Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Who Needs All This Stuff?

That's what I'm asking myself almost every day. How did I accumulate so much stuff and manage to cram it all into a one bedroom apartment?

My latest obsession is my goal to hit the road in an RV in approximately two years when I retire from my job as a paralegal.  Note, I only said my paralegal job. On the road I intend to write full-time, increasing my hours at the computer.  I envision myself cranking out novels and short stories while surrounded by nature and fresh air instead of traffic noise and gasoline fumes.

When I first decided to write mystery novels many years ago, I did my research. I knew I wanted to write a series about a female protagonist and that I wanted to write something quirky and funny. I bought dozens of mystery novels by women about women who had won awards or were very popular. I devoured them all and in true trained paralegal fashion, completed a pro/con chart on each one. When I was done, I knew what I wanted to write and, more importantly, what I did not want to write. Then I set off on my writing journey.

When I discovered my dairy allergy, I researched dairy alternatives and plant-based eating. And that was the birth of my becoming a half-assed vegan.

I'm doing the same with my goal of becoming a full-time RVer.

In other words, I'm researching my ass off about everything having to do with the lifestyle from the different classes, floor plans and features of RVs, along servicing the different parts of a home on wheels, how to get mail while on the road, insurance, phone and internet connection, etc. This led me to joining some Facebook groups about RVing and finally deciding that the RV for me was the Winnebago Travato 59K.

But this is only the beginning. Now I'm starting my downsizing - choosing which items I need and don't need on the road and separating them into an RV-Yes pile and an RV-No pile. Considering the storage limitations in a camper van, the RV-No pile is growing by leaps and bounds.

I've been told by RVers that whatever I think I'll need on the road is probably twice as much as I really do need. So I'm sure there will be waves of culling over the next few years as I whittle my belongings down to a small pile of necessities, and even some culling after I'm in the van.

Sample of RV-No Pile:

My small collection of designer handbags.
My nativity collection.
Most artwork, originals and prints.
Most of my clothing and shoes
My heavy stoneware dishes and most of my cookware.
All of my crystal stemware, everyday glassware, and fancy serving/entertaining dishes
Vases and other cute but unnecessary knickknacks and collectibles
Candles and candleholders
Two big containers of Christmas decorations
Two non-working TVs
Two non-working computers
All furniture

And that's just the stuff I can think of...

I've already filled lots of boxes and bags and that's just with extra clothing! And most of my books have been given to libraries, with the rest of them soon heading that way. Records, CDs and tapes will be sold to a second-hand record shop.

FYI - I do NOT want a storage unit, so don't even suggest that. I need to MINIMIZE, not annex.

Living in an apartment in the middle of Los Angeles makes it impossible to have a "yard sale." I might just have to pack it all up and have someone haul it away. A few items, like the nativities and crystal, I might be able to sell on Ebay.

Hmmm, maybe I can have a virtual yard sale on Facebook??!! Is that possible? Has anyone tried that?

Then there are the things I will not give up no matter what: my Ninja food processor being at the top of the list. My vegan cookbooks. Some artwork. I've already measured one of the only walls in the RV and am happy that one of my favorite prints will fit there!

Yes, I realize that I'm going to be living in a van, one fender bender away from homeless, but there is no need to be uncivilized about it.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

The End and The Beginning

Currently I am writing the last book I owe to a publisher. Over the past twelve years I've fulfilled 23 publishing contracts between two different publishers.

My final publishing deadline is the 12th book in my popular Odelia Grey mystery series.  The working title is TOO BIG TO DIE, a play off the first book's title, TOO BIG TO MISS. This book is due to the publisher in November, but my plan is to get it done and turned in before I go on vacation in mid-October.

After this book, I'll no longer have any books due to any publisher. Nada. I'll be on my own. Flying without a net. My own boss, at least when it comes to writing and publishing.  And in about two years, when I retire from the day job, I'll be my own boss ... period.

I can't wait!

Recently my agent pitched another Ghost of Granny Apples book to that series's publisher and it was turned down. My dear agent knew I wouldn't be upset by the news. You see, it was part of my plan to see which way the wind blew, especially since that publisher is currently axing series left and right. By turning down the proposal for the next Granny book, my publisher released me from the right-of-first-refusal clause, freeing me to write and publish future Granny books for other publishers or as an independent author, which is my plan.  Had they made me an offer for the book, I probably would have taken it since they've done such a fine job with the series. But accepting a contract was really Plan B in this case.

There is still the right-of-first-refusal clause to deal with regarding the Odelia books, but I don't think that will be a problem either. Frankly, after writing twelve books in that series, one a year for twelve years, I'll burn the series to the ground rather than sell another to a publisher.  I do plan for Odelia to live on, but not under the deadlines and restrictions of a traditional publishing house.

So here I am, trying to write Odelia #12 and getting all draggy-ass about it. Is it because I know it's the end of an era? Is it because I'm just plain tired of deadlines set by others?  Or am I just being a lazy baby?

Once this book is turned in, I'll have to set my own deadlines and push myself to meet them. Publisher deadlines force you to be disciplined. There are contracts and legal agreements in place. After this, I'll have to seriously discipline myself. That will be quite a chore, and I'm speaking from experience. This isn't to say I will never contract with a publisher again, but I will be more savvy about it.

I have lots of projects waiting for my attention after Odelia #12: more Winnie Wilde novellas, more in the Madison Rose series, a couple of stand alone general fiction novels (one almost done), as well as more romance books. And of course, more Granny and Odelia books, though those series will both be taking a short hiatus while I tackle new projects for a bit.  I will be busy, but it will be on my schedule and on my terms.

Geez, something tells me I'm going to be my own worse nightmare as my own boss. But that's probably a good thing.

Saturday, August 06, 2016

Icky? Or Am I Just An Old Fart?

Last night I watched Vacation, the latest in the National Lampoon vacation series. In this installment it's Rusty Griswold who takes his family on a cross country car trip, trying to recapture the memories of the one he took when he was a kid.

I've always loved the National Lampoon vacation movies with Chevy Chase. They're sophomoric, vulgar, stupid, and hysterical. The perfect laugh out loud escape movie.But this one made me squirm a little too much in an icky way.

The cast was very likable, especially Christina Applegate, who I've been a fan of for ages. But I found Ed Helms's dumb dad bit much more annoying than Chevy Chase's (who makes a great appearance near end). The movie definitely had its big belly laugh and fun groan moments. I was especially fond of the retreading of several gags, including the hot chick in the convertible scene, but with a twist.

Maybe there were too many sexually themed jokes. And I don't mean sly, clever innuendos, but club-the-audience-over-the-head jokes that only someone living in a cave all their life would not get. I like sexual jokes, but this movie seemed to rely far too much on them and many were beaten to death.

But the ickiest moment for me was near the end and involved a big rig driver played by Norman Reedus, who currently plays Daryl Dixon on The Walking Dead. Let me just say that pedophilia, even a veiled wink toward it in humor, does not entertain me in the least. This was probably the only sexual joke that was subtle, but by far the most disturbing. Adults preying on children is not a laughable moment.

It's kind of how I felt about The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt show trying to get laughs out of women kidnapped and held for years by a maniac. Some things you just don't joke about.

Maybe I'm finally too old to appreciate this kind of humor. I'd like to think not. I'd like to think my funny bone is intact, but maybe it's grown a social conscience.

Monday, July 25, 2016

We're This Many...

Recently Babble 'n Blog celebrated it's 10th year.

But wait! There's more!

We have another anniversary this month! And to me it's much bigger, even if only half the amount of time has passed.

This month the Sue Ann Jaffarian Fan Club on Facebook turned 5 years old! WOW! So very hard to believe!

Cyn Rielley started the fan club in July of 2011. Originally it was called The Odelia Grey Fan Club, but as I started cranking out other books, she changed it to the Sue Ann Jaffarian Fan Club.

Okay, it still feels really weird to be saying my name connected to a fan club, but I digress...

5 years!

And as of this post we have 1,171 members! 

When the club first started, Cyn was a loyal reader of my Odelia Grey series, but we'd never met. Over the past 5 years, she and I have become good friends. And, it turns out, Cyn and her family don't live far from my family in Massachusetts and have become friends with them too! It's all good!

And what's a birthday without a party? But no gifts please. I'll be the one doing the giving. 

1st Prize - your name as a character name in the 12th Odelia Grey novel.*
2nd Prize - a $25 gift certificate to Amazon.
3rd Prize - a $25 gift certificate to Amazon.

Sound good? Here are the details:
  1. Become a member of the Sue Ann Jaffarian Fan Club on Facebook.  Come on, you know you want to join. And here's the link so you don't have to hunt for it.
  2. Send your name to contest@sueannjaffarian.com. If you skip #1, you will be deleted. We do check. Only one entry per person.
  3. Deadline for entries is 9 pm pacific time, August 7th. Winners will be announced on Monday, August 8th.

*Winner understands that this prize is for a character’s name only and such character may or may not bear any likeness in physical appearance or personality to the individual bearing the character’s name. By entering, winner hereby gives consent to the use of such name and releases Sue Ann Jaffarian and Midnight Ink/Llewellyn Worldwide from any and all liability in connection with the use of such name.

To read more about the mechanics of running a fan club, 
read this earlier post.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Babbling for Ten Years!

Babble 'n Blog - yes, this Babble 'n Blog - is ten years old this month.

This blog's first post was on July 16, 2006, but I didn't really start writing posts consistently until October of that year when I migrated over to a better platform.

Babble 'n Blog trivia:

1st post: Why Are There Two Versions of Too Big To Miss? posted July 16, 2006.

Post with most comments: Just Say No, posted October 29, 2006. There were 225 comments posted before I shut down comments because of all the hate.

Post with most views: This Weekend: Just Call Me Sid The Sloth, posted April 16, 2010. Although I'm sure most of the 12,000+ views are from people looking for the character from the Ice Age movies. (It pays to tag your blog posts, people!)

Number of posts total:  Counting this post, there have been 791 posts.

Recently a writer friend announced that he believes blogging is dead.  I don't believe that. I think authors blogging only about writing and their books is dead, or at the very least ill. But I think there is still a good place for authors in the blogging world. Readers like knowing about us and our daily lives. But Babble 'n Blog isn't only about my writing career. I talk about everything and anything that catches my fancy, and share my life, ups and downs, pain and joy. 

Several years ago I pulled back on Babble 'n Blog to write on two different group blogs about writing.  I had fun doing it, but after a couple of years, pulled out of those blogs and returned to BnB because readers were asking me to return to my personal blog.

In looking over the post stats from the past 10 years, it was very interesting to see the extraordinary numbers some garnered. Some posts had thousands and thousands of views, but others only a few hundred. And the thing is, older posts are still being found through internet searches. I've received several e-mails over the years from people who started reading my books because my blog popped up in an unrelated Google search. It's free PR that continues to give. And no writer can afford to turn that down!

Ten years - Now that's a helluva lot of babble!

Friday, July 22, 2016

Clean Up in Aisle Sue Ann

I'm in clean up mode, not my apartment, but my Internet and computer.

Here is my clean-up checklist:

Computer: get rid of all those photos and images I've saved and no longer need. Delete files and manuscript drafts that are out-of-date and unnecessary.

E-mail: Boy, do I have a lot of old e-mails (both in the send and receive folders) that for the life of me I have no idea why I'm saving them.

Newsletters: This is also part of e-mails.  I receive a ton of e-mail announcements and newsletters. Over time it seems that I got put on mailing lists I don't want, or am still on mailing lists that are no longer useful to me, Instead of simply deleting them, it's time to start hitting the unsubscribe button. Lately I've been weeding these out as I get them but now I'm going after them like a heat-seeking missile. It's what prompted me to start my major clean up. One thing that really annoys me is when I do unsubscribe to something and the newsletters keep coming. These are usually connected to sales of some kind. In that case, they get put on the "block" list.

I do subscribe to a lot of helpful newsletters that I'll be keeping. Mostly those are from other writers. As busy as we all get, newsletters from my colleagues are the only way I can keep abreast of what they are doing and what books are coming out. I'm also now subscribing to a few RV newsletters which are helping me toward my future retirement plans.

Facebook: I hate it when people add me to groups on Facebook without my knowledge. (Grrrrr) It's a major pet peeve. I will be cleaning out my groups and events and deleting those I don't want or those I don't use any longer.

The computer has become our virtual home, another place that needs periodic tidying and scrubbing. Another thing for the pesky to do list. But like washing floors and laundry, it must be done.

Cleanliness is just a click away.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

And The Beet Goes On

A Half-Assed Vegan Post

I have always loved beets. It was one of the few vegetables my mother liked so we ate them often growing up. Always out of a can, heated on the stove. That's how we ate all our veggies growing up. My mother only liked waxed beans, spinach, beets, peas, green beans and corn. All canned. The only fresh vegetables we had were iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers and potatoes.  And occasionally green peppers.

It's amazing that I came to love fresh veggies given my childhood, but maybe that's why I do.

I still buy canned vegetables, but the only ones I do are beans, baby corn (which I love to stir-fry and put on salads) and beets. I hate peeling and cutting fresh beets. They are messy and stain. I say let the food companies do that nasty task for me.

My favorite way to eat beets is in salads, either on top of a green salad or used in more creative salads. The best beet salad I've ever had was a roasted beet salad at Mario Batali's B&B restaurant in Las Vegas. It was a heavenly concoction of several types of roasted beets with mint.

My favorite beet salad that I make is one I devised after eating the quinoa and beet salad from Mendocino Farms. Hmmm, I thought, I could make that and probably make it better and healthier, just as I did their curried cauliflower salad. And I did.

I make this a lot to take to work for lunch. It's chock full of protein and freshness. I serve it piled on top of a mound of fresh micro greens. It's a great summer salad. I'm making it tonight!

Beet Salad with Quinoa, Apples and Cranberries

1/2 c quinoa uncooked
1 regular size can of whole baby beets, drained and cut into bite size pieces
1 apple, cored and chopped (I don't peel mine)
1/3 cup slivered almonds
1/3 cup dried cranberries
Salt and pepper to taste

2-3 cloves garlic, finely minced
2-1/2 tbl. red wine vinegar
2 tbl. fresh lemon juice
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp olive oil (can be omitted)

Cook the quinoa according to directions and let cool.

Combine beets, apple, almonds, cranberries and salt and pepper in large bowl. Fold in cooled quinoa.

Whisk together dressing ingredients in small bowl. Pour over salad and mix in. Cover bow and let sit in fridge at least an hour so flavors can blend. Stir before serving.

Beets are super healthy for you too, packed with fiber and vitamins!

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Makes My Skin Crawl

My body does not handle stress well. When I am under an enormous amount of stress and worry, my skin often itches and sometimes will even break out in hives, like an allergy.  People who know me personally can attest to the scars on my neck, all caused from many bouts with hives. It will often feel like I have head and body lice, or that fleas are biting my ankles. Sometimes it makes me physically ill with flu-like symptoms. It doesn't happen often, but often enough for two different doctors conducting several tests to assure me there is no other underlying physical ailment going on, just my body's reaction to stress. And this isn't new. I first started experiencing physical manifestations of stress in my mid-twenties

To manage it I try to exercise every day, including occasional yoga and meditation. I refuse to take sedatives for it, or any meds, except for over-the-counter remedies for hive relief that my doctors have recommended. (BTW, did you know that taking something like Claritin along with a stomach remedy like Zantac will reduce hives discomfort?! My doctor told me that and it works!)

Anyway, I live a stressful life, which I bring upon myself with my grueling writing deadlines, set by both publishers and myself. Coupled with a day job, it's a wonder I don't scratch myself bloody. I'm doing better now. Last year the doctor gave me a stern warning about stress overload bringing about more serious ailments like stroke or heart attack. I listened and started cutting back on some activities. I also eat a lot healthier, which helps. And decided to go easy on future book contracts.

I'm also a news junkie and seeing the carnage at the Istanbul airport last night didn't help my nerves one bit. I'd also learned of the passing of a friend's spouse, so I was pretty sad about that too. I turned the TV off and went to bed early.

Yesterday I was telling a friend about something really stupid someone said to me over the weekend, and I got way more agitated than the situation called for. (FYI, making mountains out of mole hills is another sign of increased stress.) So I took a several deep breaths and tried to shake it off.

This year I plan on releasing several books, in spite of the above. The two coming out from publishers are already written, so I can relax about those. Another publisher deadline is not until later in the year and I'm already working on that book. The others have already been started and will be self-published, so if I don't make my self-imposed deadlines for those books, it's okay. It means I'm being smart enough to pull back on stress triggers in my life.

We live in very stressful times. Between terrorist attacks, hate crimes, scary politicians and technology that moves every little thing at the speed of light, it's easy to forget to stop and smell the roses. Social media is a good example of stress in people's lives. We have become trigger happy when it comes to lashing out with comments and nasty remarks. We are not engaging our brains before engaging our fingers or tongues. And we are overreacting with heated comments way beyond what is called for in reality.

Whenever I see hateful attacks splashed across Facebook and Twitter, I wonder about the stress levels of the people writing such comments. Maybe they are lashing out at the wrong targets; taking their frustration out on strangers instead of the true source of their discomfort and anger. And maybe they brought a flame thrower to a garden party. Kind of like what I did yesterday. My reaction was a massive bomb, when all the situation with the nasty comment called for was maybe a squeak or two.

We all need to chill out. We all need to take a step or two back, weigh the situation we're reacting to, and respond appropriately.

It's difficult in these difficult times, but if more of us did that, maybe it could spread to others like warmth from a cozy fire. It might also leave us enough emotions to properly handle true tragedies, like bombings at airports, and massacres at night clubs, and slaughter at a church. These things deserve our anger and attention, not the petty stuff.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Go Learn Some Shit

In almost every episode of NCIS New Orleans Agent Dwayne Pride, played by the always yummy Scott Bakula, tells his young team "go learn something" as he sends them out to solve a crime.

Leaning is cool and you're never too old to do it. I've been learning a lot lately about RVs and the RV lifestyle.

Although I'm not hitting the road for at least 2 years, I want to be prepared. I also want to make sure there's nothing that will be a deal breaker, not even the draining of the sewer tank, which, thanks to several You Tube videos, I feel I could do right this minute without much of a hiccup.

Yeah, my book deadline is behind me so I'm spending my time learning how to dump human waste in a clean and efficient manner.  Somehow I need to work that into a book.

But that's not all I've learned recently.

Thanks to a plethora of blogs and You Tube videos, I've also leaned about the best internet connections while on the road, best way to boondock (dry camping - no hookups), how to meet people, find camping spots, the basics of RV electrical and plumbing systems, storage organization, safety issues, and RV buying and financing. I've even read and viewed videos on how to decide on the best RV for my needs and how best to acclimate a cat to RV life.

My favorite RV bloggers quickly rose to the top:

The Fit RV - James and Stef are fitness trainers who also do a lot of reviews of different types of RVs, products, RV renovation tips, and how to stay fit on the road.  They also have a great blog post called 8-Step Program For Choosing Your First RV.  Through it I realized that for me to be comfortable on the road I must have (in order of importance) a dry bath (shower separate), good working area where I can sit comfortably for several hours a day and write, good storage, and a permanent bed. I don't need fancy slides or all the bells and whistles and even the permanent bed is negotiable if I find everything else.

Technomadia - I have found this blog and site to be my go-to for all kinds of straight-talk information on the RV lifestyle. They are also experts in all things techy and had the best video explanation on internet connectivity while on the road. This weekend I watched their video: 10 Things That Suck About Full Time RVing. It was extremely informational and entertaining.  Cherie and Chris also do a lot of Q&A with their followers.

Gone With the Wynns - This couple has just transitioned to a sail boat, but their RV blog is full of archived valuable information. And they're cute, energetic, and have two cats. What's not to like?

The Freedom Theory - Josh and Kali are just too cute for words and have a lot of great and informational You Tube videos on everything from techy stuff to money issues.

In addition, just this past week I was invited to join a Facebook group called Authors on the Road, whose members are all writers living either full-time or part-time on the road.

I have found my people and they have knowledge; knowledge I intend to suck dry like a vampire dining on brains. Or should I say absorb like a thirsty sponge? Nah, I like the vampire thing better.

Monday, June 06, 2016

Keeping It Moving

So Odelia #11, Rhythm & Clues is done, what shall I do?

 Go to Disneyland.

 Ah, nope. 

 I'll be getting back to my more stable routine of morning exercise and writing before work, instead of the frenzied writing every waking moment when I'm not at work that happens when I'm on deadline.

 But first I will take a few days off from writing to clean my apt (and this time also my car) top to bottom. I mean really deep clean. Every nook and cranny until everything sparkles. I do it after every book, except that I had no time to do it between the last Granny Apples book and this Odelia. Even poor B will be brushed and bathed!

 I also need to start organizing the stuff in my apt to get ready in preparation of hitting the road full-time in an RV when I retire in 2-3 years. I'd love to go in 2 years, if I can.  So I'll be going through everything, giving some away, selling most of it, and keeping the few things that I just can't live without.

 Yes, I know my retirement is in 2-3 years, but experience has taught me that time moves fast, lightening fast, unlike when I was a kid and it crawled. I need to start my downsizing now, even if it means living in a near empty apartment next year.  I figure if I do that, I won't lose sight of my ultimate vision and goal - retiring to live, write, and travel in an RV.  Stay tuned for more posts on that topic as I set my sights and begin implementing my plan.

Done! Out November 2016!
As for the writing, I have so many books waiting to be finished and waiting to be started that it's difficult to know where to begin.  When I return to writing later this week, I'm going to focus on Odelia #12, the last book I have under contract to a publisher AKA the last deadline I'll need to face for now.

 I can't wait!  To be deadline free is indeed freedom and should reduce my stress level considerably.

 The deadline for Odelia 12 is early November 2016. My goal is to have it done and turned it before I go on vacation in mid-October. I've already started it.

 Also on deck is a short story I'm writing for a contest and the 3rd Winnie Wilde novel.

 The next 2 years are going to be exciting in both my writing and my goals.  Stick around!   

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Nooch Me Again!

A Half-Assed Vegan Post

Since I'm not supposed to eat dairy, I'm not supposed to eat cheese. (BOO! HISS!) I love cheese and it has been the toughest thing to give up in the dairy group.  Every now and then I go off the reservation and have some. And every time I pay dearly for it with rashes and acne, and lately even with some facial puffiness and horrible itching.

You'd think that would be enough to get me to stop fudging on it, wouldn't you?

Let's just say I'm pretty smart, but I've never claimed to be all that bright.

In the past two years, I've become well acquainted with nutritional yeast. It's used by a lot of vegans and vegan chefs and it really does lend a "cheesiness" to dishes.

Nutritional Yeast - now isn't that a sexy name, huh?

How about "Nooch?"  Does that do it for ya? Just so ya know, nooch is the nickname for nutritional yeast.

So, you ask, what in the hell is this stuff?

Nutritional yeast is an inactive yeast made from sugar cane and beet molasses. It comes in flake or powder form. No, it is NOT the same as the active yeasts used in making bread. It's also quite healthy for you. Low in calories, fat, and salt, nooch is full of fiber and protein and super packed with vitamin B.

It can be found in health food stores or at Whole Foods, but can be expensive in those markets. I buy mine from Amazon and get a lot more for about the same price. 

Here's a great article about it on the Huffington Post.

Okay, so now you know what it is, let's see what you can do with it.

Pretty much any vegan dish that needs a cheesiness spin to it will call for some nooch. It can be added to cashew cream, which I talked about in an earlier post, to make a great "cheese" sauce.

Add it to a basic tomato pasta sauce to give it a cheesy boost.

You can mix it with baked tofu to make a yummy "cheese" sandwich spread or dip. Here is my recipe for that:

1 package of pre-baked tofu, teriyaki flavor works best
1/4-1/3 cup vegan mayo (start with less and add a bit at a time to get your desired consistency)
2 tbsp nooch
1/2 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp garlic powder

Toss the ingredients into a food processor and pulse, and you have a protein packed "cheese" spread. I love it on toast or crackers or even grilled with slices of tomatoes. It's also great with celery. And go wild with adding your own favorites to the blend such as pimentos, cilantro, fresh basil, or diced chilies,

Yes, this golden goodness is "cheeseless"!
Another favorite thing I do with nooch is make vegan "Parmesan cheese."  I love this stuff! I use it on cooked veggies, pasta, anywhere I'd use regular Parmesan cheese. Last night I added it to risotto. I always have a batch of this in my fridge. It's super easy to make and only takes 5 minutes.  Here is the recipe I use, which I got from Minimalist Baker.

And don't miss these 3 ways to make Mexican cheese - yes, I'm talking queso!  Also from Minimalist Baker and perfect on chips, nachos and dips.

I've even used nooch in omelettes, both egg and tofu based, and in vegan quiches.

Some nooch enthusiasts sprinkle it on popcorn and cheeseless pizza, and mix it into rice, mashed potatoes and mashed cauliflower. It's uses are endless.

So if for any reason you must give up cheese, don't despair, just buy some nooch and learn how to use it!

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Remembering the Good

Taken about 6 years ago
Tomorrow marks a year since my brother, Thomas Arthur Jaffarian, passed away from complications of liver disease. I've been thinking about him a lot lately, which is natural.

Thom and I were never close and there were many patches of time when we didn't see or speak to each other for years. Sometimes I didn't even know where he was if I had wanted or needed to reach him. Even his kids didn't know where he was a lot of the time. Every now and then he would pop up or we would track him down through some of his online contacts.  He was just that way. He had a lot of personal demons, more than most of us.

To be honest, I have a lot of not so good memories of my brother or my family. Thom and I couldn't have been more different in the paths we chose for our lives. But he was my brother and I loved him and today I'm going to remember some of the good things:

    Walking me to school when I was in first grade. I have old home movies that my mother took of my first day of school and Thom holding my hand as we walk up the street, me with my little lunch box.
Playing board games with me when we were kids even though we were five years apart.

Coming to my defense when other kids picked on me.

Giving me my beautiful nephews and niece: Tom, Derek and Lindsay.

Nights playing cards with my mother and Thom's first wife, Marlaine, with whom I am still as close as a sister.

Going on kiddie rides with me when I was too small to ride them alone. There is one photo of Thom and me that I still remember and wish I could find. We're on one of those rides for really small children. I'm only about four and look terrified and Thom is mugging for the camera, obviously not thrilled to be on a ride for babies. I'll post it if I find it.

He was a wonderful wood carver and I have two of his pieces that I will always treasure. The one to the left is my favorite.

As a young man he was good looking and strong. He didn't always made the best decisions or take the best paths in life, but isn't that true of us all?

Several years before my father passed, he gave me his old Kodak projector and our old home movies. In the next year, as I'm getting rid of a lot of my personal things in preparation to hit to road for retirement, I want to take the time to go through those old films and see if there is anything worth salvaging and having transferred to DVD. I've been meaning to do it for YEARS, but you know how it is, time just slips away. Now it will be a major item on my To Do List as I clean out my apartment. I want Thom's children and grandchildren to see those movies. To see how Thom and I were as kids. That there were good times and fun times.

Be at peace, brother.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Oh The Places I'll Go!

Oh The Places You'll Go! by Dr. Seuss
Not too long ago I announced that when I retire in a few years that I plan on buying an RV and traveling this beautiful country. Since then I've been doing a lot of research on what type of RV I'd like. And I've done a lot of research on what things I need to take and what I need to leave behind.

Yes, I know I'm three years from retiring, but I'm compulsive (read anal) when it comes to things like this.

Now I'm focusing on making a wish list of places I want to see. Topping the list are two destinations that couldn't be more different or far apart: Key West, Florida and Alaska. Something tells me I won't be seeing both of those in one year, but who knows!

Also on the list are the Smoky Mountains and Bryce Canyon. I'd also like to see Hilton Head, Martha's Vineyard, both North and South Dakota, the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, Austin, TX, Big Sur, and drive across Canada. Places I want to revisit: Sedona,Vermont, New Orleans, British Columbia, Wisconsin and Maine.

And, of course, along the way, I'll be zig-zagging between friends and family and seeing as many of my wonderful readers as possible.

In looking at the various styles and floor plans of RVs, one thing is for sure, it must have a very comfortable set up for writing! (And a decent bed and bathroom.)

The biggest challenge of this retirement plan is putting it aside for now and concentrating on the deadlines still on my plate and the books still to write. After all, I also need to build up my book income to help finance my life on the road. RVs and gas cost money.

But I know from my pursuit of becoming a published author that to reach a goal, you must focus on it. You must have it in your sights, even while you are doing other tasks that must be done. Long term goals must constantly run in the back of your brain like security software runs on your computer. Every now and then you bring it to the forefront and concentrate on laying another brick to the path of that goal, until the long-term goal becomes a short-term goal, and eventually a reality. I'm already taking steps toward dismantling my life in Los Angeles. Not drastic steps, but steps needed to get me started.

And OMG, do I have a lot of crap to get rid of!

Meanwhile, I have other more-pressing goals that also need to be addressed, like new books to write and establishing myself as an independent author.

Just some of the bricks to be laid on my Yellow Brick Road...

Monday, May 09, 2016

Pea Green With Taste!

A Half-Assed Vegan Post

I love peas! There, I've said it. Out loud.  With no shame.
  • I love them dried in split pea soup.
  • Fresh in soup.
  • Added to casseroles and pastas.
  • Raw in salads.
  • Pea pods sauteed up in a stir-fry.
  • Peas are a cheerful veggie with its bright color and willingness to be added to most any dish, hot or cold.
  • The only way I won't eat them is out of a can.

These little guys are super healthy too!

One of my favorite recipes is this creamy asparagus and pea soup from Minimalist Baker. I make it quite often. At the same time, I usually make this lemony mushroom asparagus pasta or some other pasta with asparagus.  I use the tips of the asparagus with the pasta and the stalks for the soup. Since they're just going to be pureed for the soup, they don't have to look pretty.

I often add a handful of peas to recipes that don't even call for them, both hot and cold. I have a favorite curried cauliflower salad that I adapted from the famous Mendocino Farms cauliflower couscous salad. Here's the basic recipe, BUT in mine I reduce the pasta by half and add a ton more carrots and only half the mayo ... and I add peas!

Another favorite recipe is this cauliflower and chickpea coconut curry from Oh My Veggies. Near the end, while it's simmering, I add a cup of frozen peas that have been partially thawed under the faucet. They also add a lot of bright color to an otherwise beige dish.

This week I made these samosa inspired potato and pea patties from Minimalist Baker, which are also chock full of ... you guessed it ...peas! BTW, I bake the patties in the oven to save on calories and fat. The cilantro based green chutney is to die for!

And let's not forget another health benefit of peas. If you need an ice pack, simply slap a bag of frozen peas on your injury.  After the swelling goes down, you can cook them up and eat them!

There is always a bag of frozen peas in my freezer ... always. I may not always have ice, but I always have peas!