Lexifabricographer For when the right word just won’t do…

January 24, 2016

What I did on my holidays – Summer 2015-16

I’ve been having one of those summer holidays that I will probably look back on in the future and think “That went well”.

Well, no I won’t, because I have a terrible memory for dates and what-happened-when. But in theory I could look back on it with something approaching a sense of accomplishment. I’m pretty happy with some of these highlights:

House renovations – We’ve now owned our fixer-upper house for over ten years. We’re still fixing it up, and in the forthcoming years\ we will be replacing all the flooring and at least one of the bathrooms. By comparison, painting a few patches of the vast unrenovated expanse of our external walls is a trivial enterprise. But it still feels good to have just about finished painting all of the parts of the house which are visible from the street. At least the place appears to casual passers-by to be occupied , and not at all like a drug den impounded by the cops and forgotten in an administrative bungle.

Bass guitar – My Xmas gift to myself was to buy a copy of the PC game Rocksmith 2014, which is a guitar tutorial program dressed up as a game. You jack a real electric guitar (or in my case my buddy Simon’s old bass guitar) into the computer to learn basic techniques, whole songs and tricky passages. So far I am reasonably accomplished at playing Def Leppard’s genuinely awful “Pour Some Sugar on Me” (no link provided). I’m working hard to beat that by mastering some song that would constitute an accomplishment to be proud of, like “Every Breath You Take” by The Police.

After about five weeks of fairly solid practice, I can report that I am (a) getting better but by no means good and (b) developing tough callouses on the fingers where before I had numbness and/or pain. Rock and roll stardom awaits! (as soon as I beat the tutorial on doing slide notes up and down the neck of the guitar. Those are hard). Anyway, Rocksmith gets my recommendation as well. Short of paying for lessons, it really does seem to be a very effective way to learn how to play guitar.

Songwriting – Continuing on the musical theme, I wrote some song lyrics for the first time in ages these holidays. It’s something I do on and off, just for something different. My lyrics tend to languish undeveloped unless I can convince Evan (my songwriting buddy and about the only personal I know with any real music skills) to work out an arrangement for them. This year I plan to take advantage of my slowly-growing mastery of bass and ukulele to teach myself basic song-writing. Don’t worry, I’m not going to inflict a YouTube channel on anyone – I still have both a terrible voice and prohibitive performance anxiety – but I’m a step closer to my goal of being able to write a whole song, not just the words.

Flash fiction – I wrote something! And finished it! I’m working on the Conflux 12 organising committee again this year. As part of the promotion for the con, the Chair will be sending out publicity in the not-too-distant future. I’ve written a story with my take on this year’s theme “Red Fire Monkey”, which will appear as part of the publicity report. For posterity’s sake, I will note that the story is a rare instance of me writing straight science fiction.

Holidays in the Hunter – Our family holiday this year included a bunch of families, staying at the delightful Lovedale Cottages in the Hunter Valley. Fifteen of us, including five kids and a three-month-old baby, snuggled up together in warm, cosy cottages as the Hunter was hammered with five days of torrential downpours that threatened to leave us trapped by rising flood waters. Fortunately the pool was indoors and heated, and in reality most of the really heavy rain was well away from us. Still, it was a bit of a wet holiday. I can recommend the Lovedale Cottages though – they have a tennis court, the aforementioned indoor pool, a golf course (!) and are very comfortably appointed in a distinctly rustic style. Especially great for big group holidays.

Granola! – Every time we travel, we inevitably end up eating breakfast at cafes once in a while. And when we do, I will automatically order one of two things (aside from coffee, which obviously goes without saying). Either I will get the eggs benedict, – because you can always judge the quality of a cafe by their attention to detail in hollandaise sauce and also because I love eggs benedict – or, if I feel as though I have been eating nothing but garbage over the course of the holiday I will pretend to be virtuous by ordering a granola with yoghurt and possibly some fruit or berries. It’s embarrassing really, but I excuse myself because neither is a meal I would make at home.

Which got me thinking, why not? And so I did the minimum possible research to discover that, in fact, granola is dreadfully simple to make. So I now have a personalised granola recipe, cobbled together from fifteen or so granola recipes I found on the internet. (This article in the Guardian about finding the perfect granola was the primary source – the beaten egg white trick seems to be the killer ingredient, although it does make my granola non-vegan, so your mileage may vary).Incidentally, my search for ingredients has taken me into a number of “natural foods” stores. If you see me in one, don’t worry: I don’t need a paleo intervention. I just need to be directed to the barley.

Anyway, the point being granola is delicious. Don’t skimp on the almonds and hazlenuts.

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