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2014-01-13 03:13 pm

Adventures in Tree Studies

This fall I decided to become interested in identifying trees. Living close to the Arboretum, I have the perfect place for independent study. It wasn't a great time of year to make that decision, since the leaves had already begun to fall. Still, even in late fall and early winter, I've learned to identify several new tree friends. Some are almost easier in winter because they have season-specific distinguishing features.

Before beginning my self-guided course in Trees of Urban Massachusetts, I could identify a shamefully low number of trees.

Oak, identified by leaf shape and acorns

Maple, by Canadian flag leaf shape and helicopter seeds (although I've since learned that a number of other trees have similar leaf shapes)

Japanese maple, by small size and pointy, pot-like red leaves

Birch, by white bark

Weeping willow, by weeping shape (although I've since learned that I called any weeping tree a willow)

"Evergreen", or Christmas trees, a general class of any vaguely triangle-shaped tree with yearlong green needles or scales, and some sort of cones

Certain fruit trees as long as they are actually bearing recognizable fruit, like apples, pears, or lemons. I identified most of the common, urban trees bearing deep red, berry-like fruit as crabapples, which I still think is usually correct.

That's basically it. Here are the new trees I've added in the last few months. I'm fairly confident in my identifications of these, since I've noticed the relevant features even outside the Arboretum and away from the helpful plaques.

Gingko, by leaf shape (can't believe I never noticed this very distinct shape before) and stinky fruit

Beech, by the nuts (there's a giant one right outside my house and for weeks in fall, the outside stairs are covered in pointy, burr-like nut shells)

Linden, mostly by leaf shape, and sort of a default since it's up there with oak and maple as most common tree in the city.

Sycamore, by camouflage-like bark and seed balls (I used to misidentify this as a maple because the leaves are similar)

Tuliptree, by pointy bracts in winter (I also used to identify this as a maple)

Sweetgum, by pointy, maple-meets-pot leaf shape (I also used to identify this as a maple)

Sassafras, by dinosaur footprint leaf shape

Magnolia, by pussy-willow-like fuzzies in winter

Dawn redwood, by the reddish bark color and red tassels

Hawthorn, by the long, creepy thorns; creepy, meandering shape; and creepy bright-red berries (although sometimes I misidentify other creepy trees as hawthorns)

Also, I can narrow down the evergreen identification to pine vs. fir/spruce/hemlock vs. cypress/sequoia, and can sometimes make more specific identifications. Norway spruce is the weepy one.

I'm ready for my first exam!
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2014-01-09 12:28 pm

A generalized theory of Movies Teen Me Would Have Loved

W and I watched Elvira: Mistress of the Dark on Netflix the other night after learning it was one of RuPaul's top five favorite movies. On Facebook I simply reviewed it: "Elvira, Mistress of the Dark: good movie or best movie?" but I'm going to talk about it a little more because it leads me to a generalized theory of Movies Teen Me Would Have Loved.

Fascinating! Tell me more! )
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2013-11-29 04:11 pm

Drive-by game rec: Gone Home

Y'all know of my love for the 90s. It's amazing how that era, and so many other things that are right up my alley, are found in the game Gone Home, a quirky little game I played in one sitting last night. You piece together the story entirely through, basically, snooping (no manual dexterity, nothing timed, not even really any puzzles). It's what I always expected/wanted the Nancy Drew games to be (although those games always had some ridiculously difficult timed puzzle at the end to spoil everything). Although I'm younger than the main character, who's 17 in 1995, there was a whole lot that reminded me of me when I was 13 in 1999--the smart-alecky humor of a gifted kid trying to entertain herself in the drudgery of school; the wide-eyed passion and intensity of a kid discovering music and cool friends for the first time; pirates. Somehow, without knowing me, the Fullbright Company made a game for me.
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2013-11-22 12:44 pm

Current Hulu Commercials That Don't Make Sense

I just watched this entire season so far of Parks & Rec on Hulu and I've seen the same set of five or six commercials over and over and over. I don't normally watch commercials, so I'm not desensitized to them anymore. Observe my perplexity.

Buick LaCrosse I'm almost impressed by the shameless unnecessariness of the features this car boasts, like Bose speakers and a heated steering wheel. No mention of a single relevant car feature.

Infants' Tylenol "We lowered her fever. You raised her spirits," a gentle wise-sounding female voice intones. After a bit more of this, she concludes, "For everything we do, we know you do so much more." While ostensibly admitting that PARENTS are more important to children than Tylenol, the whole function of the commercial is to put them on the same level. "Parents are more important than Tylenol" is the overt message of the commercial so you can't object to it, but it should not need to be said, and by saying it, they are implying that there is any comparison. Clever and gross.

Mobile banking of some kind A woman announces she needs to go deposit a check, so it's the uncle's turn to take care of the baby. The uncle stutters, panicked, as the mother deposits the baby in his arms. She steps away for two minutes, pushes some buttons on her phone, and returns to take the baby. The uncle, now gently smiling down at the child, says he's got it. This is cute enough, I guess, and the idea that mobile banking makes your life easier than it was in previous generations comes through, but the voiceover explanation that follows makes so little sense that it drives me crazy. It's something like, "Simplifying your life so you can create a bond that will last a lifetime."

The whole point is that the mobile banking shortens the time the baby has to be with the uncle! If the mom had had to go to the bank, the uncle would have had to baby-sit for real, not just hold the kid for ten seconds. I guess maybe the idea is that if the mother had actually had to leave, she would have had to find a real baby-sitter for the baby, since the uncle is clearly unprepared. "Capital One... Creating obligations on your phone that are not quite distracting enough to require a real babysitter but distracting enough that you shouldn't really be alone with your baby, so you can rely on semi-competent caretakers with abandon."

The one has nothing to do with the other, is what I'm saying. You can help your brother bond with your baby without mobile banking.

Planters nuts This one is just plain annoying. Claymation Mr. Peanut tells us, in a voice that reminds me a bit of Paul trying to be as smarmy and irritating as possible, "At Planters we know how to hold a great Holiday party... no matter who shows up." A nutcracker shows up and tries to bite the Planters nut. It's a little disturbing, although no more so than the whole idea of Mr. Peanut. I can't think of him without thinking of this tweet: Is there anything more capitalist than a peanut in a top hat and monocle selling you other peanuts to eat

Best Buy This series, one of which features Maya Rudolph, does that obnoxious but common Christmas thing of combining old-fashioned, epic style elements (like fairy-tale type language, fake reading from a giant leather book, and Carol of the Bells/Harry Potter soundtrack type music) with modern techie jargon to confuse people into thinking that words like "mobile carrier plan" are necessarily associated with Christmas. That tactic is familiar to be (though it still makes me feel itchy and greasy). Here's what bothers me specifically.

The commercial where the dad is trying to find phones for his twin daughters is told in rhyming couplets, mixing fakey "Twas the night before Christmas" language with embarrassingly out of touch slang like "mad quick" (but I guess this is a commercial meant to appeal to dads of teens, not teens themselves). At the end of the commercial, the dad concludes, "If I wrote these lines myself, they wouldn't be this... be this..." He trails off.

WHAT IS HAPPENING HERE? Are they implying that he did write the lines himself, and he's betraying himself by not being able to think of an ending (or not wanting to conclude with the logical ending, "bad"?) But why would he even start a sentence with "If I wrote these lines myself," then? And if he expects us to believe that he didn't write them, why does it matter if he says they're bad? I thought the whole point of distancing himself by claiming someone else wrote them was because he was aware they were bad. And if he didn't write them himself, why is he unable to complete the sentence? Is he too polite to insult the writers? I DON'T GET IT IT DOESN'T MAKE SENSE.

Aflac A PA is helping the Aflac duck run through his lines. The duck keeps saying Alfac in different gimmicky voices (Southern belle, various racist black voices, etc.) Each time, the PA praises the duck, then says a snide remark under his breath: "I LOVE IT! (I hate it.)" The duck finishes the commercial by banging his head against the mirror in self-loathing while the PA mutters, "I am so fired." This is an oddly heartbreaking picture of an actor duck in crisis. Why is the PA being such a yes-man? Obviously the duck is looking for some genuine direction here. He is keenly aware that his efforts are not panning out. He doesn't buy the PA's hype. He's blindly searching for some way to improve his craft and receiving no guidance. The PA is also aware that his current strategy is not getting him the results he wants--the duck isn't happy, he's not happy, he fears being fired. Everyone is miserable and nobody knows how to escape from the hell they've created for themselves in their hopeless pursuit of showbiz.

Wait, why is any of this supposed to make me want to buy car insurance?
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2013-10-21 01:02 pm

Fall on the homestead

My homemade laundry detergent got the true test yesterday. I brushed against some wet paint. The stain was bright red and felt dry to the touch on my cotton hoodie, and water did nothing. I took it off and decided to throw everything I had at it. I sprayed the stain it with vinegar and water solution and put the sweatshirt in the washing machine with my homemade detergent in the detergent dispenser and lemon juice in the bleach dispenser. I even used hot water even though I normally only use cold. It came out almost completely clean! There is just a faint pinkish tinge which you can only find if you are looking for it.

Either (1) my homemade detergent really works, or (2) you don't really need detergent to make your clothes clean at all. Either way, I'm happy that I'm not buying Tide anymore, and that my favorite hoodie is okay.

Yesterday we also made a jack-o-lantern out of our little CSA pumpkin. We separated out all the seeds, roasted, and ate them. And we food processed the gunk inside and used it for a pumpkin spice latte and pumpkin butter. We used every part of the pumpkin. No part of the pumpkin was wasted!

Fall has the best flavors. It's also apple season, and when we ran out of orchard apples, we bought a big bag of Macintoshes at Whole Foods. They're not normally my favorite apple, but right now -- at the peak of ripeness -- they are both beautiful and delicious.

The CSA is over. I'm sort of relieved. I love the idea, but in practice, we couldn't use all the vegetables and many things just rotted in our fridge, especially greens. My current plan is to take the money I would have spent on a CSA for next summer and add it to our grocery money, for farmer's markets and organic, local produce. The few times we made it out of the local farmer's markets this year, we felt too guilty to buy anything because we had veggies at home, but I'd rather have the veggies I like in reasonable quantities.

Maybe I will also be inspired to work harder to curate my own little veggie patch.
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2013-09-18 01:37 am

Camp Spartacus Comes Out Today!

My short story Camp Spartacus came out today, and here's the best part -- all proceeds go to OutServe, a charity supporting LGBT military members and their families! This is an amazingly appropriate charity for my stories, since both Camp Spartacus and my novel, Don't Ask, star a teen who's gay and who serves in Future Servicemembers of America, the school military club. Think something along the lines of junior ROTC or Air Cadets.

(Camp Spartacus is a sequel to Don't Ask, but you don't need to read one to enjoy the other. They're both self-contained. Camp Spartacus may spoil you about some basic things in Don't Ask, but it's no biggie.)

Camp Spartacus is also a team love story. Each of the seven members of the team is a unique individual, and together, they form more than the sum of their parts. My inspiration for creating the teammates came from imagining different reasons that a high schooler might choose to join Future Servicemembers--and, not only that, but to come to the optional summer camp for hard-core cadets.

Ruggiero may have joined FSA because he wanted to hide his gayness behind a macho mask, but somewhere along the way, he fell in love. He geeks out about procedural details, and he truly, honestly believes in the values of honor, courage, and service. (Mike Ruggiero's story begins in Don't Ask.)

Lewis is a natural leader and high achiever. He could probably do anything he sets his mind to. But he comes from a modest background, and doesn't have many role models illustrating effective paths to success--except a cousin who's in the military.

Bailey represents the wholesome, "real America" family values ideal. He's the kind of white, blond, crew-cutted, apple-cheeked boy that Uncle Sam always dreamed about.

Walker may be small, but with her loud mouth and quick temper, she has no trouble keeping up with the meatheads in her squad. She was happy to join a mostly-male club because she's always gotten along better with guys. If she meets someone, that's okay, too. Not within the squad, though. These guys are more like her brothers. And if you'll excuse her, she has to go yell at them for being idiots.

Dante dreams of someday living off the grid and being completely self-sufficient in a self-made cabin in the woods. He figures Future Servicemembers will test his stamina and teach him valuable wilderness survival skills.

Medina is a simple man. He loves video games, Mythbusters, and anything that makes a loud noise. He's not entirely prepared for the physical challenges of military camp, but man, is it fun to hold a gun.

Hudson's reasons for coming to camp are closest to "my mom made me." A military brat, Hudson comes from a long line of celebrated officers. Hudson isn't nearly as serious as his family. He's a bit jaded about military pomp, hard to impress, and quick to flout the rules. But in his heart of hearts, he's just as in love with team as everyone else. He wouldn't trade this summer for anything else.

My favorite part of writing Camp Spartacus was getting to know the teammates, and I hope you'll love them too!


Every year, the great authors at Torquere Press put their money where their mouth is, donating their time writing stories for our chosen charity. Those same authors donate any royalties earned on their stories to the chosen organization, with Torquere matching those donations 100%. In the past we've raised $5000.00 for Lambda Legal, over $3000.00 for the Matthew Shepard Foundation, and more than $10000.00 combined for organizations such as NOH8 and Doctors Without Borders.

For the 2013-2014 Charity event, which will premiere September 18th 2013, we've chosen OutServe-SLDN as our donation organization. OutServe is a non-profit that provides legal services and support to LGBT military individuals and families, working toward equal representation and benefits.

Our Bloghop Starts Here: Torquere Press


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2013-08-25 10:09 pm

Homemade Hand Soap

Recipe

I basically used this recipe, only I made a quarter recipe so that it would fit in an empty soap pump which held about 1 cup of liquid.

* 1 cup distilled water
* 1 ounce bar soap (approx; I grated about 3/4 inch off a 3.5-inch, 5oz bar of Dr. Bronner's Baby Mild Castile Soap)
* 1/4 tsp liquid glycerin
* 1/4 tsp vitamin E oil (I'd like to use pure vitamin E, but I used a CVS product containing palm oil because we had it around the house. no scary chemicals detected in ingredients list)
* 2 drops Sweet Orange essential oil (I wanted to go light on this, but next time, I will use more - this is currently undetectable over the general scent of soap)

Grate the bar soap and add to water. Bring to a boil. Simmer until the soap is fully melted, about 5 minutes (more if you do a bigger recipe). Remove from heat. Add rest of ingredients. Allow to cool. At this point, you will have what amounts to liquid with a few soap bubbles in it. Bottle and let rest overnight. It will turn into a luxurious pearly gel.



Effectiveness

I haven't tested it on truly grimy hands, but it seems to work fine for everyday handwashing, and leaves hands feeling soft.

Frugality

Distilled water is $1 per gallon, or 6 cents per cup. (I used distilled water rather than tap because this recipe has no preservative - the usual suspects, vinegar, salt, or baking soda, would dry out the skin.) A bar of castile soap costs $4, or 80 cents per ounce. My $7 bottle of glycerin contains 14 ounces, which comes out to about 2 cents for a quarter teaspoon. We had the vitamin E just lying around and I don't remember how much it cost, so I won't count that (you could easily leave it out). The essential oils were about 5 cents for 2-3 drops; make it 10 cents because I plan to use twice that amount next time.

All that comes out to 98 cents for an 8-ounce bottle of hand soap. This is about half the cost of buying equivalently-sized bottles of CVS brand hand soap or Softsoap, and competitive with buying hand soap refills in bulk.
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2013-08-17 05:05 pm

Homemade general purpose cleaning alternatives

This weekend we did two more loads of laundry with our DIY detergent and experimented with frugal, green ways to clean the kitchen. These also work for the bathroom.

Recipes



Scouring Powder Sprinkle a little baking soda on a damp microfiber cloth. Scour kitchen and bathroom surfaces to get up stains.

All-Purpose Spray Fill a spray bottle with a 1:1 ratio of vinegar and water. Add a 1-2 drops of essential oil to neutralize the vinegar scent, add a nicer scent, and boost the antibacterial power. This also works on surfaces and mirrors (it's streak-free as long as you use a microfiber cloth, streak-free rag, or newspaper!)

For this experiment, I used tea tree oil. It's supposedly the most antibacterial/antifungal of the bunch, great in bathrooms. It has a fresh, vaguely medicinal scent. At the dilution we used, the scent was not strong, but it was very effective in reducing the fish-and-chips scent of the vinegar.

Tile/linoleum floor cleaner Pour half a gallon of warm water into a bucket. Add half a cup of vinegar and a few drops of baby oil, for polish.

For this experiment, I did not have baby oil on hand, so I used coconut oil. This was a bad idea, as now the kitchen smells like old coconut oil. I would not recommend adding essential oils to this since the vinegar hardly smells at all when it's that diluted and it's sort of a waste of expensive oils - you're going to dump the mixture down the drain once you've used it for mopping.

Effectiveness

Overall, I'm satisfied. Baking soda as scouring powder is pure magic. I got up all the food stains on the oven with just a few firm swipes of my powdered cloth. Microfiber clothes are worth buying - definitely easier than attempting the same thing with a tea towel. One caution, be sure to rinse up with water or vinegar spray so as not to leave a powdery residue. I am not sure if the vinegar solutions worked a lot better than plain water would have, but I have discovered one reason that the green diy solutions are better, for me, at least, than using cleaning products. I drag my feet about cleaning a lot less when the prospect doesn't involve drying out my skin, burning my nostrils, and making the house smell like toxic chemicals.

Frugality

I used Peapod to judge how much things cost at an ordinary grocery store.

Baking Soda is about $1 per 16 oz box. I'd say about an ounce (2 tablespoons) is enough to clean the whole kitchen and bathroom. So about 6.25 cents per cleaning session.

Vinegar is $3/gallon. Assuming you mix up half a gallon of floor cleaner and use about a cup of all-purpose spray per cleaning session (probably a way overestimate), that's one cup of vinegar per cleaning session, or 18.75 cents.

Baby oil is $5 for 20 ounces. You use only a few drops in a floor cleaner batch. There are apparently about 600 drops in an ounce. Let's say you use 10 drops each time. You're still only using 1/1200 of the bottle, or less than a cent.

Essential oils are expensive. I paid $10 for an ounce of tea tree oil. We'll say you use 3 drops per cleaning session (an overestimate - you only need 2-3 drops each time you *mix up* the vinegar solution, and it keeps indefinitely, so you can mix it up one session and use the rest the next). That means you use 1/200th of the bottle each time, or five cents.

Microfiber cloths, sponges, etc.: can be used again and again. It's hard to quantify how much wear and tear they get per cleaning session. I'll leave that out of my estimate for now.

Total cost per cleaning session (to clean all kitchen and bathroom surfaces and floors): about 30 cents.
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2013-08-10 08:17 pm

Homemade liquid laundry soap (borax-free)

I am re-entering a new obsession with gentle, nontoxic, green, frugal, diy cleaning products, and I've bookmarked a ton of recipes. My first adventure: homemade laundry soap.

Recipe


It was sort of hard to find one that didn't have borax. I find borax to be a skin irritant and the whole point of this was to create something that would be friendly with my extremely sensitive skin. I also wanted liquid because I don't know how to load powder into our washer. I got this from Livington Family Adventures and remeasured to scaleable ratios:

3 parts liquid castille soap (we used Dr. Bronner's Baby Mild)
3 parts baking soda
1 part coarse sea salt
10 parts hot water

Dissolve salt and baking soda in hot water. Stir. Add castille soap and stir.

Use 1/2 cup per load of laundry (in our machine, this filled perfectly up to the thing that says "MAX")

Homemade laundry soap

Effectiveness



See
The clothes look clean. Colors have not faded. There are no visible stains, though, note that I didn't test this on majorly stained things to being with (fyi, I've heard you should pre-treat stains with vinegar!)

Sniff
If I had to characterize the scent, it would be "nothing! nothing! in fact it smells like nothing at all!" (tm Dr Cox) Which is perfect. I don't like the fakey "fresh" smell of detergent. If you inhale deeply, you detect a faint, not unpleasant baking soda scent. The musty scent of some old attic rescue shirts was totally eradicated. Some traces of body odor were still detectable when inhaling underarms of cotton T-shirts that had been sweated in, but I'm not sure it's any worse than normal - I don't typically subject laundry to this level of scrutiny.

Savor
Clothes fresh out of the dryer felt soft and nice. I haven't worn them yet, but I don't anticipate any itch problems considering the ingredients.

Frugality


Start-up costs were sort of high because we had to buy liquid castille soap. We got 32 fl oz for $13.99. Since we only use 1 oz for every 24 oz of water, this is enough soap for 800 ounces (100 cups) of laundry detergent, or 200 loads of laundry. Doing about a load of a laundry a week, we're set for the next four years. Assuming the baking soda and salt also lasts that long, following this recipe has us spending under $5 a year on laundry detergent. Why wasn't I doing this in college??
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2013-07-17 04:34 pm

Don't Ask Giveaway

Sure, my book was technically released in print two months ago, but I didn't know you could do a giveaway on Goodreads until now! Enter to win a free copy.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Don't Ask by Laura Hughes

Don't Ask

by Laura Hughes

Giveaway ends August 01, 2013.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

Enter to win
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2013-05-08 12:00 pm

Bye Bye Sugar

I've had to think a lot about what I'm eating lately, and it's consumed a huge amount of my brain. I'll put all the blahblah beneath a cut so you only have to read it if you care.

Lessons from Quitting Sugar )
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2013-05-03 02:39 pm

April on the Homestead

I haven't updated in awhile but there have been improvements to garden, largely without any effort on my part!

Spinach coming up like weeds
The spinach seedlings popped up all willy-nilly! The LITHA (Leave It The Hell Alone) method is working.

Strawberry leaves
The strawberry plants are coming along.

Tomato in dirt bag
I replanted two of the tomato plants into dirt bags, but then I ran out of soil.

Lemon tree
W gave me a baby lemon tree as an anniversary present!

There have also been some interior improvements!

I had the bedroom light fixture replaced with a ceiling fan! (Not pictured. It's kind of boring.)

Headboard
We ordered a custom upholstered headboard from the amazing Custom Design Home Decor on Etsy! Such an improvement, especially since W's computer is perfectly situated for watching TV from bed.

More recent photos of spring around the homestead!
Porch view down

Flowering bush

Porch view

Flowering tree

My plans for May are to have a cold, do some plant maintenance, finish Couch To 5K, and keep on keepin' on.
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2013-04-17 10:08 am

Don’t Ask: The Glee Edit

This is a crosspost to the Torquere Author Social list.

Suppose Don’t Ask were set in the world of Glee where everyone is always
breaking into a thematically appropriate pop song in the middle of the
school hallway, and nobody seems to notice unless it’s convenient to the
plot. I’ve made a playlist of the songs I’d include. Feel free to
contribute! My notes are below. I tried to keep them brief enough to
tantalize rather than spoil, but read each chapter first if you’re a purist.
(Starred songs are not presently available on Spotify.)



* The Donnas - New Kid in School (2007) Chapter 1: I picture Cat and a
chorus of girls doing the singing as they lead Windy around the school, with
Mike sort of bouncing around smiling and giving Windy “what are you gonna
do? girls!” reaction shots.

Jill Sobule - I Kissed A Girl (1995) Chapter 2: Spoiler alert in the title
of this song! Cat, of course. I’ve always preferred Jill Sobule’s “Kissed a
Girl” to Katy Perry’s -- it’s just so much gayer.

Ludwig von Beethoven - Piano Sonata no. 14 (1802) Chapter 3: Mike on piano.
The first and third movements are mentioned, but I’m including the third in
the mix because it’s speedy and mixes better with pop music.

Christina Aguilera - Glam (2010) Chapter 4: Cat, playing fashion show.
You’ll notice a lot of these songs are from 2010, since the story is set
between September and December of 2010. It’s a historical novel!

David Bowie - Boys Keep Swinging (1979) Chapter 5: For the inevitable
military montage which will try its darnedest not to be campy, and fail.

The Smiths - Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want (1984) Chapter
6: Cat’s prayer. Okay, Cat is probably not into The Smiths, but I do;
they’re absolutely the best at melodramatic, melancholy teen emotional
turmoil.

Madonna - Ray of Light (1998) Chapter 6: Cat, with Rainbow Alliance for
Youth. (Get it? Get it??) Okay, basically any gay anthem would work here.

Green Day - Boulevard of Broken Dreams (2004) Chapter 7: Mike in the Color
War. You’d think it would blow his cover to be singing.

Robyn - Dancing On My Own (2010) Chapter 8: Cat at the party.

Johnny Cash - Ring of Fire (1963) Chapter 9: Windy plays this song on the
guitar, but I imagine it’s Mike who gets the vocal solo in a sequence that
Windy will neither acknowledge nor remember.

Lady Gaga - Bad Romance (2009) Chapter 9: Mike’s feverishly imagined
piratical interlude. I am challenging casting to come up with a singer who
can do both Johnny Cash and Lady Gaga.

Lily Allen – F*** You (Very Much) (2009) Chapter 10: Cat, out in school.

Bruno Mars - Grenade (2010) Chapter 10: Cat to Calliope at the coffee shop.
Substitute Bon Jovi’s “Shot Through the Heart” if you want to keep this mix
ALL UP.

Seether - Fake It (2007) Chapter 11: Mike, to himself, somehow unheard by
the Brotherhood.

The Association - Windy (1967) Chapter 12: Cat’s Thanksgiving thank-you to
Windy. If you hate this song as much as everyone else does, feel free to
substitute “Thank You For Being A Friend (Golden Girls Theme).”

* Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog - My Eyes (2008) Chapter 13: Cat is the
light; Mike is the darkness.

Queen - Don't Stop Me Now (1979) Chapter 13: Mike and the hot rod boys!

System of a Down - Chop Suey! (2001) Chapter 13: Fightin’ Mike, with Van as
back-up (“you wanted to!”). Or you could just say eff it and go with
“Rumble” from West Side Story.

Kelly Clarkson - My Life Would Suck Without You (2009) Chapter 14: Cat,
finding Mike standing at her door. (Guess that means he’s sorry.)

* Joan Jett and the Blackhearts - Machismo (1991) Chapter 15: Mike,
reflecting on manhood.

Green Day - 21 Guns (2009) Chapter 15: Mike, giving up the fight. I know
this is the second Green Day song, but, well, I love them. Blame my 90s
upbringing. Anyway, they’re not the only repeated artist in this mix; I’ll
have another Bowie in a second.

John Butler Trio - Zebra (2003) Chapter 15: Mike, embracing contradictions.
Windy could do some sweet rhythm guitar on this.

Katy Perry - Firework (2010) Chapter 16: Cat and Mike dance.

Pink - Raise Your Glass (2010) Chapter 16: Ensemble dance.

Florence + the Machine - Dog Days Are Over (2008) Chapter 16: Cat, Mike,
ensemble. The big news. I know this song is heavily associated with the Eat
Pray Love trailer, but doesn’t that make it a true Sound of 2010?

David Bowie - Heroes (1977) Mike. Epilogue.
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2013-04-17 09:53 am
Entry tags:

Don't Ask

I've got a book out today!

Cover of Dont Ask showing a girl with a rainbow flag and a boy in fatigues

Reasons you might like this book:

- You like gay and lesbian young adult coming-of-age and/or romance!

- You like action, military honor, training sequences, joyriding, fighting!

- You like makeovers, shopping, and The Big Dance!

At Prizm Books

At Torquere Press

I'm promised it will be on Amazon and Barnes & Noble within the next few days, and I absolutely do not blame you if you wait for those outlets for your Kindles and your Nooks and whatnot. Whispersync!

Here's some more stuff:

A brief excerpt!

My making-of post on the Prizm blog!
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2013-04-13 03:08 pm

Strawberry Urn

The cold weather is easing up. Today it is merely cool. For today's farm task, I planted bare-root strawberries in a multi-tiered strawberry urn.

Strawberry urn

I had some left over, so I also planted some in my bed, even though I have no idea where I planted pak choi seeds. We'll find out! If too many things come up, I can always make decisions later! (So not organized enough to be a farmer.) You'll also notice that I put up the trellis. Now all that's left is for the peas to sprout.

Trellis

In fitness news, my roommates and I did day 1 of couch to 5k on Thursday, and we hope to do day 2 at some point today. I've signed up for two (2) 5k runs this summer, so I am required to keep on schedule this time, and not just do day 1 four or five times and then forget about it, like last time.
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2013-04-09 10:04 pm

Greens: the plantening

Shortly after my last update, we went out and planted the outdoor veggie seeds in the little bed: a row of snow peas on the end (to be supported by trellis when it arrives), and a few rows each of spinach and bonsai pak choi, which hopefully will mature before the pea trellis blocks the sun.

cultivated bed

It doesn't look like much yet. But compare that to a weedy, rocky, uncultivated bed!

uncultivated bed

I'm excited about it!

gardener

While I'm posting picspam, just look at the meals W made for me today.

pancakes

For breakfast, gluten-free pancakes. Don't they look like an ad?

sushi

For dinner, sweet potato, avocado, and mango (triple O) sushi.

What a good housewife! Too bad the day job starts Tuesday.
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2013-04-09 05:36 pm

Three week plantlets

This past weekend, after coming back from a two-day trip to find my cilantro all wilted, I decided it was time to move the seedlings out of the jiffy pots. I repotted the tomatoes in 4" pots and made a little forest for the herbs. In the process, I gave some seedlings away and cruelly discarded weaklings.

Five tomato seedlings

Herb seedling forest

Aren't they getting such big, nice leaves? It's hard to believe I planted them only three weeks ago. You don't actually have to be that patient to grow things! These guys have now logged about 3 hours of outdoor sun time as it's been beautiful the last couple of days. We're getting some lower temperatures later in the week, but we're rapidly approaching the average last frost date, so it's time to kick the farm into high gear.
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2013-03-31 11:21 pm

Seedling time

The tomatoes are developing tiny adult leaves!

Tomato seedlings, day 15

I made a huge order of garden stuff. I'm planning on doing two planters of assorted herbs, one multi-level planter of strawberries, 4-6 tomato plants in individual containers, and spinach and peas in my little bed (with a little trellis). My roommates and I spent a ton of time raking and cleaning up the garden this weekend, now that warm weather is here. (And we finally tossed our Christmas poinsettia. It did good service!)

What else am I keeping you updated on? My trivia team kicked ass this week (thanks largely to a new addition and NO THANKS to my music studies, but the fruits of that endeavour will be more long-term). My piercings and bike injuries are healing nicely. I lost one pound on my new food regimen. I wish I hadn't started calorie counting between when I made a huge Peapod order full of processed bread products and when I got it. I can't throw away food! Too wasteful!!
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2013-03-27 12:34 pm

New Things for Spring

Okay, lots of things to tell you.

I. The Sprouts
Are doing well!

Seedlings in the window

Most of the pods sprouted, and the tomatoes were getting real tall and spindly, so I moved them to the window. I've been keeping them under my daylight-spectrum drawing lamp, which hopefully will work as a grow light. They seem to be doing well. I'm not sure when I'm supposed to transplant them to new homes. I'll give it some time, since I can't put them outside yet anyway.

II. New Pieces of Metal for Springtime

I got a bike!

my little red bike

Still working on not falling off, but having the equipment means I can practice.

I also got some new/old piercings: third lobe and helix on the right. (The left side is the same, 2 lobes.) I've gotten my helix redone like three times now. Third time's the charm!!



III. My New Games

1. The Fitness Game

I've never been one to count calories. I don't have a big problem with my weight and it changes so slowly that it doesn't seem to have anything really to do with what I eat or don't. (I know it does, but it doesn't FEEL that way.) Little did I know that I was MISSING OUT on a GREAT GAME!

I started using the My Fitness Pal app to track what I eat and any exercise I do. It was just out of curiosity, sort of to see where I am instead of to change anything, but it has influenced me to make different choices in order to meet my daily calorie goal. If I only have 50 calories left, I have a square of dark chocolate instead of a scoop of ice cream for dessert. When I go over, I'm like, "Okay, time to exercise." I still don't super care about weight, but I'm making better general fitness choices, doing things I agree I should do.

I have always tuned out when people started talking about calories, but I get it now. Without the numbers, I wasn't motivated to make these choices in the moment. Now, I not only KNOW INTELLECTUALLY that the most efficient way to improve my general diet is to replace my morning bagel and cream cheese with a lowfat yogurt and sugar-free granola; I FEEL it. With my HEART.

And maybe someday I will do it.

2. The Radio Game

My trivia team always gets crushed on the music round, where we're played a short clip of a song and must guess the title and artist. I decided it's time to get serious about practicing.

Most of the music is from the 80s through today, so I auto-shuffled Pandora's pre-made pop stations for the 80s, 90s, 2000s, and "today's hits." Each time a new song comes on (unless I'm absorbed in something else), I write down what I think the title and artist is. I get one point for each one I get right. (I don't get the title point if I only get the title because they repeated it in the chorus, which wouldn't be played at the bar.)

It's amazing how many of them are very familiar to me, I can totally sing along, and yet have no idea of the title or artist. This is actually what makes the game fun. If it was just a bunch of music I'd never heard before, it would be too hard. For someone less remedial than me, it would be too easy.

Here's a sample of the first "round" of 8 songs I played. How many of the songs do you think you would have been able to identify before the chorus played (or ever, if they never say the name of the song)? I got 3 points out of 16.

Don Henley - The Boys of Summer
Gin Blossoms - Hey Jealousy
Rihanna - Stay
Counting Crows - Mr. Jones
JoJo - Too Little, Too Late
Icona Pop - I Love It
Shakira - Hips Don't Lie
Cyndi Lauper - Girls Just Want to Have Fun
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2013-03-22 01:47 pm

Bigger and better sprouts

Admittedly, the sprouts were kind of hard to see and dubious and speck-on-the-lens-like yesterday, but how bout now??

Sprouts, legit

I'm amazed that this seems to be working.