2017 Ta Da List

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NaNoWriMo 2017: Progress Report

Screen Shot 2017-11-14 at 2.20.23 PM.pngWithout a doubt, this has been my best NaNoWriMo experience so far. I started with an outline, which I am only kinda sort of following so I keep discovering new things about the story by writing it, but still using as enough of a guide that I don’t get lost. I also started a little ahead of the curve with some prologue pieces written in advance, and with that in there as a very encouraging buffer I have only failed to meet the daily 1667 minimum twice — once by only eight words, and another time by about six hundred because I got a lil drunk. (Even so, that wasn’t bad for typing most of it into my phone while actually at the bar.) None of my word counts are astronomical but they’ll get the job done.

As far as the story goes, my main character is desperately trying to stall coming out of the closet to himself. The love interest is kind of interested but mostly wants to back off to keep their budding friendship intact. The beard girlfriend is still waffling on deciding whether she wants an actual relationship or to just keep it as an extended fling between friends. The main character’s dog (golden-lab mix) and the love interest’s cat (tricolor Maine Coon) haven’t met yet, but are destined to be BFFs and go swimming together.

… I am going to need a lot of beta readers when this draft is complete. Or whatever the proper term is when it isn’t actually fanfiction.

(Fun fact: The main character was originally a very minor character in an AU fanfic idea where the cast of a cartoon show I used to like were played by live actors. Kind of like RPF, only fictional. FRPF. Furpf. I’m sorry, it’s November and I can’t stop the word vomit. THE WORD COUNT FOR THIS POST IS 312 WORDS!)

There’s a GIANT ZUCCHINI in my kitchen

One of the local farm-to-table restaurants has a crate outside their front door with a sign on it that says feel free to take one. I’ve done this once before, and took home something I was hoping might be a very pale butternut squash but I think was actually closer to spaghetti squash.

Last night on a whim I brought home a zucchini almost as long as my arm. And you know what happens when you google “how to butcher a giant zucchini”? My top hit was of someone cutting a large zucchini (not as large as this one, score one for me) while background spectators yelled encouragement and various suggestions. It was not actually helpful.

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So, this post is going to serve as a collection of resources for WHAT TO DO WITH THIS THING. I haven’t yet taken the time to try or even really read through these too critically, so I will probably keep coming back to this post and adding notes.

Do you have a recipe or any other zucchini-related notes, anecdotes, or adventures? Let me know! Continue reading “There’s a GIANT ZUCCHINI in my kitchen”

A Month in Review: October 2017

It’s beginning to feel a lot like autumn. We’ve gotten a fair amount of rain in the past few days, and now that the fires in Sonoma and Napa counties have simmered down, the focus is starting to roll over to flood prevention/preparation. California may not have a lot of weather compared to states that get hurricanes, blizzards, and tornadoes, but when we go for something we go at it hard.
But it’s cozy inside. We finally gave in and moved the big baseboard heater from our bedroom to the living room. I don’t know why it kept blowing out the circuit in there but hasn’t been a problem out here, but there you go. In between phone interviews and sending out resumes I’m trying to enjoy the rain and the fact that if I lay on my back long enough, a cat will come lay on my stomach and purr at me for a while. Currently it’s our youngest cat, who just turned a year old yesterday.
Halloween was a bustle of activity for me, but not the expected holiday kind. I had a morning face to face interview, then continued from there to the South Bay for a meeting with my/my parents financial advisor about the current state of my investments. We bumped some things up from conservative to moderate-conservative and moderate risk, since I have no plans to cash those out soon — it’s all rather baffling, to be honest. Then I went home and made reduced sugar, accidentally low sodium pumpkin cupcakes for my Grandma’s birthday dinner. They turned out delicious, and the cream cheese frosting with honey is really easy to spread and my new go-to for my Dad’s red velvet birthday cake I need to make in a few weeks.
Here’s all the other things I am currently:
Writing
… A novel!! I got my act together towards the end of October and wrote an outline/timeline for this revision of last year’s project, and I’m so glad I did. There are some small ways in which I haven’t bothered to follow it but that’s half the fun of writing, isn’t it? To let the story discover itself as it unfolds? I also cheated a little and had a 3k prologue written in advance that I counted on November 1st, but that was the only day I didn’t knock out at least 1667 new words.
My partner and a friend each independently said that they could see this story as a movie, so I guess I’ve got my work cut out for me.
Planning
… For the holidays. With three cats, driving down to visit our families for a long weekend gets a bit more complicated. My parents are not pet people, and I’m not entirely sure I trust them not to accidentally let our indoor cats sneak outside. (I’m also pretty sure that they knee-jerk don’t trust me to clean up after them, which is bs but to be fair they do try to quash that first instinct for my sake.) my partner’s parents are a lot more pet friendly, but that’s because they already have two large dogs (who are big babies that refuse to make eye contact with all but our oldest cat, who they’ve known the longest). When the pets outnumber the people, you’re basically living in a zoo. To top it all off, my aunt is flying back from Michigan for Thanksgiving and she’s bringing her two cavalier King Charles spaniels. In a fight between our cats and those dogs, I am convinced the dogs would start it but the cats would finish it, and the whole thing would burn up all my remaining patience with my aunt.
So I guess we’ve got to go with option zoo, at least for Thanksgiving night. Sorry future in-laws.
Making
… New recipes. Have I raved here about the mango cashew fried rice I made yet? Because it was AMAZING, and that was just with dried mango that I rehydrated sounds could use up the last of that. It would be stupendous with fresh!
I will admit to using kitchen experiments as an alternative to finding and spending money I don’t have on a therapist. Eating healthier is good for me too!
Anticipating
… Hearing back about some promising interviews this week. Fingers crossed! 🤞
Reading
… Fanfiction, lol. I’ve fallen back on some old favorites that I know share some similar vibes to what I want to write. Does anyone else out there like a good James Bond/Q fic every now and then?
Watching
… Lots. We typically have one of our three comfort sitcoms on in the background, and right now we’re still on Friends. I also found a random Netflix movie that I liked enough to watch twice — it’s called Infini and if you’re a sci-fi fan I recommend it. (Watch it with subtitles the first time through though.) Plus, my partner and I just finished watching the most recent season of Grace & Frankie. Love that show. At some point we’ll get to the new season of Stranger Things that everyone is raving about… I just want to rewatch the first season again first.
Feeling
… Really excited about how NaNoWriMo is going. This challenge is an exercise in word vomit, but I actually don’t dislike most of what I’ve written so far.
Needing
… More sleep. I don’t know what it is, but it’s like I spent so much time beaten down by my job, I was exhausted and usually got to bed at a reasonable hour. Now that I have the energy to write and be creative again, suddenly I have insomnia. I can’t get my brain to switch off until somewhere around two in the morning.
Loving
… The friends we’ve made up here in the past couple months. It’s so cool to be able to go out with people and do fun stuff, like lounge around the pool at Francis Ford Coppola winery in between magic shows during a Halloween party, snacking on free kettle corn and candy while sipping (not free, but more affordable than mixed drinks) sparkling Sophia.
Hating
… The recent devastating events in our area. Many people have lost their homes, businesses, workplaces, safe spaces. It’s awful.
My partner and I have been trying to donate as many resources as we can, but one of the outcomes is a significant blow to wine country tourism.  I can speak from mypartner’s  experience that tasting rooms are currently experiencing long stretches of nothing happening. So I say, come to Northern California, people! Lots of wineries are donating portions of their proceeds to relief and rebuilding efforts, and staff hired for their ability to chat with anyone about wine, the universe, and everything. They are lovely people, come talk to them!
Hoping
… To at the very least not gain any more weight over the holidays. I’ve been holding steady recently and trying to eat better, be more active, etc. The boot camp stuff I was doing kind of fell through because of the fires disrupting everything, but I swear that as soon as I have income again I’m going to find a Pilates class. Positive thoughts, positive thoughts.

Stopping in the middle of NaNoWriMo to draw a floorplan

Thank you, Internet, for providing me with the means to look up a colonial house layouts with a specific square footage that I can base this on. The characters are going to spend a lot of time in here, pulling out carpet and replacing it with hardwood floors.

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First floor
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Second floor

Fun times when I realize I forgot to put in the door to the master suite. You enter by climbing in through the bathroom window!

Also, that unlabeled space across the hall from the master bath is a walk-in closet.

Research Help Needed!

I posted this on the NaNoWriMo forums as well (here), but…

I’ve decided to set my novel in New Hampshire despite never having set foot in the state. I also live in California and don’t really know what real weather is. Please help with the following!

  • What’s the weather like in July, August, October, November, and December?
  • What baseball team(s) do people follow?
  • What styles are most of the houses?
  • What is the LGBT scene/atmosphere  like?
  • Slang people use
  • Anything else I should probably know

IWSG Post #11

NOVEMBER QUESTION: Win or not, do you usually finish your NaNo project? Have any of them gone on to be published?

I haven’t finished my past two NaNo novels, although I did hit the 50k words mark on both. This year I’m working on the second draft of one of them, with the eventual aim to publish.

Actually, I’m cheating a little. I started writing the prologue a little early, with all new content before I get to the point in the story where I started it last year. But hey, if it helps me finish, I don’t care!

NaNoWriMo Survival List

Here’s my collection of six items I’m going to need for a solid month of writing.

1. Laptop / Cell phone

With the WiFi disconnected / in airplane mode most of the time. Well… not really because I need to keep an eye on email in case I hear back about a job application I’ve put out there. But nothing else!

I’ve taken to using Evernote for daily writing (new note per day) and Google Docs for collecting everything and getting the complete word count. That means it’s automatically backed up on two programs, accessible from both my devices anywhere I have an internet connection.

2. Timeline / First Draft

I haven’t updated this in months, so some of it will have to be adjusted, but I want to make sure that the story doesn’t boil down to an unconvincingly short span of time in which everything happens.

Last year I was going along so slow that I had to do a massive retcon leap — jumping forward in events and pretending that everything had actually happened/been written — just so I could get to the end of the story by the 31st. So technically I did finish that one, it just had a gaping hole in the middle. I’m sure I’ll cringe when I get to it during the rewrite.

3. Tea

I’m not a coffee person; it makes me jittery. I mostly stick to black teas, sometimes green or white. A little rice milk if it’s too hot and a dab of honey if I need some sweet. And, yes, caffeine.

4. Bananas

Fresh bananas are great. What I sometimes also do is slice them into bitesized pieces and freeze them, and that basically satisfies my cravings for ice cream.

5. Oatmeal (gluten free)

It’s warm, it’s a hearty breakfast, and the kind I have has flax in it. Plus, I can add dried cranberries.

6. Cats

No power on earth could keep our three furbabies from bugging me for an entire month… Plus, Louie will loaf on my chest and rev up her purr motor, that’s always nice. The other two frequently curl up against my feet or butt and use me as a head source. It’s very soothing.


What’s in your NaNoWriMo survival kit? Do you feel prepared for November 1st?

The Fall Tag

I didn’t get tagged for this, I just saw it floating around and thought it looked like fun. For this reason, I’m not going to tag anyone either. 🍃🍂🍁

1. What’s your favorite fall outfit?

Comfy jeans and a warm snuggly shirt or sweatshirt.

2. What is fall weather like where you live?

Fall in California’s wine country isn’t as dramatic as it is in other parts of the country, but as soon as the vineyards are harvested the grape leaves start to turn orange and yellow. The apples are ripe. Local pumpkin patches start to open up all over the place, and there’s a large corn maze a fairly short drive away (luckily untouched by the fires).

3. Your favourite drink to have in the fall?

Hot chocolate. Although, hot apple cider is always good, too. And you know what I want to try that I haven’t had since college? Hot buttered rum.

4. Does your family have any fall traditions?

It’s the beginning of baking season! Grandma’s birthday is October 31st and I’m doing the cake this year — well, cupcakes. Dad’s birthday is at towards the end of November and I took over making the red velvet cake for that years ago. Then for Thanksgiving I’m in charge of gluten free pumpkin pies for two different dinners (yay having a second family via long term relationship). After Thanksgiving comes all the family Christmas cookie events, from cookie making day to cookie decorating day.

5. What are some activities and events you enjoy going to in the fall months?

Super, super psyched about that corn maze. We’ve lived near it for a couple years now and this is going to be the first year we get to go!

6. What’s your favourite fall-scented candle?

Warm vanilla sugar, or anything that smells like baking spices.

7. Tell us about one of your favourite fall memories.

It was some time in middle school and I had the flu. It was a little after Thanksgiving so the Christmas decorations were already up, and my mom was having some work friends over for a holiday party and White Elephant game.

(For those of you unfamiliar: You wrap up a ridiculous and/or hilarious gift, possibly even something around the house that you want to get rid of. At the party, everyone draws a number to determine what order they get to open presents and the first one opens whatever they want. The second person can either steal the known gift or venture into the unknown. Each gift can only be stolen three times, max.)

My mom let me unwrap for her, and I ended up with this really cute, big mug in the shape of a sheep. I called it my Shmug. It was a really funny afternoon, even with the flu!

8. What are some fall movies you enjoy watching?

Anything creepy. I love Halloween.

9. What’s your favourite fall treat?

Pumpkin pie!

10. If you celebrated Halloween, what’s the best costume you’ve worn?

Best, or hilarious? Because one year in highschool I ordered a cardboard coffin, cut off the bottom end and the top portion of the lid, cut arm holes in the side, and spent an entire school day walking around in it. The opening in the bottom wasn’t very big so I had to take small steps everywhere, and could only go down stairs by hopping down from step to step. I also couldn’t lower my arms without clunking the top of the coffin into my head. My mom was laughing so hard when she dropped me off at school that I think she almost caused a minor traffic incident in the parking lot.

Anxiety Dreams

You know those dreams where you’re suddenly back in school but you have no idea what your class schedule is? And often it’s partway through the school year, and you know that either (a) you’ve been going to those classes for months and have suddenly forgotten everything about when and where, or (b) you just haven been going to them at all, only just realized it, and are completely screwed?

Last night, I had a slightly different variation of that dream. My partner and best friend had decided to go back to college, and I decided to join in. I didn’t look at any other schools, just applied to the same one they did. When I got there, for some reason I expected to have math classes… and it took me a week to realize they were lit classes, I hadn’t gone to any of them, and I was behind on reasoned at least three classic novels with more assignments coming up soon. Then my brain decided I was going for a degree in editing (is that even a thing?) and not only had to read the books, but had to write an evaluation of the most common sentence structure types throughout each and write a short story in the same style.

… I might have been accidentally trying to dream-create a fan fiction major.

Sonoma County Strong

If it’s not one thing, it’s the other. This past winter we were worried about flooding throughout the county, and now a raging urban fire has torn through Santa Rosa and other towns throughout Wine Country.

I am very lucky. My partner and I were in Nevada visiting my brother, and were driving back on the Sunday night all the fires started. Instead of driving straight into it we went to the South Bay, where our three cats were already staying at one of our parents’ house. We didn’t realize what was happening until the next morning.

Then began several days of watching the news, which, honestly… was depressing. I feel for the people who lost their homes, and the people who still don’t know if they have homes or not, and the people whose houses are still standing but they can’t return to them because of evacuation rules. But “breaking news” provided more human interest stories than actual information, and here’s why:

  • There wasn’t any. Everything started at night, when they couldn’t start fighting it until dawn. By then there wasn’t anything they could do about containment, all focus was on evacuation and rescue. So there was nothing informative to report.
  • No one could really believe what was happening. We get our share of fires here in California, but even we are used to forest fires and wildfires in sparsely populated areas. Even up here where we know that Lake County just a couple hours north has semi-annual fire problems. This was different. This was multiple urban fires throughout four counties (Sonoma, Napa, Mendocino, Lake) all at once. I think part of what kept us watching was these sense of, “wait this is actually happening?”
  • The news was also meant for people outside of the impacted areas. Because if it doesn’t affect you directly (even elsewhere in the Bay Area where it’s merely super smoky), we want you to know what we’re going through. Local news will broadcast the devastation again and again just to try and convey how real, how devastating this is to the area. Even once they get all the flames out, this will continue to impact our community for months, at least — and we have until then to make sure the outside interest and support will stick past that point.

Honestly, I got more helpful, direct information from Cal Fire’s twitter feed than the local news. (Sorry local news.)

The only other points of reference we had for what was happening near our home were our landlord and a smattering of local friends and coworkers. Our friends are lucky too, because none of them were injured or lost their homes. Some were evacuated, some were on high alert with the possibility, one’s workplace burned down, but overall they are okay.

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Facebook photos of the healing base camp. 

We happen to be friends with a really cool person who made some of the first moves to set up at evacuation centers and firefighter camps to offer massages, reiki, energy healing, etc. She’s been giving with her whole heart and soul for around eight hours a day ever since her neighborhood was deemed safe (ish, as long as the wind didn’t change, and so on). Firefighters have told her that she and her peers who are pitching in this way are making the experience legendary, because no one has ever done it for them before. (There tends to be a lot of red tape around actually getting into the firefighters’ camp, so she set up right outside one of the entrances and they come to her.) It’s heartwarming to see in her Facebook posts and talk about whenever we see here. We ❤️ you, Rebecca!

 

On Friday we were able to drive up and check on our place. It’s about twenty minutes from the Fulton Road evacuation line, but perfectly fine, not covered in snow-like drifts of ash as I had half imagined. We harvested tomatoes from the garden and went to a potluck dinner with friends to celebrate being able to get together in all this madness.

On Saturday we gathered up some things to donate. We don’t have a lot of money right now, so it wasn’t a lot. Two cans of tuna, two small containers of gluten free cereal, two cartons of rice milk, a tiny jar of honey, and a packet of hot chocolate mix. Some kitchen things, some clothes we no longer need, some cat toys our girls don’t play with much anymore, and a couple cans of kitten food.

After donating food at Redwood Empire Food Bank, we didn’t know where to go to drop off the other stuff so we visited our friends at Tilted Shed Ciderworks. They were having a benefit for neighbors of theirs who had lost their house, donating 35% of profits for the day to help. They were also handing out fliers for a place just down the street that was accepting donations, which was so helpful because I’d heard that some places had reached capacity for accepting things.

We ended up at what looked like an office building that had been vacant and the owners just decided, hey, let’s open it up and use it as a space to help people out. As we drove out a family was walking out carrying pillows, clothes, and bottled water. The woman I spoke to thanked us profusely for everything we brought — especially the cat supplies, because they had a lot of dog stuff but not a lot/no cat stuff. She asked if we needed anything, if we had been impacted by the fires, and when I said we were okay she offered us bottled water anyway and settled for giving me a hug. (As far as I know, they’re still accepting donations in Windsor.)

It wasn’t much, but it felt so wonderful to be able to help. There are more clothes that we can give away, we just have to dig it out.

On the way back down to the South Bay on Saturday night (since the air quality was okay we decided to bring the cats back up the next day), we were on 101 and drove through some of the area where the fire jumped the freeway. It was shocking. And it was pretty random. There would be one building that was just nothing, just a pile of ash with the remains of a roof collapsed down on top, surrounded by buildings that had been left untouched.

The thing about watching the news was, there was nothing we could do. But it’s empowering in the face of such tragedy to come home and see how much everyone is banding together.