Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas?

So what are you doing Christmas Eve day? Baking? Last-minute shopping? Wrapping those last few gifts and putting them under the tree? Maybe even decorating the tree?

Know what we're doing?

Making a big mess of the foyer and cleaning out the coat closet.

Why are we doing this?

I have no idea.

But Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night. :)

Thursday, December 22, 2011

In the mood

I finally got in the mood to bake some cookies.

Yeah, I know, they don't look like much. But they are absolutely my very favoritest cookies in the whole world. Cinnamon snaps. Kinda like ginger snaps but... well, you get the picture.

I've already eaten a whole bunch, and they're out there on the table calling to me. Trying to resist, but it's hard.

So in case you love cinnamon as much as I do, and prefer crunchy cookies, here's the recipe. Don't say I never gave you anything. :)


1 c. brown sugar
1 c. white sugar
1 c. butter
2 eggs, beaten
3-1/2 c. flour
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1 T. cinnamon

Cream the sugars and butter. Blend in beaten eggs. Add dry ingredients and mix well. Shape dough into two logs, 2 inches in diameter. Wrap with wax paper and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Slice rolls into 1/4-inch thick cookies. Dip top in sugar crystals or sprinkle on if desired. Bake at 350 degrees for about 12 minutes, until edges are golden brown.

And that's all there is to it. Easy and cinnamon-y. Guaranteed no calories during the holiday season.


Saturday, December 17, 2011

Sweet treats

These are reindeer cookies, made by Betsy. Aren't they cute? And easy: Just make the Hershey's kiss peanut butter cookie recipe, roll the dough into balls, flatten them into egg shapes and bake. When they come out of the oven press in M&Ms for eyes and nose and chocolate covered pretzels for the antlers.

Below is a picture of one of the five boxes of assorted cookies made by Molly and sent to relatives. Yummy! Molly also decorated the house while I was at my mom's.

Made by me: nada... zip... zilch.

I'm still working on trying to be happy for the holidays, or at least not too cranky. My mother-in-law breaking her hip last week, precipitating two trips to the Catskills, hasn't helped.

What has helped... cookies. I'll regret it when I make my annual New Year's resolution to lose weight, but nothing says happiness like a peanut butter kiss cookie.

Ernestine Ulmer said it best: Life is uncertain. Eat dessert first.


Saturday, December 10, 2011

Guilty pleasures

Why do they make Harlequin romance titles and covers so embarrassing?

Somebody gave me a box of 10-15 year old Harlequins & Silhouettes, and I'm reading them in secret... Oh, well I guess it's not a secret anymore, huh? *blush*

Most of them aren't too bad if you want a quick, easy read with a guaranteed happy ending. But then when I review them on Goodreads, everyone will know what I'm reading.

Is it really humiliating to read light romances? I always thought so, but now I'm not so sure.

Heck, even Nora Roberts, the queen of romance, started out with Silhouette. How bad can that be?

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

It's Al Right

I've been reading a lot of free Kindle books, and it turns out many of them are self-published.

Being a bit OCD, especially during the holiday season, the errors drive me insane, and I've been tweeting advice to self-publishers. Examples:

Tips for #selfpublish: Hallows=holy relics. You don't have dark hallows under your eyes unless you were slapped by a dead saint. #badgrammar

Tips for #selfpublish: If you're following the rules, you TOE THE LINE. Tugboats tow the line. #badgrammar

One of my pet peeves is the use of the non-word, alright. ALRIGHT IS NOT A WORD! Another is the non-word alot. ALOT IS NOT A WORD!

My dear friend Rosie Lane gave me a terrific link to a blog post by the brilliant Allie Brosch about the alot, an imaginary creature that looks like a cross between a bear, a yak, and a pug. Then when I wondered what an alright looked like, she gave me a link to a youtube video song, Alright, by Jamiroquai.

So from now on, whenever I see alright used in a sentence, I will think of my friend Al Right with the funny hat and mustache. "I was feeling alright" gives me the picture of the writer stroking Al Right's mustache.

Stupid... maybe. But it helps me deal.

You gotta take your fun where you find it, right? Al Right!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Scrooge no more

It's officially the start of the holiday season, and I'm not happy. I frickin' HATE the holidays.

It may be partly because I work part-time at a church, and other than Easter it's the busiest time of the year. Extra work, but of course, no extra pay.

Not to mention all my own shopping, Christmas letter, cards, parties, the six-hour drive to visit my mom and the five-hour drive to mother-in-law, yadda yadda yadda.

As a Christian, I should love the season, looking forward with great anticipation to the birth of Christ. But we've turned the holiday into such a bastion of commercialism and family duty that it's lost its meaning.

I've considered just abandoning all the secular trappings, but I don't think I can do it. My family expects gifts and I don't want to disappoint them. My friends and relatives actually look forward to my annual letter and card, or at least they say they do. The church people need the Christmas events. And my mother and mother-in-law really want the visits and would be sad without them.

This year I'm going to try really hard to improve my attitude. Yeah, I know, I'm a curmudgeon and everyone expects me to bitch and moan all the time. But I really mean it. I'm going to do my best to find the joy this year.

How do you feel about Christmas? Do you love to shop? (Grrr, I hate it... oops, sorry, backsliding already.) Do you love the decorations? The insane holiday music everywhere you go?

And do you think I'll really manage to change my attitude? Does it count if I just hate it inside and don't bitch and moan?

2011, the year of Scrooge-no-more. Hey, it could happen...

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A question about questions

What's up with authors not using question marks anymore?

I noticed it particularly in J.R. Ward's last couple of books. Now don't get me wrong, I think she's an awesome writer. I adore her books, every one. But in places where I learned to always use a question mark, she doesn't.

I already returned her two latest to the library, so I don't have exact quotes in front of me, but here's an example made up by me:

"But things don't always go according to plan, do they."

My seventh grade English teacher, Mrs. Williams, taught me to use a question mark there. So why doesn't J.R. Ward?

And here's another example, from the Foreword to "SEAL of My Dreams," an anthology of stories about Navy SEALS: "Who is better equipped to honor the image of our greatest warrior heroes than the gifted pens of some of the romance industry's finest authors of romantic fiction."

Does it have something to do with the inflection? Generally when asking a question, the voice rises. "Are you going to the store?"

But not always. "Where are you going?"

So really, have the rules of punctuation gone out the window? Is it a lack of knowledge on the part of authors and editors?

I admit to being a nitpicker of epic proportions, and Mrs. Williams's lessons have stayed with me for more years than I'd care to enumerate. Changes in the rules drive me crazy, whether they're universally accepted or just some author's convention.

It shouldn't bother me, should it?

It shouldn't bother me, should it.


Saturday, November 12, 2011

The refilled nest

According to the New York Times, since 2000, more people in the 25-to-39 age group live in their parents’ homes. By 2008, before the full effect of the recession was being felt, their ranks had increased by 32 percent nationwide, and we can assume it's even higher now.

We've got one of those "boomerang kids." Molly, on the left in the picture, moved home this past April. For the past six years she's lived two hours away, making use of her degree in chemical and biomedical engineering and earning a substantial salary.

But she wasn't happy.

After much discussion and consideration, at age 29 she sold her townhouse and moved home to pursue a dream to become a veterinarian. She spent the summer volunteering full time to get the requisite number of volunteer hours to apply to veterinary school, and is now studying veterinary science at Drexel School of Medicine in Philly. Her applications are in and we're all waiting to hear.

So how are we managing with a 29-year-old "child" at home? I have to say, just fine. But it really depends on the kid.

There's a quiz: Are You Ready for Your Grown Children to Move Home? on, and it's a good one. I think the most important factor is that Molly has specific plans, a real goal, and she's constantly working toward it. She goes to classes and studies pretty much all the time.

The other important thing for us is that she fits in with our lifestyle. She helps around the house, doesn't expect us to do things for her the way we did when she was younger, and even encourages us to live healthier lives. She goes to the gym with me and walks around the neighborhood with Dave, helps with the shopping, and even helps Dave with yardwork and the pond. It's especially nice that Dave and I can go away for a week or two and not worry about the house.

Lucky us.

What do you think about grown children moving back in with parents? Did it ever happen to you, either as a parent or a child? How did it work out?

Inquiring minds want to know. :)

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Better run, better run

There's a song that's been playing on the radio lately, and Molly can't stop singing it:

All the other kids with the pumped up kicks
You'd better run, better run, outrun my gun
All the other kids with the pumped up kicks
You'd better run, better run, faster than my bullet

I'm going to adopt that as my theme song, only I'm changing the lyrics: All the backyard critters that are eatin' my stuff, you'd better run, better run...

Yes, he's back, the king of the backyard. And now he's gone too far.

We got a gift--a big basket of chrysanthemums--and put them out on the deck where we could see them from the sunroom. And that arrogant b*st*rd toddled right on over and started chomping.

Enough is enough.

Okay, I'm not really gonna get a gun, but between the effin' great blue heron eating all our baby koi (see pics below) and Mr. Woody eating the flowers, I've had it.

I'm mad now. Wildlife, beware!

Great blue heron underneath the pond net, eating our fish

Scary great blue heron flies away

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Guest haiku

On Wednesday we took a catamaran tour to the Na Pali coast to see the cliffs. It is some of the most spectacular scenery in the world.

It was very rough, though. Betsy slipped as she walked along the catwalk from the front of the boat and came within inches of going over the edge. Scary!

But everyone forgot about it once the lady started puking over the side.

And that inspired:

Boat Ride
by Betsy & Molly

Sailing out to sea
Lots of bumpy bumpy waves
Oops, pineapple chunks

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Did I mention chickens?

I must have. They're everywhere here on Kauai. Even at Wal-Mart.

I was going to submit this photo to peopleof-, but it's a bit blurry. So only my friends get the benefit of seeing it.

And of reading this:

A Wal-Mart Haiku
by Buster Rooster

Is there corn on sale?
I think I need condoms, too.
Cock-a-doodle doo!

Monday, October 17, 2011

From sea level to 4,000 feet

On Sunday we drove along the southern part of Kauai, and then up to the top of Waimea Canyon, which has to rival the Grand Canyon in depth and beauty. Amazing doesn't even begin to describe it.

The view from Kalalau Lookout, the highest spot you can go on the island, was truly the most beautiful landscape I've ever seen in my life. We were up level with the clouds, looking down at the cliffs and the ocean. I'll let the pictures speak for me, though they don't really do it justice.

1. The canyon from near sea level, looking up.

2. The Grand Canyon of the Pacific: Waimea Canyon Lookout, looking down.

3. We are here: map at Kokee Lodge and museum, where we ate lunch.

4. Up in the clouds: Kalalau Lookout, looking north at the ocean. Down below on the right side is where we were yesterday, right on the coast.

5. Enjoying the view: Deb's pic of our happy family.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Incredible diversity

What an amazing island! The diversity of the landscape is just incredible.

Today we drove north from our central location just outside Lihue. We saw the Kilauea lighthouse and Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge, home to wedge-tailed shearwaters nesting in tunnels right along the path. Molly was great at spotting the babies hidden in the undergrowth, and below is her picture.

Other birds at the refuge were red-footed boobies nesting along the cliffs, and great frigatebirds soaring overhead, hovering in the wind as if posing just for us. And of course no matter where or when, we found the ubiquitous chickens.

After a really yum- yummy lunch at a Mediterranean restaurant in Hanalei, we drove to the end of the road and visited both the Wet Cave and the Dry Cave. At the beaches along the northern coast waves crashed, and some beaches were closed due to dangerous undertows.

And all along the sea, a simple turn inland gave us the mountain vistas, clouds sitting atop jagged peaks. From volcanic cliffs to rainforests to fertile valleys to sand beaches, Kauai's variety of landscape and climates is stunning.

And we've barely begun!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Pigging out

You're looking at the "before" picture. There are no after pictures, except of the Hawaiian dancers and fire twirler guys.

Tonight we went to a luau. Roast pig and lots of other interesting foods, even poi, which had no taste at all to me. You'd have to be really hungry to eat that.

It was a good day, supposed to be a rest and recovery day after our arduous trip. So we got all dressed and dragged ourselves to our rental van.

First stop: Opaekaa Falls, nice and close to our condos. One of the many falls on Kauai.

Then lunch at a local bar, don't forget the local beer, then the grocery store. Then back to the resort and the swimming pool. You'll find no pictures of us in our bathing attire.

Then an hour to shower and change, and off to the luau. Home about 9 p.m.

Some day of rest, huh?

Friday, October 14, 2011

History Repeats

I can't believe it. It almost happened again.

The last time our family left for a major vacation, our Mediterranean cruise, we had big problems getting to the airport. It wasn't our fault, but still, we were panicked, fearful we'd miss our flight.

This time, leaving for a week in Hawaii, it might have been our fault. Who bothers to listen to a traffic report at 6 a.m.? I-95, the primary way to get to the Philly airport, was closed. And we were already on it.

Lucky for us we'd allowed an extra half hour to get there. We sat still for about fifteen minutes, but then were able to crawl our way to the next exit. Of course when we got off the lights were backed up and backed up. Everyone was trying to get to the airport.

Also lucky for us, Molly was driving. And one more lucky for us, she was driving my old piece-of-shit Camry. After whipping through a gas station and bulling our way into traffic, we finally made it through the last lights. We got through security and arrived at our gate just as they were starting to board.

But that's not the end of the story. It gets better... or worse, if you're us.

We got onto the plane and taxied out onto the runway, and then stopped. And the engines went off.

"Well, folks," the pilot's voice came over the intercom, "we've got a 55-minute delay due to the weather in Chicago." And we only had an hour layover to make our connection.

We sat... and sat... and finally, almost an hour later, took off.

Here's where we finally got lucky. As we approached Chicago, the cabin staff read off the connecting gates and gave detailed instructions on how to take the shuttle from one terminal to another. Oh, great, we thought, there's no chance we're going to make our next flight. Then there was the good news: we were arriving at Gate C-59. Our next flight was leaving from Gate C-56.

They were already boarding when we got there, but we made it! Whew!

It was smooth sailing, er, I mean flying, after that, and we arrived in Lihue eighteen hours after that I-95 closure, exhausted but happy.

Next time I promise I'll listen to the traffic report. :)

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Is it really worth it?

I think I'm going insane.

Yeah, I know, all my friends will testify I've been crazy for a long time. But this is serious.

I'm going on vacation in less than a week. To Hawaii, no less. And I don't wanna go.

Insane, right?

But there's just so much to do before I go that I might kill myself getting it done. And then where would I be?

There are a lot of good things about working part-time at a church. The people are all so nice. They love me and appreciate what I do.

On the other hand, nobody else can do my job. The ones that could all work fulltime and have families and don't have time. The older folks who have the time are all, to a person, computer illiterate. If my plane crashes, God forbid, my church will get by, but a lot of things would change.

For now it's all on me.

So in order to take a week's vacation, I have to do two weeks of work before I go. It's driving me insane. Especially now, one of the busiest times of the year for me, with annual meetings and a plethora of upcoming events.

I'll get it done. And I can rest on the all-day, multiple-plane trip to Hawaii, right? Yeah, right.

But until I actually get there, I'll be a crazy woman.

Bring on the straitjacket.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Return of the King

No, I'm not talking about Aragorn. As you can probably guess from the picture.

I was in the kitchen, warming up leftovers in the microwave. Lasagna that I made earlier in the week. Yum.

Dave was in the sunroom. "Psst," he said, standing real still. "C'mere."

Molly was right there in the kitchen with me, so I figured it wasn't for some wanton sunroom nookie.

"Bring your camera," he added.

As I said, Molly was right there, so it couldn't have been for some kinky sunroom pornography.

While I was extricating my camera from my purse, Molly eased herself out into the sunroom. "Omigod!" she said. "He's back!"

I turned the camera on, slo-mo'd around the corner and there he was, right on the deck, licking up the spilled seed from the bird feeder. It was Woody the Woodchuck, king of the backyard. And has he ever grown!

For those of you who haven't known me for that long, Woody took up residence under our deck last year. You can read about it and see pictures of him here. And here.

We all stood and watched while his royal fatness sashayed down the steps, across the walk and through the little decorative fence into the flower bed. He moseyed around for a minute and then found some tasty plants and settled down to dinner.

"Let's go outside," Molly said, so she and Dave went out on the deck. Woody hurried over to the fence and paused, posing for me to take a few more pictures. But as the humans got closer, he motored back across the walk and disappeared under the deck with a flash of his furry tail.

Now I'm pondering. Do we dig out the Repels All and the ammonia-soaked rags and stuff them into Woody's hole? A lot of the discussion boards suggest human urine as a wild animal repellent, even for bears. Are you listening, Tartlet? Do I get Dave to go out there after dark and pee? Should I squat there myself?

Or do I follow the example of my Muddy buddy and leave the critter be? Of course Mud has a whole bunch of woodchucks in her backyard in spite of three dogs racing around peeing on everything. I don't think I want a whole bunch of woodchucks. Even calling them groundhogs and giving them cute names like Gus and Punxatawney Phil doesn't make them all that desirable.

For now, I guess we'll leave his chubby majesty alone. But if he starts burrowing in the flower beds, no guarantees.

Watch here for news of a royal beheading. :)

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Versatile Blogger Award

Does being versatile mean that you can't commit? Or perhaps that you need to be committed?

Many thanks to the lovely Rosie Lane for nominating me for the Versatile Blogger award. I feel so honored.

At least I did until I googled it and found there are 3,120,000 other versatile bloggers. I'm one in a million, right? Or to be more accurate, one in three million.

What the award means in practical terms for me is that I must share seven things about myself, preferably interesting, and then pass the award on to *insert random number here, depending on who you listen to* other bloggers.

Since Rosie mentioned in her nomination that I can write a haiku about anything, I've decided to share seven *possibly* interesting haiku facts about me.

1. My degree is in
Chemical engineering
Met lots of guys there

2. I went to law school
Became a divorce lawyer
It majorly sucked

3. I like doing crafts
I once knit Dave a sweater
It fit me better

4. It's impossible
To haiku re addictive

5. Don't come for dinner
I am a terrible cook
Less fun than chem lab

6. I play the keyboard
In a praise band in my church
Mostly I fake it

7. I'm a space cadet
Real life isn't as good as
The world in my head

So there you have it. Now on to my nominations, of which I have five, in no particular order. Maria Zannini, Nicole Laurent, Muddy Meanderings, Mom Saga, and More Notes from the Refrigerator Door. Some of you have been taking a bit of a summer vacation from your blogs. You know who you are, and it's fall now, time to get back to them. :)

In order to accept this prestigious award and join me as one in three million, you must, according to one set of official rules:
1. Thank the award-giver(s) and link back to them in your post.
2. Tell your readers seven (7) things about yourself.
3. Give this award to up to fifteen (15) recently discovered or favorite bloggers.
4. Contact those bloggers and let them in on the exciting news.

So thanks again, Rosie, and go get 'em, bloggers!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Gluttons for punishment?

Facebook has changed its format again.

And damn! How annoying! Some computer algorithm somewhere decides what my top stories are. And there's no way to get rid of them, at least, not an easy way.

Everyone's in an uproar. How dare they?!

What we all should do is go somewhere else for our social networking. But, you might ask, where?

I have no idea. There's no place else where all my friends are. And vampire wars.

So, grumbling all the way, I'll put up with it. Sooner or later I'll get used to it.

Just in time for the next set of changes... :(

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Addiction, thy name is me

I may have mentioned once or twice that I'm an addictive personality. When I started playing Vampire Wars, it was all vamps all the time. Same thing with Treasure Madness and Zoo World. For the better part of 2010 I spent 8 hours a day or more online playing games.

Recently I've given up all the computer games except VW, and I'm back under the thrall of a lifetime addiction: reading. I've been re-reading my way through some of my favorite detective/ thriller series, like John Sandford's Prey series, and now Jeffrey Deaver's Lincoln Rhymes.

Of course in between I've been reading some of the newer paranormal romances and urban fiction. Some I love, and some, not so much. And I'm waiting for the new releases of some of my very favorite series: JD Robb's Eve Dallas and Lee Child's Reacher. So many good books.

So if I'm not around as much as usual, you can most likely find me in my comfy chair, completely oblivious to the world, lost in fiction, in fantasy, in mystery, suspense, romance.

It's way better than RL.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Ten years ago

The events of ten years ago today are too painful to remember, and yet too important to forget.

I still can't bear to talk about it, to see news coverage, to think about it. And I didn't even lose a loved one. Yet my life, along with everyone else's in this country and around the world, was irrevocably changed.

It still hurts.

Monday, August 29, 2011

It came, we saw, we conquered... mostly

We were all prepared. Every pitcher we own was filled with drinking water, the bathtub filled in case we needed buckets to flush, there was milk in the fridge, bread in the freezer, we turned the fridge and freezer to coldest to keep things longer in case of power loss, and we each had a flashlight beside us.

The only thing we didn't have was the evil Mr. T, who hid for his little turtley life in spite of Betsy wading through the pond for ages in the rain and then sitting and hoping she could catch him to bring him to safety in the house. He didn't care about the storm, just his freedom.

Despite all our preparations, or perhaps because of, Hurricane Irene was a bit of a bust. Now I'm sure the families of those who died wouldn't agree. Or those who lost homes to wind or flooding. Like those in Dave's mother's home of Margaretville, NY. But here in South Jersey, it was the disaster that wasn't.

I'm not complaining, mind you. I'm very happy our prayers were *mostly* answered and there were very few fatalities. As for the property damage, well, things can be replaced. People can't.

So in spite of experiencing a couple of flickers in the electrical service and briefly losing our cable and internet, we had it pretty easy. Next time a hurricane comes up the East Coast, we might not even bother preparing, and that might be a shame.

All I can say in closing is: Good night Irene, Good night Irene, I'll see you in my dreams.

Friday, August 26, 2011

The coming storm

Irene is coming to Jersey.

That's a lot more ominous if you know that Irene is a category 3 hurricane about to dump her wrath on the U.S. east coast.

The local media, and national, too, are having hysterics and upping the fear factor. It drives me crazy, so I don't watch.

But everything I've read and seen says we oughta be getting ready, stocking up on fresh water, having a 3-day supply of food and a can opener--yes, it really says that--batteries and flashlights, and on and on.

Somehow I can't get that excited.

Who wants to go to the grocery store and battle the crazies? Not me.

So here I sit, watching the weather channel as long as I can bear it, about 2 minutes, just long enough to see the latest predicted storm tracks.

We managed to survive the rapture. Guess we'll manage this, too.

I'll get back to you on that. ...or not...

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Vacation haiku #21

Home--where the heart is
Home again, jiggety jig
There's no place like home

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Vacation haiku #20

Wild pheasant mama
Walking babies across road
Despite the danger

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Vacation haiku #19

Great eagle spirit
Sky ruler, caring parent
Fierce and majestic

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Vacation haiku #18

City of Deadwood
Story of Wild Bill Hickok
Calamity Jane