Ten Things I Love: Oracular Wish List Edition

I already know that I’m going to be one of those people with 50 tarot decks or worse.  There are just SO MANY that are SO GORGEOUS and how on Earth are you supposed to just pick one?  Why should I, when there is such an astonishing variety of beautiful, meaningful, adorable, or just plain hilarious decks out there?  

Here are a bunch of decks that I would love to get my hands on for various reasons, as well as a couple of oracular accessories I’m in love with right now.

1 – The Monstarot 

This deck by Joanna Nelson is so utterly adorable I can’t even stand it.  It’s pretty much Rider-Waite-Smith, but with a playful, childlike twist.  Not every reading has to be Deathly Serious, and if you’re turned off by a lot of the heavy-handed JudeoChristian symbolism in the RWS you might have a lot more fun with a deck like this.  

2 – The Impressionist Tarot

This deck is one of the classical-artist-copycat type decks, and I mostly just love it for the art.  Each suit is inspired by the work of an Impressionist:  Wands are Manet, Cups are Monet, Swords are Van Gogh, and Pentacles are Degas.  (The Majors are a mix of all four.)

3 – The Last Unicorn Tarot

OMG I MUST HAVE THIS.  An officially licensed deck using the artwork and style of the animated adaptation of Peter S. Beagle’s The Last Unicorn, one of my favorite childhood books and movies.  At the moment I can’t quite justify spending nearly 80 dollars on a deck, but I’m hoping it will do well and be in print long enough that I can get my hands on one.

4 – The Ophidia Rosa Tarot

Every time I see someone post about getting this deck I feel a surge of painful envy that I suspect means I would love working with it myself.  It’s a botanical deck, which I wouldn’t have expected to swoon over, but something about the near-monochromatic illustrations and the beautiful snake backing draw me in over and over.

Here’s a video review of both the Ophidia Rosa and its sister oracle deck.  

5 – The Next World Tarot

There are many modernized Tarot decks, but few that manage to convey diversity, gritty reality, and the sense of hope underlying the Next World cards.  They are grounded in the human body and represent it in its full splendor, including all shapes, sizes, genders, abilities, races, ages, you name it.  As I understand it the cards are huge, which would probably prevent me from reading with them (I have wee little hands) but I want to touch them and gaze into them, meditate on their layers of meaning.

To quote the Little Red Tarot description of the deck, “The Fool’s Journey is about smashing systematic oppression, owning their truths, being accountable to the people and places that support them, and taking back a connection to their body that may have been lost through trauma or societal brainwashing. The NEXT WORLD TAROT is a visual spectacle of both the battle cry and the reconnection between outcasts and their criminalized identities.”

6 – Raven Tarot Bag

I am blessed with a roommate who sews beautifully, so in theory all I’d have to do is find fabric and ply her with cookies to get all the tarot bags I want, but still, I like supporting independent artists out there in the world who create beautiful things as well (or have access to materials it would be way more trouble to acquire or work with than I’d want to inflict on my Roombeest).  And one can never have too many pretty bags for Witchy and Mystical Goodness, right?

Isn’t this fabric amazing? The same shop has several other patterns I love.

7 – Tree of Life Zipper Bag

You know, it had never really occurred to me to try a zippy bag for my cards.  I guess my inner woo-woo-maven thinks that drawstring is more…magical?  I have no idea. But I’d never have to worry about the deck falling out of a zipped up bag.  Again, this shop has several alchemical and mystical patterns that would be perfect for cards, runes, or whatever items you need to have on the go.  

8 – Tarot Wraparound Pouch

These colors!  I do love a batik.  I like wraparound bags and cloths like this one – they feel secure but have more visual and textural interest than a regular old drawstring bag.

The shop also carries other patterns and additional magical goodies you might enjoy browsing through.  Just FYI.  

9 – Tree of Life Altar/Tarot Cloth

So pretty, nice soft rayon, 18×18″…I might have to snag this one given how affordable it is.

10 – Gothic Storage Box

This box is flat out gorgeous, and I’m sitting here doing a Homer!Gurgle just looking at it.  I’m also guessing that the Roombeest would be willing to fight me for it given her love of blue things.

 

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Sylvan Points at Stuff – 10 Things That Weren’t Absolute Crap in 2017

Let’s be honest here:  2017 sucked.  If your year was awesome, well, chances are you’re either a millionaire, you are oblivious to the outside world, or you are Taylor Swift (which means you are a millionaire and oblivious to the outside world).  

This is not to say nothing good happened.  Of course it did!  Through the smoke of the gigantic dumpster fire of 2017 you could catch glimpses of beauty and truth.  I hope that your personal life involved at least a few lovely things, and that here at the tail end of the year you’re able to look back and see those lovely things no matter how much of the world’s bullshit wound up burning in a bag on your porch.  Let those be the things that warm you as we head into what is likely to be another difficult year for those of us with a social conscience and a lot to lose.

As for me, I feel an immense relief that the year is over even though I have no real reason to imagine 2018 will be less of a turd soufflé.  And rather than analyze it all to death, I’m just going to bury it in the litter box and try to be done with it – I need my strength for the year ahead.  

But here are ten small-to-medium things about 2017 that I did love, in no particular order.

1 – I did kind of publish another book.  That’s pretty cool.  

Incidentally it’d be really awesome if you read Shadow Rising and would be kind enough to leave a review or rating on Amazon.  I don’t read reviews (no, not even good ones) because they’re bad for my mental health, but every writer needs them to help encourage people to try out their work.  

2 – Wonder Woman. 

Even though DC has misfired dreadfully on 90% of its superhero movies, this one was like a breath of fresh air and optimism in an unrelentingly dreary year.  At long last a movie with a female superhero character who wasn’t constantly framed for the male gaze – no long shots down her cleavage, no posing with her butt positioned toward the camera in defiance of anatomy and logic.  Was it a perfect movie?  Oh gods no.  It turned into a giant CGI brainless brawl at the end, and I still can’t get past Ares’ porn stache, but if you didn’t see a bit of yourself – of our collective soul and sanity – in the No Man’s Land scene, standing up and resisting, refusing to be moved – well, you should probably watch it again:

3 – Hamilton.

Late to the party as usual, but listening to the soundtrack on a whim one night led to my falling head over heels in love with this weird hip-hop retelling of the founding of America and, by extension, its creator, Lin-Manuel Miranda, who I think might be an actual unicorn.  If you want someone on your Twitter feed who’s positive, hilarious, and full of heart (and who writes sonnets on a whim just to say good morning), follow him, you won’t regret it.  I think when the purge of horrible men in Hollywood is done it’ll be just him, Chris Evans, and Patrick Stewart left standing.  I’m totally okay with that.

Enjoy, here, the Tony Awards performance of Hamilton’s original cast, introduced by the Obamas.  Notice that the “battle” involves no guns – the props were removed for the performance because that was the day of the mass shooting in Orlando.  

4 – Lucifer.

And now for something completely different.  I don’t quite remember what made me start watching Lucifer, or what inspired me to slog past the first few ridiculous episodes, but by the time the first season was halfway over I was HOOKED.  Aside from the gorgeous and talented cast, the show is way better than it has any right to be – the characters, especially Lucifer, Amenadiel, Mazikeen, Doctor Linda, Chloe, and the Goddess of Creation, are so emotionally compelling.  Based on the characters from Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series of graphic novels, basically the idea is that the devil leaves hell to live in Los Angeles, run a night club, and eventually fight crime.  Yeah, it’s as dumb as it sounds, but it’s also amazing, due in no small part to Tom Ellis’s performance as Luci.  

I tried to find a clip to show you, but the really good stuff depends on context, so just take my word for it and go watch the show.  

5 –  My new Tarot deck.

After a long, long dry spell in the mystical department, I’ve gotten back into Tarot.  Rather than trying to work with oracles that aren’t really talking to me anymore, I decided to try something brand new, and have embarked on learning actual Tarot (my preferred oracles have been, as you may know, the Runes of the Elder Futhark and the Brian Froud Faeries Oracle).  Inspired by YouTubers like Katey Flowers, and the fact that I’ve always been a sucker for a beautiful deck, I re-bought the Tarot of the Hidden Realm, and am currently studying it along with a more traditional Rider-Waite-Smith deck and my Shadowscapes deck by Stephanie Law.  

And lord, does the Hidden Realm deck talk to me!  For the moment I’m concentrating on using the cards for myself, but I’ll probably start reading for other people once I’m more comfortable with them.  I have something of a divinatory spark, and it always wants to catch others on fire.

I’ll have a full post about my Tarot explorations soon.

6 – My Funko Pops! collection.

My desk at my day job is like a toy store at this point, and my Funko Pops! are the stars.  My favorites so far are General Leia and Bob Ross, who are front and center (along with a vastly amused black cat figurine):

My other favorite, of course, is Dorothy Zbornak, a gift from m’bestie; here she is having none of Stephen Strange’s nonsense, while Patty from Ghostbusters stands guard nearby.

7 – Ed Sheeran’s “Galway Girl”

I wasn’t as thrilled with Ed’s newest album as I was with the last one, but it does have some great songs, and the two that are Irish-inspired are probably my favorites.  This one for some reason just always makes me smile and bounce.  Smiles and bounces are important.

8 – Contouring 101.

If you haven’t seen this video…I don’t even know how to describe it to you.  It’s…a parody?  It’s bizarre and hilarious and I’m STILL laughing about it.  My roommate and I quote it constantly, specifically “…NOSTRILS” and “IF THE MEN FIND OUT WE CAN SHAPESHIFT, THEY’RE GOING TO TELL THE CHURCH.”

9 – Coffee.

Life continues to bamboozle and explode.  Coffee is always there for us.  Coffee understands.  My drink of 2017 was a raspberry soy mocha.  Trust me, the combination of flavors is exquisite.  I even had my birthday cake, which was DELICIOUS and gorgeous and made by local vegan bakery Capital City Bakery, made in mocha and raspberry.  

Actually my 40th birthday party should be on this list anyway, as it was a fabulous time with some of my favorite people, and I got delightfully squiffy on Moscow Mules (my favorite form of squiff-ening beverage).

10 –  My new pendant.

Speaking of my birthday, I had my eye on this piece for an entire year before I finally ordered it.  I’ve long worn a pewter compass that says “Trust Your Journey,” but as my 40th loomed I felt it was time for a new “me” necklace.  The pendant below bears the calligraphy of Thich Nhat Hanh, one of my all-time favorite spiritual writers and a true inspiration; it’s one of several pieces in the series, and is a sentiment I try to be mindful of every day:  No mud, no lotus.

 

11 – (Special Bonus Round!)  All of you.

I know, it’s cheesy, but all my readers and Patrons and friends and Twitter followers and Facebook peeps helped immeasurably to keep 2017 from being a total misery-orgy.  I’ve never been good at communicating with actual people – I’m awful at returning emails and comments, not because I don’t read them or want to reply, but because…I don’t know, exactly.  It might be the same thing that makes it so impossible for me to make phone calls.  I absolutely blow at reaching out.  But I know you’re there, and i adore every one of you.  I hope that my infrequent blog posts, occasional novels, and sporadic attendance at my own social media are at least worth sticking around for.  I hope to have a new book for you this year – probably not Book 8 (although who knows?), but something new (I hope I hope I hope), and I really want to offer more Shadow World Extras and, gods willing, more of the Agency.  But none of this would be possible without all of you staying with me through my silly seasons and sad storms, so thank you, thank you, thank you.

Let’s all have a solidly good 2018.  It seems a bit laughable to ask for awesome, given the state of the world, but let’s all do what we can to make it better – for ourselves, for each other, for everyone.

Everyone hold hands…take a breath…and…jump!

I’ll be back soon with posts on my new bullet journal/planner situation, a wrap-up of last year’s favorite planner spreads, some musings on divination, and my goals for 2018.

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Ten Favorite Kitchen Items – Food!

Everyone’s got that weird little spice mix or particular variety of noodle they reach for over and over again.  These are ten of the food items I find myself using more than any other – and one gadget I totally forgot to mention last time that is kind of important, whoops.

1. Kosher Salt, and my Salt Cellar

Kosher salt is kind of a no-brainer for the modern cook; you’d be hard pressed to find a cookbook that doesn’t demand it.  Why?  The larger flakes dissolve differently than those tiny little table salt crystals, and if we’re talking sea salt instead of regular kosher, the mineral content can veeeeery subtly affect flavor. I just like the texture of kosher much better in cooking, even though let’s face it, it’s all going to dissolve.  

What I forgot in my last post was this:  The thing I keep my salt in.  It’s handy to have your kosher salt close by and easy to access – obviously using a shaker with the stuff is a problem, and it’s much harder to measure accurately shaking or grinding.  You need something you can both stick your fingers in for a pinch and scoop out of with a measuring spoon. Enter the salt cellar.  They come in a million different varieties, but the one I love most is my Alton Brown model:

Screen Shot 2016-03-15 at 7.52.02 PM

Made by RSVP, not only does it have a removable bowl (dishwasher safe), the bottom is weighted so you can flip it open without the whole thing flying across the counter.  It’s easy to reach into, keeps dust out of the salt (unlike an open bowl type cellar), and came with an adorable little spoon I have never, ever used.  

2 –  Nasoya Tofu

Easily available at the megamart in an array of styles, this particular tofu is thus far my favorite to cook with.  Nasoya makes both regular and silken tofu, but I haven’t tried their silken yet (regular is what you’d cut into cubes and fry; silken is kind of cream-cheese textured and usually gets blended into stuff).  Their organic extra firm is my fave, and after a night in the freezer and a day in my tofu press it has a truly badass texture.  I want to try their superfirm variety but haven’t seen it at my usual stores – one of these days when I can afford to set foot in Whole Foods or our local food co-op, Wheatsville again, I’ll find some and report back.

3 – Nielsen-Massey Mexican Vanilla Extract

Vanilla is, of course, indispensable in baking.  There are three well-known types:  Madagascar (Bourbon), Tahitian, and Mexican.  Madagascar is the most popular, but Mexican has always been my favorite – there’s something robust and rounded-out about its flavor that I love.  Not to mention I was raised on it; living in Texas means access to a lot of cheap, horribly low quality “vanilla” that probably has a thousand toxic chemicals in it, but also to good quantities of the real thing.  Generally I advise against buying it out of the back of a truck.  But Nielsen-Massey is a well known brand of fabulous quality, and while I use other brands depending on available funds, it’s my favorite.

4 –  Jarred Garlic and Ginger

Lord, we thank Thee for whatever genius decided to sell pre-minced garlic and ginger in jars.  Sure, garlic is cheap and easy enough to smash, but being able to scoop out a spoonful without peeling and mincing is one of those little conveniences that makes a huge difference in my culinary enthusiasm.  I don’t care what the hipster foodies say – not every ingredient needs to be fresh-picked and peeled by hand.  Is it better? Probably.  But it’s not always realistic. When you demand that kind of labor and inconvenience you end up with piles of takeout containers.  Pick your battles, guys.  

Jarred ginger is an even bigger helper.  If you make much Indian food, or Asian of any kind, you need fresh ginger, but you have to peel it, mince it, measure it if it’s called for by the teaspoon (most decent recipes specify a size, like a 1″ knob)…or you can open a jar.  I recommend the jars from The Ginger People, who also make medicinal candies (I keep Gin-Gins on hand for motion sickness – a godsend), jarred sushi ginger, ginger syrups, and crystallized ginger.  

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5 – Vadouvan Curry Powder from World Spice Merchants

Curry powder is a curiosity to actual Indians. They don’t use it.  It was in fact an invention by the English to try and recapture the flavors of the subcontinent they’d subdued; in India, home cooks make spice mixes from scratch, usually starting with a base of Garam Masala (“warming mixture”) that they then add to.  Even garam masala varies from house to house; everyone’s granny has her own recipe.  But curry blends can be awesome if you get them from dealers that understand the value of fresh spices (as opposed to a can of yellow dust that’s been on the shelf ten years).  I’ll talk about curry and spices more later, of course, but right now, I have to recommend this particular blend.  It’s a bit different from most masalas in that it originated in an area of India with a lot of French immigrants, and often includes dried shallots and herbs in addition to the spices.  

I used to buy mine from Williams-Sonoma, but apparently they quit making it.  Any excuse to visit World Spice Merchants’ gorgeous website is a good one, though.  It’s beautiful, and their selection is amazing.

6 – Gardein Szechuan Beefless Strips

The first Gardein product I tried was their chicken, and I thought it was absolutely gross.  I’m not sure what possessed me to give the “beef” a shot months later; their stuff isn’t cheap by any means, and I was still mad that I’d wasted whatever it was.  Turns out, the beefless beef was a totally different story, and these spicy, sweet-ish, easy and effortless to prepare strips are a thing of beauty and a joy forever.  I eat them at least once a month, and would more often except that 1) I don’t want to get sick of them and b) as I said, they’re not cheap.  But I can make two meals off of them if I add in a bag of frozen Broccoli Normandy mix and some rice, and it ends up being about five bucks a meal, which still isn’t cheap but is way better, and less horrendous, than anything takeout.  Gardein has a crapload of new products coming out in the wake of this year’s ExpoWest – VegNews.com has been posting all the fun new foods over on Instagram.  I’m particularly jazzed about the two-person frozen skillet meals.  Convenience is important, and convenience with a modicum of nutrition is always a welcome sight.

7 – Frozen Bananas

I’m a relative newcomer to the whole frozen-banana “soft serve” craze that flew around Pinterest for a while.  But this past Christmas my mom gave me my Ninja blender, as noted in my last list, and I became a fool for smoothies; obviously I had to at least try the banana thing, since I already had frozen nanners for smoothies.  Holy crap it was tasty!  My favorite combination thus far is frozen bananas, vanilla almond milk, cinnamon, brown sugar, and a bit of vanilla extract.  Om nom slurrrrrp.

8 – Haagen Dazs Sorbet – Raspberry and/or Lemon

You’d think with the proliferation of vegan frozen treats out there I’d have a favorite in one of the dairy-mimicking lines, but no, my favorite nondairy frozen thing is raspberry sorbet (with the Zesty Lemon coming in a face-puckering second place.) In fact, I have a little song I sing when I eat it, thanks to Prince:

She ate raspberry sorbet
The kind you buy at the grocery store
Raspberry sorbet
And once it was gone she’d go buy some more

Yeah, I’m weird.  I also have a taco song, to the tune of the Dreidel song:

Taco taco taco
I made you out of soy
Taco taco taco
You give me taco joy!

And let’s not forget the immortal Choppin’ Broccoli:

9 – Frozen Veggie Mixes, Especially Birdseye’s “Steamfresh”

Me and früzenveg are like *that.*  (So are me and making up silly words like früzenveg.)  Our local grocery chain, HEB, has a great store brand of veggies, but my favorite mixes are still the ones from Birdseye’s Steamfresh line:

Asparagus, White&Gold Corn, Baby Carrots
Broccoli, Cauliflower, & Carrots (aka Broccoli Normandy in other brands.)
Italian Blend
Baby Potato Blend

10 – Soy Sauce.  Any Soy Sauce. Dear God.

A few years ago I started taking lithium as a mood stabilizer, and two things became apparent within the first few days:  One, it made me pee like a racehorse; and two, it made me crave salt like a madwoman.  I’ve always been a salt slut, but Lithium actually sucks salt out of your body (partly due to all that peeing), so they warn you to keep an eye on your intake and make sure you’re getting enough.  Finally a legit medical excuse to eat more salt!  Suddenly I found I wanted soy sauce on EVERYTHING. I’m not a big rice eater, but I’ve discovered one of my favorite things to fill up on when I “don’t have anything to eat” is a bag of früzenveg with a mess of rice soaked in soy sauce (the traditional kind, shoyu; or tamari, which a lot of people favor – I honestly don’t care which).  

I’m sure there are like a dozen other things I forgot to list, but lucky me and lucky you, I have full editorial control over this blog!  MUAHAHA!  LISTS FOREVER!

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Ten Things to Know About Me, Food, & This Blog

Welcome!  You might remember Stumbling Toward Ahimsa as a short-lived recipe blog I had going several years ago; it faded into obscurity before it had even emerged from obscurity.  This new incarnation will serve as a recipe testing ground for my eventual cookbook (as yet untitled), as well as a place for me to talk about food – its history, science, preparation, philosophy, all that happy stuff.

Here are ten important things to know about my food philosophy going in:

1. I’m an ethical vegan, or 90% of one aiming for 98%.  As such there won’t be any animal products in any of my recipes.  This will not be a vegan ranty blog, but I will occasionally talk about it, and it will probably get emotional.  This is something I consider of vital importance and it informs my entire food and cooking life. I can definitely promise no mid-recipe ambushes – I won’t stop midway through to go on about the evils of the dairy industry when you thought you were just learning how to make pudding.  All posts will be as accurately labeled as I can make them.  If I need to tell you why I use a particular ingredient over another for environmental or ethical reasons I’ll put it at the end of the recipe in a note.  AT NO POINT will there be pictures of dead baby animals or other cruelty.  I can point you toward exposés and videos that will show you the horrific reality of factory farming but I’m not going to show that kind of thing here.

2.  I’m anti-diet.  Like, vehemently.  I did write an entire book on the subject, but suffice it to say, you’ll find no Paleo, low-carb, low-fat, “diet” “skinny” “clean” or “raw” stuff here.  I don’t do gluten free – my apologies to those with actual celiac whose serious health condition has been co-opted by the weight cycling industry.  For me veganism is not a weight loss diet, it’s a way of living intended to reduce the suffering my personal choices cause to other beings on this planet and the planet herself.  It’s not about the size of my ass, it’s about the call of my conscience.

The upshot of 1&2:  Pro-diet and anti-vegan comments will be deleted.  I can’t believe I have to actually say this among adults, but:  any kind of hateful or trolling commentary, including “concern trolling”  will be deleted.  This is not a debate blog, and it’s not a democracy.  There are plenty of places out there you can argue as viciously and condescendingly as you like.  This is not one of them.  Here, I am Queen Shit of Fuck Mountain, and I have unilateral control over the delete button.

3. I am lazy.  I don’t make my own vegetable broth from scratch, I don’t cook on Sundays to have food all week.  I’m doing good to plan ahead by a day.  That is actually one of the things I’d like to work on here on the blog – I’d like my cookbook to involve meal planning for singles, cheap lazy people, and others who don’t fit the typical meal-prep demographic.  But I love convenience foods, I love frozen and canned and prechopped veggies.  I have to be choosy because of finances, but anything I can do to make it more likely those vegetables will end up in my mouth and not rotting in the Drawer of Broken Dreams is in my mind the Best Idea Ever.

4.  Hates include:  Green smoothies, excessively spicy food, cabbage, the smell of vinegar, the slimy white food group (mayonnaise, ranch dressing, yogurt, etc), cooked bananas, okra, sea vegetables or any kind of fake fish, avocados, giant burritos (soggy tortillas, ew), and so far I’m really not on board with any of the nondairy cheeses though I am willing to be persuaded otherwise; martinis.

5.  Loves include:  Broccoli and cauliflower; the smell of garam masala or simmering curry; Gardein Szechuan Beefless Strips; bread dipped in things like hummus, pesto, or olive oil with garlic; big juicy portobello mushrooms cooked up like steak; a gigantic baked potato with butter and a crispy, salty skin; roasted veg like sweet potatoes, asparagus, and carrots; frozen banana “soft serve” with peanut butter and cinnamon; veggie pakoras; simple stir fried veg with rice and lots of soy sauce; frozen then thawed tofu, marinated and baked; pasta with garlic, butter, and sauteed mushrooms; coffee flavored anything; cupcakes; pumpkin muffins; margaritas.

6. I love cookbooks.  I consider them a form of literature – most people don’t realize how much writing skill and talent goes into creating one.  Let’s face it, in the modern world cookbooks aren’t so much how-to manuals as they are books of wishes and dreams; we read them and fantasize more than we take action.  My goal is to write a cookbook that does some of both – gives you recipes you’ll use, but also something to just sit down and read on a rainy day.

7.  I suck at food photography, or at least I do now.  That’s one thing I plan on doing through this blog – I’ve been doing research, practicing, and plan to take an online course or two on food photography.  I can’t afford nifty equipment but I’ve already learned that you can do amazing work with just an iPhone and a few sheets of white posterboard.  So chances are my first forays will be dreadful, but my hope is by the time I really get the cookbook underway I’ll have improved drastically.

8.  I know a shit-ton about food.  Things you’ll read about here besides recipes will include history, science, technique, information about equipment that is genuinely useful versus what’s just counter candy.  Top ten lists of products, books, cooking shows, and other resources. I went to culinary school for about six months – just long enough for the resulting debt to outweigh what I’d accumulated from three years at university – but my real culinary education came after that, once I found a fascination with food science and history.  Some of my favorite food books aren’t even cookbooks, but histories of spices, ingredients, and trailblazers in the culinary world.  I plan to share a lot of that here.

9.  There will be affiliate links on this blog.  That means if you click on a product I mention and go buy it from Amazon, I’ll get a wee kickback from the sale.

10. Examples of some of the things you’ll see here in addition to recipes:

The Grand Unified Pancake Theory
My 10 must-have kitchen doohickies
Cooking Playlists:  Curry Night
What’s a Maillard With You? Chemical reactions on your stove
Chopped: The Drinking Game
Vanilla: It’s Anything But
Five Random Facts About Cumin

If any of that sounds fun, stick around.  Welcome aboard, fellow eaters, and enjoy!

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10 Things I Loved in 2015

Well, as I said, 2015 was not my best year ever – but that doesn’t mean I didn’t see some good movies, hear some great music, and even make some cool stuff.  I couldn’t let the tail end of December go by without my annual list of things that didn’t suck.

It’s probably telling that it took me all day to come up with ten.  I think part of that is because of my warped grasp of the passage of time. Anyway:

1 – Favorite New Art/Craft Supply:  Distress MicroGlaze

I sang the praises of this stuff a while back, but it bears repeating.  This little pot of waxy goodness protects inks, stains, pencils, and more without smearing or changing the color beneath it.  It might seem pricey for such a little tub (I think it’s like $6) but I’ve been using mine for several months and have barely made a dent in the stuff.  In fact, using more than teeny bit isn’t a good thing, because it’ll take days to soak in and dry.  I find it especially useful in my shrines, both on interior elements and the outside decor itself, as paper is really easy to scuff or get dirty and needs all the protection it can get, but traditional polyurethanes always end up ugly .

2 – Favorite Book from that Genre I Keep Trying to Pretend I Don’t Like:  Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs.

Imagine my delight when I found out this weird novel is being turned into a movie that I hope is equally weird.  It’ll be out in December 2016 and features such fringe unknown actors as Samuel L. Jackson, Allison Janney, Judi Dench, Rupert Everett, Eva Green, and Asa Butterfield (I’m not entirely sure who he is but as I understand it that’s cool.).

3 – Favorite Silly Digital Thing I Made: Little-Known Facts

These were just too fun.  I’m working on the next in the series – Miranda’s – although it’s not as entertaining to list facts about someone who’s only been alive 30 years or so.  The older vamps are way more interesting.  In case you missed them, click on the wee image to see it up close:

little known ds  lkfdb

4 – Favorite Meaningful Digital Thing I Made: Seven Secrets to Body Positivity

I realize that my interests, and therefore the things I blog about, are kind of all over the place.  They say you should pick a subject, or a theme, and go with it most of the time for coherency and to attract more readers; I’ve tried, and just never figured out where I fit.  I don’t talk about writing enough to be a writing blogger; I’m not out there promoting my work like I’m supposed to be (apparently), so this isn’t a promotional author blog; I can’t focus on any one art form long enough to make it The Thing; and my ability to stay passionate about anything is kind of…well, bipolar.  I can, however, say that body image issues will always be important to me – as long as I’m living in a body that society wants to write off as aberrant and unhealthy just by looking at me, and wants me to give up control of my body to big corporations and a media gone insane, I’ll write for body positivity at least once in a while.  The linked list is a free printable, so, have at it!

5 – Favorite Not-Planner-Related Etsy Purchase:  Printable “I Have Loved the Stars” Quote from ClementineCreative

As I’ve said, this is one of my favorite quotes of all time, and the watercolor and lettering are gorgeous.  I’m particularly pleased at the correct attribution.  I’ll go to my grave yelling “GALILEO DIDN’T SAY THAT!”  Best of all, since it’s a printable, it was cheaper than a physical print, and I got it instantly.  Since the shop is in South Africa that’s nothing to sneeze at.

6 – Favorite Extremely Useful Website: Wordmark

What would I do without this site?  Wordmark is a simple tool, but powerful for a person with tons of fonts with subtle differences. You just type in a bit of text, tell Wordmark if you want it capitalized, all caps, or lowercase; pick positive or negative background; and go! It loads that text in every font you own so you can see which one works best.  You can switch specifications and sizes at any point.  You can also select a group of fonts to compare on their own page if you find several are close to what you’re looking for.

7 – Favorite Random Thing I Can’t Stop Giggling At:  This gif.

8 – Favorite Album:  Ed Sheeran, X

(It’s written as X, but you say it Multiply.  I have no idea why you’d do that to people.) I don’t know what I love more about Ed Sheeran – his 100+ tattoos, his scruffy ginger adorableness, his clever lyricism, or the fact that he’s pretty much a one-man band.  But I judge a favorite album by how many songs I want to skip – can I just put the album on and let it play without scrambling for the remote four or five times?  There were two albums this year that fit that criterion; the other was Taylor Swift’s 1989, which you may have heard of.  Hey, I never said I had sophisticated musical taste.  (I realize this album came out a while back, but I didn’t really get into it until this year.)

A clip from his sold-out performances at Wembley Stadium in London (first solo artist to ever play there, let alone sell out 3 shows of 80,000 people each):

9 – Favorite Celebrity Crush: Tom Hiddleston

With Benedict Cumberbatch off having babies and out of the spotlight, I found myself increasingly hot for another sex-voiced young Brit.

T. Hiddleston as Henry V in The Hollow Crown
T. Hiddleston as Henry V in The Hollow Crown

He’s kind of everywhere these days – and as for me personally this year was the first time I’d seen The Hollow Crown, showcasing Tom at his royal Shakespearean finest.  That’s not even mentioning the Marvel Cinematic Universe, where he plays everyone’s favorite sassy screwed-up villain.  And did I mention last year he played a vampire?  Add to that a role in Guillermo DelToro’s gorgeously creepy Crimson Peak, and, well…this particular girl didn’t stand a chance, especially since in interviews he comes off as an erudite, polite, genuinely nice guy, which we Scorpios like to refer to as “lunch.”

10 – Favorite Movie I First Saw This Year:  Big Hero 6

Technically BH6 came out in November of 2014, but I didn’t see it until it hit DVD in February.  It’s also technically part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, since it’s based on a Marvel comic series of the same name. It drew broad acclaim and was quite successful, but I’d never even heard of it until a friend recommended it.  Not only is it insanely funny, it’s a very warm and loving movie; the plot twist wasn’t exactly hard to figure out, but a movie like this is about the characters.  I want my own Baymax, and not just because he’s good for laughs – I don’t like being touched by most people, but sometimes even I need a hug.  My own Baymax could do that for me without that whole personal space squick thing I get with real humans.  If Baymax is programmed with mental health protocols for, say, bipolar, he’d be even more awesome.

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