Variety News: Toast

Long time no blog! This is what happens when I decide I need to step up my game, and then don’t have time to step up my game. So, we’re back to the old “personal journal” style of blogging until such time as I…have more time/motivation to change it. I do what I can.

I was making a sandwich for lunch recently and as I stood there with two slices of toaster-thawed bread, I was frozen contemplating my options and the ensuing consequences. I want to lose weight, you see, and I know from past trial & error that my body does not process “processed carbs” well. Also, like a lot (most?) people, I eat way more calories than I burn. Which is why I was standing there contemplating toast for far, far longer than anyone really should.

If I made a whole sandwich with two pieces of bread, that would be far more calories than I needed, but also the wrong type of calories for my body to process. It would taste good and feel good while I was eating it, but I’d be dealing with the consequences for a lot longer.

On the other hand, throwing out a piece of toast is just wasteful, toast never really stores well, and cubing it and putting it in the freezer just means I’ll have the same choice to make another day as I contemplate whether to stuff my body with…uh…stuffing, or not.

My toaster does not do nice things when you only put one piece of toast in. It feels the need for parity, apparently, so defrosting one piece of toast isn’t really an option either. And we don’t eat enough to leave the bread out – it goes moldy and I end up throwing half-loaves in the garbage if I don’t keep it in the freezer.

The simple answer, of course, is to not buy bread, but given that I live with my husband, and he doesn’t have the same hang-ups about bread that I do, and also likes sandwiches, it doesn’t seem fair to make him abstain when it’s my body that has the issues.

And yes, normally I’d have cauliflower rounds on hand to substitute with, but I couldn’t find any at the store when I made my last grocery run. Being asked to wear a mask at the local store that sells them (cauliflower rounds, that is) tends to make me anxious to get back out as quickly as possible, so I don’t look around much if what I need isn’t where it previously was and easily visible.

So there I stood in the kitchen, contemplating toast, waste, waistlines, and sandwiches, pressed for time as always on my lunch hour. No matter what decision I made, there was guilt involved – guilt for wasting food, or guilt for derailing my own goals. Nothing a little planning ahead or creative thinking wouldn’t have solved before I even thawed the bread out…looking back, I could have just spread the guacamole on the ham, wrapped the whole thing in provolone and been perfectly happy. Pressure tends to kill creativity though.

I finally tossed the second piece of toast in the garbage, made myself half a sandwich, enjoyed every bite, and then emailed the new company I just signed up with to come get all my food scraps once a week to compost (since the hubby and I can’t agree on composting methods – I want worms under the sink, and he will only agree to worms if they stay outside). They use a fermentation method of composting, and can take meat and dairy, so if they can take bread as well…then my problems are solved and my guilt is assuaged. *Whew!*

*Note: Yes, the composting company – Swift Buckets can/will take bread. The perfect solution.

Needless to say, I’m trying to let go of the guilt I feel when making decisions to “do, or do not”. I often end up feeling guilty no matter what I decide, and I need to just knock that off.

On that note, no guilt about going back to the personal blog format with all text and rare pictures. This just…is what it is. That’s all it needs to be.


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Re-calibrating

While a good portion of my Facebook friend list has been baking their way through this pandemic thing (something my waistline really can’t afford), I’ve been doing the Animal Crossing New Horizons (ACNH) thing, which is fun, relaxing, and easy on the blood sugar. But…hiding in video games comes at a cost too, and as in all things, there comes a time when healthy boundaries become necessary. While I may not be gaining weight, I am dealing with neck soreness, pinched nerves in my back, and eye strain that’s threatening to become more serious if I don’t get away from the screen more often.

That’s not to say I’m giving up ACNH. Not at all – I love the game. But it’s time to re-calibrate and start moving forward again.

I’ve started writing again, which is one of the most important things. A few sentences at a time, longhand, but whatever works is what I’ll do. The weather is getting nicer, so I’m getting out to walk the dogs instead of sitting on the couch all evening (good for my neck/nerves, and also for my eyes if it’s not windy). I dyed my hair, because after waffling for a few days about whether to do so or just let it go natural since I can’t get it cut, I’m just vain enough to not be ready for the salt & pepper look yet.

I trimmed my bangs up out of my eyes – I’ve always had bangs, because I have a high forehead and can’t stand not having it at least partially covered. So that’s not a drastic change for me, it’s just general maintenance, no matter what length my hair is.

I changed my earrings (the clovers were a bit “over”), did curbside pickup for my comic book pull list, and created some new routines based on my projections of “life going forward”. I realize I have that luxury because my job is the same as it always has been, and I’ve been working all along, so my life really hasn’t been impacted nearly as much as others have been.

I do see less people now, but honestly? That really doesn’t bother me. I see my husband, of course, and the two people I work most closely with at the office. Other than that, I see a few random strangers that I automatically give space to like normal (I have a huge personal space bubble, pandemic or no), I still walk the dogs late to avoid all the people walking dogs earlier (normal), and I talk to my mom on the phone once a week or so (I’m not a “visit/talk to mom all the time” kind of daughter – I need my space). I have no issue with being home in the evenings, and not having anywhere to go. That’s my preference by default, so…I feel for the people who are itching to get out and do stuff, but I’m not that person. I’m perfectly happy with this state of being. If I didn’t want to pick out my own produce, and the dogs didn’t love going for a weekly ride so much, I’d have my groceries delivered too and see even less people.

Alas, it’s good for me to interact with strangers in person at least once a week, because the biggest issue I have with this whole staying home thing is getting “too” comfortable. I have to force myself to be social on normal days, and I have to keep interacting with people at a certain level regularly in order to be comfortable with it. So being “allowed” to not be social is a bit dangerous, in that the longer I get to do that, the more uncomfortable I’m going to be the next time I have to be around more than one or two people, in person, again. That will actually be far more stressful for me than staying home and keeping to myself. Not due to fear of a virus, but simply the stress of social interaction. So that bit of re-calibration is going the wrong way, but…it can’t be helped at the moment.

Next week, we’ll get back to the new blog format again. I haven’t been taking many pictures, and honestly, I’ve just been playing too much and being lazy about things. But I’m working my way into a “new normal”, with new, more productive routines, so…stay tuned!


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Variety Pages: March 29, 2020

The State of Chaos

I like order. Routines, schedules, and knowing what comes next are staples in my world, and I generally resent anything/anyone that gets in the way of those things.

As you might imagine, my brain is struggling to keep up with the near-daily changes and drama we’ve been thrust into with this whole pandemic thing. Schedules are changing constantly, rules for even simple things like grocery shopping are changing and often different from store to store (which is really, really disorienting and stressful), I can’t get a haircut because the salons are closed, and work is in a constant state of flux.

Add to that so many things that need to be handled by phone now (I hate talking on the phone) or by video meeting (still do not get the whole video thing – why isn’t audio enough?!), which I’m pretty sure is just for everyone to convince everyone else that they really are working from home, and not just slacking off (pro-tip: if your job is getting done, no one will question whether you’re working or not).

I am not working from home (and won’t unless they force me), but there are challenges inherant to that as well, and the daily rush of trying to get as much done as possible before they actually do kick me out and I have to deal with dogs and neighbor kids and even more phone conversations I don’t want to have during the average work day.

Yes, I am grateful to have a job I won’t lose, and to still be drawing a paycheck…but I still reserve the right to complain. Because sometimes complaining is the only way to de-pressurize the stress.

Hopefully the world will settle into a “new normal” soon, and sometime after that, maybe I’ll feel comfortable establishing some new routines again. But for now, I need to take what’s thrown my way as calmly as possible, and do my best to muddle through, hoping that my diminished mental capacity due to having to constantly adjust and do things differently day after day after day doesn’t impair my abilities to much.

I love less traffic, less people all over, and stepping out my back door at night to peace and quiet, rather than the constant hum/roar of traffic and noise. I love getting personal space without asking for it most of the time.

Everything else is driving me insane.

Puppy Pic(s) of the Week

Excerpt of the Week

The Pact

Michelle sat on the old, cold stone steps of the abandoned building, arms propped on her knees, head down, stringy blond blond hair covering her face. A black beanie hugged her head, damp from the rain.

She wasn’t sure how long she’d been sitting there. Hours, certainly. This was the address she’d been given and she couldn’t leave. Not yet.

There was a big clock tower in the center of town. It was old and simple, made of rough hewn stone blocks, with big copper bells that tolled on the hour, as they were doing now. Two pm.

She lifted her head and looked at the chipped address tiles again. Twenty-two hundred Barnaby Street. Just as her note had said. It had been 10 years since they’d made the pact. He probably wouldn’t even remember, but she didn’t have anywhere else to be, and this…well, this could be her chance. Maybe the only one she’d ever get.

If he showed up.

Variety Pages – March 17, 2020

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Are you wearing green?! No pinching this year either way, I suppose. *sigh*

Alternate Realities: Animal Crossing

Springtime has come to Animal Crossing Pocket Camp, and I spent a lot of time growing flowers and catching bugs last week to get some very pretty and spring-y tulip themed items. I don’t have them up in my camp, because I jumped on the chance to use some of the themed items I got last year, but I may still add a few of them here and there this spring. It’s fun seeing all the bright spring colors and flowers…puts me in the mood for spring in real life, though that’s still quite a ways off – especially considering the snow storm we got this past weekend. There’s a fishing tourney going on this week, and even with everything that’s happening both at work and globally, I make time to play daily, just to get away from all the stress for a few minutes.

I’ve also been playing Animal Crossing Wild World, which was released for the Nintendo DS system in 2005. My husband brought home a DS Lite system someone at his work was giving away, and I wanted to play one of the mainstream Animal Crossing games before the new one comes out this Friday (yes, I have it on pre-order from Amazon). I was curious as to why most Animal Crossing fans were so down on Pocket Camp, and now that I’ve been playing Wild World, I can see where going from the mainstream game to the scaled down mobile game would be a disappointment.

But I also can see why Pocket Camp is scaled down – it’s made for people on the go to play in tiny bites, and for that purpose, it works well, in my opinion. All of this led me to thinking about why I love these games, and I came up with a few reasons:

– They’re absolutely adorable, which makes my brain relax and gives me a dopamine hit pretty much as soon as they load up, much like seeing my dogs.
– There’s a strong collection element to them, and I definitely have the “collectors” gene.
– I like making progress in them by helping the other villagers – being nice and helpful in these games is always a very rewarding experience, moreso than it often is in real life.
– I like connecting with other people that I know nothing about other than that they love the game as well. It’s fun doing what I can to help them meet their in-game goals, and having them help me meet mine. It’s all very socially rewarding without the actual in-person interaction, which seems like something that’s getting more and more important given current events.

Do you play? If so, send me your friend code (or ask me for mine)! Let’s play/escape together!

Puppy Pic of the Week

On Current Events

It’s impossible not to be affected by the Covid-19 pandemic these days, and I’m no exception. I’m lucky in that my job isn’t really affected or threatened by the measures our government is taking to try to stem a tide that will keep on moving no matter what we do. I’m also lucky that I’m an introvert who tends to eschew human contact on an average day, so staying away from people is easy for me (I don’t just take the stairs to be healthy, I take them because I don’t like being stuck in small spaces with even a few other people).

I also tend to be of a lazy “prepper” mindset when it comes to food and such, so we have plenty of food and toilet paper for several weeks…and we have that on an average day, not just one where people are going out in droves to buy crazy amounts of paper products, soap and beans. So while it’s an annoyance to find the shelves clear of baked beans/bean salad (and a little uncomfortable considering I need a lot of fiber in my diet), we aren’t going to run out of food anytime soon.

I’ll go to work until I’m told I can’t, except for this Friday, which I’m taking as a vacation day because…Animal Crossing. And also because I really, really need a day where nothing needs to be done, I don’t have to stress over some project at work, and I can just sit and let the stress that has my shoulder pinched in a very uncomfortable way roll off and with any luck, right down the drain. I need a break – not only from work, but from the world. Both my mind and my body need to just relax. Chill. Play with the puppies and wander around a deserted virtual island.

For now, I need to work harder on getting enough sleep. It’s the little things that will determine how or if we survive this: sleep, hydration, nutrition, relaxation. The basics.

Life is changing, and I suspect it won’t ever be the same as it was after we’re done. No matter how much we like to think we’re in control or give ourselves that illusion, we’re not, and nature is not kind or unkind, it just…is what it is.

Excerpt of the Week

The Pact

Michelle sat on the old, cold stone steps of the abandoned building, arms propped on her knees, head down, stringy blond blond hair covering her face. A black beanie hugged her head, damp from the rain.

She wasn’t sure how long she’d been sitting there. Hours, certainly. This was the address she’d been given and she couldn’t leave. Not yet.

There was a big clock tower in the center of town. It was old and simple, made of rough hewn stone blocks, with big copper bells that tolled on the hour, as they were doing now. Two pm.

She lifted her head and looked at the chipped address tiles again. Twenty-two hundred Barnaby Street. Just as her note had said. It had been 10 years since they’d made the pact. He probably wouldn’t even remember, but she didn’t have anywhere else to be, and this…well, this could be her chance. Maybe the only one she’d ever get.

If he showed up.


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Variety Pages – March 9, 2020

Weird ‘n Wacky

Pants on the Ground

It had been a particularly windy day when I came across these pants while walking to my car after work. I often pass discarded articles of clothing, but they’re normally gloves, hats, scarves, or the occasional shoe or coat. It’s not often I pass a pair of pants, and my immediate thought, of course, was, “Wow! You know the wind is blowing hard when someone loses their pants!”

And then of course I wondered what *really* happened…if they fell out of someone’s bag, or if there had been a “de-pantsing” incident there, or if they’d simply blown off of one of the balconies from the nearby apartment building. Assuming the latter was the most fun, and provided me story fodder for the ride home.

Where does your mind take you when you see a rogue pair of pants like this?

Puppy Pic of the Week

Athena & Murphy, practicing patience.

Off the Shelf

I’ve been making reading more of a priority this year, and at the moment, I have two books and several comic series in progress. In print, I am still working on Origin by Dan Brown. “Still” because I started it before Christmas last year, and then let it sit for far too long while I worked late instead of getting to bed early enough to have reading time. Now I spend about 15-20 minutes with it a night, and it’s moving quickly, both story-wise and page-wise! I’m enjoying it, and very curious as to what the ultimate reveal will be.

Digitally, I’m reading Blame it on the Frosting by Samantha Hunter. It’s cute, sweet, and funny, as you might expect. Also, I find the thought of pheromone-laced cookies a little disconcerting.

And my current comic series in play are Harly Quinn, The Amazing Spider-Man, Daredevil, Deadpool, and I just finished Pearl. I’m a little behind (catching up quickly), but I’m exceedingly glad that the “Hunted” story line in Spider-man is over. It was getting a bit tedious, in my opinion. Definitely looking forward to what’s coming next.

I was also a bit bummed to come to the end of Pearl’s story…at least for now. I’m not normally interested in things with a gang subject, but I was drawn to this one by the tattooing and art style, and definitely got hooked on the Yakuza-centered story line. Fascinating.

Excerpt of the Week

How It Begins

“So this is how it ends.”

Nori locked gazes with the dull green eyes peering through a black mask at her over the barrel of a gun. She didn’t know what kind of gun it was, and didn’t care. She didn’t bother struggling against the zip-ties that bound her wrists, didn’t bother begging. She couldn’t see his face, but she knew him well enough.

“It won’t give you peace, you know.”

His nod was almost imperceptible. “I know. But I can’t let you leave.”


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Getting Better, New Format Coming

It felt like forever (being sick always does), but after 10 days, I’m feeling much better, and nearly back to normal.

In other news that has nothing to do with my health and well-being (I heard that sigh of relief out there), I’ve been thinking a lot about this blog, its history, and the various formats I’ve explored. At its high point, I was posting daily instead of weekly, and each day I had a different topic of interest, from writing to tea to nail art to reading…and people typically read the day they were interested in, and skimmed or skipped the rest. Then I branched the largest main topics off onto their own blogs since people didn’t really seem interested in reading about a whole week’s worth of different topics, and I made this a writing blog. Which appeals to writers, but not readers so much.

Then I just reverted it back to its original format of being more of a personal blog, which was the original purpose of most blogs (Yes, I’m old enough that I was keeping a personal journal on my first web site before there were such things as “blogs”). And now my readership is extremely small and mostly silent especially when I forget to post a link on social media, because…well, because I don’t write it in a way that would appeal to the masses and I write long-form, which isn’t something that appeals to most of us online in this day and age (I’m just as guilty as anyone else here…I do read long-form blog posts occasionally, but I often stack them up until I have time to get back to them, which generally isn’t anywhere near when they were posted).

We have short attention spans for online content these days, and we like pictures and bullet points and short, punchy paragraphs. I’ve resisted this for a long time now, on principle, but I think maybe it’s time to embrace it. Do something new. Challenge myself. See if I can’t create content that will both live up to my blog name (The Variety Pages), and also share something of myself without boring people to tears with long essays of daily minutia.

In that vein, next week I’ll be using more of a news magazine format for the weekly posts. There will be bold headings! Pictures! Stuff about writing! Stuff about games! Stuff about dogs! Maybe even stuff about food or crafts! Probably not so many exclamation points!

No promises.

Also, posts will now be up on Mondays. And I will do my level best to post links all over social media for those of you who are blog-visiting-averse. Or, you can sign up for updates through email via the sidebar link, or this handy-dandy link right here in the post.

So there you have it. New plan, new post day. Good times.


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No Good Deed…

…goes unpunished. That’s how the saying goes, right? Apparently it applies to “deeds done for myself” too, given the events of last week.

I carried out my plan to shift my schedules and get 6 hours of sleep every night. I moved my bedtime up half an hour, and decided to get up half an hour later on Tuesdays, and half an hour earlier Mon/Weds/Thurs/Fri, which means bedtime at midnight (sleep time – reading 20 min before), and up at 6am for six full hours of sleep every night.

Tuesday morning, I felt good after those six hours of sleep, and…the staff meeting was cancelled. It was still good I had the extra sleep though, because the workday was *brutal*. Six hours Tues/Weds night had me going through my routines like a pro, getting stuff accomplished that I’d been wanting to finish for weeks, and finding that balance I’d been so desperately looking for in the evenings between play and work. It was awesome. I was feeling really good about things.

And then Thursday night, I was hit with one of the most painful sore throats I’ve had in a very long time – like shards of glass every time I needed to swallow. It was so painful I couldn’t sleep Thursday night and finally got up around 3:30am to take some ibuprofen, leaving me with about 2.5 hours of sleep (and a gnarly sore throat) for Friday.

Needless to say, I was doing pretty well just making it through the day on Friday, couldn’t dictate anything at lunch due to my throat, and was too tired to even contemplate editing, much less staying up for “business hours” late Friday night. I did my budgeting, made some questionable purchases (but did talk myself out of the most expensive “want”, so there’s that), and went to bed (which was definitely the best decision just then).

My throat is healing, slower than I’d like, but it’s definitely getting better. More to the point, my schedule change was working really well until my throat gave out. And I’m writing this during one of my scheduled “work” times, after walking the dog and then putting my games down after “game curfew” at nine. Which is to say, the new schedule is still working so far, and I’m making better decisions, sticking to schedules, and not just being lazy and squandering my evening time on things that are fun, but ultimately don’t get me closer to my goal.

This is a good direction to be moving in. I like it.

I’ll like it even more once my throat is back to normal.


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Discipline, Habits and Sleep

I used to be in the habit of being disciplined, so to speak. I had my routines and followed them strictly, and got a lot done. Now it seems like I mostly just whine about how disciplined I used to be, while not actually taking the steps needed to…you know. Be disciplined again. Discipline is just prioritizing one thing over another throughout the day – it’s not rocket science.

So, no more whining about it. It’s time to just “do or do not” – but I’m determined to “do” this week. If I can be disciplined enough for long enough, then habits will form that don’t require as much discipline to maintain, and that is where I want to be.

Most of the habits I need to create are writing/publishing-related…but those have some dependencies on other habits like going to bed on time (willpower is often rest-dependent, I’ve found) and making sure the rest of my day stays on schedule so that my writing & editing times are “protected”. I can’t always do that (because, life), but I certainly can a majority of the time. It’s just little decisions here and there, like opening a game to play for “just a few minutes” at the wrong time, not having my laptop in the living room in the evening, or not starting my day with the right combination of things so that my head is in the right space for both work and taking advantage of commute times for dictation.

It’s really not nearly as difficult as I often make it. It’s more a matter of priorities and deciding what’s more important: a few minutes of escapism, or a few minutes of story. There’s time for both, of course, I just need to manage my time and routines more efficiently.

In light of that, I’ve made myself a new schedule, and set some boundaries, as well as some new goals and reminders. I feel good about this, mostly because I’ve set myself up to think about what I really want, both now and in the future. With my priorities straightened out, I think it will be easier to remember why I’m respecting those self-set boundaries, and why I’m reaching for those goals.

Interestingly enough, I think the majority of my success rests on the habit of going to bed on time. Getting enough sleep is vital to making good decisions and moving forward with my main priorities rather than just zoning out and telling myself, “I’ll do it tomorrow,” or “I’ll catch up later”. Being overly tired seems to be my kryptonite more than anything else, so that routine of going to bed on time and getting enough sleep is probably the most important one I need to establish.

Ironically, the reason I normally break it is because I get enough sleep, and then I feel good enough to press past the late-night fatigue to work longer the next day, and then I don’t get enough sleep, and I’m in that bad cycle of wanting/needing to catch up because I’m not working as fast or efficiently as I could be because I didn’t get enough sleep. It’s a ridiculous cycle to be caught in, all because I don’t respect the fact that my body needs 6 hours of sleep a night, even if I’m behind, or feel like I want to keep working to get ahead.

Of course the one day per week that throws me off the most is Tuesday, because I have to get up an hour earlier for work, which means I get less sleep than I need if I go to bed at my normal time, and I end up being overtired and making poor decisions. This is really the biggest issue I have for not getting enough rest, and I know what I need to do to “fix” it, I just…don’t want to. I need to go to bed earlier *every night* and get up earlier *every day*, so that my weekday sleep schedule is the same every day.

Of course that shifts my entire evening routine earlier, which makes it more difficult because I’m trying to get more done while the household is awake, rather than waiting until everyone is asleep to work. This hasn’t generally worked well for me in the past, but maybe it’s time to try again. Shifting everything up by half an hour in the evenings and getting up half an hour earlier Mon/Weds/Thurs/Fri, and half an hour later on Tuesdays would give me the “regular” schedule I need…as long as I can shorten my Tues morning routine to fit.

Life would be so much easier on us night owls if there weren’t so many morning people running things.

In any case, that’s the plan for this week. Shift some things around, respect boundaries and sleep requirements, and hopefully get more done since I’ll theoretically be awake/alert enough to follow my own schedule.

I think it’s gonna be a good week. Or enlightening, at the very least.


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Thoughts from the Kitchen

I recently ordered a couple of aprons. Full-length ones, that cover from chest to mid-thigh. I’ve never been a huge fan of aprons, mostly because I’m not fond of skirts or a lot of fabric flowing around my legs. But so many of my t-shirts (even the black ones) are dotted with grease stains (and no, I haven’t washed a chapstick in quite awhile), I decided it was time to do something.

I need to find somewhere to hang them that they’ll be both easily accessible and very visible (pantry door? Hook on the very limited wall space somewhere?). And I need to make putting one on before cooking a part of my routine. Not that I really have a “routine” to cook, per se, except for on Sunday mornings when I divvy the vitamins for the week into pill boxes first. So, I can make putting an apron on the thing I do next right after that, and most importantly, right before I start cooking bacon. Which is probably the majority of my grease-stain problem.

In the evenings, it will just have to be a “thing” – as soon as I go to the kitchen to cook, I put on an apron. Maybe I’ll make myself a “nag” reminder. That might be easier than forgetting more often than not and never really building it into a bonefide habit.

In other kitchen news, our local Lucky’s grocery store closes this week, and I was bummed out at first, because there are several things I’ve gotten used to being able to get there (like organic worchestershire sauce, strange as that sounds – I actually just really like the taste better). When they announced they were closing (just a relatively short time after my favorite local “mainstream” store closed), I knew there were only two other stores in town that carried mostly natural, healthier-type foods. Both are on the smaller side, one being *much* smaller, and the other one sells only organic products, which excludes several local products. I decided on Natural Grocer’s, the “organics only” store, just because they’re a little bigger and though I’m not fond of the location, I definitely like the store itself better.

Interestingly,the change has been a good one, and I kind of wish I’d done it quite awhile ago. I can get all the items I used to get at Lucky’s there for less money, and I’ve discovered some other things that Lucky’s didn’t carry, but I’m happy to be able to find in healthier options than our local Albertsons has.

Which brings me, in a roundabout way, to a conversation I had with an acquaintance I ran into in Natural Grocer’s last weekend. She was picking out some non-dairy creamer because Lucky’s was the only store in town who had carried milk from our only local dairy (a town a few hours away), and she feels very strongly about buying local dairy. Natural Grocer’s won’t carry the local brand because it’s not organic. So she was passing up all the “grass-fed/free-range/humanely kept” organic milk simply because it wasn’t local. And it got me wondering how I felt about that myself.

I buy local meat all the time – and I know our beef is grass-fed & well cared for on my friend’s country property before it gets to us. Pork I’m not so sure about, and chicken is generally frozen from Costco in packs that we can’t eat fast enough or a rotisserie chicken from…well, Albertson’s I guess, since Lucky’s is gone and Natural Grocer’s doesn’t have them.

Milk, however, I’ve been buying from Albertson’s, because there are only two of us, so if it’s not ultra-pasturized, even a half-gallon of whole milk will go bad before we can drink it (or more often, eat it on cereal & cook with it). The organic brand that Lucky’s sold wasn’t ultra-pasturized, and honestly, it just didn’t taste all that great. Our local milk wasn’t ultra-pasturized either, and I wasn’t impressed with the taste of that either.

Natural Grocer’s does carry a line of organic milk that’s ultra-pasturized, so I picked up a half-gallon to try. We’ll see how it tastes, but if it’s good, I’ll probably switch to that even though it’s more expensive. Natural Grocer’s is actually cheaper all around, so I can afford the extra.

Naturally, that got me thinking back to meat again. We buy local, as I said earlier, but is that really the best criteria for meat that I’m not sure on the growing/raising conditions? I was looking at bacon in Natural Grocer’s and the labels were all similar. Free-range, grass-fed, humanely raised and “harvested”, uncured. The latter two made me pick up a pack just to try, expecting a rather bland or insanely salty pack of bacon. But it was actually delicious, and I think we’ll be adding it to our rotation at least once a month (possibly twice).

They have chicken thighs in packs of two, which in the long run, is probably better and less expensive than throwing out half a pack of frozen thighs from Costco. And again, raised, cared for and killed humanely. Honestly, I think that might be more important to me than how local the meat is, even though I’d be very happy if I could get local meat responsibly raised as well.

So, interesting thoughts from the kitchen this week. The one other thing I’m excited about is the red lentil pasta I found at NG. I love pasta. Pasta sticks to my fat cells like glue. I’m really hoping some of these alternative pastas that are more protein and far less carbs will be the happy medium to my love-hate relationship with flour-based pasta.

One can hope, right?


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Writing Progress & Healthy Habits

Things have been busy, busy in my world lately, and while a lot of it is just annoying “gotta do it” stuff, I’m actually starting to make progress on the things I want to make progress on again. Like…writing and editing.

I tell you what – that feels incredible. I am *so close* to finishing the novel draft I’ve been working on for at least two years now. I’ll finish it this week, and it will be ready to edit, and then I’ll get back to work on the other one I was working on before Christmas.

Last week I marked up one of the new flash stories (I’ve been writing a flash story every Monday to “warm up” for the week), and after the final type-in sometime this week, it will be ready to put in the “Completed” folder. After researching what it would take to make a calendar of stories, I’ve decided to scrap that idea (it would be expensive, as it turns out, and time consuming), and just publish a collection of 12 flash stories for the year. The story I just finished would be a great spring story, so I think it will be the April or May entry for that collection. The story I wrote today will be perfect for a January or February entry.

I’ve also been working on edits for a story I wrote several years ago, but never published. It needs a new last quarter or so (I knew that when I finished the first draft), and now it’s finally going to get one. I’m doing line edits at the moment, until I get to that part where it “jumped the shark”, so to speak. Then I’ll start rewriting from there, and see where it takes me. I’m guessing it will be somewhere good, based on what I’ve read/marked up so far.

My goal is to publish this one by October 1st. That shouldn’t be a difficult goal to hit at all, especially if things keep going like they have been.

For the most part, I’m keeping up with my workouts, though it’s been too cold to walk the dogs at night this week. Hopefully we’ll be able to get out for a bit towards the weekend, because they’re going a bit stir-crazy being stuck inside, and I need exercise. Unfortunatly my eyes can’t really handle much time in the cold, dry wind, so that’s limiting too. But it’s been a much warmer, milder winter this year, so we’ve had a lot more time to walk than normal, which is a nice change.

Speaking of eyes, the e-ink reMarkable tablet has been a real lifesaver. When my eyes are fatigued and sore, I can still use that, no problem, so I’ve been doing line edits while I sit and watch TV at night. I have a light that hangs around my neck for crochet and for using with the tablet, and there’s just enough light, pointed away from my eyes, to make editing painless.

It means I can work longer without straining my eyes, and I love that. My eyes love that even more, and they get a rest between the workday and my late-night laptop session (aside from the occasional Pokemon/Animal Crossing/facebook checks, that is). I also use the tablet for planning & brainstorming. Sometimes it’s just…easier to write things out by hand.

Now, if I could just figure out how to get enough sleep, and then force myself to quit working earlier so I’d have time to read before beed..that would be perfect. I have been reading comics in the mornings again, and getting caught up with those. Now I just need to get back to Origin by Dan Brown (which is the print book I’m reading at the moment), and life will be going swimmingly.

Alas, tonight I am late with the blog (by a day, but also in getting to bed), so no reading time again. I’m determined to make it a habit again by the end of the year. We’ll see how that goes.

Progress feels so good. Wouldn’t it be great if we could bottle it and take it later, like a spice with dinner or an energy drink or something?

That actually kind of gives me an idea….


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