May 7th – “Let all your casual conversations meander down tangential paths. You could make a breakthrough connection with someone who intrigues you.”

Tangential paths in casual conversations are one of my favorite things to do when meeting new people. I’ve learned from hours of talking to strangers that there is something interesting about everyone. Okay, I have to admit, during some of these hours, I was not sober! 

It’s been awhile, Nov 2016 to be exact, since I’ve put myself in a public situation and introduced myself to people I don’t know. The difference this time was that I didn’t dread the situation. I let go of any expectations and had fun hearing about what others like to do in their spare time and what colors they use to paint their world.

I may be wrong, but I feel like I’m one of those lucky people who makes breakthrough connections with many people. I’m probably no luckier than anyone else. It’s probably just a matter of statistics. The more people you talk to, the more likely you are to find someone whom you really connect with.

I knew it would be a great day because I liked the first person I met. Our conversation only lasted 5 minutes, but the energy was very positive.

In the middle of my day, I met a person whom I connected well in energy, personality, and interest. I didn’t have to explain myself very much. I like those people. We talked about politics and culture, my two favorite subjects. I don’t have her contact information, but I have a feeling that we’ll connect again in the future.

May 6th – “You’ll be right in the center of all the action today, so get ready for excitement.”

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I had been waiting for my strawberries all spring to ripen before picking. The first round was eaten by slugs and beetles. After I got rid of the slugs and beetles (by slaughtering them in a bucket of soap water), I thought my strawberries were safe. I was wrong.

The next week, there were seven almost ripened strawberries. I said to myself, “Tomorrow they will be ready!” That was the last I saw of them.

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In the morning, I brought my metal colander with me to the garden to collect the strawberries. There were none.

All the ripened strawberries I eyed the day before were gone. Whoever ate them had a good nose and could smell which ones were perfect for picking. The only thing the culprit left behind was a dug up plant, leaving all its roots helpless and exposed.

There was no reason for it to uproot the plant. It served no purpose. I think it was leaving me a message, telling me, “You better have more for me next time, OR ELSE!”

Since my thief was a very capable and competent opponent, I threw a net over the strawberries and held it down with a row of potted date and olive plants. I had the net from last year to deter the birds from getting my berries. There, I thought. Let’s see what you do now!

It struck again that night. There was only one ripe strawberry available and it took it. It knocked over one of the potted plants to get to it. I could tell it wasn’t satisfied with the offering, because I found another dug up plant.

There wouldn’t be many ripe strawberries for a while, so I thought I would be left alone for a while. I was wrong, again.

I had forgotten all about my mystery strawberry thief because it had been several weeks since the last strawberry incident. It was 3 a.m. when I heard the first knock at the cat door.

It was a gentle knock, not loud. When we had 3 cats in the house, I could tell which one was coming and going by the sound of the cat door. Mr. Ox was loud and clumsy, making a “BANG” when he went in and out.  The Bowie was hesitant, but quiet, and the door would rock back and forth a few times before she exited, making a “tick, tick…tick, tick” noise. Little Rooks was the swiftest. He had been using the cat door for years and came in with just one, “tick.” The Bowie and Mr. Ox passed away this last year, so it’s just Little Rooks now.

At first, I thought it was Little Rooks because the door didn’t make much noise. The motion was gentle, but whoever was there didn’t make it in on the first try. It knocked on the door quietly again and got in. I could hear its claws on the hardwood floor and saw a dark cat-like figure walking through my bedroom. I sensed something was off.

My partner was doing his very early morning meditation in the living room and Little Rooks had taken his spot on the bed next to me. I was too sleepy to get up right away, so I reached into the darkness to the other side of the bed to see if could feel a lump of feline fur. It was there.

Slightly surprised, I sat up to see if I was mistaken. Little Rooks looked at me with bright confused eyes, wondering why I woke him up and what the big deal was.

I jumped out of bed, almost giddy, because I thought it was either Reggie or T.S. Eliot, two neighborhood cats I was forever trying to invite into our house without incurring the wrath of Little Rooks.

I walked into the living room where our surprise guest was searching for the kitchen. I still couldn’t make out who it was, and called out a little too loudly to my partner, “There’s someone here,” causing our mystery creature to scurry wildly into the bathroom.

I turned on the hallway light to get a better look. It didn’t wait and darted back into the bedroom, then out the cat door as I pursued.

Our bedroom has a sliding glass door. From there, I could clearly see who was sneaking up on us at 3 a.m. in the morning. It stayed right outside the cat door for a few seconds, waiting to see what my next move was. I had never seen this animal before, but I knew it was our strawberry thief. It was surprised that it got caught, but had not given up its mission to forage for food in our kitchen just yet. I could tell by the look in its eyes.

I screamed excitedly to my partner in the other room, “It’s a RACCOON! It’s a RACCOON! He’s still here! He’s right outside!” Two seconds later, my partner appeared in the bedroom with a long stick and plans to bop the creature on the nose, but the raccoon was gone.

By the time I got back to sleep, the sun was already up. I gave in and started my day. I went outside to check on the strawberries, and to my surprise, they were still there. No uprooted plants. I don’t know what its next move will be, but I will be waiting.

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May 5th – “The gold and olive tones of your lines and furniture will be highlighted by a long panel picture of trees with golden leaves. A real green plant, as long as your water it, is a good fit too.”

I just acquired a piece of new furniture. It was the perfect time to move a few things around.

I took this pathiphyllum (Peace Lily) from my office to my bedroom. It brightened everything up. It’s amazing what a little plant can do!

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It goes well this painting of trees with golden leaves that I already had on my wall.

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Thanks for the easy one, horoscope!

May 4th – “Take heart! If you’ve been feeling unfocused or underwhelmed in the recent past, the stars send you something or someone compelling enough to perk up your interest.”

Mercury is finally out of retrograde! Hooray!

I hope that means I’ll get back to writing. I took a look ahead and May 10th is the best day of the year for me. The best day. Can you believe that? I wonder what magical things will happen on that day.

As much as I would like to rely on the stars to make my life great, if I’m not working on anything, there will be no magic at all! It’s like hoping to get a new job when you’re not sending out applications. Not happening!

Writing needed to be done and I didn’t do it last night. I had a long day at work and I haven’t been sleeping well or enough. Sleeping is my number 1 priority these days because I can’t be at my best if I’m not well rested. Writing is important too, but not nearly as important as sleep. It was only 9 p.m, and decided to call it an early night.

Just as I was about to sleep, I saw this article posted by a friend. It’s a list of things to give up to become successful. Here is a recap:

GIVE UP

  1. Unhealthy lifestyle
  2. Short-term mindset
  3. Playing Small
  4. Excuses
  5. Fixed mindset
  6. Believing in a magic bullet
  7. Need to control everything
  8. Saying yes to things that don’t support your goal
  9. Toxic people
  10. Need to be liked
  11. Dependency on social media/television

Once upon a time when I was trying to successful, I gave up all of these things. I can say from experience that it’s a good list.

I am not sure that I care about being successful anymore.  I’m in the middle of redefining what success means to meUntil then, there’s nothing to “go for.”  I still have, however, given up most of the items on the list.

The two things I am doing and might want to think about giving up is #11 dependency on television and #5 playing small. I am not surprised about the television. I observe and analyze popular culture. It’s what I do, so I’ve been trying to find a good medium to watch enough to know what’s going on, but not get completely sucked into it. I wish “The Soup” was still on!  What I did forget about is playing small. I’ve been hiding out from the world and wanting to be anonymous. That doesn’t help!

Well, the stars certainly work in mysterious ways. On Sunday, I agreed to attend a public event. I have to stay for a few hours and sell myself to strangers. If I am already there, there’s no reason not let myself shine. Some attention makes for a much more interesting day!

May 2nd – “Are you spreading yourself too thin? It’s time to take a cold, hard look at your resources, emotionally, financially and mentally.”

My tarot reader said that I need to take care of myself this month and she was right. April was not a good month for me and my health suffered as well. Mercury in retrograde really didn’t help! She said that I would feel fatigued in May, so I am heeding her advice.

I’m very tempted to agree to any fun shenanigans that come my way, but I know that if I don’t schedule my activities wisely, I’ll find myself drained. For now, I putting off making any future commitments until Thursday, when Mercury is no longer in retrograde. I’ve already have a June deadline coming up and May is the busiest month of the year at work. I don’t need more on my plate!

What I have been putting on my plate are a lot of vegetables for lunch. Yesterday had brussel sprouts and cauliflower. Today I had Chinese broccoli, regular broccoli, and carrots. It’s not very exciting, but it leaves room for more interesting food for the rest of the day.

When I got home, I had a slice of rhubarb pie with Greek yogurt.

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Rhubarb Pie

¾ cup maple sugar

3 cups chopped rhubarb stalks

1 1/2 cups chopped strawberries

2 tablespoon flour

2 tablespoon cornstarch

2 pie crusts

Directions

  1.  Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2.  Mix sugar, rhubarb, strawberries, flour and starch together.
  3.  Put into pie crust. Cover pie with second crust and seal edges. Cut holes to let steam  out. 
  4. Bake for at 425 degrees for 15 minutes, then at 350 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes.

Over rhubarb pie, I took a cold, hard look at my resources.

Financially and emotionally, I’m doing fine. Last month’s expenses and communication issues were abnormal, so I’m not worried about that.

The one thing I am lacking in is my mental capabilities. I’m not processing things as quickly as I used and need to work on improving my intellect. As much as I don’t want to admit it, I think I need to exercise my academic brain more. That means spending less time reading fluffy news articles that provide vague, inaccurate information about the world and reading more stuff written by experts in the field. 

April 28th – “Well, life’s messy, and at least a mess is interesting.”

Mercury in retrograde has been causing many things in my life to be messy. I don’t know if it’s true, but for now, I’m going to blame it for the poor luck I’ve been experiencing!

I broke 6 dishes, spent a lot of money, got bitten by ton of mosquitoes, failed on tried and true recipes, didn’t do much writing, and got jury duty. I’ve only received jury duty once before, so for me it’s very unlucky! My mind has been more scattered than usual, so overall, it hasn’t been a great month.

There is about a week left of Mercury in retrograde (May 3rd to be exact), so I’m going to give in to it. I’m not making any plans to do anything new. There’s no sense in fighting it. If things get messy, so be it. The only thing I can hope for is to get a good story. So far, there hasn’t been anything noteworthy to mention.

Oh, I forgot about this: I thought I was going to get mugged/assaulted last week. Nothing happened, but I was creeped out and it takes a lot to scare me. I grew up in the city and have walked some of the seediest streets in the bay area. Usually my fast walking speed and directness (I have no problem telling strangers, “I don’t want to talk to you”) deters people. This particular incident encouraged me to get the pepper spray because the guy was hanging out at my uncovered parking spot watching me, and trying to get in my way. I will be returning to that space regularly and don’t want to take my chances.

I should consider myself lucky. Recently, two of my friends had to deal with the police because of random people harassing them. Another one was riding the train and a stranger punched her in the face for no reason. It’s like all the freaks are coming out at the same time. Yes, I am very lucky.

Mercury in retrograde sucks.

What is good to do when Mercury is in retrograde is to take care of unfinished business and get rid of old stuff (both real and metaphoric). I’ve been chucking things into my donation pile. That’s the easy part. The hard part is finishing those chapters. At this point, I don’t mind working hard. It’s much safer to stay at home than to be out in the world!

April 25th – “You’ll want your life to be straightforward and unadorned today, refreshingly free of flamboyancy.”

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California rolls are a staple here in the bay area. It is sushi, but it’s not fancy at all. Next to the cucumber and carrot rolls, it is one of the plainest roll there are. I had leftover rice in the refrigerator, so I made some quick sushi for lunch.

California Roll

1 ½ cup of cooked sushi rice

A few teaspoons of rice vinegar

Half a package of imitation crab meat, shredded or diced

¼ of an avocado

¼ of cucumber cut into thin logs

2 seaweed sheets

Sesame seeds (optional)

Directions:

  1. In a bowl, add vinegar to rice and mix until combined. The rice should be sticky, not dry. If it’s not sticking together, add a little bit of water.
  2. Using half the rice, spread a thin layer of rice onto a seaweed sheet, leaving two opposite (short) edges clean. Add sesame seeds.
  3. Using a sharp knife, cut the seaweed sheet in the middle.
  4. Place the cut sheet onto a piece of plastic wrap with rice side facing down.
  5. Add crab, avocado, and cucumber to middle of sheet.
  6. Roll the sheet starting from the side with the most rice. Tuck in filling while you roll. Once rolled, gently run your fingers over the roll to help it stick together.
  7. Take out of plastic wrap. Cut into pieces with knife by carefully “sawing” the roll. Recipe makes 4 logs of sushi.

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April 23nd – “Music, art, bold patterns and accessories—adorn your life with whatever makes you feel most joyful.”

 

I started the day off with a big serving of waffles. I made regular ones for my partner and had oat flour ones for myself.

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It’s excellent topped with Greek yogurt, berries, and maple syrup. I actually like it better than whipped cream!

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I like to eat mine like a sandwich.

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Oatmeal Waffles

¾ cup oat flour

1/ teaspoon baking powder

1 egg

3/8 cup soymilk

½ teaspoon vanilla

¼ cup oil

1 tablespoon maple syrup

A few dashes of cinnamon

 

Toppings: Greek yogurt, berries, real maple syrup

 

Directions:

  1. Throw all the ingredients in a bowl and mix together.
  2. Let sit for 5 to 10 minutes.
  3. Cook in waffle iron.
  4. Top with Greek yogurt, berries, and maple syrup. This recipe makes about 1.5 waffle or 2 small ones. Perfect for 1 person. They’re softer than normal waffles, but has more flavor.

Here is the original recipe.

 

After breakfast, I did some reading. I finished The Haunting of the Hill House by Shirley Jackson

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and started on a collection of short stories by John Steinbeck.

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The two writers could not be more different. Jackson is obsessed with giant mansions and socially inept women who live in a world all their own (aka crazy women). Steinbeck is interested in the lives of ordinary folk (aka working class) who don’t live in big houses.

However, based on the two books I read, Jackson and Steinbeck do have some things in common. They are both great at creating vivid pictures of their characters and there is a strong element of violence that invades their stories.  In The Haunting of the Hill House, the story ends with the main character killing herself by purposefully driving her car into a tree. In 3 of the 4 short stories I’ve read by Steinbeck, one man falls to his death, a white quail is accidentally killed, and a scientist murders a cat and dissects its body.

After the cat story, I put the book down. Morbid or terrifying stories like these don’t bother me if they are written well. I enjoyed reading both writers, but I had enough time inside and wanted to get out into the sun!

In the afternoon, I went to the farmer’s market and bought more vegetable starts for the garden. I planted the starts and harvested rhubarb.

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They’re a bit thinner and longer this year, so I’ll need to split the plants up this fall to replant. When rhubarb plants have enough space to grow, their stalks grow thick. Tomorrow, I’ll use these rhubarb stalks to make mini pies! Stay tuned!

 

April 23rd- “The moon is sashaying through Pisces and your flamboyant fifth house, coaxing you to add more color to your world.“

My yard is wild and unkempt. In nearly every corner of the yard, you’ll find patches of weeds which help keep beetles, spiders, and other critters hidden from plain view. This doesn’t prevent colorful flowers from springing up.

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I clipped a few sprigs of color and brought them inside to enjoy for the rest of the day.

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April 22nd – “Treat yourself to some well-deserved decadence.”

 

Today’s the first day of eating normally again. I’ve been overeating for the past week and it must end! My body is rebelling and needs to recover.

I’ve been eating out a lot and not preparing my own meals. The most memorable meal so far was vegan sushi. It was sooooo good!

“The Candlestick” Roll: spicy bean curd, avocado, tapioca, cucumber, seaweed pearls, and fire. It was artistic, tasty, AND entertaining. Who doesn’t like sushi with a side of fire?!

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Coconut Green Tea Ice Cream: with fried banana, strawberries, and blueberry compote. The 3 of us shared one dessert. I won’t judge if you order one just for yourself!

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Last week, I also bought a box of buns. They were filled with egg custard, red bean, and bbq pork.

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My intention was to leave them in my freezer and take them out (one at a time) when I had a bun craving.  It turns out I have a bun craving every day! There are only 3 left.

It’s time I get back to making my own junk food.

I know it’s no longer pumpkin season, but I still have canned pumpkin in my pantry and I need more vegetables in my diet. I searched for some recipes and decided on this pumpkin cookie recipe that looks pretty healthy. It uses oatmeal instead of flour and has very little sugar. I substituted the processed sugar for maple sugar and used 100% (unsweetened) cocoa.

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This isn’t the most delicious (or sweet) recipe, but it did the job. The texture is cakey and it fills the void once occupied by the crispy creamy cloudlike buns.

Next time, I’ll replace the chocolate with apple juice sweetened cranberries or raisins. It’s perfect as a breakfast cookie!

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Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookie

Dry Ingredients

1 cup oat flour

Dash of salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

½ cup unsweetened chocolate

Wet Ingredients

½ cup of pureed pumpkin

1 egg

2 tablespoon honey

2 tablespoon maple sugar

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

 

Directions:

  1. Mix all dry ingredients together.
  2. In a separate bowl, mix all wet ingredients.
  3. FOLD (not mix) wet ingredients into dry mixture.
  4. Let dough sit in refrigeration for about ½ hour.
  5. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  6. Drop cookies into walnut sized rounds. Flatten.
  7. Bake for 8 minutes.