7 is the new 6, Writing with Abandon, and Baked French Toast

4 11 2012

Hello My Dear Readers!  I can’t believe it’s been nearly a month since I wrote a blog post.  I guess I feel obligated to toss you a recipe when I write to you, since this whole mess started as a cooking & dining review blog, and there has not been a lot of cooking going on up in the wee tree house apartment of late.  I have had other fish to fry (pun intended), hence my long silence.  Maybe you’ve enjoyed my relative silence.  Well, too bad – it’s over!

Squirrel Alert!

Squirrel Alert!

Last night I discovered there was a time change afoot for the hour of midnight.  I had been waiting for it all through October because I swear that’s when we usually do it.  Who gets to make decisions like when we switch from Daylight Savings Time back to Standard Time?  I want that job.  Think of the fun I could have!  Anyhow, I guess that means that 7:00am is the new 6:00am effective immediately.  The dog did not get the email and got me up at the old 6:00am.  Ugh.

While I was away not doing much cooking, I was indeed writing, just not for my blog.  I was developing background, places, characters, and other such input needed to craft my novel.  I have joined a crazy little writing phenomenon called the National Novel Writers Month, or NaNoWriMo for short.  Having already been fairly well indoctrinated into this long-standing group of nutty writing fanatics, I can tell you that we lovingly call this exercise ‘NaNo’ and those who participate ‘WriMos.’  I know, right?

What NaNoWriMo is all about is networking and providing support and encouragement to fellow writers while you all try to crank out a stunning 50,000 unedited words toward your latest novel project in the month of November.  It is totally an honor-based program in which you write and everyone else takes your word for it.  There is a feature on their website in which you can scramble a copy of your novel and upload it for official word-count verification at the end of the month, but that’s not required (and some paranoid types don’t want to send their manuscript anywhere for fear some great conspiracy exists to steal their idea – whatever).  If you get to 50K, you are considered a ‘winner.’  The point is to provide motivation to just get on with it and write, write, write thereby putting a substantial dent in your project in a short period of time.  Writers suffer from procrastination like the rest of us, and this undertaking is designed to get you over the hump and well on your way to completion of your project.  It’s like a 30 day crash diet for the overly verbose – shed those words in 30 days.  Hah – that’s pretty good.  I might have to use that again.  In case you are wondering, yes, some of the participants are actually published authors, including Sara Gruen (“Water for Elephants” et al) and many talented others.  So it’s not just for wannabes like me.

We have a somewhat active local group of WriMos here in the Wilmington area who get together to support one another in this endeavor at preparatory sessions, ‘write-ins’ and other such caffeine-laden events.  I have attended a preparatory event and the kick-off meeting.  I will attend at least one of the write-ins, though I really do my best writing in my pajamas in the living room in a noise-controlled, interruption-free environment.  But being accountable to a group of people to get this thing done is my motivation for joining them, so I will hold my own feet to the fire by showing up and networking.  I have picked up a few tips already, so it’s all good.

As I was sitting in the kick-off session a couple days ago during which questions were being asked by us newbies and answered by the more experienced, a young lady asked a question that brought out the worst of my snobby ego.  She proceeded to give some background about her story structure (there did not seem to be a firm plot yet, and this was the day to start writing) and was asking about how to decide whether she should write in first-person or third-person.  She said one of her dilemmas about first-person was that she wanted the protagonist, who moves to a new town, to initially keep some secrets from her new friends that she didn’t want to keep from the readers (she didn’t put it quite so eloquently, but that was the core question).  She didn’t know how to do that if her story was told in first person.  My bitchy ego was saying, “What? Let me replay that to make sure I heard her correctly…say what?”  I listened a bit more, and it became clear to me that she was indeed confusing the first-person narrative with dialogue.  My snobby ego was having a field day with this question in my head, saying things like, “What is she, like, 12 years old?”  After I listened to a couple people struggle to answer her and fail, I couldn’t resist speaking up.  Either they were just being nice, or they didn’t understand what she was asking because it was such an elementary writing question.  So I said, “I assume you will share your character’s thoughts in the novel and not just her spoken words.  If so, then I think you can tell your audience the secrets she is keeping through writing her thoughts.”  Lawd, I am such a bitch sometimes.  But really, isn’t this story-telling 101?  I mean, maybe she is tee-totally wasting her time here and should go play beer pong with the rest of her college buddies.  There is another college girl in the group who has been writing like this since she was a teenager and she totally gets it, so it’s not a question of youth.  At least I know her book, should she complete one, will not be competing with mine for readership.  Hah.

So if you don’t hear from me, that’s what I’m doing.  Writing my novel and trying not to be bitchy.  And working.  ‘Tis the season in retail, so I am a gift-basket-making, present-wrapping, bow-making, product-reordering, merry-(bleeping)-christmas-to-you-too-saying shopkeeper.  I really do love the pretty-making part of this time of year (I love wrapping and making gift baskets and bows), it’s all the paperwork and sense of urgency that piss me off.

But, anyhow, today I awoke an hour early (thanks to Buddy), though not really, with a desire for a sweet breakfast treat.  I am rarely about the sweet in the morning; that usually hits me in the evening.  But I need protein for fuel, so I decided to make some really eggy, custardy French toast with real maple syrup and butter to address both issues.  This is really easy and really good if you care to give it a whirl.  Nothing super special about it, it’s just a different method of preparing French toast that will remind you a bit of bread pudding.  As I am suffering from a touch of lactose intolerance these days, I am using coconut milk but you can use regular old milk of whatever variety you have in the fridge.  Oh, and you bake this in the oven, so it’s also a great time saver for a maniac writer like me who doesn’t want to waste precious writing time at the stove.

Pick a good loaf of crusty bread, slice it thick, and let the soak time and the oven work their magic.  You experienced cooks will recognize how easily this can be doubled, tripled, or quadrupled to feed any crowd.  Just get a bigger pan out of the pantry.

Get a fork!

Baked French Toast for Two (or one seriously distracted would-be author who will reheat it tomorrow)

4 thick-cut slices of Crusty Bread (I used toasted sunflower honey bread that I get at Harris Teeter)

3 large Eggs

¼ cup Milk (cow, goat, soy, coconut, whatever)

1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract (or any flavor you like, perhaps almond?)

Sprinkle of Sea Salt

Parchment Paper, if you hate messy cleanups like me and want this to look good on the plate (as opposed to prying it out of the pan all helter skelter)

Line a baking dish with the parchment paper.  I used a loaf pan for the quantity as written.  If you quadruple the batch it should fit nicely in a 13” x 9” baking dish or pan.  You could even arrange it in a non-stick oven-proof skillet if desired…but I digress.

Arrange the bread slices laying artfully in the pan, overlapping by half.  Trim the bread to fit the pan if desired, shoving the end bits into the nooks and crannies.  In a small mixing bowl, whisk the eggs and milk together until well combined and frothy.  Whisk in the vanilla. Pour egg mixture over the bread slices and let soak for a good while until all the egg mixture is absorbed into the bread (it will happen, just be patient – unless you’ve tried to substitute soft sandwich bread, then it ain’t never gonna happen).  Sprinkle with coarse sea salt (this really makes the sweetness of your topping pop out and say “good morning.”)

(Crazed Cook’s Note:  If you are a perfectionist like me, you can dirty just one more dish by placing the bread in a single layer in the shallow dish and soaking in the custard to ensure even distribution.  Then carefully transfer the bread to the baking dish and pour any remaining custard over, continuing the soak until it is all absorbed.  If you have used plain old white or wheat sandwich bread you have reached the point where you regret it as the bread will fall apart into mush when you try to transfer it.  I’m just sayin’ – go for the thick, crusty bread for this recipe.  If you are not that worried about it or are in a hurry, just arrange in the baking dish and pour the custard over, letting the tops of the bread slices go without the big soak – it will still be good.  Multi-textural.  Is that like multi-cultural? I’m not sure.)

Preheat the oven to 375oF and bake the French toast until nicely browned on top, about 30 minutes in my mini tree house apartment gas stove that is old as dirt.  In a spiffy new convection oven, I would bet on about 18-20 minutes.  In my electric oven in my previous house I would have done 400 degrees.  So follow your gut – you want crusty golden top and soft center but no runny egg stuff.

Remove from oven and rest for 5 minutes.  Two serving options:  Slide your spatula in between the bread shingles and serve them intact in sets of two; or cut as you would a coffee cake and serve in squares.

I like mine with ample butter and real maple syrup, but a nice warm fruit compote or heated raspberry preserves would be excellent as well.


Ramblings of a Sick Woman

22 09 2012

Hello Blogosphere!  My goodness, I have been wanting to write to you about so many things over these last weeks and just haven’t had the time.  The powers of the universe have now granted me the time to catch up with you, but I had to get a nasty little head cold to get the time off.  In fact, yesterday was spent working at home with a stack of paperwork from the store and the use of a remote access program to tap into the store computer from home.  I got a lot done despite the pile of Kleenex.  Today, my friends, is reserved for you.  OK, really, it’s reserved for me, but I choose to spend it with you.  I mean, I’m not going anywhere further than the kitchen for more chicken soup.  But you know what I mean.

There are so many things rattling around in my tiny mind that I want to share with you, I thought I’d try to address a few at once with little snippets in one blog post.  If my attempt to limit myself is unsuccessful, I apologize in advance.  How many words is in a snippet, anyway?

Not Your Average Hip-Hop Fan

I was driving down the street last week, slowing as I approached a red light.  I hear a ‘rolling sound system’ coming up from the rear.  As the offending vehicle pulls alongside me, I do a double take.  Serious rap music, subcompact white late-model car, white female driver – 30-something, severe librarian hairdo, somewhat overweight, doctor’s office-type uniform – groovin’ to the beat.  There was just something so incongruous about my visual and auditory perceptions in that moment – the music just didn’t go with the picture.  It got me thinking about how many of our commonly held beliefs and stereotypes can be so far off base.   Why do we insist on limiting ourselves and others with these notions of what we should be? You go, hip hop woman. (This could be an entire blog post, but I’ll let you ponder it without my expert elaboration – for now.)

Entrepreneurial Spirit?

I was driving along, minding my own business, when a vehicle caught my eye.  The license plate said “Lost Temp License.”  The light I was sitting at was a long one, so I had time to think about this.  When the light changed, I got my phone out and got the camera ready then snapped this photo as I was approaching the next light.  In the car was a rather handsome young couple.  When they realized that I was intrigued with them, they proceeded to speed away and turn off onto a side street. I don’t know what they were up to – undoubtedly it was no good.  But I wasn’t thinking about that.   I was wondering about that plate.  Apparently there is a business out there making plastic license plates for the crooks among us.  Is this a legitimate business born of the illegal activities of others, perhaps?  Do people really fall for this stuff?  Doesn’t the fake plate draw more attention than no plate at all?  Was it some sort of social experiment of which I was an unwitting subject?  Yes.  Exactly.  All of that.  Just think about it for a while.  Or not.

Doggone Mission

What is my dog thinking when he goes and goes and goes and goes like this?  He’s not visibly chasing anything – trust me, when he sees a cat or a squirrel I know.  Most of the time when we take our walks he just ambles along, or he catches a whiff of something and goes a short distance at high speed stopping abruptly when the target of his olfactory prowess is at hand, er, paw.  But I really don’t understand these occasional forced marches he takes me on.  It’s clear that he is going somewhere, in search of something – he’s on a mission.  He doesn’t stop to pee, doesn’t pause to smell things, he just goes and goes.  One of these days when I have recovered from this head cold I might just let him take me wherever it is he seems to want to go.  I worry that there isn’t really a destination in his pea-shaped brain and at some point he will wear himself out and I will have to carry him a mile home (this has happened).  Where is he going?  What is it?

I Love a Good Double Entendre…

I love humor that doesn’t smack you in the face.  Don’t draw me a diagram, let me get to the funny on my own.  I love to laugh – it’s good for the soul.  Not too often does something strike me as truly funny, but when something does it is almost always full of unspoken subtext.  I just love a double entendre for this very reason.  I meant what I said AND I meant what I didn’t say.  It’s hilarious.  Like this one.

…And Animal Jokes

Maybe it’s because I almost always know a person that’s just a teensy bit too much like the animal and it just cracks me up to see it presented in a way where it is actually talked about and no one can sue.  For real, people.  You can’t say stuff to people’s faces these days without getting sued for defamation, even if it’s true.  But you can write a joke and put it on the internet without names and everyone will still know who you are talking about without the lawsuit.  I also like the ones that poke fun at all of us, because sometimes you just need to call a cow a cow.  Like this one (you know who you are, so just quit being so uptight and laugh at yourself):

Cows & Politics Explained

A CHRISTIAN DEMOCRAT:  You have two cows.  You keep one and give one to your neighbor.

A SOCIALIST:  You have two cows.  The government takes one and gives it to your neighbor.

AN AMERICAN REPUBLICAN:  You have two cows. Your neighbor has none. So what?

AN AMERICAN DEMOCRAT:  You have two cows.  Your neighbor has none.  You feel guilty for being successful.  You vote people into office who tax your cows, forcing you to sell one to raise money to pay the tax.  The people you voted for then take the tax money and buy a cow and give it to your neighbor. You feel righteous.

A COMMUNIST:  You have two cows.  The government seizes both and provides you with milk.

A FASCIST:  You have two cows.  The government seizes both and sells you the milk. You join the underground and start a campaign of sabotage.

DEMOCRACY, AMERICAN STYLE:  You have two cows.  The government taxes you to the point you have to sell both to support a man in a foreign country who has only one cow, which was a gift from your government.

CAPITALISM, AMERICAN STYLE:  You have two cows.  You sell one, buy a bull, and build a herd of cows.

BUREAUCRACY, AMERICAN STYLE:  You have two cows.  The government takes them both, shoots one, milks the other, pays you for the milk, then pours the milk down the drain.

AN AMERICAN CORPORATION:  You have two cows.  You sell one, and force the other to produce the milk of four cows.  You are surprised when the cow drops dead.

A FRENCH CORPORATION:  You have two cows.  You go on strike because you want three cows.

A JAPANESE CORPORATION:  You have two cows.  You redesign them so they are one-tenth the size of an ordinary cow and produce twenty times the milk. You then create clever cow cartoon images called Cowkimon and market them World-Wide.

A GERMAN CORPORATION:  You have two cows.  You reengineer them so they live for 100 years, eat once a month, and milk themselves.

A BRITISH CORPORATION:  You have two cows.  They are mad.  They die. Pass the shepherd’s pie, please.

AN ITALIAN CORPORATION:  You have two cows, but you don’t know where they are. You break for lunch.

A RUSSIAN CORPORATION:  You have two cows.  You count them and learn you have five cows. You count them again and learn you have 42 cows. You count them again and learn you have 12 cows.  You stop counting cows and open another bottle of vodka.

A SWISS CORPORATION:  You have 5000 cows, none of which belong to you. You charge others for storing them.

A BRAZILIAN CORPORATION:  You have two cows.  You enter into a partnership with an American corporation.  Soon you have 1000 cows and the American corporation declares bankruptcy.

AN INDIAN CORPORATION:  You have two cows.  You worship both of them.

A CHINESE CORPORATION:  You have two cows.  You have 300 people milking them. You claim full employment, high bovine productivity, and arrest the newsman who reported on them.

AN ISRAELI CORPORATION:  There are these two Jewish cows, right?  They open a milk factory, an ice cream store, and then sell the movie rights. They send their calves to Harvard to become doctors. So, who needs people?

AN ARKANSAS CORPORATION:  You have two cows.  That one on the left is kinda cute.

Maybe I’ll post a recipe later after I’m done watching Miss Congeniality.  Hey, I’m easily amused and entertained.

Go forth and ponder people – and don’t forget to laugh.

Why yes, I am available. Have a cookie.

2 09 2012

So here’s the truth about me:  I have been unattached, single, without a significant other, on my own – however you want to say it – for over three years now.  I have had exactly zero dates in that time.  No dates, no booty calls, no nothing.  I wasn’t looking, either.  Truthfully, I needed that time to get my act together and get comfortable with me.

I just want to go on the record and say that, yes, I am available.  If anyone was thinking that I might be married to or involved with the man who owns the business I manage, the answer is no.  We were a couple for a good number of years, but I moved out on my own and that part of our relationship ended in 2009.  Obviously, we still have contact due to work, and we are blessed to have buried the hatchet and be friendly with one another.  But we are not a couple.

The only man in my life walks on all fours, weighs about 14 pounds, and sleeps in my bed.  Yes, that’s right, the dog sleeps with me.  Under the covers.  Just try to keep him out – you will not get any sleep, I promise you that.  From the day I adopted him, he howled in his crate until I let him out.  He got right into the bed and that’s where he’s slept for eight years.  So if you are thinking of asking me out, just know this:  it’s a package deal.  I love that little guy.  I don’t dress him up, but I do spoil him.  Why not?  We are mutually faithful companions.

In fact, I’d go so far as to say that many of the qualities I desire in a human companion are similar to qualities my dog exhibits.  Not to insult anyone, but we humans have a way of unnecessarily complicating things; dogs, they can’t help but keep it simple and honest.  My dog shows me, through non-verbal gestures, what it is he wants and needs at any given moment.  If I don’t pay attention to his actions, he will bark and whine to get my attention.  He is persistent, probably because he knows I can be a bit lazy and slow to catch on.  He will nip at me if I step on his paws, but is very quick to forgive me; he’s just protecting himself from my carelessness.  My dog needs certain things from me, since he doesn’t have thumbs and he’s short.  When I meet those needs for him, he doesn’t demand more from me; he is satisfied.  In addition to the feeding, walking, feeding, ear-cleaning, feeding, bathing, feeding, vet visits, and feeding, he needs to sit on my lap during a thunderstorm and sleep in bed with me.  He’s clear about his needs, and I do my best to meet them.  He doesn’t take advantage of me and demand more; he is happy with these things from me. He lets me sleep through the night most nights, sits with me, and reluctantly bids me farewell when I go to work.  He’s always happy to see me when I come home, and he comforts me when I’m down.  He listens when I talk, even though he doesn’t always understand me.  He trusts me.  I love him for all of that.

But it is time for me to open myself to the possibility of a relationship with a man again.  I think I’m as ready as I’m ever going to be.  I can say definitively that I have moved on from my last relationship.  I continue to see a therapist to work on aspects of myself that I would like to improve because I want to be the best person I can possibly be, as authentically me as possible.  I have a very solid sense of who I am, what I stand for, what matters to me, and what doesn’t really matter at all.  I am happy today, and relatively content.  I have things I’d like to do in my life – aspirations – like most of us.  I am determined about some of them, but I am not “driven,” I am merely mindful and hopeful.  I look forward to what each day will bring and I am grateful for the peace in my life right now.

I am not going to pretend to have all the answers about what I might want or do in the future; I am open-minded.  What I know is that, for right now, I am not interested in living with anyone else and I don’t need anyone to complete me.  I am just fine as I am, with friends and family in my life.  So if you want to ask me out, please have your own job, your own place to live, know how to relax and have fun, and be comfortable in your own skin.  Oh, and be available – emotionally, physically, and legally.

Meanwhile, go to the bakery and buy yourself a cookie and share it, maybe.

Before you came into me life, me missed you so, so bad.

The Boss of Me

15 04 2012


I love this little guy, I really do.  Why else would I allow him to train me to let him out, let him in (let him out, let him in, let him out, let him in, etc), get up in the morning when he says so, go for walks when he says so, and tolerate him climbing on my lap and using my laptop as a pillow.  About the only thing I don’t do is feed him on demand.  He’s a four-legged trash can who does not possess a firm grasp on what qualifies as food, so I control the food.  And that’s about all.

And when he rolls over and shows me his soft underbelly I know he trusts me completely.  How can I not love that?

Here’s to our canine companions – may we love them half as well as they love us!


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