Giving my Resolutions a Little Wiggle Room

So the new year is almost upon us and I thought I would get in on the resolution-making that is happening out there. But instead of setting myself up for failure, I gave myself some wiggle room.

1. Exercise 1 hour every day. Does repeatedly walking from the desk to the fridge count? No? Okay, then scratch that. How about exercise more? Doable right? No rules about type, frequency or duration. Just more. Considering I was a sloth from August to December of last year, this should be easy.

2. Read a book a week. Now I know there are people out there who consume a book a day, but that’s just not me. A couple of years ago, I’d completely fallen out of the habit of reading. Sure I flipped through a couple of Better Homes and Gardens magazines here and there, but I never touched a full-length novel.  Now I’m back in the game and loving it. And I’m ready to do more. Maybe a book a week, we’ll see, but I just want to do better than last year.

3. Write a thousand words a day. Ha! Even when I spend a full day writing, this just isn’t my style. There are days I reach over a thousand and then days I only hit 500. And (gasp) there are days I don’t write at all. Sometimes I just have to step away, take a break, maybe have a few wacky life experiences to fuel my creativity. So, instead of forcing myself to write a certain number of words a day, my goal is to have my second novel finished (and by finished, I mean fully edited, revised and proofread) by the end of the year.

And for those of you who recall the challenge I placed before myself at the November, I have an update. My goal was to have the first draft of my current WIP revised and ready to be chewed apart by beta readers at the end of the month. This month. Well, I failed. And here is my excuse: the holidays. See, this is what I was doing instead:

Making chocolate. It was really easy. I found the recipe on Oh She Glows and just had to try it myself–only 4 ingredients, about 5 minutes for melting/combing, and then a little freezer time. They were super yummy.

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Homemade chocolate!

I saw this snowman on Pinterest and just had to do it. Here is the blog link.

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We made these wreath ornaments to hand out as gifts. They were really easy once you find the mini wreath forms. The tutorial is here.

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This is one my husband made. He’s so crafty 🙂

Lastly, I made this woodland scene advent calendar for my husband. Under each item was a treat or an activity to do together. The blog link for this is here.

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Check out the narwhal in the lake. They really live in the ocean, but I was taking creative liberties.

Now, I did get some work done on the novel and it’s going a little more quickly than I first imagined. So, my new goal is to have it ready mid-January.

4. Journal every day. I tried this last year, even giving the two-sentence journal a shot. I think my last entry was in the end of March. So, I saw this on Pinterest and decided to make one. Here is the link to the tutorial.

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It’s a calendar, with an index card for every day of the year. You pull out the card for the current day, write the year and then a sentence or two about what happened. My husband and I started the day after Christmas, sharing the responsibility for jotting down something witty and memorable. As the years go by, the cards will fill up and you get to reminisce while you journal. I this will be more doable since it is a shared duty and it’s on the coffee table staring at me every night, making me feel guilty.

So that’s it. I could resolve to eat better, but my husband would probably die from laughter. I just discovered you can wrap almost anything in moist bread and deep fry it–no batter required. The possibilities are endless…

UPDATE:

I know it sounds weird. I found a recipe for Indian Bread Rolls stuffed with potatoes on Veg Recipes of India and it was amazing. Then I started thinking of all the other mixtures that could be wrapped in bread and fried. Here are a couple of pics from the Veg Recipes of India website showing the bread rolls being made and what they look like after being fried.

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Image courtesy Veg Recipes of India.

bread-rolls

Image courtesy Veg Recipes of India.

 

Happy New Year everyone!!

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Libby’s Post: Meeting Camden Scott

Brian parked his BMW in front of the single story nursing home.

Nerdo Vamp opened his door first, letting the cool, damp air in. “I think it would be best if just Libby and I went in.”

Brian nodded and turned the car off.

nursing home

Image courtesy Sara Star NS via Flickr.

“She works at a nursing home?” I whispered, trying not to look too closely at the residents gathered in the dining hall. They were so gray and fragile and worn. Their skin, their hair, their clothes, everything about them looked tired.

“I do believe Ms. Scott has a fondness for the elderly, if I remember correctly.” Nerdo Vamp turned his attention to the bubble-gum chewing, twenty year old manning the front desk. “Come, let’s check in.”

“Name,” the girl said without taking her eyes from her phone.

Nerdo Vamp laced his fingers behind his back. “This is Libby and I’m–”

“No, not your name. Who are you here to see?” The girl set the phone down and smiled sweetly. But the smile was fake. I would know. I’ve used that smile to get more than a few free martinis.

“Ah, yes. We are friends of Camden Scott. We’d like to surprise her, for her birthday.” Nerdo Vamp adjusted his glasses and tried to smile sweetly. Also fake, but not nearly as good as the gum chewer’s.

calendar

Image courtesy Ebelien via Flickr.

The girl’s eyes became huge. She tore down the “Tranquility of Nature” calendar that was hanging on the bulletin board to her right. “I didn’t know it was Camden’s birthday. I’m in charge of birthdays. Shit. I mean damn. I mean phooey. Whatever old people say.”

Nerdo Vamp cleared his throat. “Not to worry, Miss. I know Camden is quite private about her birthday. She wouldn’t want a big affair in her honor, just cocktails with a couple of her dear friends.”

“Should I at least get a cake? Cookies? No, not cookies. No sweets. Camden doesn’t eat sweets, except that weird cake she brought in for Easter.” The girl pretended to gag. “It was awful. Oh, what was it? Something with an S.”

“I believe what you are referring to is Simnel cake, a type of fruit cake.”

The girl nodded and puckered her face. “It definitely had fruit. Blech. I’ll be sticking with Peeps and Cadbury Eggs next year.”

peeps

Image courtesy Kate Ter Haar via Flickr.

“Well there’s no accounting for taste.” Nerdo Vamp smiled again. “Now if you don’t mind directing us to where we might find Camden.”

“Yeah, sure. Her office is down the hall, that way, on the right. Her name’s on the door.” The girl picked her phone up and turned away.

We passed the dining hall and stopped when we saw her name: “Camden Scott, Volunteer Coordinator.” Nerdo Vamp gave the door two hard knocks.

“Come in,” a cheerful voice responded.

Nerdo Vamp pushed the door open, revealing a woman in a black suit I recognized straight from an Ann Taylor catalog. Her reddish-brown hair was in a loose bun, dark framed glasses highlighted her green eyes. I wondered if the glasses were just to make her look smart. I tried the fake glasses thing once, but ended up getting less free martinis.

The woman rose and held her hand out. “Hi Libby. I’m Camden and I’m so glad you’ve found me.” Her gaze shifted to Nerdo Vamp. She looked him up and down, with her eyebrows raised, before turning back to me. “We have a lot of work to do and not a lot of time. How long has it been since you last spoke to the man who turned you?”

I fidgeted with my ponytail. “Uh, never. I’ve never spoken to him. I just woke up one afternoon, with a killer headache and a crazy note.”

Camden rolled her eyes. “Figures. Colin can be such an ass sometimes.”

“Excuse me, Camden. What exactly is it that you want from Libby?” Nerdo Vamp asked.

She removed her purse from the bottom desk drawer and nodded toward the door. “The question isn’t what I want from Libby. It’s what can I do for Libby.” She closed the door behind us. “I understand you have a little problem with Erasmus.”

I nodded. “Little is one way to put it.”

Dragon’s Loyalty Award

dragons-loyalty-awardI am very excited to announce that I have been nominated for the Dragon’s Loyalty award by Sophie Sabina Creations. Thanks Sophie! I’m flattered you would think of me for such an awesome award 🙂

To accept, I must list 7 things about myself and then nominate other bloggers for the award.

First, my 7 things…

1. The first meals I learned to cook were fried eggs and boxed macaroni and cheese. I subsisted off these delicacies until after college, when I discovered the vegetable.

veggies

I still love my junk food, but somehow manage to eat a couple of these every now and then… usually when my husband cooks. (Image courtesy Jeremy Keith via Flickr.)

2. In elementary and middle school, I was obsessed with the Sweet Valley High books. There were about a bazillion of these books published and up until I read the full list books posted on Snark Valley’s blog, I thought I’d read a good chunk of them. Clicking my way down the list, was a short trip down memory lane that began with Double Love and ended with On the Edge. I was so in love with the series, I had the board game and forced my mother to play it with me.

Double love

Meet the Wakefield twins: Elizabeth and Jessica. They are both a perfect size 6, with perfect blond hair and perfectly blue eyes. And everything is usually perfect in Sweet Valley, or at least at the end of the book it is.

On the edge

I think Regina is sad because she has brown hair, unlike the perfect Wakefield twins.

SVH board game

When my mom and I played I’m pretty sure I made her be the “nerd” and I probably cheated. I don’t think it was her favorite game. But I do still wonder, did they all find their boyfriends in time for the big date???

3. I knew my husband was “the one” when he hula hooped on our first date.

Jen’s Criteria for “the one”

1. Likes to share food at restaurants

2. Likes to share food at home

3. Always likes to share his food

4. Lets the cat sit on his lap until his bladder is bursting, because he doesn’t want to disturb him. Aw… so cute.

5. Uses the fact that the cat is on his lap to make me his waitress: “I can’t reach my water glass. Where is my phone? Will you bring me an Oreo?” Uh… not as cute.

6. Doesn’t fart in front of me on the first date. Inevitably, this will happen. And it will happen more and more as the relationship continues.

7. Listens intently to every word I say on the first date. Inevitably, this stops happening. And it will happen less and less as the relationship continues.

8. Is willing to partake in activities he’s not very good at, such as hula hooping.

9. Is willing to partake in activities I’m not very good at, such as cleaning, doing laundry and making dinner.

4. I college, I took a snowball to the face and ended up on the cover of the college newspaper–my parents were so proud. If I were more organized (and less lazy), I would unearth one of the papers from my basement and post a pic. But let’s be honest. That’s not going to happen, so you’ll just have use your imagination. Here, I’ll give you a little help.

Jennifer Windram

Imagine me, only about 15 years younger and without a packet of Denny’s sugar.

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Dressed all warm, like this little cutie. (Image courtesy Bill Johnston via Flickr.)

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Being attacked by a guy much more vicious than this little guy. (Image courtesy Anthony Crider via Flickr.)

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With a snowball only slightly smaller than this one. (Image courtesy Russell Trow via Flickr.)

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And being hit right in the face, like this… (Image courtesy Robert Wiegmann via Flickr.)

5. Most people book a hotel based on price, location or amenities. I look for animals.

Logan Windram Savannah

Is there a resident cat or dog?

Jennifer Windram

How about a couple of goats to feed?

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One of my favorites was this place with its “wild” bunnies.

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Tons of bunnies roamed the property and ate bread from your hand.

Logan Windram

6. My husband and I decorated sugar cookies Sunday night. Monday I spent the day eating leftover frosting directly from the tub. I’m working under the notion that there is no use in letting it go to waste.

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Today, I stopped the charade and am eating the cookies–with extra frosting on top.

7. One Christmas I was either hungry, or curious, and took a bite from a fruit shaped ornament, like this one.

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I remember it being a little dry.

Now, for my nominees:

The Library Lady and Rosie Bear

It Goes On

Oldest Daughter and Red Headed Sister

Lindsay Cummings Writes

About the Rest

Trials of a Wanna-be-Published Writer

Odyssey of a Novice Writer

Warning: This Post May Cause Itchiness

Just think of all the icky things you might encounter while staying at a hotel: mystery stains on sheets, a stray hair clinging to a shower tile, boogers on the nightstand…

Lucky for me, I’ve encountered my fair share of icky things.

My previous job took me all over the state of Colorado and I had the pleasure of lodging in a wide variety of establishments. Some were your run of the mill mid-level chain hotels; others were small, outdated and sometimes a little scary.

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All the places I visited for my last job. My favorite was Dinosaur in the top left corner. The streets are named after dinosaurs, like Brontosaurus Blvd. and Tyrannosaurus Trail.

But my worst experience has to do with, of course, bugs.

It’s strange how it happened. It was like fate or something. I was talking about an upcoming trip with a coworker and I told her where I was going.

She gasped and her eyes widened. “Where are you staying?” she asked.

“Why?” I responded.

She explained that another group had just been in that area and the hotel where we usually stayed had, gulp, BED BUGS!

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A pair feeding on a willing host.
(Image courtesy Medill DC via Flickr)

We proceeded to Google everything we could about the awful creatures–what they looked like, how to find them, what to do if you find them.

My brain absorbed the information like a very frightened sponge.

Did you know they can live about a year without eating, depending on their environment?

They can survive temperatures below 14 F (-10C) for five days and it takes 7 minutes of temperatures above 115 F (46 C) to kill them. In fact, many exterminators use heat to rid homes of the pests. The house is brought to temperatures above 120 F for at least 4 hours to zap the critters.

Now, they do have natural predators, but who wants to unleash scores of cockroaches, ants and centipedes in their house!?

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Hello there. For just a few crumbs a day, I can help you with your bedbug problem.
(Image courtesy sirtrentalot via Flickr)

centipede babies

Don’t mind me. Just making centipede babies. You did say you had a bedbug problem, didn’t you?
(Image courtesy Wendy Eiby via Flickr)

Prior to the mid 20th century they were quite common. On History.com it’s noted that in 77 AD they were thought to heal snakebites, ear infections and other ailments. According to Bedbugs.org, about 1/3 of homes in America had them in the early 20th century, with nearly every residence in some areas infested.

And it looks like they’ve made a comeback. According to a Time Magazine article, the number of reported incidents in New York City alone rose from 500 in 2004 to 10,000 in 2009!

And lucky for us, humans are their favorite food.

A few days later I set out on my trip, booked at a hotel in a nearby town.

I lugged my giant suitcase and oversized wheeled bag up the stairs and pushed the door open. Right away I knew something was wrong–the headboard was off the wall and on the floor, propped against the wall.

That’s strange. The bugs are often found behind the headboard.

I took out my flashlight, just like all the websites said to do, and peeled back the blankets. My fingers pulled the thick cord around the edge of the mattress back. Nothing. Then, I lifted the tiny strip of fabric at the seam and looked for any signs of bugs.

mattress seam where bed bugs hide

One of their favorite hiding places.

It didn’t take long.

First, I found a shedding (they go through a molting process where they shed their exoskeleton).

Then there were spots of blood.

Then I saw it. It looked a little different than the ones I saw on the internet, more translucent (turns out he was a nymph–still a baby).

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Bedbug nymph feeding, also on a willing victim.
(Image courtesy liz.novack via flickr)

He remained still, hoping I wouldn’t notice him. I poked him with the edge of my keycard. He took a couple of steps. I gasped and went into full fight or flight mode. My adrenaline pumped, my heart raced. I nearly passed out. I’m not sure why my reaction was so severe, it’s not like he was going to leap through the air and latch onto my face. Right?

I backed out of the room, tripping over my bags and let the door slam shut. Down the stairs I went, my suitcase nearly tumbling down without me. A lady passed by, giving me an odd stare.

“I need to check out,” I said to the front desk clerk in a hushed voice.

“May I ask why,” the woman responded.

I looked to either side and then leaned forward. “You have bedbugs,” I whispered.

She stepped back and cleared her throat. “All right,” she said. That was it. No argument, no apology. No ‘I’m sorry we almost made a meal out of you. Here’s a coupon for a free breakfast’.

I got in my car and panicked. Where was I going to stay? The next closest hotel was the one the last team said had bed bugs, but that’s where I headed.

The man at the front desk greeted me cheerfully. Yeah, but I wasn’t going to be fooled. The lady at the last place was just as cheerful as she put me in a bedbug filled room.

“I have to ask you something before I book a room,” I said to the man.

“Yes.”

“Do you have bedbugs?” I whispered, trying to read his face.

He paused, startled by my question. Then he insisted that they did not.

I scoured the room, tearing the bed apart. I looked behind the pictures on the walls, around the baseboards, anywhere I thought one of those awful critters would lurk. There was nothing.

That night, I woke up almost every hour, flicking on the light, waiting for bugs to scatter, but there was nothing. The next morning I searched for bites, certain one had gotten me while I slept. Luckily, I was fine. A little itchy and paranoid, but fine.

When I returned to the office I reported the hotel to Consumer Protection. And yes, at least five rooms were infested. The inspection report was detailed, to say the least. Multiple nesting sites, sheddings, eggs around the baseboards.

The hotel knew about the problem and had been trying to get rid of the bugs. How nice of them to book me in a room known to be infested (that was why the headboard was off the wall).

Of course, I’m now the crazy person who checks every hotel room while my family watches with amusement. I used to check all clothes before I brought them into the house, but let’s face it, I was too lazy to keep that up.

Now I look back, at that fateful conversation with my coworker. Had she not said anything, I would have booked at the hotel where we usually stayed, the one without the bugs. But I also never would have had my up close and personal experience with the things, which has made me very diligent in searching hotel rooms. And it makes for a good story 🙂