Unsung heroes: Carrot stew

21 Oct

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This is one of my unsung fall heroes, and I am really surprised not more people are singing its praise.

This is carrot stew.

It is cheap and versatile.

Even when using all organic produce, the basics only cost about four bucks for four generous servings.

My family has many different recipes for carrot stew, and wars have started over which one is the best. Most of them, however, start the same:

BASIC CARROT STEW

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp oil (e.g. coconut)
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, diced
  • 1,000g carrots, cubed
  • 750g potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 1,000ml vegetable broth
  • Salt, pepper

Fry onions and garlic in oil on medium heat until fragrant.

Add carrots, potatoes and broth.

Simmer for 30-60 minutes, mash if desired, season.

I like to fry some spices (ginger, coriander, cumin) with the onion and garlic and add a generous bunch of parsley at the end – that’s what you see in the pictures. A vegan comforting healthy and cheap fall meal. Other versions include:

* Add 1lb ground beef to onion and garlic and fry until well-done, then proceed as described.

* Add a dollop of cream cheese at the end.

* Simmer pork meatballs in stew, add a pinch of nutmeg and some laurel.

* Add celery and leek.

* For the brave: Add some ketchup on your plate.

* Exotic: Fry some yellow curry paste with onion and garlic, add a splash of coconut milk and coriander greens.

* Adventurous: How about a bit of flaked tuna and some chili?

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Proof that I could have fed three more people last night. Instead I put the other portions in the fridge for handy use at work.

And since I am always looking for new stews to try – what are your cherished fall recipes?

The things we do becasue we’re stubborn…

20 Oct

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Recently I read somewhere on the infinite source of wisdome and trollery that is the internet how some girl was berated for saying she ran her first 10K although she was obese. “No way a fat chick can run more than I!” – “You’re making that up to make yourself feel better about those two pizzas!”

So what is a woman of about 200 pounds (yes, that’s me – I double-checked before the race to give you a real number: 195.77lbs of pure witchpower) to do? Right. Register for and then run a 10K. So that’s what we did on Sunday morning. I nagged Richard and a friend into coming along, so I would not back out at the last possible moment. “Well, I made you get up in the dark to torture yourself for a good cause, but I am a flower wayyyy to dainty to be pestered with such…” The trains were on strike, but our friend made it in time, we collected him at the station and then ran our 10K in the sun, with a group of about 800 people, and we were not too bad, if I can say so myself.

This friend had to do it in under 50 minutes, of course, that poser. ^^

Richard breezed past me around the eight-kilometer mark and made it in 1:09hrs.

I crossed the finish line at 1:10hrs – as expected, although of course not as fast as I had hoped.

What does this tell us? First, OF COURSE fat women can run 10K, mostly better than most trolls online – if we spend our time training instead of making fun of others. And second, I fully deserve to whine and complain about every movement today.

(We celebrated with burgers and cheesecake, just so I could keep my weight and boast about it today.)

Crafting Blooming Howls: Writing witch vs. written witch

16 Oct

Welcome, dear guests of Magaly’s “Witches in Fiction” blog party! I am glad to have you, so pull up a chair, take this apple cider and enjoy a short scene that may or may not become part of one of the next “Magic behind the Mountains” books…

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(…)

The elevator took us up to the 9th floor. Its floor was carpeted in a rich milk chocolate brown. But for the mirrors on the walls, I might have thought I was alone in the tiny cabin. My gaze flitted over the nervous face of my secretary. Her hands kept creeping up to the golden  cross at her neck, always forced back into her lap by sheer willpower. When the doors PINGed open, she grabbed the handles at the wheels and maneuvered herself down the hallway. We had never been here before – at least I hadn’t, and I didn’t think Maria had had any business with the Voodoo Queen, either – but the string of dried chicken feet at the door told us which apartment we were looking for.

We advanced slowly. I knew better than to offer Maria any help with her wheelchair. She was at least as stubborn as I was. The doors to our left remained closed, and no sound could be heard except for the quiet groan of the wheelchair material.

As we approached, the door swung open. The hallway remained quiet. A hint of booze and decay wriggled into my nostrils. I felt queazy. Now I regretted never having taken that college course on New Old World Voodoo. Might have been nice what to expect when talking to the most powerful Voodoo Woman of Europe.

Stepping over the threshold felt like walking through a curtain of jello-shots. My head spun. The sound returned with a PLOP. Someone was talking Dutch on the phone, too fast for me to understand. I had never been good with languages. The smell intensified. There was something besides death and magic in the air – chicken soup? Bile crept into my throat. Please don’t let her ask us to join her for dinner.

Maria’s wheels left clear lines on the floor. The carpet was dark red instead of brown here, with stains I did not want to know the origin of. Worn wicker furniture covered every inch of the floor, overflowing with bright-patterned quilts and cushions. The room was at least as spacious as the ground floor of my house in Riverton, still it felt tiny and crammed. A bead curtain separated it from what I assumed to be the kitchen, where the woman was still talking. I welcomed the opportunity to adjust and look around. Especially the view from the windows was breath-taking.

Until I realized what I was looking at. Then my heart skipped a beat. My blood swooshed into my ears.

Dead faces were staring at us from the windowsill. Some looked as if they had overslept and missed leaving together with their bodies, others were just bones and globs and maggots. Their mouths hung open in silent screams. While I looked, a crow descended from the dark blue evening sky and started pecking at a rotting cheek.

“Good evening, you must be Miss Willow. Enchanté.” The voice in my back was sweet and thick as molasses and made my skin crawl.

I turned around, smile nailed into place like a shield. “It is too nice of you to meet us at such short notice. This is my personal assistant Maria.”

We shook hands. Madame Santé’s hands were dry and rough, as if she had spent her life working. I knew for a fact that her practice was indeed hard work, although nothing you would have to get up for at the crack of dawn. For some reason voodoo was mostly celebrated late in the day. Not that I would complain if I had her working hours.

“I see you are admiring my gallery.” She made a sweeping gesture to include the gruesome decoration at the window, beaming like a proud mother.

“Yes, it is… impressive.” 

Maria made an effort not to turn her head away from the display, still not really looking at the dead. I didn’t blame her. To fill the silence, I asked, “I wonder why they are not facing away from your flat. Does this have a special meaning?”

“Why, of course there is”, Madame Santé replied politely. “It’s so nice of you to take interest in my humble work. These died at my hands, and their terror feeds the Loa. But surely you have not come to talk shop.”

There were hundred of questions I could have asked her. This side of Dutch legislation fascinated me. People found guilty of severe offenses involving the use of magic could be sentenced to death at the hands of a practitioner – most often Madame Santé. How had she gotten this job? Had she ever doubted a decision or refused to execute someone? And did the dead trouble her at night?

Well, at least to that last question I probably knew the answer already. But all of this was not what we had come here for. I produced a photo from my coat pocket. It looked slightly worn from all my worries. “This is my other assistant, Falk. He disappeared here in Amsterdam a few days ago. Do you happen to know what fate might have met him?”

(…)

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And now I am just as curious as you to know what happened to Falk, although he is not a witch. Just because I had to know what kind of witchy place would have the dead peaking inside in terror…

Writing witches, I feel, is difficult at times, maybe even more so for witches who are writers. You need rules. You want your magic to feel real – but it also has to be something new and exciting for the reader. Magic cannot be your “deus ex machina” solution every time you have a plot point. Don’t you, too, hate it when all of a sudden the protagonist has a new wand that is just the right kind of wood to fight the blazing basilisk? But still the magic has to be used. Who would want to read a book about a witch who does not use her powers and becomes a mediocre chef instead? And talking of basilisks… bringing mythological creatures into the mix has its ups and downs as well. Plenty to choose from – but not just when it comes to creatures, but also when it comes to specific lore. No, you don’t get to change the rules simply because this is your story. If you want bloodsuckers, they need to be predators. If you want sparkly, stick with fairies.

And, last thought – promise! – you can’t make your witches, good or bad, all-powerful just because you can. If they have nothing to fear because they don’t have any worthy adversaries, the story will be boring. Still we want to read about exceptional witches. Could be exceptionally bad, of course, but they need to be special…

So, before you continue with your blog party fun: What are your favorite witches in fiction? What makes them stand out from the ever-growing crowd?

And don’t forget to head back to Magaly for a chance to win a copy of “All Souls’ Children”

Giveaway

8 Oct

Quick note – over at Pagan Culture Magaly is giving away three copies of “All Souls’ Children”. I’m still stuck between coffees, thinking about tolerance among Pagans… topic for a whole new post/rant…

Still meddling

2 Oct

Yes, I am still meddling with this blog. Take a moment to check out my writing section, especially the bit about the MAGIC BEHIND THE MOUNTAINS… ^^

The moment I almost doubted my boyfriend’s fidelity (a tiny bit)

29 Sep

A bit more than a week ago I was hurrying to do laundry on Saturday morning. I had planned to leave for a short road trip, and Richard was at a photography convention. I sorted through the laundry from his suitcase – remember, he stays at the hotel four days per week – when I stumbled upon this beauty:

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I was confused. That was none of mine. And it was also too small to belong to any of my friends who sleep over occasionally. And although I am by no means an expert, it did not exactly look like men’s underwear. So where did that thing come from?

What did I do? You got it. I snapped the picture above and sent it to Richard. “Look what I found in your suitcase! Are you secretly a cross-dresser?”

He replied, “WTF?”

“I don’t know what to make of that. how would you react if you found another guy’s boxers in our flat when you returned?”

“I guess… I don’t know?”

I had to leave then, and our conversation ended. Of course I could not get that stupid boring slip out of my mind while I was away. At the same time I was 99.99785% sure that Richard is an ever-loyal and faithful guy who would not betray me. Especially since, when we moved in together four or something years ago, I threatened that, should he ever betray me, I would simply walk out on him with the cats and his xbox.

(I know where it hurts the most.)

Come Sunday, I was back home, and Richard had completely forgotten the incident. I showed him the item in question. We went over the possibilities – mine? No way. A friend’s? Too small. Split personality disorder? Probably not. (His reply, “I bet that would be uncomfortable.”)

After much fretting we finally found the solution – he probably brought it home from the hotel room, where it must have hidden in the bottom compartment of the wardrobe, where he keeps his used (mostly black) laundry.

“And you want me to believe that?”

- “Look at it, honey – do you really think I would cheat on you with a girl who wears boring slips like that?”

You must admit, he had a point. Plus, his complete surprise kind of convinced me he was not making anything up (he is a really bad liar.) Because I am an evertrusting, faithful, honest and naive soul, I chose to believe him, and in the end we had a good laugh. I suggested he should try to get some sort of recompensation from the hotel, under the pretext that this slip had almost destroyed his relationship, but he is too honest for that as well. “What if we get the maid in trouble?”

(Booooring!)

What’s the moral of the story? Things are not always as they seem, and sometimes you have to decide to trust. And: Occasionally renew your threats. ^^ (Or: Switch on the light when you start packing your suitcase at the hotel.)

New page – witchy remedies

24 Sep

At the top of the page you can see a new category, “witchy remedies”. It’s a collection of natural remedies I have tried and found to work for me. Although this is no substitute for a visit to your doctor, feel free to try and comment. Always apply with common sense!

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