128 – and the beat goes on

Oh my word, I haven’t posted here since August. Since no one is protesting, I’ll just have to assume y’all haven’t missed me. That should make me sad, but it actually makes me feel a little less pressured.

So, since August, I:

  • Completed the contract at the restaurant, and handed it over to a new manager. My opinion of him will remain unwritten–he’s still there as I’m writing this, so it’s been seven weeks, as he started right at the beginning of October. I hope, for the Mitchell’s sake, he makes a success of it. Scuttlebutt around town is not good, but then, it seldom is about most things.
  • Am 11,000 words into Flak Be Nimble, the sequel to This Little Pig, which makes me very happy and annoyed at the same time. I used NaNoWriMo to jump into it, and have struggled to get in gear. I did great for the first week and a half, and been just eking it out ever since. Minor proof is… I’m writing in this blog for the first time in THREE MONTHS, because I’ll do anything to not be writing in the novel. I should be 40,000 words in, and I’m just over a quarter of that…
  • Bought a warehouse with Corey. And an RV storage lot, as the property came with a half-acre lot, hurricane fenced, triple-strand barbwire headed. Seemed like a good idea at the time. Still standing empty… but that’s not really why we bought the property anyway.
  • Stopped writing my column for the 90 days I was at the restaurant–as I know I suck at multi-tasking and might not have time to do the column justice. Jody Bailey Day, one of the most amazing people I know, ably stepped in and did a Mayberry serial, which was awesome.
  • Went back to writing my column a couple weeks back, and totally spaced that this week was Thanksgiving, so just wrote an everyday column to turn in this Sunday… 🙂 Corey and I don’t really plan to do anything but bake a ham on the day, and otherwise kind of ignore the whole thing. He is busy-busy with stuff for the ranch and will probably work through the four-day weekend… and I have to be in town on Friday evening anyway.  Hmm…

So, it’s been an interesting 90 days. Life never stands still, does it?

103 – just got real

One of the more interesting things about getting older is getting to know yourself. I, apparently, have never met myself, and wouldn’t know me from Adam’s off ox.

So… if you’ve been reading the blog (and if not, why not, dang it?), you know that life has gone from real busy to bizZAY, from trying to keep myself occupied to trying to fit it all in… and I just had to offload one.  And as soon as I did, I felt totally unstressed again. It’s not the one you think, most likely.

Corey says life is never boring around me, and seems to feel that is a good thing.  So, for a quick recap of this non-boring life, over the last three months I’ve started two brand-new jobs, rented a place to live two hours away and then gave it back to them a month early, began talks with my current boss about starting a subsidiary or partnership, started my second novel, entered into an agreement to buy an office building with a shop, hiked through part of Big Bend National Park and this Wednesday, bought a van. The last three of course, with Corey. In a very real sense, actually, all of them were with Corey. None of this went undiscussed, I promise you.

I’ll also be available to sign “The Best of Critique Café” this Saturday at Fort Days in Fort Stockton, along with a number of the other writers included in the chapbook. One of my poems, “October Has Edges” is included in it, along with selections from all the other writers in the writing group that I also began attending again in September.

And, because there is a line where even good stress becomes too much, I had to stop SOMEthing.  And something more than one of the jobs, which I actually did leave in September.

So, I’m pushing off the idea of starting a subsidiary or partnership well into next year.   Lots of reasons, all making perfect sense. And the moment I talked to my boss about postponing that particular conversation with the lawyer, I felt as if a weight got lifted. I am back to unstressed, doop-de-do, dog-paddling around the pond again.

Why do I do it? Why do I load that one more thing on my plate until something has to give? Heck, I don’t know. If you figure it out, tell me please.  But I will say…

Life is never boring.

76 – one a.m. wanderings

sunset on big canyon
sunset on big canyon

Insomnia is the curse of the modern world, I think… Can’t imagine our ancestors staying awake inside the cave other than the necessity for somebody to be watching for whatever boogers are outside thinking of them as snackage. But then I realize I don’t have anywhere I have to be in the morning, and I get a heck of a lot less dramatic about it.

Bonus–when you’re the only human awake within a hundred miles or so, the thought process drifts effortlessly, like a tumbleweed drifting down the Big Canyon, touching here and there.

Moving, Death, Divorce:  A very good friend is uprooting her life to move to another state, and I’m watching her get a mite testy over e-mail while she does all the necessary mess that has to be done–and glad to provide the outlet.  There’s a “they say” out there that death and divorce are the only stresses that outweigh moving. I’m pretty sure I’ve exceeded 30 moves now as an adult, all the way from one country to another down to across town… the legacy of life as a military wife, and then marrying a man with an adventurous soul on the next round. And I’ve also gone through a divorce, and lost people that I loved with all my heart.

The experiences tell me that the three, death, divorce and moving, are incredibly similar–changes in state on an impact scale that varies enormously, but nonetheless, the scale is that of change. Humans resist change, but without it we don’t survive.  Not dismissing the stress… just saying we actually aren’t descended from the ancestors who didn’t change–we are descended from the ancestors who did. Change is literally part of and necessary for the creation of our DNA. Not saying change is comfortable or peaceful–but the evidence is in that it is inevitable.

Inevitable: That word always reminds me of Clayton (Claytie) Williams’ faux pas with Anne Richards. He lives just down the road–and is involved in yet another furor.  This one’s been going on a long time, and in fact, began when I was here in West Texas more than three years ago–pumping water out of the aquifers under Pecos County to supply the needs of Midland, TX, about 90 miles away. The ever-more-annoying droughts across the country are being blamed for everything–and water will only continue to get more precious as time goes on.  Someone will figure out how to blame it on oilfield fracking, I’m sure–but for now climate change is the culprit. Riparian and other water rights have led to all-out wars before, and it appears they will again.

Fetch:  I woke up this morning with this thought:  You cannot MAKE a dog fetch.  They either do, or they don’t. But they choose.  No matter how much you push, train, help, program, assist, insist.  You throw that stick, and they choose.  This is exactly what it feels like inside my head in terms of my creative impulses of late. I can (and do) make sure to prepare the ground to make it easy for them to express themselves, and that’s all I can do.  Perhaps this means I am not the artist I thought I was.  Or perhaps it means the exact opposite, I just never had time to indulge the impulses before.  Jury’s still out.

But, for the moment, the yawns are back, the SleepyTime tea has worked it’s minor magic, and I’m going back to bed, with lots said, but nothing actually settled.

59 – solitude, Sundays, serenity and pizza

oil change
changing her oil

Enjoying my Sunday morning peace, with husband, daughter and grandson snoozing away… it will be the only quiet in my day, unless I get a chance to crash for a bit this afternoon.  We’ve got a busy day planned – Kels plans to change the oil in her car up at her dad’s shop, as he’s got an oil change bay where she can walk under it instead of crawling under the car. While she’s doing that, her dad and I will be working on furniture–got one more end table to create, and an entertainment center.  If we have any lumber left over, we’ll probably make a bookcase. Love working at these things with my family.  All that’s missing is John… and he is missed!

But before we go up to the shop, we’re going to make some bread. This time, we’re going to split the recipe in half… Find the halved recipe here.  One half recipe will be done like we did it last time, for sandwich rolls.  When we’re mixing up the second half, though, we’re going to add Italian spices with a liberal hand.  Then we’re going to roll them out for pizza crusts, and if there’s enough left over, for a loaf of Italian herb bread… which makes the best garlic bread EVER.

Tyler and Grandpa headed to the shop
Tyler and Grandpa headed to the shop

After your first rise, punch the dough down and split into three pieces.  For the first one, just spray a loaf pan with cooking spray, shape the dough so it fits in the pan, cover it with plastic, and put it in a warm place to rise.  When it’s doubled in size, put it into a 425 degree oven on the top rack, and bake for 45 to 55 minutes.

The remaining two pieces should be rolled out to fit your pizza pan(s).  I usually make one rectangular, the size of my smallest cookie sheet, and then one round for my pizza pan.  If you want thinner crust, don’t let it rise again, just roll it out very thin and place on your pizza pan (which you’ve sprayed with cooking spray) and put into a 425 degree oven, on the top rack. Keep an eye on it after five minutes, and pull it out when the top is dry, but not brown. The bottom of the crust should be light brown.

pizza crusts
pizza crusts

For a thicker crust, you should allow it to rise after shaping, up to about a half-inch thick. The timing for baking the thicker crust is about 10 minutes.  Again, just bake it on the top rack until it’s dry on the top and light brown on the bottom. After the crusts have cooled, wrap them well in plastic wrap–you can store them in the refrigerator for up to a week, or the freezer if it’s going to be longer.

When you want garlic bread with your Italian meal, whether it’s pizza, spaghetti, fettucine alfredo, lasagna, whatever, take that loaf of herb bread out of the freezer or refrigerator and split it in half horizontally.  Mix together 4 tablespoons of softened butter, a couple of teaspoons of garlic powder and a quarter cup of ground Parmesan cheese. Spread the mixture on both sides of the split loaf, and broil until the buttered side is the desired brown. Broiling times vary from one stove to another, just keep an eye on it! Broilers are chancy, and will burn your bread in a hot minute if you’re not careful.

DSCN4841
Tyler chillin’ while his mama and grandma get some bread made.

I do love these moments before the day begins for everyone else… I hear a dove outside talking to her mate, and can hear it because we slept with the windows open last night.  It’s so nice to feel that safe again.  I’m off to get the bread going for the sandwich rolls, and will save the pizza dough for Kels to make. Will add pictures when we’re done… 😀

54 – highly divisible

I’ve been enjoying myself so much writing out the recipes in these blog pages that I decided to purchase a couple of domain names to give myself a place to post them.  I’m now the proud owner of reluctantcook.com and reluctantrecipes.com.  With these and my book review site, and of course, this site, I will be able to write to my heart’s content.

When I went to purchase the first of the domains, I ran across a site called reluctantgourmet.com, and that’s exactly the opposite of what I want to post.  It appears to be a place for the foodies to go to learn how to be a gourmand. My idea is a blog that has recipes for the non-pretentious.  It will be for those who don’t subscribe to the foodie outlook, but are tired of eating fast food.  People who want to eat and to make for their friends or significant other some regular people food… like tuna casserole, taco bake, enchiladas, fresh bread, home made pizza, spaghetti sauce.

The last post I put up was number 53, a prime number.  Have I mentioned that I’m kind of a numbers freak? Prime numbers always seem to set off a cascading set of changes, directions, movement.  Or maybe I’m just a geek.  Once I’ve put together a set of recipes, I’ll link the new site to this one. Such fun!

50 – don’t believe everything you think, the banality of everyday evil, and banana bread.

Look, I love being 50.  OK, 53. And a half. As much as I’ve learned through five decades plus, there is one thing I have always struggled with, and apparently always will.

dontbelieveeverythingyouthinkI’ve heard them called negative tapes, negative thoughts, many, many ways to think about these things that haunt us.  Not so much regrets, as just the low-level echoes of the voice we created for ourselves early. The one that speaks up when we’re self-conscious, or shy, or scared, or worried…or despairing.  The easiest way I’ve found to express it is the quote in the graphic.

“Don’t believe everything you think.”

Hard to do–we keep being told “you must love yourself, or you can’t love anyone else.”  And that voice that is such a part of our lives does not love us. For the religious, it’s the voice of the devil: “You’re too stupid to pass this test on your own, you might as well cheat.” For those who think in terms of electronics, it’s an infinite loop: “No one wants you, no one’s ever going to want you–you know you’re going to fail, and when you do, no one’s ever going to want you.”  For the self-help gurus, it’s the subconscious, to be fought with affirmations: “I am strong, I am invincible, I am…woman.” Or something like that.

Then, there’s the middle road through all of that.  Just don’t believe the voice. Easy to say, hard to do–in my more relaxed moments, that inner voice is Ethel, the keeper of all that is depressing. Britni’s relentlessly cheerful attitude is almost bearable when the alternative is Ethel, the schoolmarm, the one that assesses everything, and always finds a flaw. By the way – I’m not schizophrenic.  Probably.  And it’s not paranoia if they really are out to get you.

Voices to the side, If we let the banality of the everyday evil that haunts our self-assessments win, we spiral out and down, we burn out, and we feel we deserve to do so. We don’t.  No one deserves that.

If it will make you feel better, here’s a recipe for banana bread.  I got it from my best friend about thirty years ago. Friends, too, can help you assess those voices… and best friends can tell you that you’re full of crapola. It’s oddly helpful.

Banana Bread

Note:  Apparently, I just bring bananas home to die.  So, I throw overripe bananas in the freezer, where they will turn very dark. You don’t have to wrap them or anything, just leave them until you need them.  I pull them out to thaw when I pull the butter out to soften.  They will peel very easily.  The bananas’ flavor intensifies as they freeze.

Preheat the oven at 350 degrees.
Grease a loaf pan with a bit of butter, margarine or shortening.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened (one stick)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups of flour
  • 1 and 1/4 teaspoon of baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon of baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 cup (or three bananas) mashed
  • 1/2 cup of chopped nuts (Pecans are best, but you can use almonds, walnuts, or any other nut, just make sure to chop them–they absorb some of the moisture in the bread, and eating a big wet walnut is urky.)

Instructions

In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar, add eggs, beat, then all dry ingredients except nuts and beat until smooth.  Add bananas and nuts, fold them into the overall mixture.

Pour into a greased loaf pan, and bake at 350 degrees for 55 to 65 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

49 – hubris, hangtime and bread

I know it’s a little weird that so much of this blog has centered around baking bread… but it’s come to symbolize something for me–the things I do because I know that I don’t just want to do them, I NEED to do them for myself. And for my husband–we bought bread last week for the first time in a month.  Right after his first bite of the sandwich made with store-bought bread, he asked when I was going to start baking again.  I promised him I would when the bread that we bought was finished.

So, since there was just enough bread left to get through yesterday, knowing I’d be making bread this morning, I took yesterday OFF.  And I do mean off–it was the first day where I did nothing. And I mean, sitting in front of the TV watching Season 6 episode after episode of Law and Order, Criminal Intent, and crocheting mindlessly, absorbed in the stories in front of me. When you go on a Netflix bender, you only have like 20 seconds in between shows to run to the potty, grab another glass of iced tea and get back on the loveseat.

When Corey came in at lunch, he made his sandwich and brought it in to watch a little with me, and then went back out again before the next episode started.  About 4:30, I finally dragged myself off the loveseat, jumped in the shower, then went in the kitchen and washed all the dishes, then back to the living room to start another episode, which was where I was when he got home from work about 5:15. I put the episode on pause, put the rice together for dinner. Recipe departure for anyone who’s never cooked rice, skip to the next paragraph if you know how…

Rice for Two:

  • One cup of any rice–I prefer white long grain, but all the white ones cook pretty much the same.
  • Two cups of liquid–can be chicken stock, if you want it a little savory, water if you want it to be just a neutral side dish that you can eat with gravy or a cheese sauce.
  • One tablespoon of butter
  • Put rice, liquid and butter into a saucepan with a lid that fits well.
  • Put on medium to high heat until it comes to a boil.
  • Move to a burner at the back of the stove that you’ve got on low heat, and leave it alone for 20 minutes–don’t open the lid to check on it, just leave it alone! (My kind of side dish.)
  • Turn the burner off, if it’s gas, or move the pan off the heat if you’re on an electric stove.

After the 20 minutes, you can fluff it with a fork to eat it immediately if everything else is ready.  It will also wait for 5 or 10 minutes without too much change in the rice, if everything’s not ready yet. NOTE: These directions DO NOT WORK for wild rice or brown rice, which need a much longer cooking time, some of them up to 45 minutes.  Check the package while you’re still in the store…

And now… back to my story.

Well, never mind, making the rice was pretty much the highlight of my whole day. I’m tempted to mourn those hours I’ll never get back again, hours where I could have been writing the book that wins the Pulitzer Prize.

Or not.

Some days are just days.  Trying to learn how to relax.

But today, I’m making bread.  Because I want to.  Once you’ve moved over to making your own, store-bought tastes chalky and ick.  Plus, I get a lot of my aggression out in the kneading… 😀  You can find the last scaled-down bread recipe I used at 41 – Sunday morning is the next best thing.

Have a great Wednesday, yo, and best regards from the domestic front,

Lisa