Andi Winter

Writer, Reader, Tea Drinker, Chrononaut

Happy Belated Release Day!

A Kiss in Time coverIt’s a little late in the news department, but better late than never. Right?

Out now is A Kiss in Time, the latest story in my “Relics of a Future Past” series. It’s a story about a guy* who has been in love with his best friend since middle school, but he has never told her because he was afraid to upset their relationship.

However, when she gets her dream gig that will send her on a 5-year mission to Mars**, he struggles with wanting to confess his love to her (this might be his last chance!) and wanting to support her as a friend. So he does the good thing (the easy thing?) and doesn’t say anything. And kicks himself for it.

Until it looks like he just might have the opportunity to share his feelings to her, but it will mean crossing into an alternate universe using untested technology. And you never know how dropping a pebble in one alternate universe pond will affect other universes…

A Kiss in Time is an adventure-love story with theoretical physics, scotch, and Godzilla.*** If you like Star Trek, but want more heart and less scenery-chewing Canadian actors, this story may be for you.

It’s available in ebook and paperback in the usual places (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and assorted other online establishments including Apple).

Interested in a free taste of the Relics of a Future Past world? Sign up for my newsletter (over there on the right) and I’ll send you Doorway to Infinity, a story only available to subscribers. It’s a time travel tale with WWII, romance, and tacos.****

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*Not a tech billionaire this time, but the opposite end of the spectrum: a struggling cartoonist.

**How cool is that?

***You probably won’t find that description in many book summaries.

****And another story description you probably won’t find anywhere else.

Today’s haiku

lightning

woke to drums pounding
lightning flashing in the sky
—a striking commute

—Very strange for the Portland area. Very very strange.
And yet I can’t not pun.

Today’s haiku

beer and sunglasses

watching films outside

blockbusters of my childhood

nostalgia with beer

-ah, happy summer days

Bestest frosting EVER

Well, if that isn’t a clickbait title….

Just look at that! Sweet.

For anniversary/birthday celebration, I experimented with a new recipe* for Chocolate Malt Layer Cake with Brown Sugar-Cream Cheese Frosting. Not only was the recipe new to me, but the technique was a new one, too: all cake ingredients layered into a food processor and set to frappe.

I’m not sure the food processor really did anything different than my stand mixer, but it was a new method.

The cake was good: chocolate tasting without being chalky and overly sweet. Could have used more malt flavor, but it was fine.

The frosting was excellent, and that was even with not adding the 4-6 cups of confectioners’ sugar. Check this out:

Brown Sugar-Cream Cheese Frosting

Put 8 ounces of room temperature cream cheese, 1 stick room temperature unsalted butter, 1/2 cup packed brown sugar, 1/4 cup sour cream, and 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract in a food processor bowl. Cover and frappe until smooth “no more than a few seconds”**.

You could follow the original recipe and then add 4+ cups of confectioners’ sugar, but why would you? This frosting has a lovely sweetness that complements the tang of the cream cheese and sour cream. It’s perfect as is!***

And I’m pretty darned pleased with the results. I mean, look at that thin layer of frosting in the middle!

So this is one recipe that goes down in the “Win” column. Woo hoo!

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*For the life of me, I cannot remember which cookbook I found the recipe in. I think it was a ‘fast/easy cooking’ book involving food processors, but that’s all I’ve got.

**It took me longer than ‘a few seconds’, unless the author defines ‘a few’ as nearing 60.

***Seriously. I could just eat that frosting straight out of the bowl and not get sick off it. Of course, I didn’t actually try that. Much.

Today’s haiku

hawk in nesteach morning I check

birds’ nest on telephone pole—

two falcons? or three?

 

Three for Thursday

Man, it’s been a hell of a week. A screwball schedule combined with some of the strangest summer weather we’ve seen in the Portland area in years*, has me feeling all discombobulated.

So here’s what is helping me get through this week:

1. What I’m reading: First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong by James R. Hansen. You know you’re reading a thorough biography when the author doesn’t get to the birth of the biographee until page 30. Seriously. Because we needed to go over the history of the Armstrong family name (it’s Scottish), and the history of Neil’s great-grandparents, and then his grandparents, and then his parents before they met each other. But I’m learning about Neil (can I call him that? I feel like I’m getting to know him pretty well), and I’m impressed. Getting your pilot’s license before your driving license? Getting into MIT, but choosing to go to Purdue? Playing in a ‘military’ band** to fulfill ‘military’ course credit for a Navy scholarship? Brilliant.

2. What I’m eating: Kettle Brand Kettle-style BBQ Potato Chips. I never liked BBQ chips before: they were too sweet and smoky and just plain funky.*** These are addictive. In fact, I just ate a whole bowl of them. I think. Or maybe the house elves were snacking on them as well when I wasn’t looking. Bad house elves.

3. What I’m drinking: Sunriver Brewing’s Fuzztail Hefeweizen. It reminds me of Rogue Ale’s Honey Orange Wheat, but with less orange (i.e. none)****. Honestly, it’s a perfect summer beer. And I must say, it goes very nicely with Kettle BBQ potato chips.

And now, back to enjoying a fine summer evening. At last.

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*There was “Juneuary” a year or two back, which saw June all cool and rainy. Lately (by which I mean the past month and a half) it’s been again cool and rainy, to the point of seeming more like winter than proper summer. My basil plants are wilting in the overcast damp chill. Today was the first day in awhile that was actually sunny, and even somewhat warm. Huzzah!

**He played baritone horn—the same horn I played in college marching band. We’re kindred spirits!

***Funky in a bad way. Not funky in a good way, like Earth, Wind, and Fire.

****Sunriver describes it as having grapefruit and lemon notes, so there is a citrus commonality.

Today’s haiku

sleeping fox

one day I’m moving
building shelves, tearing down walls
the next — unconscious

—on monthly energy swings

Permission granted

The other day I stumbled across a relatively new book on meditation. With a title like Bliss More: How to Succeed in Meditation Without Really Trying, I figured I had to give it a try.

I mean, why wouldn’t you try it? With emotional well-being benefits* like:

  • Gaining a new perspective on stressful situations
  • Building skills to manage your stress
  • Increasing self-awareness
  • Focusing on the present
  • Reducing negative emotions
  • Increasing imagination and creativity
  • Increasing patience and tolerance

And then add to that meditation’s ability to help manage:

  • Anxiety
  • Asthma
  • Cancer
  • Chronic pain
  • Depression
  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Sleep problems
  • Tension headaches

Oh, and it’s free. Why wouldn’t you want to meditate?

I wanted to—desperately wanted to—but I struggled with it. I’ve tried Zen meditation, mindfulness meditation, and some other flavors, but I never came out of it with a happy, blissful surfer-like experience. More often I was tired, my back ached from sitting up straight, and I spent my time so focused on not thinking** that all I could do was chastise myself for thinking, which was more thinking with an added dollop of a feeling of failure.

Awesome.

The practice advocated in this book turns all of that on its head.

What if you were comfortable when you meditated? What if you were encouraged to look at a clock whenever you started wondering about the time? What if you accepted your thoughts as completely natural***, and not Dastardly Enemies to avoid or destroy? What if meditating were actually easy?

Like I said. Radical ideas.

So here’s the meditation technique:

  1. Sit comfortably (with back support)****
  2. Use an easy-to-see timing device (not an alarm)
  3. Calculate your finish time (10-20 minutes)
  4. Close your eyes
  5. Passively think the sound “ahhhhh-hummmm”
  6. Let yourself simultaneously get lost in your thoughts
  7. When you remember that you’re meditating, passively begin thinking “ah-hum” again
  8. Peek freely and often at the time
  9. Once you’re done, wait a minute or two before opening your eyes
  10. Come out slowly

Thre prescription is to ideally, meditate 2x a day (upon awakening, and in afternoon/early evening), and no more than that.

Easy peasy.

I’ve tried it a couple times so far, and so far it feels odd to have permission to let my mind ramble with no curbing it. To sit back and relax, and not keep adjusting my posture and thinking about the position of my head or the ache in my knees.

Just the idea of not trying is a revelation. No effort.

Permission granted to just sit.

Amazing.

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*Source: Mayo Clinic

**Yeah, try to have no thoughts. And no get caught up in, “Darn thoughts! Why won’t you go away? I’m meditating here!”

***Even the ones you are embarrassed to think.

****How would you sit if you were watching TV? Yeah, do that.

Today’s haiku

nutella toastsign on the highway:

“Spread love thick like Nutella”

—true words to live by

Calm is contagious

I recently started taking a yoga class* and I’m finding it fascinating. There is the immediate attention grabbers, like noticing one hip is significantly tighter than the other or that my flexibility isn’t quite what I thought. And then there are the deeper attention grabbers that work on a more profound level.

Slow down.

Breathe.

There is nothing/no one to compete with.

The instructor is different from the yoga video instructors I’m used to. While she has a similar mellow, relaxing tone of voice, and she is encouraging (“Beautiful!” as we assume a widely diverse execution of downward dog poses), she is not that flexible.

I’m used to Rodney Yee and Barbara Benagh who can tie themselves in knots, with the most serene expressions on their faces as they look off into the Grand Canyon or the beaches of Antigua.

My instructor does what she can in a conference room and says, “Well, it looks like my Tree pose will be down here today,” as she places the sole of her foot against her lower calf.**

The matter-of-fact way that she accepts where her body is in that moment is refreshing, and inspiring.

We move slowly through the few poses. There is no rush, no pressure to perform a perfect or idealized form. I only notice the other students when I check to make sure that my outstretched leg won’t hit theirs.

But the true gift of the class is coming out of it calm. I’m not a zombie or in any way unconscious. I’m just relaxed. My legs aren’t in a hurry to get me to the next place, my mind isn’t racing furiously about from topic to topic.

I’m just doing the next thing.

Calm.***

Which feels really good.

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*As in going to a live class. This is different from videos and books, oddly enough.

**Yee and Benagh would have their heels up in their crotches for Tree pose.

***Today’s Daily Stoic reading is “Calm is contagious”, and is an excellent reminder.

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