"It was imprudent of us, in the first place, to become authors. We could have become something regular, but we managed not to.
We were lucky, but we were also determined." Roy Blount Jr

"I don’t change the facts to enhance the drama. I think of it the other way round, the drama has got to fit the facts,
and it’s your job as a writer to find the shape in real life."
Hilary Mantel

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Year-End Impressions

A light snow is slowly eradicating the latest tracks left overnight by the snowshoe hare as I sit down to consider the more lasting impressions the departing year has left upon me.

Just now the current revised version of my manuscript is sweetly spooling out of my printer. It's emerging in the form some authors call "faux galleys"--formatted to resemble 2 book pages printed side by side. Saves on paper, tricks the mind into think it's a "real" book in a way that standard manuscript format doesn't. And to the delight of this impassioned recycler, I'm printing on paper that has already been used. Several years ago when some friends shut down their office and re-organised their business, I obtained mountains of paper printed on one side but blank on the other. So that's what I use for printing drafts.

It seems entirely appropriate that I'm busy with the book that took up so much of my time and attention during 2009. I don't make New Year's resolutions and last year at this time I did not resolve to finish my book, although of course I hoped I would! And am overjoyed that I did. I'm quite confident that the next year will see the beginning of a new project...more accurately the continuation of an older one that I set aside until the proper season.

This has been a year of many milestones. Some were acknowledged here, some not. Like any year there were lessons learned and sad losses and longings fulfilled. I took on some new responsibilities and didn't manage to shed any--that I recall. I found new friends and connected with familiar ones. I did not, to my great regret, see a single member of my family in person and plan to spend some of the New Year making up for that.

From this vantage 2010 appears to be a decisive year. Lots of intriguing mysteries on the personal, professional, political front. I'll deal with these decisions as they come, and the will handle outcomes--some of which are beyond my control--with as much grace as I can.

In these final hours of year in which I reached and exceeded 1000 blog posts, I remain grateful for all my visitors--whether or not you ever comment. Many thanks for following along with me as I glide or lurch through my daily life!

I'm about to head back to my kitchen to create the boiled custard (a variety of iles flotantesfrom a family recipe. Countless generations have joyously consumed it, and it's a tradition reserved for holidays and other important occasions (my Grandmother Evans always made it for me on my birthday, by special request. And on Christmas Eve. And at Easter).

We had a late but necessary substition of steak for salmon on discovering that our salmon stocks are entirely depleted, and the festive meal will include galic and dill smashed potatoes and some sort of salad. And bubbly, of course--enough for celebrating but not so much that we're comatose before midnight arrives. I'll be joyously--but no doubt sleepily--"hopping" into the unknown.

I wish you and yours a pleasant New Year's Eve--what remains of it--and a happy and fulfilling 2010!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Who, Where, Why?

Somebody came visiting on tiny feet during the dark and cold and windy night. Don't know who or what it was.

Is this a different visitor?

Where were they going?

Life in our forest is full of mystery.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Snow, Azalea

Outdoors on our decks, even after heavy rainfall, we still have snow--an interesting background for my fluffy, snowy azalea.

Snow is falling now quite heavily, sticking to the hemlocks and freshing the white blanket covering our property.

Yesterday was quiet but busy. I completed Phase 1 of my revisions, and can report that I excised a total of 16,649 words (so far) from the entire manuscript. My goal was 15,000 and I exceeded it. Phase 2 involves line editing hard copy. That has been delayed by a technological hitch when I tried printing pages. My new ink cartridge doesn't seem to work at all, and printing must wait until the Chap can exchange a bad cartridge for a good one. No matter. I can keep busy editing the Author's Note and reviewing the synopsis to make sure it matches the final book.

But I'm also taking a little break from revising. For a few days I shall read novels by people other than me!

The Lodge smells of lamb curry...because that's what's in my slow cooker.

Our New Year's Day outing might be affected by an expected snow storm. Hard to say.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Boxing Day

Christmas from the perspective of Ruth & Jewel.

Maybe it was all the excitement, maybe Shawn Colvin's rendition of a Christmas Song...but we hadn't even finished unwrapping gifts when wee Ruth conked out. No matter how weary she is, she wags her tail, especially if I whisper, "Merry Christmas, Ruth!"

I was thrilled and delighted with the new kitchen timer I received from the Chap. Jewel, not so much. After I worked out the settings and made it chime, we discovered that Jewel can't stand the thing--lots of restlessness and moaning ensued. As demonstrated by these very brief clips.

I could've done a documentary, but funny as it was it seemed wrong to torture my lovely loyal dog on Christmas Day. Or any other time.

Late yesterday we went through the woods and over the river and over another river and through the woods to our friends' home to share their Christmas feast with them and some of their family and their friend. It was a cozy, relaxed, laughter and fun-filled evening and we're so grateful to have been included.

Oh, and the food was thoroughly delicious!

The most beautiful salad ever!

The turkey is ready!

An explosion of stuffing!

Festive table.

We're spending a quiet Boxing Day at home, trying to connect via phone with some of the relatives we missed yesterday for various reasons (some are in other countries) or who rang us while we were out. In this household today is also referred to as "Christmas Second Day," what they call it on St. Croix where the Chap used to live.

He and the dogs had a nice long walk earlier. Our weather is grey and chilly but not frigidly cold. We see occasional snow flurries, and there's still a heavy blanket of snow on the ground--and lots of tracks in it from the snowshoe hare and some busy squirrels and various birdies. A pileated woodpecker visited this morning.

We considered an excursion to our favourite Mexican place down in Manchester but with all the recent activity decided to have green chile chicken burritos here at the Lodge instead. With a fire and a film.

A Happy Boxing Day to you, hope everyone is enjoying gifts and family.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas Day at the Lodge

Where charity stands watching, and faith holds wide the door,

The dark night wakes, the glory breaks,

and Christmas comes once more.

Last evening we attended the Carol Sing at our church, followed by our annual Christmas Eve Eucharist. The church was very full, the choir sang beautifully, the sermon was both inspiring and joyous and funny. It marked our Rector's "third anniversary" with us.

This morning, as always on Christmas Day, we had breakfast with fresh ground coffee beans (gift from his sister) and fresh squeezed orange juice (gift from my brother.) I brought up the stockings from the downstairs fireplace.

We had a good time emptying them.

Ruth & Jewel really enjoyed their healthy dog treats.

Then we went into the sitting room where the tree waited. General Porter's eye was upon us!

Ruth picks out some prezzies.

Some of my treats--a new bathrobe, lots of photo printing supplies, scented candle, kitchen stuff.

The funniest one for us both...I had searched all over the bookstore for this on Wednesday. Only to learn this morning that my spouse had purchased the only copy earlier in the week!

One of our relatives visited the Spam Museum in Minnesota. We are assured that the car air freshener does not actually smell like Spam. (I've never eaten Spam, but I like the word. And the Monty Python song!)

The Chap was happy that I'd spend the night in my Sock Monkey pajamas, because it really added to the impact when I unwrapped my new Sock Monkey slippers.

Among the gifts from my family, this beautiful peacock purse from my mom.

Jewel wonders if we're finished.

I have a very funny video of Jewel's reaction to one of my gifts, which I will share some other day.

After presents, I made the Key Lime tarts to take to our friends' house where we're having Christmas dinner.

Hope your day was just as fun and filled with gifts and love and laughter.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Operation Monkfish

The Chap's favourite meal is basically Monkfish Anything. He loves it.

Whenever we're in a fish market we always marvel that the most hideous fish in the sea is among the most delicious. Whenever we're in a restaurant, he orders it. And sometimes I do also.

A very special memory is watching the catch being unloaded at Mallaig, a fishing village in Scotland not terribly far from my ancestral villages. They pluck the ugly creature out of the cold waters of the North Sea, fling them onto ice, crate them up and send them away to be enjoyed by monkfish fanciers like us.

We acquired a vast amount of fresh monkfish from a Concord fishmonger. And today was the appointed day for my first ever attempt at cooking monkfish. I got a couple of recipes from Jo at Amuse Bouche. I didn't follow the recipe exactly, being unable to do so, I always make my own adjustments, but overall I was fairly faithful.

Here's the fish--mostly tail.

It has a creepy skin covering that must be got rid of.

Chopped cherry tomatoes.

Crisping the pork.

Braising the tomatoes, pork, garlic.

Orzo pasta.

While the pasta water boils, I pan sear the monkfish.

The seared fish goes into the braise and cooks while the pasta is cooking and it all finished up exactly at the same time. Last step was throwing in shredded fresh basil.


Looks like the recipe photo. Tasted so awesome I'm beyond words. The Chap is happy. I'm happy. The red and green colours were perfect for the Christmas season.

Tomorrow: traditional turkey. (Not roasted by us.)

Christmas Eve

This was an extremely busy week. I suspect that is true of others and that nobody actually noticed how many days I went without blogging!

We had overnight company on Monday, a great pre-holiday occasion with excellent wine, paella, scrummy salad, and homemade mango sorbet. And lots of fun and laughter and dog cuddling.

There was also a cribbage match. I was not involved because I don't play.

Our guest beat the Chap 2 games out of 3. I think they both enjoyed themselves. The dogs and I enjoyed watching.

I worked on revisions on Tuesday after our company departed.

Yesterday I was in Concord for a meeting with the Bishop, last minute (highly successful) shopping for the Chap, and a mandolin lesson. I'm learning 12-bar blues now, and lots of interesting theoretical stuff. Yes, there is such a thing as blues mandolin! Mostly when I'm playing these days, I choose Advent hymns and Christmas carols.

At the P.O. I picked up a gift from my brother. A big, big, big box filled with citrus-y delights. That's only about half of it!

This morning the Chap is at the office--home at noon--and I'm trying to work a bit myself. This afternoon we'll begin Operation Monkfish. More on that later, I'm sure. It promises to be another well-photographed holiday meal.

It's the traditional day when I decorate the girls and pose them for their holiday photo. Posing on the stairs is a fairly regular occurrence, and they were particularly good about it today. I got about 25 shots, most of them perfectly acceptable and had a tough time choosing The One.

And yet my favourite came after I dismissed them. Luckily I was still being a shutterbug and captured this one:

Hope you're having a jolly Christmas Eve, too. A Happy Christmas to all!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Sunday Stroll: Snow and Pageantry

Yesterday the Wise Man's wife (the Wise Woman?) and wardrobe mistress made him a bling-y blue turban to wear in today's parish Christmas Pageant.

New Hampshire has already had its fair share (and them some) of snowfall. So we didn't mind that the blizzard was mostly played out by the time it arrived this morning. We're expecting only a few inches out of it, unlike areas to the south of us.

It was a snowy drive to church.

The Wise Man in the bling-y blue turban was accompanied by his brown dog--who took her camera along.

There were cats in the stable at Bethlehem.

The shepherds have a sheepdog, too. (Three guesses which dog-loving parishioners donated it...the first two don't count!)

The pageant cast assembles in the foyer.

The pageant was a spectacular success.

Here's the road home.

Farmhouse and barn buildings in our neighbourhood.

Farther down the road...just a little bit closer to home.

Back at the Lodge, the snow has flocked the bird feeder ornament. And the suet block always has a customer!

Thanks for strolling along with me today. To see who else is strolling, visit Aisling's blog.

Ahead we have a combination of a busy and a peaceful week. Overnight company and special dinner and possibly a cribbage match tomorrow. Picking up the secret main course for Christmas dinner on Tuesday. Meeting with the Bishop and mandolin lesson and last minute shop on Wednesday....Then Christmas Eve and Christmas Day! More snow coming, they say, so our holidays will be utterly white.

Good luck digging yourselves out, if you live in the path of the storm!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Baby, It's More than Cold Outside

Nowadays, after over 15 years in New England, preceded by 11 years in Colorado, I define cold as something in the 30's, descending to the 20's. The teens--worse than cold. Single digits? Ouch. Single digits with gale force winds and massive wind chill?

That would be today.

This morning, in about an hour's time, I watched the temperature double.

It rose from 3 degrees Fahreinheit all the way to 6.

I'm hoping the winds die down a bit before my mandolin lesson. I was planning to do some shopping for a certain special person. More likely I shall wait till tomorrow when maybe it won't be so much beyond mere cold, or so blustery.

Today's great achievement will be dropping off all our Christmas cards at the Post Office.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Chilly & Busy

Gifts are wrapped and tagged and shipped and on their way to the recipients!

Cards should be finished and in the post sometime in the next 2 to 3 days.

I had "Christmas time out" yesterday because of a nearly all-day Continuing Education session for legislators. Good attendance, great information, excellent questions and discussion. Oh--and then we had a party!

One of today's various activities was taking Jewel to our vet for her annual wellness exam. She seemed oblivious to the great honour of riding in my posh car. She's a dog who lets her opinions be known, so she softly moaned her dismay during much of the 10-minute drive. I turned on the seat warmer, knowing that when she gets warm she gets drowsy. It did not quite have the desired effect. She wasn't agitated, and I have to say her funny moan-y noises made me laugh.

We were early for our appointment. She met a dog in the waiting area that she was pretty sure needed killing, and he felt the same about her. The vet and the tech were mopping up after him in the exam room, so I think he was a little stressed by whatever had occurred in there. I know Jewel was stressed--her moans had turned into yowls.

But she was a champ throughout her exam, maintainig her dignity through all the prodding and poking and needle jabs and blood draw--even the dreaded pedicure (toenail clipping.) Her weight is stable at 40 lbs. We heard a lot of "Good girl!" which made me proud. We emerged to find no dogs in need of extermination, checked out, and got back in the car.

She immediately curled up on passenger side, calm as could be. (Again, the seat warmer was cranked up!) Pulling into our garage is usually the cue for much excitement about homecoming. But she was so comfy that she just lay there looking up at me like, "Do I have to get up?" I said yes, because Ruth had been alone for a while which she isn't at all used to, and she'd be anxious to know how everything went.

Says Ruth, "It's all right, you can tell me all the humiliating things the vet did to you. I understand, I've been through it, too."

Jewel responds, "I am the picture of health!"

Out on the deck, the nuthatch is more interested in the suet than the festive Christmas decoration. But we're enjoying it!

We still have lots of snow cover. The little lake and nearby ponds shine like sheets of glass in the sun. We also have high winds which, coupled with frigid temperatures, makes for a nasty and shocking wind chill. My afternoon excursion--relating to County government--will take me to a very windy, high ridge above the river. I hope I'm able to park close to the door!

There's a fantastic smokehouse/Southern barbecue place that I pass by going and coming. So I'm definitely picking up some takeaway pulled pork and spicy sauce and hush puppies for supper! That'll warm us up!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Sunday Stroll: Tree & Church & Water

'Tis the season of parties. On our way to one last night there was a Christmas Tree Photo Op.

Our tree has many, many birds on it, from a flamingo to a blue jay and everything in between. A few weeks ago this snowy owl followed me home from London.

We have lots of other interesting critters hanging--many pigs, several moose, lobsters, a beaver, a Highland cow, flocks of sheep. Somebody who knows about my sock monkey fetish sent me this one.

There are people ornaments, too. Including actual characters from my novel!

Lower down on the tree, curious Ruth finds an object of interest. Not a real apple.

When this one approaches the tree, I get nervous. She has a way of finding trouble...but no mishaps so far.

This morning at church--the not-so-Little Town of Bethlehem.

The Bethlehem-ites are still in their boxes, soon to be displayed.

Our potluck Christmas party was delicious--as always--and a great success.

On our way home, we stopped to wash all the post-blizzard muck from the Honorable Vice Chair's car, using water in its liquid form.

And back at the little lake...water in a more solid form. The ice is coming in!

I think some ice might fall from the sky later. This Sunday started out sunny, and now is grey and raw. Perfect for a lovely big log fire in the downstairs sitting room!

Thanks for coming by. To keep strolling, head over to Aisling's blog.