June 6, 2014

Shadows is here!

Chicken, apples and cream



Behind is good. Farther away from the FRONT is GOOD. Also, it turns out, good is the awful spotlights that frelling BLIND YOU. It means you can’t really see the congregation.

Yes. Never underestimate the calming power of bright lights in your eyes. Congregation? What congregation?

Yay for having fun with singing!!! And when you do write that power ballad, I want to hear it.

Ha ha ha ha ha ha.  And here I thought you were going to say something all helpful* and knows-way-more-about-music-than-I-do.  Fie.

But . . . I’m pretty sure it was you, a long time ago now, posted to the forum asking about Maggie’s mom’s chicken, apples and cream recipe.**  I TORE MY KITCHEN APART*** looking for the frelling recipe and had just about decided that it must have been in one of the cookbooks I’d got rid of when I went off dairy—probably one of the Shaker cookbooks.  You know all these clean pure lines of Shaker furniture and houses and how they dressed simply and were celibate and so on?  THEY MAKE UP FOR IT IN THE FOOD.  If there was ever massive sublimation going on Shaker food is it.  Or anyway the several Shaker cookbooks I had in my twenties and thirties† were ALL cream and butter and thick gooey sauces and . . . glorious.††  Although it helps if you have a really fast metabolism and/or regularly save the world which is usually a high-calorie undertaking.†††  The rest of us have to have a week’s detox on lettuce and water after every foray.  Even if I hadn’t gone off dairy twenty years ago I’d’ve had to get rid of my Shaker cookbooks when I hit menopause and my metabolism said, nice knowing you.  Going to sleep now for several decades.

BUT I FOUND IT.  CHICKEN, APPLES AND CREAM.  YAAAAAAY.  From the notes in the margins there was at least one other recipe I had already tried—which probably was in one of those lost Shaker cookbooks—but I know I used this one too.  It’s been so long since I’ve made it I can’t remember much about it except that it’s good.  The original is from COUNTRY SUPPERS by Ruth Cousineau which I’ve praised in these virtual pages before.  I think it’s a lovely cookbook and it should have been a fabulous best-seller and still in print.  But it’s not—still in print, anyway.

2-3 T slightly salted butter

1 large sweet onion

2 medium-sized sour/cooking apples:  popularity was busy ruining Granny Smiths when I moved over here:  when they first hit the ground running they were the perfect all-purpose apple, not too sour to eat if you like brisk but excellent in pies and so on too.  So I’m not sure what you Americans use now.  I used Bramleys when I first moved over here‡ but they are VERY SOUR.  Also, Bramleys tend to HUGE.  You’ll probably only want one Bramley.  Anyway.  Choose your weapon.  Then core, peel, slice.  You know the drill.

3 T flour

1 c good strong chicken stock.  Either make it yourself or buy proper stock in the refrigerator section of your grocery.

½ c heavy cream‡‡

4 c chopped cooked chicken‡‡‡

Melt the butter, gently fry your fine-chopped onion.  Add apples and go on cooking gently.  If you’re using Bramleys be aware that they get fluffy if they’re cooked too enthusiastically.  Sprinkle on the flour and stir till you get something resembling a lumpy roux—all those apples and onions in the way.  Then slowly add the stock and cream.  As I recall I added it alternately in bits—so half the stock, stir till it’s all taken up, then the cream, stir etc, then the final stock.  It’ll be much thinner, obviously, but it should still be a proper thick sauce.

Add the chicken and heat through.

You’ll need some salt:  add how you like it.  You may want pepper.  I don’t but then I’m not eating this, am I?  You can think of me and feel superior.§

* * *

* I need to learn how to change key signatures and how to write a descant.  Okay?

** SHADOWS.  For those of you still waiting in the loan queue at your library.^

^ Suggest they buy more copies.

*** It did not, in fact, look a great deal different than before I started the tearing process.

† Before I went off everything that was fun besides tea, chocolate and champagne

†† I was just googling Shaker recipes and there seems to be some revisionism going on.  Simple pure lines of Shaker cooking.  Hmm.  Okay.

††† Ask Kes.

‡ I sashayed back and forth over the ‘no dairy’ line for a while till my body convinced me that it meant NO DAIRY.

‡ Oh frell.  US/UK translation problems.  I think if you’re in the UK you want what’s called ‘whipping cream’.  I’ve just been pestering google and that seems to be the consensus.  I too fell into the ‘double cream’ trap.  The UK is just cream mad.  Which is why I started falling off the no-dairy wagon when I moved over here.  Clotted cream.  Be still my heart.  SIIIIIIIIGH.  I’m old and mean now though.  I’m used to my bitter privation.

‡‡‡ The original recipe calls for shredded chicken.  Ugh.  You can also just joint your chicken.  It makes quite a nice presentation if you arrange your chicken pieces on a platter, pour the sauce over and artfully arrange a few slices of raw apple on top—not Bramley.  People die of intense shrivelling by eating raw Bramleys.  This method also saves all that chopping time.  You could knit several rows in the time you didn’t spend chopping.

§ I CAN STILL EAT BUTTER.  With black tea, champagne, chocolate and BUTTER, my life is not a desert.

Yarn Adventure and maybe some ranting


Fiona and I had a Yarn Adventure today.  And about time too:  we haven’t seen each other since November.  Life:  what a ratbag.

Admittedly there is usually a high gremlin count when Fiona and I get together but today they weren’t half trying.  We were going to set off at two, which in our case usually means before 2:30, well, maybe, if we’re lucky.  Fiona usually texts me as she leaves the house*.

No text.  Well, whatever, and we got on with hurtling and then with feeding me**.

Still no text.  Prepare to feed critters, since I was going to put it down as I left.  Sometimes this intrigues hellhounds sufficiently to stimulate them to eat.

Still no text.

Dither.  Feed critters.***

Okay, now I’m worried.  I have checked Pooka several times.  Nothing.

I’ve hung the laundry and washed all the lunch dishes† which is of course nicer to come home to but WHERE IS FIONA?

Pooka barks, and I make a slightly dish-soapy dive for her.  I have the feeling my texts aren’t getting through, says Fiona’s voice.  I HAVEN’T HEARD ANYTHING FROM YOU SINCE LAST NIGHT TILL THIS PHONE CALL.

Well, I’ll be there in three minutes, she said.  And as she rang off, Pooka chirruped and SEVEN MESSAGES POPPED THROUGH.  ARRRRRRRRRRRRGH.

The day improved from there however.  Our chosen yarn shop was having a MOVING TO NEW PREMISES sale and . . .

Fiona, as we know, has a slight Sock Yarn problem.

Fiona, as we know, has a slight Sock Yarn problem.

My problems are perhaps more general.

My problems are perhaps more general.

I’ve been wanting FEARLESS KNITTING for yonks but, you know, it persists in being full price.  The dark auburn yarn is Debbie Bliss Winter Garden which I have also wanted for yonks but it’s too frelling expensive, and the green and gold down front is Louisa Harding Grace Hand Beaded which etc.  And the other stuff is just . . . um . . . shiny?  And when a pattern book only costs £2 you only need to like one pattern in it. . . .

* * *

* This text will read ‘I’m running a little late because . . .’  Mind you, if she’s not running late, I’m in deep trouble.^  Today’s non-arriving text however informed me that her car had broken down and she was negotiating to borrow her parents’.

^ The hellhounds would like this.  It might mean I didn’t have time to FEED them before I left.  The hellterror, of course, would chew her way through the front door and come after me if I tried any such thing but I wouldn’t DARE.  Also feeding the hellterror is easy.  Open nearest tin, throw contents in general hellterror direction, add a handful of kibble if you’re feeling persnickety, and don’t stand too close or she’ll eat the toes off your shoes.  The hellhounds . . . it starts with cutting up the chicken scraps SMALL ENOUGH that Chaos, in particular, who has prehensile lips, can’t just hoover up the chicken, and you need to stir the kibble in really well because any that has not been touched by the magic chicken-stock wand will be instantly rejected as dry and tasteless and beneath delicate hellhound dignity.

Unfortunately for them, however, I had allowed time for the careful creation of appropriate hellhound comestibles.  It didn’t work though.  They still didn’t eat it.+  That look in Chaos’ eyes says:  if you didn’t mix it in so well I’d’ve at least eaten the chicken.

+ Do I have to bother to tell you that the hellterror ate hers?  No?  I didn’t think so.

** Moans of protest from the hellterror who is, furthermore, sitting on my feet, just to make sure I haven’t forgotten her.  YOU JUST ATE BREAKFAST TWO HOURS AGO.  YOU ARE NOT STARVING.  Also, sitting on my feet is counterproductive.  You are heavy.  You are obviously getting plenty to eat.^

^ I was out hurtling hellhounds recently.+   People frequently stop us to be goopy over them.  Mostly their admirers stick to telling me how beautiful they are, but occasionally someone wants to find it funny that we’re all skinny and leggy.  Hellhounds are also now quite grey in the face so we’re all skinny, leggy and old.  But some dork came up to us the other day and was in grave danger of rupturing himself over the sheer hilarity of owners who look like their dogs.++  I stared him in the eye.  I have a bull terrier at home, I said.  I did not mention the ‘mini’ part.  He stopped laughing and edged away prudently.

+ In my life I can always say I was out hurtling hellhounds recently.  And hellterror.

++ I wondered what his frelling problem is.  I have no idea, of course, but he was a big flashy maybe forty-ish dork, and looked a bit like someone who was maybe rolling into midlife crisis and in a mood to be snarky about some post-menopausal hag who is refusing to stay home with her TV and her memories but is out cluttering up the pavement wearing jeans, All Stars and long hair, and walking her dogs like she thinks she still has a purpose in life.  I don’t like big flashy forty-ish dorks who think looming over me and being scornful is a fun thing to do.#

# Speaking of testosterone poisoning, yesterday I was creeping up the hill to the mews in Wolfgang, which little journey is another of those absolutes in my life, going at 30 mph which happens to be the speed limit.  And I was passed by five motorcycles.  FIVE.  Streaking past, whing whing whing whing whing.  What the what the what the I can’t even.  And there is all this bushwa about how cars are supposed to be careful of motorcycles.  I don’t know if this is nationwide or just around here, but there are posters all over the landscape saying THINK BIKE.  How about if BIKERS think at all?  I’ve been a motorcyclist, as long-term readers of this blog know, and it is absolutely true that people driving cars can be amazingly stupid and dangerous about bikers and this is a large part of the reason I stopped driving a bike while I still had all my body parts intact . . . but the frelling majority of the motorcycle accidents around here are caused by male bikers being assholes:  yesterday at least I was only going 30.  Being passed by some dinglenut on a 60 mph road that is only just two lanes wide with hedgerows on either side . . . going around a curve?  Yes.  I have.

*** Ecstasy of the Hellterror.

† Except, of course, hellhound bowls, since they haven’t eaten anything.

Varieties of piffle


Peter and I went out to dinner tonight.  Just because.  To the Bard and Orpharion which tends to be our default.  And they were out of half bottles of champagne and weren’t offering it by the glass.*  We didn’t quite get up and stamp out the door but we thought about it.  Peter, in best loyal-husband mode, suggested this drastic course of action.  We could go back to the Bulgy Loaf, which was our great find a fortnight ago when the electricity went phut at Peter’s end of town:  they had teeny-weeny individual bottles of Freixenet** available, thank you very much, and they’re probably not heaving on a Monday evening in early March.  But one doesn’t really want to burn one’s bridges too spectacularly in a small town***.  So we stayed.  There may have been muttering.

And then I thought, well, okay, I have a minor thing for killer dessert wines—the kind you might mistake for treacle if you weren’t paying close attention, till the alcohol aftershock makes your hair stand on end and your socks pop off†—I’ll have a glass of dessert wine with my brownie.  THEY DON’T DO DESSERT WINE BY THE GLASS EITHER.

But at least the brownie was serious.


It's not a totally weird saddo thing to take a photo of a magnificent brownie is it?  No, no I'm sure it isn't.

It’s not a totally weird saddo thing to take a photo of a magnificent brownie is it? No, no I’m sure it isn’t.

. . . And yes, we’d been playing bridge, where Peter fiddles the cards first so we have (a) more fun (b) a better Teaching Experience and I actually sort of almost understood what was happening some of the time.  I can’t decide if this is a good thing or not.

So we came home and Peter got one of our emergency quarter bottles of champagne out of the cupboard and put it in the freezer for twenty minutes AND I’M DRINKING IT NOW.

 * * *

*Their pathetically feeble excuse is that they’d had a wedding which had drunk it all.  A wedding that drank all the HALF BOTTLES?  What kind of a cheap cheezy wedding is that?  With only three people at the reception and two of them are teetotallers?^  We’ll have more in on Wednesday, said the lightly sweating waiter.  WEDNESDAY?  WHAT GOOD IS WEDNESDAY?  IT’S MONDAY AND I WANT CHAMPAGNE.^^

. . . and maybe the Bulgy Loaf had a wedding last week too where teetotalism was rampant and they’re all out of little bottles too.

^ I mean, not cheap.  Half bottles are ridiculously expensive per glass—you only do it because You.  Must.  Have.  Champagne and there’s only one of you, or maybe two, you’re both nearly teetotallers and one of you doesn’t like champagne much.+

+ There’s no accounting.  Maybe it’s that Y chromosome.

^^ Peter, who can sometimes be noble beyond all measure+, offered to buy a REAL bottle of champagne.  Even I quailed at the magnificence of this sacrifice.++


++ I’ll try to remember this moment the next time he spills marmalade in the silverware drawer.  Or unloads the dishwasher and puts everything tidily away having not run it first.  AAAAAAUUUUUGH.

** I’ve said this before, haven’t I?  That Freixenet has come a long way in the last thirty years or so?  There was a time when I wouldn’t drink it because it was nasty.  It’s still not the Widow, but it doesn’t cost like the Widow either.

. . . I was just looking it up on line so I could spell it correctly and . . . you have to be of legal drinking age in the country you’re in to look at their site?  What?  Why?  Is looking at virtual bottles of B-list fizz really going to tip you over the edge into picking the lock on your parents’ liquor cabinet and getting pootered on Harvey’s?^  I did not, in fact, penetrate past the are you of legal drinking age click here pop up because the site background is all dark and creepy and there is ominous icky music like one of those computer games where stuff starts jumping out at you before I’ve got my finger off the ‘start’ button and I never live long enough to get out of the first level.

^ I feel that a hangover from Harvey’s Bristol Cream would probably cure you of drinking alcohol for life, but maybe that’s just me.

*** Besides, one possibly has a habit of doing it inadvertently and had better mind one’s ps and qs when one notices before it’s too late that they’re milling around in a dangerous manner^ and really need minding.^^

^ like bull terrier puppies.  All smiles and little evil eyes . . . and remarkably fast on those little short legs.

^^ Sit!  Sit!  That’s not sitting!+

+  I’m not sure what it is, but it’s not sitting.

† In my early drinking days I’ve even been known to enjoy a glass of Harvey’s.  But I wouldn’t want to make a habit of it.


I said I was going to hang some baubles on Peter



Father Christmas

Father Christmas


I was laughing so hard* I could barely take the shot.**  But one must commit to one’s inspiration.***

It has been sheeting with rain much of the day, in evil sneaky sudden outbursts, but barring mad dimming and  flickering of the lights, the occasional irritated bleep out of some tech item or other and Radio Three taking a nosedive off the air for several hours Monday night we’ve escaped the worst of the weather as well as the worst of the results of the weather.  I had a few top heavy camellias in their pots go over but no walls fell down.  It was sleeting last night so I didn’t make it to midnight mass, sigh–and I’ve managed to wedge so much of the indoor jungle onto windowsills that it only takes about ten minutes to get everything remaining in/out again.  When you have brandy butter to make you don’t want to be spending a lot of time on botanical airlift rescue.

There was turkey and champagne and Brussels sprouts with chestnuts . . . and mince pies with brandy butter.  I seem to have eaten four of these.†  Well, they were small.   And Peter went to bed at nearly midnight and promises to sleep in tomorrow so I don’t have to get down here EARLY.  I don’t think early is an option.

Oh yes and . . . Jesus is born.  For those of us that way inclined, yaaay. ††

* * *

* Which is a great improvement on this time last week.

** Actually I took several.  Once he got up again it was going to be all over.  He’d said originally did I want him standing up or sitting down?  Sitting down, I said, this may take a while.  In case anyone is interested, I’ve tied the star on by looping garden twine through the tag inside the collar of his shirt.  Great stuff, garden twine.  It’s stringing the baubles too.  And yes, I’ve been wondering about the length of those canines for twenty-two years.  Alternative and Little Discussed Origins of ME/CFS.

*** . . . for an easy blog post.

†  The hellterror says, hey, boss, I could help you with that.

††  Also probably the only day of the year I don’t feel silly singing in public.  People who object to the plangent tones of The First Nowell, The Cherry Tree Carol, etc, can just leave town for the day.



Good and bad. But the good wins.


Hellhounds ate lunch.  This hasn’t happened in WEEKS.*  And they followed this up by eating dinner**.

Almost everything else has gone awry but my priorities are clear.  Hellhounds who eat are crucial to my mental and emotional health.  Which you can therefore imagine have been a little thin on the ground lately.***

I was supposed to sing today, and I got a laconic text from Oisin at about noon, saying that he’d forgotten about another (better paid) accompanist gig later in the afternoon and could I make it early?  —Erm.  No.  I had a bad night even by my standards† and was still in the mainlining caffeine, how does this strange grey†† clamshell box with a keyboard on one side work exactly?, stage.  Singing was hours away.

About two hours later I got a text from Niall asking if I wanted a lift to handbells at Gemma’s.  HANDBELLS?  NOBODY TOLD ME THERE WERE HANDBELLS SCHEDULED TODAY.

I didn’t make that either.  However, I have hauled Kes through some further (metaphorical) hedgerows today.  And the hellhounds have eaten TWO MEALS IN A ROW.  YAAAAAAAAAY.


Why do they never ask ‘How do you winnow down all the thousands of ideas you have into ones that ring true for you?’

Well, and that ring loudly enough and to a melody you have some chance of learning—to stretch an analogy till it whines and wriggles and begs for mercy †††.  It’s not just the ideas, as you say:  it’s finding the one(s) that you can do something with.  SHADOWS, for example, would be likelier to be provided with a sequel if I knew more quantum physics and were fluent in Japanese.  It’s not usually that straightforward—and I daresay I could find people to tutor me—but the fit between writer and idea, however good the idea is in an absolute sense, is also frelling CRITICAL.  Think of Rudyard Kipling writing one of Jane Austen’s stories.  Or JRR Tolkien one of Diana Wynne Jones’.  Or Peter one of mine or me one of Peter’s.

Surely there’s only so many times you can write variants of ‘I stare blankly into space and try to remember not to drool’ to the dreaded ‘Where do your ideas come from?’.

Yes.  And I passed it years ago.  . . . Furthermore I don’t even bother trying to remember not to drool any more.  I have dogs;  everything I own is washable.


That list. . . .

*shovels chocolate into face*

Most of these have happened to me and I’ve only been published for a couple of years. I’m trying to imagine what it must be like after *mumble* years and all I want to do is eat more chocolate.

Yes.  Well.  I stay home a lot.  I might also recommend weaning yourself onto carrots.  Excellent things, carrots.  I eat a lot of them.  Arrrrgh.


Sigh. I think I’d boycott the bookstore as well–perhaps we could sic the hellterror on it.

WHAT A GOOD IDEA.  SHE’D HAVE A GREAT TIME.  Pity it’s kind of far away.  But I am much attracted to a vision of the hellterror whacking the ankles of Clerk of Infamy with the long hard plastic wand that is her present favourite toy and—ow—being invited to play hurts.  Also, everything in range is destroyed.  Who bought this blasted toy anyway?  —Oh.  I did.


Reading that list? Chucking stones at wild cats sounds safer. A tiger isn’t going to spend time thinking up a thousand horrible ways for you to die.

It’s not the thinking you need to worry about.  It’s other aspects of applied creativity you might want to consider.


springlight wrote on Fri, 13 December 2013 09:51
  some books just deserve bookshelf space.

This is true… of course it implies that I have any bookshelf space to give it. I am forbidden from buying more books unless I first buy more bookshelves. And since I currently have no space for more bookshelves, this is an issue.

‘Forbidden’?  By whom?  Tell them that the hellgoddess is looking at them in a hard and meaningful manner and that, furthermore, you’re a member of her personal forum and it is RUDE not to own all her books in hard copy.


Okay, now I’m REALLY curious to know who Author X is. Just to know.

I suppose it could be just about anyone, really, depending on which of Robin’s books one starts with. Or the pool of anyones who write well enough that *someone* thinks their writing is awesome. Which, given the range of people in the world, doesn’t limit the field very much.

Yes.  Or no.  Apologies.  I shouldn’t tease you like this but I obviously can’t tell you who.  It’s just SUCH a SPECTACULAR story of what morons people can be.  And as for which book of mine . . . other people who have read both X and Y scratch their heads and say they don’t see any particular similarity, beyond fantasy and girls who do things.


No, no, no, no. Not to worry. This is a McKinley story, right? Can you   possibly imagine that I would let anything dreadful happen to Sid?

There are some things in life that one has total confidence in.

Oh good.  It’s not that I won’t kill off major characters if the story totally MAKES me.‡  Just . . . for someone with as PROFOUND A CASE OF CRANKY as I have, I write awfully warm and fuzzy stories.  It’s a curse.

* * *

* There is a God.  Er.^

^Have I told you Peter’s heresy?  (Peter who is not a Christian, and doesn’t mind Nicky Gumbel as much as I do because he wasn’t expecting much.+)  Peter suggests that God is both omnipotent and omniscient . . . but not at the same time.  You have to admit it would explain a lot.

+ Now that it’s too late, DOZENS of people are coming out of the woodwork, including a few on the forum, and saying, Oh, I never got on with Nicky Gumbel either!  —Oh.  Well.  The most useful thing anyone has said to me is to remember that it’s not merely that his lowest-common-denominator delivery is getting on my nerves, what he is presenting is only one take on Christianity.  I’m allowed to think ‘um, er, no,’ not merely ‘stop talking about your frelling squash game, okay?’

I wonder if I could get out my knitting?  I have a genuine reason for not wanting to look at the screen;  the backdrop is this vivid swirly orangey pink, which I would like fine in a cardigan but as your speaker’s background it starts to make me feel queasy.  That could be the presentation . . . but I think it’s the colours on a TV screen.

** There’s still supper to go wrong but we can live in hope for a few hours.

*** May I just bore you a minute by mentioning again how much I hate force feeding?  It beats their not eating by a big fat^ margin—if hellhounds miss a meal they will absolutely, guaranteed refuse the next one, and the one after that:  and by the third missed meal in a row they are lying listlessly in their bed and refusing to come out—but I HATE.  IT.  I had given up on lunch for the moment—hellhound digestion moves in enigmatic cycles;  lunch would become possible again some unknown time in the future—beyond a couple of dragooned mouthfuls so their stomachs aren’t empty and there’s some hope therefore they’ll eat dinner.  But I have to go LA LA LA LA LA LA very loudly and think about something else.  And Darkness’ latest placatory ritual to some other dark gods, since it’s certainly not me he’s trying to get on the good side of with this behaviour, is that he will ONLY eat, supposing he eats at all, if I force the first mouthful down his throat.  AAAAAAAAAAUGH.  He will actually lie there staring at me, waiting for me to do my part in ENABLING him to eat.


^ ::Hollow laughter::

† Well, I’d had what I thought was this clever idea of getting all my tender plants outdoors the night before, since it was now mmph o’clock and the thermometer wasn’t going anywhere threatening, and I sleep, or anyway ‘sleep’, through all those early morning prime photosynthesizing hours, but during the ferrying process in the dark I had an Unfortunate Encounter with some hellterror crap . . . tiny turds that roll away from the main event look a lot like the courtyard gravel and are sometimes missed on pick-up even in daylight . . .  adrenaline is never your friend at mmph o’clock when there are faeces involved.

†† The moment I was most tempted to swap my PC for a Mac, with the unimaginable technological horror this would produce, was when they started making pink Macs.  Sigh.  Sanity prevailed, which is to say my computer angels support PCs, not Macs.

††† Not unlike hellhounds presented with food and a grim, determined hellgoddess.

‡ I still occasionally get furious mail from people who thought I’d’ve written a nice Robin Hood retelling, about the aftermath of the battle with Guy of Gisbourne in OUTLAWS.  I didn’t like it either, okay?  Just keep reminding yourself that even though I don’t get that far, I promise my Robin does not die through the treachery of a WOMAN.

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