Sigh. . .Multi-tasking

Multitasking is not a new thing for most of us, but women have fine-tuned this act to its highest level.  I have read Writing-World’s Moira Allen’s article on the subject, (http://www.writing-world.com/coffee/coffee78.shtml), and found myself nodding in agreement. Yes, yes and yes. Did that, done that. How else does one get through the research, writing, filing, printing, emails, etc. while doing the other mundane chores of laundry, cooking, grocery shopping and oh yes, most important of all, keeping Hubby happy? However, I didn’t think there was such a fine line between real multitasking and simply doing a multitude of tasks. I think Life is a big multitasking activity. The end result is supposed to give us extra time to do our anticipated leisurely,  fun-times—right? After all, how else can we squeeze out a few more precious hours to do what we want to do.

As an example, today I’m doing laundry, baking cookies and writing out my grocery list. These tasks are accomplished while the wash is doing its various cycles, the cookie dough is being mixed and plonked onto cookie sheets. As the first batch is slipped into the oven, the wash is tossed into the dryer. And while the cookies are baking and the laundry is in the dryer, I can scribble out my grocery list. By that time,  the first batch of cookies are out of the oven and the second batch is popped  in. I still have 20 minutes in the dryer and 18 minutes for that last batch of cookies, time enough to check my email. By the time the laundry is folded and the cookies cooling, it’s time for a trip to the supermarket for meal fixings for the next two days while thinking of something for lunch for Hubby and I.  After lunch, we’re off for a walk to clear our minds and see what’s happening along our walking route. We meet a beautiful Norwegian Elkhound, two mini-poos, a gorgeous Irish setter and an aloof English sheepdog–all walking their owners.

Home once more, I check the time–2 whole hours before its time to cook dinner. Glorious! I dive into my den, settle into my comfy chair, open my latest work-in-progress and. . .yep, you guessed it,. . .blank! My brain was taking a nap.  Yes, I did multitask and managed to save two whole hours to craft my fiction,  but my creative brain went on a holiday. Nonetheless, I did canoodle around with the computer and added two pages of inventive nonsense. The point being that I did put something down on paper. Perhaps, the beginnings of another story. I like to think my file folder of “Great Beginnings” is bursting with great starts that will eventually evolve into great stories.

Tonight I will make sure my pen and pad are close by when I go to sleep.  I’m  positive I will be zapped awake in the middle of the night with some inspiring bits and pieces that I will want to remember in the light of day.

Multitasking is helpful but creativity is an elusive muse. I’m convinced it takes more than an hour or two of saved time to capture its essence.

(Originally posted on Red Room, edited and reposted on Chocofigbee. . .)

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Marcie

When I was 9, my friend Marcie convinced me that just because you’re a girl, doesn’t mean you have to be girly all the time. To prove her point, Marcie let loose the best Tarzan yell ever at the Mall. This was also the time I was supposed to be more lady-like to set a good example for my little sister. With her big blue eyes, curly mop of red-hair and freckles galore on her face, Marcie let loose another Tarzan yell that would have brought a tribe of apes and a herd of elephants to her side. Though we were both tiny in stature, Marcie was so totally opposite from me in behaviour and personality, that I always marvelled how we remained such good friends.

My home was a 10-minute walk to school. My route took me past Marcie’s house and we would meet up to walk the last 2 blocks together. Clifford was the school bully who terrorized all the kids, especially the younger ones who were smaller. After school, Marcie and I were his “targets.” Clifford would follow us both because he had a crush on Marcie and he made sure Marcie got home safely. After that, it was my problem as Marcie wasn’t around to help me. But best friends know a lot and Marcie wasn’t blind to Clifford’s bullying ways.

I carried a skipping rope and was coordinated enough to walk, skip, dance and jump while working my rope. Marcie taught me the rhythm of double-rope skipping. My brother taught me the art of self-defense.  The school bully taught me self-confidence.

As Clifford followed me down the street, calling out insulting names he learned at home and yelling spiteful threats, Marcie had slipped out her back door. She was following along through her neighbour’s back yards, hidden behind their cedar hedges. She could hear all of Clifford’s hurtful words.

My hands tightened around the knotted ends of my skipping rope as I turned to confront Clifford. Marcie popped out of Mrs. Mack’s front gate to stand beside me. Silence reigned as the school bully faced the “love-of-his-life” and his “target.”

Kids have their own codes for survival in their journey towards adulthood. Bullies have their codes as well. Marcie had three brothers who had taught her a lot and she had seen what they did to the bullies in their lives. My brother taught me a lot too. Silently, we faced Clifford. Marcie didn’t have to say anything—her look of disgust and disapproval said it all. Without a word,  Clifford retreated.

I like to think all bullies have a weakness. Clifford’s was being confronted and he wasn’t prepared for that, especially not by someone he had a crush on.  At the age of nine, Marcie instinctively knew this. If she had told her brothers about Clifford’s crush on her, they would have laughed him away, making him Marcie’s enemy.  But Marcie also knew that if she ever told her brothers what a bully Clifford was, they would have taught him a lesson, never to be forgotten.

The other day, I was thinking of Marcie and our long friendship.  I had just received a letter with a photo of Marcie’s daughter with her  14-months old toddler—both had big blue eyes, a curly mop of red hair and freckles galore all over their faces. I wondered if Marcie ever taught them the Tarzan yell. . . .?

Truths

Have you ever considered stuff you have learned on your own—without your Mom or best friend telling you? Let me tell you a few things I have picked up and/or suspected, as I stumble through Life.

I have long suspected there truly are fat mirrors and skinny mirrors.

What, you didn’t know this? Yes, there are such things as mirrors that can make you look fat or skinny.  Ladies, haven’t you noticed that trying on things in the change room convinces you that your body looks fabulous in whatever it is you’re trying on?  That’s because the store has installed skinny mirrors in these rooms. Once you get your treasures home and try it on in front of your bedroom mirror, reality hits because at home, we all have fat mirrors. How else can we explain why the fit is just not as fabulous as we initially thought when we were at the store.

Don’t you just love it when you had the most perfect meal in a classy restaurant? The service was impeccable. The meal was absolutely delicious and perfect. The dessert was totally awesome. Plus your dining partner was entertaining and enjoyed every moment too. So you go back with your best friend and the lunch service, etc. was just as great as the previous dinner. Then all of a sudden, you have unexpected company from out-of-town. They are “special people” and that calls for a great dinner.  Of course your reservation got lost, but there is a table in the back corner, between the swinging kitchen door and the hallway to the washrooms.  That night, the fabulous chef is off duty so there are a few menu choices that are not available, including the restaurant’s “signature” dish.  The service is lacking a certain “spark” as the wait-person is not a chatty person. The lesson learned?  I have learned not to gush over a fabulous restaurant because as sure as God made little green apples, it disappoints when you want it to be perfect. At least the company enjoyed themselves and found the evening most entertaining.

Bakers and bakeries must have their “off” days too.  How else to explain that the fabulous, light-as-air chiffon cake with the dark chocolate mousse filling—the cake that’s the crowning glory for the bakery—should suddenly have a vengeful,  yet creative Grinch in the kitchen.  His heavier-than-lead cake is now a brandy-soaked cake drenched in fresh raspberries with a chocolate mousse topping and raspberry coulis drizzled on the side.  This was actually quite decadent with its generous quantity of brandy, but we really wanted our light-as-air chiffon cake with the dark chocolate mousse filling.

AND, how about parking spaces?  Have you ever driven around the block a dozen times, hoping that someone will move their car just as you come along and can dive right into that suddenly vacant space?  I have.  Just as I drove past for the fourteenth time, someone was just entering their car to move out.  I hurried around the corner to slowly come up to that newly vacant spot, when one of those diabolical half-cars, whipped past me and zinged into the space big enough for two of them.

Makes you want to go back and have another piece of that brandy dessert. . .

Much Ado About Something

Mikey, my best friend’s youngest son, came storming through the front door, dropping his school bag with an angry thud on the hallway floor and declared in a very loud voice, “I’m never going back to school again—school sucks!” And with that announcement, he ran upstairs to his bedroom and slammed the door.

“Oops,” Kathie said in the experienced voice of a mom with five sons. “I think there was another crisis at school today.” And she gave me a wry grin.

“Remember how we felt about math and physics?” Kathie sighed.

“How could I forget?” I grinned. “I always felt, what’s the point of calculating how long it would take a pool to empty if 50 gallons a minute was pumped in and 30 gallons a minute leaked out? I had no ambitions to work as a pool girl.”

“It’s liters in Canada now, not gallons,” Kathie automatically corrected me as we both laughed.

“Remember all that stuff we had to memorized and write about? I spent an eternity doing a project on Rhodesia, but now that country is called Zimbabwe.”

“My paper was on Ceylon, known for its tea plantations and colourful stamps. Now it’s called Sri Lanka.”

“I got some cute little tee-shirts for Deena the other day and noticed it was manufactured in Myanmar. Where the heck is that, I wondered?  Well, for goodness sakes, it use to be Burma. When did that change?” I asked.

“See, that’s the point I’m trying to make. We spend 12 years in school and half the stuff we will never use in  our lifetime. All that geography we memorized, well, it isn’t pertinent now with wars being fought and borders being changed and new names, for gosh sakes!”

Kathie and I automatically reached for another piece of Triple Fudge Brownie. Silently savouring the rich, dark chocolate flavour, we looked at each other and smiled.

“Well, I’ll take Mikey his glass of milk and a piece  of this brownie and see what the crisis is at school today.” Excusing herself, she went to check  on her 7 year old son.

As I was debating the merits of whether or not to have another teeny piece of brownie, if I worked longer on the elliptical, Kathie was back, looking dutifully serious. Then her face changed from “serious Mom mode” to her usual cheerful self.

“Will Mikey return to school tomorrow?” I  asked.

“It’s a girl,” Kathie said grinning. “Little Suzie, down the street, has a crush on my son. And I had to tell him that when he’s older, he will look at girls differently. However, right now he thinks reading is boring and girls are icky.”

We looked at each other, muffling our laughter. Countries and borders  can change,  but little boys still remain the same. And, so do little girls.

Old Things

It was a difficult decision to make–for both Hubby and I.

“What do you think?” he asked anxiously. I eyed his favourite cardigan.  I had been with him when he bought it. We weren’t married then.  The sweater was now worn and looked as if a family of field mice began nesting in the pockets. Small holes–which I had diligently mended in the past–had already reappeared, looking like some voracious alien had nibbled away at the pockets, the ribbing, the sleeves.

“It has to go,”  I said firmly. The more I examined the weary sweater, the more it seemed to disintegrate in front of my eyes.

Heaving a reluctant sigh, Hubby looked at me and said, “I’ll toss it out if you toss out something too.”

“What?” I asked, wondering what I had to contribute to the junk heap.

“How about your writing sweatshirt?  It’s barely hanging together and you do have others in better shape.”

“But it still got sleeves and perfectly good fleece in the critical spots!”

“I hate to burst your creative bubble, but it has to go,” Hubby said firmly.

And so we did. Truthfully, not even a homeless person would have benefitted from our beloved sweater and sweatshirt.  We had mentally counted up the years of wearing enjoyment between us and it tallied to a mind-boggling number of decades.

We watched the garbage collectors haul our bins over to their huge truck and emptied its contents.

Hubby lamented, “Clothes just aren’t made to last anymore!”  And as the truck drove away, I  fleetingly thought, “Isn’t that something our parents use to say? Good grief, are we that old?”

 

(Originally posted on Red Room, but with a few minor adjustments, am taking the liberty to post it again.)

Chocoholic Writers

I love chocolate. No surprise to those who know me.  I adore dark chocolate–at least 70% and Belgian, of course.  I have been known to venture into Swiss and German chocolates but my favorite is still Belgian. I like my dark chocolates plain and ready to break into pieces that don’t make your cheeks bulge when you pop it into your mouth. I even like it with a piece of apricot  or a slice of candied orange peel or fat, tart cherry or even a pecan or almond tucked inside. I’m not fond of creams, but I will sample and I do inhale dark chocolate truffles. Victoria’s landmark “Dutch Bakery” and “Terrible Truffles” makes the best.

So I was amazed when I dived into a mystery book where the heroine popped chocolates like a drug. She wasn’t that discerning a chocoholic but she ate chocolates as she went about solving her case. Nicola Furlong’s “Teed Off” has her amateur sleuth, Riley Quinn, also diving into chocolates–“Rogers,” one of Victoria’s best. It helps that Nicola is also a chocoholic connoisseur. My protagonist is a P.I. named Newton Figgby, who has to have a continuous chocolate fix in order to boot up his flavenoids to nourish his brain cells. Newton knows his sources of chocolate baked goods and of course, dark Belgian chocolates. Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg’s fun collaboration of FBI agent, Kate O’Hare and international thief/conman, Nicholas Fox, reveals Kate’s passion for Toblerone chocolates. JoAnna Carl’s character, Lee McKinney Woodyard, who is the owner of “TenHuis Chocolade,” uses her chocolate shop as the backdrop for her amateur sleuth.  Nancy Coco’s heroine, Allie McMurphy, who operates Mackinac Island’s “Historic McMurphy Hotel and Fudge Shop includes some awesome fudge recipes in her books, “To Fudge or Not to Fudge” and “All Fudged Up.”

And hey, remember you write what you know so Charlaine Harris, Nancy J. Parra (aka Nancy Coco) and R.E. Hargrave are a few chocoholics, whom I visualize nibbling their chocolate treats at their computers while crafting their chocolate inspired protagonists.

There are even websites such as Janet Rudolph’s chocolate news, reviews and recipes found at http://www.dyingforchocolate. blogspot.ca and a fun site for interactive murder mysteries (for a price) at http://www.murderbychocolate.net.

However, in my search for chocoholic writers and their protagonists, I did find an exception, Daryl Wood Gerber, who also writes mystery cosies under her pen name, Avery Ames. In one of her series, her amateur sleuth, Charlotte Bessette owns “The Cheese Shop” in Providence, Ohio which did yield an awesome recipe for “Choco-Socko Cheesecake.” Another series written by this prolific writer is the “Cookbook Nook,” featuring Jenna Hart, who makes “Chocolate Cherry Bonbons” in “Fudging the Books.”

If you want more chocolate recipes, go to http://www.darylwoodgerber.com and click on recipes. There, you will find a treasure trove including “Expresso Chocolate Mascarpone,” “Triple Chocolate Pudding,” “Goat Cheese Brownies” and of course, “Choco-Socko Cheesecake.”

Now excuse me while I search for my stash of dark Belgian chocolates. I seem to have developed this powerful craving while delving into my research. . . .

 

 

 

 

 

EVERY NOW AND THEN

Every now and then, something happens that tweaks an inspirational thought or an “eureka” moment. You know, something you saw or read and you think it could be used in a story. At some future point, you do or maybe not. It could be a chance comment or fragment of overheard conversation or some news bit that caught your eye or ear.  It needn’t be anything major—usually, it’s something easily missed in the moment, yet it sneaked into your subconscious and screams to be let out—creatively, that is.

I was catching up on my stack of newspapers and assorted clippings before the Recycling Truck made its weekly rounds. The item that caught my attention was a brief report about a thief caught breaking and entering a home. He had grabbed a laptop and had an iPad under his arm, when the homeowner came home and caught him in the act. Panicking, the thief dropped his loot and escaped out the bedroom window. But in his haste to escape, he also dropped his bus-pass with picture I.D.  Of course he got caught.

One of my favourite news bit was about the enterprising person who grew his marijuana crop tucked among his rosemary plants. Unfortunately, his next door neighbour, a retired policeman, had his kitchen window facing the thriving garden. Gazing out his window, while enjoying his early morning coffee. the retired policeman recognized the distinctly un-rosemary leaves that towered over the real rosemary plants.

I read with great interest the article on whether  your dog is left paw or right paw. The veterinarian determines this by putting a dab of gel on the dog’s nose and watching to see which paw tries to wipe it off.  I’ve never thought about whether my dog was a “leftie” or not. Or, how about the cut-throat business of international orchid smuggling? Some orchid fanciers argue that smuggling some rare, unknown orchid is saving the species from destruction when farmers and road builders cut their swath indiscriminately through the South American rain forests. It wasn’t mentioned that the prestige of claiming it, naming it and cultivating it is worth millions of dollars—especially when selling to other orchid fanciers. Or, how about the fashion designer from Hanover, Germany, who actually developed a fabric  called QMilch, made mostly from casein, a milk protein. The fabric is silk-like, washable, chemical-free and wears for a long time.  And buried in a stack of clippings, I discovered there is a Spam—the meat product and not the junk-mail—Museum in Austin, Minnesota.

Now that I’ve worked my way through my “paper-work,” I think I’m motivated and re-energized to tackle more writing. Life is certainly fascinating, just read your newspapers!