Seven Things I’m Doing

1.  Shopping at Aldi.


Ode to Aldi!  Obviously I haven’t been living life to the fullest, because I just discovered Aldi.  If you already know and appreciate the wonders of Aldi, you understand my escalating idol worship of this store.   If you (alas) live where there is no Aldi, or if you, like me, kept away from Aldi for far too long due to prejudice, routine, or whatever, you are missing out.

Missing out on what, you ask?  THE PRICES, people!  Good gravy, I can afford to eat the way I’m supposed to eat, shopping at Aldi!

It’s no big deal to turn around every time I drive to the store and drive home to retrieve my forgotten bags and shiny quarter for the cart.  For you, Aldi, I will make that sacrifice.

I have a strange and particular diet due to food allergies and other weird health issues.  The food I can eat is largely limited to meat, produce, GF grains and starches, beans, rice milk, goat milk products now that I’m pregnant, and specialty food items that tend to be expensive (especially as we’re lacking a Trader Joe’s in this neck of the woods).  And because I’m not particularly interested in cooking separate meals every night, we all eat this way.  You know what that means:  cha-ching! cha-ching! cha-ching!

But at Aldi, I can get produce – good produce! – at half the price of Meijer.   We’re looking at a difference of several hundred dollars a month.  Exclamation point!

“But,” (I hear the protests), “Aldi doesn’t have what I want!  It’s junky!  Just another example of Monsanto evil!”

Here’s where I enter my defense:  If you are deeply, deeply committed to buying non-GMO/organic/free-range/locally grown food 100% of the time, you will not like Aldi.  Aldi is not for you.  Aldi is chock-full of the processed crap that gets passed off as nutrition in this country, junk that I have to work around myself.   And, yes, Aldi is distinctly lacking in no free-range eggs or organic meat or non-GMO cereals, because they are all about being cheap-cheap.

I think I’ve made my peace with God and Mother Earth on this one.  Is it better, morally, to eat food that’s been grown in a sustainable manner?  Yes.  But, frankly, I can’t afford it.  To eat as I’m required to eat AND eat 100% organic would double our food bill, and, given that my husband already works above and beyond to pay our bills (someday, honey, I’ll write that bestseller… ha), I cannot morally justify us eating the way I’d ideally like to eat. But by shopping at Aldi, I can now afford to eat in a way that maintains my health.   For us, this is the moral choice.

Defense over.

2.  Researching.

What happens when a new character plops into the middle of a story?  New research and development.  Golly, not what I was planning on, but, hey, I’m learning a lot about history of Russia, Hungary, Bulgaria, the Teutonic Knights, the Dominicans, the Tartar Invasion, the… the… the…

I’m lucky to be married to a college professor and to have access to a school library.  Some writers do manage to do research without such a happy resource, but I’m glad I don’t have to.  I love browsing college libraries!  So much knowledge crammed into those dimly lit metal shelves!

The Brodnici (or Brodniks or Brodniki) have one shining (?) moment in history, one moment that I know now I need to work into the plot of my novel:  They betrayed the Russians and joined the side the Mongols (Tartars) halfway through the Battle of the Kalka River in 1223, resulting in the sacking of Kiev and the death of three Russian princes, whose bodies their enemies feasted over – yes, laid a board on top of them and had a meal.  Pretty gruesome stuff.   After this they disappear from all Russian chronicles (not that they were there much before).  Not the most noble moment in human history, but, hey, it’s important.

I can’t not include this, you know?  But given that my first/second/twentieth synopsis pitted the story 40 years earlier, I’ve had to do quite a bit of research to adapt to my new time frame.  Medieval history is a mess, and none more so than Russian history.  Believe me on this one.

3. Reading Mysteries.

The great Agatha Christie, anyone?   I just started The Murder of Roger Ackroyd.  No spoilers, please!

4. Reading (bad) Historical Fiction and Getting Sucked In Nonetheless.

I’ll leave names out of this, for charity’s sake.

Someone recommended an author of historical romance whose books I found in our local library.  I’m a sucker for historical romances – it’s the Jane Austen thing – and always willing to try out a new one.  And Fabio was absent from the cover of each, so no bodice ripping.  So far, so good…

…sorry to say, I’m both disappointed and completely hooked.

Let’s begin with disappointment.  Taking that novel class has ruined me.  Now I can’t read or watch anything without breaking it apart.  Clear external goals and motivations?  Clear antagonist based on those external goals?  Plot points?  No new information in the Third Act?  Subplots?  Too many characters?  Too few?

The analytical would-be novelist is all over these books – in a bad way.

And yet I’m hooked.  This author is one of those writers who has the knack of capturing both male desire and female desire to be desired, which is not bad in of itself except that it’s the type of romance-depiction that’s very easily transfered to the reader via a limited point of view.  Think Twilight.  Hello, emotional manipulation!

So, despite my rational analysis of this author’s various plot problems, I keep reading the dang thing, and what do I do?  Pick up her other works from the library.

Yes, I’m a vice-ridden sucker.

This stuff is crack-cocaine, people.   I don’t care if we’re talking about classics (The Scarlet Pimpernel) or books free-of-bodice-ripping published by a Christian publishing house.  CRACK.  My one-time spiritual director called romance novels “female p0rn.”  I think he’s dead-on right.

What, then, in good conscience, does an author do?  Love and marriage are all goods that ought to be celebrated in story and art. Nothing wrong with that.  But how do we do this and even bring the reader into sympathy with our characters (including emotional sympathy) without turning our stories into emotional manipulation?  How much of the burden is on the author, and how much on the reader to discern what is and is not good for her to read?

I don’t know the answer to this one.

5.  Looking for book recommendations.


On that downer of a note, any recommendations?

I like historicals (obviously) and mysteries (see above), so long as they are light on the sex and the gruesome.  I do like fast-paced espionage-esque plots (Bourne) but haven’t read much in the genre and have no idea where to start.

I also recently read and enjoyed my first non-Tolkien/non-Lewis fantasy novel, K.M. Weiland’s Dreamlander (her blog is fantastic), so I’m open to fantasy recommendations, provided that they aren’t of the “Hrudon, Son of Sankar, Prince and Overlord of Outer Cthandon” type (hat tip to Chris Baty for Hrudon.  That name had me rolling on the floor laughing during the second week of our class’ NaNoWriMo).

6.  Studying Language.

Now that the pace has slowed a bit (read: not writing at a breakneck speed), I’m back at the French!  And… Spanish.

Why two?  Because I’m nuts like that.

I’m taking next semester off for obvious reasons and plan on starting up again in January with French.  Studying French worked so well the last time I was postpartum that I thought I’d try it again after the baby comes.

The Spanish, on the other hand, is a new-old inspiration.  I wanted to learn Spanish when I was twelve, took it in high school, dropped Spanish 3 and haven’t really looked back, except for a weak moment or two where I thought I could both learn a language, keep house, and teach middle school full time.  Ha.  But I woke up the other morning in a half-daze, speaking Spanish, and I took that as a sign that I ought to think about another attempt at it.

This ain’t Arizona or Texas, but we hear Spanish spoken a lot here, even more than I heard it spoken in D.C., and I’m starting to catch every tenth word when I oh-so-discreetly eavesdrop on people while shopping and at church.   Our parish is over fifty percent Spanish speaking (mostly Mexican) and I’m learning the Mass parts in Spanish.  Opportunity has presented itself.

But… just to make it clear… I’m doing the language thing at a very, very slow pace.  This post makes me sounds like I’m Superwoman.  So not.  We just don’t have a TV, that’s all.

7. Hiking.

2013-05-06 08.25.14

We hiked the (short) trail at Saugatuck State Park the other day and, miracle of miracles, had a stretch of Lake Michigan coastline all to ourselves for about 15 minutes before another nice family showed up and nicely intruded on our nice nature moment.  Then the sun came out a bit more and more people started arriving, so we high-tailed our introverted and melancholic selves home before we’d be forced to interact with other members of the human race.

I love hiking, and I’m so, soooooo happy the sun has decided to grace us with his presence so that we could get out.  Speaking of snow, next winter I think I ought to take up snow-shoeing.  Can one take a newborn snow-shoeing?  Sounds precarious, but I’m game for anything.  Winter makes a person desperate, don’t-ya-know.

(Linking up with Jen for the first time in ages. )


  1. says

    1. aldi shopper and lover here. recent convert. will never go back to regular stores.
    2. I read Language of Flowers this year and it’s the best book I’ve read all year. I’m just finishing Cold Mountain and I would be interested to hear your thoughts on it. I don’t know if I liked it…really, I don’t know but the writing was Steinbeck-esque. My next read is Pillar Of The Earth…hmmm.
    3. Love the last photo. So cute.

    • Rhonda says

      Oh, that reminds me… Steinbeck… You’ve already given me a bunch of recs that I haven’t even gotten into. :-) I will definitely add Language of Flowers to the list.

      Doesn’t Ben look like a little melancholic himself? That picture just says it all.

    • Rhonda says

      I think WinCo is probably the closest thing to Aldi in the PacNW, though I’ve never actually been to WinCo. My mom primarily shopped at Fred Meyer, which is exactly like Meijer here (and pronounced the same, too! I thought that was amusing. But Fred Meyer existed first).

      When we were in Oregon last, we shopped at Freddy’s, Trader Joe’s, and Market of Choice – the later two because I could get some of those specialty items there. But we also weren’t buying all our food at the time, so the budget and our choices looked a little different.

  2. Rhonda says

    Want to report: Finished The Murder of Roger Ackroyd last night. I called it about 1/3rd of the way through, but I kept reading to learn the “how” and “why.” The blurb on the back cover kind of clued me in to Christie’s “breaking the rules”, unfortunately! Boo.


  1. […] compete with supermarket prices and often beat them.  Sometimes they even beat Aldi prices, and you know what a miracle I think that is.  Last Wednesday Ben and I walked the less-the-one-mile walk to the market with nothing but a $20 […]

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