Saturday, February 26, 2011

What a Difference a Month Makes

Last month, I looked out my office window and blogged about what I saw -- dark, dreary, cold weather and more snow than we usually have here in the South. What a difference a month makes. Today it's sunny, going to be about 60 degrees, and my daffodils are on the verge of blooming. I don't think there's anything that says spring to me more than bright yellow daffodils. We even just had our first spring-like storms a couple of nights ago -- tons of rain, lightning, thunder and wind. In parts of the city, the tornado sirens were wailing. Okay, so I could do without the tornadoes, but it's just another sign that spring is fast approaching.

This time of year (as opposed to January), I feel good, like anything is possible. My mood is great and I'm concentrating on lots of positive things:

1. My exercise/eating -- I've lost 7 pounds so far in February. That's because I've been tracking my calories and exercising a couple of hours a day. It is a thrill to get on the scale in the mornings and see the number go down. And that positive feeling propels me to keep doing what I'm doing.

2. I've dug out the genealogy records I haven't looked at in a decade and started working on them again. Yes, watching Who Do You Think You Are? partially inspired this, but I'm hoping I can eventually find out where my family came from when they came to America. I know my maternal line's history, but my paternal one is a mystery to me.

3. I'm headed to the Hill Country of Texas soon to do some on-site research for the trilogy I'm currently writing for American. I've been there before, but I wasn't in "writer mode", if you know what I mean. Now I'll be taking tons of photos and picking up every tourist brochure and local newspaper I can find. Plus, OMG, it's going to be in the 80s in Texas. I'll get a taste of not only spring but summer!

4. We had a new driveway and walkway put in over the winter, so now it's time for new landscaping. I can't wait to see what it looks like after Jason the lawn guy gets finished. I need to do before and after photos.

5. Even though both of my grandmothers were good seamstresses, they both died before I was old enough to be much interested in sewing. So I missed the opportunity to learn from them, and consequently I can't do much more than put a button back on my hubby's shirts. So I think I'm going to take a sewing class in April at the local Jo-Ann Fabric. I like to do cosplay at Dragon*Con each year, and it would be awesome to someday be able to make my own costumes, not to mention, you know, regular clothes. :) Maybe even a fabulous dress for the RITA ceremony at RWA National.

6. I used to cross-stitch before I got really serious about writing, and I have a half-finished project I'd like to finish, not to mention several cool patterns I haven't used yet. So after I meet my next deadline at the end of March, I think I'll pull out the cross-stitch stuff and get back into that again.

Does spring rejuvenate you? What new things would you like to try this year? What things haven't you done in a long time that you'd like to start again?

Friday, February 25, 2011

A Different Kind of Launch Day

Usually, when we talk about launches on this website, we're talking about our newest Harlequin American releases. Today, though, let's talk about a different kind of launch.

That’s a NASA photo of the shuttle Discovery sitting on the launch pad at Cape Kennedy. As I’m writing this, it’s lift-off day on Florida’s Space Coast. The shuttle Discovery is set to blast off on its final trip to the International Space Station a little before five pm. And that means tourists and visitors have thronged Brevard County. Titusville, especially, has taken on a carnival-like atmosphere.

There’s not a hotel to be had—for love or money—between New Smyrna and Palm Bay. Campers, tents and motor homes line the shore along the rivers. They crowd the parking lots at the beaches. Restaurants are jam-packed, and souvenir stands have popped up on every street corner.

Any rocket launch is an awe-inspiring sight, and a shuttle launch is extraordinarily spectacular. The thunder of a thousand freight trains fills the air. The ground literally shakes as more than two million pounds of rocket fuel provides nearly seven million pounds of thrust to get the big bird off the ground. Flames spew from the huge engines, creating a fiery trajectory that can be seen from as far away as Orlando.

But if you still have a shuttle launch on your Bucket List, you’ll want to book your travel plans soon. Discovery will be moth-balled when it returns from this flight. Endeavor makes its final trip to the Space Station in April. And after Atlantis lifts off in June, that’s it. Now that our space program is headed in a new direction, who knows when—or if—there’ll ever be another manned flight.

Pictures of Discovery on the launch pad and at lift-off courtesy of the National Air and Space Administration. View these and additional photos at

Discovery at Lift-off on 2/24/11

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Oscar Night

Where will I be on Sunday evening? In front of the television watching the Academy Awards! Even though I haven't yet seen any of this year's nominees—no, not even The King’s Speech—I love Oscar night! The red carpet, the MCs (I adore Anne Hathaway), the entertainment, the acceptance speeches...I can't wait!

I'm not one of those people who goes all out for Oscar Night, but I'll still be doing some extra-special snacks for the occasion. Here's one of my favorites.

Baked Brie
1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
8 ounces brie cheese

Heat the olive oil in a small skillet. Lightely saute the garlic and tomatoes. Stir in the basil and parsley and continue cooking unitl the parsley is wilted. Stir in the balsamic vinegar and cook for another minute or so, till evaporated. Put the brie in an ovenproof dish, heap the tomato mixture on top and bake in a 350-degree oven for ten minutes. Serve with crackers or a baguette. Enjoy!
Happy Oscar Night!

Until next time,
The Wedding Bargain (January 2011)

Monday, February 21, 2011

A Very Melancholy Birthday

Today is my 60th birthday, which under any conditions is a mixed blessing. On the bright side, I'm still around, alive and kicking despite my own "best" efforts and a family history of early heart attacks, and I get even more senior discounts for movies and restaurants.

On the other side, I'm 60.

I was going to post lots of photos from my birthday dinner and party last Saturday night, but we had to cancel the momentous occasion. My beloved father-in-law, whom I've mentioned several times as I've written about where I learned about small Texas towns, is dying. He is almost 93 years old and he's tired. His body is worn out and he's ready to be reunited with is wife of more than 60 years who passed away in 2005.

We understand that it is time and he wants to go to sleep and not wake up, but it's never easy to say goodbye. He's the family patriarch. When he spoke, we all listened. He enjoyed life so much, especially after retirement when he and Sudie, as we called my mother-in-law, went dining and dancing. They traveled to every state except Alaska, putting lots of miles on their big Cadillac sedan which was like a rolling living room.

No matter what happens this week, I know that Dad's stories and words of wisdom will be with me always. Thank you for allowing me to share this with you. I want to thank you in advance for your thoughts and prayers as I may not be able to comment in a timely manner. I know you'll understand. Please, tell your loved ones how much they mean to you because even after 60 or 92 years, life seems short and at times, unbearably fragile.