Category Archives: Book

Stalked by a Genius… A Writer’s Journey;_ylu=X3oDMTBxNG1oMmE2BHNlYwNmcC1hdHRyaWIEc2xrA3J1cmwEaXQD/RV=2/RE=1414907592/RO=11/ Nearly a month ago, a character began following me. Well now this character has a name… and a friend. Unfortunately for me, this friend is a genius. I am not stupid, but writing a genius is a little intimidating.

After I finished my initial panic, I did a quick google search, which revealed the following sites:

I think my main concern is the level of research I will need to do, just to make my genius come off as a genius. No, I’m not talking about inventing a time machine, although that would be badass! But reading up on all the cool, yet complicated, theories that my genius would know about is going to take a lot of time.

I don’t need to fully understand physics… but I need to make it look like my genius character is a master of physics. I am nervous about making a very basic mistake. Kind of like, on a more simple level… if a woman is writing about male behavior in a public restroom. A woman might make a very basic mistake of thinking men in public restrooms talk to each other. Generally, men do not talk to each other… and men try to avoid eye contact in public restrooms. Very basic, but because a woman does not use the male restrooms on a regular basis, women would not know this.

I do not engage with physics on a regular basis.

How to write a genius character… sigh. I can do mentally troubled characters… men and women… violent, funny, thoughtful… scared. But I’ve never tried to write a genius character before.

Sure, I can binge watch The Big Bang Theory… or watch Back to the Future for the twentieth time. But… how do you write a genius?

Cooking with The Alice B. Toklas Cook Book: “Bird’s Nest Pudding” and “Coffee Icing”

Cooking with the Alice B. Toklas Cook Book
The Alice B. Toklas Cook Book … made (in)famous by the haschish fudge recipe!

There is a movie called “I Love You, Alice B. Toklas!” … the title of which was inspired by Alice B. Toklas’ most famous recipe: how to make haschich fudge (cannabis brownies). However the adoption of cannabis brownies by the 1960s counterculture happened years after Toklas originally recorded the recipe. The Alice B. Toklas Cook Book, a memoir of French cooking and travel by Alice B. Toklas, was first printed in 1954. This memoir recounts the life and times of Toklas, who was the partner of feminist writer Gertrude B. Stein. The book tells their adventures through the lens of cooking. Because of their ability to own a house, buy paintings, host a dinner with Picasso (yes, the painter), and to hire their own cook… that they were financially very well off while they lived together in Paris. In fact they lived in Paris during both World War I and World War II.

For this class assignment I had to cook a dish described by one of the recipes in Toklas’ book. I thought it would be fun to let my wife choose the recipe. When my wife and I began scanning over the recipes it was again reinforced that Toklas and Stein were financially well off. Recipes included lobster, duck with port wine, and recipes that sometimes took eight days of prep work to marinate. However in addition to social class these recipes

reinforce the idea that Toklas and Stein did not have children. Who has the time or ability to remember to marinate meat twice a day for eight days? Certainly not a single mom who feels accomplished with getting her kids dressed, fed, and not forgetting any of them in the supermarket. With this in mind my wife

chose two recipes that fit within our budget and that I could possibly do with two rambunctious children in the house.

Both of the recipes my wife chose were desserts. Great for my wife! However I do not like desserts and I do not like most candies.  So these desserts would be made mainly for my wife to taste and eat (if they turned out edible). Following is my brief memoir of how I made ‘Bird’s Nest Pudding’ and ‘Coffee Icing’ using the Alice B. Toklas Cook Book.

Cooking with the Alice B. Toklas Cook Book
All the ingredients I used are pictured here except flour, milk, and regular sugar. The coffee is a local Oregon brand called Cascade Pride… French Roast of course! The eggs are from my backyard chickens 🙂

Tuesday, January 21st, 2014 I sat in my office making a list of all the ingredients I would need to make these desserts. After a quick exchange of text messages with my wife, I discovered we had icing sugar (powdered sugar). So I left my office and headed to the grocery store to pick up all the things I would need for these recipes.

Bird’s Nest Pudding

Butter a porcelain pudding dish, slice 8 apples into it, sprinkle with sugar. Pour over them a batter made of 1 cup sour cream, 1 cup flour. Mix well, add the yolks of 3 eggs and 1 cup milk in which has been mixed 1 scant teaspoon baking soda. Bear the whites of 3 eggs, fold into mixture. Bake for ½ hour in medium oven. Brush the top with melted butter and sprinkle with sugar. Brown for 10 minutes. Serve with sweetened heavy cream. This is a pudding we should not neglect (The Alice B. Toklas Cook Book – 1984: page 129).

Coffee Frosting

In an enameled saucepan put ¾ cup very strong black coffee. Add enough icing sugar to make a very heavy cream. Warm over low heat. Pour on cake and with a spatula cover top and sides of cake. Sprinkle thickly with finely ground pistachio nuts. (The Alice B. Toklas Cook Book – 1984: page 70).

After spending roughly $12 (US) at the grocery store, I drove home and set to cleaning the kitchen. I cannot cook in a dirty kitchen. This is not to imply my wife keeps a dirty kitchen, but that we have different standards of clean. Furthermore we have two foster kids who make keeping anything in the house clean. Again, Toklas and Stein could not have had children considering the types of foods they were able to indulge themselves with. So, after roughly ten minutes of cleaning the kitchen I reached for the Alice B. Toklas Cook Book. It wasn’t where I thought I left it. I checked my backpack, and then the bedroom and living room.

It was 6:52 p.m. and I began to have a sinking feeling. No, I did not think one of the kids had eaten it. But I did consider, strongly, that I may have left the cook book in my office. After another futile minute of hunting I drove to campus… found the book on my office desk… and drove home. Annoyed with myself I was now ready to begin cooking at 7:37 p.m.

Cooking with the Alice B. Toklas Cook Book
Apples ready for the bird’s nest pudding

I set the oven to preheat to 400 degrees. There was no mention of how hot to bake the bird’s nest pudding, but I know many things bake at 350. I have a cooking quirk to preheat the oven to a higher level than I intend to cook at because I do. There is no psychobabble analysis needed here because preheating to a higher temp is just something I do. Anyway, while the oven was preheating I peeled eight apples and sliced them up. In addition I brewed a cup of strong black coffee. At 8:05 p.m. I finished peeling and slicing the apples and put them in the porcelain dish. I then mixed in the sour cream/flour topping, followed by the eggs yolks mixture, and finally I added the egg whites mixture. I sprinkled on sugar and put the bird’s nest pudding in the oven at 8:28 p.m. I turned the oven down to 350 degrees.

Sour cream and flour mixed together
Egg whites separated from egg yolks. One of the egg yolks broke, dripping a little in the egg whites. Oh well…
Cooking with the Alice B. Toklas Cook Book
Sour cream and flour mixed together
Cooking with the Alice B. Toklas Cook Book
This bird’s nest pudding does not look good

At 8:30 p.m. I focused on the coffee icing. The coffee was finished brewing. To this I added A LOT of powdered sugar. The directions noted that I was supposed to add enough to make a very heavy cream. What did that mean? I was unsure, but I stopped adding sugar after dumping two cups of powdered sugar into the 3/4ths cup of black coffee. It looked like honey syrup boiling in the pot instead of a very heavy cream. I hoped that when it cooled it would thicken like many sauces do. To crush the pistachios, my wife helped me remove the shells, and then I put the pistachios inside a Ziploc bag. Then I crushed the pistachios with a rolling pin while they were inside the Ziploc bag.

Cooking with the Alice B. Toklas Cook Book
Getting ready to crush pistachios with a rolling pin inside a Ziploc bag
Cooking with the Alice B. Toklas Cook Book
Finely crushed pistachios

At this point I attempted to make whipped cream out of the heavy whipping cream. After 15 minutes it still looked like milk. My wife told me I wasn’t ‘whisking’ hard enough. She briefly showed me how, and after I ‘whisked harder’ the heavy whipping cream looked like whipped cream. I put the whipped cream in the refrigerator and returned to the oven.

Cooking with the Alice B. Toklas Cook Book
This is what the heavy whipping cream looked like after 10 to 15 minutes of gentle whisking. Basically it still looks like milk.
Cooking with the Alice B. Toklas Cook Book
Heavy whipping creme that has been intensely whisked… it’s started to look like WHIPPED cream
Cooking with the Alice B. Toklas Cook Book
Hmmm… the coffee icing is not thick after two cups of sugar???

The boiling coffee icing still looked like syrup. At 9:10 p.m. I removed the coffee icing from the heat for it to cool. Then I checked the bird’s nest pudding baking inside the oven. After 42 minutes of baking the pudding was still runny. I brushed the top of the bird’s nest pudding with butter, sprinkled on sugar, and left it to bake longer in the oven.

And then left it longer.

…and longer.

At 10 p.m. the pudding seemed done.

Cooking with the Alice B. Toklas Cook Book
The bird’s nest pudding comes out of the oven… after nearly two hours of baking!

I placed the bird’s nest pudding on the counter for a few minutes to cool down. At 10:13 p.m. I did a taste test. This pudding was not good. My wife tasted it and thought it was okay. I told her she did not need to be nice to me, but she still insisted it tasted okay. She even said she would eat more the next day, while I would have been content feeding it to our chickens. It tasted very bland as I recall most British food to taste. But this was from a French cook book! I instantly wished I had not sprinkled sugar… but instead added a cup or two of sugar to this recipe. Two recipes I found online for bird’s nest pudding and bird’s nest pie list over a cup of sugar to be added to the recipe. Blah! I wonder if the French sprinkling of sugar equals two cups of sugar.

Cooking with the Alice B. Toklas Cook Book
The Bird’s Nest Pudding served with freshly made whipped cream. It looks better than it tasted. And… it doesn’t look good 😦

Now I began to feel pressure. I was cooking TWO dessert items. Would either turn out? The coffee icing had not thickened by 11 p.m. Tuesday night, so I put it in the refrigerator to cool overnight. My plan was to put the icing on sugar cookies that I purchased… but if it didn’t thicken then it might be better for pancakes.

At 4:32 p.m. on Wednesday I checked the coffee icing. It had barely changed in thickness. Why? This I am unsure of because two cups of powdered sugar added to 3/4s cup of black coffee should have been very thick. My wife expected it to be a solid sheet of candy that I would need to melt down. Instead overnight it had not thickened at all. If I had more money I would experiment with this some more because I have no idea why this icing did not thicken. The recipe does not say how much sugar needs to be added to make a thick cream, but I felt like I added enough sugar to guarantee a heart attack. As a syrup it tasted very good.

Sigh… two disappointing cooking outcomes.

Cooking with the Alice B. Toklas Cook Book
The coffee icing after sitting in the fridge overnight. It tastes good… but it is not icing 😦

My conclusion, if anything can be concluded from this, is that I do not like desserts. That was already known. So like so much other scientific research my experiment simply complimented (reinforced) existing knowledge. This was disappointing but not ego crushing. My ability to cook chili (meat or vegetarian) is very good. I can also cook steak, vegetables, and various dishes that go far beyond the skill requirements of a microwave dinner. While I am writing this report (attempting to write it) the kids have been put in timeout more than once. While I was cooking the kids were put in timeout more than once. I reiterate: There was no mention of children in the obituary of Alice B. Toklas. I’m convinced if she had kids she would have just ordered pizza!

Book Cover Design – What would you do?

Have you used 99 Designs for your book cover design? I expect to finish writing a novel later this year. It is a fantasy/science-fiction story for young adults. I plan to publish it independently as an eBook but still need an attractive cover for display.

For those who do not know, 99 Designs is a website that hosts graphic design contests. The way it works is that an author submits a written description of how they would like to the cover to look. Then graphic artists from around the world submit designs in a cover design competition. After two or three weeks the author ends the contest and chooses a winning design.

It sounds pretty cool. Plus I love writing… so seeing my work in print, even as an eBook, would be great.

Have you used 99 Designs or someone else for your book cover design? What was your experience like? I am a graduate student so publishing an indie eBook is a big financial commitment for me … you know… like $400.

Have you ever had a book published (or self published)? What was your experience like? Thoughts?

What are the Best Ways to Handle Criticism?

Sheldong Fainting, how to respond to an avalanche of constructive criticism
Sheldon Fainting, “The Big Bang Theory”

Is it every writers nightmare to receive comments and multiple revision suggestions on every page of a submission? Continue reading What are the Best Ways to Handle Criticism?

Earth Day 2012 – Oregon

2 Peter 3:10-13

But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up.

Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.


I believe Jesus died on the cross for my sins. I believe Jesus will return someday. When that day comes a lot of things will change… including the earth. However, I will not passively sit by while the planet is ruined by recklessness. If you believe climate change is crap, then at least consider pollution as a problem on this Earth Day 2012.

Politicians are notorious for trading jobs for votes… even when those jobs bring polluting factories.

Maybe something realistic you can do to help the environment is change how you get to work. A hybrid is not financially feasible for many people. But other changes in lifestyle can be made. Many people drive to work when they could bike or walk.

I encourage you to educate yourself about the challenges the planet is currently facing and things you can do to make a positive impact.

Eyeless Shrimp: Two Years After the BP Oil Spill

Earth Day 2012

Oregon Earth Day Events

Oregon Earth Day