Making things real

I added a fictional battalion to the United States Marine Corps when I built the world for Rough Passages.

Here’s the thing about military units: they have insignia. That reality gave me a great excuse to look at unit badges and design one for the valiant second-career rollover Marines in Mercury Battalion.

I also built a Table of Organization for the Battalion, named all the companies and planted them all over the United States in proximity to the bases that support them, but that’s trivia for another post.

Here’s my take on Mercury Battalion’s Unit Badge. I swear I posted about this before now, but all I could find was a Facebook post. And those don’t count. So, Here:

Mercury Battalion insignia 4 (1)

For those interested in details:

Mercury Battalion was formed out of the 4th Marine Division in 1944, a few months after the 4th Division was pulled into emergency service after First Night.

Initially tasked only with protection of the civilian population, the 4th Division’s mission objective quickly expanded to include drafting and training hazardous rollover civilians as Marines themselves–in part as as an alternative to mass permanent incarcerations, and in part because the adage “fight fire with fire” had literal and practical application.

Over time Mercury Battalion has become the default post-rollover duty assignment for citizens whose powers are too deadly, too destructive, or too sensitive to be handled by the Department of Public Safety.

And why bother with an origin story I don’t intend to expand? Because being me, I had to come know which Division’s colors and symbols would best suit my creation.

I’m picky that way. I used units in both the 4th and 5th division as my main inspirations. If anyone is wondering.

And now to bore everyone with pictures…

Have a few glimpses of my Adventure Thursday last week.  It’s an odd collection. Things I deem picture-worthy sometimes don’t make sense to others. There are captions.

Also I didn’t take any pics during dinner or Gumbo Fiction Salon because my hands were shaky & sweaty, plus I was mildly freaking out. Galway Arms has excellent food (I had a delightful cheese & chutney plate and also sampled a scrumptious smoked salmon appetizer) and the readings were phenomenal.

You’ll have to take my word for it.

Why I took Public Transit
A shot of traffic on I-90 from Jefferson Park Transit Center, where I transferred from Metra to CTA. Drive time was 1 hr 12 min in that jam all the way. My stress-free trip: 1:37 incl. a nice walk.
Lincoln Park sign
I arrived early enough to do plenty of exploring.A lovely walk at the end of the road.
Turtle, hiding.
Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum is FREE on Thursdays to Illinois residents. This shy turtle lives at the indoor butterfly exhibit, in a water feature.
Atlas Moth
This Atlas moth is as big across as my two hands. He was snoozing right at ankle level.
Finches!
Finch! I wish we could have birds in our butterfly exhibit at Chicago Botanic Garden.
Moar Finch
Two more finches munching on millet seeds.
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Note to self: go here someday soon. Say, this summer, when it’s warmer. 
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Museum from the outside. Probably more scenic when there’s foliage.
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City nature. “Urbs in Horto” indeed.

 

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This tree is made of optimism. Pretty yellow flowers of hope. 

I hope you enjoyed this vicarious afternoon with me.

 

Comfort Food. My way.

DISCLAIMER: Not a picture of my shepherd’s pie. Why not? Explanation at the end. This is a delicious Pixabay stock image (credit: RitaE)

Who wants a food post? I hope you do, because you’re getting one. Yes, this fiction author  is blogging about food again. Why? Because making food always leads to stories.

This story is about comfort. I don’t like restaurants OR cooking (or baking, for that matter) but I crave the comfort of a good meal. I crave it most  when I least wish to work hard.  Like, oh for example, when I’ve just gotten home from a 3-day convention bookended by 6-hour solo road trips. Yeah. Like now.

I have found many ways to make work in the kitchen as painless, practical, and fast as possible.  I am big on pan bakes & bar cookies, casseroles, stews, & other pantry put-togethers — things that can be assembled in 10 minutes and then leave to cook on their own….while I go write or something. See? Writing tie-in.

(Plus easily-distracted people are not the best cooks to put in charge of stir-fry, easily-burned sauces, or anything requiring precision measurements or timing. Yeah. Me.)

ANYWAY. Today’s entry in comfort food stories: a meal I call shepherd’s pie even though the only ingredient it shares with the traditional dish is potato. Its main appeal is that it can be thrown together in no time, feeds me & Spouseman for two dinners, and we both love it.  The ingredients can be conveniently kept on-hand in cabinets & freezer.

Spouseman makes it for me most times, on Bad Days like when I’ve just gotten home from a road trip and am thoroughly stressed. On other occasions I enjoy the think-free accomplishment of assembling asimple meal.

So here you go. One of my favorites.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

  1. We use a 2 1/2 qt Corning casserole dish. Quantities were based on the dish.
  2. Dump into the casserole dish:
  3. 1 16 oz bag frozen vegetarian “meat crumbles.” No, I don’t thaw them. LAZY ME.
  4. Add enough wine/ketchup/barbecue/soy /Worchestershire/whatever flavors you like in a savory sauce. (Or, in my case, whatever’s in the fridge)  Make it fairly soupy.
  5. Stir in garlic powder, onion powder, black pepper to taste.
  6. Once you have that base stirred together, layer in the following in order
    • 1 c frozen corn
    • 1 c frozen baby peas (or sub another niblet-sized frozen veggie if you are pea-averse)
    • most of an 8 oz bag shredded cheese. Mild cheddar is my fave.
  7. Make enough instant mashed potatoes to cover the top & load them in. How much? To taste. Depending on how thick you want.
  8. Shake the remaining cheese over the insta-tater layer.
  9. Bake for at least 45 min.

Ten steps.  I swear it takes longer to read these instructions than to make once you get the hang of it.

Notes:

  • when it comes to choose abrand of “Let’s go vegetarian because too lazy to fry up ground meat and then have to wash the fry pan) crumbles, we’re partial to Morningstar Farms chipotle black bean. Really, any ground meat substitute will do.
  • Making mashed taters takes me zero time because we have an on-demand hot water maker. (Best. Gadget. EVER.) Anyway, if you have to boil water, you might want to start it when you preheat the oven. To save time. Because that’s what this is about.
  • Like most casseroles, this is excellent/even better after a cool & a second bake. So it’s perfect for make-ahead meal too.

Why no picture? I don’t take good foodie photos. When I attempt casserole imagery  the photo ends up looking like something pre-eaten. I don’t find that appealing. VERY NOT.