<$BlogRSDURL$> Spontaneous Things: Karina Sumner-Smith's Blog
Saturday, July 30, 2005

I have a website again!! And, better yet, my very own domain. See:


That's the only page there for the moment; a placeholder and a bibliography. The picture is an early, experimental picture by my fantastic web designer. We're working together to create an amazing site -- or, rather, I keep telling her, "Beth, can we do something with water?" and "Ooh, cliffs -- can I have more cliffs?" and "Um ... blue is a good colour," and she goes. Creates. It's quite exciting.

The real site will be up sometime after I return to the country at the end of August.

Posted by Karina Sumner-Smith at 4:00 PM (0) comments

Plot? What is this plot you speak of?

Via Tingle Alley, I rather enjoyed this discussion between John Irving and Stephen King:

John: [...] By today's minimalist, modernist standards, Steve and I are a couple of 19th-century storytellers. Plot is disparaged by critics almost as much as length. If a novel has a plot at all, it is said the plot is contrived.

Stephen: Right.

John: That usually means, when you hear a critic saying a plot is contrived, what the critic really means is, "I don't like plot."

Back to Karina: This bit on plot particularly made me laugh, especially following the panel we held at TorontoTrek a few weekends past on writing grants and genre canlit ("Alcoholic Newfie Zombies from Space"). "You know," I said to Sarah afterwards, looking at the big novel outline that we and the audience had put together in jest, "the only problem with this story is it has too much plot. Really, the main character should encounter the zombies, but spend much of the book pondering the strange rambling house she's come to live in and wonder if this has truly become her life, if all she is can be enclosed in such an old building, etc., etc."

Oddly, though, as I kept talking -- and I did, at some length -- it almost felt like a story that would be fun to write, if only to see how ridiculously introspective and plotless my writing could become.

Posted by Karina Sumner-Smith at 1:01 AM (2) comments

Friday, July 29, 2005
Pitting Cherries

My hands are stained red -- a deep colour, tinged with purple, that reminds me of bruises. I have been pitting cherries. Somewhere along the line, I decided that it was a wonderful, fantastic idea for me to bake a cherry cake at 9:30 PM on a Friday evening. I even know why I decided this: because I had half a bag of cherries that weren't getting any fresher, and really, I didn't need to eat a whole bag of cherries on my own. I knew that wasn't a good idea.

But see, I forgot right until the very moment where I was standing there with my cutting board and bowl of batter and a sieve full of dripping wet cherries, that at home my mother has a cherry pitter. It's a lovely little thing that used to remind me of some medieval torture device. (Seriously. I found it fascinating, especially when I didn't know what it was for -- with the possible exception of causing pain -- because it was just a bizarre little kitchen device in with the sugar sifter and the measuring cups.) I'd always used this when pitting cherries previously (which, admittedly, was not very often) and had no idea what to do without it.

The Joy of Cooking recommended using hairpins for pitting cherries (which, even when I had long hair, I did not own, and even if I did I would be hard pressed to find a way in which they would be useful for the pitting of cherries) or, failing that, the end of a ballpoint pen. Somehow, the idea of skewering slightly overripe fruit with the end of a pen -- the thought of all that mixing ink and juice -- was not exactly what I'd call appealing.

And so I found my own solution: a chopstick.

Let me tell you, pitting cherries with a chopstick is not a very efficient nor a very clean way to go about things; but it is, if one is in a certain sort of mood, rather amusing. A cherry, when poked with a chopstick, makes quite a sickening sound. It is a wet, squelching sound, rather unlike anything I've heard fruit make before, and sometimes when the chopstick pokes through the cherry skin there is an audible pop. These pops are often accompanied by a spray of cherry juice that, in my experience, can fly at least three feet across the kitchen. (I believe I've found all the spots, though I wouldn't be surprised to find splotches behind the toaster or on the fridge or perhaps over by the front door.) If you are ever doing foley for a cheap horror movie, the cherry/chopstick combination is your ticket.

I also happened to use a particularly ridiculous cherry cake recipe. Look, here it is. On first glance, it seems fine, easy even. This is why I chose it. However, once choosing this recipe (and messing it up once all on my own), I discovered its fatal flaw: the instructions contain substances not listed on the ingredients list, and vice versa. The instructions tell me to add lemon; how much? What kind? In what state? No idea. And what the hell am I supposed to do with those walnuts? Which one is it, baking soda or baking powder? So, I just made it up. I threw in some lemon juice, a random amount. I did not use walnuts. I like baking powder better than baking soda, so went with that, and excluded the vanilla entirely as I used the last of my supply on a batch of particularly sub par oatmeal cookies.

And, as I typed, the oven timer just went. I bet it will be a disaster, but, if nothing else, I am amused.

Posted by Karina Sumner-Smith at 11:21 PM (1) comments

Monday, July 18, 2005

Wow, I love camping. Okay, maybe I should qualify that. I have been camping very few times in my life, and my experience this past week would by many not be strictly called "camping." Yes, there was a tent. Also, a lake. Trees, dirt, bugs and wildlife. However, there were also flush toilets, sinks, (cold) showers and other running water. There was a table and bug netting, and other fun things including various kinds of camping stoves and barbeques, coolers, canoe rentals and fresh ice from the store.

Should you choose not to call this true camping, I probably wouldn't argue with you. I did, however, have a wonderful time.

Alright, with one exception. We did have one trail hiking disaster. To make a long story short, it was an 11 km trail, the (few) water bottles that we had were filled with lemonade rather than water, the trail was considerably more demanding than the "moderate" rating it was given in the book, and the heat rose to over 35 degrees Celsius in the shade with swamp-like humidity. Despite my tendency to Eco-Challenge my way through the last few kilometers (going into a walking trance and stopping when I realized I'd left people far, far behind), it took us over six hours to complete. I took care of my two cousins (aged 14 and 9) when we returned to camp, both of whom were suffering from heat exhaustion in varying degrees (and thanking my lifeguard training as I did so); however, the members of the party who chose to guzzle Ginger Ale and Diet Coke upon returning home, despite my objections, have no one to blame but themselves. (Right, Aunt Yvonne? Right, Chris?)

I saw moose, three of them, most notably a mother with her young ... er ... mooseling, standing about twenty feet away from me (and a hoard of other people who stopped their cars, pulled out handycams, etc). It was funny to hear everyone oohing and aahing over the "little baby," seeing as this little baby was about the size of a small pony. But now I can call myself a true Canadian: I've seen real live moose. Whew. Can check that one off the list.

Also: a bear. A very large brown bear, snacking on some garbage at the local dump. Rumour has it that a few nights before there were 14 bears seen there snacking; however, due to the placement and watchful eye of the particular bear that I saw, I was not going to walk any closer to investigate the possible presence of additional bears.

Honestly, I wish I could have stayed longer; despite sibling rivalries, objections with certain neighbours and the person dubbed Flashlight Guy, it was all remarkably relaxing. I even did some writing, curled up in a chair by the fire.

Driving home, with all the windows open, the sunshine beating down and the wind strong in my face, I decided it would be wonderful to live further north. The highways on which we drove were long and winding, wending their way through forests and thick outcroppings of rock (Canadian Shield, my geography lessons remind me) which had been blasted away to let the highway through. Everything was so very rich and green, a deep, vivid green that you don't see further south. And the highway would turn and bend, and the trees would open up, and there would be a lake, looking so clear and still. Some were isolated, with cottages hidden upon their rocky shores, while the ones closer to towns had boats -- canoes and kayaks -- bobbing on their surfaces, people diving from docks.

And suddenly I could see myself living there, in a small house that stood with all its windows open, the trees crowding around and a wind chime hanging from the porch. I'd have stained glass in the windows, and a hammock, and perhaps my own little dock that I could lie on and read a book and dive from to swim every morning while the air was still cool. I'd have a laptop, so I could write at the table if I wanted to, or on my porch sitting in the wide deck chair with a portable phone kept in the cup holder. And I could imagine the long trips in to the city to pick up friends (perhaps from the airport), and having family visit, and how I'd have to be on good terms with the postal delivery people and local UPS delivery folks so I could send out manuscripts and receive boxes of books ...

And of course it occurred to me that this was summer, when the trees were still all vivid and green, the roads passable, the days hot. Because, of course, within the space of a few months fall and then winter will come, and those pretty little houses and cottages will be locked in with snow and ice, those long gravel driveways slick and difficult to shovel. I would have to hibernate for eight months of the year, and no one would see me except for the occasional trip out when I couldn't stand the isolation or had eaten through my stockpile of canned lentils. After all, there is a reason that beside these long, winding highways there are narrow paths with their own stop signs. They're snowmobile roads.

Posted by Karina Sumner-Smith at 11:12 PM (0) comments

Friday, July 08, 2005
I'm about set to go on a camping trip to Algonquin Park; my stuff, in all its various bags and containers, is piled up on my bed, and I'm scurrying about making sure that I do at least some of the things on this seemingly endless mental to-do list before I go.

At the top of the list, an announcement: my friend Susan has started a blog. Yes! Finally! (Another one joins the fold ...)

Susan's been one of my favourite writers and closest friends since we met at Clarion in 2001. And though the blog doesn't quite make up for the sad lack of Susan-fiction in recent times (for that I blame the nursing school), it certainly goes a long way to supplement the emails and marathon phone conversations.

Ah, which reminds me! To add to the camping pile: my little notebook to write yet more words which are but are not the novel. Until the voice of this book hits, I'm just going to keep writing crap -- yes, every single day -- and the sooner my subconscious gets on board with that, the better.

Posted by Karina Sumner-Smith at 6:19 PM (0) comments

Sunday, July 03, 2005
Renaissance in the City

I have discovered something interesting: there is nothing like wearing a Renn Faire bodice on the subway to draw some interesting looks.

There was a Renaissance Faire of sorts at Casa Loma today, Toronto's friendly neighbourhood castle -- sort of a stop gap measure, I'm guessing, scheduled during a time when the Ontario Renaissance Festival had not yet found a new home. Though it was sort of last minute, I ended up deciding to attend with my friend Jana and some of her friends. Dressing this morning, in something of a rush, I took a look a the green bodice I'd bought at last year's Renn Faire and thought to myself "Ah, what the hell?" After all, it's not often that one gets to wear such things.

So with a pair of jeans and on top of a pale blue shirt (a fitted t-shirt, no less) on went the bodice. Now, granted, this is not exactly my usual style of clothing, to say the least. In fact, generally I'm fairly anonymous. So walking down the street, and riding on the subway, it was something of a novelty to have people turning and staring, or giving me startled looks, etc. It was something of an experience -- and not my imagination, either.

"You're right," Jana said to me as we walked up towards Casa Loma. "You are getting some stares."

Now I thought that it was simply that I was wandering around in public wearing a bodice that was drawing the attention (and though I was not the only one, I was far from the majority); however, a later conversation convinced me that perhaps it was not the bodice itself but concern for my health that prompted some of the looks.

"Excuse me, miss?" a vendor called to me sometime during the afternoon as we wandered the gardens and the various merchants' stalls. "Can I ask you a question?"

"Sure," I replied.

"I was just wondering," he said, and after a brief pause, continued, "Can you breathe?" And this from a man in full costume.

This made me laugh, and I said yes, I could breathe just fine, thanks, even fairly deep breaths, though mentioned that if I tightened the bodice as much as I was "supposed to" then there would be ... issues. Not so comfortable.

"I was just wondering how tight you had to cinch that to get your waist ..."

"Na," I said. "Just got a small ribcage."

My high school sewing/fashion/home economics teacher once told me that I was, and I quote, "barrel chested." To this I reply: HA! Clearly, the woman has never seen a barrel.

Posted by Karina Sumner-Smith at 10:01 PM (0) comments

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