Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Scalloped potatoes

My brother asked for my scalloped potatoes recipe on Twitter, and since it's an easy recipe but hard to fit into 140 characters, here it is.

Peel and slice thin about six medium-sized or three large potatoes. Place slices in an ungreased casserole dish, overlapping them about half over each other. When you have covered the bottom of the dish, dot with bits of butter and sprinkle generously with salt, pepper, and grated nutmeg. Put another layer of potato slices on that layer and top with the same butter and seasonings. Put a final layer of potato slices on top but do not season yet.

Pour half-and-half (or cream, or whole milk) gently over the top layer. You don't need much, maybe half a cup or a bit more. Then add salt, pepper, nutmeg, and bits of butter.

Bake uncovered in a 350 degree oven for about an hour, or until a fork pushed down through all three layers goes through easily. The top layer will be a bit firm and browned, the bottom layers should be creamy and tender. You will want to eat all of it and burn your mouth.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Fear is false

I've wanted to learn how to play drums since I was in my early 20s at least, maybe late teens. I don't remember, just that it's been a very long time. But I never got around to it, didn't know how to start, didn't have the money for drums or lessons, etc.

But you know what? It's simple. I could have started years and years ago, if I'd only known. It's simple and fun and I just started and why didn't I start back when I first had the idea? If I had, I'd be really good by now.

When I picked up the drumsticks for the first time on Wednesday, I was terrified. Yes, I was by myself in my own house and no one was going to care. I was still scared. Because it was something I'd wanted to do for so long, I'd put a lot of emotion into learning.

I was, of course, terrible. I have a booklet (two booklets, actually) of exercises and directions, and I was practically shaking when I started going through it. At the end of my first 20-minute or so practice session, I was exhausted.

Now, after only a few days, I'm still terrible but I'm no longer scared. The reality of actually doing this thing I've been dreaming about for so long has dissipated the emotions involved. And I really enjoy drumming. I want to get good at it. I look forward to practicing every day.

So if there's something you've always wanted to do but didn't think you could for whatever reason, just start. Go do it. Now! Look online for help with beginning, get a book from the library, whatever. You don't have to shell out a lot of money at first. You don't even have to talk to another human being if that makes you nervous. Just start. The you of 20 years from now will thank you.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Lego fail

I saw the Lego Movie a few weekends ago and it really is fun. I enjoyed it a lot and I'm one of millions brainwashed by the "Everything Is Awesome" song. It made me remember how much fun it is to play with Lego bricks too, so I bought a few inexpensive sets and had a great time building from the instructions. I thought I could pick up a box here and there as I could afford it, and eventually I'd have enough bricks to build whatever I liked.

Since I've now written seven Lizzy and Jo short stories, a novella, and I'm working on a novel with those characters, naturally my goal is to build an airship with Legos and play with it when I'm supposed to be writing. I can't afford the big Lego sets that would allow me to make an airship yet, but there are a million Lego mini-figures and I thought I could get some and mix and match their parts to make Lizzy and Jo figures.

The problem is, Jo is a black woman. I thought it wouldn't be hard to find a POC female Lego mini-fig, but I was wrong. There aren't any. Confused, I went to the official Lego site to see if I was missing something, and I found this.

It's under the frequently asked questions, so I'm not the first person to notice that hardly any Lego figures have brown skin. They say the yellow is a "neutral color" and they didn't want to assign specific ethnicity.

Because everyone knows that yellow is neutral, right? Right?


They also say they will use different skin tones for figures based on movies and so forth in which they're going for more realism, but somehow that's different. Because I guess there aren't that many Lego sets based on movies, and anyway we all know how diverse the typical movie cast is, right? Right?

Harry Potter
Star Wars
The Hobbit
Lord of the Rings
Toy Story
Marvel and DC Superheroes
Man of Steel
Pirates of the Caribbean
Lone Ranger
Raiders of the Lost Ark
etc etc etc

But don't worry, there ARE Lego minifigs out there that have brown skin! In addition to some really, really hard to find sports figures (mostly basketball players, all male), there are:


Nick Fury, from the superheroes set


Vartruvius, from the Lego Movie--you know, the movie in which all the other characters (except Shaq) have yellow skin, because this is not based on real life


And a werewolf! Although I guess that's supposed to represent brown fur. I guess. I hope.

I sent Lego a short, polite email asking if they could make more female figures, and start making some figures with brown skin. They never replied. Edited to Add: OOPS, should have checked my spam filter before I wrote that: they did reply, with a long and canned-sounding (but polite) response in which they said (in part) this: "we believe skin color is not important so we've given most of our mini-figures a neutral (yellow) skin." /headdesk

Monday, February 17, 2014

Deep thoughts

There's a fresh, steaming pile of "oh look, sexism" on the internet (when is there not? but this is particularly noisome because it comes from high-level publishing professionals and authors). I can't do much to help clean it up, but there's one thing I can point out.

This weekend I was at a con and had a lot of fun, and talked to a lot of people I don't know. Two different women I got into conversations with (at different times) kept referring to men generically. One of them even said, "Men don't have the tastebuds to appreciate chocolate."

What? Seriously? Yes, she was serious.


There's an artificial wedge between men and women in our culture. Any time someone says "men can't" or "women don't," whether the generalization is meant as a joke or compliment or a real observation, it hits that wedge hard with a hammer, driving it in deeper.

But in real life, instead of in the cartoony headspace some people seem to inhabit, people are individuals. Saying stuff like "women don't understand math" or "men don't have any fashion sense" is stupid, because it's not true. Some women don't understand math. Some men don't have any fashion sense. But not all of them--not even close.

Don't hit that wedge. Don't say stupid stuff without thinking about it first. Most importantly, don't teach your kids that the wedge is real, because goodness knows we've got a hard enough climb to reach "people are individuals and all deserving of the same respect" without that big old wedge getting in the way.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

My kitchen, at last!


A vast, vast improvement, don't you think?

Eventually I'd like to replace the stove with a white one, but it works fine so there's no need to replace it yet. The dishwasher was black, but when she was cleaning it, my aunt Janice discovered that the black flips over and is almond on the back, so that helped a lot. Below, a before picture of what the kitchen used to look like. Tiled counters, ugh!


And this is what it looks like now, from another angle.


I know my enthusiasm for cleaning won't last, but right now it's a positive joy to clean the kitchen. Everything's so clean and tidy and perfect! I've been cooking a lot too. For lunch today I roasted a chicken and had it with potatoes, and there's plenty left over for tomorrow when I get home from work. Last night I made enchiladas (leftovers will be good tonight). Last week I made sugar cookies, which I cut into pink hearts. I gave most of them to my good and deserving aunt and uncle, who were the ones who got me the new countertops for Christmas and who did almost all the work to transform the kitchen into the cozy, charming room it now is!


I still need to touch up the paint on the cabinets, which took something like four coats to cover the black paint that was on there before. But other than that, the room is done!

Monday, January 6, 2014

My kitchen, currently

I've been confusing everyone on Twitter, talking about how I can't cook food and have no kitchen, etc. Here's the deal.


I'm getting new countertops for my kitchen, thanks to my awesome aunt and uncle! Last week, on Thursday, we pulled the old counters out, since the new ones were supposed to be installed on Friday. Because I had such a short time to be without a functioning kitchen, we moved the fridge in front of the doorway to the tiny laundry room/dining room, which is also the room with the back door. We then unplugged the oven and moved it into the space where the fridge usually is. That way the countertop installer guy could get in where he needed to get.


Unfortunately, bad weather moved in that evening. It wasn't bad here, just a dusting of snow and some icy patches, but my countertop installer guy lives in the mountains and wasn't able to make it. We rescheduled for Monday morning. You know, today.

Last night we had even more snow and ice and bitterly cold temperatures. So my appointment has been postponed again, to Wednesday morning.

In the meantime, I have no access to the laundry room except through the back door, my stove is unplugged, and while I can get into the fridge it's a squeeze because the door's right up against the wall. Below: the space where my stove usually sits.


I bought an electric kettle, which is something I've been wanting anyway, and plugged in the toaster. So I have a steady supply of hot water for tea and soup and oatmeal, etc., and I also bought two loaves of raisin bread so I have ample yummy toast. I'm not precisely snowed in today because the roads look okay, but there's patchy ice and my work is closed today and I don't want to leave the house. So I've just tucked myself into the cozy little house and I've been drinking tea and tea and tea and playing video games while listening to music. Pretty soon I'll get back in bed to read for a while. It's only 15 degrees and the temperature will continue to drop overnight until we're right about zero or even just under. Brrr!

I'm really hoping my work will close tomorrow or at least open two hours late so I don't have to leave the house while it's still dark. I also really hope the weather will ease up so I can get my new counters installed and put my kitchen back together! Next step is to spackle, sand, and paint the walls, and finish sanding and paint the cabinets.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Welcome to 2014

Last year I made a list of new year's resolutions. I kept some of them. For instance, I did get a tattoo, and in fact tomorrow I go back to get it colored in. I will post pictures, I promise!

I also hiked more last year and lost a bit of weight (although I want to lose more) and did some interesting things and did actually improve my writing. I wrote a number of short stories--more, in fact, than I'd written since 2008--but only one book and a novella.

The kickass steampunk YA I wrote in 2013, The Steam-Powered Raven, has attracted some agent interest. We'll see how that works out. I haven't decided on my next writing project--I'm halfway through a Lizzy and Jo novel that I want to finish, have a few stories I need to revise, have a few novels I need to revise in major ways, and want to finally write the final book in the Bell-Man trilogy so I can find a good publisher for the whole thing. I also want to continue writing short stories. They helped me improve my writing a lot more than I expected.

I decided to keep my new year's resolutions really, really simple this year. I'm only making one: learn to play drums. I've wanted to learn drums since I was in college but never got around to it. Well, it's time. Because it's never too early to have a mid-life crisis.