February 26th – “A late-season cold snap hits a foul note. Make sure your strawberry crop pulls through the bad weather.”

How did my horoscope know that I had strawberries in my garden?! Very strange!

There has been heavy (flooding type) rain in my area along with cold fronts, so I have not ventured into my garden for a while. Everything is overgrown with weeds filling most of the yard. Some of the weeds have flowers which I think are very pretty.

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I checked the strawberry plants and aside from some weeding I need to do, they looked fine. I don’t know if they’ll last another season anyway. One gardener told me that it’s better to plant new ones every year even if strawberries are perennials. We’ll see if these bear any fruit this year.

What I didn’t expect was the romanesco crowns that “suddenly” popped up despite my neglect.

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Some of them were already bolting, but they still tasted good! I harvested a few crowns and had them for dinner. There’s nothing like just picked produce for a home cooked meal!

February 24th – “Don’t let your friends talk you into buying something you don’t need.”

My lunch time walking buddy declared that Fridays should be $3.00 banh mi and $5.00 flowers day.

I didn’t need either and she didn’t try to persuade me. I was stuck with leftover reject zucchini pasta for lunch today, so I didn’t get the banh mi.

I did pick up this bouquet.

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It wasn’t an impulse buy. She informed me about the flowers the day before so I had time to decide.

I like supporting small businesses and this one qualified. I don’t mean that metaphorically (like “mom and pop” stores or “hole in the walls” aka not so pretty places/non-chain businesses. Someone once brought me to a mom and pop store that was the size of a Walmart). It was literally a tiny store. The entire storefront was only 10 x 8 feet! I find it endearing and fascinating when people find ways to maximize use of limited spaces. It’s takes talent and imagination!

I’ve also never gotten flowers for myself before, so I thought I would give it a try. It would be nice to have something pretty at home while I spend most of the weekend inside.

February 23rd – “You will tend to scatter your efforts in all directions, and this could only bring you trouble.”

I didn’t want any trouble, so I followed my horoscope. There were several moments in the day when I was close to getting distracted by the possibilities of new fun projects. At one point, I wanted to make board games! I still have 2 projects which require a some of my attention and 1 project that requires more focus.

The big project is practicing creative writing. I know I just called it a project, but it’s really a routine. What makes it a routine is that I hope to make it a habit and eventually be able to get myself accustomed to writing a few hours each week, no matter what’s going on in life.

Routines are much harder than they appear. Some “studies” say that it only takes as little as doing something 17 times to make it a habit. What’s not explained is how much time can elapse in between times that you are taking action. It took me a few years to maintain a fitness routine (which I’ve been doing for 20 years now!). It required a lifestyle change and training myself to act in a different way until it became intuitive.

The way to test if you’ve created habit or not is to see how long it takes you to get back to the habit after an interruption. Interruptions include any extenuating circumstances like personal issues, vacations, starting/stopping a job, beginning/ending a relationship, etc. Things happen in life and it’s necessary to put those fires out. If a handsome/beautiful stranger asked you out on a date, are you really going to say “no” so you can spend your time at the gym or stay at home writing alone? Of course not! Well, you might, if you’re REALLY into your routine. That’s okay too! The point is, we don’t know what comes our way and have to be ready to be flexible when opportunities/situations arise.

If you can get back to your routine after a vacation, congratulations, you have a habit! If you aren’t able to get back to your habit right away, it’s likely that you didn’t create a habit. When you’re committed to a habit, you bounce back well and can easily adjust your routines to make room for anything.

That’s enough lecturing from me for now! Back to my habit.

I’m somewhere in between with building my habit. I had a few weeks off from adjusting from a 2 cat household to 1, getting ready for an interview, and planning an unexpected trip to Italy. I’ve mostly put out these fires, so it was time to write again.

I opened my chapters last night and was surprised to see how much work I had already done. I added 2 more paragraphs to one chapter before calling it a night. It’s not much, so the real test will be this weekend. I don’t have any big plans for the weekend and have lots of time to write. Wish me luck!

February 23rd – “Establish communications with someone who has the time to help you with a goal.”

Hmm…this one is tricky. There are a lot of people that I think can help me with my goals, but not very many who have the time.

Getting the right help is super important. It can be dangerous to get advice from random sources. People seem to have opinions about everything, even things they don’t know anything about! People might have good intentions, but if they’re not an expert in what you need help in or don’t know you well, there can be terrible consequences.

I am working on expanding my network and possibly finding a new mentor. In the meantime, I do have a handful of people whom I trust.

I decided to contact one of my retired friends today. I’ve been communicating with him on and off now for a few months and he’s been sending me his poetry. It’s been a real pleasure to read his poetry, especially because they were written in verse (an extra cool factor to me!). I haven’t been sending him much of my fiction writing because they are in bits and pieces right now.

It’s amazing how easy it is to lose touch when all it takes is a simple “hello.” Since you’ve sent me so many poems, here’s a haiku for you, River:

 

Hello to River

Your poems are so fun to read

Look forward to more

 

 

February 22nd – “Don’t be afraid to overcommit yourself to something you believe in.”

 

Commitment isn’t scary. It’s only scary when I overcommit myself to things that I don’t believe in. Haven’t you done that once, twice, or a hundred times before? Are you doing it now?

It’s interesting how often we commit ourselves to jobs, relationships, lifestyles, and ideas that we don’t believe in, all without fear. It’s too easy to do, and there are many reasons why we do it.

One of my theories is that when we fail at something we don’t believe in, we don’t really fail. I have often told myself, “I didn’t care about that anyway. It means nothing.” When we do this, we don’t take responsibility for our own misery or happiness. We also don’t give what we believe in a chance to succeed because the thought of failing is scary.

It’s so much harder to fail at something that we do believe in. When that happens the self-talk becomes, “This really REALLY sucks! I wanted to XYZ and I didn’t get it.” And if you want to get super negative, “There must be something wrong with me! I AM a total failure.”

We all know that’s not true because we are still here, so we must be doing something right. Failing does suck, but if we can learn from these experiences, we can bounce back.

Aren’t you tired of not doing what you believe in? I am!

Now that I’ve given myself this quasi-pep talk, I’m ready to overcommit to something I believe in. I’m still working on becoming a different type of writer, so I decided to add book reviews to my website. Click here for the first one! Stay tuned for more reviews!

February 21st – “Make something new. Imagine their surprise when they find a plate of Italian chocolate hazelnut biscotti.”

 

When your horoscope tells you to make biscotti, you do it! 

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Chocolate Biscotti

1 cup almond flour

¼ cup coconut flour

¼ cup cocoa powder

1 teaspoon baking powder

2 dashes of salt

½ cup of honey

½ cup of melted chocolate (I used unsweetened)

½ cup of nuts

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Mix all dry ingredients together except for nuts
  3. Fold in melted chocolate, honey, and nuts. Form into log
  4. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and let it cool for 30 minutes
  5. Slice log into about a dozen pieces.
  6. Bake at 300 degrees for 15 minutes.

The recipe is very rich and great for a day when I’m in the chocolate mood. I’ll try out some other recipes for the days when I just want a little chocolate.

Original recipe here

February 20th – “You need to keep moving forward.”

No kidding! I’ve been preoccupied with allergies, trip planning, and wrapping up loose ends so much so that I’ve let my reading and writing fall to the wayside. Noooo!

I need to keep moving forward, so I picked up a book to read. I had to return all my history books and more serious stuff because I renewed them too many times! That’s what I get for not reading them for the three months I had them.  A friend gifted me this book months ago and I’ve been saving it for a day like today. It’s short, takes very little effort to read, and doesn’t have too much plot for me to pay attention to.

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The Guest Cat comes from Japan and is about a writer in his mid-thirties who begins a relationship with a neighborhood cat. I think it’s part fiction part autobiography. I’m only a few chapters in and it’s an easy read.

What catches my attention is the author’s heavy use of descriptions in a nonlinear way. It’s something that I do and have been trying to change. I’m not sure that many readers will be able to follow my writing if I go back and forth to add layers of context and tell stories within stories. Every chapter I’ve written has been like that! When I tell a story, I leave out many details along the way and get back to them later. That’s what makes me a terrible storyteller in person. In writing, I can edit, rearrange, and add more details, but it doesn’t work so well if I have to do it live. I’ve confused a lot of people in my time!

But maybe I shouldn’t try to accommodate all types of readers. It would be a miracle if I could even get one person to read my work! It’s silly that I imagine that there will be a group of people.  The Guest Cat is a New York Times best seller so there were a lot of people who could follow nonlinear storytelling. Perhaps my storytelling style just needs a little tweaking, good editing, and some cats.

February 20th – “Spoil yourself: it’s all about being totally selfish and gluttonous today.”

 

The only diet I believe is in cooking my own meals. As long as I’m actively involved in the process, I don’t eat mindlessly. Many people believe that they don’t have time to cook and I think it’s just a myth. Maybe I’m not picky eater because most of my meals take 15 minutes or less to prepare. It takes me much longer to drive/walk to a restaurant, order, and wait for my food to arrive.

Tonight’s dinner only took 30 minutes to make and I didn’t have to go out into the rain. That’s a win-win for me!

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Arugula Salad

A bunch of arugula

Some shredded carrots, radish, and beets

A few slices of avocado

Fresh squeezed lemon juice

 

Directions: throw everything together

 

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Rack of Lamb

Salt and pepper to taste (for searing)

Some olive oil for the pan

Some mustard

2 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon thyme

1 tablespoon oregano

2 tablespoons of minced garlic

½ teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

 

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees
  2. Heat olive oil on pan and sear lamb on both sides (about 2 minutes per side).
  3. Take off pan and let it rest for a couple of minutes. Then slather on some mustard on both sides.
  4. Combine olive oil, herbs, garlic, salt, and pepper in bowl. Then slather the mixture on both sides of the lamb.
  5. Cover bones with foil.
  6. By this time the oven should be done preheating. Place the lamb into oven in middle rack and cook for about 15 – 17 minutes. While the lamb is cooking, I use this time to cook any other sides I want.
  7. Take lamb out of oven and let it rest for 5 minutes before serving.

 

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February 19th – “Seek out unusual sights, foods and even people.”

This weekend, I went to my first cat show where I found unusual sights and people.

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Last October, I went to my first dog show which was an entirely different experience. There were hairdryers, barking, and crowds of serious looking people wearing suits milling about. The cat show was laid back and I didn’t hear very meows. This event was much smaller than the dog show I went to, but I imagine that even if the cat show was as big as the dog show, it would still be relatively calm compared to a typical dog show.

I saw a lot of bobtail cats like these Japanese ones.

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There were also talkative Siamese

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fluffy Persians

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and more!

Ocicat

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British Shorthair

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Burmese

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Norwegian Forest

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Some sleepy cats

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The best in show was a medium-haired Japanese bobtail.

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February 16th – “Don’t try to control the chaos today. Let things unfold.”

 

Some days there’s no catching up.  I started the work day doing yesterday’s unfinished assignments. Just when I thought I had caught up, I received more work in my inbox. Oh well. That’s the way the work goes. If there wasn’t a lot of work, I’d be out of a job!

Most of the time, when I see chaos, I run away from it. I don’t like to watch chaos unfold. Real-life drama is all too familiar to me and makes me very comfortable, not curious. It’s like sitting through a horrible theatre show. I really don’t like staying when it’s bad. I want the performers to do well and for everyone to have a good time. When that doesn’t happen, I have empathy for the actors. The actors might know that the show sucks, but as they say, “the show must go on!” I do usually end up staying until the end for 2 reasons:

  1. I hold out hope that there could be something redeeming, some deus ex machina that will come save the dreadful production which rarely happens.
  2. More importantly, I stay out of respect for the actors on stage (who I likely came to the show to support). Playing to an empty house is worse than putting on a terrible show. Suffering together is much better than suffering alone!

The trick to avoiding chaos is to recognize it. It’s not always easy to spot, especially when chaos comes in the form of people we know well. It’s common to get into particular pattern of behavior around familiar faces. These family and friends know which buttons to push and how to get us wrapped up in the usual drama. It’s usually unintentional because we’ve gotten used to acting a certain way and playing specific roles. Trying to change that behavior is not impossible, but usually not easy.

It takes a certain amount of detachment for me to be around chaos. Lately, when people unload their issues on me, I’ve been taking that negative energy onto myself. I relate well to those destructive behaviors, so it affects me deeply. I haven’t had the capacity to emotionally protect myself from other people’s problems, so I’ve been using my best coping mechanism. Complete detachment and avoidance. That means limiting my interactions. If that’s not possible, I will change the subject or flat out say, “I don’t want to talk about this.” When I’m in survival mode, sometimes the best thing to do is detach. Some people might take offense, but hey, I come first!