Thursday, October 30, 2014

Here comes NaNoWriMo!

November is just a few days away. This means different things to different people.  For some, it means time to put away the Halloween decorations and load up on half-price candy.  For some, it means not shaving (I'm a big fan of No Shave November).  For others, it means cranking the Christmas tunes.

For me, it means lots and lots of writing.


For the fourth year in a row, I will be participating in National Novel Writing Month, better known as NaNoWriMo.

In 2011, I started a project that would eventually be published under the title Riffs of Regret.  This is still a story I love a lot.  Mostly, I love the characters and the way I was able to infuse my passion for music into the tale.

Riffs of Regrets is on the far right. The other two are earlier books I self-published.


In 2012, I opened a baseball romance I had abandoned after just 30 pages and eventually finished a book currently called Dropped Third Strike. This one is still in editing stages and might be for a while because I can't find time to work on it.

In 2013, I began penning a sequel to Riffs of Regret. It's at least three chapters away from being finished and it doesn't have a title, but it exists.  That's all I can really say about it.

Each year, I've been excited about my project and was practically chomping at the bit to start writing the minute midnight hit.

This year, for the first time, I have a lot of anxiety.

Why? Well, I've decided to try a new genre.  I will be attempting to write something that's either a mystery or a quest/adventure story.  I have a concept, but I can't decide which category it fits into yet.  And that makes me really nervous.

Contemporary romances are my comfort zone, but I think it's time to leave that zone.  It's only 30 days. And maybe I'll learn something about writing -- or myself as a writer -- in the process.

Have you ever tried to write a book?
What genres appeal the most to you as a reader?


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

I'm feeling random

Do you ever have one of those weeks where you can't really focus on any one thing?  Yeah, that's me this week.  It was me last week too.  I'm just struggling lately to keep my mind and attention on things.  That is not a good sign going into National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), which starts Saturday. (I'll talk more about this tomorrow.)  Hopefully this "SQUIRREL!" phase passes soon.

Kathy at Vodka and Soda killed the confessions link-up, but I'm in a mood to release things on my mind, so you're getting them anyway.  Without Ian's face.  Sorry.

These are my confessions ...

I hate it when I see people texting while driving.
Mostly because I've almost been hit once or twice by someone texting.
Seriously, nothing can be that important.
Wait until you get to your destination ... or at least a stoplight.

+++++

I want a cat tower/scratching thing for my girls, but I am not cool with spending $75-$150.
I'm starting to wonder if I can make it cheaper. Off to Pinterest, I go!
Yep, I'm a total cat lady.
+++++

I just started reading "The Husband's Secret," and it has not been an easy story to get into.
But I'm going to power through it this week.
A book has to be really bad for me to quit it.

+++++ 

I was so excited to get back to Zumba last night, but I failed.
Midway through the day, I realized I'd forgotten to pack a sports bra.
I like to shake it, but not like that. (And, yes, I totally think I look like this gif when I Zumba).

+++++

There was a Halloween party at my library the other night.
We're doing a trick-or-treat thing at my day job on Friday.
I love it. Kids in costumes are always fun.

+++++

I'd like to say I wouldn't have staked out the locations if I'd known about it ahead of time.
But that would be a lie.

+++++

On that subject -- it's a well-known fact that I'm terrible at flirting.
And I've added some recent attempts to the "fail" pile.
Seriously, I have no idea what I'm doing when I talk to a guy in whom I'm interested.



Monday, October 27, 2014

Music Monday: Dead Man's Bones - "In the Room Where You Sleep"

This is not the first time I've shared this video/song, but it's perfectly creepy for Halloween.  And it's Ryan Gosling.  Double win.





Saturday, October 25, 2014

Weekly round-up, Vol. 10

Apparently I don't know how to sit still.  I've been craving some downtime, yet I keep scheduling stuff for myself.  It's all fun stuff though.  Today, I'm headed to a coffee shop to get some writing done, then I'm going to a Zumba party before hanging out with a friend or two.  Downtime can wait, right?


Speaking of writing, my lovely and awesome friend, Rena, just signed with a literary agent this week.  She and I met through a mutual friend a year or so ago, and we've had a few write-ins together.  She spends so much time writing and has worked really hard for this.  I am so beyond excited for her!

Tiffany at Figuring Out the Plot is getting married today.  As she leaves the single life behind, she did a great three-part series on how married girls should and shouldn't talk to their single friends.  Check them out -- Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.

Nikki at The Pink Growl wrote a fabulous piece about how clutter in our lives keeps us from the good stuff.  I'm looking forward to reading the book she cited in her post.

Once again, I'm sharing a post from Nicole at A Life Less Bullshit.  You really should just follow her blog and save me the trouble.  This week, she wrote about why and when it's OK to let go of a dream or goal.  Ah-may-zing.

I feel like Ricci at Imperfectly Ricci and I were on the same wavelength on Tuesday.  I wrote about book series I started but hadn't finished, and she shared a list of underrated book series.  I'll be adding a few of them to my ever-growing to-read list.

The weather has been unseasonably warm lately, but it's bound to turn colder soon, which means it'll be perfect soup weather.  Paige at A Dose of Paige gathered up 55 soup recipesLooks like I'm set for this winter!

Kristin at Kristin's kNook enlightened and entertained with her post about how Pinterest has ruined her baking appetite.  I had been wondering why pins were showing up on my "following" page from people I didn't follow.  And I wholeheartedly agree with her complaints about the site.

Happy Saturday!


Friday, October 24, 2014

Thirteen point freaking one - DONE!

Well, I did it.

I might even go as far as saying I crushed it. 

Look -- I'm even smiling!!! I'm a finisher!
My final few days of half-marathon preparation were pretty easy.  Especially since I skipped my last training run.  I just really felt like rest was a better option on Friday.

Saturday morning, I got up early (so I would be able to go to bed early that night) and headed to the downtown farmers' market.  I walked up and down the stretch several times, getting in plenty of steps (and more than I thought I would).  Then, I went to pick up my race packet.  I also walked around the expo there and while I was intrigued by plenty of the running goodies, I decided to hold off on any spending.  The rest of the day, I tried to stay busy -- so I wouldn't think too much about the race in front of me -- but also relax a little.  College football provided a nice distraction.  My Cyclones put up a good fight against the Texas Longhorns, although they didn't come out of it with a win.  I also had a really good and healthy dinner, which was on the blog yesterday.

I wish I could say I slept well Saturday night, but I didn't.  I woke up every few hours ... between dreams about not waking up on time for the race.  Clearly, my brain was not as relaxed as I wanted it to be.  I finally got out of bed a little before 6 a.m.  I took a quick shower and had breakfast until my dad arrived.  Then we headed downtown to check out the starting area and use a real bathroom at the YMCA.  (I'm proud to say I didn't use a single porta potty the entire day.)  

While I waited in the chute to get going, I did what I always do in public situations when I'm alone --- struck up conversation with the person near me.  We talked about the route and our running histories.  The woman was running her first marathon although she'd heard good things about the half route in Des Moines.  Like me, she wasn't really concerned about her time but instead was just intent on finishing.

When we got going, I started out at a nice easy 12:20/mile pace.  It felt good, and I felt good so I went with it.

At mile two, our first entertainment arrived  -- a dude in demon gear holding a sign that said, "You're almost done," and a woman in an angel costume holding a sign that said, "He lies."  There was more to her sign, actually, but I can't remember it now. There were plenty of other funny signs along the way too.  They might have been my favorite part.  Honestly, the spectators really made a ton of difference.  It was nice to have people cheering almost the entire route.

A few miles in, a woman in pink next to me said, "You're holding a good pace, I think I'm going to stick with you."  So we ran together for a while, and somehow, while running with her, I was suddenly running at a 12:09/mile pace.  I passed my friend Jen during this time and we chatted briefly before I moved along.

Jen and me after the race.

About halfway in, I started meeting the faster half-marathoners.  I started looking for anyone I might know, which took my attention off my distance and pace for a few miles.  Around mile five, my left ankle started bothering me, but I did my best to ignore it.  Around mile seven, I got a side stitch and thought I was running out of steam, so the lady in pink pulled ahead of me a bit, and I was left by myself.  Not to worry, I always find someone to chat with.  I found several someones the remainder of the route.

I didn't see a familiar face until about mile 12.  That's when I spotted my friends Ashley and Wes.  I nearly started crying.  It meant so much to me that they were there.  I had to fight the emotion and just keep going.  Apparently I missed my friend and running club sponsor, Beth, about a half-mile later.  But I spotted my dad as I hit the last two blocks.  And then my friend, Jamie, was there at the finish line (apparently she had tried to get to Gray's Lake, which is around mile 10, but I was running faster than she anticipated).  It was awesome to have people there cheering specifically for me and supporting me.

Crossing that finish line felt amazing. Honestly, outside of my ankle issue and a side stitch around mile eight, I felt good during the whole run.  I realize now that I probably could have gone faster, but I don't mind.  I finished.  I challenged myself and achieved what I set out to do.

So, maybe you're wondering how I did.

 Well, here was my run-rating scale:
GOOD: Finish.  That's all.
GREAT:  2:45:00 - 3:00:00
AWESOME:  2:35:00 - 2:44:00

FINAL OFFICIAL TIME:
2:43:01

AWESOME!!!

That's amazing.  

Especially considering I still had plenty in the tank for the last half-mile stretch, during which I definitely kicked it up a gear. 

+++++

Last week's workouts
Friday: Off.
Saturday: Off
Sunday: 13.1 miles -- IMT Des Moines Half-Marathon!!!
Monday: Off
Tuesday: Off.
Wednesday: Off.
Thursday: Off.

Yeah, so I let myself off the hook a bit the last week.  I have no regrets. I think I needed it.  I am eager to get back to fitness activities next week.


Thursday, October 23, 2014

Recipe: Crockpot Spaghetti Squash and Meatballs

As I was preparing for my big race last weekend (which I'll tell you more about tomorrow), I knew I wanted to have some kind of pasta on Saturday.  But I wanted it to be special.  And easy.  So, naturally, I went to Pinterest.  Bingo.

I found this recipe and adapted it a little to suit my own needs.

Crockpot Spaghetti Squash and Meatballs

Ingredients:
- One spaghetti squash
- One 15 oz. can of tomato sauce
- Two tbsp of olive oil
- One pound of turkey
- Tastefully Simple Garlic Garlic (not pictured)
- Basil (not pictured)

Directions:
- Stir the tomato sauce, olive oil, Garlic Garlic, and basil in the crockpot.
- Cut the spaghetti squash in half and dig out the seeds. Then place cut side down in the crock pot. (Mine didn't both fit side-by-side, but they cooked just fine.)
- Form meatballs from the ground turkey (I added more garlic garlic and some quick oats). Place the meatballs around the spaghetti squash.
- Cook on low for four hours or high for six hours. (Trust me, you'll know when it's all done.)

Once it was cooked, I dug the spaghetti "noodles" out of the squash and spooned the sauce and meatballs on top.  It wasn't very pretty, so I didn't take a photo of the after.  What it lacked in aesthetic appeal, it made up for in flavor and aroma. It was perfect.  I even took leftovers to work the other day and my neighbor commented that it smelled really good.

Super easy.
Super delicious.
And pretty healthy too.
That's a win all the way around.


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Many pictures, few words

It's been a while since I did a good photo dump in these parts.  If you follow me on Instagram, you've probably seen most of these.  But in case you missed them, here are some of my favorite shots from the past month or so.

I finally got to do one of those painting and wine (or beer) things with my friends.  It was so fun. 
(I'm second from the left, by the way.)


Me and Danielle at a free Dazy Head Mazy and Red Wanting Blue show in Ames. 
Good times were had.


 This album has been on repeat since it arrived in my mailbox. 
It should be available to the masses soon. 


I finally got a Thursday night free (off from my second job, that is), 
so I went to my favorite brewery for a brew and a gourmet grilled cheese. 
It was a delicious way to spend Friday eve.


 I spent a gorgeous Saturday morning at the Downtown Farmers' Market.


I couldn't leave the market without buying some of my favorite cheese.


Monday, I took a day of PTO and spent some time writing and catching up on TV.
"Red Band Society" is a great show ... Dave Annable is nice eye candy. I've missed him!


Cleo also enjoyed my Monday off, although she's not sure about laying on leaves.

I, however, love the pretty leaves this season brings.



Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Book series I've started but never finished

Usually, when I get into a book series, I read the whole thing as fast as possible, eager to consume every bit of the ongoing story. This has been true of Twilight, The Hunger Games and every series by Melanie Shawn. Here are a few series for which this has not been true.

Harry Potter
[source]
I drug my feet in even reading this to begin with, but then the first two books provided the perfect audio companionship on all the driving I was doing in early 2012.  I love the world of Harry Potter now, and I have finished books 1 through 4 (and watched the corresponding movies).  There are only three books left, but I know they're a time commitment, and I've heard they get darker, so I think that's why I'm hesitant to pick them up again right now.

+++++

Divergent
[source]
YA dystopia fiction is very popular right now. And I breezed right through the first book in the series.  I was on a wait list at the library for the second one for a long time and when I finally got it, I didn't have time to read it.  I think that's when my appetite for the series waned.  I'll get to it eventually.

+++++

The Boleyn/Tudors saga by Philippa Gregory

I read "The Other Boleyn Girl" and was quickly drawn in.  I'm fascinated by the life of the Tudors and Henry VIII.  But for some reason, I haven't picked up any of the other books that followed this one.

+++++

I enjoyed each of these series, but they remain unfinished on my bookshelf.  For now.  I definitely plan to finish them someday.

What book series have you started but left hanging?
Are there some other series I need to add to my to-read list?


Monday, October 20, 2014

Music Monday: Tony Lucca - "Sweat it Out"

Tony Lucca has a new album out soon.  I think it might even be out tomorrow.  I don't know for sure because I already have my copy (perk of being a Kickstarter).  This is one of my favorite tunes from the new record, but the whole thing is amazing.  It's been on repeat in my car since the day it arrived.


Saturday, October 18, 2014

Weekly round-up, Vol. 9

I promise not to talk about that thing that's happening tomorrow.  I mean, I'm definitely thinking about it.  And possibly talking to people in real life about it.  But I won't bring it back to the blog until at least Tuesday.  Promise.



Jana at Life Could Be a Dream (she also did my blog design) shared two delicious-looking soup recipes this week.  Soup just sounds amazing as the weather gets colder. I'm definitely going to be trying that pumpkin, turkey, and white bean chili ASAP.

Once again, Nicole at A Life Less Bullshit has said exactly what I needed to hear with "Let's Call it a Comeback."  I feel like I've had a lot of setbacks in recent years, but that just means opportunities to make a big comeback, right?  Right.

Reading and running are two things I enjoy, so why not combine them?  Monica at Run, Eat, Repeat shared a list of some of her favorite reads about running.  I'm adding them to my GoodReads list immediately.

I'm still trying to figure out the best ways to cook quinoa, and I think I found a recipe to try.  Kristin at Iowa Girl Eats served up creamy, cheesy, chicken, and garlic quinoa bake earlier this week.  It looks amazing.

I hope you're having an amazing Saturday!


Friday, October 17, 2014

The Great Pumpkin Swap reveal



I love blog swaps.  I get goodies in the mail.  I get to shop for another blogger.  And, best yet, I get to know another blogger.  For the Great Pumpkin Swap, I had Becky, one of the co-hosts.  I enjoyed picking out things for her and hope she liked everything as much as I liked her package for me.


First of all, I was amused that it came in a Mary Kay box (consultant here).
Secondly, look at all that chocolate!  (I cannot confirm or deny if it's already gone.)
The apple cider candle has been burning every night I've been home since I got it. 
The tumbler she sent is adorable! If you can't tell, there's an owl in there.
My cats have already lost the little mice.
I plan to wear the socks next week -- who doesn't love Snoopy?!?

Love love love it all.
Thanks, Becky!


Two days away from 13.1

I'm not sure I've mentioned it enough around here (ha!), but I am running a half-marathon this weekend.  It's my first.  I will run 13.1 miles for the first time ever.  (Isn't it weird that the training program doesn't have me run the actual race distance until the day of?)

A year ago, I attended the Des Moines Marathon/Half-Marathon as a spectator.  It was fun clapping and cheering for all the runners.  There were athletes of all builds and sizes.  And looking at all of them, I began to think maybe -- just maybe -- I could do a half-marathon too.   The wheels started turning ... and here I am a year later, signed up to be on the road instead of alongside it. 

My emotions about this event have been all over the place the last few weeks.  Confidence, concern, excitement, dread, fear ... I've gone through them all.

Two weeks ago, I was feeling really prepared.  My 10-mile run went well.  I felt good after each of my training runs.  I looked forward to them.  Even with my busy schedule, I was excited for each run.

Last week, I was concerned I wouldn't be able to finish the race.  My legs were really sore last week and had that dead feeling.  I began to worry they simply wouldn't work on race day.  I talked to a runner in my office and he advised me to take it easy the last two weeks.  He looked at my training plan and told me to scrap it.  Instead of doing a bunch of five- and four-milers, he recommended I do some three-milers instead, but keep a longer run on Sunday.  That's exactly what I did, and when I hit the trail last Sunday for five miles, my legs didn't hate me as much as they did before.  Whew.

But it wasn't just my legs last week. I was also beginning to have that burned out feeling.  I wasn't as excited about my training runs as I was before.  I didn't hate running ... exactly.  But I was getting close.  How was I going to get through a few more weeks of this?  Sigh.

Admittedly, I'm still feeling a bit burned out.  Four training runs a week is a lot --- especially with everything else I have going on.  After Sunday's race, I will definitely be scaling back on the running.  Not quitting, but definitely easing up.

All that said, I am really looking forward to the race on Sunday.  I'm ready to cross "run a half-marathon" off my life list.

My main goal for the day will just to cross the finish line, but I'm following Holly's lead and setting a few benchmark goals as well ... just to amp it up a little.

GOOD: Finish.  That's all.
GREAT:  2:45:00 - 3:00:00
AWESOME:  2:35:00 - 2:44:00

Now accepting good race vibes.

+++++

Last week's workouts
Friday: Off.
Saturday: Off
Sunday: 5-mile trail run
Monday: Off
Tuesday: 3-mile trail run with running club
Wednesday: Off.
Thursday: 2-mile trail run.

Any final advice for Sunday? 



Thursday, October 16, 2014

Curly or straight?

Last week, I straightened my hair -- as I do a few times a year.


The number of compliments I got was overwhelming. Although it was not unwelcome.  Compliments are always nice.

People always ask me why I don't straighten my hair more often.  There are a few reasons ...

1)  It takes forever.  Once my hair is dry (which can take hours if I'm air drying), it takes me another 45 minutes with a straight iron to get it smoothed out.

2)  It's pointless in the summer.  The humidity would undo all of the above-mentioned work.

3)  I actually really like my curls.  Maybe other people think they're boring, but I like them.


Honestly, I'm glad I have such versatile hair -- I can wear it in either of the above-mentioned styles and it still looks good.  Options are always awesome.

Do you have something you like to change up once in awhile?


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Opening up is hard sometimes

I've thrown up some pretty heavy posts lately.  I guess it's safe to say I've been a bit contemplative lately.  There's a lot going through my head and I just couldn't keep it in anymore.  Especially yesterday's post.  Let me tell you, I went back and forth over whether or not to publish it.  I edited it and touched it up probably five times after saving it and closing it.  Being vulnerable like that is hard for me.  And someday I'll learn that the internet is not always a friendly place to be vulnerable. But this is my space, and I'll do what I want. I won't apologize for how I feel or for sharing how I feel.

Besides, I think Ian enjoys it when I share what's on my mind.

Vodka and Soda


The battle rounds on "The Voice" are possibly my favorite part of the show.
Even though I love the blind auditions to death, the battles are just a bit more intense.

+++++

Speaking of "The Voice," how intimidating would it be to sing in front of all those pros?
Not just the coaches (Blake, Adam, Gwen, and Pharrell), but now the helpers too.
For me, that'd be like showing my writing to one of my favorite authors.
Yikes.  I don't know if I could do it.

+++++

Twice already this week, I've had someone on the phone tell me how nice I am.
 I do pride myself on being a nice girl and always being polite.
So I appreciated that someone noticed!

+++++

I've pretty much been reading nothing but romance novels lately.
That doesn't mean I don't believe in love.  I've seen it happen to others, so I know it's real.

+++++

My schedule at my part-time job is changing a bit.
I'll start having Thursday nights free, which is super exciting for me.
Why?  That's when most of my TV shows are on -- "Grey's Anatomy," "Scandal," and "Parenthood."
Priorities, people.

+++++

I am super nervous about my half-marathon on Sunday.
How early do I need to get up? What should I eat the day before? The day of?
Will I see a lot of people I know?  Will I look dumb?  Will I trip on something on the course?
Sigh.  My mind is racing with all these questions ... and more.

+++++

I see so many people posting about watching scary movies.
I'm just like, "nope."
"Hocus Pocus" is the only Halloween movie I'll watch.

+++++

Although I also enjoy "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown."
Apparently it's on TV tonight.  And, of course, I'm working.
Sigh.

That's all I have for this week.




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