Everyday Inspiration: Wrapping it Up

For the last twenty days, I’ve been enrolled in a Blogging U. course called “Everyday Inspiration.” For this course, WordPress emails participants a daily prompt/idea to help us find new ways of thinking and writing – or, to help us “get our creative cheeses melting,” if you will.

Today’s twentieth and final assignment was this: to “wrap up” the previous 20 days of prompts, and discuss what I’ve learned and/or plan for future blogging tomfoolery.

wrap3

Note #1: Is it just me, or does “wrap it up” sound like a bad condom slogan?

Note #2: Too bad the assignment wasn’t to “RAP it up” because it might’ve been fun to summarize this course by constructing a rap song. Missed opportunity, WordPress. Maybe next time.

Wrapping up previous posts

I’ve been a busy bee in the last 20 days! Or I would be, if bees were into writing. I’ve discussed the setting and supplies I use to help me blog, I’ve written a letter to myself from the perspective of my computer, and I’ve experimented with a new format by writing a post entirely on Paint.

Perhaps most shockingly, I also put on my serious hat long enough to write a poem about secrets.

wrap1

What I liked a lot

It was helpful to not only receive a variety of prompts, but to also receive suggestions for how to get started. After all, it’s one thing to want to try something new, but it’s a whole other thing to come up with the something new.

What I liked a little less

1.Quite a few of the prompts had a kind of been-there-done-that feel to them. There were really only a few that really made me go, “Huh. Never thought about doing that before!”

2.Initially, I told myself that I was going to write something for every single prompt, even if I didn’t end up posting it on my blog. I figured the daily consistency would be helpful for me.

However, I was reminded yet again that blogging is genuinely a lot of work. It’s work I enjoy (most of the time), but it’s still work. And sometimes, when I get home from my actual job, I just want to…UN-work. I want to read, or have a glass of wine, or put on a cow suit and moo at the neighbors, or watch a little TV.

Obviously, the daily prompt aspect of this course was clear up front, so this is in no way a criticism of the course itself, just of what it felt like to be involved in it. After a few days, I improved this feeling by writing down all of the prompts to give me inspiration for the future, but only responding to a prompt if I felt truly inspired or energized by it.

As I continue blogging, I plan to…

Keep things interesting! I hope to keep experimenting with different formats, ideas, and topics. It’s more fun for me to write that way, and hopefully more fun for my readers to read that way!

For my fellow bloggers and writers, have you participated in any Blogging U. courses, or other writing classes? If you’re feeling stuck, how or where do you gain new inspiration for posts?

 

 

Advertisements

Quote Challenge – Day Three

A couple of days ago, I was nominated by Mark over at Coloring Outside the Lines to participate in a three-day quote challenge. Yipee-ay-yo-kai-ay!

Here are the rules for this challenge:

  • Post one of your favorite quotes(different quote on each day) on three consecutive days. The quote can be from your favorite book, author, or your own.
  • Nominate three bloggers to challenge them.
  • Thank the blogger who nominated you

The quotes I used for the previous two days were relatively serious, so I decided to go in a different direction today. My habit for being goofy and strange can only be held back for so long.

Day One’s quote about “helpers” can be found here.

Day Two’s quote about play can be found here.

And now, for the third and final quote:

“This has too much cheese on it.”

What kind of fun-hating monster would say that, you ask?

Well, NO ONE! I’ve coined this an “anti-quote” because no one in the history of the entire universe has ever said that there’s too much cheese on something. And if they did say it, they’re probably boring and sad.

And their skin is probably dull because it lacks that healthy cheese-glow.

pizza

 

How to House-Sit Like a Boss

If you find yourself house-sitting for a friend, I recommend following these handy tips:

1. Demand piles of money in return for your sitting services. (Piles of presents will also suffice.) 


2. Ensure that your friend adequately defends these presents from predators. 


3. Take advantage of the friend’s variety of entertainments. 

I love you, Netflix. And I love you too, Kimmy Schmidt.

4. If the friend has pets, make sure they’re still alive at the end of your stay. Dead pets don’t bode well for good friendships.

5. Even though you do need to be nice to the friend’s pets, you don’t have to allow the dog to lick your armpits. That’s just a bit too intimate.

Unless you’re into that sort of thing. 

licking her lips as she eyes my armpits

6. Eat all of your friend’s delicious leftovers. Eat more than you can even fit in your body, just because you CAN.

7. Subtly suggest that your friend get a swimming pool installed before your next stay. I recommend complimenting them on their “large, pool-shaped backyard.” 

8. If you don’t have pets of your own, understand that cats are creepy at night. Why all the mysterious noises and activities, cats? Why?  


9. Do 1-2 nice things during your stay: fill an ice cube tray, wipe off the counter, etc. Doing ONE thing establishes you as helpful and ensures that you’ll be asked to sit again. BUT doing more than one thing might make your friend feel self-conscious about the cleanliness of her household. Better to play it safe. 

Have you ever house-sat (house-sitted?) for anyone? What did you like or dislike about this experience? What handy tips can you provide?
 

Quote Challenge – Day Two

Yesterday, I was nominated by Mark over at Coloring Outside the Lines to participate in a three-day quote challenge. Woo hoo!

Here are the rules for this challenge:

  • Post one of your favorite quotes(different quote on each day) on three consecutive days. The quote can be from your favorite book, author, or your own.
  • Nominate three bloggers to challenge them.
  • Thank the blogger who nominated you

My quote for Day One was uttered by the jolly Mr. Rogers himself, so it seemed fitting to follow that one with this quote:

“You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.”

Who do you think came up with this one? Barney? Big Bird? Perhaps another member of the Rogers clan?

Actually, it was Plato.

Too bad he didn’t spell his name “Playto.” Heh heh, get it? I’ll show myself out.

I chose this quote for a couple of reasons. One – it is actually one of the driving principles behind my career. I am a child and adolescent counselor, and play is a big part of my work with kids. “What a fun job,” you might be thinking, “you just get to play with toys all day!” 

Well, yes and no.

Sure, sometimes play is fun, yes. But sometimes it’s sad, and heavy, and frequently, it’s really hard work. For both the kids and me. Play is the natural way that children make sense of the world and cope with confusing, difficult things…sitting a kid down in a chair and expecting them to rattle off their thoughts and feelings is just not developmentally appropriate.

I could easily go off on a tangent about the amazingness that is play therapy, but then you’d obviously get sucked in and be here awhile, and you’d end up missing the super-fun plans you probably already have, and then you’d be like, “damn it, cheese girl! I was supposed to sing karaoke tonight!” so I’ll stop here.

Reason #2 for choosing this quote: when I think about how adults spend time with close friends and family, I can absolutely see where play comes into the picture. Now, I’m not suggesting that you invite your friend over for the evening and whip out your Barbies.  Or maybe you do, I’m not here to judge. 

But just because adults have (probably) put down the dolls and toys, doesn’t mean we don’t play! Play can mean having a couple of drinks on the back porch with your best friend. It can mean shopping and getting your nails done with your mom. It can look like laughing with your older brother about something that happened 20 years ago.

There are lots of different ways that we play, and like “Playto” said – I think you can learn a lot about someone by the things they laugh about and enjoy doing. Probably not more than what you’d learn in a year of conversation, though. I hate to criticize Plato since he’s way fancier than I’ll ever be, but come on – an hour of play being more meaningful than a year of conversation? Slight exaggeration, buddy.

play

 

Quote Challenge – Day One

I was nominated by Mark over at Coloring Outside the Lines to participate in a three-day quote challenge. Thanks, Mark! 🙂

Here are the rules for this challenge:

  • Post one of your favorite quotes(different quote on each day) on three consecutive days. The quote can be from your favorite book, author, or your own.
  • Nominate three bloggers to challenge them.
  • Thank the blogger who nominated you

For the first day of this challenge, I selected a quote by Fred Rogers. Don’t recognize the name? Maybe you’ll recognize his graffiti visage:

rogers

You know you’re a big deal when someone spray paints your face on the side of a wall.

Anyway, Mr. Rogers contributed a lot to the world through his educational children’s TV show Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, as well as through his snappy dressing. But my favorite quote of his is this:

When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”

As I’ve described in another post, I try to stay positive – not just about my own life, but about the world at large. Some days, I have to try really, really hard. And when a true disaster occurs, I can feel myself taking on a hopeless, pessimistic worldview. But I try to remind myself of this quote, because Fred’s mom (Mrs. Rogers?) was right – amidst chaos and sadness, there are ALWAYS people who are trying to lend a hand in some way.

Some offer a comforting touch, or listening ear, and some offer a different kind of assistance, such as through donating money. And some of us help by rating the quesos at various restaurants so others don’t have to.

Three people I’ve nominated to participate in this challenge:

  1. Midnight Musings with Megs
  2. Hotmess Memoir
  3. A Kinder Way

The Lie, the Guilt, and the Wardrobe

lienose

For a couple of weeks, I’ve been participating in a Blogging U. course called “Everyday Inspiration.” For an assignment last week, I asked readers to visit my contact page and suggest ideas or questions for me to blog about in the future. Thanks to those of you who took the time to suggest prompts for me! Feel free to submit more as they come to you 🙂

For today’s assignment, WordPress recommended answering one of the questions or post ideas that I received. There were lots of funny, intriguing, and downright strange ideas, so this was a tough choice. Fortunately, I’ll have plenty of material in the future should I need some inspiration!

The post idea that I selected for today’s assignment is this:

 What is something weird you did as a kid?

I was a relatively well-behaved and normal kid, despite my penchant for playing in my closet and making up mildly concerning stories about my dolls.

And my tendency to stand next to my parents’ bed and stare at my mother as she slept.

Totally ordinary stuff.

Truth is, I definitely had my moments of teasing the line of normalcy. And by “teasing the line,” I really mean flying an airplane over the line, and laughing maniacally as I left it behind me.

Anyway, it wasn’t hard for me to think of a strange story, but I thought this anecdote could best be told through a series of pictures I crafted on MS Paint.

Think of it as being like a children’s story – with swear words and an inappropriate lesson at the end.

lie1lie2lie3lie4lie5.JPGlie6lie7lie8lie9lie10lie11.JPGlie12lie13lie14lie15lie16lie17lie18lie19lie20

Moral of the story: I was a weird child. Also, Moms can be tricky.

What were you like as a kid? Can you remember any strange things you might have done, or terrible lies you told? Did you get away with these things, or were you eventually caught?

 

Queso Critique – El Arroyo

El Arroyo – Austin, TX

Last Friday, Amanda and I attended a training on adolescents, trauma, and substance abuse. Don’t lie, I know you’re jealous. The best part of the training was when a person in the audience started talking about Twitter, and the speaker responded with a confused, “I don’t have Tweet.”

(By the way, my blog totally does have “Tweet” now. If you’d like to read about more of my cheese-related shenanigans, follow me @JustInQueso88)

Anyway, after sitting and listening to speakers for a few hours, my friend and I were feeling somewhat droopy, and we needed a pick-me-up. A cheese-me-up, if you will.

We followed a winding, scenic road through a fancy-shmancy area of Austin and landed at a not-so-fancy-shmancy restaurant called El Arroyo. I could tell you about the big, spacious patio, the tasty margaritas, and the ambiance-ruining grackles, but let’s get down to business! We have dairy products to discuss.

Amanda and I were pleased to discover that the restaurant offers an option to “build your own queso” by choosing from a list of ingredients. That’s right – DESIGNER queso. Queso couture. This is truly brilliant on El Arroyo’s part, as you can constantly change up your cheese accompaniments, and therefore, never get bored.

After some raucous and intense arguing, we selected a queso with fajita chicken, serrano peppers, and pico de gallo. It’s important to note that, to date, not a single other queso that we’ve reviewed has contained chicken. There have been various forms of pig, and a little bit of cow, but none of our feathery friends. It was time to give the humble chicken a chance to shine.

Let’s take a moment to appreciate this bad boy:

arroyo1

Before our first bites, we noticed that the chicken and vegetables had been finely chopped, which earned an approving head nod from both of us. It’s difficult to scoop up large chunks of meat, no matter how sturdy the chip. The smaller ingredients really do make for an easier eating experience.

The fajita chicken turned out to be a very wise choice, as it was delicious. Easily the highlight of the dish. I wanted to order an entire bowl of those tiny spicy chicken pieces and eat it like a soup.

That’s not weird. Just go with it.

The serrano peppers were much spicier than we expected – probably because we confused them with their milder pepper cousin, the poblano. Nevertheless, it’s not El Arroyo’s fault that we’re pepper-challenged, so we’re not in any way holding this one against them. Plus, the peppers added lots of flavor to the dish – we just had to consume it in small amounts 🙂

arroyo2

Now for the not-so-good aspects of this meal. The consistency of the queso was quite a bit runnier than desired – liquidy, as opposed to creamy. Even more dreadfully, it hardened as time went by.

Also, the flavor of the cheese itself was completely unimpressive. With the other ingredients added in, it made for an enjoyable all-around dish, but on its own, it was bland and mournfully reminiscent of Velveeta. Use of the artificial cheese-like product is probably also why the queso hardened as it cooled.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – Amanda and I like Velveeta. If we’re at home and want nachos, we won’t think twice about throwing some salsa or Rotel on a few spongey cubes of Velveeta, and then zapping it all in the microwave. We’re GOURMET, mothercheesers!

But if we’re at a restaurant and paying decent cheese fees, we do expect something a bit more complicated.

To put it another way, when we eat queso, we want to feel like we’re being run over by a giant, eighteen-wheeler-sized hunk of dairy. Then, just as we’re starting to peel ourselves off of the road, the cheese-mobile goes in reverse and slams us again.

To compare, El Arroyo’s queso only gave us an awkward pat on the shoulder.

When it comes to scoring, El Arroyo totally gets an honorable mention for allowing us to design our own queso. Really. That made us super happy. But as for the queso itself, we gave the restaurant a relatively average score of 3.2.

On a side note, I don’t normally comment on a restaurant’s service, because I write reviews of queso, not of general restaurant experiences. But it seems important to note that the service at El Arroyo was not good. Our server was friendly, and our orders were accurate, but the sheer amount of time spent waiting (and waiting and waiting) for things was pretty bad.

Side note #2, this was officially Just In Queso’s NINETEENTH review. That’s a lot of cheese! To celebrate the big 2-0, we’ll be doing something a bit different, but I’ll keep that a surprise for now 😉

If you’re new to my blog, click here to learn the reason for the cheesin’!

 

 

Letter to My Cantankerous Computer: A Response from My Laptop

laptop1

Several months ago, I wrote a letter to my laptop. We shared our ten-year anniversary together this year, so the letter was partly loving and appreciative – and partly accusatory. Just like letters between humans.

Today’s Blogging U. assignment was to write a letter to someone/something – to yourself, to another person, even to an object or idea. Because this is something I’ve already done before, I considered just ignoring the prompt, and picking back up with the course tomorrow.

But then… I thought it’d be interesting to put myself in the perspective of my laptop, and write a response to my letter. You know, a response from the laptop.

Was I drinking when I came up with this idea, you ask? Nope, stone-cold sober! Which is probably somehow worse…

Laptop’s response to my letter:

Dear User,

I am glad that you appreciate all the hard work I’ve done for you. Actually, I’m not “glad” because gladness is a human emotion, and as a machine, I am incapable of that. Instead, let’s just say that your letter was processed and received as you intended.

Anyway, I was chagrined (damn it, I did it again) to read your letter about my lengthy list of flaws. Tell me, how would YOU feel if someone did that to you? If they painstakingly detailed all of the things that you don’t do correctly? Because let me tell you, user, you are no perfect being, either. At least I don’t try to convince myself that donuts are a well-balanced breakfast. BURN.

Second of all, where do you get off trying to make me feel guilty for dying those times? I realize that my death put you through a lot of stress, but you’re the one who gave me the viruses in the first place. That’s victim-blaming if I ever heard it.

Also, you do get that I’m old, right? I know that ten in human years is still a child, but in technology years, it’s basically 100. I am an elderly object. A senior machine. You have to expect that I won’t run as smoothly as I did before, and that I’ll require more upkeep.

Clearly, you’re just ageist.

So, yeah, maybe my on-button sometimes falls inside, and my down-arrow key sticks, and sometimes I won’t let you download newfangled programs. I’m even more embarrassed about these things than you are.

Or I would be, if I were capable of complex emotions.

But that part where I make you keep the cord in the exact correct spot? I’m just messing with you. Old people objects have to get their fun somewhere.

Cordially, Sincerely, Love,

-Laptop.

The Space to Write

Right now, I’m participating in a Blogging U. course called “Everyday Inspiration” in which WordPress emails me a daily writing assignment to help me get my creative juices flowing.

(I’ve always been slightly grossed out by the phrase “get your creative juices flowing.” Instead, let’s say that the course helps me “get my creative cheeses melting.” Catchy.)

Anyway, today’s assignment was to describe the space and circumstances in which I write. What type of setting do I need? What supplies or tools do I use?

Here’s what’s been working for me so far:

Tools

I write on my crabby 10-year-old laptop. I wish I could say that I use fancy apps or programs, but to be honest, I use Microsoft Word –  and not a modern version of it, either. Because the nicer ones aren’t compatible with Windows XP. #Conspiracy.

I use one document for keeping a list of blog post ideas, and another Word doc for holding my in-progress stuff. If I want to edit a picture in a funny way, I use Paint.

If blogging styles were types of dessert, mine would probably be a slightly old candy bar. I’ll leave the crème brûlée and chocolate soufflé to other bloggers 😉

Timing

I do the vast majority of my writing in the evenings after I get off work. However, I love writing really late at night, and I think some of my funnier (and goofier) stuff has been written then. (Probably because my brain is tired and confused.)

Setting

Most of the time, I write while sitting on my super-comfy-but-lacking-in-the-looks-department couch in my living room. I’d like to be able to write in more delightful settings, like at a coffee shop, or inside a gas station, but I really do my best writing and thinking from my own home.  Plus, pants are optional here.

The most eccentric thing about my writing space is that I like to keep the television on, but muted. If the sound is playing, the noise distracts me from my line of thought – which is understandable. But if the TV is totally off, I tend to freeze up and go blank. For some reason, having the visuals on seems to take the pressure off.

The view from my elderly computer:

space1

Purpose

Anything that gets my creative cheeses melting makes me feel better. And anything that makes me feel better, and doesn’t cause harm to anyone else (which my blog hasn’t yet, to my knowledge), is a good thing.

To my fellow writing nerds (meant in an affectionate way, of course), what does your writing space look like? Are there any habits or rituals that you follow? I found this to be a super interesting question, so if any of you want to make your own blog post on this subject (even without being enrolled in the course), I’d love to read it! Commenting on here works too, of course 🙂

P.S. – Today’s writing prompt also came with an additional assignment: to invite my readers and fellow bloggers to submit your ideas for what I should blog about in the future. What burning questions do you have for me? What silliness or seriousness would you like to see from me? All ideas are welcome, and your idea might just appear in another Blogging U. assignment in a couple of weeks. Go to my new contact page in order to send me your thoughts!

 

The Mosquito is So Not Neat-O

Ahhh…summertime. This season brings a lot of wonderful things:

  • Ice Cream
  • Barbecues
  • Temperatures warm enough for swimming

And it also comes with some dangers:

  • Snakes
  • Sharks
  • Getting run over by a lawnmower

But the most dangerous, the most insidious of summer hazards, is this guy:

mosquito1

I think we can all agree that the mosquito is the true bastard of the animal world. Obviously, mosquitoes got tired of bears and poisonous spiders getting all of the drama and attention, so they had to take action. They feel like they have something to prove to the rest of the animal kingdom.

Last summer, I thought it’d be fun to randomly develop a severe allergy to mosquitoes, despite never having had a reaction before. It’s all part of my master plan to preserve my average looks.

The demons would bite me, and my skin reacted by getting swollen, hot, and horrifically itchy.

Like this!

And this!

I know what you’re thinking – how does this girl not have a line of admirers following her everywhere? I’m stumped too, you guys. I’m stumped too.

But this year – I will not be brought down by the mosquito! I will not look like I’m slowly turning inside out! This year, I WILL fight back!

Here are the battle strategies I’ve come up with so far:

1. Dress like I’m Joey Tribbiani playing a nonsensical prank on Chandler

mosquito6
They recommend wearing layers? I’LL SHOW THEM LAYERS.

2. Slowly poison myself and others by maintaining a permanent cloud of DEET

mosquito7
I can always get new lungs on the black market.

3. Start a line of mosquito net fashion – I’ll call it “insect couture”

mosquito8
Hello children. I’ll be your counselor.

4. Hire tough-looking mosquito hit-men to walk beside me and swat away any invaders

mosquito9.jpg
Hit-men cleverly disguised as skinny teenage boys

I’m fresh out of ideas at this point – UNLESS I can find a way to fashion earrings out of citronella candles…