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Ho, Ho, meta-Ho [27 Dec 2015|12:37pm]
Mac, in camera, in camera box, in camera:


In the meantime, I have had occasion to observe that here in the western US, mostly what we have is mountains. We flew from Pocatello Idaho to San Jose and home, via Salt Lake City, on a splendidly clear cold day, and pretty much everything underneath us all the way was mountains. I suspect many of them may have been the Rockies. (There was also the Great Salt Lake, which is enormous and was apparently frozen in its shallows despite the salt, but that also has whole mountains sticking up out of it, so it still counts.)

I may never have been in a colder place than Pocatello. Our last night there, my phone said the temperature outside at 4am was 6 degrees Fahrenheit, which we old folk would I think describe as twenty-six degrees of frost. If I've ever been anywhere colder (not counting planes, that is), I don't remember it. But we were lovely and warm in our hotel room, so that's fine.

Traditional view out of hotel window:


Meanwhile, being home, I am making onion soup. I had caramelised onions in the freezer (slow cookers, people; totally the way to caramelise onions in quantity) and also a couple of pints of something labelled "beef soupstock". I have no idea what this is, how I made it, of what it was a byproduct; it'll be completely unreproduceable; but I think I was right in my labelling. It's going to make lovely soup for a cold California Sunday.
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Hogspic [21 Dec 2015|10:26am]
It is not impossible that Karen has grown soooo bored with my endlessly repeating how very much I need a better camera, that she petitioned the Hogfather to pleeeease see to that.

I must have been very good this year, ho ho ho. I has a Nikon. With an extra lens and everything.

Now I simply have to learn to use it. Happily it's entry-level, so all things shall be made easy for me. (The instruction manual warns me at least twice in the first few pages not to stick my finger in my eye; I find this level of instruction consoling.)

Anyway, First Photo: Barry's formal Hogspic.

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Happy Hogswatch, one and all! [20 Dec 2015|12:14pm]
Technically it is Hogswatch Eve, but who wants to party on a Monday?

It is possible at this stage - twenty minutes into Hogswatch Party Observ'd - that there will be no party but us, because all we have is an otherwise empty house and the first can't-come-after-all regrets queueing up in our inboxes. But if nobody comes? I will not care. For it is Hogswatch, and K and I have heaped each other with prezzies, and the boys have new catnip mousies, and I have cooked a fuckton of porks, which makes me happy. Even if nobody eats it.

And I have a Mars passport, a passport to Mars, which m'wife and the rather brilliant Elizabeth Leggett have concocted with visas and all sorts. It is an act of genius, about which I will post more later.

There has been bourbon in my final coffee of the morning, but that may not be enough alcohol. Rain's over the yardarm. Perhaps I should open a bottle? The sound of a popping cork is sure to bring guests hurrying, hurrying...
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Looming. Sans warp or weft. [19 Dec 2015|03:53pm]
We have shopped, twice, and fed Jeannie's cat. I have made mustard and cranberry sauce (twice), because condiments matter; and I have boiled the ham and mixed up the filling for the pork pies. I need to shop for a third time, but I'll set the first bread-dough to rise before I go.

I have also made a proclamation: it is close enough to Hogswatch (Observ'd) that proper observations may commence. The wine is in the glass, and heading mewards.
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It's beginning to smell a lot like Hogswatch [19 Dec 2015|12:43pm]
Tomorrow as ever was, we hold our Hogswatch Eve party. If it turns into a remembrance of Terry, well, hey. I'm hoping it won't, because too many people have died this year - hell, too many people have died this week - and I don't really want to slide into that spiral, but the thing is there to do if it seems needful.

If not, then for me - of course! - it's all about the food.

Next year, I swear, I'm going to be so much better about recording what I cook, both visually and recipe-wise, so that when Karen says "I really like that thing you did," I'll know what it was and how to do it again.

Meanwhile, well. This is all I have.

It's Hogswatch; there must be pork pies. Which you cannot buy for love nor money hereabouts, so it is finally essential that I learn to make them well. I tried a couple of times in the UK, and made them poorly; but I had a practice run on Thursday, and I am glad to tell you that (a) I have perfected the pastry; and (b) I have an immaculate jelly. Thursday's problems were that the pastry was too thick and the filling too dry (there being no room for jelly, what with the overthick pastry crowding the muffin tin; there was hardly room for filling, to be honest), but I think I can crack both of those today.

I used to have a couple of pork pie moulds, because raising a pie without a mould is still not within my skillset; but they didn't make it across the pond, and I have been improvising with this and that. But this morning? A package came from England, a month before I expected it. One 4" pork pie mould. K says it's an omen. Wish me luck: I'm going in.

And I'm boiling a ham to glaze, and making Chaz'z Chinese Pork, and roasting a loin to slice cold alongside the ham. And there will be cranberry jelly and mustard, for the better making of sammiches, for which I will bake sesame buns. And I have vindaloo and goulash in the freezer, and I can do bacon-wrapped sossidges because it's a party. That may be enough pork?

[EtA: hee. I was just standing at the stove, and into my left nostril came the steam from the barely-blipping hamwater, with all its savoury aromatics of bay and pepper and stock-veggies; and into my right nostril came the steam from the simmering cranberries with their sweet aromatics of tree-orange juice and port and allspice and cloves and cinnamon. That was a lovely moment. And God bless Allah, who gave me two separate sides to my head...]
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Getting ready... [18 Dec 2015|08:27am]
While swineherds watched their pigs by night
All wallowing in mud
The Hogfather's great porker came
A-reek of flesh and blood

"Fear not," said he, "for few of us
Eat people, by and large
Glad tidings of great feast I bring
And this shall be your charge..."
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I may be a genius of stock. Or broth, perhaps. Whichever. [15 Dec 2015|05:19pm]
So last week I bought a giant hunk o' pork and made a vindaloo for my people. I purposely left quite a lot of meat on the bone - there was a lot of meat - and roasted that off separately. Yesterday that went in the slow cooker with a couple of split trotters, standard stock herbs & veggies, a scatter of aromatic spices and half a cup each of port and soy.

Low & slow overnight, and today I have a brothy stock or stocky broth which is deep and dark and rich and clear, and utterly delicious. Tomorrow I suspect there will be soup noodles for lunch, with the meat & skin from the bone & trotters added back because delicious.
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Happy (re)publication day! To me! [15 Dec 2015|04:13pm]
It's my book, the book of my heart; and now it can be the book of your e-shelves also.

My novel Paradise - which treats with miracle healing and religious revival and local crime and council corruption and intentional community in unnamed-city-somewhere-perilously-adjacent-to-Newcastle in the 1990s - is reissued this day in mobi and epub formats, via the wonderful Book View Cafe. A mere $4.99 lays this precious burden in the device of your delight, nicely ready for holiday reading, he suggested optimistically.

(And furthermore, it has a cover by Hugo-Award-winning Elizabeth Leggett, so.)


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Adventures in salt [15 Dec 2015|03:48pm]
It occurs to me that I tragically failed visually to record my first experiment in dry-brining a ham. (Which is currently sitting in the fridge for a few days, before being baked and glazed for Hogswatch.)

In compensation, I thought I'd visually record my first experiment in dry-brining my first olive crop.

Tragically, I find some villain hath villainously stolen three-quarters of my crop.

Behold, the surviving fruit of my gather:


It shall sit in kosher salt for a month, and I will show it to you for a second time.
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Houses are like faces, all orifice [11 Dec 2015|01:00pm]
We are having new doors fitted, front and back. Which means I have to stay home - but the boys are shut in my study, so that's not accessible. There is basically nowhere for me to be. So I'm in the kitchen, obsessively cleaning surfaces. I just oiled the bottom of the chopping block. Now I'm standing by the sink posting from my phone.

Is it just me, or does everybody hate having workpeople in their house?
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Culinary science du jour [08 Dec 2015|07:37pm]
Today I am dry-brining a ham. Well, a shoulder. (Leg-of-pork is no more commonly available than belly pork, hereabouts; I am supposing that all the legs go to be made ham commercially, just as - I suppose - all the bellies go to be commercial bacon. It's very odd. Shoulder and chops and loins, these are the pork cuts I can buy readily.)

Anyway: shoulder has been rubbed with salt and sugar and pink-stuff-number-two; and shall be rubbed again on a daily basis, while it sits in the fridge under weights (of plates; I have decided plates are heavy) for the next number of days. I am in hopes that it will be ready hamwise for the Hogswatch festivities, which in our case will be on the 20th inst, for who wants to party on a Monday?
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As pointed out elseweb: [04 Dec 2015|09:56am]
I have discovered the lost line from Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah:

"But you don't really care for sausage, nduja?"

Thank you. I'll be here all week.
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But instead it just kept on raining [03 Dec 2015|01:10pm]
On days like this, the boys feel that there is nothing to do but Occupy Couch.

Happily, sullen adolescent headachiness still falls within the purview of boyish behaviour. The City of Sunnyvale sent me a form to fill out* today, in respect of the renewal of my business licence, and if it asks me to confirm my occupation I shall simply write "Couch".

[Also, Greg Lake's is the only Christmas song I like. Because it is bitter, and because it is my heart.]

*This, I note, is one of those interesting phrases where two opposites mean the same thing: I could fill it out or I could fill it in, either one.
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I may be a genius of soup [02 Dec 2015|03:21pm]
I have not been feeling quite the thing today; so when it came lunchtime, of course my thoughts turned to hot and sour soup. Rather than send m'poor downtrodden put-upon wife out to the local Chinese (who actually make rather a good hot'n'sour), I bethought me of the stocks in our freezer, the leftover turkey still in our fridge, the makrut lime flourishing in our garden...

So yup. Maybe a pint and a half of chicken stock, simmering away; to which I added shredded lime leaves and sliced garlic and grated ginger (in quantity) and soy sauce and rice vinegar and pepper and Sichuan pepper and half a dozen of those fiery red frozen chillies from the Chinese grocery. Half an hour later, in went a couple of handfuls of shredded turkey and a nest of fresh noodles. People, it was splendid - and the chillies were hot enough that I didn't need the chilli oil that I kept handy just in case...

I am in hopes of feeling better enough - or at least sufficiently boiled-out within - to go to a dinner party tonight (our host whereof has already confessed to having woken up with a cold himself, so I am not too troubled about taking my germs along for the ride, if germs there be). However, notions of actual useful work today are already blown, so I have found a task fit for my nerveless mind this afternoon. I have declared that 20,000 emails in my inbox is actually too many, and I am ruthlessly deleting three years'-worth of conversations. I did briefly consider archiving for the record, but, y'know. I archived faithfully for a dozen years or more - nay, more: I've had email since the mid-nineties at least - and successively lost each of those archives to failure or burglary or lost-at-sea, with no observable consequences whatever, to me or to the historical record. Therefore, I am expunging. Thirty per cent has already been expunged. See me in my savagery... (But it might be time for a cup of tea and a rest. The sofa calls. Anon!)
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The Overcoat, the Royally-Approved Hat and the Winter Fu-u-el [02 Dec 2015|09:57am]
This morning's news is that my novelette "The Astrakhan, the Homburg and the Red Red Coal" will be reprinted in Rich Horton's Year's Best SF from Prime Books. I am very grateful for all the love that story's getting.
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Sandcats! [30 Nov 2015|10:45pm]
Some trade between Mars and Madagascar, I shouldn't be at all surprised:

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Remarks on the education of the middle-class Martian schoolgirl [30 Nov 2015|10:45am]
Actually, we're a quarter of the way in to the first Crater School book, and term hasn't even started yet...

That's okay: half the art of getting boarding-school right lies in packing the trunk beforehand. Besides, no one - and by "no one" I mostly mean myself - budgeted for Martians erupting from the lake the night before school starts. One lucky new girl is facing the adventure of her life...

In other words, I just posted Chapter Six of Three Twins at the Crater School. Should you wish to sign up and follow along, the Patreon project page is here.
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Cover reveal! [27 Nov 2015|01:11pm]
It's strange how I keep forgetting to do this, given that I love it so much: but here I am remembering at last. So:

My 1994 novel Paradise (let's call it a contemporary thriller about faith and power, what happens when they coalesce and what happens when they collide) will be reissued by Book View Cafe next month in e-formats. The cover is by Hugo-Award-winning artist Elizabeth Leggett (who is also doing artwork and occasional illustrations for my Crater School Patreon project, yay!), and it looks like this:

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It's beginning to smell a lot like Christmas [25 Nov 2015|08:45am]
Oranges and cloves and allspice and cinnamon: of course I can't be the first to declare these the harbingers of the season, but for me they are emblematic. Like coming out of a brightly-lit department store in mid-afternoon and finding it dark outside already. It's a palpable hit, a fifty-year fall back to where anticipation made my breath catch and my skin shiver with delight.

I hope there are still cranberries in the stores. I made Thursday's turkey's cranberry sauce yesterday - after a long wibble about recipes on Facebook, I just kinda improvised with the juice of a tree-orange and a healthy glug of port, spices in muslin, half a cup of sugar stirred in at the last - and we may have eaten almost all of it with the roast pork instead. (It was supposed to be smoked pork, but the smoker kept tripping the fuse for reasons unknown as yet.) So that is all to do again, alas.

The turkey is dry-brining in the spare beer bacon fridge. I shall make its stuffing today, which we shall not call dressing, because silly. Apart from that, I'm not sure. I've a recipe for a prepare-ahead mashed potato casserole that I might try out, to avoid last-minute stressings. And lots of cleaning, of course, and more shopping. Oh, and I should sharpen the knives. There's a thing.
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Crater School girl! [23 Nov 2015|04:53pm]
Courtesy of Hugo-Award-winning artist Elizabeth Leggett (I do like saying that), here's our first glimpse of a Crater School girl in her uniform coat and beret:

crater school girl
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