Snapshot: January 27, 2015

Photos of the week:

Dylan and CreeperDylan and Creeper 2

I don’t know what it is about cats and boxes, but Creeper loves them. The smaller the better. We’re not sure how he manages to squeeze into some of them, but he does.

Wearing: Black pants, blue and beige short sleeved top, black cardigan. Yes, breaking the all black rule today. (I need to get some laundry done.)

Feeling: Hopeful. Work gets easier deadline-wise after the first week of February.

Eating: Homemade soup.

Drinking: Strawberry-flavoured water kefir. Very nice!

Reading: I started Maggie Stiefvater’s The Dream Thieves last night. I had a little bit of trouble remembering what had gone on in book one, which makes me think maybe I should have reread The Raven Boys first. But then I got to the scene with Blue at home with her relatives, and a lot of it came flooding back to me.

I’m also in the middle of Antique Bakery by Fumi Yoshinaga. I’d forgotten how different manga can be, but luckily it was pretty easy getting used to the different facial expressions and ways of conveying emotions. It’s an interesting, foodie manga that makes me hungry every time I dip into it.

Listening: I’m not listening to an audiobook right now, although The 4-Hour Work Week is still waiting for me. I’m not sure if I’ll finish it soon or not, though. And I don’t have anything on my to-listen list that’s really calling to me at the moment. I guess I have to be in the mood for audio, and I haven’t been.

Writing: I began brainstorming the murder mystery series I was planning, but then I came across the first three chapters of a draft of a children’s fantasy I’d printed out a long time ago. I reread the chapters and now I’m all fired up to write more of the story. Except I never did plot it out, so I’m going to do that first. I also have a dark fantasy novel I need to get working on.

Working: I’ve been working on indexes, as usual. I just finished one on organizational behaviour. I’ve also been writing blog posts for my legal blogging client. I’m still undecided how much I like (hate?) writing personal injury blog posts …

Creating: Not much time for creating, so I’m counting my brainstorming/daydreaming time as creating.

Discoveries: I don’t have a clue what to blog about when I’m too busy with work. December was so easy. I’d wake up and I’d know what I wanted to write about here. January has been tough. So obviously too much work saps my creativity. Which is good to know. I never realized this before.

Looking forward to: Dylan and I are stopping by the library on our way to his dance class, where a couple more issues of both Saga and The Sandman are waiting for me!

The rest of today: Library, Dylan’s dance class (my Starbucks time!), dinner and then more work. In that order.

A simple, lovely arugula salad

A simple arugula salad

My sister made this for me last year after one of our dinners out together. We’d gone back to her place, and she had some fresh arugula she really wanted me to try. So she whipped together this really simple salad, and after I tasted it, I was hooked on both arugula and this lovely, easy salad dressing.

And now I don’t even buy bottled salad dressings. (Well, except Caesar dressing, because my oldest likes to use it as a dipping sauce when he has pizza).

Here’s all you need:

Really good quality extra virgin olive oil. You want to use something really good, because this is the kind of salad where you’re going to taste your olive oil, along with your arugula.

Lime juice. (Or lemon, if you prefer lemon.) We always have a bottle of organic lime juice in the fridge, so I use that, but if you have fresh, that’s even better.

Parmesan cheese (the kind you grate yourself). Again, the better the cheese, the better your dressing will taste, but even with a mediocre slab of Parmesan, it’s going to taste good. I know, because we usually just buy the big hunks of Parmesan from Costco.

Salt. I use sea salt because my husband is the cook around here and I don’t know where he hides the regular salt. But really, I’d probably use sea salt even if I knew where the regular salt was. We have this nice wooden grinder a friend made for us that’s perfect for grinding flakes of sea salt over the salad.

Arugula. Because this is an arugula salad. But I’ve even used this dressing with celery cut into pieces and it was delicious. So you can use any greens or vegetables you like. I like arugula’s peppery taste, plus the way its leaves hold up to dressing.

Here’s what you do with your ingredients:

Pour your extra virgin olive oil liberally over your arugula. Shake salt over the top. Sprinkle about a teaspoon of lime or lemon juice over the arugula, then grate as much Parmesan cheese as you like on top of it all.

Toss.

Eat.

Enjoy.

Arugula salad

I’ll be linking this post up at this Saturday’s Weekend Cooking feature at Beth Fish Reads. For more delicious links to foodie posts – books, recipes, movies, anything food-related goes – make sure to check out Weekend Cooking this Saturday.

[TSS] Bookish Bliss: The Benefits of Having a "Books Read" Goal

I had an unbelievable reading week, considering I’m still working on all the deadlines. I’ve discovered that setting a “books read” goal and then keeping track of that goal in a spreadsheet does wonders for any reading ennui I might be feeling.

Yes, apparently I am one who is easily motivated by the thought of adding another book to the spreadsheet.

And because of my “books read” goal, I’ve been finding bits of time in which to read – instead of doing what I used to do, which was wait until I had a nice big chunk of time. Instead, I’ve been dipping in and out of books, reading during breaks from work, reading in the ten or fifteen minutes before going to bed, reading when I’m waiting for Dylan to finish dance class – and astonishingly, all those bits of time have added up to my finishing four books this past week!

Mind you, two of them were graphic novels. I already loved graphic novels before setting my reading goal. I love them even more now.

I think my next book will be:

The Dream Thieves

From everything I’ve heard, The Dream Thieves is a great sequel, and I’m excited, too, that I also have Blue Lily, Lily Blue waiting for me too.

These are the books I read in the past week (and another surprise: none of them are in audio!):

daughter of smoke and bone

Daughter of Smoke & Bone: Such a marvellous read. I don’t know why it took me so long to get to it, but I’m glad I finally did.

days of blood & starlight

Days of Blood & Starlight. Luckily I had book two in the trilogy, so as soon as I finished Daughter of Smoke & Bone, I turned immediately to Days of Blood & Starlight. This one was so eventful, I had to stop about two-thirds of the way through to take a breather.

During this breather, I picked up: The unwritten volume 3 The Unwritten: Dead Man’s Knock, Volume 3 of The Unwritten series. Lovely to be back in the Tommy Taylor world. I finished this one and then went back to Days of Blood & Starlight, and when I read breathlessly to the ending, I decided to pick up the next volume of The Unwritten. Leviathan The Unwritten: Leviathan, Volume 4 of The Unwritten series.

Fingers crossed here that next week will be another great reading week for me!

Catching up on The Unwritten

The unwritten volume 3

Long day today, late post tonight. But some good reading news! When I took a break from reading Days of Blood and Starlight yesterday, I found myself picking up The Unwritten: Dead Man’s Knock, Volume 3 of The Unwritten series. It’s been a while since I read volumes 1 and 2, and I’ve been meaning to play catch-up on the series ever since.

I remembered again why I enjoyed this series so much. All those literary references! Reading Dead Man’s Knock, I particularly enjoyed the story “The Many Lives of Lizzie Hexam”, which is presented in Pick-a-Story format.

And the really great thing about graphic novels? They’re such quick reads! It was nice adding another book to my “books read” spreadsheet.

Leviathan

I started volume 4 of the series, Leviathan, today – in between coming back from Dylan’s dance classes and heading out again for a Chinese classical dance and music performance. So I didn’t have that much time. But I’m hoping I’ll be able to plunge back into it tonight and finish it before I go to bed.

So much for going to bed earlier so I can wake up earlier. The allure of books – it’s just too much. Especially on a weekend!

An Unexpected Reading Day

I had to get up earlier than normal for a doctor’s appointment, and when I got back, it was still morning. So I started working, and I finished up a deadline ahead of time!

What should I do with the extra time? More work?

Um, no. I’ve got lots of work time scheduled, through to next Friday.

So I picked up Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke & Bone and continued where I’d left off yesterday. And I finished it! Wow, what a story!

days of blood & starlight

And since I still had more time, I started Days of Blood & Starlight. I’m about halfway through the book right now and I actually had to put it down because there was just so much going on. Does this ever happen to you? With so much going on, I have to step away from the story and let it sink in a bit more. I get to a point where I feel if I don’t stop and keep reading instead, I’ll end up racing through things and something may get lost as I do so.

I’ll probably get back to it tonight – read a few more chapters before bed.

An unexpected reading day. Definitely something to treasure.

And I think I’m going to have to figure out how to be more of a morning person …

Reading: Daughter of Smoke & Bone, by Laini Taylor

daughter of smoke and bone

I’m finally reading Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke & Bone. It’s been on my to-read list for quite a while now, and as is often the case when I get to a book that I’ve been wanting to read for a while, I end up saying:

What took me so long?!

I really have Suey at It’s All About Books to thank for giving me the nudge I needed to finally read Daughter of Smoke & Bone. Back in December she told me she’d been to a presentation and writing workshop by Laini Taylor where Laini showed how she brainstorms ideas for her books by making lots and lots of lists (I just love this idea, by the way). When I said she’s been on my to-read list for a while now, Suey said, you really have to read her!

So I did.

I am just enthralled with this book. I’m reading it in ebook format, and my ereader tells me I’m on page 232-233 out of 356 pages, so I’m about two-thirds of the way through.

It is so good. From the beginning, the mystery surrounding Karou is so enticing, and I’ve been loving how we learn more as Karou learns more. The world-building is wonderful and the writing is really well done.

I’m glad to say I have Days of Blood & Starlight waiting for me on my ereader. I know what I’ll be reading next …

The War of Art: Combating Resistance, Turning Pro

This week on the War of Art readalong at Joy’s Book Blog we’re reading Book Two: Combating Resistance, Turning Pro.  The War of Art, by Stephen Pressfield, is subtitled “Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles” and it’s filled with short pieces on the artist and resistance.

It’s interesting, but I didn’t find Book Two as compelling as I did the first part of the book, on recognizing resistance. It may be that I’m in a different space this week – tired, on the edge of burnout, a little frustrated – but the different pieces in Book Two aren’t sinking in the way the words in Part One did.

The piece I enjoyed the most was “We’re all pros already”, where Pressfield points out we’re all pros at one thing already, our jobs. He then goes on to identify the qualities that define us as professionals in our work life and how, when we “turn pro”, we can apply these same principles to our artistic lives.

These principles make sense me to me; they are the principles I’m already applying to my work life. Things like showing up to do the job, no matter what, staying on the job the entire day, commitment to our jobs, the high stakes of our work, the fact of remuneration, not over-identifying with our jobs, these are definitely principles I can apply to my writing – well, other than the fact of remuneration. I’d love to apply that particular principle to my fiction writing, but I’m definitely not there yet.

And perhaps that’s the crux of it for me, right now. With all the paying work deadlines I have on the table, I’m just not in the right space for this part of the book. Keeping true to my commitment to my writing has been challenging the past week or so, and even though I’ve been doing it, I’m too tired to feel the success of staying committed.

One other piece really resonated with me:

No Mystery

There’s no mystery to turning pro. It’s a decision brought about by an act of will. We make up our mind to view ourselves as pros and we do it. Simple as that.

Reading these words made me remember it’s all a choice. And that maybe I should just trust in the remuneration part coming, and learn to say “no” more often when it comes to my work life. Simply choose to stay committed to this writing thing that has always been what I’ve wanted to do, all my life.

And along with finishing my reread of The War of Art for this readalong, I’m also looking forward to reading the rest of Pressfield’s books for writers: see what arrived in the mail for me yesterday from Joy!

Stephen Pressfield books

The publisher had heard about our readalong and sent along a whole set of the Stephen Pressfield books for both readalong participants and also as giveaways. Joy has already held one giveaway already – I just checked and see that my writer friend Janel Gradowski won that one! – and it looks like Joy will be holding another giveaway of a set of Pressfield’s books tomorrow, so do make sure to hop over to Joy’s Book Blog tomorrow and enter if you’d like a chance at winning a set of these books!

Snapshot: January 20, 2015

Time: 4:58 pm

Wearing: Black pants, black short-sleeved top, black cardigan (I detect a theme going on here).

Feeling: Tired. A little stressed. (This one’s a recurring theme …)

Eating: Maple pork breakfast sausages

Drinking: Green tea followed by two decaf hazelnut coffees

Reading: I finished two books yesterday!

First was The Land of Laughs by Jonathan Carroll. Since I’ve been busy, I’ve been trying to read a bit from it every day, so it’s taken me a while to finish it. I turned to the last page and said, “wow”, because I hadn’t expected that last paragraph. This is an older book – published in 1980 – and it’s kind of surreal and quirky. I enjoyed it, and will definitely read more of Carroll’s work.

The second book was Saga, Volume 1. When I finished The Land of Laughs, it was around midnight, and I decided to keep reading Saga until I finished it. It was so good! I can hardly wait until I get volume 2.

Listening: I’m still listening to The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss, but I’m at the part where he’s talking about different technology you can use to automate your life. This is the expanded edition, published in 2009, I think, and a lot of the programs he’s talking about are on the obsolete side. So I may just fast forward to the next chapter to see.

Writing: I’m mostly finished with the first draft of Lakeview Legacy – there are several scenes from a secondary storyline that I added that need to be written, but I need to sit down and brainstorm those scenes before I can write them. So three days ago I started making lists for the new mystery I’ll be writing next. The brainstorming’s been going well – I stretch myself by making myself list 100 points for each topic I’m considering. Today I’ll be working on motives.

It does feel odd not to be adding a word count to my word count tracker. I’ve been putting in a “B” instead, to indicate I’ve been brainstorming and planning.

Working: Still working through a slew of indexing deadlines, across a variety of subjects, plus I have two articles due tomorrow.

Creating: I’ve been working slowly but surely on a doodle quote. I figure if I add a little to it every day, I can still say I’m being #creativeeveryday, right?

Photo of the week: I was really too busy this past week to take too many photos. If I had to pick, I guess it would be this one of Creeper making himself very comfortable on Dylan’s laptop, while Dylan’s trying to play a game. He’s so comfortable, he’s napping!

Creeper on laptop

Discoveries: When I’m busy, it’s more of a struggle thinking up a blog post topic. Even the stash of ideas I started back in November, which I added to all through December, feel lacklustre to me. I never realized this connection between getting ideas and being overworked/overwhelmed before!

Looking forward to: February (I think that’s going to be the tune of all of this month’s snapshots). Also looking forward to the decaf Americano I’ll be getting from Starbucks later tonight, when I take Dylan to dance.

The rest of today: I’m taking Dylan to his dance class – I’ll do some writing at Starbucks while I’m waiting – and then back home for more work.

A Not Getting Things Done Day and a Quote for Book Bloggers

I had set aside today to work on Bloggiesta and also on all the administrative things that have been piling up. Things like invoicing, which is a pretty important thing when you work for yourself, so I don’t know why preparing invoices usually tops my list of Things To Procrastinate.

One thing led to another, and I found myself designing a new invoice template. I’m not sure what possessed me, but there you have it. I just kind of decided to do it. That took me just about forever, because I’m not exactly the most proficient with a spreadsheet. I’d managed to get about half of my invoices prepared when I got an email from a client which basically added more work to a deadline I’d just finished up.

I gave up after that. Took a nice, long hot bath and then lay on my bed for a good half hour, just resting. The day had turned into a Not Getting Things Done day and I thought I might as well not resist it.

I did, however, come across something earlier today that I really liked, so it wasn’t a total waste of a day. It was a post on Seth Godin’s blog called You are what you share. There was one quote from the post that I liked in particular, so much so that I quickly posted it to Tumblr. And then decided to make a picture quote out of it for today’s post.

Seth Godin quote

I think it’s an apt quote for book bloggers every where – after all, isn’t that what we’re saying every time we blog about a book we loved? “You really need to read this one!”

Now I’ll hit publish, and then pin the quote to my Pinterest board. It will make me feel halfway productive about today.

[TSS] Bookish Bliss: SAGA

Short post today, because I’m still catching up on deadlines.

(And you’re all saying, ha! Belle write a short post? Is such a thing even possible?

It is! The deadline crunch thing can transform my writing from rambling to clear, concise, non-rambling and short

Now, where was I? …)

Saga

I picked up Saga, Volume One from the library earlier this week, and am just kicking myself now because last year, I’d borrowed both volumes one and two of Saga – and ended up returning them unread to the library.

Sigh. I could be well into the series by now, you know.

Anyway, I’ve started reading volume one, and it is so good so far!

My treat for finishing the latest deadline? More time with Saga! It’s an incentive that’s making me more focused on my deadline. Hence this short(ish) post.