Monday, December 31, 2007

Memories of 2007

Those who are close to me know I'm the glass half empty type. I admit it, I tend to focus on the negative. I have a continual new years resolution to change that, and it has worked to a certain extent. But various circumstances in my life changed me from a go with the flow personality, to one always anticipating something to go wrong.

But, like I said, I'm trying. So each year, when I set to work on my goals for the next year, I remind myself to look back and remember the good things that happened: the things I enjoyed, most memorable moments, and events I learned the most from.

Some of my best memories from this year:

Walking (or rather hiking) the streets of Scotland... the view from the top of Edinburgh castle... Family and friends gathering at my new house for a summer barbeque... realizing that Drama Queen has grown to the point she reaches my chin... watching Little Man play Guitar Hero with his Daddy and announcing he "ROCKS!"... scrapbooking with my sister... coping with two trans-Atlantic flights without having a nervous breakdown, then flying to Dallas a month later... my husband's support and concern when I was sick this fall... girls' nights out with the Playfriends... long phone conversations with my Mom... setting up my very own home office... hearing positive feedback on my work from trusted friends... my first murder mystery party... saying prayers with my children every night... sitting with my husband in the dark on our movie nights...

So while I've had a challenging year, I think there is enough good stuff to more than balance it out. :)

What about you? What is your favorite memory (or memories) from 2007?


Friday, December 28, 2007

Uh, Is It My Day to Blog?

My company closes the week between Christmas and New Year's Day. Depends on how the holidays fall, I can supplement it with a little vacation and be off for almost two weeks. Its the best vacation ever because there isn't work piling up for you while you're gone. You don't come back to a ton of emails or voicemail. Everyone is gone. Its a beautiful, beautiful thing.

For 5 out of the last 7 years I've had "shutdown" I've gotten sick and slept through most of it. Lucky me. One year was the flu. Another, a sinus infection. One time I had a tooth hit root canal stage, my dentist was closed until the new year and all I could do was take the leftover hardcore drugs from my bad gallbladder to get through. I don't remember much about that week. Then one year I got larengitis. I fell asleep in a chair after opening gifts at my in-laws and that's all I remember.

Last year and so far this year, all is well. I have only a burnt tongue to show for it. At the same time, I find myself still a little lost. I struggle to remember what day it is and what I'm supposed to be doing (a big nothing, thank goodness). You're lucky this blog is posted because I just realized its Friday. My sleep is way off, going in bed in the early morning hours and sleeping till nearly noon. I had to set my alarm the other day to get up in time to meet Kathy for a 2:10 showing of Sweeney Todd. (Weird movie, but it had Johnny Depp in it. Nuff said.)

I really enjoy this lack of time consciousness. I'm so driven by the clock that its a treat for me. DB gets concerned when I fall asleep on the couch watching TV on the weekends. I get annoyed when he wakes me up and tells me to go to bed because falling asleep in front of the TV is a luxury. It means I have no alarms to set, no morning obligations...I can just sleep on the couch, doze off during an episode of Law and Order, and its okay.

I don't go back to work until Wednesday and yet I'm already dreading my loss of freedom. I guess I'll have to make another trip up to Tennessee for a Powerball ticket. As my life stands right now, it's the only way I'd ever be able to live this way for good. I'm hoping God will give me the opportunity to prove that winning 33 million dollars will not spoil me. :)

What simple pleasures do you enjoy the most?


Thursday, December 27, 2007

Back to Real Life

For a lot of people today is the first day back to work. Back to the regular routine. Back to normal. But it won't be for long because the New Year is just around the corner. And the resolutions to lose weight, write more, get that promotion... This is the time of year I always look back and start evaluating.

Did I accomplish what I wanted over the last year? Did I let something slide?

I also start thinking about the next year and what I'd like to do differently...better. So do you have any New Year's resolutions? What goals are you planning to set as a priority as we enter the New Year?

P.S. Here's a picture of our new (to us) truck. DH is so excited :-) And considering the trouble the old one caused us over the last week at least this whole thing ended with a vehicle that can fit all four of us inside.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

It's Over

For a few weeks the Playfriends have all blogged about shopping and decorating and baking and cleaning and partying and all the other things we do to get ready for Christmas. Then, in the course of twenty-four hours it's all over.

In Great Britain, December 26 is celebrated as Boxing Day. This has nothing to do with heavyweight bouts or being at the front door of WalMart at 7:00 AM to return that chartreuse-plaid bathrobe your Great Aunt Tillie gave you.

The exact origins are not clear, but the most common story is that the holiday began in the Middle Ages. Servants had to work on Christmas Day but were given the following day off. As they left the manor, their employers presented them with gift boxes. Hence, Boxing Day.

I have no servants, so in our house, it's usually the day we clean up all the wrappings and ribbons and yes, empty boxes, and put away all the gifts we received. And we eat turkey sandwiches and leftovers from the big meal the day before.

Actually, this year I wasn't at home on Christmas. I've been at my mom's celebrating with her. The DH and #2 son were at home playing bachelor. The last I heard they were going to watch Live Free or Die Hard on the big TV and go to Cracker Barrel for Christmas dinner. We'll have Christmas with #1 son, DIL and BabyGrand this Saturday.

I had an interesting Christmas Eve. Around 1:00 PM my sister called and said "We're going to go have dinner with Uncle Bill and Aunt Phyllis. You want to go?" I said "Well, sure," and off we went. That may not sound like anything out of the ordinary, but you have to understand that our aunt and uncle are wintering in Myrtle Beach, which is 351 miles to the northeast -- a 6 hour drive.

My sister's husband bought his own single-engine plane a few months ago and he and my nephew are both licensed pilots. So at 2:23 we took off and at 3:51 we landed at Grand Strand airport in Myrtle Beach. We visited, we ate dinner, we visited some more and at 7:57 we took off again and flew under a full moon back to St. Simons Island where we landed at 9:26. Wow! The real "wow" though was watching my 22-year-old nephew piloting the plane and listening to him talking to the various air traffic control towers. We were also very careful to stay out of Santa's flight pattern.

I'm learning that as I get older, I'm more flexible and open to celebrating things differently. This was the first time in 34 years of marriage that I wasn't with the DH on Christmas, but it was Christmas nonetheless. We'll still have a celebration; it'll just be a day late. He spent weekend before last having an early Christmas celebration with his mother who lives in a retirement home in South Carolina. Our mothers are both in pretty good health, but who knows how many more Christmases we'll have with them?

I'm posting my blog early because I have to go to bed early because I have to get up early and head for the Jacksonville airport. I'm flying back home. Keep your fingers crossed for on-time flights and smooth skies. Just in case, I've loaded my Starbucks card and I have leftover scones in my backpack along with a paperback romance.

So was Santa good to you this year? Tell us what was in the boxes he left under your tree. And have you cleaned up all the ribbons and bows yet? I still have gifts at home to open once I get there.

P.S. Can somebody tell me if you actually DO anything special on Boxing Day? Or is it just another bank holiday where you sit home and watch the telly?

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas!

We hope you have a wonderful Christmas.

L to R: Problem Child, Playground Monitor, Instigator, Angel, Smarty Pants
And here's hoping you made Santa's good list (and that you got great stuff)!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Gift of Giving

The older I get, the more I enjoy the process of gift-giving. I start thinking about Christmas way in advance. My list of names is compiled some time in August, and I'm always on the lookout for that perfect something. You won't see me having nothing to put under the tree when it is assembled. Usually everything is done by then and ready to wrap.

I especially love to make homemade gifts. I'm a fairly crafty person. I scrapbook and have tried my hand at most crafts during my lifetime. Some I like more than others. But I don't just like to make any gift. Just as with any bought gifts from me, I want it to reflect something personal for the giftee.

This year I made canvas picture collages that serve as refrigerator magnets for our grandmother, because (1) she loves pictures, especially of her grandchildren, and (2) she loves refrigerator magnets. See?

I spent a day baking pumpkin bread, candies, and cheese cookies for teacher gifts, along with some to friends and family. I added little ornaments to each bag so they had something to keep when the noshing was over.

In the past, I've made scrapbooks for those I know would like them, but don't have the time or inclination. Grandparents have gotten scrapbooked calendars so they can see pictures of the family year round.

It is just fun and I get a lot of satisfaction seeing the smile on the other person's face. Of course, I get that out of every gift I give, or that is my hope. Because nothing feels better than knowing you gave something the other person will enjoy, sometimes even treasure.

What's the gift you spent the most time on this Christmas? Did you get yourself a gift too? :)


PS. Don't forget to look below for the winner of Smarty Pants' contest. Happy Holidays!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Answers - Updated with our Winner!

First things first - we had a few people get perfect scores, so I let my cat Jell-o pick a winner (Vicki Lewis Thompson style.) She tells me she's partial to Mary Fetcher. Congrats. Please send me your snail mail info at

Ok - here's the answers.

  1. In Frosty the Snowman, who brought Frosty back to life? Santa (The kids brought him to life, but Santa resurrected him in the end.)
  2. In How the Grinch Stole Christmas, what biological shortcoming made the Grinch so mean? His heart was 2 sizes too small.
  3. What is the biggest selling Christmas single of all time? White Christmas by Bing Crosby
  4. What was Scrooge's first name? Ebenezer
  5. What was the name of Rudolph's dogsled driving friend? Yukon Cornelius
  6. What carol contains the line "O tidings of comfort and joy"? God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
  7. Name the three reindeer whose names begin with a "D"? Dasher, Dancer & Donder
  8. What was the first gift my true love sent on the sixth day of Christmas? Six Geese a Layin
  9. What Saturday Evening Post artist was known for his whimsical pictures of Santa Claus? Norman Rockwell
  10. What did the Grinch use as a substitute for reindeer? His dog Max
  11. Counting Rudolph, how many reindeer are there? 9
  12. How many times is the name of Santa Claus used in "The Night Before Christmas"? None
  13. What is the most popular tree topper? Angel
  14. What does Alvin want for Christmas? A Hula Hoop
  15. What two words are normally pre-printed on gift tags? To and From
  16. On every street corner you hear what song? Silver Bells
  17. What was Brenda Lee doing around the Christmas Tree? Rockin'
  18. In A Charlie Brown Christmas, how many cents does Lucy charge for her psychiatric services? 5 cents
  19. In "Winter Wonderland" the lovestruck couple pretends a snowman is who? Parson Brown
  20. Who wrote A Christmas Carol? Charles Dickens

Bonus Question : After red and green, what are the two most popular Christmas colors? Silver and Gold

Friday, December 21, 2007

Christmas Trivia

As resident Smarty Pants and trivia nut, I figured it was my duty to put together a Christmas Trivia Challenge for the Playground. Rules are simple. Email me with your answers to the questions below at (No Google cheaters, please. That's just no fun for anyone.) The reader with the most answers correct will win. Question 21 is a tie breaker in the event you are all super smart. The winner will receive a Christmas goodie pack from me with some books, candy and whatever cool stuff is within grabbing distance as I'm packing it up. You will probably receive it in January given the holiday rush and my unfortunate inability to mail prizes. But you WILL get it! :)

  1. In Frosty the Snowman, who brought Frosty back to life?

  2. In How the Grinch Stole Christmas, what biological shortcoming made the Grinch so mean?

  3. What is the biggest selling Christmas single of all time?

  4. What was Scrooge's first name?

  5. What was the name of Rudolph's dogsled driving friend?

  6. What carol contains the line "O tidings of comfort and joy"?

  7. Name the three reindeer whose names begin with a "D"?

  8. What was the first gift my true love sent on the sixth day of Christmas?

  9. What Saturday Evening Post artist was known for his whimsical pictures of Santa Claus?

  10. What did the Grinch use as a substitute for reindeer?

  11. Counting Rudolph, how many reindeer are there?

  12. How many times is the name of Santa Claus used in "The Night Before Christmas"?

  13. What is the most popular tree topper?

  14. What does Alvin want for Christmas?

  15. What two words are normally pre-printed on gift tags?

  16. On every street corner you hear what song?

  17. What was Brenda Lee doing around the Christmas Tree?

  18. In A Charlie Brown Christmas, how many cents does Lucy charge for her psychiatric services?

  19. In "Winter Wonderland" the lovestruck couple pretends a snowman is who?

  20. Who wrote A Christmas Carol?

Bonus Question : After red and green, what are the two most popular Christmas colors?

Get your answers to me by midnight to qualify and I'll announce a winner Monday in Angel's Christmas Eve blog. Happy Holidays Everyone!


Thursday, December 20, 2007

Is It Over Yet?

I'm ready for Christmas to be over. Not because I'm tired of all the cheer - or even the Grinches - but because I can't take the excitement and exhaustion anymore. I don't know what's different about this year but somehow I'm more...anxious about the girl's Christmas. Baby Girl is really getting into the season. And Sweet Pea is old enough to understand what the holiday is all about.

I've worked really hard to make this a great time for them both. Not more than usual. It just feels more important. Maybe that's because it's immediate :-) Heaven only knows that my memory can be faulty. I'm not likely to remember with accuracy the tizzy I was probably in at this time last year.

Of course, I have to get through the next few days before I can really enjoy the moments of celebration with my family. Today I have the last day of school for both girls and everything that goes with it - two Christmas parties, buying cupcakes, ordering pizza and delivering teacher gifts. Then I'm meeting DH at lunch to go truck shopping - because I needed to fit one more thing into my holiday schedule. Then it's off to the store to prepare for my Dad's birthday. Next is the family dinner at Red Lobster which will no doubt take 2 hours considering we have fifteen people. Oh and at some point today I think my boss might like me to do some actual work.

That's just today. I don't want to think about this weekend. At least there's one enjoyable thing I can look forward to. DH and I are having a date night tomorrow night. We're going to see National Treasure 2. We both loved the first one - a rare occurrence! We've bought the expensive tickets at the brand new theater in town. I plan to eat a pizza and sip a chocolate martini while I watch Nicholas Cage chase down treasure.

So what's cramming your schedule for the next few days?


P.S. Caridad's winner from yesterday's blog is Vicki. Maureen's winner is Carrie Destler. Congratulations to you both! Please email Playground Monitor here to claim your prize.

P.P.S Happy Birthday Daddy! I love you :-)

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Vamping it up for the holidays

We're excited at the Playground today because we have a two-fer -- Maureen Child and Caridad Pineiro, authors of Holiday with a Vampire from Silhouette Nocturne. I'd blogged last week about holiday romances and Caridad commented about my Christmas lights and well... y'all know I'm not afraid to ask someone to guest blog.

We're huddled around the Playground campfire today, wrapped in fuzzy blankets and wearing thick socks cause baby it's cold outside! So please make room by the fire for Maureen and Caridad.

When I was asked to be in a Christmas vampire duet with Caridad Pineiro, my first reaction was Woo Hoo! I love Caridad’s work, and I’ve always wanted to try my hand at a vampire story.

I love all things paranormal. My Irish grandmother used to tell me stories of Pookas and Banshees and the Little People and Fairy Rings. Ghosts are seen regularly in my family and the ‘other side’ is accepted as being just as real as the ordinary world.

But writing my story in HOLIDAY WITH A VAMPIRE was a new challenge for me. My first foray into the world of fangs! Since this was a novella length story and a Christmas story to boot, I decided to make my hero, Grayson Stone, a vampire unhappy with his existence. I wanted him to long for an end to the immortality that means nothing to him anymore.

His heroine, Theresa Franklin, is living a lie. Hiding from an abusive ex-husband, she risks everything when she welcomes Grayson into her home. And together, they find the Christmas miracle neither of them expected.

Writing a novella is a little tougher than writing a longer book. You don’t have much time to introduce your characters and your situation. You have to cut down on descriptions while keeping your scene setting compelling enough to hold your readers. You have to compress every thought, every conversation and make sure every scene counts. And hopefully, when you’re through, you have a story your readers will remember.

I had been lucky enough to do an online novella – DESIRE CALLS – for the site, but while doing that novella, I discovered that I really really loved writing these shorter stories. Wanting to do another one, I pitched the idea of an anthology to my editor who came back and asked, “What about a holiday vampire anthology?”

A holiday anthology as in a Christmas anthology? I wondered. It was February and I was thinking about Valentine’s Day. Plus, we had been having warmer weather and I was looking forward to watching spring greens sprout. Instead, I found myself thinking about how I could combine the darkness and sexiness of vampires with all that I thought important about Christmas. A difficult mix it occurred to me.

After a lot of thought, I decided the vampire had to not only be the Scrooge in my tale, but also had to have some really good reasons for why he detested the holiday and the bell-ringing Santa that was virtually camped out on his doorstep. I ended up doing a lot of historical research for this novella because I created a complex history for Hadrian – the vampire elder who is the hero of FATE CALLS, my contribution to the HOLIDAY WITH A VAMPIRE anthology.

Hadrian had been a good man who was turned during a Saturnalia holiday in Rome. Over the course of his over 2000 years of existence, he had suffered through the murder of his family and defeat in a war against humans. Both had occurred around the time for the Christmas holiday. It is these wounds which remain alive in Hadrian and which make him detest the yuletide season.

Of course, the heroine – Connie Morales – is intent on bringing the joy and spirit of Christmas into those around her. She is also determined not to listen to the devastatingly handsome man who is insisting that she stop ringing her bell.

When Connie refuses, Hadrian uses his elder power to imprison her and what follows is a battle of the wills which ultimately exposes Hadrian’s history and brings Hadrian and Connie close together.

Ultimately, both Connie and Hadrian come to understand what is truly important about Christmas. The ending of this novella was extremely uplifting for me and reinforced what I think is special about Christmas, namely that love and small acts of kindness can overcome almost anything.

I was also happy to be able to work in a new rule in the vampire mythology that I’ve created for THE CALLING novels. This new addition to the mythology brings about a very special ending to FATE CALLS and also provides for some new possibilities for some of the more popular characters in THE CALLING. I’ll be posting the rule shortly on the website at

I hope you all will enjoy this sexy and inspiring holiday vampire story! Happy Holidays to all of you.

EDIT: We had to take the video out cause it was messing up the sidebar. You can access it from her website. The URL is below.

Caridad is giving away a copy of HOLIDAY WITH A VAMPIRE to a lucky commenter. For another commenter, Maureen is giving away a copy of HOLIDAY WITH A VAMPIRE and an ARC of her March book from NAL titled A FIEND IN NEED. In her words, it's "also a paranormal, but a funny one!"

You can visit them at their websites: and

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Tidings of grumble, grumble, grumble...

Umm, Christmas is one week from today. Are you ready? Are you feeling the "tidings of comfort and joy?" Or are you on your last nerve?

I’m actually in the spirit some this year. Decorations are up. Presents are purchased and wrapped (okay, so I’m 2 gift cards from done). I actually know what I’m going to do for AC’s class Christmas party (oh, the woes of the room mom). I’ve been jamming to the Christmas carol radio station and singing my heart out. I made peppermint patties with AC last night, and we’ll make cookies for Santa this weekend. I’ve planned and almost finished shopping for our Christmas day dinner. I even invited the priest. I’m practically jolly this year.

But then come the people who make me feel like the Grinch.

To the lady in the enormous SUV outside the WalMart today: Yes, I understand your urgent need to get to WalMart for whatever it is you’re after today, but the left turn lane is full of people who also want to go to the WalMart right now. Blocking two lanes of traffic with your Tahoe as you wait to get in the turn lane is beyond annoying. And no, turning on your blinker doesn’t make it better. We (those cars stacking up behind you) fully understand what you want to do. What we want to know is why you can’t go down to the next turn lane, make a U-turn, and come back. It would probably be quicker than waiting in that enormous queue to turn left without a light anyway, and all of us could get where we want to go in a reasonable amount of time. Waving at me once you finally pull out of the way doesn’t really make it better either.

To “Tracy,” whoever you are: Please call your grandmother. She’s very concerned because you gave her my phone number instead of yours and she hasn’t heard from you in a while. It’s getting close to Christmas, and she really wants to know if you’re coming home on Christmas Eve or not. She’s calling a couple of times a day now and just doesn’t understand why I won’t put you on the phone. Please call her soon, because I expect the police to show up any minute to look for your dead body I’m obviously hiding in my floorboards.

To the telemarketers calling my house: Yes, I understand identity theft is rampant this time of year, but how I’m protecting myself is really none of your business. When I say “No, thank you. Goodbye,” that doesn’t mean, “Call me back later this afternoon.” And no, you can’t speak to DG; he’ll explain the meaning of "Do Not Call List" in terms inappropriate to the season.

To the “gentleman” at the Target today: I wasn’t racing you to the checkout. I didn’t even know you were behind me. Swerving around me as we pull in to lane 20 with a “Beat You!” is annoying and immature.

To Mother Nature: Make up your freakin' mind.

Maybe I’m just over-sensitive. It’s supposed to be a season of peace and joy and goodwill and all, yet folks are just annoying the crap out of me for some reason. I guess there’s a good reason eggnog is alcoholic.

Go ahead; get your Grinch on today and get it out of your system. Tell us all about what (or who) is annoying you. You’ll feel much better, and the rest of us won’t feel so alone in our Grinch-ness.



Actual good tidings: Caridad Pineiro and Maureen Child will be blogging tomorrow!!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Fun and Entertainment

Pardon me for being late posting my blog. My fun and fabulous weekend caught up with me last night and I hit the sack as early as I could reach it.

We started off Saturday with the Playground Christmas party. A Total Blast! Of course, we're always fun when we get together, but this time we did something extra special.... We created our own Rock Band! Some of you have probably heard of this game, which we have for the Xbox 360. There are 2 guitars, drums, and a microphone. With everyone here, we had plenty of band members, along with back-up singers too.

Here is Problem Child's Darling Geek on guitar:

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Smarty Pants on Drums, along with Problem Child and some of the Children's children on vocals:

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

There's my poor hubby in the left corner, also on guitar, and Little Man pretending to play along (he loves this game). You can see the screen showing the path for each instrument, which is where your notes appear, and the line across the top is for the vocals:

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Everyone had a great time and it was a lot of fun. We discovered some hidden talents (who knew Instigator's hubby could pick up the drums that quickly?) and laughed a lot (just try listening to a bunch of little girls sing a Courtney Love song... weird!).

Then on Sunday Instigator and I headed for Birmingham to audition for Wheel of Fortune. We stood in line twice for two shows, but didn't get picked to go on stage for either one. Boo! But it was entertaining to watch and held at the Galleria shopping center, so we threw in some shopping too.

All in all, I had a fun and entertaining weekend. What about y'all? Do anything just for fun lately?


Friday, December 14, 2007

Merry Christmas to Me!

I’ve been buying a lot of stuff lately. I know its Christmas time, but for once, I’m actually buying more stuff for myself than for other people. I guess I’ve gotten tired of dropping $50 on Williams-Sonoma gift baskets just to get a $2 candle and Walmart bath gel in return. I’ve trimmed my list of gifts and recipients, stuck to my guns and opted to get into the spirit of buying stuff for ME.

I realized this morning that I am living the fabulous lifestyle that every...uh...14 year old boy dreams of. How’s that, you say?

Well, for one, a few weeks ago I bought myself an impossible to find Wii Game Console with all the accessories I wanted including Guitar Hero III. I didn’t have to wait until Christmas and pray my parents were able to wrestle some old man to the ground in Best Buy to get it. DG has one too, so I can go over to PC's house and rock in Co-Op mode. (This in itself is hard because you can’t buy the guitar without the game, so you have to find someone else with a Wii who has Guitar Hero III already and it just came out.)

Not long after that, I got myself the brand new model of the 22 inch widescreen Samsung LCD computer monitor. It’s pretty. If I wanted to, I could play Warcraft or Halo or whatever else and it would be awesome. So what if I’m just going to surf the web and write on it? I’ve considered getting a new laptop (the only sensible thing on this page, and yet, the one thing I HAVEN’T gotten) but decided to hold off until later.

Then, this week, I bought myself a dirt bike. A brand new Yamaha TT-R230. Its large enough for an adult, but not powerful enough for me to get into a lot of trouble. Of course, I can get into trouble without even starting the engine. Sigh - a story for another time when the bruises have faded. Anyway, I can take it out and go riding whenever I want to. I didn’t have to save up my pennies, mow lawns or beg my parents for it. I didn’t have to promise to keep my room clean or be nice to my little sister either. Unlike most 14 year old boys, I have great credit. I just went and got it.

Add to all this the fact that I can see a naked woman any time I want to, and you’ve got the dream life of any teenage boy. Pity I’m a grown woman in my late 20s. :)

Here’s a picture of my new baby. Isn’t she pretty? In going with my annoying habit of naming things (DB says normal people don’t do this - news to me) her name will be Belle. (As in she’s blue, so a play on bluebell, plus she’s pretty, so Belle as is French for beautiful. Probably also Belle for the ringing in my ears I’ll hear when I run into a tree and wreck.) Yes, I know I’m going to injure myself. I've accepted that.

Update - so here's a picture of the helmet I'll be buying since y'all are so concerned...It's pretty too. I love the butterflies.

So, have you taken the time and money lately to indulge yourself? What have you bought that was just for you? If you haven’t, what would you buy yourself if you had the resources to?


(PS. Just in case you don't have enough pressure on you, Christmas is 10 days away.)

(PPS. "diane" is the winner of chocolate, chocolate and more chocolate from the Wednesday blog. She needs to email Playground Monitor with her name and snail mail address to claim her prize.)

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Interesting Thought

I've been following the John and Anne Darwin story for the last several days. For those that don't know he faked his own death five years ago and last week showed back up at the police station claiming amnesia. Except someone found a picture of him online in Panama for last year...with his wife. Oops!

For some reason the story has caught my attention. Maybe it's the question of why John decided to suddenly resurface. Or the question of why he decided to disappear in the first place. Whatever it is, I've been reading several stories and accounts of their life for the past five years. However, today I read an interesting article that takes the story from another angle.

Anne Applebaum, a columnist for the Washington Post and Slate, has an article posted on MSN today which discusses the pseudocide angle - the surprisingly widespread occurrence of faked death. Here's the link: (the article is very good and pretty funny... The Lie, the Switch and the Wardrobe...snicker).

She brings up a great topic - escaping our lives. I don't know about you guys but that's pretty much what I'm doing when I pick up a book (or watch a movie). I need those few minutes or hours to forget about my problems and live through someone else's life - to experience happily ever after and know that if it can happen to them it can happen to me. I kinda get the same experience when I write. however, I don't think I'd ever need to escape so much that I'd leave my entire life behind - including my kids.

That's one theory I've read, that John so missed contact with his sons that he devised a plan to return to the living claiming he had amnesia. Google strikes again. Perhaps he shouldn't have let the real estate agent in Panama post his picture online. Now that was a stupid mistake. James Bond he is not.
Have you been following this story? What's your take on his 'death' and rebirth? Or his wife's roll in it all?


P.S. Lynn Raye Harris and Sassy are the winners from the Be Careful What You Wish For contest. Please email Problem child here to claim your prize.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

All I Want for Christmas is Some Holiday Romance

Sometime just barely after Halloween it begins.

Around the first of November I'm usually trying to nudge myself toward the idea that Thanksgiving is just weeks away and Christmas follows a month later. There are gifts to buy, wrap and, in some cases, mail. There are parties to plan and attend. I have to write a Christmas letter to go into the Christmas cards, which must be addressed and mailed. Stockings must be stuffed and turkey dinners planned. We put up the tree, add lights and ornaments, slap the topper on and hang a wreath on the front door. And oh dear, what did
I get Aunt Nellie last year?

Pretty soon all the shopping and planning and preparing lead to inevitable grumpiness and a
decidedly Grinch-like attitude. Until...

Books with snow and Christmas trees and ornaments on their covers start to appear on the shelf at my favorite booksellers, and pretty soon some of them are on the end table beside the couch where I usually sit and read. Since I started reading romance a few years ago I've come to believe it's not really Christmas until I've read a few holiday romances. It's easier to tackle the shopping crowds with a couple Happily Ever Afters under your belt.

This is a difficult time of year for many people. They've lost loved ones or loved ones are away from home for the holidays. They may be jobless or in dire financial straits. They may be suffering a severe health crisis. But time after time I've heard authors say they've received a letter from a reader who wrote "Your book helped me get through my chemo treatment today" or "After being alone for so many years I'm learning to believe in love again."

Romance gives readers a sense of hope and a moment of escape from their everyday lives. They provide that sense of hope all year long, but reading about finding love under the mistletoe or receiving a toe-curling kiss in the town square with snow falling all around makes it even more magical, and ups the hope factor a couple hundred percent.

What I want from a holiday romance is not only the hope, but the "awwwwww" at the end when the hero and heroine live happily ever after. A couple years ago I bought an anthology with a story by a favorite author. After I read two of the novellas and learned they were about serial killers and dead Santas, I realized that just because it has Santa on the cover, it's not necessarily going to leave me with all sorts of warm, fuzzy feelings. Just setting the story in December with snow falling and a wreath on the front door doesn't cut it.

Debbie Macomber has written some terrific Christmas romances. One of my very favorites is a novella called "Shirley, Goodness and Mercy" about three angels with slightly crooked halos who work a little Christmas magic on a man who has hit rock bottom and doesn't believe in Christmas anymore.

This year's stack on my end table includes an anthology from Harlequin Next called "Christmas Presence." I've only read one story so far but it is definitely a keeper. "You're All I Want for Christmas" by Susan Crosby is the story of divorcee Lauren Wright who decides to escape Christmas memories with a trip to the Bahamas. A storm shuts down all flights and strands her at O'Hare airport. Christmas looks pretty bleak until she meets fellow strandee Joe who makes her see that running away might not be the answer after all.

Yesterday I re-read "'Tis the Silly Season," the Rita award winning novella by Roxanne St. Claire from 2006's "NASCAR Holiday." It is about a single mother who hires on as a sexy race car driver's pretend wife in order to give her kids the perfect Christmas they've never had. Meanwhile, sexy race car driver is trying to paint himself as a stable family kind of guy so he can get picked as a driver for Kincaid Toys' team and get into the NEXTEL series., Add in two adorable little boys and some Christmas magic and you've got a definite "awwwww" inspiring story.

Right now I'm reading "Annie on the Lam: A Christmas Caper" by Jennifer Archer. This is also from Harlequin Next and features forty-year-old Savannah socialite Annie Macy who's left her fiance at the altar and fled the comforts of home for New York City to try and learn the real reasons behind her mother's death twenty-odd years before. At the company Christmas party, Annie steals papers from her boss to try and prove he's laundering money through his restaurant. Consequently she ends up on the lam with cab driver Joe Brady, who's also a PI hired by her father to keep an eye on her. So far we have lots of sexual tension and a bad snowstorm that's probably gonna trap them together somewhere. Oh how I love a hero and heroine trapped in a snowstorm!

Since my shopping is done, my Christmas cards are mailed and my house got a spit-polish last week in preparation for a party last Saturday, I should have plenty of time for the books still in the pile, which includes "The Gift" by Nora Roberts. I know... I should be writing. Let's just say I'm refilling the well that was thoroughly emptied by all the dusting, scrubbing, polishing, vacuuming and mopping I did last week. I'm still having nasty flashbacks when I smell Pledge.

What are you reading this Christmas season? Do you like holiday romances? Do they help make the season merry and bright for you? One lucky commenter will win a Christmas prize package with chocolate, chocolate and more chocolate.

P.S. Thought you might like to see my Christmas lights.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Be Careful What You Wish For...

Last year about this time, we played a fun game that seemed to go over well. So, I thought we'd do it again (who says I'm not original?).

In this game of "Be Careful What You Wish For, " you'll get to make a wish. The next poster will grant your wish, but in such a way as to make you regret you wished for it.

For example, let's say I wish for a million dollars. The next person to comment will grant my wish, but give me my million in pennies. She will then make a wish. Let's say she wishes for a new house. The next commentor will grant her wish, however, the house will be full of mold that makes her break out in hives. She makes a wish, etc, etc. Get it?

We can all let out a little holiday frustration AND you could win some cute Christmas prize packs for your cruelty to others.

I'll get us started:

In honor of my latest rejection letter (written on my birthday, no less!), I'll wish for the obvious:

I wish I had a book contract.

Go ahead; somebody corrupt my wish. (It might even make me feel better.)

Monday, December 10, 2007

A Mini-Rant

Excuses not to write this weekend:

1. Two sick children

2. Last minute preparations for RWA chapter Christmas party

3. Said RWA Christmas party, taking up from 9:45am Saturday to 4:30pm (includes travel time and pit stops).

4. Babysitting niece and nephew after said party, overnight, until 2:30pm Sunday.

5. Up until midnight with sick child.

6. Two hours putting up Christmas lights.

7. Date -- movie with hubby (yay!!!).

8. Tired, tired, and more tired.

Guess this explains why my book isn't finished yet, huh? Ever have one of those days where you feel like anything and everything gets in the way? I'm at the beginning of a writing challenge that I promised myself I would not wimp out on even though it is the holidays. But it hasn't gone well so far. I'm having more and more days where I wonder if I'll ever be able to make writing a priority. I feel guilty if I don't. I hate having an obsessive, type A personality....

What are your excuses today? Feel free to vent. :)


Friday, December 07, 2007

Here We Come a' Caroling

Ok, it’s after December 1st, so no one can get onto me for discussing Christmas carols so soon. I love Christmas music. I don’t care if the radio stations and stores start playing it before Thanksgiving. It just makes me smile and brings back memories I associate with those songs. My great-grandmother had the Time-Life Treasury of Christmas albums when I was a kid and I loved those. I bought the CD versions a few years ago. Its three discs of original Christmas carol bliss. It should be noted I am a carol purist. I want Bing Crosby to sing White Christmas. Not the Backstreet Boys. Or Mariah Carey. I don’t want Carrie Underwood, I want Perry Como. Burl Ives.

Every now and then, there is a newer carol like “Run, Run Rudolph” and I don’t have a preference or someone covers a song that I don’t necessarily associate with anyone else, like “We Three Kings.” That’s ok. But as a whole, my only exceptions to the ‘original artist’ rule are the Chipmunks and the really sick and twisted Christmas carols that Bob Rivers does (the Christmas version of Weird Al). To me, those technically aren’t the same songs, so they don’t count.

My Favorite Carols would have to be:

10. Same Old Lang Syne by Dan Fogelberg – I don’t know if this really qualifies as a Christmas song, but its always played in heavy rotation on the Christmas station.

9. The Chipmunk Song by David Seville and the Chipmunks – Come on, you know you love this one. I still want a hoola-hoop!

8. The Little Drummer Boy by Bing Crosby and David Bowie – Its just one of those weird moments in television history.

7. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas by Rosemary Clooney – I love this song and I get especially annoyed when they play other versions where the lyrics get switched around. I won’t mention any names (*cough* – the Carpenters – *cough*).

6. Jolly Old St. Nicolas – This is one of my favorite traditional songs. Not sure who sings it the best.

5. Didn’t I Get This Last Year? (Do You Hear What I Hear?) by Bob Rivers – The lament of every receiver of poorly thought out Christmas gifts. Even then, I still manage to tear up at the end every time. I’m a sucker.

4. O' Holy Night – I can’t say who does this the best as honestly, I don’t really like any of the versions I’ve heard on the radio. Everyone *thinks* they can sing this song well and it’s a staple on every pop star’s Christmas album, but I find its one of those songs that simply must be belted out with a heart and soul that is hard to capture. I was even disappointed with Celine Dion’s version and you’d think if anyone could belt it out, she could.

3. We Three Kings by Sarah McLaughlin and the Bare Naked Ladies – I only heard this in the last few years. Its very “Peter, Paul and Mary” and I really dig it. No one ever does this song, so its especially cool.

2. Christmas Canon by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra - Ok, so this isn’t really a Christmas carol, but a children's choir singing words set to Pachabel’s Canon in D. I don’t care. I love Pachabel’s Canon and I enjoy this version too. It’s even my Christmas ringtone.

1. The First Noel by the Crash Test Dummies - This is hands down the best ever and you'll never hear it on the radio. It flies in the face of everything I’ve said before, but its so awesome, it must be noted. Back in the 90's, I was watching a Christmas ice skating competition. One of the guy skaters came out and did a really great routine to the weirdest, creepiest, most beautiful version of the First Noel I’d ever heard. I searched for YEARS to get a copy and finally paid a mint to get one on Ebay. I’ve included a link to the music video for you to listen to. Enjoy the weirdness of it all and be sure to listen to the whole song. (Yes, it’s a crappy video, but the budget is obviously low.)

In mentioning favorites, one must also mention your least favorites. I think I’m one of the few that actually likes "I Want a Hippopotomus for Christmas" and I’m okay with that. What really gripes my soul are the Christmas songs that deliberately and maliciously rip out your guts and serve them to you on a lovely holiday platter. Case in point – "Christmas Shoes." I don’t know who sings it. All I know is that it is a cruel, cruel thing to do to someone. I can name that tune in 3 notes and I’m across the room, changing the station before they can get one sappy word out.
(For those of you unfamiliar with this song, its about a man who is approached by a little boy at the checkout counter of some store and asks him to help him buy some shoes for his mother - HIS MOTHER WHO IS IN THE HOSPITAL DYING AND GOING TO MEET JESUS TONIGHT SO SHE NEEDS PRETTY NEW SHOES! Are you kidding me? Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, then THIS? It’s sick. It’s wrong. )

It's almost as bad as that horrible poem from the perspective of a dead person about how you shoudn't be sad for them cause they're spending Christmas in heaven. They read that poem when DB's grandfather died three days before Christmas and I was crying so hard I had snot running down the inside of my suitcoat sleeve. Of course, we were in the family section so everyone could see me blubbering. That's just not nice to do to someone.

Ok, off my soapbox (for now). What is your favorite Christmas carol? Which one do you wish the DJ would scratch and never play again?


Thursday, December 06, 2007

Christmas Commercialism

It's working. All these commercials - the toys, the electronics, the damn food - they're working. Even on Baby Girl who has decided she wants every single toy that comes on the Disney Channel.

My problem is that she's three. She's supposed to be open and influenced by these things. I'm not. Right? Somehow I don't think I've gotten that message. Where the girls are concerned I'm a sucker. I've had their presents ready since black friday. I did almost all of my shopping that day (what I hadn't done the days before). I'm never this organized. You'd think this would be a good thing right? Wrong!

The problem is that all the companies are now starting to advertise the newest, greatest, bestest toys and gadgets that they've been saving all year. And now I want to get them for the people on my list.

Baby Girl has asked for several things in the last week. Cute things. Things she'd enjoy. And I'm having a really hard time putting down the plastic. She doesn't need them. I know that. But something inside me wants to get them for her anyway just to see the look on her face Christmas morning when she opens them all.

Yes, I realize that giving a three year old everything she wants probably isn't the healthiest choice I could make for her... So why does saying no make me feel so bad? She probably won't even think about it. She'll be too excited over what she does have and won't give a second thought to what she doesn't. But I'll know. When did life get so twisted and complicated? Or maybe it's just me.

Anyone else struggling with gift giving and marketing campaigns?


Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Great close up, Mr. DeMille

Not bad, eh?

Story by Ronda Miskelley, Huntsville Times Food Editor
Photo by Robin Conn, Huntsville Times

All right, Mr. DeMille, I'm ready for my close up

Last week I got a phone call from one of the editors at the local newspaper. Seems they were doing a review of a book I was in and they wanted to interview me and send a photographer to my house for a photo shoot. "Would that be okay?" she asked.

*snicker* Well, duh.

The first thing that came to mind was "All right, Mr. DeMille, I'm ready for my close up."

My interview was on Sunday afternoon by telephone. And the photographer showed up at my house on Monday morning (after calling to push things back an hour because apparently I took second fiddle to the dead body that had been found earlier that morning).

The photographer told me what kind of shots he wanted and said that the editor had requested I wear a certain item. I set up a place for the photo shoot, put on the item and then smiled for the camera.

Unlike poor Norma Desmond, who was lost in a fantasy world where she dreamed of making a comeback in the talkies, I knew exactly what was going on and now I'll tell you too.

My name is Marilyn and I'm a member of the Red Hat Society. Some time back I submitted a recipe for a cookbook the RHS was planning. Because we Red Hatters embrace the philosophy that life is short and we should eat dessert first, the cookbook was aptly named "Eat Dessert First."

Two months ago I learned that out of over 1500 recipes submitted, my little recipe for Crispy Oatmeal Cookies had been selected to be one of the 200 recipes in the book. And the publisher sent me a copy of the cookbook as a thank-you gift.

That cookie recipe was the first thing I ever baked. My third grade teacher promised a cookbook to every student who brought in a sample of something they'd cooked at home. I don't know where that cookbook is, but I still have the original recipe my mother copied onto a piece of notebook paper for me.

The call from the newspaper was from the Food Editor. She's reviewing the cookbook and when she found out there was a local contributor, she wanted to follow up on that angle.

Instead of the deranged Ms. Desmond, my photo will probably look more like this:

Some of us will do anything to get our name in print. ;-)

"Eat Dessert First" can be purchased at most major booksellers and online as well. It's quite a nice cookbook and I'm not saying that just cause I'm in it. But if you buy it, I'll be happy to autograph my little spot in the book. ;-)

When the article goes live on the newspaper's website I'll post a link. And when I get my copy of the photo, I'll post that too.

In the meantime just remember that life IS short and sometimes it's downright fun to eat dessert first.

Update: You can read the article here. Guess I'll schlepp outside in the cold and get the paper to see which photo they used.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

And, now, the Rest of the Story...

A while back, I blogged about how much of my life is ruled by the phrase “And one thing led to another.” I’ve been reminded recently that I promised to tell the other half of that story – about how "It just seemed like the thing to do at the time.”

I did mention in that blog that “it seemed like the thing to do at the time,” rates right up there with the famous Redneck Death Cry of “Hold My Beer.” I didn’t realize I’d need to explain the phrase. “Hold My Beer” is one of those ‘warning’ phrases like “Hey, y’all, watch this,” or “Any fool can do that,” or “No way I’m paying an electrician” that loosely translates into “remove small children from the area, locate your emergency exits, find appropriate tourniquet materials, and pre-dial the 9 and the 1.”

In other words, something bad is about to happen.

Now, any story that contains the phrase “it seemed like the thing to do at the time,” is guaranteed to send my mom to her Happy Safe Place where her daughter isn’t doing something likely to get herself killed, arrested, or expelled. My argument is since I’ve never been to jail, been MedFlighted anywhere, or been in something it took the Jaws of Life to get me out of, that it’s all okay. Mom derives precious little comfort from that.

(Although there were several trips to the ER— including one where I was missing three teeth and had almost obliterated my upper lip— none were life-threatening. And I only got suspended once.)

Needless to say, I was never in the running for the Playground nickname of “Angel.”

Looking back at choices I’ve made, I realize that “teenage” really is a synonym for “brain-damaged,” and that full development of my frontal lobe was possibly the greatest achievement of my 20’s. I’m walking proof that God watches out for idiots and children.

I’d give you specific examples, but your pre-teen children wouldn’t thank me for their life-long grounding and I would probably never be able to talk my mom back out of her Happy Safe Place. Let’s just say that you might want to be sure that the Adults-In-Charge of your child at the moment have the same standards of supervision as you. Otherwise, you’ll be needing a Happy Safe Place in a few years, because you're going to have an unpleasant surprise when they let your kid do something she couldn't have even attempted because your cold, dead body was in the way.
(And FYI, not being 21 isn’t a problem if you’re cute and perky and wear a low-cut shirt, teenage boys will do just about anything a pretty girl in a short skirt asks, and transporting minors across state lines without parental permission isn’t a actual crime in most situations. Don't ask me how I know any of this.)

I have no rationale as to WHY I thought any of my adventures were a good idea. All I can say is, “It just seemed like the thing to do at the time.” Did I mention what a great gift I consider my frontal lobe to be?

Someone told me once that his idea of Hell would be standing in front of God and being forced to explain himself. (My vision of that Hell includes a slide show of whatever fashion catastrophe I was wearing at the time—I’m not sure there’s a good excuse for any of that.) Hmm, do you think “It seemed like the thing to do at the time” will fly at the Pearly Gates?

But surely some of those adventures will translate into good book fodder one day. And because readers expect plots to unfold in a reasonable series of actions, I’ll have to come up with good reasons for why my heroine chose to do something. “It seemed like the thing to do at the time” probably won’t cut it with readers any more than it did with my mother.

And, Mom, I promise that as soon as I figure out why my characters did it, you’ll be the next to know. I'm sure it will put that whole trip to New Orleans into clear perspective...

(And, yes, AC will be locked in a closet for most of her teen years.)

Monday, December 03, 2007

MoanDay: Christmas Edition

I know, as a young, hot-blooded woman, I should be mooning over these guys:

Or drooling over this one:

But this time of the year, I find myself more in the mood to see this little guy:

And I'm totally enchanted by my own, homegrown hunk:

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Especially after his stellar performance tonight in his first ever Christmas program. He sang all the songs and knew all the motions! It was the cutest thing I ever saw (well, maybe since the last time his sister performed on stage). :)

Happy Holidays Y'all!


Saturday, December 01, 2007

Wrap Artist

It's December 1st and my Christmas shopping is DONE! Not only that, the gifts are all wrapped (except the ones I'm taking to my mom's house and I'll wrap them there cause if I have them wrapped in my suitcase and they pick my suitcase for a random check, I'm afraid they'd unwrap the gifts and I'd be back to square one).

Regardless of when I get the shopping done, every year I'm faced with the same decision -- boxes or bags? If I go with boxes and gift wrap, do I use those stick-on bows or the curly ribbon? Or should I really splurge and buy real satin ribbon and make big poofy bows?

This year, like every other, it's been a little bit of both. Some things just fit in a box better. Others are meant for a gift bag. And after wrapping half a dozen boxes and making bows with curly ribbon, the last one got some pretty stick-on bows cause I was tired of curling.

So which do you use?

(a) Boxes?

(b) Bags?

(c) Stick-on bows?

(d) Curly ribbon?

(e) Real ribbon?

(f) All of the above

If you answered (e) will you please give folks like me who are all thumbs some tips on how to make those really pretty poofy bows?