Friday, February 27, 2009

Hangover Lite

Even though I’m not in school anymore and I’m not technically working, at least in the drawing a paycheck sense (unemployed English major in Michigan, there’s a shocker. I knew I should have gone into tool and die or welding), I still give myself deadlines. I like to have an idea when I’ll have a project done. The problem with that is when I run out of ideas two days before a self-imposed deadline. I’ve come leaps and bounds with the second Taylor book this week, but of course there are two days until my deadline and I’m stuck on how to make the final fight scene go. I have notes, so basically, I need to quit whining and get to work.

We had rain and some thunderstorms last night. Gram’s dog, Molly, is staying with us while Gram is in Ohio and Florida (and no I have no envy of her going to Florida. The barn yard may be a mucky muddy shitty mess, but I’d rather walk through it barefoot and wrangle hoses than go vacationing in Florida). Anyway, rant over, Molly is scared of thunderstorms. She is also scared of me. Apparently, she’s more frightened of storms than me, especially since she got part of my pork sandwich the other night and a whole leftover piece of fish last night, because she wandered upstairs last night to sleep in my bed and cower from the storm. Since Zip has given up sleeping with me, I guess I thrash and kick, though he’s been a little reluctant to tell it to me straight, it was actually nice to cuddle with a dog. Even if it’s a little rat dog who’s just kissing ass so she has a warm place to sleep. This morning she’s ignoring me again, unless she needs something, so it’s kind of like a one-night stand. Minus the guilt and hangover.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Mushrooms and mayhem (No, not those kind of mushrooms! Jeeze.)

Philip Pullman’s Tiger in the Well totally rocks. It starts out slow and a little confusing, but after the second book, I could hardly put it down, like I fell asleep at midnight last night with it open on my chest, struggling to make it through the last hundred pages, woke up this morning and headed down for cereal with the book open. Trickster’s Choice by Tamora Pierce was good too, very nice change from my usual reading. And Susan Minot’s book, Rapture, I kid you not, is a story about a blow job. Actually, it’s about relationships, Minot’s stories usually are, this one though is centered around a blow job. I mean, how cool is that? I guess it’s not if you’re not into that kind of thing, but the relationship between these two people is told during sex and it’s very skillfully done as the narrator weaves in and out of these two people’s minds, introducing other characters, and taking them to exotic places when they actually never leave the same position on the bed.

So when I wasn’t being morally deranged this weekend, I made my famous chocolate chip cookies (look on the back of the Tollhouse bag and add milk chocolate, dark chocolate, and butterscotch chips, and throw in some toffee bits for chewiness) and a new recipe from Italian Stuffed Mushrooms and boy were they good. I didn’t use the stuffing mushrooms, but substituted portabellas and used homemade dried tomatoes instead of sun-dried, since that’s what I had on hand, but they ended up awesome. Dad liked both mozzarella cheese and parmesan on top. I’d suggest a mix of the two for sticky oozy goodness and the sharp parm flavor. So those are my cooking tips for the year and thank the computer gods for spell check or that would have been really hard to read. My foreign language skills suck.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Wish I was better at clever titles

I can’t believe how fast February is going. Seems like it just started, despite the wintery conditions that so many are bitching about. I’m savoring it when I can, remembering that in June, out on an open station tractor, I’ll remember how nice it was to have to wear so many clothes.

Dad and I powered through the snow today to deliver Gram to my aunt in Toledo. We meet half-way when Gram goes visiting my aunt and cousins so no one has to drive the entire 5-6 hours twice. It was… exciting… driving today, with slick snowy-slush on the road. We only saw a couple cars in the ditch, but most slid around and a couple had accidents. It didn’t look like anything serious, but even so we were glad to be home. I still want to know where that damn maid gets to. She’s supposed to do the laundry, dishes, and, most importantly, the grocery shopping. Have to fire that girl when I see her. :-)

Speaking of Dad, he actually came up with the main blog topic for today: water. He watches a lot of PBS and the other night they showed a documentary called Liquid Assets that explored the infrastructure of water, sewage, and stormwater across the US. Interestingly enough, I’d been reading about water and sewage in Victorian London and shared the extremely unsanitary conditions with Dad, who after watching the film decided that we’re only about twenty years out of dumping our chamber pots in the river. Along with fun glowy carcinogenic chemicals. Dad also said that according to family legend, in 1901, my grandfather’s grandfather pulled his flat bottom boat out of the Grand River (which is less than a mile from the family homestead) and said the river was too polluted to eat the fish out of it, in his opinion. But then, we’re just dumb farmers. What do we know about taking care of the environment?

Thursday, February 19, 2009

What is the appropriate behavior?

"What is the appropriate behavior for a man or a woman in the midst of this world, where each person is clinging to his piece of debris? What's the proper salutation between people as they pass each other in this flood?Buddha"

It’s been a productive few days with Taylor, camped out at the kitchen counter, beer or water on one side and colored pens and atlases on the other. Now I’m switching gears for a viewing, or wake, or whatever you call it, tonight.

One of the last old farmers in our community passed away this week and his pre-funeral thing is tonight. I’m never sure what to call it. A gathering? A wake has booze and this isn’t that. Opportunity to pay our respects? That’s incredibly long. Whatever it is, I'll settle on visitation, we’re going tonight and the funeral is tomorrow. Gram hasn’t decided if she wants to go or not, but I offered to take her if she did.

The wind has blown all day and it’s been incredibly cold, according to Dad. There wasn’t much anything for me to do at the farm, so I wrote while he checked things and watered. Windy enough to drive you to distraction, was what Dad called it. Seed catalogs are garden plans are comforting on days like this. If for no other reason than to recall what warm earth and green, growing things smell like.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The chicken goes cluck-cluck. (Unless it goes ARRRKK!)

So Dad and I have decided to raise chickens. Get ready for comedy. I never knew there was that much to it, even growing up on a farm and in fact chasing chickens around when I still cried over getting pulled down off high gates. (Yeah, I know, Joe had to do that just last week, but still…) There’s what breed to get, what kind of housing, layers or fryers or both, organic, semi-organic, or factory farmed. All the confusing decisions I make over which kind of eggs to buy in the grocery store seem to compound when contemplating our new chicken endeavor. We agree we want them outside and would like a mix of layers and fryers. But the kind of fencing, permanent or moveable coop, all that kind of shit, indeed what to do with the shit, are almost overwhelming in their options. That must be the great thing and awful thing about chickens: how versatile they really are.

Gram is going to have a fit.

Just wait until Dad brings home the two piglets. She’ll move to Ohio with my aunt and cousins.

But Dad and I are really excited. Chickens bring a whole new element to our ever-changing holistic farm plan. I can’t wait to let the chickens mulch the manure pile and garden. I’m lazy, so the more fertilization and composting the damn chickens can do, the more excited I am. And all the food scraps will have a home. And hopefully the chickens help with insects and stuff around the farm, like mites and midges that hassle the cattle and horses in the summer, that kind of thing. Besides, the best part, baby chicks. They are soooooo cute! Maybe I can get Dad talked into some ducks next… ;-)

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Genius is more often found in a cracked pot than in a whole one. (E.B. White)

A really nice day out today. Appreciate it even more since the next few days are supposed to get nasty again. The calves keep getting out tonight. Gram has called me twice to put them back in. The bitch of it is, by the time I get there, the calf that was out is back in and a new one is out in its place. They do it just to mess with me, I know they do. Just like when they stand in a line in numerical order, their birth order. And they stare at me, all cute, like “What?” They know what. Whoever said cows are dumb never hung with this crew. Mutiny I tell ya.

I’ve been seriously abusing this winter. Great site for those avid readers out there. You become a member, post the books you don’t want anymore, get points when people order a book from you, send that book out, and use the point to get a book sent to you that you actually want. I’m cheap when it comes to books since I go through so many. Repeat after me, swapping books and libraries are my friends. And when you get done with the book you ordered, if you don’t want it, you post it back on your list and send it on down the line. Genius. Except there are a lot of books that go fast and more rare authors are hard to come by. But John Grisham and Nora Roberts fans rejoice. So, there’s the plug of the day. Check it out, try it out, don’t marry it like I did (and I have the blue topaz ring to prove it, or at least a claddagh ring to indicate a serious relationship with it). :-)

The Sword of Truth series by Terry Goodkind has been my constant companion the past few days. I’ve been reading the series since high school, when a boyfriend at the time recommended it to me (the last guy I dated until the current one who knew books weren’t just for propping up a table). I hadn’t kept up with the last four books to come out (it’s an eleven or twelve book series), but one happened to be on my bookshelf and I was bored, so I picked it up and whoosh! I was off to lands far, far away and just as carried away as I’d been by it before. The series, like Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time, has caught flack for being too long, taking a long damn time to get where it’s going. It might. It might get long winded. It might be a mite overdramatized. But who cares? It’s an entertaining story with characters that act like adults. It has all the elements a fantasy novel should have, a good dose of reality, and really keeps you reading. Isn’t that, after all, the main goal of storytelling? A warning, however, it’s not a series for hesitant readers, but it’s been, for me, something to grow into.

After reading Twilight, I got thinking about books I enjoyed when I was in that reading age group. Most of them had really strong heroines. Tamora Pierce is still someone I like to read, even more so after starting to read her blog, Dare to be Stupid. (What a great title. I love it.) Of course, Harry Potter and Ruby in the Smoke by Philip Pullman probably would have made the list. American Girl stories and, oddly enough, Diana Gabaldon, hit me about 14-16. I also recently heard that Kim Harrison, a vampire/fantasy writer, has branched out from the adult genre into YA.

So those are my bookish observations for the day. And now that it’s dark, hopefully my calves don’t decide to play in traffic. Chaos. Absolute chaos.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Common sense is not so common (Voltaire).

Tip of the day, or rather from last night. If you have a candle that leans to one side, because you, say, left it over the radiator and it melted all lopsided, if you decide to burn it, propping it up on the melted side with a book of matches, don’t move said candle until after the wax hardens. All the sites recommend using an iron and a paper bag to remove hardened wax from the carpeting. I don’t iron. But it looks like now, I do. (Don’t tell my dad. He’s a lot touchy about the state of the carpet, surprising for a man who doesn’t care how badly I rut up the lawn.)

On the up side, the great hell day (Valentine’s Day) is over for another year. It actually wasn’t that bad this year though. A friend of mine and I once agreed that pink is not a color: it’s a mental disease. So a holiday with pink hearts just seems insane to me. But this year was pretty good and I kept snide remarks about it to a minimum. My honey and I slept in and then I took him out to lunch, since he’d nearly broken the bank paying for beer the night before. (Yeah, sleeping in isn’t nearly as romantic as it sounds when the reason you don’t get up is due to the headache that is sure to knock you flat on your ass as soon as your head goes vertical.) But Dad and I got each other valentines and I think it’s really great when a father and daughter can still share that special daddy-daughter relationship even when the daughter has hits twenty-something.

The past week was a great distraction from working on the book, even though Dana and I talked about submissions for the first book and flaws in the second book at great length and I went into major research mode. I’ve been doing a lot of reading for another project and of course mulling over the issues, mostly character motivation and how the magic works, for Taylor #2. Today I started back in with the edits. I just can’t leave the damn thing alone.

Dad’s on his once-a-year bowling gig today. Neither one of us are great sportspeople. Unless you count horses. We rock out then. He goes out bowling with the guys once a year, whether he needs to or not, he says. This was after cutting firewood this morning. He’s gonna be beat tonight, since we still have night chores to do. I don’t even try to bowl anymore since I have no style, as Dad says, or if I do it consists mostly of hurling the ball as far down the lane as possible, it landing with a loud crack, slamming into the gutter, and missing all the pins. And I’m not thinking the weight of the ball is an issue since I seem to do the same with a 30 pounder as a 15. Especially after doing square bales for a week. Got my high score that time. A whole 18 point game. Yeah, get me on a horse anyday. It's safer.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Spring? Dare we hope?

The cold snap has finally broken. I’m too much a northerner to believe that this thaw is the first gasp of spring, well and truly. After all, my grandmother still has stories of snow in May. But the two foot of snow has turned into three times as much water and the cattle water melts during the day. It’s been a long hard bitch riding out the winter this year, and I’m not one to complain about cold. I notice it, but I much prefer it to 98 degrees and that much humidity. It’s good to feel heat from the sun again, have blue skies, and feel a cool breeze on your face that doesn’t steal the air from your lungs.

We went and saw Patricia Briggs read and answer questions on her new book Bone Crossed last night in Ann Arbor. I’ve loved her writing since I was mid-teens, so it was awesome to see her in person. She really seems lovely and I can see why her writing is so good. We didn’t stick around for the signing, I was getting cagey being around so many people in close quarters, and we had an hour and a half trip home, so we met Joe for beer instead. :-) Priorities ya know. I took a long weekend after finishing the roughest rough draft ever on the second Taylor book, which has involved shopping and reading. And laundry. My aunt and uncle were up this weekend so a family dinner was in there as well. Dana came too [by the way, Kathy, if you want to get in touch with my mom, I can email you her contact info], which was interesting. But I guess it’s always good when ex-families get along.

So today is kinda slow, the first day semi-back to work after a long weekend. I have writing group tonight and I think I’m helping Dad and his cousin dump sap buckets for making maple syrup. Help is always there the first few days, but where do all the volunteers go? So if there are profuse amounts of beer involved in sap gathering, it might be more prudent not to drive into the mall. We’ll see. It’s pretty cool though. My great-grandfather, Lewis, set up the sugar shack on the back of his farm and they still use most of his gear (washed of course) and the shack all these years later. Grampa Lewis died just a few years before I was born, but everyone says he would have gotten a kick out of the fact that we still use his setup.

P.S. I read Twilight by Stephanie Meyer over the weekend. Am I the only one on earth who thinks it’s… ah-hem… not that great?

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Weekly Recap (again)

Wow, I been slackin’ on my bloggin’ this week. The week has gone by fast and that’s my only excuse. I didn’t write anything all weekend and have gotten 3,000 words a day the last three days. Today’s looking good for meeting word count too, but I’ll keep my fingers crossed. I think I pissed off the muse yesterday. Didn’t come out to party until about 11:30 last night. On the up side, it only took me an hour or so to get all my words but on the downside I spent the whole day up until then stomping around, sighing, and pounding my arms in the air. Tortured artist’s syndrome or some shit.

It’s been really cold the last few days. Like 5 degrees. This weekend wasn’t bad and we got our horseback ride in, as seen in the subsequent blog I wrote but failed to post for Monday. I’ve noticed that for me at least blogging is like working out. Miss a Monday, screw up the whole week. And speaking of Monday...

We watched most of the Superbowl last night. How ‘bout that run? I’ve actually never sat and watched a Superbowl before. I’ve never really watched an entire football game before. Well, except in high school. I went a few times to watch a guy I knew play. Not a big sports fan. I don’t understand most of them, except hockey. I don’t understand hockey either, but I enjoy watching it and have since my first years of college.

It was good to have some better weather this weekend. We got some ice buildup out of the stock tanks and got in a good ride on Sunday. It’s been good to see the sun, feel some heat from it. I think we all knew Phil the groundhog would see his shadow today. I would too if a guy in a top hat pulled me out of my nice warm den in the beginning of February. So all accounts seem to indicate that winter will last another six months. The cows won’t care unless they run out of hay and lick tubs. The calves have been feeling good. We’ve been rotating the horses and cows since we can’t keep them together or the horses gorge themselves on our precious round bales and don’t let the cows eat. So we let the horses out all day, lock them in the barn at night, and let the cows out to roam the chicken yard at night. The calves get out and run around, chasing Maxine when she quits chasing them.

Sonny and the Colt were good on our ride on Sunday. Surprisingly, Joseph came out to ride with us after he spent a week working up north. Very cool. I’ll convert that city boy yet. :-) Sonny was a little jumpy at first, antsy with all the wind, but we rode awhile, then came back to the barn and rode out again and he was fine. Joe did good too. ;-)

Got my 3,000 words today. No submissions, but that’s on the roster for tomorrow. Along with grocery shopping, etc. Gotta love that. And research. Lots of research.

Meanwhile back at the ranch...
Got a lot of reading done yesterday as I alternately tore my hair trying to find a way into the book. I finished The Golden Bowl by Henry James. Not a must read unless you enjoy meandering sentences, complex paragraph structure, and an annoying method of storytelling. Henry James is a great writer, don’t get me wrong. But sometimes the greats are too great for my poor brain to handle what the hell is going on in the story. I read Elizabeth George’s Well-Schooled in Murder over the weekend. Love her mysteries. And Miss Marple #1, Murder at the Vicarage, by Agatha Christie. Murder mysteries are just a nice detour from what I write and not necessarily classics, at least not in the sense of Dante and Plato. So I like the diversion. I’m also reading A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson, his tale of walking the Appalachian Trail. Love his writing style. Almost moved to Australia over it. Then there’s Philip Pullman’s Shadow in the North, the second to the Sally Lockhart series. I’ve been planning a book that takes place in Victorian England so Sally and Michael Faber’s The Crimson Petal and the White are helping me get into the mindset as I embark on the research. (Little note here: yes it is quite normal for me to have multiple books going at once. I get bored and distracted easily. It’s rarer for me to pick up a book and read it start to finish – see anomalies like Laurell K. Hamilton and Patricia Briggs.)

So that’s the weekly recap. Keep on keepin’ on. And thanks to those who left some input on what they like to see on the blog. It’s much appreciated.