Sunday, July 2, 2023

Mid-Year Book Freakout Tag 2023


The Secret History, by Donna Tartt; Catherine House, by Elisabeth Thomas; and Bunny, by Mona Awad

In 2022, I read fifty-one books in the entire year, and I felt good about it. That was actually more than I had read in the previous year.

In 2023, in the first half of the year, I have read seventy books! 

What changed? In January of this year I found out about "BookTube," otherwise known as the part of YouTube in which people review and discuss books, otherwise known as something I may be the last reader on Earth to have discovered. I mean, before I stumbled across BookTube in my recommended videos page, I never got the idea to look for videos about books. I would just read books! But it turns out that it's motivating for me to hear other people talk about books. I've found so many good recommendations, especially after figuring out which reviewers line up with my taste in fiction. I've also tried some genres that were new to me, or less likely to come to my attention.

Several of the reviewers I watch have made videos for the "Mid-Year Book Freakout Tag," answering a set of questions about what they've read in the first half of this year and what they plan to read later. Since I'm not making videos, I thought I'd take it to my blog. I did not come up with these questions myself; my sources indicate they came from YouTubers known as Chami and Earl Grey Books. And now...


Best book you've read so far this year?

I have a little set of books to discuss. I read Bunny, by Mona Awad, and I loved it. Later I read The Secret History, by Donna Tartt, and I loved it. Later, I read Catherine House, by Elisabeth Thomas, and I see it as a book that combines some of the best things about the previous two. I think you've already guessed that I loved it! All three of these novels are "dark academia," with some weird, otherworldly elements. I think it would be fun to re-read all three in a row, both to see what it's like to start with some understanding of what's going on and to be able to compare them more intentionally.

Best sequel you've read so far this year?

I haven't read many sequels this year. I'm not opposed to reading a series now and then, but most of the books I read are standalones. I enjoyed Hell Bent, by Leigh Bardugo, but it didn't have much competition in the sequel category.

New release you haven't read yet, but want to?

Because I've been Influenced by the many, many, many, many, many BookTubers who are sponsored by a subscription box known as Book of the Month, most of the brand-new release books in my possession came from the blue boxes I am now buying every month. I'm talking about The Last Word, by Taylor Adams; Weyward, by Emilia Hart; and Ink Blood Sister Scribe, by Emma Törzs. I'm also planning to read Translation State, by Ann Leckie, and Happy Place, by Emily Henry. 

Most anticipated release for the second half of the year?

Let me look at my pre-orders... The book I'm the most excited about at this moment is Rouge, by Mona Awad. So far, I've only read one of her other books, Bunny, which was outstanding. I just started to read All's Well yesterday, so I don't know how I feel about it yet. It could either feed or dampen my currently fiery passion to read Rouge, but I'll read Rouge either way.

Biggest disappointment?

There was one book I thought would be good, but didn't like: Piñata, by Leopoldo Gout. There was another book I didn't know much about but I had heard good things, and then I actually hated it: Normal People, by Sally Rooney. I'm going to say that Piñata was the more disappointing, though, because the premise had potential that raised my expectations, but then I didn't enjoy the way the story was told. Not just "didn't enjoy." The part of my mind that edits fiction kept yelling about the point of view choices, the structure, the pacing, and the implausibility of a certain object making it through customs from Mexico to the United States. It was not a good reading experience. 

Biggest surprise?

I liked a romance novel! Actually, I liked two romance novels!! Those were both by Emily Henry: Book Lovers, and Beach Read. I hardly ever read romance novels, so that is a stunning achievement for this author. I'm sure she's somewhere reading this right now and bursting into happy tears because she totally knows who I am and cares what I think. Congratulations, Emily Henry!

Favorite new author (debut or new to you)?

This goes to Sarah Gailey. I've read three of her books in 2023: The Echo Wife, and Magic for Liars (which is one of my very most favorites for the year so far), and Upright Women Wanted. I'm looking forward to reading Just Like Home. I also managed to never read anything by T. Kingfisher before 2023, and now she's one of my insta-buy authors.

Newest fictional crush?

I don't really get crushes on characters! But I'll say that Gus from Beach Read would probably catch my attention if he were a real human person. :)

Newest favorite character?

I'm going to stick with Gus. :)

A book that made you cry?

It's rare for me to cry when I read, but that did happen once this year while I was reading The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy, by Megan Bannen. I never would have heard of this book if I hadn't started to support oliviareadsalatte through her Patreon, which includes a couple of different book clubs at different levels; this was the first book I read for the book club I joined. It's a secondary-world fantasy romance novel for adults that is not too spicy, but not altogether without spice. I liked the unusual setting and the somewhat cozy story that wasn't too soft. There was a part toward the end that made me cry, but then got resolved beautifully. Not a sad book! But it made me care a lot.

A book that made you happy?

Also The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy. :)

Most beautiful book you've bought this year (or received)?

Poison Ivy: The Virtuous Cycle, by G. Willow Wilson, Marcio Takara, and Arif Prianto. The artwork is gorgeous. I hardly ever buy special editions of novels, but I bought a couple with particularly nice covers: Demon Copperhead, by Barbara Kingsolver, and What Moves the Dead, by T. Kingfisher (Maybe it helps to have a surname that starts with "King").

What book(s) do you need to read by the end of the year?

Lol, "need" is a strong word. I have no book-reading responsibilities, and I'm a mood-reader. If I state for the record that I want to read a certain book by the end of this year, there's a decent chance that I'll be more interested in another book by next week. Especially since these charismatic people on the internet keep Influencing me! So you might want to look to them for predictions about what I'll decide to read, and then check back here in late December.

Aside from Olivia (oliviareadsalatte, mentioned above), I'm also a huge fan and patron of Jordaline, of Jordaline Reads on YouTube, and Ally, aka allisonpaiges on YouTube. There are several others I follow, but these are the three I'll drop everything and watch when a new video comes out. 

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

Whoo, It's Been a Time

 Hey there. Hi. Long time no post. I get it! I apologize.

Anyway, I'm alive. When the pandemic started in March of 2020, I became very cautious and probably at least a little bit depressed, and all of my writing suffered. I watched a lot of shows and got deeply absorbed in playing a few video games. One high point of 2020 was receiving a hardcover, illustrated author copy of an anthology with one of my stories: "The Circus Reborn," in Midnight Under the Big Top. It was edited by Brian James Freeman and released by Cemetery Dance, and it contains stories by a lot of really excellent, well-known authors (like Stephen King and Neil Gaiman, for just two examples). I would have promoted it way more, but the book was a fancy limited edition that sold out within twenty-four hours! Never has a peak publishing experience felt more exciting and more painful at the same time. I really wish there were a larger release of a paperback version to tell you about. If there ever is, I will.

I'm a mask-wearing, vaccinated avoider of crowds at this point, due to variants of the virus going around. A couple of months after getting my second dose of the vaccine in April of 2021, I did go on a road trip with my now live-in fella, but then the case numbers started to rise radically and we started to stay in a lot more, to be careful.

I've started to write fiction again, and I'm actually enjoying it. No new publications to report, but I thought I'd post a wee update to reveal that I'm still here, doing the thing. I hope you're also alive and well. Maybe I'll even get back into the habit of writing new posts on a semi-regular basis.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Two Sonnets

(Sunset over Lake Mendota)


To get myself back into blogging, I've decided to let you know that I sometimes write sonnets! Here are two of them - one new, one old. Enjoy? I hope you will.


Into the World

We did not meet while I was in the maze,
Believing that I wasn’t lost at all,
Yet winding ever deeper through my days,
To inward darkness, ever more in thrall.

We could not meet while I, with covered eyes
Kept to my house, to pathways known and clear,
And blinded to the world’s exquisite size,
Knew only of the small and of the near.

We would not meet till I was forced to wake
Into a time so startling and so bright
That first it burned, and then for healing’s sake
I went outside to learn to love the light.

Now through the glowing world I travel, keen
To see each face and vista, and be seen.

- August 4, 2019


My Tribe

I walk through normal life, an oddity,
My colors bright, my mind never at rest,
And never meet the likes of one like me,
Beset by words, by haunting image blessed.

I sleep through dreams of spaces where alone
I search for signals sent from my own kind,
Or listen for the light enchanting tone
Of longed-for voices merrily combined.

But when I gladly meet my tribe anew,
And read from flashing eyes acceptance dear,
I join the ones I love, the charming few,
To laugh, to understand, to gather near.

Our colors blend in vibrant harmony;
Combine in patterns no one else can see.

- November, 2007

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Creative Boundaries: A Way to Decide What to Make or Write Next

(See what I did with this frame here?)

I'm not sure how to begin this post, but that's my problem. I struggle with being indecisive about what to start and how to start it. I think there are two reasons people might get into this state: either being too picky or too open-minded. 

If you're too picky, you don't like any idea, or maybe you've internalized a feeling of judgment from other people, so you can shoot down any idea based on the certainty that it will be despised by the entire world, thus leading to your total ostracism from society, and the ruination of the entire rest of your life. Or something like that. This is a perfectionism issue that can be really damaging to you, so it's important to challenge these beliefs. Nothing is ever going to be perfect, and there's no way to create something that everyone will like. If there's nothing that you like, there's a chance that your expectations are too high. There's also a chance that your mental state is edging into the territory where you should seek a medical professional to guide you back toward happiness.

If you're too open-minded, you like so many ideas, approaches, media, styles, topics, lengths, sizes, shapes, textures, moods, genres, and so on, forever, that it can be hard to even know what to expect from your own personality on a given day, let alone pick a damn project.

Believe it or not, I have the sort of super-fun mind that has experienced both of these ways to become indecisive, but it's almost always the second one for me. There are some things I definitely don't like and don't want to try, but I feel like there are more things I do like and do want to try. I waste a lot of energy on envying people who have more clarity and focus about what they want to create. People who wake up every day knowing that they only want to write far-future science fiction novels, or only want to do pop surrealist paintings on 20" x 20" slabs of concrete with acrylic paint, or only want to sew vintage-style dresses made entirely of food products to model in selfies on Instagram. 

I feel like I shouldn't complain about having a wide array of options (although I have to admit the "sewing with food" thing is not one of them), but I feel overwhelmed a lot. Especially when my mind-monkeys start in with their garbage about how little it matters one way or the other what I make, regardless of how much I like it, because of all the serious shit that needs to be addressed in the world. At least I have an answer to that nonsense, thanks to Chuck Wendig, who wrote the excellent "25 Reasons to Keep Making Stuff". HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

That leads me to this post, because I have remembered one method that's generally helpful with indecision: setting creative boundaries, as you might have guessed from the title. Setting some creative boundaries to work with involves a layer of decision-making up front, but somehow that becomes easier for me once I've made boundary-setting my mission. 

So what are creative boundaries? They're a set of guidelines for what you will work on for a certain period of time, as well as what you will not work on. A starting point can be what you know about your attention span and your need for variety. How long is your time period going to be? Do you like shorter projects that last a day, a weekend, a week, or a month? Or do you prefer thinking in terms of a quarter, a half-year, or a year? 

Then it's time to consider the possible options. If you're like me, maybe you'll need to write out a long list of ways you might like to create. Maybe you'll need subcategories like "art" and "writing" to start with, and then lists of appealing ideas and methods under each. Or maybe your indecision is not so much about the format, but the subject matter and/or genre to focus on. Or something else. Write down everything that's competing for your attention.

Then it's time to narrow down the possibilities. Which of these ideas can you reasonably-but-somewhat-ambitiously expect to achieve in the amount of time you're thinking of? Are some of the ideas starting to sound more appealing than the others? Do some of them seem closer to your heart and what you want to express? Is there any reason some should be finished before others? At this point you might be able to clarify what sounds most interesting for now, knowing that the other ideas are on the list and available to choose later.

The final step is to get really specific and write down what you want to make, what size or length it'll be, what materials or tools you'll use, how you want to go about it, and when you want to finish it. Ideally, get into whatever format of calendar or to-do list you use and schedule times when you're going to work on it. 

I've just started to create a possible framework for 2019, incorporating monthly themes for my subject matter, but I haven't made it specific enough yet. If I can sort it out, I'll post about it sometime in December!

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Seasonal Decorating: A Thing I Didn't Care For In My 20s Is Now My Thing

(Here's Annabelle, reestablishing her relationship with this sparkly white throw blanket)


Since I don't play the Christmas-before-Thanksgiving game, and since I was away over the Thanksgiving weekend, my Christmas decorations are not entirely up yet. I amazed myself by having a short burst of energy for getting started after the drive home on Sunday, so I put away some fall things and got out some "winter" things (technically it's still late fall, everybody, but I'm willing to play along). But yesterday I had some blogging and cybershopping to do, so I didn't advance the cause of seasonal decorating again until this morning. The Christmas tree will go up tonight. I feel like I've cheated myself out of several days of holiday cheer, but I'll be okay. 

I'm not even sure when I got to the point of having specific "fall decor" to take down. I've always done Christmas decorating, and some Halloween, but I didn't really change things up the rest of the time. I started to do the seasonal thing in the last few years, recently enough that even as I put away one set of things and get out the other set of things, I'm thinking to myself "Really? Am I really doing this? Is this who I am now?"

I think seasonal decorating comes on because of feeling different about life as a middle-aged person. When I was a couple of decades younger, I had less life experience, so it was easier to get some novelty. Practically any situation could feel new in one way or another. If nothing else, there was interpersonal drama to keep things fresh. There's no drama now. These days, I may not have seen it all but I have seen most of it. I've tried putting my furniture in most of the possible configurations for this space, and the furniture is nice enough that I don't intend to replace it soon, and I have some storage space, so I am damn well going to freshen things up by switching out some accessories on a seasonal basis, and for holidays. This, I hope, will keep me from sinking into a dreary haze from which I only emerge to note with astonishment that a decade has passed and I don't remember a single thing I did in that period of time.

With that said, I'm off to spread around some shiny baubles! I hope you're keeping things fresh today!

Monday, November 26, 2018

Thanksgiving Weekend, 2018 - More Exciting than I Had Expected!

(Flowers from my parents' 50th wedding anniversary party)

Happy final week of November to you! I'm back. Let's do this.

This year, I had a calm and relatively simple Thanksgiving, with non-crazy amounts of food that included pumpkin pie I made myself. The filling, I made. I bought pre-made pie crust and I have no regrets. The best thing about mixing up my own pumpkin pie filling is that I can have the amount of cinnamon I require in it. Last time I used the same recipe, I doubled the amount of cinnamon. This time, I tripled it. And you know I'm using the good cinnamon, from Penzeys

One reason I kept that day simple was that I knew I was going to be driving from Wisconsin to Indiana on Friday, with my three sons, and driving back on Sunday, because my parents were having their 50th anniversary party on Saturday afternoon. We're juggling multi-household schedules and preferences, so this was the way it was going to work out best for everyone. We arrived on Friday evening, and spent some time hanging out with my parents, my brother and sister-in-law, and their four kids (a boy, two girls, and another boy, ages 13, 12, 10, and 9) and five-month-old retriever puppy in their two adjoining hotel rooms. It was a pet-friendly Hampton Inn & Suites hotel; recommended! Then I sat with my brother by the pool while my youngest spent some time swimming with his cousins. My older sons stayed in our room, where they didn't trash a single thing. They're high-quality teens, those two.

On Saturday, I woke up feeling tired and achy enough that I was concerned I might be getting an illness, but I pushed through it for the day. The anniversary party was in a church fellowship hall, and we needed to do a lot of setting up and decorating. My mom had ordered some floral centerpieces, and we received two more bouquets from relatives. I set up a display of photos, and added decorative ribbon to all of the tables; my boys all did the assignments their grandma gave them. My sister-in-law was more involved with the food preparation, and my brother kept the younger kids and the puppy under control. Everything went well, and most importantly, my parents had a good time!

The party was from 1 to 4 p.m. After waking up already tired, doing the set-up, socializing with many people, eating all afternoon, and then cleaning up, I was done, done, done for the day. I had hoped to rally for going out to dinner in the evening, but I was SO TIRED, and I knew I was going to have to drive for seven hours the next day, so I just stayed in. The boys got to choose what to do. One got a ride to the restaurant with Grandma and Grandpa, one wanted more swimming time, and one wanted to just stay in the room and relax.

It's a good thing I rested, because on the way back I had to drive through a bad snowstorm. There were blizzard warnings for later in the evening breaking through on the radio, but even hours before the actual blizzard hit that area, traffic was crawling at 30 miles per hour on the highway. Snow was falling in big clumps, like loosely-packed miniature snowballs hitting the car. That added about an extra hour to ninety minutes to our trip back, and it was a bit scary at times, but we made it! There was no snow for the last hour of driving, and we arrived before sunset, so it could have been worse!

I slept well last night, and it turns out that I'm not sick, so I'm not sure what the deal was on Saturday. Maybe it was just that I was worn out from the trip to get there, and didn't sleep well enough on that first night.

It's good to be home again! I can't believe Christmas is less than a month away now. o.O

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

No-Banana Smoothie Recipes

(What? You don't serve your smoothies decorated with rubber duckies?)

(I had way too much fun making this picture)

(It was too boring before, because food photography is hard)


I'm in a better mood than yesterday, so let's all get happy about that! And now for the smoothies.

I like the flavors of many fruits with textures I don’t like, so I often eat fruit in the form of smoothies. Finding good existing recipes can be a struggle for me, though, because people seem determined to include bananas whenever possible. I like bananas, but I don’t like blended bananas. So here, have some smoothie recipes I’ve developed to suit my own preferences.

I can’t guarantee that no one else has ever created similar recipes, but I came up with these on my own. Feel free to adjust them to suit your preferences. All of these recipes make a good-sized single serving, or two small servings. You can double them if you want more; it's possible that a triple batch would fit in a very large blender. Ideally, you put the frozen things in first, and then add the liquid and other ingredients after that.


Berry Orange with Stealth Spinach (pictured above)

  • 1/2 C frozen blueberries 
  • 1/2 C spinach leaves
  • 1/4 C frozen raspberries 
  • 1/8 C orange juice concentrate
  • 1/8 t ginger or cinnamon (optional)
  • 3/4 C water

Put these things in a blender and blend them! You will not taste the spinach.


Looks Green, Tastes Orange

1 C frozen mango
1 to 2 C spinach leaves
1/4 C orange juice concentrate
1/4 t ginger (optional but I strenuously recommend it)
1 C water to start; add more water by increments of 1/4 C until it’s the consistency you want.

Blend it! The spinach may add some light flavor, especially if you use 2 C, but in a good way.


Bonus optional ingredient: chia seeds! If you want to bump up the nutritional value of smoothies that use water, soak 1 to 2 T of any color of chia seeds in the water for 15 minutes before making the smoothie. Stir them up once or twice if you get the chance. This will create a gel that enhances the texture of the smoothie while adding protein and iron, among other good things, but you won't notice the seeds as you drink it.



1 C frozen avocado chunks
1 to 2 T cacao powder. Using 2 will give it a less sweet, more dark chocolate flavor.
1/2 t vanilla extract
1 1/2 C unsweetened almond milk, or whatever kind of milk you prefer
1/4 t cinnamon if you’re feeling it
1 T maple syrup, or sweeten to taste with your preferred sweetener.

Blend! The texture of this smoothie is indistinguishable from a milkshake, but it has less sugar, fewer calories, healthier fat, and more vitamins and other good plant-based stuff, especially if you make it with a non-dairy milk.

Monday, November 19, 2018

The Internet Is SOOOOOOO EXHAUSTING Today, Not to Mention All the Other Days

(I took this photo in Door County, Wisconsin, a month ago)

(It feels like that trip was five years ago)

(Not cool, internet)



Today I wasn't even on the internet that much. I went out. I was in the real world. I did real things. Yet somehow I encountered, in small peeks at the internet, a wide array of arguments, news of the so-called President's ill-informed blunders, a comedian I used to like being aggressively divisive, and people mocking the physical appearance of other people. A person who flounce-unfriended me on Facebook a while back, over pretty close to nothing, showed up to give me some advice on Google+, where apparently they still followed my posts (I was reminded to block them). This is what I've come to accept as a commonplace kind of day on the internet, even as a person who actively shuns drama. 

I don't know, y'all. I like some features of the internet a lot, but some days being connected to so many people just reminds me that hell is other people.

I'll be back tomorrow, hopefully with a more upbeat state of mind and interesting things to say. But I have decided that for the four-day Thanksgiving weekend, I'll pause the NaBloPoMo blogging to just have a freaking real-life holiday, and that should refresh me enough to spill over into December with the remainder of my 30 NaBloPoMo posts.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Bookpost: Not Sure How to Deal with Wanting to Re-Read Books

(Here are two of the four shelves of books I'd like to re-read someday)

(Yet somehow I keep reading new ones instead)

(It's a pickle, y'all)


This is something that bothers me often. How can I balance the non-negotiable need to read more new books with the intense desire to re-read excellent books like the ones shown above, as well as the ones not shown above: wonderful books by Kage Baker and Jeff VanderMeer, and several more by Tim Powers, plus others? Hmm? How exactly is that supposed to work? I only have so much reading time, you know.

This is not a problem for the majority of Americans. That's because the majority of Americans never read a book again after they graduate from high school or college. Never. Not another book. Not even non-fiction. So I'm already a weirdo because I tend to read between forty and fifty books a year - and if you are also this type of weirdo, I salute you and hope you can recommend some books to me if you get a chance. On top of that, I also have the ambition to really get to know the books I enjoy the most, by reading them again. I want to be able to linger over them and see how they work, after I've found out what happens in the plot. Sometimes there's more to enjoy about a story if you read it again with the knowledge of how it's going to end. At least you can take the time to appreciate the words better.

I have actually succeeded in re-reading some of the books in this photo, some of them a couple of times. For most, I haven't gotten to the second time. I don't know when I will. I've tried to create systems, like reading one new novel, and then one new non-fiction book, and then one re-read, and then one anthology or collection, and so on, but the systematic approach neglects the important consideration of my mood on any given day. Sometimes one new novel will get me started on tearing through every single other book that author has written, or it will steer me toward an unexpected subgenre that I never knew I was into, or toward finding related non-fiction. Or something else. By the time I get through with that spontaneous dive into whatever I feel like, I'm usually ready to follow another mood. 

Also, the more I read, the more I change, and then if I finally re-read something I loved before, sometimes I've become different enough that I enjoy it less. Not always. I believe I could read The Goblin Emperor dozens more times without loving it any less. But I've lost my attachment to enough books that now I feel hesitant to re-read, sometimes. I know that's ridiculous. If I don't re-read a book I've kept, the alternative is to let it sit there and deny myself the opportunity to enjoy it again, just to keep my first impression intact. 

I have no solution for this. Either give up on the idea entirely, or try harder to make time to re-read. There are worse problems to have.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

The Social Media Dilemma: Can We Not Have Nice Things?


Like millions (billions?) of people, I'm on Facebook. I am also on Twitter, Instagram (which is now owned by Facebook), and Google+. I like being on the internet and using social media, in general, and I also use social media to share my creative work. I'm not over here just taking from social media; I'm giving it content that generates clicks on a near-daily basis, often many times a day, and that adds up to a lot of ad money for them and not a bit of ad money for me. They know I want to use their sites, however, so they seem to feel that they can take me for granted. The sad thing is that they may be right, for reasons I'll get into below.

I want places to post my thoughts and photos where interested people will see them. Let's be honest: I'm going to put a link to this post on all of the sites I mentioned above except Instagram, where I only post images of my artwork, which has been a neglected area of my output for the last several months (I can't do everything all the time! I do not like that about myself!). 

But Nayad, you ask. What exactly is your problem?

Let me tell you about my problem. My favorite social media site has been Facebook, ever since LiveJournal stopped being my favorite. I've been on Facebook, collecting connections with people I've met, for over ten years now. Over time, though, the changes there have made it less helpful for me. One of the main things that bothers me about it, especially in the last couple of years, is the manipulation of what people will be able to see. Some posts are suppressed to the point of practically disappearing, for a variety of reasons. If you don't interact with someone enough, you don't see their posts as often, and that makes it harder to interact with them, so eventually you might never see their posts at all. For a writer like me, with 2,581 Facebook "friends" (which covers everyone from family through friends through acquaintances through friends-of-friends I have never met in person), that means most of the connections I might hope to develop actually cannot be developed. People who might like to see my public posts probably won't. 

Yes, people can always go directly to my blog, or to my main Facebook page, and they might. I sometimes go to the main pages of people I want to keep up with. But I would prefer to have a social media feed that helps me to notice what's going on with people who interest me, but might not always be on the top of my mind. I want other people to be able to have the option of seeing my posts without the site adding a layer of its own "opinion" about which posts matter to which people. 

A little while earlier this morning, I was thinking about this and - I know this is weird - I posted on Facebook about the idea of shifting more of my social media efforts to Google+, which isn't perfect but works differently. Almost immediately, I got a comment from someone who told me that Google+ is going to be discontinued. I looked it up: real news. I got other comments with ideas like using Instagram instead, or joining Mastodon, which looks like a better version of Twitter, maybe? Except a bit confusing to join? And a longtime early-adopter acquaintance who consistently finds the good stuff suggested, but I haven't had the chance to check it out and see how it works. So my Facebook people do see my posts and comment on them, and they simultaneously have similar concerns about Facebook and want to find better options. They also know just as well as I do that it's really hard to get anyone to try a new type of social media these days, because we get pretty invested in the ones we're already on and don't have the time to check out other ones that none of our friends are on yet, anyway. LIKE I SAID: DILEMMA.

I guess I want a social media site which:
  • allows different filters for sharing (public, family, friends, acquaintances, networking)
  • allows posts to be any length you want
  • doesn't steer the visibility of posts in any way on its own
  • allows the user to choose settings to filter posts, if they want
  • shows posts in the order in which they were posted!
  • facilitates useful, threaded comments
  • isn't riddled with ways for your info to be stolen or otherwise profited from
  • is attractive, easy to sign up for, and fun to use
  • routinely solicits and applies user feedback
  • doesn't get into shady social experimentation
  • cracks down on bots and fake news with vigor
You know? Something that contributes value to the world and manages to become profitable by not being obviously monofocused on profit?

Stop laughing at me.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Friday Fun Post: Meet My Cats! Includes Kitten Photos

(Matilda gets to be first because she is the tiniest)


I live with three female cats, and this post will be entirely about them. If you don't like cats, you're excused for today. 

(shown above)

Age: 8 years

Weight: 5 lbs (don't worry - she's petite, not skinny)

Nicknames: Tilly, Mini Panther, Itty Bitty

Likes: Tuna (don't worry - this is a rare treat), dry food, catnip, my bed, rolling around in sunshine patches, purring louder than cats twice her size

Dislikes: Canned cat food, being picked up, being run off from comfy spots by Annabelle

Quirks: She likes to get up to somewhere really high - just out of my reach is ideal - and act like she is desperate for me to pet her. Purring, mewing, reaching her paw out toward me, leaning her head way down so that I can just barely touch it... but not actually getting down so that I can pet her.

Mouse-hunting skills: Ineffective. A couple of times a year, a mouse will get the idea to move into my house. Tilly will participate in chasing a mouse around, but she hangs back and doesn't try to actually catch it.

Additional info: Tilly is mostly black, but she has two splotches of white on her belly.

I've had this tiny little sweetie, and her litter-mate Tabitha, since October of 2010, when they were six weeks old. They came from a farm owned by the relative of a friend of a friend, and the people there were eager to get the kittens out to new homes (I think it's better to wait a couple weeks longer, but the kittens were going fast and I didn't want to test the farmer's patience). The momma cat was a tortoiseshell.



Age: 8 years

Weight: 7 lbs.

Nicknames: Tabby (which refers to her name more than her coloration, because she's really a torbie, a mix of tortoiseshell and tabby), Fluff-puff, Bunny

Likes: Canned cat food, catnip, tuna, sitting on a blanket on a person's lap, curling up in a tiny ball in the middle of a giant foam pouf chair, clawing the carpet on the stairs, drinking water from the sink faucet

Dislikes: Being picked up, vomiting on easy-to-clean surfaces (she coughs up the occasional hairball due to having long fur, and when choosing a barfing zone, only the carpet will do)

Quirks: Every time I take a shower, within one minute of stepping out afterward I can expect Tabby to scratch at the bathroom door to be let in. I think it's that she likes the warm, humid air. Sometimes she jumps into the still-wet bathtub.

Mouse-hunting skills: Pretty decent. She does a lot of herding, and sometimes actually touches the mouse.

Additional info: I suspect that Tabby and Tilly are half-sisters, since litters of kittens can have multiple dads. Here's the first picture I saw of them, with their other siblings:

No offense to my darlings, but the first kitten that caught my eye was the black-and-white guy in the upper left corner. Someone else had already inquired about him. Just from looking, my feeling is that he and Tilly might have had the same dad, while the others had a different dad. But it doesn't matter! And I would have been thrilled with any of these kittens. Or all of them, if I'm being completely honest.



Age: 2 years

Weight: 12 lbs (don't worry - she's tall, long, active, and very muscular)

Nicknames: Belly, the Bell-Bell, Monkey-cat

Likes: All kinds of cat food, tuna, catnip, chasing after aluminum foil balls (sometimes even bringing them back!), making chittering noises while watching birds from the window, carrying around a soft mouse toy like it's her teddy bear, being picked up and carried around like a human baby

Dislikes: Sharing spaces with Tilly (but she's okay with being next to Tabby, who does not appreciate the honor and is more comfortable with snuggling Tilly. So it goes)

Quirks: When she has a soft mouse toy to carry around, her favorite thing is to drop it into the water bowl, bat it around in there until it's good and soaked, and then carry the dripping-wet mouse everywhere she goes. She also likes to occasionally leave the wet mouse in pathways where humans tend to walk, so they can step on it.

Mouse-hunting skills: Outstanding. She has a 100% success rate, but doesn't try to eat them. If I take the mouse away while it's still alive (I have a system that doesn't involve touching the mouse with my hands), she gets mad and pouts for a while. The last two times she caught one, it was when I wasn't home, so she left a dead mouse where I could see it. This is preferable to other things I can imagine, like discovering that she's left one under my bed or something. She's my mouse-hunting star!

Additional info: I got Annabelle from the Humane Society shelter when she was 8 weeks old. They had named her "Anna Bell." I thought about changing it to something else, but "Annabelle" fit in with the other cats' names, so I went with that. I wanted to bring home both Annabelle and her brother, an all-gray kitten they were calling Monty, but someone else had asked for him already. I think it's probably better that I only got the one kitten that time, because Monty was very high-energy, and I didn't realize at the time that Annabelle was going to be equally high-energy. They were in separate cages, I guess because they weren't spayed or neutered yet? Or because they were both hyper. Monty was wide awake at the time, but Annabelle was napping when I showed up, so she was very snuggly and purry when I held her. She still snuggles, but she's also a feisty one a lot of the time. She's absolutely fearless and dominant when only the people and cats she knows are around. When anyone else visits, she hides. Visitors are much more likely to see the more sedate Tabby and Tilly, who will both come out and beg for scritches as if they're being neglected. They are, of course, petted and scritched for long stretches of time, every single day.

And here's a picture of Annabelle on the first day I met her!

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Grocery Shopping Tips from One Who Asserts that Feeding Teenage Boys on the Somewhat Cheap Is Not Completely Impossible

(This is a mere portion of today's grocery haul)

(To be fair, some of this stuff is for Thanksgiving)

(I'm not sure how that's fair but I'm going with it)


Greetings, valued loyalists! If we've learned one thing from me taking up the practice of blogging every day, it's that my mind works much like a pinball machine with regard to topics. Today I'm late to the blogging due to the grocery shopping I did earlier, so I'm going to write about why grocery shopping can take up a huge part of my day.

The three top reasons, of course, are certain young men in my household at the ages of seventeen, fifteen, and twelve. The twelve-year-old recently went from shorter than me to taller than me within a couple of months. The others did the same around the time they were each thirteen, and of course they've continued to get taller ever since. 

As a person who doesn't want to spend all of the money on groceries, I've developed some methods to avoid that. Here they are!

If you want to be thorough, the way to start with your grocery budget is to do what you usually do for a month, but write down what you did. Shop as always, and then add up the receipts to see how much you spent. If you can totally afford that amount and you're not in any kind of debt, you're done with this project and I say to you: good day. However, if you think you'd rather have some of that grocery money for other things, read on.

Once you know what you spent last month, ease into budgeting by reducing that amount by 10%. If you're really eager, or the spending was super high, try 20%, but don't reduce it by any more than that this time. Try it out at the new level for a month or two and see how it goes. Being too intense about it too suddenly might make you freak out and never want to budget again. 

Once you've decided on the new grocery budget, divide it up so that you have a weekly amount instead of trying to think in terms of a whole month's worth of groceries. Since nearly all the months have more than 28 days, I like to divide my monthly budget by five, so that I might end up with extra money due to the short, fifth "week," but it's fine to divide it by four and just expect that the last "week" will be longer than seven days. 

The next step is to make a shopping list before going to the store, every time. Ideally, you only go to the grocery store once a week, maximum. Some people go less frequently than that, but I'm here to tell you about my system. I like to do a combination of meal-planning and using a rebate app on my phone. 

I'm about to throw a referral link at you, but don't worry, this post is not sponsored. Here's the way the Ibotta app works. If you sign up, and use the app, you can get cash back on purchases you make in the regular stores where you ordinarily shop, and also a cash bonus for using the app the first time. If you sign up through my referral link, then when you get a bonus the first time, I also get a bonus. Free money for things you were going to buy anyway. You will also be on my team in this scenario, which means that we can both get to additional bonuses faster. If you want to be a lone wolf and sign up without my link, that's okay! But I'll appreciate having you on my team if that's what you decide to do.

I use Ibotta by looking at the rebate deals for the store where I'm planning to shop. If there's a deal on anything I can use, I click to activate the deal, and put the item on my grocery list. Then I start to figure out which meals to make on which days, with the food I already have plus the things I'm buying. If I need any additional ingredients, I add those to the list. Knowing what I'll cook each day helps me to avoid buying too many random things when I'm at the store.

I do allow myself to look for sales when I'm at the store, though. If I see things I tend to use on sale, and I can easily keep them in the pantry or freezer, I'm willing to consider buying them to incorporate into the next week's meal-planning. With teenage boys, it's extremely helpful to be able to make a large batch of microwavable food to keep in the freezer. I've made sandwiches, breakfast burritos, waffles, and similar foods to freeze, when the right ingredients have been on sale. Anything that's typically sold in the freezer section of a grocery store is something you can make and freeze for yourself; planning ahead to do that can save you a lot of money.

I'm the most proud of the breakfast burritos. Whenever I cook ground turkey for tacos, I'll make extra. Then with whatever's left after the meal, I add some refried beans, scrambled eggs, and cheese, wrap it up in a bunch of tortillas, and freeze the burritos to be microwaved later. They are extremely tasty on their own, or with salsa and sour cream on top, and they keep ravenous bellies full.

The idea with this strategy is to focus on buying things on sale and get multiples of any sale items you: a) can afford within your budget, b) will definitely use, and c) can store for a while, so that you stock up and have supplies to use later. If your budget is extremely tight, don't worry about buying multiples. Just hit those sales hard and use your meal-planning to avoid wasting any food.

I've learned a lot of this from watching frugal lifestyle channels on YouTube, such as Pennies into Pearls. If you want to know more about saving money on groceries and other things, go forth and check it out!

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Maximalism v. Clutter v. Hoarding, as I See It

(The decorative things on and behind a medium-tall bookcase in my living room)

(A closer look at the Earth Dragon painting by Charlotte Fung Miller, which is obscured by glare in the first photo. It deserves better treatment than that)


Okay, I realize that the top photo is full enough of things that you may have some questions. I want you to know that it's one of the most high-density areas of intentional decoration in my house. There are other spots that might be competitive, but not many. Things are relatively sparse, decoration-wise, in other areas, but who knows... I keep finding and making decorative things, and they have to go somewhere.

I like maximalism. I'm so into maximalism that I'm going to give you another link with more photos of maximalism. Color, texture, pattern, artwork, blankets, rugs, lanterns, plants, mirrors, candles, yes, yes, YES. I think that when it's done well, it's absolutely luscious to have the kind of visual stimulation I'm talking about, the kind where you can see a whole new vista simply by taking a step forward or turning your head a few inches. I would not say that I'm even close to the dream yet in the sense of intentional decorative density, and part of the problem, as I've partially shown in a previous post, is that I also struggle with clutter and having too much of the wrong stuff. While some people might not like the maximalist style because it's visually busy, that's not the same as clutter, which is unintentional, messy, and disorganized.

There's a difference between clutter and hoarding, too, although one can eventually lead to the other. There's a range of how well people tolerate a mess. What I see as "messy and disorganized," someone else might see as either kind of tidy or deserving of a diagnosis, depending on what they can stand. I tend to think that in a messy house, if all the doors and hallways of a house are clear and functional, there's more than one way to navigate through each room, and all the spaces can be used as intended, you're just dealing with clutter. If you have to squeeze through tight pathways between tall, random piles, that's hoarding. If there's stuff piled up in the bathtub and/or appliances to the point where you can't use them, that's hoarding. If the person who is living in a decreasingly functional home insists that they can't possibly get rid of their things because they might need them - especially if there's no chance they could dig out any particular thing in the event of needing it - that's definitely hoarding. 

I can see how it might be tricky to tell when you're crossing from having clutter to hoarding, because the concept of possibly needing something later is just plausible enough that reaching a new level of anxiety might make the difference between finding it hard, or finding it impossible, to let things go. But ultimately the accumulation of things in a hoarding situation makes life harder enough that it cancels out any benefits of having things around "just in case."

I think it's important to maintain some breathing room, and push back against having too many unused possessions. At the same time, I am 100% willing to cover all of my walls entirely with things I like to look at. IT'S CALLED BALANCE. Thank you and good day.

Monday, November 12, 2018

I Am Most Chilled, and I'm Knitting and Binge-ing

(With all due respect to the Beastie Boys, who I like to think might be tickled by my post title)
(Because it's a riff on their lyrics, ya see)
(Kind of both rhymin' and stealin', if ya think about it)
(I'll stop now)


ANYWAY, this post is about my fall and winter hobby of knitting on various sizes of knitting loom while watching various sizes of internet entertainment. Basically it's my excuse to roll out a list of shows I've binge-watched. 

The thing is, I don't like to just sit and watch a show, because I feel like I should be doing something more interesting than that. I also don't like to just sit and knit, because even though I'm making something I want to make, the kind of knitting I do is not complicated. It's repetitive and time-consuming, and I like the results I get. Mostly, instead of varying the kinds of stitches I do, I vary the colors, textures, and thicknesses of the yarn. That works beautifully for the kind of blankets I make. I mess with different stitches a bit more when I'm making hats, which is a great way to use up smaller amounts of extra yarn, and then I can wear them, give them as gifts, or donate them (my usual choice lately). I've also been known to make legwarmers and wristwarmers. My point is that I feel better about watching a show when I knit, and I feel better about knitting when I watch a show.

As you might imagine, I have watched a lot of shows. I'm often late to the popular ones because I prefer Netflix and Amazon Prime Video to traditional TV. 

For example, I just started Riverdale last week. What a beyond-weird take on the comic books. Those were the only comic books I read in my childhood, btw. I like the show, despite its penchant for Wagnerian theatrics (sorry, has anyone else watched the movie Free Enterprise more times than is recommended by the various psychological organizations worldwide? Because that reference was for me and for you, and I may have just used the singular "you"). I'm just trying to imagine the thought process that led to turning the lightest and fluffiest of all implied-polyamory comics into the grim parents-are-mostly-psychotic dystopia which is the Riverdale I am currently inhaling at the rate of two or more episodes a day.

Moving on... I'm going to do more of an actual list from this point forward, because I would like to bring this post in for a landing before the end of this month. So here are some more shows that I've enjoyed enough to binge and type the titles of, including last year and probably the one before that.  Who doesn't want a list of recommendations from a person who knits AND can throw around both Beastie Boys and Free Enterprise references in a single blog post? Shh, that wasn't a real question. 

Here. Have that list I mentioned sometime in the distant past. It will be in no particular order, for your convenience. These are all on Netflix now. I've only seen the seasons available on Netflix, in all cases. Do we still have to beg for spoiler avoidance in 2018? Let's assume we do. NO SPOILERS PLEASE.
  • The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina
  • Orange Is the New Black
  • iZombie
  • Stranger Things
  • The West Wing
  • The Magicians
  • Better Call Saul
  • Penny Dreadful
  • Travelers
  • Colony
  • Weeds
  • Santa Clarita Diet
  • Ozark
  • Limitless
  • Disenchantment
  • The Rain
  • Sense8
  • Breaking Bad
  • Cleverman
  • The Haunting of Hill House
  • Shameless
  • Mad Men
  • The Good Place
  • Glitch
Wow. Aren't you glad we both know this about me now? o.O

In case you, like many normal active people, did not read my blog posts over the weekend, here they are:

...and that is all for today. Stay safe! 

Sunday, November 11, 2018

A Good Weekend for Art in Madison, WI

(Artist Erica Engebreth gave me permission to post this photo of her awesome booth.
Check out her art at Little Bit Lacey)


This post is late in the day because I spent the afternoon looking at art in a couple of different places. The photo above is from an art & craft show in the High Noon Saloon in Madison, WI. It was a free event with at least a couple dozen booths featuring art, jewelry, clothing, and other things by local makers in a wide variety of styles. The DJ was absolutely on point with fun-but-chill music. I did not get anything at this show, but that's because I knew I was about to go to a bigger show, the Winter Art Fair Off the Square in the Monona Terrace. If the two events hadn't been competing, I know I would have talked myself into buying a couple of things at the smaller show. It's very sad to want all of the things but only be able to get some of the things.

The larger show did charge a small fee to get in (regular price $5 per person 13 and older, but you could get a discount with a coupon through Facebook). It also had 134 booths, plus a concession stand and live music being played on a grand piano (although I was a bigger fan of what the DJ played at the smaller show). The selection and the prices were both much larger here, but there were reasonably-priced items to be had. After looking around for a while, I bought a small painting of an Earth Dragon from Charlotte Fung Miller, who was very friendly and enthusiastic about explaining the meaning behind her paintings; once she saw that my son and I were interested in the dragon ones, she showed us around to see every dragon painting she had. The one I got was on metal instead of canvas, and I'm looking forward to finding a prominent place to display it in my house.

I also collected cards from several of the artists' booths, especially ones where my son was interested in the items they were selling and they had websites I could visit later, because CHRISTMAS IS COMING. This year I'm trying to focus more on quality than quantity in gift-giving. I want to be attentive enough to give a few things that people really want, and sneaky enough to make some of them surprises. That's something I feel good about being able to do. Even when I was a child under the age of twelve, my mom would comment that I was good at choosing gifts that other people would like. It's a matter of being observant and comprehending what it is that they like about the things that they like.

Okay, I had better post this before it gets even later. I'll be back tomorrow with another post!