A Weekend of Projects from the Couch

No doubt, my bulbs are wondering what the heck happened. It’s 20 degrees outside this morning. With a high of 34, and a wind chill that will make it feel like 11. I shall be thankful that I am supposed to stay inside and rest my foot.

Which is what I had to do all weekend. Those of you who know me can guess how well that went. I tried. Really. But then the car went all wonky on Saturday ($800 worth of wonky), so Sunday was spent trying to figure out what went wrong. Turns out, lots of things.

Anyway, there were some things I was able to do while actually remaining mostly motionless on the couch. For instance, I started a new Lynda.com class on Photoshop, which I’m really enjoying. And I was able to cruise the Internet for some new photos for a book cover I’m working on.

But neither of those is really photo-worthy. I mean, who wants to see a picture of me in sweats and no make-up on the couch with a laptop? That photo would break the new camera I got for Christmas. Which. I. Love. LOVE!

So, here are some shots I took from the couch of stuff I did this weekend when I was actually resting my foot. Plantar fasciitis is a bitch, let me tell you. I had surgery for it years ago and haven’t had a flare up since then. Until last weekend, when I painted barefoot on a ladder for several days.

Here, by the way, is the finished project that started the pain. Gone is the 15 year-old wallpaper that once had flowers and pale yellow stripes on it, but had faded to white. Except where the “Beer: not just a breakfast drink” sign hung. But in order to get rid of the sign, I had to get rid of the wallpaper. So now my breakfast nook is free or wallpaper and beer signs.

photo of a repainted breakfast nook
The “new” anti-beer breakfast nook

If you saw me over Christmas, you probably saw this with me. I finally finished the blanket Snarky Daughter started to knit and got two rows into before she decided she didn’t like knitting. Really, I wouldn’t like knitting either if I was always using this yarn, but you knit with two strands so it works up quickly.

photo of fisherman knit blanket
Snarky Daughter didn’t want to tackle this project, so Knitting Mom came to the rescue

Jenny Crusie put up a post of ten neat things you could do with binder clips, so I made a cell phone holder for my car. It clips onto the air vents. When I get the car back, I’ll give it a try.

photo of homemade phone holder
Here’s hoping the clip is strong enough to hold the phone. I think I need a better rubberband.

The cat tree needed some repair. Since making the improvements the cats refuse to claw at it. You know, being cats.

photo of destroyed cat tree
At least the tree looks like this and my couch doesn’t.
repaired cat tree
Has a claw touched it since the fix? No. But it looks so much better!

And I started my own blanket.

photo of handknit blanket
Right now it’s the size of a scarf, but it will grow

So I was pretty busy when I was sitting down. Imagine what I could have accomplished if I’d remained sitting all day. You know, the way I was supposed to.


Reading = Housecleaning

So I was supposed to spend the weekend cleaning the house, addressing Christmas cards, knitting a Christmas gift and probably baking some more because after 15 batches of cookies (really don’t think I’m exaggerating) who doesn’t need to bake some more?

Instead, I read Faking It by Jenny Crusie for the 1,345,253 time. Maybe there won’t be a happy ending this time. OK, so yes, I need some new reading material, and no, I have no idea what author to try next. I’m open to suggestions as long as you understand that I like Light. And. Fluffy.

Last weekend, while knitting and writing and laying out the annual Christmas letter, I spent Saturday night and some of Sunday watching all those romantic Christmas specials on the Hallmark Channel. The living room was a little insipid by the end. But I balanced that out with the “oh no, I’m still without a day job and what am I going to do with my life” thoughts, so I think it was pretty much situation normal around here.

Last night, still wanting some Christmas cheer, and something funny to make me forget the horror of this week, I thought, “hey, I caught some of The Family Stone last weekend, that was pretty funny.” And it has Dermot Mulroney in it, and his photo was pinned up next to my computer while I wrote The Billionaire Bachelor’s Revenge, so yummy and funny. Sounded good.

The scene I caught was the spilling of the strata in the kitchen, which is, it turns out, pretty much the only funny scene in the movie. Oops. Spoiler alert (although why you’d need one since this movie has been out forever is beyond me): The. Mother. Dies.

Not so much on the Christmas cheer. I tried to go back to the Hallmark Channel after that in hopes I could cheer myself up, but it was no use. I watched this week’s Grey’s Anatomy instead. I was batting 0 for 3 last night.

Hence, picking up Faking It again. I’d picked it up the other night because I wanted something I wouldn’t fall into. It’s not like I can’t recite the story by heart at this point. So I figured I’d be able to put it down any time and do housework.

Yes, I totally lied to myself. I was able to put it down a lot, but I found myself taking very long meals so I could read while I ate. Or ignore my empty plate for an hour and read. It’s now 10:45, I’ve been up for three hours, and the only thing that’s been cleaned in the house is me.

But that’s OK because I have the house to myself. Just me, three cats, a dog and a fish until this evening. And during the holiday season, I think it’s important to have a little down time for ourselves. Don’t you agree? Besides, now I can put the book back on the bookshelf. That counts as housecleaning, right?


Kids in the Kitchen: Chicken Marsala

Snarky Daughter: I just finished reading Bet Me. Can we make Chicken Marsala?

Me: Yes, please. But it’s heavy on the mushrooms. You don’t eat mushrooms.

SD: I’ll pick them out.

Me: They’re the best part.

SD: More for you.

Me: OK, but I’ll have to find some marsala wine and that’s not going to be easy.

Two weeks later, I’d finally had the idea to go to the Total Wine store. Duh. They had four choices. You want sweet marsala. I froze what we didn’t use so I could use it later. No idea what that does to the alcohol content, but it can’t hurt the taste.

Photo of Snarky Daughter Cooking Chicken Marsala
A little wine for the chicken

We got the recipe from Jenny Crusie’s website. This recipe is as fun to read as it is to make, and watching Snarky Daughter pound chicken with a frying pan (as directed) was priceless. In the words of Flynn in Tangled, “Frying Pans. Who knew? Right?”

So, we’ve got a recipe with no measurements on it. Which really fits the book it comes from, because in Bet Me, it’s all about getting the taste right. But that was really part of the fun of making this meal with SD. She pounded chicken, I sliced shallots and made jokes about wine for the chicken and wine for the cook.

Photo of Chicken MarsalaAnd we all loved it. I always assumed Chicken Marsala must be a pain to make, but it’s easier and faster than my macaroni and cheese recipe. The only thing we did to speed up the process slightly is mix about a tablespoon of flour with a shot of cold water (this is how you avoid lumpy gravy) and added it to the sauce to thicken it a bit. Yes, I could have cooked it down more, but it smelled fantastic and I’m an instant gratification kind of girl.

With two cups of wine in the freezer, Chicken Marsala just ceased to be a special occasion sort of meal.



April Reader Challenge

Writers start out as readers. We read tons of books and then one day we realize we could put our characters on the page, and BOOM, a writer is born. The problem is, once you start writing seriously, you get jaded about what you read. Eventually, going to a bookstore is work because you’re there to research covers, see what the market is buying, get ideas, buy research texts. And you have to be careful about what you’re reading while you’re writing your book because you don’t want to end up sounding like someone else instead of yourself.

I was at that point last month. I couldn’t tell you the last book I picked up. And I was pretty miserable. Nothing was piquing my interest. I’d walk into a bookstore and look at the section headers and think, “Nope. Too much work to find something.”

Then, paranormal romance author Regan Black stopped by for a chat, and she mentioned this romance challenge. No, it wasn’t about finding a guy, although I could use that challenge too. This was the Reading Romances monthly book challenge. It gave me the help I needed.

This month’s topic was alternate realities. Choices were: 1) a contemporary with something different (paranormal); 2) future/historical with an alternative reality; 3) a Rita/Golden Heart nominee; 4) a book with at least three of the seven colors of the rainbow on it’s cover or a title that included dream/wish/rainbow; or 4) a book with an accountant/book-keeper character or a borrowed book.

No pressure. You don’t have to read one from each option. Just one book. I could handle this.

I started out with Lothaire by Krelsey Cole. Here’s the excerpt:

In this thrilling tale of the Immortals After Dark, #1 New York Times bestselling author Kresley Cole reveals secrets of the Lore, fierce realm of the immortals.


Driven by his insatiable need for revenge, Lothaire, the Lore’s most ruthless vampire, plots to seize the Horde’s crown by offering up the soul of his lovely new captive, Elizabeth Peirce. Yet the young human soon tempts him beyond reason.


Ellie Peirce’s life was a living hell—even before an evil immortal abducted her. Though he plans to sacrifice her, the vampire seems to ache for her touch, showering her with sexual pleasure. In a bid to save her soul, she surrenders her body, while vowing to protect her heart.


In one month, Lothaire must choose between a millennia-old blood vendetta and his irresistible prisoner. Will he succumb to the miseries of his past . . . or risk everything for a future with her?

This turned out to be a double play for me. I sort of dole Kresley Cole out to myself because I adore this series, and I knew there was a new book out, but hadn’t gone to search it out because I knew what would happen. So when I went to figure out what I was missing, I realized she’d also released a novella over the holidays when I wasn’t looking.

Before I cracked open Lothaire, I dove into Warlord Wants Forever, the novella that tells the story that starts the series. It was fantastic, although I give a warning: this book has all the heat of a full-length novel packed into a small package. Cole handled it well, but given the shorter format, the sexual tension that normally carries her characters along while they get to know each other before they hop in to bed is minimal. It was a great read and I highly recommend it. If you’re new to the series, I’d start here (normally I read the books in the order written).

Back to Lothaire and Ellie. This is by far the darkest book in the series, so do not read it right after you’ve lost your job and you feel all alone. Or when you have a deadline looming. I was going to read for 30 minutes one morning and then get to work. Right. Eight hours later, the kids were home from school and I had done nothing.

And I’d do it again. In the early days of this series, I didn’t think you needed to read the books in order, but now that the paranormal war is in full swing, you really need to. If you haven’t discovered Cole yet, and you like the idea of vampires, werewolves, Valkyries and the like living among us, take a week off work and give her a try.

Needless to say, that broke the reading dry spell I had going on. I finished that, caught sight of Eloisa James on one of my shelves and realized that I’d stopped reading in the middle of one of her series. My daughter had bought the remaining books, so I ran upstairs and stole a couple of books off her shelf.

Luckily, Eloisa’s books can be read out of order, because I’d picked up another of series in the middle and wanted to try and complete it. So, the book that started my trek into borrowed book territory was Desperate Duchesses.  If you’re looking for a wild romp in the Georgian period, you’ve found your series. It follows six wild women of the time as they find the men that tame their hearts.

I love Roberta for looking at her life, realizing she needs something more and doing what’s necessary to get it. And I love Damon for ignoring the attitudes of the time when it comes to his son, and getting the duchess he’s fallen for.

At a time when many of us can’t find one man, it’s refreshing to have a woman having to choose between two: the bad boy Duke and the Earl, who’s a little tarnished himself. The story moves quickly and led to a couple of late nights reading.

I’m not a huge fan of historical, but Eloisa James is a fun read that makes me wish for corsets. How often can you say that?

Here’s the teaser:

Welcome to a world of reckless sensuality and glittering sophistication . . . of dangerously handsome gentlemen and young ladies longing to gain a title . . . of games played for high stakes, including—on occasion—a lady’s virtue.

A marquess’s sheltered only daughter, Lady Roberta St. Giles falls in love with a man she glimpses across a crowded ballroom: a duke, a game player of consummate skill, a notorious rakehell who shows no interest in marriage—until he lays eyes on Roberta.

Yet the Earl of Gryffyn knows too well that the price required to gain a coronet is often too high. Damon Reeve, the earl, is determined to protect the exquisite Roberta from chasing after the wrong destiny.

Can Damon entice her into a high-stakes game of his own, even if his heart is likely to be lost in the venture?

You’d think after four books (I read two by Eloisa), I’d be done. But I hadn’t picked up the book I said I was going to read at the beginning of the challenge, Bet Me by Jenny Crusie.

I’ve read it before, but I love it. Min’s an actuary, not technically an accountant, but it was close enough in my mind. She’s reserved, except for her shoes. But only one person really gets her: Cal Morrisey, the man who’s left a string of broken hearts around town because he won’t let a woman in to his heart.

These two characters are awesome together and the back and forth banter between them is what makes Crusie a New York Times bestseller.

Here’s the blurb on this one, and like the others this month, it was well worth the time I spent not sleeping. Although I may need to break down and get this one on my Kindle because I’m wearing out the binding on another Crusie novel. Shocking. Not.

Minerva Dobbs knows all about risk management, which is why it’s such a shock when David, her extremely logical choice for a boyfriend, dumps her three weeks before her perfect sister’s wedding: David was not supposed to be a wild card. So when Min overhears David make a bet with his old nemesis—the gorgeous and successful Calvin Morrisey—that Cal can’t get Min into bed in a month, she decides that fate has just handed her a stacked deck: she can make Cal sweat his sex appeal and get a date to the wedding, if she plays along and doesn’t fold. What follows is a novel of destiny, chaos theory, Krispy Kreme donuts, the spirit of Elvis, Chicken Marsala, and a gamble for the highest stake of all: true love.

In honor of this book, my daughter and I are making Chicken Marsala tonight. We’ll let you know how it goes next week in the Kids in the Kitchen blog update!


April Reading Challenge, Easter Chocolate and Monday Chaos

Hard to believe it’s Monday again. As usual, I start Monday with the list of stuff I was supposed to finish over the weekend but didn’t, like write this blog. The list is really long today because it’s really a bunch of stuff I was supposed to do last week. But I did finally find decent chocolate bunnies, so Easter was good. And I introduced Snarky Daughter to Cadbury Crème Eggs, which means I have to share, but they’re so good!

So the list is long this week because I finally had an aha! moment with one of my prescriptions. I take it one week a month and this is the first time I’ve taken it since the day job went away. About halfway through the week, fighting all sorts of signs of depression except being depressed — just tired but can’t sleep, no energy, etc — it occurred to me to check the side effects of the medication. Bingo! Of course, I thought of that on Saturday, the last day I had to take it. But now I know, so maybe coffee is allowed the week I take it.

Sunday came along and BOOM I was back to my crazy, how many things other than writing this blog and paying the bills can I get done today? Well, turns out I can do 4 hours of yard work, including cutting down a 10′ dead limb from a tree. OK, halfway through Scout Son wanted a crack at it, so he finished it up. I can burn all the dead leaves that had the audacity to fall after we burned the leaves in December. I can weed a small part of the garden for fifteen minutes (hunger and teenager mutiny ended that one), strip wallpaper for two hours, do four loads of laundry, change the sheets, watch Iron Man 2 and Tangled with the kids (hey, the Easter Bunny brought them), and finish up the Boy Scout reports for the upcoming Court of Honor.

I probably could have done more, but if you read through that list again, you’ll see a bunch of stuff that probably isn’t so good for back/hip injuries. But that’s the way I get on weekends. Did I mention I got rid of a 2′ stack of old bank and insurance statements? Well, I needed to start the fire somehow!

So, I’m writing this blog about the cool Reading Romance challenge a friend put me onto last weekend. You got that from the first four paragraphs, right? Not seeing it? Well, it’s Monday and I can’t have coffee so it’s sort of free-range blogging today. Which reminds me, I might need a couple of goats… Anyway, when she first mentioned it, I thought, it’s not a challenge for me to read, it’s a challenge for me to put the book down. See Thursday when I read all day. Yes, really.

But the deal with this challenge is that each month there’s a different theme. The rules are at the Reading Romances Challenge site, and you can sign up for April’s challenge here.

The best part is that she gives you choices, so if you can’t find something you like in the first option, no problem, move on to #2. But here they are for April:

TOPICS: Alternate Realities Month!

1) Read a contemporary book where something is different in the world than what reality reflects. (vampires, magic etc)

2) Read a book set in the future or  a historical with an alternative reality (i.e. steampunk).


3) Read one book that was nominated for the RITA or Golden Heart award!


4) Read an LGBT book, a book with at least 3 of the 7 colours of a rainbow (violet, indigo, blue, green, yellow, orange, red) on it’s cover, or a book with a title that includes the word: dream/s, wish/es, or rainbow.

5) Read a book with an accountant/book-keeper character, or due to a shortage of funds, read a free or borrowed (library, friend etc) book.

You can read as many as you want. So, I’m tackling Lothaire by Kresley Cole. It’s part of a series and I’d been holding off on reading this one because, well, once you start Kresley’s books, you might as well call in sick for the day. I may also tackle a book that was nominated for the RITA, although to be honest, I forgot to check out the list when the nominees were announced. But you can find them on the Romance Writer’s of America website. Reading a Golden Heart finalist is a little harder since they’re unpublished manuscripts.

I may also tackle one of the special events because Snarky Daughter keeps talking about the Jenny Crusie books she’s stealing from my shelf, and Bet Me is about an actuary, which in my mind is an accountant of sorts.

We’ll see what shakes out since it’s April and I’m being called to work in the yard. It sounds like I’ll be too busy to read, but usually I end up getting hurt working in the yard by, you know, walking or something equally taxing, and then I’m laid up for a week reading and writing.

Happy Spring! Go out and plant something heavenly, and then sit by and watch it grow, while you read a good book, of course!


Nothing But Good Times Ahead

I came home on Thursday, looked at the kids and said, “I lost my job today, but We. Will. Be. Fine.” I believe that. In my head I keep hearing Sophie Dempsey from Jenny Crusie’s Welcome to Temptation saying, “Nothing but good times ahead.”

Of course, I channel Sophie a lot. She’s sort of my idol because in the face of all sorts of adversity, she keeps the family going and makes sure everything is all right.

Now, if you and a million of your friends buy The Heiress and Her Fake Fiancé , then everything would be okay, and I could continue to write and spend time with my kids. Those two things were sorely lacking while I was working the day job with the hour-long commute each direction.

People keep telling me, “You’ll bounce back.” “You’ll get something better than what you had.” “When one door closes, another opens,” and all sorts of other great sayings that we all tell someone when their life has just gone to hell and they’re wondering how on earth they’re going to make ends meet.

The thing is, I’m not stressed about this. I should be. I really should be. It’s not like I had a cushion. But at the end of the day, that job was making me miserable. The only issue now is, I don’t know what to do. I mean, obviously, assuming book sales don’t go through the roof, I need to find another day job.

But I don’t know what that job should look like. The problem tends to be that if you ask me what I want to be when I grow up, I’ll tell you a novelist. But until that makes enough to be the day job, I need something else. I have a lot of experience in a lot of varied areas due layoffs over the years. That gives me a lot of possible roads to go down, but I don’t really care which one I take because the day job is not my passion. I know. “Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.”

Well, I work every day. I’m okay with that as long as I have time to follow my passion. And whatever I do, I give it my all. It doesn’t matter whether or not I’m passionate about it. If my job is to make sure the stamp on your letter is perfectly straight, it will be. So I will look for a job that I simply don’t hate. If it involves writing, that’s good. That’s fun.

In the meantime, I guess I can’t complain about no more time to plot the next book, can I?