Friday, May 30, 2008

Planting, Quilting and Reading

Happy Friday! I hope you've all had a good week. Here we're having a wonderful time. Nice and warm, sunny and with just a hint of a soft breeze blowing. Perfect planting weather, which is something we've done an awful lot of these past days.

Perfect sewing weather, too. I thought I'd share a couple of the crib quilts I've made in the past week or so. As you can see, I've got both sexes covered with these!

Oh, and I've been reading The Sugar Camp Quilt by Jennifer Chaiverini. Again. This is one book that I really adore so a few times a year I take it down off the shelf and read it. There is a whole series of "quilt" books by this author, The Elm Creek Quilts series, but this is the only one I've got so I just read it over and over. Yeah, I'm pretty easily satisfied! I keep thinking I'll get around to picking up the other books in this series but I just never do. I know I'll love them all; Jennifer Chiaverini is a master storyteller. Her words create images that make me feel like I'm right in the story, and her characters are so true-to-life I can almost hear their voices when they speak. If you haven't read anything by this author you might want to give her a try. I don't think you'll be sorry you did!

So what have you been reading? And have you had a nice week?

Any plans for the weekend? Here, we'll be planting...and sewing. Have a good one! :)

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Around the farm

I thought I'd do something different today. Imagine how difficult it is for a writer to keep quiet but that's exactly what I'm (mostly!) going to do here. Instead of telling you what's been going on in my world I'm going to show you.

I hope all is well with you. Things here are, as you'll see, just wonderful. :)

So here's what's happening on the farm...

the Prairie Fires are blooming...
the finches are feeding...

and the Piglet is doing what she does best.

A peek inside the greenhouse.

Aren't they lovely?

Firewood is being delivered...

and stacked.

And, as is her nature, Piglet is contemplating the meaning of life.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Happy Memorial Day

In Flanders Fields
by John McCrae
Written in Flanders on May 3, 1915

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

We all know that Memorial Day is a day set aside for remembering those brave men and women in our armed services who have lost their lives in defense of our country. It's a gentle reminder to take a moment to consider the cost of the freedom we enjoy every moment of every day.

I've got to admit, we're pretty patriotic around here. We fly the American flag from our flagpost daily. Hubby is a veteran who served during active combat time. We've got ancestors who have fought in every war the United States has been involved in. Yeah, we're pretty patriotic. Freedom isn't taken lightly around here, because it doesn't always come easy.

So here we'll be remembering the fallen heroes. We'll recall the true meaning of the day and will observe the National Moment of Rembrance.

Yesterday we tilled a spot for a new flower garden, over by our poplar grove. This morning we'll plant red poppies there. It's something we've wanted to do since we bought this place; today seems the perfect time to finally plant the seeds.

This afternoon we'll have family and friends over. We'll laugh over silly things. We'll eat far too much. And, as always, we'll be thankful we live someplace where we can gather, laugh and feed our hearts, minds and souls with absolute freedom.

Want to know more about Flanders fields? Look here. Thinking of planting some poppies in your backyard? Try this.

And from our home to yours, wishes that you have a safe, happy Memorial Day.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Clover Time

Have you ever found a four-leaf clover?

For the past few weeks, ever since the snow's cleared and the green stuff in our yard that passes for grass has begun growing, I've been on The Search. You know the one...similar to the "stop and smell the flowers" thing but here it's a "stop and count the clover" gig. A couple of times a day as I walk from the house to the barn, pond, greenhouse, garage, mailbox --you get the idea-- I stop. It's actually kind of funny because anywhere I stop there's a patch of clover nearby!

So I stop. Gaze. Count leaves. Scowl. Move along.

Loads of three-leafers, but no fours. Still, I search. Every day. Time and again.

Really. Every. Day.

Hubby grins. "You've got to be patient."

How patient can I be? I mean, once I've checked a particular patch, there's nothing to do but move along, right?

"Take your time," Hubby advises. "Really look." He says the words with an the-angels-are-upon-us tone and if he wasn't so darn cute I think I'd smack him. Maybe with a chunk of clover.

So I look. I mean, I really look.

Zip. Zero. Zilch. Nada. Niente. Nothing. Three leaves, every one.

"Maybe we don't have any four leaf clovers here?" I offer. I mean, I've read the scoop, know about the oxalis and shamrock and Magnoliopsida -- none of that matters. Genus, classification, whatever. All I want is a four-leaf clover, and I don't care about the scientific name. But hey, maybe we don't have them here! It's possible, right?

Laughing, Hubby kicks the nearest patch of greenery and shakes his head. "Oh, they're there. You've just got to keep looking."

Keep looking? Is he crazy? All this relaxing, sniffing-the-flowers, enjoying life, counting-clover-leaf stuff could drive a person insane!

I persevere. I gaze down. I count. I move along. Like I said, this has been going on for weeks.

Yesterday I was on my way to the greenhouse, near the corn patch, and I stopped. Gazed. Counted. Felt my heart hammer. Counted again. Stooped. Reached. Picked.

A five-leaf clover.

Can you imagine? All this time I've been searching for four leaves when, right here in our backyard, we had one with five leaves?

But hey! Do you think there are any more? Five-leafers, I mean? You know this gives me renewed interest, don't you?

But it also means I've yet to find the elusive four-leaf clover.


Have a great day. Me? I'll be stopping. Gazing...

Friday, May 23, 2008

Keeping Busy

I've got to tell you, I'm really enjoying my hubby's birthday request! *G* He asked that I spend more time with him so I've done just that, working less and relaxing more. It took a few days to settle into the new routine but now that I'm! Who knew relaxing could be so much fun?

I haven't exactly been twiddling my thumbs. The past few days have been overcast and rainy so while we've puttered in the yard during the sunny breaks we've spent a lot of time in the house. What have we been doing? I hoped you'd ask!

Hubby's been getting the basement straightened out. Between us, there's nothing to straighten but hey, if he feels the need to fine tune it's all right by me. Keeps him happy? All good.

I've spent a lot of time sewing. I don't know if I told you all but last year I made fifteen quilts to give as Christmas gifts. That's right, fifteen. I know, I know...I should have my head examined. But I think we made a lot of people happy with our heartfelt gifts and that's really important to us so it was definitely worth the trouble. But I have steered mostly clear of sewing quilts since then. Can you blame me?

This week I got back in the quilting saddle and I'm having a blast. So far I've stitched two baby quilts and a table runner for our kitchen table. Last night I cut the pieces for a pinwheel quilt so if it rains this weekend I'm set to go to work. This one is going to be a stars and stripes quilt, very boy-ish which is good because both of this week's baby quilts are pink and yellow, definitely girly.

We're heading out to run a few errands this morning. On my list of places to stop is the fabric store. My plan is to pick up a length of muslin to begin a new embroidery project. I haven't done a piece of redwork in years but suddenly I've got the urge. So, muslin and red embroidery floss is on my list along with grill foods and bird seed. Yes, it's going to be a wonderful Friday!

See what can happen when I take some time off? It's almost scary!

Hope you're having a great week. Any plans for the long holiday weekend?

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Hero, Aisle Two

"Petunias. We have to have purple petunias for the window box."

"And some of these snapdragons." The cart rapidly fills. Orange, yellow, pink, purple...they nestle side by side, colors complementing in a crayon box sort of way. "How about geraniums? Want some of those?"

"Why not?"

Why not indeed. We're going to be planting all day long at this rate. But the sun is shining and the weather is warm and we've nothing pressing for the afternoon. Hmm...let's get an extra geranium or two.

When the wagon is so full we can't fit another blossom in it we head to the checkout. Hubby pulls cash from his wallet, hands it over. I pull cash from mine, and when the bill is tallied the cashier gets her due. Then, I turn and hand half the amount hubby gave me back to him. After all, we are partners. Why should he foot the whole bill?


"You're welcome." Accepting the receipt, I head for the wide doors leading to the parking lot. A hand on my arm stills me.

"Why don't you wait here? I'll put them in the car."

"There's a lot of stuff here..."

"No biggie." He grins. "I'll be right back."

"If you're sure..."

"I am." With a nod, and a quick kiss, he accepts the receipt the man outside the door will ask to see and pushes the flower-laden cart through the doors. I watch him leave, then turn back to the store. When he returns we'll head to the side exit and into the adjacent statuary garden.

"How long have you two been together?"

I look up. The cashier grins, and the long line of people waiting to check out (mostly women) stare. I notice the smiles on their faces.

"Twenty five years."

A few murmurs from the crowd. The cashier shakes her head, smiling. "It looks like you've found your match. That man's a hero."

Several women nod in agreement. I nod too.

"That he is."

And they've only seen him in the flower shop. If they only knew...

How was your Tuesday?

Monday, May 19, 2008

Just right

What a busy weekend we had! It was wonderful...we spent most of the warm, sunny times outdoors. We dug. We planted. We stood back and admired the result of our digging and planting. In a few instances we undug. (Undug? Is that a word or did I just make that one up? Whatever. I'm sure you know what I mean!) Then, we dug some more. Planted again. And smiled when we pronounced things just right.

Just right. Isn't that a phrase that brings warmth? I'm sure everyone's idea of just right is different, yet the calm, peaceful feeling that accompanies the words is something we've all experienced.

In the book I'm working on I'm finding a way to the just right for my characters. To tell the truth, while the twists and turns came easily, the just right is giving me a run for my money. I don't want their just right to come too easily but I don't want it to be so ridiculously tough to find that most people would throw their hands up in disgust, walk away and decide there was no just right for this two. No, the just right moment has to be...well, just right. I'll keep working on it and let you know how it's coming.

Until then, simply looking into the yard brings a warm glow to my heart. Oh, and when we weren't working in the yard during the day we were cooking up a storm every evening. Fettucine Alfredo. Brownies. Grilled veggies and pasta. Strawberry shortcake.

Hmm...maybe we'd best schedule more time for exercise. Although gardening counts as a workout, doesn't it? Anyhow, the food was also just right, so all is well here.

What about you? How did your weekend go?

Me, I'm hoping things are just right in your world too.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Wrapping Up

Ah, it's Friday. How many of you are psyched because it's the end of the work week? Quite a few, I'd wager. Good for you! I hope you've got great plans for the weekend. I hope, too, that the weather where you are is glorious.

Me? I've had a great week. Really. Even though I had to go you-know-where on Wednesday. It actually went very well, my yearly weigh-in, although I must confess I'm going to miss my doctor when she moves. A lot. I'm not often ill and you can tell I don't love the yearly exam but I really, really like the doc. She's smart and personable and now that she doesn't wear her white coat when she comes into the exam room my blood pressure doesn't go through the tile ceiling, so it's all good. But now...gotta break in a new doc.


But back to the week. After the doc episode I spent most of Wednesday pottering in the greenhouse. I mean, isn't that what greenhouses are for? Pottering? The amount of pottering I'm doing is substantial but the space allocated for said pottering? Shrinking by the second! My little greenhouse is filled with plants, which isn't a bad thing. It's alarming, however, to see how quickly veggies and flowers will grow given greenhouse conditions. I am in awe of the seedlings whose leaves double overnight. I can almost hear their little green selves stretching and growing. It's great, but my pottering room is being taken over by plant life!

Yesterday I got my hair cut. I've been avoiding the whole hair styling gig for months now. My stylist had a baby and decided not to return to the salon so I've been a head without a stylist for months now. My hair was halfway down my back which would be fine if I didn't pull it into--oh, am I really going to admit this to all of you?--that dratted ponytail everyday. Ugh. The ponytail, it made me feel like I was a teenager but hey, it works at keeping long hair out of eyes. Every time I pulled it back I'd think of the scene in Sabrina where the Frenchman tells her she must do something with her hair because she looks like a horse's tail.

Summoning up my courage, I phoned and made an appointment with a new stylist. Kristen transformed me, and now instead of long hair I've got a shoulder-length cut that looks so good I got compliments on it from perfect strangers when I went to the grocery store! How's that for a nice way to end the afternoon?

I've had a lot of "firsts" recently and forsee a few more in my not-too-distant future but so far it's all working out. Change, even good change, can be unsettling, don't you think? It is for me, at least, because I'll admit I'm pretty much a creature of habit. What about you? Do you jump gleefully into new situations and embrace them? Or are you more like I am, moving cautiously, testing the waters, before deciding whether or not you're satisfied with the new situation?

And how was your week? Any plans for the weekend? :)

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The yearly weigh-in

Today is a red-letter day in our house. Why? I go for my...gulp...yearly physical.

Ugh. That's all, just ugh.

Come on, tell me you're thrilled to see the doctor for your once-a-year, head-to-foot evaluation. Go on, tell me you are. I dare you. I double-dog dare you.

Uh huh, I didn't think so. No one really likes to go. At least I'm not alone in this.

It's not that I don't love my doctor. I do. She's great, even though she's moving soon and I'll have to break in--ah, recruit another doctor to replace her. Yeah, I like her enough that I don't want her to leave. But whether or not I like her (and really, I wouldn't go to a doctor I didn't like and respect) has no bearing on the dread sitting in the pit of my stomach like a concrete egg.

I hate to be poked, prodded and questioned. Especially when the questions are the ones she asks!

Doc: "Are you exercising regularly?"

Me: "Um, sure. Yes, I am." Running down the stairs to grab a diet soda from the fridge counts, right?

Doc: "Getting enough calcium?"

Me, grinning: "I am. Definitely." All that ice cream pays off! Yay!

Doc: "What about salt? You're watching that, right?"

Me: "Of course." Duh. Doesn't everyone brush at least some of the salt off the chips--most of them, anyway--before they eat them? Of course I'm watching my salt!

Doc: "And your blood pressure? It's kind of high right now but that's because you're here, isn't it? I mean, when you're home it's not off the charts, is it?"

Me: "No, when I'm home it's very low. Almost too low, actually." Why not go for it? She might buy that...then again, maybe not.

Doc, raising one waxed brow: "Uh huh. Do I look like I was born yesterday? We'll just assume the pressure is good. For now. So, the lab report indicates you refused the urinalysis I ordered. Why?" Snapping her chart closed, she stares so intently that if her eyes were lasers she would come with a warning label.

Me: "I didn't have to go." No one has to go all the time, do they? Besides, I don't believe in peeing in a cup. Too icky.

Doc: "That's what you said last time."

Me, searching frantically for an answer: "Well,, I didn't have to go then, either." Ha!

Doc: "Fine. Do you have to go now?"

Me: Finally! A question I can answer with complete honesty! "No. I don't."

Yeah, I'm really looking forward to this yearly torture. And if you buy that I've got a bridge I'd like to sell you. Cheap.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Frost-fighting weekend

Brr! That's right! BRR! Here in my neighborhood the nights have been awful chilly. While the days have been gorgeous, nighttime temps are dropping down near freezing. I wouldn't mind, except that I've got a greenhouse full of stuff. I mean, I've been babying some of the plants since February, so I'd hate to see them freeze. The greenhouse isn't heated, so when the thermometer plunges, my little plants start to shiver.

What to do? Well, if you're a nutcase like me, you head out to the greenhouse in the pre-dawn hours and light a kerosene heater in the space. This morning at 3 am that's exactly what I was doing. Yesterday morning, too. After the heater started warming the space I came inside, drank a cup of tea and watched the news while my seedlings stopped shivering. When the sun came up I went back outside, turned the heater off and smiled. It was 80 in the greenhouse and everything is looking good.

Yeah, I know I'm nuts but I've only got two more weeks before I can safely put the plants int he ground. So with five varieties of eggplant, fennel and an assortment of yummy things just beginning to really take off, it's in my own best interest to sleep lightly and be thankful for the heater. It would break my heart to lose everything at this point.

I'm amused that Mother Nature is still waving a frigid fist above the lush, green lawn and spring blossoms. Amused, as long as I can keep her from laying an icy finger on my seedlings!

So there you have it, my weekend. I spent the days in the sun, half the nights sleeping and the other hours keeping watch. What about you? How did you spend your weekend?

Today? Plans to finish tweaking a manuscript. I sent my editor the bulk of it this weekend but I've still got a few chapters to fine tune. So it'll be a busy Monday here with one eye on the screen and the other on the thermometer!

Have a great day! :)

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Happy Mother's Day!

Centerline Showdown

“I don’t know, Sharon. Those horns—they’re pretty loud. Some of those guys sound angry, too. Do you hear them yelling?”

“I hear them.” Squaring her shoulders, the young mother forced herself to ignore the agitated words, some of them coarser than any she was accustomed to hearing, from the driver behind her. He sat the wheel of a big tractor-trailer truck whose rumbling engine made her heart hammer. “Hold my hand. Just take my hand and stand still. They’re not going to run us over if we all just stay right here.”

“Are you sure?” Behind thick lenses, Lorette’s eyes were awash with unshed tears. “You’re sure? They won’t just run over us?”

“Of course I’m sure,” Sharon said, reaching out and clasping the other woman’s hand. She gave it a squeeze, then turned to the neighbor who stood on her other side. “Louise, take my hand. Grab Sue’s hand. We’ll make a blockade with our bodies. It’ll be fine. We don’t have to stand here long—just long enough for someone to notice and do something.”

Ten women joined hands, stretching their arms so they formed a chain that blocked both lanes.

“I think people have already noticed.” Louise grit her teeth as the truck behind them gave another deafening blast. “Oh yeah, they’ve noticed all right. I didn’t realize the road was this busy.”

Sharon nodded. Busy? That was putting it lightly. Vehicles, a lot of them enormous Mack trucks like the one behind her, shot through this stretch like it was a speedway and they were going for the checkered flag.

Before the last school board meeting she wouldn’t have considered stopping traffic anywhere, least of all here where it was so dangerous. But now someone had to take a stand. She figured it might as well be her that stood—even if it meant doing it on the yellow line.

“Listen, lady, you’re gonna have to move.” The policeman’s silver badge reflected the chrome grille behind her. Sharon swallowed, forcing herself to meet his gaze. He was older, his face lined in an I’ve-seen-everything sort of way. She wanted to accommodate his request but couldn’t back down. “You’re obstructing traffic. Can’t you see that?” The man’s tone was kind.

“Yeah, you’re obstructin’ traffic, lady! Why don’t ’cha move?” The trucker with the polished chrome and roaring engine called. Thankfully he had stopped honking his horn. “Get outta the way!”

“Listen, pal, let me handle this. You’ll be truckin’ in no time. Just chill out.” The policeman placed his hands on his hips and looked up into the face of the fuming truck driver. When the man nodded, the cop turned back to the problem at hand. “See? You’re putting a dent in the morning rush hour. Don’t you see what a problem you’re causing?”

“I do, and I’m sorry.”

“So you’ll leave.” It wasn’t a question. “You seem like nice ladies. Just go on home and do whatever it is you usually do on Monday morning. No harm done. We’ll all just forget about this little incident.”

“We’re not leaving.” Sharon’s voice was calm and even, although her insides quivered as she spoke. “We’re not going anywhere.”

Furrowing his brows, the policeman asked, “Why not?”

“Because this isn’t a safe intersection.”

“All the more reason you shouldn’t be standing in the middle of it,” the cop said.

A crowd had gathered. Drivers who were stuck too far back to see what was going on had left their vehicles and walked close. Residents, hearing the commotion, clustered on the sidewalk. The police cruiser’s swirling red light had attracted still greater attention.

“I agree with you.” The women had dropped hands with the arrival of the police car. Now Sharon clutched the handle of her baby’s carriage with a sweaty grip. “We shouldn’t be here, but we’re going to stay.”

“Just why are you here, exactly? I’d like to know what could get a group of housewives to stand in the middle of the street like this. There’s got to be a reason—what is it?”

“The district is going to stop using buses to transport the elementary school children.”

“I’d heard that. But what does that have to do with this?” He waved his arm, a sweeping gesture that took in the women, their strollers and the traffic surrounding them.

“There’s no traffic light here. Cars, and trucks—” Sharon paused, turning to glare at the driver hanging from his window behind her. “Trucks like that one—zoom along this road too fast. Crossing here is dangerous but that’s what our kids are going to have to do if the school board takes away our buses.”

The man in blue stuck his thumbs in his belt loops and rocked back and forth on his heels. “Ah, so you live on the opposite side of the street from the school, then?”

Sharon shook her head. “No. My house is on the same side as the school.”

The man’s brows pulled close. “So your kids—you do have kids, don’t you?” He peered into the baby carriage, scowling at the doll beneath the blanket. “Real kids?”

“Two. I have two children, a daughter and a son. This is my son’s carriage.”

“But that’s not your son, is it?” The cop’s tone was still friendly, although his words held a hint of sarcasm.

“No, that’s not my son. It’s my daughter’s doll. I wouldn’t think of bringing my baby into this traffic. No way!”

“That’s good to hear. But let me get this straight…your kids won’t have to cross the street to get to school. These ladies? Will their children be using this intersection?”

The women all shook their heads.

“So none of your children will have to cross this intersection?”

“No, but a lot of others will need to cross. That’s why we’re here.”

“You’re going to tie traffic up until the children show up? Is that the plan? I can’t allow that, you know. I’ll have to take you down to the station if you don’t leave soon.”

“We just want to bring attention to the fact that this is a busy spot.” Sharon turned to her companions. They nodded, silently backing her up. “We want people to realize it’s not safe for anyone’s children to cross here without a light and a crossing guard. We wanted to show everyone how much traffic uses this road. It’s not all right to put our children in jeopardy, leave them to the mercy of truck drivers and delivery vans. Something needs to be done to keep them safe. Don’t you see that?”

“Oh, I see it, all right.” The policeman pulled his uniform cap from his head. He plowed his fingers through his hair, a resigned grin on his face. “I see it, clear as day.”

A voice from the crowd called, “Over here! Smile!”

The flash from the photographer’s camera took Sharon by surprise. The snapshot caught her standing in front of the Mack truck, her hands on her baby carriage and the truck’s grille looking like huge chrome teeth about to swallow her whole. The grinning cop, cap in hand, stood beside her.

The photograph appeared in a Long Island newspaper in 1967 and was enough to draw attention to the situation.

A traffic light was installed and bus service continued uninterrupted. The traffic-stopping mothers taught their children the valuable lessons of standing up for what’s right and not ever backing down—even when faced with huge, horn-honking, chromed opposition.

© 2008 by Sarita Leone

Saturday, May 10, 2008

What a surprise, eh? Not!

Your Heart Is Purple
For you, love is about establishing and developing a deep connection.
If it's true love, it brings you more wisdom and inner strength.

Your flirting style: Sincere

Your lucky first date: An afternoon at a tea house

Your dream lover: Is both thoughtful and expressive

What you bring to relationships: Understanding
What Color Heart Do You Have?

Friday, May 09, 2008

Globetrotting art

A while back my Australian friend Jude sent me a card featuring the art of Beverly Skurulis. Jude's famous around here for sending fun surprises that bring her world right into ours. She gives us a glimpse of what for her is everyday but for us smacks of the extraordinary. I love mail with Jude's handwriting on it!

Anyhow, Beverly Skurulis is an Australian artist and I've got to tell you I just love what she does. I love the bright colors and fun, almost edgy feel her art has. It's beautiful and playful all at once, and just makes me smile.

I've had the card Jude sent matted and framed and it looks fabulous hanging in my office. Sometimes I stare up at it when I'm struggling to find just the right word. It's become one of the things that helps bring serenity to my world. Thanks Jude!

Oh? The card Jude sent? It's called One for the Tucker bag. Very sweet, and I love it.

And when I've got the odd moment to troll the Internet? Invariably I head back to the artist's site and take a peek at her work. I enjoy doing this, so I thought you might, too. From Jude to us to you, the art of Beverly Skurulis.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Cooperstown in the afternoon

We live close enough to Cooperstown that it's an easy trip for us. We go there frequently, especially during the warm months. So yesterday afternoon when we didn't have anything much planned, having lunch in Cooperstown seemed like a very good idea.

Thought I'd share some pix with you. I know the first is kind of fuzzy but I just love those hills beside the lake and it was the only way to show them without having a bunch of boats (and waving strangers!) in the foreground.

I've got to admit that The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper is one of my favorite books so it's no shocker that I'm a fan of Fenimore House.

The house is beautiful, the grounds are gorgeous and just walking through the rooms, halls and gardens where the man himself found inspiration gives me goose bumps.

Otsego Lake is another of our favorite spots. On a clear day it seems like you can nearly see from one end of the lake to the other. Of course you can't, no matter how clear the day is, but still...
We had a great time. Lunch was fabulous, then afterwards we strolled through the lakefront park. We stopped for ice cream on the way home and it was, definitely, a perfect spring day.
What about you? What have you been up to? I hope whatever you've been doing, it's been bringing you happiness in large measure.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Birds, Bees and Birthdays

Ah, Monday again. I love Mondays.

I hope you all had a great weekend. We had a wonderful time here, even if there were spots that were a bit more overcast and dreary than I would have liked. I spent most of Saturday in the greenhouse. Let me tell you, the place is packed! Flowers and veggies, and even an orange tree, are taking over in there. The plan is to plant the first wave of stuff in the gardens in early June. Then, back to the greenhouse to begin a second wave of flats. This time, perennials for the flower beds. I've decided there are areas that need some extra color so we're putting in some new perennial beds. Along a stone wall, beside the pond and down a slopey part that's murder to cut. So, you see, we're going to be busy as bees these next weeks but--can you tell?--I love doing it.

Oh! Bees! Ours are all out of the hives and doing their jobs, zipping from cherry blossom to apple blossom to apricot blossom to...well, you get the idea. A few years ago we had difficulties with pollination (is this maybe more information than you need? Hmm?) so we got bees. Worked like a charm. Last season we had bushels of grapes and everything got really well pollinated, all thanks to those busy bees.

Not much else going on. Am still banging away at the next mystery but I'm close to the end. I love manuscript endings because it's the point where everything just comes together. I like that, the tidy little package at the end. An "Aha!" moment or two and maybe some hint at what's to come next. Or, maybe a kiss to seal a deal. Who knows? All I can say is I'm happy to be bearing down on the final chapter.

So how did you spend your weekend? Did you relax? Were you bee busy? Or was it a combination of both? Whatever you did, wherever you went, I hope it was satisfying. And I hope you're as psyched to see Monday as I am!

Now, for the birthday part...

Recently my darling husband celebrated a birthday. We love birthdays around here and celebrate for at least a week with silly surprises, special meals and goofy cards. Cake, too, there's always lots of cake--even for breakfast. But the birthday chaos is fodder for another post...

Back to the hubby's big day. Before the actual day I asked him if there was anything special he'd like for his birthday. His answer? "More of you."

Hmm....More of me? What, did he mean for me to gain loads of weight? I thought for a few minutes, then I realized what he meant.

So, I'm giving it to him.

I thought I'd share the birthday gift news with all of you first since it'll affect the time we spend together. Essentially I'm going to cut back on my work schedule and spend long, relaxing days with my hubby. We'll laugh and garden, read and barbeque, but I won't be at my desk as much as I have been.

What does this mean? Not much to many. For hubby and I, it means he'll have more of me. And me of him. Personally, I love the idea. For everyone else, it won't have any real impact on their lives. I'll write less, at least until the fall. And until the fall I'll only blog on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. I'm going to miss my morning blog chat, emails and reading all the blogs whose writers feel like good friends but I'm sure I'll adjust. Because really, spending a lazy summer morning in bed with a good man isn't anything to whine about. And if we get up early and take a long walk in the forest and meadow instead of my sitting on my behind at this desk? I think it'll be a good thing, all around.

Birthday wishes should come true. This one is in my power to grant, so I'm going to do it. It's what he wants. He deserves it and I'm giving it to him.

I hope you understand. So, I won't be here tomorrow but I'll be back on Wednesday. And I'll do my best to visit everyone's blogs and keep abreast of emails but if I slip a little I hope you'll give me some slack.

Oh! If you get the chance to slow down a bit, breathe the warm, sultry summer air or spend an evening chasing fireflies with those you love, I hope you take it. I truly believe that some of the most treasured memories come from spending ordinary days with special people. I'm hoping we make some extraordinary memories this summer. I hope you do, too.

See you Wednesday. Until then, have fun. :)

Friday, May 02, 2008


Do you think it's possible to be homesick for somewhere when you're, ah, well...already home? I do. Because I am, and have been for, oh, I don't know...maybe six years? Yeah, you heard me right. I've been homesick from home for a place I don't live for over half a decade.

And you thought I was normal, didn't you? Ha!

All right, the explanation. We used to have a house on one of the most wonderful places on earth. We sold it about six years ago. At the time we planned to buy another home there but to make a long story short we couldn't find one to suit our needs. So we let the idea go but even though the idea went, love for the place lingers. In a really big way.

A few years ago I wrote a murder novel called Sniffing Sand, set on the place that makes my heart homesick. It's the first in a series of books set there so I get to revisit the island over and over again--at least in my mind and on my screen. Sniffing Sand releases in July, by the way. The second novel in the series, Sandswept, releases this December. It's what I've been working on for the past few weeks, and what's made my usually controlled homesickness rise to the surface.

Who ever said love is easy?

So where's the spot that calls me home? Chincoteague Island, in Virginia. I love, love, love the place. It's like heaven on earth and there isn't a day I don't contemplate the roar of the ocean, feel the golden dunes beneath my toes or hear the birdsong that fills the air over that island. I love where we live but there'll always be a special spot in my heart for Chincoteague.

Have I said I love the place? Oh, right. So, anyway...

Working on Sandswept, going back every day to the place where we spent so many happy times, makes me want to go back. Not just in writing world but in real life. And my desire to go there isn't just a small, niggling thing--I want to go back in a big way. Big. Really.

Last night I dreamed we were there, walking on the beach. I saw the water, smelled the salt, smiled at the whelks littering the sand. Then I woke up.


This morning I was reading the New York Times when a headline caught my eye.

Paddling, Wining and Dining on the Other Eastern Shore

You didn't think I didn't know where that was, did you? Before my mouse moved I knew and a grin stole over my face. Then--the article! Pictures--of home!

Yeah, I'm homesick. Just so you can see what posessess me, the article.

Is there a place that calls you home, even from home? Somewhere you love and would return to in a heartbeat? Half a heartbeat? Please tell me there is. I'd hate to think I've got some weird mental homesick illness or, worse even, am the victim of an island mind and heart takeover and will need, I don't know, a location exorcism or some such gruesome thing.

I'd much rather it's a case of plain, ordinary homesickness.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

A Tale of Two Friends

Do you remember the old Bette Midler song? I think it was called "Friends" and the first lines went like this:

Oh, you got to have friends,
the feeling's oh so strong.
You got to have friends
to make that day last long.

Yeah, I know. Nothing earth-shaking and even kind of hokey but what can I say? The words have been stuck in my head for days now.

Do you have close friends? I hope you're nodding, thinking, "Uh huh. I've got 'em." Do you have one really close friend? You know, the one you call for--well, everything? Again, I hope you're smiling, nodding and thinking, "Oh yeah. I've got a friend like that."

Why do I ask? Recently I got a wonderful email from a reader who wanted to tell me how much she enjoyed Vineyard Mambo. Of course any nice reader mail is always appreciated but this one really made me think. One of the comments was about the strong female relationships in my stories. This reader liked the fact that most of my heroines have a tight connection with another woman. It made everything more realistic, she said.

I smiled. What a great observation! I thought about what she'd said. I realized she's got a point. I do generally have a strong friendship in almost everything I write. Why? Because friendships are important to me, plain and simple.

I believe in women supporting each other, through good days and not-so-good ones. I believe in female friendships that, hopefully, last a lifetime. Similar to a marriage, having a close friend is something that makes the ups and downs of this crazy ride we call "life" much more interesting. In some spots it can turn the unbearable into something tolerable, a grin into side-splitting laughter and even the most mundane into something extraordinary. A best friend can bring laughter from tears, and that's a gift not everyone in your life can give.

Me? I could tell a tale of two friends, talk about a bond that's lasted nearly--eek!--three decades. I could share moments of joy and heartache, go on about shouldering burdens and celebrating success. There are stories of motherhood, godmotherhood, gardening, Christmases and countless every days, but I'll save those for another time.

I certainly won't give away any long-held secrets. Talk about drinking green beer and losing a car? Nope, won't let that one out of the bag. Giggle over midnight runs from fraternity houses? Ha! You won't get that info from me! Not today, at least...

There's an immeasurable comfort that comes from sharing a close relationship with a dear friend. It's a good feeling to know, deep down inside where it really, really counts, that you're not alone. Not now. Not ever. No matter what life flings at you, there'll be someone to share it with. What more can anyone ask?

So this reader was very much on-target with her observation about friendships in my stories. I know there has to be a hero and a heroine in each. Sometimes a murder victim, and a killer--or two!--as well. But I also believe there has to be a friend. A real, thick-and-thin, lifetime friend.

I'm lucky, because I know someone who fits that bill in my life. It's said it's easiest to write what you know and the experience of having a dear friend is one I understand. It's an experience I try and gift to each of my heroines because I know it matters. A lot.

This morning, with that ridiculous song bringing a grin to my face, I am thankful for someone special. Someone who runs when she needs to, brings depth to the funny times and helps find clarity in the scary ones and just really, truly makes my life richer with her existence.

So, even though I know she knows who I'm talking about, I have to credit my friend Annie for being part of every "friend" in my stories.

Thanks for yesterday, Annie. And all the yesterdays before yesterday. And thanks for today. And for tomorrow, and all the tomorrows after tomorrow. You're the best.

Which brings me back to my original you all have an Annie in your life? I sincerely hope you do. One other thought...when was the last time you let your friend know how much she means to you? I ask because I think that sometimes we get so busy we forget the importance of actually telling people they are special, that they have an impact on our lives. I know I do but hey, that's a topic for another day.

Sort of like the green beer story. Now that's something to write about!