*That* Project and The Foolish Vow(s)

You know the one. It’s 8 years old, kept in an ancient Walgreens bag. You know where the pattern is, you know where the tool is. You know how many years it’s been since you worked on it last (3) and how many times you’ve moved it (7). By the intervention of the yarn gods, you actually still want the finished product. So you make unto the mighty ones a foolish vow.

I won’t move this again.

But it’s not a terribly motivating vow, as it is safe in your parent’s house, not to be moved any time soon, until you get nostalgic and have your mother mail it to you (does that count as a move?). Of course, by the time the mail gets around to delivering a package (whaaat?! deliver mail??!! the postman??!!!), the nostalgia has worn off and it sits around for another 10 months or so. But then you realize you’ll be moving soon. Maybe really soon. I mean, maybe not, but maybe March levels of soon.

So, one Monday, you get it out, nearly tearing the fragile plastic bag, and count the finished motifs. You find out how close you came 3 years ago when you got it out last. You think, I’m only 2 vines and some mesh short of finished! I could do this yet this week!

So you make another extremely foolish vow.

2015, I will end you with the finishing of a chapter of my life. The incomplete, ancient garment chapter.

And then you start making one of the vines and remember. It’s accursed. Pronounce that past tense ending. Accursed.

Wish me luck?

Leave me a comment either year of your oldest worthwhile but incomplete project, and I will cheer you on, too!

Recipe Card: Tomato Sauce

Merry Christmas Eve Eve! I hope you’ve already got dinner planned for tonight, or that you have a reliable Thai restaurant with good take out nearby, but in case this post is timely, I’m making Lasagna tonight.

I’d have made it yesterday, but lately, I have to make my own tomato sauce, and yesterday and I disagreed about cooking. Today I am making tomato sauce and it smells so good I can barely restrain myself from eating it RIGHT THIS MINUTE. So I sooth my cravings with sugar cookies. Wait, no I don’t. I am a grown up.🙂 Lol.

If you have a can of tomatoes, you too can make your own sauce. If you have a few other things, it can be the most delicious thing ever.

Simmer this for as long as you have. I go for hours, but then I got an early start.

A can of tomatoes, diced, crushed, whole, whatever. Any size you like, you can freeze the extra sauce.

Carrots, chopped
Onion, chopped. More or less, depending on how much you like onion.
Celery, chopped, if you have it. It can be at death’s door. You won’t know.
Garlic, if you think onion isn’t enough
A tablespoon of butter. You won’t be sorry.
Glug of red wine if it’s around and old. Or newly opened.

If you have a stick blender, pull it out and puree this when you are done simmering it. I didn’t a few times, and it still makes a great spaghetti. It’s easier to make a really good lasagna with a smoother sauce, though, so I will be blending this tonight.

Spice variations that I have liked include

~Cumin and Red Pepper flakes
~Oregano, Basil, and Parsley (today’s version, now with fresh, garden parsley because December is broken)
~Nothing, because I forgot
~Salt, Pepper, and Parmesan
~Random off brand “Italian seasoning”

This is fool proof, crock pot-able, and outstanding with any kind of noodle on any kind of night. With or without beef, and this coming from a beast of a carnivore.

Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good…hold that thought. We’ll get back to you.

Tough questions in Greek Class

You need a little background for some of the stories I’d like to tell. Last year, I audited a conversational modern Greek class at the hoity toity university where my husband works. It was a tiny class, so I wasn’t off the hook for anything; I did the homework, took the tests and participated freely. Which was great, of course. It was marvelous. But…

I am 8-10 years older than the other 5 students.
I have 2 completed degrees.
I was recently married.
I was pregnant and, while not puking (good), wasn’t sleeping much (bad)

So there may have been a gap between the other students and me. Maybe just a chasm with fire and snakes. We didn’t always understand each other in English, things got dicey in Greek.

One day, I dragged my insomniac bum to class, and found that several of the other students had decided to skip. This left me alone with the teacher, the teacher’s decaying patience, and the quietest of the male students. The student who claimed to enjoy reading, tennis and Kafka. Right. The order goes forth: Talk to each other. ‘Οχι. Στα ελλενικα.

The other student exhaled, flipping through his notes. He inhaled. He exhaled. He looked at me pointedly and asked, “Eiste pantremenos?”

I panicked. He wanted to know something about me. Something I know I knew. Something we talked about…recently…something I …was? wasn’t? was? AM I PANTREMENOS? I beat my brain with a stick and peered at the dust that shook out. My brain didn’t oblige. I flipped violently but fruitlessly through the week’s notes. Nothing.

The teacher sighed deeply. She repeated the student’s question. She looked at me pointedly. She sighed. I forgave her the double sigh. I deserved it.

I gave up entirely. I wasn’t going to get it. If it meant “tired”, I was that. I didn’t think I was anything else. Just tired. I didn’t know what it meant, so I said so. I don’t know. “Den Κsero” (Prettier in Greek: Δεν ξερω)

The teacher exploded, slapping the table and laughing hysterically. The other student laughed audibly and looked like I had just told the funniest joke he’d heard in a year. I goggled.

When she recovered herself, the teacher told me what had been asked. “Are you married?”






The Goodenough Candymaker Presents: Truffles

Dear Friends:

Having just left the Christmas Candy mess behind (by getting on an airplane and leaving it at my mom’s house), I thought you would all appreciate a few tips. If you are a practiced, experienced, perfected chocolatier, well, bully for you. You already know all the things, anyway, and will probably only get a laugh from me. If you’re not, I have a recipe for you that works every time.

Get good chocolate, so no matter what happens, things taste good. Things like the sink. Your nose. Your infant son’s ankle. Wait, scratch that. You never know what THAT really IS. Anyway, the chocolate could be unlovely and everywhere, but make sure it’s delicious and you don’t go far wrong. It’s getting everywhere anyway, you might as well enjoy the mess.
We used Scharffen Berger semisweet chocolate. Ghirardelli makes good truffles too, though, and it’s easier to find in a grocery store.

You get a ton of advice from the internet, and many conflicting recipes. Stop looking at them. Look at this. Double or halve as necessity dictates. You know, if you simply must have a truffle but only have 4 oz. of chocolate? It happens. Just scale accordingly.

16 oz. chocolate, chopped up small. 
1 c. heavy heavy heavy cream
1/2 vanilla

~Put the chocolate in a glass bowl with the vanilla.
~Scald the milk in a pan on the stove, just til there are a few wee sweet little bubbles around the pan. Or until it boils furiously, if you lose your head and try to open the leftover wine with your teeth and bite off the cork.
~Pour the milk over the vanilla. Stir this for a while, until all the chocolate is totally melted and looks smooth and shiny and so so brown. Don’t panic at any point. Just stir. Drink your wine.
~ Let it cool for a long while. Hours and Hours. Overnight, even.
~ Scoop small balls out with a spoon.
~Roll the balls into bally-er balls. Drink your wine with a straw, as your hands are a terribly nasty mess.
~Laugh maniacally at how lopsided the truffles have become. Drink away your sorrow.
~Roll the balls in cocoa powder, coconut, chopped nuts, crushed peppermint, or tempered chocolate. Tempering chocolate is something you’ll have to look up somewhere else. I am not at all sure I should say anything about that. Things get funny when I temper chocolate. And when I drink.



Do not add butter to this. Many recipes say to add butter. Butter is nothing but a heartache and a mess. It makes the truffle more difficult to roll into lopsided balls. It melts too slowly in the hot milk and you sometimes have to use a microwave to keep things hot enough to melt the chocolate. Sometimes, the butter extrudes itself from the truffle, through the coating. Extremely odd. Not worth the trouble. Don’t do it.

Ennio Morricone, you’re a jerk, but Plato would be proud

I went to see American Sniper last weekend. I’d heard it was good, and I really wanted to see it, even though I knew it would make me cry. Also, I nixed going to Lone Survivor, and we’ve moved so I can’t advise my husband to “go with your pals”. So I went to see American Sniper.

Now, I’m not going to venture the slog into the political ramifications. There’s more than enough to say, I’m sure, and I’m certain I have opinions, but I think some people are missing the point. The point is. *sniffle* the point. the point is that I was a very big girl and kept from *really* weeping until the credits rolled. And that is when the trumpet started to play. Now, taps, by itself, is enough to turn on the face faucets. But it’s not just taps. Oh no. No, it isn’t. That darned Ennio Morricone and his compositions.

If you are feeling brave, or don’t mind a sudden cry, here’s a link. There’s something noble about the eighth notes. Is that it? Because once I say that…I sound like a nerd, and a slightly deranged one, too. Why do a series of notes played at certain times by a specifically timbred instrument evoke nobility and high heartedness?

The solo was not composed for this movie. It was used, brilliantly, but American Sniper was not the original film.

Wading into guesswork in the youtube comments, I noticed that the Italians were getting anxious when the song was attributed to Morricone and his work for The Return of Ringo.…they seem to be saying that Morricone arranged the song from from an Italian movie, Il Silenzio. One person linked that, and I offer it here. Three movies, one song.

Maybe when I successfully wipe my face off with the world’s biggest hanky, I’ll have some conclusions on music, storytelling, and aesthetics. In the mean time, I only meant to bring to your attention the wide ranging power of certain sounds to evoke certain emotions. Plato would be so proud.

Authors: Write with Deliberation.

For several years, Terpsichore and I have been coaching semi-finalists in Athanatos Christian Ministries’s novel competition. We spend 3 months or so working with authors on revisions, polishing and working on the art of story  telling. We work one on one with each author to provide specific criticism and advice. At the end of the revision period, authors re-submit their revised work and some hard working chap wins and has their book published by Athanatos. Pretty sweet, eh?
Well, every year I write a wrap up email with advice for how to keep working to be the best author possible, and every year the general advice is the same. Terpsichore has also found some patterns, so we thought we’d share the more universal advice. Here’s mine. Pursue your writing with deliberation and purpose. How?
Read books about writing. Style guides like Strunk and White go a long way, but a book like John R. Erickson’s Story Craft make a big difference to seeing how to apply the ideas. I’ve also heard that Stephen King’s On Writing is insightful.
Write every day. Pout. This stinks. Finding time, being disciplined, focusing on something! For pete’s sake, we’re not medieval monks! But, there is good news here.
You don’t have to write for hours, or entire chapters. Set manageable goals for yourself. Got 15 minutes? Write for 15 minutes. Can you reliably write 250 words before dinner? Do that.
Also, you don’t have to write NEW words every day. Nor must you sit down and write the very next 250 words in your current project. Re-write yesterday’s words. Plan a different plot that’s been niggling you. Write about how you’re going go berserk if your upstairs neighbor slams the door and wakes the baby one. more. time. Just remember to file everything carefully, and never, never delete anything. You never know when you’ll need those loose words.
(oh, and, this isn’t a salvific matter. you ain’t going to hell if you miss a day or 9, so just pick it back up.)
Be a picky reader, in order to train discernment. Pay close attention to what you’re reading, and if it’s not very good, stop reading it. Is the plot flimsy, or only carried along by sensational occurrences? Are the characters boring or implausible? Is the prose itself varied, interesting, and stylish? If the answer is no, the book is not worth your time. You must give yourself the very best examples so that your “ear”, and “eye” for what is valuable and good is trained to judge between good and bad. When you can trust your well trained instincts, you will find the whole process easier.
And read Egotist’s Club! We’ll turn you towards those good books and share our thoughts on writing.

Open Post-It Note to Nosy Strangers

Dear _____________, 

I am from the Midwest. Not the UK. My “accent” is a result of clear enunciation. 

Please stop staring. 




(There, now I’ve said it to the internet, everyone will know, right? I won’t have to give people at the mall/ in cabs/ at the checkout line any more funny looks. I won’t have to try to find a polite way to say I’ve lived in Wisconsin for 20 years, just like they have? Please, internet, make the awkward go away.)