Wednesday, 12 December 2018

Hallmark Christmas Movies

I'm trying to understand the strange attraction of schlocky Hallmark Christmas movies. They're all the same (they even recycle the same actors over and over, but in different combinations). There's always a snowball fight, a tree lighting or Christmas fair the whole town turns out to, ice skating, a sleigh ride, snow angels, a thwarted kiss, and a small argument or misunderstanding that's wrapped up within five minutes. None of these people work 9 to 5, ride subways, catch head colds, or live in dim and dreary apartments. No one bundles up to the eyeballs in scarves and balaclavas in spite of all this winter wonderland. They never show the hero scraping an inch of ice off his windshield. The houses are stunning, the views breathtaking, the townsfolk quirky and welcoming, the protagonists are always in their late thirties and fit as race horses, and the whole thing is so quaint and sweet your teeth ache. And who in their lives has actually gone to a town Christmas fair or a public tree lighting?

But still I watch them, one or two a night, and record the ones I have to miss so I can watch them later when no one else is at home. I live with four males, and I feel I need to defend myself if I'm caught watching these things on TV. I can feel them lowering my IQ as I watch. But still I devour them like chocolate.

What is it about them that appeals so much? The simplicity? The warmth? The knowledge that life will always work out in a happy ending for these people no matter what? The amazing mountain vistas? (I found out a lot of them are filmed in British Columbia. Well, no wonder!) I curl up on the couch with the dog and a bowl of popcorn and listen to the ice pellets ping off the window and imagine myself into these glowing, golden scenes. And wonder if I could write one...

Friday, 7 December 2018

How to Build a Log Cabin

I was riding home on the bus and couldn't help overhearing the conversation between a young man and young woman seated beside me. She asked him if he was planning to move into his own place, and he replied that he was saving up to do so. But, he said, if he couldn't find a cheap enough place, he would take a sack of potatoes and an axe and go out into the woods and build himself a place. To which she replied he could go to the library and get a book on how to build a log cabin.

I came very close to jumping into their conversation but managed to restrain myself. I had just such a book myself at home, all about how to build a log cabin. The first sentence was something like "First cut down 80 trees and let them age for 12 years."

I don't know what the second sentence said. (I suppose I'll find out in 12 years.)

I have similar cookbooks, too. I remember one recipe that started with "First kill a rabbit." My personal favourites, though, are the ones that start with "First take a pound of butter and a dozen eggs..."

Wednesday, 21 November 2018


The manuscript has been sent to the publisher! And I made 4 dozen tarts and about 7 dozen cookies. More to come tomorrow. Whew! Going to go curl up with a mystery novel now and unwind.

Baking and Writing

I took three days off this week to focus on finishing the latest manuscript and to do my Christmas baking. And to mail the Christmas cards (for those of you in the States, yours might be late depending on how our postal strike goes...). Oh, and to finish the baby blanket I'm making for someone at work. And to start getting ready for...and I should.... Well, I may need more than three days, come to think of it!

I have a theory that if I didn't work full time, I wouldn't get a thing done at home. Because I know time is limited, I cram impossible amounts into each moment I have available, so I accomplish quite a lot. If I thought I had limitless time, I'd waste a lot of it, I suspect, lying on the couch with a book or wandering along the river with the dog... Then again, I don't really count that as wasting time. Rejuvenating yourself on a regular basis is important. It's just trying to find a balance between rejuvenation and complete indolence...

Friday, 9 November 2018

Settling in for winter

The bottled tomatoes and grape juice are on the shelf. The garden produce is blanched and frozen or dehydrated. The dry beans are in their mason jars. The patio furniture is secured in the shed, and the netting is over the pool cover to catch the last of the autumn leaves. The garlic is planted (well, doing the last of it today). I'm stocked up on cocoa, and I'm recording Hallmark Christmas movies on TV. Just need to bring in a stack of books and I'm set for the season!

My husband's grandmother used to do lots of Christmas baking, and before she died I spent a day with her in the kitchen, learning all the traditional family recipes. After her passing, I took over the Christmas baking, putting together boxes of goodies for every family. When that became too expensive, I started just providing the goodies at the Christmas dinner we hosted each year. But over time, people trickled off and stopped attending -- age, weather, distance all take their toll. So the tradition sort of stalled.

This year I've decided to go back to doing the goodie boxes again. I may not be able to deliver to every family, because we've become somewhat far-flung, but I look forward to doing what I can this year. Butter tarts, lemon tarts, chocolate no-bake cookies, shortbread, date snowballs, tablet... I've taken three days off work to do it, and it will likely take up two months' worth of grocery money. But somehow I just can't let the tradition die, or the recipes fade away. Tradition is such an integral part of holidays and families, and you really can't think hygge without thinking food.

Monday, 29 October 2018

Anticipation and Dopamine

I'm reading a book right now that says the anticipation of pleasure or something good raises your dopamine, and you can literally become addicted to that anticipation. Sometimes the anticipation gives you more pleasure than the actual object of your desire, which can't live up to your high expectations.

It's an interesting thought. I have spent so much time thinking about the future, the home I want to someday have, retirement to a farm, what my life will be like when/if I attain that goal... I have derived an awful lot of pleasure from daydreaming about "someday." I've renovated and furnished my future dream home in my imagination, down to the smallest detail. And I'm sure the pleasure I've gotten from thinking about it and planning for it is probably more than the pleasure I'll feel actually attaining it. In which case, my husband will argue, why do it at all? It's certainly cheaper to plan and daydream than to actually do. A lot less work, too! If I'm getting the same or more dopamine from just thinking about it, there's really no motivation to accomplish the thing itself.

Must ponder this some more. It would certainly be fewer calories to just anticipate the egg nog than to actually drink it. But does it provide the same joy? And if the body can be triggered into producing dopamine just by thinking about egg nog, can it also be triggered into gaining weight if I imagine drinking the egg nog? That would be a bummer.

On the other hand, maybe I can think myself thin... If I imagine myself jogging...

Sunday, 28 October 2018

First Snow

Yesterday's rain started turning slushy around mid-afternoon, and this morning there is a dusting of wet white on everything. Fortunately the garlic is planted, the lawn has been mown for the last time, the catalpa trees have been beheaded, I've bought a coat, and we're pretty much ready for winter. The change in weather has caught the trees off guard, though---the leaves haven't fallen yet, and I can picture them scurrying to their rooms, calling "Hang on a sec!" because their date has arrived at the house early and they haven't had a chance to change yet.

Winter is a mixed bag for me. I love the cozy feel of dark evenings and the furnace running and curling up on the couch with a fuzzy blanket and hot chocolate to watch soggy Hallmark Christmas movies. Then again, I hate slogging off to work bundled in layers in the dark and wet and cold. I don't like driving in snow and ice. But I love puttering with my little salad greens growing under grow-lights on the counter. I love the pinging sound of ice pellets hitting the window. I am not such a fan of them pinging off my face. I want to try dog sledding. I want to hibernate and not move until June. I want to attack the stack of Louise Penny mysteries I look forward to re-reading. I anticipate chili and beef stew and egg nog. I miss my garden already.

So you see the dilemma. It's a good thing the seasons shift so often here, because I'm never content with one for long. This year I want to try to settle in better, keep up with my yoga and meditation, and keep the depression away. Not get after myself for not accomplishing much. Be content with my knitting and needlepoint. Try not to daydream of summer and sunshine so much. It's only the contrast that saddens us, you know. If you don't want to feel the cold, just be cold. It's only wishing you were warm that makes you so aware of the cold.

Oh, and I need to finish that stupid manuscript I still haven't turned in. Wow, why is that always the last thing I think of on my to-do list?