Wednesday, April 30, 2008

From the land of snow

Okay, I'll admit it. I've been a bit preoccupied lately. Have you noticed? Or have I hid it as well as I hoped?

Just feeling like I'm juggling as fast as I can. On the one hand I'm trying to catch up with all the stuff that slid when we walked through the valley of scary health. Good news is that health is less scary now and yes, I am catching up. Whew!

Of course there's always (if you're fortunate) the other hand. And that hand is the one that holds all the things that are coming up...deadlines of all shapes and sizes. I've triaged them, put a priority on each item and am plugging away at the list. So that hand shows progress, and promise. All in all, everything is going well.

Still, it takes a lot of energy to juggle this fast. I must admit that although I'm enjoying these days I'm looking forward to a time in the very near future when I'll be able to sit back, cross my ankles and smile at the sky from the hammock. I'll drink pink lemonade, read racy romances and forget all about juggling. For a while, that is. Because really, we all know that a juggler can never really put her balls to rest, now don't we?

What about you? Are your spring days nuts, too? Or are you already kicking back? From reading blogs I'm pretty sure I already know the answer to that one. Still, I thought I'd ask.

And yes, I was serious when I wrote the post title. It is snowing outside. And no, I'm not happy about it! :)

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Chocolate for everybody!

Fun, fun, fun! Isn't that part and parcel of summer living? I spent the whole weekend planting (yes, Dru, I did manage to plant 35 trees this past weekend! Thanks for asking!) and in the greenhouse so it feels like summertime fun. And although it's not officially summer, I'm feeling decidedly summer-ish now that the tulips are blooming. So last night I whipped up one of my favorite fun, easy, yummy desserts. It's so simple--and yummy! Did I say it's yummy yet?--that I thought I'd share it with all of you. Maybe you'll find this decadent dessert is one that blows your skirt up, too.

So how do you make Chocolate Brownie S'mores? Easy, very easy. And yummy--oh? I said yummy? Oops! Sorry!

First of all, I can't take the credit for this creation. I saw the recipe on a box of brownies. I don't remember which one it was, but there you have it. This is a pilfered recipe. But it's yu--well, it rocks.

The basis for the whole shebang is a rectangular pan of brownies. Whip up whatever kind you prefer, bake them in a long pan and when they're done baking take the pan out of the oven--but don't turn the oven off. While the brownies are hot, dump a couple of handfuls of mini-marshmallows on top. Then sprinkle a few handfuls of milk chocolate morsels on the marshmallows. Yeah, my take on this is very scientific. Just add enough marshmallows and chocolate until you feel the "right" amount is there. Then, pop the pan back into the oven and bake until the stuff on top gets sort of melty. You'll know when that's "right" too. When everything is gooey, pull the brownies out of the oven. Turn the oven off and place pan on a cooling rack. Put graham crackers which have been broken into quarters or halves on top of the melted chocolate. Mash the crackers down slightly. Don't break the crackers, just make sure they're sort of smooshed into the melted chocolate. And yes, smooshed is a technical term! :)

Now the hard part: wait until the brownies cool before cutting. Cut them along the lines of the graham crackers. I like to add a scoop of ice cream and some whipped cream to this but hey, you don't have to. They're still awesome without any embellishment.

So now you know what I did last night. What about you? What was the highlight of your evening?

Monday, April 28, 2008

Rainy Days and Mondays...

...always make me smile. I love rain. I love Mondays. So it's all good. Welcome to a new week. :)

On the reunion front, I've received a couple of emails from old classmates! How exciting is that? A few have tracked me down via my website and others have responded thru the email address I posted when I asked if anyone knew where my old friend Lisa is.

Yoo hoo...Lisa?...Yoo hooooo...

I'm getting such a kick out of catching up with these people I can barely talk about it without smiling. It's interesting to hear what they've been up to, find out what they've done and where they are. So many have done such different things than they expected --or planned--or hoped!-- to when they graduated high school. I'm intrigued by the stories they tell about their lives up to this point.

There are, unfortunately, some serious updates. Evidently a good number of classmates have passed away. We're not that terribly old, yet it's a sobering fact many of us are no longer here. That just makes me sad.

I'm enjoying catching up with my long-lost friends. I'm hoping more give a shout out and let me know what they're doing. Still not certain we'll attend the reunion in the fall but at least I'm getting a chance to renew some important relationships.

As I said, one of the most interesting parts of this whole catching-up thing is hearing about how life's turned out different than planned for so many. Me, my life has been, thankfully, just what I'd hoped. My biggest desire was to find love and have a happy, successful marriage. That, thank God, has been the case. And I wanted to be an author when I "grew up" so although I don't always feel entirely "grown up" my writing dream has also been realized.

What about you? Is your life turning out how you'd planned it to? Are your high school dreams coming true?

Five Angel Monday!

What a way to begin a week! I'm pretty much out of my mind here so please bear with me. Fallen Angel Reviews has given Vineyard Mambo Five Angels and a Recommended Read!

I must look like an imbecile sitting here in the dark, in my jammies, grinning. An imbecile or a pervert, one or the other.

Hmm...I don't think I care what I look like right now! I'm too darn happy to give a hoot!

Anyway, part of Cheryl's review:

"...Vineyard Mambo is a must read. Talk about a fun book. The first thing I noticed was the title of each chapter, for example Hot Waffle Kisses or how about Grilled Pizza and Cold Leads. Nonno has a secret romance going on with someone in town. The ending was a happy as well as a good one. As I was reading I could just about picture myself living in Milton Falls.

Sarita Leone is such a wonderful prolific writer. I can’t wait to read more books by this author."

Do I really need to say I'm over the moon about the review? I wonder how long it's going to take before my feet touch the ground?

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Sign of the times?

You know, yesterday I paid $4 for a new (not expired, without Botulism) jar of mayonnaise. I spent $3.49 for a loaf of bread. And the gallon of milk? $3.69.

All that was annoying but instantly forgotten when I pulled into the gas station. The price at the pump? Are you sitting down? Because really, I was glad I wasn't on my feet when I looked up and saw


No, that's not a typo. $3.94.

Long summer car trips? Soon to be another "I remember when..." moment.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Reeling in the years

My high school reunion looms. This fall, actually. I've been giving a lot of thought to old friends and passing time.

This morning I posted a note on our message board at I'm hoping to reconnect with a certain old friend. She and I were really close in school but when I went to college we lost track of each other and now, so many years later--and I shudder when I think of exactly how many years it's been!--I'd like to catch up with her. I really hope I get some leads on her whereabouts. Who knows? Maybe she'll contact me herself!

Lisa...? Yoo hoo... Are you out there...? Lisa...?

Maybe I'll just wait and see if anyone raises a hand, waves an email address or phone number.

And time passes in some unusual ways, especially between the pages of books.

Last night I bought Isabelle and the Outlaw by Loretta C. Rogers. It's a short story from The Wild Rose Press. I don't know about you but I love short stories, especially when they're as entertaining as this one is. I read it early this morning (had another of those 4 am nightmares. Ugh!) and I loved it. A time travel story, Isabelle and the Outlaw has interesting characters and a solid story line that reeled me in so completely I was actually disappointed to see the story end. It is well done and if you haven't read it you might want to check it out. It's the first thing I've read from Loretta Rogers but I'm going to see if she's got a backlist. Reading about Isabelle and her hunky outlaw made up for my monster nightmare! :)

Thursday, April 24, 2008


Oh, it's springtime and the living is light and breezy. That's how it goes, right? Um, no?


Well, here all is light and fun, including my reading choices. Right now I'm loving the heck out of a book my mom gave me for my birthday. It's an early work from one of my favorite authors, Janet Evanovich, called Naughty Neighbor. It is a hoot, one of those books where you smile as you read.

Ms. Evanovich's writing style appeals to me. Sassy and smart, with fun dialogue. Here she pairs an unlikely couple, a woman whose focus is on the more responsible issues in life and a man who is decidedly fun-loving. The fact that there's a pig--yes, a pig!--at the center of this wacky romance only makes me like it more. I'm nearly done with this and honestly I'm going to hate to see it end.

Perfect light, breezy springtime reading, I think.

What about you? Where's your bookmark? And are you enjoying what you're reading?

El Padre Del Vuelo

That's right, The Flying Father. He's still on my mind. I can't help but wonder where he is, whether or not he's all right or if he'll be found. Honestly, it gnawed at me all day yesterday. This morning I checked but there's no new news on the ballooning priest.

No news is good news, right? I'm hoping he's sitting on a beach somewhere, eating cereal bars (he had them with him) and drinking coconut milk (I figure he might find them on his own!) and just waiting for the rescue boat to pick him up. Anything is possible!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Flying Nun

Is anyone here old enough to remember The Flying Nun? Or is my age showing when I admit I watched Sally Field play Sister Bertrille?

I loved that show and for a while I entertained thoughts of being a nun just so I could fly. Then, of course, I realized I had little call--all right, no call--to the vocation. Whether flying without a plane or spaceship was one of the perks or not, I just wasn't up to the challenge of being a nun.

You're not surprised, are you?

Anyhow, seeing Sally Field lift off with a hand on her cornette and a smile on her face was always a good experience. But this morning's headlines, about the missing flying priest, is definitely not uplifting. Apparently he thought he'd raise money by setting a record but his balloons have been found floating in the ocean. He was not attached to the balloons when they were found.

I'm not even going to talk about suspension of belief here because really, what's there to say? If a priest has belief enough to think he should go flying about over an ocean suspended by party balloons, who am I to question it? All I can say is, I hope he's found--alive and well.

As a kid I believed the flying magic was a combination of faith and the cornette. Yeah, I thought a lot of the flying fun rested right on the tips of that white hat. But Sister Bertrille used to say, "When lift plus thrust is greater than load plus drag, anything can fly." So maybe, even without a hat, faith is enough to carry a Spanish priest. I certainly hope that's the case.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Waiting. And watching. And hoping...

...and praying.

Yes. That's really what's been going on here for the last , oh, say 38 hours or so. I've been on husband watch.

Ever do that? Stand sentry over someone you love? Wondering, waiting, watching? My bet is that you have. I think we all have at one time or another. It's part of life. And when this part of life is over--hopefully without incident--we'll sit back, laugh and talk about it. We'll say, "Do you remember?" and, "Boy, I scared you that time, didn't I?" We'll nod, chuckle and grin. We'll be thankful we're smiling instead of shivering at the horror of it.

So that's it. I'm watching. And wa--well, you know the rest.

Why? Yeah, that's the question I've been asking, too. Why? Why? Why, dammit, why? Why don't men read labels before they eat things? WHY?

Okay, I see I'm going to have to back up a bit. Picture this: Sunday afternoon. Bright, sunny day. Warm. Perfect spring weather. Pottering around the yard all morning. Eventually our stomachs growl, as stomachs are wont to do when not filled in a timely manner. We head inside to prepare a quick lunch to be eaten on back porch. Nothing fancy, just sandwiches. Lemonade. Homemade pickles. Maybe some fruit for dessert. See? No big deal.

For me, peanut butter and homemade grape jelly. For hubby? Shrimp salad on a bagel. Still nothing wild and wooly, right? I make my sandwich. He makes his. I watch as he goes to the pantry to retrieve a new jar of mayo for his salad. I pour lemonade, add ice and everything seems great. All good, right?

Outside on the back porch, we eat. Chat. Plan the afternoon. I notice hubby's glass is nearly empty so I go inside to get the pitcher of lemonade. When I open the fridge I spy mayo jar on top shelf. My gaze falls on the label. My heart lodges in my throat as I read

Best if used by March 07, 2007.

Holy. Crap.

We bought the jar last week. Put it in the pantry. Now this rotty old stuff is going down my husband's throat? Good God in Heaven, I think I'm going to have a heart attack! No need to worry about mayo killing hubby, I'm dying where I stand, half-frozen by the frigid refrigerator air!

He's been laughing about the whole thing for, oh, 38 hours and 15 minutes or so. He's highly amused but I just don't get it. Why did he buy a jar of anything without checking the expiration date? And really, why didn't he take a peek before opening the jar and using its contents to make his salad? Why?

Really, this must be one of those man/woman things. It's got to be. Would you not check the expiration date before you eat something? I'm pretty picky about what I put in my mouth so I'm sure you've figured I wouldn't just indiscriminately eat expired--or even close to the expiration date--food.

Just so you know? He hasn't gotten sick. No mad rush to the ER to have his stomach pumped. No violent facial eruptions. Not even a--well, no rumblings of any sort from him. Other than the laughter my concern has brought on.

Oh, and the maa-ing. Yes, maa-ing. You see, when I likened his eating habits to those of a goat, he apparently decided that when in the goatpen he should sound like a goat. Hence, the maa-ing noises that issue from him every time I ask how he's feeling. I'm giving him another 2 hours or so before I quit asking. After that, he's going to be on his own for Botulism Watch.

*Sigh* And you thought life was all roses and champagne around here, didn't you? Ha! The good thing is, I managed to write and watch (andwaitandhopeandpray) yesterday so I got a big chunk added to the wip. Ah, thank goodness for the silver lining!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Tag! I'm It!

I've been tagged! Melissa McClone tagged me to play a cyber-game. I don't generally do these things but it's Monday morning, I'm on the run to my laptop to get writing and this one seems like fun. :)

The rules:

a. Link to the person who tagged you.
b. Post the rules on your blog.
c. Write six random things about yourself.
d. Tag six random people at the end of your post by linking to their blogs.
e. Let each person know they have been tagged by leaving a comment at their blog.
f. Let your tagger know when your entry is up.

It shouldn't be hard to come up with six random things to share but, you know, it kind of is. I asked my husband and he ticked off a list really quickly. (About me, I mean. I should have asked for six random things about him, but I didn't. I will, though. I'll bet his answers surprise me!) Some of the things he named you already know but some you don't so I'm going to use them. The first three are from his list; the last ones are from mine.

Six random facts about me:

1. "No food with a face." In other words, I'm a vegetarian. I have been since I was a kid. Why? I just didn't like the idea of eating anything dead and once the idea was in my head it never again occurred to me to put dead food into my mouth. Habit? Maybe. Whatever it is, I know I won't be anything but a vegetarian in this lifetime. The idea of eating meat gives me the shivers.

2. Purple. My favorite color. Again, something that goes back so long I can't recall a time when I didn't love it. I like other colors, too, but when I have to choose I usually choose some shade of purple. So be warned...if there's ever a time when someone's got to choose a color for something, don't ask me to choose unless you're willing to have the choice be purple.

3. This one surprised me. Not that it's a fact about me, because I know it already, but that my hubby chose it as one of the six things he rattled off. My toenails are always some shade of pink. Usually a medium to darkish shade, but always pink. Never unpolished. Never anything but pink. Except for Valentine's Day, when they're red. How funny is it that he knows that? And sometimes I think he doesn't notice things...

4. Swan Lake is my favorite ballet. I've seen it upteenth times and every time I sit in a theater and watch the dancers it's like the first time all over again. I love it, and will gladly watch it anytime. My poor husband's not as keen on ballet but he indulges me.

5. One of the weird (kind of) things on my "To Do Before I Die" List is ride a camel. I don't know why I want to do this so wholeheartedly, but I do. Especially strange because I'm not really an animal person. Not at all. But riding a camel? I really, really want to do that at least one time before I head out. It would be great if I could do it in Egypt, with the Sphinx looming over us and the sun setting in the background but even if it's in some kiddie zoo I'll be thrilled. Yeah, it's pretty easy to thrill me but no, that's not number six. :)

6. The final random fact about me is... I embroider almost every day. I learned as a young girl and have always enjoyed the peaceful feeling of putting thread over fabric. When I was a teenager my jeans were usually covered with my own designs. We've never had a home without a sampler on the wall. I rarely have time for long stretches of handstitching anymore but I usually manage at least an hour each day. You'd be surprised how quickly a project moves along even in small, consistent stretches!

Now it's my turn to tag six unsuspecting people! I hope they have as much fun as I've had!

I tag:

1. Debbie Wallace
2. Denysé Bridger
3. Nicole McCaffrey
4. Kathleen Grieve
5. Carol A. Spralding
6. Melissa Blue

Thanks, Melissa, for pulling me into the game! :)

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Saturday Morning Quickie

Ha! I'll bet that got your attention, didn't it?

Just stopping in for a fast chat before I head downstairs, then out the door, to begin what will undoubtedly be a busy and tiring, yet satisfying, day. Got lots planned, but first I wanted to visit with you.

So, how's it going? Are you feeling all right? Everything going well for you? I forget to ask these questions. I'm always interested but sometimes, in the hurry-scurry rush to get from point a to point b, I forget. Lo siento! I'm sorry. Forgive me? I'll try and ask more often, but if I don't just give a shout out. Let me know what's up in your world, okay?

Well, a fast glimpse into my life before I have to dash. I'm still shaking my head over something that happened yesterday evening. I thought it might give you a clear idea of what life here in Leoneland is like. :) Ready?

Just in case you have some silly notion that all goes smoother than silk on a goose's butt around here I'm going to let you in on a closely guarded secret. It doesn't. Now, I know I've probably shocked you but it's the truth. We have a great time here but honestly, sometimes things just don't go as planned. Case in point? The installation of an underground water line to the greenhouse.

The greenhouse is a good distance from the house and I've been toting water for the seedlings. Let me tell you, it's been a pain. When my husband decided to install and underground line to make my life easier I couldn't say no. I mean, I'm all for hard work but hey, I'm not stupid.

Last night, just as I was about to begin schlepping jugs, hubby called, "It's done! Drop those buckets! You've got water to your greenhouse."

My heart leapt. Could it be true? Water? Greenhouse? No buckets?

A dream come true.

With a smile, I took the hose nozzle. He's got it set up so the underground line comes up and connects to a standpipe with a hose attached to it. That way, I can either bring water inside the greehouse or hose the flower gardens down. I'll be able to spritz my flower boxes or even turn the sprinkler on in the far vegetable gardens. Really, it's all good.

Or so I thought.

The nozzle is a new, ergonomically correct one that we bought last year but hadn't had a chance to use. When I aimed at the nearest flat and pressed the lever, I expected a fine spray of cool water to gently, lovingly mist our pampered seedlings.

Instead the blasted thing gave me a full-face, hard, cold spray right between the eyes! Within an instant I was drenched. The interior of my little house was dripping. Miraculously, the seedlings remained dry. Bone dry.

Apparently there was a small clear sticker on the end of the nozzle, "protecting" all of the spray holes except the ones around the edge. Those, I now know, work fine. Just. Fine.

So you see, life on the farm is sometimes more slapdash than serious, and we like it that way. I finished watering between bouts of laughter, and now that the greenhouse and I have both had a spring christening I'm sure we'll get lots of gorgeous stuff to grow in the yard. We'll eat, we'll stop to smell the flowers, and we'll laugh. What more could we want?

I plan to till the smaller vegetable gardens today. And the annual flower bed could use some freshening up so I'll add composted leaves and till them under. The day will be filled with dirty moments but when it's over we'll sit on the porch and smile. If I'm lucky I'll be dry but who knows? Around here anything is possible!

What do you have planned for this beautiful Saturday? Whatever it is, I hope you enjoy yourself.


Just wanted to mention there are new posts in From the Kitchen and From the Garden. Short ones but if you're in the mood for something yummy you might want to peek into the Kitchen. Something pretty? Definitely the Garden.

Have a good one!

Friday, April 18, 2008


I discovered this crocus blooming in the center of the yard. Completely out of the bed, apart from the other crocuses, all on its own. It wasn't there last spring. I'm sure it wasn't.

So the question is: why is this pretty little bloom growing all by its lonesome? Was it banned from the bed? Or did it strike out, determined to march to its own drummer and forge its own path?

Still more did it relocate? I mean, really, how did this bulb get from its former home to its present location?

Any ideas?

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Excuse me, please

I've been awake and working since 3 am or so. I've gotten heaps of writing done and feel pretty darn good about it.

Today? I've got one of those crazy, jam-packed-with-obligations sort of days so I don't anticipate having even a minute to spare.

But right now? As the day gains clarity, the unspoiled dew glistening? Oh, the temptation...

I've got nearly an hour to myself. Long, sweet, glorious minutes before I need to dress and dash. I should...

Oh, you know the shoulds of my life by now, don't you?

But if you'll excuse me, I'm going to do something selfish. I won't even stop to dress, I'll just pull on a pair of sweats over my pjs, grab a cup of tea and head out to the greenhouse. Or maybe I'll throw all caution to the wind and take a walk to the pond. You never can tell what's stirring in this quiet moment. Maybe I'll just take a peek...

I hope you all have a good day. Mine is going to be nuts, but that chaos isn't going to begin until, oh, about fifty-two minutes from now. Until then, though, the world is serene. Pardon me while I indulge myself...


Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Blog-ally challenged?

Usually, thank goodness, I sail through my computer experiences without incident. I write. I edit. I blog. No biggie. No great mystery of life, the relationship I have with either of my litle black boxes. Really, no problems.

Until now. Actually, until a few days ago. It's taken me that long to admit I've got an issue. Or who knows? Maybe I've got two--or even three--issues. Me? I don't have a clue but I'm so annoyed I'm contemplating buying a new computer just to get rid of this problem.

Hmm? The problem? It makes me sound like a moron to admit this but we're all friends, right? Okay, here goes...

Everything on the screen is huge. Really. Huge. I mean BIG. The welcome page words. Blogs. The little box I use to post a blog entry. Email is normal size, as is the little box with "Favorite Places" that hangs down the side. The bar across the top is the way it should be. Everything else? Super-sized. Do you have any idea how irritating it is to see mile-high letters? Especially early in the morning?

Like I said, I'm considering throwing the whole thing out the window! The peskiest part is that if I log on using my husband's account, everything is as it should be. Apparently with my account I pressed something I shouldn't have pressed, sometime when I wasn't watching what I was doing or where my fingers were going. Sheesh. Sounds like a dirty movie, doesn't it?

Any words of wisdom? Would appreciate all the help I can get, especially since my patience with the situation is dwindling.

Makes me homesick for the "good old days" when I wrote using a pen and legal pad. Yes, I actually did begin my first novel that way and probably would have finished it like that, too. But my fingers rebelled and the ink ran dry long before the characters in my head stopped talking so I bought this little "modern" device. Usually I love it, but right now, with its enormous letters blurring my vision I'm tempted to open the drawer, reach inside and pull out paper and pen.

All I know is, when I wrote on the legal pad I was in charge of font size. Sure, the characters in my mind ran most of the show but the letter size? All mine. Just saying...

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Interviews, the final frontier

I have a confession to make. I am--sometimes--apprehensive about being interviewed. I know, I know, you're probably surprised by that admission, but it's true. I get nervous just thinking about the whole interview thing.

Why? I'm always worried I'll sound like an idiot. Again, the unvarnished truth.

But today I'm being interviewed at Cheryl's Book Nook and I'm pleased to say the whole process was painless and fun. Who knows? I may be getting more comfortable with the experience. Cheryl was so kind when she asked me to do it I automatically said "yes!" and now I'm glad I did. Please, if you've got a minute, I'd love it if you'd head over there and visit with me.

I promise, it's painless and you might even have some fun! ;-)

Gardeners, a friendly bunch

It's true, you know. Gardeners? A really friendly bunch of people, or at least that's been my experience. At the mention of the word garden, a cameraderie blooms. Can't you feel it?

I love it that Amy shared her experience with popping corn. Now I won't be disappointed, like her kids were, when the popped kernels are plain old white. And I'm tickled to learn she likes kale. Me? I'm growing it for the carving sticks. I haven't any idea what to do with the actual kale. If I'm lucky maybe Amy will share her kale tips. Please?

Dru's question about flats reminds me that not everyone plays in the dirt. A good thing to remember when I get started gabbing about seeds, sprouts and, eventually, saplings. Oh yes, the saplings are coming. In a week or so, I believe, but that's a post for another day.

By the way, a gardener's "flat" is a rectangular box, usually plastic but I'm lucky enough to have some really old wooden flats that I use as well as the plastic ones. The flat holds the smaller containers filled with soil and seeds. In big greenhouses most seedling cell packs are black plastic but I use peat pots and peat cell packs. That way when I plant, I plant the whole thing. Much easier for me. Hopefully better for the plants and garden.

Marianne, a fellow gardening enthusiast, wants to visit my greenhouse. I would love that! We could gab about writing and weeds. It sounds like fun, doesn't it?

Even on the other side of the world, gardening interest blooms--literally! My friend Jude sent lovely pictures of her barrel cactus. It's three years old (I asked) and a specimen any plant lover would enjoy seeing. If she says it's all right, I'll share the photos with all of you. I still can't figure out just how big it is because when I asked she gave me some centimeter answer that my old-math mind didn't translate into inches so I'm still clueless about how big this thing actually is. In gardening, size matters, you see, and I'm wildly curious but, like I said, without any idea. All I know is I think she should mail it over so we can all get a good look at it. Sounds like a plan, doesn't it?

Yesterday I shot over to Home Depot to pick up, what else?, more gardening supplies. Seeds, the stuff that doesn't require any more than two or three weeks' headstart, like cukes and some flowers, were fun to pick out. And I got zucchini, beans and the rest of the direct-sow seeds. Most of them, anyway. I'm sure there's something I forgot. (Trust me, I didn't forget anything. I just like to go look at the garden center plants.)

While I chose seeds I made a friend. A man friend. See? Meeting a man can happen in some unlikely spots, can't it?

Hold on to your hats, ladies! This man friend was probably in his eighties. A gardener, with obviously loads of experience, he was eager to talk. We compared the merits of determinate versus indeterminate tomato varieties (he favored indeterminate) and had an all-too-brief discussion about single-color, themed flower beds. We agreed we both enjoy multi-colored beds more but understand the monochromatic enthusiasts', well, enthusiasm for keeping flowers a uniform color.

Too quickly we parted but the memory of our meeting lingers. I enjoyed talking with the mystery gardener for so many reasons. He was a wealth of knowledge. He'd probably forgotten more about gardening than I know. He was funny, with a keen wit that made itself clear when he spoke about one-color gardens. And there was a sparkle in his deep brown eyes that gave me a hint at the man he was, long before age left its mark on his body. So many things he said and did in the short span of our acquaintance are imprinted on my mind, but what made the biggest impression on me was the love that lit his expression while we talked. Not love for a woman, but a deep, undeniable appreciation for the soil and growing things. He was a true gardener, and our friendship, although short, was based on that mutual love and respect.

This morning I'm headed out to the greenhouse. I'm going to play in the dirt and smile as I consider gardening, gardening friends--old and new--and the bounty that will be growing in our corner of the world this year. It's going to be a pretty summer, I just know it is.

Monday, April 14, 2008

From the Greenhouse

Saturday was gorgeous here, so of course we spent a lot of the day outdoors. And boy, did my muscles forget what yard work was! Pretty funny, actually.

The morning hours were spent pottering in the greenhouse. I have two benches filled with planted flats, with another two benches waiting to be filled. So far we've got eggplants, peppers, tomatoes and basil growing. A few other things are sprouting but since they're still pretty tiny I'm not going to count them as growing yet. A lot can happen to a sprout before it becomes dinner so I'll let you know on some things as they get further along.

What have we got planted in the greenhouse? There's way too much to mention, and I'll probably forget a lot of it, but aside from the above four there are flats of zinnias (purple, of course!), acorn, butternut and Lakota squashes (all winter varieties, with long growing requirements so I try and get them started early), delicata squash, artichokes (again, a purple variety that's so gorgeous it's almost a shame to eat them), cosmos and marigolds, carnations and bellflowers, lupine and some other varieties of perennials, as well as all the stuff I've forgotten. I've also decided to begin another herb garden near the greenhouse so I planted thyme, chives, oregano and dill.

Still to come? The usual stuff. Cukes, beans, summer squash, know the rest. All the tastes of summer we all love so much.

There are a few unusual things this year...I planted fennel. Did you know the seeds themselves actually smell like licorice? I ended up planting twice as much as I'd intended to, just because I got such a kick out of the seeds. Walking stick kale, just for fun. This is a kale that grows up to seven feet high, supposedly, with a center stick that can be used for carving. This, I've got to see for myself. Don't worry. If it grows like it's supposed to, I'll take pictures for you to see. Or maybe you've grown walking stick kale already, and can give me a few pointers? Hmm? Also on the sort-of-different list this year is red ornamental popping corn. They'll go in next month or early June, in a separate little garden by the barn. The picture on the seed packet was so pretty I couldn't resist giving them a go. We'll just disregard the fact that I don't like popcorn!

Saturday afternoon I cleaned out the big strawberry patch. I love strawberries, especially those we grow ourselves. It might be my imagination, but home-grown anything just tastes better.

Then, we took a walk in the forest before coming inside. A great way to spend a gorgeous day. It was such a perfect day that we hardly minded the snow that fell yesterday!

Hope you had a wonderful weekend. What kept you busy?

Here come the reviews!

The first reviews for Vineyard Mambo are coming in! I am tickled!

From Review Your Book..."...Vineyard Mambo by Sarita Leone is a tongue- in- cheek murder mystery.Leone has a talent for mixing humor and murder... Fans of suspense will not want to miss Vineyard Mambo."

And from Simply Romance Reviews..."...Vineyard Mambo was a great "palate cleanser". Ms. Leone tells the heartwarming story of family, community, and the love between a man, woman, and a cat... I recommend this book for those days when you feel a little down and out because it will definitely surround you in a warm blanket of love and friendship."

Friday, April 11, 2008

Character without a story

Most of the time I begin a project with a plot in mind. Then, I add the characters. I hadn't realized that point until very recently when an interviewer asked the question, "Which comes first? Character or plot?"

Me, with my warped sense of humor, wanted to say, "The chicken. Of course!" I didn't say that. But I definitely thought it. Told you, warped.

But now that I've realized how most stories evolve for me, I'm faced with a dilemma. You see, on Wednesday I met someone who's just begging for a place in a story. Just. Begging. He doesn't know it, but he's one of the quirkiest people I've ever met -- and let me tell you, I've met a boatload of quirky in my time. This guy? He almost takes the cake.

Now I don't generally base characters on real people. That would be dull as dirt. Better to form them from thin air, and much more fun. Fun for me, I mean. I do, however, pull characteristics from real people into imagined characters. I'm sure everyone does. A twitch from the lady at the grocery counter. The rasping throat noise an insurance agent makes while he fills out a form. The cornflower blue eyes sparkling brightly in an elderly woman's face when she smiles at me. All little things, but they make a difference in the fullness of characters in a story.

Once in a while, I hit the jackpot and find someone who's so out there they could furnish a whole army of characters. This week, the bells and whistles went off the instant. I knew, as soon as I heard his voice, that I'd met the King of Quirk.

Trouble is, he's a character without a story.

Just when I'm nearly finished with the story I'm working on, this guy shows up. The King of Quirk, delivered with a red bow on his head. Great. What am I going to do with him? I ask you, what? What? What?

You know, don't you? This guy? He needs a story.

And I thought I was going to take a break. Go figure.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Death by Blogging?

I've thought of death by flogging. Slogging. Because of fogging. Even from bad clogging. But blogging?

Good grief, what a way to go!

I read this article and although I could understand it, given the hectic pace of news, life and the Internet, I was amazed. I think some of you might be, too. Who woulda thought?

What do you think?

Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got a muse to tangle with.

Before we begin, I'll see if she's wearing any clogs. Or if she's got a photog hidden beneath her togs. Or maybe she'll come armed with a log. Or riding a hog...

Yeah, I'm toast. Don't mind me.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Midnight Hours

I'm possessed. There. I've said it. Out loud. In front of witnesses.

Possessed. Do you hear me?

Since I figured my way into telling the story, I can't get away. I fear I may be possessed, driven by the whip-weilding muse, until the final page is written. No complaints here. I'm loving the way this is going but I'm not getting much sleep.

Sleep can wait, can't it? I mean, I'm half done with the book. I'd been nearly finished with the "original"--more than once, actually, but that damn possessive muse... Forced me to delete big chunks, to move back to a salvageable point and rewrite, using the new slant.

She was right, you know. About the scrapping chunks? Completely on target.

The story is much stronger, now. More interesting, too. I think. I hope.

Oh, what if it's still rubbish?

Y'know, there's always one heckler in the crowd, isn't there? Escort that sucker right out the door! Get outta here, self-doubt! Hit the road!

There. Now back to life in the possessed lane.

Oh? A hint? Just a wee hint about the muse's takeover? All right, if you insist. I've got two words for you. Parallel stories. That's it; it says everything. Or so I'm told -- by some crazy, drill sargeant muse who refuses to shut up.

Have a nice day. I hear it's Wednesday, but who can ever really tell with those things? In my world it's page 153. :)

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Look at the time!

Oh my gosh, look at the time! How can it be this late already? I've lost half the day...and I've been awake since 2 am. How did this happen? Um, you don't think I've stepped into some weird day-shifting, black hole time warp continuum thingy, do you? No, I didn't think so either but I just figured I should check with all of you. Because you know, you've obviously got a better grip on hours than I do.

This must've happened to you at some point or other, hasn't it? Please say it has. Please?

Phew. I'm so glad to hear it has.

Just a fast explanation...I've been working to finish a novel. In bits and pieces, really, but it's been coming along. Nicely, even. It just hasn't been, well...exactly the way I want it to be. Things are good, but not quite as good as I think they should be. The plot? Solid. Characters? Doing what they should be doing. But overall, I just haven't been thrilled.

Then, at 2 am, my eyes flew open. I stared at the ceiling for long moments, listening to my thudding heart. I had it. Really. I had it. The extra bit that would turn the story from all right to just right.

Been working on it all day. The hours? Just flying by. The story? Almost writing itself. The sun? Shining...outside and in. Yes, it's a very good Tuesday!

Hope your day is going well, too. And keep an eye on those hours, you hear? They have a habit of slipping by waaay too quickly. ;-)

Monday, April 07, 2008

Perfect Day

We had the most perfect day yesterday. Chess after breakfast. A little reading time with a second cup of coffee. In the afternoon we worked in the new greenhouse which is an absolute delight in and of itself. We planted flats of veggies and flowers. Took a walk to the pond. As the sun fell low in the cloudless blue sky, we grilled dinner on the patio. Then we sat and talked for a while after we ate. We came inside when it grew chilly, and still managed to watch a couple of good movies before turning in.

What could be more wonderful?

Today -- ahh! All the stuff I neglected yesterday is waiting for me. The list is longer than my arm. But you know what? It was worth it. Today I'll scramble a bit but the warmth of yesterday's perfect day will linger, its fingerprint on my heart and soul. Yes, it was well worth it.

BTW, I'm a guest today at Fantasy Pages, Denysé Bridger's blog. I reveal some things about Anna, the heroine of Vineyard Mambo, that I've kept to myself before now. Too, I give a glimpse at the heroine in the new book I'm writing. She's a pip, to say the least! I hope you'll check the post out, and say "Hi!" while you're there.

Me? I'll be working on my longer-than-usual list today. With a smile on my face. :)

Happy Monday!

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Just because I'm happy

...and I think you should be, too. Happy Sunday!

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Slow Saturday

Despite the weatherman's promise of 60 degree temperatures, we're beginning the weekend with a sleet/rain mix that puts me in no big rush to begin the day.

About an hour ago I went downstairs and mixed up something that's filled the air with the scent of chocolate. Mmm...mouth-watering. My baking timer has only a couple of minutes left on it so I'm going to share the goodness with you and dash before I ruin the snowy morning surprise.

Just as a side note, my husband and I joke that my "cooking timer" is usually the squealing smoke alarm. It's not entirely true but not altogether false, either.

Today, though, I'm going to present the perfectly timed treat with a steaming pot of coffee. We'll eat beside a roaring fire and smile at the sleet bouncing off the French doors. Because really, when Mother Nature hands you ice balls, what can you do besides grin and bear it? :)

From my most recent cookbook, Tea Time, a recipe that I love. I hope you do, too.

Have a great weekend!

Chocolate Loaf

½ cup softened butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1½ cups flour
3 T. cocoa
1 t. baking soda
1 t. salt
1 t. cinnamon
1 t. vanilla
½ cup sour cream
½ cup chopped nuts, optional
½ cup chocolate morsels

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Grease and flour two loaf pans.

Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs.

Combine dry ingredients.
Add to butter mixture.
Add vanilla, sour cream, nuts
and chocolate morsels.

Pour batter into pans.
Bake for 60 minutes.

Friday, April 04, 2008


Oh, I told you love was in the air this week! I tried to warn you that I'm as befuddled as the cooing doves and paired off robins. I can't help but sigh when I see daffodils and tulips poking up through soil in the garden beds. They make me think of bouquets, and bouquets make me smile because--you guessed it--they remind me of weddings. And really, what's more romantic than a spring wedding? Except maybe a summer wedding...or a winter wedding...or a wonderful, crisp autumn wedding. Yes, romance has swept over me as surely as the smell of decomposing leaves uncovered by melting snow... oh, right. Rotting, need-to-be-raked leaves aren't wildly romantic, are they? Hmmph. Well, just forget about the leaves. Believe me, romance overpowers leaves any day!

The romantic befuddlement has extended this week to influence my reading choices. I usually read one or two romances each week but this week it's been all romance, all the time. And you know what? It's been fun!

First I read Good Husband Material by Kara Lennox. I loved this story, for a lot of reasons but mostly because it is well written. Too, the ages of the main characters was a refreshing change of pace. I also loved the idea that the couple met again at their high school reunion. I have a reunion coming up this year, so the whole topic makes me smile.

Then I read For Jessie's Sake by Kate Welsh. It is a heartwarming story with a focus on a sweet little girl who deserves the best the adults surrounding her can give her. I was completely captivated, pulled into the romance and reality in a heartbeat.

Now I'm set to dive into a book by Sally MacKenzie called The Naked Gentleman. I've never read anything by this author and have absolutely no idea what the book's about but this is sincerely a case of the cover selling the book. I saw it, smiled, and walked straight to the cash register. The cover is simple, featuring a top hat and two hearts, the title and author's name, but it just grabbed me. I hope it's as good as I want it to be. I'll let you know.

So there you have it, romance in the air, on the breeze and in the pages, too. Oh, and we are celebrating our wedding anniversary this weekend. Maybe that's part of why we're so immersed in romance these days.

What are you reading this week? Whatever it is, I hope you're enjoying yourself as much as I am. :)

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Painting Frenzy

"I begin with an idea and then it becomes something else." - Pablo Picasso

I love to paint. Are you surprised? I know I haven't mentioned that about myself yet, that I really enjoy painting, but I do. A lot. So there, now that I've said it, you know. I love to paint.

Usually it's walls, or sheds, or garden structures I'm taking brush to. But in any event, I love to paint.

Pardon? Canvas? Um, no. I don't generally paint on canvas. Not unless you count that one pair of sneakers I tye-dyed in college... Yes, I do love painting, but my talents aren't particulary artistic. I just love the feel of bristles on something--anything. One of our barn's doors haven't weathered well this past winter so I'm planning to give them a fresh coat of cheery barn red paint this weekend. Truthfully, I'm already thrilled by the prospect.

Yeah, I know. It doesn't take much to please me, does it? I love the feeling of unaccountability that comes with painting. It gives me the chance to let my mind wander. Naturally, when I paint I "write" in my mind. I find some of the easiest plot smoothing and dialogue polishing comes during mindless tasks. So, I embrace the paintbrush!

But I've got to admit I do enjoy art. Real art, I mean. I can't do much more than draw a wavery stick figure but I love art. My tastes are eclectic in this area, as they are in so many other areas. I'm open to almost any style of expression, as long as it's not too gory or grisly.

Last summer we went to a Grandma Moses exhibit and I loved it. I actually went back twice, just because I wanted to experience the paintings again. I love her primitive style, and the attention to detail. Grandma Moses' scenes have so many things almost hidden in them. I could spend days "discovering" the layers in her paintings.

Recently I read through a bunch of quotes. I have a habit of filing a quote if it interests me, or makes me think, and I noticed a few came from Pablo Picasso. His mother reportedly said his first word was "pencil"--isn't that interesting? My mom says my first words were "ice cream"--no surprise there.

Although I don't particularly enjoy everything Picasso painted--and I definitely don't agree with how he lived or a great deal of what he said about women, life or much else not art-related-- I appreciate his sketches. The simplicity of the line drawings is lovely and encourages me to look beyond a first impression. I look deeper, see the curve in a smile or the tension in an elbow. I begin to feel the drawing. I recognize myself, or someone or something I know, in a line less wavery than any I'll ever draw. In that instant a connection is made, an appreciation felt. Yes, I love his drawings.

His words, the ones related to creativity, leave an impression on me. Do they touch you in any way? Or is there another artist who leaves a fingerprint on your heart?

"Inspiration exists, but it has to find us working." - Pablo Picasso

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Love is in the air

Yes, it is. Really. I wouldn't pull your leg, now would I? Well...all right, I might attempt to pull a fast one--sometime--but not now. I'm serious, love is in the air, despite the flag-flapping wind that's threatening to blow branches from trees and birds from nests.

Love is in the air. I can smell it.

Don't laugh. I can hear you, scoffing at my olfactory senses.

Smell love? In the air? Why, the woman must be cracked!

See? I told you I could hear you!

Hmm? You want proof that springtime love is being buffeted--ahem, I mean drifting through the hills and valleys? Proof? That's easy.

Just look outside your window. What do you see? Robins, flapping in two by two? Buds on lilac bushes? Love, definitely, in those buds. By the way, did you know lilacs are symbolic of first love and innocence? It's true. So really, there's no getting past the romance in those gangly branches bending in the breeze.

What else do you see? Do you have snowdrops poking up through a stubborn layer of the white stuff? Snowdrops symbolize hope, and what's more hopeful than, you guessed it, love? Are your tulips pushing up through the soil? Love. Daffodils? Joy and devotion. Are you somewhere warm, where rosebushes may already be blooming? Yeah, love's coming up all over, isn't it?

And what do you hear being wind-thrown through--um, wafting in through an open window? Cooing doves, pairing off and pecking gravel? Love. Swallowsong as they feather their nest? Uh huh. Feathering a nest together, now that's pretty romantic.

Do you remember the first time you feathered a nest with someone? *Sigh* I do. Saying it's romantic doesn't quite do the experience justice, does it?

Love is, without a doubt, in the air. All we have to do is brave the breeze and be open to seeing it. Soon the spring winds will die down and the world will calm, and love will take hold in a more prominent display. Until then, we've got to recognize love when we sense it.

Me? I sense it. I hope you do, too. By the way, that Morning Glory, with its heart-shaped leaves, stands for affection. This morning I planted a flat of Morning Glories in the greenhouse.

I can't wait to see them blooming in the yard. Soon. Then love will really be blooming all over!

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Empire of the Sun

Recently we watched Empire of the Sun on DVD. Directed by Steven Spielberg, it was released in 1987 and nominated for six Oscars. We had seen it before, but not in a long while. Watching it again, it was just as powerful and gripping as it had been when we'd first seen it in the theater.

A heartwrenching coming-of-age story set in Shanghai in 1941, it tells the tale of Jamie Graham, a little boy who is separated from his parents when the Japanese invade. Young Jamie is forced to make his own way through a world that has suddenly turned upside down. No longer enjoying the privileged lifestyle he's known all his life, Jamie is swept along in the chaos. Of course he learns and grows along the way, and makes acquaintances he never would have made if the invasion hadn't taken place. Some friendships and experiences, despite Jamie's diminished circumstances, are good. Some are, as you can well guess, not as wonderful.

The story was written by J.G. Ballard, who had his first novel published in 1962. He was 32 at the time, and he has made his living writing professionally since that first publication. The first novel? It was called The Wind From, isn't that an interesting title? His most recent endeavor is his autobiography, called Miracles of Life. He is, unfortunately, suffering from cancer. I wish that wasn't so, but it is. My thoughts and prayers are with him.

So you're probably wondering why I'm going on and on about a movie, right? Well, it's because this film is one that made a big impression on me when I saw it when it was first released. And I've got to say that every time I've seen it since, it's moved me. Greatly. It's left its impression on me. Made me think. Why? Because Empire of the Sun is a well-written, solid story. Regardless of whether or not it's a favorite genre, or filled with a cast of superstars, there's no denying it's stellar storytelling. The characters, dialogue and plot are fly-off-the-page/screen realistic. There are moments when I cringe. Others when my throat tightens. Despite the setting, there are even moments that call for laughter. Only superb storytelling could elicit such a range of emotions.

I've never read any of Mr. Ballard's novels besides Empire of the Sun but I fully intend to do so. Maybe I'll spend some long, lazy afternoons this summer and dive into his impressive body of work. Read his stories beneath the big maple tree in our yard. It's dark and dreary outside my window now, so this summer reading plan sounds like a good one. I'll let you know how it works out for me, all right? Give you updates on my discovery of a new-to-me author.

I already know I'm going to love his books, even though I've only read one so far. How do I know? The quote below convinces me. :)

"I've never suffered from writer's block. I have plenty of ideas, sometimes too many. I've always had a strong imagination. If it dries up I'll stop and look for another career. But I wouldn't recommend writing. You can be a successful writer and never meet another soul. I'm not sure that's a good thing." -- J.G. Ballard