And So Life Goes On

Can I still say ‘Happy New Year’ this late in January? I mean, it’s nearly February…

Thinking about it, I think this is the perfect time to start a New Year.  January is such a grey and depressing month, but February is the end of Winter and so nearly Spring and sunshine.

It’s been a while.  I regret I’ve had nothing to say and done so little in the way of crafting – mostly because of life, but also because of writerly distractions. And of course Christmas.

Since then, though, I’ve been planning my year and my goals for 2018, not really being one for resolutions.

My scrapbook of cross stitches from last year is still going.  This year, my goal is to complete the large collection of mini-kits. I’m also beginning a new scrapbook of mythological beasties and beings, which will entail creating patterns too…

I have a few crochet projects planned too. Well, one. A giant llama. No doubt other projects will suggest themselves as the year goes on.

And my last goal is to plan, almost completely, the story currently distracting me from most things and write the first part.

These goals, however, mean that I will probably not be writing here as often as I have done previously, although hopefully not as infrequently as in the last few months. At least once a month, I hope.

The New School Year

Oh it is nice that pretty much anytime you want to make a change there’s a New Year of some variety just around the corner to justify New Beginnings or what-have-you.

Of course, most of my changes tend to be necessitated by, ahem, long breaks in writing or posting anything. Life has got in the way; I have more than one unfinished craft project lying by the wayside, several chocolate ‘trips’ planned, and writing projects galore.

That all said, I also have ideas to revive and remould my wordy sort of blog. Not as books: I find writing reviews a bit forced. I’m a Yay or Nay sort of person, sometimes with good reason, usually none. I’m going to be changing how I write about books here, by the way.

As previously discovered, though, I have not the time in my life to maintain two blogs with many weekly posts. I seem barely to have the time for one blog with a thrice-weekly schedule. Certainly haven’t the time for that plus all the crafting required for a weekly craft post.

Instead, I have decided on a once-weekly post, with a loose schedule involving crafting (crochet and sewing), chocolate, and books.

Crafting will be as it always has been, with projects. Chocolate will be recipes and my chocolate ‘trips’ for single-origin bars. Books will be a monthly round-up of my reads, accompanied by a Yay or Nay.

We’ll see how this goes…

 

Rabbits, Blankets and Camping

Well, that was a longer break than anticipated! In the meantime, I’ve also scrapped an awful lot of what I had planned…which isn’t all that helpful, when you think about it.

However. I have managed to return to both cross stitch and crochet, though to none of my current or other planned projects.

Instead, I have started small, ish, and simple. A rabbit kit from a magazine, and a granny square baby blanket. Both just right for helping my brain make sense of the mess it has made in planning a 5-book series…

Bunny and blanket.jpg

Camp NaNo Catch-Up: Gardeners and Architects

Apparently, there is a George RR Martin quotation out there about how writers are gardeners or architects.

Some writers have an idea and run with it; others have an idea and plan the story. Of course, as with all things, most people are not really one or the other, but a mix of both. Normally, I get about half way through the planning stage and then start writing and see where it takes me. I’ve never been very good at endings, though. I might be seeing things, but I suspect there’s a link between that and where I cease to plan…

It’s been an interesting time for me, this month, with my focus being on planning; every now and again I get the urge to just start writing, I have enough notes and plans, and anyway that part of the story won’t happen for ages, and by the time I get to that bit I’m stuck on, an answer should have presented itself. Right?

I’ve written before, with just an idea. It was a struggle. Especially when I got stuck, and all I had for inspiration was how the entire story was supposed to end. Not knowing how to get there – not really a good way to write, I found. Led to a lot of writer’s block. I don’t, yet, know if writing from a comprehensive plan is going to be any different – no doubt I shall meet with other problems causing the same effect – but I’m not going to know until I try. And the hope is that I’m going to be addressing the most major plot-holes in the planning stages, and not half way through the writing. Starting over is never fun.

CampNaNo

I find, with the planning, that I enjoy it more. It’s easier to see progress and to feel optimistic about the story. I’ve found a couple of things which help me. They might be simple; they’re the sort of things you already know, but kind of ignore.

The first is good old pen and paper. I carry my notebook around, and write on any old scrap of paper to hand. Ideas, plot-points, problems, they’re all ticking away at the back of my brain, figuring themselves out. My brain is always half away with the fairies.

The second is my desk. Or, if I decide to work on the sofa, my table-top ironing board, which makes an excellent substitute. And means that it finally has a purpose, since I think life’s generally too short for ironing.

How do you write? Are you a gardener or an architect?

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.

CarrotCake.jpg

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.

Agnes’ Berry Crumble Cake

I’ve been trying to pick which of my many story-ideas is going to be my next project this weekend. Trying to work out which of the beginnings has the most mileage for becoming a novel. Or at least a novella. It’s been a bit disappointing. So many starts, and different characters, and not much clue for where any of them are going!

So today, in between my literary endeavours, I’ve also been baking. I was given this recipe by my colleague Agnes. I have no idea where she found it, but it’s wonderfully delicious (even if I think perhaps I took it out a little early, or maybe it was slightly too small a tin). It isn’t the simplest recipe, but oh, so worth it!

Berry Crumble Cake

Step One

You’ll need:

400g plain flour

250g butter

 2tsp baking powder

3 tbsp icing sugar

5 egg yolks (save the whites: you’ll need them later)

Make ‘breadcrumbs’ with the butter and dry ingredients, then add the egg yolks. If it seems bit dry (it did to me) add a splash or two of water.

Divide into two portions, roughly 60:40, and freeze it for at least a few hours, preferably overnight. I left it for a morning.

Prepare your baking tray, and grate the larger portion into it, pushing it down to make it even, and bake for about 15 minutes at 190C. Leave to cool while you do step 2.

Step Two

You’ll need:

  5 egg whites you saved from earlier

170g sugar, adjusted if using sweetened custard powder

1 tbsp vanilla essence

80g custard powder

125ml sunflower oil

Berries of your choice, small or chopped up

Icing sugar to decorate, optional

Whisk the egg whites, then slowly add in the sugar and vanilla essence. Add in the custards powder while mixing, and then whisk in the oil. Pour evenly over the baked cake base and dot the berries on top – if using raspberries, my instructions were to poke them in point down. Over the top grate the other frozen cake-mix.

Bake for 30-40 minutes at 190C. Allow to cool and sprinkle with icing sugar.