Friday, March 5, 2010

Friday, March 5, 2010
Waning Moon
Mars Retrograde
Grey and gloomy

The headache is back, gosh darn it. And I can’t even take a hot shower or bath, because there’s no hot water. The scumbag landlords turned off the water again yesterday, without proper notice, claiming an “emergency” and saying it would be down from 9 AM – 1PM. It didn’t come back on until well after 6. And this morning, the water coming out of the hot water tap is colder than the water coming out of the cold water tap. Yes, they know it’s illegal. They don’t care. And I don’t buy that every time they’re doing renovations, it’s an “emergency”. It’s bad planning and poor workmanship.

Still can’t get into my webhost so I can take down the auto responder. 1and1 gets worse every day. But I can’t dump them until I can pull off my materials, contracts, etc., and they’re holding them hostage.

Ran errands in White Plains yesterday. Didn’t find everything I wanted, but it was a pleasant time anyway. Found lots of things I liked, but can’t use right now, so that was that!

Did conference work, worked on Confidential Job #1. Struggled with the play, but will have to get back to that today.

I’ve been very strict, this conference, that each exercise must fit all the criteria set out or I won’t accept it, and that they must create new material for each day’s work, not pull something from a WIP and slap it up in their post. Yesterday’s exercise had to fit a list of points, and contain two characters. So what does someone do? Posts an exercise with four characters and said she hoped it was okay. It wasn’t, and, if you have to ask, it means you know it doesn’t fit the criteria, so don’t waste all our time by putting it there! It also makes me suspect that the student’s been posting scenes from previously written material instead of creating fresh scenes every day.

As I stated at the top of the week to the class,, part of getting published means following guidelines. And following guidelines in an exercise is good practice for following submission guidelines.

For the most part, the students have been pretty conscientious, other than that and then the person who submitted the same piece in both workshops. It’s been good to have smaller class sizes and be able to spend more time on each exercise. The group in the One Story, Many Voices Workshop is small, but they’ve done some terrific work, and the way they let themselves go as they move from genre to genre is really great.

I need a dose of inspiration to get back on track with my own work, so I think I will re-read Terry Brooks’s SOMETIMES THE MAGIC WORKS.

Today’s about wrapping up the conference and finishing up some deadlined work. I’ll be out of town for part of next week, and can’t have any of it hanging over my head — I’ll just be working on the plays while I’m gone. I wanted to do laundry today, but with the water situation, it’s doubtful I can. Sigh.

Now that Violet’s forgiven me for going to Philly, she’s Velcro-Kitty. She’ll be mad at me again next week for the next voyage!

The weekend’s supposed to be nice – -hope I can get out and walk on the beach a bit. Have a good one.

Devon

Friday, December 18, 2009

Friday, December 18, 2009
Waxing Moon
Sunny and cold

Do you realize that we have a Blue Moon on New Year’s Eve? The second full moon to fall within a calendar month? That’s kind of cool.

So, we’re supposed to get 6-12 inches of snow tomorrow and guess what? No hot water. Again. Guess who’s going to call the Buildings Department yet again when they open this morning?

I don’t care WHY there’s no hot water. They are legally obligated to provide hot water 24/7 and they better damn do it. it’s bad enough that they turn off the heat at 9 AM and don’t turn it on again until after 5 PM because “everybody” works from 9-5 (at least 1/3 of the tenants don’t). There’s a reason I live in the 21st century in a first world country, and a big part of that is HOT WATER. Also, I expect to get what I pay for, and hot water is one of the things covered under the lease agreement.

Yesterday, I picked up the final present for my mom. I am officially DONE with the shopping. I ordered a couple of things online for us to enjoy (it was the big free shipping day) — they weren’t have-to’s, but they were there, so . . .

And I bought I pair of Liz Claiborne grey suede half-shoe/half-boot. They’re not exactly what I was looking for in a grey boot, but they look terrific with either pants or dresses AND they are extraordinarily comfortable. Square toe (plenty of room for my long toes), block heels, very cool. On clearance.

Went grocery shopping. Shopped a lot more than I planned. But now, the only thing I have to pick up the day before Christmas is the turkey for Christmas Day. Because there is no way in hell a cracker can fit in the fridge right now, much less a turkey!

I was in one of the aisles when a little kid carrying an oversize candy cane walked up to me and said, “Hi! I”m Abe. Like Lincoln, only I’m shorter.”

That’s one of the funniest things I’ve ever heard in my life. I was howling with laughter. His mom thought it was pretty funny, too, when she caught up with us.

Worked on cards all afternoon. Except for a few addresses I still have to track down, they are DONE. This batch goes out, and, if I have to, I will tromp out in the snow to mail the last few cards. There are a few people where I don’t have current addresses OR emails, so I’m hoping they write me first, so I can write back!

I’m actually looking forward to the snow — provided we have hot water — because I can stay in and finish the decorations.

This morning, I’m going to the post office, I’ll pay a few bills, and then I have to dash to Costco to get ink for the big printer — I have a feeling I’m about to run out, and that’s all I need in the middle of a snow storm.

I look forward to repairing ornaments and writing this afternoon. And filing paperwork to get after the scumbags for continuing to deny us hot water!

Devon

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


Violet and Elsa’s response to the baking activity

Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Waning Moon
Cloudy and cold

And we’re into Day 5 of no hot water. Getting tired of taking either cold showers or the infamous “whore’s bath.”

It will be months, probably next year, before I can face icing another cookie. I iced from noon until 11 PM last night — close to 500 cookies. AND baked another batch of thumbprints (which came out beautifully) and eggnog angels (that dough is a nightmare to work with).

Re: the latter, the eggnog cookies, I realized that EVERY recipe I tried from the magazine that contains that recipe was wrong. I’m wondering if they actually tested these recipes or, because of cutbacks due to the recession, someone made ‘em up and they printed them without testing. The proportions are wrong. The only even remotely usable recipe is the eggnog cookie (and the icing rocks,now that I’ve modified it). Now, the reason I buy other people’s recipes for holiday cookies is because I’m baking about 1000 of them, and I don’t have time to mess with the recipe. I want something that works. If I wanted to muck around with the recipe, I’d start from scratch and make my own!

Example: For the eggnog icing, it said to put in 3 Tablespoons of eggnog to the confectioners’ sugar and vanilla mixture and then spread on the cookie. You wanna know what 3 T of eggnog made it look like? Cornmeal. It took 7 Tablespoons of good-quality eggnog from my favorite dairy to make a spreadable consistency — 8 if you want it really smooth. SEVEN. That’s a big difference from THREE.

If I’d had the time, I could have messed with the recipe and figured out by how much the amount of flour was off, and how much more I needed to add to make it a solid, workable consistency, not only for rolling it out (I used THREE POUNDS of flour to roll out one batch of cookies, that’s how badly it stuck to everything), but so the cookies wouldn’t break. My normal breakage rate for cookies is about 3 or 4 out of every 100, so 3-4%. With this recipe, it was about 40%. With one of the other recipes in the same magazine, it was 100% — the cookies simply dissolved on the baking sheet.

I started baking cookies when I was four, so I’ve been doing this a LONG time, and I’ve never hit a package of recipes that are this far off, proportion-wise. I may mess with the eggnog recipe over the coming months to get the proportions right, but as for the rest? Not using this publication again, and certainly not buying it next year. AND I’m going to contact them and let them know why. In a half a dozen recipes, surely ONE should have come out exactly as written! I mean, they all should, but still . . .

On the flip side, Martha Stewart’s recipe for Royal Icing comes out perfectly, and I bless the day I picked up Wilton’s meringue powder at the chef store, thinking it might come in useful someday. That stuff is awesome.

Errands in the morning went well. Gotta love Trader Joe’s, dropped my cartridges off at the really good Staples in Larchmont, got my favorite Jim’s Organic Coffee at Mrs. Green’s, found where my yoga studio’s moved — a new, larger, lighter space with better parking, and about a minute closer to me. So that’s all good.

I’m downloading photos and doing the Cookie Cheat Sheets that I pack with them –a photo of the cookie and a one-line description, and warnings if there are any nuts or whatever. And then we assemble the platters, load them into the car and head out. I expect it will take almost all day to deliver 30 platters. I’m anchoring each platter with a small gingerbread cake, and then I have between 3-7 of six different kinds of cookies on each — you can see, there are a lot of cookies around. I have cookie tins stacked everywhere.

I also baked a cake yesterday — I meant to bake it for St. Nicholas Day, but oh well. It’s from the SILVER PALATE GOOD TIMES COOKBOOK, only I changed it. It’s supposed to be a straight up coffee cake with buttermilk, and then a layer of fruit on it and a layer of walnuts. Well, I went to the store because I never keep buttermilk in the house — don’t like it and usually forget to use it when I buy it. There were 16 kinds of eggnog (SIXTEEN — who knew you could have so many flavors of eggnog? Heck, I only drink eggnog once a year; I want it to taste like EGGNOG) — and no buttermilk. The entire shelf of buttermilk was sold out. So I guess a lot of people are baking this year.

Anyway, I picked up sour cream instead, and used sour cream instead of buttermilk — which to me, made the batter taste better. I mixed in the fruit and nuts instead of layering them — and it’s a pretty darned lovely cake, if I do say so myself!

Okay, off to finish the Cookie Cheat Sheets, assemble the platters. I think I’ll have to put the back seat down in order to load 30 cookie platters into a Volkswagen.

Have a great day, everyone!

Yeah, not much writing done yesterday OR this morning, but I have to admit, the minute I lose my holiday spirit, I sit down and write a few paragraphs, and it comes back.

Devon

Sunday, December 13, 2009


Elsa thinks decorating is exhausting!

Sunday, December 13, 2009
Waning Moon
Sleet and cold

We’ve had heat the past few days (amazing, the super goes away, there’s a substitute, and we have heat. Unfortunately, there’s no hot water this morning. Urgh.

Yesterday was a pretty decent day. Got a lot of errands done, including dropping stuff off where my Mom is staying, going to Michael’s yet again, going to White Plains. I wanted to get something for my cousin’s son at the Metropolitan Museum of Art store, which had an outpost in WP in Spring — and has since closed. I had a fit. I’d parked at the Target complex and sprinted the X blocks to the other mall (with the really expensive parking in the really scary lot, which is why I parked at Target), only to find no store.

Most people seem to be panic-shopping. Inventories are low, lots of empty shelves, and people are grabbing whatever’s there. Uh, no thanks. I went into one store, asked for something I wanted, and the sales person said, “Well, we don’t have that, so you’ll just have to settle for something else.”

My response? “No, actually, I’ll go spend my money somewhere else. Buh-bye” and walked out.

Restoration Hardware’s keeping their shelves stocked — the store looks gorgeous. They also had the most business — the line wound all around the store, and they’re being really NICE to their customers — and customers are buying.

Sprinted back to Target, ran into Target, picked up two things I needed, and dashed through the express check out. I managed to get into my car and pull out of my spot on the moment my meter ran out. Phew!

I was going to go to Home Goods, since I was already all the way in White Plains, but couldn’t face it.

Ran some more errands, including to the liquor store. Stopped into AI Friedman’s, which is gorgeous. They didn’t have what I needed today, but I’ll definitely hit the after-Christmas clearance. Michael’s is just letting the empty shelves sit, which looks awful, and putting up a few Valentine’s Day things. Uh, no. Even the most dedicated crafters I know are still trying to make Christmas happen.

Went to Home Depot, wondering if I should buy another artificial tree to replace the little one we have. It’s looking a bit sad, both listing and listless. I have a huge tree in storage, but it’s 8 feet tall AND 8 feet wide, and there’s just no room in the apartment for it. The trees that would fit in the space look as sad as the one we’ve got.

I stood there, feeling a bit overwhelmed, and this little girl (about 3 or 4) walks up to me. She’s sucking a lollipop. She pulls it out of her mouth and says, “You look sad. Would you like some of my lollipop? It’s cherry.”

Her father is with her, dying a million deaths.

I couldn’t help but laugh. I thanked her and said, no, but I’d had a long day, and now it was much better. I wound up going to the garden section and buying a basket of decorated greenery and a two foot live tree in a pot (the latter was less than $8!) and haulign them home. The little tree fits in the window, and I put some tiny decorations on it. The basket is on the coffee table.

It was around 2:30 before I could even start the decorating. There’s a lot half done, all the ornaments I brought in from storage are out of boxes, although not necessarily in their final spots. I have to bring the empty boxes back to storage this morning, because there’s no place to put anything with all the boxes. But what’s up looks pretty darned cute. I will post pictures over the coming days.

At 1:30 this morning, Iris stepped on my EYE and launched with her back foot on a jump. Do you have any idea how much that hurts? There was no blood, but it really, really hurts. I’m using the rest of the eye drops I bought in Prague. If it seems infected or there’s any change in vision, I’ll go to the eye doctor. I’m hoping I’ll just be sore and uncomfortable for a few days.

Good writing session this morning, off to storage now, and then yet ANOTHER stop at Michael’s for one more garland (if they have it) and some floral wire. I’ve been using ornament hangers wound together — just break down and get the floral wire, already! I had to buy wire cutters when I disconnected the old land line. The right tools make all the difference.

The cats love the new faux “sofa” I built out of boxes of stuff I can’t yet put in storage because it needs to be sorted. I covered the contraption with festive fabric and lots of pillows. All three cats have their favorite spots, although Violet also likes to sleep in the chair covered in a fleece throw where one of the stuffed reindeer currently resides.

More eyedrops, then off to storage before the sleet gets any nastier.

I thought Christmas was THIS week, but it’s NEXT week — gives me another day or two to get out the cards.

Have a great Sunday!

Devon