Thursday, October 30, 2014

Driven to Distraction in the End

It's been a while since I posted a bad quote from work. I'd love to say that it's because everything I've been working on has just been too good. But, frequently, the reason has been because the things that are funny to me just won't stand on their own.

Basically, it is the equivalent of what I like to call a "location joke" - a joke where it only works if you were where it happened. The kind of thing that, in the retelling, someone will probably say "I guess you had to be there."

But, finally this week, I came across one that made me laugh out loud. I hope my laughter wasn't entirely location-bound.

I’ve been craning my neck for years, and only occasionally have stone walls made contact with my rear end.

Yeah... Something about that, where we have someone craning her neck and having her rear end attacked by a stone wall (in my mind, it's actually a large brick column which is part of a wrought-iron fence)... it makes me laugh a bit.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Is It Over, Yet? (part two)

I may have to stop watching TV for the next week. Not that that's necessarily a bad thing. It's just that I can't deal with the political ads any more. It's getting to the point where even the candidates I like are annoying me so much that I don't want to vote for them.

Maybe that's the whole plot - to annoy enough of the voting public that they simply don't go to the polls and hope that those who do go vote in your favor. You know... that seems almost stupid enough that a lot of politicians might try it.

All I know is that - and I know Christopher will be shaking his head as he reads this - I am so glad that we have a DVR and are able to skip watching most of our favorite shows live. After all, this way we can skip 90% of the commercials. (We could skip 100% if we were better with the remote, but no matter what we always seem to end up with one or two commercials that we give up and watch after bouncing back and forth around it.)

At this point, the main thing I know for sure is that I will be voting next Tuesday. And, yes, I have some people already in mind, but there is still room for them to totally annoy the crap out of me in the next week and lose my vote.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Is It Over, Yet?

I realize that there are any number of people who may hate me for the opinion I'm about to state in this post. I get that feedback every time I give my honest answer in conversations. I've mostly gotten used to it.

In fact, I think that the people who might bug me even more are the ones who don't ask, but simply assume that I love it. Because - according to that group - everyone loves it.

What am I talking about?


I really really dislike Halloween. For some aspects of it, I'd even say that "hate" is a good descriptor.

I don't know that I really know when that started. I usually point to the fact that I remember having to trick-or-treat with a parka over my costume a number of years. I just never got to really enjoy the costumes and everything. So, while I do rather enjoy people handing out free candy, most of the rest of it I can do without.

Even more, though, I'm just not a fan of gory horror stuff. And, lately, everything has gone to the blood-and-gore angle. There are houses on our street with little kids living in them which have cute little ghosts and pumpkin cutouts in the windows. And then there are the houses with gravestones and coffins and bloody skulls. When did those start to become the norm?

When I walk the dog these days, I try to avoid the houses with the most gruesome yards, in part because I don't want her to get tangled in all the weird displays. But also because I really don't care to see it.

The past week or so, I've simply gone for my walk and checked the calendar. At this point, we have about 11 more walks to do before this stuff should be going away, to be replaced by Christmas flotsam.

I'm not a huge fan of some of the massive Christmas displays, either, but I'd much rather have the illuminated, inflatable snowman that keeps getting blown over across the street. At least he doesn't stain the snow red with his blood.

Friday, October 24, 2014

8/28 Cooking Challenge - Creamy Cheese and Basil Crostini

On my list of things to do while Christopher was gone I put doing a bunch of 8/28 Cooking Challenge items, because I figured I could just take my time, make the food, and not worry about forcing him to try something he might not like. (Not sure what an "8/28 Cooking Challenge" is? Check out the original post where I discussed them, here.)

I pulled three cookbooks off the shelf and was all excited to find that one of the recipes fell squarely into something I wanted to make for Book Club. Another was... well... a tad boring, but I bought all of the ingredients for it, anyway, since that's the whole point. The third seemed kind of basic, but I figured I have always enjoyed the author's recipes, so what the heck, I'd try it. 

I pulled all of these cookbooks out about 2 weeks ago. The cookies did get made for Book Club (and photographed for a blog post), but haven't made it in here, yet. The second... well... it was for a salad. And after I bought the ingredients I got a little distracted, to the point that - as fresh ingredients do - some of them went a bit off. But the third thing I made last night, and this is about that. 

"Creamy Cheese and Basil Crostini" come from Melissa d'Arabian's Ten Dollar Dinners. 

Honestly, those are all the ingredients you need. The background orchid is totally optional. 
I know that I usually include a photo of the actual recipe - or a link to a website - but the paper in the cookbook is a heavyweight gloss, so it just reflects instead of photographing. And the recipe isn't actually on the Food Network site. I've included it, below, but you'll have to trust me on the recipe as we go along. 

The actual recipe for making the Crostini was on the page before this. 
I make a lot of crostini for various events. Basically, it's a nifty way to say "crusty little pieces of bread." They're a great alternative to crackers, and you can put almost anything on them. I've made them where you simply slice the bread and toast them, and then rub them with a raw piece of garlic. I've made them where you drizzle them with olive oil before toasting them. And I've put everything from cheeses to meats to veg on them. 

In this version, you start by mixing equal parts of vegetable oil and olive oil (1 Tbsp each for a full baguette), with a little salt and black pepper. You slice your baguette into thin slices (at an angle gives you more slices, as well as more surface area per slice), then you brush the oil/salt/pepper mixture onto the bread, place it on a baking sheet, and bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes. 

The brush got a tad out of hand. Not gonna lie. The flavor was amazing, though, and the dog loved my shirt afterward. 
I'm a pretty quick study in the kitchen, so while those were in the toaster oven, I moved on to the "creamy cheese" part of the recipe.

Now, you'll remember that this is a cookbook for $10 dinners - for four people - so the ingredients aren't massively expensive. In this case, you're using 3/4 cup of 4% fat Cottage Cheese, which you put into a food processor until it's smooth. (The recipe said that you could add milk if it was too thick because you want it to be "the consistency of whipped cream cheese" - but I have no idea what that consistency is.)

Oh... And I didn't want to dig out our mini food processor, so I went for our hand blender. Check out the amazing before and after shots:

Ugh. Boring cottage cheese. (Kidding. I actually ate some of it off the spatula. It's one of those foods that you forget how good it is when you don't eat it that often. And I have never had the high fat version before. It was yummy.)

We're going to say this was smooth and the consistency of whipped cream cheese. 
The next step weirded me out just a tad. I'm not a big fan of lemon in savory dishes - except for Christopher's A-MA-ZING Lemon Chicken - but I've liked all of the recipes I've made from Ten Dollar Dinners, so I trusted that Ms. d'Arabian would not lead me wrong. So I added a bit of salt, and the zest of 1/4 lemon and stirred it all together.

The yellow stuff is lemon zest, not egg yolk. (I figured I should say that since most of you probably expected me to be baking...)
Okay... So... Crostini come out of the toaster oven looking all toasty (and smelling amazing - the olive oil I used was infused with garlic), and I let them cool a bit as I picked some basil leaves, rolled them up, and sliced them into ribbons. (I think that means I "chiffonaded" them, but that might not be a verb.)

If only we had smell-o-vision for blogs!
Alright. We have nifty toast. We have creamy cheese which... not gonna lie... tastes incredible. (We're talking "eat it with a spoon" incredible. The cottage cheese is completely transformed with that little bit of salt and the lemon zest. I second guess a lot of recipes, but I am so glad I did not second guess this one.) I drizzle a little extra oil on the cheese and top with the basil, and I am good to go.

Now here's the thing: This is not exactly a meal by itself. I mean... It certainly could be, but it's not intended to be. But it is incredibly inexpensive, and if you were to cut the entire baguette (I only did half), you'd probably have about 20 crostini when you were done. That's a lot of food for very little money.

And it was FAST. I realize I'm pretty handy in the kitchen, but I could never do any of those 30-minute meals in 30 minutes or less. But in the time it took to make these, I was able to do a quick re-heat on some leftover pasta with chicken and spinach.

Take a look at the following photos, and tell me which you'd rather have for dinner on a Thursday night:

a) Leftover pasta

b) Leftover pasta with fresh, flavorful, easy Creamy Cheese and Basil Crostini

Yeah. It's a no-brainer. This is one 8/28 Cooking Challenge recipe that I'm incredibly happy to have run across. I suspect it will be showing up at dinners and gatherings in the future.

(Fair disclosure: I have loved every recipe I've made from Ten Dollar Dinners - both the TV show and the cookbook. I watched the show fairly religiously when it was on, and I still follow Melissa d'Arabian on Facebook. If you're looking for a good, basic, easy-to-follow, and budget-friendly cookbook, this is a great way to go. Plus, you could get the full - exact - recipe, instead of my paraphrasing.)

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Wednesday Watching - The Mysteries of Laura

I'm sure that talking about this will jinx it. But since I'm amazed that it has lasted this long, I figure I'll take my chances.

You see, I've actually found a new TV show this season that I enjoy. In recent years, those have been few and far between. But I saw a story on line, today, talking about the fact that no new shows have been cancelled, yet, this season. So I'm taking my chances.

I've been watching "The Mysteries of Laura" - it's a light, relatively fluffy, yet still police-procedural show on Wednesday nights. It stars Debra Messing (she was Grace on "Will and Grace," and has had other shows since then), and has a really good mix of characters in the ensemble.

She's not the best cop. She's not the best mom. She's not always styled to the hilt, nor is she a total schlub. She's funny, brassy, and ballsy.

And the show makes me very happy when I watch it.

I highly recommend it. (And, since I've done that, I recommend that you watch it soon, because with my luck it will now disappear...)

Monday, October 20, 2014

Movie Monday - That Awkward Moment

A couple of months ago, I made the mistake of going to see "Neighbors," in part because Zac Efron was going to be in it and... well... he was going to be shirtless. I know... I know... that's kind of weird and creepy and all that. But he's over 21, so it's not so bad.

Unfortunately, the movie was so bad. It was awful. Horrible. Not even good horrible, but just bad horrible. Like when you crack open a rotten egg horrible. (Not to say that I didn't have fun at the movie, but that's because of who I went with - not in any part due to the movie.)

This week, though, my Netflix account did one of those weird shuffles and sent me a disc that was supposed to be about three layers down. It was "That Awkward Moment", which starred Efron as one of three guys who make a pact to not date any more after one of them has a really bad breakup.

It's a strange little movie. It's got some frat-boy-ish humor, but it gradually pulls you into their lives. And their lives are good, but not great. Sure, they have good friends and bad relationships, but they also have sparks of good relationships and the realizations that friendships are often malleable.

Sure, the movie gets a little predictable along the way and you kind of guess what's going to happen in the end. But, along the way, it actually seemed to get... well... good.

Which, I guess, means that this is that awkward moment when I admit that I liked the movie against my original prejudice, and that I'd actually recommend it.

Overall rating - B+. It's not a really great movie. But it's good. It even hit a few of those "ohhh..." chords along the way.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

So Close, and Yet, So Far

I have a strangely conflicted worldview tonight. 

On the one hand, Christopher is pretty much half a world away from me right now. Cape Town, South Africa, may not be exactly on the opposite side of the world, but between the distance east, and the distance south, it sure seems like he's about as far away as he can be. 

On the other hand, though, my phone rang this afternoon, and it was - out of the blue - Christopher. We had kind of agreed before he left that we wouldn't talk on the phone, but instead we'd text and email and "see" each other on social media. Calling, we figured, would be too expensive - assuming that his cellphone would even be able to work from there. 

So I was sitting at my computer, home from all of my errands, typing up an email to him. And then the phone rang. And I heard his voice on the other end of the line for the first time in 10 days. Suddenly the world was very small. 

We talked about where he's staying (his balcony overlooks the pool and vineyard...). We talked about what I've been up to (no balcony, no vineyard, just errands). And we talked about the fact that we'll get to see each other on Friday. For about 15 minutes, the world was small enough for us to talk about anything and everything, and enjoy each other's company. 

Not gonna lie, though. Hanging up the phone, the world expanded again pretty quickly, and he seemed to be almost farther away than he had been before. Friday seems further away, too. 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Careful... It'll Get Stuck In Your Head...

Last winter, the driver's window in my car got frozen shut. As I worked to try to get it to release (trying the "a little up, a little down" maneuver), it didn't get any better. So, eventually, I spent much of the winter simply opening my door whenever I needed to do something most people would do with the window down.

I got really good at reaching out to scan my parking garage pass. I figured out which drive-through banks were easier to get to. I even tackled getting drive-through food a few times.

When it got warmer out, the window worked again. Then it got cold again (does anyone remember how cold Minneapolis was last winter?), and it re-froze. After about three cycles of that, it no longer opened even when the weather was warm.

I spent a few months adjusting, but aside from the drive-through stuff, it wasn't a huge problem. Usually, when I'm driving, I open the front passenger window and rear driver's window for a cross current. So... No biggie.

Then, a few months back, we were doing something and Christopher just reached over and hit the window button. And it worked. No problems at all. Except that, when it went all the way down, it didn't seem to stop, so it would make a CLUNK CLUNK CLUNK sound. And the same happened when it went "too far" up. As if the mechanism pushing it was simply flapping against the window, instead of pushing it.

So I once again stopped using it.

Yes, I know that I could have fixed it at any point along in there, but I was trying to save money, and figured I could just live with it. But then it threw another curve ball. It stopped staying closed.

Now, it never actually dropped all the way down or anything. But as I was driving along, I started noticing that traffic noise would get louder. When I looked over, I noticed that the window was just ever-so-slightly open. Maybe 1/16th of an inch. Barely worth noticing. So I'd lift up on the window button, it would CLUNK, and the window would seal. For a while.

This week, though, it started to drop by about 1/4 inch. And that's a lot. Especially in damp/rainy weather. And with cold rain expected tomorrow, and the definite possibility of snow in the next month... It was time.

So I took it in today to get it worked on. Both of the major pieces that work the window were dead. One was cheap. One was... not. I'm really glad I've been saving up.

But the important thing is that, as I was leaving the grocery store to come home, they called me to say it was ready. And I went and picked up my car. The window, for one thing, is SO clean. Kind of freaky clean.

I had to try it. Before I was even out of the parking lot, I had already rolled it down once, and back up. On the way home, I was like the annoying little kid who realizes, for the first time, what that button does and spends the entire drive rolling the window up and down. I was giddy by the time I got home. Pushing the button to let it auto-open. Pulling the button up to listen to the "whoosh-schwump" as it sealed.

The windows in my car go up and down... up and down... up and down... The windows in my car go up and down... I'll be using them all over town.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Caution: Metaphorical Leap Ahead

You know how, sometimes, you need to step a little outside your comfort zone to really be comfortable?

It usually happens at about the same point when you've started to get used to what you're doing and possibly even a bit complacent. There's that point when you figure you're good at what you do, and so you don't see a reason to do anything else. And you start to feel one of two ways: bored or smug.

I'm not sure which is worse. I mean... I know that smug ought to be worse, but bored usually feels a lot worse than smug does. (I mean... that's what I've heard... I've no personal experience with them... >cough<)

Well, I think I'm going to try to step out of my comfort zone in a few weeks. No, I'm not going to go into it, here - at least not yet.

In the mental and metaphysical parallel of Christopher's pre-trip packing, I'll probably be thinking through what to take with me for the next couple of weeks before I make my jump. But I've bought my metaphorical ticket, and I might as well take the ride.

Don't worry - I'm not going anywhere that my wi-fi can't follow me. I'm not making a major life change of any kind. I haven't bought the Rogaine or Just For Men. I'm not doing anything that drastic. I promise to send "blog post-cards" as I go to fill you in.

And... although I hate when people are really vague in public forums, I'm going to leave this as it is.

Details to come... when I become just a bit more comfortable with them.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

A "Coming Out" Tiz List

As many of you probably know, yesterday (October 11th) was National Coming Out Day. It's a day to celebrate coming out of the closet and living a true and honest life.

Having come out a couple of decades ago (does that sound longer ago than "twenty-some years ago"? I'm not sure which makes me sound older...), these days I try to spend a little time on National Coming Out Day to think about the changes in my life since then, and to think about the changes in the world since then.

In light-hearted homage to that, I'm taking today's blog post as an opportunity to write up a Tiz List of things that I figure many of you don't know about me - and which may be a tad bit of a surprise. (Not sure why this is called a Tiz List? Check out this blog post, or search previous blogs under the header of "Tiz List".)

1) Yes, I'm a book guy. But I have never read most of what we're told are "the Classics." I know enough about most of them to talk my way in and out of conversations, but that's about it. I'm a really slow reader (which is, ironically, good in my line of work), and although I love the style of that incredibly in-depth and moving writing, there is simply no way I'd ever make it through Moby Dick or Les Miserables in less than a year each.

2) I'm an editor, but I would prefer to make sure that an individual author's style is maintained rather than make sure that the Chicago Manual of Style is perfectly represented. (This, obviously, is why I prefer to work on fiction and memoir and not non-fiction with all of its annoyingly anal citations.)

3) I love to bake, and I almost always use margarine. Everyone I bake for always says "oh... you can really taste the butter" or "I'm sure the secret is the butter..." but unless the recipe specifically calls for butter over margarine (or if I'm baking for someone who has a soy allergy or something of that type), I grew up with margarine and I still use it.

4) Yes, I'm gay. No, I do not think Halloween is "the Gay Christmas" (yes, I know people who call it that). I, personally, really can't stand Halloween. Sure, in the right situation, and with the right people, a costume can be fun (for instance, possibly a masquerade ball - get your minds out of the gutter), and who doesn't like a night when random people give you free candy, but I like Christmas as my Christmas, and I'd really rather skip directly past the final couple of weeks of October when everything is orange and black and covered in spiderwebs.

5) I like good, new food, but I hate trying to get into "hot, new restaurants." I don't want a "funky new concept" where they think it's "more fun" for customers to have to wait an hour because there are no reservations (I was actually told that, once). I want a restaurant where I can understand the menu, where the staff don't look like they just rolled out of bed, and where the food tastes good instead of just being "a great concept."

Okay... I'm never going to get a full list if I do them all as paragraphs. Let's go a little faster...

6) I really like Cool Whip.

7) I have no problem finding north when I'm outside (it helps if the sun is out), but I sometimes get totally confused when driving around Minneapolis.

8) Given the opportunity, I can fall asleep pretty much anywhere.

9) Succulent plants freak me out.

10) If I had a ton of money, I would totally fly first class everywhere I go, even though I'd still clip coupons and watch the rest of my budget.

11) I think too many people have too many tattoos. (Note: This does not say that I think no one should have tattoos. I just think that there should be some kind of fashion police out there monitoring who has them and saying "Dude, come on. Getting a full sleeve is not going to make people think you're an edgy, independent thinker, when you're actually a 40-year-old barista who lives in his parents' basement.")

12) I think there should be a way to turn in people for staring at their phones (or whatever) while driving.

13) I don't understand men's underwear without a functional fly.

14) In the past 6 months, I have picked up boxes of Rogaine and Just For Men for beards - but I have not bought them.

I had every intention of making this list 15 points long, but I started watching the dog breathe (see this post if you missed that reference), and got totally off my train of thought.

So... Let's let #15 belong to each of you. If you had the opportunity to come out and put some random information about yourself into the electronic ether, what would be top on your list? Drop it in the comments down below here so everyone can see it, if you feel so inclined. Or - if you're not up to that - just ponder it for a bit and see what odd little secret you've been keeping - possibly even from yourself.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

The Forbidden Foods

(I thought I had set this to post yesterday, but apparently I set it for mid-November... Oops. We'll consider this a bonus, and I'll be back to my every-other-day postings tomorrow.)

Christopher is travelling at the moment, which means that I have the house to myself. (Well, the pup and I have the house to ourselves, technically.) It's kind of weird, if I'm being honest. And it's not just because every evening the pooch sits and stares toward the kitchen door, sure that he should be coming in at any moment.

Based on past experience, I know that we both take a little while to adjust when he's not here. The first few days are the ones when you do kind of expect him to be showing up at any moment. Then there are the days when you're kind of used to it. Then, in the final few days, the countdown begins in earnest.

I'm not going to lie, though. There are also some perks. I get to watch whatever I want whenever I want. I can be as tidy or as messy as I feel like being. And - the big one - I can eat things that Christopher would never ever ever eat.

Let's face it: We all have foods that turn our stomachs. Things that taste, smell, or even just look so nasty to us that we won't touch them. I can't do any of he raw sushis, because of the texture. I like smoked sausage (the "ring bologna" kind), but really can't deal with the way the house smells after it has been cooked, so Christopher makes that when I'm not here - and uses the kitchen fan on high. And Christopher can't stomach the smell of any kind of canned meat - especially canned tuna.

Of course, the smell of canned tuna is pretty pervasive. Since it's not something that I fry up, the kitchen fan doesn't really help get rid of it. It sort of lingers for a day most of the time. So I pretty much avoid it - unless he's gone for more than a day.

Which means - you guessed it - there are currently multiple cans of tuna in the house just waiting to be used. Tuna salad sandwiches. Tuna melts. And - my all-time favorite - pasta with tuna and Swiss cheese and Dijon mustard and mayo (something I started cooking myself for dinners when I lived in France and had no money).

I won't be having these every night while he's gone. (In fact, he's been gone for 3 dinners and I haven't had them at all, yet.) But while he's gone and I have to try to fill the void in the house, I'm definitely going to be filling some of it with tuna.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

A Whole New World

As we get older, there are fewer and fewer "firsts" available to us. We all have that list in our head that we tick off as we go along - for better or worse. Some of the firsts on my list I took as just some of the things that happen in life: 

First lost tooth. 
First fender bender. 
First hangover resulting from age more than alcohol consumption. 

Yeah. They're not fun things, but they happened. Then there were the amazing things: 

First serious kiss. 
First trip to Paris. 
First Broadway show. 
First date with Christopher. 
First serious kiss, trip to Paris, and Broadway show with Christopher. 

Those things were amazing. Things I'll never forget - for all the right reasons. And, of course, there are the kind of random things that also had to have a first: 

First time in surgery. 
First missed plane. 
First really bad job interview. 

Those are the things that you deal with for that first time and hope you'll never have to deal with again. But you figure you probably will. I'm sure that, at some point, I'll have more surgery. I'll miss more planes. I'll shoot myself in the foot in more job interviews. Those are the firsts (and seconds, and thirds, and...) that make life interesting. 

Today's first... Well... I'm not really sure where it's going to fall. It certainly wasn't as good as that middle group. It wasn't necessarily as bad as the last group. Perhaps it should go into the first group, since it's something that is bound to happen again, and I suspect I'll be more prepared for it in future. 

Today, you see, I was asked to verify whether or not I was eligible for a discount. Not because I'm from South Dakota. Not because I knew the answer to a trivia question. But because the very sweet (really - incredibly sweet), very young (maybe 16 years old?) girl behind the counter wasn't sure if I was in the "55 or older" category. 

I'm pleased to say that I did not freak out. I didn't sputter or steam. I simply said "No. Not yet. But thanks for asking." 

I also did not purchase my first package of Just for Men for my beard. 


Monday, October 6, 2014

Book to the Future - (SD Book Fest, post 3)

If we learned anything from Marty McFly, it's that sometimes it takes going back in time to learn about the present and future.

And, while the South Dakota Book Festival didn't literally send me back in time, I did kind of do a little time travelling when I was there.

We've already talked about what it was like to run into former professors, as well as authors I have known of in one way or another for years. But what we haven't talked about is what it was like for me to rediscover... well... me.

Before I left last Friday, I made up some personal business cards. I was also taking my company cards, but figured I should also market myself. My old cards had listed "Copywriter, Editor, Proofreader, Baker" on them, but I've found that I've gotten more and more away from the copywriting, so I made up a new batch that say "Writing Coach, Editor, Proofreader, Baker" because I've had so many great compliments from authors about how I do when I'm working with them along the way. And I like that coaching aspect, since there has always been a bit of teacherliness in me.

When I was at one of my first sessions, I handed the presenter one of my cards, and he asked if I was an author, and I said "no." Because, you know, I spend 8 hours a day editing and proofreading and doing all those kinds of things - not writing. So I kind of apologized and said "I'm an editor." I don't really know why it is, but for some reason that seems to end up as an apology much of the time when I'm around people who call themselves writers.

On the other hand, while I was wandering around meeting and re-meeting people, I was also handing out cookies with my business cards. After all, if you're at a conference where "writing coach" doesn't get people's attention, there's a very good chance that they'll remember "baker." And that resulted in some fun interactions. Like someone walking up to me the next day saying that she had told someone else that she'd gotten cookies and he had asked if she had really eaten a stranger's cookies. And then there was Sonia Manzano, who - when I saw her a couple of hours after I gave her the cookies - said, a bit shyly - "I ate all those cookies." (And, yes, that did great things to both my sense of "people will remember me" and "Ohh... Fanboy moment!")

Then, somehow, it dawned on me somewhere in the middle of everything, that I've been published. In three different books. And on the walls in one exhibit. All juried. No favors, even though I knew the organizer. Published. A published author. Yes, I'm an editor, but also a published author.

Okay. So... Over the course of 26 hours, I had realized that I am, in fact, an editor who bakes. A Writing Coach, Editor, Proofreader, Baker - and Author.

Remember how excited I was when I was looking at information about who was going to be at the conference? That's how I learned about the professors I could see, among others. And I found a name on the list of volunteers that kind of made me stop. It was a name from my past. Someone I knew from college was on the list. A guy I had really respected and looked up to. One of the first people I came out to when I was about 25, and just figuring out my life. And who then completely dropped off the face of the earth. So many people I've known who found out I was gay have just said "Oh. And how's your family? What have you been up to?" And yet that one person who just disappeared from my life is the one who bothers me. I had a few moments of panic - a little fight-or-flight time - after I realized he was going to be there. I reached out to some other friends for support. I figured out that it would happen one way or another. That was that. In for a penny, in for a pound.

Two hours before the end of my time at the conference, I was sitting in a hallway waiting to host my final session, and processing all the rest of it. The room I was about to walk into, he was about to walk out of. And, somehow, after 26 hours of fanboying, and passing out business cards and cookies, and meeting people, and schmoozing, and having a really good time, I realized that I was pretty much okay with it all. Okay with my job. Happy with who I am. Thrilled to have Christopher at home, and family and friends who support me no matter what.

I thought I'd go to the Book Festival and learn a little about editing. Meet some authors. Hang out with some people and talk about books. Instead, I found myself going through 28 hours of intense personal therapy. Not exactly what I thought I'd learn during two days at a Book Festival, but, then, the best books always do have a way of surprising you, don't they?

Saturday, October 4, 2014

A Sight I Didn't Relish

(I think I'm going to be writing one more post about the SD Book Festival, but this one isn't it. Check back on Monday and we'll see if it happens...)

Christopher is in the midst of travel prep for his upcoming vacation, so a while ago we blocked off this weekend to kind of zone out and relax. And, well, we've kind of kept to that, but every weekend there is a list of things to be done. So today we found ourselves at Costco. And, as we almost always do when we go to Costco, we had dinner while we were there.

If you haven't been to Costco, then I should explain that they have a small fast-food counter where you can get things like a slice of pizza (or a whole pizza), or a hot dog/soda combo for $1.50... And churros. (You can't forget the churros.)

I pretty much always get the hot dog combo, and then add ketchup, mustard, relish, and onions to it.

Well, a few visits ago they removed the onion dispenser thing. But I was still able to get the ketchup, mustard, and relish. So I was okay.

Today, the relish dispenser was empty. So I just skipped it. I usually just do ketchup and mustard at home, so I went with that combo. I mean... a buck fifty is a buck fifty. I'm not gonna worry about it.

The mother at the table next to us came walking from the counter with a small plastic cup of onions. Which I'd never thought to ask for at the counter. But I'll definitely think to do that in the future.

She also apparently told them that the relish dispenser was empty and needed filling. Because someone came out to fill it just after she sat down. At which point, I had the unfortunate "pleasure" of watching the relish get replaced.

Based in my experiences with cafeterias, I kind of assumed that the pump just sat in a big jar of condiments. And it sort of does... but not quite.

The guy who came out to swap it out reached into a cabinet and pulled out a gallon bag of relish. The pump nozzle, which was attached to about an 8-inch tube, was pulled out of the old, empty bag, and then shoved into the new bag - kind of like putting a straw into a Capri Sun.

Rationally, I know that there is no difference between a jar of relish and a bag of relish. Fiscally, I realize that the bag is probably less expensive and better for the environment. Emotionally, I'm kind of hoping that I've forgotten about seeing that by the next time I need to use the relish pump.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

To Fanboy or Not to Fanboy... (SD Book Fest, post 2)

Alright... Alright... I promised to talk about this, so here we go. Remember how I got all geeky about meeting John Barrowman when he was in St. Paul signing his books with his sister? And how I took a ton of pictures and wouldn't stop talking about it? (Here's the link to the post.)

Well... There's a lot of that kind of thing that goes on at the SD Festival of Books. Seriously. During the two mass book signing times, there are people mobbing the tables to get to some of the authors. Authors with picture books (or even young adult books) are swamped by parents and children. Authors with huge fan bases are swamped by enough fans that volunteers have to do crowd control. Pretty much every author who was there had at least one or two overly excited fans. Which - I'm not going to lie - is kind of cool to see.

I went to the Festival with two authors in mind that I wanted to meet. One is a Native American author named Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve, who went to college with my dad. We've had one of her books on our shelf for as long as I can remember, and I had Mom and Dad bring it with them the last time they came up here, so that I could take it with me and get it autographed. I was really happy to have the chance to meet her, and she was gracious and charming and pretty much exactly who I expected her to be.

I introduced myself to her on Friday afternoon, but didn't have the book with me. On Saturday, I not only was able to have her sign the book, but I also got to sit in on one of her presentations (about a book called Standing Bear of the Ponca, which she read from, making me wish that I could listen to her read pretty much anything) - and I got this picture with her:

Seriously - I've heard about her forever. It's about time I met her!
Fanboy experience #1 complete. Rated a success by all involved (or at least me). 

Before the festival, before I even signed up to be a volunteer, I saw that a woman named Sonia Manzano was going to be giving a talk on "Turning Reality into Fiction," which is something I'm interested in. I thought I'd want to go to her talk, so I flipped through the website to read up on the author. I was... well... "giddy" is probably the best word, really, when I realized that author Sonia Manzano is a multi-Emmy-award winning writer for Sesame Street, who also just happens to play the role of "Maria" on that show. (So... Yeah... I've been a fan of hers since I was about 3 or 4 years old. I just never knew her real name.)

I bought her latest book (The Revolution of Evelyn Serranoa Young Adult novel) on Friday night and read it before I met her on Saturday, so that I'd be sure to have a common knowledge base for her talk. (There were some technical issues before her talk, but she was kind of "oh, well, if there's anything you can do..." about them - which, I admit, made me feel a little like I was disappointing a favorite aunt.) Then I saw her speak - she's an incredibly funny and engaging storyteller - and, later, had her autograph my copy of her book. Oh... And I also got this picture:

An amazing storyteller - yes, I got Fanboy-ish about meeting her. 
Fanboy experience #2 complete. Rated a moderate success, due in part to technical difficulty-related discomfort.

In the middle of all of this, I was wandering around the exhibitors' hall, and was looking at all of the books the Barnes&Noble folks had for sale. I found a bunch of books by one of the authors I was going to be introducing, and was debating between them when the guy behind the counter started talking about one of them (Montana 1948). It turns out that it was one of his favorite books, and that he had just gotten his copy signed by the author earlier in the weekend. He told me that he felt he might have gotten a little overzealous when getting it signed, being a bit more Fanboy than he'd intended.

During the next book signing period - when I had gotten my copy of that book (which I bought at Barnes&Noble guy's recommendation) signed by the author, I mentioned that B&N guy had worried that he'd geeked out getting his copy signed. The author (Larry Watson), said that he hadn't noticed anyone getting too overzealous.

The next time I saw B&N guy, I told him that Larry hadn't really noticed - and I also explained my own Fanboy tendencies around the two authors I had geeked out about. I'm really hoping that Sonia and Virginia didn't really notice me Fanboying, either. Or at least that they'll be equally kind enough to deny it if they're asked.

Seriously, though, if you want to geek out around a bunch of authors, the South Dakota Festival of Books is a great place to do it. It's a fairly small event and - even so - there were 60+ authors there, all within "get an autograph and totally geek out" range.