Winter Holiday Card, Customizable, All-Purpose

 

It’s not too late to get the perfect holiday card for everyone on your list. It’s one size fits all. And it’s 25% off until midnight 12/3. They’re available here, in my Zazzle store.

— Amanda

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Recipe: (Possibly imaginary) Lake Quinault (or Maybe Lake Crescent) Lodge scramble

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In 2014 I didn’t make reservations fast enough for Lake Crescent (nine months in advance wasn’t advance enough – the place is that good) and we ended up at Lake Quinault for our anniversary, instead. It’s still in my favorite national park, it’s still a historic lodge, it’s still on a lake, and it still has amazing food, so no complaints here.

I distinctly remember eating a scramble for breakfast in the lodge one morning that had goat cheese and peppers and smoked salmon. Then again, I also remember it being called the Marymere Something or Other, and Marymere Falls is at Lake Crescent, not Lake Quinault. Furthermore, it’s not on the menu of either lodge, so I either imagined it or they’ve discontinued it.

No matter. Here is my imagined scramble made real. And it’s really good.

(Possibly Imaginary) Lake Quinault (or Maybe Lake Crescent) Lodge Scramble

  • Servings: 1
  • Print

For breakfast, pair this with some buttered billion grain toast. For lunch, pair it with a simple mixed greens salad with an equally simple vinaigrette. This recipe scales up easily, so keep it in mind for brunch. Some thinly sliced red onion and/or capers would not go amiss.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tsp butter or olive oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tbs milk or cream
  • 1 oz plain goat cheese, crumbled
  • 2 tbs jarred roasted red peppers, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 oz hot-smoked salmon or steelhead, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

Directions:

  1. Heat the butter or olive oil in an 8-inch nonstick skillet. When it is up to temperature crack the eggs right into it and pour in the milk or cream. Season with salt and pepper and mix roughly right in the skillet. (This is very rustic – you’re not making a French omelet, it doesn’t need to be perfectly blended and homogenous.)
  2. Scramble as usual. When the eggs are just about as done as you like them, add the smoked fish, goat cheese, and peppers.
  3. Tip onto a plate and eat immediately. That’s it!

— Amanda

Going to a Halloween party this weekend? Bring a Nine-Fingered Pumpkin Pie!

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An annual tradition on my blog going back (wait, hold on, let me check my old posts, uh …) 7 years: the pumpkin pie post. (Biennial, really, because I trot it out again around Thanksgiving.)

A recipe I infamously bled for (and which set me back $100 at the clinic – a visit that would cost $200 today), this is the perfect pumpkin pie. This is what you hope to taste when someone puts a wedge of pumpkin pie in front of you. (Though, hopefully, without any human blood in it. Knife safety folks!)

Get the recipe (and read the harrowing tale of my nearly-severed thumb) here.

— Amanda

A day in the life

Today was just too weird. As I observed in a tweet,

I did come across a deer leg bone in my gardening tote while I was looking for a fresh rat trap … but that was yesterday.

So today the trouble started, as it often does, when I left the house. I had planned to go to the grocery store, not to the County administration building, but now I was doing both. Oh joy. Before I could go to the County I needed to make a photocopy of what I was submitting to them. Our all-in-one machine makes copies and they look great but it’s so tedious at doing double-sided stuff that I just take all that to the nice new machine at the library.

Now, if you don’t know me IRL you need to understand that I have a thing for photocopiers. Dude, not like that. Like, I’m the photocopier whisperer. Every place I’ve ever worked at has had a photocopier and I have established myself as the in-house expert every time, without fail, and usually within a day. At several companies making copies was my primary duty. I am not the god of photocopiers, because people disobey gods all the time. I am the R. Lee Ermey of photocopiers. Photocopiers stand at attention and shit their pants when I walk by. (Is that metaphor weird?)

So you’ll understand my confusion and anger when the photocopier at the library defied me. You hear people say all the time that a machine ate their money and I don’t know if they’re being serious or if that’s just something people say when they wish they hadn’t spent their last handful of laundry quarters on Cheetos, but today, for the first time in my life, it happened to me. I shoved at least twice as much money as was necessary in the coin slot (I like to empty my coin purse into the thing and then leave the overage for the next person) but the screen acknowledged only about 2/3 of it. Still, this should have been enough for my five double-sided copies. I put my stack o’paper in the document feeder (the thing in the lid you’ve never seen anyone but the repair person use) and watched it do its thing. I pulled out the resulting copies and … the fuck? The second to last page was blank on the front. On the *front.* Now, this is weird because it should have scanned that side of the page first and if anything was going to go wrong it would have either jammed before scanning the front and beeped at me to help it or it might have failed to copy the back side because it jammed when flipping the page. But no, without the tell-tale crumple and beep of a jam it just flat out refused to copy page 9. But it was fine with page 10 for some reason? And it was still on the back side even? (Is anyone still reading?)

So now I’m 5 cents short of being able to make a single photocopy and since I haven’t used this machine in like a year I can’t remember how to orient the paper in the side feeder tray so it will take at least two copies to put page 9 on the front of page 10 because I have to run a test first. (And fight with a library employee because the side tray makes the same beep as the “help this asshole” beep and they think I’ve broken the machine, particularly since none of them know how to run it and they have never seen the side tray used.)

There’s a coin machine but it only takes cash and I don’t have any cash. Time was I would have just asked someone at the front counter for 15 cents and then tried to pay them back the next day and they’d politely refuse. But all the nice people have quit this branch and been replaced by mean people and personality-free customer-avoidance-specialists I would like to subject to a Voight-Kampff test.

So I drove five miles home to dump out Matt’s coin jar on top of my dresser, like an adult.

Copies made, I went to the County. Karl’s driver’s window is on the fritz and in order to roll it down you have to press the button a random number of times between 12 and 64. Usually it’s in the 30s. Today, as always, I started pressing too late and my window was still down when I got to the machine in the parking garage that you take your ticket from. But before I could even get my door open to reach the machine the guy in the kiosk has run (run!) out and around (he’s not actually supposed to ever need to get out on the entry side, since there’s a machine there, so he doesn’t have a door on that side of his kiosk) and smacked the button and shoved the ticket at me. His face is pure hatred.

“Oh, you remember me,” I said with the fakest innocence and casual laugh since the invention of reality TV.

A whole month earlier I had rolled into the parking garage jabbing wildly at the window controls and paying little attention to my surroundings. I was unaware of the ticket machine but fully aware of the gate barring my entry without a ticket. The kiosk attendant was not aware that I was aware and, thinking I was going to roll right through the gate, exited the kiosk flailing and hollering. So I guess my unusual car and I made an impression.

My business upstairs was a failure, as expected, though not the specific variety of failure I expected, and I was soon headed north again, into Marysville, to do my grocery shopping.

In the empty parking lot of a church, parked smack in the middle, at an angle, there was an old man getting out of his car as I was driving past. From a distance I thought, “What nice pants. How unusual for a man of that age to be so up to date on fashion. Those are some mighty skinny pants, Mr. Oldman. But what a nice shade of camel! Almost toffee, almost … MOTHER OF GOD THOSE ARE HIS LEGS WHERE ARE HIS PANTS?” As I passed he finished unfolding from the car and I could just make out the tiniest sliver of hazard-yellow boxer shorts peeking out from under the hem of his purple t-shirt. (The peculiar purple shade of a Hypercolor shirt, my harassed brain noted.)

He looked confused. I’m sure I did, too.

A few blocks later I passed this thing, which I photographed from behind so as not to attract the notice of its owner, who was wearing a black and white studded leather Evel Knievel ensemble and sitting on the roadside in a black and white lawn chair, conducting the worst “music” I’ve ever heard (and I’ve been to a Slayer concert), which sounded like it had been created by scratching a fork on a plate. You should zoom in and read all the painstaking stenciling.

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WinCo at last. I should be safe now. This is my turf.

Right?

Wrong.

OK, so there was an entire family dressed as The Incredibles.

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(I wasn’t gonna post the picture but Matt was like “They’re wearing *masks.* It’s OK.)

So at first I think this is great, because the mom is addressing all the kids by their character names. (Matt, again: “That movie is older than you think. Those could have been their real names.”) Someone asked the mom if they were going to a party and she tossed her head and said “No, we’re just incredible.”

BUT THEN

I encounter them up close and personal in bulk foods. Just after I snapped the stalker pic the kids run down an aisle and throw themselves on the ground to tussle like mustelids. Mom stands in front of the bulk honey dispensers (which used to be cooler, see:)

DSC00133(Sorry about the phenomenally bad flip-phone pic. But they used to keep the honey dispensers inside real wooden beekeeping supers with these great acrylic plaques on them. People freaked out on the regular.)

 

Mrs. Incredible is addressing the honey dispensers, apparently, because I am the only other person in earshot and I am innocently bagging broccoli in the adjacent organic produce section (I get wild on pay day). She surveys her options and fairly shouts “But I need *raw* honey!”

screams internally

I am so sick of the words “raw honey” I could burn the place down. The only people I hate more are the ones who think GMOs are evil. The only people I hate more than GMO haters are antivaxxers.

The heavens open and I am temporarily gifted with a spine, which I immediately regret using. I have been given this gift, apparently, that I might see that l’esprit de l’escalier (and screaming at my steering wheel all the way home) is infinitely preferable to actually speaking up when the moment calls for it (and still screaming at my steering wheel all the way home).

“All honey is raw,” I call out.

Shit, y’all. She put her hand on her hip. “But some of it’s pasteurized.” The look on her face is 100% “Whatcha got ta say bout *that*, hmmmm?”

“If it’s pasteurized it’s not honey. If you pasteurize it then it changes the chemical structure and –”

“I seen it. On the label. Pasteurized.”

“Then the label should also have said ‘honey product’. There had to have been other ingredients. Honey by itself has too much sugar to go bad on the shelf. You just filter it and put it in a clean jar. That’s all I ever did.”

“Yeah well I doubt you were a *professional.* I doubt you were a *commercial* beekeeper.” There is actual hatred in her voice. This is the voice that parents use when someone without kids tells them they shouldn’t let their kids trespass, kill small animals, or drink out of mud puddles with a sheen on them.

WTF, lady.

To keep myself from saying what I want to, which is “Yeah but I’ll wholesale kick your fucking ass” I hold up my hands in the “back the fuck up” gesture and say “Just trust me, OK. All honey is raw honey.” And I fled like the coward I am.

Groceries have been procured but my day is gone. I can’t fathom trying to make lasagna, which had been the plan, so I very easily talk myself into pizza. Back on State Avenue I head south again to get me some Papa Murphy’s. Going north is a pickup truck with high wooden sideboards elaborately bas-relief carved and painted. What with I couldn’t tell you because I had very little time to look and what caught my eye was what was in the bed: two figurines. At first I thought they were papier-mâché but later realized they must be wooden, perhaps chainsaw carvings, in keeping with the carvings on the sideboards. They were both as big as me. One was unmistakably the Energizer bunny in Pepto-Bismol pink, and the other was a giant green army man. (I initially thought he was a German soldier from WWII but reviewing my mental footage I think green army man is much more likely.)

So, that was my day. How was yours?

— Amanda

What a convenient setback!

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I ran through a succession of nearly-identical Twitter headers last year, editing the date they contained over and over, as I raced towards, then overtook, and ultimately left for dead my arbitrary book release date. I was suffering a crisis of confidence and the critique process was, shall we say, not fucking helping. The self-doubt metastasized and slowed the editing process to a complete halt. Over the summer, concurrent with relearning the art of meditation, I questioned whether or not I wanted to continue to publish. I didn’t dream of not writing (that would be absurd), but I did wonder if I was cut out for publishing, given my hypersensitivity to critique and my gnawing social anxiety.

I did decide to continue to publish, but from a slightly different angle. Not with the image of a traditional author as my goal, but just for fun, as a hobby, without the marketing push that made me consider seppuku when I put out my first book. Removing the elements of publishing that had hurt me in round one also removed much of the immobilizing dread round two was causing. Armed with some highly recommended self-editing books (such as the immensely helpful Self-Editing for Fiction Writers: How to Edit Yourself Into Print by Renni Browne and Dave King) I began a complete re-write!!! (Yes, this really calls for the dreaded multiple exclamation points.)

And then, one – one! – chapter into my rewrite, this happened:

Well then.

Had I not stalled myself to the brink of crashing my book would have been in the wild as this movie was showing up on shelves in Target (where I recoiled in horror at confronting one in person not a week after that tweet), confusing the hell out of (admittedly very few) people, and making me go HULK SMASH. Suddenly it seemed like a great thing (and not a giant downer and Herculean task) that the first two items on my check list were 1) Get new cover art and 2) Get new title. Before I even knew of the existence of the movie I had been slashing away at my book, reevaluating everydamnthing, and I had determined that, eye-catching as I found it, both the title and the cover were too spooky. The campy-ness I had intended hadn’t come through in the final product. The overall impression was “this book is trying and failing to be horror” when the message I wanted the cover to give was “this is a silly book that is smart and fun and not full of itself.”

Who knew I could be so happy about a couple of setbacks?

So, the update: I haven’t decided on a title, I have only a nebulous idea for artwork, and the rewrite got derailed by a road trip to Yellowstone (which I should really blog about …) and some oral surgery with bonus complications. TL;DR: I have no idea when this sucker will be out. (Quit asking! Authors hate that.)

— Amanda

Recipe: Corn chowder with goat cheese

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My sour cream corn chowder has leveled up! If you like you can skip the butter in this recipe and use the fat left over from frying a few strips of good bacon — which should then be crumbled and added back in at the very end.

Corn chowder with goat cheese

  • Servings: 3 1-cup servings
  • Print

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 1 large stalk celery, diced
  • 1/2 tsp thyme
  • 1 tsp Better Than Bouillon vegetable base
  • 1 lb frozen corn, thawed
  • 1 4-oz log of plain goat cheese (chèvre, not feta)

Directions:

  1. Heat a large saucepan over medium heat and melt the butter. Saute the onion and celery until softened and the onion is translucent.
  2. Add 1 cup water and the Better than Bouillon. Stir until dissolved. Add the thyme and corn and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Bring to a boil, then immediately turn to low. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes.
  4. Stir in goat cheese until fully melted. Using a sieve or large slotted spoon scoop out 1/2 to 2/3 of the solids into a large bowl. Using a stick blender, blend the remaining solids and broth. Return the removed solids and stir to combine.

— Amanda

Recipe: Summer fruit tart

20170527102844_IMG_1112_1We went to a BBQ at the home of some friends yesterday evening and I wanted to bring a dessert. (I’m making a reputation for myself with party desserts.) I had a couple of previous winners that I could have made from stuff on hand, but they all needed to bake and uuuuuughhhh it was hot. Too hot to cook. Icebox cake to the rescue!

IMAG1976_1_FotorI typed this recipe on an iron Royal that I haven’t owned since probably 1999, so I know I copied it down in my teens. (Though I couldn’t actually cook until I was in my late 20s, I entertained a fantasy of being a chef and/or restaurateur as a teenager.) The source is a little foggy though. I have a vague notion that it was a cooking show on PBS, because I used to watch hours of cooking shows on PBS as a kid, but it could also have been Martha Stewart Magazine. This is one of those rare instances where Google fails me. I can find similar recipes but none quite like this.

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The plate would have come back empty if this stuff weren’t so rich. Everyone wanted seconds but no one had anywhere to put it.

Summer Fruit Tart

Use a regular pie pan, not a deep-dish one.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pre-made Oreo cookie crust or make your own (see below)
  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 1-1/2 cups (12 oz) sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/3 cups lemon juice (about 2 large lemons)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Fruit (I like a mix of kiwis and berries but you can use whatever you fancy as long as it isn’t crunchy)

Directions:

  1. If you are making the crust yourself, remove the filing from about 20 Oreos and whiz the chocolate part in a food processor. Combine with 6 tablespoons melted butter and press into a pie pan. Using waxed paper will keep your hands clean. This stuff would much rather adhere to your skin than the pan.
  2. Beat the cream cheese with a mixer and slowly add the condensed milk, lemon juice, and vanilla. Scrape the bowl a few times because the cream cheese really wants to stick to the bowl. I have found that I can’t beat it at high speeds without sending it all over the room but that beating it for a long time at a low or moderate speed not only makes it smooth as silk but I swear it sets up quicker. It starts out very liquid and ends up like a very thick pudding.
  3. Pour the filling into the shell, level the top with a spatula, and adorn with the fruit. Thinly slice things like kiwi or peaches. Make whatever pattern looks nice to you. I usually do concentric rings because that’s what they did on whatever TV show or magazine I nicked this from, but I have seen cleverer folks than me on the internet making similar tarts and creating psychedelic patterns or simply heaping mixed fruit on top. Whatever you do, don’t skimp!
  4. BONUS: For extra pizazz, you can dust powered sugar on top or drizzle with a simple sugar-syrup glaze to make the fruit glisten.
  5. Chill for at least 2 hours.

— Amanda