Tuesday, January 4, 2010

Tuesday, January 4, 2010
New Moon
Neptune Retrograde
Sun still down, and it’s cold!

New Year’s Day was an exercise in frustration — the Command Hook I moved tore a chunk out of the wall — “damage free hanging” my ass. However, they responded to the complaint with in 24 hours, so kudos for response time, and we’re at least trying to figure out a solution. In the meantime, I stuck the hook back up to cover the missing paint and will hang something festive from it. But now I’m worried about all the other Command hooks I hung up so blithely during the holiday season. Will I be able to remove them without doing damage?

I’ll probably hang seasonal festivities upon them instead.

And the shelves I was so excited about for the basement? The Geelong shelves are crap. The directions have nothing to do with what’s in the box, and the drawings are so unclear you can’t tell which way the pieces go together. K-Mart’s response was ridiculous –thanking me for feedback and then sending me a survey asking if the customer service rep fixed the problem — I had a few choice words! And the head office of Geelong in Hong Kong has, of course, ignored the complaint. If you say “easy to assemble” and that all I need is a mallet, I should be able to do it by myself in twenty minutes or less. The directions should be relevant and the drawings should be clear. Period.

Up at 4:30 Sunday morning, on the road by 6, to CT by 10. Unloaded, got my mom settled, headed to Costco, stocked up on a few things, back to CT. Spent the afternoon reading magazines and doing some writing. Shopping at stores I’ve shopped for years felt like I’d never left.

Up early on Monday, yoga, meditation, etc. Packed up what I needed to. Costume Imp texted me when he was on the train, off I went to my old hometown. It was on time (oh joy, oh rapture). Picked him up at the station, we swung by Salzburg Patisserie to get coffee and chocolate croissants, hit the road.

We had to drive by my former building so to do. It looks even sadder and in more disrepair than when we left. It made me sad — I grew up there, and it used to be a charming, late 1920’s Art Deco building. Now, it’s just being “improved” to its detriment, making it look like a cheap Queens hotel that rents by the hour.

We hit the Book Barn in Niantic hard. I bought so much at the main branch that they packed it in boxes and helped me get it to the car. Yeah. That much. A LOT of gardening books, but some writing books, critical essays, biographies, etc., etc. The colony of cats was happy to see us, played with us, and nudged us to shelves where we’d find what we needed — and they were always right. The big black cat who hangs out in the “Haunted Bookshop” where the mysteries are kept is particularly bossy. But he’s always right.

Of course, their big sale happens later this month when neither Imp nor I can get there!

We hopped across the street and had a lovely lunch at the Niantic Diner, then visited the two downtown branches of the Barn to peruse more fiction. Yeah, we both bought a lot again, but at least this time we could get it to the car ourselves!

Back on the road, feeling the weight of the books in the back every time we tootled up a hill. We drove to Mystic and popped in to Mystical Elements to pick up a few things. Deciding which few is always the challenge.

We figured if we got stopped by the cops for speeding or whatever, we could attempt to bribe with books or a nice amethyst. 😉 Actually, I was pretty careful. I have to remember that I no longer have NY plates and can’t act like I’m driving a yellow cab!

Back on the road. Stopped in Rhode Island where I always do for gas, then it was a straight shot back home. Of course, a 4 hour trip took eight, but stopping at book stores is always worth it.

It was dark when we got back, but we put on the trees at the front, he got the tour of the house and got settled. We had beef stroganoff and a nice bottle of Washington State wine. I’m not that familiar with the state’s wine, but this Pine and Post bottle of cab sab is very nice. Hung out by the tree with a variety of desserts and Vandermint-flavored coffee, chatting and catching up.

The cats are horrified — first that they were left alone overnight with no bedtime snacks, then that this STRANGER is walking around the place, and he smells of other cats! They stare at him, then flee and hide. They’ll get used to him.

Up early today, back to teaching. I thought Tuesday’s lecture took last night, but it doesn’t seem to be posted, so I’ll go re-post.

Most of the snow’s melted in the yard (and, more importantly, the street). Imp can take a good look at the yard today and we can talk about possibilities. We also plan to head to Sandwich and Plymouth for awhile — he came all this way, he has to see Plymouth Pebble.

But first — my students.


Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Wednesday, July 14, 2010
Waxing Moon
Pluto Retrograde
Neptune Retrograde
Uranus Retrograde
Hot and humid
Bastille Day

Bastille Day, and, let me tell you, I have a list of people from whom I’d like to be “liberated.”

Managed a trip to Costco yesterday to stock up. After four trips up and down three flights of stairs to haul everything up, I was done. Got some reading done in the afternoon, but not much else.

Elsa had a bad day and a bad night. I went off at the vet. Two to three week response times are not acceptable; if he’s not there, I need to know who’s covering for him. I’ve been up ‘round the clock trying to help this very sick little cat, and I feel like I’m all alone out here, vet wise. After the amount of money they’ve charged me for doing everything including breathing (just about), I expect someone to respond with advice. When I say “we’re at a critical stage, I think we’re running out of time”, I expect a timely response with ideas and options. Three weeks ago, I said I wanted to start that new medication. Three weeks. I’m away next week — because, you know, I still have to earn a living, in spite of dealing with Elsa around the clock. I need the medicine NOW, I needed it three weeks ago, because I don’t know if she’ll still be alive when I get back. And I can’t back out of the job. If the vet doesn’t think there’s anything more we can do for her except keep her comfortable until the inevitable, he needs to tell me that. If he doesn’t want to have Elsa as a patient because we don’t have unlimited cash reserves, he needs to tell me that. But this passive-aggressive, non-response, stringing me along is not acceptable. I have been patient I have been pleasant, I have been polite, and it has gotten us nowhere. So it changes.

I told them exactly what I thought of their money grubbing ways in the survey. The guy who started this place is supposed to be an integrative care pioneer. And I do support that one’s skills and talent deserve fair payment. But payment is the MOST important thing to this facility. I was very upfront about the financials from the beginning. If they didn’t want Elsa as a patient because of it, they needed to tell us from the beginning, not string us along for months, trying to get whatever cash they can out of us, and then simply not responding.

Speaking of fair pay, when they wanted to hook Elsa up for 32 hours over four days to an IV at the cost of $1500, I would have had to pay an additional $250 (possibly per day) for the vet tech, double that per day if I left her overnight. I wonder how much of that they actually would pay the tech.

I’ve been working really hard to keep Elsa alive, but with a decent quality of life. I don’t want her tortured — whatever time she’s got left, I want it to be pleasant. And I’m out here without any help from the people who are paid to help me. I need actual information so I can make informed decisions for her. She’s made it pretty clear that she doesn’t think it’s her time yet — but I need more help and more information. If I switch vets again, it’s more trauma and more tests and more chaos, and would it be any different anywhere else? Most of the vet clinics around here are just about the money, and the place I was taking her to on Long Island can’t handle this illness.

Elsa’s a little better again this morning, and seems more worried that I’m so upset than anything else.

I’m taking an extra pottery class this morning to make up for the one I miss by being away next week. I’m glad to be out of the apartment for a few hours (my mom’s taking care of Elsa) because the scumbag landlords are turning off the water AGAIN, in the middle of 90 degree heat. They say it’s from “9-1” — which means we’ll be lucky to get it back by 6 or 7 tonight. And I”m sure I’ll have to put in a call to the buildings department and the health department around 4:30 to even get it turned on by 7.

Sorry to vent, but I am frustrated and in despair.


Saturday, December 19, 2009

Saturday, December 19, 2009
Waxing Moon
About to snow like a mother!

Originally, they predicted 3-6 inches for this area. Now they’re saying 16+ inches, with blizzard conditions.

Yesterday was a mixed bag. The Buildings Dept. got the hot water back on, but who knows how long that will last? Got out the door, to the post office. Thank goodness I only had to mail letters, not buy anything — the line wrapped around the inside of the building twice and spilled into the street. Paid bills. Drove to Costco. THAT was interesting.

Costco is behind a big shopping complex one town over. It has its own parking lot that’s about the same size as the store. The traffic to get to Costco ran for about a mile up the street.

I finally get the parking lot, and I’m looking for a spot and witnessed a case of Karma being an even bigger bitch than I am: This couple, probably in their late 40s or early 50s, were pushing their cart down the aisle in the parking lot. They were right in front of my bumper. Instead of moving to the side so I could pass, they intentionally weaved back and forth in front of the car. I couldn’t back up because there were other cars behind me, and, every time I tried to maneuver around them, they jumped in front of my car, laughing their heads off. I was not amused, but, short of running them over and getting in trouble myself, there wasn’t anything I could do.

Finally, they reach their own car — and they have a flat tire!

Costco was out of my needed ink. That’s the gamble — when something’s in stock, you better buy a lot of it, because it might never be there again. So I got into the car, and, with dread, drove to the local Staples, the one that usually doesn’t have anything I need. I got the last cartridges of the ink I needed that they had in stock — and it was THIRTY FIVE DOLLARS more than at Costco. That’s a huge difference, at least to me.

I could have bought another pair of boots on clearance at DSW for that! 😉

Dashed in to the liquor store. Got another bottle of wine — don’t want to be snowed in without wine — and the tawny port in which I will soak the lemon sponge cake for the Trifle.

Overheard in the Staples parking lot: “It’s the season of peace and good will, you fucking moron!”

Even though the sky was clear, it was really cold, and I could feel the storm — my “pre-storm headache.” It’s not sinus — it’s more like a giant grabs the top of my head and squeezes. Once the storm starts, it goes away, but in the hours leading up to the storm . . .

Elsa moved the decorations on the coffee table so that she can sleep tucked against the greenery basket. Guess she likes to pretend she’s sleeping under a real tree — the artificial tree holds no interest for her. When I had real trees, the first day I had to leave it up without any decorations, because Elsa would climb it. The tree would shake and the little tortoiseshell head would pop out at the top. She was always so proud of herself for climbing the tree. And then I had to get her down.

My shopping is done, the gifts are wrapped, all is good.

The friend I’ve been trying to reach to deliver the last platter FINALLY called back and suggested we get together last night. He said he’d call to set a time — and never did. Good thing I have a strict no-waiting-by-the-phone policy. I understand that things come up, but at least have the respect to call and let me know. Maybe I should rethink whether or not this person actually fits into the “friend” category. There’s just been too much unreliability in the past few months.

Baked the lemon sponge cake for the Trifle (it’s really good — I hope I don’t snack on so much of it that there’s not much left for the Trifle) and an eggnog cheesecake. I had to use brandy extract in the cheesecake, because I couldn’t find real brandy in my cabinet — ironic, since a Mormon friend of mine just had to go out and buy real brandy because she couldn’t get her hands on any extract! I meant to bake maple-walnut-date muffins this morning for breakfast, but just couldn’t face any more baking. They’ll be good tomorrow, when we’re snowed in.

I’ve got to print some photos and send off another couple of cards — must do that immediately — it’s just started to snow. I want to stay tucked in and warm. I look forward to working on the decorating and getting some writing and reading done.


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Friday, December 18, 2009

Friday, December 18, 2009
Waxing Moon
Sunny and cold

Do you realize that we have a Blue Moon on New Year’s Eve? The second full moon to fall within a calendar month? That’s kind of cool.

So, we’re supposed to get 6-12 inches of snow tomorrow and guess what? No hot water. Again. Guess who’s going to call the Buildings Department yet again when they open this morning?

I don’t care WHY there’s no hot water. They are legally obligated to provide hot water 24/7 and they better damn do it. it’s bad enough that they turn off the heat at 9 AM and don’t turn it on again until after 5 PM because “everybody” works from 9-5 (at least 1/3 of the tenants don’t). There’s a reason I live in the 21st century in a first world country, and a big part of that is HOT WATER. Also, I expect to get what I pay for, and hot water is one of the things covered under the lease agreement.

Yesterday, I picked up the final present for my mom. I am officially DONE with the shopping. I ordered a couple of things online for us to enjoy (it was the big free shipping day) — they weren’t have-to’s, but they were there, so . . .

And I bought I pair of Liz Claiborne grey suede half-shoe/half-boot. They’re not exactly what I was looking for in a grey boot, but they look terrific with either pants or dresses AND they are extraordinarily comfortable. Square toe (plenty of room for my long toes), block heels, very cool. On clearance.

Went grocery shopping. Shopped a lot more than I planned. But now, the only thing I have to pick up the day before Christmas is the turkey for Christmas Day. Because there is no way in hell a cracker can fit in the fridge right now, much less a turkey!

I was in one of the aisles when a little kid carrying an oversize candy cane walked up to me and said, “Hi! I”m Abe. Like Lincoln, only I’m shorter.”

That’s one of the funniest things I’ve ever heard in my life. I was howling with laughter. His mom thought it was pretty funny, too, when she caught up with us.

Worked on cards all afternoon. Except for a few addresses I still have to track down, they are DONE. This batch goes out, and, if I have to, I will tromp out in the snow to mail the last few cards. There are a few people where I don’t have current addresses OR emails, so I’m hoping they write me first, so I can write back!

I’m actually looking forward to the snow — provided we have hot water — because I can stay in and finish the decorations.

This morning, I’m going to the post office, I’ll pay a few bills, and then I have to dash to Costco to get ink for the big printer — I have a feeling I’m about to run out, and that’s all I need in the middle of a snow storm.

I look forward to repairing ornaments and writing this afternoon. And filing paperwork to get after the scumbags for continuing to deny us hot water!


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Violet keeps an eye on things

Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Waning Moon
Rainy and mild

I kept thinking yesterday was Tuesday, so I feel like I have the gift of a day. Woo-hoo!

I baked for 9-1/2 hours yesterday. I used a Thumbprint cookie recipe from the 1960’s and it came out PERFECTLY. So the recipes published this year must have shifted proportions, which made them not hold together. After the holiday frenzy, I’ll spread everything out and compare them.

I filled the Thumbprint cookies with three different types of jam — apricot, raspberry, blueberry. Not in the same cookie, don’t worry — I’ve got three different flavors, and I made three batches. I may have to make one more batch just to make sure I have a few extra. I made more molasses spice cookies — Lara, I’m going to scan the recipe and send it to you — and several batches of toll house cookies, AND the miniature gingerbread cakes in the molds — some are Christmas trees and some are gingerbread men.

As I baked, I kept thinking, “Oh, I have to write about that tomorrow” and darned if I can remember what “it” was! Every available space is decorated, so I had to flip over some of those empty milk crates that I meant to take to storage but couldn’t fit in the car, cover them with a board and a cloth, and use them for cooling stations. The new mixer and the new, deep batter bowl are awesome. It made everything so much more efficient and easier. Using three cookie trays worked just fine — the two in the oven were staggered, so I was always prepping one while the others were baking. The good thing about a tiny kitchen is that I can stand in one spot and reach everything (unless I’m storing it on top of the cupboards, in which case I have to stand on a chair).

All in a galley kitchen so small that I have counter space big enough for the mixing bowl, and you can’t stand in front of a cabinet door when you open it. So the next time one fo the spoiled brat bitches on HOUSE HUNTERS whines she “can’t” cook in a galley kitchen and fakes bumping into her significant other, I will hunt her down and smack her silly! I figured that, over the years, I’ve turned out somewhere between 50,000 and 100,000 cookies in various tiny kitchens all over the country, and probably close to 500 cakes and pies. Would I like a huge kitchen? Absolutely! CAN I work in a tiny kitchen? Well, I have for years. These spoiled brats on the show, who are just starting out and expect 5 bedrooms, 4 baths, granite counter tops, steel appliances, etc. for $200,000. My goodness, you can’t even buy a CLOSET around here for that! Studio apartments are usually two or three times that amount.

Maybe I need a break from HGTV! 😉

Anyway, today is Icing Day. I’m going to ice the sugar cookies and the eggnog angels. So, tomorrow will be the pack-and-deliver day. I’ve got all my packing supplies — plates, festive bags, ribbon — and I’m going to make some tags on the computer (I can never find exactly what I want in the store, so I often make them).

I wrote domestic cards through “L” last night, and I’ll push to finish the alphabet tonight. I’m a little late (I like domestic cards out the door by the 10th or 12th), but they’re getting there. I have two packages to mail tomorrow, domestically; I have to figure out what the heck to get my cousin’s son and get THAT out the door — it’ll be late, but it’ll get there, it’s going overseas. I have one more gift to pick up for my Mom, probably on Thursday. And I am DONE. I can set up Ornament Hospital, finish some decorating, and just enjoy the season. I’ve got all the stocking stuffers, I can concentrate on my anthology deadline. And I can have fun with the holiday.

My eye seems to be okay. It’s sore, but not inflamed or any vision problems. Those eye drops I bought in Prague are magic!

Gotta head to Trader Joe’s this morning for cat food (the felines were horrified by their empty cupboard after I fed them the last can), gotta hit Mrs. Green’s for some coffee, and Staples (all in the same direction), then double back to Costco for more butter. So far, I’ve used 16 pounds of butter, 15 pounds of flour, 8 pounds of sugar, 4 pounds of chocolate morsels, and, when I did the math, realized I could paper a football field with parchment. And I’m not quite done yet — I’ve still got a few cakes to make and a Trifle. I’m trying to figure out which liquor to use to soak the spongecake — sherry, port, madeira, brandy?

I’m having a serial dream about a story. Very weird, but interesting. I have to make sure I take notes as soon as I wake up every morning, so that I don’t lose it. I think it could be quite a cool piece.

I have a Toyland display set up — ornaments of children and toys that are too big and heavy for the little tree, but are able to stand on their own. When I came into the ktichen this morning (it’s in the eating area of the kitchen), they were all rearranged and facing different directions! I don’t know if the cats played with them (they’re in a place the cats can’t usually reach) or the Christmas magic touched them and they had a party while we were all asleep.

Or the building is shifting again and we’re all screwed! 😉

Personally, I prefer Option 2.

Gotta run, there are angels to ice and cats to feed!

Maybe one of these days, they’ll fix the boiler, we’ll have hot water for more than five minutes (trouble for nearly a week now), and I won’t have to keep boiling water to wash the dishes. Pain in the —- when you’re baking and washing up as you go. Scumbag landlords. They make cosmetic “improvements” that make the building look like a hootchie joint where we rent by the hour, and skimp on things like the boiler. Typical.


Monday, November 30, 2009

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

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

I hope everyone had a great holiday.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Frustrating day.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Waxing Moon
Pluto Retrograde
Jupiter Retrograde
Uranus Retrograde
Rainy, humid, hot

Yesterday morning absolutely flew past — I got out a bunch of submissions that stacked up (I’m finally getting out the backlog of projects), I got out a bunch of queries, I dealt with some business-y stuff. It was very productive, but definitely a case of “noon aleady?”

I found a great market to pitch an article about a local historical site about which I’m passionate, so I’m getting to work on that, and working on a long-term proposal for an exciting project. The chances of me being chosen are about the same as when pigs fly, but with the way scientists make break-throughs nowadays, maybe the pigs and I will both get the chance!

Made a quick run to Costco, to pick up a few things. I’m taking advantage of the fact that it’s only about a mile from me, because when I move — the nearest Costco is 45 minutes to an hour away, which means I have to be very organized, have lots of lists, and make a day of it — Costco, lunch, return. Thank goodness for insulated food bags, right? Sort of like when I go to Niantic now — it turns into a day trip.

Now, I have the luxury of being able to dash over and pick up one or two things and dash out — provided I don’t get distracted!

Prepared for today’s interviews. Got the bag packed — camera, tape recorder, notebook. I’m going up county to conduct the interviews, working in CT this afternoon, and then going to a meditation session tonight, at the same place I attended the Herbal Hour last night.

Parking was hell, but the facility is terrific, and maybe I’ll even try a yoga class or two. The session was fantastic — there were six of us, and we all instantly connected. Three of us are coming back for the meditation tonight. The workshop leader was fantastic — I definitely want to work with her again. It was great to get out there and meet a bunch of people in very different lines of work — it’s rare that I’m the only person who works in the arts in a room, but, actually, out here in the ‘burbs, it’s more the norm. When you attend workshops in the city, about 70% of those attending will be somehow connected to the arts community. And yet, workshops like this bring us together because of what unites us, not because we’re so different, and we can use our differences as frames of references to help and support each other. So that was all very cool. There was one woman who’s what I call a professional workshop attendee, but she’s very funny.

Not going to get my morning 1K I think, because I have to leave so early to drive up county. I’ve set aside time in the afternoon instead. I don’t usually write much in the afternoon, but today I’m going to have to!

I’m curious about the meditation session tonight — I’ve also been invited to one on Friday at another location. So, we’ll see.

Off to eat a hearty breakfast and then to do my interviews!


Published in: on July 28, 2009 at 6:15 am  Comments (3)  
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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Wednesday, April 29, 2009
Waning Moon
Saturn Retrograde
Pluto Retrograde

Partly sunny and cooler

I didn’t get online until after 2 PM yesterday, so it was kind of pointless to blog. Considering I’d been up since 5:30 AM — well, I was ready for a nap!

I had to get up extra early in order to get the yoga/meditation/morning 1K writing/shower/breakfast and still get out of the house by 7:15 to take my car in for servicing. I’d missed the 15K checkup and am now past 17K, so we went ahead and did the 20K. It took nearly three hours, and, since I couldn’t walk around (more on that later), I brought some work with me and finished the assignment for Confidential Job #1 while I waited. I didn’t bring the Macbook with me, although I could have. But I knew I’d run errands after the car was done, and I didn’t want to leave it in the back of the car in the heat. So I left it home.

Finished up the assignment faster than I expected, so I read a lot of magazines I never normally buy, but that were in the magazine rack at the dealer!

But the car’s all set and ready for a road trip.

Diane, yeah, the Mac is more expensive than the PC. I’ve been eyeing it for over a year, and finally had the resources to invest upfront. I figured that the PC cost me between $17-25K in lost income over the years I’ve owned it, because Dell sold me a lemon and refused to honor the service contract or do anything about it, despite numerous complaints. If I can keep up the pace I’ve started with this Mac, which saves me nearly four hours per day on the simple fact that it runs properly, I figure it will pay for itself in about four months. That’s outside of the income just to pay bills. It was hard to put together the necessary upfront investment, but it will pay off in the long run. I had to give up some other things in order to do this. But it will be worth it.

After the car was serviced, I stopped at Costco to pick up a couple of things I forgot last week –and yes, I ONLY picked up those two items, I was good — and then went grocery shopping. Tuesday and Wednesday have the best prices and freshest items, so that’s when I try to shop.

Came home, typed up the assignment for Confidential Job #1, caught up on some email and Twitter, shot off some questions to people, and got back to work.

Monday was extremely productive — in addition to the usual business stuff and errands I had to do, including a massive trip to the post office — I wrote two articles, typed up a couple of chapters, and did a couple of job pitches. I’m starting from scratch on the Fearless Ink brochure, too – designing new logos, the works. All in about the third of the time it took me on the PC.

The cats are fascinated when I take the laptop to the kitchen and work on the table. Iris and Violet sit like little grey bookends on each side and watch the words march across the screen.

Managed to get some more work done on the final proof of ASSUMPTION OF RIGHT. Going slowly, I’m catching far more. I don’t know why that’s such a revelation. It’s perfectly logical.

On the negative side, the scumbag landlords are cutting down perfectly healthy, beautiful trees on the property — even though they promised the tenants they wouldn’t. Not only is it upsetting on many levels, it’s also the opposite of eco-friendly. We should be planting more trees, not cutting down trees that are providing shelter and oxygen and beauty. I talked to them and was reassured that only one more tree will be cut. Of course, they think I’m looking to buy the Brooklyn Bridge, too.

Further on the negative side, as we prepared dinner Monday night, a Pyrex bowl fell out of the cupboard, hit the back of my leg and shattered. I have a heck of a bruise, but it didn’t break the skin. And it was hell to clean up all the broken glass. We have to be especially conscientious about it because of the cats. In spite of the care we took, I forgot that night, wandered into the kitchen to make tea while barefoot — and wound up with a shard of glass in the bottom of my foot. I got it out, re-washed the kitchen floor two more times to make sure NOTHING was left behind, sterilized and wrapped the foot. It’s okay, I can walk on it. I just can’t walk a lot on it.

I’m having trouble finding wonton wrappers in order to make the various kinds of ravioli I plan to prepare this week. I don’t have the counter space to roll out dough, or I’d consider making my own. I have a feeling I’ll head back to the large Asian market in White Plains — they MUST have the wrappers in bulk. Even phyllo dough only comes in packages of 8 around here, and that’s just not enough. Yeah, I checked Costco — no luck there, either.

Last night, I fixed mac and cheese with crabmeat –a suggestion from GOURMET magazine. It was pretty darned good.

Okay, is it my imagination or are the wanna-bes’ questions getting stupider? I mean, go ahead and ask questions, that’s how one learns, but for crying out loud, show a little initiative and do a little research first. It’s the laziness that sets my teeth on edge. Two examples in one day gets my goat. First, on a colleague’s site, there was a question she answered nicely that I would have told chicklet to go to the library and do her homework, THEN ask me. Second, I answered someone’s question on a board and the person emailed me asking me to write “an example.” I TOLD you the steps to create it – I am NOT writing the letter for you. Use your brain, you lazy ass! Because that’s what it was – a roundabout way of getting me to do this person’s work. Uh, no. I get PAID to write business letters. I ANSWERED your questions. Now, it’s up to you to apply the information.

I got six chapters proofed on ASSUMPTION OF RIGHT in the time it would have taken me to proof one on the other computer. I caught some big errors. Always good to catch that before it goes out!

I had three choices of covers for DIXIE DUST RUMORS and made my choice. It’s kind of cool. It has a lot to do with the book while not screaming YA, which was unexpected. I kind of wonder if it should be more YA, but I’ll trust the publisher. I’m getting more excited about the book every day. As soon as the cover is finalized, you better believe I’ll post it.

And, someday, my other publisher will let me know the new release date for OLD-FASHIONED DETECTIVE WORK. As soon as I’ve got one, I’m going to create a postcard for it – on the Mac, something I couldn’t do on the PC.

Apple has the most awesome customer service. I’ve used them twice so far, because I couldn’t figure out how to do stuff. I got a real person without being put on hold both times, the reps were REALLY nice, and they taught me how to do what I needed in less than 5 minutes. The Apple Experience rocks!

Decent morning’s writing session so far. Lots to do today.

Back to the page.


Published in: on April 29, 2009 at 5:51 am  Comments (5)  
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Sunday, April 26, 2009

Sunday, April 26, 2009
Waxing Moon
Saturn Retrograde
Pluto Retrograde
Sunny and HOT!

It’s supposed to be 90 degrees today. Ick!

So, yesterday I had the best day because I only worked on the Mac. Today, I had to turn on the PC, and it was a nightmare. Two hours to boot up, three computer crashes and two keyboard failures all before 9 AM. I can’t wait until I’ve pulled everything I need off that hunk of junk and only work on the Mac.

Yesterday morning, what usually takes me two hours to accomplish took a mere 40 minutes — because I’m on a computer that actually works. Today, I’m back in nightmare land (I’m typing this on the Mac on my lap while waiting for the PC to pretend to boot up for the fourth time now).

I went back to the Apple store to invest in Office. I have to be able to work in Word, both on some of my own stuff and on material that’s sent for editing. It was worth the price. I also got questions answered about some stuff I need the programs to do, and I knew the computer has the ability, but don’t know how to ask it to do it. Some of the questions the techs didn’t know, either, so at one point, I had three techs with me and we figured it out. It was like going on a technological treasure hunt together. It was fun.

Popped over to Target to pick up a few things. Headed to Costco. Got a card and brought back my first haul. It was all stuff we use all the time. I sat down and compared expenses. I want to make sure it’s actually worth the price, and I also want to make sure I don’t buy stuff just because it’s there. So far, on my first day, I saved $117, including the price of the card. Not bad.

My only indulgence as a case of Izze water (I love Izze water and it’s hard to find around here) and an enormous lemon blueberry coffee cake.

Today, I have to catch up on practicalities, run a few more errands, and get some writing done. I had a great writing session this morning though.

It will be a nightmare, pulling everything off the old computer and moving all the floppy files to flash drives. In the end, it will be worth it, but every time I have to turn on the old computer, I should probably take a tranquilizer.

Back to the page.


Published in: on April 26, 2009 at 8:05 am  Comments (2)  
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Thursday, November 13, 2008

Thursday, November 13, 2008
Full Moon
Neptune Retrograde
Cloudy and cold

Don’t you just love it when unpublished writers tell you what you’re doing wrong in running your writing business? Geez louise, people, if I wasn’t doing something right, I’d still be in a job I hate, just like the ones who tell me in the most strident tones what I’m doing wrong and why I’ll never “make it.” Make what, exactly? A living? Already doing that, although it’s still paycheck to paycheck. Make the fame roster? Made the choice not to join that ages ago, when I saw what fame did to so many actors with whom I’ve worked. There’s always room for improvement, but I’m on the right path.

I’m not saying that any comment by an unpublished writer is irrelevant. That, of course, is not true. Readers have perfectly valid comments about what does and does not work, content-wise (and the loyal ones stick by me even when I try something that doesn’t work, bless them). However, those outside the biz (be it writing or theatre or whatever) really can’t speak to the nuts and bolts of what it’s like to live inside it until they’ve been there, any more than I can speak to the nuts and bolts of living as a doctor or an astronaut or some profession in which I haven’t immersed myself in order to write about it! 😉

And telling me that what I do is “wrong” when I pay my bills with it and the speaker can’t even get a letter to the editor published . . .time for a big eye roll, rude as it is.

I had an interesting adventure yesterday. I went to Costco for the first time in my life. My friend has a card, and we went together, since I’d never been and needed binders. I wound up buying all kinds of interesting things: a case of 48 cans of cat food, lots and lots of chicken soup, an 800-sheet ream of paper, my binders, enormous jugs of cranberry juice, crackers – I stuck to my budget, but I could have bought a lot more! I have limited storage space where I currently live, but when I move – I just may join a place like that and buy in bulk. For certain items, it makes a lot of sense. Because let’s face it, you can never have too much toilet paper or too many cans of cat food.

I’m still on that knife-edge, not sure if I’m getting sick or not. It’s the achy, fatigued, scratchy-everything, but don’t really feel that bad phase, and it’s boring the heck out of me.

Lost most of the afternoon and evening writing sessions due to computer problems. I need to get back on track today, because I have some questions to get out to interviewees, and I’ll be writing a guest blog post for Writing the Cyber Highway in the near future. AND, I’ll be on Kim Smith’s radio show on Sunday, November 16 – I’m pretty sure it’s at 4 PM EST, 3 PM CST. I’ll post times and urls tomorrow.

Back to the day.


Untitled Helena Francis Mystery – 30,947 words out of 50,000 (Nano goal)

Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
30 / 50

Untitled Helena Francis Mystery – 30,947 words out of est. 75,000 (total goal)

Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
30 / 75

Devon’s Bookstore:

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Hex Breaker
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Visit the site for the Jain Lazarus adventures.

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If you’ve ever wondered whether or not you could survive National Novel Writing Month, this is the handbook for you! Ideas on preparations, setting goals, overcoming blocks, pushing yourself, tips for each day of the process, and ideas for going beyond, this handbook by veteran Nano-er Devon Ellington will help you survive. Best of all, it’s free! Download it here.
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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:

Published in: on November 13, 2008 at 8:48 am  Comments (16)  
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