Category Archives: Slice of Life

Status Update – BIG

Feb 20, 2017

Big-sized stuff!

So! After all the discussion the other day, I stopped in at Costco on my way home from church yesterday, just to check it out. I went in as a guest, not intending to buy anything, just looking at what they have.

Well, two things became apparent to me pretty quickly. I *could* get a Costco membership so that I could get some of the things that, frankly, looked delicious that I can’t get anywhere else. I could get giant slabs of salmon that I could cut up and freeze, and they had some prepared chicken salad that looked good, some great cheeses, a few frozen thingies, and some snackie things. They have all the cleaning products I use, and I could basically buy them once a year and be good. But the more I walked around, the more I thought to myself “I can get these things anywhere.”

The other big thing I noticed—which is something I already know about Americans—is that Americans like things BIG. I mean B-I-G! It wasn’t just the giant shelves filled with emperor-sized bags of chips or tubs of salsa. It wasn’t just the massive TVs (for sale) that greet you when you walk into warehouse stores. It wasn’t even the huge carts people were wheeling around the stores. It was the gigantic trucks I saw in the parking lot. I ended up following one massive, monster truck out of the parking lot and down the road a little…and it had one person in it. Tiny cab, gigantic truck.

Just enough fish & chips (& mushy peas) to satisfy this weary traveler without wasting anything

So what is this fascination Americans have with largeness? Because when I was in London last summer, the “big” thing I noticed was that everything was small. Or rather, everything was to scale. The cars were compact and suitable for city driving (and I should note that even watching British TV, like, chat shows, not dramas, the cars out in the country are small too, unless they’re working farm vehicles). The portions of food at the modest-sized supermarkets were just right for consumption without waste, and same with the portions served at restaurants.

This is not a judgement of any kind, it’s just an observation about what appears to be a national character thing. I’ve always been told, too, for example, that in Paris, people shop for what they’re going to eat that day as opposed to making a trip to the grocery store to stock up for the week or longer. It seems to me to be a different philosophy of need and a different way of viewing what is necessary.

Now, I think part of the American way of thinking must come because in a lot of areas, that once every other week trip to Costco is all you’re going to get, since you live so far out in the middle of nowhere. Europe doesn’t have that many middles of nowhere left. But the Costco I went to yesterday was in suburban Philadelphia. You could drive through no more than two traffic lights in any direction and hit another supermarket. And you have to drive for a while before you hit remote country (although we have a lot of “nearby country” just outside of the suburbs). So the practical aspect of bulk shopping can’t be as important here as, say, having a huge family that eats a lot. But I dunno if that scenario applies to everyone either.

At the end of the day, I’ll be honest and say that the European “less is more” system is more appealing to me. That’s just the way I am. But then, as far back as college, I’ve been told—by Europeans—that I’m more British than most British people, and definitely more British than American. So at the end of the day, I think I’ll skip the bulk store membership and keep making my daily trips out to more local shops.

Status Update – Sam’s Club and Stuff

Feb 18, 2017

All the stuff!
Rusty Clark ~ 100K Photos, courtesy of Flickr

My friend and assistant, Julie, and I have this periodic discussion about stuff. People have a lot of stuff. We have a lot of stuff, but we’ve each, at various times and in our own ways, been trying to get rid of stuff. Julie turned me on to this documentary about minimalism, and I’ve been trying to implement some of those strategies in my life. Because I don’t really need all that much stuff.

But sometimes I really, really want the stuff!

The other thing Julie and I have discussed is how it doesn’t matter how much you have, somehow there’s always something else you want. I think it actually has a specific psychological term. It’s human nature. We think that if we get Widget A, our life will be complete and we’ll never want anything else again. So we get Widget A…and instantly we want Widget B. It’s just how things are. And I’ve done that over and over and over again.

Although I’ve gotten much better recently. I have a wonderful apartment, I have nice furniture, a Kitchen-Aid mixer, nice pots and pans that match, and a super cool, very sharp knife set. (You can see which room my priorities lie in). I’m not really a clothes or shoes or handbags kind of gal. Books, yes, but books are special. No, what I really want to spend my money on is travel. Which is probably why I’m going to Europe twice this year.

Sam’s Club by Mike Mozart of JeepersMedia and TheToyChannel on YouTube, courtesy of Flickr

Anyhow, lately, I’ve had an itch. It’s not for stuff per se, it’s for access to stuff. I keep thinking that I really need to get a membership to Sam’s Club. Now, I don’t have a huge family. I’m not running an organization. I’m just a single woman with two cats. But I did buy one of those vacuum seal food storage systems recently, and I feel like I should buy in bulk and then vacuum seal all the stuff! But do I really need to?

So here’s my question for you all. Should I bother getting a membership to Sam’s? Is it really a good deal to buy things like granola bars in bulk? Or would I actually end up buying foods that I could then suck and freeze so that I only have to go grocery shopping once a month? Would this make me spend less overall or more? Inquiring minds want to know!

Status Update – Kitten Progress

Feb 17, 2017

It seems inevitable that when I’m trying to get things done under a tight deadline and I need to focus, I have cat drama. Well, not cat drama in this case. It’s more like this baby kitten of mine is going through her terrible twos!

So for those who don’t know, I’ve had two cats, brother and sister, Torpedo and Butterfly, for twelve and a half years. They were born to me. But Butterfly passed away in December. So, not wanting Torpedo to be alone, and seeing that he was mourning the loss of his sister, I got Justine, who was just about 6 months old at the time, mid-December. And she was cute and adorable and very, very shy.

Well, she’s not shy anymore! She’s totally come out of her shell and keeps getting into everything. She dashes around the house, chasing everything that moves and half the stuff that doesn’t. Her latest obsession is zipper-pulls, so if I leave anything with a zipper lying around, she HAS to play with it. She’s taken to napping on the couch with me while I write too, but sometimes that means climbing up on my lap desk to get an up-close and personal look at my fingers.

Justine is a typical baby. She needs to play. The other day, she was zipping around so fast that I thought she and Torpedo were chasing each other. Until I noticed Torpedo napping in his usual spot. Justine was running around so fast that I thought she was two cats! She’s also at the stage now where if something is on a table, she’ll knock if off, and if there’s a surface she hasn’t explored, she’ll jump up to explore it.

The thing is, up until recently, Justine has annoyed the heck out of Torpedo. At twelve and a half, Torpedo really is an old man, and his world has just been severely rattled. He’s been growling at her and swiping and chasing her around to establish dominance. But no more! For the last week or so, he’s been eyeing her differently and sniffing her without growling or chasing.

Well, yesterday the day I’ve been waiting for came! The two of them sat down on one end of my couch together and napped. It wasn’t quite the cuddle-fest that Torpedo and Butterfly would have, but it was bonding. And to top it all off, Torpedo gave Justine a few good grooming licks. And that’s super important for cat behavior. Grooming means acceptance, and when one cat grooms another it’s a big deal.

I certainly think it’s a big deal. I know that Torpedo needs to feel bonded with another cat. And it makes me feel so much easier about all the travel I’ll be doing this coming year. I can go away knowing that they have each other.

Status Update – Victoria: Episode 5

Feb 15, 2017

Man, I really do like this show! It’s been so much fun watching the way Jenna Coleman plays Victoria so, so well (although I still like the actor who played Albert in The Young Victoria much more than this guy). And once again, they got the major historical details of Albert having a really hard time adjusting and finding a place down pretty good.

I wonder, though, if 21st century audiences really appreciate how bad it really was for Albert. We have certain expectations about the equality between the sexes these days, but even with my History Apologist ways, I have to admit that the role of women compared to men was at a historical low in the 1840s. If he had married any other woman in the entire world, Albert would have expected to be a firm head of household. He would have exercised a certain amount of control and influence over his wife and children. His opinions would have been sacrosanct, and there would be no question that he would be taken very seriously. And Albert was a very serious man.

But Albert was in the unique to the 19th century of being number two in his marriage. As much as Victoria wanted it to be otherwise (and really did work for things like Albert’s right to take her into dinner, and having parliament give him the title of Prince Consort, which they didn’t until the 1850s). We know from letters and diaries that the stress that his unique and, for the time, humiliating position was acute. He really suffered for the first few years, until he figured out how to make a name and a place for himself. Which he did by taking up various charitable causes. I’m sure they’ll get into it later, but Albert gained a reputation for hard work and competence as an organizer and supporter of causes.

But the one thing that I call shenanigans on for this episode in the whole thing with Victoria trying not to have a baby right away. That’s sort of a modern spin on things, in my opinion. Victoria wasn’t thrilled about the prospect of pregnancy and children, but she knew it was inevitable. However, according to everything I’ve read, it seems like she didn’t really know how much she was going to hate it until she was already very pregnant with her first, Vicky. So I would believe the scene between her and Albert when he catches her jumping up and down after sexy times if she’d already had Vicky and knew what she was trying to prevent. Before that? I don’t think she knew.

Victoria & Albert were really *cough* active, though. And we know this because Victoria was the queen of TMI and pretty much told everyone what they were up to all the time. Also, one thing the show isn’t good at showing is that Victoria was really almost never alone. The scene where Lehzen walks in on the two of them in the morning and Victoria tells Albert that she sleeps in the room next door? True. Very true. Only there was a big hole in the wall (I imagine it being like a window, based on what I read) so that Victoria had very little privacy ever. I always did wonder how that worked, seeing as how much V&A “enjoyed” each other.

Anyhow, if I’m remembering correctly, Victoria was pregnant within two months of her wedding, so I’m interested to see how the show handles that.

This is one of my favorite paintings of Victoria & Albert because of how telling it is about Victoria’s attitude toward motherhood. V&A are obviously lovestruck, with eyes only for each other (and the painting is often cropped to show just this part). But way, way over on the other side of the canvas, playing with dead animals? That’s Vicky, their firstborn! And that says it all.

Status Update – Lady Jane’s Salon

Feb 13, 2017

Hmm… My hair was a little out of control…

Yesterday, hard on the heels of kicking that stupid cold I had last week (and strangely, I feel 95% better today, all of a sudden) I had my first book reading at The Cat’s Meow in Manheim, PA for the Lady Jane’s Salon group! It was a blast. Here’s a brief rundown of what it’s like to do a public reading…

First off, I was really nervous about coughing through the whole thing and how my voice would hold out. Because, let’s face it, when I get around other authors and book-lovers, I like to talk. A lot! And in the best of times it wears on my throat to the point of causing me to lose my voice. So I headed out with cold medicine and powerful lozenges in my purse, and I stopped for a warm beverage on the way there. That warm beverage actually did a ton of good!

Lady Jane’s is co-hosted by my friend and fellow writer, Holly Bush, had invited me to read, and I stopped by her house first. It was a trip down memory lane too, because Holly lives right near the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire grounds, and, I don’t know if you know this, but I spent two summers when I was super young running around the Ren Faire, pretending I was an Elizabethan peasant (’92 & ’93). So I know that area and that drive very well! Good times, good times. I should write about the Ren Faire someday.

I love having the chance to explain why I write the things I write!

Anyhow, Holly and I got started on the mega-talking right away, before we even made it down to The Cat’s Meow. Co-host Megan Hart was there already, and the talking continued. We had a great crowd of people, including one of my mom’s childhood friends, who lives in the area. I got to sign books and give stuff away, which I always love doing.

Okay, so then I had to get up and read. Ha! I don’t usually like listening to my own books, whether on the audiobooks that I have professionally done or reading them aloud myself. But I had the added “bonus” of trying hard not to cough the whole time I was reading. And the actor in me always thinks back on it later and wonders if I read too fast, if I read a passage that was interesting enough, or if anyone listening is going to care one tiny bit about the words coming out of my mouth. But I think everyone enjoyed it.

Mostly, I love going to events like this one because I just love hanging out with readers and other writers and talking about books. How often do we writers get the chance to emerge from our writing caves to socialize with people? Not often! So I encourage everyone who has a book group near them and every writer who has a chance to go to something like this to jump on it. A good time was had by all!