Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Good Things for Autumn

There is something about fall that I love. The leaves changing color, the cool rain, the earlier nightfall, and the fashion choices are all excellent. It's a cozy time for me, more comfortable than summer and winter, more fun than spring. Plus, it's Halloween season, which makes me so happy.


Like Martha Stewart before me, I wanted to share a few thinks I think are great for fall. This is, of course, a completely subjective list, but I hope it's one that inspires you!

1) Loaf Cakes

To match the denser feeling that comes with fall, why not whip up a loaf cake? They come in all sorts of flavors, including those seasonal classics, apple and pumpkin. You can even match the shape of the loaf to the season if you so desire!

2) Walking Trails

I'm not the biggest fan of being outside, but it's difficult to pass up the chance to step on some crunchy leaves and experience the turning of the colors. The best way to do this, in my opinion, is to either take a drive down a tree-lined corridor or get yourself to a walking trail in a local park. Your state's Department of Natural Resources can give you great ideas about where to do this.

3) Tiffany & Co. Perfume

Recently, I decided it was time to find a new fall fragrance. You can always go with the typical classics from Bath and Body Works--something like Warm Vanilla Sugar is good, and they have an ever-changing range of seasonal scents. Or, if you're looking for something more sophisticated, as I was, you can try this perfume, with patchouli and musk at its base, to give you that warm feeling.

4) Fahrenheit 451

Y'all should have seen this one coming. There is no book that says FALL to me like Fahrenheit. This is the perfect season to read (or, in my case, reread) Bradbury's classic.

What would you add to your own list of  fall essentials? And how do you feel about the debate about fall versus autumn?


Whichever side you come down on, I hope you have an excellent season!

-Cate-

Images via here and here.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Why I Didn't Report

This post is for LB, who did report.

I've never been raped, for which I'm grateful.* But I have been sexually harassed on several occasions, been made uncomfortable by male attention (in a way unconnected to my anxiety), and thrice been touched against my will, all by different people, and in each instance as an adult.** So now I'm here to list the reasons why I didn't report.

1) Because feeling squeamish during an encounter isn't enough of a reason to make a claim against someone.
2) Because I was conditioned by society to believe that I should be flattered by the attention.
3) Because I brushed it off as a symptom of his drunkenness. 
4) Because part of me wanted it, and I thought that made the whole thing okay.
5) Because I was afraid of the consequences of saying no.
6) Because he was sensitive and vulnerable and I didn't want to make it worse for him.

None of these people are in my life anymore, although only by circumstance in all but the last case. Him, I had to cut out because of his terrible behavior (on this front and others). And, in all but the last two cases, I have forgiven the transgression.***

Because it's tough, navigating these situations. I can't know how many of them were one-off incidents borne of alcohol or a moment of bad judgment, and that makes it seem easier to just move past an awkward, uncomfortable, or inappropriate moment. Also, when the incident is minor, moving past it feels like a better choice than making a fuss. And when you have to see some of these people every day of your life, learning to live with the situation makes survival more possible.

However. 

Having said all that, I do think that speaking up and defending yourself is important. But having said THAT, I completely understand why some--maybe most--survivors of harassment or assault choose to bury the pain, embarrassment, and shame.

I believe Dr. Ford. I believe all of my friends who have made the decision not to report. I believe the women (and men) who have reported and been brushed aside, ignored, and scapegoated. Because I've been there, too.

-Cate-

* The fact that I feel I have to express my gratitude for not having my bodily autonomy violated too badly is another discussion for another time.
** I'm so lucky not to have experienced any of this as a child. Such a sin against minors is literally the most disgusting thing I can imagine.
*** Whether I should or not.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Summer Book Report 2018

Y'all. It's been seven months since I blogged, so #failcatefail. But that's not even the worst part: I barely have a post to write here at all.

This wasn't the greatest summer for my reading life. I've been a slacker all year, in fact. Since January, I've only read 20 new-to-me books, although to be fair to myself, I also reread the entire Harry Potter series in January, which is an accomplishment in itself. And I did buy a few (read: 20 or more) volumes to read in the future! These are the stores I've been to recently to accomplish such a feat.

- In September, I returned to McLean & Eakin in Petoskey, MI. This is one of my favorite bookstores, which is saying something, as I love most bookstores I visit.

- Also in September, I went to Between the Covers in Harbor Springs, MI. This was my first time at that store. It's small but has a good selection and reminded me a lot of Lorelei Books in Vicksburg, MS.

Sadly, I have yet to go to any other stores, except for my local Barnes & Noble (I know, okay?). However, I should have the opportunity in October to go to both Brilliant Books in Traverse City, MI, which I already know, and Horizon Books, also in TC, which I've never shopped at before. If I have the time, I'll also stop at Landmark Books in TC.

In other bookstore news: for those of you who don't know, the Lansing branch of Schuler Books has closed; however, their Okemos and Grand Rapids locations are still open for business!

In other bookish news, I've suspended my Book of the Month Club subscription, although I do highly recommend the service. Their curation and price point are spot-on; I just found myself more interested in other books I found elsewhere, but don't be surprised if I tell you in the future that I've reactivated my account.

I'm sorry my first post back isn't more exciting than this one, but I hope you find it informative and discover your new favorite bookstore this way!

-Cate-

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Food Food Food: The Pumpkin Queen?

If you were suffering under the delusion that my October soufflail would deter me from revisiting that pumpkin cookbook of my mother's, you were wrong. So it happens that the second Food Food Food post starts much like the first: with a can of pumpkin guts.

Look, it's not that I didn't want to move on to different things. I did. But that stupid orange book was taunting me, okay? I couldn't let it defeat me. So I drove to the grocery store in my yoga pants and marched myself around until I found the ingredients for something called a Pumpkin Cream Cheese Pie with Sour Cream Topping.

Let me be clear: this was not a cheesecake. It was closer to the texture of a chocolate silk pie, or maybe a cheesecake if cheesecake came in a semi-wet chiffon variety. I should also tell you now that the recipe called for no pumpkin pie-type spices, only grated lemon peel and vanilla. That felt wrong to me, so I ditched the lemon and substituted ginger and nutmeg (which items we already had at home). 


I felt that I had the advantage this time. There were few ingredients, and everything was simple (i.e., no stiffly beaten anything this time). The sour cream topping was so easy to make that I wasn't sure what to do with the extra time I had, other than taste-test it; it's pretty much my new favorite thing.

That required only sugar, sour cream (I used lite), and a touch of vanilla. I mixed it in a cereal bowl with a fork. It would have taken someone with far fewer skills than I have to mess it up, I think. But I also had a secret weapon: real Mexican vanilla.


I'm not sure we've ever had a brand of vanilla other than Danncy in our house. Mom picks it up in Tijuana when she gets the chance, and a single bottle lasts approximately one million years. The rich brown liquid smells and tastes incredible and smooth, and I highly recommend it.

The pie itself was a cinch, in part because I used a store-bought graham cracker crust. Aside from that, it came together quickly and baked up in about 45 minutes. Before I added the topping, it was a light beige-orange, and it smelled like fall.


Because the crust was threatening to burn, I had to take the pie out of the oven before the topping fully set up, so it was less meringue-like than I suspect it should have been, but it still tasted good. The sour cream added just the right acidic notes to the dessert, and the texture of the pie still felt like a classic pumpkin pie, but overall it was lighter than that more traditional option. 

Although I did feel that the pie itself was a bit on the bland side, I'm happy to report that neither of my parents rejected the endeavor this time (I still can't blame my mom for not wanting to consume the first experiment).


My hope is that I'll continue to focus on seasonal fare, although perhaps in the future my efforts will line up better with my blogging schedule so I'm not consistently behind the times with my posts. If anyone has suggestions or requests, let me know, as I have yet to decide what I'll make next!

-Cate-

PS For copyright purposes, I won't be sharing the exact recipe here, but if you're interested, e-mail me at CateIsMilesAway@gmail.com for more information.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Adventures in Rejection: Self-Rejection

Hey, it's Valentine's Day, so why not talk about rejection for a minute? But this time, it's different, because it's all about you and something you should know.

It's okay to reject your own work.

Literally everyone who has ever taken a creative writing class has heard that phrase, "Kill your darlings." Usually it's in reference to a line or two that you really love but which don't quite work in the poem or story you're writing, or sometimes it's about characters who don't belong. But sometimes we have to take that saying to the next level.

Kill entire manuscripts if you have to. Don't think of it as abandonment or murder. There are pieces we've created that are either too amateur or too personal to share with the world, and no one is going to stop you from burning those pages. Or don't burn them. Stomp on them. Shred them. Vent your frustration and scribble all over them. Whatever it takes.

Although we as writers don't necessarily always know when something is working without someone else's input, there are times when we know in our writerly guts that something is wrong. Maybe you had an idea that turned out to be a dead end. Maybe a particular topic is off-limits after all. These are the times when it's okay to listen to that instinct and pull the plug.

And try not to worry too much when you do so. because there will always, always, always be another idea for you. I promise.

-Cate-

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

To Be Read

You have one. I have one. Everyone has one.

The dreaded pile of books "to be read."

No, dreaded is the wrong word. It's a pleasure to have that stack available. Because you never know what you might want to read next, right? It could be that historical biography, or perhaps a novella. Maybe it's a celebrity memoir or the hottest YA novel. In other words, the "to be read" pile represents a world of possibilities.

But what do we do when it gets unmanageable? Because it will, eventually, become so large as to seem insurmountable. Perhaps you found a ton of books on sale at a library or flea market. Or maybe you've rediscovered some cache of volumes you put aside years ago. Suddenly, there is nowhere to store all of them. 

Personally, I am a fan of culling: sitting down and being honest with myself about whether or not I will ever get around to a particular title. I've impulse-bought more books than I can count, and it's important to me to reevaluate from time to time, in case I realize that a certain topic isn't really the best thing for me to explore. 

In an ideal world, there would be enough time for us to read everything that interests us. But we live in an imperfect place where time isn't as abundant as we would like--or need--it to be. We do the best we can, including tackling that pile to the best of our ability. 

-Cate-

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Diversification

Something I think we don't discuss often enough as writers is diversification. 

In this case, I don't mean diversity of subject matter or characters, although those things are important, as well. Rather, what I mean is that we ourselves must be diverse.

Think about it: in nature, stagnation can--and often does--mean death. If an ecosystem isn't varied enough, it can fail, withering away as its few plants and animals falter under the weight of sustaining something they aren't equipped to handle. Likewise, going hard on one project, all the time, can mean creative death.

It's important to branch out into other areas. Of course, writers should always be reading, and that's one way to diversify: by seeking out genres and topics outside of your own scope. And in order to keep the creative juices flowing, it's helpful to have another artistic endeavor. For me, it's photography (I'm a big fan of Instagram). When I don't feel able to write, or when I need a break from it, I might snap a few pictures and express myself that way. Other options are music, painting, or even crafting (my crafts of choice are usually crochet and scrapbooking). 

Or maybe you have a more scientific hobby. Vladimir Nabokov was into collecting butterflies. Flannery O'Connor raised peacocks. Sylvia Plath kept bees for a time. Hell, even the more run-of-the-mill things out there, like cooking or bowling, make great side pursuits.

The point is, having something to do outside your writing time makes you a more well-rounded person, which in turn makes you a better artist. Sitting at your desk all the time can be crazy-making and lead to myopia. And no one likes a writer who never introduces a new subject or element to his or her writing, right?

-Cate-