Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Where am I?


Greetings from Hawaii! This is the view we wake up to every morning.
We went sailing on a catamaran this week, and ended up here:
And then we went snorkeling. It was the first time for me, but Doug is a pro.

Come meet my new friends, Mr. Sea Turtle, Ms Spinner Dolphin and the gang.Believe it or not, this is the first time Doug and I have gone on a beach vacation together. (We went to Florida once when we were dating, but Doug worked every day so that doesn't count.)

I can't believe what I've been missing! Later gator. The beach is calling my name.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Mitch Joel and Six Pixels of Separation

I had the good fortune to hear Mitch Joel speak at one of my PWAC (Professional Writers Association of Canada) meetings. He is engaging, charming, smart, funny, and inspiring. By the end of his lecture, I was on the edge of my seat, and seriously considered sending him my resume. Actually, I was ready to work for him for free. I just wanted to be around that kind of energy and intellect. It was electric.

Mitch is president of Twist Image (I always pronounce it the French way in my head) a digital marketing company with offices in Montreal and Toronto. He maintains that the internet has provided an unprecedented and powerful tool to reach the entire world, so why not use it to its fullest potential to market your product? We now know that social marketing - blogs, FaceBook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Twitter - can help you build an online community and connect (in the true sense of the word) to millions of people, almost instantly. Do you know how? Mitch does.

According to an interview in the Globe and Mail, Mitch explained that social marketing tools like blogs or YouTube "were thought to be the domain, principally, of people with too much spare time on their hands – a place where members of the lunatic fringe could post a daily political rant or where teenage skateboarders could post videos of a gnarly Frontside 180 Powerslide." Not any more. If you are serious about marketing yourself, have a look at his new book called Six Pixels of Separation. I'll be ordering it and if it's anything like his lecture, blog and column in the Globe, I can highly recommend it.

Check out his website if you want to order his new book or if you want to listen to some of his most excellent podcasts.

Six Pixels of Separation: Everyone is Connected. Connect Your Business to Everyone, by Mitch Joel, Business Plus, 288 pages, $34.95

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Women's Colony

Okay, this blog called THE WOMEN'S COLONY seriously cracked me up.

They talk of a tiny bit of paradise off the grid, for women only, especially those who have spent their time child-rearing and working and volunteering to the point of exhaustion. Which is pretty much all of us.

"The fantasy was more about the sanctity of a female refuge for older, tired women who needed some sort of estrogen infused utopia. When times were tough, they would simply utter Women's Colony and nerves would ebb, hope would rally, dinner would make it to the table, children would be bathed, bedtime stories would be read, and, finally, wine bottles would be drained."

What's your idea for paradise? Mine would involve a large library, manservants and pet minders.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

One more mug

No, not this one.

This one.
Way back when, in the olden days, I wrote my first essay and sent it to the Globe and Mail to see what would happen. Lo and behold, they decided to publish it. They say write what you know, so I wrote about the evils of Christmas newsletters and what mine would say if I allowed myself free rein to write about my year with three teenagers, one mid-life dentist and the assorted animals we call pets on a good day and a scourge on the others. Mostly based in reality and firmly tongue-in-cheek, I described various gifts over the years and one of them was this mug you see here. My son bought it. He said, and I quote, "it was like 15 bucks marked down to 10 bucks marked down to 3 bucks and I hope you like it because I can't return it."

My husband adopted this poor little mug and it because His Mug at the cottage. Every weekend, he'd make our (Starbucks extra-bold dark French roast) coffee (I know, I'm a cliche, but I need my strong dark coffee like a lovah) and he came to love this homely little caffeine transporter.

Then tragedy struck. One morning last summer, after a violent struggle with an intruder wielding a baseball bat (okay, that's not true, but it makes the story so much more dramatic than saying he tripped) my husband broke The Mug. And he was crushed.

"My's...gone...I'm so sad."

This would have been the end of my tragic tale had it not been for our local flea market. It's an event that takes place every week in the summer, close to our cottage. It is a chance for the cottage-bound to get away from the lake and poke around for All Things Unnecessary. The clientele are a mixed bunch - bikers, small town locals, out-of-towners, a bit of everything including lots of folks with more tattoos than teeth. There are higher end antiques, but mostly it resembles a giant garage sale with old rusty pumps, auto parts, pinball machines, furniture, china, ducks (yes, live ducks) and pretty much anything and everything one is looking for. This is where I bought some of my giant cups and saucers, like this one:

(Again, my sister insists this is a soup bowl, but she would be wrong. Just because it's the size of my head, doesn't mean I can't use it for coffee. Here's a shot with a so-called "normal" cup and saucer, though I don't know who decided this size was normal.)

So last summer, as I frolicked amongst the ducks and silverware and Fiesta plates, I stumbled across a big table of random junk - old door knobs, dirty plastic containers, cigarette tins and whatnot. When what to my wondering eyes should appear, but two mugs almost new (and no tiny reindeer.)

They were the mugs, the same ones. Brand new. And they cost me 2 bucks for the pair.

My husband got one for his birthday last week. The other is a backup. In case there is another intruder with a bat.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Joyful Noise from Marlow and Frances

How sweet are these two? Fran and Marlow Cowan, married 62 years (he's 91) they sit down and play an impromptu duet on the atrium piano at the Mayo Clinic.

Watch it and see if you don't stand up and cheer right along with them.

Here's the performance of Old Grey Bonnet (they do it for all the "old" people in nursing homes):

And here's their story:

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Time for An Echo in the Bone

The incomparable Diana Gabaldon has finished book 7 in the OUTLANDER series! Mark the release date on your calendar - Tuesday, September 22nd - and then clear that calendar, because you will not get anything else done until you finish this book. (If you are one of the few who has never read or heard of OUTLANDER, drop what you're doing and go get it. Right now.)

(I'll wait.)

Diana was kind enough to send me the proofs for book 7 a while back and oh, baby, baby, baby. Tighten your seatbelts. You're in for quite a ride!

From Diana's website:

"Jamie Fraser, erstwhile Jacobite and reluctant rebel, knows three things about the American rebellion: The Americans will win, unlikely as that seems in 1777; being on the winning side is no guarantee of survival; and he’d rather die than face his illegitimate son — a young lieutenant in the British army — across the barrel of a gun.

His time-traveling wife, Claire, knows that the Americans will win, but not what the ultimate price may be. That price won’t include Jamie’s life or happiness, though — not if she has anything to say about it.

And in the relative safety of the 20th century, their daughter Brianna and her husband, Roger, watch the unfolding of her parents story in the past — a past that may be sneaking up behind their own family."

Watch for it on the NY Times list. Look up, waaaay up. (Name the source of that quote, all you Canucks!)

We'll soon be getting together once again for workshops, drinks and general jollification at the best writers' conference on the planet, the Surrey International Writers' Conference. For up-and-comers or established pros, whether you'll be pitching, learning or networking, this is the best international writers' conference you'll ever attend. It's fun, inspiring, deep, silly, informative, and I wouldn't miss it for anything.

Edited to add: Just to make it clear, The Divine Diana Herself will be at the Surrey Conference, and will be signing her book(s) there! Come one, come all!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Letters and Diary Entries from World War I

My sister sent me a link to some diary entries sent home during World War I by our great-uncle George Walter Adams. He was born in England, emigrated to Canada to be with his widowed mother Emily and later fought in WWI. The diary entries and letters from his mother are now part of the Canadian Letters and Images Project.

Great-Uncle George enlisted when he was just 20 years old, younger than my son is now, which just boggles my mind. However, his father died young and George started working full time at the age of fourteen so I guess he grew up fast. The "Nora" he refers to is my grandmother, i.e. his sister, born in 1889 and who died just shy of her 99th birthday just months after my son was born. I attended her funeral with him in my arms. "Ernie" was my grandfather. "Edie" was George's sister. Actually George's mother Emily was my grandmother's stepmother (her own mother died when Nora was 2 and her sister Edith was 4) and I don't think they got along. My grandmother told me that when she was a child of about seven, she remembered her stepmother going on and on about how much she hated Canada after the move here. My grandmother said she liked to hop around and sing The Maple Leaf Forever, over and over, just to spite her stepmother.

Once I started reading George's entries I couldn't stop until the wee hours. It's remarkable to read someone's first hand account of the war, particularly a relative. He writes of mundane things at first, the stuff that would interest a teenage boy - cold weather and getting off work early to attend a ball game or play pool or ice skate on Grenadier Pond in Toronto, and even attending the opera featuring Madame Ferrabini as Carmen. He bought a suit from Lorne's for $31, which is funny because I've been buying coats from there for over thirty years, even traveling back from Montreal to do so (seriously, their coats are amazing.)

I laughed out loud when I read the entry on Christmas Day, 1914 "I believe the presents I gave different people cost far more than the presents I received but such is life." (Who thinks that their diary is going to go online for the world to see!) His birthday presents on September 25th 1916 consisted of pajamas, "sox", gloves and an umbrella so clearly the trend continued.

After declaring his $5 a month pay increase, he states war has been declared by Germany against England and describes the mood in Toronto and the difficulty getting news. On Sept. 5th, 1914 at the age of 18, he gave my grandmother away at her wedding, obviously feeling quite chuffed since he says "was told that I did it beautifully" and said they left for New York on their honeymoon. I have a letter from my grandfather to my grandmother from New York City a few years later, describing how New York had changed.

Small tidbits describing life back then - dinner at a hotel for 50 cents, sailing near Oakville, afternoon tea with my grandmother, getting electric light "in house" in 1916 - interspersed with news of the war. "Germman cruiser Emden sunk in Indian Ocean by Australian cruiser Sydney. The Emden has done more to worry peaceful British commerce than any of the other enemy boats. In the three months that the war has been in operation she has sunk or captured 24 vessels including cruisers of the French and Russians. The value of the ships sunk is estimated at $10,000,000 not including cargo."

The tone changes, because he then lists friends who are at the front or in training. In October 1916, he enlisted. Sent overseas, he arrives just outside of Ypres in April 1917 and describes seeing "big guns" and "aeroplanes being shelled by the Germans" and gas attacks. He goes on to talk about his part in the war and coming home, but you might want to read it yourself.

To read more about George Walter Adams, in George's own words, go to The Canadian Letters and Images Project where you will find diary entries from 1914 - 1919. They end with the birth of my dad's older brother George Stuart Patchet (George's nephew) and his return to work.

(Next up: investigating a possible link to the Titanic)

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Java Me, Java You, uh huh

(gratuitous Blue Jay shot)

Confession. I have a strong addiction to coffee, specifically extra bold Starbucks French roast, a robust saucy little wench of a coffee I grind daily for my morning jug 'o java. I even have an old-fashioned hand grinder in case the power goes off and I have no way to make coffee.

I tried giving it up after being forced to by the clinic where I endured some tests, but after a week (of the shakes, sweats and heebie jeebies) I decided to wean myself back on because dammit, I missed my mother's little helper. And by wean, I mean I started back with half-caf, which I quickly realized was as stupid as attempting to become half-pregnant. If I was going to drink it, I wasn't going to be a caffeine weanie. Be bold, said I! So I returned to the "deepest, darkest" roast described by the kings of coffee as "liquid smoke" (oh baby, baby.) The beans are so dark and oily, that when they're roasted, the smoke rises off them in heavy clouds like "spooky dry ice" according to Roaster Brad from Seattle. I like this Brad guy.

And I was told the darker the beans, the less caffeine they contain, ergo, pas de guilt on my part.

When my doctor asked me how much coffee I drank, I gave him the honest truth. (I had to. His wife/nurse reads this blog.) One cup every morning, sometimes two if it's say, a Monday. (I hate Mondays.) I thought I might get away with my subterfuge, but unfortunately for me he pursued it and asked me if I meant a cup as in 8 ounces or a cup as in mug, and if it was the latter, how big was this alleged mug. Damn, he was onto me.
(another gratuitous Blue Jay shot)

A coffee cup in a coffee maker is about 5 ounces. A standard mug is closer to 9. I serve my morning Nectar of the Gods in a mug I got in London with Shakespeare's mug on the, well, mug. It holds 20 ounces. And before ya'll go getting all up in my nose about it, if you're drinking a couple of mugs of coffee in the morning, you're consuming the same amount. Right? Just because I'm holding a mug that's bigger than my head doesn't mean you should be hatin'.

To justify my addiction, I started collecting giant mugs and tea cups like the ones below. Just to give you an idea of scale, the cup on the left is the standard issue with china sets. Btw, does anyone ever actually use these cups and saucers for anything other than melting butter for pancakes or scooping out dog kibble? (I dare not show you the pink cup and saucer I use for tea. My sister, the antiques dealer, claims it's a soup bowl. Phht. She doesn't know from cups and saucers.)

The cup on the right is one of my collectibles from the late 19thC. It shows a large, florid man holding an overflowing cup of ale. It reads:

Here's ta me an ma wife's 'usband,
not fo'getting mesen.
Here's tiv us, all on us. Me and all.
May we nivver want nowt, none on us.
Nor me nawther.

Tykes motto:
See all. Hear all. Say Nowt.
Eat all, Sup all, Pay nowt.
And if tha does owt for nowt, Allus do for Thisen.

Strictly speaking, it's an ale mug, but it works quite well for coffee. Then there's this beauty:

The transfer image shows a man smoking a pipe speaking to a boy smoking a cigarette (who can resist such naughtiness in a mug?) and they're standing in a furnished room along with a cat, dog, fireplace, kettle, etc. On the top rim it says:


And on the lower part, under the sleeping dog, it reads:


Here's one of my favourites, dedicated to the farmer.

In God is our trust

The Farmers Arms

Let the Wealthy and Great

Roll in splendor and state

I envy them not I declare it.

I eat my own lamb

my chickens and ham

I shear my own fleece and I wear it.

I have lawns I have Bow'rs

I have Fruits, I have flowrs

the Lark is my Morning Alarmer.

So jolly Boys now

Here's God speed the Plough

Long Life and

Success to the FARMER

And of course, I'd be remiss if I didn't include one Carltonware mug with a Canadian slant:
In Memory of Sam

I dreamed that I died and to Heaven did go.
I rang the bell gaily and bowed very low.
I said I'm from Canada,
My how they did stare.
Come right in said Peter,
Your the first one from there.

(That typo in the last line drives me to drink.)

(final gratuitous Blue Jay shot)

Bottoms up!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Leaving my girl

Just got back from the other side of the country where we dropped off Youngest. For the next four years, she'll be studying fine arts and I'll be pining for the fjords (name that source). Now, I've done this twice before with my other children, and Youngest spent a good chunk of the summer away from home on her own in Europe, so I didn't think it would hit me as hard as it did. As it turns out, a brick upside the head would have had less impact. (le sigh) Still, she's thrilled with her new life, so I couldn't be happier. Okay I could be happier, if say, she lived closer, or I won the lotto, or if there was a chocolate factory in my basement.

We stayed at a delightful inn in the small town that houses her university. They had a wild mushroom soup and a seafood chowder that still make me shiver when I think of them, they were that good. And while my husband recovered from his 10 hour drive, I walked around town and stumbled upon this waterfowl park. I wandered over at dusk the night before I left (my baby forever) and though I only saw a fraction of the 50+ acres (through a veil of tears) (kidding) (not) I was struck by its beauty and serenity. The path started beside this old Presbyterian church.

Then I meandered along this walkway over the water, lined by an arch of river birch, undulating over the marsh and through the reeds. I know for sure that path undulated because I kept lurching and tripping over its undulations.
Here is the bench where I had a good cry. Not really. I actually met a fellow Nikon enthusiast, and bound by our love of The Nikon and my fear of a bunch of rowdy local drunks throwing beer cans into the pond, we went forth together into the marsh to find ducks to shoot. With our Nikons.
The park was full of walkways like these, with twists and turns that disappeared for miles into the brush.
He was a bit saucy. Saucy like l'orange, I'd like to remind him.
Oh, I'm going to miss my girl.

The end.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Chicken Salad - Best Ever

I haven't done a recipe in a long time, since I'm usually on dial-up at the lake which means my hair grows faster than the time it takes to post something. I'm going to tell you how I make an awesome chicken salad. And before you start squawking after reading the list of ingredients, I'll tell you right up front I use curry powder.

Don't be telling me you don't like curry. You can't really identify it in the salad, but it gives it a certain sweetness and je ne sais quoi (well, actually, I do sais the quoi. The quoi is the damn curry.)

Curried Chicken Salad

5-6 chicken breasts (skinned and deboned)
3 stalks celery, chopped
1 Granny Smith apple, chopped
1/2 large sweet Vidalia onion, chopped
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup dried cranberries
juice of one lemon
1/2 - 1 cup mayonnaise (Hellman's is the best, and don't be using that low-fat nonsense)
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp or more curry powder, to taste (I use more)
1/2 tsp tumeric
salt and pepper to taste

Put the chicken breasts in a large pot and add just enough water to cover. Boil until no longer pink inside (about 10-15 minutes, depending on the size of your breasts always take 15 into that what you will.)

Remove the chicken and let cool for a few minutes, then chop into small pieces. Discard water or save for soup.

Put the remaining ingredients in a big bowl. Add the chicken and stir it up. Add more mayo if you like it moist. I like it moist. And sometimes I add a bit of vinaigrette if I have any around.

Serve as tortilla wraps or mounded alongside a crisp green salad (as opposed to what, a limp gray one? Seriously, why do people say that. Isn't "crisp and green" a given when talking about salad?) I've even chopped it up super fine, mounded it in tiny croustades, and served them as appetizers.

Chicken salad recipes are so personal (I even had one with fresh pineapple in it...oh, the memories....)

What do you put in yours?

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Cats and Tomato Nation

Anyone with one of these:

Should read THIS.