The Most Yellow (or often green) Villian of Them All!

2015 has been a rough year. Due to illness, injury, family emergencies and paid work, I’m way behind on my fiction goals. That said, I’ve finally been able to get a little more research and world/character building done for my NaNoWriMo novel for this year.

Of course, I spilled my drink just as I was getting back into the flow of writing, which called an immediate stop to the typing. Once I cleaned that up, I decided to get the laundry started.

I found something unexpected when I got downstairs.

Bananas. Bananas at the foot of the stairway. Naturally, I felt the need to text my husband.

A screenshot of two texts on a background of wooden beams.Two more text messages on a background of wooden planks.Since I don’t think I can fit everything into the alt-text for those of you who use screen readers, here’s what the texts say:

“So, I was going downstairs to get laundry started, and I think I found some fugitive bananas.”

“(There’s a picture of a banana bunch on the floor next to the bottom two steps of a staircase) Why are the bananas hiding? Are they planning an ambush?”

“Are they out to capture us and carry warped banana-y experiments out on us?”

“ARE THE BANANAS OUT TO GET US?!”

I haven’t gotten a response, but since this year’s story has a distinct pirate bent to it, I’m tempted to name one of them “Bananabosa”.

“Oh, no! It’s the dreaded Bananabosa! Terror of the fruit market! He can give you scurvy JUST BY LOOKING AT YOU!”

That’s how it worked right? Vitamin C deficiency had nothing to do with it.

Not that bananas have much C in them, but…

Well, other fruit does.

Organizing Tips For the Holidays

A blurred monthly planner with a hand drawn evergreen tree in the only in focus block, and the words "Solstice up goes the tree" hand written in green ink. In the foreground, "Organizing Tips For the Holidays" is printed in fancy script.

Now that the weather’s turning, and the time for holiday shenanigans is coming up, it’s probably a good idea to get organized. These tips have helped me, and they may help you, too.

Learn Family Plans ASAP
This one can be especially tricky, since many families aren’t very big on making plans. My family can be very “Just show up whenever”, so it can make plans a bit difficult to stick to, but it always works out somehow.

It’s a little easier getting an idea of when out of town family will be in the area, though, because there’s more planning that goes into getting from point A to point B. By having a firm idea of knowing where who will be when, it’ll be easier to get an idea of how to structure your days during that hectic time of year.

Make a (Flexible) Schedule
One of the trickiest parts of the holidays is organizing time itself.

My husband and I hit both of our families on the holidays. We prefer to have different days, but usually, we spend a morning in one place and the evening in another. We have hosted, before, which comes with its own set of challenges, but we didn’t have to do the traveling.

Before you hit the road, though, you still need to prepare. Are you bringing a dish to share? Will gifts be exchanged? If you’re in an area like Minnesota, what’s the weather going to be like? Are there any road closures?

Setting time aside to shop, cook, clean and/or craft will help ensure you’ll get everything done, and hopefully encourage peaceful, fun gatherings. Just remember schedules rarely maintain their original shape when they meet other people or winter weather. By keeping a degree of flexibility, you’ll still have some wiggle room for spontaneity and adjustment.

And don’t forget to schedule downtime for yourself, if you need it! I’m an introvert, so I need time alone to recharge in order to enjoy the loved ones in my life. Self-care is just as important as caring for others.

20151109_174034

Lists, Lists Galore
I’m a big fan of lists. Considering my working memory is spotty at best, I need to write everything down if I’m going to get anything done. For the holidays, I make three lists:

  • Card/letter recipients
  • Gift recipients
  • Deadlines for home and work

I try to send out cards and holiday letters every year, but that doesn’t always happen. I find that making a list early on helps me have everything prepared before Thanksgiving (for fellow US citizens), and ready to send out.

Since I make most of my gifts, it’s always handy to know beforehand what to make and what to buy. It gives me time to actually make what needs to be made and to find sales for things I need to buy.

I work from home now, so deadlines are a part of every day life, but when I worked outside of the house, it was still immensely helpful to know due dates as far ahead of time as possible. Once day-to-day obligations are out of the way, it’s much easier to accomplish what you want to get done for the holidays.

A closeup of assorted non denominational holiday cards

Designate a “Holiday Area”
I don’t mean to restrict your decorating to only one area of your living space, in this point. I mean to allot a room, closet or area to holiday prep materials.

I like to set aside all of the materials I’ll use for making gifts aside, and move wrapping paper to the same area for later use. By keeping the physical things you need in one spot, instead of scattering it throughout your home, you’ll be able to focus more fully on prep when you want to do it, and set it aside when you need to take care of other tasks.

Of course, hiding gifts from excited kids or spouses can make this point trickier. In that case, good luck in finding good places for the surprises.

Getting organized takes effort in the beginning, but once things get moving, you’ll find that investing that extra energy early on may save you frustration later.

The Great Pumpkin Battle

If you follow my personal social media platforms, you may remember this Instagram post from yesterday.

Today was the day. Those pumpkins met their match!!

Or so I thought…

I didn’t lose any pieces of my finger. I just managed to cut into the meat of my middle finger’s tip.

FREAKING OUCH.

Hubby’s gonna have to take care of the seeds. I did get the soup started, and two gallons of pumpkin bagged for the freezer, but this injury is going to make working tricky.

I’m not sure who the overall winner is.

Kitchen Experiments – Baked Potato Soup

I have a hard time cooking things my husband will eat. I generally prefer lighter, veggie-filled dishes with just a touch of meat, where his tastes run exactly counter to that.

This Baked Potato Soup from Domesticated Wild Child, though, fit both of our tastes exactly. It’s ridiculously tasty and nicely filling. My husband thought it tasted like some sort of BBQ, but it reminded me a little of a version of Au Grautin potatoes I had years ago.

Obviously, the recipe’s not vegan/vegetarian friendly, but you could probably substitute the dairy and meat for your favorite vegan alternatives.

As much as I liked it, I wouldn’t have it all the time, either. I can’t handle too much dairy, myself, and I know bacon isn’t the healthiest things out there.

However, I think it’s going to be one of my new comfort foods. It’s very easy to make and the ingredients aren’t hard to find. It’s an easier alternative to beef stew.

I had actually made the first batch on Friday, and it was gone by Saturday evening. I made another batch yesterday, and all that’s left is a small container set aside for hubby’s lunch tomorrow.

I think I’ll double the recipe the next time I make it, since my crock-pot is big enough, and it was such a hit.

Seriously, if you like bacon, potatoes and cheese, give this one a try.

How to dry herbs

Dried herbs make great tea, but they can also be used in cooking and crafts. In the case of catnip, they’re also handy treats for the kitties.

Step One: Harvest
Different plants have different harvest times. Generally, it’s best to harvest most herbs before they flower, so you can encourage more growth, but in others, it doesn’t matter as much. This is because some herbs reproduce through flowers, while others spread by sending runners out.

Once the ones that use seeds flower, the plant’s energy goes into turning those flowers into seeds after pollination. Once they go to seed, the plant’s goal of reproducing is achieved, and leaf growth diminishes.

Many mints, however, reproduce by ending runners out, so it’s not as imperative to catch them before they flower. Cat mint, or catnip, is a notable exception to that general rule, but it grows so vigorously that you’ll find new plants right up until the snow flies.

I went out this weekend to harvest my mints, Russian sage and catnip.

Step Two: Wash
I don’t put anything on my plants to repel pests or fertilize mid season, because I’m lazy, but that doesn’t mean I can skip this step. Since the plants are outside, they can still accumulate bugs, animal droppings and general dirt.

If you have a garden hose, you can hose them off right after harvesting them. Another alternative is the harvest right after watering or rainfall. Once they’re rinsed off, lay them flat somewhere to let the extra water evaporate.

dried peppermint and catnip still on the stalks
Peppermint and catnip after drying for a couple of days.

Step Three: Prepare for Drying
There are two different ways people generally dry herbs: laying flat or hanging in bundles.

After I rinsed my herbs off, I let them sit out for a couple of days. While that wasn’t enough time for the mints to dry, my Russian Sage was dry and crackly when I got to it.

Dried, pale green, Russian sage leaves resting on the palm of a hand

Since the leaves were so sparse, it was just quicker to dry. Thicker foliage, though, is better bunched and hung up.

I do this by carefully gathering the branches, and grouping them so the cut ends are all on top.

A woman's hand holding a bundle of dried mint

Then, I loosely tie them with some spare yarn and find a place to hang them for however long it takes. Usually, they dry within a few weeks to a month.

Step Four: Hang Them Out to Dry
While I’m a fan of hanging herbs out in the sunshine, that’s not possible in my current living situation. We have three cats who love catnip and anything they can swat at. Our windows aren’t very big, either. Instead, I use a closet that I can leave open for a while to allow for air circulation.

In my experience, the key to drying herbs without rot is a combination of making sure they’re clean shortly after harvest, letting extra moisture dry before bunching and hanging them in an area with decent air circulation.

Step Five: Processing and Storage
Once they’re dry, it’s time to remove the leaves from the stems. Glass is ideal for long term storage, but in a pinch, or if you’ll be using them soon, plastic bags can work.

Regardless of the receptacle, I like labeling what they are, and the month/year I’d dried them.

Since I didn’t get much sage, this year, I’m keeping it in a small bag until I can use it in potpourri or try turning it into incense. I haven’t decided which, yet.

Removing the leaves is pretty easy. As you go, discard leaves that look too brown, and maybe share kitty nip with local felines.

Three cats, two black and one tabby, on a blue & white tiled floor, eating crushed catnip.

Like with essential oils, keep dried herbs in cool, dry places in order to preserve their freshness for as long as possible.

Lastly, enjoy your herbs until spring comes again!

Fighting For The Vote Is Not “Wheedling”

This weekend, I got to watch Iron Jawed Angels. It’s a documentary about the violent period of time just before American women finally got the right to vote.

It highlighted parts of history that never got acknowledged in schools. These women faced attacks, wrongful arrest, the loss of their children and family strife. The movie also touched on racism within the feminist movement. It was interesting and very well done.

My problem is with the movie description. It said the group of suffragettes got together to “wheedle” the government into giving women the right to vote. I’m not sure if this will work if you’re not logged on to Netflix, but here’s a link to the movie.

Wheedle? Seriously? The fight for the right to vote is reduced to wheedling in Netflix’s eyes?

This was one of the suffragettes being arrested for picketing in front of the White House.
That’s not wheedling.
These women were charged with “blocking traffic” and sentenced to a workhouse. When they continued their protest with a hunger strike, they were forcibly given feeding tubes through their mouths and noses.
This is not wheedling.
via The US National Archives flickr account

No.

These women were fighters, and they were doing it nonviolently, but they still suffered very physical suffering at the hands of people who didn’t agree with them. There was also immense emotional and psychological stress, but they refused to give up.

There was debate, but wheedling wasn’t what the younger generation featured in this movie did.

It was such a blatant reminder of all the work we still have to do that it took away from the victorious ending.

I mean, if a big company like Netflix is willing to publish that sort of phrasing on their official web page and DVD sleeves, what does that say about how women are still viewed and treated today?

I’m currently trying to figure out who to contact about it, because that’s just not right.

When Summer and Fall Meet You Get…um. Autumn?

Yesterday was unseasonably warm. By that, I mean it felt more like August than October, which, let’s face it, is something I wanted to enjoy before it was gone.

So, my husband and I decided to head off with his local family to pick pumpkins and apples. Here are a few kitty and landscape pictures from our adventure!

This one was actually a mistake. I was holding my phone with the face towards my hand and kept accidentally taking pictures. Amazingly enough, I like this one.
This one was on purpose.
The field by the apple orchard.

Pumpkins and mums at the orchard entrance.
The fence keeping us in.

Of course, there was some feline involvement, too.

We had to stop and give this sweet girl some love before heading out.
This troublemaker was at the apple farm. He loved “wrestling” with our hands. When my husband rescued him from falling off the low wall we were all on by catching him, he just lay back and cuddled up. Such a cute cat.

It felt good to get out and about with family. Plus, now I have some apples for apple crisp!

Friday Fictioneers: The Perfect End to a Long Day

Happy Friday, all!

This year, I’m doing NaNoWriMo again. I still need to get a bunch of pre-writing stuff done, including getting a clearer idea of the theme, but you can find my profile here.

I’m also giving fundraising another try. Donations will go to the organization behind NaNoWriMo, which helps bring the opportunity of literacy to people around the world all year ’round through free creative writing classes. There’s not much on my fundraising page just yet, but you can find that here.

I’ll probably be filming a video at least in the nearish future.

Anyway, on to Friday Fictioneers! Many thanks, as always to Rochell Wisoff-Fields for hosting!

And either I’m hungry, or this ride looks a lot like a mushroom. Maybe both.

PHOTO PROMPT © Ted Strutz
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Word Count: 100
The Perfect End to a Long Day

            Clarice hated the dress code at her work: pumps, and clothing that only came in “good luck staying stain free”. Then there were hours wasted on straightening hair and caking makeup on.
            Once she replaced heels with slippers, the suit with sweats and washed war paint away, she wandered into the kitchen.
            “Janey?” As she watched, her wife rolled a mushroom between her fingers. “You ok?”
            “Hm?” Jane favored her with a dreamy smile. “Yeah. I was just thinking. We should go to the fair. Remember that swing ride?”
             “Yeah.” Clarice smiled warmly. “Sounds like a plan for the weekend.”

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Kitchen Experiments: Homemade Mayo AND Paleo Pomegranate Chicken Salad

I love chicken salad. I always have, but for some reason, I had never made it before. When I saw the Paleo Pomegranate Chicken Salad over at Food and Sunshine, I knew I had to try it.

So, after a couple of trips to the store, I realized I forgot the mayo. Ah-hah-hah. Figures. I did have some eggs, though.

So, I got adventurous and decided to make my own mayo, using this recipe from food.com. How did I not know how easy it is to make that stuff?? I doubt I’ll buy pre-made mayo again any time soon.

As for the recipe itself, it was easy to follow, very quick and so yummy. The lemon and garlic added some nice extra flavor to the basic mayo without overpowering it.

Long story short, this is what I ended up with after mixing everything together.

It was SO. GOOD.

I didn’t adhere strictly to the recipe, though. I’d forgotten to add the apple cider vinegar, and since I had some minced garlic left over from the mayo, I tossed it in.

This chicken salad turned out to be much more flavorful than most of the store-bought salads I’ve had. It’s also very easy to make, since everything is either raw or pre-cooked.

If I had picked up pre-processed pomegranate instead of the actual fruit and pre-made mayo, all I would have needed to do was chop the onion and shred chicken before mixing. Even with the extra bits, it took me less than an hour to make.

Being the lazy cook I am, quick recipes are always the way to go. I also appreciated the minimal dish-washing that was needed afterwards.

Now I’m craving it again. Maybe I’ll put it on the meal plan for next week. I’ll make more, though, because it didn’t last very long.

Baking Up History

Tensions have been building in the city state, Kitchen.

Perhaps it was Flour’s insistence in keeping everything a uniform white, as only the most refined of foods wanted. Maybe it was the Alliance of Eggs’ push for change, as so many members of the younger generations desire.

Things were bound to boil over. Soon, battle lines between Dry and Wet were drawn.

The two sides combined their individual forces and entered the fray!

As with all battles, things get messy and soon, a casual observer could no longer distinguish one from the other.

The disorganization of the conflict got the sides nowhere. Vanilla couldn’t separate itself from Cinnamon, no more than Nutmeg could escape Honey.

With time, they separated into individual skirmishes. The heat was on!

Specifically, 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

There they stayed, until the final, amazing transformation manifested.

So, who won this battle?

Why, I did. The victors are always the one to write history, right?

Mmm. Pumpkin mini-muffins.