Thursday, February 26, 2015

Veritable Quandary

Thursday is my usual day to work on the story I've been writing.  I was doing fairly well with this routine of edit and rewrite on Thursdays, post the next chapter on Fridays.


The BFF reads my stuff, then we discuss things in our weekly Sunday phone call.  Two weeks ago, she tells me that she likes the build-up of tension between the two main characters; they aren't just leaping into bed after two days of knowing each other.

Dead silence on my part.  She asks me what's wrong and I tell her the first big sex scene is coming in the next chapter.  She says it's too soon.  I say, "Would you turn down this guy if he was hot for you?" She laughs, says, "Hell no, but...Kate would."  And damn, she's right.  Kate might want him, but she's too wary and cautious.

I tell the BFF that if I remove the scene, I'll have to merge two chapters and somehow keep the narrative cohesive.  And I whinge a little because, wow, the sex between these two is just plain scorching and it fits in with where the story is going and I like it...lots.

But I listen to her, eventually agree...

And spend three days last week trying to cut and paste and move and rewrite to keep the story flowing so it doesn't seem chopped or senseless.  I finally post the newly revised chapter last Saturday and then wonder how to salvage the rest of the story.  This couple has to connect because their feelings drive the plot and if they don't care about each other, no one reading will give a crap what happens to them later on when shit hits the fan.  By late Saturday afternoon, I decide to give my brain a rest and put all thoughts of the plot aside until next week.

Which is now.

This morning I realize, while looking over the next few chapters, that they're totally wrapped around the ones I altered last week--there are conversations that now don't make sense, touchy-feely moments after obvious intimacy.  Now I'm having serious regrets about changing the plot, but have to forge on and somehow figure out a way to get these two together that doesn't come off as contrived or gratuitous. And damn, it was so right the way I wrote it the first time...buggers.

Then, as if I wasn't already sinking into the abyss, I talked to my mother...

Mom:  "Hey, I love your story."
Me:  "What? You're reading it?
Mom:  "Yes, it's really good."
Me:  "No, Mom!  You can't be reading it!  There's sex!"
Mom: "I'm pretty sure I know about sex." (She's laughing)
Me:  "No, Mom, seriously, you can't read the story!  There's like, real sex!  (I don't think she can hear me over her laughter)

So, now I have two issues:  One, writing steamy sex scenes while I imagine my mother reading them. And, having rearranged two chapters into something entirely different than expected, how do I get back on track with the original story line and make sense of the next chapter?

I've lost the plot.  In more ways than one...

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Let Them Eat Cake...Or Not

On Sunday I got an urge for Victoria Sponge, one of my favorite British cakes.  I made this recipe so many times during my years in Edinburgh, I could've done it in my sleep.  It's a light, moist cake, layered with jam and whipped cream, a dusting of sugar on top; no frosting like an American cake.


Photo Credit: Celtnet

I love this cake, though haven't made it since I've been back in the States.  It's easy, delicious and on Sunday I want a piece really bad but I don't have all the ingredients, like self-rising flour, so I go online, find the recipe for changing regular flour into s/r and make the cake.  While it's baking, I'm imagining how great that slice will taste with a nice cup of tea...yum, can't wait.

Except, when I open the oven to check on it, I find this (and yes, that's smoke):

It rose like a souffle, then began to ooze down both racks, onto the element and then made lovely cake circles on the foil drip catcher.  A second after I took this picture, the entire bottom of the stove caught fire.  Flames, peeps.  I had enough to toast marshmallows, which in retrospect, would have been a better choice of dessert.

I got the fire out, the cakes were ruined--even before the soot and ash factor--and the oven was such a mess I had to clean it, a task I was not in the mood for on a warm, sunny afternoon.  And no cake at the end of it all.  Yes, cursing ensued.

Apparently homemade self-rising is a potent flour that turns a mild-mannered Victoria Sponge into some kind of explosive concoction.

I tried again, only with actual s/r flour that I bought this morning. And damn if the exact same thing didn't happen again!  Giant puff of smoke, towering inferno, oozing batter, another oven scrubbing. Way more cursing.

The only thing I can figure is the eggs, flours and butter are different enough between countries that this recipe just won't work here.  I even used my British measuring cups, used my British cake pans...everything identical to how I've always made this cake, other than American ingredients. Sadly, it appears I will never again have my favorite cake, at least not this side of the pond.

But hey, at least my oven is sparkling clean...woo hoo...

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Best Medicine

Yesterday afternoon, wandering the internet because I couldn't settle my head to read, I came across the funniest thing...exactly what I needed to cheer me up.  Laughter has always been my solace, my emotional pain reliever; a good, hard belly laugh and I'll be able to face whatever ails me.


After the monumental snowstorm in Boston, with feet of snow heaped in giant mounds all over the city, someone started the Boston Blizzard Challenge.  Honestly, you gotta love those crazy kids...except many were adults.  Go figure.

The Challenge was to dive into the snow drifts--from on high, like balconies and rooftops, car hoods and window ledges.  Seriously, the tweets/videos were so stupidly funny, I cracked up several times. They jumped, they fell, they were pushed.  Truly, peeps, would you really jump off your roof into a snow drift?  Or perch on the window ledge of your apartment building before leaping?  For some strange reason most of them were half-naked too--shorts, no shirts; bathing suits and bikinis.  I'm not sure if that was part of the challenge or just extra craziness.

After laughing at the jumpers, I then watched what Marty Walsh, the mayor of Boston had to say...and totally lost it.  What he said was funnier than the jumping.  Imagine the mayor of a major US city compelled to hold a new conference because his people are doing something really, really dumb.

"This isn't Loon Mountain," he says, very irate, glaring into the cameras, "this is the city of Boston. Stop this nonsense!"  Nothing like being scolded, on national television, like you're all just a bunch of very naughty children.

Though, I think what Mayor Walsh failed to realize is that for a while there, Boston was Loon Mountain and a good portion of its citizens were lunatics...

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Tears Before Bedtime

Actually, it was tears before lunch.  Lots and lots of them...

This morning was Ozzy's appointment with the vet to determine what his mysterious fainting spells are.  Turns out they're mini-heart attacks.  And now we've fallen all the way down the slippery slope and are lying in a crumpled heap at the bottom.  There's nothing else that can be done--he's already taking all the meds a tiny wee dog can possibly take--so it's just a matter of time now.  His walks are restricted, though he can still go to the park, I'll just have to carry him for most of the walk; also up and down the stairs.

The hardest part, and the reason for my tears, is realizing that I can't change this, can't save him or turn back time.  And hanging over my head like the bloody sword of Damocles is that Ultimate Decision: Let nature take its course until the Big One kills him, or go for the...other option. Either way, the outcome is the same, though how I get there is decidedly different.

So, after most of a box of Kleenex, and a very long and painful conversation with the vet, we both agreed that until Oz crosses the line between having a life or barely living, I'm going to take it day by day, and give him as much love and care that I possibly can.  There are no other choices.

I hate this.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Love Long Weekends

And I would have loved this latest holiday Monday even more if the dogs understood the concept and let me sleep past 6:00 am.  Ah well, just gives me more time to enjoy the day...right?  Uh huh.


Weather on Saturday hit 78*.  I wore a tank top and hippie skirt and fought the surreality of such heat on Valentine's Day.  (Spell check just informed me that surreality isn't a word.  I like it, so now it's a word in my personal dictionary, along with flateau and obstacle illusion).

Because it was so warm, and the dogs were getting lost in the elephant grass in the backyard, I ended up mowing the lawn.  I love the smell of fresh-cut grass, though six weeks into the new year, it has a wet, slightly boggy back note.  And I couldn't get the blades of grass off my boots, no matter how I stomped and kicked.  Still, at least I can find the dogs now.


Speaking of dogs.  Ozzy had two more mysterious spells this week.  Scared me really bad when he just flopped unconscious again, Friday night just before bed and Sunday morning walking on the road. I'm taking him to the vet first thing tomorrow morning, though I'm not expecting a miracle.  I know a slippery slope when I see it and his heart is going to give out at some point, no matter what I do, or how I want to make it all better.  Dread has settled in my bones.


Today is four years not smoking!  I knew, the minute I made the decision, that I could do it and now here I am, four years later.  I miss it.  Not the smell or the ruination of my lungs, but the muse aspect. In the past when I'd get stuck on a plot kink, outside I would go, light up and pace. Every single time, I could work through the hangup.  Since I've quit, I've tried going outside to pace, but it doesn't work. Now I just grab fistfuls of my hair and wander through the house muttering. Sometimes this jogs my brain, mostly it doesn't. Life is all about the trade-off, isn't it?


Just after noon now, time for lunch and a nice, laid-back afternoon to read my new book. I have several things pending, housework and chores, errands and whatevers, but not today, peeps, not today.

I love long weekends...

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Happy Valentine's Day

It's not just the heart-shaped boxes filled with chocolate, red roses or pink tulips, the romantic dinners--though all of those have meaning if they come from the heart. This day is about love.  One day set aside to appreciate love in all its forms and feelings, shapes and sizes.  I wish every day had this awareness...

Hope you all are loved today, dear readers, and give it back just as much.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015


The rains are gone, flood waters receding, but now temperatures are rising.  It's to be in the low 70s this week, which is just so wrong.  This morning after walking the boys, I went grocery shopping and realized I was too hot in my favorite flannel shirt. After I got home, made four trips up and down two flights of stairs with the groceries, I was even more hot and sweaty.  And okay, edging right into cranky because this is not Winter weather by anyone's definition.

It's almost a matter of principle for me to fight giving up my flannels. These shirts mean the end of scorching Summer heat and the much anticipated arrival of cool days and stormy weather, thick socks and delicious, hearty meals.  It's way, way too early to shift my flannels to the back of the closet and bring out the Hawaiians, but I did pull one out this afternoon. I had no's weirdly warm and even a bit muggy.

Basically there was no Winter this year.  We've had the occasional storm, and last week was overly dramatic with the monumental rains and wind, but there's only been two slightly frosty nights and zero snow, ice or any other element that signifies what time of year this is supposed to be.  I don't know what this will mean in the coming months when the Gates of Hell have sprung open, belching fire and brimstone, but with the annual rainfall far below normal, all the forests tinder dry and California--right down the road--already struggling with wildfires...well, it's just a disaster waiting to explode, isn't it?

Good times ahead, then...

Saturday, February 7, 2015

What A Week...

Not only has the kitchen floor installation had its fraught moments this week, but it seems the weather wanted a piece of the action as well.

Wednesday night a storm hit that was truly scary, but equally awesome.  It started with high winds that had branches snapping and trees falling all over town.  Then the rains started, and the flooding and landslides. The boys had a hard time settling, between the constant roar of the wind and the driving rain that just hammered against the windows. Twice, in the middle of the night, we were jolted awake by flying limbs smacking against the house.

The rain never once let up, or slowed down, for two relentless days.  By Friday, things were so wild, I almost cancelled an eye appointment in the afternoon--an appointment made four months ago--because I just didn't want to go out in the storm.


Luckily, Tom was able to finish the floor on schedule, even with the fiasco on Wednesday. I love, love, love the new tile.  Too bad about the off-color photo, because in person?  It's so wonderful, I can't stop myself from walking into the kitchen and just smiling at the floor like a dork.

Tom adjusting the tiles, getting everything exact before he starts to grout.

And seriously, how perfect are his lines?  I wish I could get a good shot because these tiles are really cool, but with the weather (still raging today) the ambient light is wrong. Even with all the kitchen lights on, it's still too dark and the color's off. In reality, it's like a Summer's day in Sorrento, ancient Italian stone warming in the sun...

So, early Friday afternoon, Tom finishes the floor and I leave for what I think is going to be just a routine eye appointment.  Silly me.

There's something wrong with my vision, beside the regular stuff requiring glasses.  Turns out my eyelids are interfering with my sight and surgery is required to fix things.  I'm told it's a simple procedure, although I'll have to be knocked out while my lids are being sliced and diced.

Now, those of you who know me, or have read my blog, understand that I have a true and absolute phobia for needles, doctors and/or anything that has to do with surgery. Even the word makes my stomach flip.  I've been known to faint just getting a flu shot, so being unhappy doesn't come close to how I feel at this turn of events. Just wanted a pair of glasses, peeps, not anything remotely involving a **gasp** medical procedure.

I did find the coolest glasses though, so the appointment wasn't a total bust. Now I just have to get past March 10th and all is good.  Uh huh.  Bet that's what Joan Rivers thought too.

I got dosed with several drops in my eyes that blurred my vision so bad, it's a miracle I made it home.  In a way, it was a good thing the storm was so violent and crazy because everyone had to drive about two miles per hour due to several accidents and gushing drains.  And as I began to drive back up the mountain, I had to 4-wheel it around a mud slide that wasn't there on my way down.


Home at last, safe and sound, I held the dogs off from a walk in the hopes the monsoon would let up a little, and a few hours later it's looking good, so we start to hike to the mail box. Ozzy is breathing funny and lagging behind so I slow down for him, but then he just stops in the middle of the road. I'm looking at him through a fuzzy blur--those damn eye drops didn't wear off until way late in the evening--when without warning, he just keels over.  Literally.  Standing one second, out cold the next.

Of course I freak out, thinking he's just died from a heart attack. When I pick him up, he's as limp as a noodle and just flops over my arm.  I start talking to him, lightly pound on his chest, give him a jiggle or two, panic rising when suddenly he sort of jerks, takes a breath and...he's back.  I carried him home, gave him a dog biscuit and a cuddle, and off he goes to get a toy out of his toybox as if nothing weird has just happened.  

He was definitely breathing too hard and trying to run up a steep part of the road, so I think he must have hyperventilated, which made him pass out.  I had a large glass of wine once I knew he was all right.  Okay, two.  Near death does that to me.


This morning, out on the back deck untangling my prayer flags after another night of high winds, I took a minute to look out over the valley.  The river was a wide, overflowing band of water, flooding fields and orchards, and the quarry looks like a lake.  And it's still raining.

(Imagine these two photos side by side...)

Flooded fields and orchards, quarry at right edge of photo...

River taking a sharp bend, cresting its banks and flooding more fields...

If these past three days of bad weather had been snow, southern Oregon would be looking just like New England did last week.  I'm not complaining.  I read the other day the storms would have to continue like this for six straight months before we'd officially be out of drought mode.  That's pretty startling.  The entire area would be submerged, I could have beach front property, tie a boat off the back deck, the dogs could learn to swim...

What a week.  But it's time for me to go now, dear readers.  I need to stand in the kitchen and smile at my new floor...

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Ah, Italia

Two years ago I wanted to replace the crap flooring in the kitchen.  It was old, very ugly and worn.  I spent some time looking for tile but after many a fruitless search, I changed my mind and decided not to do anything just then.

This past December, my neighbors down the road redid their kitchen and bathrooms. Bunny was telling me how happy she was with her new flooring, but also went on and on about the floor guy and the beautiful, professional job he did.  I asked for his number and a few weeks ago, we finally connect and he signs on to do the work.

Now it's up to me to pick the tile.  I wander from one store to another until I find a style I can live with, and Tom is going to start on Monday.  By Friday I'm going to have a new kitchen floor. Woo hoo!!

So, Monday morning and I'm out of bed while it's still dark because Tom starts at 7:00am. First step is to strip the kitchen, so now the fridge is in the hallway, the dishwasher in the dining room.  Then he has to remove the old stuff down to the sub-floor.  By yesterday, the floor is clean, prepped and ready for the tiling to start today.  I can't wait.

The first thing he does this morning is snap chalk lines and lay out the tiles before he mixes up the goop and glues them down.  I'm dinking on the computer, the dogs are napping and I hear this quiet sort of "Huh..."

I look toward the kitchen.  He's standing off to the side staring at the floor.  "What's wrong?" I ask, because hell, of course things can't go smoothly.  The gods don't like smooth.

"See if you like how this looks."  His voice says it all, but he's already admitted that he has no sense of color or decor and leaves all that to his wife.  Still.  There's something in his tone...

I stand at the edge of the kitchen and stare at the horror that is the tile. The color is crap, half the tiles look like a psychotic Rorschach blot, the other half has a dip-and-swirl pattern that looks like sagging boobs.  Seriously. The tiles don't match the three samples I brought home in any way.  I look at Tom, he looks at me.

"Oh my god!  I hate it!"

Tom says, "Don't like it myself and I'm clueless."

I have a small dramatic moment where I imagine being stuck with this hideous tile until I burn down the house move on, but Tom assures me I can return them and find something else.  Except there wasn't anything last time I looked.  And now this delays the Friday finish date.  Indefinitely if I can't find something else.

Have I mentioned that my fridge is in the hallway, the dishwasher in the dining room?

Tom loads the tiles into the Blazer and off I go to return/replace.  I'm nervous because I just can't believe Home Depot will take these tiles back when half of them are no longer boxed, but wow, they were actually great about everything.

Except now I need replacements.  I wander, I stew, I dither, I despair until finally this really nice woman (Claire) asks if I need help.  I explain my problem and she takes me all over the store where they have various stacks of tile on display--beyond what's in the flooring section.  But I can't find a single thing that will work, that I like, or that they have in stock so I don't have to wait two more weeks for delivery.

30 minutes later and I'm edging toward hysterical laughter.  All I wanted was a damn new kitchen floor.  Is that too much to ask?  I thank Claire for sticking with me and tell her I'm going to make one more pass down the flooring aisle before I throw myself in front of a bus.  (I forget that people who don't know me will take me seriously.  She walks all the way back to the tile department with me as if a bus might actually be showing up at any minute and she'll have to save me.)

We're slowly going down the aisle as I forlornly look at the selections when around the corner comes a guy on a forklift with a new shipment on a pallet.  And on that pallet, peeps, is the most beautiful Italian tile that any girl could possibly want this side of Naples.  It's the perfect color for my kitchen, the right tile size and they have ten cases...exactly what I need.

Funny how sometimes a big mistake can turn into something just right...

Monday, February 2, 2015


Here's a story.  It's a bit long, mainly because an incident on Sunday brought back a memory of a similar experience from my past, all of which will take me a bit of time to explain.  Following the neural pathways in my mind can be slightly daunting, even for me, but here goes...

Last Summer I bought a really cool, cobalt blue birdbath.  It was twice as big as the old bath, even large enough for the resident hawk.

There were a few nights last week where the temps dropped to freezing, though during the day it was unseasonably and wretchedly too hot.  I think the extremes in temperature were too much for the ceramic.  I woke up Wednesday, opened the blinds that look out over the back deck...and the entire basin was lying in a perfectly shattered ring around the pedestal base.  Crap.  I really liked that birdbath.

Thursday morning.  Barely the crack of dawn and the blue jays are shrill and squawking, causing a bloody ruckus outside my bedroom window--which also overlooks the back garden.  I get out of bed, thinking maybe it's the hawk or a cat that has them so upset. There are at least ten blue jays in the tree that shades the bath and every single one of them is pissed. They're early morning bathers. There is no bath.

I tap on the window, they fly off.  Back in bed, snuggling under the duvet.  The noise starts up again. I was in and out of bed at least four times. Later, I went to all the garden centers in the area, hoping to replace the bath, but nothing will be available until March. Eventually, the birds will figure out that the bath is gone and will go away. Right?

So far?  No.

Yesterday, fourth day in a row that I'm being bullied by blue jays, I get up and march outside. Window tapping apparently has no effect on them at all. I wave my arms and shout, they fly off.  I stand on the deck, early morning light just coming over the mountains...and suddenly, out of the ether, I have a deja vu moment.  I've done this before...

Seattle, couple decades past. I'm in my most excellent garret--top floor of an old Queen Anne house. My bedroom windows overlook the back garden area where there are three little parking spots, flower beds, an enormous chestnut tree, a small fence and the next door neighbor's house.

It's dawn on a Saturday morning.  I was out late with friends the night before, haven't been asleep for long when the first crow begins to caw, then another and another, until my head is going to explode if they don't shut up.  I go out onto my back porch, which is really just a large landing to the three flights of stairs down to the backyard.  The chestnut tree is full of crows.  Like it's a frigging crow convention.  And every one of them is screeching and cawing and making such a noise it's ear-splitting.  I wave my arms and hop up and down like a lunatic.  Nothing.

In my pajamas, I go down the stairs and rummage in the flower beds until I find a rock.  I throw it. Nothing. I lob dirt clods, sticks, more rocks.  These are some hardcore birds. They don't even flinch. I give up, but there's no way I can sleep, so I went back to bed and contemplated the murder of crows.

A neural pathway even further back.  I grew up in a neighborhood where the only kids my age were boys.  I was always more a tomboy than a girly girl anyway, so hanging with the guys was easy.  One of my talents: I could out shoot all of them with my slingshot.

I'm thinking about that slingshot while the crows are driving me nuts. Somewhere in my stuff, deep in a box, stashed in the basement of the house, I have a slingshot.  My brother gave it to me for Christmas one year after I'd told him I used to be a really good shot. We're (more or less) adults by then, so I laughed at the gift, we spent half the day shooting rocks at cans, but over time the slingshot fell deeper into the abyss of things in storage and was forgotten.

It took some digging, but by afternoon I have the slingshot in hand.  I walk my little dog Danny around the neighborhood, collecting perfect-sized stones for my ammo.  I'm ready.

Before the dawn has even begun to lighten the sky, the first crow wakes me up.  I wait. Maybe it's just one and it will go away.  But no.  Within a few minutes, it's again the crow convention.  I throw off the covers, grab the sling and my stones and race out onto the back landing.  The tree is filled with birds.  The noise is staggering.

Now, before you think I'm a blood-thirsty bird killer, dear readers, I should explain that I had no intention of actually hitting a bird.  A stone at full velocity could seriously wound and/or kill. That's not what I want.  I just want them to go away, find another tree.  Let. Me. Sleep.

Weigh the perfect stone in my hand.  Check the pull on the slingshot.  Load the stone, cock my head, narrow my eyes and let it fly, my focus on a branch about midway up the tree.  I'm anticipating the whack as it hits, can't wait to see the startled birds rising in a cloud of black, flying off into the distance...preferably toward Canada.

I make the shot of a lifetime. I couldn't duplicate it in a million years. The damn stone misses the branch, misses every leaf and twig, misses every bird and dangling chestnut pod...and flies straight through the neighbor's kitchen window.

For about five seconds RUN was my first response.  Then their lights came on and I knew I would have to take the blame.  And pay for the window.  I threw a jacket on over my pajamas, put on shoes and went next door.  I didn't really know the older couple, but I knocked, introduced myself and then confessed that I'd really only been been trying to get rid of the crows, not break windows. They were very nice, and the old guy even admired my shooting.

A few minutes later I was home, climbing the stairs, when the sun began rising over the mountains...and I realized it was quiet.

I started to laugh.  It was going to cost me $250 to replace the broken window, but at least the crows were gone.