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....


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 the rest here

Friday, December 3, 2010

If you liked Shaun of the Dead

I'm fairly confident you'll like this:

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)


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

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.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving to our Neighbours to the South

And enjoy this special turkey video.

Because you can always use more butter.

thanks to Nathan Bransford for the link

Why, this is exactly what it's like in our house when we all get together to bake a juicy turkey. Spooky.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


My good friend kc dyer wrote about Movember month. It's when ordinary citizens, mostly men, grow a mustache in support of prostate cancer research. Mustache in November = Movember.

Here is my son.

I think he looks like a spy from a cheesy 40s spy movie. At least it's for a good cause.

And presumably he'll be shaving it off come December 1st.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Party like it's the '70s

My youngest sister, nicknamed Yutha, turned 50 this past October. To start the celebrations off with a bang, she and I and our other sister Brink went to Vegas together.

Then Yutha and her hubby and daughter (who turned 16) went on a luxury cruise (penthouse suite with its own kitchen.)

Then her childhood friends threw her a party which included a roast beef dinner and pie, not cake, pie. (She's a pie girl.)

Then her husband decided to throw her a party, which took place last Saturday night (although technically one might say it also took place through to Sunday morning.) The party consisted of people from different parts of their life - ski club, work, neighbours, school etc. plus all the friends my sister has had since childhood - and mixed them all together like a big, alcohol-fueled slumgullion. The food was truly awesome like squeaky fresh shrimp so big we dubbed them "three biters" and sliders with blue cheese and caramelized onions. For those of you who don't know what sliders are, they're eensy beensy hamburgers. They seem to be the appetizer du jour. There were also duck brochettes, sweet potato pancakes, smoked salmon rolls, beef tenderloin slices, grilled cheese (with four cheeses!) and avocado sandwiches and more...oh, it was fantastic.

Altogether, I think there were about eight school friends of my sister's there, and of course I know most of them as well since for one year, all three of us sisters attended high school at the same time. There was a lot of old boyfriend talk and catching up.

I don't normally drink much if at all, but I get a teensy bit of social anxiety when there is a big cocktail party and I have to make small talk. I suck at small talk. I can do BIG talk. But small talk with complete strangers freaks me out. So I had a glass of champagne, or "Faery Fizz" as we called it. On an empty stomach. Then I had another. And maybe another one or two more. Hey, there was fruit in it and Cassis so it was like drinking a smoothy, right?

Then I discovered a lovely bottle of Glenmorangie Nectar D'Or aged in a Sauternes cask and I thought I'd just have a wee taste and ooolala, that proved to be my undoing.

We stayed up laughing and talking until 3 a.m. Then we had a breakfast at 8 a.m.

It wasn't pretty.

I saw this video today and had to share it. Welcome to 1973, my friends.

If you make it to the whistle solo without peeing your pants, I salute you.

Hint - it comes after the heavy metal yodeling, the strangulated high notes and seizure face, what sounds like alien chatter, and a flute solo.

thanks to Maggie for the link!

Happy Birthday Yutha! Hold back my invitation to the next party. I think another one might just kill me.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Something Fun

Still trying to figure out holidays plans. Who knew planning for a holiday could be so stressful?

Speaking of which, turns out NaNoWriMo is not for me after all. I'm more of a plodding along (plotting along?) kinda gal.

I'm currently at The Palace (my little sister's beeyoutiful house north of Toronto) for a big party this weekend, so pray the snow they're forecasting stays away so I can drive myself home again after it's all over.

Enjoy the cast of Harry Potter as they learn to "speak American."

thanks to Lainey for the link!

And speaking of accents, how do YOU say eleven?

thank you Kathy Down the Road!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Where would you go?

If you had a week's worth of vacation time in early March.

You're leaving from Montreal.

You could go anywhere, keeping in mind that you're leaving from Montreal so your travel time factors in (so not Australia or Japan, however much you might want to go there.)

You would probably want somewhere warm and sunny. If you've spent a winter in Montreal you would automatically know this.

You don't know anything about any destinations in the Caribbean except that St. Lucia was recently wiped clean by a hurricane and Mexico is not exactly safe these days (crime + natural gas explosions = not going there.) I don't know from Barbados from Bahamas from Bermuda. Except Bermuda is supposed to be cold.

You've been to London and Paris many times, but not Italy. However Italy in March might be cold and wet.

You'd be willing to try scuba diving. You know there is no scuba diving in Italy.

You don't care about night life. Your disco days are so over.

You've never been on a cruise and have no desire to go on one but might be talked into one if you heard a convincing enough argument. An onboard casino is not a convincing argument.

You've never been on a sun filled holiday except for Hawaii last year (which was business related) and Florida twenty+ years ago (also business related/throw in pregnant.) Vegas doesn't count. There is sun in Vegas but no one goes under it on purpose. It is sent from the gods to punish you for gambling all your money away on penny slots.

Be specific. Tell me where and what hotels if you know of a fabulous spot.


I can't stay home for another holiday week and paint the bathroom or clean out the garage.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A Salute to a Brave and Modest Nation

Tomorrow marks another Remembrance Day in Canada, a day where we honour our veterans.

I posted this back in 2008 and it bears repeating. It's by Kevin Myers, an Irish Journalist. This article has appeared in the National Post, the Sunday Telegraph and elsewhere on the net.

LONDON - Until the deaths last week of four Canadian soldiers accidentally killed by a U.S. warplane in Afghanistan, probably almost no one outside their home country had been aware that Canadian troops were deployed in the region. And as always, Canada will now bury its dead, just as the rest of the world as always will forget its sacrifice, just as it always forgets nearly everything Canada ever does.

It seems that Canada's historic mission is to come to the selfless aid both of its friends and of complete strangers, and then, once the crisis is over, to be well and truly ignored. Canada is the perpetual wallflower that stands on the edge of the hall, waiting for someone to come and ask her for a dance....go here to read the rest.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Cat As A Hat

For all you cat owners out there, it won't come as a surprise to know we are the ones who are owned by our cats not the other way around. And they are nothing if not creatures of routine. They want what they want when they want it.

Boris is a prime example. He has his favourite napping spots - behind my head on my reading chair, or beside me on the leather couch if I'm watching TV, or under the lawn chair on the back porch.

Never wavers.

When he is hungry, he always waits until Kicia eats first. He could easily squash her like a bug, since she weighs a third of what he weighs. And yet he sits patiently for her to finish and move aside. If he happens to be there first and she jumps up behind him, he'll move. He knows if he doesn't, she'll bite him in the arse, but he won't retaliate.

He never retaliates.

He has a bad rap in the neighbourhood because he's a big black tomcat with a tough name (not his fault) who is more stupidly stubborn than aggressive and he'll hold his ground and protect his turf from any interlopers. He has a doppelganger who lives nearby, and that is the real culprit behind all the cat fights.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Boris comes in every night when I whistle for him, and he runs upstairs right under my feet when I go up to bed. He follows me in the bathroom and flops on the bathmat at my feet. Despite his advancing years, as evidenced by his increasing gray fur and one white-tipped ear, he is still playful and will jump on my foot if I wiggle it under the thin cotton. He never uses his claws, but you can feel the strength in those giant padded paws, powerful enough to take down gray squirrels when he wants fresh meat. He likes to drink out of the dripping faucet. Doesn't matter how fresh the water in the bowl happens to be, he won't touch it. So he'll hop up and sit on the counter and wait for me to finish brushing my teeth before he dips his head under the faucet and takes delicate sips.

However he will occasionally drink out of the toilet bowl and has fallen in a few times, so we keep the lid closed. It also helps him climb up to the counter because his legs fail him sometimes and he misses and falls to the floor.

I had to laugh when my sister sent me this video.


Monday, November 8, 2010

Toyota Bumper Sticker

I recently read about a bumper sticker on a Toyota truck:

"Have you driven over a Ford lately?"

I used to drive a Ford Taurus.

Or as we called it, the Taurus-saurus Rex.

Or as my mechanic called it, The Retirement Fund.

Don't get me wrong. I don't think and I'm not saying all Ford products are bad. Just my old car. It was the bad seed, the black sheep from a good family.

Whenever I'd stop at a stop sign (which is highly unusual here in Quebec) it would just die on the spot. It used to break down so regularly on the way to driving my kids to pre-school that the other moms would look for us on the side of the road and pick us up enroute. I once had to tell one of those moms that after we all shared her car, one of my kids (and then a second) was diagnosed with whooping cough. That mom never picked me up after that, but others took pity.

Forget hopping into the car in a coat thrown over pajamas. Wearing warm boots and snowsuits for the 10 minute drive was standard form, because we never knew when we'd be getting out in sub-zero weather to stand in the snow waiting for a good Samaritan to happen by. Why didn't we get rid of this car right away? Because I had faith.

Faith in my brother-in-law who sold us the car and swore it worked just fine for him. Faith in my husband who said just hold on, hold on until Spring when we will get a van for our growing brood. Faith in our mechanic, a gentle and kind man who finally had to admit that as much as this car was his bread and butter, we had to do the right thing and put it out of its misery.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Some laughs

To lead us into the weekend...a few laughs.

This site is devoted to amusing iPhone auto corrects. Pretty funny stuff.

And this site has a video with Ellen's best celebrity scares. Sick, isn't she? We used to "pull this kind of stunt" (to quote my mother) all the time when we were kids. It's a wonder we didn't kill our parents.

Bon weekend everyone!

There is snow at the lake! Whoo hoo!

I haven't been up to see for myself. These are from previous years.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Love is all around us

YES, I know it's shameless marketing and YES, I know my heartstrings are being shamelessly massaged by a master manipulator but this got to me.

Yes, I was caught up in the drama.

Yes, I cried at the end.

If you want to see how British people greet each other at the airport, go HERE.

I'm such a sucker for people at the airport.

Remember that scene at the beginning of LOVE ACTUALLY?

They got it right.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

To all my twisted knitter sistahs

You have to knit to really appreciate the silliness of this video. It uses dubbed computer voices to your text, which only adds to its quirky charm.

Dedicated to that particular member of the family (you know who you are) who knits something for practically everyone on her Christmas list.

"Yes, green."

Kills me.

from The Panopticon, a wonderful knitting blog

And in other news....

NoNoWriMo continues. I hated it this morning. Couldn't get going, didn't want to write. Wanted to stomp on its head. Had no ideas. Ideas that did surface sucked. Got discouraged, especially when I read a rant on another blog about how NaNoWriMo is a bad idea because it encourages crappy writing, makes you a slave to word count and therefore you end up with something that can't be fixed no matter how much time you put into editing the hell out of it. In other words, a complete waste of time.

Well, yes and no. I wanted to see if having a deadline would push me to write more. More words, more often, more consistently. I will think of a million excuses not to write. But what happens when I'm forced to write (in my case, I don't know about anyone else) is that in the act of writing, certain creative doors just pop open. I sit back and look inside and think, "well what do you know about that?" It's not enough to just sit around and think about ideas, or even to write an outline. It's the act of doing it that reveals all kinds of stuff.

Today a character popped up out of nowhere. It was supposed to be a creepy old man. It turned out to be a tattooed, pierced, charming young woman. And having this girl there suddenly created a new and welcome twist in the plot. Hm. Not sure I would have thought of her had I just outlined, or stared at the clouds.

I'm exercising my creative muscles. I don't know if I'll end up with something usable or not. But when I lift weights, I'm not aiming for the Olympics. I just know I'll be in better shape than when I started. That's all I want out it. Maybe I'm just being too Canadian.

The last point in this other blog was that writing is supposed to be enjoyable, not done "with a gun to your head." Well, some of us need more motivation than others. If not a gun to the head, maybe a kick in the butt. NaNoWriMo is my kick in the butt.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have a tattooed lady to attend to.

Monday, November 1, 2010

And now, a little break from Nanowrimo

Behold! The 100 best signs at the recent rally to restore sanity and/or fear in America (courtesy of buzzfeed.)

Seriously. Some of these are a hoot, others downright weird, but all are entertaining. If you are easily offended by juicy language, don't go there. Just don't. Well, maybe go and check out a few. I particularly liked #20, #35 and #43 (can't you see the hand to the forehead?) Also #76 and #77 and #78 (I guess the 70s were pretty cool after all) also #87 and #89. Oh, just go see for yourself and vote for your favourites in the comments.


Take the leap HERE.

Day one of Nanowrimo

Oh man, I had no idea what I was signing up for.

I stressed last night. I fretted, I whinged, I went through my old notebooks as I tried to figure out which of many story lines I was going to use for Nanowrimo.

I had several that were a little further along in the story, but the goal is to let loose with something new and fresh, to let the mind wander naked and free and see what happens during the process.

So I decided to go with a more "out there" concept, more flyé, as we say here in Quebec.

I've written more than I thought I would. Let's see how it goes when I get to "the soggy middle" sometime in mid-November.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

NaNoWriMo Wha-aat?

Some of you may notice the new widget on the sidebar.

This is for NaNoWriMo. For the uninitiated, this stands for National Novel Writing Month. Every November, writers from around the globe come together between November 1st and November 30th in an attempt to write 50,000 words each, pretty much the length of a novel. (Unless you are Diana Gabaldon, and then it's more of a prologue.)

"Thirty days and nights of literary abandon!" is our rallying cry. The idea is to let the writing flow without getting overly obsessive over quality. You may end up with complete crap, or you may find that partway through, you've hit the writers' equivalent of the sweet spot. It doesn't matter. What matters is getting the words on the page.

In order to add your name to the list of "winners" you must complete 50,000 words by the end of the month.

I know.

I know.

It may be the craziest thing I've done for a long time. (Except for maybe...nah. That was crazier.) And of course, it would coincide with my decision to give up coffee. (Eleven days and counting.) You are encouraged to start afresh with a new idea, not to rework an old manuscript. I've got to focus and decide which idea I'm going to run with, starting tomorrow.

Actually, midnight. As in, tonight.

The point is to let your creative mind run naked and free into that golden field of barley and allow yourself to feel the warmth of the sun upon your metaphorical face, and to ignore that niggly feeling that says hey, the farmer next door just stumbled out of the woods looking for his lost dog and is now staring open-mouthed upon your big pale rump.

Wish me luck! If I'm posting on my blog less frequently, it's because,

a) I'm writing obsessively.

b) I'm sucking my thumb in a corner asking myself "Why, oh why did I agree to do this?"

To quote Yoda, "Do, or do not. There is no try."

edited to add: I just began in my usual fashion, not by writing an outline but by avoidance i.e., cleaning off my desk. I just removed a large T.G. Green bowl filled with loose change, old receipts and the usual flotsam and jetsam, and what is resting on top of the pile? A box of Imodium and an Air Canada barf bag. A sign?

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Smartass Bathroom Stall Talk

Not to be confused with bathroom small talk.

I like to think of it as High Art or High Culture. Not to be confused with Low Culture, practiced by Barbarians, Philistines and the plebs, good bathroom graffiti reflects the mores of our times. T.S. Eliot believed that the only way to a complete culture was a mix of the high and popular culture. This apparent juxtaposition explains why I love things like Monty Python's "moistened bink lobbing a scimitar" sketch. (Bonus points if you can name that movie! In fact, now that I think of it, the first night I slept over with my boyfriend now husband of 25 years, we got up around 4 a.m., ordered a pizza and watched this movie together. No one bats an eye when you do such things in Montreal. Order pizza at 4 a.m. not sleep over at your boyfriend's house. Moving on...)

The best graffiti is usually found on campus stalls. I remember long discussions, sometimes going on for weeks, all over the walls of the bathroom stalls at Victoria College at University of Toronto. That is until the janitor ruined the fun and removed all traces of what were some most excellent debates. Mind you, I wasn't the janitor in question, so it was all fun and games and a black marker for me.

Now there's a blog called that posts notes left on windshields when someone parks in the wrong spot, or notes left on the communal fridge in the office or my favourites, the ones left in bathrooms, like this gem.

Original note:

If you need to extract dried mucus from your nose, please use a tissue. The bathroom walls are not the place for them.


It's called "performance art." Expand your horizons.


Expand a couple sheets of tissue.

In fact, there is a host of notes on this very subject. Go here, if you dare for the "bathroom stall booger epidemic" as they like to call it. If you can't, you know, go there, and you're looking for something more pedestrian, try this one from Toronto, about why it's bad to park on someone's naughty bits.

Bad park you! Bad!

Gordon Pinsent

He is a national treasure. This slayed me. As Lainey says, this is Bieber with gravitas.

With thanks to Lainey for the link.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Vacationer Wanted - Will Pay to Travel

Here's a chance to travel with this once-in-a-lifetime contest.

How would you like to travel, for free, all around the world, no strings attached, for a whole year? I saw this before I left for Vancouver and am just getting caught up on the details now.

Transat, a Montreal based company, is looking for two people - one English and one French - to travel to various destinations in Central America, the Caribbean and Europe - for free.

That's right. Every month, you get to go on vacation, somewhere without snow or ice pellets or dishes or laundry, for 2 whole weeks and then you send in a report while you rub cream on your sunburn and rinse out your bathing suit.

And the kicker? They PAY you to do this. As in $40,000 a year. And all other travel expenses are paid for.

All you have to do to apply is send in a two minute video explaining why they should pick you. Fifty candidates will be chosen, and then voting takes place, online, with members of the public.

Cool, no? Worth checking out?

For more info and all the details, look here.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Home again from the SiWC

Once again I had an incredible experience at the Surrey International Writers' Conference. I think this was my 9th time at the conference, and every single year without fail, I return home with new insights, some clever tricks to apply to the craft of writing, a better understanding of the business of writing, some new friends and more than anything, a renewed sense of why I do what I do.

Some highlights?

1. Discovering an amazing presenter named Ivan Coyote. I honestly can't say enough about her. Truly, whatever I describe here will not do her justice. She must be seen live to be fully appreciated. It's like talking about a great chocolate cake. You have to taste a piece for yourself to get it. She. Blew. Me. Away.

2. Dinner with Anne Perry my first night there. We met at the conference way back when, and we've stayed in touch ever since (she's one of the few people in the world who still believes in the handwritten letter.) This year, I had a blast watching the interaction between her and my friend Jo, while I (and my friend Kathy) looked at each other and smiled, happily adrift in the vortex of Anne and Jo's shared interests and massive intellects. (I actually speak for myself here, not Kathy.) You see, Anne is the special brand of genius that makes it difficult for mere mortals to have a simple conversation. You won't be discussing the weather but questions like, "So who's journal from the French Revolution would you most want to read?"

(Answer: Fouquier de Tinville*, which Jo figured out instantly, and to which I said "Well, of course it is. Old Foucher." "Fouquier," said Jo. "Right, that guy," followed by a quick glance at Kathy that I'm sure projected, "outofmydepthOUTOFMYDEPTH!"

*At least I think that's who they were talking about. In any case, that's who I would pick. Thank you, Wikipedia.

Then the next question, "What year do you suppose had the most profound influence on the history of Spain?"** (Hint: it's not 1920 or anytime thereabouts nor had anything to do with their civil war, which was my guess.)

**According to Anne, it's 1492, when they created the Kingdom of Spain after the unification of the Kingdom of Castile and the Kingdom of Aragon, but most importantly, it's when they expelled the Jews and financially, went downhill faster than Picabo Street. And of course, old Chris Columbus, the explorer, not the director of Home Alone, was discovering the new world. Of course, it's so obvious now...

3. Purdy's chocolates. Shallow I may be, but Purdy's is and always will be sublime. I don't think about the French Revolution or Spain when I eat them.

4. Being with my best buds in the world, kc dyer last year's coordinator, and Kathy Chung, this year's coordinator. (Sorry I put you after Purdy's. It's random order. Honest.) I was afraid I wouldn't have enough time to see either of them as during the conference, they're likely to be moving about like a couple of whirling dervishes (and given kc's proclivity for crazy coloured striped tights in those long legs of hers, looking directly at her has the same effect as looking directly into the sun.) But in the end, we found some time to schmooze. It only makes me miss them more.

And congrats on the launch of kc's newest novel, Facing Fire at the conference with full fanfare and much excitement. It sold out!

5. The keynote address by Robert Dugoni where he recounted his own struggles to get published, and he used THIS SPEECH from Lord of the Rings and substituted a few writerly words. Picture a ballroom filled with hundreds of writers who stood, hands raised in a unified fist pump, yelling "THIS DAY WE WRITE!!" Awesome.

6. RCMP Corporal, fellow writer and my SiWC "son" Tyner Gillies who won honourable mention in the writing contest. I recounted the high praise for his writing by his "uncle" and mentor Jack Whyte. Just like an overheard compliment, it was all the sweeter this way. Those words will carry Tyner through to the next step in his writing life. Plus he looks damned handsome in that red serge. Mother of pearl, but that uniform is a charm.

7. Diana Gabaldon, generous, kind and truly a one-of. Thank you.

8. Driving back to the airport with Robert McCammon. He is a deeply soulful, kind and very talented individual with depth and compassion and great humour. Not to mention a southern accent that sounds like warm syrup on hotcakes, which made all the women swoon. "Wait'll I tell the old boys back home in Alabama that the Canadian gals loved my accent," he said, shaking his head and laughing.

So many memories, too many to include here. I can't wait until next year!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Mystery photo

What is it?


Yutha, you can't play. Shhh.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Wild Rose

Love is like the wild rose-briar;
Friendship like the holly-tree.
The holly is dark when the rose-briar blooms,
But which will bloom most constantly?

Emily Bronte

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Westward Ho!

It's time for the Surrey International Writers' Conference to begin. I'm off to Vancouver then onward to Surrey for a few days of writing workshops, schmoozing in the bar, catching up with friends from around the globe and all sorts of madness. For me, the madness usually takes place in the elevator. I've got quite a few elevator stories, each more bizarre than the last.

It really is the best writer's conference in the world, and this will mark my...hmm...9th year I think? If you're a Diana Gabaldon fan, she'll be there. Here I am with Anne Perry and Jack Whyte last year (excuse the quality..taken with an iPhone.)

Looking at the photo, I just realized I packed the same outfit to wear on Saturday night that I wore last year. Do you think anyone will notice? Ach, I can't go and repack again. Dammit dammit. I like it because it's comfy, and I hate hate hate dressing up. I'd wear pajamas if I could.

Do you like dressing up? Or do you prefer to lounge in sweatpants?

I'm not bringing my laptop with me as I'm too busy to even take a breather most days. We start early and end late, oh boy do we end late. I'm usually exhausted and exhilarated and inspired all at once by the time it ends.

See you "live" next week. I'll post a few things in advance, but I probably won't be able to respond until Monday at the earliest. And I'll raise a glass and toast all my friends who can't make it this year. Here's to you and hope we see you in 2011!

Wish my hubby luck with the cooking. He tends not to eat when I'm not around.

Monday, October 18, 2010

A trip out east and a trip out west

(Does this steeple look crooked to you? I blame the architect, James "Wonky-eyed" Johnston, and not the photographer.)

Last week I was on the east coast of our great country, just toodling around New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, and this weekend I'll be on the west coast at the Surrey International Writers' Conference (the best little conference in the world, I tell ya.) I really should get me to the prairies one of these days. I have flown over the prairies numerous times but I've never actually been there i.e., had my feet on the ground. Anyone know of a good excuse to visit Saskatoon? Moose Jaw? Medicine Hat? I'd like to come see you sometime because you look gorgeous from 30,000 feet up in the air.

Anyway, while I was on the east coast last week, I visited the Hopewell Rocks on the Bay of Fundy, an uber cool place with flowerpot shaped rocks carved by the ocean and the highest vertical tidal ranges in the world. I managed to arrive just before the high tide came rolling in and had about half an hour to wander down on the beach surrounding the rocks. During low tide you can literally walk way out on the ocean floor. At high tide, you can kayak around those same rocks which will now be either completely submerged or pretty little islands with a few wind-scrubbed trees.

The tide comes in so fast and high that the park has a guide at the water level to keep people safe. The tide rose 40+ feet the day I was there, and I could see the seaweed on the walls of the cliff and the flowerpot rocks themselves.

To give you an idea of how fast the water in the Bay of Fundy rises, the guide pointed to the water washing up on the flat beach at our feet and said, "See that? It looks like a gentle beach with lapping water? Well, that's rising about a foot every 30 to 40 seconds." Seconds. That left less than five minutes to get back to the steps leading up the cliff as 100 billion tonnes of salt water coming thundering into the bay. (And that's literal, not like "I have 100 billion tonnes of dirty dishes to do. Although I actually do.)

See the steps at the bottom of the photo? The water reached them in minutes. I've never been so inspired to climb stairs. There are signs that give advice like "if you find yourself stranded by the incoming tide, do not attempt to climb the cliffs, just find yourself a rock not covered in seaweed, climb on top and wait three hours until the water recedes." Sheeyah. You would hear my screams all the way to Yellowknife. (Another place I want to visit. Just saying.)

Just for comparison, tides in other parts of the world go up and down about 3 feet on average.

Thus endeth the lesson on tides.

We also saw a tidal bore on the "Chocolate River" in Moncton without a speck of real chocolate in it, sad to say, but in reality, a churning, brown devil of a thing. Speaking of which, here's a public toilet we passed on the road. In case you had any doubts, each side had its own unique signage leaving no doubt as to its purpose.

Yes, that says "shiter" on the back side (no pun intended.) Maybe it's not a spelling mistake and they're really Irish? I don't know what the fourth side says, if anything. But now I want to go back and check.

I can't leave you with that image. Here are a couple more. Think of them as cleansing breaths for your brain.

Sunday, October 17, 2010


I'm pleased to announce the winner of kc dyer's newest book FACING FIRE.

Congratulations to Francie!

To keep it fair (since I have friends, and one family member in the draw) I wrote the names on pieces of paper and literally pulled one out of a hat!

Francie, send me an email (see contact info under the complete profile section) and I'll put you in touch with the wonderful author, kc dyer, who will mail you your book!

Thanks for playing everyone.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Joel Burns Bares his Soul

This post is about love and acceptance.

My daughter sent this to me and asked me to post it on my blog. Joel Burns is a councilman in Forth Worth, Texas who has added his voice to the swelling chorus preaching love and compassion for kids being bullied because of their sexual orientation.

Watch the whole thing. You won't regret it.

Recently, there have been a lot of "it gets better" videos circulating on the net in response to the spate of suicides by gay teenagers, some of them barely out of childhood, who have been bullied literally to death. It is heartbreaking, it is tragic in the truest sense of the word. And now gay adults who have gone through similar experiences are speaking out to say to these kids just hang in there, it gets better, it really does.

Don't give up. Life is always worth fighting for, even though it may not seem that way now. For many of us, myself included, high school was just something to get through, like a bad flu. And yes, it's tough, but you must survive and move on. A beautiful life awaits you. There will come a time when you are old enough and strong enough to shout out to the world "THIS IS WHO I AM! Take it or leave it, it doesn't matter because I love who I am. I don't care if you try to make me feel less worthy. I, and I alone, decide my worth, what I want, and who I want to be."

When you realize that it's a decision you make, that it starts and ends with you, then you'll also know that anything is possible. Opportunities will be spread out before you, and they will be limitless. I promise.

It will get better.

Over the years, people I love with all my heart have struggled with coming out and being loved and accepted for who they are. I've listened to friends describe the heartbreak of coming out to their families and being outright rejected, while others have been shocked to their core because their families, despite all evidence to the contrary, came through and supported and loved them.

I read somewhere that being happy doesn't mean everything is perfect. It just means that you've decided to look beyond the imperfections and accept what is. So look beyond the imperfections in society, the prejudice, the ignorance, the people who say you must be one way or another.

Once you find peace within yourself, you will be able to live in peace with others, no matter what they think or say. It simply won't matter anymore.

Do not fear your future, embrace it, and always, always strive to live without regrets.

(For some reason, my posted videos show up as smaller than they are, so if you want to see the whole frame, just double click on the video and it will take you directly to YouTube where you can see the whole thing.)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Diana Gabaldon's new book!

This is a bit of a departure for Diana (or maybe it's a bit like coming full circle since back in the day, she famously wrote comic scripts for Walt Disney featuring Donald Duck, Uncle Scrooge and Mickey.)

I have had the pleasure of knowing the incomparable Diana Gabaldon for many years. In fact, some of my life's adventures have ended up in her novels, including a skunked dog, a mangled fingernail, and of course, many squirrels both alive and dead (which is the way I prefer them.)

So now, Diana has something new and very exciting to offer. It's called THE EXILE: An Outlander Graphic Novel. If you're a fan of hers, you'll probably know about this already because it's vaulted to #1 and is already in its second printing! If you haven't read Outlander the novel, do yourself a favour and read it first. It's one of my favourite books ever and well worth tracking down. It's truly "unputdownable" and if you read a chapter or two, you'll see what I mean.

Actually Random House is celebrating the 20th anniversary of OUTLANDER with a contest. You could win 10 free copies (one for you, nine for your friends.)

Go HERE to see details and to enter the contest.

Random House is also giving away free Kindle copies (for a limited time) so check that out HERE. (I don't have a Kindle, but I do own several copies of OUTLANDER. I like to give them out to friends.)

Or go to your local library because they'll have it for sure. Then set aside a good chunk of time to read. You won't want to do anything once you start, so plan accordingly. Just sayin'.

Here's the trailer for the new graphic novel. Me? I'm hoping my copy arrives in time for the Surrey International Writers' Conference next week so Diana can sign it! Hurry up, Indigo. Come ON already. How many clerks do I have to pester/cajole/threaten? (Note: I usually support my local independent book stores whenever possible, and I actually had a copy in my hand two days ago, but I had already ordered my copy online thinking it would arrive more quickly. Ha! Wrong. Do you hear that Indigo? Hurry UP!)

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Forest Laird

First things first.

Jack Whyte is one helluva storyteller.

Not only that, but the man has a voice that could melt butter and is a master orator and singer. Whenever he speaks, he commands the attention of the entire room, even when that room has 800+ people in it. And he's singing about amorous hippos. (That's a whooole other story.)

Some years back, at a party during the Surrey International Writers' Conference and following a few Lagavulins, he and I talked about the seeds of this novel. His excitement was contagious, and I remembered thinking how I couldn't wait to read it. So I've been waiting, impatiently, ever since.

Jack's novel THE FOREST LAIRD A Tale of William Wallace is now published and I might suggest you just stop what you're doing (yes, right now, put down whatever it is you're doing and get in your car to drive to your nearest independent bookstore or library or just clickety-clack on to Amazon or Indigo) and pick up a copy. I got mine a few days ago, and made the mistake of leaving it on a table where my husband spied it. Now, in order to preserve the marital bliss that has kept us strong for 25+ years, we are going to have to resort to paper, scissors, rock to see who gets to read it first.

Okay, that's not true. My husband will let me read it first. Because he's a nice guy. And because I hid it where he can't find it.

Here is a trailer for the book: