Tues. Dec. 1, 2020: Die For Your Employer Day 195 — Re-release Day and Trying to Keep It Together

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Last Day of Full Moon

Uranus Retrograde

Cloudy and cold/storm aftermath

One of my favorite short pieces ever, “Just Jump In and Fly” – which is a combination of comedy, romance, adventure, fantasy, and Yuletide myths, has re-released digitally. There’s a post with an excerpt and buy links over on A Biblio Paradise.

I wrote the piece I wanted to read and couldn’t find.

I hope everyone had a lovely Thanksgiving and long weekend. Ours was quiet, and at home, as it should be in a pandemic, and, in some ways, less stressful than all the driving and cooking usually involved.

We started getting the decorations up. We had to rearrange the living room, because the cat condo is in the corner the tree usually occupied, and won’t fit anywhere else. So it’s in the middle of the side window, next to my big reading chair, which is kind of nice. Some of the ornaments are up. There’s plenty more to do.

The iron candlestands are wrapped, the fireplace mantel is done with the fabric and swags and our carolers. The ribbons are up around the doors and windows, and some of the lights are up around the windows.

In the apartments, both growing up in Rye and then later in NYC, everything only fit one way. Living in a house, even though we’ve outgrown this house, it’s nice to be able to do things differently each year, as feels right.

The stress of months of trying to survive a pandemic amidst too many who don’t give a damn is taking a toll, and there was some family strife over the weekend. I found a way to use it, though, as the basis for a new novel that somehow needs to be fit around everything else that needs to get written over the coming months. I wrote 5K on it on Sunday, and another 500+ words on it yesterday, and will write more on it today.

The packages are all packed and sent off. I’m still trying to finish S-Z on the holiday cards (I aim to finish it by tonight).

I received wonderful artwork from a friend of mine as a gift. I’m so delighted with it! I love what he’s doing with his art!

While I’m trying to keep up my spirits, my emotions are all over the place. I feel old and tired, and find myself often slipping into despair. I have mixed feelings about the upcoming surgery next week: on the one hand, I want to get it over with; on the other hand, with the way the virus cases are rising, how can it possibly happen? I’m worried that the car won’t pass inspection, and that I’ll have another repair I can’t afford. I’m worried I can’t get everything together for the move in spring. I’m worried we won’t survive until spring.

One day at a time, and as careful as possible. That’s all I can do. My shopping and packing and mailing are pretty much done – I don’t need to go to the post office or any stores other than grocery stores until next year.

The paella cookbook is so great, I ordered my own copy, and also ordered a paella pan. I tried to get it from Sur La Table, a company I used to love, but trying to checkout was such a nightmare, I gave up and bought it from Williams Sonoma instead. WS had the pan I really wanted (other than SLT, who was sold out, so I would have had to compromise), at a price that suited me, and the whole checkout was smooth as could be.

Put in another Chewy order, because those monsters eat a lot. It already shipped.

Went in to my client’s office yesterday and got some work done all on my own, which was nice. No interruptions, everything I needed, got it all done.

Having trouble with the remote on the TV/DVD – and, of course, RCA has been sold and resold and split up and I’m being sent from pillar to post because heaven forbid they continue to support their products, and a general “universal remote” won’t work on this. I’m so sick of these companies trying to force me to buy new products all the time. I take care of my stuff.

We didn’t lose power in last night’s storm, thank goodness. But I’d turned off the computer and we didn’t watch anything, just in case. Nor did I bake the cake or make turkey pot pie with the last of the leftovers (I made turkey stroganoff instead).

Today is about writing and baking and client work. “Lockesley Hall” and “Too Much Mistletoe” need to be finished by Friday and signed off on – it would be good if “Tumble” was finished by then, too. The Susanna Centlivre play needs to be finished this coming week, too, and the Isabella Goodwin play finished next week.

So much for planning properly so I don’t have end of year deadlines!

I will try to do better next year. The pandemic threw everything for a loop, and there’s a lot to clear off before January 1 that got backed up, and a lot to get done early next year.

It all seems overwhelming right now, but just one foot at a time. Just one word at a time. That’s all I can do.

Peace, friends.

Published in: on December 1, 2020 at 7:34 am  Comments Off on Tues. Dec. 1, 2020: Die For Your Employer Day 195 — Re-release Day and Trying to Keep It Together  
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Fri. Nov. 27, 2020: Die For Your Employer Day 191 — Black Friday Will Live Up To Its Name This Year

image courtesy of Open Clipart Vectors via Pixabay.com

Friday, November 27, 2020

Waxing Moon

Neptune and Uranus Retrograde

Rainy and mild

My thoughts and best wishes are with all the retail workers who are being forced to work today with the Covidiots, because this country prizes greed over human life every time. How many more people have to die so big box stores can make some more money?

I hope everyone who celebrates Thanksgiving had a good one yesterday.

I don’t celebrate it as building on the pilgrim myth – more evangelical white people causing destruction and death, not much has changed in 400 years. I use it as a day of gratitude. I also try to do more to support Native American organizations, such as the Wōpanãak Language Reclamation Project right here on Cape Cod. As a writer, who believes in the power of language, reclaiming and teaching the language of the Wampanoag tribe matters.

I’ll have a post up on Comfort and Contradiction with suggestions for leftovers soon.

Wednesday was stressful. I was at my client’s early, hoping to get in a lot of work before anyone else got in. But, of course, the client herself came in early. My other colleague came in, too. There was only just over an hour where all three of us overlapped, but I find it discomfiting, even when we’re all masked. It’s just too small a space for me to be comfortable, especially since they’re out and about so much.

But I got through it, got social media posts scheduled through Christmas Day, and was glad to get out. I took extra time decontaminating.

Remote chat was fun.

I was wiped out for the rest of the day, so I relaxed. The stress of the past months is catching up to me. I just need to keep my head down and be careful.

I keep thinking, “Oh, I’ll just run into store x for y” and then I remind myself that I don’t really need to do it THIS year. Do the minimum, be smart, so we have future years of celebrations.

Biden’s Thanksgiving address was good, but, again, too much religion in it. I don’t want to hear about his “God.” And look at what Amy Covid Barrett did, the deciding vote that houses of worship can’t be closed due to COVID. Well, then, they need to pay for everyone who gets infected there. And, since it’s a case the Supreme Court shouldn’t have accepted anyway, due to separation of Church & State, it’s time to tax the churches.

I woke up at 1:27 on Thanksgiving morning, fretting, and couldn’t get back to sleep. I finally gave up around 4:30 and started my day.

I did what I usually do in times of stress. I worked on GAMBIT COLONY.

I cleared away and rearranged some stuff in preparation for this weekend’s decorating.

Then, I made the stuffing and got the turkey into the oven before 9 AM. Checked in with some people to make sure they were okay. Wrote domestic holiday cards. Managed to get through “R” before I had to clear off the table so we could eat.

The turkey came out well, along with most of the sides and the gravy. The peas were a little crispy because I misjudged how much liquid they needed, and they ran out of it while I was focused on the gravy.

We ate a little after 1, and it was lovely.

The turkey was so tender the meat fell off the bones easily, so stripping it down and putting things away didn’t take long. Made stock from the bones and tried to stay awake for the afternoon and into the evening.

Zoom dessert party with extended family was fun. Although, I have to admit, the store-bought pie was a bit of a disappointment after the homecooked meal.

Once the stock was drained, cooled, put into jars and put away, it was a struggle to stay awake. I went to bed pretty early.

image courtesy of pixabay.com

Slept through the night, and was up a little before 5, which is now my usual time. Getting the blogs done, then packing up the domestic packages and finishing the cards before rearranging the furniture so we can put up the tree (with just lights) before the serious decorating starts this weekend. I’d rather be doing what the individual in the hammock is doing today, but no such luck.

I might have to make another run to the chocolatier for a couple more things. I’d rather not go anywhere today – I make it a point not to shop on Black Friday. I don’t like what it’s become, and this year, it should be banned, unless it’s online. But if I’m going to have to get something, to make the bigger schedule work, I’d rather it was my independent chocolatier.

A big storm is coming in; I’m trying to decide if I take everything to the post office tomorrow morning, or later next week. I’d rather get it out, but we’ll see how the weekend shakes out.

We have to put the tree in a different spot this year because of the giant cat condo that can’t go anywhere else. It means moving some furniture in the living room and finding a place to stash it for the next six weeks, but we’ll figure it out.

In between all of that, I have to get “Lockesley Hall” finished and proofed, and the first draft of the Susanna Centlivre play finished.

Have a great weekend, and I’ll catch up with you next week.

Thurs. Nov. 12, 2020: Die For Your Employer Day 176 — Hanging On

image courtesy of Thomas B. via pixabay.com

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Dark Moon

Neptune, Uranus, and Mars Retrograde

Foggy and mild

One calendar says today is new moon and Mars direct; another says it’s tomorrow. I will apologize for yesterday’s belief it’s today, and go with tomorrow, since it’s Friday the 13th anyway.

There’s a new post on Gratitude and Growth about the garden. The front lawn is a carpet of leaves. The lawn guy is coming soon; every time a neighbor turns on a leaf blower, I am more determined than ever not to rake. Although the dumbass running his leaf blower who woke me at 3:30 this morning, IN THE RAIN, angered me.

Yesterday was chaotic. I went in to my client’s. I knew she had a medical procedure the day before, so didn’t expect her in. Going through the emailsto see what needed to be done, I found out that the other colleague in the office has been in the hospital. I felt bad that I didn’t know and offer to help out. But if no one tells me anything, I can’t know.

Anyway, BOTH of them came in, so there were too many people in too small a space, but we caught up on everything (and were masked) and got everything handled.

I was glad to get out of there.

Stopped at CVS to get the prescription to prep for the next surgery, and, of course, it wasn’t there. I will check with the doctor’s office next week to see what’s going on, and if they decided to cancel the surgery due to surging virus cases, but haven’t told me yet. This happened last time, too. It took three calls from the doctor’s office before CVS could bother to fill the prescription.

We had 2495 new cases in the past 24 hours. More than we had in spring. But the mask mandate isn’t enforced, and nothing is shut down. Instead, people are encouraged to pack more into the daylight hours in too close quarters.

Tomorrow, I have to fight to keep my insurance next year. That should be fun. Not. That’s one reason I hope I can slide the surgery in this December; I might not have insurance next year, at least at the beginning of it.

Tried a new-to-me Ina Garten recipe that worked well last night. Have to make a dash to the liquor store for a bottle of marsala (and more wine) so I can make Eggplant-Mushroom Marsala (from Moosewood) tonight.

I can’t believe it’s Thanksgiving in two weeks.

The Sociopath is still sociopathing, and too many people pander to him. He needs to be charged with the murders of everyone dying from the virus he’s “bored” with.

Lots of writing needs to get done today, and I’m looking forward to this morning’s online Meditation.

I’m just trying to stay alive until January 20.

Published in: on November 12, 2020 at 7:06 am  Comments Off on Thurs. Nov. 12, 2020: Die For Your Employer Day 176 — Hanging On  
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Tues. Dec. 3, 2019: Catching Up on the Dailies

Tuesday, December 3, 2019
Waxing Moon
Uranus Retrograde
Nasty weather

It’s been nearly a week since I shared my daily life. And quite a week it’s been.

Tuesday night, we decided not to go to Maine for the big 60-people-for-dinner-at-the-rented-hall. Between plumbing issues and furnace issues and car issues and traffic issues and my back issues, it didn’t make sense.

They were disappointed, but they understood.

Wednesday morning, the plumber showed up early. Put a new faucet in the kitchen sink, new valves, worked on the toilet in the downstairs bathroom. I scrubbed out under the sink (where it had also leaked) and left it open, so it could dry

By the time he left, it would have been too late to get on the road anyway, and the traffic was dreadful. So was the weather. I was grateful to be at home. Popped out to get a couple of things we needed to cook the meal at home.

Managed to get out the polished version of “Pier-less Crime” out and the company is excited about it.

Watched ROMAN HOLIDAY with Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck. It’s been years since I saw it, and I’d forgotten a lot of it.

Sketched out some story ideas (in words, not actual sketches). Figured out more of THE QUALITY OF LIGHT, which is the play about Canaletto’s sisters.

Up early on Thursday morning. Made the stuffing, got the turkey in the oven. Wondered if maybe I went overboard buying a 20 lb. turkey.

For some reason, the meal prep upset Charlotte. She was very agitated. I wonder if she was moved after a large family meal more than once?

We had a high wind advisory with warnings of power outages, so I put it in a little early, to make sure the oven was on and we could actually have the meal. We had cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, peas with it. Tiramisu for dessert. We ate about a half hour or so earlier than normal (in Maine, we usually sit down around 1 PM).

The meal was excellent, absolutely perfect. The weather outside howled and was frightful.

I felt like I did dishes for hours, though. My own damn fault, because we used some of our favorite old pieces, all of which have to be hand-washed. Which is just fine.

Make stock out of the bones, and then turkey soup. We also have plenty of leftovers. Yum, yum!

Too tired to watch anything on Thanksgiving night. Read. My back was bothering me. Everyone on our little street was away for the holiday. It was blissfully quiet.

Up early Friday morning. Put in the Chewy order. That was the extent of my Black Friday shopping. Put away the washed dishes. Two runs to the dump, one for household garbage and one for leaves.

Got the decorations out of the Christmas Closet and sorted them. Got the tree down and put it up, just the tree and the lights. Tied in place, because we don’t know how Willa and Charlotte will react to it.

Switched out the fabric on the various surfaces to Winter Holiday fabric, everywhere but in my office. My office is where everything we don’t know where to put while we’re decorating goes, so it will be the last to be decorated.

Put up the musical instrument fabric over the fireplace. Put up the red ribbons around the doors and windows (we hang cards from the ribbons around the doors and the ribbons look pretty around the windows).

Got the Advent table set up with the wreath, four silver candle stands, and the centerpiece this year is the Broadway snow globe.

Believe it or not, that took all day.

In my NYC apartment, everything only fit one way. Here in the house, we have the option to do things differently from year to year, which is fun.

Fish and chips for dinner, which is always fun to make and eat.

Re-watched A ROOM WITH A VIEW on Friday night. Much more critical of it this time around, although the locations and the camerawork are gorgeous.

Up early again on Saturday morning. Paid some bills. Had to go to Home Depot for something I couldn’t get elsewhere, and was so disgusted I left without buying anything. I hate Home Depot. I don’t like to spend money there anyway because the owner is a rightwing lunatic, so I avoid it unless I have no other choice.

Went to AC Moore. Will be sad when they close after the holidays. I like them as an alternative to Michael’s. Found a few things I needed. Went to Trader Joe’s for a few things, and to Christmas Tree Shops, where I ended up spending more than I planned, but I would have done so over the course of the month, so might as well get it all done in one go.

Went to put gas in the car — and couldn’t get the tank flap unlocked. I still had a half a tank of gas, so no reason to panic yet, but I was upset. I can’t afford another car repair. Headed to Country Gardens to get the plain wreath for the front door, so I could decorate it. Then the hatch wouldn’t open. I was furious. That was just fixed a few months ago. I’m tired of them fixing stuff and then, a few months down the line, it needs to be fixed again.

Driving away, suddenly the tank latch worked. So I turned around, headed back to the gas station, and filled up, just in case. The hatch started working again, too. At no point in any of this did any warning lights come on.

Decorated the wreath for the front door. Finished decorating the fireplace mantel. We put the carolers up there again this year, against the backdrop of the musical instrument fabric. The blue poinsettia garland hangs below the carolers. We have gold bells hanging center top, and, above that, by the ceiling, holly and ivy and gold ribbon and a gold musical instrument swag.

Unpacked a few other boxes of ornaments, but it took a long time and not a lot seemed to get done.

Got four loads of laundry done, though, and outlined two novels. Decided an idea that was going to be a Thanksgiving story would really be a Solstice/Christmas/New Year story.

Worked on the book for review.

Instead of cooking what I planned to for dinner, Twitter pals raving about Turkey leftover sandwiches inspired me to make gigantic dinner sandwiches with turkey, stuffing, and cranberry. Delicious!

Read and made notes on a few projects.

Up early on Sunday. Worked on THE QUALITY OF LIGHT for a few hours, before I started back in on the decorating.

The Santa collection was set up on the Behemoth. Ornaments top the ribbons on the doors and windows. Pine cones will be added later. More ornamentation was added to the mantel. Most of the tree is decorated, but that usually is a work in progress until it comes down. But enough is on so that I could put on the tree skirt. The kitchen tree and the kitchen nutcracker are done, and I unpacked and washed the holiday mugs. Which means I have to pack away the same number of day-to-day mugs, so there’s room in the cabinet.

Turkey pot pie for dinner, a little reading and writing in the night. I was exhausted and my back hurt, so I went to bed early.

The weather turned on Sunday — rain, sleet, then back to rain by Monday morning.

Up early on Monday, morning routine and some writing. Getting ahead on blog posts. Writing a letter to fight for insurance again. It shouldn’t cost me several hundred dollars and begging in order to get onto insurance every year. Romney-care DOES NOT WORK. We need a single-payer system.

I’m updating my freelance contract, and will update the website to reflect that. Rates are going up for 2020. When the locals balk, I just add more remote clients, who understand that skill and quality are worth the money. I have never lived anywhere that skills are so disregarded as they are here. The only thing respected is coming in rich.

Working on the release information, media kit, excerpts, promotion, etc. for GRAVE REACH, which releases on Thursday the 5th. I’m very excited about this book. I achieved what I set out to do with it. I learned a lot from this book, and that will feed in to the rest of the books in the series.

Working on THE QUALITY OF LIGHT, and also getting back into the revisions for THE BALTHAZAAR TREASURE. Worked on the book for review. I hope to have the review out either later today or tomorrow, latest.

Was onsite with a client yesterday, getting into the holiday madness. Onsite again today. Finally got back to meditation group after missing the last two weeks. It was much-needed.

The sink is working just fine, but the toilet in the downstairs bathroom is still leaking, so the landlord is going to have to deal with it.

Still lots of decorating to do, especially in my office.

I’m enjoying the Advent calendars, though.

Need to start writing cards this week. The overseas cards need to go out on Friday.

One step at a time, one word at a time, one page at a time.

Mon. Nov. 25, 2019: Gratitude – The Holiday #upbeatauthors

still-life-3698130_1920
image courtesy of suju via pixabay.com

Monday, November 25, 2019
Dark Moon
Neptune Retrograde
Uranus Retrograde
Mercury Retrograde

 

This Thursday is American Thanksgiving, which, to me, is the ultimate Day of Gratitude.

I don’t dismiss the concerns from communities who have a problem with celebrating a holiday that, for them, was the precursor to land theft and genocide.

What I hope is that we can turn it into a day of gratitude between family, chosen family, friends, and inclusive community.

Instead of denying that our ancestors did terrible things to each other (and too many of our fellow humans continue to do the same), we take the day to imagine our ideal society, a place of friendship and tolerance and progress and education and art and science and community. When we express gratitude for each other, and find ways to work on getting closer to our ideal, instead of moving away from it. We work to do better, to BE better than those before us.

Our traditional Thanksgiving (which I’ve attended for more than forty years) takes place in a rented VFW hall. Dinner is anywhere from 37 to 60 people. Everyone cooks; everyone helps clean up. It’s extended family and any friends people want to bring. There’s always room for one more at the table. Which is the way it should be.

I’ve missed a few over the years, due to distance (when I lived on the West Coast) or illness. But most years, I rearrange my life so I can attend. I mash the enormous vats of potatoes with a four-foot tall masher. Some years, I’ve had to stand on a step stool to get enough leverage.

Way back when this dinner started, it was agreed that there would be no arguments in that space on that day. I used to have a box right inside the front door marked “Ego Drop. Leave Your Ego Here.”

We don’t need it anymore. Even when people are in the midst of long-running disagreements, we suspend them for the day.

We remember that, in spite of everything, we are grateful that we have each other.

How will you celebrate gratitude this week?

 

Published in: on November 25, 2019 at 5:54 am  Comments (4)  
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Tues. Nov. 27, 2018: Busy Season is Here

Tuesday, November 27, 2018
Waning Moon
Neptune DIRECT (as of Saturday)
Uranus Retrograde
Mercury Retrograde

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving last week.

We drove to Maine, leaving early on Wednesday. We managed to thread the needle through the Big Dig tunnel, avoiding the bulk of the traffic, and getting through it only moments before a breakdown in the tunnel caused problems.

Our preferred hotel in Ogunquit was closed for the holiday, so we found another one, in Wells. It was fine. It had a kitchenette, which always helps, but the space was cramped, and the shower only had hot water for three minutes.

Hit my favorite thrift shop in York, and got some adorable decorations to add to the decoration family.

We got our favorite pizza from our favorite pizza joint in the area, Da Napoli. On the way back, I ran into a snow squall. From clear to whiteout in seconds. It was like someone poured a giant vat of sugar over the road.

Got some writing done, on a couple of different projects. Tried to watch TV, but it was dreadful. The news has a single sound byte and then a half a dozen commercials. There isn’t any actual reporting going on. The shows don’t even have scenes any more, just moments. But at least Comcast doesn’t run everything up in Maine.

Thursday was the coldest in years, although clear. 8 degrees, but it felt like in the minus numbers. We drove up to Gray. We always rent out the American Legion Hall. This year, we had 63 for dinner. I mashed, I believe it was, 108 pounds of white potatoes, and 40 pounds of sweet potatoes. Lots of people I hadn’t seen in years were there, and it was fun to catch up.

I felt bad for my mom. This year, she was the oldest one at the dinner (at 94). All her contemporaries have died. It was difficult for her.

We ate, we cleaned up (everyone helps with everything), we went back to the motel to recover. It was fun, but exhausting. For an introvert, that’s a lot of people.

Friday morning, we hit the road early. Stopped at Stonewall Kitchen in York to stock up on our favorite things, and then headed home. There was a lot of traffic, but it was moving. We made another stop at Market Basket when we came over the bridge, to stock up, and were home a little after noon.

The cats were glad to see us, but they’d coped just fine while we were gone.

Unpacked, and switched out the harvest fabric to the holiday fabric on various surfaces. I felt like I was coming down with something, and hoped I was wrong.

Saturday, I had a sore throat, but pushed ahead. We took 300 gallons of leaves to the dump, then raked up another 330 gallons. We got the tree in the stand, and the lights on it. I hate putting on the lights, but when we took them off last year, I took the time to pack them differently and mark them, and that made all the difference this year.

While raking, sorted out the scenes for the holiday story I want to include in the newsletter this year. It will be short — 3, maybe 4 scenes, inspired by the fireplace at the rest area on the border between New Hampshire and Maine on I-95.

Cleared off one of the bureaus, to set up the Santa collection, and wound up polishing the whole piece. It looks wonderful, so it was worth it. But the Santas didn’t look right there, so they’re back on the behemoth. For now, the carolers are on the bureau and the herd of deer are on the mantel, but it might all move around.

By Sunday, I was sick, sick, sick. Curled up and read all day. Made chicken soup from scratch. Read a wonderful book called THE STRINGS OF MURDER by Oscar de Muriel, set in Victorian Edinburgh.

Yesterday, I was too sick to work onsite with my client. I probably could have pushed through, but didn’t want to sneeze and cough all over my client and colleagues. Dropping off library books and picking stuff up at CVS was about all I could handle.

Today, I’ll be onsite with my client, prepping for her holiday sales. Busy weeks coming up, with the holidays, and all. I need to get the overseas cards written.

I am disgusted by the administration’s policy firing on asylum seekers and threatening to close the border — all while Russia is making a move in the Crimea. I am sick and tired of no one DOING anything about the corruption in this administration.

I need to get back to the page. BALTHAZAAR is going along well, and I need to make sure that stays on schedule. In the meantime, I need to tear apart DAVY JONES DHARMA and fix it, so that it stay on its new release date schedule.

And I have a review to write.

I watched a documentary about Canaletto, one of my favorite painters, and got an idea to write a play about his sisters. Not sure if that will be pitched to 365 Women or elsewhere. But I think that will be the play after the anti-gun violence play is done.

In the meantime, trying to really get well. I’m better, but still get tired quickly.

Onward, and back to the page.

Published in: on November 27, 2018 at 6:49 am  Comments Off on Tues. Nov. 27, 2018: Busy Season is Here  
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Thurs. Nov. 8, 2018: Talking and Writing

Thursday, November 08, 2018
Waxing Moon
Neptune Retrograde
Uranus Retrograde
Venus Retrograde
Sunny and pleasant

Worked onsite with a client yesterday, trying to juggle several things. Came home a bit tired; didn’t get much done, although I’m getting back into the groove with DAVY JONES DHARMA. I need to sit with the outline for a few hours this afternoon and tweak it, and streamline a bit. It’s getting a little too higgeldy=piggeldy.

Working on next week’s Ink-Dipped Advice post about choosing the language that fits your work or your client’s work best. Came out of a conversation I had yesterday with my client about how the previous marketing person was condescending and wanted to use platforms and language that didn’t suit the business.

Finished watching the third season of the Australian drama JANET KING. Second season is still my favorite, although it’s always well done.

Things are going well on the Women Write Change forum.

Got some sad news about a friend, who got a devastating diagnosis.

Had a lovely coffee with someone I met via a networking event a few months ago. We went to Three Fins Coffee in Dennis, which is a really cool place, and had a great conversation on a wide range of topics. It’s terrific to talk to someone who loves what they do, who has a wide frame of reference, is engaged in the world, and with whom one can actually have conversations!

Spending this afternoon digging in to both DAVY JONES DHARMA and PREVENTATIVE MEASURES, and a conversation about a potential one-and-done gig in Boston at the end of next week.

Because of the mass shooting in CA yesterday, I also want to get some more work done on the anti-gun violence play.

I can’t believe Thanksgiving is almost here, and then the Yuletide Holiday Season!

Although, I admit, I’m looking forward to decorating for the holidays! It’s such fun and so festive.

It will be Lucy’s first Christmas with us. Tessa’s really good about the decorations, so it will be interesting to see how Lucy fares with all the stuff.

Back to the page.

Published in: on November 8, 2018 at 11:15 am  Comments Off on Thurs. Nov. 8, 2018: Talking and Writing  
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Tues. Nov. 28, 2017: Getting Back on Track

Tuesday, November 28, 2017
Waxing Moon
Uranus Retrograde

Quite the busy holiday weekend. And yet, it feels like I got very little done.

We didn’t go to Maine for the holiday, like we usually do. Usually, the first few days of Thanksgiving week, I’m finishing my Nano word count, cooking up a storm of desserts and other things. Then, we usually drive up on Wednesday, making our favorite stops. I bring up the dinner and dessert for twelve I prepared at home, and that’s what I serve those who set up the Hall that’s always rented for Thanksgiving on Wednesday night. Thursday, I can usually get a bit of writing done in the morning, then help with the food prep at the hall (mashing vats of potatoes is my speciality), help with the clean-up, and preparing the snack for Thursday night. Because we have anywhere from 37 to 64 in the hall for the actual meal. And Friday, we head back while everyone else runs around shopping.

Not this year, because there’s too much post-op care after my mom’s surgery, and she still can’t fit into a shoe.

My mom had her doctor’s appointment on Wednesday morning. He’s worried about her accelerated heart rate and is changing her medication. I took her home, got her settled, and spent a few hours on site with a client.

Then, home, and ready to dig in for the weekend.

Thursday morning, I was up early. The turkey was stuffed and in the oven by 7:30 in the morning. I read, and got some reading done, checking on the turkey and preparing the other dishes. We ate around 3. Maple-cranberry glazed turkey, my own stuffing recipe, mashed potatoes, my own carrot-parsnip in mushroom gravy, peas. Apple pie for dessert.

My mother wasn’t feeling well, with bouts of dizziness from her medication. So, all of the cooking, the set-up, and the clean-up was on me. I put away the leftovers, took apart the turkey. I’d gotten a bit overzealous with the turkey — over 22 pounds, and just for the two of us. We’ve got a good bit of leftovers. I then boiled down the bones to make stock. Once the stock was done, I added onion, celery, carrots, herbs, garlic, etc. and some turkey meat and made turkey soup. Once that cooled, I put everything in jars and labelled it.

Basically, I was in the kitchen for about 13 hours.

But it was an outstanding meal.

Friday, I was up early. I got a few things done around the house, and I emptied the Christmas closet and stacked the boxes by category in the back room.

I had to take my mom to get her blood pressure checked at the firehouse, and then we dumped a stack of books in the book drop at the library, and picked up her new medication. Then, we headed to Country Gardens, where I got the wreath I’ll decorate for the door, a small tree for the barrel in the front yard, and a cyclamen.

Home, and got the laundry going. Then, I ironed all the holiday fabric, took off the Thanksgiving fabric from all the surfaces that were covered, and replaced them with the Christmas/Yule fabric. Stripped the mantel and the hearth, wrapped the iron candle stands in gold ribbon, set up the Advent Table. Put up the musical fabric over the fireplace, set up the garland, the gold bells, and the caroler collection on the top, and the herd of deer on the bottom. Got some of the Advent table done.

That took all damn day.

Watched a rather pointless documentary on Stonehenge and did some reading.

Saturday morning, up early, outlined the next section of the Lavinia Fontana play. Changed the beds, vaccuumed, moved things. Hauled the big tree down. Got it into the stand (worst stand ever). Put the tree together. Got the lights on. Even though I tested them before I put them on, once they were on, half the strand at the top didn’t work. Took them off. Tested them again. They worked. Put them on. Now they didn’t. Went to the store to get a replacement strand. Got them home. Tested them. Three quarters of the strand worked; one quarter didn’t. Went back to the store. Swapped them out. This strand worked. Got them on the tree, and it all worked.

Lost two hours on the damn lights.

Unpacked a lot of the ornaments. Got some of the windows decorated. Finished the Advent Table (since Sunday was the First of Advent). But didn’t get the tree done. Didn’t even get the ornaments on it.

We’re rearranging things this year, and a lot of it is trying something, deciding that’s not what we want and changing it.

Honestly, it was easier in the small apartment where everything only fit one way!

But I do enjoy the decorating process.

I was tired that night, though. Too tired to do much. I did get the Norfolk pine planted in the barrel. But the neighbors are doing yard work and I am not. I am doing the inside first.

I couldn’t find the recipe I wanted, so I invented on. Hello, chocolate espresso spice cake. It turned out well, but I think I want to tweak some of the proportions and make it better.

We had power fluctuations on Saturday. Power kept going on and off in the evening and all night. Good thing it happened AFTER the cake was done!

Sunday, I gave myself the morning off to read and play with the cats.

Then, I had to do some work for one of my clients. I was behind, and we were meeting yesterday to finalize some photos for the rough of the media kit and the brochure.

We also did a photo shoot in the cemetery for the cover of “Miss Winston Apologizes”, since everything we’ve come up with so far isn’t quite right. Hopefully, what we came up with will now work.

Didn’t sleep well Sunday night into Monday. I’m dreading when Mercury goes retrograde next week.

Managed to get some good work done yesterday morning on SERENE AND DETERMINED.

Had to help my client untangle computer issues most of the day yesterday. How much do you want to bet there will be more today? Scary when I’m the most IT-savvy person in any room! 😉

Busy week – I feel like I’m falling behind, so I’ll have to add in extra writing sessions, probably late at night.

And so it goes . . .

Published in: on November 28, 2017 at 2:32 am  Comments Off on Tues. Nov. 28, 2017: Getting Back on Track  
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Nano Prep: Oct. 26: Word Count

The type of book you write determines your word count. Romance novels and many mysteries often come in between 75,000 and 90,000 words, while literary fiction and fantasy hover around 100,000. Some category romances are now down to either 50,000 or 60,000. Do some research within your genre and figure out a rough number.

If this is your first novel, try to stay in the 100k ballpark. It will make it an easier sell when you get to that point.

Take your number and divide it by the number of days you plan to work. That will tell you your daily quota. Your quota is the number of words you need to hit every day in order to complete the work on time.

Carolyn See, in her wonderful book MAKING A LITERARY LIFE, states that you should write 1000 words a day, 5 days a week, for the rest of your life. That’s a good goal. It’s only four pages a day, which adds up quickly, gives you a steady writing pace, builds your stamina, and keeps you in the flow of your manuscript. It also allows you to take off two days a week (such as weekends). I prefer writing 6 days/week most days, taking at least one day off or sometimes having a “floating” day off.

If I know I need more than one day off – I adjust my daily word count to reflect that.

If you’re doing Nano, the goal is only 50,000 words in 30 days, which means you only have to write 1667 per day to meet the goal. I prefer to frontload Nano, writing 2500 words per day. That way, I complete my goal by November 20 and don’t have to stress out during times such as American Thanksgiving. Also, by getting ahead, I leave myself room in case life gets in the way.

If you’ve got a book you figure will come in at 100K, and you want to finish it in three months, figure 5 working days per week x 12 weeks, which is 60 writing days. Divide 100K by 60 and you have 1666 words/per day, which is just over 6 pages. Similar to Nano.

If you figure roughly 250 words per page, you can figure a page count along with the word count.

There will be days when you don’t want to. Show up at the page and complete your quota anyway. There will be days when the writing flows and you write more than your daily quota. Good. Bank ‘em, you’ll need them, because something will happen during your writing days to throw you off track.

Don’t stop because it’s hard. The hard days are the most important ones to get through. Those are the days you lean on your craft rather than your art. That’s why a solid foundation in craft is so important.

Every book has its own internal rhythm. However, too often, inexperienced writers confuse “resistance” with “rhythm”. Writing takes work. Books don’t write themselves; writers write them. There will be days where you flow and days were you struggle. The days you struggle and do it anyway are vital to survival as a writer.

Published in: on October 26, 2015 at 5:00 am  Comments (2)  
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Monday, Dec. 2, 2013: Adventures in Maine

Monday, December 2, 2013
New Moon
Jupiter Retrograde
Sleety and cold

Don’t forget to sign up for the “Organize Your Life” Workshop on Sat. December 7. A few hours on Saturday afternoon, and your writing life is sorted out for 2014! The techniques will serve you well beyond the class and the year. Information here.

We haven’t had a good sit-down for quite awhile, and that’s because I haven’t been around.

Monday night, during the 11 PM news, it became clear that Wednesday was going to be a stormy, difficult travel day. So, we stayed up until 3 AM baking lemon cupcakes and preparing beef stroganoff and putting together everything else we needed to take to Maine. We caught a few hours’ of sleep, called Maine at 8 AM and asked if we could come up a day early. The answer was a resounding “yes”, so I did as much work as possible, and we were on the road by 11 AM.

The drive wasn’t bad — a little testy around Boston, but, otherwise, traffic wasn’t bad and roads smooth. We made a couple of favorite stops up in Kittery and York, but made decent time, and arrived near sunset a little after 4 PM.

We were staying at my great-uncle’s house — a place we’ve visited since the mid-1970s. Many memories tied up in that house. But my great-uncle was moved to a nursing home a few months ago, so the house is mostly empty. Before that, he wasn’t able to do much, especially not cook. In other words, in addition to bringing up all the food we expected to need for the week, we also brought up pots and pans, and, from my writing bag, I had my wooden spoons, can opener, and wine opener.

We relaxed on Tuesday night and went to bed early. I slept like someone knocked me unconscious.

Up early Wednesday — and it was a miserable, stormy day. We were so glad not to be on the road. We hunkered down in the little house. Maine can be spooky, with the dark and the fog and the silhouettes of trees. There’s a reason a lot of horror and thriller writers live in Maine! There’s no internet access there, so I got as much done as I could, then hopped over to the library in the early afternoon, set up there, did what I needed to do online, and came home.

My job on the big Thanksgiving holiday is to make Wednesday’s dinner for the family members who work all day setting up the Hall for the holiday feast. Hence the stroganoff. The stove in the house is AWFUL — a very old electric thing. I was glad I’d done the cooking ahead of time on my good gas stove. It took over 40 minutes to heat the meal up. And no, it couldn’t go in the microwave, it would have tasted disgusting. But we had the meal and the wonderful Portuguese bread and the dessert I made, so it was all good, not to mention the chance to sit around and talk at the meal.

The Big Day consisted of writing in the morning, and then going over to the Hall to set up. We have so many people for dinner that we rent the Legion Hall every year. Everyone tosses in a few bucks for the rental and the food. I help set up, and am in charge of the mashed potatoes and the sweet potatoes. We’re taking vats with 20-30 pounds of potatoes in each, mashed with a four-foot tall masher. Not for the faint of heart.

We had 53 people for dinner this year, of all ages. The tables are in a “U” formation, and there’s the dinner buffet set up on one side, and the dessert buffet on the other. Great food, good company, no egos or drama. The rules are, if you show up, you treat everyone with kindness and respect. Those rules are always followed.

After the dinner, the clean-up crew moves into the massive kitchen and starts washing and drying the dishes. Yes, I help with that, too. I’m on the drying team. Dishes and pans from the Hall are washed, dried, returned to their shelves; personal pans and platters are washed, dried, and set out on the counter for pick up. We all split the leftovers and then go home in a turkey coma.

Shortly after getting back to the house, my cousin (well, not sure how the permutation works, but I call her my cousin) came over and we drove into Portland to visit my great uncle. He’s in an amazing rehab/nursing facility — brightly painted walls, an outstanding, enthusiastic and very kind staff, and it smells fresh without the scent of decay or chemicals.

My great-uncle is now in a wheelchair. His memory’s fading, but he recognized us still, and lit up when he saw us. We took him down to the very cheerful dining room so he could have his dinner, and met some of the friends he’s made at the facility. It’s amazing how they all light up the minute you treat them as an individual, with kindness and dignity. Some of them are fading, mentally, but their bodies are still going strong. Many of them are still sharp as tacks, but the body hasn’t kept up. But everyone was worth spending time and few words with.

My cousin goes every day. By this point, she knows most of the staff and the other residents. She’s practically an additional staff member. She’s also an amazing human being, and I admire her enormously. A lot of it, though, is just talking to the residents like people, which is something all of us did, asking questions, listening to their stories (many of their anecdotes are hilarious — a lot of these were quite the hell-raisers, back in the day, in the best possible way).

We got my great-uncle settled for the night after dinner, and went back to the house, and packed for the trip home. My cousin feels a lot of guilt about my great-uncle being in the facility. However, it’s as good as it gets for that kind of place, and so much better than any other facility of its type I’ve ever seen. He gets excellent, round-the-clock care, which he needs. He also has interaction with other people, more so than when he was home alone, getting checked on several times a day by the family. The family simply can’t take care of him at home, because he needs round-the-clock care, and hiring three shifts/day of in-home care would still mean numerous trips to the ER whenever something went wrong — as it does, unfortunately, quite frequently at this stage in his 96 year old life. He truly has a better quality of care in the facility, and family members visit him every day. In this particular case, it was the right choice.

This is probably the last time we will be in the house. It holds many wonderful memories. There were still some things there from my grandmother (she died four years ago), which my cousin gave me — little mementoes that wouldn’t mean anything to anyone else but me, because they hold specific memories.

It’s an emotional threshhold on which to stand.

We drove back on Friday. Very smooth drive. Everyone was far too busy shopping to be on the road except around the malls. Since I don’t shop on Black Friday on principle, I was happy to have clear roads.

I don’t believe stores should open on Thanksgiving itself. I think it’s disgusting. I also believe that stores that encourage brawls — and, let’s face it, the brawls happen in the same stores every year, such as WalMart, because that’s the kind of individual those stores attract — should forfeit their right to open on both Thanksgiving and the following Black Friday, if there is an altercation in the store. The individuals involved in the altercations should be banned from the site for 18 months, so they can’t come back the following year and behave badly again.

Exhausted when we got home Friday, but got some work done Friday afternoon, and more work done on Saturday, although a lot of things went to hell without even the handbasket. I managed, however, to upload all the topics for next week’s class. All I have to do next Saturday is show up and teach. Caught up Friday night with some episodes I’d missed earlier in the week, but what is the use of On-Demand when the show is only available for three days after broadcast? WTF?

By Sunday, I felt like I’d been run over by a steamroller. I got some work done, fretted a lot, tried to rest. It was the first of advent. We managed to get the tree into the stand (the stand SUCKS and is so poorly designed, don’t even get me started). The lights are on, some ornaments are on it, the festive fabric is mostly in place, and some of the decorations are up. It will be a work-in-progress for the upcoming weeks.

I re-watched THE ITALIAN JOB last night (such fun), THE TOWN (I like it better every time I see it), and sobbed my way through ANGELS IN AMERICA. It was a brilliant piece of theatre and translated into film wonderfully.

I’m exhausted and spent, but I have work to do this morning, then I’m helping set up NMLC’s tree at the JFK Library for the Spectacle of the Trees event, and then, who knows? Maybe I’ll get to bed early.

Right now, I have to try and get some work done, and hustle more work for the coming weeks.

Devon

Mon. Nov. 28: Ewwwww! Creepy-Crawly Chaos

Monday, November 28, 2011
Waxing Moon
Uranus Retrograde
Neptune Retrograde
Pluto Retrograde
Jupiter Retrograde
Mercury Retrograde
Cloudy and mild

It’s been quite a week!

Wednesday morning, our departure was delayed due to weather. We didn’t get on the road until nearly 10 AM. Fortunately, we missed the worst of the rain and didn’t hit snow until we were past Portland. Not a bad drive, and we managed a few stops on the way at “usual” places on our route. Eight inches of snow where we were staying. Talk about a winter wonderland!

My great uncle is very frail. He’s walking with a cane, thanks to a nasty spill a few weeks ago. He’ll be 95 next month, so, all told, he’s doing pretty well, and he was glad to see us.

The lasagna pan barely fit into the oven, but it did, and the lasagna was a bit hit, as were the salad and cake.

Up early on Thanksgiving. Managed to write 3K of a long short story that’s been percolating for nearly ten years now. It’s finally coming together, and I’m very excited about it.

Thanksgiving Dinner was great — good food, good company. Only 42 people this year, a little smaller than some of the previous years. But good fun. Lots of interesting social dynamics, in spite of everyone sticking to the “leave your egos and arguments at the door” rule. Came away with a stuffed belly and a head equally stuffed with ideas.

Quiet evening, with some visiting, and some packing. Up early on Friday, back on the road by 8. Stopped in Ongonquit for breakfast at Bessie’s. I’ve wanted to eat there for years, but this was the first time I figured out where to park. It was excellent.

Also stopped at a great thrift store at the York/Kittery line and got some wonderful deals, including a pair of metal deer that were obviously hand-crafted and bolted in a unique manner — I’ll have to photograph them at some point.

Home in the afternoon, unpacking, sorting out the cats. Exhausted.

Saturday, worked on the short story, ran around and did some errands. Started cleaning and straightening the place for the holidays. Wondered why the six-foot eggplant in the living rooms was so dusty — and realized it was MOVING! BUGS! The entire plant was infested. The other plants nearby were infested. The curtains were infested. Things were crawling up the walls.

Took the plant out, disposed of it responsibly and sterilized the pot. Washed the other plants to try to save them. Stripped the room and scrubbed it, sterilized it top to toe, vacuumed and laundered the curtains, washed the walls, vacuumed everything remotely vacuum-able, scrubbed everything scrubbable. Stripped down and scrubbed myself in the shower with castile soap (ow) and immediately washed all my clothes in hot water. It took hours. Sprinkled mint everywhere.

Tessa and the twins brawled. There was literally fur flying, but the twins have stopped picking on her.

The next morning, the mint worked and overcame anything left in the windows, but I found some other plants infested in two other rooms. We’ve lost all the eggplants (which were still giving us eggplants) and the green peppers. One of the strawberries was infested, and all the foxgloves.

Headed to Country Gardens. They told me it was spider mites, and what I thought were bites all over my hands, arms, and torso was an allergic reaction to their sticky secretions. Ginger (an anti-inflammatory) offset that. Anyway, they gave me a spray for the plants. I soaked whatever was salvageable, wiped off the dead things once the leaves were dry, and have those plants in quarantine. And scrubbed everything again.

The spray worked. And now I know how to deal with it the next time it happens.

Fourteen hours on it yesterday. The house looks like a tornado hit it. But it’s clean enough to use as an operating room.

I’m sure spider mites exist in NYC, but they tend to choke on the bus fumes, like the rest of us. I never had them in the apartment. I’d never seen the larvae, and didn’t know what it was. It looked like dust. Until it hatched and started moving. Ewwww. And they had to work fast, because we checked all the plants on Wednesday morning and they were fine.

Also managed to put together the Christmas tree and put up the Advent Table (it was the First of Advent yesterday). Deocration boxes are now also all over the place.

If I’m lucky, I’ll get it cleaned up by Christmas. 😦

Good morning writing session. Headed off-Cape for a meeting this morning, then back to try to get some yard work done (the neighbors spent all weekend making their lawns pristine and have ALL their decorations up — I feel so disorganized) and comment on the short story assignment for my class.

I’d love to have a mini-melt-down, but, honesty, there’s just no time.

Devon
Today’s word count: 1357
Total word count: 92,360

Published in: on November 28, 2011 at 9:45 am  Comments (4)  
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Friday, November 26, 2010


I have a lot of leaves to rake

Friday, November 26, 2010
Waning Moon
Uranus Retrograde
Neptune Retrograde
Rainy and cold

I could not get my act together and get out of the house on Wednesday. I was stumbling around totally incoherently. But we finally got on the road and headed for Maine. Not a bad ride, although going through the “Big Dig” tunnels under Boston was a little scary. But we did it, and hit the portions of road that were familiar.

We made many of our usual stops — a few places in Kittery, Stonewall Kitchen to stock up on jams and sauces (and their Coastal Morning Coffee is really good), a thrift shop in York (where I found some unique, hand-made bud vases and a fish-shaped copper mold. We wanted to have lunch at the Stolen Menu Cafe in York, one of our favorite places, but it’s only serving breakfast this week, and we missed out. I did A LOT of shopping in NH at the liquor store (no taxes on liquor), and, in the attached gift shop, found a lovely rosemary and mint soap. I’m extremely partial to rosemary soap and it’s hard to find. In addition to loving the smell, it’s a wonderful antiseptic, so if you have a cut, it helps fight/heal infection.

We wound up in Ongonquit, at the Bread and Roses Cafe — although it’s closed for the season, it’s open this week. I got a phenomenal apple turnover, and my mom had the best elephant ear she’s ever had. The coffee was from CarpeDiem, and is some of the best coffee I ever had. What a treat! Again, here are examples of independent artisans doing something better than any mass-produced place could come up with, and at fair prices. I also bought eclairs to take home. Have you ever seen anything like these?

We got to Maine as late as we usually do when we leave from New York! But the family was glad to see us. We unpacked, distributed the little gifties, and I started heating up the dinner. The stove is a very old electric burner one, so it took for damn ever, but, eventually, we got it warm. The beef stroganoff was a hit, as was the lemon cake.

My great-uncle has lost most of his hearing, so you have to pretend you’re standing on an Elizabethan stage projecting to the rafters to have a conversation. But then, he will be 94 this year, and is still living on his own and getting around pretty well, so I’d say he’s doing all right.

I was supposed to go over to visit my cousins, hang out, and help with the onions, but I was so tired I was afraid I’d pass out face down in the bowl. I was in bed by 8 PM. And I slept straight through until 6.

I still felt a little wonky in the morning, despite all the sleep, but had a good breakfast. I spent the morning polishing my lectures for next week’s SECONDHAND SPIRITS workshop — I hope some of you will join me. I’m getting really excited about it.

We headed over to the hall around noon. I jumped into the kitchen, as I usually do, to help with the mashed potatoes, the sweet potatoes, and whatever I could to set up. The potato masher is four feet long, so that should give you an idea of how many potatoes we cook!

Dinner was great — somewhere between 50 and 60 people for dinner, everyone in a good mood and happy to see each other. Most of us only get to see each other once a year, although now that I’m closer, I hope I can get up more often. And I invited everyone to visit. They were joking that they’d charter a bus and all come down — only maybe they weren’t joking! 😉 Hey, as long as I have enough advance notice to stock the cupboards, I’m used to feeding actors, I can feed them, and we can all hang out on the deck.

I didn’t stay until the bitter end of clean-up, which I usually do, because we needed to get back on the road. We left around 2:30. It was a surprisingly smooth ride, with the Big Dig a little scary again, but from Boston down to the Cape, I was surprised by the depth of traffic. It all moved well, so it wasn’t a problem; there was just a lot of it.

Got back around 6:30, unloaded the car. The cats were exactly where we left them — I don’t know if they moved in the whole 48 hours, poor things. They were very upset. We spent the evening trying to calm them down. I think I have to take Iris to the vet next week, poor little thing.

Watched a public television special on European Christmas traditions, which was lovely. Had a nice glass of wine, ate those enormous eclairs (and got whipped cream all over everything). Went to bed at a reasonable hour.

Up early this morning, at my usual time (at least it wasn’t 4 AM, finally) — yoga, meditation, fed the cats, made the coffee, to my desk. Tried to write a bit on the Willowspring Grove novel, but I’m feeling very disconnected from it. I think I’ll have to type in some of what I’ve handwritten to get back into its flow.

On today’s agenda is more work on the lectures for next week, blog posts I owe Savvy Authors, and getting started on an article I landed to write for WOMEN ON WRITING that’s due in less than a month. Since I have to interview experts for it, I have to get those questions out ASAP to give them adequate time. I also need to unpack a lot more, especially in the kitchen, run a few loads of dishes through the dishwasher and laundry through the washer/dryer. I’d like to vaccum and scrub the bathrooms down, too.

I need to call the Natural History Museum to confirm Saturday and call Mattress World to order my split box.

It’s raw and rainy, so I can’t do any yard work (but I like the sound of the rain against the house, and feeling all cozy inside). I don’t shop on Black Friday — I’m not that nuts and I don’t wait in line and scramble to pay people for merchandise. You really want my business? Serve me champagne and h’ors d’oeuvres! Don’t think I’ll stand in line all night to dash in and save a few bucks. Just not worth it. I can find individual artisans who create unique gifts at fair prices and don’t make me jump through hoops to part me from my money.

I notice on my bills that, although MA’s nickname is “Taxachussetts”, the taxes are less than in NY. On my cell phone bill alone, I’m saving $4/month in taxes, which will add up to $48 over the course of a year.

That’s a lot of cat treats.

The Hounds of the Baskervilles were very busy baying at something early this morning. The cats were not amused. And the Westie across the street is sitting in the window, waiting patiently all day for his person to come home.

Onward.

Devon

Published in: on November 26, 2010 at 8:11 am  Comments (4)  
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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.

Devon