Following my husband's death in 2008, I moved from Tennessee to Florida to look after my parents. Now I'm living in a retirement community, making friends and trying new things. The most fun I've had has been ballroom dancing. So far, I've taken intro lessons in all the dances and now I'm starting intermediate. I hardly have time to read anymore but I manage four or five dances a week!

Saturday, February 28, 2009

February Reads

I'm going to cheat a little and post my review from another site of all the books I've read this month.

February started out with a bang.  Everything I read was excellent plus I was working on two series: Romney Marsh and Arcane Society.

A Gentleman By Any Other Name by Kasey Michaels *A*
The first book of the Romney Marsh series.  One of the few series I actually started with the first book.  LOL  Really good historical.  There are seven adopted children and one natural child of Ainsley Becket and each one gets a story.  This book is about the oldest, Chance.  He was a teen when rescued by Ainsley but is now an adult who works for the war office in London.  All the characters are fully fleshed.  He has hired Julia to be nanny to his daughter and must travel immediately to Romney Marsh to investigate smuggling for the war office.  He's walking a fine line because he knows there's probably smuggling going on but family loyalty outweighs loyalty to country.  Julia is originally from this part of the country and is very familiar with the smuggling routine.  It takes a while but finally the family trusts her.  There's an ongoing theme in the series where a little more info about Ainsley's background comes out in each book.

The Dangerous Debutante by Kasey Michaels *A*  (Romney Marsh book 2) This is Morgan's book.  She's a fiery temptress who's mistaken for somebody else's mistress when she first meets her hero, Ethan, who is an earl.
Beware of Virtuous Women by Kasey Michaels *A* (Romney Marsh book 3) This is Eleanor's story.  She's quiet but has a way of making things happen.  She goes to London pretending to be Jack Eastwood's wife in an attempt to find out who is attempting to ruin their smuggling operation.  Jack has worked with the Beckets for years but hasn't really noticed quiet Elly before.  When they are thrown together he begins to appreciate her and, of course, there's your HEA.  There's more about her heritage and even more is revealed about Ainley's background.

A Reckless Beauty by Kasey Michaels *C* (Romney Marsh book 5) This is Fanny's story. She and her adopted brother, Rian, have been inseparable until he goes to war following Napolean's escape from Elba. She follows him and comes to the attention of Valentine Clement, Earl of Brede. Not the best story in the series but still enjoyable. Fanny learns that her love for Rian really is that of a sister for a brother as she falls in love with Brede.

The Return of the Prodigal by Kasey Michaels (Romney Marsh book 6) *B* This is Rian's story. After he's wounded, he's cared for by the daughter of the Becket's enemy, Edmund Beales. She helps him escape her father. I appreciated her waffling between wanting to do what her father wants because she craves his love and doing what she can to help Rian with whom she has fallen in love. Lots of push me-pull me in this.

Becket's Last Stand by Kasey Michaels (Romney Marsh book 7) *B* This is both Callie and Court's book. She was given into his care by her mother just before her mother was killed and Court has watched over her ever since. She's all grown up now and it's a little hard for him to make the transition. Everyone in the family has assumed they would eventually be a couple when Callie became a woman, even Callie, so it's just a matter of convincing Court. Not really much of a romance but a terrific end to the series.

White Lies by Jayne Ann Krentz *A*(Arcane Society contemporary) Clare is a level 10 sensitive who can tell if a person is telling the truth or not.  Kinda tough to have a relationship when you can tell if your lover is lying.  She meets up with Jake who is a level 10 hunter.  After I started this (picked it up at the library) I realized I'd already read it, but it was a treat reading it again.

Second Sight by Amanda Quick *A* (Arcane Society historical) Venetia meets Gabriel at the Arcane House when she's hired to photograph the artifact collection.  She can see auras, he is a preternatural hunter.

The Third Circle by Amanda Quick *A* (Arcane Society historical)  Leona is a gifted crystal worker who runs into Thaddeus when they are both trying to steal the aurora stone and encounter a murdered woman.  Thaddeus can hypnotize people.  Leona insists the crystal has belonged to her family for generations; Thaddeus insists it belongs to the Arcane Society and needs to be in a safe place.  They are playing a cat and mouse game with a hunter who enjoys killing women.

Sizzle and Burn by Jayne Ann Krentz *B* (Arcane Society contemporary)  Maybe I'm getting burned out on JAK, but this didn't seem to have the intensity between Zack and Raine that I'd come to expect from the other Arcane Society novels.  The mystery to be solved wasn't particularly riveting either.  I like this world that JAK has built but this story seemed to be lacking something.

Finding Ian  by Stella Cameron *AA* This was published in 2001 but I just picked it up at the library.  Wow, what an emotional story.  Years ago, when Byron Frazer's wife died in childbirth, he chose to allow the boy to be adopted.  Now those adoptive parents are dead and the boy has been sent to England to live with relatives he's never met.  Byron visits England to make sure the boy is in good hands.  But while he's there he meets a young woman, Jade Perron, who makes him think he could love again.  He also gets to know the boy and decides he wants to be part of his life.  Although the author didn't capture the cadence and speech of Cornwall, she certainly brought to life the connections in a small town and how everyone knows everyone else's business.  Everyone is  given depth and texture, not just the main characters.  Jade's struggle with her dad's chauvinism, her aunt's struggle to be there for Ian, Byron's agonizing over his past and how to be there for Ian in the future are all dealt with compassionately.  

Tall, Dark and Texan  by Jodi Thomas *A*  This is a historical western.  I admit I do enjoy Jodi Thomas's stories.  This one is about a young, timid widow who ends up on a ranch with a bear of a man.  Jessie's not frightened of him, which puts her one up on everyone in town.  The reason is that she had corresponded with him for many years when she ran a bookstore.  Teagan always thought he was writing to a man since she signed the letters with her husband's name.  Now she needs a safe place and decided Teagan would be just that.  I loved the scenes between Teagan and her little girls.  He doesn't really know what to do with all of them, however.  It's a delight watching them grow into a family.

Double Fantasy by Cheryl Holt *B* Two romances in one story about Jack and Jamie who were twins.
To Wed a Wicked Prince by Jane Feather  *B* The wicked prince was a Russian double agent whose mother had been English.

Autumn Lover by Elizabeth Lowell *B* Wonderful story but really wanted to smack Hunter upside the head.  He never remembered that Elyssa was NOT like his first wife, she WASN'T spoiled and she WASN'T a flirt.  He'd realize it and promptly forget.  It got really annoying. 

All Smiles by Stella Cameron *D* A great disappointment.  After reading Finding Ian I expected some powerful emotional writing.  As much as I like regency era romance, this was not very compelling.

Marrying Walker McKay by Lori Copeland  *C*  It was just OK but had too many head-banging moments for me to recommend. Plot setup was so convoluted and outrageous as to be unbelievable.

Star Bright by Catherine Anderson *B* Rainie escapes her abusive husband and Parker teaches her to love and trust again. There was a lot of buzz about the overuse of Catholic references. Personally I liked them and felt they added depth to Parker. I'm not really a fan of stories about abused women running from abusive men because I know they will always be found and it's gonna be scary - Play Misty For Me scary.

A Very Special Delivery by Linda Goodnight A free ebook from Harlequin - Steeple Hill. Since my faith is so important to me I thought I might enjoy Steeple Hill. Meh, not so much, if this is anything to go by.

Baby Bonanza by Maureen Child Another free ebook from Harlequin. A rich man discovers he's the father of twins. Another formula I don't usually read, but I enjoyed this one. Many moments when the emotion hit me in the gut so hard I flushed, so I'd give it a B, maybe an A. I'll definitely look for more by Maureen Child.

Tender Secrets by Ann Christopher - One of my favorite authors. As the story began I wasn't sure I was going to like this one: a reporter all set to do an expose on the family who ruined her father and sent him on the road to self destruction. I should have known the author would make the characters so strong and deep that I'd get sucked in. *A*

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Movies and Memories

I just got such a laugh reading a blog by Karen Rose over at Goddess Blogs.

A special movie memory for me as an author is connected to The English Patient - a film I totally despised. (And which, incidentally, won the Oscar for Best Picture in 1996. Don’t get me started.) But it’s special because, while standing in line to buy tickets, I asked Mr. R - quite out of the blue, “If you wanted to escape your husband and fake your own death, how long before you’d be declared dead?” I’ll never forget the stunned look on his face as he turned and stared at me. “Is there something you want to tell me?” he asked. LOL. It was the plot of my first novel, DON’T TELL, which I sold in 2001. Because Mr. R and I mutually despised the movie, we spent our dinner afterward discussing my book idea. It’s a memory I’ll always keep.

Can you imagine a husband's initial reaction?

So, some memorable movies for me:

Gone With the Wind - Not particularly memorable for me but for my parents. They took me to see GWTW when I was verrrrry young. At the moment when Rhett Butler sweeps Scarlett up in his arms and carries her up the winding staircase where we know they are going to have mad, passionate sex after their fight, I piped up and asked, "What's he gonna do, Momma, spank her?" Snort Apparently, all within listening range laughed.

Romeo and Juliet (Franco Zeffirelli's) - Saw this in college with my boyfriend, roommate and her date. She and I were both English majors and I thought we (at least) would enjoy a little Shakespeare brought to life. When we left, she was crying, sobbing actually. I didn't understand why, as I said to her at the time, it's not like you didn't know how it would end. Wrong. She had no clue, had never read the play or heard anything about it. A college English major! Shocking, absolutely shocking!

The King and I (Yul Brynner and Deborah Kerr) - I watched that movie more than any other I can recall. Love the music. And Yul Brenner. Yum. I still know all the words to all the songs. LOL

Gallipoli (1981 early Mel Gibson) - This story broke my heart. It's about young Australians who join up to fight in WWI and are sent to Turkey. One of the young men is an Olympic hopeful. His coach drilled him by saying, "How fast can you run?" Archy would answer, "Fast as a leopard." "What are your legs?" "Steel springs!" At the end, the commanders need a runner to take a message to another battalion so they won't attack as it would be a slaughter. Instead of sending the runner, they send Mel Gibson's character who doesn't make it in time. At the end of the movie, Archy is going over the top and saying his mantra - How fast can you run ... Fast as a leopard ... What are your legs ... Steel springs. And he's shot as the slaughter begins. I get choked up even now as I remember it. That was the end of the movie. I had to sit in my car, couldn't go anywhere because I was crying too hard, for half an hour at least. Really powerful.

I guess I can't end this without mentioning LOTR. It was pure pleasure seeing one of my favorite tales brought to life. It was so well done and Peter Jackson was so faithful to the books. I went by myself, in the middle of the day, to see each one when they were released. I even bought the DVDs, special edition.

Monday, February 23, 2009

2008 Taxes


I had set aside three days, beginning today, to do my taxes.  It was fairly complicated because Bill had a business as an antiques consultant and part of our home was his office.  I always dreaded doing the taxes when he was alive because I'd be constantly running to him asking one question or another.  This year I had to do it without him.  A truly scary thought. So with Turbo Tax in hand I began at 8:00 this morning and by 4:00 this afternoon, I was finished.

There were a few hiccups along the way.  Instructions said if we had filed married-filing-jointly the year before I should put our names on the return in the same order (that would be with Bill's name first).  But I hadn't gotten very far before Turbo Tax decided we were both deceased and I couldn't get it to accept my edit and admit that I was still alive. Apparently I needed to put my name first on the tax return.

Then Turbo Tax couldn't understand that Bill never resided in Florida. I even put the effective date of residency in mid-December and it still made me answer certain questions as though Bill had moved with me.

I printed the return a couple of times to read it over and see if it had all the information that had been filed in previous years. Thank goodness I did because I found a few extra deductions that Turbo Tax hadn't prompted me for. Still and all, it's over and done.

So now it's time to relax and have a beer. Cheers y'all.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Two Wolves

One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside all people. He said, 'My son, the battle is between two 'wolves' inside us all.

One is Evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.

The other is Good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.'

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: 'Which wolf wins?'

The old Cherokee simply replied, 'The one you feed.'

An old friend sent this to me recently and I wanted to share. It is so powerful. I have believed for a very long time that what you think is what you attract to you. Maybe that's because I am a Pollyanna at heart. I want to believe the best of everyone. I expect people to live up to what I see in them so I prefer to see the good in them. Perhaps I am sometimes disappointed but most often not. I guess that's feeding the good wolf.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Thanks LawDog

I have to thank LawDog for the info about Tundra.  I too was a fan of Gary Lawson's The Far Side and missed his cartoons when he stopped drawing them. Tundra has the same warped sense of humor that I sooo appreciate.  This one is from Tundra's archives.

Hmmm, I also miss Doonesbury. Although I don't read the comics like I used to. Can't say when I quit or why. They stopped being very funny, I guess, and so not worth the effort.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

New Fence

Got a new fence on Monday. It's basically a dog run but at least the pups will have a little freedom outside. They had such a wonderful, large fenced yard in Tennessee. If dogs can miss things, they miss that yard.

Just before Bill went into the hospital in October, he ordered a bark control gadget that we were going to hang outside in the backyard. Sometimes the dogs would just not stop barking, like when a squirrel would get just out of reach - and stay there taunting them. heh heh When the box arrived (after Bill died) I didn't even open it because I knew I was moving. There didn't seem any point to unboxing something that would just have to be packed up again.

So yesterday, after the fence was installed, I opened the box. I was surprised to find a lot more there than just the bark controller. Bill had order a bunch of other stuff I didn't know about. Luckily, Hammacher Schlemmer was willing to accept the return even so long after it was delivered. Bless their hearts.

So I hung the bark controller on the fence and waited for the first bark. I was pleasantly surprised when the first bark was not followed by another one. They barked one or two more times and each time was followed by blessed silence. Apparently, IT WORKS. Yippee! As you can see, the houses are very close together so a little barking can irritate a lot of people quickly. The last thing I want to do is annoy my neighbors.

Now I need to buy some vines to cover up the fence. In this community you are required to have plantings around all fences to "beautify" them. We're going to look for confederate jasmine. A neighbor has it and it has survived the freezes we've been experiencing lately. It also is supposed to bloom for a few months each year so that will be lovely too.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Working in the Yard

Mom came over this morning and we worked on the backyard.  Monday I'm getting a fence for the dogs - HALLELUJAH - and the area needed to be cleaned out.  Now, you need to understand, this is something my mother loves to do.  If she could, she'd be outside raking, mowing, sowing, pruning, weeding, planting, anything as long as she's outside with plants.  Since she's pretty well run out of projects at her own home, now she's got mine to mess with.  I'm more than happy to let her have at it over here.  LOL  Unfortunately for her, I need to do this in the cool morning hours.  She likes to work in the heat of the day.  Ugh.
So we swept and raked leaves, moved a palm that was still in the pot but had taken root where it had been left, pulled weeds and removed a bunch of ivy that is trying to strangle one of the beautiful live oaks just outside my window.  Some of the vines were nearly the size of my wrist.  The yard crew out here is supposed to take care of this but they don't.  It's one thing for the Spanish moss to grow on these live oaks but if ivy gets established it will kill the tree eventually.  (So says my mother.  And if she tells me to cut something, I ask how much and where, no questions asked.)  We also pruned a couple of bushes that will be inside the fence.  I don't have a clue what they are or if they survived the freezing weather we had the last couple of weeks.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Ballroom Dancing

In my younger days, I loved dancing. As a child, I took ballet and tap. As a teen, I studied jazz and attended cotillion dance classes. Oh those cotillion dances were fun for the girls but I doubt the guys enjoyed it very much. We learned the "old fashioned" dances like the waltz, fox trot and cha-cha. This was all in preparation for my debut as a debutante. *sigh* All so long ago.

As much as I enjoyed contemporary dances as a teen, like the twist, I really enjoyed partner dancing most. Unfortunately, most men of my generation don't know this kind of dancing. When I moved to New Mexico, I learned country/western swing and two-step. It was fantastic. Sadly, Bill never got the hang of it so we never went dancing together. It just wasn't his "thing".

Now I'm in Florida, living in a retirement community and I'm taking up dancing again. Woo Hoo!  I was chatting with a neighbor a couple of nights ago and he was telling me about all the clubs and activities that are offered here. One was ballroom dancing. Well, as much as I would enjoy it, since I don't have a partner, I figured that was out of the question. He said, no, absolutely not. There are always men available to partner single women. He suggested I go to the class being held the next day, so I agreed. 

Bless his heart, he met me at the Arbor Club and introduced me to the instructor. It could have been so awkward because I'm awfully shy in groups, but he made it very easy. Then he stayed for the lesson. There were actually three men there without a partner and I was the only woman without one. So I got to switch out with them to practice all the new steps. I was tired but oh so happy when the hour was over. It's much more structured than the dancing I've done in the past, but that's okay. I'm dancing again and that's what matters.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Ugh, Migraines

Sometimes I wonder if just thinking about them brings them on. *sigh* I was reading a group list and one member said she had a migraine. Another said her meds usually worked unless she woke up with it. I commented that luckily, my meds work whenever I take it. Was I just tempting fate? Probably.

Of course I woke up with a migraine. Once I convinced myself it wasn't going to get better by just laying there, I slipped a Zomig in my mouth and let it dissolve. Then, because I was running late, I took the dogs for a walk. Sure enough, by the time I was home the migraine was gone. What a relief.

I used to get migraine headaches a lot, but since I've moved to Florida, they have significantly diminished. I guess I used to worry about Bill more than I realized.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

A Book a Day

Sometimes it seems like I read a book a day.  Today, for sure, I did.  It was so good, I just couldn't put it down.  *sigh*  I had a list of things I intended to do today, none of it got done.  None. Of. It.  The book was Finding Ian by Stella Cameron.  It's an older book, published in 2001.  I found it at the OTOW library.  If it didn't belong to the library it would become one of my keepers.

For a few shining moments, Byron Frazer had it all - an adoring wife, a newborn son - until one was snatched by the cruel hands of death, and the other was cast away by Byron himself as he launched into a downward spiral of grief and pain. He'd assured himself that he had made the right decision, and that his son would find contentment in the arms of another couple. After all, he told himself, Lori would have wanted it that way.

Traveling across the ocean to a distant land of stone walls and cobbled roads, Byron will fulfill the promise to his lost wife - and be free to move on at last. Yet as he discovers his son, he also experiences an unexpectedly fierce paternal longing. Too soon, he realizes that Ian is destined to become as much a part of the close-knit Cornish village as the lush honeysuckle that scents the summer air. As much a part of it as Jade Perron is.

Reeling from a shattered marriage, Jade, Ian's lovely, protective cousin, is struggling to rebuild her life without a man and determined to do it here, in the only home she has ever known. She's vowed that nothing can change her mind - certainly not a brash American whose eyes betray haunting heartache. . .and forbidden desire.

This book was a very emotional story. You learn of Byron's past with his wife by selected snippets of memory that are scattered through the book. As the saying goes, he's a very deep well. And Jade is dealing with a lot of issues as well with her father being extremely chauvinistic and her ex-husband trying every trick in the book to get her back. They are both very wounded individuals who come together and have the potential to heal each other. The boy Ian is also a character that you just want to grab and hug. Shoot. I can't do this book justice in a review. It was emotional, gut-wrenching and ultimately, satisfying. If you can find it, read it.

Monday, February 9, 2009

A Guilty Pleasure

I just purchased a hug me pillow. In some stores it's called a boyfriend pillow. I saw a mention of it on Nalini Singh's weblog which linked me to Saskia Walker's blog. It intrigued me. Saskia's blog linked to Amazon where it was sold for about $40. That was a bit expensive so I did a search on hug pillow and found the same thing at for half the price. I could justify this useless indulgence at that price. LOL

Now one of the reviews said the pillow was too hard and one of them said it was kinda soft. So I'm hoping I'll be like Goldilocks and find it's just right. A couple of reviewers said their husbands bought it for them because they traveled a lot. One review was really sweet from a mom who bought it for her daughter who wanted to be cuddled all the time. Between this and a B.O.B., looks like I'm all set.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Learning to Bake Sticky Buns

A couple of weeks ago a neighbor invited me over for dinner to meet some of my other neighbors. Although I've met many of them while out walking the dogs, this was an opportunity to sit down and have a chat and relax. One of the men I met used to be a baker so I asked if he would teach me how to make bread. I just love the smell and taste of freshly baked bread but I've never had the chance to be taught.

Saturday, I went to Fred and Jinny's house and learned to make sticky buns. Granted we didn't start from scratch, but these were awesome. We started with Pillsbury crescent rolls and made a sauce with brown and white sugar,butter, cinnamon and orange juice. Oh, and nuts. It was great having someone show me just how boiling and for how long and how well done the bread needed to be before you take it out of the oven. It's the nuances that make such a difference between a masterpiece and a disaster.

I left a quarter with Fred and Jinny, another quarter went to Mom and Dad and a third quarter to another neighbor. That leaves enough for me to enjoy the fruits of my labor but not enough to overdo. LOL

Saturday, February 7, 2009

It's Been Three Months

Bill died three months ago and my how life has changed.

Moving to Florida on short notice sure kept me busy between mid November and mid December. Sorting through all the things in the house, deciding what to take with me, what to sell and what to give away. I also had to get renter's insurance for my place in Florida and discovered that USAA would not do it. *sigh*

Once I was settled in Florida, we discovered that my mother's foot (which had been hurting for over a month) was truly broken.

So my life, for five weeks revolved around dog walking. I had gotten used to getting up whenever I woke up, in Tennessee. Not any longer. Mom was on a routine so Lacey, her Shih Tsu, had to be walked at 7:30 am and 4:30 pm. Sandy and Liz get worked in between. Since there is no yard, the only exercise they get is when I take them for a walk. So we went out at 0 dark 30 and to walk for 1.2 miles. You bet I measured it! Got to take a flashlight to find the poop and clean it up (a requirement in this community) and I wear a flashing light so I can be seen by drivers. I've gotten to where I really enjoy the long walks. At least I did before the mornings were 20 degrees and windy. For the past week or so I've actually waited until sunrise before dressing in long johns, woolly mitten, earmuffs and fleece hat.

In the afternoons, I take the dogs to Mom's, have a cup of tea, visit a while and then we feed them all together. I walk Lacey and then come back for Sandy and Liz when we do another 1.2 miles.

I just started reading a book on grief and it emphasizes that we must force ourselves to get out and walk, for the exercise. I've had to do it and I'm glad. Plus I've lost a little weight - a VERY good thing.

Every day I'll notice something that I tell Bill about. Yes, I do. I talk to him. Not long conversations, but just a mention like, "You would have enjoyed that". Sort of like my conversations with God. Hmmm.