Last week, I went to a store where, just inside the door, I was greeted by a six-foot long mirrored lion--roaring his head off. (I'm calling him "Disco Lion.")
Yesterday, I went to Home Goods for the first time.
WOW -- talk about a store that contains everything you WANT and just about nothing you NEED.
I walked around in awe looking at the china, the pictures, the bedding (even dog bedding), the beautiful coffee (or tea) mugs, throw pillows, soap dishes, lamps -- just EVERYTHING, and I wanted it all (even though I have no where to put it.)
I'd first heard about Home Goods on HGTV. Hosts of the decorating stores would walk in, grab a grocery cart, and start filling them up with neat stuff to decorate the homes they were working on. Just like on TV, women were walking (and blocking) the aisles with shopping carts full of STUFF. There were even a few guys in there doing the same.
Mr. L and I walked around (and I must say he was EXTREMELY PATIENT, as I pulled a "MUM" and looked at everything) in disbelief. While most of the customers were breaking the bank with their purchases, we walked out of there with a new soap dish.
I'm at the point in life where I'm starting to shed stuff, so it's not likely Home Goods is a place I'll return to. But it does make me want some of those gorgeous bone china mugs to drink my morning tea out of.
What's your impression of Home Goods? Would it be a destination place for you?
BUT ... can you also imagine how sad it would be to live in a world without dessert?
Just think, no cakes, no pies, no cookies, no pastries, no ice cream, no cheesecake, no fruit. It's enough to make you cry! Luckily, that's not the world we live in.
You can go to the grocery store or bakery and indulge yourself and/or your family, or you can take the satisfaction of making dessert yourself.
Recipes To Die For: A Victoria Square Cookbook can help. Katie Bonner, of the Victoria Square Mysteries, has put together a collection of recipes for breakfast, lunch, happy hour (in the form of signature drinks), and dinner -- but most enjoyably, for teatime and dessert.
Pies, cookies, cakes -- you name it, she's made them and collected recipes from friends and fellow merchants on Victoria Square to share with readers and friends.
So maybe just for this one day -- indulge yourself. Make something wonderful for your family. Katie is glad to lend a hand!
So, what's YOUR favorite dessert?
Now here's a holiday I can get behind. I could eat Yorkshire Pudding every day of the week and NEVER get tired of it. (Had some last week as a matter of fact.) Love it, love it, love it!!!
Click this link for an English #recipe -- so you know it's good. (I use drippings when I can -- otherwise olive oil.)
Aren't these pansies gorgeous? They've been my favorite flower ever since I can remember. My mother used to plant them along the walk in our first house and they always looked to cheerful. I only have three pansy plants (so far) this year, and they were self-seeded. Mr. L planted some ice pansies in our garden containers/urns after the other flowers started to wane last summer. I want to get more, NOW--they're just so pretty.
What's your favorite flower?
Three weeks ago, Mr. L had an accident that dislocated his shoulder. In that one instant, our entire summer went on hold. Of course, we didn't know that at the time. We were unloading the car and he had hands full, and I had even more stuff I was lugging, and down he went on the front step.
At first he said he was okay. He just needed to sit down. But then when 20 minutes went by and his arm still hurt, I convinced him to go to Urgent Care. We weren't even halfway there when he said, "I think I need to go to the ER."
Boy, did we luck out. He was immediately given an ER cubicle and within less than an hour we had the verdict. Of course, Mr. L didn't know what it meant, but I did because I'd once written a story with a character who had a dislocated shoulder. He was in agony, but he said, "It hurts," because that's just his way. They knocked him out, put the arm back in the socket and said, "Six to eight weeks--unless you need surgery." (We find out today.)
So the rest of the summer is now on hold. Even the garden, he said.
Whoa! DEAL BREAKER! Okay, we can't put in the annuals we ALWAYS put in around the pool, but there was no way I was going to go the entire summer without flowers.
|My veggie garden. : (|
We're now three weeks behind and our yard is a wreck. By now, Mr. L would have turned over my veggie garden and we would have planted sweet peas, tomatoes, and potatoes. This year it's a weed patch. (BTW, my weed sprayer is NOT filled with herbicide; it's filled with double strength vinegar (available from Amazon). I don't put poison in my garden or on my grass.)
Luckily, our perennials are blooming. We've already had two of the rhododendrons bloom, and now our purple puff balls. (Allium.) Alas, we lost three rhodos and an azalea due to winter. But our clematis is thriving, despite the fact we got rid of our old arbor (where it kinda sorta lived) and built a new one (the white one above) just before Mr. L's accident. My brother helped us (well, me) put the stakes in so it won't blow away (again). (Okay, he did most of the work and I helped.) The clematis voluntarily climbed the fence (which it never did before and we always had to coax it to climb the old arbor) and is doing fabulous. I expect triple the flowers this year.
|The only HEALTHY rhubarb plant in my yard. The rest are tiny.|
My mother had a HUGE stand of rhubarb and after she passed away last summer, I knew that if I didn't relocate some of it, I'd never have rhubarb crisp or chutney ever again. But I think I went to far transplanting it, because her stand is next to nothing this year, and only one of the five plants I relocated has thrived.
The roses aren't doing much of anything yet, but I'm hopeful we'll have something beautiful to look at in the next month or so.
I knew Mr. L (who is a flower nut) would NOT be happy with no annuals, so on our errands Wednesday, I took us (since he can't drive) to two garden centers (calling them nurseries makes me think they'll be babies growing in the dirt) where we bought a bunch of stuff -- if we can't do the garden around the pool, we can at least fill our urns and big pots with flowers. Of course, there were a few stumbling blocks. One of the pots had BEAUTIFUL yellow self-seeded pansies (from last year), and Mr.L wanted me to rip them out for petunias. (I LOVE pansies--much more than I love petunias, so in they stayed. I was, after all, doing all the work!) One of the pots had self-seeded lettuce, too. "Rip it out!" he said. Nope, I just planted the new seeds around them.
|Self-Seeded leaf lettuce.|
So now we at least have flowers in our urns and when we sit in our enclosed porch, we can see the four urns filled with colorful petunias, pinks, nasturtiums.
|Aren't my self-sown yellow pansies GORGEOUS?|
The landscaper we use will come and weed the front and back flower beds (and oy! I had better sell a heck of a lot of books to pay for it), but we will have a tidy yard once again. But I can't wait the 2-3 weeks on their timeline. I will have to weed my veggie patch myself otherwise we won't be eating tomatoes until late October. But it will be a small price to pay.
|Mr. Lonely Zucchini|
Although ... I'm giving up on certain plants because I can't bear it when the groundhogs, bunnies, and other critters eat them. This year I bought a single zucchini plant. We'll see if it will tolerate growing in a container.
Having flowers and enjoying them is a very simple pleasure in life, one I wasn't about to give up no matter what our circumstances.
|More stuff to plant.|
What have you got growing in your garden?
One of my favorite summer activities is heading out for yard sales on Saturday mornings.Today is the BIG sale in Lyons, NY. It's one neighborhood and I try not to miss it. Okay, the last couple of years it hasn't been as good, but they still sell Zweigle's hot dogs (for Mr. L -- and he eats it at 9 am), fried dough (that's for me!), and I get such great stuff. Bracelets, pictures, books--who knows what treasure I'll find!
Yesterday, I stopped at a sale and bought these beauties. Aren't they adorable?
They're only 6 inches tall. I haven't decided where they'll go yet, but I will find the perfect spot for them ... eventually.
Since I no longer have a booth in an antiques co-op, I only buy what I fall in love with. What do YOU look for at yard sales?
Oh, how I love cake. It used to be that cookies were my favorite dessert/sweet, but not anymore. Mind you, I will not turn down an oatmeal cookie (or chocolate chip, peanute butter, snickerdoodles, molasses ... well, you get the drift).
Once upon a time, I even took a cake decorating course. It did not go well. Oh, the cakes tasted fine, and I think once or twice I might actually have made an icing rose that sort of (kind of) resembled a flower. But that was years ago.
These days, I stick to mostly unfrosted cakes. If not, I always make my own frosting, because those tubs of stuff from the supermarket are LOADED with Trans Fats, which are really, REALLY bad for you. (And you HAVE to look at the ingredients to see it, too--they're not going to advertise the fact next to the dough boy.)
One thing that's bad about cake (one?) is a double layer or bundt cake makes a lot, and we're just two (not so tiny) people. That's why I love this recipe. It's just right!
Lemon Poppy Seed Cake
2¼ cups cake flour
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 ½ tablespoons lemon zest
4 ½ tablespoons poppy seeds
1 1/3 cups unsalted butter, softened
¾ cup sugar
¾ cup lemon juice
Preheat oven to 350°. Grease and flour one 9 x 5 inch loaf pan.
Sift together the flour, sugar, and salt. Then mix in the lemon peel, poppy seeds and butter. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Pour batter into the prepared pan.
Bake at 350°F (175°C) for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Meanwhile, In a saucepan over low heat; cook 3/4 cup white sugar and the lemon juice until stirring until sugar is dissolved. Let cool to just warm or to room temperature.
Remove the cake from the oven and place the pan on a wire rack-place a cookie sheet underneath this rack. Prick the top of the cake several times with a toothpick. Brush the top of the cake with the warm or room temperature syrup, allowing lots of the syrup to run down and soak into the sides and bottom of the cake. Cool slightly in the pan before removing the cake to the wire rack to cool completely. When completely cooled, wrap the cake in foil or plastic freezer wrap and let the cake rest at least one day before serving to your guests.
What are you baking up for your sweetheart on this Valentine's Day?
Today is usually Pet Peeve Thursday where I (or a friend) is given free reign to kvetch.
Not today, because yesterday Mr. L and I were the recipients of a lovely gesture.
We'd gone to the grocery store to stock up on life-sustaining supplies (you know, the usual: cornmeal, gunpowder, ham hocks and guitar strings).
Flabbergasted, Mr. L said, "What?" And again she said, "Have a happy Valentine's Day," and walked away.
Whoa! How lovely was that?
Instead of paying it forward with chocolate, we're going to pay it forward with a donation to the local food bank and hope if the recipients don't have a happy Valentine's Day, they'll at least have a happy St. Paddy's day.
How do you pay it forward?
It seems like I have a bunch of different "reader' audiences. Not everyone reads all my books. Not everyone reads my blog posts. Not everyone sees my Facebook, Pinterest, or Twitter posts. That's a lot of people to juggle.
Something fun I do on my Lorraine Facebook Author Page is share pictures of teacups. I have a fascination with English tea and the beautiful china that goes with it. So I thought for a while I'd share some pictures of my teacup collection. (Don't get bored, guys--afternoon tea is full of wonderful goodies.)
Unfortunately, I no longer have the first teacup from my collection, which my mother gave to me. The cleaning lady broke it and my heart. But this is one of the cups from a set that my grandmother gave me (when I was much too young to appreciate it). I think it's gorgeous. Sadly, not many of the cups survived the trip from England to the US and I have far more plates and saucers than cups. Since they're all hand-painted (and slightly different), there's no way to replace those broken cups. I have seen duplicates of the cup the cleaning lady broke -- however not since she broke it (a year ago). If I ever see it again, I'll certainly buy it for sentimental reasons.
I am such a sucker for brown transferware; I have loads of pieces of it (all mismatched, all unique, all beautiful). I admired this cup in an antique shop and my mother bought it for me. Isn't it lovely?
This is my oldest teacup celebrating Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee. It was a Christmas gift from Mr. L. We'd seen it in an antique shop in Centralia, Washington. I think I stared at the price tag as much as the cup. It was too rich for my blood. Unbeknownst to me, upon our return home, Mr. L called the shop and bought the cup. It was the favorite gift that Christmas!
These are just a few of the cups in my collection.
I must admit, I am also a teacup hoarder. I buy them at yard sales to make sure they are loved, and then I find them new homes. Would there be interest in a teacup giveaway?
Let's talk about it!
Meanwhile, let's make Teacup Tuesday a regular post for a while and see what comes of it. Maybe I could share some tea recipes, too. Would you like that? Let me know.
Back in early December, I lamented the fact that not as many people send out Christmas/holiday cards as they used to. I may not receive as many as I used to, but I did receive quite a few from my readers. (YAY!)
They came from as far away as the Netherlands and Australia. A couple were beautiful handmade.
Some of them came after the holidays (or was it just that I didn't get butt in gear and get to the post office in time to get them before the holidays?), but all were a joy to receive. Can you see your card among them?
My heart-felt thanks to everyone who sent me a card. I love them all!
I admit it, I love Christmas cards. In fact, I collect them. Well, I collect VINTAGE Christmas cards and have about 50-60 of them. Thanks to Pinterest, I now have an even bigger collection (spread out over several of my writing personas).
I like cards from the 1950s. It was such an innocent era. (Well, we like to think that. The WWII had ended, but Korea was in full swing, and there was the Cold War going on ... but let's think innocent.)
Most of my cards came from yard sales. Usually when daughters were cleaning our their parents homes. They bagged them up and I bought them. (I also have an entire box of assorted cards for every occasion that I got FOR THREE BUCKS!) I love them all!
Every year I hand the last Christmas card I got from my Granddad back in the 1980s. It wasn't an expensive card, but it has his signagure on it and it says "with Love" (sniff).
But so far this year I haven't received one Christmas card. I'm so sad that that tradition seems to be going the way of the doh-doh. I looked forward to the mail every day in December. Now people send virtual cards which, less face it, don't entail much effort at all. Especially when all one has to do is gang a load of email addresses and shoot off one card with one message.
If you like vintage cards, they have reproductions on Amazon. I'll be sending out a few of my vintage cards to a chosen few.
Will you be sending out Christmas cards this year?
Every couple of years I make cut-out cookies for Christmas. The reason I don't do it more often is because ... well, let's face it. If you make it, you must eat it. If I didn't already need to lose (mumble, mumble) pounds, I'd go for it.
Pinterest is terrible. It is. There are hundreds and hundreds of pictures of cut-out cookies and dammit--I must repin and admire them over and over again. I was actually so inspired, I spent Sunday making cookie dough, and yesterday baking the cookies.
I lost my favorite recipe, so I often punt--and use an unfamiliar one. I must stop this. Next year (for I've already baked my cookies), I'm going to do more research to find the perfect recipe ... although, perhaps i won't have to look that far.
Thanks to Google, I found a great blog that walks you through decorating your cookies. (And gives recipes and tips and stuff.) OMG -- I could explore this site for days on end. It's called The Sweet Adventures of Sugar Belle. Of course now that I have investigated the site I want to go out and buy all the things you need, like icing bottles, and have learned all kinds of new terms like 20-second icing and fill icing and icing bottles, etc. And that I should make icing 4 pounds at a time.
Will I ever have the talent to make gorgeous cookies? Not unless I practice a whole lot and I won't do that because I would eat the cookies and gain more weight and ... it's a vicious cycle. Maybe I should just BUY a cookie now and then.
Still, I've got 5 dozen uniced cookies in the freezer and must hit the craft store (which has a HUGE Wilton section), or maybe just Amazon. After all, I have just under three weeks before Christmas to finish these cookies. (Mostly stars. I'm a star girl.)
Are you baking cookies this year? If so, the Cozy Chicks Blog is going to hold a Cookie Exchange -- 7-8 (we haven't decided yet) of our favorite recipes to share. It'll be Dec. 16-22. Don't miss it!
One of the things I like best, besides the charming ambiance, the delicious food, the nice strong cups of tea, is the china. I wondered what it was, turned my saucer over, but didn't see any marking. : (
So there I was last night, flipping through the latest issue of Teatime Magazine and there it was--featured in a story. Oh boy, you never saw someone flip to the products page so fast in your life. It said they had obtained the china from Replacements Ltd.
Hey! Over the years I've bought a bunch of china from Replacements Ltd. Of course, I didn't like the price they quoted so I went online to see if I could do better. Damn. It was the same price. Still, I went ahead and ordered ONE cup and saucer. I just love the pattern so much I had to have it so that I can drink my tea from it and think about those lovely afternoons at the Prince of Wales.
The other day at a garage sale, I bought a second copy of the Yes CD Big Generator. Love that CD. (I'm a big Yes fan -- but only the albums with Trevor Rabin. Sorry, I came in on his watch and that's all there is to it.) I stuck it in the CD player and immediately thought of our foolish purchase last year. Yes, we bit the bullet and bought a Big Generator.
"Ha! What do you want to waste your money on that for?" more than one person asked me. After all, how often do we have power failures? Well, not three months after the generator went in, the power went out for a couple of hours. What's a couple of hours? Well, when it's COLD and DARK in December, it's a while. We sat there at happy hour, listening to music and reading the newspaper by 150 watts of light, while the furnace happily chugged away. Meanwhile, our neighbors were in the dark.
Last night we had a nasty thunderstorm. Guess what? It took out the power for three hours. Admittedly, you don't need all that much power during the night. But my clock has a battery in it. It's not flashing this morning because 10 seconds after the power went out, Mr. Big Generac came on.
Already this summer too many of my friends have been inconvenienced for days, nearly a week, when a storm (and the power lines) took out their electricity. We suffered a number of times with that ourselves, and we said, "never again." The crazy way weather is changing makes me glad we sacrificed so we could buy that generator.
Thank you for being my friend, Mr. Big Generac.
I went to a sale at the local historical association over the weekend. Guess what I bought? Two bags full of blank and other cards. It was the sympathy cards that suckered me in. It seems that all too often I'm sending them these days. I know how comforting it was to hear from friends when my dad passed, and I try to send out a card whenever I hear that a friend has lost a loved one.
One of the bags was chock full of thank you cards, too. Very cute ones. I send out a LOT of thank you cards, so this was perfect.
I must have spent almost an hour examining each and every card in those two bags. The cost? $2. I'd say that was $2 well spent.
Yard sale season is on! What will you be looking for?
I had a very nasty surprise last fall. My accountant told me I hadn't put enough money away to pay my taxes. This year, I'm putting my tax money away first, which means I can't touch it. It's in the savings account, and that's where it's going to stay until June 15th, September 15th, and for the school taxes due in September.
So, this spring and summer I'm going to be living on a very tight budget. Guess what? Living on a tight budget really stinks. I wanted to buy a new pair of jeans, but I remembered I was on a budget. I really want that new-to-me desk, and Saturday I was prepared to go out and find it. But then I remembered I was on a budget. I wanted to get another David Arkenstone CD, but then I remembered I was on a budget.
But honestly, don't you have to splurge once in a while?
I was bad. I splurged yesterday. I've been thinking about this for years, and just never found what I wanted. Well, last week a catalog came and there they were, the sheers of my dreams, and on sale, too. So ... I ordered them. Now I'm wondering what I'll live without once these sheers arrive and are hanging from my bedroom windows. I might only care when I'm away from those windows and think ... I could go out to lunch if I hadn't bought those sheers. Or ... I could buy myself those jeans or that CD.
Or I could just shut up and and think, I'm mostly living within my means and be satisfied. (After all, that's what I've done most of my life.)
That said, I have a feeling I won't be sorry about those sheers simply because they're pretty, they were such a good deal, and the sheers hanging from the window were really old and nearly in tatters. (Thank you, cats.)
So, what have you splurged on recently?
Did it ever seem to you that life is getting away from you because you do too much ...?
I had a few days off at the end of January and came home refreshed and raring to go. No sooner had I returned when I was feeling pretty burned out. I'm still feeling pretty burned out and I'm not getting nearly enough written. While I was gone, I wrote up a storm. Since I got home ... not so much.
And now our garbage men have decided to change the time they pick up our trash. They used to come at 3 pm. Suddenly, they come before 7. We didn't figure that out for TWO WEEKS. That's a lot of trash piling up.
My energy efficient washing machine doesn't clean our clothes very well. And although I use liquid detergent that's made for dark clothes, my dark clothes come out with white spots that look like undissolved powdered detergent. I have to wash them over again and hope that the next time it's something else that comes out with the white spots. I'm ready to trash this machine and buy a non-energy efficient machine just so I don't have to keep washing my clothes over and over again so I can actually wear them.
What are we supposed to do with finicky cats? Since we lost our Bonnie back in November, we still put the same amount of wet cat food down for each kitty meal. Why? Because they won't eat something that sat in the fridge. Most days they won't eat the fresh stuff, either. All three show up, but at least two of them sniff the food and walk away. It's insulting when you've gone to all that trouble to open the can, scrape out all the gravy (because that's all they really want anyway), put it in clean bowls, set it on the floor and then fill the water dishes (which they won't drink out of--they prefer the dripping bathroom sink).
The list goes on and on.
What's getting in the way of you enjoying life?
Don't you just LOVE to spend hours pouring over a spreadsheet adding up each and every trip to the post office, counting the miles AND the postage? Well, that's how I spent yesterday. I spent nearly $3,000 in postage in 2011, and will probably spend as much if not more in 2012. All part of my job of promoting my books.
But that's not a beef. Honest. And it really didn't take all that long yesterday because my figures, when broken out, added up with the total at the bottom of the spreadsheet. Usually I screw up with my formulas and have to go over the figures time and again. Yesterday? Not at all. But then I realized there were missing items. Like my new keyboard. I couldn't find the receipt and I couldn't find item listed on my Visa bill (because I couldn't remember the date I bought it). So ... that didn't get counted. I know there were others, and I try to be meticulous about keeping receipts and adding the totals to my spreadsheet. Must try harder this year.
Keeping track of my mileage is the worst. This year I did a better job, but still missed writing down the mileage for my stock signings. Oh well. I should keep a special notebook in the car and take down the beginning and ending numbers on those trips. (Betcha I forget to do that!)
No turbo tax for me. I go to an accountant. Are you kidding? The IRS makes authors jump through hoops. We're self-employed. We have to pay estimated taxes quarterly. Schedule C for me! I supply the numbers, my accountant puts them in his spreadsheet, hits, a button, prints out the tax forms, and the estimated tickets and envelopes, and I'm done for the year. Unless I make a LOT less or a LOT more and need to adjust my 4th quarter payment, which has happened in the past.
Tax time is not fun time. But tax time means Spring is on the way. Hey, I have to find something positive about the experience, don't I?
How about you? Expecting a refund this year? (Sadly, I'm not.)
Well, it's about time I spiffed up. I mean, I do have a book signing to go to in a couple off week. (I'll be signing The Walled Flower. If you're in the Rochester, NY area -- maybe you can come and say "HI!")
Now, I hate to dress up, but in the past couple of months, I've invested in several scarves. I have a really pretty purple and gold one (it shimmers), silver, a black-and-white floral. I even have a few knitted ones. (The one I made myself convinced me that my knitting days are over, thank you very little Mr. Carpal Tunnel syndrome.)
But what do I know about wearing them? Well, isn't Google just the best thing around. I found a video to help me out. (Although, come on -- NOT choice No. 3. The woman looks like she's trying out to be the bow on a Valentine's Day gift.)
So far I've successfully worn one of my scarves once. I mean, I went to a party and nobody laughed. In fact, a couple of other women were wearing very nice scarves. I felt like I belonged (and believe me, that doesn't happen very often).
Do you wear scares to spiff up?
Recently one of my ex-co-workers responded to a Facebook post where I talked about the upcoming release of The Walled Flower. (okay, can you blame me? It's one of my favorite topics right about now.) In it she said, "I know somebody famous."
No, no, no.
I'm not even a celebrity (and when you consider that people like Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian get to be celebrities by appearing in sex videos -- no thanks, that's not the life I'm looking for).
Let's face it, even in my Lorna Barrett persona (my best known name), I couldn't walk into a Starbucks in Rochester, NY and get a free cup of Joe by pulling the fame card. "Who?" they say, squinting at me and taking in my faded jeans (they got that way by years of wear, not by paying an exorbitant price. And besides, I don't drink coffee.)
I've always heard it's better to be rich than famous. I think that must be true, but about now, I'm wondering how to get to the rich part.
And if I was rich, what would I do with all that money?
Well, first off, I'd get a brand spanking new kitchen. I have a TINY kitchen (and worry that future prospective buyers will bolt when they find out it's so tiny there's no room for even a bistro table and chairs), but I don't even want granite counters, and stainless steel appliances. Nope, just some new counters (Formica is fine with me) and reface the cabinets. Oh, and replace the slippery-when-wet ceramic tile with one that has a little texture.
A new car. Not a Caddy or even a BMW ... nope. A Town and County minivan with stow-and-go seats. Don't even need extra BRDs (beverage restraint devices) because I use both hands to drive (and, as mentioned above, I don't drink coffee).
I could give more money to charity if I had more to spare. My favorite charities are: Crackerbox Palace farm animal rescue (a lot of people see farm animals as expendible. Well, I don't. They deserve a long and happy life just like cats and dogs), The Wayne County Humane Society (I'd give to the one in my own county, only they are well funded--Wayne County has a lot of poverty, and not enough $$$ to spay and neuter, etc.) and St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital (although I'd feel a lot more comfortable giving them more money if they laid off sending stuff out like stickers and calendars and stuff and just used the money I send to CURE KIDS OF CANCER!!!!!). I'd also give more to my local Food Pantry.
What would you buy if you had unlimited funds?
I want necklaces.
Eyebrow studs. (No, wait. Erase that.)
And I never go anywhere to wear the stuff. Yup, most nights it's me in front of the stereo reading or in front of the DVD player watching Star Trek: Voyager. (Gotta love Captain Janeway! And notice ... she doesn't wear jewelry ... unless you count her Captain's pips.)
I considered buying this "sisters in heart" pin for myself and two of my best buds for Christmas. But then the shipping was astronomical and I found out that though the pin looks BIG in the catalogs (and online) it was teeny weeny if you read the fine print (only 1.25 inches high).
Guess who didn't get the pins for Christmas. (Besides, one of my pals told me that "only old ladies wear pins." Should I be afraid to wear a pin now for fear of being branded OLDE? (and yes, I put that added "e" on there deliberately. <g>)
The best way NOT to buy something like jewelry is to NOT look at it in stores and online.
Can you say "new New Year's resolution?"
Tuesday I took the day off. Believe me, after the summer I've had, I needed a day off.
Mr. L and I drove across the border to Niagara-on-the-Lake, a lovely little town on the Niagara River. While my fictional village of Stoneham, NH doesn't look much like NOTL, I wish it did. (And I'm coaxing it, I'm coaxing it.) By the way, if you click on any of the pictures, you can see a larger version.
Have you had a perfect day lately?
So there I was with NOTHING to read. Oh, there's an old issue of Coastal Living, from April 2006, sitting on that pile of magazines in the corner. (I got it at a yard sale for FREE!) I think I'll read that. So, I'm paging through it and come to an article about an enclave of cottages to rent on the Maine coast. (Very pretty.)
Then I got to page 147. Hold everything! I turned to Mr. L and said, "I've seen this picture in the last couple of weeks."
He didn't bother to look up from the crossword puzzle.
"In fact, it was in an issue of Romantic Homes Magazine."
Still no reaction from Mr. L.
So I turned to the pile of magazines on the little table between us and sure enough--there it is, the new issue of Romantic Homes and darned if that picture from a 5-year-old-issue of Coastal Living isn't the cover of the current Romantic Homes.
He's right. I remember beautiful pictures on home interiors--and for some reason, I remember where I've seen them--especially if I've seen them somewhere else.
Why couldn't I remember more important stuff like where I left my keys or my hat or my glasses? No, I have to remember pictures in decorating books and magazines.
Has that ever happened to you?
I love Romantic Homes magazine. And one of my favorite features is the "At Home With . . . " column at the back of the issue. Here they ask different guest designers the same questions every month. So, what if I interviewed myself with the same questions (you can try it, too!)? Or should I have Lorna ask Lorraine these questions? It doesn't matter. Here they are:
The last thing you worked on?
A short story when I should have been working on Victoria Square #3.
Your current inspiration?
The events going on in my life.
First place you'll go tomorrow?
To my mother's house.
The color you most often use? (See, I told you these questions were for designers.)
Purple. I guess I never outgrew it. (As a child I asked my parents to paint my bedroom a deep lilac. I love purple pens and my husband indulges me at Christmas (in my stocking) and Easter (in my basket). That said, blue is my favorite color. (But pink is creeping up there.)
Now that's a tough one--I collect SOOO many things. Made-in-Japan (1950s-60s) Christmas figurines. Hand-painted plates, lambs (I have a whole flock), royal family memorabilia (mostly china cups and mugs), greeting cards from the 1950s. The list goes on and on.
What's left on your wish list?"
For my Jeff Resnick books to find the same kind of success that my Booktown Mysteries have found.
So . . . what's on YOUR wish list?
So there I was, typing along, and I heard CRASH! and then the words, "Uh-oh!"
I like old things. A few years back we ripped out the 1960s double sink in our bathroom, put in an antique chest as a vanity, and gave our contemporary bathroom a little charm from yesteryear. (See, the cats seem to like it.)
Two of the accessories on my bathroom vanity are antique soap dishes. Yes, two. Hubby likes milled soap and I like glycerin soap. (Although I like his soap, too. I switch back and forth.) His soap dish was bought at a flea market in Maine. It's got pink roses. Mine was bought at a yard sale in Pultneyville, NY.
Oddly enough, when I bought both of them (years apart) they each came with "sister" soap dishes. Three of each. Since I was a vendor in an antiques arcade, I sold the other four, and these different soap dishes have lived quite happily on the vanity.
Ya know, there are terrible things happening in this world on a daily basis. The aftermath of the earthquake in Japan, war in how many countries. Little kids with no medical care. A broken soap dish is not a big deal, but for some reason it put me in a funk. The soap dish wasn't even valuable. I only paid a dollar for it. But I loved it!
Later, I told my mother about it and she said. "You can have one of my soap dishes." As it happened, I had bought her a brown transferware onion patterned soap dish. You see, my mother has blue onion dinnerware. (Guess what? So do I! I searched for years for a dish pattern I liked and finally Mr. L said--well, what would you REALLY like, and I said, "My mother's dishes." Duh! I got my own set!)
I'm still a little sad about my broken soap dish (today is garbage day--goodbye china chards), but in a few weeks the new one will feel like it's been there for ages. And it does go rather nicely with the rest of the decor.
By the way, the cleaning lady felt terrible and apologized profusely. What an awful thing to happen on her very first cleaning job. I hope the rest of her day went better.
So, what silly thing in your house would you miss if it broke?
By the time A Crafty Killing comes out (in two weeks--GAK!), I'll have been sitting on it for two years since I sighed the contract. That's a L-O-N-G time to think about the whole series concept.
Ever since I discovered country (or rather eclectic) decorating, I've wanted to immerse myself into pure girlishness. Not so easy when you've been a tomboy all your life. And the truth is, I'll never be a clothes horse and I can't be bothered to hand wash my good dishes. But I like having this kind of stuff and admiring it. (And I love reading magazines like Victoria, Romantic Homes, etc.)
I figured if I ever sold the Victoria Square books it would be a license to be girlie. Whoo-hoo! I intend to have fun with this, and since I love most things Victoriana, I've allowed myself to dip my toe into it.
One thing I did was order calling cards. Talk about restrictive -- they only let you have so many characters per line, so I had to be judicious. And I wanted them to be generic enough that I could use them for the life of the series, because how the heck am I going to get rid of 500 of them? So far I've given away zip! But I am taking them to my book launch on Feb. 5th--so anybody who wants one then can have one. And I might start adding them to my goody bags. (Truth be told, when the bags were put together for the book launch--gulp--I forgot about them.)
So what do you think? What else can I do that's girlie?
As reported yesterday, Mr. Landscaper came to visit and brought his Bobcat. We had talked about getting just the landscaping on the left side of the house removed. He, and his young helper (son?) went right to work and started ripping out overgrown landscaping. Once we saw how open it was, we asked him to start ripping out the stuff on the other side, leaving the HUGE rhododendron in the middle.
Okay, first of all, we rarely go in our front yard. I usually approach the house from the north and to tell you the truth, I knew the landscaping was overgrown, but until I saw this picture, it just never registered. As Mr. L said upon seeing it, "No wonder we never got any trick-or-treaters."
As we stood in the cold watching all the action, we started thinking about what we wanted for the front of the house.
As I stood there watching, I was reminded of all those episodes of Curb Appeal I've been watching and man, is our house in desperate need of some curb appeal. It's ... ugly. We just never knew it because the landscaping was so overgrown. I mean, even when we bought the house it was overgrown so we never really saw the front.
Man, it's worse than ugly.
I can see a trip to the paint store and the architectural salvage yard in my future.
After Mr. Landscaper left, we stood looking at the rhododendron and thought -- we should have had him pull that out, too. But I wanted to see it bloom one more time. Now I realize . . . it's only pretty for one week of the year. It needs to go.
Over the winter, we're going to think about what we want for both the house and the yard.
In the meantime, how would you make the front of our house look better?
Most days I drink my tea out of mugs. It's just easier that way. But sometimes I want to drink it out of a dainty cup. So I collect bone china tea cups. I've paid as much as $24 for a tea cup -- but that was when I had a regular day job. Those days are gone. So now I look for bargains.
This little beauty (called "Geranium") was just such a bargain. I got it at a yard sale for a dollar. Why? A tiny hairline crack in the cup. I really, REALLY had to look at it a couple of times before I saw it. But will that distract from the pleasure of a nice cuppa? I think not.
On the same day, I came across this coffee mug. I love clunky old restaurant china and have many pieces. This, alas, is not old, but it was only a dime. If nothing else, it'll make a nice place to put pens and pencils.
Or I could just put it in the daily mug rotation.
What's your favorite cup/mug for tea (or coffee or cocoa)?
I collect Syracuse China Americana dishware. It all started when I visited a bed and breakfast in Stowe, Vermont. They served their magnificent breakfasts on that dishware. When I saw a piece at a yard sale, I decided then and there that I would like to use the same dishware at my family's summer cottage--a place I've come to call B&B Cottage.
Ah, but finding pieces of this restaurant (think diner) quality china ahs not been so easy. In the past 10 or 12 years I've managed to find:
2 dinner plates
14 cake (or sandwich) plates
6 cups and saucers
4 soup cups
1 salad bowl
3 relish dishes
1 coffee mug
2 roll plates
and an assortment of odd-sized plates.
I traveled to the Syracuse China outlet store on a number of occasions, but in all my searches I only found one piece (the salad bowl). I was told it was no longer a popular pattern and had a limited run. Since then, of course, the company has folded. So now my only option is to buy used pieces.
I've bought most of my pieces at yard sales, antique stores, and thrift shops. I have yet to really look online--mostly because restaurant china is so darned heavy the shipping charges would be out of this world. (Okay, I did peek on Replacements Inc. (which sells odd pieces of china) and would be a good source--if I wanted to pay astronomical prices. That's not my goal.)
I have other dishware (Stoneware--that chips like crazy), but because I so enjoyed my time at that Vermont inn, I long to eat off the same tableware at my own B&B Cottage. I wonder how long it will take to find/accumulate all these place settings.
Is there something you collect that seems like an impossible dream to find?
I'm not one to fall for celebrity. Back in my 20s, I was secretary to a woman who was married to the biggest newscaster in town. I worked for her for six months before I decided that "Cal-if-or-nia was the place I wanna be" and on my last day the big cheese asked me (after speaking to me every work day for those six months) if I was "the new secretary."
Then I worked for 20th Century Fox for almost six months. During that time I got to see and meet a LOT of celebrities and downright TV and Movie Stars. (Including Alan Alda, David Ogden Stiers, Harry Morgan, and even Sigourney Weaver.) But after my brush with Mr. Newscaster, I was no longer impressed with celebrity. Which made it a lot easier for me to leave that job and come back home to Western New York.
In my time as a published author, I've met quite a few big-name authors at mystery conferences. Believe me, I haven't gone out of my way to meet them, either. I'm always afraid that people whose work I've admired might end up being like Mr. (now fallen from grace) Newscaster (who doesn't even come up with a Google search). (Take that, Mr. Arrogant Has-Been!)
I've have LONG admired Susan's watercolor-illustrated cookbooks. The first of her books I received was Christmas from the Heart of the Home (which is now out of print. Oh, that STUPID publisher. How could it ever deprive the world of the best Christmas cookbook (with lots of extras) that (wo)man kind has ever known? ).
When I first saw that Susan was on Twitter, I was quick to follow her. But how thrilled I was when I retweeted one of her posts and she thanked me for it. Me. Right here. In backwoods old Western New York!
Since then, we have corresponded maybe six or seven times. The other day, I commented on one of her Tweets and we went back and forth three times. Wow! How wonderful it is to "talk" with someone you've long admired and she was just as nice as I'd always imagined. (And even more cool--that we'd recently both reread a favorite book.)
I have no illusions that Susan and I will ever be friends. But I love to hear about what she's working on. (Like when she posted about finishing her 2011 calendar.) And I love just about everything she draws and writes. It it just so cool to have had the opportunity to let her know how much I admire her work.
Have you "met" anyone online (or in person) who you were really impressed with?
I guess Rachel Ashwell gets the credit (or blame) for the shabby chic decorating. Mind you, I like most shabby chic decor. Old picture frames, mirrors, vases of flowers, chandeliers, lots of white and pastels. It can be very pretty. And I really like the idea of rescuing old furniture, dishes, and pictures. I've tried to incorporate it into my own home and our family's cottage.
My Dad was a craftsman, and could do just about anything. He built half the furniture in my house. Heck, he gutted my first house and made it a home. (I impeded him with that operation, but learned a lot, as well.)
He went through a lot of hobbies. For a while he did leathercraft. I still have--and use--the wallet he made for me over 30 years ago. He made jewelry. (I wear 14 rings, five of them he made.) But one of his most endearing projects were his wood carvings--a hobby that stayed with him for a long time. He liked to do variations of Santa, and literally did hundreds of them. These little guys were one of his first efforts, and look pretty primitive when compared with his later work. He gave them to me for my birthday in 1992. When he'd finished them, he thought they looked like they were singing--and that they should do that under a lamppost--so he made one of those, too!
At first, he was very critical of the painting of his carvings, and even asked my husband to do a few, but in no time he was better at it than Frank, and adding more and more decorations to the little guys. He did fat Santas, tall Santas and a lot of short Santas. His favorite were Tomties--little elves that help Santa. (As pictured on the right.) He made a LOT of these, and usually they were doing something, (like this little guy holding the candle) and usually wore "wooden" shoes.
I'm really not sure how Dad got into carving, but for him, it was an adventure, albeit a usually solitary affair. I had my critique group, and Dad had his carving buddies that he saw every few weeks. One of them moved to Berea, KY--home of The Kentucky Artisans center, which, like the name says, showcases the work Kentucky's best artisans. Dad's former carving partner wanted to make a certain carving, but it wouldn't come out right, so Dad made one and sent it to him as a prototype. Unknown to Dad, the man put Dad's carving into a local competition where it took first prize! (The one on the left is another version of that prizewinner.)
As far as adventures go, one day Dad was in his workshop carving, when he called up to my mother. "I've cut myself." She figured he'd cut his hand, but he'd actually dropped the knife on his thigh. When she got down to the workshop, there was so much blood, she thought he'd slashed an artery and got on the phone to 911, then hauled him upstairs to wait for the ambulance. There was blood everywhere--on the workshop floor, the stairs, all over the kitchen. The EMTs arrived in record time and got the bleeding under control, but they sent him to the ER just in case. Then they wanted to see THE CARVING KNIFE. When Mom showed the guy, he nearly went into hysterics of laughter. He'd been expecting a 10-inch carving knife, not a tiny 1-inch blade. (Hey, those suckers are sharp.) Ninety minutes later, Dad was belly-up to the bar at my Aunt's house where they were supposed to go for dinner--and only 30 minutes late. (Hey, there was a Manhattan waiting with his name on it.)
Dad didn't do too many carvings these last few years. His remaining carving buddy moved away and it wasn't so much fun any more. But last year for Christmas he gave me two of his last efforts. One was unpainted, the other was a Bear dressed in overalls. They live in my office, with a couple of fishermen, an owl, and an unfinished Santa tree ornament. The rest of them reside on a little bookshelf in my living room. I have carved bunnies, birds, a deer, and even a walrus, and I love them all.
Dad passed away in October, so there won't be just one more "found" carving to go in my collection. (I know they're there--I've seen them in his workshop, which is pretty much just the way he left it.)
It's the end of a wonderful tradition. While it makes me terribly sad, I have all these wonderful pieces that Dad made, a lot of them signed "For Lorraine made by her Dad."
The were the best Christmas presents ever.
Okay, Thanksgiving is still more than a week away, and maybe I do rush the Christmas season--but, hey, the happiest times of most children's lives is Christmas. The anticipation is monumental. Was it just greed or was it the absolute joy of everything about Christmas that made a kid's heart soar?
For me, as an adult, getting into the Christmas season means two things: music and -- surprise! --books.
I have a lot of Christmas (coffee-table) books, but my all-time-favorite is the very first I ever got. It was a gift from my Mum, which makes it even more special. It's Susan Branch's "Christmas From The Heart Of The Home." Unfortunately, it's out of print (Yes, YOU MISSED IT) -- but Susan's "keepsake" version "Christmas Joy" is still available. (Hey, and just to name drop, Susan is now my friend on Twitter. She has ACTUALLY tweeted TO me, how amazingly COOL is that???)
Usually my Mum signs the books she gives to me (for birthdays and Christmas), but for some reason she forgot to do that with this one (and with my very favorite decorating book, The Romance of County Inns by Gail Grecco). I can't tell you how many times I've read Christmas From The Heart Of The Home--not just glanced at the pretty pages (Susan illustrates all her books with charming watercolors), but READ THE ENTIRE BOOK--ALL THE RECIPES and everything!!! At least three or four times every Christmas season for at least ten, if not fifteen, years. (I've made quite a few of the recipes, too!) I love the art. I love the recipes--but most of all, I love the suggestions on celebrating.
But one of the things I love most is that Susan wrote about Christmas on Martha's Vineyard. I love new England, and one of the things on my "bucket list" is the Nantucket Stroll." Since I first read Susan's books, I've longed to visit both Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket--off season. (Have I mentioned how much I hate crowds?)
It will probably never happen, so maybe one holiday I'll spend the holiday at my family's summer cottage. To do that, the place would have to be winterized. Our neighbor, who winterized a summer cottage to make a year-round home said it was THE BIGGEST MISTAKE OF HIS LIFE, and in retrospect wished he'd razed the place and started from scratch. There's so much of my Dad in that place (he gutted it and did a total remodel and addition), that I don't think I could do that.
So, as in years before, I will (okay, already have) delve into my copy of Christmas From The Heart Of The Home and dream about spending the holiday on the shore. (And maybe down a couple of "Peach Cream" drinks--recipe on page 31...just in case you'd like to join me.)
It was "dump your old pharmaceuticals" day at my local Wegmans, and boy did our family accumulate a LOT of unused drugs. (It's a shame they can't be given to people who can't afford them. But, up in smoke they'll go.)
So while I was there, I decided to check out the book section and HELLO!!! There it was, Bookplate Special. Three copies--which means one has already been sold. I did a little happy dance and called to a woman who was walking by, "It's My Book!" like I'd never seen a copy of my book for sale before.
What the heck! I'm happy!
If you're local, please check out your Wegmans grocery stores (and even if you're in PA, VA, or NJ, too!) and maybe buy a copy? :)
One of my all-time favorite magazines has been Victoria. In the 1990s, it was the quintessential elegant celebration of all things girlie. Silver tea sets, gorgeous flowers, all-things chintz, and old lace. Ahhhh.
Its editor was one Nancy Lindemeyer. Under her guidance, the magazine flourished. Then she retired around 2001 or 2002. The magazine soon failed under its new editor. (Sorry, Peg, but it’s true.)
I’ve written about the old Victoria, and its resurrection, and those two blog posts are the most accessed on this blog. (Thank you, Google.) Not a day goes by when one, if not both of those posts gets read by someone out in cyberspace. (Although, sadly, those readers don’t seem to come back and read the new entries on this blog. Bummer.)
I was not a subscriber of the old Victoria from day one. Therefore, every time I see an old issue at a yard sale, I scoop it up. I’ve been able to find most, but not yet all of the old issues. I like to pull those old issues out during the summer to revisit favorite articles from up to 18 years ago. And I’ve purchased a LOT of back issues at yard sales.
A year or so ago, I bought quite a few back issues. But as I was going through them this past weekend, I found one that had a hand-written note to Nancy Lindemeyer. Or I should say, an unfinished note to Nancy. It read:
The letter ends there. Okay, what was the writer saying? She was annoyed that she got two issues—one old, one new—but still, she’d used what she’d read in past issues to plan the biggest day in her daughter’s life.
Hello! What’s the problem here? She got a magazine a week or so late and it annoyed her, but then how long had she waited before she’d renewed her subscription? And how terribly annoyed was this woman when the magazine failed under it’s new editor? (I can tell you, I was pretty damned annoyed.)
The new Victoria isn’t quite as wonderful as its predecessor. Then again, even in its current incarnation, it’s much better than the alternative: having NO Victoria magazine.
But it was really kind of neat seeing the hand-written letter, the looping letters in cursive script. Did the woman ever finish the letter? Did she go into greater detail about her daughter’s wedding, or did she just decide: Oh dear, what was I thinking? . . . and just shove the pages into the May 1998 issue and say/think “the hell with it.”
We’ll never know.