Thursday, January 19, 2017

Thank you, President Obama and Vice President Biden

Dear readers, don't forget what our country is capable of:

We will get there.

The following video of Obama's thank you to Biden is long, but if you'd like to watch their parting shot of decency and love, I recommend watching it.

I'm going to ALA Midwinter in Atlanta this weekend, where I will be marching. I've been knitting hats all week.

Be well, everyone.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

In Which We Build a Cabin

Over 40 years ago, Kevin's dad built this cabin.

Guess what we did? 

The cabin, gingerbread version

 Here's how. 

First, we mixed and chilled the dough. (We used this recipe at Food52, except using muscle power and eventually hands instead of a mixer. It worked fine.) 

The next day, we rolled it flat...

and, using a blueprint Kevin made out of cardboard, cut it into walls and deck...

used a sharp knife to draw the windows and boarded sides (I'm using that box as a straightedge)...

and baked all the pieces. Actually, we slightly overbaked them, on purpose. Gingerbread walls stand up better if they're overbaked.

We gave them a couple days to get good and dry...

and then the silly part began. 

We used the hacksaw...

 to cut cinnamon sticks into little logs...

for the log pile. We interspersed the cinnamon sticks with salmiac candies to give our log pile more character.

We needed some candy cane joists to hold up the deck. Kevin, doing experiments with heat, discovered that a hot knife slices through candy canes with ease.

In the meantime, I made some icing....

while Kevin ran important experiments on marshmallows.

More icing.

Then the piping began. The division of both design and labor was pretty even throughout this project, but our first batch of icing was so stiff that I literally could not pipe it! Kevin stepped in.

We sliced up some black string licorice to decorate our window moldings.

Here are the candy cane joists to hold up the deck, attached using melted caramel (which bonds very fast, with great strength and superior deliciousness).

We trimmed down the edges of the walls with an exacto knife where necessary....

And the major construction began.

We used melted caramel to hold the walls together.

Our four walls now standing, we left it overnight to dry.

Fast forward to the next morning.

Here Kevin is having an inspiration about marshmallows...

and the deck railing.

Using a box of Thin Mints as a support (because why not?), he balances candy cane railings on top of marshmallow balusters. Icing is his glue.

In the meantime, I construct the woodpile, attaching our logs to the surface and to each other with melted caramel. The idea was to build the woodpile up to the height of the deck, so that the logs could help the candy cane joists to hold the deck in place.

(Incidentally, the mess created by this project was delicious. The chocolate shavings are from the chocolate pieces we used for the doors.)

Somehow we failed to take a picture of the completed deck, but you'll see it later.
Next we iced and added the roof, which we also failed to photograph...

and then I made a mouse. It's a jellybean, with eyes scratched in with an exacto knife, and a tail and ears carved out of string licorice and attached with sugar water.

Again, we left everything to dry for a few hours.

When we came back, we added icicles to the front of the roof, another process we somehow forgot to photograph. BTW, our icing was a simple mix of one egg white and however much confectioner's sugar it took to get the consistency we wanted. For the roof snow, we used a more liquid icing, but for the icicles, something stiffer.

Then, Kevin took a big bowl of confectioner's sugar and a spoon. He blew on it and made it snow.

We saw all that we had made, and it was very good.

And that's that! I hope you enjoyed this report of our new thing for January. :o)

Monday, January 2, 2017

Some New Years Resolutions from Penguin Teen

Happy new year, everyone :o)

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Three Christmas Carols I Listened to Today

For if you want something dramatic, played by a chamber orchestra, and almost a little jazzy... The Wexford Carol as performed by City of London Sinfonia and sung by the King's Singers.

For if you want to pretend you're drinking mead with the lord of the manor... The King as performed by Loreena McKennitt and friends.

And for if you want to pretend it's the 80s... Pat-a-Pan as performed by David Archuleta.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

In Which We Try Falconry

This post is about hunting, using trained birds of prey. If you'd rather not read it, I understand... maybe go look at baby goats in pajamas instead :).

So. Kevin and I are doing one new thing every month that neither of us has ever done before.

In April, we went to a wolf sanctuary. In May, we went indoor skydiving. In June, we floated in floating tanks. In July, we got a golf lesson from my dad. In August, we went deep see fishing. And in September, we did Boda Borg.

In November, we met Master Falconer Chris Davis of New England Falconry...

in Amherst, Massachusetts...

And spent some time with some Harris's hawks.

 As usual, Kevin took better pictures than I did.

I was just so freaking excited. I couldn't focus on photography. Or anything, really, including many of the interesting thing Chris was saying, because I had a hawk on my hand.

This guy was so light, and silent, and graceful.

Chris taught us all about Harris's hawks, which are native to Mexico and Central and South America. They're social birds that hunt cooperatively in groups. He taught us about falconry too, about the process of training raptors to hunt and return to his hand. And then we joined Chris and two female Harris's hawks for a hunt.

This was the first time I've ever done any sort of hunting. I'm a meat-eater, I grew up in the country, and my mother grew up on a farm, so I've been surrounded by hunters and hunting all my life, but never participated in the hunting. I've always felt a level of discomfort and even distress around the topic, probably because of the hunting subculture in which people do it for sport rather than for food. I also think we live in a society that is extremely judgmental about what people should and shouldn't eat (perhaps especially women), and a society in which a lot of our food, especially our meat, is produced in distressing and inhumane ways. Food is a really, really complicated topic for most Americans (whether they're conscious of it or not!), and for a lot of us, hunting is too. So I was having a lot of thoughts and feelings as we directed the hawks to hunt for rabbits and squirrels, which we (and the hawks) later ate (and enjoyed!). A wild red-tailed hawk actually joined our hunt for a while too, which added a whole new level of things to think about.

I have a thoughtful post about it somewhere inside me. But I'm afraid that my thoughtful writing energy is going to the new book I'm writing these days, so I'm just not going to get into it today. Instead, I'm going to share a few more pictures of these beautiful birds in action, and ask you to forgive me for how uninformative and un-introspective this post is. The new book I'm currently drafting is, in part, about relationships between animals and humans, so I'm guessing that a lot of my thoughts and feelings will end up manifesting there.

Kevin took these pictures.

Many many thanks to Chris Davis for an experience unlike any I've ever had. It was without a doubt our most interesting New Thing so far.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Some (Mostly Meaningless) Reflections on Our Current Reality

For the last three weeks, I have mostly been listening. I've been listening to my friends talk to me and to each other. I've been listening to the reactions of smart writers and thinkers. I've been listening to podcasts and pundits. I've been listening to the sadness in my mother's voice and the faith in my father's voice. I've been listening to the comfort in Kevin's voice. I've been reading the texts and emails of my sisters, who are holding me up. At 2 AM the night of the election, the last thing I did before finally attempting sleep was to read a text from one of my heartbroken sisters. It said, "Love still trumps hate."

I've been listening to Georgette Heyer audiobooks and watching Jane the Virgin and Gilmore Girls, for comfort. I've been writing a new book, which is an amazing distraction and vast relief in the moments when a scene manages to suck me in. As is the case for many people, my mental health has taken a hit. So I've been dealing with that.

I haven't been blogging much, because I don't have anything new or fresh to contribute. Everyone else is saying everything better. Have you read Malinda Lo's lovely post?

I haven't figured out yet how I'll contribute. Of course I'll donate what money I can to what causes I can. Of course every book I write will be influenced by the realities of our world; they already are; I've already written three books with the backdrop of a narcissistic, cruel, selfish, power-hungry man who manipulates and traumatizes people with lies. I will keep telling stories – of the young people who throw their hearts and bodies into fighting that bullshit.

But I haven't figured out yet what else I will do. I'm slower than a lot of people who are currently bursting with passionate ideas left and right. But I'll figure it out. Each of us needs to find her purpose; forgive yourself if it's taking you longer than it seems to be taking other people. Forgive yourself if you're hearing ideas and thinking, "I'm not ready," or "That's not for me." Also, remember that small things matter as much as big things. Everything matters, and everything is connected.

Because I'm mostly listening and thinking, I'm not sure how much I'll be blogging about all of this. I'll keep blogging about writing; I'll keep blogging about the new things we're doing every month; certainly I'll be blogging about my new book. Beyond that, I'm still figuring out what to say here.

I wish I had something beautiful and inspiring to offer today. I don't. But, from my current place of deep processing, I wanted to reach out… and let people know that I don't have anything to say yet. If you find yourself trying to understand or articulate or express yourself right now, and you just can't yet – I feel for you. I get it. It's okay. We'll get there.

The one thing I'm sure of is that love does trump hate. Always.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Announcing My New Book: Jane, Unlimited

I have a new book coming out in Fall 2017, and I'm finally allowed to talk about it. :o)

It's called Jane, Unlimited. I won't say a lot for now—more will be forthcoming—but for today... Jane has led a small and mostly ordinary life, raised by her aunt Magnolia—an adjunct professor at a small college and a world-traveling deep sea photographer. But when Aunt Magnolia dies unexpectedly on one of her expeditions, Jane finds herself adrift, and when an invitation comes from an old acquaintance to accompany her to a gala at her family's island mansion called Tu Reviens, Jane leaps at the chance. There, her story takes a turn, or rather, five turns. What Jane doesn't know is that Tu Reviens will offer her choices that can ultimately determine the course of her untethered life. But at Tu Reviens, every choice comes with a reward, or a price.

This book has been years in the making, and has gone through more revisions than any of my previous books, probably because its structure was challenging and it took longer for me to figure out what the book was asking for. My editor, Kathy Dawson, is my freaking HERO. What else can I say about it? It's not the doorstopper Bitterblue was, though it's not exactly that elusive short book I keep trying to write, either. It's full of umbrellas. And adventure. And a big, weird, mysterious house. It's a little bit of an homage to duMaurier's Rebecca, and other "orphan visits a house of mystery" books. Mostly, I'm hoping it's a puzzle, but a puzzle that's full of heart. And I hope it will bring joy. And it'll be coming out in about a year! And I'm so grateful for the opportunity to offer it to you—and so relieved that I'm finally allowed to talk about it.

More soon!

♥ ♥ ♥