Monthly Archives: January 2012

Monday Mail Call, Meet Colby

This week we’re meeting Colby Thornton, another character from my newest book, scheduled to be released on April 23, 2012.

Dear Cecil,

I hope this letter finds you well.  I know it finds you more comfortable than I am!  Sometimes I admit to just the tiniest bit of envy that, while you’re basking in the warmth and sunshine in Texas, I sit here shivering in Michigan. But you know I wouldn’t trade places with you for the world.  I love it here.

Life hasn’t changed much at all since the last time I wrote.  With the war, and so many young men joining the army, there’s still a shortage of workers.  Much to the dismay of the older folks here in town, positions thought unbefitting a lady are being filled by many ladies because there’s simply no one left to hire.  I, for one, am glad that the employers are taking them on.  But for their income, some of the families would face unbearable hardships with their men over in France and who knows where.

The only holdout is the postmaster and he just flatly refuses to employ a woman.  If the gossip is to be believed, he doesn’t trust them with important government business.  Let me tell you, he isn’t very popular with any female between the ages of seventeen and seventy right now.  He’s so adamant about it, in fact, that he’s badgered Daniel Pullman into postponing his enlistment until graduation in the spring.  Word has it that he is in hopes some of the boys can be persuaded to delay the inevitable.

I’m quite relieved, if truth be told.  Daniel needs some time to grieve the recent loss of his mother.  Otherwise I fear for his safety, that he might not be as careful when he’s on the battlefield as he should be.  As far as I know, she was his only living relative.  People who feel as alone as he must, who are as alone as he is, sometimes don’t care what happens to them.

And it would be a shame if anything happened to him, Cecil.  He is one of the most decent young men you could ever meet.  A few extra months to heal, in this case, will be the best thing all the way around.

It will be nice when the war ends, please God soon.  It’s wonderful to see how everyone is coming together during this difficult time though.  Many of the women meet several mornings a week to knit sweaters and socks for the soldiers.  Everyone is conserving gasoline.  And the post office is constantly busy what with the overwhelming number of letters being sent to these boys.  From everyone in town it seems.

But from a selfish point of view, the Wheatless Wednesday’s are increasingly difficult for me.  Since I can’t bring a sandwich when I leave in the mornings, I’m forced to go home, or to a restaurant, for dinner.  With Anna still spending money as fast as I can earn it, that usually means home.  It’s hard enough to eat breakfast and supper with her, so adding in the third meal…  It’s just easier to stay away.  As always, your continued prayers regarding this matter are appreciated.

Sincerely,

Colby

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“You Shouldn’t Get a Splinter From Cereal…

…that’s just not right,” is my new favorite saying.

Yeah, I know.  It’s fairly well established that I’m weird.  I can live with it.  But what brought this to mind tonight is that I hit the four week mark on my swamp sludge journey.  Last week I reported that I had started using my powdered greens twice a day.  Well…  That’s been kind of hit and miss this week because I just do not like the less expensive stuff as much as the Barlean’s.  Which, I reiterate, I don’t like much either.  So you know I was a little disappointed when I read today that the cheaper stuff is actually one of the higher rated brands.  Yeehaw…

Since I’m a hair on the sleep deprived side today, my mind naturally jumped from four weeks of drinking sludge to a comedian I particularly enjoy.  And that sent me to YouTube so I could watch one of my favorite videos again.  The whole thing is good, but my favorite part starts around a minute in.  This is where you’ll hear my new favorite quote.

Now for the ROW80 update…

This week, or the beginning of it, went much better than the previous two.  Five chapters edited by Wednesday night – and have done nothing since.  Of course I hadn’t paced myself because I was on a roll…so I just went with it.  I’m going to have to work on that over the next week or two.

Didn’t make it to the pool even once.  Yeah, I’m a wimp.  I like winter better than summer, but after working out for three-quarters of an hour, showering and getting dressed, I don’t want to take 10-15 minutes to dry my hair in a locker room that feels like a sauna.  I’m also not into that whole Bozo the Clown thing that lands on my head when I use a dryer.  But I guess I’m going to have to just suck it up and live with the fluff.  Or like my mom told me a couple of weeks ago, “Man up and get it done.”  Uh…  Mom?  Did you, by chance, confuse me with one of your sons?!

I’m writing this on Friday night.  Yeah I know, Friday isn’t Sunday.  But to date, I haven’t written anymore letters for my Monday Mail Call.  (hmm, one good thing about writing in the middle of the night is that your mind works a little differently…Monday Mail Call just popped into my head).  If things don’t change over the weekend, I’ll only be two ahead after the next post.

And it looks like I have to add one more goal to my list.  Remembering to post my link at the ROW80 site…

So that’s it for this week.  I’m going to leave you with another favorite Tim Hawkins video.

***A quick update, since it’s still Sunday…I just finished editing chapter 6.  So I got six chapters finished this week.  Finished for the first time anyway.

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My Favorite Romantic Movies

A few weeks ago I shared with you my top three favorite romantic songs.  So this week I thought I’d share with you my very favorite romantic scenes from three of my favorite movies.

But let’s talk first about what makes a movie romantic.  What is it that draws us in and keeps us glued to our seats, mindlessly munching artery clogging popcorn as we wait, breathlessly, for that final ‘aw’ inspiring scene?  The moment we know that our time was well spent because we finally got our happily-ever-after fix.

The lead actor and actress have to be believable, for one thing.  Some very talented people in the industry would be ill-cast in a romance.  Can you imagine Lily Tomlin and Eddie Murphy as leads?  That pairing really doesn’t ‘do it’ for me, and I’d probably avoid that movie…unless it more comedy than romance.  Of course I never thought Adam Sandler had it in him either, until I saw him in 50 First Dates.  And speaking of Adam Sandler, all I can say about his performance in Reign Over Me is…wow!!!  Well, well worth your time to watch!

But back to the subject at hand…

The guy can’t be a jerk.  Or if he is, he has to be changed by the end of the movie.  Same for the woman.  Sometimes, when we’re talking movies like Kate & Leopold we can only hope the guy doesn’t change.  Not even a little.  Leopold was perfect, start to finish, and I think if we ladies could find a real-life Leopold to give lessons to ‘normal’ guys, we’d all be happier.  Maybe we could get Hugh Jackman to be the instructor…  Hugh Jackman would make me very happy.

But let’s get to my top three for today (and that top three could change in an instant, as soon as I remember other romances I love).

***SPOILER ALERT*** 

If you haven’t seen The Lake House, please don’t watch the video because it’s the final scene.  Well, if you’re like me, go ahead.  I’ve been known to read the end of books before I get too far into them, and I’ve skipped ahead on movies, too.

In third place, and I’m surprised I’m including this at all, is A Walk to Remember.  Usually I prefer a different sort of ending, but I’ll be good and not give away too much, for those who haven’t seen it yet.  Let me just say I’ll be watching it periodically for years.  Or until my DVD wears out.  In fact, after previewing the trailer, I’ll probably be watching it after The Vampire Diaries tonight.

I wanted to post a specific scene but every video was embedded (which is extremely annoying!).  So I had to settle for the trailer.

It’s really a toss up which of the next two I like the best, so I’m just going to do the eenie-meenie-miney-mo thing.  They both star Sandra Bullock, who is one of my very favorite actresses, and I own more of her movies than I can even remember.

Okay, The Proposal got stuck in the second position.  What’s not to like about this romantic comedy?  I mean, c’mon.  It stars Ryan Reynolds…  It has some of the funniest scenes I’ve ever had the pleasure of watching, most notably the ‘chant’ scene with Betty White.  However, please note that this scene is not suitable for all ages.

Pay close attention to Betty’s face when Sandra starts singing louder.

And the top spot goes to…because it won courtesy of a grade-school game…The Lake House.  Ya gotta know that if I watched The Matrix because Keanu Reeves was in it, I’d be parked front row center to see him in a romance with Sandra Bullock.  Okay, okay.  Back row center…   Sitting close enough to kiss the screen really hurts my eyes.  Plus you can’t see everything going on anyway.

So now that I’ve shared with you some scenes from a few of my favorite romantic movies, I hope you’ll share your top three picks with me.  Chances are they will make my favorites list, too.

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Winter Weight Woes…and a couple of recipes

Every Christmas I buy a box of chocolate covered cherries because my dad loved them.  And one night in December, as I sat here, munching one the one earmarked for that day, and eying the low fat Pringles sitting on my desk, I pondered the whole winter weight gain thing many of us struggle with.

Be nice if we could all ‘suck it in’ that well, wouldn’t it?

And I realized that one, those of us living in colder climates are less active than we are during the miserable…I mean warmer summer months.  But we also have to contend with four major, and four lesser holidays between the end of November and mid-April.  Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve/Day, New Years Eve/Day, Easter, and Valentine’s and St. Patrick’s Days.

What do all of these holidays have in common?  Food and drink.

Yup.  Each and every one of these celebrations center around foods and beverages we consider special.  Pies, stuffing, cookies, candies, fudge, egg nog and, for those who like it, green beer and corned beef and cabbage.

While looking for an interesting video about a holiday food or drink, an option came up for how to make an Irish car bomb.  I thought this one was the better choice…

Christmas Eve my sister made what has become her traditional chicken and dumplings, while my mother contributed her traditional pecan pie and I brought my traditional cake (recipe to follow), along with a big plate of cheese and almost two full boxes of crackers (I kept out one sleeve each just because there was more cheese in my refrigerator crying out for them).

New Years Eve followed one week later with the kids favorite, ‘bean dip,’ which is actually based around ground beef, but that’s what we’ve called it for years (recipe also to follow).  I usually break out the bread machine, every year, to make pizza dough for homemade pizza and bread sticks.  Having parents who owned a pizza parlor has really helped me to turn out some really good pies. However, I didn’t feel like doing that.  Instead, I went to a Trivial Pursuit party – with a wider variety of snacks.

My point is, we all have our own traditions…and each one of them involve more calories, and less opportunity to burn them off, than normal.  Is it any wonder we have trouble not gaining a few pounds every winter?

Did that stop me from making all of this stuff, and more, over the holidays?  Nope.  That’s why it’s called tradition.  I do it ever year.  If I didn’t, there would probably be a picket line in front of my house.

So here’s the calorie laden recipe for what I call ‘The Cherry-Whipped Cream-Cake-With-Vanilla-Pudding.’  And it’s not exactly a recipe.  You follow the direction on the boxes, then put it together in this order…

1 Pillsbury white cake mix (it’s the best kind)

1 large box Jello vanilla pudding (the cooked variety)
 
1-2 pints whipping cream, sweetened to taste, beaten until thick (it’s better with more, and I don’t know why everything is coming out in italics but it suddenly turned on and I can’t it to turn it off)
 
1 can cherry pie filling
 
Bake cake according to package directions, in 2 round cake pans.  Let cool and carefully cut each cake in half so you have four layers.  Spread 1/3 of the cooked, cooled pudding on each of the first three layers.  Finally, put top layer on, frost whole cake with whipping cream and pour pie filling over the top.
 
Refrigerate until ready to serve…then put leftovers back in the fridge. 
 
Let me tell you, this cake is delicious!  And it’s even better the next day after all of the flavors have more time to blend.  I will only make it once a year because it’s one of those things that’s too good to have more often.
 
Now for the Bean Dip
Brown 1 1/2 pounds ground chuck.  Drain.  Add a 16 oz jar of your favorite salsa (we use hot), 1 large can (maybe 28 oz) fat free refried beans and about 3 cups shredded cheddar.  Mix well.  Spread in baking pan.  Top with however much shredded cheddar you want.  Bake at 350 degrees until cheese is melted, maybe 20 minutes.  I never look because my son keeps checking.  He likes it better than anyone else does so he’s my timer.  Serve with tortilla chips.  Also makes a nice taco on corn tortillas.
 
***Please note that neither recipe will help to avoid winter weight gain…

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What’s In The Mail Today?

Debra Kristi and I were chatting online not too long ago and she mentioned something she planned to do for her series when it’s nearer to completion.  It got me wondering what I could do in preparation for the release of my newest book on April 23, 2012, and this is what I’ve come up with.  So every Monday between now and then, you will be meeting the characters from the novel as they correspond with far away friends and family.  

My dearest Mother,

How are you?  And Father?  I hope that it’s not as cold in Indiana as it is here in Michigan today.  The wind is so bitter that I nearly decided to stay home, but here I am.  As of yet, and it’s nearly noon, I haven’t had so much as one customer walk through the door.  Apparently they have more sense than your son.

When we entered the war this past spring, many of the business people in town – myself included – feared our profits would decline greatly, but that just hasn’t been the case.  Surprisingly enough, the opposite has proven to be true.  Shoes are selling like hotcakes.  Most days anyway.

With Christmas just a few weeks away, the children are excited.  Meg and I have already gotten gifts for Jonathon, Charles and Kathleen.  The little ones are easily pleased.  Richard, on the other hand, is a bit more difficult.  He’s at that place between leaving boyhood behind, yet not quite the man he’s so anxious to become.  And Elizabeth –  Well, she claims that all she wants this year is for women to be given the right to vote.

I swear I don’t know what’s gotten into that daughter of ours.  You know that until a few months ago she was the kindest, most tenderhearted child you could ever hope to know.  And then a young man started a local chapter for the suffrage movement.  Now Elizabeth is like a stranger.  She is moody and angry and we’re just not sure what to do about it.

Charles is growing like a weed and talking more every day.  Most of the time we even understand what he’s trying to say.  Kathleen, as always, is just the sweetest child, as gentle and loving with her dollies as any real mother would be with her babies.  Richard has entered into the awkward stage that has plagued every teenage boy since the beginning of time.  His voice has begun to change and he’s quite embarrassed by it.

And then there’s Jonathon.  You and Father would get a kick out of his latest escapades.  He’s convinced that Mr. Mertz, an elderly gentleman who lives next door, is a German spy.  My son, it would seem, fancies himself another Sherlock Holmes and is constantly spying on the poor fellow.  It frustrates Meg to no end, but I find it all extremely entertaining.   He writes in his journal incessantly, taking notes on every move Mr. Mertz makes.  I’m not sure what he intends to do when he has enough ‘evidence,’ but he’s very diligent in the gathering of it.

Meg, wonderful woman that she is, continues to knit sweaters and socks for our soldier boys, as do so many women about town.  She also writes letters to some of them.  At first we wondered if they were even keen to correspond with a family friend, but they write back regularly.  She couldn’t be more pleased, knowing she’s doing something to help make their lives a bit nicer.  Sometimes, watching the way their letters make her smile, it makes me wish I enjoyed writing more than I do.

We all do what we can to support the war effort, from saving peach pits and nut shells, to keeping the automobile safely in the barn and using the horse and carriage to conserve gasoline.  I know from what you wrote last month that everyone there is doing much the same.

Well, Mother, I see a long time customer outside, stomping snow off his boots.  I expect he’s wanting to buy his wife a pair of shoes for Christmas.  Shoes she will exchange while he is at work the day after he gives them to her.  Every year he buys them two sizes too small, and every year after he leaves the store I set aside the correct size for her.  I inquired once as to why she didn’t just tell him and she said if he wants to believe she has tiny feet, she’s not going to put him any the wiser.

Until the next time, I send you and Father all of my love.

Your son,

Elliot

P.S. Having just sold the too small shoes I wanted to add that we’ve been talking about closing up shop for two weeks this coming summer and taking the train down for a visit.  I’d like to introduce you to your youngest grandson before he starts school.

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ROW80 Update-3

I’m going back to  underachieving.

It didn’t take long after adding the new items to my goal list for life to show me that it is still in charge, and more than capable of wreaking havoc.  After getting hit hard with a virus (human, not computer), all of my plans were shot.  For nearly two weeks.  And I’m still not entirely back to normal.

So…

I’m back to simply editing the first draft of this manuscript.  The other will have to wait until this one is finished.  I’ll still try to get to the pool at least three days a week, but I think that will help every area of my life, including the writing.

As to exactly what my goals will be, I have no clue how to set them for editing.  There are a total of nineteen chapters, plus the epilogue.  I’ve gone through two chapters already, plan to finish the the rest, and have it ready for beta readers by February first.

There are also the blogs necessary to begin publicizing the book before its April 23 release.  I need a total of fourteen and have completed four of them.

So there you have it.  My underachiever goals for the rest of the month.  But I need some wiggle room because clearly I don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow or next week.

***Friday marked the third week in my new Swamp Sludge way of life.  Yup.  Twenty-one days.  Well, twenty-three now.  And about a week ago I started using it twice a day, thanks to the larger container I ordered from Amazon.

Gotta say though I like Barlean’s better (and I don’t exactly like that, more like tolerate it).  I think I experience more mental alertness when I use that.

The new stuff seems to take the whole freshly mowed lawn experience to a new level.  I mean picture a pile of grass clippings mulched down a few times and…that’s what I’m drinking now.  Mmm-mmm good.  Not!  But I’m in it for the long haul.  Lucky me.  🙂

Thought I’d throw this in for fun.  I love this song.  Wish I could sing along with it…but my lips don’t move that fast.

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Searching for Eric Balfour

It’s no secret that thanks to Haven, I’m a big Eric Balfour fan.  But I found that I don’t enjoy everything he’s stars in.  Since our local theater didn’t show it, my daughter and I eagerly awaited the release of Skyline.  I was prepared to buy it outright, but she reminded me of a rule I insisted on after purchasing a few movies that were really disappointing.  Rent first, buy later.  If it’s worth owning.

But it’s Eric Balfour, I argued.  She had me, though, so I rented a copy.  All I’m going to say is that I was really glad she took advantage of the opportunity to throw my words back in my face.  Okay.  So I’ll add that it wasn’t the worst movie I’ve ever seen.  On a scale of 1-10, I might give it a 3.

“They’re gonna be in for a real surprise.”  Yup.  They willNot because his acting was bad, because it wasn’t.  But the script left a little to be desired.  And the ending (in my opinion) totally sucked.

Even so, I still really like that guy.  And my daughter knows it.  So much so that she came hustling up to me in the store the other day to tell me that, while she’d been grabbing some stuff in the hair products department, she’d spotted a guy who looked “just like Eric Balfour!”

Maybe so, but I’m all the way across the store and I don’t want to go back to that side again.  It’s a big store.  She was so disappointed I finally gave in and we went in search of the look-alike.  From the northeast corner of the store to the southwest corner of the store.  We found him at the back, in the middle of the store, chatting with a guy from electronics.

Whoa!

She was not kidding.  The profile view of this young man proved he could be Eric Balfour’s double!

I needed a closer look, which got her giggling.  And as we sneaked around the aisle behind him I asked her, whispering, if she’d mind if I asked him to pose with her, pretending he was signing an autograph, so I could snap a picture with my phone.  More giggles, and a blush, accompanied the resounding, “No!”

Straight on, the guy didn’t look like Eric Balfour as much, but dang!  From the side it was amazing!

On the way to the checkout at the front of the store she whispered that he was heading to the front, too, at the other end of the aisles we were passing.  I told her he probably thought we were stalking him, and we both giggled some more.  And had a good laugh about it all the way home.

She thought it was cool enough that she wanted me to blog about it, so I am.  I think, in her opinion, this rates right up there with her meeting Bucky Covington.  Which is a cool story, too.

He was singing in a nightclub before nine p.m., and most bars in our area allow minors until then.  Since the concert was at six, I thought we were okay.  But after waiting forever, and being like fifth in line, the manager said nope.  No way.

At which point she started crying.  That couldn’t have worked out better if she’d done it on purpose.  The guy felt pretty guilty so he said he’d see if she could meet Bucky when he arrived, and had us go wait in the enclosed patio out back.

Sure enough, shortly after the bus arrived, Bucky, and his twin Rocky (drummer for the band) walked out and she had a private meeting with both of them.

Sorry, to protect her privacy, I altered the picture.

As a mom there are going to all sorts of moments you remember from your child’s life.  Among them are the times that are just too awesome for words.  This was one of those moments!

Afterward, I made tracks to the nearest 1-hour photo center to get copies of the pictures I’d taken so she could show them off at her youth group meeting.  The meeting she planned on missing for the concert she didn’t get to see.

Yeah, he’s mostly an American Idol celebrity, but let me tell you, in her circle, it was something to get excited about!  She did feel guilty, though.  She was afraid she might have hurt Rocky’s feelings because she didn’t ask for a picture with him (but I did get one of him alone).

What an experience!  I couldn’t have been happier for her.

***I have to add one more video…the performance that made ME a Bucky Covington fan.

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