Wednesday, November 30, 2011

First Snow

Here it is . . . the first snow.

I blame those of you who've been putting up your Christmas trees already . . .

But I did toss out my decorative gourds and mini-pumpkins Tuesday morning. 
And then the sleet and rain turned to snow which meant . . .
Time to take off the shoes and socks and walk in the first snow -- 
an old Appalachian charm to to ensure health in the coming year. 

Willa just wanted to eat it.
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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

After Degas

After Autumn's grand ballet,
A final flower lingers on the stage ...
Her faded finery flutters . . .
Pas de valse . . .  en l' air. . . adage . . .
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Saturday, November 26, 2011

Cheese Biscuit Recipe

Kath asked for this recipe ( my grandmother's.) Cheese biscuits were a popular Southern staple at parties when I was growing up back in the Fifties. They're really shortbread, not biscuits in the American sense of the word. These little bites are terrific served hot as an accompaniment to Bloody Marys.
Ba’s Cheese Biscuits

1 small glass Olde English Cheese (I don’t know if this is still around. You could substitute 8 ounces of any sharp, spreadable cheese. I used Kaukauna  Port wine flavored spreadable cheddar. )
1 stick butter (1/4 pound)
1 cup flour (may add more if needed)
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon (or more) cayenne pepper

Cream cheese and butter together. Add flour, salt, and cayenne and mix thoroughly. Make two long rolls, as for ice box cookies. Refrigerate overnight or till well chilled.

Slice and place on cookie sheet. You may top each slice with a pecan half, if you like.

Bake about 10 minutes at 400 or 450. Bottoms should brown. Cool on wire rack; store in air-tight tin. If they lose their crispness, reheat for a few minutes.

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Friday, November 25, 2011

Notes from Thanksgiving Night

  1. I took one picture early on and then things got away from me. 

2. There was an immense amount of food -- but we really like this kind of leftovers.
3. Plus, we have friends coming Saturday for turkey sandwiches.

4. People outnumbered dogs -- seven to six.

5. Willa made sure to sit in every available lap.

6. The cats were put outside to avoid an Incident.

7. There is such a thing as too much andouille sausage in the dressing.

8. It's kind of cool to have the kind of friends who, during the break between dinner and dessert, take their truck down to the pasture to get a load of composted manure to take home.

9. 7:30 seems early to go to bed... but by the time I bathe it'll be 8, which is only an hour from 9 ... and it's either that or lapse into a tryptophan coma on the sofa.

10. Goodnight, my blog friends -- I'm thankful for the way you all have enlarged my world!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thanksgiving Help (?)


I was just looking. . . 

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Justin's Smoked Pepper Hot Sauce

First wash a whole lot of jalapenos and habaneros . . .
Wearing rubber gloves (or you'll be sorry), cut off the stems (Justin did NOT  seed and de-rib them, wanting maximum heat)  then smoke them till they're soft and roasted. (Justin and John used cherry wood but hickory or mesquite would work.)
Whir up the smoked peppers in a blender or a food processor with just enough cider vinegar to make the mixture pourable.
Justin made about three gallons of this wonderful stuff and he brought us a half gallon. We decanted some into a soy sauce bottle, saved for the purpose. This will be kept in the refrigerator. The rest I put into zip bags to freeze for later use.

The flavor is smoky and intensely peppery and it is Hot. I like it in scrambled eggs, with ramen, and about anywhere I might use hot sauce.  I'm tempted to add it to the Thanksgiving gravy . . .
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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Wet Day

The view didn't change all day -- dark and misty with intermittent rain . . .

Though it wasn't cold (see the open windows,) it was a day to be thankful for shelter . . .
And rawhide chew-bones . . .
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Monday, November 21, 2011

Bird by Bird - FAQ

Darla asks: "In Bird By Bird, Anne has a chapter titled Plot Treatment . . .  I read it and thought "OMG that is me right now" (minus the editor, advance and potential for being published.. LOL). Anyway, from what you've written before it seems like you don't run into this because you are very linear in your writing, but do you address this type of confusion in your classes? And/or have you run into it yourself? Color me curious!"
Bird by Bird is an excellent book. In the chapter Darla mentions, Lamott tells of sending a novel to her editor only to have it rejected because, in spite of beautiful writing and fascinating character, there was no structure. He suggested she abandon the book and write something else but Lamott was determined to make it work. She wrote out a detailed plot treatment -- 500 to 1,000 words for each chapter, describing what was happening in each chapter -- where it began, where it ended, and what had to happen to get from beginning to end, as well as how the ending of each chapter would flow into the beginning of the next.

With this road map (it ran to forty pages) in hand, Lamott says that rewriting the book -- shifting and adding scenes -- went smoothly and the book was one of her most successful. 
In my classes, I haven't yet dealt with an entire novel -- only 20 to 40 pages. But I do recommend that the students think about what their protagonist wants to achieve; what obstacles stand between the protag and success; and how will those obstacles be overcome. That's a very bare-bones plot line. I also ask my students to come up with a brief (under a minute) coherent  answer to the question "What's your book about?" 

As for me: I tend to start with an inciting incident and a plan for an outcome and just a vague idea of how I'm getting there. About halfway through the book, I'll know more of what needs to go in the rest of the chapters and start doing a somewhat abbreviated chapter treatment.  The one time I did a very complete chapter treatment before beginniong the book, as I wrote I kept feeling I'd already done this and it was a little boring. On the other hand, I didn't waste a lot of time wandering in the wilderness.

What works for one writer may not work for another. But if you have written a lot of    wonderful scenes but suspect you don't actually have a plot, Lamott's chapter treatment method may be just what you need to help your novel soar.

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