lydamorehouse: (nic & coffee) this might not be a very long post.

Yesterday was weirdly exhausting. We all ended up in a huge fight. It was dumb. Most of the arguments my family has are not over anything significant, but, in the way of fights, they will spiral into All The Things that are WRONG, Everywhere, ALWAYS. Last night it was over some timing around diner and a text that Mason failed to answer promptly. Simple stuff, really, easily straightened out--but thanks to being hangry and all of us in various states of hormones (Mason is in puberty, Shawn and I are menopausal), there was wailing and gnashing of teeth and much sobbing all around.

We got through it, of course.

But, then I had to bundle myself off to Wyrdsmiths, which often goes until 10:00 or 11:00 pm.... which is way, WAY past my bedtime. We had an excellent meeting, however. All of us came, for once, even the elusive Kelly. We reviewed two pieces, and spent a good deal of our time trying to convince Adam that while his memoir was fine and good, what it really needed was Elder Gods... or possibly dragons. Then, I went on an odd sort of rant about why not doing the dishes is NOT a crime against humanity based entirely, I think, on having too much time to think about one of the critique pieces while waiting on rugs to wash at the laundromat.

But, between the argument and the late night, I have spent today in a kind of fog, even though today is the day that I usually meet up with Eleanor, [personal profile] pegkerr, and [personal profile] naomikritzer . We had a nice time at the coffee shop chatting about life, the universe and everything, actually, but, MAN, I would rather have been napping at home.

So... tired...

I managed to NOT do my spell yesterday, but I did get it done today.

Spell-a-Day (Jan. 11)... )

Now my wife has talked me into re-watching "Highlander" (the TV series) because it appeared on Amazon Prime. It's objectively terrible... though I remember ADORING it in the 1990s.
lydamorehouse: (??!!)
 I would apologize for not posting here in a while, but we've had a house full of guests.  Before that, I was cleaning like a fiend to be ready for them.

Thanksgiving has become my all-time favorite holiday.  I don't even quite know how it happened that Shawn and I decided that Thanksgiving belonged to friends, made-family, rather than our families of origin, as it were, but it was by far, the smartest thing we ever did. 

I feel so sad when I hear people talking about how they dread Thanksgiving because it means Yet-Another-Family-Gathering where they're not accepted for who they are, or where they have to suffer through crazy, drunk uncle Bob's horrible racist/homophobic/misogynist politics. I wish I could give them all the fortitude or means or whatever it would take to say, "So, don't do it. Make this ONE holiday yours." After all, it's not like so many of these same people aren't going to end up having to go back to the same awful situation a month later for Christmas.  And even if your family doesn't celebrate Christmas there's usually some other 'can't miss' holiday that's basically required family gathering.  So, why give them Thanksgiving too?

I absolutely love having my house filled, once a year, with the people Shawn and I picked--our friends and their family.  I love cooking them a huge meal, even if, this year, I had to figure out how to make a bunch of my staples vegan.  I love putting together the puzzles, having the competitive board gaming, etc., etc., etc.  I even love that my crazy guests always make a pilgrimage out to the Mall of America for Black Friday. (Hey, you know, if I were in Dublin for some uniquely Irish Cultural Event, I'd want to participate in it too. Even if my native friends were like, "Nope. No way.") 

So that's the sappy way of saying, I had a great Thanksgiving.  Our friends and their family are now coming from both ends of the U.S. and Ireland (one is in Oregon at Reed College, two are in Virginia at William & Mary, and two live in Dublin.)  They all arrived en masse on Wednesday.  Luckily, they were able to find an Air BnB just up University.  They've stayed in a downtown hotel before, but that isn't nearly as homey--and this was very convenient (I picked some of them up there on Saturday to take them to the airport.)  Funny story about that, though. I was given the wrong address at first and so I ended up knocking on a door two doors down. Thank GOD no one answered, though I did spend a lot of time wondering why no one was letting me in.... this is where cell phone are actually a GOOD thing.

Anyway, we ordered pizza from Pizza Luché because they have tons of vegan options, and even make an in-house vegan cheese, while also serving plenty of delicious carnivorous options as well. I think we were off to a good start with the vegans since at least one of them was actually a little overwhelmed by all the choices... since, more often than not, restaurants have only one or two.  

Turkey day itself went very well. It took a bit of planning to have vegan options and/or adapt existing recipes. I'll be honest. A big part of my secret skill as a chef is that I'll put bacon drippings and cream in ANYTHING, given half the chance.  But, we managed to find a good butter substitute and we'd been trying out various dressing recipes for months. Shawn even made a vegan pumpkin pie (as well as two types of cookies and a vegan cranberry-orange sweet bread), and, after several trips to a number of different stores, I managed to find a commercially produced vegan soy whip as an alternative to my homemade whipped cream. It was a lot of work for two out of eight eaters, but, in the end, we could feel good about our hosting skills.  In exchange, I heard no complaints about the dead bird on the table and there were no attempts to proselytize about the vegan lifestyle's superiority. So, I think that was a fair trade.  ;-)

On Black Friday, they all went about their separate ways, but took Mason along.  That meant Shawn and I had a chance to physically recover (I napped... A LOT! I'd feel bad, but it's a full day in the kitchen, since I get up early to make French bread from scratch) and, according to Mason, they all checked out the Herbivorous Butcher for lunch. We had a little snafu about whether or not we were going to brave the Black Friday Mall of America traffic, but in the end everyone hopped on the light rail (Mason always carries his Go-To pass, so he flipped the bill.)  So, it all worked out, plus our Irish guest got to check out what passes as public transportation in Minneapolis/St. Paul. (He and I actually extolled the virtues of trains.)

Saturday, people started drifting off to various airports, though we kept our Oregon guest at our place one extra night. That day was spent playing with the Nintendo Switch and he's ONLY a vegetarian, so cooking for him was much easier. I made my favorite broccoli-curry soup, which I will type out below because another friend has asked for it:

From the Ovens of Brittany Cookbook by Terese Allan:

6 tablespoons of butter, divided
1/3 cup flour
3/4 cup finely chopped onions
1/2 cup finely chopped carrots
1/2 cup finely chopped celery
2 cups of coarsely chopped broccoli stems and tops
1 teaspoon basil
1 (or more) teaspoon of curry powder (I use Penzey's "sweet" curry)
1/2 teaspoon of paprika
1/2 teaspoon of thyme
1/2 teaspoon of celery salt
1 cup of milk
1 cup half-and-half
2 1/2 cups of vegetable (or chicken) stock
1/4 teaspoon of ground white pepper (though black will do in a pinch)

They want you to make a roux with three tablespoons of the butter, heated, to which the flour is added.  I've found you can do this, their method is not that hard, but if the idea scares you, you can just skip the extra butter and mix flour with a little water to make a paste and add it in place of the roux.  Both methods work equally well, IMHO.

Melt remaining 3 tablespoons of butter in a large, heavy pot. Add onions, celery, and carrots. Cook until tender.  Add broccoli and spices and cook a little longer. Add the stock to the vegetables, bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, add milk and half-and-half. Once that's warmed add the roux (or flour mixture).  Simmer until thickened and the flavors have mingled, but the broccoli is not overdone--10-20 minutes.  Adjust seasonings to taste and serve.

You can see why the vegetarian can eat this, but not the vegans.

On Sunday, we shuffled our last house guest off to the airport, and the had Mason's GF over for our traditional post-Thanksgiving wild rice soup. Of course, she's also a vegetarian, so she got the same soup, only minus the shredded turkey bits.  I made popovers.  It was wonderful.

But, oh my gosh. I'm not normally the sort of person who needs a vacation after a vacation, but this might be an exception. However, I wouldn't have traded a minute of it. Such a good time was had.

lydamorehouse: (crazy eyed Renji)
How I know my spouse loves me?  Shawn researched all the coffeeshops near the hotels we'll be staying at during this trip.

Of course knowing where they are and knowing what they'll be like are two different things.  I went out this morning and checked out Javalicious, which I was originally excited to find because their Facebook page shows something that looks like it could be real espresso, complete with espresso art.  However, when I found Main Street Beulah, the coffee shop was closed.

main street, downtown Beulah, North Dakota

A very lonely street.  

A very sad and caffeine-deprived Lyda.

Luckily, Beulah has a surfeit of coffee shops, having a second one on 19th Avenue.  I set off for that down Central Avenue, mostly because I wanted to admire the town.  When Mason first saw Beulah, his impression was "suburb." He's got a point in that there's something about Beulah that doesn't feel terribly... established? The houses all look like the kinds of ramblers that were popular in the Midwest in the 1950s-1960s.  The lawns are wide and the houses all have the kind of suburban distances between them--which isn't terribly descriptive if you aren't familiar with American suburbs, but think: wide and open. Driveways that lead to two-car garages.  That kind of place.

It seems pleasant enough, though I'd never want to live here.

For one, the second coffee shop looks like this:

a shack that serves coffee

They also don't open on a Saturday until 9 am. They're not open at all on Sunday.  And their coffee was.... well, it was a step up from the hotel coffee, which is what I subsisted on until we headed to Hazen for the family shindig.  But, it was really only *one* step up. 

Sadly, I will have to be satisfied with this for another full day.

(And who knows what Cody, Wyoming will bring in terms of coffee!)

Our room at this hotel comes with an in-room jacuzzi-tub which I tried out this morning. It was... interesting.  For one, those things take FOREVER to fill (and I'm not terribly patient), and second, it turns out that if you don't fill it at least a full inch over the little nozzles, they will spray you IN THE FACE. Okay, that last part might have been dumb luck, but I swear the tub was out to get me.  

Then I spent a ton of time trying to figure out what to wear. Shawn had packed me a nice shirt, but when I put it on, it just felt... *shakes head*... it just wasn't right. Plus, I wanted to make a good impression on these people. I was pretty sure I was going to be the only lesbian they were ever going to knowingly meet, so I kind of felt like I had to represent. Luckily, I had packed a plaid shirt.  I mean right? If you're going to be the only lesbian they know, you might as well embrace at least one of the stereotypes!  

Honestly, I was pretty worried about how all this was going to go.  We had hours and hours we were going to be spending with these people and (I'm not making this up, I checked Wikipedia,) Hazen is 97.7% white. This is not a place comfortable with "diversity," you know?

But, well, if they judged us, they did it the classic Midwestern way: quietly and behind our backs. To our faces, everyone was nice.

That worked out, because what we were there for was for Shawn to reconnect to her mother's extended family.  The reunion was based around her uncle Bobby and his wife Chris's 60th wedding anniversary. The food was... well, it was free, so I probably shouldn't complain about it, but let's put it this way: the event took place in a literal church basement. Macaroni salad featured prominently. 

We have one more day here. We wanted to stay long enough to be sure to have the Hazen supermarket's fleischkeuckle and so we're going to spend the day tomorrow seeing some of the nearby sites, which include Lake Sakakawea, Garrison Dam, Dickinson Dinosaur Museum, and Knife River Indian Historic Site.  We will may also see a few of the sculptures on  Enchanted Highways, so that should be fun.


Feb. 15th, 2013 07:53 am
lydamorehouse: (more renji art)
I woke up this morning feeling very dutiful. So I went downstairs, made coffee, and put in a thousand words on Samurai High (my current WIP, of which I'm trying to get sample chapters ready for an editor who showed interest in the proposal by early March.)

This is a good start for me, because we're planning to spend most of the day as a family having a "Staycation" at the Waterpark of America.

Last summer, Mason participated in the Roseville Library's "Book-a-wocky," wherein he vowed to read for 20 hours over summer vacation (which for him is only the month of August.) The deal was that if he made good on his promise, he'd receive a bag of goodies from the library. In that bag of goodies were several free passes, including an all-day pass to said waterpark. This, of course, is Mason's biggest scam. Reading is never a chore and, if he choses to focus on it, it can he read about 20 hours in three days.

But neither Shawn nor I think rewarding Mason for reading is ever a bad idea, even when he'd do it anyway. Finding a time when we can all go to the waterpark (and have the money for two extra tickets), however, has been a chore. So the day has finally come. Mason has been hopping up and down singing, "Water park day! Water park day!"

I, on the other hand, have been having PTSD about the water slides.

Actually, the slides aren't that bad. But, as an adult/old lady, I find I suffer vertigo a lot easier than I used to even at, say, twenty.

So that's going to be be my day. I wonder how my hair will do--it's been dyed several times now and clorine is never nice to hair dye. Perhaps all this rusty red will turn Yachiru pink! Then I'll just have to get a different hairstyle (and, if I felt clever, a captain's haori. If I were going to cospaly Yachiru I'd have be her as an adult.)

Last night was Valentine's Day and we watched "Harry Potter and the Order of the Pheonix" as a family with popcorn and lemonade. I spent the whole movie wondering why the Doweger Countess was being so... NICE. ;-)
lydamorehouse: (Default)
Yeah, I wasn't here because I was busy with house guests for turkey day. Our usually quiet, unhurried house filled up with the chaos and the awesome that is our friends the Jacksons. They came from Colorado on Tuesday LATE, as I would say, but really it was only nine or ten o'clock when they arrived. (See previous post about how I am now, officialy, old, and nine o'clock is getting to be way past my bedtime.)

Mason alternately had crushes/deep admiration for Maggie and Jack the two "kids" (who, at some point while I wasn't looking, grew up into teenagers.) Jack introduced Mason to the joys of Pokeman for one of those little handheld replacements for Gameboys all you kids are into, and then, to our great astonishment and gratitude, bought him a used one of his very own at the Mall/Maul. Pretty awesome (or enabling,) don't you think? Seriously, though, it's a nice distraction for Mason. Pokeman Diamond Version is about his speed, too.

The actual eating was fairly spectacular, if I do say so myself. The only thing that I would change, if I could, would be to somehow have two ovens and two stove tops so that everything could hit the table piping hot instead of, in some cases, mostly warm enough. I made a ton of sides, and though some of them could be made ahead of time, like the roasted yams, I found that I still didn't quite have enough burners to finish everything exactly on time, while making the gravy, etc.

But we did the whole traditonal thing. Shawn kicked me out of bed at six and I started making bread (French), which I had baked and out of the oven by 11:30 am when I put in the gigantic bird (20-some pounds). Then I made roasted yams with lime and garlic (a recipie from Martha Stewart called "Cuban Sweet Potato Roast," I believe.) Also, I tried something new with the brussel sprouts, something I found in Cooks Magazine that involved maple syrup and cider vinegar. It was okay. I'm not sure I'll do it again, they end up a bit soupy, IMHO. But maybe I just need to tweak the recipie, I don't know. We also had mashed potatoes, gravy, and Shawn's brother Mark's fresh cranberry sauce that involves a whole orange and a touch of brandy. Yum!

And, of course, the obligatory pumpkin pie.

I ate way too much, and my nephew Jonathan came over rounding out a perfect family get-together. We put together a puzzle with the Jacksons and Jonathan, which, may now officially be a "Tradition." I'm not sure how many times you have to do something before it becomes a tradition, but this is the second year running with the Jacksons, Jon, and a puzzle... so certainly it's in the running for tradition, I should think.

Then, I just hung out. The Jacksons left on Saturday for a long drive home, with stops at various relatives' homes along the way. I got a bit of napping in, some reading, and did nothing of import for days on end.

And damn, but getting back into the groove was hard this morning. I woke up in the pitch dark and though, "No way. No effing way." Then I paved a small path in the direction of hell with my good intentions. I was GOING to work out this morning (didn't); I was GOING to get a jump start on all the writing work I ignored for the past five days (didn't). I did have an awesome conversation with a friend this morning about grief, human nature, and my daughter Ella, who died.

It was a really powerful conversation, but the load lightens the less you carry, you know?

At some point I may post a review of BONESHAKER by Cherie Priest, which I finished twenty minutes ago. But I need to percolate my thoughts before I write them down. Plus, I'm going to feel like a complete bonehead if I don't get ANY writing work done today.

How was your turkey day?
lydamorehouse: (Default)
Since I reported the overheard weirdness from Barnes & Noble, I thought I'd post another strange interaction my family and I had.  This time it took place in the check-out line at Target.   The Saturday before last we did a long over due shopping run, as the cashier was ringing up our various and sundry items Mason noticed that we were buying some new kitchen impliments.   "A new measuring cup!" he cried in excitement.

The cashier looked startled and said holding up the glass pitcher, "Wow, he knows what this is?  He's smart.  I didn't even know what that was."

Shawn continued chatting about why it was we were buying a new measuring cup.  (Dishwasher accident -- which is to say *I* dropped it.)  Later, in the car, Shawn told me she couldn't believe that the cashier could possibly have been serious about not recognizing the measuring cup.  I didn't get the sense that the cashier was kidding, however. The cashier seemed genuinely baffled (and impressed with Mason.)  It's entirely possible the young cashier was just being super complimentary to Mason and at the same time self-depricating.  I mean, I've said over-the-top things in the name of humor, but the interaction didn't have that vibe.  Plus, I thought it might be possible that the cashier had honestly never spent a lot of time cooking, in which case all the stranger impliments of construction would seem strange.  (There are, after all, things in my kitchen I didn't know the names for until recently.  Potato ricer, anyone?)

Plus, times have changed.  I make "from scratch" (such as passes for that these days) a great number of meals we eat, but I understand I'm part of a diminshing minority.  And, my family is weird.  For instance, this Saturday, I participated in the annual Rounds fleischkuekle fest.  We spent the entire day rolling, filling, and deep-fat frying "meat cakes."  This is always a family affair, though this year Shawn's brother Greg couldn't join us, her other brother, our nephew and even my folks stopped by to take part of the construction of this traditional food.  I was talking to Jonathan (my nephew) about it and be both thought about the ritual as our family's version of "barn raising."  Everyone has a part to play and, though the point of the gathering is to get something done, the process is really a form of family bonding.

Do you have traditional family foods?  Things you make from scratch that you're proud of?  I'd love to hear about them.

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