When I went to London to attend the royal nuptials of Prince William and Katherine Middleton a few years back, I stayed at a hotel very near to a fast food joint called the Cornish Bakehouse. They sold every variety of pasties, and I was obsessed. If you don’t know what a pasty is, get ready to send me a great big thank you note stuffed full of cash. A pasty is a traditional English food from Cornwall, a region in southern England where my family is from. Knowing that my genetic heritage is from here makes a lot of sense — they have beautiful beaches and palm trees and starchy food. Anyway, potatoes, mushrooms, onions, cheese, meats, and all sorts of lovely savory nibbles are stuffed into a flaky, buttery crust and then baked until golden brown. You proceed to gorge on these and eat far too many. My favorites are the cheese and onion variety — how can you go wrong with cheddar cheese and perfectly soft onions? You can’t. Yesterday I was not feeling all that well. I’m still not. I think I have the plague or the ebola or some horrific disease. Besides that, winter is coming so I needed comfort food. I whipped up eight pasties and only meant to eat two of them, but I ate four. I didn’t regret it. They were fabulous. A lot of people use puff pastry for their crust, which is fine, but I actually prefer Julia Child’s recipe for tart dough. It imitates puff pastry amazingly well with barely a quarter of the effort puff pastry requires. (If you don’t have a copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking in your kitchen, remedy that tragic situation.) You don’t really need a recipe for pasties. Just get some dough, though, roll it out slightly thicker than you would for pie, cut into rounds, and then stuff with your favorite savory filling. Seal and bake! I’ve even made one stuffed with curry. It’s fabulous!
I’m not talking about that bizarre John Waters film. I’m very fond of him, but that was weird. It wasn’t disturbing at all, aside from Zac Efron’s hair — watch Serial Mom instead. I might do that tonight. I haven’t watched a movie in ages. I did watch that other Zac Efron movie where he is in a fraternity — drivel. I’m talking about the hair product. I LOVE IT. I have probably killed a thousand penguins with my extreme hairspray usage, but I would be lost without it. I have quite heavy hair and so using a simple pomade, paste, or gel will not hold it in place. You can use those to sculpt it into shape, but a hearty dosing of hairspray is necessary to keep it looking good. I’m running low, so I’d better hurry to Amazon to order another dozen bottles.
I told you all last week that I ordered a bound copy of my first novel (well, first novel that I’m willing to put my name to), Terrible Miss Margo. I was terribly excited, but nothing prepared me for the thrill of actually having it delivered. When I got home on Friday, it was waiting for me in an unassuming cardboard box. Reverently, I cut the tape that sealed the contents, and I won’t deny that there were butterflies in my stomach as the cover was revealed to me. It wasn’t a shock — I had designed every square millimeter of the thing myself — but to see my story bound as an actual book was such an unexpected thrill. I lifted it up and could hardly believe that it was a creation of my own doing. It was an actual book! I took a selfie with it (above) as you do when you have something to show off. Happily, I flipped through the pages and was just so delighted by how it had turned out. I can see that I will need to correct a few issues with the formatting and some of the story, but it’s finally getting close to the point where I can say I’m done. Then I’ll start again the process of submitting to agents, but that’s a concern for later on. And, even if it never does get published traditionally, I will surely publish it myself. I would be proud of it.
Anubis As The Sphinx:
I love Ancient Aliens. There. I said it. I don’t watch it because I’m a firm believer in any of the ancient astronaut theories, but because it’s such a delightfully absurd escape. At the beginning of the program, year ago now, they were producing episodes that seemed somewhat plausible, but now they are making up nonsense nonstop. There was an entire episode about cowboys seeing aliens and that wasn’t even the silliest. That was no ancient alien. That was barely a century ago! Last week’s episode was a return to quality entertainment, though, and reminded me why I love this ridiculous mess so very much. It was about the Giza plateau, so clearly I was ready to be speculative and highly entertained. Let me tell you, reader, I was! There was the usual nonsense, but they did go into the “Tomb of Osiris,” which is a strange thing I’ve never seen. Heard about it ages ago, but I forgot it completely. I can’t believe I didn’t take a peak at the entrance when I was there this summer! I was too busy fighting off beggars, though, to be focused on Egyptological matters — which is a real shame. I need to go back to the pyramids with a good guide, like my Hassan and Yasmin in Luxor. Back to the show! The most intriguing thing I heard about was about the head of the Sphinx; my jaw dropped. When you see the Sphinx, it is quite apparent that the head is probably not the original one. The ancient Egyptians were not in the business of creating things that were not proportionate. Their artwork was all done by grid and idealized. They would never have put a tiny head on the body of a lion. They’d certainly put a head on a lion, they did it thousands of times, I walked by hundreds at Luxor Temple, but they all have proportionate heads. One of the speakers on the show suggested that the original head was the head of Anubis, the guardian of the necropolis. They showed a mockup and I gasped. It made so much sense! Who knows if it’s the truth? We might never know, but it really did make perfect sense. Why wouldn’t they build a giant guardian? And why wouldn’t they use Anubis? I will have to research this some more. I have so many questions: when did the cult of Anubis begin?; what is the weathering of the head compared to the weathering of the body?; how does the Sphinx’s beard at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo fit in? It’s a mystery readers, but it’s the kind I love. I just adore Egypt.
Passion Fruit Ice Cream:
I’ve been at home for the past day and a half coughing my lungs out. It’s exhausting, but I’m also quite intrigued if coughing is a good abdominal exercise. I feel as if I’ve been doing a thousand crunches, and Lord knows I don’t exercise! I need to start again, though. I must not continue my rapid expansion. I needed something soft and soothing to eat, and I wasn’t in the mood for the tub of chocolate ice cream in my freezer. It’s from the grocery store and the chocolate flavor is severely lacking. As I was scrounging about, I found a packet of passion fruit pulp, something I keep on hand ever since finding it in a Latin grocery store, and I screamed with delight, then coughed. I felt incredibly blessed to find one of David Lebovitz’s ice cream recipes and knew that I was in for the time of my life. It was a small batch, but I decided that was fine since I didn’t want to waste any delicious passion fruit if I messed up. WELL I DID NOT MESS UP. It cooked with no trouble and then churned with ease. It was a beautiful pale yellow and I was so excited when I took my first spoonful. I DIED. It was fabulous. I was instantly transported back to the Harvey Nichols restaurant in London high up on the fifth floor where I dined on champagne and fine passion fruit pastries whilst watching the peasantry far below. That was one of the highlights of my last trip. Anyway, I had to stop myself from eating the entire batch of ice cream. I’m going to eat it all when I get home, though. FOR MY VOICE.
“Stockholm Syndrome” by One Direction:
I am absolutely unapologetic for my adoration of One Direction. I don’t care what anybody thinks — there is nothing wrong with my passion for their work. Or my passion for Harry. Or Zayn. Whatevs. I’ve been to three of their concerts so far and am surely going to at least one more next year. YOLO. Their new album hasn’t officially been released, yet…but everybody with a Tumblr account has heard the music repeatedly. I wasn’t so crazy about a few of the songs at first listen, but after a solid week of nothing else, I’ve found FOUR to be a delightful album that I enjoy singing along with. Mainly because the boys are more in my range now! #deepvoiceproblems Their greatest triumph on their fourth album is surely “Stockholm Syndrome.” It’s all about being locked up and loving it, but the reason I love this song isn’t so much for the message or the lyricism. It’s for the infectious beat in the background. It reminds me immediately of Bad-era Michael Jackson, which is a massive delight for me. Also, the chorus is perfect when Zayn sings, “Baby look what you’ve done to me! Look what you’ve done to me now!” Listen readers. Buy the album on Monday. Prepare to sing along for the rest of your life. When I’m at the concert in San Francisco next summer as I so hope to be, I will be singing and dancing to this one harder than anybody else in attendance. NOT SORRY.
Not Having Time To Write:
Even longer than I’ve been working on Terrible Miss Margo, I’ve been working on another novel entitled Hôtel-Ker-Maria. It’s a loose adaptation of my grandmother’s life in France and has all the elements to be grand. I’ve written several full-length drafts and have just never been wholeheartedly satisfied with the result. There is something lacking. After six years of this, the other night while I was folding laundry, the solution to my troubles came to me so easily that I can’t believe I’d never considered it before. I have been thrilled and excited to start work on my new draft, but I just can’t find time. I wish that I had fewer things to do to maintain my country estate, but if I don’t keep constantly work on having it organized and remodeled, it will simply fall apart. Besides that, I have to sleep sometime. I’ve tried to set aside an hour a day to devote to my writing, but so far I have been unsuccessful. This is endlessly frustrating, but after painting walls, cleaning the house, cooking food, trying to do a bit of exercise, and tending my animals, I don’t have the energy to go into my writing room. I just have the energy to sleep. I’m hoping that this will change soon. Once I prioritize things better I think I’ll be able to spend some time each day writing. Soon you’ll be able to read my Mediterranean triumph.
The Disappearance of Lady M:
You all surely remember Lady M, the Atlantean priestess that I met on my Egyptian adventure. I adored her. We had so many chats in Cairo about metaphysics and spirituality and psychic abilities. We talked about many other things, too, but this isn’t the place for that. For a while after my departure for southern Egypt, we kept in communication via email. It was always nice to hear from her. Then suddenly she vanished! She has completely disappeared. I have emailed her with no response. I have looked for any reference to her online, but it’s as if she never existed. If she’s a ghost, I’m going to be so annoyed. It seems strange that in this modern time, it can be possible to simply not exist. How does a person not have any record of themselves on the Internet? I know her birthday. I know her name. I know where she’s from. How can I not find her? It’s rather worrisome. I’m sure she has reasons for wiping her digital records clean, but I do find it rather annoying. I always enjoyed chatting with her. I mean, how many people can you reminisce with about a street riot in the Khan al-Khalili or chat about pyramid construction theories? If you’re reading this, Lady M., do respond! I have so many things to discuss!
The other day it became evident that winter was fast approaching. This is annoying for me. In the Midwest, we don’t have four seasons, we have two. Winter and summer. Some will argue that we have spring and fall, but I hardly count two weeks of mild weather as a season. No, we get months and months and months of unending cold and then an equal number of hospitable ones. It’s really quite awful and every year I complain about living here and my desire to move to someplace warm like Los Angeles or Florida or the Caribbean or Luxor or anywhere. I need sunshine and warmth to keep myself alive. Seasonal depression and all, you know? Well, even sooner than I anticipated, we had our first sow. As I write this, most of it is melting away — I have no idea how since it’s only twenty-three degrees, but I shall not be heard complaining about it going away. The powdery white shit from hell just makes me so grumpy. So, when I woke up to my gardens covered in a light blanket of colorless cold, I sighed with such discontentment. I will be cheery again in late March…maybe. I’ll be in Washington DC in the middle of that month and the Cherry Blossom Festival is said to be starting right after I leave — maybe I’ll get a little bit of hospitable weather, then? I’m sure we’ll be buried under a blanket of snow here. If only that global warming stuff made it warm year-round. I wouldn’t complain. I know that’s awful, but I’d be happy.
No More “Rosemary & Thyme”:
I’m very upset, readers. Like, I might not recover for some time. I have finally finished watching one of my favorite British shows, Rosemary & Thyme. It’s a delightfully tame show that never shocks, but it’s one of the cleverer mystery shows. You will occasionally figure out the murderer in the first five minutes, but oftentimes you won’t, which is kind of nice. The clues are all rather obvious, but that’s not why you watch this show. It’s more to enjoy the beautiful gardens that the main characters create, and to laugh at the situations they find themselves in. I wouldn’t say Rosemary & Thyme is a comedy, but I do chuckle a few times per episode. And even though one or more people is murdered in every episode, it’s never dark or scary. It’s just a wonderfully relaxing program — even with all the dead bodies. I will miss wholeheartedly seeing the two women make their way from one gorgeous English estate to the next and never failing to turn up a murdered corpse. It’s formulaic and delightful. I’m moving on to Murder She Wrote, which I’m excited for, but I will forever think back on the delights of this cosy (cozy?) mystery series with great fondness.