All Hail the Furminator!

I’ve been following author Cherie Priest for a good many years now, and by following, I’m talking about the legal, read-the-blog-and-all-her-books kind of way, not the stalker kind of way. At any rate, some time ago, and it’s been so long I don’t remember what year it was, she posted about a handy little cat brush that her cat adored, which was impressive since — if I remember correctly — her cat didn’t like being brushed.

This caught my attention. Obviously, because I have a cat, but also because at the time, I’d only get to brush Storm Shadow for so long before he decided the brush was his mortal enemy and he’d turn around and attack it.

I figured if this brush worked for Cherie Priest’s cat, maybe it’d work for mine too. So I bought the Furminator.

And it did not disappoint. In fact, I was so happy with the the product I bought brushes for my family members who also had cats. I’ve heard that dog owners who’ve bought the brushes have been thrilled as well. Of course, with any product, you can’t make everyone happy, and the version I use is quite old, not the one that’s currently for sale on the website.

I should note this post is not meant to be a shill for the product. No one’s asked me to post this, I’m not getting paid for it, etc. No, the reason I’m talking about it is to tell a little story about my Friday evening.

You want to know how much my cat loves being brushed with the Furminator? When he sees me get it out, he will literally run over and jump in my lap to get brushed. And while getting brushed, he will also drool.

That’s how much he loves the Furminator.


Currently Writing: Codename: Magic Twins
Last night’s word count: 1,113 words
Total word count: 7,013 words
Ended up writing far more than I expected last night, and I ended up really liking the scene that came out. When you’re discovery drafting, sometimes characters surprise you. I’m starting to wonder if my hero’s love interest is actually who I thought it was when I began.

Currently Reading: Jeff VanderMeer’s Acceptance
This is only taking a while because I’ve had very little time to read. This weekend doesn’t look promising on the reading front either, but I’m enjoying it so far. I swear this trilogy belongs in the same category as the television show Lost and the comic book series Morning Glories, and I hearby declare that category as “Weird-Ass But Fascinatingly Wonderful Shit.” I mean “shit” in the best, coolest way.

Next up: Saturday, I shall finally go see Into The Woods, which I’ve been dying to do ever since I heard this movie was coming out. My expectations are in check for the second half, but I still can’t wait to see the whole thing on the big screen. When I was in high school, we did this musical my senior year. I was Cinderella’s step-mom. We also hope to finish watching the final season of Boardwalk Empire. Two episodes left!

Oh, and also on Saturday? I shall make lemon pie.

A Year in Reflection: 2013

Every year, I struggle to believe that it’s already over. I remember when I was a child, when my year was structured into definitive patterns: school, break, vacation, etc. Now the months just slide on by, because every day of every month is marked with more of the same. Work, eat, sleep, repeat. When I was compiling addresses for Christmas cards this year, I always felt at a loss when people asked what I’ve been up to lately, because for me, the answer is, the same old thing. I don’t look at my life as anything interesting or exciting, and as a result, when people ask what’s up, all I do is shrug, you know?

I realized, a few days ago, that such a response is somewhat disingenuous of me. Because while my life is not filled with the crazy ups and downs (we don’t have kids, we’re not having marital difficulty, we’ve not moved or had major job upheavals, etc), there are things I should be really, really proud of this year, things that are worth talking about. So I thought I’d share them here, with you.

1) I retired the book blog. It was a bittersweet event, but one I knew needed to happen, because it was a major source of anxiety for me, and I found I was getting more and more jaded by the books I read, rather than simply enjoying them for what they were. Looking back, I’m very proud of all the work I did there and the community I fostered, but I don’t regret closing it. I can’t believe I found the time to read so much or write so many reviews. But that’s because I’ve filled that time with other things.

2) I’m slowly getting over my cooking-phobia. It’s a running joke in mine and my husband’s families: I don’t cook. I can do a few things, sure, but any more than those few things I’m likely to screw up somehow (like the time I put the Hot Pocket in the microwave without its cooking sleeve). My husband and I have a handful of things we argue about, and cooking is one of them. However, ever since I discovered the Andes Mint Cookie recipe, I’ve been starting to branch out and getting a wee bit more comfortable in the kitchen. Mostly cookies, and cake-mix cookies at that. However, I’ve also tried a few glazes for salmon, and of the meals we usually make, I started helping out more and have gradually gotten to the point where, if need be, I can do it myself. I know I need to branch out even more, but this year’s been a good step.

3) I’ve actually developed an exercise regimen and I’ve stuck to it. Mostly. The spring got me walking again, and my employer’s walking initiative kicked my motivation into competitive mode so that I can reach and pass 10,000 steps a day. Not only did that get me walking daily, but it also got me on the elliptical every morning before work for 30 minutes. The walking initiative is over, and with the time change and colder weather, walking is on the back-burner until the weather warms up again, but I’ve kept up the elliptical, which is something of an amazing accomplishment for me. I’d like to find something to complement it next year, and that’s going to take some digging, but working out on a regular basis has been an amazing thing, not because I love exercise or anything, but because I’ve kept it up (we won’t talk about the recent holiday gorging on sweets or the days I’ve been skipping due to my cold, no sir).

4) While I can’t talk specifics, we reached a great milestone at work, and as a result, I was treated to an all-expense paid trip to St. Louis to visit headquarters and attend some fantastic sessions to keep upping my game at work and sessions that I could also apply to my own personal life in terms of, well, just being better. Learning how to undo negative thinking and trying to take more positive routes isn’t something that’s done overnight, but trying to take the more positive route in my head instead of the negative one has been really helpful and uplifting. I find myself more cheerful and less stressed. That doesn’t mean NO stress. I’ve had a few late nights at work where it felt like everything was piling up on me, but the difference is before, I would’ve gone home with a migraine, and now I’m not. This is something I’m still working on, but that trip to St. Louis taught me a lot about myself and my job and what I want to accomplish, and that’s a good thing.

5) This is more nebulous, but I realized I’ve got to stop compartmentalizing my life. I’ve always treated my life like a little kid treats their dinner plate: things must not touch! So I had college friends in one box, writing friends in another, family in another, my interests in a billion different ones, and so on and so forth. Do you know how draining it is trying to be one person for each of things things, rather than embracing it all and saying if you don’t like it, fuck it? Seriously. Growing up, I groomed myself to be the kind of person that is accommodating and to be what other people want and expect. And to some extent, that’s a good trait to have (especially when you work with the public on any level), but everywhere else, it’s exhausting. I shouldn’t be apologetic for my interests, no matter how disparate they appear, and I need to stop living in the mind set of “One day, when I grow up, life will be THIS.” Fuck that. I’m 33 years old and living life NOW. What, exactly, am I waiting for? It’s time to take who and what I am and take the cards life’s given me and play the best hand possible, rather than waiting on the magical winning hand that’ll give me the ever-elusive jackpot. And on that note:

6) Like Minute Maid’s slogan says, “Put good in, get good out.” Where I live often gives me a crushing feeling of isolation. None of the people I would call good friends or even best friends are local, and all the writing events or readings I would love to attend aren’t even remotely local, which means in order to visit the people I love, or attend the events I want to, I need to travel, which costs vacation time and money, both of which are not limitless. As a result, I’d find myself feeling bruised and chafed when friends would talk about things they did on Facebook, things I would’ve loved to do but I wasn’t able to (or wasn’t invited). But I realized: what do I expect? I’m not reaching out to these people, I’m not making my interests or wants or desires known. I’ve let my relationships go stagnant, so how can I expect them to include me when I’m probably just an occasional reminder on a Facebook page? I have to start putting myself out there. I have to start re-cultivating these relationships. I have to stop looking at my local friendships as less superior and embrace the time I have with these people, because while I am an introvert by nature, I require a healthy dose of social interaction. In person, online, whatever: put good in, get good out. Time to stop looking in and start looking out.

7) Part of that “put good in, get good out” philosophy is something I’m attributing to myself as a writer. Last year, I finished the crap-draft of a fantasy novel that, in 2014, I’m going to sit down and really hammer into shape. But for 2013, I’m close to finishing a prequel novel to my thesis novel (code name Telepathic Soulmates for those of you who are following up on that). The prequel wasn’t originally going to be an actual novel, but it’s kind of turned into that. I would kill to have it done by the end of the year, but that means I probably shouldn’t be writing this blog post, because I’ve got a decent chunk to churn out if I want to meet that deadline. Regardless, I’ve been happy with my progress this year. I’m starting to take myself a little more seriously as a writer, and I’m trying to look ahead about what I want to accomplish, when I want to accomplish it, and how. The Telepathic Soulmates world is a big one, and I realize it’s not something I want to rush out, because I’m still making discoveries that are molding and shaping the world and its characters. That’s why I’m going to polish the fantasy novel (code name: Magic Elves) next year so that I’ll have something to shop around that isn’t my precious, you know? Also helping shape my writerly frame of mind is the weekly podcast Writing Excuses (15 minutes, because you’re in a hurry, and they’re not that smart–>that’s their slogan. If that doesn’t make you want to listen to the podcast, I don’t know what will). If you’re a writer of any sort (hobby, amateur, want-to-be-professional, whatever), start listening to this puppy. It’s free, and it’s worth it.

8) On December 30th, my husband and I will celebrate our 15 year Together anniversary, and our 5 year wedding anniversary. That’s right: we got married on our ten year dating anniversary. The plan, provided this cold I’m fighting doesn’t get in the way, to go to our favorite fancy-pants restaurant and enjoy good food and good drinks. But 15 years together without killing each other is an amazing thing, and hell, so is five years married. We’ve got each other, and we’ve got the cat. Things are good.

9) I got off the pill. Women know of what I speak. While the hubby and I aren’t trying to have children, being on the pill for so long was doing things to my hormone levels that frankly wasn’t good for me mentally. I’ve been off the pill since June, and that, combined with the exercise and various tweaks I’m making to my diet, have me feeling far, far better, which makes everyone happy.

10) No list is complete without 10 items, right? So last but not least, I’m trying to be more decisive. It’s not that I wasn’t before, but you remember what I said about being accommodating? It’s a bad thing when you’re doing it all the time, or when you think your wants aren’t as important, or you feel like you shouldn’t have the things you want for whatever reason (but namely reasons that are all in your head and involve you punishing yourself). So to that affect, I’ve been trying to be a bit more assertive in the little things: if I want something (for dinner, to listen to on a car ride, to watch a particular movie), I say so. If I definitely don’t want something, I say so. It doesn’t mean I get my way every time, but at least I’m making a clear declaration, you know?

BONUS ITEM: I served on a jury for the first time this year, on a murder trial no less. It was fascinating, and if you missed my break down, you can read all about it here.

That’s my 2013. There were other minor ups and downs, but nothing to expound upon here (though I could put up a post from my cat’s point of view of the year. That would be mighty entertaining). I’ll probably try and put up a post about what I hope for 2014 or what I look forward to, but that’s gonna have to wait. Right now, I’ve got laundry to do, reading to do, and a book to finish writing.

How was your 2013? What was your biggest accomplishment? Any regrets? Things that you want to make better?

Our Daily What?

Yesterday, I was Skyping with a friend of mine and I was telling her how I have a small list of things I’d like to do and/or am doing daily. They are:

1) Read one issue of Hellblazer.

2) Walk the neighborhood (weather permitting).

3) Write one page in current project (which is Space Vampires).

4) Write a blog entry at Calico in Transition.

So, how’s that working out for me? Continue reading

Spring Fever and Cookies!

So some of you eagle-eyed readers may have noticed I’ve been quiet lately. Quiet, and if the two-weeks’ lack of progress reports is any indication, not writing. You’re right on both accounts. I’ve been feeling utterly blah and uninspired, unable to muster even the tiniest amount of motivation for anything at all, including work.

I spoke to a friend of mine last week who rightly called it Spring Fever. A funny thing to have, given the weather. I’m not located in one of the many parts of the US that’s been lambasted by snow, but today, the outside looks like a furious snowglobe, and while nothing is sticking, it lifts my spirits.

Weirdly — and I say this is weird since I’m not a domestic housewife by any means — the only thing satisfying lately is cleaning and baking. The former is weird because I like to put off cleaning until it’s absolutely necessary, but Saturday I woke up, stripped the bed down to the mattress, and washed every damn thing that goes on the bed that I could. Which doesn’t sound very impressive, but when you have a mattress pad AND an allergy cover (it covers both the mattress itself AND the mattress pad), you’ll understand I was in for a long day of laundry. I also vacuumed the bejeezus out of the bedroom, so hopefully, my allergies will thank me. Because they certainly don’t thank me when the cat sleeps on my head.

Baking is a running joke in my family because I don’t cook. I can screw up the most simple of instructions (seriously: I once tried cooking a Hot Pocket without its pocket, and it wasn’t like I didn’t know better!), but I really have a soft spot for baking. As long as the recipe isn’t too intimidating, I’m happy to try it. My hips and waistline aren’t so happy, so I have to be careful.

But this weekend, I tried the whole wheat recipe in the bread machine, and that was… disappointing. I think there were a number of factors involved, namely it missed one of its kneading cycles because the dough got stuck at the top of the pan and away from the kneading blade, and I didn’t catch that until the first cycle passed (not my fault that I couldn’t observe the cycle, and I won’t go into why). The bread itself turned out rather lopsided and really dense and, well, wheaty, so I think next time, I’m going to add more butter. Possibly more brown sugar. I like my bread sweet. Sue me. 🙂

However, I did have a baking triumph. Giraffe Days posted a recipe yesterday for Andes Mint Cookies, and once I read the instructions, I knew I had to make them ASAP, as I am a lover of Devil’s Food and Andes Mints. 🙂 Today, I picked up my ingredients and whipped up a batch right after dinner, and I must say: they are yummy! If you’re like me, and prefer easy recipes and don’t require everything be made from scratch (the devil’s food mix came out of a box, yo), then you’ll be really, really happy with these. I know I am. They’re fast and easy too, which means this recipe will be my go-to if there’s an event I need to bring something for.

As for the rest of my apathy, I’m hoping I’ll shake out of this mood soon. Writing-wise, the apathy deserves its own post, so I’ll wrap it up here with a simple HUZZAH for successful cookies!

Once Upon a Vine

Tonight, a friend of mine is hosting a wine-tasting party. Each person/couple is to pick up a two bottles of one wine they’ve never had before, and those two bottles will be used for the tasting (the point of the two bottles, I think, is to make sure there’s enough to go around).

I drink wine, but I’m no connoisseur. I’ve ordered white zinfandel at restaurants and have had people cringe, because I’m not sophisticated to drink reds or some kind of white. It’s a good thing those same people don’t see me picking up strawberry wine: it’d probably give them a heart attack! But short of a chardonnay or a moscato, I haven’t yet developed a taste for many whites or reds, and while I like something sweet, experience has taught me if it’s too sweet, I won’t touch it.

Last night, the hubby and I went to the liquor store to figure out what to bring. I wanted to find something that I wouldn’t necessarily try on my own, and then I discovered Once Upon A Vine. I’d heard of them before, simply because of their delightful labels. You’ve got The Big Bad Red Blend, the Lost Slipper Sauvignon Blanc, the The Fairest Chardonnay, and then lastly, the Charming Pinot. The liquor store I went to didn’t have the blanc: I think I would’ve gone for that if they had. Instead, I decided on the pinot. The guy working there said it’d be a good red to try for someone like me, someone’s whose trying to develop a taste for reds and doesn’t want to be overwhelmed.

Label-wise, I prefer the Big Bad Red Blend, but I’m gonna hold off and see what develops. The Fairest Chardonnay is definitely one I’ll probably like, but that’s something I can safely pick up the next time I need to get wine for a meal.

Has anyone ever tried any of these? If anything, these bottles are worth picking up for the labels, because they’re so delightfully designed. 🙂

But I do want to say:

Dear Once Upon a Vine:

Your labels are utterly wonderful. Your website is utterly boring. Please hire the designer who did your labels and have them redesign your website. Your wines deserve better!

Sincerely, Calico

Happy Friday! Celebrate with Bacon!

I’ve been craving bacon since Monday. Specifically, my sandwich-of-choice at Subway: turkey, bacon, cheese & ranch (and some lettuce thrown in to be healthy) on wheat. I’ve been good all week, but today’s Friday, and I’m in the mood to celebrate, so bacon it is! Erm, I mean, Subway it is!

Celebrate what, you may ask? Today was my annual review for my day job, and it went well. My raise goes into affect on April 1st, so that’s a good thing. It’s also a constant thing. I’ve complained a bit about certain things being uncertain at the day job, but this wasn’t one of them. The uncertain things seem to be fading, yet they have a bad habit of popping up out of nowhere and saying, “SURPRISE! Your life is UNCERTAIN again!” We’ll see. Right now, I’m quite happy for the raise.

I’m also taking a half day today, so I shall be spending the afternoon with my cat (did you know, cats can literally make you crazy? There’s no hope for me; I’ve been living with cats since I was a baby!) and catching up on a few projects. I’ll leave you with this story: Continue reading