Monday, November 30, 2009

Monday, November 30, 2009
Waxing Moon
Uranus Retrograde
Rainy and cold

I haven’t opened the computer or typed for days. It feels weird to be back. It felt good to be unplugged.

I hope everyone had a great holiday.

Wednesday, we were on the road before 6 AM. We kept hearing how it would be such a heavy travel day — but there was NO traffic all the way through CT, MA, NH, until we crossed into Maine. It was a nice, smooth ride.

I stopped in Portsmouth at Riverrun Books — what a nice store! I bought a biography of Emily Post I’d wanted for awhile, and the time period covers some of my current research. We made our usual slew of stops heading up in Maine in Kittery and York and Wells and even Windham. We had lunch in York, at the Stolen Menu Cafe, which has become one of my favorite restaurants anywhere. The food is outstanding, the service is friendly, and it’s reasonably priced. I really like the Yorks anyway — I could live there, should I choose to go to Maine. It’s a friendly, year-round, arts-oriented community and I really like it. I picked up a few things I needed, stocked up at Stonewall Kitchen, found some decorations I thought were cute, and found my writing bag!

It’s made by Sharper Image, and has compartments for computer, folders, books, everything. I have room for my travel yoga mat, my research materials, everything. It’s on wheels, so I can walk it rather than carrying it. It’s small enough to be a carry-on, but large enough to hold everything I need. It was on sale for about 1/5th of what I’ve seen it at regular retail. So I grabbed it.

Found a skirt — a long, black velvet one that drapes beautifully. Good for formal occasions. Still need some more casual types, but I have a feeling I’ll just sew them in the New Year.

Arrived at my great uncle’s around 3:30. Unloaded, heated up the food, got it dished out to various and sundry. My great uncle wasn’t feeling well, but he seemed to perk up while we were there. My cousin called a few hours later and invited me up to the blueberry farm up the street — I hadn’t been up there since he and his wife worked on the house. I went up and saw the house — it’s an 1850’s farmhouse that’s been lovingly renovated so it’s comfortable and modern, and yet respects the history and architecture of the house. They’ve done a fabulous job. We sat around drinking wine and peeling the onions for the dinner. I’m always just dashing up and back and taking care of the older relatives that I rarely get to hang out with my contemporaries and catch up. So, that was fun.

I’d been up since 4:30, so I was pretty tired. Went to bed early, woke up early, got breakfast sorted. Managed to get in a few hours of writing. We went to the hall around 12:30 and they handed me the potato masher (which, by the way, is 4 feet long because of the vats of potatoes to mash) the minute I walked in the door! We got everything finished and dished out and sat down by 1 — 52 people for dinner. My great uncle (who’s in his 90s) was feeling much better and had a good time. The food was great, as always, and so was the company. Most of these people I only get to see once a year, so it’s kind of a quick catch-up, but it’s good. We’ve been doing this for over 30 years, and everyone gets along, at least for the day! Any arguments are left outside, and everyone respects that rule.

And it’s definitely an example of “many hands make light work” — people pitch in and everything gets done. We all washed up, left the hall better than we found it.

By the time we got home, another branch of the family who doesn’t come to hall came by to visit — one of the cousins I hadn’t seen for about 15 years! We were really close when we were kids and teens. So that was a nice catch up.

Another pretty early night for me. I was too tired to even read.

Friday morning, we were up early and out of the house by seven. Although I rarely shop on Black Friday (and I’m not a mall shopper anyway), we drove up to Freeport, to the flagship LL Bean store. I needed a sleeping bag for various and sundry travels coming up in the next year and change, and they’ve got good ones. We had a quick breakfast in the cafe — really good, the coffee (Coffee by Design is the fair-trade company) was outstanding. We picked up a few additional things, got some ideas for when we have the house, and were back on the road in about an hour.

The drive back was not fun. The weather was dreadful — heavy rain. Of course, the forecast was for “light showers”. Right. And the temperature was dropping, so it was pretty clear it would soon be snow. We managed to outrun most of the storm, although it was still sprinkling by the time we hit Sturbridge.

Earth Spirit Herbals, one of my favorite stores, closed at the end of July, but supposedly a garden center down the street carried their oils and herbs. However, we couldn’t find the garden center, so maybe that’s not open anymore, either. We backtracked and had lunch at Admiral O’Brien’s, which is right next door to where Earth Spirits used to be. The food is great, and, again, the prices are good and service friendly. So, we had a good hot lunch and were back on the road.

We managed to get home by about 3:30, which was pretty good. It took a few trips to haul everything upstairs, and there were packages waiting for us, including my next assignment from Confidential Job #1.

Saturday, I was up early and writing. Hit Costco to stock up on things like butter and eggs, stocked up on some other stuff at various stores. Did the test runs of the cookies all afternoon. My mixer was useless and caused a major setback. And the recipes for rolled sugar cookies and butter cookies don’t hold together and the dough doesn’t work as well as the recipes I usually use, which are from the 60’s and 70’s, so, next year, I go back to them. I thought both the sugar cookies and the butter cookies tasted a little bland. And the dough was hard to work with.

I made a rolled cookie that I cut out into angel shapes — it’s a kind of a sugar cookie, but with eggnog. That turned out pretty well, and the eggnog icing should bump it up. I did a lime-flavored cookie that’s really good, but it doesn’t pack well, so I can’t use it for the cookie plates.

I made a lemon shortbread that’s really good, but my idea of cutting it into Lighthouse shapes and frosting it — again, I can’t make the volume I need, and it’s not very packable and stackable.

Frustrating day.

Sunday, up early, writing. Looked at Bed, Bath & Beyond for a new mixer. The prices were ridiculous, and if I can bend the paddles with my bare hands, it’s not going to work. I don’t have the money or the room for the standing Kitchen Aid Mixer, although that’s what I want. But I can’t justify spending over $300 for one. Headed to White Plains to Trader Joe’s for a few things, and then to the Chef Central where I found the decor sugar I needed AND a Kitchen Aid hand mixer that does everything the standing mixer does — for $40. Grabbed it.

Not only does it work beautifully (and it has dough hooks for the next time I make bread), but, because it works properly, it took me three hours less to make the same amount of cookies.

I made a rolled chocolate cookie. I wanted to cut them into moose shapes (“chocolate moose”), but the design of the cutter and again, the dough’s lack of ease in working made it impossible. Also, the moose cookies are so big that I couldn’t get the volume I need to make for the plates. I tried making reindeer, but they didn’t hold their shape while baking, so I tried a different cutter and ended up with chocolate BOOTS. They’re okay, but, again, I don’t think I can make the volume I need.

I need at least 100 of each cookie to have enough for the 30 or so platters I’m doing. So I need a cookie that’s sturdy and that I can do in volume.

I made the molasses spice cookie — it’s one of my favorite recipes ever. Fantastic, easy to work with, makes a lot. That’s a definite for the platter, along with the Toll House. I can make more sugar cookies if I need to – and I think I will.

I also made a cranberry “sandie” — one of those melt-in-your-mouth cookies. I love them, but again, not a lot of volume, and I don’t think it’s sturdy enough for the platter. I also made an almond-hazelnut crescent, grinding the nuts to an almost flour-like consistency. Unfortunately, the cookies disintegrate if you pick them up or even try to move them. They taste good, but, again, not something packable and stackable.

What I’m going to have to do with the almond crescents is make a trifle with them by doing a layer of sponge cake, a layer of chocolate mousse, and then a layer of the crumbled cookies, another set of layers, topped with some raspberries and whipped cream. It’ll be fine, but it still doesn’t make a cookie for the platter.

So, the center of the platter will have a small gingerbread cake. I’ll surround it with Toll House, sugar, and the molasses spice cookies. I’m on the fence about the eggnog cookies. If I roll them and cut them thicker than the recipe says, I think they’ll be packable and stackable. A peanut cookie might be good, but so many people are now allergic to peanuts that I worry.

I do a cheat sheet with a photo of each cookie and ingredients so if there’s anything someone can’t have, they can avoid it.

Also spent a good part of the weekend packing and stacking the stuff I need to move for the furniture swap. Thursday comes up quickly.

I haven’t started decorating for the holidays yet. It doesn’t make sense to do it and then have to move everything for the furniture swap. Once the furniture is swapped out and I can put stuff back and rearrange and get some breathing room, I’ll decorate.

Haven’t started the cards yet, either, and the overseas need to go out by the end of the week.

I’m still working on the Christmas story, but I’ve got enough done so it’s in design. I also have to start another story due at the end of the month for an anthology and the steampunk TODAY. Even though I’m behind, I have to keep stacking things up or I get even more behind.

I’m headed to Long Island later this morning to acupuncture. I definitely need it. The next two weeks are going to be insane, but that’s the way it is. Time Management. NONE of these balls can drop, so if it means longer hours and harder work, that’s the way it is. It’ll be fine, just a lot for the next two weeks, and it all has to get done. No excuses, no room for letting anything slide. Once the furniture swap is done on Thursday, it will be much better. Even though next week will be busy, there will be more physical room in the place, which will allow for more psychological room.

I’d love to just take a nap and wake up on Christmas Eve with everything done, but that’s just not going to happen! So I’m gearing up for a busy couple of weeks.


Thursday, November 26, 2009


I hope everyone has a wonderful day.

Published in: on November 26, 2009 at 1:47 am  Comments (6)  

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Waxing Moon
Uranus Retrograde
Cloudy and mild

I’m headed up to Maine for the Big Dinner with 50+ people. It’s always wonderful — especially since the agreement is to keep conflict outside the door, and, for over 30 years, that’s the way it works.

It will be slightly bittersweet this year. My grandmother died a few days before Thanksgiving last year, and, while we missed her, she still felt very present, especially since her memorial service was the day after Thanksgiving. This year will be the year we realize she’s truly gone.

I’m feeling tired and run down from all the dealings with scumbag landlords and corrupt state agencies. Too many entities feel they are above the law. And they count on grinding down those who won’t just roll over and take it. I’m glad to have a few days to regroup and dig in again.

Migraine yesterday didn’t help, either.

In the category of Unbelievable Ignorance, I was tweeting about editing/revision/cutting with some people and mentioned how much I love to cut and edit and that “The Red Machete is my best friend” meaning I use a red pen when I edit and I cut a lot. I’m not unnaturally attached to words, I know nothing is ever wasted, etc. So what happens? In a matter of minutes, I get a slew of nasty emails and DMs from right wing nuts accusing me of all kinds of things because they think “Red Machete” has a political or religious connotation. Which, of course, it doesn’t — I did my research before starting to use the term. Don’t these people have lives? They’ve already proven they don’t have brains or hearts, but one would think they’d have more important things to do than troll the internet and attack people for imagined contexts.

It’s part of the deal if you’re going to be out in public, and, if you’re a writer, you have to spend a certain amount of time out where people can take shots at you. If you’re going to cave or threaten to pack up your toys and go home every time someone behaves like a dick, this is not the line of work that’ll make you happy. I have no problem with legitimate discussion of different points of view, but in our current Culture of the Screech, far too many people make judgements with nothing to back it up.

Let’s just say being offline for a few days will be good for both body and soul! 😉

Ran errands. Baked Toll House Cookies. Made a shepherd’s pie big enough to feed 10 people. Cooked dinner for myself and another. We did all the dishes. At the time I had to post this, I still had to wrap presents and decide what the heck I’m wearing to The Dinner!

The shepherd’s pie tray doesn’t fit into the cooler, so I have to build a make-shift cooler to transport it and the cheesecakes. Oy!

When I get back, I need to go back to storage and get out all my other cookie sheets. I accumulated a lot of them over the years, especially the year I baked 30 cakes and 1200 cookies. I’m not going quite that far this year, but it will be . . .a lot.

I love using parchment paper to line the sheets, though. I prepped all the sheets with parchment, stacked them, then just filled them and slid them into the oven.

Considering I have a galley kitchen, it’s amazing how much I can get done!

Signing off until the weekend. Have a great holiday, everyone!


Published in: on November 25, 2009 at 1:41 am  Comments (4)  
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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Waxing Moon
Uranus Retrograde
Partly sunny and cool

Busy day yesterday, but definitely a step up from the last few. Good writing day on the contemporary Christmas story. Stopped at some stores that didn’t have what I needed, paid storage, picked up the cheesecakes for the trip and the fixings for the shepherd’s pie I’m making today to bring up for tomorrow night’s dinner. Lunch with a friend, back home, some reading, some writing, some correspondence. Glass of wine and a snack with another friend. Worked on the grocery lists for baking. I need to build in a day to try the various stollen recipes somewhere, and I’m adding those supplies to the list (can you say a lot of yeast and a mountain of candied fruit)?

Writing going well on the new Christmas story. It feels right. In addition to the usual holiday issues of family and estrangement, I get in a few jabs at ignorance and injustice, but as a trusted friend pointed out, hey, Dickens wrote about the social problems of the time, too, so I’m in good company.

Today’s agenda consists of writing, baking, cooking, wrapping the presents that go up to Maine, and deciding what the heck to wear for the dinner. I hate not being packed the day before I leave — I like to pack ahead of time and not stress.

Bad headache today, but I hope it will dissipate as the day progresses. The constant leaf blower noise doesn’t help either. We had no heat for most of the day yesterday and it got a little raw in here towards mid-afternoon. Now, they’re turning off the heat BEFORE 9 am, when they figure people have left for work, and don’t turn it back on until AFTER 5 PM, when they figure people are on their way home. Because anyone who’s here during the day isn’t worth considering. Yes, it’s illegal, and no, they don’t care, because all that happens is a slap on the wrist, and they go back to doing the same crap.

At least I’m baking and cooking for most of the afternoon, so that will keep the place warm.


Published in: on November 24, 2009 at 8:40 am  Comments (3)  
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Monday, November 23, 2009

National Gallery of Art

Monday, November 23, 2009
Waxing Moon
Uranus Retrograde
Cloudy and cold

I found it! I found my favorite molasses spice cookie recipe! And it was where I thought it should be, only farther down in the pile.

Yesterday was a tough day, a combination of frustrations both interior and exterior, and a particularly bad attack of the Doubt Demons. I was also frustrated because I sat down to write down the holiday gift list, and all the great ideas I had previously fled out the window.

I brainstormed with some fellow writers on Twitter because I’m frustrated by the pace of the Victorian-era Christmas story. After the brainstorming session, I decided to put it aside and work on something shorter and lighter that requires less research. If I’d started the Victorian-era story in summer (when I should have), it would have been fine, but I didn’t, and it’s just taking too long for the time frame I have left. I started a contemporary piece, and have written just over 2K on it. I’m about a third of the way done, so, if it keeps going at this pace, I can get it done and edited and designed and off to the printers by this weekend (only a week late) and still get it out only a couple of days late.

I’ve got a lot of correspondence to deal with today and errands. Plus, I need to write, prep for the Maine trip, and start packing up the stuff stored on the bunk beds before the December 3 furniture swap. And get UNDER the bunk beds and see what’s accumulated there.

I’ve got the baking pretty much sorted, although I may have to cut some of the recipes I want to try in the interest of time. I may start some of the baking next week. I want to get all the cookie platters out between the 12th and the 15th.

I’ve got to figure out which holiday parties to attend (and what to wear). One of the most important disciplines that’s hardest to hold sometimes during the holiday season, is to make sure I cut back on drinking. I like a drink as much as the next guy (and probably more). But I don’t like feeling drunk, and I don’t like the hangover. I don’t bounce back the way I did in my 20’s, and I can’t afford to lose the time or the writing productivity. I can’t write when I’m hungover. And the truth is, I really only enjoy the first drink anyway. I don’t NEED ten drinks to have a good time. I can have an even better time with one or two and then switch to water. I have just as much fun and I feel better the next day. Truthfully, I consider that part of my commitment to writing — not losing time because of hangovers.

Back to the page.


Published in: on November 23, 2009 at 8:32 am  Comments (7)  
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Sunday, November 22, 2009

Sunday, November 22, 2009
Waxing Moon
Uranus Retrograde
Sunnier and colder

Yesterday WAS a better writing day, and today will be even better, although I’m packing everything up and spending the afternoon at a friend’s. The story’s coming along — not as quickly as I’d like, since it has to go to the printer’s soon, but it’s coming. I lost some of the delicate tone I started with, and I’m trying to get it back. I’m trying to write this story in a specific style which is not natural to me, so it takes a bit more work!

I also didn’t think I’d have to do this much research for a short story, but there you have it — I’m finding out I need all these details!

I did a test run on the gingerbread recipe I want to use for the holidays, and it came out perfectly. It uses a darker molasses than I usually use, and it’s fluffy and moist. I’m going to use it for all the small cakes that are the centerpieces for the cookie plates.

I found a good rolled chocolate cookie recipe in a Food Network magazine. I’m going to be cheesy and cut them out using the moose cookie cutters, for, yes, “chocolate moose.”

I’ve got a variety of rolled sugar cookie recipes I can use — just have to pick one. And my favorite recipe for thumbprint cookies is from a cookbook from the late 50’s-early 60’s.

I’ll do the regular Toll House (I mean, after all, I bought a 4-lb bag of chips), and I’m thinking about doing a lemon shortbread and a lime cookie. I want to find my favorite spice cookie recipe, which I used a few years ago, but I can’t find either the issue of GOURMET it was in OR the photocopy I made of the recipe, which is frustrating. I’m sure I thought I put it in a Very Safe Place.

Went to Michael’s, where I found some lovely little boxes I can use for gift cards, and also some ribbon for the cookie bags (since I’ve lost two boxes of ribbon somewhere in the fray, I have to get more). I’ll have to buy some narrower ribbon for smaller packages, but these ribbons will do for the bags, and they were 50% off! Picked up things like candles and light bulbs and laundry soap.

Read a lot. Skimmed through Frances Hodgeson Burnett’s A LITTLE PRINCESS to look at it from a stylistic point of view, instead of a story point of view. Also read Nancy Atherton’s AUNT DIMITY: VAMPIRE HUNTER — a pleasant read, and not at all what I expected. From the notes, I guess she’s written a dozen books in the series — unique take on guidance from beyond the grave, and a comment on self-created conflict that doesn’t really exist outside one’s own head.

I’ve also started re-reading Starhawk’s DREAMING THE DARK, which I picked up at a library sale. I know I have THE SPIRAL DANCE, I’m pretty sure I own TRUTH OR DARE. I know I’ve read DREAMING THE DARK, but I think I borrowed it. Anyway, I was interested in looking at it from a new perspective, having originally read it about 15 years ago. This is the 10th anniversary edition, which means SHE is looking at it from a more experienced perspective as well. It also reinforces what I’ve been saying for nearly a year — the seeds of the a we’re facing now, especially the economic crisis, were sown by the Reagan Administration. The way “They” have tried to re-write history, turning Reagan into some sort of deity, has always angered me. I lived through the Reagan years. I remember what a lousy president he was, and how many people suffered under his regime, while the rich just stacked up more money and got more arrogant. And, when you read back over events that were written as they happened, you can see, “Oh, THAT’s where it started.” It’s interesting.

It’s also interesting, when you try to get a sense of historical perspective even all the way back to Revolutionary times by reading diaries and letters, how little has changed, and how similar people’s worries remain.

Why is everyone fussing to much about last night’s Senate vote? It was to TALK about the bill, it wasn’t a vote on the bill. Don’t waste my time yammering until there’s something to yammer about.

I found movers — local guys in business for 30 years, offered me a fair price for the 3rd of December. So we’re booked and settled. What a relief. The holiday decorations will come out a week or so late this year, after the furniture swap is done, but at least I’ll have ROOM to put them up, instead of a couch frame standing on its side in the living room and boxes of books stacked up while I wait for the two bookcases to come in, and clothes stacked in suitcases because I need the bureau to come in.

Prepping for the swap (as in getting the stuff I’ve stacked on the bunk-beds stacked elsewhere so we can get to them to move them) will be a royal pain, but once the swap is done, the apartment will feel much lighter, and we can start to truly enjoy the season.

Back to the page for a few hours’ writing before I head off to my friend’s place. Happy Sunday, all!


Published in: on November 22, 2009 at 7:45 am  Comments (6)  
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Saturday, November 21, 2009

Saturday, November 21, 2009
Waxing Moon
Uranus Retrograde
Cloudy and mild

I went to check Angie’s List to try to find a man-with-a-van. You have to pay to join. I don’t think so. I’ll keep hunting on my own.

By the way, Lori, the people running the leafblowers at 5:10 in the morning belonged to the Department of Public Works. Yeah, the city’s own employees completely disregard the city code. Of course what they were doing is illegal. But they don’t give a damn.

Yesterday was frustrating. I lost the thread of the Christmas story, and I’m having trouble getting it back. It’s been better this morning. I’m almost back, but I need to sort out more plot.

Ran errands, went to Costco to stock up on a bunch of stuff, went to Party City to stock up on plates and cookie bags — last year I waited too long and they were out. I’m trying some different cat food because I think Elsa has an allergy, and I’m wondering if it’s food-related, so I went to Pet Smart and bought a can of several different brands. This morning’s, called “by nature” was not a hit. Picked up a few things at the grocery store to get me through the next few days until I leave for Maine.

Started figuring out what I’m baking and who gets cookie plates this year.

Did some research for the Christmas story, took care of some unpleasant correspondence, searched for another man-with-van, sent out a few more requests for a quote. I guess we must be out of the recession, since so many of these places can’t even be bothered to give me a quote. They must not need the work. My great movers from July seem to have vanished.

Started reading AS Byatt’s THE CHILDREN’S BOOK. Not at all what I expected, and I have to shove away my expectations in order to properly appreciate it.

The cats woke me up at 4 and I said, “No way” and went back to sleep, which, of course, meant I overslept until 7 and had a slow start getting back to the page.

Writing today and more errands. It feels like I’ll have a better day at the page, which is a good thing. I’m behind, and allowing myself to get overwhelmed by the forest instead of dealing with the individual trees. i have to up my quantity and improve my quality simultaneously. Since I don’t have a day job to fall back on, it pretty much doesn’t matter whether I “feel” like writing or not, or whether the Muse smacks me upside the head, or whether or not life is getting in the way. The writing has to get done.


Published in: on November 21, 2009 at 8:43 am  Comments (7)  
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Friday, November 20, 2009

Violet and Elsa

Friday, November 20, 2009
Waxing Moon
Uranus Retrograde
Rainy and cool

Woken up by a leaf blower at 5:10 in the morning. Not amused. Will file a complaint with City Hall.

I was a guest about the topic of Finding Time to Write here on Wednesday — check it out and leave a comment!

Yesterday’s trip back was okay. Up early, got some work done in the hotel, back to the great cafe for a huge breakfast — totally in love with their Western omlettes, and the corned beef hash was pretty darned good. Read the paper and got some more work done. I LOVE the print edition of the WASHINGTON POST. Some of the best writing out there. They’re one of the few papers who print multiple facets of a story in an article, rather than only showcasing a single point of view.

Washington, DC style has evolved a lot in the past few years. Everyone looks really GOOD. The women all wear flats, but they’re gorgeous flats. The clothes are simple, chic, tailored for both men and women. They all wear clothes that actually fit, instead of stuffing themselves into sizes that are too small. They don’t carry anywhere near as much as New Yorkers do — Washingtonians maybe have one bag, whereas New Yorkers usually have three. I wonder if it’s because Washingtonians have shorter commutes?

Once I got the Metro sorted, it was pretty good. I finally went to the Metro Center Sales office on Tuesday morning, explained what I needed to do and asked for the best type of ticket. They sold it to me then and there, and I had a ticket that I used the whole trip, as often and at any time I wanted, and I even have some money left on it for the next trip.

The Metro runs well and is comfortable. I still prefer the metros in Prague and Montreal, but this one’s pretty darned good, too.

I sent an email to NY’s MTA while I was in DC, with a return-trip question, and got an email stating it takes 15 days to respond to email. You’ve got to be kidding!

I stopped at a sandwich place on the way to the bus stop to pick up lunch. They were still serving only breakfast at 10 AM and started arguing with me, saying I should order an egg sandwich. I explained that: A) I didn’t WANT an egg sandwich, and B) that’s not something I could have with me for hours on the bus. And they kept arguing. So I walked out. I’m not going to give you money for something I DON’T WANT.

We got to the Megabus station early and managed to get on the 10:30 bus instead of the 11:30.

I finished NEVER AFTER on the bus back, which was lovely and charming, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I highly recommend it.

I also read Juliet Blackwell’s SECONDHAND SPIRITS, which I really loved, too. A paranormal mystery that’s clever and interesting and avoids cliche.

We got into NYC at 3, hopped a cab (cab in the rain, it was definitely my lucky day), and managed to catch the 3:37 out of Grand Central, which meant we were home around 4:30.

The cats were happy to see us (okay, Violet wouldn’t speak to me for hours, but the other two were happy) and everything was fine. Sorted the mail, ate a little supper, unpacked, because there’s almost instant repacking to do.

NONE of the man-with-van places I contacted before I left got back to me, so I guess the furniture swap is not happening next week before Thanksgiving. You’d think, in a recession, these guys would be happy for the work. I’ll have to check Angie’s List — that’s supposed to be a good place to find reliable people.

Three boxes of books arrived while I was gone — an astronomy book from NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC, a box of books about Victorian times from Strand, and a box of assorted cooking, pirate, knitting, photo books, et al from Edward R. Hamilton. My next round of research is set.

Back to the page. I have a lot of writing to do, then some stuff to deal with that came in the mail, and some errands to run — I’ve got to get everything sorted for the trip to Maine next week.

Have a great weekend, everyone!


Thursday, November 19, 2009

Interior, Library of Congress

Thursday, November 19, 2009
Waxing Moon
Uranus Retrograde

I’m on the road all day, headed back to NY. I’ve got a post up on Kemmryk about loss, since this is the first anniversary of my grandmother’s death.

I am so sore that I’m almost looking forward to the long bus trip back home!

Hit the ground running early — breakfast at the same great cafe as yesterday. Again, here are the highlights — I’ll be doing some essays to go into more detail in a few days:

Ford’s Theatre — where Abraham Lincoln was shot. Didn’t go in — too many noisy kids. Loved the real gas lights outside. The Petersen House — where Lincoln died — was closed today because it’s getting re-roofed.

Library of Congress — I had no idea that it’s just about the most beautiful building in America. And Jefferson’s “starter collection” library practically made me weep with joy — especially since he read novels as well as Aristotle!

Supreme Court — they were busy and working and tons of security.

Folger Shakespeare Library — lovely, unusual exhibition on the way Elizabethans imagined China.

US Botanic Garden — can you imagine, there are roses still in bloom outside in mid-November?

Museum of the American Indian — stunning and amazing and fascinating and wonderful and somewhat sad. I found some wonderful books and also joined the Smithsonian Institute as a member. It’s worth it — there’s no admission in any of the museums, and I’ve gotten far more out of them than membership cost.

National Gallery of Art — lovely galleries, one of the worst meals in recent memory.

Visits with politicos — very quick and friendly; Capitol HIll was VERY busy today. Good. That’s why we pay ‘em. Unfortunately, I think I’ve developed an allergy to politicians — I start sneezing around them.

Hirschorn Museum — I ducked in to see the Anne Truitt exhibit because I love her TURN so much. And found a book I really, really needed in the store.

“The Castle” — the original Smithsonian building — absolutely gorgeous.

Hit the Macy’s sale on the way back, since the sale was about 75% off. No skirts. Too hot. I lasted 12 minutes, and remembered why I hate shopping in department stores so much, and, until the recent skirt kerflamma, I hadn’t been in a department store other than Target in years.

Back to the hotel, really sore and hurting. Downed a couple of Advil, read the paper (I LOVE the print version of the WASHINGTON POST), and went to a local Italian place for dinner, which was excellent, although I’m not sure why they were playing Spanish guitar music in an Italian restaurant.

Back to the hotel, soaked (this time in bath salts). Tried to figure out how I wound up with so many books to haul back — I thought I was SO careful. Thank goodness I made them ship up all those government reports.

Packed, typed up notes, worked on some writing.

Tomorrow, I have to hit the ground running yet again in preparation for Maine next week and getting the Christmas story finished so it can get out to the printer.


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Waxing Moon
Uranus Retrograde

Still in DC. But I’ve got a post up on The Scruffy Dog Review blog about Nano and Real Life, so go check it out.

I’m also a guest over on Penny Ehrenkranz’s blog, where I talk about organizing writing time.


I am REALLY angry about the “new guidelines” saying we shouldn’t get mammograms until 50. Yet another way for insurance companies to deny women coverage, as if women’s health care isn’t shunted to the side enough. It’s bad enough that some companies consider being a woman a “pre-existing condition.” This is absolutely unacceptable.

Now, to yesterday — well, let’s just say I did far too much to write it all out tonight. I took well over 200 photos.

Here are some highlights:

Arlington National Cemetery — amazing, astonishing, heartbreaking. 29 funerals scheduled for yesterday. We witnessed 6, without intending so to do. Ideas for stories.

Washington Monument — wow, it’s really tall!

World War II Memorial — gorgeous architecture

Reflecting Pool — so many leaves in it that it couldn’t reflect.

Lincoln Monument — Abe looked tired and kind. Met a lovely woman from Australia.

Vietnam Veterans Memorial — as emotional as the first time I visited.

Women in Vietnam Memorial — I helped raise money and signatures for this, but had never seen it complete and in place. Very emotional.

Who knew there was a huge duck pond?

Meetings for confidential Job #3 — fascinating, rushed, made them ship the massive amounts of reports and paperwork so I don’t have to drag it around. I’d have had to purchase another suitcase.

The Smithsonian: National Museum of National HIstory. So much to see. I didn’t expect Julia Child’s kitchen to have so much STUFF. And I found so many inspirations for the steam punk novella . . .

The Smithsonian: The Museum of Natural History. A statue from Easter Island and a mortar and pestle so heavy I could barely lift it.

The Building of Arts and Industries — Fascinating Architecture

The Smithsonian: National Air and Space Museum. I could have lived here for a week. I mean, I got to climb into and poke around on the back-up model of Skylab. SKYLAB!!!!! And see Apollo capsules and what a Tomahawk missile looks like. I am of the generation where all that actually means something.

The White House: hey, Prez! Hope you’re having good talks in China. The house looks really nice.

A quick cocktail in a Very Upscale Hotel that’s just as big a meat market as desperate singles bar. No wonder a Madam was once based there.

Talked into another Happy Hour cocktail (long story, will wind up in fiction) at a more casual DuPont Circle hangout — not much different except the men and women are closer in age.

Fabulous dinner near DuPont Circle — great fish tacos.

I was so sore that I took a good, long soak in the tub.


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Waxing Moon
Uranus Retrograde
Partly sunny and mild

I’m up early because I went to bed early. I’m trying to find info on how to get the DC metro to actually give you a Day Pass — what it does is eat your money and then spit out a card that’s NOT a day pass. Most logical cities have you choose your option and THEN put in the money, but not DC — they’re going to take your cash and give you whatever. If that’s not a complete analogy of government, I don’t know what is.

The trip down was quite pleasant. No problems getting the train into NYC, got in so early (we took an “earlier” train that was late rather than waiting for a later train that would probably be later), that we walked leisurely, dragging our little suitcases down 5th Avenue and over to Penn. We realized that we packed less for a four day trip than most poor commuters cart in on a daily basis.

Grabbed sandwiches to take on the bus and newspapers. We had a double-decker bus, and I was every bit as excited as any five year old. Yes, we rode on the top level.

For the most part, it was great ride. Across the aisle where an annoying young 20’s couple who alternated between making out, spilling orange juice everywhere, and taling really loudy about how ecologically responsible they are — of course, spouting misinformation and dropping contents out of at least half a dozen plastic grocery bags instead of canvas bags! You know, in the slice-and-dice movies, the arrogant couple that are amongst the first to get chopped up? These two were THAT much of a cliche. It was pretty funny.

Once we hit DC, it was only two blocks to our Metro, and, once the fare card kerflamma was dealt with (for at least yesterday), it was a quick 5-or-so stop ride up the red line to Van Ness. Our hotel is only about 4 blocks from the stop. The neighborhood is really great — UDC Van Ness campus, lots of little stores and restaurants, and, if you head towards downtown, the embassy residences. Quiet, green, feels safe.

The hotel: mixed feelings about it so far. The positive side: Enormous, comfortable beds, Wi-fi. Good desk, good desk chair. Nice shower. Lots of natural light. Heat that works and that I can control (which is more than can be said for home). The towels are decoratively folded (yeah, i know, silly, but a nice touch). The downside: They made us line up in the lobby before “official check in time” started. WTF? The “coffee maker” makes one cup at at time, they only give you the ability to make ONE cup of coffee, and there’s no creamer, which I didn’t know until I tried to make a cup of really bad coffee early this morning. Can you say “cranky”? There are no drapes or blinds — just sheers. There’s heavy fabric along the edges of the window, but it’s for show and doesn’t pull across the window. On top of that, the lights for the well-lit parking lot shine into the room so I can read without putting lights on. Not all the lights in the room have light bulbs in them.

Let’s say I’m having a chat with the desk when I go down. I’ve stayed at this chain a lot, although never at this hotel, and this hotel does not meet the chain’s usual standards.

We walked around late in the afternoon, enjoying the embassy residences — somehow I ended up over by the Czech Republic residence — CZK turns up everywhere in my life lately. There’s some lovely architecture in the neighborhood, and you get the sense that people really live here.

And everybody runs. That’s the big thing here — running. I guess they spend so much of their day sitting that, the minute they get out, they run. I’ve never seen so many runners in the early evening in my life outside of marathon training sessions.

There’s a little cafe down the street, so we’re going there for breakfast, and then heading first to Arlington National Cemetery,then to the monuments on the National Mall, and then to the various Smithsonians. Tomorrow is Library of Congress and Folger, and maybe sticking my head in at Capitol Hill to say “hey”. We left timing loose. (And yes, I have solid enough relationships with those I’d see at the Captiol that they said, “Just stop in whenever you have a minute; we’re always glad to see you.”) I’ve also got a couple of work appointments for Confidential Job #3 that are scattered across the days, but everything’s pretty close together.

I’m going to try to get a little writing done in the next hour or so before we leave.



Published in: on November 17, 2009 at 6:25 am  Comments (3)  
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Monday, November 16, 2009


Monday, November 16, 2009
New Moon
Uranus Retrograde
No idea the weather — hoping it’s good.

I headed off to DC before the break of dawn. Will try to blog from there, so keep checking in. Plus, I have links to all sorts of post scheduled throughout the week.

In the meantime, I’ve got a post up on Kemmyrk, called “Tapped on the Shoulder”.

I’m sure many of you will relate.

Yesterday wasn’t as productive as I wanted. The Christmas story isn’t finished, which means I’ll be sitting up late at night in DC hotel rooms working on it.

Errands done – cats have a new water jug, although it was a challenge to find a good one. Nearly came home with a five foot tall kitty condo as well, but I think that’ll be their Yule gift.

No luck with movers, dang it. I’m not confident enough in Craigslist ads to go looking there.

Cat slave, er sitter, and neighbor will both be on the lookout for the shipments of books that should have arrived Saturday and have yet to arrive.

Plan to read NEVER AFTER on the trip down and listen to music on the iPod. I’m trying to pack about three weeks’ worth of work into just a couple of days, and, frankly, the pace doesn’t let up until mid-January. I’m flat out until at least then. It’s all good, I just have to keep my head screwed on straight and be really, really organized so as not to let any of the balls drop. Because too much is at stake to let anything slide.


Published in: on November 16, 2009 at 3:15 am  Comments (3)  
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Sunday, November 15, 2009


Sunday, November 15, 2009
Dark Moon
Uranus Retrograde
Cloudy and mild

Pretty good weekend. Got a lot done on Friday morning. Went to one site for part of the afternoon, then the site where I stayed overnight. The weather was dreadful.

Had a slow start on Saturday. I’d like to say it was due to the weather. I had “busy” dreams all night, dreams where I was off doing stuff, so I woke up exhausted. It was hard to get the butt in the chair and write. All I really wanted to do was curl up on a big, comfy soft under a quilt with a good book and some hot chocolate.

I got some good work done on some articles that have to be cleared off and out before I leave in the morning. I got some good work done on the Christmas story. I’ve hit a point where I”m choosing to narrate for a page or so rather than develop all the information into active scenes. I can justify it by saying I’m staying true to the style of the time period, but the truth is that I need to cover a lot of ground, both literally and figuratively, in a few paragraphs rather than in a few pages. A jump cut won’t work here, so I’m using narration.

The Post biography is fascinating. So far, it contains information relevant not only to the Christmas story, but to GOOD NAMES, THE FIXER, and the novelization of GLAMOROUS HEARTS. Not bad for a book I picked up at a library sale! The only part I’m having a bit of trouble with is that the biographer points out, over and over again that Marjorie was spectacularly wealthy, lived an opulent life stye, but did a lot of good. I’d rather come to the conclusion myself than have the biographer tell me — every time she does, I get suspicious. But, other than my own issues with so-called social/celebrity philanthropy, I’m finding it an intriguing and very useful book.

I’m trying to sort out a man with a van to do the furniture swap. I need 2 guys and a van for two hours, to dump an old mattress, take 2 pieces of furniture to storage, and bring back 6. I’m getting quotes equivalent to the big storage move I did in July. Are you kidding me? I’m not paying the same for 2 hours and less than a dozen pieces as I paid for 6 hours and a whole storage unit with furniture and a couple of hundred boxes. I’m trying to reach the mover I used then, and his number’s changed. Since I’m on the road this whole week, it will be complicated to get it sorted and done before Thanksgiving.

I’ve got a few errands to run today — even with a cat sitter, if I’m not the one around, I like to set up a self-waterer, which is basically a huge jug that gives them access to lots of extra fresh water. My self-waterer has gotten kind of gross, in spite of the careful washings and care, so I’m getting another one — hopefully one of a better quality. I shouldn’t complain — I’ve had this one since about 1991. The feeder’s fine, but the waterer has crevices that, I guess don’t dry out properly in between uses. It’s been fine for years, and suddenly, when I pulled it out this time, it’s not.

The cat slave, er, sitter, is sorted, and, hopefully, the cats won’t be too much trouble. Yeah, that’ll be the day. Elsa believes everyone is her friend, but the twins are deeply suspicious and sit at a safe distance with disconcerting stares. Although, it was Iris who made friends with the cable guy, which I thought was funny.

I had hoped to get two LARGE shipments of books here before I left, but they didn’t arrive yesterday. How much do you want to bet they arrive just minutes after we depart? Hopefully, the sitter will take them in, but sometimes concepts such as bringing in the mail are beyond . . .let’s just not go there.

The cats are not happy that there are suitcases scattered around. I have to pull out a bunch of stuff I had with me this weekend and transfer it and then pack my writing bag for DC. I’m using a backpack, because I’ve got the wheeley suitcase. I’ve never put my laptop in a backpack before and I’m nervous, so I’m going to reinforce the straps. In other words, I have not yet purchased the writing bag o’my dreams.

I could just ramble on for hours this morning, I’m very chatty, but I think I’ll get back to the page, polish and get the articles out, and push to finish the first draft of the Christmas story so I can edit it while travelling.

I’ll have links to articles up all week, so please keep checking back.



Published in: on November 15, 2009 at 7:32 am  Comments (1)  
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