Archive | Five Things on Friday

Five on Friday: July 8, 2016

RocksWell, howdy. It’s been awhile since I’ve done a Five on Friday, mainly because I’ve been busy doing stuff but no particular things stand out, if you know what I mean.  But since I know you’re just dying for an update (ha, like you don’t have five million things going on yourself), here goes:

What I’m pondering: Podcasting. As in, good ones to listen to. Podcasts for writers and creatives. Got any recommendations? Also, as in, maybe I’d like to start one. Do you listen to podcasts? Would you be interested in one on motivation, inspiration, productivity, etc., for writers and creatives? It is somewhat of a big production so I’m pondering this even longer than usual.  I get these big ideas and then realize how much work they are going to be and forget about them.

What I’m watching: Le Tour de France. I’m so excited to be returning to that beloved country in two short months (I just booked my Paris hotel today) and I adore the shots of the glorious countryside. There’s only one problem–all those bicycles zooming along are like the best soporific ever. Hub and I both fall fast asleep.

What I’m reading: Nobody’s Fool by Richard Russo, so that I can read his newly released sequel, Everybody’s Fool. And because we might use it for the France workshop.  And books on organic gardening, weaving, and food.  Oh, and Anderson Cooper and Gloria Vanderbilt’s book, The Rainbow Comes and Goes. 

What I’m looking forward to: A writing retreat on the Oregon coast with my friend and biz partner Debbie. Two full days to write! I’ll be working on the most recent rewrite of The Bonne Chance Bakery.  And a few other bits and pieces here and there.

What I’m excited about: Rocks! Some time tomorrow, God and the delivery truck willing, we will have gotten a yard of small river rock dumped on our driveway apron. We have an awkward spot in the backyard by the fence to our neighbor’s backyard. We love our neighbors. Our visiting dogs love their dogs.  So much running about and barking in this area ensues, leaving it unsuitable for gardening.  So it is going to become a sculpture garden.  It is likely that I am more excited about this project than hub, because my job is to rake rock as he loads wheelbarrow load after wheelbarrow load and transports it to the backyard. Fun times!

What are you working on? What has your attention?  Please leave a comment and let me know. Also–there’s one spot left in the France workshop. It’s going to be awesome!  Let me know if you’re interested.

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Five on Friday: Itchy Edition

Behold, the lion cake.

Behold, the lion cake.

Good morning. It has been another week of lovely weather, though the record-breaking high eighties we had at the start of it were a bit too much for me.  Here’s what’s been going on:

The best thing that happened: Making a lion cake to celebrate my three-year-old granddaughter’s birthday. Her four-year-old cousin came to help, and his mother, thank God. (We were both exhausted at the end of the day.)  The cake idea comes from an ancient pamphlet distributed by Baker’s coconut waaaaay back in the day. It shows a variety of animal-shaped cake ideas, all sprinkled liberally with coconut, of course.  Olivia loves pouring through this little book. So we decided to make on. You can see the results.

What the lion cake was supposed to look like.

What the lion cake was supposed to look like.

The worst thing that happened: Chiggers. Never in my life have I given any thought to the chigger. You probably haven’t, either. I didn’t even know they existed in these parts. Until yesterday, when I told my naturopath about the massive mosquito attack I’d endured earlier in the week. She took one look at me and said, “Those aren’t mosquito bites, they are chiggers.” Okay, that made sense. Because, A. I didn’t know a mosquito could bite me in quite so many places (my legs are covered) and B. never in the whole entire history of the world, ever, have I itched so much.  Ever. I didn’t sleep for two nights.

Chiggers like shady spots with high grasses and low bushes and I picked them up on Sunday when I spent the afternoon at the park to celebrate the above-mentioned granddaughter’s birthday.  I’ll spare you the gory details, but thanks to two scrubby showers and lots of cortisone cream, I slept last night and I think the chiggers are on their way out.

What I’m reading: The Charles Duhigg book I mentioned yesterday, Smarter, Faster, Better.   Also, a novel by Cathy Lamb I’m not quite sure about. I’ve never read her before so I don’t know for certain, but it seems like a departure from previous books.  I’m reading it on Kindle and there are weird jumps that happen all in a rush and I can’t tell if it’s the formatting or the book.  I think it may be a crappy formatting job, because she’s got a gazillion books published. I have a couple more in a to-read stack from the library, so we shall see.  Oh, and the main character of this one is not immediately likeable–she drinks way too much and has anger management issues–despite the fact that she has suffered a terrible tragedy that makes her act these ways. I’m interested in how other authors handle unrelatable characters since I have a tendency to write them.  At least that’s what happened with Emma Jean.  The book is called The Last Time I Was Me and there’s a pretty interesting Q and A about it here.

What I’m Sad About: The death of Prince, of course.  I was never an uber-fan, but I do appreciate how he has stretched the boundaries of music, the music world, and creativity.   He died way too young.   I also, shockingly, just heard of the death of a friend who spent time at our retreats in France.  I feel really bad about that. RIP, Joe.

What I’m doing this weekend: Teaching How to Write a Book at Another Read Through bookstore in Portland. It is a very small group and we have room if you want some individualized attention to your latest effort. Join us at the store at 9:30 AM Saturday.

What’s going on in your life? What are you reading? What are you writing?

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Five on Friday: Glories of Coffee Edition

Writing OutsideGood morning! Let’s dive in.

What crisis occurred this morning: I woke to the news that the electric coffee pot was not working.   This was not good. This was very, very bad. I pulled out my phone and looked up the hours of the nearest Starbucks (luckily, we’ve got at least three within a very quick five-minute sprint) while hub plugged and unplugged the pot and pressed the on button repeatedly. It didn’t help. Finally, he had the brilliant idea to boil water and pour it through. That worked. I have coffee.  I will not not murder anybody.

What I’m picking off my computer: Fir needles. It hit 85 degrees here yesterday, a record, and I sat outside beneath the fir tree and worked all afternoon. My computer was also covered in pollen when I came in, like absolutely every horizontal surface in this town. Which is why every human who lives here is sneezing, blowing their nose or itching their eyes, like me.

What I’m working on: I have a ghostwriting project that I’m really enjoying. Its an intense subject, but lots of good ultimately came from it.  We had some wonderful new students at our bi-weekly Wednesday Writers group this week, and we now have a good number sitting around the table talking about writing, all of whom are doing wonderful work. And I have several amazing  students and clients (Hi Mitch, Hi Courtney) who are producing regularly and several working quietly behind the scenes.  At least they better be working. (You know who you are–you’re working, right?)

And workshops–I got workshops! There’s the three-day Mapping Your Novel at Sitka Center in June (which is close to half full), France in September, which is one person away from being full, and COMING RIGHT UP is a workshop here in Portland called How to Write a Book. It is April 23, all day Saturday and it’s going to be a ton of fun, so if you live here, join us.

Oh, wait, what, you want to know what personal projects I’m working on? Well, um, er, I haven’t decided yet. I’ve got so many ideas for novels and stories in my head I’ve had a hard time landing on one. But I think I’m getting closer. I totally kind of drive myself crazy in the between-projects stage.  I can tell you another cool project I’m working on, though. It is going to be a series of prompt journals that I’m very excited about.  I’m creating these with my cousin’s wife Nancy, also known as the Sister-From-Another-Mother.  Look for them to be out soon.

What I’m reading: Honestly, a pretty silly romance.  But the reason I’m reading it is that I’ve realized, duh, that women’s fiction grew out of the romance genre,  so I figured it wouldn’t hurt to go to the roots and see how books are constructed. The bare bones of the structure in a romance makes it easy to parse.

And then there’s a book I’m not really reading, but more using as a reference. It is James Scott Bell’s Revision and Self-Editing for Publication.  But really, it is about a whole lot more than revision. What I like about it is that he has short sections on various topics, such as character, setting, etc., with bullet pointed information that makes it easier to process. There are also longer swaths of exposition, but those are easily ignorable if you are so inclined, as I am. I got this book from the library and I’ve renewed it a couple times but I think someone else now has it on hold and it is overdue. So if you’re the one waiting for it, I’m sorry! I’ll get it back soon.

What I’m doing this weekend: Organizing my office. I know! I’ve said this every Friday for the last few weeks. But I’ve made progress, I swear. (Though if you saw the stacks of boxes on the floor of my office, you might not think so.) Last weekend we got the area where the boxes had been stored cleaned up. And there’s just a few odds and ends left over to move down.  Things I rarely use and thus don’t know what to do with.

I will admit that I spend very little time on the organizing during the week, because I’m so busy and important. That’s a joke, by the way.  But it just always seems that the things I’m working on take priority.  If I were a brave woman, I would share photos of my messy office. But I’m not, so I won’t.

That is absolutely all I have today. What’s up with you?

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Five on Friday: Mind Miasma

My brain is like a boggy swamp.

My brain is like a boggy swamp.

How I’m Feeling: The title of this post. I’m in a mind miasma.  I finished the rough draft of my novel, which was such a non-event it barely even registered. No glowing feeling of satisfaction or bragging to family and friends. I just quietly wrote the last word, fell on my office floor and cried “Thank you, God!” as I genuflected. Not really, but I am glad to be done with it.  I just know the rewrite is a huge job and I’m putting it on the back burner for the moment.

I have projects galore that I’m excited about. The whole time I worked on the novel all I could think about was how I wanted to be done so I could move onto the new things. And then I finished–and suddenly the new things aren’t so shiny any more.  Mind miasma. Does that ever happen to you? It does to me all the time when I finish something.  It means I just need to take some time off and give my brain a rest.

What I’m Excited About:  We’ve had a couple more people sign up for the France retreat and that’s made me think about it anew and get excited. If you are at all interested, now is the time to raise your hand because slots are filling fast.  You can reply to this email if you’ve got a yen to write in the south of France come September.

But maybe you don’t want to go so far? How about three days at the Oregon coast? Registration for my Sitka workshop is open, and several wonderful people have already committed. The workshop is called Mapping the Novel and it is going to be a ton of fun.  Here’s the link.

What I’m Disappointed In: My knitting. I went to Knit Night on Wednesday with only one project which was a big mistake because I ended up ripping it out and then I didn’t have anything to knit so I had to go home early. Ever since then, my knitting has been kind of like my writing: all my fun, shiny projects seem dull and boring.  Maybe I’m in a creative slump. Nah. If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the eons and eons I’ve been a writer, its that creativity is a process. And part of that process is ebbs and flows. Right now I just have to be in an ebb.

What I’m Obsessing About: Organization.  Not macro-wise, but mini-wise. As in, should I put those notes I want to take about that book on index cards, the computer, or a min-binder? The issue is ease of retrieval, as in, where will I be able to find them again? (This is my the desktop of my computer is covered with icons–out of sight, out of mind.) Yeah, such are the things I worry about when I’m not writing.  Which is why it is VERY GOOD that most times I am writing. Because I drive myself bat shit crazy when I’m not.

What the Weather is Like: It is full-on spring here, sunny, a light breeze, 70 degrees, everything that blooms or has ever thought of blooming is abloom. There is no place better on the planet than Oregon in the springtime. But whatever you do, don’t move here.  We can’t take many more people! The population is expected to increase by another 50% by 2020 and already our housing prices have increased higher than anywhere else in the country. Trying to buy a house in Portland these days is about as easy as training a cat or selling a book.

What’s up with you?

Photo from freerangestock.

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Five on Friday: Happy Easter

So, yeah, Happy Easter, if you celebrate. (And as I mentioned in my last post, even the non-religious types among us can surely celebrate Easter as the coming of spring.  AmIright?)  It’s a busy weekend for many and here’s what’s going on around here:easter_candy_chocolat_242057_l

What I’m fussing about: Apostrophes, freaking apostrophes. The overuse of them is a pox upon the land. I’ve written about this before, but apparently I need to write about it every day for forever to stop this scourge. A story: Wednesday night is pie night at Shari’s, which for those of you who do not live in the Pacific Northwest is a restaurant sort of like Denny’s, only better. Not the least because every Wednesday night they offer a free slice of pie with every entree. Num. So my sister and her husband invited me and my husband to go with them to pie night, and we said yes, because, pie night.  (And because usually my Wednesday nights are taken up with my writing group or knitting, both of which were canceled due to Spring Break.)

We were not disappointed, especially because we had the most entertaining waitress of all time. Ronda did a “Ta-da!” with every armload of food she brought to every table and engaged in hysterical waitress-ly banter.  So it was all good.  Except for the blackboard by the front desk which announced specials and MISUSED APOSTROPHES. I was in such a state of shock to see this happen again (I had just read a blogger who should have known better do the same thing) that I forgot the particulars but it doesn’t matter.

Here’s the deal: an apostrophe denotes possession. So: my sister’s pie. My cat’s food. Etc.  But when you have a regular, good old-fashioned plural, as in when you want to describe a group of objects or more than one thing, YOU DO NOT NEED AN APOSTROPHE.  It is actually easier not to use an apostrophe so I can’t figure out why people persist in adding them in.

Okay, I’m breathing again. We shall carry on.

What I’m fussing about #2: Unnecessary changes.  Okay, so this necessitates another story. Last night, a group of us, eight to be exact, partook of Portland Restaurant Month.  That might not be its exact name, but the gist of it is that a number of restaurants offer three-course meals (fixed menu) for the price of $29.  One of the spots offering this deal happens to be right up the street from us, and it also happens to serve prime rib. Not only that, it is wonderfully old school, with fake red leather booths in the bar, fabulous cocktails, and the prime rib served from a trundling silver cart and carved right at your table.

Recently, Clyde’s was sold to one of the many hip and upcoming restaurateurs that dot this city, who promised to keep all the old-school elements of the place intact.  Except he didn’t. Because, no trundling old cart to serve meat from.  Every piece of prime rib cooked exactly the same, no matter how it was ordered. And, you used to be able to get a container of their delicious salad dressing to take home for a small fee. But, you guessed it, no more.  Sigh.  It was fun anyway, with one of our party celebrating the fact that he had just quit his job because his small Etsy business has taken off. (If I knew the link, I’d post it, but I don’t, alas.)

Surely there is a lesson for writers in all this. Don’t fix what isn’t broken? (Except it probably was, a little bit.) I dunno. You tell me.

Lieutenant, draped on my arm as I write.

Lieutenant, draped on my arm as I write.

What I’m reading: Starlight on Willow Lake, by Susan Wiggs. This is, and I quote her website, “a stunning tale of the delicate ties that bind a family together….and the secrets that tear them apart.”  I’m fascinated with novels that form parts of series, and this one is just that, another title in the Lakeshore Chronicles.  The plot follows a conventional women’s fiction arc, but the author throws in some good surprised. It’s a quick and satisfying read.

Who is helping me: My cat, Lieutenant, as always. He climbs up onto my desk and drapes himself over my arm, then snuggles as close to me as he possibly can. Within minutes my arm is aching with his dead weight on top of it as I try to write.

Why I’m writing such a long post today: Because I have one scene to write to finish the rough draft of my novel. So, of course, it is imperative to write a blog post of great length instead.

That’s it for me. I guess I better go finish that damn novel. What’s up for you these days?

Photos: The candy bunny is by Zela, and the cat photo is by me.  It may or may not appear upside down, because WordPress does this funny thing where on the backend the photo shows as upside down or backwards but when I preview it, it is right side up.

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Five on Friday: Vegetable Edition

I'm looking at you, air born weeds and pollen

I’m looking at you, air born weeds and pollen

Why I look odd: It is full-on spring here, a few days early, and I’ve got the allergies to prove it–my eyes are all pink and itchy. Fifteen years ago, I got really sick with a horrible, unidentified virus that resulted in hives, and ever since then I struggle with over-active histamines.  This year even my go-to natural supplement, Antronex, is not putting a dent in the problem, and I’ve actually been taking anti-histamines.  They haven’t helped much, either. If anybody knows anything that will tame them, please do share.

Fun medical test I’m taking: Here in Portland, we’ve had a big scandal with air quality lately.  The Forest Service found abnormally high levels of heavy metal in moss, particularly around the locations of a couple of art glass companies that make their home here.  Turns out the DEQ knew about the results and didn’t bother to do anything about it for quite some time. Political brou-ha-ha ensued!  Anyway, I live near a mini heavy metal hot spot, because, wait for it, we have a bong maker nearby.   So I’m taking a urine test for heavy metal toxicity, which involves swallowing some pills, peeing into a bottle for 6 hours, and then shipping it off to the lab.  Fun times.

What I just bought: On a more cheerful note, don’t judge, but I just bought a spiralizer.  Yep, I did. Now I can make zoodles! We’re trying to eat as many vegetables as we possibly can around here and I thought spiralizing them looked like fun.  Guilt-free pasta! Check out some recipes here.zoodles

What I’m reading: The Color of Light, by Emilie Richards.  Love this book.  It is women’s fiction about a minister whose congregation gets edgy when she lets a homeless family stay in an empty apartment in the parish hall. There’s a love interest in the form a faith-questioning priest. I think it is hard to write about religion without a heavy hand, and this author does it well.  Helps that her husband is a Unitarian minister, Unitarians being the least woo-woo of the bunch.  (I should know, I grew up in the Unitarian church.)

How many scenes I have left to write in my WIP: Three.  So I better go write them.

What’s up with you these days?  Please do tell in the comments.

Dandelion photo by hberends, zoodles image from Parade.

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Five on Friday: A Little Late-ish

storage-44156-m (1)Another Friday rolls around and here’s a look at the week…

What I’m Learning: More is more. Of course, some might say this has been my motto all my life.  Sigh. But what I mean is that sometimes it is easier to do more than less. Like more writing. I know, I hear you groaning.  A full post will follow in which I will explain all.

What I’m Reading: Turns out I don’t much care for mysteries which feature animals who talk, and so I’ve ditched The Oat Cake Crag, following the advice of Austin Kleon in his post, How to Read More.)  I’ve just finished The Unlikely Lavender Queen from last week and am about to dive in to Ethan Canin’s new book. I’ve got a stack of women’s fiction I’m eager to read, but the Canin book comes from the library and its got a gazillion holds on it so I can’t renew it so it has to be read first.

What I’m Working On: Besides my writing, office organization. Yes, again. I had some boxes stashed upstairs that came down and things had to be put away and in the middle of putting together a file box, I got distracted by Lord only knows what so everything is piled up on my work table.

What I’m Writing: Just passed 75K words on the project I thought I wouldn’t finish, the one I started one lovely afternoon in Collioure last September.  Coming down the home stretch! I’m actually really enjoying working on it.  I also have an absorbing new ghostwriting project, working on a book proposal for a very intense and topical book.

Who’s Helping Me: My grandson Henry, who is stapling, hole punching, drawing and playing with Washi tape next to me as I write this.  When I was little, the favorite game of my sisters and I was Office.  Our father built us a little wood room in the basement and brought home cast off office supplies from his printing plant. So I figure I can start Henry early, too.  Alas, his cousin Olivia could care less, but she is obsessed with dolls and stuffed bears, which were my other love.  So live is good.

What’s going on with you? What are you writing? What are you doing in the rest of life? Do tell.

Photo by ppdigital.

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Five on Friday: Marching Into Spring

My library books, with bonus gorilla.

My library books, with bonus gorilla.

How about that title? Clever, huh? Marching into spring…and it’s March this week….I know, you are way ahead of me, you got it on first read.  Anyway. It truly is spring here, with daffodils and crocus and daphne popping out all over, along with my favorites, the pink plum trees.  We’ve had some lovely warm temperatures, too.  Soon we’ll be sitting outside every evening.  Can’t wait.  In the meantime, here’s what’s been going on:

What I’m reading: I’ve had this huge stack of books from the library, because, as I’ve noted before, I put them on hold and then they all come in at once.  But a funny thing I’ve noticed is that when I have so many books, none of them appeal to me. Proving once and for all that too much of anything is not a good thing.  So yesterday I piled most of the library books in a bag to take back and  last night I started a book I bought at our publishing workshop a couple weeks ago, called The Tale of Oat Cake Crag (try saying that several times in a row) by Susan Witting Albert.  The main character is none other than Beatrix Potter.  So far, so good. I’m also finishing a memoir called The Unlikely Lavender Queen, by Jeannie Ralston, which I found on the library staff picks shelf.

What everyone is talking about: Toxic air in Portland. Ugh.

What I’m going to watch:  I swear to God on a stack of bibles (as we used to say when we were kids) that I’m going to watch Spotlight this weekend if it kills me.  Seeing as how it is now available on demand, this ought to be easy to accomplish. We’ll see.  We have a terrible track record of actually seeing movies, because social events and life gets in the way.  An interesting side note: as you know, the movie is about the Boston scandal about priests molesting children and how reporters covered it.  But years before that even happened, here in Portland, my hairdresser at the time was the first to sue a priest because of abuse.  He was really brave to do it, because at first he was roundly vilified on talk radio and in the media.  Until something like 20 other men came forward and said that they, too, had been abused.  I’ve lost track of Joseph over the years, but I’ve always been proud of what he did.

What I’m writing: I turned in the rewrite of my macaron novel to my agent and she’s turned it into the editor who is interested.  So while I hold my breath I’ve returned to the novel I said I wasn’t going to finish.  I’m now determined to get to the end of it, even if it kills me, which it might. In the meantime, I’m having some interesting thoughts about finishing things. Blog post to follow.

What I’m doing on Wednesday nights: Debbie and I run a writing group every other Wednesday night. It is pretty kick ass, if I do say so myself, but not because of Debbie or me–it’s because of our amazing writers.  On alternate weeks, I go knitting at open knitting night at Close Knit.  Which is great fun in a different way, especially because several of us meet at the CruzRoom for Happy Hour ahead of time.  I love the variety of knitters that appear–some old, some young, lots in between.  Some are experienced knitters cranking out accomplished projects and some are brand new.

That’s it! That’s all I got. What is going on with you? What are you reading, watching, writing?

Photo courtesy of my husband.

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Five on Friday: Done!

There’s a lot going on, so let’s get right to it.

yarn_handicraft_crocheting_262893_lWhat I’m Happy About: I finished the rewrite! Woot! I submitted it to my agent and she will soon submit it to an editor who is interested. Think good thoughts for me, please.

What I’m Reading: A little of this, a little of that. I read about one-third of Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life by William Finnegan.  I’m fascinated with the surfing life, but a little of this one went a long ways.  Finnegan has a lyrical bent to him, and he can write about waves and the ocean in a gazillion different styles. But I couldn’t get over the sense that the story wasn’t going anywhere so I gave up.  I read All The Things We Never Knew, by Sheila Hamilton, about the mental illness and eventual suicide of her first husband.  I listen to her on the radio, and knew her slightly many years ago, so it was great to read her book, which I found quite riveting.

And finally, my bathroom and kitchen books (you know, those tomes you pick up when you have a spare moment) are The Yarn Whisperer: My Unexpected Life in Knitting by Clara Parkes, and Knitting Pearls: Writers Writing About Knitting, by Ann Hood. Both are essay-type books so they are easy to pick up and put down. Sort of like knitting.

What I’m Watching: My daughter has introduced me to the wonders of Fixer Upper.  Chip and Joanna Gaines–too much fun.

What I’m Doing This Weekend: Teaching the Ins and Outs of Publishing at Another Read Through. Its 9 to 5 tomorrow and we’ve got room for a couple more if you happen to be in PDX and want an overview of publishing, from the legacies to the indies.

What My New Guilty Pleasure is: The smoked butterscotch latte from Starbucks. Don’t puncture my happy balloon by pointing out how bad it is for me.

Photo by ukapala.

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Five on Friday: February 5th

Not much going on here but a whole lot of rewriting, about which I hope to have a post soon.

Lieutenant in slightly tubbier days.

Lieutenant in slightly tubbier days.

What I’m Watching: Madame Secretary (created by Barbara Hall, who seems to be a creative machine, and oh hey, we share a birthday) and American Idol. I know, dorky. But it is the last season. Okay, I’ll admit it, I’m a fan of AI, but even more so of The Voice. Dean Wesley Smith maintains that watching The Voice is one of the best ways to understand what it takes to make it in a creative field, and I agree.

Who’s sleeping beside me as I write: My cat, Lieutenant.  His brother, Captain, is prowling the kitchen for food. Or plastic bags. Captain loves him some plastic bags.

What I’m interested in: Suddenly I can’t get enough of the presidential race. I’m fascinated with the interplay, if that’s what we’d call it, between Hilary and Bernie. As for the Republicans, well, buffoons.

What I’m reading: Fates and Furies, still. It is not a quick read. I’ll likely finish it tonight. And then I have a huge stack of books from the library to peruse.

What my favorite dinner was this week: Acorn squash stuffed with ground lamb, onion, sage, thyme and fennel, shared with my daughter and her family who ended up spending the night here, baby in tow, when the power went out at their house.

And that’s it, that’s all I’ve got.  What’s up with you?

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