Friday, December 23, 2005

Xmas havoc

I'm a lazy sod. I admit that up front. I would procrastinate, but I just don't seem to get around to it. So, true to my deadline-oriented nature, I waited until the last minute to do my Christmas stuff. I figure if people get our Christmas letter while their Christmas decorations are still up, that's good enough. But the hard and fast deadline that is the morning of December 25th is inescapable. Mostly. Today, I bought all of Argotnaut's Christmas presents (or should that be Solstice Surprises?), and I only need a few stocking stuffers to complete my shopping. Unfortunately, her "main present" probably won't arrive for a couple of weeks.

"Hah!" I hear you say, "your shopping is nearly done on December 23rd? You got a lot to learn about procrastinatin', boy!" Well, normally I would have waited until tomorrow, but that's when I have to gather everything for the Buddhist "meat"loaf feast, and I know the New Season grocery store will be a yuppie-filled asylum. You may get yelled at for getting in someone's way, but at least the person yelling at you will be well groomed and therefore non-threatening. That said, I think that on really busy days, New Seasons ought to outlaw those goddamned shopping carts that look like little cars that kids ride in. Two days prior to Thanksgiving or Christmas, if you've got kids, they should be chained up out front along with the poor little unfortunate dogs.

Where was I? Oh, so today I wrapped Argotnaut's presents (or "prezzies," as they are known in this household), and put them on our, um, well, Christmas table. I didn't get around to putting up the Xmas "altar" yet. But that didn't stop "Buster, the Cat Who Hated Christmas" from performing his "KILL THE SHINY THING!" ritual. Kill it, Buster! "One of us must die, wrapping paper, and it's NOT going to be me!"

As usual, I outsourced my present wrapping chores to "Drunken Retarded Monkey Giftwrappers, Ltd." They did their usual quality job -- shitty quality, that is -- but they told me for what I pay 'em, I'm lucky I get the presents back at all. But it wouldn't be Christmas without DRMG's liberal, extremely obvious use of cellophane tape and pathetic creases.

I shouldn't feel bad about my procrastination, though. I gave the Xmas letter to Argotnaut two days ago to post for our web-enabled friends, and she still hasn't gotten around to it. I'm sure it'll happen before the New Year. Happy Holidays, everyone, especially you, Bill O'Reilly. I think for people like Bill, we need to start working on a secular greeting for Easter. How about "Happy Bunny Egg Day!"

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Council of Armageddon

For those of you who have too much time on your hands, you may now download the novel I wrote in November, "The Council of Armageddon." Argotnaut has pronounced it "gripping." I pronounce it "cookie dough" -- it has the ingredients of a novel, and might still be enjoyable to read, but it's only about half done. I've uploaded it in "rich text format," and thus it should be readable by all regardless of the type of word processing program or operating system you use.

AT 51,000 words, it'll probably take most people two or three hours to read. Or if you're a poky reader like me, four hours. I would advise against printing it out -- it's about 260 pages long (double spaced).

Now I must vacuum. Dammit.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Argotnaut's favorite meatless loaf

as opposed to her favorite meaty oaf, which I hope is me!

Those who also read Dr. Lizardo's blog (link to the right) know there's been some recipe-ing a'going on. She asked about the vegetarian "meat"loaf and brown sauce I make for special occasions that Argotnaut loves so much. And since I'm doing everything humanly possible to avoid vacuuming right now, here it is.

Two precautions: #1, make a double batch because the first one will be gone quickly and you'll be left with a disaster of a kitchen and no leftovers! Which leads me to precaution #2: these dishes together (and they MUST be served together, preferably with mashed potatoes and nice steamed veggies) use every pan you have and probably some you don't! The recipes come from "3 Bowls: Vegetarian Recipes from an American Zen Buddhist Monastery," by Seppo Ed Farrey. The book is a wealth of delicious, well-explained veggie recipes that range from all-in-one-pot stews to mammoth ordeals, such as this one:

Quinoa-Mushroom Nut Loaf
1 cup quinoa, rinsed well and drained
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large celery ribs, diced
1 medium onion, diced
1.5 teaspoons sea salt
10-12 oz. white mushrooms, diced
1.5 cups wheat germ, toasted*
1 cup walnuts, toasted*
0.5 cup whole wheat bread crumbs
1 large egg, lightly whisked
1 tablespoon dried sage, crumbled
2 teaspoons dried thyme, crumbled
1 teaspoon dried rosemary, crumbled
Freshly milled black pepper
* toasting means exactly that: toast the stuff in a medium skillet until mouth-wateringly fragrant

1. Bring 2 cups water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add the quinoa, reduce the heat to very low, cover and simmer until the water is completely absorbed and the quinoa is tender, 15-20 minutes. Remove from the heat, cover and set aside.

2. Preheat oven to 350F and generously coat a 5x9-inch loaf pan with spray, oil, or butter.

3. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the celery, onion and salt and saute, stirring occasionally, until the onion is almost translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms and saute, stirring occasionally, until all the juices have evaporated and the vegetables just begin to stick to the pan. Transfer to a large bowl.

4. Add the quinoa and remaining ingredients. Mix well with your hands. Pack the mixture tightly into the loaf pan.

5. Bake for about 1 hour, or until the top is toasty brown. Let cool for 10 minutes, loosen the sides with a spatula, and carefully flip the nut loaf onto a serving platter. Slice carefully. Serve.

Garden Brown Sauce
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large carrots, chopped
.75 medium onion, chopped
2 large celery ribs, chopped
2 oz. white mushrooms, cut into quarter-inch slices (about 1 cup)
4 garlic cloves, halved
quarter-cup tomato paste
quarter-cup unbleached white flour
1 cup dry red wine
2 tablespoons tamari
2 teaspoons peppercorns
3 bay leaves
1 teaspoon dried thyme, crumbled
half-teaspoon sea salt

1. Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the carrots and onion and saute, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, about 15 minutes.

2. Add the celery, mushrooms, and garlic and saute, stirring occasionally, until browned, about 10 minutes more.

3. Add the tomato paste and saute until browned, about 10 minutes. Add the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute.

4. Stir in the wine and scrape up the browned bits from the bottom of the saucepan. Add 6 cups water and the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 45 minutes.

5. Strain through a very fine sieve into a medium bowl; discard the solids. Serve immediately or refrigerate for up to 1 week. Make a double batch and freeze any leftovers. The sauce can be frozen for up to 3 months.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Hey, I'm a Novelist (sorta)

Well, I had to pound out about 5,000 words yesterday to make the 50,000 word threshold, but I am now an official novelist in the eyes of the folks at "National Novel Writer's Month."

The mighty opus, "The Council of Armageddon," is almost finished. I figure another 3,000 words will bring it to its conclusion, but I wasn't going to be able to complete it before the deadline. So when the counter on my word processing program hit 50,119, I uploaded the almost finished work at about 11:50 pm last night. For my troubles, I received this lovely gift icon:

When the first draft is finished, I will upload it to my site so that any interested parties can take a look at it. I haven't decided whether I will do a second draft -- I'm just not convinced that my writing prowess is sharp enough that I can do justice to the story right now, especially one this long and involved. Argotnaut has said she'll read it when I finish the first draft, and I will rely on her expert criticism to guide my future actions.

One thing I did discover, or rather one thing I was reminded of, was that I can't do serious writing at home. There are simply too many distractions that prevent me from focusing for extended periods. In my case, that focus is vital to achieving the flashes of insight and creativity necessary to do good work. I guess it's like meditation, and there's a good reason why Buddhist monks do not mediate in an environment where dogs and cats can jump up on them and the phone is ringing and they're tempted to watch "Daily Show" clips on the internet or to make another cup of tea rather than continue concentrating.

I did enjoy the process, however. And who knows? Maybe I can make the thing good enough that maybe somebody would want to buy it But for the near future, I have several more promising stories to shop.