Sunday, December 31, 2006

Happy New Year's Eve!

      Sorry I've been gone. I'll talk about why I was gone after the first of the year. Not much else has been going on here. Just work, holiday stuff and so on. I've been re-reading Darkness, Oklahoma and making notes and jotting down ideas for scenes and working on the outline to answer all the questions I've raised in the plot. I've got to stay ahead on the plotting and outlining to keep my writing plan on track in the new year.
      I only have one New Year's Eve tradition, and it's that I listen to the following song by Barry Manilow. So here I am sharing it with you. Happy New Year to everyone who graces my blog: Crystal, Randall, Michelle, Trixie, Frenized Feline, Erudite Redneck, Night-Rider, Jaime, Joel, Slim, Gloria, Nancy, Holly, Rain, Roen, AmberClear, K.J.C., Jean, G.Smith, Leelee, and everyone else. Thank you for dropping by. May the New Year bring you peace, love and joy!



It's Just Another News Year's Eve
By Barry Manilow
BestAudioCodes.com

Thursday, December 28, 2006

After Christmas

      Did you have a good Christmas? I did despite everything. Christmas Eve, my friend Randall stopped by. We watched your typical Christmas movies -- Robocop, Aliens, Forbidden Planet, etc.; nothing says Merry Christmas like blood, bullets and alien mayhem -- until two in the morning, then I went to bed while he suffered on my too-small couch. (Belatedly I realize I should have offered to sleep on the couch so he could have my bed. Sorry, Randall.)
      Randall left around noon Christmas Day after we watched another movie. (Randall doesn't have cable at his home so he likes to spend quality time with my remote when he visits.) After he left, I went over my friend K.J.'s house and had Christmas dinner with him and his lovely wife and family. A lot of family. Their children, his and her parents, and her sister and brother-in-law and their children. Good food, good conversation and good times.
      Then I went home and napped between watching old movies on Turner Classic Movies. That was my Christmas day. And it was fine.
      Actually Christmas is still going on for me. Tonight my siblings and most of their families will be arriving at my house for a Christmas gathering. They will return to their own homes tomorrow. Because of my back, I am unable to travel very far -- sitting in the car is terribly painful and eventually my right side goes numb -- so they all decided to come here. They're staying in a hotel tonight, and then we will have breakfast and maybe lunch together before they head back to eastern and northwestern Oklahoma.
      We haven't had Christmas yet with Mikey and his mom, but hope to this weekend. Mikey might be coming to stay with us for a couple of days starting with New Year's Day. I hope so. I miss the little guy. Naturally we have plenty of presents under the tree for him. I ... uh ... sort of overbuy for him. Hey, I like toy shopping. It's fun.
      New Year's Day is also when I kick off my new writing plan. My intent is to add several thousand words to Darkness, Oklahoma and to get Murder at the Witch's Cottage sent off to a couple of publishers before I have to start directing The Vigil for the local theater group in February. The Vigil will take up my time until the last weekend in March, and then I will take up the writing schedule again with the aim of finishing Darkness, Oklahoma by the end of May. I'll spend June editing and polishing it. The first week of July, it will go to my first readers -- Crystal, Frenzied Feline, Randall and Michelle (Yes, I know you volunteered months and months back, but I'm figuring it's still valid) -- for their comments and corrections. I'll spend the rest of July editing it, and then it will be mailed to a publisher and/or agent on my birthday in July, a great present to myself.
      In among that, I will be writing on Dragons Gather, mailing Murder at the Witch's Cottage off to other play publishers if it -- God forbid -- gets rejected, finishing a humor book titled How I Fell In Love With A Floozy And Other Stories and that I intend to self-publish, continuing to publish the family newsletter, and finally finishing and editing the play Figments.
      When Darkness, Oklahoma is mailed off in July, I'll aim the writing schedule toward Dragons Gather. I'd like to finish it by end of the year. I will also be participating in National Novel Writing Month in November again, this time with an outline and better story. Not that I've completely given up on Tin Man Dark, but I doubt that I can save more than a few thousand words of what I wrote on TMD. There are some cool ideas in TMD and a couple of strong characters, but the plot makes no sense, the bad guys are bad for the sake of being bad, the love affair is clumsy and unbelievable, etc. I might not be able to salvage it or it might not be worth my time to try. We'll see how it goes.
      My NaNo novel for 2007 will be Red Hot Sinner Man. I wrote a couple of scenes for it a couple of years ago, but never worked on a plot or anything else concerning it. It's a contemporary novel, no fantasy, no science fiction. Just a funny (I hope) and heartwarming (I really hope) story of office workers and how they learn to live life fully.
      Sounds busy, doesn't it? Maybe overwhelming. But I have the tasks cut up into smaller bits each day. I think it's all possible. I can do it. I will do it ... I hope ... barring unforeseen things, of course and all the usual weaseling ... Talk to you later!

Monday, December 25, 2006

Christmas 2006

Table of Contents

1. Intro
2. Recipes by Michelle
3. A Star's Tale
4. The Christmas Story
5. A Christmas Prayer

Intro

      Merry Christmas! I hope your day has been filled with light and love. But just in case it wasn't, please know that it isn't the end of the world. We put a lot of pressure on Christmas by expecting it to be more than what it is. And what it truly is, is a remembrance of Christ's birth. All the other stuff -- the gifts, the family gatherings, the endless commercials that show the perfect lives that no one really has -- all that stuff is illusion. The only important thing to remember is that Christ was born and that He choose to come to this fallen world because He loves us. It's as simple as that. We are loved. You are loved. That's the true Christmas message.

Recipes from Michelle

      Michelle of Soul Patches posted these delicious recipes in comments on this blog. I thought I would share them here. Enjoy!

Potato Cheese Soup

5 lbs Potatoes peeled, washed and cubed
1 white Onion chopped
1/2 stick of butter
Milk
White pepper and salt to taste
Chicken bouillon to taste (I usually use 2 large cubes)
4-8 oz Velveeta (depending on how cheesy you want it)
Cheddar cheese
Parmesan

      Saute onion in butter until transparent. Fill pot with potatoes and water just to cover. Add sauted onion, salt and pepper and bouillon. Bring to a boil and let simmer until potatoes are tender. Add Milk until broth looks creamy. Simmer for another ten minutes. Add Velveeta and Parmesan until melted. Add cheddar before serving (so as not to curdle the cheese). Serve with some fresh baked bread and a salad. Yum!

Snickerdoodles

      This recipe says it makes 4 dozen but I usually get about 6 dozen.

1 1/2 cups sugar
1 stick margarine or butter
1/2 cup shortening
2 large eggs
2 1/2 cups flour
2 ts cream of tartar
1 ts baking soda
1/4 ts salt
cinnamon/sugar mixture (set aside)
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon

      Heat oven to 400. Cream butter, eggs, shortening and sugar. Add flour, cream of tartar, salt and baking soda to form dough. Roll into 1 inch balls and roll in the cinnamon sugar mixture to coat. Bake 8-10 minutes. I usually under-cook them a little to keep them softer longer. I like my cookies chewy.

Refrigerator Fudge

      If you aren't into candy baking like me, then this is a great way to get creamy fudge in just a couple easy peasy steps.

2 pkgs semi sweet chocolate chips
2 cans sweetened condensed milk

      Mix both ingredient in a microwaveable bowl. Microwave in 3 minute increments to ensure that you don't scorch the mixture. Once it is thoroughly melted and mixed, pour into a glass baking dish (greased with cocoa powder to prevent sticking) and put in the fridge. In a couple hours, you have rich and creamy fudge.
      You can sprinkle the top with crushed candy canes, nuts or broken up candy bars to make it look festive.

4. The Star's Tale

      So I was hanging around the sky, when one of the Host appeared to me. I flared before I got control and dampened my corona. To say I was shocked was an understatement. I was a minor star, not one of the big reds or the blazing blue-whites. Bertha, a red supergiant in the system next to mine, liked to point out my complete insignificance in the general Scheme of Things. Bertha was older and positive that the whole shebang depended on her lighting the way.
      "You'll never be more than a dwarf," Bertha had told me more than once.
      "Ignore her," Clarence would tell me. Clarence was young, barely out of the nursery. He was blue-white and already carried a system larger than Bertha's.
      The seraphim drew close, its radiance overwhelming mine. "I am sent by the Source," she said calmly. "A great Task has been appointed unto you."
      The Messenger of the Source said the Source had asked that I Burn at a particular time to fulfill a portion of His mighty and unending work.
      "I am His to command," I said, frightened and puzzled. "But I have not the needed mass to Burn."
      "That which you need, you will be given," the seraphim said. She drew close to me. "Know you that The Rebel will oppose this. Be strong. Be steadfast. For the sake of love, the Source is bringing about a great work, and you have been Chosen to play a part. You are Blessed among the lights."
      "She smiled gently and went away, leaving me dazzled and dazed.
      "I can't believe she didn't talk to me!" Bertha fumed when she was certain the seraphim was gone. "I am more worthy!"
      "Congratulations," Clarence said, ignoring the big red. "It is a great honor."
      I was silent, thinking of the Source and what had been requested. Eons passed. The time approached for me to attempt to Burn -- even though I knew it was impossible.
      A Being approached me then. This one burned darkly, a rolling black nebula.
      "I am Serpenta," the Being said. "I greet you, little star."
      "I know who you are," I said, feeling my core quake. "Be gone. I will have traffic neither with you nor The Rebel."
      "Oh, little star, you wound me," Serpenta said. "I noticed your lovely light and came to bask in it. That is all." He paused. "I wanted to visit you before you Burned. It's a shame a beautiful star like you would be asked to do such a thing."
      "The Source asked me, and I am obedient," I said. "Depart."
      "Ah, but it wasn't the Source, was it?" Serpenta said. "He sent one of the Host, a lesser being to command you. If this is so important, why didn't He come Himself?"
      "He made me," I said. "I am His to command."
      "Of course, you are," Serpenta said, circling me in a lazy orbit. "And He did make you. But what has He done for you lately? Do you have children? Do you burn with fierce, fantastic heat? Do the comets give themselves to you in worship? No, my astra, no. He made and forgot you, just one among all the others. And now He seeks your Burning for the sake of tiny creatures that don't even worship Him."
      "What?" I gasped. "They don't worship Him?"
      "They are fallen," Serpenta said. "They ignore Him, they curse Him, they turn their backs to Him. To think that one as brilliant as you would be asked to make such a sacrifice just to mark His Son's birth! How dare He ask that of you!"
      "His Son's birth?!" Prominences flared across me.
      "Yes," Serpenta said. "He is allowing His Son to take the form of these worthless humans. He is heartlessly sending His Son away. You have no children worlds, no sister suns, nothing in the void, but if you had worlds, you would cherish them. You would give them light and heat, but He does not bless you, His faithful servant, while He blesses those who reject Him."
      "His Son," I breathed plumes of plasma, trying to understand why and how the Source would give up His Son.
      "Don't do it," Serpenta urged. "Don't give your approval to this folly. The humans are not worth a particle of your light." He drew close to me, his Being skimming my photosphere. "There is another Master in the sky," he whispered. "One who would reward you with children. Perhaps even a sister sun. You have everything to gain by refusing and everything to lose by obeying."
      "So your Master would give me all that I want?" I asked slowly.
      "Yes," Serpenta said.
      "And all I have to do ... is disobey the One who made me what I am!" I flared and sent out corona loops. My photosphere blazed and then darkened as I drew in my outer layers, pulling them toward my core.
      "You cannot Burn!" Serpenta roared, his black, jagged wings unfolding. "You will be nothing! You are wasting your light!"
      I did not respond. What I have, I give! I sent across the trackless void. What I am, is yours! And as the seraphim had promised, mass suddenly gathered in me, diving into my core, nuclear flames compressed into liquid fire, and then ...
      Then ...
      Then I Burned.
      My light surged into the void, a mighty river of gold, a glorious torrent that swept my unraveling essence beyond into the unbounded night.
      The Source turned and smiled at me. "Well done," He said, reaching forth His hand and cradling me.
      I fell into His limitless love.
      And that's how I became a seraphim. Sometimes I go by and see Clarence and Bertha. Clarence is always glad to see me.

Copyright 2006. All rights reserved.




The Christmas Story

Luke 2:1 And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed.
2:2 (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)
2:3 And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.
2:4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)
2:5 To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with Child.
2:6 And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.
2:7 And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling clothes, and laid Him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
2:8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
2:9 And, lo, the angel of the LORD came upon them, and the glory of the LORD shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
2:10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
2:11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the LORD.
2:12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the Babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
2:13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
2:14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
2:15 And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into Heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the LORD hath made known unto us.
2:16 And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger.
2:17 And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this Child.
2:18 And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.
2:19 But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.
2:20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.
2:21 And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the Child, His Name was called JESUS, which was so named of the angel before He was conceived in the womb.

Matthew 2:1 Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem,
2:2 saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.
2:3 When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.
2:4 And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born.
2:5 And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judea: for thus it is written by the prophet,
2:6 And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, art not the least among the princes of Judah:
for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel.
2:7 Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, inquired of them diligently what time the star appeared.
2:8 And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also.
2:9 When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was.
2:10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.
2:11 And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.

A Christmas Prayer

We thank you for this place in which we dwell,
for the love that unites us,
for the peace accorded us this day,
for the hope with which we expect the morrow,
for the work, the health, the food,
and the bright skies which make our lives delightful
for our friends in all parts of the earth.

By Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894).

And to all, many blessings and good night! See you tomorrow!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Prayer request

      Crystal's father is facing a terribly grim life-threatening medical crisis. Basically the doctors have done all that they can do for her father. He needs a miracle. Please nag the Big Guy about this. Remember Crystal and her family in your prayers. I'll join you there. Thank you.

4 Days Until Christmas Launch ...

Christmas Facts
(Some Of Which Might Be True)

      Kissing under the mistletoe dates back to a 17th century English kissing game. Back then, a berry was removed from the mistletoe every time a kiss was made, which meant no more kisses when all the berries were gone, and then everyone would just laugh and laugh. Yeah, I know, but you have to remember that they didn't have TV so they had to fill their time as best they could. Mistletoe, by the way, was used by the druids in their secret ceremonies. The druids, a cheery group, used to place mistletoe wreaths around the necks of their victims before the victims were sacrificed by having their entrails nailed to an oak tree. You don't see that on a lot of Christmas cards, do you?
      Christmas trees started in Germany in the 16th century. On Christmas Eve, Martin Luther was walking home under a starry sky, which was so beautiful that he wanted to recreate its beauty for his children. He decorated a large evergreen with lit candles. He followed his creation of the First Christmas Tree with the development of the First House Fire Caused By A Christmas Tree.
      Since 1947, the people of Oslo, Norway, have given a Christmas tree every year to the city of Westminster, England. The gift expresses Norway's gratitude for Britain's help during World War II, despite the fact that the tree is never on Britain's Christmas list. Britain would prefer a gift card.
      The first president to decorate the white house Christmas tree in the United States was Franklin Pierce. This is the only notable thing Pierce did while in office and as such should be remembered, but not by me. I've already cleansed it from my memory.
      Traditionally, Christmas trees are taken down after Epiphany or whenever the husband has been nagged beyond endurance.
      "The Nutcracker" is the most famous Christmas ballet and was used by the Chinese to break the wills of political prisoners. It is outlawed by the Geneva Convention as is the playing of "Jingle Bells" more than 1,754,322 times during the holiday season.
      If you received all of the gifts in the song "The Twelve Days of Christmas," you would receive 364 presents, none of which you could return. By the way, why are there so many birds in that song? Doesn't it seem rather fowl?
      Holly berries are poisonous, which does explain why holly berry cookies aren't popular even though there was a heavy marking push for them during the 1950s. It joined the ranks of other failed food products: stone ground hemlock bread, foxglove fajitas, poop pie, and of course, green tea.
      In 1843, "A Christmas Carol" was written by Charles Dickens in just six weeks. Many of us feel he should have taken more time with it and added some spaceships and several hot alien females.
      The first state to recognize the Christmas holiday officially was Alabama. Afterwards, Alabama had to lie down and wasn't able to recognize other things for years, which is one of the reasons they lagged so far behind in civil rights.
      Christmas became a national holiday in America on June 26, 1870. When the news was announced, many retailers swooned, but got right up as their floors were dirty.
      Coca Cola was the first beverage company to use Santa for a winter promotion. This would be the beginning of a lucrative career as Santa signed endorsement contracts for all sorts of products, including gardening tools (Hoe, Hoe, Hoe!), pies (Whole, Whole, Whole!), dynamite (Hole, Hole, Hole!), and even laser removal of facial disfigurements (Mole, Mole, Mole!). And no, we're not going to do a Viagra joke here.
      The government actually banned a Christmas tree decoration. Tinsel was once made of lead. (It's now made of plastic.) The tinsel maker's jingle of "Decorate your tree with a silver rain; You'll be laughing as you damage your brain" was remade into a hip-hop hit in the 90s.
      "Rudolph" was created by Montgomery Ward in the late 1930's for a holiday promotion. The rest is sheer greed and marketing history.
      The Christmas card was started in England in 1843. Louis Prang, a Massachusetts printer, printed the first Christmas card in the United States in 1875. There’s more to the story, but I got bored. Feel free to look it up. Merry Christmas!

Copyright 2006. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Recipes from my sister's kitchen & 5.2

      My sister is an incredible cook. What follows are some of the recipes she's shared over the years in the family newsletter. I hope you enjoy them as much as we have.

Mexican Quick Comfort Soup

1 can of chicken broth
1 can of chicken
1 can of chopped tomatoes & mild green chilies
2 stalks of chopped celery
1 chopped medium sweet onion
1/2 bag of baby carrots, sliced thinly
1 teaspoon of butter
1 heaping teaspoon of flour
1 small can of mushrooms
Black pepper to taste

Put a small amount of olive oil in the bottom of a heavy skillet. Turn heat up to medium. Add onions, celery, and carrots. Cook until the onions are transparent. Put in large heavy pot. Add remaining ingredients. Cover and bring to a boil.

Add one teaspoon of butter to the first skillet. Melt butter, and then add a heaping teaspoon of flour. Cook flour until it begins to change color. Drain one small can of mushrooms. Pour the liquid into the skillet. Stir until smooth. Then pour the mixture and the mushrooms into the pot.

Turn the heat down to low. Replace the lid. The chilies will increase in heat the longer they cook, but you can add a small can of chopped green chilies. This will open your sinuses! You can replace the mushroom liquid with 1/4 cup of milk and then add a two-inch block of grated Velveeta cheese to the soup with the thickened roux. Tasty!

All the Children of the World Chili

1 can of Red beans
1 can of Yellow beans (Garbanzo)
1 can of Black beans
1 can of White beans (navy)
1 can of Brown beans (pinto)
1 large can of pureed tomatoes
1 large can of diced tomatoes
1 package of mild chili seasoning
1 chopped yellow or white onion
1 1/2 lb. hamburger

Brown hamburger and add onions. Drain excess fat. Put meat and onions into crock-pot. Add all beans and tomatoes. Stir in the seasoning mix. Cook on low for at least eight hours or overnight. Yummy!

Heavenly Biscuits

1/4 cup of warm water
1/8 cup of granulated sugar
1 package of fast-acting yeast
1 cup of buttermilk
1 stick of butter
3 1/2 to 4 cups of self-rising flour

Combine water, sugar and yeast in a small bowl. After five minutes, add buttermilk. In a large bowl, add butter cut into 1/4 inch pieces. Sift self-rising flour into the large bowl one cup at a time. Use knives or pastry blender to cut the flour into the butter. Once the flour mixture looks like pea-sized gravel, add the liquid mixture. Beat as little as possible until combined. You may place in a bag and refrigerate.

When ready to use, remove from the refrigerator and pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Wait 1 hour. Then pat or roll out to 1/2 inch thick and cut with 2-inch cutter. Re-roll scraps. Place on un-greased cookie sheet or cake pan. (If you want some extra flavor, you can pour bacon drippings in the bottom of the pan.) Paint the tops with melted butter, and bake until golden brown.

The recipe will make about 30 biscuits. You can bake a few each morning as the dough will keep and still rise for three to four days. That’s why I call them “Heavenly,” plus they taste that way, too!

Pasta Fagolia

1 15.5 oz. can of Great Northern Beans
1 28 oz. can of whole tomatoes
1 can 15.5 oz. Veg-All
1 lb. cooked ground beef, drained
1 medium onion, chopped
1 8 oz can of tomato sauce
1 tsp. Italian Seasonings
5-10 drops of Hot Sauce/Tabasco
2 cups cooked macaroni

Place beef in skillet. Add chopped onions. Cook on medium high until the beef is brown and the onions are transparent. Place beef and onions in crock-pot. Add all ingredients except for the macaroni. Cook on low for 8 hours. Cool and place in refrigerator. Remove the congealed fat. Return the crock-pot to the heating element. Cook on high until the soup comes to a boil. Add the macaroni to the soup. Cook an additional 20-30 minutes. Serve with bread sticks. Fantastic!

Cream Cheese Cupcakes

1 box of vanilla wafers
1 8 oz. block of softened cream cheese
1 can of sweetened condensed milk
1/4 cup of lemon juice
1 lightly beaten egg
1 teaspoon of good vanilla extract

Put paper liners in a cupcake pan with 12 cups. Put one vanilla wafer in the bottom of each paper liner. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Put softened cream cheese in large mixing bowl. Add sweetened condensed milk, lemon juice, one lightly beaten egg and vanilla extract. Beat until mostly smooth.

Carefully spoon the mixture into the prepared cups and put in oven. When they are lightly golden brown and a toothpick inserted in one of the middle ones in the pan comes out clean, remove from oven.

Cool on rack for ten minutes, then remove cups from pan. Continue to cool. Do not attempt to peel until they are cold. You can put pie filling on top.

      I hope you enjoy these tasty dishes. And feel free to share your favorite recipes in the comments!

5 days & did you read yesterday's 2nd post?

      Good morning. It's raining, raining, raining here. What about there? Hey, did you read the second post from yesterday? It only received one comment so I don't know if you did. If you don't read the second or third post in a day, then it makes no sense to post them. So read! Since I'm going to post them anyway and I like to think I always make sense. Although that would be hard to prove in a court of law. So don't sue me! Unless Sue is a cute, intelligent, single cousin of yours that you want me to meet, then that's okay. Of course, I'll call her Susan since I like that better than Sue. Susan and I will walk hand-in-hand on the beach, looking at the ocean's waves, watching the sun go down on the golden horizon, and I'll turn to her and say, "Hey, why is that ocean in Oklahoma? What happened to Texas?"
      The recipes from my sister's kitchen will be coming later this evening. They're not really Christmas receipes per se, but good all year around. It's a bit late for Christmas recipes I think. Besides once you've cooked a turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, some hot buttered rolls and pumpkin pie, you're set for Christmas.
      And now from Aha!Jokes.com, The Twelve Days of Christmas.

December 14, 2006

Dearest Dave,
I went to the door today, and the postman delivered a partridge in a pear tree. This was a delightful gift! I couldn't have been more surprised or pleased darling!
With truly the deepest love,
Agnes

December 15, 2006

Dearest Dave,
Today the postman brought me yet another of your sweet gifts. The two turtule doves that arrived today are adorable, and I'm delighted by your thoughtful and generous ways.
With all of my love,
Your Agnes

December 16, 2006

Dearest Dave,
You've truly been too kind! I must protest; I don't deserve such generosity. The thought of getting three French hens amazes me. Yet, I am not surprised -- what more should I expect from such a nice person.
Love,
Agnes

December 17, 2006

Dear Dave,
Four calling birds arrived in the mail today. They are truly nice but don't you think that enough is enough? You are being too romantic.
Affectionately,
Agnes

December 18, 2006

Dearest darling Dave,
It was a surprise to get five golden rings! I now have one for every finger. You truly are impossible darling, yet oh how I love it! Quite frankly, all of those squarking birds from the previous days were starting to get on my nerves. Yet, you managed to come through with a beautiful valuable gift!
All my love,
Agnes

December 19, 2006

Dear Dave,
When I opened my door, there were actually six geese a-laying on my front steps. So you're back to the birds again, huh? Those geese are dear, but where will I keep them? The neighbors are complaining, and I am unable to sleep with all the racket. Please stop dear.
Cordially,
Agnes

December 20, 2006

Dave,
What is with you and those stupid birds!? Seven swans a-swimming! What kind of sick joke is this!? There are bird droppings everywhere! They never shut up, and I don't get any sleep! I'm a nervous wreck! It's not funny you weirdo, so stop with the birds.
Sincerely,
Agnes

December 21, 2006

O.K. wise guy,
The birds were bad enough. Now what do you expect me to do with eight maids a-milking? If that's not bad enough, they had to bring their cows! The front lawn was completely ruined by them, and I can't move in my own house! Just lay off me or you'll be sorry!
Agnes

December 22, 2006

Hey loser,
What are you? You must be some kind of sadist. Now there are nine pipers playing, and they certainly do play. They haven't stopped chasing those maids since they got here! The cows are getting upset, and they're stepping all over those screeching birds. The neighbors are getting up a petition to evict me, and I'm going out of my mind!
You'll get yours!
Agnes

December 23, 2006

You rotten scum,
There are now ten ladies dancing! There is only one problem with that! They're dancing twenty-four hours a day all around me with the pipers upsetting the cows and the maids. The cows can't sleep, and they are going to the bathroom everywhere! The building commissioner has subpoenaed me to give cause as to why the house shouldn't be condemned! I can't even think of a reason! You creep! I'm sending the police after you!
One who means it!

December 24, 2006

Listen you evil, sadistic, maniac!
What's with the eleven lords-a-leaping?!? They are leaping across the rooms breaking everything and even injuring some of the maids! The place smells, is an absolute mad house, and is about to be condemned! At least the birds are quiet; they were trampled to death by the cows. I hope you are satisfied -- you rotten vicious worthless piece of garbage!
Your sworn enemy,
Agnes

December 25, 2006

The Law Offices of
Badger, Rees, and Yorker
20 Knave Street
Chicago, Illinois

Dear Sir,
This is to acknowledge your latest gift of twelve fiddlers-fiddling which you have seen fit to inflict on our client, one Agnes Mcholstein. The destruction of course was total. If you attempt to reach Ms. Mcholstein at Happy Daze Sanatarium, the attendants have instructions to shoot you on sight.
Please direct all correspondence to this office in the future. With this letter, please find attached a summons for you to appear in court and answer these charges.
Cordially,
Badger, Rees, and Yorker
      I'll be back later. Have a great day!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Still 6 days & Christmas cards

      Woohoo! I got Christmas cards today! Four of them. Three from people who comment here.
      Here's the card from Crystal.

      I have to quote what she wrote on the inside: "I'm so glad you're my friend. Because when your books sell next year and you're rich, having you for a friend will really come in handy." That made me laugh! Thanks, Crystal.

      Here's the card from Amber.

      Isn't this lovely! Thanks, Amber.

      Here's the card from Frenzied Feline.

      FF made this great card. Thanks, FF!

      Thank you all! You made my day. And did you read the post before this one? Remember that I'm posting more than once each day through Christmas.

6 Days Til Christmas & other things

      Howdy! This will be the last post in which I will discuss my aches and pains until after the New Year. Looking back over the past few months, I can see I've spent way too much time sharing my illnesses. I can tell already how much fun I'm going to be in the nursing home when I reach that age.
      Still, it's be a painful and humbling past few months. I'm still right in the middle of the healing process, but at least I am healing, however slowly. It's just going to take time, and I'll have to be patient. (Patience, by the way, has to be one of the most over-rated virtues.) I could with less pain, but that's probably true for all of us.
      I actually went Christmas shopping last night. I was exhausted and aching by the time I was finished, but I got a lot done. I went for gifts for my nieces, nephew and god-children. I wouldn't have gone for adults. Adults are happy with a gift card, but children need gifts. And I found most of what I was looking for. There were a lot of people in the store, but the aisles weren't overloaded.
      On Christmas Eve, I will be posting "A Star's Tale," the latest from my Tales of Bethlehem series, slated for completion sometime around 2015 ... I hope you enjoy this different take on the Star of Bethlehem.
      In fact, this is the last non-Christmas subject post before Christmas. We haven't had a lot of Christmas cheer around here, and it's time to change that now. So fasten on your stocking caps, rev up the reindeer, light your candles and bake those pumpkin pies. The 51313 Harbor Street 2006 Christmas Countdown is officially on!
      Let's see what's in the line-up, shall we?
The 51313 Harbor Street 2006 Christmas Countdown
Wednesday, December 20 -- Recipes from my sister's kitchen. (She's a marvelous cook, but deadly dangerous to diets.)
Thursday, December 21 -- Christmas Facts, some of which might be true. (Truth sometimes slips into my posts despite my best efforts.
Friday, December 22 -- Ways to fight those Christmas blahs. (I haven't written this yet, but I suspect streaking will be mentioned.)
Saturday, December 23 -- Maybe some photos, jokes, poems, don't know yet, but will figure out something.
Sunday, December 24 -- "The Star's Tale."
Monday, December 25 -- The Christmas Story from the Bible.
      We'll include some surprises along the way just to keep things interesting as well as posting more than once in a day! Yes, that's right. If you only read the top post, you may miss some items. Don't let that happen to you!
      It's time to get ready for work now so I'll close. Have a great day, and I'll be seeing you later today for another post or two. Joyeux Noel! (Merry Christmas in French)

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Countdown

      Christmas is only eight days away now. Do I have my Christmas shopping done? No. Do I have my Christmas cards mailed? No. Am I panicking? Yeah, sure. Well, not panic exactly. I'm going to try to go to Wal-Mart tomorrow and finish my shopping. Then I will do the cards this week. I hope.
      Anyway, I hope things are going well for you and that you're getting all your shopping, mailing, etc. done on schedule. I also hope that you have some time to enjoy the lights and the music and some quiet time, too. Just remember -- to quote a wise witch in Murder at the Witch's Cottage -- some things are truly important and some things are not. Remembering that might keep you focused and keep you from blowing a fuse.
      What else? Well, not much obviously. My back is getting better slowly so that's good news. Otherwise, I think I will just call it a night now. Have a great week. Night.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Saturday December

      Howdy. Not much to report other than I am getting better. I actually did some long overdue housework today. Not much and I didn't really make a dent in the pile of Things To Do, but it's been so long since I was able to do even that. So I was pleased out of proportion.
      I'm going to a play tonight. "Papa's Angels," a Christmas story. Actually I've been working in the ticket booth each night since Wednesday (yes, I know I shouldn't do that with my ankle and my back, but I had volunteered previously and no one else would take my place so I did it and have done okay) as well as being at several of the rehearsals, but I've yet to see the whole play performed.
      I re-learned a hard lesson last night. To wit, you are never really safe among your friends. They can turn on you quickly and throw you to the dogs without a second thought. Admittedly, I have several friends who have never done that and whom I trust completely, but otherwise, beware. It's just that living distrustfully is so hard. It's probably wiser to do so, but I'm not sure I could. So probably I'll go on being disappointed. Scratch this whole paragraph.
      Does anyone ever click on spam in their mailboxes? If not, why do spammers continue? The answer must be that some people do. Hey, stop doing that!
      Do you realize that Christmas is only nine days away? How's that for inducing panic, eh? I have just a few more people to buy for, and then I'm done. Amazon.com and Walmart.com saved Christmas for me. I'd rather go and shop as I enjoy that, but this worked.
      I ordered a subliminal weigh loss CD. It supposedly shipped a couple of days ago. I'll let you know if it helps me fight the weight loss war.
      Well, it's time to go to the theater. Hope you're having a good weekend. Talk to you later.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

The patient's chart today

      Ouch. I discovered a lot of bruises this morning, but I’m up and at it. I was very fortunate overall. The worse pain is my ankle, which has swollen to a respectable size, but it’s wrapped and I have cold packs for it so I’m good to go. Well, not so much going as limping, but I’m moving and that’s the important thing.
      It got up in the 70s today. That’s weird weather for December. I’m not complaining, mind you, but it’s still odd for here. Probably not so odd for those folks trapped in California or Florida. I pity them as they suffer through warm days and lovely ocean breezes. So sad.
      I actually got online and ordered some Christmas presents the other day. And the first box arrived today. It’s a big box. Much bigger than I expected. Now I have to figure out how to get it into my house. It’s not going to be easy, that’s for sure. And since it’s for my roomie, I’d rather not ask his help. I’ll figure out something.
      After many requests, I’m finally posting photos of my Christmas Village. Are you happy now, Crystal? Folks, I’ve just learned Crystal has a village, too. Don’t you think she should share photos of it, too? I do. In fact, since her late and lamented blog is no longer with us, I suggest she send them to me and I’ll post them, or she can post them to the Great Slim Down. Don’t you think that’s a great idea? Then comment that you do! Let her feel the love! Or the like. Or that distant feeling you have for the cousin you never met.
      Well, it's time for bed now. Oh, here are a couple photos of the village. Enjoy!



Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Falling

      In my ongoing attempt to injure, break or hurt every part of my body, I fell down the steps at work today. I opened the back door, stepped down, my ankle twisted, I dropped my cane and briefcase, I tumbled forward, flying six feet before experiencing an abrupt and unfriendly landing. It’s always bad if you have enough time to think, “This is going to hurt” before you hit. I took the landing on my left shoulder and left hip. In some strange quirk of aerodynamics, the cane then hit me on my head.
      There’s always that stunned moment after a fall. Your body is dazed, and muscles clamp down. Your brain can’t keep up with various pain messages it’s receiving. So I just laid on the floor until the rumbles ceased.
      Then I discovered that I couldn’t get up. My back had spasmed, and it wouldn’t allow me to turn over. I tried for several minutes to pull myself over to a wall, getting some carpet burns on my chest (no, that’s really how I got them) but I couldn’t do it.
      I was panicking by this time so I pulled my cell phone out of my shirt pocket and called 911. I got a recorded message that said, “This number is unavailable.” I thought I might have dialed it wrong so I called again. Unavailable.
      By this time, I had spent a good 15 minutes on the floor. The carpet is blue, by the way, a fact that I don’t think I’ve registered before. At least not so close and personal.
      I then paged my roomie. He works at a hospital and I thought he could call an ambulance for me. I could have called the operator to do that, but I wasn’t thinking clearly.
      My roomie returned my page, but my hand was shaking and instead of answering his call, I refused his call. Luckily he called again, and I told him what had happened. He said he was on his way and hung up.
      The hospital is about 20 minutes from my office so I was in for a wait. Just then, a guy from the business next to where to I work noticed that our back door was open as he took a cigarette break. He looked in, saw me sprawled on the floor, let out a startled vulgarity and rushed to help me.
      With his help, I got up and over into a chair. By this time, the shock had worn off and various aches and pains began to assert themselves. I took inventory. Shoulder and hip were unhappy. Upper arm very unhappy. Left ankle screaming. Back was … well, really, it wasn’t hurting any more than usual. I also discovered a knot on the left side of my head where I had hit the floor. And no, the floor wasn’t cracked.
      I called my roomie and told him that I got help and was up and wanted to give myself a few minutes before I decided if I needed any medical care. He was in his truck, but I told him that I’d call if I needed him.
      I put a cold pack on my ankle, took some pain meds, stood up, swayed a bit, but then balanced. I limped up front, turned on the lights, opened the front door, started my computer, and now here I am typing this to you. I’m feel a bit battered, but by the grace of the Good Lord, I think I’m okay, something to give thanks for on this Wednesday morning. How are you doing?

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Random

      Well, well, well. It's been hit and miss here lately. Of course, you all know about my back problems and how it's put a stop to my Christmas plans. No reason to rehash that. But over the past few days, I've been wandering around my head, and here are a few random thoughts.
      I don't like Santa Claus. I mean, those guys who dress up as Santa. Their suits never fit, and they always seem surly. Or drunk. I don't think they're happy, but listen, the Easter bunny's not having a good time, either. It's tough all over.
      I also don't like ornaments or decorations that show Santa kneeling at the Nativity. That's just weird. Yes, I understand the symbolism of it, but it's still weird.
      Do Santa’s reindeer poop as they fly overhead? Perhaps that's what happens to people who make the naughty list.
      Playboy runs this ad where they offer a video of their Playmates in which the ad says "It's the perfect Christmas gift for your husband." Seriously, what wife buys that for her husband? None do. And I think they know that no wife would. It's just their way of trying to disguise the whole creepiness of it. Hey, it's Christmas. Let’s celebrate the season and watch some porn! Ho, ho, ho. (Yes, a pun.)
      Why do the local weathermen always seem so pleased when bad weather happens? They can barely contain their joy as they tell us about icy sleet and dangerous roads. Are they that bored? The next time that Channel 19 guy starts grinning as he tells us how terrible the weather is going to be, I'm going to hunt him down and introduce him to the business end of a 2x4.
      People in California and Florida receive too much sun. It bakes their brains. When you walk on their beaches, you think that you smell suntan lotion, but it's actually brains frying in coconut oil. The vendors sell them in cones.
      I want to get too much sun. I want to lie on those beaches. I want to sip cold, fruity drinks with umbrellas in them and enjoy the sights and sounds of the ocean as the breeze brings me the faint hint of frying brains.
      My older sister told me that my family had one of the best Thanksgivings ever. Of course, I was unable to be there because of my back injury. I wonder if she realized how that sounded. I wonder if she meant for it to sound that way. I wonder if there's any way I could be adopted.
      My Christmas village is pretty cool. I've enjoyed setting it up. But the other day as I was moving the figurines around, my roomie came up to me, looked at the lovely and peaceful village and said, "It figures you'd like playing with dolls." He's funny. And fast, too. I wonder if he's still running. Perhaps for Christmas I'll let him back in the house.
      Gift cards and gift bags are truly good things. I don't care what Martha Stewart says. I do like Martha, though. I think she's hot -- in that strange, horrible perfectionist way. If you dated her, you couldn't just kiss her or hold her hand. You'd have to make some sort of presentation of the whole thing with fresh cut flowers and ice cold caviar and handmade chocolate sweets. She'd be too much trouble. That's why I don't date her. That and the fact I don't know her.
      There's a lot to be said about pain medication. It's good. I think we all agree on that. Even Martha. Maybe the Santas need some. Then they'd be happy, too. Ho, ho, ho.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

My Christmas Tree

Friday, December 08, 2006

A question and a few other things

       Blogger is offering me the chance to change my blog to Blogger Beta. I'm wondering if it's worth the effort to do so. If you have Blogger Beta, could you comment here and tell me how your changeover went and if you like BB? I can't switch back if I switch over so I don't want to do so unless it's worth it.
      Crystal, I have pictures of my Christmas tree and my Christmas village. I intend to post them when I can. I just haven't been able to do so. Maybe this weekend.
      I hesitate to mention this because I might jinx myself, but my back seems a bit better today. A lot of pain, but not so much that I can't think. And my movement seems to be better. I'm trying to not let my hopes get too high, but maybe I've turned the corner on this. If I'm just careful -- and trust me, I will be -- maybe it will continue to improve.
      I'm listening to Christmas music at work every day. I made a Christmas CD of music I like. I'm really enjoying it. Speaking of work, it's time to get ready to go. Have a good day.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Endurance

      Endurance is easier if you know what you're enduring is going to end. I think that's why my back trouble this time has been so discouraging to me. I'm not sure when it's going to end. No one is. We throw pain pills, physical therapy, hot and cold packs, traction, back braces and deep tissue massage at the problem, but all only provide temporary relief. Basically I spend a lot of time just enduring, trying to not watch the clock, waiting for the next temporary relief.
      I can't think of a worse time of the year for this. I have shopping to do and cards to send and newsletters to mail, but nothing is getting done. Each night I go to sleep, praying that I will sleep through the whole night and not be awakened by pain at three or four in the morning, that the next day I will wake up and be better. It's a depressing routine.
      Some people spend their lives in constant pain. I don't know how they survive year after year. Maybe they get used to it. Maybe they go a little crazy. I do know that I understand how and why people become addicted to pain medication. I get to take more pain pills in two hours. I’m looking forward to that.
      It's a new level of pain for me. Even when all those years ago I broke my arm so badly -- actually I broke it two places and knocked a whole chunk of it free so I broke it well, but you know what I mean -- I was able to read a good book or get involved in a movie and the pain would recede. This pain is a constant loud clamor. Makes it hard to concentrate on anything else. It demands my attention.
      And I won't have this. I mean, I don't intend to have it this way. I might be forced to accept it eventually, but I'm not going to meekly decide that's it and give up. If I have any gifts at all that I can claim to own, one has to be that I'm stubborn. It's both a blessing and a curse, but it remains my predominant trait. Somewhere there are tools to fight this. Some trick or therapy or gadget or herb or something. I'm going to find it. I will not be defined by this. I will conquer it or adapt to it or use it in some way, but it won't keep me from having a life.
      Brave words. I hope I have the gumption to back them up. Time, the unrelenting beast, will tell.

Monday, December 04, 2006

No news is NOT always good news

      I'm sorry I haven't been posting. I've been having problems with my back. The pain level has went up a bit on the scale, and I've been living from one pain pill to the next. It doesn't leave me with a lot of energy or time to post, but I do think of y'all and hope that you're doing well and filling your blogs with lots of interesting material for me to read when I am able to again. There seems to be only a couple of positions where I'm not in a lot of pain, neither of which will allow me to sit at the computer for more than a few seconds. This has completely lost what little ability it had to amuse me in the first place. I vow to stop my car and rescue every turtle on his back in the road from now on. Even snapping turtles at risk of my fingers.
      Anyway, that's what's been going on with me. If you recall, last year after NaNo, I had quite a bit of trouble with my back. I think it must be caused by the hours of sitting in front of the computer. Apparently my back doesn't like that, particularly after a day of sitting in front of the computer at work. Next year, I will have to work something else out. I wonder if I could type while standing up. I think I remember reading that V.C. Andrews had to type her books while standing.
      Anyway, I have no news tonight so I'll close now. Have a great day tomorrow and I hope to see you then. Night.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Q&A with a mid-lister

      Last night I was talking to Crystal about a writing plan for 2007. The conversation veered into whether mid-list authors can actually make a living at writing. I happen to know a couple of mid-listers and have talked to them about their finances. It's not pretty. Both have seen their sales and advances fall over the past few years. One of them -- due to her husband’s retirement income -- is living comfortably. The other -- a single mom -- has had to scramble to make ends meet and sometimes they don't.
      On her blog, Holly Lisle offers an interesting explanation today for why mid-listers are suffering, relating it to how chain stores order books. I don't know enough about it to know if she is correct, but it makes sense. I'm going to ask my friends to read her explanation and see if they agree.
      Anyway, I sent an email last night to one of my mid-listing friends and asked her a few questions. She responded this morning. With her permission, I thought I would share her responses, although she asked me to not share her name.
      Is it possible to make a living at writing these days?
      If you write a bestseller, certainly. I'm not sure otherwise. If I were starting in my career now, I would probably starve. Advances are lower than in the past; book sales are good, but not what they could be. I know I would have been a writer because that's what I am, but I'm sure I wouldn't have had the audacity to attempt to support myself as a writer exclusively.
      Why is it different now than in the past?
      Oh, a host of reasons. Books don't hold the place in society they once did. We don't live in a culture that values the written word. Television and the movies have dumbed down society. We don't like to do the work that's required by reading. We want to sit there in the comfy theater seats with our Cokes and popcorn and have information and entertainment fed to us. It amazes me that despite how well Rowling’s Potter books have sold, there are many more people -- millions -- who saw only the movies and will never read the books. While the movies are good, there is so much richness in the books that is being missed by those who only choose to watch the movies.
      I also think publishers don't support mid-list books the way they once did. Publishers want the next blockbuster. You can't blame them for that, but they could use the tremendous income generated from authors like Rowling or Dan Brown to foster a stronger stable of mid-list authors. Publishing houses used to have strong stables, and they counted on them to provide the backbone of their budgets. That's not true anymore. My publisher has cut many good authors that haven't reached the numbers that the accountants ask for. I've been fortunate that my sales –- particularly of (the series) -– have kept me from feeling the cold edge of the axe. But I could see it happening if I have one or two disastrous outings.
      What would be your advice for an author just starting out?
      Don't give up your day job! LOL Seriously, that's important. You need income to live, and even at the best of times, a writer's income is irregular. Manage your money carefully. Have a budget and follow it. Don't make an impulse purchase just because you've received your advance. Start an emergency saving account. And somehow get health insurance. An illness can devastate a budget and your life. I was fortunate that my husband worked for the state, and we had a health plan. And now we have Medicare, of course. That's a very good reason to work at a job: for the health benefits. And of course, write several best-sellers!