Sunday, July 31, 2011

Four-story Gorilla

You know, there just aren't enough hours in the day sometimes. I scramble from one thing to the next, always with my to-do list by my side, but try as I might I just don't get everything done. It is beginning to frustrate me!

What about you? Does your to-do list feel like a four-story dancing gorilla? If so, does yours need a partner? I've got one I'm willing to toss!

I hope you have a lovely Sunday.

Me? I'm off to do some weeding and mowing before it gets hot. Then, I'm bringing heat into the kitchen in the form of hot pepper relish. Afterward, I'm putting the heat on the page in chapter four of the new book. That's right, things are getting steamy in book world.

Thanks for stopping by!

Saturday, July 30, 2011


Lions and tigers and bears--

Oh, sorry. Canning steam on the brain, I think.

Around here it's mangoes and blueberries and eggplants and...

Oh, the list goes on and means I'm busy in the kitchen. Will show photos soon, I promise. Until then, it's back to the stove for me.

Hope you have a peaceful weekend!

Friday, July 29, 2011

It's a Lark!

Happy Friday, friends!

I hope you're doing well and looking forward to a peaceful weekend. Here on the farm, I've got picking, canning and cooking plans. It's going to be busy here!

I'm over at the Lark Journals today. Hope you have a moment to peek in!

Thursday, July 28, 2011


Last Tuesday, I think it was, I sent off the new story to my editor. God bless her; she gave me a nudge just when I needed it and now I'm pretty much back into the writing habit. I didn't do any writing, obviously, while I was laid low by the heat issue, but yesterday and today I'm back in the writing saddle. Thank you, Nic!

Yep, back in the saddle--with a change. Implemented yesterday. Fingers crossed, it'll make this part of life progress more smoothly.

What did I do? It's something many other authors do, something that seems ridiculously obvious and necessary. I'm keeping a notebook about the book. Nothing grand, just an ordinary spiral-bound spot to keep track of POVs, scenes within chapters, characters, a timeline and, maybe most importantly, details.

That's right. I'm trying to keep track of the details. My sweet man used to help me remember the small things because as I wrote, I'd discuss every chapter with him. His memory was like magic, and he never forgot the incidentals. Whenever I couldn't recall something I'd ask Vito. He could always provide the answer.

Now I've got to keep track of this stuff on my own. It's not easy! I'm deep into chapter four and already was already forgetting some things. So yesterday I began tracking the book in a book. I have high hopes that it'll keep me from constantly looking back to find a fact or, worse still, from changing the small things and creating a continuity catastrophe.

My little book just may be my new best writing friend. Hey, if it works to remind me when so-and-so appears or the colors of the duck, I'll be happy.

That's right, the duck color is a biggie.

What's new in your life? Anything you'd care to share?

Wishing you a peaceful day.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011


Shameful, that's what it is. Really. Truly. Just...ridiculous.

What's on my mind this morning? Confession. Yes, it's true. I'm here to confess.

I've been eating like a college student again. Embarrassing, but true.

By this time last week, I was already dealing with heat exhaustion which, as we now know, was only the beginning of the fiasco. So eating well hasn't been at the top of my to-do list. But that changes. Today. How can I be so sure? Because I'm confessing here, laying it all out, showing just what kind of diet I've been on. Ready? Are you sure? It's kind of ugly...

Okay, here goes--


Fast. Easy. Yummy.

Not nearly as nutritionally sound as other choices I might make.

And, I've got to consider alternatives to the coffee. I'd love a "real" cup of coffee now and again, but I just can't face that full-size carafe. Seeing only an inch of coffee in it just makes me sad, so I've been relying on the packets. They're good, don't get me wrong, but I'd love the aroma of brewing coffee in the house, which these don't give.

Onward to...

Lunch. Yes, ice cream melting on brownies.

See how it's melting in the NY heat?

And this. Woo-ee! I brought this package back from Florida.

If you've never tried these amazing little sesame candies, I've got to warn you they're addictive. Really, addictive!

Vito loved these, and it's a taste he's passed on to me.

These things disappear like magic, especially when they're next to the computer and I'm writing a book.

So, there you have it. My food confessions. Bad, huh? I know, I know...

Today's mission: Eat "real food".

What about you? Have a mission for your day?

Stay cool, have fun and find peace!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

This and That

Taking things slow and easy here on the farm. Not fact, not doing much of anything. A little writing, some reading and beginning to eat again. More than that? Nope.

Thank goodness, it's cooler here now. Finally, the heat wave has broken!

What have you been up to on these hot, hot, hot days of summer?

Me? Took a walk around the farm, just to see what's growing. Want a peek?

I'm nuts about this color. Snapdragons, looking oh-so lovely.

The first tomatoes have been picked. Not this variety, but Romas and cherry tomatoes are ripening nicely.

Can't you just smell this basil? Mmm...

Peppers by the truckload! I'm trying to figure out what to do with all the peppers. Salsa, anyone?

See those little green things? Look like tiny tomatoes, don't they?

They're actually growing on a potato plant. Have no idea what's going on there.

I can't pick raspberries quickly enough.

Sorry for the fuzzy photo.

The blueberries? I've been picking 1-2 pints a day!

Lots of blueberry jam coming soon!

Peaches are ripening.

They are beyond words fantastic.

Even in the midst of summer, winter is on my mind.

Another load of firewood arrived last night. It all needs to be stacked, but not this week.

Nope, this week is for resting. And harvesting. And eating.

Writing. Reading. Relaxing.

How about you? What's up in your neck of the woods?

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Heat Stroke

It hits fast. Hard. And I know it will be an unforgettable experience.

By the time I realized I was feeling more than just hot and crappy, it was too late. I was in trouble. Big trouble.

Having said that, I know I'm beyond words fortunate. I'm still standing. Shaky, but still here.

So, a short lesson. Don't do what I did. Don't think that drinking water, even lots of water, covers your butt. It doesn't. Forget weeding. Forget mowing. Forget brush-clearing near the barn. Forget it all. It doesn't matter--not when weighed against your life. Just forget it.

And if you feel crappy, hot and miserable, don't just call those around you to make sure they're all okay. Yes, it's important to keep an eye on friends, family and neighbors but be smarter than I was. Keep an eye on you.

Believe me, heat cramps and the rest of it are things you'd rather not have in your memories.

So I'm still taking it slow and easy here. Thursday night put an end to my go-go-go plans for the week. Just hanging in front of a fan, resting, drinking lots of fluids, staying cool and napping. Reading when my eyes and head don't hurt too much. Beginning to eat soft foods. Lots of ice cream and pudding.

Other than that? Nada. Zip. Zero. Zilch. Other than this, telling you what happened here this week at Villa Leone. Why share this info? So it doesn't happen at your house! Be smart in this blistering heat wave, please!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Blistering Thursday

Good morning, friends. I hope this finds you doing well--and trying to stay cool. Oh my goodness, it is hot, hot, hot here! Yesterday upstate NY sweltered. Today it's going to be even hotter, in the high 90s. Scary hot.

Thank you for all the kind notes and emails about my finishing the story. You are amazing, and I am blessed. You all stepped up, supporting me and really making what could be a hard time very satisfying. Thank you.

Yesterday I began the post-book catch-up. When I'm in the home stretch, writing, I pretty much ignore everything else. And this time, there wasn't anyone to take up the slack and keep things under control here. What a mess I had!

I vacuumed and mopped. Dusted and tossed the expired milk and moldy cheese from the fridge. Spent some time weeding. Did laundry. Made phone calls--I won't even tell you how many messages were on the machine. It is too funny and embarrassing as well.

Still trying to catch up on blog reading, emails and putting laundry away. I also have a sewing project that I'd like to finish by next week. So I've got a few things to cross off my to-do list but it's whittling down.

This morning I'm going to get back in the garden before it gets too hot. The tomatoes need staking and peppers, blueberries, blackberries and raspberries need picking. Cukes, yellow squash and zucchini are on the way. I just hope things come in in big batches, so I'll be able to pickle or can all at once instead of in drips and drabs. We'll see.

Good news? It looks like Chuck didn't have any friends or relations. I've been poking around but it seems like there was only the one woodchuck. Friends Linda and Ray took him to live on one of their woodlots, miles from here so I'm hoping he's happily chucking wood in his new home!

Enough rambling from me! What have you got planned for this boiler room day? Whatever you're doing, please try to stay cool. This heatwave has dangerous written all over it.

Hope you have a peaceful day!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Ho finito!

I'm finished!

Usually when I finish a book, we celebrate. Dinner. A bottle of wine. Sleep. Lots of laughing.

Tough, this finish. None of that. But I feel a great sense of accomplishment, despite the circumstances. Why? Because this first finish shows me that I can do this...even alone, I can write. I can still conjure a happily-ever-after. And I can smile when "my folks" find theire way to happiness. It still feels good.

Maybe most importantly, I feel my guy smiling. He's not right here, but he's smiling nonetheless.

So, I'll celebrate differently. Dinner. A glass of Bailey's. Sleep. Satisfaction at getting the job done.

And I'm fortunate that I have all of you to share my news with. Thanks for being here for this event!

Ho finito!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


Life surely does change in an instant, doesn't it? Even for little woodchucks.

I chased a woodchuck around our yard for two days. Two days.

And when I say I chased the little bugger, I mean it. I acted certifiably insane...not that I'm saying that might not occasionally be a fitting label, but I really did behave erratically in my single-mindedness. What was I trying to do? Why, I was trying to scare the bejeezus out of him so he'd go live somewhere else, that's what.

Hmm? Did it work? Nope. He didn't flinch. Not when I ran from the back door, flapping my arms as if I was an overgrown chicken. Not when I banged pots and pans together. Not even when I barked like a dog. Yes, I'm admitting it here. Barked. Like a dog.

Unflappable, he was. Calm. Cool. Giving me the are-you-nuts? look every time I went after him. Especially when I barked.


A new sheriff's in town here at Villa Leone.

So this can go to...

this in an instant because she's packing a cage!

Yeah, life changes, buckaroo.
No more flapping or barking around here.
No more you, either.


Monday, July 18, 2011

Yarn, Beads and Bedlam

There's a shortage of craft and fabric stores here in the middle of nowhere. So when I was in Florida with my father, I browsed in a Joann's Fabric store. What a relaxing time I had!

I was very restrained. I did choose some fun items for a special girl's sewing basket, but that's a secret gift so I can't share what I picked up.

I did, however, come home with a thing or two. Want to see?

The awareness color for leukemia is orange so I wear an orange bracelet every day. Any awareness I can raise for the monstrous disease just makes me feel that perhaps somehow we'll all come closer to finding better ways to save precious lives. Anyhow, I've been on the lookout for some pretty orange beads, thinking I'd whip up a new bracelet or two so I can change things up a bit.

I found these ceramic beads. A lovely shade of orange. I was psyched.

Picked up some stretchy thread and made the bracelet. So simple, right? So pretty, isn't it? So sweet.

I was smiling when I slipped it onto my wrist. Grinning as I headed outside.

Not smiling about an hour later as I crawled through the grass looking for the beads. Yes, that's right, my first attempt at jewelry making was disasterous! String broke, beads scattered. Didn't find all the beads but I did locate a glass of wine when I came back inside!

All that crafty jewelry-making stuff is more difficult than it looks. Either that, or I'm an idiot! Jury's still out on that one.

Moving right along...

Sock yarn! I am tickled to actually find sock yarn. I've always wanted to knit socks. Bought books, needles and have had the ambition for years but it's near impossible to find sock yarn in the middle of nowhere. Since I've never made socks before, I didn't want to spend a mint on what will undoubtedly be two mismatched first-attempt socks so when I spotted this on sale I snatched it up.

Hoping socks go better than bracelets.

Finally, I came home with this. Why? It made me laugh. The label says it's enough to make a scarf so I figure that'll keep me busy for a few evenings. Plus, don't you think a scarf made with these little puffs will be silly? And silly? Not a bad thing these days!

Beware, if the scarf is simple--and silly--enough, this could be a big gift idea. Just saying. Beware!

Any crafting projects going on in your house lately?

Sunday, July 17, 2011

From the Farm

Good morning. Thank you all for your positive comments and emails yesterday. I appreciate your kindness. I was just having a crummy day, but you all made it so much better. Thank you!

Here on the farm it's going to be very busy day. I've got trimming to do, berries that need picking and a book that is wonderfully close to its last chapter. So I thought I'd share some random photos from this past week.

Shearer's Girl asked a while back whether there are animals here on the farm. No, there aren't, although years ago, long before we bought the place, it was a large, thriving farm. There were cows, horses, chickens (and I don't mean just a few, either. One barn held five hundred chickens!), sheep and who knows what else. Ducks, I think, down by the pond. Anyhow, we were fortunate to become friendly with a woman who grew up here when animals roamed this property, and she filled us in on the goings-on that took place years ago.

We bought the farm long after the last cow had been sold, and the only animals Vito and I brought here were our two little cats. Mimi and Piglet are in heaven now so aside from the foxes who live on the hill, the deer who roam the forest and the woodchuck dancing on the back stoop, we're animal-free.

Now, the farm this week...

I love the greens on the back hill.

Hydrangeas beginning to bloom.

Trees are loaded with cherries.

I've just begun picking them. Sweet and juicy, but a lot are way out of reach.

Still trying to figure out how to get the high ones.

The tractor seat, maybe?



We planted several varieties, and all of the trees are heavily laden.


I planted three rows of tomatoes, so I'm going to be busy canning.

Blueberries earlier in the week. Now they're much purpler.

Spotted this by one of the barns. Pretty!

Wild sweet peas growing by the big barn.

Such a lovely scented flower!

I planted these because I love the color.

See this?

The first peach.

Lousy photo.

Amazing, sweet peach!

Just before nine last night I realized I'd spent most of the day sitting in front of the computer. As I said, the book is nearly done so I'm single-minded. I figured it there was time to take a short stroll before darkness settled, so I headed out to the yard.

Didn't take a bowl or bucket, so I only picked what I could carry in my hand.

Blueberries, raspberries and blackberries.

I had ice cream for dinner.

Yes, it's true.

I still hadn't eaten at nine.

But, after a fast shower, the prize of ice cream and berries made working on the book all day well worth it.

Wishing you a peaceful Sunday.

Thanks for stopping by!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Skipping Out

This morning I'm going to hit and run. I hope you don't mind, but I'm trying to get my feet under me. Yesterday was "one of those days"... You know what I mean; we all have them. Just a crap day.

Fast rundown? Sure. Spent nine hours working in the yard. Actually, trying to make lots of noise because there's a woodchuck who believes the back stoop is a great place to loiter. I'm trying to scare the little bugger off because I can't have it hanging around so close to the back door, and the other options are troubling. So, I tried to bother it so it'll move.

During the day I took three unexpected fast trips backward on the hill while riding the lawn tractor. Don't even want to consider what might be wrong with the tractor, or how much it'll cost to fix it. Just glad I lived to be annoyed by the adventure.

Then, to put the cherry on the day, I drove the rabid tractor into the pool house. Really, I did. I clipped the corner and tore off the corner molding. So I ended up getting out the hammer, swearing in four languages and putting the molding back in place. Sort of. I hammered in as high as I could reach without having to get a ladder. Oh, what did I stand on to hammer the pieces into place? The lawn tractor seat. Oh yes, I did.

Like I said, a crummy day. And since I'm doing more than hitting and running, I might as well go the whole way and add the phone call.

Some idiot called last evening, obviously trying to sell something. This fool asked for my husband.

I said he wasn't available.

"Are you sure?"

"Yes, I'm sure. May I help you?"

"I'd really like to speak with Mr. Leone."

Yeah, me too. Get in line, pal.

"He is unavailable. May I help you?"

"When will Mr. Leone be home?"

"My husband passed away. Now, really, may I help you?"

"Passed away?"

"Yes, I'm sorry, but he did."

"I don't guess he needs life insurance then, does he? Are you sure he passed away?"

Where do they get these telemarketing fools from? I hung up while this clown was still talking. I'd heard enough. Too much, actually.

So, today I'm going to work on the new book, eat ice cream and not answer the phone. I hope you have a good day. Me? I might put brownies under the ice cream, just because I can.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Larkin' It

Happy Friday morning! I hope the day treats you well.

I've got a jam-packed day planned so I'm going to dash. I'm over at The Lark Journals today. Please stop by and say hi!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Adventure Lessons

I know I said I'd share farm photos today, but I've still got some pretty shots from last week's adventure to share with you. Coming soon, farm pictures, I promise! But today, some from from Florida.

That's right, I went to visit my dad in Florida for a bit. He was amazing, pulling me into his home and giving me the most peaceful, rejuvenating holiday imaginable. My dad is beyond words wonderful, truly an incredible, loving man. He calmed my soul and brought laughter.

Thanks, Pop.

So. Some Florida beach shots...

See those broad shoulders?

They belong to one of the most fabulous men on earth!

Peaceful, this view into forever.

Learning to deal with only one set of footprints.

See this coconut?

It was tossed about in the ocean, battered and bashed, but it still held together.

Admirable, that coconut.


Maybe not.

Found a Penny from Heaven.

Walking on the pier is a reminder that the world is a big place.

And really, we are pretty small.

At least that's how I felt.

Looking back at a restful holiday.

Looking forward, too.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Pink, Anyone?

Have you ever noticed that some places pop with color? Most times, there's a color that peeks out of every corner. At least that's the way it feels to me.

On my adventure, I noticed lots of pinks. And, like the first photo, almost-pinks.

I'm a fan of pink, so I thought I'd share some of what I saw.

This was a salmon-y color, although it shows more orange than pink here.

I don't know if this is fact or tropical myth, but I was told these pink blobs covering the pilings on a bridge are actually eggs. As I said...fact? Urban myth? Who knows?

Still, interesting little buggers!

Even the ordinary plants take on extraordinary hues beneath the tropical sun.


Sorry for the fuzziness...I couldn't resist swooping in for the scent!

Pink doesn't get much pinker than this, does it?

Every time I passed this plant, I nearly swooned. So beautiful, delicate and stunning.

News on the writing front? Oh, I thought you'd never ask!

Good news, actually. I'm finding a new rhythm for the writing. In "before" times, I wrote way early in the morning while my sweet man slept. I just can't force myself to do that now. Way too sad. So, the new schedule gets me into the gardens early, then back inside for pre-lunch writing. So far, so good. It's working. I'm on chapter 4 or so and it's actually beginning to feel "normal"...interesting, isn't it, how we can find a new normal when forced to do so?

I hope you have a peaceful day!

Tomorrow, photos from here at the farm. So much is growing, I've just got to share with you.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Travel Hints

Today was spent doing laundry, wading through a huge stack of mail and tackling yardwork. You know how it is when you go away; there's always a ton of stuff waiting for attention when you return home. So, today I paid attention. Tomorrow, more of the same.

I don't mind one bit. Both being home and adventuring keep me busy. An added bonus? I carved time today for writing. It's finally beginning to get easier to write, more like it was before...well, before. In the old days, long before life took a frightening turn, writing was fun. The words came without too much effort. I took pleasure in putting fingers to keyboard and telling stories. Finally, that's beginning to come back to me, that joy of writing. It's coming slowly but at least I know the feeling is still there. Somewhere. Anyhow, today I tackled chapter three and it was very satisfying.

Now, a few hint-y photos from my adventure. I'm not divulging much yet, just sharing a couple of random shots.
First, let me just say I know why this is called an Airbus. Just saying. For the longest time it felt as if we might drive from Philly to New York. Really. An Airbus.

Where I went, even the decoys travel in pairs.

Ibis feed in twos.

Mangoes grow side by side.

Ducks waddle in unison.

Even bananas grow two to a peel!

Love signs?

Just there for the observing...