Saturday, November 30, 2013

Our continuing exploits in New England: Thanksgiving

I hadn't intended on writing a blog post about American Thanksgiving. It's not that unsimilar to Canadian Thanksgiving, and I've cooked Thanksgiving-type dinners before. Sure there are some cultural differences, time of year being a big one, but it also seems that Thanksgiving is the holiday of the year. It's seems that if there's one holiday you go home for in the US, it's Thanksgiving, whereas in Canada, Christmas (I think) takes priority. There's also the Black Friday thing that happens afterward, but it seems to be creeping up into Canada as well.

Let me recount to you my Thanksgiving timeline for this year.

Earlier on in the fall, September, maybe.
Andrew lets me know that a friend of ours from Italy will be in the general area for a conference and want's to know if we can host him. The answer is yes.

Still earlier in the fall, maybe October.
Andrew lets me know that our friend will be travelling with another colleague from Italy and he's keen to experience an American Thanksgiving. I like to cook, so I say, sure, we can handle that.

The week before Thanksgiving.
The question arises that the colleague will be staying with some other friends (an Italian and a Frenchwoman), can we serve everyone? Of course. A large chicken is plenty for six, and making extra sides for two more people really doesn't make a difference.

Sunday, November 24th
Two pie crusts were made and placed into the freezer (two because that's what my recipe makes, not because I was planning to serve two).

Monday, November 25th
The chicken comes out of the freezer to thaw in the fridge.

Tuesday, November 26th
 I make and bake the pumpkin pie (from scratch of course, no from-a-can pie filling for me).

Wednesday, November 27th
Andrew helps chop veggies (carrots and fennel), I put together the dressing (dressing rather than stuffing, since the chicken is too small to hold much), I make the cranberry sauce (again no from-a-can, gelatinous red goo for me).

Thursday, November 28th, Thanksgiving
I work until around noon (I am after all, still working for a Canadian employer) when I stop and have lunch.

1:00 pm
I put the carrots and fennel onto pre-roast; finish preparing the dressing and put it into the crockpot; dress the chicken (chopped garlic and herbs rubbed under the skin); and prepare the sweet potatoes and brussel sprouts.

Everything is going swimmingly.

3:35 pm
The power flickers off. I had only just turned the dishwasher (and was also watching a movie on Andrew's laptop) so I had a momentary concern that I was somehow running too many things and had cause the outage myself. It comes back on after a few minutes and I continue with my preparations.

4:00 pm
I start preparing for the guests I expect in an hour by clearing away clutter from our living room, getting out our folding table and extra chairs, finding napkins, etc.

4:30 pm
The power goes, again. It's getting dark so I find a battery operated light, but don't quite know what to do. I check outside my apartment, the rest of the building is dark and I confirm with another tenant that the power is out in the entire building. I start to search for our landlord's phone number, but as it's growing darker it's difficult. I then take a look outside and realize none of the buildings around me have lights on. It's now donning on me that everyone in my area is in the same position. I send a message to Andrew to give me a call so I can tell him what's going on then start searching for candles.

4:45 pm
While on the phone with Andrew the power comes back on. Woot. Everything seems good, so I preheat the oven, get the chicken out of the fridge and start putting away the candles.

5:20 pm
I put the chicken in the oven.

5:30 pm
The power goes out for the third time. I relight all my tea lights, distribute them around the apartment and wait for our guests to arrive so we can decide what to do.

5:45 pm
We decide it's best to pack up and go over to our guests' house. We scramble around in the pitch dark (since there are no lights on anywhere) packing up food, extra chairs and plates, everything we can think of that we'll need. Just as we're getting ready to leave, the power comes back on, but we decide it's not to be trusted.

6:00 pm
We arrive in Cambridge, unpack everything and continue with dinner preparations. Tables are arranged so that we can seat everyone.

6:30 pm
The first bottle of wine is opened, followed by an appetizer, and another bottle of wine.

8:00 pm
Dinner is served. Good thing everyone else is European and used to eating late. The chicken is completely devoured (all I had left was the bones). Everyone seems stuffed and happy. We head home around 11:00 pm and I'm very glad that my employers are in Edmonton, so I can sleep in a bit and will still be up before everyone else.

That was my first American Thanksgiving.



Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Cure, Q & A: Imaginary fan questions

I have written three fan letters in my time. One to Ann M. Martin, author of the Baby Sitter's Club books, J.K. Rowling, of well, you know who fame, and Stuart Mclean, the author/creator of the Vinyl Cafe stories. I think I know where the return letter from Stuart is stashed, unfortunately I don't think I have the others.

Of course, I'm not even remotely famous, and the last time I checked my sales, I'd made a whopping $14.00, so I don't expect to get my own fan mail anytime soon. However, I thought since not much has been happening around the Milne household over the last few weeks, I might answer some questions that I imagine might be asked in a letter or email.

Q: How long have your been writing stories?
Years. At least since I was ten, when I wrote my first one act Christmas play. I've always written short stories, and during my first year of university, I emailed a serial to my friends, about an alternate universe where everyone had peg-legs. I moved onto novels after I graduated from nursing.

Q: Did you take any special classes or courses to learn how to write?
Yes. After I finished with nursing, I spend three semesters at Seton Hill in their Writing Popular Fiction program. Unfortunately, I didn't graduate after loosing my focus in my fourth and final semester. Even though I didn't graduate from the program, it improved my writing skills considerably. Although I still feel that the ability to create a good story is largely innate, courses and classes in writing can definitely strength your skills.

Q: How many stories involving Nora do you have planned?
It will take three stories to complete Nora's tale and I don't have plans to do any more after that. I often lose interest in a series that goes on for longer, especially if the characters suffer what I think of as "the most unlucky person in the world" syndrome. Three stories will take Nora to the end of her journey, with most of her goals met, and a great deal of personal growth accomplished.

Q: Do you have any other stories you're working on, or have published?
Yes. I have an upper YA novel, title Cimwai's Bay, which I'm currently querying to agents. If, by the time I've released all of Nora's stories, I haven't managed to find someone to pick up the series, I'll also release it via self publishing. After all, the key to success with self-publishing is to have as many novels on the market as possible.

Q: What do you like best about writing?
I like to entertain people with stories. When I was younger, I told lots of jokes, and I've always liked to act and sing. Since I'm not an especially good actor or singer, writing is another avenue for entertaining. Plus, I tend to have no shortage of ideas to write about, although they don't always make it into a novel.

Q: What do you like the least about writing?
The amount of time you have to spend sitting at a desk with just a computer. I'm naturally an introvert, so it's not as huge a sacrifice as it might be for those of a more social nature. Also, I often feel guilty when I opt to watch a movie, or go out for an evening rather than write. It's one of those hard facts about being (or trying to be a writer), it takes a lot of time to craft a novel.

If you have any questions for me about writing, knitting, baking, or being an aerialist, feel free to post them (Note: I do moderate my comments, so it make take a while for them to appear).



Friday, November 8, 2013

The Cure, Q&A: Meet Tomas Classen

Now it's time to meet Tomas Classen.

I can't recall if I've written this here before, but I'm an enormous figure skating fan (since the early 1990's, when Kurt Browning was competing) and I frequently have dreams involving figure skaters. Of course, these dreams rarely involve figure skating, the skaters who make appearances are usually just hanging out with me. At any rate, when I had my dream about living in the airplane hanger, it also involved a Canadian figure skater, one Jeffrey Buttle. He was one of the 'cool' kids, and I definitely was not, and he's the body model for Tomas.
Jeffrey Buttle, 2008 World Champion. I linked to this picture through Wikipedia, but I don't know where they scammed it from (hey, I'm a librarian, if I can't source something accurately, I can at least be honest about it).
Of course, I have no idea what Jeffrey is really like (I can only surmise from the interviews I've seen of him, that he's generally a friendly, charismatic type of person) so technically, Tomas is only based on him physically speaking. Therefore, Tomas isn't terribly tall, only five foot eight (the ideal height for most male figure skaters is in the five foot six to five foot eight range, it's a centre of gravity thing required for jumps and spins) and he's physically fit, very trim, but not beefy. His hair is multi-hued, but is predominantly a golden-blond colour, and his eyes are described as crystal blue. I definitely made Tomas something of a pretty-boy.

My brother, Matthew Thorne's, rendition of Tomas.
Personality wise, Tomas is meant to be very charming, open, and friendly towards everyone. He's the daydream of every girl in the compound, and he tries not to encourage anyone's hopes, but since he's a genuinely nice person, he has trouble discouraging the attention he doesn't want (hence why Ursula and Rose thinks he actually considers them as his close personal friends). He's also much better at keeping his temper under wraps than Nora, but that doesn't mean he never gets angry. Rather, when he gets mad, he gets really mad, and that most often happens when he feels he needs to defend Nora.
My own sketch of Tomas, working in the greenhouse.
Finally, we don't get to learn much of Tomas's aspiration in The Cure, (you don't even get to learn much about them in The Cause, either), but since it's really not a spoiler, I'll tell you. He'd like to go into records management (did I mention I'm a librarian?), which has a limited job field, especially in a small compound like Nu. That's about all I can say about that.

Again, let me know if you have questions! Feel free to post them to this blog, or to post them on Facebook if that's where your reading this from. I'd be happy to answer them.



Tuesday, November 5, 2013

A circus break: a trip to NECCA

This past weekend the hubby and me took a short trip up to Brattleboro Vermont, the home of the New England Center for Circus Arts. We visited there in the summer to participate in the aerials skills week, and while there were informed that they would be holding workshops over the last week of October. We decided back then that we would try to arrange to return for one or more of the workshops, in particular we were interested in the day long session on rigging.

Brattleboro is a two hour drive from our home in Somerville. The journey is rather picturesque, as you drive through the rolling hills of the Appalachians, passing by (and over) rivers. Some of the roads are very twisty, and at times you're driving on an undivided highway of only one lane each direction, so you need to be paying attention. When I return in February (more on this in a bit) I'm going to have to be careful on these roads. Anyway, this isn't about the drive, it's about the aerials learning.

On Sunday we did a 2 hour session with a friend of ours from Edmonton who was at NECCA for teacher training. Our instructor was Destiny Vinley, who we'd met in the summer. She was super fun to work with, and we learned several cool poses that can be built upon to do all kinds of different moves. I only a have a few videos from this session, which are rather slow and not very graceful, so here are a couple of shots from the summer instead.

Monday was a 6-hour workshop on rigging for aerial equipment. Andrew and me both felt it was important to learn more about rigging, in case in the future, we find ourselves performing on our own around Ontario. The session was very informative, but as pointed out by the instructor, we are not now free to travel about the country rigging silks and trapezes as if we were professionals. What we are able to do is recognize when rigging is done safely or not, which is key for aerialists.

One of the coolest things we saw during the session, was how many pounds of force are created from different aerial tricks. Surprisingly, the greatest amount of force achieved was just shy of 1,000 pounds (from a double ankle drop). That was very reassuring to see, as it tells me that the ratings for all of the equipment is far greater than what is needed to avoid crashing to the ground. I think we'd both like to take more sessions in the future, so that we might become more qualified and experienced with rigging.

I'm going back to NECCA in February to take their introductory course for instructors. I'm looking forward to the 5-day session, as I'm hoping to start assisting with a couple of the beginner classes at the studio in Boston.