Saturday, July 29, 2017

Books on My Radar: August

I'm making you a handy list of things to read, if you want to, because I'm about to. Read them. You know. With my eyes. It's a thing. You should try the reading thing. This is a monthly deal now.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by J.K. Rowling. Yes, I've read this before, dozens of times. But I've only read the US version, never the original UK version. AND my mother ordered me a fancy anniversary copy for my birthday that's in Ravenclaw colors, because she gets me. I'm waiting for it to come from across the pond. When it does, expect me to sleep curled up next to it for the rest of my life because it is just that precious.
Magpie Murders: A Novel by Anthony Horowitz. I asked for this book for my birthday, and happily, it is in the mail. Thanks, Auntie Jeanne! Quickie description, famous crime writer Alan Conway's editor, Susan Ryeland, receives Conway's newest manuscript. As she reads about his detective, Atticus P√ľnd, she begins to recognize another story concealed in the pages. It's an homage to vintage crime fiction, and I can't wait to get my hands on it. Is it okay and healthy to check tracking 16 times a day? Okay, good.

The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry. I have this checked out from the library and need to quickly read it before I get angry notes telling me other people want it and I need to return it. (That happens to librarians, too.) After the death of her husband, happily widowed Cora Seaborne heads off to Essex to enjoy the country air, only to encounter a panic. The locals have seen a giant serpent, which may have caused a death. And, in a historical sort of X-File, Cora the scientist meets the vicar, William Ransome, and the two investigate. Cora thinks they're about to discover a new species. William thinks the town is in a religious panic. Gosh, I need to read this. It sounds so good.

Firebrand by A.J. Hartley. The sequel to one of my favorites from last year, Steeplejack. If you haven't read that one, go back and do it. It's a complex mystery set in an alternate 19th century South Africa. Anglet, fresh from solving the murder of her assistant steeplejack in the first book, is now assisting behind the scenes in Parliament, using her particular set of skills. Great for fans of mysteries and historical fantasy. I bought this over my vacation because I needed it in my life.

You Don't Have to Say You Love Me by Sherman Alexie. This memoir has already broken me. I'm nearly finished and can't recommend it enough. If you're a fan of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian or Alexie's other works, this is a must-read. If you love memoirs, this is a must-read. If you are human, this is a must-read. Seriously. Read this. It's complex and beautiful, and heartbreaking and wonderful.

What's on your bookish radar for this month? Do any of these strike your fancy? Let me know in the comments!

Thursday, July 20, 2017

What I'm Loving Right Now

Glossier--This is my new favorite skincare brand. When summer came along, I quickly became sick of foundation. To be honest, I was sick of it for a while. My skin, thanks in part to the glory of my endometriosis medication, has completely cleared up. It looks pretty, not spotty, so I wanted to stop hiding it. Enter Glossier. If you want a high-coverage foundation, their skin tint is not it, but it will blur your skin and even out the tone. Their Priming Moisturizer is wonderful. I use Boy Brow everyday. Cloud Paint is gorgeous in every color. Oh--and I finally found an SPF I wasn't allergic to--Invisible Shield. 10/10, would recommend. If you're thinking about trying them out, here's a link you can use for money off!

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Madwell Transport Tote--I've wanted this thing for years. I finally used some store credit and a coupon code to buy one. It is everything I've ever wanted in a bag. I love it for work. I can load up with books to take out to preschools, carry all my knitting at once, and all while looking a whole lot less like a Civil War-Era carpetbagger, laden with all my earthly possessions.

Kindle Fire--Prime Day rolled around and I finally replaced my aged Kindle 2. Oh my goodness. They really made these awesome! My old Kindle could do books, wasn't backlit at all, barely had a battery to speak of, and weighed a ton. This Kindle is light, easy to read in many different lights, and so useful. I've been reading up a storm, and it's brilliant for referencing recipes while you cook. If you don't have a tablet, this is a great (and affordable) option!

My Fitness Pal--Who was getting 1000+ calories from sugar (drinks especially) per day? Not me, no. Couldn't have been me. This app helps you see what foods are killing you. Also I'm never having soda again. Unless I'm under my calorie goal. By a LOT.

Like today. I could have a Coke today.

The only weakness I see with My Fitness Pal is with recorded calories burned by exercise. This app seems to be confused. I use both Nike apps and the app that comes with the gym equipment at the Y , and both list calories burned as the same number. My Fitness Pal either massively overshoots that number (with walking or biking, for example) or undershoots it (with running). It's odd. No idea why. No idea which is right, either, but I tend to side with the other apps, as they agree. Want an accurate calorie count? Try Nike Run Club--Fit Club, if you aren't running.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Fitness--with a Chronic Illness

To begin, here's the rundown. This is not a whinging post or an "I wish I had a different life" post. I do not want you to feel sorry for me. I do not need solutions or supplements given to me; I have doctors and experts doing that. Keep your pyramid schemes and juice cleanses on Facebook. I'm good.

Today I'm going to write the blog post I wish I could have read as a preteen, a teen, when I started trying to become fit, and now. I keep randomly Googling, looking for this kind of post, and it just doesn't exist in the form I want it to. So I'm writing it.

Here's to being active and having a chronic illness.

No, that's not a sunburn or bad white balance, I'm that red after a run.

I have asthma and allergies and endometriosis and some other bonus diseases. My body mostly hates me. I'm on hormone therapy to shut my reproductive system down, and it still doesn't manage to do that, my hormones are so messed up. I try to work out three times a week. Here's why: I always feel healthier when I'm active.

But the bottom line is, I can't always do it. And that doesn't make me a bad runner, or a bad athlete, or a bad person. It doesn't undo what I've done and how fast I ran my last mile. It doesn't mean I'm not serious about being fit.

When I was in junior high, I approached my gym teacher and my doctor to ask why, when I ran even a lap of the gym, I felt like I was going to black out in pain. I was told it was a stitch in my side and to breathe through it. I ran slower because it hurt so much. Sometimes I walked. Later, I discovered that "breathing through it" could have killed me. I had a 17 inch cyst on my left ovary that could have ruptured at any time.

In high school, I was still in agony. I really wanted to be athletic, because that was the cool thing. I wanted long hair in a high ponytail, and to run down the street looking fit and healthy. I was neither fit nor healthy. I managed a fourteen minute mile my senior year and was proud. That summer, I had major surgery to remove the cyst I'd never known was there, the same cyst that caused the chronic pain I'd felt since junior high. I lost 15 pounds and part of an ovary during several hours of surgery.

In college, I discovered yoga, and I loved it. For once, my body wasn't fighting me. I stuck to yoga until I met a friend in a lit class and discovered she, now calmly taking notes, had run 23 miles right before coming to class. And I wanted to do that too.

I couldn't.

The face you make after being attacked by biting flies.

I'd hoped the surgery would have done away with what was keeping me still. But I kept getting dizzy and lightheaded. I still had joint pain almost every day, even when I did next to nothing. The longer I stood, the more my diaphragm HURT. I can't explain how that feels, but it sucks. I managed a three mile run with my friend. I spent the rest of the weekend coughing and gasping for air. Eventually, we found out that was asthma, which I'd been walking around with for years. I'd lucked out and never had a massive attack that landed me in the hospital, so I was never diagnosed. I got inhalers and steroids and medicines to make my sinuses work and my lungs work and I felt...well.

When I get steroids now, I wake up in the morning, roll out of bed, and have a full day of activity. I get more done at work and home than I thought possible. I can go outside and sit in the fresh air. I feel healthy. This is because at long last, my body works the way it was designed to work. That will never be my everyday.

My everyday is taking a handful of pills, steroid nasal spray, and inhalers. I feel ill for about an hour, which is why I wake up an hour earlier than I really need to, so I can spend that hour eating breakfast and watching YouTube waiting to feel human. On a good day, I feel better at about 6:50 AM. Then I start getting ready. On a good day, I can make it through work and then head to the gym. On a bad day, my joint and/or sinus pain is so bad I can't consider running or lifting weights, so I go home and spend my evening prone, watching TV or reading. That's okay.

It's taken me years--since the days of the 30 Day Shred on this blog--to learn to be okay with bad days. But they're fine.

I might never be a marathon runner. In fact, I almost certainly won't be. I'm still a runner. I'm still athletic. I'm physically fit, even with my "endo-belly." Even with all the times I have to stop at the side of the road and gasp. I'm a runner. I spent the spring recovering from a nasty case of bronchitis. I didn't run for two months. I'm still a runner.

Look at me, outside! Only slightly red-faced!

If you're like me, Couch to 5K won't work the way it says it will. I'm sorry that there's no training plan for us. We have to make our own. Count your spoons. Do you have enough?  Tie on your shoes, go outside or to the gym. Maybe you'll walk or ride a bike, maybe you'll feel well enough to run. Maybe tomorrow you'll do more, or maybe you'll spend the day lying down. It's fine. That happens to me too. We are enough.

I used to joke when someone asked if I was a runner. I would reply, "Yes, the world's suckiest!" Then I realized how cruel that was to myself. Spoonies, let's stop stomping on our accomplishments. Let's be proud of all the things we can do instead

Friday, July 7, 2017

Podcasts You Should Be Listening To

I've been obsessively listening to podcasts lately. Here is a countdown of my top five:

5. Levar Burton Reads


This one is new! Ever watch Reading Rainbow as a kid? Like getting stories read to you by the chief engineer of the Enterprise? Like stories in general? This podcast is for you. Levar Burton is the best ever and as a child I wanted to marry him. I still would if he showed up and knocked on my door and asked me. But he has a lovely family and should stay with them. I'll just enjoy the podcast.

4. Lore


Lore is new-to-me, and I've quickly downloaded all the episodes so I can catch up. It comes out twice a week and has an Unsolved Mysteries kind of vibe, with freaky creatures, mysterious places, and some truly awful historical stories. The last episode I listened to involved an axe murderer. I will never sleep again.

3. Welcome to Night Vale

 Welcome to Night Vale

I started listening to podcasts after dozens of friends told me to listen to Welcome to Night Vale. Since then, they've released three books (another is on the way), been on countless tours, and reached 110 episodes of great storytelling. It's fantastic and if you haven't listened yet, you should start now. They're on haitus in July (they have to sleep sometime), but will be back for episode 111 in August.

2. Stuff You Should Know

 Stuff You Should Know

Listening to Stuff You Should Know makes me feel smarter. I put this podcast on whenever I'm working or cleaning and want company. When I spent two months house-sitting, I listened to more episodes than I want to count. Josh Clark and Chuck Bryant cover all kinds of topics from super-volcanoes to stoicism and I always learn something new when I listen. I THINK they're coming to Indianapolis soon--and if that's true, I'm getting tickets.

1. My Favorite Murder


I missed their tour stop in Indianapolis, so let's hope Georgia Hardstark and Karen Kilgariff come back soon. These ladies are HILARIOUS. Also they make me afraid to go into the forest ever, which is bad because I live in one. While the idea of listening to stories about murder seems a bit...not normal, turns out it totally is so stop staring at me. I would take a bullet for this podcast. Give Elvis all the cookies. (Subscribe and that will make sense)

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Where the Heck I've Been

I have been at home, of course. Where I usually am. Except instead of blogging I did the following:
  1. Ate Cheetos. I have begun a love affair with Cheetos. We are announcing our engagement soon. We have a close and special bond. You wouldn't understand.
  2. Donated half my wardrobe to charity. I'd like to say I did this for an important, special reason. The reality was, I decided to clean out my storage boxes in the basement while switching out my summer wardrobe for my winter/fall wardrobe and in the process donated half the clothes I own to charity because America had just elected well, you know, and I wanted to light myself on fire, so instead I donated all my clothes.
  3. Surprised myself when summer came and I had no clothes to wear. Yeah. That was a shock. I had literally nothing to wear that wasn't a sweater.
  4. Spent too much money. Because I had to buy a whole new spring/summer wardrobe because I LITERALLY had nothing to wear.
  5. Thought a lot about blogging. Not just about writing a blog, but about what I wanted this blog to BE. 

When this blog started, it was a knitting blog. I know, right?! What happened? That lasted about a month. Then it became what it has been for years, a "Random Story" blog. But that doesn't make it easy to write posts for me. For one, I might go through a spell of being very anxious, which has happened multiple times. Instead of having a topic prepared, I have to think up a funny story from my week, and shaking under the desk at work isn't funny to me when I'm still anxious.* I could have a loved one get sick or pass away, and that isn't funny at all. So how to I get inspiration?

I'm going to rethink things. For one, my interests have changed. I went from being a college student, an unemployed former college student, a deer-in-the-headlights newbie librarian, to an experienced professional. I went from sitting on the couch and watching a whole season of The X-Files in one sitting to going for a run, and THEN watching part of a season while drinking lots of water. I went from eating literally everything in sight to considering my health and allergies as I made food choices and becoming much healthier in the process.

I'm going to change this blog up a bit. I'll share book recommendations, lifestyle posts for people like me who totally don't have their sh*t together, my fitness foibles, and, of course, funny stories because it's me, after all.

The goal right now is two posts a week. I want something attainable while still keeping a schedule I can maintain while working and gym-ing and watching The X-Files while eating half a bag of Cheetos.**

* It's funny after, because I have a dark sense of humor.

** This post was in no way sponsored by Cheetos, but seriously Cheetos, call me. I am down with changing this blog design to be electric orange and taking pictures of various bags of Cheetos in different rooms of my house.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016


Happy Mental Health Awareness Month.

As a heads up, this post contains a lot of anxiety talk, which can sometimes be triggering for other anxious people, so avoid if that's the case for you. Instead make a cup of tea and watch Mind of a Chef on Netflix. Or Fixer Upper. That's good too.

I'm back! By now, most of you know a blog hiatus (especially an unannounced one) means I am in a giant pit of anxiety and am currently clawing out of it. I hate that this happens, and in less anxious times I try to backlog posts so I can fill any gaps, but it doesn't always work. Writing doesn't always work. In fact, the second I start feeling the yawning pit of anxiety somewhere in the distance, the desire to write, the ability to write...completely goes away. So there are gaps.

Here is what a "good" time is for me:

I wake up. I bathe and get dressed. I take medicine and eat breakfast and put on nice-ish clothes and go to work. I do work. I go to the gym. I go home. I watch cooking shows on Netflix and eat dinner. I get comfy in pajamas. I lie awake in mind-numbing panic that everything and everyone I love in the world will be snatched from me in the night and THERE IS NOTHING I CAN EVER DO TO KEEP THEM SAFE AND WHAT WILL I BE WITHOUT THE PEOPLE I LOVE, I WILL CEASE TO BE WITHOUT THEM. EVERYTHING IS MELTING.

Then I fall asleep.

Here's what a bad time is for me:

I wake up multiple times in the night, with raw, soul-crushing panic. I try to fall back asleep but can't manage that, so I lie in bed in a cold sweat wishing I could pass out from lack of oxygen, because yeah, I can't breathe. It feels like my heart has forgotten that beating thing it used to do, and that's probably not good, but the doctor did a test and everything is okay but everything is not okay EVERYTHING IS NOT OKAY.

Then my alarm goes off and a new wave of panic floods my veins and I choke down breakfast and sometimes throw it up, then I get clean and dressed and cry and then try to use makeup to cover up the crying and then I feel sick and get in the car and want to dissolve into the seat cushions but instead I drive to work and sometimes I sit shaking in the car in the work parking lot thinking about how it would be so much easier if I didn't know anyone, because then no one would notice or care that I'd been crying. And then I do work. And sometimes I cry in the storage room and shake some more. And then I go to the gym and try to run away from what I'm terrified of, even if I don't know why I'm afraid in the first place. And then I eat dinner and go to bed and the cycle repeats itself.

I can't NOT do anxiety. It's something that just IS, and I share space with it. As far back as I could remember, I have been anxious. There are a few reasons, some of which have been circumstantial, like a death in the family or career-based stress. And this year, I found out I have sensory processing issues, which upon further study, has pretty massively shaped my life and development. Also it is probably why I'm so massively clumsy.

So, coping. It's a thing. I know I've talked about it before, but it never hurts to go through it again, just in case you didn't need it then but you do now. Here's how I do it:

Tea. I drink it. Caffeine-free because it doesn't make my anxiety even worse. Hot tea, because iced is not even the same thing. There's a reason why making tea is an actual ceremony in some cultures. The very act of making tea is soothing. Coffee isn't the same. Coffee wakes you up and makes you energized. That is not tea's job. Tea's job is to make you feel safe and loved and at peace. Drink tea.

Exercise. On a good day or a bad day, exercise. I run, I lift weights crappily because apparently my body doesn't understand muscle development. I go to barre class and fall on my face because my socks are too big. After I've gotten sweaty and worn myself out, I feel better. Sometimes only a little bit, sometimes a lot. But it helps.

Talking. I go to a therapist who is awesome, and I talk to Jennifer loads, usually during long car trips to and from places that have tasty food (or Target). Talking through what you're going through makes anxiety less isolating, and the last thing anxiety needs is a dark quiet place where it can grow like mold. Sometimes it means I write blog posts for you. Sometimes it means I tell the teens I work with that anxiety is a thing people feel and that it's okay to talk about it.

Audiobooks. I can sleep at night for one reason: I listen to audiobooks as I drift off to sleep. Usually to audiobook. One book. Howl's Moving Castle. I practically have it memorized, but it doesn't matter. It's soothing.

I turn off the news. One of the biggest anxieties I have is news-based. I cannot control the terrible things in the world. There are many terrible things in the world. When I watch the news, or too much of the news, depending on how bad off I am, all I can think of is the bad stuff. I forget that good things happen, and that people can be kind. Instead I think that everyone is terrible and that's why Donald Trump is going to end president, no matter how many people mobilize to vote for someone else.

I spend time alone. Too much alone time can be a bad thing for me and so is too little. I'm an introvert. That and sensory issues mean people = anxiety trigger. But only SOMETIMES. When things are getting too big or too loud, I go to a quiet place. It makes things better.

Anyway. It's Mental Health Awareness Month, so now you're aware.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Great British Bake Off

I love watching cooking programs because I like food. I tend to gravitate toward food travel shows, where people go to different places and eat food I can't get in the middle of nowhere Indiana. I love watching Anthony Bourdain. I love America's Test Kitchen, and I recently fell in love with The Great British Bake Off.

I should also mention that I get obsessive about certain foods. I think a certain food looks good, I decide I want to go try it, make it, whatever, and then I spend hours finding a recipe or researching restaurants I probably won't end up going to. Then I order weird spices or herbs on the internet and make curries or fancy soup. And then I can move on.

If you haven't seen The Great British Bake Off, you should. In the states, it's called The Great British Baking Show, because Americans apparently could not understand that "bake off" means "baking competition" without them dumbing it down. It is brilliant. Basically, two judges, Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood, evaluate the baked goods produced by a number of contestants over a series of weekends in a tent set up in the garden of a lovely estate house. Each weekend, they take on a specific sort of dessert, cakes, pies, biscuits, puddings, name it.

party online great off mirror

One week they made croissants. And I died a little inside when I saw how perfect the flaky layers were. We can't get croissants here. They do make "croissants" at grocery stores, but they aren't made with real butter, which basically means they aren't croissants at all. It's depressing. I dreamed of having proper French pastries, but when I was in France during my college years, it was for a few days right after New Year's and everything was closed. Everything. The only croissants we had came in sealed packages from convenience stores. It was like not being in France at all. I watched each contestant roll out dough and fold in butter and thought, "I could do that."

I was forgetting a few things:
  1. I am not a talented (or even practiced) baker
  2. Baking is hard.
  3. Seriously, though.
I went, as I always do, to America's Test Kitchen. There was a recipe, which I printed off. I'd had lunch and my afternoon was free, so I figured I could bang out a few croissants in a few hours and we'd be set for breakfast the next day. The recipe warned that the process would take 10 hours, but I thought, "No big deal, I can do that."

tv cake great london off
Mary knows the truth.

Except it was, and I couldn't.

Here are the problems with croissants:
  1. The dough is yeasted, so it rises as you're trying to work with it. 
  2. Every recipe assumes you can roll things out in a rectangle.
  3. Butter melts. 
You begin by making your dough, wrapping it, and chilling it. Then you beat a few sticks of butter to make them pliable, but still cold. Then you roll the butter into a square inside some parchment paper. Then you chill that, too. When you pull out the dough, you roll it into a rectangle (hysterical laughter), then slap the butter into it, fold the dough around it and seal it, Then you roll it out again, then fold it up again. Then roll, then fold. Then chill. Then roll and fold, roll and fold, and chill.

You keep doing that for hours. Then you allow it to rise in the fridge a bit. Then you freeze it. Then you roll it out and cut it into shapes. Then you roll the shapes into croissants. Then you let those rise some more. Then you cry in the corner of your kitchen because everything is melting (literally). Then you make an egg wash. Then you think you'll never sleep again because no way will you be done before midnight. Then you bake the croissants. And then you thank God and think, this will never happen again. 

tv cake great london off
The reaction Paul and Mary would have had to my croissants.

Then you have the croissants for breakfast and think, That wasn't so bad. I could do those again some time. Maybe over two days, but still.

Terrible shaping. Just awful. The baker leaving us today is Laura.