All posts by sammee44

STUFF THAT GIVES YOU NAGGING BRAIN TWINGES. . . . .

It’s amazing how a brain can whirl at warp-speed when you are housebound, snowbound and feeling yuck with a stomach bug. Thank goodness, it all passed for Hubby and I, but I may as well vacuum those silly thoughts right out of my head—so, here goes.

Almonds, cherries, lemons, strawberries, cranberries, blueberries, peaches, plums, avocadoes, pears—I enjoy eating all of these, but have you wandered down the shampoo and hand/body lotion  aisle lately? Suddenly we are smooshing and slathering fruits and veggies in our hair and all over our bodies. When I was a kid, the only scents in our lotions and potions were vanilla or almond.  Now we have a whole salad bar and more. Why would wearing these ingredients be better than eating them?

Life is a constant learning experience and never more so than when we get older. I say this because my grandkids absorb new techie toys and things that gets them to Point A to Point B faster than their grandmother. It’s definitely in their genes—but not in mine.

In one of my recent writing seminars–a cozy class of five–we were asked questions about our writing interests, our goals and what we hoped to achieve by being in her “Marketing and Getting Published” class. As she wrote our answers on the board, we could see the emerging detailed analysis she had compiled on each of us. We were instructed to take a photo of our section of the board for a record of our progress.  Everyone whipped out their electronic notepad and/or Smartphones. I whipped out my senior phone as it had a decent camera. “Oh my,” exclaimed the instructor, “a real flip-top phone!”  Whaa-at?  Was she commenting on my phone?  Yep, she was, but I did get a decent photo and that’s what counted.

I guess the point I’m making is that I have my flip-top for emergencies. I have my basic desktop computer for email, internet access, my Word program, Photoshop and music. It’s very convenient to have a Smartphone with all your internet, email, camera and probably a mini-fridge filled with snacks.  Do I really want this?  Do I want to be bothered at all times on stuff that can wait ’til I get home?  Easy=peasy–that’s a “No.”

I love my car. I love the fact that I can jump into my car and take off. I like the fact that my car takes me anywhere and gets me back.  I absolutely hate it when there’s an alien noise that doesn’t belong. AND, it’s maddening when this infuriating voice at the back of your mind keeps nagging that the alien noise is important.  What’s even more maddening is that when you finally take the car to the experts, aka mechanics—the annoying alien noise has stopped.

Have you ever selected a video that sounds like it would be an exciting movie to sit and watch? Then, when you’re nicely tucked in your comfy chair, something  in the first 15-minutes tickled your memory. You wonder if you’re psychic or maybe  seen this movie before even though the title didn’t ring any bells. Hubby and I have done this a number of times. One of us would comment, “This looks familiar. Did we see this already?” And the other partner would say, “I don’t think so although bits and pieces do sound familiar.” By the time we are half-way through the movie, we decided we had seen it before. The worst of it wasn’t a few years ago, but only a few months ago when we actually saw the movie!  Guess we can blame that one on a senior moment—whatever that is.

Victoria is a city of art, books and food. Honest. I finally went for lunch in a tiny cafe with local art on the brick walls, books and magazines to peruse while enjoying a fantastic home-cooked lunch. Someone was clever enough to merge all of the above in one stop. My only complaint was that no chocolatier took advantage. The warm apple pie with the flaky pastry and generous cinnamon apple filling was superb but chocolate would have made an excellent finish. . . .

As I mentioned at the beginning, when you’re confined, the mind can be a whirling dervish. Hubby and I are both recovered from our alien bugs; the snow has long melted morphing into clear, but cold days and the active mind? I’ll simply say that hopefully, it will be a long time when anymore housebound days occur in this household.  And, if it happens anytime soon, I’m prepared with a pen and notepad, ready to take notes on further random and scattered thoughts. . . . .

 

SPACE

It’s a known and proven fact that “unoccupied space” will be filled and put to use before a person can say “cheezit!” I know.  I have searched for space (takes eons), found it (at long last) and filled it in less time than it takes to peel an apple, eat it and yes, say cheezit at the same time.

I know people who are space gurus. Who’s that, you say? Well, they are creative humans who cleverly maximize small spaces by incorporating fold-away furniture, built-in cabinetry and lots of camouflaged drawers and bins that can hide or hold a heck of a lot of “stuff.”

At one of our previous homes, I made good use of a bedroom that had a narrow alcove by a window. This alcove was just big enough to tuck a sturdy table that held the various pieces of my desktop computer plus a small bin that held pens, stapler, paperclips. As I got use to my space, more and more stuff appeared on the rare, bare surface of my table. After a few months, it was very clear I needed much more space for my writing. At our next “forever” home, I had the use of the dining room table for writing, but a make-shift space in the bedroom for computer, etc. I did get my exercise moving stuff from one room to  another and variety in working at different locations.

Fast forward to now. This “forever” home has a den. It is a separate tiny room that initially looked enormous for my needs. Hubby generously declared it was all mine. There was even a small closet that could hold bins of files. But as I moved my stuff in, it was obvious Hubby needed space too. Our previous home had a large garage that was roomy enough for our car plus a decent size workshop for Hubby. We decided to share the den’s small closet and some of the den’s space for his chest of tools as well as the bits and pieces of his various projects. Ikea shelving was installed  and two book cases found a home. It seemed I now had loads of room for all my reference books, research files, notebooks and anything else I wanted to keep.

Today, I looked at my desk with piles of correspondence and manuscripts stacked on its surface. A tray meant to hold current work is overflowing with material for editing. And yes, I need more space. Now that we are more than halfway through February, I contemplate purging some out-of-date news clippings, magazines and books to create some new space. . . or maybe not.  How can I be sure that whatever gets tossed in the paper garbage and/or shredder won’t be needed the next day?

Theoretically, there should now be more space on top of my desk, cupboards, closet, shelves and bookcases as more room is made for new stuff in the approximate 10.5 months left of 2019. . . .And knowing that there’s 10.5 months to fill all that luxurious space again before we start tossing out more old stuff.   . . .Sigh.

Wait, it all depends which calendar is used. The Chinese calendar just began its Year of the Pig and that gives an extra month to fill any vacant space. . . .that’s a good thing, right?

 

 

HURRY SLOW

I first wrote this piece in 2012 and have revised some minor bits, but honestly, things haven’t changed–still the same old, same old. . . .)

Have you ever noticed that the more you hurry, the slower you get?  It’s true, especially in lineups.

I went to my bank. The lineup had only three people in front of me. And checking out the tellers, I could see that two of them were just winding up their business. The lineup would be a quick moving one. No. It was unbelievable how everything slowed down when I got to the head of the line. I’m sure I could have bought and sold some stocks if I had some; moved my meager funds around the world and had a long, leisurely lunch with the bank prez.  See, just when you think you’re ahead of the game, you’re suddenly behind.

Last week I was at the supermarket and with my five items, headed for the Express Lane. That’s the lane that allows 7-items or less and is a cash-only lane. There I was thinking it was my lucky day because only one person was ahead of me. Yep, you guessed right. That person had 15-items she had already unloaded on the counter and her debit card at the ready. The cashier gently pointed out that this was the cash-only express lane that accepted 7-items or less; but, because there was now a lineup of six customers behind me, the time and trouble reloading her stuff into the basket and shuffling her off to another lineup was more trouble than it was worth. Then the lady had to search her ginormous satchel to find her wallet.  So, rather than being 10 minutes ahead of myself, I was now 10 minutes behind.

And how about my experience at the department store? I barely stepped inside the door and there was my one and only perfect wool sweater—the right style, the right colour, the right size.  Of course I wasn’t going to leave it!  I grabbed this perfect sweater and ran to Customer Service. There were two cashiers, cheerfully and merrily working away, so the lineup though long, was moving quickly—until it stopped at the lady in front of me. Suddenly, the cashiers weren’t looking so cheerful or merry and neither was working very efficiently anymore. Three dreaded words when you’re in a lineup—Exchanges and Returns.

It seemed a lady was returning an item that was the wrong size and colour. She wanted to exchange it for another item she had found.  Straightforward enough. No.  There was paperwork. Cashiers have to kill 20 trees to show the paper trail of a return and credit this to her account. Then a new sale, but the new sale was more money and the lady wanted the same discount as the returned item. Well, that cashier was going to be tied up for awhile. We turned our attention to the second cashier. Her customer showed a minor flaw in the sweater she was purchasing and wanted a discount. The cashier explained the sweater already had a considerable discount and the pulled thread could be easily remedied with the use of a crochet hook. There was a lengthy discussion on why the customer didn’t own a crochet hook and she didn’t see why the store couldn’t discount the $100 sweater down more. It didn’t matter when the cashier patiently explained the sweater was already reduced to $14.99. All of us in the lineup wanted to cheer when the cashier plastered this smile on her face, gritted her teeth and suggested the customer forget the purchase and move along.

See, more proof that just when you think you landed in a fast lineup with a quick get-away, you inevitably can put down roots, waiting for your turn to come up. And, from my experience, don’t look for the shortest lineups—they’re usually the longest. I think that’s why supermarkets have all the snacks, chocolate bars and magazines near the cashiers—nourishment and entertainment as well as clever sales to people held up by short lineups.

FOODIE INFLUENCES

I enjoy reading a wide range of books and things.  It could be mysteries, romance, biographies, adventures, thrillers, sci-fi, cozies, cookbooks and even advertisements. I especially enjoy reading stuff that includes tasty descriptions of fantastic meals and desserts—definitely desserts.

Recently, I read a short story about this detective, on the search for a mysterious killer who targeted short, bald men with bad taste in ties.  Throughout chapters 1 and 2, the detective was also seeking the perfect cinnamon pecan roll. By the time I reached chapter 3, his search for this tasty coffee treat far outweighed my search for the killer’s identity.  I had the perfect recipe for cinnamon pecan rolls and didn’t waste any more time reading about it. Within the hour, Hubby and I were inhaling the nutty cinnamon aroma and enjoying a plateful of warm pastry wrapped around buttery brown sugar, cinnamon and roasted pecan bits.

The next book was an entertaining historical thriller set on San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf in the 1920s. The main character owned a bar that attracted a number of dubious characters. The main attraction at this bar was a beautiful jazz singer who was also a fabulous cook. Her seafood platters were works of art. Her ginger, garlic seared rockfish was indescribable. The same could be said of her legendary sauteed lemon prawns and the fresh lobster meat tossed in a hot wok, sizzling with sesame oil, ginger and hoisin sauce. The sound of her singing and the aroma of her cooking brought the crowds in—after all, these were customers who appreciated a happy chef and great seafood along with their beer. I can’t remember what the villain was doing, but there were 2 days Hubby and I enjoyed every morsel of our “seafood diet.”

The book after that was a gentle cozy—nothing violent or gory or bloody. It was set in England and was a tale of a misunderstanding between two wealthy families. That was the period when I whipped up teas worthy of serving in a proper English manor: dainty salmon and cucumber sandwiches;  light-as-air scones served with Devonshire cream and strawberry jam; petite cheese and/or baby shrimp quiches; miniature lemon or almond tarts.

Once a month, I would meet with my critique and support group of 3 other writers. Over the years, we each evolved into our own niches—mine usually involved quirky characters and food of some kind. It was my turn to read a bit from one of my on-going stories:

Mina’s thoughts of why Bayley was killed,  flew out the proverbial window, when she smelled peanut butter cookies baking in someone’s kitchen. She had been actively searching for the perfect peanut butter cookie and this smelled like it might be the winner. She could practically taste the peanut butter in a cookie that was crisp on the outside, slightly moist and tender in the inside. It would be a simple, unadorned, pure peanut butter cookie that would not be dressed in chocolate chips, sprinkles, peanuts or anything else. And best of all, the cookie would not be ‘flavored’ with peanut butter but have plenty of that ingredient in the dough. The scent of baking was drifting from the nearby ‘Koffee Kupp’, the perfect place for coffee, cookie and thinking about a killer.

“Well, what do you think?” I asked my group.

“Hope you brought along a supply of those peanut butter cookies ’cause I’ve suddenly developed a real craving for some!” and the others simply nodded in agreement.

Val’s book, set in the Old West, told of the hardships that pioneers went through, traveling to their new homes. Her description of hunting buffalo or deer was very detailed including graphic how-to’s  of skinning the animal and cutting the meat into pieces that could be roasted or stewed. Val’s  diligent research on this didn’t appeal to me as much as the thought of apple pies, baked with cinnamon and brown sugar; hot buttered biscuits served with strawberry jam and warm, crusty bread, eaten with the roasted meat.  I think that was when I made my pot of beef stew, served with hot bread and enjoying a slice of warm apple pie for dessert.

My current book, written by Vivien Chien, is an entertaining mystery involving a smart and sassy heroine, who manages her parents’ Chinese restaurant. I’ve enjoyed reading both her books, “Death by Dumpling” and “Dim Sum of All Fears,” and definitely looking forward to the next Lanna Lee mystery, “Murder Lo Mein.” And of course, I’m ready to tackle my share of shrimp dumplings, pork sui-mei, rice rolls filled with prawns, barbecue duck, stir-fried broccoli with shitake mushrooms, egg custard tarts and so much more. After all , this is the beginning of Chinese New Year and food is always the main event along with family and good friends. I found myself making shrimp dumplings and steamed barbecue pork buns.

I honestly didn’t think that what I read, affected what Hubby and I ate–at least, not until Hubby peered over my shoulder to ask, “What are you reading?”  And then, very casually, “What are they eating?”

 

 

CLASSIC AND UNFORGETTABLE

I admire well-crafted movies, especially the old classic ones. If there are one or more A-list stars perfecting their Oscar moment roles, then those may be the movies to watch.  I say may be because sometimes the current movies can have all the talent in the making, but the story or directing or producing can still make it a mega-bucks disaster.  Great movies happen when all the elements of story-line, directing, producing and acting are seamlessly merged. That’s when audiences know they have seen something very special.

All classic movies have moments that are unforgettable. One example is the shower scene from the Anthony Perkins and Janet Leigh movie, “Psycho.”  It’s why I’m a soaking-in-the-tub kind of gal and not a shower one. Another example is from the Laurence Olivier and Dustin Hoffman movie “Marathon Man.”  Hubby and I watched it the other night. We both had seen the movie a couple of times, years ago, but it was Olivier’s portrayal of a ruthless, ex-Nazi dentist, who used his expertise on Hoffman’s teeth to torture answers from him. That scene, both Hubby and I never forgot. Another unforgettable scene is from Drew Barrymore’s “E.T.” in which the likeable alien is “hidden” among Barrymore’s collection of adorable “stuffies.” And what about that famous aerial scene of Julie Andrews, running up this grassy hill and swirling around in a huge field, while belting out the award-winning title song, “Sound of Music?”  Classic and unforgettable moments–each and every one of them.

Books all have that too. After all, without the books and/or well-honed scripts, there would be no movies. Writers,—and I humbly include myself in there—all have magnificent stories to tell. We do our best to pour our thoughts, feelings, diabolical plots, unforgettable characters and anything else out there for all to read and remember.

Winston Churchill was famous for all his gung-ho quotations, catchy phrases and words that were meant to rally morale during the dark years of World War 2.   Who could forget Churchill’s famous words, “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.” Or this Churchill quote, “A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get his pants on.”  I never realized it was also Churchill who wrote, “Russia is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.”  Today, Russia can still be described this way.

I have been told there are only so many plots to form a story.  However, it’s the method of twisting conventional thinking with the unconventional or the unthinkable. Abracadabra–new plot! There are thousands, possibly millions of writers and poets around the world who plug away at their craft in their various languages. We all have one common goal–to craft the perfect story that  grabs readers’ attention; a story that challenges your mind, keeps you entertained and one your heart will never forget.

Okay–back to the keyboard. I feel a new story bursting forth. . . . .maybe this will be the one.

 

 

Lost and Found

I love new beginnings, fresh starts.  There’s something adventuresome, daring, even exciting at experiencing a pathway or project or something, that has not been done yet in 2019. So far, I kind of lost my Hubby and sort of  had my car stolen.

Hubby had treated me to a fabulous birthday lunch at one of our favourite places. “The Snug” has a spectacular ocean view beyond their lower gardens and outdoor eternity pool, appearing as if nestled at the water’s edge. It was cold and windy with sporadic bouts of heavy rain. I could see the hardier guests enjoying their dip in the pool, then scurrying off to the right to lounge in one of two hot tubs, privately screened by the ornamental bushes and trees. It was entertainment while we waited for our lunches. Afterwards, content and relaxed, we strolled back to the elevator taking us to the parkade. I remembered we had parked the car in a space that directly faced the door that separated the parkade from the elevator.  There was only an empty space where the Volvo had been left.

“Our car’s been stolen!” I yelped.

“Are you sure?” Hubby calmly replied.

“I’m looking at the empty space.”

“And, that’s definitely where we  left the car?”

“Yes, it’s been stolen!”

“Are there other levels of parking?” Hubby remained calm. That made me pause. I had always driven in, parked at that level and returned in the elevator that had always brought me back to the same level. We went back to the elevator and when it arrived, Hubby and I checked the panel.  Yep, there were three levels that I never noticed before. I pressed the next floor to see if that was the one we wanted.

“Wait here, Sweetie, while I run over to the parkade door’s window to see if our car’s on this level.”

I forgot to tell him to block the elevator  from closing its door and taking off. Just as I turned around to say, “Must be the next level,” the elevator door whoomped shut and spirited Hubby away.  The other elevator opened and a kindly man asked if I needed an elevator.

“Thank you, but I’m waiting for my husband to return on this one,” I replied.

“Oh boy, been there, done that,” he replied, rolling his eyes and laughing. “Good luck!”

My elevator eventually returned, along with a calm, relaxed Hubby and another couple who rode the elevator with him to make sure he got reunited with his lost wife.

“The next level is the one,” I announced, happy to find him patiently waiting and hopeful the family vehicle would be magically in its proper spot.

“Lost the car and my husband,” I cheerfully explained. They nodded and smiled.

“Happens a lot,” said the lady, laughing. When the elevator arrived at PL1, Hubby and I exited. Through the windows of the parkade door, our “Silver Bullet” patiently waited.

“I’m so glad you were still in the elevator,” I murmured,  hugging my calm, patient partner.

“Hey, I knew I wasn’t lost and eventually you would enter the same elevator. Besides I also met some nice people and our car wasn’t stolen. I like to think we were checking out new “addresses” while our Volvo was still residing at the same old one!”

READY TO LEAP

Here we are with a sparkling new year, ready for our footprints to venture into new territory, or probably not-so-new territory, but perhaps different. I like to peruse the land ahead, figuratively speaking. Decide which new or old path to follow; discover if I’m enroute to a treasure or an adventure or just one of several dead-ends that lures a person forward only to end nowhere. I never consider this a waste of time, merely another of Life’s learning experiences and distractions. Dead-ends can be a gem, perhaps in the journey there; but, then again, dead-ends may be exactly what they are, dead-end duds. It all depends on attitude.

Attitude is everything.  Attitude carries the confidence to tackle whatever obstacles stands in your way–sort of like this Giant Ogre who stops you from the cache of riches behind him. You can only glimpse tantalizing sparkles whenever he inhales deeply. The view is blocked when Giant Ogre exhales, totally blowing you away. Meanwhile, we all know there is a trunk filled with valuables. We just have to figure out how to get around the ogre.

Cleaning out my files for the new year, I found my two unfinished stories. I had great beginnings and honking great endings, but this awful ogre is sitting smack dab in the middle. Thoughts of shooting it and/or blowing it up crossed my mind. I briefly entertained thoughts of bribing the Big Guy with my supply of dark chocolates. The bribe went into my tummy–to fuel my brain, of course—and the Hulk is still glued to the middle, with no intentions of moving along.

Being a serious, never-make-New-Year’s-resolutions Gal, I’m determined to somehow boot the Huge Oaf out and get moving. Enough is enough. Attitude and Confidence may not be enough. I’ll enlist Determination’s help too. My horoscope did say it was my year to shine—destroying the Ogre would make an impressive start.