Site revamp, shiny new covers, and cats

So, if you’ve stopped by the site lately, you may have noticed that everything is completely different.

Yes. Hi. I did that. :D

It was time for a change, so I revamped the site entirely, making it easier to access my books, check out my blog, read the bad sci-fi of my youth, and (of course) learn more about my cats. (Because come on, we all know that’s the kind of content you’re really here for.)

I also, through the help of Fotor’s Book Cover Maker site, created some spiffed up covers for several of my projects, including a shiny new one for my 2013 short story, “Rain Would Come.”

And hey, did you know that you can go buy “Rain Would Come” right now on Amazon for the low-low price of $0.99? IMAGINE.

Anyway, if you feel so inclined, take a stroll around the new site, browse through my books, check out my works in progress, and learn about the Feline Management Team, a vital part of the T.J. Baer organization.

In which I walk around the couch a lot and try to eat healthier (also, Chinese!)

So, as it turns out, working from home when it’s freezing cold outside is pretty nice. :D

Unfortunately, this pleasant new development also results in me not getting much in the way of exercise, so I’ve had to improvise. In my previous job, I was both incredibly stressed and receiving a crapton of exercise (lifting children, chasing children, chasing and lifting children at the same time, etc.), and this led me to achieve a quite low weight and the general wan look of someone dying of the plague. While I am pleased to no longer have the plague, it would be nice to achieve some sort of middle ground here, hence my **NEW HEALTH RESOLUTION** (TM).

Yes, friends, every day after my morning lessons, I have been…

WALKING AROUND THE COUCH.

While this may not sound like a revolutionary health resolution, given the shoebox-like size of my apartment and the eyelash-freezing temps outside, it’s turned out to be quite a good method of exercise. I downloaded a step counter app on my phone, and my general routine is to turn on a vegan documentary or health talk on YouTube and then walk around my apartment at varying speeds while the cats race around in front of me, confused but also at least getting their own exercise in the process.

It’s been going pretty well, and I managed to hit 10,000 steps both yesterday and the day before. I’ve also, as a result of all these documentaries, been reassessing the quality of the food I eat, and have been transitioning away from Junk Food Vegan to Hopefully A Bit Healthier Vegan. My diet wasn’t terrible to begin with, but I frequently overuse salt, oil, and sugar, and…yeahhh, I should probably not do that.

Cutting out/reducing sugar has been the hardest, so I’ve been making a lot of juices in my blender – water + fruit, essentially (this is what juice is, for those who were blissfully unaware of the process) – and experimenting with the use of dates to sweeten things, a practice made possible by the fact that Aldi now carries dates. :D

I’ve also been studying the absolute beginner basics of Chinese, because I’m teaching Chinese kids and it would be nice to have some vague sense of what they’re muttering to themselves during our lessons. Is it, “Teacher, you are the best ever and I love you dearly?” Further studies will reveal the truth, I assume.

I’m actually finding that Chinese isn’t as impossible as I initially thought, primarily because I’m starting out by learning the basic-basics: the four (technically five) tones, the general grammatical structure (which is quite similar to English, funnily enough), and the basic pronunciation rules. I still know barely anything at all, but what I am learning is actually making sense, and that’s something I didn’t expect.

So, yes. My free time these days is occupied by cooking, eating, watching documentaries, learning Chinese, and walking around my couch. Just your typical day in the life of a stay-at-home cat parent and ESL teacher. And, of course, I’ve allowed for a great deal of Cat Snuggle Time, because what is life without snuggles? Tis no life at all.

VEGAN VLOG 22: Thanksgiving rebound, deformed spring rolls, and an abused tree

In which I discuss the ravages days of Thanksgiving food has wreaked upon my stomach and the methods I’ve undertaken to reverse the horror. Also, there is some discussion of fruit juice, giant salads, cauliflower-related injuries, and deformed spring rolls, plus a bonus ramble regarding my hair. Enjoy. :P

VEGAN VLOG 20: How to burn your homemade granola

Part I: The hopeful beginning, when I still suspect something edible may come out of this experiment.

Part II: Reality comes crashing down on our intrepid young (?) baking hero as she looks in horror at the Uncle Owen/Aunt Beru situation in her oven.

Oh, well. I ate the carrot sticks (along with some Trisuits and yellow bell peppers) with the remainder of my tofu nacho cheese spread, and that made for an excellent, non-burnt morning snack. Darla, on the other hand, promptly leapt up onto the stove and ate the blackened granola with great relish, because she is Darla.

VEGAN VLOG 19: Homemade Cashew Milk, Thanksgiving, and Darla Eats It All

In which laziness leads to my making homemade cashew milk, I reveal my true feelings on the presence of peanuts in muesli, and Darla tries to eat everything in sight, including a used tissue and a soggy tea bag. Also, there is **natural light!** Though now, less than an hour later, the sky has gone gray and disgusting again, so…thanks for that false hope, Chicago. Thanks.

 

VEGAN VLOG 18: Sadness in the Japanese Food Court and a review of the Beyond Burger

In which I venture to the Japanese supermarket and experience Great Sadness, then discover a wealth of vegan items closer to home + try the Beyond Burger. Also, miso ramen and vegan tonkatsu! Kind of.

Conferences, food, and drowsy catnaps

I thought I was done waking up at 3:45 AM due to the time change, but alas, this morning marked another early wakeup and general refusal from my body and brain to return to sleep. As today was Parent/Teacher Conferences and my last day at work, I took advantage of the extra time to (a) write thank-you cards to parents,  (b) cook up some goodies to keep me alive and semi-coherent during conferences, and (c) stare into space for long periods of time while wondering what it must be like to sleep past 4 AM.

  

Donuts and coffee are always provided for conferences, so I brought along a chocolate mug cake so I could join in on the sugar intake and general glorious unhealthiness. I also brought  a non-dairy grilled “cheese” sandwich, which involved spreading my version of Cheap Lazy Vegan’s tofu cheese recipe over toast and pan-frying it, and that made for an excellent hobbity Second Breakfast.

Conferences went very well, incidentally – it seemed like a fitting way to end my tenure at this  school, getting to meet one-on-one with parents and rave about their kids (plus gently offering a few “things we’re working on” :P). Many of them took time out to say kind things about my contributions to their kids’ development, and overall, it was just a pleasant, positive, hopeful sort of day. (And let’s face it, chocolate cake tends to improve just about any experience.)

Upon returning home, burdened by a full-sized keyboard, giant backpack of stuff, and a gift bag packed with homemade cards and lovely little presents, I had some lunch and flopped onto the couch to drowse and watch HGTV. I spent much of the afternoon dozing with cats on either side of me, and I really can’t recommend that manner of spending an afternoon highly enough.

For dinner tonight, I tried my hand at a vegan mac and cheese, which I ate far too much of and which has led to a somewhat unhappy stomach and entirely unrepentant tastebuds.  (And it must’ve been good, because Darla is currently up on the stove licking up a little spill of “cheese” sauce from the countertop. Weird, weird cat.)

Anyway. It’s now nearly eight PM, and despite my drowsy afternoon, I’m more than ready for bed. With that in mind, I shall bid you adieu for now, and hopefully have more to report on – possibly in wacky video form – at a later time. :P