Serial Story: Live With Me, Part 32

This serial story is presented in draft (unedited) form. Each installment will be available for one week, and new installments will be posted every Friday. Miss one? Joining in late? Email me and I’ll send you the previous installments. Enjoy!

Live With Me

Part 32

When Candace woke several hours later, the room was pitch black and the space beside her was empty, but still warm. She rolled over and turned on the lamp by the bed, confused at why Emmett would just leave her after what they’d just shared. A sign of things to come?

The bathroom door was open and the light was off as she went past, pulling her robe on. His pants weren’t on the floor any longer, and she made it into the hall just in time to see him pulling his hoodie on beside the front door.

“You’re leaving.” She tried to keep the emotion out of her voice, but the statement itself sounded bitter and cold, even to her own ears. Emmett stopped, and then moved closer, his face dimly illuminated by the front porch light coming in through the side window.

“I have to get back before anyone realizes I’m gone. I’m sorry – I did leave you a note.” He pointed to the table, and she nodded when she saw the white rectangle.

“You should have woke me up,” she said, understanding why he needed to leave, but needing him to understand her fear. “I didn’t know what to think. And I’d rather hear it from you than in a note. When will I see you again?”

He reached for her and she went into his arms, accepting his kiss even though it felt like there was definitely something wrong. Something between them that hadn’t been just a short time ago.

“I’m sorry,” he said again, holding her tight. “You’re right. And I was going to tell you over dinner, but —”

“Tell me what?” Candace pulled back, staring up into eyes clearly in agony over whatever it was he needed to say. He sighed.

“Pre-season starts this week, and the manager has cleared me to travel with them. They want me to do warm-ups and then maybe play a couple of the easier games just to see if I can still cut it. I could be gone for several months, depending on whether or not my knee holds out. That’s why I had to see you tonight. I couldn’t leave without…this.”

She nodded, her heart breaking in two. This was it. The moment she’d been dreading for weeks, all condensed down into a few sentences in the dark. And now that they’d shared…everything, there was only one thing she could do.

Taking a deep breath, she forced herself to smile while she blinked back tears.

“Okay.” She nodded again, trying to convince herself that she could do this. “You’re going to be great – I know it. And whenever you get back, I’ll be here. Just be careful, okay? Try to come back in one piece.”

She could see the relief on his face, feel his muscles relax at her words, and she knew it had been the right choice.

“I will be back,” he said, with enough conviction that she almost believed him. “I promise you that.” Bending down, he kissed her and then pulled away, opening the door and disappearing before she could say anything else.

Unexpected anger welled up in the pit of her stomach and before she knew what she was going to to, she stalked to the table and grabbed the sheet of paper, crumpled it up and tossed it into the trash can near the door of the kitchen. Then she stomped back to her bedroom, drew the covers up over her head and cried.

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Talkin’ Tech

My “new” laptop is still in the shop (getting hinges replaced, hopefully), so please excuse any typos I don’t see before this goes live. The keyboard on this laptop is shot (which is largely why I replaced it with the new one six months ago), and I tend to miss random letters due to the “mushi-ness” of the keys…

I really, really miss my newer laptop. *sigh*

But at least I have this old one to use while it’s gone, and my Neo to write on (also bought because of this keyboard – desperation begets a lot of creative problem solving). So I’m fumbling along, though the screen on this laptop doesn’t treat my eyes as nicely as the new one, so I have to watch my time on this one as well.

I know, I sound like a spoiled child here, but even though we were poor for most of my childhood, my dad was always a tech guy, so we always had computers (generally scrounged from wherever he could find them). I played games on DOS systems when I was a kid, and wrote my first “Hello, World” program in Basic on a Tandy 400 connected to an old TV for a monitor (I was pretty young then). Yes, I also programmed a turtle to move all over the screen, and wrote a program to make the screen flash different colors. It was fun. And kind of annoying in a big hurry too.

I had email before any of my friends (and had a bugger of a time trying to talk them into getting an account even later in college), I was on the internet before there were any kind of graphical “web sites” to visit, and I fought with my college professors because they wanted me to use the antiquated Mac systems at the school to write and print papers, and I wanted to use the far better computer and printer I had at home. Only one English professor won that battle, thank goodness. Sheesh.

Aside from being a self-employed computer guy, my dad also had a sound board, professional mics and speakers, and ran the sound for our local church, church camp, and various freelance events around town. Needless to say, as a youngster I was often found pulling cables on the weekends – either computer cables for offices or sound (mics, speakers) cables for whatever event Dad happened to be running sound for – pretty much always through the floors or ceilings, because kids are very conveniently sized for that sort of work. Kid fingers are also conveniently sized for those teeny-tiny computer components and screws, and I often helped my dad take apart or repair various types of hardware. I really didn’t retain much of that – hardware interested me far less than what it could actually *do*.

I did a little programming in C, and then…then there was HTML and graphical web pages and I built my first web page in high school, before anyone I knew was really even “online”. It was hosted on my dad’s server (of course), and I tweaked and updated it pretty much daily – it had a blog-type journal page, a reading journal of sorts, and a few other pages that I don’t even remember what was on them. I liked building it so much that I decided I would start a side business, and I opened up “Arachnid Industries” for freelance web design in college. I designed simple web pages for a couple of my history professors and worked on a few for clients of my dad as well. I’d decided long before that I didn’t want to be a programmer like my dad, but building simple web sites was just fun.

I sort of “fell into” the county web development job after college, and while I have had to learn quite a bit of programming over the years (web development is mostly programming now – a far cry from what it was at the beginning), actual software programmers don’t consider web developers “real programmers”, so I think it’s safe to say I’ve avoided becoming a programmer “like my dad”. Although I do know a fair amount of SQL, which is generally considered a “real” programming language. *sigh*

And of course I recently gave up my web dev job to move into a database admin position at work, though I’m still doing enough web development to stay up to date with that (for now, at least). And I’m doing a little freelance web dev now that it’s not a conflict of interest with my day job, which is kind of fun (working on something new is always fun).

When you think about it, it’s kind of mind-boggling, the amount of tech that’s been developed just in the years that I’ve been alive. Far more than I’ve actually experienced, to be sure. It’s fascinating, and the impact to global society and civilization is also…well, mind-boggling. People explore the question of what would happen in an apocalypse “all tech is gone” situation all the time, but I also kind of wonder where we would be if things had developed differently, or slower, or just not at all? And what might have happened to delay or prevent the development of some of the things we take for granted today?

Deep thoughts for a Monday morning, I know. But hey – at least this post is on time this week. Progress!

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Word Cassaroles

Least you forget, since I seem to talk about everything but writing here lately and I’ve published exactly…um…nothing this year (I don’t think…it’s been a long year), I am actually a writer when not doing web dev or DBA duties. By which I mean to say, I generally write at least a little bit of fiction five days a week or so, prodded along by my writing partner/editor/best buddy via daily emails. Yesterday, for example, I wrote 154 words. A paltry amount, but it all adds up eventually. And I’m close to finishing another couple of drafts this year, though I have my doubts as to whether I’ll publish any of this year’s stories.

Why waste all that time writing books that will never be published? I actually don’t consider it a waste – more like practice. And who knows? I might let them sit for awhile, re-read them in a month or so and decided to stick them up for sale after all. Hard to say at this point when I just want them done so I can move on. Like, yesterday.

The thing is, I’ve been pretty down on my writing for the past year or so, mostly because I know it’s missing…something(s), but I wasn’t quite sure what that “something” is. I mean, there are the obvious things, like more/better description or tighter phrasing, or less comma-splicing, or more semi-colons (kidding! Semi-colons are evil. Like salt. Use only when absolutely necessary!), but if you like to cook like I do, and you don’t often use a recipe (like me), then you know what I’m talking about. You start throwing stuff in the pan because it sounds like a good mix in your head, and as it cooks, you keep adding things and tasting and adjusting and tasting and sometimes when it’s done and you’re sitting down to eat, there’s still something missing. Some flavor profile that needs to be rounded out, or something that’s just a little off for whatever reason, but you can’t quite put your tongue on just exactly what the problem is, so to speak.

Every bite you take sort of teases your palette with that “missing something”. Sometimes you know what it needs by the time the meal’s over, and you can rejoice and “fix” it next time. Sometimes you have to make the dish a few more times, adjusting this or that, and then one day, you’re cooking and tasting and throwing stuff in and it suddenly just hits you – that exact ingredient that was missing all along.

The thing is, the missing ingredient is going to be different for every dish, and depending on what it is, it might change the cooking time, or the temperature, or the method of cooking, or any number of variables, and while you sort of inherently “know” where to start and more or less how to proceed and adjust once you’ve been cooking for awhile, the more different flavors you taste and experiment with, the more complex your dishes become, and the more attuned you are to what might round out the overall palette better.

Basically, the more foods/spices/flavors you taste, the more sophisticated your own palette becomes, and the more you *notice* what might be missing – or maybe not even missing, but just what might make the dish better than its simpler counterpart. Not that there’s necessarily anything wrong with the simpler version, but the more complex one might appeal to more people. The difference between “good” and “mouthwatering”. When you’re the cook, it sometimes takes awhile to recognize the difference, because “good” is often good enough to satisfy.

So it goes with writing, in my experience. The books I’ve published so far (with a couple exceptions) have been “good enough” to be satisfying to me, and to at least a few other people who have read them. But this past year, I’ve really been thinking “this needs something more” as I write, and wracking my brains trying to figure out what that is, and it’s only really been the past month or so that I feel like I’m finally starting to figure it out – what each story needs to be *better* than the one I originally started telling. More complex and sophisticated than “beginner level” writing. Honestly, it really has been one of those “one day it’s not there, the next day it is” sort of things. Annoying, but whatever works.

It’s a different thing for each one, so I can’t even really quantify it, which is why I can’t really explain it (and why no one could really explain it to me). But this, I think, is what the “experts” mean when they say you have to write a million (or whatever the current metric is) words before you can *really* start writing. And you just…don’t know what’s missing until you see it and you don’t see it until one day you just “do”, which makes no sense and is very frustrating…until you’re there.

I think that growth like this tends to happen in spurts, and when it happens in one section of your life, it’s more likely to happen in others as well (which sucks, to be blunt). Maybe because that’s just the mindset you happen to be in at the time. This year I’ve made a lot of changes in several areas of my life (many because there didn’t seem to be a better choice at the time), so it kind of makes sense that writing would get caught up in that “change cycle” as well. It’s always painful going through it, but it’s necessary for growth.

All that said, I’m kind of excited about my new “discoveries”, and even though it’s going to require yet more change, I’m okay with that, because I see the potential ahead. The worst thing is knowing something needs to change, but not knowing “what”. Finally figuring that last piece of the puzzle is empowering because you (I) can finally make a plan to move forward.

My biggest frustration now is trying to tie up all my “loose ends” so I can start working on that new plan. It’s going to be a couple more months, unfortunately. But the end is in sight, thank goodness.

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Of Halloween, Wardrobes & Everyday Masks

I love fall-back weekend. I love standard time, and early darkness, and the early end to all that extra activity that daylight stimulates. Don’t get me wrong – the light has it’s place, and I need it too, but I’m extraordinarily fond of nighttime and the darkness.

A good vampire, I’d make. Probably.

In any case, Happy Belated Halloween to all of you. I left work a couple hours early on Friday and helped Hubby put some decor in the yard, and then Saturday we spent all morning watching it rain on and off, and all afternoon finishing up the yard decor, rain be damned. By 5:30pm, we’d consumed half of our jack-o-lantern pizza and were ready for kiddos. It was kind of disappointing, because we only got 47, all told, and we have a *ton* of candy leftover that will have to go to workplaces or the bar on Weds night – it’s not staying here!

Sunday after the normal grocery shopping and donut consumption rituals, we cleaned up the yard and pulled everything back inside, which only took a couple of hours. Of course the workout room is unusable at the moment, but we’ll spend our workout time tonight cleaning it up and putting everything away. We really need to sort through all of it and give what we’ll never use again away, but I don’t want to spend that much time on it just now. Priorities, you know.

No, I didn’t dress up. I never do…there’s always way too much to do to get the yard ready, and not enough time to costume myself. Story of my life, really – clothes are kind of a pain in the butt, so I tend to stick with a few basic styles and wear those over and over. It’s boring, but it’s easy, and when you love mornings as much as I do (*ahem*), you don’t want to be making a whole lot of decisions before breakfast.

But like I said, it’s boring. So Friday night, just after payday and before I paid bills (living dangerously!), I went shopping online. You have to understand – shopping for clothes in any way, shape or form, is really my least favorite activity. So I have to force myself, even online (t-shirts are exempt. It’s embarrassing how fast I’ll click “buy now” on a fun or funny t-shirt). Several hours later, I hit the confirm order button on four new (all different) light sweaters (so wearable in 3 seasons), a new pair of ankle boots suitable for winter, and a new pair of slippers (mine have been dead and gone for nearly a year – I really needed a new pair).

Clothes really shouldn’t cost so much, dang it. But the majority of my current wardrobe is nearly a decade old. It’s all classic, so it doesn’t go out of style, but a lot of it’s faded and looking pretty worn, so I need to make a concentrated effort to turn most of it over a piece or two at a time. Thank God for online shopping. If I had to actually go to the store, it wouldn’t happen at all.

Of course with the costuming and my own wardrobe “issues”, it kind of made me think about masks and costumes and presenting different parts of our personality as dominant depending on who we’re with and what context we’re currently in. My wardrobes for work and “everyday” life rarely cross…aside from Fridays when dress is generally more casual (though I’m still careful about what shirts I wear – no t-shirts with quippy-yet-mildly insulting quotes on the front, of course). I was thinking that my own rather reserved “work mask” was just that…something for work, but in thinking about it further, it’s really not. It’s more of my “other people” mask, whether they’re at work or not, and no matter what clothing I happen to be wearing at the time. Truth is, it takes a long time before I trust people enough to open up past that “cool & reserved” persona, and that’s true everywhere, not just with people I work with/around.

The realization was kind of a relief, honestly. I am who I am, no matter where I am. And that’s how it should be.

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Stuff I Could Say…

And here you thought last week’s post was late…

I could regal you with how busy life is right now as an excuse, I suppose, but you’d be bored (confession: I did start typing it out, and *I* was bored reading it back to myself), and then you’d fall asleep and hit your head on the keyboard, possibly imprinting a letter or two from the alphabet in that skin right above your eyebrows. So not cool.

I could tell you that I finished writing a draft this past Sunday, and you’d be all “YAY!” until I told you it was for one of my alter-egos, and then you’d be all “yay?” until I mentioned that this particular draft needs a *lot* of work before it will be even remotely ready to publish, and I need to write a novel to go with it as well, because the story is way, way bigger than I’d originally envisioned, and then you’d give me that side-eyed look that tells me you’re a little confused, getting bored again, and would love it if I’d just move on to another subject already, thankyouverymuch.

I could tell you about the flock of wild turkeys that were holding up traffic the other day (heck, I could show you that one, since I actually took a picture while stopped at a stop light, or you could save me the trouble of posting it here, and go check out my Facebook, Instagram or Twitter page – feel free to friend or follow, I don’t bite. Much.). They were pretty much just…doing what turkeys do, wandering around probably looking for food. No, I didn’t hear any gobbling, but that’s probably the fault of Adelita’s Way and the excellent sound system in my Outback.

I could whine that there is no way I’m going to be able to finish watching the fourth season of Falling Skies before it leaves Amazon Prime in three days. Dammit. Dare I hope it’s leaving so they can put it on Netflix? I was never a huge fan of Noah Wylie until I stumbled over this series, and now I have a bit of a crush on his character. Then again, I’ve always had a soft spot for the strong-yet-reserved history professor types…

I could mention the giant pumpkin demon that hangs over the table where I sit while hubby and his gang are playing pool on Wednesday nights. His long arms grab at me every time I brush by (can’t keep his bony hands off me, the lech), and the flowing robe effectively blocks my view of the table and game play. He does create quite an effective cave-like setting though, which seems to give me good writing mojo. I should do that awkward selfie thing before they take him down, eh? Is it a selfie if I don’t actually take the picture myself? Hmm…probably better not risk looking like one of those self-absorbed teenie-boppers…

I could probably make you hungry by mentioning that I have a pork roast in the crockpot for dinner, and butternut squash in the other crockpot. Mentioning the Brussels sprouts in the third crockpot might lose some of you though (which is really too bad – they’re excellent, IMO). Maybe if I posted a picture of the whole stalk of sprouts I found at the grocery store this past Sunday? I mean, even if you don’t like sprouts, you have to admit, a whole stalk of sprouts is pretty cool lookin’. But…I’m lazy, and I already posted a pic on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook last weekend. Are you seriously telling me you don’t cyber-stalk me? I’m hurt. sniff

I suppose since we’re talking sprouts (and cyber-stalking, which is only mildly more interesting), I should mention bacon just to wake you back up. What’s that you say? Bacon, sausage and all other processed meats are unhealthy and cause cancer? Um, yeah. Duh. Now you’re boring me. Pass the sausage, and some maple syrup to dip it in, please? Waffles are just incidental (though still good). It’s all about the meat, really. *snicker*

One last thing: Bacon. You’re welcome.


Of Fall, Brains, Hobbies & Ink

I know, this is late. It’s been “a week” already, and last weekend was busy too.

Fall is here, and inexplicably, our desire to get some yard work done kicked in this past weekend. Although it was probably more a sense of panic than anything else – as in, I bought a bunch of bulbs awhile back and really needed to get them in the ground. We spent a good portion of Sunday planting 200 bulbs, and still have quite a few left to plant next weekend. I sure hope the work pays off next spring.

Weekends are seriously not long enough for both yard and housework. I think that’s why fall/winter are my favorite seasons. Frozen ground and snow means no yard work and an excellent reason to stay inside. I might feel differently if weekends were four days long…

Actually though, it’s more cerebral than that. My husband and I were talking this weekend, and we’ve both had a lot more mental challenges at work lately (“lately” meaning most of the past year). Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing (though I think we could both use a good vacation), but it does leave a lot less brain power for anything outside of work. Halloween is normally our “Christmas”, but this year we’ve both been so distracted and busy that we’re not even doing much in the way of yard decor…our normally elaborate decorations are scaling way back to nearly sedate, just because neither of us have enough energy to deal with it (or even think about it, really).

My writing has really suffered as well, unfortunately. I’m still getting words down semi-regularly, but it’s not nearly as easy this year, and the publishing part – editing, formatting, cover art, distribution, promotion – it’s all just…way, way on the back burner because I have no mental space to even think about it, much less do it. I did have sort of a “crisis of faith” with regards to my writing abilities (no need to try to make me feel better on that one – if I know you even a little, I won’t believe you anyway, sorry!) for a good chunk of the year as well, which contributed, but using more brain power at work is definitely one of the main issues in how far behind on the whole writing/publishing front I am.

Alas, life goes through seasons just as nature does, and things will not always be this hectic.

I’ve been thinking too about how it’s so easy for hobbies to turn into obligations. The writing and it’s inherent obligations notwithstanding, I have stacks of comic books to catch up on, books half read and not even started, stamps everywhere that are waiting patiently to be cataloged, a sock that would require about 2 hours of my time (maybe less) to finish knitting, and sweater not even a quarter done in crochet, and while none of these things are necessary, important, or something anyone but me cares one iota about, somehow, I feel like I’m “failing” by not getting them “done”.

Why is that, I wonder? I mean, they’re my hobbies. Their whole purpose is to entertain me when I have the time/inclination to be entertained. They aren’t obligatory activities like work or housework, no one is waiting on me to finish any of them (as I said, writing notwithstanding), and they aren’t hurting anything by just sitting around waiting (okay, I may eventually be buried alive when the stacks of comics or prose topple over…or I suppose suffocation by yarn is entirely possible as well). So why do I feel like they’re just one more thing on the to-do list? Things I genuinely enjoy (which includes all of these things) should not feel like obligations. And I know it’s my own perception that makes them feel that way…I just don’t know how to change it.

Of course when I finally get that vacation I’ve been whining about? I fully plan to spend half of each day writing, and the other half with my nose buried in fiction someone else wrote. At least until I get to the bottom of Mt. Super/Anti-Hero.

I like to work on fiber arts (crochet & knitting) at night while watching TV. But I’m still suffering from the delusion that says if I have my laptop in my lap, I will Get Stuff Done. Important Stuff, like publishing and promo and web site updates and…

Yeah. It doesn’t happen. But every night, I delude myself into thinking it will, instead of just closing the laptop and migrating to the floor with the dogs and my latest yarn project. The grand irony is, I’d probably get more done if I just left the laptop closed, watched TV, played with the dogs, played with yarn, and *let my brain rest* for a few hours – away from the constant stimulation of news feeds and virtual conversations. Then late at night when I finally plug back into the matrix, so to speak, I’d be refreshed and ready to do…stuff.


On a completely different subject, as you can see, I got my tattoo/cover-up done last week, and it’s gorgeous. Well, not so much right now, because it’s healing and peeling and generally shedding like a real snake would, but it was beautiful right after it was done, and it will be again in another week or so. I love it. Andrew Hauck is the artist with Ghosts of Grace Tattoo Collective –, and I’m going to have him do more work for me next year – I love his style and his philosophy with regards to tattooing and art. Good stuff.

Tomorrow, I have to pay my blood debt to the insurance company in order to keep getting my insurance free through work, which is annoying for a lot of reasons, the least of which is not being able to have my late night snack and tea, or my early morning tea tomorrow. *sigh* Mornings are hard enough, but navigating one without tea or food is just torture.

Tonight, however, there was steak. And wine. Mmm…wine…

And yes, a workout later. New body art is a great motivator for me to keep working towards a “better shape”!

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Of Food & Tattoos

I’m off work today for Columbus/Indigenous People/National Farmer’s/Canadian Thanksgiving Day – hooray for holidays!

You may want to grab a snack before you read on…


The first loaf.

I’m happy to announce that last week’s experiments in food were all successful. The pickled beet and curry eggs turned out great (and I expect they’ll keep getting better in the fridge), my bread turned out nicely even though the dough was too dry (will correct that this week, and even hubby liked it!), and my yogurt turned out very nicely as well, if a bit tart (no biggie, just won’t let it sit as long this week). Needless to say, I didn’t buy bread this week, and while we had a pretty long power outage that set me back with the housekeeping yesterday, I’m going to mix up three different types of dough once I get the fridge cleaned out today. Thank goodness today’s a holiday, or I’d be in trouble, but the power outage did make me think – what would I have done if I had to go to work today?

For this week, instead of watching three episodes of Warehouse 13 with my husband, I probably would have gone out to the kitchen and mixed up bread dough. Might have gotten my yogurt done for the week too. But I knew I had today, so I didn’t need to rush.

One of the beautiful things about artisan bread dough is – it’s freezable after the initial rise. So my plan for this week is to mix up three full-sized batches of dough (the soft white style I made last week, plus an olive oil dough and a brioche dough), keep them in the fridge for this week and use what I need, and then freeze the leftover dough. Then I just take what I need out of the freezer the night before baking day, and only mix up fresh when I run out. Voila, future power outages/schedule changes/last minute Sunday plans thwarted (I won’t run out of all three types of bread at once)!


Mmm…yogurt, granola & maple syrup…

I do love an organized plan. Especially when it facilitates good, healthy eating. That homemade yogurt has been a really nice late-night snack…I like it with a little pure maple syrup for sweetness, and a scant handful of locally made Sweet Almond Honey granola for extra protein/fiber. Seriously yummy.

In other news, I’m really looking forward to Thursday this week, when I’ll be getting the outline done on a new tattoo that will replace/cover an old one. Last Friday, I took a long lunch and stopped in to see my tattoo artist, who got a sketch of the 22-year-old tattoo on my right shoulder. It’s a cross and a bible verse written in Greek – the first tattoos I ever got when I was 18 and still in the Christian zealot phase of my life. The idea being, of course, to declare my beliefs, but also to remind my older self to remain faithful.


Bad pic, I know, but you get the idea.

Obviously, a lot has happened in those years, and my philosophical leanings have changed/matured quite a bit as well, but that’s not the reason I’m having this old piece covered up. For one thing, it isn’t pretty, or even particularly well done, and the lettering has long-since run together and become pretty much illegible. I don’t like how it looks, and very few tattoo artists are willing to go over/redo old work – they’d rather do their own (understandable).

Also, it didn’t take me long at all after getting this particular tattoo to realize that when people see writing, they want to know what it says (duh – I was 18). And when you tattoo yourself in a foreign language, especially one very few people study, they have to ask you what it says. And telling them gets really, really old…really fast. I haven’t worn tank tops in years, just because I don’t want to deal with the questions (and also because it just doesn’t look good).

So…I’m getting it covered with a new design that sums up the changing/fickle nature of my personal philosophy rather nicely: a big, red apple with a snake curled around it. No words needed, and if bits of the old ink happen to peek through, no problem, as the old and new are a “set” of sorts.

Going forward, no more words on my tattoos. Images only, thank you very much. Lesson learned!

I suppose it’s time to get to work…and I still need a shower. On my list for today (aside from catching up on kitchen duties) I have comic book reading, knitting, and writing, plus a few errands to run after lunch. Chop chop!

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Of Concerts, Ballasts & Bread

Two things about the concert I went to Friday night:

1. If your voices can’t hack it anymore, and your harmonies don’t harmonize, just bow out gracefully and find something else to do. Seriously. Don’t go touring and ruining your own songs. It’s just…sad for those of us who love your music.

2. I’ll totally pass on any events held at the Brick Breeden Fieldhouse in Bozeman. Not quite bad enough for me to stop whining about our Metra, but when you’re touching the stranger next to you because the seats are just that close together and there’s no way *not to*, it’s too close. Way too close. He was nice and didn’t creep me out or anything, but still. Awkward!

I spent a good chunk of Sunday in my kitchen this past weekend. Actually, we spent a good chunk of Saturday there too, but that’s because the ballast in my last working florescent light fixture finally bit the dust, so we had to fix that or I’d be stuck with only the light over the kitchen sink, and the light over the stove to work by. Candlelight, basically, which is good for power outages and romantic dinners, but not so much for keeping digits intact while chopping vegetables.

Hubby replaced the ballasts in *both* light fixtures (the main one hadn’t worked in over 5 yrs…we’re lazy like that), and we went ahead and put LED bulbs in them as well. My kitchen is now insanely bright, and while I can certainly see a lot better, I can also see just how dirty the place is (I suck as a housekeeper – always have). This is going to require some serious cleaning, like soon.

Anyways, on Sunday I took the time to do a little reorganizing (not as much as I’d have liked, but again, lazy), and a few food prep things for the week that I think will benefit us in the long run, if I can make it a habit. A couple of weeks ago, I ordered a breadbox, because I think my pantry is keeping bread too warm/moist, and a yogurt maker to replace the one I tossed a couple of years ago.The reorganization was to fit the breadbox where I wanted it (and it’s perfect there). Now if I could just figure out where to put the FoodSaver machine it ousted…

I’ve been wanting to get more probiotics in, and I’m not terribly fond of the yogurt choices in the store (didn’t want to just take a pill, either), so it seemed like a no-brainer to go back to making my own. Yogurt is crazy-easy to make…scald milk, cool it a bit, add plain yogurt or starter culture, and keep it warm for the next 10-12 hours (which is what the yogurt maker is for…basically an incubator for bacteria cultures). Voila, yogurt. Easy peasy. I bought some granola and I have jam, honey & real maple syrup available for sweeteners, so that will make a great after-workout snack. My first batch is already in the fridge.

I’m kind of tired of plain hard-boiled eggs for breakfast on Thursday, and I’ve been thinking about making some egg/omelet muffins to freeze, but I haven’t quite gotten around to it yet. Hubby suggested I make pickled beet eggs – hard-boiled eggs pickled with beet juice, and I thought that was a great idea for something different. I found a recipe online, and on the same site there was a recipe for curried pickled eggs too, which also sounded intriguing. So I made a batch of each yesterday, and they’ll have to sit in the fridge for a few days before we can even try them, but hopefully by Thursday, they’ll be all tart & pretty. If it works, there’s our Thursday breakfast for three weeks or so. Very nice.

The last thing I did was to mix up a batch of Soft American Style White bread dough from my Artisan Breads in 5 Minutes A Day book. The whole premise of the book is that you can keep a wet version of bread dough in the fridge all week, and then only take out and bake what you need for any given day (need hot dog buns, take enough out for that, shape them, let them rise, bake them, and leave the rest of the dough in the fridge). It’s a way to have fresh bread whenever you need it with very little hands-on time involved. There’s really no reason I can’t do this, if I can find the right dough styles that my husband will like. And this will solve my problem of having to buy too much bread and throwing a bunch of it out every week…I can just bake what we need the night before we need it. No more waste, no more plastic bags, and it’s healthier too.

It does require some advance planning, but I can keep it loose, which is more my style than a hard & fast menu for the week. I can designate a couple baking nights per week (say, Monday and Thursday? AKA: nights when there’s nothing on TV until 8pm), and decide that day what kind of bread I need for the next day or two’s meals (homemade bread should be okay for two days or so). Then Saturday I can bake up whatever dough we have left for the weekend (if any), and mix a new batch on Sunday.

You’d think the decision to try this would create more stress, trying to fit one more thing into my schedule, but honestly, it’s kind of alleviating stress. I really wanted a solution for all the bread we were wasting, and this seems like it really could be “it”. I’m excited to try, in any case. I can always go back to buying bread if I need to.

As you might imagine, this gives me the urge to make other things at home that we currently buy for the convenience of it (because believe it or not, I enjoy doing the homemaking-thing as a general rule)…but we’ll see. I tend to take on too much, burn out, and backslide to worse than where I was before, so I’m going to just coast with this for awhile and see how it goes. Or try, anyways.

For those of you who might be so inclined, some links to pertinent info:

Homemade Yogurt Instructions (cooler edition, but the idea is the same)
Pickled Beet Eggs (and three other pickled egg recipes)
Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes A Day

It’s been awhile since I made bread, and my first batch of dough is a bit on the dry side, but I’m gonna see how it bakes up anyways, and it’s raising on the stove now. Cross your fingers…

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Of Menu Plans & Jury Duty

I spent a way-too-big chunk of my weekend trying to create a menu-plan. Why? To prevent so much food waste, and also to avoid wasting time trying to decide what to make for dinner when I need to actually be making it. Because good TV is back, and not much motivates me to get dinner done quickly like good TV starting at 7pm.

I know, I know. The life of a TV junkie.

In any case, I was not successful at creating a menu plan. I did, however, figure out why I have such a hard time with them, and part of it is, I don’t know specifically what I’m going to buy until I’m at the store, doing my weekly grocery shopping. It isn’t until then that I know whether beef or pork roast is the better buy, or if the fresh mushrooms look like they’re melting back into spores, or if the kale is yellow, but the asparagus actually looks great. No sale price will get me to buy beef that doesn’t have the right marbling (to my eye). You get the idea.

So, creating a menu plan ahead of time is pointless (and impossible), given the way I shop. I need to plan after I shop, which means I needed a different sort of app than what I was trying to use, so I spent a good chunk of Sunday setting that up…

What I’m basically saying is, I spent my whole weekend not doing stuff I needed to get done, in order to not-do something I thought I needed to do. And aside from a glucose curve for Lucy, some vacuuming and clean clothes to wear, this past weekend was a pretty huge disappointment. I hate it when that happens.

Today, of course, since it’s the least convenient time *ever* for me to take time off work, and because I have plans to leave town on Friday, I’ve been summoned to appear for Jury Duty. I normally like jury duty – I’ve served twice now, and both of the cases were interesting and I found the social interplay fascinating to watch, both in the courtroom and the jury room. I’m quite sure this trial would be no different.

However, the news helpfully pointed out tonight that the trial will be approximately 2 weeks long. Two. Weeks. Long. So if I get picked to sit on the jury, I’d have to cancel my Friday trip, and since I’m the only one who does what I do at work right now, I’d still have to keep things going at work while serving on the jury (no, work can’t/won’t ask me to, but I can’t just let everything fall to ruin because there’s no one else to pick up the slack right now – it would make things exponentially more difficult for me along with everyone else). It would basically boil down to some long days and missing out on the trip we’ve been planning for six months. Just a short trip, granted, but still….

So for the first time in my life, I’m hoping not to get picked to serve on a jury. And I feel bad about that, because it’s a civic duty I really usually have no problem fulfilling, even if it is a little inconvenient. Right now it’s just…a lot inconvenient, and it will be a nightmare two weeks (longer than that, actually, considering I’ll be that far behind with my projects) if I end up having to serve.

Menu planning and jury duty. Scintillating Monday discussion, eh? I do wish the caffeinated mints I just reordered were here. Sadistic people in the courts won’t let me bring my tea into the courtroom, and jury selection starts at 8:30am. Dang it.

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Of Stretch Marks, Cold Medicine & The Apocalypse…

I think I might be the only woman on the planet who looks in the mirror after a shower, and celebrates new stretch marks. It means I’m losing girth around my stomach/hips, which means I’m losing fat, and that’s far more important than whatever number the scale happens to say. Sure, they’re not the prettiest things in the world, but it’s not like people actually see my stomach/hips (aside from my husband and he’s contractually obligated not to care about how they look).

In any case, fat lost, skin shrinking, good stuff. Motivation to keep working out, walking the stairs and watching portion sizes/carbs.

If only eating (mostly) healthy and working out were all it took to keep from getting common ailments like…say…a cold. Friday night, I felt a sore throat coming on, and it even swelled up a bit, almost like an allergy. Except all the normal stuff I’d do for an allergy didn’t work. Finally late that night, I made up a batch of my favorite cold medicine, which includes a big dollop of honey, a couple dashes of apple cider vinegar (the real stuff with live cultures), a pinch of turmeric and a bit of fresh ginger all mixed up in a mug of warm water. It doesn’t taste all that great (but better than chemical-laden meds, IMO), but it seems to knock stuff out quick, and it did take care of my sore throat by the time I woke up the next morning. Had another cup later in the afternoon when the sore throat threatened to come back, and I was fine all day Sunday. One more cup late Sunday night/early Monday morning, and I should be good to go. Fingers crossed!

I’ve been watching several sci-fi shows online lately – most of which are set in a post-apocalyptic world. I’ve watched as many free episodes of “Defiance” as there are available on Amazon Prime, I’m anxiously awaiting the return of “The 100” on the CW, and I’m working my way (quickly) through the second season of “Falling Skies” on Amazon Prime. All of these shows tend to make me think about what I would need to survive (minimally) in those types of environment, what I would want if possible to carry it, and perhaps more importantly, who I’d want to connect with and who I’d want to avoid. It’s a valuable thought-exercise, I think…moreso than the ubiquitous “if you were stranded on a desert island” question. I think it’s valuable too to think about what kind of skills you’d want to have in that situation – things a lot of people don’t cultivate any longer, like seed-saving, and a working knowledge of what kind of plants are poisonous vs. edible in different environments. Suddenly people who do certain types of crafts like spinning and soap-making from scratch are people who might be on that list of people to connect with in case of an apocalypse…

…and maybe those would be good connections to foster before some sort of major crisis happens. Just like some of those skills you might need might be good things to cultivate in advance, just in case. The odds of something happening to send us back to the dark ages is pretty remote, but…maybe not as remote as we’d like to think.

Seems kind of fitting to be thinking apocalyptic thoughts on a Monday morning, eh?

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