All posts by Clio

Menu: October 2 – October 8, 2016

All prepped and ready for the week
All prepped and ready for the week

Menu:  October 2 – October 8, 2016

  • (Newish recipe) Curried Chicken with Ginger and Yogurt
  • Roasted Veggies: eggplant, onions, Penzeys Garlic Shoots, mushrooms, orange bell pepper, asparagus, brussel sprouts, broccoli, spiralized zucchini
  • Fruit:  red and green grapes, mandarin oranges, Granny Smith apples
  • Veggies: cherry tomatoes, cucumbers peeled and soaked in balsamic vinegar,
  • (New recipe) Roasted Onions with Vinegar
  • (New recipe) Pumpkin Energy Balls

Menu Commentary
Curried Chicken with Ginger and Yogurt
I botched it again this week. The only thing I can think is that I prepped the sauce a few days ahead, and that did something to the balance of the ingredients. 2% Greek yogurt helped some. Burying it in veggies again. Time to set the recipe aside and came back to it in a few weeks.

Pumpkin Energy Balls
I did NOT botch this recipe.  It’s basically the peanut butter energy balls I’ve been making for six months now.  To meet my dietary requirements, I removed the chocolate chips and used coconut in place of the walnuts.  But dear Hera, this is a “want to put my face in the bowl” recipe.

New ingredients:
Red Grapes
Red Wine Vinegar
Mandarin Oranges
Pureed Pumpkin

New ingredient commentary:
Why has no one told me that pumpkin is so yummy outside of pies?

It’s so good without all the spices in it.  Wow.  Yup, gonna be cookin’ with this again.

New Tools:
Roasting pan

New tool commentary:
The roasting pan isn’t really a new tool, it’s just been packed away in a box for a while. It’s a deep and big enough to set a rack and a smallish turkey in.

Resources:
Real Simple
Bon Appetit
Clean Food Crush
Penzeys
7 Stillwell Pinterest Food board

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Review: Butcher Bird

Butcher Bird by Richard Kadrey
Butcher Bird
Richard Kadrey

Title: Butcher Bird
Author: Richard Kadrey
Published: 2007
ISBN-13:  978-1-59780-086-0
Publisher:   Night Shade Books

Be quiet.  It’s not necessary to fill every moment with your own voice.  Silence terrifies you.  You see your own existence as so tenuous that you’re afraid you’ll pop like a bubble if, at every opportunity, you don’t remind the world that you’re alive.  But wisdom begins in silence.  In learning to listen.  To words and to the world.  Trust me.  You won’t disappear.  And, in time, you might find that you’re grown into something unexpected.  (p. 126)

In Butcher Bird I read many of the themes which make the Sandman Slim series so interesting.

It’s more than “what is real”.  It’s about what happens when reality shifts and the way through is to accept things are scary different from our expectations.

One of the things I consistently enjoy in Kadrey’s work is the way he reconfigures religious myths.

in Butcher Bird, tattoo artist Spyder Lee lives a life he enjoys.  He hangs out with his best friend and tattoo partner at their favorite bar, getting drunk and being raucous.  He has a solid reputation for his tattoos and shop.  But one night, Spyder steps outside to relieve himself and a demon tries to bite his head off.

Yes, literally bite his head off.  And then a blind woman steps in and saves his life.  Now Spyder can see the demons and monsters humans aren’t supposed to notice.

The key to this particular fight is one of Spyder’s tattoos.  It’s a symbol he thought looked cool and didn’t know the meaning of, which calls the demon to him.

Then Spyder discovers that his best friend, Lulu, isn’t what she appears to be and he is really screwed.  And in order to put everything back into some semblance of order, Spyder goes on a quest with Shrike, the woman who saved him.

I love a good quest story, and this one has great payoffs.  Quests, on the surface, are about going from here to there in order to solve a problem, usually saving the world.  Quests are also about confronting ourselves, our beliefs and what we thought we knew about everything.

Butcher Bird has everything a good quest story should have; unexpected blessings and obstacles, fights (sword play or something similar), evil (in this case in the shape of demons and monsters), tricksters, love, and a drive to put things right.

Reading Butcher Bird while in the midst of the Sandman Slim series, gave me a richer experience, because I already knew what Kadrey was up to.  That appeals to the historian in me.

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It Takes a Village: The Journey Begins

painted-daisiesMy mind has been a big jumble for several weeks, ever since I got the idea to share my journey with food in public. How do I start? Where do I start? What gets put in? Which details do I leave out?

“They” say that any journey starts with a step. So, here’s my first step. Haltingly and imperfectly, here is where I am in my life, and how I’m becoming the person I always dreamed of being. (Yes, I know that sounds like hyperbole. Trust me, it’s not.) As you get to know me, I hope you will find the compassion for yourself to reset your life, and reach for the things you don’t know you wanted.

On April 6, 2016, a confluence of events led me to change the way I thought about food.  To this point, food had been a survival mechanism.  Now, I want more.  The main motivation for this lifestyle change is this, I want to be a better steward to the members of the museum at which I work.    A healthier body means having the ability to stand, or walk, for longer periods of time mingling at events with our members, without chronic back pain.

This has almost always been about wanting a healthier, stronger body.  It’s never really been about losing weight. Although I would be lying if I didn’t tell you that I do succumb to the numbers game on occasion. I need to remind myself daily that it’s about being healthier, not thinner. Because, I’ve been thinner, and I was miserable.

On April 6, 2016, I weighed 300 pounds and while I knew I was a gorgeous creature inside, I did not particularly believe I was beautiful outside. At 56, I had surrendered to my past. The past whose experiences told me I was worth less than just about anybody else in the world. That I was unlovable, and unworthy. Yet, the universe saw fit to put me in situations, and bring people into my life, who showed me the exact opposite, if only I would pay attention.

Nearly six months later, I am so happy. The happiest I have ever been at any size. And I know, deep where it’s important to really know things like this, that I am lovable, I am worthwhile and I am worth more than I ever thought possible. Ever.  And I have just begun.

Many people have asked what my “secret” is.  I giggle and tell them there is no secret.  Then, I tell them there are spreadsheets involved.  Most roll their eyes when they hear that.  Everyone wants someone, to tell them how to “fix” their lives.   I can’t, I don’t know how.

What I can do is share my journey.  All of it.  Food, emotions, getting physical.  The good, the bad, and the downright ugly.  We all have the power to heal ourselves and become the people we want to be.

But, it is work. It is hard.  Sometimes, it’s downright tedious.  Are the results worth the work?  Oh HELL to the yes.  There are paths to potential opening all around me. Some go places I never would have thought of. Some paths are to things I gave up on.  So, yes it is worth the time and effort.

None of this is possible if I’m not willing to do the work.  I do the work, the universe provides the results.  I’m learning to let go of the “how,” and just take the steps I know, the universe provides guidance every step of the way.

It’s the same for you who are reading this.  YOU do the work. You can’t just wish for change, and do nothing to make it happen. You, and only you, can do this work and make your life better. And, once you begin, you are the only one who can make you falter. You are in charge, and no one but you, not even the deity itself has the power to take this away from you.

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Food: September 25 – October 1, 2016

Menu:  September 25 – October 1, 2016

  • (New recipe) Curried Chicken with Ginger and Yogurt
  • Roasted Veggies: eggplant, onions, Penzeys Garlic Shoots, mushrooms, orange bell pepper, asparagus
  • Fruit: watermelon, raspberries, blueberries, strawberries
  • Veggies: cherry tomatoes, cucumbers peeled and soaked in balsamic vinegar, broccoli
  • (New recipe) Spiralized Cinnamon Apples

Menu Commentary
Curried Chicken with Ginger and Yogurt
The habit of removing all salt and fat from a recipe finally caught up with me. Without the salt, and at least a little bit of the fat in the yogurt, this was spicy, yet bland at the same time. A little reparative salt made it much better. The next batch I make will use at least 2% fat Greek yogurt.

Overall, this was not a bad first attempt. And it goes really well with the roasted veggies.

Spiralized Cinnamon Apples
There’s a recipe I’m going to try. It involves a skillet and heat, and other yummy things. But since I was running out of time, and because the weather was hot, I didn’t do the cooking part.

What I did instead was spiral cut the apples, sprinkle fresh lemon juice and cinnamon over them, and add a tablespoon of roasted walnut pieces. Microwave for 60 seconds, and yummy!

New ingredients:
Penzeys Now Curry
Fresh Ginger

New Tools:
Box Grater
Spiralizer attachment for stand mixer

New tool commentary:
The new attachment wasn’t a complete success. I couldn’t figure out how to attach the peeler blade. After a couple of YouTube videos and many tries, I threw my hands up. Spiralizer cutting blade not so great on cucumbers.

However, I did figure out how to spiral cut three pounds of Granny Smith apples. So much fun!

Notes on preparation:
Fresh ginger is a PITA to peel and shred. But it is worth the effort.

Resources:
Real Simple
Cooking Light
Penzeys
7 Stillwell Pinterest Food board

Review: A Thief of Time

A Thief of Time by Tony Hillerman
A Thief of Time Tony Hillerman

Title: A Thief of Time
Author: Tony Hillerman
Series: Joe Leaphorn/Jim Chee #8
Published: 1989
ISBN-10:  0060159383
Publisher: Harper & Row

Academic competition is fierce, especially when it’s between colleagues trying to get to the historic pottery remnants first to prove their theory and get published.  Oh, and recognition in their field.

A thief of time is someone who robs graves in order to take something.  In this case, it’s all about the Anasazi, a tribe which mysteriously disappeared around 1200CE.  The ruins left behind appear as though the people planned on coming back, but never did.

The black market for pottery is hot, people will pay exorbitant amounts to own a piece of “authentic” pottery with questionable provenance.  While Jim Chee is trying to chase down a stolen backhoe, Joe Leaphorn is trying to track down a missing anthropologist.

Personal baggage is heavy in this book.  Chee’s relationship with  teacher Mary Landon has hit the skids.  She’s gone back to the midwest to be with her family and go back to school.  In a letter to him, she expresses her deep love for him but sees no way around the white vs. Navajo conundrum they keep bumping against.

Joe Leaphorn is mourning the loss of beloved wife, Emma, who didn’t have Alzheimer’s after all but didn’t survive the surgery to remove a tumor.  My heart sank when I read of her death.  Interesting how easy it is to get caught up in the lives of fictional characters isn’t it?

While working their individual cases, Chee and Leaphorn eventually cross paths and discover they’re working the same case from different angles.  The stolen backhoe is being used to uncover pottery, while a different anthropologist is stealing jaw bones to prove his theory.

A hike to a nearly unknown, unreachable Anasazi ruin, two helicopters converging on the same spot, and the case is solved.  But this one seemed rather convoluted to me as it involved a decades old murder case Leaphorn had worked, a traveling tent show leading Navajos to the “Jesus Way,” and those using Chaco Culture National Historic Park as their base to study the Anasazi.  Too many moving pieces to keep track of, and an unbelievable ending involving the aforementioned helicopters.

But the thing I have always enjoyed about Hillerman’s books is his love of the Southwest and his use of Navajo culture to keep his mysteries from being just another murder/stolen object procedural.  His attention to the cultural differences pulls me in and keeps me there.

Review: What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

What Could Possibly Go Wrong?
Jodi Taylor

Title: What Could Possibly Go Wrong?
Author: Jodi Taylor
Series: The Chronicles of St. Mary’s (#6)
Published: 2015
ISBN-13: eBook
Publisher: Accent Press

Max and those crazy historians of St. Mary’s are back. This installment is almost tame compared to the earlier books. Tame, that is, if you discount the baby mammoth poo all over one of the pods, five trainees being trained by Max, one of the trainees with an agenda of his own having to do with Richard III, and a not so unexpected twist at the end. I mean, I saw it coming from the first time Max complained of being sick.

Yup, I liked it very much and continue to be delighted with the attention Jodi Taylor gives to the history.

Review: Dead Set

Dead Set
Richard Kadrey

Title: Dead Set
Author: Richard Kadrey
Published: 2013
ISBN-13: 978-0-06-228301-6
Publisher:  Harper Voyager

When I think of horror, I think of Freddy Krueger or Nightmare on Elm Street or Stephen King, even.

If I were to categorize Richard Kadrey’s books, they would be urban fantasy, which also have a dark twisted underbelly to them.

But many have categorized Kadrey as horror, and since I’m not big on quibbling about labels, I’ll just say “‘Kay.”  Because what it all comes down to is story.  What is the story and how is the story told?  That’s what makes a great read for me.

Dead Set is the story of Zoe and how her teenaged life got derailed after her father dies.  The only thing good she can count on is visits with her dream brother, Valentine, when she goes to sleep.  But then, (good stories always have a but then) …

But then, a black dog starts appearing in her dreams.  And she meets a guy at a record shop storing records with souls captured on them.  For a seemingly small price, he’ll let Zoe commune with her father.

And then, Zoe actually goes to her father and nothing is even close to how she imagined it might be.

Kadrey’s stories are creepy, that’s for damned sure.  But they’re also interesting, well-thought out and entertaining.  In Zoe’s story, he captures that heart-ache of a teenage girl trying to fit into her own life, and make sense of the changes that have happened.  It’s the story of a girl longing to re-connect with the love she once felt from both her parents, and to use her teenage rebellion for something other than just being a rebel.

I love the Sandman Slim series.  Love it.  In Dead Set, we have a quieter protagonist whose world is almost as dangerous as Slim’s.  And I loved it just as much.

Review: Devil Said Bang

Devil Said Bang
Richard Kadrey

Title: Devil Said Bang
Author: Richard Kadrey
Series: Sandman Slim #4
Published: 2012
ISBN-13: 978-0-06-209457-5
Publisher: HarperCollins

Satanists make junior high school Goths look like NASA.  (p. 143)

I’ve been taken with Sandman Slim from the very beginning.  Not only is he a mostly unrepentant badass who embraces that part of him.  He uses it to try to make life better for those he loves, and the world in general, although were the world to be aware of Slim, they wouldn’t thank him for his efforts.

At the end of Devil Said Bang, Slim is the only person to have escaped Hell twice.  This is quite an accomplishment, given that no one is supposed to escape ever, especially if you’re a gladiator expected to fight to the death the first time you’re there.

Kadrey shakes the notions of Heaven and Hell, God and Satan, around a lot in his Sandman Slim books.  His notions match mine that all is not so cut and dried as Christians would have us believe, there’s a lot of grey area.  And to shake that notion even more, it’s revealed in the first book, Sandman Slim, that Slim, aka Stark, is a nephilim.  This part angel, part human thing makes just about every supernatural being mad.  To say Slim’s home life was screwed up wouldn’t even begin to cover it.

It is also the conjunction of many celestial mythologies which make the Sandman Slim books so interesting.  Along with other supernatural beings you might not expect to mix with creation and destruction myths.

Devil Said Bang suffers from mid-series dementia.  Something often found in other series by other authors.  There’s just something about the fourth or so book which is messy.  Kevin Hearne’s fifth book in the Iron Druid series, Trapped, suffered from this.

And I will say the same thing about Devil Said Bang as I did about Trapped, there’s too much information being thrown at us.  Too many characters and too many machinations.  I couldn’t keep up.

With that out of the way, what I like about this book was the continued battle Slim has with himself.  He knows that maybe he could do better, but there are times when he just wants to break stuff.  It’s what he knows best.

Nice people are fucking weird.  (p. 244)

There are always interesting characters with “interesting” hobbies, which turn out to be some sort of key to the plot.  In Devil Said Bang, it’s Teddy Osterberg and his collection of cemeteries.  Yes, collection.

For generations, Teddy’s family has been moving cemeteries from their original plot of land to the family land outside Los Angeles.  There’s a lot of detail about the supernatural aspects of the cemeteries, but it comes down to Osterberg as caretaker of the more “special” cemeteries.  It is from this the scary little girl with the curved knife, who is running around killing people, comes.

Did I mention Sandman Slim is dark?

Not only am I fascinated by the mythology Kadrey uses, the machinations and politicking also fascinate me.  How do people think like that?  How do they know how to find that piece of information which will allow them to manipulate others?  How do they think three, four, five steps ahead of the others?  Reading Slim play off the others who think they have one up on him in Hell is fascinating.  As are all the new and inventive tools used to kill the nasties for whom a shotgun isn’t enough.

Richard Kadrey’s books are not for the squeamish, or for those who hold their mythology dear.  I find them very entertaining, if sometimes gross, and I always learn something new about mythology; especially Christian mythology.  Kadrey sends me scurrying into the stacks to look up information, and gives me things to think on deeply which allows me space to reframe what I think I already know.

 

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Too Much, Too Much

DEATH: Terry Pratchett and the Discworld Paul Kidby (Official Ilustrator):
DEATH by Paul Kidby

There’s been too much death this year. I suppose there’s always too much death any year.

But now comes word that my friend, Eric Weaver, has died.  According to his daughter he was on his way home from work and had a hypertensive heart attack.  He was a year younger than I.

I suppose it’s to be expected as we enter our 50s.  I suppose.

Eric was one of the patient, kind, good guys who lived in my world of geekiness.  We met when we worked at WhoWhere?  I knew we would be friends because he named one of the servers Ridcully.  We both had a fondness for Luggage and Death too.

We both rotated around Don too.  Eric’s mind worked in ways mine didn’t, and we both puzzled over how he could so easily pick up coding, while I looked at most of it as gibberish.  Even with a translator like Eric, I never got the hang of it.

We exchanged quite a bit of email as I settled into my job at the Computer History Museum.  Always pleased that I had found such a unicorn of a workplace, in complete agreement that Don would have also been pleased, and convinced they will eventually hire me.

I’ll always remember his goofy giggle, his uneven smile and those silly fanny packs he wore.  I’ll also always remember his friendship and our fondness for Terry Pratchett characters.

Eric, I’ll miss you greatly.  I hope you and Don are up to no good.  I hope I remembered to tell you how grateful I was we were friends.

Coming Clean

I’ve been using the excuse of working to not write daily.

“Oh, I’m too tired when I get home to even turn the computer on.”

“My computer is so slow, it’s not worth turning it on during the week.”

Truth is, those are just excuses.  I got stuck on an article for a client, and have been using work, the holidays, etc. as excuses to not just do it.

And it has been bothering me.  A lot.  Especially recently.  I tell people I made the commitment to write every day, but then I got a part-time job I love and stopped.

But I find I keep telling stories.  I’m just not writing them down any more.  Or, writing them here anymore.

I don’t really know what I’m hiding from aside from the fact I am stuck on an approach for this article.  My client has been very understanding.  She’s happy I’m working again with steady money at a place, and with people, I adore.  Truth be told, I feel like I’ve let her down.  I haven’t told her I can’t figure out an approach to the article she wants.

The holidays are always a mess.  They’re a really handy excuse to not do anything except be depressed and feel sorry for myself.  Except that’s not working anymore either.

Thanksgiving was a mess.  A literal mess because while attempting to fix the toilet, it overflowed.  Yuck was all over the floor.  I threw my hands up, threw some towels down and walked away for the night.

Christmas was better somewhat.  New Year’s was its usually noisy self with fireworks all around me.  Living in a Mexican neighborhood, which is also not far from a Vietnamese neighborhood, makes any holiday noisy with fireworks.  Fire crackers go off at all hours of the day.

After the debacle a year ago with the roof leaking, and the ensuing repair, the roof started leaking again.  My home doesn’t feel like home.  There are buckets and towels on the floor, tarps on the roof, and plastic over some of my shelves.  Especially the books.

Things kinda went sideways a little at work.  Just a tiny bit, but I was convinced I was about to lose my job.  How could I be expected to come home and write under any of those circumstances?

Books pile up after I read them, waiting for me to review them.  Once I get caught up, I promise I’ll review each one after I’ve read it.  But it doesn’t happen.

I know this is not unusual behavior for anyone, most especially creative people.  We live in our heads a lot.  We lead with our hearts.  We feel big, and we take everything seriously.  At least I do.  From what I know of other writers, I suspect this is true for them too.

I’ve known for several months that I was at what’s called an inflection point.  In business it means, “a time of significant change in a situation; a turning point.”  I can feel the changes.  Actually see things are going in a different, better direction for me.

This came home to me last Friday when something happened which was incredible to me.  Something I never expected to happen.  Something I wasn’t even looking for.  I had a date.

It went well.  I enjoyed myself very much.  I like to think he did too.  We talked, sharing horrible landlord stories.  Somehow, my writing came up.  And I realized that while I wasn’t exactly lying to him about having made the commitment to write every day, I hadn’t told him that book reviews were mostly what I wrote.  And not every day.

I’ve been very emotional for the past few days.  I suppose it’s normal dating roller coaster riding.  “Will he call me again?”  “Will we really go out again?”  All that sort of stuff.

Let me be clear.  I’ve had relationships in the past.  None of them worked for various reasons.  Mostly because of me seeking fulfillment from them, and attracting men who didn’t deserve my time.  And giving it to them.  Not all of them, mind you.  But most of them.

Since the last one, I’ve spent a great deal of time and effort working on myself.  Becoming comfortable in my own skin, loving me, loving who I am, learning to take care of me.  And, most importantly, finding fulfillment from within.

Last August, I knew I was there because I walked in like the badass I know I am.  Things have been wobbly from time to time, but overall I am pleased with my work and attitude.  And so are people who have the influence to hire me when the time comes.

It was the same way when I met my date.  I was just being me.  Snarky, sarcastic, book in my hand me.  And, things went from flirting to my inviting him to dinner.  To us actually going to dinner and sitting and talking.  It was fun.

But, as with all change, things are unnerving.  I’ve been thinking about my writing more, and thinking about keeping true to myself in the throes of all this change.  The weekend wasn’t easy for me.  I could feel change, and I haven’t been handling it with as much grace and aplomb as I wanted.

Several things have come out of this.  One of which is my writing.  At least two different people have told me that to not write would be false to myself.  It’s my heart and soul.  Aside from loving the job, and the (not enough) steady money, I need to write.  And I keep denying myself that.

I’m not openly declaring a re-commitment.  But I am openly declaring an attempt for every day.  Because, apparently now, more than ever, I really need to write.