Thursday, March 13, 2008

Spring has sprung, and all that

Boy, did I have great plans for this spring. I would plant stuff! plants, even! in our yard! We would landscape. Our yard would be beautiful. And I would plant herbs and a small vegetable garden. And I would replace the dead plants in the concrete planters with live plants. And keep them alive! (fyi: the plants were dead when we bought the house. I did not kill them.) I would wear a floppy hat and gardening gloves and pull an errant weed once in a while without breaking a sweat. Huh. At least some daffodils came up in our yard with no input from us, because we have done NOTHING. I still want to plant basil, chives, parsley, and catnip. I think I'll start them in pots so I can figure out the best side of the house as far as sunlight goes. But I think it's really too late for anything else. Maybe I can buy a tomato plant still and stick it in the ground and pretend I grew it? I can't believe I thought I would be able to take up landscaping and gardening, when I barely have time to keep the house clean-ish. Or to finish a sweater before it gets too hot to wear it. Which is pretty much now. The sleeves on SKB are KILLING me. They are taking forever. I'm almost to the point on sleeve #1 where I could bind off and have short sleeves, but honestly, what would I do with a short-sleeved wool sweater? I still regret that I made my Somewhat Cowl short-sleeved. There are like two days out of the year I can wear it.

Reading: The new Tournament of Books list really shamed me into finally reading Vendela Vida's debut novel (her latest is on the list). I got it as a bargain book at some point a couple of years ago, and though it's a slender novel, I just hadn't gotten to it yet. I busted through it yesterday and a little today. It's a quick read for capital-L Literature. The premise really grabbed me: Ellis, a 21-year old college student, is held at gunpoint. She escapes from the experience unharmed, but completely changed. The encounter occurs at the very beginning of the novel, so the story is really about how she responds--in unpredictable, conflicting ways. She does everything a victim is supposed to: she files a police report, collaborates on a sketch of the assailant, looks at mug shots, sees a therapist. But her world has been turned upside down, and she flounders, avoiding her boyfriend's calls, telling outrageous lies to strangers, and turning to a few solicitous men for answers. She flies home to see her parents and ends up in the Philippines on a medical mission with her mother (a nurse). This could have been a gloomy, depressing book, but Vida's sense of humor is finely tuned. Ellis's roommate (not a friend, Ellis tells us, just someone from whom she rents a room) leaves little poems accusing Ellis of shirking her chores, and these are hilarious. Rather than dismal, I found it a hopeful book, and a surprisingly light read for such heavy subject matter. Oh, and Ellis is an art history student, Holly, so though it's not a huge part of the book, there are references to art history throughout. I definitely recommend this book and will have to check out her second novel.

Other than that, I've been busting through Jane Jeffry novels like mad. Fun, fun cozy mysteries.

Writing: I've been writing when I can, which has been tough with Lilah's nap "schedule." But I have a handle on how to start the book now! Yay. I have 350 words in my new draft file. It is DEPRESSING to go from a 45,000 word DraftTwo.doc file to a 350 word DraftThree.doc file. But it's going to be so much better now, and I wasn't going to be able to finish the last third or so without going back to make major structural changes. I have subplots I got too attached to, and I have to ax them. I have connections I have to make between characters. And I have to make my sleuth more proactive (Thank you, Tim!). And I figured out how to do that, so I'm very pleased. I have large sections of DraftTwo that will just be lifted into the new draft, so I'm not starting from scratch at least. And though I originally thought I'd cut out the events of the first two chapters, now I think they just need tweaking, so I'm not starting two days after the point I had been. I'm sure this is all just fascinating to everyone!

Cooking: I made an extremely unsuccessful Vegetable Biryani. I should have listened to the little voice in my head saying, "I'm pretty sure the biryani I'm thinking of is made with pre-cooked rice." It wasn't absorbing the liquid and ended up kind of soupy. And with overcooked veggies. I won't make it this way again, and I really should have ignored the recipe. Duh. The flavor was fine, which was good, because it made a lot. I made Quinoa With Crescenza from Super Natural Cooking, although I made it with fontina because wow is crescenza expensive. And I like fontina in combination with mushrooms. Matt, it turns out, dislikes quinoa, though he politely said he was sure it was very good quinoa. I LOVED it, though. Yum. The only change I'd make is to leave out the (I thought) rather incongruous red pepper flakes. The heat really made no sense in this dish, at least to me. I made a very nice chickpea curry from a neat little cookbook I have called Indian Vegetarian Cooking At Your House. I tweaked it a bit to add tomato, but basically followed the recipe. Even Lilah liked it, and it was really kind of spicy. I think I've mentioned this little cookbook before. It makes Indian cooking really approachable. Plus, when I bought the spices for it, the nice Indian man at the checkout said, "You make curry?" I said yes and he said, "Not from curry powder?" and was very impressed. There are a lot of ingredients, but most of them are from the same 10 or so spices, so you only buy them once to make dozens of dishes. Plus making the curry from scratch instead of with commercial curry powder makes me feel very accomplished. And tastes amazing.


YarnThrower said...

I do my gardening basically the same way. I have lots of ideas, though struggle with finding a little time to get things going. I do plant some bulbs every fall, hoping the squirrels won't find **all** of them, but it's generally gets done when the threat of the ground freezing is really upon me at the end of October / beginning of November.

Really, I think hearing about your book revisions is interesting. You're the only person I "know", and I've ever "known", who is writing a fiction book!

"Clean-ish" -- great way to put it. I wish I could achieve even that.....

Anonymous said...

Hooray! Can't wait to read it!

Knittypants said...

Your gardening plans sound like mine!

I'm hoping to grow a few herbs, too. I'd love to do more, but it just ain't going to happen right now!