Quality of Writing

While I've been working, I've been listening to audiobooks borrowed from the library and stumbled across an interesting contrast.

I read a couple of murder mysteries by Kate Wilhelm, the first two books from the Barbara Holloway series (Death Qualified and The Best Defense). (Mysteries are generally lightweight enough that I get the right level of involvement.) Her books were readily available, so I didn't have to wait. They were both good. The intricacies of the plot were reasonably handled, though in both there were a couple points that didn't carry through -- that might have been because I wasn't paying attention all the time.

Then, a book I had requested came available -- James Patterson's 1st to Die, the first book in his Women's Murder Club Series. It is definitely not as good. The heroine is melodramatic and the secondary characters are highly stereotypical. Peoples' actions appear nonsensical because he's pushing them unnaturally into a predetermined plot. The plot was very intricate and dramatic and had some interesting twists, but the characters were like a faint fingernails-on-the-chalkboard in the background. He uses what I call "literary shortcuts" that I dislike, especially when I see them in my own writing.

I think, in the future, I'll go for Wilhelm's more realistic plots and characters, even if they are less thrilling.

Slight SPOILER below:

(As a side note: What IS it with female leads falling deeply in love and then having their beloved die at the end? Can't have happily married (or otherwise relationshipped) women... no conflict, I suppose. That is one reason I like the TV show "Medium." The lead is happily married - though they have the inevitable occasional squabbles - with fairly realistic children.)


Too Right

Funny quote from a co-worker of mine:

[after a joke from me about the rest of my officemates leaving "early" at 5 and being "slackers."]

"Everyone looks like a slacker relative to you."


I think that just shows how much better adjusted my coworkers are. (Another way spouses are useful: keeping things in perspective.)

With any luck, after the two deadlines I have in the coming week are past, I'll be able to play slacker myself and use some of the comp time I'm stocking away.



I've been blessed with a windfall of gifted cookbooks lately. Above (being investigated by Martin) are Comfort Classics : 150 Favorite Home-Style Dishes by Weight Watchers and The Steamy Kitchen Cookbook: 101 Asian Recipes Simple Enough for Tonight's Dinner by Jaden Hair, given to me by the Hot Chick with a fabulous bod and her Smart and thoughtful hubby. I can't wait to try some of the recipes within. They all look healthy and tasty and really, who could ask for more?
Well, there IS more! Michelle randomly ;) sent me another cookbook, Rose's Heavenly Cakes by Rose Levy Beranbaum. I don't bake a lot of cakes, except when prompted by nostagia (sorry, the only post on that I could find did not have a good photo of a poppy seed cake), a special occasion, a dinner party, or a fabulous photo, which this book has in spades. Now, keep in mind, one of my most spectacular food related failures was cake related, but that's never stopped me from trying something new. And I can't wait to try one of these.

Except that I do have to wait.
For the last month or so, I've been forging on steadily towards two deadlines that occur in the next two weeks. For the last fortnight or so, I've been doing quite a bit of overtime. Enough that Janiece took pity on me and froze some homemade meals for me to eat for dinner when I'm working late. Thank you, my dear. They are providing me with a smile and sustenance in the evening hours before I dive back into the work.

Why do I work so late or so hard? Because I like for my projects to succeed and for my work product to be something I'm proud of. I also often do projects that are stretches for me professionally. This doubles my interest in doing well (I'm not really into excuses) and increases the steepness of the learning curve. Luckily, I love a challenge and have a knack for learning quickly. My job keeps me on my toes, and with any luck, there'll be a brief lull in the work load in the next month or so during which I can take some time to get back to some of the chores (and delights) that are being pushed into the corners right now.


In other news, my friend Shawn, of whom I spoke in my last post, is doing fine. He and his family are experiencing what it's like to be bathed in the light that humanity can bring to dark situations. His primary emotions are Profound Gratitude and Humility and if you'd like to see his own words, you can read it on his blog (this post is a particularly interesting way to describe his last month or so).


A Full Weekend

Had a full weekend, even without adding work into the mix.
I spent Saturday with family:
- seeing my nephew taking pride in his new ability to walk
- making chicken wonton soup with my sister
- eating toad-in-the-hole made with brats (Mmmmmm!!!)
- making chocolate chip cookies that ended up a little flat (guess we need more practice, eh?)
- chatting with my brother about work and life

Then, on Sunday:
- had brunch with Hot Chick Janiece (who's looking hotter and hotter with her healthy lifestyle changes) and her Smart Man
- Janiece and I did a little shopping and then went to get pedicures (Janiece, a delicate lavender, me, deep blue. Winter is the time to experiment with toenail colors.)
- The very kind and thoughtful Janiece gave me frozen dinners for the times I need to stay late at work and the Smart Man gave me more music to listen to. It's tough to find better friends than these. :)
- when I got home, I got moving on a bunch of chores that had gotten a little out of hand, and though I didn't get *everything* done, I made some good progress.
- I also made a broccoli, mushroom, and rice fritatta to eat for breakfast for the coming week. I'll spare you the pictures, since I plan to do this regularly from now on. (My metabolism works much better, I've found, when it gets an early start.)

A lot of this domestic, familial, and friendship-related contentment was brought into sharp contrast when Janiece and I received texts that our good friend Shawn Powers' house burned in a fire. All the family is safe and sound, but all their possessions were destroyed and their pets (several dogs and a cat) were killed. As Shawn says in his own blog report, "Their loss is the roughest part right now, as everything else that was lost is just stuff." I know that's the part of it that hits me the hardest. When I got home, I couldn't sit down for more than 2 minutes without one or the other of the cats sitting on my lap and, even more than usual, it was tough to evict them. Life is so uncertain. Who knows when it might be the last time you get to pet your animal or kiss them on the head? Or the last time they tickle you with their whiskers when they want you to get up and feed them or let them out? I'm so glad that Shawn's family are safe and experiencing the love and support of their friends and community, but I grieve deeply for the animal friends that they lost.

RIP, furry friends.


This I Believe 2010: Conclusion

After I wrote my thoughts on where I am belief-wise at the beginning of the year, I continued to cogitate about it. I came up with the following surprising conclusion:

My 2009 left me feeling a little lost and... well, kind of empty. My recent insight? Empty is where things begin.

And that? Is curiously comforting.


Leek and Rice Fritatta

Wednesday night, when we had a snowstorm that forced me home, I took the opportunity to make a frittata that would provide me with yummy breakfast for a week. Here's how I got to the delicious results:

When I put together a mise en place photo, I found this delightful view almost by accident. Ingredients collected: thinly sliced leeks, minced mushrooms (white and cremini), garlic, 3 cheeses (Parmesan, Swiss, and mozzarella) cooked rice, eggs, olive oil.

First, I softened the leeks and mushroom in the garlic and olive oil. (Some sauteing, but mostly with a lid on to steam.)

Then, I added the cooked Basmati rice and sesame seeds.

When these were warmed through, I added the eggs beaten with shredded mozzarella and Swiss. This, I thoroughly mixed together with the vegetables, and then put on the lid to set.

It cooked for 10 minutes, after which I took off the lid and sprinkled on a last measure of Parmesan and put the pan under the broiler for a lovely bubbly and brown top.


It's Pimpin' Time

My dear friend and cousin, Susan, has finally started a blog. In character with her interest in edible creativity, it is a food blog. She was inspired by a post by preeminent food blogger, Michael Ruhlman, but you'll have to go to her blog to find the link. ;) Susan is my chief sous chef and I am SO looking forward to seeing what she puts forward!

Put Tiny Kitchen Triumphs on your Google Reader or favorites list and keep an eye on this gal. She is wonderful!


This I Believe, Addendum

Here is a brief description on what comes to my mind when I contemplate "the power of positive thinking ." THAT is what I work towards in daily life and sometimes fall short of. The other, controversial, results of positive thinking are secondary and incidental. If they happen, great. If not, I still get the primary benefits, which is what I intended in the first place.



Finally posted photos thus far of the progress photos for the bathroom-in-the-basement project. Here's the most recent view:

Many many thanks to my hardworking Mum, who put in two and a half days of free work, helping me tile.


This I Believe - 2010

My good friend, Janiece, introduced the idea of doing a blog entry called "This I Believe" for the new year. After investigating what that idea really meant, I decided to do it too. It's been a while since I've posted a "Deep Thoughts" post. Janiece followed through on her commitment, and here's mine:

To be brutally honest, this has been a difficult year for my belief system. The Universe broke up with me and I really had a crisis of faith (or, what passes for that for an agnostic). I am puzzled, frustrated, saddened, resigned, and feeling deeply guilty for feeling a lack of something when I am blessed with so much.

While I have heard "the power of positive thinking" much maligned in some venues I frequent, I do think that the idea has some merit. (People who try to be positive are more pleasant to be around and to aid in their efforts. People who are negative and bitter are best avoided.) However, I have found that my own positive thinking in certain areas have yielded me exactly bupkus. As have every other ancient advice bon mots on what to do and what not to do. So, in the face of blinding failure, I was left with a giant question mark. There was nothing else to try. Did I want to continue banging my head against a concrete wall? No, I decided, I did not. So, I gave up. (Which distressed my more positive friends, but c'est la vie.)

I think one song has really given me a touchstone to work towards:

Que serà serà
Whatever will be will be
The future's not ours to see
Que serà serà

My crisis of faith made me even more of an agnostic than before. My deepest belief at this moment is that I know nothing about how or why the Universe works the way it does. It may not even be my job to figure it out. It IS my job to do the best I can with what I'm given and to leave the world better than I found it.


This was excised from the post to make it more concise, but here are my rambling thoughts:

I'm not sure what beliefs I'm left with except some pretty basic tenets:
- How you behave and how you treat others (all part of what you think and feel) directly affects how people see you and how they interact with you.
- Life is unpredictable, in both negative and positive ways.
- Focusing on the moment is a good way to put worries and frustration in perspective. They are both about dwelling in the future.
- Focusing on the moment is also a good way to put analyzing past failures to rest. After a while, that kind of dwelling ceases to be useful.
- Comparing your life to others' doesn't help.
- Sometimes things are not in your realm of control.