Foster

19 Feb
Chewbacca, a 6 year old Shih Tzu foster

Chewbacca, a 6 year old Shih Tzu foster

I like dogs more than most people. They have their priorities in order, live in the moment and teach us what it means to be human. 
In my former life I took care of people with heart disease. My job was important, all-consuming and never dull. Despite the incredible workload and stress, I knew I was giving back in a unique way and making a difference to the world around me, patients and co-workers alike. 
Now I write novels, which has given me a chance to explore my creative side, a part of me I ignored for too long. But it’s a solitary activity, sitting on your ass in front of a monitor all day. You live inside your head with your characters, a self-absorbed practice that can make you anti-social. Add to that cold winter weather, and many days go by where I haven’t stepped outside in several days, except to have my evening cocktail and smoke the odd cigarette — gasp, yes, I even do that occasionally — and to throw some food at the birds and squirrels in my backyard.
But I’m aware something is missing in this empty nest of mine, so I’ve decided to become a volunteer foster parent to dogs from my local animal shelter. It’s a charity close to my heart. I have time on my hands, own a big house and fenced yard and I miss walking dogs.
Chewbacca will be with us for a few weeks. He is scary skinny, and needs some meat on his bones. Whereas, I’m on a perpetual diet. If only I could give him some of my fat. But alas, the universe doesn’t work that way. 

Valentine’s Day: Love it or Hate it

11 Feb
Photo courtesy Jet's Pizza, www.jetspizza.com

Photo courtesy Jet’s Pizza, http://www.jetspizza.com

There are lots of reasons to hate Valentine’s Day, especially if you’re single. Amidst all the hype of promised romance, heart-shaped chocolate boxes, flashy diamond rings, flowers and lingerie, this ‘holiday’ can make you feel lonelier than ever and excluded from The Love Club.
My daughter hated Valentine’s Day for years, because her rocky personal life always seemed to leave her without a boyfriend around the middle of February. Now that she’s happily involved with someone, she’s making up for lost time. God help her significant other if he doesn’t do The Valentine Thing up to expected standards. 
Therein lies my problem with this holiday. Not only can it leave you gagging on all the contrived sentiment, but your partner’s best intentions could leave you feeling disappointed. I saw a commercial the other day that made me smile. A local pizzeria, in honor of Valentine’s Day, is offering heart-shaped pizza. I can’t figure out how I feel about this. Heart-shaped pizza? What does that say about a relationship? So your guy can pick up the phone and order out. Big deal. At least flowers are associated with love. Intrinsically speaking, there’s nothing about pizza that makes me think of love. Heartburn, maybe. 
Usually my husband buys me a nice card plus flowers or chocolates (unless I’m on a diet, then he’s limited to flowers). I don’t think I’ve ever received jewellry for Valentine’s Day, simply because it seems a bit over the top, and if I’m going to get jewellry I get it at Christmas or on my birthday, which is at the end of February and therefore overshadows Valentine’s Day. I reciprocate by buying him a nice card and chocolates or maybe a single red rose. And we might go our for dinner. 
So on the plus side, Valentine’s Day is a way for us to make a date to spend time together, and give each other reminders of how we feel. But that can happen any time of the year, not exclusively on one day in the middle of the winter. 
In her article in The Huffington Post, Susan Kraus, a therapist and mediator,  says, “Use Valentine’s Day to make your relationship stronger.” She suggests that Valentine’s Day can be a way to celebrate and acknowledge our commitment to our partners in life by taking time to ask some seldom asked questions (from a list of 10) instead of the usual, once-a-year flamboyant gestures or gifts. For example, “Tell me something that I did for you or with you this past year that made you really happy.”
I think it’s a good idea. And much more meaningful than heart-shaped pizza.
 

Going Squirrelly

10 Jan
It’s been over a year since our dog Sam died and I miss him still. We buried his ashes in the garden he loved and watched over for us. Now that he’s gone, the critters he so diligently kept away from our yard have returned in full force — birds, rabbits, squirrels, chipmunks and raccoons. They seem to take great pleasure in frolicking across his memorial stone (“Ding Dong the witch is dead”). Ah, the circle of life.Black-squirrel-eating-a-peanut-in-the-snow
Because of my love for animals and the lack of any pets to care for, I’ve taken to feeding these same critters Sam hated. Winters in the north are hard and long. And if I don’t feed the squirrels they’ll eat the bird seed. Besides, they’re cute.
I did a little research and found a recipe for squirrel cookies. I know what you’re thinking. 
Squirrel cookies?
IMG_2111
Recipe courtesy of http://www.squirrelnutrition.com/
There’s a long list of what squirrels shouldn’t eat, and too much peanuts and dried corn aren’t good for them. So I gathered the ingredients for the squirrel cookies, which include a lot of vegetables, baby rice cereal, pecan meal and alfalfa. The recipe called for North Atlantic Cod Liver Oil. I could only find Norwegian. I don’t know what the difference is, but I don’t think the squirrels care. 
The sad fact is, these squirrels eat better than I do. I can barely wash down Omega 3 capsules … I definitely wouldn’t want to try Cod Liver Oil.
But my eating habits (and the other vices I’m struggling with this New Year) are fodder for another blog … 

 

 

A Grumpy New Year

31 Dec
Photo courtesy holidaywishes.net

Photo courtesy holidaywishes.net

On this New Year’s Eve, I wish you these few small blessings:
Pens that work.
Photographers that understand the basket of toys next to their camera are there to try to elicit smiles from small children. Let’s face it, even a monkey can press a button on a camera.
Plum sauce for your take out egg rolls. 
Glass that doesn’t break in the frame you are trying to put your favorite poster into.
And last but not least, don’t mistake an iphone for an ipad when trying to sync a song from iTunes. 
May all your resolutions be successful!
Yours in Grumpiness,
Happy New Year xo

A Grumpy Christmas

19 Dec
Alastair Sim as Scrooge. Courtesy of Times Colonist

Alastair Sim as Scrooge. Courtesy of Times Colonist

On this date 171 years ago Charles Dickens published his novella, A Christmas Carol, and introduced us to one of the most miserable, miserly grumps who ever lived–the infamous Ebenezer Scrooge. Hundreds of adaptations of this Christmas ghost story have been created since that time in every form imaginable, including film, television, opera, stage and animation. The book itself has never been out of print and remains popular almost two centuries later.
Last night on Turner’s Classic Movie channel (one of my favorites!) two Scrooge films were featured: 1935’s Scrooge starring Seymour Hicks and 1970’s Scrooge starring Albert Finney. I enjoyed Seymour Hicks performance as Scrooge, but the film itself lacked the emotional impact I was hoping for. Albert Finney is one of my favorite actors but his 1970 Scrooge film is actually a musical, which struck me as an odd way to interpret the story. I have to wonder if the success of Oliver!, the 1968 musical that garnered 14 Academy Awards the year before (including Best Picture) was the main reason the producers chose to jump on the musical bandwagon for this adaptation of Scrooge. Except I kept comparing it to Oliver! which I vividly remember seeing at the movie theatre when I was 12, and Finney’s film couldn’t compete.
Everyone has a ‘must see’ movie at Christmas; for Christmas isn’t Christmas without it. For my husband (and his three brothers and three sisters) it was The Sound of Music. For me, the movie is 1951’s A Christmas Carol starring Alastair Sim. My father and I would watch this movie every Christmas, and the first time I saw it I shivered in my slippers. Everything from Sim’s portrayal of Scrooge to the three ghosts to the soundtrack to the plot is absolutely mesmerizing. Ebenezer’s transformation on Christmas morning still brings me to tears.
Yes, the film is old, black and white and the special effects are dated … but if you are in the mood for Dickens at Christmas, dig up this old classic featuring the world’s most famous Grump. You won’t be disappointed. 
  

The Trouble with Take Out

4 Dec
I ordered greek souvlaki take out the other day for a family occasion and was very pleased when they told me the salad dressing was in a separate container, since I’d actually forgotten to ask them to do that. So many times when I ask for the dressing in a separate container, restaurants neglect to do it. It’s a no brainer, not to put dressing on a take out salad, isn’t it? Who likes limp lettuce?  
Photo courtesy of: savesomegreen.us

Photo courtesy of: savesomegreen.us

I drive 30 minutes to my daughter’s new home and after guzzling a few glasses of wine, it’s time to eat. We unwrap our dinner and everything looks amazing, except there’s no tzatziki, which is my favorite part of souvlaki. I was very bummed, especially since I gave them a generous tip, which I know people don’t usually do with take out orders, and I’m sure my husband would be pissed if he knew that, LOL. The dinner was delicious, and I tried not to obsess about the missing tzatziki, and everyone said not to worry about it — HA — but it seems everytime I order take out, something is missing or messed up. 
At my local fast food outlets (not mentioning any names) I’m now in the habit of checking everything in the bag down to the last straw and napkin. I’ve received missing items or other people’s meals so often it’s just a necessary evil. 
Now the same thing is happening with higher end restaurants. 
I called them the next day and very nicely asked if the tzatziki was included with souvlaki, and they of course said ‘yes’. They were naturally appalled that the tzatziki was missing, said it wasn’t possible because they remember distinctly putting it in the bag and it wasn’t in the back fridge, so they couldn’t understand what happened. 
Which is another way of saying it must be my fault. That I’m delusional, that somebody in my family decided to play a prank and throw it in the garbage before dinner, that I have nothing better to do than call up restaurants to complain the next day.
“Why didn’t you call us right away? We would have delivered you another one.”
I don’t believe that for a minute, but it’s nice of them to offer. They also offered to reimburse me for the cost of the tzatziki, but I declined. I hung up feeling it was somehow my fault. Maybe I am crazy. Maybe I dropped it on the way out of the restaurant — SPLAT — and didn’t notice. <Sigh>

Giving Thanks

22 Nov

As American Thanksgiving approaches it’s the perfect time to be grateful for our blessings. Here’s a list of what I’m grateful for:
My wonderful family and friends, and all the dogs I’ve had the priviledge of loving.
My physical health. As each year passes my body gently reminds me that I’m not as young as I used to be, so I also appreciate my aquafit bootcamp teacher at the local public pool. She’s a dragon but I know that investing in exercise now will prevent my joints seizing up later.
My mental health. I was fortunate to find an excellent psychiatrist who literally saved my sanity eleven years ago. Thanks to new awareness of the debiliating effects of depression and anxiety, I can actually say that out loud.
My new kitchen. After almost 20 years we finally invested in a new kitchen pantry and L-shaped island counter and I love it!
And finally, on the lighter side, I’m thankful for Judge Judy. She metes out justice and says things most of us only think about and wish we could say!
Wishing my American friends a blessing-filled Thanksgiving :)

A Writer’s Retreat — Day Five

15 Nov
"Apres la Tempete" by Horace Champagne Pastel on Paper

“Apres la Tempete” by Horace Champagne
Pastel on Paper

Took a break from our keyboards and drove to St. Sauveur, Quebec for lunch and some shopping. I took pictures with my iPhone but they didn’t turn out that great, so please enjoy this beautiful picture by Quebec pastelist Horace Champagne of St. Sauveur after a winter storm.
I enjoyed hearing French being spoken — although I was born and raised in Montreal, I’m an anglophone — and I practiced my French with the sales people in the stores, but as soon as they heard my horrible accent they switched to English. Not sure whether to be grateful or insulted, LOL.

 

A Writer’s Retreat — Day Four

13 Nov
002I get a little cabin fever when I’m inside too long, so I decided to go for a walk today without a map and my uncharged cell phone. Bad idea, since I had no clue where the paved trail led or how long it was. 
When I was 5 years old I got lost in the woods. We lived in the country, and this was back in the day before Helicopter Moms and Neighbourhood Watch. Kids were let loose in the world to fend for themselves. No car seats, no seat belts, no bike helmets. Go outside and play, kid. Don’t come back until lunch time. 
The woods across the road beckoned me and I decided to just enter a few steps, turn around and come back. I can still remember the creepy feeling of glancing backwards and realizing that the forest floor looked different than it did two seconds earlier. My grandmother eventually found me and all was well. But I don’t have a good sense of direction and the woods can creep me out. 
Fast forward to my walk today. After 40 minutes it became clear I’d bitten off more than I could chew, and started to get tired. Nature has a way of setting my imagination free, and after another mile I had been chased by a pack of wolves, mauled by a black bear and attacked by a deranged jogger. All in my head. 
But the universe is kind, and I came across a friendly trio of fellow hikers who happily informed me that the village was only 20 minutes further ahead and all downhill. 
I stopped and had a drink from a spring gushing down the mountain. Best water I’ve ever tasted. I wish I could have taken a picture but my cell phone had died a few miles back.
And because my creative juices were now gushing just like that water, I also plotted the first third of my next book. 
Alls well that ends well.

A Writer’s Retreat – Day Three

13 Nov
Pink Mouse

Pink Mouse

Green Mouse

Green Mouse

I may not be making the page count on my manuscript, but at least I’m blogging! It’s difficult to concentrate on writing because my friend Selena Robins’ psychadelic mouse keeps changing colors. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
The housekeeper arrived to give our little nest some tidying up. I’m sure her eyes popped out of her head when she saw the amount of empty wine bottles in the recycle bin. We didn’t stay long enough to find out.
We drove to check out the local casino but it was closed. Just as well, I always lose money at the slots. We went to the village and enjoyed fish and chips at a local pub. A lot of the stores are closed because it’s officially off season. The fall colors are over and ski season hasn’t begun yet. 
After an afternoon nap I did some research on the setting for my book and chose the names of my two protagonists. Progress.

 

 

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