Monday, December 27, 2010

The Winner!!

I'm pleased to announce the winner of Diana Gabaldon's anniversary edition of OUTLANDER.

I wrote down everyone's name, one, two or three times if they were a follower or had a note up on Twitter etc., and then assigned each one a number. I used the Random Generator to choose a number and #37 came up.

I consulted my master list and #37 was assigned to....

drumroll please....

DEBBY!!

I know from Debby's blog how much she likes to read and I'm pretty sure she's going to love this book.

So Debby, if you're out there in blog land, please send me your address via email and I'll have your book flying its way to you ASAP. Unless you want to wait until October, in which case I can ask Diana to sign it for you and then I'll send it. Your choice.

Thanks for playing everyone! More contests in the new year as I hit my 500th post.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Ho Ho Hope for the Holidays


So today everyone is running around with last minute errands and cooking and shopping. Nerves are a tad frayed on all fronts. So this is Christmas, to quote John Lennon.

I zipped over to the local grocery store to grab the last few items I need, and it too was filled with short-tempered, rushed shoppers banging their carts into each other, snatching up items and flinging them in their carts as the "festive" music droned on in the background (which only serves to increase everyone's frustration levels, if you ask me. But no one does.)

So there was this man - quite short and incongruously dressed in a Indiana Jones fedora and floor-length raincoat which billowed out behind him - who was "helping" his wife. It became apparent that he was a bully most of the time, judging from the way he browbeat her. I ignored them, but at one point, as happens in a grocery store, they blocked my way in an aisle - their cart was directly in front of me and a movable display case was beside it. So I just waited, as I'm wont to do, and stood several feet behind their cart as they perused the shelf and she consulted her list. I knew they'd move in a minute so I stood quietly, waiting. He suddenly turned, looked at me, and with a sarcastic flourish (if a flourish can be called sarcastic) flung the display case about ten feet along the aisle and then passed beside me and muttered under his breath, "There you go. Happy?!"

I was shocked. I was going about my business, not bothering anyone and certainly not him. I didn't deserve that.

I normally don't respond to this sort of thing. However, I am now a woman of a certain age and I no longer take crap from anyone. Not even grocery store bullies. Especially grocery store bullies.

So even though I was quite steamed, I passed directly in front of him, looked him in the eye (under the brim of his enormous hat) and said in my best, soothing mama voice, "You know, there was really no need to be rude to me just now."

He said, "Well, the last woman was rude to me!"

And again, I said calmly, "But I wasn't. So you shouldn't take it out on me. It's holiday time, remember? We're supposed to be joyful, not mean to each other."

"Uh, huh. Well, MERRY Christmas," he replied.

I honestly couldn't tell if he was being sarcastic. I chose to believe otherwise and warmly and sincerely wished him and his wife the same. I think he's the type of person who is tightly wound most of the time. Or maybe he was just having a bad day. I could have told him to go stuff a turkey where the sun don't shine, but where would that have gotten me? Or the next person to make this guy mad?

The choices we make when we respond to others has a ripple effect.

The woman before him made him angry, and then he responded in kind to me. So I thought, nope, your nasty, negative ripple stops right here with me, Buster. I'm going to absorb all that negative energy and turn it around.

I think it must have worked because he came up behind me in the cashier's line and asked where I found my box of 18 eggs. In the egg section, I told him. Third shelf, on the far right.

"Well, I didn't see them there!" And off he stomped.

"Don't take the first box. They're covered in chicken shit!" I called back to him.

It's a close to an apology as he's capable of, I think. Maybe I got through to him. Maybe he'll be nicer to his wife, or the next person waiting behind him or the guy who cuts in front of him in traffic.

I just know that my ripples are going to be joyful, happy ones, undisturbed by the odd stone lobbed my way.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

With friends like these


Who needs diets?

Every December, my friend (known here as Kathy-Down-The-Road) goes into what can only be called a baking frenzy.*

*Definition of frenzy: a state or period of uncontrolled excitement or wild behaviour.

To wit:

So far this season, she has dropped off not one, not two, but SIX boxes/tins of baked goods to our family alone. In each tin, there are twenty-four (TWENTY-FOUR) different kinds of cookies, each one its own little work of art. Chocolate and cranberry biscotti, Italian almond cookies, ginger cookies (with candied, powdered and fresh ginger) and brownies in a heart shape, blondies, toffee bars, and caramels and and and...even thumbprint cookies with raspberry jam (beware those who dip into Eldest's tin because she licked one of them. She says it was to taste the jam to determine what kind it was, but it does act as a very effective deterrent to would-be thieves, no? She wasn't born yesterday, that one.)

And it's not just our family who benefits from the sugared fruits of her labours. She distributes these to all and sundry.

Amazing. What a lovely person you are, KDTR! We've been friends now for what, coming up twenty-three years? She is the bestest friend and neighbour ever. And I'm not just saying because I'm chowing down on one of the pyramid-shaped coconut macaroons dipped in dark chocolate...


Don't forget, it's not too late to enter the giveaway contest HERE to win a free copy of Diana Gabaldon's OUTLANDER. Read an excerpt if you like (top right side bar of my blog) but make sure you leave a comment on that post for a chance to win! I will personally mail you a copy anywhere in the world. Even Australia. Or Hawaii. Or Toronto.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Freezing Fog

A freezing fog crept in during the night

and caressed each tree with icy fingers

it trapped the light

and held it

until the midday sun rose high

and released its grip

the mist

swirled into the shadows

and settled

by mutual agreement
because the sun
always trumps fog
so there

Don't forget about the book giveway.

If you want to win a free copy of Diana Gabaldon's OUTLANDER, enter here. I'll mail the winner a copy, anywhere in the world!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

A Present for You

Say, what is this?

Why, it's a carton of books. Which book, I hear you ask?

Why, it's OUTLANDER by Diana Gabaldon!

I love this book, I mean, love this book. I read it years ago, and have since read the entire series which is still going strong. Random House has reissued the first novel in the series in this paperback format, and they sent me a carton to give away as I please. I've given out copies to friends and strangers alike. I've left them on shopping mall benches and in restaurants with a note that reads "Enjoy!" And now...

Because it's Christmas.

Because I love you guys.

Because I love this storyteller (who also happens to be a friend.)

I'd like to send a copy to one of you.

I will choose a name at random, and I will mail it to you after the holidays.

If you would like to win a free copy, all you have to do is answer the following question in the comments section.

If you had to choose a favourite colour from the following list, which would you choose?

a) Blue
b) Red
c) Yellow
d) Green
e) Plaid

If you become a follower, or let me know you're already a follower, you get two chances to win.

If you link to this contest on your blog or twitter, you get three chances.*

You have until Christmas Day to enter. Good luck! I will choose a winner on Boxing Dayish.

If you are one of those people who like to have a peek at their presents before Christmas, look over to the right, at the top in the sidebar, and you can have a boo at the first chapter of OUTLANDER.

Beware. Once you start, you won't be able to stop. Don't say I didn't warn you.

* Added Note: YES, it counts if you mention it on FACEBOOK. Thanks Julie!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Spiders are like little pieces of death wrapped in scary

My friend Julie introduced me to this blog called Hyperbole And A Half.

Check out this one on spiders (from whence the title of this blog post was taken.) If you're easily offended by f-bombs, don't go there and you probably won't want to visit Canada, because most of us are pretty relaxed with this word. I can't speak for every Canuck, but my circle of friends and colleagues certainly are. I think it's the hockey.

So if, like me, you are terrified of spiders despite all the logic your brain and your husband lobs at you, you will find this blog post funny. My husband tries to make me feel guilty by explaining that not only am I being silly for being afraid, I have now passed this "irrational" fear on to my daughters and I should be ashamed of myself, as a mother.

Bah, I said, the last time he chastised me. And then I directed him HERE where a recent article suggests a genetic component to our fear of spiders. That women are born this way, in order to protect their young. Ha. I posted this article on my fridge for a while to drive home my point, but the spider photo gave me the willies.

I can't count on my husband to kill any eight-legged interlopers in the house either (and they almost always choose our upstairs bathroom) because putting aside his view that spiders are not to be feared and should actually be protected because they're beneficial, his arachnid modus operandi goes like this:

He approaches very slowly, usually without benefit of his glasses, while holding a tissue like an old woman on a cruise ship waving goodbye to her cronies on the dock. The whole time he's approaching the spider, he's looking at me and delivering the same lecture about how silly I am. When he finally gets to the creature, he'll make a half-hearted swipe. One of two things always happens.

1. He misses the spider entirely. This results in it rappelling down the wall and skittering behind the toilet, bent on revenge which I know is going to happen at 2 a.m., in the dark, while I'm alone, with my underwear around my ankles rendering me unable to run. Or I'll forget about the underpants, run, fall, knock myself out and will lie there helpless until it crawls in my ear and makes babies.

2. He captures it but doesn't crush it in the tissue. He'll then shake it into the toilet bowl where it skitters on the floating tissue and escapes before we can flush.

This is why I keep a vacuum cleaner with a long attachment near the upstairs bathroom at all times. Over my lifetime I've probably vacuumed more spiders than dust or pet hair. (Probably? Okay, definitely.)

More recently, my car was the scene of a spider carnage. As I was leaning in to unpack the trunk of my car alongside my sister at her house in Toronto, I noticed movement at the corner of my eye. Literally, at the corner of my eye. A large wolf spider, a stowaway, was inching its way past my face. I screamed, and its legs shot straight out as it continued its descent, making it seem even more demonic. My sister got all huffy because I'd screamed, then she saw it and went batshit crazy. She had her shoe off in a micro-second screaming "KILL IT KILL IT" so I gave it a whack and splattered it, and all ten thousand of its orange babies, all over my trunk.

In case you want a visual, just Google what a wolf spider looks like. (I can't even bring myself to post a photo.) They're big. Especially when they're filled with spider caviar. They're described as "robust and agile hunters with good eyesight." Just reading that makes me feel woozy.

If you prefer, there's one on dogs.

This one on her dogs which had me doubled over laughing. And there were no spiders in it. Not one.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Pre-Christmas Blitz

"Blitz" seems like an odd choice of words to use in conjunction with Christmas, seeing as it means "an intensive attack" but that's really what I'm all about these days. Has anyone noticed my absence?

Shopping, wrapping, mailing packages and cards and in the midst of it all, shoveling the driveway of heavy snow, schlepping "kids" to and fro, tidying the house (a losing battle if ever there was one) and baking. Well, I have shortbreads, chocolate truffles and our usual family standards to get to, but by and by. Not today.

Right now, I've got B.B. King's fabulous Christmas collection playing, the lights on the tree are twinkling, my husband is due home any minute from his trip to Arizona and I am going to help myself to a big piece of panettone along with a cup of chai tea, so all is right with the world.

How about you? Anyone finished their Christmas shopping yet?

Monday, December 6, 2010

One for the road

If you have ever been tempted to have one more glass of wine, or just a smidgen of Bailey's after dinner, and then drive home because you feel fairly confident you are sober enough to drive, well have a look at this piece from yesterday's New York Times Magazine.

Here's what can happen
: You attend a small dinner party at your brother's house with your 80-year-old mother, your visiting 74-year-old second cousin from Holland and assorted other family members. As per family custom, you enjoy hors d'oeuvres and several glasses of wine over a lovely meal full of conversation and laughter. Around 9 o'clock, after a couple of small cups of coffee...read the rest here

Friday, December 3, 2010

Thursday, December 2, 2010

So You Want To Write A Novel

This is funny because although it may look like an exaggeration, sadly, for a lot of people, it is not. I'm guessing agents will find this particularly high-larious.

Sorry, ROFL-worthy.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Chicken Tikka Masala

It's a wonderful thing to raise a son who likes to cook. I really feel like I've done a proper job as a mother when I've raised a boy can both cook and do his own laundry.

The other night, after he stumbled out of the basement and scared the living bejeezus out of me (because he actually lives in his own apartment downtown and occasionally stops over but doesn't actually tell me in advance) he suggested we make some Indian food for dinner. Now, either you love Indian food or you hate it. Most people think "ugh, curry, I hate curry" when they hear Indian food, but when it's done right, it is aromatic and delicious and often does not even contain any curry.

We decided to make Chicken Tikka Masala, based on a recipe he found online but we made our own modifications. It was awesome. If you don't like it too spicy, cut the cayenne pepper by half, although this had just enough spice to notice, a bit of a spreading warmth in your belly, but not enough to make you tear up or run for a glass of water. Serve it with warm naan bread and fragrant rice, like jasmine or basmati.

We doubled the recipe because, a) we have big appetites and b) we wanted enough for lunches the following day. It reheats very well and I think tasted even better after the flavours had a chance to marry. (Marry? Lunch was an awesome honeymoon, man.)

gratuitous flower shot to break up monotony of too much print

Chicken Tikka Masala (serves 4)

Marinade:

1 cup plain yogurt
1 TBSP fresh lemon juice (we used a bit more)
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 TBSP grated fresh ginger root
1 tsp salt or to taste
3 boneless chicken breasts, cut into bite sized pieces
skewers for bbq'ing chicken

Sauce:
1 TBSP butter (I added olive oil to keep from burning)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 jalapeno pepper, minced
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp paprika
1 tsp salt or to taste
1 (8 oz.) can tomato sauce (Molisana strained tomatoes in a jar. The best.)
1 cup heavy cream, 35%
1/2 cup chopped, fresh cilantro (coriander)

In a large bowl, combine marinade ingredients and stir in chicken pieces. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or more.

When you're ready to eat, make the sauce. Melt butter with a bit of olive oil in a large, deep skillet. Add garlic and jalapeno and saute for one minute. Add cumin, paprika and salt. Stir in tomato sauce and cream. Simmer on low heat until sauce thickens, about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat BBQ to high, and oil lightly. Thread the chicken pieces on to skewers and grill until juices run clear, about 4 minutes per side. Add the grilled chicken to the sauce, stir and let it simmer for 10 minutes to develop the flavours. Add chopped cilantro and serve with jasmine rice or other scented rice and the warm naan bread.

Oh, baby.

Oh. Baby.

Now, you can cut the cayenne to 1/2 tsp if you are a Spice Wimp.

If you don't want to use the BBQ, you can just cook it in the oven, under the broiler or stir fry it.

And you can substitute 10% cream or whole milk if you are a masochist and want to cut down on the fat, but I, like Mark Darcy, like it just as it is.