"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

Friday, January 28, 2011

Christa's Day

Almost nobody, I think, needs an explanation of who Christa McAuliffe is, or what happened to her and the Challenger crew on this day 25 years ago. In New Hampshire, where she lived and taught and raised her family and earned the privilege of being the first "Teacher in Space," the Governor officially decreed it Christa McAuliffe Remembrance Day. Nearly the whole of the first section today's Concord Monitor is devoted to the tragedy. Most of the people writing about it were present. Others worked with Christa and knew her well. She was truly a local heroine...long before she climbed aboard the shuttle.

The explosion was sort of a JFK moment, only different. Because nearly every citizen in NH, every school child here and around the country, and so many others were tuned in. I was among them. I lived then Colorado but was already deeply, instensely attached to this state that is now my home--and which on that day was looking forward to welcoming Christa back from space.

As the launch time approached, I abandoned my corner desk and computer--I was writing the novel that I'm pretty sure became my first published one. I sat down in front of CNN, a habitual watcher of space launches and landings. (I still am.)

The local planetarium, named for Christa (and Alan Shephard) is having special memorial activities this evening. This is unusual--they never mark the date of the explosion, preferring to celebrate Christa on her birthday.

Also unusual, the very private McAuliffe family provided a statement on this anniversary of their unimaginable and all too public loss.

It's still a loss, and I'm feeling it keenly. I can only quote an individual, speaking on the hour-long radio program about the Challenger launch and the pain still felt locally.

"Twenty-five years later, the tears are coming back for me."

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Hot & Cold

What's hot?

This tilapia fish I recently cooked for our dinner. I loved the colours...and it tasted even better than it photographed!

What's not? These icicles.

And this ice waterfall.

The Chap and I spent this beautiful Saturday at a training session for facilitators of a diocesan leadership institute to be held later in the year. We didn't mind, it was far too cold to be outdoors and the windows of the historic parish hall offered lovely views of one of the prettiest towns in our region. The ice formations hanging from the gutters captured my attention when I passed by the windows--I didn't have to go outside to get these shots! In the background of the first shot is the stone church building with steeple. (The congregation formed in 1803, this building was erected in the late 1820's and retains its wooden its box-type pews with doors and latches--very quaint!)

We saw lots of people we know well and know slightly. We were fed on clam chowder and soup and fresh bread and salad and sticky cinnamon buns and butter toffee. On our drive home, the late afternoon light on the snowy fields and hills and rivers and marshes was just lovely.

The Lodge has its share of killer icicles, too. I bashed the ones off the overhang on the back deck, which hovered dangerously over the girls' water bowl. Let me re-phrase that: their ice bowl, because the water keeps freezing hard as a glacier--good thing they're indoors nearly all the time these days!

My Thursday meetings were postponed due to excessive snow. A familiar tale. I didn't mind a(nother) quiet day at the Lodge with the dogs and a writing project and plenty of hot beverage-sipping.

Our temperatures are about to plunge even farther...it's a little unnerving.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

World of White

We keep getting snow. On Tuesday we had about 8 or 9 inches, to add to our 20-ish inches from last week. It came heavy enough to prevent my getting to my mandolin lesson on Tuesday. The unplowed local roads were easier to navigate than the supposedly plowed state highway, and I had to turn back. Luckily I was able to re-schedule--for a day when more snow is expected.

Then we had some sleet and freezing rain on top of the snow.

Today it's bright and sunny, and trees are covered with the inch of extra snow that came last night.

The snow plow mountains are enormous. The mounds on the party deck are huge. And there's another several inches of snow on the way tonight, says the weatherman. Where shall we put it, I wonder? After a couple of years of respite, we're having what the old-timers call a "real" winter. Usually around this time of year we have the traditional "January thaw." I think the 2011 January thaw came in the early days of the month. As it's supposed to go down to -11 (overnight) this weekend, I can safely say that the January thaw isn't exactly around the corner. We assume it's already come and gone.

While awaiting the next storm/s, I admire our handsome male cardinal.

Lots and lots and lots of meetings coming up. I'm happy to have snow when I can stay home at the Lodge all the time. When I have to go out, I understand why some people complain! I don't complain--doesn't do any good. I just report.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Snow People

Here's the snowman some neighbours built on the surface of our little lake--before the blizzard that dumped 19 inches. He's stranded out there now, nobody has walked out to replace his face.

This morning's temperature was -1 degree F by the time we checked the thermometer. The Chap has been busy indoors and out, but apart from flinging bread crumbs,cracked corn and safflower seed for the birds, and re-filling the suet feeder, I've stayed inside.

I can report great satisfaction with my new ballet/exercise DVDs. The intermediate ballet programme is simple and studio-based. It provides a really good workout, with plenty of jumps and movement for cardio. The Elements exercise system is all warm-up stretches working the usual dance muscle groups. It was filmed in an outdoor setting, the narrator does a New Age-y voiceover and the music doesn't exactly thrill me. That said, the exercise is in-tense. Once I'm more familiar with the routines, I'll turn off the sound. Since getting these DVDs I've continued doing the NYCB workout, and really like having so much choice.

On Thursday afternoon I had lunch with our Friend From the North Country in Concord, following by the Diocesan Council meeting. Yesterday morning I met a friend in Portsmouth for brunch. Plenty of snow in both locations, but both days were bright--nothing prettier than fresh snow on a sunny, blue-sky day.

I was reviewing photos from the London trip and found this one, a long-time favourite painting. I built a whole novel around the subject--who happened to grow up to become a dancer!

That novel was published a long time ago, re-printed many times--most recently about 5 years ago. I'm nagging myself about doing something about digital editions of my full backlist. That should've been a New Year's Resolution, I guess, only I don't do them. Somehow it seems easier just to write another novel!

Ruth had a cameo appearance in the finished one, meaning it's Jewel's turn this time. I haven't quite worked out how/where to incorporate her.

High time these girls started generating income...Lola and Shadow certainly did! It would offset the expences. Jewel had her annual exam at year's end (all is well) and just last week I paid the dog tax on both of them. I was early enough that they received very low-numbered tags from our Town Clerk/Tax Collector.

The Chap just let me sip his drink, containing a new Mount Gay rum on steroids. I rarely drink spirits these days, mostly wine and hard cider and the occasional port or sherry. But it was so fine that I really think I need to follow his example!

Singapore curry noodles from Ping's for supper.

It's supposed to snow a little bit more tonight, nothing major. And again next week--shaping up to be my busiest one of the New Year. So far!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

From the Snow Globe

After two snowstorm forecasts that fizzled, we're now getting a real Nor'Easter Blizzard. The snow began falling in the very early hours of the morning. We woke to something like 8 inches. It has been snowing at varying intensity since then, sometimes at 2 to 4 inches per hour. So it's really stacking up!

On a day like this, it doesn't take long for mostly black dogs to turn white.

Ruth is little and can only plow through the drifts by hopping like a bunny, which is very cute. She really wants to romp in the snow. Jewel just wants to come inside where it's warm and dry.

Even after I shoveled the steps down to their yard, Jewel was not keen on snow-romping.

A pork loin treated with a rub of dried herbs and some red wine is roasting in the slow cooker--oh, the aroma! I tried one of my ballet DVD's on Monday and liked it. I'm about to test the other one.

The Chap drove in to work this morning without incident, so he's having a normal day. I suppose I am, too, since this snowstorm didn't exactly interfere with my usual day at the Lodge.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Exercising my Options

First, let me make clear that this is a fantastic exercise DVD. Especially for those familiar with ballet. It has been the mainstay of my winter workout programme for a couple of years now. I've mixed it in with free weights and exercise bike to excellent effect.

Nearly 3 years ago I decided to take off 5 pounds, combining more intense, intentional exercise with disciplined portion control. The result: I lost 30 pounds. Usually I round it to 30 pounds. Sometimes it's actually rounding down, because I'm capable of losing more weight at will and sometimes do.

I'm not really sure where I was carrying all that extra weight. I wasn't fat then, I've always been small-boned, so I don't look all that different than I did before. That said, I can tell my arms and legs are slimmer, my jawline a bit more more bony, and I reduced my waistline by 1 & 3/4 inches. I still wear most of the clothes I wore 3 years ago...well, ok, they're roomier. This is all to the good. I'm helped by my genes; no tendency towards obesity in my immediate family.

I've kept off the weight. I eat carefully (but don't diet) and I exercise (not fanatically). My mantra is still "less food, more movement." Free weights and lots of walking in spring & summer & autumn, and the indoor stuff at this time of year. Whenever possible I take stairs, not lifts, and try to park from my destination as I reasonably can. Unless the windchill is too brutal.

So--yay, me!

Back to the videos.

Over the past 2 winters I only did the ballet programme at most a couple of days a week. I simply wasn't home, and when I was I often chose the non-technological options (free weights, exercise bike.) My lifestyle outside the Lodge was quite active.

This is no longer true. I hardly have a life outside the Lodge. I live like a shut-in. Oh, I get out of the house--once a week for music lesson, and once or twice at the weekend. And maybe one other day, but not necessarily. Basically, I'm a homebody now.

This means I have plenty of opportunity to work out, and I've seized it. For the last 10 days straight I've done my NYCB workout every single day. Which probably explains why I'm getting bored with it. I mix up the exercises--I always do the strength and hardcore muscle work, and the stretching and whatnot, and don't do the same routine every time. I can turn off the audio and still follow along to different music, I know the combinations so well. I constantly hear in my head Peter Martins' gentle, encouraging, accented voice telling me, "remember to breathe" and "feel the stretch" and his unfailing praise at the end of a segment: "very good" or "ex-cellent." (He wouldn't be so complimentary if he could see me make hash of some of his commands.)

I've long struggled to perform the final choreography to my satisfaction...a little tarantella re-imagined from Balanchine's Don Quixote. Regular repetition has its advantages: today I made a breakthrough--I actually got teary. And after my cool-down, I celebrated with a big mug of hot coccoa topped with whipped cream and chocolate sprinkles. Because my method of maintaining an ideal weight includes indulgences! Otherwise, life would simply be too bleak for words.

Concerned that boredom would adversely impact motivation, I recently purchased 2 additional video sets. I expect them to arrive today. One is an instructional ballet programme (intermediate). The other is another ballet workout, and I'm not sure if it's similar or not to the intense NYCB one.

I hope having a variety of workouts will be beneficial. I needed options and I'm glad I identified two more.

I realise this is rather a boring topic. Unless you're me. No--even if you are me. But it's representative of the sort of life I lead.

Currently my weekday schedule is thsi:

Have breakfast (fruit, chocolate, yogurt), read 2 daily newspapers, work out & shower (if I'm going to my mandolin lesson and/or meeting in the afternoon), read email and mess about on the internet (if I'm not going out), write, read, nibble something for "lunch", afternoon work out & shower (if I stayed home all day), write and/or read, dog time, welcome the Chap when he arrives home from the office, cocktail half-hour, cooking and chatting in the kitchen, dinner, telly and/or internet and/or reading interspersed with dog cuddling, bedtime.

It's not going to be that way indefinitely...I found that out this week. After the constant activity of recent years (legislature, committee work) I'm certainly not complaining about all this time to myself. Mostly I'm trying to use it well.

Saturday, January 01, 2011


We closed out the old year with delicious food and drink and a film-viewing frenzy. Saw The King's Speech at the cinema. After pausing to celebrate the New Year as midnight struck in London, we watched a historical epic film on DVD here at the Lodge. It wrapped up at exactly 11:58 p.m., just in time for our second celebration of the evening!

Today is 1.1.11, whether you live in the States or the UK/Europe/Rest of the World where they write date.month.year rather than month.date.year. Global continuity is a fine way to start the year.

Yesterday the Chap installed my new vanity plates, so here's how I'm rolling in 2011:

With so many writers and authors living in this state, AUTHOR alone was already taken. So I had them put the + sign next to it. Because I'm an author, plus loads of other things as well.

Wishing my visitors much joy and prosperity in this New Year. Thanks for stopping by, and I hope you'll return!