Tuesday, December 31, 2013

More and Less

We all know the usual New Year's Resolution drill. My usual approach is a laundry list of detailed goals. There's really nothing wrong with that--it works well in many cases. It's nicely defined, black and white. But speaking of black and white, I tend to be all or nothing. If I miss a goal, it makes me want to just throw in the towel. At that point there's no way I can get a perfect score, so what's the point in finishing?

I'm going to try something a little different this year. Yes, I do have a few concrete goals: for example, as I mentioned in my last post, I want to finish editing a particular story. I'd also like to finish the first draft of another particular story. I have some tunes I want to work on. Etc.

But mostly, this year I've decided to work on "More" and "Less."

Pray more.
Write more.
Play more music.
Learn more.
Bike more.
Walk more.
Love more.
Forgive more.

Spend less.
Complain less.
Worry less.
Eat less junk.
Waste less time.

Quantifiable? To some extent. But there is no exact point of failure or success. It's meant to make me reflect, as opposed to my usual over-analyzing.

I can use more reflection.

Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

A Number of Housekeeping Items

1. As one New Year's Resolution, I've decided to finally complete the editing process on The Secret Princess: a kids' chapter book I wrote some years ago for my little sister. It's a princess-and-goblins-and-dragons-and-a-quest sort of thing, pretty lighthearted and silly. I'll hopefully be looking for a few beta readers by late January. Preference given to those who have or have been young children.

2. I have too much fountain pen ink. I really have a handful of colors I like best, and now that I can get samples from Goulet Pens when I have the itch to try something out of my usual realm, I don't see the need to keep a lot of it around. I will be selling off a bunch, at least if The Fountain Pen Network ever comes back up. In the meantime, though, if anyone wants dibs on a bunch of Private Reserve blues and greens (Avacado (sic), Sherwood Green, Midnight, Black Magic, Lake Placid), or a 90% full bottle of Noodler's Blue-Black, let me know.

I may also be selling off or giving away dip pen nibs, some pencils, and a few fountain pens (nothing super fancy), so watch this space!

3. You must go read Mike Clemens' and Richard Polt's reports of the Bay Area type-in on the 27th. (Please feel free to add to my list if you were there!) Looks like a great time was had by all!

4. And now back to actual, real housekeeping. I'd like to start off the new year feeling like I could at least have my more forgiving friends over without fatal shame...

Tuesday, December 17, 2013


Ran across this G.K. Chesterton quote today. It seems a nice antidote to my last post, so I thought I'd share!

"WE read a good novel not in order to know more people, but in order to know fewer. Instead of the humming swarm of human beings, relatives, customers, servants, postmen, afternoon callers, tradesmen, strangers who tell us the time, strangers who remark on the weather, beggars, waiters, and telegraph-boys--instead of this bewildering human swarm which passes us every day, fiction asks us to follow one figure (say the postman) consistently through his ecstasies and agonies. That is what makes one impatient with that type of pessimistic rebel who is always complaining of the narrowness of his life and demanding a larger sphere. Life is too large for us as it is: we have all too many things to attend to. All true romance is an attempt to simplify it, to cut it down to plainer and more pictorial proportions. What dullness there is in our life arises mostly from its rapidity; people pass us too quickly to show us their interesting side. By the end of the week we have talked to a hundred bores; whereas, if we had stuck to one of them, we might have found ourselves talking to a new friend, or a humorist, or a murderer, or a man who had seen a ghost."

~G.K. Chesterton: 'The Inside of Life.'

Saturday, December 14, 2013


Hey, it's been awhile since I did a woe-is-me post! How about we break that trend?

I've been feeling pretty down lately, cheery Facebook and Twitter posts notwithstanding. You could call it post-NaNoWriMo slump, and I suppose that's part of it, but not merely because of the change of pace. The truth is, my story was much smaller and less meaningful than I hoped it would be. Less mystery. Less complexity. Not much more than ordinary people in a slightly less than ordinary setting. Simple, fairly predictable. All right, I guess, in its own way, but nothing like my original vision and certainly no Great American Novel.

Which is pretty much always how these things turn out. And I end up feeling rather like someone who sets out to create a symphony, only to find themselves unable to compose anything more than a predictable little single line melody. Depressing, especially when you know enough to appreciate and admire the complexity and texture and richness of something deeper, but can't summon any of that into your own head.

Sometimes I feel like a poseur in the writing and blogging world in general. For one thing, it seems like writing, at least in today's world, primarily belongs to people who come from appalling-but-colorful circumstances, or to people you might call the elite: well educated, well traveled, highly experienced. People who have had the time and money to volunteer in remote locations, or to travel to historic sites all over the world, to brush elbows with the best and brightest in a variety of fields--or who are, in fact, among the best in brightest in their fields.

On the other hand, people from lower middle class but stable backgrounds, shabby but never quite destitute; people without college degrees or exotic experiences; people who settled into dull jobs at a rather young age and who have never had time or money for anything more exciting than splurging on a CD or a new pair of shoes or a trip to the beach now and again: these are not writer material, at least not unless they are geniuses or "edgy" or are extroverts with incredible drive and originality. Or so it seems sometimes.

So I haven't felt much like blogging or working on finishing my story, because it feels rather pointless. And yet, writing may be what I'm best at (which is not at all the same as saying I'm good at it), and I feel a bit lost when it isn't part of my days.

I suppose the secret is to accept one's limitations and work within them. Paint with the palette you have at your disposal instead of packing it all away for want of better materials. If you can only write simple little slightly-formulaic stories about more or less ordinary folk, make them the very best simple little slightly-formulaic stories about more or less ordinary folk you are capable of writing.

But it's hard sometimes not to get so bound up in frustration and envy that you tie your own hands until you are incapable of creating anything at all.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

NaNoWriMo 2013 by Pencil: SUCCESS

I scored this little fella late last night.

50k+ words completed in 26 days. One composition book filled, plus the first few pages of a second, in which I'll continue working on the story until the first draft tells me it's complete.

Just over half a Field Notes Expedition Edition filled with notes--I'll continue to use that. Yes, almost everything smears on that paper, which annoys me, but I do like how sturdy the thing is and how smooth it is to write in. I also like the fact that the front cover is BRIGHT HI-VISIBILITY ORANGE and thus easily locatable the dozen times a day I drop it or lose it amongst the things on my desk.

I can work at a slower pace now, but I'd like to finish this draft by Christmas if I can. (Self, please revisit this statement frequently.)

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Brains are Weird

Last night I had a really horrible dream.

I was driving down the road, minding my own business, when there was a loud sound from the car in front of me: part explosion, partly tearing metal, and a rod or chunk of metal shot up into the air. The driver swerved and pulled over to the side. I stopped to see if they were OK, and found that he--a Hispanic man in his early twenties--was trapped, pinned in his seat with a piece of metal sticking out of his abdomen. I couldn't see to get a good look, because the frame of the car was broken and I couldn't get the door open, plus he was bleeding heavily.

There was no way I could pull him out without making things worse, so there wasn't anything I could do for him but hold his hand and talk to him. Another driver pulled over and I asked her to call 911, but instead I overheard her talking to the switchboard operator at the local hospital, going through step after step. In the end I was left having to fumble out my own phone to call 911, and then I couldn't get the dispatcher to grasp the seriousness of the man's condition. And while trying to stress how bad things were, I was simultaneously trying to tell the guy it wasn't so bad, he would be OK, he just needed to hang in there. He was cold and frightened and obviously bleeding out.

He died just before the EMTs arrived. THe EMTs seemed surprised to find an actual serious injury--I could only guess what the dispatcher told them. I was sobbing, covered in blood, overwrought by the whole situation and angry people hadn't helped, angry I hadn't been able to do anything.

It was horrific. I hate dreams like that.

But it's frustrating that I obviously have the imagination for that kind of drama (realistic or no), yet a lot of time can't seem to find my inner dramatist when it comes to writing. Garrrr.

Monday, November 25, 2013

NaNoWriMo 2013: Final Countdown

I started today with five thousand words left, give or take a hundred or two. Might have gotten in a thousand during the morning session, leaving me with four thousand to both write and transcribe. I'm thinking I'm not going to make it to the finish line today as I'd hoped, but I can at least finish up the first composition book if I push hard: twelve pages left!

Been using mechanical pencils a bit more in these last stages, to reduce even pleasurable distractions like switching out pencils. When I was at Fred Meyer yesterday I noticed they now carry the Pentel Graphgear 500, so I grabbed one both out of curiosity and because it came with the cutie-wutiest wittle baby Hi-Polymer eraser. Dawww!

I like the pencil, too. It doesn't have a retractable tip, so I have to be a little careful with it, and the balance is way different from the back-heavy Graphgear 1000. But I actually find myself liking the tip-heaviness of it, and the rock solidly secure feeling of the sandpapery knurled grip (the 1000 is knurled, too, but much smoother, and also has little rubber grippies embedded, so it's softer and more slippery in general). If I didn't already have a callus on the side of my finger, I'd guess this one would start to cause pain very quickly, but as it is, I rather like how it sticks in place.

Anyway, onward toward the finish line. Figuring I'll probably cross tomorrow, with about another 15-20k to write at my own pace to finish the story.

Monday, November 18, 2013

NaNoWroMo 2013: Week Three Update

The post-it note's text (At some point, inertia takes over) was actually for another purpose entirely, but I thought it kinda fit, so I left it on the desk.

Week Three. Somewhere around 34000 words. 138 pages into my composition book.

I'm doing better than Week Two, mostly because I've accepted the fact that the honeymoon is over, and the best way to make progress is to strap myself in my highchair (metaphorically speaking) and not let me up until I've written for an hour or three pages or whatever my current goal is, no matter how much I scream and cry and sulk (metaphorically speaking). (Mostly.)

Going to a coffee house or some such thing can be helpful, since I have no option for walking over to stare at the computer every thirty seconds. However, this has its own set of drawbacks. Those of you who follow me on twitter (eliz_herreid) witnessed my mini-meltdown over coffee house lighting and wobbly tables.

The excuses we can come up with, no? But life goes on. This morning I gritted my teeth and sat down at the coffee-house-down-the-street and wrote about a thousand words despite funky shadows, a napkin-propped table, and giant sucking plot holes.

Pretty sure I'll make 50k this year. Whether I'll make something of this story, however, remains to be seen.

Repeat after me: this is just a first draft. This is just a first draft. This is just a FIRST draft.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Oh Yeah, This Part

NaNoWriMo Week Two: suddenly I don't buy my own premise, I despise my main character, I find the villains more pathetic and annoying than truly villainous, and I generally want to throw in the towel.

On the other hand, one should never go anywhere without one's towel.

'Tis a predicament.

Saturday, November 09, 2013

NaNoWriMo: One Week In

NaNo Stubbies
A bunch of older pencils have reached stubby stage at once. Hard to tell without a full-sized pencil for scale, but all of these are within a sharpening or two of being retired to the shorty pile: pencil pasture.

So we're just over a week into this year's mad venture. How is everyone doing?

  • I've finished off about 75 comp book pages (hopefully more by this evening).
  • I'm again enjoying scribbling with pencils, finding myself most appreciative of the middle-of-the-roaders which are dark enough for easy legibility but still hold a good point: Forest Choice, possibly first in line. Ticonderogas. The older Golden Bears. Staedtler Noricas. Cedar Pointes (though these are a *little* on the too hard and not-as-smooth side) and the new Field Notes pencils.
  • I have a story, which wasn't the case a week ago, and I've already been through several ups and downs on the roller coaster:
    "This story rocks! It's the best thing I've ever written! Almost like real writing!"
    "This is a bunch of pathetic, overwrought, repetitive garbage. Why do I do this to myself year after year?"

In other words, same old NaNo.

I also haven't made it to the gym in rather awhile because I've mostly been writing in the mornings and transcribing at night. Other excuse: I spent part of the week with a cold. Also spent another part of the week wondering if my character was queasy because I was really, truly queasy, or if I was queasy because my character was queasy. (Half the office had a stomach bug, so I did have valid reasons to wonder.) Writerly chicken or egg.

I also have to be careful not to write work e-mails and memos in my protagonist's style. Seems like this post devolved that way.

How about you? How have things been going?

Friday, November 01, 2013

NaNoWriMo Pencils: Day One

Why do I carry so many pencils? This is why. All of these were used today, and I didn't hafta stop and sharpen.

NaNoWriMo Pencils Day One, Take Two

Bottom to top (the order I used 'em):

  • 1. Palomino Blackwing 602
  • 2. California Republic Golden Bear (the original, non-Made in USA ones).
  • 3. Musgrave Test Scoring 100
  • 4. Staedtler Norica HB (really liking these for the task).
  • 5. General's Semi-Hex HB
  • 6. Palomino Golden Bear (new US made one: much softer, not sure I like 'em).
  • 7. My first ever California Republic Golden Bear, and a past NaNo veteran: a gift from a fellow pencil blogger.
  • 8. Ticonderoga Noir: hideously garish, but I like them anyway....
  • 9. Reg'lar Ticonderoga (Chinese made)
  • 10. Papermate Mirado Black Warrior
Got in about thirteen comp book pages, which at least means I made my count. Hopefully can build up a bit of a buffer this weekend--I'm going to need it!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

NaNoWriMo Starting Position...

Everything is ready for lift-off. Pencils and notebooks are laid out, coffee supplies assembled, lunch and work clothes in order so I don't have to worry about them in the morning. Going to read a bit, hit the way early, and then get up in the dark to get this party started. Good luck to all participants!

NaNoWriMo Starting Position

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

NaNoNoNoNoNoNo Not Ready!

So, let's see...locally, we have about 36 hours to go until the NaNoWriMo madness begins. Where do I stand?

  • I did a lot of *claiming* to plan back in September.

  • I did some actual *attempted* planning in October.

  • I got as far as boldly labeling a pocket notebook "NaNoWriMo 2013" in anticipation of using it for ideas and notes.

  • My current plot goes something like this: What if? Then something. And bam, SOMETHING!

In other words, I got nothin'. I am tempted to scrap my vague idea and rewrite an old idea instead.

But hey, NaNoWriMo is all about embracing your inner pantser, right? Right??

NaNoNotebook, plus the rest of my current pocket notebooks: the Field Notes is for NaNo, the Scout Book below it is a logbook of sorts with brief notes on each day, the Moleskine cahier below that is for to-dos, and my brain-dump notebook is on the bottom.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Ancient Family Tradition: World's Laziest Halloween Costume


As I've mentioned a time or two, I'm the oldest of eight kids. That's a lot of Halloween costumes to design, a lot of kids to be high on sugar and excitement. Add to this the fact that I grew up in Vermont, where Halloween costumes often must be compatible with sub-freezing temperatures. Inevitably one kid ended up that night with a costume that fell apart at the last minute, or which proved inadequate for the weather or which lost some crucial component. For these situations, Mom designed...the dog costume.

Now, lots of people dress up like dogs or cats for Halloween, but usually these are fancy schmancy deals involving ears on little headbands and detailed makeup done from kits with step-by-step directions, and maybe even a furry suit. This was not our way. Instead, Mom would scrounge through the dryer and the bin of lost socks and find two more or less black socks that more or less matched, and tuck these into a hat as ears. Then she'd take a wine cork and burn it slightly, and use that to give us a black nose.

That was pretty much it. A few dots on the cheeks, maybe. Black clothes if we had them.

Most years at least the baby went as a dog, and I remember one year (I think Mom was newly pregnant with one of my youngest siblings and really not much feelin' Halloween) we went as an entire PACK of puppies. People loved it. "Aw, so cute! What a great idea!"

I've used it as a fallback a couple of times even as an adult, most recently at a party this Saturday when it was either that or go uncostumed. I did solicit other ideas, some of which were pretty funny: writing "Error 404: Costume not found" on a t-shirt, for example, or Mike Clemens' mustache-on-a-stick method of playing both yourself and your evil twin, or (horrrrible, but still funny) wearing biking clothes, taping a syringe to my arm, and going as Lance Armstrong. But in the end, I went for the dog.

It ended up pretty slapdash. For one thing, it turned out my only black socks had writing on them, so I turned them inside out so at least they'd say "Dr. Scholls" in blurry backward fuzz instead of as a crisp, clear tattoo. For another, I didn't want to drive up I-5 with a black nose, so I applied it in the bathroom when I got there (burnt cork) while small children banged on the door and whispered theatrically about needing to peeeee. So it came out rather lopsided.

Whatever. Good 'nough. That's the name of the game.

Friday, October 25, 2013

The More I Write the More I Write


1. I tweeted the subject line above the other day: "The more I write, the more I write." On the surface, it sounds foolishly obvious. I mean, yeah, duh, if you write more, you've written more. But there's another side to the coin: the more I write, the more ideas strike me. The more I write, the more I notice details I want to write down. The more I write, the more I remember how much I am drawn to the act of writing. The more I write, the more I sit down and write some more. Sometimes if I've gotten out of the habit, the first sitting my rear in a chair and putting pencil to paper or fingers to keys takes a major act of willpower (and acceptance of mediocre grist), but from there, it gets easier.

I'm really hoping the extra bits of writing this month will prime the pump and help me coast through however much of NaNoWriMo I'm able to complete this year.

2. Because I don't have enough things to distract me from NaNoWriMo this year, I started a second blog.

A brief back story and explanation: when I originally started this blog, I figured on writing a bit about what I was up to in life in general, but also sharing my thoughts and reflections on life as a Catholic. Hence the name of the blog, actually, and the selection of St. Therese of Lisieux as a patron. But I also started this blog just as I met various typewriter folk and then fountain pen and pencil folk, and got into doing more fiction writing and etc., etc., etc., and also went through some times of struggle that took me away from my original purpose. And so this blog became somewhat schizophrenic, and as time went on, it seemed like pouring my reflections into the mix would only make it more so.

To that end, I felt prompted to launch a sort of sister blog to this one. I imagine music and pens and pencils and writing of various sorts will be mentioned there--they are a big part of my life and my thought processes, after all. But its primary focus will just be a place to record moments of enlightenment, insights--and some spiritual struggles. The journey of faith is not all roses; hence the name: Thorns and Blossoms. (I actually wanted to name it the opposite: Blossoms and Thorns. That name was already taken. Consider that the thorn that tipped the balance!)

It's mostly all for meeeee (sorry, folks). However, do feel free (not obligated) to check it out!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Quick and Dirty Review: Kum 1-Hole Long Point Sharpener


I really wanted to like this pencil sharpener.

Since I primarily use my pencils for writing, long points are my preference. They allow more precise writing, and let me write for longer stretches between sharpenings. This is why I like the Classroom Friendly Pencil Sharpener (CFPS hereafter): it gives you seriously long writing points, without breaking the lead or leaving it ragged. It has me very, very spoiled.

Get the point?
This photo brought to you (mostly) courtesy of the Classroom Friendly Pencil Sharpener...

There are a few reasons I wanted the Kum as an option:

  1. The CFPS leaves bite marks on your pencils. If you look up close at my pencil photos, you'll notice all the little pinprick holes left by the gripping mechanism*. I've learned to live with them, since I've found no other pencil sharpener that does as nice a job on the writing points (including a fancy Carl), but it would be nice to have another option for the most premium pencils.
  2. The CFPS isn't exactly something I can toss into my book bag for coffee shop runs.
  3. You can be a bit more conservative with a hand held sharpener: only shaving off juuust enough to give you a point and no more. Granted, the CFPS is pretty good about stopping as soon as you have a sharp point, but again, for the most premium pencils (or stubbies), I thought a good hand held sharpener might be nice to have.

I've tried Kum's two step long point sharpener. It's a pretty neat concept: the first step clears some of the wood away, the second sharpens the exposed lead to a nice long point. But...in practice, I found it finicky and a bit unpredictable, and broke more lead than I could happily live with. I hoped this new sharpener would be the answer to my wishes, especially since I really like my simple little brass Kum, and this seemed to be almost the same thing but with a longer resulting point.

Except...it hates me. I either mangle the lead or break it off entirely. Every...single...time. Even when I do get a semi long point, it's warped and brittle and snaps the instant I try to use it. Wah. So I guess I continue with my current approach, which is to sharpen only at home or at the office, and carry a boatload of pencils with me so I don't need to sharpen on the go. Bonus of this approach: validish excuse to carry a boatload of pencils.

But I'm saddened, nonetheless.

Attempted close-up of an attempted long point...

*One thing that helps a smidge with the aesthetics of the bite marks: I try to always face the pencil the same way when sharpening, e.g. with the text upright, so at least the holes line up...

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Field Notes, and Lots of Them!

Field Notes!

This is what was in my birthday package! OK, so I went a little overboard. I think I'm set for awhile.

Got some Expedition Edition notebooks, some Drink Local notebooks, some America the Beautiful notebooks, and some pencils. These are my first Field Notes, so getting so many varieties was just plain illogical, but...I couldn't make up my mind, so. Here we are.

I haven't yet used them, but the Expedition Edition will probably be where I start. It's just so eye-catchingly BRIGHT on the front and subtle in the back. And the paper is...weird, but intriguing. Supposedly it's water and tear proof. It's very different from Rite in the Rain paper: thin and sort of silky to the touch. But then, I believe Rite in the Rain is specially treated paper, whereas this is not really paper at all. Fascinating. It's dot ruled, which I like a great deal.


I also really like the covers on the Drink Local notebooks. They have a soft grippiness that puts me in mind of Rhodia's "soft touch" covers. And they came with this nifty coaster.


The America the Beautiful notebook also had a special token: in this case, a decal with each of the notebooks represented. (They are very pretty notebooks.)


There are a lot of neat little details with these notebooks, one of the most fun being the specification list they each come with.


The pencil has its own list, too! I'll be giving one of these a good hard trial run in the next little bit here.


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Bit of a Tease (for me, too!)

Field Notes
It's my birthday tomorrow (and I'm not saying this just to fish for good wishes, honestly I'm not). How old am I? Well, old enough to know that if I want really cool presents, I sometimes have to buy them myself.

I've wanted to try some Field Notes notebooks for awhile (like...years), so I finally ordered some, and some of their pretty pencils as well. The package came yesterday. Going to wait until tomorrow to open it, though. Can't wait to try these out!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Getting Fired Up for NaNoWriMo!

NaNo '13 1

Olympia SG-1 ready for NaNo

(Yes, I need to do some adjusting to center everything before November.)

I'll likely do most of my writing at the [too messy for public consumption] writing desk across from it, but it's nice to have Options.  Especially for doing some free writing if I get stuck or need a change of pace.  Or if I just want to be really noisy and irritate the dog for awhile.

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

NaNoWriMo 2013: In Which I Cheerfully Predict Washout

October 2013 Pencil Box
A new current mess-o'-pencils photo for ya...

NaNo '13
But given as how it's a just-for-fun year, I can see embracing whatever methods I feel like using on a given day, whether that be pencil, fountain pen, typewriter (I have scads of scrap paper after cleaning up for the office move!), Alphasmart, or even (gasp!) this vulgar beast, the personal computer.

What about you? Are you planning to be a purist of one stripe or another? If so, what sort? And, if you feel like sharing, what are you writing about? Me, I'm either going to completely rewrite my magic detective story(*3) from a few years back or go with the new idea which hit me in August, and which I'd rather not give away entirely. In essence, it has to do with avatars, but in a way I've not seen used before.

Looking forward to getting my hands dirty, whether that be literally (in the case of pens, pencils and typewriter ribbons) or figuratively! Hope to see many of you join me! (*4)

*1 What in the world is this "Eucharistic Adoration" thing? The info here is pretty well laid out. My parish actually has "perpetual" adoration, meaning that someone is there praying before the Blessed Sacrament 24 hours a day. We take it in turns, and Wednesdays from 6-7AM are my hour. 

 *2 Incidentally, for you Catholics out there, I can't recommend Fulfillment of All Desire enough: it tells the stories of some of the greatest Doctors of the Church (St. Augustine, St. Bernard of Clairvaux, St. Catherine of Sienna, St. John of the Cross, St. Teresa of Avila, St. Francis de Sales and St. Therese of Lisieux) and lays their writings out in parallel, with commentary to help make them all approachable and easy to understand. It's a lovely book. My Dad went through a phase where he handed out copies to pretty much anyone who stood still long enough (and more, via mail), and in reading it, I can see why. 

 *3 It's a noir style mystery novel! With magic! And taxis! And frogs and dragons and stuff! You should totally buy it if I ever finish it! Which is doubtful! 

 *4 For any of you who would like to add me as a friend on the NaNoWriMo site, please feel free! My username is RosieCotton.

***Typecast courtesy of the Robo-typeface Olympia SM-9 which came to me from Richard Polt by way of notagain at Manual Entry.***

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Additional Autumn Adventures

Yet another busy, fall-flavored weekend! To start with, Saturday morning I went over to the farm stand for more pumpkins and apples. Thought of you, Jeff: lo and behold, they actually had McIntosh apples! However, they were in the sort of gourmet apple section and were quite a bit more expensive than more local varieties like Honeycrisps. I was tempted for nostalgia's sake, but my inner Scot put a kibosh on the idea.


Saturday afternoon, I got to hang out with friends and play music at Hope Grange's "Octoberfest" in Winlock, WA. This is an annual community event, kind of old school: the kids dress up in Halloween costumes and there are activities like face painting and games like bean bag tosses, for which you can win candy. They also have a hay ride on a wagon to a nearby pumpkin patch, where kids can select a pumpkin to bring back to the grange hall and decorate, or take home to carve later. I rode along for one of the trips. The weather was beautiful, and the sound of the tractor (no horses on this hay ride) drowned out any mistakes. Bonus! I think we may have had more fun than the kids did.

When I got back from the hay ride, I made apple sauce from apples I got from friends and got apple butter started in the crockpot to cook overnight and into the next day, and Sunday afternoon, I canned nine little jars of fresh apple butter. It turned out nicely, I think! I still have enough apples left to make another batch, too! I want to vary this next batch a bit, but haven't decided just how. Maybe find cinnamon oil to make it exceptionally potent? Hm. Ponderable.

apple butter
New apple butter!

Next weekend our office is moving locations, so no big major plans for me. Should be relatively uneventful, aside from Saturday morning. I hope. I need some time to do some NaNoWriMo plotting. More on NaNo plans in my next post!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Weekend Doin's


Things I did this weekend:

1 - Went to the vegetable stand place on the other side of town and got a bunch of apples (Jonagold and Honeycrisps), plus peppers for chili, delicata squash, avocados, crimson pears, and four big pie pumpkins, because I'm determined to make this the year I'm no longer intimidated by cooking pumpkins from scratch. I make other winter squash all the time (roasted, generally), so why should pumpkin be any different? And these were way cheap. May have to go back for more.

As a bonus, they look decorative while waiting for consumption.

2 - Roasted one of said pumpkins and used half of it (with the peppers) to make pumpkin chili. No, really. The pumpkin flavor isn't super pronounced, but it adds to the texture, and I really liked the slightly quirky spice blend in this recipe. Good thing I like it, 'cause it made a LOT. I froze portions of it, plus will be having it for lunches this week. The avocado cream is tasty, too!

3 - Avoided NaNoWriMo prep. Effectively. Sad, but on the bright side, in the act of procrastinating, I did a bunch of tidying and also came across notes for other stories it'd be nice to work on.

Which makes me wonder if I should write my original idea or something else.

Which allows me to procrastinate further.

4 - Visited friends who have a bunch of apple trees and acquired MORE apples: two big buckets full, which (in theory) will become apple butter. It was POURING rain yesterday, but fortunately stopped long enough to pick during my visit. I did spread the wet apples out on a blanket in the front room to dry when I got home, much to the puzzlement of the cats, who had to be shooed away. Now I just have to find the perfect recipe amongst the thirty bazillion and two available on the interwebs.

My friends also gave me a bunch of cucumbers, chives and green onions, a few potatoes, and a zucchini the size of a small child. No idea what to do with the zucchini the size of a small child.

5 - Visited *other* friends and got to hang out and play mandolin for several hours straight, including LOTS of waltzes. I love waltzes. So that was wonderful. Plus, we had a really good dinner: smoked pork roast (they have a smoker and make it themselves) with potatoes and carrots, a big salad, and apple crisp with ice cream for dessert. It was a very apple centric weekend, now I think of it. Apples and pumpkins.

I do love fall!

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Places to See, 1st Week of September 2013 Edition

Because nothing says "I don't much care" like a bad photo of the Halvah cat shredding paper towels on the unvacuumed carpet...

Lately I have been deep in the grip of end-of-summer apathy, and writing much of anything longer than a grocery list has been a struggle. And so, I will resort to the "hey, look at that!" approach, so you (hopefully) fail to observe the fact that my portion of this blog post isn't really much longer than a grocery list.

1. Obsolete words which should never have gone out of style. Check it out, all ye beef-witted spermologers.

(Personally, I think my favorite is tyromancy. Or maybe groak. There are a number of groakers at my house, primarily of feline and canine persuasions.

2. Somewhat related, only different. Ever wondered what some of those odd sounding diseases in old novels would be in modern language? There seems to be a certain amount of guesswork involved, but I found this site interesting.

3. While we're looking into the past, if you haven't seen this blog before, plan on wasting a good bit of time there the first time you check it out: Ask the Past. All sorts of advice from old books. Want to lose weight? Grow a beard? Impress the ladies/guys? Ask the Past can help!

(Or you may wish you'd never asked...)

4. On a more serious note, this is excellent advice for any aspiring writers out there. Elmore Leonard on writing.

My favorite line is probably the most difficult to put into practice: "If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it."

Rewriting is *hard*.

5. Speaking of writing, how about some writing objects? Here's a short video showing how pencils are made--fascinating to watch!.

6. And finally, just because (thanks to Mike Clemens)... Screaming Jelly Babies Experiment

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Mmm, Sweet Summer

Took a little walk down the bike trail after work last night, and came home with this bounty! That's about four cups, which isn't bad considering.

They were hard won, though. By the pricking of my thumbs...

I ended up making a sort of cobbler with them, and ate some warm with cream drizzled on top. Oh, luxurious summer!

Friday, August 16, 2013

Around Town: Finders Keepers

Vacation week continues! After several seaside adventures, yesterday I stayed closer to home. I went to one of my favorite coffee places (Mud Bay Coffee Roasters) to do some catching up on my journal, met a friend for a chocolate malt at Grandpa's Soda Fountain, and also wandered through one of my favorite Olympia businesses: Finders Keepers, a really interesting antique and collectibles store, with all sorts of nooks and crannies. It's made up of a whole bunch of different vendors, all with different focuses. Makes for a fascinating stroll, even if I don't end up buying much.

Quite a few typewriters this time, though pricey ones and nothing that totally grabbed me.

Remington Monarch

Classic 12
Classic 12

Corona in a dark back room--hard to photograph

Buried Treasure
This poor beauty was practically buried!

JC Penney Typewriter
This one appeals to me. Yes, it's just a Classic 12 (?) in a different suit, but a pretty snazzy suit. It's like an old car...

One vendor apparently has a thing for Siamese cats (as do I...)

There are always some quirky novelty items.I should have put something with this eraser for scale. It's HUGE--maybe eight inches long? Just plain goofy, but it made me smile.
Giant Eraser

This, I don't even...
Vibra Pillow

Old Speed Ball sets, plus Eagle pencil leads...
Nibs and Leads

They also had stacks of variations on the old Chief tablets (and copycats).
Big Chief Tablet

This made me think of a certain Tacoma area typecaster...
Slide Rule How-To

Fun trip, overall! And I didn't come away empty handed. I bought this plain little Lane cedar box. My Mom had one just like it (they must have made many thousands of them, I'd guess), and it's nothing fancy...but I love the smell of a cedar box!


Also, as it turns out, it's a perfect fit for pencils!


Thursday, August 15, 2013

Other Ports of View

Monday at Ocean Shores was such a good day, I decided to explore another Washington State beach yesterday. It turns out the state has an awful lot of coast line. Who knew? After a bit of dithering over where to go, I drove out to the Long Beach peninsula and did a little sightseeing and wandering. I grabbed a lemon pastry at the bakery in downtown Long Beach and then went down to the beach.

It wasn't the gorgeous weather we had Monday. The sky was silver and lead, and the water more dark green and black than blue. Not truly stormy, but definitely heavier than earlier in the week, and the wind was, as the poem goes, like a whetted knife. It was interesting to see how the colors and shapes of the sky and water changed with the weather. And again, I mostly had the farther reaches to myself.

I wanted to take pictures, of course, but as soon as I turned on my little Canon, it displayed three of the saddest words in the English tongue: "No memory card." And (this is funny in a twisted sort of way) when, as a compromise, I figured I could at least take a few cell phone pictures, I couldn't see the screen in the bright outdoor lighting, so I kinda just fumbled with it until it made the appropriate clicking noises. Turns out in my fumbling, I'd switched it to the forward facing camera, so all of my photos are some variation on Self Portrait With Hat. Guess I'll just have to be satisfied with memories!

The rain kicked in and the wind increased after I'd been out there awhile, and so I headed back in. I stopped for a late lunch of fish and chips and iced tea at Lost Roo on the way out of town. (Thank you, Kindle, for making dining alone a bit less awkward. It's a skill I have not yet mastered.)

Now that I know how to get there and what's what, I will definitely have to visit Long Beach again, preferably with a functioning camera! I didn't see the lighthouses there, for one!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Day at the Beach


Took this week off to do some wandering and relaxing, as I did about this time last year. Started off the week yesterday with a trip out to Ocean Shores, WA. The last time I went there, my younger brother and sister were visiting, and the GPS led us to the middle of parking lot at the local high school, and I got one of the worst migraines I've ever had and couldn't think well enough to get us to the beach (approximately twenty feet away)(OK, slight exaggeration, but only slight) and I did a lot of getting mad at my brother and sister for expecting me to take the big sister role and be In Charge and it just wasn't my most shining moment or the best day ever.

A few driftwood logs made a nice place to stop for a picnic lunch.

Yesterday...was solitary, but relaxing. I did learn that apparently Android GPS cannot be relied upon to get to Ocean Shores. The freebie Google Maps lady dumped me repeatedly, and though I did stop once to sweet-talk her into continuing to provide guidance, she turned her back on me again a few miles down the road. Fine, be that way, see if I care. She also pronounces "Rainier" as "Rain-yay" and Port Angeles as "Port Angles," which disturbs me, especially considering she knows how to say "Puyallup." Makes me wonder if she's mispronouncing just to annoy me.

I love all the different patterns the water leaves behind on the sand!

It being a weekday and not a particularly hot day, the beach was mostly empty. Once I got a few dozen yards beyond the access point, I pretty much had the sand to myself, except for about a bazillion seagulls. I believe they must nest here--there were *scads* of them, many of which didn't look entirely mature. Made me realize I've not really seen baby seagulls. There are quite a lot of gulls in Olympia: they wander the parking lot at work sometimes in unruly mobs, or fight the unruly mobs of crows in a bizarre bird gang warfare, but they all seem to be more or less adults.

Ripples and Gulls

I walked quite a long way, until I was tired and highly relaxed, and then walked back. Oh, I wish I could bring that *sound* back with me! That's what gets me the most about the ocean: the sound of the surf.


When I got back to my parking spot, I stopped long enough to buy an ice cream cone at a shop by the parking area, and then headed home. I did take a quick break in Aberdeen on the way back. They have a Staples *right next* to a Goodwill there. That's just unfair. Got a nice EMI recording of Mendelssohn's "Italian" symphony. I was good and didn't spend money at Staples, though I did wander the aisles a bit.

Today is my second day off, and I've accomplished considerably less. Mostly have been reading and scribbling and getting locked in pointless overanalyzing. For example, made a cup of Earl Grey tea, which I remember someone (Dad?) referring to as "perfumey," and started thinking about that word and how it really could mean just about anything considering how many types of perfume there are, and this bugged me, so I sat down to write a rant on the subject just to get it out of my system, and then I started looking up "perfumey" in various dictionaries, which were all very vague, which seems like a cop-out on the part of dictionary makers, but on the other hand, if they weren't vague, then they'd be defining "perfumey" based on their own life experience and that would be wrong.

So...yeah, it's after lunch time, and I'm just sittin' here sipping lukewarm Earl Grey. And thinking back on yesterday.

Sky and Water
I like the way the water, land and sky all blend together here...