Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Happy New Year

So, another year comes to an end. I’m glad I didn’t make a big list of New Year’s resolutions for 2014, for I would be doomed to failure. My list is a mental exercise, at any rate. Maybe this year will be different, and yet, I have to say that I have had some successes this past year.
I finished the book I titled “Where the Forest Meets the Corn”, that I started to write last January, 1st draft at least. I have four other books available for Kindle on Amazon and made some sales, and had a good response to the free book give-away that also garnered more sales.

I started a second blog, Scattered Thoughts and Stumbles, where I feel I can talk about my MS and the challenges faced with having such a disease and an increasing disability. It was the outlet I needed to be able to keep writing, both fiction and this blog. It allowed me to write the kind of blog I originally funny and often quirky outlook on life and the world around me.

Creative Works

Not so good here, unless you consider crochet as a work of art. I’ve crocheted up a storm, especially for Christmas. Stockings and slippers for everyone, a couple of sweaters, lots of hats and mittens. I already have my notes made for next year; it’s never too early to start.

I miss my art table, as that one spot where I could leave art work in progress. I have one small table, and since I moved, it has become a collect-all space. I don’t think in the year and a half I’ve been here that it’s ever been clear.

I did start a painting, but as I worked on it at the kitchen counter, where I had access to the sink and could sit on my stool, it got set aside so I could use the kitchen for what it was intended. Hey, a girl’s got to eat.

I now have a new idea for some art and am in the mulling stage. I have some notes made but the rest is thinking and planning. The juried art show at the local art gallery is in early February, so no excuses for missing the deadline. I have entered this same show, not every year, but many times, since 1987. I can say with pride, that if I entered, I never missed a show. Entry is limited to four pieces and I have always had at least one piece accepted. We’ll see what happens this year.

I did paint a pair of Minion shoes for my brother, size thirteen, and saw him actually wear them when we met for lunch. Granted that was in a town far removed from where he lives. Maybe they don’t get worn very often, ( it’s so difficult to find a coordinating outfit) but painting them, and seeing the surprised expression on his face made it worth all the effort.

As the New Year approaches I can look back at the year with good feelings. My daughter is engaged to a wonderful man, and my son and daughter-in-law eloped and made their 10+ year relationship a more official one. So, I can say that seeing my kids this happy has made it a banner year.

Whether it’s the change in my health status, or the fact that I am more content, more accepting, the kids have been even more supportive and we’ve reached a new level of understanding. This might be interpreted as my learning to ask for and accept help.

I see nothing but good things for the coming year, and wish the same for all of you. When the clock strikes twelve, take a sip of your drink and consider it a toast from me.

Thursday, 25 December 2014

Merry Christmas...Happy Holidays

It doesn’t feel like Christmas because the celebration with my family was held last Saturday. It doesn’t look much like Christmas either.

There was no white Christmas this year, except for the old Bing Crosby movie, which is a must watch tradition in my house every year. Originally filmed in black and white, the colourized version is very bright and the music a delight.

I was looking out my window earlier and saw the neighbour’s place lit up by the rays of the sun, the skies momentarily more blue than grey. There must have been a break in the cloud cover to let a bit of sunshine through; otherwise it’s been dull and dreary, the wind blowing hard and fierce.

I can see the tall tree across the way swaying, its bare branches in constant motion, and I remember last year around this time when we had the snow and ice storm. The tree that dropped all those limbs and branches on my roof during those stormy nights was cut down in the summer; otherwise I’m sure I would have been treated to another scary night.

It’s been a quiet day. I’ve talked to the kids and sent and received messages to everyone through social media. Tonight I’m having lasagna, compliments of my daughter. Later, I’ll sit back, put my feet up and enjoy some of my home made Irish Cream as I open the book I bought for my Christmas read. That’s another of my personal traditions, to have something new from one of my favourite authors as my final treat of the day.

Traditions, whether personal or family, are important. I started a new one with my family, inspired by my daughter’s in-laws, the gag gift. My granddaughter and I found a musical toy, a man sitting in an outhouse singing and...well...making fart noises. Sounds crass to some maybe, but it was cute and made us laugh, especially after all the kids’ talk of camping in the wild this summer where there were no bathrooms, let alone any outhouses.

So the recipient of the first family gag gift was my son. I plan to do a gag gift for one family member every year, and hope to select the person and the gift based on events that might occur throughout the months ahead.

Another year is coming to a close. I hope everyone is having a wonderful holiday season filled with an abundance of love and laughter. Here’s wishing you all best life has to offer in the New Year.

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays to everyone. 

And especially to my wonderful family.

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Holidays, Difficult Times

Divorce is always difficult, but never more so than at Christmas time. Kids are often caught in the middle of family needs and demands, contrary to the general mood of the season. The only other event that compares is a wedding.

When I was younger, and divorced, I worked in a profession (nursing) that requires staff to work 24/7, weekends and holidays. I worked Christmas and let my kids have their holiday with their Dad, paternal grandparents and the extended family. That had been the norm before the divorce, why should it change after?

I held the belief that Christmas was more than that one day. It is called the holiday season for a reason. The kids and I spent the entire month celebrating. We had a party to decorate the tree; we had breakfast with Santa at the mall, and partied at the library. Even shopping trips were fun, looking at the stores all lit up and sparkling, Santa’s village and of course, the music.

And yet one person’s actions can spoil things, and it’s a shame. As I liked to make everything a party, the wrapping of gifts was no exception. I had taken the kids shopping for gifts for their Dad and his new wife. I remember sitting at the dining room table doing a marathon of wrapping, everyone taking part. Who would have thought that a gift tag in my hand writing would cause such trouble? The kids had picked out the gift, wrapped it, and I did the tag, not thinking it would be upsetting to wife #2. It didn’t seem to bother her that I paid for said present...but now who’s being small minded? Consider my hand slapped. 

I just think we need to be careful what we do and what we say, as everyone’s feelings are close to the surface, for Christmas is a demanding and emotional holiday. Last year my kids made a very adult decision, and I think they were very smart. They decided that our family would celebrate early, not on the actual day or eve day. That left them free to make plans of their own, without feeling guilty or being pulled in quite as many directions.

So we met for our celebration on Saturday and had a great time. Good food, lots of gifts, and we even made our selves a batch of homemade Irish Cream.

I began a new family tradition. I am going to give one member of the family a joke gift every year. No one will know who it’s going to be. I picked my son for this debut year. When I am gone, or unable to complete this tradition, I hope they will keep it going.

Traditions are important, but they aren’t written in stone. When the dynamics of the family change because of circumstances beyond our control, we need to be flexible and learn to adapt.

Isn’t that what this Christmas spirit is all about?

Sunday, 21 December 2014

My Creative Christmas

I have always made presents for people, especially at Christmas. Those gifts depicted whatever craft I was into at the time. There was my macramé year, then pottery and ceramics, to name a few.

Sometimes I’ve done art work, but always there has been some element of knot or crochet. A few years ago I was ambitious enough to try for a sweater for every family member, but I’m beyond attempting that now.

Last year I made a hat, or a hat/scarf or hat/mitts, for everyone. The family picture was taken with each person wearing their hat. This year I went for slippers.

It’s my daughter’s fault for sending me a photo from Pinterest of a pair of slipper boots. I decided to make everyone a pair, and duplicate our hat picture only with slippers. Now, I’d already made 11 Christmas stockings, so slippers, no problem.

I tried the pattern that my daughter sent, and it was awful. I tried it so many times, making alterations, changing yarn, changing hooks. Still awful. I completed one pair to show her, and a second pair in the smallest size, just in case. Count...2.

Then I went in search of other patterns, because I was not going to be swayed from my plan.
I found a pattern that looks like an Ugh boot, and they were better, but the sizing was limited and for some, the slippers would have been too big, and just sloppy. But that did account for 4 more pairs to add to my stash. Count...6.

One problem was finding a pattern for small kids, but bigger than toddler size. I found one pattern which was easily adapted for size, and now I had seven in total. I tried another pattern with very little shaping, made a few and rejected them all, but they added to my total. Count...10.

Thank goodness I finally found the perfect pattern. I made seven more pairs, all I needed was eleven, but the count was now 17. The last pattern I found was the best and the most easily adapted. I had extras, as you can see, and took them all with me to our gathering.

Everyone who got a pair made with the last pattern, loved them, except my grandson because red is his favourite colour and he wanted the original Ugh type pair I’d made for him (in red), which I’d discarded as I thought they’d be too big. So, he got 2 pairs.

Somehow, my daughter kept the original pair, and they will most likely find their way to a bag of donated clothes. I had made two different patterns in the same grey and pink variegated, and one granddaughter grabbed another pair for herself. Someone else must have grabbed another pair because I only came home with 2 pairs.

I got my picture of the family, with all their warm and cozy feet. I’m already thinking ahead to a theme for next year. Let the family be warned.

Cats in Art

Although I have not done any painting for the last year or so, other than an effort in the summer that ended up in the cupboard, unfinished, I still love to see what other people are doing. My style is abstract or mixed media collage and I so envy those artists who paint with some realism and a touch of whimsy.

I found these paintings that 
include two things I love, 
cats and quotes by an artist named Debby Faulkner-Stevens 
and thought I’d share.

Friday, 19 December 2014

Velma, Up to her Old Tricks?

If you’ve read my blog for any length of time, you know that after a series of car issues last year I decided to name my car Velma, in the hopes that it would strengthen our relationship and restore the trust lost in the events of last winter.

Things have been good, knock on wood. When my car got keyed in the fall I had Velma repaired and even got some of her age spots (rust) taken care of. We have been in a good place, as far as car-human relationships go, until today.

I ran an errand this afternoon and when I was in the car, ready to return home, I noticed a dash light remained on. I continued to drive, and worried the whole way that the car would quit and leave me stranded, (like last year).
The light was ABS, and I had no idea what that might mean. At home I shut off the engine and pulled out the manual. ABS stands for Anti-lock braking system. OK.

The book had a lot to say, but none of it explained what it meant when the light stays on. Apparently it is normal for the light to come on when you start the engine, and should go off almost immediately. But what if it stayed on? Nothing, nada, no info.

I started the engine again, just to see what happened, and voila, the light turned off.

I think Velma might have her holidays mixed up. Maybe she thinks its Halloween, time for some trickery. On the other hand, Velma might be well aware it’s the holiday season, and she’s just being a bit naughty, instead of nice.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Women Pumping...Gas

As independent as women get, there is one thing we hate to do, and that’s pump gas. I held out for the longest time, fueling up at the only station that had an attendant, but that was many years ago.

I was going out on Monday, an out of town trip and needed to top up my tank before I went. I had that internal debate, could I make it there and back or should I fill the tank and not risk it?

I filled up the tank, but it was not without a potential problem. We’re so used to the high price of gas I used to know in dollars, how much money it would take for ¼ or ½ tank. So here I was, just over a half tank and the cost of gas way down, I was confused as to how much gas I might need.

Shouldn’t be a problem, right? The gas pump shuts off if the tank is full, or at least it’s supposed to. I don’t like to be in that situation, fear it won’t shut off and I’ll spill all over the place. Maybe it’s a female thing.

I have a friend who makes a real production of filling her gas tank. First, she dons a pair of black gloves for the purpose, and then she gets out her book, writes down the cost of gas, the number of litres and her mileage. Once that is done she has to reset the gauges in the car. The one that tells her how many kilometres she can go on what gas is in the tank. All this seems like such a fuss and bother, but this woman used to drive to Arizona every winter, alone, and had her route planned out for overnight stays and gas fill-ups. I guess old habits die hard.

I have another friend, a married friend, who has never, and I shake my head even as I write this, never pumped her own gas. Her husband always takes care of it for her. I do get it, if I had someone to do it for me I’d take advantage. Hey, I did. One day my son was with me, in my car, and he asked if I needed anything, and I answered gas. He filled the tank up for me and I much appreciated being relieved of that chore.

There are just some chores we hate to do no matter how independent we might be, and pumping gas seems to be one of them.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

The End, 1st Draft at Least

A year ago, in November, my son and his wife were out hunting, and if you know anything about hunting, it involves a lot of sitting out in the woods, and waiting.

These young people were positioned where a small wooded area served to separate fields of corn. While they waited, they talked, and came up with a title for a book, and texted it to me from their position out in the field. It was “Where the Forest Meets the Corn.”

I had an idea for the story and let it brew for the rest of November and December, and began to write the book this past January. I started with little plot or plan, something that is not my usual style, which may account for why it was such a struggle at times.

At any rate, today I finished the story of Detective Gage Donovan and his serial murder case. Its 320 pages long double spaced and 76,643 words in total. Now I will set it aside until well after the holidays. Set it aside for me, but give it to a select few to read, for feedback.

Once I have the comments from my readers, I’ll begin the editing process, which often proves a harder task than the original writing.

I’m done, and how nice to be able to set it all aside for the holidays. I poured myself a glass of wine to celebrate, and had a few crackers with a spinach dip I bought yesterday. See, I must have known I would finish it today.

But no good deed goes unpunished; I’m having an allergic response to either the crackers or the dip. My skin is itchy, with some red areas, and I can feel the tightness around my eyes. Damn and I was having such a feel-good, self congratulatory moment.

I think I’m going to have to go back to my old standby...chocolate. Bailey’s, some hot cocoa and some Lindt’s chocolate. Works for me.

Monday, 8 December 2014

Christmas Stockings

Years ago, seven years to be exact, I made everyone in the family a Christmas stocking. For my daughter’s family they were rag quilted, with button and bead trim. For my son’s family they were brown camo fleece with a cream coloured crocheted band on the top. There was a matching beaded trim, with each person’s name in alphabet beads.

I thought it was a nice gesture, and they appreciated it until they each did something to ruin it. They each had another child, one boy and one girl, now six years old. I didn’t have the fabric to make another, so the idea of coordinating stockings was lost.

I decided to make new stockings this year and found a great crocheted pattern and have completed 11 of these stockings, five for my son’s gang and six for my daughter’s. Every person in their respective family unit has a different colour.

My son has sage green, medium blue, navy blue, dusty rose and pale purple. My daughter got hunter green, dark purple, turquoise, red, dusty rose and pale purple. What can I say? The girls in our family are very into pink and purple, so I had to repeat.

I found great tags at Michaels Craft Store, made out of canvas, tea stained and with a grommet. So every stocking has the person’s name on it. It was a lot of work but worth it as this year has been a year of change for my family. My son and daughter-in-law eloped, making their 11 year relationship official, and my single Mom daughter got engaged.

No matter how you look at it, Christmas this year is full of happiness and joy.

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Blue Whale Wine

I’m not much of a drinker, though I do like a cold beer on a hot summer day, or some Irish Cream in hot chocolate before bed on a cold winter’s night. I was in the Liquor Store recently, my once a year trip for the holidays.

This trip I bought some whiskey for my homemade Kahlua and Irish Cream. I only make it once a year. I also bought a bottle of strawberry flavoured white Zinfandel, and sat down tonight to have a glass before dinner.

Part of having a drink at home, alone, is presentation. A nice wine glass is part of that. I know I kept some wine glasses when I moved, and think they are in the cupboard over the refrigerator.

My mood is much improved over earlier this week. A pleasant dinner out, some conversation, made all the difference. Today I went out with another friend, to a craft show in the village north of town, and then had a brunch/lunch at Wimpey’s restaurant.

The afternoon, when I got home; was spent crocheting, and tonight I enjoyed a glass of wine before a late dinner. I was too lazy to clear off the fridge, and my regular glasses are more geared to the grandchildren than to sipping wine.

I decided presentation doesn’t really matter. I’m sipping my wine from a small plastic glass, decorated with a blue whale, and it tastes just as good.

If the kids read this and are still looking for gift ideas for goes. I’d like just one of those stemless wine glasses, much easier to handle and set on the table. Also wouldn’t mind one tall glass, made of glass, for when I want to feel something more special. I drink out of one of those plastic glasses with the screw on lids and hole for a straw. Ok for water and some drinks, but sometimes you just want to feel...fancier. Nothing too fancy, guys, dollar store glass is just fine.

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

More Word Search...What's in Your Purse?

I like to do word search and with this latest book there are more than a hundred puzzles, each with a different theme. I’ve been amazed at some of the topics. This one caught my eye, twenty four items that could be kept in a woman’s purse. I had to check the list; I got 10 out of 24.

Some of the items were obvious, like wallet, money, keys, notebook and pen, and of course credit cards. Those were 6 of my 10 items. The others were bandaids, gum, receipts and tissues. I am so boring, and so predictable.

Though the list contains some modern things, it is also outdated. It lists both cell phone and I-pod of which I have neither. It also listed cheque book, something I stopped carrying when I began using debit. Cheques are almost a thing of the past, except for things like rent, and to write VOID on for electronic bill paying.

For working women, the next two items might commonly be found in their purses, an address book and business cards. For the woman who cares about her appearance there was the following, makeup bag, mirror, hairbrush, and lipstick. I don’t wear makeup anymore so I’m more of a chapstick kind of girl, and I keep it in my coat pocket, not my purse.

Some of these items are no longer in vogue, since one can’t smoke in public buildings and have to venture outside, I imagine there are fewer smokers, and so fewer women carrying a lighter in their purse. Same goes for perfume, as so many buildings are scent free.

The last grouping of items includes hand sanitizer, hand lotion, and snacks. I had a friend who carried a hand sanitizer and used it frequently. And then there was my grandmother who was hypoglycemic and always carried nuts in her purse in case she felt her blood sugar drop.

The only reason I carry bandaids is that I was given this gadget, one of those promotional items, that stores bandaids on one side and pills on the other. My container is full of Advil, for my chronic pain, so I need to have some available when I’m out.

It was an interesting puzzle and made me think. I just bought a beautiful brown leather bag, that still sits on the chair, with all its tags, so if nothing else, this will give me the inspiration to finally change the contents over, from old to new. Maybe I should find something interesting to add to my purse, and to the list.