchant’s table.

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It was playable, reasonably priced, and looked like a miniature version of the one I already had. I couldn’t resist buying it and have never regretted the decision.

I call it my “wee little bairnie.” It is the darling of my collection, has nine metal strings and I have often brought it to outdoor camping events. It is very sturdy and well built. Due to it’s small size and reduced tensions, it is less prone to what I refer to as “exploding harp syndrome” the tendency for a musical instrument to pull itself apart in warm weather.

Some years later, a friend suggested I join a local Irish music session. By then, my first harp was going on two decades and I was reluctant to subject it to the variety of risks carting it all over town would entail, so I began looking for a sturdier instrument, one with more strings than the Bairnie and well built by someone who knew what they were doing. I ended up buying a secondhand Blevins Mezzo 23.

Saint Patrick's Day

It’s smaller that my rune harp and larger than my wee bairnie. It also has sharping levers, which allows for a variety of tunes. I play it often due to this versatility, but sometimes a piece of music is better suited for my rune harp, which has more strings. Five more strings can make a huge difference.

Lots more strings would be awesome. I would love to have a really big floor harp or concert harp, but they are new-car expensive. That’s why all of mine are little folk instruments.

Part of the fun of visiting Terri is I get to play with her big concert harps. The one in my story has a bit in common with Terri’s first concert harp, a paragon of gilded embellishment that was starting to feel it’s age. Concert harps are elaborately crafted instruments, but complicated. A lot can go wrong with them and they are expensive to repair. They can sometimes be found in old estates, a lovely piece of decor that was once a working instrument before it fell into neglect. They are beautiful and kind of sad. In my story, Jazz finds a harp she once played moldering away in the basement. If that happened to me, I’d probably have a good cry.

Fortunately, my own instruments are much easier to keep up. I don’t imagine they’ll be decorating anyone’s estate in the future, but I like the way they look in my office. Better still, I like the way they sound. Learning an instrument is a challenge, but it can be a very rewarding one. Music is awesome and so is the harp. My big sis learned this a long time ago.

Me too.

 

ROW#80 Update

  1. Spend an hour a day formatting Hunt Club for print. Argh! Now I’m five days behind.
  2. Average ½ hour a day working on new novel. I put in another two hours of writing since Sunday. Progress is happening here anyway.
  3. Average ½ hour a day on promotion and blogs. Up to date and then some. I fear this is becoming a time sink. Blah Blah Blog…
  4. Finish reading a book and write a review. I still need to do this. You could say I’m a terrible procrastinator but that wouldn’t be entirely accurate. In truth, I’m really quite good at it.

     

Last One Standing

Yesterday, I went to the park with my husband to check out a new interest group. After years of tabletop gaming, amused by urban legends of people donning costumes and actively playing it out in city parks and university steam tunnels, we learned there was a live action gaming group in our area.  Sounded like fun, so we showed up to investigate.

They were kids. To be fair, some of them were technically adults, in their twenties. The oldest was thirty. Most of them were in high school. My point is all of them, even the oldest, were young enough to be our kids. It was . . . jarring.

I tend to forget how old I am. My plan is to live to be a hundred. At a mere fifty-three years, barely past the halfway mark, I like to consider myself middle-aged. All of my siblings and both of my parents are still alive. I hang around with clowns, many of them older than me, using humor as a tonic against aging. I’m in a weight loss club whose membership contains a good range of ages, including lots of old people hoping to live to be even older.

My subconscious strategy against feeling ancient appears to be surrounding myself with older people. I always feel better when they say “Oh, honey, you aren’t that old yet.” They’re right, of course. With age comes wisdom and the sort of kindly patience to resist smacking someone upside the head, an urge I frequently experience toward my forty-something friends when they complain about feeling old.

Yesterday’s adventure reminded me that the longer I remain in the world, the more often I’m going to end up being oldest person in the room. It’s already happened in my husband’s family. All the kids moved to the adult table and most of the adults have passed away. At holiday gatherings with the in-laws, my husband and I are the oldest ones in the room.

The local NaNoWriMo group is also made up of people younger than me. They chat about their small children, their college courses, their high school adventures. I listen and nod and occasionally say something about my garden. Fortunately for them, I don’t have grandchildren to talk about, though all my siblings do. If I wanted to, I could bore them to death with stories of my nieces and nephews and with pictures of their kids, but then they’d know how old I am.

It’s possible they don’t know. I’m a bit pudgy, which hides a few wrinkles, and my active lifestyle keeps me in fairly good shape. I like to think myself well-preserved and much younger-looking than my actual years. We all have our comforting delusions. We need them.

Midlife can be terribly hard sometimes. Your babies grow up and move away, leaving a big empty space. Your body aches with the pains of wear and tear. You toughen up, remind yourself it’s better than the alternative, and learn to ignore it and get on with your day.

Death, injury, misfortune, and disease rain randomly upon friends and relatives. In my circle of friends and family are people younger than me battling cancer, facing homelessness, dealing with chronic illnesses or the after-affects of crippling injuries. Every day I think of them and hope the ones still alive will be OK. Then I thank my lucky stars I’ve not received a similar direct hit. Yet.

The positive side of all this is that it is human experience that can be channeled into my art. Being a bit on the old side gives one certain advantages as a writer. This is why, when we finally get to meet our literary heroes at workshops and conventions, they are often quite advanced in years. It takes time to become successful and it takes life-experience to develop the level of empathy and skill needed to really tell a masterful story.

Someday perhaps my own stories will impress a new generation of readers who will want to meet me. By then, it’s likely they too will be a bit startled at what a fossil I am. Like my heroes before me, I’ll be the oldest person in the room. So maybe, it’s not such a bad thing. Indeed, in this context, it sounds like something to aspire to.

So here’s to living long enough to be the most elderly, the best preserved fossil, the last one standing. To being open to the possibility the younger generation may have some useful insights to teach us. To doing what we enjoy even if some people may think it kids stuff. To taking care of ourselves and trying to live long enough to see the future.

Here’s to being the oldest person in the room. It sure beats the alternative.

MS Whatsit

ROW#80 Update

  1. Spend an hour a day formatting Hunt Club for print. I’m three days behind. Oops!
  2. Average ½ hour a day working on new novel. I’m finally making some progress in this area. I put in about three hours of writing since Wednesday. That’s a start.
  3. Average ½ hour a day on promotion and blogs. Up to date and then some. I’m spending way more time blogging than promoting. Blah Blah Blog…
  4. Finish reading a book and write a review. I forgot to mention this on my last update. That might be why it is still not done. Hopefully putting it here will inspire the necessary guilt to spur me to action.

Creating Tales for my Manx Cat

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About ten years ago, my husband picked out a family house cat from the local animal shelter. She was a blue calico, with fur that could be described in practical household terms as the color of interesting dryer lint or in poetic terms as storm clouds touched by a sunset. My husband must have been thinking in the latter terms, for he named her Nimbus.

She cried all the way home from the shelter. Nimbus was a sheltered house cat who didn’t like being outdoors. I could immediately relate. I didn’t like being out of the house either. When released from her carrier into my family’s apartment, she found a hide-y hole and stayed there observing us for about three days. On the third day, as I began practicing my harp, Nimbus came up the stairs and sat down on the bed beside me to listen. It was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Although she is quite dutiful in making her rounds to bond with the other members of the household, they eventually go off to work, socialize, or run errands, leaving her to spend the lions share of her time with me. She knows I am usually to be found in my office. Indeed, she appears to have developed a very firm conviction that I BELONG in my office.

She greets me first thing in the morning with anxious trills, asking after her breakfast and reminding me that I am due in my office. If I linger over my own breakfast or get caught up in housework, she follows me around meowing polite suggestions to get back to work in my office.

As mentioned in a previous post, I practically live in my office. Nimbus has taken up a co-residence. She likes to sleep in a comfy box under my writing table, on a top of the bookcase, or on a shelf below the keyboard of my standing desk. I don’t mind that she snores, but Lord help me if she should wake up and find me missing. Cats have keen senses. I can run, but I cannot hide, and the sound of her reproachful mewing is quite effective for getting me back on task.

There was once a study in which people viewing cat memes were found to get more work done.  A local writer’s Facebook group has embraced the idea and members post such memes often, referring to them as “productivity cats.”

I’ve got one of those, but in a more literal sense. If I happen to sneak out and take a vacation day, Nimbus is sure to greet me at the door wondering where the hell I’ve been and why I am not in my office making soothing clickety sounds on the keyboard. That’s my job, you know.

She’s my manager, my task mistress. One could say she was born to the position. She is after all a Manx cat. Her ancestors are from the Isle of Man, a place where cats are born without tails. I create tales, so one could say we are a good match.

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ROW#80 Update

  1. Spend an hour a day formatting Hunt Club for print. Up to date.
  2. Average ½ hour a day working on new novel. Uh, yeah…No. I’m 8 hours behind on this.
  3. Average ½ hour a day on promotion and blogs. Up to date. I’m thinking of evenly dividing this into quarters as I’m lately doing more blogging than promotion. For now though, it’s all good.

Locked in Her Office or Terms of Imprisonment.

Liz in Office Chaos

Ask any successful writer what their secret is and the honest ones will tell you the truth, that you actually have to write. Sure, there are amazing moments of inspiration when you wake from the most awesome dream and have an IDEA. There are days when you stop short in a crowded street and giggle maniacally at your own personal revelation while people detour carefully around you, hoping your condition isn’t contagious. There are days when you talk to yourself and answer in the voices of half a dozen of your invisible friends. Getting inspired to tell a story is fun.

Unfortunately, in order to become an author, you have to write a report about it. Spelling and punctuation count and if it’s a really complex tale, the assignment can stretch into hundreds or even thousands of carefully typed, double spaced pages. It can involve several rewrites, painstaking research and eventually, acquiring a collection of computer skills. You learn that what once sounded like a romantic, fun, and easy way to make a living is actually a lot of hard work. Work that requires concentration and silence and freedom from distractions. If you can, you carve out an office for yourself.

I’ve had several over the years, some as small as the corner of the master bedroom, some as large as a full basement. My current office is set up in my grown son’s former bedroom. In a noisy household, it is my quiet haven, filled with things that make me feel happy and well-organized. The window is a jungle of houseplants. There are fairy houses and clown wigs, juggling balls and musical instruments, spring-loaded jelly bean cans and a cardboard replica of Xena’s chakrum. There are writing books, music books, thirty years worth of journals, stacks of office supplies, and tons of manuscripts. I could say I keep the door locked so all my stuff won’t explode out of the office and not be entirely joking.

In truth, the door stays shut to close out the noise so I can hear myself think. I like my solitude and I need it to get any work done. It’s an odd, contradictory thing to have to lock myself up in order to free my mind, but that is how it seems to work.

Closeted away from the disruptive world, I get down to the hard work of organizing my half-baked ideas into intelligible stories, then go over them and fix the punctuation and spelling and plot holes. I pace the floor, muttering dialogue to myself and returning to the computer to re-type it again and again until it sounds right. I scratch my head over tutorials and fight to get my computer writing software to perform functions needed to format my manuscripts. I pore over the my beta reader’s critiques and ponder whether I have a good story and why ever took up writing in the first place.

The reason is that writing novels is what I’ve wanted to do since the third grade. I made preparations in high school and college, learning to type, taking advanced English courses. Then life made it’s demands, the years flew by and I realized there was only one way to make it happen.

Thus I chose the terms of my imprisonment. Time runs short and stories do not write themselves, so I am usually in my office. It’s my own personal hell, heaven, sanctuary, and asylum.

It’s ruled over by a harsh task mistress, but that’s a story for another day . . .

ROW#80 Check in.
The good news is after some initial technical difficulties, the formatting of my book is moving along nicely. I find myself singing “Paperback Writer” quite often of late. 🙂

The bad news is I still have not made any progress on my newer novel and the hours of work I need to make up have climbed to seven. Fortunately, I’m nearly caught up on the backlog of formatting, and am hopeful this will free up time to get some creative work done.  That’s my goal for the days ahead, to catch up and keep up.

I hope you are making progress on your own task list and that your office areas are seeing a lot of production.

 

A Taste of Summer

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On a busy day, my go-to breakfast is fruit and nuts. I’ll grab a banana or a few dried apricots and a small measure of almonds, macadamias, or pecans. It appeals to my primal side and keeps me going until I have time for a proper meal at lunchtime.

Sadly, one day the bananas and dried fruit were all gone. Looking out on my back porch window pondering what to do, I noticed a bunch of pear tomatoes ripening in the sun. These are my heirlooms, which remind me of little yellow Christmas lights. They have tough skins to ward off insects, but sweet interiors, far sweeter than any commercial tomatoes.

Yeah, yeah, you hear it all the time from tomato growers. The ones you buy at the store bear no resemblance to those grown in your own yard. I grew up listening to this malarkey from my folks, heard it repeated by my in-laws, and then from my older sister, my landlord, and everyone I met at the farmer’s market. Not that I cared. I didn’t like tomatoes. Hated them, in fact.

That all changed a few years ago when I got a volunteer in my compost pile. A “volunteer” is what happens when the seeds of last years vegetables decide to survive the composting process and sprout the following year. A couple of cherry tomato seeds did just this . . . in Autumn.

Well, I have a soft spot for orphans, so I took the little plants inside and nurtured them over the winter and darned if they didn’t reward me with cute little cherry tomatoes the following January. What else could I do but try one? I did and it was surprisingly good.

My husband, impressed at my achievement, dropped hints that a few fresh tomatoes would be welcomed on his menu. This worked pretty well as I also have a soft spot for big, cuddly men to whom I happen to be married. We picked out a few Cherokee Purple tomato plants and I fell in love with their dark foliage and purple fruit, but they didn’t produce much. Last summer just wasn’t a very good one for tomatoes.

This year is a different story. I’m picking tiny yellow pear tomatoes every few days, and some of my other vines are producing as well. At any given time, there are usually a few tomatoes and a bunch of greens and herbs available.

So it came to pass that I looked out the window at my garden and decided that since tomatoes are technically fruit, they would be fine with a handful of sunflower seeds for a quick breakfast. That turned out so well that the next day, I had a larger tomato. It was almost as sweet as a regular fruit.

What does summer taste like? Well, that’s my nomination. What would you describe as the flavor of summer?

ROW#80 Progress Report

I’m about halfway to being caught up on formatting Hunt Club for print. I’ve studied the guidelines, taken notes, and am about to start the actual process of setting it up and giving it yet another proofread.

My promotional time units have been credited, but there are big gaps on my work tally. These need to be filled up with work on my next novel. I like to think I’m putting them off so I’ll have a big block of time to work in a more focused way. This may not be a bad idea, actually. My mind seems to focus better on marathons of a single goal. Changing gears to do several things does not come easy. Perhaps I’ll experiment with attempting blocks of three or four hours on one project at a time. I’ll report how it goes next check-in.

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