Look but don’t touch

Cholla blossomSometimes when I get to feeling that maybe it’s a little too hard living here in my part of New Mexico, particularly at nearly a mile and a half above sea level, the land gently reminds me why I’m here.

Right now we’re all waiting, hoping, praying for rain.  Not too much rain, mind you, not all at once.  That’s a male rain and it leads to floods.  No, we want a daily dose of gentle female rain that soaks into the soil.

When it finally does rain it’s like a miracle how little it takes  for plants to respond.  It’s a desert phenomenon:  The air smells fresh, withered grass turns green in hours, flowers blossom overnight.

Everything is in a rush to attract, to reproduce.  We don’t get all that much rain.  Winters are long.  Strategies for survival are a necessity.

There are the hardy ones, the few plants that gamble on rain to come.  They get going early so they have longer to reproduce and, perhaps, to store up for the coming times of dry and cold.  There are seeds that germinate even though nighttime temperatures are still below freezing and daytime temps aren’t much above.  There are plants with tough stems that put out bits of green and even blossom early on, while the rest of the world is still dust.  Sometimes they die back and come back.  Tough plants for a tough climate.

But critters are desperate for moisture as well.  For every early leaf there is an insect or animal that lusts for fresh, moist, tender greens.  So plants have developed other strategies as well.  Around here it seems everything has thorns, needles, burrs,  prickles, or barbs.  Sharp ones that always end up in me.

They still have beauty, these tough plants.  It’s not always obvious, but it’s there.   I walk carefully through the sere grama grass that can slice the skin, and step around pale amaranth stems that appear so deceptively fluffy.  So intent am I on not getting scratched, pierced, and scraped that I almost miss it: the chartreuse of a fragile cholla blossom nestled in the midst of sharp cactus needles and the barbs of last year’s tumbleweed.

I am once again reminded why I am here.  I am blessed to be reminded every day that all I have to do is look and I will find beauty.  I am blessed to be reminded that treasures are most valuable when they are rare.

And I am so very thankful.

 

Love It or Leave It

Love it or leave it … or fix it.  Old Glory

Today is July 4, Independence Day in the US. Every town’s having parades, BBQs, fireworks, and concerts. Fishing derbies, flea markets, big box store sales, baseball games, you name it, whatever it takes to celebrate our country’s birthday.

It’s easy to succumb to feelings of pride in our nation on this day. After all, we’ve come a long way, baby. We owe it to ourselves to be proud.

On the other hand, many are not so proud today. Many are hungry. Many are in pain. Many are weeping while others are cheering as they wave Old Glory in the name of independence.

Many are angry, even as they put relish on their hot dogs.

This is as it should be.

Our country, the United States of America, is not a single organism. It is a group effort of many people who come from all walks of life, and who have different opinions about how things should work here. The US, when it is healthy, should be a bubbling, fermenting brew of thought, emotion, and striving for betterment. That’s a messy process.

Yes, on this day there is misery in the world. But history tells us that misery has always been part of the human condition. Our Declaration of Independence acknowledges it: “…all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.”

So yeah, people do put up with a lot. We want to live the good life. We are happy to be cruising along in our comfort zones.  We don’t want to think about problems. We don’t want to have to deal with our own problems much less anybody else’s. Experience tells us, though, that most people will tolerate only so much before they do something about it.

The US might not be perfect, but that’s because we’re human. We don’t live in a utopia; we live in the reality of 2018. Not everyone is celebrating, but we haven’t forgotten about them. The good news is that we citizens of the US are doing what we’re supposed to be doing. We have heaved ourselves off the couches of content and are paying attention to the problems.  We’ve rolled up our sleeves and we are slinging around the tools that will fix things: ideas.

Ideas are how it begins.

We do want to make things better, and in the US we are free here to work out how that will come about. We all have ideas about how to best go about fixing things and we’re free to have those ideas and to express them. We are free to argue with each other about the way we run the place, and then we are free to vote to make it so. Our form of government is messy, sometimes ugly, but that’s the nature of liberty.

This is, my friends, a big deal, and you betcha we’re celebrating. Tomorrow we’ll get back to work.

Rejected but not dejected

One good thing about getting enough rejections from agents and publishers is that after a while they don’t really hurt. Each new one is just another paper cut. I haven’t lost enough blood yet to swoon.

I swear, if an agent or publisher ever accepts one of my submissions I think I won’t even notice. I’ll just assume it’s another no. Gotta watch out for those kinds of expectations.

But anyway, I just wanted to talk a bit today about how we writers (and other creative types) deal with with rejection. I may not speak for us all, but I’m pretty sure how I react isn’t that unusual.

In the beginning I was shocked, incredulous that I got a rejection because I was so sure my work was way too fabulous for anyone to not love it and want it immediately.

So I had to get over that.

Then I got to where when I got a rejection I thought it was because my writing was no good.  That I was a crummy writer. This required a bit of mental judo, as I had to ignore the nearly two decades of being paid well to write non-fiction. I had to make myself believe that my fiction work was inferior — because if an agent or a publisher sent a rejection that’s what it must mean, right?  Even though that’s not logical thinking, that’s where I went.

That wore off after a while, sometimes within minutes, sometimes much longer.  Then I’d get pissed off about getting a rejection. It doesn’t take a mental giant to see that a lot of what gets published is pretty awful. My work was definitely better than that schlock. And I’d show those publishers.  Someday I would get published, and then those dummies who passed on my work would be really, really sorry.

Maintaining a perfect state of pissed-offness is energy intensive and depressing so inevitably I”d move on to vowing to never write again. As if that were possible. Okay, maybe I just wouldn’t write fiction anymore. Maybe I’d go back to working under contracts to write for others. I’m pretty sure that road’s still open to me.  But I don’t want to write what other people want me to write anymore. Nope. Not happening.

Inevitably after a bunch of moping around and self-flagellation, during which time I’d torture myself with visions of a life empty of purpose and passion, a brilliant idea would smack me between the eyes, an idea that would not be denied. I’d drop everything to capture it, scribble on a pad holding a flashlight in my teeth in the middle of the night, sit in front of the computer all day long till my eyes wouldn’t focus and my fingers were about worn off. Taking what I learned from the rejections and fixing…

Whoa there. Wait a minute. That last bit… the learn from part. NO! That’s not how it goes. You know why? Because getting rejected doesn’t teach a writer anything. Rejections aren’t necessarily about the writing at all.  IMO they are all too often about the fact that a whole bunch of agents and publishers only think they know what they’re doing.

Yup. That’s not just sour grapes on my part (well, maybe a little sour). You don’t have to take my word for it. You can prove it for yourself. Meanwhile, consider my reasoning.

First of all, let’s start with the fact that agents and publishers all have slightly different query requirements. Why is this? After all, it’s a time sucker and a real drag for writers who want to get on with writing the sequel to their novel.  Writing summaries of a book requires special skills. Writing query letters to successfully sell a novel to an agent or publisher is made nearly impossible because that special skill requires being able to read minds.

What? Yes, that’s right, reading minds. I’m sticking my neck out here, but seems to me that much of the blame for unsuccessful queries is on the people who supposedly are the experts, the ones who’re going to market those books, the agents and publishers who don’t bother telling authors exactly what they want to market. So when a writer (me, for instance) hunts for an agent or publisher to query, we have to intuit, or guess, or consult a Ouija board, to figure out whether the manuscript is a fit for that agent or publisher. Or just send out query after query, racking up the rejections.

Check it out for yourself by reading your rejections, which no doubt you’ve saved. Don’t they all say the same thing basically? Don’t they use phrases like not quite what we’re looking for right now and the fit was wrong?

Excuse me?  Not quite what you’re looking forHow could that be? I’m sure I’m not the only writer who obsesses over what agents and publishers are looking for. I don’t need waste my time querying anybody who isn’t looking for what I’ve written. And yet in the end, isn’t that what I’m doing? Spending valuable time querying when I could be writing a book?

Only to get rejected?

Could it be… the [gasp]  [drum roll] “Rowling Syndrome”?

You probably know that the author of the wildly popular Harry Potter series received 12 or so rejections for The Sorcerer’s Stone. That’s no record. Many famous authors have received more.

Rowling gets to have the syndrome named after her (by me, I just dreamed it up) because when she sought to publish the first book of her Cormoran Strike series under the pen name, Robert Galbraith – after selling millions of copies in her Harry Potter series — one rejection letter actually recommended that she take a writing course. And even more amazingly, the publisher who first turned down Harry Potter also rejected Cormoran Strike — and did so rudely.

Wait — how could this be? Why would anyone have rejected a manuscript that must have been clearly marketable?

To be fair, publishers and agents get overwhelmed by the queries. There’s an art to prognosticating best-sellers. The public is fickle, tastes change quickly these days, and it’s a long process getting a book from agent query through to hitting the shelves (or Amazon!). What everyone wanted to read then might not be what they want to read now. I get it that’s it’s not easy. Particularly when the author is new.

So sad, too bad. Letting a best-seller slip away is still an agent’s own fault.

This is a rule of life: If you can’t articulate your desires accurately then the odds are high that you won’t get what you want. If the queries an agent or publisher receives are not quite what they’re looking for, perhaps they are the ones who haven’t made it clear what they want. If you’re a writer you’ve probably been as frustrated as I am at how some agents (particularly the new ones) ask for such a broad range of genres that they’re obviously just chumming for a best seller.

So okay, no point in getting dejected that I haven’t found my agent or publisher yet. I have to believe I will find them and they’ll be way better than the ones who’ve rejected my work so far. But still.  If I was more into burning my bridges, I’d send replies to those rejections, suggesting that perhaps taking a writing course would help. I’d thank them for reviewing my query and tell them I was sorry they didn’t fit my novel’s needs.  And that maybe if they wrote better descriptions of what they want on their #MSWL Manuscript Wishlist they’d get better queries and have more successful sellers.

But I won’t, of course. I’ve still got to cross the bridges and it’s stupid to scorch my own feet.  Where is that confounded bridge anyway?

#amwriting

April Snow

Snow at dusk in April

It had been a brutal day, a hard edged wind coming from the north and cutting through the many layers she wore.  Even when the sun broke through the heavy clouds it was cold, cold for late April.  But here in the mountains of New Mexico weather was like that.  Nothing unusual at all.

For a brief moment at sunset a rosy golden light limned the mesa top, gone as quickly as it had come.  She smelled rain, but there was nothing yet to moisten the dust and the struggling grass that was already turning gray with thirst.  It would come, though, she knew it.  If she could smell it, it would come.

She built a fire in the wood stove, smiling at the fancy she’d had that she was done building fires till next fall.  She settled into the evening, waiting.

The wind stopped.  The world held its breath.  Silently fluffy white flakes drifted down into the dusk, covering the branches of the apple trees that were only this morning braving the first bright green leaves of spring.

I’m over there!

I finally went live with my Patreon Creator account after a lot of dilly-dallying about it.  Asking for money to support my creative efforts was a high bar for me to leap.  I bashed against that obstacle for a year before finally just hurling myself over it because… after some point it’s either put up or shut up.  It’s part of the creative process, this money thing.  It’s not about starving artist, it’s about validation.

Believe me, many artists would rather be validated than eat.  Chocolate or approval of my work… chocolate or approval of my work…  

Please, take my chocolate.  It would be a fine thing if you went over to Patreon and gave me a thumbs up with your patronage.  Thank you!

US Air Force OK with destroying the Gila Wilderness

Gila Wilderness 1922



“A wilderness, in contrast with those areas where man and his own works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.”  Wilderness Act of 1964 (Pub.L. 88–577)

The Gila Wilderness was designated the world’s first wilderness area on June 3, 1924.  If the US Air Force has its way, it’ll become a burning trash dump.

A Holloman Air Force Base proposal would create a new military operations area (MOA) over the Gila and Aldo Leopold wilderness areas of the Gila National Forest (and over into Arizona, too). The Air Force wants up to ten thousand F-16 flights per year (that’s more than one an hour 24/7), dropping  flares and chaff as they fly over.

The Air Force didn’t think to bother notifying the public* where the MOA is proposed (Grant and Catron County in New Mexico) about this idea.  Instead the Air Force held meetings in other municipalities nowhere near the directly affected area.

Pretty sneaky, if you ask me.

So what will happen if the MOA goes through?

You mean the screaming of jet planes constantly zooming over what’s supposed to be wilderness (“in natural condition” 11 U.S.C. § 1131(a)) isn’t enough?  Well, there’s more.  Such as the trashing of the forest.  Literally.  The Air Force wants to drop chaff and set off flares (military aircraft often combine chaff with flare dispensers), carpeting the forest with military debris and maybe just burning the place down.  How much chaff and flares I don’t know… maybe that is in the Air Force’s environmental impact statement (EIS).  But with up to 10,000 flights a year I’m thinking we’re talking tons.

Chaff

Chaff is meant to confuse radar.  It’s made of millions of tiny aluminum or zinc coated fibers that are ejected from a jet and then are blown around by the turbulence of the jet’s wake and from whatever wind there is that day.  It can end up far from the release point.

Chaff fibers are about the thickness of a human hair and range in length from about a third of an inch to around three inches long.  The fibers are dispensed in cartridges or projectiles, so it’s not only chaff, but the debris from the containers (paper, cardboard, styrene caps, pistons, and other stuff) that ends up on the ground.

Once the chaff and debris is on the ground, it can be blown around by wind and updrafts from wildfire.  While inhalation is not considered to be a major issue (by people who don’t have to breathe it), wild animals will inevitably consume the chaff because it will be everywhere.  It will blanket the forest floor, the plants, and the animals themselves (not to mention hikers, bikers, hunters, and campers) with metal coated glass fibers.  And let’s not forget that these fibers and associated debris will also pollute the streams… water that ultimately will end up in Phoenix, AZ.  But hey, they have water filters over there, don’t they?

There have been few to no peer-reviewed studies examining the impact of chaff on wildlife and the environment, or humans either, for that matter.  Little is known about the breakdown of chaff in soil or in water.  It doesn’t take a study to know this:  given what chaff is made of, it’s not going to go away soon.

But hey, the Air Force is pretty sure that the stuff won’t hurt anything.

Flares being deployed from a F-16

Flares being deployed from a F-16

Flares are used to confuse heat-seeking missiles. Most are magnesium pellets ejected from tubes to ignite in the air behind the aircraft. The flares burn at temperatures above 2,000° F.   As hot as magma ejected from a volcano.

The flare pellets burn as they fall to the ground.  To the dry trees and brush below.  The place where there are no roads because it’s wilderness, so fire fighters can’t even get there unless they hike in.

If the flares don’t burn the forest down when they land, at minimum what their deployment will do is add to the feeling that there’s a war’s going on.  Jets screaming overhead.  Explosions blasting day and night.  Blinding lights destroying dark skies.

Bye by peace and quiet.  Farewell tranquility.  Too bad, wilderness.

Wildfire burning in the Gila National Forest

The future of the Gila Wilderness?

What could  they possibly be thinking?

I’m guessing the Air Force is thinking only about the Air Force.  They’re relying on people being so fearful about war that sacrificing the world’s oldest wilderness so fighter pilots have another place to train is an acceptable price.

I don’t know what they’re really thinking, but I do know that the decisions will be made by people who don’t value wild places.

Just think:  the Gila National Forest is where the endangered Mexican wolf is supposed to survive.  Where are the studies on the impacts on the wolves?  And what about the endangered spotted owl.?  And all the other threatened and endangered species in the Gila?   Let’s not forget the impact on the Cosmic Campground (the first International Dark Sky Sanctuary on National Forest System lands and also in North America, located between the Gila Wilderness and the Blue Range Primitive Area).  Has anyone bothered checking into potential damage to the Gila Cliff Dwellings from the vibrations of hourly (or more frequent) low flying jets and/or flare explosions?

No matter who you are, rancher, environmentalist, Continental Divide Trail hiker or biker, hunter, wildlife photographer, or just someone who likes to walk in the woods, it seems to me you’d be as outraged by this Air Force proposal as I am.

While I am not an advocate of petitions, for those who are unwilling or unable to take personal action there is a petition sponsored by the Gila Conservation Coalition at https://www.change.org/p/holloman-air-force-base-military-overflights-threaten-the-gila-wilderness

Better yet, write your legislators.  Write to the Air Force.  Call them.  Email them.  Make a noise in this world.
Holloman AFB Public Affairs Office
Mr. Tommy Fuller
(575) 572-1831 ext. 5406
tommy.fuller@us.af.mil

* Edited due to information received from Catron County Commissioner Anita Hand (District 1) and further research:  The Catron County Commission received a letter about the EIS too late to act on before the scoping period had closed (the Notice of Intent was published August 25, 2017; there should have been a 45 day comment period but the comment deadline was September 15, 2017).  Holloman airspace analyst Alan Shafer has stated that Holloman also sent letters to both Grant County Commission Chair Brett Kasten and County Manager Charlene Webb but Kasten said that he had no recollection of receiving any letter.  Grant County Commission did hold a special meeting to address the issue. but this was after the comment deadline  The only public scoping meetings were held by the Air Force in Carlsbad, Truth or Consequences and Las Cruces.  No scoping meetings were held in Grant or Catron County. [return to top]

Note also that the draft EIS is not available on the Holloman AFB EIS website.  If it exists somewhere, this writer sure can’t find it.  

Further reading:  Gila National Forest weighs in on Air Force’s airspace proposal

Potato Soup

Blessed moisture (c) 2018 Lif Strand

Not potato soup ingredients

Yesterday it rained for the first time in I don’t know how long.  Oh, I could readily find out — I do keep a weather journal.  It didn’t rain much the last time.  As of yesterday morning I had recorded under half an inch since the first of the year and as of last evening I had just 0.2″ more to add.

Last night it snowed.  I woke up to two inches of wet white stuff.  I have to be happy for that, because we so desperately need the moisture.  But I had to cancel a trip into town.  I wanted to pick up a load of alfalfa hay, and get some cat food.  I’m out of bananas, and getting low on peanut butter.  And [gasp!] I’m out of wine.  But more importantly, I had to cancel the appointment for a massage.

Tragedy!

Okay, it’s not a great tragedy but it is a bit of a disappointment.  I’m not in dire need of the massage and I won’t get to hang out in the coffee shop this afternoon with a book, a cup of coffee, and a pastry.   The massage has been rescheduled and the coffee shop will be there next week, so it’s not the end of the world.  It’s just one of those things when you go rural.

Living out here in the middle of nowhere means knowing that there could be days or weeks when going anywhere is not possible.  It means thinking in advance, replenishing supplies before running out, and making do.  If a person isn’t into the mentality of  preparedness and self-sufficiency then this is not the kind of place to live.

In my case, today is more like a schoolkid’s snow day than anything else.  I get to stay home.  Yay!  (That’s the hermit in me talking).  And of course, I have what I need here to make the day even better.  None of the things on my shopping list are things I’m in danger of running out of unless I couldn’t drive out for a good long time.

Except for the wine.  A wine cellar’s on my To Do list, but I’m not there yet.  I rarely have back-up wine.  I’ll tough it out.

It’s a cold, dreary day, today.  The snow has stopped and the melt has begun.  It’ll be a snotty mess out there in a while.  A good excuse to stay inside and snuggle up near the wood stove with a book.  And maybe some comfort food.  I’m thinking potato soup.

Look Ma!  No recipe!

Making do happens when you can’t follow a recipe.  Maybe you don’t have the ingredients, or the time, or that recipe just doesn’t appeal.  In my case it seems to mean being constitutionally incapable of following directions.  Oh, not because I couldn’t if I wanted to, but because it just seems so… um…

Let’s just say that some of us make our own excitement in life.

I’ve always been attracted to stories of people pushing the envelope of their very existence.  Doesn’t matter where or when.  It could be anybody, at any time, on whatever ocean or continent… or planet or galaxy.  Shipwrecked folks, lost folks, explorers, pioneers — people who went where no others had gone before and who made do with what they had and what they could invent.

It takes a special kind of person to do that.  I’ve always wanted to be a member of their ranks.  But you know, I’ve got that hermit thing going, so that has put a crimp on what I might do.  The thought of being stuck on an island or in a spaceship with a bunch of people who are in my face all the time is just too ewwww.  Plus I’d get claustrophobic without wild, open spaces to roam.

So hey — I could be a mountain man, like Grizzly Adams as portrayed by Dan Haggerty (I met him years back, seemed like a nice guy).  Except I don’t live in the mountains and I’m a woman, and no training bears for me, thank you very much.  Anyway those are just details.  The point is a life of doing whatever I can for myself by myself.  Not living by the book.  Not just marching to a different drummer — but to my own drummer: me.  Even if I can’t drum.

It’s a life of choosing to take a different road, maybe one that requires giving certain things up in order to have other things that are more important.  From the outside it might look a lot like living a hard life for no reason, but from the inside what it feels like is playing.

Yes, playing.  By that I mean, having fun doing something I’ve chosen to do the way I want to do it and enjoying what I’m doing just because I can.

So about that soup

Even if I had an excellent potato soup recipe I wouldn’t follow it.  (I do have an excellent book of soup recipes entitled Soup, by Coralie Castle; 101 Productions; distributed by Scribner, New York 1971.  It is out in a second edition published in 1996, too.)  I don’t need to look in the book to know I probably don’t have all the ingredients, or if I do, I won’t want to use the ingredients called for.  More importantly, seems to me that recipes are guidelines to someone else’s idea of what food should taste like.  It’s like making a quilt using the exact fabrics and pattern that someone else has created, or painting-by-numbers.

Not saying that there’s anything wrong with doing those things, just that it’s not for me.

You know the supposedly ancient Chinese saying about giving a man a fish vs. teaching him how to fish?  Well, teach me not only how to fish, but how to light a fire, and how to clean the fish, and how to fry or broil or stew, and you’ve taught me something truly useful.  Which, by the way, is why the early editions of The Joy of Cooking are so wonderful — Irma Rombauer provided not just recipes but an explanation of the basic principles of cooking.  That’s why that cookbook has been in print continuously since 1936 with over 18 million copies sold.

Teach me the principles of soup and I’ll make my own recipe.

Potato soup ingredients

So in case you want to know what I did, here it is, today’s recipe for potato soup, with annotations.  Next time I won’t make it the same way.  As for trying my recipe?  Do what you will, that is the only advice (apology to Mr. Crowley)

Ingredients

  • 5 potatoes of varying sizes I grabbed some potatoes that I forgot I had.  They hadn’t gone green yet and that didn’t have lots of sprouts.  Most of the rest will get planted when it’s warmer if they don’t go into the compost, darn it
  • 1 onion It needed using before it needed to join the potatoes in the garden
  • 3 large carrots because I like carrots
  • 1 cup chopped kale because I had it, because it doesn’t store well and the horses won’t eat it, and because it would make the soup photo pretty
  • A few grinds of black pepper
  • 1 TBS cumin because I love the taste
  • 1 TBS Golden Paste (turmeric) because it’s good for me.  You can use plain turmeric if you don’t have Golden Paste handy, or don’t put any in the soup at all
  • Some veggie oil
  • A big blob of butter
  • Secret ingredient:  Left-over coffee from this morning
  • Water

Instructions

  • Heat the oil in a deep pan or a soup pot.  Melt butter in the oil.  Don’t let it get so hot it smokes!
  • Chop the onions into chunks and saute in the oil/ butter.  While that’s cooking, do the potatoes. Don’t forget to stir every so often so nothing sticks to the pan.
  • Chop the potatoes into chunks and add to the onions.  While that’s cooking, do the carrots.
  • Chop the carrots into smallish pieces and add to the onions/carrots.  While that’s cooking, do the kale.
  • Chop the kale and stir into the rest.
  • Add the pepper, and the other spices if you like them.
  • Add the coffee (it was about 8 oz).  I like coffee in my sauces and soups because it adds a nice dark color and some depth and richness to the taste.  I tend to not bother with meat broths, which would do the same.
  • Add water to cover all ingredients and bring to a boil.
  • Cover and simmer on low till it’s getting mushy.  Leave the lid cocked a little so the liquid reduces some, but watch that it doesn’t reduce too much and burn your veggies.  My soup was started on the gas stove and finished on the wood stove.

OK, here’s the fun part.  After the soup’s cooked a while but before it’s done you can start adjusting the taste.  Be advised that it’s all subjective.  I like to taste what I’ve got, imagine how it might be better (unless it’s perfect already) then add a few things that call to me.

  • Add salt.  Or maybe soy sauce.  Or not.
  • Try these (they’re in my soup right now):  Tarragon, basil, coriander.
  • Heavy cream, if you’re into cream of potato soup.  I’ve got powdered heavy cream I might add later.   Or not.

My soup’s cooking right now.  It needs a few hours of simmering, but it’s already tasting interesting.  But you know the best part of this?  However it turns out, it doesn’t matter.  It wasn’t only ever about the eating part.

I’ll report later how the soup turns out,  good or bad!

EDITED: same evening.  I had a bowl of my soup straight, with some added salt.  If I make it again I’ll add salt in the beginning  It tasted fine, but it was more like a veggie stew than a soup.

For a second bowl I mashed the veggies and then added plain yogurt.  Oh my, now that’s good.  But also, I felt that the whole dish would have been improved with the addition of lentils early on.  I think more potatoes would have been a good idea.

I’m too full now for a third bowl, so that experiment is for tomorrow.  I’m going to run the soup through a blender and add the heavy cream instead of yogurt.  Actually, I think I’ll add the cream (powdered) tonight so it’ll have a chance to blend in with the other flavors.

EDITED: next day.  Oh boy oh boy oh boy.  YUMMY!  I can’t decide whether I like the yogurt version or the cream version better.  I’ll have to make this soup again to find out because it’s all gone now!

I’m giving this soup 4 of 5 stars!  ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ☆

I got the blues

Title pageI have a sad case of postpartum blues. No, I haven’t given birth to a squalling, pooping little bundle of joy, but I did send my manuscript — supposedly the final edit — off to my professional editor. Now I wait till she goes through it and (hopefully) tells me it’s good to go.

I thought I’d be bouncing around today with a big weight off my shoulders. Last night I couldn’t sleep for going through all the things I’d be free to do today now that I wasn’t shackled to my manuscript. My house looks like a crash pad. And why not? That’s basically what I’ve been doing for the past few months while I focused on this book.

Envelopes are piled up on my desk. I shudder to think what might be in them that I’ve been ignoring. Dirty clothes are spilling out of the laundry baskets. When was the last time I changed the bed sheets? Stacks of books I’ve used as references, or read in the evenings and never reshelved, or borrowed and never returned are on top of my sewing table. One the rare days when I felt like I had to swamp out the house but didn’t want to take the time, I just put things in empty Amazon boxes. Who knows what might lurk in them.

Ick, the cat boxes need emptying. No point in scooping. They’re beyond that – gotta just dump the contents and replace with fresh… um… I do have more kitty litter somewhere, don’t I? I did do dishes almost every day, but the clean ones are piled high in the dish drain.  Why bother putting them away? I just kept using the same ones over and over.  Other than baking a few loaves of bread, I haven’t cooked much of anything since Christmas. I can go a long time on peanut butter sandwiches, salads, and wine.
Fabric
I look around the house and there is stuff everywhere! Not only stuff that needs to be put away, but projects that need to be completed. Fabric that I’ve purchased but not stored for the wall hangings I’ve started but abandoned. Houseplants that need repotting sit on windowsills and on the kitchen counter and on the floor. Tools that I’ve used to band-aide things that broke that I had no time to fix while I’ve been living in the dream world of writing need to be put away. And of course, the interior walls of my tiny little straw bale house still have not been plastered.

I have so much to do and now I’m free to do it.

But no. I’m sitting here feeling no motivation at all. I’ve got postpartum depression. I’ve had my creative baby, so to speak. The creation process took all my psychic energy and now I’ve hit the post-creation let-down.

Or maybe not.

Maybe it’s just the massive amount of work that I need to do to get my house back in order that is off-putting.

Maybe I should write about it instead of doing it.

Hey – I feel better already!

Great Expectations. Not.

Today was the winter solstice, that is, the first day of winter.  Here in my part of New Mexico it was all gale force winds and, well, wintery.  I was chilly all day long.  So naturally my thoughts turned to warmth:  Warm layers, cozy fire, and a nice hot toddy.

Accordingly, on the way home from town I stopped in Western Drug and General Store, which really is an amazing place that sells just about anything a human being could want.  My pretense was that I needed to pick up a birthday card (and I did do that, got a nice one) but I also wanted to get some whiskey because it seemed to me whiskey would make a proper hot toddy.

Now here’s the thing:  While I don’t like the stuff, I feel like I should.  Every damn mystery and science fiction book these days seems to have characters who drink single malt and double malt and hey — I love chocolate malts so shouldn’t I like whiskey?

So far, I never have.  It tastes like paint thinner.  Nasty, nasty stuff, no matter how aged it is and how many malts it is.  Whatever that means anyway.  But I had noticed a while back that Western had whiskey in little metal flasks (375 ml to be precise, but as a die-hard non-metricentric, it is little to me) and it was labeled Apple Crisp Whiskey.

Oh wow!  I like apples!  I like apple crisp (that is a dessert, isn’t it?).  How bad could whiskey be if it was Apple Crisp Whiskey?  And on top of that, the label also said America’s Finest.  And a cute, candy-apple red metal flask!

Well, I had to have it.  I had visions of an incredible hot toddy after the evening’s chores were done, the cozy fire blazing in the wood stove, me bundled up in my jammies and bathrobe. But no.

You knew that, right?

First hint:  I could have sworn on the way home I smelled whiskey in the cab of the truck.  And, well, yes, when I picked that flask up in the store, it did stick to the shelf it was on.  But such a cute, candy-apple red metal flask it was, I had to have it!  Probably some other flask had leaked, right?

The seal was still intact on the little tiny cap (so cute!).  And maybe there were some kind of sticky droplets on the side of the pretty candy-apple red side of the flask, but that could have come from anywhere.  At home I gave a moment’s thought to returning the flask unopened, since it seemed that maybe the flask wasn’t quite as full as it might have been but… no.  I was determined to have that damn toddy.  Tonight.  The fire was roaring, I was warming on the outside and I wanted that hot comforting drink to warm my innards.

I opened it.  I sniffed it.  Kind of.. ewww.  Paint thinner with a hint of rotten apple, overlaid with the tang of metal.  I poured some hot water into a cup, added a big tablespoon of honey, and a slug or two of Apple Crisp Whiskey.  Stirred well.  Tasted.

Have I said ewww yet?  I thought maybe I was mistaken.  I mean, I never have liked whiskey or any of its relatives.  So I took another sip to be fair.

But that metal taste.  Really.  Bad.  In the lingering aftertaste I was sure it was less apple and more compost that coated my tongue, compost liberally tainted with steel.  Was this the normal taste for something that claimed to be America’s Finest?

OK time to read the fine print.  Proprietary all-natural recipe.  Estate-grown corn.

Corn?  Where are the apples?

Traditional copper still.  I sipped a bit more.  No, definitely not pennies I was tasting, but steel.  Remarkably mellow flavor and smooth finish… wait, what about the apples?  I read the other side.  Aha!  Corn whiskey infused with apple crisp liqueur.  Whatever that is.

Maybe I’m too picky.  Or maybe I simply have an uneducated palate.  But I think that maybe somebody accidentally put some kind of solvent in that flask and it’s dissolving the welds.  Because I swear, I rinsed the outside off and dried it and there are sticky droplets along the seam again.

So… happy solstice.  Winter has come.  Meanwhile, I’m drinking Merlot, the fire is cozy, and after I recover from the toddy I’ll get my jammies on.