Cat Parent Stories, #1

“I got something out of the corner of Frankie’s nose.”

“Ew! Are you going to wash your hands?”

“I’ll just purel. … Wait, Louie licks your mouth, and you never purel your mouth. And you still make me kiss it anyway! I’m not doing anything.”


If you live in a duplex, you’ve probably…

Heard the neighbor humming on the other side of the wall while going about your business. (In our case, while on the toilet.)

Wondered, “Is the neighbor awake?” Then listened for a minute and thought, “Yep, seems so.”

Instantly turned Pandora down in volume as soon as it blasts a rude word.

Discovered ants in your house, then gone next door to ask, “Do you have ants too?!”

Said something really silly and loudly while drunk, then added, “I hope the neighbor didn’t hear that!”

Felt like the neighbor’s indoor/outdoor cat is kind of your yard cat. And sometimes you take pictures of the cat when he’s being especially cute.

Got any of your own? Add them in the comments!

A Month in Review: December 2017

Wasn’t it Thanksgiving just the other day?

As much as I love the holidays, it always seems to feel like they go by so fast. Maybe it’s just what happens when you get older and a month is less and less a significant fraction of your life. Maybe it’s that moving out but then coming back home to stay with my parents comes with its own special bouquet of irritation, frustration, and mild condescension. Maybe it’s just that drinking makes it go by faster.

Whatever it is, I keep finding myself sitting back and watching in puzzled amazement while life unfolds. That’s a large part of why my partner and I are planning to have a quiet New Years Eve — just a simple evening at home with the kitties.

Here’s all the other things I am currently:


… Todd’s story, still. I’m starting over on a fresh draft, but I think I’ve got a much better starting angle this time. The writing I did during NaNoWriMo gave me a lot more backstory to work with for the supporting characters, and I just need more of that right from the beginning.


… To lose weight. As soon as I get a job and can afford it, my partner and I are going to find a personal trainer.


… A new timeline for my novel. This year for November was the first time I really sat down and plotted the story out with a real structure in mind and didn’t lose interest in the story after I’d done so. That was in a Google Spreadsheet though, and while there are a lot of ways that worked for me, it got harder and harder to keep track of where I was in the outline, what had changed, what needed to be rearranged, and what no longer belonged. Now I’m going to experiment with making a timeline on my living room wall.

Pushpins, leftover Christmas ribbon, post its, and strips of extra wrapping paper to make attaching more post its even easier.


… New Year’s Eve! We’re not doing anything special. My brother might stop by and hang out, otherwise we will probably just snuggle down with a bottle of wine and the kitties. Maybe we’ll come up with some NYE games or do some sort of time capsule thing.


… Nothing in particular. I’m re-listening to Sabriel read by Tim Curry when I’m alone in the car.


… Rewatching Buffy the Vampire Slayer with my beau again. The regular debate about whether we should watch Angel as well (for the brief crossover bits that are missing from Buffy) or not has returned.


… Kind of aimless. I want to lose weight, I want to write my novel, I want to cook more, and I want a new job — but it’s like all these things are just pulling me in different directions and I end up standing still. Sometimes it’s all I can do just to meet my daily 5,000 step goal, which is laughably low compared to the suggested 10,000 steps a day.


… A job! I’ve been unemployed, admittedly by choice, since the end of August. I’ve been sending out resumes and had a handful of interviews, but so far nothing has quite gone all the way. It’s already gotten to the point where I never know what day it is anymore. Please, someone give me work to do.


… The weather. Which is weird, because I’m not a huge fan of winter and the cold, but after last year’s constant rain and flooding the sun and clear skies are kind of nice. Of course, it’s not great from a drought point of view, but for heavens sake, Sonoma County just had a major fire disasters. It’s a relief to not have flooding following right on the heels of that mess.


… Being an adult. It kind of blows. Ugh. But as soon as I’m employed and a productive member of society again (and able to pay my own bills rather than racking up debt to my parents) I’ll feel better about all that.


… That some of the applications I’ve sent out over the past few days will get me something. I already have one interview scheduled for January 3rd!

A Month in Review: November 2017

Christmas decorations went up as soon as the Thanksgiving dishes were done, or thereabouts.

It’s been a while, hasn’t it? I’ve been very distracted by life in general, but here I am!

As fall sets in, it’s been getting colder at night and I’m very grateful for the baseboard heater our landlord gave us when we moved in. It’s not super chilly during the day if the sun is out and it’s not very windy, but we live in one of the coolest climate areas in wine country. The morning fog either takes longer to burn off or solidifies into ice on the car windshield, or both. Daylight fades earlier but, between Thanksgiving, Christmas, and miscellaneous recipe experiments, my kitchen has never been warmer.

The last six months have been… intense. I quit my job, got my first tattoo, did some actual freelance work and got paid for it, started balancing my checkbook again like a responsible adult, and… won NaNoWriMo for the third year in a row!


Here’s all the other things I am currently:


nano-2017-winner-badge… Todd’s story, still, but at a significantly slower pace now that it’s no longer NaNoWriMo. First I thought that I wanted to aim for 100k words total by January, but I just don’t have the energy for that and job searching and Christmas coming up. So I downsized to 75k words by the end of 2017, which feels a lot easier to wrap my head around.

Even though I didn’t finish the story in 50k, I’m pleased with my progress and I think I like this draft a lot better than I liked the last one. I did such a good job plugging my brain back into being a writer again.


… To become more involved in the local LGBT scene, mostly by way of helping out with the Facebook page of a support group for partners of transgender individuals.


… Good progress on regularly meeting my daily water goals. Very healthy.


… Christmas! It’s a bit of a bummer that my aunt and her branch of the family is going to stay in Michigan for Christmas, and it’s a tender subject with my grandma especially, but other than that I’m looking forward to the caroling and the cookies and the warm family dinners and the driving around to see all the pretty light displays. My partner and I do that one every year. Last year I made a lights tour guide for Sonoma County (2016) that was published on a local family magazine website — it’s always fun to drive around and check everything out.


Serenity: Those Left Behind. I read it years ago on my computer, but I was shelving at the library and snagged the hardcopy version to check out.


… Friends, still. And we’re rewatching Buffy The Vampire Slayer, having just finished catching up on the most recent episodes of The Walking Dead.

And omg, I sobbed so hard when blank was cornered by blankers in the blank and was blanked while blank, unable to help due to an injured leg, had to be dragged away screaming. I buried my face in our oldest cat’s fur and cried until she got annoyed with me and left. TWD just kills me sometimes.


… Grateful. I know, it’s cheesily predictable to say I feel grateful in connection with November, but I am. We finally made some cool friends our own age who actually live in the same county, have even more pets than we do, and share some significant key interests.


… More sleep. I don’t know what it is about November, maybe it’s that my brain was constantly buzzing with thoughts about the novel I’m working on. Some nights I just could not settle, and that way leads to texting bad puns about shingles to a friend at 4am.


… How much snugglier the kitties get when the weather gets colder.


… All the sexual allegations that are flying around. First of all, why can’t all of these Hollywood men keep it in their damn pants?

Second, dammit Danny Masterson! That 70’s Show is one of our favorite tv series to play on repeat in the background. How do you reconcile loving a show with the fact that one of the cast members may or may not have violently raped a few people? It’s different with shows that are still ongoing — they can drop the actor like House of Cards did with Kevin Spacey. But with That 70’s Show, after the seventh season when Eric and Kelso take off, Hyde is the only interesting character left. I’m willing to boycott those later seasons because they’re just not as good, but is it bad to watch the earlier seasons? Does that imply support of that one cast member’s awful conduct in his personal life?


… that I can spend this last month of the year surrounded by love and light and all the people who bring joy to my life. (Shamelessly snagging that sentence from Zen & Pi, because it’s a good one.)

I’m not always the best at self-care. Sometimes I can be a workaholic, even when it comes to my hobbies, and I just can’t switch my brain off. At other times, I don’t have the self-confidence or momentum to get going.

Wild Fire – a review

This sounds like a really interesting series. I just added the first two to my To Read shelf on Goodreads! 😊

Druid Life

Wild Fire is the third book in Anna McKerrow’s awesome Greenworld trilogy. That’s a tricky reviewing setup right there, because reviewing the third book without spoilering the first two means I can’t talk about the story much at all. Further, you don’t want to start here, you want to start with Crow Moon which I reviewed here – eco-pagan-mythmaking/ and then read Red Witch – reviewed here ways-to-live-a-trio-of-reviews/

The Greenworld is in the southwest of the UK, a small country led by witches, hived off from the rest of the world as said rest of world plunges into fuel wars, environmental degradation and chaos. A little bit of utopia set against a very dark background. Except that, like most utopias, it is held together by things that don’t work so well for everyone. Book one – Crow Moon introduces us to the Greenworld through the eyes of Danny, and Danny…

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IWSG Post #12

DECEMBER QUESTION: As you look back on 2017, with all its successes and failures, if you could backtrack, what would you do differently?

When it comes to writing…

I could not be happier with my NaNoWriMo success this year. A lot of it was building on my momentum from last year, which is ultimately what I want to do. I need to just finish a project, and then I can go from there! And the way I want to get there is writing a little bit every day.

Planning ahead of time and getting a complete timeline worked out for the story really, really helped.

If I’d thought of it more ahead of time I might have spent more time researching baseball teams and all that. My main characters are happily bonding over things I know nothing about, haha.

#catsofinstagram #christmascookies #catmascookies

A post shared by Jean (@cat_in_the_ciderbarrel) on

When it comes to everything else…

I would go back in time and start actively balancing my checkbook earlier in the year. At least that would have felt like the sky was falling all at once when financial disaster finally hit.

Most everything I would do differently has to do with how I’ve been spending money.

One of the things I wanted to do this year was get more into yoga, and it happened relatively late in the year but it has happened! We made a friend who is now hosting a yoga group in the loft of her house. I finally have a reason to dig out my yoga mat. Success!

I’ve been baking and cooking more lately. The only thing I would change about that would be to start doing it sooner. It’s been very therapeutic, creativity inspiring, and also a lot of fun to share the recipes here.

And I’m not going to lie, the only way that could have happened is if I’d quit my job earlier. It had just become a place I didn’t want to be anymore, and was running me into the ground.

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.

2017-11-13 12.57.49

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:


… 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.


… 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.


… 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!


… Hearing back about some promising interviews this week. Fingers crossed! 🤞


… 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?


… 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.


… 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.


… 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.


… 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.


… 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 my partner’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!


… 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.

Screen Shot 2017-11-04 at 4.16.08 PM
First floor
Screen Shot 2017-11-04 at 4.16.19 PM
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.