Still Printing

I’ve recovered fairly well from my sprained ankle and went back to work, and kept printing.

Once I turned on the brim option, I managed to get a unicorn that turned out pretty well. He does have a bit of a beard, but you can’t have everything right? It makes him look distinguished I think. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

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Somehow, designing my earring chest files in the middle of the night was not the best way to ensure accuracy. I thought I had run the numbers correctly for all of my shelves on the large piece to be the same size. I was wrong.

I printed the drawer first, and then the insert to go inside of it. It wasn’t quite the right fit, and I hadn’t thought to make the legs of the insert short enough to be practical.

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I edited the insert a little–smaller dimensions over all, and then shortening the legs–and, success!

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Now, I just had to print the shelves to hold the drawers (and print some more drawers and inserts), and  I’d be all set. A relatively complicated, multi piece 3D printed object. I was excited about this milestone.

The truth is, I wasn’t quite there yet.

Somehow, I had ended up with 3 shelves that fit my existing drawer design, and one shelf that was just too short. Rather than print a whole cabinet for it, I was going to content myself for the time being with printing one more drawer that would fit the smaller height on the last shelf, and call it a day.

I didn’t quite manage the perfection I was hoping for, but I’d call this a decent success for my first attempt at something this complicated.

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The mixed success did slow me down a little in my design ambitions, but I’ve still been having lots of fun printing. This napkin holder I printed (designed by TanyaAkinora) turned out beautifully (slow down your bottom layer speed to a crawl for something like this).

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After nearly 6 weeks of writer’s block, where I only managed a few thousand words, last weekend I managed 5K in a night and I feel like I may be over my block.

I’ve also started going for walks. The weather is gorgeous–there’s turtles, birds, and squirrels out in abundance. It’s good for the mind, body, and soul.

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That Duck Burrito Video…

Writer’s block still has me in it’s grip, which means there’s plenty of time to experiment in the kitchen.

Duck is one of my favorite meats. It’s tender and delicious. I’ll panfry it, rotisserie it, chop it up for stir fry, coat it in almond flour…I’ve yet to find bad way to cook it. Shredded duck meat in butternut squash soup? Check. Confit? Check. (Note: I haven’t made duck confit, but I’ve had it out…totally fabulous.) Peking Duck? I haven’t had it in a few years, but I thought it was delicious.

I also have a severe weakness for tortillas. I’m not a big fan of eggs, but put them in a tortilla and I’m ready for a breakfast burrito.

When I saw this video on Buzzfeed for a Peking Duck inspired burrito yesterday, I knew I had to make it. I made a few substitutions here and there, and I wasn’t sure the duck would be filling enough on it’s own, so I made my quinoa version of “fried rice” to go with it. We ended up with way too much food, but at least there’s left overs for lunch tomorrow.

Here’s my adjusted recipe for the Peking Duck inspired burritos. It was easy and delicious and way too much food for two, but perfect for dinner and a lunch!

Ingredients

  • 1.5 pounds of duck breast meat (breast off-cuts work great and are affordable if you can find them)
  • scallions
  • cucumber (a few slices)
  • soy sauce
  • Mirin (sweet Japanese rice wine)
  • garlic (6 cloves)
  • salt
  • pepper
  • olive oil
  • sesame oil
  • Hoisin sauce
  • Flour tortillas

I marinated the duck breasts with a splash of soy sauce, Mirin, and a heaping tablespoon of minced garlic, and I let the breasts sit while I cooked my quinoa and veggies.

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I poured a splash of sesame oil and olive oil into a frying pan on medium high heat and put the meat in the bottom of the pan for a few minutes before turning it over and cooking the other side.

While the duck cooked, I sliced scallions and cucumber into thin strips. I’m not a huge fan of cucumber and next time, I would probably just trade it for extra scallions, though as I mentioned before, that might be because I’d put scallions in absolutely anything.

I heated up the tortillas in the microwave for about 15 seconds, and my duck burritos were ready (some assembly required).

For my quinoa stir fry, I cooked more or less the same vegetables as I did earlier this week, except I substituted ginger for the bell peppers tonight. When the duck was done, I threw the quinoa and veggies into the pan where the duck had been cooking and scraped the browned bits from the bottom of the pan.

Delicious.

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Once we got to the table, we assembled our “burritos.”

  1. Slice pieces of duck into manageable bites.
  2. Spread a little Hoisin sauce over the warm tortilla.
  3. Put a little scallion and cucumber on either side of your meat.
  4. Roll up and enjoy!

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The original recipe called for rice in the burrito, but I’m not the world’s biggest fan of rice (and it comes out terribly when I cook it). I ended up with fairly small flour tortillas at the store, so it worked out perfect to put my quinoa and veggies on the side.

This dish is definitely going to be repeated. Happy Friday!

 

Spring is Coming

As mild as this winter has been around here, I have to admit, I’m ready for spring. Naked trees and dead grass just never quite feels right to me.

I haven’t updated here in a while, but that’s mostly because I’ve been busy making things.

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I will admit, that the original story I’m working on hasn’t quite been receiving the love that it should. I think I’m going to try writing some short stories set in the same world to help me flesh out the world my characters are playing in. I absolutely love the world I’m exploring there, I just haven’t discovered everything there is to know yet.

My kitchen has been missing me the last few weeks. After a disastrously bad butternut squash soup, I’ve been a little afraid to venture forth into experimental cooking again. I’m going to admit it: I improvised and it went badly. I was out of the chicken stock that the recipe called for, so I substituted beef broth. A normal butternut squash soup made with chicken broth has a lovely, appealing orange color. Butternut squash soup made with beef broth tends to look like something I’m not sure I’d even feed to my cat. And in my attempts to doctor it up and make it more appealing, I added cayenne. Not just a little cayenne, or a moderate amount of cayenne, but so much that in the few spoonfuls of soup I attempted to power through and eat required several glasses of water and still left my mouth burning. If anyone wants to recommend another butternut squash soup recipe, I’ll give it another try. I’ve had it out at restaurants and thought it was fantastic, but my own missteps have made me a little wary.

While I haven’t been cooking lately, I did go back and add an epilogue onto my first Dramione story and make a lot of progress on other stories in my queue. The other thing I’ve been doing is getting back into 3D printing. I can take apart and reassemble a 3D printer like it’s nobody’s business, but I haven’t spent a whole lot of time developing my CAD skills.

To easy myself back into the printing process, I scoured YouMagine.com and Thingiverse for some designs that looked fun. I have to tell you, I’m going to have the BEST Christmas ornaments next year. I found a lot of useful tools like an SD card organizer, and some slightly less than useful tools like the tape dispenser I printed. In all fairness, the dispenser printed beautifully, and fits great with a roll of tape. The edge just isn’t quite sharp enough for cutting tape. However, I like it so much, I’m half-tempted to put some sort of blade on the edge and keep it on my desk.

One of the things I find most fascinating to print are the articulated models that print as a single piece but actually have moving parts.  There’s a heart-shaped box that opens up that you can see in the picture up top, and an elephant whose legs and head all move. The elephant was really amazing–it needed absolutely no clean up and moved fine as soon as I’d pried it off the glass bed. If you want to see the little fellow in action, here’s a short video clip of me moving the legs and head. I’ve got a whole bunch more things I want to print this week, so stay tuned.

I also did finally brave the CAD world. My results aren’t exactly going to win me any design prizes, but it’s a start. I started playing around with TinkerCAD, which is so far the most intuitive of the free CAD software I found. I used it to make a flat bottomed butterfly.

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You could use the butterfly by itself–maybe put a magnet or hairpin on the back of it if you wanted to do something useful with it. In an effort to find something to do with my butterfly, I remixed a basic business card holder that was under the Creative Commons license and used MeshMixer to put my butterfly on the front of the business card holder and voila! A new thing was born and available for download.

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I’m going to try braving some of the other CAD programs and see what I come up with. Wish me luck!

Confession

Happy Friday, everybody. Or, Saturday. I probably won’t post this until tomorrow.

I took the plunge and did something I’ve been putting off since I hit my 50,000 word NaNoWriMo goal on November 29th. I reopened my story for editing. This might not sound like a big deal–I got the words on paper, I did the hard part, right? It’s just time to go back and clean it up a bit, yeah?

Well, I have a confession to make. It’s probably going to make me sound like a bad writer. The truth is, maybe I am.

I’ve never seriously edited a story before.

I’ve sent out 1.3 million words’ worth of stories into the internet to hopefully entertain and delight fantasy fans, and I’ve never seriously edited them. Most of those stories were fan fiction. I had strong characters as my starting points and I put them in a situation and just let the characters dictate what their natural responses would be to the situation. The stories just kind of evolved, and I’d post a chapter at a time, as they came to me–there were a couple of stories that were 8 years, start to finish, as I pretty much took a break from fan fiction throughout all of college and a couple of years after and only returned to it intermittently until recently. There are pros and cons to this I suppose. Pro? I had to stick with what I’d written because it was already out there and I couldn’t change my mind about a plot point after the fact. Con? I couldn’t change my mind about a plot point because it was already out there.

Maybe it’s just a decade of habit now, but when I think about my stories, I rarely ever give much consideration to major changes. Pretty much everything I’ve posted on FanFiction.net could use going over with a fine tooth comb–there are typos that need to be fixed that embarrass me. But I’ve never really thought about dismantling the stories and changing any major facet about them. The characters told me what felt right for them and the story worked. If I didn’t know what the characters needed or I wasn’t sure where it was supposed to go…then my reviewers waited a long time between chapters.

Participating in NaNoWriMo this year and really pushing myself for the first time in writing an original story (as original as a fairytale gets), I discovered some of the problems with my method of writing. If you have characters you know like the back of your hand, characters you feel like you know as well as anyone in the real world, it’s possible to feel pretty certain that you’ve chosen a natural response for them in a situation. But what about when you don’t really know who your characters are yet? When their backstories are still largely unformed?

For example, part way through my NaNoWriMo story The Making of a Beast, I decided that the main character’s friend and confidante wasn’t a friend who he’d grown up with–it was his father’s friend, who had watched him grow up. I’m fairly certain he’s going to abandon the main character at some point, but I’m still not sure who he is and what the reason for it might be. So I just skipped over that bit.

That’s right–I skipped over chunks of the story during NaNoWriMo, which is something I couldn’t do when I was writing fan fiction. Again, you’ve got the pros and cons there–by being able to skip over it in this case I was able to keep writing, and moving on, and I know I can go back and fix it when I’ve made decisions. It’s been over a month and I haven’t wanted to think about it–I haven’t made those decisions, and I don’t have any better idea about who my characters are. When I write my fics, if I can’t decide on something or I’m not sure about it, it delays the whole process, because I can’t go back. B has to follow A and C has to follow B or the whole alphabet will hate me–though occasionally there’s a good excuse for a flashback and things can be jumbled up a bit.

Here I am now, more than halfway through January, and the only headway I’ve made is to promise myself that I will go back to this story, and that I will do NaNoWriMo again. I have 50,000+ words of unedited something with all these decisions still waiting to be made and these gaping holes in the story as I jump from one part of it to another. Thinking about it, I think I was trying to rush things. I predict all said and done this is going to be a roughly 200,000 word story. I’ve written stories over 150K before (and my current fan fic is nearly at that mark), but it’s never something like this.

I used to always find I had the best chance of editing something if I printed it out and took a pen to it–it’s easy to gloss over things on the computer. I opened my story tonight for the first time since November and started nipping and tucking at the prologue, changing a word here or there. Then I decided to print it. Surely I can do it all if I just take it a piece at a time. And then I found myself wondering what I was doing, trying to edit it piecemeal. Shouldn’t I read the whole thing again and then go to work on the pieces?

Honestly? I haven’t the foggiest. I’m leaning towards that, so that I have a better idea of what I’ve already written. I told myself from the beginning that sections of what I’ve written were probably going to have to go, but I find myself reluctant to part with any of it–something I remember feeling in the creative writing classes and projects I did a lifetime ago.

How do you feel about the editing process? Does it make you cringe? Or is there satisfaction in purging your story, making it better, getting the perfect fit for it? The perfect fit really does make a difference in most things in life. I could probably wax philosophical on that for a bit, but I think it’s time to call it a night. If I manage to hit “publish post” in the next 30 seconds, it’ll still be Friday.

Too late. Saturday is here. Oh well. It’s still Friday somewhere, isn’t it? Time to curl up and sleep.

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And before I forget, here are a few things you can expect to hear from me about in the next couple of weeks:

Stay tuned!

NaNoWriMo: Win! (A Reflection on Wins and Losses This Year)

I can’t begin to tell you how excited I am. I really needed this win. I had a slew of goals last January for things I wanted to accomplish this year: I wanted to get into the habit of making a Vlog and updating it regularly, I wanted to blog regularly, teach myself how to make new things, get into better shape, and write.

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I have had a few victories this year. For example, I have started Vlogging for the first time in my life, but I haven’t been updating my YouTube channel, ErinMakesStuff, very regularly. I also created this blog, and there have been some updates, but not as many as there could have been.

I did make some progress in the world of fan fiction. I finally finished a 100,000 word story I started 8 years ago about Neville Longbottom, wrote a short story I’m rather proud of about how Peter Pettigrew became the Potters’ secret keeper and betrayed them.

I made a hat in January, a really cool handbag this spring, and learned a bit more about 3D printing, even venturing a couple of prints on my own. But you know what? I haven’t touched my crocheting in probably six months now. I couldn’t tell you the last time I picked up my cross-stitch. And I’m disappointed by my lack of patience in trying to teach myself how to use Zbrush for 3D printing.

I lost numerous inches from my waist and hips. I got stronger and faster. I dropped a couple of minutes from my rather terrible best 1 mile time, and managed to improve my military press to 70 pounds and deadlift to 135 at my best (my squats are still rather pathetic). I cut down significantly on my sugar content (for a time). It wasn’t until I tried to cut out sugar and found myself with carb flu that I realized how much of it I was consuming.

Well, it’s pretty much all come back. My goal was a healthier me and it still is; I’m just not there yet. I have a good understanding now of what it takes for me to be healthy, and the knowledge that I can make progress. I also know in the past year and a half, I’ve yo-yoed 40 pounds total and ended up about where I started. At my best, I was down 20 pounds. It definitely feels bitter to be relosing the same weight, and knowing how much farther I’d be if I exercised better self-control.

I tried to commit myself to a 4 week, 8 session self-defense class in October, saying, “This is it, this is where I get back on track.” I only made it to the first 4 sessions.

I’ve been a temp worker at my current place of employment for 14 months. I like it there, but I’m still waiting for a permanent position to open up. I know I’ve learned a lot, but it’s discouraging sometimes to have worked full-time for so long and not be considered permanent.

And while I’ve written quite a lot of fan fiction this year, up until November snuck up on me, I hadn’t spent any time this year writing original fiction.

So, by the time I started seeing people talking about NaNoWriMo, I really needed a win. And I was so on my game for the first to weeks. Every day except for one, I was on track to finish on time. I was sitting pretty happily at Day 15.

And then I didn’t write, for most of a week. And I just couldn’t catch up. I disliked my story. I felt frustrated at the inconsistencies I knew where there because I didn’t have time to go back and fix them, not if I was going to catch up. And I couldn’t seem to make decisions about how certain things in the story were supposed to go (as if I couldn’t fix it later). Last weekend, on the 23rd and 24th, I wrote about 10,000 words. It still wasn’t enough to catch me up, not nearly. Yesterday, with the day off for Thanksgiving, and not being responsible for much cooking, I managed to write 5000 words. I was on track for the first time since November 15th. It felt good. Today, I managed to knock out the last 3000 words. And here I am. I needed this win. I’m glad I made it. I couldn’t have done it without all the support and encouragement from my boyfriend–he really was amazing, all the times I thought I couldn’t do it, knowing when to tell me it was okay if the words just weren’t coming that night, and reminding me that I could do this.

Here’s my current NaNo stats if you want to see what my progress looked like:
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As you can see, I was going slow and steady up until the midpoint, and then yeah.

Now that I’ve met my goal, I’ve got a few things in mind. I do want to go back and fix this story, and finish writing it. It’s far from complete. I’m guessing it will be a 200,000 word story if I had to hazard a guess, though I’m not sure I’ve written that much. Most of my novel length fan fictions have been around 100,000 words, some of them 136,000. I may need to not look at this story for at least a week though. The story and I need some time apart–the title is still my favorite part.

I’m still kind of boggled by the sheer number of words I’ve written this month. The tally stands:

  • 50327 words for NaNoWriMo
  • 22437 words for Law and Marriage, my Harry Potter fan fiction
  • 4093 words on this blog

Grand total? I’ve written 76,857 words in the past 29 days. I feel pretty good about that. I wanted to keep up with my fan fiction since it was gaining steam while writing my NaNoWrIMo novel. I also wanted to keep writing it because it was a good release when I felt like my novel wasn’t going anywhere. I’m proud of some of my fan fiction. And I certainly feel like my current story is more polished than my novel is at this point. That being said, I was able to keep up with it for the first 2 weeks and a bit–my last update was November 18th, and I wrote like the wind on the 17th and 18th to make that happen. I haven’t written on it since, but I promise, it’s on the list.

My next step is basically to follow up with pretty much everything. Without a looming deadline now, I can keep working on my fan fic again, and let it bring a little joy into my creative process. I’ll be able to go back and do some serious revision on my novel and see if it’s worth salvaging. And reading.

I haven’t allowed myself to really spend any time in November reading any novels, because, really, I don’t just read one novel. I’ll read the series. I haven’t seen Catching Fire yet for that reason–I wanted to reread the series first. I didn’t get around to it before November (the books are so emotionally draining), and once November hit, there just wasn’t time. I have so many books I want to read at the moment. I’ve also decided that now that I don’t have a midnight deadline of how many words I need every day, I’ve lost my excuse to stop working out. Even if I don’t make it to the gym, I’m bringing the dumbbells out into the living room, where they will be looking at me if I get off the couch without paying them a visit.

So, here’s to 2013, it’s not over yet, and the fight to improve myself and create awesome things still going.

Is anyone planning on making any cool crafts for Christmas?

NaNoWriMo, Day 24

Well, I’m nearly caught up. I’ve written over 9700 words on my novel in the past 48 hours. 

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I’ve written over 5000 words today, and nearly 5000 yesterday. 9714 words later, I feel like it’s been a productive weekend. I even did some laundry and cooked. My total word count for NaNoWriMo is 39,126 right now.

My fan fic word count for the month is holding steady around 21,000. I haven’t worked on it at all this weekend. I’ve been aiming for Monday updates, but it’s just not going to happen tomorrow, and if any of my Law and Marriage readers are reading this, I’m sorry. Hopefully I can get something up by Tuesday or Wednesday. I know what’s going to happen in the chapter, I’m just running out of hours in the day to write everything I want to write.

Maybe if I got rid of this whole “eating and sleeping” business I’d have more time to write, but I’m rather attached to those things. 

Anyway, I feel good about all the catch up I managed this weekend. I wasn’t sure I could do it, and I’m still not entirely caught up–the goal for the 24th was to be at 40,000 words. I’m 900 shy. I worry that I won’t be able to finish my 50,000 by the deadline, but hopefully I will. I’ll be off work the 28th, 29th, and 30th, so there should be a way to get the words out if my brain will cooperate. I do see a lot of potential in this story, there’s just so much I still need to work through on it. 

Until next time, I’ll be making stuff.