Thursday, January 01, 2009

That New Year's Post - Thursday 1/1/2009

It is so, so very nice to be home day after day. We're all as calm and happy as this.

Had a nice breakfast with History and Cowgirl, and sat around the table and in the living room talking until late in the morning. Lovely way to start the new year.

Of course, the new year is that time when we look back and forward.

I always get this hollow feeling that I haven't accomplished much. I didn't publish enough, or even submit enough. I didn't follow through on some ideas. I didn't finish rewriting my 2006 NaNoWriMo novel. I didn't rewrite my first novel. I didn't lose 20 pounds. I still haven't figured out what to do with all the wood in the back yard from the tree that broke in half in October.

I didn't become perfect in every way, or even in a few ways.

Thank goodness, I have this online community, 43 Things, that helps me set goals and keep track of my progress. I can look back and see that a few things did actually get done. I'm going to tag some people to do this too.

10 Things I'm happy I accomplished in 2008.

1) I read 46 books in 2008

Favorites were The Last Summer of the World by Emily Mitchell, All Will be Revealed by Robert Anthony Spiegel, Exploring with Fremont by Charles Preuss, How to Pick a Peach by Russ Parsons, The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith, So Brave Young and Handsome by Leif Enger, and The Orchid Thief by Susan Orlean.

2) Connected with people: I visited my brother in Texas, met two people I previously only knew online, and vacationed with my old friend in Santa Fe for a few days, called my mother a lot, called my sister quite a bit, spent time with Hydra's cousins.

3) I tried about 25 new recipes.

4) I made a lot of my Christmas gifts.

5) Although it was called the Fall 2007 issue, my essay came out in Weber: The Contemporary West in January.

6) Poets & Writers published a photograph I took.

7) I watched 120 movies in 2008. That's whatever that is. I guess I feel good that I wrote personal reviews of all of them on my other blog, Curioscopy.

8) Gave three $25 loans through

9) Visited 10 cultural institutions in 2008. My favorites : Taos Pueblo, Petroglyph National Monument, The California Route 66 Museum, Manzanar National Historic Site.

10) Met with my writing group every other week. They sustain me.

I'm tagging Los Angelista, The Last Noel, KathyR, Fingers to the Bone and Yesha to do this too! Because I'm interested and so I won't feel like such a braggart.

Anyone who'd like to comment with their own list, I'd love it! Some of you don't have blogs...imagine that!

New Year's Rockin' Eve - Wednesday 12/31/2008

The table settings for our dinner. Same stuff we used for Christmas dinner. Well, we did take the time to wash everything in between.

Our friends History and Cowgirl came up for the night. This tradition has been going on for probably seven years now. They brought fixings to make a lentil salad.

At one point, when they were both buzzing around the kitchen, chopping, shredding, slicing and checking the boiling pot of lentils, Cowgirl said I was a like a scout leader guiding them along. Well, only because they didn't know where things were in my kitchen.

Cowgirl and History are vegetarians, and it's always fun to come up with a veggie meal for the evening. I made a casserole using asparagus and fresh mushrooms in place of green beans in that classic Campbell's Soup recipe. Sort of updates it while it maintains its comfort food status. Also made shaved Brussels sprouts with garlic, capers and fennel seeds (yum!) and black eyed peas with salsa (served hot) and....

Another pineapple upside down cake. Is this going to be my signature cake? Maybe! I've tweaked it a little each time I've made it. I prefer crushed pineapple to rings and tossing a handful of pecans into the topping turned out to be a very very good idea.

History and Cowboy made spiced apple cider with rum to top off the evening (that and a little champagne.) It involved cloves and a sliced orange, too. Very good. In fact, I'm sipping at leftovers right now.

We actually stayed up till 12:05! This may be the first time we've ever made it to midnight together!

I think 2009's going to be a good collection of days, no matter what.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

How to Spend Your Time Off Work - Tuesday 12/30/2008

I started the day with a telephone writing date with my sister in Indiana. We catch up a little, decide what we're going to write about and hang up. One of us sets a timer for an hour and calls the other after we've written for an hour. Then we talk about how it went and maybe give each other a little feedback.

It went well for me today. I expanded a scene that has conflict and sets up more conflict. Anyway, right now it feels like a good day's work.

Went to Barnes & Noble where I sat drinking an iced tea with a shot of melon syrup and auditioned a pile of books. Skimmed F. Scott Fitzgerald's short story, "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," which has very little to do with the current film version. But it's okay. The short story reminds me of Gogol short stories, like "The Nose." Meant to be imagined, not filmed.

Went to the gym for an hour of cardio and weight machines. Did this yesterday with addition of a dip in the whirlpool. Oh, Tomasina, it's way over-chlorinated and nothing as sweet as the one at Burke-Williams. Sigh.

Called my mother and talked with her for about an hour. When I arrived home there was a UPS package from my nephew. One of his amazing Indiana photos, framed!

We called to thank him and ended up talking for an hour or so.

Wonderful to be in touch with my family. They are good, creative people.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Killing Your Own Food and a Giant Spool of String - Monday 12/29/2008

Wrote in the morning. Went to the dentist to have a permanent crown installed.

Had a very interesting conversation with the tech about killing and eating one's own food. He is going to Arizona for New Year's Eve. They'll hunt and kill a wild boar and eat it.

I just talked to my brother, Texaco, a couple of days ago. He and his wife live in an area of Texas where there are few regulations on how you can use the land. They have about 8 acres now and are looking to add more. They're going to raise chickens for eggs and meat, rabbits and maybe goats.

I was going to say that I have complicated feelings about all this, but when I really think about it, I don't guess they're all that complicated after all. Although I was a vegetarian for about 5 years in my thirties, I grew up in a farming area where my grandmother butchered her own chickens and one of our neighbors butchered a hog in his front yard every year. My brother bow hunts and gets a deer every year, which they use for food.

Killing simply for sport is abhorrent to me, but I can't really fault people hunting for food. I think one of the reasons we overuse meat in the U.S. is that we don't really pay attention to the consequences, or think about where it came from. It seems a lot more honest than picking up a package at the meat counter in the grocery.

Anyway, it was an interesting conversation and I think he gave me the framework of a little story I can use in my novel.

What about the giant spool of string? That's what Hydra spent his afternoon hunting. He uses it to fix part of Dodger's playset, which Dodger promptly destroys. We couldn't find a small ball of it in the grocery stores. They had it at Smart & Final though! Wow.

Hmm, turns out the photo is mildly relevant since people use this culinary grade string to tie up roasts.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Return to Unurban - Sunday 12/28/2008

I think every time I visit the Unurban Cafe, which is on the easternmost border of Santa Monica, on Pico Boulevard, I have raved about it afterward. Hydra wanted to go check out guitars down the street at McCabe's, so I hung out and wrote a bit and listened to the music.

This place has a very homey feel. So homey that it resurrects those wild ideas that sometimes grab me and make me think I could be happy spending hours and hours owning and operating a coffee house.