Four Green Squares

the tiny little blog no-one will ever read

A nice, heaping meditative scoop of something May 28, 2012

Filed under: recipes — FourGreenSquares @ 1:59 pm

I love working from home. Lunchtime becomes a moment of, “hmm, what do I fancy?” and a nice little meditative sliver out of the day (assuming, of course, that this meditative moment doesn’t comprise a mouthful of Nutella prised out of a mass solidified at the bottom of a forgotten jar, eaten with a cream cracker for afters).

Nope, today is Monday and the sun is shining. Definitely a day to hie myself over to the fridge and checkout the landscape.

So today’s creation is a warm pasta salad. I’m still American enough that I enjoy pasta salads but now Brit tastes have overridden childhood ones to the point that I no longer enjoy them cold. Hence this compromise.

Meatball and Grilled Asparagus Pasta Salad


  • Vegetarian meatballs (3 or 4 per person)
  • One medium onion
  • One bunch asparagus
  • Fusilli pasta enough for two people (about 2 cups uncooked)
  • Olive oil, soya sauce, vegetable stock, a dash of chilli or mustard


  • Slice the onion into rings, then halve the rings.
  • Heat a dribble of olive oil in a non-stick skillet and add the onion to one half and the meatballs to the other half, keeping them separate in the pan. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally.
  • Meanwhile, wash and cut the ends off the asparagus.
  • Add the fusili and veg stock to a pan of water and bring to the boil. Steam the asparagus over the cooking pasta.
  • Check on the meatballs and onions, turning down the heat. Splash the onions with some soya sauce and stir. The onions will cook faster than the meatballs, so shove the onions well off to one side if necessary. Give the meatballs a shake and stir. Keep checking while the pasta cooks. Turn off the heat when done. Generally, vegetarian meatballs take about 15-20 minutes.
  • The asparagus should steam in the same time it takes for the pasta to cook, so when the pasta is done, remove the asparagus from the heat and set aside.
  • Drain the pasta and tip into a serving bowl. Add the cooked onions and stir.
  • Check the meatballs and when done, they can be cut into quarters and added to the pasta and onions.
  • If you have a griddle pan, then this next stage can be done on the hob. If not, you can either use the grill in the oven or simply use the skillet. If using the griddle pan or skillet, add the asparagus to the pre-heated pan, stirring every few seconds so the spears get browned. If using the oven, place under the grill/broiler, turning every minute until grilled on all sides.
  • Slice the grilled asparagus into wide coins and add to the pasta salad.
  • For a dressing, add either a spoonful of wholegrain mustard or a dash of chilli sauce, another dribble of olive oil, and a splash of lemon juice or balsamic vinegar. A shake of black pepper and you’re done.

Variation: Cherry tomatoes would make a great variation/addition, either griddled along with the asparagus and tossed in whole, or quartered and added raw. This would go better in a version made without mustard.

So there’s the day’s creation. The downside of a long lunch break, alas, is the need to then work through dinner. But at least I have yummy leftovers to look forward to.


A window into a long time ago May 24, 2012

Filed under: late night thoughts,writing — FourGreenSquares @ 4:36 pm

When I research for a novel or article, I tend to collect quotes, ones that either sum up a character’s viewpoint or express an issue I want to explore.

While transferring the last of the files from my old work computer I found the following list on my thumb drive, dating from August 2008. The novel I was working on at that time ended up fizzling out in the third draft but reading these instantly brings it back. Wow, I have the itch to finish it now. Maybe after the five other projects currently on my plate.

  • “Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect. ” ~Mark Twain

Hmm, I was born on the same day (though not the same year!) as MT so I have a special fondness for his  incisive curmudgeonly-ness. I wonder what he would make of the fact that his observations remain apropos. As I doubt he was ever a believer in the perfectibility of humanity, he probably would expect nothing less.

  • “Imagination was given to man to compensate for what he is not and a sense of humour to console him for what he is.” ~Francis Bacon

Uh oh. All writers live off their imaginations, science fiction writers possibly more so than non-genre writers.

  • A witty saying proves nothing. ~Voltaire

I can see these quotes, collected at random over several months, now forming a conversation.

  • “If you want to make a person angry, tell them a lie. If you want to make them furious, tell them the truth.” ~Arthur Schopenhauer

See, a witty saying would come in handy about now after all.

  • “The gem cannot be polished without friction, nor man perfected without trials” ~Lobsang Rampa

This one actually surprised me. I vaguely remembered some of the others but this one, nope, not a glimmer. Which is odd, because reading it made me gasp, as this ended up being the central tenet of the abandoned novel. I still remember one character telling another, “Sacrifice is the scalpel with which we sculpt our souls,” so clearly this line sunk in. Maybe that’s why I ended up blocking out the original–it had been so totally absorbed.

  • “People will do anything, no matter how absurd, in order to avoid facing their own soul.” ~Carl Jung

I don’t suppose anyone will believe me if I say I was writing a comedy?

  • “If you want to tell people the truth, make them laugh, otherwise they’ll kill you.” ~Oscar Wilde

Ahh, so I had a master plan after all. Fancy that.

  • “It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.” ~Jiddu Krishnamurti

If my mother was at all politically active, this is something she’d say.

  • “The bad news is there is no key to the universe. The good news is, it was never locked.” ~Swami Beyondananda
  • “If God appeared and offered you either, everything you have now…or exactly what you deserve…which would you take?” ~unknown

Now these sound like prompts for completely different stories. Mental “Clarion” file opening…

  • “An idealist believes the short run doesn’t count. A cynic believes the long run doesn’t matter. A realist believes that what is done or left undone in the short term determines the long run.” ~Sydney J. Harris
  • The cost of a thing is the amount of what I call life which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run. ~Henry David Thoreau

Again, I see the origins of my character’s view on life. I remember first coming across these while getting my masters, studying the use of violence as a political strategy and tactic.  We all wanted to be realists because, c’mon, cynicism is for undergrads and idealism is for PhD candidates. At that halfway point, realism seemed the apogee before the fall but was in reality, merely us knowing just enough to be dangerous, (to shoehorn another quote in here). I remember us treating the Thoreau line like a mathematical formula, an algorithm of extremism.

All this time later, I still think that this remains my preferred interpretation, but now from, oddly, the idealists’ perspective. I trade my life for this, if not in entirety then in pocket change that still adds up to all I have to give.  At least I can get something I want more, become something else in the process. But this also demonstrates the foolishness of giving all you are to one thing:

  • I would never die for my beliefs because I might be wrong. ~Bertrand Russell

…Yup, definitely a comedy! Maybe I’ll find some quotes collected while mulling a serious piece and compare.


In which there has been writing May 20, 2012

Filed under: clarion,writing — FourGreenSquares @ 3:03 pm

I have been writing, promise.

I’ve been so busy writing that I’ve:

  • acquired new sofas and chucked out the old
  • rearranged all the furniture on the ground floor
  • picked through the little one’s old toys and sold a bunch on eBay
  • perfected my glace cherry and yogurt scone recipe
  • decided on my top 5 list of favourite incense
  • delved deeply into researching 19th century British varieties of carrots

In other words, I have been writing–just not as much as I figure I should. I’ve reached the part I dislike: the ripping the first draft to shreds to incorporate all those new bits that come up in the writing, all the changes that need to be made for character and consistency.

I’d wanted to get the next draft of the novel done before Clarion and that’s still my goal.

My mental image of writing a novel is Mother Ginger from the nutcracker, smooth drape of fabric concealing multitudes of children scurrying out for their moment downstage, the belts-and-braces conflummery a simulacrum of the real thing.

Short stories, by contrast, while requiring more discipline, also seem to need less engineering somehow.  I’m really starting to look forward to writing shorter things at the workshop.

I’ve had some ideas that I’ve not tried writing because I wasn’t quite sure how to start. So I’ve added those to my mental ‘Clarion’ file. I figure, whether I write them at home or at Clarion, my first drafts will be muddles. In which case, I’d rather get feedback from 17 other kick-ass writers plus incredible tutors than have to face revisions alone. And for you NWS crit groupers, you’ll be thankful when you hear what I’m saving you from!


And a lovely time was had by all May 7, 2012

Filed under: the way it is — FourGreenSquares @ 2:31 pm

Such is my life that it wouldn’t seem like a proper Bank Holiday weekend without one trip to the NHS Emergency Walk-In Clinic.

Luckily, the little one rose to the occasion, squeaking in right at the deadline 😦

Oh well, at least I had plenty of time to read Christmas-era issues of Woman and Home.


In which I confuse even myself May 4, 2012

Filed under: clarion — FourGreenSquares @ 4:00 pm

The Clarion head-getting-around continues. Too well, in fact, as I seem to have made a complete circuit around my hopes and fears to the point I am now tying myself in knots.

The nerves, oh the nerves. Six weeks with 17 fellow participants, though from the interactions I’ve had with them so far, they all seem fab: great writers, interesting people, varied backgrounds. Lovely. And I have to spend six weeks with them.

Which is not meant to be in any way a reflection in them. But I am a hermit. I do love my alone time; time to think, time to muse, ponder, dwell, deliberate, meditate and then sleep on it. And then I get impatient, rush out and do something off the top of my head 😉

So my nerves have this little jingle jangle song going on in the back of my mind: I won’t make friends. My stories will suck. Etc. etc. etc., all a wonderful displacement activity for my insecurities.

Because I know my major impasse is my tendency to over complicate things (pause while everyone who knows me nods wildly and mutters, ‘about time she listened.’ I did listen. I just had to, yanno, cogitate over it.)

This tendency is good for coming up with twisty, intriguing plots but less good for getting things out the door quickly.

My process tends to be a bit like churning butter: start with something fluid and sweet, dump it in a dark place, keep poking at it with foreign matter and eventually end up with an accreted lump. Which I then have to let sit for a while before I can go back and mould into shape.

One of the things I’m hoping to figure out at Clarion is a way to shorten this process.

One good, clear goal. It’s a start.