Fantasy Trope Beef Stew

It’s Friday, my darlings! Friday, Friday, Friday. The end of the week, the gateway to a potentially glorious weekend.

I’m in an exceedingly good mood. Autumn has officially arrived, with cooler temperatures and low humidity, and all the seasonal consumables.

Pumpkin Spice Lattes. Apple cider. Soups, stews, cornucopias of goodies filled to bursting.

I made my version of beef stew this week to celebrate the occasion. Every time I eat it, I feel like a fantasy character sitting in the common room of some inn listening to a Ranger or a wizard or recovering from a fight. I love this stew for that reason (and the fact that it’s yummy, if I do say so myself).

I love it so much, I have decided to share the “recipe” with you all. Here goes!
Fantasy Trope Beef Stew (for the Crockpot):

1 package stew beef (pre-cubed)

1 package baby carrots

1 package mushrooms of your choice (I used pre-sliced baby bellas)

1 handful of fresh green beans

2 cans condensed cream of mushroom soup

1 carton beef stock, 26 oz

1 package of Fingerling potatoes (these you’ll need to cut yourself)

Thyme, rosemary, garlic, salt, pepper, sage to taste.

Use about half the baby carrots, half the potatoes, and half the beef stock. Dump everything into the crockpot. Turn crockpot on LOW and let cook between 6-7 hours. Serve hot with your favorite bread.

I was lazy this week and just used Pillsbury biscuits, but if I were feeling fancy I would make beer bread. Beer bread is amazingly delicious, and goes well with stews of many varieties.

The bread recipe I linked to is super easy, but it calls for self rising flour. That’s just flour with baking powder and salt added in, which you can do yourself if you don’t have any on-hand. I also reduced the amount of butter you put on top of the bread before baking to about two tablespoons. The whole ¼ cup ends up dripping all over the oven and that’s just messy.

I recommend serving this meal in a rustic bowl, while seated at a rickety wooden table wearing a cloak. Perhaps share a fermented beverage of choice with your traveling companions and try to guess what that mysterious man smoking the pipe in the corner might be up to.

Now, go forth and eat!

Three Stages of Manuscript Submission (Illustrated)

I submitted two poems to a literary magazine yesterday, my doves.

At first, it felt like this:

I’m so proud of myself! I finished my shit, and it was good! GO ME.

And then it dawned on me how many things could have gone wrong.

Did I do the cover letter right? Did I remember to spell check? What if I’m actually terrible? Please love me. Oh, God. Please.

After a few terrifying minutes, I thought “Pssh, I still did it. I still submitted. I am good. I DESERVE A MOTHERFUCKING COOKIE.”

SAUSALITO, BITCHES.

THE END.

For all of you who have submitted your work to the Great and Powerful Editors recently, I salute you. Consume the cookie of your choice.

Review: Fahrenheit 451

I am exceedingly glad I did not read Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 in high school–or college for that matter. I would not have been able to appreciate it as a teenager, and professors would have dissected it to the point of insanity in college.

I am glad I read it on my own. I read it on a two-hour plane ride while on a trip for work and I loved it. Every moment. That said, is not one of those books you can pick up and put down willy-nilly. To read it requires…focus.

451 is the story of a fireman, Guy Montag, set in a disturbingly plausible future. Guy lives in a world where books are societal poison. Even the bible is distilled down to televised talking points from a generic, news-casting Jesus. Everything in Guy’s world is about “snappy endings” and making sure society is stupidly happy. His profession, fireman, has evolved from putting out fires (which, in this world, is just silly folklore because everything is fireproof) to starting them.

Guy burns books, and he, presumably, likes it. He burns books because books lead to free thinking, which destroys happiness. Happiness, on the other hand, is a constant bombardment of “infotainment,” keeping more deep thoughts subdued through over-stimulation. What an interesting form of mind-control Mr. Bradbury has put forth here. It requires little censorship, but thrives on individual fears and humanity’s ability to be distracted.

Then, Guy meets a young woman who doesn’t conform to society. She thinks, she asks questions, she teaches him how to do the same, and then she vanishes. At this point, Guy begins his “downward” spiral into freedom of thought, learning the reasons behind society’s aesthetic of happiness and blazing a new, dangerous trail for himself.

Bradbury’s writing style in this book is poetic. It’s often abstract or disjointed in places, reflecting Guy’s confusion and anger. The beginning is a little hard to get through because of that, but it is worth it in the end.

I loved this book because the story presents the reader with a mirror, asking us to question the status quo, and even rebel, if necessary. It doesn’t sugar coat the subversive path. Everything is hard and requires painful sacrifice. It plainly states the rebel’s cause will not be taken up immediately, rushing out upon society like a tidal wave, but rather it must be seeded–nurtured and cared for until society is ripe.

I also loved this book because Guy isn’t portrayed as a hero in the traditional sense. He’s just some ordinary fellow that valued curiosity and that put him in the crosshairs. He’s infinitely relatable.

If you haven’t read it before, I suggest you do so now. Maybe, even read it twice.

Soul eaters and rattlesnakes

A long time ago, when I was in college, I read this book called “The Plucker.” It is written and illustrated by Brom, and it’s a story about a toy jack-in-the-box coming to life and having to defend his Boy from an evil spirit that eats children’s souls. It’s a very dark story, but I highly recommend it. Brom has a few other books out, one involving zombies, and another novel–a retelling of Peter Pan called “The Child Thief,” and several more. I’ve only read the one. I need to read more. “The Plucker” inspired a poem. It’s not one of my better ones, but I thought I’d share it anyway.

“I sewed the petrified heart of a copperhead pit viper into your breast. A copperhead ain’t gonna let nobody tread on it, cause it’s down and mean, down and mean as they come.” –Mabelle,  “The Plucker”

There is no title for this one.

*

Give me broken thoughts–

fragments of a trusting soul to stitch together like a misused rag doll.

Sew inside me the heart of a rattlesnake

ornery and cold

Because it will take all my womanly wiles to survive

without unraveling at the seams.

Make me a Maneater

so when Lovers lie I can strike–

lightning-in-a-bottle quick

Leaving unfaithful, useless

Love

bleeding on the floor.

I am the Killer Lady

throwing words like battle axes,

Half-moon fangs

Clearing the way of half-gods

laying out a golden path for kings

Know a brave heart when they see one

appreciate deadly charm

wild abandon

Know to cherish the snake and the doll,

poor Raggedy Anne,

Because someone made her

down and mean.”

1,000 Words VII: Lamp lighter

Lamplighter

 

This is a gated alcove in historic Occoquan, Va. It’s just a little concrete cell with nothing in it–actually, the gate is a recently development. You used to be able to walk right in. It serves no purpose. Judging by the style of the gate, and the little iron lamp lighter guy, my best guess would be that this housed supplies for the lighting of streetlights. I’m not really sure of the truth.

What do you think? What does one put in a concrete cell in a historic river town?