Friday, April 18, 2014

It's Peeps Time!

I'm not much of a Peeps fan, at least as far as eating them goes. Too much sugar even for a sugar lover like me (although I'm getting much better at avoiding the sweet stuff). But they are kind of cute and pretty, and I love all the fun that is created around them at this time of year. So, let's begin with the winners of the annual Peeps Diorama contest winners. (Click on the link for the 2014 winners. The image below, "The Peep Vinci Code" is an entry from the 2006 contest).

The PEEP Vinci Code

And here we have two versions of Peep cakes, with instructions.

This one is a bit more involved, but very cute (I love that marbled effect).

Happy egg decorating or cake making or...just have a wonderful day!


Thursday, April 17, 2014

Beware the Cantaloupes!

I was in the grocery store today in the produce section, the place where everything is happening. Seriously, there are always so many more people in the produce section than in any other part of the grocery store that we could have town hall meetings there (which might be fun). I've been known to say (truthfully) that I've thought myself out of troubling plot situations in a book while examining the cantaloupes or onions.


So maybe it's no surprise that I fear what might happen someday if I spend too much time daydreaming while choosing a melon. Today they were stacked so high that there seemed to be a serious danger of a cantaloupe avalanche if I picked up the wrong one. It was like one of those movies where the thieves have to strategically work their way between the lasers that will set off the alarm. Or an old comedy routine. And I, who have been known to do a few klutzy things while daydreaming, would be just the person to do it.

I'm totally aware of that, however, so when faced with a mountain of fruit, I proceed carefully and let my daydreams languish. Most of the time this stands me in good stead, and today was no different. I emerged from the store with my fruit and my dignity intact.

I'll save my story plotting for a day when the stack of cantaloupes is more manageable. However, true confession time: not long ago, I was buying an emergency can of frozen orange juice for those days when I run out of the fresh kind and don't have time to run to the store. I only needed one can, but...the display was one of those where things slide out and drop down, and it apparently decided that 4 or 5 would be better as they went spinning out of the frozen food case and onto the grocery store floor where two very nice ladies helped me pick them up and return them to their place. A person like me has to be very careful to always be on her guard when she's around anything stacked precariously.

I'm hoping that I'm not the only one.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

28 Birthday Traditions

I've been a bit under the weather for the past couple of days and still am not myself, so I'm hoping that this John Green Mental Floss video on birthday traditions from around the world will add a cheery note (It's Mental Floss's one year birthday on YouTube).

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Getting Creative with Planters

I love it when people find creative new uses for things, and since I'm thinking spring and flowers and planting, I decided to scout out some planters. Originally, I was just going to look for new ones, but then I took a detour over to Flickr to see what unusual ideas people had come up with for using items not originally intended as planters (I suppose the beauty of a planter is that almost any container will do). Here are some of the awesome ideas I found:

Kids' dumptruck as succulent planter

typewriter planter
zen Sutherland

Bathtub Planter
katsrcool (Kool Cats Photography)

Kettle Planter
Natalie Maynor

Printer Planter
Ben Stanfield

pram planter
Shannon Holman

shoe planter

There were also planters made from old cars, farm equipment, lots of toilets, toys and one very nice one from LEGOs. So many possibilities!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Writing (or Reading) a Series

Right now I'm reading a series called Unicorn Western by Johnny B. Truant and Sean Platt. It's an interesting series and not my usual reading fare at all, but fun. I originally ordered only the free first book in the series just to see what it was about, because the authors seem to know a lot about series writing and I was interested in seeing their take on a series. Also, I chose it can you pass up a book that's both a western and has unicorns in it? But after reading the first book, I was the authors intended.

I've written several series over the years and taken part in even more multi-author series. Writing on my own, there was The Wedding Auction series (6 books) and the Brides of Red Rose (3 books below)

Brides of Red Rose

All of those books are linked in that they share common characters and a common setup and setting, but there's no major thread that carries over from one book to the next (nothing that is unresolved at the end of each book).

Then there were two series some of my author friends and I created and wrote together. Those have some elements that carry over from one book to the next (in addition to continuing characters and settings). There was The Wedding Planners series and Girls' Weekend in Las Vegas.
The Wedding Planners

Girls' Weekend in Las Vegas

Lastly, there were numerous continuity series written with other authors with a continuing thread, often a mystery, an impending doom element or other ticking clock factor that wasn't resolved until the series was over. These included Montana Mavericks: Wed in Whitehorn, Lone Star Country Club, Family Secrets, The Fortunes of Texas--Reunion, Maitland Maternity, In a Fairy Tale World..., and The Larkville Legacy.

Now I'm working on a solo series I'll publish in an ebook-only format (although I haven't totally ruled out eventually offering print versions) and which I'm temporarily calling Angel Central. It involves a group of heroes and heroines whose guardian angels are having a bit of trouble carrying out their duties, those angels having unresolved issues of their own that make them not quite ready yet for the big time. I started the first book years ago during a time when angel books were a bit of a fad, then set it aside. Now I'm having fun with it but am admittedly working a bit more slowly than I would like.

Part of that is because I'm conflicted over how inter-related these books are going to be. I keep changing my mind. On the one hand, I like to give readers a satisfying ending when a book is complete. On the other, I think of books like The Hunger Games which just wouldn't have been the same had things been tied up in a tidy knot at the end of the first book. But I do feel that, for me, the main gist of a book has to have a payoff for the reader at the end of that book (think Harry Potter where evil still looms at the end of each book but the immediate crisis is resolved). I once was asked to put a cliffhanger at the end of one of my books. It didn't deal with my hero and heroine, but it still left me with a bad feeling. Surprisingly enough, not one reader ever said anything negative about that ending, and the book, now more than a dozen years old, continues to sell. I'm still not sure how I feel about that cliffhanger.

So how do you feel about series and what are some of your favorites? (As noted above, I like Harry Potter and The Hunger Games, but I also like some of the big family series such as ones written by Mary Balogh and Loretta Chase. And now, of course, Unicorn Western).

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Trying to Cut My Sugar Intake

It's been a long (long, long) winter with lots of cold and lots of snow (it felt as if the snow never melted before the next storm hit). Not being a lover of staying out in the cold for extended periods, I didn't get out for my usual walks, so winter wasn't kind to my general fitness, either. I drank lots of coffee and tea, and I prefer both with milk and sugar.

Now it's spring, and I'm trying to get back in shape. I'm walking again, but looking back, I'm appalled at the amount of sugar I've gotten used to. That can't be good, so I'm making an attempt to adapt to black coffee and tea with just milk. And I'm eating lots of vegetables and fruit. So, for no other reason than to applaud my current food friends, here are some of my favorite fruits.



Pink Lady apples
Pink Lady apples 2009


I think I need to expand into more adventurous fruit territory (mango, passion fruit, kiwi), but for now I'm just enjoying a steady diet of vegetables and the fruit above along with berries and bananas. Oh, and avocados (aren't they really a fruit)?

What's your favorite fruit?

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

A Heartwarming Tale

You may have seen this. It's been around for a week and has well over 4 million views, but it's worth watching twice. Unsung Hero is actually a commercial for a Thai life insurance company, but it's touching and warm and brought a tear to my eye. The message is one that we all need to hear now and then. Enjoy!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

It's April. Time for Pansies

For someone who isn't much of a gardener, I've certainly been blogging about gardening a lot lately (yes, I love flowers, but weeding? Not so much). At any rate, today I planted some pansies in our whisky barrel. Hopefully, it's not too soon and they'll survive. I don't know that much about pansies, but the folks over at What's the Dirt? have all kinds of fun facts about them, including their meaning and history, along with some gorgeous photos.

For some less brilliant photos, here are the ones I planted:

I think I need to plant a few more. They look a bit sparse (but I love the colors).

Monday, April 7, 2014

Flowers (and Vegetables) are on the Way!

Back in January I posted about beginning a garden in winter (using milk jugs or other containers). At that point, I had met people who had used this method successfully and I'd read about it, but I had never tried it. With winter being so long and cold and dreary this year, we decided to make the attempt.

Unfortunately, the winter was so very cold that we were afraid to plant anything for fear that we'd just end up with a lot of frozen dirt (and dirt-filled containers we would need to clean and dispose of). But, eventually, the weather warmed up enough that we took a deep breath and waded in. Here's what things looked like a few days after we planted (in March).

It's been slowly warming, but we still have some very cold days and even colder nights. Other than tulips and other bulbs pushing up, nothing is greening up, and other than a few snowdrops, nothing blooming yet. I didn't think that anything would be sprouting in our containers yet, but today I ventured over to take a look, anyway. I was amazed to see a few traces of green in many of the containers, and quite a lot in others. The pinks are the farthest along, although I'm not sure you can see it very well in this image (if you click on it and enlarge the image, they're visible). There are lots of little (as in very tiny) plants in the container below. That's pretty darn good for April 7th in northern Illinois. 

The next challenge will be to keep them alive. And then to transplant them and hope that I can protect them from the rabbits and squirrels (after years of growing marigolds, I can't do it anymore. Even with larger bedding plants, within a week or two of planting, either the rabbits or squirrels gobble them down, snipping them off at the ground or sometimes just below the blossoms every single time). 

Still, I'm excited. I declare this experiment a success!

Have a wonderful day!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

The Votes Have Been Tallied

It's always good to know that another generation of readers has come along and is celebrating their favorite books. Students in Illinois have their own Readers Choice Awards.

This year the 2014 Abraham Lincoln Award for books in the grade 9-12 category went to John Green's The Fault in Our Stars.

The Bluestem Award (grades 3-5) went to R. J. Palacio's Wonder.

Wonder also won the Rebecca Caudill Young Readers' Book Award (grades 4-8).

And the Monarch Award (grades K-3) was won by The Gingerbread Man Loose in the School by Laura Murray.

Way to go, school children (and authors)!
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