Saturday, August 29, 2009

Tea & Books, aka Happiness

Today we hit T2 and brought home some looseleaf tea - it was so hard to choose! There were at least as many varieties as Silk Road, and we were offered a sweetened mint brew when we walked in. I was drawn to the caffeine free varieties, since we already have some black teas at home.

I chose a Chamomile-Lavender blend, and a Rooibos with mint and chocolate. I am drinking the Rooibos now, and the red bush and chocolate flavours are a surprising but pleasant blend, with the mint lingering behind. It will be a nice tea for relaxing with before bed.

The teashop is next to a cupcakery, but we hadn't eaten lunch yet, so we popped into Pie Face for meat pie with peas, mash and gravy. We never did get back for cupcakes - maybe next weekend.

Jody's Akubra hat from his last trip to Oz is in sad sad shape. He's been looking at hats for months, and when we found ourselves near the hatshop once again, he tried on the same few that catch his eye every time. His previous black Akubra was a Stockman, which apparently is not as popular a style as the Snowy River. The brim on the Snowy is quite wide, which is good because part of the reason Jody needs a hat is to protect his head and neck from the sun. Another couple in the store picked out one of those fashionable straw hats with narrow brims for the guy, and it looked awesome on him. Smaller brimmed hats don't suit Jody as well. The girl in the couple looked at him and agreed, "He's a big hat kind of man."

Jody was drawn to a black hat at first, but it had a very high crown. Next was a dusty blue Snowy River, which looked sharp enough for him to wear with a dress shirt, but not as formal as a fedora. It looks great with his blue eyes. He mulled over sizes, though, so we wandered off and came back later. We got back to the shop just as it was closing and picked up the blue Snowy and a straw Akubra for me, the first straw hat I've found that was a good fit. I hope to be able to add other ribbons or scarves overtop of the striped ribbon, and get a lot of use out of it this spring and summer.

Jody has been working very hard lately, and it was nice to spoil him a little. Ergo Proxy, an anime DVD series recommended to him, had arrived at the bookshop. I've given up on finding a used copy of Gregory Maguire's Wicked, so I added that to the DVDs and on we went. Today involved a secret shopping expedition which cannot be disclosed here - but it was a success.

It's taken me so long to read Thackeray's Vanity Fair (I just finished it last night) that I have actually started a "to be read" pile again. Along with Wicked, I have The Secret History by Donna Tartt, The Splendor of Silence by Indu Sundaresan,and Maria V. Snyder's first book in the Study series, Poison Study. If Sundaresan's book is half as good as Camilla Gibb's gorgeous Sweetness in the Belly I will be very happy. The Secret History has been released as a Penguin classic at only 9.95, and I read a review - well, more of a teaser - that prompted me to buy it. When I brought it to the counter the girl told me she loved it. That same week I read a positive review on a blog, too, so I have high hopes.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

My Saturday of Loveliness

Ah, bliss. I got to sleep in. There were snuggles. I fell back to sleep to the sound of funny Australian birds. When I woke up the second time at close to noon, there was cereal and Earl Grey tea waiting. I read some Psalms over 'breakfast.' One that M suggested sparked a few ideas for a song, so I will have to come back to that another time.

It was a beautiful day, so I showered and put on my new Esprit dress, which is both comfortable and adorable - it's sort of boho; three different-patterned swatches stitched together and twist-dried so it's crinkly, with a square neckline and puffy elbow-length sleeves. It has a drawstring empire waist with copper beads and butterfly charms on the end of the string. I tried to find a photo of it but no luck, and our camera is missing its battery charger.

There was a message from my best friend that she'd received my package, and on a day when she really needed a pick-me-up, too. I read a couple chapters of Red String, and stumbled on a hilarious creation known as Cubeecraft - free printouts of cube-cutified* characters such as Alice in Wonderland, Princess Bride, and Sister Claire. Just print them in colour on cardstock, cut and fold, and you've got yourself cubee (kyoo-bee) playthings, or decorations for your desk or windowsill. The internet is awash with strange cuteness.

After a load of laundry and a grilled cheese sandwich, I convinced Jody we should venture outside with our books. There's a recently developed green space near us that overlooks the water, so we put on light jackets and shoes and headed out. We settled on one of the stone benches for awhile, winter sunlight on our faces and wind licking at the pages of our books.

I am still working my way through W.M. Thackeray's Vanity Fair, but I've got less than 200 pages to go now. I am enjoying it, and there is so much more to it than the Reese Witherspoon film, but I find it takes me awhile to get into it - so if I'm sleepy or have less than a half-hour to read, I pick up something less dense. (This past week or so I've read Mary Balogh's Slightly Scandalous and Tongue in Chic by Christina Dodd. They are far from dense but very entertaining!)

After our lazy, cuddly outdoor reading session we remembered we were in need of groceries. Lots of groceries. I won't bore you with a list, but we did get a roast chicken, pesto and a pizza base, which went together beautifully with some fresh pineapple, red pepper and cheese for our dinner. We had some white wine and watched a little TV. I've been fairly balanced food-wise this week, but not today! In the mood to be completely indulgent, I frosted and sprinkled two chocolate cupcakes I'd had in the freezer, for dessert. I read a bit more of my book and we contemplated watching the Serenity movie on TV, but that would just lead to us wishing we'd brought the Firefly series with us from Canada to watch first.

Jody is now playing a game on his iPhone as I type and we listen to some Ella Fitzgerald. I originally brought out my Mac to mess around with Scrivener and perhaps write a little, but I haven't posted anything here in a week, so instead I wrote this and added links to webcomics I've been following. Now I will go have a look and see if I can add anything to my poor neglected story.

It's been such a lovely Saturday.

* I made it up. I've got an English B.A. - I figure I am entitled to a few made-up words.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Banana Bread with Stuff!

2 C flour
1 C sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 C mashed ripe bananas (about 3 medium)
1/3 C vegetable oil
1/4 C milk
1/4 - 1/3 C walnuts or Craisins
1/4 - 1/3 C chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit.
In one bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.
In a second bowl, mash bananas and add the eggs, oil and milk. You can add a little vanilla if you like but it's not needed.

Once each bowl of ingredients has been blended, add small amounts of the dry mixture to the wet, stirring as you go. A mixer will be overkill here - you want things moist, with the flour just blended in. Add 'stuff' and stir gently. Pour into greased 9x5 loaf pan. Place on lower rack of oven (top will rise and crack - mine gets quite brown). Bake 55 mins or until toothpick comes out clean (or covered in melty chocolate!) Cool for a few minutes in the pan before removing loaf to wire rack.

Kraft calls this Chocolate Chunk Banana Bread. I usually throw brown bananas in my freezer, and thaw before use. Ideally, use a mixture of fresh and thawed bananas. If you use much more than 1 cup, the texture isn't as nice.

It is important to mix the wet and dry separately, and then mix them together - but not too much, before you add the 'stuff.' Too gloopy and it is overmixed. This really does take 50-55 mins to bake, but I have successfully made this recipe into muffins if you need it to go faster.

I like to do toasted walnuts and dark chocolate - crumbed walnuts don't work as well as chopped. My other usual is White chocolate or dark chocolate with Craisins. I've been thinking of trying crystallized ginger and dark chocolate. What can you come up with?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Metaphor Soup

Comic by Ryan North of Dinosaur Comics.

Every year, English teachers from across the country can submit their collections of actual analogies and metaphors found in high school essays. These excerpts are published each year to the amusement of teachers across the country. Here are some previous 'winners'.

1. Her face was a perfect oval, like a circle that had its two sides gently compressed by a Thigh Master.

2. His thoughts tumbled in his head, making and breaking alliances like underpants in a dryer without Cling Free.

3. He spoke with the wisdom that can only come from experience, like a guy who went blind because he looked at a solar eclipse without one of those boxes with a pinhole in it and now goes around the country speaking at high schools about the dangers of looking at a solar eclipse without one of those boxes with a pinhole in it.

4. She grew on him like she was a colony of E. Coli, and he was room-temperature Canadian beef.

5. She had a deep, throaty, genuine laugh, like that sound a dog makes just before it throws up.

6. Her vocabulary was as bad as, like, whatever.

7. He was as tall as a six-foot, three-inch tree.

8. The revelation that his marriage of 30 years had disintegrated because of his wife's infidelity came as a rude shock, like a surcharge at a formerly surcharge-free ATM machine.

9. The little boat gently drifted across the pond exactly the way a bowling ball wouldn't.

10. McBride fell 12 stories, hitting the pavement like a Hefty bag filled with vegetable soup.

11. From the attic came an unearthly howl. The whole scene had an eerie, surreal quality, like when you're on vacation in another city and Jeopardy comes on at 7:00 p.m. instead of 7:30.

12. Her hair glistened in the rain like a nose hair after a sneeze.

13. The hailstones leaped from the pavement, just like maggots when you fry them in hot grease.

14. Long separated by cruel fate, the star-crossed lovers raced across the grassy field toward each other like two freight trains, one having left Cleveland at 6:36 p.m. traveling at 55 mph, the other from Topeka at 4:19 p.m. at a speed of 35 mph.

15. They lived in a typical suburban neighborhood with picket fences that resembled Nancy Kerrigan's teeth.

16. John and Mary had never met. They were like two hummingbirds who had also never met.

17. He fell for her like his heart was a mob informant, and she was the East River.

18. Even in his last years, Granddad had a mind like a steel trap, only one that had been left out so long, it had rusted shut.

19. Shots rang out, as shots are wont to do.

20. The plan was simple, like my brother-in-law Phil. But unlike Phil, this plan just might work.

21. The young fighter had a hungry look, the kind you get from not eating for a while .

22. He was as lame as a duck. Not the metaphorical lame duck, either, but a real duck that was actually lame, maybe from stepping on a land mine or something.

23. The ballerina rose gracefully en Pointe and extended one slender leg behind her, like a dog at a fire hydrant.

24. It was an American tradition, like fathers chasing kids around with power tools.

25. He was deeply in love. When she spoke, he thought he heard bells, as if she were a garbage truck backing up.

I think number 17 is my favourite, with number 8 a close second. What's yours?

Monday, August 10, 2009

Better for the Sweater

My sis sent me a package in the mail last week, complete with two Blu-Rays (Quantum of Solace and Yes Man), a colourful fringed cotton scarf, and this fabulous sweater in my favourite colour. It's like a sexy secretary sweater...

or maybe like a sweater-mullet? You know, business in the in the back! Thanks for the lacy sweater goodness Pam!

Scrivener Trial

I downloaded a copy of Scrivener from Literature & Latte and will be giving it a trial run on my aluminum 13" MacBook this month.

If I'm lucky, it will make it easier to make some headway on my single-chapter-long novel "Turned." Last night, I transferred the text from my Open Office file into Scrivener, which allows you to separate text into chapters and scenes. The look and feel is not too far away from iTunes, with a left-hand gutter called the 'binder' that can be turned on or off - this is where you can see the structure of your document. There's also a nifty 'corkboard' view which allows you to pin up virtual index cards with brief synopses of each chapter/scene, and makes it simple to view pieces of your work. Rearranging the pieces is easy with the Outline tool, which shows the synopsis and draft number along with the title of each section. When you're ready to see how the pieces fit together, you can either Export to a document or PDF format, or view a selection of your scenes as a continuous file within Scrivener.

There can be as few or as many chapters and scenes as you like, and each can be 'tagged' so you can keep track of which draft you're on, whether it's a scene or a concept, et cetera. In addition to text, Scrivener can be used to store all those bits of research any writer needs - photos, maps and other images, and other media such as music or video. So there's no need to have more than one program open, and everything flows together! I popped a photo into the Research 'binder' by drag-and-dropping it straight from iPhoto, and it let me resize the picture right there. Easy. And for less distraction, an annoyance second only to writers' block, there's a Full Screen Edit view that hides everything from your e-mail to the dashboard.

When I'm more familiar with Scrivener's capabilities, I'll give a more thorough review. For now, keep watching this space!

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