lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
I finally managed to make cookies for the family Turkey Day gathering: turkeys, pumpkins, maple leaves, oak leaves, and cornucopias. I feel like I spent the five days leading up to Thanksgiving immersed in cookies, and that's because I did. They went over very well; much oohing and ahhing, and even people dragging other people into the kitchen to see them. (And several comments that they tasted good, too, which is important.) Very gratifying. The kids broke into one of the trays before dinner (which is high praise if anything is). The cornucopias were particularly popular with the little kids, doubtless because of all the glitter and shiny candy bits.

Fancy baking doesn't really go with my image with that side of the family; I rather enjoyed spraining their expectations that way. ;-)

Notes to self:

I made two batches of dough, because I also wanted to make some one-year-anniversary hardware cookies to take to work. One batch would have been enough, even with that. (Well, also extra dough to cover breakages and screw-ups, but I only broke one cookie and didn't botch any.)

I started out being good and making a set number (a dozen plus cover for breakage, so ~15-18) of each shape, so that I wouldn't be decorating forever. But then I had dough left over, so I finished it up with more of the same shapes. And then I decorated them all, because they were there. Better than usual -- I only did one all-nighter -- but still way too much time squinting over sugar. Next time, if there's dough left after whatever number of cookies you said you'd do for the specific event, cut it in some other shape entirely so you know when to stop!

I arranged the cookies on two of the rectangular trays, 8 or 9 of each shape in a column, 5 shapes per tray. This looked great! Unfortunately I forgot to take pictures of the presentation, but it was very professional-bakery looking.

One tray would have been sufficient, however; even with the very positive response, I still ended up bringing an almost full tray home. 8-9 each of 5 shapes for approx. 18 people is plenty, especially with the huge amount of other food that's always there.
lizvogel: lizvogel's fandoms.  The short list. (Fandom Epilepsy)
4th Street was this past weekend. And I am almost recovered enough to string two sentences together.

It was a terrific con, probably the best one since the first year I went. Pretty much had non-stop good conversations from the moment I walked in until I finally pried myself away from the last few goodbyes. Got very little sleep and definitely over-caffeinated, and I'm not the least little bit sorry. ;-)

I made an effort to pace myself before the event so as not to arrive already exhausted before it even started, despite the overwhelming pressure of the to-do list. Those who know me will appreciate how dubious was my success when I say that I managed to leave without putting maps in the car. Luckily I had my own written directions, and I could probably do the route from memory by now anyway.

Had a great time reconnecting with the Intermediate Writers crowd, even though we didn't officially have a gathering. (Which was only because no one stepped up to coordinate one; guess what I'll probably be doing next year?) And with the consuite crowd, and the smokers' lounge crowd, and assorted other cool people.

The seminar was interesting and well-run, though most of what I came out of it with was the conclusion that I just don't learn well in a seminar format. (And that my process is non-standard and weird, but I knew that going in.) I also came out with what I thought was a good way to ask for help on something I've been struggling with, but I tried it out on two very different groups and it failed utterly, so I guess not. It did kick off some good discussions, though.

My 4th Street tradition continues of there being one or two panels that I don't think I'll be that interested in that turn out to be utterly fascinating, and one or two that I think are going to be right in my wheelhouse that leave me cold. This year, the example of the first was "Large-Scale Structures and Series Planning"; I'm not a big series writer and usually veer away from long tightly-connected series as a reader, but a lot of the stuff about planning and consistency and leaving tools (and toys) for yourself for later was not only really interesting but actually something I could connect to my own work. And the panel on "Writing As A Light Trance State" was deeply intriguing, though I still don't think I came away with an understanding of the difference between trance and just concentrating on what you're doing.

Unfortunately, "The Tropes of Emotion" was one of the latter category, mostly because they did a lot of high-level meta discussion and very little granular, boots-on-the-ground how-to. Which is a pity, because I'm working hard on a bit of how-to in the current revision pass, and I'd have liked some pointers. The other one that left me cold was the That's a Different Panel, which this year ended up being "Clues And Signaling" -- basically, how do we tell readers things -- the very topic I most hoped they'd choose. It would probably have done more for me if they hadn't spent half the panel going on about paratext -- because I am functionally blind to paratext. (No, really. One of the books they cited was one that I read fairly recently and remember well, and they went on and on about the ways paratext was used, and I have no idea what they were talking about.) And what wasn't about paratext was again high-level and meta, not practical and how-to.

(I've realized that when it comes to writing stuff, I do not learn well from getting the big-picture view and trying to apply it to specific usages; I'm much better off with using a specific example in my own work, and reasoning from that to the general principle. I'm not sure if that's how I learn non-writing things as well, or not; I'd need a specific example to consider. Which may answer the question right there. ;-) )

The cookies went over well once again. The dinosaurs were even more popular than I expected (I suspect it was the glitter), and the "writer's toolbox" joke went over well. (Oddly, it seemed nobody wanted to eat the hammers; they were always the last to go. Don't know why.) For future reference: I made 4 batches of dough, but only ended up decorating about 3 batches worth. 3 batches was plenty, enough to stock Friday evening, Saturday mid-day, and Saturday evening, and still have a few left by Sunday. Next time, figure on making ~18 of each shape; that's enough to cover breakage and a few to share pre-con, and still have a dozen+ for the consuite. Which actually is enough, if you're making enough shapes to use up 3 batches of dough.

Drive there was good; the threatened thunderstorms didn't materialize, and I actually took breaks when I was getting dozey, and pulled over for the night when I was tired but not exhausted. Only trouble was that there still isn't a sign for a Caribou/Starbucks/etc. for about three hours past the point where I need one, so I once again arrived at my traditional gas-and-lunch stop rather desperate for coffee. But still overall a nice trip.

The car turned 200,000 on the way, which was cool.

Drive home was much the same; I turned the need to stall for a while to avoid Madison rush hour into a nice long lunch break, and pulled over for a walk and cold beverages when it seemed like a good idea but not yet a dire necessity. Got home around 2am, tired but still functional.

The cats were happy to see me. :-)

And now it's time to get back to normal, although I'm hoping to reboot "normal" to a slightly more satisfactory version. One that involves more sleep, writing, and exercise, and less unrelenting to-do list.

Sugar Status

Wednesday, June 10th, 2015 11:41 am
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
So it turns out that the empty box from a Toblerone is the perfect thing to prop the large frosting bowl at an angle for scooping out the last of the frosting. Given what I usually listen to while frosting cookies, this amuses me greatly.

Once again, I am reminded that for all the astonishing amount of time this takes, the immediate limiting factor is actually the number of cooling racks we have, and the shortage of places to put them. I could get a lot more cookies done now if I had anything to put them on, or anywhere to put that thing once they were on it.

ETA: It's looking like I'm going to get cookies done for the workshop, but not for the con as a whole. I still have an amazing amount to do (both RL and my own con-prep), and there just isn't time.

4th Street Feelings

Wednesday, June 25th, 2014 01:01 pm
lizvogel: lizvogel's fandoms.  The short list. (Fandom Epilepsy)
So, there was 4th Street this past weekend. It was a real roller-coaster of a con for me... but the high points were awesome. I'll try to go into more detail later -- there are some ideas I want to explore more fully -- but that'll have to wait until I can brain for more than five seconds at a time. ;-)

The cookies went over very well, including one comment that pretty much means I'll be making them every year as long as there's a 4th Street to take them to. And they absolutely vaporized, so no, three batches wasn't excessive.

Cookies Everywhere

Sunday, June 15th, 2014 05:58 pm
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
In my ongoing quest to make cookies for 4th Street without frying myself to a crisp, a note to self: Three batches of dough yields more cookies than you have cooling racks for, which leads to a frustrating and time-consuming shell game trying to get some of them done/set aside/boxed to make room to decorate more. (Especially if you don't burn any beyond usability, which I miraculously didn't this year.) Next time, two batches of dough. Two will be plenty, really.

However, this year's cookie horde is finally done. And I got to go to bed last night, instead of staying up until nearly dawn/dawn/well past dawn spreading colored sugar over small baked shapes.
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
Turns out "fun-size" Hershey bars are exactly the same size as a quarter-section of a graham cracker. Coincidence?

Sugar Rushed

Tuesday, June 18th, 2013 10:04 pm
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
I finished the cookies for 4th Street Sunday. Well, Monday, technically, after a 10-hour overnight marathon. For my own future reference, total time (I tracked it this time) was 44.25 hours, of which 2.5 was making dough, 4.5 was making & baking cookies, and a whopping 37.25 hours was decorating. Photography is included in decorating time; I took pictures as I finished 'em, rather than saving it all up for a massive photo shoot at the end, which was definitely a good idea.

That was 3 batches of dough (about 2.5 batches of actual cookies, after the rejects were culled -- I had the damnedest time getting things out of the oven on cue this time), and 5 batches of icing.

I'm glad I did them this year, especially since I managed to finish up a few days before launch, but next year I've got to do something less time-intensive. Perhaps some nice simple chocolate chip cookies, and maybe a batch of my infamous blueberry cookies (which are tetchy, but at least not a massive time sink).

Now to see if my cunning packing scheme (sandwich baggies for do-it-yourself air packs, anyone?) will get them there in one piece. I don't hold out much hope for the unicorns, even with cardboard layering, but we'll see.
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
Clearly, I was mistaken.

Spent a decidedly uncomfortable night, and still feeling not quite the thing today. In spite of this, achieved quota, par, and goal yesterday. And I'm well on the way to the lowest of the three already today.

The ironic thing is, I'd just started the scene where one of my characters gets poisoned. Life need not imitate art quite this directly, in my considered opinion.
lizvogel: lizvogel's fandoms.  The short list. (Fandom Epilepsy)
I fought my way back to par; go me. And I have a generous string of little gold stars for making quota each day.

Writing every day doesn't generally work for me. I do a lot better with a couple of days on, then taking a day off to recharge. This was surprisingly a non-issue during the earlier parts of NaNo, but now it's really getting to me. I badly want a day off to kick back, relax, and feel good about the last bit I wrote -- which turned out very well indeed, I think -- with the reward for a job well done not being another job, at least not right now.

Instead, I am slogging along every day, this morning no exception. And Turkey Day is likely to be a low word-count day for me, so I'd really like to build up a little margin today. Which means more slogging.

On the other hand, 35,000 words and change so far. Which means only about 15,000 to go. It says something (not sure what) that I can look at 15,000 words and say "only".

In the TMI department, I had to go out and buy snack veggies (carrot sticks and two kinds of pea pods) the other day, or face serious internal rebellion. My standard project-muchie diet of Cheetos and M&Ms is normally fine, but projects requiring intensive munchies usually last a day or two, not 21 and counting. I've never been so glad to see a naturally-green food product in my life.

Also, I may have to burn the hoodie I keep by the computer, come December.
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
You know it's not going to be your most productive day when you decide that the perfect breakfast to accompany your morning Red Bull is a Hostess cupcake and a stack of Pringles.
lizvogel: lizvogel's fandoms.  The short list. (Fandom Epilepsy)
Addendum to Day 1: I forgot the puppet theater! In addition to filking and foam swords Friday night, Mary Robinette Kowal brought out her portable shadow-puppet theater and did a condensed version of a classic puppet story (The Broken Bridge?) for us. Nifty!

Sunday: Morning came early enough that I was glad I was used to a different time zone. Forgot my morning Red Bull and had to go back up to the room for it, which enabled me to cope with coffee.

"Science, Technology, and Fantasy" started off with a demonstration from Klages on the wrong way to combine these ingredients: she played us all "The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins" on her iPhone. This inspired S. Monette to quip, "Curse you, Leonard Nimoy, you bastard," which seems only fair. The word "technology" was first used around 1650, at which time it meant more "technique" as in art/craft/language than "machines". It was a very quotable panel, to wit: "The 19th Century is one big morass of 'holy crap!'" (Marissa), and S. Monette boiled down the scientific method to "What does that do?" "Holy crap!" Klages pointed out that the pouch (pocket, handbag) was the first human tool, vitally useful to any hunter-gatherer, and went on to define science as trying to recreate the manual that should have come with the Earth but wasn't put in the box. Other notes include that the Chin Dynasty had mass-produced crossbows with interchangeable parts circa 200 B.C., and something about memory palaces as a mnemonic technique, which I need to read up on.

I missed the last two panels and lunch because I was sitting in the con suite with Pat Wrede, talking writing and queries and synopses. Need I say more?

I did make it to the wrap-up panel, which the con board sensibly started off with the things they already had solutions for for next year. Somebody else brought up the issue of newcomers feeling excluded (I was in such a good mood by that point that I hadn't been going to bring it up, though I did chime in in support). It says something about 4th Street that not only did they take the criticism in good part, but within ten minutes there was an official Newbie Wrangler for next year along with a fistful of ideas to make new attendees both be and feel more included.

I understand the cookies got public kudos during 4th Street's version of closing ceremonies, which I was sorry I missed (although I was doing the one thing I'd rather have been doing); several people made a point of telling me later how they'd liked them. And none of them were left to take home, which is of course the ultimate compliment. (Note to self, that was three batches of dough. And put in some cardboard or other support system next time, esp. for the wands & unicorns.)

Other book recommendations include John M. Ford's The Last Hot Time (for interesting POV use) and The Scholars of Night (SF spies), Anthony Price's spy novels, and William Sleator's House of Stairs (for creepy spy stuff).

Dinner was with another group of nifty folks at the exceedingly yummy Chinese place again, where we ordered several dishes for the table and nibbled in abundance.

Then there was hanging out in the con suite until late, and eventually helping tidy and consolidate con-suite-ish stuff. And finally a quick whirl of packing up my own stuff for the next day's departure, and bed.

Lunchtime musings

Friday, April 6th, 2012 01:16 pm
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
There needs to be food today. Warm, cooked food. Omelettes are always good.

One of the things I love about omelettes is that they can be as complicated or simple as you want them to be. You can whisk the eggs in a separate bowl until they're frothy, mix in milk or sour cream or yogurt or batter to make them fluffier, carefully measure and chop and blend other ingredients and spices, adding them all at just the right time and carefully constructing an edible art piece. You can also crack three eggs into a frying pan, slop them around a little with the spatula, toss in some salt and pepper and grate some cheese on top of the mess, and serve up something that's one step from scrambled eggs but still tastes pretty darn good.

Today's was a comfort omelette, so minimal fuss; some salt, pepper, and chervil (I like chervil); with Monterey jack and a bit of cream cheese for coziness.

There are better things in the world than omelettes, but few of them can be tossed together with minimal tools and a single pan in ten minutes. Nom.




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