Friday, April 5, 2019

Getting A Clue




HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Champagne and confetti—hurray for the wonderful Catriona McPherson, who just won the coveted LEFTY award for best humorous novel! Yay! And I don’t even think she’s left-handed.

She is endlessly hilarious, and brilliant, but you know, we all have our personal lacunae. I, for instance, still have the tiniest bit of trouble keeping track of left and right.   And sometimes the simplest thing will be revealed—and when I mention it, everyone is baffled. You didn’t KNOW that? they’ll ask. Like yesterday, I was wondering why sometimes we refer to stomachs as  tummies. The moment I asked myself the question, myself answered. But seriously, I’d never thought of that before. And the Morton Salt slogan, when it rains, it pours? Took me decades to realize what that meant.

Anyway. Sometimes personal revelations take a bit of time. As our dear Catriona has also learned.


The Life Changing Magic of Getting a Clue

Sometimes writing is work. Sometimes it really isn’t. Lexy Campbell moved into her houseboat, moored in the slough behind the Last Ditch Motel, at the end of SCOT FREE. In SCOT AND SODA we’re busy making it her own. I drew floorplans and sketches, while she arranged her larger possessions and stowed her smaller ones. (I also made a few visits to the real “Creek House”. It’s on the Hyde Street Pier, at Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco, open to the public and absolutely irresistible to anyone who loved dolls’ houses as a wee girl.)


Lexy’s houseboat isn’t spacious: the kitchen is titchy – her American friends feel that anyone with a fridge that size is basically camping; the wardrobe space will never cope if shoulders come back; and the bathroom- Actually, that’s very practical. You automatically wash the entire place every time you have a shower.


Lexy is coping very well with the space restrictions. She’s organised, methodical and clutter-free. I’m quite clutter-free too. But organised? Methodical? Here are three examples of my housekeeping genius. You tell me.

I’ve got two and a half baths. (Like Lexy, I always wondered about half-baths. Wouldn’t the water run out?) There are cupboards and shelves in all two and a half of them. For six years, I kept the toilet paper supply in another room entirely. Then I realised that was daft and decided it should be kept in a bathroom. For another year, I wondered which one. Finally, I had a brainwave. Buy three lots of loo roll and store one in each place with a loo. Tah-dah!

Then there was the thing with the mosquito screen. I’ve got two opening windows in my bedroom. Only one has a screen on it. (I could get a screen for the other one. I never have.) The screen happened to be on the window not very near the bed. So, in the summer, I dragged the bed out into the middle of the room, nearer the screened window. One day, about eight years in, I was washing the windows and, as usual, I took the screen off to do so. Brainwave! Put the screen back on the other window! The one near the bed! And never drag a lump of Victorian mahogany halfway across a room again! Eight years.



Even that’s not as bad as the mugs. I’ve got too many mugs. I’ve got huge tea mugs and more modest coffee mugs. For storage I’ve got some hooks and a shelf.  For nine years, unless there were some in the dishwasher, I couldn’t store them all. Now I can.




Did you see why? After nine years, I realised that big mugs are bigger and take more space on the shelf, whereas small mugs are smaller and take less. And every mug takes the same number of hooks: exactly one. So now the big mugs hang up and the small mugs go on the suddenly roomy shelf. Nine. Years.


Marie Kondo is not shaking in her slippers.

If you want to make me feel better about all of this, you could confess your own long-delayed penny-drops. Or you could pass on your favourite household organising tips.  You know there’s a fair chance I need them.

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: We had a cleaning person once who moved EVERYTHING in the kitchen—to a way more logical place. The coffee stored NEAR the coffee maker, canyouimagine? All the forks in the silverware holder facing the same direction? Whoo.  And if you turned the wastebasket to face the other direction, it didn’t show under the counter. WHY didn’t I think of that?
So how about you, Reds and Readers? Any recent “Duh!?” moments?


Catriona McPherson is the multi-award-winning and best-selling author of historical detective novels, set in Scotland in the 1930s and featuring aristocratic sleuth Dandy Gilver. She also writes darker - that’s not difficult - contemporary standalones, including the Edgar finalist THE DAY SHE DIED. After eight years as an immigrant in northern California, she started the Last Ditch trilogy, written with love and no judgement (honest) about her new home.  SCOT & SODA  (“frightfully funny” – PW) comes out on Monday.
Find Catriona online: Facebook, Twitter,  www.catrionamcpherson.com.

112 comments:

  1. Congratulations on your LEFTY award, Catriona.

    Housekeeping genius I am not and although I chuckled over each of your “getting a clue” stories, I’ll admit that it took me a very long time to realize that I had shelves in the laundry room closet that would easily hold the instant pot, the spaghetti cooker, the griddle and all those sorts of things that were either cluttering up my counter or getting stashed in the oven because I had absolutely no idea of where to put them . . . .

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    1. Joan, my aunt has always stored bread and chips in her oven, even when I babysat for her in the 60's. And why ever not? She never did use it for anything else. LOL

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    2. In the oven? I never would have thought of that… because you’d have to be taking them out all the time, right?

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    3. That's true, Hank. It wasn’t convenient; it was one of those ideas born of desperation . . . .

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    4. Ha. Reminds me of Carrie on Sex and The City, who keeps sweaters in her stove! And I agree, Joan, I don't like a lot of stuff sitting out in the kitchen: kettle, toaster, scales, pot of wooden spoons - that's it.

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  2. Catriona, that sounds way too much like me. I would do all those things as well and then suddenly realize how stupid I have been and make something better. You really aren't alone.

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    1. Exactly! The light dawns… So funny!

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    2. I love finding out I'm not alone - thank you!

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  3. That is a gorgeous hunk of Victorian mahogany....I love Victorian and Edwardian furniture.

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    1. Such a treasure! But so impossible to move…

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    2. Me too, M. I used this bed in a book (As She Left It) where I put secret messages in compartments in the bed posts.

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  4. Congratulations on the Lefty, Catriona! I love Dandy Gilver, so I'll absolutely be looking out for your non-Dandy books too.

    And Hank, that right/left thing is why I quit band in the eighth grade. Up until then I'd really loved band but in eighth grade we had to start marching, and I've always had that left/right problem. Get turned around on directions, can't figure out mirroring . . . the list goes on. It does make me semi-ambidextrous, but marching? Always starting off on the proper foot? It makes my brain fritz and freeze. Not only did they want me to march, they wanted it at 7 am. A natural night owl, I knew that wouldn't happen. I defaulted to theatre. It wasn't until years later I learned my left/right problem is a real thing called kinesthetic dyslexia.

    And life hacks? Well, the only one I can think of at this hour of the morning is that I keep my laundry pre-treat spray in the bathroom, where I take my clothing off, rather than in the laundry room, where the clothing arrives in a large bundle that I'd have to sort through to find the stained items. Why not treat the grass and dirt the moment I notice it, and let those enzymes work until it's laundry day, rather than try to remember to treat long after the fact?

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    1. Are you left-handed? Just doing a little research here…

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    2. Gigi, I also keep laundry spray in the bathroom so I won't forget to spray stains.

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    3. That’s what I predicted… I do think it’s a brain wiring situation…

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    4. Genius! I'm moving mine this morning. I've got a friend who keeps the roll of bin liners in the bottom of the bin so they're right there when she lifts a full one out. But you have to be sure that there will be no mishaps with liquid. I'm not convinced my bin bottom is a suitable venue.

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    5. Yes, but I'm right-handed, and I'm always right/left confused...

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  5. So funny, Catriona! I know that head slap feeling well. I live with a very practical man, and sometimes he'll scratch his head and say, "You're normally so smart. I'm surprised you..." whatever it is. Here's an example: I plug my phone in to charge every night in my office. The charger is plugged into a power strip on the floor so every night I'm grotting around among the dust bunnies trying to find the end that goes into the phone. Took me six years to tie the phone cord to the top of my desk leg with a rubber band. Now the little USB end is two feet off the ground and just below the edge of the desk. Brill! Sigh...

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    1. It’s the little things, right?

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    2. I love it. That's my line in the sand to distinguish good enough hotels from ehh hotels. If there are desk top plugs - good. If you have to scrabble on the carpet - ehh.

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    3. Exactly! Preferably a bedside table charger, too.

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  6. Catriona was the first person I met at LCC in Phoenix, three years ago. I've been stalking her ever since. And yes, she is left handed. I've read all her books, Dandy Gilver and the Standalones, which I thought was going to be about a rock band, and the newest one about that Scottish women who lived in NoCal -- wonder where she got the inspiration for that?

    Catriona is possibly the funniest person I know. She can make me laugh with every breath, yet I also know that in there lies a brilliant mind -- PhD even -- with the best grasp of UK politics on this side of the pond, and a love for her fellow beings that fairly shines out of her face.

    Congratulations on the new book. I look forward to it, wondering what mayhem Lexy will get mixed up in next.

    Life hacks? This winter I've spent some time with my right arm in a sling, and thus I've found all sorts of ways to brush my teeth, wash, and feed myself with my left hand. If ever you find yourself in this position, I highly recommend draping with towels for eating and drinking. It saves on laundry. But the biggest discovery I've made is that newly retired Julie is perfectly capable of doing all the laundry and any other jobs that involve the basement. And she can cook, although it take a fair amount of my armchair supervision. I wonder how long I can make this last?

    Catriona, my world got better when you came into it.

    Love, Ann -- your favorite stalker



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    1. K-9 = canine. Should have realized sooner than age 40+.

      Love y'all.

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    2. I know what you mean about Catriona, Ann. The morning after she won the AGATHA a few years ago, she got up in time for the debut author's breakfast and sat at MY table! Afterwards she told me we had PhDs in linguistics in common. Such a treat.

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    3. More praise for Catriona: One of the kindest people I've ever known. Her sensitive and nonjudgmental moderating of Malice's first panel on LGBTQ writing in mystery was the singular best and most memorable I've ever attended, and under her guidance as president of Sisters in Crime, the mystery community was surveyed to discover the level of inclusivity the industry had at the time. Because of her the mystery world now has a vastly more inclusive range of authors and writings by and about people of color and of many sexual preferences.

      And she writes a damned fine book, too.

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    4. All of the above! And K – nine! Isn’t that amazing? Why didn’t you know that? So funny!

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    5. Now hang on. I started Ann's post blushing. Now I've got tears in my eyes. You are all bricks and good eggs.

      I got K9 right away, but some of the Harry Potter puns took me years. Kreecher? Diagon Alley? The Pen Sieve? Duh.

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    6. Catriona, I never got those puns until just now. Seriously DUH. But giggling.

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  7. I kept searching for my reading glasses, every minute of every day. Now I have one pair by the kitchen table, one pair by the reading chairs, one pair by my bed, and one pair on my desk. It usually works! Although way too often, they all wind up in the same place.

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    1. I've solved that with progressive lenses. The top is clear window glass and the bottom is prescription. Buy online with all the bells and whistles for around a hundred bucks or less. I went nuts trying to keep track of readers, and besides, glasses cover a multitude of wrinkly sins.

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    2. Yep. Reading glasses everywhere, and I still can't find one half the time.

      My husband used to laugh at me, but now he has them stashed all over the house, car, farm, garage--even on the tractor!

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    3. For a while I kept mine hanging around my neck. But it kept getting hooked on things and strangling me.

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    4. Yes, I have been very happy with the multiple pairs, except when they all seem to migrate to the same spot

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    5. Your glasses have got a crush on the pens - they all end up together. I keep mine on my head, nice and handy, but every so often I go to get them there and they're not there so I look like I'm doing an impression of a chimp.

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    6. I did the same as Ann for regular reading--progressives. I couldn't stand always looking for a pair of reading glasses, and I think the around-the-neck thing lasted about two hours. But I need a different strength for the computer, so keep a pair on upstairs desk and a pair on downstairs desk.

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  8. Catriona, you wee daftie. I have tears running down my face, as usual when I read one of your hilarious blogs. We all know you are far more clever than most of us! Just funnier about it.

    So happy for the Lefty award! Go, you!

    My best-ever lightbulb moment came when my middle daughter was six, and one night hysterically and histrionically demanded that I wash a garment she absolutely had to wear the next day. At the time, I had my hands full with my business (and on a writing deadline), and laundering a single item was not going to happen. Finally she said, "Well show ME how to do it." Aha.

    Be careful what you wish for around here. From then on she did her own laundry, and she and the three-year old sister sorted their own tiny little panties and socks that I was forever stowing in the "wrong" drawer. When little sis turned six, she also added laundry to her own chores. And I also came up with an allowance scale that gave them credit for making their own lunches: they could keep the money they would have spent for lunch, and I would provide all the fixings.

    Peace was restored at our house, and I was far less frazzled about trying to maintain everyone's everything all the time. However, the middle daughter, until she was in college, swore blind that I told her yellow was a dark color.

    So, Ann, I totally get your discovery. More life-changing than Marie Kondo's methods, isn't it?

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    1. Exactly, the thrill of delegating!

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    2. And teaching a person to fish :-)

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    3. Here's a funny story. I bought a new Hoover. Weeks later, a pal asked me what it was like. I said I hadn't used it. She joked that my house must a bit fluffy. I said no. She said did I still have my old one. I said no. She was mystified. (The fact that I live with another adult didn't seem to cross her mind!)

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  9. Congratulations on your award and new release!

    I have my own set of screwdrivers hidden in a kitchen drawer. I don't share my rose pruners and pruning saw, which means I always know where they are.

    Reading glasses: purse, computer, windowsill over kitchen sink, laundry room (to read those annoying care tags in 32 different languages).

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    1. The care tags! Are we supposed to understand those??

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    2. Impossible! I've seen black and white striped dresses that say "wash dark colours seperately". But a big yes on flowery tools. There's one screwdriver, hammer, steel rule and pliers (all pink and floral) that I can steal back from the workshop when they migrate out there with no arguments. And they do migrate.

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    3. I finally painted the handles of my favorite tools pink. My husband is not so much the problem as his twin brother is. He would take my stuff without saying anything, and never return it. But apparently, the color pink works as his personal Kryptonite. Yes!

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  10. I've been a huge fan of Catriona's books ever since the first DANDY GILVER book. What amazes me is her range, and that she can be so funny (when she wants to be) and seconds later, so dark and suspenseful.

    My recent AHA was realizing that it makes a difference which way your appliance door swings open. My aging dryer died and the new one has a door that swings open to block the table where I sort the laundry. Not efficient. So when our fridge died I made sure to order a new one that swings open in the right direction.

    Karen's story reminded me of when OUR daughter was six and threw a major hissy fit every morning. She could not decide what to wear to school, and what she wanted was invariably too wrinkly or too stinky or already in the wash or... The truth is, she always woke up (still does) in a pissy mood. Not a morning person. Finally we had her dress for school the night before and sleep in her school clothes. Then she could just roll out of bed in the morning. It worked. For a while.

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    1. I had forgotten all about this! My daughter at six was the same way. Dressing in her school clothes at bedtime did the trick.

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    2. Hallie, my 3 year old dryer came with a door hinged on either side. I remember the installer explained what I needed was to have the door fully open, flush against the washer. Probably not worth the price of a service call.

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    3. Hallie, we did the same thing with my youngest two. It was so much easier! Yes, I had to lower my standards, but a happier household was worth it.

      My sister-in-law in California had two daughters, a little older than mine, so she sent their hand-me-downs to us, along with clothing from the daughters of CEOs of both Levi Strauss and another huge corporation, because their wives were her best friends. We had gobs of really beautiful clothes, some hardly worn at all, but it was too much. The choices were too generous.

      So I took a roll of film (1988) and made "outfits" out of everything, complete with accessories, hanging each up on a peg for a photo. Then I pinned the photos on a bulletin board, a sort of menu of outfits my daughters could choose from. They could tell what "went" with what, and it gave THEM the choice. Eliminated so many arguments.

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    4. You invented Garanimsls! Brilliant!

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    5. Oh too kind Hallie - you reminded me that our new fridge had the door the wrong way round. We meant to change it immediately. It will be no surprise that it took months on end. But when we had a party and saw friends scrabbling away at it, ruining their nails, we gave in.

      And Karen - the hand-me-downs! Wendy and I used to wait like misers counting gold, rubbing our little hands, while Sheila and Audrey slowly grew out of theor clothes. There was this one blue and brown horizontal striped party dress - I'd wear it now if it still fitted me.

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    6. Karen, that was brilliant! You didn't just invent Garanimals, you invented Pinterest boards!

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    7. Debs, I like that even better.

      Hank, Garanimals were around when my oldest daughter (now 48) was little. Shocking, isn't it?

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  11. Thank you for the funnies stories, Catriona. What a great way to start the day. I do stuff like that all the time but, of course, the only example I can think of right now is looking for my reading glasses or cell phone while I'm actually using them. LOL

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    1. All the time! All the time! Seriously, the other day I was on my cell phone with somebody who needed an order number, and I said: let me check my phone. Then I actually said out loud… Oh! I can’t find my phone! And the order taker said: aren’t you talking on it?

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    2. Finally! Something I've never done. But do you do that thing where you point your car key at your house and try to dink it open?

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    3. Catriona, I'm SO glad I'm not the only person who has done that! LOL. See how well our car keys have trained us?

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  12. I can hear your words. Congrats on the Lefty Award.

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    1. Thank you! I love this time of year, when I see you weeks apart. Not long till Malice.

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  13. I've lived in my nice little house for 34 years (oh golly, is that possible?) and for the first 20 years, I'd go to the front door, step out and around to check the mailbox. Especially lovely on cold, rainy, snowy days. This sometimes involved putting on shoes. Yes, it took me 20 years to realise all I had to do was move the mailbox to the OTHER SIDE OF THE FRONT DOOR. Now I can get the mail even in my pyjamas in a blizzard, by opening the door just enough to stick my arm outside.

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  14. Catriona, you're hilarious. I had a moment like that with a set of plastic storage containers we bought. It was this huge 48-piece set. Where would we keep it? I had to find a storage container for the storage container, and it took up space...what, they *stack*? The lids, too! Brilliant!

    Unfortunately, nobody else in the house wants to take the time to stack/unstack, so they remain in a jumbled in a big honking bin.

    Congrats on the Lefty!

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    1. This is a whole separate blog, truly! The situation with the storage containers. Will do that in a week or two! Thank you for the idea

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    2. Thank you, Liz. Now then, if we're on Tupperware I need to step forward. I don't buy or keep anything that doesn't nest and I keep all the lids upright in a single square box beside the nested tubs. All of them are in a deep bottom drawer.

      My sister's got seven children. Six boys and an older daughter. She says, straightfaced, she doesn't need Tupperware because she never has leftovers.

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    3. Glad to help you out, Hank.

      Catriona, I have a 16-year-old boy and my brother-in-law (who is pretty much a 59-year-old teenager) has been living with us. I completely understand. And is there any chance you can convince my (male) household to go along with this storage plan?

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  15. Okay all you Left/Right challenged REDS - I'm going to shed some light on OUR predicament! Ready?
    I have what is called "mixed dominance" I am neither predominantly left handed or right handed. This is not ambidextrous. This is a result of left-brain/right brain activity. When I take all those tests which are supposed to tell if I'm a concrete thinker or a creative thinker, I come out as 51% left brain and 49% right brain. I have "mixed dominance" as to which side of my brain is running things. This is why some of us grasp very concrete thinking AND then switch over and own a very creative, abstract idea.

    This is why we are never really sure of left/right. This is why some of the more obvious things elude us. This might be why you, dear Catriona, can draw out your very exact floor plans and then take off on a widely funny twisty plot of murder and mayhem. Which I adore!!!

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    1. Lyda, thank you! You have just explained my life. Xxx

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    2. Thank you, Lyda! (But personally I blame my dad, who taught me to eat right-handed "so I'd be able to set a table". Of course, if he'd left me alone I'd have been able to set a table by flipping everything. But now, because I hold my knife and fork right-handed but do a spoon and a glass left-handed, it's a complete jumble.I ahve to concentrate hard when I set tables to this day.)

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  16. Hand dominance: I have an L shaped scar on my right hand that tells me the other hand is my left.
    Eureka or Ka-Dah moments: I complained frequently about spilling food on my chest. The kid looked at me and said "Take smaller bites."
    So good to read another funny blog from you Catriona. Congratulations on the "Lefty" and all the other awards for that matter. I so appreciate your efforts in opening the world of mystery writers to folks who are not just er.. old white men. Appreciate this.

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  17. Congratulations on the Leftie Award, Catriona. I love your humor. Life hacks usually come naturally to me. I always look for the easiest way to do things. The revelations that surprise me usually concern song lyrics. Suddenly I realize that I’ve misheard a song for years. I always thought the line in “I Can See Clearly Now” was I can see all ice cycles in my way. Then one day I realized Johnny Nash was singing I can see all obstacles. Hank, you just made me realize why the antacids are called TUMS.

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    1. Thank you Ang! And yes on the lyrics. How about that lovely Beetles song where "A girl with colitis goes by"?

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  18. Hi Catriona! It was great to see you at LCC! I found a copy of your first Lexy book in the book room and bought a copy.

    Hank, you are funny!

    I learn through trial and error about organizing. I collect little natural raw sugar packets and put them in a plastic bag so it is easy to find. Every time I move, it takes a while for me to figure out the best places to organize my stuff. I created little side tables out of stacks of books that I love to collect.

    Diana

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    1. Diane - it may come to that: using books as furniture. Although I've vowed that once the new shelves around my bed are full I'm moving to the one in one out rule.

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  19. Congrats on your Lefty. I always love your speeches.so funny. I've just had the interesting experience of buying a new house and putting everything where it's supposed to go! Imagine that. It's so logical that I've been opening the wrong door or drawer ever since because I'm tuned in to the illogical set up of my old kitchen. One thing I've learned: enough space to put things make being tidy easy

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    1. I do indeed find that hard to imagine. Happy new house, Rhys.

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    2. AH.....or, lets you fill the spaces up with more stuff that you ever needed. Say--three avocado peeler things and twenty seven million wooden spoons.. Just a warning. Welcome to your new home! xxx

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  20. I always start the commenting day so late, here on the west coast! Anyway, Hank thank you for having me and for that wonderful intro. And yes you certainly do have a left /right problem. I am left handed! You've seen me sitting at meetings taking notes with my left hand many times.

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  21. This is just like sitting around at Malice in a group and listening to Catriona tell stories. Presumably, we're all story-tellers, but she's a true raconteur.

    I'm going to stand up for having the TP in a central location - sometimes it's better to have supplies all together, where you can remove them, use them, and return them, and always now where they are. I tried the "put cleaning supplies in your kitchen and in each bathroom" method, and was constantly running out of one thing or another, and needing the glass spray upstairs when it was downstairs. Finally, I located everything in a closet beside the kitchen, opposite the downstairs bath. It's like a cleaning library - I check material out, I return it, and i can always see what I have and what's missing from my collection.

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    1. I agree! As well as the stuff in every place there's water, I've got a warehouse of it in the scullery! There are five bottles of glass cleaner in this house right now.

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    2. Don't even ask me to count the bottle of soy sauce. I always think--I probably need soy sauce. I will never need soy sauce again...

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    3. Although--I might. So I better keep making sure.

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  22. I am still crushing on your fabulous red gown from Malice last year, Catriona!

    My last bout of cluelessness was more mental than misplacement. I heard a song with lyrics about Edith Cavell. For a few moments, I was baffled: The teacher from Madeline went before a firing squad? Why????

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  23. Oh me too. It's hanging at the far end of my cupboard facing me whenever I go in. I wonder when I'll get to wheel it out again?

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  24. Catriona, huge congrats on the Lefty, and I can't wait to read the new book! I'm such a fan!! (And feeling very mopey over having missed out on all the fun in Vancouver...) And thanks especially for making me laugh this morning.

    I live with a lefty, and he is NEVER confused about right/left.

    My latest aha--My kitchen is pretty organized, but our house has an original 1905 butler's pantry, and the bottom of the butler's pantry has for years been the pit from hell. One of the main culprits was an old wooden wine storage rack, just a big cube with crosspieces in it, which meant that each quarter held three or four bottles. But, A, you couldn't see what they were, and, B, you couldn't pull out the lower bottles without the ones on top crashing down. Need I say that the bottles of wine in that thing were covered with film set-worthy dust and had turned to vinegar.

    I had to find someplace to put the Instant Pot I got for Christmas, so decided to clean out and reorganize the whole bottom pantry. And as I stood there looking at the mess, I thought, you know, I could put a REAL wine rack there. Why did that never occur to me in twenty years??? (I did, and everything is now Marie Kondo organized. And I can amazingly actually pull bottles out of the wine rack!)

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    1. I still feel a cruel glee when visitors use my left-handed scissors and get that look on their faces.Exactly! Welcome to MY world. I was grown up before I learned scissors weren't supposed to hurt

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  25. I can't believe Dandy's oldest is getting married. Noooooo. What about poor Alex? I'm afraid I forget my AHA! moments as soon as they happen. I do have a couple of strategies. If I want my husband to do a job for me and he constantly puts off doing it, I start it myself. He will step in before I "screw it up" while scolding me for my lack of patience. He also takes in the mail for our nextdoor neighbors when they're traveling. He has keys to their gate and front door. He goes over, unlocks the gate, unlocks the front door, retrieves the mailbox key, goes back out to the mailbox, returns the key and the mail to their dining room, locks the front door, locks the gate. Repeat daily. I asked him why he doesn't just keep the mailbox key, save on steps, and leave that key when he's done his last mail gathering chore. You know, be efficient? He had no answer to that. And I think he is still following that routine he established.

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    1. Oh Pat, you've reminded me of my friend's dad when we were children. He used to bang a coal shovel with a spoon to tell everyone dinner was ready, then sweep up the shower of soot from the kitchen floor. Every day.

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    2. Ohhhh that is hilarious! It's like Jonathan making two sandwiches. He takes out two pieces of bread, puts on mustard, puts on turkey, puts on cheese, and lettuce and tomato, puts the top piece of bread on, then cuts it in half. AND THEN! He takes out two more pieces of bread.... I can hardly stand it.

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  26. I moved from an 1150 sq ft condo to a 1780 sq ft house five years ago with a garage and any clever ideas for finding storage space where none existed disappeared. I can put anything anywhere, or at least I could until what stuff I had expanded mysteriously to fill every closet, cabinet, garage shelf. Now, I walk around with a scented candle looking for a crevice in which to tuck it!

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    1. See, this is what makes me think I am organised somewhere deep inside. When we emigrated we had to put all our belongings in a 40ft container and ship them. Then we moved into a house with a great deal of storage space. Nine years later, we've still got empty cupboards and drawers. Not in the kitchen - I'm not a robot - but in the bathrooms and spare bedroom.

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    2. Precisely what I was warning Rhys about. Shhhhh..

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  27. My daughter, an accomplished lawyer, says the only time she could keep left and right straight was when she was in kindergarten, because her sneakers had the words written on the appropriate toes.

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  28. I could listen to Catriona talk all day long. Not only does she have that awesome Scottish accent, she is endlessly entertaining. You might consider stand-up comedian as your second, unofficial career, Catriona. Of course, the ability to make others laugh and feel good is especially interesting in that you can turn out some deliciously dark tales. And then, there's Lexie, who is filled with the unparalleled Catriona humor. Congratulations on a well-deserved Lefty.

    I have to say I am so pleased to see someone else loves and collects mugs like I do. I put one of those space making shelves in my cupboard, meant to put plates on top and underneath, bookstore I use it to put cups/mugs on top and underneath, doubling my cup holding space.

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    1. D'awwwww - thank you, dear Kathy. I'm not sure about stand-up, though. They're the only people who get more rejection than writers. Sometimes in the form of fruit.

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  29. Hank, my wonderful boss at Prudential told me, as she was helping me learn to drive so I could move to sales, that she couldn't process left and right, directions for her had to be N-S-E-West. She might have been my introduction to learning disabilities, which I don't remember learning much about for my teaching degree.
    Learning new ways to arrange and organize is an ongoing process, and sharing tips is helpful. I was discussing with a friend the old Heloise Household Hints column. One that comes to mind is a friend bemoaning that she seemed to have lost her scissors. I suggested getting many, one or two for every room, so she'd never have to search for them. Dollar Store or cheap hardware sales tables. The sewing scissors are safely kept by the sewing machine. I have a Handy Help-Her tool set with which I've managed many small tasks, but I've also bought cheap extras to place conveniently near places that repeatedly need attention. I'm not sure I'm organized enough to live on a houseboat or in a tiny house, though.

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  30. I could maybe live in a tiny house alone. But not with my loved ones! Also, I'm glad to hear there's one person who must like it when the GPS lady starts you off by saying "Head north-east on Lostalready Street ..."

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    1. DO not even SAY east. Or whatever. How am I supposed to know what way that is??? Lostalready. Perfect.

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  31. Oh, Catriona, you always make me laugh! Your Lefty for humor is so well deserved! Well done!

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    1. Thank you! It really was the cherry on top of a perfect Left Coast. Vancouver is gorgeous.

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  32. Huge Congratulations, Catriona!! So well deserved. I've had a couple aha moments recently and each time I stood there sort of transfixed. DUH! How did I not get that? Thanks for the chuckles, everyone.

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    1. Thank you, Carol. One of my recent ones was realising that a cup - in US cooking - is an amount. You don't need to put it into an actual cup. Like a handful - you don't need to hold it in your hand.

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    2. Once I was trying to translate a recipe from Spanish...and it kept talking about one gota of this, and one gota of that. I looked up gota, and it said: thing. I'm like--thing? And then I realized it meant "part." One part this, and one part that.

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  33. Hank and Reds and readers of Reds - thank you so very much for having me today and for such a wealth of tips and laughter. Cx

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