Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Wednesday admires a lot of teachers...

Christina: Sounds like a good meal! And cooked abroad, no less. I’d steer toward sandwiches too : )

Cassie: Congratulations! I’m sure Matthew is roiling in fury. Yay! Also, I love your teacher heroes.

Alexandra: My girlfriend’s favorite movie is Equilibrium. Truly a good movie.

My heroes. Like Cassie, mine have, by and large, been teachers (and all have taught me something). I have been lucky in my schooling to have a great many incredible teachers and not so many crappy ones. (I just did a headcount, and I’ve had something like 130 teachers in my day. Holy crap.)

For me, heroes usually show me something about myself that I didn’t know was there before. One of my first was my tenth-grade English teacher, Mr. Osborne. I was used to slacking off and doing well, but he didn’t take any of my shenanigans. Playing games on my TI-83 during class? Not gonna fly. It was in his class that I started reading things that challenged me philosophically, and he and that class got the ball rolling on my eventual liberalization. I owe him a lot.

My eleventh-grade chemistry teacher, Ms. Bowers, is another hero, though I didn’t realize how much until years later. She was one of the first non-heterosexual people I ever knew, and she was one of the best teachers I ever had. She taught us to teach ourselves. And, while that was awesome, what I admire most about her these days is how much of a nonevent her sexuality was. She was out and open and talked about her family, her spouse, and her kids. I don’t know how I would go about finding her today (she no longer works for that school district, and I’m unsure about her first name), but if I could tell her anything, it would be to express admiration at a life authentically lived and students incredibly well taught.

When I got to college, one of my first professors turned out to be one of the most life-changing. My oboe professor, Dr. Leclair, was and is freaking incredible. She is a world-renowned oboist and, long story short, taught me that I didn’t want to be a musician. I cannot express my gratitude enough for this revelation. She showed me, through her own passion and incredible work ethic for her art, that I owed it to myself to find what I love. And I’m getting there. She is another authentic human being. I guess I have a serious admiration for authenticity.

I once took a class on grammar (surprise, surprise) that turned out to be geared toward future English teachers. I planned on skating through and pretending to want to be a teacher, but the professor, Ms. Aiken, was not satisfied with that. She actively encouraged me to tailor the course material to make the most out of it for myself. Clichéd though this is, she took learning outside the classroom. I learned a hell of a lot from that woman. As the course progressed, I went to Ms. A for help planning for graduate school. Today I count her among my friends.

I do have other heroes. My family is my foundation, my girlfriend is the light of my life, and various historical figures are freaking inspirational. But when I think of heroes, my mind automatically starts listing off teachers. And honestly, I don’t want to give you guys a TL;DR situation by listing everybody who ever gave me encouragement—though those names are many.

Other teachers worth mentioning: Mr. Woodman (high school biology); Mrs. Geisler (12th grade English); Dr. Gene Poor (entrepreneurship and innovation); Dr. Margaret Weinberger (sociological theory and anthropology); Dr. Marissa Wagner-Oehlhof (adolescent psychology and human sexuality); Mrs. Pugh-Blevins (high school counselor)

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Tuesday's Holding Out for a Hero~

Fun piece of trivia about me: I have a secret fascination with songs that have the word 'hero' in them. "I Need a Hero" by Bonnie Tyler is a classic, but "Hero" by Enrique Iglesias is basically my guilty pleasure. Remember when Enrique Iglesias was awesome? No? Me neither, it's been tainted with "Tonight". That song offends me deeply.

Anyway, heroes, eh? When I was little, I couldn't stand the term. Kind of went through my 'goth phase' back in kindergarten, and I'm fairly sure my first crush was Scar from "The Lion King". Not inclined towards heroes, you know? I never really looked up to anyone, either. Near the closest thing I had to a hero was a huge celebrity crush on Jeff Goldblum. That started with Jurassic Park, moved on to his horror works (The Fly, in particular), and culminated in a Goosebumps computer game. In that game, you need to go to Dracula's castle and steal something from his cloak and - in FMV glory - Jeff Goldblum was Dracula! My little crush couldn't handle the amount of amazing that came from that one. I still have a giant crush on Jeff Goldblum.

 In retrospect, the closest thing to a role model I had as a child was Steve Irwin. Paleontology - which was my ambition at the time - can potentially land one in a place with a lot of snakes. I may have hated the heat (still do), but goodness knows I'd sooner dig up bones in Colorado than learn the scientific know how to do the same thing with a giant ice breaker in the Arctic, you know? Mostly it was the snakes, though. I wanted a snake as a kid, and a guy who just picked up venomous ones and treated them with as much kindness as most treat a kitten? He was radical.

I can't think of anyone I idolized in the middle years, now, the early high school and junior high period of time in my life. I was absorbed in my media at that point, just dedicated to the next Harry Potter books and spending 10 hours on the phone with my best friend at the time discussing the latest episode of Yu-Gi-Oh!. If I were asked, I'd have probably said something like Marik Ishtar or Lucius Malfoy.

Eleventh grade was probably the first time I ever met somebody who inspired me, genuinely. That would have been my science fiction/AP English (I had him for both classes) teacher, Mr. Sorrentino. He was a hoot. Old gentlemen, I'm willing to admit I probably had a bit of a thing for him, who really helped me come into my political views. Didn't agree with everything he said, of course. Bit of a conspiracy theorist, in that regard, particularly when it came to the Egyptians and the aliens. But he helped show me how far the left side of politics could go. I really didn't know until him, you know. I knew about abortion, gay marriage, the big issues, but economic matters, privatization, things like that never really phased me. I'm probably a socialist because of Sorrentino, and I'm happy for it. Not to mention, he had a great taste in literature. He taught a sci-fi class, after all. Even introduced me to a few great shows: Firefly, Stargate SG-1, Harsh Realm. And we watched Equilibrium in school, so how couldn't I think highly of the guy?

As an adult, out of school, married, etc., I again am inclined to say I don't have a hero. I don't think of people that way. I have influences, certainly, but they are very tied to my beliefs and profession. People like Mario Batali (a chef) and China Mieville (an author). Even those people are practically chosen because of shared tendencies. Mario Batali always reaches for the same herbs as I do, you know? I read his cook books because I want to cook like him, but outside of the kitchen, I have no particular interest in him (except for the fact that's kind of cute). China Mieville gets mention because, as with Batali, he is very much my ideal in terms of my own writing, but he is someone I follow outside of writing. He's a man of my politics, and a man who has some genuinely interesting things to say about speculative literature, and I love him for it. And yes, he's kind of hot, too.

Erm, yeah. I think that about covers it. I definitely never 'looked up' to my parents. I can't honestly say that I think I've ever even loved them. I have a... disconnect, I guess, between blood and love. I genuinely despised my brother until quite recently, and that only because he's evolved into something of a miniature me, with a wide array of the same interests and a bit of a brain on him, too. I've liked a fair few teachers, but mostly in the same way I like my friends, not really as figures to look up to. When I like a teacher, I don't put them up on a pedestel, I tend to bring them down to my level. I call them by their first name and we talk about the most recent episode of Game of Thrones and make penis jokes. So, Sorrentino aside, celebrities and fictional characters are about the only place I'll find my role models, and even then, I tend to only think of them in regards to one or two aspects of my life.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Monday's heroes are teachers

Hello girls! It's Monday!

Nano Count: 50234! I have won! Last night, in an 8500 word push after stalling out over most of Thanksgiving! The story is nowhere near finished, but I made my word count, and more importantly, I beat my brother. Not that everything's a competition between us . . .

Everyone's meals sound fantastic! Alexandra, I will definitely try your suggestion when I make my chili again, and now I want to try and cook everyone else's recipes, too! Who knows? If I get my kitchen stocked and ready, I may become culinary yet!

As for this week's theme, let's talk about heroes.

I always hated this question when I was younger because I didn't really know how to answer it. Truth be told, I still don't. I never followed the classic superheroes and Prince Charming made me want to punch things, so I always felt like I had resort to real people who no one had heard of.

But I was a huge fan of Helen Keller for a long time. I read her autobiography when I was nine, I believe, and I saw The Miracle Worker for the first time a little before that. Helen Keller was inspiring to me. She overcame a whole lot of adversity through her drive and determination, and I could never imagine living in the world she did, dark and silent, and being able to move past that.

Now, Helen Keller still inspires me (and Helen Keller jokes are not in any way amusing to me; I find them incredibly distasteful), but the more I studied her story, the more I realized that, while heroic, she would never have been able to accomplish all she did if it hadn't been for the stubbornness and determination of her teacher, Anne Sullivan. Anne Sullivan made Helen Keller's accomplishments possible. She looked at the wild, seemingly untrainable hellion before her, and she saw the intelligence and the passion and the potential, like all good teachers must.

And as I reflect on my heroes today, I am struck by what they all have in common: they are all teachers. Not necessarily my personal teachers, though many of them all, but they are all teachers because that is, in many ways, the truest kind of legacy.

So. My heroes are:

Ethan Lillard, a 10-year-old who died of brain cancer. He was my cousin and he taught me that every day is a gift and that optimism is everything. He taught me that life should be lived with a song and a smile, and that family is the most important thing.

Mike Mack, a high school math teacher, who once ran a footrace with me in the hallway before I knew who he was. He was dry and sarcastic and intimidating, and he once told his eight and five year olds that the ice cream truck only played its music when it was empty, but he made calculus make sense (almost), and he let me banter back and forth with him, and I'm convinced he once gave me pity points on my final grade in pre-calculus to bump my percentage up to an 89.5 so that I wouldn't get the first ever B on my report card because of two-tenths of a percent after I'd worked so hard.

Steve Taylor, a middle and high school band teacher, who took a shy, awkward, unpopular girl and gave her the one non-elected officer position because he knew she deserved it but would never be given it by her classmates. He gave me private lessons once a week for eight years, knowing all the while I that I didn't practice anywhere near the amount I was supposed to. He taught me that scoring a III at contest wasn't the end of the world, and that any dream was worth pursuing if I wanted it, even if he really wanted me to pursue the French Horn into college instead of theatre.

Connie Ballard, a fourth grade teacher. She had the reputation of being the meanest, strictest, scariest teacher in the entire school, and I cried when I found I'd been put in her class.She kept us in at recess if we skipped even a single problem in our homework or if we failed to accurately recite our multiplication tables. She was, in fact, the strictest teacher I have ever had. She was also the best. She let me sit at her desk during five-minute oral book reports and talk for twenty minutes about the books I was reading. She asked if she could enter the poems I wrote in my journal into a writing contest because she thought they had a chance of winning. When I got the lead in the high school musical, she came opening night and sat in the front row. She was entirely invested in my education and in me as a person beyond just as a student in her classroom, and I will never forget her for that. Yes, she was strict, but we learned from her. And what we learned, we didn't forget.

And now that I've graduated college and am teaching myself, my students have become my heroes. Because they teach me so much, about myself, and about how to be a better teacher. Their energy and enthusiasm inspire me every day, and I have so much still to learn.

Famous heroes are all well and good, but I find it's the personal ones that end up meaning the most.

Alexandra, I'll see you tomorrow.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Week 38: Holding out for a hero!

From Carlyn:

This week's theme: Heroes! Who are yours? Living, dead, knew them personally or not, who do you look up to as an example for your life and how have they affected you?

Friday, November 25, 2011

Making the most of my resources

All of your meals sound delicious! I can't wait until I'm back home for Christmas to do some fancier cooking, especially some baking. :)

I may have mentioned before that there is a communal kitchen in the residence here, but it's only open on the weekends. During the week we have breakfast and dinner in the cafeteria. For lunch I either go out and buy something like a pita or a baguette or I make a sandwich. Nothing too fancy, but I get fed. Anyway, the kitchen is in very sorry shape and is really just disgusting, to be blunt. I don't even want to guess when the last time it was properly cleaned was. But we've been making the most of it!

For my meal I was inspired by Rosianna's video in which she makes halloumi salad which you can see here. For her salad she used a mix of spinach and watercress, halloumi, quinoa, garlic, cucumber, and lime. I trimmed mine down a little to save money and also due to lack of product availability in France, so for my salad I used: a mix of lettuce and spinach, zucchini, quinoa, garlic, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar.

The quinoa takes the longest to cook, so I did that first. It takes about 20 minutes to cook quinoa and I find that about 1/4 cup is usually enough for one person, especially if you're adding it to a salad. I minced one clove of garlic and added that to the water while the quinoa cooked. Once the quinoa was done, I chopped the zucchini into little rounds and sauteed it in olive oil. (There's only one working stove burner in the kitchen, so we have to cook things one at a time.) Then came assembly! I put the salad mixture in a bowl, with the quinoa on top, and then the zucchini. I added a little bit of balsamic vinegar on top for flavor and there you go! It wasn't the fanciest meal and not the best thing I've ever eaten (if I had been able to get a lime at the grocery store I would have liked to have that little zing), but it was good! It tasted especially good after a week of cafeteria food which is not the healthiest or tastiest. France gets a reputation for having amazing food and eating fresh and local all the time, but the cafeteria here definitely does not follow along with that. They serve so many fried things it's becoming a bit ridiculous, but I suppose that's the north of France for you.

For all those who celebrated I hope you had a nice Thanksgiving! Despite being in France this year, I will actually end up having two Thanksgivings. Like I mentioned, I went to Paris last weekend to have Thanksgiving with family friends. And now this weekend the English teachers I work with are putting together a Thanksgiving dinner this Saturday. I'm interested to see what it will be like- will it be a traditional Thanksgiving dinner or a Frenchified Thanksgiving?

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Wednesday is enjoying cooking!

Christina: I’m glad to hear everything is working!

Cassie: Impressive NaNo word count! I hope it’s going well. And that you’re beating that brother of yours :P

Alexandra: Sounds like a great recipe! Well done.

For my own food, I had some help from a certain girlfriend. We teamed up on this meal first for ourselves and then for her family, and it turned out really well both times.

Stuffing-Stuffed, Bacon-Wrapped Chicken

Yields: Six filling servings
Prep time: ~10-15 minutes
Cook time: ~45 minutes

Three chicken breasts
1 box stuffing (Stove Top or other brand)
½ stick of butter
1 ½ C water
1 pound bacon

1. Preheat oven to 375°F.

2. Cook stuffing according to box instructions (using butter and water).

3. Slice defrosted chicken in half laterally, so you end up with two (six total) half-thickness breast fillets.

4. Using meat tenderizer, flatten each piece of chicken.

5. Lay out three strips of bacon side by side. Put flattened chicken on top of bacon.

6. Smush some stuffing on top of the chicken.

7. Starting at one end, roll the bacon-chicken-stuffing combination up.

8. Pull the bacon tight and pin together with toothpicks. (We had to used sharpened pieces of dowel first, as we had no toothpicks.)

9. Place on baking pan (perhaps lined with foil to make for easy cleaning).

10. Repeat steps 5-9 with each piece of chicken.

11. Bake for about 45 minutes.

12. During this time, cook the rest of the meal. Maybe boil some potatoes for mashing or heat up some green beans.

13. Enjoy! But be careful not to eat the toothpicks.

So that was my meal. It turned out really well, and we're going to perfect our methods and make it a staple in our kitchen.

Hope everyone is doing well!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Tuesday Is Kind of a Cook, So...

I didn't really plan anything in particular for this week, given the fact that I cook at least thrice in any week. When considering what to post for this challenge, I thought it'd be fair to make something that I had tweaked a bit myself, worked into my own meal. Seemed like the best option.

@Cassie, Looks good! Might I recommend a pinch of oregano? Most people think of that as a pasta-pizza sort of herb, but it's really good in chilis. :)

Mushroom-Stuffed Chicken
6 Chicken Breasts
2 Cups of Chopped White Mushrooms
2 Cups of Tomato Sauce
1 Tablespoon of Mixed Herbs (Basil, Parsley, Oregano)
1 Tablespoon of Butter
1 Clove of Chopped Garlic
Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper

1. Unpack the chicken breast from wherever you were keeping it, and be sure that it is fully defrosted. Slice each breast nearly in half, but leave the back closed up. We'll be stuffing these. Put it in a ziplock bag with 1 cup of tomato sauce. Leave sitting for 2 to 6 hours.
2. In a skillet, sauté mushrooms in butter, salt, and olive oil (use as much as needed to coat pan) on medium temperature, until browned and soft.
3. Let the mushrooms sit on a paper towel to dry off, clean out your pan, and in a bit of olive oil, cook up your chicken breasts on medium temperature. You'll want to cook the meat through once you're done, so check to see that it's not pink on the inside.
4. Remove the chicken breasts and spoon in mushrooms. Once you've filled up a breast, pin it shut with a couple of toothpicks through the seal.
5. In a bowl, mix your herbs, garlic, and tomato sauce. Add salt and pepper at your discretion.
6. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees (Fahrenheit, obviously)
7. Take a pan - something large enough to give each chicken breast its own space - and add your tomato sauce and chicken breasts. Coat the chicken breasts in the sauce, and use any excess for the bottom and sides of the pan.
8. Pop it in the oven for 10 to 20 minutes. Just enough to see the sauce bubbling.
9. Remove it from the oven, and remove the toothpicks. Serve with a bit of garlic bread, steamed vegetables, rice, or pop it in with some pasta, breadcrumbs, and mozzarella for a fantastic twist on chicken parmesan.

I can't say I personally care much for the mushrooms - never been a fan - but my husband and mum-in-law both liked the recipe. And the tomato sauce-soaked chicken has a great taste to it, if you feel the same about the mushrooms. It is really a fantastic touch on a chicken parmesan, particularly if you add dried tomato to the breadcrumbs. Incorporate the ingredients into every element you can.

Can't wait to see what the rest of you came up with! :)

Monday, November 21, 2011

Monday made chili!

Hello, girls! It's Monday!

Current NaNo Word Count: 37,699.

So, cooking.

Me, I've always been a baker. I liked to help make cookies, brownies, bread, all of it when I was younger. I made pretty tasty things, too, though I do say so myself. But I stayed away from cooking. It was a lot more intimidating, as there were a lot more things that could go wrong in the process. Even once I got my own apartment in college, I kept to things I could cook in the microwave, steam or heat up in a pot on the stove, and pasta. So this challenge was a little intimidating for me.

However, while thinking about what to make, we had a potluck at my church, and someone brought in brown sugar chili, which is what my mom used to make very occasionally, given that my brothers didn't like beans. But I always loved it, and so, I decided then and there. We have a slow cooker, I said. So I'm going to make brown sugar chili.

And that is exactly what I did.

My ingredients:

My recipe:

Crock Pot Brown Sugar Chili
Source: Weight Watchers website, via a post on
Yield: 8 servings

1 lb extra lean ground beef (I used ground turkey)
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 Tbsp prepared mustard
1 medium sized onion, chopped (I used frozen pre-chopped onion)
2 (14 oz) cans kidney or red beans (I used one can chili beans in mild sauce and one can red beans)
2 cups low sodium tomato juice
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground pepper
1 tsp chili powder

My addition: frozen red, green and yellow bell peppers

Brown ground beef and onion (and peppers) in a non-stick skillet over medium heat. Drain. Add all ingredients to crock pot and stir to combine. Cover. Cook on high for 2-3 hours. If possible, stir several times during cooking.

240 calories, 6g fat, 4g fiber = 4/5 WW points per serving (hits right on the line)
In process:

And three hours later, voila! Dinner for two! And lunch . . . and dinner again . . . and more lunch . . . :) We had leftovers for a week!

 But it was very good, and is now definitely going to be a regular recipe!

I made cornbread, too, but it wasn't all that stellar, so I'm not posting the recipe.

But yay! Brown sugar chili!

Happy Thanksgiving if you're celebrating this week, and with Christmas on the horizon, I'd like to send out Christmas cards to everyone, so if you'd email me a mailing address, that would be great! :)

Alexandra, I'll see you tomorrow!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Week 37: The Culinary Arts!

Well, girls, the time has come! Hopefully, you've spent some time in the kitchen since Alexandra posted her challenge, 'cause the timer's gone off, and soup's up!

. . . Okay, no more cooking references, I promise.

Tuesday's challenge awaits, and I can't wait to hear how everyone's meals turned out!

... Whoops

Okay, I suck. Working internet and all (my own connection is finally working!) and I missed my blogging day. Here's the deal: I was in Paris over the weekend visiting my friend and having (early) Thanksgiving with her family and totally forgot to blog before I left. I remembered when I was there, but it was too late at that point. I'm sorry!

So, yes.... I suppose a punishment is in order, right? Sigh.

JAB time! Well, like I said, this weekend I was in Paris visiting my friend and her family. We've known each other our whole lives, so they're a bit like extended family at this point. We had a wonderful Thanksgiving on Saturday with their family, another family they're friends with, and me. It was great to be with good friends and have a cozy, homey Thanksgiving. And I enjoyed spending quality time with good friends. Also! I got to help bake a cake and apple pies. I've really missed baking, so that just made the whole weekend even better.

Things have been on a considerable up-turn on this side of the Atlantic! In the future I now refer to last Tuesday the 15th as "The Day When Everything Started Working." It was miraculous. For the past month or so France and I have been in a battle, with France very much winning. Sign up and pay for internet? Nope, doesn't work for a month. Send in immigration papers to be here legally? Still hadn't gotten appointment yet. Name spelled wrong on important work document? Oh, we won't send you the fixed copy for a month. Your cafeteria meal card doesn't work? We can't fix it until next week, just scavenge until then! 

Then, the week before last, it seemed that things were starting to look up- I got my meal card fixed and could eat in the cafeteria again! And then suddenly, The Day When Everything Started Working! Last Tuesday I got my fixed work paper with my name correctly spelled! I talked to the immigration office and found out my appointment was in enough time for me to go home (legally) for Christmas!! And a technician from the phone company came and properly installed my internet! It was a glorious day.

I will ignore the fact that the phone technician showed up without any appointment, just called me and said he was downstairs and could I let him in. Umm... okay, sure, I went with it. I got a phone call the next day telling me a technician was going to come by. Yupp, the company was really on top of that one. BUT it is okay, everything is good now. Everything is working! 

So, in conclusion, things are going well over here in France. And I will be visiting home in less than a month for Christmas! Some of the things I'm looking forward to doing: seeing my family and friends, petting my cat, baking cookies, cooking in a real kitchen, driving a car, eating an American breakfast, lying on my couch and watching tv. I can't wait.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Wednesday IS a spreadsheet

Christina: Welcome back to your regularly scheduled programming!

Cassie: Yay, Guion candy! Also, yay Oklahoma! Also, yay NaNo! And finally, yay Deliverance! She is wonderful. And you are telling her story well.

Alexandra: What a brilliant world! I have incredible admiration for all the complexities of that kind of writing. Amazing.

I’m not involved with NaNo, except for hearing and being excited about y’all’s involvement.

But that doesn’t mean I haven’t been writing.

So far this semester, for my first four graduate-level classes, I have written about thirty papers and outlines of various persuasions, totaling over 300 double-spaced pages and more than 60,000 words. Grad school means writing. Lots of it (though probably no more than you all are used to writing for various purposes).

To count this, I have dorkily set up a spreadsheet of all my papers and documents. And no, this is not the dorkiest thing I have ever done with Excel.

Also not the dorkiest thing I have ever done with Excel: Set up a layout for my eventual Dream House on Sims. And no, not the Sims you play on your computer. We’re talking Facebook Sims Social. Really bad.

The dorkiest thing I have ever done with Excel, you ask?


I was halfway done with Pokémon Gold for Gameboy Color (which I was playing on my Advance and never actually finished) when one day I decided that I needed a spreadsheet of every single Pokémon in my collection.

Complete with species, name, date obtained, method of attainment (caught, traded, hatched, etc.), moves, and every single other statistic imaginable.

I spent hours on this spreadsheet.

And I never found a single use for it, as the Gyrados in that one lake eluded me until I got too annoyed to continue.

And that, children, is my story of how Excel can be used for powers of Dorkiness.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Tuesday Has Mostly Been Working on a World

Yeah, I've just been chilling. Kind of on-off with NaNo, but I've been writing a lot this month, which is all that matters. Interesting character dynamics in my novel. Margarita, an asexual, is in an arranged marriage with Fyodor, a homosexual, and is pregnant with his child - but they're on the run (they were Tsar and Tsaritsa) along with Fyodor's lover (and one of the lords) in the sewer system, basically. They sort of become a family, but a very strange and dysfunctional one. They all love each other, and their child more importantly (which Nikolai, Fyodor's lover, considers as much his as the others), so it... works.

But that's not really what my passion's been for this past month. My passion has been a worldbuilding project, #soundworld (that's a collection of notes on the subject). I can't recall how much I've mentioned and I'm tired as hell (I've been up all night), so I'm not looking it up, but the basic premise is that sound (and on a deeper level, math) is magic. Music, in turn, is how one can produce the more interesting magic of the world. Been building up everything, but the real kick here comes in what I want to write. Short story anthologies that span the world's past, present, future. I'm a sucker for fantasy, and that means history, so I want the religion and bad medicine and sexism and all that comes with it... but I really want a modern fantasy world. Even a futuristic fantasy world.

So I'm developing the changes over time in everything. Civilizations rise and fall, languages diverge, religions disappear, music - noise, soundwaves - are understood. Different species learn to communicate. The nature of some of the world's mysteries are discovered. I want to write different types of stories. Drama, comedy, action, erotica - I have an idea for a typical fantasy story about a floating city that's doomed to collapse, I have an idea for a Canterbury Tales-esque collection of travellers on a long train ride through the desert, I have an idea for a romance between a single father and a medic. And as I develop all of them, more of the intricacies of the world open up. It takes a lot of fine tuning to match everything I want, and I want to write everything before I consider publishing any of it. I hate stories with too much retconing, you know? But I'm excited about this project, and it's been a while since I felt that.

I like it, as well, because I can draw influence from a thousand places and never really lose anything or bundle up too much. I want to draw in a bit of Lovecraft, so I just stick it in the future. I have these creatures, the Soundless, whose origins are oft debated and speculated upon in the world, and finally in the distant future, they discover that they are people who solved the wrong equations, changed reality. Like, fundamentally altered their realities. To the point where it takes eons to reverse it, because you need to use math to change it again, but math itself is different. 2 + 2 = 3, man.

Other, general updates:

  • Someone take Team Fortress 2 away from me, I can't write with this on my computer.
  • Skyrim looks nice, but do you know what was released on the same day?
  • I will have no life for the next month, TBQH.
  • New Professor Layton and new Legend of Zelda, too.
  • And then I am going to go to Florida.
  • JSYK, I am graciously accepting my punishment now because hahahano if you think I am going to update on the 27th. That's my last day at Disney World (I leave on the 21st), and aside from being on a plane for about 10 hours of that, I want to enjoy a nice fancy lunch at Epcot and get a good nap in before the painful plane ride.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Monday . . .

doesn't have time to finish her title!

Hello, girls, it's Monday, and I'm swamped. I'm stage managing and props master-ing for a production of Oklahoma that goes into tech this week, my family is helping my grandparents make their Christmas candy today, I have a list of things a mile long that have to be completed for the classes I'm teaching, and, oh, yeah, NaNo.

27,719 words, by the way.

So . . . yeah. I'm gonna be losing my mind and running around like a chicken, etc, etc, fill in the phrase for yourself, for the next few days, so . . . here! Enjoy an excerpt of my NaNo novel! :)


You know how they always say you can never fully understand prophecies until they’ve come to pass? Maybe I cannot speak for the majority of prophecies, but I can speak for my own, and I can tell you that the mysterious “they” are absolutely correct.
My name is Deliverance, and nothing important was ever supposed to happen to me. If it happened to anyone, it was supposed to happen to Patience, who was the eldest, or Honor, who was the youngest, or Valor, who was the only boy. But me? I was just Deliverance, number eight in a long string of daughters born to my parents King Earnest and Queen Laurel over the course of sixteen years. I was not the prettiest (that was my elder sister Constance, who will deny it until her dying day because she is also the sweetest), the most outspoken (that was my elder sister Faith, who could, and often did, turn anything into an argument), or the most mischievous (that was shared between my own twin Remembrance and, most ironically, my younger sister Serenity). No, I was just Deliverance, and if I were to be given any superlative at all, it would be the quietest or the shyest or perhaps the most likely to simply fade into the background.
And I was content with that superlative. I even desired it, to some degree. I was shy, I was quiet, and my idea of an exciting afternoon was finding a new book in the library. I did not enjoy the public eye, and I never sought the spotlight. I was content to be ordinary and overlooked for my entire life.
But of course, that is not the way that things worked out.
My story begins with my mother’s death. The story I was part of, of course, had its beginning many long years before, but the day my mother died is when it all started for me. It is a tragic beginning for a story, but it is the necessary one, for it was on my mother’s deathbed that she whispered a prophecy to me, the prophecy of who I was and what I was destined to do. I was ten years old, and her words frightened me greatly, for my mother didn’t prophecy often, but when she did, what she saw always came true. And she told me that if my world was to be saved, I would have to live up to the name she had given me, and truly become the Deliverance for so many.    
But I am getting ahead of myself, and ahead of the story. For if you are to understand what happened to me, to us, I must start before my mother’s death. I must start with the story of a young, handsome prince and a beautiful but mysterious lady who appeared at his court one day.

Chapter One
Once upon a time, there lived a young prince named Earnest, and the time for him to marry was drawing near. His parents, the ruling King and Queen of Lochlea, were getting older, and they wanted to see their son settled with a wife and an Heir before their deaths. But none of the foreign princesses who had come to court had captured the prince’s fancy, and none of the noble ladies who had been there since his birth had managed to do so, either. King Valiant and Queen Grace were dismayed, to say the least, for they dearly wanted their son to marry for love. But they and he both knew that if love didn’t come soon, a marriage would have to be arranged.
And then, one day, who should arrive at their court but a beautiful young woman who introduced herself as Laurel. She said she was a noble woman from a country far across the sea. When asked how she had come to travel so far from her home, her perfect smile faltered and a sadness crept over her. She said that she had always longed to travel and never been content with staying in the land she had been born into, as had been expected of her. She had finally convinced her parents to allow her to follow the pull she felt in her heart and see the world. She had left her kingdom behind and taken the first ship across the sea, going wherever that pull in her heart led her, and Lochlea was where she ended up.
My father always used to say it was my mother’s sadness that truly captured his heart, for she had accepted it and bore it and balanced it, and because it had touched her, she was wiser and more beautiful than all the silly ladies he had so far met. They fell in love and were married. My mother’s parents were unable to come to the wedding, but if this raised any suspicions, my mother had won over people of the country so entirely during the time my father courted her that no one dared bring their suspicions forth.
So the prince was married, and the kingdom rejoiced and waited for an heir, but a year passed, then two, and there was no heir. My grandfather died, and my father was crowned king, my mother named queen beside him, but still there was no heir. Now, my father had a cousin who had married the second son of a neighboring kingdom, and she had a son the year my father became king. Dauntless was his name, and often, when my father worried about the future late at night, he would whisper to my mother if they shouldn’t make Dauntless their heir. And my mother would just smile (“For women always know,” she would interject at this point of the story), and lay a hand on his arm and say, “Patience.”
And sure enough, when my parents had been married for six years, they had their first child, a daughter. And following the Lochlea tradition of naming the royal children after the qualities one hopes they will grow to possess, they named my eldest sister Patience. Two years later, they had Joy, then Faith, then Hope, and then it was as if a floodgate had opened, and they went from having no children for six years to having eleven children in thirteen years.
For Constance followed Hope, and then Prudence, and then Remembrance and myself were numbers seven and eight. Then came the “itties,” Charity, Purity, and Serenity. And for three years, little Ren was the youngest, and people began to say, “Yes, eleven girls is all quite well, but what about a son?” And my mother, as she had eleven years before just smiled and said, “Patience.” And sure enough, when Serenity was three and I was eight and Patience was sixteen, another pair of twins, a boy and a girl, Valor and Honor, were born. Thirteen children, twelve girls and one boy, in sixteen years. But the kingdom had an heir and my parents had a family, and for a while, all was perfect.
Then my mother fell ill.

Friday, November 11, 2011

I'm on time, I'm on time!

What's that, it's ACTUALLY Friday? And I'm posting? What??

As it turns out, in a humorous turn of events there has been wifi in the downstairs common area of the residence the WHOLE TIME. Of course, the helpful and thoughtful administration never informed us of this and we finally found out from some students who live in the hall. Womp womp. It isn't the fastest internet, but it's unlimited, doesn't block "unsavory" (aka downloading) sites, and is in the same building! Though now that I've told you this I'll no longer have an excuse to post late... Nice one, Christina.

Also before I get to the topic, I wanted to let you guys know that I finally started posting on my travel blog about my time in France. If you're interested you can read it here!

I've never been an athletically-inclined person and I've always wished that I were more sporty. I'm not a good runner, even when I'm in shape. I can't hit balls, can't kick them... I'm just not good with the whole hand-eye coordination thing. And running and throwing/catching things at the same time? Disaster. So sports are one of the abilities I envy. Not so much that I'd actually put effort into practicing so I could, you know, actually improve. Just something that it would be nice to be able to do, but when push comes to shove isn't actually enticing enough to merit the work.

I'd also like to be a more artistic person. I'm good enough at graphic design and I think I could become much better if I took it back up and worked at it often (I used to have my own website that I designed myself, graphics and html), but I'm not so great at drawing, painting, things that require a steady, practiced hand. Maybe this has something to do with hand-eye coordination again, definitely not a strong suit for me.

In the same artistic vein, I also admire writers. I would like to be a better writer, especially now that I'm regularly blogging for this blog and my travel blog. I feel like I use the same phrases over and over in my writing, repeating the same words. I just don't see a lot of variation in the way I express myself and it's something I want to improve. I'd love to have the writing ability of, for example, Stephen Fry or Neil Gaiman. I also very much admire Rosianna's writing (missxrojas on youtube). She's one of my favorite internet people in general; I love the way she expresses herself both through video and text.

That about sums it up, I believe! I would like to be better at sports, drawing/painting, and writing. And I'm currently working on writing. :)

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Wednesday is dismayed at her forgetfulness

::falls to knees in despair::


I just got done telling Cassie that I’ve been getting very used to blogging on Wednesdays, it’s becoming part of my routine, blah blah blah blah…


Double frick.


Cassie: Yep… procrastinate… That friend is a really good procrastinator. Now, go close that word gap!

Christina: I hope your friend’s internet gets less spotty soon! Hope the French life is treating you well!

Alexandra: Harry Potter World! That is going to be wonderful fun.

Now, what do other people do that I don’t do that I would like to do…

Seriously, this was my topic. I should be better at coming up with something.


I would like to develop my skills in several artistic fields. I’ve always wished I could draw, and I’ve practiced it for a while, and it’s gotten slightly better. I don’t have a natural eye for it, but practice has improved my drawing ability somewhat. Similarly, I’d love to get better at painting. And photography—which is something people seem to be doing in spades these days.

I would also very much like to know how to fix cars. Most people get annoyed or scared when they have a flat tire or need to check their oil or something. I love it. I’ve changed a handful of flats in my life, and it always leaves me energized and smiling. Seriously, I love changing tires. I can’t imagine what it would feel like to know how to fix something more involved.

Also, interior design. I love decorating and planning layouts to maximize space and all sorts of things like that. Sometime I’d love to take a class in it or something.

Finally… cooking. I have no skill in cooking. That probably has something to do with the fact that I have never seriously cooked in my life. But it would be a wonderful skill to learn.

That’s all for me today! And it leaves the word count at… Three-hundred and thirty-two. : )

(Plus the smiley face and this sentence, three-hundred and forty-three.)

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Tuesday Would Like to Knit or Something

I mean, I'm content with my talents, I should say. Cooking? Practical. Writing? Creative. That's all I need in my life, if I'm going to be honest. But I guess I've always kind of wanted to knit or crochet or something. Just sort of a passing fancy, you know? I think it stands out to me because unlike many things, it is something I could do, and I simply haven't yet. I'm a very... mathematical person. I always say I am not an artist, but really, I can draw patterns quite well. Intriguing networks of lines and spirals and Celtic knots and all sorts of things are quite simple for me. I can make fonts, I can make sprites, even. I just can't draw anything, you know, physical.

Similarly, with musical instrumentation, I don't have the right skills for it. I can't play a song unless I've memorized it beforehand, though it should be noted that I can play songs *far* beyond my skill level because I've memorized it. I can't read music and play at the same time, and I can't really get tempo in my head unless I know how fast the song has to go. But I am very good at memorization. I only need to hear a song once to learn the lyrics, the beat, the timing. And if I watch someone play a song, and perhaps write out the notes in a 'CDEEEFF' kind of way, I can play it. I can't play certain instruments, mind. Never got the hang of percussion, I don't have the fingers for string, and I've got bad enough asthma that most wind instruments are out. I used to play clarinet, before it got bad.

So knitting stands out because it is a mathematical process. There's creativity, yes, in choosing yarn and whatnot. But following patterns, counting in your head, repetition, I'm very good with that. I even own knitting needles and yarn and all that. I just haven't be bothered to learn as of yet, which kind of makes it worse, really. Because I know I could if I took out the time to do it, but I'm just... not motivated to, I suppose. I consider starting up, but then I want to read a book, or write a book, or it's an hour until my husband comes home and I need to make him dinner, or something.

Anyway, NaNo Update: I started over on Day 5 because I didn't like the story I was writing, and am currently around 7,000 words. I've done for this for like five years, so just beating isn't a great concern of mine, I just want to finish the story so I can clear the palate. It's been a while since I've written, and finishing something up in a month or two will help me move past this, get the juices flowing. That said, I probably will finish by November 30th, anyway, because writing 2,000 words a day really hasn't been hard since my first NaNo.

Also, my husband and I bought tickets for Universal Studios for our honeymoon in Florida, and I think you all know what means. (It means Harry Potter World!.)

Monday, November 7, 2011

Friday's unreliable friend

So I have this friend... she's really nice and all but lately she's become really unreliable! She has these "valid" excuses like "oh, my internet's not working," but still- when they say "I'll see you Friday," you expect to see the person Friday, right?

I'm sorry, I know it's understandable, but it's really starting to annoy me!

And she just turns up randomly too, without warning! Like this one time, we were supposed to meet on a Friday, but she was late and didn't show up until Saturday. So then we were going to meet again the Friday after that and she just shows up at my place Monday night! What is that?

I'm sure she'll get over it though... :)

Monday can't play the piano

Hello, girls, it's Monday!

Alexandra: Your friend is such a brilliant reminder of how we are all intelligent in different ways! Also, I want you to know, I have completed your challenge! I won't be talking about it here, obviously, but I have cooked things, and my boyfriend and I ate them, and neither of us got sick! So, success! :)

Carlyn: Procrastinate? You? Never. I refuse to believe it. Also, thank you for the ice. I got it to my . . . friend . . . and you'll be pleased to know that the penguins have been taken care of. Now to figure out what to do about the carpet . . .

Christina: Fingers crossed for your internet. We miss you!

Nano update, for anyone interested. It is Day 7. Target word count for the end of Day 7 is 11,666 words. My current word count is 14, 092. I am not currently beating my brother (not that everything's a competition between us . . .) For about six shining hours this morning, I was. Then he got up and wrote another 500 words. And I've spent the morning doing errands. Sigh . . .

But speaking of the fact that my brother and I aren't competitive at all, this week's topic!

So, I don't know if I've mentioned it, but I took piano lessons for about 11 years of my life, from first grade through high school, with a couple hiatus years in there when I was between teachers. Overall, I had two phenomenal teachers and one pretty mediocre one, but I got a good grounding in how to read music and chords, piano technique, and music theory. And I can play, strictly speaking. After eleven years, I can sit down with a piece of music and get through it, more or less. But I cannot really just play the piano, and I certainly can't accompany anyone. I stop and start and second guess myself and am far too much of a perfectionist. It takes about five months of constant, daily practice and pretty intensive work for me to get a piece to the point where I will play it in front of someone, and that was back when I was taking weekly lessons.

So, I'm not piano player. I realized this pretty early on. And I realized it because both of my brothers are. This is the point where Matthew will sputter and deny it and say that he actually can't play very well at all, he just knows how to fake it. This is also the point where I punch him. Because faking it or not, he's still miles better than I am, and he always has been.

I was okay with that, growing up. I mean, he was older and music was always more his thing than mine, so I could live with him occupying that niche, as long as he didn't come over and start sightreading the piece I'd been working on for five months and play it better than I could.

But then I started to notice that my little brother was also a better piano player than I was. And that wasn't okay, because he was three years younger, and had three years fewer experience, and was still better than I was (You should all be impressed with my maturity at this point, because I very rarely admit that my little brother is better than me at anything). The point when I realized that was the point when I came to the conclusion that I was never going to be a piano player. I envy people who have the ability, though, and I'd love to be able to just sit down and play and have beautiful, flowing music come out. But, sadly, that is not among my talents.

I would also love to be able to sign. From a young age, ASL has been fascinating to me. I love to watch interpreters -- I think there's something very beautiful and poetic about sign language. I'd love to actually learn calligraphy forms, instead of the self-taught stuff I can do, and I'd like to be able to juggle.

And that's my ability envy. Now, if you'll excuse me, Matthew's 1000 words ahead of me, and I must close the gap.

Monday out.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Week 35: Ability Envy

From Carlyn:

What do other people do that you not do but that you would like to do?

Follow that? :)

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Friday's internet situation is not improved

Hello girls, I was hoping to be able to update you with good internet news, but alas my new connection in my room is not yet working so I'm still dealing with my limited internet! The internet is not working in my room so I am, yet again, writing this hurriedly at the library. I'm going to my internet provider's store after this to try to get everything working, so I hope to be able to post next week on time and in a leisurely fashion, but my hopes are not too high!

Anyway, as time is tight let's get onto the topics.

Pets: I've had cats my whole life, always two at a time. When I was little our cats were Crystal and Charity. Crystal was scared of nearly everything and would spend most of her time hiding in our library. Charity was the friendly one who unfortunately for her got the brunt of my attention as a child, which included a lot of pulling her tail and clipping bows in her hair. A little anecdote: one of the things Crystal would let me do was rest my head on her stomach and listen to her purr and my first sentence when I was little was "purr me" as I put my head on her. Awww, isn't that adorable? I don't have too many memories of Crystal and Charity besides those, they both got old and sick and we had to put them down by the time I was 6. I do remember that when Crystal was getting really sick she was too weak to move around the house and I would sit and pet her- the most I ever really got to pet her.

After Crystal and Charity we got Lexi and Bo- two black cats, brother and sister, who we adopted from the Humane Society. We still have Bo, but we unfortunately had to put Lexi down two years ago now. She got a form of cancer and got so weak that she could hardly move. Deciding that we had to take her to the vet to put her down was one of the hardest things I've had to do. I hope none of you have to make a decision like that. Lexi was a cuddly, adorable, fat cat that would purr all the time and rub up against you.

Lexi! (With my handmade prefect badge)
And Bo is my favorite guy, I've been told he acts like a dog. When you get home he greats you at the door, rubbing your legs and meowing loudly. I hope I get to go home for Christmas, not only to see my family and friends, but also to see him! I miss my Bo.

He looks judgmental here, but he really is sweet.

Okay, I was also planning on getting to the friend topic, but I'm about to get kicked out of the library- I will update with the next topic and soon as I'm able!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Wednesday's friend procrastinates

Cassie: You’ve definitely got the gist of it. I hope your… friend… gets the shipment of ice I just sent via The Internets. All those penguins are gonna need some chilliness. I sent it to your apartment—just because I didn’t know where your, ahem, friend… lives…

Alexandra: Good luck writing! I’ll expect brief posts from all my NaNoWriMo friends for the duration of the month : )

So… I have this friend… who, um, occasionally waits until the last minute to do things… It’s not me. I always spend plenty of time to make sure things are done wayyyyyyy early. So it’s not me we’re talking about here. Definitely not me.

This friend is, um, in her first year in a masters program in counseling and social psychology—let’s say. And she has a lot of projects here at the end of the semester, lots of papers and presentations and the like. And, true to form, I—SHE—waited until the last minute to do them. So she’s got, like, five papers to write for her four classes.

And I have to go help… her… with them…

We’re just a bundle of busy-ness these days, aren’t we?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Tuesday Has a Stereotypical Genius for a Friend

He's a fun guy. Quirky, intelligent - at least when it comes to the subjects he loves. He's good with electronics and arts and crafts, and he's built some great stuff. But when it comes to things that are less interesting to him, less of an expertise, he does occasionally remind me of the mad movie scientist who only has room in his brain for what he needs to work. He's texted me asking what cereal he should buy, in spite of the fact that we do not live together and rarely interacted with one another before dinner. What could I offer him besides my personal favourite cereals, which he may or may not like?

I've edited his essays, and for someone as intelligent as he is, they can be... well, NaNoWriMo started thirty minutes ago, and I am rushing to write this so I can get my Word document formatted for the morning, and this is far more comprehensible and grammatically correct than anything of his that I've worked with. He asks questions about very... simple topics. Usually English questions, since he knows literature is my area of expertise, but as I said, I've gotten questions ranging from the mundaneness of breakfast to questions about the non-existence of God (via text, I might add, so I had 160 characters to discuss the topic).

He is, at times, whimsically incompetent, and at other times, fascinatingly brilliant.

And that's all you're getting from me today, because I don't know if I want to write in Arial or Times New Roman and I need some sleep before I write out the first encounter of Olwen and company. Hope you all had a Happy Halloween! I spent it eating treats and watching Eight Legged Freaks (great film).