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Author: sdshaver

A Saturday Well Spent

Things I found at the farmer’s market:

  • White guava
  • White sapote
  • Heirloom tomatoes
  • Purple tomatillos
  • Fresno chiles

Things I’m making tomorrow because I found them at the farmer’s market:

  • Fermented hibiscus-fresno chile sauce
  • Tomato jam

And I admit I stared at the purple tomatillos for a very, very long time but did not buy them.

“How long is the harvest?” I finally asked the purveyor.

She gave me a smile.  “Not long.”

Crap.  She’s got my number.

“First frost,” she went on, “and they’re gone.  Could be soon.  Could be late.  Probably…soon.”

I relaxed when she said that, feeling I was perhaps being given the hard sale.  Because…okay, no.  Unless she’s growing about 150 miles out (which is possible, let’s not assume anything, BUT), the first frost probably won’t be until late October in the growing regions, and even then the weather patterns have been getting so warm lately it’s unlikely.

I also have to question how likely that enticing purple blush will stick around after I cook them, as I do in my tomatillo salsa.  Purple carrots stay purple when you roast them, but purple wax beans don’t.  So do purple tomatillos?  I guess I could google and find out.  Or find an application that doesn’t require high heat, like fermentation.

But.  But.  But.  Purple tomatillos.

I already have too much on my plate for the weekend between the chile sauce, tomato jam, and a couple other projects.  I decided to gamble, and moved on.

Other things I learned today:

Xander likes Early Girl tomatoes, green smoothies, and flaky croissants. I project he will someday be an amazing life coach and yoga instructor.

What he doesn’t like are perfectly ripened guavas and he will spit them out at a speed that shatters windows in a one mile radius around you.  It is, to my knowledge, the only fruit he has ever rejected.

When we got home we found some of the sapotes a little smashed, and if I’d let them sit they’d have gone bad fast, so Zo and I stood in the kitchen devouring them over the sink.  She has become my partner in exotic fruit crime, because I have done my job as a parent, thank you very much.

What is sapote, anyway? They’re delicate and thus hard for grocery stores to stock, so usually they cost too much and no one buys them, which is why you never see them. Tastewise, they’re difficult to describe — something like a cross between banana, pineapple, and custard, with hits of apple and large to medium stones throughout.  Tropical-creamy.  That they were two dollars a basket is astounding.  I still have three left.  We’ll eat them slowly over the next couple days, and maybe there’ll be more at the market over the next few weeks, but the season is narrow and ending soon.

Cherimoyas should also be coming in, and they’re just as good, and very similar.  And soon, my favorite, my bae, my beloved: persimmons.  Aw yiss.

As for those purple tomatillos….

We’ll see.  I trust the farmer to know her frost dates.  I’m just a gal eating smashed sapote over a sink.

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Two Years of You

Sunday night as I put your sister to bed, she held up the little heart-shaped scrap of cloth I gave her the day after you were born, what she calls her “Lovey”.

“That’s two years old now,” I said.

“What?  No it isn’t,” she said.

“Yes it is.”

“But you gave it to me after he came out of you!”

“Yes.  Today is his birthday.”

She stared at me.  “Wait, what?”

“That’s what a birthday is, Zo.  It’s the day your brother came out of me.”


“Yeah, good night, sweetie.”  I kissed her head.  “Pleasant dreams!”

She was still whispering Whaaaaaaaat? as I shut the door.

And thus do we lovingly scar our children, especially our eldest.

Last night I asked you to say “love”, one of the few words you can say, and you shook your head against my shoulder.  No.

I asked you to say “mama”.  Again that gentle shake.  No.

So I pointed to the projection on the ceiling, put there by the little lit-up turtle we have in your crib, and asked you to say “moon”.

“Moooonnn,” you whispered.

How do I love you, my boy whose favorite things are trucks, tea sets, and sticking bits of sausage down his pants?

How do I love you, my unexpectedly tow-headed mercurial whirlwind, king of the smile and the side-eye, who sings along without words?

How do I love you, my bookworm who insists on plunking down and paging through The Very Hungry Caterpillar every time we change your diaper?

The question really isn’t how do I but how couldn’t I?

Like your sister, you bring light wherever you go.

You may have been born under a full moon, but you will always be my sunshine.

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Repost: “Speaking of Cats”

This is a repost from a very, very, very old blog of mine that has since crumbled into digital dust.  In this day and age, I am compelled to preface it with a warning [TW: animal violence] because I talk about being a kid who isn’t very nice to her pets. But it’s okay. I got better.

Also, I have edited this down because the original is long and it’s my writing.

It’s been 18 years since I wrote this.  Taking stock of what’s changed:

  • I’ve put two cats down.  One was my lifelong (up to that point) companion, and I still miss her and wish she were in my lap right myow.
  • I’m about to release a whole swarm of ladybugs into my garden, repentance for being a shitty 5-year-old.
  • Still no hamsters.  Probably for the best.
  • I feed a lot of neighborhood birds with my feeders.  And I have it on good authority that the raccoons and opossums are very fond of my tomato plants, goddammit.
  • I have my own 5-year-old.  And a 2-year-old.  Soooo much repenting.

speaking of cats

Speaking of calicos, one of the webloggers I read had to have his childhood cat (a calico) put to sleep yesterday.

I’ve never had a cat die on me. All my cats growing up just…disappeared.

That was four cats — Keija, Ogden, Callie, and LBK (“Little Brown Kitty” — an old, old stray my mother and I took care of) — who vanished in the course of a year, and all at the same time of year (late Fall). I don’t know what happened to them. I don’t think that I want to.

But they were outside cats, and things happen to outside cats. I’ll never forget the morning Ogden came in blinking at me, and I picked him up and realized he had gotten a hull from some winter wheat in his eye. Lucky for him (and me), he sat still while I pulled it out. Good cat.

A house without a cat just feels so empty. There’s no fun in opening doors or bringing in groceries when there’s no cat around. There’s no reason to purposefully open a book, hoping to lure the cat from her hiding spot to your lap. You feel less important without a cat wailing and banging on your bedroom door, trying to get in to see you. Dogs are great, they make you feel loved, but cats make you feel like an individual.

Hamsters, however, make you feel like a sadist.

damian at age two

Children like to push boundaries.  I was no exception.  I thankfully had adults around to correct me at the right time.

For instance: ladybugs.  I remember very clearly the shock and horror my mother expressed toward me when she caught me pulling the wings off a ladybug. I was about five at the time, sitting by our pool in the desert, happily dissecting the ladybug. And my mother scolding me and telling me ladybugs were good, and I shouldn’t do that.

And then there were the hamsters.

Around the same time, my parents entrusted my sister and I with two hamsters, which my sister named Laverne and Shirley. I think mine was probably Laverne. Not sure. I do remember, though, picking the hamster up by its tail and twirling it. And my mother walking in on me doing just that, and taking my hamster away from me.

(The hamsters later met an unfortunate end when mom put them out in the garage and there was an unexpected cold snap.  In the desert, when it gets cold, it gets super cold.  They didn’t stand a chance.  She still feels bad about it.)

I suspect a lot of the curiosity and unfortunate animal experimentation came from a marked lack of squeamishness when it comes to blood and guts.  As I got older, this ability to deal with the ick factor meant certain tasks fell to me.  Rat in the kitchen?  Go get Steph.  Cat drag in a lizard?  Go get Steph.  Possum under the bed?  Go get Steph.  All of this happened, and all of this required me, the youngest and “bravest”, to deal with it.

(My siblings are brave in their own ways. I’m brave with a broom around wild animals.)

which brings us to the bird

You might get the impression I’m a serial killer in training at worst, a well-adjusted sociopath at best.  But now we get to the other half of the story where everything flipped.

When our mother cat had kittens, she would go hunting for them because her instincts were in overdrive. She’d bring back all sorts of things — mice, birds, lizards — and sometimes they’d be dead, and sometimes…ehhhh, not so much. The kittens liked to play their own form of “cat volleyball” with the unfortunate critter. And you could always tell when she’d brought one into the house, because the discovery was usually followed by my sister or my mother yelling for me to come get the half-dead critter and throw it outside.

One time, the cats brought in a bird.  And the bird was still alive.  So it fell to me, of course, to carry the sad thing outside.  The cats had done a number on it — it was bleeding all over me, and I remember thinking, aw, jeez, this poor thing.  I have to kill it.

I stood alone on the driveway with the tiny brown and grey creature in my palm.  It barely moved, barely breathed.

I told myself I was doing it a mercy.

I have to kill it.

But I couldn’t.  I couldn’t any more than I could put a gun to my own head and pull the trigger.

I cupped it gently in my hands, still convinced that killing it was for the best, but now knowing I couldn’t do the deed.  I felt ashamed — I was, essentially, dooming this thing to a slow and painful death.  Then I opened my hands to put it down on the ground —

And it flew out, into the air, and just…disappeared.


I love my cats. I miss my cats. But I don’t want to know how they died.

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my hands are back

“Oh hey Steph did cooking today,” you might say. “Been a while since I’ve seen that.”

Yes it has. Reason for that.

Back in October, things started hurting. More than the usual hurting. Then by November, things started tingling. And by December, it progressed to a mixture of tingling, burning, numbing, and constant throbbing.

So I did the thing I can do as a person with excellent benefits and onsite services: I got physical therapy. And the PT person prescribed a lot of exercises, some ergonomic adjustments, and general advice to eliminate some repetitive stress motions. Which, it turns out, were coming from work, play, and cooking (aka “work-play”).

I reluctantly stopped playing Overwatch for about a month (which was fine because OWL was coming online then so I just sat back and watched people way better than me play), and I really reluctantly stopped cooking almost entirely except very simple dump-and-done recipes. I signed us back up for Gobble, and Mike volunteered to cook again. I replaced my old home desk with something lower and more friendly to my height (I’m so, so short).

And so now here we are, in March. Things don’t throb anymore. My hands aren’t going numb when I cook anymore. We’re probably still going to keep Gobble because as a working lady it’s cleared up time during my weeknights and weekends; meal planning is and always has been a chunk of time out of my schedule, alas. And it’s not perfect. But nothing is at this age. Especially when you’ve got one kid who still needs to be picked up on the regular and hauled out of bathtubs, or onto changing tables, or nestled into cribs, and he’s built like a tank.

I’ve still got a story due (in — gulp — May) so not a bunch of cooking between now and then, but maybe after then I’ll go back to some projects. Stella from BraveTart gave some insight on how to convert my Lentz cookie dough to an all-butter recipe, so I may give that a try. We’ll see. And there are other things I miss that I used to make on the regular. Also last night the Daughterbot informed us she wanted rice with roast beef. Where that came from I don’t know, but no problem, kid. You’re basically asking for pot roast with rice, and I can dig it.

It’s good to have my hands back.

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trust the process

I’ve done this enough now that when the invite shows up and my initial panic of I DON’T HAVE AN IDEA sets in, I know to just give it a moment.

Take a step back.

Let the feeling happen.

Okay, good. Have you had your moment? Are you done panicking? Feel better now? Let’s….

  • play some new music
  • play some old music you haven’t listened to in a decade or so
  • take a bath
  • go for a walk
  • bake a tea cake
  • go for a swim
  • go for a massage (after being well rested — falling asleep on the massage table doesn’t help)
  • catch up on all the sleep
  • lightly skim the last story and the notes we made last time when we staggered over the finish line
  • read someone else’s stories
  • play with the kids
  • do anything and everything to exit the routine and shake up our brain

But most importantly: remember this is a story, not the end of the world. Have a cup of tea. Let it churn.

Now: throw some words on a page. Stop judging.  Just throw them on the page.  NO NOT THOSE WORDS.  Ugh.  Not those words either. AND DEFINITELY NOT — wait.


Aaaaaand there it is. The seed of an idea. Almost certainly not the final form — it’s just never that easy with my brain — but it’s got potential.

I could be talking about a story. I could be talking about building a client’s web application. I could be talking about having a baby or planning a garden or planning an itinerary overseas. Creating things isn’t easy, iteration is part of the process, nothing is set in stone.

Take a deep breath.

Have your moment.

Trust the process.

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Bootknife is sold

Should be out in December. Prepare to meet the old man’s old man.

Also, here’s to never again outlining, writing, editing, and revising a story while nursing an infant, holding down a fulltime job, and paying attention to the other members of the fam.  This is hopefully the first and last time I have to ask myself if I really have time for this.

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Bootknife and a Small Quarrel

I didn’t write about “A Small Quarrel” at all last year.  Sorry about that.  Pregnancy and writing and childrearing and job wrangling severely sap my blogging time. That story’s been out a few months, and I just wrote the follow-up, “Bootknife”.  It’s in the hands of the editor now.  I try hard to not spin wheels with these stories — I only have 6500 words or less to work with, after all — and I finally introduced Wil’s dad, which if you didn’t know (because you’re not me) I’ve been wanting to do for about five years now.  He’s been running around in the back of my head for at least that long, though many of his details didn’t become clear until I started writing him out.  Occasionally he’d get a mention in other stories, but then I’d hit up against that word count wall and have to edit him back out.  But this time he got his own story, his own space, and I’m glad he did.

Now that we are four stories deep into this cycle, I’m seeing a pattern of objects in the story titles, which is a good thing because I hate naming stuff and having nomenclature is one wait to cheat your way out of having to be clever with names.  Also, it makes me look smart, like, oh, she planned all of this.  Except for the first one which she called “Whitest Lie” after a Bayside song but we’ll just pretend that didn’t happen.  I SMELL A RETCON!

As pregnancy isn’t forever, it should be noted I had another baby, which very nearly derailed writing any of this.  There were several moments in December as I balanced a squawking infant against my chest where I wondered how the f*&% I was going to get this thing done.  But I did!  It helps to have a spouse to tank the littles while you’re holed up in the bedroom with headphones on and having a love affair with your netbook.

For one of the first times in my life, I am not overly stressed about having sent the story to the editor.  I think I actually…like? this story.  I don’t usually like my stories.  There always seems to be something I’ve forgotten, and certainly there were bits I wish I could have written into this one that will forever be stashed in the yarn bag known as “leftovers” on my Scrivener project.  Maybe someday I can edit it into a longer form project.  You know, in my copious freetime.

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I think I’m having more fun writing the flashbacks than the main story. -_-


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