Happy Thanksgiving

Today is Thanksgiving Day in Canada—we celebrate a little earlier than our neighbours to the south, where it’s Columbus Day. It seems to me that Americans are very firm about which day they should celebrate Thanksgiving (i.e. on the Thursday that is Thanksgiving Day) while most Canadians I know are pretty flexible about the date. Usually, we do the turkey on the Saturday or the Sunday of this weekend, not the Monday. This year, because I’ve been at the Novelists’ Ink conference and got home late last night, we’re going to have our Thanksgiving dinner next weekend.

I am, however, feeling quite grateful today. At the conference, I saw a lot of friends, made some new ones, learned a great deal and had a wonderful time. I had lunch with some readers from the area, too, which was wonderful – and made me grateful for all of you who read my books. I stayed offline for the week that I was away, and that had exactly the result I’d hoped for—I have a lot of new ideas and stories to be told. I picked up a LOT of seashells and walked at least once a day on St. Pete’s beach (which is beautiful).

I understand a little bit better why those who live in hurricane areas are pretty relaxed about hurricanes—Nate sailed up the Gulf of Mexico, not all that far from us, and we had a little wind, some clouds, and the tide came in higher. I learned that it was called a “king tide”  because there was a full moon and a tropical storm within proximity, pushing more water into the shore. I thought there would be no shells on Sunday morning, because the surf had been crashing so hard, but I was very wrong. I had an awesome shelling morning and brought home far more than usual. (Mr. Math said “of course, you did.” :-)) I’ll sort them out and share a few pix later in the week.

And of course, coming home made me feel grateful, too. (There’s nothing like coming home, is there?) I have a big list of things to do, am both relaxed and inspired, and ready to dive in. If you’re expecting a reply from me on something (anything) I’ll be going through all my correspondence this week and will get to your message. If you celebrate Thanksgiving, do you do it on the actual date or are you (and your family) more flexible?

So, tell me today. If you celebrate Thanksgiving, do you do it on the actual date or are you (and your family) more flexible? What are you grateful for in your life?

 

Food in Jars

It’s that time of year again, and I’ve been canning.

First up were the Roma tomatoes. They had half-bushel boxes on sale, so I bought three then Mr. Math went back for a fourth—because he remembered that we’d almost run out of dried tomatoes. He uses them a lot when he makes soup or stews in the winter. Since I seldom use them in my cooking, I lose track of them. We had very few stewed tomatoes left from last year, so I wanted to do a bunch this year. I canned 28 quarts of tomatoes and this time, I put a sprig of basil in each one since my basil is so lush and there’s no way we’ll eat it all before the frost. I also put down 8 pints of salsa, which is nice and spicy. It’s a bit different from last year as I couldn’t find any tomatillos. I also dehydrated tomatoes to fill 6 quart jars. We still had a few left to eat, which was great as they were beautiful and ripe.

Then the Ontario peaches turned up on the stores. I wasn’t going to do very many this year, but ended up with 14 quarts – with vanilla! – then bought more peaches to make jam over the weekend. I used to can peaches every August with my mom. We’d drive down to Niagara to buy the fruit, then come home and start peeling. I remember it being a really hot job, with juice running off my elbows, and every surface in the kitchen ending up sticky. (The sticky part still happens.) My mom still cans some peaches herself, but she doesn’t like making jam much anymore – and she loves peach jam. So, I made two batches of jam for her. 🙂

That’s all the canning I’m planning to do this summer.

quince jelly made by Deborah Cooke

I might make quince jelly in the fall, but maybe not. It’ll depend on the quinces. That picture is from the first year I made quince jelly. It’s quite magical to make, because it turns pink as it cooks. And quinces are interesting, being such an ancient fruit. I like the perfume of them. Peeling them is a job and a half, though. The fruit is so hard that it can feel like peeling rocks.

Do you do any canning? If so, what do you can?

A Full Deck

Do you read tarot cards?

I do, although I used to read them more often than I do now. A tarot card deck has 78 cards: the 56 cards called the minor arcana, plus 22 trump cards called the major arcana. The minor arcana are similar to the decks of 52 playing cards that we use for other games: there are four suits of 14 cards each, with cards numbered from 1 to 10 in each suit, plus “face cards” of a page, a knight, a queen and a king. (In the 52-card decks we use for other games, there are only three face cards: the jack, the queen, and the king.)

I just bought a new deck and am very happy with it.

The oldest surviving tarot cards were created in Italy in the fifteenth century and were painted on commission for powerful families. The Pierpont-Morgan Visconti-Sforza deck is the one I just bought. It’s a reproduction of actual cards that have been preserved. All but four of the 78 cards have survived, although they are in different collections. The Accademia Carrara in Bergamo, Italy owns 26 cards; the Pierpont-Morgan Library in New York owns 35 cards, and there are 13 cards in a private collection in Italy, the Casa Colleoni. These cards are big, at 17.5 by 8.7 cm, and this reproduction is the same size. They were paintings, as well—there are cards surviving from about the same time that were printed from woodcuts.

The four lost cards in this deck are The Devil, The Tower, the Three of Swords and the Knight of Coins, but they’ve been created to make the deck complete, and designed to coordinate with the rest of the deck.  There’s a cheaper version of this deck, but I thought the museum’s connection would ensure the quality was superior. The deck comes in a hinged box with a book of interpretations, as well as the story of the history of the cards.

I thought this deck was beautiful before I received it, and I’m dazzled by the reproduction. One thing is that I’m not sure I’ll be able to shuffle such big cards and work with them for readings. They also don’t have numbers or titles on the higher arcana cards or the suit cards, so it’s a case of working with the cards to recognize each one. It took me a few minutes to realize that the king in each suit is on his throne, the knight is on his horse and the page is on his feet, and that’s how to tell them apart. It won’t take long to become accustomed to it once I have a look at its conventions. I may use it for meditation instead of readings.

When I bought my first deck of tarot cards almost thirty years ago, there wasn’t a reproduction of the Visconti-Sforza available, even though it was obviously known. Maybe the museums and collectors still had to work out a partnership. It was the one I wanted, but instead, I bought the Medieval Scapini deck, which features card images painted by Luigi Scapini and which are clearly inspired by the Visconti-Sforza deck. The cards are smaller and I’ve done a lot of readings with mine. Here are some of the cards side by side.

These are the first four cards in the Higher Arcana – The Fool, The Magician, The Popess (The High Priestess in other decks) and The Empress.Two tarot decks compared - the Higher Arcana

The next four cards in the Higher Arcana are The Emperor, The Pope, The Lovers and The Chariot.

Two tarot decks compared - the Higher Arcana

The next four cards are Justice, The Hermit, The Wheel of Fortune and Force.  Notice how different the Force card is. The illustration on the smaller card is more typical now.Two tarot decks compared - the Higher Arcana

The next four Higher Arcana cards are The Hanged Man, Death, Temperance and The Devil. (The Devil is one of the missing cards in the actual deck.)Two tarot decks compared - the Higher Arcana

The next four Higher Arcana cards are The Falling Tower (another missing card) The Star, The Moon and The Sun. I love the depictions on The Star and The Moon, which are both different from what’s become typical. (The small cards have more familiar imagery.)Two tarot decks compared - the Higher Arcana

The last two trumps are Judgment and The World. Once again, the illustration on the smaller card is more typical of other decks, but the medieval one is quite beautiful.Two tarot decks compared - the Higher Arcana

Just for fun, here are the four queens: the Queen of Swords, the Queen of Wands (called Staves in the larger deck), the Queen of Coins and the Queen of Cups. There’s so much gold leaf on the Queen of Cups that she didn’t photograph well – the original card must be amazing.Two tarot decks compared - the Queens

And finally, here are the aces, just to compare. The Ace of Coins, the Ace of Swords, the Ace of Cups and the Ace of Wands (or Staves, as the case may be.)Two tarot decks compared - the Aces

The cards have different meanings when they’re reversed or inverted, and I can see that I’ll have to pay attention with the suit cards to be sure I notice their orientation.

This adventure started because Astro Jen sent me a book, which I’m enjoying a great deal. Mystical Origins of the Tarot by Paul Huson discusses (and speculates) on the origin of the tarot deck as we know it. He talks about the Danse Macabre and medieval miracle plays, which is sending me off on another research tangent. I’m familiar with the York cycle of plays, which were performed on Corpus Christi day, as well as some plays adopted by Mummers, like the story of St. George and the dragon. (Alexander and the company from Kinfairlie dress as Mummers and act out this play in The Snow White Bride.) But there are many other medieval miracle plays and I’m having a wonderful time learning more about them.

Have you embarked on any research adventures lately?

Happy 2017!

Happy New Year to you! I hope you had a wonderful holiday break and are entering the new year with lots of good energy. We’ve had some sunshine here, which is just about the best option in a snowy January.

Wyvern's Warrior, #3 in the Dragons of Incendium series of paranormal romances by Deborah CookeDo you make resolutions for the new year? I was interviewed about this a few weeks ago, and have to admit that I do. I always have writing plans—for example, this year, I’ll publish Wyvern’s Warrior and the next Incendium short story, I’ll finish up and publish The Crusader’s Vow, and I’ll write Addicted to Love and publish it, too. I’ll also finish editing the Rose Legacy and publish those stories in new editions this year. I’m excited to be working on so many new series this year and exploring new worlds.

The schedule gets a bit squishy after the middle of the year, not because I don’t have ideas of what to do next, but because I like to leave a little space for surprises and synchronicity. Last year, the Haunting of Castle Keyvnor was one of those projects that slipped onto my schedule in the spring. I like to remain open to opportunities like that. Oh, I’ll need to publish Something Wicked This Way Comes in its own edition in April, too.

The Crusader's Vow by Claire Delacroix, book #4 in the Champions of Saint Euphemia series of medieval romances.I’m always striving to be better organized. In December, I actually sorted out my knitting yarn stash and (sit down for this) am passing some of it along to other knitters and their needles. Since I’ve started to sew again, I’ve realized what a chaotic mess my sewing supplies are in. I sorted out the material last fall, but will have to get into the notions this winter, too. I have an idea that I’ll finish more projects than I start, and maybe finish up a lot of the ones in progress, but am not too hard core about that. Part of what happens with wool and fabric for me is just creative play. I don’t want to put too many rules on that adventure and risk spoiling the fun. I’m going to look for workshops this winter and maybe learn some new fibre tricks. 🙂

Addicted to Love, a contemporary romance by Deborah CookeMy big challenge for 2017 is to better manage my time. I have this perennial fantasy of becoming more efficient, and oddly enough, there’s always room for improvement. My big time sink is social media—it’s so easy to hop onto Facebook to make one post and get lost for an hour or two. I need to stay on top of that, and that will likely mean that you see less of me there. I want to get more exercise, so have been pretty strict about taking my daily walk with the New Girl. We walk about 4 km together each day, regardless of the weather, and she walks fast. I’d like to start swimming again—I stopped when we moved out of the city because there wasn’t a pool I liked nearby. I’ve found one I really like (saline, not chlorine!!) but it’s about a 30-minute drive away. For some reason, lap swimming is always scheduled at meal times, so I need to figure out how to make that work. I might end up going to yoga instead. This year, I did do a better job of getting out to the garden on a regular basis in the summertime—the weeds still won, but it wasn’t a landslide victory last year. This year, they’d better look out!

How about you? Did you make resolutions for 2017? What were they?

Merry Christmas!

It’s that time again. Things will be quiet here on the blog through the New Year, as I step away from the internet to spend some time with friends and loved ones. I hope you have a merry Christmas, with friends, family, good food and good company – and maybe a good book or two. 🙂

Enjoy the festivities of the season, and I’ll meet you back here on New Year’s Day.

Merry Christmas, and happy holidays, everyone.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone in the US. I hope you have a wonderful day, surrounded by friends and family, and share a good meal. (You’ll need your strength for Black Friday shopping.)

When do you put up your Christmas decorations? I’ll probably start this weekend. We’ve had snow, so I’m ready for things to look festive.

ARGH!

It must be one of THOSE days.

I like to set up my newsletter early, then schedule it to go out. This weekend, I’ve been working on the newsletter for November 17, which lists two promotions. Today, I finished it up and scheduled it for delivery – but I set the time and not the date.

And there it goes, delivering to inboxes everywhere, with links that DO NOT WORK yet. Even better, I can’t stop it. grrrrrrr

So, if you get my newsletter today, don’t worry about opening it. You’ll get it again on Thursday, when the links will actually work.

I’m going to step away from the internet now. Clearly, I should be doing something else.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Today is Thanksgiving Day in Canada. We celebrate earlier than our neighbours to the south. 🙂 I hope those of you who are celebrating have a wonderful day (or weekend) with friends and family, and that you travel safely to your destination and home again.

One thing I love about Thanksgiving is the leftover food. We celebrated yesterday so will be having leftovers today. The fridge is full! We decided on a change from the usual turkey and had prime rib with Yorkshire pudding this year. We usually have a fruit pie and this year was no exception—ours was blueberry. It was delicious, and the leftovers will be even better.

Do you have turkey with all the trimmings at Thanksgiving, or do you have something other than traditional fare? How about pie? Do you have pumpkin pie, another kind of pie, or another dessert altogether?

 

RCMP Musical Ride

This month, Mr. Math and I have done a few road trips, including one to see the RCMP Musical Ride.

The RCMP Musical Ride travels around Canada each year (and to other countries, too) to perform as a fundraiser for communities, and also to recruit for the RCMP. We saw the Musical Ride a few years ago for the first time, and were excited to have the opportunity to see it again.

There are 32 horses and riders in the Musical Ride, and they perform a number of routines in time to music. The horses are bred and raised for the RCMP in Pakenham, Ontario, and they are truly lovely creatures. They’re bred to be black and about the same size. The riders are all RCMP officers, who do a two-year tour of duty with the ride before returning to their commissions.

It’s tough to take pictures of horses on the move, but here are my attempts!

The RCMP Musical Ride, photographed by Deborah Cooke

The 32 horses break often into groups of 8.

The RCMP Musical Ride, photographed by Deborah Cooke

One of the things that I really didn’t manage to photograph well was the maple leaf on the right hip of each horse. It’s not a brand, but is done with a stencil and a paintbrush, brushing the hair against the grain. It catches the light. You can just barely see one on the second horse in the line on the right.

The RCMP Musical Ride, photographed by Deborah Cooke

The Musical Ride shows the origins of the RCMP as a cavalry police force. That’s why they have the lances and pennants.

The RCMP Musical Ride, photographed by Deborah Cooke

This is the “dome”, which used to be illustrated on the back of the Canadian $50 bill.

The RCMP Musical Ride, photographed by Deborah Cooke

They do a lot of wonderful precision riding which photographs poorly but is amazing to watch, like pinwheels, cartwheels and threading the needle. There are aerial shots and videos of the various formations performed by the Musical Ride on their website, right hereThe RCMP Musical Ride, photographed by Deborah Cooke

Here is the company after the cavalry charge—you can see that (once again!) we made the strategic error of sitting on the opposite side of the arena from the VIP seating. We were able to photograph many horse bums. 🙂

 

The RCMP Musical Ride, photographed by Deborah Cooke

After the performance, the horses are brought to the perimeter of the arena. The officers answer questions and the horses gather some affection from the crowd. This is Venus, ridden by Cst. Tracy Aube:

The RCMP Musical Ride, photographed by Deborah Cooke

And this is Sherif, ridden by Cst. Leslie Goode. He was loving the attention! He bent down right away for the girls and was leaning into their pats on his forehead.
The RCMP Musical Ride, photographed by Deborah Cooke

Here’s a perfect pose!
The RCMP Musical Ride, photographed by Deborah Cooke

It was a wonderful evening, and we’ll probably go to see the Ride again. The schedule for the RCMP Musical Ride is on their website, right here, and the current horses and riders are listed on their site, right here.

Summer Flowers

My garden is a spring garden. It comes on strong with bulbs then early perennials, but pretty much runs its course by June. I’ve been trying to change that in recent years, and have been adding more daylilies and daisies. Right now, they’re in their full glory. It’s yellow and orange out there! Best of all, they love it sunny and dry, which is the weather we’ve been having this year. I have several very large sunflowers which are still in bud and keep growing. They’re volunteers, either from last year’s sunflowers or contributions from the bird feeder. Each has multiple buds and one is taller than Mr. Math and still growing. I can’t wait for them to open.

Here’s a selection of pix from this past weekend in the garden. First the daylilies:

Yellow dayliliy in Deborah Cooke's garden.

Russet dayliliy in Deborah Cooke's garden.

Orange dayliliy in Deborah Cooke's garden.

Two pix of the pink one, because I love its chartreuse throat.

Pink dayliliy in Deborah Cooke's garden.

Pink dayliliy in Deborah Cooke's garden.

My favorite, the big red one. The deepest part of its throat is also chartreuse, but it doesn’t show well in this picture.

Red dayliliy in Deborah Cooke's garden.

This is an asiatic lily, not a daylily. I don’t have many of these left, because we have those Japanese beetles that devour the bulbs, but this one is lovely. It has a beautiful sweet perfume, too.

Yellow asiatic lily in Deborah Cooke's garden.

I had a lot of calendula, which is a self-seeding annual. Here’s a big patch of it which was starting to go to seed. I pulled it all out right after taking this picture and scattered seeds in the bed. That gives the other smaller things beneath it (in this case, a lot of stonecrop and some lavendar) a chance to catch some rays too.

Calendula in Deborah Cooke's garden.

The rudbeckia (black eyed susans) are already blooming, which is usually something we see later in August. It must be the heat. These self-seed as well, although they’re perennials. I seem to have them everywhere. Rudbeckia in Deborah Cooke's garden.

This is elecampane, a perennial which was grown in the Middle Ages. The roots and stems are supposed to be good for settling the stomach and were often candied in honey to make sweets for after the meal. The plant is enormous, probably 8 feet tall, and dies back to the ground every winter. Elecampane in Deborah Cooke's garden.

The roses of sharon are also coming into bloom, and also are early. Here’s a pink one which likes to self-seed.

PInk rose of sharon in Deborah Cooke's garden.

Pink rose of sharon in Deborah Cooke's garden.

And here’s a white one, which is a little bit less enthusiastic in terms of self-seeding. I have a blue one as well, but it hadn’t opened any blooms yet on the weekend.

white rose of sharon in Deborah Cooke's garden.

And finally, some echinacea, loving the sunshine. That monster sunflower is behind it – you can just see its leaves.Ecinacea in Deborah Cooke's garden.

My beebalm didn’t do as well this year. (Some of it was overwhelmed by calendula.) The phlox is out, but the picture didn’t come out well, and the hydrangea is in bloom, which should mean that we’ll get a hail storm. The lavendar and stonecrop are doing well, too, and next time, I’ll probably have some sedum to show you. My aconite is HUGE this year – I always thought it liked shade and moist soil, but it’s in full sun this year, the soil is dry and it’s got to be eight feet tall. Looks like I had its preferences wrong. I’ll share some pix when the buds open.

How does your garden grow this year?