Small Things 10-19-14

1.  Still coughing, considering actually seeing a doctor and asking, “Short of spending a long weekend in Arizona (which is what finally eliminated The Cough last year), is there anything I can do?” Not feeling hopeful, but really, so very tired of sounding like I have emphysema.

2.  It’s been an utterly glorious fall out there. Even the fallen leaves are technicolor – usually, by the time they let go they’re just brown. The weather seems to have finally rounded a corner, and I think we’re looking at cooler weather from here on out.  Not a bad thing.

3.  I am the proud new owner/wearer of bifocals.  And you know what? They rock.  Granted, they make me look like a somewhat bumbling librarian. But, they’re bright green on the inside, so Henry thinks I bought them so we can be ‘twins’ – though his are blue inside.  They’re a little disorienting at first when I put them on in the morning, and I still can’t really wear them when I’m walking for more than a few minutes, but really, I just need to get used to moving my head more than my eyes.  And the headaches are already better, which is awesome.  And you know what? I can see type again!  And street signs!  Leaves are not just a fiery blur overhead! Needlework!

Speaking of, I’m starting completely over the sweater for myself that I just finished.  Tried it on, and at least 2 of us could fit in here.  *sigh*.  When will I learn?  So, I’m ripping & knitting.  At least I already know the pattern & have my own errata written in the notes, so it’s easy this time around.  Still – two knittings for one sweater is getting to be a theme around here.  Should maybe pay more attention to gauge & measurements next time around…  Ah well.  It’ll be fun to knit this in XS – make me feel downright svelte as well as going a LOT faster!

4.  I let Henry come with me when I got my flu shot – figured it was good payback for his recent vaccinations.  Plus, I wanted him to see me not cry. He thought it was pretty cool, though his eyes did get very big when the needle went in!  (And I was very proud of myself for, well, not crying…)

5. It’s been a busy week – mostly attending to Hen’s social schedule – but I’ve been able to do some just-for-me things, too.  A new friendship, which is something I’ve needed.  And she likes to walk.  And our kids get along. And she lives less than half-a-mile down our street.  It’s so nice to have someone near by to chat with or exercise with or just to bring the kids over and let them entertain each other for a few while we catch up.  I hadn’t realized how much I missed that easy connection.  Also, other friends are making a real effort to get close, which is wonderful. They’re the parents of Hen’s best friend at school, and I’ve always liked them a lot. Plus, they’re only about half a mile the OTHER way down our street.  I feel incredibly fortunate in the friends I’ve been able to find in this small town.  Given how prickly I can be, and how counter to our neighbors’ outspoken politics we are, what are the chances? Very lucky to have found them. This town is finally starting to feel like home (as opposed to just ‘the place we live’)

Small Things 10-15-14

1.  Sick with the traditional “my kid’s back in school cough”.  No biggie, just no fun.  *cough cough cough*

2.  Of course, that got overshadowed by the sudden and rather horrific health catastrophes facing my cousin’s wife.  We’re not close, but I went to college with her. We heard last week that she has a brain tumor. She went in for surgery pretty much immediately, and has been in a medically induced coma for a week now, trying to heal enough to wake up.  Her mother just died a month ago, and life was just settling down enough for Cyndi to take care of the ‘pesky sinus infection she just couldn’t shake’.

And no, we aren’t close – save in age, experience, common loved ones, etc. But damn, I’m completely knocked back by this, reminded – always reminded – to hug my loved ones close, and to weep for hers. If you’re the praying sort, say a word for my cousin’s wife Cyndi and their kids.

It feels like too much of my family – both distant and near – are facing rather huge health challenges right now.  Life feels very fragile and precarious right now.  As it should feel, I suppose.  For it is.  And that is the challenge, of course.  Remembering to LIVE every single day as if your days were numbered – because they certainly are.

3.  That said, my OWN headaches are merely the result of middle-aged eyes finally refusing to do what they’re supposed to do.  Glasses arrive next week – I hope. It’ll be nice not to be squinting at absolutely everything.

4.  Off to Brooklyn for a weekend of fun, family, and food.  I initially mistyped that as ‘faun, family, and food’ which would also be awesome, but not really what’s in store.  No fauns.  Fresh out of satyrs in NYC, though since Comic Con is this week, maybe I shouldn’t be so hasty to rule anything out.  We will, sadly, not be attending.  This is a family weekend.  I might squeeze in a trip to IKEA.  Or eat really excellent Chinese food.  I can almost guarantee that a couple of hundred trips to the park will be in order for the little boy to get his running in.  Cough drops packed?  Check.

5.  I’m writing.  Quite happily, which is a nice change.  Still have the old manuscript out with a few agents, but not feeling super-hopeful that I’ll ever be finishing that story.  So it’s nice that my brain was willing to move on to a new one so readily.  The LDS church was good enough to mail me a copy of the book of Mormon in English, and another in Diné.  Probably the only time they’ve ever filled that particular order for someone in New Hampshire, is what I’m thinking.


Book Review – The New Indian Slow Cooker by Neela Paniz



Ok, so anyone who knows me, knows my slow cooker rarely gets put away in the winter months.  They also know that I lovelovelove spicy food, particularly spicy Indian food.  So when I was offered the chance to review this book I jumped at it.

Neela Paniz is also the author of The Bombay Cafe, so I was intrigued to see what she would have to say in The New Indian Slow Cooker.  Oh my.  I’ll confess, I’ve had this book for over a month now, and I kept putting off this review because “I want to try just one more recipe first!” I think I’ve finally decided that I’m not going to be able to cook ALL the recipes before I write this, but understand it’s not through lack of trying!

The recipes I’ve cooked so far have been perfect – easy to put together, with authentic (but not overly difficult to source) ingredients that make a world of difference. Couple this with an easy cooking method that means I might actually cook my favorite cuisine more often than once a year?  Oh yes please!  I’ve only made two dishes so far, “Cauliflower with ginger & cumin”, and “Brown(ed) Lentils with onions, tomatoes, and ginger.” I have my eye on a half-dozen more, with shopping lists made out for the next time I’m near the international grocery (which is about 45 minutes away,) and I’m looking forward to them much the same way I might look forward to going out to a restaurant where I have not yet chosen my favorite go-to dish because EVERYTHING’S so good.

Other than a few obvious typos like the one noted above (it’s brown lentils, not lentils which are browned–somehow–on the stove), the directions are simple, straightforward, and I really appreciated the separate discussion of ingredients – it made going off in search of unfamiliar ingredients much easier when I had an alternate item to search for (amchur) when I failed to find it labeled with the English translation (green mango powder).  Yes.  Chicken curry with green mango powder is actually next on my list of meals to try.

I also appreciated the fact that despite this being a cookbook specifically for use with a slow cooker, the author includes many dishes/accompaniments where the use of a slow-cooker isn’t necessary or even possible.  Raita, yogurt, chutneys, paneer – all important parts of a meal, and although I already have my own recipes for many of these things, I thought it added to the book’s usefulness that she included recipes for anyone who might not have a shelf full of Indian cookbooks already!

The photography is lovely.  Mouthwatering, in fact. The brief anecdotes never take attention away from the recipes themselves (something I occasionally notice & am annoyed by in otherwise-lovely cookbooks.) and I honestly think I might cook my way through this entire book – something I’ve only done a handful of times.

Go out.  Buy the book.  Locate your nearest import grocery store.  Dust off that slow-cooker (it IS autumn, after all.)

Buy food.  Cook food.  EAT FOOD!!!

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Small Things 9-21-14

1.  My, oh my how that time does fly.  Seriously, I knew the end of summer would be nuts, but it’s been like, a month and a half.  Sorry about that.  Traveling, celebrating weddings & birthdays & the start of school.  Working and playing and, well, just a whole lot of living.  Ain’t gonna be sorry about that.  Nope.

2.  Let’s see – Hen is 4.  Wow.  Let me try that again.  Henry is four years old.

Nope. Didn’t sound any more possible that time either.

Birthday party was yesterday.  A little affair for, oh, say, 20 of his closest friends and their parents.  This was big for me.  See, I don’t really ‘entertain’.  I’m a bit frightened of people in large crowds, even when (especially when) I’m the hostess.  What if they turn on me? What if the decorations are universally disliked? What if they eat my brains?????  Ahem.  None of that happened. A good time was, I think, had by all.  And the birthday boy had no idea that guests traditionally bring presentses, so he was full of goodwill toward the world when child after child handed him a wrapped gift.  Seriously, we’re going to have to revamp our toy storage policies posthaste.

But it went well, and I did my duty as ‘mother of the child in preschool with the earliest birthday’ by inviting everyone and giving everyone a chance to meet & chat up everyone else.  Whew.  Next year it’s five kids max, and we’re holding it at Chuck E. Cheese or something similarly vile.

3.  Chickies are delightful.  They’ve completely won over the neighbor who was iffy about the whole concept. In fact, she feeds them and calls for them when she goes outside, just like we do.  Most. Spoiled. Pet. Chickens. Ever.

And 4 of the 5 are happily productive members of society, providing eggsies for us (& the nice neighbor) to eat every day.  Still waiting on Miss Lilly, who’s taking her sweet time about maturing, but really, we’ve got plenty, so I’m not desperate for her to get with the program.  It’s all good.

4.  Manuscript is out with two new agents, which is keeping me refreshing my email rather more often than is sane normal, but it’s all good.  A bit of suspense to keep the creative juices flowing, etc. etc.  And in the meantime, New Book is coming along nicely, if I do say so myself.

5.  Stepdaughter’s wedding which–I must admit–I was dreading the hell out of since her mother’s freakout on the occasion of her sister’s wedding at the same venue 2 years before, turned out to be quite nice and non-confrontational.

It helped that my ‘date’ – a certain 4-year-old charmer – looked simply smashing in his pint-sized blazer and tie.  And we danced the night away. At least until he fell asleep in my arms.

Truly – dancing crazy with your young son at an uncomfortable wedding is the best way to forget one’s worries.  Can’t no one worry while boogying to the Beatles with a 4-year-old.

He’s a hell of a dancer.  Gets that from his dad.

6.  And I’ll try to check in more often.  I’ve really been slacking.  Sorry about that.  Now that the party is over (whew.) real life can pick up again and honestly, I’m rather looking forward to settling back into my comfy routine!

Small Things 8-10-14

1.  I had the chance to eat lunch with (and pick the brain of) an incredible agent today.  She was gracious, incredibly informative AND interesting. Also, the restaurant she recommended has moved to the top of my ‘go there while we are in Brooklyn’ list. So yay.

And I was able to spend much of the car ride home brainstorming and pondering newbook, since the Child was so sleepy that he, well, slept almost all the way home.

2.  And then waiting for us here? An incredible, signed, personalized, and doodled-in-by-the-author copy of Llama-Llama Red Pajama for my little llama-loving boy. His Aunt found him something he is going to treasure for the rest of his life.  Thank you Aunt Leigh!

3.  Two and a half eggs waiting for us after our 36 hour there-&-back-again trip.  I say ‘1/2′ because one of them was obviously a practice effort.  ie: it was pretty much lacking a shell.  This is not uncommon for new layers’ bodies to kind of get it wrong a few times. Gross, but normal.  And what it means is: We’ve got another layer!  Woohooo!!!

4.  I was able to spend Saturday afternoon with a dear friend & her almost-two-year-old. The Boy Child adored her, and they played happily together the whole time.  When it was time for us to go, she tackled him–she being half his size–laid on top of him, and lisped the words, “I love you.”


And I think he fully reciprocates it.  He has a very tender spot in his tender heart for younger kids.  In fact, when I asked him who he’d like to invite over this week for a playdate, a new 18-month-old friend (who shares his passion for trucks–or Zoom-zooms, as little M calls them) was his first choice.  Which makes my heart happy.  Because honestly, like every mother, I want him to be successful & challenged in his chosen profession, to work hard and try his best. And of course I want him to be happy.  But really, I will consider myself almost unbearably blessed if people who know him, know him to be a kind person.

5.  New books to read, and I owe the world a rave-review of the quartet by Mary Robinette Kowal that I just finished (OMG, so much fun!) but for now, I’m tired, and sleepy, and have a week’s worth of grocery-shopping, cleaning, and such to accomplish in the next two days before we head off on our next big adventure.  So, off to bed, to read, and then (very soon!) to dream.


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Small Things 7-31-14

1.  Today is a momentous day because:


Also tomato, but really, I’m stoked about the egg.  Deposited right in the nest box where I’d prefer to find them.  Cute as a button.  So pleased.

2.  Spent the morning at the beach of a local pond with Hen’s old playgroup friends.  Last year we really didn’t get to go because of the arm cast. The year before that, Hen was still deeply distrustful of water in general. This year?

This year, the three ‘old guard’ who’ve been in this group forever, were swimming like fish, diving under the water, swimming out to the floating dock to jump off. They were playing silly games “Swim! Swim away from the shark!” And they were showing off for each other and all the mommies.

Time is moving on, and a morning like this–in a familiar place, with an unfamiliarly mature boy–just reminds me.


3.  Heading to Connecticut to visit Hen’s sister, niece, and grandparents (and any assorted cousins & aunts we can convince to join us.) We’re excited because grandbaby. Hen’s excited because of the swimming pool!

4.  Going out to the clam shop for dinner because we haven’t done it yet this summer, and hell, the summer’s slipping away from us. We’re away every weekend from now til the middle of September, and it’s all good, but I know this last month’s going to fly away before I know it.

5.  (Did I mention


Small Things 7-30-14

1.  Chickens tried to follow us on our daily dog walk.  Onto the main street in our little town.  Um, no. That didn’t work.  It’s nice to be adored (for the mealworm treats we give them!) but it would be even nicer if I didn’t have to cut short our walk because the chickens wanted to cross the road.

Bad jokes may commence, um, now

2.  We joined a local C(ommunity) S(upported) A(griculture) program, and so far I’m loving the challenge of receiving bags of produce I didn’t handpick for our family.  4 kirby cucumbers? Challenge accepted, and I think I get to level up since I just made my first batch of quick refrigerator pickles and they’re delicious.  Head of lettuce? Ugh, fine, we’ll eat SALAD–never my fave–but I’ll dress it up with a purple bell pepper!  And the corn will go nicely with tonight’s swordfish.  And the kiddo & I pretty much ended the pint of blueberries we were given, so I suppose we should really save the peaches for my husband who-loves-peaches-above-all-things.  Plus, this little farm sells Hatch’s Green Enchilada sauce for a full $.75 a can less than Whole Foods, so let’s get a great big ‘yay’ going for that one.  They also sell local cheese–mozzarella with our tomatoes next month, here we come!–and we’re already buying our milk locally.

Still haven’t really managed to source out our meat from this area, but our fish is caught nearby, and we’re doing pretty well with everything else.  Here’s to eating locally!

3.  On that note, I finally had to stake up the tomato cages–which is good.  Means there’s enough  plant there to actually produce tomatoes.  I have one ready to pick tomorrow, and I. Can’t. Wait.

4.  I’ve been running–(ok, I’ve been walking with intermittent bursts of painfully slow jogging).  But it’s good.  I’m feeling good–better about myself and my complete lack of motivation to do anything physical besides pulling weeds (which, granted, can get pretty physical when they’re as big as I’ve let them get in a few of the garden paths!)  So I’m doing better.  I’m planning on sticking with it as long as the lack-of-snow cooperates, and I’m even considering a gym membership for when the snows arrive.  See?  I can be a responsible adult and take charge of my own health.

5.  I mentioned that I’m in the research stages of writing a new book, and how much fun it is for me to be starting something entirely new.  I’m setting this book in the future, along the banks of the Colorado River, in an imagined set of societies loosely based on current populations.  And to that end, I’m trying to incorporate some Diné words & concepts.  Way back in my college days, I took a year of Navajo Language–which was far & away the most interesting class of any sort that I enjoyed during my undergrad days. Because it was–by necessity, the culture is intrinsically bound up in the language–an absolute glorious mess.

I dug out my old photocopied dictionary–back in the day there was no such thing as Google Books to give access to out of print stuff, so the teacher would just xerox her materials.  And I’m looking at the notes I scribbled all over it (and noticed how different my handwriting was before the broken arm!) and remembering how interesting it was to get such an indepth look at another world–because that’s what it felt like, another world living in tandem with the one I’m familiar with.

And that’s a little bit of what I’m trying for in this book, to recapture a bit of that shock and delight that ‘there’s another entirely different world view that I never even knew about right here!”

Let’s see if I manage to get any of that into the book.  If I do, it’s going to be awesome.


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Small Things 7-25-14

1.  My son mentioned in “casual” passing that the real word for ‘ants’ is “Phlemegish”

Well.  I’m all for being taught that a chrysalis is another word for a cocoon, or that red + blue make purple–which is also called violet, Mommy! But Phlemegish?  Um, no.

(Just to be sure, I checked the Latin (formicae) and asked if perhaps he remembered it wrong–No, Mommy, it’s Phlemegish.)

So today, his last day of school-camp, I learned the truth–his teacher apparently grew up in a Portugese-speaking household, and accidentally taught the kids the Portugese word “Fomigas” which she pronounces pretty much exactly like ‘Phlemegish”.  Ok.  Mommy’s been schooled, and my son is very proud of himself for knowing something I didn’t…

2.  We washed the dog yesterday – as a family.  The dog only gets bathed when she needs it, but she’s been rolling in earthworms since the rain a few days ago (I know–it’s a thing, apparently. Weird dog.) and she stank.  So into the tub.  Husband & I were less-than-thrilled; the dog thought we were torturing her;  but the kiddo wants to know when we can do it again.  Ah, the joys of being 3!

3.  Starting a new book, rather than book 2 of the trilogy.  Which is sort of fun–it’s been a while since I began a new book from scratch.  And this one is from an idea I’ve had floating around in the back of my mind for a while now.  The fun part is researching historical Utah names, both Diné, and LDS.  I imagine researching for historical fiction must be a bitch–there’s an awful lot to get right. But when you’re just using the research as a jumping off point for something set in the far future? Then it becomes an incredibly amusing rabbit hole to tumble down into.  The Internets are fun.

4.  I’ve spent this last (glorious! blessed!) week of 2+ hours of babysitting school-camp getting in a jog/walk 4 days out of the five.  It’s made a huge difference in my attitude, and I really need to find a way to keep doing it, even when he is not being entertained elsewhere.  Wet pine needle-scent, and an oak tree covered with galls. Mushrooms everywhere. The green marbles of concord grapes about 2 months before they ripen.  A deer that bounded onto the road, then bounded back when she saw me – to be with another adult, and a wee baby fawn.  I’m not a huge fan of deer in general, but I make an exception for baby critters.  Broken nuts absolutely covering the road underfoot beneath two trees–there must be a bird or a squirrel that’s been busy this summer–and best of all, a bit of music that isn’t child-friendly, a bit of movement that feels like it’s doing me some good, and a bit of time to do something just for me.

May the snow come late this year.

5.  I found this year’s garden toad, which always makes me happy.  They are such unlovely little creatures, with the most astoundingly gorgeous eyes.  And the way they move makes me laugh.  And I suppose they’re good at catching bad garden bugs, but really, I just like to look at them.  Glad to have a toad this year. I was beginning to wonder if this was going to be a toad-free summer.

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Small Things 7-23-14

1.  Sigh.  Dream agent passed on my manuscript which is disappointing–obviously–but not too surprising.

It’s still out at a few agents–but I’m feeling less hopeful, I have to admit.  Some novels just never make it into print, much as their writers hope otherwise.

So I’ll have a little cry, and then I’ll dust off my precious snowflakey self, (Although I may still sniffle a little bit when no one’s listening, I promise not to inflict any more of this on my gentle blog-readers) and try to write an even better book next time.


2.  The kiddo continues to confuse the words “Woodchuck” and “Warthog” which makes for interesting reports on the state of the garden.  ie: “Mommy, I think the warthog’s been in the zucchini patch again…”

3.  So many outdoor projects, so little time before autumn.  Still waiting to see if we’ll have a productive tomato year before frost (I think we will) it was encouraging to have to stake the tomato cages to the uprights today.  The plants are growing, at least, even if we have fewer green tomatoes on the plants than last year.

4.  The kiddo’s favorite game is still “I’m pretending you don’t know anything, Little Baby.”  The upside of this is that I can manipulate him into giving me almost any answer I want if I word it correctly.  He does like to prove me wrong and ignorant!

5.  Only another week and a half until we get to turn the calendar page.  Not normally something worth celebrating, but since the family calendar that my FIL puts together each year featured the kiddo’s ambulance ride from last July, I’ll be well & truly happy to move on from that. Not as fond a memory for me as it is for the little one!

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Small Things 7-21-14

1.  I have a fondness for feral things.  I grow clementines from that one heavily seeded one I found in a box of ‘normals’ last winter (I have something like 20 little 6″ citrus trees right now. Anyone want one?) I tend to root for the coyotes in any interaction with tame things (even when they’re tame things I rather like.) And I find myself completely unwilling to uproot feral tomatoes.

Which would be awesome if ALL my tomatoes were heirlooms.  But sadly, most of my most prolific reseeders are sungolds and hybrid sauce tomatoes–which means sometimes the feral ones are awesome, and sometimes they taste like nothing-at-all.  I planted about 30 tomatoes this year, but I’d guess that I have closer to 100 plants out there.  Three all the way out in my raspberry patch (I’ll bet it’s a sungold, plucked and subsequently dropped by a large bird).  Several in the gravel walkways between beds.  Dozens coming up randomly in the beds themselves.

I’ll need to do something about this tendency of mine next year, I suspect, lest ALL my planting space be given over to feral tomatoes.  But for the moment, I just give those outliers a little water, and let them be.  It’s a hard world out there for a tomato plant.  No need for me to make it any harder.

2.  Email from dream agent which began with (and which first line was all that showed up in my email preview) “My sincere apologies…” And after the world went black from the weight of ALL the dejection in the world settling in a pool in my brain and basically drowning my optic nerves, I read on & realized she was actually apologizing for not having yet gotten around to reading my ms.

Dream agent just got a whole lot dreamier.  *sigh*  And, damn, I do really hope they like my book. (Though even if they don’t, they’ll STILL be my dream agent based on how considerate today’s email was.  Seriously.  Agents don’t tend to DO things like that.  *sigh*)

3.  The kiddo had his first day of preschool ‘camp’ today, and while Real Bunny did not, in the end, stay at home, little boy was also not particularly interested when I came to pick him up–since he was having such a marvelous time he’d just as soon have stayed, thank you very much.  I am the proud owner of a lovely macaroni necklace–red because he knows it’s my favorite color (?)  The day kind of went downhill from there (Oh, electricians, there’s a REASON I did not want you to be installing the ceiling fan in my son’s room at naptime.  Hence my insistence on a morning appointment & my dismay when you insisted I had agreed to a 1pm appointment instead!) but it ended with ‘a million and one kisses, mama,’ as all my best days do.

And as Lilly (of the Purple Plastic Purse) knows, “Today was a difficult day. Tomorrow will be better.”

4.  There was a lot of zucchini pulled from the garden over the weekend. Yesterday, in fact, was dedicated entirely to making stuff out of zucchini.  Bread, cake, gratin, shredded for winter-baking, roasted.  There will be fritters tomorrow, perhaps.  Stir fry the day after that.  They’re still winning, I think, though I didn’t have the heart to bring in any more after having just cleared my countertop. Anyone want some zucchini? Please? Please?

5.  Kiddo’s first day of school-camp also meant I was able to get out of the house for a 40 minute walk/jog this morning.  This is something that needs to happen more regularly for my health and happiness.  It felt–well, not exactly good. The first day of a new exercise regimen never feels good. But at least it felt virtuous.  I’ll settle for virtuous.