New Year’s Eve epic brownies

Spending a quiet evening tonight with a bit of the extended family.  The hostess is roasting a turkey.  I offered to bring a dessert.

Sugar and I have an understanding.  Especially if chocolate is involved.

I was originally thinking about zebra caramel corn but Sy and I got home at 10 p.m.  last night and that’s just too damn late to start a project of that scope.  Especially since I had work in the morning.

What to make?


Brownies are easy and we always have the ingredients.

But it’s New Year’s Eve.  Need to class it up a bit as Cassie would say.

We had a pound of cream cheese open and leftover from the holiday baking blitz.  Might as well use it up.

So cream cheese brownies it is.  With a bit of raspberry jam to make it even more decadent.

Insert brownie recipe of your choice.  Mine is 1 stick of butter, melted.  1 egg, 1 1/2 tsp of vanilla, 1 1/3 c of sugar, 1/2 c cocoa (I like Sacco), 1 cup of flour.  Bake at 350° till puffed and done.  This makes an 8 x 8″ or 9 x 9″ pan  (depending on how thick you like them).  I doubled it since I’m not sure how many people are coming.

I also threw in a handful of chocolate chips just for fun.  Used semi-sweet but dark or white chocolate chips could be interesting as well.

The cream cheese soften up while I was making the brownie batter.  It got thrown into the mixer with an egg and sugar to sweeten to taste.  Keep it a bit on the sour side as the brownie batter is rather sweet and makes a good contrast.

Once the two batters are mixed put 2/3 of the brownie batter in a well-greased pan and smooth out to the edges.  My house is on the chilly side so this is easier said than done.  Blop the cheesecake batter on top.  If you want, add in the jam of your choice as well.

Batter blopped and ready for the final layer of chocolatey goodness.
Batter and jam blopped and ready for the final layer of chocolatey goodness.

Blop in the rest of the brownie batter and swirl with a knife point to blend the layers slightly.  It’s ugly at this point but don’t worry, it’ll all smooth out in the oven.

Scary now but trust me.  It'll be beautiful.
Scary now but trust me. It’ll be beautiful.

Bake at 350° till it puffs up. Under cooking a bit is preferable to drying them out. Leave the pan in the oven as it cools off and then pop in the fridge. Preferably overnight.

Aren't they beautiful?!
Aren’t they beautiful?!

I’m sure dinner is going to be wonderful but I can’t wait for dessert.

Open up a vein and bleed


I’ve been stalling since the spring on writing the last four sections of The Tome.

Oh the irony.  I’m 90 thousand words in and I can’t get the final 40 thousand written.

I’m not choking.  I’m ruminating.

I’ve been poking at the next section for a couple of weeks now.  Making good progress even.  Almost 5 thousand words of a projected 10 thousand done.  The next scene is a heart breaker.  It’s three-quarters of the way through the book so I suppose this is the pivotal scene of the entire damn novel.

Incidentally, I finally figured out who my main character is.  Hint:  It’s the dead one.

Next up on deck is writing this scene and it has to be good. No pressure at all.  The main character sings a song to her great love who is going off to war.

She sings The Parting Glass.

So of course, me being the immersive sort I can’t just read the lyrics.  I have to hear the song.

Over and over and over again.

So I start with a classic rendition.  The Clancy Brothers are wonderful.  It’s beautifully sung but not quite what I was looking for.  It’s a bit slower than someone would probably be singing to a live audience in a bar.

Then I moved on to my version of a classic.  The music is really good and Shane is enunciating well but he sounds like a bored teenager who’s just doing what he’s told.  It’s very flat emotionally.  Phoning this one in perhaps?

The character I have singing this song is female.  So I started poking around for a version in a feminine voice.

This is female and sweet but Bea’s voice is stronger.  She has a classically trained voice.

Too slow and New Age.

Getting closer.  Beautiful but to folksy.


Three voices but otherwise perfect.

Stop stalling and start writing!

Listening to this on replay I realized that I’m trying to write a scene that contains one of the worst moments in my character’s life.

I’ve had those moments.


Too many.


It sucks to be human and therefore fallible.


We never got to meet.

The one that tops them all though is having to take my nephew’s body from my sister’s arms and give him up to the hospital staff.

A part of me will always be trapped in that moment.  Living it over and over again as if it were a fresh wound.

I would never wish that level of agony on anyone.

That’s the level of pain I need to tap into in order to write this scene as it should be written.

No wonder I’ve been avoiding it.

Isn’t there some housework to be done?






To Build a Better Calzone

I had my first calzone when I was in my late teens.  So big.  So crusty.  So cheesy.  Where had this wonderful thing been all my life?

It’s been true love ever since but those around me have never shared my lust for the gooey mess that is a good calzone.

The 3 lb tub of ricotta was on sale about a month ago so I grabbed it, forgetting that no one but me really likes the stuff.  My excitement at the price just swept all those thoughts away.

Sy and Mal are not picky eaters. They will literally eat whatever you put in front of them and probably go for seconds even if they didn’t truly like it. It’s food.

That said, they really don’t like ricotta.

It’s a texture thing. Too wet.

So there goes the idea of stuffed shells, too much work anyway.  I didn’t want pasta and sauce for dinner, too much heartburn.  I wanted a calzone but no one but me in the house is happy to eat one.

I don’t due multiple meals for different taste buds. No one will starve if you refuse to make chicken fingers for every meal. Really.  That said, is there really any point in making a meal only one person will enjoy?  Seems like a waste of time and food.

Hence, the not-recipe for calzone haters that blends nicely with the ingredients necessary for a calzone:

I cooked off a pound of pasta, al dente, since I was going to bake it in sauce and didn’t want it to get soggy.

Mozzarella was also on sale recently (as the four pounds in cheese cave section of the fridge can attest) so I shredded 1/4 of a pound, set it aside and cubed the rest.

Once the pasta was cooked I added a couple of pints of sauce from the 100 pounds I processed and canned over the summer.  I threw in some of the mozzarella cubes and poured 2/3 of the pasta into a baking dish.  Sy added slivers of ricotta like pats of butter for flavor and then the rest of the sauced pasta went on top.  Bake for a 1/2 hour or so.  Add the shredded mozzarella and bake till melted.

For the calzone I made up a batch of pizza doughI use the Neapolitan pizza recipe from How to Bake by Nick Malgieri but any pizza crust will probably work. 

Into the rest of the ricotta I added the cubed mozzarella and some shredded Romano (maybe a 1/2 c).  Spread out the dough on a piece of parchment paper (or a cookie sheet) glob in the filling, fold over and pinch to seal the edges.

I baked it on a pizza stone at 450°till it looked done.  I got a bit distracted playing Harvest Moon: Animal Parade so at first I was pissed that I’d overcooked it.  Once I tasted it I realized it was actually perfect.  Turns out I’ve been under-cooking my calzones all these years.  Don’t be afraid to cook it!  Then again, we like a bit of burn on our crusts in this part of the country.

I let it rest on the pizza stone in the oven till it wasn’t lava hot inside.  The crust did get a bit soggy so maybe next time I’ll try draining the ricotta overnight (strainer in the fridge method) to see if that helps.

The boys were happy with their cheesy pasta bake and I got to have a calzone without feeling like I’m imposing my food fetishes on an unappreciative audience.

The last beautiful bite.
The last beautiful bite.

The sky is falling!

Everyone hates Chicken Little.  For good reasons too.  He’s annoying not only in his delivery method but also in the message.

No one wants to hear it.

But yet the sky is falling.  It always has been to varying degrees.

I didn’t get the MacDowell fellowship.


Nothing ventured, noting gained Sy reminded me.

What exactly has been gained? was my response.

Another whack to an already fragile ego.  Annoyance that we used up $30 that could have gone somewhere “better.”  Staring at the 90,000 word high wall that is The Tome and bashing my head against it wondering how I’m going to find the time and brainspace to rip it apart and rebuild it better.


The sky is falling!


I’m never gonna finish this damn book.  It’s going to be like every other piece I’ve ever written.  I’m only going to get so far with it and then it’s going to get tossed into a drawer and forgotten about until the grandkids are cleaning out the house after my demise and it ends up in a dumpster.


It’s a chilly rainy night.  I have a couple of hours to myself, which is rare these days.  Window open, probably for the last time this year, so I can enjoy the breeze and fresh air.  Bit of Irish in the hot cocoa and the Buzzccocks at an ear ringing volume.

Time to start adding a bit more to that wordy wall before I rip it apart and build it again.

Not going to be a Chicken Little

No one’s going to tell me no.

I’m just not listening.

To market we will go…

I’d heard about the Coventry Farmer’s Market here and there over the years but never managed to make it up for a visit. Then a couple of weekends ago I got a notice that my favorite cupcake truck was going to be at the market the same day we were going to be visiting the eldest at college in the same corner of the state. How could we not go?

Visiting Cassie at school is always a double-edged sword. We all miss her terribly and it’s difficult to only see her occasionally and for summers. New era of life and major changes and all. It’s great when we arrive but both Sofie and I get rather melancholy when it’s time to leave her there. I’m also a wee bit jealous that she gets to go away to school and hole up in her room and do nothing but learn and study and figure out who she wants to be. But I’m so very thankful that she gets this opportunity that just wasn’t in my reach.

Yes, I went to college. First in my family to get an undergraduate degree let alone a Master’s. But my experience of college started several years after the traditional age so I always felt like an oddity on campus. College also involved having to live somewhere I really didn’t want to be in order to afford it and working as many hours as I could squeeze in around my classes.  I didn’t have time to do extracurricular activities that might have drawn me into campus life.  It was almost impossible to keep up with my friends, most of whom were not in school and therefore had very different schedules and lives.

I don’t remember sleeping much those four years.

At the end of every semester I would be sick for at least a week.  My body worn out and this was its own special way of telling me to slow down, at least for a moment.

My focus  was always on scraping together enough to pay the bills and buy my books, always looking ahead to the next semester so I could graduate as quickly as possible, move out and get on with my life.  It was a very rushed experience.  No time to dawdle and reflect or question the nature of the universe and my role in it.

Then there’s my life experiences in the years before college. By Cassie’s age I’d already had two alcohol induced blackouts and dabbled with other sorts of illicit substances.  My high school sweetheart died in an unfortunate accident (“Free Spirit Dies in the Night” is the newspaper headline burned into my memory) while we were on the outs.  Never going to be able to make amends. After graduating high school I’d been kicked out of my natal home.  “Find alternate living arrangements” were the specific words used. My heart had been broken numerous times and I was living with a bad boy who had more psychological issues then I did. That’s saying something considering the steamer trunks I was lugging around.

She hasn’t experienced any of that.


Her life has had its share of sorrows and difficulties but hopefully the joys outweigh them. If nothing else, she knows she has a family who loves her beyond all reason and that we’re all here in whatever way she needs us. I wish I had the same, especially at her age.

She’s doing good in school. She’s happy with her life and plans for the future, which are well thought out and have her on the path to a decent, useful life. One down and two more to successfully launch but they too are on a good trajectory. This has not been a given in my experience, both personally and for those around me.

Life is rather fraught with all sorts of pitfalls and traps, some self-induced and some just from what life tends to randomly throw around like monkeys in a cage flinging poo.  At least I’ve been able to help my three avoid stepping in the biggest piles and getting sucked down into the morass.

What more could I ask for?

By market day we hadn’t seen Cassie since we’d dropped her off at college. She was thrilled to get off campus and we were happy to see her and hear about the new semester. We took a Sunday drive on a beautiful autumn day through the country to the fair. Even went down Pleasant Valley at one point which amused me to no end. We had a delicious lunch, wandered among the vendors, had some of the best cannoli I’ve ever been lucky enough to eat and Cassie found some yarn to add to her stash like a squirrel getting ready for winter.

We tuckered each other out in the most wonderful way running around that day. We don’t get to do that often. As I said in my MacDowell application, time and money are equally tight.  For once we didn’t have to worry.

We were together.

We had fun.

It was a beautiful day.

Can you ever have too much of that?

We got kettle corn at the fair. I’d never had it before but the very smart vendor had samples out and after one taste you’re hooked. I’ve discovered caramel corn in the past year or so and plan on making a batch as soon as the humidity levels drop low enough. I loved Screaming Yellow Zonkers as a teenager. Ate so many that I had a line of empty boxes pinned to the wall in my bedroom, like a hunter displaying pelts, in a strip that went from floor to ceiling.

All very different variations on the theme of salty, crunchy, sweet.  Each has their own merits.

Sy and I are working our way through the first season of S.H.I.E.L.D. and noshing on the remnants of the kettle corn. Another long day of work but it was a good day of getting lots of stuff done and hopefully more of the same tomorrow. It’s days like these that remind me of how much I love what I do for a living.

There’s a chill in the air to remind us of the upcoming season. I love that crispy tang so much.

I’ve decided that popcorn is a good snack for summer and caramel corn is for winter. Zebra caramel corn is for blizzards and special occasions. We now have kettle corn for the seasonal transitions.

Every time I eat it I’ll remember the day we went to market.

Simple pleasures.

Night Owls and Big Salads

Update:  I wrote this a couple of weeks ago and then got sick.  Everyone is already settling into the school year schedule but it seemed a waste to discard an already finished post.  So here it is…


Our household tends to move towards a more nocturnal schedule during the summer.  Three of us are natural night owls.  One is an early bird no matter how late she goes to bed but at least she’s easily amused by the television and can now feed herself breakfast.  She’s also learned that if she lets us sleep she gets to watch more shows.  The other one really has no schedule but he hates the heat so being up later when it’s cooler works as well as anything else.

Sy is off during the summer and I sorta make my own hours so it works for us even though it’s going to change in the next week.  I’m going to be the only one in the household NOT going to school so it’s back to the regimented lifestyle.  It’s going to be strange being the only non-student, but I’ve got a novel to finish up.  That should keep me a wee bit busy.

I’ve been doing a lot of museum related side-work this summer.  The extra cash has been wonderful but the extra hours have virtually eliminated my writing time.  Having everyone home at practically all hours put the final nail in the coffin.  It’s very difficult to focus when being pulled in several different directions.  I need peace and quiet and some time to shuffle around the house in my slippers while making endless cups of tea for the words to flow.

The summer side-work and everyone home are not a bad thing, really. Just different.  I don’t deal well with different.  It takes me too damn long to adjust and by the time I do adjust everything has gone and changed all over again.

Being off my typical schedule and working more means that I haven’t been cooking a lot lately. Too hot. Too busy. So not hungry till well after dark.

Eating at midnight is not a good idea. But sometimes inspiration takes its sweet time arriving.

We don’t do take-out much, not nearly as often as the kids would like.  I’ve been relying a bit more on the lovely roasted bird that Costco makes for a very reasonable price.  We still had a carcass in the fridge from a couple of days ago as well as some remnants of a meal I actually managed to cook.  When you’re putting together dinner after 11 pm you really need to work with what’s already cooked.

I made a big salad with leftover chicken and extra feta from a previous night’s couscous and chicken salad.  Added some croutons for crunch, red onion for zip and dried apricots for a bit of sweet.  Drizzled on Cesar dressing and my dinner was done.

big salad

While building the salad for dinner, something I never would have done in years past, I realized that I want a perfect Big Salad bowl.

We have a full kitchen’s complement of bowls but I’m pulling a Goldilocks.  A mixing bowl is too large.  A soup bowl too small.   I’m going to have to keep an eye out for The One.  What size exactly is the perfect Big Salad bowl?

I would consider this 9 x 3" pasta bowl from Bauer Pottery to be a good contender.
I would consider this 9 x 3″ pasta bowl from Bauer Pottery as a potential Big Salad bowl.  It is beautiful but I don’t think I could spend $38 on a single bowl.

Sy didn’t want a salad. He eventually settled on some leftover red meat, a toasted roll with red onion and goat cheese.  He let me have a bite.  It was pretty yummy.  I’d show you a picture but he ate it all before I could get a shot.

We don’t have red meat all that often anymore.  Maybe once or twice a month.  It seems odd in comparison to the standard American diet (I’ll resist making SAD jokes) but there is precedence in the shift in that we’re moving towards what our grandparents ate, especially in the Old Country.  I’m hoping me and mine stay on this economic continent but the sad fact is that there just aren’t enough resources for the entire world to consume the way Americans have been for the last fifty years or so.  These are one of the many things that keep me up at night.  What kind of world are we leaving for those to come?

At least it’s been a gradual “decline” in eating standards?  I didn’t even realize how long it had been since we had steak till the kids starting asking for one.  I’m not about to raise up a cow in the backyard but I can at least still go to the grocery store for one on demand, occasionally.

I’ve been working a lot more out in the garden and even cleaning out areas of the house that haven’t been touched in years. I’m looking at you potting hole. Does anyone really need over 200 small pots?  They’re getting returned to the nursery they originated from.

I never remember to take before shots.  You'll just have to trust me that it was completely terrifying.
I never remember to take before shots. You’ll just have to trust me that it was completely terrifying.

Summer is almost over.  Kids go back to school in the next couple of weeks.  The nights are getting cooler.  The leaves are already starting to change.  It’s time to finish up the outdoor chores and get ready to settle in for the coming winter.

I’m trying to get in a second planting of various crops before it’s too late.  I even rediscovered the supplies for building an insulated hoop house over one of the raised beds while I was cleaning out the potting hole.

I can’t wait to eat my own salad greens and herbs again.

I’m willing to eat salad for dinner.

Especially once I find that perfect bowl.

Common ground

My eldest and youngest have been lucky enough to attend camp over the years at Common Ground.  It’s a high school, a farm and runs the most wonderful camps and programs.  Check them out if you’re around or try to find something similar in your own area.  These photos were all taken on the Common Ground campus when I went to pick up Sofie the other day.

Someday I'm hoping to have some chickens of my own but till then I'll just have to visit with these girls.
Someday I’m hoping to have some chickens of my own but till then I’ll just have to visit with these girls.

I have my gardens for food production here and there but these just blow me away.  I wish I had a quarter of this much space to work with.

Only one of my Thia basil plants survived early summer rains.  This patch is beautiful.
Only one of my Thai basil plants survived early summer rains. This patch is beautiful.

I think it’s important for us all to know where our food comes from, how it’s grown and how to prepare it. Where I work we cover a bit of agricultural history in our educational programs.  These are intelligent, mostly middle class kids and I’m always stunned at their ignorance of where food comes from.  They barely associate meat with the animal slaughtered and don’t understand why spring was a hungry time for early settlers.  Then again, in a world where you can buy a strawberry in January, why would they know any better?

The entire Common Ground site is organic and literally buzzes with all sorts of insects and critters.
The entire Common Ground site is organic and literally buzzes with all sorts of insects and critters.

Every year Common Ground gets at least two piglets in the spring,  They are raised on the scraps of students and campers, slaughtered in the fall and then fed to those same students and campers who helped raise them.  It’s a wonderful series of teachable moments.  One year, when they were soliciting names for the piglets, Cassie suggested that they be named after herself and her sister.  The head of the camp called me, not because she found the suggestion disturbing, but merely to confirm that Cassie did indeed know what was going to happen to the pigs in the fall.  I confirmed that she did and they were named in my daughters honor.  They were indeed delicious but it was a bit odd to eat a creature that had been named after my babies.

Sy loves the imperfect nature of bee balm so this photo was taken for him.
Sy loves the imperfect nature of bee balm so I took this photo for him.

Even if you hate to cook or don’t do it often, you should still know that meat comes from an animal and that apples ripen in the fall.  With our current food system it’s easy to lose the connections between seed and plate, farmer and eater, fowl and its crispy fried leg.  When you know where your food comes from and what it takes to get it there, I believe you’re more apt to cook it with care and maybe even waste less.  Could that possibly be a bad thing? People, in this country at least, don’t go to bed hungry because there isn’t enough food, but because we’re not efficiently using the food that’s being produced.

So what jokes do sheep tell each other hanging about the barnyard?
So what jokes do sheep tell each other hanging about the barnyard?

At Common Ground, depending on the program or the day of the week, campers spend their days in the gardens, helping out with the farm animals, playing in the woods or hiking up and down West Rock.  They come home dirty, happy and sleep really well at night.  Just like kids should in the summer.

Sofie has no idea why this giant nest was created but I asked her to stand in it for a bit of scale.
Sofie has no idea why this giant nest was created but I asked her to stand in it for a bit of scale.  It was too cool not to photograph.

My own childhood experience of summer day camp were less than idyllic.  That probably had more to do with family circumstances than with the camp itself but it’s still there in my memory as a sore spot. Going to camp was a solution to no one wanting to have to care for me during the summer.  It wasn’t for my enjoyment or enrichment, merely very expensive babysitting.  I don’t remember having any choice in the matter, just being dropped off one day in the New Hampshire woods and told to deal with it.

The remains of a pump and cistern that once brought water to the summit for visitors.
The remains of a pump and cistern that once brought water to the summit for visitors.

I don’t make friends easily so being thrust into a camp full of strangers was a nightmare.  I spent most of my time building cities out of pine needles in the woods or wandering by the lake shore trying to catch fish in the shallows, watching out for the ginormous snapping turtle rumored to live in the lake’s depths.

Seeing weeds in this garden makes me feel better about the ones in my own.
Seeing weeds in this beautiful garden makes me feel better about the ones in my own.

Camp swimming lessons were a bad combination of early mornings, a cold lake and needing to jump off the dock without holding my nose.  The Red Cross curriculum dictated that such a thing Must Be Done before I could go beyond the rope that contained the non-swimmers.  I was an adequate swimmer, I just didn’t like water up my nose. I didn’t understand what being able to dive in had to do with not drowning.  I still don’t.

I find cosmos beautiful in all their many stages of life.
I find cosmos beautiful in all stages of life.

I remember the tang of the Lestoil used to clean the brushes whenever we did arts and crafts.  It seemed to permeate the building after so many years.  I can’t recall a single thing I made, or any friends, but I do remember seeing my first penis, or at least the glimpse of one, at summer camp.  A counselor, who I had a wicked crush on, was rowing a group of us about the lake.  I remember just the tiniest bit of something peeking out the leg of his swim trunks.  I was rather intrigued by this mysterious member but had to wait a couple more years before becoming better acquainted with the species.

This reminds me of something...
This reminds me of something…

My kids know that my childhood was less than ideal.  They don’t know the gritty details but they know something is there, lurking just out of view. I don’t want them burdened by the weight of my issues so I often remain quiet about the past, rather than continue the generational dysfunction.  Camp is one of the few common childhood experiences we share, at least in the abstract.

All different but still reaching for the sun.
All different but still reaching for the sun.

As a parent, I’ve attempted to actually raise my children, as opposed to letting them raise themselves.  Part of it is a generational shift in what is considered acceptable.  In the 70’s, so many adults were busy getting their own heads on straight to bother with their younglings.  Today, it’s a more hands on approach.  Maybe too hands on for some, but that’s what camp is for.  Send them out into the woods.  Let them get dirty.  Let them have unstructured fun and get all tuckered out.  Hopefully they won’t see anything inappropriate, but even if they do, it just becomes part of the memories of summer camp.

Leftovers don’t have to suck

I’m usually the eater of last resort when it comes to the leftovers in this house.  I get them when everyone else is sick of them or there isn’t quite enough left for a meal anymore.  If I don’t eat them they’re going in the garbage.


Mashed potatoes have always been the bane of my leftover experience.  I don’t like them in their original form once they’re not fresh but I hate to waste all that heavy cream and butter.  They were getting to the end of their life expectancy in the stasis of the fridge.  Need lunch, so what to do?

Potato pancakes, of a sort.  Works for me.

Palate cleanser of a crisp juicy apple is the perfect accompaniment.

As a family we’re trying to waste less.  There’s no point in throwing money in the compost or the trash

We’re on .07 of an acre but we grow what we can, frequent the pick-your-own farms and can and freeze as much as possible.

I’m working my way up to a flock of chickens.

But first we’ve got to figure out how to use what we’ve got.  There’s no sense in doing all this food production/preserving if we just chuck a good amount of it.

Potato pancakes are warm, creamy and full of flavor.  A comfort food that won’t sit there for a week or two.

And it uses up the leftovers.

They’re actually quite yummy.

Potato pancakes, of a sort:

Take your cold, gooey mashed potatoes and put what you want into a bowl.  Mix in an egg or two till they’re a bit wet.  If you want a bit of zip add some grated onion or fresh chives.  Add in enough flour so they’re not too wet and squishy.



Forgot the black pepper.  Fresh ground is always best.  Buy in bulk for the best price.


Heat up a heavy skillet over medium low heat.  Add in a generous dollop of the fat of your choice.  I use bacon grease that I filter and store in a jar in the back of the fridge from whenever we have a bacon bacchanal.  Canola oil would work too I suppose but I like the flavor from the bacon grease.

IMG_4761Make sure you let the pan heat up all the way.  It’ll help keep the pancake from sticking.  Scoop into the pan what you consider to be pancake sized.

IMG_4764Spread the pancake out gently with a spatula or fork to the edges of the pan.  You want it about 1/4-1/2″ thick.  Thicker will take longer to cook so you should use a lower flame.  Thinner can be cooked higher and quicker.

IMG_4770Once the pancake is good and brown around the edges, flip gently with the biggest spatula you have.  Mine always break during flipping.  Just squish it back together.  No one is judging appearance here.

Cook till browned on the other side and there you have it, lunch, breakfast, dinner, finished up leftovers.

Personally I like my potato pancakes with a bit of sour cream but applesauce is also a common accompaniment.

Whatever works for you and what’s in the fridge.

Leftovers don’t have to suck.


Don’t f#@$ing choke

I’ve reached over 80K words in the first draft of my first novel.  Holy shit.

How the fuck did I do that?

And that’s not even counting the notebook.  It’s almost full and I’ve pasted in pages as well so I can only imagine what the word count is in there.

Henry III and notebook

I love my notebook and it would be very difficult to work without my computer.  I do about 50/50 computer vs pen and paper with my writing.

I’ll write on anything.

I could do an entire book of just images of napkins, receipts and scraps of paper, big small and everything in between that I’ve scribbled across when the muse whacks me upside the head at inopportune moments.

The notebooks keep me organized though.  Now that I’ve figured out how to index at least the Tome’s notebook, I can even find what I’m looking for in a somewhat timely fashion.  It’s good not to have to remember it all in my head.  Leaves a bit of room for everything else.

Was writing something about the fifth main character the other day.  Her tale is starting to show itself in more detail and she’s becoming a much larger part of the ending than I had originally anticipated.  Things always get more complicated the further you dig  into it.  Whether it’s weaving a story or baking bread.  You just have to know how you fit into bringing it out into the world.

Sometimes when I’m writing it’s like being surrounded by an event that I’m not a part of.  All I have to do is translate what I’m witnessing into words so that other people can see what I’m immersed in.  That’s when the word count really racks up.  It doesn’t happen very often but it’s pretty cool when it does.

Most of the time writing is just banging my head on the keyboard until my skull cracks enough for the words to slither their way out.

As long as they keep coming I’m willing to bleed.

Sometimes when I’m writing I’ll see an image, like a photograph but more encompassing.  I’ll just geek out here for a moment because it’s the easiest route to go.  Think of the holodeck on Star Trek in its many and wonderful permutations.  The former state of writing is like when the holodeck is running, the latter when they stop it to take a look at something in a bit more detail.

So as I’m working I get one of these still images.  It’s of a piece of art.  I’m not sure if it’s a painting or a charcoal sketch.  But I see the general shape, composition and colors.  So I grab the sketch pad and on the way to a fresh clean page, pencil in hand, I get distracted by this page.

hair comb for E&R wedding
I drew a little face!

Came up with this for a wedding I was going to a few years back but didn’t get around to making it.  Drawing it was enough.

For some reason today I decided it needed a silhouette to show how it should sit.  I know where it should go but will I remember in another couple of years?  Better to be safe then sorry.

The sketch started as a silhouette and ended up being a little face. It’s even reasonably human in appearance.

I’ve always wanted to draw but never had much success with it.  I drew a mean unicorn when I was in grade school but that was pretty much the extent of it.

I’ve bought art supplies over the years and fiddled a bit with them.  Never get beyond the fiddling stage though.  I get frustrated when I can’t get the image I see in my head down onto the page.  As I’ve gotten older I’m more willing to see where things will go and keep poking at them till I’m at least somewhat satisfied.

Patience has been a hard learned virtue.

I’m developing an adventure bag to lug all the creative stuff around. Notebooks, pads, pens, pencils, markers in three sizes as well as tabs, flags, and sticky notes in abundance.  Time and money are getting in the way of bringing it beyond the design phase.  This happens pretty often so I’ve learned to work around these limitations.  It’s still somewhat annoying though.  Then again, life often is.

I think I’m going to try creating this painting/drawing/whatever it ends up being that I see in my mind.

dusk dawn

I really should be writing.

Anything is easier than continuing to bleed on the page.

I really should be writing.

Don’t I need another cup of tea?

I really should be writing.

I’m writing this post.  Doesn’t that count?  It’s writing!

I want to go to MacDowell to put the polish on my Tome.  Who wouldn’t want to go for an art residency?  Time to spend on the project of your choice in a space of your own.  They bring you a picnic lunch every day but otherwise leave you alone.  It doesn’t even cost anything.  I want to go next winter.  It’ll keep me from getting distracted if it’s cold outside and I think it’s a reasonable deadline for accomplishing what needs to be done on the Tome before some quality quiet time with it.  Turning inward makes perfect sense during the winter.  It’s one of the reasons I enjoy the season so much.

If I want to go in winter next year the application deadline is September 15.

If I write one section per month from here till then I’ll have the book finished, at least in draft form, by the time the application goes in.

I want to spend my time there editing it so doesn’t it look better if the book is already done?

Writers need to have a certain amount of hubris to think that the words they scribble down on a page are worthy of being read by anyone other than themselves.  The flip side of that is the insecurity that comes from putting your thoughts out there for anyone to read, dissect, and criticize.  It’s a difficult fence to balance on.

Who am I to think that I have any chance of getting in for a residency at such a place?

It’s just a grant application.  This time for myself as opposed to for my job.

I’ve written grants for over $77,000 for my organization over 16 years.  It’s a small place.  I’m proud of that number.

Now I want something else to be proud of.  Something that I did just for myself.

Never done that before.

Don’t fucking choke.



Not that you didn’t see it coming but it still hurts.

This smiling lady was my first professional mentor, Lisa.


She was the curator at the historical society that I volunteered at while I was in college.  I started in the photo archive after a friend had a conversation with the photo archivist at the newsstand he owned for a spell.  I needed something to put on my cv, she needed help keeping things tidy, why not?  My friend knew I liked old photos.  Even had a few instant ancestor photographs that I’d picked up secondhand.

After a few months of volunteering, the photo archivist left and I got shuffled over to the curatorial dept and Lisa.  I thought it was kinda sweet that they didn’t want to lose me.

Lisa was my introductory guide to the world of working with a museum collection.

I fell in love.

Working with the stuff, doing research, developing exhibitions, you name it, all absolutely fascinating.   The sense of exploration, creativity, and trial by fire that comes along with being a curator at a small historical society was absolutely thrilling.

I loved it so much that I’m still doing it more than twenty years later.

All because she gave me a start and a decent foundation in the field.

She developed breast cancer right around the time I was graduating from college.

She fought it for twenty years.

She died last October.

Her memorial service is this Saturday.

Has it been long enough that we can celebrate her life without the tears of mourning putting a damper on the day?

We shall see.

This is Katie.

The feral blond is my youngest.
The feral blond is my youngest.

The loss of this particular ball of sunshine was completely unexpected and sent me reeling.  But statistically speaking, I’ve gotten to an age where people I’ve watched grow up will sometimes die.  It’s a horrible age to reach but what’s the alternative?

I’m so thankful my kids don’t drive.

I can only imagine her family’s pain.

This is Marcus.


He was a friend of a friend.  We bumped into each other at bars, parties and shows around town.  He was always good for a light and a bit of conversation.  Never wanted anything more from me than to pass the time companionably.  Nothing else expected or demanded.

I had my first Irish Car Bomb with him.  But that’s a tale for another post.

When my other mother died, Marcus was the one who held my hand and got me through the funeral mass.  He didn’t shy away from my grief.  I will be forever grateful to him for that.

A while back I stopped going out and he moved away to his own personal Hell.  We still knew each other was out there the magic of social media.  He was one of those people that I just liked to know was still around even if we never sat down to have a drink together.

His time in Hell has ended.

His pain is over.

Hopefully he moves straight through purgatory, having already paid his dues.

It’s national Chocolate Chip Day.

I do love chocolate, whatever its form.

I’m going to go bake cookies with my kids.

What else can you do?