Thursday, October 11, 2012

I've Moved!

I just moved my blog to a custom domain... Come check it out and if you like it - why not follow me?

On the Road to Idhua

Friday, October 5, 2012

Feta Nut Balls: A Hynovian Recipe

I promised I'd post the recipe for the Nut and Feta balls I made for the Hynovian Launch Party - and here it is.  One of the guests who asked me for it wanted to know if it was an easy recipe and I immediately said, "Oh, sure, it's easy."  Then I got to thinking about it and realized that my idea of easy might not be someone else's.  However, this recipe is pretty easy - it has a longish list of ingredients and several steps but none of them are difficult.  The main thing you need is a blender.  It took me about an hour to make this - including 30 min of baking time, but I was slowed down by taking pictures.  I hope you all enjoy them.  Let me know how they turn out!

(See the end of the post for a PDF of the recipe without the pictures, if you want to print it out.)


Feta Nut Balls

Makes 12 balls (or more if you make them smaller for an appetizer.)  
Serves 6-8

Ingredients:

1 c walnuts
1 c pine nuts
2 c fresh bread crumbs (grind in your blender in small batches)
1/2 c diced onion
1 c shredded raw cheddar (or jack or mild or sharp cheddar cheese would work too)
1/2 cup finely crumbled feta
1/2 cup chopped green onions
1/4 cup parsley, chopped (measure before chopping)
1/4 cup mint, chopped (measure before chopping)
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
3 eggs
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 c vegetable broth (I made mine with water and 1/2 a bullion cube)



Ingredients gathered together
 1. Make the bread crumbs (small batches in the blender) and place in a large bowl.  In the blender again, roughly chop 1/2 c of the walnuts.  Add to the bread crumbs and repeat with 1/2 c of the pine nuts.  (The pine nuts won't chop much, that's ok.) 


Nuts and bread crumbs
 2. Add to the nuts and bread crumbs: the spices and salt, the cheddar and feta cheeses, the green onions, parsley and mint and 1 Tablespoon of the diced onions.


Into the mixing bowl.
 3. Place the remaining nuts (1/2 each pine and walnuts), the remaining onions and the eggs in the blender and blend until smooth.


Blending the nuts, eggs and onion.
 4. Mix into the cheese and bread crumb mixture.


Combining everything in the mixing bowl.
 5. Preheat your broiler and oil a cookie sheet with 1 Tbsp of the olive oil.  Also oil an 8x8 casserole dish with the other 1 Tbsp of the olive oil.

6. Scoop 1/4 c portions of your nut-cheese mixture and form into balls.  Place them on the cookie sheet.

Forming the nut balls
 7. Broil the balls for about five minutes or until the tops start to brown.  Keep a close eye on them, they can start to burn fast.  While they are in the oven, heat the broth (or dissolve the bullion cube in boiling water).

Broil my pretties!
 8. Using two spoons, gently turn the browned nut balls over and broil again to brown the other side.  This will be even quicker - two to three minutes.

Turning them over.
 9. Place the broiled nut balls into the prepared casserole dish and gently pour the broth into the pan.


Pouring broth.
 10. Bake the nut balls for 30 minutes at 350 F.  They can be served hot or room temperature, and they are excellent the next day, reheated.  To reheat add a little liquid to the pan (more broth, or water is fine) cover and bake until hot... or use the microwave for a quick fix!  At the party, I served them with Greek Yogurt as a topper.  You can spice it up with some garlic like I did in the picture below.

Time to eat!
PDF file in Google Docs of the Recipe :)

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Hynovian Launch Party


The Hynovia Launch party was the perfect end of summer evening.  I’d had some trouble coming up with decorations, until I found some lovely Indian bedspreads in golds and reds and browns.  After that it was pretty easy to hang lanterns, pin up my sister’s sari fabric and transform our living room into a cozy salon full of warm late summery/early autumnal colors.  Our usual star lanterns fit right in.  One of my guests even loaned me a lovely Turkish coffee set for decoration:




We didn’t use it – well, except for our littlest guest, Ellie, who discovered that the goblets were fun to teethe on.



The menu came out wonderful – lots of bright flavors – as well as very pretty.  The Nut and Feta balls were a big hit and I have not forgotten that folks wanted the recipe.  I plan to make them again next week and post the recipe and photos up here.


In addition to the feast, we read the Hynovian short story "Azura of Carantia" and my sister did henna tattoos on those who wanted them.


Here are some more photos of the guests, the food and the decorations:







Thursday, September 13, 2012

Hynovian Recipe: Almond and Walnut Baklava with Rose Water Syrup


The Hynovian Launch Party is tomorrow – I will be posting about it in a couple weeks.  I have been cooking for the last few days and thought I would share a "Hynovian" recipe that will be served at the party.  This recipe is adapted from the Baklava recipe from Turkish Cooking, by Tess Mallos (Periplus, 2005).  If you've never used filo dough, its not as intimidating as it might seem. Remember to let it defrost all the way, and use it quickly once you unwrap it as it dries out. 

Almond and Walnut Baklava with Rose Water Syrup

Makes 35 small squares

Oven to 325° - Baking time 1 hour

Ingredients:

Assembled Ingredients
Pastry:
1 package (18 sheets) filo dough, defrosted. (I used The Fillo Factory’s organic whole wheat filo dough.)
¾ cup unsalted butter, melted
2 cups finally chopped almonds
1 cup finally chopped walnuts
½ cup sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon

Syrup:
1 ½ cups water
1 ¼ cups sugar
¾ cup honey
1 strip of lemon zest
1 cinnamon stick
4 cloves
½ tsp rose water

Preheat the oven to 325°.  Brush a little butter on the sides and bottom of a 9” x 13” baking pan.

Mix the chopped nuts, cinnamon and sugar for the filling and set near your pan.

Mixing the nuts, sugar and cinnamon.
Open out your defrosted filo dough and fold over the top sheet.  Lift into the pan and brush with butter.  Repeat with five more sheets.

Sprinkle with ⅓ of the nut and sugar mixture and cover with a folded sheet of filo.  Brush with butter and layer with two more sheets, brushing the butter between the sheets.

Filling the Baklava
Repeat with another ⅓ of the filling and three more sheets.  Cover with the last ⅓ of the nuts and finish the pastry with the remaining six sheets of filo, brushing with butter between each folded sheet.

With a sharp knife cut the uncooked baklava into 35 squares – five cuts across the length of the pan and seven across the width.  Sprinkle with a little water to keep the edges from curling up while baking.

Ready to bake
Bake on the center shelf of the oven for 30 minutes.  Then rotate your pan and move up to a higher shelf for another 30 minutes.

While the baklava is baking make the syrup.  Heat the sugar and water in a small pan until boiling, stirring occasionally.  Add the honey, lemon zest, cinnamon and cloves.  Simmer for 15 minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in the rose water.  Strain into a measuring cup or small pitcher and allow to cool.

Adding the rose water
Pour the cooled syrup evenly over the hot baklava.  

Pouring the syrup
Let stand for several hours at least before re-cutting and serving.  I garnished mine with miniature rose petals from my patio garden. Enjoy!

Ready to Party!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Slogging

I'm having one of those weeks where you just have to keep lurching forward carrying one bag too many in hopes that the bus will be two minutes late, rather than two minutes early (so that you can still make it to your next appointment), but all you really want to do is lie on a beach somewhere, or maybe have a movie marathon, or something, anything, instead of everything on your to-do list.

After next week I have a week vacation from writing - not from work sadly - but still.  At the moment I can't tell if I am having writing fatigue or just deadline fatigue (though I suspect the latter.) 

So really, this is a very boring post, but also a very real one.  Some weeks you're just slogging.  This is one of those weeks. 

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Book Review: The Gray Wolf Throne


The Gray Wolf Throne
Seven Realms: Book 3

Cinda Williams Chima
Hyperion, 2011

I enjoyed this installment of the Seven Realms series very much.  The pace was fast and exciting and the nuances of the characters continued to develop in interesting ways.  I particularly like the way that Chima is exploring the issue of Princess Raisa being pulled in all sorts of directions by both her friends and her enemies.  Chima has done a good job of showing how sometimes friends with agendas can be as challenging as enemies.

Raisa really grows into her own in this book, making decisions against the council of people around her – but not rashly.  She considers different opinions, makes her choice and stands for it, while trying to be diplomatic.  There are also some extremely satisfying moments, such as when she tells on particular suitor exactly what he can do with his arrogant and distasteful proposal.

The next volume The Crimson Crown is due out this October and I am excited to see where the story will go next.  I am hoping to get more of a sense of the wizards and their council as they are the group whom I understand the least and, perhaps, mistrust the most because of the Bayar family’s ambitions.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Launch Party Preview: Mezze


Well, I may still be trying to edit the story for the Hynovian Launch Party in September, but the menu was easy!  The setting is sort of fantasy Byzantine/Mediterranean so I have made a mezze menu drawn on Greek, Turkish and Lebanese recipes.  Here is your preview... (Subject to change – depending on ingredients and time, etc.)  I  also might have henna tattoos - so make sure your costumes has short sleeves or isn't some priceless heirloom if you are interested in one.

Menu:

Grilled Marinated Mushrooms with Tahini Sauce
Feta, Pine Nut and Walnut Balls
Kababs with Spiced Seitan, Summer Squash and Onions 
Herbed Lentil Salad 
Pita Bread
Feta-Lemon Spread
Tzatziki
Artichoke and Marinated Mozzarella Salad
Cauliflower Salad
Braised Green Beans 
Chilled Melon
Dried Poached Apricots stuffed with Cream Cheese
Almond and Rose Baklava

And to drink:
Iced Mint Tea
Iced Spiced Grape Juice
Iced Lemonade with Mint and Rose Water

Of course if it’s freezing and pouring rain I may change some of those cold drinks and dishes to hot, but I’m hoping for a warm evening.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Book Review: The Exiled Queen


The Exiled Queen
Seven Realms: Book 2

Cinda Chima Williams
Hyperion, 2010

The Exiled Queen falls into the “school” or “training” type of fantasy story.  Harry Potter was primarily in that setting - other examples include the section on Roke in A Wizard of Earthsea; Kvothe’s time in the university in The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man’s Fear; Alanna’s training in Alanna: The First Adventure; and many others.  “School” is a setting that gives the author a chance to train and develop their young protagonist, showing the reader their character, creating their friendships and rivalries and shaping their strengths and weaknesses.

One of the elements of William’s version of this tale that was different and fresh was that many of the characters entering the school were already connected to each other through friendship, enmity, or other bonds.  In many ways, it was less about them making new connections, then about how their old connections developed and changed through the course of their schooling.

Princess Raisa, disguised as Rebecca Morely, has the opportunity to broaden her education into tactics, history of warfare and cultural studies that were not available to her in the Fells – or were not permitted her.  She also has the chance to make friends with her unwitting guards, led by Amon.  He is the only one who knows who she really the Princess-Heir.  Williams is not very subtle that these experiences are going to make her a better queen and leader – or I suspect that she is going to have some very loyal guards once her troop finds out who they have been guarding.

Across the river in another school Han Alastair and his friend Fire Dancer, both under clan sponsorship, study magic.  Given Han’s propensity to get himself into scrapes his is perhaps the more exciting side of the story – particularly because his bitter enemies and rivals the Bayar twins are studying in the same year. Additionally, the instructors at the Mage school frequently have an agenda of their own, and Han finds himself being recruited from all sides.  This is somewhat amusing, as the reader is aware that Han is a player who has devoted himself to his own agenda and may slip and slide around other promises if they interfere.  Anyone who knew something of his background should be more distrustful of a sweet smile of agreement from Han.

The Exiled Queen was a fun continuation of the Seven Realm’s series.  It comprises a time for all the characters to prepare for coming events: build friendships, get training, decide on loyalties and gain power.  Again the pace is quick and the story stays interesting.  The narrative ends on a note of uncertainty, pointing the reader toward the next installment: The Grey Wolf Throne.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Boasting in the Mead Hall


As I work on refining my identity as a writer with an eye on creating a writer’s platform, I find that it can be very difficult to choose the words to describe one’s self and one’s writing.  It’s easy to say why I like other authors – this one writes lyrical prose, that one explores the nobility of the human spirit without being trite.  Some of the things I admire in other authors are themes, styles and ideas I try to incorporate into my own writing.  But it’s hard to say that is what I do; that is what my writing is.

I think a part of this is that major religions of the world (from which even then non-religious have created parts of their code of conduct,) tend to view boasting as a vice.  Sure there is a difference between boasting and self-promotion, but sometimes it’s hard to tell where the line is drawn.

So I am going to work on embracing a facet of my Anglo-Saxon heritage: the appropriate use of boasting as a positive indication of character, bravery and determination.

Besides slaying Grendel in a wrestling match – (Oh, you’ve already done that Beowulf – well, darn) – I am preparing to write a description of my writing, testing it on those who have read my work for accuracy and then... Let’s to the mead-hall and let the boasting begin.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Book Review: The Demon King


The Demon King
The Seven Realms: Book 1


Cinda Williams Chima
Hyperion, New York, 2009


Chima’s YA fantasy novel was a fun and easy read – great for the bus ride to and from work.  It is the first in the Seven Realms series and does an excellent job of establishing the world of the Queen of the Fells and her contentious relationship with the Wizards who were once invaders to the land and the highland Clans from whose line the queens originally came and who were nearly destroyed by the invading wizards.  


The Demon King follows three main characters – Princess Raisa, the heir to the throne who is just coming of age, Hunt’s Alone/Han Alister a young ex-thief and street gang member, who discovers some startling things about his lineage and, to a lesser extent, Amon, son of the Queen’s captain-of-the-guards and childhood friend of Raisa.  The story follows the parallel discoveries the three characters make about their family secrets, the truth about old myths and legends and the way that their own lives are intertwined with each other and with the ancient story of Queen Hanalea who defeated the Demon King and created the NaĆ©ming which governs the relations of the Queen, the Wizards and the Clans.  


I enjoyed the clear prose, the crisp pace and the twists and turns of the story.  One minor gripe I had with it is that the time of Hanalea was a thousand years ago from when the story takes place, but if felt much more recent.  A thousand years of human history is a long, long time and cultures change a lot, even if they remember and still practice their old ways.  But other than that I enjoyed it very much.  While the novel was definitely the first in a series – the story arch is incomplete - it is still a satisfying tale and leaves me looking forward to continuing on with the next book The Exiled Queen.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Expanding Vanovsk


This week I expanded a country.  I started working on my next country, Vanovask, and its short story.  As I began to work with the map, I realized that in my mind Vanovsk was a much larger kingdom than the little country I had marked out on my map those many years ago.  So I expanded it.  I don’t know why it tickled my fancy so much to jump in and erase borders and add islands.  I am after all creating an entire world in Idhua.  But I found it enormously liberating.  Perhaps it is because I have set myself some ambitious goals which require discipline to complete.  Sometimes I can feel hemmed in by deadlines of my own creation.  It is very nice therefore to remember the creativity inherent in the project and to suddenly decide to change the outlines.


Vanovsk is in the north-eastern most corner of Idhua.  I have been reading Russian Fairy and Folktales for inspiration, though I already have a good idea of my short story.  Years ago I had a dream in which I was a young woman who was captured by goblins to be the bride of their king.  I wrote it down, but never finished working it into a story.  Vanovsk seems the place to set it, so I have dusted it off and set about figuring out what happens down in the goblin kingdom.

Vanovsk before Expansion

Vanovsk after Expansion



Thursday, July 19, 2012

Westercon 65


While I really enjoyed Westercon, I was surprised at how small it was compared to Norwescon. I wondered if this was a result of being a moving convention in a bad economy when people are re thinking their leisure travel expenses. I chatted with someone who was involved in organizing the Writer’s Workshop and she said she heard that the organizers had achieved the numbers they were aiming for, but she didn’t know how it compared to previous years.

The result was that there were less panels and events I wanted to go to, but the ones that I did go to were very interesting.

I particularly enjoyed “Inventing Culture” and “Magic & Religion” though I would have liked to have a more intensive conversation in the second.

Perhaps the most useful part of “Inventing Culture” was the discussion on strategies to avoid an information dump on the reader when you, the author, has years of history and culture figured out.  Additionally, one of the panelists, S. A. Bolich, said “History is full of secrets.” This is a huge idea to unpack and mine for plots and twists, etc.  It’s one of those things that I used without thinking about it, but having it said makes me conscious of the opportunity it presents.

In “Magic and Religion” there was a long discussion about the definitions of magic and religion in a fantasy context.  It was interesting because it was easy to see who on the panel was religious or comfortable with religion or other people being religious, and who was very uncomfortable with religion and, I suspect, despite their politically-correct open-mindedness, didn’t understand what it means to be religious other than acting in ways that seem arbitrary to the non-religious. 

One of the panelists, Gregory Wilson, sort of addressed this when he said “Religion is the underpinning of culture.  Even anti-religion is religion.”  I agree with what he’s getting at: the narrow viewpoint and absolute adherence to a doctrine is just as possible and visible in a scientific or atheist mind set as it is in a religious, and though the content is different, the way both groups of people approach outsiders and the wider world can be remarkably similar.

The panelists left the audience with the advice to be open minded, respectful and listen to other people’s experience.  Always good advice.

The most useful part of the event was participating in the Fairwood Writers Critique group.  I got a lot of good feedback on "The Silvered Sword" and am diving into a rewrite.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Orin Launch Party


I have been having a lovely summer vacation – beginning with the Ornish Launch Party and ending with a weekend at Westercon65.  I’ll talk about the convention next week, as this post is to be dedicated to the Launch Party.


It was a lovely evening.  I really enjoyed the new format of having a series of entertainments including the reading of “The Summer Valley.”


It was a long feast, as each course was a drawn out affair with one of the poems or musical numbers included.  I was particularly pleased with the Leek, Mushroom and Cream Cheese Crapes and the Meyer Lemon Creampuffs.


I spent a lot of time on the decorations for this party, creating banners and flags.  We got a huge number of flowers from the Farmer’s market (where I got most of the produce too!) and also picked them from my P-Patch garden.


Here are few pictures of the evening: decorations, food preparation and the guests in their regalia.












Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Night Circus and the 2012 Mythopoeic Awards

One of finalests for the 2012 Mythopoeic Awards is The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern (Doubleday, 2011).  If you have not had a chance to read this unusual and fascinating book,  I highly recommend it.  While I enjoyed the plot very much - Morgenstern juggles crisscrossing the plot through time, with a deft touch - the elements that particularly linger are the sensory details.  Descriptions of the fanciful circus displays are very vivid and left me feeling like I had personally been to the strange black and white tents of the Night Circus. 


In addition, it is being adapted for film - which I can only imagine has the potential to be an absolutely beautiful film if done right.  Put it on your summer reading list today!