Thursday, June 29, 2017

Season Two, Episode One! Vintage 1964 Tapioca Parfaits!

Well, after taking a week off, I've come back at my Mid-Century Kitchen with Molly Starlite web series with renewed vigor. As you know, last week was a disaster. I'd made pie crusts and then went on to make both appetizers (mini quiche) and desserts (mini lemon meringue pies) from the pie dough. But then Windows Movie Maker did THE THING* and ate my files... and I was a very unhappy pinup... typical for last week** ... and gave up last week.

But I came back at it this week because I had ordered some true vintage cook books from Amazon, and I got one in the mail this past Monday: the Metropolitan Life Insurance Co.'s cook book! It's really just a short pamphlet with recipes and home tips, but it was sure fun to look at. I hadn't decided which recipe to do when serendipity stepped in and decided for me: my neighbor gave me two pounds of strawberries he'd grown in his garden, so I decided to make the Strawberry Tapioca Pudding Parfait out of the book... and change it up a little with my own spin on it.

Watch me make it here:

Here's a photo of the recipe from the book!

*THE THING that Windows Movie Maker does is literally that it crashes - without ANY warning and without ANY triggering that I can discern - completely and totally randomly. You'll be working along and then - BOOM - screen goes black, program is unreachable... have to close everything and start over, re-opening the editable file from disk rather than the recovered file because that'll screw up the output of the final file when you're done... and the only "cure" I have found for it is to literally save the file after EVERY MOVE I MAKE. Like, brighten a scene... save file. Split a video file... save. Delete piece of video... save. Lower music volume... save. And on and on and on. Last week, it crashed and made EVEN THE SOURCE FILES unreadable - and, hence, unusable - and so I went to use some files from an episode I had never uploaded... and it did the same thing. Since I haven't yet gotten my money together to get new editing software, I was seriously holding my breath the whole time I edited this week's video. It only crashed one time this week, though, and I did get my file... however, now my Internet access is being slower than molasses in January in the middle of the Klondike during a polar vortex and uploading the file to YouTube took two and half hours when it should have taken about 20 minutes. (Sigh)

**Last week, my world was TOTAL BS from start to finish. I was really very upset missing Caitlin, my videographer and little buddy who'd moved to Spokane, my husband was not feeling himself all week for very sad personal reasons, then a couple of persons (who shall remain nameless) told me my music was crap and that I should give up, and then the AC in my car stopped working, one of my best friends stopped talking to me (and some other BS happened there) and then the paper I wrote puzzles for canned me, so, yeah, the files getting eaten was pretty par for the damned course, TBH. It was a REALLY, REALLY, REALLY tough week.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Cross Words

For the past four months, I have been volunteering my time writing weekly crossword puzzles for a local paper, trading the occasional ad in said paper (once per month or so) for making the content.

Anyone who has ever worked a crossword puzzle knows that they are, by design, not easy, unless they are for kids under the age of 12 or so. Anyone who has attempted to write a crossword knows that they are not at all easy to make, and anyone who has written for publication knows that there are literal rules to writing them.

People who publish newsletters and the like often hop online and get free puzzles from one of the crossword puzzle generators... which is fine, I guess, if you don't mind:

1) Approximately 20% of the clues are wrong;
2) Approximately 20% of the answers are not properly referenced by the clue given;
3) Approximately 20% of the answers are wrong;
4) Nearly 80% of the auto-generated ones do not conform with traditional rules of cruciverbalism;
5) For the crossword puzzle enthusiast, they are ludicrously easy
6) Easily 50% of the time, there are typographical or other errors in the content.

I am not claiming to be a crossword puzzle expert, nor am I claiming to be a professional cruciverbalist; however, I do know a thing or two about writing and doing crossword puzzles, having written not only in college newspapers, specialty magazines, and local papers, but I have also written them in Spanish. I work most published crosswords in about an hour; it takes me about 4 hours to write one. I write challenging crosswords, because THAT is what the true enthusiast wants. Nobody wants a crossword you can finish in 10 minutes... and, barring a colossal error (which isn't likely - see above) throwing you a curve ball, that is ALL the time that the auto-generated, generic ones are going to take.

In short, not fun and not challenging.

I like to add in an additional flavor to my crossword puzzles when I write them and make them themed, too. Football teams, ZIP codes, bird breeds, plant types, etc. It makes them more challenging not only to write, but to work, as well.

The aspect of the intellectual challenge is a commonly desired trait for crossword puzzles; people who want easier ones are, quite frankly, faux intellectuals... people who want to feel smart because they finished a crossword puzzle... not that they finished a truly challenging crossword puzzle.

Imagine my surprise when I got FIRED from this volunteer position for my crossword puzzles being "too hard" and "esoteric." (Who knew ZIP codes were esoteric?!?!) Apparently, there are people out there who whine and complain when they cannot finish a challenging puzzle, and, even more baffling, there are editors out there who capitulate to them and fire writers over challenging, intellectual content.

Firstly, I would be embarrassed and ashamed to email a complaint about a puzzle being too hard for me to finish. I would take the time to brush up on topics or buy a good crossword dictionary (or use one online - they're not cheating) rather than emailing people to notify them I was a crybaby. Secondly, I would be appalled and mortified to go up to the paper's editor in PUBLIC and complain for OVER AN HOUR about the puzzles being too hard for me to finish.

This was, apparently, the sequence of events that lead to my firing: approximately 11 people over 12 weeks emailed to complain about the crosswords being "too hard," and then some lady accosted the editor of the paper and, rather than telling her to write an email he could forward to me to address her concerns, he agreed to fire me. She must feel real proud of herself right about now, knowing how much power she wields over the local press simply by being a WHINER.

So, here's why I am completely and utterly gutted by this:

1) I offered to write puzzles for this local paper because I saw a lengthy comment chain on Facebook complaining about the generic puzzles the paper was using. I didn't ask for money and I suggested the editor run an ad for business now and again as compensation. I never received a single phone call from those ads, incidentally, so I was basically doing the guy a favor.
2) At the publication of my first puzzle, the editor baldly - and without my permission - published my work email address alongside the puzzle, apparently to stem the tide of "negative hate mail" he'd been receiving regarding the generic puzzles. I received ZERO letters in any form regarding the puzzles during the entire time I wrote them.
3) At one point, the editor wrote me to thank me for making the puzzles harder than the generic ones and told me at that time that he had gotten nothing but praise for the puzzles.
4) I check and double check clues and words before sending off for publication. Each puzzle takes 4 hours or so to write, but the fact checking takes an additional 3 to 4 hours. Plus, things like common Latin and Greek phrases, ZIP codes, song titles, quotes, and other things are VERY, VERY COMMON KNOWLEDGE and are used ALL THE TIME in custom crosswords - i.e., challenging puzzles.

Today's letter from the editor to me threw all of this in my face - I'd emailed most of this to him Friday when he canned me - and said that he received dozens of complaints from the start, that there was never anything wrong with his generic crosswords before I started writing them, that no one EVER complained about them, and that my clues were "impossible," "esoteric," that the two-letter words were "too hard," relying on "Latin and knowledge of zip codes."

As I noted above, I literally witnessed him having shit kittens on Facebook because people "crucified" and "harangued" him over the generic ones... that was why I offered to write them for him, for free. And, as I have said here, Latin, Greek, and common knowledge items (like freaking ZIP codes, FFS), are so incredibly common in crossword puzzles that it is almost passe. Like, given a ZIP code such as 48231, a reasonable person could easily deduce that it is from the Midwest and work from there, working the DOWN clues off of it to figure it out... MOST people already know that it's the ZIP code to Detroit, Michigan. (God, I loved that particular puzzle... it was basically perfect, as crossword puzzles go.) And, if they DON'T know that it is Detroit, most serious puzzlers work them out like I explained above or using any common reference book, like a crossword dictionary, a thesaurus, or even a damned Google search.

In his email today, I finally got a true sense of what was happening:
"Never had any feedback from people, never had any problems. They were available free of charge. I could also place them in upcoming files months in advance, which was nice for me because I have hundreds of small tasks that need to be done throughout the week to make the [newspaper] happen and it's nice to have one less thing to worry about. But, when you offered to make them, I thought that would be a cool way to include a local person in generating content. So I went with it."

He never got any hate mail. No one ever harangued him at a night club about the crosswords. He might have gotten one or two emails of complaint about the difficulty from the crybabies out there, but certainly not enough to "fire" me. No, the reason I no longer write crosswords for this local paper is because he wanted to just toss the generic ones in weeks and weeks and months in advance and not think about them. HE WAS NOT WILLING TO WAIT FOR ACTUAL GOOD, QUALITY, CUSTOM CONTENT TO BE CREATED and, instead of owning up to it and be being honest, he made me feel like SHIT all weekend, like I'd done something wrong... and... oh, look, another email from him... oh, he's still doing it:

"I'm done with this conversation. You've proven your point - I'm the bad guy, it's all my fault."

 LOL... I wonder if male writers have to deal with this garbage?

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Cole Slaw Dressing for Your Next BBQ!

The perfect cole slaw... YUM.
Your typical backyard BBQ has some basic, traditional side dishes, including potato salad and cole slaw. I've been to many a BBQ where hosts get a kit and put it together, and that's good, but it's so simple to make a dressing that isn't too soupy or too sweet or too tart... why not make it?

My simple cole slaw dressing has just the right amount of sweetness and kick from fresh lemon without drenching your cabbage and carrots in enough goop to make a soup. Watch me make it here:

And get the printable PDF of the recipe card by clicking here: COLE SLAW DRESSING

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Monday, June 12, 2017

A Pinup's Work Is Never Done...

I realize I haven't made a post in almost two weeks, hence, today's update post. Things have been incredibly busy around these parts, mostly because I have been making the conscious effort to choose to be more social IRL, which means that a lot of my time is consumed with traveling and juggling items on my schedule. Some of the things keeping me busy these past two weeks include:

1) My videographer, Caitlin, moving out of Idaho where we can't get health insurance into Washington State where she got a good job and will eventually get benefits so she can get her wisdom teeth removed before it starts causing health problems. I will miss my little buddy a whole lot; we spent all our time at work together in the same office and any time I would find something funny, I would say, "Hey, Cait..." and I won't get to do that now. I've been a weepy mess for days and days ever since this has gotten more and more real. We moved her little mid-century camper into Spokane yesterday and I already miss her, but I know this had to be done and that it's for the best.

2) I've started getting more proactive with my music, attending open mike nights and other events, accepting all invitations to perform and record and meet new people in the local music scene. In the last two weeks, I have recorded twice and performed on a local radio show thanks to meeting a new friend, the incredibly talented Kevin Dorin, as well as my sister and her husband, Glenn Case, inviting me to record in their studio to record...

3) ...a custom song I was asked to write by the incomparable Stina Rae for her husband. I wrote a song called Mr. Stina Rae & Me as a surprise gift. See it here:

4) Pinup events, like Rosalia Battle Days, at which I was incredibly busy - and got a hellacious sunburn - selling my hair flowers and jewelry and artwork, participating in the car show & pinup contest, and more. Though I didn't place, it was invaluable to me because I got to see friends and meet new people and get some new photos taken by new photographers!

I have two episodes of The Mid-Century Kitchen with Molly Starlite ready to go, and I will get back on my regular posting schedule Wednesday morning. Thanks for reading!