Monday, December 6, 2010


Winterberry

Monday, December 6, 2010
Waxing Moon
Uranus DIRECT (as of yesterday)
Neptune Retrograde
Cloudy & cold

What a fun weekend. Really busy, but tons of fun.

Found my way to the Ashumet Sanctuary on Saturday morning. It’s lovely. I was a little irritated at some of the people — out of towners — who came up, paid their fee as though they were doing the walk, then greedily stuffed their shopping bags with holly boughs and waddled off without doing the walk. You know what? Go to the holly fairs for that, okay?

The group that stayed for the walk was a nice, mixed group, the guide was terrific and knowlegeable, and it was a lovely way to spend the morning. I had no idea that there were over 150 types of holly (there are 65 at the sanctuary). Turns out the mystery bush in my backyard is one of the varieties of holly! It has berries, so it’s a female bush, which means there must be a male bush somewhere in pollination distance!

It’s a lovely sanctuary, formerly a farm, then a holly farm, now a sanctuary specializing in the the types of holly from the time it was a farm. It also has a lovely kettle pond (no inlet or outlet) with all kinds of fascinating vegetation and wild life.

I learned how to recognize winterberry and inkberry (types of holly). I still have no idea what actual bayberry looks like (not a type of holly).

There’s a lot of lichen around, and I learned that lichen only grows when there’s excellent air quality. Guess that explains why we had none where I lived, especially after the scumbag landlords started using pesticides again and all kinds of toxic materials in the building.

At the end of the walk, we filled our bags with pruned boughs (everyone left was very considerate of each other), chatted, and had a good time.

Turns out the wife of the guide (who’s the director of the Long Pasture sanctuary) is a costume designer who used to work for a well-known rep theatre outside of Boston. So we had a LOT to talk about, and will get together when Costume Imp comes after the New Year. In fact, Costume Imp and I are thinking of having a little Twelfth Night soiree to gather together the various theatre people I’ve met on the Cape who’ve somehow all come into contact with me, but don’t yet know each other. And we might toss some others into the mix.

Anyway, came home, had lunch, we headed out to look for small trees for the front of the house. I want real ones, not artificial. Found a lovely garden center over in Marstons Mills — absolutely top quality merchandise, but more expensive than I felt comfortable with. I fell IN LOVE with a wintergreen bush, but it was way out of my price range right now. But, goodness, did I want it. I can do all kinds of stuff with wintergreen. Again, the quality’s worth it, but I have to watch my budget. There’s still a lawn mower to buy and furniture for the deck. Went to a nearby hardware store to pick up some stuff I forgot, but didn’t like the vibe, so I left. I’ll go back to Osterville on Monday instead. Went to the big Christmas Tree Shop by the Sagamore Bridge to get replacement bulbs — I’ve already knocked over one of the candle lamps. I’d like to blame a cat, but they’re more careful than I am!

Made ratatouille, tuna steaks with lemon caper sauce, and rice for dinner. Just barely had time to put the dishes in the dishwasher, change, and put on a little makeup, and we had to leave for the concert.

It wasn’t very far, about a ten or fifteen minute drive, up at a lovely church in Barnstable. And it was fun to see how people have decorated. One house on 6A looks like a carnival, but most of it is very understated New England — candle lamps in all the windows, lights on outdoor trees, some oversized candy canes up the walk, etc. And I noticed that, this year, many, many of the trees out front are small in proportion to the size of the house, which makes me think I could get away with it out front.

The concert was performed by Thom Dutton, and it was absolutely lovely — readings from A CHILD’S CHRISTMAS IN WALES alternated with Cornish, Welsh, and Breton carols sung and performed on a variety of harps. I love harp music, so it was such a lovely way to spend a Saturday evening. Just wonderful.

Drove home and discovered one of my rear lamps is half out. Poor little thing. I have to call the VW place in Hyannis when they open this morning to see if they can fit me in some time in the next few days. I planned to go to the DMV tomorrow to get that all sorted, but if my light’s not working, I need to get that fixed first.

Watched some TV, read a bit, went to bed at a reasonable hour. Up early Sunday morning (the cats were playing on the bed and Iris rolled off), yoga, meditation, etc. New moon on Sunday.

Got the Sunday papers. Imagine my surprise when I turned to the local section of the local paper and there was an article about yesterday’s holly walk (great) with a picture of me (not great). First of all, we had no idea the walk was being covered for the paper, and I certainly was not approached to give permission to use my image. I would have said no — I have a “no photos” policy, period. Also, as the male photographer should know, you do not photograph the neck of a woman over 40. Period. It’s rude. Fortunately, unlike Nora Ephron, I do NOT feel bad about my neck, I have no reason to yet (it doesn’t yet give away my age), and, since the photo is of the bottom of my neck as I’m staring at the Tallest Holly, I’m not that easy to identify. Plus, the article (although on the bland side) is good for the organization, and it wasn’t done out of maliciousness. So I’m not going to pitch a massive fit, which will only draw more attention to it and me. I will ignore it. I bet it the perpetrator was the Really Loud Guy I tried to avoid for most of the walk because I didn’t like his vibe. Lots of people had cameras, and some people brought multiple cameras. It never occured to me that they were for a newspaper article, and we are required to be told about this kind of thing.

Finished up the workshop. One of the students asked if I’d teach a workshop on creating believable settings (I’m always going on about “place as an additional character”). I pitched a workshop along those lines to the program director, she accepted it, and we’re sorting out when to schedule it. Not a bad way to land an assignment!

Wrote and designed the Yuletide letter. I never do the annual letter thing, but with the move and everything else, it makes sense this year. I’m still handwriting individual stuff in each card, but I’m also including the letter with the information about the move, the freelancing, the books coming out next year, etc. My mom did two versions of her letter, one in German, and one in English, that I typed up and printed off for her.

The bugaboo was the new return address labels. We’d bought pretty labels with a wintery house design by Geo-somebody on Avery labels. I should be able to plug in my name and address, format the label and be done. Only in order to do that, there’s special software from Geo-bastards and/or Avery — and it’s only for Microsoft, and not for the version that goes with Mac. Bite me, assholes, that needs to be on the packaging. Don’t say I can get everything I need from your effing website when I can’t, especially Geo-bastards, where you can’t get to the stuff to download without going through 47 layers of them trying to sell you crap.

So not having it.

It took me an hour and a half to wiggle fonts, sizes, and spacing, but I finally tricked the effing labels into ding what I want and looking good. That’s an hour and a half of time that could have been spent writing cards.

Not amused.

And, of course, Customer Disservice from both companies was non-existent. Couldn’t get anyone by phone or email or anything.

Geo-bastards — not happy with them, but never heard of them before, so not particularly surprised. I expect more from an Avery product, though.

By this time, we had to stop for lunch, and then get out the door. Drove to Brewster, to the Natural HIstory Museum, who just happened to be having an open house (everyone is so busy here), but we nipped through the festivities to the gift shop and picked up a few outstanding presents. “Outstanding” in the sense we still needed them, and that they are really cool. As usual, the staff went above and beyond to be helpful. Best shop on the Cape, as far as I’m concerned!

On the way back, stopped at Tobey Farm. They were having a live tree sale — I got my two live trees for the front — three times the size I could have gotten at any other center I’ve seen so far for that price. Don’t they look cute, in front of the house?

I still have to decorate them with ribbons and maybe garlands and lights, and put a bow on the wreath on the front door, but the entrance looks more festive now. They’ll look great sitting there until spring (if I can keep them alive), and then I’ll put them out back, probably in bigger pots. They didn’t fit in the hatchback, so I had to put them on the floor in the back of the seats and drive with my knees up to my chin. It was an interesting challenge.

Things slowed down on the way home because Yarmouth was having their Holiday Stroll. And let me tell you, these people don’t lope or stride or walk — they STROLL. They take the “stroll” thing very seriously. Like I said, they’re very busy around here. And they take their Holiday Strolling very seriously. It’s amazing how many people turn out for events here.

Dropped off the trees and the stuff from the Museum, then headed to the 1856 shop — which was Very Busy — to get a few more things, and then to CVS for a couple of other little bits and bobs.

Except for a couple of things still to get for my mom, I am DONE with my holiday shopping. Done, done, done! Most of my shopping was done locally, from local artisans, and is totally unique. I ordered a few things, but the bulk of the stuff is all locally created.

It’s been a very long time since I was done by December 5. It feels good.

I got the pot roast started, and we sat down to write the overseas cards. I got mine finished before dinner, then went to wrap up the deconstruction workshop, then went back to wrap an overseas present that has to go out today, and a Hanukkah present that has to go out to today. And took care of a few things on the computer.

By the end of the day, I was ready to curl up and fall asleep on my lovely new rug in the office!

Today, I’ve got to try to slide the car in for repair, get to the post office to mail the overseas cards and those two gifts, and work on the yard. I’ve also got to finish the assignment for Confidential Job #1, finish and review something for A BIBLIO PARADISE, look over a media kit and come up with questions for another Biblio spot, work on the article due soon, send some questions to my publisher, invoice an editor, work on the guest list for the party, and start writing the domestic cards. The filing is starting to eat my desk, and I’d like to unpack some kitchen boxes, some bedroom boxes, and some office boxes. I need to nip to Osterville Hardware to pick up a few things and . . .well, the list just keeps on going. But I’m behind and I need to catch up.

And, of course, I need to get some writing done.

Last night was St. Nicholas’s Night, so we left our shoes in front of the fire and they were filled with goodies this morning. Minus some the cats pulled out to play with. One of my favorite traditions of the season!

It’s Very Busy. 😉

Devon

Monday, November 29, 2010

Monday, November 29, 2010
Waning Moon
Uranus Retrograde
Neptune Retrograde
Sunny and cold

Busy weekend, but really good.

Made those Martha Stewart banana-walnut chocolate-chunk goodies. Oh, my goodness — one of the best cookies ever! Totally loved them. They are now my second-favorite cookie recipe, behind my favorite molasses spice.

The owl program at the Cape Cod Museum of Natural History was amazing. I didn’t realize that screech owls and saw-whet owls were so tiny! So cute, especially the saw-whet. The barred owl was lovely. I absolutely adored the Great Horned Owl — he has no natural predator and he knows it. That was a bird with major ‘tude — he was looking at some of the smaller children like he considered them a tasty snack. So, of course, I adored him. The snowy owl, who’s been with this group since babyhood (owlet-hood?) was a showoff — loved the play the crowd. And the enormous Eurasian Eagle Owl know she was totally gorgeous and just demanded all to adore her. Really, really great program, and I can’t say enough great things about the people in charge. Check out their website for lots more info. I learned a lot, and now I know what to look — and listen for — when it comes to owls.

I sat next to a lovely woman who is part of the Friends program at the Center and gave me information. She said she had to come to this — or else she’d have to rake her yard! I may not join Friends — because my freelance schedule is so transient, I’m leery of initially committing to anything. But I might buy and inscribe a brick in Elsa’s memory for the walkway, and become a member, since I’ll be going to so many of their programs whenever I get the chance.

Their gift shop has gorgeous stuff, most made by local artists. I knocked four people off my Yule list right there!

I was really impressed with the kids — they’re lively, rambunctious, and very, VERY smart. And yet they’re totally well behaved. No screaming, no tantrums, no bad behavior. And they weren’t sticky, thank goodness. Kids come to me as often as dogs do. I’m not a particularly child-friendly person (one reason I chose not to have any), but for some reason, they really like me. I was surprised by how they paid attention and could refer to something at the beginning of the program later on when they asked a question, and how much they remembered. One kid, who couldn’t have been more than six or seven, could identify a Great Horned owl skull from a program he remembered at his school last year. Pretty impressive.

And the stuff they chose to buy was pretty interesting, too. None of this made-in-China plastic crap. They wanted very site-specific toys and books that required imagination. In general, I’ve been very impressed by the local kids, from toddler to teen. Quite different from the Summer Brats, I’m sure, and very different from the horribly behaved, selfish, bored and boring, entitlement-obsessed children in Westchester.

Back to the house too late to rake. Stopped at Trader Joe’s to get a wreath for the front door — everyone else in the neighborhood is decorated, and I feel behind the beat. Unpacked some more boxes — made a good dent in the pile still in the kitchen.

We got the area rugs up for the living room and the back bedroom and cleaned them both. They look great. I didn’t think the one would work in the back bedroom, but it looks great.

Did some work on the lectures.

Went to bed early, and the cats kind of let me sleep. Or maybe I was just so tired I didn’t notice them playing.

I’m still having weird anxiety dreams. They all have to do with being stuck somewhere in NY, in a theatrical situation, on a show without running notes. I’ll get over them eventually, but they’re annoying.

Up at a reasonable hour on Sunday, yoga, meditation, made biscuits for breakfast. Did some more work on the lectures. Read the Sunday papers – -haven’t done that in ages! Lots of good stuff in there.

Went outside and raked for a couple of hours. The raised part of the backyard. It’s only a small section, but it’s a whole section, so I got that feeling of accomplishment.

Had lunch, then ran some errands. Went to Sandwich to the Herb Shop to pick up a few things I needed to make sachets for the closets, and then swung by Lavender Moon to get the necklace with the amber that I looked at last week, but hadn’t bought. I can’t wear it every day, but it will be lovely for special occasions.

Also stopped at the Yoga/Wellness Center just down the street (seriously, I could walk if I wanted to — it would be about 15-20 minutes) to pick up their schedule. Looks like they have yoga classes along the lines of what I’m looking for, meditation group, and even an acupuncturist on staff. I’ll give them a try. I probably won’t start going to class until the New Year, but I’m going to try to get into one of the acupuncture sessions. My hip is really bothering me again.

Back to the house, and back to raking. I did some more in the backyard. Doesn’t it look better?


And I met the neighbor across the way who has the Scottie and the Westie, both of whom are rescues. The Westie is just a little love bug. But then, they know a soft touch when they see one. Basically, everyone up and down the street takes in rescues — the neighbor across the street only has two; most have three or more. Fine with me — the more happy animals around, the better. And I’m invited to an open house to meet the neighbors in two weeks!

And here’s what’s left for me to do in the back in the next couple of days:

I still have to tidy up the front before the rains hit Tuesday night.

Once I was done raking for the day, I started with the Yuletide decorations. I still can’t find a bunch of stuff, and I’m sure we’ll be rearranging things as we go, but I got part of the advent table up (enough to light the candle for the First of Advent, which is what yesterday was). The mirror’s not yet up over the fireplace, but I kind of like having all the nutcrackers there, and, for now, I have about half the Santas on one bookcase (one of the ones where I can’t find the shelves). I’m kind of at a stopping point until I get the tree up, and then decide what I want to do around that. But, now that I can put up my Very Big Tree — well, it’s an OLD Very Big Tree, and each branch has to be inserted individually, so it will take me three damn days!

I posted my welcome message and the first lecture for the workshop.

Violet is very cuddly lately. She seems to be settling in better than Iris, although Iris brought about five or six toys into the bed overnight. At least it’s not pork bones out of the garbage, which is what Elsa used to do!

Egg on face moment — for some reason, I thought my editor had booked a different article, and that was what I was working on until she straightened me out. NOT the way to impress your boss, right?

Mattress World never called me to give me a window for delivery today, so I will have to get on them about it. I can’t sit around indefinitely waiting for them to show up. Even though I need to spend a good portion of the day raking.

Got my first Yuletide card on Saturday — from the National Marine Life Center. Designed by one of their volunteers, who is seven years old. I’m telling you, the kids here are preternaturally bright. It’s an adorable card. I’m looking forward to putting it up.

And I have to get the overseas cards out this week.

Pretty much all we’ve watched since we got the TV hooked up is WGBH, Boston’s Public Television station. That’s the best on right now. Perhaps we should become members!

Actually stayed up until a reasonable hour, kept working on the lectures.

Up early this morning to find frost on the ground, yoga, meditation, feeding the cats, getting down to work, etc. The other split box is supposed to be delivered today — hope it actually happens — and then I can start really putting the bedroom to rights. I haven’t unpacked/found my sewing boxes yet or my hot glue gun, and there are some ornaments in desperate need of Ornament Hospital. I need to teach, work on some blog posts, and work on the article.

And rake. And unpack. And keep decorating.

No one’s stressed and frantic around here, but an awful lot gets done in a short amount of time. There’s no dithering or procrastination — they just get to it. My kind of place.

Oh, does anyone have any idea what kind of bush this is? It’s in the backyard, with orange berries and pale yellow flowers — a nice late bloomer.

Devon

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Tuesday, November 23, 2010
Waning Moon
Uranus Retrograde
Neptune Retrograde
Cloudy and milder

Yesterday was about unpacking. We rearranged the garage, so now I can get the car into it. I found the big pot, so I can make the beef stroganoff for tomorrow. And, of course, washed it. Ran a long list of errands. It’s interesting how one can get twice the amount done in half the time without anyone getting stressed and surly around here. Everyone is NICE, the clerks and stuff, and it’s an adjustment. I’m used to abrupt and/or surly. I never thought of most of the clerks in NY that way until I got here. And they engage you in actual conversation, not just yammer. The clerks here engage their CUSTOMERS in conversation, not deign to do their jobs while carrying on conversations with co-workers. And everyone is so damn cheerful! It’s an adjustment. A positive one, but an adjustment. I think they’re especially cheerful because the “summah people” are gone.

Anyway, ran the errands, which included buying a large trash can so I can sort the garbage. The can is for the regular garbage — I have crates to sort the recycling. Over the weekend, we’ll have to make our first dump run.

I want to attend a seminar on owls at the Cape Cod Museum of Natural History in Brewster on Saturday. I tried calling to make a reservation; they were closed and one can’t leave a message, so I shot them an email. Hopefully, I can get in.

I also have to race against time in the next few days, to put the yard to bed (and get all the leaves up) before the snow.

Went out again in the afternoon. I bought a rug for my office. It’s gorgeous — gold with sort of a pale lavender grape design. It kind of looks Italianate — very Edith Wharton (if you’ve ever visited the Mount, you know what I mean). When it gets lighter, I’ll take a picture. I love it. It’s not at all what I thought I wanted, but when I saw it, I fell in love with it and knew it was just right. I’m also putting sliders on the furniture, so it doesn’t hurt the wood floors.

I haven’t unpacked my cookbooks yet, so I had to pull a recipe from the Food Network site for the beef stroganoff. Turns out I don’t have any in my handwritten notebook — THAT I have, carried it up early in the process so I could cook up here. But I got in all the stuff for it, and will cook it today, along with brownies and a lemon cake.

The split box is supposed to arrive today. I’m giving it to my mom, and I’ll order another one (hopefully not from Sleepy’s).

Went to Lavender Moon. Found a lovely necklace and a few other things I needed. It’s very simple — no amethyst in the middle, just simple sterling. There was a gorgeous one embellished with brooms and amber, and another mandala necklace — I might just have to go back for those in a few days. Because I wear this every day, I was worried that the raised design on the other two might catch on things. I got a lovely “welcome to the neighborhood” from the owners.

Cooked a lovely dinner – salmon patties, mashed yams, and spinach, with the last of the wonderful apple pie for dessert. Relaxed in front of the TV with a glass of wine, and went to bed at a reasonable hour to read for a bit.

The next assignment for Confidential Job #1 arrived yesterday, so I better get to it, along with polishing the lectures for my class. I’m not quite back into my first 1K of the day yet — I figure I’ll ease back into that over the weekend. The characters are all being very quiet — probably giving me some breathing space to unpack a little more. It will take months to unpack, but we’re slowly getting there. I set up some shelves downstairs so I can store the dishes I don’t need, but still get at them when I want them. I don’t know yet if I should worry because I haven’t heard from my editor on ASSUMPTION OF RIGHT and revisions are due on Jan. 1. If I haven’t heard anything a few days into December, I’ll ask. Meanwhile, I should get back to work on THE SPIRIT REPOSITORY — writing about old-time New York while I’m here on the Cape. Should be interesting. Hope I can locate all my NYC history books.

The cats are exploring and complaining and demanding and playing. I’ll have to get some additional scratching posts in and figure out where they want them. Violet is adjusting better than Iris, which is what I expected, although when she was so terrified at first, I wondered. But she’s back to her usual exploring self, and Iris is being a Drama Queen.

Okay, downstairs to figure out how to shut off the valve for the hose without shutting off the water to the entire damn house.

Devon

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Sunday, May 17 2009
Waning Moon
Saturn DIRECT (as of yesterday)
Pluto Retrograde
Mercury Retrograde

Wasn’t the Preakness great? Go, Rachel Alexandra! And Mine That Bird ran a great race, too.

I had a great few days out of town, on the Cape. Unfortunately, even though I dragged around the laptop, the internet access promised in the room didn’t work properly, so I was disconnected for those days — which was fine with me

We hit the road around noon on Tuesday, deciding to leave a half a day early. The weather looked great, and it seemed like it would be a great day. And then we hit a bad storm around New London. But we drove through it, and by the time we hit Rhode Island, it was gone. The storm moved west to east, and we drove south to north.

We chose a motel in the middle of Hyannis — we got a great deal on the room, and it was simple, no frills, but fine. I probably wouldn’t choose to stay there again, unless I had no other choice, but, for what I needed for research purposes, it was fine. It was clean and plenty of hot water, which are two of my top needs. We walked around town for a bit. For an affluent, rather famous community, I found it disturbing that there were so many homeless, mentally disturbed people wandering around,, and so many bored teens looking around for trouble. I immediately went into my I-Lived-on-the-Deuce-and-you-didn’t-so-don’t-even-think-of-messing-with-me mode. They didn’t. These kids may be bored, but they’re not stupid.

We had a fabulous dinner at a restaurant called Alberto’s — I had amazing mussels, and when THIS restaurant makes a house salad, it’s an assortment of greens, blood orange slices, walnuts, shredded carrots and prunes with a homemade vinagrette — wonderful. Quite different from the supposedly excellent Italian restaurant on the night I went out to Long Island to see my play, who considered their house salad iceberg lettuce with Thousand Island dressing. The wine, a California pinot noir, was okay, but not brilliant. The chocolate mousse, however, was sublime.

Got some work done in the evening. It helps, bringing the laptop, although I couldn’t get the wi-fi hook up to work. Oh, well. I had the yoga mat, so I could stay on schedule with the yoga.

Up early the next morning — coffee, yoga, but not much writing. I was in reasearch/experiential head, not writing head. We had a great breakfast at La Petite France Cafe — the food’s very good, the service is good, and the guy behind the counter is very nice. He’s there if you want something, but doesn’t try to be best friends just because you walked in the door.

Hit the road early, travelling East. I’ve been to the end of the Cape’s seashore, The Province Lands, ever since I was a little, little kid. But I never investigated the other end, the Eastham end of the shorelands. So, we went to the National Seashore and walked the trails for several hours. I took a lot of photos. It was thrilling to see so many red-winged blackbirds so close, and to hear the frogs chatter, and the ospreys and swans and all the rest. Truly gorgeous. It was a wonderful day, and plenty of benches. We could just sit and BE. The beach plums were in full bloom — gorgeous white flowers. One of the rangers told me I hit it just right – they weren’t in bloom last week and wouldn’t be in bloom next week. Good timing!

I picked up some materials in the bookshop, including a volume of letters from whalers to their families, put out by Descendants of the Whaling Masters. How’s that for a name?

On the spur of the moment, we turned to Nauset and went down to the beach and the lighthouse. I have a fondness for lighthouses anyway. This one was gorgeous, and, yes, still working. We went down to the beach — gorgeous light green water close to the beach, deepening to cobalt blue farther out. We sat on the beach for awhile, watching dogs play and someone try to surf. I gathered up stones. And then we headed back to the lighthouse.

It was still too early for the lighthouse to be open to the public during the week, but one of the workers was there to do something inside and asked if I wanted to come in. Yes! While she did what she needed to do, I got to climb around and explore the lighthouse on my own. It was fabulous! It’s a small house, without living quarters attached, but still a working light. It’s just beautiful. And it was so generous to let me in.

Lunch at a great, family-run fish shack called JT’s — terrific cod burgers with wonderful fries and coleslaw.

Then, it was back towards Brewster, to the Cape Cod Museum of Natural HIstory, one of my favorite places on the cape, to walk the trails on Wing Island. They have an “osprey cam” set up — a camera on an osprey nest, so you can watch the young osprey develop. I didn’t go inside to watch this year — last year’s batch where quite the little hams! The trail was lovely, and the wildflower garden was also beautiful.

I would say we walked at least ten miles over the course of the day. And we were in serious need of salad for dinner, so it was chicken caesar salad for dinner, and a quiet evening reading the materials I collected and typing up notes. The Helena Francis books are set on the bay side of midcape, and parts of the Matty book take place at the Natural History Museum and the shorelands, plus I’m thinking of setting a YA in the area.

Thursday was cloudier and windier. We ate at La Petite Francaise again, and headed out the door early. This time, we headed back over the Sagamore Bridge, off the Cape, to Plymouth. The Matty book is set along the coast just below Plymouth, and I wanted to get some geographical details and some photographs of the stretch where I want to place the house. We did all that, made a wrong turn and wound up in the center of Plymouth, which was okay, because I could grab some more pictures of where I want to set one of the confrontations.

Then, it was over to Buzzards Bay. There’s a marine life rescue center. I wanted to visit and maybe pick up a book on turtles, since turtle rescue is part of what they do. One of the characters in the Matty book loves turtles. I’d hoped to find one at the Natural History Museum, but the only one I found was large, unwieldy, and didn’t focus on Cape area turtles, which is what I need.

On the way to the center, we stopped to stare at the Railroad Bridge. It moves. In other words, the center span is stored in the “up” position, allowing boats to travel the canal freely. When a train comes across, it lowers so the train can actually cross the Canal. We happened to be there as they lowered and then raised the span. Fascinating. And yes, I will post photos.

Unfortunately, the Marine Life Center is both under renovation and not open for the season. I’m going to contact them about visiting in the fall. There’s an event I hope to cover in the area in September — just a few days after I get back from Prague. Maybe I can come out a day or so early or stay a day late and visit the center.

We headed back over the Sagamore Bridge and over to the Canal Visitors’ Center in Sandwich. They did a fantastic job — the museum is wonderful, and the educational DVD about this history and building of the Canal is one of the best of its kind. What I found interesting was that August Belmont — think Belmont Park Race Track here in New York — was the one who built the first canal as a toll thoroughfare. However, it was too shallow, and, due to the amount of accidents, failed. The Army Corps of Engineers took over, redug it during the Depression (in an example of an original stimulus plan), and now it’s a very active channel — and Cape Cod is an island, not a peninsula! We walked to the point where the canal ends and the bay begins. Turning back, I saw that they use actual traffic lights — the yellow metal lights, like they do on the street corners — for the channel. It was pretty funny.

Next stop, Sandwich, just about my favorite town on the Cape. Dashed into their wonderful library, checked email, got a few responses out, Twittered quickly, and was done They use Windows Vista — what a nightmare — everything was so slow and had to be done twice. Typical Dell/Windows!

Then, it was over to the Sandwich Glass Museum. The work there is fantastic, and I learned a lot about glassmaking. The demonstration was fantastic, and the woman who gave it was terrific. I wanted to slap the man sitting in front of me upside the head — instead of appreciating the delicacy required in rolling and pulling the glass, he wanted to see her make a show of the blowing — which, it turns out, is a very small part of actually working the glass. Instead of being excited to learn the intricacies and delicacies of how it’s actually done, he wanted to see what he expected. Moron.

In the gift shop, I found a history of the Orleans Inn at such a good price I was afraid it was a misprint. But it wasn’t, and I snatched it up. Can’t wait to read it.

We drove to Barnstable and the Sandy Neck beach. By now, it was cloudy and very, very windy. The beach is lovely, and this is the area where I’ll stick Collier’s Cove, the setting for the Helena Francis mysteries.

We had lunch at the Beehive Tavern in Sandwich — fantastic! I had some locally brewed Cape Cod Summer Ale. I’m very fussy about beer and ale, preferring wine, but this was terrific. And I had a wonderful sole stuffed with lobster, vegetables, and rice. Really, an excellent meal, great service, great atmosphere. Definitely a place I’d go again.

We headed down to Chatham for a look around, and then picked up some food from a local, mom-and-pop deli on the way back — a chicken salad with cranberries and walnuts, which was great.

Another quiet night full of typing up notes and reading. And watching playoff hockey, Boston vs. Carolina — heartbreaking loss for Boston in overtime.

Friday morning was rainy, so we headed back right after breakfast (again, at the cafe). A big bus nearly crushed me twice near the canal. I got its information and plan to complain to the company. I’m sorry, you don’t come to a dead stop in the middle of a roundabout and then suddenly swerve to a turnoff you’ve already missed, ignoring the cars around you — after you already nearly forced me into construction nearly a half a mile back. Not acceptable. Traffic was an absolute nightmare around Providence. I swear, Rhode Island has some of the worst drivers I’ve encountered anywhere in the world — and I’ve driven many places in the world. They’re even worse than New Jersey drivers.

Couldn’t make good time coming back from the Cape — combination of weather and traffic. Managed to stop in Niantic at the Book Barn, where I played with the cats and got a stack of books, including several on the Cape and several books I’ve wanted for years! Lunch in Niantic, and then continued back. Stopped at the apartment to switch out some stuff and then continued down for the Preakness. Horrible traffic, early night.

The races started really early Preakness Day. And the temperature was a good twenty degrees higher than it was on the Cape and muggy. I expected a deluge any minute, but the rain held off until there was a light shower just as the horses went to the post for the Preakness itself.

As thrilled as I was by Rachel Alexandra’s win, I just wanted to be home by the end of it all. I was supposed to leave revoltingly early this am to head back up to MA for the US Olympic Women’s Hockey Team tryouts, but that fell through. As annoyed as I am with USA Hockey right now, I’m also relieved not to spend six hours on the road today and six hours watching tryouts at a hockey ring.

I’ve got to finish my post-Preakness article and get if off to FemmeFan, and then take a final look at the DIXIE DUST proofs — the last round of corrections arrived while I was gone. The next assignment for Confidential Job #1 came in, I have client projects to work on tomorrow, and some reviews to do this week for A BIBLIO PARADISE. UHaul again made me livid, and it’s time to file charges with the appropriate authorities. Enough already.

Read one of the books I bought in Niantic already — THESE RUINS ARE INHABITED by Muriel Beadle, about her family’s year at Oxford University. It was published in 1961, and it’s funny how little has changed, and, of the changes that have taken place, which ones.

I hope to take it a little bit easy today, but I’d like to get a jump on all the work stacked up for the coming week.

Cape photos to follow.

Devon

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Wednesday, June 4, 2008
Waxing Moon
Pluto Retrograde
Jupiter Retrograde
Mercury Retrograde
Rainy, not, humid

Isn’t it always the way? Go off-line for a few days and there’s a lot to say. So, for reading ease, I’ve used sub-headings – you can pick what you want to read and skip the rest: Politics, planets, trip, life, writing. This is a very long post, so be warned.

Politics:
You may have noticed that I haven’t spoken much about politics on the blog lately. Mostly, because I’m worried that we’re totally f—, especially if McCain gets elected (I nearly said “re-elected”, thinking in terms of a Bush third term – my Freudian slip was showing). If that happens, I honestly believe the Mayans were right and the world as we know it will end on the Winter Solstice of 2012. The Republican Party has become an abomination and perversion of its original purpose, in my opinion. The Party of Lincoln has become the Party of Economic Rape and Pillage. As a woman, I do not EVER use the term “rape” lightly, but that’s what’s happened over the last eight years. Bush’s buddies get richer and richer while the rest of us, who actually do the work and keep the country running, are screwed.

At the beginning of the Democratic Primaries, I was pretty excited, because there was such a wide field of choices, and I was interested in hearing all the points of view and seeing how it played out. I didn’t get a voice in it (something I resent), because, in the State of New York, if you are an independent voter, you don’t get to vote in the primaries. Other states allow independent voters to vote, but not NY, something I think is wrong.

I had no intention of voting for Hillary Clinton simply because she was a woman; she needed to convince me she was the best candidate for this particular time and place. I like a lot of her ideas, she’s done a lot of good as a NY Senator, and she’s got a grit that gets the job done. However, I was already leery because, several years ago, when the hospital up the street was closed, I contacted her office for help. Since health care is a big issue for her, I thought she would be the person to whom to turn. A YEAR AND A HALF LATER, I received a form letter email from her office that had nothing to do with the topic. And the hospital was long closed. That has really stuck in my craw all this time, in spite of the many good things she’s done for New York. Her office is a huge contrast to the other NY Senator’s office, Senator Charles Schumer. You call his office –an actual human picks up by the second ring. You email, you get a response in the same day. You write a letter, you get a response – an actual response, not a form letter – within a week. And there’s always follow-through AND follow-up. Since I consider politicians my employees – after all, it is my tax money that pays their salaries, that is the way I like it done.

On the other hand, as a woman, I was angered by the sexist media coverage. Her hair, clothes, etc. were focused on in a way that NONE of the male candidates’ clothing choices were. That’s wrong. And, have you noticed? We refer to the male candidates by their last names, but to Senator Clinton always by her first name. Is that to differentiate her from her husband, the former President? Or is it a sign of disrespect that’s not even noticed, because for hundreds of years women have been referred to less formally than men? So that really bothered me, and made me more sympathetic to her.

On yet another hand (or am I starting on feet now), the fact she voted FOR the war bothered me. I remember being at a rally here in NYC before the war was declared. The Pretender President came out and said (direct quote) to the crowd, “I don’t care what you think.” Buddy, as my EMPLOYEE, you damn well better care. Politicians can back-pedal all they want about the misleading information they were given, but the fact is, we are paying them and IT IS THEIR JOB to dig deeper before they make their decisions.

Most of the women I know, of one generation older than I am, who laid the groundwork for women in politics and in many other areas, are upset because they feel that this was the last chance in their lifetime to see a woman become President. For now, it’s still in the realm of the Sci-Fi channel instead of being a reality in this country. And that’s a shame.

Yes, Victoria Woodhull was the first woman to run for President, as well as the first woman to have a company on the New York Stock Exchange back in the days of Cornelius Vanderbilt, but the fights women fought through the 1960’s and 1970’s really set a lot of groundwork for today. (If you’re interested in Victoria Woodhull’s story, the mystic daughter of a snake oil salesman who became so prominent in NY and then made a bid for the White House, read Barbara Goldsmith’s fascinating social history OTHER POWERS. It also deals with the fact that Frederick Douglass broke with the suffragettes because, even though they supported abolition, he felt supporting a woman’s right to vote would hold back the black cause – every once in awhile, I wonder how many shades of reflection of that are in this campaign).

As far as Obama goes, I like his ideas, I like the way he can walk into a room and talk to anyone, I like his grace under pressure, I like the way he did not vote for the war. My concern is whether or not he can implement his ideas, or whether he’ll be blocked by high-rolling lobbyists.

For Democratic women (and by that, I mean women who lean towards the Democratic Party, not all women who believe in democracy), this has been a very emotional and tumultuous few months. You can’t discount completely race and gender, yet you want to support the candidate you believe has the best ideas and is ABLE to implement them.

Something that gets on my last nerve across the board is the hundreds of millions of dollars spent on campaigns. That’s money that should be going into education, health care, veterans’ medical care and rehabilitation, rebuilding crumbling infrastructures, and wildlife conservation, not in buses and planes criss-crossing the country, polluting and spending money that could be used to improve the country.

I realize history has been made no matter what; I’m still ambivalent.

Planets
So, Mercury went retrograde last week without me noticing, which means I signed contracts and traveled during the Retrograde. However, since it never felt like it went direct last time, this retrograde actually feels like a relief, because things are getting resolved. So I’m not going to stress about it.

The Neptune Retrograde – hey, I’m a Pisces, it’s never easy, but too darned bad.

The Jupiter Retrograde actually feels like a relief because it oversees home and hearth and material things, and that’s been in such a mess, it feels like this retrograde will help with the resolution.

This is a case of me welcoming retrogrades.

So far.

The Trip
Ah, heaven! It was really, really, REALLY hard to come back. I missed the cats and the books and the writing and my friends, and, surprisingly, even the show. But it was heaven to be out there.

Considering how tired I was getting back from the show at midnight on Sunday morning, and then getting up at 4:30, I’m surprised I did as much as I did. On the road by six; traffic pretty light, and yet, more people traveling than I expected in this high-gas economy. We managed to find gas for $3.99/gallon up in MA the whole time, which made me do a happy dance at the pump. Seriously, it wound up equivalent to a free gallon of gas at each refill compared to prices down here, which are at least 50 cents more per gallon.

The weather was fabulous, sunny, warm, gorgeous.

We headed first up to the North Shore, Cape Ann area. I hadn’t been there in years. Drove around Rockport, doubled back to Gloucester, and spotted at Hammond Castle.

Hammond Castle is a medieval castle on the cliffs of Gloucester, MA, built by inventor John Hays Hammond in 1926 as a gift for his bride, Irene Fenton Hammond, a portrait painter. Both collected antiques, and the castle is amazing. The front is in German gothic style, the back in French, complete with flying buttresses. It was a museum since 1930 (they moved into it in 1929), and they were the caretakers. Hammond has more than 800 inventions to his credit – his “war room”, a circular room under the circular library, is pretty amazing. The library, wonderful as it was – was too small to hold all my books – isn’t that a scary thought!

There’s an interior courtyard with a glass roof (three stories up) – talk about the ultimate sun room. It’s Romanesque in design, with some of the doorways made out of volcanic, porous rock, and some out of limestone.

There’s a Great Hall where Gershwin once played, and a series of Tower Galleries, where each level has different objects, including religious icons and relics. The Castle is reputed to be haunted, but the room with religious relics was the only one that felt, to me, filled with unseen presences.

You walk through all these winding hallways, nooks, crannies, tiny rooms of medieval antiques and then come into a 1930’s kitchen – the contrast is astonishing. And the views over the harbor are magnificent.

I promise to post photos.

Then, back in the car to Salem. All I needed was a good map and some photos of Salem; Old-Fashioned Detective Work has a small bit set just outside of Salem, and I couldn’t remember its configuration. We had a quick lunch, and then headed back down.

There was a parade in Boston, which backed up the Tobin Bridge and the southern expressway, so we got stuck for a bit; but the Big Dig seems to be fixed, (nothing fell on the car, always a good sign), so once we were clear of the parade traffic, it was a smooth ride.

Instead of staying in Plymouth as planned, we continued south. There’s something about soaring across the Sagamore Bridge that always makes me happy (in spite of the sign the Samaritans posted with their number for those who might be inclined to jump off the bridge).

We ended up staying in Hyannis, getting an excellent rate at a hotel still under construction. It was cheap and clean, all we really needed. It had a small balcony. The toilet made funny gurgling noises and some of the hardware on the furniture needed to be replaced, but it also had a fridge, a huge television, REAL keys (not those vile keycards, which I hate) AND genuine old, soft, cotton sheets, not the poly sheets most hotels use (unless you’re in the $400/night ones). Okay, the sheets were PINK – but boy were they comfy! And the shower was fantastic!

Had we had the time, we could have walked from the hotel to the Nantucket ferry and hopped over for the day, leaving the car in Hyannis. Good to know for the future. I got to see where the writers’ group meets (the one I met during Nano last year that said I was always welcome), and we got a sense of the area pretty well.

Picnic lobster supper – always a good thing. And early to bed because, well, it was a busy day and we’d been up since 4:30 in the morning!

We had a leisurely breakfast by the pool the next morning (included in the hotel, it was a buffet and it was good), sitting next to the pool amidst overflowing pots of cheerful red geraniums.

Then, we drove down to Provincetown. On the way, I was looking for the Nauset Light, which I wanted to re-photograph (it’s been at least ten years since I was there), but couldn’t find it. Instead, I found the Cape Cod Light, also known as the Highland Light – which was fantastic. They moved it back to its current location in 1996, because the sea cliffs are eroding at one foot PER YEAR (faster, even then here in Montauk), and expect they’ll have to move it again within 30 years.

Wow.

The light is gorgeous, the surroundings are magnificent, the staff is phenomenal. A freelance writer handles their PR, newsletter, etc. – a woman after my own heart who’s doing an outstanding job, and I have to track her down via her website and congratulate her!

We bought the COOLEST wind chime – a four-side triangle (four plates, each triangular in shape) with a different lighthouse painted on each one. It sounds like a buoy, which I just love.

Again, I promise to post photos.

Over to the Province Lands Visitor Center, out by Race Point Beach. I’ve been going there since 1968, since I was six years old, and it’s always a pilgrimage. They’re wonderful there, and teased me that, when I live in the area, I should come and give tours, too! (Personally, I don’t think I’m nice enough to be a Park Ranger, but I appreciated the sentiment).

Into P-town, past Pilgrim Monument (I’ve been up those darned stairs so often over the years I really don’t need to do it anymore – but if you’ve never done it – do it). Parked on Macmillan Wharf. They’ve rebuilt the end of the wharf and done a lovely job. There are now glass partial roofs and benches and pavilions, so you can sit and enjoy it. It’s still a working wharf, but now it’s also a multi-tasking wharf.

One of the warehouses on the other wharf was rebuilt, and now has, on its outside walls, an art exhibit – photos of Portuguese women who were instrumental in the development of Provincetown.

My reason for going to P-town was the Whydah Museum, the excavation of a pirate ship off the coast of the Cape. I’d been there when it first opened years ago, but now, with the research for CUTTHROAT CHARLOTTE, “The Merry’s Dalliance”, and THE BALTHAZAAR TREASURE, I wanted to revisit.

It’s a small museum, but lovely. It emphasizes pirates, and I was more interested in the nuts and bolts of the archaeology, but there was also some great information and demonstrations about concretions and the x-rays to see what the concretions cover, and the grid system used. Great stuff, which helps me a lot in my writing. Again, the personnel there were lovely.

We walked a little bit around P-town. The last time I was there, several years ago, they were very discriminatory towards straight women, and I was tempted not to go back. I don’t judge people by their sexual choices and I expect the same. Who I sleep with is my business. I found it a very hostile environment, which saddened me (since I’ve come there since the late 1960’s, when it was full of painters on the wharves) and angered me. However, it’s mellowed out a lot (or maybe the season hasn’t yet kicked in). Everyone was friendly and pleasant, and it was a very dog-centric community, which I liked. Many, many happy dogs. You can tell a lot about a place by the temperament of the pets.

And, joy of joys, the Portuguese Bakery is still open! I’d been told they closed, but they haven’t. I did a happy dance at the register. We had lulas (flaky, cone-shaped pastry filled with whipped cream) there, and took – well, I can’t remember the pretty Portuguese name, it starts with an M – but, basically, it’s hunks of moist, light, fried bread. We had to triple wrap it so the grease wouldn’t soak through and ruin the trunk of the car.

Then, we meandered back along the Cape to Brewster – a town we fell in love with. I hadn’t considered Brewster a possibility in my house-hunting, but it is now. The size and ages of many houses fit what I want, it’s a friendly, low-key, year-round community.

We stopped at the Cape Cod Museum of Natural History –as soon as I relocate to MA, I’m becoming a member. Fantastic trails through forest, salt marsh, and to the tidal dunes. A camera on the Osprey nest, so you can watch their activities. A lookout room with comfy chairs and binoculars to look out over the marshes and a journal in which to make notations. The exhibits are wonderful, and the tiny aquarium is terrific. I took pictures of curious turtles who came to the side of the tanks to see the visitor. I was exposed to a slew of new-to-me nature writers whose work I want to read. Again, a terrific staff, and their ongoing programs are wonderful. I’d go two or three times a month if I lived in the area.

We found a clam shack for a late lunch and slowly meandered back along route 6A, past Hyannis and to Sandwich, Mashpee, and Marstons Mills for house hunting. And some shopping, of course, at the Lavender Moon and Sandwich Herb Shop. I wanted to find the glass studio, but sailed past it, realizing too late its only designation was a painted mailbox – this area is filled with individual artisans, which is great, but sometimes the signs are a little too subtle!

I can get a ton of freelance writing work out there, so, once I move, I’ll be able to make a living.

Again, a dinner picnic and a relaxing evening. There’s so much to do all over the Cape all year round at this point that, not only can I earn a living writing for it and about it, I won’t feel deprived being away from New York.

I also got to watch Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final, between Detroit and Pittsburgh. Wow! It went into 3 overtimes, before Pittsburgh managed to score the final goal to keep them alive in the series. I’m a big fan of Marc-Andre Fleury, the Pittsburgh goalie, and Gary Roberts, of whom I’ve been a fan since his Maple Leaf days, but, as a team, I’m rooting for Detroit. What an amazing game, although it was 80 degrees outside the arena in Detroit, and a good portion of it was played on slush.

On the way home, we stopped at the Book Barn in Niantic, CT, where I got books by Julie Czernerda, Sharon Shinn, Jim C. Hines, and a bunch of science and nature books that I need for the upcoming projects.

The trip was great, I took nearly 200 photos – don’t worry, I won’t post them all – and I feel better about the whole house-hunting situation, because now I have a more solid sense of which communities I think are best suited to what I need, and I know what types of properties are in each community.

So, although I didn’t find “my” house, I feel much more confident about finding it.

Life
So the ever-lovin’ cable box forced on us by Cablevision worked less than 24 hours. I emailed them before I left, stating that they WOULD have a technician out here the morning I returned and it WOULD be fixed at no additional charge. I am currently waiting for said technician. Then, I have to go to Trader Joe’s – I’m out of cat food.

Oh, and the cable box that was guaranteed to be delivered on May 19? Delivery was finally attempted by the incompetent UPS on June 3. And refused.

Sorted out the problem with MacAffee. Once I could actually track down a live person, it was easily solved. Figuring out a way past all the recorded messages to get a live person was a challenge.

Hard to get settled back in. The cats were calm when we got back, because it was quiet in the building (heaven forbid they actually finish any of the construction in the building – they’ve ripped everything up and left it). The cats are happy we’re home, but at least they weren’t frantic.

I’m having a hard time getting mentally focused back on what needs to be done. I simply want to pack, load up a truck and go the Cape, but I need to have to place to go TO before I do that. All the steps need to be completed in the right order for this to work. I’m not 18 anymore; I can’t just pack two suitcases and a typewriter and land in a strange city, the way I’ve done so many times in my life, and start over. I’m uprooting an entire life and relocating it. It takes more organization.

There’s all sorts of building chaos going on and I don’t feel like engaging right now, so I’m not. “No” has become my favorite word lately. Without explanations or justifications. Simply, “no.”

Writing
I only wrote notes the entire time. I’d brought an enormous bag of work, the MATILDA MURDER rewrites, other stuff – nothing.

I had a huge breakthrough on YURI’S TALE – how I can keep it linked short stories that can also stand alone, yet, together, make up an entire novel arc. So that was good. But I didn’t write any of it.

I have to type up my notes (I’m bad at that – I tend to file the notebooks and then take hours looking for what I want).

I’ve given myself off from regularly scheduled writing until tomorrow, so I can settle in and get back my focus.

Believe it or not, that’s the short version!

Devon

Devon’s Bookstore:


5 in 10: Create 5 Short Stories in Ten Weeks
by Devon Ellington. This ebooklet takes you from inspiration to writing to revision to marketing. By the end of ten weeks, you will have either 5 short stories or a good chunk of a novella complete. And it’s only 50 cents, USD. Here.

Writing Rituals: Ideas to Support Creativity by Cerridwen Iris Shea. This ebooklet contains several rituals to help you start writing, get you through writer’s block, and help send your work on its way. It’s only 39 cents USD. (Note: Cerridwen Iris Shea is one of the six names under which I publish). Here.


Full Circle: An Ars Concordia Anthology
. Edited by Colin Galbraith. This is a collection of short stories, poems, and other pieces by a writers’ group of which I am a member. My story is “Pauvre Bob”, set at Arlington Race Track in Illinois. You can download it free here: