Sunday Lowdown #182


Okay, folks on here are getting as attached to Toad Man as I am, so I’ll start with an update there. Instead of hiding out in the corner or patrolling his perimeter, he was in the trenches, keeping his eyes peeled for danger. Or that mole. Something. I’m also not sure where there’s so much space between the floor and the wall that a fat toad can fit in there, but I try not to ask too many questions.

If I were more skilled, I’d photoshop a tiny military helmet on him.

This week for garage sale friends coffee, we met at Judy’s house, which is decorated all in chickens. Yes, there are real chickens outside, too. And she had a big, fat, floofy cat named Paunch. Judy made us zucchini cookies with cream cheese frosting and zucchini chocolate bread. I brought pumpkin chocolate chip cookies I made, which was a silly choice as (duh) pumpkins are not in season right now. Which explains why it took me so long to find one can of pumpkin, and that one can was organic, and that one can was $4.

The blackberry adventures are still on! I made blackberry-banana-chocolate chip pancakes (BBCCP), which were nice and almost jammy. Though, I must confess that when you reheat your BBCCP the next day, the banana texture comes off rather like Van Gogh’s severed ear would feel like in your mouth. Currently, I’m flash freezing my latest blackberry collection. Can I say that blackberry thorns are a-holes of the worst kind? They’ll stab you in the flub, they’ll snatch the hat right off your head — they’ll even catch on the stick you brought to fight back the thorns, and you’ll have to have a tussle with a fricken’ bush.

I was today years old when I learned “flash freeze” just means freeze flat with produce not touching each other so it doesn’t freeze into a clump.

This week I went to my cult/meditation class on Monday and realized that because the instructor has changed a couple of times (and I’ve only been there thrice), that we are repeatedly covering the same ideas regarding the theme, anger. Instead, I put my money down on the Ten Percent Happier app, which has daily meditation, podcasts, classes, etc. It’s the baby of Dan Harris, a national news anchor who had a panic attack on live TV, found meditation, and is a skeptic/atheist.

You know I love me a garage sale. Saturday, I found a spooky purse:

At a different sale I saw a sci-fi novel I wanted. I looked in my wallet and saw I had two $5 bills and also 33 cents. I wanted to offer these four elderly white folks 33 cents for the book, but lately I’ve noticed people want around $2 — for garage sale books! Yeesh. Anyway, I’m pumping myself up to make the 33 cent offer and chickened out, instead asking, “How much for this saucy sci-fi novel?” For reference:

And wouldn’t you know it, one old lady said, “25 cents. It’s about a whore house! I read it twice!” I didn’t know how to reply to this woman, who is likely in her 70’s, so I said, “You people are great!” and scooty-scooted myself out of there.


Strike three with The Witches Are Coming by Lindy West. That’s three weeks in a row with a negative book review! I think most of you could see where I was coming from when I said that I just couldn’t read a book that reiterated the worst of American politics only a short while after they happened. I mean, I cancelled my NPR monthly donation because I couldn’t stand hearing about Trump anymore and instead have stuck to my heavy metal CDs for the last four years. But don’t forget, in the U.S., our campaign period is painfully long. We were laughing about Trump saying he was going to run, surprised he ran, astounded when he was popular, and dumbfounded he won. And then it was four years of a presidency. So, for me, I’ve done a tuck-and-roll off the train that is American politics.


Alrighty, are you ready for a blast from the past? Because on Wednesday I’m reviewing Sweet Valley High #1: Double Love by Francine Pascal. What can you expect? I wonder if, like me, some of what I write about will surprise you. Remember, these books are labeled for ages 12+ and Double Love came out in 1983. What were teen girls concerned about then? For a bigger picture of that time period in girl books, check out this book, but for those notorious twins of Sweet Valley, come back Wednesday.


Owned Books on TBR at Beginning of Year: 202
Owned Books on TBR Last Week: 186
Owned Books on TBR Today: 185


  1. The response from the book seller is hilarious!! Hope the book is as entertaining as that remark. I was obsessed with Sweet Valley High in 4th and 5th grade. Would have been 1987-88 ish. I have a picture somewhere of me at Christmas holding up four or five of the books I got as presents and my grin is huge!


    • Oh, man, I used to live just to scour garage sales for them. People would sell them by the box because there were just so many. I got rid of almost all the ones I owned, and I really wish I had not. I have two SV high books, two special edition SV Twins books, and two of the family sagas.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I remember reading Dan Harris’ book several years ago. I think it’s also called Ten Percent Happier. I don’t remember much about it, except it seemed more realistic about its expectations than other books on this topic seemed to be.


    • Yep, it’s also called Ten Percent Happier, and I know he’s working on a second book. I wonder if it will include how he actually started the podcast, because that first book is more a personal journey and meeting people for his own benefit than the business side of meditation.


  3. That old lady that sold you the book? I want to be friends with her. I have a similar story about scooting out quickly when you don’t know how to respond. I picked up a book on the witch trials at the library and the librarian was telling me what she thought of it in vague terms as to not ruin anything. She was saying how most of the women accused where just independent women, to which I responded, “And those are frightening.” She started slapping the counter and said, “We are frightening, aren’t we?!” I both love her and was startled by a librarian being so loud in a library that I just laughed and told her to have a good day and ran away. 😀


    • When I started working in a library, I was super duper warned about not giving opinions on books because you don’t want anyone to feel shamed for what they’re reading, plus the whole freedom to read/privacy from the government knowing what you’re reading thing. However, library patrons seriously want your opinion and to talk about books with you, so it was an odd line to straddle.

      At the Friends of the Library book sale where I volunteer, I make all sorts of comments about the books, especially ones I’ve read or what to read. I get folks all hyped up for their purchase.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I hear the librarians at my library commenting on books all the time. They must have bucked the rules. You can’t hold librarians back! 😉

        I would have to comment on books too. It’s what we love, how are we supposed to keep silent about fun things??


        • I think it depends on the library. When I had an interview at my local library, they asked what I was reading lately. When I had the interview at the library where I worked, they did not ask me that question, and I asked why they didn’t ask me that question. While I respect that the library where I worked really, really took the freedom to read rules governing public libraries very seriously, I think the local library I patronize might have found a better balance by saying positive things about books they’d read and enjoyed and keeping all other comments to themselves. Here’s a side note to show that many libraries DO keep their mouths shut about books: when I was a student at Notre Dame, I asked to see my history of checkouts because I needed a book for a research paper, one that I had checked out before, but couldn’t remember the title. The librarian explained that they do not keep a record of what you’ve checked out once the book is returned to them so that if the government demanded to see a student’s checkout history, the library could honestly say that had no idea what the student had been reading. I feel like this goes back to when the FBI claimed all these artists and writers were communists.


  4. Oh my, your posts are so packed full I find it hard to remember all I want to reply to.

    When you wrote “rather like Van Gogh’s severed ear would feel like in your mouth” I thought of Mr Gums who always says in response to statements like that, “how wold you know”. He clearly has no imagination.

    Love your garage sale friends adventures. I don’t have a house decorated in chickens, but I do have quite a few chooks around because the Hens (my dear group of librarian friends) try to give each other chook-themed gifts at Xmas, so I have a bunch of chook items in the house.

    $2 for a book in a garage sale would probably be not unusual here. But now I have an appointment so must go.

    Good on you for changing over to that app.


  5. Omg all those baked goods and those pancakes sound AMAZING! ❤
    Haha the garage sale lady sounds awesome. I love when you stumble across a garage sale run by someone who is more on the "strange" side. They always have the best stuff!
    I'm so glad to see your resident toad still popping up in your blog. ^_^


  6. I’ve heard good things about that app – I hope you find it helpful!

    I never read any of the Sweet Valley books, which I don’t think were particularly big here, but I always find it interesting to revisit beloved childhood books – so I look forward to your review.


      • I’ve done this once or twice! The thing is that I can’t possibly be objective about them, and I do strive for honesty in my reviews – and it’s very difficult to be honest about a best-beloved children’s book.


        • Maybe instead of reviewing the book you can do a special post about your feelings from when you were a child and your feelings reading it as an adult. Sort of like an insight post instead of a review.

          Thinking about it, I do believe I wrote a review of the Sweet Valley book because I’d forgotten some of the bit plot points.


  7. My comment doesn’t seem to want to save? Maybe you have blocked me 🙂 Sorry if I am making a duplicate!

    OMG so many things to comment on!

    First, Toad Man in his hole! So much love!

    Next, the old lady and what she said about the book. She’s a sassy one and you might need to totally make garage sale friends with her. She has stories!

    And, blackberries aren’t hardy here, too cold in winter, but I have raspberries and their thorns are just the same. During raspberry picking time I am always scratched up but I don’t care because I love them so much. I have developed a kind of raspberry picking armor over the years that is marginally effective because it makes me stupidly think I can wade into the middle of the patch to get those berries just out of reach. You will get there too.

    Love the purse. I hope you like the 10% happier app, though be careful, it could be cult-y in a completely different capitalist achievement oriented sort of way.

    Finally, “I’ve done a tuck-and-roll off the train that is American politics” I feel this way about national politics and feel certain that one day the U.S. is going to break up into several smaller countries. However, local politics, I think is where stuff can get done and the more I invest in it, the more infuriating it is. I am currently angry at the mayor and my city council person who both blocked a fantastic transit proposal that the city’s own planning committee recommended and lots and lots of people have been advocating for. I was so angry I even thought, I should run for city council. When I toss out wild ideas my husband is generally pretty supportive, but when this one flew out of my mouth he started coming up with all sorts of reasons about why it would be a bad idea 😀


    • Stefanie, I absolutely have not blocked you and always look forward to your wonderful comments! I’m sorry my website was being complicated. I don’t see any duplicate comments, so I’m not sure what happened. Sorry :/

      Okay, lots of thoughts: Toad Man makes me so happy, and I wish it would rain more, because that’s when he’s really out and about. The rest of the day? No clue, but every time I see Toad Man, he’s so much fatter, so clearly he is a success story.

      Holy moly, I would LOVE to be friends with the “whore house” lady from the garage sale; unfortunately, that one is pretty far away. We typically find one garage sale advertised online and then drive to it. Then, we just keep making random turns until we find the next and the next.

      I know what you mean about wanting to reach those amazing berries that are too far away in the patch. They probably look so good because nothing can get to them! I am now picturing you in a suit made of cardboard, duct tape, and old pool noodles, which allows you to be the berry picking super star. My concern lately is these little bugs on the berries. I typically fill a bowl with water and wait until they float to the top and then pour them out. Nick Googled what they are, but I forgot. When I did my own Googling, I found out about blackberries and fruit flies, and oh, boy, I’ll never forget that but I am being brave and ignoring it. I try to remember the produce in the story does not look normal, and that most normal-looking produce has been thrown away for being “ugly.”

      The 10% Happier folks actually talk about how meditation is being co-opted by corporations to make their employees calmer and thus work harder! It’s a whole conversation in the meditation community, I’ve learned. The other thing I thought about is how my spouse’s workplace offers the Calm app free to all employees. I wondered if it was a corporate thing to get people to work better/harder, but I also realized it may come from the direction of keeping healthcare costs down. Anxious employees are more likely to need pills, therapy, etc. But, deep down I do believe his workplace cares about the employees. They are community, family, and whole-person oriented, including raising salaries to combat inflation, having robust paternity/maternity leave, etc. The 10% Happier app feels very much like something for a skeptic, an atheist, an outsider, and I like those qualities; so far, so good!

      I was just telling my Nick last night that I feel like California is its own country! We’re so focused on Texas wanting to break off, but when I watch commercials on TV, they typically note, “Not available in CA.” My brother was saying truckers aren’t interested in driving to CA because the vehicle must be a certain year or newer to enter the state in an effort to combat vehicle exhaust. They have their own environmental policies that sound extreme compared to the rest of the U.S., etc. I was thinking, “California is basically its own thing. Why not let Texas go? Why not let California go? Would we be better as 50 countries?” There is part of me that thinks so….

      I think you should run for your local government, though considering the financial and time costs of such an effort are a good idea. I’m assuming that’s what James was mentioning? I’m thinking of a local politician in my city who has run for office twice now, and both times she’s lost. I think about how her face is so popular, her name so well-known, and in a way, that can make her a target even though she was never elected.


      • It’s probably something to do with my computer settings, but heck if I can figure it out.

        Well that’s a shame the “whore house” lady lives so far away (I almost said garage sale whore, which certainly opens up some interesting metaphors and connotations but didn’t seem quite right). Perhaps you will cross paths with her from time to time though.

        I am laughing so hard over what you imagined my raspberry picking armor looking like! It is nothing so elaborate as that, but goodness, if it were I’d be in big trouble because I would definitely feel impervious and get myself stuck in the middle of the patch and not be able to get back out 😀

        The 10% Happier folks sound pretty ok! Yeah, “mindfulness” when if comes from business and upper management is all about making your employees more productive. But also so the company can tell employees that if they are stressed out it is their own fault and has nothing to do with the workplace demands, etc. The corporate mindfulness crap makes me so angry. I’m happy to hear your spouse’s workplace truly is so caring. Mine tries and is only partially successful, which really sucks because it makes it hard to get angry over the things they screw up. Like, I got 2 extra floating holidays to use over the summer but only a 2% raise.

        Heh, California is actually two different states and there is a constant back and forth about putting a proposition to divide the state into north and south on the ballot. But no one is quite willing to go there since it would be very expensive. I’m not sure about each state being it’s own country though, California and Texas for sure, but more likely there would be regions that become their own country.

        As for local government, Maybe one day when I retire since I couldn’t run a campaign and work full time. James is worried about loss of privacy. He thinks that running for any kind of office means everyone will know all your business and you will no longer have any privacy at all. He has a point but it only goes so far. I doubt that anyone really cares for all the dirt on the day-to-day life of a city council member.

        Yay for Toad Man!!!!


        • Okay, “garage sale whore” wins for best comment of today! 🤣 Yes, that does mean something quite different!

          Because I live in the midwest, I didn’t realize how big California is until I went there for a conference. I had told my spouse’s family that I would be “in the area” and they laughed. It would be about a 12 hour car drive to get to me.

          There is a nice woman who runs for local government all the time in my area. She’s a lawyer, a lesbian, and an incredibly smart and caring champion of women’s rights. She runs against the same woman every time, and that other woman, a Republican who looks like a nosy neighbor, wins every time. Well, the Republican lady just died in a car crash. I feel awful because I cannot imagine that the lawyer wanted to win against her foe only through an accident.

          Liked by 1 person

  8. I love your yard sale tales! I froze a load of gooseberries the other week; I was looking after my friends’ allotment while they were away but felt bad taking all their produce even though they told me to. Easier to keep separate but I just froze them for a bit then shook the bag so they separated. Sweet Valley High takes me back even though I am SO BEHIND and might not get to read the review. Used to check them out in their millions when I was 15 or 16 and working at the public library on a Saturday, to younger readers, but never read one myself as I was terribly pretentious and working my way through the adult novels by then!


    • Hahahha, don’t feel bad, Liz. Once I was in college and saw the lists of books I *should* have read by the time I was in college, I realized I read, like, none of them. But I could tell you the inner workings of why the Patman’s and the Fowler’s fought about wealth and industry.


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