Monday, September 30, 2013

Writerly Road Rage

I’m not by nature an aggressive person, but every now and then my writerly road rage comes out in imprecatory fantasies. Especially when I have a migraine and I’m stuck in the car.

To the city I live in that thinks it’s okay to patch a hole in the road with a steel plate whose ends don’t exactly match up with the asphalt, so that when the car’s tires hit the blunt edge of the plate, my aching brain actually bounces against my skull (okay, that might be an exaggeration)…to you, planners of road repair, I hope that you have nightmares where rusty steel plates pursue you across pot-hole covered roads.

To the fifty year old man wearing leather and spikes and some kind of World War I helmet while riding a mid-life crisis motorcycle that apparently came WITHOUT a muffler, I hope your motorcycle falls apart like Cinderella’s carriage at the stroke of midnight. And your bike/hog/chopper becomes a horse. Or, wait, a boar. An angry boar with tusks.

To the twenty year old man in the car behind us with his windows rolled down, wearing dark sunglasses even though it’s overcast, and whose car has subwoofers cranked so loud the fillings in my teeth are rattling…wait, I can’t even come up with an imprecation. Instead, I tell Cal to turn right. He says, “But we’re not going that way.”  I say, “Please turn. If that noise does not kill me, I will kill myself.” He turns right. Sadly, lunatic driver who’s trying to share his hateful music with me also turns right. (Why did he not use turn signals, so I’d know we could go straight?!?!) I feel like I’m going to cry/vomit except my head hurts too much.

By this point, it’s clear to me that I-don’t-care-about-my-fellow-man, woofer driver is really possessed by a demon…although it could be that he’s a super-secret CIA courier (which explains the sunglasses) and the noise is so he can keep his package safe because no one can get close enough to steal it without having their eardrums bleed. Nah. Demon-possessed. And I’ll send Buffy after him. I know she does vampires. But a silver stake through the heart will probably put this guy out of commission too. 

File:Musee-de-lArmee-IMG 0976.jpg
This helmet is actually from Madagascar. But you get the picture.
This image is by Rama courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Friday, September 27, 2013

High Museum

No one got sick! And we went to see the Dutch masters at the High Museum.

I wish I could show you all the wonderful art we saw. Vermeer, Rembrandt, Hals, Steen  (there were some very funny Steen paintings, especially "The Sick Girl," which is not at all what it first seems), etc. But the museum had a very strict "No photos of this exhibit" policy. So this will just have to suffice.

Sorry, not nearly as exciting as the original "Dutch Mona Lisa."
The Girl with a Pearl Earring was luminous. But a little disappointing. Not the art work itself. But like the Mona Lisa at the Louvre, this painting was behind many layers of glass and roped off so you had to stand back a bit. It made a careful viewing difficult. But still...I got to see it with my own eyes!
Here's a Wikimedia Commons image.

And the other paintings. Coorte's "Still Life with Five Apricots" was the biggest surprise--every print and color plate I've seen makes the apricots look dirty. But in real life, they were gorgeous, dripping with flavor. (Sorry, I couldn't find a photo on the web that I was sure wasn't copyrighted.)

Afterwards, we visited some of the other wings. I saw a Monet and a Durer (I love Durer).

This is Durer's "Knight, Death, and the Devil."
Here's a close up.

And here are the wonderful men who accompanied me.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

French Food, Soup

Going to Paris was the trip of a life time. The art, the cathedrals, the gardens...and the food--it was amazing. Here are some of the places we ate.

 Ze Kitchen Galerie, a gastronomic experience where begin a foodie meant you were part of an exclusive club of true connoisseurs. Exotic food bliss, especially the sampler menu. The waiter asked, "Is there anything you won't eat?" We said, "No."

 Au Petit Sud Ouest, where I had truffles for the first time--never do you forget the first time you ate truffles.

Les Papilles, food the way it was meant to be eaten. Perfection.

Le Grand Vefour, history and Parisian cuisine in a palace. What more can you say?

Paris was a food delight. And I look back with pleasant memories. But I've been craving the soups. Badly. Americans don't do soups the French way. I can't think of how to describe it. French soups are a mix of the simplicity of childhood with the demands of an adult palate. So I've searched out recipes. I tried Epicurious. The carrot-ginger soup was good. But it tried too hard. It was too complex--the flavors warred with each other. They were overbearing. And then, I found a blog written by an American woman who married a Frenchman. And I found her recipe for La Puree.

I made it last night. Here are the vegetables simmering.

Below is the finished soup. (Leeks--the French believe leeks prevent cellulite, a big rutabaga, carrots, red peppers, zucchini, and salt.) I did make one change to the recipe. I added chicken bouillon because the soup tasted a little bland--probably because I didn't know how much a handful of salt was. And I served the soup with goat cheese sprinkled on top (Costco's Kirkland brand is really cheap) and a rustic rosemary/olive oil bread.

Even Matthew had a second bowl. And for one meal, I was back in Paris.

I know you're thinking "Where's the recipe?!" Here it is: A Lady In France

Monday, September 23, 2013

Post-High-Museum Cold

This a picture of a rhinovirus, one of the viruses that causes the common cold.
Courtesy of Wikimeida.

This Wednesday, Cal and I are heading to the High Museum in Atlanta on Wednesday to see the Girl with the Pearl Earring. I’ve also got the movie The Girl with the Pearl Earring on my Netflix list, I’ve been told we must see it. It’s supposed to come today.

Here’s the problem. We also have a nasty autumn cold in the house. And the last thing I want is the cold. If I get it after Wednesday, fine. But NOT before Wednesday because the exhibition is almost over.

So this is my plan.

1. Lysol wipe surfaces while sick child (Jake) is at the university for classes.

2. Wash couch cover that is no doubt a virus cesspool—I probably shouldn’t be sitting here while I blog.

3. Use lots of hand sanitizer. I bought a massive bottle at WalMart.

4. And I’m taking vitamin C. I don’t really believe it will prevent a cold, but Cal does, so I’m hoping in the placebo-effect-by-proxy.

5. And, of course, Matt is spraying Lysol like a fumigant. 

6. And pray that no one else gets sick.

If all goes well, I’ll post High Museum photos on Friday. Even if I get a post-High-Museum cold.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Standardized Testing, Better Than Milton

During Matthew’s graduation check (I homeschool Matt, so the overseeing school verifies that we’ve done everything to satisfy state requirements.), the administrator said, “Every student needs a standardized test given during their senior year, so the SAT Matt took in the spring doesn’t count.”

I argued, even though I knew it was futile. Now we’re going to do testing. (I’m a certified tester, so I can give the exams.)

In an effort to have a good attitude so it will rub off on Matt, here’s what’s great about testing week.

1. No regular schoolwork. (Of course, we have to make up the work we’ll miss.)

2. Afternoons off. (Though you don’t usually get to enjoy them because of the post-bubbling-in-stress headache—you know, the one you get when you’re halfway through a section and realize you missed a line and all your answers are in the wrong places.)

3. The phone gets taken off the hook. Okay, Matt doesn’t care about this. But taking the phone off the hook always makes me feel naughty, but in a “good” way. Like I’m “sticking it to the man.” Except, wait, I am “the man.”

4. Buying number two pencils. It makes me feel like I’m in a movie a la “bouquets of sharpened pencils.” But I really don’t like pencils.

5. I can play Plants vs. Zombies while Matt bubbles. Ack. No. I’m not really doing that, Matt. I’m, uh, editing. Or planning your reading schedule for Paradise Lost. See, standardized testing is better than Milton.

File:Pencil eraser.jpg
Photo by Alex Morphin, courtesy of Wikimedia

NB Screwing Up Time is being featured on Kindle Books and Tips. Click here.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Screwing Up Mongolia Release

After a few more gray hairs that I gathered from formatting issues, I'm thrilled to announce that "Screwing Up Mongolia" is live on Amazon. "Screwing Up Mongolia" is a short story set between Screwing Up Babylon and book three. (It was originally published in the Winter Wonders anthology.) And it's available for 99 cents, Amazon's lowest price. Click here.

Here's the blurb.

As if being a teen guy isn’t hard enough, Henry is also a time traveler with a job to do. And a horde of Mongols who don’t want it done.

It should’ve been easy. All Henry and his girlfriend Miranda needed to do was time travel into a Mongolian caravan, steal some mammoth tusk, and get out. But thanks to a peacock, the Khan’s warriors attack them with scimitars swinging. Only Henry’s Granddad can help, and he doesn't know who they are.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Paris Photos

I spend most of this past week at the hospital with a friend, so I'm playing "catch up with life" now.

And because I don't have time today to write a blog post, I'm posting a few "never-before-seen" photos from our Paris trip. I hope you enjoy them.

This is in the Petit Trianon at Versailles. The railing originally had Louis XIV in the medallions. Marie Antoinette had it replace with MA.

 This is a barometer/thermometer. The interesting thing is that the temperature is marked like this "St. Petersburg during the winter," etc.

Every member of our home is strictly forbidden from blowing dandelions. I, on the other had, blew one in Marie Antoinette's garden.

In a French cafe for a late dinner. And for reasons that I don't understand, it looks light outside. But it was at least 10 pm.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Five Ultimate Battles

Friday's five this week is ultimate battles. When my boys were younger and their friends came over, sometimes we'd discuss ultimate battles and who would win. So here are my thoughts. Feel free to disagree in the comments.

1.Voldemort vs. Saruman

I think this is the most interesting battle. Evil sorcerer vs. evil sorcerer. My guess is that Voldemort takes Saruman. Even though Saruman has the orcs and the Uruk-hai, Voldemort would use the imperius curse and they’d end up toasting Saruman.

2. President Snow (The Hunger Games) vs. the White Witch (Chronicles of Narnia)

This is one is hard to call. Two very different styles of evil. But I couldn’t resist the two winter themes. My guess is that the White Witch takes President Snow. After all, I don’t see anyone breaking her wand. But I’ve no question that President Snow escapes at the last moment.

3. Old Captain Kirk vs. New Captain Kirk

Old Captain was tough and always in control. But I’m guessing in a battle new Captain Kirk wins—he’s more unpredictable and I think he’d out think old Captain Kirk. (And the fact that Chris Pine is more handsome than William Shatner has nothing to do with it.)

4. Black Widow (Avengers) vs. Eowyn

This is a tough one. Their styles are so different. The Black Widow is conniving, volatile and strong. Whereas, Eowyn is completely forthright in her desires and plans.  And even though I honestly think Black Widow could take Eowyn, I’m giving the win to Eowyn because she’s one of my favorite characters, feminine and tough.

5. Ziva David (NCIS) vs. Zoe Washburne (Firefly)

This last one I’d like your help in determining the winner. In my book, their styles aren’t hugely different. Ziva definitely has Mossad training on her side. But Zoe is Zoe.

So what do you think?

BTW, I released the cover art for "Screwing Up Mongolia," a Screwing Up Time short story. If you'd like to see it, click here.

Monday, September 9, 2013

When You Have A Son

When you have a son, this is what you can wake up to in the morning.

 Why, yes, that is Shelob climbing down my Grandfather clock.

Doesn't everyone want to greet the morning with a cave troll?

No bookcase is complete without a warg chewing on an orc's leg.

I believe my house was decorated with 35 LOTR figures. And it's not even close to the Hobbit 2 release.

N.B. Tomorrow, on my Screwing Up Time blog, I'll be doing a cover reveal for the short story, "Screwing Up Mongolia."

Friday, September 6, 2013

Friday Five: What I'm Missing

My daughter and son both moved to grad school recently. Here’s what I’m missing.

1. Girl time. My daughter Ariel and I always used to talk while we did manis and pedis. Now, I’m not sure what the point is. And, of course, now that I don’t care, my nails look gorgeous.

2. Eaters. Okay, this is mostly my son Luke. But, wow, do we have leftovers! I made a “normal” amount of herbed chicken last week, and I’m still trying to pawn it off as lunches and snacks on the remaining kids. “Look, nachos with extra protein!”

3. Chemistry explanations for normal life. Luke’s the only person I know who can make salad dressings that don’t separate—apparently, you need the proper amount of binder (?). But, he’s still my go-to guy for getting stains out. Email from me: “Hey, Luke, how do get price tag glue off of fabric?” Reply: “Rubbing Alcohol.”

4. Thrifting. Ariel is an expert thrift shopper. When I walk into a thrift store, I’m overwhelmed by the racks of disorganized chaos (and the weird smell). So I walk behind her while she picks over the racks and hands things to me to try on. When I try picking something off the rack, this is what happens. She raises an eyebrow and says, “That’s 1980s. You know that, right?” Me, “Of course, I do, baby. I was just…testing you.”

5. Quiet. Before we had six people in a small house, which meant we were always bumping into each other. Literally and figuratively. Now everyone has their own space. I feel like we’ve morphed from Toula’s family in My Big Fat Greek Wedding where everyone was into each other’s business into Ian’s family where they sip brandy and you can hear a pin drop.

Okay, not quite that quiet. We still have two teenage boys, a Lab, a bird, a hamster, and two guinea pigs. Not even close to that quiet. 

N.B. If you haven't visited "Writerly Wednesday" on Crystal Collier's blog, there's still a chance to play "Two Truths and a Lie" and win swag.
File:Bald Eagle Head sq.jpg
This image has nothing to do with my post, but I couldn't help posting it. It's amazing, and I love raptors. The photo is by Martin Falbisoner and is courtesy of Wikimedia

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Two Truths and a Lie

Today, I'm at Crystal Collier's blog for Writerly Wednesday. Come join us, play "Two Truths and a Lie," and have a chance to win a Screwing Up Time coffee mug.