(Almost) According to Waitrose: Pumpkin Soup

This year, after discovering a pumpkin soup recipe in amongst my recipe-cards, I thought I would join the merry throngs sharing pumpkin recipes.

I was going to scoop out the innards for my soup and carve a face for Hallowe’en in the rind. Waste not, want not, after all.

So I carefully cut off the top, scooped out the seeds, and then gave up on the whole lantern idea because it was far easier to get the flesh out by chopping and peeling.Waste not, want not’s all very well, but sometimes life is too short. I even saved a section to be turned into roasted pumpkin.

This didn’t have a whole lot else beyond pumpkin, stock and coconut milk – just a bit of onion (although the recipe called for shallots), and some spices: ginger, cumin and nutmeg. I just rummaged through the cupboard to find replacements for the curry powder I didn’t have.

I will admit, although it was tasty, it wasn’t as tasty as I thought it might be. On the other hand, reheated the next day – it was much better. Not sure if I’m going to keep the recipe for something that’s better made the day before and reheated, however useful such a recipe might be for a dinner-party (not that I give many dinner-parties, but you never know for the future…).

Preparing for NaNoWriMo

As any veteran NaNo-er knows, the key to a successful NaNoWriMo is good preparation: spending October planning your project and doing your research, so you don’t get stuck in the middle of November because you don’t know what’s happening or where you’re going or how such-and-such works.

What a prospective NaNo-er does not need is an unfinished craft project Christmas present of the variety which requires time, energy, and obsession of the variety required for NaNoWriMo.

CrossStitcher Robo Family

For some reason after finishing my previous project, I lost the will a little and had a few days away from my stitching. So I’m a little behind and will be spending this week stitching like crazy to have as few distractions as possible from NaNoWriMo.

Which, incidentally, looks like it might be an attempt to finish the Novel, since in my break I began to chip away at that again. Funny how life and plans work like that! Like computers and threats to replace them when they have hissy fits and don’t work…

Complicating Circumstances

There comes a point when making a Big Decision when you realise one thing: you’re making it too complicated.

You become all twisted up in the pros and cons, and then you realise that actually, only one thing matters, and that makes the decision for you. And suddenly it wasn’t all that much of a Big Decision after all. It probably is, in the sense that it will drastically alter your life, but not in the grand scheme of things. It’s just what’s right for you.

Mark and I have been working on a Big Decision recently, and I realised that this over-complication of matters applies equally to my writing, especially what I think of as my “Miscellaneous” blog-post (that’s this random one at the end of the week when I write it. If you were wondering).

You see, when I started all this malarky, I wanted it to be profound and literary. To showcase how beautifully I write, and how original and intelligent my thoughts. I wanted it to be perfect, the sort of writer’s essay which gets collected up into a book and published as Something Important to Say. To make you think.

Every single week.

Which is really over-ambitious. And ridiculously arrogant. And over-complicated for what my blog is, which is to provide me with a space to write regularly – even if not on the novel I should be writing – and to ramble my thoughts.

The result of my deliberations about complications is simple: I’m going to stop trying so hard – save perfection for that novel and any other fiction – and here shall lie the trail of destruction which follows as I wander down that path to finished stories.

I shall endeavour not to repeat my rants too often – nothing worse than someone complaining about the same thing over and over again and never seeming to do anything about it.

Life is complicated, so simplify it as best you can.

Earthly Delights – Kerry Greenwood

When you prefer Golden Age detective fiction (by which I mean anything of the Christie/Sayers era of about 1900-1960), it can be tricky to find good, contemporary such novels. So many seem to think that what readers really want is a thriller, in the style of James Patterson, all fast-paced and action-movie-like.

And maybe that’s true of a lot of readers. But if the story in front of me is so very action-movie-like, I do much prefer to watch it. It doesn’t need to be a cosy Poiret-style detective novel for me to like it. Just slower, with chapters longer than three pages of wide-spaced words.
So I was quite pleased with Earthly Delights, by Kerry Greenwood, creator of Miss Phryne Fisher.
Set in Melbourne, which I will admit to not knowing, except through Miss Fisher, and I’m not sure that 20s Melbourne is the same as modern Melbourne.
Earthly Delights follows Corinna Chapman, a baker who finds a junkie in the alley behind her shop one morning and a letter accusing her of being a scarlet woman pushed through the letter-box, as she tries to work out what’s going on. Especially when her neighbour Mistress Dread also receives such a letter. Mistress Dread does not take kindly to this accusation.
I like the characters, Mistress Dread in particular, and the cats which patrol the bakery to keep out any rodents.
If you like Miss Fisher, give Corinna a try.

Choosing a Cushion

Well gosh, that was quick! The cross-stitch design I started last week – apparently it was a much faster design than I was expecting – and the last stitch was placed yesterday.

My plan was to back it with some lovely green-blue taffeta I bought ages ago for a dress I never made, and edge it with a bright blue ribbon (anyone wondering, Clinton’s do a wonderful range of satin ribbons for less than a quid). A quick rummage for the relevant items, though, has given me a few more options I’d completely forgotten about.

Cushion Fabrics

It’s nice to work on a decent-sized design that can be completed so quickly – big enough for it to be a proper project, but not so big that you lose interest or motivation before you’re done.

And now I just need to choose which of these fabrics and ribbons get to be the backing and border respectively. Then it can become a cushion cover and I’m one Christmas-present down, don’t want to count how many left…
How are your Christmas-making plans going?

The October Question

Now that the nights are drawing in and the weather’s turning damp, and you’re wondering if it’s time yet to put the heating on or whether another jumper will keep cold from creeping into your bones, it’s that time of year when writers the world over have a decision to make.

NaNoWriMo, or not NaNoWriMo?

Are you ready for the annual challenge to write a fifty-thousand-word brand shiny new first draft? From scratch. Or are you still busy with last year’s, editing or rewriting, and can’t afford to invest a month in another story? Or are you just going to have a writing holiday, away from novels? Perhaps you’ll decide instead to do the blogging equivalent, NaBloPoMo, with a post-a-day-commitment.

Last year, still busy with the previous year’s NaNo draft, I opted for the blogging version.

This year, I’m still busy with that novel. Well, I say busy, but really, I’ve stalled a bit in my writing of the second draft (I don’t count all the previous edits as separate drafts. This second one is a complete re-write). I have about a third of it, and for (Real World) reasons I shan’t bore you with, I have become a bit stuck.

And I’m the sort of person who likes to finish one big project almost completely before I start another. Which means that I don’t really want to think about another novel until I’ve at least got this one to a stage where I’m happy that all I have left to do is a final edit. So I don’t really want to tackle NaNoWriMo this year.

But equally I don’t want to do the blog-a-day either. I’m happy with my current level of two to three posts a week. It’s taken me a while to reach it, and I’d rather not disrupt it.

So my final decision is this: I’m going to attempt to write short stories, total word count fifty thousand, about my world, both pre- and post the period my novel takes place in. My hope is that in doing so, I shall find a way back to Raganbald, and when we reach December, I shall be able to fly through the rest of that second draft.

What are your plans for NaNoWriMo?

(Almost) According to Waitrose: Apple and Fudge Muffins

Since our wonderful British apples are in season, and so deliciously so, I’m finding what recipes I can to use them in. Alongside eating them, obviously. But Bramley apples can be a bit sour sometimes for eating. Not that that’s stopped me before.

This recipe, one of those from a Waitrose recipe-card, is wonderfully seasonal, although I didn’t have all the ingredients, and I will admit to using apple-sauce rather than freshly chopped apples. This had the bonus of me not needing the single egg required (and which I didn’t have)

Apple Muffins

Ingredients:

227g self-raising flour

1tsp baking powder

Fudge Chunks (although I used honeycomb bits)

2 Apples (I used half a jar of apple sauce)

I medium egg

200g golden caster sugar (I skipped this in an experiment re: apple sauce)

60g salted butter (approx. 50g cacao butter), melted

170ml sour cream (coconut milk)

How to Make:

Preheat the oven to 180C/gas mark 4.

Stir together the flour, baking powder and fudge chunks/honeycomb. I also added a smattering of ground ginger.

Waitrose would like you to reserve half of one apple, thinly sliced, for decorating. Since I used apple sauce, I didn’t do this. Dice the other apple and half and stir into the flour mix.

In another bowl, mix together the sugar and egg/apple sauce, then whisk in the butter and then the sour cream/coconut milk.

Stir wet ingredients into dry, folding until it just comes together.

Spoon into cases. If you followed Waitrose’s advice with the apples, top each muffin with a slice or two.

Bake for 20-25 minutes.

Other than actually probably requiring at least a smidgeon of sugar (I was hoping the sugar in the apple sauce would be enough, or maybe they just needed some more ginger), these are quite tasty little cakes. On the other hand, the lack of sugar makes them perfect for a dollop of jam, and go very nicely with damson jam – also in season about now.