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“Mish-Mash”

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I have found it difficult this month to write a blog! I had loads of random thoughts (Mish-Mash) about various activities I have done in the past month and cannot focus enough on any of them to develop them fully. … Continue reading

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Kennedy

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Kennedy Lee is two days old in this picture and has absolutely captured our hearts. She was born May 13th and came into the world showing she knew how to express her opinion. Since then she has been teaching her … Continue reading

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SPRING

  Hope each of you ladies had a wonderful Mother’s Day.  The weather here was even NOT RAINING, which is pretty unusual for us here lately.  I’m sure Spring is right around the corner and we will all be doing … Continue reading

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Is it really May?

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I’ve only lived here in the Pacific Northwest for 4 1/2 years, but I’ve never seen the crazy weather we’ve had this winter/spring season. From a few inches of snow to a several feet of snow, to rain that goes … Continue reading

Atlanta, RT and Booker T.

Jillian here.  I just got back from Atlanta, Ga where I attended the Romantic Times Convention. The convention itself was fun and it was good to see other writer friends as well as chat and interact with readers. I had two pretty awesome things happen in the reader arena – with the same book. I wrote a story called Rex, the Ex and the Hex– first draft was done in 12 days – it was such a fun story to write as the hero believes himself to be hexed and visits a number of hoo-doo folks to try to get rid of the hex (like a witch doctor, a haruspex, a tarot reader, etc).

One reader mentioned she read it and thought it was really good and she could tell I was having a blast as I wrote it. That made me happy as I was glad that shone through.

Another reader saw the cover on a magnet on my table at the signing. She grabbed it and said, “You wrote that?” When I said yes, she said, “I loved it so much, I read it twice and I never do that.” – Her words were worth the trip to Atlanta for me.

The other best thing about the conference wasn’t really related to the conference. My friend Sandra and I went to a concert at a local winery/cafe where they serve tapas and their own wines. I love 1960s music and when she said she wanted to go see a man named Booker T. Jones, a Grammy winner, I was all on board for that. I said, “Booker T. and the M.G.s?”

Well, these days, he travels with his son and two other guys. The music is still wonderful. He and his son played a ballad version of Purple Rain by Prince and it was so moving it brought me to tears.

We got a chance to chat with him in the lobby afterward. What a nice, humble, kind man he was. I could’ve stayed there all night. It was that amazing.  If you get a chance to go, do!

here’s one famous song  and another with his son on guitar.  I tried to upload one of the videos I made but for some reason, the computer said no.  We were seated right by the piano. It was awesome.

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Wings Over…wherever you are

Recently, my husband and I took the bus up to Seattle. We don’t drive in that city often. Too many cars, too many pedestrians, and too many one-way streets. But we do occasionally like to take the bus up and play tourist. Last year, we went twice.

This time, we went for a specific purpose. We did this ride called Wings Over Washington. It’s one of those theme-park type rides where your seat moves but you never really leave the theater and I hear they have them in a bunch of cities. This one was supposed to show great views of our state…of it’s mountains, rivers, fields, cities, mountains. Yes, I said mountains twice.

You see, as I’ve mentioned once or twice, I’m afraid of heights, although I’m  trying nowadays to not give into it. So…we got seat-belted into our seats. Yes, they put seat belts on us. That should have been an omen for me, but no, I innocently let them belt me in. After all, there was a big wood structure right in front of me and my feet were on the ground.

Then the theater went dark. And our seats moved. Up, up, and over that nice, safe wood structure I’d seen. And my feet were dangling! I don’t do amusement park rides where I can’t hit my imaginary brakes, so this was not good.

The full room video screen lit up with scenes of Washington. They took us up, down, up, swooping down, over cliffs. An eagle led the way, so we had some altitude. And the chair? It shifted, of course. Up, down, sideways.

I was five feet off the floor and completely FREAKED out. I had a death grip on the chair handrails and my husband was talking me calm through the whole thing. Not that it worked. I could not convince myself I was safe. It was insane how well my phobia had me locked in.

I saw, well, most of the video ride. I didn’t get my eyes shut as we went over the first cliff, so I made sure I missed the drop-offs after that. It really was a great ride and view of the state, but geesh, do that have to make it seem so real??? I haven’t had a height issue that bad in a long time, and I wasn’t even really “in the air.”

Afterwards, and since, I’ve been laughing at myself. Guess this is one phobia that isn’t going to leave gently. I’m going to have to kick it to the wall a few more times. Until then, no more video rides. No thank you. I’ll go back to gondolas where my fear is real, not imagined.

To finish off, here’s a couple pictures from Pike Place Market in Seattle, always a fun place to wander through.

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If You Go Down to the Woods Today…

Which is precisely what I managed to do last month for a few days. With Dave on the mend following his op, my friend Avis and I slipped away by coach, visiting the beautiful county of Warwickshire, England for a “Bluebell Walk”. The bluebells were out early this year, and are stunning. Knowing this and when combined with a touch of literary culture, Avis and I we were in for a treat.

Anne Hathaway’s Cottage

First to Anne Hathaway’s Cottage (William Shakespeare’s wife). I visited here back in the 60s, as an 11-year-old on a school trip, and well remembered the thatched building and gardens, although 50 years on one now enters through a different building to reach the cottage, and the gardens have expanded. Following a brief history of the house we were allowed to wander at leisure with staff on hand to explain and inform. I’m certainly glad I didn’t live there – no mains electricity, no water on tap and no central heating; one could well imagine how difficult life was back in the 1500s. Outside, I was disappointed to see that the bluebells amongst all the colourful tulips in the beautiful front garden were the Spanish non-native type. They certainly wouldn’t have been found here in Shakespeare’s time. I hope the gardeners dig them all out soon.

Shakespeare’s Birthplace

Then on  to Stratford-upon-Avon. Again, it’s some 50 years since  first exploring this town. The main street on which William Shakespeare’s house  is located is now pedestrianised, thankfully, but a large visitor centre now sits incongruously alongside it. We decided against doing the house tour; instead we took a pleasant walk through Stratford and enjoyed a spot of lunch.

Walton Hall Hotel

A few miles outside of Stratford we arrived at our hotel, set in 65 acres of park and farmland. What a fabulous place! Although the main part of the hotel is modern, it’s built in the grounds of a large 16th century mansion (history & info link) recently owned by the late Danny La Rue.  The rooms were lovely, the beds so enormous they could easily sleep 4 persons! And joy of joys, I had a balcony too so as the dawn chorus started, I opened the French doors and enjoyed my early morning coffee outside as I listened. Bliss! The food was excellent, the staff faultless. In fact, it’s one the few hotels I’ve stayed in where I wish I could have stopped for longer, only the bluebell woods called and thus, after a delicious breakfast we were on the road again, heading for Coughton Court (pronounced Coat-un). I’d never heard of this National Trust Tudor treasure until this trip. Can’t understand why.

Once there, we headed straight for the woods and the bluebells, after all this was the main reason for our trip. There were swathes of them. And the scent glorious. If you’ve never smelt an English bluebell wood you are missing a treat. However, there is only so much one can say about bluebells, but I did take lots of photos, mainly for painting reference.

Of course, Thugs Bunny and Mr Tumble had to get in on the act!

We spent several hours wandering around enjoying the spectacle before heading back to explore the house itself. Coughton Court is still occupied by the sixth generation of the Throckmorton family, infamously involved in the plot to murder Queen Elizabeth I in 1583 and put Mary Queen of Scots on the English throne. Inside, we could wander freely, allowed to touch things, sit on the furniture, even try on some of the Tudor clothes on display. Helpful guides were on hand to explain items and various histories of the house and family. Coughton also boasts magnificent gardens, better than Hampton Court apparently, but I have to admit we were too exhausted to venture further so settled on coffee and cake instead. This is definitely a place to go back to. To read more about the house and the Throckmortons I’ve included this link .

Coughton Court

Time eventually caught up with us to make our way back to the coach and home. A lovely, relaxing two days and a much needed break. Now patiently waiting for the next one.

PS: Meanwhile, I feel a painting coming on…