Quantity Over Quality: Master the First and You’ll Achieve the Second (Theoretically)

There’s a story of a ceramics teacher (and if I had the gumption I’d find the source for it) that carries a lesson for us all. It goes as follows:

It was the end of the year and the teacher gave the class two options for their final project: they could choose to have their work graded by quantity or quality. Those who chose quantity were challenged to see how many pots they could produce in one week’s time. It didn’t matter what the pots looked like, only that they were completed. The students who chose quality only had to make one pot, but it had to be the best pot they could create.
Half the class chose quantity and began churning out pots right and left. As soon as one was done, another was started. And so on. All week long.
The other half of the class spent their time working out their designs, analyzing their methods, pondering and planning and pouring over every detail, in order to create their one perfect pot.
At the end of the week, the results were graded and an interesting discovery was made. Not only did the “quantity” group produce the most pots, they also produced the best quality pots. Over and above the “quality” group.

Reason being, or so we can infer, they focused on the process rather than the results. And because they kept churning out pot after pot, they were learning and correcting errors as they went.

Ceramics teacher
Let’s pretend this is the ceramics teacher. He’s kind of cool, don’t you think? (Photo by Mahir Uysal on Unsplash)

The article wherein I found this story related it to our own creative endeavors. Whether writing, painting, quilting, woodwork, music — anything we do where we hope to improve — the key is to focus on quantity over quality. Push yourself to produce as much as possible.

Want to improve your writing? Push out story after story. Your drawing? Create five or more drawings every day. Your photography skills? Take pictures everywhere you go. Really annoy the hell out of everyone you know.

You get the idea.

This concept was driven home to me a few days ago. I was working on a project, actually it was the “Bible Stories in Text” project I mentioned before, and I wanted to include some limericks and silly rhymes for it.

How hard could that be?

Turns out pretty hard. I spent one hour alone on Jacob and Esau and still didn’t like it. I was about to give up when I thought of the ceramics story. For the next hour I produced five more rhymes. None of them particularly good, but at least they were done. I shut the laptop and left to run some errands.

I had to go to my credit union because like a dope, I left my debit card in the ATM when I last used it. (No worries, nothing bad happened other than a dent to my ego.) On my way home I decided to stop at the park and sit on my favorite bench, the one under the willow tree. And though I never noticed it before, this time I read the inscription:

In Dick's memory

There was something about “Tuesday Bridge Club” that tickled my fancy. I grabbed my notebook — another article I read said you should always carry an idea notebook — and jotted down:

written in notebook

Soon 15 more lines appeared under it in some semblance of a poem. (I’m guessing since I spent the morning in rhyme, it just naturally flowed out that way.)

Not knowing anything of Bridge, I googled the rules and added a few references; once I got home I finished it up and within the next hour had that bad boy ready to post.

My point is, I’m fairly certain that had I not spent the morning focused on those silly rhymes, had I not pushed myself to produce several even though I was dissatisfied with them all, Dick’s tribute poem might never have happened.

Of course I can’t prove any of this, but it feels right and I believe it so. Plus I’ve got that ceramics teacher backing me up.

Here, let’s look at the guy again:

Ceramics teacher

Quantity over quality.

Now in truth, none of this is too surprising. If you want to improve at writing, write. If you want to improve your singing, sing.

All together now: Duh.

But the fact is, however much we know this truth we still fail to put it into practice. Or at least, that’s the way it is for me. Maybe you’re self-disciplined to the core, wake every morning at the crack of dawn and write 20 pages before your first cup of coffee. In which case I don’t like you very much and I think you should go away now.

For the rest of us, we need reminders to keep going in spite of the drivel we produce. To push on, produce, finish our stories and trust the process. Let go of our need to produce lovely rhymes or charming stories, to let go of our desire to like everything we’ve written. Eventually — hopefully — we’ll like what we’ve written, but we’ll probably produce plenty of crap before we get there.

Perfectionism is a mean, frozen form of idealism, while messes are the artist’s true friend. — Anne Lamott

I have a stack of messes. About five or six unfinished stories I found while unpacking, one of which I barely remember. Each one began in a fever of creativity, that much I remember, but as soon as the going got rough they came to a screeching halt. As I look at them now… well, they’re not horrible. Some spots are quite good, others maybe not so much, but overall they don’t suck.

So here’s the thing: I’ve decided I’m going to dig them out, one by one, and give myself a timeline for finishing them. Let’s say one story per week.

They may appear in this blog — that part I haven’t decided yet. I’m not in the habit of printing much fiction here, so I’ll give it some thought.

(Okay, technically, I suppose there’s fiction here. For instance, I have no idea if Dick liked white wine or if he was a bourbon man.)

Mainly I thought that if I told others what I was doing — Hey guys! I’m spending the next 6 weeks writing 6 stories! —  I stand a better chance of actually doing it.

The key is, and golly I sure hope I remember it, is to finish them even if I don’t like them. Because maybe by the sixth one I will.

By the way, I don’t think I’ve ever shown you the cover of my idea notebook:

my idea notebook

I’m not expecting too much here, believe me. I just want to get the stories finished. And if you’re reading this, I expect you have something unfinished to work on as well, or some skill you wish to improve?

Quantity over Quality: Ready, set… go!

What Does Your Bookshelf Say About You?

My friends, look upon this book:

book ideal bookshelf

My Ideal Bookshelf — I found at the library. It’s a collection of writers, actors, musicians, artists — cultural movers and shakers — talking about their favorite books.

As I read it, I was struck by a couple thoughts. For one, I’m woefully under-read. Not only have I not read most of the books listed, many I’ve never heard of. It’s shameful, really.

Another thought: this book is strangely voyeuristic. Like you’re peeking into their personal lives and getting a sense of what makes them tick.

But really, isn’t that what our bookshelves do? They tell a story of our interests and hobbies, our upbringing and education level, even our fears or obsessions.

And tell the truth, when visiting someone’s home, don’t you look at the titles on their bookshelves and judge them just a little, based on what you find? (Yeah, me too.)

Knowing full well you’ll probably judge me for this, I’m going to pull out a few of the titles on my shelf that I think describe me best. These are the ones I either read over and over again, or I’m deeply sentimental about them. So much so, that moving them from Phoenix to Minnesota was a no-brainer.

(Note: Nearly all links lead to abebooks.com, my favorite site for buying used books.)

My bookshelf and me

On the far right is my Betty Crocker’s Boys & Girls Cookbook. I think it was a gift when I was in the fourth grade and I credit it for igniting my love of cooking. Right next to it are Anderson’s Fairy Tales and Blackbeard’s Ghost. I read those two over and over again all through my youth, and to this day have a strong preference for fantasy. Oh, and that fat book toward the left without a binding or cover? That’s a book of poetry, both silly and serious, that my dad often read or quoted from. I believe it explains my penchant for dark humor:

Willie saw some dynamite,
Couldn’t understand it quite;
Curiosity seldom pays:
It rained Willie seven days.

Next up, let’s consider my teen years: That Certain Something, Jonathan Livingston Seagull and way over on the left, Dr. Zhivago. Probably the weirdest collection for a teenage girl to be found. That Certain Something is a book on developing charm, of all things. You might say it was the first self-help book I ever read. It even has a quiz at the end to see how charming you are. (Note: for those of a certain age, the author was Arlene Francis — she of game show fame.)

As for Jonathan LS … well, as a matter of fact, yes. I was one of those teenage girls who thought Jonathan was deep. Truly deep, man.

seagull

Dr. Zhivago is when my serious reading began. It took three attempts and a course in Russian history before I finally understood the novel was waaaay more than a love story. I felt oh-so-smart when I figured it out, and in the process learned some books are worth a second (or third) try.

From there it was an easy jump to other classics, my favorites being The Great Gatsby and Pride and Prejudice. And then there’s Giants in the Earth, by O.E. Rölvaag.

Never heard of it? Neither did I until I heard a portion of it on the radio. I immediately ordered two copies, one for me and one for my dad. Reason being, the book is about Norwegian immigrants to the Dakota territories and it opens with a man walking ahead of their ox-pulled wagon — the same story my dad told about his grandfather.

Later when my dad was hospitalized with congestive heart failure, I visited him. He brought up the novel and I found out things I never knew — like how his dad would tell him stories of trolls and other folk tales, and I learned more details about his mom’s depression after his dad died (in the book, the main character’s wife suffers from mental illness). My dad passed away a few months after our impromptu book discussion. Some books you enjoy, some you recommend, others hold treasured memories. Giants in the Earth is all of those things for me.

Closing in on our Final Five, you’ll see there’s Lanterns & Lances by James Thurber. I’ve mentioned before this served as inspiration for the Feeding on Folly moniker, and as I said in my ‘about me’ page, I’m a huge Thurber fan. This book doesn’t include his most well-known writings, but it’s about 60 years old and it smells lovely.

As I Live and Breathe, A Sense of the Morning, and Here Be Dragons were all accidental discoveries. Either found in used bookstores or at a “friends of the library” sale, they weren’t my usual choices of reading but became instant favorites. As I Live and Breathe is a sweet, humorous tale of the author and his wife in the ’40s and ’50s. A Sense of the Morning contains essays on nature, but it’s so much more than that. This book reminds me how to look at the world with a sense of wonder. And Here Be Dragons… well, that book taught me way more about the world than any science class did. If you have any interest in evolution or plate tectonics, or even if you don’t have interest, read this book. It explains things better than anything else I’ve read.

That leaves us with Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott. Hands down, my favorite book on writing. Whenever I start feeling sorry for myself and thinking I’ll never write anything good, it helps to think of this book and picture Lamott whispering over my shoulder, “go ahead, get that shitty first draft done.” (Hmm. Might be time to reread this one.)

And there you have it, 15 of the books from my shelves. I could have shown you more, but these are the ones I feel influenced me the most – either as a writer, a reader, or simply as a human being (if being human were so simple).

And now it’s your turn. Think about the books you’ve read that made you who you are today. They might be ones you prominently display on your bookshelf, or it may be you read it once and can’t get out of your head.

List them in the comments below or, if you have a blog, write about them on your site and link it here. I’d love to get more book recommendations. After all, I’ve got some extra space on my bookshelves just aching to be filled.

my bookshelf for featured photo

Thoughts on Squashed Snakes, Self-Publishing, and the End of the World as We Know It

What with one thing and another, mostly another, I found I was without a blog post for today.

I mean, sure, I wrote things. A feeble response to an online article I read, the beginnings of a short story that went nowhere, and a silly thing about the Biblical character Job calling Heaven’s customer complaint line. Funny, but too long for a blog post and I wasn’t sure how well people knew the story of Job.

Anyway, rather than skipping this week and ruining my record of posting in a timely manner two weeks in a row, I’m going to toss out some random thoughts that were cluttering up my brain.

Here goes:

Thought One

I wore boots yesterday and it’s still August. What’s more, I’ll probably wear boots again today. Ain’t life grand?

My boots

Thought Two

There was a squashed snake on the side of the road the other day. I saw it while walking to the post office. It was a pretty one, slender and long with bright yellow stripes. No idea what kind it was, but it looked like it nearly made it across the street before it was squashed. Poor guy.

snake in the street, alas
I’m not showing the squashed part, only the pretty part. You’re welcome.

Thought Three

I need to buy a rake. It’s not for leaves, though we know they’re coming. It’s for all the acorns. Our yard is full of them. So many that when you walk in the backyard, you don’t walk so much as roll. And I think the squirrels here are lazy. They don’t seem to be working very hard at storing food for winter. (Maybe they know something?)

acorns

Thought Four

So this is how it is. You write something funny about the Book of Job and think, gosh this is great. This is worthy of publishing. And so you check the submission guidelines for humor sites and magazines. That’s when you discover there just isn’t the market for snarky humor pieces about the Book of Job like there used to be.

Thought Five

I need more boots. I only have two, both black, one short and one tall. These were the ones I thought worthy enough to pack and able to withstand Minnesota weather. I’m thinking I need multiple types. Money is no object! (Who needs food?)

Thought Six

Back to the squashed snake. Why was he crossing the street? The side he left was woodsy and green. The side he was heading toward was rocky. Had he been satisfied where he was, he might still be alive today. What possessed him to leave his happy home? Was he unfulfilled as a snake? Was the weight of his responsibilities too much to bear? (*Gasp!* Did he, like our squirrels, foresee the future and found no reason to carry on?!)

Thought Seven

Maybe what I should is bundle together my Bible stories in text, Samson’s online dating snafu, and the piece on Job — add a few more texts and alternate stories — then self-publish the whole lot of them.
Hmm. It might work. I’ll have to think about it.

Thought Eight

If the squirrels and snake are onto something, if we have but a limited time on this earth — okay, I guess we always knew our time was limited, but let’s say it’s more limited than we thought — does that change anything? Does it change how we live, how we act, or how soon we snatch up boots on sale?
Or work on the book we have percolating in our head?
Hmm.
Excuse me. I should get back to work.

Welcome to Our Little Blog

So glad you stopped in.

Feel free to look around. Please excuse the dust in the corners, it’s been awhile since we’ve cleaned over there.

Oh, and you probably saw the sidebar hasn’t been updated in… um… well, let’s not go into that right now.

The thing is, we deeply appreciate your visit here today because we know there are bigger, mightier blogs you could be reading instead. And if there’s anything we pride ourselves on at Feeding on Folly, it’s appreciation for our readers.

Also, we’re big believers in Blog Awareness.

Blog Awareness is a lot like Self Awareness, only it applies to Blogs rather than Self. (Not sure if you caught that?)

You see, we here at FoF (that’s Feeding on Folly for the acronym-challenged among you) strive to know the Who, What, Where and Why of our internet presence.

For instance:

  • Who: CJ Hartwell & her various alter egos
  • What: A humor site with occasional recipes and questionable comma usage
  • Where: WordPress under the domain name feedingonfolly.com
  • Why: The world needs a respite from those who take everything so damn seriously. Also cookies. The world needs more cookies.

Happy with our Sense of Blog, much like one has a Sense of Self (hope this isn’t proving too difficult for you), we were satisfied with our place and forged ahead. Never looking back.

Though now we have reason to fear we grew complacent. For it’s come to our attention that while we were jotting down observations, posting our cutesy illustrations, passing off texts as worthy stories, far bigger and more important blogs were rising up.

Casting an ever-growing shadow over the FoF entity.

FoF gal overshadowed

And how do we know this?

It came about like so: Back at our last place of employment (before we left Phoenix to become a Minnesotan, dontcha know), an email was sent out to all school staff by a dear friend, giving the Feeding on Folly link. Making dear friend dearer still.

In no time at all, the comments rolled in:

“I didn’t know you had a little blog!”
“I heard about your little blog!”
“I love your little blog!”

So you see? What we have here is One. Little. Blog.

There’s just no getting around it, friends. Here was a group of well-educated professionals who visited our blog and found it short.

Now it’s true we’ve not been blogging for a lengthy amount of time. A mere three years. Barely a blip in internet years.

But in that time, we at Feeding on Folly have worked hard – well, maybe not hard, but off and on, when the mood was right and we had an ample supply of Pepperidge Farm Dark Chocolate Milanos – to develop this space into the smattering of articles, recipes, and scribblings you see before you.

In truth, we’re rather proud of what we’ve accomplished here, and the cookie crumbs under the cushions speak to that.

So these comments reducing FoF to Lilliputian status were troubling. Where did we go wrong?

Is it the lack of ads?

Two years ago we paid big bucks ($15) to make this space ad-free. Was that a mistake?

Hey, if it’s what we need to be taken seriously…

Pickle ad

Then again, I follow a few pros and they don’t have ads.

For reference, see Chuck Wendig, Mark Manson, Leo Babauta

It’s true, they have other things they sell. Books. Classes. Seminars. Workshops. Speaking Engagements.

Hey, you can hire us to speak at your next Rotary Club Meeting!

Oh man, that’s the ticket! Anyone who speaks at a Rotary Club Meeting has just gotta be taken seriously!

FoF gal

What’s that you say? You don’t belong to Rotary?

Well, screw that then.

So here’s the thing: what’s Chuck, Mark and Leo got, that FoF doesn’t got? (Besides better grammar.)

Do you see where I’m going with this?

Bingo! FoF doesn’t have something dangling between her legs!

And that, my friends, is what makes her little. FoF gal mad as hell

Now before you slam your laptop shut and accuse us of getting all feminist on you, think about it. In all honesty, can you imagine the following being said to a male blogger:

“That’s so cute you have a little blog!”

No. Of course not.

But here’s another thing to consider: Everyone who referred to this blog as little, or told us it was cute, was a woman.

Yes, you read that right. A woman.

Every. Damn. Time.

Really, we shouldn’t be surprised. Women are so used to having their efforts diminished, we don’t realize when we’re doing it to each other.

(Ah dang, I just heard 20 more laptops slam shut.)

Okay, before we lose anyone else, let’s consider one more thing. How many times do we — male and female — talk about our creative work in a diminishing way?

“I do a little painting now and then.”
“Yeah, I enjoy writing, but it’s not like I’m published or anything.”
“I love taking pictures, but really it’s just a hobby.”

Listen, if we feel more alive when we are creating, if these activities are what gives us pleasure and seem more real to us than any stinkin’ job, can that be called little?

What’s more, how can we expect others to respect our work – to see how important it is to us – if we don’t treat it as such?

From now on, let’s present our work with the same joy it gives us in creating it. Let’s make no qualifications for it whatsoever. 

And when someone says it’s cute? Or when they call it little?

Little? Little?!

You must be mistaken.

Baby, this is BIG!

cropped-feedingonfolly1.png

A Letter From Nanna

My dad’s mother — my grandmother and namesake — was the youngest girl of 11 children, six boys and five girls altogether. The oldest was Clara, whom we heard from in a prior post

IMG_20180424_201733414

In the course of packing for our move to Minnesota, my progress is being continuously sidetracked by finding old photos, notes of family history, even a few letters.

Case in point: I found a little letter written by my grandmother when she was 12 years old, addressed to her sister Clara.

And when I say it was a little letter, I mean little:

Nanna's letter
The pen should give you an idea of the letter’s size

I was in college when my dad received the letter from a cousin. I remember him showing it to me and how delighted we were by the size of it. The envelope is 3” by 4” and the letter itself is folded like a little book.

What I didn’t remember was that my parents made a replica of it for me, going so far as to create a makeshift envelope so I had the complete package.

I must be the luckiest blogger in the world.

Before I reprint the letter here, I should explain something. As has been stated before, my dad’s family was not one for nicknames but they made an exception in my grandmother’s case. Since her name was so long — Christianna — as a young child she had a hard time saying it. The best she could manage was “Nanna.”

The name stuck. Even as a young girl, she was called Nanna.

Clara and Grandmother
Clara & Nanna

Personally I’ve always been charmed by the fact that my grandmother’s name was literally Nanna. 

Postmarked: Nordness Iowa, May 4, 1897

Miss Clara Jacobson
Hills, Rock Co. Minnesota

Dear sister:

I will ans. your very welcome letter, received it yesterday eve when I had gone to bed. Momma has a cold, the others all well. Ragnvald is over to Bakken to help Signe Abraham and she has not done her house cleaning yet.

How do you like to teach school when it is so many, 34 in all wasn’t it?

It is getting very nice down here now. We have Pentecost lilies that bloom and bleeding hearts will soon be out & pansies out and many buds on the peonies. Momma said I should thank you ever so much for those nasturtium seeds. I’ve been going to school today. Helga is playing now.

The church was just full at Mary’s funeral. The boys came up. Christian, Isaac and David, they came up on bicycles Saturday. Isaac and David stayed till Sunday but Chr. went down again.

We laid 5 hens on the hen house, one was dead on her nest and the others ate up their eggs.

How do you like to stay with Mrs. Sarah Jacobson? I suppose she has it nice.

Martha Brown fell out of the buggy Sunday when they came home from church and the wheel went over her. Nettie Hovey said she did not get killed but I have not heard any since that.

I must close now. Please ans. soon.

Your sister,
Nanna

Excuse scribbling and bad spelling, writing and everything. I hope you can make it out. – Nanna

Just a couple thoughts:

  1. How hard it is to write out ‘answer’? That’s twice she abbreviated it to ‘ans.’ (No offense Nanna, but really. It’s just three stinkin’ letters)
  2. Is it just me, or do you get a sense Nanna was disappointed Martha Brown survived? I mean, outside of the peonies the letter was a bit dark, don’t you think?
  3. Did you notice where the letter was sent? Clara was living in Minnesota! Where I’ll be living in just one month’s time!

I looked it up. Hills, Minnesota is in the southwestern-most corner of the State, very close to both South Dakota and Iowa borders.  According to Google maps, it’s just a little over four hours from where I’ll be.

Hills to Randall

I was aware that our move would put me closer to family in South Dakota and Wisconsin. I hadn’t considered how much closer it would put me to my past.

Of these 11 offspring of Jacob Abrahamson (Nanna and her siblings), eight of them wound up in Minnesota. I know this because my family kept ridiculously good records.

When my move is complete and the dust has settled, when I find my “new normal,” I plan on sharing a few thoughts regarding the bios I have on these 11 offspring. They are interesting not only for what they say, but for what they omit. Particularly with regards to Nanna.

In the meantime, hang loose my friends. Only don’t fall out of the buggy.

Three Word Challenge in Text: My Thematic Response Using Untoward Reasoning

A few weeks ago, a certain blogger by the name of Brian of Bonnywood issued a challenge. He’d give me three words, and I’d write a story with said words.

Seemed easy at the time. Then I saw the words: Thematic, Untoward, and Reasoning.

I’m sure you’re as shocked as I am. I mean, I don’t know what I did to the guy, but clearly he had it in for me.

What’s more — now get this — he added, “And I challenge you even further by suggesting that a recipe and/or Norwegian kinfolk be involved in some way… ”

Honestly!

I decided I needed to have a chat with the guy. I sent him a text:

Brian 1

Brian 2

Brian 2 and a half

Brian 3Brian 4

Two hours later…

Brian 5Brian 6Brian 7Brian 8Brian 9

You can read about Brian’s challenge here.

(Hint: he’ll accept your response in text.)

Ratatouille in 5 Minutes, With Help From Trader Joe’s and No Help From My Cat

Plus, a brief history on the founding of Feeding on Folly…

Recently we dined at Macaroni Grill. I won’t say it’s my favorite Italian restaurant, but their complimentary herb bread is lovely and they know how to grill salmon right.

bread

However this time, not being in a salmon frame of mind, I ordered their Ratatouille instead. Have you tried it? They serve it over grilled polenta, which I find inspired. (I don’t get out much.)

Anyway, the other day at Trader Joe’s, I saw they have polenta and *angels singing* I was inspired! For less than $10, I had all the ingredients needed to make a copycat recipe of Macaroni Grill’s Ratatouille.

And given how I hadn’t shared a recipe with you all in… let’s see… going on a year now? Unsure. It’s been awhile, I know that.

Funny how it used to be such a regular feature of this here blog, and now it’s but a distant memory.

Anyway, I gathered together the ingredients and prepared for the picture. Merricat rushed over to help.

Merricat 1

I swear this cat knows when I’m holding a camera.

Merricat 2

So the main ingredient to look for, the one that makes this recipe so darn easy peasy, is in Trader Joe’s frozen food section. It’s called Misto Alla Griglia, and it contains grilled eggplant, zucchini, and red peppers.

Now of course you could buy fresh eggplant, zucchini and red peppers, or pick them from your garden should you be so lucky, but that would add on extra minutes and then this wouldn’t be 5-minute Ratatouille, would it?

Oh, Merricat walked behind the ingredients! Quick, take a picture!!!

Merricat 3

So now you see what the Misto Alla Griglia looks like. Also, you’ll need their polenta which you slice in thick rounds, and a can of their Organic Tomatoes “diced in tomato sauce”. I already had the fresh basil, onion, garlic, and jar of capers. (You can skip the capers if you don’t like them; I think they add a nice peppery taste.)

Back when I was regularly sharing recipes on this blog, I learned how to write some code so the recipe would appear in a nice little box with its own print button. But I don’t remember the code and I’m too lazy to look it up, so you’re out of luck. Sorry.

Here’s an interesting tidbit: the reason I added recipes when I first started blogging had nothing to do with the name “Feeding on Folly” and everything to do with my insecurities as a writer. I believed that if I didn’t offer something helpful – such as recipes – no one would stick around and read my little stories.

Okay, so you’ll want to let the Misto Alla Griglia thaw a little. The veggies are in large pieces, but they’re easy to chop once they’re partially thawed. While they thaw, chop half the onion and mince three to four garlic cloves. Saute in olive oil until softened.

Merricat monitored the thawing for me.

Merricat 4Once the onion and garlic are softened, add the can of tomatoes, the chopped Misto Alla Griglia, and two tablespoons capers. Add some Italian seasoning — maybe a couple teaspoons? — and salt to taste. Keep over medium heat until hot, a few minutes or so. As it cooks, fry or grill the slices of polenta.

I bet you’re wondering how I came up with Feeding on Folly for my blog name, am I right? Glad you asked.

About the time I was puzzling and puzzling until my puzzler was sore over what to name my blog, I was reading a collection of James Thurber’s essays called Lanterns & Lances. In the forward, he explained his main purpose in writing:

“Much of what follows, therefore, is my own attempt, in my own little corner of the struggle, to throw a few lantern beams here and there. But I also cast a few lances at the people and the ideas that have disturbed me, and I make no apologies for their seriousness.”

I rather liked that. You might say I was inspired. And I was particularly fond of the alliteration with Lanterns & Lances.

Alliteration is something that tantalizes my thoughts and sustains my soul.

I set out to find my own and spent an inordinate amount of time doing so. Eventually, in a moment of happy luck, I landed on Feeding on Folly. Nervously, I did a quick internet search to see if it was taken. It wasn’t, but I found this:

The discerning heart seeks knowledge, but the mouth of a fool feeds on folly. — Proverbs 15:14 NIV

So there you go. Bible approved.

Also, cat approved.

Merricat 6

To serve (the Ratatouille, not the cat), put two fried slices of polenta on a plate, spoon the ratatouille over them, top with fresh basil and shredded Parmesan if desired and serve with garlic toast.

Ratatouille

To recap, I may from time to time, as the mood strikes me, continue to share recipes with you. But as dropping their weekly inclusion hasn’t seemed to adversely affect my readership, and no angry mob has appeared at the Feeding on Folly doorstep, we’ll just let that ship sail.

As for dear Thurber, I don’t know how many lantern beams I’ve thrown and I’m terrible at casting lances, but the folly I’ve witnessed has fed this blog well. Thank you for the inspiration, good sir.

For the record, this Sunday — April 1st — marks my 3rd year blogging.
So there, person who told me I couldn’t do it!

Oh, wait… that was me. 😜

To My Recent Outlook.com Subscriber, Alex: Your Comments Have Been Noted

For those of us residing in WordPress Land, an exciting new development has been afoot. That being, the sudden increase in email followers subscribing to our sites, all using highly suspicious Outlook.com addresses. Addresses such as slfhowtylaley@outlook.com, or, whyisitsodifficulttowriteacoherentemail@outlook, etc.

The discussion on said topic has been riveting.

Full disclosure: I myself was pleased when I first received the email notifications and found nothing to be concerned about. I figured I’d finally found my tribe and was proving quite popular among Microsoft users who choose highly complicated email addresses.

It’s a narrow audience to be sure, but an audience nonetheless.

Then Ray over at Mitigating Chaos wrote about his outlook followers and I thought, alas, they’re not that into me.

Back of woman with head down

But then… but then folks, one of these mysterious Outlookers took the time to comment on my last post, the one on money. Not once, not twice, but THREE times!

Here’s the first comment my new friend Alex felt compelled to share:

I am now not certain where you are getting your info, but great topic. I must spend a while finding out much more or figuring out more. Thanks for great information I used to be in search of this information for my mission.

You’ll see that he opened with a bit of constructive criticism, pointing out that the source of my info was not clear. I found this odd as my very first sentence begins: “I was at Costco…” so, you know, Costco. But then I realized I didn’t give the address of Costco.

So there you go. Helpful.

Also, did you notice how Alex has a mission? I ask you, how many of you have a mission? Hmm?

I have to confess I did not respond to Alex’s comment in a timely manner, beings how the email was labeled “Please moderate” and it was the weekend. (The Feeding on Folly Comment Moderation Committee meets on Tuesdays.)

Did this stop Alex from commenting again? No! Using a different (though just as baffling) email address, three hours later, unable to contain himself, Alex wrote:

Wow, amazing blog structure! How lengthy have you been blogging for? you made blogging glance easy. The whole glance of your site is magnificent, let alone the content material!

My heart soared. His admiration for my blog, yea, the very glance of my blog, cannot be denied.

That’s when it occurred to me. This is what I’ve been lacking!

Tell me, faithful readers, those of you who have been following this blog and reading my posts and commenting here and there and — dare I say it? — beginning to take Feeding on Folly for granted? Tell me this: When have you ever commented on my structure? Or ever once thought to ask how lengthy I’ve been blogging for?

Honestly. I’m beginning to wonder if you care.

And as I mused on your neglectful ways, Alex commented again! From yet another Outlook email!

You actually make it appear so easy with your presentation however I find this matter to be actually something that I feel I might never understand. It sort of feels too complex and extremely vast for me. I’m having a look forward for your subsequent post, I will attempt to get the grasp of it!

Oh dear! Alex is confused! My post on money was too complex and he’s expecting me to write more on the subject. Poor Alex!

To rectify this situation, until the Moderation Committee convenes (last I heard Francine wasn’t sure she’d make it and she was in charge of bringing the donuts), I decided to showcase Alex’s comments and address him directly.

ALEX: What follows is a simplified explanation of my previous post.

Save More, Spend Less

I truly hope that takes care of things for you, my dearest Alex.

But what’s this?! Another comment has landed in our moderation queue, this time from Yvette:

I simply couldn’t go away your web site before suggesting that I extremely enjoyed the usual info a person supply on your visitors? Is going to be again steadily in order to inspect new posts

Oh… um… gosh. I see you’ve got a question in there, Yvette. I’d like to help you out, but I’ll need some time to figure out what it is you’re… um… asking?

Tell you what. As soon as I’m done here, I’ll start diagramming your sentences. I should have an answer for you in about a month or so.

As for the rest of you, you know what you need to do. Look over this presentation, comment on my structure, admire the glance of my blog. Show a gal a little support now and then, okay?

Also, write yourself up a mission. You could use one.

*******

FYI to Fellow Bloggers: From one of  our WordPress “Happiness Engineers” regarding these strange followers (taken from the forum linked at the top):

There is no way these spam followers can put your site, your content, or your private account data in any danger. (…) You can remove the spam followers under My Site ->People, but that won’t prevent new follows from coming in. You might also consider temporarily disabling email notifications of new followers in your account settings until we manage to get these blocked. (…) Please don’t email these addresses back – another potential reason for this is that someone is fishing for emails which they can then use to try and spam directly, and emailing them back will only provide them with your personal email address – something they cannot get hold of by merely following your site.

The Blogger’s Annual Performance Review

Blog Title: Feeding on Folly
Blogger: CJ Hartwell
Review Period: January to December, 2017
Reviewer: CJ’s Internal Critic
Note: Beings how this CJ person is currently enjoying some time off work — and sleeping in EVERY morning like the lazy bum she is — I, her Internal Critic, am conducting her Annual Review in her place. (She can thank me later.) 

Blog Description

Hard to say. Is this a humor blog? Food blog? Self-help blog? (Lord knows Self could use some help.)
Describing this blog is like describing the smelly thing you stepped in while walking the dog: Possible, but why go there?

Posts of Note

Your top three posts this past year, both in terms of “clicks” and “likes”, were:

In close running were two other posts: one on Broadway Musicals and one on your Post-NYC Blues. The one unifying thread among all five posts: New York. As in all five mention New York in some fashion. If you had a brain, you’d write about New York more. Or just tag every post New York whether they were about it or not. Or maybe just write it: New York. Give it some thought.

As for my personal favorite, I’d have to say it was the week you missed. Remember that one? You totally forgot what day it was and didn’t publish anything. That was great. You should do that more often.

New York.

Accomplishments

Back in March you created a Facebook page for your blog. Then in late April you went on vacation (New York) and promptly forgot about it. Sometime in September you tried to resuscitate it with about as much enthusiasm as giving mouth-to-mouth to a blowfish. Blowfish

You stretched a bit with your writing with your rambling thoughts on Beauty and a feeble attempt at poetry. Normally stretching is good, but in some cases, e.g., yours, it’s less so.

You added some illustrations to your posts to give them a (*cough*) New Yorker flair. It is painfully obvious, however, that the ones where you bribed Daughter for help (Suicidal Mice) compared to the ones you did yourself (Cursive Schmursive) are vastly different in quality:

The answer? Less drawing, more bribery.

Additional Comments

You are nearing your third full year of blogging when many (okay, it was just me) said you’d never make it three days.

You managed to hoodwink a sizable number of people into following this blog, when everyone (fine, just me again) said you’d be lucky if you got your family to read it.

Maybe I was wrong before, but this time I’m right: give this foolish thing up NOW!  If you continue stretching yourself as a writer and trying new things, you might fail! And you know what’ll happen if you fail? You’ll DIE!

Okay, maybe not actually die, but you know what I mean…

Oh shoot, she’s waking up! I better finish this thing fast. Dang it, now she’s reading something affirming! I hate it when she does that! It only encourages her.

I better hit this publish button fast before she tells me to shut—