Today is a great day to share a smile, a kind word and some uplifting words with someone new.....of course, you can always do that again tomorrow.
It's the last day of January and officially Hot Chocolate Day - a wonderfully uncomplicated event that we all can get behind. Although I must openly confess that I don't need a special day to encourage me to enjoy a cup of hot chocolate or really any form of chocolate.
Like many of you, I am a choco-holic with my favorite form of chocolate being Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. I've often wished that Hershey's would make their own peanut butter flavored hot chocolate. In fact, I may have to write them to share that idea.
I just love the taste of Peanut Butter Cups and each holiday gives me another reason to celebrate. I revel in Reese's Christmas trees, hearts, pumpkins and eggs. No matter what peanut butter stuffed shape Hershey's makes - I'll buy it because they never fail to make me happy. Oh and I love to take the little cups and bake them into special occasion cookies. If you haven't done it, you should try.
Anyway, if you're out and about, working or just don't have time to grab a good old cup of hot chocolate, head to your nearest vending machine or market. Hopefully you'll find a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup just waiting for you. Oh, and Easter will soon be here - watch out for those super sized, peanut butter filled eggs. I might just try melting one in hot milk this year and see if I can create a new Easter treat.
Happy Hot Chocolate Day to you all!
When I heard this morning that it’s - Do Something Fun At Work Day, I originally felt a bit left out. You see, I’m retired. So what am I supposed to do on this particular day to have fun? Especially since I now spend my days just writing books, sewing, doing yoga and walking on the beach.
Well, retired or not I decided to have some fun by writing, sewing and walking on the beach! No yoga today – there’s only so much fun I can have in one day!
Hope you have a fun day at whatever you do!
Every January I sit down and try to establish a few new goals to work on during the upcoming year. I dutifully read articles and listen carefully to speakers all sharing how they successfully reached their goals. And I just want to laugh, cry or get angry.
Why is it so easy for some and so hard for the rest of us? Even just thinking about establishing new goals is torture for me as I’m almost always overwhelmed with fear that I’ll not meet my self-established trials. Hence, I’m usually unhappy, even before I start.
Sure, over the years I’ve had both success and failure reaching my goals. But mostly I’ve had to be content reaching a frustrated self-awareness tinged with happiness. Huh?
Oh sure, I was successful in reaching a couple of my goals this year. I made a large quilt, upped my yoga skills and wrote my first cozy mystery. Ta…da! A lot of hard work went into each of these areas of growth and I am really proud of my successes.
But there have been far too many other goals that I just never met. If I let myself dwell on it, I could get really bummed out. There’s still a dress on my sewing room mannequin half sewn. And I never finished it because I didn’t lose the weight to fit into it. Two of several goals not met!
So this year I’m taking a different tact – I’m using a revised strategy to set my goals.
Instead of just pulling something out of my hat or revisiting goals that I’m just never going to reach, I’m going to set goals that build on previous successes AND failures. I didn’t set as many as I had in the past, but I did spend some time thinking before coming up with these five that I’d like to share with you.
#1 Drink more water- This should be a relatively easy goal to attain. I just need to remember to have a bottle or glass of water near me at all times…and a bathroom not too far away. I’m getting older and more water equals greater health and I want to be healthier.
#2 Move More - This may sound like such an easy for goal to you. But it’s a tough one for me. You see, I love to sit and sew, sit and write, sit and read, sit and watch movies. In truth, I’m a little embarrassesd to admith that I just love to sit.
Is moving more actually an attainable goal? Yes – I just need to get my sorry self up and going each and every day. This goal will also require me to organize my life better – to actually calendar specific times to move. Like taking a walk first thing in the morning - because once I sit down to read, sew or write – it’s tough to get me out and about. Again, my focus is on living a healthier life.
#3 Challenge myself to learn one new thing a month OR how to do one thing a month better than I did before – It may be as simple as learning about a new phone app, how to use that expensive sewing machine foot I bought last year or how to play Black Jack – something I just realized I’ve always wanted to learn. Four of the months I’m going to force myself to revisit something that I wasn’t very successful at first time around. Since I am a lousy cook – one of the months I’ll focus on cooking for sure. That should be interesting- remember, I am not a good cook - hope no one dies from food poisoning!
#4 Learn how to be a grandmother – This will be a new gig for me and I know that I will have a lot to learn! But it is so exciting.
#5 Make Time – time to smile, to notice things, to say thank you, to laugh at myself and with my friends, to say I love you more and to be grateful.
I feel pretty good about these goals. They feel right. They feel doable. Will I reach success? All I can tell you is that I’m not afraid to try, I’m a little excited and more than ready to get started…especially with the one about being a first time grandma!
Happy New Year to you all. May 2018 be a healthy, happy year for each and every one of you. And may your goal setting process be a fulfilling and happy experience.
I recently returned from an incredible trip to Europe with my husband. We took a Viking Ocean Cruise, visiting Sweden, Finland, Russia, Estonia, Germany, Denmark and Norway. The ship was awesome, crew amazing and tours incredible. Everyone that we met both on and off the ship were friendly and anxious to share their personal stories. If you get a chance to travel, as we did, on the Viking Star you are sure to make more than a few lasting memories. Throughout the two weeks I had to frequently recharge my phone as there were so many interesting people and places to photograph.
Prior to leaving for our trip I had finished my latest book, Murder By Magic. After sending it off to my editor for review, I decided that I needed a little break from writing. I was sure that I would be so busy during my travels that I wouldn’t have a chance to even consider any future storylines. But I was wrong, very wrong.
Any of you who have read my books know that I write about witches, magic and mystery. Little did I know that I would discover a magical world filled with witches, Trolls and more as we toured about.
I was especially intrigued at our last stop - Bergen, Norway. Snuggled between mountains, fjords and glaciers, Bergen is a fishing city steeped in history. Viking warriors, The Hanseatic League and the oil industry have had a lasting effect on this port town. But I was truly surprised to find enchanting folklore and captivating mysteries tucked throughout this city and roaming freely in the hillsides of this quaint fairy-tale city by the sea.
Early inhabitants of Bergen were sure that something supernatural could be found hiding in the dark forests that surrounded their city. Thought to hide in the rocky slopes and pathways, Trolls have been a big part of the local folklore since the 13th century. Feared, revered - yet loved by many, these supernatural creatures have been included in the history of Norway for over 700 years. So much so that local roads and byways reflect their presence from Trollstigen to Troll’s Tongue and Troll Peaks – Trolls are ever present. Magical trolls are said to roam the hillsides and I was able to capture a few with my camera as I climbed the hillsides. So many alluring tales attributed to these strange looking inhabitants and I was eager to catalog as many of them as I could.
Not content with just chasing Trolls through the countryside, I came upon an ear catching conversation regarding the witches of Bergen and was soon directed to The Witch Stone (Hekse Steinen). Near the center of town, this memorial honors the 350 witches burned between 1550 and 1700. Anne Pedersdotter, perhaps one of the most famous Norwegian women accused of Witchcraft, was killed for her beliefs in 1590. Her history is engaging to say the least and her presence apparently still felt in Bergen today. Locals all seem to have their own story to share of how they think witchcraft effected the history of their town. Some share remorse for the killings, others express superstition regarding witchcraft in general and a few thought it best not to speak of it at all. Interesting!
This trip proved to be unexpectedly ripe with ideas to mine for my next book. Returning home, I couldn’t wait to get to my computer to begin. Witches, Trolls, magic and mystery – wow who knew!
I posted a picture on my Facebook site of a Simplicity sewing pattern from around the 1970’s. The banner on the top read, “ SHARE IF YOU REMEMBER WHEN MOM WOULD MAKE YOUR CLOTHES.”
Boy, did it stir some special memories of a different time and place. In one short afternoon, hundreds liked it and over the days that followed many more liked, shared and commented. The comments just kept coming. It’s probably one of the most active posts I’ve ever had and I’m guessing (although I might be wrong) that many of the comments came from readers in their early fifties or sixties.
Some remembered their mothers (or grandmothers) sewing them everything from special Christmas pajamas to school uniforms to prom dresses. A few bragged that their moms made clothing for their Barbie, Ken and even GI Joe dolls. Some readers noted that they themselves had struggled through Home EC classes and told tales of either sinister task masters or measuring tape miracle workers. It was not uncommon to hear about failed sewing projects that made their way home only to be resuscitated by mom. A few said that they themselves now successfully sew for their kids or are envious of friends who have become master seamstresses.
There were some lovely, often humorous, stories shared that not only made me laugh but also got me to thinking. I have four real passions in my life: Family, Writing, Reading and of course- Sewing. And as I was reflecting back, I realized that each of these passions grew from time spent with my mother. To mom, family was everything and she raised us to always remember that. She was an avid reader, a poet and a phenomenal seamstress. And through her example, she ingrained a love for each of those things in me.
My own kids have grown up watching me living a life centered around our family, always working on a sewing project, with a book close at hand. And, of course they’ve watched me as I’ve thrown my hat into the writers' ring authoring a number of parenting books and my first fiction series. I hope that we have made some meaningful memories together and I can't help but wonder how these images will effect their lives. What stories/memories they will want to share with their own children in the future? Although those reflections may not move them to want to be writers or seamstresses, I sincerely hope they will make them smile, knowing that they were loved.
Do you remember when your mom...or dad...?
I hit an unexpected writer's block this past year. I sort of lost my way and it had me really wondering what to do next with myself. I have always been a goal driven person who needed to be reaching for that next carrot in order to feel good about myself. Yes, I agree that may not be the healthiest way to live, but I guess it’s just how I’m wired. The other part of me is that I expect that dedication and hard work will more times than not – result in success. But it’s the definition of that word - success - that suddenly had me paralyzed, and more than a little uncertain of my writing future.
It all started three and a half years ago. After thirty-five years in education, I retired. I had loved being an elementary school principal and there were still a thousand stories, strategies and recommendations racing through my head. I wanted to share all that I had learned and decided to try writing parenting books. I poured out my heart and soul with strategies on bullying, homework issues, parent/teacher relationships and more.
Six books later I realized that I was getting bored talking about the same old stuff I had for the last thirty-five years. I needed to do something different. I took a chance, deciding to throw my hat into the world of fiction writing. And I had a blast creating my first fictional series The Witches Of New Moon Beach. I created a welcoming - albeit quirky, action packed world filled with witches, magic and love, all at the beach.
Although I was happy with how the series did, I guess I had hoped for more. After all, I felt like I had worked really hard, spending endless hours in front of my computer. Suddenly I was wondering what the “more” was that I was looking for? More sales..more exposure more…more what?
A couple of my friends gently suggested that I might consider giving up. Why spend so much time if it wasn’t truly productive. “I mean are you even making any money?” one asked. Others said that I should give in to the fact that the e-book market may have shrunk. Maybe I’d missed my chance and I’d never make it big. Maybe I just wasn’t good enough. It left me considering - who was I to think that I might actually make it in this gigantic world of publishing?
It was my husband who caught me feeling down one day and said something rather life changing - Get Real! What the heck did that mean, I asked – not really wanting to know the answer.
Then he asked me four powerful questions.
After dropping these atomic bomb like questions on me, he calmly reassured me that whatever my answers were – he’d still have my back.
I spent a lot of time thinking about his queries. And in the end, it was the answers to those questions that helped me to redefine my idea of success and happiness.
I do have a passion for writing. I love creating fictional worlds over which I have total artistic freedom and control. My mind is constantly spinning with new themes and plot lines.
I love creating new characters. It’s fun. In fact, I wake up at night to jot down new ideas that just popped into my head while I was supposed to be sleeping. I carry around my Book O’ Names with me so that when I hear an unusual name I quickly jot it down for later use.
Ouch! No, I hadn’t done everything that I could to improve my writing skills. So I got moving - I listened to writer podcasts, read articles by other writers and secured new support software. I knew that I needed to do a better job editing my books. I’d been zinged for it in the past and recognized that it was one of the areas I could strengthen. I secured the help of a fab editor - Jenny Jensen. She has been a godsend and has made all of the difference in the world in helping me to tighten up my story lines and confirm correct grammar usage. Most importantly, I feel better about my work with her support.
Hell No! I am not ready to throw in the towel. I love writing and even though I still hit bumps in the road; writing makes me happy.
So what did I do with all these newly found answers? I put my head down, recognized that this was what I’m meant to be doing right now – and wrote. I reawakened by imagination and had fun creating a new story – one that I am ready to share with you.
Murder By Magic is my first cozy mystery and I sincerely hope that you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.
And should you feel stuck along the way, you are more than welcome to borrow my husband’s four questions to get you headed in the right direction – right for you that is!
The other day my husband suggested that we go on an adventure together and a million intriguing possibilities raced through my head, until he added… to search for old wood. Not the kind of adventure I had longed for, I offered several good reasons why one of our sons might make a better travel partner before finally agreeing to go. My husband has been renovating his office and looking for some wood for shelving or flooring or something else to “funkify” the space. Little did I know that this trip would not only net him the wood he was looking for, but also fill my head with dozens of potential future story lines and provide our son with a treasured gift.
Off we went to Vernon, California to discover what turned out to be one of the most fascinating places I’ve been in quite a while – Silverado Salvage & Design. This 16,000 square foot warehouse is just incredible and as I meandered throughout the cavernous structure, I was immediately sucked back in time. Surely this is a rich playground for the inventive mind of any of us storytellers.
Engulfed in tons of well-organized used wood, sewing machines from the early 1900’s and every kind of old farm tool you can imagine, I soon found a few rusted out machines that I never even knew existed. The farmers of those days must have been incredibly strong or had one sturdy horse at their disposal to be able to actually use this weighty equipment.
Old pieces of furniture, wine presses, doorknobs, windows and more were tucked into every corner of the building. A well-preserved, cloth-covered baby buggy rolled into the entrance and made me wonder what had ever happened to the infant it once lovingly carried. I envisioned a housewife of years gone by painstakingly stitching her children’s clothing on that old treadle driven sewing machine. Where did those aged and intricate iron gates once lead to? Was it a garden, a mansion, a government building? Whose fireplace had the intricately cut wooden corbels once graced and what juicy secrets had they been privy to? Were the children who had long ago played with rusty fire trucks and cars still alive or had their toys outlived them? There was so much to see, so much to feel, and a ton of things to capture the imagination.
Sometime during our walk about I came upon a collection of old wooden shipping crates and was overjoyed. Our youngest sons’ birthday was coming up and he had wanted one of these to use as a coffee table. Reinvigorating this chest would be a great project for father and son. I selected the wooden crate I wanted and asked the knowledgeable shop keeper where it was from originally.
“The metal tab on the front is written in Hungarian, I believe,” was his response.
What? I’m Hungarian. My grandfather immigrated here from Budapest, Hungary as a child. And inside I found an ancient packing slip written totally in Hungarian. This was meant to be – a connection to my family’s past. I would later take the packing slip home, translate it into English and laminate it to remain within the trunk forever. I discovered that the trunk had once carried gas masks which left me a little unsettled and wondering how I really felt about taking it home. Either way, the trunk would soon grace my son’s living room after its lengthy travel here; minus, of course, any gas masks.
This store hosts some of the most creative and imaginative employees ever. I overheard designers talking about how one might revitalize an old sink, a chunk of brass, a stained glass window. Creativity flows within this shop with knowledgeable staff I’d like to take home and just listen to. And a few had rather quirky names that I quickly added to my Little Book O’ Names I carry with me for future insertion into a story or two. I found it inspiring that the owner is such an affable, intelligent man who demonstrates a real passion for revitalizing what others might just throw away.
My husband found some very old wood which, I must confess, looked just like old wood to me. However, after talking with the trained craftsman it was clear that this wood had a lot more living to do. The two men put their heads together and a plan was quickly launched. This wood would soon be reincarnated into shelves and a desktop and my husband could not have been happier.
I now have three problems to confront. Where will I use the unusual names I collected, what story shall I write first and how are we ever going to get the heavy shelving and desktop upstairs and into my husband’s office. Three good problems to have!
If you get a chance, I encourage you to stop by Silverado Salvage & Design and be sure to bring your imagination with you! (4625 East 50th Street in Vernon, California)
I won't Apologize for being a Logophile
I am a full blooded, totally committed Logophile. It’s something I practice everyday and everywhere. In fact, I am so addicted to Logophilia that I carry a small floral notebook in my purse at all times to support my addiction.
Not familiar with the term? Neither was I. However, I was searching for the right word that would clearly define something that I do daily. The term Logophile comes from two Greek words - Logos which means words or speech and Philos which means dear or friendly. In short, a Logophile is someone who likes words very much. And I do.
However, my addiction to words centers more around the gathering of names. I am a dedicated name collector; not just normal names, but rather the unusual, ear catching ones. Whether I am in the airport, the hospital, the grocery store or my doctor’s office I am always listening for and recording unique names. I’ve even been known to collect a name or two off the billboards that overhang the Las Vegas Strip. As a writer, I use these names when I am searching for the perfect moniker for one of my characters.
For instance, Dr. Barleycorn is the nickname of my character, Matt Maxwell, who is a horticulturist in my book, Morning Magic. He’s an expert in growing things and since barley and corn are grown in the fields I decided to retrieve this name from my BookO’Names. I actually heard the real Dr. Barleycorn being paged at my local hospital years ago and I wrote his name down. Of course, I had numerous other options like Dr. Peachbottom, Dr. Driven and Dr. Roebust. But none of them seemed to fit Matt just right. I can’t wait to use the name Penelope Pendergast in my next book. I instantly fell in love with that name when I heard it in the airport in Europe. Penelope, if you’re out there - I love your name!
In my latest book, Sea Dreams, one of my central characters is named Thor Hudson. I adore the name Thor and was hoping that someday one of my kids would name one of their kids - Thor. We had a rousing discussion one night during which all but one of my children voted down the name. Since I guess I won’t have a grandson named Thor any time soon, I can at least have a favorite character with that name.
I also love to play with names by not spelling them in a traditional or expected way. I don’t do this to confuse, but rather to draw attention to the character themselves. Brady is a rather boring way of spelling a last name but Braidie certainly draws your eye and attention and that’s what I wanted my character to do.
My quest to gather names continues. As I was walking by the beach last week I heard a guy call out to his friend whose name was Templeton. Hmm, I like it. Not sure when I will use it, but it now holds a place on page 12 of my notebook. Can’t wait to dream up a character who will step up and own that handle!
This morning was one of the most beautiful mornings that we’ve had at the beach lately, so I decided to take a long walk along the Esplanade. And as I was walking, something I had seen on television the other night came to mind. Like some of you I watched 60 Minutes last Sunday night and was intrigued by the story about how addicted many of us have become to our cell phones. The reporter mentioned that many people can’t go longer than 15 minutes without interacting with their phones; a fact that sort of surprised me!
So I decided to do my own little beachside research.
My query: On a day as beautiful as this would people actually prefer to look at their phone instead of the earth, sea or sky or perhaps even another human being?
I walked for 49 minutes, passed 71 people and greeted them all with a smile and a friendly, “Good Morning!”
40 of the people were listening, looking at or talking into their cell phones. 3 greeted me back; mostly with a nod. 7 looked a bit bothered by my greeting and said nothing and the rest of them gave me no notice at all. Nor did they appear to lift their eyes up long enough to see the sun, the surfers, the ocean waves or the seagulls over head for that matter.
That left a mere 31 who were not visibly interacting with a phone. However, I did notice that 20 of those folks (including me!) were actually carrying their cell phones as they walked. Of these 31 people, 19 of them greeted me back. I guess the rest of them preferred their own company to mine and that’s okay!
The final number of people who were not visibly carrying or interacting with a cell phone at all was 11. However, a few of them could have been hiding them in a jacket, purse or pocket. Who knows? Of these 11, all but one greeted me. And I could tell from that one’s look that he was having one bad day; so I didn’t expect him to even look up.
As I was returning to my car I got half way through the cross walk when a young man in a red truck nearly knocked me onto my backside. My eyes frantically connected with his as he looked up from his cell phone just long enough to race through the crosswalk - yikes!
Okay, I started this blog off to say something like, “Hey people put your phones down. You’re missing out on some of the most beautiful scenery around!”
But then my younger sister reminded me of a few things. Perhaps I should not be so judgmental.
Maybe my phone walker’s time was the only time they had in their day to connect with a loved one. Maybe they were actually listening to an inspirational podcast or perhaps they needed whatever was on their screen more than they needed to be greeted by some lady they didn’t even know. And maybe in between their phone calls, games, podcasts or email checking they had actually taken in a glimpse of our surroundings. At least that’s what I’m hoping for.
Trying not to be too judgmental I was still left with the question - how many of my walking buddies are missing out on the beauties of nature because of their umbilical chord to their phone. Certainly made me stuff my phone deeper into my pocket and maybe that was all that I was supposed to learn today.