Micro-fiction and getting the writing bug back

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When I find myself wordless and lacking the drive to write, I go back and read through some of my past blog posts. Once I choose one, the suggested posts underneath take me on a journey into my own writing. There are not many things that will make me pat myself on the back but my writing has the ability to make me extremely proud of some of the things that have come from the depths of my imagination.

I used to participate in several micro-fiction competitions. Writers would be given a photograph or a phrase and we were left to our own devices to see where our stories would go. Mine, more often than not, led to the macabre but that is the genre where I feel most comfortable, the creative avenue where the words lead me and not the other way around. Click here to read one of those posts.

Not only did I feel the cylinders slowly coming back to life, I could almost smell the gas as it turned into power. The engine sputtered slightly but eventually roared back to life. I felt excited. I felt hungry for the high that writing gives me and then I felt inspired to put all of those micro-fiction pieces together and organize something resembling a chapbook.

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For now, this collection of fiction will serve as my inspiration. Those pieces of make-believe will remind me that I have the ability to weave a yarn that is entertaining, if not sometimes disturbing. Maybe, one day, I will want to publish those stories or perhaps they will remain on the pages of my blog. Regardless, they have rekindled the writing flame and it’s time to restore the lines of communication to the characters in book number two.

Every now and then, I follow a recipe

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Although I was able to attend the gift opening portion(s) of the day, I missed Christmas dinner and the family fun that followed. It seems one of my Christmas traditions is to get sick during the holidays and this year was no exception. I could have handled the sore throat and cough, but the fever did me in. I am always hot but, when I asked for a blanket on Christmas day, my brother knew I was sick. The pellet stove was cranking out some warm air, the oven was set to an ambient temperature to cook the bird and I was wearing jeans, a sweatshirt and a blanket. On a normal day under those circumstances, I would have become the victim of spontaneous combustion but I was still shivering. I left before dinner began and after a couple hours on my couch watching Christmas movies, I drifted off into a twelve-hour sleep.

The fever finally broke shortly after one o’clock today. I didn’t have a lot of energy but I knew I needed to muster what I had to spend some time in my kitchen. I had an order for an Apple Streusel Cheesecake and I had three pounds of mushrooms in my fridge waiting to be finely diced and made into my mother’s famous mushroom soup.

It’s no secret I love making soup. More often than not, I channel my father’s method of throwing a bunch of ingredients into a pot and turning it into something wonderful. I love to experiment with flavor combinations and have created an amazing Cauliflower, Pear and Blue Cheese soup that is outstanding. But I cannot “wing it” with my mom’s mushroom soup. The cocky wannabe chef in me has tried, on many occasions, to make a mushroom soup that would compare but I have fallen short every time. Today, I opened the recipe book and followed it step by step. The result is divine. Both the smell and the taste transported me back to the kitchen I knew and loved as a teenager.

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This weekend, I will be given the turkey carcass and whatever leftovers remain to make what I like to call Christmas Soup. Every leftover, minus the turnip, becomes a part of this delicious soup my dad used to make after our festive holiday dinners. Turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, peas, gravy – all of it gets thrown in with the freshly made turkey stock to make the best turkey soup ever! There have been years when the leftovers were almost non-existent, so I made a fresh bowl of stuffing, a new pot of mashed potatoes and created a gravy so the soup would be perfect.

If my dream of having a soup truck ever comes to fruition, I am sure the only soup sold on the truck that is made from an actual recipe will be my mom’s Mushroom Soup.

Ho Ho Holy Shopping Wars Batman!!

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After a conversation with a friend about shopping for the holidays, I was reminded of this post from several years ago. The thought of Christmas shopping in a large and extremely busy mall still fills me with dread and makes my skin turn into something resembling a pale, plucked chicken.

Since my nephews are much older and we have scaled down on our gift giving, my shopping is done in a geographical location not far from my home or online, saving me the probability of looking into many months of therapy.

I hope you’ll give it a read. I’m sure my Dad is up their smiling, still wishing he could stroll the hallways of the Yorkdale Mall a day or two before Christmas.

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My father used to love to Christmas shop.  There was a certain spark in his eye, a unique scintillation that was only ignited when he was donning his overcoat and preparing to get lost in the churning vortex of people at the busiest mall in Toronto. His exuberance always makes me think of the childlike excitement of Darren McGavin’s character in A Christmas Story when he opens his prized “leg lamp”.   Blood would rush to his cheeks, there was a noticeable spring in his step and his baritone voice softly began to echo the songs of the season.  His melodic tone would lure us into his Christmas trance and we were transported into the beauty of all things festive and giving – until we got to the mall.

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Taking a child to that mall during the Christmas rush is like taking a lone goldfish from its tranquil bowl and…

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Playing Santa Claus

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This is the seventh year I have been running a toy drive at the lodge where I work. It had a humble beginning since it was a new thing for us and, for the first few years, we donated the toys we received to the Salvation Army.

For the past few years we have been donating the toys to our local Food Bank’s Christmas Drive. Families were thrilled to arrive at the food bank and realize they could also pick out some toys for their children while picking up all the ingredients for their Christmas dinner.

Over the years, not only did we receive toys but we also received monetary donations that we could use to buy toys on behalf of those who were unable to deliver to the lodge. With that money, I shopped each year and bought as many toys as I could to cover all the bases since I didn’t know if I was shopping for young children or teenagers. This year, we changed the parameters.

I went shopping yesterday armed with a list of suggested toys for each child on our list. Don’t get me wrong, shopping for the past six toy drives has been nothing short of amazing but this year my shopping had more of  a purpose. I knew I was shopping for a ten-year old boy who wanted Lego for Christmas and when he opens his gift on Christmas Day, he will have the toy he wanted. The tree may have fewer presents under it this year, but those toys will be much more meaningful to the kids opening their presents on Christmas morning.

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There is no better feeling than the pleasure that comes from helping others, and not just during the holidays. If you have ever wanted to volunteer in some way but haven’t figured out how to do it, make that your New Year’s resolution. I guarantee it will be one of the best things you ever do.

 

A few glitches in the software

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Technology is a wonderful thing. Several years ago, my place of work took the leap from the traditional punch clock to a facial recognition clock. How easy it was in the past for our staff to ask their co-workers to punch their time card when they knew they were going to be late for a shift and how quickly that all changed. This new software meant each individual employee had to stand in front of the scanner to be recognized by the clock and punched in at the precise moment they arrived for their shift.

It was a seamless transition in the beginning. Each employee face was recorded in the system and I had easy access to be able to update photos and download the daily activity. No longer could employees get paid for time they were not physically at the lodge. Making necessary changes when employees forgot to punch in or out was as simple as a few key strokes and did not require any manual calculation of hours as we had to do with the old system. It seemed like the perfect strategy to circumvent any future problems with the time clock – until we hired identical twins.

For the life of me, I could not figure out how two girls could manage to have so many problems with their ability to punch in and out. My job has many facets and spending so much time correcting their time cards was not an anticipated part of my day. I later realized when one twin punched in, the clock would think it was the other twin and the problem was effortlessly fixed by changing their photos and having one twin wear glasses.

Cut to yesterday. We are preparing for a month-long social media blitz of Elf on the Shelf being found doing mischievous activities at the lodge each day. I have created a list of twenty-four activities and many pictures have already been stored, ready to be sent into the world wide web. My co-worker and I have been having a great time setting up all these scenarios and when I go home for the day, she places the Elf in different locations for me to find upon my return the next morning. Yesterday morning, the Elf was sitting on the facial recognition clock.

For those of you who know me, or read this blog on a relatively frequent basis, you know my imagination is a bit “off”. As soon as I saw our Elf on the punch clock, I wondered if we could have the clock recognize her face and set her up as a lodge employee. The software system did not disappoint. After a lot of laughter, aching stomach muscles, several close calls almost peeing our pants and a great deal of patience, Clover became an official employee in the eyes of the time system software. When you hear the clock say “thank you” in the video below, Clover has officially punched in for her non-existent shift.

There may have been a moment when I questioned the validity of the software, but unless our employees are going to make miniature three-dimensional versions of themselves I think we are safe to continue on with the status quo. I can’t wait until our bookkeeper calls down to ask who Clover is when she gets the time sheets for the next payroll.

 

Pay it backwards

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I am not a frequent visitor to our local Tim Horton’s coffee shop. I have my favorite Hazelnut Vanilla coffee beans that I grind daily so my house can be infused by the rich fragrance of my morning java, but lately that has changed.

Over the past couple of weeks, I have been visiting Tim’s more often than I usually do and each time I have gone, I have paid for the order for the car behind me in line. It’s like a Pay It Forward, but in reverse. Some days, it’s as simple as one coffee. Other days, it has been an order of six coffees and donuts for a work crew. Regardless of the size of the order, I drive away with a smile knowing the person in the vehicle behind me is most likely smiling as well.

Simple acts of kindness have a ripple effect. This post is not being written to pat myself on the back for doing a good deed. In light of all the anger and arguing on social media about current events, this simple gesture helps bring back a sense of peace to my brain. It makes me forget the ugliness in the world and focus on small ways to inject a bit of happiness into someone else’s day.

Jennifer Dukes Lee summed it up best when she said, “In a world where you can be anything, be kind.”