Monday, September 30, 2013

The Really Wonderful Fabulous Day

This weekend was mostly about madly working on revisions on Baba Yaga 2 before sending them off to my editor Leis, and tearing out part of the garden, but in between, I managed to spend time with some of my favorite people--my friend Robin and her kids, my goddess-children Sophie (6) and Nate (5).

As regular readers of this blog will already know, the Wright clan (including hubby George, who was off coaching soccer and couldn't join us) are as much extended family as they are friends, and I don't get to see them nearly as often as I'd like since they moved about 45 minutes away some years ago.

But when we do get together, boy do we have fun!

 I picked up four little pumpkins from the local farmstand store and we decorated them with markers (way less messy than trying to carve out big ones). The (coff) grown-ups had just as much fun as the kids, and Robin and I got to chat and catch up as we all sat around the dining room table.
 I'm not sure which was cuter--Nate or his pumpkin. (And look at the chalkboard placemat on the table--I got them each one from The Artisans' Guild and Nate wrote his name!)
 Sophie may be only six, but she has a very sophisticated palate (Nate wants to be a chef when he grows up, so it is a very foodie household). She requested sunflower seeds and dried cranberries on her turkey sandwich.
 We also had apple cider and apple cider donuts from the same farmstand store. Yum! (The extra couple of donuts got sent home for Daddy, because I am just that nice.)
 Sophie and Nate showing off their chalkboard art.
 We didn't really do anything special-just hung out together and had fun. But it was still a Really Wonderful Fabulous Day and one I'll remember for a long time to come.
I hope you did something fun this weekend too!

Now I'm off to The Artisans' Guild to redo the front window with shop co-founder Ellie, then go out to lunch with her and our friend Bobbie to celebrate Ellie's [number redacted] birthday :-) After that...revisions!

Friday, September 27, 2013

Feline Friday: Cats & Books

Cats and books are two of my favorite things. (Chocolate and wine are fairly high on the list too...)

So in honor of Feline Friday, here are some pictures of some of the kitties with a few books by my favorite authors that came out recently. As usual, I HIGHLY recommend these folks (the authors, not the cats...although they are pretty cool too) and suggest you check out the books.

 Magic and Minerva can't decide who gets to read Morgan Keyes' Darkbeast Rebellion first, so they are sleeping on it. Morgan Keyes is the pen name of my pal Mindy Klasky, and this is the 2nd in her middle grade fantasy series. Don't be fooled by the "middle grade" designation--these are a great read for adults as well.
 I have read every book that Tamora Pierce has ever written--many of them multiple times. She writes stunning YA fantasy books set in amazing worlds (again, don't let the YA keep you from reading, although I also recommend these for anyone who wants to give a teen a book with strong female protagonists). Battle Magic continues the story of the young Winding Circle mages...I LOVE these books! Clearly, so does Magic the Cat. I'm pretty sure she thinks her name is on the cover...
Robin McKinley is just plain brilliant. She is another fantasy writer, and this stand-alone novel looks amazing. Shadows is set in a world where science and magic are at odds. Minerva isn't sure what she thinks about that. But I think it is going to be great!

My only problem now is deciding which one to read first! What do you think? And which one are you the most attracted to?

I haven't forgotten about trying to name the new car, by the way--I'm still trying to figure out the perfect name. If you have one you didn't mention in the previous blog, throw it into the ring!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Out with the Old, In with the New--A CONTEST to Name the New Baby!

This was what my car looked like this morning:

This is what it looks like now. MAGIC!

 That's a 2013 Honda Fit, in case you were wondering. My first actual NEW car ever. Shiny!

Of course, now I have to name it. My mom suggested Deirdre, which is the name of the protagonist in my first novel (Witch Ever Way You Can). But I'm not sure that suits the car. So, I'm going to have a contest! Go ahead and suggest a name for the car, and if I pick one, that person will win the signed book of their choice. Well? What do you think?

And just in case this isn't enough for one day, I came home to discover that my pal Bobbie had dropped off a belated birthday gift...just in case I needed another form of transportation :-)

Friday, September 20, 2013

Feline Friday

It has been a long week--expect all sorts of interesting blog posts next week telling you all about it :-)

In the meanwhile, just one more reminder that the last online class, Crystal & Gemstone Magick, starts Monday morning and you need to REGISTER NOW if you are joining me. Registration closes Sunday night at 6PM EST.

And with no further ado, I give you ADORABLE CATS!!!!!

Happy Friday!
 Samhain, who has almost forgiven me for taking her to the vet for her check up. (She is holding steady, which with long-term chronic renal failure kitties is a good thing. We're five years into treating it, which is already more than I expected to get, so I am grateful every day.) As you can see, she has no idea she is sick. She just thinks she's cute. And she is.
 Mystic and his look-alike mom Minerva guarding the cat grass from pirates. It helps that it happens to be in the middle of the perfect square of sunlight.
Four cats on the couch. On the rare occasions that they are all (or mostly all, not sure where Angus was) in the same place, it suddenly occurs to me that I have A Lot of Cats.

I hope your weekend is lovely! Enjoy the last of summer, since Fall officially starts on Sunday!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Harvest Festival

My friend Ellen and I went to the Harvest Festival at the Farmer's Museum in Cooperstown this weekend. This is one of our yearly rituals and thankfully the weather was pretty nice, although cold. If you've never heard of it, The Farmer's Museum is a great place (I first went there on a field trip as a kid, believe it or not). It is basically a late 18th/early 19th century village--most of it actual buildings preserved from the era, including a church, a pharmacy, a general store, a blacksmith and more. During the harvest festival, they also have vendors and demonstrations, and it is generally just a blast. Here is some of what we saw:
 A blacksmith's shop
 A cooper making barrels
 The alpaca sisters
 Lots of cool buildings
 Slow-roasting of a large beef roast
Wagon rides (yes, we took one).

All in all, it was a great day, and a lovely "last hurrah" for summer.

Now, I get back to work on revisions...

Friday, September 13, 2013

Rust, Rats, and a Reminder

I'm probably the only person in the country who seriously DOESN'T want a new car. I don't like switching cars and tend to drive mine until they're on the verge of death. My last car was 2 years old when I bought it, and 18 when I sold it (poor Merrie Grace couldn't manage the hills around here any more, but I sold her to people who lived in a flatter part of the state and just needed a second car for the wife). The car I have now, a Mazda Protege that I love, was 2 when I got it and is 12 now. And the car stills runs great, so I'd hoped to keep it for another couple of years. But then there is this:
 Rust--the scourge of New York State. It is caused by the salt they put on the roads to deal with the ice during the winter, and it eats away at cars like nothing else. Bah. There's quite a nice breeze through the bottom of that door, and the other side doesn't look much better.

My plan had been to replace the car before winter, but I've run into a snag: there are very few decent used cars available (due to the crappy economy and living in a small area with limited options to begin with and a bunch of people who can't afford to replace their cars until they're in the same state mine is in) and the few that are out there that are on my "list" [Mazda 3, Honda Civic or Fit, Nissan Versa...but only some years, Ford Focus, ditto, and the Hyundai Elantra] are priced almost as high as the new cars.

So I broke down yesterday and actually test drove a new Honda Fit. It was quite nice, actually, but I can't deal with the thought of paying full price for a new car (nor, honestly, can I afford to). At the moment, it looks like I'm going to try and get through another winter with my trusty rusty Mazda and hope for better results in the spring. But it is kind of discouraging.

As is the fact that I heard a noise in the walls a couple of weeks ago, so I put the rat traps out in the basement again. I checked them every day for a week, and nothing, so I figured it was a mouse. Went down last night to pick them up, and out of the four I put out, one had a dead mouse (sorry buddy), one was empty, and one had a rat in it. DAMMIT. So now I'm back to putting down traps and checking them daily, and hoping that lone rat was somehow one that just wandered in by mistake, no relation to the outbreak I had earlier in the year. (On the bright side, I haven't heard any more noises.]

What's that? Oh, you caught that, did you. Yes, I put down four traps and only told you about three. Why? Because the fourth one DISAPPEARED. Yes, you heard me. It's just GONE. VANISHED. I checked the entire basement, and I can't find it. So now I have visions of some rat with a trap on its tail, dragging the thing back off into the walls. Seriously, no clue. And it is freaking me out a little.

On a more positive note, my last (sniffle) online class, the "Crystals & Gemstones" workshop that runs Monday 23-25 is filling up fast, which makes me happy. I just finished writing it up, and I think it is going to be a lot of fun. I've got mixed feelings about giving up the classes, but I just don't have time for them now that the writing career is taking off. Don't forget to sign up soon if you wanted to take the class. Class registration
You can also still sign up for the ongoing Sabbats class if you missed it. We only have the last three Sabbats of the year to go, but all the info for the first 5 is still available, including rituals, recipes and more.

So, you have any interesting "R" words going on in your life this week?

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Frogs in a Pond

Seen yesterday in my garden pond...
 Two cute frogs, just hanging out and enjoying the sunshine.
 Another frog, pouting in the corner.
 This guy, looking intent.
 A Zen frog, meditating on a lily pad.

Not a frog :-) But I thought you'd like to know that Babylon the lizard is settling in well. (This is in his vivarium where it has been moved to a quiet cat-free room upstairs.)

Have a great day, all--anyone planning to kiss a frog?

Friday, September 6, 2013

Gemstone Class, A Big Surprise,and Samhain Pics

As many of you know, I will be teaching my last online class at my Witchcraft and Writing Workshop Loop this month. (Other than the last couple of installments of the ongoing year-long Sabbats class.) Everyone seems to be pretty excited about the upcoming Crystals & Gemstone Magick workshop, and the class is filling up fast! I have decided on a few of the gemstones I will be discussing already: crystal quartz, amethyst, carnelian, tiger's eye, and lapis. But I am taking requests for another couple of stones that people would really like to learn more about. So--if you're planning to take the class (and if you are, I'd register HERE soon), which other stones and crystals do you want to learn about? Now's your chance to tell me!

And speaking of gemstone magick, you're not going to BELIEVE what I stumbled across the other day.
These are all necklaces from my "Spirit and Potential" line of jewelry, that I made for a while to sell in a friend's shop and when I went to Pagan events. They are necklaces (and the occasional bracelet) all designed to work for a specific task: prosperity, healing, protection, peace, or love, and they're made using the stones that are best suited for that task. I was cleaning out the upstairs room [to make a place to put the lizard] and stumbled across a display box full of these necklaces that I had somehow forgotten about. See--cleaning IS good :-)

I'll talk more about these later if anyone is interested.

And because it is Friday, here is Samhain, demonstrating what happens when you try to take a close-up picture of a cat with a camera that has a dangling handle thong.

 I hope you all have a fabulous Friday and a wonderful weekend. Now, tell me which stones you want added to the class...what about black onyx? Or maybe red jasper? Or turquoise....

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

How the Harvest is Like Life: A Weedy Wednesday Confession

Gardening is one of those things you do because you love it, not because you expect a perfect result. It is sort of like life that way. You plant things, tend to them, and then you harvest the results. Some years the harvest is fabulous; abundant and lush, with glorious colors and aromas that lift the soul and overflow the plate. Sometimes, things go wrong--stuff you could have fixed if you'd done something differently, stuff that was completely out of your control.

We're in the middle of the harvest season now--both in mundane life and the pagan "Wheel of the Year," where harvests are so important, we have three holidays or Sabbats dedicated to them: Lammas (Aug 1st), Mabon/Autumn Equinox (coming up on the 22nd of this month) and Samhain, also known to many as Halloween. I often use this time of year to assess how I'm doing on my goals (both mundane and spiritual). This year, even more than most, my garden reminds me of the imperfections in my own life, which is generally going quite well, but has some places where I could have wished for a different result.

The thing is, I tend to try and accent the positive--other than the occasional falling tree or lightning-killed router--so I suspect there are people out there who think my life is perfect, just like my harvest. Because most of the time, I only show you the pictures of the pretty stuff.

So today, I'm fessing up. This year's garden harvest has been...well...not so great. Yes, I have had some successes. But in general, at least in my area, the rollercoaster weather has conspired to make for a lousy harvest.
The storms over the weekend knocked down much of the corn. Sadly, it doesn't much matter, since it didn't seem to be doing much of anything anyway.
 My tomatoes have the blight. You can see that there are very few leaves left on the plants, and the ones that are there are shriveled and brown. The tomatoes are also suffering from cracking, due to the weather changes, and simply rotting on the vine. I have plenty to eat fresh right now--one of the great pleasures of the summer--but not enough to put away for the winter.
 And unlike the other things, which I didn't have any control over (or at least, which would have taken fairly Herculean efforts to prevent), the bed below shows where I just plain ran out of the energy and time to fight the weeds. There are still carrots and eggplants struggling along gallantly, but the harvest won't be nearly as good as it would have been if I'd been able to keep up.
 For every plate of gorgeous tomatoes
 There are just as many that look like this
Because, you know, that's gardening. And life.
Still, success comes in all sizes and shapes--
And like gardening, whether we consider our harvest a good one or not depends at least partly on attitude.

Yes, this has been a frustrating year (both in the garden and in a few areas of my life). But really, I am quite blessed. Not only am I getting some wonderful food out of my garden, but unlike my ancestors--or people who farm for a living--neither my life nor my livelihood depend on my having a good harvest every single year. And for every blight or storm, there are plenty of things that have come up in abundance, and my plate is still full of wonderful gifts.

Hopefully, I will have learned a few things from this year's disasters, and will be able to prevent a few of them next year. But mostly, I'm just happy for the good tomatoes, both actual and metaphorical. My life isn't perfect, any more than my garden is (can you say GIANT RAVENOUS MOSQUITOES?), but it is still darned good. And I'll probably go on showing you  mostly the pretty side, because I like it when y'all have delusions about my perfection :-)

So--how was this year's harvest for you?

Monday, September 2, 2013

The Holiday Weekend So Far: Oh Ha

For those of you who don't live in the USA, this is a holiday weekend. Today is Labor Day, meant to celebrate workers, and ironically observed by giving everyone the day off. In short, a 3-day weekend. Huzzah!

I had big non-plans for the three days. I've been feeling really fried, and I could use a vacation on a beach somewhere (hopefully complete with a cabana boy and drinks with little umbrellas in them). Since that wasn't going to happen, my plan was to just give myself the gift of three mellow, relatively work-free days. No writing, maybe a little gardening and light jewelry making, but otherwise, just relaxation. Early to bed, sleep late, fire up the grill, have a glass of wine.

Can I just say: OH HA.

First of all, anyone who knows me could probably have predicted that I wasn't going to be able to just sit around and do nothing for three days while my to-do list was staring at me. So I started on Saturday by doing my usual weekly light cleaning--clear The Surfaces That Accumulate Stuff, sweep up enough cat hair to make another cat, tidy the kitchen, things like that. Which somehow turned into a marathon 4+ hours of deep cleaning in the kitchen, which finally just got to me. [In part, I blame the fact that I've been helping someone with a really messy house pack up to move. That always makes me a little psychotic about my clutter and mess, which is comparatively minimal.]

Then at around 4 PM in the afternoon, we got hit by the mother of all thunderstorms, complete with torrential downpours and house-shaking thunder-boomers. Those who know me well know that I am not one of those people who enjoys a good thunderstorm. (Rain storms, yes, I love to listen to the rain. Powerful electrical storms...not so much.) Besides feeling vulnerable to the wrath of Mother Nature, there is something about the way that storms affect my nervous system that makes me downright twitchy. I can tell about an hour before a storm hits if we are in for a bad one. This one hung over my house for about four hours...which didn't do much for the relaxation plan, as you can imagine.

When it started, I turned off my computer as I always do. During the first hour, when the storm was the most violent, I was sitting in the living room when I heard a weird crackle-pop-sizzle sound with a clearly electrical flavor to it. I rushed into the dining room/office (which is next to the living room and only separated by a half wall of cupboard bookcases) and checked the computer, but didn't see anything or smell burning. Went back into the living room, and a minute later, heard the same thing. I still couldn't see an issue, but I unplugged the entire power strip anyway. Twitch.

Eventually, the storm passed and I turned the computer back on, wherein it became quite clear that the sound I heard had been the router being fried. It still turned on, and all the lights blinked, but none of the other devices in the house could talk to it. My Wi-Fi was now Wi-Fried. Did I mention it was practically new? Le sigh.

So a chunk of Sunday was spent breaking my "I won't have to leave the house" plan and running to Office Max to buy a new router (why do they have so many choices? WHY?) and then installing it, and re-connecting it to the laptop, the tablet, and the Roku, all of which had to be done individually, of course. On the bright side, A) I was able to do it by myself, which is good since my computer guru brother in-law is busy getting ready for the school year to start and B) everything else seemed fine--computer, modem, etc. As far as I can figure out, my poor router threw itself on the electrical grenade and saved the rest of the equipment. So RIP, little router, and thanks. (As for you, power strip/surge protector, what the heck were you doing while this was happening?)

Then, since Sunday was supposed to be the only day of the three without rain, I went out to the garden despite the 85 degree heat and 90% humidity (not to mention the swarms of hummingbird-sized mosquitoes who were clearly completely unimpressed by my herbal bug spray, which normally works quite well) to harvest my soy beans.

If you've never grown soy beans (also known as edamame when they are grown for eating fresh, as opposed to drying), they're incredibly easy. Like any other bean, you basically throw the seeds in the ground after the last frost is over and then just ignore them until they are ready to be harvested. They tend to all mature at about the same time, so I always plant two different varieties with different maturity dates. [A note: deer and woodchucks LOVE soybeans, so if you have those critters where you live, you will want to put these behind a fence.]

Naturally, since this is the garden year from hell, ALL the soybeans matured at the exact same time, leaving me with this:
That's a lot of soy beans. I still have to strip the bean pods off the stalks (a tedious job usually done on a bunch of newspapers in front of the TV), so that's on today's agenda. Luckily, they freeze well. Fresh soybeans are really easy to cook too. Simply toss them in boiling water for 5 minutes, then pop them out of the pods. The Japanese eat them as a snack--they just salt the whole pod, then pop the soybeans out of the pod into their mouths. I do that on occasion, but I also like to throw them on top of salads, into light summer pasta dishes with fresh tomatoes and basil, or mix them into potato salad for an extra crunch. They are full of protein and have a lovely nutty taste.

I did get to harvest a few other things while I was out there fending off the bugs and dealing with the ragweed (it is VERY hard to garden and blow your nose at the same time, just sayin'). Tomatoes of various sizes and colors, the last of the broccoli side-sprouts (which are the perfect size for tossing into salads and pasta), a couple of sad cucumbers (NOT a good tomato or cuke year), some beautiful eggplants, and some fresh parsley and basil. Check it out:
Pretty, eh? I did finally get my BBQ that night--organic beef ribs from the Farmer's Market, grilled eggplant, corn on the cob, and onions, along with lettuce and some of those tomatoes topped with basil. This is the best part of having a garden--eating the freshest, tastiest produce in the world.

As for the go to bed early/sleep late part of the plan...not so much. Another storm hit this morning at about 3:45, the bright almost non-stop flashes of lightning waking me up to discover that the storm had brought me a migraine too. (Thanks storm, seriously. Frying the router wasn't enough for you? Stop trying to be such an overachiever.) There have been intermittent rumbles all morning, although the sky is now clearing at last. Let's hope it eventually takes this dratted headache with it, and that it is done for the day, not just circling around to have another go later.

Okay, enough of this. I hope you are doing something fun and/or relaxing with your weekend. I'm off...those soy beans aren't going to strip themselves. Now I just need to decide if I am going to watch a romantic comedy or start watching Lost Girl on Netflix. Which is better soy bean shucking fare, do you think?

Oh, and not to be a tease...but I Know Some Stuff you don't know :-) Which I can't tell you about, but will when I can. Stay tuned...