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Sad Cake

We recently received a free trial of Netflix. I’m not a big television watcher, but in an effort to justify Netflix’s existence on our Roku, I’ve started watching The Great British Baking Show, which I’ve heard good things about.

Full disclosure: I am a horrible baker.

(Well, I bake a mean pie. My apple pie is apparently divine. I don’t actually know, because I don’t like pie and only bake them for other people.)

The other day, I was watching the GBBS with the small, mobile ones, who were actually way more into it than I thought they would be. I mean, it’s essentially a load of people with funny accents (but then, the younger one is rather into Peppa Pig, so perhaps the accents aren’t that weird to them) talking incomprehensibly about pastries and gluten and proofing and a ton of things I don’t understand, but hey. I was tired and they were staying put.

Then the bigger one proposed that we make a cake of our own.

My first instinct was to squash that idea like a bug, but parenting, much like improv, often involves saying “yes” to things you don’t want to, so I fished out a cookbook that seemed likely to have cake recipes (Better Homes and Gardens, 12th edition) and decided on chocolate sponge cake, since the people on GBBS are always making sponge cake.

It took us about two and a half hours, all told. And we ran completely out of sugar. But we baked that cake, and we let it cool, and we finally pried it out of the bundt pan, and…

sad cake

(We’ve eaten part of it. For solidarity.)

I’ve yet to figure out how to get a cake out of a bundt pan successfully. As you can see, the top stayed with the pan. And we definitely overcooked it. And the bigger mobile one apparently had grand plans to copy the show participants and create an elaborate scene on top with frosting and candy and what have you.

(This was circumvented by pointing out that we had no sugar and therefore could not make frosting, though it didn’t stop him from sticking several lollipops into it.)

It doesn’t taste terrible. But as far as cakes go, it’s pretty sad.

Are you a decent baker, squider? What’s your favorite recipe? The small, mobile ones have expressed interest in trying again once we’ve bought more sugar.

(Tips on getting cakes out of bundt pans? It doesn’t matter what kind of cake I’m making, it’s invariably mangled in the extraction process.)

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Under the Weather

uuuuugh, school’s barely been going for a week and they’ve already brought germs home.

So in celebration of my face being full of snot, have a landsquid. He looks how I feel.

sick landsquid

I’ll see you Thursday, squiders, unless I have to go in for jury duty. In which case, I probably won’t. See you, I mean.

National Park Annual Pass: Not Always a Scam

Back in 2012, I wrote a blog post called National Park Annual Pass: Kind of a Scam. To make a long story short, my spouse and I had been on a road trip and had bought the national park annual pass (the America the Beautiful pass as it’s officially known) since we’d be hitting a bunch of national parks, only to find that the national parks we hit had ways around the pass, such as charging a parking fee or a tour fee instead of an entrance fee.

I was grumpy at the time. I don’t actually know that we ever made our money back on that one.

Well, I am happy to report that sometimes it is worth it. As of today, the America the Beautiful pass is $80. We’re just home from a two-week road trip of eastern Utah, western Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho and, once again, we bought the pass.

But this time it was worth it.

We’re already ahead just from the trip, so if we hit any more national whatevers in the next year, we’re only getting a better deal.

We hit Dinosaur National Monument ($25), the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone ($50), and Glacier ($25). So there’s $100 of entrance fees for $80. Woo!

(We also went to Fossil Butte National Monument, a fairly new monument in southwestern Wyoming, which was quite nice, but also free, so…)

So, between the two trips and our experiences with the park pass, here would be my recommendations:

  • Check your parks’ fees before you go (entrance fees are covered; nothing else will be)
  • Make sure the parks’ fees are worth the expense (if you’re doing a bunch that have entrance fees in the $3-$10 range, you might not get your money’s worth)
  • Think about whether you will have the opportunity to use the pass again later in the year (local national parks or monuments, or another trip–I can think of two more we’ll probably hit, one of which is free, but the other is $25 or $35 depending on if you’re going in for 1 or more days)

Also I had never been to Glacier before, and it is very nice, though the Going-to-the-Sun road was not open (they opened it this past Saturday, five days after we left, those jerks). I saw a moose! No one else is excited by the moose, but I had never seen one in real life before and now I have.

(Lots of wildlife. We saw a ton of bison, a couple of elks–including one licking a table in our campground, some deer, a bear and its cub fishing in the river, some herons, a marmot, a lot of ground squirrels, and way way way too many mosquitoes.)

Drawing of bear

We’ll jump back into Writing Around Life on Friday, provided I haven’t died of exhaustion. Or the heat.

Thoughts on national parks, squiders? Been to Yellowstone or Glacier? Because they were amazing and totally lived up to the hype. Except for the mosquitoes.

Day Job?

So, in theory, I’m living the author’s dream. I’m mostly a stay-at-home mom (though I do freelance and contract editing and writing part-time), so I should have plenty of writing time. Right? Isn’t that what we all want, to be able to stay home and write? To ditch the day job?

I mean, there are the mobile ones, who are a distraction and also very demanding. And there are chores (like the never-ending dishes, argh).

Still, plenty of stay-at-home parents find time for their writing. And, I mean, it’s not like I don’t get anything done.

But I recently came to the realization that this situation isn’t ideal, at least not for me. I was so much more productive when I was working full-time. I even managed 50K a month while working full-time AND doing graduate-level engineering courses. I’ve always chalked up the decrease in productivity to having kids, but now I’m wondering…

And I’m wondering if the editing/writing as a job isn’t hurting my productivity with my fiction. If I’ve spent three hours doing a content edit for a client, it can be hard to turn around and spend another two hours on my own work. If I’ve spent an hour and a half fighting with someone’s grammar, my brain can feel fried.

And maybe getting out of the house and doing something non-writing related would actually be beneficial. Maybe if I got a job doing something else, writing would be more of a reward again. I mean, I still love writing, I enjoy doing it, but sometimes the motivation just isn’t there.

There’s options here. I could:

a) Pick a different job to do on a freelance contract basis. I made a list. Some are things I already do that I’d love to do more of, if I could pick up more clients, such as book layout. I love formatting a book for print. ebook layouts are a little less fun but still enjoyable. And book layout keeps me with the books I love without eating my writing/editing brain. Others are new. Like being an audiobook narrator. I’ve got vocal training through singing and theater, so that could be really fun, and it keeps me with books. I’d also love to draw on a freelance basis, but am more lacking in skills/experience in that area.

b) Pick up a part-time job doing whatever outside of the house. Mostly I’ve been eyeing libraries and book stores. I have experience doing that (I was a library page for three years back in high school), and, same as above, keeps me near books. And gets me out of the house, which is probably a good thing.

c) Go back into the full-time work world. My college degree(s) are in aerospace engineering and mechanical engineering, and my preferred part of the production life cycle is testing, which is apparently rare, so I’d probably be able to pick up a job pretty easy, even though I’ve been out of the industry for almost seven years.

d) Go back to school for another degree. To be honest, I didn’t really like my last “real” job–the company was a bad fit for me in practically every way, and is a major reason why I went freelance instead of trying for another engineering job at the time. So I might be happier in another field (or it might have been the company). I’d like to write stories for video games, but would probably need to get a degree in video game design. Graphic design could also be fun, though, as above, I am probably lacking in skills/experience. Of course, college + mobile ones probably equals less writing time, but maybe not!

Any insight, squiders? Has anyone had success with career crises?

Away til 2018

Squiders, I have lost my voice. This has made my normal wrangling of puppies and small, mobile ones more infuriating than usual.

But, anyway, I’ve got a full household, so I’m going to declare a hiatus here at the blog until Thursday, January 4th. I shall see you then!

Sad landsquid with tea

(Have a sad landsquid who is also drinking Throat Soothing tea, which tastes terrible. Bleeeehhhh. And I don’t even know if it’s helping.)

Happy holidays, squiders, and I shall see you on the flip side.

(Also, if anyone has tips for getting one’s voice back, please share!)

Introducing Jorge

I realized I never introduced you guys to Jorge.

My sister likes to think she’s funny, so for my birthday (back in October), she got me a llama (or possibly an alpaca?) cookie jar.

My first thought was “What the heck am I going to do with this?”

But then I embraced the madness and named him Jorge.

This is Jorge.

jooooorrrgggeee

The small, mobile ones adore Jorge and they keep him well-stocked with cookies. (And then I eat the cookies.)

My sister has, of course, been quite pleased by Jorge’s new place in our lives.

Anyway. Here’s Jorge. We may be seeing more of him in the future.

Common writing mistakes on Thursday. We’ll be talking about point of view issues. Ta, squiders!

Delayed Due to Cake

So, yesterday was my birthday! And I promise, I meant to post, but, you know. Sugar.

It was a nice birthday, though.

(I turned on the radio in the car, and Jack & Diane by John Mellencamp was on, which was apparently the number 1 song the week I was born. Weeeeiiirrrdd.)

I also drew you a birthday landsquid.

(Plus bonus turtleduck.)

I hope you have a lovely fall weekend, squiders!