Updates and August 2018 Happenings

Summer is almost over and per the usual, my plans have been more ambitious than what I was feasibly able to do in reality. Normally I’d write one of these posts at the start of next month, but because I will be very busy next month (and even busier until the winter holidays) I thought I’d jot down what passes for a blog update now.

First off, blog updates: I do intend to keep posting little recipes or cooking advice here and there, though I’ll be making more of an effort to do that at least monthly. I’ll also try to write posts like this one at least quarterly, maybe some book recs and creative writing on my writing blog. Over the past year, I’ve realized that I MUST increasingly waste less time on my other social media accounts since while the folks on there can be super friendly, the websites have been far more of a distraction to me than studying, writing, and cooking motivation. For the sake of my precious free time and mental health, I need to devote more time to quieter, less distracting tasks. WordPress is pretty nice about that, as long as I limit how often I post and edit things.

August 2018 Happenings:

  • My new job and a renewed interest in my own mental and physical well-being has pushed me to change some things about my living space and habits et. al., even if it means things like spending money on a backpack that isn’t broken, a small book I’ve wanted to read for years, or the copay for health care services.
  • To that end, my new job is fast-paced and can be quite stressful, but I’m learning from my (many) newbie mistakes and managing and it’ll help me through school and make me feel less anxious about money.
  • I don’t mention it much, but I’m reading a lot of books atm and have had to push forward my Goodreads reading goal for the year far more times than planned. I expect that to dry up by the end of next month since I’ll need to focus more on textbooks and less on fiction reads. Perhaps I’ll still have time to read and review indie short stories here and there, but I’m not making any promises.
  • Speaking of which, I’m trying to build up better study habits, but it has very much been a work in progress since I tend to get distracted very easily, especially during the summer. I’m actually digging out old calendar-type systems again since neglecting to do that since the start of May has led me to brush up against deadlines far more than I’d like.
  • August 1st marks Lughnasadh and that foreboding feeling right before the end of summer (and for me that means school, flu vaccine season, and putting up Halloween decorations). I’m not sure how I feel about this summer, strange as it has been, but I hope all of you are doing well despite the continued heat wave and forest fires and that you can have some time to enjoy the beach or swimming pool and helados for me as I will be too busy then to partake.

May you all have a nice August and hopefully my time away from this blog won’t be as long as my hiatus earlier in the year.

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Fruit and Yogurt Popsicles

Another recipe post because why not? (I’ve been reading books, working , and badgering myself back into “good student who is conscientious and knows how to study” mode before next month so not much excitement has been happening in my life lately.) This recipe is how I’ve been surviving the heat wave without melting or spending all my money on overpriced store-bought popsicles, though I’ll admit to buying a few tubs of cheap soy ice cream and fruity sorbets. (Alas, I have yet to see any genuine water ice sold in bulk where I live and the gelato and froyo are both ridiculously expensive relative to the quality. The east coast spoiled me.)

Ingredients

  • 1 & ½ cup of plain yogurt (or Greek yogurt if you prefer)
  • ¼ cup jam, jelly, or other preserves
  • ½ cup powdered sugar (or more or less to taste, but it’s essential to have it powdered so that the popsicles are creamy instead of gritty)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract or flavoring
  • ½ cup frozen fruit of choice (I try to match it up with the preserves so e.g. a berry preserve would pair well with frozen blueberries)

Directions

There’s really not much to this one because it’s so easy, but basically mix everything up in a medium bowl and pour or spoon the mix into popsicle molds and freeze at least 3-4 hours or so, depending on your freezer’s temperature.

Flavor combos in case you need ideas (not cross-posted elsewhere and partly based on The Flavor Bible):

  • Strawberry, blueberry, or blackberry preserves/jam + frozen blueberries or raspberries (since strawberries and blackberries tend to be too large for popsicles unless there’s some way to cut them while frozen without turning it into a smoothie)
  • Frozen peach slices + orange marmalade + 1/2 tsp cinnamon mixed into everything else
  • Frozen peach slices + blueberry or raspberry jam/jelly + 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • Frozen peach slices + apricot ginger preserve
  • Frozen banana slices + basically any of the above since it’s so versatile
  • Frozen mango pieces + 4 Tbsp lime juice in place of the vanilla and jam and add 1/2 – 1 tsp of chili powder to the mix or more if desired

 

 

Summer Mozzarella Quesadillas

I’m back again with another recipe because this season seems to be the time when I experiment a little more (and my most recent “everything but the kitchen sink” vegetarian soup would probably be too tricky to write down since I basically just tossed shit from the fridge + freezer in a pan and the slow cooker and then combined them lol).

Ingredients (for 1 serving)*:

  • 1 flour tortilla (I made this with the fajita size ones so you’ll need to scale up the other ingredients by about double if you use the super large ones)
  • 1 Tbsp red pepper spread (I get mine from Trader Joe’s)
  • 1 slice of fresh mozzarella from a mozzarella ball, approximately ¼ inch thick OR use about ¼-1/3 cup shredded mozzarella OR non-dairy mozzarella substitute of choice like Daiya
  • ¼ cup fresh basil leaves (or a mix of basil and parsley, but the basil is a must for best flavor results)

*Technically you could make these into margherita quesadillas (in the loosest interpretation of the latter word) if you used pizza sauce and oregano instead of the red pepper spread and drizzled some olive oil on top, followed by sprinkled salt and black pepper, but you do you. Also if you want to make it a little more veg-heavy, you could add cooked spinach and red onion to the fillings or maybe a bit of thinly sliced tomato and change up the type of tortilla or wrap you use.

Directions:

  1. Heat a medium or large nonstick pan or electric griddle to medium-high heat (this recipe is fairly quick so just keep an eye on things and the bottom of your tortilla won’t burn).
  2. Use a butter knife to apply a thin layer of pepper spread to the tortilla and place it on the pan, pepper spread side facing up.
  3. Add the mozzarella slice dead center or sprinkle the shredded cheese around the tortilla, keeping about ½-1 inch away from the edges.
  4. Sprinkle the basil + other herbs on top and cover the pan/griddle with a lid or a heat-safe plate.
  5. Cook until cheese is melted and basil leaves have wilted, about 3-5 minutes (so watch it like a hawk).
  6. Fold tortilla in half and use a spatula to remove it from the pan to a plate so that you can dig in!

July 2018 Updates

It’s been quite a while since I posted anything to this blog beyond the irregular shared post on personal or writing advice (or both!), so I thought I’d make a post today instead of continuing to overthink my unplanned hiatus.

So, here are some personal happenings over the past year or so (well, since this blog was more active):

  • I’ve made new blogs and writing accounts elsewhere, which are a lot more free-spirited and good for making casual friends or acquaintances who share a lot of my interests. I won’t say where or link them (but those of you who can guess enough to know how to PM me are welcome to ask me privately). There are definite downsides to juggling different styles of blogging, but I’m not giving up on WordPress because even though the writing community here is smaller and less active, I do enjoy its simplicity and peacefulness that is relatively free of drama compared to other places.
  • I’m also writing 3 WIPs: two novel-length ones that have been stuck in my head for at least a couple years (if not much longer) and one short story just because. They’re hobbies for the time being; I’m not seriously planning to publish them within the next few years, but instead study the process of writing and have a place to creatively vent with words.
  • I’ve started grad school in the past year which, for multiple professional, financial, and personal reasons, has felt somewhat like throwing myself repeatedly into an MMA ring after having only a week of beginner’s boxing lessons. And then sometimes I manage to win a match and I go, “Huh, I guess I know more than I feel like I do.”
  • Some parts of grad school have been rather difficult because I was rather starry-eyed about being surrounded by lots of grad school friends and dropped the ball a bit on the work needed to make friendship happen. I’ll have to do better. While I have dozens of nice enough classmate acquaintances, I’ll need to think more about how I might be a better friend to them, as well as choose my friends more wisely.
  • I’ve started a new part-time job after a year of doing odd jobs and mostly having too much time for a brain as anxious as mine is. The work can be stressful, but I like that it challenges my brain and keeps me moving and focused on my schoolwork and adulting skills. I hope I can stay on with this one, no matter how busy I get, at least until I earn my degree in a few years if not longer. It’s not the sort of work I planned to be doing 6 months ago, but I’ve changed my mind about what I’m interested in since then.
  • On that note, I started up one-on-one therapy again. It’s not perfect (therapists who have expertise in spiritual abuse and cults are unfortunately rare), but my therapist does know a fair bit about PTSD and so I have hopes that I can improve my patterns of thinking and make them healthier, since now I’m not only responsible for my own health, but also the patients I encounter when working or volunteering. I often have this image of myself as having to be strong and capable for the others who rely on me, but that’s not possible if any aspect of my health (mental or physical) is teetering off a cliff.
  • I’ve also started doing my own spiritual practices again. Last year, I was expecting to have joined a UU congregation by now, but I’ve concluded that going to a church building every Sunday might be more triggering than I originally thought. So, I can do my own thing instead, something I do for myself and keep fairly private, and can return to on my own terms and whenever I have time, considering how chaotic my schedule can be.
  • I would also be lying if I didn’t mention here that I am very worried for the future of my country and trying to do what I can to preserve the interests of future generations while picking my battles wisely and trying not to fight all of them alone, given that allies and potential allies are everywhere. There are many ways I can help, more than what one might see on the nightly news. I’ve always wielded my sense of politeness (even reservation) and easy ability to get on with those much older than me like armor, as if to protect myself from the things I experienced in my childhood and prevent them from ever harming me again. However, it occurs to me that the things I’m learning and the skills I’ve developed over the years can extend that armor to others, and I really ought to do that when I have the spoons.

Anyway, that’s it for now. I hope everyone is having a nice start to their July so far, and if not, I hope you have easier days soon.

If you’re currently working on a summer project or anything, I’d be happy to hear about that, too!

Captain Awkward: Reminder to Vote

Content note: There are mentions of suicide later in this post and also some very US-specific political stuff. I promise not to turn this blog into an all politics, all US health-care policy all the time site, but this couldn’t be more important or personal to me. I could not in good conscience neglect the […]

via How To Help People You Love Who Have Depression, Revisited — Captain Awkward

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Ten writing prompts that play with reader expectations

Since I don’t really have much to add in the way of writing advice that hasn’t already been said before, here’s some funky writing prompts instead:

  1. An eldritch abomination/horrifying cryptid is actually real and comes into the public limelight to terrify humanity again, only to be rather confused by having a ready-made fandom and memes about them. They eventually decide that stardom isn’t so bad and becomes a regular figure on talk shows, discussing their horror dimensions from which they originated.
  2. A deity falls in love with you and while their text messages to you are god-tier entertaining, you’re really not interested in a relationship with them.
  3. A mysterious entity takes over your country’s government and appears to be capable of controlling everything that happens with very little effort. However, they have a weakness for your award-winning homemade recipe and would do just about anything for a batch.
  4. History class at night school is rather boring until ghosts start giving their input during the lectures.
  5. Whenever anything is burned to ashes, it appears in another dimension. The original resident of this other dimension is starting to get rather annoyed by the clutter.
  6. Atlanteans asked the gods to hide them from the rest of the world because they were having a very bad case of Impostor Syndrome-induced anxiety and didn’t want to put up with other people’s pressures and expectations anymore.
  7. Demons don’t cook anything to eat and they think the human customs of doing so are essentially a magical religious practice.
  8. A knight has a mission to rescue a princess from the villain/monster, only to find that she has already escaped and the only clues as to where she went were left behind in a diary.
  9. A wizard commissions a magical cloak of invisibility, but a typo in their order leads them to receive a cloak of enhanced visibility instead.
  10. A young witch attempts the common taboo of making a love potion and manages to succeed, but the potion promotes platonic love and enhanced communication skills. The government sees it as a threat to the war effort.

(Crossposted from my other writing blog.)
Image credit: Pexels 

Things that happen in large families

Or: Funky things that have really happened and that would be fun writing prompts or writing inspiration in the right, non-chronically-sleep-deprived-because-grad-school hands.

These are so underused in fiction even though they can be a treasure trove of humor and drama just waiting to happen. Admittedly, it would take more work to tweak these for a fantasy or science-fiction series, but it probably wouldn’t be impossible. Also, a lot of these can be applied to the Found Family/Family of Choice trope.

  • The youngest sibling and the oldest sibling wear styles from completely different decades (e.g. 80s and 90s) because the youngest kid’s entire wardrobe is hand-me-downs from the older ones. And yes, it looks as hilarious in family photos as you might think.
  • Birthdays and holidays spawning a lot of Dobby the House Elf moments
  • There is no such thing as a perfect family photo. Someone is always blinking or making a silly face or sneaking in a rude gesture. Always.
  • Grocery carts piled ridiculously high with the basics and yet inevitably one item on the list will always be forgotten and it just so happens to be essential for dinner
  • Cooking a meal involves both racks of the oven, three-quarters of the stove, and sometimes an electric griddle or crock pot on the side
  • Bunkbed Discourse™ x1000
  • Four+ people trying to get ready in a bathroom at the same time (the nicer ones will eventually give up and get ready in a bedroom that has a decent mirror but they’ll still maintain that the bathroom mirror is the best)
  • One sibling piled under two blankets with three pillows over their head in their fully-lit bedroom at 1:38 AM because one of their siblings procrastinated on their homework. Meanwhile, a third sibling reads a book and the fourth sibling sneaks back through the window from their latest nighttime adventure.
  • Similarly, siblings getting roped into homework projects and favors around the clock, especially if they involve videos, pranks, or both
  • One sibling bribing a pack of siblings with junk food or favors so that they’ll leave the sibling alone with their crush

And if you have more to add (even if you don’t have many siblings), by all means, please do so in the comments! This was pretty fun to think about, even if messily organized.


(A crosspost from my other books and writing blog)

Photo by Markus Spiske

Shared Post: Story Hospital on Developing Your Writing Voice

Voice is a skill to be developed, like any other writing skill. Give yourself permission to stretch it and challenge it and expand it and enhance it.

via #82: Getting Bored of Your Own Writing Voice — Story Hospital

(Hi all, I’ve been swamped with work for the past week or so and it’s not letting up any time soon, unfortunately. In lieu of one of my own posts, I’d like to share a Story Hospital post that I really enjoyed reading and that taught me a few things. Hope all of you have a great week! – Cinnia)

Five Overused Things in Romance Novels

(Written partly because I finally had the opportunity to read a good romantic story last week and was pleasantly surprised when none of these common things cropped up)

  1. Describing a male love interest as an “Adonis” or “Greek God”
    I mean, first of all, this is a lazy way to avoid describing how someone looks. I get that description isn’t easy for every writer to do, but this one thing is incredibly overused and relatively easy to cut out of the writing during the editing process. Unless the person is literally a Greek God, and even if they are, maybe try to find a photo or drawn reference for the character’s features and use that when describing them.
  2. Lest the previous point give the wrong impression, this does NOT mean waxing poetic about a character’s hair, eyes, and the outfit they’re wearing (down to their shoelaces) for several paragraphs.
    I mean many of us are probably guilty of staring at a crush for too long, but infodumping details on a reader is going to bore them to tears and they’re much more likely to skim the material than remember it.
    When introducing a character, try to space out the descriptive details a bit and work them into other parts of the story rather than when the reader first meets them. Look up one of the many writing guides on describing characters to see more detailed ideas on how to do this.
    Also, please, please, please don’t keep repeating someone’s eye/hair/skin color several times unless it’s 100% relevant to the plot. I promise, the reader got it the first or second time.
  3. Snooping on the love interest while they’re bathing/swimming/etc. and ogling their body in full detail
    For a while, I hoped this creepy trope had died out by the mid-2000s, but then I saw it in works published in 2015 onwards (happening to both male and female characters) so, no, it has yet to be killed with fire. Blech.
    First of all, I don’t care if a character is super attracted to their love interest: Creeping on them during a private moment kills the romantic vibe because it violates consent between the characters. How is the reader supposed to trust that consent won’t be violated in other ways?
    In other words, if the love interest doesn’t consent to voyeuristic observation, don’t include it in the story to show attraction because it quite frankly isn’t.
  4. Once they do get close to becoming or have become a couple, protectiveness =/= possessiveness.
    I kinda feel like there must be some confusion on the part of some writers between the two characteristics, but they are NOT the same. Also, the latter one is a big red flag of toxic relationships, not healthy ones.
    Some protective characteristics: supports partner through crises, helps them if they are at risk of harm, knows when to express concern and offer help but (most importantly) knows when to back off and let their partner do things without their involvement.
    Some possessive characteristics: knowing (and following) their partner’s every move, threatening to harm their partner or another person if the other person even makes prolonged flirtatious eye contact with their partner, and refusing to back off when their partner wants to handle a problem on their own.
  5. Treating romance as a magical band-aid for other personal problems
    Okay, here’s a typical romantic plot I’ve seen: Girl meets Boy. Boy has mental health problems. Girl and Boy fall in love. Boy’s mental health problems magically disappear from the story.
    Admittedly, I picked the more sexist version of this trope a la “my love can fix him” but it’s unfortunately common. I think mostly why it crops up so much is because a) some writers might wish it really was that easy to fix mental illnesses and b) a failure to consider characters’ lives outside of their relationships.
    Point being: Love is not a magic fix. If someone is dealing with serious problems at the beginning of a story, then they need to continue to deal with it after they have a partner, just like in real life, healthy relationships. Otherwise, the problem in the story just feels like a gimmick thrown in there to add angst, which does a disservice to readers who want to read about characters who struggle with similar problems.

(Crosspost from my other writing blog)

Image credit: Alejandro Avila