Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Aftermath

There are lots of places that escaped the wrath of Irene. Unfortunately, large parts of upstate New York weren't that lucky. There's a lot of damage here. Thousands without power. Lots of water in homes. Creeks and rivers out of their banks. The aftermath of water damage to be cleared as water begins to recede.

Whole towns flooded. Bridges out. Homes gone.

And the worst? Lives lost. This morning's local news tells a story of yet another man washed away in the floodwater. So sad.

Here on the farm, things are pretty okay. Lots of cleanup. Trees down. Shingles off a roof or two. Branches everywhere. The gardens? Underwater. Water in the basement and raining in a barn. But I can deal with all of it. Small potatoes by comparison to some of our neighbors. I am grateful it wasn't worse.

Lots of people still without power. There are power crews from out of state here to help, but they're having trouble getting to the affected areas. Bridges and roads need to be in place for those big trucks to get around, but they're gone in so many areas. I saw a caravan of electric trucks from Illinois pass the farm yesterday. They're looking for back roads that are still passable. I didn't see them come back, so I'm praying they found a way to help the ravaged areas.

Just a few photos of Irene's mess. Nothing too graphic. You can see that on the news, and it's really too disturbing to post much here.

Will be here and there for the next few days. Trying to do all I can to help neighbors. Thanks for understanding!

My boots are getting a workout.

I've rescued a bunch of these from the lawn and driveway.
They were swept out of the pond in the flooding.
He looks lost, doesn't he?

This is usually a lazy, babbling brook.
In a few hours, it took out buildings and changed lives forever.

We're used to seeing a picturesque creek, not this raging torrent.

The wall of water took out anything in its way.

Around here, we're happy to be alive.

Not too thrilled with Mother Nature at the moment, though.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Come On, Irene!

Good Sunday morning, friends. Just popping in while there's still power here on the farm.

Irene's finally found us, and already she's making a forceful first impression. And this is just the beginning. Torrential rain and increasing wind have me up way before sunrise. The hammering on the roof isn't conducive to peaceful sleeping!

So, I've spent the past three days battening down the hatches. Now, I'll just ride it out and hope for the best. We're forecast to probably lose power so if I'm missing for a bit that's the reason.

I've got plans to read. Write. Watch the rain. And, if the power holds up, I'll watch the Weather Channel. Or not. I can't imagine what they might tell me that I won't be able to see with my own eyes!

And, just to add interest to this wild weather week, another small earthquake shook Albany county yesterday morning. Nearby, but I didn't feel a thing.

What do you think the weather in Tuscany is? Just wondering...

I hope you have a peaceful day. See you soon!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Friday Lowdown

Good morning! I'm over at The Lark Journals today. Won't you come visit?

Wishing you a peaceful Friday.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Have a Plan

Oh boy. First the ground shook. Now? Irene.

Mother Nature? Uh, having fun yet?

Today I'll pick up a couple of things to make sure the farm is prepared. I'm preparing for the worst, but hoping for the best. I can't cover all bases but I can take care of some things.

So, that's how my day will go. You?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Godzilla Stomp

So, I did have a Godzilla-free day. But, the earth felt a little of the Godzilla-two step not once, but twice, here in upstate New York. That's right, the earth shook...and then, later in the day, it shook again.

Yesterday morning, around 6:30, I was sitting right here when the house trembled. The computer screen swayed. The television remote sort of skittered across the desk.

My reaction?

Huh. Now, isn't that interesting?

That's right. There was an earthquake, measuring 2.2 to be exact, about 35 miles east of here. I felt it, but just carried on.

Unflappable, I guess. I'm sitting here shaking my head, almost embarrassed to admit I took it so in stride.

Later in the day I was outside picking apples. Yes, life here at Villa Leone is lively. So...picking apples. We planted a row of apple trees behind one of the barns. They're heavy with fruit, and the apples are oh-so sweet, so I spent a good part of yesterday making applesauce.

I was minding my own business, picking fruit from the first tree in the row, when the ground beneath my feet just sort of started to shudder. Really weird feeling. I realized the branches around me were swaying, and an apple dropped near my feet.

I looked down the row at the other trees. Branches? All swaying. Very freaky to watch.

My reaction?

Huh. So this is wild. I wonder how many more apples I can fit into this big bowl before I'll have to go inside and dump it into the sink?

Desensitized, much? Overload, anyone?

Godzilla stomping? You think?

Today? More applesauce. More canning tomatoes. More book writing. And, hopefully, no more ground shaking!

Wishing you a peaceful day!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

In the Soup

Morning is breaking. I've been awake for hours. It's going to be one of those days, when I scramble all day long, trying to rub the sleep from my head while keeping every ball in the air. It happens. I'll probably sleep tonight. But today? It's going to be interesting.

But...the sunrise is gorgeous. All red, pink, lavender and white. I'd take a picture but don't want to miss a moment. So, imagine the beauty...

Just before sunset last night I raided the gardens. It was a mini-raid, since there's such abundance out there and I'm only one woman with two hands who got tired after three trips inside. I picked zucchini, tomatoes, peppers, yellow squash, potatoes, green beans, peas, basil, blueberries and apples. Most of it is still waiting for me in the kitchen.


Today I'll pick some more. On the to-do list? Applesauce. Pesto. Soup. That's my day.

And the book. Always, the book. Which, by the way, is moving right along. Chapter 20--all about resisting temptation. Or not. But I'm two-thirds done with the first draft and I'm just over-the-moon tickled.


You know what's next, don't you?

That's right. It's the dreaded synopsis. Looming ahead of me, waiting like Godzilla hiding around a corner. Ready to smack me down when I dance to the point of needing a synopsis.

Stinking Godzilla.

Wishing you a peaceful, Godzilla-free day.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Weekend Update

I hope you had a nice weekend. I hope it was peaceful. Relaxing. Heartwarming. Productive.

If it was, you had a weekend similar to the one I had. What did I do?

Well, I took most of Saturday off from the book. One of my college sorority sisters arrived early that morning. The day was beautiful, all blue sky and warm breezes, so we took a nice ride. Just talking, catching up, laughing. We went for lunch. Lingered. Talked some more. We ran errands. Bought flowers. Visited someone special. We had a lovely day. We walked the farm when we got home, stopping in the vineyard, orchards and by the pond. We admired flowers in the meadow, picked apples and just enjoyed the day. She'd brought home-baked cookies (I felt so special!) so before she headed home we had coffee and cookies for dinner. Yes, you can do that--have cookies for dinner. It's okay!

Later on, I worked on the book for a bit.

Yesterday? I canned tomatoes. Did laundry and other household chores. I dealt with an entire sinkful of peppers.

Mostly, I worked on the book. It's coming along nicely. I'm not making it easy for this couple to find their happily ever after. They've got lots of wacky stuff to deal with before they find their truth, that they need to be together more than they need anything--or anyone--else. I sent the first chapter to a new set of eyes. Major trepidation there. But her reaction? "Get moving and finish the book!" So, all good book-wise.

Today, more writing. I've got a deadline for this one, a timeline in my head, due mainly to circumstances that will be soon upon me. Just some stuff I'll need to deal with, obligations that can't be changed. It's not all bad because it's pushing me right along.

What about you? How was your weekend?

I wish you a peaceful day!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Saturday Snippet

Did you notice? Just one snippet. Just one. But, it's a big one.

Oh, I've been working my butt off on the new book. Yes, I really have. I'm having fun but I've got sore fingers, aching wrists and a backache that just won't quit. For my trouble, I've got nearly 43,000 words. Not all great, of course, since it's the first draft, but I've got a solid story coming together.

Good news, no?

So, here's the snippet.

I'm taking the day off from writing.

I know, I know! I never do that but I need a writing break. I've got plans for this gorgeous day. I know they'll be fun. And, hopefully by tomorrow my fingers won't be so sore.

Wishing you a peaceful Saturday.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Midnight on the Farm

"There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power . They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief... and unspeakable love." -- Washington Irving

A good friend sent that quote yesterday. I love it.

Today I'm at The Lark Journals. I'm going to gab about what kept me company in the wee hours this morning. Interested? Why not stop by and say hello? I'd love to see you there!

Wishing you a peaceful Friday.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

A Day at the Farm

Yesterday was one of the best days I've had in a long time. I laughed. I felt almost like the "old" me. I looked ahead. I dealt with some of the past.

No, I didn't go for a spa day, although I could use the pampering. And I didn't escape to a tropical destination where colorful drinks are served with tiny paper umbrellas. Fancy? Not one bit of my day could even loosely termed fancy--or schmancy, for that matter.

So, what made yesterday so great?

Love. People. Hard work.

And, I'd never forget this part, "Good, clean living."

There's a lot to do here on the farm. Sometimes, I find myself a bit on overload, with a spinning head and too many things to do with not nearly enough time to do them. I've had a to-do list regarding some outdoor projects all summer long. Yesterday, the calvary arrived and wiped that list off my mind!

We emptied out the building where wood pellets are stored. Now, I can have pellets delivered. We straightened up the greenhouse. It's ready for spring planting now. We cleaned the garage, putting the yard equipment in proper places in the barns and making room for vehicles to go back inside. Now they'll be where they should be come winter, and I won't look out the window and think I've somehow dropped the ball.

Plus, I won't have to clear snow off the truck. Last year I smashed myself with ice doing just that. I'd rather not break my nose again if I can help it! So, the truck in the garage is a very good thing.

It souds like a huge amount of work, doesn't it? It was, but it went so well and so quickly I was just amazed. Many hands really do make for lighter work.

I am beyond words grateful. I woke this morning, looked out and saw some of what we accomplished. I smiled, my heart warm and my shoulders lighter for having shared some of my burdens. It's wonderful that we ripped through my to-do list. It's even better that the love and friendship truly lifted me up.

I am healing, thanks in large measure to those who love me enough to support me. I will never be the same woman I was, but I will be okay. I know that as surely as I know my own name.

And, since we tore up the chores, we had time to sit in the shade. Eat. Share stories, reminiscing about the past and looking to the future. We laughed. As I said, a great day.

How did your Wednesday go?

Today? I'm back to the book. I love it that whenever I tell someone a bit about what's going on in the story, they laugh. It makes me believe I'm on the right track with this funny romance. I certainly hope I am...fingers crossed!

Wishing you a peaceful day.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Wednesday Creep

Some weeks it feels like Wednesday creeps up on me. I don't know how it happened. It was Sunday, now it's Wednesday. Holy moly!

Things have been so busy here that I guess the hours fly by without my realizing it's happening. Good in a way. On the other hand, I think I might need to stop and smell some flowers. Starting today, I'm going to make a conscious effort to take a little time and do...nothing. I'm not sure I can do it without going nuts, but I'm going to give it a shot. Wish me luck.

Maria asked if the meadow is hay. Yes, that's exactly what grows there. When we bought the farm, we knew we had no need for the hay in the field. A local farmer, however, has a great need. So, my sweet man spoke with the farmer and offered it to him, free of charge. It is a good situation for everyone. Small farmers need all the help they can get. We're supporting them, even in a small way. And, the meadow is cut three times each year, making it nice for long walks whenever we feel like strolling. So, I love to see the tractors on the farm. It's good to know we're making something that's contributing to the local economy. And in turn, to the food supply. All good.

Today? Carving time to work on the book. And I've got a sinkful of tomatoes, a half-bushel of peppers, potatoes and onions that need to be dug and blueberries waiting to turned into jam.

Oh, yeah. I'm so on top of taking time to smell the flowers.

Maybe tomorrow. I'll put it on the list.

Anyhow, what's on your Wednesday schedule?

Wishing you a peaceful day!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


Day number two on the seriously wet and rainy regime. Yesterday? Buckets of rain, all day long. Today? Forecast similar.

No complaints here. I'm working hard on the book. Just starting Chapter 15. Eating a lot of peanut M&Ms.

Just a few days ago, things were bright and sunny here on the farm.

The meadow was mowed.
I love those straight lines!

I've got to say, I get a kick out of tractors.

It's interesting to watch the rolled hay come out the back of this contraption.

I wasn't standing in the right spot to see it, but trust me, rolls were made!

Today, back to writing. What about you? What's keeping you busy?

Wishing you a peaceful day.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Cake and Steam

Good Monday morning. How was your weekend? I hope it went well.

Here, I was busy. No surprise, that. Saturday I spent working in the yard, canning tomatoes and making blueberry jam. Oh, and I did laundry and housecleaning. Funny how a day zips by when you're in go-go-go mode.

Yesterday? Much more laid back. Dreary, threatening to rain all day long, Mother Nature didn't have to push me to say inside. I chatted on the phone with several friends (really, thank God for friends who know when to listen. They also seem to have an uncanny way of knowing just when I need them most, and ring right then!) which was relaxing.

Then, I spent the rest of the day working on the new book. Yes, it's all very exciting, hitting the midway mark in the book. I'm having fun with this book, just letting myself introduce ridiculous events as well as bringing on some steam. Thanks to an insistent Boston doctor, this book will sizzle somewhat. Hey, she insisted! Anyhow, it's keeping me busy and that's all good.

So. The good. No bad. But the ugly? I'm not sure about that one yet. I've become addictied to Entenmann's New York Style Crumb Cake. So...the ugly just might be my thighs if I don't get a grip.

Thighs, schmighs! I'm sticking with the cake!

Life is too short to skip the cake. And this one? It's sooo good!

Wishing you a peaceful day.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Lark Friday

I'm over at The Lark Journals today.

Hope to see you there!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Farm Happenings

Summer is a busy time here at the farm. The days seem so short, mostly because I'm trying to fit in weeding, mowing, harvesting, canning, freezing, housekeeping and, last but not least, writing. Yes, my days have been jam-packed but I like it that way. Not an awful lot of spare time to think, which is a good way to get through the days.

As usual, I'm hitting the floor running today so I thought I'd share a couple of photos. That way you can see what kept me busy just a few days ago.

First, though, I've got to show you one of my favorite things. Do you see that lovely bracelet hanging on the vase holding a lily my sweet man planted for me about three years ago? (Yes, I know it's a long, convoluted question but, honestly, everything is important so I squashed it all in!) Anyhow, I've been wearing that bracelet in remembrance of those who suffer from the monster leukemia. I love the bracelet. It is comfortable, warms my heart and gives me hope that someday no one will suffer from the disease.

Strides are being made. Yesterday's news featured the fabulous news that three cases of CLL, the most common type of leukemia, are being treated successfully in a new manner. Three cases may not seem huge to someone who's never dealt with the disease. Believe me, every case is important and every life saved matters. This news gives hope that treatments are evolving, lives will be saved and maybe, someday, the monster leukemia won't claim any more beautiful people.

Anyhow, that bracelet? I love it and wear it everyday. I park it when I'm going to do something messy, which is why it's hanging on the lily.

Now, to the messy...

Blackberries, raspberries and blueberries just keep coming here.

Honestly, I can't pick the blueberries quickly enough!

Raspberry Jam

They didn't grow here on the farm.
Wouldn't it be amazing if we could grow tropical fruits here?

Mangoes getting hot and sticky.

Now, mango jam!

So many cucumbers!

Washed and dried.

I love dill pickles!

So, what's been going on in your neck of the woods? Anything you'd care to share?

Wishing you a peaceful day!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Ties That Bind

"Age is strictly a case of mind over matter. If you don't mind, it doesn't matter.”
- Jack Benny

August 10th is a special day in our family. It's the day we celebrate two great men, a day of love and laughter.

If you can't already tell, it's one of my favorite days.

My husband loved his brother-in-law Joe like a brother, and for good reason. Joe's a family anchor. He holds everyone together to celebrate joy as well as to weather the difficult times. He never flinches, no matter how crazy life gets. His faith in his family endures, growing stronger with each passing year. Joe is a good, kind, caring, respectful and compassionate man.

That's not to say this rock solid man is too serious. Quite the opposite, in fact. Never one to let the opportunity to crack a joke or bring a giggle pass, Joe's sense of humor keeps the family smiling. He is quick to point out there's sunshine after rain, folly in even the ordinary things and always a reason to see the bright side. Our "showers and s**t" standing joke makes me smile, even when Joe's nowhere around. I see a cloud or get hit by a raindrop, and instantly I hear Joe's voice inside my head, commenting on the showers and...well, you my point.

I told you we celebrate two men today, didn't I? Well, apple trees make apples, and in this case that's a good thing.

My husband's favorite nephew, John, was born on his father's birthday. An amazing birthday gift, don't you think? Way to go, Josie!

John is like his father in so many regards. Smart, thoughtful, kind and ready to do anything for those he holds dear, he is a strong family man. He is selfless, always more concerned with the needs of those he loves than his own. John's core beliefs are unshakable, which is one of my favorite things about his character. He has faith, loves his family and, like his father, never flinches--not even when life gets bumpy.

I'm blessed to have several photos of my darling husband laughing into a telephone. I'll give you one guess who's on the other end. That's right. John and Vito laughed so many times, over so many things, and the sound of that beautiful laughter rings in my ears and warms my heart. It is a gift I'll treasure forever.

While Joe's jokes often focus on the obvious, which is good because there are so many tidbits in daily living that really are ridiculous, John's humor is different. He sees beyond and beneath what the rest of us see. He sees the funny beyond the facade. And it's not like he contemplates long and hard, digging deep to find humor. Oh, no. John's insight is instant, the jokes he cracks like bursts of mental lightning.

I've got to admit it. There have been too many times to count when John's made me cry--from laughing so hard. He's also made me choke on my drink--because he said something that made me laugh mid-swallow. And John, like his dad, has brought joy that will last long after the laughter fades.

So, a special day in our family. We're blessed to be able to celebrate the birthdays of two amazing men. Life doesn't get much better than that, does it?

Happy birthday, Joe! Happy birthday, John! I love you!

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Avoid the Nuts

A question that sometimes drives me hazy: am I or are the others crazy?--Albert Einstein

Ever have a day when you ask yourself a similar question...again and again? And again?

Welcome to my world.

I asked myself a version of the brilliant man's question about a dozen times yesterday. Every now and again, I'd head outside just to remind myself that even when others are nuts (and that really is the kindest way to put it), there is much more to contemplate.

Just let it go...

So, a day of ins and outs, head shaking and lots of thinking there are people who not only don't get it--they never will get it. So, I'm moving along.

What about you? Ever have hazy, crazy, questioning days like the one I just plowed through? Me, I go outside and pick berries, walk beneath the trees, smell the flowers and watch birds when it happens. What do you do? How do you get the craziness out of your mind?

Today I've got a date with a chapter. And a boat. And a sandwich. And, quite possibly, a rock. Yes, the book is coming along. At least the people in my books are only as crazy as I let them be. Woo hoo!

Wishing you a peaceful day. Stay away from the nuts, okay?

Monday, August 08, 2011

Bony Fingers

Yes, it's true. I'm writing. My fingers may not be bony yet but they sure do hurt. The wrists, too. It's annoying, for many reasons, but mostly because I've been trying to baby them a bit by stopping writing before I'd like to. Hoping this is just a fleeting annoyance.

Especially since I'm really enjoying writing this book. Vito and I spoke about it last summer, laughed over the trials our heroine finds in her path and imagined all sorts of ridiculous situations for her. So, I'm trying to make those fun conversations come to life. I hear him laughing, so it is a good experience.

So, off to write. Then, jam making. Afterward, garden harvesting...cukes, onions, potatoes, tomatoes and peppers. Still waiting on the eggplant, but I have faith.

What about you? What have you got planned for this summer Monday?

Friday, August 05, 2011

A Lark

I can't seem to stay away, can I? Even unplugged, I pop back in to chat.

Just want to let you know I'm over at The Lark Journals today. Hope you'll stop by and say hi!

Wishing you a peaceful Friday.

Thursday, August 04, 2011


Good day, friends. I hope this finds you well and enjoying a lovely, peaceful Thursday.

Me? Well, I've got a kitchen counter covered with peaches, cukes, eggplants, tomatoes and a fridge full of berries. I've got some serious canning to do. And, there's more growing in the garden as we speak!


Too, I need to put myself in front of the computer and work on the new book. I'm into chapter seven, really enjoying the way it's going and am anxious to put more time in on the story.


I'm going to unplug for a day. Maybe two.

Hoping to be back by the weekend. Until then, I wish you joy. Thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Happy News

Exciting news!

My Avalon Regency romance, The Christmas Bargain, is going to be released in large print by Thorndike Press. They're the world's leading publisher of large print books.

The large print volume has a different cover. I saw it for the first time yesterday. Honestly, I'm really thrilled by this turn of events. What a great surprise!

The link is here if you want to take a peek. So nice to get happy news.

Wishing you a peaceful day.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011


Kindness is something that stays with a person long after it's shown. It keeps a song in the heart and a smile on the lips, bringing joy and peace indefinitely. I think it grows, actually.

I woke this morning, smiling because I recalled instantly two kindnesses that lifted me up yesterday. And, since I'm still feeling their effect today, their lifting properties are definitely in full force.

A beautiful gift arrived in my mailbox. It steals my breath, it is so lovely. I am wearing it now, feeling the love behind its making and an attachment to my sweet husband as well. It's gorgeous, and gives me such comfort.

The second gift? A phone call from someone dear. God bless him, he called just when I was beginning to feel blue. A short chat, catching up on what's been going on and sharing gardening stories pulled me right back to my feet. It was a reminder that I'm not alone, even when I'm lonely.

So many people have said, "Call me when you're ready." I know they mean well, but, honestly, waiting for a widow to "be ready" isn't much help at all. It takes a huge amount of energy for someone who's lost her way to even get through the basics; making phone calls requires too much effort. It's less taxing to simply fall into a funk, so, really, a random, short, uplifting call is a gift. The kindness lingers, and is greatly appreciated.

There you have it. Yesterday, the ordinary weeding, writing, mowing and garden harvesting punctuated by two amazing acts of kindness. All in all, one of the best days I've had in a while.

What about you? How did your day go? And do you have any plans for today?

Me? I'm going to weed, harvest, write and wash the truck. It's going to be another scorcher so washing the truck sounds like fun, don't you think?

And I'm going to smile because kindness grows. In this case, it brings some measure of peace, too. And gratitude...lots and lots of gratitude.

Wishing you a peaceful day.

Monday, August 01, 2011

Madcapped Monday

Whew! Farm life this weekend was way beyond hectic. Every minute filled, lots of dashing from one project to the next and more dishwashing than I care to remember.

The good news? So much progress. Jams, pickles and relish all canned. Mowing, weeding and vegetable and fruit picking under control.

And the new book is moving right along, another huge milestone for me. Better yet, now, thanks to my dear sister/friend Donna, it even has a title. Thanks, Donna!

So, this Monday morning as I dash off to tackle today's farm chores, I want to share a couple of from-the-farm photos. Everything is thriving, and oh-so green!

Peaches. The trees are loaded with 'em, and they're wonderfully sweet.

I pick raspberries twice a day.
The jam from these berries is awesome!

Just so plain and pretty.

I cut down a load of this but didn't have the heart to completely erradicate it.

Even weeds have their place, don't you think?

Wishing you a peaceful Monday!