mrissa: (winter)

I’ve been doing this for ten years now.


Not making the lussekatter; that’s a tradition of longer standing. But writing about the making of the lussekatter every year. About doing the work of the dark of the year, singing the light back into the world while you make the saffron-rich bread. About Santa Lucia Day, how it comes before Solstice so there is more dark to come, and what that means to me. It’s the same every year. It’s different every year. Holidays are like that.


This year in particular I am so glad to have a ritual to fall back on, work that yields to patience and experience and knowledge. The long rise changed my life. This year I made a half-batch, carefully measuring the beaten egg into my tiniest measuring cup, pouring half of it into the dough and half down the drain. (I know. It would have been fine with a whole egg. But I want it the way it’s supposed to taste, not a slightly richer version.) And between the smaller mass of dough and the knowledge gained from years past, it was an easy knead, turning pliable almost as soon as I picked it up.


In addition to Christmas songs, I find myself singing other songs every year, whatever pops into my head. “Lovers in a Dangerous Time” and “This Year” and whatever else feels appropriate. This year I discovered that what I was singing was Paul Simon’s “The Boy in the Bubble,” with a line I never really thought of before: “These are the days of miracle and wonder, and don’t cry, baby, don’t cry.” The days of miracle and wonder, we find out, are not the same as the days of ease and laughter. The days of miracle and wonder make us weep, and not just for joy. Not even mostly for joy.


Sometimes miracle and wonder come upon us all unawares. But sometimes we have to work for them. We have to work our asses off for them, and cry and despair and feel that we’ve come to the end of the line. And some of us have–I don’t want to pretend that it’s inevitable that we always win out, that we always come through the dark times. Sometimes it is just all too damn much. And the people around us, the people we turn to for help, may have reached their point of “all too damn much” in ways and for reasons that we don’t know or don’t understand.


And it’s so easy to feel distant from everyone we love, to see the distances and not the ways in which we’re close. It’s so easy to feel like we’re struggling alone instead of together. But it’s not true. Or it doesn’t have to be.


And still we try to carve out something beautiful, something fragrant and fine. Something we can give, something that connects us. Something miraculous and wonderful. Even in a year where the dark days have taken turns we never imagined. Especially in that kind of year. I’m struggling to remember which rabbi it was, what the exact wording was, who said that the work of the world is neither ours to complete nor ours to abandon. Not my tradition–but one of my truths. One of my great truths.


It’s time to sing the songs and bake the bread. It’s time to find our way kicking and screaming into miracle and wonder. And it’s time to do the work in the dark time to bring the light back into the world in the days ahead.


Happy Santa Lucia Day.


2006: http://mrissa.livejournal.com/380857.html

2007: http://mrissa.livejournal.com/502825.html and http://mrissa.livejournal.com/503100.html

2008: http://mrissa.livejournal.com/596214.html

2009: http://mrissa.livejournal.com/688906.html

2010: http://mrissa.livejournal.com/751599.html

2011: http://mrissa.livejournal.com/798532.html

2012: http://mrissa.livejournal.com/842565.html

2013: http://www.marissalingen.com/blog/?p=260

2014: http://www.marissalingen.com/blog/?p=659

2015: http://www.marissalingen.com/blog/?p=1141




Originally published at Novel Gazing Redux

mrissa: (winter)

Some years I take a notion, and this is one of them.


I like the idea of giving fiction as a present, but I’m not embedded enough in the fanfiction community–or, let us be honest, committed or organized enough–to commit to doing Yuletide. Instead, some years I decide it’s time to give a story away for free for Christmas, to whoever wants to read it. Please don’t copy the text, but spread the link far and wide if you want to. This year Mikulas left Teddy Roosevelt in your shoe. Or rather–


The Elf WHo Thought He Was Teddy Roosevelt




Originally published at Novel Gazing Redux

mrissa: (helpful nudge)

Last year for Christmas I wrote my mom a story that included all these elements. This year I decided to put it on my website for free to share with all of you. Here it is: How to Wrap a Roc’s Egg. It was inspired by a pair of earrings made by Elise Matthesen, by the work of the great taxonomist and general all-around eccentric Carl Linnaeus, and of course tea. Happy Solstice, merry Christmas, and on through all the rest of the holidays ahead. Enjoy.




Originally published at Novel Gazing Redux

mrissa: (Default)

It’s Santa Lucia Day, the same as all the other Santa Lucia Days, different from all the other Santa Lucia Days. That’s how holidays go.


I have the fragrant saffron bun to bite into this morning. This year I opened a package of dried blueberries early in the week, and they were perfect, huge and not at all sticky, not like the ones I’ve been getting, the tiny clumpy ones. They were like cutting open a fish in a fairy tale and finding gold coins. I looked at them and thought, “These are too good for granola,” and I shut the package and ate tiny clumpy ones in my granola the rest of the week so that the lussekatter could have the gift blueberries. To make my life a little easier. To leave a trail for myself in the long grey not-cold-enough nights.


Some years the dark time of your own heart doesn’t synch up with the dark time of the calendar. Some years you get through the dark of your own personal year early and have sort of got a handle by the autumnal equinox–not that everything is amazing, but that you know what you need to do next. You are coping with what there is. The darkness of your heart can wait around for later, and for now you can do the stuff there is to do and appreciate the stuff there is to appreciate. Other people around you have their own bad stuff you can’t talk about. Your bad stuff is still there. But some years you find a little bit of a groove. You find a little bit of light, just as the world loses it.


The lussekatter are important those years, too. Because there’s always darkness at some scale–you can see it, you don’t need me to tell you where. Your family, your city, your country, the world–it’s a messed up world. There’s always darkness to kick away at, always light to bring back to someone. It’s the work of the world, it’s what we do. So I sang the songs–gently–to remind the dough what day it is. I kneaded gently, I sang softly, and the blueberries were there because I had left them for myself, my bread crumbs, my white stones. And this year the bread is still for me, but maybe a bit more for some other people. And that’s a good way too.


Happy Santa Lucia Day.


2006 2007 part one 2007 part two 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014




Originally published at Novel Gazing Redux

mrissa: (writing everywhere)

The thing about coming back tired from vacation into the making of holiday cheer is that there are all sorts of things that are almost but not quite slipping my mind. Entirely possible that there are all sorts of things that are completely slipping my mind, too, but I can’t remember what they are just now. I was so tired this morning that I had to stick my head back under the shower once I’d gotten out, because I couldn’t remember whether I had rinsed my hair or not, and it seemed like probably I should make sure.


Of course, I was trying to remember something like five different plot points on two stories that had come up while I was in the shower, so you can see where something like “did you perform the basic functions for which you were there” might have fallen off the bottom of the list.


Which reminds me–and thank heavens something does, because see above–that I’ve been talking on Twitter to Matthew Bennardo about working on multiple projects at once. He was feeling alone because most of the people he was asking claimed to work on only one story at once. And no, that is not me, really not, really no. I have dozens of stories in different stages of completion. I would worry about this if I didn’t write so dang many stories of different types and lengths anyway, but clearly I’m finishing stuff. Clearly I’m selling stuff. So what we call this is process, not problem.


Before I left for Montreal, Kameron Hurley had a blog post (somewhere…oh, look, here it is) called “Why I Finish All My Shit.” And I read it, and I thought, “huh, no, glad it works for you, but no.” Because yes, you have to finish stuff to learn how to finish stuff–both in the sense of completion and in the sense of making endings work. Absolutely. But there is a very strong sunk cost element here. If I get 200 or 2000 or 20000 words into a story and realize that it is just not working, forcing myself to finish its non-working self rather than writing some better story is what we call a colossal waste of time. And unless something is under contract, if one story is working and another is stalled out, for me there’s no particular reason to sit and stare at the stalled out story when I can be productive on the story that’s working.


(I’ve talked in the past about working out of sequence on longer projects–longer short stories as well as novels–and this is part of why. It works on a chapter-by-chapter basis for me, too. Why should I stare at Chapter 3 going, “Guhhhhh worrrrrrds,” when I could be humming merrily away writing Chapter 16? Yes, Chapter 3 will eventually get written, and for some people it really does have to happen chronologically. I am not one of those people.)


Look, here’s the thing. I have a chronic illness. I have chronic vertigo, and it stinks, and the meds that (sort of) work for it also stink. But one of the things it does is make me aware of limited opportunities. Of giving myself the best chance to succeed, to get things done, to even enjoy myself along the way. For some writers, sitting down and writing one story, start to finish, chronologically, and only writing another one when the first is revised and sent out, is the way to do that. That’s great for them. But it’s not my process, and it may not be your process, and that’s okay too.


If there’s one writing rule I would like to see enshrined for beginning writers everywhere, always, it’s this:


It’s okay if you don’t do it like anyone else, as long as you do it well.




Originally published at Novel Gazing Redux

mrissa: (peeking out)

The last of the lussekatter are just out of the oven now, and it’s noon. When I woke up, I could smell yeast and saffron all the way from upstairs, but not because they were baking, because the yeast was good yeast and the dough had risen overnight.


A friend of mine was in the hospital this week quite unexpectedly, and she came home yesterday and was well enough to visit finally. And there was enough Mris to stir up the lussekatter dough and visit my friend or to make the lussekatter all the way through and make sure they were ready the minute I woke up on Santa Lucia Day. But not both, and well. Here we are, and I could still smell them when I woke up, promising: don’t worry, we’re still here, you didn’t miss it. There’s still time.


It’s never too late to kick at the darkness, to do your part to beat back at it until the sun returns. It’s grey and wet here, too warm for December but not in a way that does anyone any good. Mark has had to go out of town too much this fall, and he was glum having to get up so early, and I didn’t have a saffron bun to cheer him; I’ll have to save one out for his return.


But Tim brought the guitar upstairs so that we could sing “This Year” and “Lovers in a Dangerous Time” and “In the Dark” in the kitchen while the lussekatter baked. And this year I have homemade orange curd to put on them, because part of figuring out gluten-free baking for our loved ones this year is extra egg yolks. From limitation, abundance. Orange will go well with saffron and blueberry. Not in the way we expected, but we find our way around to good, even in the dark days.


2006 2007 part one 2007 part two 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012




Originally published at Novel Gazing Redux

mrissa: (Default)

I am home from Montreal and digging out from under the mountain of things that will pile up when you take a vacation. It was lovely, it was grand, and now it is lovely and grand to be home. And oh, so much stuff. So much stuff. Presents to wrap, more presents to buy and wrap. Stories to revise, more stories to write. The laundry is starting to feel a bit under control, although I know that this is an illusion, as the laundry hamper is almost full again. There are several things that want cooking, and more that want backing, and…well, most of you know what day it is, Saturday.


While I’m doing all this stuff, the magic of publishing brings you things I worked on much earlier. I have a new story up on BCS today, A House of Gold and Steel. Go, read, enjoy.




Originally published at Novel Gazing Redux

mrissa: (food)

I had a list. We ignored the list. We burned the list to the ground.


You see, Mom and Grandma and I: we are experienced in the ways of Cookie Day. But having already done one, we had a lot of our usual tricks kind of…handled. One of the ways that you keep three experienced bakers working all day with only one oven is to make things on the stove. Well, we’d already made two kinds of fudge and caramels. That was on Gluten-Free Cookie Day. But! We are versatile! We are fierce! We are determined! So onwards. Onwards to glory and lots and lots of treats.


We made: pepparkakor, brun brod, pretzel hugs, strawberry shortbreads, blueberry shortbreads, pecan penuche, hazelnut toffee, blueberry meringues (bluemeringues! they are boomerang shaped!), and strawberry jam filled amaretti (pink, to distinguish them from the raspberry jam or frosting filled lavender ones on Sunday). We would have also made lemon curd, but I ran out of butter and have to run out to the KwikTrip today to get butter for that and the yams. (Because I am I going to brave a grocery store the day before Thanksgiving when the gas station sells perfectly cromulent butter? Hahaha I am not.)


Note: some of the linked recipes are old recipes in which I reference using oleo. I don’t really bake with oleo any more unless I’m baking for someone who needs non-dairy treats. You can; most of those recipes were passed down from relatives who grew up with butter rationing if they weren’t still on the farm. But I pretty much always bake with butter.


The amaretti are the great discovery of this year. They’re really not hard if you’re comfortable with a pastry bag (which includes being comfortable with a Ziploc with the end snipped off), and we totally didn’t do the thing she talks about with switching the racks of the oven, and it worked fine–my cookie sheets are large, so we can only bake a sheet at a time because they block air flow from each other. But fifteen minutes in the middle of a 300 degree oven, no fooling around, they do exactly what they’re supposed to do, they’re an easy gluten-free dairy-free cookie, go team.


You notice that some of the things yesterday were still gluten-free, even though the gluten-free focused Cookie Day was Sunday. Here’s the thing. There is so much out there that’s good that doesn’t have to have gluten in it in the first place. Penuche, toffee, meringues. These things are just–they’re just treats. They’re just goodies. They aren’t funny-smelling pseudo-treats. Life as part of a family that contains allergies can be rich and festive and joyful. And it should.




Originally published at Novel Gazing Redux

mrissa: (Default)

My godson Rob was diagnosed with celiac this spring, and while we haven’t made all the changes we would if it was someone in my household, there has been a lot more paying attention to what has wheat and barley and the like, what doesn’t, what does but can be made to work without it. Also, we have been saying for years that my goddaughter Lillian is almost old enough (and definitely enthusiastic enough about baking) to be included in Cookie Day. This year, the two things combined: we had Lillian spend the night and then spend all day having Gluten-Free Cookie Day.


Here is what we made.


First, in our pajamas, we made fully glutenated waffles for breakfast. Because Lillian hasn’t been diagnosed with celiac, and sometimes having the gluteny things you like when you’re not sharing them with your big brother is a good plan.


Then we got ready for the day and finished putting out the Christmas decorations (usually wayyyy too early, but I’m going to be in Montreal, so I needed to get it done if it was ever going to happen) and waited for my folks and my grandma. And then the reinforcements got here and we really got going.


We made: chocolate fudge with hazelnuts; double-layer chocolate/peanut butter fudge; caramels; strawberry shortbread with gluten-free flour*; chocolate-dipped apricots; chocolate mixed nut clusters; amaretti (tinted lavender–Lillian’s choice), some sandwiched with frosting and some with raspberry jam; Nutella cookies; and chocolate chip peanut butter cookies. We didn’t get to the blueberry meringues, so I’ll do those tomorrow before we really get going on the gluten-y cookies, and there was a teeeeeensy mishap when we were boiling the apple cider down for apple cider caramels, so that got scratched for the day.


And in the process, we taught Lillian about when you whip a lot of air into egg whites to make them fluffy, how to use a pastry blender to do exactly the opposite, how to use a pastry bag to pipe dough out, how to make frosting from scratch, and many other topics in the worlds of baking, chemistry, finance, and more.


All in all, a lovely day. More of it coming tomorrow.


*This was our only use of a gluten-free flour product. All the other cookies and treats were recipes that are just naturally made without flour. I know that some of the wheat substitute flours can taste pretty good for people who need them, especially with a strong flavoring like strawberry covering up the fact that they don’t taste quite the same, and they’re a good resource to have. But when I’m not working around another dietary restriction like nuts, dairy, or eggs, I prefer to make recipes that were gluten-free to begin with, rather than adjusting things to become gluten-free. Several of the above were also dairy-free, though, so ask if you’re interested.




Originally published at Novel Gazing Redux

mrissa: (Default)

1. Yesterday my friend Ginger Weil and I both had stories in the new issue of Apex. Mine is called The New Girl and is in the same universe as some other stories you’ve seen from me–most recently “The Salt Path,” also in Apex. Ginger’s is The Stagman’s Song and happens to be her professional fiction debut. Go, read, enjoy. (There’s also the rest of Apex I haven’t gotten to yet.)


2. Today I have a story in Nature, Boundary Waters. There is also a guest blog post from me on the Nature blog about it. So if you don’t have time to read “The New Girl” and “The Stagman’s Song,” “Boundary Waters” is much shorter but one hopes also a good read. (My two pieces go thematically together more than I expected, since I didn’t write them together and couldn’t plan that they would be published together. Very different settings and so on. See what you think.)


3. Speaking of my stories, there’s still time left in the Not Our Kind Kickstarter. It’s more than 60% funded, and there are new backer rewards that are worth checking out.


4. Not at all speaking of my stories, Tim is having his holiday print sale early this year. Lots of excellent new work in that as well as old favorites, and an easy way to see the existing photo gallery behind that link if you’ve been trying to remember what it was you wanted.


5. I have been doing a new craft project or art project or something. I have been making things. And the problem is, I am surprising people with these things for Christmas, so I cannot say what they are. I am even surprising Mark, so when he isn’t traveling for work, my materials get bundled away into my office closet. I am really not good at not talking about this kind of project, and it’s driving me a bit bazoo to not be able to talk about what I’m figuring out from first principles and what I’m learning from other people’s successes. A few of you are getting this on email. The people I would most want to say it to, though, are my mom and Stella and Sherry, and they are the people who most need surprising. It keeps coming up naturally in conversation and making me go, “Nnnng!” There was even a Terry Pratchett joke I couldn’t make yesterday. It is so unfair, and we’re nowhere near Christmas yet. (On the other hand, we are near enough to Christmas that I do need to keep working steadily on these items when Mark is out of town!) I finished Kev’s yesterday, and it’s lovely, it’s–


Not a pony. It is not a pony. Nobody is getting a pony.


That’s all I have to say about that.




Originally published at Novel Gazing Redux

mrissa: (happy)

Today is Sunday, and my birthday is Saturday. I have already read two books (one paper, one ebook) that were early birthday presents, because I am spoiled and because apparently the concept of delayed gratification is not a strong suit at the moment. Anyway, in making a dinner reservation for this evening, I got asked, is it anybody’s birthday? and usually I lie and tell them no, because I don’t want to make the waitstaff feel obliged to sing as well as their real jobs, and I worry that they will give me a nasty piece of white cake instead of letting me decide whether I want good dessert or no dessert. But this time I chirped, “Yes, it’s mine!” Because this year, honestly, with all the horrible and disappointing news the world has brought us in the last week, I kind of feel the need for all the birthday assistance I can get.


This post is a list of things you can think about getting for yourself–or just drooling over if you don’t have the spare cash–as presents for yourself for my birthday. Sadly, I can’t get them for all of you. I am not that much of a wealthy hobbit, to be able to buy all of you these lovely things as presents for my birthday. But I will at least show you the shinies that I would get you, if I could have a proper hobbit party and give you all the proper hobbit presents that I would like to give you. (Please note that this is the opposite of the usual wishlist: I am not asking you to get this stuff for ME but for YOURSELVES. Not that I wouldn’t like it also, but some of it–like the Kickstarter stuff–I already have, and mostly: the point is you, not me.)


1. Nerd coloring books. Specifically, Dinosaurs With Jobs. Mostly I would get this for my old college friend Scott, but the rest of you might want it too.


2. Chad Jerzak Raku ceramics. Saw these at the St. Kate Art Festival. Very cool.


3. Fresh Mud Pottery. Also at the St. Kate Art Festival. So many things in the gallery, be sure you look at the slide show.


4. Elise’s Current Shinies. Ooh. Shiny. So many shinies, so few body parts to hang them from.


5. Tim always has lovely things. Here are two of his newer ones (that first link was from the Pop Art Minneapolis series, the second the newest Reader photo).


6. Richard Shindell and Lucy Kaplansky are doing a Kickstarter. For those of us who have been yearning for another Cry Cry Cry album, even two-thirds as good will almost certainly be good enough. (Did you miss out on Cry Cry Cry? Here they are singing Northern Cross. The third member is Dar Williams. Oh, fine, here’s another: By Way of Sorrow.)


7. Julie Dillon, who has done the gorgeous art for my Tor.com stories, is also doing a Kickstarter. Many ways to support her art; go look.


Any other loveliness you want to share with each other? There’s a whole week before it’s my birthday, and the comments section lies before you.




Originally published at Novel Gazing Redux

mrissa: (Default)

Now that gmail divides my email into three main tabs plus spam, I decided it was a good time to keep track of what I was getting over the course of Thanksgiving weekend. It’s the biggest advertising time of the season. So from Wednesday through Monday, I didn’t clear out my promotional tab or my spam folder.


The final tally: 89 promotional pieces of email. 108 pieces of spam, most of which were also from companies I have at some point done business with.


Out of the promotional tab, two of the items were of any interest or use to me. Yes, two. (Neither was selling anything, either, and neither was time-sensitive.)


That’s nearly two hundred useless messages. Wheeeee.


I think the moral of the story is that I can let stuff pile up in the promotions tab all I want, because seriously, the percentages are incredibly low.




Originally published at Novel Gazing Redux

mrissa: (food)

(Since Tili asked so nicely!)


We did thirteen kinds of treat yesterday: chocolate comfort cookies, pepparkakor, strawberry shortbread, lime shortbread, blueberry shortbread, pretzel hugs, sea salt caramels, peanut butter/chocolate fudge, chocolate hazelnut fudge, chocolate-dipped apricots, hazelnut toffee, [redacted as it is a surprise for someone who reads this], and cashew clusters. It is the year of hazelnut; one of the things I didn’t manage to do yesterday was make the chocolate sandwich cookies which will be filled with hazelnut cream, and one of the things my mom did not manage to do yesterday was to make chocolate-dipped hazelnut fingers to go with her usual chocolate-dipped almond fingers. Also there will be hazelnuts in the apple bread when I get around to making that. Also “[redacted...]” actually contains hazelnuts.


Filllllberrrrrrt.


And why, you might ask, did we not get around to making these lovely things yesterday? Well. (Those of you who follow me on Twitter already know this.) Did you ever hear the expression that it’s not what you don’t know that hurts you, it’s what you know that ain’t so? Um. So I was very sure that I knew how to make the fruit shortbreads from years past. Ten tablespoons of jam, I was sure, ten. I remembered measuring in ten tablespoons of jam. So for the intended single batch of lime shortbreads, I measured in ten. For the intended double batch of blueberry shortbreads, I measured in twenty. The blueberry was really moist and sticky when we pulled it out of the fridge to roll first, so we put it back in the fridge and did the chocolate comfort cookies then instead. And for some reason I glanced at the recipe card when I was stirring up the triple batch of strawberry, and…oh. Five tablespoons. Um. I remembered ten so clearly because a single batch is really hardly enough to be worth it. So…five tablespoons. Um. Okay then.


So we used up literally the rest of the butter in the house making up enough of the rest of the recipe to mix in with the over-jammed recipes. And then my mother rolled and cut out fruit shortbreads. And rolled. And cut out. And rolled. And cut out. Oh mercy, so many shortbreads. Grandma and I made a great many of the stove-top candy items while Mom kept on at the mountain of shortbread dough.


It’s not like they will go to waste. I have several parties in mind who would appreciate shortbreads, and at least one of them lives in this very house. We keep the cookies out on the shelf in the garage, right outside the door for easy access, so they are frozen and will keep. (I have no idea how people in warm climates do Cookie Day. With only a fridge and freezer to chill things! Who could work in such conditions!) Also Timprov went and got us more butter, so we could get on with the toffee and like that.


One of the big successes this cookie day was that the oven was almost never empty. There has been a tendency in years past to have to scramble for what goes in the oven next while we’ve been doing other things, and I think having some of the doughs already mixed up when Mom and Grandma arrived really helped with that.


Am I done with the holiday baking? Hahaha no. Did not expect to be. I still have to do the aforementioned sandwich cookies, and I have promised Mark cashew toffee as well as hazelnut (and possibly almond as well, if we have the time and are running short of toffee), and there are the breads (Cookie Day is not for bread, and there are four breads to be done), and then there are possibly some additional experiments. But the point of Cookie Day is not to get all the everythings done, it’s to spend time together and get a lot of the everythings done, together. And it was a great success at that.


Even if my poor mother is not likely to want to look at jammy shortbread dough for, oh, let’s call it a year.




Originally published at Novel Gazing Redux

mrissa: (Default)

Cookie Day is at my house on Friday, and I am…oh, what’s the phrase I’m looking for? Ah yes: mad with power.


It’s an entire day devoted to baked goods. An entire day. And I get minions assistance from Mom and Grandma. And so it feels, today, before I am actually neck-deep in butter and sugar, like the sky’s the limit. I am marshaling my recipes, inventorying the pantry, making one last shopping list, although nobody is fooled, if we run out of things, we will just go get more. Because Cookie Day is implacable. Cookie Day cannot be stopped by a mere insufficiency of jam. What kind of filling will the chocolate sandwich cookies have this year? What shapes will we make the fruit shortbreads? Anything might happen, people. And we’ve got to be ready for it. Dough chilled. Cutters poised. This is it, this is what we practice for with random brownies and loaves of banana bread all year. This is the big time.


Okay, so yes, I’m ridiculous. And yes, I try stunt-baking other times of the year. But other times of the year, I do it alone. I don’t have two even more experienced bakers saying things like, “We can try that if you want, honey,” or just making the Grandma eyebrow of skeptical amusement.


The secret I keep telling people, the secret they keep forgetting, is that I don’t actually like eating cookies all that much. Most baked goods receive from me a hearty and heartfelt meh. But making cookies! Making candy, making bread! I love making things. Making things is the best.




mrissa: (viking princess necklace)
It's Santa Lucia Day, and my parents' lussekatter are waiting in the freezer for them to get back from work and a funeral and visiting sick family members. And there was enough with the funeral and sick family members that I had myself braced. "You know how this goes," I told myself. "It is a hard knead. Sometimes it doesn't rise when you want it to. Leave plenty of time. Do it in advance. This is important. It's okay if it takes time and energy to get it right." So I did it on the day of Nana's funeral, which was Tuesday. Well in advance.

People. You guys. The lussekatter rose like a dream this year. They barely needed kneading. They twirled and danced into whatever shapes I wanted with barely a touch.

I have no idea what happened.

When things go wrong, you poke at them and you think: was it too cold? Was the yeast too old? Did I put the yeast into the warm milk and butter when it was too warm? And on. And on. When things come out perfect--well, there's a certain urge to interrogate that too. But the only thing different was that the saffron didn't grind well, and I can't think that's it. It was a longer rise time than the 45-minute minimum but a much shorter rise time than I have sometimes had before. The house was the house, and I was me. And my lussekatter, oh, my lussekatter gave me a break this year. They put up only token resistance.

I am so far behind on everything, and I am such a big worrywart, but this. This went right when I was prepared to have it be a fight. And now I have some fight left over for other things that need it.

I was going to hesitate to use this word, but it turns out we have a long tradition of using it with bread products: this was grace.

Happy Santa Lucia Day.

2011 2010 2009 2008 2007 Part 1 2007 Part 2 2006
mrissa: (thinking)
I am not saying this to denigrate the importance of voting--far from it. I believe that people who are eligible should do their research and vote whenever it comes up, and for a lot of people who read this, that's tomorrow. Hurrah for the free exercise of the franchise. Important stuff going on. Participation key to participatory democracy.

But. It is not a horse race. And I really feel that the horse race style coverage in the media is bad for many/most people's anxiety levels without providing any genuine value. If Kandiyohi County swings one way and then Blue Earth County swings another way--they are still going to need to count both. And then they're going to need to count the other counties. And for some things, the other states. The results will still be there on Wednesday. Some of the results will only be there on Wednesday. So unless you're one of those rare souls who can actually relax and find enjoyment in the horse race model--or unless you're out actually helping with the count or the polling places--I urge you to go and vote and then come home and talk about something else for awhile.

Some ideas, if you're feeling fidgety and don't know what else to blog about:
--the time that you and a friend or family member could not stop giggling and nearly disgraced yourself/woke somebody/etc.
--something small that improved your life recently in unexpectedly large ways
--your favorite charity/volunteer opportunity at the moment
--suggestions for how [livejournal.com profile] mrissa can get her local entertainments back improvements to the lockout situations for hockey and classical music; any brief treatises related to same welcome, especially if humorous and/or informative
--an amusing anecdote about voting or elections of the past, your first memory of being around adults voting or of your first voting experience--how you feel about it now--etc.
--all the usual things--food blogging, book/music/movie/TV reviews, cute pet/kid stories, awful pet/kid stories, current projects, whatever
--whatever ideas people put in the comments

Seriously. Take care of yourselves and those around you. Gonna be a very long day if we don't.
mrissa: (winter)
Dear Snow:

Remember the time we spent Halloween together? That was awesome! Let's do it again!

Love,
[livejournal.com profile] mrissa
mrissa: (hats off)
I feel like I should give people a State of the Mris post, but now is really really really not the time for that. I'm having a bit of a White Rabbit morning.

But! Christmas Eve is my favorite holiday, and I have my usual Christmas Eve stuff ahead of me, starting with sushi with my dad. So yay! That's definitely worth a little White Rabbit time to get to.

In other joyful news, one of my short stories from this year ("Some of Them Closer") is going to be in Rich Horton's Year's Best Science Fiction and Fantasy 2012. I am extremely pleased about this. I didn't want to say anything until everybody in the ToC had been asked, but now Theodora has the full ToC and the cover image, so woohoo! I seem to have once again gotten a lovely Year's Best cover for the volume I'm in, which makes me happy as I tend to be grumpy and picky about covers. And of course it's a wonderful ToC too.

Have a merry Christmas, those of you having one, and the rest of you have a good weekend.
mrissa: (Default)
One of my friends recently wrote in a locked post that it was amazing how much experience and maturity looked like weariness from where he was sitting. I had to smile, because that happens here, too. And as much as it's sometimes sad and wearying to know that I've been on a road before, it can be extremely useful to know where the signs go.

And here it is Santa Lucia Day, and I have made the lussekatter.

I think if I made them more than twice a year*, it would get into a rhythm faster, a routine, a place where I would never say, "This is not going to work." But lussekatter. They are not for every day. They are for Santa Lucia Day.** And as a result, I always have the stage of "oh no this has gone horribly awry." On the other hand, if I didn't make other breads, I might also not despair, because I would have a healthy cushion of ignorance: "Is this normal? What do you get when you cross an elephant and a rhino!*** Onwards!" But instead I make a lot of other breads that are not white breads, and they are much more substantial, and so I peer dubiously. I keep saying that I have come to accept that the peering dubiously is part of the process, and yet I don't think I really mean it. There are all sorts of things that are part of fighting back the darkness year after year that you think you're prepared for, and then you're not, but you do it anyway. You do. What else is there?

This year, exactly half of the lussekatter did not rise further in the oven. They just...didn't. Usually they do, the other tray did, and this tray didn't. This is not a sign. This is not an omen. What it is, is a little dense maybe, a little chewier than we expected. But they taste fine, and I don't know what I could have done differently, so I am resolved not to worry about it. Flattish saffron goodness: fine.

So okay, you people. I've done my part. The sun can come back now; I'm ready. Whatever you have to do on your end to keep the world turning, you go on ahead and do it. It's time now. Happy Santa Lucia Day.

*The first time in each calendar year is for Timprov's birthday. He doesn't like cake. Everybody should get the baked thing they want for their birthday. His is lussekatter. We'd move his birthday, but he finds mid-December no more congenial than mid-February.

**And Tim's birthday.

***My family would be nearly unable to speak if we couldn't communicate in punchlines. This is one of the rare occurrences where the punchline is assumed instead.

2010 2009 2008 2007 Part 1 2007 Part 2 2006
mrissa: (winter)
One of my friends recently wrote in a locked post that it was amazing how much experience and maturity looked like weariness from where he was sitting. I had to smile, because that happens here, too. And as much as it's sometimes sad and wearying to know that I've been on a road before, it can be extremely useful to know where the signs go.

And here it is Santa Lucia Day, and I have made the lussekatter.

I think if I made them more than twice a year*, it would get into a rhythm faster, a routine, a place where I would never say, "This is not going to work." But lussekatter. They are not for every day. They are for Santa Lucia Day.** And as a result, I always have the stage of "oh no this has gone horribly awry." On the other hand, if I didn't make other breads, I might also not despair, because I would have a healthy cushion of ignorance: "Is this normal? What do you get when you cross an elephant and a rhino!*** Onwards!" But instead I make a lot of other breads that are not white breads, and they are much more substantial, and so I peer dubiously. I keep saying that I have come to accept that the peering dubiously is part of the process, and yet I don't think I really mean it. There are all sorts of things that are part of fighting back the darkness year after year that you think you're prepared for, and then you're not, but you do it anyway. You do. What else is there?

This year, exactly half of the lussekatter did not rise further in the oven. They just...didn't. Usually they do, the other tray did, and this tray didn't. This is not a sign. This is not an omen. What it is, is a little dense maybe, a little chewier than we expected. But they taste fine, and I don't know what I could have done differently, so I am resolved not to worry about it. Flattish saffron goodness: fine.

So okay, you people. I've done my part. The sun can come back now; I'm ready. Whatever you have to do on your end to keep the world turning, you go on ahead and do it. It's time now. Happy Santa Lucia Day.

*The first time in each calendar year is for [livejournal.com profile] timprov's birthday. He doesn't like cake. Everybody should get the baked thing they want for their birthday. His is lussekatter. We'd move his birthday, but he finds mid-December no more congenial than mid-February.

**And Tim's birthday.

***My family would be nearly unable to speak if we couldn't communicate in punchlines. This is one of the rare occurrences where the punchline is assumed instead.

2010 2009 2008 2007 Part 1 2007 Part 2 2006

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