Last night, the neighborhood carolers serenaded the block with songs of the season. It's a sweet tradition. Every year I like to receive the carolers and offer them something. This year it was hot chocolate—and it was cold enough out to justify it.
The kids sat on our curb to drink their chocolate. The parents visited.
Not world class photography, but I love this photo.
December is a good time to tell you about a new small business in the Dena: Girl Friday. I've mentioned them before because I visited their book club to talk about my novel, Camelot & Vine. But Girl Friday is much more than a book club. It's a Girl Friday, just like it says.
Here's the email I received from them yesterday:
The holidays are upon us and our elves are ready to go!
Top 10 Tasks Our Holiday Elves Enjoy:
1. Getting your Christmas tree (it's fun!) 2. Hanging holiday lights / decorating (so bright!) 3. Gift shopping & wrapping (we love bows!) 4. Baking goodies & treats (tasty!) 5. Proving babysitters (parties are more fun without kids!) 6. Cleaning your house (dirt is bad!) 7. Holiday centerpieces & table-scapes (pretty pretty!) 8. Creating care packages/gift baskets (gifts are good!) 9. Shipping holiday cards & packages (long lines are no fun!) 10. Pet / house sitting while you are away (meow, woof etc!)
What do you need to make this holiday season a success? Our elves await you.
I don't know about you, but I need all these things. And I can attest to the baking and decorative talents of these women. They are so creative. And they're having a holiday party December 11th, where you can meet them and check out the goods. Click on the flyer to enlarge it for the details.
I'm not gloating. It looks nice, but this kind of weather is wrong this time of year, even for Los Angeles. So really, no gloat.
I had jury duty recently. At lunch break, I would visit Grand Park, buy a pulled pork sandwich from a lunch truck, and find myself some shade (too hot in the sun, wrong wrong wrong). In the background on the right is LA's City Hall. At the center is the Clara Shortridge Foltz Criminal Justice Center, where I spent a couple of days. I was excused from the jury in the end, merely because they hadn't arrived at my number by the time they'd selected the panel. Being on a jury can be interesting but if you don't want to serve, you want a high number.
Jury duty is one of those American things I like to think of as "the worst system in the world, except for all the others."
Small Business Saturday, held every year on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, is sponsored by American Express. But you don't have to use a credit card to take part. You can shop at your favorite local independent businesses all year 'round and make a difference in your community with every dollar you spend.
Do I have to tell you this? I don't have to tell you this. You know this.
Come by 1010 Foothill Blvd. in La Canada from 2-4 pm and say hi. I'll sign your copy of Act As If. If 2-4 pm isn't convenient don't worry, the books, gifts, decorations and treats will be there all day.
Print copies of Act As If are currently not available anywhere else! This is an exclusive Flintridge event, so come on down.
I probably shouldn't mention that Wilma is a small business expert.
MFA students who want to make a living in 'The Biz' should be handed
this book with their diploma, to give them a realistic view of the business
they want to pursue. It's an honest, practical and remarkably uncynical
look at the job of being an actor."
Hall, actor—Good Luck Charlie, 24, Curb
"This book is a must for anyone thinking of
taking Hollywood by storm. Petrea can point out common pitfalls while throwing
in a dash of empowerment. It's your life, your career. Keep your eyes open and
be sure to have this book on your nightstand."
"I felt like I had a friend after reading
this, someone who knows and expresses so eloquently the ups and downs and
striving that an actor goes through on their artistic and career journey. It’s
a delight, it’s fun, it’s comforting, and it’s real. Give it as a gift to
yourself, or a fellow actor."
Montano, Artistic Director, The Actors Workout Studio
Act As If is officially in "soft launch." Everyone's already busy with the holidays, so I'll do an official launch (hard launch?) in the new year, with a contest and everything.
(This leaves room for a post-launch, a launch-launch, and a lunch-launch. Watch this space.)
Flintridge Bookstore is celebrating Small Business Saturday all day on the 29th, and you should come! It's a wonderful store with all the books you want, plus gorgeous gifts, AND coffee with treats. Easy to get to, at 1010 Foothill, and there's plenty of parking behind/under the store. Here's a chance to expand your literary horizons and check out Flintridge.
My Thanksgiving weekend is planned thusly:
Thanksgiving, which I will enjoy so quietly I'll be able to hear myself chew.
Black Friday, which I celebrate annually by hunkering down in the house with the curtains drawn.
Small Business Saturday, please see above.
(Apparently the western world still keeps Sundays open for church.)
Cyber Monday, when we're encouraged to shop online exactly like we do every other day, and when I will likely stay offline and write.
And Giving Tuesday—because after having spent the weekend acquiring, it's time to share what you have left, if anything, with the needy. I'll probably do that online.
The challenge: to feed a family of four using only $25 at the Altadena Farmers' Market. Since we're a family of two, I thought, "no problem!" Not only was it not a problem, it was a pleasure to find good things to eat at the Market—enough to make us a meal with leftovers and then some.
A beautiful November day in Altadena.
We started with meat as the main dish. Novy Ranches had grass-fed beef fajita strips for $8.00 a pound. That's grass-fed, $8/pound. I can pay $6 for miscellaneous-fed hamburger at the grocery store.
The rest of the meal wasn't easy! There are too many temptations at the Altadena Farmers' Market. Here's something amazing I sampled at the Bread Lounge booth.
We also tasted several flavors of jam from Coldwater Canyon Provisions. I'm going back for more of this stuff.
There's honey, ice cream, vegetables, hummus, prepared foods (like prepared fresh right then and there) and much more. Yet the market is friendly, open, and doable. Not too big, and not mingy either. Just right.
I'd go back to the market for this booth alone.
We brought home a loaf of sesame/honey bread from the Bread Lounge, one green pepper for our fajitas, two organic avocados, three organic heirloom tomatoes, and a little over a pound of the Novy Ranch fajita strips.
We had some stuff on hand that needed to be used: one red pepper, fresh garlic, onions, some flour tortillas we hadn't eaten yet, and a container of pico de gallo. We thought we'd make fajitas and a tomato-avocado salad, and we'd toast the bread and have it with jam for dessert.
But avocados are one of my favorite foods, and I had that pico de gallo. I make lazy-butt guacamole by smashing my avocados and stirring in as much or as little pico de gallo as I want. You can add stuff like lime or garlic or salt or none, or all three.
I marinated the meat with spices, olive oil and Worcestershire Sauce. (There's a guy at the market who sells flavored olive oils, but we had
already spent our $25 before we found him so he's another reason to go
back.) By the way: not a hint of gristle in that meat.
The tomatoes lurked in the background. They don't belong in a fajita, and I didn't need them in my lazy-butt guac. I felt guilty about them, not sure what my "family of four" was going to do with them.
I sauteed the onion and fresh peppers in the same pan as the meat was cooked in, with some salt and pepper. I'm not giving you a recipe here, trust me, you're better off finding one on line and deciding how you want to use it.
The bread awaits its destiny.
Fajitas, lazy guacamole and random chips, plus a lime from our neighbor's tree. We ate our fill, it was delicious, and we didn't have room for bread for dessert. Hey, I never said I was some genius meal planner. But somehow, we always manage to get fed.
So the next day we had Bread Lounge bread for breakfast: toasted, buttered and jammed. Yum! For lunch we had left-over fajitas (they get jiggy in the fridge, in a good way), and we figured out what to do with our tomatoes. Duh! Sliced tomatoes with salt and pepper. You can't beat that.
Two and a half meals for us is more than a meal for four people, so the challenge to feed a family of four was no challenge at all. My math's not so good but I think we fed a family of four and a half.
Best event ever! I was invited to speak about Camelot & Vine with the Girl Friday Book Club. I knew it was going to be fun when I walked into Kidd's Jewelry Heist and saw this display.
Girl Friday Personal Assistant Services is just what it sounds like: a small, personal assistant company so loaded with creativity that I don't know where to begin. It wasn't just the food, or how artfully it was presented, or the wonderful people, or the venue. It was all these things and more.
And what a venue! Kidd's Jewelry Heist is charming for many reasons, not least of which is the decor, and most of which is owner Kelly Kidd himself. I wouldn't call him a shopkeeper, I'd call him a curator. He and his partner Redd Carter have created a cozy space where your imagination is invited to create whatever it wants to.
I grabbed a few photos of the place before the people came.
Then I forgot about photos for a while. We met new people, drank wine, ate hand-crafted candies, and talked about anything and everything. When it came to talking about Camelot & Vine, I found a good-sized group of engaged and interesting women, great questions, and acceptance. Maybe it was the wine. If so, that was some amazing wine.
After book talk, we picked out our favorite charms and made "medieval" bracelets! That's (L-R) Rebecca, Karie, Kat Ward from Hometown Pasadena, author Pam Tartaglio, co-hostess and creative talent Ellen Main, Kelly, and Redd.
Cindi Knight orchestrates it all. The business is her brain-child, and from what I can tell she's got a hell of a brain.
I regret that I didn't get a decent picture of Cindi, who created Girl Friday Personal Assistant Services and who organizes these book club events. But I got a good picture of Kelly (above), and he got one of me (below).
Many thanks to our hosts Cindi, Ellen, Kelly and Redd, and to everyone who came. I had a fantastic time and I hope you did, too.
Tada! Here's the bracelet Kelly and Redd helped me make:
photo by John Sandel
You can see my little dragon and my crown and my fuzzy thing. On the underbeneath side I have a feather and a pail, both made of the same material as the crown and dragon.
Guest author John Vorhaus has visited here before. The guy's prolific, with six novels to his name and a plethora of other books besides. Here, a sample of John's eloquence:
The Search for Purpose is the Purpose
Having just finished writing my latest novel, Poole’s Paradise, an Imperfect Search for Purpose, I now find that writing a novel can be like carving a sculpture. You start with too much and keep chipping away – “squeezing out the stupid” as I called it – until what’s left can be called an artistic, as opposed to literary, work. See, the big difference between writers and artists is that writers expect to get edited. We let agents and editors stand in judgment of our work, and make changes according to their notes. Artists don’t get notes. They sculpt until the sculpting is done, then they put down their tools. I understand that writing and art are not the same – not the same process, not always the same intent – but I think that writers would be better off if they trusted their vision more. Poole’s Paradise, ferociously sculpted and rigorously self-edited, has taught me to trust mine.
Because here’s the thing: When you decide that no one will make your choices but you, you take on a responsibility to be clear-eyed and very demanding of your own work. I hated Poole’s Paradise for 14 of the 15 months it took to write, but I kept getting rid of what didn’t work and ultimately came to love what was left. I found the sculpture inside the stone, then I put down my tools.
And picked up other ones. Now I’m marketing the work, and I hate that part of the process like a cat hates baths. But what are you going to do? Since I write “artisanal novels,” it’s hard to get heard above the din of social media, and it’s up to no one but me to put energy into making that happen. Frankly, I’d rather be writing, but the reality for most novelists in our time is that we have to do it ourselves.
So then, one might wonder, why do it all? The answer is “legacy,” an issue of no small concern to every writer I know. We only have these few frail years of our lifespans in which to make our mark, and we have no way of knowing which part of our mark will last. My plan is to download as much as I can from the ephemeral vessel of my brain into the slightly less ephemeral vessels of the page or the e-page, for the simple reason that if my thoughts die inside my brain, they do no one any damn good. If it sounds like I’m thinking about “higher purpose,” I guess I am. I believe that each of us is a steward to our DNA, and that our job in this life is to honor that stewardship as we see fit. Sharing my wisdom in ways that help people’s lives rise is how I fulfil my stewardship. This makes me in no way special – everyone has wisdom and everyone can share it if they choose.
So here’s the wisdom of Poole’s Paradise as I understand it: Purpose comes when it comes. If you feel like you haven’t found yours, that’s totally okay, because while you’re searching for purpose, the search for purpose is your purpose. If you find that idea resonant, I think you’ll really enjoy Poole’s Paradise. And if you do, then I can put down my tools proudly and say, “My work here is done.”
This morning my neighbor did me the great honor of naming one of her butterflies after me. J owns a small butterfly pavilion,and is doing her part to regularly bring new butterflies into the world.
This is not Petrea, however. Petrea is shy and retiring, doesn't like to have her picture taken. This is Tickle, who enjoys a lift on your palm so much that it's hard to get her to dismount. I also got to meet Katy Perry, who is as pretty and showy as you'd expect.
I never thought I'd witness a miracle this morning, but I got to watch Stretchy Junior Junior emerge from his chrysalis. J has probably released all these lovelies by now, and I expect to see Stretchy JJ, Katy P, Tickle, and even Petrea flitting about the neighborhood at any moment. It doesn't matter to them if I remember their names, but at least one of them will stay with me for a long time.
Kidd's Jewelry Heist in South Pasadena is a cache of trinkets and treasures, surrounded by Victorian finery and cozy divans. It's the perfect place for an intimate party. And that's just what we're going to have on November 14th with the Girl Friday Book Club.
There's a lot of information on the flyer below, but basically what you need to know is:
While we enjoy dessert and wine, we'll talk about my book, Camelot & Vine. You don't have to read the book to come, but you can read it free if you've got a Kindle.
The leather necklace or bracelet you make, in keeping with the Dark Ages/Medieval theme of the book, is included in the price.
Kidd's is behind the Dinosaur Farm at 1510 Mission in South Pas. Parking is in the rear and you can enter from there.
RSVP to Girl Fridayby this Friday, November 7th, and tell them you heard it from me, that your price is $30, not the $40 on the flyer.
Before we got married, John and I had a date to the Huntington Library and Gardens. We asked a stranger to take our photo under the grapevine gazebo in the Shakespeare garden. That day, I knew we were going to get married when we bought a Huntington membership together. We married November 3, 2001, in the back yard of our rented house in Altadena.
Whenever we go to the Huntington we ask a stranger to take our picture at the gazebo.
Us 'neath the gazebo in 2010.
Once more, beneath the gazebo at the Huntington this year, 2014. That grapevine has really aged.
Happy anniversary, sweetie. These thirteen years can only be bettered by those to come.
How many stories do you have in your heart, waiting to be told?
What keeps you from telling them?
Sometimes you start to write and it gets too complicated and the characters don't do what you want them to do and the locations aren't clear and the timelines won't fit and you begin to lose track and you give up, because you can't onto the page what you see in your mind.
Sometimes you get that right. It's all in order and the characters behave. But there's something missing, a spark, a voice.
Sometimes you've got it all: a great story and a clear voice. But you don't know where the hell all that punctuation is supposed to go.
Every author needs an editor. I know this because I'm an editor. And a proofreader. And a story editor. I've edited two books and proofread countless other works. And I would never publish without the help of a professional who is not me. (Okay, maybe I'd publish a blog post.) But when I speak about getting an extra pair of eyes to look at my work, I'm speaking about professional eyes in someone else's head. Extra eyes on my own head would look too odd even for me.
So I've teamed up with my favorite editor and writing teacher, John Sandel, to provide editing services, from proofreading to structure to story editing. John is also signing up students for Script Kitchen, a class to help you structure and finish your full-length story, like a novel or screenplay. You can take Script Kitchen online or in person.
It may feel like inspiration comes from nowhere. But I think we create it ourselves.
My father-in-law says "preparation, incubation, inspiration, implementation." To me this means research, thought, the aha moment and the jotting down.
Lately I've been doing the preparation and incubation part: I research a possibility, think about it, look it up in another place or think some other maybe-kind-of thought, come up against the wall that is my insecurity or my taste or perhaps my own good sense, then throw it all away and start over again at that nowhere place from which inspiration does not come. One is told to trust the process. Ha.
This morning I was visiting with friends and one of them said something that gave me that light bulb, that inspiration, that aha!
Now I know inspiration comes from my girlfriends.
Come by the Buena Vista library in Burbank Saturday, 10/18 from 1-4 pm. Sign up to win a free copy of "Camelot & Vine" and say hi to 50 local authors. The information is here.
Big doings in Altadena this weekend! What to do, what to do? Here are a couple of things not to miss. I'd say go to the rally first, then head off to Eliot School because:
Altadenish must vote Yes on Measure A November 4th—that is, if the Altadena Libraries are to survive. This Saturday there will be a rally at 9am. The rally will last about 20 minutes and from there
volunteers are encouraged to go
door-to-door in the neighborhoods around the Branch. I wish I had this on my ballot, but Pasadenamanians do not get to vote on this one.
An equally worthy cause needs your attention on the same day! Pasadena
In A Day" Move-In for
Room 13 at Eliot School begins at 9am Saturday, too. Room 13 has outgrown its original studio and is moving to the south side of the campus. Enter the parking loto on Boston Street and lend a hand.
Eliot School's first Room 13
Volunteers are needed:
(there is one
wall which is
needs a good
skills to help
Also to paint
setting up, we
need lots of
Not handy? How about some in-kind donations?
Room 13 needs fabrics, digital cameras, clay, paint, sketchbooks, beads, sewing machines, t-squares, turpentine, canvases new or used, oils,
acrylics, dressmaker forms, pins and needles, yarn, thread—anything you can make art with.
Hurley to let
us know how
you can help.
questions or just show up.
Art Night Pasadena brings happy crowds to Pasadena's many
art venues and last night that included the Central Library. It was a
family-friendly event with local authors, artists, dancers and
musicians and it was a huge success.
How often does my book get its picture taken with celebrities?
Throughout the evening Terry Bailey was creating interactive books on her iPod with art and music along with the words. When Terry comes to your book group she brings her iPod and plays the book's music for you.
I'm constantly amazed by the high quality and sheer number of programs offered by our library system. Adults, kids, teens, Shakespeare lovers, manga lovers, you name it. I highly recommend you subscribe to their monthly newsletter and enjoy the free amazingness our libraries have to offer.