Archive for the ‘Fun’ Category

This is the second closedown day/summer move-in weekend at work. This one is a little slower than last week, so I figured an update was in order. I know that to everyone else it’s Saturday, but I definitely woke up to an alarm and I’m wearing shoes and sitting at my desk at work, so it’s Friday in my heart.

This week’s edition includes recipes of things I have been tinkering with and a few books I have finished in the last couple of weeks. Enjoy!

  1. One of my book clubs met last Tuesday, and we usually each bring a snack or some type of food to share. The snack I brought this month was margaritas. My go-to recipe is one I found in one of the Sweet Potato Queens’ books (I believe it was The Sweet Potato Queens’ Book of Love), because it’s four ingredients I can pour together, stir, and call it a day. Well, I like Triple Sec in my margaritas, so my version is technically five ingredients. And the grocery store didn’t have frozen limeade on Monday night, so I used the Simply Limeade, and now I have a new favorite way to make them that’s not quite so syrupy sweet. Anyway, combine 12(ish) oz. each of tequila and/or triple sec, Corona (or a Corona-esque beer – they’re actually better with Sol if you can find it), 7-Up (not Sprite or any other lemon/lime drink – it makes a difference), and frozen limeade (or Simply Limeade that you’ve slightly frozen). Stir, serve, and enjoy. It’s the perfect hybrid of frozen and on-the-rocks margaritas, and it is potent
  2. I’ve been dabbling with no-churn ice creams, and I took two flavors to Cookbook Club last Friday – Nigella Lawson’s no-churn coffee ice cream and Eric Kim’s no-churn Scotch ice cream. In related news, I enjoy boozy ice creams. And the no-churn is so easy to make (it’s essentially frozen whipped cream). This may become a habit. Cottage cheese ice cream is the next experiment.
  3. The Seven Stones: The Seastone by Robb Arbuckle – This is the first book in a new middle-grade series, and it’s a pretty standard good vs. evil, magical academia trope. It incorporates a lot of mythology and elementals and historical references, so it’s also pretty ambitious. I’m interested to see if many of those things will become significant to the plot of the series or if the author will focus on a few of them to tighten the narrative (I can see clear arguments for both, depending on what the author wants the story arc to be, so this interest is curiosity rather than criticism at this point). It made me want to read more of the story, so it was a successful first installment!
  4. I Wish You All the Best by Mason Deaver – This was my second time reading this book because I recommended it for my church book club. I loved it just as much the second time (and listened on audio, which is also good). The main character is nonbinary, and this is the story of their coming out and finding the people who love and support them. Deaver does a great job of showing the anguish and self-doubt that often accompanies this process. I wanted to fight everyone who hurt Ben throughout the book.
  5. The Bullet That Missed by Richard Osman – I really love the Thursday Murder Club series. I was feeling puny Sunday so I was not up for much else but lying about and drinking tea and reading this book. I started and finished it that day.

Added bonus – a morning routine is so important, and this kid is going places. But not until he’s had his morning lemon and honey constitutional.

I hope your weekend is going well!

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Hello, friends! We are heading across the street for lunch today because it’s staff discount day in the cafeteria and also because there are empanadas there. We are going a little early because it’s Reading Day at UNT (i.e., no classes are held), and we want to make it to the cafeteria before it is teeming with the students who are hopefully using this small break before Finals Week to sleep in and catch up on some rest.

It’s also Cinco de Mayo (i.e., the reason for the empanadas, probably). Please consider supporting local Mexican-owned businesses (particularly if they make tasty drinks because yay Friday) or donating to one of the following organizations:

I’m so happy it’s the weekend (soon). Here are five things I enjoyed this week:

  1. As an aspiring older female writer, I’m excited that people are seeking them out. Keep seeking, folks. I’m coming. Also, I love all the books listed in this article that I’ve read (e.g., if you haven’t read Lessons in Chemistry, you’re missing out), and I expect that June’s TBR is going to include some of the ones I haven’t.
  2. An excerpt from Maggie Smith’s memoir You Could Make This Place Beautiful. Have you read Goldenrod? I’m so glad she wrote it. 
  3. Carrie Fisher is being honored with a Hollywood Walk of Fame star, which was appropriately announced on May 4.
  4. Nigella Lawson’s Cook, Eat, Repeat is the audiobook I’m currently listening to. Nigella reads it herself, and I love how her humor comes across not only in her words but in her voice. I wouldn’t usually listen to a cookbook (and honestly, I skipped right through the recipe for black pudding meatballs just like I would if I were reading through the print copy because the description was already sufficiently vivid and…yuck), but I am enjoying this one. I’m going to need the print copy, though, because I’m now craving some of these foods. Just not the meatballs.
  5. And finally – I have jumped on the Substack bandwagon. Eventually, I want the paid portion (which is not active yet, so everything that’s there can be perused for free) to be an opportunity to share some of the fiction I’m writing. But for now, I’m having fun musing about how to be/feel like/identify as a writer when you have multiple jobs/gigs, a full-time job, children, volunteer work, high-maintenance pets, or other time-consuming responsibilities. I’m currently posting once a week on Wednesdays, so subscribe if you want to hear more!

I hope you get a chance to do something fun today. Have a good weekend!

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Tomorrow is my dad’s birthday (and also Earth Day). And the phone call I make to him may be the only thing I do tomorrow. Last weekend and this week have been full of fun things, but at this moment, the keyword there is “full.” I need a day. Well, I need a month. But I get a day, and I’ll take it.

Speaking of fun things, here are a few exciting happenings that are coming up soon (like, tonight soon) and a couple of books I had feelings about.

  1. Tonight! Our duo (Sarah and I), They Say The Wind Made Them Crazy, is playing at Rubber Gloves. In fact, the whole show is going to be great. If you’re local, hope to see you there!
  2. Dr. Devon Price’s book Laziness Does Not Exist has been on my TBR for a while, so I’m delighted that this program about creating adaptable educational environments to make them more accessible is coming to UNT next week.
  3. Spiderweb is hosting an open mic night at Rubber Gloves next Tuesday. I haven’t decided if I’m going to read one of the pieces I’ve been working on or just observe, but it should be a good time.
  4. Where the Rhythm Takes You by Sarah Dass – What this main character needs is a sounding board. Someone she will actually confide in (as she already has many people she could confide in if she could put aside her pride long enough to do so). Because I wasn’t prepared for it to be me. Oh, I tried. I listened sympathetically as well as I could. Several times, I said (yes, out loud – you’re welcome, neighbors) that she should stop being clueless (you know things have to be hella obvious if even I pick up on them) and just have a conversation with the dude. Or her father. Or her best friend. Or maybe find a nice grief counselor. But alas, she could not hear me as we are both fictional in each other’s worlds. So instead, it was hours of repetitive whining about not knowing where she stood with other people, particularly the guy. I believe the audiobook reader captured the character’s voice perfectly. Unfortunately, her voice is super melodramatic, which grated on my nerve, because it’s hard to sustain constant, invested empathy, which is what seems to be expected when Every. Word. Is. Stressed.  Even when she’s just walking somewhere and sees someone in the far distance she has even the slightest twinge of beef with for any reason, it was told with Big Feelings. It is especially difficult when the character’s main conflict is her own stubborn insistence on making assumptions and thus constantly getting in her own way. It seems like I didn’t enjoy it, but I didn’t have any trouble finishing it. I did have to take a nap when it was over, though.
  5. One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus – We read this YA selection for our church book club, and we all seemed to like it a lot. The plot moved along at a good, steady pace, and I found myself rooting for (almost) all of the characters. I would have five-star loved this book in junior high/high school, but it was thoroughly enjoyable even in my jaded adulthood.

What are you looking forward to the most this weekend/upcoming week?

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This week has been an experiment in balancing fun and rest. I took both Tuesday and Thursday nights off. Tuesday was very restful. I came home, laid down on the bed to cool off for a minute, and woke up four hours later. I got up, ate a bowl of cereal, watched an episode of Veronica Mars, and went right back to sleep. Last night, however, I couldn’t slow my brain down, so although I technically took the night off, I can’t really say it was relaxing. I finally just gave up and worked on a project I need to have finished soon.

Wednesday, we painted rocks at work (fundraiser for We Care We Count). That night, we worked on a percussion part that we’re doing on Sunday before choir practice, and then I got to go to this month’s Molten Plains at Rubber Gloves. The show was phenomenal. 

Tonight is cookbook club. I’m taking a lasagna skillet because I don’t have time to make a full lasagna in the slow cooker, and it is now officially too hot to turn on the oven in Texas.

Here are five things I enjoyed this week:

  1. A list of the best bookstores in every state that I found on Pinterest led me down the rabbit hole until I also found 13 beautiful bookstores I need to see. I like having lists like these in my proverbial back pocket just in case I find myself in one of these cities with an afternoon to kill. You never know.
  2. The Spite House by Johnnie Compton – The audiobook was great and appropriately creepy. It’s not scary in the jump-out-and-get-you way, but rather a slow, eerie burn, which is the type of scary I prefer. The fact that I could only listen to the last half of the book during the day is a testament to its spookiness. The story was well-told and moved along really smoothly.
  3. Balefire: Poetry for the End of the World by Elizabeth Wilder – I took a poetry class several years ago from Elizabeth, and it was so helpful. I enjoyed this collection. One of my favorite things about it is the spare use of language that marks every word as intentional and full. Added bonus – it’s free today on Amazon! I’m not sure how long that will last but grab a copy if you can.
  4. This is a succinct synopsis of some of the best advice I’ve heard about pitching to a literary agent. Just in case you or anyone you know is interested in that kind of advice. In related news, I’d be a great literary agent. *ponders*
  5. I love this piece on how to fight for your library, particularly as many are being threatened with defunding for simply operating as libraries are meant to operate.

Tomorrow is a busy day. I have book club at the library (we’re discussing paranormal fiction) in the morning. Then I have lunch with my friend Karla and a birthday party for another friend afterward. I’m practicing with Sarah during the evening for our performance next Friday. May definitely need a nap and a whole lot of downtime on Sunday. I took Monday morning off because we were going to go to the club, but we postponed that outing. Am I giving up my morning off? Absolutely not.

I hope you have a fun and relaxing weekend and find that beautiful, elusive balance!

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I’m excited about this weekend and the upcoming month. Lots of fun stuff happening in April – a couple of performances, some time with friends I haven’t seen in a while, and maybe even making some leeway on a couple of writing projects.

And books. Lots of books.

Here are three things I enjoyed and two things I’m looking forward to:

  1. Of Mess and Moxie by Jen Hatmaker – I’m a little behind the times reading this one, as her family has changed somewhat, but it still rang true and was a good read. It made me laugh and tear up, just like it was meant to. I feel like I would really like her in person, but I switched from the audiobook to the print version halfway through because I felt like she was yelling at me and it made me tired.
  2. National Poetry Month begins tomorrow, and what better way to start than with Lover by Ada Limón.
  3. Is it cheating to link you to other lists of links? Do I even care if I’m cheating? If it’s wrong, I don’t want to be right, because Toby’s list on Joy the Baker’s Let It Be Sunday post was notably fantastic this week. My favorite link was to Courtney Martin’s 10 thoughts on building a life you love. “Stay humble. Stay magical.” The comments section of Martin’s piece is pretty golden, too.
  4. Of Walking in Ice by Werner Herzog – Herzog’s journal from when he walked from Munich to Paris to visit his mentor Lotte Eisner as she was dying, with the conviction that she wouldn’t die as long as he was walking. It’s a collection of images he found along the way and his observations about the people (and the birds and the heaps of trash and the mice) he encountered. It’s a very lonely little book, and while “enjoyed” isn’t exactly the right word for how I experienced it, it is beautiful in its own way. I am glad to have read it as a witness to his journey.
  5. Tomorrow, Wenepa (my improvisational ambient noise group) is performing for KUZUthon from 5:20 (or 5:30? Anyway – later in the 5:00 hour)-5:40 (CST). The performances and interviews will be streaming on kuzu.fm, so tune in if you’re free!

I hope you have a great weekend!

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The bats continue their festive seasonal costume choices at the office.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! AKA, the eve of my birthday. I’m off work today to rest up for the festivities tomorrow and I’m looking forward to my video chat with Maggie and Michelle tonight. But I wanted to drop in and give you some of the goodies that I’ve enjoyed in the last couple of weeks.

  1. I love the St. Marin’s series by ACF Bookens, and Hardcover Homicide is the first one I listened to on audio. I think I would have enjoyed that version better if I had listened to the series from the beginning. It’s hard to start audio versions on the 9th book – I already have voices in my head for the characters at that point – but it was a good reading. Anyway, the whole series is great fun, and I love how these characters have developed throughout it. Also, be prepared to add to your TBR list with every book. It will make you long to hang out in your favorite local bookstore or library even more than you already do. I look forward to reading the next one, but maybe I’ll order it in print this time.
  2. Speaking of things to add to the TBR, the 2023 longlist for the Women’s Prize for Fiction has been announced. 
  3. Big Swiss by Jen Beagin – Oh, the wit! I really enjoyed this book. The characters are off their rockers and do some things that are ill-advised and sometimes downright startling. But there are also some really sweet moments and, while the main character stressed me out for a large portion of the book, I still found her likable. 
  4. I think one of my mini-goals for April is going to be focusing on creating a less stressful home environment. Specifically, I am targeting my dining area. I’ve currently dedicated the large table to getting the plants started for my patio garden for the summer (or let’s be real – as long as it lasts), but once they’re planted properly outside, I don’t want the space to just clutter up again. Ideally, I could buy some nice flowers to motivate me to keep it clear, but experience tells me that won’t deter me for long. It needs a purpose other than the surface I hurriedly clear off on the rare occasions I have more than two people over for dinner. I am considering turning it into a reading nook/project area, but I haven’t decided exactly what that looks like.
  5. If you are interested in fine-tuning your people skills, research shows that reading fiction can help you do that. As a former communication professor, however, I can verify that it’s probably NOT a good idea to send that link to someone and say, “If you would just read this and do what it says, we’d get along so much better.” That’s probably not helpful. Probably.

I hope you have a great weekend!

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To Tammy on her Birthday

Today is my sister’s birthday.

My first forever friend.

The person with whom I have the most inside jokes.

My “we can fight but if you so much as look at her unpleasantly I will end you” person.

I’m very protective:

(and not at all trying to make her kiss her elbow because MeMaw told me that if she did, she’d turn into a boy. I don’t know where you heard that vicious rumor.)

We grew up here:

With these people:

Lots of room to run, play, make mud pies, stage wedding ceremonies for our cats, chase the dogs, and swing until we threw up.

One of the things I love most about Tammy is her exuberant enthusiasm for all things joyful.

Like good teas from Equal Exchange.

Or a day to binge-watch Disney+

And getting her hairs done.

And Christmas.

And making sure the dogs are clean.

And marrying this guy.

I love our coffee (and sometimes pie) outings.

(KIMZEY’S. It took me this whole week to remember the name.)

She’s the person I call if I need cake and don’t want to eat it alone.

She’s the first person I call when I have good news, because she’ll be even more excited for me than I am. She’s the first person I call when I have bad news, because she already has a plan.

She is passionate, principled, warm, funny, organized, curious, responsible, and diligent.

I’m so blessed to have her as a sister.

I love you, Bock. Happy birthday!

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You may remember Michelle from the approximately 2,342 times I’ve mentioned her over the years, or at least from her cameo on Tuesday’s post:

Today is her birthday, and I’m so happy she was born.

We met on the MRMB (Michael Rosenbaum Message Board – ah, fandom), where I knew her as ravenluvslex (raven for short, which is still the name she’s listed under in my phone). I met Michelle when I still had my first blog on livejournal (RIP). We traveled to Kansas City together to meet up with other fans where no one turned out to be a serial killer and we sang happy birthday to Michael Rosenbaum’s face on a cake.

We also met back before I carried a phone that takes pictures everywhere I went, so most of my documentation of our early days is in writing or in a picture album somewhere. Or on videos taken by other fans that we don’t really need to see.

I still have a lot of pictures of her sticking out her tongue (see above and below).

(Aw, orange couch)

(aw, Bochy’s)

There are so many things I adore about Michelle.

She’s always up for a good time.

She lets us take group pictures of feet even though she hates them (feet, not group pictures, to be clear). 

She loved going to the club as much as I did.

(It’s not blurry. It’s ARTSY.)

(We should go again sometime. I promise to only spend a minor portion of the evening crying about the old place.)

She gave Nelly Cat a great life.

(Aw, Nelly Cat. *pets*)

She helps me locate Billy Boyd when necessary (the world is just better knowing that somewhere, he is).

And sends me pictures of her face when I tell her I miss it (which is even better than Billy Boyd).

She also made this super cute kid:

I love Michelle’s passion, her compassion, her boldness, her humor, her honesty, and her insight. I love that we have just as much (or more) fun together binge-watching TV and sharing delicious snacks as we do going out. 

Michelle/Raven/Rupert, I love you. So, so much. Happy birthday, friend.

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I met Maggie when she was a student working in the building where I was a night desk clerk, where she fit in really well with our weird staff.

She endeared herself to me pretty quickly because:

  1. She would work the night shift on the weekends, which were otherwise horribly difficult to schedule.
  2. She often hung out at the front desk with me when I was working, but in an unobtrusive way. Just the right kind of company.
  3. She was the mastermind behind the original Suzanne-a-thon, an all-night appreciation event, which I appreciated in return.
  4. She liked and encouraged my choice of nicknames for her, which mostly consisted of words that begin with “Mag.” Magnanimous was the one I used most often.

Soon, she was promoted to night desk at another hall. We IM-ed all night during our shifts, and we sat by each other at Friday staff meetings, where she totally wore green.

Soon we became good friends, which doesn’t typically happen quickly for either of us, but we seemed to click.

We shared similar hobbies.

We went shopping together.

We often enjoyed brunch with messy coffee (hers) together.

We even saw the Smurf movie. I really, really have to love someone to watch the Smurf movie with them.

And she must really, really love me, because she got up at ridiculous hours and went outside to go running with me when I forgot my personality and decided I wanted to train for a marathon.

She liked (most of) my friends and got along well with (most of) them. One in particular:

Maggie and Michelle and I lived together for a while, and that was so much fun. Well, for most of us.

Then Maggie moved to Houston, but we still text and IM almost every day. The first time I visited, we had pie.

And, of course, brunch.

We don’t see each other very often, but when we do, we make the most of it with delicious food and (sometimes) matching pjs.

All this is to say that, although my view of Valentine’s typically mirrors the words of another Maggie, the day always makes me think of my favorite Maggie.

The best Maggie.

The only Maggie for me.

Happy Valentine’s Day, Magamemenon.

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We’re all mad here.

I love costumes. I usually dress up as food (e.g., one year for Halloween, I was a strawberry milkshake), but this year, I am the Mad Hatter. It’s so much fun. The spool sash took forever but is definitely my favorite part of the outfit. One of my coworkers squeals, “You’re so cute!” every time she walks by. I enjoy that.

I can be fairly sensitive and serious, but any chance I get to insert a little whimsy into my life, I jump at it. I love opportunities to be creative, and I notice that I do better mentally when I make an effort to seek them out. To that end, I track creative tasks as part of my ongoing goal-setting for the year. This year, I have eight categories I’m tracking, and while I have specific goals for each (see parentheses below), I try to work most of them in as often as possible:

  • Writing – My writing job and blogging basically track themselves, so I limit this category to other projects, such as poetry, fiction, and newsletter or journal submissions (at least four times a week).
  • Needlework – Most of this is knitting, but I also have been playing around with embroidery and cross stitch (at least twice a week).
  • Piano – I have been working through a book of sonatas, trying to keep my sight-reading skills fresh, but I’m also (slowly) composing a piece. It’s the first song I have written since I busted out “Texas Is the Place for Me” for a piano recital when I was in junior high, but unlike that little gem, this one is strictly instrumental (at least twice a week).
  • Art journal – I have a lush-themed art journal for the year as well as an ongoing scrapbook sort of thing. I also include coloring in this because most of those pages serve as page backdrops or cover art for my various art journals (at least three times a week).
  • Cooking/baking – Is cooking creative? It is the way I do it. Also, have you seen Pie Lady Books? But even if it’s not that elaborate, I like playing around with ingredients and seeing how it turns out (at least once a week, but usually more, especially if I have several free days/evenings).
  • Collaboration – Creative tasks are even more fun with other people. Choir practice and jam sessions are typically how this pans out, but the occasional studio or art party counts, too (at least once but often twice a week).
  • Performance – I usually sing with the choir in service on Sunday mornings, but I’ve been dipping my toe into being on other stages for the last couple of years. I have a performance coming up in the next couple of weeks, so stay tuned if you’re local (at least four times a month).
  • Miscellaneous – Dang, I love a craft project. I like figuring out how to build or make things, especially if I can use them to decorate or accessorize. At any point in time, I likely have three or four projects in process, and the only reason there aren’t more is that I am limited on space (at least twice a week).

Speaking of goal tracking, I would be remiss if I did not wrap up this month of writing about creating a lush life without revealing the specific things I have been trying to put into practice on a regular basis this year. I didn’t set a specific goal number for them; I’m mostly just logging them for informational purposes. There are five main categories that I use to track lush living:

  • Cozy – Big surprise there, I know. This category is super broad. Any day that includes sufficient cozy elements (this category is also super vague) gets a check mark. Mostly, this is an opportunity to reflect at the end of each day on whether I have made time for myself to relax.
  • Pleasure/self-care – Closely related to cozy (and sometimes they do overlap), this category is more for specific self-care actions like facials and getting my hair done and foot soaks.
  • Socializing – If left to my own devices, I will hermit away and hardly ever leave the house. But several things I’ve talked about this month involve actually connecting with other people, so I give myself a little shout-out in my goal chart when I do something social.
  • Journaling – Sometimes this seems like too much navel-gazing (particularly this month when I’m also journaling daily-ish online), but it is vital to my mental health. I’m so much more grounded when I take a little time every day to write my thoughts out. My journals bounce between total stream of consciousness and well-organized, multi-tiered arguments. It’s a wild ride. I may have to appoint someone to burn them when I die.
  • Adulting – For lack of a better term. I tend to procrastinate unpleasant tasks until I am desperate to get them done. This is unnecessarily stressful and counterproductive when it comes to living a lush life. In addition to putting the week’s to-do list in my planner, I give myself credit for each task in my chart, and it’s working so well that I’m going to keep doing it next year.

And that’s the end. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this series of posts on creating a lush life as much as I’ve enjoyed writing them. Hopefully, you found the occasional nugget that can help you make your life a little lusher, too.

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