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March 12th, 2014
People! I have NEVER been so angry in the kitchen before EVER.
I tried this ultra simple recipe because I wanted to experiment with large tapioca pearls. It’s just as well I can’t find the website where I got it, because I would click over and rant, and probably I should not. Ranting on the internet = ugly, imo. On the other hand, CAPS LOCK OF RAGE are sometimes perfectly appropriate, as in this post.
The recipe was similar to this one, though. And this one is setting you up for the same problem I experienced. Here is the recipe:
Bring 2 cups water to a boil in a saucepan. Add 1/3 cup large tapioca pearls, partially cover and simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the pearls are translucent, about 40 minutes. Stir in 3/4 cup unsweetened coconut milk, 2 tablespoons sugar and a pinch of salt until dissolved. Transfer to a bowl and add 1 teaspoon vanilla extract.
You see, extremely simple. What could go wrong?
The version I used called for simmering some tapioca pearls in a liter of water for 20 minutes until transparent, draining and rinsing the pearls, then adding coconut milk, rock sugar dissolved in a little water, and a pinch of salt. See, very simple and easy and quick. What, I ask again, could possibly go wrong?
Well, I’ll tell you what. If you simmer tapioca pearls without CONSTANT STIRRING, they will CEMENT themselves to the bottom of your most expensive All Clad pan. A WARNING WOULD HAVE BEEN NICE. And twenty minutes is nothing like enough — the recipe I posted above, suggesting 40 minutes, is still not long enough. No, you will tie yourself up stirring the tapioca for SEVENTY FIVE MINUTES, after which some of the pearls will STILL have uncooked centers. And forget draining and rinsing. The pearls that do cook through will turn into goo. There is no way to “drain and rinse” goo. If your recipe needs a particular size or brand of tapioca pearls to work, YOU MIGHT CONSIDER MENTIONING THIS.
Okay. I added coconut milk and jaggery (rock sugar) and a pinch of salt to my tapioca goo, and actually it was not bad. A sharp fruit would go well with this. The recipe I linked above suggests mango, which is good in desserts of this kind. I swirled plum puree into mine, which was nice.
And soaking the pan in vinegar overnight de-cemented the cooked-on tapioca, for which I am very grateful.
But still, GOOD LORD, PEOPLE. If you don’t know how write a recipe properly, leave it to those of us who understand the importance of specifying exact ingredients and cooking times and methods.
I have one more package of tapioca pearls, btw. I have this Indian recipe for savory fritters that use tapioca pearls, if I have the nerve to try it. At least I trust Julie Sahni to write a recipe that works!
March 11th, 2014
Another funny post by Chuck Wendig, over at Terrible Minds. You should really read the whole thing, so click through.
I think I’ve hit every stage at one time or another. Erased 100 pages? Yep, done that. (Twice.)
Oh, wait, not this one:
9. Oh, Crap, None Of This Makes Sense At All
That terrible moment when you realize the entirety of your story hinges on a thing that doesn’t make any sense. It’s not a plothole so much as the hole in a well-tied plot-noose. If the character on page ten would just do the logical sensible thing and throw away the Doomed Widget of Kjarn, the entire book falls apart. You realize suddenly that everything hangs on a broken hinge, the whole conflict held fast to some kind of Escherprint logic that throws the whole tale into the fucking woodchipper. “Wait, the main character could’ve just pushed a button in the first act that would’ve solved the whole thing? OH GODDAMNIT.”
I’m glad to say that this one, no. I depend on my clever beta readers to make absolutely sure I NEVER have this particular problem, at least not in the finished story! But I don’t think I have ever actually done this. Yet.
24. Everything Just Clicked
Hear that sound? It’s the sound of dominoes falling together in a neat line — it’s like the playing card in a child’s bicycle spokes. Everything clicks. Everything works. Everything makes sense. You don’t know if it’s good or right or how much you’ll have to fix but none of that matters. Because it all feels right and your march to the end of this story feels suddenly ineluctable — forward progress is now unstoppable. You can do this.
Now that’s what we wait for.
The ending of Miguel’s short story just clicked for me. Now I need to go write it. If I can find the time. Because it may be spring break so I am not at work today, but a) beautiful weather, must take dogs hiking; b) must update anaracavaliers website; c) I bet little Bug is about to wake up and I need to take him outside and let him potty and play and then coax him to try a few bits of solid food, plus I also need to try to take pictures because he is six weeks today, if you count from his C-section date; d) do you know how long it’s been since I really looked in on Twitter?; e) at some point I need to start loading the guests posts for next week’s Andrea K Höst Week into WordPress and fiddling with them to make sure they look good.
By the way, Folly “missed.” She is not pregnant, despite doing progesterone tests to make sure the timing was good. I am angry and upset and actually kind of relieved. What the hell, it’s only another $1000 down the drain, that’s almost like not losing money compared to the financial losses for Giedre’s litter. The stud owner has made it clear I can ask for another try with a different bitch whenever I like. I don’t know. Maybe it would not actually be insane to try that with Honey in a year when she is old enough. I would not ordinarily choose to breed her to a wholecolor dog. But, well, when you think about it, her grandfather is almost 18, which is amazing and wonderful and spectacular and tremendous; and The Prez would be 10 and he seems to be on track to have that kind of vigor and longevity if any dog anywhere might, so if he is any kind of match for her in type and beauty, well, he might not be a bad choice as far as health goes. Plus, talk about a total, complete outcross. I doubt they have a common ancestor for twenty generations. Heck, I bet you can run right back to 1950 and hardly hit a common ancestor. And with my pedigree program, I can actually go look.
March 11th, 2014
Well, how about this: Strange Chemistry is running a Goodreads Giveaway for BLACK DOG. Check it out — I’m sure you need another copy to give away, even if you have one already. Scroll down to enter.
March 9th, 2014
I know he looks sort of solemn here, but that is just an illusion. He is as bouncy and playful as any five-week-old puppy ever. Or Cavalier puppy, at least; I’m sure he is calm compared to a terrier puppy. He has hit every behavioral benchmark right on time, well, a tiny bit late as you expect for a single puppy. Unfortunately I’ve had too many opportunities to observe that single puppies start off slow (they are understimulated, obviously). They catch up by about six weeks.
I know I said I might swear off showing and just quit the whole dog thing entirely, other than just having dogs as pets of course, but . . . and I know that this puppy is only five weeks old, and we do not truly evaluate puppies this young, but . . . probably I am completely insane to even consider this, but . . . I am thinking that right now, this is a very, very promising puppy. For the first time, I am thinking of keeping this baby. I’m thinking that he might be exactly the type of puppy I was breeding for: a fabulous show-stopping puppy who owns the ring from the moment he steps into it. The kind of puppy who catches your eye right from the first and never lets you look away. That kind of puppy. I remember seeing this puppy’s, um, great-grandfather, in the ring. He was maybe the first dog that ever caught my eye like that. Not a perfect dog, but extraordinarily showy.
Well, well . . . early days, early days. Maybe he’ll only have one testicle descend, disqualifying him completely. Maybe his bite will go off, though it’s fine now. Maybe he’ll have serious freckles, or small eyes, or or or . . . who knows. To walk into the ring and compete right at the top, he would need to be practically perfect in every way. Which is exactly what I hoped for from this breeding. But obviously hard to get.
If I did keep him . . . maybe I would breed him just one time. Or buy a bitch who would be a total outcross and breed him to her. Yeah, that would be insane, another huge gamble. Or get with a friend and make a deal to breed him to one of her girls in return for a puppy back, or something. He would need to be so fabulous for me to do any of that. But maybe . . . argh, who knows. Where IS my crystal ball?
Anyway, I thought you all might like to know that this little guy is perfectly fine.
March 9th, 2014
So, supposing you took my advice and made crystallized ginger? Now that you have all that crystallized ginger, not to mention all the ginger syrup, what can you do with it?
Of course you could just make a LOT of double-chocolate ginger cookies, which is an excellent idea and don’t let me talk you out of it. I’ve been adding twice the crystallized ginger in that recipe, btw, and reducing the chocolate chips to one cup, so that ratio is totally up to you.
But supposing you would like to branch out a bit, here are a couple other recipes you might try:
King Arthur Flour Gingered Oatmeal Muffins
I like these a lot. They rise surprisingly well, too. For me, this recipe made more than 12 muffins, and I was glad I didn’t just insist on putting all the batter into just 12 muffin cups. They also came out of the muffin tin pretty easily.
1 C white whole wheat flour
½ C oat flour, which you can make by grinding some oatmeal in a food processor or (easier, if you have one) a spice grinder
¾ C rolled oats
¾ C brown sugar
1 Tbsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 C plus 2 Tbsp milk
¼ C vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla
½ C finely diced crystallized ginger
Toss the crystallized ginger with a spoonful of flour and set aside. Combine the dry ingredients. Whisk together the milk, oil, eggs, and vanilla. Add the dry ingredients and fold in. Add the crystallized ginger. The batter was quite thin but everything was fine, so probably you should expect that. Spoon or pour the batter into greased muffin cups, probably about fifteen cups if yours are the same size as mine. Bake at 400 degrees for about 18 minutes. Let cool five minutes and remove from the pan.
Now! You could have sprinkled these with a streusel topping before baking, as KAF suggests, and I’m sure that would be good. But I dipped the warm muffins into ginger syrup and then Demerara sugar. They were great.
King Arthur Flour Ginger-Molasses Cookies
Another KAF recipe. Usually they’re very reliable, you know. Anyway, this is a nice, soft type of cookie, which is what I prefer. I did mess with this recipe a bit, as you will see. What? You can never have too many chocolate-ginger cookies.
1 C butter
1 C sugar
¼ C molasses
¼ C ginger syrup (or more molasses)
2 ¼ tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon (the recipe called for 1 ½ tsp)
½ tsp cloves (the recipe called for 1 tsp)
1 tsp ginger (I believe the recipe called for ½ tsp)
3 ½ C flour (or reduce the flour by 2 Tbsp and add ¼ C. cocoa, or by 3 Tbsp and add 1/3 C cocoa)
½ to ¾ C crystallized ginger (not in the original recipe)
¾ C bittersweet chocolate chips (not in the original recipe)
Oh, all right, actual directions: Cream the butter and sugar. Beat in molasses and ginger syrup. Beat in baking soda, salt, and spices. Beat in eggs. Stir in flour, or flour and cocoa powder. Stir in crystallized ginger and / or chocolate chips. Scoop onto lined baking sheets or else roll into 1 ½ inch balls, roll or dip into coarse sugar (such as Demerara), and place on baking sheets. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Cool on sheets 10 minutes, then cool completely on racks.
Lemon Ginger Scones
2 C flour
¼ C sugar
1 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
½ butter, cold, cut in pieces
½ C chopped crystallized ginger
Zest of one (or two) lemons
2/3 C buttermilk
Combine dry ingredients. Cut in butter with a pastry cutter. Stir in the ginger and lemon zest. Stir in the buttermilk. Knead gently till the dough comes together. Pat out into 7 inch circle. Cut into eight wedges and place on lined baking sheet (or freeze). Bake at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until a touch golden. Cool on racks, or better, serve warm.
I would suggest making a glaze with powdered sugar and lemon juice, since after all you just zested that lemon. Alternatively, nothing stops you from drizzling these scones with ginger syrup. Maybe try some each way? Anyway, mmmm, scones.
You can always freeze scones at the cut-into-wedges stage, and I always do unless baking for a crowd. Freshly baked scones are just better, and you can bake them right out of the freezer. Of course it adds a few minutes to the baking time, but not enough to signify.
March 8th, 2014
So, yesterday, I visited Troy Buchanan High School, which is in Troy, MO, which in case you are curious is a bit north and west of St. Louis. This was part of a Writer’s Week, where they invite local authors to come speak to their students and also allow student and faculty to showcase their writing — it’s a pretty big deal, very well organized, and I really enjoyed it.
Plus! The art students get involved.
This is a ceiling tile — ceiling panel? — whatever they are called. The picture was painted by a senior high school student and it is FABULOUS.
Every author who visits gets a ceiling tile, and then after the Writer’s Week events are over, the ceiling tiles are set into place in the library ceiling.
I noticed both Antony John and Brian Katcher had ceiling tiles from previous years — this year, Antony John was there the same day I was, but unfortunately I couldn’t stay all day, because I would have liked to meet him. I really liked his contemporary YA FIVE FLAVORS OF DUMB, but didn’t know till I saw his waiting ceiling tile that he also has a dystopian series in progress. I’ll have to check that out. You trip over YA dystopias everywhere you turn these days, I know, but in fact I haven’t read a huge number of them, so I’m not burned out.
Brian Katcher wasn’t there this time, but was in a previous year — probably he will be next year, since his new book will be out. You may recall that I really admired his book ALMOST PEFECT, and I do have his earlier title downstairs on my TBR pile, but I haven’t read it yet. I will probably wind up getting his newest book when it comes out, reading that one, and then finally going back and reading the first (PLAYING WITH MATCHES).
I think it would be fun to make sure we are all there next year and then get together for dinner or something. And I should really look up the other authors who were there, because who knows, maybe I would like their work, too.
Anyway, the kids were great, the involvement of the art department is so cool, and I am still floored by that fabulous ceiling tile, and the entire ceiling.
March 7th, 2014
A fun graphic here, “If the Moon were only one pixel.” Click through and start scrolling over to the right. Odd how entertaining empty space can be.
Loosely related: lots more Earthlike planets being discovered, apparently. On the other hand, I’m not 100% sure that this article is defining “verified” as strictly as, say, I might. Maybe I just read it too quickly, but it looks to me like “verified” might be “statistically likely to be there,” which to me is a rather different thing.
I feel like I should go find something else related to planets or space now, so here: Best Space Photos of 2013. I don’t guarantee they’re the “best”, but they’re pretty cool. It’s actually kind of hard to beat the one of Vesuvius. Wow, that is quite a volcano, even if it is not so much a space photo, just a photo taken from space.
March 5th, 2014
First, here‘s Chachic’s review of BLACK DOG. I’ve been keeping an eye out for this — I knew she’d write her review eventually!
Chachic says: “I did wonder if the story would have been richer if we also got Miguel’s POV but it wasn’t a major issue.” And, “There’s also a tentative romance in the first book that I’m hoping will be further developed in the sequel. I felt that the love story was barely there and would have loved more scenes between the two characters.”
To which I can only say: patience! Actually, it will take quite a lot of patience for one of those points to be addressed: Miguel is not a pov character in the sequel either — but I hope a third book will appear in time, in which he will be a very important pov character. It’s actually his scenes from the middle of the book which have written themselves in my head.
I tend to have pov characters multiply, which in my opinion can be a problem if it goes too far, so if I do write Book III and Miguel is a pov character, I believe I will have to restrict one of the other current pov characters to secondary status for that book. But we’ll see. This is all for the future.
Meanwhile! Here is a guest post of mine, up today at Write All The Words. This post was supposed to address gender, and it does. I will say that my personal experience with female protagonists and female authors seems to have been broader than many other girls apparently experienced. It may not be clear from the post, so I will just say that I was in high school in the eighties. I hope that people comment on this post, because I am always very interested in other people’s experiences with regard to this issue.
March 5th, 2014
So, I saw this post over at Rinn Reads, a blog I’m glad someone pointed out to me because I immediately said Yeah!. Then I said, Oh, memoirs? Because to me the experience of reading a memoir is identical to the experience of reading fiction, only (usually) not as interesting, because, well, fewer dragons, right?
There are exceptions, though. Have any of you read EIGHTH MOON?
Here’s what Amazon says about it: “Sansan was four when the Communists took Tientsin. She was seventeen when she left China in 1962. This is her story of the years between: how she lived, what she hated, whom she loved; a sturdy, stubborn girl’s true record of an existence none of her readers has ever known.”
Here’s what I say about it: It’s an amazing story. Sansan is so ordinary, and her circumstances are so extraordinary, and the juxtaposition gives you whiplash. I knew about the Cultural Revolution, but this will bring that to life — on a very small scale, because this is a story about Sansan’s life, not a political treatise. What she knows about is what’s happening to her and to her family and neighbors. This is a story I keep giving away, but luckily paper copies are easy to come by and not expensive, and the Kindle edition I linked is also inexpensive.
But memoir is definitely not at ALL what I think of when I think of nonfiction.
I read a lot of nonfiction when I’m supposed to be working on a project of my own. Since that’s the case at the moment, I currently have on my coffee table:
WHAT JANE AUSTEN ATE AND CHARLES DICKENS KNEW, by Daniel Pool. It is quite entertaining, plus since I’ve been reading Regencies lately, it’s nice to finally know the difference between a guinea and a pound (I thought they were the same thing, but it turns out not quite) and how to play whist. Did you know that when a gentleman escorted a lady down to supper at a ball, he stood by while she ate, but he didn’t eat anything himself? I had no idea.
WHAT IF THE MOON DIDN’T EXIST by Neil Comins, an entertaining look at what happens to Earth-like planets if they form under different conditions.
A MAN FOR ALL SPECIES, by Marc Marrone, which is supposed to be anecdotes by a guy who is owns a pet store — one presumes he doesn’t sell puppy mill puppies, but I haven’t read the book yet — anyway, the store is called Parrots of the World, so I expect it’s one of those specialty places that raise their own parrots and things.
EVERYDAY LIFE IN SOUTHEAST ASIA, edited by Kathleen Adams and Kathleen Gillogly, which I want to read to develop a SE Asian “flavor” for a book I want to write sometime. Don’t hold your breath; I only have a few pages of that one written, plus I suspect there is a dragon in it somewhere.
ART THROUGH THE AGES, edited by Crosby, because it was free to a good home and I picked it up. I’m hoping it is nice to flip through, but this is not likely to be something I read from cover to cover.
DOLPHIN SOCIETY by Karen Pryor, which I’ve read before but want to read again.
HOW TO READ A FRENCH FRY, by Russ Parsons, a book on food science — Parsons explains why French fries don’t brown as well in perfectly clean new oil as in oil that was used once already, and lots of other things. I’ve read this one before, too.
Okay, all those books really are just sitting here on my coffee table. I didn’t cheat by going and getting a couple more to pile up here.
It’s true that fiction is more compelling on a must-turn-the-page level. That’s why I don’t read much fiction when I’m working on something of my own. But . . . honestly, if you don’t ever voluntarily read anything but fiction, I think you’re missing out. And as a writer, I know I would be. I may not be doing the research a true historical novel would require, that’s way too much work for me, but I believe that any writer will do better worldbuilding if they actually know something about the world. Something deeper than the snappy soundbites we’re handed by pop culture and mass media.
March 4th, 2014
A good post at Janet Reid’s blog.
My own take: I used to hate all prologues. Then I wrote a book with a prologue. Then I wrote another books with a prologue. Now I have to limit myself to declaring that I hate all unnecessary, infodumpy, pointless prologues.
And if I were writing a query, I would call the prologue “chapter 1″.
Good comments on this post, btw. My favorite: “I would never skip a prologue. But then, I also read the acknowledgments, dedication, author’s notes and the back of my cereal box in the morning.”
Me, I never read cereal boxes. Now that I no longer eat cereal.