#MAYkingItWork: The End


So here we are at the very, very end of May. I’m happy to report I have, at least, touched my intended manuscript. I’ve finished one chapter (I’d left off without it done) and started another. Success!


Though to be fair, the spirit of #MAYkingItWork was really always about facing that project that has irked you, and for any of us that have done that, no matter how much or how close to completion, May is a win. I’ve delved back into the manuscript and surprised myself. It’s funny. It’s got a concept.

And Aunty Ida is ready for another book.

So how about you, my intrepid blogging friends? Do you feel you pulled back the curtain and faced the music in the mirror or whatever mixed metaphor you prefer?

I’ve had a bit of an unusual May, changes ahead, irresistible opportunities I couldn’t let slide. Priorities are what they are, and every day we choose, one way or another.

So maybe your #MAYkingItWork project couldn’t be the top of your heap. It really didn’t make it to the top of mine.

But it was IN the heap. And I’ll take that as a victory.

Have a dusty, unfinished manuscript you need to work on? Join us in May for #MAYkingItWork! Commit to a project and commiserate with us!

Check out  my full-length novels: 

Aunty Ida’s Full-Service Mental Institution (by Invitation Only)   

Aunty Ida’s Holey Amazing Sleeping Preparation (Not Doctor Recommended) 

 Her Cousin Much Removed

 The Great Paradox and the Innies and Outies of Time Management.

And download Better Living Through GRAVY and Other Oddities, it’s free!

Peruse Montraps Publishing.


Playing Hooky by the Rules: Photographic Evidence


The rules of hooky are simple: avoid all tasks on the to-do list. Enjoy day. Repeat as needed.

So yesterday I ditched everything I should have been doing, and went for Ethiopian food at Chicago’s Ethiopian Diamond restaurant. The pics right there are from their website, which isn’t totally functioning, so I’m not linking, but it gives you an idea of what the food is like.

I was so excited to dig in, I completely forgot to take a picture for everyone. We didn’t do dessert — I actually came home with a to-go box that must have weighed six pounds (it doesn’t anymore!) — but you can see how the food comes on one giant patter, resting on a base of Ethiopian bread, which is called injera.

The injera is soft and spongy, and is tangily-sour. It’s adds a layer of flavor as you use it as a utensil to grab the fragrant stewy food.

My favorites are the vegetarian dishes, though I’m not a vegetarian. But the meats are also wonderful. While the end results can appear similar, every dish has a distinct flavor, but the spices never overwhelm the ingredients. Some can be very spicy, so watch it if you’re not into heat!

After lunch I headed over to the Lincoln Park Zoo, where I broke out my trusty camera. I have mixed feelings about zoos, as I understand their purpose in terms of conservation, but some of the animals just seem so depressed.

Lincoln Park Zoo is just north of downtown Chicago, and it’s free. It opened in 1868, and some of the structures still have that look of animal jails, with the tiny exhibition spaces. But with extensive remodeling in recent years, animals are getting bigger and more natural habitats.

It’s still a zoo, though.

Sometime between 1897-1924. I think that bear is considering whether it can clear that jump.

We focused (ha!) mostly on birds this trip, and they, at least, seemed pretty contented with their lots in life. There was one open room of tropical birds, and they seemed to enjoy the interaction with visitors.

In fact, I’d swear they took turns making sure they had their pictures taken.


A family! Not sure what they are…


Wasn’t sorry there was a fence between me and this vulture.


This little green guy looked like a cartoon character.


Check out those skinny, skinny , skinny legs and that skinny, skinny beak!




Just love this guy’s swagger.

IMG_0298 IMG_0324


This bird had the most amazing scarlet under its wings.


I’m convinced the snowy owl was the inspiration for the dragon’s face in The Never Ending Story.


These flamingos made me giggle. There’s such humor in the angle of their beaks.


In contrast to this ostrich, who had had. E. Nough.


This bird was such a friendly cutie, it let an 18-month old get super close before finally flying away.

We’ll save the other animals for another day. I hope you enjoyed your vicarious zoo visit!
Check out  my full-length novels,  Her Cousin Much Removed,  The Great Paradox and the Innies and Outies of Time Management and Aunty Ida’s Full-Service Mental Institution (by Invitation Only), and the sequel, Aunty Ida’s Holey Amazing Sleeping Preparation (Not Doctor Recommended) which is now available!

And download Better Living Through GRAVY and Other Oddities, it’s free!

 Sign up for my spamless newsletter!


Muffin Through the Mondays


Well, here we are, another Monday, and what a Monday it is. It’s both sunny and foggy out this morning, which is a strange combo. I would think it would be one or the other, but not both. Then again, I’m no meteorologist or weather summoner, so there’s that.

I started this morning off with a little bit of a twist. I baked some muffins, and they turned out very well, I thought. See?

20150831_093537 (1)They tasted pretty good, too. And no, hypothetical reader, I didn’t eat all of them. Not all, exactly. Fine, I had two. Are you happy, hypothetical reader? You are? You just would like me to share them with you? But I could only share them hypothetically, given your current…condition. You know, of being entirely made up. Can we move on now? Thank you.

Anyway, I think there’s something about a fresh muffin on a Monday morning to lessen the Mondayness of it all. That’s what I’d like to think, anyway.

And here we are at the very edge of August, the summer fading like the green of the leaves. Already there are hints of red and yellow; already the air feels different in the morning. More determined. Brisk. Serious.

The weeks churn along, from Monday to Monday, from season to season, and onward we go. At least we have muffins.

Check out  my full-length novels,  Her Cousin Much Removed,  The Great Paradox and the Innies and Outies of Time Management and Aunty Ida’s Full-Service Mental Institution (by Invitation Only), and the sequel, Aunty Ida’s Holey Amazing Sleeping Preparation (Not Doctor Recommended) which is now available!

M is for Maybe (Not)


Ambivalence, for me, seems to be the theme of the week, and today is no exception. I’m a little bit maybe, and perhaps a little more maybe not.

But today’s theme started over lunch yesterday. Not in the mood for anything much, really, I decided to take a frozen microwave pizza out of the freezer. Frozen microwave pizza has its moments, right? And this one looked very promising, with roasted veggies. Now that’s a pizza. If the picture on the box had anything to say about it, my lunch was going to be great. Maybe.

I suspect you can see where this is going.

So I tore open the little teary thing on the side, sliding out the pizza and the special tray it came with. And the contrast between the image on the box — an image so lush and promising — and the frozen pizza that came out of it was so great, I had to take a picture to share. Ready? Here it is:20150414_120802

Once cooked, I have to say it didn’t improve all that much, and frankly, it tasted about the way it looked. The little central smattering of veggies that was there, including the very generous single artichoke heart, shrank to a fraction of it’s original size, leaving vast swathes of dimpled, slightly cheesy, not terribly tomatoey crust. But the microwave tray definitely worked. That crust was crispy. As in cured cement crispy.

Here’s the thing, though. It wasn’t horrible. It tasted OK if not exciting or particularly good. Would I buy it again, though? Maybe.

Maybe not.

Check out  my full-length novels,  Her Cousin Much Removed,  The Great Paradox and the Innies and Outies of Time Management and Aunty Ida’s Full-Service Mental Institution (by Invitation Only), and the sequel, Aunty Ida’s Holey Amazing Sleeping Preparation (Not Doctor Recommended) which is now available!

Sign up for my spamless newsletter. And download Better Living Through GRAVY and Other Oddities, it’s free!

Heston Blumenthal and the Nature of Art


A friend sent me some YouTube clips of British chef Heston Blumenthal, and I can’t get the man out of my head. The first was of Blumenthal making look-alike tableware out of food, and the second, his tricking the guests with it. Here’s that second video:

Time could disappear and stomachs can churn as you go through the videos, one clip at a time, watching this man and his unique relationship with food. Not so much with the dessert, I’d be with him for the dessert; I mean things like the dormouse lollipops covered in white chocolate. No, really.

But it brings up the question that arises time and time again: what makes art?

No matter what you think of Heston Blumenthal as a preparer of food for consumption, he is, without question, an artist. He transforms his diners’ ideas of what constitutes food. He pushes the boundaries of what food can look like, how it can behave, what the experience of eating it can be.

Even from a distance of thousands of miles, without a hint of a taste or smell, he’s created an experience for me, the viewer, in watching his diners confront and interpret his food. Above all else, I think Blumenthal is a performance artist, using a process to provoke the emotions of his audience, which isn’t limited to those people eating his creations.

Is his style all flash and mirrors? Perhaps, but if it is, both the flash and mirror are completely edible.

Have a minute? Watch this video.

Rather read? Check out  Her Cousin Much Removed,  The Great Paradox and the Innies and Outies of Time Management and Aunty Ida’s Full-Service Mental Institution (by Invitation Only) .

 Sign up for my spamless newsletter. And download Better Living Through GRAVY and Other Oddities, it’s free!

Supporting Characters Are Like Blueberries


Blueberries aren’t a star-of-the-show fruit. I’ve never liked them on their own. In muffins, yes. I love them in muffins, blueberry muffins are amazing. Blueberry pancakes, blueberry waffles, they’re all winners. And you can throw them into cereal, into oatmeal, or, my favorite, into yogurt, and they’re awesome.

But on their own?

Not so much. Raspberries can stand alone. So can blackberries, and strawberries, though I prefer them cut to whole. Don’t ask me why, but I think they taste better when they’ve been cut. I’m sure there’s a scientific explanation, even if that science is psychology.

But I’ve never been one to sit down to a bowl of blueberries. By themselves, I find them, well, bland. They enhance other things, but don’t really do much alone.

They’re kind of a supporting character of fruit. That’s not to say that supporting characters can’t have their own flavor, and that’s not to say that sometimes they don’t outshine your protagonist or your yogurt. But primarily, they aren’t meant to be the only thing in the bowl.

And that’s OK.

The characters surrounding your protagonist should still feel like whole people. There’s a big difference between blueberry powder and blueberries. But sometimes, even whole people, like whole fruits, are better when paired with something else.

Download Better Living Through GRAVY and Other Oddities, it’s free!

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How I Got More Water in My Life, No Bottles Needed


I’ve got kind of a confession to make, and before you judge me, no, I’m not proud. You see, for some time, I was drinking bottled water out of plastic bottles.

I know, I know, and not just a few here and there. Entire flats of them.

The water in my building has taken on a strongly chlorinated odor, and I just couldn’t deal with the smell or the taste. I tried one of those filtered pitchers, but the water would go stale, and I just wasn’t sure that the pitcher itself wasn’t harboring some type of evil microbial life.

And then I got one of those filters that goes right on the faucet. It was my Dad’s suggestion, he’s always full of ideas for useful little gadgets, and was silently and subtly disapproving of my water bottle habit.

It’s fantastic. It’s about the best thing ever. I tried one years ago, and the water squirted up from around the threading, spraying me and filtering nothing. They’ve come a long way since then.

It’s rare you have a problem and find a solution that solves it completely, but that’s what it did.

Dramatic Tale of My Scraped Finger


I had a cut on my finger. Well, more of a deep scrape, really, a circle of bright red where the skin rasped off, and for days it hurt when anything touched it, even with a bandage.

When I washed my hands, the water seeped in, and it stung like I had scraped it anew. I washed my hair left-handed, kept my right hand at bay, all because of a small scrape on my finger.

Still, I cleaned it–hydrogen peroxide hurts far less than rubbing alcohol–put on antibiotic ointment, and kept it covered, right up until the evening I made myself a crazy-easy apple strudel-y thing (apple, butter, package of maple flavored instant oatmeal, a bit of water, oven, done), and curled up to eat it.

There was a particularly tough piece of skin that wasn’t skin at all. The bandage had fallen in without my noticing.

Goodbye dessert.

Now it’s healing, circle in circle, only a spot of dull red in the center. No more bandages necessary, thank goodness.

Another Easy Yummy Recipe


So I have a very, very persuasive sweet tooth. I could probably live on candy if it wasn’t likely to give me scurvy. Or rickets. Can a grown person get rickets? I have no idea.

Anyway, sometimes I try to go with slightly better sweet things, because I don’t think there’s any point in trying to cut them out completely. It seems wrong somehow.

Here’s one of my go-to favorites: I cut up a ripe banana, spray a baking sheet (I actually spray foil on a baking sheet because I like to have as little clean up as possible), and put the slices in a hot oven (450). I let them cook until I can smell them and the start to brown on the bottom. Once they hit that point, I change the oven to broil, so the heat comes from the top. This way you can brown both sides without turning them. Yes, you might have noticed, I’m a lazy cook.

Meanwhile, I melt a few squares of chocolate in the microwave. Go slowly, and try stirring it before giving it more time, because it burns. In my microwave, 30 seconds did it, but it doesn’t look melted until you stir it.

Then comes the vanilla Greek yogurt. I love that stuff. You can use plain, too. Or the kind with fruit. Lots of fruit is always good.

Stir the yogurt and chocolate, letting some chunks form, because they are awesome. Add the banana and voila!

Not an Actual a Vegetarian


You might get the idea from my food posts that I’m a vegetarian. I’m not. I’ve tried it in the past, and it simply doesn’t work for me.

I like the term “flexitarian.” From the first moment I heard it, it seemed to fit. I don’t tend to cook meat at home, but I’ll eat it when I’m out, most kinds of meat, except for pork.

Never pork.

When I found out that pigs were smarter than dogs, it was over for me. It’s always been a tight balance, being carnivorous and accounting for how that’s accomplished, and that bit of knowledge took me over the line as far as they were concerned.

A recent study suggests that chickens are much smarter than we think, as well. I may be doomed.

Fish, though, have never been an issue. It might be that I prefer fish to meat, and thus my convictions mold to fit my tastes. Or maybe it’s that they don’t seem to have much in the way of brain power, just vacuousness, almost like swimming vegetables.

Who knows.