life


If you’ve been following my guitar saga, I did end up ordering my dream guitar to replace my deceased [and ancient] folk guitar–an Ovation Celebrity CC059 acoustic-electric. It arrived Wednesday, spent a day getting checked out by Chuck (CKuz Guitars, my excellent local expert), and is an almost constant distraction from the work I should be doing.

Fortunately, I’ve been getting a lot of work done lately (probably because I have an extraordinary number of deadlines to hit), and I’ve been compensating with breaks to play the Ovation and to read S.C.P.D.: The Case of the Claw by Keith R.A. DeCandido, which is really distracting.

The most amazing thing about the guitar is the built-in tuner–I bought my last guitar in the ’80s. I still remember how cool it was to shift from a pitch pipe to an electronic tuner (and yes, I can tune without an electronic aid!).

Today I tried out the Ovation plugged for the first time, just to see what it sounded like. Very different from my Gibson–a much cleaner sound. I really like it, although non-amped is just fine for the most part.

ovation celebrity cc059 acoustic-electic guitar

My finger dexterity is slowly coming back (bar chords very slowly), but I’m getting there.

I had played someone’s Ovation back in High School? College? and loved the round back, and the experience stuck with me. The super-shallow body of this model is a really good fit for me, and is really comfortable to play. Not sure it’s the right guitar for everyone–but I’m super happy with my choice.

Why did I stop playing again?

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Dinner is in the oven. For a change, I thought I’d document one of my usual recipes. So, here is Elektra’s meatloaf.

Combine in a bowl: 2 pounds meatloaf mix (combined ground beef, veal, and pork), 1 beaten egg, 3 onions (chopped), 3 tablespoons chopped garlic, 1 bell pepper (chopped), 12 oz fresh mushrooms (chopped), 1/2 15oz can tomato sauce. Season with salt, freshly ground pepper, ground cardamom, ground coriander and ground ginger. Add enough bread crumbs (I prefer panko) to create a dry enough meatloaf to be shaped.

Place in a large baking pan and shaped into a loaf that is of even height throughout. Surround with canned white potatoes (I used two 15oz. cans–Mike really likes them). Top both the meatloaf and the potatoes with the remaining tomato sauce, bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour to 1 1/2 hours, until it appears to be done when you cut into it.

I tend to adjust the seasoning every time I make it–never the same meatloaf twice! Leftovers make great sandwiches (best with homemade bread).

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My folk guitar has died. Not the One True Death–the nut(?) at the top of the fretboard has broken badly enough to make playing it a truly frustrating experience. It has a few other minor issues, and I decided it was time to replace it. So this past Monday it went to my local guitar expert (Chuck), and I set him to the task of finding me a suitable replacement. I’m leery of buying a guitar sight unseen on the internet–I just don’t have the requisite knowledge.

This guitar has been with me since I was sixteen. Until then, I’d been playing whatever instruments my folks pointed me at, including stints playing accordion, violin, recorder, and flute. But guitar was something I wanted to play. I was still noodling around on the recorder occasionally at that point (and continued through college and beyond when I joined the SCA–I can play the range from sopranino through tenor) and I was playing flute in the school band. After a few (6?) lessons in classical guitar, I became pretty much self-taught, and I’ve played on-and-off since then. During college and grad school I played enough to do coffeehouse-type stuff, but getting a real job interfered. I’ve been playing again lately, as a break from editing and writing, enough so my calluses are back.

So, Plan B. With the folk guitar out of the picture, I dusted off my Gibson SG. That was an acquisition during my Risley days at Cornell (for you Risloids reading this–I bought it from Vic Venning when we both lived there). What a joy! I’d forgotten what low action the Gibson has, and how easy it is to play. I recently replaced my [huge] old Peavey Pacer, victim of one of our early maine coon cats (who marked territory when she was in season) with a teeny-tiny practice amp that I love. Only thing is, suddenly my music selection is widely different. On the folk guitar, I lean toward 60s and 70s folk/protest songs or soft rock (think “House of the Rising Sun” and “Universal Soldier”). Now, I find myself reaching for the Led Zep songbook and Blue Oyster Cult . . . .

BTW, if anyone hears about a nice nylon-string guitar for sale out there–I’m in the market. If the right guitar (new or new-to-me) doesn’t present itself over the next five or six weeks, I’m seriously looking at the Ovation CC059 as a replacement. I’m open to suggestions if anyone has any.

ps. While I wrote some [bad] songs back in my teens, and set some poems to music, I haven’t tried to write (music) since. I started working on a filk song (set to an old folk song) on the way down to Mysticon (it’s a long drive down to Roanoke). Maybe one of these days I’ll do something more than listen at an open filk . . . .

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Last night was the first meeting of this year’s iteration of Jonathan Maberry’s Novel in 9 Months class. Looks like this one is going to be a blast! Definitely a diverse group of people, and the instructors have got this down to a science. Learned some things, reinforced some things, unlearned some things . . .

Came home after class to find the order for my new laptop (the current one now sounds like a jet taking off) had been cancelled due to a screw-up by AmEx.

So, this morning–fixed the laptop order. Worked out for the first time since my foot/toe surgery (yah!), now that I can wear shoes again.

On the schedule for the rest of the day: daily writing quota, copyediting, laundry(!), homework. Then later, I think we (dh and I) are going out to dinner with west coast Mark, followed by a flick. So, sitz fleisch.

But first, I better go take a shower . . . .

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Mike spent a good chunk of yesterday helping his brothers move his mom (my MIL) from one section of Cokesbury Village (the senior living center she resides in) to another. This resulted in two carloads of assorted “stuff” that was surplused by the move to smaller quarters.

We did end up with some nice furniture that we will put to good use–enabling us to upgrade the guest room from a full size bed to a queen, and a nice little end table/cabinet we can use to park some of the cat “stuff” we use in the sunroom. But we also got all of the sewing and needlework supplies, as no one else in the family has any interest (my SIL knits, so she got all the yarn and knitting needles!).

One day I will get this house organized but, not today.

ETA: I went through the box of needlework patterns and books, sorting keepers from donations (keep an eye out at your next cat show raffle!). Logged the reference books into the library software–I am currently using Readerware 3. Currently number of books logged in: 8,945. The truly frightening thought: a good portion of Mike’s library has yet to be entered into the software. Nearly all of my books are, other than a few that have gotten misplaced in the packing process when we came here. I am sticking a small label in the books as I logged them into the software, so it is relatively easy to tell which ones have been missed.

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The year 2012 actually started the way a new year is supposed to–with champagne, and music, and friends. Of course, it was a bit of a slow start–I’m still limping from the toe surgery I had on the 28th, and I don’t get my stitches out until the 3rd. I’ve been sitting down a lot.

2011 saw a lot more editing work come my way, as well as my first published story. Of course, more editing work means that I’m writing less to keep up with the editing. I need to find a better balance. The year also saw a shift in the balance between the sci-fi/fantasy and cat show worlds. BlueBlaze produced two litters of maine coon kittens (now all sold), and is now showing a havana queen, but on the whole I spent more of my available [weekend] time at conventions or book-related events rather than cat-oriented events. This shift has made me a happier person, and I plan to continue it. I have some [cat show] judging assignments coming up in the next year, and I look forward to them [particularly spending Valentine’s week in Malta], but I am severely curtailing my exhibition-only weekends in favor of sci-fi conventions, book fairs, and steampunk events.

Thanks to my GP sending me back to Physical Therapy, I finally started exercising, and I was doing close to an hour of cardio at a stretch prior to having my toe sliced open. I’m still trying to figure out how to do something, but I fear I need to wait until the stitches come out before either the exercise bike or the treadmill is an option.

In 2012, I want to:
Write more. And get better about putting aside time for it. To help achieve this, I’ve signed up for Jonathan Maberry’s Novel in Nine Months class, starting in mid-January. It’s about an hour-and-a-half drive each way, but only meets physically once a month, and I’ve heard very good things about it. Hopefully that will be the push I need.

Edit more. And perhaps more effectively. I’ve decided it’s time for a refresher–I’m planning on the EFA Advanced Copyediting class, which I haven’t taken yet. In the past I’ve found the online EFA classes to be extremely worthwhile and well worth the cost. The class runs six weeks and starts in late February–I’ll assess at the beginning of the month if I can manage it while taking Jonathan’s class.

Get more organized. I’ve started this, but I need to keep up with it, and refine it. I’m freelancing in enough different directions I need to be certain nothing falls through the cracks. I’m starting to think I need a virtual corkboard–or maybe a real one.

Get back into shape. This is somewhat contingent on the healing of the toe, but I had a pretty good start on it before the surgery slowed me down.

Lose the last blasted fifty pounds. Related to the above getting in shape. I’m tired of being overweight. It’s a bit tricky trying to diet when traveling, but I’ve done it before. I just need to wrap my head around it again. Exercising will help, I think.

De-clutter. Especially the extraneous paperwork. Some of this is part of various ongoing projects to scan and dump old stuff, and some of it is just dumping old stuff that we’ll never look at again anyway. There’s a lot of paperwork that we have no room for, and I’m tired of having it in the way.

Read my way through some of the backlog. And sift through some of the books and donate them. I could read from now until doomsday, and I’d never get through them all . . . it’s time to be merciless and cull the backlog again.

Clean out and organize the craft stuff/sewing stuff/needlework stuff in the guest room so guests will fit in there. ’nuff said

I think that will keep me busy until next year.

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Last night we indulged ourselves a bit and headed into Philly to ring in the New Year with the Philly area steampunks at Dorian’s Parlor. We seem to be spending an inordinate amount of time downtown on Broad Street–just before Christmas we were at the Academy of Music to see the Philadelphia Ballet perform the Nutcracker, last night at the Doubletree for Dorian’s, and Friday night we’ll be back at the Academy of Music for the touring company of Hair.

map of Broad Street area in Philly

Dorian’s was a little different this time around. Different for us, because Dark Quest Books wasn’t there promoting a book launch. And the event was a bit different this go ’round, because New Year’s Eve featured two hours of open bar, a champagne toast at midnight, and a full dinner buffet instead of the usual snacks and two drinks included with the cost of admission. Of course, the price of admission was a bit higher . . . but we weren’t scrambling to eat dinner before we heading into Philly for the evening. And the dinner buffet was tasty!

The evening was MC’d by G.D. (Geoff) Faulkson, and the entertainment was lovely, although a bit sparse. It started with Mike Lunapiena, The Wandering Cellist. Mike plays everything from movie/TV themes to hard rock (Stairway to Heaven!) to traditional tunes. He’s exceptionally entertaining, and a nice fellow to boot. His music is available online, and he has some fun videos up on youtube to give you some idea of how interesting a cellist can be if he puts his mind to it.

Most of the rest of the night was occupied by the musical offerings of DJ Dave Ghoul, spinning tunes while we ate, drank and made merry. At midnight, everyone joined in a champagne toast, courtesy of Hugh Casey, photographer extraordinaire.

Just after midnight, we began 2012 with the highlight of the evening’s entertainment: Professor Elemental. The professor is a hip-hop artist from the UK–a steampunk rapper. He’s very engaging, spontaneous and a tremendous amount of fun. His performance was high energy, unique, and funny. He is just splendid!

We also had a successful evening’s shopping and browsing at the wonderful vendors. I am the proud owner of my first underbust corset (which I ended up wearing most of the evening), courtesy of Thomas Willeford of Brute Force Leather. There was beautiful jewelry and gemstones to gawk at from Kirsten Houseknecht at the Fabric Dragon, while Nikki Cohen was there showing off (and selling!) the beautiful corsets and garments of Mayfair Moon, Hugh Casey was taking beautifully posed pictures in front of an absolutely awesome library backdrop, and both of the musical guests for the evening (The Wandering Cellist and Professor Elemental)were selling CDs.

We’ve been struggling to find something to do for New Year’s since we relocated. For many years, we just invited a crowd of twelve to twenty folks over for an Indian-themed buffet dinner (that took three or so days to cook), followed by a “bad” film or two. We got to share My Best Friend is a Vampire, Phantom of the Paradise, Terminator 2, and other better or lesser known gems with a group of friends, hesitating briefly at midnight for a champagne toast. But the usual crowd gradually moved away, had children, and eventually we shifted to a select group going out to dinner at our favorite restaurant (Lemon Grass) in Syracuse, who did a special New Year’s Eve menu.

Perhaps we’ve finally found someplace we can be happy ringing in the new year here in Delaware . . . .

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Sunday saw us all gathered around the table for a pseudo-traditional Thanksgiving dinner. A good friend, Danielle, missed Thanksgiving this year so we decided to reschedule when she was available. We ended up being six: Mike and I, Danielle and her husband Mike, and Neal and Tina Levin.

Dinner included the traditional turkey and stuffing, mashed potatoes and mashed sweet potatoes, steamed asparagus, sauteed mushrooms, caprese salad and fresh bread (courtesy of the infamous bread machine). Dessert was apple pie and pumpkin pie with homemade ginger ice cream, accompanied by assorted adult beverages.

A lot of fun conversation was had throughout the afternoon–it was really a fun day.

Thanks to Danielle and Mike for the cookbook and the the bottle of Bailey’s, and to Neal and Tina for the wonderful chocolate!

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Tonight we went out to the Corbit-Calloway Memorial Library (where just last weekend I did a book signing) to attend a special community event.

While I am used to thinking of December 7th as Pearl Harbor Day, I learned that, in these parts, December 7th is celebrated as “Delaware Day.” On 7 December 1787, the 30 representatives sent by Delaware to the Continental Congress ratified the Federal Constitution, making Delaware the first state in the Union. Who knew?

The Corbit-Calloway Library has a marvelous collection of historical documents pertaining specifically to Delaware. It’s located right here in Odessa, where I now make my home. Odessa was also home to former Delaware state Governor Sherman W. Tribbitt, who passed away in August.

Some of the people who worked with Governor Tribbitt have spent the last several months commissioning a portrait of him for the library. Tonight we went to the dedication ceremony. It was beautifully put together, and extremely well-attended. Odessa is so small that they don’t bother to deliver the mail–they just give everyone in town a free post office box and the secret code to open the door lock so you can get to your box 24/7. And afterwards there was cake. The ceremony included brief remarks from several folks that knew the Governor, including a featured address from a former state senator who worked with him, and the singing of our state song (“Our Delaware”) by a local judge. In attendance were several state senators and representatives, as well as a number of former government officials, and the governor’s family (including the former first lady of Delaware).

This is a really nifty town we’ve moved into.

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Last night I picked up a bottle of Glenmorangie Lasanta (at some point they started giving the special wood finish bottles “fancy” names). Lasanta is the sherry cask finish. I’ve had it on my list since CapClave in October, where the hotel bar stocked it (and had really reasonable prices). I’ve already got a bottle of The Quinta Ruben, which is the port wine finish–referred to at home as “The Good Stuff.”

For those who don’t know, my drink of choice is scotch (single malt), and my favorite scotchs are the peaty ones, especially Glenmorangie. The special finish ones–those are for those special occasions, or when I’ve just had a heck of a day.

Of course, once I was in the liquor store, I spotted the third option: Nectar d’Or, which is finished in a sauterne cask. Sounds yummy. I’ve got it on my wish list.

We stock blended scotch, too. I used it for cooking.

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