Monday, April 30, 2007

Live...with Laura Bowers!

Today, Laura Bowers is with us, to answer all our hard-hitting questions about her debut novel, Beauty Shop For Rent, which officially hits bookstores tomorrow!

Here's what the book's about:
Abbey Garner has a plan: to earn a million dollars by the time she's thirty-five. Financial independence will allow her to break the cycle of unhappiness endured by the women in her family. Determined to fulfill her dream, Abbey works at Granny Po's struggling beauty shop, where the feisty Gray Widows go to primp, polish, perm . . . and, of course, gossip. There, among the hair dryers and perm rods--and with the help of a new friend--Abbey finds the courage to open her heart and take risks required for her to live life to its fullest. Debut author Laura Bowers creates a funny and touching first novel about family--both the one we are born to and the one we create ourselves.

And now, on with the questions...

Favourite haircut?

Laura: In my late twenties, a stylist convinced me to ditch the same hairstyle I've had for at least ten years. You know the look--long, one length hair that's trimmed every ten weeks and teased bangs. She gave me this fantastic cut with long layers and a side part. A few strangers even complimented it!

What inspired you to set the book around a beauty shop?

Laura: I love the feeling of a home beauty shop, and the camaraderie with other women. They tend to let their hair down, and talk a bit spicier than they would around other crowds. I wanted to capture that feeling in this book and really, in all my books!

You create a unique relationship that not many girls have with their great-grandmother. What's your great-grandmother experience?

Laura: My great-grandparents died when I was young, so I can't remember them. Abbey's relationship with Granny Po is more similar to the one I had with my mother both as a teen and now. Mom could be strict at times, and we may have argued more than they do, but we've always had the same easy compatibility with each other and we always had each other's back!

Granny Po says that people spend too much time dancing around the truth. What's your take on this statement?

Laura: Ah, my girl Granny Po. She tells the cold, hard truth that you may not want to hear. But in her mind, if you're only pacified with false positives, then how are you going to grow? I do agree with Granny Po . . . although she could be a bit more sensitive. ;)

Hypothetical Question: Your best friend gets a horrible haircut. What do you tell her?

Laura: That I like it because there's nothing she can do about it until the cut grows out, so telling her I hate it wouldn't do any good. Once her hair starts to grow back, I might casually mention how pretty it looks a bit longer. But, if she knows her cut is truly heinous and there's a chance it could be salvaged, then I'd tell her the truth.

What's the long and the short of Beauty Shop for Rent: when did you decide you wanted to write it?

Laura: I was first inspired to write the book from a rusted sign that was posted in front of an old but charming house. The thought of bringing together this diverse, vibrant crowd of females--both young and old--was enough to make me abandon a young adult mystery I was working on at the time, plus the drafts of two other books I've written. This was the first story I ever felt truly passionate about, so I haven't yet tried to get the others published.

Why did you decide to write YA?

I first fell for the genre after reading HOPE WAS HERE by Joan Bauer. I love how every chapter and every scene in a well-written young adult novel has a purpose and moves the plot forward, leaving very little waste. Plus, I'm basically still a kid trapped in the body of a 38 year old!

At what point did you realize you wanted to be an author?

Laura: It's so funny how I can remember the exact day I made this decision. It was in 1998 after I was hospitalized by a severe migraine brought on by stress. When I came home--half zombied on pain killers--I realized the migraine was God's way of telling me I needed to put on the brakes and take a different direction in life. Before, I used to fanaticize about
being a writer, but on that day I decided to finally become one.

The Grey Widows love Wheel of Fortune. What's your game show or TV show vice?

Laura: Around our house, we stop what we're doing if someone puts on CMT's Trick My Truck. It's the coolest show about down on their luck truck drivers who get the ultimate make-over on their trucks. I love how the Demolition Man always yells, "Let's tear 'er down," and the emotional reactions the truckers have during the big reveal.

Gena has a five-year policy for worrying about stuff. Do you have the same policy? How's it working out?

Laura: Gena's character is based on my husband, Bob, who first told me about the five-year policy. Whenever I would get uptight or stressed, he'd ask, "Is it going to matter in five years?" Most times, the answer was no, it wouldn't, so why waste time stressing? This is something I try to keep in mind at my boys' sporting events. Five years from now, no one will remember or even care about a baseball game so the way some parents scream and get all bent out of shape really is stupid. Relax!

Top 5 things you worry about...

1. My kids.
2. What the world will be like for my kids when they're older.
3. How quiet my house will be when the kids go to college.
4. My nonstop, monster-sized To-Do list.
5. Not writing enough.

In Canada, we don't have Black Friday (because we don't have Thanksgiving the same weekend) so the idea of Black Friday is somewhat lost on us, though we envy the sales! What's your Black Friday tradition?

Laura: I retired from Black Friday shopping after having a panic attack in Wal-Mart when my shopping cart was blocked on all sides and I couldn't move. Seriously, it's not for people like me.

Here's how it works: First, there's the store sale fliers. You start collecting them a week prior, circling all the great deals. Then, you strategize your store route after Thanksgiving dinner. First stop? Target to get that digital camera. Second? Kohl's, then Home Depot, etc. The morning of, you throw your hair in a ponytail, slap on some lipstick and dress for comfort. Sneakers, light purse with a shoulder strap, and layered clothing 'cause you're going to sweat your rear off
in the store. Heels? Oh please. Stay home, amateur, you'll only get in the way.

You then arrive at your first stop at least an hour early, (two for the die-hards,) wired from coffee and a set game plan with your shopping partner. You make for the TV; I'll fight for the Play Station DS. When the door opens, adrenaline starts pumping like mad and you jostle your way through the crowd with your focus on one thing and one thing only.

Get that deal.

It's vicious, Chantel, vicious. ;)

Did you have a plan when you were 14 for your own life? What was it, and how did it work out?

Laura: My dream was to be on the US Equestrian team and ride Dressage in the Olympics. But, seeing how there's no gold metals on my mantle, that didn't exactly work out! I've since revised my plan. When my boys go to college, I'm going to get back into barrel racing or circuit shows.

Hypothetical question: If you had to have a bad trip to the Beauty Shop, which would you choose: Poodle Perm, Bleach Blonde with Black Roots, GI Jane Buzz Cut., and why...

Laura: Oh my. Well, my head is goofy-shaped, so I'll pass on the GI Jane. Poodle Perm? That brings up painful memories from high school, so I'll have to go with Bleach Blonde, even my light skin tone can't pull off the look. (And because you didn't say I couldn't quickly dye it back, hahaha!)

What's next? Can you give us a one-sentence sum up of your next book?

Laura: Four girls . . . eight ways to get revenge.

Final question: How do you get unstuck when you're in a writing rut?

Laura: Sit down, shut up and write!

Friday, April 27, 2007

Book #7: Beauty Shop For Rent

A while back, Laura Bowers, who updates a great blog near daily, posted a contest to win an advance copy of her debut teen novel, Beauty Shop For Rent, and me and my bleached blonde roots won! Hurrah! I got the book, and read it in one sitting. It was that good. It's been called a Steel Magnolias for teens, and that's an alarmingly accurate description. And seriously, did anyone NOT love Steel Magnolias? You know that feeling it gave you the first time -- or the eighth time -- you watched it? That's what Beauty Shop for Rent is like. The entire time I was reading it, I could totally picture the characters, and kept thinking how it almost reads like a script, like it really SHOULD be a movie. I'm not going to say anything more about the book right now, because on Monday, Laura's dropping by to answer all my questions about the book as part of her North American media tour. Diane Sawyer, look out! I'm putting my hard-hitting journalism school skills to use.

The book officially hits stores May 1st, but Amazon already has it in stock, so you should totally buy it. Now.

Then, come back here on Monday to meet Laura in person. Well, sort of. See you then!

Thursday, April 26, 2007

A thousand thank you's...

So you know when you've got great friends and you feel very lucky, but then something happens and then you realize just how amazing they are? That's totally been this week, for me.

When my books arrived on Tuesday, I of course called The Hubs immediately, but because he does a lot of ACTUAL WORK when he's at WORK, he was in a meeting, so I just left a squealy message. Then I called my agent to squeal to her.

After work, I was walking through the mall with a girlfriend (because just because you got your new book does not mean you don't still need to go to the mall. Really, is there ever a reason NOT to go to the mall?) So anyway, we were just heading for the Lululemon, when The Hubs appeared. "I've been calling you on all your phones!" Even my very favourite LG Chocolate phone, which he bought me for Christmas. Which I love. Which was sitting in the outer pocket of my handbag, right up against me, and which I did not hear go off. Or vibrate. Which is why this phone really really frustrates me even though it is SO pretty. Why won't it actually ring loud enough to hear it? Anyway, that's why it was even crazier that we just bumped into eachother randomly. Then, he took me out for escargot (snails!) and champagne to celebrate and told everyone we passed - the maitre d', the waiter, the concierge at our building - that I'd wrote a book. So, so sweet.

When I got to work the next day, one of my friends, who had just finished reading the book, sent over CUPCAKES from The Cupcake Shoppe! Does it get any better than that? I mean, I LOVE cupcakes, but the cupcakes from The Cupcake Shoppe are so pretty. And so appropriate since Mara, the heroine of Stuck in Downward Dog, also loves these cupcakes from The Cupcake Shoppe. Such a sweet, sweet gesture.

Then, my boss and everyone at work bought me a bouquet of gerbera daisies, which are my favourite flowers ever. Such a favourite that when I was getting married, the only three things I really cared about were a) my dress b) a photographer who didn't suck and c) the bouquets, which had to be gerberas. Which didn't actually happen since when I said "pink gerberas" to the Spanish wedding planner, she decided instead to order me "orange lilies." Not really the same thing, but I did end up with a few pink gerberas in the end. So it all worked out.

Anyway, the last few days have been filled with nothing but the sweetest gestures from my family and friends and I can't thank them enough for sharing my excitement.

PS Thanks to Charlene Martel at The Literary Word for the great review of Stuck in Downward Dog and to Vickie at Yep, I'm a Writer for her mention. PPS Her blog is super funny. You should read it.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The best day...ever.

Yesterday was the best day ever. First, this came in the mail ...

A big box filled with my books!

But that's not all, because then you'd be thinking, "What's in it for me?"

I'll tell you... this! An invitation to my launch party!

If you live in Toronto, or anywhere near Toronto, you should come. Or if you've never been to Toronto, then it's a perfect excuse to come. Free cocktails, appetizers and cupcakes, plus a gift bag that is filled with so many fabulous items you really will think, "Toronto is so great. So much free, fun stuff! Why have I never come here before?", that you'll want to come back again and again.*

*Just so you know, though, you can't just go to any restaurant or boutique on any day and ask for free cocktails and cupcakes and a gift bag of presents and expect them to give it to you. They'll probably just give you a look like you're crazy. Don't take it personally. Instead, just make sure you come to....

Kultura, 169 King St. E.
Tuesday, May 8 from 5:30 - 7:30 p.m.

I'll tell you all about my Benjamin Mackenzie sighting (which will take um, five seconds, but it will be a really good re-enactment of us passing on the street. Promise). Or, we can discuss boys, ballet flats (pros and cons), beauty products or The Real Wedding Crashers (are you watching this?!) while sipping pretty cocktails. Seriously, what else do you have to do on a Tuesday night?

Hope to see you there!

Saturday, April 21, 2007

The Saturday Six... live from New York!

1. I saw Benjamin Mackenzie. Yes, Ryan Atwood, walking towards me in Soho. He was so very Ryan Atwood, too, with a plain white T-shirt, jeans, boots and a jacket. Maybe they were filming another scene. Extras for the DVD? (And a coincidence that I just saw Adam Brody on Regis & Kelly the day before?) Probably not. I smiled at him. He looked at me, then yawned. I'm going to pretend the two are not at all related, or that that was his way of flirting.

2. I went to Hell's Kitchen. Not at all on purpose. It turns out that if you get off the subway at 34th you're in the heart of tourists (I mean, you've got Macy's and miracles and all that), which as a result makes you feel very safe, if not completely claustrophobic and annoyed at the swaying sidewalkers. Which is where I got off the train and walked west to 11th for a convention at -- where else -- the convention centre. When I came out, I decided I wanted to go up to 52nd to get a pair of pants I'd put on hold, it turns out that if you walk north on 11th, you end up in Hell's Kitchen. I didn't know that, but all of a sudden, everything sort of changed. First, there were empty lots, unmarked auto body shops and a police chase (with 7 cars and two undercover cars!). Which is when I decided to stop walking on 11th and turn down the next available east-west street to head east. That's when I saw horses in an alley, a rottweiler behind a fence, and well, a lot of shadows (which was probably in my head). It was only 2:30 in the afternoon, but I felt like maybe I should just walk quicker and stop looking around. I felt sort of unsafe, even though I'm sure I was perfectly safe. There are, apparently cute boutiques and great restaurants in Hell's Kitchen, but well, maybe they were on a different street from the one I was walking on. I just kept saying to myself, look straight ahead, act like you know exactly where you're going. Which of course I try very hard to do even though, as I said in my last post, I often don't know where I'm going, or I think I know where I'm going, but I'm actually headed in the wrong direction. Thankfully, it all worked out. Also, here's a fact: below W 34th and 11th is called "Bel-Hell" (as in Below Hell's Kitchen). I think, back in Toronto, I'm going to start calling the area I live in "Belle York" as in Below Yorkville. Or "No-Co" as in North of College.

3. Everyone's talking about the Pirate Queen on Broadway. Actually, correction: no one's talking about it in real life but I'm seeing a lot of commercials and subway posters for it. All I have to say is how much ungirlier does it get than a girl who's a pirate? I don't think I'll be seeing this one. Another fact: Legally Blonde is on Broadway. Now, I love this movie, but isn't part of the charm actually seeing Reese in this role? And once you've seen the movie, isn't it sort of done? I mean, it's not like it's a musical (like The Producers or The Lion King) to start with, right? I don't think I'll be seeing that either.

4. It's tax time. Thankfully, I finished my taxes before I came. Correction: I "tried" to do my taxes TWICE. First, on the rough draft copy (my financial advisor, aka The Hubs picks up two copies, just in case I make a mistake) I made up some random number on one of the lines. But as you know, if you make one mistake, it affects all the other pages. Strangely, the amount I'd have to pay was pretty close to being accurate. Still, I wanted to correct the misteake myself. So then I tried to redo it, but the amount I ended up having to pay was crazy. Crazy as in I did not set aside that much money and my NY shopping budget would be seriously affected. Thankfully the expert stepped in and fixed things and now I'm back to paying a reasonable amount. Still paying, but less than I'd budgeted. As a reward I bought a new pair of shoes. If you have your own business, then doing your taxes is always trickier because no one took the tax off for you. It's good because you can write off certain expenses, but it's a lot more work. And if you're like me, that means that you're always going to have to pay when it's tax time. Which I think can be tricky for some people because what if you didn't set aside enough money to pay? Well then, no new shoes, right? On a related note, thanks to Myspace and Facebook, I just re-connected with one of my childhood friends (who always had the best birthday parties and more Cabbage Patch Kids than you can even imagine). She has an amazing business that helps you improve or start your own at-home business. She has a bunch of websites, but my favourites are AND (and you don't have to take 101 to take 102 so you can feel super smart right from the start). Both tell you everything you need to know to make sure your business is a success. Or, help you decide whether your idea is a good one before you start your business. Like whether to open your boutique in Hell's Kitchen, Bel-Hell or in the Meatpacking District.

5. Turns out, when someone asks you what time it is in New York, they don't want to hear "about 4". They want you to look at your watch, even if you just looked at it a minute ago, which is how you know it's "about 4", again, and tell them, to the second, what time it is. And preferably that it's four minutes to four and not four minutes after four. Maybe people are like this everywhere, on a work day, and maybe because I was shopping that I wasn't concerned with the to-the-minute time. Who knows. I guess I'll know on Monday when I'm back at work how I feel.

6. It's sunny and warm and Saturday! What more could anyone ask for?

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Lost...and found!

I bet you think I'm going to write about Lost, the TV show. I'm not. Except to say thanks to everyone who emailed their suggestions as to what my next series should be now that the Everwood well has run dry. I'm thinking Lost. I'm going to France in September and as much as I love La France! Le Fromage! Le Vin! Les Crepes! Les Chateaux (that I wished I lived in!), I really do not enjoy the flight. It's not even that long of a flight (7 or 8 hours) compared to Hawaii (12 hours) or Australia (24 hours. A whole day, I'm telling you) so I shouldn't complain but everytime I go there, I complain. So this time, I'm definitely buying a series to watch and I think Lost might hold my attention. Now the question is, do I buy another iPod - the one you can watch shows on - or a DVD player? The DVD player would have a larger screen to watch it on and would be less expensive since I already have an iPod and don't really need another, but it'll take up valuable space in my suitcase that I might need for say, wine or cute outfits that I want to bring back. Anyway, I have four months to figure it out, but the bigger question is that if I save Lost for that trip, what am I going to watch now? I'm starting to think maybe nothing. Maybe I'll turn the TV off for the summer and go to the driving range instead. Or read more. Or make my garden grow.

In other "lost" news, I have no sense of direction. I can go into a store, come out one minute later and have no idea which way I came from. So when I found out I'd be going to New York this week for five days and the Hubs couldn't come with me, I was a bit concerned. Because mostly, I know where I want to go but I leave the how to get there (when we're in NY) to the Hubs. It's not that I want to have to follow him, but I honestly can never figure out how to get to where I want to go.

So yesterday when I ventured out of my hotel (which I'm just going to say was not in an area I'd ever stayed before although I had been to the hotel before for drinks, which I believe is the reason it was trickier than normal), I was very, very conscious of the streets. Or so I thought. I just wanted to get to the Banana Republic, for which I'd written down exactly how to get there from the hotel. But then, after leaving the Banana, I started to wander. But it was okay, I was just travelling east. Or west. Even now, I'm not sure. No, it was east. But then, the streets sort of triangled, as they're prone to do in the Village, and before I knew it, I had to get back to the hotel for dinner and I only had 15 minutes. Then 10. I was contemplating hailing a cab even though I was sure I was only a 5 minute walk away. The trouble is, once I get turned around it's very easy for me to walk 5 minutes in the complete opposite direction. I kept thinkinng, just keep walking north and west and you'll get back. Only I was walking east and south. I realized this, of course, when I passed W 12th and then W 11th. And there were no cabs to hail.*

*What's with the lights being off when the cab is free instead of on like in Toronto? And even when the light is off, the cab still won't stop?

I was starting to panic. But then, I hit Gansevoort Street. And cobblestone. And since my hotel is called the Gansevoort, I felt like, if the hotel is NOT on the street, I'm gonna ... well what? Am I going to yell at the concierge? Am I going to beat up the hotel? Empty threats. Because really, if the hotel wasn't on that street, all I'd probably do is cry out of frustration. Thankfully, it was and I made it back in time. Phew.

Finally, since things have to happen in threes, my final "lost" story is this: Last week I lost a glove. How, you ask? Through my pocket. Yes, through it, because there are holes in my pockets. Why am I wearing a coat with holes in my pockets? Because it's my winter coat and it's April and it's still freezing out! I was supposed to stop wearing this coat in March, when it was supposed to be warm enough to break out my spring coat, but winter is still here, so I kept thinking, I'll just wear it until it's warm enough to not wear it. And sometime in March, a hole worked its way through the pocket, and out the bottom of the coat, and last week I lost my glove. It fell through the hole when I wasn't looking, and poof! gone. Only I didn't know where or when I'd lost it. So then I was like, well what am I going to do? Buy a new pair of gloves? But since I'm going to throw out this coat as soon as winter's over, I didn't want to buy another pair of brown gloves that matched my coat, because what if my next winter coat is black and needs pink gloves, or is grey and needs blue gloves? Then what? So I held on to the lone glove, just in case. On the weekend when I was out with my husband, he was sweet enough to go Michael Jackson style so that I could wear one of his gloves and he'd wear the other and we'd both put our other, glove-less hand in his pocket to keep warm. So sweet.

Then Tuesday, I went to the washroom at work before I left to go home and there, on top of the "girl supplies" machine, was my glove! I couldn't believe it! Five days later, and my glove showed up! Another Nancy Drew Mystery solved!

Truthfully, I was a bit weirded out about the fact that I found the glove in the washroom, on top of the tampon dispenser, which is kind of like, eww (yes I realize that's sort of a childish way to think) but I was just so happy to have found my glove, so I put it on, then applied Purel to my gloved hands and rubbed them together. So now 99% of the germs are gone, right? And I have my glove back, which is a good thing because yesterday it was cold in New York and I needed them. However, tomorrow's supposed to be 75, which is like, what 20 degrees Celsius, and I think, safe to say, Spring! So I'm really hoping I'll find a new coat here, and then I can just get rid of my holey winter coat. Of course, now that I've said it, I'll probably jinx it and won't find a coat. And besides, I just got my long-lost glove back. I feel like I need to spend some more time with it before I say goodbye to it for another season, because like I said, next winter I might not need brown gloves. I might need pink. You just never know.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

TV Talk

Last summer, the Hubs was watching TV when he caught the first episode of Everwood. It was re-airing on Vision TV, which, judging by the name I could only assume played Christian shows. Then I saw the ad for McLeod's Daughters, which is some sort of Australian soap that (and i can only say this judging from the ads) looks far worse than anything I've ever seen on Y&R. But apparently there are some good wholesome undertones. Just like Everwood. I got hooked. Every Saturday night, we'd sit down to watch a new episode. It became a ritual that I looked forward to every week and if I had plans Saturday night I would be so disappointed but so excited Sunday morning to get to wake up and watch the episode we'd missed. Then, a few months in, Vision TV started airing Everwood EVERY NIGHT. I know, it was out of control, and for the last six months or so every night when we got home from work, we'd make our dinner and sit down to watch the episode. It is now my favourite show. I want to say EVER but that's a huge statement. But it's very close. It's definitely on the Top 5 list, right up there with Entourage and the first season of The O.C and Dawson's Creek.

But on Thursday, we watched the last episode of Everwood. EVER.

Now for those of you who knew about Everwood the first time around, you'll understand, and if haven't seen it, you need to go to the video store NOW and rent Season 1. You won't regret it. Great characters, witty dialogue, honest, real storylines. Besides, watching episodes back to back on DVD is really the best way to do it, isn't it? They made just four seasons, which never seems like enough but when it ended it was the perfect ending. To drag it out for another season wouldn't have worked, given that all the characters had graduated from high school and had to go off to college. To continue the series would've turned into 90210, and really, weren't the best episodes when they were all still in high school, before they tried to make everyone conveniently go to the same college? I mean how great a school could "California University" really be?

So I was okay with Everwood ending. Until last night. Because I got home from work, made my dinner, and ....

Nothing. No Everwood. My beloved ritual is over. To make matters worse, we just got Season 3 of Entourage on DVD (which I've been waiting for, for like, ever, since we're behind here in Canada) and it's only the first 12 episodes of the season and we're already done watching them and the people at the video store have no idea when the next 12 episodes are going to be available. Even worse, I know that everyone in the US is already watching Season 4 on HBO.

I feel shaky.

I need a new show to watch. Any suggestions?

Virginia Tech

This morning I woke up early and was all set to watch The Hills episode from last night while I ate my breakfast before going to work when I saw what happened at Virginia Tech. It seems so unreal. It's the end of the school year, a time when everyone's happy and carefree. College students are counting down the days until school's out, making plans for the summer, planning their lives, saying goodbye to friends, looking forward to seeing other friends. At the same time, high school graduates are getting their acceptance letters, and looking forward to starting a new phase of their lives, leaving home, making a new home, making new friends.

And then this happens.

The New York Times is saying it's the deadliest shooting rampage in American history. You can read the full story here.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Happy Halloween and other Festive Fall Endeavours

Yesterday morning, I had every intention to go to the driving range. Because this is the summer that I will not suck at golf. I have cute new shoes...

A cute new putter boot'e...

And of course, my trusty golf bag.

But the wind was whistling in the trees...
(or um, at least the one tree on our balcony).

And the weather network said it was very, very cold. Even though the driving range was open, and the heaters were on, I knew I'd still have to wear my winter coat and earmuffs and mitts and drink hot chocolate and that really didn't seem like something fun to do (except for the hot chocolate part).

So instead I stayed inside and celebrated the fall day by by making Pumpkin Halloween Cookies! Ta da!

Doesn't it just make you want to eat Halloween candy? Me too. Only I'm not that crazy -- I was really making the cookies for a photo shoot. Because this is what happens when you work in magazines -- you work months in advance. When it's the heat of summer, you eat Christmas cookies. At Thanksgiving you decorate Easter Eggs. When it snows you drink lemonade. And when it's just at the tip of spring, you make Halloween cookies.

Then, because a batch of pumpkin halloween cookies calls for like 1/2 a cup of pumpkin puree, and because I bought the largest tin of pumpkin puree I could find because I didn't actually read the amounts on the recipe before I went to the store, I decided to continue on the Fall Pumpkin Theme by making Pumpkin Muffins with Brown Sugar Crumble on Top. If you want to make these muffins, I found the recipe here.

I offered Hubs one. He took a bite. Then he ate two muffins. That's always a good sign because when my baking is not good, he only eats one, or says that he's getting fat, or is very, very full from the glass of juice he just drank and couldn't possible eat another bite at the moment. But he didn't do that. So I was very happy.

Then I made myself that mug of hot chocolate and enjoyed the rest of my Blustery Fall Day.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Cat and mouse

It's mice season. And no one can sleep. Even me, and I live on the 25th floor. Because I can still remember when I didn't...

This morning, I was in the middle fo reading Sarah Dessen's blog about mice today when my friend Fraidy Freida called to tell me she's freaking out. Last night, her cat was making a racket in the middle of the night, running around, knocking things over. And she couldn't sleep. She kept telling Noisy McKitty to keep it down but he wouldn't. Finally, she threw on the light and looked at the cat, who had trapped something under a pillow on the floor. When my friend lifted the pillow up, she screamed. There was a mouse. She didn't know what to do, so she grabbed a bucket (who has a bucket in their bedroom?) and put it over the mouse. She asked me, "How did it just die under the pillow, though?"
Me: "He wasn't dead. He probably just had stage fright."

Which freaked her out even more to know that she put an alive mouse outside.
She: So it's going to come back?
Me: Probably.

Then she told me that Noisy McKitty is staring at the space under the stove.

She: How long is he going to do this?
Me: (wondering when I became the cat and mouse expert) Until another mouse comes out probably. Cats are very patient. It could be days.

I know. Flash back to 2003. I lived on the main floor of an old house, but for some reason, there were mice in the ceiling. Mr. Baz discovered this one day, and for a few weeks straight in the summer of 2003, he sat on top of the fridge, staring at the ceiling, waiting for a mouse to fall from the sky. He was so preoccupied with his mission he didn't even want to eat and he wasn't drinking so that when he'd cry for the mouse to come out, it was more like a squeaky door opening. Finally I had to move his dishes up to the top of the fridge, just to make sure he kept his strength up. I'm not sure if he eventually caught a mouse or gave up, but later that summer he realized that going outside at night to catch the mice was a much more productive venture.

Day and night, he'd come and go, in and out of the house whenever he liked. When he wanted to come in, he'd jump up on the ledge of the window in the living room and stare me down until I went to the front door to let him in. And if it got too late, and I was in bed, he'd go around to the back of the house, climb up on the second storey window and look in at me sleeping, crying, until I let him in. Until one day he decided enough was enough. He was tired of waiting for me to let him in and out. So instead, he decided to gnaw a hole through the screen in the front window so he could let himself in and out. I was sure my landlord would be furious, but when I told him, he didn't care, so I decided if he wasn't upset then there was no reason for me to get upset with Mr. Baz either. In fact, the new system seemed to work out much better as I never had to call Mr. Baz in and didn't have to keep running back and forth to the door to let him in and out.

It even came in handy for other things. Like the day I left my coat at work because it was so warm out that I didn't want to wear or carry it home. Except, my keys were in my coat. And once I got home and realized this, I couldn't go back to work because by the time I took the half-hour subway ride back to the office, it would be too late to get into the building, so I did the only thing I could think of. I crawled through cat hole in the screen. It was a perfect system.

Until one morning when I woke up to find the head of a mouse head in Mr. Baz's food dish. The body was nowhere to be seen and I never did find it. If I had let Mr. Baz in through the front door, I'd have stopped the mouse from coming in with him, but because of the new cat hole, I had no control.

And then, a few nights later, I awoke to Mr. Baz licking my face. I opened my eyes and there, on my pillow, just inches from my head was a dead mouse.

After that, I kept the window closed until we moved. Since then, he hasn't caught any mice. The closest he comes are fallen leaves off the plants in the planter boxes on the balcony. It's not as exciting for Mr. Baz, but I'm sleeping much better.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Babies, babies, everywhere!

About a month ago, I blogged about three of my friends having their first babies within the same week - and they were all boys. And they all had the same name. Okay they didn't, but it would've been funnier if they did.

Then, last week I emailed my friend "Brooklyn" who lives in New York to see if we could get together when I'd be in the city. She said we could, but it would have to be in the exclusive St. Luke's Hospital, since she was having her baby the day I arrived and would be in the hospital for the remainder of my stay. Don't you just love a planned C-section? It's perfect! I'd know exactly where to find her and I could see her pre-baby, mid-baby or post-baby just by telling her what time I was arriving. So we made a plan (I opted for post-baby), only yesterday I got an email saying she had the baby already. But thankfully, he's perfectly healthy, just two weeks early. So I guess it just proves that you really can't plan everything, even in a day and age when you really can plan everything in life.

Of course, every time one of my friends has a baby, all the other pregnant friends email to ask how many hours the new mom was in labour. They all seem to have a theory that if Mom A pushed for 48 hours, then maybe Mom B is off the hook and will get a 10-minute push. I'm not sure it works that way, but for some reason everytime I report back about an easy labour, none of the pregnant moms-to-be seem very pleased, as though they've just been sentenced to The Worst Labour Term Ever: To Infinity and Beyond!

If this is your theory, though, then maybe you need to not ask me for a report because so far, every girl I know has had a fairly easy labour. (You know, as easy as it is to carry a watermelon around for ten months and then push it out.)

In other babies-in-the-making news, two more friends are pregnant, and today, my favourite teen author, Sarah Dessen, revealed a secret ! Congratulations, Sarah!

It must be something in the water. Or the watermelons. I was discussing this phenomenon of babies being made at an alarmingly fast pace with a friend today and asking her if she thought it was in the water. Or the watermelons.

No, she said. It's that you're 31.

Another Nancy Drew Mystery solved!

PS: my first review is in and it's a good one! Thanks to Lipstick Lolita at the new and super addictive for the mention! Now, I just hope that doesn't mean the next one will be bad.

Monday, April 9, 2007

The Sewing Studio Open House - in 2 days!

When I was a young girl, I could not sew. Oh, I could sew by hand, but put me in front of a machine and all I'd do is get the thread all jumbled up and jammed, and then I'd become incredibly frustrated and resort to completing my
Banana Split Pillow by hand.

Until a few years ago when Sew-Cute Sewy Seamstress taught me how to sew. And now, she's having an open house tomorrow night to show off her brand new fabulous sewing studio where she'll be offering all classes all the time! (It's like Rogers On Demand only you sew instead of watching movies you sew and go home feeling accomplished and crafty, and who doesn't want to feel crafty?). Still not convinced? I've crafted a Top 10 List of reasons why you should come to The Sewing Studio's open house this Wednesday (you know, if you live in Toronto):

1. You can sew a super cute TOP SECRET project only to be announced when you get to the studio!
2. Don't know how to use a sewing machine? You don't need one to make the free, fabulous TOP SECRET project!
3. Chocolate, cupcakes, candy. If I know Sew-Cute Sewy Seamstress, she'll have the goods.
4. Don't know how to sew? Sign up for one of the new classes so you can learn how to sew!
5. See cool projects by former students (and think, hey, if they can do that, maybe I can do that, too!)
6. Meet cool girls who like to sew (or pretend they like to sew even if they're not very good at it).
7. Gift bags!!! With lots of presents inside! Free!
8. A chance to win fabulous trips and prizes. Okay, maybe just prizes. It's not the Price Is Right after all.
9. A chance to win a yoga mat bag (made by me!) and a copy of Stuck in Downward Dog.
10. Don't live in Toronto? Then re-read incentives #1-9 for all the reasons you should COME to Toronto tomorrow night!

Here are the details! Hope you can come!

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Serenity Now!

I've decided that Mr. Thirsty Head needs to go to LA. No, not that L.A. I'm not sending him to California to meet up with Lauren & Heidi, even though I know Mr Thirsty Head could bring them back together and knock Spencer's creepy teeth out. Obviously I can't send Mr. Thirsty Head there because, if you've been watching The Hills then you're probably wondering what I'm wondering. Which is: what happened to their dogs? Remember, the dogs they both got for Christmas last season? Gone.

Heidi: Where'd our dogs go, Lauren?
Lauren: We had dogs? (Pause).
Oh yeah, I totally forgot. (Longer pause).

Apparently, with all their trips to Area, they didn't have time to feed the dogs. So no, I can hardly send Mr Thirsty Head to hang out with them, because they'd just forget to feed him or give him water, and that's not going to help the problem at hand. So instead, Mr. Thirsty Head is going to Lappers Anonymous, because he needs to get this water-lapping addiction back to the bowl.

I mean, look how CUTE his bowl is?

Could any cat ask for a better bowl to drink his water from? But some-kitty doesn't like this lukewarm, on the floor, not fresh and flowing like a waterfall, water in his bowl.

But the goal is to get him back on the wagon. I mean, the bowl. To get him off the taps. So I looked up the 12 Steps to Serenity" (and recovery). Because if you're going to do the 12 steps, you've got to have a sponsor. And I'm just that kind of mom.

Step 1: Mr Thirsty Head must admit that he's powerless over his addiction and that his life has become unmanageable.

Right. So, last night, after Everwood, we sat down to talk about it. I told him that I don't have time to turn taps on and off for him and since he hasn't learned how to do it himself, it needs to come to an end. He just kept meowing and looking at the tap in the tub. So I think he realizes his addiction but he can't stop himself.

Then I told him that this addiction is unmanageable for me. And since his life really is in my hands - I mean, he can't feed himself or give himself water without me - that part of the step is up to me. And he realizes that. After spending an HOUR trying to break into his bag of catfood.

Must. Bust. Open. Bag.

Without any success. I'm not sure if he really was hungry or was just trying to prove a point - that I'm not the boss of him. Or perhaps he was just upset because he, too, thought that when I said he was going to LA, that I meant to visit Lauren & Heidi & Whitney & Audrina & evil Spencer.

But he wasn't. Instead, he took a trip to a land called Patio, where he had to sit and think about why he shouldn't wake his mother up at 3 am trying to bust open the cat food bag.

It may not have been sunny California, but it was raining, so he got all the water he wanted. And when he came back inside, he assured me that he fully comprehends and surrenders to Step 1 of the 12 step-plan.

Success! Only 11 more steps to go!

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Yoga Bag giveaway and the super duper Sewing Studio Spectacular!

So my friend, Sew-Cute Sewy Seamstress had a dream. She loved to sew and one day she decided to teach her friends how to sew (since they were very very bad seamstresses and didn't know a selvage from a serger but thought that Stitching in the Ditch sounded way cool). So she started to teach classes in her apartment. She set up tables and sewing machines...

and a big bowl of candy....

Mmmm...... candy.

Everyone loved the classes and learned how to make skirts and shirts and even curtains and pillows! (Unfortunately the candy bowl proved too distracting for one girl, who will remain nameless, and she didn't master the art of measuring, or um, patience, so most of her items were rather lopsided. But she always left the class happy, because she'd had fun -- and candy!). As more and more students learned to sew, they spread the word until one day Sew-Cute Sewy Seamstress had so many students she had to hire another instructor. And another. And another, until there were so many students and instructors in her little apartment but there were still girls lined up with their sewing machines, waiting to get in. Because they wanted to learn how to Stitch in the Ditch, too!

So Sew-Cute Sewing Seamstress decided it was time to move. Fast forward to this Wednesday, April 11. The new Sewing Studio is having a party to celebrate its grand opening, with more space, more sewing machines, more instructors, and most of all... more candy! (But take it from me, you should try to avoid the candy if you really want to learn how to sew).

There's going to be cupcakes, cocktails and lots of free stuff including...

this brand new yoga bag that I made especially for the event, which is going to packaged up all pretty with an advance reader copy of Stuck in Downward Dog. And you could win it!

I promise, this one has no loose threads on the inside, and is fully functioning. So if you win it, you can actually put your yoga bag in it and head off to a class, you dedicated yogi, you. Or, you can just fill it with candy at the event, and then sneak home and eat candy on the couch all evening. I won't tell. Really.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Cat tales...

I'm not sure how it all started, but one day, several months ago, while the Hubs was away on business, Mr. Baz jumped up on the counter while I was doing my hair. He meowed at me, and I thought he was just sad that his buddy wasn't around. Still, I had to get to work, so in an attempt to distract him from his lonely woes, I turned on the tap. And he started to drink.

I thought it was so cute, and I couldn't wait to show the Hubs.

Strangely, he didn't think it was so cute. "Now you've started something."

He was right.

Every morning after that, when I'd get out of the shower, he'd be sitting on the counter, crying for water.

This made it quite difficult to get ready, because he was in my way. Also, I didn't want to spit out my mouthwash in case he licked that up instead of the water. I mean, there's alcohol in mouthwash! What if he got drunk? And surely toothpaste isn't for kitties. And I didn't want to leave my hairdryer or curling iron plugged in. What if kitty got electricuted?

So I tried to wean him off the water. It didn't work.

So then I tried to move him over to Hubs' sink so that my sink would be free, but he didn't like it as much. He just came back.

So then I tried to move him to the bathtub. And guess what? He likes it!

So this is a good thing, except that he ALSO likes the sink tap, still. And now, he not only likes to drink from the neverending fountain in the morning, but also, at night. As soon as I get home from work, he runs into the bathroom, jumps on the counter and meows for me to come in and turn on the tap. Only now, sometimes he drinks and sometimes he doesn't. Sometimes, as soon as I've left the bathroom, he hops down off the counter and jumps into the tub, then cries for me to come back and turn on the tub tap. Then, after he has a bit to drink, he takes a break. Sometimes he just sits on the edge of the tub for a few minutes, but other times, he leaves the bathroom and walks around, or licks his chest, which is full of water drops, dry. So then I go back and turn off the taps, because who knows if and when he'll be back and I have to do my part to save the world, too, you know. I watched An Inconvenient Truth. Every little bit helps.

But then, quite often, Mr. Thirsty Head decides he HASN'T had enough to drink, so he goes back into the bathroom, and whines whines until I turn the tap on the sink or the tub back on. And then the process starts all over again.

So why is this a problem, aside from the obvious mini-workout that I'm getting with all this walking back and forth to the bathroom and turning on and off of taps? Because I got the page proofs on my book back from my editor last week and I have to read them to make sure there aren't any mistakes and all these cat calls are distracting me from the task at hand.

So if there are mistakes in the book when it comes out, just remember this post. Oh, and if you make mistakes in your own work (whether it's a very important proposal for the Queen or your Finite Math assignment), just blame it on your own thirsty cat. It's a much better excuse than the dog ate my homework, don't you think?