juushika: Photograph of the torso and legs of a female-bodied figure with a teddy bear. (Bear)
I woke to rain outside, and kept hearing it, on and off, through the day; hearing it because I've been able to keep a window open and the fan off for a few days now. The window here is behind a substantial bush, so the light is gentle in the mornings (the birdsong, on the other hand, not so much). Yesterday morning, I sat under that open window and peeled and cut apples while watching Supernatural. (Every year about this time I catch up on Supernatural; every year it's still awful, but the kernel of the show it could be, the 11.4 "Baby" show, the AU werewolf!Claire show, the show of ambiguous landscapes of denuded, earthen British Columbia forests pretending to be the Midwest, the show of flannel and bunkers and overnight drives, always leave me wistful.)

The apples came from the back yard, half-feral apple trees that produce tart, hard, dry green apples with just a few bugs. When I taught Teja how to make applesauce, I told him "peel, chop, boil over medium heat"—it's impossible to screw up. This year made me wonder if I was wrong; the first batch was prone to scalding and awfully tart, and required a cup of water (I'm used to ladling off excess fluid instead) and half a cup of brown sugar (there are greater sins). And it wasn't ruined, it turned out fantastic. Homemade applesauce always is.

Anyway, I moved last month. Moving is objectively always awful, but this went fine, even if it left me wishing I owned zero physical objects—despite that it was making a place for objects (specifically, an overhead shelf with nothing but blankets and plush and treasured figurine) which made me feel settled in.

August and Gillian are settling in too, decently well. The stress of the move, and the smaller space and relative isolation, has made them much more companionable. They've lived together for five years, with tolerance but no intimacy. Now, they're touching all the time! They share a blanket! This morning, August licked Gillian's face three small, sweet times. I'm not getting invested in the future of this intimacy, but feel blessed to witness the little signs of it.

I've been taking a few shitty snapshots of the cats, and you can find them over on my Tumblr; here are some cat-touching highlights:

Their peace and comfort, and also mine, has been interrupted by a fairly severe flea infestation—with which we are dealing, but which may be an ongoing/reoccuring battle for reasons outside my control, and I'm mad about that. They're just so uncomfortable, and only have the energy to groom and eat and then nap; not eager to play, too sore for most cuddles. Hopefully things will improve as the medication does its thing.

Autumn is the season of my heart, and the weather report says the rain is not just today, it is the next five days, and by then it's late September; 70 degree days after that will just be sunny days in autumn—the season is here. Most people don't get such a clear cut-off date! But ours was September 17, and rain, and rain, and rain.
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (I should have been born a cat)
Missy and Devon and I have spent the last few days reading ballots to one another and being stressed by politics, because alongside the terror that is the presidential race it feels like both Oregon and California are a mess—Oregon in particular is saturated with measures with good intentions and poor execution and candidates that have good credentials but circumspect conservative leanings. But we are all three of us now done voting, after much angst and exhaustion; today Dee and I took Odi walking in the rain, and I dropped my ballot at the library and then had celebratory coffee, and all was good.

There were two candidate votes I ultimately skipped and should't've, but only two; I figure that makes me about 80% Contributing Citizen, which is approximately 79.5% higher than my usual; and voting with a panic disorder is hard, and I am grateful that Oregon's voting process is so accessible, and that I don't live in a state with polling stations; and I am so glad to be done.

I love the height of autumn, as a riot of color and crisp new-season apples and the onset of sweater weather, but this may actually be my favorite time of year, sodden leaf-litter and nearly-bare trees, the rain constant but not yet punishing, Odi's fur clumping into wet feathers along the top of his head.

(And the only talk of Christmas that I've heard on social media so far has actually been reminders that the expectation that everyone celebrates Christmas/that Christmas is a universal two-month event is a form of prejudice—and I am grateful for that, and surprised.)
juushika: Photograph of the torso and legs of a female-bodied figure with a teddy bear. (Bear)
I had a dream last night that I made a deal with a witch so that she would spare my family, the price for which was unrelenting pain in my lower back, like the witch's thumbs digging into the muscles at the base of my spine, a localized, piercing, unremitting pain. (Last night was also the onset of my period; cramping means the first 24 hours of my period is reliably my worst back pain of the month.)

1) This is beautiful imagery; it's not actually how my pain presents but my internal mythology still wants to internalize it as a metaphor for my back pain, to live alongside the black dog as a metaphor for my crazy. 2) But if that's the case, what bargain did I make and why have I not got shit from it? 3) I suppose this is the thing about chronic conditions: to assign them meaning seems to give them purpose or justification, but the valid truth is that they have none—and pointlessness is a big part of the experience. 4) Apparently Hexenschuss (literally: witch shot) is a German word for lower back pain.

I had a quiet Halloween: I took Odi for a walk while listening to Tanis, and on the way home we passed a lovingly-decorated yard, including a cluster of human-tall handmade carnivorous plants; someone was out finishing the decorations and I was able to compliment them on it. We only had four groups of trick or treaters, and Dee answered the door. One day I'd like to be energetic enough for Halloween as an event, I suppose, but I've grown content with Halloween as a season, September through the start of December, and then the long dead spread of winter after that.

My only regret, then, will be watching social media make an immediate left turn to Christmas Town. I think stretching out festivals of light (especially in modern times) deadens their effect, and would much rather embrace the dark seasons so that they have something to contrast. There's still so many haunted stories for this time of year! Sleepy Hollow's bare branches and leaf litter is best in November; there's so many books about the punishing, barren wilderness of winter (the second of Cherryh's Finisterre books is waiting on my shelf for then).
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (I should have been born a cat)

I just got back from a week visiting Devon in Corvallis, and the return journey was lovely. Mist over the fields and river out the train window; dense fog as we reached Portland, with the city and its bridges shadows in the gray. The 6am train trips in autumn are consistently my favorite of all things: the clear dark cold at the train station, the slow sunrises, the mist and the changing leaves.

August was ridiculously clingy when I was preparing to leave (she even followed me and my luggage downstairs to hang out by the door and look concerned) and she's been inseparable since I got back, because she loves me and also because it's autumn and she wants to sit on me and be warm. I held her on my tummy and sang Can't Take My Eyes Off You to her, my wonder keeping the stars apart.

It was a fantastic trip, and I appreciate the reminder that I have those—and that last month's misery visit was a birthday-related anomaly rather than a trend. I timed my visit for the Fall Festival; I accidentally slept through most of Saturday, but we stopped by on Sunday. It was too sunny and I am pale and pathetic, so we made but a brief circuit. My favorite of what I saw was Fantasy Figurative Art dolls by MARCA—I like my art dolls creepy/cute rather than Froud-esque, but there were blue goblin children and humaniod bird monsters and of that I approve. We also went to the library's book sale, and by the time we got there they had entered the $5/bag "please, take them away" final phase; slim pickings but a joy to comb through, in no small part because it was indoors this time. I picked up paperback copies of books I own in hardback (hardback is a pain to read, and I'm a big rereader), some new-to-me books by authors I'm familiar with, and a few random picks—because at a flat rate, mistakes are free.

The Cherryh I picked up on another night out. After dinner and dark, we got Starbucks and walked across to the Book Bin—bless their late hours. The checkers were looking at pictures of baby goats, there were no other customers, and because I'd already made a book run I wasn't working off my to-buy list: the laid-back book browsing I've always wanted. Having credit there allows me to make impulse purchases without stress.

One final highlight: a moment when Devon and I both walked down the hallway and Gigi the puppy, the best baby dog with the most love, came in from the kitchen, saw us both, and barreled past Devon to get to me because Dev is everyday and known and boring where I am Important Dog Auntie, and also the only one that will hold her paws.

I didn't see my family and other than the Fall Festival had no to-do list, which I think contributed to the successful visit; it was the private, quiet time that we needed.
juushika: Photograph of the torso and legs of a female-bodied figure with a teddy bear. (Bear)
A few days ago I put something moderately fragile down on a semi-unstable surface for 2.5 minutes, said to myself, "self, be careful not to let this drop!" and then promptly dropped it and injured the fragile thing, about which I care a lot in a stunning display of this is your spacial reasoning with dyscalculia/this is your memory with brainfog/these are your fine motor skills with anemia and anxiety disorders. I'm pretty clumsy, but this was particularly timed: breaking (not beyond repair, but it's the principle of the thing) a discretionary purchase and treasured object, while anxious about another potential discretionary purchase—a sort of universal sign that probably can I not only afford to buy things, I don't deserve to have them. It sent me into a massive anxiety spiral; three days later, I'm still recovering.

I'm absolutely aware that was a ridiculous overreaction. I'm not surprised that it happened, either, because my financial anxieties have easy triggers and I drop things so often that this particular sequence of events was inevitable. But I don't appreciate the obnoxiously obvious parallel: the things I love are fragile, my mental health is fragile, and I'm fragile, one tiny accident (that someone neurotypical could brush off) away from a meltdown.

That's it, the whole thing; no counter-lesson and only time and patience and Devon being exhaustively over-conscientious have helped; nor am I recording for any particular purpose (to record every time Dumb Thing Happened and I had a breakdown as result would be both exhausting and embarrassing) except that the moral of the story, however obvious it is, was so spot-on that it's been stuck in my head as some sort of life lesson. Perhaps writing it down will make it known and done, and I can be free of it.

Mid-80s warm weather yesterday, and Dee and I went out to dinner and coffee (and then I such headache, very sun, I was probably too strung out for it but I can't turn down Thai and Starbucks); it should be, loosely, the last warm day of the year. Gray and steady rain, today; red leaves on the horizon out my left hand window. I'm transitioning into my autumn media, especially visual media; I'm prepping my winter to read list. Dee made pumpkin muffins which were a little dry for me, but I found that soaked if a 2:1 water:maple syrup for a few minutes and then microwaved in a ramekin for 30secs they become individual dense pumpkin bread puddings, best if topped with cream cheese. There are small blessings.
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (Default)
Provided in bulk to cut down on spam. I am so behind in book reviews, as in all things. I've been quiet and I had some things going on around my birthday, and as soon as I was ready to write again I was hit by a few (ongoing, but today I'm stubborn, fed up, and working to spite it) days of unremitting back pain that medication just will not touch. But I've been reading a lot, and have more to read, and have been writing my notes in a fresh, new, larger Moleskine—5x8 inch; my last two were 3x5 inch, and there are benefits to both, but this larger size is so much easier to structure and to hold, and I'd forgotten how much I like it; summer is most definitely winding to a close, and I know because it rained today and Dee and I took Odi walking in it; I want to at least pretend to turn all that into some sort of record before the month is up. Ergo:

Title: The Geek Feminist Revolution
Author: Kameron Hurley
Published: New York: Tor, 2016
Rating: 3 of 5
Page Count: 385
Total Page Count: 200,115
Text Number: 590
Read Because: personal enjoyment, ebook borrowed from the Multnomah County Library
Review: A collection of short essays, most harvested from blog posts, about intersectional feminism within literature, media, and other geek spheres. This intersectionality is intentional, valuable, and imperfect—I wish it stretched to include mental illness, which is instead equated to bigotry in problematic ways. But on the whole, this is a step above white feminism or feminism 101, although it fails to say anything truly revolutionary. I'm not sold on the tone: anger is a valid and valuable tool, but the swearing combined with the repetitive style and content smacks of what it is: blog posts, edited but still informal and unrefined. I appreciate the intent of this collection, but as a published work I don't think it's particularly successful.

Title: Sword of Destiny (The Witcher Book 2)
Author: Andrzej Sapkowski
Translator: David French
Published: London: Orbit, 2015 (1992)
Rating: 3 of 5
Page Count: 380
Total Page Count: 200,495
Text Number: 591
Read Because: continuing the series, ebook borrowed from the Multnomah County Library
Review: Six short stories, largely chronicling the dissolution of Geralt's relationship with Yennefer and his first interactions with Ciri. This collection is less enjoyable than The Last Wish, mostly because it has a slow start—"The Bounds of Reason" and "Eternal Flame" ("petty politics instead of dragons" and "a comedy of financial errors," respectively) in particular run overlong. It's also, arguably, braver, offering more in the way of overarching plot, reoccurring characters, and a dense emotional register. But that last is a strange: the gritty, crude worldbuilding grates against the persistent coyness of Geralt's emotions and even his actions. His character could be profound—but the production of profundity grows tiresome.

And the sexism, in the worldbuilding and the narrative, of course persists; that Yennefer's infertility is her sole motivation is predictable and simplistic. Again, in contrast, the female character themselves are complicated and strong, especially willful child Ciri—she's lovely in the title story, which also offers complex, solid worldbuilding and an evocative atmosphere.

I will continue these, and look forward to starting the novels proper. But I can't recommend this collection and, oh, does this series have problems.

Title: Cold Fire (The Circle Opens Book 3)
Author: Tamora Pierce
Published: New York: Scolastic, 2011 (2002)
Rating: 3 of 5
Page Count: 350
Total Page Count: 200,845
Text Number: 592
Read Because: continuing the series, ebook borrowed from the Multnomah County Library
Review: Daja and Frostpine are working in the snowy city of Kugisko when a rash of devastating fires breaks out. The structure of this quartet remains formulaic, but this installment is surprisingly good. The setting, fire against snow in a well-defined woodworked city, is evocative; the plot is simplistic but the characters are not—gracelessly in the antagonist's case, but the supporting cast is strong. The nostalgia is toned down and the themes of maturation are less clear-cut, which gives Daja room to shine instead of slotting her into the series's formula. I still don't love this quartet, but this is one of its better installments.
juushika: Photograph of the torso and legs of a female-bodied figure with a teddy bear. (Bear)
Last Sunday Devon made a daytrip up to Portland so we could all carve pumpkins, as we did last year. We went to the local Kruger farm stand about five blocks away and picked out locally-grown pumpkins, then ordered food from the Che Cafe food cart; we waited for our food in a covered dining area while rain fell and the blue breeze blew in woodfire smoke from the firepit. It was a distinctly Portland weekend before Halloween, wet but mild, rich with the scent of rain and smoke and leaves.

We ate our food at home—mac 'n cheese and sandwich and fries and a thick quasadilla—and carved pumpkins while I blasted The Nightmare Before Christmas from another room (I don't listen to the soundtrack, I just put the film on and ignore the visuals).

From left to right: Devon's, mine, Dee's.

Pumpkins, 2012: On the porch

Daylight closeup. )

Pumpkins, 2012: Nighttime

Mine this year was inspired by the scarecrow in Sleepy Hollow—I made the face too small, but when lit up it really didn't matter.

Today I pulled on a long black skirt in satin and velvet and a purple half-sweater with flowy sleeves, and was something witchy or at least dressed up. I played Animal Crossing and answered the door to a dozen or so trick or treaters while Dee baked pumpkin cookies. Odi barked at every single visitor, but did just fine. I will love you and shower candy upon you if you are wearing a costume—I don't care if it's super fancy, I don't care if you're "too old," if you embrace the spirit of the holiday then my candy is yours. If you are seventeen and wearing the clothes you wore to school that day, I judge you. If you fourteen and smoking a cigar while trick or fucking treating I will not give a shit about candy but I will feel deeply unclean. (The polite adorably-costumed group of six that came near the end of the night erased lingering ick, but really? I mean really?)

Quiet little day. I never do as much with Halloween as I wish, yet did enjoy this one—and in a way, this day only begins the haunting season, for me. November all is death and decay—it's the beginning of the year, but the year begins with death, quietude, the rotting and waiting that lasts through winter. This is only the start.
juushika: Photograph of the torso and legs of a female-bodied figure with a teddy bear. (Bear)
Real autumn broke a few weeks back, and was a long time coming—so many sunny days—but we have rain now, and deep blue skies behind the yellow foliage. Gillian has been out and about for an hour or three every day, while August is busy with her daytime sleep and locked safe in my room. I have played American McGee's Alice: Madness Returns while sipping hot apple cider and buried under a blanket, with an open window (letting in wind and the sound of rain) at my back and a cat in my lap.

Indeed it feels as if lately the only thing I've not done sans lapcat is breathe. Cool weather brings August to me; at night she curls up between my legs while I read or watch TV before bed, finding the most awkward possible spot on the bed (hogging as many blankets as she can) so that when I finally turn off the lights I must twist myself around her into whatever space and bedding is left. When they're not cuddling, they're yowling: Gillian mostly, who—now that he has discovered the world outside the bathroom—complains mightily whenever he's trapped in that stifling prison. He has another month of quarantine, and so he shall just be forced to cope.

Odi is afraid of Gillian, who weighs eight pounds and is front declawed. We're not sure if this is because Gillian has the scary confusing soft e-collar of doom, or because Gillian has a few times actually gone after Odi when Odi gets too close. (Mind, August has swatted at him with actual, albeit blunted, claws, and he's not the least bit scared of her).

Autumn is for walking dogs. Dee's been walking Odi in the rain since the first day of it; I finally went with them a few days back, on a day when threatening rained turned into sprinkles turned into a jean-soaking downpour, and I would not live in any other climate in the world than this. Yesterday we walked down to St. Johns proper, went to Starbucks and took our drinks and the dog to the Willamette waterfront, blue and cool; we went to the library where we each had a book on hold, because autumn is for reading.

It's not all beautiful: my wrist issues have been flaring and thus I have a lot piling up that I want to do and can't—and moreover the fact that my body's throwing up yet another chronic issue just frustrates me—and the needy cats are lovely but also draining my energy. But: autumn. I can't argue with that, wouldn't want to; it is so beautiful, here.
juushika: Photograph of the torso and legs of a female-bodied figure with a teddy bear. (Bear)
Title: The Night Circus
Author: Erin Morgenstern
Published: New York: Doubleday, 2011
Rating: 5 of 5
Page Count: 387
Total Page Count: 119,452
Text Number: 347
Read Because: personal enjoyment, borrowed from the Multnomah County Library
Review: A challenge between magicians gives rise to the most spectacular circus: clad in black and white, featuring wonders beyond imagining, and open only at night. But a place so miraculous, born of such an intense rivalry, may not survive forever. The Night Circus enraptures from the first page; I worried only that it would crumble halfway, but it's a success until the last. Reading the book is much like reading a Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab scent description writ large, so I was tickled to see the company mentioned in the acknowledgements: it's a sensual delight, emphasizing color, scent, and atmosphere so intensely that the circus comes to life, a unique and wondrous place, and the text is stylized in image rather than language (although the language itself is above average, combining readability with gentle poetry). There are three narratives: the core narrative succumbs to some clichés of character interaction, but provides a strong skeleton to support the beautiful exterior; the secondary narrative straddles the boundaries of the circus, and is easily the book's most evocative, enchanting, and emotionally fulfilling; the last is in second person, and while it sometimes gets swept away in the book's style it also provides a consummate, satisfying conclusion.

So easily could a book like this go wrong: it could be no more than an intriguing but empty aesthetic, the aesthetic could be in competition with the plot, it could all end bitterly and destroy its own dream.... The Night Circus fumbles occasionally, sometimes too in love with its own image and relying on a romance that for the most part failed to stir me, but on the whole Morgenstern knows Les Circues des Rêves as a rêveur does: intensely, in detail, in love, but with a never-ceasing fascination and sense of mystery that means the Circus always has another bit of magic in store. The book succeeds by seeings its vision through to the final letter, vibrant and evocative and emotional when it needs it most, and succeed it does. I highly recommend it.

Review posted here on Amazon.com.

Also, the framing narrative is set in autumn, rich with hot cider and scarves and spices. I thought you might want to know. (Hey. Hey. [livejournal.com profile] sisterite. Yes, you.)
juushika: Photograph of the torso and legs of a female-bodied figure with a teddy bear. (Bear)
Gillian is exceedingly frustrated. He's probably been an over-groomer for some time, which is precisely why he's wearing an e-collar now—so he can't groom his irritated skin and so make it more irritated and so make him want to groom it. The first few days of the e-collar were awkward, because he wasn't quite sure how to function with this odd addition to his body; now he's just a tail-lashing beast of frustration and misery, because the raw sections are scabbed and the scabbed sections are flaking and hair is growing back everywhere and I imagine it all itches like mad.

I'm reading a particularly enjoyable book which is perfect for bite-sized consumption, so I often go into the bathroom—we've moved him to the second-floor bathroom, which is larger and has a window and gets more use, so he gets more company—and sit on the floor and read a chapter or two. He used to be content to fall asleep in my lap, e-collar and all; how he paces and tries to groom and ends up licking the collar or the two inches of tail he can reach. If I go to leave, though, he makes a dive for my ankles and meows plaintively.

When I'm in there, August sticks her paws under the door. Sometimes she bats at any of his toys which are in reach. Always she mewls most pathetically. They've met under the door and through an almost-closed door and once when August managed to dart into the bathroom. Who knows how they'll get along, but he is desperate now to get out into the land of free-roaming cuddles, and she's desperate to get in to the magical off-limits home to the second bowl of cat food.

He's already learned to clear his dish twice a day because if he doesn't, the rest of the food goes away. In the long run I'll probably still feed him in a closed bathroom, since he takes about ten minutes and August takes three, and she will eat his food too given half a chance.

August has kept her cute level set on high for days now—maybe a bit of anxiety or jealousy, or maybe just a steady reminder that "I am also a perfect cat and you love me too right." And I do. It's finally truly autumn here: the overcast cool weather has held for days, and any sun that breaks it from now on will be a lovely crisp and bright autumn day, not a return to summer. August wants nothing more in the world (excepting the hours leading up to each meal) to sit on a microfleece blanket that is next to or on top of me and kneed it and go to sleep, and for that matter I would rather nothing more than same with addition of a video game or book.

About this time last year we were thinking how lovely Halloween would be with a beautiful black cat in the window. This year there could easily be two, and while August is certainly the more regal—she sits with her back arched and her tail wrapped neatly around her front paws—it does seem like particular happenstance to have a matching set. They're mirror-cats to one another: black and green but midsized fluffy bright-eyed; black and green but small short-haired pale-eyed. She meows in consonants and he in vowels.

This is not how I expected things to end up, and I spent a few days in a haze of disbelief—cultured by stress and the numbness that follows it—where he wasn't really a pet, just a project: a creature to be rehabilitated and taken to expensive vet visits. But he is, you know—a pet, I mean; a family member—and before long we'll be worrying about things like cat pheromones and peaceful first meetings and group socialization, and who knows how many black cats will be keeping watch come All Hallows' Eve.

And a black dog, too.

I noticed today, sitting on the front porch with Mamakitty, that the dark fur in her calico motley will make her look quite lovely against black.
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (I should have been born a cat)
Gillian headshot

If it were reasonable to take in a hundred billion cats, or if we didn't have our hearts set on giving Mamakitty a home, I would adopt Gillian. I can't tell you much about this cat other than it turned up on the porch about the time we started putting cat food there. I've been calling her a she in part because of her small size, and named her Gillian after the Practical Magic character and the black cat she sometimes carries. As far as I can figure Gillian's not yet full grown; she must at some point have been domestic because this is the friendliest cat you have ever met. She comes to the porch and meows in the window so that I will go out and pet her; she jumps in my lap. She gives lovebites, honest to goodness, and I adore her. In many ways she's also a fascinating mirror to August—I just really, really wish she could be mine; in the meantime, I'm looking into having her spayed/vaccinated/ear tipped, and, well, we'll put out food.

Every good picture I could get was of her on my lap. Guys, she's a lovely cat.

+3 )
Petting Gillian

Don't let the Japanese maple tree in the background fool you: autumn is just starting, and not yet in full swing. But Devon was here this weekend while Dee went out of town, and we went into St. Johns proper for lunch, and I ran out halfway into the meal in order to stand in the thick full raindrops that I'd seen through the window. It is here.
juushika: A black and white photo of an ink pen. (Writing)
Dear Universe,

I think that's the best addressee. With these things, it's hard to be sure. Lately, the warm muggy weather finally broke; it's been wet and cool outside, almost too cold, and last night I had to nudge the window almost shut and the cat slept curled against me and half under my blankets.

So my request is that, perhaps, I wake up tomorrow and it's September. I would love nothing more than to just skip over summer. I know it's not a particularly reasonable request, and there'd be all sorts of awful consequences for the flora and the harvest—but if it could be done somehow, then I'd really like to do it. I'm okay skipping only as far as September 1st: I could survive a lingering week or two of hot weather. It's three months of it that I'd rather do without, especially in the face of the beauty that's been outside my window the last two days. I don't want to give that up.

So let me know how that sounds, yeah?

juushika: Screen capture of the Farplane from Final Fantasy X: a surreal landscape of waterfalls and flowers. (Anime/Game)
I have a pumpkin pie in the oven. The pumpkin pie has always been my Thansgiving thing, but this is the first time I've done Thanksgiving as someone with anything approaching an interest in cooking or baking. After much deliberation I made my own crust (based on this tutorial), and I put too much water in it so the first few minutes of pie baking were quite boily, but I can already tell that this is far more flaky than any storebought thing. After even more deliberation I decided to stick with an evaporated milk base—as opposed to cream or milk—because I know what sort of texture it renders; instead I put effort into the sweeteners and spices, using brown sugar and a bit of molasses as opposed to white sugar, adding a touch of cardamom and allspice to the usual mix and then allowing the filling to rest uncooked overnight so that the spices can meld. I even pushed the filling through a strainer, although that was mostly to incorporate a tablespoon of last-minute flour—although I hear that straining it makes for a nice smooth texture, so fingers crossed. The filling spilled up over one side and I didn't put my usual crust-leaves on top because I was sick of wrestling with dough—it doesn't look anything special, but I expect good things of it.

I also have last-second biscuits (roast garlic and cheddar, and cheddar and jalapeno) planned for when the turkey is resting.

And tomorrow morning, while we watch the Macy's Day Parade (it's tradition) and dog show, I'll make for anyone who wants some the pumpkin drink that I've been making for myself for a few weeks now. It's why I sat down to write. Hell if I can find the recipe I stole this from—I'll add it if I do find it—but it's pretty simple, anyway.

For one cup of hot pumpkin milk:

5 to 8 ounces milk
1/4 to 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1/4 cup or less brown sugar (or dark brown sugar, or mixture of brown sugar and maple syrup)
A shake or two of cinnamon
Optional: other spices (ginger, nutmeg, clove, cardamon, allspice) to taste

Pour out enough milk to almost fill a mug. Heat milk in saucepan over low heat. While heating, add pumpkin puree, sweetener, and spice. Whisk together. When heated, whisk thoroughly to form a head of foam. Pour into mug and serve.

Notes: Soy milk holds foam particularly well. Add as much pumpkin as you want; the more you add, the thicker the foam will become. Add as much or little sugar as you want. Plenty of cinnamon substitutes well for other spices, and is easier to incorporate. Whisking is necessary to incorporate everything.

It doesn't taste like a pumpkin spice latte, but it is its purer cousin: smooth thick earthy pumpkin, warm and (when I make it) lightly sweet. It's become my comfort drink of choice, but isn't too heavy; ideal for the start of a too-much-good-food day.
juushika: Photograph of the torso and legs of a female-bodied figure with a teddy bear. (Bear)
I'm writing from a hotel lobby—sitting beside a fireplace with my laptop and a book, giving room service a chance to clean my room. I smell like The Seekim (cacao absolute, hay, black pepper, patchouli, and incense ash), a warm dark smoky smooth deep chocolate. They're playing innocuous soft jazz over the sound of background chatter. Outside there's mist and heavy sprinkles, humid and wet in turns, a thick but almost crystalline gray, weather like quartz. Express is at work, but should be done about dinner, and then we may eat the quiche I cooked and we'll probably hack more Pokémon and attempt to stream more Initial D over internet that feels as ancient as this historic hotel.

It's good.

When Dee gave me a lift into downtown yesterday, we left at dusk; we went up through St. Johns, over the St. Johns bridge, and down US-30—our secret route into downtown and Beaverton, with less traffic and beautiful sights. Coming onto the arc of the bridge, the blue fog as so dense that it nearly swallowed the spires; as we drove across the far side came into view, the rising hill of Linnton Park, dark green Douglas Fir shot through with saffron Bigleaf Maple that glowed in the dimming light. Coming up the hill where US-30 merges onto 1-405, the city did the same: blue-stained concrete buildings shrouded in fog, pieced by and shining with a thousand amber lights.

Express is Los Angeles-born and is surviving the cold and wet—we went wandering last night once we finally here and settled, walked down to Pioneer Square and saw the light-wrapped trees that decorated the streets from here to there; this morning we went out for morning coffee and to find his office in that deep fog-cum-heavy sprinkles. He's surviving it, wrapped in his layers and waterproof jacket, but I'm reminded how much I love the land where I live. Autumn was slow in coming this year, the trees were reluctant to turn, but now we have golden leaves against rained-darkened branches, and a blue haze to wrap it like a gift, and the cold is bracing and the wet tangles in my hair, and I could live elsewhere—Sweden, England, Scotland, I remember them all fondly and long to go back—but right now I am just so happy to live here, and to have these days to show off my city: my city where, yes, you have to love the rain—but if you do it sparkles with it, and it is so beautiful.
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (I should have been born a cat)
An addendum: And then August threw up her stolen treats and the next-morning's mini-breakfast. She's been punished enough by now, I think. For that matter, so have we all.

Today, Devon was in town. I haven't seen him in some time, because I was traveling and then because I was wiped out from traveling, so even a one day visit was glorious—although I am not yet sure if tomorrow I want all the distractions (so that I don't think about missing him) or nothing to do at all (because I may be spoonless and morose). Either way, today we made cream cheese-stuffed pumpkin bread French toast (the barely-sweet bread was fantastic for this, because the maple syrup really popped and all the flavors came together; in the future, however, I'd do bigger pieces of bread and plop some cream cheese on top, as the filling-to-bread ratio was low and the stuffing was unnecessary work) and carved some pumpkins—the first time I've done so in many years, and they will look fantastic on the front porch just as soon as we grab candles. If I have spoons and want distractions, perhaps there will be some seasonal stuff tomorrow; regardless, we have caramels for Halloween, I found a way to stream Hocus Pocus to the PS3 so we can watch it while waiting for the doorbell to ring, and I'll wear my cat-eared hoodie and my bell-and-tag collar. I even have some intentions for the leftover caramels (read: make stuffed cookies). These may not be the huge seasonal plans I had, but they are much more than I've done in some time and they're brilliant. (But I do wish my boy were still here.)
juushika: Photograph of the torso and legs of a female-bodied figure with a teddy bear. (Bear)
This afternoon, Dee and I walked to downtown St. Johns. The sun was slanted, yellow gold through the cloud cover, and a pair of cats greeted us along the way. We went to Starbucks, where I had a pumpkin latte as spicy and smooth as the best and first of the year. We did a window-shopping tour of the local boutiques—one had metal leaves and burlap trick-or-treating bags in the window, one is like a real-life Etsy and I wish I could show it to you—and bought a book at the local bookstore, which was preparing for a new window display filled with blown glass pumpkins. We went to a favorite local restaurant, where I had a rich savory pizza topped with spinach, roasted garlic, and handfuls of bleu cheese. For dessert, we split a pumpkin cheesecake with a gingersnap crust, sour cream icing, and caramel topping—it was so spicy, so rich with golden pumpkin, and you wish you could have had some. We walked back through mild rain, not too long before dusk. At the house we changed into warm dry clothes and watched Nightmare Before Christmas to inaugurate the month of Halloween.

Candy corn and candy pumpkins closeup
(As always, page views for this picture have rocketed since the season began.)

This is my city. This is my season. It is all so beautiful.
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (I should have been born a cat)
Yesterday night I made these:

Pumpkin chocolate chunk espresso muffins
Pumpkin chocolate chunk espresso muffins

I riffed off my family's pumpkin bread recipe with Handle the Heat's Banana Espresso Chocolate Chip Espresso Muffins and some simple experimentation, with an approximate resulting recipe of:

Pumpkin chocolate chunk espresso muffins recipe. )

If I did it again, I'd either cut down on the sugar (which I'd already decreased from the family recipe), or omit the chocolate or use darker chocolate (this was 68%); as it is, they're a little sweet. Chocolate chips may be better than chocolate chunks, for better distribution and so that they don't all sink into the heart of the muffin, which tastes fine but looks boring. I went heavy on the spices, which is lovely; it could probably use even more espresso powder, however, so that that flavor is more distinct. I might also increase the pumpkin and decrease the oil just a touch.

I'm heading down to Corvallis this evening to spend a few days there, and I'll bring about a dozen of these to spread around. It's good timing: I can show Mum how my first version of our pumpkin bread recipe turned out, and with others to help us eat these Dee and I won't drown in dessert. This weekend is also the Fall Festival, an unintended and delightful coincidence—I was thinking of going to the farmer's market with Papa, and now we can do both, and I can't wait. The weather has been a bit warmer these last few days, but the young maple one house down is going gold, and so help me autumn is here.

(In fact, I made pumpkin muffins because we had extra pumpkin puree after Dee made a simple, fantastic pumpkin soup. We had it with grilled (fake) chicken/havarti/arugula/kalamata sandwiches that night, and the next day we had it with toasted crusty bread with topped cream cheese. Both were fantastic, and you wish you had been there to have some.)
juushika: Photograph of the torso and legs of a female-bodied figure with a teddy bear. (Bear)
We're on day two of fantastic weather—gray skies and cool days and the occasional chance of rain—and after almost a week of heat (some of that without the even saving grace of a breeze) it's a blessing but also hard to believe. Part of me is suddenly gearing up for autumn—and not just mentally, but with a physical instinct towards soft warm fabric and an ache that begins in my heart. Part of me is unwilling to engage with or even appreciate the thick billowing clouds, because I know that there's more heat and blinding sun to come, and it'll feel even worse if I've adapted back to the cool.

I don't even know if it's weather you come to love. Myself, it seems bred into my bones, and the cool and wet and clean is where I'm meant to be, and the first hint of autumn is a homecoming. It revitalizes me. When the heatwave resumes I'll be crushed, so help me. But this autumn will be miraculous.

Anyway. Today I woke (the second time—both Devon and I have been sleeping poorly, and I was also up between 3a and 9a, but then managed to sleep until noon) being able to see a little more than just a line of type on a blank page—which is to say that when I pause for two minutes and remember that Madison is dead, it doesn't just trigger a sense of incomprehension; it triggers instead the beginning of comprehension, which is to say grief. It's not entirely unwelcome. That something, even if it's pain, is less frightening than the void of nothing—and this weather indulges gray melancholy with gray skies. It's exhausting, though. Today Dee and I went out on a distracting shopping trip, and I used up what bit of energy I had there. Then we went out to comfort food (the restaurant was warm against the cool of the day) and across the street for coffee. It's silly, but the warm cup in my hands almost made me cry—it's like a soft warm sweater, and it's a comfort, and I've been craving that (coffee, and comfort) since I heard the news.

Last Friday, Dee and I went to see The Decemberists in concert. They're turning out to be mostly a live-only band for me, and I'm enjoying it. Recorded and studio-refined, the twang to Meloy's voice bothers my ears—but live I embrace and forgive and soak up the energy. It's fantastic. On Sunday, we took the bus into the city center and went to Powell's for my birthday book shopping trip. I gave myself a blister on one heel, but the skyscrapers cast shadows on the sidewalks and I came away with a small but wonderful (and tailored to my taste in obscure books and favorite authors) stack, with leftover money for the next impulse used book purchase. On and off, I've been feeling a renewed desire to embrace the opportunity of living in Portland—and the heat has been utterly decimating my will to do so, so it's good that there was something to force us out of the house and into life. Since Madison's death, I've been trying to stay occupied because of the fear of seeing that line of text on that white page, so the trips out were exhausting in just the right sort of way.

Dee is heading out of town tomorrow to attend Dragon*Con. Devon resumed full-time work this week, so I'll see some of him while she's gone but not a full four-day stay. I was ambivalent about facing that time alone, but now I think I can embrace it. Oh, the weather will heat up by the weekend, and I'll be miserable and complaining as I play my video games. But right now the weather tells me that it's safe to be alone, and grieve. As much as my attempts at faith have consistently proven unsuccessful, I'm looking towards a thoughtful Samhain this year. If it seems silly that these deaths are impacting me so strongly, know that it seems quite right to me. I've been realizing, and I've been forced into correcting, my incomprehension of death. I want to see the world die around me. I've always found life in that—in the vivid colors and the cycle it precipitates and the way it makes my heart—and perhaps it will bring me full circle. I can dwell, and die, and come alive again.
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (I should have been born a cat)
Kitty under my chair.

August has discovered the magic of microfleece blankets. I'm not horribly surprised—Madison goes crazy for them, she'll kneed and suckle on them like some replacement mother; August just kneeds and ... puts her nose one the fabric. It's like she's not sure why her nose and mouth need to touch it, she doesn't drool or suckle at all, but they have to be there or the experience isn't quite complete. Honestly it's like she's not sure why any of it has to happen at all—she gets this look of WHY AM I KNEEDING PLEASE SEND HELP that morphs into NEVERMIND TOO COMFORTABLE PLEASE GO AWAY. Kitten loves her blanket.

Not that it's her blanket. Boy is using it over his long weekend here, and then it'll return to the living room because my dirty little secret is that the freakishly soft feel of that fabric makes my skin crawl. Said blanket has been necessary for the weekend, however, because we hit the sweet spot in this week of remarkable, overcast, cool summer weather: Rain. Buckets of rain. It's pouring now and has been pouring all day, hours of it, I fell asleep to the sound of heavy rain and woke to find it even heavier. All of this unseasonal coolness has been welcome—seriously, Dee and I won't stop talking about the weather—but this rain, it feels too good. It's perfect. It makes me long for autumn as if it weren't already here—because I know well enough that it's not: this weather can't last forever, and now that it's had its grand finale it'll probably pass. I've come to embrace summer in the last few years, as I've learned the art of sleeping in sunlight (and since Boy has an air conditioner in his room), but this is my weather and my home: the sound of rain, the gray sky and silverblue light, the cool humidity, the cold breezes, long sleeves and blankets and a sudden craving for warm food covered in cheese. It hurts me a little to know that after this will be many more weeks of heat—not that the heat has been bad this summer, and we've found all the little tricks for coping with it, but ah, this weather. I want it to last forever.

Devon's visit has been fantastic. He got here Thursday night, and leaves this evening—we've been doing four or five days together every two weeks, which seems to work out wonderfully: the longer visits are more relaxed and fulfilling, and the weeks off give us more time to engage in our own local lives. This weekend's weather has me in the mood for books, sleep, and staying in, so we're thoroughly wasting our time away with a marathon of the original American McGee's Alice, and it's perfect. We're sleeping when we want to sleep, sometimes at night but also to the sound of the rain during the day; we have the windows half open and most people would think it's way too cold in here but that just makes the snuggling even better.

You may have noticed at some point that sleep and I are not particularly good friends—but August has me napping at all hours, these days. We curl up for a cuddle and sometimes when she drifts off, so do I. That, like this casual non-schedule that Devon and I have had this weekend, feels surprisingly natural. It embraces my preference for sleeping in sunlight and the fact that I wake up so often that pretending to get a solid chunk of sleep is foolishness, and it dismisses so many of the anxieties that make sleep difficult—like the simple expectation that I'll sleep now, for this long, and then be awake and engaged with the world. As a result of course I'm less engaged, but...

Basically, August is teaching me to be a cat. Some of it already there, in little realizations that tickle me—like when we watch out the window together and we both perk at the same sound or movement. But my sleep issues are one of the hallmarks of the disconnect between my self-as-human and self-as-cat, and so this.... Well, back in that post I wrote, "A cat that can't catnap hardly feels a cat at all." And now, sometimes, we catch a bit of sleep in the sunlight for no reason at all other than the fact that the bed feels nice. There's that argument in the therianthropy community about nature and nurture—if this identification is innate, or if it changes and grows; if it's inherent nature, of if it's tainted by affectation. It makes me feel like something of a charlatan that so much of my personal experiences are about the disconnect between my human and cat identities, and therefore about (re)learning mentalities and behaviors—not because they're not mine, but because I get in my own way where they're concerned. And for all that anxiety I still don't give a flying fuck how it might be perceived, because these little lessons, these little naps, make me so happy.

So it's been a pretty nice long weekend, I guess is what I'm saying.
juushika: Photograph of the torso and legs of a female-bodied figure with a teddy bear. (Bear)

Snow on the leaves, November 23 2010
Loathe as I am to admit it before Thanksgiving:
Winter is here.

It started snowing last night, and against my predictions it lasted long enough, and the ground got cold enough, to stick. It was so cold, and the house smells so strongly of snow, that I couldn't sleep all night—so just after dawn, I finally got up and took some pictures.

The early snow comes while autumn still lingers: the trees have shed most of their leaves, but they cling to some; the leaves which have fallen are still bright and fresh on the ground. This morning, the settling snow is knocking down the last leaves by the handful, and it silver-dusts those that it can't bring down.

It's quite striking, actually.

Because we're wimps here and don't know how to deal with snow, school's been canceled which means that Devon doesn't go into work today. I foresee warm clothes, cuddling, and hot cocoa. Maybe at some point, I can sleep.

+2 snow on leaves pictures. )


juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (Default)

September 2017

345 6789
1011 12 13141516
1718192021 2223


RSS Atom


Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags