Thursday, December 30, 2010

There are Good Intentions...Then There's Reality

What exactly was I thinking? I went out yesterday and bought almost 10 yards of silky black fringe to make an old dress into flapper garb for the upcoming Murder Mystery at Your Vine or Mine’s New Year’s Eve Party. My assigned character is Carrie Crooner Capone, jazz singing headliner at the Four Deuces Club. How I thought I was going to manage that massive of a sewing project with only one evening to devote to its completion is beyond me.

Reality set in quite quickly and plan B was put into action. I won’t reveal the costuming particulars, but never let it be said that I don’t know how to wear a feather boa and a slinky ‘20s headband with signature plumage! Needless to say, I’m returning the bolt of fringe to the fabric store later this afternoon. Thank goodness that sanity found its way back into my life before I started cutting and pinning.

On another tangent, I purchased a large skein of yarn and a new crochet hook while I was looking for the aforementioned plumage. I haven’t crocheted in years, but Meredith wants to learn, so I figured I should bone up on my stitch work and pass on what my Grandma Boyle taught me a lifetime ago. I bought some of that gorgeous, soft, fuzzy yarn to make a scarf. I discovered quite quickly that I can barely see the stitches for all the fancy fuzz. I told Meredith to buy soft but not fuzzy. She needs to see what she is doing to learn it correctly.

Back to work!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

AHHHHHHH – The Post-Christmas Sigh of Relief

All things considered, I am not getting as big a sigh as usual, but only because I was a bit ahead of the game going in!

Christmas Eve was relegated to making pies and stuffing and attending Midnight Mass. I had the honor of starting that service by singing seven verses of The Holly and the Ivy, a cappella, so I made sure to have a little wine earlier in the evening to lube the pipes (thank you Diane, the Guffey’s Peach Apricot Chardonnay was superb).

Christmas Day started with prep and stuffing of the bird and getting it on to cook by 8:30, a fully stuffed 20+ pounder with 5½ to 6 hours of cooking time. Should have been done by 2:30 with all arriving and scheduled to eat by 3. Then Mom, Jim and I sat down to nuked frozen breakfast bagels (thank you Mike Savides for another successful school fund-raising purchase), after which we opened our gifts, then cleared our mess from the living room and got busy transforming the place into a sit-down dinner space for 16 people.

It went quickly and efficiently. We were pretty much ready by noon with even the potatoes peeled and cooking. At 1 p.m., when I opened the roaster lid to baste the turkey, I was flabbergasted to see that the pop-up thermometer on the turkey had already popped…and hour and a half early! I even double checked it with a regular meat thermometer to make sure it wasn’t just defective. What to do?

So I let it sit for 30 minutes, then carved the entire bird into thick, juicy pieces, placed them into a heavy pottery dish, doused them with hot turkey drippings, covered them and set them on the back of the stove to keep warm. I put the mashed potatoes into a crock pot to keep them hot. As soon as everyone arrived, I reheated the huge dish full of turkey in the oven just before we sat down to eat around 3:20, and everything turned out great!

My sister-in-law, Flo, made an excellent sweet-potato and apple dish with marshmallows and Meredith brought a broccoli-cheese casserole that was practically wiped out in the first round, leaving all those wanting “seconds” disappointed.
No one left the table hungry. After the round of family present opening, we managed to clean up two trays of cookies and pizzelles and two of the four pies I made.

After everyone left, we cleaned up, and pretty much everything, including all the furniture, was back in place by 9 p.m. I will spend today, finishing the cleaning and organizing of my office so that I can start the new year right. I will also be giving Mom instructions on the use of her new Kindle Reader.

Mom loves to read, but her eyes are not what they used to be and everything on those book pages seems to go yellow when she tries to sit and read. With the Kindle, I can download whatever she wants to read and increase the font to a comfortable reading level. I also got her the cover with the light so she can have it nicely lit if she desires. Who says the old folks can’t embrace technology?

And tomorrow, when it comes, it’s back to the grind!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Palin, Obama, and the Food Fight Polarizing the Country? Puleeeeze!

People argue and fight over the most stupid of things, but this one takes the cake. Sarah has gone after Michelle Obama whose goal is to encourage us to give our kids healthier lives. Hmmm.

When I see an overweight or obese child, my heart breaks for them in the way it only can for someone who has been there. I was a chubby kid who never “grew out of” the supposed baby fat. I went from being a fat kid to being a fat teen to being a fat adult. I can tell you from personal experience that it wasn’t because I wanted to be fat. For me it went from baby fat to a life-long struggle that seems to have no end.

By the time President Kennedy was in office and started his “fitness” initiatives, I was already a fat preteen and well set in my ways and in my habits. I also, evidently, inherited the propensity for weight gain. Some kids are naturally thin. I wasn’t.

“Get out there and exercise,” they said. Who wants to cover their obvious obesity in a funky little gym suit and shake and parade in front of other people? Bad enough as an adult; much worse as a child or a teenager when all you want to do is hide, or be “sick” on gym day.

Considering how many obese kids are living in the U.S. at present, it is obvious that there are parents out there who don't feed their children in the wisest of ways or who can't afford appropriate nutrition for their kids. Those parents need education, support and help to learn to make appropriate choices for their kids. After all, most parents aren't taught how to parent, they just fall into the job.

Michelle Obama is doing a service for the American public by shedding light on what it takes to help kids become healthier without demoralizing them. She has never said they can’t have dessert, just that they need to eat healthier, be taught how to make informed choices, and to move more. Those aren’t exactly “fightin’ words” unless you’re Sarah Palin.

I find it disgusting that Palin, who obviously wants to be the next President, seems to get pleasure at picking such things to pounce on. As far as I can tell in my research, she’s never had an original political thought or idea that I can find. If you’re going to pick an issue, Mrs. Palin, perhaps you should find one of your own you can back up rather than pouncing on other’s attempts at good just to keep your name in the news.

And as far as weight issues, obviously those S’mores have done their damage for Bristol, who after months of dancing still couldn’t shed her excess weight. Now that she’s not dancing anymore, the poor kid will have to starve herself to death to keep from gaining more pounds.

I know. I’ve been there.

Friday, December 17, 2010

One Stop Plus...

Thank goodness for on-line shopping! Those items that I did not find in the excursion to Walmart, I managed to order on-line with guaranteed arrival before Christmas. This is a good thing because I really hate to shop! I would much rather be making those cookies I’ve been slaving over than brave the stores and the crowds. Wrapping will be at a minimum and I can now stop fretting over the gift issue.

After last week’s Christmas caroling at the local IGA (while ringing the bell at the kettle), the choir members are planning to sing with St. Mary’s choir at Emeritus Senior Living in Mentor on Saturday. This will be followed by a dinner at Damon’s, and then a drive to Chagrin Falls to see my coworker Matt Mortensen in a production of “Annie” at Chagrin Valley Little Theater. Hopefully I won’t get “Tomorrow” stuck in my head and spend the next week trying to shake it loose. With the chill in the air, I’m keeping my throat in turtlenecks and scarves or I’ll be sounding like Kermit by the time I have to sing for Christmas services. Warm climates are sounding rather appealing right now!

One last stop will be at Home Depot. Twice in the last several months, I have lost my balance in the dark in the bathroom at night and reached out to find the towel bar, which bent in the middle the first time, but now is broken almost through on one end. Time to get replacements. I tried Walmart, but their towel rod selection only went to 24 inches and of course, this one is 30. To keep from having to patch the wall, I think I’ll stick to the same size. And it would be good to fix it before Christmas.

Dinner looks like it will be 16 for sit down. I will be on the turkey hunt today as well. I think I’ll try to get about a 20 lb Tom Turkey. The last one we had was the best turkey I’ve ever eaten. And to think all these years we always bought hen turkeys! I was so busy after Thanksgiving, I don’t think I had a single bite of the left-over turkey and it is my favorite thing about the holidays.

Time to head out!

I may be late, but I still manage to get there

With Christmas a mere week away, I will begin to shop. Begin you say? In this crazy economy, I am limiting my gifts for the adults on my list to a bottle of my latest vintage. No one turns down a bottle of vino, and I have to admit, my White Cranberry Pinot Grigio has gotten plenty of good reviews.

I started making Christmas wine for the 2008 holiday season. That year it was a single batch of Blueberry Pinot Noir. It was a huge hit, but after giving out all my gifts, there was nothing left for me. So I made a batch of Peach-Apricot Chardonnay the following spring. There were only a few bottles of that batch left by the time the 2009 holidays came around. I then discovered White Cranberry Pinot Grigio. Not wanting a repeat of having a bare cupboard (or wine rack, as the case may be), I made a double batch. Spring of 2010 brought a single batch of Pomegranate Zinfandel. I opened the last of both of those batches in November.

This year, I made a triple batch of the White Cranberry Pinot Grigio. My gift list has grown, but I still want some for us to serve throughout the year. It’s been bottled and waiting for Christmas distribution since October.

With the adults taken care of, my shopping is limited to the kids: Walmart cards for the nephews and niece in Arizona, toys for Meredith’s new crew, shirts for the nephews coming for Christmas dinner, and a few extraneous items. It could be one-stop shopping!

I did start my baking a bit ahead. So far I have Molasses Sugar Cookies, English Raspberry Bars, Hungarian Apricot Pastry, Butterscotch Sticks, Raisin Cookies, five flavors of pizzelles (raspberry, cinnamon, French vanilla, almond and lemon-poppy seed), New England Bishop’s Bread, and a double batch of Mom’s rolls. Why I am subjecting myself to the holiday baking angst, I just don’t know. I guess it’s because everyone will be here for dinner and it’s expected? But I had to get those made early so all I have to bake on Christmas Eve are the pies! (Obviously because everything that is already made isn’t enough decadence.)

Don’t forget to download Fractured Anecdotes 1 on that new Kindle or Nook you’ll be getting from Santa. So far, Kindle editions are outselling Nook editions at the rate of 4 to 3. Nook is giving Kindle a run for its money! I didn't expect that!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Granville Restaurant Review

For anyone passing through Granville, Ohio, I have three recommendations.

If you are looking for a great homemade soup, The Soup Loft on Broadway, right in the middle of downtown Granville, was quite good. They had a regular menu of soups with three or four additional soups available each day on a rotating basis. I had a bowl of the chicken with acini, but the tomato bisque with goat cheese, the black bean with red rice, and the turkey chili sounded good and smelled terrific.

For a light dinner, The Junta Club has a nice variety of wines and will custom build your Panini sandwich. They price the sandwich on the number of ounces of meat you order, then you have lists of additional items that you choose to add. Sandwiches can be ordered cold or Panini pressed.

For a lovely dinner, try The Short Story Brasserie. It seems to serve an eclectic French cuisine. I ordered a crusty baked macaroni and cheese with black Italian truffles and lobster (though I had them hold the lobster). I finished off the meal with a chocolate soufflé with a heavy cream poured in the center. It was delicious!

On my next trip down I will try The Granville Inn for dinner (which looks extremely overpriced) and Nona’s Italian Ristorante for lunch.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Kindle vs. Nook Update

At one month since its e-book launch, purchasers of the Kindle version of Fractured Anecdotes 1 are outpacing purchasers of the Nook version of Fractured Anecdotes 1 at the rate of 2 Kindles to every 1 Nook.

Monday, November 29, 2010

A Brand New Venue for Handel's Messiah!

I have been remiss.

I should have written something about the 62nd performance of Handel’s Messiah by the Messiah Chorus of Lake County before it actually happened. I will try to make up for that right now. Have you ever attended a performance of this classic piece, here or anywhere else? If not, you are missing something fantastic. This is more than just the “Hallelujah” chorus that most people have heard at one time or another. This fabulous music was written by George Frederick Handel in a little over three weeks, was scored for four soloists (soprano, alto, tenor and bass), four chorus voices, a variety of symphony orchestra instruments, and takes 2½ to 3 hours to perform.

Anyone who has listened to this cannot help but wonder how one man could construct such a piece of music that perfectly blends so many voices and instruments without spending years on the endeavor. One has to conclude that it was divinely inspired. There is no other explanation that makes sense.

But I digress.

I have been involved in the Messiah Chorus of Lake County for 30 years. Yesterday was my 27th performance. Things happen, such as late term pregnancy with my daughter, committing to be a confirmation sponsor on a day that conflicted with a performance…oh and then there was that one year where I had the unheard of opportunity to spend a week with friends in Hilton Head. Other than those times, I have been a faithful participant.

When I started, Cyril Chinn was the conductor. We performed the piece at Morley Music Building on the campus of Lake Erie College. I was fascinated by the place, even though it was in sore need of renovation. The acoustics were beautiful, the pipe organ was a work of art, but the building itself was inconvenient. There were two restrooms, one for men, one for women. You had to climb a monstrous number of stairs to get into the place and then had to go clear to the lowest building level to use the two restrooms. There was no handicapped accessibility and there were no elevators, except for the orchestra pit. There was woefully inadequate parking, forcing many to park across the street at Zion Lutheran Church and brave the Route 20 traffic, generally in the dark. And there was no room for the chorus to gather prior to the performance, so we all stood in a downstairs hallway to run through a few practice verses before climbing several levels of stairs to get to the stage.

One year, Cy was ill and the original choral conductor, Hilbert Collins, returned from retirement to lead the group. He insisted that we perform at the United Methodist Church on the square in downtown Painesville, the original home of the chorus. This posed several new problems. The first was that the choir itself had grown to close to 200 voices and the sanctuary of the church was nowhere near large enough to house us. There was inadequate parking in the square area. The person that played the organ for the performance that year kept hitting one of the middle registers with his arm, emitting a bleating sound at intervals throughout the piece. I came out of the performance ready to quit.

The following year, Cy was back and we were back in Morley. The pipe organ had fallen into disrepair and we began renting an organ for the event, adding to our costs. The building was divided to house offices on the basement level, so the hall where the choir had gathered to warm up was no longer available, which forced us to meet in another building and walk to Morley in all kinds of weather to get to the stage. Eventually, Cy just wasn’t up to conducting any longer. Ken Nash took over as conductor, and we continued to perform at Morley. The building was renovated, the organ was refurbished, and the price of renting the place for the performance rose.

The steering committee began seeking alternative venues. Don Densmore, the head of the steering committee and the force behind the running of the chorus for decades, decided to pass the torch. It was the perfect time to find a new venue in which to perform this masterful work. Kevin Donahue, choir director at St. Gabriel’s Church, graciously took on the position of steering committee head and offered St. Gabe’s Church as a new venue for the performance…free. This was met with some limited resistance, if for no other reason than there are some people who just dislike change. But for the majority of the choir members, the change was readily accepted when the perks of the new venue became apparent.

St. Gabriel’s had many advantages. The sanctuary is on the ground floor. There are a few stairs to climb to enter the church, but there are also handicapped ramps if you cannot manage those few stairs. There is a room in the church basement large enough to house the chorus for warm-ups prior to the performance, so the choir members don’t have to trudge through the weather to get to the hall. Those choir members who can not negotiate the stairs have use of an elevator. There are more-than-adequate restroom facilities on both floors. All the parking is on-site, eliminating the dangerous hike across Route 20. It does not have the booming pipe organ of Morley, but since St. Gabe’s offered the space for free, some of the money normally spent on the building rental was used to hire a professional string section. All told, we had strings, piano, harpsichord, organ, and trumpet.

It sounded incredible! It is amazing to hear this piece with the instruments of the day. Everyone in the audience that I polled after the concert said it was beautiful, and several mentioned that they thought it sounded better than Morley. Many commented that the venue was much more convenient. And St. Gabe’s even served punch and cookies to anyone who wanted a little something as they were leaving the concert. Kevin Donahue, Tony Noll, Father Fred, and the staff at St. Gabe’s were wonderful and gracious to open their doors to the community and went out of their way to make all who attended feel welcome.

I, for one, would like to thank them for making this a memorable event. I look forward to the 63rd performance of Handel’s Messiah, next December!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Turkeys and Paninis and Pies, Oh My!

It’s been a week to 10 days of activity as we hurtle toward the holidays. It started the day of the dreaded colonoscopy. After coming home and crashing for several hours, Jim woke me and I proceeded to make the stuffing for the upcoming turkey cookout. On Friday, after Jim left for scout camp, I took Mom to the Vine for soup and panini sandwiches. Wow! Good stuff on the new menu! Mom had Cheddar-Cheddar Broccoli Soup and I had Aztec Chicken Tortilla. We split a number 2, turkey-cheese-basil pesto on a croissant…excellent! Of course we topped it off with Blueberry Pinot Noir and the melodious sounds of Larry Smith.

Saturday, after the weekly trip to the beauty shop for Mom and errands for me, we paid a visit to the Craft Show and Bake Sale at St. Cyprian’s Church. We picked up my daughter on the way to the show and made it a 3-generation outing. This was followed by a six-inch chop job on Meredith’s hair…call it an evening exercise as most of the old layers are now gone. This was done so that her hair grows out nicely for the wedding in May.

Saturday evening was spent at Camp Stigwandish. The annual turkey cookout is an amazing thing. They cooked five 22-lb turkeys outside at the same time and it only took 6 ½ hours or so! They make a huge outdoor convection oven with the turkeys hanging from a pole held up by two tripods. The area is then ringed with tall chicken-wire tubes filled with charcoal. The whole thing is then wrapped in yards of aluminum foil, which acts to reflect all the heat toward the turkeys. The scouts also make mashed potatoes, mixed veggies, sweet potatoes, my stuffing of course, rolls, cranberry sauce…pretty much the whole 9 yards. All the scouts and their families are invited to share the Thanksgiving meal. This year there were 90-100 participants. A wonderful time and good food was had by all.

A major project at work kept me tied up for more than half the week. But Friday has come again, and I am relieved. Tomorrow, we’ll be attending a fund raiser for the brother of one of our friends, and Sunday is the last regular rehearsal for Messiah. Suddenly it will be Thanksgiving week and there is stuffing to make, pumpkin and apple pies to bake, and cleaning to be done. Chris will be coming home for the first time in many months. I’m looking forward to a laid back holiday, punctuated by hair appointments, dress rehearsal, and the actual Messiah concert. I will definitely need a break after that!

On another note, Kindle is outselling Nook 3 to 1! Don’t forget to download your copy of Fractured Anecdotes I and have a really good laugh!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Rumors of my demise are exaggerated

I lived.

This comes as no surprise to most anyone who has endured the dreaded colonoscopy, but might be to those who have never had one. I can say with firm resolve that the actual procedure was nothing compared to the preparation involved. And also, I will say this.

Go have it done! Although this is a literal pain in the hiney, the benefit of making sure nothing is in there silently planning to end your life is preferable to not knowing there is a problem.

An ounce of prevention really is worth the pound of cure. A gallon of vile clean out solution is preferable to chemo and other treatments for something you could have avoided by just biting the bullet and getting it done!

Colorectal cancer is preventable. Don’t become a statistic. Get checked out as recommended by the medical professionals (starting at age 50, both men and women should have a colonoscopy every 10 years). Do it for yourself, and do it for those you will leave behind if you don’t.

Down to the Wire

Well, it’s coming down to the wire. In an effort to keep my mind off things, like food, I left work early and went to Sam’s Club where four incredibly expensive tires were waiting to be mounted on my car. (How can they charge so much for simple rubber?)

“It will be several hours,” he said.

“Do it anyway,” I replied.

I shopped for a while, actually picking up a set of soft wooly pajamas as a Christmas gift and some yogurt (Activia for Mom, Chobani for me). I wanted to break a few of the yogurts open and down them in one sitting, but my metal and resolve to get the testing over with tomorrow stopped me from taking such a path. I’m even thinking I might actually have a little will power hidden in here somewhere. It was 2½ hours before they finally finished mounting the tires. I burned off 240 calories, ingested in the form of a Sprite, walking the aisles.

10 p.m.: I’ve had nothing to eat for 22 hours and it will be many more before anything solid crosses these lips.

Always the optimist and attempting to put a positive spin on this, I was thinking it might make a good jump-start for my preholiday diet…you know, the one where you proactively lose weight so that when you gain it back eating turkey, stuffing, and pumpkin pie, you (hopefully) end up where you started.

I do have another rather nefarious strategy. I call it The Reverse Diet. You bake goodies for your friends and keep them coming in a steady stream. They scarf them down, compliment your cooking, and gain weight. The more they gain, the smaller you appear!

7 a.m.: I got up with the chickens (5 a.m.) so that I could down the second half gallon of the clean-out juice. I flavored it with sugar-free Arizona Lemonade stix, so the taste wasn’t bad. But there is something about the consistency of this stuff that just makes me want to gag and heave!

I propose a Nobel Prize in science to the person who figures out a better, more convenient, and less disgusting way to accomplish this goal. At least the drinking part of this is over. I will post again this afternoon if I survive part II.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

I hear the theme from "Jaws"

It is now Sunday. Knowing full well that I will not be able to eat anything for 36 to 40 hours starting at midnight tomorrow, I have to control my urge to "stock up" for the duration. I'm not hungry, mind you. I just know the depths of despair one can experience when they are not allowed to eat prior to a procedure.

This is made worse knowing that I have to ingest a full gallon of some of the most vile cleansing product known to man. As the time approaches, the theme from "Jaws" keeps playing in my head. It is silly, I know. Thousands of people undergo this procedure every day. But I don't care to spend any time under anesthetic if I can possibly avoid it, and knowing how undignified this procedure makes people feel isn't helping.

I normally cook on Sunday for the week, but since I can't eat for the better part of two days, knowing it's all sitting there makes that path not quite a wise move. And I have this bag of apples in the garage screaming to be transformed into an apple pie. It too will have to wait.

In an effort to stop thinking about food and the upcoming procedure, I have started work on Fractured Anecdotes II, the obvious sequel to
Fractured Anecdotes I. I've also started work on a book of song lyrics, all political in nature (no one will be spared, my contribution to bipartisan politics). Each one can be sung to the music of a familiar tune...perfect for your political rally! It will be available in time for the run-up to the 2012 presidential campaigns.

Hoping to be able to post an update on Postcard Rx sometime in the coming week. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Bread and Muffin Day

I got to work this morning to find an e-mail from the biggest instigator of food events announcing November 9th as bread and muffin day. We were all to bring in bread and muffins and have a bit of an informal competition. All the submitted entries would be available in the Report Writer's office (where I reside all day).

I picked up the phone and placed the call.

"Can we move bread and muffin day to November 11th?" I asked.

"I just sent the announcement."

"We are not having bread and muffins in my office on the 9th," I said.

"Why not?"

"Because I am having the dreaded colonoscopy on the 10th and I cannot eat anything all day on the 9th. Putting all those goodies in my office will happen over my dead body. So what do you say we do it on the 11th?"

An e-mail with the new date for bread and muffin day was issued forthwith!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Battle Rages! Kindle 1, Nook 1

At the end of one week, Kindle and Nook are running neck and neck...if you can call one to one a race. I guess it takes any virus a while to start moving, so let's call this week 1 of the incubation period!

I did get a missive from one of the two purchasers who said, "Got your Fractured Anecdotes l the other day. Read them in one sitting and laughed until I cried. Will be watching for more."

Reviews don't get much better than that! I'll take it!

Now...I will take any and all suggestions as to how to get this virus to major outbreak status. I can't think of anything people need right now more than an outbreak of humor, can you?

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Have you been Nooked?

As of last night, the viral experiment has gone live on Barnes and Noble, with an e-book version now available for Nook owners. It can be found at Fractured Anecdotes I on B&N.

Now the question is, will it sell more copies on Amazon than it does on Barnes & Noble? Rest assured I will be revisting sales numbers every month or so, and we shall see if an author can actually make a few bucks by this method of sales!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Want to Participate in a Viral Experiment?

While waiting patiently for the literary agent to sell the book that is making the rounds of the publishing houses, I decided to conduct a little experiment and leap into the fray with an e-book for Kindle and Nook.

I've called the book, drum roll, "Fractured Anecdotes I" and it is a compilation of very funny and/or strange true stories from my extensive arsenal of "it can only happen to Betsy" events. You might find a couple of these in this blog if you dig back far enough, but why bother when, with the click of the mouse button, you can download the best of the best directly to your computer or reader?

Is it possible for a singular little e-book to go viral? I am guessing that it is possible, but only if everyone passes the link on to everyone they know.

So feel free to join me in my viral experiment. Wouldn't it be something to see a small locally written piece of work go global from little old Lake County?

Give it a shot!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Neither rain, nor sleet, nor dead of night...

During the Middle Bass Island weekend (Oct 2-3), one of the writing exercises we participated in was writing a postcard as a way to jump start the creative process. I addressed mine to myself. Steve drove to the Middle Bass Post Office as we were leaving the island on Sunday and dropped them in the mail.

The postcard finally arrived. Today.

I have great respect for our postal service, but realistically, I could have walked the postcard from Middle Bass to Perry faster. It took eight days from the time of postmarking until it arrived. I wonder if it was only my postcard or if everyone at the retreat received their postcards at the snail’s pace.

Wedding plans are moving forward. The “Save the Date” cards will be going out before the end of the month. The Christmas wine also will be bottled by the end of the month. I think that other than the wine and the usual holiday dinner, I’m restricting my gift-buying to the little kids. There are just too many expenses coming up quickly to allow myself to get into any additional debt, and none of the adults really needs anything. Although I suppose I could get everyone their traditional holiday socks.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Another weekend, another world...

The bone-jarring cold of the weekend past is naught but a memory, replaced by the warm, fuzzy thoughts of the benefits received; much as the pain of childbirth is forgotten once the child is in your arms for the first time. And in the same way, I am more than willing to repeat that weekend, cold and all.

The gain from a weekend writing retreat is usually worth whatever effort or discomfort is involved. Sometimes I think we learn more in that uncomfortable place…new surroundings, new people, new ideas…than we do wallowing in our familiar zones of complacency. I’ve always been a proponent of the idea that personal change is good. It promotes growth and stimulates creativity. The more changes you make in your personal world, the better. Change at work can be good too, as long as it is done to make things more efficient, more profitable, and more effective and is not being done just for the sake of change or by personal whim.

Getting out of the comfort zone is a real necessity for writers. Move to the front porch with the laptop, go to a coffee shop (it’s not as distracting as you might imagine), go sit on the beach. The sound and the sight of water always bring out a creative mood in me, but only if I’m well rested. If I’m sleep deprived, the water sights and sounds send me off to la-la-land. Just make sure that it’s someplace where you’re not looking at the house that needs cleaning, the laundry that needs doing, and the bills that need paying. It’s also best to move as far away as possible from anyone for whom you feel responsible, be it spouse, child, sibling or parent. Just their presence can be a flow-stopping distraction.

With the weekend weather as nice as it is today…take a walk and just enjoy. When you get back, set up your laptop on the porch or sit in a lawn chair and soak up the sun’s warmth as you let your mind take you where the writing wants to go!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Oh Wa Ta Goo Siam...

And oh what a few weeks I’ve had. On Friday, Sept 24, I sat waiting for Chinese takeout when I got a call from the other half, saying he was rescuing our daughter because her car died. It turned out that she blew the engine on her ’98 Corolla. And so began the week of getting up at far too early of an hour so that I could leave work early to take my daughter to work, while we attempted to figure out her transportation issue.

On Saturday, a good friend’s husband died in a tragic accident and I went into grief support mode. For me, this means cooking, and cooking, and cooking. Comfort foods seem to be most helpful. Grief support mode was interrupted by the search and discovery of a used minivan for my daughter and trips to the credit union to arrange financing. I took half a day of vacation time mid-week to attend and sing at the funeral service and to lend what support I could.

This was followed on Thursday by an early morning doctor’s appointment and on Friday by last minute laundry and packing for the Writer’s Retreat I had been waiting for months to attend on Middle Bass Island.

I left home about 7:45 Saturday, Oct 2, and headed West. I arrived at Miller Ferry on Catawba Point, parked in the free lot and left the warmth of my car. I can truthfully say it was the last time I was warm until Sunday night, an hour into the drive home. That being said, I had a great weekend! I took the ferry to Middle Bass, and our host, Steve, picked me up at the dock along with two other writers.

An additional two writers missed the ferry and took one to South Bass instead and then rented a water taxi over. The last writer missed the ferry and waited for the next one, but that wasn’t until 5 in the afternoon.

We stayed at The President’s Cottage, formerly the vacation home for President Howard Taft and his family. Cottage doesn’t quite describe this house. There were twelve- and fourteen-foot ceilings, massive four-foot wide entrance door, two bedrooms on the first, five bedrooms on the second, and two not yet renovated bedrooms on the third floor. Unfortunately, the place was built as a summer home and there is no heat, central or otherwise. The fireplace was workable but not used because the age and condition make it an extreme fire hazard.

So we have a house with no heat and seven writers all gathered to spend the weekend, which should have been temperate, but had turned cold and rainy with 40 mph winds coming out of the east-southeast. We sat around dressed in layers and wrapped in blankets, talking, discussing, eating hot food, and drinking wine. We did exercises to help relieve writer’s block, critiqued each other’s work, and discussed many of the aspects of writing and publishing. Steve was a terrific host and I will most definitely get on the list to visit the island again should he be willing to host another retreat!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Reunion Results and Residency Requests

Once again, I have gone far too long with no entry in the blog. My apologies! To catch you up with the happenings, I did not lose ANY weight in time for the Class reunion. I actually gained 5 lbs and managed to take them back off in time, equaling a net loss of zero pounds. The best laid plans of mice and men and frustrated dieters everywhere!

The Class Reunion was great. We had a mixer on Friday night at Geneva-on-the-Lake at the Swiss Chalet. Most of the class had been there in their youth. I, however, never frequented the area, which my father considered a den of iniquity and the place where the wild kids hung out, ergo, off limits. We all had a blast trying to figure out who everyone was. Some people look very similar to their high school days, some you would never have guessed. The band playing was partially comprised of other St. John alumni.

We had not realized at the time this was scheduled, that it was the weekend for the annual Thunder on the Strip…completely overrun with bikers and biker babes! Serene quiet was not on the menu!
Saturday’s main event was held at Laurello’s Winery in the newly renovated banquet facility in the huge old barn. The atmosphere was wonderful. Everyone seemed to really enjoy being there. I was surprised at the amount of talking and mingling that went on…no evidence of old high school cliques. Everyone was truly happy to see everyone else. Kim Laurello and her staff provided wonderful food and excellent wine. They did a terrific job setting the place up. We had music playing from our high school days, but only loud enough to hear and enjoy without killing conversations. There were no lengthy speeches, no formal events, just everyone having a laid back, relaxed, good time. We had people come from as far away as California and Oregon. All in all, I would call the reunion a great success.

Work has been of bit of insane, and time is flying into the innards of fall. In a few weeks I’ll be leaving work and home and heading to a writer’s retreat on Middle Bass Island. Jim and Mom will hold down the fort while I’m gone for the weekend. I’m looking forward to this little time a way with great anticipation. Normally, when I run away for a writing weekend, I hole up in a hotel room somewhere and write. This time I will be one of seven writers getting together to work and share. It should be fun. We’ll all be staying at a house that used to be President Taft’s vacation cottage. Interestingly, the “cottage” appears to have seven bedrooms! I’ll definitely let you know how that weekend pans out.

I’m also looking into several options for 1 or 2-week residencies in writing for next summer. I sent my first application off on Saturday. I have novels to finish, and the occasional weekend doesn’t seem to quite cut it for fiction. So, I am determined to spend two weeks of solid time on writing next summer to see if I can’t finish up a novel or two. If a residency comes through, I’ll be reporting it here!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Eat, Pray, Love

It’s been a busy week since last I posted. Sorry for the lag. I don’t know if I’ve talked about this before. I’m a writer, but I pretty much stopped reading books about the time I decided to write them. The reasons for this were three-fold. First and foremost, I didn’t want to inadvertently write in someone else’s voice or style, nor did I want to have someone else’s words floating around in my head where they might find their way into my writing. Second, I was too busy writing to spend time reading. Third, when I read it is like an addiction. I start a book and I don’t put it down until I’m done. The only thing I can’t do while reading is drive. So for probably 15 years, I refrained from reading any other fiction.

Then I suddenly discovered the absolute joy of books on CD. This has been a mental date with Nirvana for me. I was missing the reading of books desperately, and I was completely out of touch with what was out there for a decade and a half. For the last five years or so, I’ve kept a constant flow of “spoken” books in my car. I actually hate to have someone in the car with me because I can’t listen to them and the books at the same time. I also keep a book on my MP3 player at all times so that I can listen while walking or biking. I don’t seem to have any problem listening to two different stories at the same time. I have “listened” to everything from Dan Brown’s “Angels and Demons” to three different series by Clive Cussler, most of James Patterson, everything I can find by Kathy Reichs, Janet Evanovich, Jeffery Deaver, and on and on.

Prior to the last week, everything I’ve listened to has been fiction. With the release of the movie “Eat, Pray, Love,” I decided to get a copy at the library and listen to it. I have not seen the movie, but I can’t begin to imagine that the movie could do it justice. The author has verbalized in this one beautifully written and beautifully read text almost every question I have ever asked myself. Then she went out and found the answers to her questions, unlike most of us who are still asking and struggling.

So far I have listened to her through four months in Italy, and about three months in an ashram in India. Personally, I would love to visit Italy for a few months, but I cannot even imagine I would want to spend months in an ashram in India. The author is seeking God and enlightenment, while fighting what is necessary to find those things…the practice of looking into one’s self. It is fascinating to follow her progress as she discovers that God isn’t on some holy mountain, but within each of us to be called on as needed. If you haven’t yet had the chance to read “Eat, Pray, Love,” I would highly recommend that you do, whether visually or audibly on CD.

You might find that you are inspired by her search and her discoveries.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Time goes incredibly fast...

Having completely blown the first two weeks of the six-week plan, even to the point of gaining a couple pounds, I am now working in earnest. The Death March started Tuesday and has continued uninterrupted. My hips are creaking like an old rickety rocking chair and I’m feeling a bit like one, too. I’ve been applying Icy Hot to my shins before walking and before bed as preventative measures. Guess I should do the same for my hips.

I have noticed that, in general, I am slower and have many more aches than I did several years ago when the Death March was a part of my daily routine. I did finish the march quicker today than yesterday…at this point, I’ll take any improvement.

Tonight I try the kettle bell workout again. Considering my track record with falls and broken bones the last few months, I’m hoping I don’t drop it on my head or whack myself in the shin or knee. Tomorrow I may break out the walking poles to see if I can increase the calorie burn on the Death March. Three more weeks and counting until the reunion…275 days until the wedding. This will be the ultimate test of my resolve to not have more Shamu wedding pics!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Fitness equipment and other inane topics…

Yesterday, I mentioned my obsession with fitness devises. Presently, I own or have custody of:

a Bowflex
a Tony Little Gazelle
a Health Rider
an exercise bike
a street bike
a treadmill
a weight bench with requisite iron
a kettle bell
an exercise ball
a rebounder (mini trampoline)
a pair of walking poles
Exercise bands
Two exercise bars for aerobic breathing workouts

I have owned at least an equal number of other devices that have been long since sold off at garage sale prices.

I can tell you with absolute certainty that the purchase of these products does not correlate with weight loss. You actually have to use them to achieve a weight-loss outcome. In my house, they take up space, gather dust, and occasionally serve as drying racks or clothing trees, but they do nothing for me. I have to use them to achieve anything. I am beginning to wonder if my inability to develop the discipline to use these devices on a regular basis is greater than my desire to be thin.

Even as I write this, my quads are screaming in agony from my latest purchase. Yesterday morning’s workout of forty squats with a 10-lb kettle bell almost did me in. Hopefully the Tylenol and slathering of Icy Hot will tame the flaming quad pain enough so that I can get up and do it again tomorrow. I know, I know…I’m just a glutton for punishment. Sorry to say, I think the death marches also have to resume if I have any hope of dropping a few pounds before that reunion in September.

Unfortunately, the “Quest to Impress” doesn’t end with the reunion. My daughter has announced her intention of marrying in May of 2011, so my weight loss efforts will continue for months.

When my son got married, I begged him to wait a year. He didn’t. I bought a gorgeous black outfit for the wedding…well, it looked gorgeous on the hanger. I put it on and looked like Shamu in sequins. Although I weigh about 100 lbs less now than I did then, the thought of another album full of Shamu wedding shots has me cringing in my boots.

For years I’ve heard about women who search for the perfect “little black dress” to keep in their closets for that special occasion. I never had a “little black dress” with the emphasis on “little.” A while back, I was in Dillard’s and walked through the junior department (obviously on my way to shoes) and spotted my idea of the perfect “little black dress.” The original price was upwards of $120 but it was just hanging on this rack with an extremely discounted, end-of-season price tag of $18! It was an incredibly small size (5) and looked more like an overly long shirt than a dress, but I bought it anyway…inspiration, I told myself.

It’s been hanging in a clear plastic dress bag in my home office for two years now. All I need to do is lose another 70 lbs, followed by a circumferential body lift, upper arm and thigh lifts, breast reduction and lift. They might as well throw in a facelift for good measure…in for a penny in for a pound.

Barring those things happening, I guess I’ll just slit the dress up the back and put it away. I will wear that dress come hell or high water, even if it is one day artfully placed on my dead body in the casket.

Until that happens, we will be revisiting the kettle bell torture.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

So Much for the 6-Week Plan....

The first week of the weight-loss plan fizzled. I rode my bike for an hour last Monday, but in the process, I fell off the bike. Well, that isn't "quite" accurate. I wasn't actually moving at the time.

I had been riding for about 30 minutes when I stopped to have a drink of water and make some adjustments to my headphones. As I stood, straddling the bike, I removed my helmet and took a drink out of the water bottle. Then I tried to place the water bottle back in the holder, but I realized that I was in an awkward position to accomplish the task.

I attempted to back up a bit to access the bottle holder, but my shirt got stuck on the bike seat, throwing me off balance. Helpless to stop the impending disaster, I tipped to the left and landed on my side on the pavement. In the process, I broke the brand new rearview mirror off my handlebars. The bike was otherwise unscathed.

I, on the other hand, skinned the left elbow and bruised my left hip and my lower left rib, the location of which is marked by a ghastly dark purple bruise about six inches wide and two inches high.

Needless to say, I will be off the bike for a while longer. Miraculously, my newly healed tailbone never hurt a bit, even after an hour in the seat.

But I have not given up the quest to impress. I went to Dick's Sporting Goods and purchased a 10-lb kettle bell. (This is part of my obsession to own every weight-loss device known to man.) Now I'm just hoping that I can manage to do the kettle bell routine without dropping it on my head or breaking a shin! Time will tell.

Friday, August 6, 2010

The International Blogging Recognition Council is a SCAM!

This week, I received an email telling me that the “The Fractured Anecdote” had been awarded a “Recognized Blog” status by the "International Blogging Recognition Council." The message read as follows:

During the month of July, the International Blogging Recognition Council (IBRC) had the pleasure of reviewing your blog The Fractured Anecdote. Your blog was referred to IBRC through our Refer-A-Blog program. "Reunion time of year" was the topic that the Council reviewed. Based on the review, the Council has recommended that your blog receive IBRC’s designation of “Recognized Blog”. IBRC reserves this honor to those blogs that effectively connects with the audience and promotes the sharing of ideas and experiences.

We invite you to visit our website at to learn more about IBRC and our “Recognized Blog” award. Congratulation on your accomplishment.

When I got home from work, I went to the website. There I discovered that in order to get the award logo to post on my blog, I had to register on the site…to the tune of a one-time $45 payment. Having never heard of this organization, and being the jaded and skeptical person I am, I immediately hit Google and started searching. I discovered the following information over the next couple days.

1) Having to pay $45.00 to be recognized has all the elements of a hit and run scam. Real awards programs don't require payments.

2) I was not alone in receiving this e-mail. Thrilled bloggers from all over were posting about this wonderful “award” they had received. This worried me because knowing how few writers out there get any recognition, many would immediately pay the $45 just so they could post their award logo.

3) The domain name,, was just recently purchased and it was done in a way that masks the identity of the owners.

4) The website was extremely vague.

5) There was no list of the organizations members, board of directors, management, or credentials.

6) There was no physical contact information…no state, no country.

7) There was no explanation as to how this award might benefit the blogger.

8) When I visited some of the other “awarded” blogs, I had to question just exactly why they had received an award. My only answer was that the IBRC wanted the $45 fee, because some of what I read was not what I would consider award worthy. I even left a comment on one or two, saying I thought it was a scam.

So to all my fellow bloggers out there I say “DON”T GET SUCKED INTO THIS ONE!”

Thursday, July 29, 2010

6-Week Plan

With only six weeks remaining until the class reunion, I have formulated a last ditch plan to drop a few pounds prior to the event. If you recall from my last post, I was the fat, brainy, egghead in high school. When I attended my reunion 10 years ago, I was still quite large. I guess I looked pretty much as people expected me to look.

A lot has changed in 10 years, and I am no longer as heavy as I was at least 100 pounds. Mind you, I'm still no light weight, but in comparison to most people my age, I don't look too bad. Still, I'm vain enough to want to impress, so I'm pulling out all the stops.

To begin, I plan to go to bed a little least before 1 a.m. This should facilitate getting up earlier so I can fit 30 minutes of aerobic exercise and an hour of writing in to my schedule before I go to work in the morning. I've been practically sedentary since I broke my tailbone in May. But that issue is, for the most part, "behind" me.

I'll be spending some time this weekend finding a decent book to download onto my mp3 player to listen to during the morning exercise session.

I'll also start riding my bike again. Barring rain, it will be pedaling to choir practice on Mondays, and hopefully, I can get out there at least a few more days a week for some shorter runs, like to the outdoor YMCA and back.

I've already concocted an eating plan for the next 6 weeks to maximize calorie bang for the buck. I'll be avoiding excessive fat-laden foods and anything with high sodium content. I'm still off the Diet Pepsi (almost 7 weeks now), so my water intake is good at the moment. Past experience has taught me that my metabolism is so slow that in order for me to actually lose weight, I have to burn off more calories on a daily basis than I ingest in food.

I'll try to report on my progress weekly. Tomorrow morning's weight will be my starting point. Now don't go rubbing your hands together in glee...I will not be divulging the actual starting poundage. I will, however, report on the number of pounds lost per week.

Stay tuned!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Reunions - Part 3, High School Melodrama

Ahhh yes, the high school class reunion. Do we all hate this or do we love it? I have to admit that when I graduated, I had no love for my high school class. For me, high school was not that wonderful life experience people reminisce about and those four years certainly were not the best years of my life. I was the fat, brainy, egghead; not at all popular; and certainly not part of anything remotely considered the in crowd.

Ever the optimist, when graduation time came, I begged my parents to let me have a swim party. We lived in the country and had a 2 acre lake. So I bought hot dogs and buns, pop, snacks, and more for the entire class, and asked my dad to bring in tons of beach sand to create a beach along one side of the lake. We already had a floating dock with a high dive and a diving board. I sent out the invitations and was all excited about having such a cool, unique party for the class.

When the day of the party came, six or seven girls that I used to hang around with showed up. No one else came. I was incredibly hurt at first. I had gone to considerable effort and expense to throw a great party, but I wasn’t considered cool enough for the city kids to show up. Then I just got angry. I swore I would never attend anything having to do with the class ever again.

Fast forward 30 years. I got a call from the guy who used to sit in front of me in most of my classes. He had a story to tell me that I’ll pass on at some other time. But he asked me if I would please attend the 30th class reunion. I reluctantly agreed. Amazingly, I had a wonderful time. Everyone I saw there was warm and friendly and genuinely interested in talking to me. Seems we all grew up in the interceding years. I found I wasn’t really angry at anyone anymore. And I wondered why I had allowed myself to be angry for so long.

In September, I will be attending my 40th class reunion. I am really looking forward to seeing everyone, and I hope that we have a large turn-out. I’ve even been active on the reunion committee and working on the class web site; quite a turn around from the angry alumni I used to be. What saddens me is that there are a couple of my classmates who, for some reason or another, are so angry that they refuse to attend even though they live locally. Some have gone so far as to demand that no notifications be sent to them at all. Some of them were in the popular crowd. I can’t help but wonder what could possibly have happened to evoke such a response. I believe that if I can get over being snubbed by 95% of the class, they can get over whatever petty thing is holding them back.

The only way to find internal happiness is to forgive and move on. It worked for me. You might be surprised what it can do for you.

Reunions - Part Deux

The reunion on my father’s side of the family is not nearly as orchestrated as the one I wrote about previously. Dad’s side has a reunion every year for one day only, usually a Saturday in July. It is normally unbearably hot, but we all keep showing up anyway. This year the reunion was pretty small, only about 40 or 50 people tops, though in the past we have had attendance of up to 150 family members. Although some of the regulars were conspicuously absent, we had a good time.

The food was excellent this year, and my cousin Paul, his wife Paula, and my late cousin Jack's wife Judy, who have hosted the event for many years now, should be commended for their hard work and hospitality. Actually, with so few people in attendance, relatively speaking, the reunion was more relaxed and laid back than in years past. I was able to sit and have more than a passing conversation with another person. When there are 150 people, it is hard to speak to everyone in a limited amount of time, and actual meaningful conversation seldom happens.

Before we left the fair city of New Castle to head home, the entire family attended a mass at St. Vincent de Paul Church. The mass was dedicated to deceased members of the Boyle family. It is a very pretty, new church that was built to replace St. Lucy’s Church, the old family parish. The music was done well and the place was blessedly air conditioned! All in all it was an enjoyable event.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Reunion time of year

I was thinking about reunions today. Last year we had our week-long, once-every-5-years reunion with my mother’s family. It was a very interesting event. It was held at Camp Perry, a military base on the shores of Lake Erie between Sandusky and Toledo at the beginning of June. It is always enlightening to meet with family members you haven’t seen in years. Everyone looks older to you, even though you live with the delusion that you can’t possibly look nearly as old to them. It is never really the same as it was when you were kids and your cousins were like best friends to you. They change, you change, the world changes. Lives move on.

But it was a fine adventure. The place was swarming, quite literally, with Mayflies. They covered every outdoor surface. It was so bad that they crunched under your feet as you walked, and the base staff came by every morning and swept the beasties off the sidewalks, entrance ways, and the doors and windows of the rooms and cabins so you could enter and exit without letting a thousand of them inside.

We ate at interesting places and had two huge family dinners, one at Camp Perry and one at Put-in-Bay. There were family outings to Put-in-Bay of course and to Cedar Point. I have to admit that my immediate family skipped the Cedar Point trip. Having a daughter that worked there for four straight years, we had pretty much had our fill of amusement park fun. So we packed up in our cars and headed to Kelly’s Island.
We drove all over the place there, investigating the glacial grooves and a winery near the center of the island. We stopped at a famous eatery for lunch and had their famous Brandy Alexander by the pitcher. It was a really nice day with my own immediate family.

After four fun-filled days at Camp Perry, the majority of the attendees hopped on a bus and headed to Washington DC. Not wanting to subject Mom to the long bus ride and extend the trip home by having to return to Camp Perry to retrieve the car, I decided to brave the DC traffic and drive. We managed to get there in one piece. It was a relief to stay in a REAL hotel after four days in military housing. Our reason for being in DC was a little more somber than the family gathering. Two of my uncles were being interred at Arlington National Cemetery. Both served at officers during WWII. They were slightly older than Mom, and she needed to be there for the ceremony.

I have to say that I have never been more moved in my life than I was when I entered that cemetery. My heart cried. If you have never visited there, you really should go. If you see nothing else in DC, you need to see Arlington. The enormity of the sacrifice it represents is indescribable. Row, upon row, upon row of white crosses; flag-covered, horse-drawn caissons; and mournful resonant music bring tears to your eyes even if you’re not there to bury one of your own.

More on reunions later.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Home from the road!

Here it is, a week after my return trip from Tennessee. Things have not let up for the multitasking me.

What can I say about the trip? It was hot, but it was fun. I got to spend time with good friends from Boston and Atlanta. We had marvelous food at Olive Garden (the 5-cheese ziti al forno was wonderful!), Chili’s (where I actually had chili), The Fox and Hound (where Joe and I split a pizza), and Cracker Barrel (for the traditional Sunday breakfast). We relaxed, attending a couple of filking events and the annual Baen Publishing slide show. One morning, as the most frequently killed character in Baen-published fiction, Joe Buckley (check out the literature link), and I were sitting in the hotel breakfast area, we had the pleasure of meeting Larry Correia, author of the Monster Hunters International series, and his lovely wife Bridget. As Larry and Joe discussed Joe’s possible future demise in Larry’s work, Bridget and I had a very nice chat. Many of the people we meet frequently at sci-fi conventions were in attendance. Our man Eric Flint was master of ceremonies. John Ringo was there as well. And of course the usual bar flies were there in abundance.

The drive home was long and hot. I was looking for a BP on my way through Kentucky and I was hungry. I stopped at one exit and picked up a McChicken sandwich and a small fry (both on the dollar menu). I got back on the road and pulled off at the next exit to fill up the car. A bedraggled homeless man was standing at the end of the exit ramp with a sign. I don't know what it said, but I gave him my chicken sandwich that was still untouched. I figured he needed it more than I did. Later, I sat in Covington, Kentucky for an hour waiting to cross the bridge into Cincinnati. It seems Ohio is not the only place where the construction starts in earnest right after evening rush hour!

It was a long, busy week after I returned. Work was carried out at a rather frantic pace. I came home early from my usual Thursday night outing due to an upset stomach. Friday after work, Jim and I raced over to my friend Laurie’s house to put up a 20 x 40 foot canopy in her back yard for a bridal shower on Saturday.

After taking mom to her normal Saturday morning excursion to the beauty shop, we hopped into the car and headed for New Castle, Pennsylvania for the annual Boyle Family reunion. We hit a huge traffic mess on I-80 that had cars backed up for miles in both directions. We arrived at about 12:15. By our normal standards, the reunion was a bit small this year…about 50 by my estimate. It has been as high as 150 in years past. But with such a small crowd, the pace was relaxed and everyone in attendance had a nice time. We attended the Boyle Family mass at St. Vincent de Paul church, formerly St. Lucy’s, and then headed back home.

It was 98 degrees when we left New Castle and only 84 when we got home, but the hours of heat while we were there took a toll. In order to avoid the traffic mess on the return trip, we got off at Route 7 and took it north to Route 82. Shortly thereafter, we found Route 11, so we jumped on and headed north toward Ashtabula. The return trip took an hour and 35 minutes, which wasn’t at all bad.

After getting everyone settled in at home, I went to the BP and filled up my tank. Then I stopped at Your Vine or Mine for a celebratory birthday glass of wine. Meredith joined me for $3.00 Sangria, the Painesville Party in the Park special. I did not go out and walk around the park. It was much too hot and I was drained from the heat all afternoon in New Castle.

Sunday was the wind-down day, at least it was after we took the canopy down in the morning. Joe, Flo and Joe Jr., my brother and his family, stopped by to tell us about their Mediterranean cruise, which sounded lovely. We drank wine and listened as they regaled us with stories of the beautiful coastline and the scenery, the mountains, cathedrals and artwork. It made me long to see Greece and Italy’s Amalfi Coast. Perhaps someday I will get the chance to see such things.

In the meantime, I'll just apply for my passport and hope for the best!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

On the road again...

Here I am, sitting in my hotel room in East Ridge, TN. I am on my annual solo road trip to the Chattanooga area to attend Liberty Con 23, a Sci-Fi convention that features authors, artists, gamers, filkers and more. Some of my friends and co-workers think I’m a bit on the crazy side for attending something like this, but as conventions go, Liberty Con, which I’ve been attending for years, it one of the most laid-back gatherings around. The attendees are friendly and personable, and the authors, artists and musicians are wonderfully warm and willing to meet with and talk to most everyone. There are panels of the various “celebrities” who impart their writing wisdom; sometimes there are instructional classes as well. There are events running from Friday until Sunday at 2:00. I even scored some free books that will go onto the library shelf at work on Tuesday, when I return to the real world. I have made many friends at Liberty Con over the years, and it’s always a pleasure and an interesting experience to come back again.

The trip down was a 10 and ½ hour drive, mostly due to torrential rainstorms in Kentucky and Northern Tennessee and the resulting accidents. The rain was so bad at times that I actually pulled off the freeway twice and used the time to fill my tank or to get something to eat while I waited for the torrents to subside. Here’s hoping the return trip is less eventful!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

The Calm Before the Storm?

The bum is well on its way to healing and the Diet Pepsi withdrawal dragon has been slain. I almost finished mulching the front garden last night, but we ran out of mulch…again. I need at least another three bags to finish the job properly. My office is only partially clean, and then only the area necessary to install a new wireless, color all-in-one. The office needs a major purge, and I do mean soon. The same goes for the attic, my bedroom and the linen closet. Like Laura Kessel, I’m having “hoarder” nightmares more and more frequently.

As the holiday weekend approaches, I’m beginning to write a few lists of the stuff I need to get and the stuff I have to do to make the most of the three days at home. That includes getting things in order here so I can make the solo drive to Chattanooga the following weekend without worrying about anything I left undone.

I would be remiss if I did not mention that the Your Vine or Mine? Swap “Meat” event for this year is gaining momentum. This week, I made Ancient Sweet red peppers stuffed with a savory meat and veggie mixture, topped with garlic mashed Yukon gold potatoes and Black Diamond White Cheddar cheese. There were some very nice offerings this week, including NY Strip Steaks, porch chops, stuffed Cornish hens, infused roasted turkey legs, spaghetti pie, Swiss steak over rice, and a penne pasta with sausage and homemade sauce. Everything looked wonderful (and the strip steaks were yummy). The Swap takes place every other Tuesday at Your Vine or Mine on Main St. in Painesville. Get out there and participate! Fun and tasty at the same me, that's a definite no-brainer!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Diet Pepsi Withdrawal - Week 2

The jitters are gone, but the headaches remain as I plunge into Week 2 of caffeine and aspartame withdrawal. Some helpful folks have suggested I drink coffee or tea, but if I do that, I might as well go back to drinking Diet Pepsi! After all, caffeine is caffeine.

There are some things I’ve noticed since I got off the “sauce.”

I’m definitely less hungry.
I’m satisfied with much less.
I’m not eating anything at night.
And, I’ve lost several pounds since I quit the Diet Pepsi.

I’m hoping the trend continues on that score. Considering I’ve been relatively sedate for 5 weeks (since I broke my tailbone), losing any weight is like a little miracle. Tomorrow morning, if I get up early enough, I’m going to attempt a little rebounding before work.

On the downside, the withdrawal headaches are putting a real stranglehold on my writing time. Having your head pounding tends to make thinking or concentrating almost impossible. Fortunately, I only seem to have the pounding in the evenings, so at least I’m able to work effectively at the day job.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

More Flowers, Less Withdrawal

On the flower front, I put out part of the mulch the other night, before the bugs and the sweat sent me running into the AC. We’ll try for the rest tonight before dark…if I get home before dark. The mulch I laid down the other night looks fabulous. When I’m done, I’ll take a picture or two and post them up.

On the Pepsi withdrawal front, the jitters have departed, but the headaches remain, even though they are somewhat less severe. The tailbone is improving, but it will be weeks before I get back to 100%. I can tell you from first-hand experience that spreading mulch, digging dirt, and planting lilies are no picnic with a broken bum!

Last night, I took Mom and met my cousins Betsi and Suzie at Bass Lake Tavern in Chardon for dinner. It was tasty fare! Betsi and Suzie had sea scallops with berry-rum sauce over a bed of rice. I had a pan-seared tilapia with asparagus and other veggies over rice. Mom opted for even lighter fare, a bowl of tomato basil soup and a side of butternut squash with maple butter. Betsi and Suzie split a decadent chocolate brownie desert with Bailey’s Irish Cream Ice Cream and Mom had a yummy bread pudding. I opted for liquid calories and by-passed the desert menu for a second glass of a tasty Piesporter Reisling.

All in all, not bad!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Sorely Tempted...

"Betsy, oh Betsy." Can you hear the pure, unadulterated, undiluted, 24-oz bottles of Diet Pepsi calling my name? I can! Adding insult to injury, almost every ad in the Sunday paper practically screamed with sales on Pepsi products.

I now know why the sailors went mad and crushed their ships on the rocks when the Sirens sang their alluring songs - they all had pounding headaches from cold caffeine withdrawal.

You're probably wondering what would possess me to chose this time out of all possible times to attack my Pepsi addiction head-on. In my ever multitasking mode, it seemed expedient to make the Tylenol I'm downing for the broken tailbone serve dual duty. I knew that severe headaches would be a major symptom of withdrawal. It also seemed a prudent time to save the cash involved in constantly having a Pepsi at hand. You've probably heard of the "Latte Factor." I consider this to be the "Pepsi Factor."

Other than the blinding headaches, I've noticed I have considerable fidgeting, nervousness, and incredible thirst. I've downed about two gallons of water today alone. If I don't float away, I'll update you all on the great withdrawal later this week.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Flowers and Withdrawal!

Much was accomplished on the “while the cat’s away” plan. Hanging pots are gracing my front porch, and I have some of the most beautiful Asiatic Lilies now planted in my front garden. The look is nicely dramatic with the row of bright yellow blooming day lilies now backed by deep blood red Asiatic lilies, backed by deep green holly bushes. The hanging pots are filled with small yellow flowers with red centers. Unfortunately, I didn’t get the mulch put out today. But I will attend to that over the course of the week.

My two biggest hurdles have been the broken tailbone and my deliberate lack of Pepsi. Yes folks, I’m attempting to get the Pepsi monkey off my back. The last pure unadulterated bottle was Friday night. I did get a slight charge by drinking an ice-filled diluted fountain Pepsi that I left half filled on the table when we left Panini’s. Since then it has been water, water, and more water followed by Tylenol for the withdrawal headaches. Hopefully I will make it through the caffeine withdrawal. I will update the blog with my progress.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

You can have Summer Camp...

I’ll take Manhattan. Well I would take Manhattan if I had the time. The Boy Scout Troop is heading off for their annual week of summer camp, this year to be held at Camp Davey Crockett in Tennessee. Because of the long commute to and from old Davey Crockett, I have two extra days to accomplish the things I have added to my “plan” for the week. It is amazing what I can manage to do while the other half is away.

Once again, my main focus will be the front garden. Last year I tilled it up, dug out and repositioned 9 holly bushes, put in a front border of bright yellow daylilies, planted the in-between space with a variety of perennials, and mulched everything into a lovely landscaped look. The daylilies and holly bushes are thriving, but the in-between perennials didn’t fare quite as well. So I will, dig out the dead stuff and replant the in-between area with new, colorful flowers. Then I will weed, rake, and refresh the mulch with the bags left over from last year’s efforts.

I’ll likely purchase some nice hanging pots for the front porch as well. I seriously thought about staining and sealing the front porch, but with the broken tailbone, that may be a little too much for me to handle as a solo job.

If I can finish the gardening on Saturday and Sunday, I will have the rest of the week to sew-up the baby project. I may even have time to blow up the quilt pattern for that king-sized bed topper.

The other two projects for the week are 1) cleaning out my closet, putting away the winter clothes, and seeing if I have anything that still fits for the summer and 2) cleaning and purging the stuff in my office.

I actually frustrated myself looking for something last night to the point that I almost did a desk-clearing sweep of the arm…like they always do in dramatic movie scenes! If I had a super powerful fan, I would just blow all the clutter away…it would be gone with the wind. You will not, however, find me at the bottom of the staircase, swooning, sobbing, and saying “I know what to do…I’ll go back to Tara!” I’m far less dramatic than that!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Only Six Good Hours Left...

...then it’s back to the 5-day work week! Time has passed in a bit of a blur since I posted on Wednesday night. Thursday was work, the farmers market in Painesville where I bought two loaves of Alex Bevan’s brick-oven-baked bread and a jar of his Skinny Pickles Bread and Butter slices. They taste exactly like Mom’s! Then I had a meeting and a run to my aunt’s house to pick up my mother, who had been visiting her for a couple days, followed by the trip home to do laundry and other mundane household tasks before dragging the busted bum to bed.

Friday was another blur of work, dinner, errands and a brief stop at the Vine to listen to the marvelous Larry Smith crooning the oldies, followed by cranking out a thousand words on the new novel. The normal Saturday morning activities were followed by a fast run out to Ashtabula for a meeting of the committee organizing my class reunion (thanks, Tim, for the lunch and the hospitality). Saturday night was much less hectic as I indulged in liquid anesthetic (while cranking out another thousand plus words on the novel).

I would like to enthusiastically thank and compliment Colleen and Regis; it is incredible Amarone! And to think that I was an Amarone virgin until yesterday…what a waste! I’m not generally fond of dry reds, but this was fabulous. I only hope the bottles of my White Cranberry Pinot Grigio and Pomegranate Zinfandel I traded for your two Amarone taste as good to you as this one did to me. I’m saving the second bottle for an occasion.

Today the choir sang two services, one at 9 a.m. (during which Laurie and I performed an √° cappella duet of the Anima Christi) and a second at 11 a.m., followed by a rather lengthy procession around the outside of the church for the feast of Corpus Christi. Each service was followed by a donut social, and by the time I get home I was throat sore, foot tired, and it was almost 2 p.m.

Since then I have read a magazine article on the Eat-Clean Diet, updated the class reunion website with some additions, unintentionally reorganized the chest freezer looking for a non-existent whole chicken, and ended up starting a rump roast for dinner in its stead. After this blog goes to post, I’ll be running two more loads of laundry, attempting to make headway in my office reorganization and purging, and cranking out another thousand words or two for the novel.

I have set a very doable minimum of writing a thousand words per day. In a perfect world, this novel will be ready for copy edit in 81 more days! For those who think that’s a lot, most people can type around 40 or 50 words per minute. A thousand words translates into 20 minutes of typing at 50 w.p.m.

Off to start the laundry. Hope you all get off to a great start this week!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010


I bit the bullet and had my hair permed yesterday. It desperately needed help. The lovely Lori Cooper of In-Style at the Cottage in Painesville does a great job, especially considering how thin my hair has become (succumbing over the years to various medications, past surgical anesthetics and old health conditions).

I’ve never been one to do much fussing about my appearance. What you see is generally what you get. I simply don’t have time for those things I consider mundane and unnecessary, though I will splash on a bit of lip stick and mascara for an occasion or event (weddings, funerals, corporate functions). I have been told that I clean up nicely! Unfortunately, I know quite a few women who do the hair and make-up thing every morning, touch-up in the afternoon and look fabulous, but catch them “au natural” and they can be downright scary!

I remember as kids, my sister and I getting Toni Home Perms at the hands of my mother. We looked like escapees from “The Little Rascals” television show with big puffy plastic bonnets covering our heads full of perm rods. Of course, nothing could stem the malodorous sulfur stench of the perm chemicals! Later, when my father snapped photos of our new “coifs” we looked like the cherubic, round-faced Campbell Soup Kids that used to adorn their advertisements back in the old days!

The smell of the perm brings back those memories, because, quite frankly, the smell hasn’t improved much over the years. Lori lit a lovely cinnamon candle to help mask it, which did help and made the time under the stench seem a bit more pleasant.

In the hope that the perm would last a while, I insisted that she roll it “small, tight, and to the scalp,” and she complied. The perm worked like a charm. Although I know in a week or two it will relax to a softer, more natural style, right now I’m not sure whether I look more like Fifi the poodle or Bert the wire-haired terrier!

I am only sure of one thing…it will grow out – eventually!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck...

It's still the first day of the work week, nomenclature not withstanding!

The hour a day I've sworn to devote to actual writing (this blog not included) appears to have produced a new project. I'm delving into it feet first, having penned about two thousand words so far and creating the two main characters for my newest novel. I hope to have the lion's share written and ready for review before I head up to Middle Bass in October for that writer's retreat I impulsively signed up to attend. Perhaps the soothing Lake Erie breezes and comforting sounds of water rolling into the shore will inspire a big finish for the story.

On a completely different topic, I spent a couple hours this evening at Jim Snively's open mic at Rider's Inn on Route 20 in Painesville. If you haven't stopped by on a Tuesday night for this event, it is always new, fresh and endlessly entertaining. Jim is wonderful host and a talented songwriter and singer. I was equally delighted by the appearance and participation of the venerable Charlie Brown. Inn owner Elaine Crane provides tasty snacks for those in attendance. Tonight was a spicy jambalaya. Don't tell me you have something better to do on a Tuesday night...just remember it starts at 8 p.m.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Random Thoughts for Friday

As I moved toward the holiday weekend, I noticed that the time was really dragging. Each time I looked at the clock, I surprised myself by how little time had elapsed since my last furtive glance at the wall. I began thinking random odd thoughts which continued on and off throughout the day.

The first was, “The faster you want time to pass, the slower it goes.” Conversely, “The more you want to savor and enjoy time, the quicker it flies.”

There are so many little mysteries in life, such as “Why does soft bread get hard when placed in a jar with hard brown sugar while the sugar gets soft?” We all know it is a simple matter of transfer of moisture, but why? Is it indeed water seeking the lowest point?

And what of the Buttered Cat Theory? It is said that if you drop a cat it will always land on its feet. It is also said that if you drop buttered bread, it always lands butter side down. If both of these are indeed absolutes, and you tie buttered bread, butter side up, to the back of a cat and drop it, does it just spin in mid air?

Enough esoteric thought!

The weekend is upon us and everyone needs to make the most of it, because it will soon be over. Make a plan, have a picnic, get together with family and/or friends, attend a Memorial Day parade or function; otherwise the time will fritter away and you’ll be back at the grind on Tuesday morning, wondering what happened to your three-day weekend.

Remember Our Fallen Heroes

Memorial Day is upon us! It’s the official beginning of summer for many, but more importantly, it is a national day of remembrance of those who have fought and have given their lives to protect our country and to help us feel secure. If you have never celebrated Memorial Day in honor of our fallen heroes, then perhaps it is time. You might be surprised at how much you enjoy being part of it.

Take your basic portable outdoor amenities (lawn chairs and a cooler of pop) and find a place to set up along the Memorial Day parade route in Painesville. It’s free and fun. The parade launches around 10 a.m. from Riverside Cemetery (385 Riverside Drive) and winds up at 501 E. Main St, Evergreen Cemetery. Afterward, head to the square in Painesville for an hour-long concert featuring Tom Todd in a Salute to America.

Bring a blanket, your lunch, a bunch of family, and friends. And bring some colors to wave as well. It’s all free. What have you got to lose?

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Six Hours in the Driver's Seat...Now Back to Reality

“Oh my God! You’re driving to Columbus and back on a busted tailbone?” I must have gotten that question a dozen times before I left yesterday for my little excursion down South. I have to admit, I did have a certain level of trepidation about 3 hours in the car…each way. I actually called my doctor and asked if there was anything (not anti-inflammatory and non-narcotic) that I could take to lessen the non-stop pain I’ve been having, whether sitting, standing, walking, or lying down.

I told the womderful ladies in the doctor’s office that I would be stopping on my way out of town, and that I was willing to take whatever he recommended. When I arrived, I was asked if I had a few minutes to wait. Next thing I knew I was getting multiple shots in the rear, around the tailbone area. I’m not sure what heavenly homeopathic preparation was in those shots, but I made it to Columbus with nary a twinge! It wore off many hours later, but the intensity of the pain has lessened considerably.

I am told the effects will wear off and I will need to have the procedure done again. I can handle that. Anything that will give relief to this incessant pain is welcome. The last time I broke my tailbone, it took about 4 months before I was able to sit down without worry that I would accidently reinjure the delicate area. I’m hoping this new treatment will help shorten the time to no-pain nirvana! Perhaps the 3-day weekend will be of benefit.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

As the World Watches Lost...

I have to admit, I too was fascinated with Lost, at least during Season 1. I watched during Season 2, but only half-heartedly, and only about half the time. After that, I have no clue, and I’m not particularly interested in knowing what happened or how it ends. I’m not a fan of tying myself to the television so I can watch a show. It reminds me of women I used to know who just couldn’t miss their soaps. I actually know some who record the soaps every day, because heaven knows it might kill them to miss an episode.

I’m here to say that any addiction is incapacitating, whether it’s crack, alcohol, food, sex, soap operas, or prime time shows. If you HAVE to do it, you’ve got a problem.

We all have our little addictions, whether we want to admit it or not. My worst food addiction is Craisins. Yup, Craisins. I admit freely that I can’t stop eating Ocean Spray dried cranberries. If they are in my house, I will eat them until they are gone. If I manage to pass by the section of the grocery store where the Craisin’s are displayed and manage to get out of the store with no Craisins in my shopping cart, I congratulate myself heartily.

Worse than Craisins is my Diet Pepsi addiction. I actually panic if I don’t think I have enough in the house to last until I can get to a store. But unlike Craisins, the Pepsi is physically addictive because of the caffeine it contains. If you’ve never suffered caffeine withdrawal, trust me when I say it’s not pleasant!

I consider both of these addictions to be personally unacceptable. I regularly make attempts at defeating them. But neither of them interferes with my use of my time. TV addiction prevents you from living your life while you’re glued to some fantasy on the tube. It stops being an entertaining interlude and becomes centric to your life. You don’t have to think, or move. You just sit there and let a form of broadcasting permeate your brain with bizarre thoughts, violence, and anything else it throws at you.

I’m not saying that it’s bad to be exposed to those things, or to other ideas and unknowns. Exposure to new and different things generally causes growth, fosters creativity and encourages us to question what we know and what is good. What I’m saying is that addiction “saturates” the brain with that stuff, the same way brainwashing techniques imbue someone’s psyche with information they would otherwise not believe or would at least think about or question.

The platitude “All things in moderation” seems most appropriate, doesn’t it? Don't you wonder how many Lost fans will be absolutely lost without their weekly fix?