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Monthly Archives: October 2012

I Made a Cake!

Yummeh!

Recently, I read a manga series called Kitchen Princess. At the end of each chapter (it’s a manga about a culinary class after all!), they have a section with recipes for the food items in that chapter.

Chapter Two was about strawberry shortcake — I love strawberries and shortcake, so I decided to give it a go! Unfortunately, I didn’t know the difference between “Soft Flour” and the flour at the store (all purpose) so my cake wound up less fluffy and more dense. It’s still pretty good though! With the help of my good friend Arty, we made the cake you see here, all from scratch! We even whipped our own whipped cream. :’D

A couple of tips for people who might want to make cake from scratch! Firstly, make sure you have all the right ingredients from the get-go. Make sure, also, that you have an appropriate cake tin! I had a bit of trouble with this cake because my cake tins were all too wide, so the cake is a little short (no pun intended). The directions also didn’t say to use PAM / nonstick spray, but I did anyway and that made a world of difference trying to get that cake out of the tin. I don’t think you should use oil, or at least use it very sparingly.

:9

Oh, and buy cake flour, not all-purpose flour! Cakes apparently get pretty dense if you use all-purpose flour (which is what I used, oops). It’s also known as “soft flour”, if that helps anyone.  It’s still good, and it’s still a very light cake in terms of how it sits after eating, but the cake itself is dense. Also, a piping bag and a piping tip would be nice to make the cake look pretty, but it’s not 100% necessary – just use a silicone spatula. :]

Yum!

 
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Posted by on October 29, 2012 in Foods, kami's adventures in cooking

 

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Aren’t You Too Old for Hallowe’en?

Every year, there’s always at least one person that asks this when someone above school age comments about dressing up as something or other on Hallowe’en. The exact wording varies, but the meaning is always the same: “Don’t you think you’re too old to be having x kind of fun?”

Which always kind of baffled me. When, exactly, was an age limit imposed on having fun? Did I miss the memo? I enjoy dressing up for Hallowe’en, enjoy putting together a costume and going about the town getting candy (because oh my gosh, candy) with my friends. Why should that stop because x number of years have passed since my birth? When did I become too old for this activity? When I hit 16? 17? Graduated from High School? When I became a legal adult? When I was able to legally drink? When I have children of my own?

But by and large, I think the notion of “too old for Hallowe’en” stems from the thought that people will judge you after you hit a certain age. People stop thinking about how much fun they can have with deciding what to dress up as, how much fun it is to go with their friends, be involved with their community, and how much candy (candy!!) they can have. They stop thinking about how fun it would be, and concentrate on the fact that people will be judging them for acting silly. Then they pass it around, and soon enough, there’s the whole sentiment of old people are fuddy-duddies who can’t have a good time.

And to that, I say fie! I will continue dressing up for Hallowe’en (and whenever else I feel like, to be frank!) because it’s enjoyable. I will never be too old to play make-believe, never too old to enjoy being silly.

Long live Hallowe’en.

 
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Posted by on October 14, 2012 in opinions

 

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[NaNoWriMo] The Best Laid Plans…

definitely the theme of this show. narf!

of mice and men aft gang agley.

I vowed that the rest of October would be novel-planning month. Tonight, I worked on character profiles – just brief, one-word/short phrase descriptors of personality, appearance, and history for each of the prominent characters in my story. I’ve had the generic theme down for a while now, and it always involved a group of five: the protagonist, and four other people.

When I got to the last companion, I realised that their history and personality would be better complemented by a sibling — a twin, specifically. I struggled for a while, pencil hovered over paper, wondering if I was being dumb. No, Kami, I argued with myself. We said a group of five. We even have the synopsis referencing five.

But if it flows better, I countered, then why not?

Why not, indeed!

This isn’t what I planned, and quite frankly, I’m not sure if this is going to go over well with the rest of my characters. The twins won’t appear for a while yet, but one of them was bad enough for the rest of the group. I can only imagine (and, well, that’s the whole point, isn’t it?) how two of them will go over.

In other surprising developments, my pantheon of gods and goddesses has increased by three, my secondary villain is likely going to get a more prominent role, my second protagonist is now a different gender, and my fifth protagonist has an entirely different personality. This is going to be fun.

Has anyone else had surprising developments when planning out their stories?

 
 

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[NaNoWriMo] So, uh, workin’ on that novel of yours?

Been working on that the whole time? Nice little narrative? Beginning, middle, and end? Some friends become enemies, some enemies become friends? At the end your main character is richer from the experience? Yeah? Yeah?

Every mid-October, I get the urge to continue my “novel” — a task I have been attempting for years now, ever since my senior year of high school. It started out as a poorly-cobbled fanfiction of some obscure (but very engrossing) title called ShadowSteed, but morphed into something original since then. It’s had several incarnations, first as a spiral-bound, hand-written fic. I dont even know what happened to that sprial notebook. I think it got lost somewhere in the abyss of my teenage-self’s desk and never resurfaced.

Next, it appeared as a gathering of notes on odd scraps of paper (which, of course, I subsequently lost). Then, a roleplaying site that no one (including me) used, which was then re-written as a gathering of notes in a proper notebook. Oh, and there was the time I was going to turn it into a video game of the roleplaying genre. Finally, for 2009’s NaNo, I manage to squeak out four “chapters” of novel, which, really, can hardly be called such considering that they average a page and a half in Word. Then back to the drawing table in 2010 because oh-my-gosh-I-have-no-idea-what-I’m-doing. Then in 2011, I decided, hey, I’m an artist, I’ll just MAKE A COMIC, except… I still didn’t have any idea what I was doing. Predictably, after a few ‘world-building’ exercises and one rough sketch later, the comic came to a screeching halt.

Since 2012 has been a year of a lot of changes for me, I figured I’m going to go ahead and give NaNo another go. I have a notebook — I prefer to write ideas down on paper first — and I have MS Word, and I have my first character’s mini-bio written up. A good start.

image by AdriOfTheDead @ tumblr
edit by someone on reddit

My problem, though, has always been staying motivated. I don’t know what happens — I can roleplay on a forum just fine, cranking out a couple of thousand words per post usually with no problem; but, every time NaNo rolls around, pffttttt. All of that, just out the window. I sit and stare at a blank document for a few minutes, maybe put a couple of words to virtual paper, then alt-tab into something else. At best, I play a couple of video games, eat some food, wander around the house, watch TV. At worse, the internet punches me in the face and when I come to it’s late and I need to go to bed.

I’ve tried various “stay motivated” techniques, ranging from having a devoted work area/time to using inspirational music mixes, but I can’t seem to stay on task very long unless I’m goofing off. There’s some sort of irony in that, I’m sure.

This year, I’m going to try distancing myself from my biggest distraction while trying to be productive: internet. Even when I’m playing video games, I constantly find myself tabbing over to check tumblr, or my RP forum. Not necessarily because I can’t live without them, but because they are a convenient distraction right at my fingertips. One click, or a press of a key, and shazam! All the adorable baby animals I can stomach before barfing rainbows.

I am Tomo. Tomo is me.

I don’t know if I can do it! I talk big now, but who knows where my motivation will be once NaNo actually gets here? It’s not so much that I get distracted as it is me getting … not bored, exactly, or discouraged, but more like I lose my steam when I very visibly have a quota to work with, rather  than just writing because it’s fun. It becomes a chore, a task, and the enjoyment kind of gets sucked out of it when, at the end of the day, I have to make sure I’m meeting my daily word quota and putting words to paper.

It’s draining, and it’s a large part of the reason that I drop NaNo every month. I can’t seem to stay motivated when I’m counting every word that I write. Is the chapter long enough, is it too short, am I just using words to fill up my daily goal?

Finding a balance is so tricky, and so exhausting. Not to mention that I have a lot of backstory and lore I want to write, and that gets draining too.

So tell me, what do you do to keep on-task and motivated? Any tips, tricks, or ideas to stay on task even when the going gets tough?

How do you write for NaNo
? Do you plan ahead, make outlines, extensive plots? Or are you a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants kind of writer, and let the story tell itself?

Let me know! :D

 
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Posted by on October 13, 2012 in NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month, writing

 

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Preference or Problem?

Aveline Vallen

My roommate and I were having a discussion about stereotype-defying representation in the media. I wanted to share my passion about a particular character from the Dragon Age franchise, named Aveline Vallen, and expressed my frustration that people would install a game mod to make her “prettier”. Aveline (see right) is not your stereotypically “beautiful” woman. She has a strong nose ridge, a square jawline, is decidedly muscular — so muscular that she can tear down a monster with her bare hands. Her clothes, and later her armour, don’t particularly show off her cleavage or assets (heh); in fact, as the game progresses, her suit of armour becomes heavier and less revealing. It is part of her character that she struggles with her appearance, struggles with self-doubt about not being curvy and delicate and slim. It is important character development that she grows to love and accept herself, and realise that beauty is subjective, while not rejecting her feminine qualities and acknowledging that it’s okay to feel, and to want to feel pretty.

The mod – there are a few, but the main one – makes Aveline more “feminine”. It gives her a pointed chin, a small, dainty button-nose, big eyes, and slim features and build. It makes her stereotypically pretty which is the antithesis of her personal character development (outside the scope of the game’s overall plot).

While my roommate and I normally agree that people should be able to play games in the way that is most enjoyable for them, we disagree on the notion that certain things — like beautifying Aveline — are indicative of a problem.

So when does media “preference” become a “problem”? When does it change over from “personal” to “big picture”? Does it indicate the person is prejudiced or a bad / mean / jerk of a person? When does it stop being “just” a game, a book, a story, a picture, a movie and become something worthy of attention and discourse?

I believe these preferences are dangerous because media does not exist inside a bubble, and and neither does society. These preferences help shape the media we consume. If people “prefer” media that depicts stereotypically beautiful people, then that is what we see. If most of a game’s userbase modify their game so that x character is changed in y manner, then chances are that game’s developer will change that character / future characters to deliver what their target demographic desires. If people find it “unrealistic” that black people existed in medieval Europe (even though they did, they are called Moors), then all of our Arthurian legends will be all white people, all the time. Personal preference is the crux upon which media bases what is popular and what they will produce. Personal preference when it deals with social prejudices already prevalent in our society is never just personal.

Even if an individual is not racist, sexist, or any sort of prejudiced, if their personal preference is in line with preferences from others who are, it helps shape the advertisements, games, films, novels, and television shows we are provided. When media is changed so that it is more ‘aesthetically pleasing’ to the viewer or user, those changes will reflect in what we see as “good” as a society. Already dark skinned / dark haired celebrities are becoming lighter in skin and hair colour as their popularity increases. Anyone -especially CIS women- who appears in media is changed and altered and photoshopped within an inch of their life to appeal to personal preference. These preferences fuel self-doubt, self-loathing, shaming, blaming, and prejudice.

So, sure, go ahead. Make Aveline prettier and thinner and smaller. Insist that there is no way Lancelot could be black because HISTORY (but dragons and magic swords from ladies who live in lakes are historically accurate). Stress that it is just your personal preference that all women in your video games be small, waif-like, doe-eyed creatures who couldn’t scare a cat and butter won’t melt in their mouth.

But don’t think that your preference in these matters only affects you, because as a consumer you’d be incredibly wrong. Personal preference is a problem when that preference is shared by so many people that it negatively impacts how we as a society view ourselves, each other, and the rest of the world.

 
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Posted by on October 9, 2012 in gaming, media, opinions, social justice, video games

 

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Service with a Smile

Not like this.

Like a lot of people, I enjoy going out to eat. It doesn’t matter if it’s fast food, or something incredibly formal and posh — it’s nice to not eat at home, and not have to slave over a hot stove and do dishes after.

Customer service is something we seem to take for granted, unless it’s terrible. Then we rant and bemoan the wait-staff, vow never to return, but don’t leave until we eat all the food we ordered.

When it’s good service, though, we finish our food and tip with no fanfare, then leave without another word. We make our way home (or elsewhere) with a full belly, and not another thought.

But when was the last time you had service that overshadowed delicious food? Can you remember the last time you went out for food, only to walk away praising your server until everyone got sick of you talking?

Tonight was such a night for me. I cannot think of a single time before tonight that I paid more attention to the quality of service than the quality of food (which admittedly was very good).

My fiancé, my roommate, and I visited the TGI Friday’s at the Tyler Galleria tonight. Our server, Trudy, was an older lady, who seemed pleasant enough as far as wait-staff goes. She started off on an excellent note, checking up on us indecisive patrons every few minutes, asking if we were ready and excusing herself before she left.  She addressed us as “my young man” and “my young lady”, which was absolutely delightful. Her friendliness seemed completely natural and effortless — rare, I feel, at “lively” places such as TGI Friday’s, where the wait-staff more often seem eager to be your BFF.

This has nothing to do with this paragraph, but omnomnom.

There was a slight problem with my steak being overdone. Trudy immediately apologised, whisked the offending steak away, and returned shortly with a new one, not leaving until I had cut into my steak and given a seal of approval. We saw her frequently, coming by to make sure we were satisfied with our meal and waiting until our mouths were empty and we’d all answered (seriously, when was the last time that’s happened to anyone?) before saying “Excuse me, please” and leaving again. We were never out of drinks, she convinced us to get dessert without overselling the selection, and our finished dishes were cleared in an expedient manner. She said “please” and “thank you”, and really let us know she was our server, without neglecting her other tables.

I watched her interact with the other patrons, and it was all such flawless execution and zero effort. We tipped her a little over 25% of our bill, though if we had extra spending cash we’d likely have tipped her 90%. We talked to her manager, and submitted a glowing review to TGI Friday’s website.

Thank you, Trudy at the Galleria TGI Friday’s, for an unforgettable experience at a place I’ve been to countless times before, but will now never forget this one night.

 
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Posted by on October 5, 2012 in Foods

 

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