Sunday, August 28, 2016

Green Beans Not Green Jeans

A Half-Assed Vegan Post

When I was a kid and watched Captain Kangaroo, I always thought his sidekick's name was Mr. Green Beans, not Mr. Green Jeans. What did I know? Our TV was black and white and the only jeans I'd ever seen were blue.

On the other hand, I did know what a green bean was and I liked them. Fresh or frozen. Italian cut or regular. Cooked or raw. Made no difference to me.

This past week I made a couple of dishes with green beans. I started out with a favorite bean salad called Speedy Three Bean Salad from Oh She Glows. (BTW, I also toss in some lightly steamed corn and peas.)  I took this for lunch several days, serving it over a bed of mixed greens (not jeans).  Yummy and packed with protein.

I also stir-fried some green beans up with a bit of garlic and olive oil until they were crispy and a bit caramelized, tossed in some slivered almonds and a few dried cranberries, to make a great side dish to go with risotto.

Tomorrow I'm throwing this string bean and seitan stew into my slow cooker. The stew is a take-off of an Armenian lamb stew I always enjoyed before going half-assed vegan. It's easy, nutritious, vegan, and low in calories.

In addition to being quite tasty, green beans are so very good for you! They are low in calories, high in fiber, and pack a ton of vitamins and nutrients.

I'll bet even Mr. Green Jeans ate them!

 Tomato, Green Bean and Seitan Stew

 1 pkg of cubed seitan (I drain and rinse it because it's so salty)*
 1 large can of chopped tomatoes with garlic and seasoning
 1 onion chopped into large pieces
 1 tablespoon olive oil
 Green beans cut into bite size pieces - about 1 lb. (I usually use fresh, but you could use a bag of frozen)
 1-2 cloves garlic
1 tsp. dried oregano
 salt and pepper to taste
 2 cups water
2 small red potatoes, unpeeled, chopped into bite-size pieces (optional)

Saute the garlic and onion in the olive oil until onions are soft. Add the seitan and brown a little. Add the tomatoes and green beans, potatoes if using, salt, pepper oregano, and water. Bring to boil and simmer for about an hour on low or until green beans are cooked through. (Note: I usually make this in a slow cooker, but it's not necessary.)

*For those of you who eat meat, you can substitute in cubed beef or lamb, but saute longer to brown.

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.