Bits and Pieces

Chewing the Fat

When They Were Young




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September 2007

Word On The Street

I woke up today to the sound of thundering rain pounding on the roof.  It was one of those days where I wanted to pull the covers up nice and snug around my neck and either go back to sleep, or at the very least, lie there contemplating sleep while wiggling my toes in a carefree-don’t-have-to-if-I-don’t-want-to way.  But neither of these options where available to me. 

Number one, because we have two dogs.  One of them we’ve had for three years and is quite well-trained and will only spray urine all over place only if he hasn’t seen somebody for a great long while and feels the need to greet them in a way that will make them feel very privileged to be singled out for this special honor.  Obviously this is his ploy to make them hurry back.  Hmmm…It doesn’t seem to be having the desired effect however.  But now at least we know how he operates, so whenever his very favorite guests, John for example, is a couple of minutes away, he gets on his Blackberry, calls us, and Scooter is sent outside to empty whatever remains in his tiny bladder.  Molly, however is the unknown.  She is a rescue dog we picked up two months ago, and although we’ve been doing pretty well with her training, (Only had her evil way with the carpets 4 times, and the last one was almost, fingers crossed, a month ago.)  I haven’t yet, had the courage to tempt fate and have a nice lie-in.  So that was the first reason I had to get up.  To take the dogs outside for their morning salutations.

The second reason I had to get up was…well, I wish I could say the excitement of the day made me leap out of bed, singing Hosannas, but the fact of the matter is…Word on The Street, in a torrential downpour and wind whipped streets, is no one’s idea of a good time on a Sunday morning when one could be drinking hot cocoa and devouring a good book by a roaring fire.

Well, we went, as did all the other hearty souls who had signed up and volunteered to show up.  The librarians were there with their signs and petitions in the soaking rain, and I have to say, the city better resolve this soon, because what is going on is really not fair!  Not to mention, I grew up in libraries.  How are little kids whose parents can’t afford to buy tons of books suppose to fill their imaginations and hearts if the libraries are shut?

Don and I wandered around in the rain, stopping to chat with the stalwart few who were wet and cold to the bone, trying to keep the rain that was whipping around off of the books, a few depressed balloons in bright colours hung limply from their strings.  I had a good time, but I got to leave when I was done, unlike the volunteers, booksellers and publishers and striking library staff who were committed to be there until 5:30 tonight!  I read.  It was fun.  A tent full of interesting upturned faces.  I was so relieved that my tent wasn’t one of the empty ones with only a couple of bottoms plopped down in the seats.  So thank you to all of you who braved the weather and showed up! 

On the way home we stopped at the market and I got the fixings for a pot roast, because that’s the kind of food one needs when the cold and wet gets all the way into the marrow of one’s bones.  Something hot and savory, cooked with red wine, fresh spices and chunks of vegetable.  And I think I’ll make some Orzo too.  That little tiny Italian pasta that’s almost the size of rice. Cook it up with a little butter, fresh grated Parmesan cheese and salt and pepper for flavor.  I’ve got the pot roast on right now and it’s just got to the point where the flavors and smells have made their way to my writing room.  Yum!  You know what?  Now that I’m nice and warm in my comfy home, with a delicious dinner cooking on the stove, I’m happy I had to get out in the elements.  My body has that tingly feeling that it gets when I’ve been outside and start to warm up, and not only that, if I hadn’t gotten wet and cold…who knows what we would have ending up eating for dinner?

Oh, and K.C Dyer sent me an email this morning telling me that Porcupine was an Editor’s Choice in the Vancouver Sun!  A recommended title!  Yay!


I woke up missing my daughter so bad it hurt.  The house dark and quiet.  At first I couldn’t separate the dream from reality.  She was around 6 in the dream, at that cozy, snuggle-in age.  Full of cuddles and leaning her little body into mine.  She was that age again where every thing’s more fun, more special when mom’s involved.  I woke up, my happiness filling the room, and then as the dream world separated, drifted up and away, I realized that she is grown now.  Twenty-three.  Thousands of miles away.  And this is well and good.  For the truth is I prayed nightly for help and guidance.  For the gift of being allowed to see my children safely to adulthood.  And I am so proud of her, forging her way in the world.  Landed herself a fellowship at a wonderful university.  Settled into her apartment, with her Bella dog and two cats.  This is how it should be.  The way of life.  But I’d be lying if I didn’t say that there is a sorrow, a loss, mushed up in the mix.  My children are grown.  No sticky, plump hands tucked up into mine.  Their sunshine faces turned up to me like little buttercups seeking the sun.  I’m not the sun anymore.  And never will be.  Never was really, they just didn’t know.  And it’s odd to me, how something I dreamt can effect me so much.  Even now, sitting here at my computer, my heart feels so full of sorrow and joy and loss.

Word On The Street

Fellow Canadians, Word On The Street is this Sunday!  If you live near Calgary, Kitchener, Toronto or Vancouver come on down and show your support for the authors that live in your region.  If you live in Victoria, Esquimalt High School is having a celebrations of authors this Sunday as well.  What better way to spend a Sunday afternoon, than to be outdoors with your family, tucking into a tent every now and then to listen to an author read and answer questions about their new books.  There are authors to appeal to all ages and interests.  And meeting the people who write the books can sometimes spark more of an interest in reading and writing for our young ones.  For those of you in the Vancouver area, if you are brave enough to face the rainy day forecast, I’ll be reading in “Canada Writes” tent on Homer St. from 12:20-12:40.  And while you’re in the area, swing by the library, chat with the librarians and if you believe in what they’re striking for, sign their petition.  I’m not sure what section I’m going read from Porcupine yet.  Do I read part of what I read at my launch?  That piece is at the beginning of the book and doesn’t really give any of the story away.  Or…do I throw caution to the winds and pluck a piece from the middle of the book? I quite curious to see what I decide.

audio downloads

Hello everybody,
I’m hoping, fingers crossed, to have the audio recordings downloads that I made of both Singing Songs and Gemma to be available for purchase in the next week or so.  I had thought, “Oh well, down-loadable audio books, how difficult can that be?  Go to a good sound studio.  You’re used to that from the movie days.  Work with a good engineer/producer/mixing genius (aka Richard Dolmat of Digital Sound Magic)  read the book into a mic.  Redo what you don’t like.  Richard cuts and mixes it Simple.” 

Not quite.  I started with Gemma.  OH MY GOD!  It’s one thing to write this book, that was scary and traumatic enough, but to read the whole thing out loud!  And of course for me, (as anyone who’s been to one of my book reading knows,) it’s impossible for me to just read things plain.  It’s like when I start giving actual voice to the words I’ve written, the saying it out loud makes it more real in a way and it grabs me by the throat and sucks me into the situation.  And the whole “Gemma” situation is not one that is a picnic in the park.  There were days when I’d come home from the recording studio and it would be a good hour before the shaking would stop.  Not to mention, I must have doubled my grey hair count,  (If I was counting, which I’m not.  My grey has gone way past the counting stage!) recording these books.  But I hope, hope, hope that for all of you people out there who came to my readings and kept pestering me to make an audio recordings of my books, that these recording will be everything you wished for.  As it was quite traumatic and emotional recording both of these books and I would hate to think I did it for naught.  I recorded Gemma first because I thought it would be the hardest one to do emotionally, and it was.  But then when I recorded Singing Songs, it was a different kind of emotional roller coaster.  I was expecting it to be a much gentler read, and in a way it was, but in another way, it tore me up even bigger than Gemma, because it was my first time reading anything from Singing Songs out loud since I admitted to the truth about it.  And having that knowledge there, out of the closet, made reading the things and experiences I remembered as a child out loud, saying the words, remembering the incidences…  Well, let me just say this, I felt a lot more vulnerable and shaky than I expected. 

Anyway, you will be able to download the books either by chapter, so you don’t have to download and listen to the whole book at one time.  But we’ll also offer the option on downloading the whole thing at once for those of you who prefer that.  Once you download the book you’ll be able to listen to it either on your computer, or on your iPod.  (I say this so knowledgeably, like I’ve ever done either, but I’ve been assured that the people who do this kind of thing will know what I’m talking about!)

Sweet potato mash

Canadian Thanksgiving is less than two weeks away and my mouth is already watering for that turkey.  I’ll give you my stuffing recipe and how to know when your turkey is done.  I’ll give you my secret for rolling out pie dough without ending up with a bunch of crumpled little fragments, a headache and tears.  But today I’m going to give you my sweet potato mash recipe.  Well it’s not really a recipe, because I’m not going to give you measurements.  That would be pointless as everybody is going to have different amounts of people to cook for.  But I’m going to tell you how I make it. What I love about this dish is that you can prepare it the day before, stick it in the fridge and then pop it in the oven when you take the turkey out and begin making the gravy.  My husband and boys love this dish.  I like it, but to be honest, I prefer just a plain old baked sweet potato or yam with lots of butter, a couple shakes of salt and a spoonful of light brown sugar.  Maybe it’s because it’s what I grew up with. 

Sweet potato mash

Ingredients: yams or sweet potatoes, brown sugar, salt, butter, rum, cinnamon, miniature marshmallows.

I call this sweet potato mash, but actually, around three-quarters of the time I use yams.  It got the “sweet potato mash” name because the first time I made it, the yams were looking a little beat up and tired, so I bought sweet potatoes instead, and so when I made this up, the name stuck.  Also, when you are shopping at the store, if they have organic yams or sweet potatoes get them, they are so much better for you than the ones full of pesticides, and are tastier too.  Don’t pick out the biggest honkers you can find, because I find that although they look impressive, they can sometimes be sort of stringy and fibrous inside, whereas the smaller ones can be more tender. 

-Wash the yams/sweet potatoes thoroughly to get all the dirt off.  Then quarter them and plop them into a large pot of water, skins and all.  I feel the skins adds texture and interest to the mash.
-Boil until soft.  You should be able to poke a fork into it with ease.
-Strain water out. 
-Mash with salted butter (for four regular sized yams I would use around 1/4 to 1/3 a cup)
-Add a glug or two of rum
-Add light brown sugar, salt and cinnamon to taste.

Always start slow when you are seasoning.  You can always add more, but once you’ve added it, you can’t take it back out!  You want to make sure that the sweet of the sugar is balanced out with the savory of the butter, salt, and the bite of the rum. 
When you have it just the way your tongue wants it, dump the concoction into a baking pan.  Sprinkle the top with miniature marshmallows, make sure the marshmallows are evenly spread out so they cover the whole surface.  Then stick directly in the oven.  Temperature doesn’t really matter, thank god.  Because I don’t know about you, but on Thanksgiving my oven is always stuffed full.  And some recipes are very finicky about what temperature they have to be cooked at.  Not my sweet potato mash.  It’s nice and adaptable.  So you can bake it at anywhere from 300 degrees to 425.  Cook until hot all the way through and the marshmallows are a puffy golden brown.  If you want to prepare this the day before, then delete the popping-in-the-oven part.  Instead cover and stick in the fridge to be cooked tomorrow.

Social Security…Fix?

So this just came in as a news bulletin on my computer

AP Economics
“Administration urges Social Security Fix”
WASHINGTON - “The Bush administration said Monday the only way to permanently fix Social Security is through some combination of benefit cuts and tax increases.”

Benefit cuts and tax increases.  This is what I was talking about yesterday.  If you are counting on your Social Security to bail you out, don’t!  You need to start saving now.  The article went on to say that the Treasury paper supposedly said (I say supposedly, because I don’t have a copy of the Treasury paper, go figure) that “Taking no action is thus unfair to future generations,”  This I do agree with.  HOWEVER there is something else that they should look at before they start cutting already meager benefits.  I’m talking about this little tidbit that I read in Richard Russell’s brilliant Dow Theory Letters in the remarks section Sept, 12, 2007.  The whole Article he quotes from is in Fortune Magazine and is called,

“Bush Budget Numbers, don’t believe the hype, the deficit is much bigger than you think.” It goes on to say, “We’ll start with the Social Security which will take in about $78 billion more in payroll and incomes taxes than it shells out. The Treasury takes that cash, gives the trust fund IOUs for it, and spends it. That $78 billion isn’t in the budget. Wait, there’s more. The Treasury will fork over $108 billion of interest on the trust fund’s $2.2 trillion of Treasuries—but will give the trust fund IOUs, not cash. They won’t count in the deficit either. Add that $186 billion to the stated budge deficit, and it more than doubles—to $344 billion.

“Now let’s move on. We end up with a total deficit of more than $400 billion after undoing another piece of WAAP legerdemain—the $97 billion increase in Treasury securities held by ‘other government accounts,’ such as federal employees pension funds. Thanks to the magic of Washington math, that doesn’t increase the deficit, even though it increases the government’s overall debt. Don’t you wish you could keep books this way at home?”

Now I agree, the Social Security situation is a nightmare that we only make worse by shutting our eyes and burying our heads under the pillow.  It is most emphatically not fair or appropriate to leave our future generations holding the bag.  HOWEVER don’t you think it would be advisable for the Bush Administration to stop spending the surplus that is coming to Social Security right now?!  Stop issuing IOU’s.  Start investing that surplus so that they can meet at least a little bit more of their obligations and promises to all of us who have been working and paying into this Ponzi scheme since our very first job.  It makes me so mad when I read things like this.  And the sad thing is the average person doesn’t even know that the U.S government is doing this.  It’s an outrage.

Don’t believe the double speak

This article just came up on Yahoo! Finance “In Aftermath of Rate Cut, Investors Watch Out for Signs of Accelerating Inflation.”  Then a couple of sentences down it said “This week investors will be looking for signs that inflation is under control.”  Please!  I don’t think we need to see the Wall Street and Government doctored up numbers to know the answer to that question. 

DO NOT believe the inflation numbers that come spewing out every now and then.  Look at the numbers.  In Sept. 2002 a one ounce gold maple leaf coin cost $320.90 U.S. dollars.  Now it is selling at $731 U.S.  Ask yourself, do I pay more now to have a roof over my head than I coughed out ten years ago?  Yes!  Does it cost me more to fill up my car with gas?  Pay my electrical bill?  To heat my house in the winter?  To put food on the table for my family?  Yes, yes, yes, yes, and yes.  Now I think it’s interesting that they decided in their infinite wisdom to remove housing and gas from their inflation index because their numbers were too volatile.  What?  I don’t know about you, but my biggest living expenses are my house and gas for my car and to heat my house and we all know how much those things have risen.  So why aren’t they included in the inflation index calculations?  Yes, fancy t.v.‘s and computers, and cell phones are less, but the day to day costs of living that parents have to struggle to pay, these things are more.  University or College?  Through the roof! 

I don’t know how families are managing.  And the thing that really scares me is the fact that most people are just struggling to pay the bills, living month to month, not saving anything for retirement.  I think I read somewhere that the average babyboomer has around $54, 000 put away for retirement!  That is so scary.  The interest one can earn every year on that amount is not even enough to pay the vet and food bill for a small cat.  How is that going to be enough to sustain a person?  And will social security and our pensions be there when we retire?  I wish I could say I believe they will, but I don’t. 

So this is what you have to do.  If you have any credit card debit, pay it off!  Seriously that is an economic killer.  Then if you have any spare cash, pour it into paying off your mortgage.  Now I know a lot of people think, “But no!  I want to have bonds and CD and stocks for security.”  But the thing is, on everything you earn with these investments, you have to pay taxes, and with the interest rates and dividend yields at such low levels, you are going to be earning far less in these investment than the interest that is being charged to you on your mortgage.  Or if your mortgage is too difficult to manage, sell it.  Because if you can’t make payments, your going to lose it anyway, and better to be in control of the process and get at least some cash out of it, rather than none when the bank forecloses. 

Oops…I just scrolled back and see that I have gone on rather a long rant.  So rather then continue boring people, I think I’ll stop right here.

happy, relieved

I woke up early this morning.  It’s still dark outside.  And I’m happy.  So happy.  My launch went well.  Thank God.  I got so scared before hand.  I was fine, kept myself busy with the set up, but then, it was ten minutes to seven and the door was unlocked and as the people who were waiting outside started coming in.  The noise of their chatting voices filled the Lycuem all the way up to the ceiling and the next thing I know, I was standing in a darkened storage/broom closet.  I told myself it was just that I needed to focus on my reading, the book.  I needed to organize what I wanted to say before hand, how to introduce Porcupine and Jack to the audience, but the truth is, I retreated to the broom closet because I was scared. 

At quarter after 7 my dear friend Christiane (a.k.a owner of Christianne’s Lyceum of Literature and Art) ferreted me out, and it was time to begin.  And oh thank goodness, because then it was started and there was no room to be scared anymore.  I don’t know why I got so scared?  Everybody was so lovely and kind and supportive.  Christianne’s mum had put out cheese and these gorgeous fruit platters and had made these delicious brownies!  There were candies (they know of my candy obsessions) and wine,  juice for the kids.  By the time the evening was ended I was flying high, so happy and thankful and relieved that it went well.  I went home with my heart full to bursting with all the kind words people said to me while they were getting their books signed, gifts of chocolate, flowers, these sweet beeswax candles, a lovely card with something really beautiful and moving written inside, and last but not least, some special string material that the hiking stores make that apparently works really well extending and holding pants up!  Thanks Mark!  (Obviously a Blog reader)  He showed me the special way to tie it and how to attach it to the button hole, then loop it through itself to secure it and then take the loop and Voila!  You slip it over the button.  It was a well thought out solution and very much appreciated.  I’m still smiling about that one.

The moon was bright in the sky on the way home, lighting up the streaks of clouds in the sky.  I sat in the back seat with some melting chocolate cupped in my hand, my son Will beside me, Don and his mother in the front.  Everyone talking, laughing, a car full of love.  When we got home and out of the car, Will leaned back so his shoulders. neck and head were lying out on the roof of the car (yes he’s that tall) “Ahh..” he said, looking up at the night sky.  And there was something about that “Ah…” that seemed to me to be so full of peace and contentment that I thought my heart was going to explode with happiness.  I tipped my head back and it was lovely.  We could actually see stars last night.  We stayed like that for a moment or two, looking at the stars, and then we went into our cozy house to talk a bit more and then snuggled down into our nice warm beds.

Book Launch

My husband’s mother is here for a visit and since it is a nice sunny day, they went out for a walk and I am/was using the opportunity to practice a little for my book launch tonight.  I thought I knew which pieces I was going to read, but today when I went through them, I got worried that I hadn’t chosen well and should find some other part to read.  The problem is the sections I really want to read are the sort of magical adventure things of my childhood that I wove into this book and they should come as a surprise to the reader.  On the other hand, if I read those portions, I am sure the Q & A section of the evening will make for a very fun and rousing discussion!  It’s such a conundrum.  I wish I could do one reading for the people who have yet to read the book and another reading for those who have already indulged.  Anyway, trying to get ready makes the book launch tonight a reality and my stomach is full of butterflies.  And I never, ever should have read that book Mortification. I should have stayed ignorantly blissful.  Let this be a warning to all you authors out there!  Part of the book is very funny and Don and I had quite a few belly laughs at the disastrous calamities that other authors so generously shared with us…But now, whenever I have some sort of public appearance…All those anicdotes flash before my eyes and I think “oh dear God, please don’t let that happen to me tonight.  So that is state I’m in right now.

Meg’s Tasty Beef Stroganoff

If you want a proper beef stroganoff recipe I suggest you get it out of a recipe book.  This is my slap-dash version and once you get the hang of it, you can have the whole thing ready in 30 to 40 minutes.  However, with every new recipe, it is best to familiarise yourself with it first, so you feel comfortable.  Not only that, you don’t want to deal with that new recipe nervousness while trying to be host/hostess with the mostest to a house load of guests.  Use your family as guinea pigs and try it out on them first.

Ingredients needed: beef tenderloin, onion, butter, sour cream, heavy whipping cream, a beef bullion cube, white mushrooms, dry white wine, salt, pepper, nutmeg, egg noodles.

Meg’s Tasty Beef Stroganoff

Put a large pot of water on to boil.  Cup your hand and pour around a chocolate turtle sized amount of salt into your palm.  Toss it into the pot with a drizzle of olive oil.
-1/2 a beef tenderloin (about 3 pounds)
I use tenderloin because I’m lazy, but if beef tenderloin is out of your budget, no problem.  Buy a cheaper cut of beef and get yourself one of those kitchen implements that look like a square two headed hammer, I’m not sure of the name but it’s to tenderize the meat. 
-Cut the meat (against the grain) into thin slices (the size really can vary, but for those of you who want something specific, say around 2 inches long (against the grain) by 3/4 of an inch wide and around the thickness of a wood ruler) And if you are using economy beef, bang the hell out of the beef strips with the tenderizer hammer. 
-Dice 1/2 a large white or yellow onion, or 1 medium one.  A nifty way to dice a large mass of onions is to peel the outer skin, cut off the top pointy part, then cut it into sort of a multi-lined tic-tac-toe.  Be careful to cut straight down and NOT to cut the slices right off the onion.  You want the cut onion to still be held together by the rough roots area at the bottom.  Then, when you have finished your lattice work pattern, you turn the onion on it’s side and slice it.  Voila!  The diced onion just falls away from the onion into a nice little pile.  Then when you get down to the back end of the onion you chop and dice it up, just like you used to do.  The whole thing takes less that 20-30 seconds and the best part of all is…NO MORE TEARS!  Because believe me, I’ve tried all the other tricks, slicing onions gripping a slice of sandwich bread between your lips.  Doesn’t work, I couldn’t see over the bread to what my hands were doing, would still bawl my eyes out and to top it all off, I looked well and truly ridiculous!
-Heat a large frying pan to medium heat.
-Saute the onions in a slab of butter (around 1/4 of a cup)  until clear.
-Turn pan heat up to medium high. 
-Saute your strips of beef in the onion/butter mixture. In 2 or 3 batches until brown (around 4-5 minutes per batch)  Remove each batch into a bowl, and cover with…whatever, a dinner plate, a frying pan lid, a cookie sheet.
-When all the beef is browned, turn the pan off.  Sprinkle the meat with salt and pepper and around 5 or 6 dashes of nutmeg.  Toss meat.  Cover. 
-wash around 10-15 mushrooms depending on how much you like them.  (I know the fancy chefs would prefer you not to wash mushrooms because the mushrooms absorb water, but pulleaze who has time to gently dust each individual mushroom off with a dainty little brush?  Not me.  I have a hungry family to feed!)  Slice the mushrooms.  When you are around 1/2 way through slicing the mushrooms turn the frying pan back on medium high heat.  When the pan is warm, start frying the 1st half of mushrooms while you finish up slicing the rest.  When the edges of the mushroom are slightly brown, throw them into the bowl on top of the cooked beef.  Cook rest of mushrooms and throw them in the bowl too.
-Pour 1/2 a cup of dry white wine into the pan. 
-Add 1/2 a beef bullion cube, mash it up in the wine. 
-Throw in 3/4 of a cup of sour cream, stir that around until all the lumps have dissolved.
-Turn pan temperature to medium low

*If your water is boiling now, throw in around 3/4 of a bag of wide egg noodles. 

-Pour into the wine and sour cream mixture 1 1/2 cups of heavy whipping cream.  Blend.  Then add beef and mushrooms.  Blend.  Taste.  Add more salt and pepper if needed. 

*When egg noodles are soft, strain, add a dash of butter, salt and pepper to taste. 

-Spoon out onto dinner plates, ladle a generous heaping of beef stroganoff on top, and devour!

(This last step is not mandatory for those of you who actually know how to present food.  I’m not going to give suggestions as how to garnish it because I suck in this department.  My food tastes good, but I always serve it county style.  Also know that with this recipe, nothing is set in stone.  You don’t like sour cream?  Don’t put it in.  You want some garlic in there too?  Be my guest, slice up a clove and bung it in.  Another shake of nutmeg?  Shake away.  Whatever you do, I’m sure it will taste wonderful!)



Pacific Northwest Booksellers Conference

I promised Peter, the captain of a tugboat, husband of Karla, that I would mention him in my blog so his crew would know that we really met and he wasn’t making it up.  While I’m at it, thank you Peter for escorting me from table to table, plying me with water, helping me sign and stuff my books.  Thanks actually to all the volunteers and organizers who were at the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Conference.  I started out petrified and by the end of the evening I had a fabulous bottle of wine from Porcupine Ridge winery (a gift from Patricia) tucked under one arm, a beautiful gift bag of books in the other and I didn’t want to go home.  I had a blast.  Everyone was so kind.  Thank you.

I just dodged a major bullet

Why do I always wait until the very last minute to pack my suitcase?  What do I think is going to happen?  A fantastic outfit is going to magically spring out of my anaemic closet, gorgeous and fully formed?  It hasn’t happened in 47 years so why would my closet start spewing out nice ensembles now?  And that’s another thing.  After each disaster narrowly averted, I always promise myself that the next time I have to stand up in front of a crowd of people and talk, I will figure out what I’m going to wear, have a back up in case there is a spill, and if I can’t find something decent then I’ll force myself to go…shudder…shopping and buy something.  But does this happen?  No. 

Like tonight for instance.  I know I have to hop in my car at 9 am to pick my friend Dawna up at the ferry terminal and then hightail it across the border to the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Conference.  The invitation arrived sometime this summer.  I was thrilled.  I was going to get to meet a ton of Booksellers and talk about my new novel, Porcupine.  How lucky was that!  Plenty of time to put together an nice outfit right?  Wrong.  I wait until 8:30 at night when all the stores have closed to start scrounging around my closet.  There is so no possibility of an emergency race to the shops bail out.  The longer I dig, the more worried I get.  How do other women do it?  Always looking like they stepped of the pages of a fashion magazine?  It was fine when I was an actress, because at the end of the movies I’d just buy the wardrobe I wore in the film.  It would fit me and the outfits were coordinated.  Then once I quit the movies my sister Jenny took over, dragging me into the shops with the bribe of a nice lunch when we were done and she would heap arm loads of clothes into my change room and wouldn’t let me come out until I found something.  But now she’s flying around the world kicking poker butt and starring in movies in her down time and I’m living in Canada.  And yes, I have those outfits from years back, but I have gained that middle age spread.  So unless I want to do that old pregnancy trick and sew a band of elastic on to the waistband with a slit for the button, which would be well and fine if I just had to stand around and talk, but at this thing I have to sit and eat and the jacket strategically covering the flap of elastic would gap open and everyone would be able to see that I’d gained weight and couldn’t get my pants done up.

Well, I was lucky tonight.  I found a pair of pants Jenny gave me when I was in LA for The Violence Intervention Program this spring, and a jacket from Jenny’s closet clean-out maybe five years ago.  I also found a lovely blouse in a subdued brown that said, “sheer understated elegance.”  The blouse was a tiny bit wrinkly so I trotted it over to the ironing board, but then I thought.  “Wait!  Maybe this blouse needs washing?  When did I wear it last?  Yes, I’d better wash it.  I’ll do it in the sink because the fabric probably couldn’t take the vigor of the washing machine.”  Well…it couldn’t take the vigor of a sink washing either.  When I finished washing it, rolling it in a bath towel and hopping on it to get the extra moisture out, the lovely elegant blouse had shrivelled up to about half it’s original size!  Fine if I was twenty with nice tight abs, not so fine for a forty-seven year old woman who has given birth to three children and not exercised since July.  Panic ensued.  I dug to the very bowels of my closet and the Gods were with me, because there at the very back was an old suitcase that I hadn’t gotten around to unpacking.  I opened it up and it was like a treasure trove of clothes!  Jenny and I had spent a week up at a spa around a year ago and she had brought two huge suitcases of clothes and left with one.  When I got home I had unpacked half of the suitcase and something must have called me away and then I’d thought I’d unpacked the whole thing, but I hadn’t!  Anyway, I found a lovely top that goes well under the jacket and so I shall have a sort of put together casual look, courtesy of my generous sister Jenny.

the fed (if financial stuff makes your eyes cross, do yourself a favor and don’t read this.)

So, the fed cut its overnight interest rates by a whopping half a percentage point to 4.75% and the US stock market soared.  The Dow up 335.97 points.  Now I know people were gunning for a cut, hoping for a .25 %. Praying that Ben Bernanke would not leave the rates as they were.  My question is would he have moved so strongly if there hadn’t been the run on the Northern Rock bank in England?  All those people lined up to withdraw their life savings.  The bank whose stability was being challenged because of some of its mortgage investments.  Yesterday, over 2 billion dollars withdrawn.  Was it that extra jolt that goosed his behind into making this large a cut?  Did he do the right thing?  The stock market thinks so.  Just look at the surge.  However, why didn’t gold drop in the face of such celebrating in the stock market?  Isn’t cutting the overnight interest rates saying that inflation is not a worry?  Then why is Oct. gold up $8.07?  And why did the US dollar dive to 1.01380 CAN?  Could it be that foreign investors have decided that with the sinking US dollar and now a cut in the interest rates, that it is costing them too much to hold US treasury bills?  And if that is indeed what is happening, this interest rate may not be something to rejoice about.  Short term, possibly.  Long term, a much grimmer story.

body double

Okay, I heard that there was rumor floating around that my sister was my body double in Body Snatchers.  Come on people, grab a brain!  Why in the world would my sister, a well known Oscar nominated actress, who has way more movie and tv credits that I ever could have dreamed of having, fly all the way to Mississippi to be my body double in some second rate movie?  The very idea is ludicrous in the extreme.  The woman who was my body double in the movie was a stripper at a local club.  I remember being upset when the director cast her as my body double because although she had a beautiful body, her breasts were enormous, nothing like mine and I felt he let his crotch get in the way of his artistic judgement.  I don’t remember what her name was, but I do know that she’d just had a baby and didn’t want her daughter to see the film when she grew up and know that it was her mother naked up on the screen.  Who knows what her real name is?  But apparently what they put in the credits was “Jennifer”.  A common enough name, and most emphatically not my sister.

cultivating my melting muffin stomach

There are many things I could be doing now…should be doing now.  Reworking a few more pages of my maybe-it-will-be-something-readable-maybe-not possible novel.  I could be taking my buttocks off this chair and trot myself out the door for a brisk walk.  BUT no.  I am sitting here sipping cold green tea. (Not because I chilled the tea in the refrigerator.  The tea is cold because it’s left over from this afternoon’s attempt at working on this latest draft of The B__ M, and no flies or other unwanted visitors had fallen into it, so I figured…“why not”)  Here I sit sipping my tea, nibbling my licorice _____?  What are these things called?  They are multi colored skinny licorice coated in a crisp candy enamel coating.  They’re from the Jellybelly factory and are delicious. You can find them on-line.  Sorry I don’t remember the name.  Don’t be fooled by other types candy coated licorice, as they are not nearly as good.  I can’t order them direct here in Canada, but luckily I was able to convince the owner of a new candy shop in town that these candies would make an excellent addition to her store, and off she sent her Dad to scamper across the border to pick up a large batch.  Which I promptly bought.  Yes, here I sit, the sky getting darker out of my window, blogging to whoever is out there reading this instead of doing something useful as well.

Exercise.  I liked how I threw that in, like I am a regular exercising junkie.  I used to be pretty good about exercising pretty regularly, but something happened this summer and somehow…I just stopped.  Oh I take a walk every now and then, but I haven’t set foot inside a regular exercise class since the second week in July!  Hmmm…maybe that’s it?  I went on this boat and there was this amazing Amazon woman teaching the yoga classes and I’m not a yoga person.  That doesn’t mean I don’t like yoga people, I do.  It’s just that well, personally, I find yoga incredibly difficult and painful and embarrassing because I’m always crashing onto the floor, losing my balance and everyone else is so good at it. 

So we were walking by the glass enclosed yoga studio and there were all of these people contorted into these really uncomfortable looking poses and I don’t know what I was thinking…but I said to my husband, “Hey, why don’t we take the Yoga class?”  Mistake number one.  Mistake number two was letting my feet walk me around the corner and signing up for the next class.  Mistake number three was taking the class.  Mistake number four was listening to what instructor had to say.  Almost impossible not to actually.  If you are in her class you have no choice.  She stride around the room, adjusting peoples bodies and roaring out her opinions in a voice that would terrify the undead. She was actually quite funny and furious and kind.  All of these things mashed up into an amazing mixture seems to promise fun and sex and violence and and an amazing fit body if only you learn how.  All the injustices of the world just simmering below her skin, erupting now and then in a tirade against… Well, many things.  And yet with all this power and energy seeping out of every single one of her pores, there is the feeling of a fragile sort of vulnerablity, hurts and betrayals, a small girl who was badly wounded and it made me want to wrap her in my arms and give her a hug.  I didn’t of course because the sane part of me was too terrified.  But I stayed in that impossibly challenging class because there was something I really liked about her.  Even though, as I said before, yoga is not for me. 

I’m not saying this is why I haven’t exercised.  It’s not.  The classes actually were quite amazing.  For the first four days it was quite painful to walk, reach for food, laugh, remove or put on my clothes.  No, after her classes, I looked awesome.  Not as amazingly awesome as she did, but quite awesome for me.  I haven’t exercised because I have fallen off of the exercising wagon, and I am finding it impossible to get back on.  I tried (sort of) last night.  I challenged who ever I could coerce in to a ping-pong match.  This is no easy feat because when you play ping-pong with me you’d better wear a cup and a helmet because when I whack that ping-pong ball it rarely hits the table.  (I could go on and on about my lack of proffessional ping-pong skills, how I unintentional disarm my opponents, causing them to sink to the floor, clutching their bellies with laughter at my enthusiastic but ultimately unsuccessful attempts.  However I shan’t bore you with the details.  Just let it be said that in order for ping-pong to even approach a proper cardiovascular work out, one must be able to volley the ping-pong ball more than three times in a row.)

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