My husband is one of those guys who is picky, discerning (whenever I point this out, he always points out that he married me, so being choosy isn’t a bad thing).
So Christmas is always a nightmare challenging. What do you get for someone who is very selective in his wants, and could pretty much buy whatever his heart’s desire (within reason, he’s not yet getting a Breitling).
But there are a couple ways I can’t go wrong:
1. He likes the buildup to opening the gift (sometimes more than the actual gift.)
2. He likes to watch moves.
3. He likes good food.
This year I planned a gift that sits right in the middle of that vin diagram. I planned 12 dinner and a movie dates.
Remember the old TBS show dinner and a movie? Where the hosts cooked a themed dinner around the movie they played? This is something like that.
So for our January date, I planned for us to watch Thunderball. (James bond date night in January is a bit of a theme for us. The year after daughter was born, we dressed to the nines, got PF Chang takeout, ate it on the wedding china and watched Casino Royale. last year was Dr. No.)
So this time around, the parameters were 1. Extravagant food (in the books, James Bond likes caviar, eggs and champaign at breakfast). 2. British theme. The challenge being that hubby is not a drinker. So the traditional martini, shaken, not stirred is out.
Martinis weren’t a problem. I made a reasonable facsimile of a dirty martini with sparkling soda water, cocktail olives and olive juice. Served in martini glasses for effect. Hubby ate the olives and left the drink. Oh well, they can’t all be winners.
When I think of British food, I think of fish and chips, or Harry Potter’s treacle tart. (Whatever treacle is. In Alice in Wonderland, there is mention of a treacle well, and in the Discworld books, there is Treacle Mine Road. I think Brit Lit is not a good source for answers to my treacle based questions. ) And something called Beef Wellington. Which sounds British. It shares a name with my favorite gardening boots, so it must be ok.
So Beef Wellington. And custard tart. Which is really just the egg custard pie like my grandma used to make. Easy easy peasy lemon squeezy.
The menus set, I wrapped the gift.
Hubby opened his January present, and immediately requested a menu change. He’s had my grandma’s egg custard pie, and isn’t a fan. So we switched to his favorite dessert: creme Brûlée. Cest la vie!
I didn’t quite realize how complicated Beef Wellington is. You take a piece of tenderloin, roll it in a mix of chopped mushrooms and onions, and then wrap that in prosciutto and wrap it in puff pastry. Then you try to bake it so that the meat cooks just enough and the pastry neither burns, nor gets soggy from the meat juices.
Gordon Ramsey likes this dish. In fact, he verbally guts lesser chefs for messing it up.
So, yeah. There’s that.
And because I can’t do things halfway, I also decided to make my own puff pastry.
So after a week’s worth of research (cook all the moisture out of the mushroom mix, wrap the package in phyllo dough to make a moisture barrier between the puff pastry and the meat. Bake according to internal temperature, not time) and three days of preparation (puff pastry isn’t hard, just long and involved), I pulled the whole thing together.
If you are interested, here is the recipe I used for Beef Wellington
And just for fun, Gordon Ramsay losing his temper over a beef Wellington on Hell’s Kitchen
I’ll be at ConDFW the weekend of February 12-14. This is the first convention that I’ve done in a long time independently of my publisher. So I’m learning how to convention anew.
This year my panels are all on Saturday. My schedule is as follows:
Creating your Fantasy Hero (programming 2. Madison).
How do you build the perfect hero for your fantasy world.
reading alongside Melanie Fletcher 2:00 (Adams)
Where do heroes go to die? (Programming 3. Hamilton (the musical?)
How do you write old heroes?
Autographs along with Scott A. Cupp
Since my programming schedule is light the year, I may have more time to be out and about to say hello and talk to folks. At any rate, I look forward to Seeing everyone.
This weekend I attended GlichCon along with Brad and Sue Sinor. I collaborated with Brad on four stories in the 1632 universe.
Brad let me know that one of our stories was in the collected hardcover Grantville Gazettes VII that were released about a month ago.
So, my first hardcover. I guess I need to be on some kind of newsgroup, because I never got the memo.
So this is going around:
Looks like I’m teaming up with a raptor trainer, Ant Man and Super Why. (Thanks to watching TV with a three year old.) I think I might just live.
I spent this weekend with Hubby at a business conference. Because the kids weren’t with us, we slept a lot and we watched Ant Man and Jurassic World.
I liked both movies, but to everyone’s surprise, I think I liked Jurassic World more. I’ll review each, then go into why below. So: spoilers ahoy!
I’m genuinely glad that this movie was good, and that it seems to be doing well. I think partially because Marvel has been doing so well at the movies, the nay-sayers have been getting really nasty and really just want to see a marvel super hero movie fail.
I always like to see nay sayers proven wrong. (No one seems to remember this, but a lot of folks called Firefly crap when it was on Fox. This is why we can’t have nice things.)
Because of all the trouble with production, this one was an easy target to make digs at. But, judging by things I’ve read about the movie, the change in director added things that I liked. (Haley Atwell’s Appearance as Peggy Carter, and the fact that some of the actors, like Evangeline Lilly were able to have input that expanded their parts.)
I really feel Marvel movies succeed to greater or lesser extent based on what they are trying to accomplish. Captain America worked for me because it was trying to be a WWII movie. Also, I feel they succeed when the stories are smaller. Iron man and Iron man III work best because it’s Tony Stark sciences the heck out of things, whereas Iron Man II is getting things set up for Avengers, and also here is Black Widow and Nick Fury again some more and also Tony Stark sciences a little and drinks a lot and eats donuts and there is a plot somewhere if you squint, we think.
(Avengers: Age of Ultron had some of the same problems. It was trying to set up Thor: Ragnarok and the Infinity War. Plus I felt like Joss was trying to be too clever with us by giving us Clint Barton’s I have a family now, so I must die in the third act red herring family. And also what was up with the out of left field Hulk/Widow plot? And what ever happened to widow’s previous plot about having red in her ledger? I feel like there was a black widow movie somewhere out there this is all built on, only it got swallowed by a black hole and no one remembers it. But I digress.)
Ant Man is a heist movie. There have been a couple of really good heist movies in the past few years (Inception being the biggest), but I think the genre hasn’t been overdone. It’s not stale or tired.
You would think that the main character’s abilities to shrink and control ants would make the heist more simple, but that’s not the case. The story has organic challenges and it’s tackled in a fun way.
But I didn’t love Ant Man as much as I wanted to. (And I wanted to love it as much as I loved Guardians of the Galaxy). It took me a while to figure out why, but I think I finally got it. It’s that I predicted the entire third act.
Being a writer, I have a bad habit of guessing where a story might be headed based on just knowing the craft of writing and how I would write a similar story. But this is different.
What happened was that based on one scene in the trailers, I guessed where the climax of the story would be, what the stakes were, who would be involved, and how they would resolve the plot. Instead of having fun with the story, I kept wondering when X would happen.
Bottom line is that I liked the movie. I just didn’t love it as much as I wanted to.
I didn’t expect to like Jurassic World as much as I did. But I liked this movie more than Ant Man.
The summer before I started my senior year of High School, I spent a week with family in Tulsa. One of my cousins and I went to see Jurassic Park. And then I read the book, just to be completely fangirly. Jurassic World captured the feel of the original movie better than any of the other sequels.
For starters, there is an actual park. The second and third movies don’t even take place on the same island as the first. And what a park! People who have been to Disney or Universal Studio’s themed islands will feel a sense of familiarity.
There are plenty of nods to the first park, such as the Mr. DNA mascot who gave us the info dump in the first movie.
The script has had 10 years to go through rewrites and development hell, and the result is something geared to please long-time fans. Several characters seem to be inversions of characters from the first movie. You have the raptor trainer as opposed to the big game hunter from the first movie who wanted to kill all the raptors because they were too dangerous, the guy in the control room who stays at his post and loves the dinos instead of the guy who shuts everything down and starts all the problems, etc.
There are messages about family and commercialization, but the plot as always revolves around man’s crippling hubris. The park needs a new attraction, because visitors are losing interest in common dinosaurs. (An interesting parallel given that Jurassic Park kicked off the CGI boom, and now it takes more and more to impress us).
Rather than try to make updated dinosaurs that match what science thinks dinos look like now, the park genetically engineers a new hybrid dino that isn’t based on any known species. It’s DNA is made based on a t-Rex and other things the scientists won’t disclose. Predictably, it breaks out. Bcause dinosaurs in Jurassic Park/World could get into Harvard, while people are stoopid.
As usual, there are kids menaced by the dinos and the adults go out to save them. I’ve always liked that in The Jurassic movies the kids save themselves (even if how they do it this time stretches credibility).
And speaking of credibility: I wasn’t actually bothered by the heroine wearing heels through the whole thing, like a lot of folks. Here’s a tip from a country girl who cleans up nice: you can avoid sinking in mud, and run in heels if you walk on the balls of your feet. It’s not practical, but neither is barefoot
When the movie was over, I had to scratch my head. Because essentially we’re left in the situation that was midpoint for most of the other movies. Dangerous dinos are loose, and a lot of people have nowhere to run from them. But just because the big threat is eliminated, everyone seems fine. I’m going to assume that park security an handle things from here and not think about it too hard.
So in conclusion: stupid people getting eaten. Two thumbs up.
And the trailers:
- There seem to be a lot of based on a true story movies coming out. And a lot of them, I’ve heard of before. I’m a walking true-to-life spoiler.
- I’m squeeing over Star Wars.
- Fantastic Four looks like it might be good. I know a lot of folks are predicting that it will be terrible. But I’m rooting for it based on that alone.
- Matt Damon used science as a verb.
- Jeffrey Dean Morgan is Papa Wayne. I may have to watch Superbat: Starring Everybody And Me just for that.
Sherri Dean made me aware that The Wonderful Blog of Oz has been reviewing each short story from I Should Have Stayed in Oz Yard Dog Press’s Wizard of Oz themed anthology.
The website seems to cover all media related to the OZ books.
They posted a review to my short story, East of the Sun, West of the Moon on June 7.
The last weekend of June, I was honored to be a guest at SoonerCon. I say honored, because over the past few years, I’ve seen it grow from an enjoyable literary and gaming convention to a convention that manages to bridge the gap between old fandom and new without making anyone feel left out. The result is one of the best times I have all year.
Within minutes of walking through the door, I spotted a check-in booth with good signs. I hadn’t even opened my mouth when the director of programming, Aislinn Burrows pointed at me and told her minions: “this is Tracy Morris. Get her guest packet.”
I’m small fish. That right there? Made me feel important. Caring for other people! Treating them like people! Great job!
(I had a similar experience at Fencon once. Which is why I love Fencon)
The whole convention is under the wing of longtime con runner Kimber Chessmore. She knows what she is doing, and is making the effort to train up the next generation. And it shows.
I took lots of photos, and had a great time. I meant to have a detailed con report, but it’s been more than a week, and details are starting to get mentally sketchy. Needless to say, Soonercon is a keeper.
I’ll be attending Glichcon first week of August. This convention is practically right in my backyard, and growing. Hope to see you there.
Now that Little Miss is old enough to play board games, Hubby and I thought about buying some of the classic games we liked when we were kids.
Just one problem. Since we were kids, the games have been updated.
Take Hungry Hungry Hippos, for instance. It used to be a simple game of eating all the milk glass marbles you could with your hippo before the other players could with their hippo. And the board was all one piece.
Now the game comes in pieces, the hippos tear up and the weird plastic marbles get stuck in the neck. (Thanks China)
And the rules seem to be that you want to eat a yellow marble? Or maybe you want to eat the red marbles? IDK
Hubby and I avoided all this by buying a classic Hippo game on EBay.
Little Miss is so excited to play. She’s already staked out the pink hippo for her own. Because like every little girl (who wasn’t me) she likes paaaaank.
So now that we have the classic game, we just have to find marbles for it.
And get Little Miss to stop walking around the house saying “we lost our marbles.”
And get hubby to forgive me for teaching her to say “we lost our marbles.”
eta: 14mm Chinese checkers marbles work just fine in old Hungry Hungry Hippos games. We’re in business now.
But a few weeks ago my husband asked me to give a talk to a business team about J.K. Rowling.
I think the decision to ask me went something like this:
“We need someone to talk about J.K. Rowling and Success. Who would be good for that?”
“I think Godsey’s wife writes fantasy. She might know something about that.”
So with note cards in hand, I talked to a bunch of professional types about wizards and broomstick footsockbasecricketsport.
But what I really talked about was J.K. Rowling as a writer. Here are my notes:
If I asked you to name a famous writer, you probably said JK Rowling.
JK Rowling’s Success Principles.
1. Get Started – it took her 7years to finish working on the First Harry Potter book. During that time, her mother died, and she was a single parent living on public assistance. She had a lot of distractions in her life, but she didn’t let them stop her.
2. Keep your goals in front of you, begin with the end in mind, have a plan. – One of the first scenes she wrote was the final scene of the last book. When you are a writer, the first third of the book is the easiest to write, because it’s all so new. Then comes the “muddy middle,” when it feels like writing is an uphill slog. Rowling’s had a goal, the end of the book. As she wrote, she never lost sight of her goal.
3. Don’t quit – Harry Potter and the Philosophers stone was rejected by twelve publishing houses before Bloomsbury accepted it for publication. If Rowling had given up after her first rejection, the entire Young Adult Novel industry would never have been born.
4. Set new goals – shortly after the end of her Harry Potter series, Rowling wrote The Casual Vacancy. She also started a new mystery series under a different pen name. Whenever you achieve a goal, you need to set a new goal to strive for.
With that being said, I had a goal tonight of not taking up too much time. I’ve achieved that goal. So my next goal is to get back to my seat without falling on my face. Thank you all for listening.
The interview I conducted with KUAF for Ozarks At Large went live on Wednesday. I’m happy to report that I managed to sound fairly intelligent.
You can hear the clip on their website.