Mother’s Day Weekend

One last Cedar Key sunrise

One last Cedar Key sunrise

I broke my walking streak this weekend. For 158 days in a row, I reached my daily step goal, ranging from the 3000 I started with, up to the 7000 that I’ve been doing since March. But on Friday, I spent several hours driving down to Sarasota and it was oppressively hot. I needed to go grocery shopping so I figured I’d do some walking in a nice air-conditioned store, but I couldn’t find the store and so ran out of time. In the evening, I went out to dinner with R and his friend A to a cool Peruvian restaurant and by the time I got back to the campground, it was full dark. And I still had over 2,000 steps to go. I looked at my step-counter and just said, nope, done. The end of my streak!

But yesterday R came to pick me up at the campground and he didn’t want to pay the parking fee, so asked me to meet him out at the front. I grumbled a little inwardly — I’d walked all the way out to the front when I was here in the fall and I remembered it as a really long walk. Six months later, not so much. It was satisfyingly easy, even in the heat. I will definitely be starting a new walking streak, and maybe even raising my goal, but maybe not until I get out of Florida. Only two weeks left here, I hope!

R took me out to the movies — Guardians of the Galaxy II. I don’t know how many years now we’ve been going to superhero movies for Mother’s Day, but it’s a very satisfying tradition. The movie was a little darker than I expected it to be, though, and some of the jokes were surprisingly… mature. In an entertaining twist of roles, R — who works in a preschool and babysits in his spare time — said afterwards that he couldn’t help thinking about the uncomfortable conversations some of the parents of the small children in the audience were likely to be having. It’s rated PG-13, so I’m thinking those parents should have been a little warier.

In other news, I’m feeling dramatically stressed about this upcoming week, for no real good reason. It just feels like I have a lot to do…

(So much to do, in fact, that I forget to finish and post this blog post on Monday. But I’m posting it now and following it with another!)

Imaginary arguments

bird at sunrise

A conflict arose between me and a friend this week. Passive voice = terrible writing, but that’s what it felt like. Not really a fight, not really an argument, but a conflict. Neither of us started it, neither of us wanted it, but there it was, rising up between us like an ugly, fast-growing weed.

Hmm, I like the image of friendship as a garden. Different friendships, different gardens? Rose gardens and tea gardens and straight-lined vegetable gardens, rock gardens and English gardens. Hedges and bougainvillea…

Bougainvillea is so beautiful and yet so mean. If you’ve got bougainvillea in your friendship garden, it’s just waiting to stab you unexpectedly. It’s not like a cactus, screaming “do not touch” but more of a hidden danger. Maybe a judgement that hurts? I have one friendship that mattered a lot to me — it was a gorgeous garden, lush and flowering and colorful. But it’s basically a desert now, all dried up and barren. I think it was bougainvillea that did it.

Anyway, not the point. My conflict this week is resolved, more or less, but I’m still having imaginary arguments about it. Ruminating, in other words. After lots of therapy, a couple years of therapy school, and plenty of self-help books, I know how to deal with ruminating — when I catch myself having the thought again, I stop and say, “I’m having a thought about X, what’s the feeling behind it?”

For me, ruminating about something that’s over and done with means that it’s not actually done, that there’s an emotion that I need to experience in order to let go. I am completely mystified by this one, though. I don’t know what the feeling is. Hurt? Rejection? Anger? Anger is usually a secondary emotion — at its root, anger is usually about hurt or fear, maybe shame. Fear and shame don’t fit either, though. I tried talking to another friend about it, but it didn’t help. Would that I had a good therapist on speed-dial, because I feel like I’m hovering on one of those self-awareness breakthroughs good therapy can give you, if only I could get there.

Speaking of getting there… I am leaving Cedar Key today and Grace is not finished. Sigh. I am not going to blame my ruminations. I am not going to blame my Lois McMaster Bujold purchases, either, although they definitely had something to do with it. I made progress, just not enough progress.

As with every step of this book, the problem is too many characters. At every moment, I’ve needed to know what all the characters are doing — not just Noah and Grace, my ostensible hero and heroine, but Dillon, Rose, Sophia, Joe, Nadira, Misam, and now Akira. It’s like juggling, I suppose — even when the ball I’m juggling is not in my hand, I need to know where it is and where it’s going.

But I refuse to be depressed about it. I’m heading into a really busy week, to be followed by a really exciting week, to be followed by a really busy week… and then I will sit in Serenity in Pennsylvania and not move until I’ve finished writing Grace. Well, probably I will move. But I will really try to focus on Noah and Grace. Someday these two are going to find a happy ending!

Meanwhile, my really busy week starts today: I’m headed to Sarasota for a Mother’s Day weekend with R. I liked sitting still for two weeks — it was not as productive as I wanted it to be, but it was relaxing to grow familiar with a location. There’s a balancing act between “on the road” and “living in a tiny house” and I don’t think I’ve quite found my balance yet, but writing definitely gets easier when I’m not constantly moving. A point to remember as I plan my post-July time!


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Chowder (non)-recipe

Bay scallop chowder

Bay scallop chowder. It was delicious, even better the second day!

I love reading cookbooks and recipes, but I don’t actually follow them when I cook any more. Mostly, I make stuff up. It’s more fun that way and since I’m mostly cooking for myself, I don’t worry about screwing up. And when I cook for other people, they’re always people who love me enough to be appreciative, whether or not I’ve screwed up. 🙂 *

That said, this is a pretty solid outline of a dairy-free chowder… well, process. Not exactly a recipe, more of a strategy for creating your own ideal combination of tastes and flavors in a chowder.

Ingredient list:
A cooking fat — butter is nice**, olive oil is fine, coconut oil works…
Spices
Vegetables
Chicken broth — (or seafood broth or maybe veggie broth, but not beef broth, that flavor would be wrong)
Coconut milk — the high-fat kind that comes in a can, with plenty of cream and richness
Seafood
A green herb, preferably fresh — cilantro or parsley or maybe rosemary. Probably not mint, though. Basil could be interesting.
Salt & pepper, to taste

If you like real recipes, you’re looking at that list and making faces right now. What quantities? What types of spices or vegetables or seafood? But it depends on how much soup you want to make and what flavors you like. And how you think the flavors will blend together. Shrimp is great with curry, but for the bay scallops I used just ginger powder, because I didn’t want to drown out that ocean flavor they have. A boring white fish might be good with red pepper, but you’d want to be more sparing with your quantity of red pepper (vs, say, ginger powder) so as not to overpower the other flavors. I could make guesses but this is really a process recipe, not a prescription.

So…

Heat/melt your cooking fat over medium heat. Add your spices to the fat and warm them, but don’t let them brown. Sort of swirl them around in the fat for thirty seconds or a minute or two, until you see the fat bubbling around them, in a pleasant but not overly energetic sizzle. (That’s called “blooming” the spices and it enhances their flavor.)

Add your vegetables and saute them in the spiced oil. You want them lightly browned and carmelized, because that enhances their flavor, but the timing will depend on what vegetables you’ve used. The basics of onion, carrot, celery, and potato are good, but I’ve also tried cauliflower, mushroom, zucchini, squash, sweet potato and broccoli. If you want to use leafy greens, you might wait to add them until the end (unless you’re using kale or chard or one of the tougher greens that need more cooking time). And the broccoli… well, that might work with fish, but I didn’t like it with the bay scallops much.

Add your chicken broth and your coconut milk and gently stir. I think I generally use about two cups of chicken broth to a can of coconut milk to get two servings of soup. Coconut milk sometimes separates, which is annoying, but stir it thoroughly or blend it to get it smooth again.

Lower the heat and let the soup simmer for long enough to thoroughly cook your carmelized vegetables. Your timing on that is going to depend on what vegetables you used. Potatoes cook slowly, zucchini might be cooked after the sautéing. But somewhere between ten to twenty minutes of simmering is about right. This should also be reducing your broth, so making the soup thicker.

Add your seafood and let it cook. Usually that’s five minutes or so. It depends on whether your seafood is frozen, obviously, and how much of it you’ve used.

Take a spoonful of the chowder and let it drip back into the pan. Is it thick enough for you? If not, you can let it simmer for longer, or you can ladle some of the broth and vegetables into the cup of an immersion blender and blend it, then return the blended soup to the pan and stir. You could also make a roux (a mix of flour and fat used to thicken sauces) but that always seems like a lot of work to me, plus I no longer use flour, so the blended veggie route is my preference. Or just appreciating the soup as a lighter chowder, to be honest.

If you decided to use leafy greens, toss them in now and give them a minute or two to soften and wilt. Don’t let them cook too long, though, or they’ll turn into weird sludge.

Taste your soup. Does it need salt? If yes, add a little.

Put the soup into a bowl or bowls, chop up your green herb and sprinkle it on top, also maybe some black pepper. Why the herb on top, not mixed in? Because that way different mouthfuls have different tastes, instead of all the flavors blending together. I don’t want my chowder to taste entirely like cilantro, but a little cilantro flavor (or parsley flavor) in some bites makes for a nice contrast. (Bites seems like the wrong word for soup, but swallows sounds wrong, too.)

I feel like I should give credit now to some soup recipe somewhere — it’s not as if I didn’t follow lots of them in the past. Mostly, though, this is just my trial-and-error process, developed by making myself soup for lunch on a regular basis. I cannot promise it will work for every or any combination of seafood and spices and vegetables: I don’t personally think, for example, that I would try cinnamon shrimp broccoli chowder. That doesn’t sound appealing. But I could see a cinnamon squash chowder, maybe with chicken instead of seafood, and with the veggies definitely blended to make it truly thick? Hmm, now I want to go cook that. It sounds yummy. Also, I love citrus flavors but citrus and milk — even coconut milk — have not worked well together in my experience. I don’t think I’d try a lemon-y chowder.

But the ginger bay scallop chowder was delicious, curry seafood chowder has also been great, spicy shrimp, also great. And it’s fun to experiment, of course. This process is a great framework for playing in the kitchen.

*I feel like I should add, with the exception of R, everyone I cook for is perfectly happy to have me do the cooking. R lived with me while I learned to cook, starting from “able to burn hard-boiled eggs” (true story) to where I am today, so he still always votes for restaurants. But he’s eaten variants of this chowder recipe many times and always approves!

**Edited to add: also, obviously, if you’re going the non-dairy route, don’t use butter as your cooking fat.

Monday mornings

sunrise on Cedar Key

Sunrise from the bridge leading into the town of Cedar Key.

I’m sitting outside Serenity watching a giant white bird — I think a great egret, but maybe a snowy egret — stalk its breakfast in the water and wondering why those birds are so cool. Partly it’s the color, of course — it’s such a pure, almost shocking white. But it’s also the mix of awkwardness and grace. They look so ridiculous when they’re standing still or when they’re just beginning to fly — legs too tall, neck too long — but their movement can so quickly become beautiful. And their stillness has such an expectant, waiting quality to it. A predatory peace. Hmm, that feels like the beginning of an idea. Probably just because it’s alliterative, though.

My weekend was glorious. The storm brought a cold front in and the temperatures dropped, into the 50s at night, only up to the 70s during the day. It was delightful. I baked cornbread and made a bay scallop chowder, grilled pork chops with a spice rub and chicken marinated in yogurt and garlic, made salad dressing with my homemade yogurt… I also took some nice long walks with Zelda and wrote some good words, but really, it was the cooking that made me happy, I think. Well, or vice versa — I was happy so I was cooking. But either way, I had a lovely couple of days.

Yesterday, though, I looked at the weather report for the week coming up and thought, ugh. Back to the high 80s by Tuesday. Then I looked around me at the open spaces in the campground and thought, hmm… so I strolled over to the office and asked about moving to a different campsite. The ones I asked about were already booked, but the campground host suggested another one. My old site was on the water, but in the direct sun most of the day. My new site is not on the water, but it’s got trees all around it. Also, a concrete pad and a gravel driveway, which I didn’t know enough to care about until I realized last night that Zelda was no longer bringing a handful of sand into the van with her with every step. Yay for gravel and concrete! And trees. It also still has a lovely view, which could disappear if someone moves into the site across the way, but for the moment at least, this campsite is all good things. It’s in the very center of the campground, too, which I probably would not like if the campground was crowded, but in its two-thirds empty state, it just means that we’re getting to meet all the dogs that wander by. I’ve counted either eleven or thirteen this morning. (I’m not sure whether there are two sets of people with two labs each or whether those were the same labs being walked by different people.)

My summer plans have reverted to their previous state, which means I’ll be heading up to PA in June, down to North Carolina in July, with destinations along the way to be determined. R, in a move that I find both amusing and also somewhat gratifying, turned his summer internship into a tutorial, applied for funding, got it, and now has his transportation issues resolved without relying on me. My lecture on settling still feels appropriate — I really think he underestimates himself — but I think he would argue that I just think he’s great because I’m his mom. I’m pretty sure he’s great, though. But I’m looking forward to my Pennsylvania blueberries and my North Carolina beach days, so no complaints.

Bay scallop chowder

My bay scallop chowder. Next time I wouldn’t use broccoli but might add some bacon. The mushrooms, eh. Not sure about those either. (Made with no recipe, obviously, just what I had on hand.) The bay scallops are amazing, though. I might have to buy some more before I leave.

Gift horses

Babelcube sent me $64.63 today.

I blinked at the email in surprise for a few seconds, then said, out loud, “Seriously?” Zelda put her paw on my knee and stared earnestly into my eyes, informing me that I should really not be reading my email before walking her, so I didn’t bother to look up the circumstances until later, after walking and breakfast. My walk thoughts, though, concluded that it was likely to be a mistake.

But nope, turns out the German copy of A Gift of Ghosts actually sold a few hundred copies in January and February on Tolino. I’m delighted — really more for the translator than for me, because yay, she’s finally earned some money for her hard work. Not much money, obviously, but I hope it came as a nice surprise to her, too.

I promptly spent almost my entire $64. My first purchase was two nut milk bags. My homemade yogurt tasted pretty good, but it was too thin. The internet informed me that if I want thicker yogurt, I’ll need to drain it, and offered lots of options for how to do so. I went with the nut milk bags as feasible, low-effort, and requiring minimal storage space. For obvious reasons, items that can be rolled up and tucked into corners make a lot more sense for quixotic cooking projects than mesh strainers or boxes of industrial-sized coffee filters.

Next up, AmazonBasics 4-Piece Packing Cube Set. I met a fellow Travato owner last week and her above-the-cab storage was so much more organized than my own chaos. It’s not space that I find very useful — I’ve got clothes, linens, jackets, towels, a yoga mat, window covers, and hand weights all stuffed in there, more or less haphazardly. She was using it for the same type of stuff but with packing cubes, which seemed so much more efficient. Her packing cubes are nice ones, but I decided to go with cheap ones instead. Fingers crossed that they last more than ten minutes.

Then I spent $38 on books, all by Lois McMaster Bujold. Huge mistake, most likely, because obviously, I am now going to want to read all weekend, but I’ve been slowly but steadily re-purchasing the books that I regretted leaving behind. I used to have everything of hers in hardcover and when I cleaned out my storage unit in April, I didn’t even look in the box that I was taking to goodwill. I knew once I saw them, I’d want to keep them. But Paladin of Soulswas only $4.99! And once I started… well, my two favorite Miles bookswere in a boxed set for only $8.99, and the books I was missing from the Wide Green World serieswere only $6.99 each and The Curse of Chalionwas only $2.99 and… yes, my resistance was low.

It feels delightfully improvident of me to treat a windfall as an opportunity to splurge. But it was really fun. If it had been just a slightly nicer windfall, I’d have a new shower headand/or a rather cool hanging organizeror maybe one of the interesting cookbookson my wishlist. Maybe next time!

Last night, it was so windy that the van felt like a boat, rocking from side to side. It was fun in a worrying sort of way. My neighbors, who are in a pop-out trailer, had a much more anxious night than I did, though.

ocean view at sunrise

Looking west at sunrise.

But I’m loving the weather. It’s only going to last for another day, but I baked cornbread (gluten-free) this morning to take advantage of it being cool enough to use my oven. I’m going to make a bay scallop chowder with coconut milk and ginger to go with it for lunch. In fact, I think I’ll go do that right now. And then I’m NOT going to reread favorite books, but am going to work on Grace. Well, at least for a little while.


(All those links are affiliate links, so if you buy something from one of them, I’ll get some percentage of sales. So far I’ve earned .20 from my affiliate linking, so thank you so much to whoever bought… well, probably a book! I appreciate the contribution. 🙂 )

Random things

On one of my first days here, a bird flew overhead carrying a fish at least half its size. It was a raptor, and the first name that popped into my head was “osprey.” I didn’t even try to catch a picture–I just watched in awe and wonder as it glided past me.

Then I looked it up. The app I’ve been using to identify birds is seriously stupid. This bird was obviously, unquestionably, without a doubt, a raptor. I knew it was some sort of hawk. But the method of narrowing down the options is by location, size, and color, so my first list of birds included ducks and geese and other totally inappropriate choices. My second list was just as bad. In the end, the app’s only close-to-reasonable choices were peregrine falcon or red-tailed hawk. I was grumpy about both of them. It didn’t look like a red-tailed hawk to me and it seemed too big to be a peregrine falcon. Today I remembered to look it up when I was on my computer. It was totally an osprey. I’m both pleased with my own bird identifying abilities (score!) and ready to look for a new app, one that lets you choose “type”. Maybe even food supply.

pelican

No app required to identify this bird.

The wind yesterday was strong enough to shake the van. This morning it was strong enough to blow Zelda sideways when we were walking and to turn her fur all sleek and spiky. There’s something exciting about wind. It feels rejuvenating. I’m not going to be trying to sit outside and write in it, though, because the gritty sand is getting everywhere.

But that’s okay, because with the wind came a twenty-degree temperature drop. It’s glorious. The first thing I did when Z and I got back from our walk was open all the shades and take down the window covers. I’ve been trying to keep it cooler inside by keeping it dark, but wow, the light really makes me happy.

I’ve been thinking about the rules of communication recently. Text, emails, messaging… Partly it’s because I got an email from a friend that made me unreasonably happy, which in turn sort of annoys me. Quit being so silly, self. Partly it’s because I have not gotten a return text from R, which makes me (possibly unreasonably) annoyed. Quit being so unsympathetic, self.

But also it’s because I joined OK Cupid a while ago, thinking I could find people to do fun things with along the path of my journey. I can tell already that’s not going to happen — it’s surprising how many people are looking for their One True Love rather than someone to go kayaking with, but perhaps I chose the wrong site. My ideas about the rules of online politeness are evolving rapidly, though. And I’m finding it sort of gratifying to realize that I don’t owe a stranger on the internet who calls me “sweetie” anything at all.

I think I’m letting go of two ideas: 1) that it’s polite to respond to people who talk to you and 2) that I have to be polite. I would never be mean or unkind, of course — I’m not going to troll people. But I was so well socialized to be a “nice girl” and I’m finding it very freeing to realize that silence is sufficient reply. It still seems to me that a polite rejection ought to be kinder than no reply at all, but sadly, I think the entitled assholes of the world have ruined that for everyone.

Also — unrelated thought — I am seriously mystified by the number of men who start with something like “hey, beautiful/cutie/sweetie/pretty woman/angel”. Is there a planet on which it’s appropriate to call women you don’t know by pet names? Because on my planet it’s patronizing as anything. If you walked up to me in person and said, “Hi, sweetie,” I would not respond positively. Why should that change online?

None of that, of course, has anything to do with feeling annoyed at R for not responding to my text. I have agreed to change my summer plans to give him a ride anywhere he wants to go, and while yes, that agreement did come with a lecture about initiative and settling, it is still a pretty damn generous offer. I deserve a thank you, even if it’s a sulky thank you. The longer I go without getting my thank you, the more I want to rescind the offer. On the other hand, I’m quite enjoying the uncertainty of having absolutely no idea where I’m going to be headed after June 2 or 3. It feels really freeing, even though I quite liked my June/July plans.

Last random note: I just put yogurt starter into the insta-pot. In approximately eight hours, I will be moving my homemade yogurt into the fridge and tomorrow morning, assuming this is not some total disaster, I’ll be eating my own yogurt with my breakfast. My happiness practice of appreciating my morning food is turning into a very entertaining creativity exercise in optimizing yogurt and granola. As with the granola, I really like the idea of not having to settle for lesser yogurt when stores don’t have the ones I like. It sort of defeats the mindfulness part of the exercise — I’m not exactly practicing acceptance by insisting on really good yogurt, not just average yogurt — but it’s going to be fun to see what I can make.

And now… to work. I really just meant to write about the osprey, but the sunshine in the van instead of darkness and the cool breeze instead of air-conditioning is making me feel really cheerful and chatty. I hope that translates into some good Grace words, too!

*****

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Cedar Key

picture of a camper under a palm tree

That palm tree really doesn’t provide much shade.

I’m watching the rain right now, although not really over the ocean, because the view out the side window is of the campground. I could angle myself better to see more water, but not without disrupting a dog’s nap. And it doesn’t matter anyway, because the rain is coating the windows and turning the view into a static-y television screen.

(I wonder when the image of static-y television will become completely meaningless? Like talking about a party line or sending a telegram? Probably not yet, but eventually.)

Serenity is feeling really crowded, because after six days in this campground, I’d pretty much filled my outside space. I had my chair, my table, my grill, my beach mat, and miscellaneous smaller items all scattered over the site, until it became clear that this was going to be serious rain. Now everything is jammed haphazardly inside while I watch the storm.

So even after six days, I’m still not sure how I feel about this campground. The biggest negative is the lack of good walks. The campground is set on a busy road and there’s no sidewalk. I’ve walked in both directions, roamed around some roads that feel like they should be private despite not being marked as such, gone all the way into the town and explored the railroad trail, but it’s felt like a struggle every day to find places to wander. The roads in the campground itself are dusty sand, the gritty kind that sticks to everything, and bumpy rocks, not at all fun to walk on.

The second biggest negative is the no see ‘ums. Relatively speaking, I don’t think they’re that bad. I’ve certainly been in places with much worse mosquitoes — I remember a park in Vero Beach, where the mosquitoes swarmed even the dogs. But when the no see ‘ums are biting — which is not always — staying outside is not fun. They seem completely undeterred by my environmentally friendly bug repellent.

And I guess the third biggest negative has been the heat. My spot is in direct sun and the weather’s been hitting the high 80s every day. I’ve had to run the air conditioner almost constantly. Sadly, I originally had reservations to be in Key West these weeks, but I cancelled them months ago because I decided it would be too hot. It is just as hot here. Alas. I rue the cancellation fees. And as I wrote to a friend today, heat + camping = sweat + dirt = yuck. It’s certainly no fault of the campground, but I really hate feeling dirty all the time.

All that said, wow, the sunsets are lovely. Sunrises, not so much. I haven’t found a place with a good view of the sunrise, except for a bridge on the way into the town. The campground is cute as can be — colorful signs, lots of plants in pots, pretty picnic tables — and the town is adorable. It is what I imagined Key West would be — small and arty, tropical but still feeling like Florida, not the Caribbean. I bet if I was here in March, I’d adore it. Even the lack of good walks would probably not bother me so much. In fact, if it weren’t so hot and dusty, I’d probably think walking into town was a great walk, despite the lack of sidewalks.

And sitting still feels wonderful. I originally thought that yesterday or today I should drive to a store to do some grocery shopping, but I have been completely reluctant to make the effort. I’m not being lazy — I’ve been writing and walking and cooking — but I’m really appreciating the peacefulness of not needing to pack up and go places.

It’s been good, but not yet great, for my writing. I’ve made definite progress, including some words that are very entertaining (to me, at least) but my characters seem to want to chat rather than reach exciting climactic moments. But I’ve got another week here, so I hope to get there.

Today I walked into town without Z and went to the little market. It’s 1.4 miles away, so I couldn’t buy more than I thought I could comfortably carry that far. In 80 degree weather. But I bought yogurt and salad greens and bananas and a few other things, enough to avoid shopping for a couple more days, I hope. On the way back, I stopped at the seafood market. The right thing to buy there was clearly fresh clams and if I was feeding anyone else — ideally three or four people, I absolutely would have. But they were selling the clams in bags of 100 and the thought of eating 100 clams by myself… well, I’m really not sure I’m capable of that. It seemed ambitious, anyway. So I bought some frozen bay scallops instead.

For dinner, I started with brown rice, while I marinated some of the scallops in lemon juice and garlic. I was thinking of doing something lemon-zesty with them but I got distracted by the red pepper flakes I bought recently. Once the rice was done, I melted some butter in a frying pan, added red pepper flakes to it until they were sizzling, added green onion until it was sizzling, then tossed the scallops in. I think I would have done better with a hotter pan at that point or less lemon juice on the scallops or longer defrosting of the scallops, but eventually they looked done. I then tossed in some arugula. I gave that thirty seconds at most, then put the whole thing over the rice. I added cilantro (which I should have added with the arugula) and then a sprinkle of romano/parmesan cheese.

I inhaled it. And if there’d been more, I would have eaten every bit of the more. The combination of the ocean taste of the scallops and the kick of the red pepper and the bitterness of the arugula… so good. Even the textures blended well. When I make it again (which I will have to, because I have about 3/4 of the scallops left), I’m going to skip the lemon and garlic, because I think I was working on two different ideas at once. But maybe I will marinate the scallops in a little gluten-free soy sauce.

The dogs are also eating really well. I don’t remember if I wrote about this, but when I took Zelda to the vet last week, she had some tests, and has an appointment for more tests, but the vet did sort of shrug and say, “Well, maybe feed her what she’s willing to eat.” And what Zelda is willing to eat is people food. And, post my birthday, I have an immersion blender as well as an insta-pot. So dinner for the dogs tonight was sweet potato, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots and chicken, cooked in the pressure cooker and then blended to a dog-friendly consistency. (I define that as one where Zelda can’t pick out the meat and ignore the vegetables.) I’m going to have to figure out what supplements they need and maybe, now that I can make the veggie cubes, I will try the raw diet for them. But it’s been really satisfying to watch Zelda lick out her bowl instead of turning away from it and leaving it to B. B, of course, is delighted. He’d be perfectly happy with kibble, but chicken and veggies works for him. The other day, he actually growled steadily as he ate, which you would think might indicate something bad, but which I think was him saying, “Mine, mine, mine, mine…”

So yes, cooking good food, writing good words, and watching the rain. And now I’m getting back to those other words…

Best of April 2017

So yesterday’s sunset was pretty decidedly the best sunset of April, I think. I saw some nice ones in the beginning of the month, in Trimble Park, and Trimble Park definitely had the best sunrises, but last night was gorgeous.

I needed a gorgeous sunset, too. Serenity’s sink is still not fixed, so I’ve given up on getting out of Florida until the end of May, and it’s really hot. I haven’t figured out how to sleep with the air-conditioning running and I’m starting to feel as fragile and sleep-deprived as I did when Rory was a newborn. I bet if you poked me the wrong way, I would burst into tears. Fortunately, the dogs don’t do a lot of poking.

And this is a best of post, not a worst of, so let’s see… I’m going to go with the two things that immediately jumped into my head.

First, wandering around Universal Studios with my niece, going on ALL the rides, and having serious discussions of superheroes and super powers. Her choice of super-power was basically to be Fen from A Lonely Magic, able to change interior decoration & clothes at will. And no, she hasn’t read A Lonely Magic — she’s definitely too young — nor did she know anything about it, so I’m taking it as evidence of how much we are kindred spirits. No one else involved had a great day, but M & I had fun.

And second, sitting on my friend L’s back porch in Merritt Island, talking about writing and marketing and self-publishing and life and ALL the things. Feeling the cool breeze from the water, admiring the view, writing good words.

Of course, this is making me remember all the other fun things I did this month — dinner with family, Pokemon hunting with J, yoga with C, going to the movies with R. The month didn’t involve a lot of nature or even travel — four campgrounds, plus four driveways, and beginning to end was spent in Florida — but it was very, very sociable.

Unfortunately, not very productive. But I am hoping to make up for that in the next two weeks. I’ll be sitting still at my current campground (of which more later) for the next twelve days. Well, not literally sitting still — at some point, I will have to go to the grocery store because I’d be getting very hungry around the 10th day, I think, and of course Zelda and I will still be going for walks, no matter how hot it gets. (Hot. Very hot. Sticky and miserable hot, dry wind blowing sand in your face hot. And/or no see ‘ums hot. Although I’m not sure I can blame the bugs on the weather, really.)

Mostly, however, I will be sitting still, admiring the gorgeous view, and trying to get Grace and Noah to their happy ending.

Driveway surfing

I’m starting to feel permanently parked in my friend C’s driveway. Let’s see, it’s been five nights here already, and I think I’m going to be here another two. That makes it pretty close to my longest stay anywhere. Fortunately, C is tolerant: I think I would feel seriously awkward about imposing on anyone else this long, but C is delightfully nonchalant about the whole thing. And the actual physical layouts of the driveway and house make it easy to believe I’m not getting in anyone’s way, even though I probably am.

I’m still waiting on the part for my sink. The service guy originally said by the end of last week, then said delivery on Tuesday. On Monday, he said that the part they needed was back-ordered and he had no idea when it would come in. I’m sitting here hoping that the answer is any minute now — today, tomorrow, Friday morning? — but one way or another, I’m leaving on Friday. If the sink isn’t fixed, it’s going to have to get fixed on my next swing back through central Florida.

The delays have seriously tested my zen. Zen in the urban dictionary meaning of the word, not the real definition. I want to be all peaceful and centered about the delay, living my life in a present that is actually quite comfortable, but instead it feels like an itch I can’t scratch. It makes me want to growl a lot and mutter bad words under my breath.

On the positive side, I’ve gotten to go to two yoga classes with C, and they’ve been great. I really do want to find a way to get real yoga back into my life. One of the classes was at 7AM and it was the first time I’ve felt clumsy while doing yoga for a while — the people who make it to the early morning class at the yoga studio are definitely the serious, graceful, very fit type. But instead of discouraging me, it made me wish for more practice. One of the best things about yoga is how easy it is to see improvement: at the beginning of a class, there are stretches that feel impossible, like sitting cross-legged and bending your head to the floor, and by the end of the same class, it’s so much easier to do the same thing. That said, I expect to be seriously sore tomorrow and suspect that I’ll be limping on Friday.

I’m also having lots of sociable time, and getting to see so many friends, some of them quite unexpectedly. It’s both really nice and a little much for introverted me. I suppose vast quantities of solitude punctuated by bursts of crazy sociability is simply part of the life of the nomad (except maybe for the really extroverted nomads meeting people wherever they go), but I wish I could even it out a little. On Friday, whether the sink is fixed or not, I’m headed off for two solitary weeks of sitting still. I’m sure by the end of it I’ll be feeling like I’ve been alone for too long, but at the moment it seems very appealing.

And of course I’m hoping to get lots of writing done while I do. I’ve been trying hard this week, but it’s been going nowhere fast. I’m in a part that feels boring to me and I don’t know whether it’s boring because I’ve been living with this plot line for more than two full years or whether it really is boring. I guess I’ll find out eventually, but only if I keep writing. Onward!

two dogs

Bartleby and Zelda, in the same picture and almost even looking at the camera!

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Folly by Laurie King

FollyFolly by Laurie R. King
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was waiting for the oven timer to go off yesterday with ten minutes left. Not enough time to walk the dog or settle into writing, so I decided I’d read the first few pages of a book instead. Poor dog. It was over five hours later that she finally got her walk, because once I started Folly, I didn’t stop reading until I reached the end.

I’m not sure why it caught me so thoroughly. It has more description than I usually like, plus very in-depth details about wood-carving and building, and the basics of the story seemed potentially more depressing than enjoyable. But the narrator had an absolutely compelling mix of fragility and strength. She’s an unreliable narrator who knows she’s unreliable, who’s unreliable even to herself, and yet who is persevering in the face of devastating losses. I did guess basically every element of the mystery long before I’d finished reading, but it didn’t matter — the story had me and I kept going until it was done. A very satisfying read.

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