Thursday, September 30, 2010

Crazy Things I Watch on TV

The Playfriends recently had a conversation about the strange things we've found ourselves watching on TV. Lately, I've become disillusioned with regular TV and have turned to the cable stations to be entertained.

I know we've talked about all of the amazing shows that USA has - Covert Affairs, Burn Notice, Psych, White Collar. I LOVE the fact that their tag line is characters welcome. They've developed great shows that center around interesting and unique characters. Those characters make the shows!

But I've also found myself watching a lot of History Channel, Discovery Channel, Food Network and National Geographic. I've become especially enamored with Ancient Aliens. I'm not sure I believe their theory that aliens visited Earth a long time ago but I've really enjoyed watching as they lay out their argument. I've also been drawn in by shows about angels, the devil bible (at least I think that's what it was called) and various other historically interesting topics that my many classes in high school and college didn't cover.

I never used to watch these kinds of shows before. I'm wondering if this change in my viewing preferences means that I'm finally broadening my horizons. Have you watched a show lately that surprised you? Are you a History Channel buff?


Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Wardrobe Wednesday -- What's in YOUR closet?

I had a near flood in my apartment back in early August (a pipe burst in the unit above me) and I had to clear everything off the floor of my bedroom closet so they could dry the carpet. That began a complete re-organization of the contents, including trying on clothes. There's a large bag of things in the corner headed for the thrift store. Some I just don't like anymore. Some don't fit anymore. When the weather cools off and I start to switch over from summer to winter clothes, I'm sure they'll get another batch from me.

The older I get, the more I seem to simplify my life and clear out clutter, but no matter what, there are a half dozen items in my wardrobe that I'll never get rid of.

(1) Faded jeans: I don't mean the kind that come already faded and tattered. I mean the ones you've worn forever and are as soft as a kid glove. There's a certain comfort, both physical and mental, in a pair of old jeans. I can be myself and be comfortable and not give a hoot what anyone thinks. They're great for a walk in the park or just lounging on the sofa, watching an old movie on TV. Actually, they're great for anything.

(2) An oversize t-shirt: Whether it belonged to an old boyfriend, your spouse or has always been yours, the big tee is like the jeans -- it lets me be me. It can serve many purposes -- a great shirt to wear for housework or gardening on my patio, a cover-up for the pool, something to sleep in if necessary. I have a couple in both long and short sleeve styles. I use this one from my alma mater as an example.

(3) Flip flops: You shouldn't wear them to the White House unless you want to be the subject of a scathing wardrobe condemnation in USA Today, but nothing beats a pair of flip flops for comfort. My personal faves are the ones pictured above -- Teva Mush. Maven Linda introduced us to them and I own 3 pairs now. What I especially like is they have an arch support in them. With all my foot issues, arch support is very necessary. I wear these as house slippers, to the pool and just around town. The Mush is also very cushioned, another plus for my poor feet. They're a lot more expensive than the all-rubber ones from discount stores, but sometimes you can't put a price on comfort.

(4) Shorts: While I try to spare the world from my wrinkly knees, cellulite-ridden thighs and spider veins, sometimes shorts are called for, and I have a couple pairs that get worn again and again. One pair is like the ones above -- polyester and designed as outdoor gear (I also have a pair of long pants in the same material and with cargo pockets on both legs). These are designed for water activities, but I just like them because they are loose and cool. I also have a pair of denim shorts that are soft and worn, yet still presentable enough for travel. And I have a pair of khaki ones for when I want to be comfy but a little more presentable. I pair them with a polo shirt and don't feel too self-conscious.

(5) Sweatpants (and sweatshirts too): On a cold day nothing wraps you up in warmth quite like a sweatsuit. I supppose they were originally designed as gym wear, but when it's cold and dreary outside, I can keep my insides warm by wearing sweats. Clinton and Stacy definitely wouldn't give them a thumbs-up, but C&S don't pay my utility bill, and I actually slept in sweats last winter when it was so dreadfully cold and I had my thermostat set on 65 in an effort to keep my utility bill from equaling the national debt of a third world country.

(6) Fleece: Anything fleece gets a big nod of approval from me. I have one fleece pullover I found at a thrift store with the Old Navy tags still on it. It's travelled to all parts of the country with me and I love it. It's all I need on a cool autumn day, and provides a good layer of warmth in the dead of winter. I also have fleece socks that are THE most wonderful way to keep your feet warm. Maven Linda introduced me to these as well, and I was lucky enough to find a couple pairs in a discount store last winter. For someone like me who has terminal cold feet, they are a necessity and a godsend.

This isn't an item of clothing, but I consider it part of my wardrobe -- a soft throw for the sofa. I just bought a new one to go with my new sofa and it's a tweedy brown, tan, green and rust. When I had to spend two weeks on the sofa with my foot propped up after surgery last month, I'd cover up with it in the evenings to ward off the chill. Yes, even in summer I get cold at night and a comfy throw is a necessity. I have a fleece one on the back of my desk chair to wrap around me when I'm working on the computer. It was a birthday gift from the Playfriends and is monogrammed to "The Best Monitor a Playground Could Have."

Tell us -- What's in YOUR comfort wardrobe?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

At least I remember I forgot...

I'm forgetting something. Something important. At least I think it's important. I'm not sure, because I've forgotten it. But it has to be important, or it wouldn't be bugging me so much that I've forgotten it.

Know what I mean?

My list-making and calendar obsession is firmly rooted in the knowledge that I'll forget it if it's not written down. In fact, I tell people that I'm not responsible for anything that's not written down. If you tell me, but don't make me write it down, then you can't get mad at me if I forget.

I admit to being scatterbrained. I'll go to get something from my office and forget what I was after by the time I get there. Sometimes, going back to where I was will jog my memory, but not always. I have a lot of 2am "Oh $hit" moments where I sit up in bed because I've just remembered the really important thing I forgot to do.

Hence the lists. The calendar (the paper one that I write everything in, then enter into the calender in Outlook, which then downloads to my phone). Sticky notes all over the house. (I use tape on the ones I stick to the bathroom mirror because the steam from the shower can loosen the sticky on a sticky note. Tape holds better.)

The "string around my finger" thing doesn't work, because usually all that will do is let me know that I am forgetting something, but I won't know what.

Sigh. I think I'm a little young for Alzheimer's to be setting in, but I hate to think my brain is *that* damaged.

Some people seem to think I'm pretty well organized -- but the fact is, the lists and calenders and schedules and spreadsheets are what keeps disaster at bay. The paranoia I'll really forget something important is actually working in my favor there -- the worry I'll forget something is actually making me look super organized and in control.

I know there are some list-makers out there on the Playground. Is it because you know you'll forget otherwise? Or am I alone here? Have you ever forgotten something *really* important? If you're not a forgetful person, is it just a natural trait or one you taught yourself? (And if it's self-taught, please do share!)

And here's my biggest question -- does that string-around-the-finger thing really work for anyone?


** I almost forgot to mention that I'm blogging over at CataRomance today. Come by and comment for a chance to win a book from my backlist!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Not So Bad After All?

I know we’ve talked ad nauseum about my obsessive compulsiveness before I leave town. Lists, laundry, cleaning house, food buying… it never ends, it seems. And I do it to myself, I know. I’m currently getting ready to go out of town again, leaving family behind, and I’ve done the usual rounds of the grocery store, laundry room (although my husband assured me this time he could handle the laundry because he’ll have a day off while I’m gone, so I just washed loads that included my clothes), and cleaning the bathrooms (which this time is actually important because the day I come home, I have family coming into town for the weekend who are staying with us—I’d be totally embarrassed to find the bathrooms growing mold!).

But a funny thing happened yesterday to make me feel better about myself in this area. I was talking about the trip with my mother-in-law, who wonderful woman that she is, will be doing afternoon duty with my children after school this coming week. As we were talking, she said, “You’re going to write all this down for me, right?”

I hesitated, because I naturally assumed my lists were an aggravation at best, an indication of my control freakishness at worst. Then I said, “So you don’t mind the lists?”

“No,” she said, her brows raising in surprise. “I’m actually having a bit of a struggle because (her daughter) won’t leave me one. I can’t ever figure out when was the last time the baby ate or what time she’s due for a nap. I always end up calling her. You trained me well.”

Hmmm… maybe this obsessive compulsiveness isn’t so bad after all. It makes me feel better about leaving, and makes her feel more confident that she’s meeting our children’s needs. That’s got to count for something, right? It’s like all those things you go over with your children before you leave them alone in the house, or before they go off with friends, all the details I talk about with my mother in case something happens to her and her husband and I need to know where the security box is, the “In Case of Emergency” phone numbers and the calendar that keeps up with all our appointments. She doesn’t have to go searching for the information—its all right there if she needs it. She doesn’t have to call me or wonder what our normal routine is for homework. I’ve laid it all out for her, in stunning, OCD detail. ;)


Coming Soon!
This Friday author Julie Cohen drops in for another visit on the Playground!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Autumn in a Bowl

Fall is here at last. Yes, its still in the 90s here, but this weekend it is supposed to get much cooler and fall-like. I can't wait. I've bought a new pair of mules and a fleece lined hoodie in anticipation. I've also made a pot of white chicken chili. Growing up in the southwest, I have a soft spot for anything with green chiles and this dish is just a great warm bowl of awesome.

So, I decided to share the recipe. I'm hoping to pair it with Maven LJ's cornbread recipe, which is off the hook. Like buttah! You could also pair it with corn chips. Whatever suits your fancy. When fall arrives in your neck of the woods, curl up with a bowl and enjoy the crisp autumn evening.

White Chicken Chili

1 medium onion, chopped
1 T olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 C water
1 tsp salt
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp ground pepper
1 tsp ground oregano
4 cans (15 oz) great northern beans, rinsed and drained
1 can (14.5 oz) chicken broth
2 cans (14 oz) white corn
2 cans (4.5 oz) green chilies, chopped
4 chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
3 T lime juice

Garnishes – lime wedges, sour cream, shredded cheese, etc.

Sauté onion in olive oil in a large Dutch oven or pot over medium high heat 7 minutes; add garlic, and sauté 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in 3 cups of water and next 5 ingredients.

Place two cans of beans in a food processor; add broth and process until smooth, stopping to scrape down sides. Stir bean puree, remaining 2 cans of beans, corn and chilies into mixture in the pot.

Bring to a boil over medium high heat. Add cooked, shredded chicken. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring often, for 20 minutes or until thoroughly heated.

Stir in lime juice just before serving.


What's your favorite fall recipe? Share your ideas for goodies to warm the spirit, the stomach and the home.


Thursday, September 23, 2010

One of Those Weeks

Ever have one of those weeks when nothing seems to go right? The kind that you wish would end early just so you could be put out of your misery? Yeah, that's the kind of week I'm having so far.

Trust me when I say that nothing has happened that could end the world...or even end my world. My girls are healthy (and Sweet Pea is recovering nicely from her broken ribs). Zilla is happy and still has his job. The important things are covered. Several things have simply gone wrong. I'm stressed out and I admit, I'm wearing my responses and emotions on my sleeve.

In a month I won't remember what had me so spun up. Okay, that might be an'll probably be a year before I can remember all the bad news this week without wanting to scream. But the bottom line is my world will go on spinning and this too shall pass. Unfortunately, knowing that hasn't helped me get through this in any less of an emotional tizzy.

I've often been accused of being melodramatic. This is a badge that I wear with honor and one I fully acknowledge and embrace. I realize that my full throttle reaction to absolutely everything can be a little draining for the people in my life. But I think that same emotional response is also one of the things that makes me a good writer. I can put myself in almost any situation and know how I'd respond emotionally...and therefore I can tell you how my characters would respond as well. However, it does sometimes make real life a little exhausting.

So, to draw from SP's excellent Myers-Briggs workshop, are you a logical or emotional thinker? Has anyone accused you of being melodramatic? Is there anyone in your life who can tends toward the melodramatic?


P.S. Congratulations to Sheila Turner, Diane's winner from yesterday's guest blog. Please email Diane at to claim your prize.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Guest Blogger - Diane O'Brien Kelly

I first met Diane when I attended a fabulous workshop about writers and taxes she presented at the RWA national conference. Then she graciously agreed to let us use some of her tax articles on the Playground website. When I got her newsletter last week and found out... well, I'll let her tell you what I found out. Please welcome Diane O'Brien Kelly to the Writing Playground blog!

Sneaking in the Back Door

I did it. I beat the odds. I sold to a major New York publisher and I did it without an agent. Maybe you can, too!

After winning or placing in two dozen RWA chapter contests and taking home the Golden Heart in 2009 for my manuscript “Death, Taxes, and a French Manicure,” I felt confident. Not only did the contest wins prove that my manuscripts had broad appeal, but I’d had two requests for fulls from editors who’d judged my work in contests. I was sure agents would engage in hand-to-hand combat for the right to represent me.

That’s not quite what happened.

Several agents I queried asked for fulls and one even approached me unsolicited with a request to see my Golden Heart manuscript. One of the agents worked with me for several months on revisions. Unfortunately, even after the revisions, she still wasn’t convinced I had a marketable project and didn’t offer representation.

There were no takers.

Was I devastated? Of course! I thought that, without an agent, the chances of being taken seriously by a big house were about the same as the odds of winning the Powerball. After all, the submissions guidelines for many houses state that only agented submissions will be considered.

Since the contest requests had given me an “in” through the back door, I sent the manuscript directly to the editors who’d requested it. And I kept hustling. I attended yet another conference and pitched my work directly to an editor at St. Martin’s, who requested a full.

Months later, with yet another round of requested submissions sitting in agents’ in-boxes, I got the call. In fact, I got two calls. The first was a two-book deal based on two completed manuscripts the editor had judged in a contest. The other deal, which was the one I decided to take, would be a three-book series beginning with my Golden Heart book. The editor who made the offer was the one I’d pitched to in person at the conference.

Yep, I’d snuck in the back door and got a deal on my own.

What did I learn from this experience? To take advantage of any and all opportunities to get your work in front of editors. Agents are not the only way. Enter contests. A lot of contests! Attend conferences. Lots of conferences! And, above all else, believe in yourself and your work.

For right now, you can see more about Diane at her website, which will soon be changing. And because her book won't be out until next year, she's graciously agreed to give one lucky commenter copies of her critique partners' books, "Operation Afterlife" by Angela Cavener and "Do Over" by Celya Bowers

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Some people are never happy...

So y'all know I'm a bit, well, lazy when it comes to research. Not that I don't do it -- I do -- I just want to find the easiest way to get the information I need and not get bogged down in endless, unnecessary details.

I'd rather talk to people to get the info I need instead of trying to Google it (I mean, honestly, if I knew what it was I needed to know I would Google. But if I don't even know what I don't know, how am I supposed to find it?) My friends have had fair warning: if you have knowledge I need for a book, be prepared to be grilled endlessly until I have the book done.

I'm very, very grateful, and in addition to my undying gratitude for your knowledge, I will happily return the favor somehow -- yes, I will come help you put together a bookshelf. I'll send the Geek to your house to fix your computer. I'll make you cookies. Buy wrapping paper and magazines from your kids. Come speak to your book club. Whatever. You'll get a mention in the Dear Reader letter or on my website.

And, sometimes, I'll name a character after you.

Soooo... not so long ago, I bother a couple of my friends who have knowledge on a topic important to my current WIP. They also happen to know each other as well. They were very helpful, and in addition to my undying gratitude, I named characters in the book after them -- the characters* doing* the very things they'd provided the information for. (Granted, they were minor characters, but they were experts in their field in the book, too!)

I send them both an advance copy of the book. Three days later, I get a phone call from one of them on behalf of both. They're *not* happy. At all.

~Fear of litigation~

After I casually remind them that they agreed to -- and seemed pleased to -- have a character named after them (and signed a release form) I asked what the problem was.

The response?

"We get to be characters in a romance novel and we're just doing the same damn thing we do every day? And we don't even get laid?"

Sigh. You just can't make some folks happy.


And on to the announcements!

~*~The winners from Molly O'Keefe's guest blog last week are:

Chey, Marcy & Linda Henderson

Congrats! Email Kira at to claim your prize!

~*~ Tomorrow we welcome a good friend of the Playground to the blog! Be sure to stop by to meet Diane O'Brien Kelly

Monday, September 20, 2010

Coffee: Nectar of the Gods... Or Not?

I’ve never been a coffee drinker. I’ve always loved the way it smelled, but it never tasted the same. I would eat coffee-flavored things. Coffee ice cream is my favorite flavor next to chocolate. Coffee candies and shakes are a great treat. I’ve even had a coffee scented candle. I just figured if I was going to load it down with lots of sugar then there was no point in cultivating the habit.

My preference was for hot chocolate, if the need for a warm beverage arose, but this past winter I was struck with lactose intolerance. All of a sudden, any contact with milk gave me really bad stomach pains. Lactaid offered no help whatsoever. My only reason to visit a Starbucks had disappeared.

Fast forward to August. Very big changes have been going on in my life and I was struggling to drag myself out of bed each morning and get my children off to school without forgetting all the important stuff. Stress will do that to ya. I had to have something to get me going in the morning. I tried hot tea, but couldn’t cultivate any true enthusiasm. I wanted to like it, but it just wasn’t happening for me.

Finally I broke down and got a coffee pot. By goodness, if I couldn’t manage on my own, I was going to get a shot of caffeine in some how, some way. I bought my first ever can of coffee grounds and some liquid creamer, because it had fewer carbs than the powdered kind my mama loves. What I found was that I could just make the coffee with some flavored creamer and didn’t need extra sugar.

Of course, I’m still not completely in the habit because sometimes I forget to make it. I don’t feel a major jolt of energy or anything after drinking it (maybe the brand I bought doesn’t have enough caffeine?), and I don’t miss it when I don’t have it, but it does give me a bit more focus in the morning, it seems.

So I’m forcing myself to take on a new habit. Pitiful, huh? Definitely crazy! What is your newest addiction? Do you like coffee? If so, what brand do you recommend? How do you take it?


Coming Soon!

This Wednesday, September 22, we welcome author Diane O’Brian Kelly to the Playground.

Friday, September 17, 2010

What Makes an Alpha Hero Irresistible?

Uh, no... I'm not here to tell you the answer. This time I'm asking... what makes an alpha hero so irresistable? Women love them, in books at least. In real life I doubt most women would tolerate their crap, but in a book, those cavemen-like charms are endearing somehow.

I naturally gravitate to... I don't want to say beta hero, because they aren't moody and emotional. They're manly men, but more blue collar. Cops, PIs, construction workers, former military types. I guess they're alpha in a different way. They're confident, but have a sense of humor. Protective, but enjoy watching the heroine spin like a top. And let's not forget they're good with their hands. :)

I guess the better question is what makes the Presents / Desire alpha hero so irresistible? That throws some cash and power on top of the typical alpha traits. I'm compiling a list. Last week several of you guys said you were fans of various Harlequin/Silhouette lines known for their strong alpha heroes so I'm hoping you can help me out here. So far, here's my list:

1) Attractiveness. Even if not 'pretty' they have an animal magnatism that draws in the heroine, no matter how badly he irritates her.

2) Masculinity. He may not carry two by fours around the construction yard, but he definitely oozes manilness.

3) Sexuality. This guy can make parts tingle on you that you didn't even know you had. Especially when he's infuriated you (like every ten minutes). He knows his way around a woman's body and he's not afraid to use his skills to get his way.

4) Confidence. I guess with this kind of hero its even downright arrogance. They are in control of their universe and they know exactly how everything will happen (ie. the way they say it will).

5) Wealth. I'll just throw that out there. You don't have to be rich to be alpha, but you have to be alpha to be rich. And not just well off. Scrooge McDuck swimming in gold coins rich. Although there are about 20 men on this planet with that much money (and they're probably all fat and old, sadly) there are plenty to be had within the romances pages. Whether he inherited the money/business/title, or he built his empire with his own two hands, the alpha hero owns all he sees, usually including the heroine (although she may not know it yet.)

6) A secret soft spot. Maybe he grew up in a foster home and donates millions to orphanages. Maybe he has a baby sister he spoils. Maybe the heroine is his only weekness. But he always has an Achilles' Heel. Its the heroine's job to uncover and exploit this weekness until she brings the mighty to his knees (preferably with diamond ring in hand.)

What else would you add to the list?

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Guest Blogger - Molly O'Keefe

We're excited to have RITA award winning Superromance author Molly O'Keefe guest blogging with us today! I can't wait to find out more about her upcoming series...and about what it felt like to win a RITA. So, someone give up a swing so Molly can have a seat and share! :-)

Thank you so much for having me! This is my kind of crowd - Lots of advice and information, lots of commiserating and a swing set! What's not to love?

I am celebrating the publication of my Notorious O'Neill Series with Superromance for next two months. Inspired by Paul Newman and pralines, The Notorious O'Neill series takes place in Bonne Terre, a fictional town in Louisana. Savannah, Tyler and Carter are siblings who were left on their grandmother's doorstep twenty years ago by their con artist mother. Each of the children has spent the last twenty years battling, or in Tyler's case embracing, the notorious reputation attached to the O'Neill name.

The siblings are in danger of falling out of touch with each other - pulled in separate directions by their fears and lifestyles - when the fall out of a seven year old jewel theft shatters all of their lives.

For Savannah, the baby of the family, it's a matter of learning to trust again, only the man she chooses to trust ends up breaking her heart. Tyler has to go home to Bonne Terre to face down his father, his demons, and Juliette Tremblant - the girl he loved and left years ago. Carter, as a Baton Rouge politician has been trying to keep his own skeletons in the closet - but when a beautiful stranger publicly claims Carter got her pregnant his life and lies begin to unravel.

Throw in a devious grandma with a tarnished past, a couple of stolen gems and a family home with plenty of secrets - and you have the Notorious O'Neill series.

I have two young kids, a husband and a pretty busy writing schedule. And the key to my life is compromise and discipline. I have to write - so I do. And because I write - LOTS of other things don't get done. In fact, as I sit in my office, my laundry is towering over my shoulder and the smell of dirty diapers from the full diaper pail wafting through my dirty house. But I have all the ingredients for dinner tonight and I've written five pages. That's my compromise.


1. Salad in a bag. This is dinner most nights a week. You'd think I'd be skinnier.

2. Rachel Ray -- hate her talk show LOVE her cookbooks. I'm not kidding. It takes 30 minutes and it's good. She's not lying. She's annoying as all get out but she's not lying.

3. Lap top computer not hooked up to the Internet. For those of you who don't have this and lament about not getting any writing done - this is the key. Free Cell has brought down many a writing day.

4. Coffee in massive amounts. I am not a coffee enthusiast. A recreational coffee drinker - nope. When my son was first born my husband asked if I thought maybe, just maybe I was drinking too much coffee and I told him (getting his drift and not taking kindly to it) - with sincere and utter heartfelt rage - that coffee was the only recognizable thing I had left from my old life. The coffee stays in the picture.

5. Deadlines. I'm not talking about editorial deadlines - though they are good but they are so far away. I could procrastinate forever. Nope. I have deadlines from my critique group. It's supposed to be at least a scene or a chapter every week but we've strayed from that - but if I go longer than two weeks without handing in a chunk of writing for them to critique I know I am falling behind. This is so invaluable because I know if I had a deadline just for myself I'd blow it every week. Like I do with dieting and working out.

So that's it - much like writing it's not glamorous. It's a little sad actually - but it's what I do in order to make this little dream of mine doable.

So, what are your tricks? How do you keep all your balls in the air?

Thanks for visiting with us today, Molly! Three lucky commenters will receive a book from her newest trilogy so be sure and let us know you're here. And don't forget to visit her at her website to find out more about her upcoming releases.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Let's Mention Unmentionables

Nothing lasts forever (except maybe Tupperware and that pair of shoes you absolutely hate) and so it is with underwear, namely mine. I've found myself in need of new undies and hit the store to buy new ones.

Buying underwear is almost as complicated as buying a new car and picking out wallpaper. At least there are no pushy salesmen and not quite as many different selections as with wallpaper. But as I discovered on my recent shopping trip, it's not as easy as it used to be. When I was growing up, most every woman wore the same thing -- ladies briefs AKA granny panties.

But now there is an assortment of styles and they're all pretty much based around how much of your rear they cover. The chart below gives you an overview of the various styles on the market today.

While I AM a grandmother, I'm not ready for granny panties yet, so I perused some of the other styles, and here they are in a sort of descending order of butt coverage.

The hi-cut brief is exactly what its name implies -- a brief with higher cut leg openings. It's a little less old-looking than briefs, but not much.

Then we have the low-rise brief, again pretty much what its name indicates.

I got a bit confused, though, when I looked at hipsters because I'm not quite sure of the difference between a hipster and a low-rise brief.

Further down the butt-coverage scale is the bikini. And even within this style there is the standard bikini, tghe string bikini and the dip-front bikini. Who thought there'd ever be sub-genres of underwear.

And last, and certainly least, is the thong, or as Larry the Cable Guy calls it, "butt floss."

Then there's this style that seems to incorporate a more masculine styling -- the boy short.

Once you decide on a style, you have to deal with the fabric (cotton, nylon, silk, satin, microfiber), color and whether they are solid or patterned. The day of plain white panties seems to have disappeared. Bright colors and wild patterns abound. The undies display at Victoria's Secret is a veritable rainbow of hues and designs, and just like selecting wallpaper, once you think you've found what you want, you spot a pair on another table that seems a little prettier. And since you can't try on panties, sometimes your purchase is a real gamble.

It actually took me about a week to re-stock my underwear drawer and I ended up with a combination of styles, colors and fabrics to suit different articles of clothing. I won't tell you exactly what I bought, but I will tell you that drawer contains no thongs or boy shorts.

I won't go so far as to ask y'all what sort of underwear you wear (of course, if you want to volunteer the information, I won't stop you), but I will ask this: Do you get as frustrated as I do shopping for them? Do you prefer any particular fabric? Do you like solids or patterns?

When I was researching underwear, I saw this quote and loved it:

I don't believe in the after life, although I'm bringing a change of underwear. -- Woody Allen

And don't get me started on the apparent disappearance of the woman's full-length slip. I found some in a large department store, but good gracious alive, they cost as much as the dress I wanted to wear it under. And all us Southern girls know you're supposed to wear a slip under a skirt or dress to prevent unsightly show-through if the light catches you the wrong way. Anyone remember the fuss over this photo?

P.S. The Free Book Friday winner from last week is Rebekah. Please email Smarty Pants to arrange for your prize.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

My Favorite Photo

This is my favorite picture of me and Counselor Shelley.

It’s from the spring of 1990, we’re 17, and yes, I’m a blonde. (and yes, I’m wearing acid-wash jeans, but it was 1990! It was okay then.) It’s a couple of days before Mardi Gras. We’re in Metarie, Louisiana, at one of the smaller parades. You can tell Mardi Gras was early that year because Shelley is wearing her boyfriend’s letter jacket against the cold. I didn’t like Mark much, but he was useful because he’d drive us around and, because he was a big guy who played football, he was able to carry heavy things like that cooler we’re sitting on. We had staked out our place for the parade and were waiting for it to start. Mark grabbed my camera and told us to smile. Shelley turned sideways, put her arm around me, and the flash went off. Done.

Of course, this is back in the days of film cameras, so I had no idea how the picture would turn out until much later when the pictures came back. But it’s been my favorite picture since I pulled it out of the paper WalMart envelope. It helps that we’re both just cute as buttons in this picture – no closed eyes or funny looks on our faces. Yeah, there’s a little red-eye going on, but now that I’ve scanned it in, I might spend a little time with Photoshop and see if I can’t fix that.

Maybe it’s because this is my favorite picture that I remember every detail about the moment it was taken. (I could even tell you what Shelley’s other hand was doing at the time, but I won’t. ~g~) A happy, fun moment that was captured on the fly. A true snapshot. It’s not posed or planned. It just was. Kinda just like we were at that moment.

It’s hard to imagine that I’d only known Shelley a couple of years when this picture was taken. The toughest parts of adolescence were behind us, but the really hard stuff was still to come. Of course, we had no idea what adulthood would be like…maybe that’s why we look so happy!

The photo has been tacked up on bulletin boards, taped to walls, and it’s kinda smudgy with fingerprints and the edges are getting battered. But, like the toys in the Velveteen Rabbit, you can tell its importance because it is so battered and worn. It’s my favorite picture of us – snapshot or not.

What’s your favorite picture of you like? Is it a snapshot? Who’s in it and what do you remember about it?


Monday, September 13, 2010

Movie Night

For the past month, our family has been having a movie night each week. We usually do it on Saturday nights when my husband is home early, but sometimes its on Friday nights. I spread a sheet in the living room and let the kids eat dinner (usually fast food) picnic-style by the light of the big screen. My daughter insists that the other lights be off, or else it isn’t truly a movie.

The choosing of the movie hasn’t been as difficult as I expected, considering our children are 6 and 10. We try to alternate between animated and non-animated movies, so the younger one doesn’t get too bored. After seeing the newest version of the Karate Kid, our daughter was fascinated to learn there were previous versions that she could watch on Netflix. So for movie night we found Karate Kid (original with Ralph Macchio). The youngest found the karate parts cool, at least.

But watching that movie brought back a lot of memories, as did Karate Kid 2 when we watched it. (I think I’ll watch the one with the girl with my daughter for a girl’s night.) I can remember watching these movies over and over as a teenager, because we lived out in the boonies and only got 3 channels on the tv. Most of the times, not very well. So we watched a lot of VHS. J I loved movies like Karate Kid, Iron Eagle, The Young Sherlock Holmes, Star Wars (3 original), Disney movies, Goonies, and many, many more.

Goonies happens to be one of my favorite, with hilarious stereotypes and younger versions of well-known actors. Watching it for the first time with my daughter was like seeing it again for the first time. I laughed with her, caught some of the innuendos I didn’t understand as a kid, and explained some of the inside jokes to my daughter that she didn’t understand.

It was great. So tell me, what are some of your “old favorites”? Movies from your pre-teen and teen years that you enjoyed introducing your children to. Ones that you watch every time you catch them on cable?


Coming Soon!
Join us on Thursday as we welcome author Molly O'Keefe!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Free Book Friday (Desire Edition)

I've read a lot of Harlequin's in my day. I infamously did a 6th grade book report on an Intrigue called "Deja Vu." I wore out the binding on a Temptation I loved called "Under the Covers." I've read Blaze, Presents, Nocturne, American, Intimate Moments... I'm pretty much an all around fan depending on my mood. I'm not going to elaborate on why quite yet, but I've developed a sudden and enthusiastic interest in Silhouette Desires.

I'll admit I haven't read many in the past. I picked up a couple when a friend on a message board sold and we were all so excited for her. Turned out that friend would hit the Times List and didn't need my sales much after that, but I liked them. They just weren't my go-to. Well, for the next few weeks, that's all I'm reading. I raided the bookstore today and I'm going to pass along my Desire acquisitions to you (after I read them, of course, hope you don't mind.)

The Playboy's Proposition by Leanne Banks

When Michael Medici spotted the beautiful cocktail waitress, he made his move. One extraordinary night later, he knew he wanted more from Bella St. Clair. Too bad he'd just acquired her family's business--and she despised him.

The word no wasn't in the Medici vocabulary so he made Bella an offer even the proudest woman couldn't refuse. Become his mistress, and she'd regain the company. Though she agreed to his proposition, she refused to surrender to his no-emotions-involved rule. Would this Medici millionaire succumb to his heart's hidden desire?

His Black Sheep Bride by Anna DePalo

Sawyer Langsford, Earl of Melton, never let anyone stand in the way of building his media empire. If he had to marry Tamara Kincaid to close a merger with her father, so be it. And though they got along like oil and water, Tamara had her own desperate reasons for signing on to this sham marriage. But when her father upped the ante, demanding that a child come of the union, Sawyer began to see his betrothed in a whole new light!

So if you'd like to get your hot little hands on these books, comment today with the phrase "The playboy can proposition me any day!" and share with us what your favorite Harlequin/Silhouette line is and why.

PS. Oh, and by the way, if DonnaS doesn't claim last month's FBF prize by midnight, this month's winner will pick up those books too! Be sure to enter and even more important, be sure to check back over the next week to see if you won and CLAIM your prize.

Thursday, September 09, 2010


Something happened last night that has me questioning my preconceived notions about our pets. Emma (our little Yorkie) woke me up at about 1:30. She was taking her paw and hitting it repeatedly against her water bowl so that it would knock into the wall and make a racket. She wanted a drink and she's discovered that if she does that I'll get my butt up and get her one. As I'm stumbling around in the dark trying to find the water faucet it hit me - she has me trained.

We think that we're the ones who've conditioned them to sit or stay or potty outside. But in reality we're the ones conditioned to pet them when they nudge our hand with their cold little nose or let them outside when they bark at the door.

Maybe we're both a little trained, and that's probably okay. I mean they have to communicate with us somehow since we can't have a conversation. So, do your pets have you trained?


Wednesday, September 08, 2010

It's September already!

And where in the heck have the last eight months gone?

Back to school items are already on sale, Halloween and fall items are crowding the shelves and I even caught myself looking at the price of artificial Christmas trees at Hobby Lobby last week. I need a new tree this year. Some very dear friends gave me a gift certificate to a Christmas store and because the store was having a nice sale and because I tend to think of myself as a pretty savvy shopper, I got double the bounty from the Christmas store.

However, I now have waaaaaaaaaay more beautiful Christmas decorations than will fit on my little Charlie Brown four-foot tree I got from the thrift store last year before I moved into my new apartment. Don't get me wrong. That tree made Christmas wonderful for me last year. I had only been out on my own for about a month by Thanksgiving and that's usually when I put up my tree. I had brought along a few things, bought a few others and I had my tree.

But now, I want to showcase my new stuff and a 4.5 foot tree just ain't gonna do it. So I'm going to have to start doing some serious bargain hunting for 7 to 7.5 foot slim line trees. I promise to post pictures once I get it and get it decorated. It's going to be gawgeous!

And in other decorating news, remember those Command strips I blogged about last week? I used them again. This time I put a bulletin board on the outside of the closet door in my office/spare bedroom. And because I'm having a problem getting some artwork mounted evenly on the wall, I'm going to try them with that. I have 3 of my True Romance and Confessions covers framed and on the wall. And try as I might I simply cannot get them even. I've used a level, measured carefully and the darned things are still not right. I think the Command picture hanging strips might solve the problem.

I also got an email from someone who apparently read my "favorite things" blog. I'll pass it along because some of you may be interested in entering:

I know you are no stranger to decorating your space, but did you know that a recent survey commissioned by Command products revealed that one in four women haven’t redecorated their home since Bill Clinton was in office?

Beginning September 5, Command Brand wants to reward you and your readers for creating your own amazing transformations in the Take Command of Your Space Facebook Contest. You could win $500, plus a flip-video camera and a prize pack of Command products!

Simply visit and upload a photo or two - we love before and after shots! - along with a tip about how you use Command products to simplify, organize or decorate your space. We’re selecting a new winner every week through December 25, so you can enter more than once!

Let me know if you have any questions. Looking forward to your entry!

Alicia XYZ

XYZ Public Relations

I'm not sure my mirror or bulletin board will blow them away, but if I come up with some other nifty uses, I might send in some photos because the $500 would buy that tree at Hobby Lobby.

Have YOU redecorated since Bill Clinton was in office (FYI this was 1993 - 2001)? If so, share some of your decorating tips. If you haven't redecorated, what would you love to do if money were no object?

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Film at 11 (and it ain't pretty, people)

According to a 2009 poll, this is the most trusted news anchor in America:

Jon Stewart. A comedian. A comedian on a self-admitted fake news show.

Cronkite and Murrow must be wondering if they dropped acid before they died and this is the resultant hallucination.

Now, it was a non-scientific poll, but 44% of the respondents declared a comedian to be their most trusted news source. I hope journalism schools around the country are taking a long, hard, look at their curriculums. (I also hope they’re seriously considering rescinding a few of those degrees. Dear dog, have you watched the “news” recently?)

The sad thing is that I’m in that 44%. I gave up on getting any news of substance from the major networks a long time ago. And those 24-hour channels are simply talking to hear their heads rattle. Not one of their anchors would have passed my 101 class, because their logic and reasoning (and their penchant for hyperbole) does not resemble our Earth logic and reasoning.

Two things (among many, I know) that I can’t stand are hypocrisy and stupidity. (Ignorance is different. Ignorance is simply a lack of knowledge. Ignorance is not shameful . Stupidity, however, is. The stupid should feel shame. Lots of it.) And if there’s anything Jon Stewart will take apart with glee, its stupidity and hypocrisy.

That’s probably why people find him a trustworthy source. While it’s obvious he has liberal leanings, he will skewer every stupid hypocrite regardless of their political party. I’ve seen him decimate Sarah Palin, go to commercial, then come back and slice the Democrats apart with the same vigor.

And exposing the absurdity is what’s entertaining (in a strange, sick kind of way).

Stupidity, hypocrisy and corruption run rampant in politics (and the world in general, sadly), and folks shouldn’t be surprised Jon Stewart’s Daily Show (and its spin off The Colbert Report) is so popular. After all, stupidity, hypocrisy and corruption have been the meat-and-two-veg Blue Plate Special of satirists since Chaucer.

You know, it would be nice if the “real” news shows went after the hypocrisy half as often (much less half as well) as Jon Stewart. We’d probably be a much better informed country. The fact Jon Stewart does it mostly for laughs is kind of sad.

It’s a strange, strange world we live in, people.

So, are you a "Big 3" news fan (ABC, NBC, CBS)? Or a cable news junkie? What about the local news? Does anyone even read the newspaper anymore?

Monday, September 06, 2010

MOANday: Working Hard?

It’s Labor Day! It’s Moan Day! It’s time to see some seriously hot, seriously working guys! :)



What?!?! They’ve got to clean up sometime, right?

Who's your favorite working guy on television? For mine, a hint appears in these pictures. :) Happy Labor Day!


Friday, September 03, 2010

Used Car Dealers: The Anti-Hero

I need a new car.

I'm not desperate yet. The one I have still runs, although it has its moments. Most recently it has a phantom fuel problem. Nothing that ever happens at the shop or in any consistent way that I can pinpoint. But it runs. Its paid for. Insurance and registration are way cheap. Hasn't stranded me on the side of the road... yet.

But I need a new car.

I bought my Ford Focus in December 2000. It's almost ten years old and will have hit the 150k mark on the odometer by the time its birthday rolls around. She's been a good little car. Any problems she had were more to do with the fact that she was the first model year than anything else. Once most the kinks were worked out, she's been quite the trooper. Even if I bought something new, I'd keep her. Let DB drive her to work instead of his gas hog of a truck. Have an extra car in case one needs work done on it (likely in our bunch.)

My list of requirements is short. I just want more power (V6), to be higher (SUV), to have power windows (my car was the last to roll off the lot without them), cruise control, and an auxillary input for my iPhone. I don't ask for much. A lot of cars fit the criteria. The problem is buying a new car. Or a used car. Nevermind that it makes me nauseated to think of the $500 a month payment (for a low end model) or the quadrupling of my insurance and registration costs. I'm slowly coming to terms that it isn't 1993 and cars don't come new for $13k anymore. I've just gone too long without a car payment.

The problem, really, is car lots and car salesmen. I hate them. I hate the haggling dance. The buddy buddy attitude that's slick as oil and turns on you the minute they think you're onto their game. I'd considered buying a used car. Thought it could save me some depreciation and get me more car for the money. Went to a local lot with a no-haggle policy. Found a car I liked. Was on the verge of buying it, until the test drive uncovered a noise that was either crappy tires or a wheel bearing problem. Expensive no matter how you pick it. But they wouldn't fix it. Not until after I bought it (if they could find a problem.) The car has such a fabulous warranty that they were sure they could clear up the issue (if there was one and it was covered by said warranty) after I'd ponied up over twenty grand.

Nope. Walked away. Broke my heart cause I really liked the car, but I wasn't going to set myself up for headaches with them. Now I'm thinking maybe just buying new would be better. Get model end clearance deals and rebates on a new, lower end model that might bring the cost in line with a used one with more features. I don't need leather and a panoramic sunroof anyway. There'd be warranties. Less bugs. Hopefully less lying and hassle. I'd still debating.

In the meantime, my little car will just have to do. I refuse to be rushed and cajoled into this. How did you buy your last car? Any suggestions or recommendations? New? Used? Leased? I'm in the market for a mid-size SUV/crossover (Ford Edge, Nissan Murano, Honda CRV, Toyota Rav4, etc.) if you have any tips or experience with one of these to share.


Thursday, September 02, 2010

Drama & Trauma

Ever have one of those weeks that doesn't go like you expected? So far, that's been my week. It was sort of hijacked this weekend when Sweet Pea had a horseback riding accident. She was bucked from her horse, landed on her back and the horse's hoof landed on her right side.

What was supposed to be a relaxing night at home turned into a 6 hour stint in the emergency room followed by a night's stay on the pediatric floor of the hospital. Sweet Pea has 2 broken ribs (one is displaced), a bruised lung and a very nasty scrape across her side and back but she is at home and recovering nicely.

The emergency room staff was fantastic and very thorough. They were great with SP, trying to make her as comfortable as possible while they ran test after test to make sure she didn't have internal injuries (which also meant no pain meds for those first 6 hours). They did let her see her xrays and the tech even went out of his way to wheel her into the office so that she could see the pictures from her cat scan. The fact that every time she moved she got nauseous from the pain didn't make anyone happy but for awhile they were very worried they were going to have go in and repair something. They ended up keeping us overnight because of some blood pooling in her chest cavity but she didn't develop any breathing problems and in the morning her chest xrays came back clear so they sent us home.

She's in some serious pain and every single motion hurts. However, my tough girl was highly disappointed when the doctor told her she needed to stay home from school all week. She was seriously hoping she could go back yesterday. Between you and me, I think she's looking forward to the attention she's going to get from her friends. She's definitely in the bored phase of recovery which is compounded by the fact that she can't get comfortable.

All of us are getting through this week one day at a time. It was one of the scariest moments of my life but I can absolutely say that we're all going to survive which is the most important thing. I now have an increased appreciation for anyone who works as a nurse or doctor in the emergency room. Let me take this moment to say thanks!


P.S. Melanie's winner from yesterday is Sherry Werth! Please email with your snail mail info so Melanie can get your prize to you.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Guest Blogger - Melanie Dickerson

It's the beginning of a new month and the Playground welcomes debut author, Melanie Dickerson, who also happens to be a fellow member of our awesome RWA chapter, Heart of Dixie. She's giving away a copy of her book, which hits the shelves in two days. She'll explain a little later just how to qualify. And be sure to check out the book trailer at the end of the post. It's breathtaking. So please scoot over and make room on the swings for Melanie.

Thanks for inviting me to come to the Writing Playground today, girls! I feel honored!

I’ve been pondering romance. What is romantic to you? Flowers? Your husband doing the dishes? Poetry? An old European city like Vienna? I vote for all of the above.

What about story settings? I have two time periods and locations that I think are romantic. Firstly, I like to set my romance stories in medieval Europe. And secondly, the South in the late 1800’s. Those settings are romantic to me.

Why medieval Europe? Besides the fact that it was just such a colorful time in history, I think it has a lot to do with the castles and the knights. There is something uniquely thrilling about a castle, so mysterious and intriguing. And knights are also mysterious, and the whole chivalry thing … what’s not to love?

But then, that’s also what I love about the South. The men are so gentlemanly, deferential, and … chivalrous. Not to mention strong, dangerously gorgeous, and capable of rescuing a damsel in distress.

So what setting do you think is romantic? Or does it even matter? Is it more the situation that makes a story romantic? What is romantic to you?

Since my debut novel, a young adult romance set in medieval Germany, comes out in two days (Hallelujah! I hear the angels singing as I type!) I am giving away a copy to one person who comments on this post. Please answer one or more of the questions above!

And if you’re interested in reading
a short excerpt from The Healer’s Apprentice, Pepper Basham posted one on her blog.

P.S. If you live in the Huntsville area, Melanie will be having a book signing this Saturday, September 4, at the Lifeway Store on University Drive from 12:00 - 2:00 PM. It's in front of Target near Atlanta Bread Company.