Saturday, December 31, 2005

Where did the year go?

Happy New Year's Eve! Or, as we like to call it, "Happy Fall Asleep On The Couch Before
10:30PM!" Yes, we have funny names for things 'round here.

I wish I had something retrospective to post here, but I don't. Not yet, at any rate. All I could really do is talk about the books I read this year, except that I don't have the list of them with me, so.... And the bulk of the music I downloaded this year is on my computer back in the frozen north, so.... There are also the movies, but they're all a blur, so....

I will leave you with this. I wish all of you the best and brightest New Year's. I wish all of you good luck and good fortune and good health, and success in any endeavor you undertake this coming year. I wish for you patience, grace, wisdom, and security. May your hair turn no grayer than it already is (unless that's your wish), and your nose hairs stay short. In short, a thousand blessings on you and yours.

Now, go out and have fun tonight!

Monday, December 26, 2005

Happy Boxing Day!

Or, as we like to call it in these here parts, "Happy Day To Sit Around Watching Movies And/Or Reading In Front Of The Wood Stove, Doing Nothing More Strenuous Than Making Another Pot Of Tea!" Tomorrow we fight the crowds, but today is all about the recovery and the regrouping for tomorrow's efforts.

Everything has been just dandy so far. Except for the rain - I think I speak for everyone in Niagara when I say the rain is something we could have done without. Last night, I engaged in a ritual I've performed every year since I was in elementary school - staying up until well after midnight to read in bed. I finished The Kite Runner (which made me weepy in parts and gave me sad dreams afterwards), and am tackling Valley of the Dolls right now.

Otherwise, I'll be posting in drips and drabs for the rest of the week, unless I get myself somewhere I can use high speed on my laptop. Have a great day!

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Almost there...

So everything (except the laptop) is packed and ready to go. There's still some mess, but nothing major, that can't be done in the morning.

The books I'm taking with me are as follows:
Commitment - Dan Savage (yes, that Dan Savage)
Valley of the Dolls - Jacqueline Susann
Partly Cloudy Patriot - Sarah Vowell (I considered downloading the audiobook of Assasination Vacation, but chose to download Tegan and Sara's So Jealous instead.)
Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
Holidays on Ice - David Sedaris

Now, it's late. And unless I want a repeat of last year's sleep-freak out cycle, I should probably hit the hay now.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Two down, a million to go...

Firstly, I got the laundry done. My mother will appreciate the fact I'm not bringing home laundry.

Secondly, I got the rest of the gift bags made tonight. Witness...

Christmas gift bags

Thirdly, I'm tired and that's all I can think about right now.

Ten minutes for looking soooo good

Heh. I was reading something about Maurice Richard yesterday, and they referenced that line from the commercial he was in. I can't remember the product to save my life, but the tag line is now embedded in my brain.

Last night I spent the WHOLE FRICKIN' NIGHT dreaming about competitions and challenges and puzzles and races and games and teamwork, and this morning I'm exhausted. I put in at least three days work last night - can I stay home today? No? Rats. (It's related to running around trying to get things done before I head south for the holidays.)

I won't say my Christmas shopping is completely finished, because every time I do, I find something else to do. So I will leave it at all the major stuff is done. Now I just need to finish making the gift bags.

What else? I have five minutes left...

I'm picking the books to take home with me. I have a nice little stack on my table right now, but I don't think it's the final list right now. Holidays on Ice (David Sedaris) is definitely coming, as is Valley of the Dolls (Jacqueline Susann). I'm thinking of brining Close Range (Annie Proulx) so I can re-read the story that was just recently made into a movie.

Wow - iTunes just played me a Scissor Sisters song. It hasn't done that in a while - thanks!

I am addicted to mint tea. Never liked the stuff, but now I'm hooked. I drink, like, three cups (at least) a day. Is that a bad thing?

Damn, I guess I should go get read for work now.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Holiday recipe - Gingerbread cookies

(I've been wanting to post all weekend, but have had too much to say. Instead of sitting down and writing a bunch of drafts to tidy up and post later, I did what I usually do when I get excited about something - I lie down with a cool cloth on my forehead until the moment passes. I will post at least a few more times before I go on holidays.)

The other day, I got a lovely card from Jen (aka The Canuck Librarian) in which she requested that I post my favourite holiday recipe. Well, here is the gingerbread cookie recipe that we've been making in our family for years. Lately, I've seen quite a few other recipes for gingerbread, ranging from something similar to others which make me raise my eyebrows. Trust me, this one is damn good.

5 1/4 cups of flour
1 1/2 tsp cream of tartar (I can't remember what the substitute is - Mom? Help?)
2 tsp ginger (I used half dry, half fresh zested ginger)
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cloves
3/4 tsp salt
1 cup of white sugar
1 cup of molasses
1 cup of vegetable oil
1 egg
4 tsp baking soda
3/4 cups of hot water

1. Preheat oven to 350.

2. Combine flour, cream of tarar, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and salt in a mixing bowl.

3. Add remaining ingredients and stir only until ingredients are blended. The dough may be too wet, so add more flour if necessary.

4. Roll onto a floured surface (make sure the rolling pin is floured too!) I find it's easier if you do it in smaller chunks than trying to do it all at once.

How thick you roll the dough depends on what kind of cookie you want. The thinner you roll them, the crisper they will be. The thicker you roll them, the cakier they will be. And yes, baking time will also factor into this.

It goes without saying that now's the time to use cookie cutters to cut shapes in the dough. Use whatever cutters you want. I have a couple of Christmas cutters, but I also have a bat and a Halloween cat I was tempted to use. Go with the flow! And if you're going to hang them on the tree, don't forget to poke a hole with a straw in the top .

5. Bake for 8-10 minutes.

They are delicious with a glass of milk or a mug of tea.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Happy Holidays!

Holiday card, outside

Holiday card, inside

This is my holiday card to everyone visits me here.

(If I'm related to you, I do have a card for you. I have addresses and everything! Just no stamps!)

Seven songs meme

So. Amanda has done gone and tagged all and sundry with the seven-songs-you're-currently-listening-to meme. I did something similar a while back, but hey - time passes and song preferences change. Might as well update it.

Martha - Tom Waits (Romantic and melancholy. My new favourite Tom Waits song.)

This Charming Man - Death Cab for Cutie (I know nothing about this band, and I don't even know if I'd like anything else they do, but this cover is so much fun!)

When I Get To The Border - Linda and Richard Thompson (It's a long story how I came to discover this British folk duo from the 1960's, but it was worth it for this song which sounds like it would not be out of place in a pub-type setting.)

Baby - Martha Wainwright (Absolutely soaring and gorgeous. Like her brother, she's got a very unique voice which I suspect won't appeal to everyone, but I love it.)

Galang - M.I.A. (Guilty pleasure!)

Reunion - Stars (Almost makes me want to go to my high school reunion next time.)

Little Sister - Queens of the Stone Age (My office partner is a huge QotSA fan, and I've started liking this song.)

Like Amanda, I'm going to leave it open for anyone who wants to post a list of the seven songs they're currently listening to.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

What are you doing next April?

The Canada Reads list has been announced. It's not going to to be until next April, but that gives us all enough time to read the books, doesn't it?

Deafening - Francis Itani (defended by Maureen McTeer, aka Joe Clark's wife)
Cocksure - Mordecai Richler (defended by Scott Thompson, former Kid in the Hall)
Three Day Road - Josesh Boyden (defended by Nelofer Pazira, star of Kandahar)
Rooms for Rent in the Outer Planets: Selected Poems, 1962-1996 - Al Purdy (defended by Susan Musgrave, author and poet)
A Complicated Kindness - Miriam Toews (defended by John K. Samson, of the band The Weakerthans)

Happily, this is the first year I've read more than one book on the list, Complicated Kindness and Three Day Road, which were both very good. I recieved Deafening last Christmas, so I can read that one, too. I'm not much of a poetry fan, but one of my English teachers back in high school was a huge Purdy fan, so maybe I'll give it a try.

If you would recommend a book for the Canada Reads program, what would it be? The only criteria is that it has to be Canadian.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Join the posse!*

A while back, I suggested that I was looking for volunteers to join my posse, and we'd be called the Inco 89 (because I'd just seen Kill Bill, and it was going to be based on the Crazy 88, yada yada yada). Since then, I've had a few more volunteers, but we're still not up to full strength.

Let me assure you, we will not be going around terrorizing people with pointy things, or causing general mayhem. Oh no. Instead, we'll just travel around, causing mirth and merriment in our wake. We'll show up, entertain you for a while, maybe make cookies and watch movies and stuff, and then we'll be on our way. See? Harmless!

So, what I'm doing is putting together a map of everyone who either wants to be a part of the posse, or wants us to visit them. If you go here, stick a pin on the map and let us know where you are.

* Subtitle: I haven't met a bandwagon that I didn't like

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Never drive a car when you're dead

Happy birthday, Tom!

Yesterday was Mr. Waits' 54th birthday, and to celebrate, The Townehouse in town holds a birthday party, where members from various local bands come to pay tribute to the man. I and a group of my co-workers went, and even though we had to leave early (because we all had to work today), it was a fun evening. The pictures are here.

(But I have to share this one - proof positive my co-workers are evil:

Karen and Steve

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

It was 16 years ago today

16 years ago today, a man with a gun walked into the Ecole Polytechnique in Montreal, and shot and killed fourteen women.

Despite advances in the women's movement, there is still a long way to go.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

That's a wrap (NaNo Postscript)

In the first two passes at NaNoWriMo, I managed a combined total of 21,978 words. The first year I gave up towards the end for several reasons, mostly because I didn't have the time to devote to it. Last year, I did worse than the first year, but I liked my story anyways. So this year, I recycled it and took another stab at it.

This year, I managed an astounding 26,685 words, a full 4,707 more than my first two attempts combined. What, pray tell, did I do right this time?

Characters - I used the same characters from last time, so I didn't really need to change much about the individuals. I changed names and relationships (originally, two characters were brothers and two others were married; this time they were cousins and the other two were just friends), but besides that, I had the work done for me already.

Somewhere, out in the ether (oh, here it is), there's a character chart you can use to build your characters - give them habits, favourite things, virtues, vices, personality traits, etc. You may think you know your characters in your head, but this gives you some other things to think about which may affect how act/react to certain situations. I'm not saying you should use this, just that I found it really useful.

Plot - The first two attempts didn't have concrete plots. I had a good idea where I wanted to go, but nothing that laid out how I'd get my characters from point A to point B. Actually writing out the plot was helpful because it made me think about how each scene would play out, who would be there, how it would end, and how it would transition into the next scene. As well, I knew exactly where the major plot development was, and ended just before it.

It also gave me ideas for later developments, and gave me some flexibility - if I knew character A had to go to location B to meet character C, maybe they could bump into character D and set up a meeting at location E later on. But if didn't want to use character C or location E, I could just skip all that and have A meet D at E. The important thing was that they meet at a certain location - how and when could be negotiated.

Backstory - Some stories introduce elaborate histories to explain why a thing happened. Others start you off in the middle and expect you to keep up without explaining why. Still others start you in the middle, but explain why a thing is happening at a certain time (i.e. Character A hates enclosed spaces and can't complete the mission because ha/she can't slide down the narrow tube. In a flashback, we see it's because her mean older sister used to lock her in the laundry hamper and leave her there for hours.) The first year I did the first type, and got bogged down. The second year I tried to do the second, but still ended up wallowing around in the history. This year, I pretended there wasn't a history, and made it up as I went*.

* Which, in retrospect, would have worked better if I'd done a more detailed plot outline. At 7:30 on the 30th, I realized I had a major character inconsistency because I forgot what I'd said at the beginning and made up something new later on. At the time, I just went with the second history I'd created and kept going, but I will need to go back and fix that at some point.

Writing - I usually tried to write a little during breakfast, and later in the evening. These are the times I felt the most like writing - I wouldn't try and force myself to write if I didn't feel like. If I didn't feel like writing, I got up and did something else, and came back to it when I felt like it. There was no point in forcing myself to do something I didn't want to do.

So, in a nutshell, that's why I did better this year. I plan on jotting down a few of the other ideas I had so that next year, when I go to start writing again, I have somewhere to start.

Even though I didn't hit 50,000, which is the stated goal of the challenge, I'm very happy with how I did. Oh, we could sit down over a pot of tea and argue whether 'tis nobler to attempt and succeed, or to attempt and fail but to be pleased with the effort. But my personal challenge was to do better than I did on my last two attempts. If I got over 12,000, I would have been okay with it; if I made it past the combined total of the two, I'd be happy; and if I made it past the halfway mark, I'd be overjoyed.

There you have it.

(Pender asked in the comments the other day if I would be posting it. I don't think so - I posted what I thought was the best bit in my profile, and then completely neglected to link to my profile. There's another passage I'd like to post, which was fun to write, but not necessarily the best in the story. I can't bring myself to post the whole thing just yet - it needs some TLC and space just now. It's sort of like a bad tattoo in an embarrassing spot - I need to come to terms with it and accept it before I can start showing it off.)

Festivus Interuptus

Okay, before I forget, here's what I

Me, sort of bundled up for the cold

did today (so far): put the Christmas lights up on my balcony.

More Christmas lights on my balcony

Christmas lights on my balcony

They're supposed to be cascading icicle lights, but they haven't "relaxed" properly, and they tend to bunch up.

Close up of the lights

This afternoon: gingerbread cookies. Maybe. Definitely chili*

* If my mother remembers to send me her recipe. Hint hint.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Basking in the afterglow

Okay, so I've been running silent lately, but it's not because I had a post NaNo-meltdown. I'm just trying to gather my wits about me once more, and will write something more coherent in a day or two.

In the meantime, congrats to all my fellow participants, whether you wrote 5 words or 50,000 words. They're words you might not have written otherwise. And thanks to Dave for the kind words and the title of Miss Congeniality. I expect that my sash and crown are in the mail.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

And the verdict is in... (NaNo Day 30)

The finishing time:

Finishing Time

The final total:

Final Total