Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Just us

overcast, mild, temps minus 2

Everyone has gone. so much anticipation, and then its over. I must say, having a pared-down Christmas is fabulous. No more drama. No tears, or tantrums, or moods or subtexts. No snarky remarks said with a smile. Just people we want to be with and open our home to.

Doug left on Monday, got home safe. And Michael's sons Mike and Victor arrived about 8pm....having driven through the remnants of the big snowstorm on the east coast. We had a humdinger warming in the oven. That's a dish the boys grew up with. It's a casserole made from the leftovers from Christmas dinner. A layer of diced turkey, stuffing, gravy, then a layer of peas, then sweet potato and finally mashed potatoes. Very comforting.

As they blew into the driveway, the casserole was all warmed up. So they dumped their things and we served up. They poured a couple beer and we all took our plates into the living room and sat in front of the fireplace, and the lit tree, and ate. Hearing all about their drive and getting caught up on their lives.

Yesterday I had coffee with Janet at the Cafe Floral in Knowlton, then right after that, lunch with Louise there. I was going to take the beetle, but it wouldn't start! Frozen. So I took Michael's 'real' car instead. Then about an hour later I heard Michael's voice in the cafe and Janet and I looked up to see Michael and his sons striding in. Mike had boosted the car and they decided to deliver it to me. Must have looked a bit like a circus act, these three grown mean squeezing out of the little beetle.

We exchanged keys and they headed home - to the fireplace and their books. And janet and I got back to our chat. We don't see each other often, though she and her husband sometimes stay in the guest cottage in the summer. bob's an actor and she teaches voice at Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh, and has written a fabulous book on voice work called The Thought Propels the Sound.

Then she left and Louise arrived. She's doing extremely well. Grieving deeply, but aware she needs to feel everything and let it take as long as it takes. While putting one foot in front of the other. But not to cover over her sadness. And, of course, she was desperate for the holidays to be over. But she survived and said while she expected to be in tears all the time she only cried a few times. She said since it's now clear she herself won't die, then she needs to learn what the new normal, without Jacques, is - and make the very best of it. And one day she knows, she'll be happy. Just not quite yet.

We had a wonderful lunch. So nice to be in the company of old and dear friends. We can just relax.

Mike and Vic went off to ski at Mont Sutton today, after we all had breakfast in Knowlton. Then they headed to Montreal. Tomorrow I have breakfast with Cheryl in Sutton. I feel, after spending most of the year either writing or touring, I can finally get caught up with friends. Longing to see the work they've done on their new home - and when they might be able to move in.

Hope you're safe and warm and enjoying some quiet time - or some active time. Whatever you enjoy.

Be well, my friends.

Monday, 27 December 2010


snow, cold, temps minus 15

We weren't supposed to be betting snow. Even now The Weather Network is showing sunny skies. And I suppose it is, though obscured by the massive amount of snow. Still, not nearly what the eastern seaboard has been getting. I sure hope it didn't hurt your travel plans - but I suspect many of you were affected. Flights, roads, trains. What a wallop.

Doug left this morning after one of the best Christmas's any of us can remember. No gifts. Just talking, reading, watching movies, talking and going for walks. Glorious.

I hopped in the car and went food shopping to replenish before Michael's son's Victor and Mike arrive tonight. Tortieres, Tarte au sucre, brie, prime rib roast. And Fairmont bagels. They're supposed to drive here from Boston, but we called this morning and left a message suggesting they might want to postpone and come tomorrow. Fortunately, they have snow tires. Unfortunately, they also have snow.

The tree is still up, of course, but the Christmas carols are out of the stereo. I love them, but can't listen to them after Christmas. So now we have Bach, Tchaikovsky, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, the soundtrack to The Piano and our new favorite album. We bought it at Saint-Benoit-du-lac. They have, and we've purchased in the past, the traditional Gregorian chants, for which they're famous. But one of the monks, Dom Minier, decided (with the approval of the Abbott and the other monks) that maybe a more modern interpretation of the chants would reach more people. so he's added some instrumentation and 'jazzed' it up - but just a bit. He and two other monks do the chants - and it's amazing! Apparently (and we didn't realize this) the trio and Dom Minier in particular, have become rock stars because of it, selling out concerts all over Quebec.

When we arrived at the Abbey last week we were told to check in at the porter's window. And there was Dom Minier, the porter for the monks. when he's not a rock star. Amazing community.

So as I write Michael and I are listening to the Gregorian chants - updated - on their CD called Splendour.

Wow, snow is even heavier. Very fluffy, like feathers falling. Splendid.

Hope you're safe and warm. And are enjoying the holidays. Michael says hi. And thank you, from both of us, for all your lovely Christmas greetings. We have read them all, both on the blog and facebook, and so appreciate it.

Saturday, 25 December 2010

Merry Christmas - Joyeux Noel

very light snow falling now, still, calm, mild, temps minus 4

Scenes from our Christmas today. Hope you're enjoying your holiday, whatever your faith. Or no faith.

Friday, 24 December 2010

Christmas Eve

cold, cloudy, still day. temps minus 13

So lovely outside. Snow heavy on trees. A light dusting on the car this morning. Michael and I went out early and did errands including dropping in at La Rumeur Affamee - on rue Principal in Sutton. Wonderful epicerie...filled with cheeses and cold cuts, pies and tortieres (we ordered two for next week when Michael's sons are here), quiche, olive oils, salts, condiments, ice cream, and...breads. And croissants. We picked up some brie and a special goat cheese only available at Christmas. And two fresh, warm baguettes for dinner tonight.

then post office. finally found Christmas crackers in the hardware store. Quite an Anglo tradition, so not all that easy to find Christmas crackers outside Montreal. But it's a part of Christmas dinner I adore. Always have. Silly really. The pop of the cracker, digging for the ridiculous joke on the slip of paper, and the 'present' - normally something plastic and breakable or already broken. And those garish tissue hats shaped like crowns. We all wear them. All the way through dinner, as they slip off, or over and eye, and get shoved back. By the end of the meal they're torn and askew, but we'd never dream of taking them off.

Then a final trip to the grocery store - packed! Bedlam. But enough check-out people that there was actually no waiting. We didn't need much, but what we needed was crucial...milk, bananas, grapefruit, and ingredients for stuffing. The fruit is for show. The truth is, we're now in junk highgear. Chocolates, fudge, christmas cake, anything Lise made, bark, and pannetone.

Once home we unpacked, walked Trudy, and while Michael laid the fire I made a couple of cafe au laits, carved the pannetone, and we plopped down in front of the hearth. Ahhh.

Doug is on his way from Toronto - presumably bringing Buttercup (the hound from hell - with the surfeit of joy and a tail like a baseball bat). Will have dinner in front of the fireplace, with the tree lit, carols on the stereo, and cheese, pate and baguette on a tray. And spend the night getting all caught up.

I will blog tomorrow - because I do want to say thank you for all the many gifts you've given me over this past year. In the meantime, I hope your travels are safe and swift, if you're going out - and that you have a wonderful holiday.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

oh, come let us mash potatoes

light snow, mild - temps minus 2

Another picture perfect day as we approach Christmas. The forecast here is for good weather, which is great since my brother Doug is coming Christmas Eve, and two of Michael's son's are arriving just after Christmas. Hope the weather's good chez vous.

We got up early and headed to the Cowansville hospital where Michael had a stress test (for heart). All terrific - thank heaven. To celebrate we went to The Station for breakfast. Then back to the village to do a big Christmas shop. Oh, my God. The trolley was overflowing. Vegetables, treats, pannetone (which we consider a staple), fruit, treats, vegetarian stuff for Doug. Cranberries to make the sauce. Sweet potatoes, regular potatoes, butter, milk, treats, sour cream.

I suddenly realized, in the middle of the night, that I hadn't done any holiday food shopping. Or food thinking. Or planning. Or cooking. the IGA in Sutton was packed - and we seemed to know everyone! We stopped and chatted with Joan, Emilita, Charles, Wayne and Shirley. Then there were a lot of people we only had time to wave to. Very fun, really. It feels like what it is - a community.

After the shop we went around distributing gifts and thank you cards. That's always fun. Then off to visit a neighour with a gift and have a chat.

Then home. And cooking. Just now have had time to sit in front of the fireplace, Joan Sutherland's Oh Holy Night on the stereo - and relax. Sweet potatoes made (maple syrup is the secret ingredient), and regular mashed potatoes done. Always feels better when they're both done - quite labour intensive (at least for me, who 'cooks' peanut butter sandwiches).

Oh, Lise sent me her Sucre a la creme recipe. She said she'd made her grandmother's a few years ago - took a very long time. And then found another one, made it, and frankly saw no difference - so she's sending you the 'new' one. Here it is:

My Assistant Lise's Sucre a la creme

1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup whipping cream

Stir together in a large microwavable bowl and microwave for 10 minutes, stirring twice during this time. Remove from microwave and let sit for 5 minutes. Using an electric mixer, beat for 4 minutes and poor into either a parchment lined loaf pan (for thickness!) or a 9x9 square pan (lined also). Put in refrigerator to cool completely and then remove from pan to slice into squares. It does crumble a bit, but those crumbs are payoff for making it.


Hope your holiday season is enjoyable and not too hectic. To be honest, I get fairly anti-social at this time of year. I love peace and quiet and am looking forward (now that those potatoes are mashed) to doing not much of anything except eating and sitting by the fire.

Speak to you tomorrow, I hope.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

A Night at the Monastery

very fine snow, mild, temps minus 3

A Night at the Monastery. Sounds like a Marx Brothers film. Or, maybe even, a murder mystery! Michael and I spent last night at Saint-Benoit-du-lac, the Benedictine Abbey on the shores of Lac Memphremagog. We've been there often. It's fairly close to our home and a magical place, even for heathens like us. Hard to sit in the austere, simple, but still spectacular church and not feel at peace. such a quiet, tranquil place.

The monastery is famous for its cheese (having won many awards especially for their blue cheese) and their Gregorian chants. Now, being a heathen, I didn't know what they were except that they're a form of religious singing. Very old.

I'd been to mass at the monastery and heard the chants - and bought the CD of the monks, and I knew they're world famous for their choir. But I hadn't really quite grasped what was so special about it.

We arrived at about 11am. Sat through the euchariste mass. some chants.

then, over the course of 24 hours we went to every service,(about a thousand of them) and finally, I understood. Or, really, I didn't understand but I suddenly 'knew'. In my body. What had been vaguely uninteresting, dare I admit, boring, suddenly became deeply, achingly beautiful. peaceful. healing parts of myself I didn't know were damaged.

The most moving mass, for me, was Compline - the last service at night. There were few people in the pews - Michael and me, a couple others. And the black robed monks at the front of the very simple church. The lights were dimmed - then turned out completely. Except for two small lights at the front. And then they started to sing. No accompaniment. Just their voices. sometimes all together, sometimes what sounded like a call and response.

I have a deep and personal faith, but have not felt the need to go to any church. I pray in our field, and infront of the fireplace, and in bed. I've never felt that being in a church amplified my prayers, or made meditation easier or clearer. Others do, and that is wonderful for them. But it simply hadn't been my personal experience. Though I'm fascinated by religion.

But sitting in the darkened church, listening to the monks, was divine.

Add to that that they'd given Michael and me rare access to their lives. We were allowed behind doors normally locked. And, as a woman, it is rare to be actually allowed to sleep in the monastery. Michael and I were given a wonderful suite of rooms. And then, despite a vow of silence they spoke openly to us. About community life, about their choices. We spent most of our time with Brother Charles - a charming, funny, vibrant monk - who is actually their archivist. We were given a tour of their cheese factory, and it had been arranged for us to tour their cider house, but we ran out of time today. But Father Abbott gave us an hour of his time too, and we had a fabulous (at least from our pov) conversation. Mostly about the monastic life, and what makes life in St Benoit different than other abbeys.

The book I'll begin writing in March is a murder set in a Quebec monastery - though not St. Benoit. It's too identifiable, and so way too constricting for me. But the brothers have made it clear they'd be happy to help with insight into life in a monastery. To allow their lives and choices to act as a springboard and inspiration.

The book, obviously, won't romanticize or glorify, that life. But I hope it will be true to their choices. Both Michael and I were deeply impressed by what seemed their genuine humility. And certainly their kindness to strangers.

Then we headed home today - back into the world which last night seemed not to exist anymore, so complete was the sense of the abbey as a universe unto itself. Another world. Not ideal. Certainly not everyone's choice. Not an easy life. But a life unlike the one we left, and returned to. One that offered peace and quiet.

What an amazing job I have - when this is work.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Lovely day

sunny, not too cold, temps minus 7

As you can see, a gorgeous day! I took this photo while feeding the birds this morning. Then we drove to Knowlton for breakfast with our friend Cotton at the Cafe Floral. And now off for lunch in Abercorn with Joan and Edward. Michael and his sister Carol grew up with Joan, and used to teach sailing together. Joan is also in our exercise class. You have very few secrets from people you exercise with. They know all your crevices, and what's hiding in there.

Joan is also one of the funniest people we know. She describes being in a college production of King Lear or Hamlet or some tragedy but as soon as she set foot on stage people started laughing. She has no idea why, but she can make any story hilarious. All the funnier, perhaps, because she can look quite formidable while telling it. I feel I should take notes while listening to her.

After hearing about all the snow in Europe (Heathrow closed?!)-and the terrible squalls that stranded hundreds of motorists in Ontario, and the flooding in California - I've decided to put our emergency kits back in our cars. They were taken out when we switched vehicles. Now, mostly our emergency kits are first aid packs. But with the snow situation we thought maybe we need more than that. Some people were trapped in their cars for days.

So we now have a bag with candles, matches, tea, dried soup, a mug (last minute thought - d'oh). I should add a blanket, I realize. And perhaps an energy bar. Much more and it'll be more comfortable than home. We'll be aiming at snow banks.

Off to Montreal tomorrow for lunch with Bal and Linda and Bethany, then afternoon tea at Birks with Louise Loiselle and the Flammarion Quebec gang. then back here. And off Tuesday to stay overnight at the local monastery, St-Benoit-du-lac. Never stayed overnight before, but Brother Charles, one of the monks, has managed to sneak us in. I might need to shave my head, but I can at least not pluck my moustache. This is reseach for the next book. Michael and I become monks for a day.

Have to say, that is a huge part of the fun of writing the Gamache books, is all the research. Getting access to places most people never see. Or necessarily want to.

Be well - hope you're warm and safe and enjoying yourself.

Friday, 17 December 2010

sucre a la creme

beautiful blue skies, cool, minus 7

A perfect, perfect, perfect winter day. Makes my heart sing. Had breakfast at Nick's, then bought bananas at the Cinq Saison (Trudy loves them and we're out at home), then jumped in the car and drove back to the country.

As we got further and further along the autoroute there was more and more snow. Clearly the Townships got far more than the dusting in Montreal. Arrived home about 1pm. Unloaded the car, and Lise showed up - with her Christmas basket filled with treats!!! We put on the kettle, cracked open her gift of home-made preserves (pickled beets - my favorite...but also jams and relishes) and home-made sweets, including truffles, butter mints and Sucre a la creme - the three of us devoured them. And Lise told us the story of having the sucre a la creme at her grandmother's when she was a child, christmas eve. After dinner and games, everyone was exhausted. The girls (11 children and all their children) would get the few bedrooms. Lise remembers eating the sucre candy (which is like maple fudge) and climbing the stairs - and looking back down to see all the men and boys asleep on the floor in front of the woodstove.

She herself hasn't had the candy for decades, but decided this year to dig out her grandmother's recipe and make it. I have to tell you, the sucre a la creme candy was fabulous. But the real joy was seeing Lise's face as she ate it. Almost brought tears to my eyes.

Christmas is like that, isn't it. So keen with memories, triggered by tastes and smells, by carols. And often unexpected things. I had a moment like that taking Trudy out after her dinner. It's dark now early, of course. Pitch black by 5pm. we decorated the tree this afternoon and as I left I turned and saw the tree through the living room window, and Michael sitting by the fire. And heard King's College Cambridge singing Oh Come All ye Faithful. Then I turned to trudy, and we walked through the crisp, still night. Snow smells, you know. There's an unmistakable fragrance to it. Clean, fresh. if I was blindfolded I'd know the scent of snow. And it was cold enough it creaked underfoot.

There was half a foot of fresh, fluffy snow on the trees, balancing there - and a bright moon. You should see moon shadows on a field of fresh snow. It is breathtaking. And I was reminded of the deep peace I always felt as a child on quiet winter nights, walking on snow under the moon and stars.

Other things remind me of christmas. The smell of cinnamon and nutmeg. Mandarin oranges. Shortbread. Egg nog.

Michael and I don't exchange gifts anymore. We have no needs. No wants. We already have more than enough. What we give to each other at Christmas is peace. And I thought that was enough, until I tasted Lise's Sucre a la creme! Now, I'd like sucre a la creme, and peace for Christmas. In that order.

Before I go, one more thing - Happy Birthday Marjorie!!!! (Ha, bet you thought I forgot!!)

Wednesday, 15 December 2010


overcast, light snow, cold and windy, temps minus 12

Still in Montreal - having quiet day, finally! Breakfast at Chez Nick's with Susan and Liz (to exchange gifts) and of course, Michael. Then home. Spent a couple of hours writing first draft of the chapter on Setting as Character for the Now Write! book on crime fiction. I'm not sure when it'll be out. The editor wants the chapters by the beginning of Feb, so I'm presuming later in the year, or early next year. As soon as I know, I'll let you know.

Michael had lunch at L'orchide de chine with his friend David. Well, he and his wife Linda are my friends too - it's just that David and Michael go way back, having worked on various aspects of medical research together for decades. And in the process became the best of friends. They adore each other, and are devoted. Michael just cherishes his time with DAvid. David is the head of genetics at McGill. So when he and Michael get together it is like twins speaking in their own made-up language.

You know that famous line from Jerry Maguire - You had me at hello. Well, when David and Michael are together they lose me at hello. After that I'm just churning and splashing and thrashing and trying to keep my head above water. And whenever there's a lull in the conversation and they look at me I just say, Wow. Or, Dear God. Or shake my head, try to look both thoughtful and amazed (by their brilliance) and say, ahh. Better than what I'm actually thinking which is, 'You completely baffle me.'

Happily, David and Linda also happen to be among the kindest people we know....and they've shown their kindness over and over. Especially whenever Michael has any medical issue...David remains in practice and makes himself immediately available.

Nice conversation with the US publisher, Andrew Martin of Minotaur. Beginning to strategize about A TRICK OF THE LIGHT, which will be published end of August, beginning of September.

Then watched more of Modern Family. Love, love, love that show!

Hoping to see The King's Speech tomorrow. In a real live movie theatre. Dear God. Wow. Ahhh.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Kirkus Review - top mysteries, 2010

snow, blowing snow, bright sunshine temps minus 11

very strange weather day. We woke up to blowing snow and the news that the highways were in a terrible state, with more snow expected. We were to go in to Montreal, but decided to just curl up in bed.

And then we saw that it was supposed to clear by midday. And then we faced the typical Canadian in winter dilemma. To go out and risk death or stay at home and risk atrophying.

We proved ourselves typical Canadians by agreeing to a compromise. We had an appointment with the bank, so we'd go to Cowansville for breakfast (we've already established the magical attraction of French toast on explorers), go to the bank, and see from there.

Well, after the bank we stepped outside and the sun was shining. So we hopped in the car, turned it toward Montreal, and here we be. But not before going through a few unexpected white outs on the highway. Here's a photo Michael took (I was driving, just fyi) as we crossed the Champlain Bridge across the St Lawrence. Normally from there we can see Montreal clearly. It's a gorgeous entry to a city, perhaps the most beautiful I've ever seen. But today the city had disappeared into a snow squall.

Stopped at the Nespresso shop in downtown Montreal for more capsules (we worship at the duel alters of french toast and nespresso cappucinos), then off to victoria Ave in Westmount for food, then off to the video shop (Night and Day, Inception, and the last two disks in the Modern Family season one). And now back in the Montreal apartment.

Heading out soon for a doctor's appointment for Michael, then back to the apartment.

Hoping to have breakfast at Nick's tomorrow with Susan. Michael has a lunch with his good friend David. And I plan to spend the day doing absolutely nothing!!!!

Oh, got the great news that BURY YOUR DEAD made the Kirkus Review's list of top 10 mysteries. All on the list are amazing - if you click here you can find it...

Congratulations to everyone on that's a wonderful Christmas buys list too...

speak to you tomorrow....

Sunday, 12 December 2010


lashing rain, freezing rain, snow, high winds....oh my. temps plus 3

What a roller coaster. Here's a photo out of the solarium just now. It's quite pretty actually. Like living inside a crystal or an igloo.

Still, it looks as though we'll lose most of our snow. A shame - but it sure is great to be at home, safe and warm. Awful day to be on a highway.

Sending the edit off to London and New York tomorrow morning, before Pina's exercise class. That'll feel wonderful. Had an interesting question on Facebook about the edit. Whether this is really the last edit, or another in the process. And the answer is yes, it's one in a process. But a big one. Getting the editor's notes and thoughts is huge. They could reject the book, or decide it needs major re-writing. Or none at all. Thankfully, most of the edits have so far been fairly small, but no less significant. It's such an interesting process - writing a book. It's both so individual and such a collaboration. Solo, yet also a team.

Part of the challenge is knowing which of the editor's notes to use and which ones not to. The vast majority I use - because I know Hope and Dan know and understand the books - and what I'm trying to do. And they trust where I'm going. And just want to help me get there, with the story lines but mostly the characters. Most of their notes have to do with clarifying something.

The trick is to do it with a light and gentle touch. Subtly, but not so subtle as to be completely obtuse.

the other thing I was reminded of when editing is the importance of space and time. Whenever I was unsure about a section, how to solve the issue, my instinct was to just plug away. But I've done this often enough to know that for me the best thing to do was the opposite. I needed to push the laptop away and go for a walk. Or have a bath. Or just relax and clear my mind. And an answer really does present itself. Sometimes it takes a day or so.


As important as focus and quietude to a writer. Any answer I might have forced would have worked - but never as well as one that comes with time, and inspiration. And opening my mind. And heart. And just let it be.

This can be terrifying. I'm always convinced that while it worked in the past, it won't work now. Like that great scene from Little Big Man - where Chief Dan George knows he's dying and asked Dustin Hoffman to build a funeral bed and lay him there so he can die in peace. Next morning Dustin returns to see Chief Dan George lying there, at peace. Then the chief opens his eyes and gets up, shaking his head and says, 'Sometimes the magic works, sometimes it doesn't.'

that's how it feels when I'm editing. Wondering if the magic will work. It's a funny mix, this writing, of hard work and inspiration. Of discipline, experience, and something beyond our control.

And then just hoping for the best.

So glad I finished now! Yesterday I was saying to Michael that Christmas is only three weeks away. After saying that a few times he turned to me and gently said, 'Actually, it's two weeks away.'

Oh oh.

So have spent the past day madly writing cards, wrapping gifts, putting together boxes to be mailed. Sometimes we feel we start running first thing in the morning - and need to, just to keep a step ahead of the flood. Bet you know the feeling.

Now I just have to write synopsis of all my books for my foreign editors, a chapter for a Now Write book on writing crime novels, and a quote on Agatha Christie and Miss Marple for a re-issue of the Marple books.

And feed Trudy.

Still, I have to say, I can't think of a better way to spend a stormy day!

Friday, 10 December 2010


Started sunny (yay) but now overcast. flurries in the forecast temps minus 9

chilly day, but no wind. Snow still sitting in the street and balancing on limbs. One good gust, though, and it all falls.

Finished the editing. My God, does that feel great. Like a tether being released. And, even better, I really like this book. That's always a little scary, when going back to edit a book, especially since I hadn't read it the whole time on tour...2 months. I really was afraid I'd get into the edit and not like the book at all.

Such a fabulous feeling -

Had fun over dinner last night with Kirk and Walter, jack and Jane. We went to Le Relais, in Knowlton. Thursday is 'cheap' night, when everything is on special. So everyone was there. it was like a huge private party, where you pay for your meal. Very, very fun. And, being there with Kirk, is like being with a celebrity. Everyone came over to say hi.

There aren't many people we choose to give our precious private time to - but Jane and Jack, Kirk and Walter are on the very short list. I'm afraid I have all the makings of a happy (and probably demented) recluse.

As we were leaving, Walter, Jane, Jack, Michael and I were standing outside, in a very cold night - waiting for Kirk. We were chatting and not paying much attention. if I thought at all, it was that he'd stopped to chat at another table. But then the door flew open and Kirk came out, a look of huge relief on his face.

Seems he wasn't chatting at all, but standing quietly just inside the door with a group of people he thought was us. Then he 'woke up' and realized he was standing with a group of strangers. And had lost us! He came barreling out of there like a lost puppy. Very happy to see us waiting for him.

Quite hilarious.

Blessedly quiet day. Might call Joan and see if she can go for breakfast tomorrow. Now that I'm free, free, free.


Thursday, 9 December 2010

Apres la deluge

Still snowing, but in fits and starts temp minus 10

The storm is over. Met a woman in the Richford, Vermont post office (also doing christmas mailing) - she's from Quebec too and she'd measured 41 inches on her back porch. Slightly over 3 feet. Of very fluffy, light snow.

That was about our estimate of the amount of snow we had here. Michael and I took an assortment of shots today. One shows the view from our mudroom, out the back door. Thank God we have a front door. This is the Canadian equivalent of an alarm system.

No one will break in - though the problem is, if they ever do, they'll never get out. We'll all be having Christmas turkey together.

Sure confused Trudy when we opened the door last night for her to go out last thing at night - and she met that. She refused, and went back to the fireplace. But you see her out this morning - very happy to be there. rolling in the snow. I hope.

That little teepee of snow in the background outside our mudroom? That's our composter.

Editing going very well. Hope to be finished tomorrow.

Oh, a bit of news from a friend...Kappy Flanders. One of her daughters, Judith, writer wonderful and very successful non-fiction books. she's based in the UK and specializes in all things Victorian. Well, she's just come out with a new book I thought you might be interested in -

By Judith Flanders

Doesn't that sound fabulous? And it's getting terrific reviews in the UK.

Off for dinner tonight with Kirk and Walter and Jack and Jane. they all started as friends, but then a few years ago Kirk and Jane formed an interior design company. so we've asked for their help re-designing our kitchen. But tonight is just fun. If I can restrain myself from talking about design all that, beg and borrow all sorts of design magazines. Just to look.

We're off to pick up Kirk and Walter, who are also neighbours, then driving together to Knowlton for dinner. Meeting Jack and Jane there. So looking forward to it.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Scotland and Quebec - separated at birth

snow, snow....snow. windy. temps minus 6

A blizzard suddenly blew in. Completely unexpected. some snow, as you know, was falling yesterday, but no one expected the two feet we've had since last night. Here're a couple of photos...of Michael and Tony digging out Michael's 'real' car, and Trudy sitting in front of my beetle, in it's convenient snow garage.

Now, you might wonder why we were bothering to dig a car out, when clearly the blizzard was continuing. Well, one clue's Tuesday. And, as heroic readers of this extraordinary blog know - every tuesday is shrove tuesday for us. Well, if not pancake day, it's french toast day. At The Station restaurant in Cowansville.

I barely slept last night, for the howling outside and the dread that the storm would keep us from our french toast, with bananas and stawberries, and bacon, at the Station. And certainly when we woke up to two feet on the ground and more falling - sideways - it seemed unlikely and even unwise - to leave the property. But a call to Tony, and Michael suiting up, fixed the problem.

Nothing would keep us from our goal. Indeed, on the drive to cowansville, we wondered if that's what propelled the pioneers. Did someone whisper in their ears....'There's French Toast in California.'? Is that what motivated Lewis and Clark? The Franklin Expedition?

It sure motivated us. And wow, did it taste great after an hour of digging. Came home, lit the fire, fried up a couple cafe au laits and got back to editing. Fed the birds. Took Trudy out. snowed all day long. And heaven knows what we'll find tomorrow.

Had a great email from Linda in Scotland - Glascow actually - with a photo of her children, jennifer and Christopher - her husband Kevin and her snowman. In Glascow. Scotland!!! Here's an excerpt from her letter...

Thought for fun I'd send you one I took over the weekend of our back garden and one of a snowman Kevin made with the kids, the snowman has been part buried in a fresh fall of snow yesterday we had another foot or so of snow on top of what we already had, it, for some reason took the Scottish government by surprise and the whole road network in and around Scotland came to a total standstill, it's all over the news here, hundreds of motorists were trapped in their cars overnight on the untreated motorways, there were stories of car drivers being stuck in vehicles for up to 12 or so hours, can you imagine! Kevin spent 3 hours in the car trying to get back from work last night (this journey normally takes around 30 minutes) but we consider him lucky to get home. His work closed today as did all schools. Our day time temperature was -14 today) the temperature is supposed to rise on Friday and Saturday to above freezing (this will be considered tropical) but it's to drop down again next week with yet more bad weather forecast. Just hoping to get out for some supplies soon. Christopher asked me today if we are running out of sweets, he has is priorities sorted!

Sure makes what we're going through seem easy. And it is. Sure makes a difference when we don't have to go out for work. Only for French Toast.

More editing tomorrow...but it's moving along nicely, thank you.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Saint Lise

some sun, some flurries, cold, temps minus 6

Well, not really cold for this time of year. And I'd much rather have it cold than warm and lose the snow we have. It's very pretty. And now that My Assistant Lise (we're putting her up for Sainthood) has decorated the place for Christmas, and she and Tony gave put up lights, it is magical. Especially at night.

Spending long days editing A TRICK OF THE LIGHT, but really enjoying it. Not just enjoying being back in the book, but this stage in the writing and publishing process is probably my favorite. Not the first day - which is always scary. Intimidating, really. But once I break through that and relax -'s a wonderful place to be. Fine tuning. Smoothing. Choosing a word here, adjusting there. A slight highlight. What better way to spend a day?

But I'm anxious to finish...and then get to the Christmas preparations. Gifts to buy and wrap. Gifts to mail! Cards. Every year I say I'm not sending cards, then we end up sending lots.

We're thinking of re-doing our kitchen. We've been in this house for 10 years and we haven't touched it. Well, we know where it is - and have touched it. Even cooked there....we just haven't renovated it. And man, does it need it. The floor - quite dreadful white tiles - is cracked and the kitchen cupboards are made out of kellog's corn flakes boxes or something. Actually, it's plywood. Really. The rest of the home is warm and comfortable and welcoming. But the kitchen, while having 'good bones' is not the best part of the home. Kirk and Jane are coming over to help us figure out what we want to do. Might ask My Assistant Lise to do it. why not? there doesn't seem to be anything she can't do. Perhaps this can be considered her 'miracle' for sainthood.

Actually, we'll see if the magnificent Gary can do the work. But probably not until next fall....can't have all this work happening as I write the next book. In fact, I suspect with the kitchen ripped out the house will be uninhabitable. Though, given how much I cook I'm not totally sure we'll notice.

We have a blessedly quiet week ahead. Off to Pina's exercise class tomorrow morning. It's held at the local church hall. Our Lady of Perpetual Deep Knee Bends. Then more editing.

hope you have great week! I hope to blog tomorrow.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Huff and puff

sunny, lovely day - temps about freezing

yesterday was the most amazing wind and rain storm. Power off and on. Water put in the bathtub, since when our power is off so is our water, and our plumbing (if you follow). We drove home from Hovey through twigs flying through the air...blown off nearby trees. A few trees down across the road.

Calls back and forth from friends and neighbours. Your power one? Yours?

A tree came down and knocked down Joan's power and phone lines. Gary let her his cell phone, so she spent the evening fielding his calls from clients and friends. Heaven knows what she's committed him to!

Pat and Tony's power was out for 24 hours, and still out when last we heard.

Ours flickered - and went out a few times - but generally stayed on. Then, unexpectedly, it snowed last night - then the skies cleared. The two photos above were taken by Michael when he walked Trudy around the pond this morning.

As you can tell, we're home. spent today back at the laptop-going over the editors notes for A TRICK OF THE LIGHT....started the edit. Always scary at first, but quickly became very fun as I realized I very much like this book. Phew.

More editing tomorrow - and Lise coming by with business. While we were away she decorated outside. Put up beautiful christmas wreaths and lights. And tony put up more lights on the honeysuckle. Not quite Santa's Village - but very welcoming and warm. Thank God for My Assistant Lise!