Monday, December 31, 2012

Mysterious Monday: New Year's Superstitions

Happy New Year to everyone! I dug up a few superstitions related to the turning of the old year into the new.

Make sure to kiss someone you love to ensure warm relationships throughout the year. If you don’t kiss someone you care about, they say that your relationships will be cold through 2013. Wonder what happens if you’re doing the horizontal tango at the stroke of midnight? So to speak.

Make lots of noise to drive away the evil spirits who lurk in the veil between the worlds. At certain points in the year, the end of it being one of those points, the veil between the worlds is thinner, allowing all sorts of ghosts and demons and beasties of a naughty sort to step through. They don’t like loud noises, though, so enjoy those fireworks if it’s legal in your neck of the woods.

If it’s possible, settle your debts before January 1st to bring good fortune in the new year. This is a tough one for many of us. I can only remember one solvent New Year as a married adult. Time to turn that one around. Be careful, though, not to pay anyone off on January 1st as you will not be able to keep money around for the next year.

The first one to enter your house on January 1st should be a dark-haired male if you wish good fortune in the coming year. And don’t let anything out of your house on the 1st without something coming in first—some people go so far as to toss something out the door on December 31st, attaching it with a string and pulling it in the next morning.

For some reason, eating Black Eyed Peas on New Year’s Day is good luck. That’s a stroke of luck I will never have, as I simply can’t stand the things. Honestly, I never even heard of them until I was grown.

Full wallets mean prosperity in the year ahead, as full cupboards mean full bellies in the year ahead. My cupboards are always full—a leftover from lean years when we ate only thanks to WIC basics, care packages from our parents, and the half-priced day-old bread. I have yet to keep full wallets, but perhaps I’ll try putting a bunch of singles in it and see if that brings me prosperity in 2013.

It is said that doing a token amount of work will make you successful in the new year, but you should never take on a project that you cannot start and finish on New Year’s Day.

My favorite one was probably made up by an overworked housewife—it is bad luck to wash clothes or dishes on New Year’s Day; it will “drain away” your fortunes with the dirty water. Whoever made that one up gets my New Year’s kiss!

My other favorites are to drain the dregs of the bottle and to dance around a tree in the open air—kind of go hand-in-hand, yes? I have faint memories of doing such things in the past, though not necessarily on New Year’s Eve/Day.

I hope you all have a safe and happy New Year's celebration and that 2013 finds you happy, healthy, and prosperous.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Wednesday Check In: Post Christmas


The only new words this week were my blog entries. However, I did edit just shy of 9K words in my NaNo project when I realized that certain aspects of the idea were not working for me and were holding me up from adding to the MS. Once the holidays are completely over, and everything is packed away for next year, I’ll be back on track. Until then, editing should keep me busy.


Speaking of off-track… The bad news is that the holiday food added back either 1.4 or 0 pounds, depending on which scale reading you believe. Oddly enough, I got up this morning and threw myself on the scale and it read 209.6; after an hour of trying (and failing) to wake up, I was feeling a bit off anyway, so I decided to go back to sleep. I woke up nearly two hours later and put myself on the scale again, just for shits and giggles--208.2, exactly the same as last week. So no loss, but no gain, either. 

The good news is that the eating part of the holiday is over. No more cookies, no more bread, no more Christmas lasagna (my personal Christmas tradition). The workout remains the same for now, with only increased time on the treadmill (an extra 10 minutes). It really IS easier having my hubby on board with this. He makes some mean lean meals. 


Well, it cooperated Christmas morning and was a bit chilly (don’t know HOW chilly, just that hubby had to turn on the heat). Now, it’s back to warm/hot, with no rain. Until today. This afternoon, we got a bit of rain, the sky remained overcast, the wind picked up, and the temperature dropped. Currently, it is in the low 60s, discounting the wind chill. I actually had to turn the heat on in my car when my younger boy and I were driving around earlier.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Mysterious Monday, on Tuesday: Myrrh

Well, as you can see, I am still not smart enough to write my blogs in advance. Yesterday, we were busy baking cookies, wrapping presents and buying last minute stocking stuffers and such. By the end of the day, I was far too exhausted to write about myrrh.

(Image from an article, photo by Alison Miksch/FoodPix/Getty Images)

As it turns out, myrrh is similar in many ways to frankincense. It, too, is harvested from a hardy scrub-like tree. It also forms a resin that can be burned as an incense or used in perfumes and cosmetics.

Myrrh can be taken internally to treat gastrointestinal problems such as gas and diarrhea. It is not only an anti-fungicide, but an anti-septic and an anti-viral, as well. It stimulates the circulatory system, increasing blood flow, so while it is good for treating uterine problems, those who have heart conditions or who are pregnant should be careful of this resin. Initial trials have shown that chewed myrrh can reduce blood glucose levels (but don’t take it with your diabetes meds, as your blood sugar may dip drastically low).

As a balm, it treats dry, cracked skin, and soothes sores, helping scars to fade. It causes the skin to contract, and so can be used to help the scalp keep a firm grip on hair follicles, or on the gums to help keep them firm around the teeth.

When burned, myrrh’s calming scent helps to center the mind and body, opening the spiritual pathways. Myrrh was used in embalming mummies and the dead were often treated with it before being wrapped in their winding cloths, probably as a way to cover the scent of a decaying body before interment.

So, the three gifts of the Magi were not just randomly chosen items. All three items would have been good for promoting good health and spirituality, as well as being very expensive. I’ll see you all in just a few hours to report on words, weight, and weather.

Oh, and HAPPY CHRISTMAS!!!!!!!!!!!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Photo Friday: The Christmas Outback

A couple weeks ago, I told you how hubby was so ticked off about our sudden rain. The main reason is this:

Isn't he cute? He decorated his car with garland, lights, and stockings. 

Hard to see the car since it's dark, but the lights can be set to "twinkle" or "steady". The battery packs are kept in the stockings.

Hubby, who usually winds up on my “naughty” list around this time of year for his very realistic portrayal of The Grinch, seems to have finally taken the end of that story to heart. So to speak. Where usually I have to beg, plead, cajole, nag and wind up having my lights put up a mere day or two before Christmas, this year, he got them the week after Thanksgiving week-end.

Unfortunately, the garland lights that the teen loved so much were too heavy for the hangars we had. They came down with the first big wind and just kept coming down. I’m going to ask hubby to put hooks into the concrete for next year; maybe that, with electrical ties, will keep the garland up. This year, I’ll tell the teen to decorate the hall outside his room with the lights or we can put them up in the front room (where there is no breeze and no rain).

Tonight, we finish decorating, except for the tree, which gets finished on Christmas Eve, per my family’s tradition, and one the teen loves—the 12 year-old would have it all decorated the day after Thanksgiving if given his head. I may be making popcorn, as that’s one of his favorite things to do is make a popcorn garland. Actually, he enjoys anything homemade or crafty. Don’t know where he got that gene.

I hope you all enjoy your last shopping week-end before Christmas and I’ll see you all Monday, when I’ll be chatting about Myrrh, the last gift of the Magi, fittingly, on Christmas Eve day.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Weekly check-in: the day after

Sorry--A day late and a dollar short this week. Had a busier day than usual yesterday (five hours at the younger boy's school, helping on a teacher appreciation luncheon) and then wound up with technical difficulties. 

I'm still WAY behind on Christmas prep--cards to get written and out, decorations to put up, cookies to make and bake. This Saturday, we go to my in-laws' house for "early Christmas" since they work Christmas day. I'm in direct sales and Sunday I receive my last delivery before Christmas (it will need to be sorted and delivered to customers, hopefully ON Sunday), which leaves only part of Sunday (hopefully) and Monday to finish everything. 

The day after Christmas, my teen is off to another Sea Cadet training class (luckily, this one is only an hour or so away, instead of a full day's drive) and right now we're busy trying to pick up all of his last-minute sea bag items, as well as helping a friend whose daughter is going for the first time to a training.

At any rate, here's the check-in:


Not a whole lot to say, other than “Blech!” I did transfer another fan fic over to AO3—thirty little drabbles worth, but that was it outside of the blogs (1,123 words) and one small story idea that I do not like in the light of day and was only 542 words anyway. That gives me an average of about 240 per day.

Once all this Christmas busy-ness is over, I plan to collapse for about a week before getting ready for taxes and then settling down with a proper writing schedule. My goal will still be 500 words per day, but I'd like that to be the "fiction only" goal, not including the blogs.


Here’s where I shine this week. Current weight:

That's down 3.4 pounds from last week. I’ve been keeping my calories as close to 1200 per day as possible and increased my exercise routine. 

Current exercises:
5 rolling back stretches (on my back, knees bent, roll to first one side, then the other)
5 opposing back stretches (on my back, lengthen one side of my body, then the other)
30 sit ups
3 reps of 10 each flutter kicks
5 push ups (regular)
30 push ups (easy)
5 push ups (regular)
5 switches between child pose and cobra
10 four count leg lifts (on my side—bend the top knee in, then out, then put the leg up, then down; repeat on the both legs)

Stand and do:
10 curls with 2 pound weights
10 side arm raises with the same weights
10 front arm exercises with the same weights (hold arms at shoulder height at sides, bring hands together, back to sides)
10 windmills
30 minutes on the treadmill, beginning at a speed of 2.6, going up to 3.6 at the most, cooling down with a speed of 2.6.

With 34 weeks to go to Chicon, if I can keep up this weight loss, I’ll have reached my goal easily and even gone below. I began this trek at nearly 218, with a goal of getting down to 160/165 by August. My August goal is now 160. I want to be down to 145 by the end of 2013, perhaps a bit lower, but not by much.


As usual, it’s too danged warm to be nearly Christmas in Florida. Yesterday morning, it was a lovely 52F; the afternoon was supposed to have been in the 80s again. Pfffttt! No precipitation of any sort, either. Boring, boring, boring weather. I can’t wait to move north, even though that’ll mean my kids have moved out.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Mysterious Monday--The Healing Powers of Frankincense

Last week, we learned about the power of gold. This week, as promised, I found out about the second gift of the Magi—Frankincense.

Frankincense is actually a type of resin that “bleeds” from certain hardy trees found in the arid areas of the Middle East. It is harvested by making cuts in the bark—the first bits to ooze out are not the highest value, but the second and third cuts bear a better quality resin.

For over five thousand years, Frankincense, known simply as “incense” has been traded in and around the countries of the Mediterranean. Banned for many years by the Christian churches for its connection to Jewish spirituality, it later became called Frankincense when Frankish Crusaders brought it back to Europe from the Middle East.

The resin burns due to the natural oils present, and was used as an incense in the ancient world, where bathing was not exactly a daily habit. Its piney, lemony smell would cover the scent of your neighbor’s body odor, as well as acting as an insecticide. Good stuff, that, ‘cause if you ain’t bathing, odds are good you’ve got some sort of insect taking up residence on your body without a lease or any sort of permission.

Another benefit comes from the smoke from the burning resin—it is said to be good for clearing out germs from the air, thereby bringing good health to a home in which it was burned every day. The scent is quite calming and is used today in meditation as a way to center the mind and body.

Taken internally, the ancients would use the resin to aid in digestion, as well as for treating tumors, ulcers, and dysentery. Pliny the Elder (who we have to respect—after all, he is an elder) even claims that the resin could be used as a cure for hemlock poisoning. Too bad Socrates didn’t have some stashed in his robes, although from what I hear, it wouldn’t have done him any good with the Athenian people out for his blood.

But if he had tried to escape and had suffered superficial wounds, he could have used the oil of his handy-dandy hemlock to treat those wounds. Also good for acne, and when added to a bath, for the treatment of cramps. The ashes of the burned stuff were used to make kohl to line the eyes of Egyptian royalty and it was also used to mummify them at their deaths (one would hope they were dead, anyway).

For the treatment of acne and cramps alone, I’m thinking of picking up a bottle. For the baby Jesus, there were lots of reason why this yellowish/clear resin would make a good gift. It just would not do for the son of a deity to have zits or smell bad or have a tummy-ache. 

Next week, assuming we all don’t meet our fiery ends on December 21st, I’ll talk about the properties of myrrh, which seems to be a close cousin to Frankincense. 

By the way, if you would like to buy some, too, I found it for sale on Amazon, which is where I got the pretty piccie. 

Friday, December 14, 2012

Photo Friday Cancelled this week due to grief

There will be no photo Friday today. I am too shocked, appalled, and saddened beyond grief. I ask instead that we all bow our heads or lift our eyes and pray to our deity of choice that the families and friends of the children and adults murdered by an obviously disturbed young man in Newtown, Connecticut this morning find some peace. Please keep these people in your thoughts and prayers this evening as you go about your business. Don't turn it into a political issue; make it an issue of caring and love, an issue of one human being offering a shoulder to cry on to another who needs it. And hold someone dear to you, for just a moment longer than you normally would. I will see you all again Monday.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Wednesday Check In


I did three writing sprints this week, one of which was interrupted by the teen and his date coming home to await her father, who was picking her up. I worked on a Christmas story for fan fiction, featuring Major Lorne of Stargate: Atlantis (Surprise! Not.) and my OFC (original female character). I am polishing it today and tomorrow for posting by the week-end. I also wrote Monday’s blog about some of the non-fiscal properties of gold.

Not including today’s blog, my word count for the week is 2671, which is an average of 381 per day. Not what I was aiming for, but not too bad considering this is my busy season with work (I work out of my home in direct sales and also train new sales representatives for the company). It’s also when I go, “Oh, crap! Taxes!” and run around getting all my papers together so I’m not freaking out on April 15.

This week, I plan on trying to get next week’s entries done ahead of time and then work on the NaNo fic. I would really like to finish it by the end of January and then start the editing process.

Let’s see how big this entry turns out to be and maybe I’ll include it, just for fun. All right, so including this entry, which is 847 words, my total word count for the week is 3518, which is an average of 502 per day. That’s more like it!


Current weight is 211.6. Yay, me! That’s down 1.6 pounds from last week. If I am able to keep up a rate of 1.4 pounds lost per week, I should be at my goal weight of 160 in time for Chicon (August 16-18). I am going to have to really step up my game and quit the yo-yo-ing.

Working out of my house makes it both harder and easier. It is harder because there’s all this yummy, naughty food at my finger-tips. If I feel like being lazy, I can pull up a couch and veg in front of the TV for a couple of hours. It is easier because I also have all this yummy, healthy food at my finger-tips. If I feel like getting in an extra work-out, I can change clothes, get my exercise, shower and be back on track in a couple hours.

Now, I have been watching what I eat, as well as when I eat heavier stuff. I’ve been drinking more water and eating less/no snacks at night. Hubby has jumped on the band wagon, deciding that he should also start eating a bit healthier. He cooked a nice meal last night of lightly breaded flounder and carrots, with salad and crescent rolls (my younger boy, J, made the crescent rolls). I had a nice snack of sugar-free jell-o and light whipped topping.

I made homemade chicken pot pie for the family on Sunday and just put the recipe into the calorie counting site that I’m using. I will not make pot pie again for many, many, many pounds. It was just shy of 500 calories PER SERVING! Mainly from the crust, but still…

This week, I added to my exercise routine. I now do five extra stretches, as well as five more sit ups (for a total of 25 and I’m flying right through them) and five extra flutter kicks (two sets of ten, with a ten-count rest between each, then one set of five). I am up to 25 “easy” push-ups from 20, and can do eight regular push-ups now, as well—not military reg, as I don’t go down far enough, but I keep my back straight and that’s the important part. I do the five push-ups, the 25 easy ones, then three more regular ones. I finish off with alternating between child and cobra pose five times, then do ten curls and ten side raises with two pound weights to try to sculpt my arms a bit. When I finish with that, it’s on the treadmill for 25 minutes of medium-paced walking while I watch Netflix to keep me from getting bored.


Well, last week-end, we had to cut on the air. Monday and yesterday, I cut it off when I got up in the morning and put it on again in the evening, so that it’s cool enough to sleep. Good thing, as we’ve been getting some rain on and off (you’ll see why this annoys hubby no end on Photo Friday this week). Last night, it stormed so hard, complete with thunder and lightning, that it woke me up around 3:00 and I didn’t get back to sleep until after 4:00.

I wound up having to go out and unplug the lights—I know they’re outdoor lights, but I didn’t want to take any chances with the weather being so wild. The forecast is calling for cooler temps (for Florida—it’ll be in the 70s, Fahrenheit) and thunder storms all day. Hubby will not be on his motorcycle. He will not be impressed.

See you all Friday!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Mysterious Monday: Gold

Sorry I'm running a bit late this week. Work was crazy and I'm not smart/organized enough to plan my blogs ahead. At any rate, this week, I wanted to (surprise!) explore some themes to do with the holiday season.

We’ve all heard about the miraculous conception and birth of the baby Jesus. How the three wise men each brought a gift—gold, frankincense, and myrrh. But why those three items in particular? Why not an ancient onesee or extra swaddling clothes or a rattle? In the next few Mysterious Mondays, I plan on finding out more about these gifts and why the wise men thought them to be proper gifts for a new baby.

We’ll start this week with everyone’s favorite—gold. Gold has been a symbol of purity and wealth for millennia. Men fight over it; women crave it. Not me so much, but I’m weird; personally, I prefer silver. There is no denying the powerful draw of gold, though. Countries use it to back up their currency; in times of economic upheaval, gold is the currency that remains steady or at least useful.

Why this popularity? Could it be that, like the popular girl in high school, people like gold just because it’s pretty? No, gold has more depth than that. Gold is like the pretty girl who, when you get to know her, is interesting, too—fun, intelligent, athletic, spiritual.

Gold, when used in wedding bands, symbolizes purity; the band itself is a representation of the nature of true love—neverending. I am not a very good Christian, but I grew up in a Christian household, and I can tell you right now that my minister would say that this is like God's love. 

Gold is said to reflect the wearer’s inner beauty and to fill the wearer with positive feelings; used as a talisman, it is said to ward off negative energy. But who would have wanted to harm the baby Jesus? Oh, that's right, that nasty Herod dude. And I don't imagine that the denizens of Hell were real pleased at his birth, either.

In medicinal uses, gold has also been shown to help alleviate the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis and to help with digestive ills. Don't know what that has to do with baby Jesus, but maybe it kept him from being colicky. 

Gold has also been associated with gods and kings, a symbol of their power, their strength, and their wealth. In that light alone, what better choice is there for a gift for a newborn king of Heaven? 

Next week, I'll learn more about everyone's favorite tree sap next to maple syrup—frankincense. 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Triple Double-U


Well, of course I haven’t kept to a word count of 500-1,000 words per day. I have, however, finished editing and transferring my Stargate Atlantis fan fiction, In the Blood, over from to Archive Of Our Own, aka AO3 (AO3 is the newly edited version). I also got the last chapter posted on both sites. There was not any heavy editing, but I did need to fix a word here and there, or add a sentence or two. It did force me to re-read the story, something I have not done in ages; I highly recommend it.
I discovered, on reading my fan fiction story, that I really do love language—I love the ebb and flow of the words, the rhythm of that “just so” sentence, the way the perfect simile or metaphor can convey so very much in so little space. I love writing the words, and then delving deeper, to break a scene down into its tiniest molecules.
At first, the idea of finishing my NaNo story and then editing it seemed like a chore; I know some jaded published authors out there who would claim that it is (and when you’re meeting a deadline, I imagine that it truly is a bit of a chore), but right now, in this moment, I look forward to finishing, to polishing, to fine-tuning the story so that it is not just a recounting, but is rather a story-telling that plays like a movie in the reader’s head.  


Things are not going as fast as I would like, but then, they never do, as I’m a bit short on patience in most things. I have been keeping up my exercises, but I have not changed my eating habits much. I am down to 213.2 as of this morning, which is a loss, but only a loss of 2/10 of a pound. I think it’s time to do something a bit more drastic and keep a very, very close eye on those carbs. Being from Connecticut, where there are tons of Italians and good food is everywhere, I tend to love pasta and pizza, so this will be the difficult part for me. I must do it, though, if I’m to not look like I’m engulfing Kavan Smith at Chicon.


Well, nice and cool here in central Florida again today. I’ve had my air conditioner off for a week now and am enjoying the fresh air. It’s been chilly enough in the mornings and overnights that, despite the warmer afternoons, my house stays cool all day. After the massive light bills of summer (which runs roughly from February to October/mid-November here usually), it’s nice to be able to open the windows and cut the light bill in half or more.
And rain—we had a wee, tiny, teeny, weensy bit of rain this evening! We haven’t seen rain in a dog’s age. All the retention ponds are shrinking and we are on rationing (just the usual winter “only water your lawn once a week” sort of thing). I’d love to have a nice rainy day one day here soon. How’s it in your section of the world? 

Monday, December 3, 2012

Mysterious Monday: Aliens

I was born and partially raised (until I was 10) in a small town in New Hampshire. My best friend, Janet, lived on a dairy farm on top of a hill with her family. I spent many a night at Janet’s house in those days, but one night in particular stands out.

It was a clear, cold night in January and we were outside because, well, children don’t always make the best choices. Plus, in those days, people were a little more laid back with their children. We were returning from the barn, where we had just checked on the horses, when a movement caught our attention. That movement wasn’t near the house or in the field or by the trees; nope—it was above the trees.

We looked up, staring in awe, as a light in the sky zigged first one way and then the other, stopping for a moment before zipping off like a kitten on a hard-wood floor. Fear shivered its way along my spine. I knew I had just seen something not of this world. This was no airplane or weather balloon; looking back, distance and size would also point away from it being someone’s RC helicopter.

Now, sure, it was the 70s, but Janet and I were good girls; her older brothers were rarely home, so we were not high on pot, second-hand or first-hand. Her parents ran the dairy farm, so they didn’t exactly have the time to get high, even if I could have imagined Mr. & Mrs. S doing such a thing.

From that point on, I firmly believed that we are not alone in this universe. Many years later, I married and had a child. When he was around 4 or 5 years old, my boy told me of a nightmare he had had. He told me of how someone or something had come into his room and placed a hand on his forehead, then left as silently as they had come in. The night in question, it was neither my husband nor I who visited him in his bed.

We had never watched alien-themed movies or shows around him, nor discussed any belief or non-belief in aliens. He described, in nearly perfect detail, the “little gray men” that people often describe in stories of alien visitations. A large head with large eyes, small, narrow nostril slits and a tiny mouth, a slender body with long arms and hands—my paraphrase of what I got out of his description; these are obviously not the exact words of a 4 year-old.

I showed him a picture in a book from the library and he cried out, “That’s him!” I tried to reassure him that the alien was not likely to hurt him, as it had not done so during its visit, but even so, I slept very lightly, and on his floor, for many, many, many nights after that. He is 17 now, and still remembers that night; he also believes that we are not the only life forms in this universe.

What about you? Do you believe that there are other beings out there among the stars? Do you have hopes that one day, we will make contact or does that idea frighten the life out of you? Do you think aliens will be friends or conquerors?


"Alien Grey" Image courtesy of Victor Habbick /