There’s a Reason They Invented Spandex

What do YOU wear to exercise?
(photo by “LotusHead” via freeimages.com)

I am not young and I am not slender. But there are times I’d like to be a little more fashionable than just wearing mom jeans and a T-shirt.

So I have three pairs of leggings – two lightweight to wear with sandals or flats, and one heavier for winter boots. In the interests of modesty (and for the sake of other people’s eyes), I wear a tunic-type top with them. I don’t need my saggy butt out there for the world to see.

A few weeks ago, though, I put on my Jeggings to do my exercises at home, and they were great: soft and stretchy and so comfortable I felt like they weren’t there. I even kept them on all day long. So during yesterday’s rain, when my body cried out for some activity besides sitting at my desk, I planned some gym time after running errands.  I first put on my exercise pants – a Spandex-blend capri that I wear for Pilates and such. But that left half-bare legs, which didn’t sound so good on a cool, rainy day, so I switched to my Jeggings.

It was an eye-opener, and not in a good way.

The elliptical machines at the fitness center are in the back row, and I couldn’t see myself in the mirrors. Nice! But after 10 minutes of screaming muscles, I switched to the treadmills. (That was the original plan, I swear. Really.) The treadmills are in the front row. Directly in front of the mirrors.

My workout session turned ugly. Literally.

Jello Jiggles
(photo by “jlynne203″ via freeimages.com)

I knew my thighs jiggled when I walked fast (I told you I wasn’t slender, remember?). But I didn’t expect them to wibble-wobble at a regular walk. Blub blub, blub blub, like gently jiggling jello. And they KEPT wibble-wobbling even on cool down! In fact, there wasn’t any movement I could do during which they held firm. The jelly roll around my midsection wasn’t any better. My t-shirt wasn’t snug, so I couldn’t see it, but I could FEEL it, a ring of blubber flopping up-down, up-down.  And we won’t even talk about what my butt must have been doing – out of sight, out of mind, right?

I carried on with my 20 minutes, trying to ignore the mirror and listen to a podcast from Joanna Penn, but caught a glimpse of my floppy body every now and then. Did you know shuddering can also make your thighs jiggle?

I jiggled just as much walking to the free weights and exercise balls, and wished I had worn those Spandex capris. They put Spandex in them for a reason – it encapsulates your fat, helps it hold firm, keeps it from jiggling. Well, maybe you get a small jiggle, but it looks normal, not like quivering jello. Spandex lets you look in the mirror. Spandex lets you walk around the gym without cringing too much. Spandex lets you forego the need to offer brain bleach to those around you.

One good thing came of this: I won’t be inflicting the sight of my body in leggings to my fellow university students this spring.  And I did get away from my desk chair for a bit.

Are you brave enough to wear leggings in public?  Or does Spandex rescue you from the Jello Jiggle?

Conquering Banana Cake

It’s like this.

I had a banana protein muffin recipe to try.  One simple recipe.  And since we had three large bananas turning black in the fridge, I was quite happy to turn them into healthy, low-cal muffins.  But the muffin recipe only required half of one banana.  So what was I to do but make chocolate chip banana cake with the rest of them?Banana Cake

Banana cake in the house – not a bad thing, you say?  You must not know me.  If I have one reasonably sized piece and stop, I feel totally deprived.  Fish-out-of-water deprived.  Writer-without-a-keyboard deprived!  So I go back for a second piece.  And a third.  And several hours later, it’s calling to me again.  My guys have a piece each, one takes a piece in his lunch the next day, and by the time they come home, the last half of the pan is gone!

The problem is that, bananas or not, it’s not healthy at all.  Scrumptious, but not healthy.  And definitely not for someone trying to lose a few pounds.

I’ve modified the recipe:  applesauce for half the shortening; whole wheat white flour for half the all-purpose white.  And the biggest sacrifice, ¾ of a cup of mini chocolate chips instead of a whole cup of regular.  Once I tried using Craisins instead of chocolate chips, but it just wasn’t the same.  Must. Have. Chocolate.

So there’s the banana cake, sitting on the counter.  I cut it into 18 pieces instead of 15.  And then I run it through the recipe calculator on SparkPeople.com291 calories for one piece!  How am I supposed to fit that into a diet where a really really really good day finishes not too far over 1500 calories?

Day One:  I have one piece.  One.  I cut it in half and pretend it’s two, and that helps.  And late that night, even watching the Food Network, I don’t have another one.  I think about it, say meh (youngest son’s favorite answer to anything), and put it out of my mind.  Call me Conqueror of the Banana Cake.

Day Two:  I do not have a piece for breakfast, even though it’s one of the best tasting breakfasts there is.  Even better than the ice cream or pizza breakfasts of my younger days.  I have half a piece for lunch.  And I don’t have any the rest of the day.  Which might have something to do with the fresh pineapple and grapes I have in the fridge, but SCORE!

Day Three:  There’s still a lot left.  The guys have been eating grapes and pineapple too.  They’re gone all day.  I’m home all day.  I have a piece for lunch.  I have another piece as I’m cooking dinner.  And a half a piece late at night.  Sigh.  I haven’t devoured all of it, but I am no longer the conqueror.

Last Day:  I bag three pieces for the guys’ lunches because that way I won’t get into them.  I keep the foil sealed tightly around the pan so I can’t smell it.  I eat a proper breakfast and leave for the day.  When I get home, there’s a half a piece left.  One small, half piece.

I eat it with glee, with GLEE!  After all, when you add it all up, I only ate a quarter of the pan, not my usual half.  Right?

What food have you conquered lately?  Or what food has conquered you?  Enquiring minds want to know!

 

Disappointed in Downton

downton4I’ve been devoted to Downton Abbey since it began, and I never thought I’d say this:  I was disappointed in the Season 4 opener.

I remember a non-fan two years ago who said it was just a soap opera set a hundred years ago, and I suppose I agreed to some extent, but it had good story lines, great acting, and stellar writing.  Even the over-the-top murder conviction of Bates eventually turned into a strong story line.  This episode, however, seemed all soap opera.

*SPOILER ALERT*
Do not continue reading if you haven’t seen the episode yet!

Sunday night, it seemed like there was just too much crammed into too short a time.  I thought Mrs. Hughes convincing Mrs. Crawley to take in the old performer was good, and a good way to get her out of her grief.  Fitting for the character, and time to start living.

With Mary, however, it didn’t work for me.  She’s horribly depressed, has no energy for anything, and doesn’t seem to take much joy in the baby.  I think getting her involved in running the estate is a workable idea, but it just happened too fast.  She goes from being listless in black to being poised in half-mourning lilac and very interested in plans for sheep.  Wouldn’t it have been much better to have her say yes, but start gradually?  To listen to Tom and her father, and voice an opinion later to Tom?  To eventually show up at the meeting, still wearing black, and have a few questions or things to say, without turning immediately into the take-charge person she used to be?

And don’t get me started on the Nanny.  Julian Fellowes gave us a character and situation with a lot of possibility, which could have been spread out over at least several episodes, and it turned out to be all a set up to get Lady G to trust Thomas.  They didn’t even come back to the need for a new nanny – who would be a major/minor player throughout!

Rose’s storyline fit with how she was introduced last season, but dressing up in a maid’s uniform and kissing the guy was a bit over the top.  I’m not thrilled with Molesly’s story, either.  I understand that valet positions are dwindling, but so many men were killed in the war – there had to be something else he could do besides road work, which was about as low as you could get.  And the other butler’s reactions? Total soap opera again.

And I really don’t know how I feel about Edith’s editor wanting to become a German citizen so he can get a divorce.  It didn’t come across as overwritten or overplayed, it just seems really far-fetched.

Lest you think I completely hated Downton Abbey this go-round, let me share some things I thought were great:

  • The moments when Lord Grantham (and someone else, but I’ve forgotten who) told Tom to remember how hard it is for Mary having lost the love of her life, when Tom had gone through the exact same thing.
  • Maggie Smith’s line to Lord G about how she’d like to send him to bed without supper.
  • The understanding of the other women in the family that Mary and Mrs. Crawley needed to begin to live again.
  • The storyline with Carson and his old song-and-dance partner: how Mrs. C and Mrs. Hughes got him on his feet and helped find a job for him, and Carson’s reticence, the story behind it, and the resolution at the train.
  • Anna’s & Bates’ quiet but obvious love for each other – that’s always a high point for me.

I hope Downton’s Season 4 opener was just to grab everyone’s attention again after such a shock to end Season 3.  I hope it settles down to the richness and the pace of the first three seasons.  But if it keeps going like this, I may find myself watching less and less.

What about you?  Was Sunday’s Downton Abbey all you hoped for?  Or were you disappointed too?

Teenage Crushes and Poetry

In lieu of a “real” blog post (I’ve never had a summer college class before, let alone two, and I’m still recovering), here’s a bit of my teen years wrapped up in a poem.  Written for one of said classes, of course.  And before you dig in, I should warn you that while my literary career began with poetry (a whole book of poems with cake/bake/snake/rake rhymes when I was the ripe old age of six), this is my first real poem.  Somehow my “Intro to Creative Writing” only covered fiction.  So be nice!

CrushingDid you have a teenage crush that crushed you?  Or did the two of you get together?  Share your crush in the comments below and let us know how it turned out.

Special on Great Summer Reads

Hot sun, hot sand, cool drinks. Ahhhh. But your summer won’t be complete until you land a new BOOK BOYFRIEND, right? Lucky for you, we’ve got you covered!

Covered with just about any genre you could name, that is.  I’m going to snag a few for myself, and I can personally recommend Myndi Shafer’s Shrilugh and The Darkening, and K.B. Owen’s Dangerous and Unseemly.  See what’s here that you like!

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SUMMER BOOK CRUSH offers 50+ titles in many genres. This means 50+ chances to (fictitiously) fall in love. And the best part? Each of these gems is only 99¢, but for a limited time only. The SUMMER BOOK CRUSH event starts on June 26th and ends (yes, even the best things in life end at some point) on June 28th. So don’t wait up! Mingle with our BOOK BOYFRIENDS and invite all your friends to participate too. There are plenty of BOOK BOYS to share!

Button_who is your book crush

Find your summer’s fling between the pages of a book. And don’t stop on one – after all we have many BOOK BOYFRIENDS for you to mingle with.

* HAPPY READING * HAPPY SUMMER *

Three days to grab your favorites – what are you waiting for? And if you’ve read some of these, let us know your favorites in the comments. As always, enquiring minds want to know (and read)!

 

What Can You Say in a Six Word Memoir?

SIX WORDSWe talked about Six Word Stories in the last post, and some of you came up with some great ones – thanks!  But did you ever think about a Six Word Memoir?

I came across the idea about a month ago, over at Smith Mag.  They have some fabulous categories – Six Word Questions, Six Words on Love, Six Words by Tony Winners.

The idea behind it is to put something of your day into six words, and the results range from humorous to heartbreaking to gee-I’ve-been-there.  Here’s a sample:

  • Wish I’d take my own advice.  (Also the book title of teen memoirs.)
  • Everybody really does know my name.
  • Summer’s not the season for quarrels.
Great, huh?  If you follow #sixwords on Twitter, you’ll find a lot of people expressing philosophy and inner thoughts as well as memoir, sometimes with a photo, sometimes in poem form:

 

  • untethered :: I dance :: along dangerous edges (from @everythingin6)
  • looking backward / gaining perspective / through wisdom… (from @lazybookworm)
  • Watching you / like nobody else / exists. (from @nicholas_kane)

I love Six Words as a form for poetry and as captions for photos.  And when the six word poem and the photo come together, it can be powerful.  Here’s one that touched me:

my dawn, your sunset: our divide  From Chupacadabra (@poopocket) on Twitter

my dawn, your sunset: our divide
From Chupacadabra (@poopocket) on Twitter

I love the creativity of expressing yourself in six words. I love the word-work, I love the result. But then I got to thinking.  (Watch out – thinking usually gets me into trouble!)

Can six words really be considered memoir? What will really be remembered three years from now, or ten, or thirty?  Pithy sayings lose their context over time, and for me, the point of a memoir is to evoke the place and feeling and what happened so that you or someone else can re-live it.

For me, I think I’ll stick to memoirs in prose – a paragraph, a page, ten pages.  But for expressing a feeling or a single happening, Six Words have a way of stretching me.  So just for a lark, here’s a bit of my last week:

  • Sunday is for snoozing after church.
  • Summer feast: grilled chicken, corn, watermelon.
  • Prune oak tree, angry robin dive-bombs.

Are you game? Can you put something of your last week into only six words?  Share yours in the comments below – enquiring minds want to read!

(Apologies to those who got the half-drafted version of this in their e-mail.  Someday I’ll learn to be absolutely sure I’m hitting Preview, not Publish!)

Do You Have a Six Word Story?

Photo by "aguima" via StockXchngOne of Ernest Hemingway’s best known stories isn’t a novel.  It’s these six words:                  “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”

Isn’t that heartbreaking? In those six words, you have emotion, character and even plot, if you read between the lines.

I don’t remember what we were talking about in one of my spring classes, but someone referenced this, I quoted it, and our instructor delayed his planned writing activity and said “Let’s do it!”

We blanched.  He gave us ten minutes.  So, being dutiful students (and willing to try most any writing exercise), we bent heads and put pen to paper.  Here are a few of the resulting stories:

Mine:  “Blizzard.  Heat, electricity vanish.  Autumn baby.”

Cassandra Leonard:  “I ate.  I swam.  I barfed.”

Kyle Keller:  “After prom, cab fare for one.”

Prof. Keith Leonard (no relation to Cassandra):  “He fell.  I took a picture.”

Note my classmates:  I didn’t think to write down names as we read them, and these were the ones I could match to the right people.  So please refresh my memory and share yours in the comments!  

When you ponder any one of these, you envision your own characters, but it’s easy to think about their stories.  What went so wrong on prom night and what will he or she do after getting home?  And what kind of person would stand by and watch while someone fell? And from where – a curb or a cliff?  (Hey Keith, enquiring minds want to know!)

It’s not easy to come up with a complete story in six words, but it’s possible.  Can you do it?  Share one in the comments below!

Lynn Kurland, Where Have You Been All My Life?

with-every-breath-lg

With Every Breath: enjoyed it the second time as much as the first!

Most of you know I love time travel.  I enjoy romance, as long as there’s more depth to the story than just misunderstandings keeping the would-be lovers apart.  And I’m far more interested in the story than the sex scenes.

So how come it took me this long to discover Lynn Kurland and her time-travel romances?

I picked up my first one a few months ago and have been enchanted ever since.  Kurland splits her books between two main families: the MacLeods in Scotland and the de Piagets in England.  Mostly they’re two separate casts of characters, but occasionally the two families cross paths.

The MacLeod castle and grounds have places that are time travel portals, to the point that the Laird has private maps for the family with big red Xs, and lots of no trespassing signs for anyone else.  Different portals go to different times, but of course accidents occasionally happen.  I think the de Piaget castle has the same issue, but it’s been a bit since I’ve read one of those.  There are also a few ancestral ghosts thrown in that add plot twists and some hilarity.

So modern women find themselves unexpectedly back in the 12th or 14th century.  Gorgeous, brawny men with great sword and dagger skills may find themselves facing the intricacies of modern life.  But there is always something else going on – some treachery within or without the clan, for example, that threatens the lives and livelihood of the main characters.  I like that this drives the stories forward, rather than the plot revolving inanely around two people who can’t admit their love.

The modern gals all carry strengths of their own, which is good because Kurland’s medieval alpha-males aren’t looking for weak women.  They do hold to their code of honor, however, which creates a PG-rating with the romance based upon love, bravery, sacrifice, and head-spinning kisses rather than heavy-duty sex.  And that’s the way I like it.  (I will add, however, that I went back to her earlier books to “start from the beginning” and was disappointed.  She got much better after the first few.)

Being a romance, you know they’ll end up together and defeat the bad guys.  They may stay in the future or return to the past (which creates delightful comments and mind-boggling family relationships with recurring characters).  It’s just sheer fun to read a well-written story, watch the characters grow and change and marvel at the love they’ve found while wondering if they actually get to keep it.

Kurland’s time-travel romances are light reads for me, and perfect when I’m in that particular mood.  I just wish the library had more of them – I can’t afford to buy them all!

What about you? Are there “old” authors you’ve just recently discovered?  Are there other time-travel romances I’ve missed?  Leave a comment below – enquiring minds want to know!

Roaming the Blogosphere: Writing & Publishing Tips

I’m between school semesters, so of course the blogs that shouted “Bookmark me!” this month were almost all on focused on writing, publishing and/or marketing a book. Here are a few of the posts I bookmarked, starting with some humor:

Nick Cross shares definitions of syndromes we writers tend to succumb to.  Read NOW if you’re in need of a laugh!

I’ve just discovered that The Creative Penn has podcasts!  (Okay, okay, I know I’m a little slow on the uptake.)  Here’s a great one on characters by Roz Morris.  There’s also a link to a long list of previous podcasts – great for exercise walks!

Margie Lawson from Writers in the Storm has a great post about “What’s the Visual?”  She uses that one phrase to get the show-don’t-tell point across – complete with examples from her students’ work.  Even if you’re pretty good at showing already, it’s well worth the time to read.

Writers Write has a brilliant one-page visual on writing the dreaded synopsis.  They use Pride & Prejudice as an example, which most of us know well enough to see how they apply the concepts.

On the literary magazine side, Lynne Barrett at The Review Review gives an in-depth look at what editors want, what a writer’s task is, and how to handle the different kinds of rejections (and acceptances!)

For those of you who write short personal essays, Midlife Collage holds free contests that actually have a cash prize!  Hop on over and have a look.

Chila Woychik gives suggestions on seeking book reviews from outside your circle of usual friends.  Great advice for those with books coming out.

Debra Gafford guest-posted over on WG2E about why and how to provide an author newsletter to your subscribers, including everything you ever wanted to know about choosing a mail host to help – especially if you’re techno-challenged!

When you’ve done your writer-education stint, take a break and pop over to Mental Floss for some wonderful foreign words.  I love vybafnout (jump out and say boo!)  and mamihlapinatapai (as long to define as it is to pronounce) .  Why don’t we have a word like Cafune, since I love to do that? And the German word for grief bacon – I could live on grief bacon!

And now that you’re back from browsing some of my May favorites, which did you like best?  Do you have any others to recommend?  Leave a comment below and share the knowledge!

There’s Sunshine on My Blog Today!

Sunshine Award I was wowed last week by author and blogger extraordinaire Suzanne Stengl when she passed the Sunshine Award on to me.  Well, to ten of us, but who’s counting?

So yes, in the midst of Midwest clouds and thunderstorms, the sun also shining!

The rules of the Sunshine Award are:
•    Include the award’s logo in a post on your blog.
•    Link to the person who nominated you.
•    Answer the 10 questions below.
•    Pass the award on to ten (or however many you want) “Sunshine inspiring” bloggers. Ooh – does that mean I inspire sunshine? Cool!

Here are the questions, along with as many answers as I’m able to come up with:

Favorite Color:  I used to say “blue” automatically, but it seems to have morphed to purple.  Or red.  I’m wearing a lot of those these days (although I’ve got a few years to go before Red Hat Society membership), and I do a lot of red accent colors in the house.  And some purple/lilac in our room.  So red and purple it is!

Moonspinner & Me

Favorite Animal:  Hmm.  Does that mean type of animal? Which would be a horse, of course.  My mother had me up in front of her before I could walk, and they’ve been part of my life ever since.  Second place goes to a red & white Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.  If I get a dog, that’s what I want!  But if “favorite” means a particular animal, I’d have a hard time choosing.  Moonspinnner, my Anglo-Arab mare that I had for 17 years; Heidi, my affectionate kitty until I had babies who kept pulling her long Persian hair; or Maggie, my mother’s delightful black Lab.  How to pick just one?

Favorite Number:  Three.  If I have to pick a number between one and ten to choose something, I always pick three.  Wish I could say there’s a reason, but there’s not.

Favorite Non-Alcoholic Drink:  Strawberry lemonade in the summer, hot chocolate in the winter.  Just wish the strawberry lemonade didn’t have so many calories.  Sigh.

Favorite Alcoholic Drink:  Since I don’t drink alcohol, can I go with a non-alcoholic alcoholic drink?  A virgin strawberry daiquiri, introduced to me decades ago by a friend at her wedding rehearsal dinner.  Yum!  (and thanks, Cecilia!)

Little KC at 8 1/2 months.

Facebook or Twitter:  Both, I guess.  I like to Tweet writing things and connect with my WANA blogging buddies, but I forget to check my other account for family.  Bad Jennifer!  *slaps hand* Facebook has all that too, plus staying connected with friends and distant family.  And I can get sucked into FB’s laugh-out-loud pictures way too easily – don’t know if that’s a plus or minus.

Passions:  Family near and far, especially a certain super-cute grandbaby.  Writing, of course, and reading.  Music, gardening, genealogy.  Ireland.  Hmm . . . where do I stop?

Prefer Getting or Giving Gifts?  Ooh, tough one.  I have to admit I like getting gifts – they make me feel appreciated (I guess I’ve got some insecurities deep down).  But I have such fun seeing something and realizing that so-and-so would like it, and getting it for them.  I love seeing the smile on their face, realizing that someone was thinking of them too.

Favorite City:  That’s another tough one.  I’m a country girl living just outside Indianapolis, and most of the cities I’ve visited have been for a particular event.  I loved Cork City while we were in Ireland, and wanted more than my tiny taste of Paris and Barcelona.  On my Stateside wish list: exploring San Francisco and getting back to San Diego someday – with some money to spend this time!

Downton Abbey Christmas CoverFavorite TV Show:  Downton Abbey, of course.  NCIS, Elementary & Masterchef are up there, but it’s Downton Abbey that has me waiting eagerly for the next season.

This was fun.  So a thank you and shout out to Suzanne Stengl at Tuesday Cafe for passing it to me.  Seriously, she’s got some great stuff on her blog – go check it out!

Here are the sunshine-y bloggers I’m nominating.  Go check them out, too!

  • Myndi Shafer always makes me laugh.  I wish I had her energy!
  • Ditto for Jenny Hansen, over at More Cowbell.  The things I learn . . . like “Cooking with Poo.”
  • Melinda VanLone shares some writerly thoughts, fun experiences, and an awesome “Bend Your Eye” series.
  • Lisa Hall-Wilson always gives me something to think about at Blogging with Fire.
  • Kait Nolan not only created ROW80, but she also did Goddess-in-Training badges.  How can you resist?
  • Kassandra Lamb blogs over at Writers in the Storm, where you can find writerly stuff with attitude.
  • Diana Beebe, mermaid expert extraordinaire, writes about all kinds of things, including . . . Darth Vader? Definitely adds sunshine to my days.
  • Susie Landau’s Wild Ride makes me laugh and cry, all in the same post – and with loads of pictures!
  • Coleen Patrick gives me lots to smile about, also with pictures.
  • And last, but definitely not least, Lynn Kelley has a knack for hilarious stories, spotlighting the innate humor that shows up in her children’s books.