Saturday, 28 February 2009

I keep plugging along

I have written the Dan-Mary conversation and that has told me what must happen next ... so things do not feel quite as out of context as they have recently.

I have also made a second cozy and am almost finished the first of a new pair of socks ... so that should tell you how slowly the writing is progressing.

It is bloody cold out here and the wood stove is doing the brunt of work keeping the place warm, I think. Last night I was up at 1 re-starting the fire ... and then stayed up because it was burning with such ferocity I thought I might have a chimney fire if it were unattended. By three I was back in my bed. feeling that all was safe.

Today I have been keeping the fire stoked, knitting, thinking and doing a bit of writing. Tomorrow Tamarak is coming to do some work on my computer. We will have a late lunch and the dogs will frolic outdoors.

I watched Farewell, My Concubine this afternoon while knitting. What a violent movie that is. Such senseless cruelty to everyone. A strange culture that accepts that kind of cruelty. I wonder if the old culture with its binding of women's feet and murder of female children is at the root of other things I associate with modern China ... human rights abuses ... blatant disregard for the welfare of people by manufacturers ... and yet it is also a culture that limits families and pours affection onto its children ... and a culture that values its old people. So many strange dichotomies.

Thursday, 26 February 2009

I Hate Writing




I don't hate the novel. I just hate writing in patches. I wrote another conversation out of context this morning and again felt as if I were moving mountains of dry sand uphill. This is the third or fourth patch I've written and I feel as if I am doing heavy labour each time. I remember a time when the writing took me aloft and we flew together.

I am not sure whether it is because I've lost my wings or whether I have left it too long. I still have faith in the idea and the work I've done up till now ... I am just not sure I still have faith in my ability to finish it.

It doesn't help that my eyes feel all smeary and my glasses which kept falling off when I leaned forward now give me eyestrain. (I bent them all to hell)

Anyway I keep taking knitting breaks. I have completed the pair of crazy socks and I just finished a very sweet tea cozy. Yesterday I stopped in at my favourite store in Wakefield and discovered a whole new line of Polish teapots. I restrained myself (I own three teapots and use two regularly ... I really really don't need another teapot.) This cozy will be for Marta who is not feeling well and needs to take lots of tea breaks right now.

The cozy is at the top of the email in incomprehensible script. If it ever evolves into an image you will see that the wool is variegated pinks, purples and violets. It reminds me of sunrises and sunsets.

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Not Such a Good Day for Writing ...

My heating system caused me grief last night ... well ... lack of sleep, anyway ... so it was after seven when I got up. It is nine and I have a wood fire lit and am just now finishing my tea and computer stuff ...

I should run into the village as soon as I get dressed to buy salad makings and more kindling wood ... a friend is coming for lunch and we will have salmon, rice and salad.

But after he leaves I have to run over to a neighbour's because I am looking after their place while they are away.

If I do all this entertaining and running I will have no time to write ... and I want to keep going ...

I think I will improvise a different kind of salad ... one that can use scraps of Romaine lettuce, onions, baby tomatoes and canned artichokes ... or I will serve cooked veggies with it. Problem is I am not sure whether I have any veggies that are not orange ... and I don't want the meal to look like a Hallowe'en joke. Ah well ... friends are the kind of people you can subject to such indignities with food. After all, it is the wine and conversation that really matters.

So ... on I go ... with yet another difficult conversation ... this one between Dan and Mary ... or maybe the inner dialogues that Robert and Emily must have after their last conversation ... the one in which she reveals what she found ... and what people know ... the one that puts Robert in a box with no safe exit. Will Robert act in character or will he make a decision that shows more concern for others than for himself? He really has no way out ... even if he tries to silence those who know ... there are too many now to silence ... and eventually he would end up in the same place he is now but with more harm done than before.

Okay ... time to stop running the maze. Time to write.

Monday, 23 February 2009

Finding my conclusion by writing ...

This morning I wrote for a couple of hours and discovered something about Robert that made him capable of killing. Self preservation is the strongest element in his make-up.

So ... I am just going to keep on writing ... even though it is hard. I love it when the writing carries me along . This is not happening right now. I feel as though I am writing with frozen fingers. The words feel wooden ... dead ... but at least I am writing ... and when I go back to it I can usually see where I can make things better.

Now that I am working on the novel every day, my blog posts are getting shorter. Sorry about that ... but I think writers are likely the least interesting people alive when they are writing. All their life energy goes into another world ... the world of the novel ... leaving little for the real world they inhabit.

Kenya has already complained that I am keeping her inside more because I want to write instead of walk with her; because I want to write without interruption and that is impossible when she is outdoors.

It seems to help to take the weekends off, and in early April I will have the ancient Old English Sheepdog and his new baby sister, the four month old Sheepdog puppy, for a few days. I am sure that their antics will keep me away from long uninterrupted sessions at my computer. I hope the weather is good for walks and outdoor play with them. I will treat it as a holiday from writing, and hope that I come back to the novel refreshed and renewed.

Sunday, 22 February 2009

The first of the crazy acrylic socks

And now I have to cast on the stitches for the second one. I still haven't mastered the grafting but I have discovered how to make neat toes.
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The End of the Story ...

I have decided ...

that Marta is right ... that I have to simply start writing the rest of the story and see what the characters do, say, and think ... and watch how they react to the other charactres ... let them tell the story ... and if I end up with a badly finished story ... well ... life is like that, isn't it? I know fiction is not supposed to be as messy as life ... but not all good stories have tidy endings ... and sometimes those that do have readers thinking the writer perhaps made a mistake by wanting a neat plot ending ...

That happened for me with The Story of Edgar Sawtelle . He killed off the protagonist and his nemesis and had the best dogs run off ... and I found myself wondering whatever happened to the protagonist's mother who was now left with absolutely nothing ... no husband, no lover, no business, no barn, no dogs, and no son ... and a writer who simply left her bereft and didn't seem to care ...

And this was an excellent novel up till then ... but it was as if he simply got tired of it and couldn't be bothered to deal with all those threads left hanging so he destroyed all of them.

I had intended to give my puzzle to the birthday party guests but we were all having too much fun eating, drinking, laughing and talking to bother with a party game. There were eleven of us here and Kenya got way more than her fair share of loves. She was delighted.

Saturday, 21 February 2009

Jobs, my Finger, and Tamarack's Birthday

Today is Tammy's birthday. Happy Birthday to you!

We are having a small party here to celebrate.

Yesterday I received one of those multimillion byte emails that knock my dial-up connection for a loop so that I have to take extraordinary measures to read it at all. This one was (FINALLY) the invitation to teach secondary teachers of English for a three month stint in Mongolia. My heart always soars when I get such news, but I had to refuse.

1. The pay was too little to do more than barely cover the cost of boarding Kenya somewhere.

2. Three months is a long time to be away.

3. Because they were so late getting this out I would have no time to prepare. (The first camp starts March 4!)

4. I have a feeling that their disorganization in one thing will likely mean that they are completely disorganized in most things, and I might find myself hating every minute of my time there!


Mud Mama sent me a site that she thought I should read. It was like reading about my horrible finger experiences through a veil of very black humour. If that sort of thing appeals to you, go to http://outlookdoubtful.blogspot.com. She has photos and everything. She nearly cut hers off in November and the sad tale continues through the surgery to remove excess scar tissue to ending her love-hate affair with Percocet.

And now I have to ice a cake. Have a great weekend.

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Kenya's Favourite Movie

Kenya always pays some attention to the movies I watch. I know because she gets very excited whenever a dog appears. And she behaves appropriately. If the dog is snarling she gets angry. If the dog attacks someone, she goes into her own snarly bitchy mode of telling other dogs how they should be behaving. If the dog on the screen is benign, she merely cocks her head and pricks up her ears and walks closer to the screen.

But last night was different. She watched the whole movie. She followed the movement of the horses with her eyes. She was upset by the buffalo stampede. But it was the wolf who fascinated her. You could tell she really wanted to interact with him. There were things he did that annoyed her. She watched very carefully as he slowly, ever so slowly, took the piece of jerky from the man's hand, and then dashed off. And she cried when he was shot.

If you have a dog, rent Dances With Wolves for him or her. Your dog will love it. (I think. Maybe I am the only person who has this kind of dog.)

At the end of the maze ...

At the end of the maze I discovered a rat's nest made of chewed up tangled yarn. Now I have to figure out how to deal with what seems to be an unsolvable plot dilemma. There are of course simple solutions, but the facile ones don't satisfy.

My next few days may be spent, not writing, but trying to plot a plausible satisfying conclusion.

If you would like to become part of the solution, email me and I will send you the puzzle. You too can get tangled in the mess at the end of the maze.

bjscott at magma dot ca

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Phone Calls, the Novel's Progress, Socks, and More Socks

Well ... I didn't get everything accomplished that I set out to do yesterday, but I am not unhappy with what I got done.

I finished re-reading the first 18 chapters and constructed an after-the-fact blueprint of the novel so far which will allow me to see at a glance (almost) what still has to be done ... what has to happen next ... what loose ends need to be tidied up ... you know ...

I went to the luncheon but the speaker didn't. However I sat with a table full of knitters who did try to explain grafting to me and gave me some pointers on other things like the best types of wool blends to use for socks to avoid the necessity for darning and where to find wool and knitting supplies in the area. We ate homemade lasagna, caesar salad, bread and butter pickles, coffee and a cheesecake dessert for $11 and the wine was $3.50 a glass.

I finished up the robin's egg blue boot socks that must now be felted to size, and knit a swatch of some colourful acrylic and found the needles to start the next pair of socks. They will be great to wear with my startling pink rain boots and yellow slicker in the spring.

The yarn was very cheap, but it doesn't feel nearly as nice to knit with ... partly because I am knitting on much smaller needles and partly because manmade fibres have trouble feeling as soft and real as natural fibres do. Mud Mama is bringing my order from Gaspereau Valley Fibres when she comes in March and I can luxuriate in wool then. Until then I will play with the yarn I bought on-line ... also man-made but better quality, and recommended by on-line knitters.

I managed to make a banana bread and do a load of laundry as well, and I also read more of Edgar Sawtelle. As a result, I stayed up till 10 p.m. (way past my bedtime lately!)

Today is a snow day so I will be puttering around working on Lost and Found Summer, starting the first colourful sock, and dealing with the application for the summer workshop. I will also make the phone calls and write the letter from yesterday's list.

I put off making phone calls all the time. First of all I hate the phone itself ... the technology ... the disembodied nature of the communication, and, when I make a business call, the need to get everything laid out ahead in order to make the call in the first place. Then, I hate the thought of having to sit on hold and argue with the anonymous representative(s) of a large uncaring corporation about a mistake they made. The last time I was forced to do it (Hydro had lost a $600 payment of mine) I spent five hours on the phone and had to go into the village to get bank statements photocopied and mailed to prove I was right. I was completely wrung out by the end of the day. Maybe I should get a speaker phone so I can knit or read while on hold.

Kenya would also like me to go for a couple of long walks with her ... she keeps bringing sticks to the back door asking me to come out with her instead of working at my computer or my knitting ... so I will make sure I fit in some time outside as well. Perhaps between phone calls to blow off steam!

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

very large mismatched robin's egg blue socks

Yummy Wool, Senior Citizens, Fascinating Novel, and me ...

I am waking up slowly despite Kenya's attempts to make it happen faster. She came up on the bed at 5:30 and groaned her way into a tummy rub as she stretched out full length, her spine leaning against me, all four legs outstretched. By six we were out of bed and our day had started.

I drank tea, ordered some wool from a place in Kitchener, answered some emails, read some blogs, and am now ready to get my day started in earnest.

I received my RRSP tax slip yesterday and discovered that the bank got the deductions wrong ... by $1600 ... so I have to deal with that.

I have to respond to a letter I received from a little Kenyan boy (who tells me he is no longer as little) for whom I found help several years ago. He tells me he is praying for me ... I can use all the prayers I can get.

I am going to continue working on Lost and Found Summer. I am re-reading before I write the last few chapters so that I can get the ending right ... or at least try to.

And I will complete the second pair of socks and start a new knitting project today. I hope to find out how to weave the stitches at the toe together properly this time. I am tired of lumpy toes.

Maybe I can ask someone when I go to the Legion for lunch. It is Senior Citizens' Day and they have invited a speaker ... someone who may be able to get a taxi service for us old folks started here in the Wakefield area.

And I hope I will find time before I go to bed to continue reading The Story of Edgar Sawtelle. The writing style is (I was going to say intoxicating but that might suggest that it puts me to sleep when it is quite the opposite.) ... wonderful ... but that doesn't say enough. He saturates the reader with the detail of the experience. I have to pull myself away to re-enter my own world. Oh, to write as well!

So a day of work punctuated by a walk with Kenya, lunch in the village, knitting and reading a good book. Doesn't get much better than that, does it?

Monday, 16 February 2009

A March Day in February

It feels almost like spring up here at the lake. I am still wearing a parka but I can take off my mitts, and once I get down from my own road where winter is still in full command with icy roads, frozen waterfalls and lots of snow, every drop in altitude brings more signs of spring. Pike Lake road is still icy but many of the puddles are covered in brittle skins of ice under which muddy water gurgles. Kenya breaks through scattering fragments of ice and soaking her leg feathers in wet mud. At the cottage belonging to people living in Africa year round there are new roof trusses sitting on the deck waiting for spring. The stream out of the lake is now ice-free, and on the far side of the lake where the sun is strongest, the puddles are really mud-puddlicious ... until Kenya shakes and my freshly washed floor is splattered with mud droplets.

On my road only the decaying quality of the snow lets me know that spring is just around the corner.

But it is only February. It can't last. Old Man Winter will give us at least one more reminder that we live in Canada.

My Winter Wonderland Road

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Mud and Crackly Ice on Pike Lake Road

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Free Flowing Stream

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The Feeder in March

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Sunday, 15 February 2009

On Mortality

Just a short post today because I took a holiday from writing yesterday to attend the funeral for a good friend's dad. His dad was a year or so younger than I am, and had been very ill for some time.

I have been receiving notices about the deaths of many of my former colleagues, all a little older than I am but not that much older, and my friend on the lake has been having a particularly bad time since the radiation treatments ... crippling headaches ...

I am reminded that life ends; that mine will too, and likely sooner than I want it to.

To be honest, I think more often of my dog's mortality than I do of my own. It seems that every time I go to the vet's there is some old dog with a sad owner waiting for the vet to perform that last service. I have wept more than a few tears for Kenya at these times.

Of course she is only just turned three and healthy, but she has greyed around the muzzle, likely because her first year or so was not healthy. Large dogs typically have fairly short life spans (10- 12 years), so she might not make it to the age of ten ... seven years from now.

It is hard to lose a companion, especially if it is someone you love, and more so if they have been dependent on you and you alone. If it is a parent, it hurts more. Let yourself grieve, my friend.

Friday, 13 February 2009

Sick Plant


Can anyone help me solve the problem of an ailing plant? I don't know what kind it is because it was given to me simply as "the big one". It loved it here and was thriving till I put it outside early last summer. I wasn't home to take care of it and when I came home I found it on its death bed. I have re-potted it so that is is up where it should be in the pot but it grows new leaves that look healthy and then they sicken and die.

Any ideas about what plant it is so I can check on-line or about what is causing the leaves to die? Should I try to save it or pitch it and its soil?

I am busy writing and am taking a break. The new sock I am working on is (again) going better than Chapter 17 ... but at least I am writing, and the more I write the easier it flows ... at least that used to be true!

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Innocence Personified (or caninified) ... this morning

I had a sleepless night, thanks to Kenya who is now snoozing away at 8 a.m.

Yesterday she moped around all day looking bereft. Her nose and ears were hot. I thought she was running a fever. I wondered if she was missing the other dogs that have been part of her life for the past couple of weeks.

I took her out for a walk and we visited a neighbour who loves dogs. She perked right up and her nose magically became cool and moist.

I relaxed.

We went to bed around 9 and at midnight Kenya was crying in that inimitable way ... part groan ... many variations in tones ... much meaning. It was similar to the "I have a tummy ache and I need to go out" message. I grumbled a bit but I let her out.

She circled the house and brought me a stick to play with. I grumbled more loudly, let her in, dried her off and returned to bed. She put her nose by mine and groaned some more ... high pitched for a groan ... more shades of meaning. I invited her into the bed.

She refused the offer. I thought ... this is the way she behaved when the wind whistled in through the open windows and she thought our home was under attack. This is anxiety. I cuddled her.

Then I helped her get up on the bed so that I could cuddle her without hanging over the side of the bed. She fell asleep for an hour. She woke up and we cuddled again. Another bit of sleep. Another cuddle. This went on most of the night. At 3:45 she took herself off the bed and disappeared. Silently, thank Dog, the dyslexic's deity.

At 6:30 I turned on the radio and she was at my bedside instantly. More cuddles.

I got up and asked if she wanted out. No way, Jose.

She nudged the Dentibone container with her nose. I gave her one.

She rattled her dish while I made tea so I fed her. Then she went to sleep for hours.

I am sure you think I starved her yesterday and she went to bed hungry. Well, those of you who don't know us might believe that nonsense, but in reality she ate more than normal yesterday, not less.

I hope it was her fear of wind and rain; that she doesn't have to be wormed. My vet never just gives her worm medication. She always has to do a stool analysis so worms are expensive.

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

THAT conversation; THOSE socks

THAT conversation is coming along. I will leave it for now and move onto the other conversations and revelations that must occur between the conversation and the discovery. The benefit of writing it like a patchwork quilt is that each scene does not loom as a huge unwritable chore, and I am able to start fresh each time, which might make the writing fresher too. The downside is that I think I work best when I follow a forward moving flow in which one thing leads naturally to the next so that I am always building on what went before. Also this method leaves me with several ends to weave in seamlessly afterward.

Sort of like the THOSE socks I have almost completed ... which will have a few ends to weave in later. It won't be quite as much drudgery as weaving in the myriad of endlings that were left after Wild Thing's stripey pirate sweater pieces were completed, though.

As long as there aren't too many loose ends, I think it will be fine. At any rate I have no choice because there are these various bits and pieces of conversations, arguments and thoughts that need to happen between CC's confession and Emily's discovery. Then I can go on to writing the conclusion.

I write for a couple of hours and then I think about it, re-read it, and make notes, and then I reward myself by working on the sock. The socks will be finished long before the novel is ... but I still have two more beautiful batches of wool ... and then I can make a conglomerate piece from all those leftovers!

Last night Tamarak, Lois and Carlos came for dinner. That is Lois sitting beside Tamarak in the photo from the show. We had fun. So did the dogs. Kenya always looks a little depressed when she is once again alone. She really likes having a playmate. (Not that Teddy and Shea are the best playmates, you understand. They are a bit wimpy about the cold and would rather sleep on the warm floor than join her outside.)

Nevertheless they sure beat me these days.

I fell on my head on Monday night on my way to the show. No; I had not been drinking wine. No; it was not because I am getting long in the tooth and unsteady on my pins. Several people have fallen and hurt themselves on Ottawa streets recently ... I know of two others, both MUCH younger than me ... and also sober ... who fell. One cracked her skull; the other broke her ankle. Good thing I have a hard head.

When Mud Mama heard that I had driven home alone after the fall she said I was going to be the kind of old lady who has to have her car keys hidden; that they would have to keep the door locked to keep me safe from myself. She'd better bloody not even think of it!!! I'd rather die making mistakes than live my life wrapped in cotton wool, thank you.

Yes, I know Mud Mama exactly what you will say ... I would be a danger to other people not just myself ... well phooey!

Tamarak at the Show with Family

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Monday, 9 February 2009

Turning Points

I am dividing myself between the turning of the heel on the second sock and a crisis point in the novel I want to workshop this summer. Not sure which is harder ... but I think the scene in the novel is. It seems far more crucial to make the correct decisions here than in something I can either unravel or wear as is ... after all who is going to see my socks?

It is a scene in which Mary reveals what she knows to her friend Emily ... a truth that is impossible for Emily to accept. Mary's decision to tell Emily first comes from her loyalty to her friend, but the truth will sorely test both their friendship and Emily's loyalty to her family. The outcome of this conversation will change forever the lives of both families.

So I am tiptoeing around it, jotting down notes to myself ... setting the scene ... imagining their thoughts and fears ... and as terrified to start writing it as Mary is to broach the subject.

I understand why I abandoned the novel at this point the last time. It is a conversation, a scene, in which the writing must rise to the occasion. It is a test of sorts.

Sort of like a heel of a sock ...

Tamarak asked why I didn't just say the hell with knitting socks since I seemed to be spending all my time knitting, tearing out and then re-knitting. I told her that I wanted to knit socks and that the learning curve ... the challenge ... was part of it.

I hope I am also up to the challenge of writing this really tough scene.

Saturday, 7 February 2009

Three Deer, Two Dogs and One Sock

That was my day today ... Saturday ... While I was trying to figure out just how one weaves together the stitches on the two needles at the toe of the first sock, the two dogs went nuts and I let them out ... and then I saw what they were so excited about ... three deer leapt up off the road and into the trees. I went out yelling that these were our friends ... like the birds ... to let them be ... and Kenya and Zeke came running back to me. We are all in now and the deer are likely long gone. Zeke cried for some time about being a prisoner ... but he has already killed a chickadee and a large mole so heaven knows what might have transpired had I let him have at the deer.

I finished the sock and started the next one while I watched the end of Hotel Rwanda and shed the last of my tears. If you haven't seen it, do. It is a powerful movie.

What else has happened today? I read more of my own novel ... and of Philippe's ... and started Mary Swan's The Boys in the Trees. And I keep taking my meds. They say that I should see an improvement by the third day.

On My Foot

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The First Sock

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Friday, 6 February 2009

A Not Very Full Day

Well ... it may seem like a very empty day to healthy people with full lives ... but ...

* today at 6 a.m., I walked to the mail boxes with the dogs to pick up my medication which had to be thawed ... the instructions said to avoid freezing ... oops!

* I made a big batch of oven baked macaroni and cheese

* I read 12 pages of a friend's novel in French ... I had been avoiding it for some time ... the content I knew would be heart breaking and I was afraid I'd be reading it page by page dictionary in hand ... but I was pleasantly surprised by the ease with which I read it.

* I finished reading The Origin of Species.

*
I started re-reading the novel I want to work on for the workshop.

* I took the dogs to check the real mail ... and continued around the lake ... started to cross over but went up to my thigh in very soft snow and re-traced my steps.

* I fed the birds.

* I sent off some important e-mails to people I owed mail to.

* I started watching (again) and crying (again) over Hotel Rwanda.

Not a great deal of heavy duty work ... but better than yesterday!

* I have almost finished the first one of the first pair of socks done in an Andean wool that is variegated blues and purples. The Yarn Harlot says you must immediately cast on the stitches for the second sock or the chances of having a pair will be doubtful! So tomorrow when I finish the first sock I will follow her advice.

BTW : the medication seems to be working!

Life seems to be on its way to improving.

Great Blue Herons!

Something has finally stirred my heart ... the Great Blue Heron writing workshop from June 30-July 5 in Antigonish, Nova Scotia ... Donna Morrissey (Sylvanus Now) and Alistair MacLeod (No Great Mischief) are facilitating the fiction workshops! The total cost will be about $1000 ... and I am very tempted to say the hell with all else and run a debt on my credit card.

I think I will submit pages from a novel I haven't finished ... Lost and Found Summer is its working title.

(Barbara ... you were right ... something would eventually tug at my coat tails and say it wanted to be my next depression-chasing obsession.)

Thursday, 5 February 2009

Sick and Tired of being Sick and Tired

I called my GP today about my laryngitis and she has faxed a prescription for thrush to my pharmacy.

I am sleeping better now ... as a matter of fact, I seem to be trying to catch up on the the six weeks of almost no sleep now. It is a real effort to get dressed in the morning and I am taking frequent naps during the day.

I am also free of the salt taste in my mouth and the constant hunger.

But my eyes are straining and everything seems blurrier than it should despite frequent polishing of lenses. I see the ophthalmologist again on the 19th.

I really hope this nonsense ends soon. It has been almost two months since the first visit to the ER.

Here is the Oma's basic sauces page:

BASIC MEAT SAUCE

ONIONS, LEEKS OR SHALLOTS
cooked till golden in

OIL
+
(GARLIC)

add and brown
GROUND MEAT OR SAUSAGE
***
FLUID
+
VEGGIES
+
HERBS OR SPICES

simmered either on stove top or in oven at 350 degrees till tender and thickened ... often hours

served with

PASTA, RICE, COUSCOUS
cooked separately and either mixed into cooked sauce or used as a base

GARNISHES

SOME CHOICES USED ALONE OR IN COMBINATION


MEATS: GROUND BEEF, VEAL, PORK, LAMB, POULTRY OR SAUSAGE ... EVEN SPARE RIBS AND STEW BEEF CAN BE USED ... AND CURED MEATS LIKE PROSCIUTTO OR DICED HAM...

VEGGIES: CARROTS, OTHER ROOT VEGETABLES, ZUCCHINI AND OTHER SQUASHES,CELERY, MUSHROOMS, PEPPERS, PARSLEY

FLAVOURINGS: SALT, PEPPER, NUTMEG + HERB MIX OF YOUR CHOICE:

ITALIAN HERBS: OREGANO, MARJORAM, THYME, BASIL, RED PEPPER FLAKES, LEMON ZEST

GREEK MIX: CINNAMON, BAY LEAF, MINT, WINE VINEGAR

ARMENIAN COMBO: BAY LEAF, ALLSPICE, CUMIN, CAYENNE, CINNAMON

CURRY: FRESH GINGER, CAYENNE, CORIANDER, CINNAMON, CLOVES, CARDAMOM

HUNGARIAN: CARAWAY, PAPRIKA, THYME

FLUIDS: WINE, CANNED TOMATOES, WATER, STOCK, TOMATO PASTE, COCONUT MILK

FINAL FLAVOURINGS: LEMON JUICE, LIME JUICE, SOUR CREAM, YOGURT

GARNISHES: CHEESE, LEAVES OF PARSLEY OR CORIANDER, FRESHLY GRATED PEPPER

LEFTOVERS? FREEZE IN SERVING SIZES

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Pork Basics

PORK BASICS

The flavours in these "un-recipes" will work for either tenderloins or chops. Tenderloins cooked whole are best done in the oven or on the barbecue wrapped in foil and protected from the intense heat. Because they are so tender you can cook these with as little fluid as you wish and they need far less time than you might imagine ... 15 minutes at 400 degrees is usually enough to leave just the smallest hint of pink after searing and allowing the meat to rest before cutting will finish the cooking. They can also be sliced into medallions and marinated to be cooked on the stove top or on the barbecue grill or cooked gently in a sauce. Chops usually need a little more cooking with moist heat, but some are tender enough to be treated exactly as medallions.

You can choose to sear both tenderloins and chops or not. I think they look nicer if you do. To keep the number of pans down, start with one that can go from stove top to oven.

The basic recipe then is a choice and you decide which cooking method is right for your pork. After that I give some possibilities for rubs, marinades, sauces, bastes, and toppings. You may use only a rub or only a marinade etc. or you may mix and match but try to keep the flavours harmonious if you do.

For example, the tenderloin I cooked last night was rubbed with ground ginger, salt and pepper, sprinkled with freshly grated ginger, topped with walnuts and cranberries, and basted with gingerale. I baked it covered with foil for 1/2 hour at 350 degrees. After the cooking was complete, I kept the tenderloin warm while I scraped up the brown bits in the pan and deglazed the pan with cream which I used as a sauce when I served it. Next time I would cut the cooking time and increase the heat.

Even if the suggested ingredients do not mention salt and pepper, you will likely need them.

RUBS: ... DIJON, GARLIC, WINE VINEGAR, THYME AND SAGE
... ROSEMARY + FRESH GINGER
... GINGER
... OIL, SAGE, SAVOURY
... CUMIN, SALT, PEPPER + GARLIC SLIVERS INSERTED IN SLITS
... TED READER'S SPICE RUB (bulk recipe follows)

½ c. paprika
1/4 c. chili powder
3 T. salt
2 T. coriander powder
2 T. garlic powder
2 T. curry powder
2 T. dry mustard
2 T. sugar
1 T. black pepper
1 T. basil
1 T. thyme
1 T. cumin
1 T. cayenne




BASTES: ... APPLE JUICE + APRICOT JAM
... CHICKEN BROTH + APPLE CIDER VINEGAR + APRICOT JAM
... WHITE WINE
... GINGERALE + FRESH GINGER + CANDIED GINGER


MARINADES: . .. OLIVE OIL,PEPPER,CUMIN SEED,CORIANDER SEED + CAYENNE
... LEMON ZEST, JUICE, GARLIC, BASIL, THYME, PARSLEY, OIL


TOPPINGS: NUTS
DRIED FRUIT
APPLE SLICES
ONIONS BROWNED WITH MEAT
CARAWAY SEEDS


SAUCES/ GLAZES: ...CITRUS FRUIT OR GINGER MARMALADE + PAN DRIPPINGS
... CREAM OR YOGURT + PAN DRIPPINGS
... APRICOT JAM + PAN DRIPPINGS
... ONIONS, APPLES+ SUGAR BRAISED 5 MINUTES + STOCK + CALVADOS

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Shaking Up My Life

I have been feeling lately (ever since I started having trouble with my eye ... and especially since I started taking prednisone) that I need something to grab me by the throat and pull me right into its vortex so that the hours will fly because I am fully engaged.

I used to be a passionate person ... passionate about human rights ... passionate about teaching ... passionate about politics ... passionate about literature ...

I could be consumed by crafts or art or learning or traveling or teaching or writing or baby groundhogs.

I felt completely alive then. Now I feel as if I am putting in time waiting to get up, waiting to go to bed, waiting for the next meal ... waiting to die.

I need to be learning and growing. I can't be too comfortable, it seems. And this place is becoming just too comfortable.

I am torn between that comfort and the need for an adventure.

One of the problems, of course, is that I am getting older and I have less energy so the familiar is, like a warm bath, easy to sink into. But if you stay in a warm bath long enough it gets cold and your fingers get all wrinkly. You have to keep adding hot water and eventually you have to get out and replenish your own natural oils.

Coincidentally my horoscope was on this very topic:

GEMINI (May 21-June 20): Before she died at the age of 101, photographer Ruth Bernhard attributed her longevity to her restlessness. "Never get used to anything," she advised. I recommend that approach to you right now, Gemini. You're in a phase of your astrological cycle when thinking big and wild and free will be rewarded. To improve your physical health and boost your mental hygiene, unfamiliarize yourself with the people and things you've grown accustomed to. Sneak away from your habits. Disrupt and tamper with your normal responses. Find good excuses to be unpredictable.

So I decided this morning to do something quite out of character. I went to a shopping centre on this side of the Ottawa River. Rona was having its seniors' discount day so it was a good time to buy big logs for the fire. Here in Wakefield I can buy them for $8.29 plus tax or $9.36 a box. At the big Rona an hour away (and who knows how much gas to get there) the price per box with the old lady discount came to $8.42 per box. Because of the weight, the condition of my road and the type of vehicle I drive I could only buy 5 boxes so I saved $4.70. It would have been a whole lot easier to simply buy a couple of boxes every time I was in Wakefield anyway. Two fit comfortably on the sled and carrying 30 pounds twice is easier than facing the prospect of yet another trip to the car to make another harrowing trip down with the next load.

Since I was there anyway I decided to explore the shopping centre. . I ignored the fact that I hate to shop and plunged ahead into Winners. There was not a single thing in the entire store that even whispered "Buy me". Next stop was the stationery store. I had been meaning to buy organizational supplies like file cards and dividers for some time. So that was a pleasant experience, one that made me feel I had finally checked those items off my list without undue stress.

Then I committed the real sin ... I did the unthinkable. I went into Walmart. I was overwhelmed by stuff. Do you know they are a drugstore, a hardware, a pharmacy, AND a department store? I had a few items on my list that I bought there ... from their pharmacy ... and walnuts from their grocery shelves ... and a healthy dog treat from their pet supplies ... Then I remembered that Mud Mama said Walmart was a good place to buy wool. It was the wool that was my undoing. I spent nearly $20 on it. My total bill came to $31.49. I paid and slunk away ashamed and embarrassed. I hope all my politically correct friends will forgive me.
I promise I won't be doing it again soon.

It did not feel good to "sneak away from my habits" there. I have to find other ways to shake up my life, to be unpredictable.

Next Monday I will attend Tamarack's official opening. Maybe that will be a better way to start the process of coming back to life. The resumption of my normal vitamins might also help. While I was on prednisone I didn't want to make it harder to decide just what was a side effect of that drug and what might be attributed to anything else I was ingesting, so I stopped taking anything that was not prescribed.

So ... a toast to life and filling the well and doing the unpredictable ... but first I am going to have a nap!

The way my day starts ...

Posted by Picasa

While I am waiting for a passion to set me afire ...

You will be able for the next little while to follow my dinners ... every time I have one that can be used for Oma's Basics, I will post the basic un-recipe here. Here is salmon from Sunday evening. I used the first sauce ... yummy.

SALMON BASICS

A SALMON FILLET
topped or served with rice
+
A FAST COOKING GREEN VEGETABLE
+
FLAVOURINGS
+
A SAUCE
which could be placed raw on top of the fillet or cooked separately and either placed on top before baking or as a sauce afterwards

baked in a pre-heated "oven" on the wood stove or in a traditional oven at 400

... wrapped in parchment, or in a pan with foil covering
until it flakes easily with a fork. ,

SOME CHOICES OF SAUCE:

... 1 T. EACH MAYO, GREEN ONION AND FINELY CHOPPED ALMONDS +FRESH GINGER AND SOY SAUCE

...BUTTER, CAPERS, PARSLEY, GARLIC, SALT, PEPPER+ SHALLOTS WITH LEMON SLICES + SPINACH

... MAPLE SYRUP, SALT + PEPPER

...TOASTED SESAME SEEDS + SEPARATELY COOKED SAUCE OF BUTTER, RED ONION, FRESH GINGER, RICE VINEGAR, WHIPPING CREAM

... SOY SAUCE SUGAR, RICE VINEGAR, GARLIC, FRESH GINGER, LEMON JUICE, DRY MUSTARD

... SHALLOTS OR RED ONION CRUSHED PEPPERCORNS, DILL SPRIGS, LEMON JUICE, COARSE SALT

... DIJON MUSTARD, PARSLEY, OREGANO, THYME, FINE DRY BREAD CRUMBS

... SOUR CREAM, LEMON RIND, HONEY, DIJON, FRESH BASIL, CHIVES, DILL

...YOGURT, DILL, GARLIC, GRATED CUCUMBER

... MELTED BUTTER, LEMON JUICE, CHIVES, CAPERS

... GINGER, GARLIC, LEMON JUICE, SOY, ORANGE JUICE, HONEY, GREEN ONION

... PISTACHIOS, BASIL LEAVES, GARLIC, BUTTER, LIME JUICE, WHITE WINE

... BUTTER, GARLIC, LEMON JUICE, FRESH TARRAGON, GRATED LEMON RIND

... SALT, PEPPER, GARLIC, CAYENNE, BUTTER, WALNUTS, HONEY, THYME

... SWEET DESSERT WINE, ORANGE JUICE, CREAM

... RICE WINE VINEGAR, HOISIN SAUCE, FRESH GINGER, SOY SAUCE, HONEY, GARLIC, GREEN ONION, OLIVE OIL, ORANGE JUICE

What do you do at 4 a.m.?

I go on-line looking for mental stimulation.

Today I found Heather Mallick. I love the way she writes intelligently but in a very down-to-earth way. Her metaphors and allusions are all accessible ... and very female in this piece on the federal budget.

Some excerpts and where to find the whole essay:

What she wants in a crisis:

"Someone calm, astute, someone whose teacup isn't rattling in the saucer."

On the budget itself:

"It reads like one of my shopping lists, a document I always worry will be found on me if I'm in a car accident."

"A deficit budget that splashes cash about rather than pouring it where it is most needed."

Her summary:

"What a cheesy, small-time way to keep Canada just mucking along. During the biggest economic crisis the world has faced in a century, we have a prime minister as carpet salesman and a nail-biting Opposition leader in the back office with a cheap calculator."

You can read the whole thing here. It is worth reading.

http://www.heathermallick.ca/

Sunday, 1 February 2009

Just a Ramble on Systems

In the Kenyan news today:

"The Nakuru Municipal Council's fire engine arrived at the scene more than an hour after the explosion," said the newspaper, adding that Molo itself has no fire engine.

And I was so surprised when the same thing happened in Kakamega in 2002 or 3 ...

A fire broke out in the employee housing of the guest house which shared our entry lane. I was the first person besides our askari (guard) not living in the tiny shacks to notice the fire (up even then at 2 a.m.and startled by the light dancing outside my high window). I roused everyone in our house and, in our nightgowns, we fought the fire until our plastic pails melted into colanders sprouting water. We knew we could not save the houses but we were trying to prevent the fire from spreading to our building which was hot to the touch.

A crowd gathered at the gate, and told us we were fighting a losing battle. We didn't give up. I phoned again for help.

A fire truck finally arrived hours later. It had been dispatched by the Mumias Sugar factory. When they tried to access the well on the guest house property the technology failed. (They had already been refused water from the Kakamega source.)

I was astounded that there was no public fire protection, but of course I shouldn't have been; almost everything practical in every country I have been in in Africa is done by the people themselves.

Just as garbage is burned because there is no waste disposal system, and roads remain pitted by cavernous holes because there is no roads department, so too fires are extinguished by the people themselves or not at all.

That is not to say there is a dearth of bureaucracy. No indeed. Bureaucracy flourishes there ... and is an impenetrable morass requiring hours, sometimes days, of waiting. It helps to always travel with a novel and a journal in your backpack. I haven't dealt with all of them but the post office, the courts, the police station, the office that dispenses documents like visas and replacement ID all operate with vaying degrees of inefficiency fueled for years by bribery. After the fire, we ( a Kenyan friend who lost everything in the fire and I) refused to pay a bribe, and spent days in the local police station watching policemen sharpen pencils and drink tea.)

In contrast the hospitals which are so short of medical personnel and all supplies that they require patients to come with family members to ensure that they are bathed and fed, are models of efficiency.

The schools too are remarkably competent given the obstacles they face. And believe me, navigating their intricacies is an experience, especially if you are representing children without money.

But it is the purely practical things that just don't get done at all unless individual people do them.

And Africa is not unique. I saw tenants in Mongolia who were repairing sidewalks because it would not have been done otherwise.

I guess the only time we here in Canada experience a bit of that particular Third World reality is when a strike disables our buses or snow plows and we are forced to rely on ourselves and our neighbours.

Living out here in my hermitage I am getting used to the idea that I have to arrange road plowing and maintenance and I have now realized that the only way my garbage will get collected is if I make sure the road is easily passable. I know that I have to rely on myself for water and sewage disposal, and I have to walk a half kilometre to get my mail. There is no regular public transportation here. All of this is awkward, expensive and time consuming but I find it easier to deal with those realities than with the failures of the medical system here in the Outaouais.

On the topic of my procrastination:

The file is proving too big for dial-up. I am going to have to re-think how I post it.