Camping and Carrot Cake

For the last few weeks, I’ve been feeling good about the fact that I’ve actually managed to plan, write, and schedule the week’s posts in advance. Productive, on top of things, organised, all sorts of other good and virtuous words I don’t normally apply to myself.

And then something went wrong this week. I mean, I still managed to plan, write, and schedule them, but...

But, my Friday post, about Marshmallows and chocolate tasting somehow, I still don’t know how, managed to be scheduled for last Friday. For two days before I wrote it. My writing day is Sunday, you see. I’m still surprised I didn’t get a pop-up box going “Really? You want to schedule this for THE PAST?! Have you a time-machine or something?”

However, such happened, and I managed to be so silly, and so, instead, I’m going on my camping trip with carrot cake, because I’ve already eaten the marshmallows. A carrot and mango cake, derived from the wonderful Delia’s Cake book.

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Camp NaNo, July 107

I made a decision a few weeks ago that the only way I am going to get to do what I want in life, as opposed to a series of pay-the-bills jobs, is by creating the job I want to do. To take control, in effect.

This might sound simple, and a bit of a Duh! thing to say, but taking control is not something I do. I am not a leader; I can only just decide what I want to eat from a menu, usually when the waiter appears to take the order because everyone else at the table has already decided. At that point I just pick something.

You may have noticed some small changes around my Cocoary. This is a part of my Taking Control.

I have found, though, since making this decision, that I am generally happier in the life and job (which I dislike) which I am currently living and doing. I have also found that something has clicked and I have more energy and enthusiasm to pursue my dreams. This is the most important change, I think. Never underestimate the power of having energy and a clear head. The job I dislike no longer gets me down like it did. My brain, which previously wasted a lot of energy thinking and dreaming of ways out, is free, now, to concentrate on the Way Out.

And so, to Camp NaNo July 2017.

I believe I have an account, but you won’t find me in the campsite. I’m not a people-person, sorry. Bit too busy for me.

Anyway, my plans for the camp which begins in the next few days are reasonably simple.

I have two story ideas currently competing for attention; they have been for the last few years. One is the story which I wrote for the first NaNoWriMo I completed in 2013, and still haven’t rewritten or polished to *er-hum* someone’s exacting standards, and the other is one which has been expanding, slowly, since the first scene wrote itself in my head on the way home from work while it was supposed to be working on the first story. Ideas are like that. However, both are at the point where they could, conceivably, be written (or rewritten in the case of the former) probably without too much difficulty.

In the spirit of taking control, though, and with the experience of writing without a plan something of a painful memory, my Camp NaNo goal is thus:

To write a plan, a synopsis, a detailed description, of both stories.

Down the Rabbit Hole

When I was growing up, my local shop for crafting supplies was a fabric factory shop. It was, and still is, an Aladdin’s cave of all things fabric-y, with a supply of wools and yarns for good measure. I grew up in sheep-country, where the local economy in years gone by was built on wool. I loved going to this factory shop, and I’ve built quite a stash from my trips over the years.

BUT. As might be deduced, it caters to a select handful of crafts: to quilters and dressmakers, to embroiderers and cross-stitchers, to knitters and crocheters. All things fabric and yarn, in fact.

Now, I’m generally fine with this; I am primarily a cross-stitcher, with occasional crocheting and dress-making thrown in.

Leaving home, though, meant that I had to find a new supplier for my crafting needs. And so I found Hobbycraft.

 

Hobbycraft, if you don’t know it, is less an Aladdin’s cave, more a rabbit-warren of crafts. Chances are, you will find what you need, and then, getting lost on your way to pay, you will find other things. Things which glitter and sparkle, which call to your crafter’s heart, sing out a siren’s song, and you will find yourself walking out with a whole new craft to start.

Me, I have started dabbling with papercrafts; with scrapbooking, in particular. I’ve cross-stitched a few cards in the past (it’s a nice way to use up small kits and patterns), but otherwise stayed out of the paper aisles. I mean, I’ve always like notebooks (love Paperchase!), but otherwise paper doesn’t inspire me like fabrics and threads.

Until earlier this year, when I got myself a scrapbook to do something with those small cross-stitch kits which come free with the magazines. I wasn’t turning them into whatever they were suppose to be; I was just stitching them and tucking them, out of sight, into a Projects Drawer. Which is a bit of a waste, when you think about it.

And now, when I go into Hobbycraft, I find myself wandering the papercraft aisles, looking at the pretty papers and the stickers and the sparkly pens. I’ve even started looking at scrapbook kits on eBay.

I can resist, sometimes. I mean, I have other projects, and not enough time to spend on another craft, but oh the paper’s so pretty, and it wouldn’t take all that long, would it? It’s just arranging things artfully and sticking them down, right? And it’s not like I’ll be worrying about Proper Layouts – mine’s just for my cross-stitching.

 

VCT: Dominican Republic

I am strongly of the opinion that my world-geography knowledge will be vastly increased by the time I have completed this Tour.

I will admit that I had no idea where the Dominican Republic was, but I didn’t think it was where it is. Which is in the Caribbean, on one side of the island which is also home to Haiti. Which I did know was somewhere in that direction.

Named after St Dominic, patron saint of astronomers and the falsely accused, the Dominican Republic (according to Wikipedia; I know, how terrible a source) is home to the first cathedral, monastery, castle, and fortress built in the Americas, and the Colonial Zone, where they are to be found, is now a World Heritage Site.

My image of the Caribbean is one of rum, and spices, and warm beaches, and cool cocktails. It’s also coloured by a recipe I have for a Creole Christmas cake that puts my alcohol-soaked cakes to shame…

However, the chocolate this week is another Moser Roth bar from Aldi, so there’s a description on the back. It reckons this 75% plain chocolate has “fruity notes in combination with rich dark nuances”.

As with the other Moser Roth chocolates, this uses FairTrade ingredients, and is 99.5% FairTrade.

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I’m not sure about the fruity notes – so far all I’m getting is a nutty flavour, kind of like a walnut with that brown skin left on – but this is certainly a very rich, dark chocolate. It breaks cleanly and melts smoothly on the tongue and it tastes, very definitely, of cacao.

In fact, it reminds me of a Death by Chocolate cake made by a lady in the parish where I grew up, and which was just the best chocolate cake ever. I continue to regret that I never got the recipe from her before she died.

It was the sort of chocolate cake which made no allowances for the taste-buds of small children. You know how chocolate recipes often say to use milk chocolate if making for youngsters? This cake was chocolate, through and through; a rich, dark, sticky, cake with dark chocolate fudge icing. It was, actually, the colour of this 75% Dominican Republic.

I think it sits at level pegging with the Peruvian 62%, for the memories of Sylvia’s Death by Chocolate alone. But it is a good chocolate, which tastes how chocolate should.

Chocolate Tasting and Marshmallows

I’m having a month off from my Chocolate Tour.

Okay, what I really mean is that I’ve run out of single-origins and haven’t got around to finding more yet. And I think my writing camp this month is going to be enough ‘travelling’ for me. One trip at a time, after all.

I have, though, got a bit of light reading for round the camp-fire which has nothing to do with my writing plans: A Chocolate Tasting Kit, which I stumbled across during a browse of the book-section in my local TKMaxx.

I (almost) couldn’t resist. I wanted to find out if the language of chocolate tasting is as pretentious as wine tasting. Going by the descriptions I’ve read, it certainly has the potential for it. I am disappointed, though, that there was a lack of a chocolate bar in the kit. Can’t have everything, I suppose.

Instead, I have a camping favourite. Marshmallows. Only, naturally, mine are chocolate-covered. Just right for the beginning of the camp…

TBR Book-Tag

For various reasons, but largely because of time and trying to do too much, and because I’m lazy, my Library is making its way into the Cocoary.

I used to talk books here, occasionally, and then, just over a year ago, I decided to create a book-space and focus more on Life and Crafts here. Now, though, as a result of much soul-searching and discussions about the future, my books are returning here. For those who did find the Library, you may recognise some of the content, as I transfer the books. I shall endeavour to break the old up with new as I go.

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A portion of our book-collection…

However, I thought, to begin, I should start with my To-Be-Read pile:

1. How do you keep track of your TBR pile?

Physically, I have a small pile of books by my bed, and I have a good memory for my books, bookshelves, and those I have already read. Otherwise, I have a very long list of titles spanning several dozen pages of those I’d like to read.

2. Is your TBR mostly print or e-book?

Print. My Kindle has been neglected for…oh, pretty much since I got it. It has its moments, but I prefer print books.

3. How do you determine which book from your TBR to read next?

Does it need to go back to the library soon? If there are no library books in the pile, how am I feeling? Which looks the most interesting or entertaining?

4. Book that has been on your TBR the longest?

I can’t remember the title – something like Under the Sky, can’t remember the author (Harris, maybe? Barry? Radcliffe?) – but I was given it for my birthday as a teenager, and I still haven’t read it…I can picture both the cover and where it is on my shelf, and I know it has something to do with WWII.

5. A book you recently added to your TBR?

To the pile: Mark’s Warhammer novels. Does that count? There’s quite a few of them, and the collection is growing…

To the list: Black City Saint, by Richard A. Kraal.

6. A book on your TBR strictly because of its beautiful cover?

 The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry, in the Waterstones edition. So pretty! I read The Watchmaker of Filigree Street because of its cover too, and enjoyed it. Sometimes, you can judge a book by its cover…

7. A book on your TBR that you never plan on reading?

The rest of Trollope’s Barchester Chronicles. I read the first, doubt I’ll read the rest. And I doubt I’ll ever read the aforementioned war book…

8. An unpublished book on your TBR that you’re excited for?

Probably the next Cormoran Strike novel, although that isn’t specifically on my list. I don’t know which on my list are unpublished. That’s the thing with working in the book-industry. I come across all sorts of books but don’t very often pay attention to the publication date.

9. A book on your TBR that everyone recommends to you?

Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series. Although I am slowly working my way through them. I’ve had a lack of recommendations recently, though, and I don’t keep up with current bestsellers – see below.

10. A book on your TBR that everyone has read but you?

Probably most of the current bestsellers. I haven’t yet read the Peculiar Orphanage series – Ransom Riggs, is it?

11. A book on your TBR that you’re dying to read?

Can’t think of one – such an emotion about a book only really occurs with series, and I’m not currently in the middle of one. Unless you count the Strike novels? But I can wait for that one.

12. How many books are in your Goodreads TBR shelf?

No idea. My Goodreads bookshelf, like my Kindle, has been neglected since shortly after opening the account… I know, I’m terrible with technology.

 

If you feel inclined to answer the above questions yourself, consider yourself tagged.

 

 

 

To-Be-Stitched: Keeping Track of Future Projects

I have the same problems with cross-stitch patterns that I have with books: Quantity and Time. My TBR list is longer than my arm, and I have a box full of cross-stitching magazines and a drawer full of kits. And not enough hours in the day.

I don’t help myself, either, buying a new magazine each month, usually full of many patterns which I want to stitch. And then by trying to design my own patterns, too.

About ten magazines into my collection, though, I came to a decision. I was marking the patterns I liked by folding down the corner of the page, but I wasn’t really keeping track of them, for suitable occasions in the future or just-becauses. So, I did what comes naturally to the planner.

I began to note each pattern down, in a notebook, complete with the edition it was in, the length of time it supposedly took, and a complete list of all threads and fabrics required to complete the pattern. My Project Notebook. I also make a note of potential recipients.

And when it’s made, it gets ticked off the list.

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Do you have a To-Be-Stitched list? How do you keep track of it?