Monday, October 16, 2017

When Will I Ever Learn?

RHYS BOWEN: Last week I made dinner for some friends. “What are you planning to cook?” John asked.
“It’s a chicken with lemon and rice dish,” I said.
He looked worried. “Have you made it before?”
“No, but I saw the demo on Facebook. It looked good.”
He sighed and walked away, knowing better than to say anything. And actually it turned out just fine.
But I have to confess that I have tried out a new recipe on guests in the past and it has not been an unqualified success: like the time I wanted to impress with turban of sole. I’d seen the recipe in a magazine but never tried it. You line a bundt pan with fillets of sole and make this incredibly rich mixture of mushroom and shrimp that you stuff it with.  You poach in hot water. Then you turn it out  and voila. A perfect ring of sole with a delightfully rich surprise inside.   Only I turned mine out onto the plate and it collapsed into a soggy, unidentifiable pink mess with the inside shrimp mixture still runny and flowing. The guests were waiting. There was no way I could serve them a pink blob with salad.
So I should have learned not to try out new recipes when I have guests.
What else should I have learned?
Shoes that pinch in the store will not miraculously stop pinching when I’ve worn them a little. In fact they will pinch worse. I have several pairs, sitting on my shoe rack, that prove this.

However tempted I am, I should not cut my own hair. I look in the mirror and think my bangs are just a tad too long and I should just snip a little…..and now I have bangs that are too short.

And toe nails. Do not paint my own toenails, whatever happens. I need a new pedicure but I don’t have time so how hard can it be to put polish on my own toes? And I have blue not just on the nail but around the rest of the toe, looking like a strange case of frostbite.

And just because something is a bargain I should not buy it unless I really love it. I have items in my closet I have never worn and finally give to charity. How stupid is that?

And I should have learned not to read reviews and not to care about them.

I’m sure there are more, but I should stop before I embarrass myself too much.
So now I want your confessions, Reds. What should you have learned, but haven’t?

HALLIE EPHRON: That 9 times out of 10, whatever I lost is exactly where I think I left it. Go back and look again.
Not everyone agrees with me. Surprising, I know.
If I remind my husband, it won't necessarily get done faster.
It's not all about word count: sometimes a book has to get shorter to get better.
A second glass of wine is never a good idea.
At least half of what I pack I will not wear.

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN:  If you want to take off whatever layer is underneath whatever you are wearing on top, and you figure you can just slide the underthing off  without taking off the top, forget about it. Just take the top off. It'll take longer to take the shortcut.
Defrosting in the microwave does not work.
If it crosses your mind: do I need a _____? You do. Jacket, umbrella, bag of nuts, flat shoes, scarf, shawl, sunglasses. If you think of it, there's a reason.
You always need a little bag of almonds.
A lost thing will reappear when you stop looking so hard.
You can't hurry rice.
(And I totally agree about the shoes, sales and toenails. Whoa--does that sound like a cozy title?) 

Don't ever get on an international flight hungry.
Always order the airline vegetarian entree, even if you are not vegetarian.
There is no way you can keep dog hair from getting on your clean clothes in your suitcase.
No matter how many miles you walk on a vacation, calories do still count.
The third glass of wine is never a good idea.

If I think the correct direction is the left, then I should definitely go to the right.
The answer to the crossword clue will suddenly come to me when I pick up the paper later.
It's not about word count and it's better to turn a book in late rather than on time and lousy.
A second or third glass of wine might not be a good idea but dessert always is!

I rarely regret exercising.
You should smile at parents on planes, especially parents of babies.  They need moral support!
A late thank you note is better than no thank you note.
A rainy afternoon viewing of a British TV mystery can cure much of what ails you.
Forget the wine!  Have a cocktail!
I agree with Jenn:  Dessert is always a good idea.

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: Hmmm. Things I should learn, but don't...
I can not actually finish the first draft of a book by writing 2000 words per day every day for weeks.One week in I will have written no more than 1100 words in a day and will miss writing twice; once to take Youngest to school/the doctor's/rehearsal/part-time job, and the second when my car starts to wheeze and I have to spend hours in the garage waiting room. Speaking of which...
Change the oil every 3,000 miles. How did I get to 6,000 so fast? What's that smell?
Bronchitis will not be cured by antibiotics, but by the passage of time. Three months, usually.
I will never eat a whole watermelon before it rots.
When traveling for Thanksgiving, get your tickets early. The fact that once in 1989 airline prices dropped on November 20 does not mean they will do so this year. Or any other year.


  1. I should have learned that . . .
    There will never be enough time to get everything done.
    Whatever is lost will remain lost until after I have replaced it.
    Whatever it is, it will always take longer than I thought it would.
    When I am late, every traffic light will be red.
    When I am late, something will happen to tie up the traffic.
    I’m with Jenn on the desert and Ingrid on the thank-you notes . . .

  2. I should have learned that
    In the end, all things happen as they should, don't fight it
    The glass really is half full, and sometimes it overflows with sheer joy if you let it
    Pets and kids put everything into perspective
    Editors always zero in on the one thing you were hoping to slide by
    I'm with Hallie on the wine and Joan on the lost items

    1. Agreed, Kait, on the kids and pets - they are my touchstones.

  3. I love these lists! Let's see:
    -When that little voice nags at you as you're about to leave the house, stop and listen to it. You have definitely forgotten to do or bring something.
    -In the long view of life, it really doesn't matter that he never wipes his toast crumbs off the counter.
    -Some exercise is better than no exercise.
    -It's unlikely I will get back to X size and therefore it's stupid to keep clothes of that size.

    1. Especially when X size is au courant for the 1980's.

    2. I so agree about the nagging voice! Absolutely.

  4. Rhys is definitely right about those shoes that in the store; do not buy them!
    This morning I'm learning that I definitely *should* have bought that book at #Bouchercon2017 and had it signed :(

    1. " that PINCH in the store..." is what that should read, of course.

    2. It was lovely to meet you in Toronto, Amanda! It sounds like your conference was a huge success!

  5. Hi, AMANDA! So happy to have met you at Bouchercon!!

    And Kait, really?? ALL THINGS? "In the end, all things happen as they should, don't fight it" - I'd say Pick your battles.

    1. Hello Hallie! Thanks to you and Lucy for the warm welcome to my first Bouchercon -- your friendly hugs at the hotel check-in desk got my conference off to a terrific start. Then I met Louise Penny in the elevator, and it just kept going like that over the weekend. Such a thrill for this Reds fan to meet so many favourite authors in person!!

    2. Hurray Amanda! What a wonderful weekend!

    3. Yes. It really was. I was star struck and also so delighted with how totally real and accessible you all were. Thank you.

    4. I'm with Hallie. Choose the hill you're going to die on.

  6. I should have learned that....
    Flying standby might mean leaving Seattle on Wednesday and not arriving in Tampa until Friday morning.
    That putting out a feeding station for a feral cat results in a clowder of cats.
    That writing your Govt. representative pleading "Make it Stop" will not make it stop.
    That no matter how many six legged critters you fog away, there will always be more.
    That lightening will most likely fry the appliance you love the most.
    And speaking of love.. it always lasts... in spite of the bread crumbs.

    1. About that last - I know, and that's why the crumbs don't really matter. In fact, I've decided cleaning the kitchen counters is one of my superpowers!

    2. Laughing, Coralee... I got back from Bouchercon and there was evidence that my husband had been eating sweet potato chips in bed.

  7. I love these lists. So many of the items are "yes" for me (I'm with everyone on shoes - no, they won't "stretch out" and be comfortable).


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  9. Things I should have learned by now:
    Don't wait until the last minute to check the requirements
    I need more exercise
    I need more sleep
    I actually do have my limits
    It's okay to tell people "no"
    Mix a little fun and frivolity in with the practical stuff
    Art is worth paying for

  10. Don't ever get into a car, an airplane, or an elevator, without first visiting a restroom.

    1. That's one of my life rules, Jane. I always told my kids, never pass up a chance to go to the restroom.

    2. I have a friend who does marathons who says exactly the same thing. =)


    3. An elevator?! Now that's really betting against yourself.

    4. Hallie, I've been stuck in an elevator.

  11. Even though it doesn't feel like fall, I'm cooking fall meals. And the basil in the big pot on the deck is dead. And I had no dried. If you don't pull every single ingredient before you make dinner, you will be out of something crucial.

  12. These are all so fantastic-- especially the "if I remind my husband..." Hallie! For me, if any diet does not include spaghetti and meatballs, I will not stay on it for more than two days.

  13. If I give myself a reward before I earn it, I probably won't earn it.
    The fourth scoop of ice cream is rarely a good idea.
    If I don't write it down when I think of it, I'll probably remember too late.
    If I don't make time to take care of myself, it won't just magically appear.
    Continually adding books to my list somehow doesn't make it shorter.
    It's better not to commit to something than to do a half-assed job.
    It is possible to say "no" occasionally.
    Being outside every day is almost always a good thing.

    1. And agreed! the being outside thing is so important!

    2. I'm with Hank: Fourth??? I wish!

    3. Does it not all depend on the size of the scoop as well as the flavor of the ice cream?
      Four of pomegranate are just about perfect.
      What I have learned is that there are no such things as a bad time to eat ice cream, bad weather in which to eat ice cream, and too much ice cream. ;-)

    4. The third scoop is also often a bad idea too, but that just seemed too normal to mention.

      Here's one Hallie might appreciate (anyone else?): if I take that finesse, it will lose and the lead that I fear will come back.

    5. Jim, I even count the slices when I'm peeling potatoes. My finesses work more often than not because I counted every card in every suit. Wouldn't it be fun to have a Reds bridge tournament.

  14. Things I've learned:

    Be a little kinder than is necessary.

    If I have any doubt about whether to hit "send," don't.

    Don't wear shirts that button if I'm going to be sitting instead of standing.
    Trust me on this. They gap.

    Don't both to lug ten pound leg weights to Bouchercon because I'm not going to get around to the physical therapy exercises anyway.

    Expect to find the odd dish/fork/glass in the sink in the morning and put it happily in the dishwasher because she's the one who hauled those weights all over hell and back for me.

    Know that the author struggled over ever word in every book, so stop being a critic and enjoy the fruits of her labors. Or his.

    Understand that I and my minor troubles are an infinitesimal blip in the importance of things.

    And last, he still isn't my president.

    Much love to all I met and met again this week. And Avon Lurker/Stalker (her definition, not mine), come forth and speak. The Reds will welcome you. They even did me! xox

    1. Addendum: Never put me in the same room with trays of cookies.

    2. I am in the airport laughing out loud about hauling the legs weights to Toronto!

    3. Edith, I confessed this morning to my therapist about the unused weights. He told me that all the walking was excellent exercise. Then he strapped weights on every appendage and put me thru my paces. He did everything but tell me to drop and give him fifty.

  15. Quite a few of these resonate and I'll add a few more:

    Ordering online- if it's not Petite, it will never fit. Ever. ( I am not getting taller)
    Ordering online - if it includes spandex in the mix, even a little, it will never look right. Ever. ( I am not an underweight twenty-something anymore)
    While traveling and distracted- when leaving one space for another, always, always check to see if I have what I need. Room key, phone and agenda, leaving room? Sweater,purse, tote bag going from meeting to meeting? Etc. ( And no, I am not owning up to experiences at recent Bouchercon, Toronto,that prompted these thoughts)

    1. Triss, I so agree on all of the above, but especially the traveling and distracted. Day one, Bouchercon. I lost my compact, and my Fitbit. Argghh.

    2. Oh, SO true. Sometimes I actually count my things. Purse, tote, suitcase.
      And when we leave every morning, I say to Jonathan: Got your watch? Got your wallet? Got your phone?
      When we go to events, he says to me: Got your shoes? Got your speech? Got your bookmarks?

  16. I thought of another thing I ought to have learned by now...but I never put into practice:

    I can't squeeze in as much as I think I can in the ten minutes before I have to leave the house. Corollary: The rest of the drivers on the road are not going to go fifteen miles over the speed limit to accommodate my tardiness!

  17. Things I should have learned by now:

    Much of what already been said in these lists.
    Read the directions all the way through before you start a recipe.
    "Just because you can" is rarely a good reason for anything.
    The cat will not stop annoying you at 4:45 am just because you tell her to go away.
    If you wait until the last minute to look for anything, it will not be where you are sure it is (for example, a passport will disappear an hour before you need to leave for Toronto).

    Something I did finally learn: when a local political candidate visits, it may be faster just to take the pamphlet and say nothing, but it's much more fun to tell him you won't be voting for him and why, in very clear terms.

    I am the lurker/stalker Ann mentioned. I introduced myself to her in the book room as "not really a stalker" because I had been looking for her to say hello as one Rochester-area person to another and I felt a bit shy about it. I have commented here a couple of times but mostly lurk and she encouraged me to participate more -- I will do, Ann.

    This was my second Bouchercon and it was even better than the first one. The panels and interviews were wonderful. And, as one of the lucky ones chosen to try to Name That Red and failing completely, I salute the Reds for their storytelling and bluffing abilities.

    1. Hi Christine! It's much more fun to comment than to lurk! And thank you for the panel guesses. We had so much fun we may all go into improv:-)

    2. Hi Chris! I hope you go safely home before the big storm last evening. And see, commenting here isn't hard at all. The Reds are so inclusive.

    3. Ha! Yes! I frequently say to the Hooligans - Just because you can doesn't mean you should!

    4. Welcome, Christine! So glad you enjoyed the panel!

  18. Waving at Christine! Nice to meet you.

    As an addendum to Julia's last item: bear in mind that astral projection has not yet been invented. Leaving the house at roughly the time one is meant to be somewhere is not conducive to being prompt.

    And further, don't leave everything til the last minute because one or all three of the daughters will call and want to chat just before I need to get ready to go. It's impossible to talk on a cell phone and dry my hair. And they have an unerring ability to call when I have just washed it.

    Crumbs on the counter are the least of it, after 35 years of marriage. But defending every hill is too exhausting to manage. Every single thing is not worth passionate arguments.

    Unfortunately, one can't divorce one's elected (ish) officials.

  19. One thing I really, really should have learned is that one full night's sleep is not enough to recover from Bouchercon...

    1. I slept from 10 last night until 8:30 this morning, had an hour of rigorous PT, and offered to pay Julie to walk the dogs. (She did it for free.) As soon as it is reasonable, I plan to go back to bed for the afternoon.

      In truth I woke up at 3 a.m. hungry, let the dogs out and read for an hour before going back to sleep. So I had only nine and a half hours of sleep. :0

  20. These are all brilliant, dear readers. The one that resonates with me is about listening to the little voice. And Karen, yes, yes, every argument is not worth defending!
    I'm rather slow this morning, having got home at 1 am after a delayed flight in DC. (Don't ask). I took the scenic route because there's only 1 direct flight to SFO and its early morning, which I couldn't do.

    1. Oh Rhys, 1 a.m. is San Francisco is 4 a.m. here. Take a nice long nap. Or three.

  21. I remembered one more: never again fail to pack you tennies because you think you don't have room. Striding around a city is not suited to footwear that is perfectly comfortable for moseying around a conference hotel.

    1. I have renewed respect for Hank. I never saw her without stilettos. I couldn't have walked across the room in those.

    2. Hank here: Awww, thank you Ann. xxoo ... And yes, Edith, very wise.

    3. Hank has PhD stiletto walking skills. I once saw her walk down the CENTER of a wide staircase while wearing heels. Without holding on. I bow down.

    4. You know, I suspect she was born in stilettos, sort of along the lines of foot binding only not the painful kind. Yet she claims to wear black flip-flops, which no one has actually seen on her feet, right?

  22. NEVER eat almonds; the first call to 911 should have been the clue.
    The third bottle of wine is probably too much.
    If your dog awakens you in the middle of the night, failing to let/take her/him out is never a good idea.
    No matter how many times your wife asks, "Does this dress make me look frumpy?" or "Do you think I've gained weight?", answering "Yes" is never a good idea.
    The dealer always wins; the dice ARE loaded; and your chances of dying in a terrorist attack are higher than your chances of winning a Powerball lottery.

    1. And your odds of being the next Miss America are even greater

    2. Or being the next LeBron James, et al sports figure.

  23. Ditto on what everyone has said! I have learned that I cannot suspend time. If I have 20 minutes it will not magically turn into 40 within the time frame. Although I am still working on it. No matter how much that clothing item is reduced do NOT buy it if you are iffy. Do not. If I need some peace and quiet for whatever reason I can guarantee that damn phone will ring off its hook. And none of those calls will matter. No matter how enticing that salty deliciousness is do not OD on Fritos or tortilla chips. You know what will happen.

  24. Things I should have learned by now:
    I can never make up the ten extra minutes I stay online before taking a shower to go somewhere.
    DVRing more than one episode of a show means I will more than likely be behind on a show for the rest of the season.
    Making a budget for Christmas spending is an exercise in futility.
    Buying a top that I love in a size I think I will be when the season rolls around to wear it is always a mistake.
    The shoes that hurt you the last time you wore them will hurt you the next time you wear them.

  25. I have enough handbags. Really.

  26. At 67, one would hope I'd've learned these lessons, but I seem doomed to repeat certain mistakes.

    Get up the first time the alarm goes off. Do not hit snooze.

    An activity always takes longer than I think it will. This goes double for making a receipe the first time. Do not rely on the time a receipe says it will take.

    When you hear your cat barf in the middle of the night, get up, turn the lights on, and clean it up. Do not wait until morning.

    1. I dunno about the cat barf, Lynda. I always seem to find it by leaving the lights off and walking to the bathroom barefooted.