Toaster Scones.

That’s what I call them. They’re essentially drop biscuits with pretensions, but they do have the fat-rich tenderness of scones rather than flaky layers, and they keep well enough to reheat in a toaster for a full week. So, toaster scones.

There’s a story of how they came to be. Of course there is. Skip past it to the recipe if you’re goal-oriented.

Once upon a time I made blueberry muffins for every special occasion–where reasons like “Tuesday” or “I had a rough work shift” counted as definitions for “special.” When I got tired of chewing on muffin papers, I bought half-sized loaf pans and made “muffin loaves” instead. I can still whip up a batch of those in less time than it takes to pre-heat the oven.

During this same long-ago time biscuits were my go-to for ordinary occasions when I wanted a bread with supper but had none in the house. Not just any biscuits, tho. See, biscuits require cutting. Rolling. Counter cleaning. UGH. I am a lazy baker. SO LAZY. So of course I made drop biscuits instead. Stir, plop & drop. Tasty & easy.

One day I decided to make muffins and discovered I had no eggs in the house. Tragedy! All my muffin recipes required eggs. The disappointment was crushing, but I decided to make biscuits as a consolation treat. Any port in the storm, any bread in a pinch.

I know, muffins are NOT just biscuits made with eggs, just as scones are not merely biscuits made with cream. Still. They’re all baked goods that spring from the same roots of flour, baking powder, salt & fat, therefore they all live in the same compartment of my brain.

Anyway. In this episode I had no eggs and aimed for drop biscuits….and somewhere along the way the inspiration light bulb went off. I COULD HAVE MY BISCUITS AND BLUEBERRIES TOO! In practice it didn’t quite work. They were entirely edible but Not Quite Right. It took learning scone recipes and tweaking proportions here and there to come up with a reproducible, predictable result. Here it is:

Prologue:
375 degree oven or 400 if I’m in a hurry.
parchment paper on baking sheets

1. Mix together
2+ c. flour
3 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4+ c. sugar if I’m adding fruit

2. Work in 1/2 c fat (butter, cream cheese, plain yogurt or some combo of same, whatever I have in the fridge) I usually go with 4 tbsp butter and a scoop of plain yogurt) I work it in with my fingers, some people use forks or pastry cutters.

3. stir in at least 1 c. of fruit or shredded cheese

4. Add 1/2-3/4 c milk & mix until it forms into a dough.

Sometimes it’s more like thick batter. The more fat I use in step 2 (or if I’m making Cheesy Toaster Scones) the more solid the result at this point. If the dough is workable by hand, I form it into a long log 1/2″ high and cut into triangles like scones. If it’s gloppy (fruit ones are usually gloppy) I plop it on the baking sheet like drop biscuits.

5. Bake 20-25 min at 375, 15-18 min at 400 —
until just browning on top. Cheese ones cook faster than fruit ones, sometimes as much as 5 min faster.

Blueberries, pitted tart cherries, dried fruits, leftover applesauce, shredded cheddar cheese, feta cheese & assorted herbs, shredded smoked mozzarella & chopped basil…I’ve made a lot of different versions of these. They were all delicious. There’s variability on the rise, so sometimes I have to cut them in half to toast up later, sometimes not. Either way, they are extra-delicious when toasted to a crisp brown finish.

That’s it in a nutshell. The next adventure will be seeing how much almond flour I can sub in without screwing up either flavor or rise. Spouseman wants to cut back on carbs and I’m all for upping fiber & protein content where I can.

 

Habitica & Me

True confession part 1: I love productivity tools & time management toys. Daytimers, to-do lists, reminder programs, bullet journals, planners, calendars, I adore them all.

True confession part 2: I never use them. Every tool designed to get life organized requires its own maintenance. They all add layers of structure and labor atop the labor involved in completing the actual tasks, which is the last burden I need when I’m already struggling to Do The Work.

Purgatory is having “keep track of work” be its own job on top of all the other jobs. Not only do I have to feel guilty for not getting the bathroom cleaned (for example) but I have to feel guilty about either a) putting it on the list and failing to check it off,  b) failing to even get the task onto a list or c) losing the list AND not getting The Thing done.

Then there’s the hassle of going through all the work of making new lists that look just like the old lists, bulleting all the usual points over and over, copying last week’s reminders onto this week’s sheet…over and over again, day after week after month…

<weeps from sheer exhaustion>

Enter Habitica.com, the only productivity toy I’ve ever used longer than a week.  I love this thing. I love it with a full and overflowing heart, so much so that I recommend it to total strangers. It’s free, and it works. Yes, FREE.

What is it? It’s the gamification of getting things done, and for me, it’s the best reminder/planning/to-do thingie EVER. Mileage varies, always, but this is my space, so Imma tell you all about why I love it.

FULL DISCLAIMER: I do not use Habitica.com at anything like its full capacity.  I don’t even play the actual game part, (I haven’t played a video game since Spyro the Dragon was cool)  and there is a whole social media support element I avoid with every social avoidance bone in my body. They look really useful and fun, but they aren’t for me.

One of the things that makes Habitica special is that (unlike other similar apps) it does not penalize me for going my own way.  I can use the bits I like and ignore the rest, and it still works perfectly. It  does everything I need it to do and does it with style.

Basically I am the little old lady who drives back and forth to the grocery store in a Ferrari.

There’s a website plus phone & tablet apps, so you always have access to your toolkit and your lists and so on. The integration is seamless, and they all use a goofy, adorable 8-bit graphic interface.  It has all the game trappings that make a thing fun, from a cute avatar I can dress to demonstrating success by leveling up.

For me it works because it divides Things Needing Doing into three categories: Habits that I do a lot (or want to do a lot, or want to STOP doing a lot)  but not necessarily on a schedule, “Dailies,” meaning anything I should do on a regular, repeated basis–whether it’s changing a water filter once a month, vacuuming the house every 9 days, sending in a quarterly report,  or getting in 10k steps daily–and To-Dos with or without a specific due date.

Tasks I add to each of those categories are infinitely personalizable.   The set-up offers all the usual sub-categories like Work, Health, etc, but I created my own too (whimsy, f’rex) and I don’t have to use any of their starter ones. Then I assign each task as trivial/easy/medium/hard, which determines how much I gain for getting it done.

Completing tasks gets me gold, experience points, and magical mana, plus a random chance at things like hatchable pet eggs, potions, and foods for pets.  All those rewards are  designed for the game aspect, but I don’t care. Seeing a bar go up and hearing that alert chime is a lovely nerotransmitter hit. Plus I do enjoy hatching the pets and feeding them.

The best part? I never have to REDO or REMEMBER a regular task.  Dailies reset and keep track of themselves, and Habits sit there patiently to be clicked or not.  And you can change your mind on things, even the nature of a task. I recently created a Buy Food task in the Habit column  because I noticed I kept putting it in as a to-do once a week.

Habitica takes all the tedious, time-consuming bookkeeping out of my hands, and every day presents me with a tidy page of check boxes. No mess, no fuss, no worry about forgetting.  I’m outsourcing much of the time-management emotional labor and stressful physical upkeep to the app. Ahhhhhhh, freedom.

Not doing Dailies dings my health and mana, as does clicking on negative habits.  The task is color-coded too, based on how successful I’ve been at getting them done.   But I can buy magic healing potions as rewards with my gold–so getting credit for succeeding at ANY thing takes some of the sting out of failing a specific thing. It nicely reinforces the idea that I don’t have to be perfect to deserve goodness.

I can create rewards too — I put “check sales” and “peek at Facebook feed” down as bad habits but ALSO use them as rewards that cost a certain amount of gold so I can give myself a guilt-free treat for completing something else. It also means if I want to avoid recording a bad habit backslide, I can pay for the privilege. So to speak.

If I have a big project to monitor, I might make To-dos, Dailies AND Habits for it.  Thus, ‘open WIP” is on my Dailies, I get to click on a plus and earn points every time I work on it for at least an hour, and if I have a scene to complete or a particular goal I want to reach, I’ll add that as a To-Do.

In summary, I love Habitica. Did I mention it’s free?  (It’s FREE!)

Full disclosure, I eventually coughed up the cash for an annual subscription, but not because I was missing any features. Subscribing was just my way of showing pocketbook appreciation for all the hard work involved in developing and maintaining the program. I’m using it, I can afford to pay a reasonable fee, and so I did.

And yeah, I also got subscriber “gifts” and a stash of gems that let me buy treats for my pets. Because PETS AND POTIONS.

 


Not tired of my words yet? My published works are available on Amazon and all the other usual online retailers, or you can take free peeks at them on my website on this page 

Science-fiction thrillers, science-fiction romance, and science fantasy, full length novels and shorter works. So many choices! 

Doing things my own way. As usual.

Distraction is my biggest challenge. Putting hands to keyboard away from NON-writing distractions takes a monumental amount of effort.  Once I’m started, inertia keeps me going, but starting can be harder than getting the car engine to turn over at 40º below zero.

“Try writing exercises,” say All The Experts.  “Prime that creativity pump!”

“Nope,” says contrarian me. My creative pump doesn’t need priming, it needs control. Exercises divert me.  If I start doing them, I work on them to the exclusion of all other writing. Tasks like character interviews, random story prompts, and plot-starters get my mind moving, but I have to file them under the same mental header as alphabetizing my spice rack.  Sure, the result will be pretty, but is it really a good use of my time?

I mean, I don’t use the spices in alphabetical order, I prefer grouping spices & herbs I use together, and I like having the ones I use most in front, so why bother? Same question applies to wording. Should I spend time practicing on exercises or on actual writing?

Five-minute free association writing is the only type of exercise that works for me, and even then, I have to pretend someone else will read it.

This summer I’m doing pieces twice a week on words provided by friends. I post them to my other blog space, Sometimes I Do Other Things. Here’s the post from earlier this week, just for jollies:


July 24. The word is incandescent.

I might have a thing for four-syllable words. They have a beat that appeals. I mean, one can say “lighted from within by heat” with a lot of words. Alit. Glowing. Shining. Fiery.  I could keep going without a thesaurus, but my POINT is that I like the four-syllable version of it best of bestest.

In-can-DES-cent. You could dance to it. Tossing that word into a sentence with a lot of short, brisk nouns really changes the flow and …erm…brightens it up.

The “it’s on fire” implication pleases me too. I am a fan of fire. When I was a camp cook, we did all our meals over open fires, so that meant three to four fires a day (s’mores!) six days a week for ten weeks. Rain or shine, all outdoors. We had a backup pit in the tin-roof dining shelter, but I only remember using it four times in four years. Three times were in one memorably soggy summer.

The rest of the time we made that cook fire roar hard enough to scare off puny raindrops. It wasn’t just for food either. Typically we boiled about 20 gallons of water per meal for washing and semi-sterilize all the dishes too.  (Bleach was also our friend. Better/healthy living through chemistry.)

ANYway. The best part was lighting the first fire of the day. We had a little ritual for banking a fire to be safe overnight. No dousing with water the Girls Scout way, because this was a working pit, not a campfire. We banked it like pioneers, burning it down to nothing,  burying any hot coals safe beneath a heavy layer of cool ash and clinkers at the bottom, then covering the pit with the spark grate.

Our side goal was to go as many days as possible without lighting a match. Kinda like those safety signs. “It has been (X) days since we last resorted to using modern tools.”

Imagine kneeling in the dew of the early morning to dig through smoky dust while still sleepy-eyed and pre-caffeinated, until at last you find one tiny coal withering to nothing at the touch of damp air. Your only tools are sassafras twigs, the power of your lungs, and the skill of your hands. Careful, gentle, as delicate as can be, you breathe life back into that coal until fire leaps free again, newborn and hungry for fuel.

I felt as powerful as any goddess, I swear. Incandescent indeed.


Word provided by Sue Sherman

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