Shortbread Experiments

Posted in Food on November 13, 2011 by Jaym Gates

For some reason, I’ve considered shortbread to be an insurmountable wall. I have no idea why, because I don’t think I’ve even looked at a recipe until last week. Even then, I was just looking for another cookie recipe to play with.

These are damn near foolproof. I can whip these up without looking at the recipe, which is amazing, because I’ve been known to ruin those Pillsbury crescent rolls. It’s kind of like my ability to kill bamboo: damn near a superpower.

They are also quite amenable to experimentation, being somewhat blank-slate cookies. I’m posting the basic recipe, and then the variations.

Cream 1 stick room temperature butter and 1/4 cup sugar.
Add 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, 1 tblsp milk or cream and a pinch of salt, mix thoroughly. If you are using flavorings, add now.
Mix in 1 and 1/4 cup flour.
Roll into logs of desired size, roll in sugar until lightly coated. Wrap in tinfoil, freeze for 30-60 minutes, or until solid enough to slice easily.
Preheat oven to 350. Slice cookies, bake for 12-14 minutes or until lightly browned on bottom. (They won’t spread very much at all, so they can be put close together.)

Let them cool. Quickly give them to all your friends so you don’t eat them all. No, seriously.

Now, variations:

Lavender-Pepper
1/4 tsp fresh, or 1/2 tsp dried lavender flowers, ground.
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 cup pecans, chopped

Earl Grey-Orange with Brown Sugar and Almonds
2 tsp Earl Grey tea
1 tsp orange zest
1/4 cup dry-roasted almonds, chopped.

Substitute brown sugar for the white. Soak tea in 2 tablespoons of warmed milk. Add with vanilla and salt. (the tea soaks up enough milk that it will be too dry if you only use 1 tablespoon)
Add almonds at the very end.
Roll in coarse brown sugar instead of white.

Jasmine-Green Tea with lime and black sesame

2 tsp jasmine tea, prepared according to the directions above.
1/2 tsp lime zest, divided in half
1/2 cup black sesame seeds

Mix tea and 1/4 tsp lime zest into batter according to the directions for the Earl Grey. Instead of rolling the dough in plain sugar, sprinkle a mix of sesame, lime zest and white sugar for each log. Absolutely beautiful cookies. (The sesame is a strong flavor, so use sparingly.)

I’ve got all sorts of other ideas up my sleeve, involving whiskey, chocolate, saffron, orange-flower water, cumin…the list is endless. I’ll post new variations as I find them. Enjoy!

What recipe?

Posted in Uncategorized on July 16, 2011 by Jaym Gates

I don’t bake, because I *suck* at obeying any kind of orders. It’s the same reason I never joined the military: if I think my way is better, I will do it my way.

So here’s the original recipe for

And here’s my recipe:

* 1 cup rice flour
* 1 teaspoon baking powder
* 1/2 tsp salt
* 1 cup 1/2 cup butter, softened
* 1 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 cup honey
* 4 large eggs
* 1 cup sour cream OR plain Greek yogurt
* 1/2 cup grated hard cheese, such as cojita or parmesan (I used a parmesan-type cheese, and 2 tblsp goat cheese)
* 1 tbsp dried, crumbled lavender flowers

# Preheat the oven to 350F.
# Meanwhile, whisk together the rice flour, baking powder, lavender and salt. Then, in the bowl of a standing mixer, cream the butter with sugar and honey. Drop in the eggs, one at a time, until fully incorporated. Scrape down the sides as needed.
# Next beat in the sour cream, cheese, and rice flour mixture until a smooth batter forms.
# Spoon into greased muffin tins, filling each one 4/5th of the way up (this batter does not rise much). Sprinkle on the sesame seeds, to taste.
# Bake for 15-20 (12, for my oven) minutes. Let cool to room temperature – it’ll taste like a cheesy pound cake. Amazing with a cuppa coffee in the morning.
* sesame seeds, to taste (I also used a smidge of pepper and cinnamon on some of them.)

The evisceration of a novel

Posted in Uncategorized on June 25, 2011 by Jaym Gates

I drafted this novel almost two years ago. Originally, it was in 3 parts, basically 3 novellas telling the story from different perspectives. Didn’t work out very well, honestly. It wasn’t what the story wanted. The middle one got great feedback, but the other 2…no dice. So the middle one has been reclaimed and is in the rewrite process. Currently at about 53,000 words, it needs a lot of work.

Problem is, it still isn’t good. It needs to be told differently. The main character is now the Lord of Death, rather than his wife. (I want to write something about Sviera later, but writing about the lady of chaos is a nightmare!)

So, today, I’m tearing the draft up. The story will be told from several points of view: The Lord of Death, Ja Corri and someone in the enemy camp. Don’t know who that is yet! There will also be a bit of meta-storytelling, if possible. I’m going to pull bits out that don’t quite fit into the story. Eventually, I will be trying to podcast those. I’ve put years into the world-building, so I’m going to need to refamiliarize myself with it.

Basically: I’m recommitting to a story that I’ve been trying to write for 10 years now. It’s huge, gnarly and burdened by its age. It is also something I worked on with my ex, and so I keep stumbling across stuff that makes me close out of the programs and walk away. It’s going to be a headache, but this story is too fun to let go of!

But, that being said, here’s a bit of my process. Also known as: not losing masses of followers on Twitter.

1.) Ok, I LIKE Scrivener. I really do. But having to re-download every couple of weeks has killed my writing time more than once. Still, it’s only a couple of days until the full release. I’d been on the fence, but looking at this latest beta…not on the fence anymore. GadgetGeek says “GIVE US, PRECIOUS”. I mean, they have COMIC and BBC script formats!

2.) This is why I kept the Encyclopedia: The amount of world-building in this project is immense. I’ve been working on other projects for 2 years. But I’m picking all of it right back up again. Scrivener’s new set-up is making me happy, since I can just pin entries on the corkboard to have handy for reference.

3.) Hold on, have to go squee/dither/RT the crap out of NY’s heavenly news.

4.) “Karkaran PROVIDENCE? It’s a region, not an act of god…Why am I allowed to write? Edit edit edit…Karkaran PROVINCE. ~sigh~

5.) The desert kingdom is transferred into Scrivener. The ruler underwent a rather belated sex-change a few weeks ago, so I’m going to be rooting ‘he’ out of the manuscript for a while. Hmmm…begs the question: when you’re a creature who chooses their own shape and gender, why would you choose one form over the other?

6.) Apropos of nothing: I am the Black Death of Houseplants, and undead monsters are fun to create. I really hope those 2 things are unrelated, actually…

7.) Tried to paste 97 pages of my source language (Basque). I think I broke Scrivener.

8.) Scrivener lives again. Now tearing draft into respective parts: Amarog, Enemy, Diaries and Letters, Myths, Artifacts, Stories.

9.) Oh, right. That’s the Enemy voice. Always fun to add another insane god in there somewhere. Especially this insane god.

10.) I’m really hesitant to use the Old Ones in here. There are quite a few POV characters already. Hmmmm…this calls for Watchers. #cryptic

11.) The manuscript is broken up. I can see the problems a lot better this way.

12.) Gods, I use archaic language. Totally not my fault, I SPEAK archaic. My grandparents raised me on Queen’s English, Shakespeare, the Bible and old religious books. I read War and Peace FOR FUN when I was 15…and I’d already read LOTR and multiple Sir Walter Scott books…multiple times. I dream in Ye Olde English, I think.

13.) I probably could avoid being snarky. Maybe. Probably not. Latest notes on draft: “Sire, we lost the queen…” and “Technology, DAMMIT!”.

14.) Hellboy and the Golden Army makes really good writing background sound. But Balor was one-EYED, not one-ARMED. Le sigh.

15.) White-haired not-mortals are a slightly embarrassing weakness. TOTALLY unrelated: Nuada is really, really cool, and totally should have won.

16.) Because I’m here, my favorite background movies: Pan’s Labyrinth, Hellboy II, Mirrormask, Hero, The Warrior, Dragon Hunters, Sin City. All visually amazing, great scores, mythological, largely sad.

Dinner and a Book

Posted in Uncategorized on April 25, 2011 by Jaym Gates

So the fabulous Nalo Hopkinson ran a contest for a Bordertown ARC. Now, I got way lucky and scored said ARC at World Fantasy, but the challenge just sounded too cool to pass up. So, I’m posting it here, because I wanted to see if I could create something suitable.

The challenge was to create a menu suitable for an Ambassador of the Realm (the Elves, basically). The catches? Low-budget, ingredients that could be obtained in Bordertown, and best of all? It had to have a Jamaican flair.

So, how does one feed an important official from a race that considers itself quite superior to humans? First off, aesthetics. The meal needs to be a feast for the eyes, the nostrils and the mouth. And the Ambassador is always at formal dinners and being catered too, so simple is best.

Start the Ambassador off with a refreshing, iced coffee lightened with spiced coconut milk. Follow this with the appetizer course: shaved carrots with honey-lime-ginger dressing; salt fish with a cooling cucumber-mint chutney; thin slices of hot roast beef with an icy-cold Scotch Bonnet and coconut milk sauce, accompanied by ginger beer.

The main course is swallows, marinated in allspice, a bit of cocoa, dried pepper and cloves, roasted and served medium-rare on a bed of edible field flowers and greens, accompanied by a caramelized beet-sugar and rum sauce. Complementing this is a light limeade spiked with spiced rum.

Dessert is coconut ice cream and fried sweet plantains dipped in coarsely-ground sea salt and sugar.

Minus the swallows, beef and fish…I think I might have to go cook this now. But the Ambassador is going to have to fend for herself!

Lines in Concrete

Posted in Uncategorized on April 15, 2011 by Jaym Gates

I do hesitate to post this…but I feel I need to.

My grandmother and I have had a very rocky relationship, full of abuse of several sorts. She mostly raised me, due to extenuating circumstances, but I moved out when I was 18. Since then, we’ve gone back and forth on a lot of things. Most notably, her attempts to use guilt and fear to manipulate me. Both my mother and I have nightmares about being trapped again.

I got an email tonight that was more of a kick in the teeth than most. Given that it started off with calling me ‘incompetent’ to care for the family property and went downhill from there…yes. It also ended with a specific slur against lesbians, among other sore points.

I was in tears as I started typing this reply. Now, on serious sleep deprivation and an impending Hell Day, I feel cleansed. I’ve needed to say this for a long time.

This is, finally, my facing up to one of my biggest demons, and defining myself and my beliefs. This is my ‘it gets better’ message.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

My reply:

Ahh, perfect timing to get such a loving email…

I’ve been locked out of this account for several weeks. Around that, I’m basically attempting to work 3 jobs, as well as get ready to move and all the other wonderful things. So I apologize for not having emailed recently. I’m forgoing sleep to reply to this, and I have to leave for work in 3 hours…and I won’t be home for about 24 hours after that.

My friends are so understanding that I sometimes forget family isn’t always the same way.

As for the things I was mentioning, don’t even worry about it. I understand that I’m not capable of living up to the standards you have, whether in work of behavior. I guess I accepted that a long time ago. But the problem is, I’m in the mood to clear up some misconceptions and draw some boundaries in this relationship.

See, the thing is, I have dreams, and goals, and aspirations, and hopes. I’m not after a husband and kids, if I’d wanted those, I could have followed in the footsteps of my other family members and married Greg. Sure, I’d probably have been miserable, but at least I’d have been ‘right’, I suppose. The stuff I want? It’s messy. It’s heartbreaking. It’s amazing. And yep, it breaks pretty much every rule I grew up with.

I’m not Adventist. I’m not Christian. That is MY choice. Mine and nobody else’s. It isn’t retaliation, it isn’t someone else leading me into it, and the next person who suggests that someone else ‘influenced’ me is quite possibly going to spend the next five hours being talked to death. I have tattoos, my ears are pierced, I drink occasionally, I watch bad movies, I swear more than I should, I work 7 days a week and I’m friends with people any real Adventist would turn their noses up at.

I am not going to apologize if this offends you. I am not going to apologize or beg for forgiveness if you disown me, if you’re angry with me, if you feel like you’ve failed me. This is me drawing my lines around my happiness. Funny thing is, it seems like the people who feel like they’ve ‘failed’ me are the people who want to change me. The ones accused of changing me are just happy if I’m happy. (Yes, Greg feels like he failed me. Funny how that works.)

I don’t *HAVE* a religion. I have a faith. It’s my faith, and my path, and it’s nobody else’s damn business how I choose to live my life. Not my friends, and not my family’s.

You’re right. I have lesbian and gay friends. I have friends who have sexualities that don’t exactly have titles. Married, unmarried, who cares? Why on earth is it ANYONE’S business what they do? By God, I wish more people in the world were like them. Funny, sweet, protective, intelligent, creative, wonderful. Friends who found out that a guy creeped me out and rallied around me like a damn shield wall. Friends who will stay up all night to talk me out of doing something stupid. Friends who have, after a few weeks of knowing them, taught me what family was actually all about.

The biggest lesson I’ve learned recently? You aren’t born into family. You are born with relatives. Family is what you make around yourself. People who don’t care how ‘good’ you are. People who love and support and slap sense into you no matter what. The gay, transsexual, pagan, etc etc etc folks? They are my family. They are the people who have never judged me or weighed my abilities or worth like I was a horse at market. For you to forbid those people access to your home is the same as forbidding me access to your home. And if you think I’m joking, I will remind you that the reason I no longer speak to Jo, Chuck or Bob’s side of the family is because I was subjected to racist, homophobic tirades at the reunion at Chuck’s place.

So here’s the thing. I’m moving back to California for a reason. That reason has nothing to do with you. It only has tangentially to do with this retreat thing. I have people who have asked me to do things for them, and my commitment is to them. I’ve already made other plans because I saw this sort of reaction coming. I get it. You’re set in your ways. I accepted that a long time ago, and I made the effort to make sure that my plans wouldn’t affect you.

The things I’m planning to do would save the property, did you realize that? It would be a non-profit. It would have a purpose. But I understood that our viewpoints are simply too different, and so I will be setting up in San Francisco. I will be using my money to buy and develop something else. Something that doesn’t come with judgment and conditions, but allows people to be who and what they are. A place I don’t have to worry if one of my family members will be attacked, or made to feel inferior or shamed.

I will be living in California as my own person. I will not be accepting help from you and Papa because, as you said, you don’t have the means, nor am I willing be bought and sold. I no longer allow anyone else to have power over me in any way.

As soon as I am able, I will relieve you of the horses, as well. I do apologize for having left them with you for so long, I know it was a burden. When I am able, I will work on the property as I can. I had intended to become a caretaker for both you and the property. I shall not attempt to do that now until you no longer are able to care for it in any way.

You will be welcome to visit me any time you wish, so long as there is a bit of notice and you abide by the laws of my own house. The first law of my house is that everyone who enters is of the same standing, the same protection, the same freedoms. Once you come into my house, you will not judge my lifestyle, my beliefs, or my friends in any way. Feel however you wish about them, but I will not hear it. The second law is more of a hope: an open mind. But I can’t enforce that, and if I tried…I’d be no better than the people I fight against.

I understand that the things in this will hurt you, and upset you. But I cannot continue this sort of relationship with you. I can’t afford to read an email and wonder what anvil is going to be dropped on my head this time. I refuse to continue to respond to the ‘you’re against me, you don’t love me, why don’t you ever email me’ manipulations that you have been leveling against me since I was old enough to talk. *That* is why I don’t email you. I don’t have the head space to try and figure out all the ways my words could be taken wrong.

So here’s the deal: I’m me. Get over it. Reject me or accept me as a package. To be honest, I’d rather that you reject me for now, because I’m not telling you everything and I would rather you take time to come to terms with this message than to accept me because you’re afraid of losing me, and then get hit with something else later.

If you reject me: It’s ok. I’m not going anywhere. I accept you. I accept everything you are, and I have laid my hurts and grievances aside as inconsequential and in the past. God knows I grind my teeth and rail against it at times, but you are who you are, and I am not a god to choose who you should be. If you are ever able to understand and come to terms with what I’m asking for, I’ll still be here.

If you accept me: You accept everything I am or will be. You accept that I live in what you believe to be sin. You accept that I can make my own choices. You accept that I am different. You accept that my friends are not people you can understand. You accept that I am a leader and a warrior and a woman who knows her own head, her own heart, her own soul, and her own path. You accept that you will not agree with what I have chosen to be, but you will accept that it is right for me, right here, right now.

Choose carefully. I was not raised with an understanding of love or trust that bred much faith in either concept, and I am not much for second chances. If you accept, and I have to go over this again, that will be it. I have to do what is right for me. I just hope that it can be ok with you.

As a reminder: this isn’t me disowning you. This isn’t me trying to manipulate you. This is me calling the boundaries and redefining the relationship here and now into something that we can–I hope–both live with.

I love you both, very much.

Whining

Posted in Uncategorized on March 30, 2011 by Jaym Gates

I’m afraid to lift more than a water glass right now. The pain from last week’s fall is coming and going, fading long enough that I forget how bad it is, and then surging when I do forget and use it. Just a moment ago, it flared so badly that all I could do was sit and focus on it.

It *was* better. I carry my tension and stress in my shoulders, because the muscles there are already damaged and tense. Moving, getting a new job and living space on the other side of the country; getting the anthologies done; rebuilding a magazine; making sure my authors and press have good publicity; maintaining and growing various sorts of relationships; planning events and travel; family; activism. Those are the things that are stressful. But it’s a manageable stress with great rewards when I do it right. It’s stuff that I enjoy.

I’ve spent 2 days on the phone/emailing HR to resolve a poisonous situation at work. I’m not a confrontational person, but I’m having to be the standard-bearer here. It’s preying on a lot of my weaknesses, and bringing up the worries, fear and stress of a couple of years.

Now it’s all crashing down at once, and it’s just too much. Granted, it will eventually morph into rage–which is almost as bad–and I’ll be SuperGirl again, but for the moment, I feel like a marionette, and someone’s been cutting my strings and breaking my bones.

So bear with me, please. I’m a wreck. I don’t do weakness, but if someone gave me a hug right now, I’d probably lose it. I don’t have the resources to lose it. So please don’t hug me. I’m in *that place* in my head right now, and I’ll be ok, but for now…ow. In every way.

Rainy-Day Soup

Posted in Uncategorized on March 28, 2011 by Jaym Gates

The vegetarian/vegan’s response to Chicken Noodle soup! (or, you could just add chicken, pork or turkey to my recipe. Just don’t tell me if you do!)

Broth:
2tblsp lemon juice
1 cup water
2 tblsp orange juice
splash of rice wine or sherry
splash of rice vinegar
2 pieces candied ginger
3tblsp soy sauce
1tsp coriander
Salt and cayenne or other spicy ingredient to taste

Bring everything to boil in a pan, and add:
2 cups total partly-cooked veggies (Mine has roasted corn, edamame, flat beans, black beans)
1 1/2 cups partly-cooked noodles: rice, soba or shiritaki
1/2 cup chopped tofu

Simmer until noodles are al-dente. Veggies and noodles should all have 2-3 minutes of cooking time left when added to the broth.

The ginger helps with upset stomachs, the broth is warm and soothing, and there’s lots of healthy stuff in the soup. Enjoy!

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