Prep rice noodles first, cooking as per package directions (or like pasta.)
Mix 2tsp of sugar, 4tbsp of fish sauce (or soy sauce), and 4tbsps of oyster sauce (or mushroom sauce).
Sauté 2tbsp of chopped garlic in 6tbsps oil.
Add chopped chicken (or shrimp or tofu) and stir until cooked, then add two eggs, and stir until cooked. Add rice noodles and sauce and stir. Add bean sprouts (or cabbage or broccoli slaw).
Top with chopped green onion, lime, ground peanuts (optional) and ground chillies or red pepper or hot sauce of some sort (optional.)
Extremely delicious! And gluten-free as long as you use GF soy sauce and GF oyster sauce. This recipe uses the full package of rice noodles, which is enough for plenty of leftovers.
It has been absurdly hot, so hot that I woke up yesterday morning and turned the air-conditioning on immediately after a thoroughly restless night. And humid, too. It feels like living in the tropics, which I ought to love — and sort of do — but living in a metal box in 90 degree weather is nearly as much fun as living in a metal box in 70 degree weather. But I decided to set my departure date by the weather report. Like Mary Poppins, when the wind changes…
Drinking coffee through cough drops — not a good idea. Just saying.
Yesterday was a perfect Disney day. Truly perfect. The weather was nice, the crowds were light, and the lines were all tolerable. C & I got to Animal Kingdom by 8 and were on the Pandora ride before 9. It was my first time on the ride, the one where it feels like you’re riding a dragon, and it was truly spectacular.
The line was so short that we made it to the safari ride by 9:30 or so, which is the exactly right time to be on that ride. We saw ALL the animals, most of them active. The cheetahs were up and wandering, the warthogs were out, the giraffes were in the middle of the road waiting to be bribed away with treats. And the elephants were fighting, which was both amazing to see and a little bit scary. It only lasted a minute and then the smaller elephant turned his back on his slightly bigger brother and walked away. Big brother followed him, totally trying to make up. You could practically see him saying, “Don’t be mad, don’t be mad.”
After the safari ride, we headed to Epcot for the Food & Wine Festival, but before we ate, we went on Soaring, another of Disney’s best rides. I like the rides where you’re floating above beautiful scenery more than the roller coasters, I guess.
The Food & Wine Festival was always my favorite event at Disney. Over the years, it’s gotten bigger and bigger. The first time I went with R, we tried food from every country and left stuffed. That wouldn’t even be possible now. It would cost a fortune and there are just too many countries and types of food represented. But they’ve extended the time of the festival from a few weeks to months, from August to November, so it would be easy to go back again and again.
I probably won’t, however. This year they didn’t have a lot of gluten-free options. Some, definitely, and I could have eaten well only trying the GF options. Instead, I said the hell with it, and for the first time since 2016, consciously, knowingly ate foods with gluten. Smoked corned beef with a beer-fondue sauce; chimichurri skirt steak on corn bread; seared sea scallops with brussels sprouts and celery root puree; beef stroganoff with egg noodles; maple bourbon cheesecake; jerked chicken with roasted plantain salad; kenyan coffee barbecue beef tenderloin; and warm chocolate pudding with Irish cream liqueur custard. The corned beef, which I would never have chosen on my own, was definitely my favorite. It was delicious. (C & I were sharing plates, and the plates are tapas-style small plates — it was a lot of food, but not Roman-banquet-style quantities. :))
Was it worth it? I think so. It was fun, anyway. But I am now in the throes of an immune-system panic attack, which started much faster than I expected it to. I was coughing up a storm by 8PM, so it only took 8 hours instead of the usual 36. Fingers crossed that it doesn’t last longer or get more intense, but today is definitely feeling like the kind of day that’s going to involve binge-watching television with copious quantities of tissues nearby, instead of doing anything useful. So it goes. Yesterday was still a perfect Disney day.
I’ve been house-sitting/driveway-camping for about two weeks now. For the first week, I barely went into the house: I did my laundry one day, I used the kitchen a couple times, I showered. I let Z wander around in the backyard and I sat in the backyard chairs and wrote, but I mostly felt like I was camping in a place with a house nearby.
But after going in and out enough times — putting the mail away, watering the plants, washing my dishes — I started to get comfortable. There’s an area off the kitchen that’s basically a fully enclosed porch with two chairs and a lovely view. I sat there and wrote a few days last week, when the temperatures outside made the van less comfortable, while Zelda napped next to me on the fantastic dog bed.
What makes it fantastic? Honestly, I have no idea. I should probably take a picture or at least find out the brand name because Zelda likes this bed so much that she has started telling me she needs to go into the house, for apparently no other reason than that she wants to nap in that dog bed instead of her own (two!) dog beds or the beds in the van. Literally, she will stand at the front door of the house, waiting patiently, until I open it so she can go inside and flop down on the bed.
But as Zelda has gotten more comfortable, so have I. Gradually last week, my whole van kitchen started moving inside. First the instant-pot, then the sous vide cooker, then my varieties of rice, then most of my fridge food. When I went grocery shopping on Friday, I acknowledged that I was cooking in a real kitchen and so I ate incredibly well this weekend. Friday, sockeye salmon with a garlic-dijon-lemon marinade over a bed of quinoa with a side of roasted asparagus. Saturday, baked cod topped with goat cheese, oregano from the garden, and lemon zest, with an asparagus risotto. Yesterday, spicy roasted chicken with mixed green salad. I eat well in the van, but it is so, so nice to have a real kitchen with running water and a vent fan. This kitchen, in particular, has an island that is the best working space I’ve ever had to play with in a kitchen. It makes me want to bake pies and cookies, because it would be so easy to roll out dough on it.
Unfortunately, I had one little disaster, yesterday. Well, or maybe two. The sink started first spraying water from the base of the faucet and then spewing water from the base of the faucet. Now when I turn it on, the water pours out from the base without going up into the spigot at all. Ack! I promptly texted my hosts’ son, asking for guidance, so am waiting to hear from him. Meanwhile, I can’t, of course, use the sink. That would be fine — is fine — except that the water situation was so distracting that I forgot about the chicken liver I was in the midst of sautéing until the smoke detector two rooms away started blaring at me. Double ack! Talk about oblivious — the whole kitchen was smoky and I was so focused on the water I hadn’t even noticed. So I currently have no water from the sink and a pan in serious need of some intensive scrubbing. As my mom would say, if that’s the worst that happens…
This is the updated version of a cookbook that I’ve given to half a dozen people over the years. The original was so important to me and so formative that it was one of the five books that I kept physical copies of when I got rid of all my belongings. (Two of the others were the edition of Winnie-the-Pooh that my parents gave to me for my fifth birthday and The White Dragon, by Anne McCaffrey, with a note inside congratulating me on having read 100 books in 6th grade. Just so you understand how steep the competition was to be in that tiny category.)
The Kindle edition is on sale today, September 3, 2019, and honestly, if you’ve ever thought that you wanted to be a better cook, this is a cookbook that can get you there. Not without doing the work, of course. I know that at least a couple copies that I gave away sat on bookshelves, unopened, and it won’t teach you a thing if you’re not actually going to read it and try out the recipes.
But one of the copies that I sent out into the world found its way to a college student who now writes a cooking blog. That thought always pleases me, because the only thing better than learning to cook is encouraging someone else to learn to cook. There’s a bumper sticker on the wall by the door at the house where I’m driveway camping/house-sitting that says, “Heal the world, Cook dinner tonight.” And now I’m doubting myself, but feeling too lazy to run inside to see whether I got it exactly right. I got the concept right, thought, even if the words aren’t exact.
This morning, Barbara and I were on our way to the Y (for my first yoga class in months & her regular morning routine) when we passed her seafood store. Earlier I had suggested sous vide chicken breast for dinner later this week, but when we drove by the seafood market, I told her I’d realized that was a stupid idea. If I’m in a place where I can have good fish, I’d much rather have good fish. And Rockport has really good fish. Also, Barbara is a really, really good cook, which is an excellent combination.
But we then talked briefly about what we’d eaten and it made me want to remember all of the meals she’s made, so this is going to be a food post. Consider yourself warned.
On Tuesday we had grilled swordfish, quinoa salad, and a leafy green salad. On Wednesday, she had friends and family over and we ate grilled lamb, corn on the cob, and a fantastic rice salad made with jasmine and wild rice and lots of lemon. On Thursday, we had halibut steamed over fennel fronds, served on rice noodles with a watermelon, fennel and arugula salad. Friday was chicken apple sausage over greens and cucumbers, with a mango medley (somewhere between a salad and a salsa) of mango, avocado, red onion, jalapeño, corn, tomatoes, and lime juice, plus the leftover rice salad. On Saturday, we ate striped bass, seared then baked with lemon zest, salt and pepper, plus a summer salad with all the veggies, sliced tomatoes with cilantro, and more corn on the cob. Sunday was leftovers for me, dinner out for Barbara, but today will be quinoa bowls with sous vide steak, red onion, heirloom tomatoes, roasted beets, and more corn on the cob. And I have now officially made myself hungry. I hope I’ve done the same to you! (I might have mixed up a couple of my days, but that seems irrelevant to the memories.)
Apart from food, most of my Rockport adventures have revolved around my computer, although we’ve gone on some nice walks. In other words, not particularly adventurous. But my keyboard had been dying for a long time and when I was in Maine, it hit the point where it simply wasn’t realistic for work anymore. Still fine for browsing the web and playing solitaire, but it’s really tough to write without an E key. I bit the bullet and ordered a new one, and I’ve spent the past couple days moving files around, searching for passwords, organizing bookmarks and so on. Many hours of the “so on” yesterday was going through old photos, trying to limit the number moving to the new computer, so I didn’t immediately fill the drive. My big revelation from that is that I’ve seen an extraordinary number of gorgeous sunrises in the past couple of years.
But much to my puzzled dismay, many of my pictures say that they were created on September 19, 2017. I know for a fact that I did not spend that day taking 3000+ photos of different sunrises, but whatever I did do that day overwrote the original information on the photos. That means I look at those sunrises and think… um, North Carolina? Nova Scotia? Florida? Texas? Maybe?? I could figure it out easily enough by going back to the original photo library but since it would be far better for my life to get on with writing a book instead, I’m not going to. I’m just going to enjoy all those pretty mornings and be glad I took photos of them so I could be reminded of them, even if I don’t quite remember the details.
And now it’s time to get on with writing a book. I started working on Friday and wound up back in the revising stage — redoing the first chapter of Fen’s Book Two yet again — but yesterday I was feeling reasonably pleased with that chapter. A little work on chapter two, and I hope I will finally be able to get back to the end game. I’m getting close, really!
I arrived at my brother’s house a week ago. Since then, I have picked a great many blueberries. Nowhere close to picking them all, though! We could easily spend three or four times as long and still come nowhere close. The blueberries are prolific this year. Also delicious. Even some of the bushes I haven’t liked in past years — too bland or too small — are good this summer. Maybe it’s because of all the rain? And my favorite bush, which in years past has only had scattered handfuls of berries, has hundreds of them this year. It’s blueberry heaven.
Every time we go pick, though, usually reasonably early in the morning, I both enjoy myself and am incredibly thankful that my life doesn’t actually require me to pick berries for a living. It’s a peaceful, pleasantly monotonous chore for about twenty minutes. And then I start to get hot and sweaty and the mosquitoes begin to attack or I put my knee down on a thistle or my hand into a spiderweb and I’m really grateful that I can stop whenever I want to. We walk away with our full tubs of berries and leave plenty on the bushes for the birds or for the next day’s picking.
Ironically, I woke up this morning with stiff neck and shoulder muscles that had nothing to do with berries. I’ve been spending a lot of time on my computer: working on a marketing plan, a mailing list strategy, some website updates, edits to A Lonely Magic, and words on its sequel. The last has been the least successful of those endeavors, but I spent hours on my laptop yesterday, trying to get back into the swing of it.
Along the way, I updated the Scribbles page with a couple of my favorite fanfiction stories, some unfinished stories that I like, and a scene that I cut from A Gift of Time long ago. It felt like a very productive day at the time, but this morning it felt like I’d been doing heavy labor. But having real internet feels like such a luxury — I want to take advantage of it while I can. One of the unfinished stories is so tempting, too — it’s always the way of the words: the story I’m writing feels like work, the story I’m not writing feels like temptation. (I was going to tell you which one, but I will wait and see if anyone wants to guess first. 🙂 )
And speaking of temptation, I think it’s time for lunch. Breakfast this morning was yogurt, blueberries, and granola. I think lunch is going to be a spinach salad with goat cheese, blueberries, and pumpkin seeds. Dinner will probably include some blueberries, too, in one form or another. Yay for summertime!
After our relaxed departure from Bully Creek, we headed into Idaho. Woo-hoo, Idaho! Not quite a new state for me — I’d driven through it once before on my way from Montana to Washington — but the first time I was planning to do more than wave as I went by.
Idaho — at least southern Idaho — is very dry. Even in spring, it was immediately clear that we were in a different climate. Part of that was nice — I appreciated the warmth of the sun — but my lips were chapped within what felt like seconds.
We were headed to Boise for our first stop, so we were also no longer on cute, winding mountain roads but on a major highway: flat, lots of trucks, traffic speeding along. And the billboards — for Panera, Taco Bell, etc. — made it pretty clear that we were entering Generic American City. No insult intended to Boise, of course, because every mid-size American city seems to have the same stores, but we spent a couple hours there and then decided to keep going.
It wasn’t just that the city felt generic. We knew we would have fun if we explored, looked for a good restaurant, found its unique spots… but being a tourist in a city when accompanied by three dogs is a challenge. It’s fun to have the dogs on a camping vacation, but less fun to leave them in the van when the sun is beating down on them. At any rate, we’d planned to spend some time in Boise, but by mutual agreement, we cut that time short and headed back to nature.
Our next stop was Bruneau Dunes State Park. As you may recall, I found an article about the 50 best state parks (Bruneau was Idaho’s) and decided to go to all of them. I have now changed my mind. I’m sure they’re all great parks, but “great park to visit” does not necessarily equal “great park to camp.” There are two campgrounds at Bruneau and one of them (Eagle Cove) is a parking lot: pull-through sites in parallel lines, no real space between sites. The other one (Broken Wheel) is better, more spacious and with a good view of the hills but compared to our Bully Creek county park… well, it’s always hard when you leave a really nice campground/site to go to an average campground.
There were some nice trails, though. I have to admit that I didn’t try them out — Z and I limited our walk to half way around the campground, because I was tired out from all the driving. But S and Riley took the walk to the observatory and approved. And we did visit the lake, which — well, was really buggy. But pretty!
It was also nice to be able to plug in to electricity, because it meant that I could use the InstantPot to make risotto. For dinner, we had chicken-apple sausage with carmelized onions; salad with mixed greens, blackberries, goat cheese and fig vinaigrette; and asparagus risotto. Just your average camping meal, right?
And the night sky was lovely, I’m currently listening to many birds chattering away, and the dunes themselves really are rather spectacular.
Our Painted Hills campsite was lovely, but we were definitely still in road trip mode: by 9AM, we were packed up and on the move. We went straight to the Visitor Center at the John Day Fossil Beds, where we watched their movie and learned about the fossils and geology and wandered through their very nice museum of fossils. Then we drove to one of the trail heads and took a short hike through some really incredible terrain.
A lot of the time, when I’m visiting somewhere new, I connect it to someplace I’ve seen before — oh, this is like Washington State only with shorter trees, or this reminds me of Louisiana or whatever. Even the Badlands, which is pretty unique terrain, made me think about B movies from the 1950s. This terrain, though, reminded me of absolutely nothing: I had never seen anything like it.
By the time we finished our walk, it was close enough to lunchtime to justify eating, so I made us salads with mixed greens, cold salmon, and a fig vinaigrette. We ate at a parking lot picnic table — using cloth napkins, real silverware and my grandmother’s china, and drinking San Pellegrino sparkling water. It was delicious and also amusing to me: as I said to S, my idea of a picnic is on the pretentious side, I guess.
After lunch, we started driving. We’d had no internet for extended periods, which meant our ideas of on-the-fly planning were turning into winging-it and hoping-for-the-best. When we reached the town of John Day, we paused, looked for a place to camp, and decided on Unity Lake State Park. That lasted until we got to Unity Lake, where it was cold and bleak and windy. Onward!
Our revised plan took us to Bully Creek Park Campground, a county park near Vale, Oregon. The reviews of the park weren’t terrific, but that mostly appeared to be because there’s so much arsenic in the water that the campground hosts have to warn you about it. Or — my personal speculation — locals are writing mean reviews in order to keep campers from visiting, because it was lovely. The host gave us a site on the water with a perfect view of the sunset, and an even better morning view of the many, many birds. It was our slowest morning to date, because we sat and bird-watched, then ate a second breakfast/brunch, and didn’t get on the road until after 11.
I had grand intentions yesterday. I was going to do so many things, starting with writing 1000 words. I was going to do laundry, and take a shower, and walk the dogs, and go to a meditation class… Yep, just as soon as I wrote those 1000 words, I was going to do ALL the things.
When S got home from work, I was still mostly in my pajamas. No shower, no dog walks, no laundry, no meditation class. But darn close to 1000 words, each and every one of them a struggle.
I also hadn’t planned dinner or gone to the store, so it was time to make do with what we had. That included half a bag of seafood medley and some brown rice noodles. I was not inspired, but I knew that: a) if I didn’t use up the seafood medley, it would probably sit in S’s freezer forever and b) as long as I made it spicy enough, she’d eat it happily. So this recipe is mostly me thinking, “gotta use up the seafood, too lazy to do something serious with it, I’ll just cook it with red pepper flakes and it’ll be fine.” (Spoiler alert: It was more than fine.)
I started by boiling some water for the rice noodles, while letting the seafood medley defrost for a few minutes. When the water boiled, I took it off the heat and tossed the rice noodles in. While they cooked, I preheated a frying pan for a minute, then melted a chunk of butter, maybe two tbsps, in it. When the butter bubbled, I added two cloves of chopped up garlic, a generous tsp of red pepper flakes, and a little kosher salt, and swirled it around. When it seemed nicely done — garlic browned a little, red pepper flakes smelling sizzled — I added the seafood. I let it cook for just about five minutes, during which time I drained and plated my pasta. Then I zested a lemon onto the seafood, added some paprika, squeezed a lemon half into it, and topped the rice noddles with it. I finished it by sprinkling on some chopped-up cilantro.
I called S in from the garden, but I started eating without waiting. It was a good thing she came promptly, because by the time I was two bites into mine, I knew that if I finished eating mine before she came in, I would start eating hers. It was so, so, so good. I think it was the paprika or maybe it was the lemon zest. But it was spicy and smoky and tangy and buttery and absolutely delicious.
I feel like there ought to be a writing metaphor there: something about flavors mixing or finding balance or maybe just the serendipity of using what comes to hand? But if there is, I can’t find it.
And I was going to post a snippet, but we’re in spoilers galore territory — of all the words I wrote in the past couple days, I don’t think I can share any of them without giving things away that might be more fun as surprises. Hmm… well, maybe tiny spoilers…
Fen felt like she’d stepped inside Sleeping Beauty’s castle. All they needed were some serious brambles with killer thorns to make the whole place a scene out of a nightmare.
She set her chin. “Come on, Luke. Give the ghost to Trevvi. I need your help.”
“Ghost?” Trevvi took a step back, hands raising in protest.
Luke lifted his hands away from his chest, pausing for a second with one finger moving as if gently disentangling tiny claws from his tunic. He extended his cupped hands to Trevvi. “Here.”
Trevvi stepped farther away. “What?”
“It’s a kitten,” Luke said. “An invisible kitten.”
Trevvi scowled. “Nitrogen narcosis. Your dive pattern must have malfunctioned.”
Nitrogen again. Fen really needed to learn more about chemistry. Or was it biology? Maybe it was both.
“I’m not hallucinating,” Luke replied. “Take it.”
“Miss?” Trevvi’s pleading look asked for her help.
Instead a corner of Fen’s mouth lifted. She tilted her head in the direction of Luke’s seemingly empty hands and said, “Really, take it.”
Reluctantly, as if unwillingly playing along with their delusions, Trevvi held out his right hand. Fen could see the exact moment when he felt the kitten as his eyes opened wider with shock before he hastily enclosed it in a nest of both hands. “What the hell,” he muttered, drawing it closer to his body.
“Exactly.” Fen grabbed Luke’s empty hand and drew him into the courtyard.
Had I mentioned the invisible kitten before? I almost — almost! — know what she’s doing now. In fact, I think I’m pretty close to knowing what the whole thing looks like now. I just need to find the words to share it. And I’m working hard on that, I swear. 43,000 words so I’m not quite at the end game, but I’m definitely in the murky middle.
Tosha Yoga, the yoga place that S and I have been trying (on their introductory 5 classes for $25 plan), is in a building that looks like an old factory. The downstairs is an arts center. If you look closely at the above photo, you’ll see some stairs on the right that lead to the roof. The yoga studio is up there.
It is, without a doubt, the prettiest yoga studio I’ve ever visited. It’s a gorgeous space.
And it is very yoga. Lots of focus on breathing, reminders to be mindful, and plenty of times where my thoughts can best be summarized as, “Don’t be ridiculous, my body is not doing that.”
But I think I said in my first mention of yoga in Arcata that it would be a long time before I tried side plank again? That was apparently a lie. In the very next class I flowed naturally into a side plank, because that was where the instructions took me, and I didn’t let my brain tell my body that it was impossible. My brain is, however, very grumbly about how sore I am. A couple years without yoga and a year without Bartleby and I have apparently lost all my upper body strength. And I don’t even want to think about the core exercises. Ugh. My stomach reminds me every time I try to sit up.
But the space is great and the instructors are warm and encouraging and, as always, the sense of peace and presence at the end of a class is immensely rewarding. And the good news for me is that the first class was enough to convert S from a yoga skeptic to an enthusiast, so we’ve been going to classes together. Having company always helps motivate me.
Of course, that also means we get to decide to blow off a class together. We had every intention of going to a class on Tuesday night — I even made dinner early, so that we’d have plenty of time to digest before trying to exercise. But Tuesday was the end of S’s weekend, and we’d gotten a lot done over the weekend, including tackling the storage shed and much gardening.* I was three quarters of the way through my quinoa bowl** when I said, “I’m really tired.”
S said, “Do you want to skip yoga?”
I had a brief moment of remembering all the reasons that yoga is good for me, even when I don’t want to go, and then I said, “Yes. Yes, I want to skip yoga. And instead, I want to watch Russian Doll on Netflix and drink mint tea. And in an hour or so, I want to eat ice cream and those fresh raspberries we just got.”
So we did. And it was really fun. The only thing better than going to yoga is not going with intention.
*I did not do any gardening and, in fact, my storage shed tackling was mostly limited to watching S work and occasionally carrying a load of stuff to a different storage spot or the street. So my right to be tired was reasonably questionable. But it’s arduous to watch someone else work!
**S was also a scoffer at quinoa bowls. The first time I made the suggestion, she didn’t quite roll her eyes at me, but she came close. The first time I offered her some, she passed. But I have completely sold her on their deliciousness now, the health virtues being just a side benefit.