Reminder: Vacancy is coming back on January 1st!

This may only be exciting for me, but I’m very proud to announce that my serial fiction is coming back starting Monday, January 1, 2018!

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Vacancy is a supernatural, fantasy fiction serial I began posting to the blog way back in 2016, then used as my project for NaNoWriMo 2017 and am planning to begin posting again every Monday starting January 1st.

The story follows Lorelei Fischer as she happens upon a mysterious inn, Moonlit Shores Manor, while escaping a life she wishes to leave behind. Can she secure a job at the bizarre bed and breakfast amidst its cooky inhabitants and, if so, will she even want to stay?

If you’d like to catch up or begin reading, there are currently four posts:

Vacancy – 1.01
Vacancy – 1.02
Vacancy – 1.03
Vacancy – 1.04

And many more to come, weekly, on the blog!

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How To Not Fuck Up 2018

I’m going to be straight with you, Dear Reader: 2017 was pretty fucking great for me. I would be remiss to not call it super successful. While the things I did don’t apply to everyone, they certainly turned things around for me in a lot of ways. Am I am expert advice giver? No, but I’m not less of a good advice giver than the next fucko, so in that vein, here are my top suggestions for anyone looking pre-un-fuck 2018. Also, there are five suggestions here. You could call this a top five list. I won’t though.

Assess And Address Your Fucking Health

If there’s only one thing I could suggest everyone do right at the start of 2018, it would be to take a look at your physical well being and take steps to improve it. (But since I’ve got this handy little internet soapbox, I won’t be limited to just one. You’re welcome!) No, I don’t mean look in the mirror, grab a fat roll with dismay, fuck your knees up on the treadmill every day for the next two weeks, then give up into a bowl of raw chocolate chip cookie dough. I mean, actually take stock of how you feel on a daily basis. One of the things that shocked me the most when I lost weight was all the ways I felt terrible when I was fat but didn’t realize were so bad til I was healthier. If you, like me, are blinded to how great things could be, consider starting to track how you live your life on the reg:

  • Daily Food Intake – Just write it all down, there’s no use lying to yourself!
  • Daily Water Intake – Just TRY to drink a little actual water, okay?
  • Digestion and Bowel Movements – How are your shits, Dear Reader?
  • Energy Exertion – Are you getting off your ass–genuinely off it–and moving around?
  • Sleep – When do you get ready for bed, actually get in bed, actually fall asleep, actually get up?

Track what you can for a few weeks (there are a lot of great apps out there for some or all of these things) and include, at the end of each day, how you actually felt that day physically and emotionally. Don’t try to make changes, just keep an honest log. See how what you’re doing correlates to how you feel. Where can you make improvements? DO THOSE THINGS.

Assess And Address Whatever The Fuck Your Problem Is

Okay, this is, admittedly, way more loaded than the header makes it out to be, but on at least some level you can do this! It might also take some tracking and honesty and a little soul searching, but what the fuck are you waiting for? Looking at your relationships might be a good place to start. What do you like about them? What do you hate? Why? How can you (and I mean YOU, not through the actions of others) facilitate the good things and lessen the bad things?

Example: I love Husband. I love being with him, talking, hanging out, but I hate fighting. Why? I don’t like how I feel during and after a fight, and I don’t like that if fighting is frequent or particularly bad it could really deteriorate our relationship. So what can I do to lessen those fights? Well, when I get angry, I get Italian Angry™ and it happens really fast. It’s sort of a 0 to 60 thing, then it tapers off almost immediately. My anger, yelling, saying hurtful things, all exacerbate a fight when, instead, I could take a breath, stay calm, and explain why I’m upset. We still may have an argument at worst, or a discussion at best, but both are healthy and lead to understanding and compromise. Husband isn’t perfect, but neither am I, and I can only change myself.

This is meant to be a focus on YOU. How can you be a better person? Everyone has issues, and no you cannot (and should not) compensate for everybody else, but you can work on yourself, so fucking do it.

Set Some Fucking Goals

Be they vague or specific, big or small, hair-brained or totally logical, set some 2018-fucking-goals for your 2018-fucking-self. I don’t mean resolutions, like this big floating concept that you plan to reach by way of…the universe making it happen or whatever; I mean goals. While the destination might be vague, the journey should be mapped out. Say I want to be more creative in 2018. That’s pretty damn vague, so how the fuck am I going to become Artsy Ashley 2k18? Well, I know what my strengths and weaknesses are, like I’m pretty bad at focusing in the beginning of a project, but I’ll wallow hours away late at night on something once I’m in the groove, so I need to set very specific times to get things started and done.

To reach that goal, a planned evening for me might look like this: 30 minutes to decompress after work (that means YouTube), 15 minutes to get set up and look through inspiration/get in the groove, 40 minutes to work on the actual project, and 5 minutes to plan for the next time and clean up. Those last five minutes are crucial for me because, like I said, I’ll just keep going and either burn through sleep time or just burn myself out on the project all together. If I go through the planned cycle, say, three out of every five weekdays, Artsy Ashley just might be born by summer. Of course, as the year goes on, I’ll need to modify that schedule, but the point is I’ll start out with a road map to get to that fucking end goal.

Downloading a habit app might really help you out here. I use the one in the link, but I don’t really play the game aspects, I just feel really good about leveling up. Before I go to bed, I check off everything I’ve done. If I’ve missed a number of things, I’m motivated to do better the next day. If I’ve checked everything off, I feel super successful and motivated to keep it up. You can use the habit app for health goals too. See, it all ties together.

Don’t Be Afraid To Ask For Some Fucking Help

Humans very rarely do things entirely on their own. Even if you hire help, you’re still getting it. But you probably need help the most when you’re making changes and working toward something new. Getting thrown out of your regular routine is tough, and can be tough for the people close to you as well. If they’re used to old 2017 you, they may not take to well to 2018 you. That’s totally their problem, not yours, but letting them know you’re changing, and letting them know how they can help might, well…help!

You also may find yourself struggling at some point. Before I took on NaNoWriMo this year, I knew I would need motivation in the form of human encouragement. I enlisted Anachostic and another workmate to take part in the great wordening of two ought one seven. Without someone to run beside (and fall behind) I would have most likely stopped at the first smoothie shop on the way and just hunkered down for the winter. That is to say: I needed help. And I asked for it. And I got it.

Fucking Love Your Current Self And Look Forward To Your Future Self

I hated my body when I was overweight, but I still, even if it wasn’t a lot, loved myself. I loved myself enough, at least, to put in the effort to change because I knew the potential I was capable of.

I need to be kinder to people.

I need to start feeding my mind again.

I need to shit at least once a day.

All ways a person can change, all suggested with love. Especially that last one.

There’s this movement going on that suggests loving yourself means accepting the exact person you are right now, indefinitely, and you don’t need to ever evolve. If you think you’re perfect, well, good for you, but I don’t think that’s really what self-love is. If you really love someone, you should want what’s best for them. Sometimes that means giving someone a piece of candy, but that also means telling someone the truth, even if it hurts.

Love yourself enough to tell yourself the fucking truth.

Blogmas: Christmas

The day is finally here, and I have to say: I’m excited but more so I am relieved! Blogging every day was fun to do for a month, but not something I would commit to for any longer than that. There were too many days where I posted something that was not at all up to my personal standards, but on the other hand, the requirement to post something was helpful and often inspiring, and I think I ended up with a small handful of posts that I’m incredibly proud of. If nothing else, I know what I’m capable of now, so I can more easily plan this blog for the coming year.

But hey, we made it! Christmas! Woo!

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The cats were very gracious gift-getters.

My day largely orbited around cooking. Rutherford had to be sequestered since he can’t not be on the counter, but since I wasn’t cooking any meat, it didn’t rile up Di or Bart.

I stuck mostly to my menu from the other day.

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I prepped a lot while the potatoes did their first bake in the oven. Lots of chopping and since I don’t do it “right,” my nails suffered for it, sadly. Also, we probably ate a little bit of nail. Ew.
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Making the twice baked potatoes was a lot of fun and crazy tasty. My filling consisted of white cheddar, broccoli, butter, sour cream, salt, pepper, and paprika. Did I mention none of these foods were particularly diet conscious?
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My mushroom parcels didn’t stay together in the oven which was a downer, but totally my fault because I didn’t use an egg to bind them, just butter, but they were tasty! No meat required.
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Here’s our fancy spread, soda in wine glasses and all! That’s a round of brie baked into a puff pastry. It melted all out of it. Wah wah wah…
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And here’s a closeup of the plate!

Just a side note: I only found out today brie isn’t actually vegetarian since it’s usually made with rennet which is gross, but also I had already bought it. I try to avoid adding parmesan to things because it’s made this way as well, but when you eat cheese you just never know. Not that cheese is kind to animals at all, but that’s a different blog and a bigger life change I’m working towards.

Last night for Christmas eve, we visited Anachostic and helped him put out luminaries which was a blast. Of course Husband and I exchanged gifts as well today, and he was very thoughtful and creative, and the cats had a ball in the paper, but Bart’s pike ruined everything because he had to eat the plastic. Then I had a nice little nap (the one I missed yesterday!) and played The Sims Medieval, an almost seven year old game that I only just got yesterday. While I did that I listed to creepy conspiracies on YouTube, and ya know, that made the day just about perfect!

Now I just need to get through two days of work, and then I’ll have five whole days off! So, while I enjoyed Blogmas terribly, I am taking a little time off (probably) so when 2018 rolls around in seven days I’ll be ready…with Vacancy! Happy Christmas! And now, my favorite Christmas song:

 

Blogmas: Christmas Eve!

Look, I’m not one to brag about the things I have. Thing are inconsequential in this life. We should appreciate the natural and what has been given to us by the universe. We should love life, a cool breeze, a warm smile, a good hug. But when you get a present as AWESOME as I got last night, you have to shout about it!

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Rutherford, Bart, Di

Lovely couple gifted us with some extraordinary things, but these portraits of our kitties took the cake (and the cheese, and the ice cubes, and the treats, and all the things our hellspawn love). There is probably no more appropriate gift for me and Husband than this. First, it’s of the cats who we love very much and are a great source of entertainment for us. Also, they’ve been cartoon-ized which really speaks to our preference for things to never be too serious, but they’re just so well done and we have high standards for stuff (or art-stuff at least!) Finally, they were done by an independent artist on the web, Keekers, and we are both really into helping out indie brands and startups.

AND THEY’RE HILARIOUS OMG LOOK AT THEM!

If Husband and I ever have a human child, we’ll have to commission another hahaha.

So here we are, Dear Reader, on the eve of Christmas. There is nothing and yet so much left to do! I braved the Xmas Eve crowds to go to Walgreens and pick up some soda for Husband because 1) I am the world’s best wife, and 2) I wanted to put something other than water in the wine glasses I intend on using tomorrow. On my plate for the rest of the day is:

Cleaning (I need this place to be photo op ready)
Menu planning (timing of oven use)
Simming (yeah this has to be scheduled in so it gets done)
Christmas Eve lunch/dinner (I’m not doing a big cook two days in a row)
A nap? (???)
And an end of the day visit to spread a little holiday cheer!

It’s already almost noon, so I fear I’m behind, but I did get in some working out and a little cleaning this morning, and Husband is up and showered, so he can contribute to the goings on. Guys, are you ready? It’s almost here!

Blogmas: Dinner

So I thought I was prepared for Christmas. Presents bought and wrapped, plans laid out, decorations and comfiness abounding, then I realized that I had no idea what we were going to eat! Husband and I have been eating out so much recently I forgot that cooking was an option and that nothing is really open on Christmas day, and I don’t really want to make someone else cook for me on Christmas. Plus, I vowed to actually do Christmas this year, and that includes a fancy dinner!

But this is also my first Christmas as a vegetarian (pescatarian, to be fair, but only like twice a month). Husband isn’t vegetarian, but he really enjoys a lot of meat-free dishes, so I put together a menu that’s going to be bangin’. I don’t usually do recipes exactly as they’re suggested (unless I’m baking), so I’ll be doing a version of the following:

Mushroom Parcels (say it like an English person, drop the “r”, it’s so much fancier)

Twice Baked Potatoes (I’m stuffing mine with broccoli too I think)

Roasted Brussel Sprouts

Baked Brie/Camembert

I also bought a mini apple pie for dessert from the Publix bakery. This thing is legit adorable, just wait til you see it, But you won’t until Christmas!

It’s going to be a cheesy menu, but we will probably need it. We went to a hibachi tonight with lovely couple, and while that food is amazing, we always vacate our bowels afterwards. In fact, I’m blogging from the toilet right now! We also did a gift exchange with lovely couple, but that deserves its very own blog and, frankly, more energy than I have right now. Just know that omg it was ah-may-zing!

Blogmas: Bramas

So I know it’s the season of giving and all that, but I bought myself a present: new bras! I was really flat chested for a long time, then I put on a lot of weight, and the only thing good about that was finally having big squishy boobies. When I got back down to fighting weight this summer, I just didn’t know what to do with the old funbags. I knew I wasn’t still the “Almost A” that I was in high school, but the bras I’d gotten at the top of my weight were comically large and made me look like I was purposely wearing a shit ton of padding. I had (an still have) no interest in getting measured by some stranger in an underwear shop. Seriously, one time when I was at my heaviest I went to get new bras at like a Hanes Outlet or something, and the woman who worked there would just NOT LEAVE ME ALONE. Constant knocking on the fitting room door, checking on me while I searched the racks, asking if I wanted to be measured. Listen, lady, if I want your yellowed fingernails cupping my tatas, I’ll fucking tell you, but for now keep that measuring tape slathered in gods know how many other reluctant women’s  boob sweat far from me.

So I scoured the internet til I happened upon A Bra That Fits, and I followed those guidelines. I was shocked (SHOCKED I SAY) to read I was a 30DD. No way! Double Ds are like huge ole knockers, porn star titties, and I feel like I’m only just barely sexually dimorphic from a 13 year old boy. But I trusted the internet, as you do, and I ordered one from three different brands for a whopping $107 American. That. Is. A. Lot.

Shockingly, or not, a 30 inch band is just way too tight for me. I don’t really have much fat around my chest, but I do have, uh, what are they called? Oh, right, RIBS BONES. So I sent them back to Amazon and got my complete refund because Amazon is a boss ass bitch, and I ordered 32Ds from the same brands.

Shockingly, or not, my total was only $57 for the same thing but different sizes. Because women’s clothing is a fucking joke, and using less fabric costs more, I guess.

So why 32D and not 32DD? That’s the secret, you guys, the bra code is not at all what you think, or at least, not what I thought. A, B, C, D, DD, and so on (and there are a LOT of so ons…) are cup volumes, and the numbers are band sizes. Easy enough, right? And if the bands are numbered in inches and always the same, cups must always be the same too, right? WRONG. A 32C’s cup is not the same as a 34C’s cup which is not the same as a 36C’s cup. When the bands get bigger, the cups get smaller. So for every band size change going up in number, you must also change the cup going down, and vice versa. These are called sister sizes and they work like this:

30DD = 32D = 34C = 36B = 38A

Even though it’s a little bit complicated, it actually makes a lot of sense and totally negates my claim that women’s clothing is a fucking joke (but only bras are the exception).

So I got the 32Ds and they’re actually pretty nice. One has a cup gaping issue but I think that is due to the brand (everything I’ve read warns you that brand to brand you will find lots of differences, so I guess I’m back to women’s clothing be a fucking joke). Another’s band feels too tight still, so that might be going back, but I’m trying to break it in instead (another suggestion from the internet). And the third is pretty much perfect. I’ve found the goldilocks of bras. So while the suggested fit I got wasn’t totally spot on, it was pretty damn close, and I learned a hell of a lot about bras. If you wear a bra, you need to know these things too! So, merry Christmas, bra-wearers! Here’s your info!

Blogmas: The Longest Night

Winter begins today in the northern hemisphere, though being so close to the equator it certainly doesn’t feel like it. Tampa was a VERY balmy 70 degrees F by the time I went outside at 6:30 this morning and the high was 80. But the winter solstice is not necessarily about the cold, but about darkness, the shortest day, and the longest night.

Winter solstice falls during Yule from which most of our modern Christmas traditions come. Both holidays have a history of ghost stories and things that knock on your bedroom window in the night. Yule, like Halloween, is thought to have been a time when the veil between this world and the next is at its thinnest. The dead, or draugr (a term I’m co-opting for a fantasy novel), could walk amongst us, sometimes taking part in the Wild Hunt which, if you see, you may be spirited away to join. Glimpsing the Wild Hunt could also be prophetic of coming war.

One of the creepier accounts of this death march through the sky comes from 1127 when an abbot, Henry d’Angely, was appointed to a monastery in Britain. Apparently he was terrible and witnesses said the following went on through to Easter:

Many men both saw and heard a great number of huntsmen hunting. The huntsmen were black, huge, and hideous, and rode on black horses and on black he-goats, and their hounds were jet black, with eyes like saucers, and horrible…and in the night the monks heard them sounding and winding their horns.

But perhaps the concept of dark, vengeful spirits is only the bastardization of a more positive procession of lost gods and goddesses through the sky, who only wish to bestow good will. Faerie folk taking to the sky, welcoming the rebirth of the sun.

While a horde of demonic hunters is pretty frightening, what chills me a bit more is the concept of The Stranger. During Yule, you may be visited by an entity, wearing a human visage or perhaps not, seeking shelter. Accounts report The Stranger being met in the street, looking mostly like a man, but not quite. Sure, he wears the clothes, the skin, even the smile, but there’s something hollow there, something missing. That’s The Need, and he is searching for someone to help fill a void.

Other stories tell of an incessant rapping at the door or window, but no form on the other side when answered. You’re advised to invite the unseen into your home, offer it a place at your table and a means to keep warm that night. In this case, opening your heart to the wandering may bring you luck. Good or bad, I’m unsure.

Tomorrow, the days begin to grow, the sun is reborn, and though half of the world will plunge into the coldest weather it will see all year, the promise of spring is on the horizon. But tonight we’re in that limbo, and if you linger long enough at a crossroads or in a doorway, be sure to try and catch a glimpse of the other side. Or not.

For me, well, the cats keep mulling about the front door and cocking their ears at a sound I can’t quite make out. At least, I don’t think I can. So I’m off to investigate.