a garden in riotous bloom
Beautiful. Damn hard. Increasingly useful.
fresh cuttings 
19 June 2018 00:02 - Upcoming stuff 'n' things
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22 November 2014 23:42 - "Bigger on the inside"
green, books
Things that happen on Twitter:

[twitter.com profile] readandbreathe: Idea of the day: A Doctor Who/Proust mash-up.
[twitter.com profile] rosefox: Remembrance of Timey-Wimey Past, or Was It Future, I Forget
[twitter.com profile] ronhogan: I bit into a jelly baby and a flood of future memories overwhelmed my mind.
[twitter.com profile] readandbreathe: "For a long time I used to go to bed early. I'd dream of a box that is bigger on the inside than it is on the outside."
[twitter.com profile] ronhogan: OMG, that pretty much IS Amy Pond fic, right there.
[twitter.com profile] rosefox: "We are all of us obliged, if we are to make reality endurable, to nurse a few... follies in ourselves." (unchanged)
[twitter.com profile] a9ri: "the real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having a TARDIS"
[twitter.com profile] rosefox: "Every person is destroyed when we cease to see him; after which his next appearance is a new creation, different from that which immediately preceded it." Also unchanged. Maybe Proust WAS a Time Lord.
[twitter.com profile] readandbreathe: WHOA.
[twitter.com profile] ronhogan: WHOAx2.
[twitter.com profile] rosefox: "altogether he looked... as though he were the lifeless and wire-pulled puppet of his own happiness." < Matt Smith
[twitter.com profile] rosefox: (I am not a Matt Smith fan.)
[twitter.com profile] rosefox: "Often she had seen [servants] born. That's the only way to get really good ones." Yep, Amy Pond fic all the way.
[twitter.com profile] rosefox: This is making me want to read Proust, which I have never actually done. I'm just pulling quotes off Goodreads.
[twitter.com profile] readandbreathe: Ooo, you must. I just started the fifth volume.
[twitter.com profile] rosefox: Do let me know if it's better when read with the assumption that Proust was a Time Lord.

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20 November 2014 01:28 - "Sucker!"
design, writing, drawing
So, uh. This happened.

If you can't see or read the image, click through for the original tweets.

Do I know how to motivate myself or what?

So here is the thing. I am super conflicted about writing fiction.

Conflict, in excruciating detailCollapse )

Fast forward to today, when I was thinking about undermining the cisnormative heteronormative tropes of romance novels, as I often do, and tweeted, "Someone please write a historical where the crossdressing 'heroine' realizes he's actually a trans guy, and the hero loves him just as much." I know a lot of romance readers and a lot of trans folks, so that got picked up pretty quickly; soon it was up to 19 retweets. I encouraged people to keep it going, and encouraged writers to write those stories. All par for the course when I say something like that. But to my surprise, the retweets kept coming. Soon it was up to nearly 50.

Meanwhile, on my private account, I made a promise to myself that I will do my own personal NaNo-ish thing in January.

So I looked at those things together, and I thought about it. For maybe two seconds. And before I could lose my nerve, I posted, "Okay, here's a brash promise: if I get 100 RTs on the trans historical romance tweet, I'll try to write it. No guarantee of success!"

It took 12 more minutes to hit 100 retweets. You should have seen my face as I watched the counter go up: excitement, terror, pure disbelief.

Having just watched three people I know do 500 push-ups, sit-ups, and squats thanks to "we'll do two for each RT this gets, ha ha, surely it won't be that many", I really should have expected that it would go far. But I didn't. And I was really touched to see so many people I know gleefully boosting the signal to support me in my self-motivation efforts, and also to see so many organic RTs and faves for the concept. Right now the original tweet is up to 196 204 206 208 RTs. Sure, the first 100 spread it to where the next 100 could see it... but there's a whole lot of love for the idea of a trans historical romance character. It doesn't have quite the same vibe of "The world needs this book" that Long Hidden had, but given that #WeNeedDiverseRomance was a trending hashtag for days, I think it's safe to say that the world needs books like this. And there's safety in numbers, even imagined numbers. If I imagine myself writing just one of the hundr--well, okay, maybe doz--okay, like five romance novels inspired by the idea of a crossdressing heroine who turns out to be trans, suddenly there's a lot less pressure than if I'm going to be writing a wholly idiosyncratic fantasy novel.

There's probably some internalized stuff about how romance doesn't count and whatever. That's fine! This once I won't question it. Whatever makes this easier, I'll take it.

So now I need a plan. First I want to take a month or so to do research and outline. I've already downloaded a bunch of romances that handle crossdressing in various ways, for genre research. I need to pick a time and place; I'm very familiar with how Regency England is used as a romance novel backdrop, and if I were going for a straightfoward deconstruction that would be the best way to do it, but I'm also tempted by Victorian England, and early 1900s New York would be fun and interesting to play with.

--my brain has helpfully informed me that as long as I'm there I could make it about immigrant Jews in 1909 Brooklyn, and research my own family history at the same time! Thanks, brain. Maybe for the next book.

Anyway. Research and outline in December, and then I start writing in January. Today while I was still on the giddy high of "WHAT HAVE I DONE" I considered a serial with weekly installments, to keep myself motivated and give myself explicit permission for it to be about as polished as you'd expect from something written in a week. I'm pretty sure that's a bad idea. But I might do it anyway, or do a NaNo-like thing, or go some other route entirely.

One way or another, though, I am going to at least try writing this thing. That's what I promised to do: try. And now the hundr--well, dozens of you who still read LJ and DW know it too, so I really can't chicken out. :) Working title because it amuses me: An Unlikely Hero. (This will almost certainly change.) By the end of December I will have an outline, even if it's literally "boy meets girl, girl is a boy, boy is cool with that, HEA", and by the end of January I will have spent at least one hour putting words in a document that might or might not be chapter 1.

And maybe after that I'll go back to being not-a-writer for a while. Or maybe I'll write the book and then another and then another--I hear it's addictive, like getting tattoos. Who knows? At this point I sure don't. As with all other aspects of my identity, I'm about ready to give up labels and just do what feels good. Next up: figuring out what feels good.

The subject line of this post is a tiny little joke I have with myself. I'm continuing my kanji studies with WaniKani, and my mnemonic for 作家, which means "author" and is pronounced "sakka", is that authors are suckers. Guess I suckered myself in this time. :)

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16 November 2014 14:13 - "This beautiful lounge suite!"
long hidden
It's Nebula nomination season! Soon it will be nomination season for other awards! Hooray!

I get to make an award eligibility post! Yeep!

1) Long Hidden, in its entirety, is eligible for:

* Hugo Award, Related Work
* World Fantasy Award, Anthology
* Stoker Award, Anthology
* Locus Award, Anthology
* Rose & Bay Award, Fiction
* Goodreads Choice Award, Fantasy
* Tiptree Award

We could qualify for a couple of other Goodreads Choice Awards categories, but I think Fantasy is the best fit.

2) The individual stories in Long Hidden are eligible for:

* Hugo Award, Short Story/Novelette
* Nebula Award, Short Story/Novelette
* Locus Award, Short Story/Novelette
* World Fantasy Award, Short Fiction
* Stoker Award, Short Fiction
* British Fantasy Award, Short Fiction
* Tiptree Award

The stories in Long Hidden that are over the 7500-word "novelette" threshold are "Each Part Without Mercy" by Meg Jayanth, "Knotting Grass, Holding Ring" by Ken Liu, and "Lone Women" by Victor LaValle. All the other stories are under 7500 words and eligible in the "short story" category.

3) Julie Dillon and her magnificent cover art for Long Hidden, and the individual illustrators and illustrations for the stories, are eligible for:

* Hugo Award, Best Professional Artist/Fan Artist
* World Fantasy Award, Artist
* Chesley Award, Best Cover Illustration, Paperback Book
* Chesley Award, Best Interior Illustration

I don't know which of the artists are eligible in the two Hugo artist categories; if you liked a particular illustration, please contact the artist to find out which category to nominate them in.

4) Some of the authors in Long Hidden are eligible for:

* Campbell Award, Best New Writer

When Hugo and Campbell nominations open, check the Campbell Awards eligibility page for the names of anyone you might want to nominate. (Right now it's still got last year's data.)

5) Daniel and I are personally eligible for:

* Locus Award, Editor?
* World Fantasy Award, Special Award, Non-professional? Professional?

I have no idea whether we're eligible for the Locus Award because I can't find the Locus Award rules anywhere. I also have yet to find any information on what "non-professional" and "professional" mean for the WFA. I'm guessing that since we did Long Hidden as a one-off project, that would make us eligible in the non-professional category? But I edit SF/F reviews for a living, and Daniel writes SF/F for a living, so maybe we're in the professional category? But do they cancel each other out I DON'T KNOW ANYTHING ANYMORE. The WFC website is useless in this regard. Links to definitive information would be greatly appreciated.

If you decide you liked Long Hidden enough to nominate its editors for an award, I think it makes the most practical sense to nominate me and Daniel as a team, not individually. We did an equal amount of work on the book and share credit equally; it certainly wouldn't make sense for us to compete for an award; and I believe there's precedent for e.g. the VanderMeers being nominated together.

6) Daniel and I are not eligible for:

* Hugo Award, Editor, Short Form

That award is for "the editor of at least four anthologies, collections or magazine issues primarily devoted to science fiction and/or fantasy, at least one of which was published in the previous calendar year." (Emphasis mine.) We have edited one (1) anthology, and zero (0) collections and magazine issues. If I really really wanted to make a case for this I could claim that several years of SF feature issues of PW would qualify me, but seriously that's like 5 pages out of a 50-plus-page magazine issue, so I'm quite sure it doesn't count as "primarily devoted to science fiction and/or fantasy". Please save your Editor, Short Form nomination slots for people who've done a lot more work in the field and deserve the recognition.

7) Crossed Genres, and Kay Holt and Bart Leib (not Lieb! when writing in nominations, spelling counts!) as the owners and publishers of Crossed Genres, are eligible for:

* World Fantasy Award, Special Award, Non-professional? Professional?
* Chesley Award, Best Art Direction
* Locus Award, Publisher
* British Fantasy Award, Independent Press

See above re WFA professionalism confusion.

Whew, I think that's everything! If I missed anything, please let me know. I'm new to being on this end of things. :) I intentionally omitted juried awards, but we'll be submitting the book to those too.


Following tithenai's lead, I invite recommendations for other award-deserving SF/F from 2014 in the comments. LJ users, please also consider posting in the hugo_recommend community. Definitely share your recommendations elsewhere on social media, and rate your favorite books on Goodreads (they need a rating of at least 3.50 to be eligible for the Goodreads Choice Awards). The more people talking about the year's great work, the better!

I know Kai Ashante Wilson's "The Devil in America" is at the top of my list this year for short fiction. For novel-length work, probably James Cambias's A Darkling Sea and Tim Lebbon's Coldbrook. Delia Sherman's collection, Young Woman in a Garden, was my favorite of all the great collections that came out this year; Chaz Brenchley's Bitter Waters is also well worth reading. And all of Julie Dillon's art always blows me away.

What SF/F have you loved this year?

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I fell off the nail-biting wagon pretty hard this summer--so hard I nearly got run over by the wagon behind it--and my nails have been in a kind of awful state ever since. Today I had a long and really interesting talk with my therapist about it. I'll put the recap under a cut tag to protect fellow nail-biters who might have urges triggered by descriptions/analysis of the habit.

The psychology of nail-bitingCollapse )

We'll talk more about it next week, I imagine.

In the meantime--and I'd planned this well before the therapy session--I'm wearing press-on nails for the first time in my life. I cut them nearly in half to get the butch shortness I wanted; they still feel a little weird when I type, but not weird enough to impair me. Unfortunately, these particular cheap nails are very gnaw-able, because they come pre-supplied with a layer of glue that's sort of like rubber cement, and it wrinkles and balls up and gathers dust at the edges of the nail. I'm trying to make myself either leave it alone or attack it with a file. Honestly, though, if I nibble a bit at the fake nails, it's not the end of the world, and it'll still give my real nails a week of not being bitten. Unfortunately all the more serious glue-on nails appear to do awful things to one's actual nails, and that's kind of the opposite of what I want.

Time to go take out my contacts, which I hope I can manage without stabbing myself in the eye.

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12 November 2014 01:27 - "It's not me, it's you"
contemplative, pensive, thoughtful
The always awesome [twitter.com profile] krasnostein made a very good point today:
How would you feel if someone came up to you and very tactfully told you you were one of those missing stairs we warn others about? permalink

I should clarify, earlier when I was asking about missing stair, I think we find it icky to tell people so we use avoidance instead permalink

I think most people would rather avoid than have to tell someone to their face people find them creepy or that boob grabbing is uncool permalink
(Here's the original "missing stair" piece for those not familiar with the metaphor.)

I agree--saying these things is hard! And it's hard even when you are personally very certain that e.g. boob-grabbing is uncool and wouldn't hesitate to make a general statement to that effect.

So I'd like this post to be a practical resource for people who want to be able to tell their friends "Hey, your behavior is a problem" but aren't sure how to go about it. All suggestions are welcome. I'd especially love to see success stories--if you had that kind of conversation with someone and it went well and led to real, lasting improvements, please do share your strategy (insofar as you can without breaking confidence). Links to other resources on this topic would be great too.

Some things to keep in mind:

1) By "intervention" I mean conversations outside of and away from situations where the person behaves badly. "We need to talk" kinds of conversations. Bystander intervention in the moment is a whole 'nother thing (and there are lots of good resources for it, so I don't feel any need to reinvent that wheel).

2) No one is obligated to undertake this kind of intervention. Is it awesome to do it when you can? Yes! Is it worth the risk of damaging your friendship to try to protect your community by encouraging your friend to change their bad behavior? Sometimes it is. But if you're scared that your friend will turn on you in some way, take care of yourself first (and maybe consider extricating yourself from your ostensible friendship with that person). Assume that anyone reading this post is at least thinking about trying to make an intervention, and encourage them without shaming people who choose not to do so.

3) I'm open to comments from people who used to behave badly and no longer do, but only if the primary purpose of the comment is to talk very pragmatically about how your friends got through to you and showed you the error of your ways. Comments that mostly focus on how great it is that you got your act together will be deleted.

4) General advice is great. I'd also be interested in nuanced strategies for interventions with creepy and/or gropey men, racist white people, transphobic cis people, etc. Just specify what sort of situation your advice is meant to cover.

For advice aggregation purposes, commenting is restricted to Dreamwidth. Anonymous comments are allowed; if you comment anonymously, please sign the comment with a pseudonym or identifier (even if it's just "anon #4") to keep conversation threads clear. Feel free to share either the DW or the LJ link.

Okay, advice columnist hats on!

Dear Frabby,

My friend Pat is a "missing stair"--the kind of person people get warned to stay away from. Pat's behavior isn't totally egregious in a way that would lead to getting kicked out of places, but it often makes people uncomfortable. I know Pat has a good side and isn't just a totally horrible person. I'd like to try to encourage Pat to stop behaving badly, but I'm not sure how to go about it without Pat getting all defensive. What should I do?

Baffled Bannister

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10 November 2014 02:23 - "In conclusion"
illness, safety
Things that broke this weekend:

* My phone
* My water bottle
* The pumpkin pie

Plus I had wrenching awful nightmares this morning about loved ones dying. And I have a sore throat and have been sneezing all day--not sneezing so very frequently that I'd notice if I didn't have a sore throat, since I'm generally prone to sneezery, but enough that in the context of the sore throat I am somewhat concerned.

Of course the sore throat might just be from breathing in the smoke from the pie mishap. And broken water bottle means less hydration, though I downed two large mugs of ginger honey tea as soon as my throat started bothering me.

Oh, and my hands are covered with seasonal eczema--it flared while I was in Boston, I got it under control with steroid goop, and then two pies' worth of handwashing (which is a lot, since I was working with very oily dough) turned my entire right hand bright red, and the left isn't much better.

Otherwise it was a lovely weekend; X and I got some nice time together yesterday, J and I got some nice time together today, I slept well other than the nightmare, and we made an absolutely killer quiche and had a great family dinner last night. But I could have done without all of the things that went awry.

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9 November 2014 23:42 - "Quivering malevolently"
disaster, steampunk
I was going to call this "how not to make a pumpkin pie" but that title is taken, so I stole a phrase from that story--which is wonderful, and you should all go read it--for my subject line instead.

Tonight's gluten-free dairy-free pumpkin pie recipe:

0) Assemble all ingredients. Preheat oven.

1) Put dough ingredients in freezer to chill.

2) Make filling. Taste filling. Make a face like this:

Sylvester the Cat with a scrunched-up face from eating alum

Determine that the store-brand tinned pumpkin had soaked up too much metal flavor from the tin. Regretfully throw out the filling. Turn off the oven.

3) Go out to dinner. While out, buy organic pumpkin in a box (not a tin).

4) Assemble all ingredients. Preheat oven to 450F.

5) Make filling. Taste filling. Approve.

6) Attempt to make dough even though the coconut oil has now frozen entirely solid. Manage it with the help of the trusty Cuisinart food processor.

7) Grease the pie plate with a bit more coconut oil, since yesterday's quiche (made with the same dough recipe) stuck to it a little. Roll out the dough. Attempt to neatly transfer the dough to the plate. Mostly succeed. Patch up the holes.

8) Pour the filling into the plate. Put it in the oven. Set timer for 15 minutes, after which you intend to reduce the heat.

9) Notice that smoke is filling the kitchen. Quickly determine that the coconut oil used to grease the pie plate bubbled over the edge and is now burning on the floor of the oven.

10) Shake baking soda over the oil and see whether that does any good. Learn what burning baking soda smells like.

11) Remove pie from oven. Turn oven off. Start toaster oven heating at 350F, since it was more or less 15 minutes. Give up all hope of the custard setting properly. When the toaster oven has heated, put the pie in the toaster oven--on top of a foil-lined baking sheet, since you are capable of learning.

12) Clean the oven floor.

13) Timer goes off. Pie is not remotely done. Heat the oven to 350F and confirm that there is no more smoke. Put the pie in the oven. Belatedly remember to turn the toaster oven off.

14) Ten minutes later: pie not done, according to a toothpick, although the top is dark brown. Also bubbly.

15) Ten minutes after that: declare the pie as done as it's going to get. Put it on the windowsill to cool. The filling almost immediately breaks away from the crust. Of course.

16) Chase the cat off the windowsill. "Trust me, kitty," you say, "you don't want this pie. Probably no one wants this pie."

17) After a suitable amount of time, cut into the pie. The filling resembles Indian pudding autumn pudding in taste, texture, and color; it has the classic curdled consistency of a broken custard. The crust is soggy and mealy on the bottom and overcooked around the edge. A puddle of coconut oil rapidly fills the gap left by the "slice" of pie.

18) Decide to put the pie in the fridge, mostly for a sense of closure. Lift it up and discover that the cork trivet is glued to the bottom of the pie by coconut oil. Reach for paper towels and realize you never replaced them after using up the roll cleaning the oven. Get more paper towels. Wipe off the bottom of the pie plate, put a sheet of paper towel in the fridge, and put the pie in the fridge.

19) Write up a version of the recipe that you think will actually work. Vow to try it... tomorrow.

20) Go to bed.

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9 November 2014 02:18 - "You are so dead"
annoyed, annoying
My phone is rather abruptly very very dead. I'm hoping the problem is with the battery ($10) rather than something that requires replacing the phone (either $100 for a new, lower-end phone right away or $150 plus a fight with the insurers and a long wait for a replacement). Until I get a new battery, I have my awful old phone--the one that I replaced after J and X invoked the household rule of "don't make yourself sad" because attempting to use it was making me very sad indeed--but it's really seriously awful and I can't guarantee that calls or texts will reach me. Email is your best bet, or IM if I'm online.

You're welcome to comment on LJ, but I'd rather you leave a comment on the Dreamwidth version of this entry. The current comment count is comment count unavailable.
4 November 2014 15:21 - "Feed the pig"
According to Mint, our peak debt was in February 2013. Since then we've cut it in half, from $46k to $23k. If we can keep paying it off at our current rate, it'll be gone entirely in another four years.

That's a big "if", of course, with FutureKid planning and all. Fertility treatments are expensive, and so are kids. I've thought "we can pay off our debt in a few years" before, and been wrong. But J keeps bringing home big bonuses, and X keeps getting promotions, and I keep landing freelance clients, and our jobs and housing situation are steady and secure... so maybe we can really do it this time.

In the meantime, I'm savoring this:

American Express Blue, with a balance of $0.00

As always, I'm profoundly grateful to X and J for being willing to share the burden of paying off my debt. I'd be having a much rougher time if I had to do this on my own. Yay family. <3

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3 November 2014 04:59 - "Dreamtime"
peace, garden, home
Friday night dream:

I was not much older than I am now--maybe in my 40s--but I was alone in the world. A friend approached me and invited me to move on to the afterlife. "You're done learning," he said. "Now you can teach." I thought about it and decided I was ready to move on. I went down a flight of pale wooden stairs into another realm that seemed to be mostly made of corridors (very Doctor Who). I wasn't sure what would happen next, but I was calm and comfortable and felt ready for whatever came my way. Then a little black cat ran up to me--it was Sam! I was overwhelmed with joy, and I picked her up and cuddled her for a while. She followed me wherever I went after that, and I was suffused with happiness, in an almost ecstatic way, at getting to have her with me. I woke up feeling that same glow of happiness and peace and calm readiness.

Saturday night dream:

I was in an Avengers-like action movie sort of scenario, except we were fighting actual present-day Nazis. There was a lot of mistaken-identity stuff, people using digital personas to pose as one another, that sort of thing. I think we were chasing through a giant corporate hotel for a lot of it. We ended up in the main ballroom, where a huge Nazi conference was taking place, and I got into a shouting match with the head bad guy. I made a devastatingly cogent point about why it was actually perfectly fine to be Jewish. Then I woke up, feeling totally exhausted from all the running around I'd done in my dream.

Gotta say, I liked the first dream better.

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noisy brain, agitated, manic-bad
X linked me to a list of suggestions for getting enough sleep. One was "go camping to figure out what your natural sleep cycle is".

I immediately thought of my trip to Arizona last year, when I settled almost magically into going to bed at 1 and waking up at 9 every day, without effort. It felt so good. I went outdoors a lot and moved around a lot and socialized a lot every day, and then at night I just went to bed.

The last several weeks of working overtime have been great for my sleep schedule. I'm doing two extra hours of work a day, and I usually do those between 1 and 3... or later. By the time I'm done, I'm exhausted. And because I do the work late and it often technically keeps me up past my bedtime, when I finish it it's easy to say "Finally I can go to bed!". So I've been sleeping pretty steadily, though never going to bed quite as early or sleeping quite as long as I want to. Going to the gym three times a week (more or less) is probably helping too.

Today was all energy intake and no outgo. Intake: I slept in rather than setting an alarm; I lightboxed for half an hour; I ate a lot of protein and then a substantial portion of brownie à la mode; X and I watched an exciting movie for our date night. Outgo: I not only skipped the gym (mostly because my knees were aching--I really overdid it on Wednesday) but did not leave the house at all today; I barely got any work done because I was too distracted by every tiny thing; I ignored Wanikani. Now it's nearly 4 a.m. and I'm twitching like I'm going through detox. Sam got a case of the pixies and went tearing through the house, and all I could think was how much I wished I could run around the house a few times too.

Once the overtime is done--and next week should be the last of it--I'm going to need more mental stimulation, I think, especially at night after J and X go to bed. I look to social media for it, but I rarely get into real conversations online anymore. And it's not like #callahans or alt.poly was all deep discussion all the time, but I'm also not doing any online role-playing or pun-warring or chatting. It's all shallow stuff, an exchange or two and done. It doesn't use my brain the same way. I miss those conversations. :( And the games I play aren't intensely thinky games; they're about dexterity and speed, or long-term planning, or esthetics. And I don't read much (though I've read two books this week! But neither was particularly challenging). And it's been ages since I started a new knitting pattern and had to do all the associated math and such. Basically all my non-work brain workouts come from Wanikani. That cannot possibly be enough.

The snag is that I don't feel like I need more stimulation at night. By then I want to relax and do easy, uncomplicated things. But when my brain is underused, I feel twitchy and agitated. And I guess it's just not getting enough use during the day.

Feh. I can tell that this is like "I don't like eating but if I don't eat I get dizzy" or "I don't like sleeping but if I don't sleep I'm a wreck" or "I don't like exercising but if I don't exercise my knees hurt". And if the lesser evil is reading or playing challenging games or starting intricate crafting projects, that is really not so evil! It just sounds tiring at a time when I'm already tired. It sounds hard. It sounds like work.

...but the goal is to be able to sleep, so "that sounds tiring" is really not a reason to avoid doing a thing. Yes, tire me out, that is the whole point.

Not sure how to ramp up and gradually get my brain used to not being completely shut off in the evenings. Maybe I could start by reading shorter books that are uncomplicated or familiar. Or folding some origami--I haven't done it in a while, so that will be a nice way to clear off some overgrown mental pathways, and I can make a few complete pieces in an evening even if I start with mid-level stuff. (No Montroll, Brill, or Lang designs until I'm back in shape.)

For now, though, bed. It's getting on toward 5. I'm still not sleepy, but I'm exhausted.

Tomorrow I go to the gym, for very sure.

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28 October 2014 22:43 - "A well-oiled machine"
examined head, introspective
I got plenty of sleep and felt just as wretched when I woke up as I had when I went to bed. Usually taurine is a bedtime thing; today I took it within an hour of waking up.

Once it had kicked in a bit, I took public Twitter off my Tweetdeck screen, reconsidered and closed Tweetdeck altogether, opened up [twitter.com profile] tiny_oasis* in its own window, and threw myself into getting work done. I blasted through my to-do list and thoroughly cleaned out my inbox. I got up and showered and dressed, and realized I hadn't eaten, and ate in front of the big window in X's room so I'd get a bit of sun, and went out to the store because five minutes outside is better than no time outside.

* [twitter.com profile] tiny_oasis is a Twitter account run with a little script I stole put together over the weekend. It tweets periodic reminders to breathe, drink water, stretch, think about pleasant things, etc. It makes me happy.

When X got home, they congratulated me on engaging my coping mechanisms. I blinked a bit. I hadn't even realized that was what I was doing. I didn't want to be anywhere near my emotions, which were a roiling sinkhole of awfulness, so I shut them away and did my best to live on a purely intellectual plane. That's not really sustainable long-term, but it got me through the day. That said, I was rather surprised that I got a lot done rather than just huddling under the blankets and playing Transport Empire until my arm fell off.

When I fell into misery at the end of 2012/beginning of 2013, there was a terrible tipping point night where I said, "Okay, this isn't just something I can bootstrap through. I need help." And as soon as I made that leap, I was researching therapists and going to my doctor and getting on Zoloft and self-caring to the max. I just had to recognize that it was time to run the mental health care programs. Today wasn't anything like on that scale, but more importantly, today I didn't need to consciously make the leap. I just started doing all the right things.

In mid-2013 I wrote up a depression symptom checklist (thanks again to X being perceptive and connecting a whole bunch of different things that I was, once again, thinking of as one-off things I could handle as they come up) and a list of self-care protocols. I'm doing just about everything on that self-care list already; things like working out and only working when it's work time have become daily habits. That's pretty awesome.

I'm feeling a lot better than I was this morning, and last night. I hope it lasts. If it doesn't, at least I have a good idea of what to do.

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28 October 2014 03:36 - "Fleeeee"
scared, desperate, trapped
I went on vacation, ostensibly. It was a very low-key trip. I took the train to Boston on Friday. I spent all day Saturday with four people (plus a brief cameo by a fifth), and then spent all day Sunday with two of the same people and two other people. I like all those people a great deal and we had a lot of fun together. There was strolling, and buying used books, and cooking and eating tasty foods, and soaking up October sunshine, and snuggling on a comfy couch. I took the train home today. All very relaxing.

I am so tightly wound you could run a watch off me at triple speed.

All I can think about is getting out of town again somehow. The three of us were planning to go upstate this coming weekend, but the person who was going to catsit needs to rescue other cats from an unhappy situation (which is totally understandable—cats in need of rescue always come first) and no one else we know can do it, and J and X weren't nearly as enthusiastic about the going-upstate idea as I was. So we're going to take a day trip back to our old stomping grounds in Inwood and walk in Inwood Hill Park. And that will be lovely, absolutely. And I'll still get a quiet weekend with my spouses. And Sam-the-cat won't hate me for abandoning her two weekends in a row. And maybe it's for the best if I don't drive while my shoulder tendons feel like steel cables. But I want to be somewhere that isn't here in a really fundamental way and I suspect a day trip to Inwood isn't going to do much for that.

Everything this weekend reminded me of another place. The train came out of a tunnel and I simultaneously expected to see the suburbs outside of Melbourne and the countryside between Tokyo and Osaka. The golden autumn light felt like our last trip to London. I wanted to be anywhere, anywhere, anywhere else. I'm homesick in reverse.

I suspect this is one part tiredness (it was not the sort of vacation where I got to sleep in, though at least I mostly got to bed at reasonable-for-me hours) and one part community/social media stress (Tweetdeck with retweets turned off has made public Twitter usable for me again, which is wonderful, but the anxiety has not entirely gone away) and one part still working overtime and one additional part tiredness because I really am very tired.

Also I got allergy-triggered by fucking incompetent restaurateurs on Sunday, and I sailed through it with the sort of carefully constructed serenity that means I'm just putting off the panic attack until later when it's more convenient. So perhaps that would explain the pounding heart and wobbly feeling I'm having right now. It's not vertigo. I checked by looking at a fixed point, and there was no spinning or other visual disturbance. But I feel like I'm on a moored boat that's bobbing up and down on the tide.

X and I are going to Long Island for our elopeaversary in a few weeks. Maybe that will help. No socializing, no couch-surfing. Just us and a motel suite with a kitchenette. And a car, if we want, but we could get by without one if driving feels like more than I can handle.

Maybe I should have gone to London this summer. But when the might-have-been-in-London weeks happened I was so happy to be here! Also London doesn't feel far away enough at the moment. Japan and Australia hold more appeal. Especially Japan, because I wouldn't have to try to pay attention to what anyone is saying. It would be nearly as good as being somewhere entirely remote and disconnected from everything with no people around at all. Except X and J. I'm safe with them.

I do not like this feeling.

Well, taurine and sleep can only help, right? So I'll go do that, I guess, and see whether I feel any better tomorrow.

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spices, ginger, baking, cooking
I actually don't remember how long it's been since the last time I had dairy products. As a long-established dairy-defier, I frequently give advice to people who are reducing or eliminating dairy, and I figure it makes sense to have that info all in one place.

Allergen note
Almost all of my preferred creamy/buttery dairy substitutes are nut-based. I've done my best to make non-nut suggestions for those with nut allergies, but I'm not really an expert on that front.

Equipment note
If you're going to go fully dairy-free, I highly recommend investing in two kitchen tools: a high-speed blender and a food processor. Mine are made by Vitamix and Cuisinart respectively, and I don't know what I'd do without them. These tools will let you easily make dairy substitutes that are tastier and usually cheaper than the storebought ones. A less essential but still useful third tool is an ice cream maker, which will let you experiment with sorbets and non-dairy ice creams.

Shopping note
When buying packaged prepared foods, look for the word "parve" or "pareve" under a kosher symbol. Keeping kosher requires separating milk from meat; "parve" means that something contains neither milk nor meat and can therefore be eaten with either. This will save you a lot of time checking ingredient labels for sneaky things like whey in sandwich bread, casein in shredded fake cheese, etc. Note that parve things may still contain eggs, honey, and other non-vegan ingredients.

Essential reading
The Non-Dairy Evolution Cookbook has amazing recipes for butter, cheese, whipped cream, and other dairy substitutes. Throughout this piece, I'll be referring to NDEC recipes. I've read and used a lot of non-dairy cookbooks, and NDEC is by far the best. That said, note that almost all their recipes call for either nuts or soy as a base.

Now, on to the substitutions!

Milk (for drinking, cereal, smoothies, etc.)
This is totally a matter of taste. Try a bunch of different store-bought milks and see what you like. I prefer almond milk for cereal and soy or hazelnut milk for drinking. Hazelnut milk can be used to make amazing Nutella-like hot chocolate! You can also make your own nut milks in a high-speed blender. I use the NDEC recipe for almond milk, which is just almond meal (aka almond flour) and water, and it's intensely almondy and delicious. Coconut milk (the sort intended for drinking, not the sort that comes in a can) is the best non-nut non-soy option, in my opinion, but some people prefer rice milk. I do like making my own horchata, and should really try it again now that I have a Vitamix.

Proportions for almond milk: 3.75 c water to 1 packed cup almond meal/flour or 5 oz. blanched almonds

Proportions for almond cream: 4.5 c water to 1 POUND (one full bag) almond meal or blanched almonds

Butter (spread)
Earth Balance is the standout spreadable butter substitute. There are many varieties, including soy-free. NDEC has a butter recipe but I haven't tried it yet.

Butter (baking)
Melted butter can be replaced 1:1 with canola oil or melted REFINED coconut oil. (Unrefined coconut oil tastes like coconut. Refined tastes like nothing.) For butter sticks, try Earth Balance sticks, but be warned that they are pre-salted; if you use them, you'll probably want to reduce or omit any salt you usually put in your recipes. Fleischmann's unsalted margarine, which is kosher parve, is reportedly very good for baking, but I'm allergic to another ingredient in it so I can't personally vouch for it.

NDEC has an excellent almond cream recipe that substitutes well for heavy cream, including whipping up into schlag. Coconut cream—the thick stuff at the top of a can of coconut milk, not to be confused with pre-sweetened cream of coconut for cocktails—can also be put in coffee or whipped. There does exist canned non-dairy whipped cream, but it's quite hard to find outside of hippie specialty groceries.

Sour cream and buttermilk
The easy way for making ingredients to use in recipes: add 1 Tbsp cider vinegar per cup of cream to make sour cream; add 1 tsp cider vinegar per cup of milk and let stand 5 minutes to make buttermilk. NDEC also has recipes for sour cream and buttermilk that stand well on their own.

Cream cheese
I never liked it, so I couldn't tell you which substitute is best, but NDEC has a recipe and there are a few packaged vegan cream cheese varieties available.

There are many, many soy and coconut yogurts out there. WholeSoy unflavored unsweetened yogurt is the best for cooking, and can be used as a starter if you want to make your own yogurt. I've never been a fan of eating yogurt qua yogurt, but I expect brands etc. are mostly a matter of taste anyway, so try some and see what you like.

Cashew ricotta was one of the first substitute dairy products I ever made, and it was life-changing. Soak raw, unsalted cashews for four hours, pour out the water, put the cashews in your food processor, and drizzle in fresh cold water as you process them until the texture becomes creamy and ricotta-like. Add salt to taste. When I use it for lasagna, I process in fresh basil and nutmeg.

Regal Vegan makes a basil cashew ricotta called Basilicotta that's out of this world. Unfortunately, it goes off very quickly. If you buy it, make sure there's still plenty of time before the expiration date, and use it up as soon as you can.

NDEC has superb recipes for a wide variety of cheeses: some for slicing, some for shredding, some for eating by the fistful. I made NDEC's mozzarella with homemade almond milk and it was incredible; the texture wasn't quite perfect, but it was splendid on pasta and pizza, and yes, it melts! It doesn't get gooey, but next time I might add a bit of xanthan gum to help with that. The cheese melts best in steamy/liquid environments, such as when stirred into a pasta sauce. Under direct heat, it will brown but hold its shape. To get an effect like near-liquid melted mozzarella on pizza or lasagna, I recommend shredding the cheese, melting it in the microwave, and pouring it onto the dish. Then bake until browned and bubbly.

Miyoko Schinner's Artisan Vegan Cheese isn't quite as good a cookbook as NDEC, but I do really like her gruyère recipe; it makes killer fondue and croque monsieur. Schinner's recipes frequently call for rejuvelac, which is made by soaking and fermenting grains. It's very easy to mess up rejuvelac and get a jar full of mold. My usual substitute for 1 cup of rejuvelac is 1 capsule (1/8 tsp.) of vegan probiotic powder in 1 cup filtered water. It's not quite as live-culture-y as rejuvelac but it works well enough.

Cheesemaking does take a bit of time and effort; if you're not up for that, try the many packaged shredded cheese substitutes. Lots of people like tapioca-based Daiya cheeses. My personal favorite packaged vegan mozzarella is Follow Your Heart (the shreds, not the block cheese). But homemade cheese is always the best.

As far as I can tell, there is no such thing as non-nut non-soy vegan cheese. If I were to try to make some, I'd probably make my own rice milk and then try it in a cheese recipe, but I don't know how well it would work without the soy/nut protein.

Frozen pizza
My preferred brands are Daiya and Amy's, not least because their pizzas are gluten-free. Udi's pizza crusts are also GF and DF.

Pre-sliced sandwich bread
Stroehmann Dutch Country whole wheat bread is my preferred brand, but any brand that's kosher parve will do.

Milk powder
If a recipe calls for both milk powder and water, replace the water with your preferred non-dairy milk. I haven't tried powdered non-dairy milk but apparently it exists.

Frozen desserts
I recommend exploring homemade sorbets and granitas before you try tackling homemade non-dairy ice cream. Williams-Sonoma has some good recipes. A Vitamix blender can also be used to turn frozen fruit into frozen desserts; there are instructions for this in the manual.

Once you're ready to make your own ice cream, check out the recipes in Mark Foy's Desserts of Vitality. Almost all of them call for lecithin, an emulsifier that's extremely useful for making smooth, creamy ice cream; you can get liquid or granulated lecithin (and many other useful ingredients, especially for cheesemaking) at Modernist Pantry. Those with soy allergies can look for sunflower lecithin.

For store-bought ice cream, Turtle Mountain brands—Soy Delicious, So Delicious, Purely Delicious, etc.—are consistently excellent. In my experience, all coconut-based vegan ice cream tastes basically like coconut, no matter what else it's supposed to taste like. As a rule I prefer nut-based ice creams over soy-based ice creams, but tastes vary a lot. Try things and see what you like.

What did I miss? Is anything unclear? Ask all the questions you like!

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19 October 2014 00:01 - "Three phrases that always crop up"
confused, trying to understand, hair
I've been slowly going through the Headspace meditation pack on anxiety, and one of the things it emphasizes is not trying to get rid of anxiety but trying to change one's relationship with it.

Similarly, I think I need to change my relationship with social media. And that requires me to think about what that relationship has looked like and currently looks like, and what I would want it to look like in an ideal world.


Needs that social media currently meets really well:

1. Fun. I read a handful of comics through DW; I follow a number of really wonderful weird, funny, cute, and random Twitter accounts that brighten my day. Even if I stopped using social media for actual socializing, I'd still employ it as an aggregator of niftiness.

2. Chronicling my life. Most of this has been happening on Twitter of late, but I'm finding that increasingly unsatisfying, and drifting back toward more long-form (searchable, taggable) journaling. Either way, though, public online autobiographical narration works far far better for me than any private diary ever has.

Hilariously, neither of these things is actually social. One is almost pure input, and the other is almost pure output (with occasional replies/comments on both sides). But social media coincidentally does them really well!

Needs that social media meets but with some problems:

3. Keeping up with news and gossip. The news is almost always bad news, and there's a lot of it, and I'm finding bad news especially taxing right now--but I also don't want to be totally out of the loop, and if a close friend is personally having a hard time I want to know about it and be able to support them. I think I want a weekly newsletter/digest version of my social media feeds, where I can mostly not think about it and just check in occasionally to find out what's going on. Alas, no such thing exists.

Needs that social media no longer meets well:

4. Building and maintaining connections with people I know. A lot of people have abandoned LJ/DW, despite periodic attempts to revive them. Twitter's signal-to-noise ratio is increasingly poor. And I've already, with no particular agenda in mind, started finding other ways to stay in touch with people. I have biweekly Skype dates with Miriam and karenbynight. mrissa sent me a random email a few weeks ago that's turned into a lovely leisurely back-and-forth chat about whatever's on our minds. grahamsleight often IMs me. I hang out on IRC with J and X. Perhaps it's time to actively seek similar alternative routes of direct connection with the people I would miss most if I were to step away from social media altogether (which I don't plan to do, but it's a useful way of prioritizing).

Needs I used to meet with social media but don't currently have:

5. Getting to know people I don't already know. I have very little room in my life for new people, and I'm okay with that.

6. Social activism, i.e., advocating for change within my communities (as opposed to local/regional/national/global politics). It frankly feels too scary to be a loudmouth right now. I know that drinking from the firehose of bad news is influencing that feeling, so once I'm no longer swimming in other people's misery I might be able to regroup and figure out new ways to be an activist, but at the moment I'm not inclined to try.


Looking at that list, I think the major clash is between items 3 and 4. Twitter's biggest problem by far is that news and personal chatter all happen in the same place, almost inextricably. And if I can't handle the news, I don't get the personal chatter. (LJ/DW doesn't have this problem because I don't hang out on it the way I do on Twitter. I used to, but no one updates that much anymore. Plus the balance on LJ/DW is tilted much more toward the personal than toward the news, and I find it much easier to scroll past things I don't want to read.)

Fortunately, there are some technological solutions to some of these problems. Here's my plan for getting social Twitter without newsy Twitter:

* Switching from Hootsuite to Tweetdeck so that I can mute keywords, combine columns, and mute RTs on entire columns.
* Creating a "people I read regularly" list on @rosefox. Right now I use my @rjfprivate follow list for this, but I think I want the option of expanding my reading without giving more people access to my locked account.
* Only following people who mostly tweet about their personal lives and chat with other people I follow.

I've made the switch to Tweetdeck, and turned off RTs and image previews on my @rjfprivate home feed. The rest I can do when looking at unfiltered Twitter (so as to pick out the people I want to move to the daily-read list) doesn't make my heart pound.

As for getting the news and gossip I'm now going to be missing out on... honestly, I think I'll be okay. Anything huge and can't-miss will be discussed by and among the people I follow, and I'll see it there. I have some friends who occasionally email or IM me with "Have you heard?", and I can encourage those friends to do so more often if there's something they think I'll really want to know. And otherwise I'll just be somewhat less wired in than I have been, and that's okay.

I have hit the stage of dizzy exhaustion where I have to keep telling myself that it's tiredness and anxiety, not vertigo, so I'm going to wrap this up, take taurine, and go to bed while it's still dark out for a change.

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18 October 2014 02:42 - "Cours, petit lapin, cours"
In the past two weeks:

* Still working overtime. Expect that to continue for at least a couple more weeks.
* Did a big, difficult, emotionally draining freelance project. Have another one due late November.
* Am in the process of making my picks for the Best Books issue, which is always agonizing.
* grahamsleight visited.
* [personal profile] karnythia and P. visited.
* SFWA Mill & Swill.
* Two publisher events.
* Had a cold for about 12 hours. I think I scared it off.
* As X's ragweed allergies wind down, my leaf mold allergies wind up.
* The days are getting shorter. I'm lightboxing and going outside as much as I can but it's still tough.
* Started going to the gym three times a week, to keep building strength now that I'm done with PT.
* Still trying to keep up with Wanikani, though it's been a struggle.
* Got aggressively hooked on Spacechem and stayed up until 6:30 a.m. playing it. More than once. That shit is dangerous. I'm glad I finally beat it and got through the two full days of twitchy withdrawal.
* Never enough sleep, in general. Fridays are supposed to be freelance days but they keep turning into "catch up on sleep" days. Today I slept until nearly 2 p.m., and by the time I ate and went to the gym and came home and showered, my workday was done. That's a problem.
* Still wrangling a Readercon safety committee thing that's been in process for months.
* Massive PMS that's amplifying all my emotions.
* Had a big scary talk with J and X about a money thing (everything's fine, I just got myself worked up over it).
* And the big one: my community is eating itself in horrible ways, with a lot of people I know feeling extremely distressed. I'm personally feeling pretty anxious and frightened even though I think the risk of anything actually doing something awful to me is very low. But when three people in three days tell me they're being stalked, and doxxing and threats are everywhere, it's very hard to stop myself from constantly looking over my shoulder. Plus I know lots of women in tech and gaming and comics and right now that feels like saying "I know lots of people who live in a war zone". It's just really scary out there right now. Even on my super-filtered private Twitter feed, it's constant.

So I'm going to hide with the family for the weekend--no public Twitter, turning off RTs for a lot of people on private Twitter, no LJ/DW/blogs, no IM, no guests or socializing--and try to recuperate a bit. I keep forgetting that I'm not a journalist anymore (in the sense of being a reporter of news) and I can do that. It's okay if I miss something. I'm not on call.

(I have spent zero days, zero minutes, and zero seconds missing being a journalist. Chronicling my own life is difficult enough.)

Expect my presence here to be pretty minimal through at least the end of October while I recover from the beginning of October.

EDIT: I cried on J a bit before I went to bed--at 8:30 in the morning because I was too anxious to sleep--and said I felt like if I don't go out there and Activist It Up because I'm scared of being targeted, then I'm a coward and the terrorists have won. He said that regardless of whether it was safe to be an activist right now, I'm exhausted and burnt out and he'd be telling me to focus on self-care. With 8-a.m.-haven't-slept logic, I said, "Oh, I see. I have activist laryngitis. Until I rest up and get my voice back, I don't need to worry about what other people would want or not want me to do with that voice." So I am clinging to this order of operations: rest and recuperate first, then decide what to do once I am capable of doing anything at all.

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8 October 2014 02:52 - "So there, chicken bear!"
illness-brain, anxiety, impatient-mental illness
Smart-brain: If I sleep now I'll feel fine tomorrow.
Anx-brain: YOU CAN'T BE SURE!

I can't count how many times I've had that argument with myself. I always end up doing the work and then being exhausted the next day. And then the anx-brain says "SEE, I WAS RIGHT, TODAY YOU'RE A WRECK AND INCAPABLE OF GETTING THINGS DONE, AREN'T YOU GLAD YOU DID YOUR WORK LAST NIGHT" and ignores the fact that I'm a wreck due to listening to the anx-brain.

Besides, I barely slept last night due to cat shenanigans, so I'm already a wreck today and really not very capable of getting work done right now, no matter what my anx-brain says. Tomorrow will be better, especially if I get enough sleep for a change. If random doom strikes I'll deal with it, but I need to remember that at the moment all my various chronic things are in remission and the odds of random doom are very low. I really can plan ahead. I really can offload things onto future-Rose and be reasonably certain that future-Rose will do them.

Dear anx-brain: Everything will be fine. I promise. Future-Rose is healthy and happy and entirely capable of getting everything done. You are even more anxious than usual because of total exhaustion, and I know it's hard to believe that things will be okay, but I promise they will. I would pet you soothingly but you're a brain and that sounds sticky, so have some Jedi pettins instead. (And taurine. Yes. Lots of taurine.) Poor sad anx-brain. Get some sleep. Tomorrow there will be workout-endorphins and sunshine and accomplishments and all those good things. Tomorrow you will be rested and feel great. Remember Monday? Monday was like that. Wednesday can be too. Everything will be fine. Sleep. Sleeeeeep.

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3 October 2014 05:04 - "Back on your heads"
busy-bad, spontaneity, scheduling
Working overtime is good for me in one respect: by the time I'm done with my work for the day, I'm utterly exhausted, and I don't keep myself up until 5 a.m. playing games or fidgeting online.

Unfortunately, sometimes the work itself keeps me up until 5 a.m. Oh well. At least Friday is my sleeping-in day.

I think I'm also finally done with the summertime urge to stay up until dawn, which means it's time to brace for the wintertime urge to sleep well past noon. Fellow SAD sufferers, I suggest you dig that light box out of the closet and start getting in the habit of using it now. Start taking more vitamin D while you're at it. I'm already at "lick the last drops of sunlight off the windows" levels of seasonal gloom in the mornings and it's only October; this winter is going to be challenging.

In health news, I'm done with PT--my knees feel great, yay!--and considering signing up with the Blink Fitness gym a few blocks away to maintain the strength I've gained. I'd have to figure out when to go, but I really miss working out and want to get back to it, and it's hard to motivate myself at home. I'm already slacking on the post-PT exercises (again, I blame the extra work, which is happening during what used to be my nighttime exercise hour). And the gym is only $15 a month, which is perfectly reasonable if I actually use it. Maybe I'll check it out tomorrow afternoon.

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29 September 2014 00:53 - "Don't sit under the apple tree"
spices, ginger, baking, cooking
For [twitter.com profile] glossaria, who accused me of cruelty after tweeting about eating apple crumble at 12:45 a.m., an untested but theoretically workable mug-size version that's vegan and GF-able:

0.5 c apple pieces (half-inch cubes work well)

1.25 tsp sugar
0.25 tsp cornstarch
1 pinch ground cinnamon
barest sprinkling of salt

2 tsp flour (any gluten-free flour blend will do fine if you're GF)
2 tsp almond meal
2.75 tsp (1 scant Tbsp) packed light or dark brown sugar
1 pinch ground cinnamon
1 pinch ground ginger
1 Tbsp melted refined coconut oil or canola oil

Put a bit of oil on a paper towel and use it to grease the inside of a microwave-safe mug or ramekin. Mix the coating ingredients, thoroughly coat the apples, and pour them into the mug. Mix the dry topping ingredients VERY WELL, making sure to break up all the lumps of brown sugar or they will burn in the microwave. Add the oil, mix the topping until it resembles wet sand, and spoon it over the apples. Drape a piece of paper towel loosely over the mug to catch any spatters and microwave on Medium power in 30-second increments, checking for scorching, until the coating is molten and the apples are tender with just a bit of crunch. (This should take 1 to 2 minutes depending on your microwave.) Drop in a scoop of vanilla ice cream and eat immediately.

You can mix all the dry topping ingredients together in advance and add the oil at the last minute. If you do this, I recommend using the amounts from the original recipe, minus the oats. Then take 7 tsp of the topping mix (that's 2 Tbsp + 1 tsp), mix with oil, put on top of the coated apples, and you're good to go.

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28 September 2014 22:53 - "Tell me a story"
contemplative, pensive, thoughtful
Dear LJ/DW, some random deep questions for you on a thinky sort of Sunday:

* If you've ever gone from "my friends tell me this situation I'm in is toxic but it seems bearable/fixable to me" to "whoa, this is totally toxic and I need to get out" to getting out, how did you do it? What made your mind shift?

* If you do a job or hobby that someone you love also does, and you're better at it than they are, and they feel insecure about that, how do you deal with it?

* Have you ever gone from being one sort of happy to being a completely different sort of happy? Not "I thought I was happy but I was really fooling myself", but something like "I used to love staying home all the time and now I love going out all the time", or "I used to love pushing myself to pursue my goals and now I love being contented with what I have".

And on the lighter side:

* What do you do to remind yourself to be good to yourself, and to show yourself some love?

* What adorable things have your pets done lately? Feel free to post photos/videos (as long as they're under 400 pixels wide).

* I just got a 7" Android tablet. What games should I play on it? Nothing speed-based or battle-focused, please; puzzles are fun, empire-building is fun, Diner Dash will wreck my arms, and killing little digital critters makes me sad. Recently I've been into Transport Empire, Another Case Solved, Dream of Pixels (which gradually gets speed-based but is pretty tolerable), Spaceward Ho!, and Juice Cubes. Free-to-play with in-game purchases is fine as long as the game can be beaten without spending money. I happily give money to game devs whose games hold my interest, but I don't like being blackmailed.

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28 September 2014 00:28 - "We came, we saw, we kicked its ass!"
accomplishment, craft
Tonight we hosted a Rosh Hashanah dinner for my mother, her inamorato, and my brother (who ended up working late and didn't arrive until dessert--his loss). It was the first my-family holiday dinner hosted by someone of my generation, so we wanted to make it extra special.

The menu:

Pomegranate sangrias. Alcoholic: Sauvignon Blanc + pomegranate juice + honey. Non-alcoholic: white grape juice + pomegranate juice. I just happened to have frozen pomegranate arils*, so I put them in an ice cube tray, filled it with pomegranate juice, and made ice cubes that wouldn't dilute the sangria as they melted. These were a big hit.

* Having written this, I think I am no longer allowed to tease my mother about the time she said, "Of course you can come over for dinner, I just happen to have roasted a turkey."

Apples and honeys. This was set out for people to nosh on while we finished cooking. The Ginger Gold apples, from our local greenmarket, were peeled and cut into thick circular slices, and the core sections removed with a heart-shaped cookie cutter. We had dishes of pohutukawa and blue borage honey from New Zealand (brought to us by auntyglory), buckwheat honey from New England, and Brooklyn wildflower honey from [personal profile] regyt, whose hive has supplied our Rosh Hashanah honey for years now. We served the apple slices and honey on small dishes laid out on a carved wooden tray, all filched from J's stepfather's apartment in Osaka.

Dinner was served with dishes passed at the table, very comfortable and cozy and informal.

Chicken stewed with apricots and autumn spices. We based this on the Moroccan chicken stew that was such a hit at Arisia. Six pounds of chicken thigh filets from the neighborhood butcher, one yellow onion, a great many quartered apricots, homemade chicken stock flavored with Balinese long pepper and dosed with honey and lemon juice, and a spice mix of sweet paprika, za'atar, cumin, ginger, urfa-biber, ground coriander seed, and cinnamon. We cooked it all together until the chicken was falling apart, and then I shredded the meat by hand and returned it to the pot, where it happily soaked up all the broth. The texture was very similar to pulled pork. We served it garnished with toasted silvered almonds and chopped parsley, with lemon wedges for those who felt like lemoning it a bit more. It was incredibly rich and delicious.

Sweet noodle kugel. A very basic recipe, with cashew ricotta and almond cream + cider vinegar and coconut oil substituting for cottage cheese and sour cream and butter, and Jovial gluten-free egg noodles. It was mostly custard and raisins, with noodles more for the sake of tradition than for flavor or texture. My mother arrived while it was baking and said the house smelled like Cinnabon; I'm pretty sure this was a compliment.

Maple-glazed carrots. Carrot coins with a glaze of maple syrup, Earth Balance, cinnamon (this was a very cinnamon-heavy meal), and fresh thyme (though not NEARLY enough of it; I blame myself). I love this recipe, but it was completely drowned out by the considerably more complex flavors of the chicken. Oh well. It'll be great to snack on.

Cruciferous vegetables. Broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts, tossed with olive oil and salt and pepper, roasted for half an hour, and garnished with fresh pomegranate seeds. Simple and perfect.

Greenmarket salad. My mother contributed this: long beans, watermelon, pears, micro greens, picked watermelon rind, some other delicious things. It was a lovely refreshing finish to the meal.

Dessert was delayed while we waited for my brother to arrive, and it's just as well because we all ate a whole lot of dinner and needed some time to digest it.

Apple crumble with vanilla ice cream. More Ginger Golds, tossed with cornstarch and sugar and (all together now) cinnamon, topped with chopped oats and gluten-free flour and almond meal and brown sugar and a bit more cinnamon because why not. The directions say "Mix topping with coconut oil until it resembles wet sand" and that's basically what it was still like when it came out of the oven with syrup bubbling up all around it: delicious, delicious sand. Of course we do make twice as much topping as the original recipe called for. Anyway, it was phenomenal, and we had Häagen-Dazs Vanilla Bean for the dairy-eaters and Soy Delicious Purely Vanilla for me and X, and I had a second helping even though I was super intensely full.

Our agenda looked basically like this:

08:00: X and J get up.
09:00: J goes to the farmer's market. X lets in Angela, our superb house cleaner.
11:00: R gets up.
12:00: EVERYONE EATS LUNCH. NO EXCEPTIONS. (Cooking while hungry is a bad, bad idea.)
13:00: R and J start cooking. X naps.
14:00: Angela leaves.
15:00: R and J take a break. X cleans up.
16:00: R and J go back to cooking. X sets the table.
18:00: R and J take turns showering and getting dressed while cooking continues.
19:00: Guests arrive.
20:00: Dinner is served.
21:00: Dessert.
22:00: Everyone go hoooome.

We didn't stick to it precisely--we started cooking at 12:30 because we were all energized, and for a while we were way ahead of schedule so we took more breaks--but dinner was on the table at 20:02. I am very, very proud of that.

My mother and D left at about 22:30; my brother stayed and chatted with me for another hour or so.

I think X ran the dishwasher four or five times. Maybe six, counting the current load. J and I cooked together splendidly, as we always do, and whenever we sat down for a bit, X whisked in, tidied up, and whisked away again. The three of us are such a phenomenal team. We were relaxed and happy the whole time, joking and smooching and smoothly navigating around one another. I don't think a single cross word was spoken all day.

My mother was thrilled and impressed, and she stayed at the table the whole time--no bustling in the kitchen!

My feet hurt and my back hurts and I ate too much and I'm basking in the glow of getting exactly the holiday dinner I wanted.

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27 September 2014 01:59 - "Happiness and harmony"
energy, healing, meditation, magic, religion
As we leave the old year behind and begin a new one, I am grateful for any and all opportunities to make amends for my transgressions. If I have harmed or hurt you, deliberately or through carelessness, I would be glad to know what I can do to right that wrong.

If you have harmed or hurt me this year, it is already forgotten--and I mean that literally. I'm sitting here trying to think of anything that might be called a grudge in my heart, and coming up empty. So if you are carrying around the weight of having done me wrong in some way, consider that burden lifted.

I wish you all a bountiful year of peace, joy, and love.

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20 September 2014 01:11 - "CHEESE OF THE DEVIL!"
spices, ginger, baking, cooking
The subject line is what [twitter.com profile] jamessacorey said when I claimed that J and I had made almond mozzarella. But we did! Here's photographic proof:

a small wheel of white cheese

And here's what it looked like on pizza:

a small pizza covered with tomato sauce, melted cheese, and pieces of sopressata

Yes, it shreds and melts, thanks to the magic of kappa carrageenan, though it doesn't get stretchy (I'd have to add xanthan gum for that) and it doesn't love direct heat. I made that pizza with 10 minutes in the toaster oven preheated to 450F followed by 4 minutes under the broiler, and it came out fine. But when I put slices of the cheese (not shreds) on top of bread and toasted it, with the toaster oven starting out cold and heating the toast from both above and below, the cheese got an odd sort of thin crinkly skin on top, though it was lovely and melty underneath. It had only started to brown slightly when I took the toast out, but I'm sure it would brown well if given the chance.

It is far FAR better than any storebought vegan mozzarella I've ever had. The flavor is perfect, milky and mild. The texture is a little solid, almost rubbery; it would be perfect for something like deep-fried cheese sticks but it's not quite right for eating on crackers. There's a "buffalo mozzarella" recipe that cuts the carrageenan from 4 tsp to 3 with all other proportions the same, and I might try that next, since I still have some almond milk in the fridge.

Oh yes, this is made from homemade almond milk: almond meal + water + Vitamix + 2 minutes. (I love the Vitamix so so so much; very grateful to auntyglory for that housewarming present.) So the complete and total ingredient list for the cheese:

Almond meal
Tapioca starch (aka tapioca flour)
Refined coconut oil
Kappa carrageenan
Lactic acid powder (lemon juice can be substituted)

That's it. And making it was pretty simple, though it required some elbow grease (provided by the mighty [personal profile] sinboy): blend the non-acid ingredients*, heat in a nonstick pot over medium-low, stir frequently until it goes through the curdled stage and becomes glossy and goopy and thick (and reaches 175F internal temperature), remove from heat, rapidly mix in acids, pour into a mold and let cool, put in the fridge to set. I keep it wrapped in paper towels to absorb excess moisture that gradually rises to the surface, so the cheese gets firmer over time.

* The recipe recommends blending everything except the acid and the oil and adding in the oil in the pan. This doesn't make sense to me, since the Vitamix can emulsify the mixture far better than a person could manage by hand. Maybe the oil becoming fully incorporated into the mixture would be a sign of cooking progress? Still, I should probably try it the way the recipe recommends, to see whether that affects the cheese's texture in some way.

In short: chemistry is pretty incredible. And delicious.

The recipe is from The Non-Dairy Evolution Cookbook, which is nonstop amazingness from cover to cover. The book is inexplicably self-published; I don't know why it isn't being brought out by a trad publisher and marketed the way Miyoko Schinner's Artisan Vegan Cheese was, but the only place to buy it is from the author's website. So if you're interested in making your own vegan cheese (and butter and whipped cream and sour cream and all sorts of other fake dairy products), please support awesome queer vegan self-publishing chefs and buy a copy. I recommend the PDF edition, which is full of seriously impressive photos.

Now to decide what to make next: mild cheddar or Swiss. The Swiss calls for extra-dry vermouth, and I'm not sure we have any... must check with J, who's in charge of the liquor cabinet.

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