“I am proud to know Molly and share writing experiences with her.”
Marcia Fine, www.marciafine.com, author of “Stressed in Scottsdale,” “Boomerang, When Life Comes Back to Bite You,” and “The Blind Eye.” 

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GOOD MORNING

Sometimes I wake up at 7:00. Normal. Sometimes, though, I wake up at 4:30. Or 4:00. What to do? Get up? No, that would make the day way too long. Go back to sleep? Impossible.

So I worry. There is so much to worry about. So to calm myself down, I think about what to have for breakfast.

Then, if I manage to doze off again, I have strange dreams, often involving doing things like flying under my own power and looking down on the world. I love this dream. Or I dream that I can only see things from waist level downwards, which means that I can not see anybody’s face, no matter how much I crane my neck. Or, I dream (and this is a favorite) that I am eating four different kinds of cake. One dream that seems to occur more often (does this have to do with the current economy?) is that I suddenly realize that I need to get a job.

I don’t want to have my dreams analyzed, for fear of what I might learn. And as an author, I would never have one of my characters dream about anything, just in case a professional dream analyst might read the book and draw conclusions about my sanity as the author.

Sometimes, strange things happen during my second round of sleep. Yesterday, I discovered the cat bowls had been moved to right in front of the shower. Did I sleepwalk? Did the cat make an executive decision about where she wants to dine? Do we have poltergeists?

It’s a mystery. Life is full of them. Next time I wake up too early, I guess I will just have toast, coffee, and keep an eye on the cat.

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GEARING UP

Thanksgiving is next Thursday. I am already exhausted from getting ready for Thanksgiving. Admittedly, I am one who always overthinks, over expects, and underperforms. It is the overthinking that leads to the underperforming.

For instance, I have read so darn many “Thanksgiving Hacks” that my head is swimming. They all sound good, but I don’t think I can do all these things:

  • Ina says to add both sour cream and cream cheese to the mashed potatoes.
  • Somebody else says to use heavy cream.
  • Put the potatoes in the Crock Pot to save space on the stove top.
  • Speaking of stove tops, you can use Stove Top stuffing mix, if you add more butter, more celery, and mix it with your regular stuffing–but that begs the question “Why use it, then?”
  • Alton Brown suggests putting your gravy in a thermos to keep it warm. A thermos is always a welcome addition to the holiday table.
  • Put the drippings in the fridge to get cold, so that the fat is easier to skim off. My question–how long does this take? The gravy will be hot because of Alton’s thermos, but the turkey will be cold. So then what? How is this a “hack?”
  • Rinse your potatoes in the dishwasher. Huh?
  • Boil cinnamon sticks and nutmeg on the stove for a “festive aroma.” Well, there goes that burner that was freed up by putting the potatoes in the Crock Pot.
  • Use Mason jars for glasses. So this means you have to buy Mason jars.
  • Spatchcock your turkey. This means you have to touch your turkey (I try to avoid a lot of turkey touching), take bones out of it or break bones or something. This sounds like something criminals would enjoy.
  • Use dishtowels as napkins. What? Why?

So I ignore the hacks and just go about Thanksgiving as I always have. I fret about it so much that on the actual day, I forget things, over cook things, under cook other things, and get snappy with everybody.

This year, MY hack will be an extra bottle or two of Prosecco.

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A TO Z

In the news: A man won the world’s record for alphabetizing the letters in his son’s bowl of  soup in 2 minutes and 8.2 seconds. Truth. It was on NPR. The son pictured above is not the man’s son: it is my adorable grandson. He is now nine, but this picture is worth the entire alphabet.

The purpose of this exercise, according to the man, was to show his son that anything is possible.

I can think of many more useful ways to demonstrate meeting challenges that I feel would be more inspiring than this. Teachable moments, such as

  • Demonstrating how to empty the dishwasher in record time
  • How to use a Swiffer to clear out the stuff under your bed REAL FAST
  • How many times can you hug your mom in a day contest
  • Race to see how fast you can get in the car and fasten your seat belt
  • Can you go to church and come back home looking exactly the same as when you left challenge
  • Demonstration for your child that the apple in the lunchbox is actually edible
  • Stage a skit in which you use an actual Kleenex to wipe your nose, rather than your index finger or sleeve
  • Twenty questions game in which a napkin is the answer

There are so many more. NPR can contact me directly…

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AFTEREFFECTS

Covid is over. It isn’t, but we all act as if it is. There are some residual things that may never go away. I read an opinion piece in The Washington Post about how what we wear will in the long term reflect not only our collective Covid angst, but also all the rest of the things that have caused us great emotional stress that are ongoing still: drought, war, politics, flu season, politics, global warming, Ukraine, politics, the holidays, the midterms, mass shootings, Kanye, politics, and so on.

According to this column, we all are dressing as if our clothes are made out of marshmallows. I can attest to this. My favorite outfit is still sweatpants or leggings with something very smooth on top: flannel or fleece preferred in winter.

But there are other remnants of the pandemic that are still with me. I wear a mask whenever I go to stores. Not so much to protect me from the virus, but so I won’t have to put on makeup. I just bought a new pair of shoes that are remarkably like bedroom slippers, except you can wear them anywhere. I wear them everywhere.

Why take a shower every day? Unless I have plans, I just do the “sponge bath” every other day. Rinse the hair with warm water.Dermatologists say that too much washing dries out the skin. So there.

Getting dressed as soon as you get up? A thing of the past. Now my goal is to don street clothes (that look sort of like pajamas, see above) no later than noon. The guilt about getting up and at it disappeared during lockdown. It never came back.

We have all gone slack, apparently. Catalogs now sell “work casual” attire. The trousers no longer have waistbands–just elastic bands with ties, you know–like sweats. And tie shoes are fading fast. America has embraced slides. I am fine with all this.

However, in the interest of remaining civilized,  I will enact some discipline for Thanksgiving dinner attire: I will put on a blouse with buttons, the one pair of black slacks that I still own,  those ballet flats that give me blisters, a bracelet, and makeup. It will be horrible.

 

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TRICK OR TREAT

I am going on hiatus for Halloween so that I can trick or treat with my grandchildren in Los Angeles.

Their mom lets them eat one piece of candy, and they trade the rest in for a toy.

I will be on the receiving end of the trade in.

See you in November!

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BOOKS I WILL NEVER READ

They are all over the bestseller lists. Written for women. Supposed to “take you out of today’s world” of you name it: hate, politics, global crisis, covid, etc. I do not like these books, because they have been written over and over and over, despite being cliches.

You know the ones I am talking about:

  • A woman inherits a huge house from a long lost relative. First of all, that almost never happens. She goes back to the picturesque small town where the house is. She starts to rehab it and a) finds some old letters in the floorboards that reveal a love story for the ages, or b) hires a hunky contractor with a shady past and they have steamy sex, or c) she finds a skeleton in the attic and solves a mystery.
  • A wedding. One sister discovers that her sister’s groom either murdered someone or is the man who she had a brief affair with and never forgot.
  • Oh my God: the bookstore. Why do all authors think that inheriting a quirky little bookstore is the perfect way to make a living, or struggle to? So romantic. Surrounded by either antique books (so much more atmospheric) or books about travel and cooking? The smell of books, the lovely dust, the eccentric customers, and that one man with a lock of hair falling over his brow? I have worked retail, folks, and let me tell you: selling merchandise is selling merchandise. Whether it is a book or a can of hairspray, it goes the same way: you ring it up and put it in a bag, hand it to the customer who then leaves the store. You take inventory. You order stuff. You straighten the shelves. Your stockroom is in shambles. Your feet ache from standing all day. And your customers chew gum, pick their noses when they think no one is watching, and shoplift. Retail sucks, for the most part.
  • The cottage by the sea. A woman who has suffered a loss rents said cottage to recover. The octogenarian neighbor in the cottage next to her is crusty and never shaves. He turns out to be her best friend, imparting knowledge and becoming a surrogate grandpa. Of course, his grandson is a famous actor with piercing blue eyes, who comes to visit, and there are sex scenes.
  • The character you love to hate. Either it is a woman who is too beautiful, and her beauty causes her to be cruel, bratty, and irresponsible, and yet all the men in the world fall for her. This trope is so tired it snores. Or, in contrast, it is simply a contemptible person that is put in the book to make the protagonist look even better.
  • Do male lovers in books always have to have brooding eyes, ride surfboards, know how to fix cars, or have lots and lots of hair? Do female lovers always wear their lover’s shirts around with nothing underneath?
  • Finally, because I could go on and on: The boss. A woman has a one-nighter with a man she meets in a bar (how often does this actually happen, by the way? NEVER) only to discover the following Monday that he is her boss. Or, just to flip things around–that she is HIS boss. My God. This has happened perhaps three times in the history of the entire world.

If you want to write a book, see the above and try harder. Or, go ahead and write on of these, hit the top of the lists, and make me even more jealous than I already am…

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WHEN THINGS GO WRONG

It started as a conversation about what time we should have dinner on Thanksgiving this year. I asked my husband, because in years past, when he was young and hearty, he wanted to have dinner in the afternoon so he could work up an appetite for a turkey sandwich before bed. As he is an old guy now, I thought he might want to vote for having dinner at, you know, dinner time, foregoing the sandwich until lunch the next day.

Something went wrong, and the conversation took a turn for the worse.

First, he asked what activities we should partake in. Yes, we are having another couple over. I pointed out that the activities would be me cooking and us eating. Period. We have never had any other activities on Thanksgiving. No games. No hikes. No special topics.

Then, he launched into what I dread as his “brainstorming” mode. First, he suggested maybe we have a different menu. Something perhaps, from another culture. I retorted that

  1. It is NEVER a good idea to have people over for a meal that you have never made before, and
  2. It is bad enough making the usual meal and fixings, and if he wants ceviche or something, then HE can make it

This took a turn for even worse. He suggested that we have the actual meal that the Pilgrims had. I became incensed. “You are wanting to have dried corn, clams and mussels, some sort of wild, stringy bird, dried fish, and God knows what else? You have a shellfish allergy, for starters!”

He mused further. “What about dressing up?”

“AS PILGRIMS? HAVE YOU LOST YOUR MIND??? This is a meal. A heavy meal. That is all. We don’t even say grace! So now you want to turn it into some sort of costume party?”

“I am just brainstorming.”

I reminded him that all I asked is what time we should have dinner.

“I though you maybe wanted to change it up this year.”

Yes! Yes! Change it up! I gave hime three options:

  1. He cooks
  2. We order one of those already done meals from the grocery or a restaurant where you just go there and pick it up
  3. OR, BETTER YET–we find an open restaurant that serves Thanksgiving dinner and we make reservations

The conversation ended. However, he still looks thoughtful. This is a concern.

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FALL

 

It’s fall. I wanted a pumpkin or two. Have you noticed that pumpkins are now so incredibly varied? They come in all colors. They have warts. They come in all kinds of shapes. This makes it difficult to choose one. So naturally, I got three.

It’s the same with mums. Less is not more. I in order to have a really nice display, I had to get five.

I think this is a marketing ploy. All the farmers got together and decided that just one of something was not profitable. So they put their heads together and created all the varietals of fall things that are so tempting to consumers–so that just one pumpkin or gourd and a single are way too skimpy. What used to be a nod to fall is now a full display of autumn richness, and neighbors must compete to have the best stoop.

And what about all the other holidays and seasons? People seem to feel they have to decorate for everything. Halloween, Thanksgiving. There are Easter egg trees, Fourth of July extravaganzas, New Year’s inflatable babies in diapers, and the list goes on. We no sooner take down one set of decorations before we have to haul out the next ones. It’s exhausting.

But the merchandisers never stop. They invent inflatables. Icicle lights. Things that can be computer programmed to twinkle, turn, and spell out things. We have those projectors that make the whole house lit with rotating dots, snowflakes, or leering snowmen. I have even seen rotating turkeys on houses in November!

Now we have lawn decor for our favorite sports teams, political leanings, or existential proclamations. It is a full time job just to rotate your yard decor.

Blame the farmers who invented white pumpkins. I am just saying…

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DINNER

I have had a Crockpot forever. Funny, when I was a working mom, I almost never used it. Everything was boiled. Boiled food.

When we moved into the apartment, I left the Crockpot behind. But right before the estate sale, I did a final walk-through of the house and had a change of heart. I grabbed the Crockpot and put it in the backseat. “I might use it sometime,” I thought.

I use it a lot now. The irony is that I am not one bit busy these days. My husband cooks three meals a week, and I cook three. We order out one day. My favorite day. Anyway, since I am SO not busy, I could pick a recipe that requires tons of prep work, and you know–sauteeing, stirring, and measuring. All those things.

I would rather not do all those things. I did them for all those years I was the sole meal provider. So now, I haul out that Crockpot and throw stuff in it and walk away. Do the dinners still taste boiled? Well, yes they do. However, I have learned to embrace the boil. Chili in the Crockpot is just fine. Black bean soup. Spaghetti sauce. Hey, if you put a chicken in there with some garlic salt and leave it alone, later on you can take out the chicken, shred it up, and add barbecue sauce. Put it on buns. Bake some frozen french fries. DONE.

Today, I put three cans of white kidney beans, some onion, carrot, rosemary and broth in the pot. Then I put three bone-in pieces of chicken. I got this recipe on the internet. It says it is “Tuscan.” Hey, that sounds both chic and hearty, if you catch my drift. I have some frozen hard rolls to heat up to have with it. Easy peasy.

So. I have the rest of the day open. Do I clean something? Binge something? Read something? Write something?

Oh, there is a bit of news. I begin my fourth novel next month, as soon as contract is signed with my publisher. Maybe then I will be busy enough to NEED the crockpot.

 

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