Archive | March, 2011

Into the Woods

31 Mar

For those of you just coming in, this is second in a series of reader driven fictional posts.  Check out the first installment before reading on.

Sometimes the writing muse can be fickle.  One day it’s here and clear, the next it’s hovering just out of reach.  Today my muses played a trick on me.  Go ahead and think I’m crazy, or paranoid, or superstitious, whatever, but this is what happened on my way to the pool this morning:

I decided to actually count the random metal strips on the road for fun, since I chose seven as the number for my story knowing there were way more.  Seven is a special number.  As with three, nine and thirteen, seven tends to be used quite a bit in fantasy stories I enjoy reading.  Also, seven has been my lucky number since I was a teenager.  I like it.  I also feel an affinity for the number 13.  Side note:  I cross my sevens.  Anyway, as I was walking, I started counting.  I counted seven metal pieces on our road, 12th Avenue.  As I turned onto Park Street, where I first noticed these little scraps, I was idly thinking about how neat it might be if I found 13.  But there were no more.  The rest were gone.  So I’ve spent the rest of the day in a sort of cosmic daze.  It’s too weird to chalk up to mere coincidence.  I guess the next hurdle will be to write Ike into existence somehow, but if I run into a guy with blue hair at the pool tomorrow I might just die prematurely.

Anyway, here is the fruit of my tricksy muses today.  Enjoy, as before, try to find my reference and please don’t forget to comment!

You know the old woods? Merry whispered in her head.  Folks used to say there was something in the water that made the trees grow tall.  Talk to each other.  Even move. He used to say this so he could watch Brooke, another of the Lucky Seven, squirm.  That’s how they would flirt.  It gave Brooke an excuse to snuggle close to him, or give him a playful swat on the shoulder.  But Sabrina was hearing Merry’s voice from hundreds, thousands of miles away.  She would have been rooted to the spot if Leo hadn’t been pulling her gently along.  They were at the very edge of Fanghorn Forest.  They had waded through the scraggly wildflowers where Ike often showed his softer side by singing and chanting poetry.  But now that her attention was fully on the forest, she wondered if Ike had done that for her at all.  It seemed like a good distraction from the shadowy feeling that was wafting off of the trees.

“Hold on to me, okay?”  Leo said over his shoulder.  These were the first words spoken between them since he had appeared and taken her and the mysterious key North.

She had opened her mouth to say something about how she needed to find her father and slap a cup of coffee into his mitts, but it didn’t seem to matter anymore.  Her silence this time had nothing to do with that swirly feeling she usually got in the pit of her stomach or the way her eyes would go fuzzy around the edges whenever she happened to see Leo around the shanty-town.

There was a faint memory from the first time she and her father had passed through the wood.  They were pursued most of the way across the vast desert by a posse with laser cannons, and had stumbled into the forest almost by mistake.  Once they entered, a quiet had wrapped around them.  It calmed their horses instantly and the scent of rotting leaves caused their eyelids to droop.  After a lot of coaxing, the horses were persuaded to shamble farther into the dense undergrowth.  Sabrina and Horst had collapsed on their saddle blankets as soon as the close growing trees blocked out all the sounds of the desert.  As Sabrina nodded off into an exhausted sleep, she saw a face above her.  It was gnarled and Spanish moss dribbled from where the chin should have been.  After an instant, the face was gone and Sabrina dismissed it as a latent reaction to Merry’s wild stories coupled with physical stress.

Grasping Leo’s rough hand with both of hers now, she felt the key warm almost alive digging into her palm.  They passed through the shadow of the trees and into something thicker.  Once inside the forest Leo paused as if her were unsure.  There was a faint rasping sound as he sent his tongue out over dry lips.  The shadow was unlike anything they had ever seen before.  It was heavy and there was a yellow-orange haze to it.  Glancing over at Leo, Sabrina gasped.  There was green light dancing around him.  The light engulfed his body and spilled down his arm to her hand.  Letting out another breathy gasp she watched as the light marched over her closed hands and up her arm.  Leo stepped close and gently moved one of her hands aside, his eyes piercing into her.  He cupped her palm and she opened her fingers.  There the key lay blazing a bright new grass green.  Folding their hands over the key once more, the pair moved slowly on.  The forest shone brightly as they moved through it, but once they left a spot, the yellow-orange twilight hurried in once more.

Something about moving through the eerie strangely colored darkness made it impossible to tell how long they had been walking.  They were like sleepwalkers; slowly stretching in an uncertain direction.  The scenery never changed.  It was only trees and moss and brambles.  It could have been minutes, hours, days later when they reached a clearing.  The twilight was weaker there, and in the middle there was a tangle of grey-green plants.  The plants sprawled everywhere, climbing over one another, and they were laden with ripe fruit.

“Are those…”

“It’s love apples.”

Sabrina looked at her companion.  She hadn’t been bothered by his sudden appearance and the subsequent side-tracking he was responsible for, nor was it an issue that he had taken her into a dangerous forest with no explanation of where they were going, but she was cross with him now for interrupting her.

“We called them tomatoes.  But they’re wrong…” She tried to step forward for a closer look at the lumpy scabby fruit, but found her arm firmly anchored behind her.

Leo’s eyes, now pale and wide with fear fixed on the opposite side of the clearing.  He clenched her hand like a drowning man, his shallow breathing making harsh puffing sounds in the quiet.  In an awkward half crouch, Sabrina turned slowly.

Hulking at the opposite side of the clearing just beyond the trees was a beast.

What was the beast?

A) A spooky spider

B) A huge grey wolf with earrings

C) A tree person

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Choose Your Own Adventure Blog!

30 Mar

This is the inspiration behind today’s post.  It doesn’t look like much, but I see them every day on my walk to the pool and always wonder what they are.  So I let my imagination take over, and here is the result.  I have transplanted and adapted both characters and elements from my own writing and writing and film of others.  See if you can find them all!  Note:  This one requires your participation, so don’t be shy!

Weak light filtered in from the thin high window onto Sabrina’s fluttering eyelids.  She closed her eyes firmly against the light, clinging to the last restful scraps of sleep she would get that day.  Wishing desperately to remain wrapped in her own sleeping warmth, a glance at the empty bed across the room told her what she had to do instead.  Her thin sandals crunched on the gravel outside the makeshift shack she called home.  The thin blanket she wore draped over one shoulder and crossing her chest was not nearly enough to keep out the early morning chill.  But the sun shone brightly, and she started on her trek.

Pointing East, into the rising sun she was searching for her father.  Since they had come to this part of the Midworld, Horst had begun a rather illicit and practically unheard of affair with a man named Felix.  This relationship, however, had more to do with their mutual love for Lady Liquor than for one another.  Most days she would walk two miles outside of their small shanty town to a tavern of types that serviced thirsty laborers for miles around.  There she would find Horst and Felix in the fallout from an evening spent drinking a fermented root mash that was called Mother’s Milk, but in the thick mushy local accent always sounded to her like “Mudder’s Milk”.

How had they come to this?  Sabrina could hardly remember life before they had fled the crumbling walls of a city under siege.  She knew she and her father hadn’t always lived in a shack made of logs, that she hadn’t always had to dress in this ridiculous blanket toga, that her only pair of shoes hadn’t always been these flimsy sandals, and particularly that she hadn’t had to walk for miles every day searching for her father.

The sun began to warm her long dark hair and her thoughts turned dreamy about what the day might become.  Perhaps she would go to the hot springs later and bathe naked, surrounded by a new crop of sugar beets.  Or maybe she would be able to coax Ike to lay down his super sized broadsword for the afternoon.  They would walk in the stringy wildflowers on the edge of the woods and she would wonder at his strange blue spiky hair while he slowly spun out more of that poem he had started to tell her last night.  The one that began “Childe Roland to the dark tower came…”

She was startled out of her thoughts by a faint ping! as her foot came into contact with something that was not a pebble.  It was a tiny rusty strip of metal.  Coming to a halt, she knelt down to examine this rare find.  Here metal did not lie about wantonly.  Scooping it up idly she continued on, only to come across another piece identical to the first.  She studied the two side by side.  They were no more than a quarter of an inch wide, and perhaps a hands-length long.  She decided she would collect them if more popped up and bring them to the blacksmith’s when she returned to town.  This gave her an excuse to hang around and maybe catch a glimpse of the blacksmith’s oldest son, Leo.  She always went silly and dreamy around Leo with his long red hair and wild blue eyes.

The rest of her walk she kept her head bent, eyes searching the ground for more of the mystery scraps.  When she had collected four, she noticed a buzzing in her palm.  The tiny fragments were humming softly and trembling.  Things like this seemed to always be happening in Midworld, so she closed her palm, taking more notice of a bald man in old round glasses sleeping in his carriage.  Straightening with six humming metal sticks clutched in one hand and a seventh between her opposite thumb and forefinger, a painful memory suddenly darkened the bright morning.

Lucky seven!  The Loser’s Club! Her friend Lucy’s voice drifted across a memory of a vast wind scorched field.  There were beets there too. Sabrina remembered.  But they were dead.  They were dead because Ben made lucky seven, and we were the Loser’s Club. Her heart ached for her friends, left long behind after they had fled across a desert and a strange forest called Fanghorn.  Ben had killed the beets so that Merry’s old deerhound could survive a scorpion bite.  Then there had been nothing in that field but seven friends and an old dog.  Since they had come through the eerie forest which had seemed almost alive, something had changed in her.  The only person in town who seemed brave enough to be her friend was Ike with his Claymore and loud battle cry.  Everyone else skirted her nervously.  Ike said it was because since Sabrina and Horst had come through, the forest had become enveloped in a weird yellowy twilight.  Children were forbidden to enter, and the only thing that came out were tall tales of giant spiders and old horseless carriages.

As soon as the seventh scrap of metal touched the others in her now sweaty palm, the humming became a loud long musical note.  Glancing down, she watched with wide eyes as the metal started to twist and turn in her hand while emitting a warm green light.

A blink and it was over.  Instead of a pile of odd old metal, a long key lay across her fingers.  The key flashed a brilliant polished copper, and on it were three faintly glowing symbols.  She had seen these symbols used in the local’s version of written language.  The one nearest the key’s teeth was a green swirl slightly wider at the base than at the top.  This was the symbol of Fanghorn Forest to the North.  at the top of the key lay two wavy lines of blue.  This was a long beach rumored to be endless that lay to the South.  And in the middle was a tee-pee of red and gold.  This could only be the Bigtop, where she and Ike sometimes snuck in underneath the thick canvas to feed wild thistle to Rosie the elephant.

She was about to slip the key into the folds of her blanket when a stick cracked behind her, making her jump around.  Her breath caught in her throat when her eyes lit in Leo.  He was striding right towards her, his hair crazy and flowing behind him.  His face was seemed serious at first, but as he approached Sabrina could see a small smile curling one corner of his thin lips.  She couldn’t speak, and her heart skipped a beat when he marched up to her.  He was wearing a pair of wide-legged burgundy linen pants and nothing on top but the leather vest he often wore when working the bellows at his father’s shop.  His skin was warm and dry as his fingers slid over hers, covering the key.  The smile reached his dark blue eyes for an instant.  Sabrina thought she might fall into those eyes and die happy.  As he spoke, however, his face changed so suddenly it was like there had never been a smile there at all.

“Come with me.”

Now it’s your turn, dear reader.  Where are they going to go?

A: The Forest

B: The Beach

C: The Bigtop

Cast your vote and come back tomorrow to read more about Sabrina!

Feeling Wifey

29 Mar

So it snowed again last night.  The weather promises relatively clear skies in the future and temperatures into the 50’s.  My garden is a still a not so distant dream, but every day I am reminded that the ground is thawing and warming a little bit more.  But still looking out on our white lawn this morning, I could barely raise my spirits enough to get out of the warm bed.  As I trudged on my way to the pool for a swim my heart so obviously wasn’t in, a thought popped into my head.  I realized I hadn’t updated my garden page with a week seven picture of my tomato plants.  Then I thought, how cool would it be to take a picture of the plant looking all awesome and green against the white snowy hedge?  Energized now by a cool idea on how to turn something unpleasant into a worthwhile creative project I managed to get through my mile and a half.

What irony!  What disappointment!  When I left the building an hour and a half later, all the snow was gone.  Once again everything was a bright fresh green.  As I arrived home, I was discouraged by the idea of another afternoon of peaceful nothingness.  I finished my latest library book, am at an impasse in both of the Wii games I am playing through, and just couldn’t think of much to do with myself.

Sometimes I feel like being a good wife.  I am seized by moments of maniac cleanliness where I sweep through the house sweeping, organizing and scrubbing down counter-tops.  Other days I spend hours online looking up new recipes to serve up to my skinny husband.  Today was one of those days, the cooking days.  I realized it had been at least a month since I spent the afternoon planning and preparing a meal.  Most of the time cooking in an activity Eric and I share happily, but some times I like to be the one in charge.  So, with nostalgic movies from the 1990’s (Empire Records followed by Kindergarten Cop) for my background noise, I went to work.  Only now am I sad to say I did not wear my apron.

One of my recent staples is bread.  I have more than mastered a white Amish style loaf, and subbed out half of the white flour for wheat for a new twist.  I wanted to try something different.  Cheese bread is something I really enjoy eating and had never tried, so that was the first thing on my list.  I found a recipe online from guess where?  Panera Bread, dutifully copied it down on my note-cards and followed the instructions word for word.  With the bread proofing and rising, I found myself back in the kitchen, looking for spare ingredients to make into something yummy.

Eric loves pie.  He usually has no complaints about anything, but when pie, or not enough pie is involved, he is always vocal.  I’ve only ever made two pies in my life.  I am quite good at making chocolate cheesecake, but I think that falls into a different category.  Anyway, the other two pies I made turned out pretty funky, and not in a Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch kind of way.  Despite this, there has been a baggie of frozen blueberries sitting in the freezer just begging to be used up.  Blueberry is my personal favorite pie selection, and I figured I could throw in the two apples that have been sitting lonely on the shelf for a while.  Here’s the part where I give a shout out to my in-laws.  They gave us a food processor for our wedding, and it’s probably the most handy kitchen gadget we have so far.  Without the food processor, I would be lost as to making a pie crust.  I can make a mean stir fry or lentil soup, but when it comes to baking sweets, I tend to get cold feet.  All those rules and steps just get in the way.  With a food processor, all you do is dump and pulse and you’re all set.  I somehow managed to time this so perfectly that by the time I was done with the pie crust, I was ready to mix the bread sponge into the actual dough, and with the pie safely in the oven, two pretty loaves of bread were slowly rising rising in the heat any humidity of the laundry room.

When Eric got home he hovered around the pie, wanting to help me do the dishes, but I sent him away with a beer so I could finish cleaning up my mess.  Then, so I could get a moment’s peace to write, I got him started chopping vegetables for the turkey loin I want to roast for dinner.  And now I hear him out there, his glass is empty and he is speaking with a bad Arnold Schwarzenegger accent, so I guess it’s time for me to go pay attention to him and his dinner.

7 Things Which Made Me Smile Today

28 Mar

I was going to go with the standard 10, but lucky seven is usually the number for me!

1) Learning a new move in Zumba class and totally rocking it out.

2) Seeing little green shoots all over town on my walk to the post office.

3) Having Eric drive right by me without noticing me.  Bonus: Not feeling the least bit surprised at his oblivious state.

4) Waking up with a cat by my butt.

5) Gobbling up leftover homemade pizza.  Toppings: black and green olives, mushrooms and homemade fresh mozzarella.

Not the most attractive pizza we have made, but damn, it was tasty!

6) Receiving a post card from Philadelphia.

7) Seeing 50 degree weather and sun in the 10 day forecast for Grinnell.

I hope everyone else out there has had at least 7 things awesome things happen to them so far today.  Keep smiling!

New Pants, New Woman

27 Mar

There’s nothing like a great outfit to make you feel like a million bucks again.  A pause for a little back story here:  When we moved to Iowa in October, I took on a very sedentary lifestyle.  Mostly I would sit in my chair waiting for my muses to visit me like a sweet dream so I could start my fantasy writer’s life.  Most days became cartoon or movie marathons, and I accomplished very little.  This being said, I quickly put on enough weight that my regular pants weren’t quite comfortable anymore, so I started wearing yoga pants instead.  No embarrassing muffin top, I thought the black was flattering for my legs, and it was comfortable when I didn’t have to leave the house.  I figured I would keep it up until I either lost the weight somehow or got pregnant, and then I would have a nine month get out of fashion jail free card.  In February I realized that neither of those things was going to just miraculously happen, so I turned to my old friend, Lane Bryant.

Shopping has always been an unpleasant experience for me, even before I gained all the weight.  Unless I was at the co-op or Target, shopping made me terribly anxious.  The mere idea of stepping into a fitting room and the subsequent feeling of rejection I would inevitably encounter was too much for me.  So often I bought without trying anything on, which always led to more disappointment at home.  So, this time I spared myself the trouble and went online.  I found two pair of jeans, each on sale for 20$ from almost 60$.  The great thing about Lane Bryant is they have special fits in all their pants that cater to the curvier lady.  I love this, because I have a very high and narrow natural waist especially when you pair it with my gigantic hips.  Lane Bryant understands!  They make jeans to fit a body like mine.  Read: No more gaping in the back, no more plumber crack, no more tightness across the hips!

I ordered a pair of wide-leg trouser style jeans and a pair of dark wash boot cut stretch jeans.  I won’t tell you the size I ordered in, because I’m still shy about that, and I don’t believe in stuffing myself into a smaller size just so I can say I did.  Then I waited with baited breath for 8-10 days.  When they arrived I was pleasantly surprised.  After literally months of not wearing jeans, I felt perfectly comfortable in my new look.  The wide leg trousers make me feel like I’m straight out of the seventies, and I love them.  Plus they look super cute with my black sporty mary-janes.  The dark wash is very flattering on me and the fabric has a nice give to it.

I said it before and I’ll say it again; there’s nothing like a new outfit that fits well to boost up self-confidence.  Regardless of what my end goal is for my fitness journey, I need to feel great where I am now, and every day going forward, because I know if I lose my confidence, my motivation will falter and I will end up right back where I started.  Even though I am throwing off the shackles of my sedentary life-style, I feel it’s important for me to feel like an ice-cream sundae every day in my own skin (and my new jeans).

It’s too early for fetch…

26 Mar

It’s a lazy, hazy, grey Saturday morning.  Thanks to wine and good company from last night, no one seems to want to get out of bed this morning.  Of course, to my partner’s credit, it is the first weekend in probably several months that we haven’t had company or he’s had to go into work.  So it’s going to be one of those weekends I think.  After lying awake for a few minutes with the cats crawling all over me begging for food, I got up and took care of them.  Thora, of course returned immediately to my pre-warmed spot on the bed to take an extra snooze with daddy.  But Eli on the other hand immediately went to play with phantom bugs on the futon, and upon seeing me started to beg for a toy.  Eli’s favorite toys are those little hard mice you can get at the hardware store.  He prefers the kind that have catnip in them.  He also had a set of plastic balls with jingle bells inside that he would fetch with, but those all got lost somewhere, or they are in an Eli nest with all the rest of the mice he has either tried to eat or pulled the tails off of.  So on a trip to Theisen’s we picked up a 12 pack of little rope mice in bright colors.  It’s really quite cute when he brings the toy back to me to throw back down our long hallway.  I can tell by the way he runs if he’s got a toy in his mouth (maybe I am spending too much time alone with the cats!) and he tries to meow around it which of course sounds hilarious.

After about ten minutes of this, he gave up, leaving his toy alone on the floor by his water glass– yes, our cat has his own water glass– and retreated to his favorite hiding spot.  He peered out at me from under an end table next to our boxes of video games with that look that said clearly “Look at that silly human, waving a mouse toy around by it’s tail saying, ‘Fetch?  Fetch Eli?  Where’s the toy?’ It’s in your hand, silly person.  And I’m sooo over it!”

Guest Post: Eric and the Grill

25 Mar

Tonight I bring you a special treat:  A guest post authored by my partner in crime, Eric.  I hope you enjoy it!

I’m not Fawn, far from it in fact, but she wanted me to write a guest post.

Our life in a lot of ways is centered around food.  I think a lot of families have rituals around how they prepare and consume meals, whether that means a quick meal heated up the microwave or whether that means a full dinner prepared from scratch, but for us meal times are a way to re-center, to be creative, to make an enjoyable experience out of the simple aspects of life.

This last weekend we got a grill.

I grew up in a family that didn’t really “believe” in grilling.  At some point in high school my dad eventually got our family a grill and we would occasionally pull it out (usually when my mother was off for the weekend, or was willing to indulge in our whims), in any case it certainly was not a normal part of our meal-time routine.  As someone who has always liked simplicity in food, grilling represents an excellent blend of flavorful depth with simplistic presentation – a grilled meat inevitably takes on the complexity of the smokey aroma of the grill but can be presented as a single unified piece.  Much like strips of sashimi over a neatly prepared bowl of rice, a grilled steak on the side of a plate represents a certain stylistic choice.

I am no expert with the grill but I have always subscribed to a sort of minimalist perspective on grilled foods.  I prefer the simplicity in presentation and preparation.  I like charcoal over propane, I like grilled meats to retain a certain traditional element to them, and I like the process of grilling as much as I enjoy the product.  Grilling takes a certain degree of work that normal cooking does not.  Where you might simply pre-heat an oven to cook a cut of fish, grilling requires a certain dedication.  You must first prepare the coals and then distribute them evenly, considering airflow and heat distribution while arranging the food to be cooked.  Unlike an oven or stove-top where the heat provides a certain degree of regularity, grilling is as much an art of guess-work and observation as it is a close science.  While I know there are some grill-masters who have the temperature gradients and aroma components in a grill down to a science, I have always appreciated the spontaneity and chance elements of the grilling experience.  There is something added with that unknown factor.

While there are a lot of ways I enjoy preparing food, grilling gives a certain depth both in flavor and process to my food preparation that is uniquely desirable.  It’s not just that grilled meats taste especially good (which they do) or that grilled vegetables start to take on a different set of flavors, it’s that grilled foods require a patience and approach that favors simplicity, patience, and ritual.  And in a world where it’s easy enough to microwave a dinner, or to go out to order a steak, or to even cook something reliably at a single temperature in an oven, throwing yourself to the unpredictable world of the charcoal grill where the wind and air temperature have as much of an effect as your choice of charcoal and your arrangement of the coals – it provides an experience that becomes centered around process, centered around the food, that you’d otherwise miss in your cooking.

I look forward to the grill, not because I think it’s the perfect, or ideal, method for cooking, but because it’s a variation, it’s a chance to experiment, and move beyond my comfortable cooking range.  I enjoy the grill because it imparts a certain flavor profile, while still remaining very true to the food involved.  And while I am sure that with more time I will gain a certain understanding and appreciation for how the grilling process works, I am also sure that it is a method that will provide a spontaneity and character that standard stovetop/oven cooking just cannot offer.