Monthly Archives: August 2015

Summer Re-cap

Well, it’s been a great summer and doesn’t look to be winding down anytime soon. It’s been crazy warm and we have several friends who have joined the air-conditioning revolution because of it.

Still, we’ve managed to have some fun. First and foremost was my niece’s wedding in June. It was an awesome night for an outdoor reception and we danced until we couldn’t anymore. No, really, we couldn’t. It was my brother’s backyard and we stopped at 10 to make sure the neighbors didn’t get upset. Here’s the awesome couple with my Dad.With Dad

Immediately following that wedding (the very next day) was a 60th birthday party for me, which was low key and just how I like it. I’m not big on being the center of attention, so a nice, relaxing lunch thing in our backyard was perfect. We didn’t even take any pictures (thank God) but I do have a couple of one of our granddaughter’s from that day that I’ll show you. Of course, Dude being in the pictures is a bonus, right? 🙂

And some of the women in our family got away for a weekend to wine taste and unwind. Okay, maybe we spent most of our time by (and in) the pool, but it was one of the most relaxing times I’ve had in years!20150717_170635

And we’ve finished with one more wedding celebration, for our youngest daughter, who chose the lower key Vegas option for her wedding, but couldn’t get away completely. It was party time again! 🙂 Here they are heading off to get married.

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In amongst that, we did some day drives, hikes, and, for me, training for an upcoming mini-triathlon I’ve entered with my daughter. So it’s been a full and joyous summer and I’m feeling very blessed to have the family and friends we’ve shared this all with. I hope you’ve all had as good a summer and would love to hear some of the highlights from yours. 🙂

When I was a (not so) Tiny Dancer

Recently, I reconnected with one of my cousins. We’d lost touch over the years, due to marriage, moving cities, and the usual excuse of months/years going past so fast. It was lovely that after the best part of 30 years we just picked up where we’d left off. Soon we were reminiscing, remembering the fun times we’d shared as children and teenagers. There was much laughter and schoolgirl giggling to be had.

As children, we’d shared fun days at the beach and happy cinema trips, most of which included much mischief and more usually ended up with us being sent to bed early in disgrace. As teenagers, we continued to misbehave: one memorable night included a family Christmas Party where Kathy and I managed to get ourselves tipsy after sneaking drambuie into the garden shed. That particular incident put me of alcohol for life 🙂

One of our favourite things to do was re-enact scenes from movies in my parent’s living room. I was always a budding movie director and Kathy an actress, a perfect partnership for creating a masterpiece of cinematic glory that, alas, never made it to the big screen. But goodness, we had some fun. We used to love re-creating the barn dance scene from Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, and would take turns being either one of the brides or brothers. We’d use chairs, tables, footstools, buckets, brooms, and even my dad’s decorating ladder as props, and then set about dancing around the living room. Oh, how I loved to dance.

On UK television at the moment, there’s an advert for a shop chain’s home insurance. It shows a bespectacled  little girl in a ballet outfit dancing joyously around to the soundtrack of Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer”. She dances with a reckless abandon, and sort of reminds me of…me, LOL.  Hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Spanish Idyll

Kit Domino’s latest blog about her trip to Nerja reminded me of time spent in Las Alpujarras, Andalucia, Southern Spain. My husband, Peter, and I lived in three different white villages of the Eastern Alpujarras for six year. We began our adventure in Júbar, a small village on the southern slopes of the Sierra Nevada. One hour from the coast, two hours from Granada and three hours to Malaga. The population was officially 50 people but we never counted more than 25, except at special holiday times like Easter and Christmas plus the fiesta in August. Many people have left the small villages to find work but still support their families at home. Houses are owned by the family, sometimes three generations share one house but everyone works hard and children benefit in many ways. Each family owns plots of land with olives, almonds, cherries and various types of produce grown in terraces originally introduced by the Moors in the fifteenth century, water comes from the mountain via a series of channels known as acequias .In February almond blossom covers the slopes of the mountainside, a carpet of delicate white and pink, the fragrance is overwhelming. We could see the sea from our house and the snow covered Sierra Nevadas towered above us creating a sort of eco-climate. Paradise.

The village church was built on the site of a Roman Temple then was a mosque, a refuge for Jews during the defeat of the Moors then a christian church. The symbol on the bell tower represents a Crescent, the Star of David and the Cross intertwined, an interesting concept today. The church was renovated during our stay there, thanks to David Illsley, a friend of our’s, several layers of murals were uncovered and preserved. Although not intact they are unique and now protected thanks to David and a team of specialists from Granada University. David and his wife run a Casa Rural, a bed and breakfast, which is how we ended up living in Júbar and is an expert on the history of the area. The church only holds services at Christmas, Easter and during the fiesta. Fiesta time in August is a wonderful occasion, people come from around the area to party but the highlight is the parade following the Christ Child on a decorated bier. It is an honour to carry it and passes through family member, males only but in Mairena the women carry their Christ. I will talk about Mairena, our next home, another time as space is running out!

A highlight for me was being invited to join the literary classes held for the women in the village. The age group ranged from 55 – 86, the older women could neither read nor write so were taught the basics. It was an honour to be allowed to join in as I learnt so much about the history of Andalucia, the culture and local customs. They helped me with my Spanish but it was the stories they told that were special and their recipes. We exchanged my cakes for fresh figs, olives, cherries, eggs and wonderful peppers (pimentos) as well gigantic melons and courgettes (zucchini). Daily chats were held in the village square around the daily bread van but occasionally just impromptu chats whilst taking the rubbish – bassura to the communal bins. I could wax lyrical much longer but hope I’ve painted a picture of a special time in my life.

I originally planned to cover the three villages in this piece but lost the original! Just to show you it is not always hot and sunny I thought you would like the mountains in winter in our garden. I will leave you with the thought that when possible follow your dream, nothing lasts for ever good or bad, but you can take your memories and polish them like gems. I hope there is another adventure around the corner!

Schwan’s – non recipe for the month

59525MDWe haven’t had a recipe in a while and we’re not really going to have one today. I’m not cooking much these days. Trying to drop some weight (it isn’t working) and just too many other more interesting things to do. Besides, like everything else, food selection is changing. Remember those first TV dinners. I tried to convince the family that they tasted good, then, when that didn’t work, that they were healthy. Yeah right, getting desperate, maybe cheap. They didn’t buy any of it.

But that was then. Now I actually like the Healthy Choice Steamers frozen foods. And Schwan’s, years ago we subscribed to their delivery service and the meals were perfect for two. Our grandson actually got us going on them. Thinking the truck was an ice cream truck, he was around ten, he waylaid the driver who promptly gave him an ice cream bar. Our first orders were ice cream and we graduated from there.

Fast forward a few years — a friend who frequently has me for dinner subscribes to them and oh my gosh the meals are delicious and the desserts, there goes the diet. Last week she made the Orange Chicken, pictured above. She had it with a fruit salad and biscuits and it fed 3 perfectly.

Check out their website at http://www.schwans.com/

Happy not cooking. ☺

The Art of Doing Nothing, by Valerie J. Patterson

Life’s been hectic for a long time, but I’ve been doing my best to just keep moving and get things done as I can.  August 9th was our anniversary and Steve and I took a few days off and allowed no grass to grow beneath our feet as we headed out of town, away from obligations, away from phones and computers, and into the heart of nature.

Oh, and a spa and resort!

In the middle of a state park in Flintstone, Maryland is the Rocky Gap Spa and Golf Resort.  The resort is surrounded on two sides by a 243-acre lake that is a slice of heaven.  There are multiple public beaches along the banks of the lake.  There are plenty of docks for getting a boat in the water, fishing, camping, picnic areas galore, and absolutely gorgeous scenery to help a person forget their cares and leave the work place behind them.

Our room was a lake front room, and the view was stunning.  Steve and I spent long, lazy hours on a blanket on the beach.  We spent evenings ensconced in Adirondack chairs sipping beverages and enjoying quiet conversations, giggles, and memories as we allowed the sun to set around us.  We did nothing we didn’t want to do.  We chased no schedule.  Kept no itinerary.  Barely paid attention to a watch!  Cell phone?  What’s that?  We simply enjoyed one another, our surroundings, and the gorgeous weather.  We took naps and moved relaxation to new heights.

We came back home refreshed, recharged, and rejuvenated.  Every once in a while you need to slow down, take a seat in the grass–or the sand–and soak in the beauty God has given us, has placed all around us.

Until next time, may your next meeting be with a loved one, in the heart of nature with no phones, no noise, and no schedules!

Book Recommendations-

Jillian here!  I was going to do a book review today and I know we all have massive TBR piles so I decided just to throw a few titles of books I’ve read lately and either really enjoyed or didn’t like so much.

For the not so much crowd, I offer I, Ripper.  It’s by Stephen Hunter. It’s another Jack the Ripper lore story and although I am intrigued by the legend, this one was a new take on it that was both interesting and dull at the same time. Kind of weird, I know. It didn’t move fast and thus it took me a while to read it. A chapter here, a chapter there. It wasn’t compelling but it wasn’t bad – so I give it a Meh rating.

The Other Daughter, by Lauren Willig was poignant and I cried a lot about the last third of the book.  That always means a good read to me- UNLESS I’m crying because it’s so awful and I want it over.  Not the case here. It’s set in the 1920s in the UK and just a nice tale.

Royal Street and River Road are by Suzanne Johnson. They are the first two books in her Sentinel series and even though they are marketed as Urban Fantasy, something I never, ever thought I would like, I love, love these books and have ordered the next two in the series. They are set in New Orleans and the author, having lived there many years, has absolutely captured the city in her descriptions. The first one takes place at the time of Hurricane Katrina and the author nails the way the city was hit and how it was for many months post storm.

So, if you have room on your TBR list, here’s a few choices. If anyone wants me to send you any of these, let me know. I try to donate when I’m done so I can have room for more!

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Another Month Has Gone By

How did we get to August? I can’t believe how fast the year has gone.  I’ve been writing quite a bit lately.  I’ve had some deadline creep up on me and now I’m having to really put my butt in … Continue reading

Cards, Cards and More Cards…

Recently, I celebrated a milestone birthday. And one of the most precious gifts I got, I got a LOT of. Cards. I love cards. I love making them (it feeds the scrapbooker’s soul in me). I love standing in the card aisle picking them out, and I love knowing that people took the time to find just the right card to give me.

Here’s the thing. I’m a writer, but I suck at coming up with just the right thing to say, in the right tone, for events requiring cards. Isn’t that strange? I love penning stories, but can’t write a jingle. Lol. So I have a healthy respect and appreciation for those who do. And I thank them. I hope they get paid well, because they dig deep into my psyche and always manage to find exactly what I want to say.

I thought I’d list a few of my faves (I keep them in a “Blessings” file that I can pull out a low moments and read):

A great sentiment:
Front: In life, there are many paths you can take and many people who share the journey.
Inside left: But it’s the special people who help you along the way, and it’s the most important people who care enough to give of themselves unconditionally that make the journey more worthwhile.
Inside right: Thank you for being one of those special people.

This one comes with a visual (I do like my wine.):
Front: P1110253
Inside: Wishing you a vintage year.
(Simple but effective and I LOVED the front of the card. Oh, I guess now you know which milestone birthday it was for me. Oh, well. It’s not bothering me…yet.)

From my wine buddy:
Front: They say a brisk walk is a great way to stay young and healthy.
Inside: The problem is the wine keeps splashing out of the glass!

And here’s simple but effective (when I was having one of those low moments):
Front: You are fabulous
Inside: If you ever forget that, please read this again.

From my older sister:
Front: You’re not old.
Inside: If you were old, that would make me old, and that is not going to happen.

My personal favorite:
Front: Holy $#@%!
Inside: What I meant was, “That’s not old.”

Oooh, just remembered another fave…
Front: Feeling thick?
Inside: Oh, thit.

And my sister-in-law received this card for her birthday:
Front: Did you know wine can actually help you lose weight on your birthday?
Inside: With a bottle in one hand and a glass in the other, you can’t pick up any cake.

Yep. Cards can congratulate, lift spirits, celebrate…anything is possible. And I tip my hat to those jingle writers. Thank you and keep ‘em coming!

Dead Sea Minerals

Dead-Sea1As I was getting dress this morning a tube of hand and body lotion was turned and I was reading the blurb on the back. By the way I read cereal boxes too. ☺ Anyway this was the opening sentence on the blurb. “From the depth of the lowest point on Earth, from a genuine ancient spring of youth.”

So of course I had to look deeper, ah the wonders of technology and the internet.

I was surprised that there are so many cosmetic products that use minerals. The Dead Sea contain 26 essential minerals with 12 that don’t exist any other place. Some are known to have unique qualities, like making you feel relaxed, or nourishing the largest organ in our bodies, the skin. Also activating our blood systems, healing rheumatic diseases and metabolic disorders.

So is all the hype just marketing? Or… maybe not. The dead Sea has attracted visitors for thousands of years. It is one of the world’s first health resorts. Looking at the pictures it might be a great place to plan a vacation. Maybe even find the fountain of youth? ☺ ☺

Rockin’ and Rollin’

I know we don’t usually chat about our writing over here but that’s what I’ve been spending time on lately. And I mean like a maniac.  I started writing a Regency story that’s probably really late Georgian not too long ago and it’s one of those stories that is practically writing itself. The ideas are coming faster than I can type so I’ve been crazy getting it down.  I love it when this kind of thing happens but it’s also tough because I become so focused on the story that I get obsessive. Lol. But at least it keeps me off the streets, right?

I stumbled upon a little known fact (unknown to me, that is- lol) about the Grimaldi family when researching a plot point for my story and while it wasn’t what I was looking for initially, it’s going to make my story even better than the idea I had and I love the serendipity of that.  Did you know that one of the wives of a Grimaldi prince (House of Monaco) was one of the last people executed in the Reign of Terror? And yes, I am working that into my story. Peripherally.

Hoping August treats you all well.  It’s 104 Fahrenheit here in the shade so I’m working on keeping cool!