Thursday, January 29, 2009

When I am old, this is who I want to be

I don't know if you've heard of these two ladies, Margaret and Helen. I use the term ladies lightly, because they may be old, but they ain't just sitting around in rockers waiting to "shuffle off this mortal coil" as it were. (Quick, name that play!) These broads rock. They are smart, opinionated, funny, brash and I love them. Thank you Marte for bringing these gals to my attention.

Seriously. Drop what you're doing and go check out their blog, then come back and tell me what you think. They had me at hello, or in their case, at "Kiss My 83 Year Old Ass." They think Sarah Palin is "touched in the head" and Rush Limbaugh is "a relic" and Ann Coulter has "gigantic hoofers" (not hooters, feet) and no heart (well, anyone who has the patience to listen to Coulter for more than a few minutes knows that.) They talk about the "crap" they got at Christmas (oh dear) i.e. the candles and exotic soaps that family members seem to think they need (who else is guilty of that, hands up! and add chocolates and scarves to the list) and they say things like this:

We had a lovely time with family stopping by for long overdue visits. It was even good to see the vegetarians, but I couldn’t get them to try some stuffing. Honestly, how can someone not like bacon? It just doesn’t make any sense.

Check 'em out here

They make me miss my grandmother, who died just on the cusp of her 100th birthday, and who showed the same kind of feist, although she was more genteel as I recall. However, I do remember her telling me, back in 1967 when I was just a kid, that she was off to see I AM CURIOUS (YELLOW). She was seventy-eight years old and said she wanted "to see what all the fuss is about." I had no idea what the fuss was about either, but I knew it was kind of naughty and so I was rightly proud of her for going, alone, to see it. I'd like to think she'd have been up for writing a blog like this.

No matter what your politics or faith, I like the way Margaret and Helen express themselves. They make me think and they make me laugh. Can't argue with that.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

It's snowing

Heavily. Yet again. Try explaining it to him, the Dweller of the Comfy Cushions.

Does this look like a dirty look to you? It sure does to me.

But when a dog has to do his biznits, he's got to do what a dog gots to do.

And then he has an opportunity to get even.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

dragonfly for kc dyer

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If you write fiction, here's a deal for you

If you've ever been fortunate enough to attend the Surrey International Writers' Conference, held every October in B.C., then no doubt you've had a chance to attend a workshop led by Donald Maass. He's a multi-talented agent and speaker, and I've been lucky enough to attend several of his packed-to-the-rafters sessions. If you are a fiction writer and you're serious about your craft or you just want to hang out with like-minded wingnuts, think about attending the conference. (see HERE.) It's truly one of the great ones, featuring the best of the best - writers, agents, editors. I promise, you'll come home inspired and ready to work with renewed energy. (Also exhausted and slightly hungover because if it's one thing writers like more than talking, it's talking while hanging out in the hotel bar until it closes.)

The next best thing to attending is to pick up a copy of Donald's book Writing the Breakout Novel. It's a must read for any fiction writer. And so is this:

The Career Novelist: A Literary Agent Offers Strategies for Success.

It's now offered as a free download HERE.

From his website:

“Packed full of fine analysis, solid advice, and thoughtful reflection on the state of contemporary publishing. It’s further distinguished by more common sense than any book of its type that I have ever read. A treasure.” — Dean Koontz, author of Intensity

“ indispensable volume for all libraries, and for anyone interested in learning about the world of publishing...” — Ed Gorman, Mystery Scene

Don't say I never give you nothin'.

Thanks, Donald.

Friday, January 23, 2009

The Young Victoria is Coming!!

And I'm not referring to Mrs. Bleck-ham. THE YOUNG VICTORIA is a movie opening this March and features Emily Blunt in the leading role of Queen Victoria. (Remember Blunt as the snarky secretary in THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA?) It begins in 1836 and tells the story of the early years of Victoria, before she became queen at the age of eighteen, and of her romance with Prince Albert. We're used to thinking of Queen Victoria as a fat dowdy old woman dressed in black who ruled England for over sixty years. But this movie shows us the flirty, saucy side of her. Martin Scorcese is attached to the project, as is Graham King (THE AVIATOR, THE DEPARTED) so I'm pretty excited.

Trivia alert: I've been in her bedroom and private suites in Kensington Palace. I wandered through it all alone on a rainy February day a few years ago when I ditched my husband and kids at the Natural History Museum (been there, done that, didn't want to see another stuffed monkey.) The palace was fairly deserted owing to bad weather and the late afternoon hour, so I pretty much had the place to myself. The clouds cleared just as I reached her bedroom and I stood in the silence and just breathed in the essence of the place. Pretty cool beans, I'll tell you. Check out the trailer:

True Confession Time: I'm a Masterpiece Theatre girl going way back to 1971 when it began. Remember the introductory music, the Rondeau from "Symphonies and Fanfares for the King's Supper"? Brought to you by Exxon Mobil? And the eloquent, erudite Alistair Cooke sitting in his wing-backed chair by the fire introducing each episode? Oh, I get all fluttery just thinking about it. I used Masterpiece Theatre as a reward, a much needed break from studying (along with the Mary Tyler Moore Show) when I was at university, so I still get an almost Pavlovian response when I hear the music. Like eyes welling up, sighing, hugging self kind of reaction. Remember, this was before PVRs and TiVo and such, so you had to drop everything when it was on and cosy up to the television which was the size of a small truck. It was such a guilty pleasure to sip tea and eat dark chocolate-covered digestives and forget work and my self-imposed student poverty for a short while.

Hands up those of you who also watched:
THE JEWEL IN THE CROWN (although now all I can think of is "want bitty" when I see Geraldine James, so that's pretty much ruined that one for me, thank you LITTLE BRITAIN)

Listen to this and tell me you're not feeling it:

Fanfare ("Masterpiece Theater" Theme) - English Philharmonic Orchestra

Edited to add:

If you want to see the remaining cast members at their 2007 reunion, go HERE

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Cynical about Barack Obama?

I started to address this in my comment section, but then I got carried away and figured I would put it out here instead. My blog pal Bush Babe, from the land Down Under, said she is a self-confessed cynic and is afraid Obama will not live up to the hype and the huge weight placed on his shoulders. I understand what she's saying, but I see things in a different light.

I'm a long time political junkie, so I follow our politics, and the politics of our nearest neighbour, very closely. As a Canadian, I can’t help but be affected by what happens south of our border, both literally and emotionally. However, I am, if not a cynic exactly, then certainly a sceptic when it comes to politicians themselves, so I get that.

Having worked up-close and personal with a lot of them, I know that many, if not most politicians, are in it for the wrong reasons - power, money, connections, ego - but every once in a while comes a man or woman who is there to make a difference and you just know it, you see it, you feel it in your gut. They are driven by honesty and conviction and an unswerving belief that they are there to serve the citizens who elected them. And that's what they do.

They lead.

They serve.

They inspire.

Sometimes, like a good coach or teacher, a little bit of what motivates him will in turn feed that hunger in you, a hunger some may not even be aware was there. When we are lucky enough to have a man like Obama in a position of power, he can change not only a nation, but an entire world. I believe that. I also believe he's a humble man, an honest man, as well as a man of vision. He knows the task ahead of him. He’s throwing a lot of the responsibility back where it belongs – right back in our laps. We need to clean up this mess together. He’ll do his part, if we do ours. That seems fair to me. And that's a powerful thing.

Is it hype, which to me means exaggerated expectations? I don't think so. I think people are giddy with joy right now, this is true. The American people have been thirsty for this kind of change for a long time, but I think they recognize he is merely one man, a man who is offering a cool drink of water before he expects us all to grab a shovel and build a community well together. Will he stumble sometimes? Most definitely. But Obama has a chance to continue what Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. started. I just hope he’s protected long enough to do what I know he can do.

And what he can do is inspire all of us to do better - for ourselves and for each other.

What do you think? Am I falling for the evangelical fervor that has marked this campaign? Or do you believe as I do, in the power of one. That one man, like Terry Fox, like Gandhi, like Martin Luther King Jr., can change the world by changing the consciousness of each and every one of us?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

On This Historic Inauguration Day

Did you watch? Did you cry? I am in awe of this man, I feel inspired and I'm not even an American. And it's not just because of the man he is, which I think is pretty impressive. But because of what he is asking of the people of America, and by extension, the rest of the world. It's time to heal, it's time to change, it's time to wake up. He's not presenting himself as a messiah, but as a leader, a true leader I want to, and can, believe in - thoughtful, intelligent, courageous, humble, loving, respectful, and hopeful.

It's about bloody time.

Then I came across this interview with Barack and Michelle back in 1986 and reprinted in yesterday's The New Yorker.

Who wouldn't want to follow this man? I dare you to read it without sighing out loud.

Check it out HERE.

Monday, January 19, 2009

In the interest of fair play - Dog Haiku

My good friend Kathy McG. (who gave me the book of cat haiku) sent along some nice Dog-ku to balance things out a bit. Now she didn't pass on the name of the dog haiku book, but I'm going out on a limb here, and I'm going to guess it's called DOG-KU (since there are several by that name, so it's a safe bet.) Kathy McG.! Have you figured out how to get in the comments section yet?

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And if Buddy were to write dog haiku, you know this is what he'd say.

I snore and pass wind
In the corner of your room
And yet you love me....

This treat connoisseur
Has not yet met a thong he
Could not digest whole.

Why sprawl on the floor
When the sofa beckons with
Plump, soft, new cushions?

More Personals from the London Review of Books

They always feature the most bizarre personalities, unless I'm just a prude and this is what they're used to on the other side of the pond.

Hee hee hee, he almost had me until the very end. Now I have the giggles and am positively ecstatic I'm not single and looking for a date. Ah, me. I think I'd rather just curl up with my dog and a good book.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Tara and Bella

If this doesn't melt your heart, you are made of stone.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

From my sister-in-law, the psychiatrist

Post Xmas Blues.

Eat cake.

Equal time for The White One

AKA "Kicia" which means "Little Cat" according to her previous owner, who was Polish.

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This cat is tiny, about a third of the size of Boris, but she is ten times more fierce. If they both run at the food bowl, he always capitulates. If Boris is already at the food bowl, she sits right behind him, almost touching him until he gets so rattled, he stalks off in a huff. Boris only looks tough, but he's really a big pussy. Kicia looks sweet and endearing, but she is a tiger disguised as a kitten. Someone told me she's a Turkish Van, or "swimming cat." She has a head the size of a tennis ball, but I think the tennis ball might be a shade smarter. She's lithe and bendy like an accordion - you can literally hold her out and stretch her to double her length - and we sometimes play her like one, but the sounds are not nearly the same. All high notes and no chords whatsoever.(I'm kidding before you start pelting me with kibble!) She will slide through your hands like an eel if you're not paying attention, then roll around upside down as you try to walk past her, which always cracks up our mailman. I guess she deserves a haiku or two.

White with black mask and
tail; pink feet, nose, tongue and ears,
What planet is home?

Surprise The Boris
Once more with a leap and nip,
And you'll be supper.

I thought cats meowed
But you chirp like the birdies
You catch and devour.

Then there's my sister's cat, Olivia.

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I'm sweet and gentle,
But too fat to lick my butt,
Which amuses them.

I'd do cat yoga
but it means getting up and
I do not do up.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Cat Haiku

My dear friend and neighbour (now there are two words I thought I'd never string together) Kathy gave me a book of cat haiku for Christmas. For those of you unfamiliar with haiku, they are Japanese poems with very strict guidelines (exactly seventeen syllables in three lines of five, seven and five) which are deceptively simple looking but with very deep souls.

Think of each one as a tiny, perfect, handmade chocolate truffle in a silk lined box from one of those shops staffed with Parisians in black aprons who treat everyone as though they're interrupting them from something très importante but you keep going back because the baked goods are so imcomparably fresh and delicious, especially the warm, flaky croissants au chocolat which you think you get away with eating "what? me? nothing, I was just out getting milk" forgetting all the flaky crumbs of fresh pastry that litter your sweater front....

Boris the would-be poet, if he ever felt so inclined.

My name is Boris.
Yes, you may pet me. Not there,
No, not there. Stop it.

Got any pet haiku in you? Give 'er your best shot.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

My New Favourite Person

I know a mother isn't supposed to play favourites. We're supposed to love all of our children equally, and by extension, our children's Significant Others, yada yada yada.

But I have a confession to make.

I have a favourite. And no, this isn't about Buddy. He's in my bad books right now because he devoured a box of Kleenex in a fit of pique after I left him alone with his anxiety disorder for Two Whole Hours.

See this photo? This is a picture of my Eldest and her boyfriend Chris. Cute, inn't he? And he's smart, kind and good to my girl.

He's also from Nova Scotia, which is reason enough to be in my good books. You see, Eldest is attending an east coast university, and we told her, when she left the safety of our familial bosom for the first time in her young life, that she'd soon discover what her dad and I already knew from experience - that the people out that way are hospitable, friendly, honest, down-to-earth and
real. We knew that if she felt homesick or got into any kind of trouble, that there would be someone there to help her out or to invite her over for a homecooked meal and a chat. That the kids she met at school would be good kids with warm hearts. And she found it to be true. I only had one teeny, tiny request.

If she was going to find herself with an east coast boyfriend, could he please be a lobster fisherman.

I don't think that's too much for a Homarus Americanus Fanaticus to ask of her daughter, do you? After all, this is the same mom who stayed up nights with this child when she was ill, read stories to her every night, cooked her favourite, gourmet meals like Lipton Chicken Noodle soup with a beaten egg mixed into it (oh, my wrist aches just thinking of the effort of all that whisking) and I could go on. But I'm no martyr. Why, I'd never use emotional blackmail to force my children into doing the right thing by their mother. I just think that when a mother makes extreme sacrifices for the sake of her children, she does so out of love but also with the possibility that someday one of them, say for example, her eldest darling girl, will make the right choices i.e. find herself a nice lobster fisherman who might send her beloved mommy some leftover treasures of the sea when he comes home from a hard day's work.

She came close, soooo close. She fell for this handsome fellow in the photo, who comes from a house right on the ocean, in a small cove south of Halifax. He even has lobster traps off his dock, apparently, though (sacrilege) he doesn't eat lobsters himself. Well, they seem happy together, so who am I to question a couple of craaa-ray-zy kids in love, even if he hasn't chosen the right path i.e. lobster fishing as his calling in life. C'est dommage. He was almost perfect.

Well, on December 30th there was a knock at the door and I was handed a big box by some FedEx guy who wished me a Happy New Year. It was the size of a cooler, and indeed inside this big box was an actual styrofoam cooler with something scratching around inside.

Yes, the East Coast Boy came through. To my great shock and delight, nestled inside were four, count 'em FOUR big, fresh, LIVE lobsters just waiting for the right woman to boil 'em alive and dip 'em in butter. Youngest declined to take part in the slaughter, but The Boy rearranged his dinner plans to make sure he'd be around for the crustaceous chow down. Were they good? Not even the shells went to waste as they were boiled up for broth.

What can I say other than Chris, you're The Man. Smooches.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Success and Happiness

Success is getting what you want.

Happiness is liking what you get.

-H. Jackson Brown

Friday, January 2, 2009

Transcending: Words on Women and Strength

This was sent to me by Kathryn K., a fellow writer and good friend and occasional lunch buddy along with our other friend Lori, at least when we can get all of our schedules lined up (which is never often enough.) We talk about work, kids, health, books, renovations, ideas, vacations, dreams, relationships, parenting, caring for aging or ill parents, aging ourselves, pets, neighbours, recipes, pros and cons of cosmetic surgery, skin creams, politics here and in the U.S. (Lori is an American), school, stone unturned, no topic off-limits, no judgments.

So for all my friends, and you know who you are, this is for you.

Happy, healthy New Year:

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Crazy for Crackers

Confession: I've been making homemade crackers since my kids were little. It was not because I was a devoted Martha acolyte, it was simply because I didn't want to wrangle three kids aged four and under in snowsuits to go to the grocery store. (The memory still haunts me.)

At that time, I used a recipe from the FOOD THAT REALLY SCHMECKS series by Edna Staebler. It was really easy, and they tasted better than anything in the store, so I made them for years. But then I got lazy and started buying these lavash crackers, which are delicious but expensive considering how fast my now-grown kids hoover them up. Recently, I saw this recipe for spelt crackers in the NYT mag, so I'm back to making them again. Unlike Edna's, these are 100% no-fat and healthy. You control how much salt goes on them and what add-ons you want on top. Don't be afraid. All you need is a rolling pin and the guts to face your friends when they mock you for doing what you're about to do.

Spelt Crackers

1/2 cup cold water
1/4 tsp table salt
1 1/2 cups wholegrain spelt flour (sold in the organic section, usually)

Put the water and salt in a small bowl and stir to dissolve. Fluff the flour before measuring because it's really dense, then stir it into the water. Dump it on a floured counter and knead it a bit, just enough to stick together. Either place the dough on an inverted 12" x 17" cookie sheet which you've spread with a bit of flour and roll it directly on the back on the back of the pan, or roll it on the floured counter, then fold and lift it back on the sheet. It will end up being the size of the pan, edge to edge. Brush off any excess flour. Spray it with water or pat water onto it with your hands (which allows the seeds to stick) then prick all over with a fork. Score with a pizza wheel so the crackers come out in pieces.

Now you get to be creative. Sprinkle the dough with - flaked sea salt, sesame seeds (I use a jar of the roasted black/white seeds found in the sushi department,) caraway seeds, garlic powder, fennel seeds, black cumin seeds, Cajun spice - basically whatever makes your toes curl.

Bake at 350F until dough is crisp and golden, 15 - 25 minutes, but check after 10 minutes to make sure they don't overcook.

Be prepared to make these over and over until your arms fall off.

Happy New Year everyone!

If you want to see a video of these being made, go HERE