Two Weeks of Boring Illness

I got home from Japan on October 11, and felt really tired and jet lagged. On the 15th Kathy came over for coffee, and I was telling her how bad I was coping with it all, and she said are you sure you’re not coming down with something? I said no, it’s just jet lag.

Then on the 16th I woke up extremely sick with a cold, and this dragged on for a week. As I began to feel a tiny bit better, I developed a migraine, and had headaches off and on until just a few days ago. Imagine my mood.

I really couldn’t do much except e mail photos around and put some on Facebook, but other than that I didn’t accomplish anything. The poor dog wasn’t walked for a week so he was quite confused and upset as well.

I managed to follow along with my two writing courses, as they’re on-line which makes it very convenient. I foolishly tried to do something with my new WordPress website, but can’t do one single thing, so had to give up. I’ll have to hire a teenager.

The nice web designer got rid of, as people were starting to order, so I told him please close that immediately! One day I hope to have a nice website all about me as a writer. Of course there’ll always be recipes and stories about bees, flowers, dogs and all of that, but the main theme will hopefully be stories I’ve written.

To whit: the novel writing is going abysmally. The outline is due in two weeks, and by God I’m going to have it done. Thus far I have a title, The Revolt of Helga Glasscock, and some vague idea of what the book is about. Strangely enough, it’s not about a woman who decides to open a fruitcake business.

At this point I envision it as a tale about secrets, but told from a humourous viewpoint. Because growing up in the small town of Osoyoos has provided me with a wealth of stories, I plan to include flashbacks whereby Helga talks about her growing up years there.

My pal Beverly from White Rock came for her final visit of the year. We did our usual stint at the thrift stores, and I must say I’m getting really good at saying no. Even if an item is new, of excellent quality and of course dirt cheap as it’s at a thrift store, if I can’t think of a good reason for the purchase, I just won’t make it.

But one thing I got, for which I have no place, but oh well, is a cute side table. It appears someone put nice stone pieces on the top, as it’s so heavy. It was $10 and of course we only go on sale days, so with tax it ended up under $8.00

And as I explained to Bev this can be the first item for my ‘studio’ project, which will begin in the spring. As you may recall, the ‘children’ have been asked to get out of my garage, which will be all spruced up and turned into my very own area. So now I have a lovely side table to decorate around.

The dog and I were huddled by the fireplace all afternoon yesterday as Fortis shut off the power in our area. It was nice, as I read, though what I should be doing is writing. I finally did force out the opening scene of my novel, so that’s a start.

This entry was posted on October 28, 2016, in Fruitcake.

I’m Back from Japan

I just got back from an amazing 11 day trip to Japan to attend Nicky and Haruka’s traditional wedding ceremony at a Shinto shrine. You’ll recall they were married here on my lawn in April, but her parents couldn’t attend, so she wanted to have a nice wedding there.

Our trip began in Osaka, where Denis, Nicky and I landed and were met by Haruka. We took the two-hour bus trip to Kyoto, a 2000 year old city where Haruka had found a 300 year old house for us to rent through Air B n B. We then spent three days traipsing about temples, palaces, and a bamboo forest.

It was 30 degrees and very humid, but the house was updated with air conditioning. I had to sleep on the main floor as the steps were so narrow to the second floor I said I’m going to kill myself in the night going down to the bathroom.

In the shower/bathroom, the tub was about four feet deep, and the windows opened out into our own private little garden. So adorable!

Then we flew off to Sapporo and on our way we stopped at a place known as Hell Valley which is called Shikotsu Toya National Park and is an area of hot springs. We stayed at a traditional “onsen” hotel, which means one has natural springs’ hot tubs in the hotel.

Yes, we went in the nude, but men and women are separate, thank God. It was lovely as Haruka and I went to an outdoor tub and were alone there, sitting in the rain. Quite the experience.

After that we headed for an apartment Haruka had rented in downtown Sapporo, her home town, and the site of the wedding. We did things like shop and had a ‘conveyor belt’ sushi dinner at a restaurant with her parents. Literally, plates come by the tables on a moving belt, and you pick whatever you want.

The wedding was on Saturday, and it took the bride and groom three hours to be dressed in their traditional kimonos. Denis and Haruka’s dad were in tuxedos, her mom in a kimono and I wore my own outfit. I could’ve rented a kimono but said why?

All of this was done by the Century Royal Hotel and they had a van which took us to the Hokkaido Shrine. There the beautiful Shinto wedding ceremony took place, with about 15 Sawayas on one side, and two Schiller Doyles on the other.

After the ceremony, in which we all drank Sake as part of it, we went back to the hotel for everyone to change into more comfy clothes, then up to the revolving restaurant on the 22nd floor with a gorgeous view of Sapporo. There we were treated to a most divine eight course dinner that was truly to die for.

The next day the five of us (Haruka’s dear mom Yuka joined us) headed to the town of Niseko where Haruka works. It’s a ski resort and it has a breathtakingly beautiful volcano which is known as ‘Little Fuji’. On the way we stopped at a town by the sea call Otaru which I was nuts about.

And then it was time to fly home, and as usual, I arrived home feeling like a bag of merde due to the extreme time change. It was worth it though.

This entry was posted on October 12, 2016, in Fruitcake.

The Breaking Point

We all knew it had to happen one day, we just didn’t know when that day would come. But now it appears that within just a few short months I might have the opportunity to live minus any offspring. After 30 years, I have to admit I’m kind of excited about it.

Probably wrong for a mother to admit it, but given the length of servitude, I think I’d have even Mother Teresa’s blessings on this. And like many momentous events, it happened completely by accident.

I’d gone to Osoyoos for a memorial for my old friend Joe Miller, and spent the night at mom’s. I arrived home on Sunday to see the green hide a bed from the basement cut into four pieces and thrown onto the perpetual garbage pile in the yard. Luke and Nicky happened to be standing in the carport.

I left the car like a hornet after an annoying hound, and screamed, “What happened to the hide a bed?” Nicky said “It stunk. Remember I told you it stunk, and even you said it smelled dusty downstairs.” He seemed aware of the fact his continued existence was precarious at this point.

I explained I hadn’t confirmed it was the hide a bed, and in any case, it’s my house, my yard and my stuff, so even if it stank to high Heaven, it’s all mine and nothing is to be sawed into pieces. Ever.

I went into the house, madder than a wet hen, and completely at my wit’s end over those kids. After a few hours of thinking and e mailing vile invectives to friends about my offspring, I made a simple decision: Everyone Out.

Gerry Bruck often told me of mammals that have to chase their offspring from the burrow once they get a certain age, and I always thought that sounded so harsh. However now I get it, I really do. Some offspring can’t be coaxed off; they have to be ordered off the premises.

And really, at 27 and 30, I think they can get started with their own dear lives. Haruka’s arriving at the end of November, and she wants to find a place for them to buy, as she doesn’t want to live in my basement. I love her.

Then I thought heck, if Nicky’s outta here, why not ask Luke to move his tools out of my garage, and then the accumulated garbage will be kept to a very small amount. And a bonus will be I can use the garage for any number of fun things. I can have my own ‘studio’ and say that while tilting my nose upwards.

So I’m now excited about the future of Hall Road, and have a new website which will take over from This one is, and is still in the process of being born. Once that’s up, fruitcake comes down, and my writing life is official.

Denis, Nicky and I are off to Japan next week, and the dog and cats will have their very own house sitter, so I can relax and enjoy sushi, geishas and shrines by the thousands. I’ll report in after I return mid October. Sayonara.

This entry was posted on September 25, 2016, in Fruitcake.

Harvesting Honey

Margaret was here because we were having a party to celebrate Luke’s 30th birthday. We’d had a fun family lunch and then the next day when Denis was visiting I mentioned the special ‘onsen’ hotel we’re staying at in Japan. I said it sounds like some traditional style of Japanese hotel or something.

Margaret immediately Googled onsen, and then started to laugh hysterically. We said what’s so funny and she read out how they are spas, where men and women are separated because it’s all done without any bathing suits on, IE nude. I said oh dear lord, poor Nicky walking in there with his dad!

So I feel kind of intrigued by Japan already, and I can imagine the exciting things we’re going to get to see. We’re spending three days in Kyoto, then the rest of the time in Hokkaido where her folks live. So it’ll all be a whirlwind.

Yesterday Mike the House Painter came over to learn the drill for the house and pets as he’ll be house sitting. He mentioned Luke and I said no, I think it’s better for you to be here. Luke likes Louie, but he dislikes the cats, and so I know it wouldn’t work.

You would shriek with laughter being around here, as the batteries in my landlines finally stopped re-charging, so I had to buy new phones. I took them home, opened the box, and carefully unfolded the instructions. Slowly I tried to put in the batteries, couldn’t, and had to go out to the garage and ask Luke to do it for me! Oh my God.

Then yesterday I thought my creative writing course had started, but of course it’s on-line so that’s another hurdle. I was going berserk for about two hours, was nearly in tears, then got an e mail saying it starts next week.

You can see how happy I am I’m now able to imbibe one cocktail per night again. I’d had 18 months off due to migraines, but am much-improved, and thank God for it daily on the dot of 4:00 PM. It must be a bit disconcerting for the kid to be able to set his watch by the sound of the blender like that.

I was hugely successful with the bees, as I managed to get seven frames of honey. I have them sitting in a Tupperware container, as even though I have the extractor, I’m waiting for the recommended honeycomb cutting knife. It heats, so apparently is well worth waiting for, according to the beekeepers I’ve asked.

When I lift the container, it feels like there’s about 20 pounds of honey in there, so that’s a good beginning. And you’ll recall the bees swarmed and moved out in April, so the 20% or so who remained had to work like crazy to fill these frames. And because of that I felt really bad stealing all of it from them.

I phoned the president of the local beekeepers association, and he said yep, everything above the queen excluder is for the beekeeper to take, so go ahead. I did, but it made me feel like a real heel.

So now the fun begins once I cut the combs, spin the frames to release the honey and pour it into jars. Lorraine my beekeeping friend said the entire kitchen will be sticky once done. Fun!

This entry was posted on September 14, 2016, in Fruitcake.

The Birds and the Bees

You may recall I got a bird feeder a couple of months ago, and moved it several times before the birds finally decided they liked the spot. Now that they found it, I have to be on top of keeping it filled with sunflower seeds. I never thought of that aspect of it. But of course like flowers, once acclimatized to a feeder, birds want food.

And then the bees challenged me again, and this time it was over the removal of their honey. I don’t blame them, as they work so hard to fill those frames with honey, and then the beekeeper goes Yoink! and grabs all of the honey frames. They were mighty upset, yet in double layers of clothing, I felt safe.

At first I was sure I couldn’t do it. I watched some videos of how to take the honey frames from the bees, then spent days e mailing people and talking to myself while walking the dog. I begged myself to do, using guilt. If I didn’t do that, the mite poison pad couldn’t go on, and so the bees could perish over winter.

Finally that worked, and I put on a long sleeved shirt and long pants. Then the bee pants, bee jacket with netted hood, knee high leather boots and leather elbow length beekeeping gloves. I lit the smoker and made sure it was going strong with a thick plume of smoke.

Thus armed, I headed to the hive with an empty Tupperware container. I took off the lid, then used the hive tool to pry off the top. I then carefully pried apart each frame, filled with capped honey, and lifted it out. Once out, besides having an awful lot of bees buzzing around, I realized those remaining on the frames were not leaving.

On one of the videos a calm beekeeper, wearing only a hood, and nothing else, took out the frames and then said one shakes it hard, and the bees fall off. I gave the frame a good shake. One or two bees may have fallen off. I became desperate and hit the entire frame on the ground, and indeed, that knocked the little blighters off.

Seven of the eight frames had honey, so I put them into the Tupperware and brought them up here where we wait for the heated comb-cutting knife and honey extractor to arrive from Amazon. Once done apparently the entire kitchen is coated in honey.

I slapped a stinky mite killing pad on top of the box, and will start to feed them honey syrup in hopes they have enough honey in the lower two boxes for themselves for the winter. I worry about them.

But that was some measure of success, as was getting birds to the feeder, so I’ve been in a giddy mood lately. To celebrate I have a vanilla cake in the oven, which will be served to my pal Petra when she comes for Kaffee und Kuchen tomorrow afternoon. I have to say, that’s one of my favourite activities.

I’ve totally decided against chickens, and even having vegetables down in the lower garden again next year. I just can’t stand doing all of that stuff when I have a full garden of dahlias and other flowers up here, which I actually prefer. I think I have to stick with bees and flowers in the future.

This entry was posted on September 1, 2016, in Fruitcake.

Extreme Heat Finally Arrives

It suddenly got hot, after a long summer of cloudy weather, and I’m completely unused to it. The dog and I walk before 8:00 AM as otherwise the sun nearly kills us. If we walk too late, when he gets to a house with a tree on a lawn, he lays right flat on it in the shade for a few minutes before we’re able to carry on. So it’s much better to just go early.

God knows it’s going to be Living Hell at the Liberal barbecue I organized for this afternoon at 5:00 PM. You’ll recall I had to fight to get the position of organization chair, and now I’m thinking why did I want that? Starting with Vaisakhi Day in April, we’ve now had nearly 10 events.

And today will be quite a challenging event, as besides the heat, we have no idea how many people to expect! Can you imagine? Alice, the president, and I are meeting at Superstore at 2:30 to shop for 100 people, and then drive the food straight to the Mission Creek park where volunteers will be ready with coolers.

We’re going to barbecue hamburgers and hot dogs, and have pop and water, so if we run out, I’ve already designated a Young Liberal as a runner, and he’ll have to return to Superstore for whatever we need.

I was in Osoyoos for the weekend as mom had a party as she likes to do. Freddie turned 70 in May, but mom and I didn’t go, so she decided to have a party for his friends. There were 20 of us, and Jerralynn and Stu barbecued big, thick pork chops that were just delicious.

I haven’t written a damned thing, not even this blog for ages, so the more I say I’m going to write the less I do it. It’s strange, eh? Maybe I’ll have major writer’s block for so long I’ll discover a new goal and forget about writing.

And the worst of it is that I now have a very good direction, kindly provided to me by writer Sharon Thesen who said why don’t you put all your newsletters into a book? She said those are ‘refreshing’ and could be of interest. So I dutifully printed them, and then I sat there looking at the stack, afraid to begin.

I ordered a book which lists writing contests as well as publications that will solicit articles. I signed up and paid for the Write your Novel course via distance at UBC. Now if I would just put pen to paper, and begin, but no.

And so I have great hopes the course is the thing that’ll finally get me over this unpleasant hump. I’ve never taken a course via EdX whatever that is, but it’s some type of Open Learning program. I hope I can master the computer end of it.

Until then, I continue to water my flowers and vegetables, do a bit of cleaning, cook, bake a few things, make jam, mow the lawn, and shop at thrift. My pal Gord, who’s a writer, said he can’t even own a pet as when he’s writing the house could burn down around him.

I can see why Joan Didion lived in a hotel with her hubby and kid. No distractions.

This entry was posted on August 15, 2016, in Fruitcake.

Thwarted by the City

You know how I always blame the kids for having no impulse control, and that’s because I don’t have any either. Last week I decided I wanted a carriage house on this property. I thought wouldn’t that just be so cute to have a little house down on the area where I have my greenhouse and vegetable garden?

So I began to obsess about it, imagining the floor plan, and told a couple of people about my dreams. I phoned Bob Volk, the contractor who built the houses on Richter Street, and he said ask the City first. I said why when I have an e mail from a person saying I can do so. He said “they may just be yanking yer chain.”

I e mailed the City, waited two days and then sent an e mail saying Look. I just want a simple answer before the contractor will even set foot on my property. I forwarded the e mail indicating it was no problem. Then I got a reply saying guess what? policies have changed!

So indeed, the chain got yanked! I was fooled into thinking I could proceed, but whoa there Nelly, now the City said nope, they can’t support it. And that’s fine as 10 days ago I didn’t even know I wanted a carriage house. Now I can calm down again and find a new goal, which I believe will be the chicken coop.

It’s allowed on that area, but not a small house, so I think I have to go with the coop. When Louie and I walk past a house down on Hall with chickens I love hearing that rhythmic buck buck buck buck bugock, buck buck buck bugock, and think the neighbours will, too. It’s quite soothing.

And downtown the City’s putting the boots to Denis and I as well. In our rental house on Richter there’s a basement suite, which isn’t allowed. According to the by-law officer, we have to remove the stove. I e mailed him and said but there will still be the same tenants, same amount of garbage cans, and same parking spaces needed, so what does this do?

Never mind. The stove’s got to come out and everyone has to share the main kitchen upstairs. The tenants can reside downstairs in that suite, use their bathroom, living room and kitchen, complete with fridge and sink, but they’re not to have a stove.

Kinda makes one’s head spin, doesn’t it? I have been half-ways reasonable about it all, sending only carefully re-written e mails as I have a slight tendency to remove people’s heads with my writing. One wants people on their side, so my natural inclination to eviscerate has to be reined in.

I’ve been very busy on the Liberal executive, and tonight there’s an event at Summerhill Winery. Last week there was a nice event at Cedar Creek Winery for the tourism minister and our MP plus whoever wanted to sign up to attend.

Because we have an elected MP and our party’s in power, the MP gets a lot of people out to events. At this event over 100 free tickets were reserved. So it’s all good, but last week at Cedar Creek after two hours of standing I said I have got to get out of here, and headed straight home to the couch, dog and TV.

This entry was posted on July 20, 2016, in Fruitcake.

Major Writer’s Block or Just Plain Laziness

This is how the writing’s gone thus far. I’ve written a total of two additional pages of my memoir of Nuttier than a Fruitcake. These were both written in one afternoon, days ago, and nothing since. I’ve started quite a few short stories, but after several paragraphs it gets very hard to maintain momentum, so I stop.

I’ve researched a lot of publications that’ll accept submissions, and have dutifully recorded their websites and what they’re about. The sad thing is that’s all, as I haven’t written a single letter to any of them.

I tried an e mail to Jennifer Schell, the editor of Wine Trails magazine, but she said their articles are all aligned with their advertisers, so no thanks for any articles.

I let Steve MacNaull, the business editor of the Daily Courier know I’d closed the fruitcake business and now planned to write. He replied “freelance writing is a tough gig”. I said obviously I like insane challenges such as 1) fruitcake and 2) writing.

I keep praying for the Muse of Creative Writing to descend upon me, but she never does. This is why I’ll be paying UBC to take the non-credit Write your Novel course this fall via distance. If I pay and have deadlines, perhaps I can finally produce something.

But in the meantime I’ve been skipping around town to all the thrift stores, finding adorable stuff to haul home. I’ve been replacing every print with an original water colour or oil, and today I found a very nice oil, a winter scene for $15. Things like that bring such joy to my otherwise drab existence.

I sent out my newsletter letting my fruitcake fans know the end of the road had arrived. Many, many people took the time to e mail me how much they loved my fruitcakes and how much they’re going to miss them. It was so nice to hear that.

Two customers ordered four of each kind, and that basically cleared all stock from my house. Now I’ll just be baking in teeny tiny normal-sized portions, using my little old faithful hand mixer. Those are the best fruitcakes anyway, and so my family and immediate friends will never feel the sting of loss.

I told Maxine Dehart, who’s always written such nice columns about my product, if she wants a fruitcake for her old mom, I’m certainly willing to make one for her. I can’t imagine certain people going without.

I had a hare brained scheme in the spring whereby I’d sell vegetables, and that’s certainly off, given the rather hilarious spindly plants in my garden. I did okay with the perennials, and that might be a bit easier to handle. Vegetables are demanding prima donnas.

The kohlrabi’s completely inedible because it has a very thick, hard rind that’s impossible to peel. I cooked one while Beverly was here and we both said this is worth growing?? No more kohlrabi’s coming into this yard, I can assure you.

And this is the beauty of having Don O Ray’s fruit stand right around the corner.

This entry was posted on June 29, 2016, in Fruitcake.

The Next Chapter

After twelve years, I decided I no longer want to be in the fruitcake business! I know how shocked you must be, but it just came upon me, as these things usually do. You’ll recall how I cancelled work appointments and lied to people just to get to the gym, and then one day I said I’m sick of it, and quit. And this after 14.5 years of three to four visits per week!

So I’m less surprised than you, I guess, given how I lack any impulse control. Because as soon as I decided, I ran to the computer and placed an ad for Big Bertha, that heroic old mixer, the steel work table, and the baking racks. I wanted them out so I wouldn’t be lured back into it.

Four days later a nice person from a preschool came with two young adults to pick up the mixer. That thing must weigh 200 pounds and getting it up the stairs was treacherous, but hoisting it into their van without dropping it was worse.

They took the racks, too, so now I use the work table for storing the bag of Cat Chow, bags of Temptations, and their cans of Fancy Feast. I find it handy, so I’m sure someone will call and buy it too.

And what will my next chapter be? It took a bit of meditating, chanting, eating really bad food, feeling kind of nervous and edgy, to finally find a bit of a direction. I’ve decided to use the hours and hours of time saved from shopping for ingredients, baking, packaging and mailing fruitcakes to do the following.

First of all, I’m researching sites that have writing contests so that I can perhaps get published, and have a website featuring my writing like my pal Gord Grisenthwaite, does. This would be the direction I’d take with my website, and then instead of fruitcakes, you’d read nutty things that I write, not bake.

So imagine clicking onto my revised site, and there you’ll be able to read various things I’ve written, and maybe I could compile my recipes and flog an e book. Who knows what that site will evolve into.

Secondly, I’m going to research trade publications, send query letters, and try to get into their stable of writers, or at least be able to submit articles now and again. I’ve been making a list of things I could write about, such as fruitcake, small business, dogs, gardening, bees, dieting, parenting, compulsions, etc.

This would then become my bread and butter, as many of them pay. I’ve found some really helpful sites on line for freelance writers, and I can see I have an awful lot of leg work ahead of me before I get my first $100 cheque in the mail.

The last thing I’m doing is signing up for a creative writing course at UBC through distance education. Working for several months, one completes an outline, draft and final novel with the guidance of Annabel Lyon and Nancy Lee, two well known writers. The course is non credit and called Write Your Novel.

Of course now I’m ga ga with anticipation about what’s going to happen with this new adventure. But whatever happens I have to say I feel completely energized, even if a bit scared, to give this long-time dream of being a writer a real try.

This entry was posted on June 13, 2016, in Fruitcake.

The Liberal Convention in Winnipeg

Mom was the president of her local riding association for decades, and attended an awful lot of conventions. She was one of the original 600 or so delegates to elect Pierre Trudeau as leader of the party in 1968.

That convention was described as one of the most important conventions in party history. The Globe and Mail reported the next day it was “the most chaotic, confusing and emotionally draining convention in Canadian political history.”

I can’t describe the convention I just attended in Winnipeg in the same terms. It was very interesting and exhausting, but there was no chaos or confusion, and I don’t think anyone was emotionally drained as a result.

I’ve never been to a convention, and because I’d worked on the campaign as a volunteer, and am now on the local riding executive, mom said she’d treat me to one. Good thing, as when I went to register I was shocked to see the delegate fee was $900! Steep.

And I’ve never been to Winnipeg, and have only heard disparaging things about their winters and the mosquitoes in summer. However when I arrived I was pleasantly surprised at what a lovely city is is. They have really beautiful old buildings interspersed with some very nice looking high rises.

As we landed I was fortunate to overhear a woman in the row in front of me say “see you at the convention” to someone, so I said “are you going to the Liberal convention?” It turns out she was, and not only that, she and I were both staying at the Marlborough Hotel.

We shared a cab and went to our rooms. As soon as I got off the elevator on the third floor the stench of the carpet nearly knocked me over, but inside the room the smell was okay. A very dirty small old small room; outline of an iron burned into the carpet; multiple plugs going into one sagging outlet behind the furniture. Really nice free breakfast in the restaurant downstairs.

The convention centre was just a few blocks away, so we were able to walk back and forth and that was great. On the first night there was a social event at the Human Rights Museum, and they had opened it up for us to view, so my new friend Beth and toured all of the floors.

On Friday and Saturday we were kept busy with workshops from morning until night. I went to bed exhausted, and didn’t attend any of the socials after the first night. To me an event with hundreds of people standing around is torture anyway.

I learned a lot, and now I can say to people I realize policies and then laws are made by us, the people. We the party members hold policy meetings, and these policies are voted on provincially. Those chosen then to go the national convention where the members vote on what they want. I was thrilled to see how immediate government can be if people just knew.

The Prime Minister came straight from the G8 meeting in Japan and when I commented about that to Anna Gainey, the president of the party, she described him as “a machine.” He gave a great speech and kissed a baby in the audience, and was absolutely adorable, as ever.

This entry was posted on June 5, 2016, in Fruitcake.