pameladean: (Default)
Alas, we have no blackbird, though there are cedar trees here and there.

Here is a link to an interview with me by Shauna Kosoris, of the Thunder Bay Public Library: http://tinyurl.com/he9ampk. We met at Fourth Street, and did the interview much later by email.

Also, I should mention that I'll be a guest at Vericon (http://www.vericon.org/) in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on March 18-20. This is the weekend before Minicon. I don't think that I have ever in my life been to conventions two weekends in a row. Even when I was young and bouncible, that struck me as excessive. However, the stellar lineup of other guests and the general lauding of Vericon made me decide that I really could not say No. David and Lydy should both be accompanying me, if all goes well.

Not much other news, I guess. David and I are are still working on self-publishing my backlist. [livejournal.com profile] arkuat and I went with [livejournal.com profile] clindau and Tim who is not on LJ to see Ten Thousand Things' production of "Dear World." I had not read The Madwoman of Chaillot nor seen a more conventional production of the musical. The cast was brilliant, but I had a strong feeling that I was missing a considerable amount of what this production was doing because I was unfamiliar with the background. Still, completely worth the time. On the whole I expect to continue to prefer their productions of Shakespeare, but we have a tentative agreement to see their spring production, which is a new play; that will be a different experience altogether and I look forward to it. And it's always lovely to see Cindy and Tim.

The cats are fine except for Naomi, who has early-stage kidney disease and is eating only intermittently, and usually at strange hours. (I fed her at four a.m. this morning when I foolishly thought I had just gotten up to use the bathroom.) She is the best tortie and I would like her to get with the program and stay around a few more years. She is only fifteen, and would be very good at being venerable.

I was given All the Books for Christmas and my following-hard-upon birthday, and am devouring them with such greed that I don't have many sensible reactions. Those generally take me about five years to produce, anyway. However, a list:

Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen (translated by Lola Rogers), The Rabbit Back Literature Society. This is a great and very strange book. I was often not sure what was whimsical and funny and what was dark and scary, because I am not Finnish. It is a lovely wintery book full of writers whose behavior rapidly goes right off the rails in ways that seem all too likely to anybody who is or knows a writer. Includes creepy children's book creatures and a seriously terrible yet hilarious answer to the question, "Where do you get your ideas?"

Justine Larbalastier, How to Ditch Your Fairy. When I mentioned on Twitter that I had very much enjoyed the Magic or Madness trilogy but was uncertain what to read next, the author kindly made some suggestions, including this. I really admire Larbalastier's use of first-person narration. Charlie is very unlike Reason, the narrator of the trilogy, but both their voices are persuasive. Fairy is very funny, but the characters and stakes are real and the world, while strange, is also persuasive and multifarious.

Marie Brennan, The Voyage of the Basilisk. The Tropic of Serpents remains my favorite of the books about Lady Isabella Trent thus far, because of the profound and reckless intrepidity of the narrator and the splendid sections in which she lives in the wilderness with people native to it; but she is seriously intrepid in Basilisk as well. There's a bit in Serpents where Isabella says that she assumes the reader would like to hear more about the war and less about her study of dragons, to which I actually said aloud, "NO, Isabella, I would NOT!" There is a satisfying great lot of dragon naturalism in Basilisk, and interesting family and colleague relations as well. Her relationship with the people who live with the dragons is more fraught here and hence more problematic (the author is perfectly well aware of this, the characters not so much).

Yes, fine, give me five years and I might say something intelligent about these books.

Pamela
pameladean: (Libellula julia)
I spent the last two hours of my night dreaming that I couldn't go back to sleep after feeding the cats, and that I was repeating the word "redwood" over and over and over again and counting trees rather than sheep. When I woke up I realized I'd been asleep, but one somehow doesn't feel one got the benefit if one thought one was not asleep the whole time.

Around two p.m. I finally got it together to start the pies. I got out the battered, greasy paperback copy of the Betty Crocker pie book, and made the crust for an 8- or 9-inch two-crust pie. During this time Ninja hopped up on the open door of the dishwasher, trotted around the kitchen after a catnip mouse, and chased Naomi downstairs. This was a benign interaction; she invited him, though whether she thought I'd like the kitchen free of Ninjas, I do not know.

I mixed the flour and salt together and went to get the pastry blender out of the drawer it lives in with the rolling pins and English muffin forms, in apparent harmony. It wasn't there. David was having his lunch in the dining room, so I opened the swinging door and said, "I can't find the pastry blender." David obligingly got up, saying, "I know where I think it's supposed to be." He then checked the dish drainer, which I had looked in, and the most miscellaneous of the utensil drawers, which I had looked in; and then he checked the rolling-pin drawer, and it was there. On top. In plain sight. "I don't say," said David, "that it was there when you looked, but it's there now." I had been so astonished that I failed to shut the door to the dining room, which is part of the cat-free zone. Ninja zipped past me and went to ground under the sofa. The major breakable items are still put away from when we had visiting cats, so I just shut him in and went back to the pie.

I made the pie dough and rolled out the bottom crust for the mince pie, which cracked all around the edges but did consent to peel neatly off the waxed paper and go into the pie plate with a minimum of resistance. I opened the jar of mincemeat, with some effort, and was scraping it into the bottom crust when Ninja uttered the most piteous sound known to catkind. I have heard it before, but it was still concerning. I opened the door to the dining room and called Ninja. He marked David's chair and the leg of the table and the sofa with his face, and ran under the sofa again.

I rolled out the top crust for the mince pie, which cracked around the edges and refused to be circular, even though I know how to roll pie dough in a circle and was doing just as I had with the other crust. Ninja made the most piteous sound known to catkind. I opened the door and called him, and he ran under the sofa. When I came back into the kitchen, there was a tremendous rattling and crunching from the hallway, right outside Lydy's bedroom, where she was sleeping after having worked all night. I looked around the corner. Arwen was lounging sulkily on a paper grocery bag. She wanted to flatten it, but the bottom was quite stiff and stuck up in her face, so she was leaning her head on it and looking sulky. I calculated that removing her from the bag and taking the bag into another room would result in more noise than letting her crunch and rustle the bag. She has a Siamese voice and often sounds like an outraged goat.

I arranged the irregular crust on top of the mincemeat, pinched up the edges as best I could, poked holes in it with a large fork, and put it into the oven. Ninja made the sound. I opened the door, and he ran under the sofa. I came back into the kitchen and set the oven timer. The paper bag crunched and rattled. I looked around the corner. Nuit was trying to get into the bag, but the top part with the opening was very flat and would not oblige her. Since Nuit's voice, while notable, is not usually used to object to everything one does, I moved the bag into the media room and tried to open it up for Nuit, but it was stuck somehow, and she was affronted and had gone into Lydy's room; at least she did that quietly.

I washed the flour and shortening off my hands, went into the cat-free zone, and captured Ninja in the solarium, where he was standing on the radiator. It was too cluttered in there for him to jump down easily, so I was able to grab him while he was deciding what to do. Or, possibly, he was bored but didn't want to admit that he wanted to come back to the populated areas of the house. I returned him to the kitchen, a defeat that he took quite cheerfully. I set the timer app on my phone, which crows like a rooster until you tell it not to, and went upstairs and had some lunch.

When the roosters crowed I went downstairs and took the mince pie out of the oven and put it to cool on a rack on the dining-room table. Then I made a second batch of dough for an 8- or 9-inch two-crust pie. The paper bag crunched and rattled. I looked around the corner. Naomi, or somebody, had returned it to the preferred spot outside of Lydy's room, and now Naomi was also trying to sleep on it. I reflected that at least Lydy didn't have to work on Christmas Eve, so if the cats did wake her up, she could just sleep later.

I rolled out the bottom crusts for the pumpkin pies. This batch of dough, made from the same recipe and the same ingredients in the same kitchen, and by the same person, and with all the same utensils and in the same bowl, behaved very well in the rolling-out. One crust let itself be pinched up fairly uniformly. The other one balked and dropped bits of crust all over the counter for that fashionable somebody's-been-chewing-on-my-pie look. I put both crusts in the dining room and went upstairs, where I washed the blender, dumped two boxes of silken tofu, a cup and a half of sugar, a teaspoon of salt, two heaping teaspoons of cinnamon, one heaping teaspoon of ginger, half a heaping teaspoon of nutmeg, and two teaspoons of vanilla into it, put the lid on firmly, and turned it on.

When it was all blended, I took the blender jar downstairs, stopping to collect two cans of pumpkin from the steps, where I am trying to learn not to keep random groceries. I mixed the pumpkin and the tofu blend together in a bowl and divided the results between the two waiting bottom crusts. I had forgotten to preheat the oven, but this doesn't take very long with the smaller of our two ovens in the nice new stove downstairs. I decided, however, that two pies on a cookie sheet were too difficult to get out of the little oven, so I preheated the big one. When I opened the door to put the pies in, I saw that the top rack was in the wrong position for these pies, in addition to having been put in crookedly. I pulled the rack out, and Ninja came to try to see into the oven. I got the rack in properly, but since I was in a hurry and trying to elbow the cat out of the oven, the potholder slipped and I burned my finger. I put the pies in, muttering, set the oven timer, and ran cold water over my finger. Ninja got into the sink to assist in this process. I removed him, absently petting him as I did so, put him down, and went upstairs to sit down and not think about pies. I recovered in about half an hour and went back downstairs, where I wrapped most of my presents for everyone. I got through almost all of them because the pies were clearly not done after the requisite 45 minutes, nor after 55, nor after 65. I took them out anyway lest I be scorching them in some invisible way. The edges of the crusts were at least brown by then, and there were a few cracks in the top of the filling.

I put the pies to cool in the dining room with the mince pie and went upstairs. Raphael was just heating up a bowl of soup, so we discussed when we would order Chinese food this week and decided on Saturday. The strainer from the sink was lying on the floor next to the dishwasher. "Why is the strainer on the floor?" I asked, once we had settled the question of takeout. "I was going to ask you that," said Raphael. "When it was in the sink," I said, looking at it more closely, "it had some bits of tofu in it from when I rinsed out the boxes." The strainer looked very clean. "Well, somebody with four feet," said Rapahel. "And probably orange ones," I said. Cass has white paws, and she can't jump very high. Saffron's adoption page, somewhat grimly, remarked that she could jump high. She can, too. "But who ate it," said Raphael, "once it was on the floor?" We don't know.

I looked up vegan whole-wheat crusts on the internet and found a recipe that didn't make me shake my head or laugh incredulously. Did you know that one recipe, quite ordinary in most ways, wants you to put the ingredients in a plastic container with a tight-fitting lid, or a large zippable plastic bag, and shake it for three minutes? And then add the water and do it again? I don't think so. I found a more conventional recipe and made it. At this point Ninja stood up on his hind legs and put his front paws on my hipbone, and I looked at the clock and decided that Lydy wasn't going to wake up soon, and fed the downstairs cats. When I rolled out the whole-wheat pie crust, it behaved pretty much as the bottom crust for the mincemeat pie had, but since this one was made from whole wheat, I knew ahead of time that it would do this. I crammed it into the pie plate, pinched up the edges, patched up the cracks, and put it into the oven. While it was baking I wrapped more presents. When it was done I put it to cool in the dining room.

While I was cleaning up the mess from making a lot of pie crust and David was wrapping his presents in the dining room, Eric came over to borrow Lydy's car, and remarked that I did not look too harried. I did not feel too harried, so that was all right. Eric gave me a hug and went on his way. While I was still cleaning up the mess, Lydy came home from what she called a fool's errand to buy yarn on Christmas Eve, having gotten up and gone out in David's car when I was upstairs, and we had a nice conversation. She said the paper bag had not woken her up.

I rinsed out the blender jar, took it back upstairs to its base, and put another box of silken tofu and a teaspoon of vanilla into it. When this was blended, I took it downstairs, and then irritably went back upstairs and got the chocolate chips out of the refrigerator. I melted these in the double boiler and then ran cold water over the outside of the bowl to cool the chocolate off. I should have done the chocolate and let it cool while blending the tofu, but cooking on two levels at once tends to confuse the order of events.

I eventually got the tofu and chocolate mixed together and into the baked pie crust. Then I put the chocolate pie and one of the pumpkin pies in the downstairs refrigerator, covered the mincemeat pie and left it where it was (it is actually vegan, and so contains no meat at all and does not need refrigeration), and took the second pumpkin pie upstairs and put it into the upstairs refrigerator. Cassie and Saffron met me at the top of the stairs and escorted me and the pie into the kitchen, and when I looked the clock I saw that they were somewhat overdue for their dinner. And that it had somehow taken me seven hours to make four pies.

I still have four presents to wrap.

If you celebrate Christmas, I hope you enjoy yours this year. If you are having troubles, I hope they may resolve soon. If you don't celebrate Christmas, I hope people who do are not driving you crazy.

Pamela

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