Elixir of Life

There are few things better than lazily sipping strong coffee made in one of these, with some milk and sugar, and knowing that although it’s Sunday, it’s effectively Saturday because of the holiday.

And now I have a chicken in the oven, roasting under a coat of kosher salt and crushed rosemary (one of my favorite things is going at rosemary in the mortar and pestle), and am about to start a small shawlette with this yarn. Yeah, it’s way bright. I’m thinking of it as a fiber antidepressant.

I think four days on, three days off, would make a wonderful all-the-time schedule.

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François Hollande

I was reading (slowly) through a Le Monde article about François Hollande and his personal life, and wishing to God that sort of thing would fly here in the US. Now, granted, I’m a Ségolène Royal fan so I’m not especially thrilled with how that relationship ended up. However, I don’t elect my political representatives to tell me how to conduct my private or sexual life. I vote for them because I think they will get the job done and I agree with their political philosophy, at least more or less. I don’t vote for the person with whom I’d like to “have a beer,” or the person whose religious views match mine, or who I think lives a life most like mine; in fact, I want someone who is smarter, savvier, better educated and far more experienced than I will ever be, and who is, frankly, on the left. How I wish more of my compatriots felt the same, at least up to the last item (although that would be great too). Because whichever end of the political spectrum we’re talking about, I prefer the thoughtful, educated, intelligent polticians to the crazies, thanks.

Oh, election years, how I yearn for you to be over!

LinkedIn Memory Lane

This morning I got a LinkedIn request from an old friend, which led to me flicking through the people they thought I might know. That was a trip — I have people from college, who are doing all sorts of things all over the world; people from my time in publishing who are still working in that world; people from my time at Excite who are doing all sorts of entrepreneurial and Internet-based things or, in one case, working for the State Department in Jerusalem; and people from my time at The Company of Doom (no link; what are you, crazy?) who are either still there or still working, mostly, in benefits administration. Talk about a wide-ranging cast of characters.

Reading some of them is sort of like reading an expanded version of the class notes from my alumnae mag. It makes me veer between inspired and daunted, because in the former case, there are so many Mills alums who do things like win fellowships and end up living in Italy permanently, or living on a ranch and writing, or what have you. (Of course, if you’re living in your hometown and working as a cashier or a secretary or an office manager, you’re less likely to write in about your adventures.) I used to joke that there was a gene for that sort of thing that was missing from my DNA — I started thinking that when a high school friend, who came from a similar socioeconomic background to mine, went to Sweden our junior year, then went to Cornell, where she was somehow able to afford to join a sorority. My reaction was pretty much, “Wha –? How’d she do that?”

In the LinkedIn case I think it’s the Chutzpah Gene, or something similar. I was reading the self-descriptions of a couple of my former Excite bosses and though I think that I would be bored senseless by a lot of  what they do (anything that could ever be covered in an MBA course is soporific to me), I am amazed at their energy, guts, and confidence. How else can you develop, lead, and create in that arena  without a lot of confidence? It’s one thing to do it at an accounting firm, where the parameters are well defined, but in a creative milieu it takes another animal altogether.

Then there is another of my former Excite bosses, who is …  a librarian! GO HIM! I actually laughed in joy when I saw that.

The whole review made me thoughtful about my career path, if you can call it that. It certainly didn’t take any sort of predictable path! And while I suppose I could feel bad that I didn’t end up living in Italy* or on a ranch or as an executive at a cool company, I’m really quite happy being a civil servant. It’s much less fraught with anxiety than either Silicon Valley or the Company of Doom, it pays well, and I go home at the end of the day and don’t spend the evening worrying about it. That’s actually priceless.

*Okay, yeah, the living in Italy people still make me sad.

Food List (and then some)

Because I am a rather spacey person in some respects — and because, left to my own devices, I will stay in my corner of the couch in the TV/knitting room and, well, watch TV or DVDs and knit, or else read, and do not much of anything else — I’m really having to crack down and make some lists. To-do and shopping lists are the only way I manage in daily life, but I need some longer-term lists as well.

I’ve decided to make a list of dishes I want to really master — not just have made once or twice, but be able to put together, for company even, without undue stress. I am thinking of 10 main dishes, 10 side dishes, 10 desserts. It’s not that I’d never cook anything else, but I want to have these down cold.

Thus far I have only a few things:

  1. Quinoa-stuffed chicken breasts (have made them, liked them, want them to be second nature)
  2. Quiche (but not with Swiss cheese)
  3. Roast chicken
  4. Vegetarian lasagne (I don’t eat beef and find ground turkey kind of icky somehow)

 

  1. Stuffing (although not actually stuffed but in a dish)

 

  1. Chocolate cake (or any cake, really; mine turn out edible but never pretty)
  2. Berry pie (with a proper crust)
  3. Tarte tatin (I’ve made it once or twice successfully and once or twice… not so; I do have a Le Creuset tarte tatin pan though!)
  4. Crepes

Of course, just that list could keep me busy for the rest of the year!

While I cogitate on the rest of my lists, I need to finish the baby blanket I’m knitting (about halfway through the last of three skeins; yay!), finish reading RER Mon Amour — which I can actually read, even if I don’t understand every single word (and it’s a really fun book, even for the cats), so I can go back and read it again avec le dictionnaire, to expand my vocabulary; and get crackin’ on the damned novel outline.

Wait, what novel outline?

I’ve had this one idea in my head since…hmm…2008 or 2009? I actually once ran it down for a career counselor/life coach person, who himself has published fiction, and he (said he) liked it. It’s set in Lille, which is why I went there and why I’m sad that due to the rail union kerfuffle I only stayed overnight there instead of overnight and all the next day. But I did take a walk around the large square and streets near where I was staying and soaked up a bit of ambience at least. Also, it’s only an hour by TGV between Paris and Lille so visiting again would not be out of question. Anyway… my aforementioned spaciness, plus depression, general discouragement, and the fatigue that comes from working for a living when you’re a hermit by nature, has made me put it on the back burner.

Also working to stymie me: these characters are French. I’m not French. I’m not even of French descent. They live in the 1920s, 30s, and 40s. I didn’t, although at least my parents did so this time period doesn’t seem as far away to me as it does to some people. Still, neither me nor any of my relatives whom I’ve known have ever lived in an occupied country or lived through war in quite the way the French and other Europeans did. Who the hell am I to write this story?

My shuffle-footed answer to that is that I live in the United States, and for that reason don’t find it all that interesting as a fictional subject; maybe this is akin to why some people prefer science fiction/fantasy. I concentrated on British literature for my degree and I must say I almost never read American fiction, or at least I rarely read anything set here. I loved The Invisible Bridge — I thought it was insanely well-written and it’s a huge long interesting book — but although the author is American the story takes place in Europe during WWII. She has the excuse of the story being based upon her family history, though.

I have no excuse, but that’s what interests me to read and what interests me to research and to try to write. I think it would be easier to write a story set in a non-English-speaking country because a work in English but from the POV of a non-English speaker would not be subject to the same linguistic scrutiny. If I were writing about an English person, I’d need to, for instance, make sure I said things like “lift” and “lorry” instead of “elevator” and “truck,” whereas as an English-speaker writing about a French person, I can use those two latter words because the French person would actually use “ascensuer” and “camion.” And it’s not even those obvious words that will trip you up; it’s small turns of phrase that are different. I am in awe of Elizabeth George because she’s an American who can write British murder mysteries and actually sound, down to the small linguistic details, like a Brit.

Holy long-winded digression, Batman!

Point being, I am finally really working on it. It’s hard, because of the distance in time (although WWII is so well documented) and in country, and also because I’m a goofball. But I’ve got some things compiled and am really working on the outline now, which I need or I will do to my story what I just did above to the question of an American writing a French novel.

For someone with not a lot to do, I have a lot to do.