The Landing at the Bottom of the Stairs

I have been working on a later part of Eiry‘s story lately, and got to a point where the characters were heading out the door. Their apartment is above a shop, and getting out involves 2 doors with a set of stairs between. When it got to them leaving, despite it being to an important event, I felt the story pausing there. Sure, it’s been used in other parts of the story, but it got me wondering how much.

In the building layout, the bottom of the stairs is a way-point between several areas: the shop, up the stairs to the apartment, and out into the alley. Thus, it takes on the functions of a foyer or, since we’re in Japan, a genki. There is space here for shoes, coats, umbrellas and such, so pausing here on the way in or out is natural. I suppose this is what leads to some scenes taking place here–the lover who lingers before leaving, in particular.

I’m not exactly sure that what I’m currently working on will stay in this location–it’s been decades but I’m not sure if/where they may have moved or “upgraded” to at the moment. So for now, it’s where this scene is taking place. And with the inclination for an intimate moment, I wondered how much had already happened there.

For instance:

  • The first kiss
  • Their last talk before the first mating season, sitting at the bottom of the stairs
  • Random freaky baby drop-off point (2013)

While not a ton going on over a lifetime, several important things have happened here, most notably as the place where Eiry’s adopted daughter first appears out of the blue. Scary for her, but quite fun to write!

Anyway, this made me think about what various unassuming places we tell our stories in, and where they may unexpectedly pause.


Fennel and Onions

A side dish I make every month or two now is fennel and onions, cooked into submission over a few hours on low heat. I tend to eat it with mac n cheese or meat, and pack some for a friend who also particularly likes this dish. Most of the ingredients are substitutable by type and I use what I have on hand. My most recent batch included tarragon, which was a good addition.



  • 2 fennel bulbs, thinly sliced
  • 1 or 2 large onions as you prefer, thinly sliced
  • 2 Tbsp oil or butter
  • ~1 cup stock
  • ~1/3 cup white wine
  • At least 1 fresh herb, chopped fine, to taste. 2 are better.
  • Dried savory, to taste
  • Salt and pepper, to taste



  1. Heat oil or butter in a large pan with deep sides. Add fennel and onions and cook until soft, stirring occasionally.
  2. When reduced and softer, add herbs and seasonings. Continue on low heat.
  3. Once more liquid is needed to keep vegetable from darkening, alternately add enough stock or wine to just cover the bottom of the pan each time more liquid is needed.
  4. Cook down to desired consistency; I find the flavors meld better when extremely limp and it takes up only a fraction of the space it did at the beginning.
  5. Serve or store.



Wine isn’t necessary if you don’t drink. I prefer using Arbor Mist wines in this dish as it gives a lovely fruity flavor.

Originally I made this dish with more butter rather than stock, but this version is healthier. If not using wine, a bit more butter would help for flavor.

I do use different amounts of onion depending on the flavor balance I want, or how many I have.

Measurements are estimated. It’s really not a problem for this particular recipe. If you try it and make adjustments, let me know how it turns out.

Lemon Drizzle Cake

I have finally tried a British lemon drizzle cake, with my nifty new kitchen scale which my parents got me for Christmas. I got the recipe from GoodtoKnow, who claim it’s a Mary Berry recipe one of their most popular . It is a small cake, and I used a small square pan I rather like.


However, there isn’t actually much lemon in this cake: the zest of half a lemon. While it’s a decent cake, it’s not a stellar cake, and we would not have tasted lemon if it weren’t for the lemon glaze on it. If I make this again, I will put in lemon juice or essence as well. Quite frankly, I have made better lemon cakes than this, and probably won’t be adding this one to my recipe box.

Homemade Sushi


Sushi is time consuming to make at home when you’re not a professional, but can be worth the time and effort to have rolls that you particularly like and enjoy eating, as well as the experience of doing so. We don’t to this very often, not even once a year, but my day of this week was the right day.

Several months ago, I picked up some Kewpie mayonnaise at the Asian market in town, and since then have been collecting ingredients, such as the imitation crab sticks which are rarely on sale. Finally, I decided we weren’t waiting anymore, and that was that.

Usually we do combinations of imitation crab, carrots, cucumber, sesame seeds, and this time added pickles and the mayo. I like pickled daikon if I can get it, but no such luck this time. I particularly like cream cheese and tend to focus on those rolls. My favorite of this set was the cream cheese and pickle.

We also had miso soup with mushrooms and scallions, and green tea. When going for dipping sauce, I discovered instead of the the teriyaki and soy I thought was in the cabinet, we had 2 (open!) bottles of teriyaki.


Yes, this is a lot, and it took us two nights to eat it.


Better Late Than Never: NaNoWriMo Stats

November and December have passed by so fast, but things finally have some semblance of slowing down. Those months are the heaviest at work (there is no tomorrow!) and I’m still catching up on normal things. With the holidays, we’ve had various get togethers with family and friends, and holiday travels. We also both managed to get sick. I missed a cookie exchange and a day at church, but recovered well enough before Christmas, and spent 11 straight glorious days not working.

I did, however, complete NaNoWriMo (several days early). Although I planned to work primarily on Aura’s story, and set her canon, things did not go to plan. Despite writing one or two things for her, nearly every other of my characters got more attention but her. However, a lot of needed work–missing parts, really–got done, so overall, I am happy. For those interested in an account, it is:


  • Relationship with Adal
  • The missing fete
  • A hunting party
  • Adopting a Human child


  • First meeting with Sammy
  • Reflections on Aura vs. Pantea (hosting vs. reincarnation)
  • A few short paragraphs on Shadow Walker history


  • Suzie makes croissants (yum)


  • Job hunting


  • More of high school senior year
  • Nate’s wedding
  • Missing chapter after tsunami–yakisoba with a brief love interest
  • Visits between Tokyo & New York w/ Guyver
  • Wedding prep/morning/honeymoon


  • Quest
  • Weapons training
  • Garden work


  • Pickup for a Terran story
  • Possibilities for Daniel’s reaction after Miara & Trint get together


  • History for Alana and Dahan
  • Becoming friends with Jat

End of the Lupa

  • Pickups for generation ship

non-canon End piece

  • Making a living space
  • Beginning of twins’ birth

Final word count: 50,142


Although I haven’t got to much editing yet (I definitely needed time away from screens), everything’s been pieced out to where it should go in each story, and I’m looking at doing editing of the new material in the next few weeks; certainly in February if not before.




Flower Tutorial: Simple Foam Arrangement

In this fifth installment of the flower tutorial series, we’ll be going through the steps of creating a large, but technically simple, foam arrangement.

You will need:

  • 2 dozen carnations
  • 2 dozen roses
  • 2 dozen stems of leatherleaf fern
  • 1 block of wet (NOT dry) floral foam*
  • A rectangular container

*When buying or ordering foam, make sure you have foam for live flowers (wet foam) and NOT foam for fake flowers (dry foam). Dry foam is like Styrofoam and you will not be able to use it for live flowers–you won’t even be able to get most flowers into it. Oasis is the most well known brand of floral foam, and you get get it any online floral supply retailer. Regarding craft supply stores, in my experience A. C. Moore only carries dry foam, while Michael’s carries both.


Wet Floral Foam

Working with floral foam allows the designer to place flowers in an arrangement exactly where they want them to go, without other support structures. It was invented by people trying to make life jackets, and the floral industry was significantly changed. Before this, florists used wire, frogs, built supports, and used many other methods of controlling flower placement. It is easy, but there are some tricks to know, which we’ll cover throughout this tutorial.

I used a whole brick of foam for this arrangement, as it fit right into the container. You can, however, make this type of arrangement as long as you have a square, rectangle, or other shape of 4 straight sides. If the container you have is smaller than the foam, cut it to size/shape first.

Before arranging, use a large tub or very clean sink to soak your foam. Wet foam is very fragile and dents extremely easily, so always treat it gently.

  • fill the tub or sink with enough water to submerge the foam
  • place the foam in gently on top of the water (do not push it down)
  • wait for it to sink into the water
  • let it sit a few more minutes to ensure that the water has reached the very middle of the brick

One the foam is ready, carefully remove it from the water, let the excess water drip off, and place it in the container. Some people prefer to tape their foam into place, but that wasn’t necessary here. If you wish to do so, or are worried about movement, use waterproof florist tape as shown here:

The first step to working with foam is to ensure that the foam will not be viewable. The best way to do this is with greens that provide ample coverage. Ferns are a good choice here because it will be large.

When using leatherleaf, which is incredibly common in the floral industry, breaking a stem into smaller pieces is a normal practice. Just size them appropriately for the size of your arrangement. Start with main placements on the four sides, followed by corners. All these placelments should be from the top of the fern stem with the nice triangle shape. Then fill in between with lower stem sections until the rim of the container is covered.

Row 1


The lowest row of flowers is carnations. Cut these flowers so that the stem is only a few inches long–usually this will be just above the first joint in the stem (right). Insert them into the front of the foam so that the flower heads sit on top of the fern. Be sure they extend past the foam on the sides. It is important to note that, when using foam, one should avoid pulling flowers out and then reusing the existing hole in the foam. If you do not put the stem in further, there will be an air pocket between the end of the stem and the foam containing water; that flower will not be receiving water.

Row 2

The second row of flowers is roses. Cut the stems a few inches longer than the row of carnations in front, and insert just behind the first row so that the bottom of the rose sits at the top of each carnation.



Rows 3–6


Using the same technique of cutting each row longer, and “stepping” each row up by the height of 1 flower head, alternate each row between carnations and roses. Rows 1, 3, and 5 should be carnations, and Rows 2, 4, and 6 should be roses. If you are using other types of flowers, I recommend using the showier flowers for Rows 2, 4, and 6 for higher impact.




The next step is to fill in the sides with carnations, this time stepped, but not a much as the main rows. The aim here is to cover the mechanics (foam) on the side of the arrangement where the rowed flowers rise up and do not cover it. In retrospect, it might have been better to do an odd number of rows, but the arrangements I do are commissioned and I want people to feel their arrangement reflects the cost.

Note that the back of this style of arrangement usually looks rather bare and unfinished; this is fine if no one will really see it. If you prefer, you can add tall ferns and other foliage at the back, as I did below in the finished arrangement.







I definitely chose the flowers that day by color. As you can see here, these light green roses have a pinkish tinge which I thought worked very well with the carnations. The delicacy of the roses with the color and ruffles of the carnations was very pleasing.





There are several design styles in which rows are very effective, such as pave, an arrangement style where the flowers are all even on a level, effectively “paving” the surface of the container). This is a stepped version especially allows for two different sized flowers to be used. Alternating the flower each row can provide large impact for a centerpiece, or even on a much smaller scale.


Covering the Mechanics


One of the most important things to do in floristry is to cover any unsightly structural mechanics you’ve used, such as foam, wire, or tape. While there are some supports designed to be seen, in most cases they should be hidden. This is usually done with greens or flowers with very covering foliage, and you should plan accordingly when buying your flowers. Larger basket-style arrangements and very large containers often require the most greens, while very small, tight arrangements may not. When unsure, by something just in case. If you end up not using it in an arrangement, you can always do a greens display (with other leftovers, as well) in a suitable container–I tend to use a white vase.