Cooking with Baby Bellas

Well, I’ve been pretty busy making things lately. I’m making 3D printers pretty much every day. I’ve tried a handful of new recipes including marinated mushroom and sweet potato tacos this week and baked mushroom baozi earlier in the month. I’ve managed to update my fan fiction and am finally writing the crucial scene I know many of my readers have been waiting for. I’ve also finally gotten myself to write another flash fiction for ThanInVain‘s Flash Fiction Challenge. The prompt was just too good to pass up and I found myself with a little time tonight, so let’s start with that.

Prompt: A woman’s cat goes missing. Two days later she receives a ransom note.


Ellen Helmsby shrugged out of her overcoat and settled into her chair, heedless of the layers of cat fur. She squirted a little hand sanitizer into her palm to her to rid her hands of the metallic smell of dealing with other people’s coins all day.

She clucked her tongue behind her teeth and waited for Tire to materialize for their pre-dinner cuddle. She’d tell him about her day and he’d purr and life would be just a little bit better. Then she’d open a packet of food for him, and put a TV dinner in the oven for herself.

But cluck and call as she might, Tire didn’t come. She got down on her creaking knees calling out to him under the bed. Finally she was reduced to swearing at the damn cat to show up. He didn’t. She sat in the chair all night.

The next day, cars honked as she gave people the wrong change or or her mind drifted. Her supervisor thought the exhaust fumes might be getting to her head and sent her home. A note, in purple crayon, was wedged under the door.

Deer Cat Lady,
My bruther loves your cat. He wants it, but can’t rite. He’s 4. If you give me a bazillion $ I’ll steal it back. But it has to be a bazillion or I can’t, cuz he’ll cry when I take it.

Ellen heard the hedges rustle and saw the grubby six year old from next door watching her.

Being a cat person myself, I couldn’t resist the prompt and I’m glad I gave it a go. It feels good to be writing.

I’m trying to lead a more healthy life-style, and building printers all day is certainly a lot more physically active than my last job. I’m also trying to be mindful of healthier new recipes and fewer sweets. So far, it’s working. However, there’s an amazing frozen custard shop not far from where I work, and I want some…right now. However, I’ve got some very good motivation for wanting to get healthier right now. I’m looking forward to a long life with the man I love, and I want to be healthy.

The marinated mushroom and sweet potato tacos were absolutely delicious. I’m not going to lie, I ate several and they were all gone before I could take a picture of them. One lingered on someone else’s plate (the tortilla got a bit burnt) and I did manage to snap a picture of that before it too disappeared. 

Marinated Mushroom and Sweet Potato Tacos

I cut and cooked the sweet potatoes the night before, so they weren’t as crisp as I could have hoped, but they were delicious and it saved me an hour of prep-time right before dinner, which was good since by the time I get home, I’m pretty hungry. I used baby bella mushrooms and topped it all off wit a little cheese, sour cream, and green onions. I always keep a container of sliced green onions in the freezer to add to meals. They keep for ages and defrost almost instantly when I add them to any dish.

A few weeks ago, I watched the new reboot of Sailor Moon that just launched. I then followed it up by indulging in a few of the classic episodes as well. I remember watching the original episodes on television as a kid in the morning when I got ready for school. I think there’d usually be an episode of Sailor Moon for me in the morning, and an episode of Mighty Max for my brother. Eventually Sailor Moon only aired on cable, and my family didn’t get cable until I was in middle school, so I missed out on most of the later seasons.

Watching it recently I was surprised as how much I remembered and still felt familiar, but I was also delighted by what I didn’t remember. I’d forgotten that Serena/Usagi tends to eat a lot. One of the things she was snacking on was stuffed pork buns, which I remember as a delicious treat from my time in Taiwan. 

Usually stuffed pork buns are steamed, but as I don’t have a steamer at the moment, I specifically wanted to find a recipe for baked buns. I toyed with the idea of barbecue baked pork buns, but the recipe I found was for mushroom baozi, and I am so glad I found it.

I don’t have much experience baking, particularly with making dough from scratch. This recipe called for me to make the dough and give it an hour or two to rise, but I was going to be working and didn’t want to delay dinner by two hours or more once I got home, so I made the dough and let it rise over about 8 hours in the fridge (it turned out great).

It still took longer than I was expecting when I got home to roll the dough out into pieces and put the filling inside, but it was totally worth it. Most of the baozi I made were the mushroom recipe I found on the website, but I also made a handful with shredded pork from the crockpot and barbecue sauce. 

The mushroom ones actually turned out best (I didn’t use enough barbecue sauce, so the pork ones were a bit dry). I wasn’t real sure about being able to seal them up well, so I put them together upside-down. 

Mushroom Baozi

I also should have rolled out the dough a bit thinner, and maybe added a little more salt, but I will definitely repeat this recipe. 

So, there you have it. I haven’t been blogging as much as I should, but I’ve certainly been making things, and more than keeping busy. There’s always more to get done and more to learn. Are there any other recipes you’d suggest using mushrooms? Baby Bellas are my favorite. Any advice for loosening hand muscles after building something all day? 


Frozen, Fantasy books, and Flash Fiction Week 3

Two posts in one weekend? I’m on a roll. And I guess I’m still procrastinating on that whole editing thing. I’ll get there eventually. Last night, I went out to see Frozen, which is, I think, one of the best things Disney has put out there in a while. It was really refreshing to see a story that was about sisters, communication, expectations, and growing up. Yes, there’s a romance in it, but contrary to the traditional 1950s and 1960s Disney, this movie is mostly about the love between sisters rather than the romantic interest. While one character thinks marrying a man she just met is a brilliant idea, because obviously it’s true love, two other characters point out that it’s absolutely ridiculous. I loved the movie.

All the same, I think my favorite part was probably during the credits. I looked down at saw 2 or 3 young girls up in front of the screen, dancing. They were probably around 5 years old. I’ll admit it, the music was good and I was dancing in my seat. It made me really happy to think, “YES, these are the Disney princesses these girls are growing up with. I’m okay with that.”

I grew up on Disney Princesses like Belle and Mulan, who put others first and risked their lives for the people they cared about, and who learned to be themselves, even when the rest of the world didn’t accept them as they were. Sleeping Beauty and Snow White never did much for me. Admittedly, if you want a great retelling of Sleeping Beauty with a princess who doesn’t just let the story happen around her, I recommend Spindle’s End by Robin McKinley.

I grew up on YA Adventure Fantasy–The Black Cauldron, Artemis Fowl, the Lord of the Rings, the Enchanted Forest Chronicles, Harry Potter, the Pendragon books, Young Wizards, and pretty much anything by Diana Wynne Jones. For the most part, these stories were about young people finding something bigger an more important than themselves and fighting for what they believed in. Artemis Fowl may not quite fit that mold, and I don’t think anyone would call Lord of the Rings a YA book. But my main point stands, that the stories were about people finding their larger place in the universe and doing good–romance in these stories tended to be more incidental than anything else.

I was fairly horrified when I came back from two years out of the country and walked into a large chain bookstore for the first time in a long while and found the YA Fantasy Adventure section by and large gone in favor of rows after rows of “Teen Paranormal Romance.” Yes, that was the tag on the shelf. Or shelves rather–there were 18 shelves on 3 book cases with that label. I think a lot of the things I found so meaningful to read when I was growing up are disappearing. The Hunger Games was refreshing in that it fell more back into that model of focusing on what was going on outside the arena of who had a crush on who. Yes there was a love triangle in it, but for the entire first book pretty much the main character had no idea either of the guys had those sort of feelings for her–she was too concerned with staying alive and protecting her sister, which really was the more important bit to be worried about at the time. She didn’t have a chance to think about anything else.

I guess I ran a bit longer on that than I meant to. I could discuss my favorite fantasy books for hours, but I’ll stop now. Here’s this week’s flash fiction entry for Thain in Vain’s flash fiction challenge.

Week Three Prompt: While at a party, two adult siblings find themselves attracted to the same person.

Sibling Rivalry

Elise shook her head, laughing. Her curls were getting just a little longer than she liked, just enough to start to swing when her sister said something inappropriate. “I can’t believe you just said that. Have you no sense of decency?”

People moved slowly about the room, eating and drinking and talking. Some of them were strangers, others hadn’t seen each other in years.

May just rolled her eyes. “If we don’t have a little fun, what else is there?” She sipped her drink. “It’s not like we’ll live forever. Besides, Jeffrey was Irish.”

Elise shook a few crumbs off her skirt from the cookie she’d had earlier. “What on earth does that have to do with anything?”

“Well, aren’t wakes supposed to be fun?”

“You’re impossible. Don’t let Mary hear you talking like that. They were together so long—this is all hard enough on her.” Her eyes strayed to the young priest on the other side of the room, chatting with Sarah-Jean. Her sister wasn’t wrong, he was a dashing specimen. He was only about forty or so and he still seemed to have all of his hair. And what a smile!

May smirked, noting her sister’s gaze. “I saw him first. I think I’m going to go thank him for such a lovely homily.”

“Oh no you’re not. Look at him all you want—I’ll probably do the same—but don’t you go making a scene,” Elise said.

May gave her older sister a smirk. “Just you try to stop me.” It took several moments for May to ease herself up out of her chair, bones creaking. Nothing really worked the way it used too. She shuffled across the room as directly as she could, but had to stop several times to catch her breath or make conversation.

Swearing under her breath in a most unladylike way, Elise put her hands out onto her walker and pulled herself to her feet. May had made fun of the walker when Elise had finally decided she needed one, but who had the last laugh now? The walker clunked against the floor as she started toward the priest. Damn May. She couldn’t be content to look at a handsome fellow, she had to go talk to him. She’d always been a precocious girl—too impulsive. She couldn’t be content to simply hang back and watch an attractive man. Elise would have been content to just watch the priest from afar and maybe smile at him but May had to go and raise the stakes.

Elise grabbed a glass of punch off a nearby table and put it in the little basket at the front of her walker. She smirked at May, who seemed to be stuck talking to Jeremy—the man didn’t have his own teeth still, let alone his own hair.

She was a little out of breath when she reached the priest. She picked up the punch with a hand that trembled only a little. “Thirsty?”


The flash fiction ended up being 499 words, plus the title. I hope you enjoyed this week’s submission. My next goals: finish the latest chapter of my Harry Potter story, fold the laundry, and start my editing processing on The Making of a BeastFeel free to leave comments about any good fantasy books you think I might enjoy, or your thoughts on anything I mentioned above–there’s never enough people to talk about my favorite books with.

Flash Fiction Challenge and a New Start

Greetings, everybody!

I realize I’ve kind of been taking a break from the blog since my post-NaNoWriMo wrap-up. The new year is just getting started. In the near future I’ll post the obligatory road map for where this year is going to go–I’m seeing a fitter me, a lot more writing, making things hands on, and reconnecting with people I care about. To these ends, I’m already making progress. More that later.

To start with, I’ve decided to participate in Than in Vain’s flash fiction challenge to keep myself writing something original and have a small goal each week. I haven’t worked on my NaNoWriMo novel since I hit the 50,000 word mark on November 29th. I do plan to go back to it; I know where that story is going, I just haven’t decided how it’s getting there. I think the editing process on what I have for it so far is going to feel a lot like pulling off a scab and finding pus. It won’t be pretty, and it might hurt, but cleaning it up will help it heal. Since that’s a gross image, here’s my flash fiction badge instead (it’s much prettier).

Flash fiction badge on my blog, because it's somehow less awkward than pinning a badge to my sweater. Right?

Flash fiction badge on my blog, because it’s somehow less awkward than pinning a badge to my sweater. Right?

I only heard about the flash fiction challenge a few days ago, so I missed out on the first week’s prompt, but I was in time for the second. Flash fiction is essentially a very short story. I’ve seen some brilliant 25-50 word flash fictions in the past. For the purpose of this challenge, a flash fiction was described as a story of 500 words or less.  Thain is posting writing prompts every week. My story for this week is exactly 500 words. I  have mixed feelings about it–I haven’t done really short fiction in a long time. But here it is, take a look.

Week 2 Prompt: A writer famous for horror stories is writing a story that grows so terrifying that he/she becomes to afraid to complete it.

Reggie Sprowls was tentatively happy. It was a relatively new experience for him. He’d built his whole career on scaring others senseless. The picture tucked into the corner of his storyboard was as out of place as the woman asleep on his bed.

Soft fingers stroked his cheek, and woke him up. There was a dent on his face from where his cheek had been pressed against a pencil, and his latest draft had fallen to the floor. “Reggie, it’s late, come to bed.”

He looked up blearily, yawning. “I’m meeting with my publisher in the morning. He said what I brought him last week was rubbish.”

“I’m sure he didn’t say that,” she said, pressing her fingers to his cheek and trying to rub a little life back into it.

His head leaned back of its own accord and he closed his eyes as he let her fingers do their task. “His exact words aren’t important.”

“Come to bed. You can work on it in the morning. I want to curl up next to you.”

He conceded, and slept. Morning came and he went back to his manuscript, leaving Callie asleep in the bed. He frowned at the page. He’d never written a romance before. All of his stories ended with knives in backs and people buried alive. He was good at that sort of thing. He looked at his story about Ronald and Cathy meeting in a bookstore, exchanging awkward flirtations, an atypical courtship…and what then?
Maybe he should go back to writing about bleeding walls.

He could hear the sound of Callie puttering around the kitchenette, making breakfast. How long had he been staring at this page?
What did you do after the man and woman got together? How does it work? Relationships fail. He moved everything off his storyboard from the tree-who-got-revenge-on-the-lumberjacks story and started tacking up post-it notes and trying to find a way to make it work. There was no was no way this could end well. Ronald and Callie would fight. Or she could trip on her  wedding dress walking down the aisle and break her neck. They could die in a plane crash on their honeymoon. Ronald might fall asleep while writing and impale himself on a pencil—or a pen, a pen was definitely sharp enough to go through the throat.

There was no happy ending. He would never be happy. It was impossible. All stories ended in death. Death was the only story. He looked at the happy (if not terribly imaginative) pages he’d written about Ronald and Cathy. There would be no happy ending for them. He’d been content to know life’s miseries, and write them. This glimpse of happiness, only to take it away…it was cruel.

Callie was shaking his shoulder. She tried to talk to him, but he simply stared ahead with blank, terrified eyes, his grip tight around the pen. His breakfast had long since cooled.

Well, I’m ready to hear what you think of it.  But first? Delaying tactics! Or rather, getting back to all those things I mentioned earlier. Sound good? Great.

I’m trying to keep my goals from getting too specific, because some of the best things that happen in our life are totally unplanned. When I was in high school, I never would have imagined that I’d live in another country for two years–I didn’t even want to be too far from home for college. I ended up in college 3000 miles from home (and survived) and the spur of a moment decision to take a Mandarin class for fun eventually led to studying abroad in Shanghai, teaching English at a Taiwanese summer camp, and two years of living in Taiwan after college. It’s a strange world.

My goals this year don’t look tremendously different from last year’s goals. They can pretty much be summed up as: I want to make things (connections with people I care about, smiles, delicious meals, novels, short stories, videos, blog posts, 3D prints, crocheted hats, I want to make it all!). As you saw in my last post, I’ve had some mixed success. I wanted to become a healthier person last year (take that as you will). I strength-trained, and I got stronger. I ran (a little), and I got faster. I counted calories and cut down on sugar and carbs and lost about 20 pounds. And then I stopped lifting, running, and counting. I gained back every one of those 20 pounds (not for the first time). I’m so annoyed at myself over it–it feels kind of bitter to know that if I had managed to maintain my weight after the losses, the next 20 pounds I lose would bring me down by 40…instead, I’m having to re-lose the same weight. It doesn’t feel good–I swore to myself after the last time that I wouldn’t that again. Well, this time, I have a plan.

I need to start lifting weights again–even if it’s dumbbells on my living room floor instead of making it to the gym and getting under the barbell. I need to go back to making better decisions with what I eat, and not deciding that a rough day at work means that it’s totally acceptable to splurge on cookies. Or eat fast food because the only way I’ll actually take a break during lunch is if I leave the office. I think moderation is going to be the key. One of the incentives I came up with is to set a very limited budget on how much I can spend on ordering food out at work, say $10 a week. Whatever I don’t spend of that allotment each week will go towards treating myself to something I really love having done but don’t feel like I can splurge on very often: a massage. It gives me multiple reasons to make better eating decisions during the week.

Another thing that I decided I needed to do this year is make sure the people who are important to me know that they are. Last weekend, I called several family members and long-time family friends who I hadn’t heard from in a long while. It felt good. I missed them and it was great catching up. Until I went away to Taiwan in 2010, I never sent Christmas cards. It just wasn’t something I did.  However, Christmas cards in Taiwan were adorable, quirky, covered with glitter, sequins, and ribbons, and really inexpensive. I put out an open call on Facebook and asked who wanted a card. Exchanging addresses with friends and family I hadn’t talked to in a long while led to conversations with people I missed. It was really great. I’ve done it every year since. Also, looking at all the Christmas cards hanging around my room that year made me feel warm and fuzzy and cared for while I was 12,000 miles from home and working on Christmas while most people I knew back home had time off. To be honest, I haven’t taken this year’s Christmas cards off the mantle yet because when I see them, I smile. One of my goals for this year is to send out a card or letter every month. I’ve got three birthday cards and a belated holiday card ready to go in the mail, and I plan to write a letter to a friend who I know is finishing bootcamp this month.

Those are a few of the things I plan to do this year–there’s more, there’s always more. I need to teach myself the updated version of iMovie so I can get back to posting YouTube videos. I have a friend who’s expecting a little one at the end of this summer, and I’ll be crocheting a hat for her. There are more dishes I’d like to teach myself to cook and new skills I’d like to learn. Of course, there’s also writing. I think I’m going to have to elaborate on my writing goals at a later date, or this post will never be finished. It’s been a long week, and I’m about ready to call it a night and sink down into a bubble bath.  Maybe I’ll pick up my dumbbells first–I do have to walk past them when I get off the couch. See? It’s a start!