Monday, March 30, 2009

Aging Disgracefully?

This was sent to me by my friend Terry (okay, technically she's my little sister's best friend, but I've known Terry since she was a kid and she's like a sister to me, too.) I love her, even though she laughed her tiny little ballerina-sized arse off when I entertained her and my sister in the Big City when they were fourteen and Oh So Cool and Bored by Everything and I was way cooler because I was a sophisticated eighteen-year-old with her own job and apartment. I was determined to show them a good time, and it demonstrates my level of sophistication and how far (so very far) I had yet to go when my first thought was to take two teenage girls to.....the Planetarium.

They put on a brave face, but their body language betrayed their feelings when they flung themselves into their seats, arms folded, heads down. The lights dimmed, the cushy seats tipped back, and as the narrator droned on and on in a soothing, melodious baritone, I fell into a deep sleep. Unbeknownst to me, I proceeded to snore and snort all through the presentation, to the complete delight of my two young companions. Rather than waking me they watched me instead of the history of the galaxy unfolding above our heads, and shrugged and giggled as other patrons turned to stare, they later admitted. They "practically peed our pants laughing" and declared, as the credits rolled, that they had had the Best Time Ever. Always happy to entertain....

Seasons of Beauty
Aging Gracefully
The original post is at Daily OM

We tend to associate youth with beauty, but the truth is that beauty transcends every age. Just as a deciduous tree is stunning in all its stages—from its full leafy green in the summer to its naked skeleton during winter and everything in between—human beings are beautiful throughout their life spans....(follow the link above to read the rest)

From DailyOM- Inspirational thoughts for a happy, healthy and fulfilling day. Register for free at

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Spectacular Failures

Here's a commercial for a product that supposedly makes driving a car more comfortable, but it didn't make the cut. Huh. I wonder why?

This one just left me weak. I can't do jumping jacks either, but no one has caught me on tape.

And this is why I don't dance.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Ricky and Elmo

An interview where the great Ricky Gervais manages to crack up a muppet. Gives new meaning to Tickle Me Elmo.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

kc dyer rocks the Globe!

My friend and fellow writer kc dyer got an amazing review in the Globe and Mail today for her latest middle-grade novel called A Walk Through a Window. For those of you who live outside Canada, the Globe and Mail is our biggest, most prestigious national newspaper so it's quite an accomplishment just to get even a thumbs up or a tiny mention let alone a big glowing review like this one.

That's just awesome, but not if you know our kc who is equally awesome.

Way to go, kc. WAY. TO. GO!!!

You can read the full review HERE.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Amy Tan - Where does creativity hide?

Another great TED lecture. While you can just listen to it, you'll miss a lot if you can't see her clever slideshow. (Check out the TED COMMANDMENTS.)

She begins by asking the question "How do we create?"

The following words are Amy's but the emphasis is mine:

We all have intentions when we're faced with a situation, any situation. All of us have a response. We have intentions, what we think we should do. There's ambiguity. What we actually do, and what we think we should do. Do we justify by saying my intentions were good? That's the ambiguity.

You notice disturbing hints from the universe.

They were always there.

When I identify the question, distill the hints, clues, there's focus.

When you're writing, those hints, those clues have always been there. They've been obvious, yet not been. You need a focus. When I have a question, random things, all the flotsam and jetsam, become relevant, become obvious. There's no coincidence, serendipity, in which you're getting all this help from the universe, but you may also explain it by saying you now have focus.

This leads to the question "why am I here?" What is the meaning of my life, what is my place in the universe. We all hate moral ambiguity in some sense, yet it's necessary in writing a story. It's the place where I begin.

Sometimes we get help from the universe. There's the arrival of luck and random chance. Serendipity. Accidents.

I go back to the question, of how do I create my own life? It is by questioning. There are no absolute truths. I believe in specifics, the specifics of story, the specifics of that past and what is happening in this story at that point. By thinking about luck and faith, and coincidences and accidents, God's will, the synchrony of mysterious forces, I will come to some notion of what that is, how we create. I have to think of my role, where I am in the universe, and did somebody intend for me to be that way or is it just something I came up with.

And I also can find that by imagining fully and becoming what is imagined and yet is in that real world, the fictional world, and that is how I find particles of truth not the absolute truth, or the whole truth. And they have to be in all possibilities, including those I never considered before. So there are never complete answers, or rather, if there is an answer, it is to remind myself that there is uncertainty in everything and that is good, because then I will discover something new. And if there is a partial answer, a more complete answer for me, it is to simply imagine. And to imagine is to put myself in that story, until there is a transparency between me and the story that I am creating and that's how I've discovered that if I feel what is in the story, in one story, then I come the closest to feeling compassion. Because for everything in that question of how things happen, it has to do with a feeling. I have to become the story in order to understand a lot of that.

Imagination is the closest thing to feeling compassion. Become that story.

Monday, March 16, 2009

I'm a Guinness Girl, in a Molson World

This year marks the 250th anniversary of Guinness and I think it should be celebrated. I love Guinness, always have. Back in the Dark Ages when I was a single girl working crazy hours, I sometimes drank a dark stout in lieu of eating dinner. Some say it is a complete meal, in and of itself, and I would have to agree. But I've often had to defend my choice of libation. Some people (the misinformed or dipsophobics of the world) think it's too dark, too heavy, too bold, too strong, too.....manly. Phht. I say give it a chance, people. Just taste it. Guinness is the real deal - pure, full-bodied yum.

And Guinness is good for you, people. You heard me. It's actually healthy. Don't believe me?

Researchers have found that antioxidants from the moderate use of stout might reduce the incidence of cataracts by as much as 50%. It is lower in alcohol, calories and carbohydrates than regular major brand beers. It even has fewer calories and carbohydrates than low-fat milk and orange juice. It also has higher levels of Vitamin B, which helps keep arteries unclogged. Hah! And a recent study has shown that Guinness is packed with vitamins, flavonoids and antioxidants, just like the ones found in dark-coloured fruits and vegetables, and they are what keep the bad form of cholesterol (LDL) away. Hands up, who would rather drink a pint than eat a plate of brussel sprouts? Thought so. And if that's not enough to convince you, clogged arteries contribute to erectile dysfunction. (Think about it, gentlemen, and I think you'll come to the conclusion that it's a pretty clear choice. Remember, it don't mean a thing if it ain't got that schwing.) Don't you want to grow up big and strong and healthy?

Take a gander at its distinguished history:

In 1759, Arthur Guinness signed a 9,000 year lease on an abandoned brewery in Dublin. Besides inheriting the malt houses, mill, horses and acreage he needed to brew beer, the lease also included water rights and twenty cases of pretzels. (Kidding about the pretzels. It was peanuts.) Just as water is crucial in the making of a decent whisky (my other true love) the purity and softness of the water is pivotal to the quality of Guinness. The brewers use the 'liquor', as they like to call the water, flowing from springs called the St. James's Wells which course all the way through the Wicklow Mountains. Thanks to the fruits of dear Arthur's labour, about 10 million glasses are chugged every day in 150 countries. Go Artie, go!

And thanks to the invention of the widget, we can now enjoy Guinness at home.

I love that velvet creaminess, the smooth caramel/coffee/bitter chocolate taste that has a hint of a metallic twang and mostly, the lightness and purity of the drink. To me, it's still a meal in a glass. And I love looking at it as much as I enjoy drinking it; it's mesmerizing. If you hold it to the light, you'll see it's not black but a deep, rich ruby colour, with creamy waves roiling to the top of the glass. You'll know you're taking a proper swig when you "break the seal" and end up with a foam mustache. Lick it off, or wipe it on your sleeve - it doesn't matter. You've now entered the sacred world of Guinness.

I'll leave you with this:

There's a big conference of beer producers.

At the end of the day, all of the presidents of all the beer companies decide to have a drink in a bar.

The president of 'Budweiser' orders a Bud, the president of 'Miller' orders a Miller Lite, Adolph Coors orders a Coors, and the list goes on.

Then the waitress asks Arthur Guinness what he wants to drink, and much to everybody's amazement, Mr. Guinness orders a Coke!

"Why don't you order a Guinness?" his colleagues ask.

"Naah. If you guys won't drink beer, than neither will I."

Thursday, March 12, 2009

A different way to think about creative genius

Another great TED lecture on creativity, this one by Elizabeth Gilbert who wrote EAT, PRAY, LOVE. She talks about success and the impossible expectations we impose on artists. It's inspiring and really funny and smart and spiritual, just like Elizabeth herself.

Sometimes what follows a brilliant performance in dance, say, or an author's first novel hitting the bestsellers list, is anguish. There is a belief secretly harboured by the artist that maybe once executed this thing can't ever again be duplicated, that expectations can never again be met. Elizabeth says that maybe one doesn't have to be quite so full of despair. That perhaps there is a glimpse of the divine (or at least, a "divine cockeyed genius") in all great creative work, and we just have to view it in a different light.

"If you never happen to believe in the first place, that the most extraordinary aspects of your being came from you, but maybe if you just believed they were on loan to you, you know, from some unimaginable source, for some exquisite portion of your life to be passed along, when you're finished with somebody else."

Dance. Write. You might be touched by the divine, or not.

But just do it. And don't ever stop.

Another great post by Daphne Gray-Grant

PW #162 - Moving lessons for writers

I opened the freezer door and a sea of green goo puddled towards me. What on earth was this stuff?

Turns out it wasn't pond sludge or paint, it was my kids' favourite ice cream -- mint chocolate chip. And it had oozed down to the bottom of the freezer because it had melted. This was a result of the freezer's death, right alongside its guilty partner, the dead fridge nestled below.

Under normal circumstances, I'd have uttered a few curse words and called a repair person. But our situation was anything but normal. We'd just moved into a rental house -- a move made necessary by plans to renovate our own home. And since we didn't actually own the freezer/fridge, I couldn't do anything except call the landlord.

Day three of our move was not shaping up to be a great one.

What's more, the dead fridge was not our only problem. The rental house was too cold -- you practically needed long underwear to survive the family room. The kitchen was too small -- more suited to a family of two who ate out a lot rather than our family of five who mostly eats in. And the movers (who moved only furniture -- we heroically and cheaply did most of the boxes ourselves) had managed to take a chunk out of my pine armoire.

In short, everything sucked.

Do you ever feel that way when you're writing? You stare at the computer monitor, not knowing what to say. Every sentence you write is tedious and dull. You overuse the verb "to be." You go crazy with audacious adjectives and you use adverbs disadvantageously. (Aside: that last sentence was a joke.)

Or perhaps, worse, you don't write at all and you do other things but you don't do them well or with any particular joy because you feel guilty . . . for not writing.

In other words, your writing life sucks. So what's a person to do? Give up? Sorry, no!

We all need to recognize that not every writing day is going to be a winner. After all, athletes are familiar with "poor performance" days, and recognize that this doesn't, by definition, make them poor athletes. Most chefs have baked cakes that have fallen flat or produced main courses that were less than stellar -- but that doesn't make them any less cooking savvy. Movers have terrible moving days. And so it is with writers. Some days are always going to be better than others. Don't let your inexperience or some bad luck define you.

You are a writer because you are a person who chooses to put words on paper. If you judge yourself too harshly that judgment will simply make the wonderful, creative part of your brain -- the part that writes -- want to hide.

Remember: things go wrong; it happens all the time. But in the end, life usually sorts itself out. With writing, we all improve with practice and a measure of calm.

As for my move, we settled in fairly quickly. I told my landlords we hadn't managed to sell the much-loved fridge in our own house, so they could take it for the cost of moving it to us. We bought an inexpensive space heater for the family room. We decided to eat only in the dining room and turned our kitchen table into a work surface. And I've concluded my armoire looks more antique with a few dings and scrapes.

Stuff happens. Get over it. Keep writing.

A former daily newspaper editor, Daphne Gray-Grant is a writing and editing coach and the author of the popular book 8½ Steps to Writing Faster, Better. She offers a brief and free weekly newsletter on her website. Subscribe by going to the Publication Coach.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Dutch Babies AKA Giant Pancakes

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I love crepes, but I am too intimidated (read lazy) to make them. Then I stumbled upon a recipe for something called a Dutch Baby and it's almost too good to be true. These puppies are delicious and easy to make. It's as though a Yorkshire Pudding eloped with a Crepe and they ran off to Amsterdam for their honeymoon. Seven months later this little beauty was born, and though they told everyone it was premature, one look at the size of this Dutch Baby tells you all you need to know. Hey, remember that old adage - the pancake don't lie. But who cares about such things. Come to Mama for a kiss and a cuddle.

Dutch Baby Pancakes

(2-4 servings unless it's for a teenage boy, in which case it serves 1)

4 eggs
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup milk
1/4 tsp vanilla
2 TBSP butter
1/2 lemon, cut in 2 wedges
icing sugar

Preheat your oven to 400F. In a blender, throw in the eggs, flour and milk. Blend until smooth. Spray two round 8" metal cake pans with PAM (yes, funny, haha, heard it many times) and add 1 TBSP of butter to each pan.

Put the pans in the oven and let the butter melt and get bubbly. This will take about 1 minute. Do NOT let the butter burn.

Leaving the pans in the oven, pour the pancake batter evenly between the two pans (I don't mean literally between the pans because that would cause a huge mess in the bottom of the oven. Trust me on this one.)

Bake the pancakes until puffy and browned around the edges, about 15 minutes or so. Quickly invert the pancakes onto 2 dinner plates.

Squeeze 1 lemon wedge on each one, then sprinkle with 1 TBSP of icing sugar. Instead of lemon/icing sugar, you can add cinnamon, or use caramelized apples, or even Nutella. Me, I like the lemon and sugar the best.

Have a cup of coffee and congratulate yourself on your cleverness in rousing teenagers who will sniff the air then wander down from their rooms like zombies in wrinkled pajamas.

Monday, March 2, 2009

My friend is having another baby!!

My good friend and writer extraordinaire, ms kc dyer, has written another wonderful novel only this time it's not a YA, it's a middle grade novel called A WALK THROUGH A WINDOW.

I've read it, and like her other novels, it rocks. From Random House:

A Walk Through a Window is the story of Darby, a young girl forced to spend the summer with grandparents she doesn’t know in a place she feels she can never belong. But when a boy down the street extends a hand, it is more than friendship he offers. Together they discover a magical stone window frame that transports them to the very centre of the dramas of our past: the Underground Railroad; the coffin ships of the Irish Potato Famine; and even the Inuit as they crossed the Bering Land Bridge into North America.

Over the course of the long, very strange summer, Darby is forced to question part of own her life. And as tragedy threatens her family, that magical walk through a window offers Darby new insight into the people she has always taken for granted – and changes forever her perception of Canada.

Read this great review here.

I laughed, I cried and I now I'm urging you go out and get this book, and also to recommend it to your school librarian. And if you can make it to the launch, come on over and say hello. I wish I could go, but I'll be there in spirit, karen! Oh, and check out her blog. There be prizes....