New website...

Hello readers, I have been trying to figure out how to create a link between this blog site and my new website but unfortunately, have not been able to import one into the other. So, my new blog is found at
Hope to see you there!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

December 10, 2011--Have a new website...

Hello! Sorry for the long delay between postings--it has been a bit hectic as my book review work is taking off--I am landing a few more clients and constantly looking for new magazines to send reviews to. Plus, the other time consuming project has been developing my own website. I am not the most tech savvy of people, so there have been multiple attempts to get pages to look right. And I am constantly playing with the site, revising and refining it, and adding new content as I think of things that might be useful.
I am trying to figure out how to start a new blog on the website, without losing all the content here but am waiting for some tech support on this one, as it seems a bit daunting to me.
In the meantime, check out my new website and feel free to send me comments--what you like, what you don't like etc.
I hope everyone has a great holiday season, if for some reason I don't check back in before Christmas.
Best to you all.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

November 19, 2011-- The days roll on by...

The days grow shorter, the list of work yet to do before snow blankets the entire ground thankfully grows shorter, the time spent on personal writing grows shorter... as I struggle to make ends meet just before the holidays arrive. Fortunately I am picking up more book review work which is taking the place of the computer job I have had for the past 17 months. I'm happy about that as I'd much rather write reviews than do what I do for a steady paycheck (all hush-hush stuff that I am not allowed to discuss, which just makes it all the more ludicrous.) 
And thanks to a much needed kick in the butt by my therapist of all people, I am back to writing my memoir about my childhood in Mexico. I am starting over from page one, pulling in odd bits from essays I wrote ages ago and making it swirl into a cohesive unit. I am finally excited about this project again!
And excited that I just landed a review to the Christian Science Monitor as well as another in  The Writer.
I'm also working on putting together a website, a more daunting task than I first realized. Once I have more of it together, I will let you know.
Thanks for staying with me, you know who you are... I appreciate the support even when I'm not here on the page.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

October 13, 2011--The new learning curve

It's been quite some time since I have blogged...too busy trying to get jobs as a book reviewer and trying to send out a number of queries to find that extra time to blog...
Today, though I wanted to say that I am finally getting a grip on some of the new technology out there. I had to buy a Kindle a couple of weeks ago in order to receive some galleys for reviews, so I have been in the process of learning how to use it. I've discovered I like the ease of ordering free or discounted books off of the Amazon store (not to mention that books arrive silently to the device, so no one but me knows I have ordered something.) Today I wanted to learn how to send things to my Kindle off of my computer. I have several files on my computer that I need to read in the next couple of weeks but won't be near my computer for part of that time. So, I knew it was possible to send files, but didn't know how to do it.
But, I am happy to report that after an hour and a half struggle, I now have three files added to my Kindle library!
I had to set up a free kindle email and allow access on my Kindle account for files to come through my gmail account before anything would stick. I don't understand how it all works; I am grateful that it did work!
So, for all those a bit leery of all the new technology, my advice is to struggle a bit, overcome the fear and frustration as the convenience in the end is worth it.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

September 6, 2011-- Assignment #2....Waking Up

Waking Up

I pour coffee beans into the grinder and press the button for thirty seconds. The whir of the blades sends the cats scurrying for the door and the lovely smell of coffee fills the kitchen. I put the kettle on to boil and let my mind wander back to where I purchased this coffee, at the coffee museum in Chiapas, Mexico.

I followed the smell of roasting beans down the narrow cobblestone side streets of San Cristobal de las Casas to find the museum, located on the ground floor of an old hacienda. The entrance was through the small café that sold cups of freshly brewed coffee, bags of beans, and a variety of souvenirs. I ordered a small mug of decaf, paid the twenty-five peso entrance fee, and entered the first room. A large mural on the wall depicting the history of coffee from its arrival with the Spanish conquistadors to the present day was the first thing to catch my eye. As I sipped the rich brew, I wandered slowly from room to room, reading the signs in Spanish. I looked at old photographs of coffee trees in bloom, Mayan natives bent almost double from the weight of lugging giant canvas bags full of beans on their backs, and maps of the different coffees grown in Chiapas. 

The piercing whistle of the tea kettle brings me back into the kitchen and I hurry to turn the burner off.  I fill the one-cup filter with the ground coffee and pour a small amount of the hot water over the grounds, just enough to cause them to swell and bloom. They turn frothy white as I wait for the water to drip into my mug. When the water is gone, I add some more and wait again.

I remember looking at displays of coffee equipment in the museum, such as a coffee bean sorter, numerous bean grinders as well as the rake-like tools used to harvest the beans. In one of the last rooms, there was a display on Fair Trade coffee. It showed how selling their coffee via the Fair Trade business has helped the local Maya people earn more money which they use to provide better food, clothing, and education for their large families.

My coffee has finished dripping into my mug and I place the filter in the compost. I inhale deeply and sigh…the bag of beans is just about empty and I have no idea when I will get back to San Cristobal to buy some more.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

September 4, 2011-- The Tastes of the Yucatan Peninsula--second attempt....

The Tastes of the Yucatan Peninsula

Located in the eastern part of Mexico, the Yucatan Peninsula is known for its sandy beaches, varied wildlife and birds, Mayan pyramids, and its regional cuisine. This cuisine developed from the ancient Maya traditional dishes made of corn, beans, tomatoes, wild turkey, seafood, and chocolate. With the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors, more flavors such as pork, chicken, capers, olives, rice, and black pepper were introduced into the diet to form new complex savory blends. Modern Yucatecan restaurants now serve a wide variety of regional specialties highlighting the unusual combinations of the old and the new. So, if you think all Mexican food consists of guacamole, salsa, and white flour tortillas filled with ground beef and shredded cheese, come learn about some typical dishes found in the Yucatan Peninsula.

For those who like a hearty breakfast, try huevos motuleños. A corn tortilla is covered with refried beans and a fried egg, then chopped ham and green peas are added before the mix is covered with a tomato sauce and shredded cheese. This one will need extra napkins to eat!

If you enjoy a light lunch, try panuchos. A slightly crispy fried tortilla is covered with cooked shredded chicken, and garnished with shredded lettuce, slices of tomatoes, pickled red onion, and sliced avocado. A quick squeeze of fresh lime juice and a sprinkle of salt create the perfect zesty dressing for this meal. A variation on this is the salbute which has refried beans stuffed inside the tortilla before the chicken and other toppings are added. 

One of the most popular dishes found in restaurants is cochinita pibil or roast suckling pig that’s been marinated in a rich sauce made of achiote paste, sour orange juice, garlic, cumin, and salt, then wrapped in banana leaves and baked until tender.

Poc chuc is another pork dish frequently seen on menus. Slices of pork are marinated in a sour orange sauce before cooking, then served with a rich, slightly spicy tomato sauce and pickled red onions.

Sopa de lima is the Yucatan’s idea of chicken soup. A fresh chicken broth filled with shredded chicken, strips of fried corn tortillas, and lime juice. A basic fill-you-up dish that will also help settle your stomach when you’ve had too many margaritas the night before.

Tamales are a typical Yucatan dish. Wrapped in banana leaves instead of corn husks, the steamed cornmeal dumpling can be filled with just about anything from chicken to pork to rabbit with figs and green olives.

For dessert, try the flan. Every restaurant has its own variation on this dish and owners vie for the best flan in the area. A slightly browned sugar syrup is poured into custard cups, then a rich egg and milk mixture is added and baked or steamed until set. When served, the sweet sugary syrup cascades over the sides of the creamy egg custard in a delightful blend of flavors.

Or head to one of the many pastelerias or bakeries in the area where you’ll find all kinds of sweet treats from sugar cookies covered in sprinkles to slices of cheesecake to coconut macaroons.

And if you’re thirsty, be sure to try some freshly squeezed orange juice, or a licuado-a fruit puree, water, and ice drink made from the local area fruits. Try watermelon, strawberry, tamarind, hibiscus flower, or pineapple…any are sure to quench the driest mouth. And don’t worry about the water or ice—all restaurants are required to serve bottled water as the limestone in the area makes the water hard to drink even for the locals.

Regardless of where you eat, a meal in the Yucatan will certainly surprise and delight you with new flavor combinations that bring new meaning to the words “Mexican food.” Buen provecho!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

September 1, 2011--Rabbit, Rabbit...

And another month is gone, just like that. I know in essence what I did during the month of August but at odd moments, I reflect on where the time went and all the things I didn't do...more kayaking, another swim in the lake, a trip to the coast for steamers...little, summery things that got put on hold while we focused on preparing for winter, which is why our woodshed is completely full right now (an all-time first).
I also know I have worked hard at taking more time to write each day and more time on promoting myself as a writer, both of which are beginning to pay off. I have three places to write book reviews for with the potential of another site in the near future. I won't get rich by any of this work, but it does bring me one step closer to my goal of being able to support myself and my family on just my writing. And I am reading all kinds of interesting, thought-provoking books, which stir my creative juices in big ways.
So, although the days are definitely getting shorter and the early mornings and late evenings cooler, I am not really saddened by it. Long winter evenings curled in a chair by the stove, reading and writing doesn't sound like such a bad thing right now.

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Tastes of the Yucatan Peninsula

The Tastes of the Yucatan Peninsula

Located in the eastern part of Mexico, the Yucatan Peninsula is known for its sandy beaches, varied wildlife and birds, Mayan pyramids, and its regional cuisine. These Yucatecan dishes stem from ancient Maya cooking blended with the flavors of the Spanish conquistadors who arrived in the area via Cuba. So, if you think all Mexican food consists of guacamole, salsa, and white flour tortillas filled with ground beef and shredded cheese, come learn about some typical dishes found in the Yucatan Peninsula.

For those who like a hearty breakfast, try huevos motuleños. A corn tortilla is covered with refried beans and a fried egg, then chopped ham and green peas are added before the mix is covered with a tomato sauce and shredded cheese. This one will need extra napkins to eat!

If you enjoy a light lunch, try panuchos. A slightly crispy fried tortilla is covered with cooked shredded chicken, and garnished with shredded lettuce, slices of tomatoes, pickled red onion, and sliced avocado. A quick squeeze of fresh lime juice and a sprinkle of salt create the perfect zesty dressing for this meal. A variation on this is the salbute which has refried beans stuffed inside the tortilla before the chicken and other toppings are added. 

One of the most popular dishes found in restaurants is cochinita pibil or roast suckling pig that’s been marinated in a rich sauce made of achiote paste, sour orange juice, garlic, cumin, and salt, then wrapped in banana leaves and baked until tender.

Poc chuc is another pork dish frequently seen on menus. Slices of pork are marinated in a sour orange sauce before cooking, then served with a rich, slightly spicy tomato sauce and pickled red onions.

Sopa de lima is the Yucatan’s idea of chicken soup. A fresh chicken broth filled with shredded chicken, strips of fried corn tortillas, and lime juice. A basic fill-you-up dish that will also help settle your stomach when you’ve had too many margaritas the night before.

Tamales are a typical Yucatan dish. Wrapped in banana leaves instead of corn husks, the steamed cornmeal dumpling can be filled with just about anything from chicken to pork to rabbit with figs and green olives.

For dessert, try the flan. Every restaurant has its own variation on this dish and owners vie for the best flan in the area. A slightly browned sugar syrup is poured into custard cups, then a rich egg and milk mixture is added and baked or steamed until set. When served, the sweet sugary syrup cascades over the sides of the creamy egg custard in a delightful blend of flavors.

Or head to one of the many pastelerias or bakeries in the area where you’ll find all kinds of sweet treats from sugar cookies covered in sprinkles to slices of cheesecake to coconut macaroons.

Monday, August 22, 2011

August 22, 2011 Assignment One for MatadorU...

This particular blog is for my travel writing course on MatadorU so for those of you who aren't involved with that, this is just a heads-up as to what's going on here...
Assignment One
Yucatan Food 101

Do you think all Mexican food consists of guacamole, salsa and white flour tortillas filled with ground beef and shredded cheese? If that’s the case come learn about some typical dishes found in the Yucatan Peninsula.
One of the most popular dishes found in restaurants is cochinita pibil or roast suckling pig that’s been marinated in a rich sauce made of achiote paste, sour orange juice, garlic, cumin, and salt, then wrapped in banana leaves and baked until tender.
Sopa de lima is the Yucatan’s idea of chicken soup. A fresh chicken broth filled with shredded chicken, strips of fried corn tortillas, and lime juice. A basic fill-you-up dish that will also help settle your stomach when you’ve had too many margaritas the night before.
Poc chuc is another pork dish. Slices of pork are marinated in a sour orange sauce before cooking, then served with a rich, slightly spicy tomato sauce and pickled red onions.
For those who like a hearty breakfast, try huevos motuleños. A corn tortilla is covered with refried beans and a fried egg, then chopped ham and green peas are added before the mix is covered with a tomato sauce and shredded cheese. This one will need extra napkins to eat!
And for those looking for a light lunch or supper, try panuchos. A slight crispy fried tortilla is covered with cooked shredded chicken, and garnished with shredded lettuce, slices of tomatoes, pickled red onion, and sliced avocado. A quick squeeze of fresh lime juice and a sprinkle of salt create the perfect zesty dressing for this meal. A variation on this is the salbute which has refried beans stuffed inside the tortilla before the chicken and other toppings are added.  
Tamales are a typical Yucatan dish. Wrapped in banana leaves instead of corn husks, the steamed cornmeal dumpling can be filled with just about anything from chicken to pork to rabbit with figs and green olives.

As  I wrote this article, I realized I have no idea where something like this might get published. I know it is part of the assignment to find some spots but the only places I could think of didn't look right when I studied the websites. One place I did find was El Restaurante Mexicano, PO Box 2249, Oak Park IL 60303. It's an industry magazine and requests 800-1200 word articles, so this piece is way too short for them.
Does anyone have any suggestions of markets for food related articles that pertain to Mexico?

And my apologies for taking so long to get started on this course. I wound up having to take on a second job this summer to help pay the bills, which doesn't leave me a lot of time to write these assignments, no matter how much I would like to be doing them.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

August 17, 2011--New book review posted...

Hello on this super nice day...I have a new book review out today on the New Maine Times website on The Wilder Life by Wendy McClure. For those of you who might have been or still are fans of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Little House on the Prairie series, you might find this memoir a fun read. I also had a review out on New Maine Times on July 27. Check them out under the "Culture" button at
And for those who like to read book reviews in general, make sure to read William Bushnell's reviews. He is the one who taught me and is a great reviewer and a really nice guy as well.
My first Kirkus Reviews review should be viewable by Sept. 1st, but I'm not sure if you have to be a member to see the whole review. I'll have a couple more for them coming out shortly after the first, too.
If anyone has a suggestion of a new (2011) book to review, drop me a note as New Maine Times is looking for good books to include. Thanks.

Monday, August 15, 2011

August 15, 2011-- A sense of violation...

This morning, while working for the job that I am not supposed to discuss, I landed on a website that had an old virus embedded in it--a W32/ Blaster worm...yeah, I know what the hell is that? Probably the worst virus my computer has contracted, ever, period. It shut down Internet Explorer, Firefox, any access to any kind of Internet help, either through Microsoft or McAfee. I had to use my son's computer to go on-line to look up possible solutions to this issue.
I tried clicking on Systems Restore, going to a version from earlier this morning but that was unsuccessful. Now, I think, am hopeful, that by going to Systems Restore again and clicking on a version from last week, I have finally gotten rid of the hateful thing.
But, I am leery to download Firefox 5 again or to go back into my worksite as my security system doesn't seem to be compatible with their system. Ugh.
I feel violated now--my peaceful, internal space, my work zone and livelihood have been attacked. I empathize with those who  have had their store fronts or homes broken into and items stolen. I am fearful of the Internet and the crazy creeps who put this crud out there. I feel physically traumatized for something that happened in cyber space. Is that a sign of how interconnected I, we, have all become with this new age of information and Internet access? I keep wondering what kinds of info they were able to access before I could get rid of their malware--identity theft, credit card numbers, etc. keep running through my mind, what do I actually have on this machine that might be of use/interest to thieves?
It's creepy and I don't like it but am forced to live with it and try to move on.

Monday, August 1, 2011

August 1, 2011--Rabbit, Rabbit...

Happy August 1st! Wow, July just kind of disappeared in a whirlwind of work, especially firewood. But, the woodshed is half full and there's more than enough dry wood waiting to go inside that we should be all set for this winter and part of next. That is a good feeling.
The garden is cranking out the produce at this point. Plenty of cucumbers, zucchini, kale, and chard to eat with enough extra to make pickles and zucchini bread. My neighbor's raspberry patch is in hyper drive--we picked 4 quarts in about 4 minutes this morning and probably have to do the same every day this week.
I just got an email from UPS telling me another book is on the way from Kirkus Reviews, with a second book waiting for me in the wings.
I am back to writing my novel! Everyone in the house, including visiting family members, is gone for the afternoon, so I have peace and quiet for now. I've been doing a lot of thinking on my novel, of where it might be heading for the past couple of weeks, so now I am getting a chance to try it all out. I'm introducing a new, minor character--it might be a bit late in the game to do so, but the scenes were too static with only one person in them. Now I have some interaction going on again and that feels right to me.
Hope the weeks are going well for you.

Friday, July 29, 2011

July 29, 2011-- Another piece of the puzzle...

Today, another piece of my puzzle (figuring out the life of a freelance writer who has two kids living at home, a husband and numerous outside jobs to do during the summer) slipped into place. I sent my first book review off to Kirkus Reviews. I have my fingers crossed that they like it and send me another book, as I'd much rather be reading and writing reviews than doing my current day job.
Also, for those who might have missed the announcement on Facebook, my first book review for the New Maine Times came out this past Wednesday. The magazine is on-line, so check out the review under 'Culture.'
Funny how I never thought of book reviewer as a career choice and yet, doing them feels like one of the most natural fits for me. I am excited to see if I can land some more gigs with other, hopefully paying, places and really build a future in this new genre of writing. I'll keep you posted.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

July 17, 2011-Like pieces of a puzzle...

My apologies for the lack of writing lately--I could blame it on the sudden heat, the sudden reappearance of my youngest son living with us for the summer, the endless stream of workmen who have been arriving on our doorstep on a regular basis lately to do the work my husband is not well enough to do this year, or just plain, I don't have much to say and would rather read or watch a movie than write some a blog destined to bore everyone...
However, I have been busy writing during all of the above said interruptions as well as attended a two-part workshop on how to write book reviews. This was held in Portland--a two+ hour drive each way for me-- and conducted by a very good instructor, William Bushnell and sponsored by the MWPA.
I have been searching for more ways to make a living by writing and may have found another niche job of writing reviews. In fact, I am confident I have an internship with the New Maine Times which will hopefully lead into a paying position sometime this fall or winter. Either way, it will be nice to have my work in print and a real byline.
Plus, I have been researching and querying other book review sites in the hopes I can write reviews for a variety of places and bring in little lumps of money for doing two things I love, reading and writing.
Writing book reviews could be yet another piece of the bigger picture for me, along with travel articles, and someday a book or two. To be a freelance writer and make a living at it, I think I will need many pieces of the puzzle, so I am excited that this latest has been found.

Friday, July 1, 2011

July 1, 2011-- Rabbit, rabbit...

The first of July. Wow! Where did June go? Disappeared in a haze of working for money, splitting wood, tackling Mt. Washmore in the laundry/bathroom, cancer treatments and bleaching the toilet, two weekends away to visit family and friends...I am tired and summer has only really just begun.
My youngest son, Finn, has moved back into the house at 16 after leaving at 14. He seems far older than his years, which is a little unnerving as I keep thinking of him as being around 20 and am surprised when I do finally remember his actual age.
We have a new kitchen roof, more split wood in the backyard than we've ever had, a lush garden that definitely needs weeding tomorrow, and a brand new bed and mattress. So, why do I feel frustrated and frazzled and can barely hear myself think?
I feel I am missing something, caught up as I am in the whirlwind of teenage boys and their friends, my husband and his needs. I think it must be that sense of peace and quiet that I only find while driving alone for hours at a time or writing. I have not found time or space for these pleasures lately and find myself alternating between bursts of strange frustrated anger and weeping. I can do without the anger but actually like the weeping as once I am done in a few minutes time, I feel slightly refreshed, like when a quick shower passes through and lowers the temperature and humidity outside. Here's to hoping this holiday weekend will lend itself to some contemplation and writing.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

June 21, 2011--Happy Summer!

It's finally here, summer...which means that after tonight, it's a slow but inevitable downward slide into the darkest time of the year...a time I might actually prefer in some respects. It's so much easier to turn to a good book while tucked under a down comforter or crawl into bed and watch a movie on my computer when it is cold and pitch black outside. I feel guilty right now for wanting to stop working outside at 8 pm because it is still so light out!
The Mayans had a 360 day calendar round that they followed, with the last five days of the year considered a time of bad luck. Called the Wayeb or Uayeb depending on which interpretation you read, the opening between the Underworld and this world was much closer during those five days and all kinds of weird things could happen. The hieroglyph used to depict this time of the calendar was a picture of a stone "with a U-shaped skeletal maw on its top" (Ancient Maya World, p 253.) The Mayans believed the Gods could descend and deliver all kinds of disease, death and decay, so to prevent this, they conducted special dances and offered a variety of sacrifices.
The Mayans observed both the solstices and the equinoxes as well as the movement of planets, especially Venus. They are well-known for their accurate astronomy and various buildings like the Observatory at Chichen Itzá and another at Mayapan.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

June 14, 2011-- Listening to the Universe...

Today is the third day in a row that my on-line job has not had work for me. Day one felt like a holiday and I went off to get my hair cut, did some necessary errands, and even went to the bookstore and bought a new book with the 40% off coupon I received via email. Being in the store, looking at all the published novels made me want to rush home and write, which I did do over the weekend, adding another 18 pages to my novel draft.
Day two with no work turned out to be annoying as it was Monday and I was ready to be at my desk. Instead, I went mattress shopping with my husband, which turned out to be a tiring and tedious task and we came home empty-handed. (Any suggestions on a good mattress for around $600-$800 will be greatly appreciated.)
Today, Day three--only a short amount of work to do this morning and then nothing. I have felt out of sorts, discombobulated, unable to focus this morning on much of anything, especially writing, so wound up stacking firewood. It felt good to move, good to see the wood pile growing ever larger inside the shed instead of out in the rain. I also came to the conclusion during this therapeutic exercise that maybe the universe was trying to say something to me these past couple of days. That maybe, this job is not where my life is really at. Sure, it is paying the bills right now, but if my true goal is to be a writer, more specifically a travel/travelling writer, then maybe instead of fretting about the lack of work, I should be working on writing about my travels.
So, on that note, I just took a leap of faith and signed up for an introductory lesson from MatadorU for their Travel Writing program. For ten dollars, I can try out the site and lesson for a week, if I like it, I pay the remaining money, if not, I cancel and I'm only out the ten bucks.
Based on what I have read so far, I think I will stick with the program. And because of that, some of my blogs in the months to come may seem strange when in fact, they will really be assignments for this on-line writing course. They recommend using the MatadorU blog site for a space, but offer the option of using your own blog site if you already have a blog started. Since this blog exists and the thought of trying to maintain two made me slightly ill, I posted this site as my MatadorU site. That means some postings will be assignments and may have feedback from other students enrolled in this program. It also means I will probably be able (finally) to focus this blog into what I had originally started it for which is to write about Maine and Mexico. So, that's the news for now, hope you come along for the ride.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

June 7, 2011--Summer's rapid approach...

It's the 7th of June, summer is rapidly approaching and it feels good to know I have over 2+ cords of split wood drying in my backyard. For, here in Maine, once the spring rains cease, it is time to think of firewood and winter.
My husband always comments on how I think several steps ahead in any given situation--knowing what to purchase at the store so I can make dinner for friends three nights from now, knowing what supplies will be needed if we decide to put down the new flooring in the foyer, splitting wood now even though it is June and the beginning of summer, etc. I think it comes from having lived closely with nature for the last 25 years or so.
When one season finally arrives, it means another is just around the corner, so one must prepare for that shift while enjoying what is presently on hand. So, while I enjoy watching the garden grow, I am also splitting wood and washing and sorting winter clothes because all too soon, we will need these things in our lives again.
Plus, I hate to be cold, so knowing that I have physically done much of the wood this year will give me added pleasure this winter when I throw another stick of dry maple or birch in the stove. And as they say here in Maine, firewood warms you twice, once when you split it, another when you burn it. But, I think I counted six ways that works--once to pitch it in the truck, twice to unload it, thrice to split it, fourth to stack it, fifth to bring it into the house and sixth to fill the stove.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

June 2, 2011-- Tornadoes and lightning and thunder, oh my....

I had every good intention of writing at least a short blog last night. Then my son came in the house around 4:30 with the news that our area was under a tornado watch and severe thunderstorms were headed in our direction. For the next four hours or so, we stayed in the house with the radio on, listening for weather updates and watching the storm as it passed. At one point, the sky turned a creepy purplish green and the wind and clouds were swirling round and round. We were all prepared to dive under the stairs at that point, but fortunately didn't have to.
I was a bit apprehensive the whole time though. Back in 1974, when I was nine, I was in the middle of the what was then the largest series of tornadoes to touch down in Alabama. We were staying in our travel trailer  at a friend's house, en route to Maine, when the storm approached. My parents were persuaded to stay that night at the friend's place instead of continuing north to the next campground, several hundred miles away. It was a nightmarish night with branches breaking and dropping on the tin roof of the camper, howling winds, heavy rain, etc. The next day, we did continue on our journey. We went past the campground where we would have stayed if not for the storm. The whole place was flattened and several people were dead.
Add to that the fact that in 1998, I was struck by lightning while inside the house-- the bolt hit me on the right foot, travelled up my right leg, crossed my chest, shot down my left arm and flew off my left index finger as a flash of blue light--and it makes sense that this kind of a storm would leave me kind of edgy.
Here's a poem I wrote several years ago about the storm in Alabama:

One Night in Alabama
Branches breaking
slithering and sliding
like water moccasins
on the aluminum roof.
Rain drums deafness.
My bladder aches full.

Huddled in my bunk
sticky, sweaty inside
the sleeping bag,
freight-train whistle-winds
rock, roll, lift, and lurch
the tin can camper that we’re in.

The dog whines, cowering
in the corner by the door.
Agitated whispers—dark
parental shadows crouch
over the radio. Static crackles:
funnel clouds in Marion county.

Megawatt flashes slash
the blackness cutting zigzags
in my eyes. I clamp the pillow
over my head. Smothered
into a nightmare, I startle
awake with urgent need.

Peeing sweet relief
into soft, black mud,
wet leaves stick
to my bare feet. Raindrops
on the roof spatter.
Daylight hugs the horizon.

In a campground in Tanner,
two hundred miles north,
everyone is dead.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

May 31, 2011-- Tired, bug bitten...

Yesterday was a long slog of a day--I took the day off from my paid job to catch up on a lot of the garden work that needs doing. Since it was the first sunny day in quite awhile, there was a lot to do including shoveling manure off the truck, into the wheelbarrow and dumping it on the raised garden beds. Then, the leaves which had been used for banking that still remained around two sides of the house needed removing before any more of the grass died from the weight of the wet leaves and lack of sunlight. Then, an area near the compost pile needed to be cleared of sticks and twigs so the second load of manure/compost could be unloaded in that spot. Fortunately my son came home with a friend just in time to shovel off that truck load. It's amazing how much faster two teenage boys can unload a truck than one middle-aged woman. Although my husband assures me that the second load was noticeably smaller than the first.
Lucky for me my neighbor called in the middle of the afternoon with the suggestion of cold drinks at her house at 4:30 as after all, it was Memorial Day, so the next couple of hours went by in a blur of finishing small tasks like bringing in three loads of dry laundry off the line and watering the greenhouse. A hot shower made me aware of the many bug bites on my legs as well as the sun burn I acquired on the backs of my calves, which stop in a line with the tops of my rubber boots. Drinks and snacks led to dinner and some wine, so by nightfall, I was pleasantly relaxed but also damn tired and grateful to fall into bed. And didn't wake up until 6:45 this morning!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

May 29, 2011-- Things to note...

It's been too long since I wrote a blog, a page or two in my book, actually anything except grocery lists and to-do today lists that seem to stretch on and on and on. However, I am pleased to say that one, I have not had a patch over my right eye for almost two weeks now and yesterday was the first day I did not need to apply any ointment to it (which makes my vision blurry. Better than no vision, but blurry nonetheless.)
Two, my husband has small bunches of energy which he is wisely using to help me do things like set up the garden fencing-an onerous task for two and really impossible for one, so I am grateful for his help.
Three, little by little the brush and wood from the fifty-plus trees we had dropped this spring by two able-bodied men with chainsaws is slowly being beaten back off the grass and garden areas. I tackle one small spot a day and figure if I am consistent with my efforts almost every day, I should have the whole area nicely cleaned up just about in time for the first leaves to fall.
Four, today was the first day I had eaten enough black flies and done enough in the gardening department to feel like I could sit at my desk and work on my book. What a treat to get back to writing after over a month away.
Five, having been sick myself and now with my husband sick, patience and enjoying the smallest things are so very important now. Watching the hummingbirds come to the feeders is probably one of our favorite pastimes these days.
Six, Life is short and I'm learning I can't do it all. I am setting priorities for the things that must be done for physical well-being, like the garden, as well as those things I must do for emotional well-being, like my writing. Some things will fall by the way side this year but I am determined that my book is not going to wind up on that list. So, on that note, I will go back to the Mayan jungle.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

May 17, 2011--Three weeks and counting...

It's been a little over three weeks since the Bell's Palsy hit and I find today is the first day I have been able to go more time without a patch over my eye than with one. Although I still have to keep putting in drops and ointment to keep the eye moist which makes my vision blurry, it is a vast improvement over wearing an eye patch all day and not being able to see at all. Just having depth perception back is a huge treat and I was able to take a walk on a very rutted road today without fear of stumbling.
We are still waiting for the doctor to call with results on Jeffrey. He is doing okay; the most difficult aspect of all of this is not doing anything all day. It is hard to keep an active man quiet and sitting still. If anyone has good reads to suggest, send them along as I imagine he will be going through books quite rapidly this summer.
A couple of things I have learned this week--my wood splitting days of the past have come in handy as I have been able to split kindling this week, even with one eye covered. Driving is a challenge but doable as I made it all the way back from Jackman the other day and also navigated traffic in Augusta yesterday. Of all my senses, losing my eyesight completely would be the most devastating to me. I have had some loss of taste and hearing with this Bell's but the eye business has been far the most difficult part to deal with.
I hope to get back to writing about Mexico soon--for those of you who are interested, I have five articles on Suite 101 now--mostly about Mexico, so if interested, check it out.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

May 10, 2011-- For Better or Worse...

The last two weeks have been a roller coaster ride of emotions, physical ailments, doctor's appointments and the like. My Bell's Palsy is slowly getting better; friends who have not seen me for a week have noticed improvements on the right side of my face. My little lines around my mouth are starting to reappear--god, I never thought I would miss my wrinkles, but having them come back is a good sign that nerves and muscles are starting to work again.
The bad news is Jeff's diagnosis based on the blood in his urine, the CT scan and then a cystoscopy--bladder cancer. Jeff underwent surgery last Friday afternoon and the doctor scraped the inside of the bladder to remove all the tumors and spots he found. Those have been sent off to the pathology lab although we already know the result is cancer. I guess the depth of the tumors will determine the next stage of treatment. Right now, Jeff has 6-8 weeks of rest ahead of him, a hard thing to do for a man used to cutting trees, splitting firewood, doing gardening and the like at this time of year. No pushing, pulling, lifting etc are the orders, which means we have already had to adjust how we do some things around the house, like starting the generator. It is an old pull cord one, difficult under good conditions for me to start, and impossible now for Jeff to do, so we work as a team. He holds the damn thing in place so it doesn't roll forward while I yank the cord. I think we will be purchasing an electric start one in the near future, though.
Plans and projects for the summer are on hold, being moved to a hire someone list or a scrap altogether list. Amazing how something like this can change a person's perspective on everything and what once seemed so damn important suddenly gets dropped like a hot potato.
My writing has been on hold for three weeks now; I am anxious to return to the Mayan jungle and help my protagonist work through her difficulties. Soon, I hope to find the time and energy to get back to her.
I will keep you posted on health and other related issues as time and energy allow. May you all remain healthy and happy in the weeks ahead.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

May 3, 2011-- Slow progress....

Slow progress being made here in the health department--no real improvement in my eye these last couple of days, but my tongue is less tingly, so I take that as a good sign.
All things happen for a reason and I have been searching for the meaning behind this sudden illness of mine. Especially since it happened right after a full moon/ovulation sequence where I felt like I was flying, on top of everything--work, writing, blogging, research, gardening etc. The lesson I think was that I was going too fast and headed towards disaster. I was spending so much time racing from one thing to the next, sometimes multi-tasking with various tabs open on the computer, etc. that I stopped paying attention to the little details along the way. Like that my desk was beginning to disappear under a mountain of papers and research books piled on the floor at my feet. Or that I hadn't really sat down and read a magazine article in depth--I had just been skimming them to get the gist of things before moving on to the next. Or taking time to just sit outside, doing absolutely nothing except having my eyes closed and listening to the wind, the sap suckers and robins.
I needed to slow down a bit and the only way I was going to do it was by getting slammed hard.
So, here's to the little things in life these days--the way a bubble forms on the rim of the dish soap bottle when I squeeze the liquid into the sink, the feel of soft fingers massaging my face to help with circulation, the taste of corn chips and guacamole eaten with both eyes closed, the grittiness of the soil on my hands as I plant seeds in the get the idea.
My mantra these days--take it slower, enjoy each passing moment, tomorrow will get here soon enough.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

May 1, 2011--Rabbit, Rabbit...

Happy May! The sun is warm to the skin, the wind is not too cold, the light is beautiful, the last of the plowed snow is gone in the front yard...all signs that winter is rapidly becoming a distant memory.
We planted a new lilac, blueberry, sour cherry and two black elderberries today to add to the fruit/berry trees and bushes we put in last year. I plan to start a journal of what we have planted and where so that someday when I am enjoying the fruit from these trees, I can look back and go, oh yeah, that was the spring I had Bell's Palsy and did everything with one eye closed for awhile.
Slight progress on that note--I can almost close my right eye again--it takes concentrated effort, but it does almost close. My tongue is still tingly, like I used way too much mouthwash, no chance of a smile, frown or flared nostril yet, but the eye is a good sign. So, with fingers crossed, I keep moving forward.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

April 26, 2011-- The highs and lows of it all...

Sorry I have not posted for a bit--this past week has been filled with highs and lows and right now, the lows are gaining--I spent a good part of Easter Sunday not making Easter eggs or cookies but in the ER with the right side of my face paralyzed. According to the PA's quick diagnosis, I have a classic textbook case of Bell's Palsy which started on Thursday with the most godawful pain right below my ear that I have ever experienced. Two days of pain led to a continuously weeping eye on Saturday to facial paralysis on Sunday.
Now I am reduced to seeing out of my left eye only, as the right is covered with a patch to help it from drying out. I am only able to create half a smile, can't raise my eyebrow or keep toothpaste from dribbling from the side of my mouth. Life has definitely slowed to a crawl especially any work on the computer as it is hard to type with only one eye watching fingers and keyboard. And to add to this, it may not be Bell's Palsy but another symptom of Lyme disease, so I need to get tested for that when I go to the doctor on Thursday.
Work on the book has stopped, work for money has slowed to a crawl--yesterday I watched my very first Oprah show as it required less eye strain than trying to read.
I knew I should have stayed in Mexico for another week...
I'll keep you posted on how things progress.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

April 19, 2011-- Random thoughts tonight...

Spring returned today when the sun popped out and the robins came back to peck at the drying mud in search of worms.
Margarita, Diosa de la Cumbia and Nirvana are both good groups to listen to while cooking and doing the dishes.
Not listening to the news can be a good thing once in awhile.
Most of the people I care about are too far away tonight to go visit so I wish Calvin would hurry up and build that teleport machine.
We need to weed out some books in the house but it feels too much like turning my back on a good friend when I toss them in a box.
My cat caught her first mouse of the spring and thankfully played with it outside instead of bringing it in to me.
The full moon was amazing last night but resulted in only about 4 hours sleep as it was soooo bright! I did come up with several new article ideas, though while lying in bed, so that was a good thing.
Now that winter is over, almost, it's time to start filling the woodshed for winter--gotta love the endless cycles of living close to nature!

Monday, April 18, 2011

April 18, 2011- Where is spring?

Today is the 18th of April. Almost a month has passed since the official calendar turning of the seasons to spring and yet, today felt as raw, blustery and apt to snow as any day in February. I bundled up in multiple layers to take a much needed walk in the fresh air and on my return, promptly started up the wood stove. We still have piles of snow in the front, side and back yards while the driveway is a continuous series of ruts in the semi-frozen mud.
Tulips and daffodils are bravely poking up about six inches of greenery but this is only because we planted them over the septic tank, which is the warmest spot in the yard at this time of year.
Weather predictions do not look favorable for the rest of the week with snow flurries being mentioned on one report I heard today.
I think it will be a good week to stay at my desk, working on various projects and dreaming of a vacation in Hawaii sometime in June.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

April 16, 2011-- A blustery afternoon approaches...

The wind is picking up outside and if I lived on a lake or small pond, I imagine the water would be kicking up into small whitecaps at this point. But, since I live in the woods, the strings of Mexican and Tibetan prayer flags flapping steadily outside my office window and the noise of the wind leaking in around said old  office window are the only indications at this point that we are due for a storm.
The reading Thursday night was a true delight. Rosemary Mahoney, who strongly reminded me in dress, mannerisms, and speech of Dana Scully from The X Files, did a nice job of reading from her book, Down the Nile. Which, we learned, is not the title she would have chosen for the book, but the one the publisher picked. As Ms. Mahoney said, they know their business, as the book has sold far more copies with this title than would have with her original. Which she can't even remember at this point.
I liked the fact that she spent more time just talking to the audience and answering questions than actually reading as we can all go read her books on our own time but can't ask her questions whenever we want. Except, I did, as I found her email address on-line and wrote her with the question I wanted to ask that evening but didn't have time to do which is what is her latest project? Last night I received a very nice reply stating Ms. Mahoney is working on a book about teaching the blind in India. Sounds like another best-seller to me.
That reading was the last of the Visiting Writers Series at UMF for this semester. I will keep watch for the new line of writers who will be appearing in the fall and keep you posted.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

April 14, 2011-- A short posting...

Today will be a very short posting as I am heading to the Rosemary Mahoney reading at the University of Maine Farmington tonight. Mahoney is a travel/non-fiction writer and I have been enjoying her book, Whoredom in Kimmage: Irish Women Coming of Age. I have two of Mahoney's other books as well, Down the Nile: Alone in a Fisherman's Skiff and The Early Arrival of Dreams: A Year in China, but have yet to read these two. I am curious to hear this woman speak and to maybe find out where she is headed next in her travels, as well as any pointers she might give out on writing travel memoirs as mine still sits half-finished on my computer.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

April 13, 2011-- April snowshowers bring...

Ah, the joys of living in Maine are once again being demonstrated by dear Mother Nature as I sit and look out my window at the thick wet snow flakes and rain pouring from the darkening skies. Yesterday was warm, sunny, a clear robin egg blue sky--I am so grateful I took the time to go for a long, long walk, as today will be spent cooped up in the house with two restless cats and a semi-restless husband.
None have the wanderlust that I have in my heart as I continue to pore through text on the ancient Maya, their customs, their rituals, and the food, plants, and animals of their world.
One of the new books I received the other day is proving to be more academic than I had hoped--Ancient Maya Women edited by Traci Ardren is full of essays, but the long-winded academic kind found in a PhD program rather than an easier, sit down and read me easily type. But, I am determined to slog my way through the book as it is bound to have useful information that I can plug into my heroine's personal history.
This would be a good day to try and work my way through some of them, if I didn't need to go make some money instead. Ah well, there is always later today, while riding my bike, as I am most certainly not going for a walk in the slop falling from the sky.
I do hope these April snowshowers will bring me lilacs in May.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

April 12, 2011--The snow recedes...

Poco a poco, little by little, the snow continues to recede in the yard. The patches around the trees grow larger as their heat continues to melt the snow and the shoveled areas continue to widen in girth as well. Unfortunately, I wandered into the garden area and sank up to the tops of my rubber boots in crunchy snow crystals, so it will be a bit before I can clean the raised beds, turn the soil and prepare for the coming gardening season. But while standing there, getting cold feet, we heard two owls hooting to each other, which was a treat and reminded me of an old friend.
Now that the protective blanket of white is disappearing, all the last minute projects that were left undone due to the first snows of last fall are reappearing, like the deck/screenhouse that needs finishing, the wood piles to cut, the last stalks of broccoli that the deer ate before the stems froze too hard even for the deer to chew.
Plus, where Jeff cut down trees over the winter, the brush piles are appearing. Which is why yesterday I went out and bought myself a new set of pruning loppers- great big ones that will cut through a branch 1 5/8 in thickness. I tried them out on a pile of poplar branches this afternoon and it was like cutting through soft butter. What a treat and a joy to use instead of the small pruning shears I have always used in the past. Maybe this year I won't give myself rib pain from trying to cut branches far too thick with pruners far too small to handle the job.
There is a joy and a rush of energy to see the ground appearing, but I must admit, a bit of sadness, too as now there will be a constant flux of work to do and no days off because of the cold, snowy weather. Even summer rainy days are needed for the water table and the indoor chores that get neglected because there is so much to do outside on the good days.
Winter anyone?

Monday, April 11, 2011

April 11, 2011-- Two odd bits of info...

The other day I splurged on Amazon and bought five new books, all relevant to the Maya people and their history. The packages arrived Friday and Saturday, with four books all in one box. I had a huge grin on my face when I saw that box, despite walking three-quarters of a mile through the mud back to the house.
I spent the weekend reading, writing and boiling sap, not all in that order. The sap season is finished, with my husband canning the last batch last night while I curled up on the couch with two books. It was hard to decide which one to look at first, so I opted for the book with the most pictures: Maya Nature by Thor Janson. Beautiful photographs of the flora and fauna of the Mayan world from Mexico to Guatemala and Belize. I must admit I skimmed over all the photos of vipers and coral snakes, but then realized I may want to use one at some point in my novel, so went back and studied them again.
I found a useful tip on how to distinguish between the  coral snake and the king snake, which is non-dangerous. They both have bands of red, black and yellow on them, so knowing the order of the bands will tell you whether the snake is a coral or a king. This is how people in Belize remember "red and yellow, kill a fellow; red and black, friend of Jack."
Another interesting thing I read was about manatees, which live off the Caribbean coast of Central America. Mayan fishermen used to hunt the manatee and dry the meat for something they called "butan." When the Spanish and other European invaders, like the pirates arrived, they relied on this meat to survive and were thus called "buccaneers."

Thursday, April 7, 2011

April 7, 2011-- I shouldn't read the news...

Because I work on-line, at home, I am often scanning the news headlines during the day, during my breaks. After all, the computer is up and running and it is easy enough to open a new tab and check the headlines. There are times, though, when I wish I didn't have this curiosity to know what is going on in the rest of the world.
Like tonight-- the opening headlines are on the crazy man who killed 11 children, mostly girls, in a school in Rio de Janeiro. Just reading the headlines made my skin crawl and then I had to keep reading to find out what happened to the man. He wound up shooting himself in the head, which is little consolation, especially to the parents of the slain children.
This morning, I saw the first news flashes of the 7.4 earthquake in Japan and the 6.5 quake in Mexico and immediately started looking for tsunami warnings for Hawaii while I felt my heart begin to race and my blood pressure to rise. Twenty minutes later the news flashes were of the 4-6 foot tsunami headed to Japan and my heart fluttered again.
It's important to keep abreast of these things but there are days when I wish the news was more user-friendly. It would certainly make for a less panic filled day for everyone, not just me.
On the plus side, it makes me realize why I like living in central Maine-- it is relatively safe albeit a bit boring at times. However, I will take boring over gunmen and earthquakes any day.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

April 6, 2011-- Over and done...

March Madness/ The Final Four are over and done. Tonight, blessed sleep will come early to this house!
It was disappointing that the UConn Women's team did not make it to the final game, but we were happy to see the UConn Men  win the championship. And, because the women lost to Notre Dame, I rooted for Texas A and M and was quite happy to see them beat Notre Dame last night by 6 points.
Now, the television will be given a bit of a break as there really is not much to watch on most of the channels. With 120 channels or however many we have in our dish package, it still strikes me as odd that there is so little out there really worth the time to watch.
Maybe it is the writer in me, but I would much rather read a good book than watch a sitcom or drama for an hour. I try to remind myself that all shows on television have been written by someone, so watching them is similar to reading, but I have yet to really convince myself of this. And yet, when I watch a movie, I often feel like I can feel the connection to the writer behind the scenes. I wonder why there is a difference between the two? And if the movie is particularly good, like The King's Speech for instance, I wind up wishing I could write something as good and feel energized to get back to my computer and bang away on the keys.
So, with that note, off to read and maybe do some writing...

Sunday, April 3, 2011

April 3, 2011-- In the midst of the Final Four...

We are deeply mired in mud, overflowing in maple sap and up to all hours of the night with the Final Four, both of them. Last night, the UConn men managed to hold on at the last second and win their game by one point, which was way too close for comfort. Tonight, the UConn women have their turn, but not until late, so that means cups of black tea to stay awake until 11:30 or so.
By Tuesday, it will all be over and life will slow down a bit. It is always with mixed feelings when March Madness and April's Final Four are finally done. It is a sure sign of spring when there aren't any more games, but it also means nothing is really on television to watch, too. Which could be seen as a good thing as more magazines will get read and books as well.
I just ordered some new books on the Mayans, more research for my own book. Those should be arriving next week, just in time to fill the emptiness. I am eager to read a newish book on the roles of women in ancient Mayan times; I suspect this author's take on the subject will be quite different than some of the books I have been reading lately which seem very male oriented.
Work on the book is progressing nicely; I finished another chapter this weekend and am at about page 70 or so, the most I have ever written on one subject.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

April 2, 2011--Lost in the Mayan jungles...

I've been lost in the Mayan jungles all day--well, at least in my head. It felt strange yesterday to work on my book and look up once in awhile from the computer to see all the snow coming down. And again this afternoon, when the house grew quiet with the boys off visiting friends and Jeff outside, boiling sap. I got disoriented at going out into the sixteen inches of new snow instead of heading down the path to the river that exists in the book.
But, it's been a good writing day, with the ability to add little details here and there now that I've been back to the Yucatan area and know more what it looks like.
I think this trip helped solidify the location of the ending of the book, which was beginning to bother me just a little, as I hadn't quite been able to place it. Now, I think Mayapan will become the setting. It fits with the time frame of the book and since I wandered all over the place and have about 50 pictures of all the ruins, including the three pyramids, two observatories and the cenote or limestone sink hole where the Mayans collected their drinking water, I have a good sense of place.
I also had fun this am ordering some more books on ancient Mayan herbal remedies, plants and animals off of Amazon as more research material to use. I love being able to justify these purchases as needed research materials. Plus, it's far cheaper than going back to school to study Mayan culture in a more scholarly setting.

Friday, April 1, 2011

April 1, 2011-- I am the fool...

There I was, just four days ago, down in warm (80-90's), sunny, clear blue sky Mérida... and today, stuck indoors with over a foot of snow mounting up outside. What a fool I am to have returned after only a week!
But, that is Maine for you--all too often we get teased by spring temps, sunny days, daffodils popping up over the septic tank (the first place that thaws) and then, wham, we are slammed with a real doozy of a snow.
Mexico, as always, was a treat. I ate tons of delicious Yucatecan food like cochinita pibil--baby pork in a slightly spicy annato sauce slow baked in banana leaves--served with refried beans, pickled red onions and handmade corn tortillas-- or panuchos--semi-crispy fried corn tortillas topped with black refried beans, lettuce, shredded cooked chicken, slices of plum tomatoes, pickled red onion slivers and avocado wedges-- or sopa de lima-- a rich chicken stock soup with red peppers, onions, shredded chicken, and fried tortilla pieces with loads of lime juice in it. A true Yucatecan-Jewish mother-in-law cure-all soup.
I walked many miles every day, all over the city of Mérida, out on the beach at Progreso, around the town of Izamal and the ancient Mayan ruins of Mayapan. There is something very humbling about climbing pyramids that were built around 500 ad. Or seeing a stone set in the wall of the huge church in Izamal with the date 1648 etched into the limestone. Although it did bother me that this church, built by the Spanish, was on top of the Mayan pyramid that had been there for 800 to 1000 years before the arrival of the Spanish.
It will take me awhile to process all the new sights, feelings, history of the Yucatan area but I do know that I will be going back at some point. There are just too many places to see down there and the people are just too darn nice to not return. As I go through my notes, I will continue to post things here about the trip and the various adventures I had.
Rabbit rabbit to you all.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

March 19, 2011-- Supermoon...

They claim tonight's full moon will be a super moon event as the moon is the closest it gets to the earth in 18 years. So those of you younger than 18, this will be your first event... I wondered why my dreams last night were more intense than normal and expect I will have the same thing occur tonight.
I leave on Monday for Mérida, Mexico for a week. The Internet access will be sporadic while I am down there, so it's doubtful I will be posting any blogs for that length of time. But, hopefully when I get back on-line after the 28th, I will have new tales of Mexico to relate. I plan to visit some Mayan ruins, go to Progreso and Celestun, both on the Gulf of Mexico, do some archaeological research at the big museum in Mérida for my book, eat some good food and drink some cold beers.
I'll soak up some sun and heat and get to avoid mud season for a week :) Have a good one!

Friday, March 18, 2011

March 18, 2011--Mud season, March madness...

Mud season has arrived in a flash. Two days ago it was snowing and today, cars were bottoming out on the road. We are faced with three options for the next couple of weeks: 1) using the truck and mud running the road when we need to get in and out, usually with the groceries and/or gasoline for the generator, 2) only using the car in the early morning or late at night when the road is somewhat frozen, 3) parking at the top of the hill and walking in 1.5 miles to the house, which requires two sets of shoes--mud boots for the walk and regular shoes for use in the car, around town etc.
It is also March madness and since I live with a huge basketball fan, especially of women's college basketball, the next couple of weeks will find me alone on the computer while one game after another is seen on the television.
I don't mind either situation...they are both signs that spring is definitely on the way, that we have survived the worst of this winter, that the wood did hold out (just barely), that the sap will continue to flow for another couple of weeks.
There are a couple of things I do mind, though: 1) is that my winter's exercise program has not yielded as rapid results as I would like which means I either have to up my efforts even more, cut back on a bit more food once again, or both if I am to make it into the bathing suit I want to wear in HI in June, and 2)suddenly, it feels like winter went by too quickly as I look around at the list of things I wanted to do this winter and still haven't done, like the photos waiting to go into albums.
Oh well, maybe during the long, lazy evenings of summer those will get checked off. In the meantime, I must haul out the mud boots, find the lighter weight jackets, and take the down comforter off the bed.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

March 17, 2011--Happy St. Patrick's Day..

Happy St. Patrick's Day to all my Irish friends and Happy Birthday to my son, Johann, who is 19 today.
Just a quick posting tonight as it has been a long day of waiting at the hospital while my husband had a routine colonoscopy--not the best way to spend this lovely spring day but the sap ran well and I collected about 24 gallons tonight which is a nice start towards a boiling.
It being St. Paddy's Day and all I thought I would list a few of my favorite Irish books, two of which I bought while in Ireland with my dear friend, Dodie. We spent a week traveling in Ireland together, visiting her relatives and staying in bed and breakfasts. We had some hilarious moments while lost in the Barrens and a scary moment when we first arrived, exited the Shannon airport in our rental car and found ourselves going the wrong way in a roundabout. It was up onto the sidewalk in a flash. I remember I quickly sketched a big "L" for "learner" on the cardboard backing of a yellow legal pad and propped it up in the back window which instantly stopped future honking when we went the wrong way.
Now for the books:
The Best of John B. Keane: Collected Humorous Writings
An Old Woman's reflections: The Life of a Blasket Island Storyteller by Peig Sayers
and Whoredom in Kimmage: Irish Women Coming of Age by Rosemary Mahoney
There are others, but they are lost on our numerous bookcases and I'm too weary to look but these three give a good taste of Ireland to any who are curious.
And here's a blessing by St Patrick himself:
"May no demons, no ill, no calamity or terrifying dreams
Disturb our rest, our willing, prompt repose..."

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

March 16, 2011--Gloomy but better...

Yesterday's bleakness did eventually dissolve into a quiet crying jag while comfortably ensconced in bed, tucked up tight against my husband's slightly sweaty smelling shoulder. The need for fresher air helped pull me out of the hiccupy, raggedy breath stage and into a calmer state of mind. Today has just been gloomy but mainly due to the snow that persisted in falling most of the day instead of the forecasted rain.
The news has not improved, if anything more child abuse cases on the web make me wonder about the sanity of the human race. Are there just too many of us rats in this cage at this point? Do people prey on the young and the helpless when extremely stressed? If that's the case, then I hate to think what the world will be like in another thirty years. I could foreseeably still be around to see what that world is like and the thought does not thrill me if the current state of the world is any indication of that future.
 The evening news is full of increasing fears of a nuclear meltdown in Japan and the potential for one in this country if an earthquake should hit anywhere near one of our plants. We, as a race, have created a monster wearing a mask with nuclear power--the smiling servant serves us well, providing affordable power until something goes wrong and then the mask is removed, revealing the true beastie that it is, one that we really don't know how to tame.
Here's to hoping that tomorrow is better for everyone.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

March 15, 2011--Bleakness inside...

Today was a beautiful, warm, sunny day and all I've wanted to do  is cry. I feel such an emptiness, a bleakness inside. I think the daily news of Japan, the relentless pictures and videos that I've seen on the news, through my job, reading tweets and blogs and instant news results is taking its toll on my soul. I can't imagine how the Japanese, forced to live with the horror, are managing to survive.
And, it's not just Japan, but the rising oil and gas prices, the ever so slowly changing economy, the horror stories in the local paper and on the Internet of child abuse, child porn, rapes, and murders of women in foreign lands. I wonder how the sun can shine so brightly, the breeze feel so good on my skin when these atrocities are being committed on a daily and hourly basis. I wonder what has happened to man's basic humanity, how women can turn and abuse their own children... It sickens me to see the headlines of the rising number of child porn cases and abuse in the news. I think, how can anyone hurt a child like that and more importantly,  why would anyone want to hurt a child like that?
I feel such sadness today. My body wants to curl up someplace warm, dark, and safe and cry for all those who can't. It is a powerful urge, primal, as if Mother Earth herself is commanding me to let loose a flood of tears; it's not an option not to cry....

Saturday, March 12, 2011

March 12, 2011--Gloomy outside, colorful inside....

I know painting walls is best done when the weather is dry outside, but since my son, Yule, decided to fix some of the poor mud/tape job that we did years ago in the bathroom, we have reached the stage of having to paint or look at joint compound for the next several days. Since we are all tired of having everything from the bathroom scattered about the rest of the house, we opted to paint despite the rainy, foggy weather.
It's been gloomy outside for days but the bathroom is a cheery lilac/dusty rose purple which reminds me of spring flowers, warmer weather,and better days ahead.
After the devastation in Japan, Hawaii, and along the West coast, it seems a very small triumph to know I can put my bathroom back in order when there are people with no homes at all now...but it will be nice to make some order out of the chaos in this house and to rearrange things in the room so that it works more efficiently.
Since the bathroom is being renewed, I now want to move into other parts of the house that have been unfinished for years. The trouble with owner-built homes  is that you need a place to live so as soon as the basic structure is done, you move into the space you've just built, even if it isn't finished, This results in years going by before some things actually reach the finished stage. I am eager for the snow to melt, so we can use the truck to get flooring and cover up the old floor that sheds splinters at every step and more sheet rock to cover some of the insulation on the ceiling. Then, it will be nice to pick out other bright colors of paint to add to the walls, colors bright enough to dissipate the gloom of any rainy, muddy springs in the future.

Friday, March 11, 2011

March 11, 2011--Earthquakes and tsunamis and heavy rain....

What is happening to the Earth? Today we woke to the news of the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan, followed by the threat of the tsunami in Hawaii, where my son lives. I immediately turned on the television and the computer to get any and all coverage of the unfolding stories. Watching the videos of the tsunami in Japan only heightened my anxiety for my son in Oahu. I called him twice and finally got a return call about fifteen minutes after my second one to him. He was attempting to sleep in his girlfriend's apartment on the 13th floor of a building near Waikiki and assured me he was safe and he was going back to sleep. So, I watched the water surge forward and suck back like some strange water breathing alien for the next several hours on the live stream video from Hawaii News Now. It was creepy to see the reef get exposed off of Diamond Head, reef that has never been exposed suddenly empty of water. I think it was even more creepy and odd since it was still dark and only parts of the water and reef were visible due to some floodlights a house owner had turned on to shine on the beach. I kept wondering when the mega wave was going to appear on the right side of my computer screen, but am glad that it never happened.
I think about the recent earthquakes in the past couple of years: Haiti, Chile, New Zealand, Japan and wonder where the next one will hit. I think it will be CA, as they are overdue for a big quake and it seems the whole Pacific Rim is active at this point.
I am grateful the damage in HI was relatively small, no lives lost and am sad to see the videos of the destruction in Japan--I wish those people all the best.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

March 10, 2010--Another snowy day...

Winter does not want to let go as the snow continues to fall today and into the night. I know the calendar says it is March 10th, the basketball games and tournaments on television say it's March, the sun now higher in the sky also indicates we are in the third month of the year and rapidly approaching spring, and yet, it continues to snow. Any other year I would be ranting by now, or deeply moody/depressed because of the endless gray and snowy days. This time round it's different and I'm not sure quite why. Maybe because I am a bit less stressed than in previous years as I am not under pressure to meet deadlines for school. Maybe because my new exercise routine started in January is almost to the habit stage; if I miss more than two days, I feel crummy, which is how I used to feel when I did exercise. Maybe it's the momentum of planning trips and house projects for the spring and just feels like this year is so full of energy and potential, that a little bit of snow isn't going to bring me down. I like these days when I can work a full day at the office and then putter in the house and feel like I have accomplished a lot. If it was summer and I spent an hour cleaning out the closet, I'd feel I'd wasted time. All too soon there will be a lot more to do outside. I'm  looking forward to, but am also relishing these last few lazy days before the rush of spring and summer hit. All too soon it will be time to tap trees, start plants in the greenhouse, work the garden beds, rake, mow, etc. etc. and there won't be so much time to just sit with a cup of tea and read by the fire. The more I think about the energy needed for what lies ahead, the more I think winter really isn't a bad season at all.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

March 8, 2011--Two different seasons in the same day...

We woke this morning to a world transformed into glass. Or at least it looked that way as all the trees, ground, cars, and  house were covered in at least a quarter to half inch of ice. When the sun popped above the horizon, the world glistened and sparkled as the light struck every facet of ice and reflected and refracted that light. The birch trees, although bent way over from the weight of the ice, were the most spectacular as the tips of each branch glowed a light pink, giving the whole tree a warm rose tint.
We had to drive to Portland today and took the back roads to Waterville, over Eaton Mt. Everything there was more burdened down than here with many trees drooped over the roadsides. Despite the slippery spots on the roads where water had overflowed the ditches full of snow, the drive was gorgeous. A true fairyland of glass in every direction.
In Portland, it was different though. It was sunny and relatively warm, about 42 degrees and it looks like the area only got rain. We wandered around town without our heavy winter coats and had the windows rolled down for part of the day. Since the sun was out all day, we figured we would arrive home to melted, wet-looking trees. No such luck; everything is still covered with ice here.
So, Portland is enjoying a taste of spring while we are encased in the deep freeze. It doesn't seem quite right since only a 100 miles or so separate the two places. But, that's one of the wonders of living in Maine.

Monday, March 7, 2011

March 7, 2011--A day with no Internet...

Thanks to today's lovely ice storm, we had phone service but no Internet for most of the day. I'm not sure how that actually worked as the Internet comes through the phone lines...we could call out and receive calls but had no access to the web until about 4 pm.
It was a bit annoying, since my job is on-line. No Internet equaled no work today which means a reduced pay check this month.  I thought I'd be able to be productive and work on our taxes until I discovered I needed to read some of the instructions for one of the forms I am filing and the instructions are only on the IRS website, only accessible through the non-existent Internet. So, I nixed that idea and moved on the next one to fill the day.
That turned out to be writing another ten pages in my book, so despite the inconvenience of not having the Internet, it was a productive day. I didn't even notice the sleet and freezing rain coming down as I was so involved in my Mayan story, lost in the jungle, so to speak.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

March 6, 2011--Three hours of sleep...

I've had about three hours of sleep since Saturday morning at 5:30, which is not even my normal time to wake up but 6:30 or 6:45 am.
Yule needed a ride to Portland last night to catch the 3:15 am bus to Boston leading to his 6:10 am flight from Boston to Phoenix to Honolulu. Instead of going to bed last night around 9:00 pm  and getting up at 12:00 am like my smart husband, I stayed up with Yule to visit. After all, it was his last night here, why waste it sleeping? So we chatted on the couch and watched a vampire/werewolf movie, called (something,) Rise of the Lycans.
Fortunately I didn't drive home because by 4:30, somewhere around Augusta, I had terrible trouble keeping my eyes open. I kept drifting off, only to jerk them open again a few seconds/minutes later. I struggled to stay awake though as the roads were so wet, so filled with huge puddles of muddy water trapped on the road by the big banks of snow on either side, that I wanted to help navigate, chat with Jeff, so he would stay awake and keep us on the road.
We finally slid into the  icy parking area by the house about 5 am and went immediately to bed, only to wake at 8:30 am when the cats began to meow for breakfast.
Today, the house feels empty, like a vacuum sucked all the energy out of it. Yule has gone back to HI (to return next winter perhaps?), Johann has gone back to school in Calais and Finn is up in Jackman. We are the only two stumbling around in the very empty house now, weary, a bit weepy, lethargic from the lack of sleep and the endless rain pouring down outside. It will take a couple of days to reestablish an equilibrium here as the past two weeks have been in high gear with three teenage boys in, out, and about.
We will move back into our own routines, following the patterns we've set for ourselves of work, play, etc. and that's okay. It gives us energy for when any or all of the boys are here again. Too bad it can't be next week!

Friday, March 4, 2011

March 4, 2011--A restless itch setting in...

A restless itch is setting in and lately I have had more and more trouble sitting at my desk for 6 hours, working for the on-line company that hired me last June.
It might be because the sun is higher in the sky. It's been too damn cold and windy recently to feel like March or spring, but the sun has been extremely bright, probably because it's reflecting off the ten foot snow banks oustide my window.
Or, it might be because my son, Yule, has been here from Hawaii for the past two weeks and talks constantly of his life on the island. He describes all the wonderful beaches, the good food, the warm and friendly people and I inwardly groan as I turn back to the monotony of the task at hand.
Or it might be the new travel magazine, Afar, that arrived today, full of wonderful looking and sounding exotic places. The pictures are bright and full of color, unlike the constant white, gray, green and blue out my window. The text is engaging and makes me want to continue reading, long past my allotted time to do so.
Or it might be because I haven't had time to work on my book for almost a week, what with work and my son being here, so the characters are fairly shouting at me to come back and pay attention to them.
Whatever the case, this itch is moving beyond a mental/stress kind of thing and into the realm of real, physical pain. I want to scratch but don't know where to start as it really isn't a physical thing at all but a restlessness born of this long winter, a lack of funds to travel, the relentless cold and myriad other things so minuscule as to go unnoticed when alone but combined together make a huge ache.
The solution? I'm not sure...turning down an invitation to watch basketball with the neighbors so I can write is a start, though. We'll see how I feel in a couple of hours.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

March 2, 2011--Blankness...

My mind is blank right now and I'm not sure why. Maybe the two glasses of wine at dinner, or the overly dominant conversation by one of the dinner guests tonight...I wound up sitting back and just listening to the conversations ebb and flow around me at the table. On my left side, a swiftly moving conversation that batted back and forth between two people and jumped from topic to topic to topic, all somewhat male driven in that sex, girls, guns, sex, girls, motors and did I mention sex and girls were the common themes. On my right side, a slower moving conversation of health issues and concerns, doctors to see, doctors not to see, tests, herbs, tinctures and teas to take for some common ailments.
I felt no real need to jump into any of it, preferring to remain a silent witness to the flow of it all.
And yet, I didn't feel left out, and don't think anyone thought less of me for not interjecting more frequently.
It's through listening that writers can learn the most sometimes and I  know someday I will create a character who spouts off boldly about his many conquests and triumphs as well as a character who is concerned with the welfare of others and using his/her own example of health issues to help shed light on those around him/her.
So, not only was the food delicious--roasted grouse, whipped potatoes, baked squash, green beans, sweet corn, stuffing, baked beans, cranberry-ginger relish with banana cream pie and an Italian pastry for dessert, but I have added some tidbits of conversation to my files to pull out at some point for a future story. I'd say it was a good evening.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

March 1, 2011-- Rabbit, rabbit...

Just a quick note to wish you all rabbit, rabbit for good luck for the month of March--today is my 3rd wedding anniversary....married for three, together for eight (so far) :0  Best to you all.

Monday, February 28, 2011

February 28, 2011--Priceless...

Friday was a messy weather day to say the least-- we must have received another 5-6 inches on top of the glare ice in the parking lot, making the trek to the woodshed a treacherous walk. My cramp-ons only clotted full of snow, causing my boots to rock on the icy ground rather than landing flat and steady like they should have. But, despite the weather, my husband braved the storm to drive home from CT after being in Baltimore for over a week.
Saturday, the morning was spent in slow motion, drinking tea, eating warm peanut butter toast, chatting with my husband and my two older sons once they ventured forth from their respective bedrooms. We shoveled out and after lunch, Yule, Jeffrey and I made the slippery drive to Skowhegan to play pool at Ken's. We met my youngest son in town and headed to play pool until I spotted the bar.
Yule turned 21 while out in Hawaii, so we entered the bar and had a beer together before heading to the tables. We cranked up the old juke box and played for a couple of hours. None of us were that good and that didn't matter. We drank beer, shot balls into pockets, ate french fries and onion rings and had a good time, enjoying each other's company. I walked away from there that night feeling like one of those VISA commercials--beer $24, pool tables $32, pizza, fries, onion rings $25 time spent with my family--priceless.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

February 24, 2011--A personal best...

Today was another good day, not quite so grand as yesterday but productive nonetheless. I hit a personal milestone-page 50 of the same project for the first time ever.
I know it's only one-fourth of a book-length manuscript, but the knowledge that I have actually carried a story this far amazes me. Probably because when I first started thinking about writing a book, the idea daunted me so much that I backed away for a couple of weeks. But, the ideas, the characters would not let me go and so, I began to write. A scene here, a scene there, some transitions to tie them together, then another few scenes and slowly, but steadily, the ideas are getting out onto the page.
I've read enough interviews of published authors in magazines, been to enough readings and attended Q and A sessions to know that the methods of writing a book are as varied as the number of people writing them, so I don't worry that my method is unorthodox. It seems to be working, I am producing pages on a consistent basis and that's good enough for me.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

February 23, 2011-- A good day...

Today was one of those all too rare good days when everything seems to feel just right and the day unwinds in a logical procession of accomplishments. Four hours of work, several cups of tea, a huge load of laundry, and warm sun streaming through the windows comprised much of the morning. Then, a brief lunch, wood hauling chores, a quick walk to feed the neighbor's cat, and a longer walk down a crunchy snowmobile trail for forty minutes or so started off the afternoon. Then, two glorious hours of losing myself in my latest writing project where my characters came to life and made me forget I was sitting in central Maine, in the middle of February. Suddenly I glanced out the window and saw the shadows starting to lengthen, realized that the stoves needed fuel,  and the pot roast for supper had to get in the oven if we were to eat tonight. So, I reluctantly shut down my computer, put on some Shakira, and danced in the kitchen while I cooked a big meal and baked cookies for my sons.
Now, I wait for my boys to arrive, to hear their tales of ice fishing up on Spencer Lake and find out their plans for tomorrow. My hope is to have a repeat of today, but of course, that will almost certainly not happen, so I am grateful for today and every day that comes close to it.

Monday, February 21, 2011

February 21, 2011-- On being alone....

Years ago, I truly hated being alone. My sons would be off with their dad for a week, my husband would leave town to visit his family, and I'd find myself alone in the house, wandering from room to room, at a loss as to what to do with myself. Often, I'd wind up in the easy chair by the wood stove, curled into a ball, crying...seriously...then would spend hours writing in my journal, trying to figure out why I hated to be alone in my own skin.
But, that was then. Now, it's all different. I am home alone and it's nice. I lie in bed in the morning, watching the sun break through the trees and think about all the time ahead of me, about how I will spend my day, and it feels good. I know that all the chores, like filling the wood box, splitting kindling, and doing the dishes are solely on my shoulders, but that's okay as the rest of the time is mine. Of course, I still have to work, which takes quite a chunk out of the day, but then, it's free time.
I can't remember the last time I lay down on the couch for an hour after work and read a book, eating a few potato chips and having a nice drink, without the need to carry on a conversation with anyone or to rush off and prepare a large meal for dinner. The cats and I were quite content with scrambled eggs with chopped tomato and broccoli for supper.
I don't have to feel guilty for rushing up to my desk and computer to write, leaving anyone downstairs on their own. The cats are sleeping by the stove and could care less if I sit at my desk for the next three hours.
They will join me once I move into bed and we'll settle in for another night.
I'm not sure when this new attitude towards aloneness really told hold, a few years ago, I think. But, it's comforting to know I can be comfortable by myself. Now, it feels like an intrusion into precious time when a neighbor suggests I stop by for lunch or an afternoon drink. It's nice of them to offer, but I decline, preferring to stay home. Solitude is a good thing; I can hear myself think these days and what I hear, I like.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

February 20, 2011-- When things fall apart....

When things fall apart, why does it always happen 1) when it is extremely cold and 2) when I am home alone and not sure how to fix it?
We live off the grid, relying on solar panels, a series of batteries, and an inverter to power the house. On cloudy days, or when we've used too much power or need to run a power tool like the vacuum that requires extra zoom, we have a generator to provide the juice.
Which is great when it all is running well. But, then there is today--not only does the inverter not want to accept a charge from the generator, but the generator is the older one we have and with it so cold, is impossible to start. I spent twenty minutes yanking on the cord, with the choke on and off this afternoon, trying to start the darn thing only to pull it off the little platform it sits on to keep it level. Which required me to haul it back onto the platform, pulling something in my lower back in the process....
So, I am sitting here by candlelight and the light of my computer screen contemplating ways to continue for the evening. I think I will continue to write until the battery goes dead in this computer, then crawl into bed and read the new book I bought by Rosemary Mahoney called Down the Nile: Alone in a Fisherman's Skiff. If this woman can row the Nile in a seven-foot boat all by herself,  I can survive the next few days with no power in the house.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

February 19, 2011-- Mayans and Hawaii...

The Mayans and Hawaii are on my mind today--The Mayans because I have taken the day off from my paying job to work on my book, which is centered around the Mayans. And Hawaii, because my oldest son is flying in from Hawaii to Boston today, then taking the bus to Portland where I will pick him up.
I lose myself in writing another scene for the book only to glance at the clock and realize I have several more hours to wait before leaving for Portland. It is a strange, giddy kind of day, kind of like the blustery wind that blows fiercely, then dies off for a few moments. I write rapidly, then stare vacantly out the window until another burst hits me. I think about Hawaii, how crazy it is to leave that warm sunshine for the wild winter and snow we are experiencing right now and yet, am glad that my son has not lost his taste for Maine and all its various seasons. He is eager to go snowmobiling and ice fishing; I would rather lie on the beach, go snorkeling and watch him surf board! But, that will happen in June, when I am determined to go see him in HI. As a reward for finishing (I hope) this new book among other reasons.
Meanwhile, the sun has come out, enticing me to venture farther than the woodshed for more fuel for the stoves. But, I think I will sink back into the Mayan jungle and see where my characters will lead me next.

Friday, February 18, 2011

February 18, 2011- Rewards...

Several of the writing blogs and magazines I read have all had articles and comments on how important it is as freelance writers to remember to reward oneself from time to time. To set goals, big and small, and when one is reached to do something as a pat on the back. Since we work for ourselves, we have no boss to give us that pat, that bonus for the week, the gold star on the forehead like I used to give my kids when they were little and being home schooled.
I think it's especially important to remember to reward yourself right now, when we are still stuck in winter, with mountains of snow out every window. The next season is mud season and frankly, that can be far worse than the snow.
So, since I finished another chapter in my book, I  took own advice. I went and got a haircut yesterday, then went to Borders and bought a new book and magazine. I feel extremely pleased at the bookstore purchases as I get something new to read, the author of the book makes a little moola, the magazine has some needed support and bankrupt Borders gets a little cash, too. And, I am grateful that the Bangor store is not one that is closing, which says something about readership in central Maine.
How will you reward yourself this weekend?