January 31, 2013

Cheerful things


Jodi Meadows, touring author, posted to the forum last night:

Getting here was kind of an adventure (Wherever she is right now, Robin just perked up and thought “guest blog?”)


Hey, I need cheering up.*  Wild Robert had one of his semi-random upper-lower-level practises** tonight and I rang bob minor and Stedman okay, but I came unpleasantly and discouragingly unstuck on Cambridge.  We did get through to the end, but that’s only because Wild Robert has two brains and six eyes.  I rarely get to ring Cambridge, I lose anything I don’t use, and I never really had Cambridge to begin with, although I did spend some time at the point where I could straggle through a plain course more often than not (without being yelled at).

So let’s have a CHEERING-UP RECIPE in honour of the nearly four hundred quid I just paid for my new dwarf under-stairs refrigerator.***

I’m already seeing fresh rhubarb at the greengrocers, so here is something to do with it.  The original recipe came from Rosie’s All Butter Fresh Cream Sugar-Packed No Holds Barred Baking Book by Judy Rosenberg, which you have often seen quoted in these (virtual) pages.

Rhubarb Bars


¾ c plain/unbleached white flour

¼ c ground oatmeal:  whizz ordinary porridge oats in your blender or food processor.  You can also leave them whole, but in this case I like the texture better ground.

8 T lightly salted butter, room temperature, chopped up in preparation to being smushed into the flour and oatmeal

5-6T icing/confectioner’s sugar

1 egg white for glazing


1 large egg, room temperature

½ c caster/granulated sugar.  I know, caster is finer grained.  It’s not going to matter here.

¼ c dark brown sugar.  You can cut this down to 2 T and replace with 2 more T of the white.  I like dark brown sugar.

2-6 T ordinary white flour

4 c sliced rhubarb.  NOTE that both how thick you slice it and how much sugar and flour you use should vary with your rhubarb.  If it’s young and sweet and tender, cut big fat chunks and trim the sugar.  If the stalks look like the legs of sea monsters, slice more severely.  If it’s really wet, add more flour.  If it’s relatively dry, add less.

Optional:  1 tsp cinnamon

Or handful of fresh mint leaves, slightly shredded

If you have a food processor, you can make the pastry in it.  I have one but I still make pastry with a knife or the back of a spoon and one hand.†  Stir the flour and oatmeal and sugar (and cinnamon if you’re using it) together and then cut in the butter.  You want to rub it together till it’s reasonably homogenous but don’t suffer over it.  If you’re using unground oatmeal, add it last, after the pastry is mostly finished.  Press this into the bottom of an 8” square pan and glaze with the egg white.  The original recipe tells you to tip the pan back and forth.  My egg whites do not behave very helpfully.  I use either my fingers or a brush.  If you have any egg white left over—this should be a glaze, not a pond—tip it out.  Bake 350°F about 25 minutes.  Take it out and let cool.

Whisk the egg.  Whisk in the flour and sugar.  Stir in the rhubarb.  When the pastry is cool enough that you can pick the pan up in your bare hands, pour the rhubarb over, and put this in the oven for about an hour.  Cool COMPLETELY before cutting, and chances are, rhubarb being rhubarb, you’ll still be serving it in bowls.  Sprinkle mint leaves over, if you like mint leaves.

* * *

* Guest blogs are very cheering.

** For ringers like me.  I’m not a beginner, I ring inside, I want to scale a few of the modest heights of the method ringing craft.  There are plenty of us erratic mid-level ringers.  But why we belong in this category varies.  Some of us are just passing through on the way to ringing Spliced Panjandrum Superlative Doohickey.  Some of us are just TERMINALLY KLUTZY AND STUPID.  ARRRRRGH.  You can tell the latter subgroup by the condition of their method books, which are dog-eared and scribbled-in to disintegration.  I really need to replace mine, before it completes its transformation into smudgy dust.  Gemma’s, on the other hand, is very nearly frelling pristine.  Can This Friendship Be Saved.

*** Speaking of ARRRRRGH.  If my swift and delightful publisher doesn’t start disbursing funds here soon I’m going to pack my ninja kit, fly to NYC and start stealing all the vice presidents’ bicycles in protest.  I shall create a Giant Bicycle Mobile and . . . well, New York is full of tall buildings.  I’m sure I can find a suitable pair, hang my Giant Bicycle Mobile between them . . .  and the Museum of Modern Art would probably pay me more for it than I was going to see for SHADOWS anyway, but unfortunately the entire plan falls down on trying to pack two hellhounds and a hellterror with the ninja kit.  I can barely tuck the hellterror under my arm any more.  One of these mornings I’m going to reach in to extract her from her crate at the cottage, and in negotiating the blasted 90° turn between the front of her crate and the rest of the kitchen . . . fall over.^

^ Getting her in the crate is much easier—I have of course put a little FOOOOOOOOOD on the crate floor, so she’s shinning up the chair legs for all she’s worth and she only needs an energetic heave.  SPROING.  But in the morning we’re all kind of sleepy and I don’t want her leaping down in the all-directions-at-once manner of a hellterror who suddenly realises she’s been in her crate for HOURS AND HOURS.  She’d probably take out the tallboy.

† Note that I have cold hands.  I’m told this is critical to a hands-on pastry-maker.

Jodi’s pub day



Our own Jodi Meadows’ second* book is out today:


And she’s doing signings and appearances, possibly at a bookstore near you**:


And if you keep scrolling down this page there is an amazing list of guest blogs, interviews and so on available Out There by the merest tap of a finger.

Now here’s the HarperTeen page:


. . . where you can apparently read the whole book on line for free??  This does seem to be legit.  Maybe it’s in honour of publication day or something, and large dubiously smiling men will knock on your door in a few more days and say, Ahem, a computer at this residence read the entire ASUNDER on line for free, and we feel that the person with the finger on the clicking button will have found this so stimulating an experience that he/she/it/you will volunteer the purchase price to the Jodi’s Ferrets and Yarn Fund.

Anyway.  There’s a new book out.  By someone we all know.  Champagne all around.***

* * *

* Second published book ever and second in a trilogy I might add.  Some people are born brave.  Apparently.

** Because she is a good girl and wants to make her publisher happy.  Hey, I toured when I was her age.  Some of us then stop.  Some of us figure it out and, believing it sells books, keep on doing it.  I respect these people.  But you’ll find me in a bell tower.^

^ Tonight, for example, when there was a Tour of the Ancient Building Including A Demonstration of Method Bell Ringing open evening at Forza and it was SOOOOO BOOOOOORING oh my sainted aunt.  Maybe there is something to be said for touring.  At least during dull moments you’re probably near bookshelves.  I got a lot of knitting done tonight.  I would rather have been plugged in to Pooka listening to some book being read out loud instead of unavoidably listening to our poor chosen-victim lead ringer giving the same blerg about ringing and the history of ringing for the 1,000,000,000th time to the 1,000,000,000th group of visitors, but I had to be ready to spring to my feet and ring plain frelling hunt for the 1,000,000,000th time.  Arrrgh.

*** ‘I drink champagne when I’m happy and when I’m sad.  Sometimes I drink it when I’m alone.  When I have company I consider it obligatory.  I trifle with it if I’m not hungry and drink it when I am.  Otherwise, I never touch it—unless I’m thirsty.’

—Madame Bollinger, who was clearly a strong supporter of the family business.


Voice lesson with hellterror accompaniment


I had a surprisingly good voice lesson today.  Surprisingly.  I was in good voice—I mean, for me, but good enough that a small amateur choir would be glad to have me, rather than metaphorically rolling their eyes and thinking ‘well she helps to fill out the row.’  Which of course I’m not doing in two and a half weeks because I’m going to RIGOLETTO instead.  Somehow having the date changed on me is worse than knowing going in that I wasn’t going to be singing in the concert, although Galen telling me I’m welcome to keep coming to practise because I’m learning repertoire helps—and having rejoined halfway through this concert’s rehearsal period meant I was going to be cramming hysterically the last fortnight or so anyway.  Which fresh level of frenzy would be starting about now.*

But Galen’s reassurance and avoidance of (fresh) frenzy don’t help enough.

Glump.  Grangle.  Rrffmp.  Noises like a hellterror trying to restrain herself from protesting the extreme slowness of this restaurant.***

I’ve been singing, of course, and I’ve been trying to remind myself that I sing because it’s FUN.  Oh.  Right.  Make a note [sic].  In an attempt to come to terms with not singing in this stupid concert, I didn’t want to sing in the concert anyway,† I have been ‘working’ on what you might call private repertoire, the stuff you sing while hurtling** or doing the washing up.  Which involves remembering not only the tune but the words, since practising your Italianate vowels when you can’t remember the lyrics gets old pretty fast.††  I missed choir practise last Thursday since I was still being paranoid and martyred about the weather . . . but since my top A was missing, what the heck.  That A has been reliable for most of a year now, what the arrrrrrgh, your body is your instrument, frell this, get me a violin.  I have no idea.  The B above the A has—or anyway had—been putting in an appearance often enough when I’m just doing exercises alone at my long-suffering piano I was hoping to be able to teach it to go in harness and conceivably reveal it with other people in the room before awfully long.††  But noooooo.  So this was another reason to concentrate on washing-up repertoire:  nothing too frelling demanding.  Except to the crumbly post-menopausal memory.

Today I sucked in a deep breath to start the depressing warming-up process since I was going to have to take my weedy, shrill, A-less voice into Nadia . . .

And . . . today a small amateur choir would have been glad to have me.  I say nothing about tomorrow.  Or about choir practise on Thursday.

* * *

* Especially the part about singing two of the pieces without the music.

** Hellterror and I left for voice lesson early so I could stop on the way to check on the non-arrival of my volunteer-staff-parking-in-the-abbey-close permit.  Hellterror decided she’s not going down stairs.  Come on, silly, you do go down stairs.  Not nasty dark cement pee-smelling^ car park stairs!  —Little badger face peering down at me from top of stairs . . . belly half an inch from the floor because all four little legs are braced like a sort of mini-Colossus of Rhodes, only furry.  There are advantages to long extending leads:  I told her I was going to go away and leave her . . . turned the corner out of her sight . . . and suddenly I had a puppy scuttling downstairs with surprisingly little difficulty.  But she clearly felt she had lost face because she then performed the same ridiculous meltdown over a sort of shallow gutter that follows the short side of the pedestrian precinct:  No, no!  I CAN’T!  There’s WATER in it!^^  Pavlova, get a grip.  It’s half an inch deep and about two inches across.  So we were live entertainment for the people at the bus stop for about two minutes^^^ and then I told her I was leaving her behind again, turned and marched off . . . and nearly tripped over the little ratbag she came after me so fast.

I seem to have missed this chapter in the How to Train the Perfect Puppy book.#

But I did get my volunteer staff parking permit.  And I’m going to be sad when I can no longer tuck little Miss Spirit of Perversity under my arm and venture across solemn business thresholds.  Mind you I can only still do it now because she dangles well.  She doesn’t fit in my lap any more either, but she doesn’t seem to have noticed.##  I can see me staggering around with forty pounds of bullie in my arms this time next year. . . .

^ You’d think the pee-smelling would be a plus to a hellcritter.

^^ My little vampire puppy.  Won’t cross running water.

^^^ She also made friends with several of the passersby, who I’m sure would not be so cruel as to make her walk down stairs and cross running water.

# Possibly because I haven’t got a perfect puppy.  Darling, yes.  Frequently hilarious, yes.  Even more frequently in grave danger of being murdered out of hand, yes.  Perfect, no.

## Chaos still thinks he’s a lapdog.  (Darkness fears the truth.)  But long-legged sighthounds don’t dangle so well.

*** Despite the way this makes Chaos drop back and stare worriedly into my face.

† You know, singing in public, etc, ugh.  But that bird won’t really fly since I’ve survived two weddings and a funeral.

†† I also discovered that my old favourite There Is A Tavern in the Town^, sung a full pitch down from the key signature in the version I have, is a great practise piece for that gruesome business of shifting from head voice to chest voice.  I made the mistake, however, of mentioning this to Nadia who said, Great.  Bring it next week.  Bring it—? I said, appalled.  You want to hear me sing There Is A Tavern in the Town?  You forget, said Nadia, I also teach seven-year-olds.  I have heard everything.

^ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HzJvNB7-UkU

Wow.  My new piano-playing hero.  There doesn’t seem to be any good sung version though.  Hmmmm. . . .

††† At which point I’ll need a piece of music that has a B to attain.  My mezzo books seem to stop at A.



THAW YAAAAAAAAAY THAW.  I got back to my monks last night for the first time in over a week and it felt like years had gone by.*  They still have quite a lot of snow so I have been making the right decision to stay home but** . . . YAAAAAAAAAY.  Not that unmixed blessings are standard, and in this case IT’S BEEN RAINING AGAIN.  IT’S BEEN FRELLING THROWING IT DOWN AGAIN.  Arrrgh.  However meteorological mayhem did assist me to get to bed early last night because the troika had a minimal final hurtle—with the hellterror forging ahead at the end of her lead and the hellhounds dragging behind at the ends of their leads which at least meant there was less Extreme Plaiting last night than sometimes.

Today I have been a thawed-out model citizen.

I got up early.

I rang morning service at New Arcadia.***

I rang afternoon service at the abbey.

And I went to evening service at St Margaret of Scotland† and clambered all over poor Aloysius with questions, including the one about having a second silent prayer meeting that happens somewhat LATER in the day.  And he’s reading DRAGONHAVEN.  Yes.  Really.

But so you won’t think I might become vain or anything, I copy and paste in its entirety an email received in my inbox today:

Just read Pegasus.  And the sequel isn’t coming out till 2014?  You stink.

::falls down laughing::  And you, whoever you are, are charming and delightful and exquisite and I’m so glad you’re not my next-door neighbour.

* * *

* As a Christian I’m still a very small child.  Remember when you were in primary school summer vacation went on FOREVER?^  And the time between birthdays (with the presents and cake and everyone was supposed to be nice to you etc) went on for MORE THAN FOREVER?  By the time you’re my age now you’re like, ewwwww, another birthday?^^  Take it away.^^^  But ten days without my MONKS?  Totally forever.

^ In America.  Over here they break up the holiday time more.

^^ There may, of course, be other issues here.

^^^ I have more hellcritters than I can handle I don’t need any more.+

+ I usually am in a hurry, of course, because I’m already late for the next twelve things, but the hellterror and I were going a lick as we wheeled around a corner and . . . came face to face with a GIGANTIC male Rottweiler on a loose lead looking at us with interest.  My life flashed before my eyes, as it does on these occasions# as the woman on the other end of the lead said off-handedly, as owners of drooling monsters tend to do, oh, he’s fine, he loves puppies, and I was thinking uh-huh, grilled or roasted?  But at this point, as I was about to reach down and grab my hellterror—out of the monster’s gullet as necessary, although I was aware that by bending down I was putting my jugular at greater risk—my life finished flashing and I could begin to register what I was seeing.  In this case the woman was telling the truth:  he was fine.  And he did seem to love puppies, at least manic bullie puppies.  I was also thinking, if you describe a dog as having his ears and his tail up, this can be good or bad:  hellhounds and I met a bad out today.##  But the first thing I noticed about the Rottie once I was looking at the Rottie is the soft eyes and the soft expression on his face.  That’s your real clue—the lack of tension.  His raised tail was wagging, not the stiff territorial wagging of a thug, but a floppy waving back and forth, and he was standing four square but completely at ease.   You get so traumatized by all the villains out there you almost don’t recognise a sweetie when you meet one.###  The two of them made an attempt to play which in the middle of main street and on short leads was doomed to failure, but it was still pretty cute.  Breed that dog.  We want more of him.

# Funny how much better your memory is when you’re about to die.  I can’t remember half this stuff when I’m sitting at my computer trying to write a blog post.

##Siiiiiiigh.  I knew from across the green that this ears-and-tail-up were the bad variety.~  The hellterror hasn’t had a genuine bad yet:  I pick her up or turn on our various heels and go somewhere else if I recognise one of the local thugs.  But our hurtles are also still relatively short and I choose the territory carefully.  I’m putting off the inevitable bad as long as possible.

~ Still not as terrifying as the Elvis Impersonator we’ve now met twice.  He has an American accent and he likes sighthounds.  I keep wanting to ask him, Are you really an Elvis Impersonator?  And if so what are you doing in New Arcadia?  But if you’re not, what’s with the hair?

### We meet lots of nice dogs.  But not many nice-to-other-dogs Rotties.  I’ve known several Rotties who are pussycats with human beings but morph into the Terminator when faced with another dog.

** I was beginning to have cabin fever, for pity’s sake.  After a week?  Pull yourself together, McKinley.  You used to live in Maine.  But I wasn’t going regularly to tower practise at Forza last winter—I don’t off hand remember when I quit New Arcadia, but Forza was such a gruesome learning curve that it took me a while not to look for excuses to miss a ring—and I only went over the line into Christianity this September, and started picking up out-of-town churches.  Two winters ago, which I think is the last time I had my Yaktrax out for an extended period, New Arcadia could still hold me.

*** Did I tell you I went to practise again on Friday?  —Having gone last Friday, when we were snowed in.  This week Gemma and Niall more or less got me by the elbows after handbells and frog-marched me to the tower.  The problem is that I owe them:  I owe Niall more than any other ringer in making me the mediocre git that I am today, even though he doesn’t have Wild Robert’s deranged brilliance.  And if it weren’t for Gemma cheering me on I would never have stuck it out at Forza.  So when they smell weakness I don’t resist very well.


They sainted her for doing something rather than wringing her hands, remaining virgin or having bits cut off, I like the Scotland part, the Anglicans recognise her too, and look at her feast day.

Hellterror, eating



So here she is being forced to work for her food.  You knock it around, it dispenses food.   FOOOOOOOOOD.

I’ve also got a Wobbler for her—as a result of someone on the forum mentioning the entertainment value of feeding your dog this way—which is the same kind of thing in that your dog cuffs it around so that food falls out the hole but the Wobbler is not really satisfactory with the tiny puppy kibble, which empties out too fast.  This one the aperture is adjustable.  The Wobbler will come into its own as soon as she shifts over to adult kibble.  And I can’t wait.  Hellhounds are well aware that she’s eating something that they aren’t allowed so they sneak around after her looking for anything she’s missed—and she does miss the occasional crumb which Chaos in particular eats instantly—my hellhounds who, as previously observed, wouldn’t dream of eating dry kibble.  This dry kibble, of course, has cereal grains in it, which the hellhounds are wildly and spectacularly allergic to, but I creep around looking for spillages after I’ve locked the hellterror up again and SO FAR the occasional dot of kibble half the size of my littlest fingernail has had no adverse effect on hellhound digestion.  In a perfect world there would be grain-free puppy kibble—dogs didn’t evolve to eat cereal grains any more than we did—but if it exists I probably can’t afford it.   And she looks pretty healthy.  I could stand it if she had a little less energy. . . .

I’ve seen this before. I think . . . I think if I . . .






You are a THING. Why don’t you just GIVE ME MY FOOOOOOD?


I’m still hungry. And you’re still a THING.


YAAAAAAAH! You can’t get away from MEEEEE!


Gimmee gimmee gimmee GIMMEEEEEEEEE.


Oh the adorable.

Me?  Besotted?  What?

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