never too early to think about fall reading

NPR released its 100 Best Horror Novels and I’m so excited! I am always looking for a good creepy book… they are hard to find. I like things with a distinct supernatural edge, and lean fairly traditional: haunted houses, ghosts, maybe some vampires or werewolves. I don’t love TONS of gore (although am not terribly averse to it either) and really out-there weirdness is sort of lost on me… I’m looking for atmosphere, dread, creepiness, something to make me want to pull the covers up tight (but nothing so gross I can’t close my eyes). I’ve read a good portion of these already:

  1. Frankenstein
  2. Dracula
  3. The Tell-Tale Heart
  4. The Turn of the Screw
  5. Let The Right One In
  6. The Vampire Chronicles (Anne Rice) — 4 of these
  7. Communion
  8. The Haunting of Hill House
  9. The House Next Door
  10. The Shining
  11. The Woman In Black
  12. Rebecca
  13. Sandman (graphic novels, quite a few, not all)
  14. The Lottery
  15. The Terror
  16. Lord of the Flies
  17. The Handmaid’s Tale
  18. Beloved
  19. Rosemary’s Baby
  20. The Exorcist
  21. The Body
  22. The House with a Clock in its Walls
  23. Coraline
  24. Down a Dark Hall (so glad to see this one on the list! A favorite not many have read)

Nearly a quarter… but that still leaves 76 wonderful reads ahead of me! I have a few on my list for this fall and winter:

  1. The Hunger (Fairly new, looking forward to this one)
  2. The October Country (can’t believe I haven’t read this, or maybe I have but it was a long time ago)
  3. Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark (These came out after I was in the target age; I scored a couple with the original, truly creepy illustrations and am looking forward to catching up now!)
  4. Spirit Hungers (Another kids book, new to me! I love scary kids books, I think they are often truly scary in a visceral, universal way and don’t have to try too hard)
  5. The Willows (catching up on classics!)

It’s been a bit of a stressful summer: moving, unpacking, learning about the new place, lots of projects and activities and travel… I’m looking forward to huddling in against the rain and cozying up with some scary reads.

 

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Creativity

I think a lot about creativity: mostly, how I am somehow failing at it. It goes something like this:

  • Look at all the time Keith budgets for art. Why don’t you do that?
  • Keith is part of a gallery and is on the Arts Center committee and is in the local painting guild and has sold a bunch of stuff. You are a loser and wasting your time and talent.
  • Think of all those projects you would like to do. Why aren’t you doing them?
  • Think of what you COULD be doing. Why aren’t you pushing yourself?
  • Other people accomplish so much. Why aren’t you?

This is, of course, complete and utter BS. I do what I want to do creatively and I spend my time the way I think matters most. I make considered choices about what matters to me and what I want to get done. The truth is: I am creative in lots and lots of ways… it just doesn’t always translate to a “piece of art.” Why is one form of creativity better than any other? When I listen to the guilty voice inside, the one that wants to convince me that my efforts in areas other than “art” are worthless, I feel pretty terrible. Wasted talent! Misplaced priorities! Again, utter BS.

Some examples of what creativity looks like in my life:

  • I am always knitting something: currently finishing up a blanket, plus plans for a scarf or two this winter, plus maybe even learning a new stitch or two.

I am learning how to build a chicken coop. We might end up ordering a pre-fab one, but I am learning lots about how to construct a healthy coop, and how to make your own design. I am going to take a woodworking class this fall so I can get some basic skills.

We inherited a bunch of old stuff that still works but needs some rehab, like this vintage BBQ that I am restoring. The inside is all new and it grills like a charm… now I need to work on the outside: clean it up, cut new wood for the side table and handle, etc.

Also unsung everyday creativity (so many people do these things and don’t get creative credit for them!):

  • Meal planning and cooking: I enjoy this and it is work, but it is also creative.
  • Gardening: Planning and color choices and pruning with an eye to things looking nice, building garden beds and trellises and putting in drip irrigation: this all takes creativity and enthusiasm and I do a lot of it, and I really love it.
  • House DIY: definitely works the creative problem-solving part of my brain. This is getting quite a workout in the new house. Painting and fixing and choosing and installing and figuring out solutions…
  • Homemaking: it takes a great deal of creative energy and visualization to put a home together. I really enjoy this and spend a lot of time considering how things look their best and how to make our home comfortable and welcoming.
  • My regular job: often requires creative skills of all sorts.
  • And, I make “real” art when I feel like it: special greeting cards, little projects when the mood strikes, a painting now and again if I think of something that I want to see become reality. I started a mural in the bathroom of our previous house; I’m thinking of what to do in our new house — the bathroom needs some help and is the perfect place for experimental murals. Small flourishes when I think something needs it, or just for fun.
  • Not to mention, I have been taking an ongoing studio pottery class for nearly two years! I really enjoy this class, even if I don’t make a lot of things that I consider “keepers” — it is still fun and works my creativity to go once a week and play with mud. Plus, this totally counts as “real” art, and I’ve even sold a piece!

I actually don’t want to be part of the gallery (I was invited!) — I see how much work it requires: regular new work (ideally, monthly!) plus regular gallery shifts. I don’t want to have to be on a schedule like that. I want to have time to do all this OTHER stuff that I enjoy doing, plus go hiking and camping, hang out with friends, take weekend trips, babysit the nephews, fix up the house, read, rest… the gallery and being on the Arts Center committee and all those things takes up a bunch of time and I would rather spend my time on other things.

I mean, there are lots of things I would like to do. I would like to write a children’s book about Thomas (I have no idea how to do this, but it’s on my list). I have an idea for cats-and-books graphics/t-shirts/bags. I have a few paintings I would like to do. I want to put together a few projects that have been languishing while we’ve either been moving into or out of or back into homes the last year or two. I’d like to take a drawing class again. I would like to do a daily creative practice of a small sketch or something, but cannot seem to find the time because ^^^ all of the above.

Which is OK. I am not wasting any talent; there is always more to be done, no matter how productive you are. It’s OK that I spread my creativity around, rather than focusing on just one or two things. It’s OK to be creative in any way that feels right, in the moment. It’s even OK not to be creative, and just hang out and do whatever I want.

When people encourage me to do more (You should paint more! You should be in the gallery! You should make something for this show! You should etc. etc. etc!), I know they mean well. I know it means they have confidence in my skills and want to see more of my creative work in the world. I know it’s a compliment. It feels like a guilt trip, but that’s only because I let it. This is my reminder to myself that I am doing exactly what I want to be doing, and I totally get creative credit points for what I’m doing.

Finally Friday

Whew, I don’t recommend heading back to work immediately after a very full weekend. Actually I guess I do it pretty often but a full social and physically active weekend in the heat, plus travel and stress, equals extra-tired. And for some reason my back is freaking out like it hasn’t in months and months. I do not appreciate this. Today I spent half an hour tearing through some as-yet unpacked boxes looking for the heating pads. It was not pretty.

But, now the week is over and I have a glass of wine and another trashy murder book and it’s not hot and Keith is in charge of dinner and I have a yoga class tomorrow and a massage on Tuesday so it’s all gonna be all right.

CatCon

We went to CatCon again. Keith is always the MC of the stage stuff and I manage audience questions. It’s fun, and we see a lot of good friends.

Might be our last year, or maybe we take a break next year. It eats up a lot of the summer (for Keith) and always seems to be on a weekend that has other stuff happening. But, we’ll see. It is fun to see the kitties, the vendors, the celebrities and celebricats, and we have made some really great friends.

I nearly took that little calico girl home from the adoption area… so sweet!!

Food Fads

I’m reading More Home Cooking by Laurie Colwin; her first cooking essay collection, Home Cooking, is one of my favorites, so I got the second one thinking it would be more of the same and thankfully I was correct. Each chapter is about a certain recipe or food type or ingredient or food adventure. I love it; it is perfect reading for a busy summer when I am too busy to think about much more than what’s right in front of me, like, oh, let’s say… food.

This book was published in 1992 and it is interesting to note how food/nutrition crazes have changed. She mentions constantly how people (in 1992) no longer eat butter or cream or fat or eggs, and how you can turn a recipe lower-fat or fat-free if you wish (as you should wish), or how to serve a dinner party for people who won’t eat fat, and how she throws away the egg yolks and what a shame it is although “our arteries thank us for it.” However, there are lots of recipes for delicious bread and pasta, which of course these days are verboten to many folks, no mention of gluten-free anything, and sugar, while not really a major factor in any of her musings, is not really an enemy, more like just a casual friend that you don’t spend a ton of time with but hey, they’re not so bad every once in awhile (an approach I agree with; I am a fan of moderation of most things).

It is such a stark and marked contrast to how we think about fat and grains and food in general these days… clean eating and healthy fats and low-carb and paleo are supposedly the most healthy way to eat (depending on which camp you fall into… there are several), and god forbid your diet consist of 40% homemade bread, as she estimates her family’s diet to be. This sounds to me like the ideal diet! I love bread and would happily eat it 40% of the day, although sadly, this is now out of the question for me.

I have had to change my eating habits fairly radically over the past couple of years since I finally, finally, narrowed down what has been causing my very unpleasant stomach issues. Pardon the incredibly boring diet talk, but if I follow the low-FODMAP charts, I do pretty OK. On its surface, this chart makes about as much sense as all the other random food fads do (high fat! low fat! high carb! no carb!). However, the difference to me is that it is not a secret weight-loss plan (which I suspect most other food crazes are, which is OK if that’s what you’re after, I just resent the implication that somehow you will become a better person if you expunge all “X food item/category” from your world forevermore). It’s really all about just preventing stomach agony (the foods on the chart all cause some degree of disastrous chemical reactions in the guts of certain people, like myself), and it does a pretty good job at that. I’ve narrowed it down to some basic rules that are not super-easy to live by but if I follow them, I feel pretty good.

  • Minimal wheat. The gluten isn’t the problem, its the fructans in the wheat (blah blah blah, it’s one of the magical evil chemicals referred to above). However, the key about this way of eating is that it all depends on how your body reacts to different foods, and nothing is expressly forbidden (unless it causes YOU a terrible reaction, in which case, duh, avoid it!). I have found that I can tolerate a little bit of wheat, and that some forms are better than others. I can have the equivalent of a slice or two of bread (or a few bites of pasta or other wheaty thing)  every other day or so, that that seems to be fine. I eat gluten-free most of the time because it’s the easiest way to avoid wheat, but I can be a little bit loose with this one.
  • Lactose-free products when possible. If I avoid heavy lactose (regular milk, cottage cheese, regular yogurt, cream cheese) then things are mostly fine. Half-and-half is OK in moderation, regular cheese (which is naturally low in lactose) is also mostly OK. Basically I just fail nearly 100% on ice cream, because I love ice cream and I don’t love any of the substitutes I’ve tried. So I just eat it in moderation and put up in with the consequences. #fail. I am making my own lactose-free yogurt, though, and that is a solid #win.
  • Avoid Certain Vegetables: The hard stuff. I love vegetables and so many of my favorites are on the no-go list. Avocados, asparagus, artichokes, mushrooms, cauliflower and worst of all, onions and garlic (to name just a few). I have zero tolerance for onions, especially raw onion. Garlic seems to be OK if it’s just a little bit. It is incredibly difficult to eat out and avoid onions and garlic. It is also tricky to cook like I like to cook without onions and garlic, although I’m getting better at it (ask me about asafoetida and garlic oil!). Unfortunately, the vegetables are the ones that make the biggest difference in my gut happiness. A little bit of raw onion can make me miserable for hours. This part makes me sad but there’s just not a lot of wiggle room on this.
  • Avoid beans, many nuts, artificial sweeteners, stone fruits. Also not fun. I love beans, most nuts, and all fruit. Beans are pretty much a no-go although small servings seems to be OK sometimes as long as they aren’t mixed with something else awful like cabbage or onion (I love both cabbage and onion), and frankly sometimes I just eat them anyway even though I suffer for it. I don’t eat nuts often so as long as I can remember which are OK and which to avoid (tricky, it seems totally random and is really hard to remember), this is pretty easy to navigate  mostly just because it doesn’t come up a lot. Peanuts are OK and that’s what we usually have around the house so I don’t think about that too much. Fruits are hard for the same reason: the list seems arbitrary and it’s hard to know what’s OK and what isn’t unless I check the list. I can have a few bites of the “red” items but any more than that and I suffer. Which is sad, because my new house has apple trees and pear trees and a giant fig bush, all of which I love and all of which are on the “no” list. I am going to experiment and I might just have to suffer because fresh figs from my own yard!!

Anyway, it’s kind of exhausting and sometimes I conveniently “forget” that I have to work really hard to pick and choose items that are OK for me to eat… but then my body conveniently reminds me that I really do have to be careful. Other factors like stress, hydration, and certain combinations of foods also play a part… it’s not very easy but it does make a difference. It’s also hard to eat with other people because the list is stupid and exhausting and makes no sense and I hate to be “that” person so I just do my best and sometimes I suffer. Oh well.

What can I eat? Lots of things! Thankfully the list includes lots of things that I do like (and plenty of things that were not OK in the 90s!!), so I try to make the most of those and avoid the “bad” stuff as much as I can. If I am really strict then I feel like a normal person and my stomach is very very happy. However, being really strict is almost impossible. Sometimes even when I’m pretty sure I’ve been strict, something sneaked in and I have a bad time of it. Mystery! Sad!

What I need to do is make myself a cheat sheet of go-to travel foods, fail-safe menu items to look for, and reminders of my major triggers. I have the app but it’s not perfect either, and a lot of it depends on your own body. It’s surprisingly difficult to keep straight — for instance, we were traveling recently and I was trying to choose an airplane snack… I chose pistachios, totally forgetting that those are a big fat NO. However, peanuts, macadamia nuts, or walnuts would have been fine. Sigh. Another recent case: I picked a ton of blackberries along our road, and made a nice low-FODMAP blackberry cobbler. I noticed some stomach upset but thought it must have been something else I ate that day since berries are OK, right? Wrong. Apparently strawberries and raspberries and blueberries are OK, but blackberries are not. WTF. However, a world where I cannot have some fresh-picked blackberry cobbler during the summer is not a world I want to inhabit, so I’ll suffer a bit for that one.

Anyway, I’m trying to get better, moving and travel makes things harder but I certainly feel better when I follow the low-FODMAP list. It’s a food fad that works for me, even though I definitely need to improve my adherence!

 

Summertime

The meadow is full of weeds but I kind of like it. It’s been too hot to mow; probably will mow Sunday. In the meantime, beautiful Queen Anne’s Lace reigns.

Erin and I rescued two pups last night running crazed on the highway. They were adorable!! Luckily owners were found quickly, after a brief spa visit to Erin’s backyard (cool water, a snack, some nice grass to roll in).

Summer is flying by; we are busy with house projects and travel and new nephews and too many things. This is what I now remember about summer in the Willamette Valley: it is brief and rushed because you only get three months or so of summer weather, for warm evening strolls and bike rides without rain, for camping that doesn’t require rain gear, for tomatoes and picnics. Don’t get me wrong, I love Oregon’s weather… but I do wish for a summer of slower-paced enjoyment, no travel requiring an airport, no major events. Maybe next year.

It’s interesting seeing how the yard is evolving through the season. I want to put in drip irrigation next year, repair garden beds this winter, plant more sun-loving flowers, like echinacea, like salvia and poppies. The beds are choked with weeds; it’s been too hot to weed and I have little motivation since I may be digging them all out anyway. We are enjoying the weeds; at least they are pretty.

I take summer in small moments like now, in the hammock with a book waiting to be read, cows mooing, wind rushing, occasional cars zooming behind the trees. Grilled shrimp and watermelon-tomato-feta salad for dinner later, sitting on the porch, being in the moment.

Something Fishy

We visited Keith’s mom today; I wanted to get a photo with her but she was pretty sleepy today. We had a nice time with her and visiting family; it’s always both hard and lovely to be here. It was 97 and intensely humid; just gross weather… so we spent most of the day indoors until 6 pm when we went to a baseball game. I found the lineup somewhat fishy.

Pensacola has a really nice AA baseball stadium; cheap tickets, cheap beer, cheap chow. It’s right on the water and good clean fun, very silly fan activities, good-natured heckling. It’s a good time. There were fireworks.

The other non-family highlight of the day was that I finally got to visit one of the ubiquitous Waffle House. I swear there’s one of these every two miles down here. We had waffles and hash browns for lunch. It was awesome.

Fingers crossed for exciting (but not dangerous, because… Florida + us = bad stuff) thunderstorms tomorrow.

Safe Haven

We are in Pensacola, FL, at 97-year-old Aunt Grace’s house, visiting Keith’s mom. Aunt Grace’s house is so lovely and peaceful. A safe haven on what is usually a difficult trip.

Bad things always happen when we come to Florida; we are cursed. Yesterday, before we left, the battery or alternator in Keith’s car went out, altering our travel plans somewhat (we were going to take two cars for reasons too convoluted to go into). I’m hoping this is the “Florida Incident” for this trip. Fingers crossed. So far, so good.

Photo Catch-Up

Wow, a busy two weeks. Catching up in photos…

“Family Dinner” with dear friends (“framily”); a trip to the zoo with my nephew, his parents, my mom; babysitting the nephew on a perfect summer day in the mountains; mason bee hotel inspiration; hammock time after a brief Bay Area trip; some kitchen decor happening; my new political shirt (thank you, Margaret Atwood, but your book is too terrifying in 2018 to reread anytime soon…); summertime Willamette Valley beauty; a tired mouser; a gift and card for a new Little Prince arriving soon; a terrible fire on the hill above us last night, which we stayed up late monitoring until it was under control. Not pictured: a new roof, a professional pest-remediation job (no more mousiest in the walls, please!), two bookclub meetings in two separate states, a huge wildfire in Eastern Oregon currently threatening my aunt’s house and too close to my mom’s for my taste. Never mind the utterly bizarre political news.

Whirlwind. No wonder I’m tired.

And we leave for Florida on Friday to see Keith’s family. Things always happen when we go to Florida; my apologies in advance. And then a new nephew arrives next week; I can hardly believe it! Jeez, no wonder I can barely think of anything beyond what’s in front of me right now.

I’m going to try a briefer approach to blogging during this super busy time.. a photo a day (or so), brief commentary. I am practicing self-care by paring non-essentials down: skipped ceramics this week, made huge quantities of dinner so we have leftovers for days, not worrying about weeding or mowing, not worrying about unpacking the mystery boxes. They’ll get unpacked eventually. The weeds aren’t going anywhere. (Sadly)

Right now, it’s enough to rest in the hammock with a book and blanket, deal with tomorrow, tomorrow — think deep thoughts later.