Say that five times fast. That’s OK. Take your time. Try again. I’ll wait…
We’ll just have to add that to “Peter Piper” and “She Sells Seashells,” won’t we?
I decided to reach out to some more book bloggers this week. I googled book blogs and came up with sites with lists of book bloggers. As I suspected, there were a lot of them. Why book bloggers? Somebody has to read your book and like (or dislike) it enough to tell others. There are countless blogs out there, and many companies/individuals that set up blog tours, cover reveals, and book blasts. I checked out a few of them, and I wasn’t convinced that it was worth the cost (advertising is always a gamble even if it is a necessity). Sure, you get a fancy banner, and they send out your info to the participating blogs, but I visited a few, and some blogs had tour stop after tour stop that looked pretty much the same. I don’t think you get to choose your site either.
The last point was the most important to me. Now, I’m sure that these bloggers get many emails from authors, so how do I stand out? I wanted to make a personal connection, so this is what I did:
I did discover some interesting things during this exploration:
I came across several blogs that had been inactive for a long time. I was compelled to peruse through the blog to see if there were any clues to why the site had been abandoned. Not one had closure, no last post saying thanks, or link to follow. Nothing. A ghost in the digital miasma (I learned that word while doing a crossword puzzle...). So, as a writer, I wrote:
I stumbled upon your blog today
The place you built to have your say
A clever name
Graphics much the same
Stars twinkled between pages
Of poetic thoughts, dreams, and rages
Shared part of your life right here
For friends and followers to hear
But where do you go?
The last post was two years ago
Why walk away?
Was there nothing left for you to say
Do you still look the same?
Do you have the same name?
I hope you left for good reasons
Like the changing of the seasons
There’s nothing I can do
Except hope for you
So, I’ll go on pretending
That you wrote a happy ending
I closed your blog when I was done
The visitor count read 3,471
Till next time, keep reading!
I’ve been thinking of what to say about the events of the past week. What will one voice do? One voice that echoes the sentiments of many others. Can you see a drop of water in the ocean? No, but you can see the ripples radiating out into the expanse. Has anybody actually won by ONE vote? I don’t know.
Being silent doesn’t mean you agree or disagree. If I didn’t say anything, would you know? No, but I would. If you listen carefully to the noise of a crowd, you can discern individual voices, if you try hard enough.
So here I go...
It hasn’t taken us that long to get here. In the scope of things, we are just a fraction of time in existence. Maybe we did it too quickly. Perhaps we should have taken a few more steps, planned it out better, thought about the consequences of our growth.
How do I feel? I’m saddened that someone had to die. Again. Needlessly. I'm disappointed that some people used it as an excuse to destroy property and steal for personal gain. I do, however, believe that there is more goodness in the world than bad. Seeing police officers kneeling with protesters confirms this.
I doubt that humanity will ever get to the point that it is able to live in complete harmony. I wish that that wasn't the case but I think that hatred, intolerance, racism, violence, and greed can seem too easy for some. Any type of power can corrupt. Oh, we are trying, I know that, and we are better than before in so many aspects, so I say, don’t give up. Keep talking. Keep moving in a positive direction.
My drop in the ocean…
Everyone is entitled to their opinion (that’s my opinion), but does that mean we are free to give our unsolicited opinion whenever we want? You know, free speech and all…I’m sure that I just opened a huge can of worms, methinks. So, just for fun, let’s crank the opener of these great dividers:
Smoothy vs. Crunchy
Can you sit on the fence and say both? Of course you can! Will you? Probably not.
Crunchy hurts to eat, smoothy sticks to the roof of my mouth, crunchy on toast, not on bagels though. Smoothy: good for making fudge (unless you like crunchy fudge…)
What about natural? Woah, hold it right there, Bucko. This is not a ____vs.____vs.____
Kirk vs. Picard
No contest. You know I’m right…
Dogs vs. Cats
If you don’t care about loyalty or the return of affection and you want to be able to just leave for a few days without worrying…
North Pole vs. South Pole
Santa, good. Penguins, cute! But what about narwhals?
North pole: Pack ice / South Pole: Packed ice
Coffee vs. Tea
I look forward to my morning coffee and my afternoon tea, but I have on rare occasions had a morning tea and I do enjoy an afternoon shot o’ espresso…
Ale vs. Lager
Beer lovers are either loyal or experimental. I see people beeline straight to their brand and get out of the store before I have even started to cooler window shop. But that has nothing to do with the Ale vs. Lager debate does it…
PC vs. Mac
Endless updates and glitches, or should I just spend the damn $$$$?
Zoodles vs. Alphagetti
You know that they are pretty much the same thing, but what can you spell with Zoodles?
Two-ply vs. Three-ply
I didn’t include one-ply because it becomes two-ply since you know you’re going to fold it.
The Turkey: Light meat vs. Dark meat
You might as well call this Dry and bland vs. Moist and tasty….
Star Trek vs. Star Wars
(See Kirk vs Picard)
Ren vs. Stimpy, Rick vs. Morty, Magellan vs. Cook, AM vs. FM
Well, I’m absolutely, positively, sure that I missed some real doozies, but did you think that I was going to talk politics or religion? No way that I’m going there….that’s as volatile as discussing what pick-up truck is best.
(It’s Chevy, BTW…)
“Do or do not. There is no try.” Hold it right there Yoda. I’m going against my adoration for you and your (well, Lucas’) universe and it pains my heart to when I say that I have to disagree with you. There is always a “try” in doing. It’s like telling a child that they can be whatever they want to be in life. Unfortunately, it’s just not true. But by trying, they will better themselves because they will fail at times (usually more often than succeed) and hopefully learn more about what they can and cannot do.
If someone wants to be an astronaut (Pick me! Pick me!) and winds up becoming a doctor or mathematician because they couldn’t hold down their lunch in the “vomit comet”, then the world has another person to be proud of, and they have learned that you shouldn’t eat a heavy meal the night before training. Maybe math or school in general wasn’t their strong suit and they go on to customer service, the arts, public service, or become a laborer. I hope they asked themselves, “Did I try my best?”, and if the answer was yes, then the next question should be, “Am I still trying my best?”. If the answer was “No” to either of those then we must look at, you guessed it, MOTIVATION.
I’m not an expert on the M-word. Far from it. Do I try my best? Usually, but then again, I’m a pretty good procrastinator too.
[Pan to figure slumped on a couch, bowl of potato chips in their lap, TV remote in the other…]
(But I won’t leave dirty dishes on the kitchen counter overnight)
A few quotes come to mind: “Commitment is doing what you said you would do long after the moment you said it in has passed.” I credit this to Bear Grylls, the adventure guy. If you don’t know, he was in the British Special Forces when on a training exercise, his parachute failed, and he broke his…everything? He then (not right away) became the youngest person to scale Mt. Everest. Wow.
Now, I’m not saying that you have to suffer some life-changing injury, but often things happen and we just say to our self, “That’s it, I’m going to do something/I’m going to stop something/I’m going to try something.”, or along those lines. It’s not easy making big changes or deciding to accomplish a task, and lack of motivation is a real killer of dreams.
Where does one get their motivation? There are many motivating factors to choose from and what works for others may not be right for you. Will what you do:
I think that if you can answer yes to the question, “Will I be a better person if I can accomplish this?”, then it is worth doing, even if there is a risk of failure.
So, do I watch TV and eat too many chips or finish this blog? Easy choice…
(Now where is the remote…?)
Nothing ever stays the same. Changes are always happening, which is how we got here today. Not the whole pandemic thing, but where humans are as a society and technologically. The only difference today is that the change came fast, and we had to adapt quickly.
Everyone is talking about the new normal. But we never go back to the old normal anyway, do we? We constantly evolve, sometimes taking the wrong turn, and that’s OK because we learn from our mistakes. People will eventually stop driving gas-powered cars (they were a good idea at the time, so was the Industrial Revolution), and people will probably wash their hands more. I can’t remember when we were told to cough into our elbows, but I do remember that coughing into your hand was the norm at one time (Really? Yes, really.).
A few things I can do without:
There’s no normal unless constant change is considered normal. Will this happen again? Of course, it’s nature. Viruses, bacteria, germs, and the like are trying to survive, just like everything else. We just got to the top first. We win. Unfortunately, that victory comes with a lot of responsibility, that as a society, we don’t seem to be ready for yet. We will stumble and fall, like Bambi walking on ice, but we will get up and try again, and hopefully not wind up like (SPOILER ALERT!) her you know who…
I’ll end with a poem, that I wrote a few years ago:
Why us, why you, why me?
To use the world
As we please
If we were gone
Would our place be taken?
The apes, the birds, the creatures of the sea?
The food chain loses its upper floor
But does it leave an open door
For a new destroyer
Or life in harmony?
The computer was supposed to revolutionize the recipe book, so were laptops, and then tablets. Then why do I still have scrawled notes on scraps of paper and greasy flour marks on my screens?
I decided to organize (yet again) my recipes. Some I have saved on a hard drive, but most are in a binder (my favorites), plus I still have cookbooks. I like cookbooks. Especially the old ones, the classic ones. I found and old bread recipe book which has some of my go-tos. I know I’s old because: it has no cover or publishing page, the pictures are all black and white, and there are a couple of politically incorrect names for some of the breads. Not going to make those…
I used to have the Culinary Institute of America’s cookbook. Needing to compete with European Schools, this was America’s answer. From Pate a Choux to sauces and other French classics, I learned a lot of my techniques from this.
I rarely follow recipes completely. That is probably why most times it doesn’t turn out exactly as it should (Do ya think?). Don’t get me wrong, it is still quite tasty, but I’m sure it could be better. Often, I’ll use a recipe, then modify it as I see fit, depending on what I have in my fridge/cupboard. Some things I don’t mess with. My pizza dough, certain aforementioned breads, and the 2:1:1 ratio for mirepoix or the trinity.
I came across this on a piece of paper: 1 Cup flour, ¼ Cup lard, ½ tsp salt, ¼ water. I know that this is pastry, but why did I write it down? It’s not much different than the 5 other pastry recipes… Some recipes just are not meant to be written down. There is something magical about watching someone create by just dumping and handful of this, a pinch of that, and just some of that other stuff into a bowl and coming up with the most tasty delights time after time. My grandma’s rye bread comes to mind. It always tasted the same. My soups are somewhat like that, but they never turn out the same. They are always delicious (so says I), but it always differs due to what I have on hand. Fridge soup…
Cooking shows are my next favorite way to get recipes. For me it started with Emeril “BAM!”, Iron Chef (the original from Japan), then onto Alton Brown and Guy Fieri. I never had the chance to watch Julia Childs, but I did watch Julia & Julia, so I appreciate what she accomplished.
I just came across another cookie recipe that I haven’t made for awhile, so I’ll stack up the rest of the papers, cram them back into the binder, and maybe I’ll get to organizing it tomorrow.
Man, do I ever not like shopping. Grocery shopping that is. I’m not a fan of other types of shopping (clothes, electronics, whatever-I’m not much of a spender anyway i.e. cheap). If you have read my article, Maximizing Your Food Budget , you will know that I used to look forward to my weekly grocery shop. It was also nice to be able to pop in and pick up 1 or 2 items. Alas, those days are gone-for awhile at least.
My routine was to go to three or four stores (planned out to make a nice economical trip) according to the weekly sales. I’m all for the regulations that have been put in place when it comes to the safety of workers and consumers, but the new reality doesn’t make shopping very easy.
Lines/Queues*: Oh, I don’t like line-ups. Never have, never will. Going to the bank? Line. Guess not. Hello credit card. Need bananas? Nope. Waiting in queues has been a reality throughout history in many countries, for many reasons. A lot of us have had it very good for a very long time. I think back to seeing pictures of breadlines and empty shelves in other parts of the world, so I’m not going to get frustrated like the guy behind me who said, “ This is ridiculous, what are we a third world country?” Really, dude?
On the bright side, I went to my second stop (which will remain unnamed) and discovered no line-up. Whaaaa? I guess it was big enough to allow more customers into the store. No, it wasn’t Costco, although apparently there was a line-up there an hour before it opened today. Anyway, as I left (figured out which one?), there was a line of about 30 people. Score! Either I timed it just right or I went in during the senior’s time. Oops… but I don’t think so.
*This is a good hangman word. So is lynx. Are we allowed to play hangman anymore?
One-way aisles: Again, these rules are good, but it sure doubles the time in the store, having to go down one extra aisle* if you miss it the first time. Then I feel rushed if there is someone behind me, so I don’t do much comparison shopping- once I pick something up I feel bad putting it back.
*Another good hangman word
Produce: No picking, choosing, or squeezing. The hand hovers over the selection like the claw searching for the perfect stuffed toy. Hard tomato? It looked red…crap. Not even going to go near the peaches-they’re sketchy even in season.
Paper products: That initial run on TP sure decimated the shelves. Like trees after a tent caterpillar infestation, I don’t think they fully recovered.
Shopping for Two: This is what is recommended to limit people outside their homes. I don’t mind, it’s good for my cash-back credit card.
Shopping for Three: With limits on quantities, this is harder to accomplish. So, unlike team Olympic sports, where you win Gold and Bronze, but lose and get Silver, second place here is king.
So, in conclusion: I’m done for a week, I am slowly getting though the freezer food, if I run out of butter, I’m not baking, and it’s time for lunch: Grilled cheese with tomato soup. Mmmmm.
OK. We have made breads and sweets and countless other goodies. We have also sat and read books, binge watched shows and movies, and slept. Feeling a bit sluggish? Oh course, we all are. There are things that you can do to lessen the affects of having to stay at home.
I’m all for the distancing rules, but in the last two weeks, I’ve seen a lot of people walking and running. More than I have seen before. How do I know? I usually run at the same time of day, and I tend to see that same amount of people (and often the same people). You can tell people are getting a bit stir crazy because there is a lot more pedestrian traffic out there. I don’t blame them. Now, there are some people who shouldn’t be out, and I hope that you are following the guidelines, but like everyone else, fresh air is, well, it’s a breath of fresh air. If you go out, just be considerate to everyone else.
Commercial-size: I admit, I watch more television than before, but that doesn’t mean you have to be immobile the whole time. This is what I have been doing: Commercial breaks are about 3 minutes long. Can you do something for 3 minutes? Maybe not right away, but I be t you can do something for 1 minute. Then 1 ½, etc. Do what you ask? Walk in place, knee/leg raises, plank, any yoga poses, sit-ups, push-ups…you get the gist. If you are lucky to have stairs… I don’t recommend the following, but there have been news stories of people running marathons on their balconies, or mountain climbing in their living rooms. Creative? Yup. Just get up and walk around.
I read somewhere that there is a group of hunter/ gatherers that although spend much of the day doing those activities, that they do have about the same amount of sedentary time at the end of the day as the average American. The difference is that they are not sitting on a soft comfy couch or in a recliner. What are they doing? Standing, sitting on the ground, crouching, and squatting. All these positions require effort, not a lot, but if you stood for an hour vs. sitting in a chair, I bet you would feel a better type of tired. There’s a reason that more schools and offices (remember those places…?) have standing desks available.
Shivering: I heard that shivering burns calories, but I don’t like to shiver.
Interactive Games: If you are one of the many who still have a Wii system, then this is the time to pull it out. I also know that you have figured out that you can sit while doing it – So cut out that nonsense! Get up and look like a fool playing tennis in your living room. Dance, Dance, Revolution is always a good choice too. Wheel of Fortune? Not so much…
The Extra Clothes Rack: AKA The Treadmill and/or The Stationary Bike. You bought them for a reason (no, not the clothes, yeeesh!).
Cleaning: Yes, cleaning is exercise. You were going to do it anyway, right? Springtime is a great time to air out the house. We won’t be having any garage sales very soon but there will be a lot when it happens. Put on some music and vacuum, wash, sort, and soon you will have a nice smelling place!
So there you go. No excuses.
Fitter fatter, let’s get ‘at her. I know that not being able to go out as much as usual is getting to many people. Physical distancing rules are a tough pill to swallow. Many people are taking up different habits, some better that others. Here is my take.
Baking Bread: I started to bake bread because I figured out that 20 cents worth of flour makes a $1.49 loaf of bread. Which was the reason I always bought bread on sale. Plus it is sooo tasty. If you have ever pulled a fresh loaf of bread out of the oven, you know that it is hard to wait for it to cool before you cut a steamy slice from it and decorate it with a all too generous serving of butter (oh yes, you have to use butter). Then, maybe ½ hour later you realize that you need to bake more. I’ll quote myself here: “Don’t bake bread unless you are prepared to eat the whole loaf.” That was the reason that early in history, bread was baked everyday. Not the rumor that it went stale quickly.
My grandmother always made rye bread. No recipe, and bit of this, a pinch of that. Even in her 70’s she would be there with her arthritic hands, kneading away. I think that was the only time that it didn’t hurt. My mother made the same bread, but it never turned out the same. My sister wrote down the recipe when grandmother visited her one time. It’s good, but int’s not the same. I finally got the recipe. It’s good, but it’s not the same. What was her secret? We will never know, but I suspect it may have been the old farmhouse wood stove. Or the old farmhouse lard. Or the old rye flour…
There is a lot of different breads to experiment with, even a failed loaf is kind of tasty. My favorite is pizza dough. After many variations, I have it nailed. I’ll let you in on one secret. Make the dough 3 days in advance (yes, 3 days) and put it in the fridge (the one you cleaned in my last blog – you read that one, didn’t you? No?! Boooo.), covered of course. The slow rise makes for a light and crisp crust. Try to say crisp crust 5 times fast! My second favorite is a French baguette. Good with soup, as a Po’boy, or sliced with a fresh tomato. I still partake in the Parisian ritual of tearing off the heel straight away. I observed this outside a boulangerie where no heel made it out the door untorn. Oh, the humanity!
Sweets: Like a culinary earworm, I’m giving it to you, so that I’m not the only one stuffing my gob with this delight.
1/2 Cup Margarine, 1 Cup Peanut Butter, 1 pkg Butterscotch chips, Mini marshmallows. You know what I’m talking about…
Beverages: I love coffee. I started drinking it as a teen (‘cuz it was cool) with cream and sugar. Then I weened myself of cream, then sugar, so that I finally was able to enjoy the actual taste of coffee. I realized how bad some of the take-out / fast food coffees were. I won’t name any outright, but they know who they are. Once in university, I sat with my buddies and drank at least 20 cups of coffee (thank you free refills!), and subsequently was up for 24 hours after. Subsequently, the restaurant revoked the free refill policy.
It is easy to drink more coffee now, but I do limit myself to a couple of cups in the morning, and occasionally one in the afternoon. If I need a hot beverage, I’m turn to my second favorite, tea. Holding a hot cup of tea feels different than a hot cup of coffee. Can’t explain that but try it out. I didn’t know that there were so many types of tea until I had High Tea in London. A whole menu of tea there was. Don’t get me started on the sandwiches. I have a collection of teas that I delight in:
Green, White, Ginseng, Chamomile, Orange Pekoe, English Breakfast, but I’ll always return to my first love.
As a famous thespian in his greatest role once said, “Tea, Earl Grey, hot.”
Inverted vertices and grooves. Wonderful geometry or nature’s crud collectors?
And I quote: “Whoever invented corners and grooves should be made to clean all corners and grooves.“ Who said that? I did.
Many people now have a bit more time on their hands. What to do, what to do? Bake, cook? Clean? I know what you are thinking: I don’t want to clean. Not the most enjoyable activity, but considering two things, the focus on sanitizing during the current crisis and the fact that it is Spring (you know, the time you look forward to, to throw open the windows, air out the winter stink, and you did say, during the dead of winter, ”I can’t wait to give the place a good Spring cleaning!” I know you said that, we all did), what better time like the present?
I heard many people just now say, “Another time.”
Hear are some thoughts on cleaning.
At least once a year, I like to clean the baseboards and moldings. Wait! Did I say like? I meant I clean the baseboards and moldings. They only get really dirty if: you kick them a lot, eat pizza over them, or don’t clean them ever. If you have an older home, there is probably a lot of bits under the bottom-you know, that gap that you never notice until you get on your hands and knees to clean them and realize that there are a lot of crumbs under them. Four words: putty knife and vacuum.
Behind things: Refrigerators, ovens, couches, or anything that was meant to move that you don’t move. Pull them out from the wall and wonder how it got so hairy back there. If you have short hair, where did all the long hair come from; if you have long hair, why do I keep inviting my long-haired friends over?
The vacuum is your best friend here. Don’t forget the fridge coils. Where are the fridge coils, you ask? Behind the mullet on the back of your fridge.
Walls: That’s a lot of work. Leave it for when you re-paint. Hmmm, it would look nice with a new coat…
Tops of ceiling fans: Never looked there? Geez, they are spinning, so how the heck does it get dusty?
Cupboards and drawers: OK. You wash the dishes, put clean dishes away, and there are crumbs everywhere. What the…? It looks like a desert at the bottom of the cutlery holder!
Windows and mirrors: Isn’t glass supposed to be smooth? I understand outside, it rains, and rain isn’t clean…
“Tell us more Mr. Science!” “Well, water has to condense around a solid for it to form a raindrop, so it condenses around dust particulates in the air.” COOL!
…, bathroom mirrors (the floss flick and hairspray fog), but why are the insides soo filthy? Unless you have kids, then there is you answer-for everything.
Carpets: Watch one of those science shows about dust mites and you will be vacuuming twice a day (maybe more). If you have ever rented a carpet cleaner, you will get water that looks like Café-au-Lait (that’s a Double Double for Canadian readers).
Mattresses: (See above)
Toasters and appliances: Clean out that crumb tray, or just turn it upside down and shake, shake, shake. The microwave doesn’t need to look like it is from the staffroom at the office. Descale that coffeemaker (you did stock up on vinegar didn’t you?). And that fridge you moved? You should have cleaned it out before you moved it to make it lighter…
Finally, those aforementioned corners and grooves: Every windowsill has them, those slick sharp lines and corners that cloths and fingernails just can’t reach, pointed knives scratch, and generally store years upon years of dirt. Unless you used a vacuum on them everyday (yes, everyday) since the day they were installed (yes, that very day), you’re outta luck. But…a waterpik ™ just might do the trick – never tried because I don’t have one, but I just thought of it…
And never, ever, look through a sunbeam going across your room.