Haunted

 

IMG_0500 (1)2I’ve been reading a lot of dark fiction lately and it’s starting to affect how I see the world.

We passed this old barn driving from Spring Hill to Louisburg, and I had an instant picture of two young and star-crossed lovers–call them Erik and Bodil–dead by Erik’s hand. Living in the late 1800’s, Bodil was promised to another by her parents. She begged Erik to take her away from wherever-that-was Kansas. Instead of eloping, Erik killed her and hanged himself.

But maybe the story isn’t about murder/suicide. What if it’s a hundred years later, and  9-year-old Maria plays in the creepy barn because Momma, busy with the new baby, doesn’t have time for her. Maria discovers the ghosts of Erik and Bodil, and …

But we arrived home at that point, and there the story ended. At least for now.

People sometimes ask where the ideas come from. For me, it’s a matter of looking for the  possibilities in the world. Dark possibilities.

Cloudy Sunday

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November’s done. Here comes December, with the solstice three weeks away. Cloudy and cold, with Loki looking in the front door and hoping someone will let him in.

Is it still fall or has winter made an early appearance? More snow is predicted for next week, so the seasons have shifted.

Spring is coming …

 

Other People’s Recipes: Cranberry Compote

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Every Thanksgiving when the fresh cranberries arrive in the stores, I make this cranberry compote. It’s based on my mother’s recipe for prune compote. Where did Mom get it? Who knows? Maybe from her mom.

Mom took pitted prunes, apples, pears, and lemon peel, mixed in a goodly amount of sugar or saccharine, and cooked till the fruit turned sort of mushy. Cranberry compote is pretty much the same. Not nearly as sweet. Honestly, it tastes pretty much purse-your-lips-sour no matter how much sugar you add.

  • 2 regular or one large bag of cranberries, picked through and washed
  • 2 large apples, I use honey crisp, Granny Smith, or Fuji
  • 2 pears, usually bosc
  • 1-2 lemons, peel only, cut in strips (optional)
  • Up to 1 cup of sugar or maple syrup or honey or sweetener of your choice
  • 1 TBSP cinnamon

Put everything in a large pot and cook on medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until the cranberries burst and everything looks like jam. Taste it. If it’s not quite sweet enough, add more sweetener but be careful–if you add too much the compote will start to taste bitter.

One tip I discovered a couple years ago. Use two different kinds of sweetener. Brown and white sugar. Or maple syrup and honey. Or coconut sugar and Erythritol. Combining the  sweeteners tends to cut the sourness.

I have to admit. No one likes this but me. It’s too sour, especially since I add as much lemon peel as I can get away with. But if you like sour with a touch of sweetness, this one’s for you.

 

Morning Naps

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I used to sit down at my desk by 7AM and write. I might work on a 1,000-question business proposal, tips on stress management, articles to improve health literacy, or the CEO’s Blog. I’d write for eight to ten hours. Sometimes 12 if we had a huge proposal with a short timeline. 

No such thing as writer’s block for me. What I learned was to put something—anything—on paper. If I had time, I’d go back and edit, revising as needed. I usually didn’t have time. 

You want discipline as a writer? Try a business proposal worth millions of dollars that HAS to be at the printer by noon.

Writing fiction is totally different. Time doesn’t matter. I spend a few hours on a piece, then tuck it away to ‘chill’ before editing. At some indeterminate later.

The downside? Revision seems to be never-ending. 

This morning, I’m struggling to figure out whether to keep chugging away at the latest work-in-progress, or stop and rethink the outline. Meanwhile, the cat is sleeping in the office chair.

I’m thinking about joining him. 

 

Windy Sunday

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Maybe I should’ve called this blizzard Sunday. Snow is predicted for later today. Last night, the weather said a dusting, with 7 inches up north. This morning, the prediction was upped to 2-3 inches for us, with 14 inches farther north.

No rain or snow yet, but the wind is 20 MPH and my pin oaks are bending ominously.

Another pink sky last night–beauty before the storm.

 

Other People’s Recipes: Tarte Tatin

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I’d seen a version of Tarte Tatin on Food Network, and when we accepted the invite to my son’s  Thanksgiving dinner, decided THIS was the recipe I’d make.

Except it seemed a bit complicated. Especially when I considered making my own rough puff pastry. I’m a total failure at pastry, tending to overwork it. But never mind. Refrigerated pie dough to the rescue.

Why did I decide to use pie dough instead of puff pastry dough? Both are available, true. But since the tart crust ends up on the bottom, pie crust made sense.

Sadly, I couldn’t find the Food Network recipe online. I got the ‘this page cannot be found’ message. Aagh. Oh well. One recipe has to be like the others. Right?

Wrong. There are more versions of this little recipe than you might think. So I did what I do, and combined recipes to make it easier on me. The ingredients:

  • 6 Golden Delicious apples, cored, peeled and cut lengthwise in quarters, saving one half
  • zest and juice of 1 lemon, plus as much lemon juice as needed to marinate the apples
  • 1/2 stick butter (4 oz.) cut into pieces
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 refrigerated pie crust

Preheat the oven to 425 Fahrenheit. Marinate the apples in the lemon zest, juice, and 1/2 cup of sugar for about 20 minutes. Mix gently–I used my hands–to make sure all the apples are covered in lemon juice and sugar.

Using an oven-proof 10 inch skillet, put the butter in the skillet and sprinkle with sugar. With the heat on medium-low, let the butter and sugar melt, stirring frequently. When the butter and sugar are more-or-less liquid, add the vanilla. Let the mixture cook for 3-5 minutes. CAREFULLY add the apple slices, with the half apple in the middle and the quarters arranged around it, overlapping, round side down. Sprinkle with cinnamon.

When the apples feel semi cooked, take the pan off the heat and lay the pie dough on top. I cut a hole in the center of the pie dough for venting, but you can also prick the dough with a fork.

Place your oven-proof skillet on a cookie sheet. Bake in a 425 Fahrenheit oven for 20-30 minutes. Carefully remove from the oven when the pie crust looks golden brown.

Wait 10-15 minutes–no longer because if the tart is too cool it will stick to the pan– then CAREFULLY turn your tart onto a plate. Most recipes call for vanilla ice cream or whipped cream, but I left home too late and the stores were closed. I served the tart naked.

On a scale of (1) Easy to (10) Way-too-much-trouble, I’d say this was a 9. Coring and peeling the apples took forever. Turning it onto a plate gave me an anxiety attack. And since it wasn’t pumpkin or pecan pie, or even the amazing peach cobbler someone brought, my tart got a little lost among the dessert options.

But never mind. When it was time to leave, I put half on a paper plate for latecomers. The other half I dropped accidentally on my hostess’s newly installed carpet. No leftovers.

Would I make this again? Maybe. I need some time to think about it…