I Knead You: Handmade Bread

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The continuing adventures of the Lost Writer of Rohan in cooking!

Two days ago, I made my first loaf of bread in my Mother’s bread machine. It came out fine and tasted just like I remember growing up. It wasn’t bad, but I have always found the bread a bit more spongey than I liked.

I bought blackberry jelly (the type you get at Cracker Barrell). It is my favorite jelly. There was just one thing standing between me and blackberry loveliness: I ran out of bread. (Well, that is not entirely true. I had the heels of store bought bread. I am ashamed to even feed it to the birds.)

Today, I made my first handmade bread. I have been wanting to make my own bread for two years. One of my friends, http://keepthemuse.wordpress.com/, is a big fan of handmade bread and his descriptions of bread making are fantastic.

So, first lesson learned: Bread is hard work! It is not complicated. It just involves a lot of kneading and waiting.

First error: not checking to see if I had enough flour. Fortunately, my Mother was out and able to get me some more.

First problem: bread not rising the second time. You have to have it rise twice during baking. The second time it would not because the house was too cool. Eighty degrees outside but seventy inside. What is the world coming to?

Disaster: My bread burned! I cooked it for the recommended time but I found out from my Mother that with our oven, you need to check what you are cooking five minutes so that you do not ruin your food.

Success! The bottom is the only part that is not very good. The rest is either crisper than usual or perfect. As long as you remove the black parts at the bottom and use all the lovely blackberry jam or butter, it tastes fantastic. (It tastes good plain, but where is the fun in that?)

The bread is quite good and I will use the recipe again, but I am not sure I want to do it again soon. But that’s just me.

Until Our Next Meeting,

The Lost Writer of Rohan

P.S. I used an older edition of a Better Homes and Gardens cookbook. It is my Mother’s, so it would not be polite to say how old the edition is.

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Snickerdoodle Muffins: An Ode to Cream of Tartar

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Recipe adapted from this website. http://www.yourcupofcake.com/2010/10/snickerdoodle-muffins.html

I used the exact recipe as from this website except I used 1/4th of a teaspoon of salt. The only thing that is up in the air is if I should have used salted or unsalted butter. The butter I used tasted kind of funky as well. (This might be due to a strange concoction my sister made up and the butter soaked up the smell.)

The muffins tasted so good that my Mother and I ate them all so quickly that I was unable to get a picture. My Mother says that they are as good as the cookies. I think the cookies are better (but I like cookies better than muffins).

The secret for both the muffins and the cookies is cream of tartar. My family found this out decades ago. Any snickerdoodle recipe without cream of tartar is merely a sugar cookie with cinnamon.

According to Wikipedia, cream of tartar is a by-product of wine making (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Potassium_bitartrate). That was about it I understood from that article.

Making this recipe has reinvigorated my desire for cooking. Baking specifically. I come from a family of good cooks. It is a bit hard to try to learn how to cook properly at such a late age.

Until Our Next Meeting,

The Lost Writer of Rohan

Back from the Depths of Senior Project

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Hello my dear readers! I have recently completed another semester of school. I had my senior English Project during the past couple of months. I did finally decide on a subject: The Great Gatsby and the various works and historical events that wffected the creation of that novel. Combine with an illness that took me a month to recover and beginning the process of student teaching, I have been a busy girl.

Anyway, over the next couple of days, I am going to review both Battleship (meh) and The Avengers (worth the seven-year wait). I also will talk about my recent attempts to re-enter the world of baking and cooking (Snickerdoodle Muffins).

Until Our Next Meeting,

The Lost Writer of Rohan

The Beauty Of Grace Is That It Makes Life Not Fair

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This is what I consider to be among the most beautiful lines of literature on grace.

Les Misérables by Victor Hugo

*after Jean has stolen the silver*  “So here you are!” he [the Bishop] cried to Valjean. “I’m delighted to see you. Had you forgotten the candlesticks as well? They’re silver like the rest, and worth a good two hundred francs. Did you forget to take them?”

Later

“Do not forget, never forget, that you have promised to use this money in becoming an honest man.”

Jean Valjean, who had no recollection of ever having promised anything, remained speechless. The Bishop had emphasized the words when he uttered them. He resumed with solemnity:— “Jean Valjean, my brother, you no longer belong to evil, but to good. It is your soul that I buy from you; I withdraw it from black thoughts and the spirit of perdition, and I give it to God.”

Until Our Next Meeting,

The Lost Writer of Rohan

P. S. The title of this post is from a song by Relient K called “Be My Escape”.

A Tutorial on Stories

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I have planned on making this list for a long time. I always hear about people making their favorite movies or favorite books lists. I have pondered a long time what movies I would recommend to aspiring storytellers. All five have affected how I set up stories and how I view stories.

5. Arabian Nights (ABC/Hallmark mini-series) – I was a young lass when I saw this mini-series. In fact, it was the first mini-series I ever saw. This is a fun way to introduce Arabian Nights to younger children (think PG audience). The series does not follow very closely to the frame story but I really doubt we would like the Sultan if he was a complete and total homicidal maniac. Is it perfect? Not by a long shot. But it is so much fun.

This series is really good if you want to understand how to hook someone into continuing to listen or read to a story.

4. The Fall – (Warning: This is a VERY, VERY dark film and is not at all appropriate for anyone under the age of 17. This is due to the themes and the occasional violence in the film.) This is one of the few R films that I could stomach watching let alone think was a good idea. I just like watching the beautiful filming. Unlike most films, the director had complete control over the project without interference from studio executives. It is the 1920’s in Hollywood and a stuntman is paralyzed from an accidental fall on the set of a movie. He befriends a young girl who broke her arm in a fall while working as a laborer in an orange field. The stuntman begins telling a story to the young girl to keep her entertained. The stuntman  becomes suicidal when he realizes that he will never walk again. He makes the little girl help him get the pills that will help him kill himself by telling her a story that is becoming more and more dark and terrifying as his mind falls apart.

The film is brilliant because it shows how the storyteller and the audience do not have the scaffolding (meaning background knowledge) to understand a story. It is a fantastic way to explain to people who you may try to tell a story one way but they take it as another. It is among the most beautiful films I have ever seen.

3. Secondhand Lions – This film is worth the price of admission simply for having Michael Cane and Robert Duvall in it… talking like my Grandfather. (Yes, that is what a Texan accent sounds like.) Two uncles take care of their nephew for the summer. The uncles are very rich and they could have only gotten their money in two ways: as bank robbers or by adventuring in Africa.

The “Becoming a Man” speech is a great way to describe fiction and storytelling. I loosely paraphrase what my friend told me one of the writers for Doctor Who said at TARDIS-CON. “Of course we lied to you. You expect us to lie. That is why you watch the show. YOU LIKE IT!”

2. Big Fish – Tim Burton directed and is his least appreciated movie. It is about a son who is trying to find out the truth behind his father’s stories before the father dies.

It is about how a man’s stories make him immortal. All writers feel that deep need to be remembered (as do all humans). The movie also shows how one’s stories can grow in the telling and how close truth and fiction really is.

What is shown is a fantastical story about how tall tales and legends are made.

Both my Grandfather (who, sadly, died several years before I was born) and Father told tall tales. “Yes, I walked with Moses. I was there when he parted the Red Sea.” “Yeah, me and Lincoln were best buds.” They were too ridiculous to be true, but I  loved being told those stories. This film is special because of that.

1. The Princess Bride – Yeah, do I really have to explain this movie? What can I say? Oh, yeah, WATCH IT!

I was about five when I first saw this movie. Every time I had a question about the movie, the Grandson asked that exact question I was thinking. It is a hard lesson to learn that “Life isn’t fair” but, the movie shows that you can still fight against it. The movie was perfect in keeping up with audience expectation. If you do not fulfill those expectations, your movie STINKS! (I will not name movies because that would be cruel and start a flame war. ) Also, probably the most quotable movie I have ever seen.

I hope all of you will watch these movies if you are interested in how stories are put together or just want to watch something new.

Until Our Next Meeting,

The Lost Writer of Rohan

Future Librarian’s Christmas Reading

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You know you are a book addict when… You walk into the library and the librarian asks “Are you here for your books?” “Yes, I am here on Christmas break.” “We figured.” Yeah. I have 45 from the library not including the three, three feet tall stacks of my own books.

My books cover micro-nations to Dracula retellings, from the history of chess to teen gothic romance, etc. etc. etc. There are some that I have no shame of mentioning (The Left Hand of Darkness, If On a Winter’s Night a Traveler). There are some that need explaining (Lonely Planet’s Guide to Micro-Nations, I Am Not a Serial Killer). There are some that are excusable as a future school librarian (Beyond the Spiderwick Chronicles, anything Jane Yolen). There are the ones that I will not mention on this blog because I will receive nasty letters about how they are predictable, over-romanticized or dystopian novels not worthy to be read by anyone with a higher education. (To those I say; You probably read Star Wars Expanded Universe. Oh yeah, I went there.) Oh, and books on comics and art.

I have already finished two books and two movies. Wonderstruck was magnificent and I highly recommend it for all ages. (For those who want to know, it is the same author as The Invention of Hugo Cabret and the same type of mix of pictures and words.)  The first of the spin-off of The Spiderwick Chronicles was disappointing but I am hoping the other two will make up for it. The Masterpiece Theater version of Mansfield Park was wretched. I can deal with changing things around (particularly for this Austen novel) but it just ruined the gist of the book. Mirrormask was… more of an art house film than a children’s story. I should have known with Neil Gaiman being involved. I probably should not have been so brain-dead while watching it, but… yeah. Not a great movie.

I also plan on catching up on Burn Notice, Covert Affairs, NCIS, and seeing for the first time the SyFy mini-series Neverland. Oh, and audio books.

To all of this I say, I do not want to be overly educated this Christmas break. I am coming up against my senior English Project which I still have no idea what I am going to write about.

I sincerely hope all of you enjoy your reading this Christmas break, be it advanced physics or Star Wars Expanded Universe.

Merry Christmas

Until Our Next Meeting,

The Lost Writer of Rohan

I Embark on the 50,000 Word Odyssey… Again

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This is my first official National Novel Writing Month (though I participated this August in the Summer Camp version). I will not be writing in my blog in a while because of this. I sit on the edge of a great adventure. My stomach is acting like it is going up the first hill of a big roller coaster. Pester me about keeping up my word count. I kind of talked other people into doing it this year… yeah. Kind of have to complete it this time. (35,000ish this August).

May you all have a happy November, Thanksgiving, and survivable Black Friday.

Until Our Next Meeting,

The Lost Writer of Rohan

P.S. For those of you wondering, there is the Fair Folk, an enchanted cat, the world running out of oil, a spider princess, a heart in an egg, dirigibles, and the year 2222 A.D. involved. I classify it as Science Fantasy.

The Dark Confession of The Lost Writer of Rohan

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I have a dark secret to confess. It has burned inside me for several years. It is terrible. My friends may never speak to me again because of it.

I…I…I read Reader’s Digest…and enjoy it.

Not the feel good stories. Hate those. It’s melodrama, and the only time I allow melodrama is if I created it.  MMMMWWWHAHAHA!

No, in all honesty, I read it for the jokes, the manners section, and the tips/health section. I like a good laugh. My manners are atrocious. I am going to be getting a government paycheck so I’ll need to know how to cut corners in my budget so I won’t keel over from lifting giant rolls of red tape. It suits my needs.

Reader’s Digest is not high brow in any way. It is not even that particularly good, but I don’t care. It is useful and I can’t always be reading The Aeneid or Crime and Punishment. I need to let loose with my reading habits every once and awhile.

Now, excuse me. I am off to read a graphic novel on DNA.

Until Our Next Meeting,

The Lost Writer of Rohan

The Window/The Picture

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I wrote this last semester.  I was drawing the picture and decided it needed a poem.  Neither is my best, but I like the mix of medias.

At the window

Purple curtains

Tied up by gold threads

Shows the setting sun

And ends

Another day.

The gold of the sun

Dulls the gold thread

And the bark of the old trees

Reminds the wood

Of what it was

And red walls

Make one wonder

If the red sunlight

Made the walls

Or if blood

From ancient battles

Painted my home.