Thursday, April 12, 2018

Grilled Cheese Sandwich Day!

Yay! I love grilled cheese sandwiches. The only time I hated them was when I tried a local diner's version of it. They decided to put more cheese on the outside and fry it. Tasted really bizarre. My mom made the best ones. Haven't made them myself yet. At least, not a grilled version. I sometimes have non-grilled cheese sandwiches. Cold with relish and/or vegetables, or melted with mustard. Probably healthier to have it those ways. Mom would make the grilled cheese with a mix of American cheese and cheddar. She used lots of margarine, and would 'grill' it mainly in a skillet. I think it was first the microwave then the skillet, actually. It was a messy affair, so that might also be why I'm not into making it myself. 

It's also Holocaust Remembrance Day or Yom HaShoah. I had close to an obsession with the Holocaust when I was about 13 or 14. It was more on the stories than anything. I think many Jewish teens go through a similar time. Now, I have a harder time with it...I usually just feel that we should remember it happened, how it happened, be mindful and vigilant to make sure it doesn't happen again, and then just move on. I think I made myself sick of it as a teen. 
This is my wallpaper for April. It's the first of the Kuroshitsuji or Black Butler manga wallpapers I made recently. I didn't make the art, I just placed 2 chapter pages together. I like how it turned out. Seems to fit. I love the mangaka's or creator's art, as well as her brilliant storytelling. Her name's Yana Toboso. She's very talented. This shows a snippet of her art. Sebastian's on the left and Snake's on the right. (Snake is his stage name, and I'm not sure if they ever mentioned his real name.) Snake used to be in the circus as a snake charmer, but is now Ciel's footman. (In case you didn't know, Sebastian is Ciel's butler...) Snake doesn't appear often, but I really like him. He's always with his snakes. He doesn't talk much, but sometimes when he does he acts like he's saying what his snakes are telling him. He does seem to be able to communicate with them, but most of the time it's more of a way for him to speak indirectly. He's not part snake, but if I remember correctly, he has a skin disease that creates scales. There were actually people with similar conditions that joined the circus like he did in the past.

The weather calendar's main pic is of a tornado storm from 2016 in Dodge City, Kansas. There are 3 tornadoes going through different stages. At one point during that storm, it produced 10 tornadoes at once. The smaller pics are of a monsoon storm in Arizona. There are lots of lightning strikes coming off of the mountains. Cool, but would be scary to see up close.

The month-long holidays for April are: National Garlic Month, National Grilled Cheese Month, National Soft Pretzel Month, Frog Month, International Guitar Month, Jazz Appreciation Month, National Decorating Month, National Garden Month, National Pet Month. Some are for important causes, some are to make you appreciate things you may take for granted, and some are just for fun. Interesting mix this time. More than just food related ones. 

Got my haircut on Saturday. I just wanted a trim and to get those weird side burn-like tail things buzzed off, as well as the extra stuff on my neck. The one who did it last time left that stuff and said it was part of the Deva haircut. It looked silly to me. Those side burn things were never long enough to tuck behind my ears, so they looked silly that way, too. I like the way the stylist this time did it. Much better, and she seems to know what she's doing. 

I ended up coming out to her as agender. Before I mentioned it, she kept calling me girl. I'm not a girl, so I felt I should say something. It would be like a guy (cis or trans) being referred to as a girl. They wouldn't stand for it...Just to use something people can relate with more than the idea of not having a gender. That led to a lot of questions. I actually liked talking about it with her. She was very accepting and supportive. She wanted to make sure she got things right, too. She asked me if I still wanted my hair long, if I'm not a woman. Women aren't the only ones that can have and love their long hair...It's odd that many people when they know someone is non-binary and is afab (assigned female at birth), they automatically assume that they will want what's considered masculine with most things. With agender people, it really is whatever we're comfortable with. There is no 'look'. There are no 'rules', either. Kind of freeing this way. 

Anyways, I've always wanted my hair long. When I was 6, my mom's friend chopped off my hair and made it super short. It was kept in a super short cut for a while. I was mistaken for a boy sometimes. Even with pink glasses. When I was 14, my mom let me grow a little flip in the back. I was happy with something just slightly longer. Eventually, while in college I decided to grow my hair out. It was difficult for while, since I had no style for it and it was really thick. After growing it out for about 7 years, I finally got another haircut. I wanted it trimmed, styled, and kept long. After that, I fell in love with it. The stylist that did it this time was the one that came up with my current style. Long hair seems to suit me a lot more than that short style. I feel like I can really be me. So, no, I will not go back to having it short. I even showed her how short it was, and she was shocked by it. She said she couldn't imagine it that short, and it wouldn't have been a very good look anyways. I think my mom wanted a mini me. It was the same cut as hers. When I was little and she was the one brushing my hair, I understood why she wanted it short. Later, when I could do my own hair, she should have let me do what I wanted with it. 

We also talked about what I might want to do for transitioning, if anything. She seemed really interested in learning about chest binding. She asked if I wanted top surgery, and I mentioned how most people start off with the binding and then they might get surgery. I do want to get top surgery, but I also know there are quite a few steps before and after. Binding's probably good for now. Speaking of which, I plan to get a binder this month. I just have to get my measurements to figure out sizing. They say if you're in between sizes, you should go for the larger one. I have to keep that in mind. I'm reluctant to measure myself, though...They say it's a bit different than your bra size. I'm slightly small for the current bra size I have at the moment, so that wouldn't work anyways. (I haven't been fitted in a while, and lost enough weight since then that I don't quite fill it.) I plan to get a long tank top version from Underworks. It seems reasonably priced and highly rated. Also, with that style, I can wear it under my summer clothes and it won't show. I can also tuck it in my jeans so it doesn't ride up as much. Seeing so many other agender people rave about it in the comments was a small plus for me. 

She asked about hormones. Hormones are a bit weird with enbies, and especially agender people. We're more of an unknown, and we don't know much about what is possible, too. I haven't thought much about it. Some agender people try to have both their estrogen and testosterone at the same levels. I'm not sure what that would do...I don't even know what my normal hormone levels are. Maybe going off of that? I am dysphoric about my facial hair that I'm constantly trying to get rid of. Maybe hormones have something to do with it. They did find a small cyst on one of my ovaries several years ago. The few times it has shown up since on imaging, it hasn't changed. Maybe it is affecting it. It's all strange to me. 

There was a post recently in one of the enby groups on fb that got really heated quickly. It was taken down about 2 hours after it was posted. I was actually going to comment on it after thinking about it for a while, but it was already gone when I looked again. One of the mods even posted vaguely about it and how it was uncalled for in such a group. The post was about someone who didn't understand why saying their sex is female, but they're non-binary (don't remember if they mentioned their gender specifically) was problematic. They came off as combative about it. 

They said we can't change our sex; and sex and gender are different. True, we can't change our 'sex', but you're still using gendered language for your sex. Sex is based on your genitals and other characteristics that might be interpreted a certain way. So, a more accurate way would be to refer to those genitals and/or those characteristics. Like, someone has a vagina or a penis. Or, with intersex people, maybe both. Or, someone who has ovaries or another one who has testes. Stuff like that, which is great for health related things. Female is pretty much synonymous with girl or woman. Male is the same way with boy or man. In fact, these are used on forms when asking for gender all the time. There are some serious issues. Some people really got into it. More than I would have. There was only one other person that I saw that agreed with the person who posted it. In the mod's post, they determined that they were most likely a troll and have been banned. 

For a little while, I hit a block with writing Alliance 3. Luckily, I took a little break, and the ideas are coming back to me. A lot of stuff is going on in the story, and what might have stumped me for a while was keeping track of it all. I also feel like there should be more action and not as much dialog as there has been lately...I'll see what I can do with that. I'm 93 pages into this one. Not sure how long it'll end up being, but it looks like it'll take me longer than the 3 months I was hoping to finish it in. I think I took a few breaks from it, so the time writing it up has probably been much shorter. For the first week of this month, I had 2 promos going on Amazon. A free ebook one for the first book, Alliance, and a countdown deal for Alliance: Dawn. Not sure how that turned out, because I haven't looked yet. Once I get the 2 I'm writing published, I could technically have 2 promos going every month. For the last couple of months, it's only been 1 each. I can only have a certain number of promos for each book per 3-month term. So, it's a little uneven with 4. 

Even though I'm done with writing out the recipes in the cookbook, there's a lot more that needs to be done with it. I've had to rearrange a lot already. Plus, I added more categories and subsections. She had things set to her own categories, like poultry, meat, desserts, etc. However, within those sections, things were out of place. For example, a couple of fish ones were in the meat section. Plus, within those sections, nothing is grouped together. For instance, the duck ones were scattered among the chicken ones. I've made it through to the cheese section so far with sorting them. There were so many desserts, I had to change it to additional categories. (Of which I'll have to go through again soon.) Things like cakes, pies, cookies, etc. instead. Eventually, I have to make a bibliography of all the sources that were listed. I want to make sure I give credit to companies and such. I also should look at templates and other cookbooks to see if I want to keep the style I have at the moment. Have to decide if I want to add pics, too. So many things to do with this still. It annoyed me a lot today. I got a lot of it done, but then Word decided to freeze, changed the doc to read-only and wouldn't save. Then, it crashed. Meaning it didn't save any of it. I had to go back through everything, save to a new doc, and then get rid of the old. It was acting weird the last couple of days. At least, I fixed it and that doesn't happen often.

I took a short break from learning German through Duolingo. Mainly because of going to Leavenworth. I've learned a lot through that app. They had a fluency percentage for a while, and I was at around 60%. I told someone and they seemed to scoff at it, because apparently the only way to learn a language, according to them, is to speak to a native speaker or someone who's fluent in it. (This way of thinking has actually discouraged me from learning at times, which isn't cool. I start 2nd guessing myself, too.) There are many ways to learning languages. Going through regular language classes in the past (not sure how many years of Hebrew altogether, 2 years of French in high school, and Russian in college), the speaking with other classmates was more of a review or quiz. It wasn't hinged on that. The teachers would ask us things in the language, but those were brief and not conversations. Sure, it definitely helps, but it's not the main component. In fact, for my Russian class, there was an extra Russian conversation club if you wanted to review things. It wasn't a requirement. If speaking with a native speaker was the only way to learn languages, how are radio courses successful? How are computer courses successful? How are online courses successful? How are even apps successful? These are all different ways of learning it. All of them valid ways, too. 

The other component of this is Duolingo was also testing me on my pronunciation until they had the recent upgrade. I was correct almost every time with that. They also have chat bots, which are handy if you wanted to practice conversing with 'someone'. There are clubs where you can speak with real people. Most of everything is read aloud for each question/problem. The only times it might not be is if they want you to figure it out on your own, or translate from an English sentence/word. 

The app had a huge overhaul recently, and I think it's still getting 'settled'. They seem to have done away with pronunciation/recording my voice, as well as writing in German. I think that will come back at some point. They now have 'crowns' instead of fluency. This has apparently given them room to add more to the lessons now. You can collect up to 5 crowns for each one. Supposedly, with each crown there's new and more challenging material for that section. Oh, if you are away for a while, they won't put you at the very beginning of a trek now. I was racing through before and now that I know they won't put me back at the beginning of a long 'trek', I can relax a bit more with it. It's cute that the Duolingo mascot sometimes pops in to tell you how great you're doing. It really is like a game. 

While in Leavenworth, I could pronounce and know some of the German there. I knew enough to see errors in their German phrases pamphlet that's free at the hotel. Things like writing in German: 'ein'. The English pronunciation had it as ai-nuh. It'd be like that if it was 'eine', but with 'ein' it's ai-n. A bit different, and depending on the sentence, it could be wrong. Both ein and eine mean 'a' or 'an' in English. It changes with certain gendered words. Anyways, it was a small error, but I noticed it. I think I noticed another one, but can't remember it. So, even though I took a break from Duolingo, I still was around some German. 

I got back to drawing heads of characters from Alliance this week. After finishing 3, I posted them to dA and Instagram. I think that's what I'll do in the future. I'll put out batches of 3 each time. This time it was Vincent, Gun, and Liam. They're a vampire, a half European and half Chinese dragon (human-form), and a ghost respectively. Liam turned out a bit odd, but he is a pretty out there character. It was the first time I drew glasses, too. I liked Gun the most this time. On Instagram, apparently people liked Vince the most, although the other 2 got a lot of likes as well. I'm posting one head each on Instagram, since they tend to chop off my drawings otherwise. It creates a line of drawings on my profile, which is interesting. I've gained a lot of followers just with this last batch. There are 3 times as many people following me than who I follow. That's crazy! I didn't think I'd get this many. I don't personally know most of them. People apparently really like most of what I post. It's a different 'feel' than dA. Although, I'm getting a lot of faves and collects lately on there. Even some llamas. It could be because I've recently become active on there again. I think more than I used to be.

Friday, April 6, 2018

Happy Belated Trans Day of Visibility!

I'll do my monthly post on here next time. TDoV was on March 31st. Non-binary does fall under the trans umbrella, so I'm also trans. Being trans just means someone's gender is not the same as they were assigned at birth. It doesn't mean to transition, it doesn't mean someone has gender dysphoria, and it's not just binary. Specifically, I'm agender, which means I have no gender. I posted about it on fb and Instagram. I even added a profile frame on fb, and shared that in my Instagram post. Many people liked that frame on fb. With the separate TDoV post, it seemed like most people didn't really read it. One person gave me advice on binders, and 2 people liked it. Not much. At least, I was more 'visible' about it than usual. 

That night was the start of the 2nd day of Passover, and we went to our friends' seder. There were a lot of people. About 15 altogether. I made enough popovers where people could have 2 each at theirs. They ended up eating up about half of what I brought. So, a lot to take home. Dad brought a lot of salad greens just in case. Ended up bringing a lot of that back home, too. 

At the beginning, we always sit around together, chat, and have snacks. One person I sat next to, I've known for a while and we're fb friends. She started talking about agender stuff, which was fine because I'm open about it and she knows that. At some point, she asked: "You're not trans, right?" It sounded almost like she was saying you're 'normal', right? I said yes, I'm trans, too.  Close to a whisper she asked: "So...does that mean...you know...you want to be a man?" No, no it doesn't. When I told her that non-binary is under the trans umbrella, she seemed flabbergasted. I really tried to keep my laughter in check, because I know people are still learning this stuff. She was never malicious. I don't think she saw the post I did the day before, but I've also been sharing trans and enby specific stuff. Maybe she thought the trans stuff was in support of my parent who's a trans woman? (Yay, for at least being 2nd generation!) She somehow could get her head around the concept being enby. She seemed to think after telling her I'm also trans that it meant that I was transitioning somehow. Personally, I will probably transition in some ways...It sounds weird to write that out. 

It was nice to see everyone there. I knew them all, except one who was someone's boyfriend. There was lots of food, and I was absolutely stuffed afterwards. The only issue I really had was the wording of their old haggadah. It's very masculine-centered. Saying our forefathers instead of ancestors, male pronouns for G-d, saying man (as in referring to everyone this way), etc. others had issues with it, too. So, people tried to reword it as they read their parts. Made it somewhat awkward, but nice that others felt similarly. The one I use isn't like that. It's much more neutral, and it's not all that new.

For our seder the night before, I might have made/planned for too much food for just Dad and I. I was very full afterwards. Used hard-boiled Safeway eggs, instead of making my own. They were perfectly done, and I tried to roast one of them even though it didn't have a shell. That worked out surprisingly well. I asked someone at Safeway's meat department if had chicken or lamb bones. After asking what it was for and my answer, he said the only thing they had at the moment were beef marrow bones. So I got one and roasted it. That was interesting to do. I might keep it for next year. It's impressive looking and doesn't take up much space. The jarred charoset is interesting. It's like jam, but much thicker and stickier. I wasn't used to it at first, but it's pretty good. It was great on garlic matzo crackers. I still have a lot of it left. 

Also, I got 2 jars of gefilte fish because I wasn't sure if we'd have guests. I don't think they're the ones I really like, but they're still ok. I always forget which ones I like the most. Made matzo ball soup and added carrots and parsley to it. Still have to get through what's leftover from that. Had roasted chicken from Safeway that was pre-cut, which was great. Only, they were huge pieces. I also made the chicken flavored couscous, which took a while to get rid of the excess liquid. That was tasty, though. Had a little of all the desserts we got that night, too. The cake, chocolate seder plate, marshmallows, macaroons, and fruit slice jelly candies. Great stuff. Still have so many leftovers from it. 

The honey flavored ring-shaped cereal is ok. A lot better than I expected. It doesn't dissolve into a nasty mess as soon as the milk touches it. In fact, it stays crunchy. Much better than when I had it in the past. Still have to get through that. The graham crackers are really good. Smelled amazing when I opened them. They're cinnamon flavored. The cinnamon is really strong, which wasn't what I expected. It's not as sweet as I expected either. The egg kichel (basically egg puffs) seem burnt again this year. They're still good. The cherry jam's pretty decent. The teriyaki sauce is amazing! It has no soy in it, yet it tastes like a concentrated version of the real stuff. 

I stopped following the dietary restrictions the day before I left for Leavenworth. I had Safeway's chicken teriyaki, chow mein, and a chicken egg roll for that dinner. What a way to end it! So much chametz! (Chametz are things leavened, breaded, noodles, etc.) Also, had a lemon parfait for dessert from there. That has a layer of cake, layer of pudding, layer of lemon filling, and a top layer of whipped cream. Good stuff. 

Went to Leavenworth early on Tuesday and came back yesterday. It was to celebrate my birthday and her spring break. My birthday was back in November, but we had planned to celebrate it there. (Just happened to be later than we thought it would be.) I think the last and only other time I was there was when I was 13. 13, because I think it was around my Bat Mitzvah, and my grandparents were with us. It makes sense. Part of that side of the family comes from Germany, so it's also more interesting personally in that aspect. Leavenworth is a Bavarian themed town in central Washington state. It's surrounded by mountains, and pretty much in the middle of no where. 

I think this was the first time I stayed overnight somewhere with my iPhone. I think the last place I went to, before this, was Scottsdale. That was a few years ago, and just before I got my iPhone. (My iPhone's the only smart phone I've had.) So, I wanted to share the adventure through pics, check-ins, and just writing it out in statuses. Might have been annoying to some, but it was fun to me.

Something felt off while I was there. I couldn't place exactly what, though. I don't know if it was the remoteness of it, the weather was weird, the food didn't sit well, or what. I just couldn't get comfortable or feel 'right'. I wonder if something happened while I was there when I was 13. Maybe there was something residual going on? Or, it could have been all the Christms stuff that was still there, and probably stays up all year round. Saw a lot of crosses, angels, and other Christian type stuff in the 'regular' shops. That's a deterrent for me, especially if there's a lot of it. 

I liked a lot of the food we had. Although, some of it was rather plain and not that great. Pretty much all the desserts were amazing! The Bavarian burger was weird, but ok. 

The hotel was nice. Only issue really was the bathroom being so narrow. We were in room 101. Right next to the front desk, near the car, and didn't need to use the elevator that was out of order. Their hot tub is apparently upstairs, but I didn't have a swim suit and didn't want to go up there. They were also painting the hotel pretty much right outside our room. At one point, someone knocked and said they were room service. When we opened the door they seemed surprised. Either it was a prank (they weren't wearing a uniform or anything) or they got the wrong number. After closing the door, that person decided to smoke right outside the door. That was weird. Difficult for me to breathe around people smoking. It was a non-smoking area, too. 

There were a lot of pillows on both beds. Beds were huge, too. Probably could fit about 3 more people my size on it. Much bigger than mine at home. It was firm, which was nice at first. After waking up, it made me feel sore. There were a ton of blankets, too. I felt like I got lost in the blankets, pillows, and large mattress. I was swimming in that stuff. Felt good most of the time, but felt suffocated the rest of the time. There was a refrigerator and microwave. That was cool. 

I got caramelized onion cheddar from the cheesemonger shop. You could try any cheese they had. They were pushing the samples before I had a chance to look around. This one was really unique and fun to try. I had it in a sandwich today. It was really good that way.

I also went to a shop that laid out samples of pretty much all their mustards, honey cremes, hot sauces, jellies, dressing, etc. There were bowls of pretzels to try the samples with. There were so many different kinds of mustards! I got their dill with a little honey mustard. I never had honey creme before, so those were fun to try. I got their vanilla nut honey creme. Another shop had a lot of huckleberry related things. Their wild huckleberry jam sounded the best. They didn't have samples, and I haven't tried it yet. It should be good. 

With almost every shop we went to we were greeted with a 'hello ladies'. I'm neither a lady nor a guy, so this grated on my nerves. Might be another reason why I felt so odd? 

There was one lady at a candle shop that greeted us with a 'hello folks'. It was such a small thing, but felt nice. They had 3 menorahs. I didn't expect to see any. Dad got a wooden wick candle. It crackles when it's lit. I thought that was cool. She also got tapered beeswax candles. For some reason, it's hard to find tapered candles and candlesticks locally. 

There was a jewelry/knickknack-type shop that had 2 LGBTQ+ related books in the back. That was cool to see. I also talked about writing with the owner. She was nice, but seemed nervous. 

There were a lot of candy shops. All of them had samples to try. I tried the maple walnut fudge at one of them. It was amazing! Probably would not have been wise to get...I would most likely eat the whole thing in one sitting. That's how good it was. There were a lot of bakeries. We shared a salted soft pretzel at one place. It didn't taste cooked enough to me, and didn't have taste pretzely to me. Good, though. 

Also, went to the Gingerbread Factory. I had their buttercream frosted gingerbread heart and spiced apple cider for a breakfast. I thought the frosting would be hard, but it was soft. The gingerbread was really soft itself. It was a big heart. It was really good, and so was the cider. They also make gingerbread houses. The main one that was on display was impressive. 

There was an olive oil and balsamic vinegar shop. They had a lot to sample there with bread. Slightly reminded me of that Israeli olive press I visited in the past. They had a sampling area. Anyways, Dad got the oregano infused olive oil. I was thinking about the pecan praline balsamic vinegar, but it was big bottle and I couldn't think of many things to use it for. It was really tasty and interesting. 

I finally have my hair appointment tomorrow. I didn't end up liking what they did last year with the Deva Cut. So, I'm going back to the stylist I went to a few years ago. She was the one that came up with a style I liked. That was after not getting a haircut for 7 years. She's great. I had her one other time before the one a few years ago. I should feel better after this. I might put it up in a bun less often after this. It'll be more out of my face. 

I'm thinking of getting a chest binder this month. I'm just nervous about getting the right size. It'd be cool to see how I feel with it. Again, I plan to get an Underworks one that's like a long tank top. That way, with warmer weather clothing, it won't show. Plus, tucking it in will make it ride up less. Someone suggested I should get a 2nd one for when I'm washing the first at least. I'll see how one goes, if it fits, for now. I'll make sure to follow how long I can wear it without causing damage.