More on Louise Penny’s Visit to Tallahassee

Yesterday’s post about my dashed hopes of getting to meet visiting author Louise Penny went on longer than I’d planned, but there were some fun details surrounding her time in Tallahassee that I thought were worth a mention.

Ms. Penny, author of the acclaimed Inspector Gamache series, chose to launch her newest book to a Tallahassee audience when she could’ve gone to any number of much more populous cities to do so. I’d wondered why and before she spoke to a standing room only crowd at Faith Presbyterian on Tuesday night the reason was revealed via the introduction.

It seems a group of women from the church had read and discussed a number of her books and decided to write Ms. Penny a letter telling her what devoted fans they were and offering to take her to dinner. In Canada. That’s where the author lives. They sent the letter off never expecting to hear back, but were elated when she responded telling them she’d love to meet them. The book club members made the pilgrimage to Canada and treated Ms. Penny to lunch where friendships were formed.

Earlier this year one of the group’s members contacted Midtown Reader, a wonderful locally owned bookstore in Tallahassee, asking the owner if she’d read any of Ms. Penny’s books. Indeed, the owner was a big fan herself and had already planned to ask the author to visit here. Connections were made, one thing led to another, and Ms. Penny decided to launch the book from our town.

Again, I cannot stress enough how beautifully written her books are. Yes, they’re murder mysteries, but they’ll renew your hopes for humanity. You’ll also want to dwell in the fictional town of Three Pines. I’m planning to build a small house there myself, and maybe open a little shop down the street from the bistro. I’ll sell artsy t-shirts with witty quotes and hats adorned tastefully with antlers. Maybe.

Peace, people.

Great Expectations, Dashed yet Fulfilled

On Monday afternoon I was scrolling through my Facebook feed and read a post that caused me to do a double take. A post from a local bookstore announced that author Louise Penny was appearing in Tallahassee on Tuesday evening to launch her newest book in the Inspector Gamache series.

Quickly I read the details and called the bookstore to purchase a ticket. I freaked out a little when my call went to the store’s voicemail, but I left a message and then immediately dialed the number again. Bingo!! I was so excited! I just knew that I was going to meet Ms. Penny and she’d be smitten by my wit and intelligence and we’d become best friends forever (BFFs, don’t you know) while she composed a thoughtful note to write in my book.

The event didn’t start until 6 p.m. on Tuesday, so I was sure to arrive 45 minutes early, feeling certain I’d get a front row seat. Ha! When I arrived, the parking lot of Faith Presbyterian Church where the event was being held was completely full. I drove around for ten minutes just trying to locate a parking spot.

Then, when I walked in the door my hopes of getting anywhere near the front were dashed. The place was almost completely full already. That was okay, I reasoned, the ticket price included a copy of Ms. Penny’s newest book, so I didn’t really need to be up front, since surely she’d be signing copies.

Well, when I checked in to get my book I learned that only the first 150 folks to purchase tickets would get to meet the author. Apparently that information had been included in the FB post, but in my extreme excitement to see Louise Penny I hadn’t read all of the details. I was bummed out. Seriously bummed out. But I found a seat near the back of the sanctuary and settled in for an ordinary evening in which Louse Penny and I do not become BFFs.

The crowd was huge and excited. I began visiting with folks near me and reveled in their stories of connecting with the characters in Ms. Penny’s books. My own story included my daughter insisting that I read Still Life, the first offering in the Inspector Gamache series. I complied even though murder mysteries aren’t really my cup of tea, unless they’re set in the future and/or include zombies, elves, and/or aliens. But once I’d read the first novel I was hooked, and quickly read the rest of the books in the series. These books are so well crafted that they almost transcend genre.

When Louise Penny stepped up to the pulpit (we were in a church after all) she instantly charmed everyone present. She spoke of her life and early writing influences, how she’d overcome alcoholism and how she’s handling the loss of her husband to dementia in 2016. She spoke of writing to satisfy her own needs, not those of an audience, and of needing to write characters she personally cares for. She was entrancing. Maybe I didn’t get to meet her up close and personal, but I feel like I know her now, at least that bit of her she shared with all of us.

And I have her brand new book that she launched right here in Tallahassee, Florida!

If you haven’t read her books, I urge you to do so. Start from the beginning with “Still Life,” though. They’re better when read in sequence.

I’m still floating from Tuesday night’s experience. It’s probably a good thing I didn’t actually get to meet her. I’d have been comatose with joy, if that’s possible.

Peace, and good reading, people.

Some Nights

Some nights my dreams evaporate into waves of self-recrimination with little transition from sleep to wakefulness. A weight settles onto my chest, my heart races, and my thoughts chase one another in an endless loop.

Other nights I fall into peaceful slumber, amusing vignettes keeping me company through the long night. I stretch luxuriously upon waking, and a smile remains on my lips.

I wish there were a vending machine into which I could insert coins for either choice A or choice B. I really need a B night.

Peace, people.

Ghosts of Appliances Past

Monday was Studly Doright’s birthday. I’d already spent a good deal of money and all of my bright ideas on his Christmas gifts, so my birthday choices were limited. I was running out of time to make a purchase for the big day, so at the last minute I kind of panicked and bought him an air fryer–hardly the sexiest birthday present, but at least it was something I could wrap and stick a bow on.

He seemed to like it. He didn’t jump for joy upon unwrapping it, but he didn’t act as if he’d like to throw the fryer in the trash either, so I was somewhat heartened. I’d planned to cook one of his favorite dinners utilizing the new appliance, so I sent him away while I figured out how to use his new toy.

Hey, did you know it’s recommended to let the fryer heat up empty for twenty minutes the first time you use it? Heh. Neither did I. The smell emanating from the air fryer was a little on the noxious side, so I tossed out the first batch of French fries and started from scratch after reading ALL of the directions, instead of just the suggested cooking times.

In the middle of cooking batch #2, I had a flashback to our very first days of marriage. As a wedding gift, someone had given us a Fry Baby–a small deep fryer for cooking fries and onion rings. The thing splattered grease all over the place when in use, and I was scared of it. I looked at the air fryer with new respect. No oil meant no splatter.

When our fries were done I struggled just a bit with getting the basket out of the fryer and in my mind’s eye I pictured me pulling too hard and launching hot French fries into my face. Surprisingly I used finesse instead of force and soon I had a nice batch of crispy fries basking on a serving plate. Studly was impressed, I was uninjured, and the fryer was a hit.

(Below: That’s not my air fryer or my hand, or even my fries.)

We had pinto beans and cornbread to round out the meal. That’s about as country as it comes, and it’s our comfort food.

Peace, people!

Love in Any Language

I’ve watched the video in the attached link at least fifty times, and even though I can’t understand the words at the end I love this advertisement. They might be trying to sell me a new mobile phone, but I really don’t care. I adore this ad.

Peace, people.

It Don’t Come Easy

Tomorrow is Studly Doright’s birthday. Falling so near the Thanksgiving Holiday, sometimes his big day gets barely a nod. After all, didn’t we just stuff ourselves on turkey and dressing and pecan pie until the mere thought of having a slice of birthday cake seems like the ultimate in gluttony? And then there’s the sad truth that I struggle with anything kitchen-related, baking cakes included.

Nevertheless, I bought a cake mix and a can of icing while shopping yesterday, and this morning I set about making a cake for Studly. As I mixed the cake I had a thought. What if, instead of baking a sheet cake I made cupcakes? That way I could send the bulk of them with Studly to work and we’d keep one for each of us to enjoy after dinner tomorrow.

I happened to have some little paper cupcake 🧁 wrappers so I placed those in my large cupcake pan and began pouring batter neatly into the 12 cake slots, filling each about 2/3 full. I ended up with almost half the batter remaining, so I poured a bit more into each cup. Still there was an extraordinary amount left over. Finally I thought to check the box and realized that the mix was meant to make 24 cupcakes. Well, of course it was.

Meticulously, I scooped batter out of each of the already filled cups and transferred it to another muffin pan, making something of a mess as I went. However, I finally had 24 muffin cups filled with fairly equal amounts of batter.

Amazingly that was the only misstep in the entire process! The cupcakes, although admittedly not uniform in size, baked to a light golden brown. I allowed them to cool for the exact right amount of time, and the frosting went on smoothly. Maybe, just maybe, for once in my life I didn’t totally screw up this latest kitchen adventure. But there’s still time.

(Note: These are NOT examples of my cupcakes. Even the reality side looks slightly better the mine.)

I’ll leave you with some George Harrison.

How I Spent Black Friday

While thousands of my fellow Americans were engaged in combat with each other, vying for a bargain price on an 85-inch big screen TV or shoving to the front of a long line of like minded people in order to have the best shot at this year’s most asked for toy, I was tucked cozily beneath two layers of blankets on a massage table, enjoying an oh, so soothing facial.

I know it wasn’t a competition, but I’m pretty sure I won the day.

Out With the Old

A few days ago my car was rear-ended as I was driving home from the happiest place on earth. No, not Disney World–Target. One second I was singing along with Chris Stapleton on the radio; the next second I had a Toyota Corolla lodged firmly onto my trailer hitch.

I was stopped at a red light behind a small truck and at least one other car. In my rear view mirror I saw the Toyota driver’s face as he realized that traffic in front of him was stopped, and that he could only slow down enough to lessen the impact, but not enough to avoid hitting my car. I firmly believe he’d been texting or looking at his phone, looked up to see a green light, but didn’t realize that traffic hadn’t moved yet. I’d been tapping on my brakes, so if he’d been paying attention, he’d have seen them.

The accident could’ve been much worse had I not been braced for impact and able to keep my own car from ramming into the truck ahead of me when the Toyota hit me. That’s why I NEVER text when I’m the driver, not even when I’m sitting at a stop light.

Since the accident I’ve been waking up in a cold sweat, reliving the moment that he hit me, only in my dreams I’m on my motorcycle instead of in my car. And I die. Smashed between the truck and the Toyota.

I told Studly Doright that I think my motorcycle riding days are over. Distracted drivers, obsessed with getting in one more text or looking at one more photo, are so common that I just don’t want to put myself in that position. Maybe that’s cowardly of me, but I don’t know how else to make those dreams stop.

Peace, and put down the phone, people.

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