Sunday, October 28, 2007

Garlic Weekend

It was the breakthrough.

Back east, one of the few consolations I had each day was Tony's Cottage Inn. Not only did they have some of the tastiest meatballs I ever had in my life (and I savored Tony's food since I was a little kid -- 40 years or more ago) but their salad with house dressing burned itself deep into my psyche. While I was nearly dying of heartbreak back there so much of the summer, I ate at Tony's often, the distinctive taste of the salad -- with chicken, with fried calamari rings -- soothing my stomach and my soul. While all else was going to hell in a rickety wheelbarrow, Tony's flavors remained the same.


All my teenage and adult life, I'd tried to reproduce that incredibly savory house salad dressing. And failed. I tried a little wine vinegar with oil, salt, and pepper; I tried garlic powder and olive oil and salt (and sometimes a little vinegar); I tried oil and minced Christopher Ranch garlic in a jar with a bit of salt ... nada. Didn't taste the same.

Saturday, on a hunch, I ground up 6 cloves of garlic, covered them with extra light olive oil, added a teaspoon of salt, and added enough water to make about a third of a cup of dressing. Shook it well, and waited for it to steep in the fridge for about an hour and a half ...


Tony's apparently uses freshly crushed, mushed garlic for that incredible taste. I made a salad with it for our every-two-weeks potluck yesterday, and only a few shreds came back, for Alex to taste, and demand that we have it for dinner today.

Well, that was a bit after Bernie came out to observe me readying a "chuck cross rib roast" for the oven. "Could you put some garlic in that?" he asked.

"Sure," I answered, and proceeded to make a slurry of jarred minced garlic and water and inject it into the roast.

I made the new salad dressing and drizzled it over the salad.

Oh, garlic.

No vampires for us, and damn, it all turned out so good.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Something To Look Forward To

Only four months away.

The almond harvest is wrapping up; the air is a lot cleaner. We've had to close the bedroom window almost the whole way because the nights have been so chilly.

Waking up and walking around the house with cold feet make me dread the true onset of Autumn weather and then :-- ugh -- Winter, so I console myself with remembering that our "winter" is really pretty short, and that by next mid-February, all kinds of stuff will be blooming, and the air will be thickly scented by almond blossoms.

Cruelly, I noted this to a good friend in Pennsylvania, and she bitterly replied to my email thus: "Four months from now we'll be wondering when the next snowstorm is going to hit."

Well, that's why I'm here in Central California, now isn't it?

Sunday, October 07, 2007

The Time of Year: Getting Ready for NaNoWriMo

When life hands you lemons .... You know it's just about time for National Novel Writing Month!

The first year I tried the NaNoWriMo challenge, which is to write a 50,000 word novel in the 30 days of November, I had an opening scene and an ending paragraph, and some ideas for filler -- "word count" -- and that was it. The journey was sheer drama as I was freed to write dreck such as I had never imagined ... well, no. I had imagined it, I just never would have had the gall to type it out, if not for the promise that no one else would ever have to see it. It became autobiographical in spots, wildly romantic in others, and though it ended up being a good book, that first whack in November of 2001 STUNK.

2002's prospect was decided on in December of 2001, when I suddenly had become a writer and had nothing to urge me on. The Piker Press was founded the next spring, and having had that encouragement, NaNoWriMo 2002 was a welcome activity. I wrote "Time Traveler" in 21 days, buffeted by the passion to tell the tale.

In 2003, I vowed to have fun with NaNoWriMo, and wrote "Character Assassin," which remains my favorite book. It needed almost no editing -- just a spell check. It's also a great example of a writer's retreat: for nearly 30 days I just spent examining what my characters in various stories were like. (And it was indeed fun!)

2004 I breezed through "Out With The Trash" thanks to Wendy Robards, who gave me her mornings to work on character development. OWTT still needs a final edit, and a strengthening of one chapter, but you know how editing goes. Especially when you're writing other stuff, and that year, I was working on the second volume of Aser Stories.

NaNoWriMo 2005 I started one self-indulgent story, switched to one that would provide the Press with material, and then just gave up. I regretted that a lot for the next year.

2006 I thought about a serious venue, then opted in favor of following Aser and Danner to a bar. I figured I could go from bar to bar in Midgardian realms and get a lot of beer and word count. Little did I realize that Aser and Danner would run right into a murder mystery! It was really an exciting and amusing month, following them around and writing down their adventures.

I'm tempted to do that again this year. I like Danner and Aser, and Aser's friend Margot the Troll. And I never got around to spa-hopping with them last year, as the murder mystery delayed the start of their journey. And at the end of the book I wrote last fall, they'd managed to pick up a new ensemble character, Harn Ashwood, who became fascinated by the shaman way of life and probably needs an education on what that really means ...

Hoo. Now I can really hardly wait.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007


Purple beans.

Are they edible? I don't know. But when I saw them, I was intrigued. The flower is purple and lavender, and sweetly beautiful.

I saw these when we were back in Pennsylvania for my sister's funeral. I have always associated purples and lavenders with her; I don't remember if she said that was her favorite color back when we were kids, or that her chocolate-colored hair and blue eyes just were set off by the color.

Anyway, I found this photo tonight while going through my pictures, and thought of her, and told her I loved her, and cried again.