Saturday, April 26, 2008

My love-hate affair with spring

I love spring. I hate spring. For the last several years, I've had a love-hate relationship with spring. I love it because everything is blooming and greening, winter is a memory, and I'm finally warm again. I hate it because of...allergies. I developed allergies after I moved to where I now live back in the mid 1990s. The city where I live is one of the top 10 cities for allergy- and asthma-related illnesses because we have such a high pollen count and we sit in a natural depression, which makes it more difficult for the pollen to blow away.

So while I love being outside in the spring, my sinuses have a different idea. All I can say is, thank goodness for allergy medication. I've been on two oral medications for a few years, started after the over-the-counter stuff just stopped working other than to make me so sleepy I nearly fell over onto my desk at work mid-afternoon. Yesterday, I added eye drops. I really don't like putting stuff in my eyes, so it's actually difficult for me to put an eye drop in my eye. I have to look in the mirror and do it, can't just look up at the bottle and let that drop fall. I know, I'm weird. It's been said before. :)

I've noticed that I set a lot of my books in the spring and summer. I think that's because I really don't like winter, and I like my characters to be able to do things outside like hiking and picnicking and boating. Maybe I'll have to think up a wintry story just to say I've done one. It'll have to be around Christmas since I love the holiday. But I'm always a little jealous of my friends in Australia and New Zealand who get to have Christmas in the middle of the summer. :)

So what about you? What is your favorite season and why? Is there one you'd rather be able to skip each year? And if you're a writer, do you notice yourself setting your books during certain times of the year?

Thursday, April 24, 2008

How Does Your Garden Grow?

Now that spring is here, I’m starting to plan my patio garden. Years ago I gave up on having a big garden plot because all the watering and weeding was too labor intensive. Containers generally stay weed free and require only a quick watering every day or every other day. That’s my kind of garden! So I’ve started to pour over seed catalogues, trying to decide what to plant this year.

I definitely want a few tomato plants. Even though the yield isn’t terribly high, I love being able to pick a vine-ripened tomato and have it in a salad just a few minutes later.

I’ll plant a few herbs—basil for making pesto, rosemary for seasoning biscuits and dumplings, and mint because it makes such a wonderful garnish. Green pea and mint soup is a summer favorite because it can be served cold—so refreshing, and such a great color!

This year, for the first time, I’ve also decided to plant some edible flowers. So far I’ve settled on lavender, nasturtiums and pansies. Lavender shortbread made with a little lemon zest is an all-time favorite at my house, and the other flowers will be fun to toss into salads.

I’m also thinking about plants that will attract butterflies and hummingbirds to my patio. Any suggestions?

Happy gardening!


Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Vroom, Vroom!

I've been bitten by the car bug. Actually, I've been talking with my husband for the last five months about getting a new car but it's only been this week I was suddenly motivated. The reason is, I fell in love. With a car.

Let me explain.

A few weeks ago my 18-year-old daughter was rear-ended by another driver (she's fine, just was scared). She happened to be driving my old Trooper for some reason and not her dad's car. The other driver's insurance assumed responsibility for the costs associated with the accident and made arrangement for me to have a rental car while my Trooper is in the shop. They gave me a PT Cruiser to drive.

I am in love.

Odd, this isn't a car that has ever appealed to me, though I see them on the road all the time. But from the moment I sat behind the wheel, I felt comfortable. It's an easy and fun car to drive, small, yet roomy, and has a lot of zip. It's also better on gas mileage than the Trooper. I've gone online to price out PT Cruisers and to read owner reviews. They're mixed, some love the car, others don't. Since I no longer have small children and the dogs don't care what back seat they're sitting in as long as they get to go on ride, most of the complaints don't apply to me.

Did I mention the car is fun to drive?

The best part about a PT Cruiser is that it's not a car the rest of my family would want to drive. It's too small for my husband's tastes. My son is into trucks and four-wheel-drive SUV's. And my daughter has her own brand new (used) car.

Yay! No having to share.

I'll keep you posted on the car situation. Because my husband and I are going fishing this weekend, I can't go car shopping until next week, dang it :-(
I'll just have to hope the repair shop takes a rrreeeaaalllyyy llllooonnnnggg time with the Trooper so that I'm forced to keep driving the rental.

Cathy Mc

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Where Were You?

Last Friday, at 5:38 am, we had an earthquake. Okay, I better amend that. An earthquake hit in southern Illinois, but the tremors were felt all over the Midwest. Even here, where I live, in a suburb of Cincinnati. It was very exciting.

Here’s my story…I was actually working at my computer, determined to get revisions done on a book I’m writing for Avon Inspire, when my desk started shaking. Luckily, Phoebe the beagle was sitting right next to me, so I had a witness. We stared at each other, then looked at my desk again. Yep, the computer was definitely shaking. Next thing I knew, it was done. It lasted all of twenty seconds. I didn’t even think ‘earthquake’. No, I was thinking a train must be roaring by. Or a jet. I mean, really…we live in Ohio!

An hour later, after I woke up my family, I turned on the news. That’s when I heard the truth. It had been an earthquake! The tv anchors looked almost giddy with excitement. I felt the same way-something new and unexpected had happened and I was a part of it!

I made pancakes to celebrate. My kids and husband shook their heads at how easily entertained I was but wisely said nothing. Pancakes at 6:45 on a Friday morning is not a usual occurrence.

That wasn’t the best part. The best part was discussing the earthquake with everyone and anyone. Since no damage had been done, and no one got hurt, the ‘earthquake’ became a fun novelty for everybody around. “Where were you?” Became the question of the day, and boy, did everyone have answers! We discussed it during my critique group’s meeting. People brought it up in line at Starbucks. My friend at the gym was sorry she slept through it. Tremors woke up the guy doing my nails. The man at the framing store was in his car-he thought he was having tire trouble.

Obviously, it was just what everyone needed to perk up an otherwise ho-hum work week.

For me, it was kind of fun to hear a little snippet of other people’s lives so early in the morning. While discussing tremors, we talked breakfasts, coffee and tea routines, and sleep habits. People recalled visits to California, other natural disasters they were witness to, and everyone’s surprise to feel something here that happened so far away.

Today, we’re back to business as usual. School’s busy, there’s swim team practice this afternoon, and I need to go buy milk at the store. There's a chance of rain today. Oh, and I put out cold cereal for breakfast. My kids couldn’t help but wish something soon would uh, ‘shake things up’.

Anyone else feel the earthquake?

Monday, April 21, 2008

Inspiring New Arrival

Greetings from Texas. I just arrived home after spending the night in my daughter's hospital room, helping her with their new daughter. Yes, my second granddaughter was born on Saturday, a few days before her scheduled delivery date. She and her mother are fine, getting to know each other and napping whenever they can.

In times like these (and really, how many "times like these" do we have our lives?) I do think of the values and premises of Harlequin American Romances. Heart, home and family. The themes of destiny, surprise pregnancies, humorous and near disastrous weddings, opposites attracting, families pulling together, and making a home together are all evident in our family, and that's just the past two years!

My two granddaughters are named after a grandmother (Lillian) and two great-grandmothers (Roxie and Grace) on my husband's side of the family. That continues the family traditions and gives them a link to the past, even though they will never know these women. Roxie lived to be 101 years old and kept her own home until she was 100. Grace was the oldest daughter and moved with her family from their comfortable farm in the Brazos River valley to a "soddy" in Oklahoma in the late nineteenth century. What stories she could tell! I wish she'd been a writer.

I thought about those family links a lot when I wrote my June release, An Honorable Texan. At the beginning of the book, the hero is an unhappy veteran who returns home to find everything changed. For someone who tries hard to maintain the past, this is a difficult pill to swallow. I hope he redeems himself with his love for his surprise son and his respect for the baby's mother, but he was a difficult hero to write. I like to write the happy-go-lucky heroes a lot, but like our relatives, we don't always get to decide. Sometimes, a character just walks through the door and says, "write about me!"

Thanks for reading about my good news. Roxie Grace will be coming home on Wednesday, and now I'm going to take a nap to get ready for that happy event. Best wishes!


Sunday, April 20, 2008

Rachel's Recipe #3

In the spirit of the first post celebrating the release of The Marriage Recipe, I am giving you another yummy recipe that both Rachel and I use, one for sugar cookies. Trust me, these are the world’s greatest and easiest sugar cookies. By the way, if you go to tomorrow, April 21, I am blogging about what food reveals about characters.

This recipe is modified from Just a Matter of Thyme, which is at Amazon at (and while you’re there, don’t forget to pick up The Marriage Recipe if you haven’t already).

And if you missed the first two recipes, they are at

Sugar Cookies

Main bowl
1 cup butter (softened)
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup powdered sugar
1 cup cooking oil
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla

Side bowl
4 cups flour
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda

Using a mixer (stand preferred), cream together 2 sticks butter, 1-cup-powdered sugar, 1 cup granulated sugar, and 1 cup cooking oil until light and fluffy. Add 2 eggs, one at a time, and beat after each. Add 1-teaspoon vanilla. Set aside

In the side bowl, using a fork or sifter, blend together the flour, salt, cream of tartar and baking soda.

Add the ingredients in the side bowl to the main bowl a little at a time, mixing well after each addition. Then turn mixer to high speed and beat until light and fluffy. Using two teaspoons, spoon out quarter-sized dabs of dough and drop onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Take a glass, wet the bottom and dip it in a bowl filled with one-quarter inch of sugar. Press each dough blob lightly with the glass (once it has sugar on it, you do not need to rewet each time, just dip in sugar first before each cookie). Feel free to sprinkle on sprinkles or extra sugar at this time once cookies are flat. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 6-8 minutes or until the sides are a light golden brown. Transfer to a rack and let cool.