Gray Mare’s Oatmeal Survey

It’s been a while since the last blog post!  October was National Novel Writing Month prep and this month I’ve been working on the cozy mystery I was prepping for.  It’s going slower than I’d hoped but I’m a slow writer and just getting the words down is a win!  I do tend to go down research rabbit holes—this week, I learned a lot about electronic fingerprinting…  So, if I can get halfway through during NaNoWriMo, I’ll be very happy.

As it’s gotten chilly here in SoCal, the urge for some comforting oatmeal has been strong.  I thought it might be interesting to compare the different offerings I’ve ordered recently.

Corner Bakery

The only overnight oats in the bunch, I’d ordered this at the Santa Ana restaurant and loved it.  The oatmeal is refreshingly cold, thick and flavored with vanilla yogurt.  Add the dried cranberries, raisins, apple and banana slices for even more texture and goodness.  Plus, it comes with a raisin pecan sweet crisp!  It’s pretty yummy and there’s also a version that adds almonds, strawberries and blueberries.

We hadn’t been to the Brea location in a very long time because their food and service have been disappointing.  But I thought we’d give it another try, since it’s the closest location to us.  We were greeted by a brand new awning at the entrance, so I was hopeful.  But they were out of one of their new products already, at 8:30 in the morning, plus Diet Coke, for starters.  It took us 5 minutes of standing at the register (we were the only customers, no line) to get waited on.  The raisins in my oatmeal looked way drier than they should be and the banana slices had bruises.  Sorry for the rant! 

Panera Bread

The presentation of this oatmeal was so pretty, I didn’t want to mix it up.  The strawberries were fresh and sweet, the pecans gave it a nice crunch and the cinnamon topping was scrumptious.  Along with being a slow writer, I’m also a slow eater.  I think I’d be happier with the oatmeal itself if I do mix it all up next time.  By the last few bites, there was only oatmeal and it was a little thicker that I like and wasn’t enhanced with the other flavors and textures.  But that’s on me.

The Panera in Brea is within walking distance and I usually go once or twice a week.  It’s about 2 miles round trip and I bring either a writing work in progress or the latest copy of Writer’s Digest.  I can sit there as long as I want and they don’t mind.  In fact, there are always several people with laptops and I think I saw someone getting ready to do a podcast last week.  My only gripe:  they have Pepsi products, not Diet Coke ☹


This is what oatmeal would be like at Ikea—some assembly required!  That’s ok by me-it’s fast food, after all.  I don’t expect the frills here.  The fruit has always been fresh and cold and the oatmeal is always hot and a good stir mixes up the brown sugar from the bottom.  It’s a decent, quick breakfast that’s just enough for me most mornings.  And I can say that I had some fruit that day. 😊

This is another walking distance option for me.  It’s a bit farther than Panera but right now, it’s great walking weather and I’m all about getting out into the air and getting some exercise.  I finished one of The Happy Writer podcasts I’d been listening to and started an episode of V Interesting (Under the Desk News host V Spehar) to keep me entertained while I walked yesterday.

Avalon Bagels to Burgers

The first time I ordered the oatmeal here, they brought it in a McDonald’s style cup and I was a little disappointed.  Until I opened the lid!  Filled to the brim with cranberries, walnuts and banana slices, it’s hot and tastes as good as it looks.  It also comes with a little packet of brown sugar that coats the fruit chunks and melts into the hot, fresh oatmeal.  This one leaves me full and satisfied till dinner.

We try to come here on the off hours since it’s a really rockin’ breakfast place.  There’s a toy train that runs around the ceiling and they deck out it’s flatbed car with seasonal decorations. The Husband always has their egg, jack, avocado and tomato bagel.  It’s also a good place to bring WIP’s or books and settle in for an hour or two, after the morning rush, at a pub table with a window on the world.

Got any recommendations for oatmeal in SoCal or your neck of the woods?  Happy Fall!!

Current Reads and Watches

What I’m reading now (paper): Love and Death Among the Cheetahs by Rhys Bowen

What I’m reading now (Kindle): Murder with Peacocks by Donna Andrews

What I’m binge watching: The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel on Amazon Prime

What I’m Watching Live: The Jeopardy Tournament of Champions

Gray Mare Gets Movin’

So, preparing to take a walk this morning, I went to the front door to see how cool it was.  Didn’t expect to see a light drizzle dripping from the eves and the street all shiny.  Bummer!  The pleasantly overcast mornings lately have made for really good walking weather.  Oh well, Plan B!

I have a couple of Leslie Sansone’s DVD’s but this is my favorite.  Lots of walking, knee lifts, side to sides, etc.  Like any exercise program, you can be as lazy or as energetic as you feel on any given day.  Today was medium energy and I used the hand weights.  And, like many exercise programs, there’s lots of encouraging patter that you can easily tune out and let your mind wander as you try not to bang into the furniture.  It’s a fun alternative when I need it.

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A Ghost Story for October

It’s been a minute since I last posted.  I’ve been doing some writing and editing.  Also, planning for NaNoWriMo next month (that’s National Novel Writing Month), hoping to write the first draft of my cozy mystery during November.   

And I binge watched Younger, a show about a 40-year-old posing as 26 when she can’t find a job in publishing at “her age”.   Starring Sutton Foster, Hillary Duff and Debi Mazar, I was alternately charmed, frustrated and amused.  Highly recommended-it’s a great show but you’ve been warned, there will be times when you’ll want to take characters and shake some sense into them, which really is the sign of any good soap opera!

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Lessons in Grief – Part 5

I woke up this morning to a notification on my phone.  The royal family had been summoned to Balmoral Castle as Queen Elizabeth was under “medical supervision”. 

It brought me straight back to the morning last March when I got a similar summons.  Off and on all morning, memories of the panic to book flights and the dread of the next few days surfaced.  Signing into the hospital for the End of Life ward.  Feeding The Mom orange sherbet.  Too much emotion to process.

When the announcement came later in the morning that the Queen had died, though her death wasn’t totally unexpected, it was a shock because she’d been on her feet, greeting Liz Truss, the new Prime Minister, on Tuesday. 

Continue reading “Lessons in Grief – Part 5”

Books of a Lifetime ~ The Cracker Factory

The third book in my Books of a Lifetime series is The Cracker Factory, by Joyce Rebeta-Burditt, one of my top three favorite books ever.  Written in 1977, I probably picked it up in the early 80’s.  It tells the story of Cassie Barrett, an alcoholic wife and mother.  Her life is the definition of chaos as she tries to get her problems under control; dealing with her husband and mother, who she thinks are conniving against her (they are!), her three children, her lover and her shrink.  Plus all the patients and medical folks she meets in her stays at a psychiatric hospital.

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An Evening with Emergency!

The Husband and I indulged in a bit of nostalgia recently.  The TV show, Emergency!, is celebrating its 50th anniversary.  Honestly, I didn’t know it started that early in the 70’s…  I would have sworn it was the late 70’s…  Anyway, being a process/procedural kind of girl, I always enjoyed that show, seeing the elaborate rescues, mostly, but also the medical techniques of both the paramedics and the doctors in the hospital.

A few months ago, I saw the 50th anniversary show listed in a schedule for the Cerritos Performing Arts Center and I thought that would be fun, so we grabbed tickets.  I noticed that earlier in the day, there would also be festivities at the LA County Fire Museum nearby.  I had no idea what a big deal this really was, though, until we heard the whole story of Jack Webb’s call for a new show.

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Lessons in Grief – Part 4

I took the pictures of the photos in this post a few weeks ago.  I was fine, even kind of methodical, going through the box of pics, looking for the happiest smiles.

However, when I sat down to start this post, I was looking through the pictures in my phone’s gallery and started sobbing.

Just a bonus lesson in grief, I guess…

Here’s how it started:  The Mom didn’t particularly like having her picture taken.  She’d tolerate it but you could tell she wasn’t comfortable with cameras.  So, when I was looking through the photographs I brought home from my mother’s apartment, I noticed that her biggest smiles and uninhibited camera engagement were when she was traveling.

Usually she booked tours, where everything was done for her, from the meals to the itinerary to the transportation.  All she had to do was get to the airport, meet up with the group and enjoy herself.  My introverted mother made friends all over the world as she got to see all the sights on her bucket list.

Here are the happiest samples:

Olympic Stadium, Athens

Continue reading “Lessons in Grief – Part 4”

Books of a Lifetime ~ I Never Promised You a Rose Garden

This is the second in my Books of a Lifetime series. 

There are three books that have been my favorites for a very long time.  Other books have touched me and have jockeyed for positions in my top 25, but these three books are special and finite in my heart.  In no particular order, I’m starting with I Never Promised You a Rose Garden by Joanne Greenberg.

I’ll get to the other two.  I Promise 😊

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A Sawdust Birthday

Thought I’d do a blog post about my 66th, since there’s too many pics for Instagram. 

It’s been a couple of years (remember, Covid…) since we really did much for my b’day, so I was happy to plan this little outing.  July birthdays are kind of crap, really.  When you’re little, you miss the class birthday party and when you’re older, it’s summer, hot and most attractions are crowded and miserable…  But, fortunately, this was a Good One!

Onward, Birthday Girl!

What is the proper way for a former Bostonian to begin her birthday?  

A Boston Cream donut from Dunkin’, naturally!

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Books of a Lifetime ~ Little Women

This new series was inspired by John Scalzi’s blog, Whatever.  He recently wrote a series of posts, titled A Personal History of Music, and every day of June 2022 he picked a song and described why that song was important to him.  I thought that might be a fun thing to do, too.  Only with books.

As you might have guessed, I’ve been reading for a long time. And, naturally, there have been books and authors that have resonated with me at different times in my life for different reasons.

First up ~ Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

I don’t remember how old I was but I’d guess eight or nine.  Around Christmas, my Girl Scout troop went to Boston to see a play based on the first chapter or two of the book.  I distinctly recall sitting in the dark theatre amid rows and rows of people (I think it was also my first live play), attention riveted to the stage where four poor girls made the best of the holidays.  A Christmas tree glowed in a corner of the theatre.  I was hooked!  I needed to see what else happened to those March girls.

Continue reading “Books of a Lifetime ~ Little Women”