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JAM HEART BISCUITS:


Ingredients:
250g unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup icing sugar, sifted
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg
3¼ cups plain flour
1/3 cup cornflour
½ cup raspberry or strawberry jam
2 tbs icing sugar, extra

Method:
Using an electric mixer, beat butter, icing sugar and vanilla in a large bowl until pale and creamy. Add egg and beat until well combined. Sift flour and cornflour together over butter mixture and stir in until dough comes together. Divide dough in half and flatten to make 2 discs. Wrap in baking paper and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 160°C. Line 2 large baking trays with baking paper. Roll out 1 dough disc until 4mm thick. Using a fluted 6cm round biscuit cutter, cut out 20 rounds. Using a small heart-shaped biscuit cutter, cut out a heart from the centre of each biscuit. Place onto a prepared tray. Roll out remaining dough and cut out 20 round biscuits. Place onto other tray. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until pale golden and firm to the touch. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Place round biscuits onto a flat surface. Spread each with 2 tsps of jam. Dust biscuits with heart centre with extra icing sugar and then sandwich biscuits together.

Store in an airtight container.
Have fun cooking!!
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"We need a refill on salt shakers at table two, a fresh ketchup bottle on tables three, four, and six, and for god's sake, see if we've got a spare pacifier for the kid at table five." Marcheline's lawyer-like voice rattles off instructions faster than anyone can understand them. Taking over her shift is like diving headfirst into an ocean current traveling at a million miles an hour.

I nod after every ten or so words; after sounding off eight commands in under a breath, Marcheline gasps, "Thank god you always show up for your shift on time." Then she flings off her waiter belt like it was on fire and throws it on the rung. I watch her dash out of the back room like she's being chased.

Poor Marcheline doesn't always do well with the evening rush hours, when anything can happen.

Already in my uniform, I make sure of three final things before I step out into the fray that is Elliot's Diner at 6 PM: 1) my nametag is straight and my name tag, because once I grabbed Pedro's nametag and got some strange looks from guests; 2) my waiter belt is full of straws, breathmints, and spare napkins; 3) my shoes are tied, because tripping during rush hour can be fatal.

Check, check, and check. Pulling my hair back into a ponytail, I glance at myself in the dingy mirror in the room. Brown hair relatively shiny. No stray eyelashes on face. No food stuck in teeth. I am ready to go.

There are some things about waitressing that you kind of learn as you go along: first, people are shallow. I've heard people debate a tip because they're arguing whether the waitress's cup size affects how good her serving was. So even though I'm not exactly blessed in the cup department, I make up for it with a pretty smile. My smile is the one thing that's never failed me, even though I'm awkwardly tall and my hair has a knack for frizzing until it looks like a brown dust bunny.

Second: Tips favor the prepared. Always be ready with a recommendation, a straw, a napkin, or a couple Tylenol pills if need be. If you can cure someone of a headache, you're guaranteed at least a 20% tip, maybe even 25% if you smile brightly enough.

Third: Never wait. I know the word 'wait' is in the word 'waitress', but honestly, the golden rule of service is to never sit still. Always be moving, always be covering tables, filling drinks, removing plates, asking people how they are and if the food's okay. In the service industry, there is no such thing as a pause button.

I whirl around on my heels and head out of the back room and into the diner. All but two tables are filled with chattering people, and the sounds of clinking glass, silverware scraping against plates, Motown music in the background, and food being shoveled into mouths fill the diner like music. Rush hour is in full swing, running at a quick tempo.

Once you figure out that tempo and start moving to the beat, waiting tables really isn't as impossible as it seems. Before ten minutes are up, I refill table two's salt shakers, mop up a pink lemonade spill at table four, earn a ten buck tip from table six, and am asked for my number from table five. The customers come and go, and I pick up small tidbits of gossip: Anna Epperly, the mayor's daughter, was caught with the pool boy last Monday. Mr. and Mrs. Carmichael are expecting their eighth child. Andrea Marcos found out her boyfriend was a she.

My best friend Johnny told me once that setting up a waitress spy-ring would give the CIA a tactical advantage.

"Hey, Jane," someone calls from table nine. Larry Birdstrom, a regular. Orders New York Strip Steak every Friday night, grilled medium-rare. Two diet cokes. In love with his secretary.

I navigate my way around the tables to him and say, "Hey there, Larry. The usual tonight? If you're feeling adventurous, how about trying the new tomato bisque soup Shawnelle's testing out?" Shawnelle may not be our head cook, but she's the main creative force in the kitchen. She comes from a hellish background, yet every dish she makes tastes like heaven.

"Sure," replies Larry Birdstrom with his signature too-white grin. "Anything Shawnelle makes is bound to be delicious." Larry Birdstrom is one of those unhappy corporate successes who finds pleasure in the smaller things, like our little diner on the corner of Seventh and Carter Street. Before I'm about to head off to the next customer—the glasses at table six look like they need replenishing—Larry stops me and asks, "So how are things, Jane?"

I pause. Making polite, casual conversations with customers is generally a good move. However, it can slow you down.

"I'm doing fine," I say. Generic replies keep you moving, I've found over the years. People subconsciously decide that you're not interesting enough to press further questions.

"Any boys in your life?" Larry asks, and inwardly, I roll my eyes. That's the problem with being a seventeen-year-old girl and having many middle-aged regular customers. They always want to know about your love life. Or, in my case, lack of one.

"No sir, life's too busy," I reply. He grins.

"Your time will come," he tells me, a wistful look on his face. I know he's thinking of Maureen O'Leary, his pug-nosed, bushy-haired ginger of a secretary. Maureen isn't much to look at, but she's sweeter than the banana cream pie Larry orders for her every time they stop by for lunch.

I grin in reply, knowing my smile would net me at least an extra buck in tips. Then I hurry over to table three, who look like they're ready to order. Classic Cheeseburger and fries for Pa, Turkey Sandwich for Ma, Kids Mac N Cheese for Junior. Refill of sodas all around.

You know, you can tell an awful lot about people from what they order and how they order it. I can write a whole essay on a person's personality just by watching them ask for fried chicken and a colossal milkshake with a guilty color to their cheeks, or a fat-free salad and water with a hungry gleam in their eyes. Food service teaches human nature just as it teaches speediness, preparation, and flexibility.

Food itself can speak without words and reveals everything from personality to personal turmoil. A man who normally asks for a burger and chocolate shake but instead requests a lean turkey sandwich is reeling from an epiphany. A woman who passes up her usual fat-free salad for a thick, rich slice of Shawnelle's trippple chocolate cake also needs a box of tissues, a reassuring hug, and someone to agree with her that all men are scumbags.

I speed around the diner like a ping-pong ball, getting that adrenaline rush that takes over waiters' brains when they finally find themselves at the same tempo as rush hour. I am, as Johnny puts it, in stealth mode.

At table three, I bring extra napkins because Little Mimi Littleton can't aim for her mouth and her face is covered with more spaghetti sauce than I swear Moe, the head chef, put on that plate.
At table one, a date goes sour. A complementary chocolate for the woman gives me an extra five dollars in tips. I see her here every Friday or Monday, each time with a different guy, and someday I'm going to work up the courage to tell her that dating a man in a suit does not mean you are dating a nice person. Money can't buy class.
At table six, some three-year old knocks over the peppershaker and draws a smiley face in the mess. I come by with extra napkins and tissues, because the entire family erupts into a chorus of sneezes.
At table four, a thirty-percent tip. Told you Tylenol for curing headaches comes in handy.

At table seven…I stop short. No. Not here. Not now.

The reason I like waitressing so much is that the rush of the customers and food takes my mind off things. Like school. And the people who go there.

I groan inwardly as the five people I least want to see right now settle into the booth, flipping open their menus. Their leader, Tina Kimball--'Tink' to her cronies--makes a face while reading.

Tina Kimball throws her blond hair over her shoulder. Her cronies do the same two seconds later.

Tina Kimball launches into a story where 'like' is inserted every eleven words. Her cronies listen in like it's the most fascinating news they've heard all year.

Tina Kimball sighs dramatically, prompting her cronies to respond with looks of "I know, right?" and equally dramatic sighs.

I swear to god, they're all robots. Every last one of them.

Suppressing a groan, I step over to their table and try to pretend that I've never seen any of them in my entire life, even though Tina Kimball once hid my clothes during gym and I had to spend the rest of the school day in my sweaty P.E. uniform because Johnny and I never found them. Tina Kimball maintains that if she and her cronies are at a Level 10 on the social scale, then Johnny and I are at a negative one.

"Good evening," I say politely, smiling. I am imagining pouring ice water over her head, and the mental image pulls my grin wider. "Are you all ready to order drinks?"

"Look who it is," Tina Kimball replies, pursing her lips. Some girls think that doing this makes them sexy or something, but they look like overly manicured ducks to me. "What's up, Plain Jane?"

Plain Jane was my nickname from middle school that people still think is the most original thing in the world.

"Right now, the dinner shift," I reply quickly. "What'll it be to drink?" Come on, let me take your order so you can leave me alone…

"Water," Tina Kimball sighs. "I'm on a detox diet now. Gotta watch the sugar content." As if Tina Kimball needs to diet. She's the head cheerleader, for crying out loud. When people watch the squad perform at halftime, it's not the cheers they pay attention to.

"How about you all?" I ask the other girls, already knowing the answer.

"Water," says Blonde #1.

"Water," says Blonde #2.

"Water," says Brunette #1.

"Water," says Brunette #2.

Yep, total robots. Fem-bots, as Johnny calls them.

I am about to ask them if they all are on the same detox diet Tina is, but think better of it. I walk away and hear some of them gossiping behind my back.

"Remind me why we're eating here again?" asks Blond #1.

"Daddy thinks I should get to know regular people better," Tina replies, sneering regular as if the word puts a bitter taste in her mouth.

"Like Plain Jane the Waitress?" asks Brunette #1. They snicker.

I make the rounds at the other tables, knowing at one point that I'll have to come back and actually take their dinner order, and dreading the moment when I do. They talk about the things you'd imagine cheerleaders and daddy's little girls talk about. How many guys they hooked up with at Kim Allen's party Saturday night. Whether Jenna Hale really slept with Whatshisface. If flirting with Coach Masterson will really raise their grade in P.E.

I wouldn't mind the cheerleaders so much if they didn't reinforce every single stereotype against them.

What had started out as a decent Friday night rush hour quickly spirals downward once I try to take table seven's orders. I have to ask them three times if they're ready, since they've been here twenty minutes and haven't ordered anything. Tina Kimball looks through me like she has forgotten I am I here (what else is new?), then mumbles something about a fat-free salad. The other cronies mumble the same thing, and as I walk away from them, gritting my teeth.

I start to lose concentration and find myself falling out of the rush hour tempo. Why do I let these things get to my head so easily? Johnny says that what the cheerleaders say doesn't matter, but somehow their words find a way to worm into my mind.

I know something is wrong when I accidentally trip over my own two feet and nearly douse the lady at table twenty with Shawnelle's tomato bisque soup. Apologizing breathlessly, I still hear Tina and her cronies giggle in the background. They may be chuckling about some inside joke or escapade, but in my head, I am sure they are laughing at me.

While passing by the open window that offers a view into the kitchen, I hear Moe call out, "Everything fine, Jane?" His thick caterpillar eyebrows are furrowed with concern. I yell that I'm okay so he doesn't worry. Moe makes it his personal mission to be a second father—or even a first—to all employees here.

Around fifteen 'til eight, Moe and Shawnelle finally have table seven's orders ready and I am burdened with the task of facing Tina Kimball and her cronies again. My smile already feels strained from grinning at each ordering customer. The other two waitresses who work my shift, Tanya and Andie, glance at me with concern. Tanya and I share tables because of an agreement we worked out—Tanya's new to the job and really not a good waitress, so I try to help when I can. Andie takes care of the last few tables at the twenty-table diner—most waitresses typically care for five, but Andie is more of a waitressing machine than I am and I've seen her go through thirty parties on a good night.

"Need a break, Dalton?" Andie calls as I slowly make my way to table seven. Andie is one of those dyed-hair and multiple-piercing tomboys who calls everyone by their last name. Johnny has had the biggest crush on her since I started working at the diner. Too bad she's twenty-four.

"I can handle myself," I yell back, over the din of the restaurant. Generally, it's a bad idea for the wait staff to do anything that would distract the customers from their meals or conversation, but Andie can tell I'm not myself tonight. She glances over at table seven, sees Tina and the Tinettes, and frowns. She was in high school once, she knows the type. In the back of my mind, I am picturing Andie confronting Tina Kimball and giving Tina a piece of her mind. Andie's afraid of nothing and no one.

I carefully set the entrees on the table, avoiding Tina Kimball's gaze. The other girls regard me as though I am invisible. I make my way back to the kitchen and try to continue the rest of my shift without fainting. Or vomiting.

Table six leaves me a measly tip that I can't help but feel I deserved.

Table five orders seven entrees despite only having three people. And foreign countries wonder why Americans are so fat.

And then, Blonde #1 from table seven waves me over. Feeling like a mouse approaching a cat, I hesitantly pause before their table. I must look like a criminal about to receive their sentencing after a trial.

"There are chicken strips in my salad, Plain Jane," she says acidly. The other girls, especially Tina, are frowning.

"I'm sorry, would you like me to get you a new dish?" I ask quietly, amazed that my voice doesn't shake.

"Um, no, we have somewhere to be after this," she says snidely.

"Sorry," I say. My mind is blanking. What am I supposed to do? The customer doesn't like their dish, but doesn't want a new one. There's some sort of protocol to deal with his, but I can't bring it to mind.

"Chicken has fat in it," Blonde #1 says irately. "Didn't you know we are all on detox diets?"

I guessed that, yes.

"Is there anything you need me to do?" I mumble.

"No," replies Blonde #1. The look on her face tells me that it is my cue to leave. I slink off, back to the sea of tables. Andie shoots Blonde #1 a dirty look.

"What was that about, Brittany?" one of the other girls asks.

"The waitress doesn't know how to take my order," Blonde #1, Brittany, replies petulantly. I wish there was a way I could dump her entrée on her head that didn't result in my being fired. Should I have spat in her food? Andie did that once to a customer who was giving Tanya a hard time. And the best part is, Andie had mono that day. (I know, I know—you shouldn't be working if you're sick. But if you had racked up over $40,000 in debt from student loans and had the option of earning money versus lying at home wearily, you can see why Andie still came to work.)

"I can slip a fly into her drink if you'd like," Andie says as she passes me. I manage a tiny smile.

At last, it is finally time for table seven to pay and leave. Tina and her friends leave cash for me to pick up, saying that they each are paying for their own meal. I don't say anything as I take their money and they get up and saunter out the door. They've only left me a ten percent tip.

Pedro, the busboy, comes up behind me and starts clearing their plates. He's deaf, and he's working here so that his sister, who is also deaf, can go to the special school he never had a chance at. He offers me a shy smile. Grinning with relief, I make the sign for 'dinosaur'. It's the only thing I know in sign language, besides 'Hello'. Pedro chuckles breathily.

Then I notice a dark red designer bag sitting in the booth of table seven. One of the Tinettes has left her purse. I know I should do the right thing and chase them down, but for a moment, I am wondering if it'd really be that tragic for the owner to lose one designer bag. It's not like they don't have hundreds more at home.

The door opens and in steps Tina Kimball herself, on her own. Her angular, heart-shaped face seems softer now that it isn't drawn into a sneer, and there's less malice in her overly made up eyes. She glances around, spots the purse, and heads over to table seven. It is not until she is about to leave again that she notices me. I am frozen.

"Hey, Jane," she says quietly.  For once, I am not invisible to her. I am just another person. "Sorry about me and girls being so rude," she adds. "Brittany just broke up with her boyfriend after three years when she caught him cheating on her for the sixth time, so we've been trying to cheer her up." She pauses, then reaches into the dark red purse and pulls out a crisp twenty, leaving it on the table and giving me a tentative smile. "There you go, that's the kind of tip you need. And Jane…you should smile more often. I mean really smile, not that fake smile you have to give customers." With a slight nod, she finally turns and heads for the door. I can hear her cronies calling for her outside.

I see her rearrange her features back into that snobby mask she puts on for the others as she exits, and the moment is over.

For five seconds, I just stand there, wondering what just happened. What was it she said about normal people? That her daddy wants her to be around them? In that moment, she seems as normal to me as any other teenager. Absently, I wonder if I stereotype her as much as she stereotypes me.

I remember what she had ordered: fat-free salad and water. People who order that kind of thing tend to be very self-conscious about what they look like. No rational person orders something fat-free unless her self-esteem is as low as the calorie count. Fat-free food tastes as empty as the person feels.

Suddenly, I almost pity Tina Kimball.

But then I turn around on my heel and head back into the fray that is Elliot's Diner at rush hour, because you are not allowed to wait around when you are a waitress. Every second you waste dwelling on a single moment is a second that could be used to refill someone's drink or take someone's order. With a sigh, I finally drop back into the rushed tempo of the dinner hour, when anything can happen.
This was originally going to be the first chapter of a novel (you know, the book you always want to write but never do...) but I like it better as a short story.
Critiques welcome! Is the pacing okay? Jane's character? Tina's character? All comments are welcome :)

I was in a diner the other night watching the wait staff scurry around, and my dad said something about how the world would be a better place if every person was required to work as a waiter for a year. I've always figured that waiters know something about humanity the rest of us don't realize.

When you're done with this, read this ;) [link]
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Somewhere in the back alleys of the city's older section there was a crumbling brick building that had been around since before ragtime music was popular. Hanging above a faded green door that led down to the building's cellar was a wooden sign, and despite the peeling paint, you could still make out the bar's name: Pinetop's Tavern.  Nobody really knew when Pinetop's first opened; local folks would tell you it had been there since time began, and the world had grown up around it. It was one of those places where the lighting was always dim and the cigarette smoke never dissipated and the cloud you were breathing now had probably been around since W. C. Handy was still alive.

Pinetop's Tavern was a blues joint, and it had been around almost as long as blues music itself. Blues music was a lot simpler than most kinds of music—simpler chords, simpler lyrics, and most blues musicians couldn't read sheet music. The genre was born on some unknown plantation in the forgotten Deep South, where black slaves chanted with each other in the fields and their cries turned into music. Nowadays, you only found blues underground, on fuzzy radio stations and in smoky bars like Pinetop's.

Everyone showed up at Pinetop's at some point in their life. It was one of those places you never went to, but ended up at, and more often than not you were in such a sorry state that you didn't care whether it was a blues joint or a lonely bench in the park or a bridge over the highway. Most people came across Pinetop's by accident, and when they went back to look for it later on, they couldn't find it. You can't sing the blues when you aren't feeling them, and you can't find Pinetop's unless you really need to.

Walking in, the first thing you saw was the old bar, where Little John the bartender was filling glasses and sliding drinks down to patrons. Little John had never gone to school, but the man practically had a degree in psychology. He'd been in the business so long that one look told him your whole story. Childhood problems, woman problems, work problems. Bartenders are one part server, one part psychologist.

After you'd waved a space in the cigar smoke for you to breathe and your eyes adjusted to the dim lighting, you picked a table or sat at the bar. You'd stew about whatever misfortune sent you here in the first place—your girl left, your dog died, your boss gave you a pink slip signed with a smirk. Everyone here had a different story, many of theirs worse than yours. You said nothing to the people around you as they shared their trials and tribulations. You weren't ready, you told yourself as you ordered another drink. Still not ready as you shared some peanuts with the guy next to you, who'd been laid off for the eighth time in three years. Still not ready as another man asked you why the long face. Okay, he answered, we don't pry around here.

The band at the corner of the bar would play, and your sadness turned into a melody and a rhythm and soon your feet were tapping on the wooden floors. Happier folks bowed their heads and remembered yesterday's tragedies, angrier folks calmed down and swayed to the beat. Blues could turn you a different color if you weren't careful, and no one made you forget the outside world better than Pinetop's band, the Back Avenue Brothers.

The Back Avenue Brothers played every night at Pinetop's, their repertoire ranging from the old standards to stuff they made up on the spot. Each of them had pasts and personalities to make even the most determined therapist ask for another drink, but their music got toes tapping and fingers snapping. Odd tempers, even tempos. That's how blues musicians are.

Their leader was called Freddy Four-Hands because of how he played the piano, or as he liked to call it, his 88-string guitar. Some say he hitchhiked up here from the boonies of the Louisiana Delta, and some say he crawled out of the deepest pit in St. Louis, but if you asked him where he was from, he'd say everywhere and nowhere at all. He was a demon on that piano, though. Local folks say he traded his soul to the devil to play the way he did—and he liked to mix things up. He played things like Bach's Minuet in G with a jazz spin or "Fur Elise" if Beethoven had been a blues man. But his favorites were the stride piano songs, fast melodies backed by a steady left hand bass. His idols were greats like Art Tatum and Thelonious Monk and people whose names sounded made up.

The band's guitarist was an old crusty waif of a man named Jeetes, who stuttered so bad he couldn't form sentences, but he struck a nerve whenever he struck a chord and played your heartstrings on his guitar. Freddy Four-Hands found him under the 39th Street Bridge last year, plucking a manic version of Robert Johnson's "Hellhound on my Trail". Freddy wasn't the only one who'd sold his soul to the devil, local folks said.

Their bassist was a silent man named Loomis, who was thick as a tree trunk and nearly as tall. He wore sunglasses even inside and he played the bass as naturally as most people breathed. Didn't say much though. He didn't really mix with people, but somehow he kept the band together. Bass players are like that.

The drummer was a skinny, lanky fellow named Puck who always had a cigarette dangling between his lips. He was Little John's cousin whose life had veered off track long before he made it to Pinetop's. His shortcomings were long-staying and he had problems deeper than the blues could reach, but that didn't mean he didn't try.

And then there was that singer. Marla. The woman with a voice that turned angels green with envy.

Marla could've been Miss Universe if it weren't for the angry scar that ran down the side of her face. Some say her daddy put it there; some say it was a husband; some say God himself drew it upon her cheek because she would've been too beautiful otherwise. Either way, she was one of those girls with a great taste in music but bad taste in men. Some day, she'd probably learn that Loomis had been there the whole time, at her side giving her a bass to keep steady, but for now it was one loser after another, one more blues song for the road each time they left her.

After a couple songs and a touching rendition of "Ain't No Sunshine" you opened up a little. Told them a little about yourself. Talked around your problem before talking about it. Said you were a lonely kid, Momma wasn't rich, Daddy wasn't there, in and out of work since graduating from a school that taught you nothing. The guy next to you could relate—only he didn't even have the Momma part of the deal. Took care of eight little siblings while Momma was in the house but out of her mind on Lord knows what.

You had another drink. Freddy Four-Hands played Ray Charles and put Georgia on everyone's mind. Now you slowly got to the point of your tale. You'd found a girl fresh out of college and decided you wanted to be a director. Science fiction movies, that kind of thing. As a kid, space had been your escape, and as an adult, it was going to become your dream.

Everyone sitting around you could tell you a little something about the fragility of dreams.

You ordered another round, offered a toast to dreams—broken ones, new ones, old ones not yet forgotten. The Back Avenue Brothers paused a moment to join in. Marla had tears in her eyes and her next song put tears in yours. Jeetes played like only madmen can, Freddy Four-Hands' fingers slid up and down the piano, and Loomis's bass throbbed like a heartbeat. Puck's skinny arms flew everywhere on those drums.

Marla and the Back Avenue Brothers took a break. You got back to your story. So this girl you had got sick of you going on about yourself—you were going to fix the movie industry, put some color in a business that had gone gray with remakes and reboots and re-this and re-that. A guy the next table over said he wanted to be a rock star and do the same for the music industry before he learned every other guy had a similar idea. You all ordered another round of drinks, made a toast to a gray, colorless world.

"I'll give the gray some blues," said Freddy Four-Hands before taking to the piano again. "Suwanee River" this time, before he transitioned into something he made up this morning. Something wild, mad, delirious as Four-Hands himself. Something so insane and incredible that only a man who'd made a pact with the Devil could have dreamt it. After the song and following applause ended, Four-Hands said it was something he picked up when he visited Hell last weekend.

Next song was quieter, the piano barely a trickle and the drums nonexistent. Marla began to sing. She put her soul into her voice, her damaged, determined, enduring soul. Dancing up and down octaves, sliding easily through notes. The song was about a man whose woman left him—eighty percent of blues songs are about that kind of thing—and even though it was a woman singing it you felt the man's pain as if it were your own. It was your own. Suddenly you were remembering what your girl's back had looked like as she'd walked out that door. Tired of the dreams, she'd been. Tired of you telling her someday we'll this and someday we'll that. Someday was in some faraway future that wouldn't exist until you got through today alive.

Blues made you remember that. Blues made you remember what it was like to feel sad, what it was like to watch your dreams walk out the door like the careless woman every blues singer crooned about. It was the sincerest form of music, born from pain, born from loneliness, born from the simple fact that despite how everyone came from different pasts and headed towards different futures, we all felt the same aches, nursed the same wounds. Love. Loss. Starting over. Blues was the loneliest thing that brought people together.

The applause after this song was hesitant at first, but it grew steadily. Marla had this odd smile on her face despite the leak in her eye. It made you remember an old saying you read in a book long ago: Shared pain is lessened, shared joy is increased. Good book, you thought, even if you weren't in the right state of mind to remember the title.

The Back Avenue Brothers started up one last song for the road. Freddy Four-Hands joined in singing, his mad fingers racing up and down the ivory. He had a raspy voice from his three-pack-a-day habit, but there was genuine heart in it.

"There's something going on," he sang.

"Something going on," Marla and Loomis repeated in harmony.

"There's something going on."

"Something going on."

"There's something going on. Tonight's your night."

"Tonight's your night!
" Marla's voice flew up half an octave and Loomis's steady bass harmonized.

"There's something going on." "Something going on!" "There's something going on." "Something going on!"

The whole bar chimed in: "And if you come and hang out with us, you'll have a real good time!"

Applause. Marla took a bow and a tentative glance at Loomis. You ordered another drink and the room got fuzzy. Last thing you remembered, Little John was telling someone to call you a cab and check your wallet for your address.

Next morning, you woke up in your own apartment with an impressive headache but you felt weightless. You started humming that last song to yourself as you washed your face and realized that you were still in your rumpled clothes from last night. So you changed into something fresh. Made yourself some coffee. Went about your day. The world's a colorless place, yes, but something about the way the daylight hit the pavement and the tune you had stuck in your head made it bearable.

A week later, you wandered through the older section of the city, trying to find Pinetop's Tavern again. Several times you thought you smelled the cigarette smoke and heard the Back Avenue Brothers playing, but those were false alarms. The faded green door and the old wooden sign were nowhere to be found among the decaying brick buildings. Perhaps you'd dreamt of that entire night? Your ex always said you were a dreamer. But then again, Pinetop's was one of those places you only found when you needed to. Someday you'd stumble into it again, smell the cigarette smoke, hear the stories, feel the music. But for now, life had plans for you and your next visit to Pinetop's wasn't for a long time.  

That was how Pinetop's Tavern worked: Some people came only one night and they were mended; some people kept coming back for years because life broke their heart that often. But whether you were there for a night or a decade, you were always welcome at Pinetop's, where the Back Avenue Brothers would play for you, Marla would sing for you, and Little John would serve you your poison of choice. And you'd sit at the bar or a table and you'd hear the blues music or the blues of other people down on their luck, and despite your misery and your problems, you knew you were never alone in this world.
Decide for yourself whether Pinetop's is a magical place that can disappear or reappear or if it's simply just hard to find :3

I'm from Atlanta, which has a pretty decent blues scene. We've got blues joints like Fat Matt's Rib Shack and Blind Willie's and stuff like that. They're probably more fun when you're actually old enough to drink though :(

"Pinetop's Tavern" is named after two people, both prominent figures in blues history: Pinetop Perkins, a fantastic blues pianist who was one of the last original Mississippi Delta blues musicians; and Pinetop Smith, whose song "Pine Top's Boogie Woogie" was one of the most influential boogie woogie songs (giving the genre its name). Pinetop Perkins died last year and Pinetop Smith died in 1929 at age 24; there are no known photographs of Smith.

The line "Shared pain is lessened, shared joy is increased" comes from Spider Robinson's Callahan's Crosstime Saloon series, which is a good set of books to get into if you like puns and science fiction and Irish bartenders.

The song Freddy Four-Hands, Marla, and Loomis sing at the end (with the whole bar joining in) is "Have a Real Good Time" by Trampled Under Foot. This is the only video I can find of it: [link]
They're a great band and their album "Wrong Side of the Blues" is one of the best things to come out in the last 10 years. Go listen to them, they're wonderful. Danielle Schnebelen has such a lovely voice.

And because why not, here's Dr. Gregory House playing "Suwanee River": [link]

WHEN YOU'RE DONE WITH THIS, READ THIS: [link]
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Ingredients:
Dumplings:
200 g of rice flour
200 ml of hot water
Sauce:
100 ml water
2 1/2 tbsp soy sauce
70g sugar
1 tbsp corn starch

Directions:
Dumplings:
1.) Mix the rice flour and water together.
2.) Knead till dough is as tough as your earlobe.
3.) Fill a pan with water and heat up.
4.) Rip off bite sized pieces of the dough and steam them for 25 minutes
5.) Throw the balls into a bowl and mush together with a wetted wooden spoon.
6.) Knead the dough
7.) Roll out dough into a long stick shape.
8.) With a wetted knife, cut bite sized pieces off.
9.) roll the pieces into balls.
10.) wet skewers and apply an even amount of  dumplings to each.
11.) pour sauce over dumplings and enjoy.

Sauce:
1.) Mix all the ingredients in a sauce pan.
2.) Simmer till thickened.
3.) Pour over dangos.
yum, ever wanted some mitarashi dangos?

Well now you can make them!

follow the instructions above and enjoy the most popular dango in Japan!

Best part is, since the dumplings really don't have a taste, they can be dippe in things other than the mitarshi sauce! like:
melted chocolate
jam
anything you're willing to try!
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This is a really fun recipe I use for the Holidays and parties! ^-^
The steps listed below will make approximately one/one-and-a-half batches of twelve mini mixed-berry pies.  Just use a regular muffin tin, and you can use paper muffin cups if you like, but if you don't I recommend spraying the ENTIRE muffin tin (not just the cups) before putting in the dough to help them come out easier. :)

The Oven will need to be pre-heated to 350 degrees before the pies can go in the oven.


Dough Ingredients:

2 1/2 cups flour
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons of salt
1/2 cup shortening (I generally use Crisco)
3/4 cup butter (chilled)
6 Tablespoons of ice water


Making the dough:

1.)  Cut up butter into medium-sized cubes and return it to the refrigerator for later use.

2.)  Cut up the shortening and drop in chunks into a bowl of ice water.

3.)  In a separate bowl (large), combine flour, sugar and salt and then mix well.

3.)  After they are chilled, remove the shortening from ice water, the butter from the fridge, and then add them both to the flour.

4.)  Using a pastry cutter (or two knives), cut and stir the butter and shortening into the flour. Don't over-mix, there should be some small lumps of butter and shortening in the flour mixture.  This will keep your crust from turning our rock-hard after it's cooked.

5.)  Add 6 Tablespoons of ice water to the flour/butter mixture. Using a spoon or rubber spatula, (or both :3), press and stir the water into the flour, folding it over until all the water is incorporated. If the dough is too dry and crumbly still, add up to 2 more Tablespoons of ice water.  Remember, you just wan't to get the mixture to hold together, if you add too much water, the dough will get sticky and unmanageable.

6.)  Lay out some plastic wrap, then separate the dough and form it into two discs.

7.)  Wrap the two discs up in the plastic so that they aren't touching each other, then place them in the fridge to chill for at least 30 minutes. (you can leave it in longer if need be, it won't hurt it.)



Filling ingredients:

4 cups of assorted fruit
1/2-2/3 cups sugar
2 Tablespoons of corn starch
1 Tablespoon of lemon/orange juice

*Always wash fruit before preparing.  If you are using frozen fruit or berries, always be sure to wash them with warm water to get rid of the ice.  The excess water can ruin the maceration process.*  

1.)  In a large bowl combine the fruit, sugar, corn starch, and lemon juice.

2.)  Mix the ingredients in the bowl gently, then set it in the fridge for at least 20 minutes in order for the fruit to chill, absorb flavor, and for the juice to thicken.




Making the crust:
 
1.)  Clean/clear out a work surface and thickly powder it with flower. (So the dough doesn't stick)

2.)  After the dough has chilled, take out one disc (take out the other one when needed.) roll it out on your well-flowered work surface. (DO NOT roll out the dough too thin! Because the pies are so small, they can crumble up and die upon their removal from the muffin tin if the dough is not thick enough. About 1 1/2 or 2 cm. thick will do nicely. )

3.)  I used a 4 1/2 inch bowl to cut out the circles of dough that would fit into a regular size muffin tin. ( 12 circles are needed.  You should have extra dough. )

4.)  Fit the circles into the muffin tins carefully so that they don't rip at the bottom (this can be a frustrating process.) Make sure some dough hangs out over the edge of the tin or paper muffin cup. (this makes it look nicer and it keeps the filling from spilling over in the heat of the oven.)



Putting it all together:


1.)  Fill up 2/3 of each muffin-tin-pie-crust with the fruit filling.

2.)  Roll out more dough and cut it into strips to lay on top of your mini pies in the classic under-over cross hatch style. (You can also cut out whole tops for your pie using a glass that is the size of the top of the muffin tin.  Just make sure you add slits of some sort after you have sealed the cover onto your pies so that they don't explode :3 )  

*For Crumb Topping*

1/4 cup of brown sugar
1/4 cup of flour
2 Tablespoons of room temperature butter

(Mix these ingredients in a bowl with a fork until mixture is crumbly, then heap spoonfuls of your topping onto your mini pies and cover the fruit filling.  This is a great substitute for a top crust.)


3.)  Put the muffin tin pies in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to chill again. (It helps with the baking process afterwards, trust me.  This is also a good time to get your oven pre-heated to 350 degrees.)

4.)  After they are done chilling, remove your pies from the frig and put them in the oven to bake for 35-40 minutes or until the top of the pie is golden.

5.)  After they are done baking, remove them from the oven and let them cool for at least 15 minutes before trying to remove them.  Hot out of the oven they are apt to fall apart.

Viola! You now have twelve, cute little treats that you can show off and be fancy with at holiday parties :P Enjoy! <3


OH, and since the US is like the only place that doesn't use a metric measuring system,
Here are the conversions for the measurements listed above:

1 cup= 2.4 deciliters

1 teaspoon= 5 milliliters

1 tablespoon= 15 milliliters
Just a fun recipe for mini-pies to make for whatever occasion and they are quite delicious if I do say so myself. ;)
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The Hungry Season
“The next season will be the hungry season.”
Moses M. Kolinmore



A stem, a leaf, a stem,
a stem again,

and the army of our bodies
hanging from the branches
of the Dahoma trees.

We come to this as moths
on Saharan winds

with no malice but the wings’
direction, our caterpillar mouths,
our waiting numbers

cocooned in dirt. We are
aching and glutted

but hungry still, even as
we strip the canopy bare of leaves
and foul each river black

with waste below us –
our gruesome chatter asking,

as we fall into the dirt
to reshape what we are,
can you imagine the hunger?

But of course you can; of course,
you hunger the same as we.
And now we should talk about a plague of sorts...

Nightmarish Caterpillar Swarm Defies Control in Liberia
Karen Lange


They came by the millions out of the forest.

From off in the bush, townspeople at the epicenter of the plague heard a low roar, like the sound of heavy rain cascading down through the leaves. It was caterpillar droppings.

In early January, when the long, black caterpillars reached the creeks that serve as the main water sources for the town of Belefanai in north-central Liberia, the creatures' feces instantly turned streams dark and undrinkable.

Moving through the forest canopy on webs, devouring the leaves as they went, the caterpillars advanced like nothing the townspeople had ever seen.

They ate food and cash crops—coffee, cocoa, citrus, plantain, banana, and cassava. They took over homes and people fled.

Venturing into the forest meant being hit by a wave of caterpillars that appeared to be moving forward about as fast as the average person walks.

"The worms would drop on you from all angles," said Moses M. Kolinmore, a mason who arrived in Belefanai just as townspeople realized they had to get word to the government.

"They would cover the whole ground—thousands upon thousands of thick, strong, stubborn worms. It was fearful, very fearful."


You can read all about that here [link] at National Geographic.com

Dave Prisk
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2007

Resolution:
Make first million after starting own business.

Progress:
:bulletblack: Applied for a loan. Declined due to excessive account activity. Note: Constant purchasing of rare (albeit mint) wicker chairs is not conducive to bank balance. Wife insistent on selling wicker chairs to find money to start business.
:bulletblack: Bought new donut recipe book. Learnt how to make category hard donut, 'Diamond Swizzler'. Delma loves them.
:bulletblack: James offered to lend the money if he can become a business partner. Potential.
:bulletblack: First million still a long way off. Wife still nagging.
:bulletblack: Spent savings on replacing the roof of the conservatory when neighbor's tree uprooted in the November storm.

Update: Dogs should never be fed over two donuts a day. Next Year's Resolution likely…? Find enough money to take Delma to the vets. And make more realistic resolution idea.


2008

Resolution:
Find an appropriate business idea.

Progress:
:bulletblack: Neighbor's rebelling. Tree apparently 'not their fault' and so they refuse to pay compensation. Bank account dangerously low.
:bulletblack: Wife threatening to burn the chairs if they're not sold by the end of the summer. Note: Wife is always wrong.
:bulletblack: James pitched 'Chaposta' a new taxi service that incorporates both Chaperoning and the relaxing coffee blends found in Costa. I suggested 'Costaroning'. Not well received. Idea has potential. Wife unconvinced.
:bulletblack: Finding affinity for donut making. Could this be a potential career? Note: Delma is recovering nicely.
:bulletblack: Felt down one day, so bought a new car. Wife still nagging. Unimpressed with car.

Update: Bonfire night was unusually bright this year. Wicker chair collection dwindling.


2009

Resolution:
See last year's resolution.

Progress:
:bulletblack: 'Chaposta' ridiculed in monthly newsletter 'Taxiing for the Masses'. Costa suing. Wife may have been right about the business idea.
:bulletblack: Neighbors moving. Too much hate mail.
:bulletblack: Wife becoming fat. I don't know why.


2010

Resolution: Buy donut shop.

Progress:
:bulletblack: Started selling donuts to the local community. Great success. Wife still getting fatter. May be the donuts.
:bulletblack: James is moving to Canada. Costa cannot sue him there. He mentioned he has family living in Climax, in Saskatchewan. Note: Learn to stop laughing at Climax..
:bulletblack: Wicker Chairs insurance came through. Less than half promised. Paid off outstanding payments on the car. Wife wants to spend excess on gym membership.
:bulletblack: New neighbors. Worse than before. Heavy rockers.
:bulletblack: Delma worsening.
:bulletblack: Realised I haven't made any progress towards donut shop. Found local shop, 'Little Gems' closing. Started enquiries to renting property.

Update: Bought the rights to 'Little Gems' retail plot after relocation. Cheap price due to owner getting hit by car.

Update 2: Wife admits she hit the owner of 'Little Gems' in our new car. That explains the dents. Missed funeral.


2011

Resolution:
Open business.

Progress
:bulletblack: None.

Update: Delma died.
Update 2: Wife left.


2012

Resloution:
Find apartment. Find enough money for food.

Progress:
:bulletblack: Wife took everything in the divorce settlement. Except 1,500 premade donuts for the shop that never opened. I fear they've gone stale. Missing Delma.
:bulletblack: Found apartment. Named all thirteen resident cockroaches.
:bulletblack: James found wife in Climax. Joined threesome. Note: If I ever find money again, move to Climax.
:bulletblack: Wife claims I hit owner of 'Little Gems'. Manslaughter trails start soon. Outcome: unhopeful.
:bulletblack: Becoming known as 'local' at nearby foodbank.
:bulletblack: Accidently killed Samuel Cockroach. Moving funeral.

Update: Despite everything, Climax still hilarious.


2013

Resolution:
Stay alive.

Progress:
:bulletblack: Still alive.
:bulletblack: Pen runn ng out.

Up  ate: S arted play ng lotte y.
U  da  e 2: P  n alm  s   out.


2014

Res  l  tio  :
Win lo t ery

Progress:
:bulletblack: Done. £150 million Jackpot.
:bulletblack: Bought new pen.
:bulletblack: Moved to Climax.
:bulletblack: Found new wife.
:bulletblack: Bought new dog. Named Delma the Second.
:bulletblack: Opened 'Donuts Galore'.
:bulletblack: No wicker chair beyond grasp.

Update: Life is finally perfect.


Final word from Doctor Lewis Talbot

Diagnosis:
Patient suffering from final stages of CDF (Chronic Delusional Fantasy), brought on by stress following divorce.

Medication:
450mg of Diaproxaline
200mg of Antimorphaltrexaline

Prognosis:
Recovery unlikely. Delusion has become reality. Credit crunch still in effect. Ex-wife still obese. Cockroaches recently exterminated.

Delusional preferable.
Here is something completely different to anything I've ever tried before. Let's see if it works.

Written as part of a #Love-Literature contest found here.

Prompt: Resolutions.
Word Count: 686.

Best surprise to wake up this morning to a DD, thanks to `GrimFace242 for suggesting it and ^Beccalicious for featuring it =D
I never knew this piece would attract so much attention when I wrote it!
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For one serving, you will need:
• 2 Hostess® Sno Balls® (one package)
• 1 cup vanilla ice cream
• 1/2 cup milk
• 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
• Red food coloring

Instructions:
1. Place all ingredients in a blender.  Use 8 drops of food coloring.  Cut the Sno Balls® into quarters, and use only 6 quarters (one and a half Sno Balls® total--what you do with the last half is up to you).
2. Blend until smooth.
3. Serve in a tall glass with a straw, and enjoy. :)
Brand new from the good people who bring us Fat Cakes, I give you... the FAT SHAKE!

Hey guys. :) Here's a recipe I came up with for Fat Shakes, as seen on iCarly! Feel free to try it out and let me know what you think. If you do try making these, please come back and rate it 1 to 5 :star:s in your comment. :D

**NOTE: The sugar content for this milkshake is very high, so I suggest that you consume no more than a half-serving in one sitting.** I just downed a whole glass and I already have a headache... >.<

Also if you'd like to, you can substitute coconut ice cream for the vanilla ice cream. :] I really wanted to but I couldn't find any at the store. :(

Disclaimer:
Fat Cakes and Fat Shakes belong to iCarly and Mr. Dan Schneider. Unless Sam found their stash...
Sno Balls® belong to Hostess®.

EDIT: Hey guys! I wanted to say thanks for all the :+fav:s; there were too many to thank individually, but I appreciate each and every one just the same! :D
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Please understand: I do not want
to want this (you).

I realized at poem nineteen-of-fifty:
You (college-borne) are a new you,
I (weaponized) am a new me,
and the new me still wants the new you.
I'm sorry. I thought maybe, after enough time, I would learn to move on, but I guess I was wrong.

I read exactly fifty poems you wrote while I was gone. If I still have to capture a surge of jealousy each time I read the word sex, or kiss, or hold, then I can't read those words anymore. If I still wonder whether any of the stories I read were about me, then I can't read those stories. If I still wish I had a chance, then I can't take one.

I'm sorry.
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Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients:
   •Noodles (any type, enough to feed everyone)
   •1 cup of grated cheese (any kind)
   •½ cup of bread crumbs
   •½ cup of flour
   •1 cup of milk
   •½ cup of butter
   •½ cup of finely chopped onions

Preparation:
   1.Start boiling the water
   2.Add the bread crumbs and flour to the grated cheese and mix together
    (the flour and bread crumbs add texture and help to stop the
     cheese from clumping)
   3.While the water is bowling melt the ½ cup of butter in a pot.
   4.Once the butter has melted add the finely chopped onions, fry until
     the onions turn clear.
   5.Add the milk to the fried onions and butter.
   6.Add the noodles to the water once it has come to a boil.
     Cook to desired texture and drain off the water.
   7.Once the milk has started to bubble, slowly stir in the cheese bread crumb
     and flour mixture. Make sure to continue to stir while you add the
     cheese or it will clump. Add milk if needed.
   8.DON'T stir in all the cheese mixture save some for the topping.
   9.Preheat oven to 350 degrees
   10.Mix the cheese sauce into the noodles so they are completely
      coated in the sauce.
   11.Butter a glass baking dish and pour the noodles into the dish.
   13.sprinkle the rest of the cheese, flour and bread crumb on top of the noodles.
   12.Place dish in the middle of the oven and bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes.
   13.Plate, serve and enjoy!

NOTE: DO NOT burn the butter or onions!!! If you do it ruins the
      consistency and flavour of the dish I would suggest throwing
      it away if that happens.
I didn't know what category to put this in but here it is my mac and cheese recipe :D

:D featured!! [link]
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