Monday, 30 October 2017

Cathy Elliott - June 5, 1957-October 15, 2017

She was my sister. 

I looked up to her all my life. 

We fought, we laughed, we sang together. 

She commandeered my junior guitar and taught herself to play. 

She danced. She leapt. She never looked left or right - only forward. 

We shared everything -- bedrooms, clothes, shoes, friends... Heck, I even introduced her to her first husband when we were still in high school.
We canoed. We hiked. We chased sunsets, birds and bears. 

We watched a thousand frogs cross a road on a rainy night, and laughed hysterically when one of them hopped in place in the middle of the road, illuminated by Peter's Volkswagen bus headlights. 

Little did I know back then that a rainy night and headlights would take her from me. Two weeks ago, my sister ventured out into a stormy night on a country road near her home. She was hit by a car while avoiding another that was approaching from the opposite direction.

Many will talk of her accomplishments in musical theatre. Her selfless work helping Indigenous youth find their own paths through art and music. Her contact with royalty and Justin Trudeau. Her amazing works of art in oils, acrylic, multimedia. Her amazing dedication to our M'ikmaq roots.

But she was my sister.

I'll miss you, Sisty. But you will always visit me in my dreams.

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

A Rose is a Rose

Nanny/Frannie's rose bush went through a few hiccups over the years. Nanny had given the plant to Mom when she visited back when I was a teen. There was the time my brother in law took an axe to it after Mom asked him to "cut down" the rose bush. She meant "cut back." Anyway, nothing was left but the root stock and Mom was so upset. But Pete was forgiven.

Years later, after Mom moved away and after Nanny passed, the roots fought their way out of the dirt and put out tentative branches. A couple of tiny red blooms blooms emerged. I told Mom and she was so happy. She said it was Nanny saying hello.

This year, the bush seems to have a new life, with more little red blooms bursting through the day lilies on the neighbour's side of the fence.

On the same note, Uncle Bob's spectacular roses next door were being dug up by the tenant last fall. I showed up just in time. He must have seen the look on my face, so he quickly offered them to me. I immediately dug a spot in the corner of the yard and popped them in. Not good soil, but I didn't want them to die from exposure. This spring, they seem to be making a comeback. The pink rose is one of Uncle Bob's, with the flamingo from his late daughter's wedding in the background. I'll try to augment the soil with some compost when I can.

I don't know much about roses, but I feel a connection with these plants and I hope they can bring joy to future generations.

Uncle Bob used horse poop. Maybe I gotta go find some horse poop.

Monday, 3 April 2017

A New Site

Hi! Wanted to let you know that I have a dedicated blogger site to post my paintings. I'm trying to figure out why I can't fix the layout on this blog, since I have multiple Google accounts. I'll figure it out eventually.

In the meantime, you can view my paintings at:

I recently joined a local art collective, and entered a local show. I'm going to a social to meet other local artists later this week.

Wish me luck making sense of all this!

Thursday, 20 October 2016

New Job, New Perspective

Hi, friends!

First of all, I apologize for the state of my website. I have no books out there at present, so the domain is sitting there like my great uncle's deserted farmhouse, with old furniture barely being held up by rotting floorboards, and a colony of bees taking up residence.

I realize my latest surviving book, Bad Ice, now out of print, is still on the front page, but I haven't figured out how to change it. My son (who is a tech wizard) said, "Here's a program, just do this and this and this and this." Of course, all of it went way over my head. I'll figure it out if I ever get another book accepted by SOMEBODY.

In the meantime, I got a new job. You might remember that after 23 years in the newspaper industry, I found myself with a lot of free time in the last couple of years. Yes, I wrote. Yes, I queried. Yes, I networked. I powered through a brief stint in retail, but realized it wasn't for me.

Later, a friend recommended a company that supplies charity events with silent auction items. They set everything up, schmooze with the patrons, and take the money at the end. The company approached me in September, and I was in!

I get to choose how often I wish to work, and although the shifts are long and sometimes physically draining, I find it very rewarding. I've dropped a few pounds since I started, so that's good.

The best thing: I get to meet fascinating people! This past week, I was fortunate to work at the Ontario Sports Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, and met such legends as Sandy Hawley (jockey), Ron Ellis (Toronto Maple Leafs legend), Chris Schultz (football), Tony Fernandez (Blue Jays World Series Champion), and the family of Frank Selke Sr. and Jr. (part of the Montreal Canadiens dynasty).

Johnny Bower had a rest at our cashier table.
He had photos all ready to sign in his pocket.
Always be prepared!

Me and Sandy Hawley. We are the same height.
I told him I had a crush on him when I was twelve.
Some guy is giving us the side eye, or photobombing us. I can't tell which.

There were others whom I admired from a distance, but I remained professional and didn't bug them.

Maybe this new gig will give me inspiration to keep writing. I hope so.

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Almost Hockey Season, so.... Hockey.

A couple weeks ago, I was fortunate to indulge in one of my passions: hockey. My son texted me and asked if I wanted to go along with him and a bunch of fans to Ottawa to watch Team Canada in a closed practice for the upcoming World Cup of Hockey. He had won the experience because he was a subscriber to a sports internet service. Of course, I jumped at the chance.

We met up at the Air Canada Centre. A big white bus with a flashy World Cup of Hockey logo waited for us. As we settled in with about 20 other fans and media people, I looked at the front of the bus and noticed a familiar face.

I turned to my son and whispered, "Steve Dangle is on the bus." Steve "Dangle" Glynn is a popular hockey blogger and Youtube contributor, who gives hilarious and impassioned commentaries after Toronto Maple Leaf games. My son had alerted me to these great posts a year ago, and I've always enjoyed the posts and Steve's Twitter feed.

I whispered, "I'm going up to say Hi." I moved to the front of the bus, and casually said, "Fancy meeting you here."

Steve did a double take. "I know you. I recognize you from your profile picture."

I smiled and grabbed a cereal bar from the front seat. "Great to meet you. Just grabbing a cereal bar." I then darted back to my seat like I'd just robbed someone.

During the five-hour trip, the organizers made speeches and we played trivia games. When my name was called out, Steve mentioned IN FRONT OF EVERYONE, "Sandra's cool. She follows me on Twitter."

My son also follows him, but to be fair, his profile picture isn't immediately recognizable. Doesn't matter, because we both got to spend time with Steve later.

After getting settled at our hotel we met at the hotel bar for cocktail hour. We had all received swag bags containing a World Cup of Hockey Canada baseball cap, and a great fleece hoodie. Most of us wore our hats down to the bar but I forgot mine.

A surprise guest showed up in the bar.... Drew Doughty. He plays for the LA Kings, and was very sweet, letting everyone pose for pictures. I begged for an extra hat so I could get it signed, promising to bring mine back from the hotel room, 'cause I'm nice that way. :)

We posed outside as a group in front of the bus. I offered to hunker down (I'm 5'2") in front of Drew (6'100"). He muttered from behind me, "You don't have to hunker down."

After Drew was swept away in his fancy vehicle, we all walked to the RS Bar & Grill a few blocks away, and stopped to admire the canal in the sunset. Dinner was great, and we all traded hockey stories. A few of Steve's fans dropped in after dinner and we all talked for a while longer.

Most of the others had left by then, so it was up to me to remember how to get back to the hotel. They let me shepherd them back, because I'm a Mom. We talked about video games and animated TV shows.

The next morning, we checked out and boarded the bus for the short trip to Canadian Tire Centre, just outside of Ottawa. We had a special spot taped out for us, along with a few other local contest winners. On the other side of the eerily empty arena sat some media members, and probably some scouts and NHL brass.

I crept down to the glass, and got lots of great shots of Team Canada running through drills -- Corey Crawford, Joe Thornton, Sidney Crosby, Getzlaf, Couture, etc. I should've worn my free hoodie because despite the hot, humid day, I was FREEZING in that arena! It's cold when there aren't 20,000 people warming it up with their bodies.

Speaking of empty arenas, I heard every creak of the goalies' pads, and the echo of the pucks slamming on the boards. I heard most of Coach Babcock's lectures, too. I have many more pictures, you might want to check out my Facebook author page if you like hockey.

Too soon, we had to get back on the bus for the ride home. I will remember this trip forever. Thanks, Son, for including me.

p.s. They let me keep the extra hat so I gave it to my hubby (we'll share, and put the signed one in our Hockey Shrine).

Monday, 25 July 2016

What's Happening?

Yup... haven't been here for a while, but it doesn't mean I haven't been busy. I created art, wrote words, took pictures, got a job at a local Canadian home and hardware franchise, and have been trying my best to continue my role as a Domestic Diva.

It's been a hot, humid (can you say humid when it hasn't rained much?) summer, and the good part is I've only had to mow the lawn a few times. The job at the local store caused me to lose ten pounds, mostly due to standing for hours at a time and lifting gallons of paint and motor oil from one side of the counter to the other. There are benefits to retail, folks!

Last week I went with a friend to attend a local live talk show, and managed to get my picture taken with Marci Ien and Cynthia Loyst, as well as Donna, who got me into the show at late notice. Maybe someday, I'll be a guest! Today, one of the hosts read my tweet live on the air. My tiny moment of fame...

During the spring, I completed three large oil paintings with the hope of being accepted into a high profile art show and sale this autumn in Kleinburg. Alas, I didn't make the cut, but they seemed very positive with their rejection. Yes... I know rejection very well, so I took it in stride and I'll keep painting.

I did manage to profit from a couple of commissions, and I thank the lovely writer friends who gave me the opportunity to capture the spirits of their dogs and horse. You can see the recent additions on my sidebar.

The writing part of my journey is giving me pause. Since my enforced semi-retirement, I completed a novel and started another. The completed novel had a few "close but no cigar" moments, an experience which can be both inspiring and devastating. I'll take a little from column A and column B.

I have set it aside for a bit to spruce up my hockey romantic suspense that had enjoyed a seven-year stint in the e-publishing world. Maybe I can find it another home, and then I can hitch up my Big Girl pants and continue with the new book.

Patience. Patience. Work. Patience. Hope.

Did I tell you about the fox and the cat? It happened a year ago this week. I still have the scars, as the cat nestles beside me, oblivious to the nightmare that we caused. But that's a post for another time.

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Times Are a' Changing

Hello Friends!

Nine years ago, I opened this blog because my first book, THE SPACE BETWEEN, was about to be published by a lovely little publisher, The Wild Rose Press. I was so excited, and certain that the publication of my first book would lead to bigger and better things.

I made a lot of friends, and even a few people who called themselves fans. I released two more books, BAD ICE and THE TOAST BITCHES, with two different publishers. Three, if you count The Bitches' short run at Musa Publishing. Book One and Book Three ran their courses, and now sit on my hard drive, hoping to be re-released in some shape or form. I hope they're not holding their breath, because they will probably remain there.

For all these years, Champagne Books was the home of my second book, the hockey romantic suspense BAD ICE. Last night, I made the difficult decision to ask for the return of my rights. J. Ellen Smith was kind enough to grant it.

We had become friends over the years. I expressed my concern when her Calgary home was flooded. I befriended fellow authors in the group.

Sales have not been good. The publisher is doing well, but they have focused their attention on newer releases, and I wish them great success.

I'm still writing. I'm still trying. This blog will not disappear. I wanted to give up many times, but the writing community has always pulled me back and enveloped me with love and encouragement. There WILL be another book.

In the meantime, if you want to read about a hockey player with a heart of gold and a troubled past, and a young single mother with a little hockey-playing six year old daughter, and a psycho bitch who wants to destroy their happiness..... Get BAD ICE while you still can.

Until better news comes along... or until I feel like writing about the stupid cat, see you on the flip side.

BAD ICE  is available (until it isn't) at the following sites:
Champagne Books

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

I'm Still Here

I'm sitting in my living room, printing mailing labels and putzing around on Twitter. I finished a painting. Well, actually, I did two paintings: One for a writing friend, and the other will be my contribution to a local fundraiser for Indigenous youth in Canada.

Have I been writing? I've been thinking about it. I open my WIP and stare at it for a while, and then close it. Then I open it again. I write words. I close it.

The writing life is an enigma. People say it's a solitary craft, yet these days I am surrounded by writers in the cyber world. Successful writers, aspiring writers, encouraging writers and distant writers. They all have something to say about this crazy occupation, and I alternately toggle between hope and despair.

When I first left the workforce after 23 years as a graphic artist, I had visions of being a domestic goddess, creating art with my words and my paintbrush while surrounded by pastoral sunshine in my back yard. Sure, I had moments where I was satisfied with my accomplishments, whether they be refinished folding chairs or a rearranged living room.

I experimented in the kitchen, and honed my photography skills. I volunteered. I wrote. I chased around the local wildlife. I got mauled by my cat (that's a whole story in itself).

Now I sit here, waiting again for Spring, and doing my best to find my place in the world. Sure, hubby loves my culinary creations, and my sister loves the fact that I've embraced the art of Silent Auction Coordinating. My paintings are admired, but I have yet to pay for more than groceries with the proceeds. Agents love my writing, but don't know where to sell it.

As I jab at the ground lamb in my frying pan and contemplate my predicament, I realize that my problems are nothing compared to the millions of individuals who wake up every day, wondering if it's worth seeing the end of that day. Today is #BellLetsTalk day, when we talk about mental illness, and do our best to erase the stigma that is attached.

Generations before ours suffered in silence, and used (even today) suicide as a final escape from their pain. People with social anxiety were bullied. Angry men were simply told to stop being jerks. Maybe they suffered from depression and as a result, alienated their families and died lonely.

Mothers self-medicated with wine because they dreaded the next PTA meeting, fearing that they would be singled out. Some were afraid to leave their own homes because crowds made them feel as if they were about to drown.

Now we have a chance to understand why that friend constantly backs out of social engagements, or why a co-worker cries in the bathroom stall or takes a lot of sick days. They aren't selfish, or wimpy, or weaklings. They're not just seeking attention. They might be truly suffering, and our understanding and support can help them get through the mire that's holding them back.

Listen to them.

Monday, 14 December 2015

Apple Cheeseball Again Because I Love It

A few years ago, I posted a recipe for Apple Cheeseball, an appetizer that had been floating around the Interwebs and magazines since the mid-Nineties. I decided to post my version again this Holiday Season. It adds an artsy, tasty element to any gathering, and apples have been harmed in the making of this treat.


1 package cream cheese, softened (about 8 oz)
1 - 1 1/2 cups finely shredded sharp or old Cheddar cheese (white if you can get it)
Paprika (preferably smoked, but Spanish will do - fresh and red!)
A cinnamon stick
1 or 2 bay leaves
Worchestershire sauce or hot sauce (optional)
Garlic powder or ground spices (optional)

Mix the two cheeses, the sauce if you've got it (and any savory or zippy spices you like) together with your hands until well mixed. Or use a food processor if you're squeamish about getting your hands goopy.

Form it into a ball about 3 or 4 inches around, and shape like an apple, with a little dimple at the top. Use plastic wrap if you think it's too messy. Chill it for a while.

Roll the ball in the paprika until nicely coated and red. You can brush off any excess.

Stick a cinnamon stick in the top to represent the apple stem, and a bay leaf or two to represent apple leaves. Put it on a small plate, surrounded with crackers, pita pieces or those little toasty slices with a nice knife. The first person to cut a chunk out will make it look like someone's taken a bite out of the apple!

My friends claim I came up with this recipe, modified from some other cheeseball, but I probably got it from a magazine. My friend Debbie asked for the recipe, and when she made it for family it was an instant hit. She passed it on to her daughter, who got the attention of her college dean's wife. Debbie appreciated the contribution so much she gave me that cute little leaf-shaped plate to put my apple on.

Enjoy, and Happy Holidays! (Yes, I'm still writing. Shut up.)

Monday, 9 November 2015

Handy With a Skillet

Between bouts of revisions and writing and querying and painting, I decided to invent a dish inspired by this quarter's LCBO Food & Drink Magazine. They had some cast iron skillet supper recipes, and my brain said, "DO SOMETHING WITH STEAK!"

So, today I did it. It passed the husband test, so I'm sharing it with you. Please note: I don't post recipes the normal way, I type the way I think, which can be a bit haphazard. I hope you can follow my train of thought.

Steak Sandwich Skillet Pizza

1 store bought pizza dough, room temperature, or make your own, enough for one medium pizza.
6-8 oz. boneless steak. I used 2 portions of Walmart Black River Angus Frozen Steak, thawed and sliced.
1 large sweet red pepper, sliced thinly
1 Small onion, sliced thinly
1 tsp minced garlic
2 tbsp Caramelized Onion– I found a jar of President's Choice at the Real Canadian Super Store. It's tasty, not too sweet or salty. If you don't have store bought, make your own. Google it...? Or leave it out, whatever.
½ cup broccoli florets, frozen or fresh (optional 'cause hubby didn't like those during the focus group testing, but I liked it)
2 tbsp steak sauce plus a bit to drizzle (I used HP Sauce)
½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese
Olive oil
Salt & pepper
1-3 oz stout or whisky or chicken stock to deglaze pan
1 Tsp. Worcestershire sauce or to taste.


Preheat oven to 450F.

Press the dough in an oiled, seasoned 9 inch cast iron skillet. Push it up around edges of the pan. Prebake for 5 to 7 minutes.

Meanwhile, fry steak in a bit of oil (also seasoned with salt & pepper) in a sautée pan. Drizzle some Worcestershire while it's browning. When browned, set aside, covered in a bit of foil.

If the five minutes are up for the skillet dough, take it out of the oven and put the pan in a safe place.

Meanwhile, add a bit more oil to the sautée pan and cook the vegetables with garlic and salt & pepper, until tender.

Remove vegetables to a bowl.

Deglaze the sautée pan with good stout. I didn't have any so I used an ounce or two of Scotch and a bit of chicken stock, to loosen up the "fond" or browned bits at the bottom of the pan. Scrape the pan with a wooden spoon or spatula, and let the liquid thicken a bit.

Tip the deglazed mixture into the bowl of vegetables. Add the caramelized onion if you have it. Add the two tablespoons of steak sauce, and mix.

Spread the veggie mixture into the partially baked crust. Spread the cooked steak on top of that.

Top everything with shredded mozzarella and a drizzle of steak sauce.

EDITED: Bake a further 10-20 minutes in oven. I originally said 20 minutes, but if the oven is at 450F, I can't remember if I really had it at that temperature. Perhaps reduce the oven a bit, and keep an eye on it! Take it out when the crust is a nice brown.
Drizzle with more steak sauce if you wanna.

Serves four normal people, or two really hungry ones.

Friday, 30 October 2015

Do Not Adjust Your Set

Sorry, folks... it seems my website went AWOL, having hitched a ride in a Raspberry Pi to the city. My technical guru will round it up and corral it properly, as soon as possible. In the meantime, any pertinent information on the website (which needs a redesign anyway) is available on the sidebar of this blog. Sorry for the inconvenience.

Stay tuned!

Edited to add: Dear Guru has revived the website, and it is now ALIVE!!!! ALLLLIIIIIVE!

Thursday, 17 September 2015

The Family That Slays Together Stays Together

Don't worry, we weren't going to slay anything except paper. That's what the Range Officer quipped when the four of us showed up at the shooting range last weekend. My son, a licensed gun owner, wanted his family to experience what it was like to shoot a rifle. He owns three guns: A Norinco JW25A 22, an SKS semi automatic, and a Mosin Nagant Model 1891.

As a writer, I figured it was important to learn how to shoot a gun, so that if I ever wrote about it, I'd know how it feels.

Off we went, on a two-hour drive to a facility in the Niagara region, on the coldest, wettest day of late summer. As we moved south, the skies lowered and the rain increased. By the time we got there, it was a regular Winnie The Pooh Blustery Day.

I was dressed for the weather, but the rest of the family wasn't. Still, they wanted to power through and get on with it after such a long trip.

Eye and ear protection was mandatory. After we provided ID and paid up, we were given identification tags, ear plugs and protective eye wear. Good thing, because when we approached our area, other patrons were already at work, shooting at their targets. I nearly jumped out of my skin every time I heard an explosion.

Don't I look badass?

I wore rubber paddock boots, so I slogged through the mud and helped my son affix our paper targets with a staple gun to the corrugated plastic backings 50 yards away. Large earth hills loomed behind the targets to absorb any bullets that went through the cardboard or missed the targets.

The shooting area was covered, so the rain was kept off us, if not the wind. The Range Officer offered my daughter one of his camo jackets, and she huddled into it between turns.

We took turns, learning how to load the guns as the Range Officer looked on and gave advice as needed. My son was a good teacher, showing us how to handle the equipment safely. We started with the easiest model, the Norinco JW25A .22, a copy of a WWII training rifle. Since the cartridge tended to bend the bullets, we fed them into the chamber one at a time and ejected the casing after each shot.

The trigger of the .22 was feather light. I remembered to squeeze, not pull. The sound it gave was a loud pop. I could see the target, but unfortunately my 56 year old eyes couldn't clearly line up the sights on the gun. I did the best I could, under the circumstances. My daughter watched the targets through a spotting scope to tell me if I at least hit my paper, and I adjusted accordingly. I managed to get the outer part of the center circle a couple of times.

The picture below is my daughter trying the .22.

The SKS semi automatic could technically hold ten bullets about 2.5 inches long, but according to Canadian law, it was equipped to take only five. I held the butt of the stock firmly into the meat of my shoulder while pushing my cheek into the side of the gun. It was a good thing, otherwise it could have jumped out of my hands. 

The explosion was much louder than the .22, making me glad I was wearing good ear plugs. The casings popped out the side with every shot. We were told to keep a second or three between shots and not to go "Pop pop pop pop pop," like they do in the movies. With each shot, a curl of smoke rose from the chamber, along with the smell of sulfur.

While my daughter tried the SKS, I looked through the scope to tell her if she'd hit the target. The holes the rounds made were three times the size of the .22 holes. Whenever a round passed through the target, a spray of mud exploded against the dirt hill behind.

Once, while my daughter was shooting and I was spotting through the scope, a casing popped upward and landed on the top of my head. Good thing I was wearing a hat, because they come out hot. (The shooting range safety rules suggest that women cover their cleavage for that very reason.)

Later, my daughter and I decided to pass on the Mosin (which was manufactured in 1939). We sat in the warm, dry car and took out our earplugs while my son and husband finished up with the bigger gun. It was just as well that I didn't try the Mosin, because my husband said it bruised his shoulder.

After a couple of hours, we were ready to return home. The paper targets were shredded by bullets, rain and wind, but I swear I hit mine at least a dozen times! I wish we'd taken pictures of the targets to prove it, but we didn't think of it until we were on our way. You'll have to trust me.

I won't promise I'll do it again, but I'm glad I had the experience.