Baking my way through the snow & cold

toasty brown oatcakes cooling on parchment paper

I hate being cold. Hate-hate-hate-hate-HATE it. But I also hate heating a whole house full of rooms to a comfortable temperature when I can only occupy one at a time. It isn’t a rational objection, nor–thanks to circumstances I am daily thankful to live in–is it a financial problem. It’s strictly a philosophical reluctance of the “NOOOOOO, THIS IS RIDICULOUS!” kind.

In practice, this philosophical struggle results in me turning the house thermostat way down & finding ways to heat small parts of it to toasty, tropical levels. Some methods are straightforward. For example, due to the way the house is ducted, closing my office door will keep it 10º to 15º warmer than the rest of the second floor. And the gas insert in the living room fireplace makes it the world’s most decorative, highly-efficient space heater.

But when the outside temperature drops into negative numbers (negative in Fahrenheit, yikes!) I have to get really creative to keep things warm without cranking up the heater. Keeping the oven going is my go-to method for raising the temp in several neighboring rooms.

Warm rooms AND hot food. It’s a win-win.

Below, is a list of my favorite foods for cold, snowy days, chosen as much for their cooking requirements as for their tastiness. Listed in no particular order, most with links to past blog posts where I did recipes & suchlike. Looks like I should blog my soup & baked apple experiences and make this a complete list of Greatest Recipe Hits. Something for the future.

  1. Kitchen Sink Biscotti. These require TWO bakes at moderately low temps. Twice the baking, twice the warm. They’re fantastic for dipping into hot drinks too, so it’s a triple win.
  2. Ham & bean soup. From scratch with dry beans. It cooks in a dutch oven at 250º for hours & hours. The house will fill with mouth-watering smells. This year I tested out a BBQ baked bean variant too. It is delicious.
  3. Oven Eggs. Like scrambled eggs with cheese & veggies, only poured into a baking dish & cooked in the oven for a long time.
  4. Oatcakes. Add milk, oil, salt, baking powder & a little flour to oatmeal to make a smooth batter, spoon it onto baking sheets, and bake until the rounds are dry and crisp. It takes an hour per sheet or more. And they’re yummy.
  5. Breads. All kinds, any kind, but no-bake loaves with an overnight cool rise and second proof after shaping is the BEST kind. First, there’s the no-fuss “just let it rise” part, then the “proof in a warm oven” part, AND the hour of baking part. My fancy new oven even has a proof setting, which makes it all delightfully easy & indulgent.
  6. Pantry casseroles. Vegetarian-style shepherd’s pie & chicken-rice pan-bakes are super easy to whip together from on-hand frozen & shelf-stable ingredients in less than 15 minutes. But they COOK for an hour or more.
  7. Swedish butter cookies. Another sliced bar cookie like biscotti, only even simpler.
  8. Baked apples. SO EASY. Peel. Quarter. Core. toss with cinnamon & cook in a covered dish at 300-325 for an hour-ish. This fall I had too many apples to cook or process, so I threw a bunch of peeled & quartered ones into the freezer. Turns out that they bake up EVEN BETTER after being frozen first. Kinda like an apple version of casseroles or soupos being better the second night, after cooling & reheating.

That’s it for the main post.

In Other News, I’m implementing proof corrections on my manuscript this week, then files go up to Ingram & Amazon, and then pre-orders go live!

FINALLY The First-Ever Official Dawnrigger Email Newsletter will be going out soon. Once pre-orders are live, in fact. Newsletter subscribers will be extra-special spiffy exclusives like early peeks at character art, so you’ll definitely want to sign up for it, if you haven’t already.

That’s all for now. Until later!

Learning by doing: my latest project

I only did 2 virtual conventions during Our First Pandemic Year because Discord became the default interaction platform, and it was not only a New And Scary Thing, it was a complex new social one. I was already two social media programs past coping, so navigating Discord servers was overwhelming, bewildering. It was impossible for me to get bast anxiety blocks to process how Things Worked. Not the technical side, that was refreshingly clear, but in a basic, human “how do people use this thing?” way.

Learning to drive is the best analogy I can think of. Complex, multi-channel learning. It’s so difficult there are CLASSES and people have to CERTIFY, right? The difficulty has less to do with mastering the pedals, levers, and buttons to make things stop & go, and a lot more to do with learning the rules of the road, and MOST to do with learning to apply those rules to physical experience in real time so you don’t hit the wrong pedal at the wrong time and crash.

Social interaction is like that for me. ALL social interaction. But each new environment isn’t like a new car. It’s like a whole new kind of driving, period. Think car vs airplane, or electric scooter vs sailboat. New mechanics, new rules, new integration. Some elements transfer, but you don’t know which until you’ve put in the time in the new system.

With Discord, the mechanical part was simple, but there were so many different types of interactions that the patterns weren’t readily visible (To me. Things that are as clear as glass to many people are opaque to me, and vice versa. But I digress.)

Imagine trying to avoid a crash when you couldn’t learn the rules first because you’re already driving, so you can only learn the rules of the road only by watching other drivers while also learning your pedals and lever mechanics. Pretty dangerous, huh?

On social media, crashes translate as mortifying humiliation with the potential to drive me into solitude for, oh, years. That made Discord a no-go zone for me for ages. But that bugged me. Things I can’t do always bug me.

So I made Discord this year’s Hibernation Project.

Late winter is the best time for me to tackle Scary New Things. Once my energy starts to build up after the mid-winter crash, I find something shiny and carry them into my nest and get to know them better by combing & petting & squeezing the stuffing out of them.

Almost everyone learns better “by doing,” but it’s the only way I learn multi-channel processes. When I first wanted to understand website design, way back in the day, I bemused my friends who worked in web design by teaching myself to code sites from scratch using HTML & CSS. Why didn’t I focus on learning the web design programs, they wondered. But see, those programs didn’t make sense to me At All until I mastered the underlying language structure.

This year, I dragged Discord into the nest and made it my own. I built my own little server, nice and tidy, with all the usual parts & pieces, then brushed and polished it up to Discord’s Community Guidelines so eventually I can make it public.

That was a long read to get to the news that there now exists a Dawnrigger Discord server, huh? But there it is!

Right now it’s private, invitation only. If you’re a reader and/or fan of my books, if you have room in your Discord for a quiet little server where there’s not much clutter or content yet, you’re welcome to join Dawnrigger’s Den and share the fun.

This also means that when the day I flee Facebook inevitably arrives, I’ll still have an interactive space online, and I’m a LOT more comfortable surfing my way around other servers & occasionally even posting comments & engaging in conversations.

Not comfortable, but not as uncomfortable. And that’s progress. Wins all around.

That’s all for now. Some heavy shit happened online this week. I’m still processing, but there will be blog on ot eventually.

Until then, have a random cat with a book.

cat sitting on an open book
Photo by Heather McKeen on Pexels.com

How long can I feel happiness and existential dread at the same time?

It looks like a win. It sure as shit FEELS like a win, and Imma soak up this feel for a while yet. (And I’ve already rolled up my sleeves and pulled out the checkbook to support Senate runoffs and county-level organizers in states who are eager to build up their community political infrastructure and keep this movement…moving.)

I’ve already lost friends because I refuse to not celebrate, because my celebrating in my own spaces is somehow hurtful to them but their direct mockery of me four years ago–also in MY spaces, as comments–was totally okay, because standards are only unfair when they’re affected…but I digress, as one does.

I’m as stressed as I am happy, and I will be until December 23, or such time before then if the GOP’s use-the-machinery-against-itself long con finally succeeds and we end up with an unelected dictator for four years minimum and become the world’s laughingstock forever.

How I can be thrilled about the projected numbers, the historic turnout, and successful re-enfranchisement efforts etc AND still be terrified it won’t last? Two words: electoral shenanigans.

The presidential part of this election ain’t over until the Electors vote & their votes are recorded–and that won’t happen for entirely too many days for my peace of mind. There’s many a slip twixt ballot box and inauguration stand, and I know too much history to be sanguine about the state of our union right now.

Here’s a handy timeline for the clown-car slow-motion shitshow that is our Electoral College system, courtesy of the Associated Press. https://apnews.com/article/biden-wins-electoral-college-trump-511b69134b9120a2f114e6781a54da84

And if you were thinking, “Hey, this seems unreasonably complicated and unnecessary,”as you read it, you’re right! The Electoral College was specifically designed to keep the election of our president LESS democratic. (If you’re thinking, “AP, pfft, fake news, you are possibly in the wrong blog.”)

I’ve had a soapbox labeled “amend away the fershlugginer Electoral College already, FFS” under my desk for decades.

BUT I DIGRESS.

The AP timeline doesn’t tackle allof the potential issues. So. Here are some are important dates in my hope/fear timeline:
1320 November, 2020. Most states will announce their certified official vote tallies from the November 3 election during this window. Until each state announces its certified, official results, the posted vote totals are provisional, subject to litigation, recounts, and general fooferall.

Now, there are literal books’ worth of laws protecting vote counts from fraud, and thousands of eyes from both parties on the tallying at all times. Organized fraud just cannot long endure where paper ballots are used and their count is being watched by many people. Sadly, there are whole swaths of the US where electronic ballots can still…vaporize.

BUT. With the exception of the Georgia recount (which I have no faith will end any better than Florida in 2000) I expect the system will cough up certified totals reflecting the projected ones. So. So far, so good.

BUT! (there’s always a but, alas)

14 December, 2020 is when the Electoral College votes are cast, and no state’s popular vote matters a hill of beans until the Electors cast their votes according to rules that vary from state to state. And the potential for the Electoral Vote to go wrong is both real and flatly terrifying.

Litigation and challenges are already in progress, and challenges could easily go to the current Supreme Court, which has recently abandoned any pretense of judicial impartiality and bent the term ‘originalism’ to translate as ‘whatever we want it to mean.” And some members (Hi, Bret Kavanaugh!) support hella wacko positions regarding the interpretation of Bush v. Gore from 2000.

There’s a non-zero chance state legislatures in up to 17 states could nullify the will of their own electorates. It’s slim, and based on a questionable technicality (here’s an article on it: https://www.lawfareblog.com/state-legislatures-cant-ignore-popular-vote-appointing-electors ) but any non-zero chance of a big decision reaching our current Supreme Court is enough to give me nightmares.

23 December, 2020: Electoral votes must be reported and certified by this date. So. If we get this far with a Biden/Harris victory intact, that will make for a very nice “the sun will return” solstice present. If we do not, I will angry, I’ll be sad that I’m witnessing the suicidal death throes of American democracy, but I won’t be shocked.

January 6: The Electoral votes will finally get tallied in Congress and the results are announced. By the Vice President. I plan to watch C-Span.

20 January, 2021: Inauguration Day. For someone.

I’ll be riding this hope-fear swing pretty hard for 71 more days.

IN THE MEANTIME, to keep my mind off All The Things I’ll be finishing Sharp Edge Of Yesterday, (November is National Finish My Fucking Revisions Month!) then tackling the first draft of Ghost Town because I hate leaving projects unfinished, and setting up Sharp Edge for publication.

That’s all until later.