alisa alering

Writer of fantasy and other fictions


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October = Pie

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Colder weather makes me want to bake. This year, that urge resulted in an apple pie. But I can’t just leave it there. I need embellishments. Like cranberries. And ginger. And a classic Pennsylvania crumb topping (cribbed from the cookbook I grew up with, The Mennonite Community Cookbook)

The pie was a big hit when I took it to a dinner on Sunday night, and a couple of people have asked for the recipe. So if crisp weather also makes you break out the measuring cups, give it a try.

Apple Cranberry Ginger Crumb Pie

One 9-inch pie crust
You’re on your own with this. Use store bought, your favorite recipe, etc. Mine was half-butter, half-Crisco.

Filling:
approx. 4lbs of SweeTango apples, peeled and cored
2-4 Tbl fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup dried cranberries
2-4 Tbl minced candied ginger
2 Tbl flour
2 Tbl corn starch
1/2 cup + 2 Tbl sugar
cinnamon, nutmeg, 5-spice powder
pinch salt

Crumb Topping:
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup flour
1/3 cup butter
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Oven: Preheat to 425F

The Apples: I used “SweeTango” because they had 4-lb bags at Sam’s Club and they looked like a good idea. They’re a cross between Honeycrisp and Zestar (which I’ve also never heard of.) They worked well in the pie, and were delicious for crunching up while peeling. You can probably also use Honeycrisp, Fuji, Pink Lady, Jonagold, or any other crisp, flavorful apple. You may not need the whole bag. I had one apple left over, and probably ate another while peeling.

The Filling: Slice apples thinly and cut slices in half. Toss in a large, non-reactive bowl with the lemon juice, cranberries, and minced ginger.

In a separate bowl, mix the flour, cornstarch, sugar, spices, and salt. Sprinkle flour mixture over fruit and toss to combine.

Crumb Topping: Mix flour, sugar, & cinnamon in a medium bowl. Cut cold butter into flour mixture and rub together until crumbs form.

Assembly: Lightly grease pie plate and fit with crust, trimming edges and pressing down with the tines of a fork. Prick the bottom of the crust all over.

Pack apples into pie shell, mounding high. If you’re strategic and place the apples in a handful at a time, they will (almost) all fit. You may choose not to add all of the juice that has collected at the bottom of the apple bowl if it seems like too much.

Sprinkle the crumb topping evenly over the apples. Press lightly to firm.

Bake: Put the pie plate on a foil-covered baking sheet in the middle or lower-middle oven rack. Bake at 425F for 20 minutes. Reduce heat to 350F and continue baking for 40-50 minutes. Watch the crumb topping for over-browning during the last 20-30 minutes, and cover with foil if necessary.

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Sometimes the cat wins

In the alley after a snowMarch 26, 2013

In the alley after a snow
March 26, 2013

Apologies if this kind of gruesome, but some pictures have to be taken.

In an odd way, I think this does fit the Weekly Photo Challenge: Future Tense.

Just like Mr. Cardinal, we never know what’s coming.


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The Gentle Octopus

The octopus is a cephalopod. Wikipedia says that “Cephalodpod” means “head-feet”. It is also fun to say.

I am thinking about the octopus because it is neat. It very awesomely looks like this.

Lynda Barry uses an octopus. A lot. It is cuddly, maybe, when she draws it. In her pictures it seems to stand for the “I don’t know” that is the un-heart of creative activity. The octopus does not know, but that is okay. Is it an octopus because it changes shape, because it lives in the murky dark, because it has so many arms? I don’t know. It seems the right kind of mysterious.

In Gail Carriger’s, ‘Parasol Protectorate’, a brass octopus is the symbol of the evil scientists who want to do Wrong Things with Technology.

A real octopus is very smart. It can carry a coconut, walk on two tentacles like legs and pretend to be a coconut, pretend to be a branch of algae drifting across the ocean floor, and open a jar.

I cannot remember seeing a real octopus in real life. In the Natural History Museum in the Smithsonian, there used to be a case with the remains of a giant squid. I remember a case of water, with its white flesh arms, sort of pulpy and disintegrating. I remember thinking it was sad. Maybe I don’t remember right – if it was already dead, why would they keep it in water? Does anyone else remember this? It was in the front rotunda, somewhere near the doors, along with Henry.

A few months ago, I wanted to write a story called “The Secret Heart of the Octopus.” I don’t know what that means. Saying those words, knowing those words, makes me feel good in the way walking in the woods makes me feel, the way seeing a the disappearing tail of a salamander makes me feel, the way the Big Dipper is always there at night when I walk the dog makes me feel. It is a good feeling, and it is potent. Waiting. I am small, in a good way. The secret heart of the octopus is very big.


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What I’ve Been Up To

I’ve been busy making myself really tired.

First was the IUWC, which involved early morning classes, afternoon workshops, evening readings, lots and lots and lots of manuscript reading, and regular mortgage-paying, catfood-buying work somewhere in between. My story was discussed on the only day when there were 3 people on the schedule (other days were just 2) which made me a bit cranky, but my workshop leader Manuel Munoz was kind enough to discuss my piece one-on-one afterwards, and that’s where I got the good idea for revision. It’s a big idea and it’s going to involve ripping out huge, essential chunks of the narrative but I’m so sure it’s right that I’m almost excited to do it.

The best part about the conference is geeking out with other writers, and this year was no different. I got to know some local writers better, and met some cool new ones. I’m always canvassing for new members for my regular writing group, so at times I feel like I’m doing a PBS fund drive without the free coffee mugs and Michael Flatley DVD. Julia Glass was completely hysterical at the final night’s readings — not what she read, but the stories she told beforehand. British writers are mean to American writers, apparently.

After that it was jet-setting away to NYC for green-tea margaritas (sounds appalling, actually delicious), riverside walks in the pouring rain, and chole bhatura on Oak Tree Road (drool). I even saw the crazy clouds in Manhattan on Friday night. They looked like low-hanging cotton balls, round and individual, textured and full of weight. Everybody was stopping in the street and taking pictures up between the buildings with their phones.

'Mammatus clouds over Manhattan' by bears rock on flickr

'Mammatus clouds over Manhattan' by bears rock/flickr

Now that I’ve had enough adventure in two weeks for the whole year, I’m going to go to sleep.