Well okay then! I have, as of this past week, just sent off the final batch of chapters for the book I am currently working on (The Art of Fantasy!) That means I am KINDA SORTA DONE! I will probably have to make some edits, and then I will have to write a few intros–which are easier to write after I’ve written the thing being introduced, hee hee!–and then start reaching out to artists for permissions to use their works and then get a lot of rejections and then go back to the drawing board and start researching appropriate imagery all over again…so, yeah. I still have a lot more to do, but the hard part is DONE.
It’s been a bit of a struggle, this latter half of the summer. I did not expect to be writing a book while sick with Covid. Nor did expect that I would ever get Covid. I know, I know–that’s a really naive and privileged thing to say. But being vaxxed and boosted to the max and not ever going anywhere, doing anything, or seeing anybody, I guess I thought I could avoid it forever. Not so. Yvan had to attend a week-long corporate team-building exercise thing, and guess what he brought back? UGH. As I’m sure many of you can attest to, this is pretty miserable stuff. I don’t think I’ve ever been so unwell in my life. I tested positive on the 23rd of August and it was really just this week (the week of September 10th) that I am starting to feel normal again.
…and I just deleted a whole bunch of gripes I have about people’s cavalier attitudes about all of this, because you know what? Typing it out was really getting me wound up and upset and furious and that’s not what I wanted to bring here today. I realize it’s my blog and I can write about whatever I want…but all things considered, I don’t actually want to dwell on that. I have a habit of feeling some kind of way and then just stewing in it, really settling into a swampy morass of fury and resentment. It’s not good for me and it’s just a GROSS feeling, and I am not going to do it. I wanted to write a little blog post about how I had just finished something that I was struggling with, how I was feeling better after some “health challenges,” and now I am feeling pretty good again and want to do all the things!
All of the AT HOME things, that is!
A home in which we have lived for five months now! I get that to some folks, settling into a new place is a really exciting venture, but to someone who craves stability and doesn’t love change, these past five months have been weird and unsettling (ok, maybe a tiny bit exciting too, I am not a total monster.) But coupled with having to head back to the old place every weekend to fix it up for sale–which is a four-hour trip total, but in some instances, we just got a hotel and stayed the whole weekend–and then the frustrations of trying to sell it, well, it’s been a PROCESS. I don’t know if it’s indicative of the market or if our house just wasn’t super appealing, but we put it up for sale in May and we’re finally closing on a sale right now, the second week of September. OOOF. That took a while, but…I think…we are done!
So, this summer I had big plans for ~tending to and treating my inner child~ but I didn’t always have the time and energy to devote to it. I’m putting together a more detailed YouTube video about this, but here are a few things I did in service of little Sarah: we got the Jem and the Holograms rockstar hair we’ve always wanted; we’ve been wearing fantastical clothing all summer long, tops and dresses that make me feel like I’m in some sort of fairy tale or enchanted garden, or napping on top of a treasure chest, helping a dragon guard their loot–this magic sword top above is by Jordan Piandedosi; aaaand I have been doing so much reading! Nearly 30 books in the past three months! I think that definitely gets all the sticker stars on my Book It! pin (IYKYK) and so therefore I most definitely deserved a personal pans pizza. And if you are curious about all of the titles that I read, I hope to be sharing that here on the blog as soon as tomorrow.
Here’s the recipe I used, which I think is extra cool, because the person narrating the voice-over sound pretty young (and bonus-bonus! I think they live in the same town I moved to!) Anyway, if you are interested, it came out PERFECT but be prepared to spend five hours making it and five minutes snarfing it down.
Here is a very crooked photo of what one would see if they were to walk into the front door of our home! Yvan’s mother painted this adorable gnome couple for us as a wedding gift, and we wanted it to greet people as they walked in! The only problem is, no one really ever uses the front door, we all come through the garage, hee hee! At any rate, the underneath of the painting was looking pretty bare and we found this small table at a neighbor’s house. She is getting ready to move and had just sort of…invited the neighborhood to come in and poke around? I felt a little nosy, but I recall more or less doing the same thing when I left NJ. It’s the perfect space to display my sunflower bouquet from the day of the wedding!
Here’s another few pieces that my mother-in-law painted and which are hanging in the kitchen! I hope to have a whole freaking gallery in the next few years. She paints the sort of storybook canvases that I just want to crawl into and wander around in for a while. Maybe dangle my feet in the sea, hang out with the fisherman’s wife who is yelling at her husband to not forget his lunch!
Anyhoodle, it is September 18th and fall is hopefully just around the corner and perhaps next time I check in I will have some more interesting things to share. Or, at least I won’t be so hot and sweaty when I am sharing them!
Just a series of impressions and lists from the last month, which seems like a blurry dream thing that never really happened, and yet here we are…
⌛ I think I finally have my desk the way that I want it. Except for that old fossil of a work phone, which, unfortunately, stays until I am no longer working my day job. Which you know, is what pays the bills, so I kinda need it for now. UGH. I do want to add a little plant propagation station and this adorable mushroom lamp. I am afraid I may be unduly influenced by mushroomparasol’s Instagram account.
⌛Speaking of Instagram, I am finding that place profoundly depressing lately. I hate complaining about likes and views and “engagement” but man oh man. I have almost 12K followers over there. 11.8K, to be exact. I have been hovering at that number for the past year, and I have had that account on Instagram for over a decade now. TikTok, on the other hand, I have about 10K followers there and I only created that account a little over a year ago. So I have gotten nearly the same amount of followers in one tenth of the time? Huh.
And as of the beginning of June, my account seems like a frigging ghost town. And I have to ask myself, is no one seeing what I am sharing, or is it that I am really boring and no one cares? I mean, I get it. You can look at stuff on these platforms but you are under no obligation to like it or comment on it or interact with it at all. So no, just because you’re my friend, or just because you generally enjoy the things I talk about, that doesn’t mean you have to “heart” everything I share. Of course not. BUT man. It’s weird. My earnest posts usually, or at least in the past, get around 100 likes, and my stupid jokes or memes usually get like 500+ (so frustrating when people pay more attention to the thing you only gave half a second’s thought to as opposed to something you spent time on or care about, but whatever.) Anyway. This week? Posts are getting like, 20-40 likes. Even a BOOK post! ALL of my friends love books! I don’t get it! I’ve heard it’s an algorithm thing, and I don’t know exactly how that works, but ugh. This is a bummer. And I am not even trying to make my living off of what I am posting there! I imagine full-time artists and writers and small business owners and people who provide services must really be feeling it. Influencers, too.
But fuck those guys. I don’t give a shit about influencers. So. I don’t know what to do about any of that other than start spending more time elsewhere. So if you are on twitter or TikTok or Facebook (yes, I am still over there) feel free to say hi!
⌛ Two things I have watched lately and really enjoyed: Severence, which apparently is nothing like Succession. But I had lumped them together because they had similar sounding coporate-speak names. And which I had no interest in until I realized that Severence is actually a sci-fi tinged psychological thriller. And it is GOOD. (Still don’t know what Succession is, but I also still have no interest.) Also, Shining Vale, a horror comedy starring Courtney Cox and which was a ridiculous delight. If I am being honest I have never given a thought to Courtney Cox (I’m sorry Courtney Cox) but man she was a hoot in this. Also I don’t even know where Warwick Castle is but because I am me I had to find this shirt that she was wearing in a certain scene from a certain episode.
⌛ We’ve gotten most of the wall art hung up in the house! Here are a few peeks…
⌛At long last, we have a proper guest room! With a proper guest bed! And now that William Morris bedding is finally getting some use! I bought it a few years ago and then we promptly went and got a bigger sized bed. Le whoopsie.
⌛I have been looking for the perfect canisters. A sort of vintage situation, enamel, with rosemaling or some sort of Scandinavian floral motif art on them. I found them on a site called Chairish and I am sure I overpaid for them, but that’s okay because they were –exactly–what I was looking for.
⌛ I have been obsessed with the idea of the grinder salad sandwich that’s all over TikTok but then I saw that someone skipped the sandwich part and just turned it into a salad and we have been eating some version of this every single day for lunch.
⌛ I’ve really been excited about getting titles from NetGalley, where you have the opportunity to obtain advanced copies of books that haven’t been published yet, for review purposes. I’ve gotten some really excellent ones that I was really looking forward to and some really incredible things that I never even would have heard of! Well, at least not until after it had been published, and then people got excited about it, maybe. At any rate, MOTHERTHING hadn’t been on my radar but I got it through NetGalley and now it might be my favorite book of all time.
⌛Yvan and I have been walking in the mornings. This is such a lovely neighborhood to walk in, with lots of trees and birds and bats and even some hills (in FL!!!) and a view of the river. We’ve been waking up around 5:30 and making a circuit of two miles or so. Not a lot, but enough to wake us up and sort of give us a feeling of “well, even if we get nothing else done today, we did THAT.” But on the days we do it, we both remark throughout the day how much energy we have, what a good mood we’re in, etc. I know it doesn’t cure all ills, but man. Walking. I love it.
⌛ We’re still working on getting the old house ready for sale, so we haven’t really spent most weekends in the new space. I can’t wait until that’s off our plate. Maybe this new house will finally start feeling like home, like I really live here, when I plan to go nowhere and do nothing and finally have a proper FUCK OFF WORLD! weekend. Fingers crossed!
I have been meaning to read Tananarive Due’s The Good House from the moment that I closed the last page of Ghost Summer, which I thoroughly, delightedly enjoyed. My review for Ghost Summer wasn’t super in-depth or intensive, but about the book, I wrote the following:
These engaging short stories by Tananarive Due tick every box for what I want in a summer read. (I think I read this in September, so that still counts, as far as I am concerned!) A vast spectrum of supernatural business, characters that I care about, masterful writing that is emotive and nuanced but not super dense or difficult or inaccessible. It’s got everything!
Ghost Summer was previously my only experience with Tananarive Due’s writing, and though I believe that it was published more than a decade after The Good House, which I just read, it had all of the hallmarks that I’ve now come to expect from her work. I feel like it’s almost trite to say that a story or a book has “a lot of heart”…I mean, I say that a lot, but what does that mean, anyway? It’s the first thing that comes to mind when I think of this author’s writing, I am tempted to say “horror with a lot of heart.” I suppose what I’m trying to get across is that her stories seem to be written through an empathetic, compassionate lens. That her characters are fully fleshed out, down to their annoyances and imperfections, and their stories are treated in such a way that they’re wholly, profoundly human, and we really grow to care about them.
Also, Tananarive Due writes in such a way that you don’t feel punished for having read and connected with the work. I sometimes feel like a certain subset of writers must really hate us, the reader. That’s probably not true, but it’s easy to feel that way when you see your favorite, beloved characters brutally dismembered on the page before you. I just…never get a sense of that with Due’s writing. Of course, in her books, there’s horror and heartlessness and heart-stopping moments…but there’s also hope. I love that she gives us that, too. I guess that’s what I mean when I say a story “has heart;” that no matter what else transpires, no matter how big and expansive the horror and heartbreak is, she leaves the door open for goodness and hope, as well. I come away feeling good about what I read.
The Good House (unlike the House movie that I wrote about yesterday) is actually a pretty scary story in concept, and I did find myself a little freaked out while reading it. The home that belonged to Angela Toussaint’s late grandmother is so cherished and revered that the local townspeople refer to it lovingly as the Good House. All of this changes one summer when a terrible tragedy takes place during a Fourth of July celebration at the house, and both the Toussaint’s family history and its future is irrevocably altered. Two years after, following her son’s suicide in the house, Angela returns and finally starts to unravel what happened and put things right.
Masterful storytelling combining multiple perspectives across different timelines, witchcraft and family curses, the burdens of inherited guilt, trauma, rich history, and mythology, and an overwhelming, palpable sense of stomach-curdling dread present from almost the very first page made this a vividly enthralling read and an intense page-turner, and I’m going to make it my mission in life to read everything author has every written.
Speaking of houses and homes–what’s more homey than a cozy bowl of porridge? Or steel-cut oats, to be more specific!
Here’s a little oatmeal bar I set up yesterday, with all the fixings: dates, pumpkin seeds and almonds, apricots, cream, and sugar. It was perfect for our 70-degree morning…which, if you live in Florida, you know that’s practically freezing, and about as close to autumn as we are likely to get! The little Halloween ramekins were a lovely surprise from Yvan, who picked them up for me from Le Creuset! I can’t seem to find them on the Le Creuset site (though he assures me there were quite a few in stock at the actual store and they weren’t exactly flying off the shelves) but if you are looking for them, it’s this set.
For some reason, I started thinking about the “soul pizza” moment in A Nightmare On Elm Street, Part Four: The Dream Master. Alice is sitting in a diner and Freddy sidles up to her and begins his gimmicky schtick–I actually love this surreal, schlocky music video of a film but Freddy has become an insufferable cartoon at this point– and there’s this whole thing with a meatball pizza. The meatballs are the screaming faces of Alice’s dead friends, and Freddy spears one of the little shrieking heads with his razor finger, pops it in his mouth, begins to chew, and just goes to town on it while Alice watches in horror.
My sister and I rewatched it last night, but I am afraid that by the time this scene rolls around I might have had a few too many margaritas and I don’t even remember watching it. Which is really dumb, because this 20 seconds was the whole reason I talked her into watching this film with me!
I’m always filing away food and meals from books and movies in my mental recipe folder, and I suppose because I have been thinking about attempting to make a sourdough pizza dough, this particular scene was on my mind. I didn’t want to recreate it, exactly. I mean…it’s pretty gross. And the details of those tiny faces would be complicated to execute.
…Pun intended, always!
So instead, we’ll just say that this very normal pizza that I made is, at best, loosely inspired by that scene? I used Joshua Weissman’s sourdough pizza recipe for the dough and the sauce, and it’s lightly topped with a blend of fresh parmesan and mozzarella, and tiny “meat” balls made from Impossible meat. I seasoned them with onion, garlic, and soy sauce, which is what seasoned the filling in one of Maangchi’s recipes, and I liked it so much, I just use it every time I have to add flavoring to a ground beef-like thing.
It turned out pretty well! We don’t have a pizza stone, so we baked a few versions of this in a large cast-iron skillet. It’s not perfect, but it gets the job done.
So, I found out that they made a sort of novelty toy version of this pizza, with its own take-out box! I can’t imagine who would have wanted one of these things, but who am I to judge. I also see where, if one was so inclined, one could buy what I believe is the actual pizza prop used in the movie. Again…who would want this? I cannot guess as to those reasons, but suppose I do think it’s an awfully cool thing that it exists.
I did…not…enjoy Things Heard and Seen on Netflix. I will admit, the trailer captivated me, with its teasing of Catherine and George, a young couple and their child moving from the city to a ~quite possibly~ haunted old house in a small Hudson Valley college town. I already want to run away to an isolated farmhouse in upstate New York and bake bread and feed chickens all day (okay, Yvan can feed the chickens, I don’t really care about that part) so this appealed to me on a very base level.
But. With the exception of one character, I did not care for a single person in this film. As it turns out, and I’m not really spoiling anything here, George is not a great guy. You get a sense right off the bat that he’s a bit of a dick and he’s kind of sneaky, and he only gets worse. I don’t think the house would have gotten to him to such a degree if it wasn’t already a bad apple. And by the end of the film, you start to wonder about some things you learn at the beginning of the film and wonder if he wasn’t already rotten to the core.
I didn’t really love Catherine’s character, either. And maybe that’s not fair because I don’t know that we ever got a chance to know her, other than she gave up her art restoration career for her husband’s teaching opportunity, which is why they made the move to the country. And that she’s “the believer” in the family, as George asserts to a colleague who is trying to talk with him about Swedenborgian philosophies and spirituality. But other than his referencing of it, and the fact that she begins seeing and hearing strange, ghostly things, we don’t get much in the way of an explanation or examples of that, or any back story for her at all.
Oh, and a big-time TW here: We also know that Catherine suffers from an eating disorder. We know this has been going on for a while, because George references doctor visits, and weight gain shakes she is supposed to be drinking for meals. An excellent example of this guy’s assholery is how he’s always harping on her for not eating, almost as if he’s actually concerned. And yet. In a car ride home, after they have joined Justine, a fellow professor (Rhea Seehorn, who plays Kim Wexler in Better Call Saul!) and her husband in their home for dinner, George remarks that Justine “can really put away some lasagna.” With commentary like that, it’s not surprising that Catherine has some issues with food and with her body. “That was a really nasty thing to say,” she remarks about his casual cruelty. And it was. Fuck off, George!
Justine Solokof, professor of weaving (?!?!) is a QUEEN and I would love to eat some lasagna with her. She is the very best thing about Things Seen And Heard.
If I am being honest, I utterly tuned out about 20 minutes into the film as I began daydreaming about life in my lovingly restored and gently haunted murder farmhouse. Crisp, clear nights with no light pollution or humidity and you can count every star in the sky and it’s so quiet you can hear the flights of bats and owls. Slow, chilly mornings warmed by endless cups of coffee and something cozy and autumnal to eat.
Like sourdough pumpkin pancakes! It’s 85 degrees in Florida this week, and the pancakes were the only part of this fantasy that I could recreate. I am not a huge fan of maple syrup, so I ate these with cream cheese and honey and they were delightful.
Of course, my haunted country home fantasy needs a rustic autumnal ensemble! Details on all of the items used can be found here; I’m feeling too lazy to list them all at the moment, but if you check back later, I may have done so.
And oh my lord people, you people with comments like “$12K for a bag, I would never!”Of course, you would never! That just goes without saying! We don’t have that kind of money! But what’s the point of daydreaming on a budget? No thanks, friends. If I’m gonna fantasize, even if it’s just a dream of making pies and knitting on a front porch rocking chair with no one in 50 miles in any direction to bother me, it’s gonna be dripping in luxury. You want a cheap murder farmhouse outfit, make it yourself.
10 years ago on September 30th, I rolled into my sister Mary’s driveway in Orlando, after a long drive from New Jersey. My car was packed with everything I owned, my baby sister Melissa, flown out from California to assist me, was driving. I don’t know how I talked her into driving the whole way, but of the two of us, I think I am actually the baby. I can drive, I just hate long stretches of highway driving. But she is so brave. Thank god/s and whoever else for her. Thank god for both of my sisters.
I had lived most of my life in Florida (though I was born in Ohio and spent a few years there as a small child.) But from ages 9-28 I lived in Florida. That’s where most of my small family was, and my friends, all two of them. I packed up and left all of that behind, everything I knew, in February of 2004, to move to New Jersey. That… was a bad idea. And for 7 years I tried to make that bad idea work, but ultimately it failed spectacularly. In February of 2011, over the course of a phone call on a lonely winter afternoon, Mary convinced me to come back home. This was a good idea. It was the Best Idea.
I spent the summer packing and divesting, Melissa flew out at the end of September 2011, we stuffed my car as full as it could be, and I left that place and never looked back. When we finally pulled into Mary’s driveway…that was one of the happiest days, most glorious of my life. And every day since, even the tough ones, even the impossible ones? Have been even better. I am so grateful for both of my incredible sisters, for their fearlessness and wisdom, and for their unflagging support of their eldest sister. I mean it in every way that you could mean such a thing: my life is better because of them.
Today (well, actually yesterday but October 1st sounds more dramatic) marks ten years since I have been back!
I made a cake (Nigella Lawson’s Rosemary Remembrance cake) to celebrate with Yvan, who has been at my side for the majority of the time I have been back in Florida, and he too makes my life better in so many ways. I never thought I would have a partner that I could laugh with and share my secrets with and who will enjoy all of my weird, experimental meals and compliment all of my perfumes and support my wildest dreams…but that’s him. I’m wild about him. Turns out he was a good idea, too. (Thanks, past Sarah for being the aggressor in this matter and asking him out on a date!)
Totally unrelated, but as it is October 1st, the first day of the very best month, I’m going to attempt, in my typical lazy way, to participate in 31 Days of Horror. Now…to be clear here, I’m not going to try and fool you into thinking I’m watching and writing about a new movie every day. I mean, there are some days that I might do that! But I think I will be talking about some books and movies that I’ve watched earlier in the year, too. I’m tired, man. I’m burnt out. I just wrote a book. I may soon be starting another one (this is a thing that is super up in the air and not a sure thing, but it’s a possible thing!) So I haven’t got it in me to do 31 Days of Horror perfectly, but I’m going to do my best!
To start with, I am totally half-assing it, and pointing you to some horror-related things from the past! Hee hee! Classic Sarah! Check back throughout the month of October to see what else I think I can get away with!
I made a little video about getting out of my head when I am feeling bad, and spending time in the kitchen. I hope that you’ll give it a watch! It’s mostly me puttering and clanking spoons, but put me on in the background at a reasonable volume and we can keep each other company while we kitchen witch our crappy feelings away!
I’ve written about bean soup before. Probably right around this time last year. Well, here it is again, friends. And thanks to the brilliant friend on Instagram who gave me the idea for this blog’s title!
I hated my grandmother’s bean soup when I was a little girl. If I’m being quite honest I always cried when I had to eat it. I sobbed through every spoonful. There was nothing wrong with it. I just wanted something more familiar like a salami sandwich with yellow mustard. That was my favorite! Bean soup was just so…ugly. I hated looking at it. I hated smelling it. No thanks!
Anyway, I must feel awfully guilty about it these many years later, because anytime I am inspired to make a soup, it’s usually of the beany variety. Here’s a recipe, if you are interested and you’ve got some of these ingredients lying around. I’m really bad at keeping track of amounts, just eyeball it and make it soupy, you know? It’s still an ugly soup, but holy beans, is it delicious.
As they say, “beauty is in the eye of the beanholder.”
“I’m Sorry, Mawga” bean soup
-a bunch of beef of vegetable stock (from scratch is best.) Maybe 6-8 cups?
-a few cups of dried beans, whatever you’ve got, soaked overnight
-3-4 strips of bacon
-one onion, diced
-however much garlic you like, minced
-hefty squirt of tomato paste
-a few bay leaves
-sprig of fresh rosemary
-several leaves of fresh sage, chopped
-salt and pepper
Chop bacon and fry in a deep pot for a few minutes until some of the fat is rendered out. You don’t need it to be crispy. Toss in your onion and sauté for a few minutes until fragrant. Add the garlic, stir it up and sauté for a minute or so more. All of this is on medium heat, I suppose. Squirt in your tomato paste and stir around until everything is coated and let it cook for a minute. Add all of your both, beans, and herbs and bring to a boil for a few minutes. Reduce heat, cover and cook until beans are tender or to your liking. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
We served the soup with some focaccia that I’d made using a not-too-peppy sourdough starter and whole wheat flour, with a recipe from Pro Home Cooks. I mean… even mediocre fresh-baked bread is good bread, but I would definitely like to try my hand at this again, with better, fresher, more lively ingredients. Still, to accompany a humble bean soup, I think it worked well, and it was made tastier with a dollop of the compound sage butter I had made this past weekend with loads of fresh sage from the garden. GOOD LORD this stuff is good. Just make it and put it on everything.
I require an explanation regarding muesli. I was startled out of sleep last night when I realized that I didn’t know what the difference was between muesli and granola. At first, I thought muesli was basically toasted nuts and grains but without the fat or sweetener, like granola. Both then I see that sometimes muesli is just raw grains and nuts, soaked. Both seem to have the addition of dried fruits and various toppings at some point. So then… what’s the difference between muesli and overnight oats or even oatmeal? Is it all just semantics? Also, is “overnight oats” basically just a term that some dumb fitness blogger coined because they thought they came up with something clever, but in reality, it’s something people have been doing for a million years? Because I sure wish someone had said to them, oh, so you’re making MUESLI, then?
Anyway, if you can’t tell, this confusion is making me cranky and mean. And also I hate fitness bloggers.
The internet is confusing me with conflicting information and I swear I just watched Jamie Oliver dump half a damn can of cocoa in his wacky version so I don’t even know what’s what anymore. If you are a muesli eater and you can explain to me the difference, I’d love to hear it! And armchair muesliosophers, keep outta this–I don’t need conjecture, I need hard facts!
I have included a screen capture that confuses things even further, from the video I just watched.
I don’t think it’s possible to capture an egg salad sandwich in an attractive pose but the Japanese milk bread and accompanying egg salad recipe from Chef John made for an incredible tamago sando. It’s never gonna be in Vogue or whatever but I’m here to eat, not sell magazines.
While I actually like egg salad, I have a tough time eating it and not thinking of the decaying egg salad sandwich that Fry bought from a toilet vending machine in Futurama, whenever I eat one. It’s such a dilemma. Keep the space parasites that are making me the most amazing and best version of myself? Or get rid of the worms taking up residence in my body?
Sigh. 6am is too early to be thinking. Or eating egg salad, probably.
Anyway, this dough was such a joy to work with. It was so plush and luxurious! I couldn’t stop fondling it! Ok, stop being weird, Sarah. Also: loaf of milk bread? Or corgi butt? It’s hard to tell, right?