Tag Archives: personal

I found my mojo! In a pot. (Warning: graphic images)

In a 5-gallon stockpot, to be precise. Yes, I’m cooking, and it’s as shocking to me as it is to Josh, who claims that in the last two weekends I’d spent more time in the kitchen than in the four years he’d known me. And to be honest, he is only slightly exaggerating.

It started as part of this overall pledge I made to myself, to be healthier and to not ever let myself get as run down as I was right before Christmas. It was both the mental health and the physical, its kind of difficult to separate them. To be honest, the stress is still there, even though the workload has slowed, I think my nerves are worn out raw – I cried again at work last week and even took a day off when I woke up crying in the morning. It mostly has to do with an unpopular decision I made and several people passively-aggressively letting me know just how unpopular I am at the moment. It will pass, but I have to survive the next couple of weeks somehow.

So back to the stockpot. When I was making that pledge, I have recognized that part of the whole mind-body calamity had to do with what I eat. Normally it’s pretty healthy, meat and veg, but it has been repetitive and I have started sneaking in snacks, even sugary chocolate. Every single afternoon, around 3pm I would nearly lose the will to live and prop myself with some hot chocolate, or birthday cake (always someone having a birthday!) or something else just to get to the finish line. As a result, my slowly creeping weight finally reached the number I saw only once before, about ten years ago, right before I had a major crisis and left the US for Australia. I knew that eating sugar was a bad idea, but when you feel like you’re in a crisis every day, survival comes first. But it had to change.

I’ve read about bone broths before and thought I’d introduce them as a snack, not a full-on broth diet like I’d heard of, but more as a supplement. The trouble is, every commercially available broth I’d tried tastes bad, anywhere from “bland” to “slightly bitter with a touch of puke” to full-on “is this made from poo?”

So I decided to make my own. How hard can it be?

It’s not that easy, actually. Turns out you need to know some basics, like “don’t let it boil, ever” and “buy a decent pot and strainer”. Oh, and which bones to get. I tried to boil beef bones and they do smell like roadkill, so I’ve concentrated on making good chicken stock. Yes, stock, because my ex-firefighter husband won’t let me leave the gas on overnight, so 4-5 hours of cooking is all I can do. True to my perfectionist ways, I have researched and experimented and basically had to “science the shit out of it”.

But it was worth it.

Not only have I made gallons of “liquid gold” that tastes delicious in any soup and even as a drink, but I have also lost two pounds in just over a week! Yes, almost a kilo of fat, and I have not changed anything other than eating as much of my own creations as I wanted. I still have a “breakfast sandwich” every morning, made by Josh with eggs, bacon, and love, but the rest of it has been soups of various kinds – tomato, pumpkin, potato, and leek. I have been full and did not even crave the chocolate fixes. It was a miracle of sorts, losing weight without actually trying. I do go to the gym almost every lunch, mind you, but that did not work before. I just had strong musculature wrapped in a fluffy layer of fat.

I decided to document this miracle in detail, should it continue. So here are the graphic images I have mentioned earlier:

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I am already less bloated in these photos, although I did not expect my whole stomach to stick out quite so much. On the positive side, I did not expect to see the faint outline of abs, woo-hoo!

I know what you’re thinking, what is this? The author-turn artist now starts a diet fad? I promise to keep revealing photos to a minimum, just wanted to share with you something that’s simple and has made a huge difference for me in the last week. If it keeps on working, I will update you further, for now, try making a stock/broth/whatever you wanna call it at home. The web is full of recipes and all of us can do with more nutrients and less garbage in our lives.

And guess what? All that time in the kitchen did not stop me from slowly progressing on those fiery dining room walls.

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I don’t know if it’s the nutrients or the active meditation of skimming a slowly simmering pot, but I feel good right now. Hope you do too.

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Spreadsheets are the writer’s best friends

Well, maybe they are just this writer’s. Somehow, no matter what problem or challenge I’m facing, my first thought always turns to Excel. (Hmm, “Excel”…subliminal messaging? Or truth in advertising?)

Maybe it’s that whole idea of breaking a major problem into its component parts and tackling them one at a time. Maybe it’s tapping into the brain’s reward system, as I did last year, when watching the trend line of “actual words written” motivated me to finish the first draft of Shizzle, Inc. Or, most likely, it’s the fact that without a spreadsheet, or at least a to-do list, I would completely forget what I’m supposed to do or what I’ve already done…

Wait…what was I talking about?

To illustrate, here’s one of my “writer’s little helpers”, the word count tracking spreadsheet:

Shizzle word count log

You can see that the “actual” line is a bit jagged, and occasionally dips below the target, but all is well that ends well – and in this case I got what I wanted exactly when I wanted it – the draft was finished on the day the spreadsheet predicted that it would be.

The latest one is helping me track my progress towards landing a literary agent. Oh, I forgot to mention in my last post that in addition to everything else going wrong, my agent and I parted ways in a sort of messy divorce. So I’m back to square one in terms of plans on how to publish Shizzle, Inc. A depressing thought that only a tracking spreadsheet can fix. So here it is:

Selling Shizzle

It’s really simple. Paradoxically for a die-hard optimist, I expect to be rejected by agents. A lot. Let’s say 99 times out of 100. A simple logic would then dictate that in order to get one agent to believe into a future success of my totally rad first attempt at writing a novel, I will have to submit it to at least 100 agents.

As the spreadsheet shows, so far I’m up to 34 actual submissions. As an easy visualisation tool, the light grey shaded cells show all the agents to whom I’ve sent a query, and the more depressing dark grey ones, with strikethrough font, show the ones that sent a rejection letter or ignored me long enough to indicate a “no cigar” outcome.

So far my spreadsheets got me what I wanted, when I wanted it – 85,000 words in less than three months, and an apartment in about the same time frame. I will be very, very surprised if after 100 submissions I will not hook a single fish…er, agent. I’m not worried, though – if that happens, Miss Fix-it will make a spreadsheet on how to self-publish her “widely rejected” and “ignored by the best” debut.

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First steps

I didn’t know how hard it would be to sit down in front of a blank page, to start writing, not knowing if anyone would ever read a single word…or worse, thinking that if someone actually did find and read my stories, they would say things like “Wow. What a load of crap!”

Of course, there are much harder and scarier things out there. Like parachuting (which is not worth the risk, I mean, really not worth it). And actually, I have written fiction before (if  first chapters of a half-dozen unfinished novels count).  But I have never published or even posted anything in the cyberspace, for everyone to see and comment. Those first chapters of unfinished bestsellers are my personal treasures and secrets, my own fool’s gold.

But, you have to start sometime, somewhere, and for me it is today. Because I want to finish a novel, and because I want for others to read it. Because I want to get better at writing. Because I hope that in a multi-billion world there will be a few (a million?) that would one day close my book (or put down a Kindle) and say “Wow. What else did she write?” Now, that’s a dream worth the risk.

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