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Archive for the ‘What I’m Into’ Category

Today is the last day I will be working from home. I go back to the office tomorrow to staff the spring closedown/summer opening transition. A lot of transitions are happening right now.

Here are five things I’m particularly into/experiencing this month:

  • The fox family living in Susannah Conway’s backyard. I am so in love with these little darlings. Today we were happy to learn that, after a brief absence, the mama fox is still with them. I am riveted. One of them may or may not be my new background on my phone.
  • Drinking more water. It’s amazing (and by amazing, I do mean just basic biology) how much better I feel when I’m hydrated. To aid with this goal, I made a sub-goal of drinking a full bottle of water (20 oz.) first thing in the morning. This sometimes goes well and sometimes I lean back on “well, at least a full bottle by the time I finish my first cup of coffee.” That works really well, unless you take into account days like today where I put off taking the last swig of my first cup of coffee until mid-afternoon so that I can still meet my goal (see below). *sigh* Baby steps.
  • Coconut ice cream/gelato. I just love it. Specifically, the Talenti Caribbean Coconut. So good.
  • Easing back in to gatherings. This past year, I have learned a lot about myself and the people around me (metaphorically, as there have been few people actually around me). I have learned the difference between a barrier and a boundary. The next few weeks bring some long-awaited in-person reunions, and I’m very excited about that.
  • Knitting something I might actually wear. My box sweater has become longer and it’s so soft. I’m halfway through, so maybe I’ll get around to finishing it soon.

What are you into lately?

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The tree is officially up and plugged in. And that’s it. No decorations yet. Just twinkly lights. Happy.

Our small group on Monday night talks about the lesson for the next Sunday, so my appetite for Advent has been whetted. Although Advent is one of my favorite seasons, December is not usually my favorite month. It’s usually too busy. That is not the case this year, though. Events are either canceled or virtual, and I think most people have (more than usual) an attitude of just making it through to the other side.

Students have already started leaving for break, since UNT classes are going completely online for the rest of the semester. They’re welcome to stay here, but they also have the option to go home and stay with their families for the holiday season, and many have chosen to do so. Can’t say that I blame them.

This December, I have a little more time. Rather than add extra things to it (with the exception of a blog series – more on that next week), though, I’m going to focus on savoring things I enjoy.

Cozy mysteries (just re-read Publishable by Death by A. C. F. Bookens this weekend, and it was just as much fun the second time around).

The above-mentioned twinkly lights. Just staring into them. Also candlelight is nice. More sparkly-lit rooms, please.

Soups and toasted sandwiches.

Baked goods of just about any kind. Sweet, savory – I love (most of) them all.

Dancing. Stretching. Dancing again.

Playing old records while sipping warm beverages.

Practicing hope. Practicing love. Practicing joy.

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Everything is fine

Yep. I feel that. I miss you, sunny, happy mug of yore.

This is the third time I’ve started this post. The laptop I’m using has that annoying button between the G, H, and B. I’m sure there’s some noble reason it’s there, like some accessibility purpose, but it is the BANE OF MY EXISTENCE. Twice I have typed out this post. Twice, a subtle breeze from my finger has blown over said button as I was typing in its vicinity, which was clearly its cue to erase everything immediately. And WordPress helpfully saves the very last draft…which was nothing. *sigh* So now I’m typing in Word, where I can save properly on my own terms, and we’ll see how it goes. Third time’s the charm? Who really knows if you’ll ever read this.

This experience perfectly sums up my life right now. It’s nice that I’m able to type to you on an actual keyboard in the comfort of my home office. I’ll be musing over that fondly, and then suddenly…blank page like I didn’t do anything at all and have to either quit or start all over.

[Sometimes I quit. It’s okay. You can quit some things sometimes.]

I figure I’m feeling this way because *gestures broadly* but also because I’ve been making some positive changes, and some of the habits I already had established don’t know what to do with that. For example, I’m usually pretty up for cooking any given night. But lately, on a lot of nights, it’s cereal and probably also ice cream while bingeing Revenge (I’m on the Justin-Hartley-shirtless-punching-a-speedbag episode. 10/10, highly recommend, and you’re welcome), and I may eat the cereal dry out of the box because bowls are too much work and they refuse to clean themselves (rude).

So here are some food hacks that I’ve found helpful in keeping me from eating four boxes of cereal a week (problematic because you know I do not buy the sensible, healthy kind) and maybe you will find them helpful, too.

  1. Big batch meals. Specifically, I’m really into pasta skillets these days. My favorite is a cheeseburger skillet that I base loosely on this Budget Bytes recipe (you can sub black beans if you don’t have/eat meat, but add garlic and a little chili powder if you do. You know what? Add garlic and chili powder anyway. Garlic and chili powder and whatever other spices you use on your homemade hamburgers are delicious.) You can turn anything into a one-pot skillet meal. Tacos. Pizza. Egg rolls. Options abound. And it makes a lot that you can tuck away in your fridge (or freezer) in serving-size, microwaveable containers for nights when you would rather snack on a handful of gravel than cook something for real.
  2. Soups. Normally, I don’t feel the urge for soup unless temps are at least down to the 60s outside. But this is 2020. Up is down. Dr. Pepper is scarce in Texas. I eat soup in summer. My current favorite is the red lentil soup from Marsha Mehran’s Pomegranate Soup. Lots of onions, red lentils, garlic, turmeric, cumin, nigella seeds (I didn’t have any but subbed by going a little heavy on the cumin and adding some freshly ground black pepper, and that was fine), broth. Let it simmer for a half hour while you crisp up even more onions (like…crisp, crisp. Crunchy crisp) to use as a garnish. Simple and also amazing. And it makes a ton. I suppose that makes soup another example of a big batch meal and thus better suited for the first category, but this is not the time to point that out, reader. We’ve gone too far to go back now. It’s done. The point is written. Let’s move on.
  3. Enchiladas. My very favorite way to make enchiladas is to pretend I have a family to feed and order a big pan of them to pick up curbside at Milpa, which I can then graze on for days. As an added bonus, I grab a couple of their specialty frozen margaritas – one for me, one for my imaginary partner who graciously insists I drink them both. But if I’m at home and not wanting to leave but also not wanting to prep and then roll a pan of enchiladas, I use a hack I learned from my friend Michelle (*waves*). Frozen taquitos, enchilada sauce, and cheese. My favorite combo is currently the chicken taquitos, tomatillo salsa, and an abrasively sharp white cheddar. Layer it in a pan and bake it. That’s it. If I’m feeling some extra don’t-wannas, I just throw a few frozen taquitos on a plate and cover them in sauce and cheese and microwave it. Takes two minutes. Little soggy if you get too liberal with the sauce, but a margarita made with frozen limeade (or your juice of choice) and a healthy pour of tequila and triple sec will make you not care about that at all.

There are other ideas, but I feel like I’ve given you sufficient insight into my current state. Feel free to drop more food hacks in the comments. Or recommend your favorite cereal combos (because you mix them up, right? DO IT.). Or a cocktail you think I should try (note: if “muddle” or some similar high-maintenance nonsense is in the instructions, I’m gonna go ahead and look forward to trying that for the first time at your house in the future. Thanks in advance for the invitation.).

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About half the current list

This month has been a great reading month so far. I’m looking forward to diving in to the rest of these selections.

For book clubs:

  • Daisy Jones & the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid – I read the ebook on this one, and I like the structure of the writing. Our book club decided that we need this band to be real.
  • The Naturalist by Andrew Mayne – The audiobook was well done, so I highly recommend it on this one. This is the first of the series, and I will need to read the rest of them. I found myself staying up later to listen to it, which is unusual for me, as it usually takes me forever to get through an audiobook. This one held my interest, though.
  • Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi – I haven’t read a graphic novel in a while, and I already love this one. It’s funny and poignant, and I’m excited to talk about it with my Spiderweb group.
  • Funny in Farsi by Firoozeh Dumas – This is the supplemental read for Spiderweb, and I’m looking forward to starting it when it arrives in the mail.

Other reads:

  • Stay Sexy & Don’t Get Murdered by Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark – I loved this book. It’s written (and read – I know! Two audiobooks in two weeks! Who even am I?) by the two women who run the true crime podcast My Favorite Murder.
  • The Inquisitor’s Tale by Adam Gidwitz – This is a cute book about three children and their adventures. A book club friend described it as “The Canterbury Tales meets Harry Potter.”
  • Don’t Overthink It by Anne Bogel – I love Anne’s online persona as The Modern Mrs. Darcy, and so of course I pre-order every book she writes. I look forward to starting this treatise on how to make more confident decisions. I’m not really indecisive, but sometimes I overthink things because of who I am as a person, so I’m sure there will be something in there for me.
  • The Blue Salt Road by Joanne M. Harris – I picked this one up because it is written by the author who wrote Chocolat, which I love (also…I just now discovered that there’s a cookery book with recipes inspired by Chocolat and I must have it immediately). Other than it being marketed as a modern fairytale, I don’t know much about it, but I’m sure it will be a good read.
  • The Proposal by Jasmine Guillory – Second book in the series after The Wedding Date, this is going to be a fun read. I love this author, and I plan to tuck into this one this weekend.
  • Dining In by Alison Roman – I have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to cookbooks that I’ve checked out of the library, so I’m trying to work my way through them. I am skimming most, but this one has a lot of ideas I like, so I’m spending a little more time with it.
  • Nothing To See Here by Kevin Wilson – My third (third!) audiobook of the month. I’m not sure if I’m just getting better at choosing good audiobooks or if my ability to focus is improving (wow, that would be awesome), but I like this one so far. I’m only about 30 minutes in, but the story has already grabbed me.

What are you reading right now? Should I add it to my future TBR list?

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First page of new planner. A reminder for when I forget.

I love resolutions. Even the ones I abandon halfway through the year (although I would not mind getting to a place where I don’t get all riled up about something just to fizzle out). I like looking forward and fostering hope for making new magic and dreams (and yes, a little madness). I have a lot of small goals for the year, but they all center on a few themes:

  1. Reading – I exceeded my original goal of 100 books last year (by two!), and so I’ve upped the challenge to 120 this year. I have three book clubs, because I love talking about books with people. I think it would be nice if I did that more here, too. Possible posts to look forward to are periodic recaps of what I’ve read and what I’m about to read. I really love what Brenda at Don’t Stop Believing did here, and I really adored some of the things I read in 2019, so you may see something similar around these parts soon. For this year, my focus is going to be on actually finishing the book club choices before we meet (I did this about 60% of the time last year) and reading some of the hundreds of books on my own shelves that I have squirreled away for “someday.” Someday is 2020.
  2. Writing – I finished Fishbowl in 2018…and then I edited it. Now I need to finish it again, because as it turns out, I have no problem killing my darlings. I may enjoy that too much, actually. So this year’s main writing goal is to get it ready to go to beta readers (yes, Maggie – you first)/an editor. I also have a short story project that I am working on, and I want to continue my microfictions on Ello (anyone else on Ello?). I haven’t posted there in a while, but I have a few that I should be ready to upload by the end of the month. I anticipate writing (maybe performing) something in collaboration with Spiderweb Salon this year, too.
  3. Health – I need to be better at keeping up with doctor’s appointments. Just…all of them. I’m terrible at this. That’s a big goal for the year. With my Pilates practice last year, I re-discovered how good I feel when I’m paying attention to strength and flexibility and alignment (hello again, dance!), so I want to continue to build there.
  4. Work – I want to continue to explore the next direction my work life should go. I don’t have a lot of answers here, but I have lots of advice and guidance. Sifting through all of that. We’ll see.
  5. Word of the year – I wasn’t going to have a word of the year, but then I kept seeing quotes about coming alive or being alive and every one of them made me tear up a little bit so now my word of the year is “alive” and I’m pretty enthused about it. My gut reaction for how to pursue this is through music, dance, learning new things, making beautiful things and feeding people, but I’m leaving the possibilities open. I have a short-term bucket list for the year that includes things like “read a book in Spanish with minimal need for a dictionary” and “start learning sign language” and “walk/run more miles each month”  and “brush up on music theory” and it will be fun to see how many of those I stick to. In related news, I may be in the market for a French horn or trumpet soon. You’re welcome, neighbors (but let’s be honest, you kinda have it coming).

Do you make resolutions? If so, I’d love to hear them!

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I am not what anyone would describe as an early adaptor. It’s not a point of pride for me. I see the benefit in upgrading to the newest model of a device whenever one can. It’s cool if you do that. I just am not that person.

Having said that, I am having a bit of a honeymoon with my new phone. I’ve named her Mona. She is sleek and sexy and looks super hot in her stripey Kate Spade cover.

Mona is an iPhone X (yes I know it’s not the newest but it’s the one I wanted so let’s all move on). We met at the Verizon store after I told the sales guy I was there to upgrade my phone. He was utterly professional until he saw my old phone and realized just how old she was (like…they don’t even make the adaptor for it anymore). Then he made a face. He pulled it together quickly but I know in his head he was still sniffing derisively at Margeaux.

I forgive him. He probably had the very latest phone the moment it came out. He just doesn’t understand a long-term relationship like the ones I have with my devices. I get it. I didn’t used to get attached.

My first two cell phones were bare bones models. No frills. Just the calls (and the texts), ma’am.

Then I met Cherry O.

Cherry O was a red LG. Still not a smartphone but so, so much fancier than what I had before. The camera was better than the digital camera I had, so I was able to get rid of my camera, and I’ve never gone back. I assigned everyone their own custom ringtone. Cherry O and I had a great run. Then one day she died. Just…out of the blue. No warning (well, no warning other than the myriad of pointed emails I got from Verizon telling me to hurry and upgrade already).

I was devastated, but Margeaux helped me through it.

Margeaux was my first smartphone. She, too, was an iPhone. Margeaux helped me get over Cherry O by introducing me to Instagram. I love Instagram. I follow some really delightful people there. Margeaux let me do that. I also joined Duolingo, which is a super easy way to practice my Spanish and German and gently ease in to French and Italian.

This week, though, Margeaux and I broke up. It was amicable. There are no hard feelings. It’s not her, it’s me (it was totally her).

Enter Mona.

If Mona were a person, she’d be CEO of her own company that she dreamed up and built from nothing. She would live in a Cape Cod style home with a huge backyard. She would grow her own vegetables, make jam, and have friends over for supper every Sunday night. She would know how to tango and provide her own tech support. She would do all of this and make it look easy.

I love all the storage I have on this phone. I love how much faster it is than my last phone. I love that it supports all four (five?) of my book apps. And I love it allows me to type this post out to you from the comfy chair in my living room without having to wrangle my laptop.

I am smitten. I think Mona and I will be together for quite some time.

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Friday Five 4

Hello! This weekend, I am embarking on a 24in48 marathon of luxurious reading. After the 70- and 80-hour work weeks I’ve been having, I am very excited about adding extra money to my Aspiration account, but I am also really looking forward to this much needed break. Here are some things I’m into.

  1. First, lists of books and book shops. I love fantasy novels .  I also find this list intriguing – a particular book to read at each age. Someday, when I have time off, I may do a few days of just rambling through bookstores in the area.
  2. I have a confession. I’ve always loved Cats. Some people sang 80s songs into their hairbrushes. Me? McCavity: The Mystery Cat. [I mean, I totally sang 80s pop. And punk. And…I like to sing.] It’s strange and confusing and of course it is because that’s what you get when Andrew Lloyd Webber adapts T. S. Eliot poetry into a musical. I cannot wait for this movie to come out. If you go see it with me, prepare yourself for the moment when Jennifer Hudson sings Memory on the big screen, because I will cry. Already teared up just during the trailer. It’s just gonna happen.
  3. I joined a cookbook club, and it’s one of the best decisions I’ve made this year. We meet once a month, each bringing a dish and the cookbook we found it in to share with others. One big decadent potluck. There are daily posts on the group page about things like classic pasta dishes and the best lemonade ever.
  4. I’ve already signed up for next year’s writer’s retreat to be held at Maplehurst. If you’ve read any of Christie Purifoy’s books (I’m currently soaking in Placemaker. Highly recommend.), you are probably familiar with Maplehurst’s story. You should join us.
  5. I’m officially moving my yearly Hemingway party to the fall. I had it later last year, and that was nice. It makes sense. Work is less busy in September or October, and it’s cooled off enough that I can actually bake without it taking 14 years for my apartment to cool off. As I’m planning, I hope to keep this advice in mind.

What are you into these days?

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Favorite summer treat. One of maybe five things I like about summer. As things go, though, this one is pretty awesome.

Every year, I love reading Joy the Baker’s summer bucket list. This year, I am especially charmed by her resolve to make a Polaroid photo album and have brunch and champagne on a weekday. I also feel inspired to make my own bucket list (or, erm, the bucket list I have been working on this summer, as it’s basically half over), so here goes!

  1. Read more beach reads. I am not good at choosing what most people think of as “beach reads.” The last book I read on the beach was Like Water for Chocolate (highly recommend). I am part of three book clubs, which I love, but that typically means that I’m reading books I wouldn’t have necessarily chosen and also aren’t typically lighthearted but rather books that lend themselves to discussion. Summer is often when work is busier, so more than usual, I need my nightly reading to wind down and be able to rest. For this purpose, the lighter the better.
  2. Participate in 24in48 and Dewey’s reverse readathon. Speaking of reading, I am looking forward to a couple of readathon weekends. I like that these weekends force me to take a day off and focus on one task, and a relaxing, favorite task at that.
  3. Spiderweb Salon, the local art collective I enjoy, has some exciting events coming up this summer. On Sunday, they’re having a release party for their vinyl album, so that will be fun. There is also a letter-writing workshop/typewriter sale I’m going to sneak away to during 24in28.
  4. Finish Marie Kondo-ing my apartment. Two closets and almost a kitchen and bathroom down, the rest of the place to go. My apartment looks like a tornado hit it. Soon, however, it will all be beautiful, just like my closet.
  5. Average 2-3 hours a week playing the piano (or, keyboard, rather. It’s just not the same. *sighs*). I’m slowly getting the flexibility and control back in my fingers. And I love it.

Do you have a summer to-do list? What’s on it?

 

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“Poets manage to get into a couplet what I struggle to achieve in an entire book.”
– Louise Penny-

March is the best month (my birth-month), but April is easily in my top five. Never mind that spring is trying to murder me. Never mind that the end of the semester is drawing nigh, and the students (and admittedly, all of us, too) have the -itis. Never mind that I don’t have a free weekend until mid-May. All of that pales in comparison to the fact that April is both National Poetry Month and Jazz Appreciation Month.

I mean, that’s really every month with me. But others are more intentional about enjoying both this month, which gives me more opportunity to enjoy poetry and jazz with them.

One of my book clubs is reading and sharing poetry all month. We are having at least three poetry gatherings at a local coffee shop to read together and share our books, which seems like the very best outing I can think of.

So far I have started Don’t Get Your Hopes Up/Moon Woman by Courtney Marie and Fatima-Ayan Maliki Hirsi (two of our local poets) and When Angels Speak of Love by bell hooks (not pictured – reading a digital copy). Beautiful verses set a lovely tone for the whole day.

Then at night, I spend an hour or two listening to records as I wind down for bed. I’m looking forward to Arts and Jazz Fest at the end of the month. If you’re in Denton, you should check it out!

“eden all would abandon
to not be alone”
From the collection When Angels Speak of Love by bell hooks

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This month went by super fast! There was one tree at the beginning of the month in the lot where I park at work that had shed all its leaves (as if to say, “Come on, you guys – it’s time! Don’t be late!” I feel like that tree understands me.), but now they’re all turning/shedding. And I love it.

November has been busy, but happy busy. I had a minor writing delay when my laptop crashed, but my sister and brother-in-law gave me one of theirs, so I’m back on a roll, and just in time for the holidays! Here’s how the month went.

What I’m into reading or listening to:

  • Darius the Great Is Not Okay by Adib Khorram is a gem of a book. I love the perspective and the sweet friendship he forges when he goes to see his family.
  • I’m getting through Anna Karenina. I recognize that I’m in no position to critique a translation from Russian, as I do not know a lick of Russian, but I’m going to critique it anyway. I’m liking the story line and character development, but I frequently run across a passage where I think, “I bet that was beautiful in Russian. Too bad this phrasing is awkward and awful.” I may check a copy out of the library and see if that goes better.
  • I attending the UNT Jazz Singers’ fall concert/CD release party and picked up their new collection called A Thousand Nights. Highly recommend.

a thousand nights

What I’m into doing:

  • A Club Pilates location opened in Denton, and I am obsessed. I love Pilates on the reformer machines! If you’re in or near Denton, and you’re curious, you can take a free, 30-minute intro session.
  • Our Housing holiday party was fantastic. It was beautiful, the food was awesome, and they gifted everyone with a free ham or turkey. As you can see in the picture at the top, I couldn’t decide what to drink. So many choices. I made them all.
  • I enjoyed Thanksgiving with my family. We only made four kinds of candy this year (one didn’t make it into buckets because it was only a small batch). I only suffered a minor burn, which is better than I usually do. I think my family actually enjoys the chocolate-covered salted peanut or pecan clusters I make to use up the excess chocolate more than they like the actual candy.
  • Speaking of chocolates, I refreshed our fair trade stash at church and put out a table with samples of chocolate, coffee, and tea. Hopefully the information I collected there can help guide our purchases better so that the products get bought before they go stale.

What I’m looking forward to:

  • There is a coffee crawl scheduled next weekend, and I’m very excited about it. It’s a fundraiser for the Explorium (a children’s museum in Denton), and I am happy to drink coffee to support them.
  • I’m also very excited about Christmas break. I am looking forward to having that time off.

What are you into these days?

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