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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Revolving Resolutions

It’s that time of year again, isn’t it? The time we list-making, Type-A personalities love.

That’s right. It’s resolution time.

Do you make resolutions? I admit, I’m a grand resolution-maker. And, most years I keep those resolutions. Really.

I’m not pulling your leg. I really do keep them.

Sickening, isn’t it?

Anyhow, this year things have been…different. My usual gung-ho, resolution-making self is taking a break from big yearly pledges. There is simply too much else going on to concentrate on keeping up with language lessons, spending promised time in a volunteer position or going to the gym on a regular basis. I can’t commit to a schedule for things like that, so I’m not going to.

Still, I can’t let the yearly resolution event pass me by so I’ve devised a new way to make New Year’s resolutions, at least for this year. That’s right, I’ve “improved” the age-old tradition.

Now, before you get upset by my tinkering with convention, let me say that I don’t expect my handy-dandy new method will catch on. It is designed purely for my own benefit, and, as you’ll see, caters to the demands of my personal life.

Pardon? Oh, how silly! I haven’t told you about my idea, have I?

This year I’m going to be making monthly resolutions. That’s right. Instead of resolving to do (or not do!) something for the entire year, I’m going to make a pertinent, and hopefully achievable, monthly resolution. Sort of makes the whole process a series of short-term goals instead of one sweeping mandate.

Who knows? Maybe this will become a habit, and I’ll tackle one issue a month for the rest of my life. Or I may loathe the idea, whole-heartedly embracing the New Year resolution-making process come next December. In any case, I’ll learn something about myself. No harm in that, is there?

Hmm? Oh, right—the January resolution. I nearly forgot to let you in on that one, didn’t I?

Cookies. I’m giving up cookies for January. I know it sounds ridiculous but let me tell you I love my cookies. They’re a big thing in this house and I’ll definitely feel their absence for thirty-one days. I’m hoping my backside will notice their departure from my daily diet, as well.

I assure you, I’ve also set personal and professional goals for the new year. Those are a must. It’s just that this year I’m taking things, overall, a bit more slowly. Starting with cookies.

What about you? Made any resolutions?

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Tuesday Thoughts

I hope you're having a happy, healthy holiday season.

Here in the middle of nowhere we are taking time to enjoy family and friends. Mostly we're spending time quietly, sitting by the fireplace with mugs of cocoa. We've spent lots of time talking, reading, laughing and playing chess. Lots of movie-watching going on here, too. All in all, a lovely holiday week.

This might be a nutty decision, but I've decided to give JaNoWriMo a go. I love the spirit of community involved in writing months, and I enjoy watching others on their writing journey. I would be sad if I didn't even give the month a try. And what's the worst that can happen, writing-wise? I don't finish the book? No biggie!

So I'm going to work on a Regency romance called One Grand Season. I've got a sketchy plot in my mind, one the long hours staring at the flames and drinking hot chocolate is helping to take shape. I'm excited about the prospect. Hopefully the book will unfold like a dream. Wouldn't it be a great way to begin the new year?

Have a great day!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Family Matters

My cousin Eileen has always been one of my favorite people. She’s ever-so-slightly older than I am, which made her one of my childhood idols. She was smart, funny, pretty—and I loved spending time with her. I suspect she probably thought I was a pain, being younger and all, but if she did she never let on. She was, even then, classy.

Now that we’re adults Eileen and I have a relationship that is truly one of my treasures. I still look up to her but we’re friends now. The age difference (which is, I assure you, very minor!) has disappeared, the way years seem to do when one grows up. I love it that we’re cousins and share history, genes and relatives.

I can’t talk about Eileen without saying that she’s been especially fabulous this past year. She has been so loving, compassionate and supportive through the difficult times that I don’t believe I’ll ever be able to tell her just how much her presence in my life means to me. There have been so many days when her heartfelt notes or funny stories in my email folder have made me smile. Believe me, she has been a high point in a tough stretch.

By now you probably think this post is about my cousin Eileen. Well, it is…and it isn’t.

My cousin reads all my books, for which I will be eternally grateful. I love it that she shares this journey with me. I especially love it that she tells me—without holding back—what she thinks of each book. It’s funny how hearing the truth from someone who taught you how to tie your shoes, then laughed when they came untied and you tripped on the laces, can mean so much. Her opinions come from a place no one else occupies, so she sees things others don’t.

When Eileen read Last Chance and wrote to tell me her impressions, my heart sang. Why? Because she was so completely on-target with her thoughts. She saw things about the book that others didn’t catch. She wondered why so-and-so got killed, cheered when someone else got his just rewards and wondered what happened to this one or that one. Eileen even inquired about a house—a house, for goodness’ sake! I laughed aloud when she asked about the house, because I wanted someone to wonder about it.

You see? Eileen “got” exactly what I hoped a reader would get from the book. She saw beyond the written page, into the characters’ lives and heads. Writing-wise, it doesn’t get better for me than that.

Thanks, Eileen. For everything.

Monday, December 21, 2009

On Time

I’ve got to admit something here. Now, don’t go getting yourself all sorts of intrigued. My admission is something, if you’re a regular blog visitor, you’ve probably already surmised. And if you haven’t guessed, it’s not like the confession is going to make the headline news anyhow, so don’t get overly excited.

Oh, right. I was on the brink of an admission, wasn’t I?

The plain, unvarnished truth is I love it when plans go completely according to schedule. I know, I know…you took me for one of those seat-of-the-pants, anything-goes kind of gals, didn’t you? Well, I can be pretty carefree about some things. But about others? Not so much.

I’m honestly jazzed when a book gets written in the time I’ve allotted for it. I’m even more thrilled when a book is completed earlier than I anticipate—that’s something that really makes this writer’s heart thump. It usually happens, that the book gets written at least on time. Still…every time it does, I can’t help but smile.

Last night I finished Valentine’s Wishes. It, I’m tickled to say, was finished with days to spare. Yay!

Now that this Regency romance has been put to rest, I’m not going to begin anything new. I’m just going to sit around, drink cocoa and enjoy the holidays. I’ll relax, listen to Christmas music and chat on the phone. I’ll bake cookies, deck the halls and…

Oh, who do I think I’m kidding? You know as well as I do that before New Year’s Day I’ll have a new project underway.

Still…there’s always today, and from where I sit it’s as good a day as any to eat cookies and drink hot chocolate!

What about you? Any plans for this beautiful December day? And, any admissions you’d care to make? Hmm?

Friday, December 18, 2009

Spring Planning

I know it must sound crazy, especially to non-gardeners, but I’ve begun planning the 2010 vegetable gardens. I hear groans and gasps from all of you, but it’s the unvarnished truth; next year’s gardens are already taking shape. In my mind, that is.

Why? Well, here in the middle of nowhere the planting catalogs begin packing our mailbox somewhere around mid-January. They are seductive, glossy-paged volumes that can easily lure an unprepared gardener into making poor choices.

Listen, when a couple of feet of the white stuff covers everything in sight and the wind feels like it’s come straight from the Arctic Circle, giving brightly colored pages featuring flowers and foot-long veggies to someone wearing mukluks is like turning a dieter loose in a candy shop. Without my pre-gardening list of essentials, I might be tempted to order three varieties of Swiss chard, five types of lettuce, a half-dozen packets of corn (because really, how can anyone have too much corn?), twenty different sunflowers…you get the idea. I might lose my mind (what’s left of it after canning the tomato glut from 2009) and wreak havoc with my wallet simply because it’s cold outside, the colors are enticing and I’m not prepared.

Bon bons, anyone?

So this week I’m making a list of what I actually want to plant—the stuff we’ll enjoy and eat rather than the weird impulse purchases we’ll grow and wonder what to do with—and while it seems early I assure you it’s not. I’ll check the list against my container of seed packets to see what I’ve already got left over from this year before I come up with a finalized list for 2010 gardens.

I leave room in the gardens for anything that catches my interest—mind you, after I’ve chosen the essential items—so it’s not as if the venture will be completely non-spontaneous. My December gardening plan will pretty much ensure that I don’t go overboard when the pretty catalogs arrive which is a very good thing. Believe me, I’m speaking from experience. Have you ever tried to can, freeze or give away twenty bushels of winter squash? I thought not.

That’s how I’m spending some of my snowy afternoons. What about you? Any spring planning going on in your house? Or are you busy with holiday stuff?

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Brightness

Have you noticed things seem brighter during the holidays? Yes, I know you’re thinking that here in the middle of nowhere we’ve had gray, overcast days so how on earth could anything be brighter? It doesn’t make sense, does it?

Please, bear with me. I know it sounds like I’ve had too much eggnog but I promise that’s not the case. The clarity that surrounds almost everything these last weeks before Christmas doesn’t come from the sun, table lamps or even those festive strings of blinking holiday lights. While it can’t be pointed at or unplugged, I see and feel it just the same. I bet you do, too.

The brightness of the season comes from within, from the gazes and smiles of those around us, from the laughter in voices and the joy in every pleasant exchange—be it with friend or stranger. The brightness that captivates me during the holiday weeks is the vividness of character and spirit in those we hold dear, as well as those we don’t know by name.

I’ve got to admit, I’m enchanted by the spirit of Christmas. I love watching curmudgeons smile indulgently at excited children, hearing off-key carols sung with gusto and am especially jazzed when I hear of connections being reestablished or renewed between family, friends and neighbors.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could somehow bottle the brightness of Christmas? Find a way to contain—even for a moment—the wonderful energy of the season and light the world with it?

Hmm…I’ll bet we could do something about the energy crisis, too…
What about you? Is there something about the season that you find particularly exciting?

Have a great day!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Reading?

I’m full-swing into the holiday spirit here, and that includes my reading list. Time is at a premium this year, so I’m choosing my holiday reads with more care than I usually do. There are so many great Christmas stories out there that it’s not easy to limit myself but I’m trying!

At present I’m happily lost in Kathryn Quick’s ‘Tis the Season. It is an Avalon romance, and is a sheer delight to read with loveable characters and a message that brings home the essence of Christmas. I am loving every minute of this story, and am so glad I chose it for my short reading list.

What about you? Finding time to read during the busy days of December? And if you are, what are you reading? You know me; I’m always on the lookout for recommendations!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

December Notes...

To Self:

1. Bathing suits left hanging on the deck chair froze in November. Now, they turn to blocks of snowy ice within an hour. Not a good idea—the washing machine isn’t happy washing ice blocks.

2. Christmas cookies do have calories in them. Don’t be deceived by the colored sprinkly things.
3. Eating too many sprinkly-coated Christmas cookies makes the bathing suit issue a moot point. Why worry about bathing suits when it’s obvious there will be a need for newer, bigger suits by New Year’s? Any sane woman would know this without having it pointed out to her.

Oh… “Any sane woman”…

Hmmph. Now that might explain a lot of things!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Good thoughts, please

We've got a pretty demanding day scheduled here, so if you've got a moment we'd really appreciate any good thought or small prayer you could send our way. Thank you!

Hope you have a lovely day!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Piglet

Our darling Piglet passed away yesterday afternoon. She will never be forgotten and she will always be missed. Our lives have been so greatly enriched by the privilege of her presence.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Family

My dad lives in Florida, in a wonderful community surrounded by kind people. He’s near family and enjoys all sorts of sunshine-y activities. I’m happy he’s happy but…I miss him.

While there isn’t one day of the year when I don’t wish he were closer, I especially miss him at Christmastime. I think that’s normal, don’t you?

The lights on our tree in the family room came from Dad. There’s a little music box attached to the lights, and carols play while the lights flash. We usually have them set to stay constantly lit, without flashing or music, but last night I couldn’t resist. I twisted the dial and brought the music and lights to life. For a long time I sat and watched the tree…and I remembered.

“Hark the Herald Angels” made me laugh aloud as I recalled a young me standing beside my brother at midnight Mass and singing—at the tops of our voices, mind you—“Hark, the hairy angels sing…”

“I’ll Have a Blue Christmas” almost made me cry, because of course it made me miss Dad even more.

Given the status of the gargantuan snowman across the street, “Frosty” brought howls from both Hubby and I.

The little music box played all its songs at least three times before I couldn’t take it any more. I picked up the phone, called Florida and asked Dad if he wasn’t sure he didn’t want to give up his nice, warm holiday in favor of a frigid, white one. My father’s a smart guy; he laughed and politely turned me down but hey, you can’t blame a girl for trying, can you?

I love it that things as simple as lights and music can shrink miles and bring hearts closer. What, if anything, provokes nostalgia in your home during the holiday season?

If I close my eyes, I can still hear my brother’s voice singing about those hairy angels…

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Scary Frosty

I don’t want to begin a rabid discussion about inflatable holiday decorations. I don’t want to offend anyone. I definitely don’t want to diminish anyone’s appreciation of the season, or step on any toes with regard to how one does indeed celebrate.

All I want to do is say those enormous inflatable Frostys startle me. Really, they do.

I’ll admit, I never paid much attention to the gargantuan lawn decorations until this year. You see, we have a new neighbor. You guessed it—he’s a record-breaking snowman who’s been smiling day and night for the past four weeks from across the road. I won’t begin to say what I think about keeping ornaments lit 24/7 but I will say that getting up at 3 AM to write and glancing out the window to see the inflatable interloper is wholly disconcerting.

The first few mornings I could hardly put him out of my mind long enough to work. I felt his stare boring into the back of my head, a weird holiday peeping Tom who refused to move along.

To put it plainly, Friendly Frosty turned to Fearsome Frosty faster than a snowflake falls.

I forced myself to ignore the monster, and that worked pretty well for a while. Now, however, we have a new issue. You see, a few nights ago we had wind. I don’t mean tiny puffs of air akin to baby whispers. We had all-out, howling, lawn chair-tossing wind.

You know what happened, don’t you? That’s right. Frosty fell down.

You would think that anyone who went to the trouble, not to mention expense, of installing a two-story snowman on their front lawn would go out there and rescue it when it fell, wouldn’t you?

Watching Fallen Frosty is almost as creepy as evading Frantic Frosty.

With every agitated wave of his candy cane I feel the giant calling, whispering, “Help me…”

Now I worry the thing won’t be rescued until a huge Easter bunny comes hopping along!

Monday, December 07, 2009

Ho Ho Ho!

I’ve gotten a couple of calls and emails recently from family, friends and acquaintances who want to buy copies of my books to give as holiday gifts. Isn’t that fun? I love the idea that my stories will be wrapped and tucked beneath Christmas trees, stuffed into stockings or handed with a hug from one friend to another.

I love to give books as gifts. I’ve already got a few gift-wrapped and ready to go. No, I won’t tell you what books I’ve chosen for friends and family, but I will say I had a blast choosing them. It’s really kind of neat to know that now I not only choose, but am chosen as well. How fabulous!

Are you hoping to receive books this holiday season? And if you are, do you have a particular title in mind or are you hoping to be surprised?

Me? Hubby knows there’s one book I’m especially hoping to read during the long, lazy early January afternoons. I’m pretty sure I’ll find it wrapped beneath our tree on Christmas morning. Hmm? What book is it? I can’t divulge, but I will say it’s the new one written by my favorite author. And, if he’s true to form, it’ll keep me awake long after the last page has been turned!

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Magic

The first snowfall of the season seems magical. Despite its inherently chilly nature, it warms even the coolest hearts. The initial tentative flakes elicit applause, garner laughter and coax smiles from those whose faces rarely show such emotion. Babies giggle, white-haired folks shake their heads and children dream.

Life is good.

Then, the snow grows bolder. It falls harder, faster and with purpose. Millions of flakes gather, lying one atop the next and covering the ground until no trace of green remains. Eyes open wide in amazement, stories of “good old days” are revisited and the kids pull out toboggans.

Our first snowfall of the season came yesterday afternoon. As expected, it brought wonder, smiles and magic. The season’s first snowplow pass roused a cheer and a wave to the grinning driver. For his part, he honked and returned the wave.

Yes, life is good.

Technically, the first snowfall is still taking place. As I write this slow, lazy fat flakes flutter to the ground. I love to see them drop this way. Their careful descent allows time for examination—albeit a brisk one!—as they pass by the window.

Soon I’ll pull on jeans and a sweater, grab gloves and a hat and head outside to begin this season’s snow-clearing duties. I won’t mind the nip in the air, the slipperiness underfoot or the extra effort it’ll take to haul firewood across the yard.

Me? I’m one of the smiling, dreaming, loving-snow folks who believe that the white stuff spiraling from the sky is truly magical.

So…life is very good here.

What about you? How’s everything in your corner of the world this morning?

Got snow?

Friday, December 04, 2009

Uplifted


Have you ever had a day when you feel like a weight is lifting from your shoulders? More importantly, that it's making its way off your heart? Hmm? Ever feel that way?

If you do, you understand today's photo. The butterfly landed in our yard last summer but the way it made me feel to see it then is the same way I feel this evening.

We're smiling here... Just wanted to share it with you!

Hope you've had a fabulous day!

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Timeless



I've got happy news to share! My new novel, Timeless, has just been released. It is available from Whiskey Creek Press. This is the link in case you want more information.

What is the book about? Here's a short blurb to give you an idea:

Maya knows love never ends. She follows the man who claimed her heart through eternity, hoping that each time they meet and fall in love they will put an ancient curse to rest.

She knows she will follow Joaquin…the question is, will he follow her? Only time, and their hearts, will tell.

This book is really about finding love. When lifetimes and circumstances separate hearts, will they find each other again? I asked myself the question over and over, and each time I came up with the same answer. This book is the result.

I enjoyed writing Timeless. I sincerely hope readers enjoy it. And I love it that it's out in time for the holidays!

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

A Bird in the Hand


Yesterday we were puttering around in the yard when we heard a noise. More accurately, we heard birdsong. Now, we’ve got a lot of birds in our yard—all kinds and each with its own singing habits. This chirping was nothing like we’d heard near the barn before.

So…we investigated. It seems we’ve got a new, tropical addition to the bird feeder. We’ve tried to catch this fellow but he’s faster than we are. We’d love to be able to find his family, or at least find him a warm home for the chilly winter months ahead. He’s pretty, but I don’t want to find his feet frozen to the bird feeder.

There you have it, our news of the day. We’ve got a bird on the loose, and are doing our best to encourage it to seek warmer shelter. I’ll let you know how this bird saga turns out.

I’ll admit, life here in the middle of nowhere is never dull…

Monday, November 30, 2009

Oh No, NaNo's Over!


I finished my NaNo novel, In Name Only, early on. The book almost wrote itself. The characters were fun to hang around with, the story kept my fingers flying on the keyboard and when it was finished I felt a fabulous sense of satisfaction.

All went well...or so one would think.

Thank goodness Hubby reminded me that today is, in fact, the last day of the month. That's right, NaNo will be over in a few hours.

Me? I just remembered I didn't validate my book when I finished it. Actually the validating thingys weren't open when I hit "the end" so I had to wait until they were.

It's a good thing he reminded me, isn't it? I would've been bummed if I didn't see the little purple banner on my NaNo page. It's a small thing, but it always makes me smile.

Thanks, honey!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Life in the Time of Dinner

She gave the pot on the stove a good stir before putting its lid in place. Hearing his footsteps behind her, she asked, “Do you have any preferences, vegetable-wise?”

“Nope. Whatever you make will be fine.”

“Okay.”

She checked the loaf of peasant bread baking in the oven. Almost done. Closing the oven door, she turned, reached into the freezer and grabbed a bag of broccoli. As she opened the bag, ready to dump it into a pot of water, he made a sound. It wasn’t a word, actually. It wasn’t a snort or a sneeze, either. It was…a sound. One she had heard often enough that she knew exactly what it meant. Her hand stilled. She turned, caught his gaze. Silently counted to ten. Then added five.

“Got a problem with broccoli?” A smile, to hopefully mask the sudden urge she had to toss the vegetable across the room at him.

“Well…”

“Just say it. You don’t want broccoli?”

“Didn’t we have that yesterday?”

It was futile, she knew, to point out that they’d had broccoli last weekend, and not since.

“Maybe. So, do you have a preference, vegetable-wise?” She smiled sweetly.

“Nah. Whatever you make will be fine.”

Marriage, the final frontier.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Giving Thanks

This Thanksgiving season is a particularly special one for us.

I won’t go into the details, but I will say this has been a difficult year. We have had many frightening moments, and a number of obstacles to deal with. But do you know what? We’re still standing, and it’s Thanksgiving so we are giving thanks—from the bottom of our hearts.

We are appreciative for the love and support of family and friends, near and far. Without you, this stressful time would have been even more harrowing. Thank you.

We are grateful beyond words to the dedicated medical professionals who work tirelessly on our behalf. You bring our goal within reach, and give us hope for the future. Thank you.

We appreciate all the heartfelt moments, gestures of kindness and gifts of laughter that have found their way to us these past months. They keep us smiling, and make even the rough days easier. Thank you.

We are thankful for so much that if we began a list no one would get to the dinner table on time…and we don’t want that to happen, do we?

Today, as we gather around our Thanksgiving table, our hearts will overflow and we will be truly, deeply, eternally grateful…for so much, and to so many. We hope you will feel some of the joy that graces our table at your own celebration.

From our home to yours, Happy Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Cookies to Go

Okay, as you’ve probably noticed, it’s officially cookie time around here. November is the month when we try new recipes in anticipation of the big cookie baking madness that most people call “December”. Let’s just say, we eat and give away a ton of cookies before the turkey even hits the Thanksgiving table!


Last night I tried this recipe for the first time. I made the dough early in the day, so the actual baking was a no-brainer. The cookies are good—so good that I’m going to double the recipe next time so there’ll be more leftovers to share with our neighbors. I hope you enjoy these as much as we do!


Almond Cookies


1 1/2 cups butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
4 cups flour
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup chopped almonds
Whole almonds


Cream butter and sugars, then add eggs. In separate bowl, combine dry ingredients. Add dry to wet gradually, then add chopped almonds.


Shape into two rolls. Wrap each roll in plastic wrap and stick in fridge for a couple of hours.
Unwrap, slice and place cookies on ungreased baking sheets. Press a whole almond into center of each cookie, then place in a pre-heated 350-degree oven and bake for 14 minutes or until lightly browned.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Monday, Monday

Ever have one of those days where you hit the floor running and the whole day goes by in a blur? You know how it is...jump in the car, out of the car, into the appointment, out of the appointment, into the car... Yeah, you get it. I know you do. How do I know? Because I cannot be the only one having those kinds of days.

I'm not, am I?

Whew! I'm so glad you understand.

Okay, so Monday's passed like a whirlwind. I'm gearing up for Tuesday to be almost exactly the same. But--just so we're clear here--I'm not complaining. Nope, not one bit.

We got some excellent news today. All's good in the Leone household. I hope it is in yours, too.

Hope you enjoy your Monday...what's left of it, anyway!

Friday, November 20, 2009

What did you do last night?

This is what I did:

Banana Cookies

1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg
3 mashed bananas
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups flour
pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup chopped nuts

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Combine bananas and baking soda. Let rest.

In separate bowl, cream the butter and sugar, then add egg. Then, add banana mixture.

Toss dry ingredients into bowl. Stir. Drop onto lightly greased baking sheet and place in over for 12 minutes.

Easy, fast and yummy. Easy on the tummy, too. Oh, and this is a great way to use over-ripe bananas. I baked a batch of these last night and they’re almost gone this morning. It’s a good thing I’ve still got a few bananas left…

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Writing...Or Not?

It’s funny how even when I’m technically “not writing” I’m still writing. You would think I’d take time off from the computer screen, just back away and do something else. Honestly, that’s pretty much what I try to do—but only to an extent. The truth is, even when I’m not in full writing mode, I’m still writing.

I’ll fiddle with something I’m working on (but not technically “writing”…I know, it doesn’t make sense but bear with me, please) or I’ll write part of a chapter of a little something else I’m working on. That one? Not a “real” project, either.

I guess what’s going on is that even when I’m not focused on a particular book I’ve got several irons in the fire, any one of which I can open, mess around with, and then close until the mood strikes again. So even when I’m technically not moving from Point A to Point Z on Project Whatever, I always have something to work on.

Hmm…I guess that’s why I fumble for an answer when I’m asked, “What do you do when you’re not writing?”

Now I know the answer. I’m always writing, even if it’s just a few hours every morning. Oh, right…like this morning, I’m technically not writing but I’ve been “dabbling” for the past two hours on something that’s just been hanging around…

Nuts. It’s just nuts, I know, but it’s probably too late to change my bad habits, don’t you think?

Hope you have a nice day!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Good Thoughts, Please

I'm on the run this morning so I just want to wish you a lovely Monday. I hope all is well in your corner of the world, and that you and yours are healthy, happy and enjoying life.

If you get a moment, any good thought or small prayer you might send our way today would be especially appreciated. Thanks so much!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Sunday Morning

My husband loves these waffles. They’re easy to make, and the house smells heavenly long after the breakfast dishes are cleared. A perfect fall breakfast—although we’ve been known to whip up a batch on chilly evenings for dinner, too! We are having these this morning. YUM!

Pumpkin Waffles

2 cups flour
1 stick melted butter
3 t. baking powder
½ t. baking soda
½ t. cinnamon
½ t. nutmeg
1/4 t. ginger
1/4 t. salt
1/4 t. black pepper
1/3 cup brown sugar
16 oz. canned pumpkin
2 ½ cups milk

Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl. Set aside.

Combine eggs, brown sugar, pumpkin, milk and butter until smooth. Add dry ingredients and stir until well mixed.

Heat a waffle iron according to manufacturer’s directions and bake accordingly.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Reading?

Oh, I’ve got a big confession to make…

I don’t get to the bookstore as often as I’d like. But really, who does, right? We book lovers could probably live at the bookstore if anyone offered us the chance, don’t you think? Seriously, though, life here has been so scrambled that I hardly ever get to the store to choose my own books. I’m grateful that my mom, godmother and a few good friends send books they think I might enjoy. It is fun to read whatever shows up, and allows me to experience genres and authors I might not have chosen on my own. I’ve gained a number of favorite authors this way!

This past week I got lucky, and found the time to dash into the bookstore. I had two books in mind to buy, and snagged the last copy of each! Whew!

Oh, what did I buy? Both books had been on my want-to-read list, but when they were recommended by two women whose reading tastes are similar to mine the titles went to the must-read list. Okay, the first book is Soulless by Gail Carriger. Marianne mentioned she read it. The second book is Mischief in Mudbug by Jana DeLeon. I read the first book in the Mudbug series when it came out, and have been waiting (it seems like forever!) for this one to hit the bookshelves. Dru recommended it which was no surprise! Dru’s reading tastes coincide with my own it often amazes me! Anyhow, I was hugely relieved to pluck the last copy of the ne w Mudbug from the shelf at our local bookstore.

I meant to pick up a Robyn Carr while I was there, because Melissa reminded me with her comment a few days back just how much I love Ms. Carr's writing, but I forgot that one. Oh, well...it gives me a first name on my new want-to-read list!

Ah…it doesn’t get much better than this. I’m in heaven, and now that my NaNo novel is done I’m so much looking forward to reading something someone else has written! The only dilemma is—you guessed it!—which book to read first? Decisions, decisions…

So, what are you reading? Anything you’d care to share?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

China Bound

When I was a kid I thought that if I dug a deep enough hole I’d end up on the other side of the world. Namely, that I’d find myself in China. Every kid thinks that, don’t they?

Well, I dug a lot of holes, some deeper than I was tall, but I never did get to China. I never got anywhere, to tell the truth. And my dad? He always made me fill in the holes, so after a while I gave up trying to dig my way to the other side of the world.

These past few days I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about those younger digging days. Why? Because I’ve got a shovel in my hand again. And I’m digging. And digging. And digging some more.

Last spring we ordered six dozen flower bulbs. They were delivered earlier this week. Now I’ve got to dig six dozen holes. To tell the truth, I don’t mind doing it. Gives me lots of time to think, and I don’t have to go to the gym if I exercise with a shovel in my own backyard.

Still, I find myself wondering why digging holes seemed so much more fun when I was seven than it does now. Any ideas?

What about you? Did you dig in the dirt when you were small? If you did, where do you think you were headed?

And a word of advice, if I may. If you ever think that ordering six dozen bulbs is a good idea, maybe you should close the catalog and take a walk. With a shovel. Get some perspective, you know? That way you’ll know exactly what digging to the other side of the world entails.

Have a great day! And remember, if you need me I’ll be outside…with the shovel.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

When Writing a Book...

...the first line is the most exhilirating.

The last is the most satisfying.

My NaNo novel?

I've written both lines!

Yes, NaNo 2009 is officially over for me. Now, I can sit back, relax and cheer everyone else on!

Monday, November 09, 2009

November Notes...

To Self:

1. Leaving wet bathing suit hanging over deck railing “to dry” is not a good idea. Frozen, stiff suit is difficult to toss into washing machine.
2. Make a Spring Note, and place it prominently so there is no forgetting that beet and turnip seeds yield MANY more vegetables than two adults can comfortably eat.
3. All requests to “make a little something” for the holidays should be denied. Juggling fall garden chores, household issues and NaNo book is more than enough for any sane woman to deal with.

Oh… “Any sane woman”…

Hmmph. Now that might explain a lot of things!

Friday, November 06, 2009

Na No-ing

I have been hard at work on m NaNo novel, a Regency romance called In Name Only. It’s going well, each chapter following the idea I’ve got for it in my mind right onto the paper like magic. It’s a good thing, too, that the chapters are cooperating. Why? Because I’m trying to get the book done by November 13th.

I know, I know…I can hear you, and you’re right. It’s National Novel Writing Month, isn’t it? I’ve technically got until the end of November to finish In Name Only. So why am I writing at break-neck speed?

Actually, we have a prior commitment that begins on Monday the sixteenth. It will take all our time and energy, and is infinitely more pressing and vital than any novel could ever, ever be. All my attention will be on our commitment; I probably won’t even remember I write books until sometime in early December! Yes, life is strange, isn’t it?

By the way, if you’ve got a good thought or small prayer to spare anytime during the last half of the month, I’d appreciate it. Thanks!

So…the book. As I said, it is fortunately coming along well, thank goodness! I love the characters and their dilemma. Lucie has a strong sense of family commitment, and has no problem arranging her priorities. She is intelligent, good-hearted and funny. When she meets the man who makes her heart flutter she is so involved with family issues she hardly notices the flip-flopping inside her chest. They deserve happiness, even if it pretty much does come as the icing on the cake they’re so busy trying to bake they forget to pay attention to romance…

My fingers are crossed that by next Friday I’ll have the last chapter written. And if I don’t, the world certainly won’t end but I will be bummed not to have completed the November challenge. But if I’m lucky, I’ll get to try again next November, right? By that time, I’m sure to have my characters firmly in hand and headed in the right direction!

I hope you have a fabulous weekend!

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Reading?

I'm finally finding some time to read. I know that sounds weird, given the fact that I've always got my nose in a book. Maybe what I should say is that I'm finally finding time to read in a leisurely manner. There, that's better.

October was such a breakneck-speed month that I felt like I inhaled a few books, in fits and starts and mostly in waiting rooms or doctors' offices. Not exactly the most pleasurable of reading situations.

But so far this month I've managed to carve out a chunk of time each day to sit by the fire while Hubby carves and just sit and read. It's been fabulous!

Yesterday I finished reading Murder With All the Trimmings by Elaine Viets. I laughed so hard! I loved it! The perfect way to begin the month! When I next get to the bookstore, I'm going to pick up a few more of her books. She's got a great sense of humor, and tells a hilarious story.

By the way, I've taken to leaving books I've just finished in the waiting rooms at doctors' offices or the hospital. I figure someone else might need a little pick-me-up moment, so I just leave them on the side tables or in the magazine holders (you know, the ones filled with practically shredded, older-than-Moses magazines. Sorry, Doc!). Not a bad idea, is it?

So, what are you reading? I've got an enquiring mind, and am on the hunt for a few good titles to add to my TBR stack. Any suggestions?

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

In Name Only

My NaNo novel is a Regency romance called In Name Only. I'm having a blast writing it, so I thought I'd share the first few paragraphs with you. I hope you enjoy it!

“Straighten your shoulders, Lucinda Jane. You don’t want some impudent man peeking down the front of your gown when he asks for a dance, do you? Gracious, my dear, sometimes you have less sense than a goose!”

Dutifully Lucie pulled her shoulders back slightly so her gown’s low-cut, yet oh-so fashionable pearl-trimmed bodice lay snugly against her chest, exactly where its dressmaker, as well as Aunt Lucinda, believed it ought to be.

Had Lucie realized how wholly involved Aunt Lucinda, the Dowager Countess of Waltham, would become in every facet of her dress and behavior, she might not have agreed so readily when her aunt offered to sponsor her for the Season. But she hadn’t known, so she had accepted the proposal. Now, she had to take the sour with the sweet, and smile when she might have otherwise wished to stamp one dainty, slippered foot.

As the crowd inside the ballroom at Cresthill, the Earl of Gloucester’s London home, grew, so did the heat. The air would have been utterly stifling had it not been for the staff of frond-waving servants placed strategically around the huge room. Still, as the dancing progressed, breathing easily grew increasingly difficult.

Lucie snapped open the delicate, handmade silk fan that hung from a ribbon at her right wrist. The fan matched her gown perfectly, its aquamarine hue chosen by Aunt Lucinda to show Lucie’s creamy complexion to its best advantage.

At the moment, Lucie doubted her complexion was creamy at all, or even the tiniest bit becoming. She felt soaked in perspiration, and, even though she knew her aunt would be vexed by the request, she couldn’t hold off any longer.

Turning slowly, not wishing to appear indelicate and further displease her aunt, she gently waved her fan in front of her lips and said, “Aunt, I am nearly wrung out with the heat. I fear I must take a breath of fresh air, and quickly.”

The older woman cast a dubious gaze at her, the heavily powdered skin around her eyes wrinkling disapprovingly. Her expression spoke volumes; Lucie had no doubt that “back in the day” neither Aunt Lucinda nor any of her friends would ever have been so frail they required air—fresh or otherwise.

“Really? Why, I rather feel the touch of a chill.” With a dramatic shiver designed, Lucie knew, to squelch her request, Aunt Lucinda pulled the fine silk georgette shawl at her shoulders tight with one gloved hand. Its dark green edging and fringe matched the feathers on the dowager’s headdress.

Lucie stood her ground. “Be that as it may, I could nearly swoon from the heat. Either that or the boned corset you and your modiste insisted I wear is far too tight. My lungs feel deprived of air, and unless they are refreshed in all haste, I am sure I will fall to the ground. Just think…if I swoon here and now, and crumple helplessly at your feet, all kinds of improper peeks down my bodice might—and most likely will—be stolen.”

She slapped her fan closed, leaned in close to her aunt’s ear and whispered, “Oh! Imagine the scandal!”

Monday, November 02, 2009

Feeding an Addiction

Yes, I, too, have an addiction. Doesn't everyone?

The object of my craving, my must-have-or-I'll-scream lust is Oreos. Yes, the cookie. I love 'em.

And you know what? Oreos really, really help get the words flowing well during Na No. Trust me, I know.

If you're feeling really decadent, try the following recipe. It's fast, easy and oh-so yummy.

And I figure the cream cheese brings the Oreo addiction into the healthy-eating range. Hey, there's calcium in that cheese, isn't there? Gotta watch those bones...

One word of warning, though. These balls may bring on an addiction in your life, too. They're that good. Enjoy!

Oreo Balls

1 package Oreo cookies
8 oz. package of softened cream cheese
melted chocolate--chips, semi-sweet, dark, white--your choice.

Crush the cookies into fine crumbs. Add cheese and mix.

Roll mixture into balls. Chill balls on baking sheet for 30 minutes.

Dip balls in melted chocolate. Chill until firm.

Store any leftover balls in fridge. *

* I just put that in for the purposes of recipe maintenance, not because I actually believe you'll have leftover balls.

And if you do? Have leftover balls? Well, then maybe you should rethink your personal addiction, because it'll mean that Oreos definitely aren't your top lust item.

Kit Kats, anyone? Or Goobers--now there's an addiction-worthy item...

Sunday, November 01, 2009

And We're Off!

Happy November! And for all of you who are as wacky as I am and are taking the November challenge, Happy First Day of National Novel Writing Month!

It's hard to believe it's already here. October sure did fly by...

I've got to admit, I love NaNo. I've participated for the past few years, and have had a blast every time. This year I expect the challenge to be a bit more...well, a bit more challenging, given what's going on in our lives at this point, but I'm confident I'll manage my 50,00 words. If I don't have faith in myself, who will?

This year's November novel is a Regency romance called In Name Only. If you'd like to see how I'm doing, and eventually read an excerpt, please visit me here at my NaNo page.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got a novel to begin...

Happy Sunday!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

An Apple A Day...

We're overrun with apples here. Don't get me wrong, I love apple harvest time. But let's just say I can get pretty creative when faced with a couple of bushels of apples.

One of our favorites? Frosted apple cookies. The recipe makes a lot of cookies, but they freeze really well. Plus, while they're baking the house smells heavenly!

Guess what we're doing this afternoon?

Hmm... I wonder...

Do you think a gallon is enough milk? Maybe I should make a milk run before I begin baking...

Frosted Apple Cookies

2 sticks butter
2 3/4 brown sugar
2 eggs
2 t. baking soda
1 t. salt
2 t. ground cloves
2 t. cinnamon
½ cup apple juice
4 cups flour
2 cups chopped apples
1 cup raisins
2 cups chopped nuts
3 cups confectioner’s sugar
1/4 cup apple juice
½ t. salt
1 t. vanilla
2 T. butter


In a large bowl cream full sticks of butter, brown sugar and eggs. When mixture is fluffy, add baking soda, salt, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg and ½ cup apple juice. Mix until well blended. Add flour in small increments, mixing well to thoroughly combine. When batter is smooth and all ingredients are mixed in, add the apples, raisins and nuts and mix to combine.

Grease a cookie sheet. Drop batter by tablespoons onto the cookie sheet and place in a pre-heated 375-degree oven. Bake for 15-17 minutes until lightly browned.

In a small bowl, combine confectioner’s sugar, remaining apple juice, remaining salt, vanilla and remaining butter. Beat until well-mixed and smooth. Use frosting to ice warm cookies.

Makes 4 dozen large cookies.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Cliffhanging

She ignores the sound of footsteps on the stairs.

It does no good. He's found her.

"Honey?"

"Hmm?" Her fingers fly as she tries to block out the familiar voice.

"I know you're writing but I wondered if you'd like to... Are you listening to me?"

"Mmm hmm..."

One paragraph left. That's all. Just...one...paragraph.

"I know that sound." Now he's right behind her, leaning over her shoulder. She doesn't need to see his face to know he is reading the words as they appear on the laptop screen. He's not wearing his reading glasses. She can feel his squint. "It's the sound of--hey, is this the new book?"

"Uh huh."

Down to the last sentence. It has to be perfect, to complete the chapter and draw the reader back again. The words are in her head. Getting them to her fingers; now that's the rub.

"Interesting. Is that--hey, is that what I think it is? Is she really going to--"

She presses save. Done for the day.

Flashing a satisfied grin, she turns to face him. "You betcha. Now, what did you come to ask? Did I want to...?"

He looks from the computer, its screen now dark, to her. Confusion is stamped so clearly on his handsome face she has to stifle a giggle.

"Well?" She pokes his shoulder with an fingertip. "What was it that brought you up here? Did I want to what?"

His fingers plow through his curly black hair. He shrugs. "I forgot. But...what happens next? In the book, I mean?"

She stands, takes his hand and heads for the stairs.

"I'll tell you tomorrow. Maybe. And only if you tell me you came to ask if I wanted a slice--a big slice--of that apple pie I smell baking."

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Small Things


You just never know what you'll find when you take a post-freeze ramble on the farm.
I took a stroll yesterday afternoon, just hoping to clear my head. It worked (the head-clearing, I mean) and the added bonus was these wild daisies.
I picked some to put in a vase for our kitchen table but I left the majority of them right there. I figured they were tenacious enough to survive the cold, they deserved to be left alone.
Don't you just love small, unexpected pleasures?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Light the Night

It's fall, one of my favorite times of year. Leaves crunch beneath our toes. Chilly breezes kiss our cheeks. The night sky seems so bright and clear. Life is good.

Across the country people are taking full advantage of the brisk fall weather to come together in love, hope and with a common bond and purpose. They are walking to Light the Night.

What is Light the Night? It's an event designed to bring help and hope to people battling blood cancers. Leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma are monsters, and those who fight them need all the support we can muster. Information on these cancers can be found at the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

Won't you consider taking part in your local walk? The event will inspire and enrich. And I promise, you'll feel so much better for having helped out.

Wouldn't it be great if we could wipe out blood cancers? Who knows? With enough funding for research we may just be able to do that...one step at a time.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Monday Confession

Looking for something juicy, aren't you? Yeah, I know. You're poking in, hoping to find something out of "True Confessions", something that'll make you shake your head and grin all day long. A tidbit to liven up an otherwise-ordinary Monday, right?

Sorry to disappoint. Nothing salacious here at Casa Leone. All perfectly normal...well, as far as "normal" goes here!

But I do have a confession to make. It's got to do with the upcoming Period of Writing Madness, also known as National Novel Writing Month. I've signed on to do the November challenge. It's the fifth time I'll do it, and I'm kind of looking forward to it, in a hands-over-eyes, dropping-rollercoaster kind of way.

Yeah, my stomach has butterflies the size of zebras in it. And the zebras? They're carrying signs in their mouths. I won't tell you what those signs say exactly, but they all question my sanity.

The confession? I'm beginning to question it, too. Whatever possessed me to think I could write 50,000 new words in November? With all that's going on here, it's going to be sheer madness to even attempt this thing.

I must be out of my mind!

Huh. Somehow I don't believe you're shocked by mind out-of-mind confession, are you?

Friday, October 16, 2009

Happy Friday

Got a Nor'easter threatening? Annoyed by the way winter seems to be pushing fall to the wayside? Overwhelmed by a to-do list that must become an all-done list before Sunday morning? Hmm?

In a situation like this, I've only got one suggestion. I'm going to share it with you, just in case any of the above apply to you or to someone you, ahem, know.

The suggestion?

Soup. That's right, soup.

Soup always seems to calm frayed nerves. While it's simmering, one could tackle the neverending list. Or, if one were so inclined, simmering soup time also could be spent glowering at the blackening sky. Your choice. Either way, soup's on and no one's going to refuse a bowl of hot soup on a miserably cold afernoon.

And the silver lining? There's ususally enough leftover to freeze for another day. See? All good.

Here's the soup that'll be simmering in our house this afternoon while I tick things off my to-do list...or maybe glower at the sky. I haven't decided which one it'll be yet.

Black Bean Soup

2 12-ounce cans black beans, rinsed and drained
2 onions, chopped
2 bell peppers, chopped
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
5 cups water
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon oregano
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon paprika

Melt butter in stockpot. Saute onions and bell pepper. Pour water into the pot, then add beans and spices and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 30 - 45 minutes. May be served as a soup or over white rice.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

He Said It, He Really Said It...

I knew the day had to come. There was no help for it, really. No amount of denial, refusal or wishing could forestall the inevitable. Believe me, I tried all three.

No, this morning when I crept downstairs in the darkness to add a couple of pieces of firewood to the stove, I made my first mistake of the day. You see, the family room was so warm and cozyI had to linger just a bit. So--and don’t tell anyone I did this, hear?--I sat on the coffee table, picked up the remote and flicked the television on. You know what station I chose, don’t you? That’s right. The weather channel.

He said it. With all the bubbly enthusiasm we’ve come to know and love, Al Roker said the s word. That’s right, he said snow.

Can you believe it?

Snow.

In October.

Up to a foot of it.

Sheesh!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

A Mango a Day...

Blustery fall weather makes me want to bake.

I love to bake any time of year, but these first chilly days really draw me to the kitchen. Today's adventure includes one of my very favorite simple recipes.

And lest you think I'm running out to the grocery store for anything, let me clear things up. The mango? It's from the freezer. During the summer mango glut I sliced and froze a bunch, so all I've got to do is thaw out one small package for the recipe.

I hope you have a great day. Me? I'm going to be up to my elbows in flour--and loving every minute of it!

Mango Bread

2 cups flour
3 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
2/3 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 cups chopped ripe mango
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Combine the flour, cinnamon, baking soda and salt. Set aside. In another bowl, beat the sugar, eggs and oil until light and fluffy. Add vanilla and mix well. Add the dry ingredients to the bowl in small amounts, mixing well after each addition to incorporate flour mixture. Add mangoes and lemon juice.

Pour batter into two lightly-greased loaf pans and place in preheated, 350-degree oven. Loaves bake in 40-45 minutes. Cool on racks before serving.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Lunacy...Sheer Lunacy

Good Monday morning! I hope you had a fabulous weekend. Here at Casa Leone, we took full advantage of the gorgeous weather. We strolled through the meadow, flew a kite on the hill and roasted marshmallows. All low-key, relaxing and good.

Oh! Before I forget, Dru asked what kind of funny movies we watched Friday night. There were two: "Young Frankenstein" and "While You Were Sleeping". Both old favorites, and they went well with our pizza and cookies.

So, life sounds fairly normal here, doesn't it? I'll bet you're wondering what the lunacy title is about, aren't you? Well, it's like this...

November is just a few weeks away. And if it's November, it's got to be National Novel Writing Month.

If you have an inkling about what's going on in our lives right now, you'll know that the last thing I need is to participate in NaNo this year. But I've successfully completed the November challenge for the last four years. It would be a shame not to at least give it a go this year, don't you think?

Lunacy. It's madness, I tell you.

But I'm going to do it. What's the worst that can happen, NaNo-wise? I don't make the 50,000 words?

HA!

It's hard to scare me at this point, so I'm going for it. Who knows? Maybe the diversion will be good for us, and watching the nutty November novel grow might be just exactly what we need right now. We'll see...

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Friday Night?

Friday night? What did I do on Friday night?

Oh, things were jumping around here. We had a real loud party, followed by some dancing in the streets, and then we bungee jumped off the... What? Oh, really? You don't believe we're wild, raucous types?

Hmm... So you know us well, don't you?

Last night we baked cookies. Really. It was pouring rain. We had a fire roaring, homemade pizza in the oven and a stack of comedy DVDs. The only thing missing? You guessed it. Cookies! So, being the wild woman I am, I pulled a batch of chocolate sugar cookies together in no time flat. Thought you might sometime, on a Friday night even, need the recipe so here it is. I hope you enjoy them.

Hmm? Leftovers? HA! We're wilder than you thought, aren't we? There are no leftovers!

Chocolate Sugar Cookies

1 1/4 cups flour
1/2 cup cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/4 sticks unsalted butter
1 egg

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Using an electric mixer, mix the flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, salt and sugar. Add the butter, then the egg. Continue mixing until dough comes together.

Drop rounded spoonfuls of dough onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Flatten balls slightly. Bake for ten minutes. Then, stand back. These won't last long!

Friday, October 09, 2009

Walking Away the Cobwebs

I've been doing some serious mulling lately. Really. Just one of those times where I've got a lot on my mind. We've all had those times, haven't we?

Anyhow, when the sun came out yesterday, I took my mulling outdoors. Sometimes it's easier to think with the breeze blowing and birds chirping, don't you think?

So I took a small handful (okay, it wasn't such a small handful) of cookies and went for a short walk.

The cookies, walk and breeze cleared my mind--for now at least.

And look at what I found! A huge tree stump, one with a hollow in it. All sorts of interesting stuff on the top of the stump. Think there are any cookie-making elves living inside it?

Yoo hoo...Elves...Send out your cookies!...Yoo hoo...




Have a nice day!

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Maple Magic


Magic inside a maple leaf.
It doesn't get much better, does it?
Happy Thursday!

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Yum!

My dad went back home last week after a lovely visit. We miss him terribly, but thanks to his marvelous sense of proper travel packing, yesterday we had a yummy reminder of his visit.

You see, when Dad got off the plane his carry-on bag felt like it contained six or seven bricks. He had something much better than bricks in his bag. He had vegetables! Yucca, malanga and a few others. And--drum roll, please!--he had about a dozen of the most beautiful plantains I've seen in a long time.

Last night we had the last of the plantains. A fabulous meal, and one I wanted to share with you. Hubby had grilled chicken with his soup, but I was content with soup and a chunk of warm bread.

I hope you enjoy this as much as we do!

Thanks, Dad!

Sopa de Platano (Plantain Soup)

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion
1 carrot
3 cloves garlic
3 plantains
6 cups vegetable stock
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper

Chop the onion, carrot and garlic. Set aside. Peel plantains and cut into small chunks.

Heat oil in heavy stockpot. Saute onion, carrot and garlic until tender.

Add stock and bring to a boil. When soup is boiling, add plantains and bay leaf. Lightly salt and pepper and return to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 60 minutes, or until plantains are very soft.

Remove bay leaf. Puree soup and return to heat. Serve warm, garnished with chopped cilantro and lime wedges, if desired.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Loud and Clear


I asked for something Saturday morning.

This was my answer. Isn't it fabulous?

Hope you had a great weekend!

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Three Kids and a Kite


Oh, I know the title says three "kids" and a kite but I've got to come clean.

The truth is...

It was three adults and a kite.

And a blustery day.

At the top of a hill.

Get it?

Oh, how I wish you could've heard us laugh! Especially when we dropped the kite string...

and had to tumble down the hill,

across the meadow,

through the brushy, brambly berry patch...

giggling like children.

Luckily, the string got caught on a branch!

Whew!

So...

three kids and a kite kind of fits, doesn't it?

When was the last time you had so much fun doing something so silly? Hmm?

Well? What are you waiting for?

Find the breeze! Get your kite a tail!

But remember...

Hold onto the kite string!

Friday, October 02, 2009

If Wheels Could Talk


This morning when I pulled into a parking spot, I saw this car parked right beside ours. I've got to admit, I was completely bowled over by the vintage auto. I sat and stared for as long as I dared. I had an appointment so I cut my pondering short but I did have fun imagining the stories this car might tell...

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Soup's On

There’s nothing like hot, hearty homemade soup to warm a person up on a cold afternoon. At our house we make a lot of soup. Sometimes we make fresh garden soup in the summer but mostly it’s a cold weather dish.

Yesterday afternoon was a typical northeast fall afternoon. Bleak, overcast, with eyeball-freezing wind, it seemed the perfect time to make soup, so that’s what we did. Thought I’d share the recipe with you. It’s one of my favorites.

Veggie Soup

1 large onion
2 large potatoes, peeled and cubed
5 cups vegetable broth
2 stalks celery, diced
1 cup cut green beans
2 cups chopped spinach
1 chopped carrot
1 cup chopped sweet red pepper
1 tablespoon dill
1 cup corn kernels
1 15-oz. can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon black pepper
Parmesan cheese, if desired for sprinkling at serving

In a large stock pot, bring broth, onion and potatoes to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook for 15 minutes. Add remaining ingredients, except for Parmesan cheese, and cook, uncovered for an additional 15-20 minutes, or until all vegetables are tender.

Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, if desired, at serving.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Smile!


I can't help myself. Black-eyed Susans make me smile every single time I see them.

What about you? Do you have a must-smile flower?

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Enchanted

Don't you just love a crisp fall day? Blue sky, gold and red leaves and the promise of something new lurking around every corner? Pumpkins, mums, leaf piles... And scarecrows! Let's not forget the scarecrows! We have ours sitting on a table by one of the barns and every time I see "George" I smile.

A breeze just sent a shower of leaves skittering across our lawn. The day calls me...

I'm going to till the gardens, stack some wood on the porch and spread mulch on the flower beds today. I know it sounds like a lot of work, but after the crazy busy week we've had it will be pure fun to be outdoors.

What about you? What kind of day do you have planned?

Friday, September 25, 2009

A Day Trip

From the title, you probably figured we've gone on some kind of wildly intriguing excursion to someplace incredibly exotic--but close enough to get there and back in the span of twenty-four hours, right?

Sorry if I disappoint you, but we took a day trip to the local farm stand. I use the term "local" loosely; it takes about an hour to get to the place, and that's if you don't end up behind a tractor or other kind of huge piece of farm equipment doing twenty miles an hour on a stretch of double-yellow line roadway. Then, it can take considerably longer to reach the farm stand.

So, we took a day to take a ride and enjoy the scenery, with the fruits and veggies as our destination. It was fun and relaxing, and the best part is we got to choose from a glut of winter squashes! I love winter squash, and so does Hubby, so we bought quite a few.





Aren't they gorgeous? Hubby and I each have a favorite from the photos above. He chose his and I chose mine, then we picked one of each of the other varieties.
No, I'm not going to spill the beans on who likes what best. It's more fun to keep you guessing!
But tell me, do you have a favorite winter variety? And if you do, is there a special way you prepare the squash? I'm always on the lookout for new recipes!
Happy Friday!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Exciting News!

LAST CHANCE by Sarita Leone - Click Image to Close

Last Chance is available from Whiskey Creek Press!
Young widow Laura Perkins learned the hard way that life in the rugged frontier isn’t all sunshine and roses. She never planned to find herself alone in a land where gunshots and hangings are commonplace. But planned or not, that’s exactly what happens to her and, short of turning tail and fleeing, she’ll have to learn to live with her circumstances—one way or another.


When a handsome stranger saunters into Granite Creek, life takes a drastic turn. Laura and Chance are as different as night from day, but she still finds herself intrigued by the man.

And Chance? He’s as drawn to Laura as a moth to a flame. Too bad that moth has a trail of mystery—and murder—hot on his trail.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Something Pretty


Just in the mood for something pretty this morning.
I hope you are, too.
Happy Monday!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Always Ours

When a couple marries, families blend. Unconnected people suddenly become connected, and eventually everyone learns to coexist.

Still, there is an invisible division of sorts. You know the one.

It’s the Yours-Mine Line, the subtle separation that exists despite time, marriage or circumstance. It occurs naturally and is generally accepted as an ordinary part of life.

Your brother Kevin. My Uncle Harold. My sister’s best friend, Jane. Your crazy grandmother. See? The Yours-Mine conundrum.

However, at our house there is a slightly different story to tell…

From the first meeting, they were truly family. If not by blood, by something deeper and possibly more meaningful. Their hearts linked and they shared love, laughter and respect. They understood each other, on so many levels.

There was no yours or mine. She was ours—right from the very first hug.

For over two decades my husband and I shared Our Aunt Shirley. She held our hearts in the palm of her hand, taught us more than we ever thought to know about so many things and kept us laughing, even when this journey called life inspired tears. Our Aunt Shirley regaled us with tales from her past, brought joy to the present and foretold our future by peering into the bottoms of our teacups.

She was our family treasure.

Last weekend the sun dimmed, the stars in the night sky twinkled less brilliantly and our world became smaller. Our Aunt Shirley passed on. While we knew in our hearts the sad day had to come, we prayed it would be later rather than sooner.

There are no words to express how much we loved her, or to say how deeply she will be missed.

But while she is gone from this life, Our Aunt Shirley lives on in the hearts of all she touched with her unfailing sense of humor, steadfast love and kind hands. She left a legacy of joy and a wealth of cherished memories. She was a grand woman, and lived an amazing life.

We have no doubt that Our Aunt Shirley is peering down from Heaven, watching over us and giving us guidance and encouragement, love and support. We know she is safe and happy, and entertaining the angels. We feel she has a gentle fingertip on each member of her family, and will always be with us. In our hearts, we believe all this to be true.

Still…

There will never be a day in our lives when we won’t remember—and miss—Our Aunt Shirley. Our Aunt Shirley was truly the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, a blessing to be shared—and one for whom the Yours-Mine Line was no match at all.

Monday, September 14, 2009

On My Mind

What's on my mind?

Pockets. That's it--pockets. In particular, the pocket on women's winter pajamas. I just want to know why that left breast pocket is there, on every pair of ladies' pajamas I buy. Every single pair. I've looked for nightwear without that dratted pocket but they're nearly impossible to find.

Why is that, I wonder? Is this some sort of garment maker conspiracy? A pocket plot? An attempt to drive women everywhere mad trying to find a pair of pocketless jammies?Or, a thought that troubles me even further...is there a purpose to the breast pocket? One that I'm missing completely? And if there is actually a reason for a pocket on pajamas, why hasn't anyone told me about it? Am I the only one who's clueless about this issue?

Now that's even more disturbing! I don't want to be clueless about anything! Why haven't I been informed on the nighttime pocket protocol? Why? I pay my taxes. I'm a good, upstanding citizen. I assist the elderly, children and small animals across the street when the need arises. Why, then, am I being kept in the dark about pajama pockets?

What am I supposed to be putting in that pesky pocket? My cell phone? A pair of reading glasses? A peanut butter and jelly sandwich in case I feel a hunger pang sometime around 2am? What? Won't someone please take mercy on me and clue me in on what's supposed to fill my pajama pocket? Please?

And this was supposed to be a stress-free, easygoing blog post, wasn't it? Why, then, do I wish I'd tucked a small--

Aha! I think I might know what's supposed to go in that pajama pocket!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Never Forgotten

September 11, 2001.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

A Hankering

Yesterday, just as darkness began to creep over the countryside, I got an idea. So I slipped into my sneakers and headed back outside. We'd already closed up the barns and potting shed, shut the greenhouse door and taken the garbage to the end of the driveway. So why was I practically running across the lawn at dusk?

Strawberries. I remembered I hadn't checked the strawberry patches in a couple of days. And, I had a hankering. You know how that is, don't you? A craving sweeps over you, one you can't resist? I guess you could, actually, resist...but why?

Within minutes I'd picked enough berries from the closest patch to fill a pretty large mixing bowl. The berries are fat and juicy and, after being hit by the first light frost, sweeter than they are earlier in the season.

Today I'm going to make one of my favorite, easier-than-it-should-be recipes. This works almost as well with frozen berries if you don't have fresh. I thought I'd share it with you, bring a bit of goodness from our home to yours.

I hope you enjoy this as much as we do!

Crumb Cake

2 1/4 cups flour
½ cup granulated sugar
2 ½ t. baking powder
½ t. salt
1 egg
½ cup milk
2 T. melted butter
2 t. vanilla
1 cup sliced strawberries
8 T. butter
½ cup brown sugar
2 t. cinnamon

In a large bowl combine flour, salt, granulated sugar and baking powder. Add egg, milk, melted butter and vanilla and mix thoroughly. Pour batter into a greased and floured cake pan.

Arrange strawberries on top of batter.

Combine butter, brown sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Sprinkle crumb mixture over berries. Place cake pan in a pre-heated 325-degree oven and bake for 25 minutes.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Blowin' in the Wind

We all have 'em, those days that just don't seem to gel no matter how hard we try. I've had 'em. You've had 'em. As I said, we've all had 'em.

Conversely, we've all have wonderfully flowing, everything-falls-easily-into-place days. You know the ones. The sun seems brighter than usual. The air smells sweeter. Every task requires less effort. Each moment seems like it shines.

I had one of those days yesterday. I woke to the winds of change. We had branches down in our yard. Tomatoes were blown clear off their plants. It sure made harvesting them interesting! I've never reaped tomatoes from the lawn but at least they were all unblemished. The silver lining, I guess, to having a crop blasted off the vine! But the wind, which persisted all day long, was an added attraction to a day that was...perfect.

We had breakfast on the back porch. The sun was shining and it was breezier than usual but it didn't matter. We enjoyed pancakes with blueberries still warm from the sun sprinkled on top.

Then, we spent some time in the gardens, rescuing crops that had been buffeted through the night. Like I said, nothing was much worse for the wear.

And yesterday afternoon I began writing something new. It began like a dream and snowballed. I love the feeling of fingers flying over keyboard. Honestly? There are few things I like more than bringing what I see in my mind to life on the screen. Days like yesterday make up for the ones when writing requires much more effort.

Not a bad day. In fact, it was a great day in every respect. I'm hoping the breezy influence lingers long enough to finish the story I began yesterday. I've already got a destination planned for it, and am anxious to finish writing...then send it off on a gust to, hopefully, find a good home.

What about you? How did your day go? I hope it was a good one.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Pick a Day

Scented with apples, cinnamon and berries, the steamy air in the kitchen swirled when he walked in. Even with the exhaust fan roaring, the room felt as full of flavor as a homemade pie. He stopped and stared at the rows of canning jars on the table and countertops. Then, a grin.

"Busy this afternoon, were you?" A top on one of the dozens of jars pinged and he arched a brow. "Very busy?"

She lifted the final jar from the boiling water bath and deposited it on the counter. There. The day's work was done. Satisfaction swept over her as she twirled the dial and wiped her brow all in one efficient movement. The kitchen was closed for the day.

"Just a little," she answered with a small, albeit tired, smile. "And you?"

Running a hand through his touseled hair, he shrugged. "Just cleaning up the workshop some. Getting things moved so when the wood for the family room floor is delivered we'll have somewhere to put it."

"We're getting that next week, right?"

"Looks that way." He paused. Looked around. "So...what's for dinner?" He covered his head with his hands as if he expected to be slapped with the dishtowel.

A smile playing on her lips, she retrieved three small covered cups from the fridge, along with two bottles of iced tea. She handed them to him, waiting while he arranged everything so nothing would crash to the floor. Silently she grabbed a couple of knives. A jar of peanut butter. A towel-wrapped bundle from inside the oven.

"What's that?" he asked, motioning toward the bundle.

"Bread. I made it this morning before I started the preserves. And in your hands...strawberry jam, blackberry jam and spiced apple butter. Leftovers that wouldn't fit into the canning jars. So," she walked across the room and, using the only two fingers she had left, opened the back door. "are you ready for a picnic?"

He followed. "You bet I am."

"Good," she said, laughing as she dashed out the door. "The last one to the dock's a rotten egg!"

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Life is Good


Recently we pulled into a parking spot at a medical facility. I must admit, we were a bit apprehensive but as soon as we saw this tire cover our spirits lifted. Isn't it amazing how one small thing can have such a big impact on one's outlook?
I hope you're having a great Wednesday!

Monday, August 31, 2009

Wrap-Up


Just wanted to end the month with something pretty.
Have a nice day!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Oodles of Produce

Okay, so you found us out. We're all over the bounty of the farm and gardens during the summer. We spend lots of time grilling, canning and...well, eating. There's just so much being harvested every day, it seems silly not to try new recipes while it's all so fresh.

Last night I baked an old standard. It was a big hit with our dinner guests, so I thought I'd share the recipe with you. I hope you enjoy it.

In our yard we've still got strawberries. Lots and lots of strawberries. So when I'm handed strawberries I make cobbler. Lots and lots of cobbler!

The fruit can be changed in this recipe to accomodate whatever's in season.

Fruit Cobbler

5 Tablespoons butter, melted
3/4 cup flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup milk
2 cups strawberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Place melted butter in a square baking dish.Combine all ingredients except fruit and whisk until batter is smooth. Pour into baking dish. Put fruit on batter, then sprinkle with an additional spoonful of sugar. Cinnamon may be sprinkled over fruit as well, if desired.

Bake about an hour.

Best served with ice cream! But then, isn't almost everything better with ice cream?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

And the Living is Easy

Guess what we had for dinner last night! What's cooking at your house?

Grilled Veggie Packets

4 potatoes, sliced
1 red onion, sliced
1 bell pepper, sliced
1 zucchini, sliced
4 cloves minced garlic
4 sprigs rosemary
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
4 tablespoons olive oil

This is one of my favorite things to eat. I make this in the winter too, using the oven. I've been known to do this with the woodstove, too!

Anyhow, all you've got to do is combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Then separate it onto foil squares, close the squares tightly and place on the warm grill. Let it all cook for about a half hour or so.

Serve with some hearty Italian bread. If you're really adventurous you can eat straight from the packet but I'm not that outdoorsy. I like mine on a plate but hey, it's all up to you! Enjoy!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Coming Soon...

My next novel, Last Chance, will be released shortly from Whiskey Creek Press. It's a historical romance, set in the Old West. Lots of cowboys, strong women and...well, let's just say there's a lot going on!

The book's cover blurb:

Young widow Laura Perkins learned the hard way that life in the rugged frontier isn’t all sunshine and roses. She never planned to find herself alone in a land where gunshots and hangings are commonplace. But planned or not, that’s exactly what happens to her and, short of turning tail and fleeing, she’ll have to learn to live with her circumstances—one way or another.

When a handsome stranger saunters into Granite Creek, life takes a drastic turn. Laura and Chance are as different as night from day, but she still finds herself intrigued by the man.

And Chance? He’s as drawn to Laura as a moth to a flame. Too bad that moth has a trail of mystery—and murder—hot on its trail.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Reading?


I'm reading, for the umpteenth time, Four Wings and A Prayer. I love this book! Sue Halpern gives great insight into the lives of one of my favorite summer delights, the monarch butterfly.
What about you? What are you reading? Hmm?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

From the Farm

I love August on the farm. Everywhere I look, there's something to appreciate. Thought I'd share some of the simple pleasures with you.






Have a nice day! And thanks for visiting. Y'all come back now, you hear?

Monday, August 17, 2009

Green Tomatoes

Recently someone asked what I planned to do with all the unripe tomatoes rescued from the garden. We've already had frost here so if we hadn't picked everything it would be lost. Still...we've got bushels of green tomatoes. The question is a valid one...what to do with so many unripe tomatoes?

The truth is that a majority of them will ripen up. After a certain point it doesn't matter whether or not they're attached to the vine. They've begun to ripen and will continue to do so--in the garden or in a bushel. So most of the rescuees will turn red and we'll either can them or eat them now. But the rest? There are loads of uses for green tomatoes!

Of course the most obvious is the fried green tomato route. Have you ever had a fried green tomato? No? What are you waiting for? Hmm? They couldn't be easier to prepare and while I wouldn't want a steady diet of them they're one of the fun summertime side dishes that we look forward to.

If you've got a green tomato and want to try frying it, simply slice it thin and dip in any batter. We use a simple beer batter but any coating batter will do. Then, drop the slices into hot oil. They puff right up, turn golden brown and smell heavenly. When the slices reach your favorite crispness, remove from oil and drain on paper towels. See? Easy as pie.

Many of the green tomatoes will end up in relish. I've also got a recipe for picallily that I'm going to try. I'll let you know how that turns out.

So, with so many uses for rescued green tomatoes there hardly seems to be enough to go around! See what I mean?

What about you? Have you got any ideas about using up the garden's glut--uh, bounty?

Friday, August 14, 2009

Visiting

Hey, it's me, Piglet. I figured you might miss me by now. It's been ages since I've taken over--uh, visited the blog.

I hope you've got a nice Friday planned. A little getaway on your to-do list, perhaps? Or maybe you're going to have a party at your house...no, that can't be right. I didn't get an invitation, so you can't be having a shindig at your place, can you? I mean, you wouldn't throw a summer gala without me...would you?

Sheesh. You had me worried for a minute! Silly, isn't it? Of course you wouldn't host an affair without inviting me. What was I thinking?

So, now that we know what you're not doing this weekend, I thought I'd show you a glimpse of what I'll be up to.

I might ask for ice cream. No, I will ask for ice cream. And you know what? I'll get it. Vanilla, my favorite.

After I eat my ice cream, I'll feel sleepy. That happens when you eat cold stuff, doesn't it? The instant sleepiness--it just takes over!


I'll sleep on the deck.

I'll sleep in the grass.

Hmm?

Oh, right. The blog.

Listen, you have a nice weekend, okay?

Now, run along... I think I hear someone calling you.
They probably want to give you some ice cream...
Zzz...zzz...zzz...





Wednesday, August 12, 2009

From the Family

...a recipe.

I've been making these since my husband and I were first married and they've always been a favorite in our house. There's only one problem with these cookies--they never last long enough. As fast as I make 'em, we eat 'em.

Pignoli Cookies

1 stick unsalted butter
1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup pine nuts

Beat the butter, sugar, vanilla and salt in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Add the egg. Add the flour and mix just until blended.

Transfer the dough to a sheet of plastic wrap. Shape the dough into an 8-inch-long log. Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate for 2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Cut the dough log crosswise into 1/4-inch thick slices. Transfer the cookies to the baking sheets. Press the pine nuts into the tops of the cookies.

Bake about 15 minutes, until lightly golden.