Thursday, December 27, 2012

Ye Olde Family Crepe Recipe - Savory Spinach Onion Crepes

Every year at Thanksgiving (or Christmas, whatever), my family makes these crepes. The flat pancakes are stuffed with grated Swiss cheese and spinach and onions that have been cooked in cream and are baked just long enough to melt the cheese and crisp the edges of the crepes. They're served with sauteed mushrooms and a dollop of sour cream. I'm pretty sure they're illegal in 9 states.

The mushrooms look a little... purple.
See the note below about red wine.
They are a pain in the butt to make (they're not difficult, just time-consuming) and that's compounded by the fact that one never makes a single batch. Maybe, if it's just you and your cat, you'd make a single batch, but if you're feeding real people, you make a double batch. But they are so completely worth it - once a year, anyway. The pain in the butt usually starts with trying to find the book that mom had tucked the recipe into (I'm pretty sure the recipe was kept folded and tucked inside her Woman's Home Companion cookbook).

Eventually, I moved out and started my own family, and the recipe was "digitized" (read: turned into a .pdf and stored somewhere on someone's hard drive), and the pain in the butt started with a frantic call to my mom, asking if she could get me that recipe. Again. This year, I successfully located my own copy of the .pdf, but I was thinking, "Man. This really needs to be on my Pinterest board, so I can find it easily." So, here we are.

I'll post the original recipe, with notes and adjustments we've made in italics. By the way, this recipe really works best if you have some free slave labo- I mean, children around to help out. At our house, I make the crepes and filling while the Things grate cheese and help stir and such. Thing 1 grabs a crepe and puts the spinach goop in. Thing 2 adds some grated Swiss, rolls it up, and places it in the pan.

Basic Crepes
4 eggs
2 C milk
1 C cream
1 t. salt
1/2 C melted butter
2 C flour

Blend all in blender and let sit 1 hour. Brush skillet with butter and heat. Spoon in 2 T. batter and rotate pan until bottom is thinly coated. Brown on each side.
It can be 45 minutes, if you're pressed for time. I usually do the crepes a little under-done, knowing they'll get more done in the oven and that they're more malleable when they are a touch under-done.

Spinach Onion Crepes
3 T. margarine I use butter. Pretty sure they mean for sauteing the onion and cooking the spinach, but it's not specified.
1 large onion, thinly sliced and chopped
2-3 pkg frozen spinach (thaw several hours ahead of time & drain) Usually, we use the larger packages, not the little square bricks  and get 6 for a double batch. You can run it under warm water and let it drain while you make the crepes if you're pressed for time. This year, for both holidays, the stores were out of frozen spinach (what on earth is everyone making that requires that much spinach? I mean, besides this), so we got four of the really big bags of fresh spinach and cooked it down, and added it to the sauteed onion.
2/3 C whipping cream
1/2 t. lemon juice
1/2 t. sale
2 C. (about 1/2 lb) shredded Swiss cheese
Sauteed mushrooms More is always better. Daddy sauteed them in sherry, butter and garlic and they were great. I did mine in butter and way too much red wine and they were all right. I would be hesitant to do them in red wine again.
Sour cream

On low heat saute onion until golden. Add spinach to onions, cover and cook until done. Gradually stir in cream, salt, and lemon juice. Over medium heat, cook and stir until most of the liquid is evaporated. May need to stir in a little flour and milk mixture to thicken.

Thing 1 scootches the crepes
down to make room in the
pan for... MORE CREPES!
Divide filling and cheese equally between crepes, spooning about 2 T. filling down center of each and topping with cheese. Roll and place seam side down in buttered baking dish. Cover and bake 375° for 20 minutes (35-40 if frozen). Remove cover and bake 5 minutes longer or until ends of crepes are crisp. We never cover them. We just bake them the 20 minutes. You're just heating them up, melting the cheese, and crisping the edges of the crepes. Before serving, spoon sauteed mushrooms over crepes and accompany with sour cream. Serves 6-8.

I have never ever ever seen the crepe-to-filling ratio work out correctly. I almost always end up with a bunch of extra crepes, but that's okay, in case some tear. And you can eat the filling-less crepes the next morning with Nutella for breakfast.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Letter Not Yet Sent

What do you say to someone who has just lost their child? Is the thing you say to that person different if the child were lost in a national tragedy? What do you tell an entire community? "I'm so sorry," or maybe, "my heart goes out to you," because those phrases haven't been used enough?

Do you tell them that you've written a letter about gun control to your congressman? Or that you vow to always use your gun to protect the innocent? Or that you made a donation in their honor to Mental Health America or to the Red Cross? Does any of that help?

Do you light a candle at church? Do you leave a teddy bear in the school-yard in remembrance of a child who will never get to play with it? Do you donate that teddy bear to a shelter for some child with absolutely no connection to the victims or their families?

Do you send a card telling [insert name] that you and the nation grieve with them? Or have your living child draw a pretty picture to take the place of the one their child didn't draw today? What are you supposed to tell the other children?

Is silence any better?

Update: The Snopes article on the Sandy Hook tragedy made a valid point about how receptive and prepared the school staff may (or may not) be to receiving piles of sympathy cards and letters. Rather than putting something in the mail, I believe I will be making a contribution to Mental Health America and/or the American Red Cross.

Friday, November 30, 2012

How I Failed NaNoWriMo and Why I'm Okay With That

I entered NaNoWriMo with the rough beginning of a story in my head, but no real sense of who my characters were or how my plot would play out. I also had huge vacation plans for 10 days in November. Oh, and I'm not really a writer. I mean, I journal sometimes, and there's occasional clumsy attempts at poetry, but I've never actually written fiction. Not even short stories.

I learned a lot. I'm not sure I'll do this again any time soon, but maybe... If there's another piece of a story in me. Maybe I'll do a sequel.

I had taken Friday off work so I could finish it... but Thursday night, I did the math and realized that I had to write about 25,000 words in order to "win" by Friday at midnight. When I'm writing well, I'm at about 1,000 words per hour. 1,200 if I'm going a mile-a-minute and times are good. When I did the math, I realized I'd have to keep that 1,200 words per hour pace through Thursday night, all through Friday, miss the parent-teacher conferences I had scheduled for Friday, and not stop to eat longer than half an hour, working until almost midnight on Friday. That was never going to happen. So I got to sleep in, probably avoiding the cold I'm still fighting off.

That flat place is the day before vacation through a few days after vacation. The slow rise after that is where I listened to the voices.

What Went Wrong

  1. No plot, no problem, my butt. I know there's a movement out there full of people who believe in letting the story write itself (they're called "pantsers"), but that doesn't work for me. It rambles. And there are severe eddies, where it's pretty obvious there's no exit plan.
  2. There was this vacation thing... Vacations are great, and especially this one; I wouldn't have traded it for all the novels in the world. But, well, I could have done some writing on vacation. I mean really. Even 500 words a day might have been enough to let me win this one, if not also for number 1 above.
  3. No character development. Or characters. I tried "pantsing it," but, like with the plot, it's hard to develop characters you don't actually know. The character sketch templates included with Scrivener (see below, in What Went Right) really aren't very detailed, and I didn't really think much at all about my characters, even after having started writing them.
  4. Listening to the voices. The voices are like a little mini-form of depression, and depression lies. I don't mean to make light of depression here, or of novel writers. The same little voice that says, "You're already so far behind. Why fight the fail?" and, "Besides, this is crap and you know it." and, "Who are you, that you think anyone wants to read this drivel you're penning?" is the same voice that whispers things like, "You're not good enough" and, "You'll never be pretty. You never were." and, "No matter what you do, you know it's just going to fall apart." and all the other horrible things we tell ourselves in the darkness. Don't listen to any of the voices. They all lie. (We'll revisit this later in the post).

What Went Right

  1. I got this awesome software called Scrivener. If you write fiction, I highly, highly recommend it. I don't write plays (though, I guess one could argue that I don't write fiction, either), but I can't imagine writing a play without using Scrivener. If I were to write non-fiction, I can't imagine a tool more appropriate than Scrivener. It practically does the writing for you. It has a place for research, places for notes, a nifty cork-board thing, pre-made templates, a great tutorial (one of the best software tutorials I have ever seen, and I've seen a lot), and it's a quick download and not very expensive to begin with. It really helped me organize my thoughts, and write more coherently.
  2. I had a great beginning. Look at the first half of those numbers! I was ahead of schedule, and being really good about writing... up to a point, anyway.
  3. I had some concept. I knew just enough to get a framework down - where the story would take place and what the basic premises of the story were.
  4. The challenge words. This year was the 200th anniversary of the battle of 1812, and Maryland NaNos were challenged to use the names of the ships (Meteor, Devastation, Aetna, Terror, Volcano, and Erebus), the numbers 1812 and 200, and some of us opted to work "Sandy" into our works, too. This was super-fun, and solved the problem of coming up with quite a few names.
  5. Having a Pinterest board for NaNoWriMo. This was a source of motivation and a place to put tips and tricks I wanted to save for later. Wish I had started it sooner, though.

Different For Next Time

  1. I'll find my old AD&D character sheets and use those as a basis for coming up with characters. Or I'll find something like them online (actually, that website I linked to has some downloadable PDFs. And Scrivener supports PDFs. Hmm).
  2. I'll start coming up with characters and a plot in October. Or sooner. With an outline. Or at least a short list of basic plot elements.
  3. I'll attend more write-ins. But not with the Things. Those were great for silent, focused time, when I didn't have to get up to let cats in and out constantly, or break up fights between the Things, or answer questions about who's been on the computer longest and when is dinner.
  4. I'll shut those voices down by staying ahead of schedule (and not trying to do NaNoWriMo in years when there's a big vacation planned). I'll use the pep-talks and the things I posted to Pinterest to shut those voices up. I'll get better about recognizing those voices, so I know when I need to go get some motivation. 
  5. I'll take a creative writing class? Maybe go through the high-school version of the work-book from the Young Writers Program.

Way Forward

So, what do I do with 25,367 words of unfinished novel? Well, first thing, I'll do some thinking about this plot I don't have and the characters involved. If I stick with this, even just a little bit (not necessarily 1,667 words per day), I can finish it within the next few months and then start trimming out all those eddies, and firming up my characters and revising, revising, revising. 

If it ever gets published, you'll be the second to know. And in the mean-time, I'll do some guilt-free knitting and some guilt-free spinning and some guilt-free reading.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

NaNoWriMo Update - Wrote-In; Hung-Out; Got Stuck

I had a super-productive day.

I woke up late, but got me and the kids to the Howard County Library for the Saturday Write-In. I thought it'd be a lot more social, but it was pretty much "silent writing time." Which was awesome. For me. Next time, the kids can stay home. Maybe the one at BAM is more lively.

Between the library-time and the kids coming home and immediately leaving to make use of the sunshine, I got a ton of writing done. I wrote up to a senator's speech in the library, and chickened out for a bit. Then wrote the senator's speech. Then got myself stuck. Where to go from here? Focus on building a little romance? Or get the plot moving? It seems slow. I see a huge novel that gets cut down to a short story in my future. :(

I also finished my book, A Game of Thrones. Time to start book 2.

I just got done with my first-ever Google Hangout. It seemed like a pretty awesome GUI and when a bug was discovered, the support staff were great about sticking around to see it fixed. We had a lot of fun and I was able to get a good bit of writing done during the "sprints." Will definitely do that again!

Friday, November 2, 2012

NaNoWriMo Update - Having Gotten Started

Let me just start by saying, "Wow. This is harder than it looks." There are all these details about my characters and my story I have to keep track of (did my main character just start her thesis? Or just finish her thesis?) and I have to manage tense (when I'm speaking in general, past tense? Or present? Gut says past tense, but that might be work experience trying to take over) and 1667 words per day is a lot of words, and I'm trying to get a good bit over that, in case there's a day in which I can't find time to write. Eek! Stress!

But, at the same time, there's so much great support and encouragement from the community. This is pretty awesome. People are so nice! And I'm totally looking forward to my first-ever write-in tomorrow. I'll take the things, maybe try to wear something hip.

So far, so good. I have some doubts about the Things' ability/desire to complete their stories, but hopefully they'll prove me wrong. It would be so awesome to see them finish their stories, even if they don't meet their word-count goals.

The late-night writing sessions are really messing up my stats.
I'll have to make sure I validate WELL in advance of the deadline.
2am and bed! Well, maybe some A Game of Thrones, and then bed.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Peter The Great Pumpkin

There is a raging (well, by my standards) hurricane outside, I expect to lose power at any moment and we are battling some serious water in the basement. I had talked about this drink a few days ago with DH, and after I lost my cool at the kids for picking on each other - again - he came out of the kitchen with this little beaut in hand. The man is a genius when it comes to edibles.
My favorites
From left to right: Knitting pattern, blank CDs, drink.

I was thinking of a White Russian, only, with Pumpkin Liquor and cream-flavored vodka, and no milk. I had been planning to call it an Orange Russian, but DH suggested calling it Peter the Great Pumpkin.

It's sweet and almost chocolatey, with just a hint of pumpkin pie to it. I think the pumpkin pie liquor is somewhat easily overpowered. Here's what's in it.

About 2oz. Whipped cream vodka
An airplane bottle of Kahlua (a little less than two ounces)
About 4 ounces (maybe a bit more) of Pumpkin Pie liquor

We're lazy, so I'm pretty sure this is stirred, not shaken.

If I were serving this at a party, I'd start with a nicer glass, and add a dash of pumpkin pie spice, and consider mixing in some leftover pumpkin pie. It was completely delicious, even without the pumpkin piue spice, the fancy glass, the nice lighting, the fall decor in the background, and all the other bits.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

National Novel Writing Month - November

A friend posted about NaNoWriMo on FaceBook, and I kind of blew it off... I even told my mom the other day, "I don't have a novel in me; I have nothing to say." She disagreed. Good for her (and me).

I used to wake up and know poems. Or paintings. And I had to get them on paper, or risk losing them. But if it was something good, I knew I had a little time because it would stick with me.

On April 23rd 2011, I woke up knowing the back cover of a book.

Some random internet dragon, not MY dragon
"Tell me you did not just do that." 
"What?" Mike sounded oblivious, as usual. 
"You really can't ask the world's leading physician and philosopher about his debilitating eye injury. Especially not when it has to do with dragons." 
"It was just a question. It's not like he could know." 
"He probably doesn't know. But now he might guess." Mike's seeming blind trust in his it'll-all-be-ok strategy was starting to grate. I tried to keep my cool and also not roll my eyes. I don't think I was being very successful at either one. "The whole world heard those rumors - that it was a dragon gone wrong that took his eye - and everyone on this continent knows he's sensitive about it."

When I woke up, I had the feeling I had already said lines one and two, and I was in the middle of line three. I woke up enough to register the look on DH's face and why he was looking at me like that, and giggled. It was ok to be interrupted by the giggle; I knew I had time.

Now, I have to go find the rest of this story.

Who am "I" and who is Mike? Are we an "us"?
What could the world's leading physician and philosopher possibly "guess"? What really happened to his eye?
What is this place? What's its history?

Ooof. November's going to be a long month.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

My Dream Is Not A Poem

We were on a barge in the bay on a gray day.

I looked out at the deck of the barge, through the window in the cabin, and sipped my tea.

My son was reading a book on the wrap-around white leather sofa, the sun breaking through the clouds.

A lion got up on the sofa and laid with his head in his lap. My daughter came in (out?) and sat next to my son at a right-angle to him, where the sofa turned a corner. She had my son's Ginger kitty on her lap.

Ginger and the lion shared a slow blink, and a female Cardinal landed on the lion. Her mate wasn't far away.

And they just sat.

For the record, I know that what I saw in my dream was a yacht, not a barge. I don't think barges come with the leather package, or go out in the sea, for that matter (but maybe they do?). But the word my head used in the dream was "barge," hence it was a luxury barge we were on. On the seas. In my dream.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

My Dream Is a Poem

Saturday morning, I woke up and said most of this to my son, who woke me up. I was thinking it needed to be drawings or paintings, but then I thought about all those stripes and oddly-shaped legs and got discouraged.

The Zebras were doing Yoga
Their matching stripes in matching poses
With matching pink Yoga mats
In the down-dog position

There was a singular Hippopotamus
Taking a deep-water aerobics class
From an absent instructor
Madly waving her Styrofoam dumb-bells

The snakes were practicing gymnastics
Threading themselves through the rings
Hanging out on the un-parallel bars
Springing from the trampoline

There were Leopards on the indoor track
and Sharks spinning in the bicycle room
The Dogs didn't show up,
The lazy things

Labor Day Weekend - Saturday Driving

So, as far as the trip goes, it was, by some definitions, a bust. We were going to go to a water park, but as we pulled into the parking-lot, some jack-leg tried to use my car to kill his child and then blame me for it, and it looked for a while like there'd be a fight. We were prepared to overcome this, but then when we got to the park itself, it was jam-packed. Like, crazy jam-packed, with twice as many people as inflatable tubes and twice as many people as lawn chairs and huge lines at the slides. 

So, we decided to find a beach, where you don't have to wait in line to get in the water. We checked out some North Beach at Chesapeake Beach, but it wasn't looking good - not much sand, no waves, lots of people, and a stupid net to keep you from going out too far, and it was right by a pier that people were fishing off of. 

So we decided to go back to Dewey beach, since we already knew we like that one. We got there in time for about an hour of beach time. Then we hit one of the outlet stores Thing 2 wanted to hit the last time we went, and then we hit some dinner at a Chinese buffet. So, like, 7 hours of driving for about 2 hours of fun, not including dinner... But we had some high hilarity, between threats tossed between the back seats and between the front seat and the back seat, of course. It's the journey, not the destination.

Thing2, singing: ...waddle-waddle-waddle...
Me: So a duck walks up to a lemonade stand, and he said to the man running the stand
T1, T2, and me: HEY! Bum-bum-bum Got any... grapes??
T2: bum-bum-bum bum-ba-ba-dum
DH, to passing car: HELP ME...
Me: No, see, it's like these three songs and they're all based on the duck-walks-into-a-bar joke... You know... haha... okay, so a duck walks into a bar, and says to the bartender... (hours go by) ... and then the duck gets the guy to ask the girl for the ducktape! AHAHAHHAHA 
DH, looking at us like we've lost our minds: So... I guess you had to be there?
DH: Ah, yes. And now, from the state that brought you Tuckahoe state park, Assawoman Bay.
Me: Slips?? What is that?
DH: I think it's a place to put a boat in the water.
Me: Oh, I was thinking, like, "Slips and breaks leg"
Thing 1: I was thinking, like, "Slip that you wear under your dress."
Me, giggling: If we ever get a piece of property with a little creek on it, and the creek has anything remotely like rapids, I'll name it "Slips Falls"
Thing 2: Like, Slips Falls Broke Leg?
T1: Yeah! And we can call the creek Brokeleg Creek!
(For whatever reason, this totally cracked the three of us up)
DH, looking at us like we've lost our minds: Yeah, and if there's a hill, we'll name it, Brokeass Outlook
T1: Ow! Stop!
T2: Well, you stop! Hey! Ow!!!
Me: OMG if you two don't stop hitting each other right now, I'll hit you both!
Backseat: .... hehe Ouch! hehehe ... ... Ouch! hehehe
Me: ???

Yeah... they were smacking themselves and the other one was saying ouch. So, they weren't breaking the rule, exactly.

Sunday, July 1, 2012


Melted ice cream;
Warm beer;
A broiling bedroom;
Ice-cold showers
do nothing to mitigate 
these circumstances

Sunday, June 17, 2012

The Scene At Noon

This is in response to another blogger's post. I'm tempted to offer a trade.

Thing Two: Can I eat some sugary crap?
Parental Unit: No.
T2: Can I eat this other sugary crap?
PU: No.
T2: What about the sugary crap we bought Dad weeks and weeks ago. Is he ever going to eat that? Can I?
PU: No.
T2: Well, what about the sugary crap that has auspices of substance?
PU: Yes.
T2: Really?
PU: No! Go make a sandwich or something.