Monday, January 31, 2011

If it ain't broke...

Honestly, sometimes I wonder why I bother auditioning anyone other than Ian Somerhalder for the role of muse avatar.

Especially after last week's episode of Vampire Diaries.

So far this year, I've selected a Swedish soccer player (who, let's face it, just looked good), Mark Salling (of Glee) and Bret Michaels (80s  rocker) - and none of them had the ability to kick start my writing.

Ian never fails. Never.

Not only have I not written scarcely a word this past month, I've barely read. In fact, I've only completed ONE book in 2011, which is a far cry from my goal of 75.

Damon Salvatore, er, Ian, is going to help me this week.

My TBR pile is well stocked, including a few sequels to series I started in 2010. I'm finally going to finish off Melissa Marr's faery series (one of my fave writers having discovered her in 2010), and a few of my stand-by authors - Lee Child, Steve Berry, Sandra Brown - have new books on the shelf that I'm itching to read.

I know that reading fuels writing, but it's likely Ian will get all the credit. After a pretty emotional Vampire Diaries last week, I figure he could use a bit of distraction. I'm more than happy to provide it.

The Book In My Bag Today: Motor Mouth, Janet Evanovich

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Nobody's perfect - and that's okay

Half-way through Salsa Burn last night, I'd already written the majority of this post in my head. I planned to tease Meaghan about my aching muscles and blistered feet, or whine about how Jessica's Fit Hop Abs class almost killed me.

But after a restless night of tossing and turning, I've had a sobering second thought. Although my body was screaming for rest, I couldn't shut down. Something kept niggling at the back of my mind.

I realized this morning it was this post.

I overdid it yesterday, peeps. Just after lunch I powered through a treadmill workout, feeling strong - and strangely light - for the entire 40-minute run. I snacked on vegetables and hummus, washed it down with my required eight glasses of water. Skipping dinner, I vaulted to J'Adore Dance, where Meaghan led us through 75-minutes of burn. We followed that up with an hour of abdominal hell by the Fit Hop queen, Jessica.

That's a whole lotta cardio, my friends.

I should be proud. Instead, I'm disappointed.

By the end of Fit Hop, I felt my feet dragging. Those steps I'd almost started to understand became a blur of movement and sound. Instead of being swept up in the music, I was watching the clock, wondering whether anyone would notice if I simply passed out.

What was I thinking?

Clearly not about the message in this post.

I'm down 11 pounds since January 1, 2011, a fifth of the way towards my goal of shedding 50 this year. As I watched my marginally slimmer self dance in the mirror last night, I wondered if even that would be enough to satisfy my unrealistic expectations.

At 36-years-old, can I truly dream of a flat stomach and butt cheeks that don't wiggle when I walk? If I did 1,000 sit-ups a day, would I push for 1,001 in the hopes of another inch gone?

Yes, I would. I know this.

Last night, I stole glances at two of my friends dancing beside me. They've both committed to getting fit this year, and their reflection in the mirror is a clear indication of that dedication. They look fabulous!

At the gym earlier, another friend, also committed to slimming down, sported beautiful new workout attire and stepped on the elliptical for the first time. The change in her is visible - not just the pounds she's lost, but the confidence she exudes, and the fresh glow of her inner beauty which radiates brighter than the sun.

But I also listened as they each spoke of their vulnerabilities. PMS. Aching knees and sore backs. A lingering cold. Cravings for sweets, and high fat foods. I heard all of them seeking ways to create personal balance - each understanding their bodies enough to know they shouldn't skip dinner or push for one more cardio session. Figuring out where to fit exercise in with taking time for their other passions - like family, and friends.

I could learn a lot from these strong, beautiful women.

Today, my husband marks an important life milestone. In search of love and acceptance - and to mask feelings he couldn't process - he turned to drugs at an early age. He has remained clean and sober for three years. My husband understands temptation will always be there, that it will always be a struggle to deal with the demons of his past, but without professional help, he has learned that the only acceptance he truly needs, is his own. I couldn't be more proud.

My husband is not perfect, but I know of few people with even half the strength, determination and commitment he possesses. He isn't seeking approval from those that will never give it to him, or looking for love in all the wrong places because he's learned to love and accept the man he has become - warts and all.

I could learn a lot from this amazing, strong man.

I remain committed to my goal of losing 50 pounds this year. But I'm re-evaluating what sacrifices I'm willing to make to reach that goal.

Nobody's perfect. That's okay.

This post is a reminder of that. And I implore every female to read it.

The Book In My Bag Today: Motor Mouth, Janet Evanovich

Monday, January 24, 2011

Something to believe in

I'm bracing myself for the flack I'll take over this, but I confess, I was once a hard core Poison groupie. In fact, Rikki Rockett, the band's drummer has been my muse before. *ducks*

I'm far more embarrassed to admit that than I am to cast Poison's lead singer, Bret Michaels, as this week's muse avatar.

Few of those old 80s rockers can claim such an inspirational climb back into the spotlight.

I admit, I didn't love the cheesy TV show Rock of Love. Something about watching Bret tramp his way through two (or three?) seasons of scantily clad women reminded me of why it was Rikki and not Bret that plastered my teenage bedroom walls. Ew!

But since then Bret has found the spotlight again, performing an acoustic version of Every Rose Has Its Thorn (one of my fave songs) on America's Got Talent, and then won Celebrity Apprentice. Talk about working the reality circuit.

Although impressive, it is his battle with health that has inspired me. Bret almost died when he fell victim to a stroke and a brain hemorrhage. While on the mend - and back to touring - Bret is also making some changes to his life. No longer a playa (whew), he has proposed to his long-time girlfriend (and mother of his two daughters) and is focussing on family, career, and his health.

Sounds pretty much like my 2011 goals.

I'm doing okay on health (down 10 pounds!) and I spent a good portion of the weekend with handsome hubby and my gorgeous stepdaughter. But writing? The most I've done lately is blog.

This morning I woke up feeling pretty good...and somewhat inspired to write. Now I just need Bret to give me that extra push. All. Week. Long.

Oh, and for those who don't find Bret attractive, surely you can appreciate what good shape he's in... Check out the cover of Billboard magazine:

Nothing wrong with them abs. Go muse avatar! Go!

The Book In My Bag Today: Motor Mouth, Janet Evanovich

Thursday, January 20, 2011

I love you, YOU

Confession: I've got a bit of a crush on my Naughty Hottie instructor, Deanne.

It isn't just that my breath catches in my throat when I watch her dance. Or that she has envy-inspiring hips that seem to sway or pop with just the perfect amount of sexy. It's even more than her gorgeous personality or brilliant sense of humor.

There's just something about being around her that makes me believe that yes, I too can be a Burlesque-style dancer (in my bedroom with the lights out) and not look like a complete idiot.

Deanne's first routine at J'Adore Dance's Naughty Hotties class this winter is performed to a song called Mercy, by the artist Duffy. Everything about it is sensual, including the choreography Deanne created to go with it.

But it isn't easy.

After two weeks, my alter ego Erotica-D is still trying to wrap her head around the Austin Powers-inspired moves, and she still can't quite look herself in the mirror. But that gut wrenching fear that was lodged in her throat for most of last session's Naughty Hottie class has shrunk to half its size.

I know that part of that has to do with the nine pounds I've lost since January 1. It also helps that I'm back to "dancing" at J'Adore a few times a week - one of my feet isn't looking so "left" anymore. The steps are coming to me a bit faster, with less frustration. And though the mirrors still scare me, I'm not obsessing over what I'm wearing. As much.

But a lot of my comfort has to do with Deanne.

Just when I think I could be starting to look ridiculous, Deanne busts out with a joke, or an analogy, or something that makes me laugh so hard I forget I was just about to be frustrated - or embarrassed - with myself.

Last night, I even when home and (*gulp*) demonstrated a couple of the moves. With Valentine's Day just around the corner, I'm even considering (*gasp!*) practicing the dance and performing it for handsome hubby.

In my flannel PJs of course...

The Book In My Bag Today: Motor Mouth, Janet Evanovich

PS - Naughty Hotties was just one of the classes I tried out at J'Adore Dance last night. To find out who my abs are screaming at this morning, check out me and Karen's fitness blog.

Monday, January 17, 2011

More aMUSEing Glee

If you're not a Gleek, Mark Salling might not be familiar to you.

Hot though, huh?

I have no idea what other gigs Mark had before nabbing the full time role as Puck on Glee. But I do know he's pretty darn easy on the eyes.

And SO talented.

Heck, who am I kidding? Almost the entire cast is excessively gifted.

I haven't written anything of substance in a few weeks. One of my 2011 resolutions has consumed me, and I find myself with barely enough time to sleep let alone fit in some writing. (I am, however, fitting into a smaller pair of jeans...)

My crit partner has been very patient with me. (Thanks, Donna!)

But this must end. Today. I am behind on blog posts, and nowhere near my goal of finishing the WIP. The new deadline for that is February 14, 2011 - appropriate, I suppose - and I've just crossed the halfway mark on the first draft.

Mark, I could use a little support, here.

I admit, I'll be leaning on Mark quite a bit as muse avatar this week. Paperwork at the day job is a little backed up, I must catch up on three "guest" posts, work on the WIP, review my awesome friend Jessica's brilliant MS, and get the semi-secret canola project to press. I don't plan on missing a single dance class, or session at the rec centre, either.

Boo ya! small favour, Mark. Three of my besties are celebrating their birthdays this week. So can you send some of that sexy gaze of yours over to Karen on the 19th, Sue-ber on the 20th, and Jamie on the 22nd? Much thanks.

The Book In My Bag Today: Motor Mouth, Janet Evanovich

Oh, my stepdaughter would be highly disappointed in me if I didn't include a shirtless pic of Mark...she's suddenly an ABS girl. So, you can thank her for this:

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Let's hear it for the Bench

I'm addicted to Bench.

Not the park variety, but the clothing - like the awesome jacket pictured here. When I think about all of the reasons I want to lose weight, I confess, rocking a Bench shirt is at the top of my list.

Almost ten pounds ago, I spent my time in the local Bench stores gazing at all of the clothes with admiration - and bitterness. I'd long ago stopped trying them on. I have two Bench sweatshirts, both bought when I was several pounds slimmer, and though one of them kind of looks okay, the other is hanging in my closet with hope.

Yesterday, I bit the bullet and - gasp - tried some of the clothes on.

A t-shirt FIT!

So I immediately bought it. And wore it.

To dance.


If you don't know me, you're probably wrinkling your eyebrows in confusion. Who cares, right? Well those who've hung out with me at J'Adore Dance know that my typical attire is semi-loose workout pants and the baggiest, longest t-shirt my handsome husband will let me leave the house in.

Silly, silly Dawn.

I'm a hell of a long way from loving myself in the mirror, and my rhythm is far from cool, but last night I jazzed it up with LIESA at Dance Quickie, popped it with JESSICA at Fit Hop AND strutted it with DEANNE at Naughty Hottie.

All in my new Bench shirt.

Truthfully, I love clothes. (Ironically, my good friend Jessica at the Alliterative Allomorph is talking about why she hates clothes on her blog today, and blogger pal Hart often discusses the benefits of being naked...all the time.) I know all of the side benefits that go along with losing weight, but for me, the number one reason I long for a slim body is because with few exceptions, the coolest clothes - like Bench - are made for skinny girls.

For most, purchasing that t-shirt wouldn't be a big deal. For me, it was the catalyst for all kinds of awesomeness. I raced home from work and showered. DID my hair, knowing I had three hours of sweat-inducing dance. I threw on the shirt and came downstairs - and watched my husband's eyes pop out of his head.

I arrived at dance still thinking about the look on his face, and was greeted by Donna who told me the weight loss was evident. And Jessica, who admired the shirt and praised me for stepping out of my comfort zone. (Hey, when someone you look up to compliments you, it's a BIG deal.)

Motivated by this outpouring of affection, I stood taller, focussed harder, and I actually didn't mind myself in the mirror. No, really.

Even more astonishing is this: I'd packed two other shirts in my bag, both baggy, in case my reflection scared me. When after Dance Quickie I didn't change, I patted myself on the back. But when I kept it on even after Fit Hop and throughout Naughty Hottie, I went home and made myself a well-deserved martini.

The Book in My Bag Today: Motor Mouth, Janet Evanovich

PS - My friend Karen and I are embarking on a fitness journey in 2011, with the goal of each losing 50 pounds. We're blogging about it here.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Book 1 of 2011 inspires this week's muse

I had a bit of a True Blood Christmas.

My friend Karen hooked me up with three Charlaine Harris "Sookie Stackhouse" novels and a True Blood journal. And just this weekend, my mother-in-law brought me a True Blood calendar. Woot!

Sadly, there is only one picture of Alexander Skaarsgard (Eric) in it, which isn't nearly enough to fill the hole left by the show's seasonal hiatus. Yeah, I know, I'm a dork.

Add to this the fact that I finally finished Living Dead in Dallas, the second "Sookie Stackhouse" book - and my first novel of 2011. I loved it. But then, I knew I would.

If you're a True Blood fan, or have read the books, you know that Sookie is human, reads minds and is dating Bill, a vampire. Personally, I think she should ditch him for Eric (the sexier vampire) but hey, what do I know? (I'm not on Team Edward either...)

After reading the first Sookie book last year, I noted how impressed I was that the characters in the show stay pretty true to the book - great casting! That's true Living Dead in Dallas as well. Harris is a tight writer who understands her characters. The voice of Sookie is dead on - and so well done.

Best of all, Harris even makes Eric sound sexy in print.

Which is why I've cast him as this week's muse avatar. I'm not reading the next novel in the series quite yet, and I have a long wait for the next season of True Blood. So, this is going to have to do.

Go forth, my handsome muse. Inspire me!

The Book in My Bag Today: On Writing, Stephen King

Friday, January 7, 2011

The dawn of a *new* E-rotica (not the genre)

The amazing Deanne
I'm not feeling particularly *naughty hottie* this morning.

The blister on my big toe has ballooned and become *one* with half the bottom of my foot. The curve in my back feels permanent - and oddly Quasimoto as I jerk walk down the hallway. When I look in the bathroom mirror, I'm expecting to see the rest of the bruises left behind by the mack track that must have hit me in my dreams.

Alas, only the shadows beneath my eyes are dark.

I'm a hurting unit, my friends.

Truthfully, I suspect the pain has less to do with last night's trial Naughty Hottie class at J'Adore Dance, and more to do with the previous evening of Fit Hop and Dance Quickie. Between Jessica and Liesa, my friends (Karen, Sue and Donna) and I were tortured challenged. Even with the advantage of muddling through the class before, the steps kicked the crap out of me. Fit Hop is not for the weak at heart. Still, we did it with a smile. Yes, even Karen! (xoxo)

The expression on my face last night was something akin to fear...and at times, awe.

Naughty Hotties is a fusion of fitness and Burlesque-style dance. Jessica created the program to help women - of all shapes and sizes - feel comfortable in their skin. If you've been hanging around this blog for a while, you know I am not the slightest bit comfortable in my skin - and I have two left feet. Add to that the out-of-this-world sex appeal of last night's instructor, Deanne, and it could have been the recipe for disaster.

Not quite.

I employed all of the tactics Jessica taught me in the first session. (Confession: I did not finish the first season of Naughty Hotties, and I completely avoided it in the fall. I made a resolution to see it through this time. NO excuses.) Taking a deep breath, I coerced Erotica-D (my Burlesque alter ego) out of hiding and commanded her to let go of all inhibitions. To dance like there's no one watching.

But Dawn, that pesky inner critique, couldn't take her catty eyes off Erotica-D and that fear continued to bubble, until it became as much a beacon of self-consciousness as the red shirt I was wearing. (Sidenote: who the hell wears a RED shirt to a class they hope to "blend" into?) Erotica-D went into hiding - deep hiding - and instead of leaning on her, I looked for support from Donna and Karen.

I am so insanely proud of my girls for busting out of their comfort zones, and truthfully, embracing the class with much more grace than I ever have. That's my first awe.

My second is Deanne.

Not only is she beautiful - inside and out - but she's fierce. I loved the break-down of the routine, especially the hilarious narrative between moves (and sometimes during) that stopped my fear of looking ridiculous from becoming absolute terror. And wow, can she move. At the end of the class, Deanne showed us what the dance could look like.

I want to do that!

For my husband.

Sometime in the distant future.

One of my resolutions this year is to love myself more - which is pretty much the philosophy behind Jessica's Naughty Hottie program. I'm hoping that the AWEsome Deanne can help me find the inspiration to see that through.

The Book In My Bag Today: Living Dead in Dallas, Charlaine Harris

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Feeling the burn

I know, she LOOKS innocent, right?
My legs are on fire.

I hobbled out of bed this morning and dragged myself into a semi-cold shower while my thigh and calf muscles begged for just a few hours more sleep. There's a blister the size of a dime on my right big toe, and a matching sore on my left heel.

I feel fantastic!

Just two days ago I was gushing about the Spin class Karen and I gasped through, challenging my other work-out buddies to find a more satisfying burn.

Nothing makes me feel more energized than Spin, I gloated.

I lied.

I'd forgotten about dance.

J'Adore Dance is hosting a week of free classes before the winter season officially opens, and so last night my friends Sue, Donna and Rhonda joined me for Salsa Burn - Meaghan style.

I'd be lying if I didn't admit to being nervous. I've known Meaghan a long time, but my fondest memories have nothing to do with dance. At Chapters, Meghan and Jessica formed an impressive duo in the children's books department, taking change of kid's events that drew hundreds of eager young readers. Our store had the best damned children's section in the whole franchise, mostly due to their dedication and enthusiasm.

That's not what scared me.

Meaghan's fitness journey is impressive. She owned her own dance studio in a small town, cheoreographed the Crush professional lacrosse cheerleading team, is certified as a personal trainer, and has accomplished a mesmerizing amount of fitness challenges - marathons, triathalons, and more!

Having been out of the dance circuit for a few months - gulp - the thought of shaking my ample booty with the awesomeness that is Meaghan made me sweat. And that was before I set foot on the dance floor.

But Meaghan, even with her years of experience and evil grin - isn't that intimidating. In fact, something about the way she worked through the moves clicked for me. Maybe it was because last night was an introduction class, but the break-down felt controlled, the pacing less chaotic. My two left feet didn't feel so awkward, and even when Jessica stepped in to introduce the fast Salsa and the Cha-Cha, I felt almost...ready.


As always when I dance with Sue, I anticipated a few murderous glares, some verbal threats, and the occasional smart-ass remark. My fear was somewhat tempered by Donna's infectious enthusiasm and Rhonda's heartfelt style - not to mention that while Sue grumbled at me, Rhonda was grumbling at her. (And both are registering for classes this season...)

I'd forgotten how much I love to laugh with my dance friends, but also how every Salsa class reminds me of Dirty Dancing. How lucky was Jennifer Grey to meringue with Patrick Swayze?

Before that pretty head of yours gets too big, Megs, you should know that while I love you (a little) I still don't like you this morning. The end-of-class-toning torture was brutal (b.r.u.t.a.l) and I'm dreading the pain Liesa and Jessica will inflict on me tonight. However, I will concede, you're a pretty damn good torture artist instructor.

Want to check out the J'Adore experience? Free classes run the rest of this week. Schedule here.

The Book In My Bag Today: Living Dead in Dallas, Charlaine Harris

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Getting creative in the kitchen

Photo by Taste of Home Recipes
I've never professed to be a good cook. While I'm armed with a few (and that's pushing it) recipes that make handsome hubby drool, I tend to lean on him for kitchen creativity. 

On Sunday mornings, I love sitting at the table writing, surfing the net, or reading while he whips up an incredible breakfast. 

Yeah, I'm lucky like that. 

But from that jar of "all-about-me-hearts" beside me bed, I drew "Make cookies." I know, somewhat ironic for someone who spends three quarters of the year cursing Susie Homemaker. 

The truth is, making cookies makes me happy. I like finding new recipes, and I love (love!) the smile on hubby's face when he sees that I've baked them. I could make the WORST cookies in the world and he makes me feel like a professional baker. Lucky, I know.

Yesterday however, I did not make bad cookies. I think, perhaps, I made the best cookies ever, mostly because I wasn't allowed to use the same-old recipes. Part of picking a "heart" for each day is to help me break out of my comfort zone. I know handsome hubby loves my soft peanut butter cookies, but making them felt too "safe." 

These Chocolate Marshmallow Cookies? Now that was a risk!

The recipe isn't mine, and I admit, I didn't add the pecans (had none) and my icing didn't look quite as thick, but truly, these cookies rocked. 

Sadly, due to my "other" resolutions, I can't EAT very many of them. Not to worry though, hubby had all but polished them off last night.

The Book In My Bag Today: Living Dead in Dallas, Charlaine Harris

Chocolate Marshmallow Cookies


  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup cocoa
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 16 to 18 large marshmallows

  • Icing
  • 6 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1-3/4 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Pecan halves


  • In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add egg, milk and vanilla; mix well. Combine the flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt; beat into creamed mixture.
  • Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto ungreased baking sheets. Bake at 350° for 8 minutes. Meanwhile, cut marshmallows in half. Press a marshmallow half, cut side down, onto each cookie. Return to the oven for 2 minutes. Cool completely on a wire rack.
  • For icing, in a small saucepan, combine butter, cocoa and milk. Bring to a boil; boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Cool slightly; transfer to a small bowl. beat in confectioners' sugar and vanilla until smooth. Spread over the cooled cookies. Top each with a pecan half. Yield: about 3 dozen.
Nutrition Facts: 1 serving (2 each) equals 246 calories, 10 g fat (6 g saturated fat), 37 mg cholesterol, 201 mg sodium, 39 g carbohydrate, 1 g fiber, 2 g protein.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Eyes on the prize


It's what Swedish soccer player Fredrik Ljunberg must do every time he steps on the field. Focus on skill, on strategy, on keeping his eyes on the prize.

I'd love to report a record-breaking number of pages written over the holidays, but I spent most of the time between Christmas and New Years traveling for work, hanging out at the office, or yes, figuring out how to out-bowl handsome husband on the XBox 360 Kinect system. (I could use another week or so to practice....)

It was hard to focus on the WIP with so many distractions.

This week isn't going to be much more conducive to writing. The "teenager" is coming home after a few weeks away and honestly, I have missed her fiercely. Add to that an upcoming weekend visit from my beautiful mother-in-law and I doubt very much I'll have my eyes on the prize.

So what that boils down to is about three days of WIP focus - minus the commitment to my various New Years resolutions, solid time at the day job, cleaning the house, and checking out some of the free classes at J'Adore Dance this week. With that kind of schedule, my friends, I'm going to need some focus.

Good thing Freddie isn't in the midst of World Cup action. It allows the perfect opportunity for him to step in as this week's muse avatar - the first of the year! I'm sure between underwear modelling contracts he'll be able to fit me in, no?

Happy first week of January - may it bring you plenty of focus.

The Book In My Bag Today: Living Dead in Dallas, Charlaine Harris