Bits and Pieces

Chewing the Fat

When They Were Young




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January 2008

a quickie

This is going to be a very short little blog to say, I’m fine, haven’t fallen off the face of the earth.  Don is taking me out for a fancy dinner, he just ran upstairs to iron his shirt and I should be putting on something pretty, ( i.e. Something pilfered from Jenny’s closet.  Actually, not pilfered, I just said that because it sounded good.  Freely given would be the proper description.)  Anyway, that’s why this blog is so short.  We are going to spend a ridiculous amount of money on a date night out, (Will has a school thing that is going very late)  and I should be scrambling around in my closet finding something nice, because…poor Don.  I really don’t do that kind of thing on a monthly or even tri-monthly basis.  But what’s a girl to do?  I didn’t want two whole days to go by with out a blog and by the time we get back from our fabulous (I hope) evening out, I might not be in the mood for blogging. 

So that’s about it.  I shall sprint upstairs and try to make myself presentable to the outside world, and then off to a restaurant to nibble on tasty tidbits.  I’d better wear something with a loose waistline so I won’t have to undo anything under the table cloth. 

Oh.  That sounded odd.  I’d better clear it up.  Undo anything because I intend to eat hearty. 

I just heard Don leave the laundry room.  He’s around 2 minutes away from being all ready to go!  I’m off.

Okay, now my day is perfect!  Sigh…

I just received this email from Mellisa at Tundra.


The Ontario library Association Canadian Materials Committee will be presenting their annual Best Bets list of the top 10 Children’s Fiction, top 10 Picture books, top 10 Young Adult Fiction and top 10 Children’s Non Fiction at the OLA Superconference this week in Toronto. Four titles published by Tundra were chosen and I just thought you would like to know that your book is one of the chosen top 10!

Top 10 Young Adult fiction:

How it Happened in Peach Hill by Marthe Jocelyn

Top 10 children’s Fiction:

Eye of the Crow by Shane Peacock

Porcupine by Meg Tilly

Top 10 Picture Books:

Ten Old Men and a Mouse by Cary Fagan

All the best,

Melissa Reeve


- Tundra Books -

It’s me, (Meg) again.  Sorry about all of the spaces, but I don’t know how to remove them from the copied email.  Melissa hadn’t made Porcupine, or Ten Old Men and a Mouse, in bold.  I did that!  Mine for obvious reasons, and Cary’s because he’s my friend and he’s a damned fine person and writer and everything.  Yay!  I’m very happy. 

Thank you The Ontario Library Association Canadian Materials Committee!!!  Not that they read my blog.  But thank you anyway.  This is one glorious snowy day indeed. 

And for anyone out there who is having a lousy day, just read back to my blogs last week and you’ll know that in a couple of days, you’ll feel a lot better as well.  I LOVE the OLACMC!


We woke up this morning, still dark outside, and I knew even before I went to peek through the blinds that it had snowed last night, because the room was filled with that sleepy, muffled quiet that comes when the world is blanketed in snow.  It’s odd, here I am, a woman of forty-seven years, and still I get that hushed magic feeling when I wake up to snow.  Like I should be pulling on several layers of clothes, hat and mittens, grab my tobaggon and race outside and find a good hill, so I can go soaring like the wind.  There’s something about tobogganing, the running start, hurtling yourself through the air, that slight thump as your body lands on the rapidly moving sled and then the melding together, until you and the tobaggon are one, soaring past snow clad bushes, faster than the wind.  Ice particles and the crisp winter air, tearing up your eyes. 

Hm…I think when Don comes back with the car (yes…mine is STILL in the shop!  It’s only been 5 weeks.  And what is this big fancy procedure that is supposed to be done?  CHANGE MY BATTERY! Grrrr…)  Anyway, not worth my time to even dwell on their ineptitude, it’s been one thing after another.  I don’t plan on using their place of business ever again.

Anyway, back to happy thoughts.  When Don comes back with the car, I think I shall head over to the hardware store and get a sled.  Then I shall try to cajole the two remaining members of my family to come join in the fun.  I wonder if I shall succeed? 

I just glanced out the window.  The snow has stopped falling.  I hope it doesn’t melt before I can implement my big plan!  I hope this snow holds on for a bit.  I hope that by the time I come home with our sled that “new snow is falling.” (That’s a quote from Ezra Jack Keats children’s book The Snowy Day.  I remember being snuggled up in my mother’s lap, listening to her read that book to me.  And then, me, reading it to my children, just the way my mother read it to me.  Her words, my words, Ezra Jack Keats, filling the room with the magic and wonder of snow.)

circling, gathering, getting ready…

I dipped my toe in today.  Pulled up the YA manuscript, started glancing over some of the feedback I’d gotten from the Book Jackets, Bibliophiles and Ravenous Readers book clubs.  I have a pretty clear idea of what I need to do.  I had fun today, immersing myself back in 1974.  I am so grateful to these teens and parents from Christianne’s Lyceum of Literature and Art for all their help and insight.  It’s really nice to be excited about going in.  I’m going to do a little more circling tonight, looking up some more stuff, most of which will never be used.  Then tomorrow I will print up the manuscript, start marking it up with my pen, find the gaps that I need to fill or insert sections into.  And then in a few weeks or months, I’ll start the process of trying to weave it all together and see what happens. 

I’ve gotten some feedback from the couple of people that I run my manuscripts by and they say I’m wrong to give up on The Big Muckle.  They are so ferocious about it.  Sending impassioned emails, phone calls, inspirational stories of writers rejections and triumphs.  It’s very sweet, I feel quite loved, but to be honest, it’s a little confusing as well.  I’m nervous to let anybody else read it in case I embarrass myself further, and yet, unless I get a couple more responses to it, how will I know for certain if it is a piece of cr__ or not? 


I’m feeling more like myself again.  Ready to move on.  I’m taking one more day to read and sit around looking at my bellybutton.  Come tomorrow, I shall stick my big toe back into the writing.  We’ll see. 

I was catching up on my some of the financial things I like to read this morning.  It’s interesting to me how the tone of things has changed.  Even the analysts that are usually quite optimistic and even keel, are banging the recession, bear market drum.  Apparently, what we’ve experienced so far, many of these experts are saying, is only the tip of the iceberg.  They expect things to get much, much worse.  Scary.

So, what can we do?  Cut back on spending.  Pay off as much of your debt as you possibly can each pay check, starting with the highest interest rate first.  If possible consolidate all of your debt into one large one that charges lower rates.  It is also very important to have an emergency fund of at least 6 months.  If all the gloom and doom that the financial experts are predicting comes true there is going to be downsizing and cut backs.  If you are one of the unfortunate ones and you lose your job, you want to make sure that you have a cushion that will sustain your family until you find other work.

If you are having financial troubles now and have missed a few mortgage payments, call the financial institution where you got the loan now!  Sooner is WAY better than later.  I know it’s is scary, but you need to know that they would much rather work out an adjusted payment schedule with you than foreclose on your house.  I know it’s tempting when the shit is hitting the fan to want to crawl into bed and pull the covers over your head, but it is very important that you don’t.

Oh, and one more thing.  If you have stocks and/or bonds AND you are carrying a large credit card or mortgage…don’t be crazy.  Sell the stocks and bonds and pay off the debt. 

I know this is a hard thing for people to get their head around.  We are so indoctrinated into thinking we need to have stocks and bonds to feel like a success.  BUT you have to think about it financially.  How much interests are you earning on your bonds?  Maybe 4%.  But that’s 4% gross income, taxed at your highest rate.  For me here in Canada if I earn $100, I have to pay $47.30 to the government in taxes, that only leaves me with $52.70 in my pocket to pay for things like credit card debt and mortgage payments. 

Now take a look at your stocks.  What is their dividend yield?  What is their price earnings?  Even calculating the possible growth, which many of the leading financial brains around the world are saying, are not in the cards as they see them.  Are you earning more on your investments after you pay taxes than the interest payments you are paying?  What are interest rates are you paying on your credit cards?  18%?  21%?  So you see, in the big picture, you might not be earning money on your bonds and/or stocks, but taking your debt into account, having these “investments” might actually be losing you money.

Do the math.  What percentage of interest are you paying on your credit card debt, your car loan, your mortgage?  Can you earn more than that with your investments? 

You see what I mean?

I make up for my grumpiness yesterday by giving Don the gift of laughter

Last night Will was out with his friend so it ended up being just me and Don for dinner.  Don made chicken breast with thyme and pancetta and leaks, with a nice crisp salad on the side.  It was tasty, but we had tons left over.  He had made three chicken breasts and they were rather large so I had a half, Don had a whole. 

“Our grocery bills are going to be way less when Will leaves home,” Don said.

At first I was taken aback, because I try as much as I can, to pretend that my youngest will never leave home.  Which is ridiculous.  Of course you want to have raised children who feel confident enough in themselves to be able to envision building a life for themselves out in the world.  However, it will really mark a huge change in my life.  I’ve spent my whole life taking care of people.  Who am I going to be once I am not?  Will I still be me? 

‘Chin up.  Look on the bright side,’ I told myself.  I turned to Don. “You’re right about that,” I said brightly.  “We’re going to save a ton of money.  Senior citizens eat way less food.”  And I’m thinking about how the restaurants have special menus of the back for seniors which have smaller portions and smaller prices.  I used to always eat a whole breast and now I can only manage a half.  And I’m feeling all happy, that those great savings on food bills are going to be mine, when Don erupts in a fit of laughter. 

“What?  What?  Why are you laughing?” I say, because I know I must have made a funny joke, but I’m not sure what it is.

“Senior citizens?” Don snorts.  “Senior citizens.  Meg, you’re only forty-seven and me, I’m coming on forty.”  He’s laughing big time.  He’s having to prop his head in his arms on the table because he’s laughing too hard to keep it upright.  “Senior citizens?  We have a long ways to go before we’re senior citizens!”  And I laugh too, like I was joking on purpose, but really, it’s only around twenty years away.  My children are now 23, 21, &17 and it passed in a blink of an eye.  I’m going through menopause.  I have bones and joints that complain in the morning.  Don doesn’t realize it, but being a senior citizen is right around the corner.

How do other people do it?

See, this is the problem with taking a break.  I start to feel a little grumpy, a little undone, a bit incomplete when I’m not writing.  It’s like this morning, I thought, “I’m not writing right now, because I don’t have to.  I’m going to take a nice drive across town to pick up our stacks of mail this morning.  And then I’m going to have a nice walk with this lovely woman who I’d met recently.  How lucky is that?  It’s good not to be writing.  I stayed up last night reading a book.  Ah…how lovely.” 

Well, the route I chose to drive must have had every construction site, every car accident, every stalled vehicle there was in the whole entire city.  It took me 2 and 1/2 hours to get to the mailbox and back!  I barely had time to dash inside, complain grouchily to Don.  Like somehow all this bad traffic was his responsibility by proxy.  And if he’d come with me rather than writing like a proper writer in his room, maybe none of these traffic snafus would have happened.  Or even if they had, maybe it would have been more fun with him in the car.  We could have talked, I could have tried to teach him the harmonies to Angels We Have Heard On High.  And yes, I know it’s a Christmas carol, but it takes Don a really long time to get a harmony in his head and keep it there.  I started a couple weeks ago when we were trapped in bad traffic and I figure if I keep this up, maybe we can sing it around the house next Christmas.  (I’m sure this news will thrill the kids…)  But he didn’t.  He stayed home and was virtuous.  Pecking away at the keyboard.

Anyway, here’s what my problem is with being stuck in traffic in a car, by myself, for such an extended period of time.  My car is in the shop, so there aren’t all the little treats in this car that I use to bribe myself to stay calm, and cozy in bad traffic.  There aren’t the CD’s that my daughter or one of my friends have mixed for me.  The radio in Don’s car is set to hockey news, and ever since one of my best friends got in a coma and died from a bad traffic accident 5 years ago, I’ve become a more anxious driver than I used to be.  Every car on the road is a potential death trap.  I find I grip the steering wheel way to hard.  So I try to distract myself with thoughts.  But a lot of my thoughts are skittering around with questions, and what next?  And oh-why-did-I-invite-_____ to go for a walk?  What if she thinks she wants to go for a walk with me, but once she does, she’ll wish she never had?  What if she agreed to a walk because she thinks I might be interesting, when I’m actually not.  What if my dog misbehaves?  What if her dog hates my dog?  Why am I so shy? 

It’s so hard when I don’t have the shelter of my children.  That whole, you have kids, I have kids, lets get them together to play.  Or when I was at regular work and then I’d meet people that way.  Now, it’s hard.  I feel so awkward.  What does one say, “Hey, I like you, lets be friends.”  I don’t know how to do this.  I have my old friends, but they live all over the world.  I want someone who I can see, talk with, laugh until our bellies are sore.  I want a woman friend who lives close by, where I don’t have to be all confident and together.  Someone who can tell me her sorrow and joys and I can tell mine. 

I was so stressed out by the time I battled my way through the tons of traffic and arrived at home.  Only to get back in the car again and leave, 20 minutes later, so I could get Molly calm on her leash before _____ arrived.  So she wouldn’t think that Molly was the most crazy out-of-control dog she’d ever met.  (Granted, Molly is a little bit…um…exuberant, but one has to take into account her challenging past.)  But I got all nervous, because if she thought I had a wacko dog, then she’d think I was wacko too and for sure she wouldn’t want to be my friend. 

Anyway, the walk was lovely.  The dogs were happy.  We talked books and editors and agents and stuff.  And we are the same age, so that’s something else in common.  So, we’ll see.  Maybe in five years from now, I’ll be blogging about my great friend _____ and we can all have a good laugh about how nervous and stressed I got.  Or maybe we won’t become friends.  We’ll just stay nodding, friendly bump-into-each-other-every-five-months-or-so kind of acquaintances.  I don’t know.  Whatever happens is fine.  I don’t know why I felt so small about it.

I’m glad we moved to Vancouver for Will’s school, but I have to admit.  It’s lonely sometimes.  I miss the comfort and coziness of my old friends back on the Island.  Don is all well and lovely and I am so blessed to have him in my life.  But all you women out there, you know what I mean.  It’s a different kind of contentment, female companionship. 

Buttermilk pancakes

I’ve decided to post my buttermilk pancakes recipe.  I got the original recipe from a cookbook, but as with everything I make, I have fine-tuned and changed it a bit according to what my taste buds like.  When pancake loving people come to my house, they always say they are the best pancakes they have ever tasted.  Maybe yes, maybe no, but I’m going to post the recipe just in case our friends are telling the truth about the tastiness quotient.  This recipe makes around 8 four inch pancakes.  It’s enough for the three of us in the morning, but that’s because we have to eat at 7:15 a.m. so Will can get to school on time, and so our stomachs aren’t very hungry.  It’s best if you play with it and see what works for your family.  If you have large appetites or are more than three people, just double every measurement by two.

Meg’s Buttermilk Pancakes

ingredients: unbleached flour, sugar, salt, baking soda, baking powder, butter, buttermilk, maple syrup

(If you like a side of bacon with your pancakes, start cooking the bacon on medium-low, and then start the recipe.  That way the timing will work out and the pancakes and bacon will be done at the same time.)

Put a large pan on the stove on medium-low heat.  (I don’t use a non-stick pan for pancakes.  I use a regular one.  I find that the non-stick makes the pancakes sweat slightly, whereas the regular one allows the edges to get that slight crisp.)

Measure into a mixing bowl.
-1 cup of unbleached flour
-1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
-1/2 teaspoon of salt
-3/4 teaspoon of baking powder
-1 teaspoon of sugar

Mix the above ingredients with a fork.

If you are using a two cup measuring cup, you can mix the next section right in the cup.  (If you are using a one cup measuring cup, then mix the following ingredients in another mixing bowl.)

- 1 and 1/4 cups of buttermilk
-1 large egg


Place 1/4 cup of butter in the hot frying pan.  Keep a close eye on it.  Swirl the butter around so the whole bottom of the pan is greased.  As soon as the butter is melted, pour it into the buttermilk and egg mixture, stirring constantly.

Turn the frying pan up to just a little bit higher than medium heat, (but not to medium-high!)

Then pour the wet mixture into the flour mixture.  Do not over blend! Just a few strokes of the fork until all the flour mixture is mixed in. 

Slip your fingers under the faucet, then dash a couple of drops of water on the frying pan.  If the drops of water skiddle around then the pan is hot enough, and you can spoon out the pancake batter into the hot pan.  (The pan shouldn’t be smoking.  If it is turn the heat down a bit, and remove the pan for just a few seconds to cool it down.)

When there are a least two bubbles that have formed in the cooking pancakes and popped without the uncooked batter filling in the holes then the pancakes are ready to flip with a spatula.  Do not flip before this or you will have raw and gooey middles.  (The second side of the pancakes don’t take nearly as long as the first side.  They brown quite quickly and are ready to go.)

Important! Do not fiddle with the pancakes while they are cooking just leave them to cook.  I see people using their spatula to press down on them all the time and that is not a good idea.  It makes the pancakes heavy. 

Also important While you are waiting, I know it is tempting, but do not stir the sitting batter in the bowl.  When you spoon it out into the frying pan, do not re-stir the batter either.  It takes the fluff out of the pancakes. 

When the pancakes are cooked serve them up, piping hot with a slab of fresh butter and real Canadian maple syrup.  That’s what we had this morning, and it was good.

not all “ah..ha” moments are necessarily fun

Today, I realized that The Big Muckle, which was fun to write, was not the direction in which my talents lie.  It’s too fluffy and light and just surface skims.  It was a relief not to have to dive deep, find the core of things, but it is no good.  I have decided to toss the (I was going to say “book” but caught myself) manuscript.  Reel for a few days, with the disappointment and slight feeling of foolishness that I wasted all that time.  And when I have recuperated then I’ll get started on something else.

K.C. Dyer (a YA novelist, Seeds of Time, Ms. Zephyr’s Notebook)  Wrote today and asked if I would do the Surrey International Writers Conference again next fall, so that will be fun.

Some days though, I wonder if I should be a writer.  I wonder if I have anything worth saying.  What am I going to write next?  Is it going to suck too?  Why am I writing?  Spending all these hours sitting in front of a computer screen.  And even when I’m not in front of a computer screen, the writing is still following me around like…I was going to say a mildewed sweater, but I think that is how I’m feeling right now.  Sometimes the smell of the stories that follow me around are the aroma of fresh baked gingersnap cookies floating out of a neighbour’s window.  I guess that still how I feel.  Like all the good stuff is flowing out of everybody else’s fingers and I am hungry and standing out in the parking lot trying to fill up on illusion.  Nothing concrete. 

I don’t think I’m a very good writer.  I don’t know if I will ever be. 

Heath Ledger

Heath Ledger is dead.  The beautiful, young, talented actor from Brokeback Mountain and other films.  My heart is pounding.  I feel so sad.  He was one of the special ones that went to the soul and heart of the character.  Rare.  I didn’t know him.  Only his work.  What a loss.

The markets over night

Imagine my surprise when I wake up in the early morning hours, unable to sleep, so after an hour or so, I get up and come down stairs, to see that the U.S. Fed had an emergency phone conference last night and decided to cut the overnight loaning rate by .75%.  This is a enormous cut, (that granted, many people were hoping for, almost expecting.)  But to do it almost a week before expected.  Obviously it is an attempt to calm the markets.  And boy do they need calming!

While we slept the Hong Kong Hang Seng dropped 8.7%.  The Shanghai dropped 7.2%.  The Japan’s Nikkei tumbled 5.7%.  The Indian market closed down 5%.  All of this on top of Monday’s losses.  The Fed was smart to cut the interest rates early.  The question is, will it do the trick?  And if it doesn’t…well, I don’t even want to go there because if it doesn’t help…that’s a pretty scary scenario. 

It seems clear that the Dow will plummet at the open, as there are already a ton of future orders that have been placed yesterday and today (overseas)  The question is, will it firm up like the Indian market did yesterday after dropping 10% at the open, to close only 5% down for the day.  (I can’t believe I just said only 5% down for the day.)

Well, the U.S. markets open in 30 minutes.  It promises to be a very interesting day.

the markets today

Okay, my faithful readers.  I am going to go on one of my financial jags, so if that’s not for you, don’t bother reading any further.

For the rest of you…

Holy Smokes!  The stock markets around the world got whacked today, which does not bode well for the US market tomorrow.  These are a few of the headlines that greeted me today.  “Stocks in Europe put in their largest one day decline since Sept. 11, 2001.”  “US recession fears sparks deep selling throughout Asia.”  Bank of China $8 billion write off.” 

And then there is a real intriguing headline “How a French Bankers Comments Derailed Global Stock Markets.”  The real interesting thing about this article is it is the only one I can’t read!  Every time (and believe me, I’ve been trying all day) to read it, I get booted off, not just the article but the Internet as well.  There have been several articles with a similar theme in the title, but anything that has to do with this subject boots me off.  I can’t get more than a sentence in before this happens.  And it is only with this subject matter.  Everything else is fine.  Almost makes me think that it’s on purpose.  Someone is doing damage control, saw that whatever this guy said had a huge effect on the global markets and so they made it impossible for us poor folks in North America to access it. 

Oh, I just looked up and saw that it is 1p.m.  I’ll be right back.  I want to see what the Toronto Stock Exchange closed at. 

I’m back.  The final closing numbers aren’t up on my screen yet, but right now it says -597.05.  Which is a drop of -4.69%.  Huge.  Add that to the -6.6% drop of last week and it is not a pretty picture. 

What is really interesting me, is that generally when the stock markets are lower, the “safe haven” investments (i.e. gold) usually rises in price.  But that hasn’t been happening in the last few days.  Gold has been whacked as well.  Now, one could argue that gold has been having a meteoric rise and in order to be strong, needs to rest for a while.  Back up and fill, consolidate the ridiculously exuberant upsurge before it continues it’s rise.  But, maybe not. 

Banks around the world have been hit big time.  They have suffered huge losses due to the sub-prime and credit challenges. 

Now, it is my understanding that the Canadian banks are a very different creature than the US banks.  That they are more tightly regulated.  That there is some exposure to the sub-prime mess, but not to the extent of some of the US banks.  Not only that, but we don’t have the multitude of banks that the US has.  There are five major banks and one mini-major bank.  That’s it.  None of these banks have ever even come close to going under, not even during the Great Depression in 1929-1934.  Not only that, but don’t you think that even if there was a huge disaster, that it would be unthinkable that the Canadian Government wouldn’t bail them out.  There is only five of them.  How could a country run without banks.  I think the Government would have to. 

So, here’s my question.  Has anybody noticed what these Canadian banks are selling for?  Price/earnings in the 11’s.  Dividend yields of 4.26-5.42%  The only exception in Toronto Dominion which has a P/E of 11.33 and a yield of 3.68%.  (I heard from a pretty reliable source, that the TD has repeatedly stated that they have absolutely no exposure to the sub-prime market.  But you’d want to verify that for yourself)  Now if you add in the fact that we pay a much lower tax for dividend income, I don’t know.  It’s something to think about. 

Do I think this is the end of the stock market slide?  No.  Do I have a crystal ball that says that we should buy bank stocks?  No.  Am I watching the Canadian bank stocks and saying, hmm?  Yes.  Do I think the bank stocks might slide a lot further?  It’s very possible, almost to the point of probable.  I think they will slide a lot more, which is why dollar cost averaging could be a smart strategy.  Do I have any kind of financial degree what-so-ever?  Absolutely not!  I’m just telling you what’s on my mind. 

See how much fun I have when I’m not working on a manuscript.  That’s all for today. 

Away for the weekend

Hello.  We went away for the weekend.  It was lovely.  We hung out.  No Internet, just the trees and the water and the rain.  I built a big roaring fire and wished I’d brought marshmallows to roast.  Don made a delicious dinner while Will and I played dominoes (we think, as neither one of us are clear on the rules.)  It wasn’t a full domino set, more like a mini stocking stuffer kind.  Don offered me a glass of red wine.  “It’s really good,” he said.  So I accepted even though I wasn’t really in a wine mood.  It was good though.  I alternated sips with tiny nibbles of chocolate and felt truly decadent. 

Then in the night, the wind blew the clouds away and we woke to clear skies with only a few clouds and and the air crisp, cold beautiful.

I don’t know why, but there was something about the quality of the air that reminded me of when we lived on Texada Island.  There was this one tree right outside the front porch that had the largest, crunchiest, juiciest, sweetest apples I ever tasted.  And sometimes I’d shimmy up the apple tree in the fall and pluck a ripe apple off a far reaching branch that other people hadn’t been able to reach because the branch was too small.  But I could.  And sometimes if I was super hungry and in a greedy-I-don’t-want-to-share-it mood, I’d eat it, freezing my butt off up there in the tree, so I could have it all.  The thing I liked about this particular tree, more than even the crunchiness and taste, was that the apples were really hard, so that they rarely were plagued with the worms that sometimes infested the softer apples.  It was usually pretty safe to eat one of those enormous King apples, even in the dark, and not have your mouth filled with the bitter taste of…yuck.

It was a lovely weekend.  With talk and cuddles and reading and more talking and dogs digging holes and rolling in stuff that they shouldn’t.  One of those weekends where life seems like it just couldn’t get any better.  Not only that, I made crepes this morning and filled them with a delicious blueberry compote that I made from this summers store of frozen blueberries.  I added a dollop of vodka for flavor (which I know sounds weird since everybody says vodka doesn’t have flavor, but I find that a glug of vodka or a glug of apricot brandy in one’s blueberry compote adds that extra little something that is missing if you don’t.  Not much.  Around the amount of cough syrup one might take for a cold.  No more than that.  Then squeeze a little lemon juice in, a sprinkling of sugar and you have yourself some blueberry compote.  I added whipped cream and it was good. 

And now we’re back home, which is nice as well.  I wonder what next week will bring? 

bathrooms and goblets

So, about the photo on the home page… 

On the way back to our home in Hayfork, we stopped at the Madonna Inn.  Oh my!  I had never seen anything so fancy in my whole life.  There were mechanical moving dolls and decorations all over the place.  And when we went into the bathroom!  Seriously, I almost fainted, because even the bathroom was gorgeous.  It had red velvet embossed wall paper, that felt so pretty when I slid my fingers over it.  And the bathroom stall doors were made of what looked to be leather with gold studs punched in to make it puffy like the back of a fancy sofa.  There were oval ornate gold framed mirrors over the sinks that looked like they just stepped out of a real-live fairytale.  I can’t remember for sure, but I think the sinks were marble.  I know the faucets and water taps were gold.  Because I daydreamed about those faucets for a very long time.  Wondering if they were just gold plated or if they were solid gold, through and through. 

Now…our bathroom was gorgeous, but that was nothing compared to the men’s bathroom.  The men’s bathroom had a entire rock wall for a urinal, and when the men peed this waterfall came rushing down.  I don’t remember how we found this out.  I think maybe my step-daddy, John was on the trip.  Although I don’t remember him being there.  Selective memory, I guess.  Anyway, my Mama stood guard outside the men’s bathroom and sent me and my sister in to see for ourselves, and it was true.  My heart was pounding, sneaking into the mens bathroom.  I hoped nobody would find out and we would get arrested.  We pushed open the door and walked in and sure enough, there was a rock wall, still slick with water from the last guy who peed, and I was filled with amazement and lust and envy.  What I wouldn’t have given at that moment, to have had a penis and been able to activate that waterfall urinal.

After we gazed in awe at the men’s urinal, we took a quick scout around the rest of the bathroom and then hurried out.  Cheeks flushed with our daring.  Mama was outside waiting.  Happy that she could have delivered this special treat.  And I was glad.  I felt like I had some hidden knowledge that all the other females in the Madonna Inn didn’t have.  I knew, by first hand observation, what the inside of the men’s bathroom looked like.  I knew about the magical waterfall. 

We met up with Grandmother by the mechanical doll display.  She was sitting on a red cushioned bench.  She wasn’t interested in visiting the men’s bathroom.  There was a restaurant there for the fancy people and oh-my-god it was amazing.  Everybody was drinking out of jewel coloured water goblets.  I’d never seen anything so wonderful in all my life.  And my Mama saw the expression on my face and so she asked the waitress if it would be okay for me to sit at the table for a picture and the waitress said, okay.  And I was sitting at that table set with real napkins and silverware but most exciting of all were these beautiful goblets.  I asked the waitress if it would be okay to touch it?  Put my hand on it, so it would look like I was drinking it.  AND she said, I COULD DRINK OUT OF IT!!! AND I DID!  It was one of the best days of my life.  I felt so lucky.  Like I had this lucky charmed life.  And my mum was brave to ask if we could take a picture and that waitress was so nice to me.  Even though I wasn’t a paying customer and she had work to do.  She let me drink out of that ruby red goblet with my own lips!  Now that was special.

Years later, when I was grown and had children of my own, I visited the Madonna Inn again.  We were driving from Canada down to L.A. and I added an extra 500 or so miles onto our trip to swing by the Madonna Inn, because I wanted my children to be able to experience the magic of the place. 

It wasn’t as fancy as I remember.  Now, I don’t know if it used to be fancy in the old days and it has just slid into disrepair?  Or if it was always this way and I was looking at it with a different yardstick.  I took my young daughter to see the woman’s bathroom and the wall paper was still the embossed red velvet, but there were all these dark bits that I didn’t remember and looking closer, I saw that it was a million names written on the wall in ink.  All these people had come here and taken out their pens and scrawled their names on the walls.  Millions of names.  Which meant millions of people saw nothing wrong with doing that.  It hurt my heart so bad.  They still had the mechanical dolls.  I don’t know about the waterfall.  There were a lot of rough and tumble looking people there.  It was so different.  Or was it? 

I did however, go to the gift shop and buy one of every color of goblet.  And we still have a few of those goblets now.  The ones that didn’t get broken.  And for many years, until they out grew it, my children got to drink out of jewel coloured goblets at every single meal, and in between meals too!

I’m not sure what to call this?  Pillow talk?

I’ve decided to tell you a little about the picture on the home page of my website.  The one of Tilly-two (our deer) getting off the coffee table is pretty self explanatory.  It’s the other one that people might wonder about.  The one of me pushing the bathroom door stall open with this expression on my face like I’ve just seen Santa and he’s real.

My mum had taken me and one of my sisters to drive down to Hemet (I think I’ve misspelled that) to visit our Grandmother Tilly and then we were all going to drive back so Grandmother could visit with the rest of the family.  (This was the trip where I taught my Grandmother to eat Cool Whip in her porridge)  Our grandmother was “rich” (at least in our minds), so I wore my very best school clothes and washed my face and brushed my hair every day so she would think I was fancy too.  We visited my Grandfather’s grave and there is a photo of me, kneeling beside his grave and putting a flower down.  I wore my black long sleeved shirt and grey jumper because I’d read enough books to know that with things like death and funerals, one is supposed to wear somber colours to show respect for the dead.  Never mind that my Grandfather had been dead for almost three years at this point.  I wanted to do what was right. 

I remember being a little scared to go near his grave and kneel down, but I did it because Mama wanted a picture.  I wasn’t sure what was going to happen.  I didn’t have that many memories of my Granddaddy.  Only that I liked him and he was nice.  I do remember once however that he yelled at us kids because we were playing and forgot that we weren’t allowed to walk on the shuffleboard area, because of the wax or something.  I was only three, so it’s sort of vague. 

Anyway, when we were at his grave and my Mama wanted me to go close and kneel down, and I don’t know what I expected.  I suppose was scared because when I was 3 1/2 and he was dying, I heard him call for a pillow.  I made my Mama go to the post office and mail mine because he needed it.  We didn’t even know that he was dying.  I just knew that he needed my pillow.  Later mama got the phone call from Grandmother Tilly, that Granddaddy was dying.  Mama asked Grandmother if he had been calling for a pillow and Grandmother said yes, but that he already had two and so she didn’t give him another. 

Everybody had always thought it was so great that I heard him calling for a pillow from over 3,000 miles away, but to be honest, it kind of scared me.  I pretended I thought it was cool too, but I didn’t. 

So, I guess that’s why I was scared to get close to his grave.  Everybody talked about how much he loved me.  How we had this special connection and I suppose I was scared that he might decide to reach up out of his coffin and grab me because he missed me so much and wanted company.  But he didn’t.  The grass just felt a little damp under my knees.  It was a hot day, clear blue skies, so the wetness must have been from sprinklers.  Nothing much happened when I knelt down.  I just did, Mama took a picture, I looked solemn and that was it.  We went back to Grandmother’s house.  I think Mama was a little disappointed, but maybe I’m projecting that.  She asked me if I heard anything, or felt anything, and I said no.  I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to have heard or felt, but I felt like a fake.  A failure.  I got one of the worst headaches I’d ever had in my life and had to go to bed. 

Wow!  I just went WAY off topic.  Oh well.  That’s what’s fun about blogging.  I don’t have to keep on track, move the story forward.  I don’t even have to finish what I’m saying.  Well, I don’t want this to be too long of a blog, so I guess I’ll have to tell you about the photo tomorrow.  Bye for now.  Love, Meg

(Oh, and for those of you who have contacted me to say you’ve been worrying about last weeks blog, you know the tiny lump thing, I’m on it.  They’ve scheduled an ultrasound to double check so I’ll be doing that in a couple weeks.  My birthday actually.  So that will be good to get that over with.  I’ll let you know.  Thanks for the love and good wishes.  Don’t worry. xo) 

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