Shortform Writing

Challenge: Thrifty Words Tell a story in 50, 100, or 150 words, sometimes based upon a prompt. I write more stuff like this at https://julieranson.medium.com/

Favorite Cooking Hack: Sheet Pan Meals

I love to cook. I also enjoy saving time in the kitchen. How would you like a complete meal with one easy baking step? Sheet pan meals offer the comparable ease of crockpot cooking. Instead of a wet, brothy meal, a sheet pan meal usually offers crispy vegetables and well-seasoned meat.

Another benefit for my husband and me is we can get two dinners out of most sheet pan recipes. #winning

Caution: Faster cooking meats like shrimp and fish require step two because they are added when only five minutes remain in the vegetable cooking. Knowing cooking times of various ingredients matters, but doesn’t that apply to every meal you cook?

Here are some of my favorites:

Sheet Pan Sesame Chicken and Vegetables

Sheet Pan Shrimp Bake

Julie’s Sheet-pan Pinterest Board


Another Curious Find: A Forgotten Author

I’m a voracious consumer of books. I even read the author’s acknowledgments from start to finish and any reviews featured on the back cover or inside.

Recently, I opened a debut novel and found a review of that story by J. Courtney Sullivan, the author of Maine.> I loved that book and several others she wrote. Her back catalog isn’t huge; she’s no James Patterson. Ahem.

My immediate thought was, “What has she written lately?”

Found it. Requested it from my local library! I’ll have that collection of lovely words in a day or so.

Apparently, it was a book club selection, too.

Am I the only one who gets excited about a new story?


Bye-Bye, Litter!

Thrifty Challenge 100 Words: Things Lost

Kitty litter, that is.

My young kids got a kitten. Sebastian was her name.

Photo by Francesco Ungaro from Pexels

When I remarried, our new home had 4 cats inside, 4 cats out, 2 dogs, and 4 birds. Sebastian wasn’t having it with the dogs, so she lived upstairs.

And she slept with me. She literally spooned me. I’d never slept with an animal. Ever.

Around age 16, she got sick and I sadly let her go.

Hubby’s last cat crossed that mythical Rainbow Bridge in 2019. No more cats! No litter boxes to clean. No more gritty litter sprinkled on floors.

It’s a good miss.


Wine Friends: I’ll Drink To That

Word Prompt: Happiness

Over ten years ago, a neighbor invited some women to experience a wine adventure.

Then, I liked whites and one sweet red. My palate changed considerably. I love Syrah, Zinfandel. What’s not to love about Cabernet?

I love this adventure with these spectacular women.

Wine plus friendship = sustainable happiness.


Snow Day: The Cold Scent of Freedom

Word Prompt: Winter

Snow day. School’s out.

I got the text message. Permission granted by management to do nothing but mainline cocoa or wine.

Wait. I’m management. I still have to work on my budget documents? You want to talk to me about what?

I’m taking a mental health day. Peace out, bosses!

When I taught (middle school, high school, college), I loved a snow day. To wake to the chill silence on the other side of the window glass created a visceral response, an excitement about freedom. As a college administrator, I merely worked from home. Now retired, I help walk the dogs and it’s bloody cold out there in the pre-dawn darkness. Ugh.


Joy to the World

Microfiction inspired by songs of Three Dog Night

Christmas 1972.

Grandma opened the stereo console.

“Christmas carol time!”

The teenager handed her a 45.

“Duh-duh-DUH. Jeremiah was a….eerrrkkkkk.” Grandma jerked the needle off the black disk. She angled her head to read the spinning label.

“Joy to the World?”

“All the boys and girls now.” The kids chanted.


Just an Old-Fashioned Love Song

Micro-fiction inspired by songs of Three Dog Night

She looks across the room. A strange old man sits in her husband’s recliner. He rambles on.

Her husband was her one great love. He wove stories of tenderness into their union.

They listened to the radio together, listening to love songs only about them.

He promised he’d never go.

Originally appeared here


Burning Juice

Word Prompt: Calamity

Ironically named, the Glass Burning Fire in California’s wine country consumed thousands of acres in recent days.

Are we ready for a truly smoky cabernet? How’s that toasty chardonnay aged in cement instead?

I’m sad about this calamity. I wanted to take my daughters to Napa.

Flaming grapes, lost chances.


Naughty Giggles

Word Prompt: Service

Three kids sat in the second to last pew and ignored the happenings in the service.

They quietly giggled over song titles in the hymnal because this was funny, “How Great Thou Art” –between the sheets. And, “Blessed Assurance” –under the covers.

A momma taps a shoulder to end it.


If I End Up in Hell

Word Prompt: Haunting

I’ve killed my fair share of insects.

I’ve a friend who kindly puts spiders outside. Me too, they’re just dead first.

My teenage self was haunted by the promised torment of hell. Imagined creepy crawlies for eternity.

Note to family. Bury me with a flyswatter. Doubt I’ll need it though.


Lived to Tell About It

Word Prompt: Youth

The brothers didn’t consider the real use of the trestle bridge they played on. By the time they felt the vibration in the tracks, it was too late.

Bill landed on sand fifteen feet below. Bobby’s pantleg caught on a railroad tie, where he was rescued from his dangling discomfort.

True Story. Aged eleven and nine, these two brothers lived to tell about being hit by a train in 1950’s Emporia, Virginia. Bob is my husband.

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