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 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!

Friday, April 29, 2016

An Early Birdie Gets The Manuscript Done

This is kind of laughable right now since I am woefully behind in finishing my current work in progress, but it's not for lack of trying. But that's a whole 'nother blog topic.

I'm an early bird. Unless I'm not feeling well or am unusually tired, I get up between 5 and 5:30 every morning during the week without setting an alarm.  Even when my dear Raffi was alive, I was often awake before he hopped on the bed and commenced chewing my hair, demanding his breakfast.

When folks ask how I'm able to get so much writing done while juggling a day job, I point to this habit first thing. I write in the morning, after I feed my other cat B, clean her box, and brew my coffee. I take a few minutes to do some social media chores and posts, then it's all about the writing for a couple of hours. Between 8 and 8:30 I break to do my exercise, then shower and it's off to the day job. Sometimes I even write during my lunch hour.

On weekends, I'm up fairly early, usually by 7 or 7:30. When on vacation, I'm usually writing by 7 am at the hotel or cottage, or wherever I'm hanging my hat.

There is seldom a day in the year when I don't put my fingers to the key board in the morning. Yes, there are some, like when I'm ill or experiencing burnout or my focus must be directed elsewhere, but not very many.

Not all writers are morning people. A lot of my writer friends write at night, after their family has turned in and the house is quiet. Some have the luxury of not working a day job so can write during the day and for a much longer block of time. I know of a few who only write for long stints on weekends,

There is no right way to write when it comes to when and where. Through trial and error, and sometimes circumstances, a dedicated author will find what works best for them. Some work in coffee shops with people around them. Some, like me, prefer the privacy and the comfort of my home. Some write with a playlist, others, again like me, prefer no music in the background. But we all spend time writing.

The only thing that is a MUST is making a commitment to a schedule, whatever it may be personally, and sticking to it.  If you only write on weekends, then make sure you do it. If you only have an hour a day, then make that hour a priority.

Frankly, it pisses me off when wannabe writers tell me they have a great idea for a book but no time to write it.  To that I say BULLSHIT! If you really want to write, then put your ass in a chair and write, even if it's only for 30 minutes a day. Put the TV remote down and get to a computer! If you don't, then you really don't want to write, because writing is compulsory for a writer.

TIP: You can't write a book by rubbing a magic lamp or 
wishing on a star while turning around three times.

I write in the early morning because it's the best time I have to get in a quality block of time. At night after work I'm tired and not as focused. I have conditioned myself to go to bed at a decent hour so I can get up early to get it done, because there is no other time that works as well for me. I don't whine about it. I just do it.

I know women who crank out book after book while raising children, cooking meals, and driving carpool.

Now doesn't that put all those sorry ass excuses to shame?

Friday, April 22, 2016

A Writer On The Road

For about a year, I've been thinking about what I want to do when I retire. Well, not exactly do. I know that once I retire from my career as a paralegal I want to focus full time on my writing. The real question is where?

Staying in California wasn't looking good as an option because it is simply too damn expensive to live here. My retirement budget will not allow it if I want to eat and not live under an overpass. Unless, of course, I want to move to some really out of the way place in Cali, but what fun is that? I just don't want to move somewhere and wait for the Grim Reaper. Wherever I land, it has to enhance my life.

On my list of places under consideration are: Massachusetts, where I'm from and where my family lives, Oregon, where many friends live and love living there, and Nevada because of the low cost of living and close proximity to California and other friends. Arizona? Meh, been there, done that, didn't like it. 

A while back I wrote about having an attack of wanderlust.  I know I want to travel when I retire and visit friends and family scattered all over this great country. Then the thought hit me. Why not live full-time on the road?

Yeah! I could do that! I know I could. After all, I can write anywhere.

The more I thought about this option, the more it felt right, like something I'd not only enjoy but would enjoy a lot. First, I thought about simply climbing into my car and hitting the road, visiting all the people and places I want to see, living carefree out of a suitcase, my next stop wherever I fancy going. 

Then I thought, why not an RV? Why not join the hoards of retirees who live on the open road, taking their home with them, state to state, experiencing nature, avoiding bad weather by snowbirding in the winter. It seems so cliche, but why not? So I did what any good paralegal or crime writer would do: I started researching the possibility, looking into financial needs, vehicles, safety issues, and the logistics of living mostly off the grid full-time. I've watched dozens of videos, and read blogs of full-time RV'ers (BTW, there are tons of them, including many women who are on the road solo), which contain incredibly helpful information on all aspects of the lifestyle.

BINGO! I have found my retirement plan! 

Susan, one of my BFFs who is retired, has always said that when I find the retirement place for me, I'd know it in my gut. Susan, my dear, you were right. As soon as I saw this possibility, it clicked in my very soul.

I'm not worried about being lonely. I'll be visiting friends and family, and I'll make new friends along the way. I'll even be able to visit many readers for the first time. I've discovered that there are all kinds of full-timer clubs and communities online. And I'll have the internet to stay in touch.  I'm also not adverse to being alone. Alone is not the same thing as being lonely.  I've been painfully lonely in a crowd of people and even while in relationships. And although I'm very outgoing, I'm basically a loner, always have been, even as a kid. I've already logged quite a few solo travel miles and prefer to travel that way most of the time. Maybe I'll even get myself a small dog, since B will most likely be gone by then.
I could live here!

I'm also not concerned about living in such tight quarters. I once lived in a tiny studio apartment for 4 years and it never bothered me. I know how to live small and compact if I have to, and today's RVs are super convenient and well planned, even the small van-style ones, which I'm considering. In fact, have you seen these things lately? They are incredible! I think this lifestyle will fit me like a glove.

I'd hit the road NOW, if I could, but alas, I'm not quite there. So for the next few years, I'll be purging my stuff, saving money, and making plans, with hitting the road as my goal after I say goodbye to the day job. It's my brass ring. The golden ticket for my golden years. 

And, as I've said before, time has a way of going by in the blink of an eye.

When I told another friend about this plan, she was very excited and asked how long I planned on doing it - 6 months, a year, a couple of years? My response was:

Until it stops being fun!

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Cashew - Gesundheit!

A Half-Assed Vegan Post

I am allergic to pecans and walnuts, both of which I like. When I eat them, often my lips and tongue will tingle and swell and sometimes go numb, like I've just had a shot of Novocain. Needless to say, I avoid the little buggers, which is particularly difficult when it comes to walnuts since they seem to be in EVERYTHING! So far I haven't experienced anaphylactic shock from eating them, but I really don't want to push my luck.

Fortunately for me my favorite nuts are almonds and cashews. Even more fortunate for me is that so far I have experienced no adverse reactions to either.  Which is great since a lot of vegan cooking uses both.

I'm sure most of you have heard how good nuts are for us. And they are! They are chock full of protein, vitamins, fiber and healthy fats. A few almonds can boost your energy and satisfy the crunch craving. Although nuts can be high in calories, these are far from empty calories. And almonds and cashews can also be made into wonderful butters and can be tossed into stir frys and salads.

And here is a very interesting article about the health benefits of cashews and how they can help depression.  Who knew???

Cashews also have another great feature. They can be made into a cream sauce that can rival most high fat butter and cream sauces in taste, and surpass them hands down when it comes to healthy eating. It's true!

I love cream sauces on pasta and in casseroles.  LOVE THEM! So when I had to remove diary from my diet, I mourned the loss of these yummy comfort foods.  Then I discovered cashew cream through many of the new recipes I was trying.

Hooray for cashew cream!

Recently I made creamy mushroom and asparagus pasta from Minimalist Baker. While the recipe called for vegan cream cheese (which I dislike), I substituted it for 3/4 cup of soaked cashews and increased the almond milk to 1 cup. I followed the rest of the recipe as written and was rewarded with a very yummy comfort food dish that was creamy, lemony, and cheesy (this last part thanks to nutritional yeast, another great vegan discovery).

BTW, I've gotten a lot of my non-vegan and non-vegetarian friends following Minimalist Baker and you should too! Dana and John also do a lot of gluten free recipes, if you need to go that route. I have a lot of great vegan blogs that I follow but this one is hands-down my favorite. Check them out!

Mushroom Asparagus Pasta
Another favorite recipe of mine is tofu and mushroom stroganoff from Isa Chandra Moskowitz's cookbook Isa Does It, and which can also be found here.  This dish is incredibly satisfying on many levels.  Hmmm, it's been awhile since I've made it...

Isa has a acronym in her cookbook - ABS, which stands for always be soaking.  A lot of recipes using cashews as a cream base will reference this step.  Cashews make the best and smoothest cream if they are soaked in water for several hours or overnight. Just put the amount of cashews the recipe calls for in a bowl, cover with water, and stick it in the fridge. It will even last a few days. Soaking causes the cashews to swell and soften so that when you put them in a blender with your plant-based milk, veggie broth, or water, the sauces will be smooth and creamy.  If you have a high speed blender, you might be able to skip this step.  I do have a very powerful blender, but I find that the soaking step does make a better sauce.

BTW, cashew cream is made with RAW cashews, not roasted, salted cashews.  I buy mine at Trader Joe's and buy the bags of pieces, which are a lot cheaper than whole or half cashews.  Nuts don't need to be pretty to be whirred around in a blender, so why pay for whole cashews?

Go Nuts For Nuts!