Friday, September 28, 2007

The Path To Autumn

Where does the path lead you?

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Pretty or Petty, or Pretty Petty?

The Bag Lady was such a good interview subject that I thought she ought to do a guest post. I was thrilled when she agreed to fill The Goat’s Lunch Pail. The goat’s happy, too.

So, without further ado, here she is:

Having been kindly asked to contribute to Leah’s blog has caused the Bag Lady all kinds of consternation. What to say? The Bag Lady knows nothing of writing or hypnosis and doesn’t even know what metaphysics means. She does, however, have a dog, and is well aware of what it won’t eat (she is all too aware of what it WILL eat, too, but promises not to share that with you!) So here goes.

The Bag Lady was recently invited to a baby shower for one of the neighbours. She is not particularly close to this new mother, but doesn’t have much of a social life, so she went.

Now, for most of her adult life, any time the Bag Lady’s friends and acquaintances have given birth, she has made them a baby quilt. The Bag Lady loves to sew, and has always felt that a home-made gift was a sign that some thought and effort went into said gift. Also some expense, as anyone who sews on a regular basis knows!

This particular neighbour and, in fact, most of the other guests, are somewhat younger than the Bag Lady, but only by 10 or 15 years (not much, says the Bag Lady) putting them in their late 20s, early 30s.
So when the new mother opened the Bag Lady’s gift, the Bag Lady was hoping for much oohing and awing, as this particular quilt is what is called a bubble quilt, which involves an incredible amount of work, and a lot of time. In fact, the Bag Lady (having not much of a social life and a lot of time on her hands) sewed most of it by hand with a needle and thread as opposed to using a sewing machine. She also personalized the quilt with the child’s initials.

So imagine her disappointment when the new mother’s response was rather tepid. She asked the Bag Lady if the quilt was made from a kit…

Needless to say, the Bag Lady, loath to explain the amount of time and effort that went into the quilt, briefly explained that, no, it was all hand-made – each square was cut out, sewn together, stuffed, then sewn together with the other squares.

The Bag Lady doesn’t want any misunderstandings here; she is only bringing this subject up because she wonders if the new mother’s response was a result of her personal feelings for the Bag Lady, or if she is truly ignorant about sewing.

Doesn’t anyone sew anymore? Is a homemade gift to be denigrated? Do all new mothers want “store-bought” for their children? Is a mass-produced toy or an outfit that every other child is wearing more desirable than a one-of-a-kind, personalized gift? Or is the Bag Lady just lonely, petty, and out of touch with the real world?

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Escaped Socks Secrets Revealed!

Ever wonder where socks go to once they make good their escape from the dryers of the world?
I have.
But now the mystery has been solved. I stumbled on this strange sight yesterday while out for a walk near a local lake.
I found three socks sunning themselves on a tree in the mid-afternoon.

Did they finally feel safe enough to finish drying?
Or was it just a rest before continuing on their journey?
We may never know.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007


I often use cayenne pepper in baking and never thought much about it other than to acknowledge it was, well, unusual.
But the other day Clare2e at the wonderful Women of Mystery blog made mention at the end of her post about accidentally using red pepper instead of nutmeg in an apple pie.

I’ve done that on purpose. I made one on the weekend that barely lasted two meals.

Hot pepper is great in hot chocolate. This was how the native South Americans before took it before the Europeans came along and added sugar. For the record, I use sugar too.

Knowing the traditional use and having eaten mole sauce, which contains chocolate, I decided to play a bit with it.
It’s lovely in brownies. The heat smoothes the chocolate and give a wee bit of an after bite. It’s very pleasant especially on a cold Canadian winter day.

It’s also absolutely stellar in gingerbread. I went to make some gingerbread last winter and didn’t have quite enough dried ginger. Rather than going out and getting some I paced a moment, drummed my fingers on the table and Ha! The obvious solution was revealed.

Ginger is hot. So’s the pepper. The trick is to get the mix right so the heat augments, not overpowers, the ginger.
I added about a one-quarter teaspoon to the mix. It worked fine and made it seem like I’d used especially strong ginger, nothing else.
I was so tickled with what I’d done it’s part of the recipe now. I’ve used up to a half-teaspoon of cayenne, but I increased the ginger to a teaspoon. If you like spicy, this is adequate. I love the hot/sweet combination and always have. We’ve got an old family recipe for mustard that uses sugar and turmeric that’ll clear your sinuses.

I find reasons to put it in other baking as it occurs to me. I’ve even thrown it in an ordinary loaf of bread.

Last winter I was taking cayenne capsules and discovered the cayenne warded off hot flashes. Sadly, my body adapted and that’s not working for me anymore.

But it still tastes good and with the autumn here and baking season upon us I’ll be finding even more uses for cayenne. Meanwhile, I may need to bake another nice, hot, apple pie.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Monday Again. More Gratitude.

Yes, I’m grateful that it’s Monday again and the start of another fresh week.

I’m happy that my husband had the day off yesterday and we-- mostly he -- got some more of the spices harvested. The living room is filled with ragweed and savory and silver mound wormwood. If you’re curious about the latter, it’s in the tarragon family and it’s absolutely lovely on chicken. I’m grateful to know that.

I’m not sure that Gratitude Monday will be a regular feature of the blog. It’s important to be grateful every day and I like the idea of mentioning it when I feel like it rather than herding it into one day a week.

Why is being grateful so important?

Because it demonstrates to the Universe that you appreciate all you’ve been given, especially if it looks like you haven’t been given much.
If you can find it in your soul to appreciate what you’ve got, then you get more.
If you’re always grasping to get more, then it suggests that you’ve got a hole in your soul somewhere. No amount of stuff will heal that hole.
Material gain doesn’t get it done. All it does is feed your greed and stunt your growth.

So, here’s an idea. Find something in your life you can say thanks for. Maybe you watched a particularly pretty sunset, or you got the chance to see a sunset. Anything. Start small and soon you’ll find even more to be grateful for.

Happy Monday.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Commenting on Comments

I’m never quite sure about responding to comments. I know how good it feels when someone responds to mine.

My readers take the time to talk to me about what I’ve written. I like that.
They’re free to let me know what they think. They can take exception to what I’ve said or agree with me.

I have been reluctant to add my words after theirs because of all my years working at newspapers. Letters To The Editor gave the readers the last word. With rare exception they ran without editorial remark. This is how it should be.
But if the letter contained information that was incorrect or completely asinine then the editor made a bracketed comment underneath for clarification.
This was rare. Often even the most asinine of comments was routinely left to stand on its own merit.

I have been blessed here. My commenters are witty, intelligent, insightful, and supportive. I like them to have the last word.

I am also lazy.

But recently the little hamster that powers my brain put some extra oomph in his exercise regime and made the wheel go all the way around. I understand now.
If I like to have my comments answered it follows logically that my commenters, many of whom have blogs I visit, feel the same way.
So I’ll try to do better in the future about responding to the people who are kind enough to let me know they’ve been by.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, my hamster needs a nap.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

CartSmart Bags -– A Shameless Plug

The Bag Lady has graciously consented to tell us all about her invention, The CartSmart Bag.

It’s an environmentally friendly, reusable, washable shopping bag that she created.

What sets it apart from all the other similar products currently available?

That’s where her creation truly shines. It’s her unique design. She has put handles on it that fit snugly over a shopping cart handle to protect your hands.

And why would you want to do that?
“Shopping cart handles harbour an unbelievable number of germs, including salmonella, e-coli, and staphylococcus,” she said. You can read more here.

She got the idea after a town in Manitoba banned plastic shopping bags.
“It literally popped into my head one morning while I was having coffee.”
Once she decided to act on it she had the design and prototype sewn in about a week.
She makes each and every bag herself.
“From cutting the fabric to the finishing touches I can have one made in a couple hours.”

She uses a variety of the sturdiest fabric she can find plus webbing for the shoulder straps. The handles that snug over the shopping cart are set at a comfortable distance for your arms and have Velcro closures.

It can be used to hold any number of things, she continued. You can put your extra shopping bags in it, purse, keys, cell phone.
“It helps protect your hands while you are out shopping, then helps you bring the groceries home.”
“You are helping the environment by reducing the number of plastic shopping bags in our landfills.”

The bags have a shoulder strap and three interior pockets, plus a key chain inside.
Some are designed with pockets on the outside as well, and she noted she’s had requests for a shorter handle rather than a shoulder strap.

Do you accept custom orders?

“Yes, to a degree. I have made several to meet specific colour or fabric requests.”
What colours are available?

“Actually, quite a variety,” she said, “And it keeps changing.”
“Right now I have several different denim patterns. I also have black, yellow, blue, burgundy, red and white gingham, and the newest is a black rose-patterned tapestry.”
“Most people don’t want exactly the same one as the next person has, so I’m always on the lookout for new fabrics.”

It’s especially convenient for the quick shopping trip. When you only need a few things, it’s often the only bag you’ll need. And you can fit plenty in it, too.
“I’ve filled mine to capacity with two, 2-litre containers of milk, lots of canned goods, etc. I could hardly lift it.”

CartSmart Bags are durable, stylish, pleasing to the eye, and very easy to care for.
“I recommend machine washing in cool or cold water, then hanging them out to dry.”
The Bag Lady’s creations have been available since late winter of this year and are already a big hit.
“So far I haven’t had any complaints, and several people have told me how much they love them. I guess the biggest compliment is from people who have been given one as a gift, then call to order a bunch to give to their friends.”

She’s shipped CartSmarts to British Columbia, Ontario, and even California.
Bags are $25 CDN plus shipping payable by money order.

For more information or to order email the Bag Lady at:

Full Disclosure – The Bag Lady, so named because she makes the CartSmart Bags, is my cousin Terry.
I have one of her bags and I absolutely love it.
I was very pleased when she consented to be interviewed for my blog.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Gratitude Monday

I am grateful that it’s Monday.

It means another week is about to begin. One, to paraphrase Anne of Green Gables, with no mistakes in it yet.

A positive response from a publisher could come in the mail or to my inbox. I might have a great writing week.

And, even after six years, I am still tickled that I don’t have to go to a job somewhere. My work is here. My office is in the living room and I can gaze out the window and see trees and birds, and even the occasional human going about its business.
I don’t have to dress up for work. Theoretically, I don’t have to get dressed at all, but if someone were to come to the door it’s best I be covered.

I can drop everything and bake a batch of brownies if the spirit moves me. I’ve done that in the past.
We had the computer in the basement when first started writing and I’d be down there for hours, tapping away. One day around 3 o’clock I decided I’d had such a good writing day that I deserved a reward so I went upstairs and made some brownies.
My husband can’t tolerate much chocolate so I did the decent, loving thing and ate most of them myself.

Anyway, another week is in front of me. I can write, or not. I can read or go for walks or a bike ride weather permitting.

I can take time to meditate or do a self-hypnosis and allow the altered state to carry me gently and logically into a really good nap.

I’m well and healthy and have a good life and a new week has opened to enjoy it.

How about you?

Friday, September 14, 2007

Look To The Sky

For the longest time I couldn’t see much in the night sky beyond the Big/Little Dippers and the Orion’s Belt asterisms. I’ve always liked to stargaze, but most patterns escaped me.

A few years ago I started getting up early and going outside and looking. I often go through my morning prayer cycle while staring up at the stars. It makes me feel big and small at the same time. It’s also a tad hard on the neck. I don’t care, though, especially now that I can see more constellations.

Eventually I learned how to look. I needed to take the bigger view so I could see beyond the belt to the whole hunter.
The Pleiades are close by, but very hard to see if you look right at them. Use your side vision to see the Seven Sisters and they’ll show nicely.

I’d read that the Bull was somewhere near the Hunter and the Seven Sisters, but I could never get a bead on it.
Eventually I found the main red star, Aldebaran, but couldn’t out together the V shape of the Hyades.
Then one day I did. And then I saw what appeared to be a calf in the sky with the V as its head.
The Hunter uses his shield to ward off Taurus while his dog Sirius is at his heel. Finally, I got it.

These patterns are easy to spot this time of year. Orion and the Pleiades are high in south-southeast and the Bull’s head is right between them. The V and Aldebaran draw the gaze in.

I couldn’t see them for the longest time because I was trying too hard. Looking too intently. Then one morning a few years ago I stepped outside thinking of something else and the V was obvious.

Now, each September I look skyward in the early hours and find them and am reminded: stop trying so hard.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Random Thoughts

Today is the 34th anniversary of the other September 11th. The democratically elected President of Chile, Salvador Allende, was overthrown in a bloody coup in 1973.
The US was behind it.
General Augusto Pinochet was installed. Bloodshed, terror, and disappearances ensued. Thousands were murdered.
When we take a moment to think of the horrors of this day, let’s spare a thought for the Chileans, too.
It’s abundance cheque time again. I’ve been writing them for a year now. My life is good.
For now, today, given the anniversaries of terror and bloodshed, I think I’ll ask for an abundance of compassion and common sense in the world.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Some Psychics Leave Me Cold

I’ve been thinking about consulting a psychic, just to see what’s going on in the inner realms. I can pick up enough of it myself, I think, but it’s always good to get another view. The trouble is there are so many frauds and fakes out making a killing off the gullible that it’s put me off.

Some readers are very good. They’re clearly gifted and they want to help. They know it’s what they were put on earth to do. Others, well, not so much.
The out-and-out liars wish only to relieve you of the burden of a too-full bank account. The well-meaners honestly think they have a gift, but are only reading human nature.

I’ve run across both and consider it part of my education. But the best education ever came from reading about the psychic’s standby, cold reading.
That’s a method where a reader tells a client many, many things he or she allegedly could not have known.
Quick assessments are made on the client’s age, dress, manner of speaking, and general carriage, then fed back as insight.
You can get the dirt here.
Follow the links. It’s fascinating.
And more here

And you might enjoy this. According to James Randi, psychic fraud buster who runs the James Randi Education Foundation, some well-known psychics don’t meet his sniff test for psychic gifts.

In essence a cold reading is made of vague statements that could apply to anyone at anytime.

“You’re having trouble with a relationship. You know what needs to be done, but you’re reluctant to do it because security is important to you. You need to know you’ll land on your feet.”


“You have some money worries, but they’re not too bad. I can see them ending. Soon!”


“I see a problem with an authority figure. Hmmm I don’t know . . . a teacher . . . no, wait someone closer. Is it your dad? Or your spouse?” (Voice trails off as gifted reader stares into nothingness beyond your shoulder or at Tarot deck.)

You’ve just had some ideas tossed out and you pounce. You answer the question and the reader turns it around and offers it up as insight plucked fresh from the psychic realm.

No, buddy, that’s what I just told you.

Based on your age you could be having troubles with education, puberty, middle age, your marriage or a relationship, your aging parents, your job, your finances, your health, or any combination thereof.
The reader will fire out a few guesses and wait until you bite. Even if you don’t say word, your physical reaction will give it away.

Even though I made up those quoted readings some of it will fit some of you somewhere. And in the above list, is there anyone who hasn’t had a problem any of these areas?
Oh, if you’re worried about someone who’s crossed over, rest assured s/he’s not in any pain anymore and is happy and loves you very much. At least, that’s what you’re going to be told.

Here’s a cold reading that’ll fit most almost anyone.

One of my tests to determine a real from a fake was if s/he gave something specific. Then I found this at Straight Dope Staff Report.
Scroll down toward the bottom and you’ll find this:

"I'm seeing the end of August, maybe the twenty-sixth of August or a date close to that, which I think is significant for you, and a man – let me think – a man related to you, who wears glasses."

Were this fed to me during a reading I’d call it a hit. I might even be impressed with the reader’s apparent skill. That’s because my late boss, Brian Mazza, wore glasses and his birthday was August 26.

This explanation followed: “That sounds very specific, but think how much scope such a statement leaves for interpretation! Almost any date from August 20 to August 31 will do. It could be a birthday, death date, anniversary, vacation, social function, or important decision. It could be significant personally, socially, or professionally, every year or just one particular year. The man could be a husband, partner, brother, relative, friend, colleague, doctor or plumber (the word "related to" is pretty ambiguous, isn't it?). He could be alive or dead, well known or a distant acquaintance. In short, there are countless ways that the subject might interpret this comment as a hit.”

I had to laugh when I found that. It’s put me off even more.

I’ll probably still go, but I’ll be even warier of what an alleged psychic says to me.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

I Love This Result

Here's a quiz from Blue Pyramid that you might enjoy. I know I did.
If you've ever wondered what book you are ...

I'm To Kill a Mockingbird!

by Harper Lee

Perceived as a revolutionary and groundbreaking person, you have
changed the minds of many people. While questioning the authority around you, you've
also taken a significant amount of flack. But you've had the admirable guts to
persevere. There's a weird guy in the neighborhood using dubious means to protect you,
but you're pretty sure it's worth it in the end. In the end, it remains unclear to you
whether finches and mockingbirds get along in real life.

Take the Book Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Wake Up Call With A Twist

I’ve had some different wake up calls over the years.
I mean this literally.
If I want to awaken at a certain time it commonly happens. Often it’s a natural progression, but a few times there’s been outside help.

A few days ago I decided I wanted to be up at 5 a.m. I’d been sleeping in, if you can call 6 a.m. that, and I wanted to get back on track. I have a better day when I’m up early.

So before I went to sleep I told myself to wake up then. The next morning I heard a deep, if slightly distorted, voice from the vicinity of my left ear say my name.
The distortion was similar to a tape being played as the batteries are nearly spent, slow, low, and barely discernable. I didn’t hear the “L” sound, but I heard “eeeaaaahh” and filled in the rest myself. It was exactly five o’clock.

Today’s had an interesting twist. I need to bake bread for my husband today and neglected to leave myself a note last night as a reminder. Instead I told myself I’d remember. This usually works.

But just to make sure today at 5:30 a.m. I got a bit of a boost. I was in that lovely half world between wake and sleep when I heard the bread machine go through one rotation of the knead cycle.
It was clear, loud, distinct, unmistakable, and came from the kitchen. It made me smile. I got up at 6 o’clock and left myself a note. I’ll get the bread going in a while.

Thank you, Spirit.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Staying Sharp

Don’t people do anything for themselves anymore?

Last night as I was putting away the food processor after having made a batch of fake sour cream I realized the blade needed sharpening.
The carrots and beets are due in from the garden soon and they need to be frozen. Chopping is part of the deal and the sharper the blade the better the result.
So I did what I have doing for more than 40 years -- I got a sharpening stone and did it myself.

I have two such stones. They’re flat and gray and originally belonged to my late Uncle Gil, a dentist. They were part of his dental tools. I don’t know whether he got newer, better ones or what, but he didn’t need these particular stones any longer so he gave them to my dad when I was eight.

Dad showed me how to sharpen a knife shortly thereafter and I took to it. It’s fun and it’s satisfying. I have a great sense of accomplishment from turning a dull blade into a fine edge in a matter of moments.

When I was 10 dad gave me one of the stones and I’ve always had it with me. I’ve kept the knives keen wherever I lived.

But once I did let things go. One day in the latter part of the 1990s my parents were visiting for Thanksgiving and dad set about chopping the ingredients for the stuffing.

I was busy close by when I heard a kind, if disappointed, voice, “Leah, this knife is terribly dull.”


Dad put the edge on that knife for me, but never again have I let any knife under my care get dull.

I have his sharpening stone now too and I have no clue which was whose, but I was using one of them yesterday when I wondered how many other people would do this themselves?
Many people sharpen their own knives though it’s unlikely that many of them use a dental stone to do it
But a blade on a food processor? No, I bet that gets sent out to a pro.

My guess is the chief difference between me and the pro is technique. The pro likely does a downward pass on one side of the blade then flips it over and does a pass on the other side and continues back and forth until done.
I do one side at a time and use an up and down motion. It’s what my dad did, and it’s how he taught me to do it, and my edges can carve a translucent slice from a ripe tomato.

I also wondered if people know it’s okay to sharpen a serrated-edged knife? If one side is flat, you sharpen the flat side. It’s that simple.

Taking care of knives is also simple, but like so many simple things in life we’ve surrendered them to the pros because we’ve forgotten that we can do it ourselves.

Monday, September 3, 2007


I killed off a useless meditation in my WIP the other day. It had to be done.

Originally I thought it was very useful.

I have had this particular meditation around for years and it doubled as deepener. That’s a method for enhancing a relaxation to induce a deep state of hypnosis.
Deepeners often use a counted level method such as riding down an elevator, or visualizations, or both. This one had a combination.

And now, four manuscripts after having cooked up the thing I still can’t find a place for it.

I’ve added it in to each of my manuscripts and then taken it out. In the first ms it didn’t last long as I came up with it late in the writing and it truly was superfluous.
It was great in the second manuscript. It stayed until near the end of the third pass before I finally had to admit it wasn’t right.
Ditto the third manuscript.

And now the end has come again in number four. It was in the first version of the fourth manuscript and I killed all of it off in June. I added it back in version 4.1 and it stayed for a bit more than two months.

I want so much to use it. I’m proud of it. But so far all it does is kick up my word count.

Sigh. Maybe it’ll find a home in my next manuscript.