Tiny Stories, Tiny Tales

So much got done last night and today that it’s hard to think how much got done. Sometimes I just blink at the sky and am amazed. I wonder how people do this every day and then I try to forget that and just enjoy what I can do.

Last night I 1. made dinner. It’s been weeks. The last dinner I made was a bean and tortilla casserole that did not live up to my expectations. I had eaten lentils for lunch and when I tried to eat bean tortilla casserole for dinner…it was hard to swallow. Too many beans in one day. The next day didn’t improve my feelings on it. Or the next. In the end, I gave most of it to the family on the farm. So this dinner was the one to overcome my despondency about cooking. I got Mark Bittman’s book “How to Cook Everything: Easy Weekend Cooking.” The book delivered. I made the “Best Scrambled Eggs” (I don’t like eggs but these were to die for), Blueberry Muffins and Home-Fried Potatoes. It was a scramble for everything to be done together at the same time and the potatoes were boiled too long but everything was still very edible and still very good. And today for lunch, I took those potatoes with a bit of olive oil and fried them up. Yummy with muffins.

Last night I 2. baked my first cake. This is a Tasha Tudor recipe called “Washington Pie.” It’s a really a layered cake with raspberry jam filling. Not just raspberry jam. Raspberry jam mixed with cherry brandy. That’s right. Oh, it turned out great and so pretty. I like baking rather then cooking. It’s restful with those breaks in between while the cake bakes and then cools. My next cake will be chocolate cake with white frosting- but I need a double boiler for that. I’ve been trying to think of a good excuse for making this chocolate cake. No one’s birthday around, no holidays (the double boiler is coming at the end of this month- pay day) so how about life? To life. L’chaim. The excuse for my raspberry cake was for life and for Jan coming by to visit today! Yay! We had a lovely time, talked about writing and I think she enjoyed the spiked cake!

Last night I 3. Finally worked on my fiction. Its been so long due to being sick and then being busy and getting caught up with cleaning. I didn’t write for too long since it was late but I sat down and did it. That’s the hardest part, getting started again after a break. Finally.

Today I…today was gardening. Today was hauling up sod, turning over clods, breaking them up and then mixing in mushroom compost. Ugh. This work means another day without going to the gym because who needs to? My back is a little sore from it all but nothing unbearable. I did that and then planted. I planted astillbe (Elisabeth Van Veen), I split up and planted the hostas Dad gave me. I planted the Japanese painted fern he gave me. I moved yet another delphinium over to the other delphiniums. I planted my herbs, my geranium, the nasturtium. I moved the lavenders over to the rose bed and the sage over where the herbs are. I dug big holes and put in Oriental lilies- Stargazer, Muscadet and a freebie that I got that I didn’t realize was a freebie …till I opened up the bag and realized…crap, which are Tom Pouce freebies and which are the Muscadet? No one knew then or now. They are buried in trenches in that square of the garden. I raked soil back into the beds, I raked the beds, I watered.

Then Jan came and we had a terrific chat, drank Stillwater Iced Tea and ate some cake. And now I am here, considering about taking pictures of cupolas but a little nervous that someone might run out and ask me why I’m taking pictures of their house. Maybe that’s for tomorrow in the morning when people are (mostly) at work.

Well, here’s the unlooked for bonus of Tom Pouce lilies. I hope you’re nice and work with the colors of the others. Cause if you ain't, its farm time for you!

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How to Get Through a Big Book

How to get through a Big Book and have a little fun too.

  1. Make and eat food mentioned in the book (big books always include food, usually in meticulous detail).
  2. Read a little bit each day.
  3. Make a soundtrack.
  4. Dress like a character from the book for a day. Or a week. Or a month if it really grabs you.
  5. Ten minutes to kill? Daydream about the landscape or what the characters are seeing as they move through their day.
  6. Read passages you enjoy out loud. If you’re in the right mood, record yourself reading passages and share it (Instagram is great for this). Include illustrations if you like (thank you, Shirin).
  7. Whip out a highlighter or some sticky tabs for those great parts.
  8. Pace yourself and remember, reading gigantic books isn’t a race. It’s about the journey. Might as well bring along snacks, good drinks, great lighting, and enjoy the ride.

How to Search for Story Settings

A big city not far from mine has a casino. I’ve heard a few stories from friends that have worked there. Most center on being treated badly by a customer and revenging themselves by throwing the customer’s car keys into the Fox River. Karma is enacted on a regular basis at the casino.

There’s something about that river, flowing by, murky green during the day and black at night, a bottomless pit for car keys.

The river divides the city in half, east to west. The Fox flows along the old warehouses, limestone and brick, built back when the city had manufacturing plants and industry. Now the warehouses sit sturdy and silent, crumbling ever so slowly. Their roofs are flat and give the illusion of brick walls running straight into the sky. Some were built like prosaic wedding cakes, higher and higher, until the final topping is small square with tiny windows. Industry has never been about aesthetic needs and wants.  And yet by some miracle, these old turn of the century warehouses have achieved it just the same.

I observed the warehouses from the back deck of the riverside café, clutching my cup of earl grey and wishing I had put sunscreen on. It was the first time I had ever been to this café and I came because I needed a new setting for a fiction story I was working on. None of the cafes I remembered from the past were working for me. I needed this kind of café, one that hung out in an old manufacturing city where there wasn’t much industry left. There was, at least, a casino and many local businesses and this café hung on, here at the water’s edge.

A little further up was the casino where my friends had thrown those keys into the water. From my point on the deck, I could see the grimy metallic white heel of the building jutting out. Another friend told me that he goes there regularly to play black jack. It relieves stress and earns a little extra cash for his family.

The wind picks up a little and despite the sun, it’s chilly. Spring plays these tricks on us.

There is no sign of life in the warehouses all around me. We’re all boxed in together and the light plays off their empty windows, open and blank to the sun. I sip some tea and play “Over the Hills and Far Away” by Led Zeppelin just to see if this café will work for my story. It only takes a few bars of listening to the song and I know that this place is perfect. This spot on the river is perfect for many stories. It’s  been perfect for all the stories I know nothing about and the ones that I’ve caught the smallest glimpses of.

A mallard suns himself in the weeds that line the water’s edge. The river moves fast and sure and I turn off the music. No need to for further noise. The song is already there.