i saw a jawa at the gym

In cooler weather I try to go to the botanical gardens and walk the trails on my lunch break but with the temps getting into the mid 90’s and blasting towards triple digits, I’ve been going to the gym more often on my lunch break.  I always manage to see someone or something interesting at the gym each visit and yesterday it was a jawa.

Image result for jawa starwars

You know those pesky little scavengers from Starwars that young vader hated so much.  The guy must have been about 4 foot tall with an oversized hoodie and I could only see his eyes when he walked by.  Lucky for him he was on planet fitness rather than his home planet and thus in the judgement free zone which disallowed me to take pictures of him or I would have put his mug on my blog.

It may have not been as strange as seeing a tall old slender guy walking on the sidewalk in Campbellton, FL in a spiderman suit on the way to work one morning but I suppose seeing a jawa is still noteworthy.

I’ve been a member of several gyms over the years and I have to say planet fitness is among the best and most value priced.  It’s $10 a month with a $30ish annual equipment fee so it’s really hard to beat that deal.  There is something about their treadmills that seems more comfortable than most other treadmills that I’ve walked on.  And with the AC and giant ceiling fans they have good airflow so I don’t sweat quite as bad.  Their free wifi is also a plus.  So if you’ve been wanting to join a gym and never go, then they are most likely your cheapest way out.

 

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chicken neglect, unless you ask the chickens

Well I walked into the back yard right before dark to water the plants and sit in the swing for a few minutes while swatting hordes of vampire flies and realized I didn’t close the cage to the chicken pen in the back paddock the night before.

I was almost scared to walk out there and check on them thinking surely some would be missing or they’d be zombie chickens half eaten by something – yes I’m talking to you black bear wherever you are.  But they all looked at me quite happily like they had been partying all day outside their pen and having a grand old time with no predators to speak of.  Well I’m sure there predators especially hawks but they must have been feeling generous.

A few weeks ago I had built a flimsy temporary fence around their pen and an even more temporary gate which the chickens could have pushed over from the inside or the two large dogs guarding the perimeter could have broke into from the outside.  I had never planned on the fence and gate being used while I wasn’t home but all was good.  It wasn’t quite dark when I went to close the door to the main pen so I had to run to keep the chickens from seeing me and running for the exit.  They were still perched on their roosts when I ran out there and looked at me like I was crazy for running to the pen.

I hate keeping them caged without getting out to eat grass and bugs.  The first day I let them out the California white which is kin to the leghorn, an egg layer, ran out and got in direct sunlight and laid down in the grass and spread it’s white wings to absorb the sunlight.  Their pen is in a heavy shade area and gets no sun so I didn’t realize how much they must have missed the sunlight.

I decided I was going to finally spend the time and energy to build them a large chicken run when they kept running to the door when I’d go to give them their daily feed and they’d voraciously attack the green grass sprigs just outside the door.  I’d guard the door like a soccer goal to keep them from darting past me but I’d let them clear the grass from the door area.

Their 12’x12′ cage is inside a much larger paddock that the two large dogs patrol which is adjacent but outside of my main fenced area where we keep 4 small dogs.  The large dogs are my answer to bob cats, possums, racoons, and yes even a black bear attack that wiped out 6 large chickens in one swoop by pulling them from underneath a cage drumstick by drumstick through a very narrow steel mesh.  I still don’t understand the physics that allowed that to happen as it should have been impossible.

Oh well.  I guess I’m lucky this time that I didn’t lose my flock of chickens and the eggs they produce.  Maybe for a few days the egg yolks will be a little bit richer for the extra vitamins all the grass and bugs provided.  Nothing beats natural chicken feed for chickens and a little more space to enjoy themselves.

 

on the joy of reading books

“Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.” – Neil Gaiman in Coraline

 

 

I’ve been a member of goodreads.com for almost five years even before amazon acquired them and I’ve been participating in their annual reading challenge almost as long.  I’ve started setting my book reading goal to 52 books a year and I must say that the word challenge should surely be emphasized.  LOL.  I missed last year’s goal by one or two books all because I picked some long books at the end of the year when I was on a roll.  I could have easily met the goal but got distracted at the last minute.  Oh well, that’s the way it goes but this year I’m just simply behind so I’m working diligently on catching up.  I’ve finished four books this weekend alone.

I totally get the whole concept of ideas encouraging people to read more as I started myself when I had just learned to read as a child.  It was an elementary school fundraiser where I had to go around the neighborhood and ask for donations for each additional book I agreed to read.  I took the whole thing serious even as a kid and I fulfilled my obligation though it was very difficult and time consuming.  I learned another important skill at that young age and that was being careful with estimates and what you commit to.  I spent many, many hours, days, and weeks reading and it set a book reading record during that young time of my life.  But amazingly, at the end of my reading marathon back then just as the beginning, I still loved reading books.

I’ve never lost that love of reading but now I read more and more eBooks.   And recently most of my reading is done in the form of listening to unabridged audio books during my many hours of drive-time to and from work.  I also use cheap wireless (bluetooth) headphones to listen while I clean house, wash dishes, exercise, and work outside in the yard although it takes some practice multitasking while listening to audiobooks and being able to comprehend and recall what’s going on in the story.  Of course I make sure I continue to read visually with ebooks and old-fashioned print books just to get the different experience each media offers.  I own many, many hundreds of printed books some in boxes and some on large book shelves a few of which are pictured in this blog post that I call book shrines.

It took me a while to accept ebooks and stop being an e-book snob but I’m finally warming to the idea.  They are just too convenient, economical, and don’t take up much space or weigh as much to not utilize to their full extent.  Occasionally, I even pull a book up on my iPod or other small device while waiting in a doctor’s office and start reading.

Here are a few pictures of my books and ebook shrines.  LOL.

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I have a few really old books assuming they aren’t fakes.  I don’t think they are worth much money either way but it’s just the idea of holding a very old book in your hands and thinking of all the many places it’s been and the people it’s met.  Each used physical book in my mind has it’s own life story in addition to the content and story inside the book itself.  I do the same thing with native American arrow heads I’ve found over the years – hold them and ponder who else held it and when and what was their life like and their surroundings.

Here is another one of my book shrines.  Most of my printed books are in boxes but I hope one day to have a library or somewhere to hold them all.  The windows 95 book for dummies belonged to my dad before he passed away.  It still has some of his notes in it and it makes me think of all the times he asked me questions about how to do something on the computer.  He was always a master checkers player and when he got a computer with dial-up one of the first things he did was played checkers against others over the Internet.  He immediately got a very high ranking.  I figured he enjoyed finally finding good competition even if he had to go digitally half way around the world since his family wasn’t any challenge for him at checkers.

I have books on just about any topic including gardening, poultry, electronics, mathematics, comics, and many more.

I used to have a hoya plant under the grow light in this room and other ornamentals.  It weaved itself almost half way around the room.  It was a tri-color similiar to this one in the picture below except it had very long vines. I don’t know if it really filters the air that much but just having such a large living plant inside seemed neat.

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And last but not least and really doesn’t include all my book shrines.  I have this one in my shop.  I almost never get rid of my books except for technical books sometimes.  Although the giant turbo pascal box in the picture is one that brings back nice memories of when I was much younger.

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Well the weekend is almost over and I still have many chores to finish up before I can stop to rest.  We’ve had a bit of weather here with severe thunderstorms with high winds and rain so I didn’t get to chip away at all the tree debris still left over outside as a gift from hurricane Michael several months back.  So I stayed inside spring cleaning as much and as fast as I could and writing this blog post and taking pictures of course. No rest for the weary… but who needs it anyway as staying busy is it’s own reward…

 

On Writing or rather On Trying to Write

While I’m not referring to one of the few non-fiction books by Stephen King although I’ve read it more than five times, I am referring to one of my many hobby projects which is trying to get published in a Sci-Fi magazine named Analog Science Fiction.  I’ve almost finished my second story which I plan to submit to the magazine.  I’m constantly surprised at how the story evolves and takes a new direction that I couldn’t have predicted.  I don’t know that this will be the one I get published and mostly I’m not worried whether it is accepted or rejected so long as the story turns out well.  The format is short story so I can collect ideas quickly and submit them without having as much time invested as say a novel.

I’ve developed a lot of tricks during my writing journey and I thought some may have been original.  However, I’m finishing a 20 hour audio book named How Star Wars Conquered the Universe which talks a lot about how Lucas developed Star Wars ideas  and I realized my simple tricks are most likely obvious methods that many writers probably rediscover on their own.  Even so, I still enjoy reading how other people write and develop ideas and all their nifty little tricks and in my own simple ways coming up with ideas to try to pluck those pesky elusive ideas out of thin air.  One such example which is not really anything special now that I think about it is just keeping a list of interesting character names and character profiles.  I also keep other lists such as plot twists and potential settings or scenes for stories just to name a few.

I’ve also experimented with various pen and paper media (including fountain pens and ink bottles) and I have found that having many areas to sit and take in the scenery and sounds even seems to make a difference.  For electronic word processing, I’ve settled on using Ubuntu MATE Linux and LibreOffice Writer.  I have it installed on a flash drive so I can boot Linux and my writing tools on several different PCs including hybrid/convertible laptops without having to overwrite Windows that came installed on them.  Then much like with various pen and paper combinations I can pick whichever device is most convenient for a writing area such as my back yard wooden swing or a smaller metal frame swing in the front yard or a desk I have in my shop.  The flash drive not only has the tools I use on it but also saves my work.  I make routine backups of it so I don’t lose anything.  Since I don’t have wireless coverage in all these areas especially my metal walled shop, I don’t have to worry about having network access.    And while my work likely isn’t worth stealing, I don’t have to worry as much about someone getting their greedy little hands on my work before I release it since the flash drives are mostly isolated and I don’t usually have Linux connecting to the Internet.

Finally, I’ll end with an image that I found on unsplash.com that gave me the idea for this blog entry.  I included the photographer’s badge below the picture in case you want to check out more of her photos.  I’m going to keep trying to get back into a routine writing blog posts so maybe my next one will be right around the corner.  🙂


Mia Moessinger

 

georgia err I mean guitars on my mind. some loud and fast covers by others followed by some masterful advice by mr knopfler himself. not sure if mr ray would approve of these covers but here they are in all their awesomeness…

 

 

Fast and loud music isn’t always first on my list but this wild guy Leo is absolutely insane and yet amazingly talented at the same time.  To open tonight’s theme a cover of sultans of swing…

 

I remember listening to this next song as a kid in the early 80s.  I don’t know if it’s the nostalgia effect or it’s unique blend of notes but I still find it catchy.

 

This is one of the first covers I saw by this silly guy.  It still cracks me up…

 

So I like KFC as much as the next person but this guy is just a bit creepy but he sure knows how to make the guitar talk.

 

Looks like this guy has been playing guitar and I mean this particular guitar for a long time or maybe he’s just a thrifty guitar shopper but either way this is quite nice…

 

Not much to say about this next musical duo but wow…

 

And the last of the main electric covers to demonstrate just how versatile the electric guitar is that it can even do classical.  That tacobell err I mean Pachelbel guy’s song never sounded so good.  Good thing music is the universal language because this vid isn’t in English…

 

Alrighty then, so we’ve seen plenty of weird guitar players but how about weird guitars…  Slowin’ it down a bit but this has a good sound to it and there are many other strange instruments out there like the ones in the next two vids.  Oh baby it’s a wild world.

 

Ok so maybe not fast and loud but I figured a transition video with an acoustical would be nice before getting to the coaching video from the master…

Here is a cover of an Alan Walker song from which I will post some of his videos in a later post.  My daughter has been playing guitar and piano since before she could talk I think and this was one of the earlier songs she learned on guitar and later on piano.  Her style is slightly different than this guy’s but they sound very similar and due to the strumming involved and other complexities this isn’t a terribly easy song to learn.

 

And last but in no ways least some sound advice from a guitar guru…

I hope to get back in the swing of things and post more to the blog.  However, I’ve been grappling with some mean medical issues and a fleeting blip called time…

wow. it’s been months since i’ve updated my blog. today’s theme is art… umm other great artist’s art not my own… but as the late and great Chris Farley would say – I’m working on It.

We live fairly close to the Florida coast and we managed to survive hurricane Michael but I can’t say the same about many of our trees.  I can still hear their moans and cries since the storm – tree carnage in all directions.   In memory of the trees here is some nice Groot art from the Yard Sale Artist

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This artist is in Alabama and lives within 50 miles of me.  He has quite a few great ideas as related to reclaimed/recycled art…

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Now for a guy across the pond…  His art style is teh awesome.

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And lastly but not leastly, some Van Gough stuffs…

https://www.thisiswhyimbroke.com/geeky-vincent-van-gogh-paintings/?fbclid=IwAR0PogR1OUfFskkQmsMqh2vtLlo2yCtGQV1cHeP14FPB1HZrJgEqrEO6_bU

Geeky Vincent van Gogh Paintings

Geeky Vincent van Gogh Paintings

Geeky Vincent van Gogh Paintings

 

alex the mighty and brave kitten

Well as luck would have it, we’ve picked up another unwitting member of our animal family due to someone abandoning an tiny animal left on its own to starve.  These pictures are a couple of months old now since, well, I haven’t blogged in foreva.  These pictures are also a few weeks after I found Alex in my front yard starving and emaciated.  She’s even bigger and healthier now than in these pictures.  

 

 

Here is the story of how I met Alex the mighty and brave kitten…

It was a dark and stormy night when I heard the four tiny but fearless canine soldiers sound the alarm that an intruder was within our gates.  As I walked outside, an eerie calm and silence befell the yard and then as if out of the darkness – MEEEOOWWW.  But not just any MEOW, a somewhat faint and delirious one from a tiny and emaciated but still beautiful figure.   The four fearless warriors just looked at me in horror and disbelief as the poor little kitten struggled to walk towards me.  They certainly knew what felines are and normally go crazy at the sight of them but not this particular night.  This night I think they felt pity on the tiny helpless creature and almost seemed to ask me if we could help it.

I went inside and got some warm milk and soft food to see if it would eat.  It tried to eat the food but acted like it had never had solid food before.  I’ve seen plenty of starving animals but this kitten was definitely within it’s final night if it hadn’t have found food.  I wondered if it had even been properly weaned since it seemed confused with what to do with the soft food.

Alex eventually gained her strength and is now much bigger than when I found her.  She gets along better with the four tiny dogs than they amongst themselves.  She likes to play and climb trees every hour of every day.  For a cat she seems to almost never sleep.  Maybe she’s just happy she found her big animal family.  We now have six dogs, two cats, and 8 chickens.

🙂

katy’s chicken test and the brave chicken

You have to wonder if it’s narcissism or stupidity in chickens that cause them to challenge animals with big teeth and 10 times their size .

Anyway, I actually set up this supervised chicken test in the images below because katy the big white dog failed an unplanned and unsupervised chicken test a couple of months ago when one happy just for a moment chicken escaped the chicken pen.  I can sum up the results of that earlier test with two words – “poor chicken.”  Even back then katy had already been taught that chickens are not simply fun flappy chew toys.  However, dogs are a little like children when you’re trying to teach them what not to do.  As soon as you have your back turned you’ll discover whether or not they have really been taught to avoid certain things.

So I’ve been working with katy to try to get her trained not to kill chickens.  To begin with this is mostly done by scolding her if she acts like she’s going to eat the chicken.  Most dogs are pretty smart and they quickly learn if you don’t approve of them doing something.  And then at least while they know you’re around they’ll mostly try to behave.  After she learns that part then the 2nd phase of training is to get her to follow the training when I’m not around or she thinks I’m not around.  This is mostly through having her in close proximity to chickens while I’m close enough to hear the chicken scream if katy forgets her training.

So i’m glad to announce that katy passed her one day supervised test and no one is more happier than the test chicken.  The chicken was being bullied by the other hens so I decided to separate her for a little while and let her participate in some exciting dog training.

Katy hasn’t graduated from chicken training yet so there will be more tests and test chickens but maybe she’ll continue to do well.  Katy is in a large pen with another dog, a blue heeler we call sargent, and he’s been trained not to kill chickens for many years.  But if you put him with an untrained dog that attacks a chicken, he’s not able to override his pack instinct to join in on the carnage. 😦

 

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Katy’s not to sure about this chicken test.

 

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The chicken is really getting into the testing spirit by challenging Katy and her food bowl.

 

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This was Katy last April when someone abandoned her on our road.

small rivulets of watercolor danced back and forth as I whimsically attempted to sketch and paint in the backyard swing

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small rivulets of watercolor danced back and forth as I whimsically attempted to sketch and paint in the backyard swing

I had finally sat in the swing enough days and watched the dogs play that I decided I’d try to do a quick and simple sketch and watercolor painting.  I think somehow they know when I try to sketch them because they won’t stay still and I’m not very good at sketching especially dogs from different angles and perspective.  Although sketching and painting in a swing doesn’t make things any easier either.  LOL.

Anyway, I figured I’d use the opportunity to blog about a watercolor field kit I bought and some tips and tricks I’ve learned along the way.  I think i only paid around $15 for the kit and you can find it at Michael’s or Hobby Lobby both of which have weekly coupons for 40% to 50% off.  Here is a link to amazon:

https://www.amazon.com/Sakura-XNCW-24N-Assorted-Watercolors-Sketch/dp/B001OVG40E

So here a few tips and tricks.  As you can see a 4×6 index card fits neatly in the case.  What isn’t visible is a small ring in the bottom of the case so you can hold it securely with your finger.  Back when I used to dabble with watercolor more often I always used traditional brushes but a few months ago I discovered watercolor brush pens and luckily the case above comes with one.  It holds the water inside the pen and you squeeze it slightly to wet or clean the brush.  It works pretty well but you’ll still want to hold onto your classical brushes for more options.

As you may notice the mixing tray will fit on the left or right side of the case.  This is a convenient design and it fits in the middle so you can close it inside the case when you’re done.  The water brush comes apart when you’re not using it so it also stores inside the case.  The lighter can be used to strike a flame close to wet paint to dry it quickly so you can close it in your case – just be careful not to burn your paper.

When it comes to drying the brush or cleaning it during painting, you could use a paper towel or cloth but it could be tedious to keep up with.  So while the kit comes with a small sponge on both sides with one visible in the picture, I decided to wear an old cotton sports wrist band also visible in the picture.  It actually works better than the small sponge that’s built in the case and it gives a nice artsy color pattern to an otherwise dull white sports band.  🙂

The silly sketch and painting is of two of my four small dogs.  There is a debris pile in the backyard that I need to clean up but a colony of lizards have claimed it as their home and the dogs love to chase them 24×7.   The clumsily sketched and painted drum in the picture is what I plan on burning the wood debris in.  That is if the wood doesn’t naturally decay first.

I had always thought watercolor painting was too messy to do quickly and I wasn’t familiar with these field kits until I saw a video of someone painting watercolor with one on a public bus.  I then decided I had to get one and try out so I can do more watercolor.  It is really quick and easy to do use watercolor almost anywhere with one of these kits.

One final tip that I’ll share is one I’ve read about but haven’t tried yet so test it at your own risk.  🙂   If you want to swap out any of the individual paint colors that originally arrived in the kit, you can pop out the cell and replace it with another one of the same size.  Also, if you have watercolor paint in a tube and you want to use it in the field kit then you can pour the watercolor tube paint into an empty cell and leave the kit open for a day or two for it to dry out.  Then it should work like any of the other colors since you have to add water to activate them.  Good luck and if you need any tutorials on how to get started or learn about advanced techniques check out videos on YouTube.

 

 

My somewhat inchoate diet and my new fitbit badge.

My somewhat inchoate diet and my new fitbit badge.

I have type 2 diabetes and though I’ve been able to hold my current weight without gaining, my blood sugar has been slowly creeping upwards so I’ve been ramping up my diet strategy yet again.  I’m probably on version 42 of my diet (and a long ways to go) and I feel like by the time I get to version 100 there will be nothing left I can actually eat except maybe an avocado and celery both of which i want to like but currently find yucky.

Here are a couple of tricks I’ve learned recently to help eat healthier.  In the past, I’ve used these square containers like in the images below for two turkey sandwiches – one for lunch and one for supper.  I can’t consume two sandwiches in one meal and control my blood sugar or weight.  Even though I get pretty hungry throughout the day by just eating one sandwich I’ve learned that I have to get used to being hungry.

Instead of putting the turkey meat on bread, I put it in a salad and fill the sandwich container with salad.  Ingredients I typically use in the salad are lettuce, carrots, tomatoes, sweet onion and green onion, green pepper, two jalapeno slices (finely chopped), broccoli, cauliflower (both of which i cut up fairly small so it’s not big chunks), green or black olives, dill pickle slices, banana pepper rings, and a little bit of shredded cheese.  I put a small amount of salad dressing in a small container and keep it in the cooler with a salad.  I generally put black pepper on it when i prepare it but don’t salt it ahead of time or it’ll turn the lettuce to mush because salt leaches the moisture out of veggies in a short amount of time.   The green olives, banana peppers, and sliced dills from a jar typically have a lot of salt so I find that I don’t have to add more salt with those and those don’t turn the salad to mush.

I also like to experiment with other dry seasonings such as McCormick’s salad supreme or even Cajun spices such as Tony Cachere’s or Zatarain’s sometimes to keep from getting so bored with salads.  If the lettuce is pretty fresh I have been able to get away with preparing the salad in the container the night before but I usually prepare it the morning if I’m going to have it for lunch.  Since it can be a bit time consuming I try to have all the ingredients washed and chopped in containers in the fridge so I just have to combine them in the morning.

There are a lot of other ways to make a salad including using sliced or chopped boiled eggs or other sandwich meats.  Or if you’re worried about processed sandwich meats, I like boiling split chicken breast with seasonings and pulling the meat from the bone and putting it in a container in the fridge.  It can then be used as a topping on a salad, in chicken salad, chicken pasta, chicken chilli, chicken pizza, or home made chicken soup just to name a few.  Boiled chicken if done right can be very tasty and healthier than fried (but if you have fried chicken leftovers you can pull the meat from the bone on it and use it in same recipes i mentioned above).  I’ll post the seasonings and some other tricks I use for boiled chicken in another post.

Cashews in moderation from what I’ve read have a beneficial affect on blood sugar so I’ve been taking those in my lunch.  They can be eat as a snack or put in the salad.  I’ve also been eating a lot of oranges lately so I’m not sure if that’s why I haven’t caught the cold or flu bugs that everyone else keeps getting but I’m sure the vitamin C helps.  The halo brand oranges are easy to peel and they’re pretty tiny so just right for peeling at my office cube without making a mess.

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Salad, cashews, and an orange. Yummi.

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I put pickle slices and green olives in there which takes the place of salt.

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Instead of putting the turkey meat on bread I put it in a salad.

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This is what I’m not supposed to eat. 🙂  This was the first time I bought fresh seafood from Publix and brought it home and cooked.  The shrimp and catfish were on sale half off.  I make the shrimp scampi by drizzling it with olive oil and putting a small amount of butter in it.  Then I add garlic salt and some pepper and then bake or broil it for about 6 minutes.  The corn nuggets are just bad all the way around when it comes to health.  LOL.  This is at least 4 servings maybe more.   

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Yay. This is since January of 2017.  I’m still too heavy to run much so most of this is brisk walk.

I’ve experimented with a lot of containers for salads to take them to work and eat at lunch but the square plastic container above seems to work pretty good so far.  I’ve also thought about glass mason jars.  With the mason jars you put salad dressing on the bottom and then when you’re ready to eat it just pour it into a bowl.  You can find the book below on Amazon and other places.

Image result for 150 best meals in a mason jar book

Well good luck if you are trying to eat healthier and/or lose weight.  It’s a constant struggle for me but I’ve lost around 40lbs with many more to go but I’m getting there slowly but surely.  🙂