Sunday, October 31, 2010


As I begin writing this post there are 2 hours 48 minutes before NaNoWriMo begins. I have absolutely no idea what it's going to be like, but I have many hopes. I hope I finish the novel in 50,000 words. I hope I write 1667 words a day. Well, I hope it averages out at that, because I have this rather complicated plan of blitzing on the write-ins and and the public holidays. I hope it isn't a big steaming pile of poop. Again, that hope comes with conditions. The fact that there will be no editing means there will be spelling mistakes, unfinished sentences and probably some very poor punctuation, but despite that I hope it isn't a big steaming pile of poop. I hope the characters come to life.

During October I have written little pieces that involve all the main characters. I have really got to know my locations, and frankly I have planned this novel in a way that I have never planned before. Tomorrow is not going to be one of those days where I sit down to write and wonder where the story will take me. No, it's been in my head for ages. In fact this story is so well planned that I'm already starting to think about something else! Yeah, I know, walk before you can run.

If, and I say a big IF, I get through November, my next big task will be getting through the first edit to sort all the mess out. I have this vague plan for February. I might even let you into it, if...

2 hours 38 to go now. Wish me luck.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The late Sunday Roast: It's all in the sauce

The Sunday roast is a little late this week as I'm not actually at home. In fact I'm not even cooking. My Mum is. I'm sorry to be boasting, but my Mum is actually a very good cook, which probably explains why I love food. I think in a bizarre and twisted way it also explains why every now and again I crave junk food, but never mind that.

Anyway, Mum's cooking was always very international, what with Mauritius being the island where all the nationalities came together (and not just to make a mean curry). Mauritian food is a mixture of traditional African , Indian, Chinese and French food, mix that all together and you get Mauritian creole food (note that the British who did eventually take over the island and ruled it until 1968 didn't have much influence on the cuisine).

One of my favourite dishes as a kid was mein (pronounced min). Now strictly speaking it's pretty much a stir fry, but my Mum's is always so much better than my stir fry. So here for the first time (on my blog) the secret of the super stir fry mein is going to be shared. Mum says the secret is in the preparation, but I know from communing with me and my wok, that it's actually in the sauce.


Any vegetables you like, chop them thin and diagonally if possible
any meat/fish/chicken/seafood sliced in thin and diagonal slices too (obviously prawns are exempt from this)
so basically you put in whatever you want, right.
fresh coriander
1 or 2 cloves of garlic
a dash of salt
2 tsp of (meat use) soya sauce/
(everything else) light soya sauce
2 tbsp vegetable stock
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tbsp seasame oil
2 tbsp red wine/port (alcohol - see, oh no maybe you don't yet, but you will)
medium or fine egg noodles

3/4 spring onions thinly chopped (keep a handful some aside)
1 lemon juice
1 big clove of garlic crushed
2 tbsp of olive oil
a little bit of water to loosen the sauce
1 green chilli

  1. Prepare the veg and mix with coriander, garlic and a dash of soya sauce
  2. Heat half the oil in the wok until very hot.
  3. (Fry meat or chicken until cooked).
  4. Put the veg that takes the longest to cook in first, when that starts to soften add the rest.
  5. If the wok begins to dry add the stock as necessary, a little at a time.
  6. (Add fish or seafood now).
  7. When everything is cooked remove from the wok and set aside.
  8. Without washing the wok add some boiling water and cook the noodles according to packet instructions, stirring all the time.
  9. When the noodles are cooked add some cold water and drain.
  10. Add the rest of the oil to the wok until very hot.
  11. Gradually add the noodles, veg and meat/chicken/seafood in equal portions. At the same time add the wine and soya sauce to prevent sticking. Keep stirring (don't stop).
  12. This is a completely optional thing that we're just hearing about NOW! Make a plain omelette and slice it thinly in diagonals and sprinkle on top of the mein.
  13. Sprinkle with the set aside spring onions.
  14. Make the sauce.
Eat while it's still hot and I hope you enjoy.

By the way, my mother does not follow recipes. She invents stuff that tastes good, and boy is it difficult to write a recipe following her instructions! She also thinks that the main ingredient is good 'ole TLC.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Writing on Wednesday: Something's gotta give

Chances are some heavenly star spangled night
We'll find out as sure as we live
Something's gotta give, something's gotta give,
Something's gotta give.
Ella Fitzgerald - Something's gotta give
On Saturday night as I was preparing to go to bed after the day's NaNo preparation, I realised that November is not going to work unless something goes. I know that I am able to intermittently give up Facebook and all its annoying distractions. I did so in the summer of 2009 when I so beat the Frog at being able to live without internet access. I was not so successful last year, as I then had a smart phone (= Facebook access). Anyway, my point is that FB can go (ish). So the next thing that probably needs to go is this blog! This I baulked at a little because I've only just got back into the damn thing. To be abandoning it so soon, seems... wrong.

But my mind flashed back to a post on An Awfully Big Blog Adventure, where I had first heard the term scheduled posts. In fact, I have to admit that after reading and investigating the term, the Monday photo feature is a scheduled post. So on Sunday I sat down and wrote four Sunday Roast posts. Then I drafted five Writing on Wednesday posts so that I can keep you guys updated during November. So, although I will be pretty much abandoning the blog during November, it will go on without me. Ain't technology great?

Meanwhile, I have found a location for the November write-ins, which will take place on Sunday's throughout November. And I'm now the official co-ordinator (hee hee). OK at the moment I'm co-ordinating two other people, but it might be more!

Preparation for the WIP is continuing nicely. I have written two back stories: Leo's, and today Sam's. I've had a tour round The Timaeus (and also reminded myself why I called the boat Timaeus in the first place). I've outlined a little bit more, and have unfortunately discovered a great big gaping hole in the end. I'm not sure what I will do with my antagonist. I like the tension that not knowing what to do with him creates with the characters, but the problem is that I really don't know what to do with him. I don't want to kill him, yet he needs to be removed as a threat in order to reach a satisfactory end. Maybe he will have to die, but just not at the hand of any of my little intrepid team. Ugh, I don't know, but I think that it would be a really good idea to know before 1st November otherwise it's going to cause a problem keeping up with the NaNo pace.

Finally, in my NaNo preparation, the 1st November and 11th November are national holidays, plus the  weekends are going to have to be intense writing days. That way during the week I can write every day, but less than the stipulated 1667. After all the day job does pay the rent, so I cannot give up on that.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Sunday Roast: Cheating

When I lived in the north of Paris, there was this excellent Thai restaurant right down the road. I didn't go there too often. Not since the time the Frog and I went there for a little romantic tête a tête. At the end of the meal we asked for the bill and the Frog made some innocent comment about how they were doing a good trade and the next thing we knew the waitress had sunk into an empty seat at the opposite table, her head in her hands and she was bemoaning that fact. "What's the point of making all this money?" she asked. "When all we do is work, work, work." The Frog and I exchanged uncomfortable glances and after that we always got take out.

We also moved south, where a new Japanese opens every month, but there is a dearth of Thai restaurants. So, when I and some fellow mums had the chance to take a Thai cooking course I jumped at the chance. There was only one problem, or four. Babies and cooking courses do not mix. We made Thai green curry paste from scratch. Don't ask me how, I can't remember. We also made Pad Thai and I can vaguely remember what went into it, but I cannot recall if I had any part in making it. At one point all four babies were screaming at the same time and we were simultaneously trying to shove them into baby carriers and fold napkins (don't ask). Anyway, the point is that I still have no knowledge of Thai cooking, but the course was fun and if you don't take your three month old along I'm sure you'd learn something.

Which still left me with the problem of loving Thai food and having no restaurant or take out place close enough. And that's right, you got it, enter stage left BBC Good Food. Now as you may know by now I worship this site, but their Thai dishes, or at least the dishes that take less than 30 minutes to cook, all use curry paste. And I think that paste is cheating. So is curry sauce. My mum always made curries from a mixture of spices. Hell, I used to make curry by mixing my spices. But back then I wasn't so hungry and had longer than 30 minutes to cook a meal, so now I use paste and sauces. But, there is a but. When you cheat you lose out. Curries (be it Thai or Indian) need time. They always taste better the next day because the food has steeped in the spices. And Thai curry paste (unlike its Indian cousins) on its own is not enough. There needs to be a little something else. So although I cook the Easy Thai Prawn curry frequently, the Prawn Massaman Curry is far superior.

copyright, BBC Good Food
And one of these days I may have a crack at the Pad Thai again.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Writing on Wednesday: There has been some progress

 Eleven days ago I reported on the worrying lack of progress on my latest WIP. To remind you this was the progress eleven days ago:

So, number of words written on WIP - 0. Number of ideas jotted down - a few.
With this pitiful lack of progress noted I decided to sign up for NaNoWriMo. I may have mentioned that once or twice as well as saying that I am using this site to prepare. So eleven days later I can joyfully report this:
  • WIP word count - 0, but that's OK because those are the Nano rules. 
  • One outline done - Green post its are pinned onto pin board (they're not real post its so they are not really sticky).
  • Rough plans for some tricky bits of the plot done.
  • I've done a drawing/plan for three key locations
  • I feel like I have been taken on a very thorough tour of Ella's house. The only thing I don't know is how much the rent is and how much they pay in bills!
  • My antagonist now has a name as opposed to initials EOM. He also has a back story, I know what motivates him and he's not completely evil.
  • The ending which was holier than a colander, is now more like Swiss cheese.
  • I met and got to know Ella a bit more. 
  • I wrote the back story that drives all the action to the WIP
  • I have now also met Leo and know his favourite things, things he hates and a few other things. But I now realise after a bit of research at the crèche fish tank that he needs to have black eyes.
  • I seem to have unofficially taken on the role of Nano coordinator for the French and more specifically Parisian part of the SCBWI chapter! Oh bugger, now I need to find locations for four write-ins!
So, with that I will sign off and will report on more progress soon.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Sunday Roast: more than one way to roast a fish

I have recently discovered that fish eating vegetarians are called pescatarians. No, not Presbyterian, pescatarian. I'm not sure I like the label. Obviously I haven't been entirely comfortable with the label vegetarian for the last 14 or so years, not since I started ploughing through the underwater population and then some. I discovered sea fish, fresh water fish, prawns of all sizes, octopus, squid and things that come in shells.

When I go to eat at people's houses for the first time, I've had to explain that I'm a sort of vegetarian, but I eat fish. I'm also a person who is absolutely crap at small talk, so the 'almost vegetarian' thing has always been a bit of an opener to me. First I spout off about how I was vegetarian, and that I thought I could change the world by doing so. Then I went to live in Mexico and saw that ... See and then that leads to talking about travelling and so on. But now there's the term 'pescatarian' and my grand conversation starter is gone. When people ask me if there is anything I don't eat, I'll just reply: 'I'm pescatarian'. And they'll reply: 'Oh, OK.' and that will be then end of it.

I suppose I could talk about my discovery of white fish. Up until recently I ate only tuna, salmon or rainbow trout. I believed there was only one way to eat white fish, and that was wrapped in batter* from your local Fish & Chip shop with a heap load of vinegary chips next to it. Apparently this is not so. Originally, I tried to make my own breaded or battered fish to keep up with appearances and that was an unmitigated soggy disaster. Then I discovered BBC Good Food. Like a knight in shining armour it rode onto my web browser and introduced me to 'Tomato & Thyme Cod'. It is so simple that you wonder if there should be more ingredients, but it's so tasty that whenever I don't know what to cook, it just jumps out. It's not my own recipe, I haven't adapted it in anyway. And I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.
copyright, BBC Good Food website
*As soon as I dig up a good batter recipe I will be trying to do this in my new Actifry. Expect a review soon, very soon.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Some books I've been reading

At the beginning of this academic year, my boss started a meeting by laying books out all over the room. I was intrigued straight away and offered my opinion on this and that book to my colleagues. I spied a great big thick one and scuttled over to a friend asking her if that was? It was wasn't it.

The next surprise came when the boss said that each one of us was being given a book. She had chosen them carefully and she hoped we would like our gifts. And boy was I pleased when I realised that The Invention of Hugo Cabret was for me. I clutched it to my chest, stroked its cover. I flicked through it on the way home. I wondered when I would finish The Children's Book by A.S. Byatt. For weeks Hugo sat staring at me from his spot on the bookshelf, while I ate lunch or sat at the table.

And finally a few weeks ago, I started reading. Brian Selznick has created something a little different in The Invention of Hugo Cabret. The book starts with a close up of the moon, and then pans away to reveal Paris, a station and eventually our central character Hugo. Through carefully drawn illustrations we are taken on a journey through Hugo's world and introduced to some characters, then the story begins. There is plenty of intrigue, chases, secrets and suspense, but I kept waiting for Hugo to appear on the page.

He is there, the book is all about him, but something kept nagging at me as I ploughed on through the book. Something was missing. First of all I thought that perhaps the pictures interrupted the flow of the narrative, but I knew that couldn't quite be it. I've been a fan of graphic novels for many years and having pictures instead of words never bothered me, sometimes the artists did, but Selznick's artwork cannot be faulted.

As Part I finished it began to get a bit clearer and by the almost final scenes I knew what it was. Hugo was never really invented. He never came alive for me on the page. The book contained all the ingredients that I love in books, except one; a character who I cared about.

The Children's Book, which incidentally is not really a children's book, is full of characters you care about. There is a line near the beginning where Tom ponders on whether he will like another character Julian, and you the reader end up feeling the same way. Byatt draws us into the lives of all these characters, so that by the end I was almost angry with her for finishing her book the way she did. I wandered around a bit shell-shocked and then just shocked at what she had achieved.

Both books were written by people who had become passionate about their subejct. Selznick's love of cinema is echoed in the way he has framed the text and his use of illustration, but by the end of the book, it's more about the subject he loves than the characters. Byatt has pages of coldly written matter of fact passages that place the reader in history, but when she writes about pottery and the making of pots it is through her characters eyes, their senses, their longing, so that you the reader can almost feel the pot being shaped beneath your fingers that hold the book. 

I'm now reading Her Fearful Symmetry and one line made me laugh out loud last night. Before I closed the book I thought about writing a line like that and I realised I had. I'd written a story full of one liners with no story, but I'll get back to it one day because it keeps coming back. Then I thought of crafting a book the way Byatt had and decided that perhaps I should concentrate on draft two of  a book first. Then I thought about characters, and now I know I really should be getting on with today's homework from in preparation for NaNoWriMo!

Images from the internet

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Writing on Wednesday: Is Facebook a complete waste of time?

I know that Debi has recently posted on a very similar subject, but trust me we're coming from different directions here.

I signed up for Facebook a couple of years ago, pestered into it by some fellow bloggers. Originally I spent much time being turned into a vampire or werewolf and having sheep thrown at me. After a couple of months of that, I shuffled back to the blogosphere and left FB alone, convinced that it was a complete waste of time.

The next time I logged on to FB it was with the very different intention of boring my scattered family to death with countless cute photos of my daughter. I feel I've actually got better acquainted with some of my more far away family. I've got a better idea what phone-phobic big bro is up to and I look at all cute baby pics (and some fluffy dogs too).

Now that the fog has cleared a bit and I have a few minutes to myself again, I've noticed some other useful things on FB. The SCBWI page has videos and links from the summer conference that I must check out. The SCBWI page also reminded me that it was NaNoWriMo, so I signed up for it. Please feel free to 'buddy' me if you are doing it, I need all the support I can get. Then Writing.Com, which does regular prompts, has an October calendar of regular prompts to get you ready for NaNoWriMo.
Today's homework

So, while I do spend an awful lot of time on FB playing Scrabble and Treasure Madness, there are some useful aspects to it. I'm looking forward to the day that I can use FB as a promotional tool, but let's get through NaNoWriMo first.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

The Sunday Roast: Magic Mushrooms

In the past the thing that I liked about the onset of autumn was that a new series of ER would start, there would be mushrooms in the shops and pumpkins. Well, ER is gone for good and the two vegetables the frog really can't stand are mushrooms and pumpkin. The pumpkin soup is not such a big deal since Covent Garden Soups started appearing in the local Monoprix. They provide lovely winter warmth and far more variety than the 3 litres of pumpkin soup I would churn out. The mushrooms; however, are a bit of a problem. I love them. There are so many varieties, they have such cool names: horn of plenty, pied de mouton, chanterelle, shitake. And they taste so damn nice. The weekend before my daughter was born I was hosting a dinner party for six. Mushroom stroganoff was the main, with a separate chicken dish for the frog. And the reason that I was thinking of mushrooms today was because I still had two thirds of a punnet in the fridge. A friend had come round for mushroom curry during the week, but I won't share that recipe, because it wasn't the recipe. I think I have a much better korma recipe somewhere that I will share when I find it.

So yep, there I was with some spare mushrooms that really needed eating and what could I do? When I remembered my other staple pasta dish, I got so excited about eating it that I forgot to make something else for the frog!

Creamy Mushroom Pasta

1 onion
1 garlic clove
button mushrooms (as many or as little as you want), chopped
3 tbs (or more) creme fraiche/sour cream
1/2 tsp paprika
a knob of butter
  1. Cook the pasta.
  2. Melt the butter in a pan.
  3. Cook the onion and garlic till soft.
  4. Add mushrooms and cook for a few minutes.
  5. Add 2 tablespoons of cream, the paprika and pepper, stir and simmer for a few minutes.
  6. When the mushrooms are soft and just before serving add the rest of the cream.

Picture from the Internet

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Progress Report

Since starting to post again on this dormant blog, the idea was to write something. So, number of words written on WIP - 0. Number of ideas jotted down - a few. Number of posts written on blog - O. Number of recipes or something to do with cooking 3, 3 posts about OTHER writers, and a number of photos. Mmm...

But it has been a kind of crazy fortnight. In the last fortnight I have had to work late (once, but hey I'm used to leaving work at 4.15), went to see my GP, had SOS medecin round and went to the vet in the same day. At one point I felt like I was never going to be able to rescue the cat from the vets, but he did finally come home with his head stapled together.

Hoping for a calmish weekend, we unenthusiastically decided to go to the Salon d'Immobilier followed by visiting an apartment. This resulted in us putting an offer on the flat, rushing to the bank, rushing home, rushing here, there and everywhere.

Next came the cold and the frog travelling away four nights of the week. Taking the cat back to the vet. Having dinner with a long lost friend, found again in the supermarket. I then lost my phone, someone found it, I deleted the message!

So, as a result of all this I have decided to sign up for NaNoWriMo. You'll see a new widget just below my info. Sooo, any info on luxury yachts, Cornish fishing villages, what marine biologists actually do and would an off shore oil company actually use a marine biologist would be gratefully accepted. For the moment I'm going to go just have a wee chat with the characters while I cook lunch.


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