Saturday, May 24, 2008

Lee's Folly

For several summers my husband and I have taken on a series of landscaping projects that include fencing and a large backyard patio. We also wanted a structure that would provide shade and create an outdoor living space, but we didn’t want a traditional round gazebo or a pergola that doesn’t have a solid roof. After scouring dozens of gardening and landscaping magazines, we found a photograph of a structure called a folly. It was exactly what we had in mind.

Wickipedia describes a folly as “a building constructed strictly as a decoration, having none of the usual purposes of housing or sheltering associated with a conventional structure. They originated as decorative accents in parks and estates. ‘Folly’ is used in the sense of fun or light-heartedness, not in the sense of something ill-advised.”

The magazine article didn’t include instructions for building the folly but luckily my husband, who is very creative, not to mention handy, was able to design and build one that suits us perfectly. We took these pictures during the construction.

To provide more shade from the afternoon sun, we’ll plant a row of columnar cedars against the back wall. And we still have to add a few finishing touches, like the ceiling fixture and a gutter to collect rainwater, but the folly is finally ready to use.

We’ll put in more plants and I’m looking forward to having some hanging flower baskets as well.

For now it’s the perfect place for me to spend an afternoon with my laptop and a cup of tea.

I’m sure you’ll agree that this folly is definitely not ill-advised! All we need now is some great summer weather!


Thursday, May 22, 2008

Shelley and the Trainer

Last September, I joined a health club. It’s not super fancy, there’s no juice bars or saunas or fancy carpeting, or even aerobic classes. It’s more like an oversized weight room. One of the perks of membership was a free evaluation with a certified personal trainer. Me, being the person that I am (I never left a Mary Kay party without being SURE I needed lots of help) signed up for that evaluation all excited, just to find out the awful truth…my body was showing the effects of being a full time writer for three years.

Yep, as I’ve gotten busier, I’ve spent an increasing amount of time sitting in front of the computer. In fact, some days, my whole reason for leaving my desk was to sit in a car and drive my daughter around. Not good. I was out of shape and on a downward spiral.

In short order, I signed up to work out with a personal trainer three times a week.

That was the last time I had fun at the gym.

I was paired with Holly, who’s 21, beautiful and 6 feet tall. As I looked at us standing side by side in those terrible health club mirrors, it was never more obvious in my life that I was, oh, let’s just be completely honest-a whole lot older and shorter.

For the first visit, we started on ‘arms’. After tackling mini barbells, all kinds of weight machines, and moving my arms around like propellers, I couldn’t move my arms for five days. The next visit, ‘legs’ wasn’t any easier. Holly began to end some sessions saying things like, “Don’t forget the Motrin.”

I can’t believe I persevered. Usually, I’m not one to force myself to do anything painful or grueling. I don’t even like to sweat! But somehow, I decided that this getting in shape thing was not going to get the best of me. I began to challenge myself to not whine so much. And, now, six months later, I’m still going. I now meet Holly twice a week and attempt to go once on my own.

I am pleased to report that I can now do girl push ups and know where my triceps are. I have balanced on balls, done leg lifts, lifted all kinds of weights, and discovered that there are muscles in my back.

I feel a little peppier and have learned to walk away from my computer a little bit more.

In short, this workout routine has done as much for my mind as my body. Oh, I can’t say I look forward to every workout, but I have started to appreciate the feeling that comes afterward…my shoulders aren’t cramped. That knot of stress at the base of my neck is gone. My big writing problems don’t seem that tough. And I get that special feeling one gets when you interact with real people and move around.

I know lots of you do things to stay mentally and physically fit, and always have…garden, walk, bike ride. What are some things that y’all do to stay active? Or has anyone else, like me, suddenly started a new hobby?

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Those Darn Texas Summers

Hello, everyone. Have you heard of SAD - seasonal affective(?) disorder I believe it's called? Well, I have the opposite. Give me a nice cloudy winter day and I'm as happy as a clam. Give me 95 - 105 degrees in the hot Texas sun and I'm downright cranky!

Yes, summer is here in Texas. I'm fairly certain that the weather will be hot and overly sunny unless I plan a trip, in which case a sudden, violent thunderstorm will pop up over DFW airport and my flight will be cancelled. See, I'm already cranky just thinking about it! I'd move to someplace cooler, but my husband, daughter, house, job, cats, dog, etc. are here. I'm kind of partial to them, as they say in Texas.

Rarely do I get to write a character who hates hot weather as much as I do. Usually they can't be too sweaty or too irritated. Most of all, they look good in sleeveless tops and shorts or bathing suits. Maybe that's the problem. I remember when I used to look good in those . . . but no, I was hot and cranky even then.

Until I get rich and famous, which is almost as remote a possibility as looking good in sleeveless tops and bathing suits, I guess I'd better stay indoors. Of course, if the good fairy wants to hit me with her magic wand, I'd be glad to buy a summer house in Maine or someplace equally cool and offer to host weekend escapes for my friends and family. First, though, I'd have to "retire" from my part time financial position at my husband's company, tell my daughter I can't help with the grandkids, find someone to feed my cats, and plan on losing every houseplant I own.

Maybe I'll just be cranky for the next four months. If you want to read about someone who is cranky for a good reason, check out Cal Crawford, the hero of my June release, An Honorable Texan. Now, that man has some serious lifestyle issues! Have a great Memorial Day weekend, a fun summer, and I'll talk to you next month.


Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Dan in Real Life

I never have spare time. However, this past weekend I found myself with a two hour block. Rather than reading or writing, I hit the remote control and purchased Dan in Real Life starring Steve Carrell.

One of my high school newspaper students had done a review on the movie and he loved it, saying it was so good even a guy could stand it.

I had to agree that I liked it. What made the movie for me was the contrast: Dane Cook played the hot, sexy hero and Steve Carrell was the boring, dull every day guy. He had three daughters, a lackluster life, and when the woman of his dreams came along, she was engaged to his brother.

Let's face it, Steve Carrell is not a hot guy. He's average looking. He's the boy next door in niceness (especially in this movie). He's not the guy you often find in romance novels, but in this movie (have you ever noticed how big Steve Carrell's nose is from the side?), all the elements worked.

The thing that struck me is that the characters wouldn't necessarily work in most romance novels. (Note the most.) In many, the characters are extremely attractive. They aren't average; even the boy next door. So I guess my question is this--do we want a little more fantasy in our novels? Or are we ready for Steve Carrell type-characters instead of sexy Richard Gere in Pretty Woman?


Monday, May 19, 2008

Coas out your inner child

I write this from Siesta Key, Florida, where my husband and I are vacationing for nine days. We love Siesta Key, which is part of Sarasota. Some have said the beaches at Siesta Key are among the top 10 worldwide. I have to agree (though I’d love to visit the other nine to make sure ☺ ). The sand is as white and soft as talcum powder, and never seems to get too hot on your feet. I’m told it is made of crushed crystals.

This time of year the water is about 75 degrees, perfect in my opinion. Playing in the waves, body surfing, and just enjoying the pelicans and egrets—it all brings out my inner child. It’s been awhile since I laughed for the sheer joy of feeling a wave crash over me. My inner child is out and feeling fine.

I’d write more, but the ocean is calling and that inner child is dancing with anticipation.

Until next time, and wishing you all the joy of coaxing out your inner child,
Ann Roth