Saturday, November 21, 2009

Things I'm Learning in Mineola, TX

Good morning from Lake Holbrook, where the weather has finally cleared. We've had rain and drizzle for several days, keeping us indoors and keeping some furniture deliveries away. We moved into the lake house last weekend and now we're looking forward to Thanksgiving here next week. Happy holidays to you and your family wherever you are spending turkey day. It is my most fervent wish that you do not spend the holiday at an airport!

I wanted to share a few things I've learned over the past two weeks. Keeping in mind that I'm a city girl and I only had what other people told me and my experience at our primary house, I was a little surprised.

1. If local people tell you they'll be here, they'll be here. (People from other communities may not be so reliable.) If they tell you they'll be here at 9:00 a.m., be ready at 8:00; they may well be early.
2. Give away plenty of autographed books, especially if the person you are giving them to has some knowledge of the area where they are set. Almost everyone is from someplace else.
3. Do not expect city amenities at restaurants, and do not expect to find a nice bar where you can go for a glass of wine with friends. If the VFW doesn't serve it, it doesn't get served.
4. Expect lots of stories about the origins of things and the histories of neighbors. This may not necessarily match the other histories you've heard or the legal records you've seen.
5. If they don't sell it at Wal-Mart, you probably aren't going to get it (new.)
6. Don't expect to go shopping anywhere but Wal-Mart after 5:00 or 6:00 p.m.
7. Don't expect to go out to a restaurant with dim lighting except on Friday or Saturday night, if then.
8. Ask if people will deliver large purchases, especially after explaining that you do no own a pick up truck. (Expect some looks of pity or disbelief.)
9. If something needs to be done, you can probably find someone's brother, cousin, neighbor or friend who will do it gladly for a reasonable price (unlike in a large city, where apparently no one really needs to work.)
And finally, on a personal note ...
10. Carefully consider what you need to take upstairs and what you need to retrieve from upstairs before running up and down the steps a dozen times in a row. At some point, you will lose the desire for mascara, clean socks and that magazine you were reading.

Happy Thanksgiving! Have a great week.


Friday, November 20, 2009


Last week I had the opportunity to take 14 high school journalism students to the Journalism Education Association/National Scholastic Press Association High School Journalism convention in Washington, D.C.

St. Louis had the wettest months on record in October, making all of us think that moving to Seattle or Forks might not be so bad. When we left St. Louis, the weather was the first sunny day most of us had seen in over a month.

We flew right into the remnants of Hurrican Ida as she traveled up the eastern seabord. From the moment we landed at Reagan, the rain started and didn't let up until we boarded the bus to the airport. We flew right back into rain on Sunday's trip home. It's been over a week since I've seen dry ground or the sun.

The first night of our trip, however, after shelling out $36 each for a monument-by-night tour, we all donned the 40 degree weather and the pouring rain to tromp around Washington, D.C. Two of us had umbrellas, although the wind made them useless. We simply got soaked. I was wringing my socks out and stomping my feet to get the feeling back.

Yet, none of that mattered. We were there on Veterans' Day, and as we reached the Korean War Memorial and saw the faces etched into the wall and the life-size statues, it struck all of us that the soldiers had endured so much more. We were climbing on and off a bus, eventually destined for a dry Metro ride back to the Marriott Wardman Park hotel. So we braved on. Up the stairs to see Abe Lincoln. Back down to cry over the Vietnam War wall. We walking down Pennsylvania and waved at the snipers atop the White House.

I realized it was all about perspective last week, especially later when we chose not to go to the award ceremony and went sight seeing instead. Having been entered but never winning, we figured that Murphy's Law said if we skipped, we'd place. We did. The yearbook I advise took 6th in NSPA's national best of show competition. The website my kids do ( took 10th. Eight of the 14 placed in individual writing competitions. Yeah, it sounds like bragging but the truth is my kids are awesome.

Sometimes a change of scenery and a break is necessary for perspective. Sort of like missing the forest because of the trees. DC was a great experience. We were humbled. Reenergized. It was a chance to simply feel the lifeblood of another place (albeit wet). As for me, I had a great trip and are glad to be home--even if the sun still won't come out.


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A Very Wicked Evening

Living in the center of the country has its perks, I'm sure, but the chance to enjoy a Broadway musical isn't one that happens often. I envy those who live close to NYC and have the opportunity to enjoy seeing some of the best theatrical productions in the world. In Kansas, that doesn't happen very often.

Quick backstory: In 2003 while I was attending RWA's National Conference, three of my fellow RWAer's and I enjoyed a day of sightseeing. We were near Times Square when I looked up to see one of the biggest and especially longest billboards I've ever seen. I took a picture...or so I thought. None ever showed up on my camera. But I raved about it to my family when I returned home, saying that someday I wished I could see the musical I'd seen advertised on that billboard.

A week and a half ago, I had the immense pleasure of attending that Broadway musical--WICKED - The Untold Story of the Witches of Oz--not in NYC, but in Kansas. A bit ironic, yes? My oldest daughter bought tickets months ago and insisted I go with her, her hubby, and one of her friends from work. I did, and it was one of the most wonderful experiences of my life.

Now, I've been to some excellent theater productions in my life, ranging from some of the best high school and college plays in the area to two summers of theater-going that starred many big names from Broadway, movies and TV, including Joanne Worley from Laugh-In and John Raitt from Broadway and movies. I even have autographs! And I have a clue about the hard work that goes into theater productions, because I acted in several plays in high school and helped start a local community theater, once upon a time. But nothing compares to the wonder of the evening a week-and-a-half ago.

The scenery was magnificent, the costumes were... well, out of this world, even from our front row balcony seats. I hadn't read the book by Gregory Maguire, although my daughter had, so I was in for a surprise, and it was fascinating how the author took a well-known story and opened the eyes of the world to what "really" happened. The two lead actresses, Helene Yorke as Galinda (Glinda, the Good Witch) and Marcie Dodd as Elphaba (the Wicked Witch), could both belt out songs that sent shivers through me. The rest of the cast was equally good, and I've never enjoyed anything so much.

Hugs and lots of love to my daughter Sabrina, who not only bought the tickets and wouldn't let me back out, but also surprised me with a souvenir T-shirt afterward. I'll always treasure the memory of seeing the show and will wear the shirt with joy. A movie version of the musical is scheduled for 2012, so if you haven't seen the show, you'll have the chance to see the next best thing. Don't miss it!

Defy gravity!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Thanksgiving Meal: Gravy Woes

The success of my Thanksgiving meal is a crap shoot every year. I freely admit--don’t even pretend to be--could care less that I'm not--a great cook. I know--only a person who would be just as happy if meals came in little white pills would think this way. I have no idea where I acquired this attitude about food. I truly enjoy eating out at my favorite restaurants, but spending time in the kitchen... Nope, I'd rather be writing or gardening or just about anything else but slaving over a stove (except maybe cleaning). The only part of the Thanksgiving meal I never hear a complaint about at my house are the mashed potatoes--probably because I use real butter and heavy whipping cream.

So every November I spend countless hours surfing the web for no-fail recipes and helpful hints to make my Thanksgiving meal palatable--not delectable--I'm realistic about my abilities in the kitchen. I don't know about anyone else but I can never make good gravy. Usually it's tasteless and either too starchy or too runny. This year I came across a hand-written note in one of my mother's cookbooks. She must have gotten the tips from a women's magazine years ago. I've since stuck the note to my refrigerator hoping that come Thanksgiving Day I'll be able to make decent gravy.

Note: Use a wire whisk to stir the gravy to avoid lumps. Cook the flour in the fat (before adding liquid). Don't be stingy with the salt.

If the gravy tastes burnt add a little peanut butter to mask the taste.
If the gravy is too thick add chicken broth to desired consistency.
If the gravy is too thin dissolve 1 tablespoon cornstarch in 1/4 cup water and add while boiling and stirring. Repeat if necessary.
If gravy is too bland add a bit of sherry, salt and pepper or poultry seasoning to enhance the flavor in the natural juices.

Feel free to jump in here with your own helpful tips for making a great Thanksgiving meal--my family will be forever grateful!

Happy Thanksgiving!

A Cowboy Christmas 2 stories in 1 book! (Dec 09)

Sunday, November 15, 2009


My husband has always done most of the work around our house himself. It’s saved us tons of money over the years. He roofed the house himself. He does air conditioning, electrical and mechanical. But as I’ve mentioned before, we moved to a more rural neighborhood this summer with a couple acres. All our married life, hubby has dreamed about having a real shop for his projects. Not just the garage, where I get upset when he kicks my car out or leaves his tools, nails, etc scattered. So part of the deal when we moved was that I got my smaller single story home and he got to build his shop. Of course, it’s proving more costly than he’d anticipated. Big surprise, huh! Now if I haven’t made it clear, this shop is his. I have very little input. I get to make decisions about the house and spend money making it nice and he gets to design his shop.

But here’s the fun part. And I don’t think I’ll mention it to him and spoil his fun in thinking he’s the only one enjoying this project. As we’ve gotten older, and given that we both still hold down full time jobs, he’s actually hiring contractors to do some of the work. Today so far we’ve had three dump trucks making a huge mound of dirt in the back and currently there is a bobcat running around. It may be hubby’s shop, but watching these young guys work is certainly more fun than I’d anticipated. Tight jeans, cotton tee shirts, and sunglasses. Toss in a little good old fashioned sweat. Truly a romance writer’s heyday. I’m feeling remarkably inspired to write today. But has anybody except me noticed how these guys get younger every year?