Fri. Dec. 30: I Need Three More Days in the Old Year

Friday, December 30, 2011
Waxing Moon
Sunny and cold

I need about another three days in this week, and then I’ll be good to go for the New Year!

Just lost so much time due to the accident and the aftermath, and I’m scrambling to make it up.

My mom’s doing much better. She’s resting a lot, but can walk without the oak staff and actually managed to sit at the table for dinner last night. Took her to her regular doctor (hour and a half sitting around for a five minute appointment) — no new information there, the doctor hadn’t even read the ER files which had been emailed — why not? The ER had her complete medical history when she gave her name at the Triage desk with a single keystroke. But Medicare is being a pain in the butt about the surgery, and if everything isn’t scheduled on exactly the date they want it in the order they want it– without any consideration for the patient or the doctor — they won’t pay for it. This is supposed to be a very simple but absolutely necessary procedure,so why all the hoops? Because they can, of course, and somebody somewhere’s getting a nice kickback.

Forget Congress — let ME rip apart the current healthcare system and rebuild it, and then we’ll have something that works, runs efficiently and cost-effectively, and does the job.

Took work with me to the waiting room. Eventually, this will all have to go into the computer, but at least I’m making use of the time. Got some other work done, too, but not enough. And I have a lot of cleaning to do before company arrives on Monday, and then more to prepare for the party a week from today.

I rearranged some of the 5 in 10 exercises (class starts Monday). It flows better now. The students who sit down and do the work will have between 5 and 9 short stories submission-ready by the end of the 10-week class. Those who don’t — won’t.

Four of my students in the year-long have finished the first drafts of their novels — a month early. Well, one of them finished back in November, so she was really early — put the pedal to the metal, did the work, and got it done. That’s 1/3 of the class, finishing ahead of time. I’m proud of them.

Onward to my own work and my own deadlines. I’ve got to get in cat food today, and head over the bridge to Target for bins — and a new toaster. The old toaster started having trouble during Mercury retrograde, and it’s pretty much had it. Soon, I’ll be hauling things to the “metal pile” at the dump. Maybe someone can rehabilitate these pieces.

Have a safe and happy New Year!


Published in: on December 30, 2011 at 8:13 am  Comments (3)  
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Thurs. Dec. 29: Of bait-and-switch and unneccesary costs

Thursday, December 29, 2011
Waxing Moon
Windy and cold

Thanks for all the good thoughts for my mom. She’s very sore, but okay. Of course, she felt worse yesterday (the day after is always worse than the day of, once the body’s shock wears off). But I took her to acupuncture, and it helped a lot — certainly more than any prescription pain killer would have, and with no icky side effects. She feels a lot better with treatments that actually promote healing instead of just blocking the problem. We both realize how lucky she is that it wasn’t a lot worse — she could have broken an arm, a leg, a hip, or even her neck.

She rested, while I spent the rest of the day running errands, which included buying a large piece of upholstery fabric that can be hung over the damaged wall if it’s not fixed before the party. JoAnn’s pulled their usual attempt at bait-and-switch (refusing to sell at the discounted price on the tag because “the computer said it’s too big a discount and corporate blah blah blah” — I made them sell it to me at the price advertised, per state law. There’s a reason I hardly ever go into that crappy store.

Got home, unloaded everything — fabric, groceries, pharmacy run, etc. (her pre-op medications for the eye surgery were ready) — and by then, it was time to cook dinner.

Got a little work done, but not much. Must get much more done today, including the finishing touches on a new forum.

I’d love to just sleep for a bit. But I’m up early for yoga class this morning (which I desperately need), and then there are MORE errands and then I’ve got to take my mom to her regular doctor for a follow-up –which means waiting at least an hour and a half in the waiting room, because heaven forbid the office runs on time (yet when my mom was in ER, the doctor certainly didn’t walk across the street to find out what was going on, but regularly disappears on “emergencies at the hospital” if you’re in the waiting room at the office). The MA healthcare system is much better than the one in NY — but there’s still room for a lot of improvement.

Costs CAN be kept down. For instance, a regular doctor visit, which means driving to the next town over and sitting in the waiting room for an hour and a half for a five minute visit — is ridiculously expensive, even though Medicare and the supplementary insurance pay it, between them (and they certainly take enough out of my mom’s Social Security, several hundred dollars a month, so it’s not like Medicare is “free” the way the dipshit Republicans keep pretending). “Overhead” is not a valid reason to charge that much. It’s not like any tests are ever run in the office — she’s shuttled around to another location for anything else. It’s five minutes of chat, blood pressure, and a step on the scale. That’s an office visit. I know how to run an office, and I’ve certainly worked in enough medical offices over the years as a temp to know they don’t pay the staff enough to justify the price of a so-called “office visit”. And it’s not like the office furnishings and location are that fancy (thank goodness, or I’d really be annoyed). Acupuncture is less than 1/3 of the cost (closer to 1/4), she is actually treated by the doctor for a solid forty minutes, and comes out well on the road to healing, feeling better both mentally and physically. She’s also taken in to her appointment on time. The only reason we’ve ever waited more than five minutes is because we showed up early. Yes, it’s out of pocket (my pocket), but there are tangible results, and the payment/time ratio is much more in alignment.

I have so much to do before Costume Imp comes up next week, and so much to get everything in shape for the party. Somehow, it will all get done. Not quite sure how, but it will. The cats are being really sweet, and Tessa, in particular, loves to “help”. That means it takes longer to do things, but the laughter is worth it.



Wed. Dec. 28: Post-Accident

Wednesday, December 28, 2011
Waxing Moon
Sunny and cold

Wasn’t online yesterday because, early in the morning, my 87-year-old mother fell down the stairs and we spent most of the day in the ER. The CT scans and X-rays came back clean, but she’s very bruised and sore. The ER was very busy, but the staff was great — talked TO her, not AT her, really listened and responded. It was a long haul, especially with all the emergencies coming in all the time (and they really WERE emergencies — since MA has healthcare, people don’t have to wander in to the ER for basic care). The ER was spotlessly clean, but didn’t smell of death and disinfectant, unlike most places.

I took work along with me, figuring that we’d be in for a long day. Completed the assignment for Confidential Job #1, and got some other work done in and around her scans and Xrays. And the writer in me was eavesdropping and observing mercilessly.

We came home after noon, I got my mom settled on the couch, had her prescriptions filled, and she rested for the afternoon. The cats stayed close (they always know).

Today, I’m taking her to acupuncture and doing all the errands and other stuff that needed to get done yesterday. I’m behind in everything I needed to get done for the week, but that’s the way it goes sometimes — life gets in the way. I’m sticking to the writing and rearranging everything else.

I’m ready for a QUIET, PRODUCTIVE, and PROSPEROUS 2012!


Published in: on December 28, 2011 at 8:44 am  Comments (6)  
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Mon. Dec. 26: Yuletide Ghosts/Jupiter Direct

Monday, December 26, 2011
Waxing Moon
NO Retrogrades!
Rainy and mild

I’ve got a piece on “Yuletide Ghosts” (as Annabel Aidan) over on the Stuff Your Stockings Blogfest on Long & Short Romance. If you leave a comment, you can win a copy of my holiday romantic comedy “Just Jump in and Fly” (under the Ava Dunne name).

Jupiter went direct yesterday — could you feel it pop? We are now retrograde-free for awhile. Feels a little weird, but god.

Hope everyone is having a great holiday weekend. I ran around a bit on Saturday, getting a few last minute things, like real greenery to go inside. Went to a friend’s party for a bit on Saturday night, then came home, cooked the Christmas Eve dinner for the family and we enjoyed it.

A bit different this year — filet mignon instead of the usual pork roast. Very tasty.

We sat around opening gifts, reading, talking — it was well after midnight before we went to bed.

Up early the next day to enjoy the stockings, eat a big breakfast, and get the turkey into the oven. Great turkey meal with all the trimmings, again lots of reading and writing and chatting with family and friends. The cats had a stocking of their own, filled with treats and toys and catnip. They enjoyed themselves thoroughly.

Got a lot of writing done — not on anything I was SUPPOSED to work on, but something I wanted to work on, just because I wanted to. Did a lot of reading, too.

Today I’m mostly taking off — doing some writing, getting thank you notes and party invites out. I’m trying to take it a little easy this week, mostly prepping the lesson plans for the first quarter of next year, get up my new lesson forum for private students (separate from Savvy Authors classes), work on my new business plan, etc. I plan to really buckle down on THE SPIRIT REPOSITORY, too. I want to get that out the door just after the first of the year, then run my eye over OLD-FASHIONED DETECTIVE WORK before I send that out, per publisher’s request, just after the first of the year.

It’s busy, but good busy. I have to keep on track and not get overwhelmed, or derailed by students who continue to procrastinate. I hope we don’t lose any more of the year-long students but they MUST finish their first drafts by January 31, or they will be cut from the class. And several of them are still procrastinating. Come on, people, it’s been five months. The only obstacle to your success at this point is you.

A thousand words a day — four pages — is next to nothing. It takes just over an hour. It means you can write a draft a novel in about four months. If you’re gonna do this for a living, you’re gonna have to write a damn bit more than that, regularly, and stay on track. An hour a day does not a career make.

I have to get my office sorted out. It looks like a tornado hit it. Well, it was a kitten, but same result. And it’s not JUST the kitten’s fault – -I’ve been stacking and searching and not being as neat as I should be. I want to go into the new year with a tidy office — not just because of company and the party, but for my own well-being.

I’m excited about 2012.


Fri. Dec. 23: Tis the Season

Friday, December 23, 2011
Dark Moon
Jupiter Retrograde
Rainy and cool

Yesterday was the Solstice. Yoga was good; we’ve got a merry group. The next assignment from Confidential Job #1 arrived, and it looks AWESOME. I can’t wait to get into it.

Picked up the new microwave to replace the one that kicked the bucket during the last Mercury Retrograde. We’d looked and priced the previous day. There were piles of them. When I returned yesterday morning, only TWO of the style and color I really wanted were left. So I grabbed it. It’s red, it’s pretty, it looks good in the kitchen, and it works. I don’t use it that often — but I missed it when it didn’t work. Hate giving up the other one — the blue one — it was a good workhorse — but it smoked every time I used it, and it was a disaster in the making.

Took my mom for her pre-surgery consultation. The surgery itself has been moved back AGAIN, and I’m getting a little cranky about it. She has another consultation in late January, and then the surgery will be in late February. But everyone is very nice, and they’re calmed her worries.

The house looked lovely, candles all lit for the Solstice, the twinkle lights on, inside and out. I’ve got candles in the fireplace right now — will actually use it to burn logs in January. It’s the safest place to have lots of candles with people and cats roaming in and out right now.

The cats LOVE the holidays, and, really, they’re pretty good. They don’t yank things down or break things. They do want to be included in everything. If I include them early on, as I unpack and put things up, or with the wrapping, etc., then they’re satisfied and don’t get into trouble once it’s all done.

I’ve got to get the party invitations out this weekend. I’m going out to lunch today at one of my favorite places, and I’m stopping by a friend’s for a quick drink tomorrow night. I can’t believe tomorrow is Christmas Eve! AND the new moon!

I read HEART’S BLOOD by Juliet Marillier yesterday. Really liked it — couldn’t put it down. I picked it up somewhere with a gift certificate a few months ago because it looked interesting — now I want to read more of her books!

Most of the weekend, in and around holiday festivities, will be spent on THE SPIRIT REPOSITORY. That needs to be whipped into shape and out the door on January 2, and OLD-FASHIONED DETECTIVE WORK needs to go out a day or two later. I’m going to keep working on the harpy trilogy, too, because I don’t want to lose momentum.

And I’m writing up a business plan for 2012. I need to shift around a few things. I need to spend more hours per day actually writing on the novels, and not on other people’s projects. That’s gotten a little out of balance in the past months, and I need to get it back in balance. The books are getting contracted — I can’t lose that momentum. At the same time, I need the shorter term projects to pay the daily bills. It’s a case of finding the RIGHT shorter term projects, so that I’m working smarter, not harder.

But for the weekend — I’m enjoying the holidays!

Part of me misses the Broadway hustle and bustle of being in a show, but the rest of me is so happy to not have to dash around and plan holiday festivities around a show schedule any more.

Being here, now, is the right choice.

Have a great weekend, everyone!


Published in: on December 23, 2011 at 9:54 am  Comments (1)  
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Thurs. Dec. 22: Solstice Blessings

spice cake with eggnog icing

Thursday, December 22, 2011
Day before dark moon
Jupiter Retrograde
Winter Solstice
Still dark out

It’s appropriate that the Winter Solstice hits this year when we’re nearly at the dark moon — and yes, the nights are very, very dark around here — holiday displays, but not streetlights! It will be weird, though, to have Christmas Eve on a new moon — we’re so used to the image of Santa’s sleigh and the full moon.

Ran around and did a lot of errands, including looking at new possibilities for a microwave. Still negotiating for that other job. The new publisher of the Jain Lazarus Adventures wants to take a look at Book 2 after the first of the year, so I will give it another quick read (I just recently did so, before I entered it into that beta testing program, but — another look won’t hurt). I’ll get the other book out to Champagne at the same time, and then turn my attention to Book 3 of Jain Lazarus. While, of course, juggling the year-long course, private students, and the 5 in 10 short story class! Good to be busy, right? But it means I should really relish the next ten days or so and not overdo.

I’m doing a bit of writing on the harpy book and then heading to yoga. Yoga on the Solstice — that’ll be fun. And tonight, we’ll celebrate.

Ready for the Wheel to Turn, and excited about next year’s possibilities.

Now, I just have to live up to them.

I’m re-reading Terry Pratchett’s HOGFATHER. It’s one of my favorite books anyway, but absolutely perfect around this time of year.


Published in: on December 22, 2011 at 6:05 am  Comments (3)  
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Wed. Dec. 21: Getting Things Done

Wednesday, December 21, 2011
Waning Moon
Jupiter Retrograde
Cloudy and cold

Finished the holiday cards yesterday. Did some job negotiation. Worked with students.

Felt like crap, so put myself to bed for the afternoon, and then felt better.

Lots of errands to run today. I originally wanted to split them up over yesterday and today, but wasn’t feeling up to it, so I’ll do everything today.

Good writing session this morning on the harpy trilogy. Have to put some energy today towards other manuscripts on deadline — I’ll be doing a lot of switching back and forth during this “break” and running through the class prep for the January workshops.

I do plan to take Christmas weekend and New Year’s weekend off, but I want to get a lot of other work done in the interim.


Today’s word count: 1329
Total word count: 16,266

Published in: on December 21, 2011 at 7:30 am  Comments (3)  
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Tues. Dec. 20: Reboot of the Jain Lazarus Adventures

Tessa and Violet

Tuesday, December 20, 2011
Waning Moon
Jupiter Retrograde
Cloudy and cold

I signed a contract with a new-to-me publisher yesterday to re-release HEX BREAKER. They’re interested in the other Jain Lazarus books, too. It makes me very happy. More details to follow. So I better get CRAVE THE HUNT finished — as soon as I get my next Annabel Aidan novel off to the other publisher!

Still negotiating on another job. Set a couple more quick workshops for early next year, including a webinar in early January, a 90-minute, real-time “Prompt Playground”, a one-week holiday-themed workshop, and I’ve been asked to teach the “Setting as Character” workshop at the end of April again, so I will.

Met with a colleague for a drink and snacks, and we’re talking about a theatre collaboration early next year. Looks like it’s a go. We’ll talk to some more people in the coming weeks, and see if we can secure space, etc., and figure out dates. It would be ideal to do it for International Women’s Day, but with that being so early in March, I don’t know if we can pull it off. It depends on the level of time and commitment people are willing to put into it. I’m not willing to shoulder all of the production needs as well as the writing, so it will have to be sorted out.

Worked on holiday cards. Still not quite done. The last of the cards will go out today. And then the e-cards go out. I don’t know why it’s taking me so long!

My research books arrived for the current novel, so that’s all good. I still need to sit down and work out some logistics with that piece.

My students in the year-long go on break until the end of the year. I’m encouraging them to keep on writing, at least intermittently, on the break, and those who are behind have been admonished to use a lot of the break to catch up. Bet you they’re the ones who won’t, and then coming whining back in January. That’s THEIR responsibility. January is the choice-and-consequences month!

Violet is fine. I think she just needed a day off yesterday. I know the feeling! By evening, she was back to playing with the kitten, and this morning, she was back to her bossy self.



Today’s word count: 775
Total word count: 14,937

Published in: on December 20, 2011 at 10:38 am  Comments (4)  
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Mon. Dec. 19: Time Flies When You’re Decorating

Monday, December 19, 2011
Waning Moon
Jupiter Retrograde
Sunny and cold

We had a lovely dusting of snow yesterday. Things look lovely. But it’s cold.

Friday was busy. Finally got things to the dump — two trips, one for garbage and recycling, one for bags of leaves. Still have a couple of bags in the garage, but, for the most part — done. Still have some leaves to tidy up in the meadow, but can’t do it if they’re under snow.

Working on the domestic cards. Plan to get them out today.

The job I pitched for on Tuesday asked for more info by Wednesday, and I worked it up and sent it on Friday. Either they hire me, or they don’t. I’d love to add them to my roster as a regular gig, but I can’t tie myself in knots about it. They have a specific tone — either I managed to mimic it, or I didn’t. But the quick response was good for my morale!

The yoga party on Friday was fun. The yoga part was hard, much more challenging than I’m used to, but I’m glad I did it.

Saturday was about running errands and getting the rest of the house decorated. I didn’t even turn on the computer, and it was nice to be away from it for a day.

Yesterday was about newspapers, catching up with students, writing cards, and going to a neighbor’s party, which was fun. Tonight, I have a meeting on a possible theatre collaboration.

Violet is a little under the weather today. I’m hoping she just feels the need for a day off, too. I’m keeping an eye on her; hopefully, she’ll be fine and we won’t have to take a trip to the vet later this week.

I’m finally back on track with Book 2 of the trilogy. I’ve written and discarded about 6K over the past few days, but today’s words can stay (in this draft, anyway).


Today’s word count: 1789
Total word count: 14,162

Published in: on December 19, 2011 at 9:45 am  Comments (5)  
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Thurs. Dec. 15: Admitting mistakes and forgiveness

Thursday, December 15, 2011
Waning Moon
Jupiter Retrograde
Still dark out

Made the cheat sheets, made the tags, put the platters together, ran around delivering most of them. People like a little remembrance, and I like to take a moment to let them know they matter to me.

The Writers’ Association dinner was last night, at a lovely Italian restaurant. It was fun — good company, great food. I was talking about my negative experience at a local organization — the place that scheduled, then cancelled, then rescheduled, then didn’t bother to put me in the brochure. I’m not the only one who’s had a bad experience. A cooking teacher sat beside me. She was scheduled to teach there. She and the students arrived, to find the kitchen in the process of demolition. The place decided they didn’t need one, not paying any attention that they’d booked classes in there, and, of course, never bothered to contact the instructor or the students ahead of time.

Good place to stay away from!

Arranged to have a drink on Monday night with someone with whom I may collaborate on a theatre piece. That’s exciting.

And I have leads on two more possible workshop venues. I need to follow them up this week.

One of the places I pitched to the previous day is interested in me. I’m doing a similar gig for someone else — but these guys pay double what the others do. If we can work out the details, it would be both fun and the money worth the time.

Came home to relax, only to discover I’d made a mortifying mistake. Had to admit to it and then try to fix it. I’d like to beg exhaustion as the excuse, but really, there is no excuse. I seem to be the only one really upset about it, so that’s a relief. Now, I have to forgive myself — always the hardest part of any such process.

Hopefully, yoga this morning will help.

It’ll be funny down the line, when I have some distance. Maybe. But I’m really angry with myself now.

I worked with a producer in NY. If someone made a mistake and felt awful about it, she’d say, “Did anybody die?” When you said no, she’d say, “Then it’s not so bad. Nobody died. Let’s go fix it.”

The writing did not go well yesterday. I have to go back and do some untangling. One has days like that. You push through and keep going. If you use that as an excuse not to write, you lose momentum and the book doesn’t get finished.

I’m going to write a bit this morning before heading off to yoga. Have some errands to run, more discussion with the potential client, then must spend time with students, and also get out the domestic cards.

Onward (albeit a little down on myself today).


Published in: on December 15, 2011 at 5:58 am  Comments (2)  
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Wed. Dec. 14: Cookie Platter Day

Tessa loves to decorate

Wednesday, December 14, 2011
Waning Moon
Jupiter Retrograde
Cloudy and cold

Only one retrograde. Yee-hah!

Worked online yesterday morning, including pitching for a couple of small jobs that sound like fun.

A Budget van pulled into the driveway and I thought, “Now what?” Turns out, Fed Ex had to rent extra trucks! It was a Fed Ex delivery!

Took the packages to the post office — they’ll be delivered latest by Monday. All the overseas cards are out. Now, I just have to finish the domestic cards. I need to put together a “Yuletide Plan” for next year, so I can start things a little earlier and get them done a little more smoothly.

The eggnog icing for the cookies is amazing. So amazing, in fact, that, when I had some leftover, I baked a spice cake and used the rest on the cake. Which is out-of-this world. What a terrific combination. The nutmeg in the eggnog icing compliments the nutmeg and other spices in the cake, and it’s fantastic And it uses shortening rather than butter — huge difference. Definitely something for the “keeper” file!

Unfortunately, the lemon glaze for the lemon mini-bundts didn’t work. It tastes wonderful, but doesn’t drizzle properly. The cakes are too delicate to allow spreading — they’re lighter than an angel food. I probably should have used the recipe with yogurt in it, for smoothness. Thinning it with more lemon juice and/or water keeps it from hardening into glaze properly. So, I’ll just sprinkle the cakes with powdered sugar right before I put together the plates and get them out the door. I’ll bake a pound cake later this week and use the glaze on that instead.

Writing was okay yesterday, but not great. I’m struggling with the changes in the story. I have to sit down and chart things — I’ve written myself into a corner, because I’ve gotten some logistical lapses that have snowballed, and I need to sort them out, or it will only get worse.

Today, I print the holiday tags and cheat sheets for the cookie platters (I always do a page with pictures of the cookie and a description, in case someone doesn’t like something, or has an allergy), wrap them and deliver them. So, today is Cookie Platter Day.

I poached sole last night. I haven’t had sole in years, so I was very excited when I came across it at the store. It turned out really well. I always stress about how to cook fish, but a little butter, a little garlic, and little white wine, and you really can’t go wrong.

Tonight is the writers’ holiday party. Can’t wait — and I’m usually not a party gal.


Tues. Dec. 13: Long, Productive Hours

Tuesday, December 13, 2011
Waning Moon
Jupiter Retrograde
Mercury DIRECT (tonight)
Sunny and cold

To say I’m tired is an understatement.  Flat out all day yesterday.  Working with students in the morning, in and around baking 23 small lemon bundt cakes.  Not all of them are usable, but they’re baked.  

Non-stick pan, my ass.  Cooking spray useful — my other ass!  😉  Neither one worked the way they’re supposed to, but I managed to at least get enough cakes baked and intact to get a start on the cookie platters.

Somehow managed to tweak all the muscles around my left shoulder blade.  Ow.

I’m working on glazes this morning.  I’d hoped to deliver them today, but it’ll have to be tomorrow.

Packed the gifts that need to be shipped.  Some of them had to go out in boxes, which meant heading out to get kraft paper to wrap the boxes, so they can be labelled appropriately.  I think I got the last roll of brown kraft paper on the Cape!  Tucked in the cards to go with the gifts.

Had the live chat at Savvy for 5 in 10.  It went well.  Lots of participants, and they were actually participating, which is great.  The class is full, and more people who wanted to take it couldn’t get in, so I might offer it again later next year.

Tessa got all excited during the chat.  Both she and Violet were right there, swarming around the computer.  Tessa got excited by the colored fonts and the noises and the moving type.  She put in her two cents near the end.  It was pretty hilarious.  Hey, she can turn on the light switches; she can probably learn to type.

After the chat, I wrote all the overseas cards.  Then I went back to the workshop and caught up on commenting on student work.  It was one a.m by the time I fell into bed.  

That’s the life of a freelancer.  Sometimes, you put in extra hours.  Holidays are always busy.  When I worked 8 shows/week on Broadway AND wrote, I was regularly up until 2 or 3 a.m. for most of December, and up again at 6:30 or 7, to get it all done.  Usually, I’d be done on Christmas Eve, even with careful planning, so a few extra hours this early in the month, and I’m ahead of the game.

If you want regular hours, a life in the arts isn’t for you!

First writing session this morning difficult.  It’s a Carey chapter, and he’s being aloof today.  Probably because it’s been about a week or so since he had a chapter. WhatEVER!  😉

The students had some great feedback on my short story — there was a single word change suggested that made a huge difference.    From “a” to “our.”  Just gave the scene an entirely different and more intense experience. Yet another example of the importance of specific language.

Write a bit, work on glazes, go to the post office, glaze cookies and cakes.  That’s the plan.  Maybe get some more decorating done and some more straightening up.  The dishwasher is running non-stop — with the cookies, not only did I use every cooling rack in the house, but all the plates.  I was even bringing up extra ones from storage downstairs.

Another good thing about living in a house is that I can actually banish the cats from the baking and cooling areas, because now I have a place to put them.  “Them” being both cookies and cats, that aren’t in the same location!  Seriously, throughout my cookie-baking years, the cats were good about staying away — okay, there was one batch, when Elsa was a kitten, that couldn’t be used because of paw prints — but, for the most part, they stayed away.  Now they can actually go upstairs to play and sleep.

I was always fanatical about disinfecting work surfaces, and none of them have been allowed or had the inclination to be “counter kitties.”  Tessa had a crush on the coffee maker when she first arrived, but she’s outgrown it now, so it’s not an issue.

Roasted a chicken last night — delicious.  This year, we’re mixing favorite holiday traditions and creating new ones appropriate to both the house and the region.  We’re mixing up the menu a bit, which will be fun, and, instead of just pulling out decorations and sticking them somewhere, like last year (where all we wanted to do was survive the season, couldn’t enjoy it after the move), we’re taking time to really see what goes well where.  And move it around about six times!  It’s kind of fun to do things differently.

I bought a 25” tall elf at AC Moore the other day.  He had a cute face and he was on sale.  Anyway, I’m walking around the store holding him — and people kept coming up to me, saying how cute my son looked dressed as an elf!  And then they were shocked that it wasn’t a real kid.  Anyway, he’s Tessa’s new best friend, and I find him all over the house.  I could write a set of adventures for him and for Tessa at this rate!

Back to the page, and the holiday cards and so forth and so on . . .


Published in: on December 13, 2011 at 8:18 am  Comments (4)  

Dec. 12: Local Acknowledgement & Adventures in Holiday Baking

Monday, December 12, 2011
Waning Moon
Uranus DIRECT (as of Saturday)
Jupiter Retrograde
Mercury Retrograde
Sunny and cold

It looks so pretty with the frost on the grass!

What a weekend!

The exciting news is that ASSUMPTION OF RIGHT was included in the CAPE COD TIMES’S column of “Books to keep you warm on Cold Cape Cod Nights”. I had no idea, and was thrilled to open the paper and see it. To be mentioned in the Sunday paper’s book section — with a cover photograph — I was thrilled!

Saturday morning was the holly walk — the first thing I did when I moved to the area last year, and still something I love to do. It was so much fun, and it’s fascinating to see how the Sanctuary evolved through the year. Got some holly boughs (yes, it’s part of the walk, I didn’t just take them) — will try to use some of the berries (well, the seeds in the berries) to start some hollies that are descended from these trees. They’d have special meaning.

Came back, baked 5 dozen tollhouse cookies. Tried the thumbprint recipe – which I’ve successfully used before — and it didn’t work. That’ll teach me. Instead of using my beloved Land O’Lakes butter, which I usually use for baking, I’d bought cheaper butter in bulk at Costco, knowing that I’d be doing hundreds of cookies this year. Well, the butter didn’t cream properly with the sugar. Didn’t matter the temperature, didn’t matter the type of utensil — wooden spoon, paddle attachment, regular mixer. I wound up with a streusel-like substance instead of creamed butter and sugar. It was fine with the tollhouse cookies, but the thumbprints couldn’t be imprinted — they simply shattered. Adding liquid just made them melt into puddles.

So the thumbprint cookies are not an option this year.

Prepped 5 dozen molasses spice cookies for the next day’s baking. The molasses took care of the streusel effect, and it was not a problem.

Sunday, after reading the papers, I baked the 5 dozen molasses spice. Perfection. I prepped the dough for the eggnog angels, the only rolled cookie I planned for this year. Again — streusel effect, even with the eggnog. I put the dough into the fridge to chill, hoping that would help. Then, I baked 3 dozen oatmeal raisin cookies (the replacement for the thumbprint) and 5 dozen banana-walnut-chocolate chip cookies. The oatmeal raisin cookies can be a little crumbly, and the mashed banana helped smooth out the butter.

When I tried to roll out the dough for the eggnog angels, no dice. You could roll it, but as soon as you used a cutter, they shattered. So I used the same method used for the molasses spice — rolled into balls, dusted with sugar, flattened with a glass dipped in sugar. It made a lot more than the cutouts would be, and they’re round instead of angels, but they taste good. Hopefully, the icing will still work on them. Without using the sugar to roll and flatten, they fell apart.

Okay, I’m convinced, Land O’Lakes forever more! 😉

Today, I have the mini-lemon bundt cakes and all the glazes/icing to do. Tomorrow, the platters are packed and go out the door. The rest of the packages also have to be wrapped and packed today, and go out the door tomorrow.

In the meantime, I had to spend time with students, read a friend’s manuscript, and then a client project came in for immediate turnaround. This is not the client’s usual MO, so, while there’s definitely the rush fee attached, I’m not refusing the job. I’m also working on my business plan for next year. I want to change a certain amount of things. This was the first year I had a chance to really see what it was like to work without the pressures of scumbag landlords and Broadway commute. What I learned from this year, I can apply moving forward, to shape my work like into what I want AND what meets the financial needs. In order to do that, I have to tweak some things and radically change others.

And then there was The Stroll. The Village Holiday Strolls are a HUGE deal on the Cape. Every village has on. If you live there, you damn well better get out there and STROLL, or you hear about it all year. I was too tired last year, having moved here a few weeks before, and I’m STILL getting flack about it! So I stopped everything, showered (dough in the hair is not a good look for me), dressed, and off we went.

Parking was a nightmare, because there isn’t any. They block off the streets that actually have parking lots, so you’re off trying to find a side street with no lights on and park on the edge of someone’s property. Everything dead-ends, but there’s no room to turn around, because the streets are narrow, filled with parked cars, and more cars are coming at you all the time, but there’s no exit. And everyone’s in dark colors, darting around the streets, so you’re worried you’re going to run someone over. Only the dogs have reflective collars on.

And there ARE dogs — tons of them. Which is very cute. The dogs stroll as seriously as the people. And they’re so well behaved, with all the chaos and the noise and the smells and the other dogs. They don’t even try to steal the hot dogs!

The historic houses and everything else are all decorated to the hilt, the streets are blocked off so people can wander, and tables are set up with hot chocolate and hot dogs and baked goods and all kinds of stuff. There are donation buckets set up — not quite sure for what. And teens running around with buckets asking for donations for the needy. I’m such a cynical Manhattanite that I assumed it was a scam, but I was told it’s actually true. It’s fun and festive, although there were too many teenagers who’d consumed too much sugar racing around, shrieking. But they weren’t doing any harm, and they were having fun. It’s not like they were wilding or anything. Teenage conversation here is so different than in Westchester, where all they did was whine about their parents not paying for enough. Here, they actually go out and do stuff and talk about what they’re doing and want to do, and make up actual adventures, and then go HAVE them. They’re much more aware of and engaged in the world, which is nice. I think they’re smarter, too — probably because their parents aren’t all over-medicated and aren’t over-medicating them.

It was lovely, but such hell getting in and out with the parking situation that I may just risk local wrath an NOT do it again next year! They could use the shopping center parking lots on Rt. 28 and then take those historic trolleys they’re so proud of and shuttle people back and forth. But they won’t change, because “this is the way it’s always been done.”

And then the microwave died. Billowed smoke, got very hot, smelled weird. Unplugged it, cooled it with ice, will have to get rid of it. No microwave popcorn for me for a bit! Well, I don’t use it that much anyway, so it’s not THAT big a deal, but, after the holidays, I’ll probably get a new one.

I’m behind where I’d like to be on the cards — I wanted to have them all out today — not happening. But I’ll get them out in the next few days. And then I have to worry about the party invitations! 😉

I’m doing a live chat tonight at 7 PM over at Savvy Authors, talking about short stories in general, and my 5 in 10 short story workshop that starts in January in particular.

This week, I also have the Writers’ Association Holiday Dinner and a yoga party. Busy, busy!

And I figure, if I’m lucky, I’ll finish decorating the house by Christmas Eve!

Back to the page, and onward.