Pumpkin Cider Bread: A Straightforward Baking Post

(Yes, there’s a recipe at the end of this, because I’m totally gonna do that food blogger thing for a minute. Sort of.)
Recently I picked up a 6-pack of Woodchuck pumpkin cider, because I AM the target market for all things apple, gingerbread, and pumpkin, and will cheerfully try just about anything that involves them. I have zero shame about this. I was a bit dubious, because I wasn’t sure how fermented pumpkin juice was going to play out, but I was hopeful. Woodchuck has rarely steered me wrong.

To my dismay, it was just not remotely palatable. It’s deeply weird, and not in a pleasant way. I had Himself try it, and tell me what he thought, and his response was a single word: “Bread.”

I make beer bread in the fall and winter A LOT. It’s quick, it’s easy, it goes with just about anything, and as a bonus, it’s a good way to dispose of extra bottles of beers that looked interesting but turned out to be not to our taste. Something about the alchemy of baking soda, heat, and beer transforms sharp, bitter, or just…odd…flavor profiles into soft, toasty goodness with a buttery, crunchy crust that goes well with a good soup or stew.
I’ve never used a cider, though, and had no idea if it would work. In theory it should, but one never knows until afterward. Still, it was worth a shot. Worst case, it didn’t pan out, I toss the rest of the cans, and lessons are learned.

Of course, then we promptly had two tropical storms come through (with surprise! tornado activity!), and a heat wave with temps near 100F. Even with air conditioning, that is not baking weather.

Today, though, the heat broke, and it’s deliciously autumnal. Today was the day to see if pumpkin cider makes passable bread.

Y’all, this might be the BEST quickbread I’ve ever made. ALL of the weird, jarring flavor profiles mellowed into a subtle sweetness that is amazing. It went really well with the chicken goulash I made for dinner, as well. This is definitely going into rotation, and will need to be tested with other ciders, as well.

It was so good, I wanted to share it with you, so here it is:

Cider (or beer) Bread

Ingredients
3 cups AP flour
4 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup light brown sugar, loosely packed
12 oz. Woodchuck Pumpkin Cider (or the beer of your choice)
3 Tbs. melted butter (optional)

Steps:
1.) Preheat oven to 375F.
2.) Lightly grease a 9×5 loaf pan with vegetable shortening.
3.) Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl and whisk together, making sure brown sugar clumps are broken up.
4.) Pour in cider or beer and mix with baking spoon of choice (I use wooden spoons or silicone spatulas, but use whatever works for you) until just combined. Batter will be thick and sticky.
5.) Pour batter into greased pan and smooth out so that it’s spread into all corners. If desired, pour melted butter evenly over top. (The butter’s not necessary, but it does make for a better crust and a softer bread, and I recommend not skipping it.)
6.) Bake for about 40 minutes, until crust is golden brown.
7.) Cool on cooling rack.
8.) Attempt not to devour entire loaf in one sitting, tempting as it may be.

(Originally posted at https://www.patreon.com/riversdaughter. Patreon subscribers get to see posts 3 days before they open to the general public, and help me feed the cats and keep a roof over all of our heads.)

There Are Two Types Of People

The other day I decided to stop at an antique shop that I’ve been driving past a lot lately and check it out.  Poking around old antique shops is one of my comfort hobbies, and has been one of the things I’ve missed most during the pandemic.  On this particular day I *really* needed the happy brain chemical hit, so it seemed like a good time to grab a mask and wander in.  

It was a nice little place.  Small, well-lit and clearly well-dusted, filled with mostly beautiful old furniture and dishware, an unusual number of handmade witch dolls, and now that I think of it, a somewhat disturbing quantity of taxidermy.  Like, really.  I don’t know why that didn’t occur to me before.  It’s strange to realize just how very much the entire perimeter, near the ceiling line, was entirely lined by dozens upon dozens of taxidermied animal heads, and that it really didn’t register as anything particularly odd at the time…  Huh.

So that’s a thing, I guess?

Anyway, I was wandering around, looking at well-maintained writing desks, hutches, dining sets, and all that, when I turned a corner and came nearly eye to baleful eye with the most ragged and moth-eaten stuffed rabbit I have ever seen.  I stopped dead in my tracks and blurted out “That is the MOST cursed looking thing I have ever seen in my life!” to the old guy who ran the place, who was sitting on a bench nearby.  He laughed, and agreed.  I took a photo of it, because holy cats.

(A faded, bright yellow stuffed toy rabbit, missing large patches of fur, with a pale blue ribbon loosely tied around its neck, sits on an old olive green and brown antique sled. It has a single, unnervingly red eye.)

There’s only the one eye.  The other one is gone, probably sacrificed in exchange for some nefarious purposes.

Being me, I posted it on social media when I got home, and I have to say, I am deeply amused at the reactions to that thing.  It was a 50/50 split of “I NEED A YOUNG PRIEST AND AN OLD PRIEST!” and “Awwww, someone loved that bunny so much!”

There are two kinds of people.  Only one of them makes it out of the horror movie.

Which one are you?

(Originally posted at https://www.patreon.com/riversdaughter. Patreon subscribers get to see posts 3 days before they open to the general public, and help me feed the cats and keep a roof over all of our heads.)

There Is A Hole In The World And I’ve Forgotten How To Fly

(Warning, I’m talking about parental death in this post, so if you’re sensitive about the subject, please feel free to skip this one if you need to.  This is a hard subject at the best of times, and this is not the best of times.  Please take care of yourselves, my loves.)

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When I was little, I used to love going for walks with my dad. This was complicated, because Dad was 6′ 5″ in his prime, and his legs were so much longer than mine.  He’d try his best to go slow enough for me to keep up, or catch up, but it didn’t really work.  That’s what this month has felt like.  Like I was running, trying to catch up, and he was trying so hard to slow down and wait, to give us more time, but it didn’t work.

Early on the morning of July 7th, exactly one week from the day we found out that his cancer treatment hadn’t done a damned thing, and he was being admitted to the hospital so that they could try and get him strong enough to start another kind of chemo,  I held my father’s hand as he took his last breath and was gone.  He had tried so hard to slow down and hold on just a little longer, but it didn’t work.  The cancer was too aggressive and there was nothing anyone could do to fix it.  I sat vigil by his side through that long night, in a darkened hospital room, singing the songs we used to sing together when I was little to him, and the lullaby that my mom used to sing to me, and held his hand and told him that I loved him and that I’d be okay, and counted each breath as he slowed down, like a little wind-up spring toy, until he simply stopped between one breath and another.  I had promised him that I would not let him be alone, and I kept my word.  It is the most important thing I have ever done, and as much as it hurts, I am glad that I was able to be there for him when he needed me most.

There is a odd kind of peace that comes over you, there in that liminal space where life and death and the infinite meet.  A kind of calm, as if you have briefly stepped outside the world and time has no hold where you are.   I can’t describe it better than that, but I am glad for its presence.  It made a terrible situation bearable, and I will hold that peace in my heart forever.

There was a cheshire moon in the predawn sky when I stepped out of the hospital and back into the world and time, followed by the most beautiful sunrise I have ever seen.  It made me smile, because it was the kind of morning that Dad loved most.

I am as okay as one can expect to be in these situations.  Which is to say that I’m a total wreck and I’m swinging between wanting to punch a god, wanting to curl up in a little ball and become an endless pool of tears, relieved that my father is no longer suffering and afraid, and wanting to scream at the world to just. give me. five. fucking. minutes to process what the fuck I just went through.  Sadly, I can’t do any of these things, and besides, his lack of will means that I have to deal with getting his house and property through probate, which is going to be a massive part of my life for the next 6 months.  There is so much more work involved in probate than people realize, even with my incredibly straightforward situation (I’m the last of my line, and have no other direct relatives who might be able to claim anything, so I get the “easy” probate.  It’s still damned near a full-time job, and one that’s currently eating my entire free time and a mind-boggling amount of financial outlay until I can get it through and reimbursed.)

I don’t know what things are going to look like for a while.  I wish I did.  I’m hoping that today’s round of paperwork will be the last of the major time-sucking portions of this, and that I’ll now be able to get my ass back to work, but the reality is that I just don’t know.  I’m in uncharted waters, and I don’t know what the currents are like or where the rocks are.  I’m taking this weekend off from any responsibilities besides trying to reclaim my house from the wreckage of a month of not having enough time to deal with anything but the most basic of cleaning attempts.  I might knit something.  I might throw out half my stuff and redo my entire life’s goals from the ground up because life is too short and precious and I might start over from scratch. 

I’m going to try not to do that last part too aggressively, because this close to a major loss is the absolute worst time to make life-changing decisions, but it’s also the best time, because you do see what REALLY matters to you so much more clearly, but yeah, major decisions, not the best time. Might start working on some retooling, though.  Might also just sleep for a few days straight.  Idk.  We’ll see.

Hug your loved ones.  Don’t put off the things you want to do.  Be kind to one another.  Enjoy the sunrises, and the cheshire moons, and the taste of your favorite foods, and just…savor every drop of being alive that you can.

(Originally posted at https://www.patreon.com/riversdaughter. Patreon subscribers get to see posts 3 days before they open to the general public, and help me feed the cats and keep a roof over all of our heads.)

“All mimsy were the borogoves…”

Every now and then, something reminds us of things that we had forgotten. For instance, earlier today someone mentioned their frustration with the lack of clarity on the meaning of the phrase “10-4!”. It can mean either “understood” or “yes” or both and which it is can vary depending on who you’re talking to.

Of course, this reminded me of CB radios…

Back in the ’70s and early ’80s, there was a span of time where owning a CB radio and talking to folks on them was really popular, and a lot of folks had them and would chat with whoever happened to be in range, usually in the middle of the night. Much like existing on social media now, usernames or “handles” were used. There was a whole CB subculture.

My mom was one of those people, and she went by Cheshire Cat. She’d usually talk to the long-haul truckers that went through the area we lived in, and she’d been doing it for so long that she developed several friendships with some of the guys passing through. Sometimes she’d let Tiny Me talk to them, and one of them, a guy who went by Papa Bear, gave me a handle of my own.

I was very proud of this (I was about 5 years old at the time, and things like having your Very Own CB Handle Bestowed Upon You By A Trucker Named Papa Bear are SUPER EXCITING when you’re 5).

The name he gave me? Cheshire Kitten.

Somehow I suspect this also explains a lot.

Yes, I smile every time I hear S.J. Tucker’s song “Cheshire Kitten” because of this.

(Originally posted at https://www.patreon.com/riversdaughter. Patreon subscribers get to see posts 3 days before they open to the general public, and help me feed the cats and keep a roof over all of our heads.)

By Forest, Field, and Old Side Road

A bit over a year ago, I went out for what would be my last road trip for a long time.  It was the beginning of lockdown and the end of the Before Times.  Some of the trip was morbid curiosity; I wanted to see what the world looked like without traffic and people everywhere.  It was, as expected, disconcerting and more than a little apocalyptic.  A lot of it though was, honestly, to say good-bye.  I didn’t know when I’d be back on the road again, if ever.  I didn’t know what the world would look like if I was able to be out there again, but I knew that whatever it was, it would never be the same.  Something was dying, and I needed to be there to witness and honor its passing.

It’s strange to be getting back out onto the roads again.  The last time I was off the road for this long was when I broke down in the Bridge God’s courtyard, and that was a long time ago, now.  My body has forgotten how to be behind the wheel for very long, and finding that almost Zen-like state where the truck becomes an extension of me is harder than it used to be.  I know it will return soon enough, but in the meantime, it’s hard not to wonder if this is the time that I just can’t get it back, that too much time has passed and I’ll never remember how to hear the Road sing again.

The world is different now, as well.  Places that I used to pass by all the time are gone now, doors and windows shuttered.  Others are still there, but changed.  Some places the changes are obvious; restaurants and coffee shops with outside tables on extended sidewalks or sections of parking lots, that sort of thing, while others are changed more in feeling.   They feel almost haunted, as if some intangible part of them died, and while they’re still going through the motions of being Places, there’s something that’s gone.

Still, there are other places that are…cozier…than they were before.  Like over the recent months the place drew closer to itself, remembered what it was, and found a kind of  strength from the remembering.  Places like this were where I passed the world’s Most Adorable (and socially distanced) Town Fair and a small farm that had decided to set up a stand with a sign for Free Food, because they knew how much people are struggling and this was what they could do to help.  I cried a little at that one, because it’s good to see people caring for, and taking care of, each other.

Of course, there are the places that haven’t changed and there’s a comfort in knowing that the area around the Quabbin is still Very Clearly Riddled With Terrible Fae Traps like the “Detour” sign directing people off the highway and down a narrow, tree-choked dirt road, or a “Help Wanted” sign at the end of another dirt road leading off into the woods, with nothing indicating the presence of an actual business of any kind… (Sadly I was on a time schedule on the way home at that point, or I’d have gleefully turned the truck down either or both of them to investigate, because that’s just the kind of dumbass I am.  Maybe next time.) 

Overall, it was a good drive and good way to start scraping the rust off.  Now that the seal has been broken, Wednesdays are officially designated weekly Road Days.  Even pulled together a nice collection of dishes and utensils specifically for eating Real Food while I’m out and about, instead of scarfing down a protein bar or having to stop at a fast food place.   My goal is to eventually get a small trailer with a bathroom/shower hookup, or an rv, so I can go on longer trips, but that’s a ways in the future yet.  For now, this is a good restart while I figure out the new protocols and get back in the swing of things.

Let’s see what’s down those little side roads, shall we?

(Your friendly Routewitch preparing to get back behind the wheel.)

(Originally posted at https://www.patreon.com/riversdaughter. Patreon subscribers get to see posts 3 days before they open to the general public, and help me feed the cats and keep a roof over all of our heads.)

A Life In Myth

Once there was, and once there was not, a young girl. She lived with her mother and father and an assortment of cats, and if they never lived in one place for very long, it was alright.  No matter where they lived, they were always surrounded by artists, musicians, actors, storytellers, magicians, and other misfit sorts of people.  It was a hard life, to be sure, for Society doesn’t like people who don’t fit into its neat little boxes or don’t have deep roots, but for all that, it was hers and she was happy in it.

Then, one terrible morning, her mother died, and with her, the way of life the girl had known.  Her father remarried and her step-family, while pleasant enough people, were very different from the people the girl had grown up around, and they didn’t understand why she was the way she was, nor she, them.  Soon enough, all of the people from her childhood were gone, as well.  When the last of the musicians drifted away and the house fell silent, the girl put her face in her hands and wept for all she had lost.  It would be the last time she did so for many, many years to come.

She learned to live like the Rooted People, or at least go through it’s motions, and pretend she didn’t desperately miss her old life.  She grew up and took a job she hated to her marrow because it was expected and made her father and step-mother happy, and if she dreamed of open roads and a life of stories and music and art, she didn’t say a word. 

She tried to escape from time to time, but it never worked.  She married briefly, but he was one of the Rooted People, and while he liked the idea of her world, he didn’t want to live in it.  When he decided that he didn’t want her living in it, either, she packed her things and her cats and left him behind.

She wandered for some time, trying to fit into the Rooted People’s world just enough to find her way again and build a life from what shattered pieces she still had, but the pieces were so old and fragile and the Rooted World still refused to accept her, Unrooted misfit that she was.  Eventually, she met someone who was neither one of the Rooted People nor the Unrooted People, but was something else in between.  He had no interest in living an Unrooted life for himself, but understood and accepted that she needed to and if he stayed home while she wandered in search of stories and songs, he didn’t try to stop her and she knew he would be there when she came home.  She unpacked her things and the cats found sunny spots to sleep in, and there was music of a kind and stories and actors and the freedom to be again, and she was mostly content.

There were still issues, though.  The Rooted World still didn’t want her and as she grew older, she grew tired of trying to fit into a world that had never done anything but reject her.  

One night, she took out the box she kept the chipped and faded shards of her old lives and held them in her hands.  She cast them onto a cloth to see what she might see, but no matter how hard she looked, or how many times she recast them, the only thing she could see for certain was that the pieces were simply too broken to ever be put back together again.  The girl put her face in her hands once more and wept for all she had lost and for so many years of pain and grief and loneliness until she had cried out every last tear she had in her.

When she was done, she washed her face, poured herself a mug of tea, and considered the pieces again.  She couldn’t piece them into anything that made sense, that much was clear, but maybe there was some other thing she might do.  She sipped her tea, thoughtfully.  She thought about her lives, the child she’d been, the sound of her mother singing while she painted, as her father played his guitar along with her, and the silence that came after her mother died.  She sighed deeply, and gazed into her tea.  As she watched the faint wisps of steam dance along the deep amber surface, she had An Idea.

She gathered up the broken pieces and, one by one, considered each carefully.  She discarded some and kept others and when she was done sorting them like millet from ashes, she put the pieces she’d chosen to keep into an old stone mortar and ground them into a fine powder.  She mixed this powder with seawater and rosewater and turned them into ink.

She couldn’t rebuild her broken life but, using the parts she loved most and the things she had learned over the years, she could write herself a new life, with all the fantastic stories she could think of or find.  It would be hard, for the Rooted People probably still wouldn’t understand, but that was fine, because she found that she no longer cared.  If they wouldn’t accept her no matter what she did or did not do, then their opinions didn’t matter.

She smiled, and began to write…

(Originally posted at https://www.patreon.com/riversdaughter. Patreon subscribers get to see posts 3 days before they open to the general public, and help me feed the cats and keep a roof over all of our heads.)

October’s Market Rises? Hopefully?

Dear gods and little fishies, please let this solution work finally…. I am so done with fighting this one battle over and over again.The last couple of weeks I’ve been furiously working on Getting A Way To Sell Art Online to work for me with a budget of mothdust and pocket lint, and a soul-deep refusal to use Etsy or any other company that insists my use of their hosting platform somehow grants them the right to dictate my business practices and policies. You’d think this would be relatively simple, but you’d be incorrect.

After some deeply frustrating setbacks and false starts, and one very long night spent re-reviewing e-commerce options that I’d discarded several times before, I stumbled across Something Interesting.

Big Cartel, which I’d previously discarded due to such reasons as “I can’t afford a monthly subscription at this time, reasonable as their costs are”, the limited number of listing slots on their free tier, and the inability to offer discount codes on said free tier, made some changes recently. I still can’t afford the subscription just yet, but they do allow me to use discount codes now, and so, with the creative use of a Flickr account, I can work with this new set-up until I can afford to upgrade to a paid tier.

Thus, October’s Market (the shop portion of my weird little adventure) is now officially live!

Since I can’t list more than five items at a time, and only one image file for each, I’ll be doing weekly “Featured Art” listings, and listing 5 different pieces each week. My website has a new page on it where I will be adding a gallery of all available pieces. (Non-featured pieces are available, but folks will need to email me directly and pay by invoice, instead of fancy online cart.)

Assuming this works, I’ll be able to upgrade reasonably shortly and streamline things further, but in the meantime, here we are.Tomorrow I get the truck inspected and (hopefully) road legal again, and there’s a new installment of Auntie Yaga’s in the works, as well as designs for more artwork.

Apparently moving the studio to a different room in the house unleashed the gates of productivity!

Onward to adventure, my friends!

Of Watchers, Forests, and Keys

Guess who has two thumbs and a business mailing address! Those keys? Those are my keys for my mailbox at the actual Post Office. Now I can put the PO Box address on receipts and things, and not have to give out my home address to people, just because they bought a piece of art or whatnot!

Of course, it turns out that mailboxes are expensive, so I pretty much just wiped out the entirety of what I’ve made in the last month or so, which means I need to hustle a bit and get some more paintings done and all that, which brings me to the next bit, where I note that I’ve also set up a business PayPal account so that I can use their purchase buttons without dealing with Weebly’s bullshit on Square. I’ve got a new page set up for posting artwork and other oddments for sale when I have them available and I even appear to have bashed my head against the html long enough to figure out what needed adjusting to make it work! It’s not an online store, but it’s what I can do for now, and I’m happy enough with it until I can swing a better solution. Here’s hoping it continues to work!

I guess this means I need to put together an FAQ page to address things like “Do you take commissions?” (no, because of who I am as a person) and “Do you sell prints?” (also no) and all that, having made Decisions on those fronts, plus general bits about shipping policies, etc.

All of this is well timed, as I finished another Watcher painting the other day, and have a bunch of Smol Monsters and even a Foxenwood piece that I’ve been very much wanting to be able to list for so long. Now I finally can! It’s all terribly exciting.

Reshuffling The Cards

The last week has been BUSY.  The studio moved across the house (we swapped the master bedroom and the studio because I needed more workspace and better light, and we didn’t need a gigantic room just for sleeping), and while it’s about half unpacked still, it’s also already worlds’ more functional than the old room.  

The cats are slowly forgiving us for the the upheaval.  Slowly. 

I set up a separate bank account just for business things!  I set up a Square account so that I could take credit cards wherever I go and have an online shop and “buy it now!” buttons that I could use on my website and elsewhere!  I sold a Watcher painting the same day I listed it! 

I also discovered in the process of that last part that Square’s partner, Weebly, who they run the shop segment through, requires you to include an address and telephone number on receipt emails.  While the address is doable, since I’m planning on getting a mailbox to have an address to ship from (I don’t like giving out my home address), I have phone-triggered PTSD from a couple of old jobs, and that’s a total dealbreaker for me.  I have an email address that I use for communication and a screaming refusal to give a third-party organization money to let them tell me how to run my own business and life.  If I wanted a company telling me how to do something, they have to pay me, not the other way around.

Still, I should be able to use Square itself for credit cards, though I’ll have to test it.  I still have PayPal and, as annoying as they are, they do have the ability to create “buy it now” buttons, so I’ll probably be using that, instead.  We’ll see.

In the meantime, I’m also working on some Smol Monster portrait miniatures, which I think are cute, at least.  I hope other people do, too.   They’re on 3 x 3 in. squares, and are in 2 inch boxes, so they are little.  They’re fun, and I love them.

(The smallest one is the first one, and I messed it up, but I’ll let y’all see it, anyway.)

I am absolutely not thinking about doing these for a Sponsor-A-Monster program AT ALL.  Nope.  Definitely not.  (I totally am.)

Still haven’t been able to get on the road. The weather has been “I had to turn the heat back on, for the love of gods!” grade miserable – cold, pouring rain, all that – but it looks like it should be hot and sunny for at least the next week, and once that sun comes back out, I am grabbing some road snacks and my camera and getting out there to see what I can find.  I require a pilgrimage to find an obscure roadside god or weird place or SOMETHING.  It’s been far too long.

(Originally posted at https://www.patreon.com/riversdaughter. Patreon subscribers get to see posts 3 days before they open to the general public, and help me feed the cats and keep a roof over all of our heads.)

The Watchers In The Woods

I was right about there being more to the strange figures in the woods a few weeks ago.

After that first sighting

there was another. This time, there were more of them, these strangers Watchers.

Now, it seems that the Watchers seem to be getting curious about the Smol Monsters, and I don’t know about you, but I’m getting curious to see where this all goes…

(Originally posted at https://www.patreon.com/riversdaughter. Patreon subscribers get to see posts 3 days before they open to the general public.)