Monday, January 30, 2012

Thousands want to know your laundry habits!

Dryer_balls2Okay, so I've been seeing these dryer balls in the grocery store for months and I wondered ... do they really work?

Okay, I'm looking to stop using any kind of chemicals I can ... but I also wonder if it is bad to have plastic balls in your dryer getting HOT and possibly giving off chemicals that you're trying to avoid by using them.

Does anybody know?

Does anybody use them?  If so, do you like them?

Thousands want to know!

Friday, January 27, 2012

I won't strut the catwalk in these boots . . .

Winter's here, and I've got boots.

For many years (more than a decade), I couldn't say that.  Why?  Because I couldn't find any boots I liked.  Okay, I'll admit it. My last pair of boots leaked like sieves and I figured I may as well just wear my sneakers and have wet feet anyway.  But this year ... I decided to bite the bullet.

Totes bootsI'm no clothes horse.  I've had fashionable boots in the past.  Not only did they leak, but they hurt my feet.  This year, my mother saw a pair of Totes boots she liked at JCPenney, but they didn't have her size, so I ordered them for her online.  As it happens, we wear the same size shoe, so when her boots came, I tried them on, and--Whoa--they fit perfectly. Even better, they weren't super expensive.  I went straight home and ordered a pair for myself.
What a difference.  Unlike my sneakers, they're WARM.  So far my feet have stayed dry.  I can shovel and not have Popsicle toes.  I am a happy camper!

It's true, they are NOT glamorous, but so what?  I want warm, dry feet and they deliver.  Now to hope they last more than one season without leaking.

Are you a fashion hound when it comes to boots, or do you just want dry feet?
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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Surely that's WORTH a giant cookie!

by guest blogger Janet Bolin

Blue suede shoeMy mystery-writing career began when someone lost a shoe.

I found it.

To the consternation of the woman walking with me, I shoved the shoe into my briefcase and took it home.

The next morning, I took the shoe to work and called my doctor.

Are you still with me? Oh, sorry, that was rather a large . . . um . . . step.

Okay, here’s how the conversation went, sort of.

Me: “Have any of your patients reported losing an orthotic?”
Receptionist: “No.”

Me: “Because I found one. It matches my orthotic.”

Receptionist: “Is it yours?”

Me: “No. The sticker on the bottom of mine says Bolin. The sticker on the bottom of hers is torn, but these are the letters I can read. T-E-N-A.”

Receptionist: “First or last name?”

Me: “I don’t know.”

Silence.

Me: (getting desperate—as anyone who has ever purchased orthotics knows, they are hideously expensive.) “It’s in a blue suede woman’s shoe, size 8M.”

More silence. Then, with a great deal of doubt, “I’ll see if we have any patients matching that.” Click. Dial tone.

My sense of triumph lasted at least an hour. But day after day passed, and I didn’t hear from the doctor’s office. Some poor woman had lost an expensive item, and could be hobbling around on very sore feet. On one very sore foot.

What could have possibly happened to her? Maybe something terrible.  
  
Typing-at-a-keyboard1I started to write about a woman setting out to find the owner of a lost shoe.  I scribbled and scribbled (actually, I keyed the words, but scribbling sounds much more dramatic) and couldn’t stop.

Finally, I received a call. “I hear you found my shoe.”

Tena showed up at my office to collect her shoe and her expensive orthotic. She brought me a HUGE chocolate chip cookie in the shape of a high-heeled shoe. “The people in my office are calling you the Shoe Goddess,” she said.

Shoe cookie cutterBreaking off and gobbling chunks of cookie, the people in my office probably started thinking of me as the Chocolate Chip Cookie Goddess.

We all lived happily ever after.

All of us, that is, except for the woman in my story who lost a shoe . . .

That was my first manuscript, the one that lives in the proverbial drawer. But I was hooked on writing mysteries.

What about you? Did you ever do something strange that propelled you into accomplishing something you’d always wanted to try?
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Dire ThreadsThe first book in Janet Bolin’s Threadville Mystery series is Dire Threads. Visit her website or talk to her on Facebook and/or Twitter.  The second book in the series is Threaded for Trouble, arriving in stores June 5, 2012, and is now available for pre-order.
Dire Threads:  Amazon ~ Kindle   ~ Barnes & Noble / Nook   ~  Indigo   ~  Books A Million   ~  The Book Depository    ~  Independent (US) Bookstores
Threaded For Trouble:  Amazon   ~  Barnes & Noble   ~  The Book Depository   ~   Books A Million  ~ Independent (US) Bookstores

Monday, January 23, 2012

I can now be taken out in public!

Well, it's about time I spiffed up.  I mean, I do have a book signing to go to in a couple off week.  (I'll be signing The Walled Flower.  If you're in the Rochester, NY area -- maybe you can come and say "HI!")

ScarvesNow, I hate to dress up, but in the past couple of months, I've invested in several scarves. I have a really pretty purple and gold one (it shimmers), silver, a black-and-white floral.  I even have a few knitted ones. (The one I made myself convinced me that my knitting days are over, thank you very little Mr. Carpal Tunnel syndrome.)

But what do I know about wearing them?  Well, isn't Google just the best thing around.  I found a video to help me out.  (Although, come on -- NOT choice No. 3.  The woman looks like she's trying out to be the bow on a Valentine's Day gift.)

So far I've successfully worn one of my scarves once. I mean, I went to a party and nobody laughed. In fact, a couple of other women were wearing very nice scarves. I felt like I belonged (and believe me, that doesn't happen very often).

Do you wear scares to spiff up?

Friday, January 20, 2012

Movies I've seen at least 20 times . . .

Okay, over the years I've had a LOT of favorite movies.  And now I have a new one.

ST IIIOkay, I still have LOTS of favorite movies that I watch depending on my mood.  Sometimes I watch Star Trek: The Search For Spock, because if there was ever a story that explores the depths of friendship, that's it.  I love Star Trek First Contact because we see Captain Picard pushed to the brink, and yet . . . he's still every bit a hero.

I watch Pollyanna when I have a long and boring task (because it's incredibly LONG) and because Hayley Mills is charming.  I also love The Secret Garden. (And I read the book a couple of times every years, too.)

Rosemary ClooneyI love White Christmas and hate Betty Haines every time I watch it.  But I still watch it.  Wayyyyy too many times when Christmas rolls around.  (Why didn't she just ask Bob what he was up to?  Nooooo, that would have shortened the story by about twenty minutes.  But she wouldn't have looked like such a jerk.)
Love_actually
But lately I've been watching Love Actually (when I can tear myself away from my latest manuscript.  I admit, I did watch it at least four times in December ... not all that much, really.)  It's such a cool movie, with so many different looks at what makes love.  People in love.  People out of love.  People wanting love.  Peopel denying themselves of love.  And though it's set at Christmastime, it doesn't have to be Christmas to enjoy it. And for most of the people involved, it has a happy ending.  (Come on, sometimes you really just want to see  happy ending.)

What's your current favorite movie?

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Last week I went to the Lands End Inlet (as opposed to outlet) store.  Way cool!  I was on a mission:  to buy one of their wonderful tote bags.  I thought it would be a great way to carry stuff to and fro this summer when we go to the cottage.  (Can you tell I'm already counting the days until we can start going down there again?)
So we drove across town and go into the store.  I asked one of the clerks where to find them. She said against the wall, but if we didn't mind monogrammed ones, they were on sale.

Pink toteShe wasn't kidding.  The monogrammed ones -- I assume ones that were ordered but for some reason never purchased, or perhaps they were monogrammed incorrectly -- were drastically cheaper.  As a former vendor in an antiques co-op, it pains me to pay retail for anything, so getting a bargain was a good deal for me.

I picked through the bags (and boy, were there a lot of them) and found the perfect one.  It was white with pink accents with a monogram of HCO.  Not only that, but there are cool pockets inside, and it zippered shut.  Can you say "almost perfect in every way?"

When I went to pay for it, the clerk said I would get an extra 20% off.  Even better!  As she cashed out my purchase, she asked if I was interested in removing the monogram.  I was.  So she put in a sheet of instructions on what to do.  Ya know what, I actually read the thing for helpful hints!
Head loupeI got home, borrowed a seam ripper from my mother, took out a pair of fine tweezers and went to work.  First, I went after the BIG C in the middle. 

Whoa--this was a lot harder than it looked.  I had to get out Mr. L's head loupe because the stitches were very tiny and my close-range eyesight has never been all that good.  After quite a long time, I managed to pick out all of the letter C.  As far as I was concerned, that was enough.  Until I realized what the remaining letters spelled.

Can you say "HO!"

HNO, I did NOT want to be known as a HO -- but oy!  The "O" was pretty easy, but it took forever to pick out that H, which had a lot of curlicues. Afterwards, I followed the instructions, which said to use a little liquid Ivory Snow and gently wash the area with a toothbrush and it would help hide the offending letters. (Lucky I had some on hand.)  I did, and it did! Now I have a lovely tote and without someone else's monogram or an offensive term written on it.

What was your last great bargain?

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous this aint!

Recently one of my ex-co-workers responded to a Facebook post where I talked about the upcoming release of The Walled Flower.  (okay, can you blame me?  It's one of my favorite topics right about now.)  In it she said, "I know somebody famous."

Sex tapeWait a minute.  Me, famous?

No, no, no.

I'm not even a celebrity (and when you consider that people like Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian get to be celebrities by appearing in sex videos -- no thanks, that's not the life I'm looking for).

Let's face it, even in my Lorna Barrett persona (my best known name), I couldn't walk into a Starbucks in Rochester, NY and get a free cup of Joe by pulling the fame card.  "Who?" they say, squinting at me and taking in my faded jeans (they got that way by years of wear, not by paying an exorbitant price.  And besides, I don't drink coffee.)

I've always heard it's better to be rich than famous.  I think that must be true, but about now, I'm wondering how to get to the rich part.

And if I was rich, what would I do with all that money?

Formica samplesWell, first off, I'd get a brand spanking new kitchen.  I have a TINY kitchen (and worry that future prospective buyers will bolt when they find out it's so tiny there's no room for even a bistro table and chairs), but I don't even want granite counters, and stainless steel appliances.  Nope, just some new counters (Formica is fine with me) and reface the cabinets.  Oh, and replace the slippery-when-wet ceramic tile with one that has a little texture.

A new car.  Not a Caddy or even a BMW ... nope.  A Town and County minivan with stow-and-go seats.  Don't even need extra BRDs (beverage restraint devices) because I use both hands to drive (and, as mentioned above, I don't drink coffee).

BlazeatcrackerboxI could give more money to charity if I had more to spare.  My favorite charities are:  Crackerbox Palace farm animal rescue (a lot of people see farm animals as expendible.  Well, I don't. They deserve a long and happy life just like cats and dogs), The Wayne County Humane Society (I'd give to the one in my own county, only they are well funded--Wayne County has a lot of poverty, and not enough $$$ to spay and neuter, etc.) and St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital (although I'd feel a lot more comfortable giving them more money if they laid off sending stuff out like stickers and calendars and stuff and just used the money I send to CURE KIDS OF CANCER!!!!!).  I'd also give more to my local Food Pantry.

GirlTreeJPGOkay, I MIGHT buy a few bracelets and earrings, and a couple of 1950s Christmas figurines that cost more than a buck each (my garage sale limit).  But other than that . . . .

What would you buy if you had unlimited funds?

Monday, January 16, 2012

Has the golden age of personal web sites passed?

I have counters on the index (home) pages of my web sites (and even on this blog).  That way I can see how many people come to visit on a daily/weekly basis.

It's no surprise that my Lorna web site gets the most hits, and it's pretty steady.  (That's unique visitors.)  I sure wish it was more, but I'll take what I can get.

Piechart2Unfortunately, my other two personas don't get those kinds of hits.  It's discouraging to me, because I've been shouting from any rooftop I can find that I'm writing under three names.  Lorraine's site is doing eh-okay.  L.L.'s site ... you don't want to know.  This pie chart isn't accurate, but it's not too far off, either.

This is rather discouraging.  Especially since Lorraine has a new book coming out Februray 7th.

I put my web site address on all my promotional material.  I list them in the acknowledgments in all my books.  I would expect that more people would seek the sites out.

Do you think the golden age of web sites is over?  What do you like to see in an author's website?

(Just in case you want to visit my websites to compare them, you can find them by clicking my various names:  Lorna ~ Lorraine ~ L.L. )
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Friday, January 13, 2012

Oh, how I hate winter ... how about you?

Here in Western NY, we've been enjoying November for the past three months.  I'm sure other parts of the Northeast have, too.   It's been great.  I mean, I can't remember such a wonderful winter.  A winter with virtually no snow.

Winter weatherLast year was the pits.  It seemed like it snowed every day. I was out there with my roof rake just about every day, and snowblowing the top of the driveway, too.  (We have an "L" shaped driveway.) Over the summer, we had our landscaping redone.  Weeeee!  Suddenly without all that overgrown stuff lining the drive, the plowman can get in and plow the L-shaped top of the drive.  But oddly enough ... he's only had to do it once this season.

Until today.

Winter has suddenly reappeared.  BAH!  Humbug.

I was quite prepared to go straight through until May with November weather and now ... it's all been ruined.
PhilI'm sure that a few weeks from now Punxsutawney Phil pops out of his hole on February 2nd, you just KNOW he's going to way SIX MORE WEEKS OF WINTER.  I'm just afraid he'll say TWELVE more weeks of winter because we've skirted the issue for so long.

How's winter been where you live?

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The PO just loves me ... NOT!

TheWalledFlower.smGuess what?  I can't get 32 cent stamps.

Why is that such a big deal?

Because I want to mail my postcards for The Walled Flower out AFTER the postage goes up next week.  But guess what?  They won't sell the new stamps UNTIL the postage goes up.  That wouldn't give me much time to stick the stamps on over 2500 postcards.

And why am I waiting to send the postcards until AFTER the postage goes up?  Wouldn't it be cheapter to do it now?

Yup.  By $75 . . . except . . . it's expecting a LOT to ask people to remember HERE'S MY NEW BOOK, BUT YOU CAN'T GET IT FOR THREE WEEKS.  Nope, it's better to send the cards out about a week before publication.  (Although some stores do jump the gun and offer the book for sale ahead of the publication date -- which screws up my changes of hitting the New York Times bestseller list ... but in the long run it's sales, not the timing of them, that really count.)

3 cent stampSo, the bad news is I have had to buy my stamps at the current rate (and my local PO ran out of the 29 cent herb stamps and I had to resort to some polar bear stamps), PLUS either 3 cent or 4 cent stamps to bring the postage up to the new rate.  Can you say "TAKES TWICE AS LONG?"

*Sigh*

I'm not liking the P.O. much these days.  (They could at least consult ME before they change rates, and the timing of such, right?)

Anyway, keep a watch out -- a postcard just might be making its way to you in the next week or so.
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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

And the alternative to taxes is ...?

TaxesUgh ... if you work for yourself (and most authors without day jobs do), you have to pay your quarterly taxes in time for January 15th.

Today's the day!

Um ... it's very painful.  Mind you, I anticipated the coming of this day and put some money aside in a special account just for that reason.  It has a WHOPPING 0.25% interest.  Let's see, how many millions of years would it take me to become a millionaire on the interest?  100?  200?  Oh, no -- that can't happen ... because I'm writing that quarter check that takes the money away from me and gives it to the government.  The one that doesn't have enough money to fix the roads or bridges, but can give Congressmen exorbitant raises and free health care for life.  (The pain of writing my quarterly health care check came two weeks ago.)  And mind you, self-employed people are screwed royally.  We don't have an employer paying half our FICA taxes -- the whole shebang is on our shoulders.

They say there's nothing as certain as death and taxes.  I guess I'd rather pay than face the alternative.

And guess what -- the next check must be paid in April.  Yikes.  I'm looking forward to spring, but not April 15th.  How about you?
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Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The most precious gift

Well, the tree and ornaments are packed away for another year.  The stockings likewise. The holiday music is back in the drawer (taking up most of it, I might add), and Mr. L has breathed a sigh of relief for another 11 months.

Santa was very good to me this year.  Mr. L gave me a Kindle Fire (which I will blog more about later) and a bunch of other swell stuff, but the gift that meant the most to me was this one ... in a frame.

Sisters-2011

This picture of our sister act was taken only a few months before we lost our dear sweet Bonnie (left).  Unwrapping this made me cry, but only because I miss her so.  Bonnie wasn't smiling, but maybe that's because she already didn't feel well.  (We'll never know.)

What was your favorite Christmas or Hanukkah gift?
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Monday, January 9, 2012

They call my name . . . and I am weak . . .

No cheatingCan you believe it?  Here we are in the second week of January and there is STILL holiday food hanging around and taunting me?

Okay, so it isn't really holiday food.

No candy canes.

No cut-out cookies (they're long gone).

No fruitcake.  (Okay, we didn't have any of that -- and I wouldn't have eaten it anyway ... just sayin'.)

Chocolate cookiesBut we got several gift baskets of yummy things that have delicious things.  Like cheese.  Crackers.  CHOCOLATE COVERED COOKIES!!!

The easiest way to resist them is NOT to open them.  Okay, got that.  But do these goodies have to come with a voice?

"Come here.  I'm delicous.  Eat me!"

I feel like Alice in Wonderland, only I won't get smaller if I eat them, and that's been the goal.

Do you still have holiday treats hanging around?
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Friday, January 6, 2012

Not quite up to Elizabeth Taylor's standards, but . . .

JewelrydisplayWhy is it all of a sudden I'm going ga-ga for jewelry?  I find myself looking at it wherever I go ... and in those catalogs I mentioned yesterday.

I want necklaces.

Bracelets.

Earrings.

Anklets.

Rings.

Eyebrow studs. (No, wait.  Erase that.)

JanewayAnd I never go anywhere to wear the stuff.  Yup, most nights it's me in front of the stereo reading or in front of the DVD player watching Star Trek: Voyager. (Gotta love Captain Janeway! And notice ... she doesn't wear jewelry.)

Sisters pinI considered buying this "sisters in heart" pin for myself and two of my best buds for Christmas.  But then the shipping was astronomical and I found out that though the pin looks BIG in the catalogs (and online) it was teeny weeny if you read the fine print (only 1.25 inches high).

Guess who didn't get the pins for Christmas.  (Besides, one of my pals told me that "only old ladies wear pins."  Should I be afraid to wear a pin now for fear of being branded OLDE? (and yes, I put that added "e" on there deliberately. <g>) 

The best way NOT to buy something like jewelry is to NOT look at it in stores and online.

Can you say "new New Year's resolution?"
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Thursday, January 5, 2012

Catalog_choiceI did a lot of my holiday shopping online.  I also bought a bunch of clothes this fall ... again, online.  Only now I'm being flooded with catalogs!

At first it was fun getting all these wonderful catalogs and perusing the pages to see if there was anything I wanted, or anything I wanted to give as a gift.

But then I finished my holiday shopping.

I figured once the holidays were over I'd stop getting so many.  Uh-uh.  I'm still geting one or two a WEEK from every one of these outfits.

STOP ALREADY!!!!

Here's a place to do it:  Catalog Choice.
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Wednesday, January 4, 2012

A daily dose of cupcakes

Okay, my New year's Resolution (besides exercise) is to lose some weight.

Uh-oh!

What did I choose for a calendar for 2012?

Cupcakes72

Not such a wise choice.  Twelve months of luscious, GORGEOUS cupcakes.

What's the theme of your new calendar(s)?

(P.S.  I have a cat calendar for the kitchen.)
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Tuesday, January 3, 2012

January's cold -- read some hot new mysteries!

Hey, it's the first Tuesday of the month -- ya know what that means?

New books from my publisher, and darned if four of my friends don't have new releases this month!  The first two are from my Cozy Chicks blog sisters:

Plan BeePlan Bee
by Hannah Reed (aka Deb Baker)
Moraine, Wisconsin's annual Harmony Festival is anything but harmonious for Story Fischer, as a dead body makes an uninvited appearance in the parade-and the person who may be responsible for putting it there starts dating Story's mother...

Amazon ~ Kindle
Barnes & Noble ~ Nook
Independent Booksellers







It Takes A WitchIt Takes a Witch
by Heather Blake (aka Heather Webber)
Darcy Merriweather has just discovered she hails from a long line of Wishcrafters-witches with the power to cast spells by making a wish. She's come to Enchanted Village to learn her trade but finds herself in the middle of a murder investigation...

Amazon ~ Kindle
Barnes & Noble ~ Nook
Independent Booksellers






Affairs of steakAffairs of Steak

by Julie Hyzy
White House chef Olivia Paras and her arch nemesis, White House Sensitivity Director Peter Everett Sargeant, must work together to solve the double murder of one of the First Lady's assistants and the Chief of Staff-before they become the next victims of a merciless assassin with a secret agenda.

Amazon ~ Kindle
Barnes & Noble ~ Nook
Independent Booksellers





Appetite for murderAn Appetite for Murder

by Lucy Burdette
Hayley Snow's life always revolved around food. But when she applies to be a food critic for a Key West style magazine, she discovers that her new boss would be Kristen Faulkner-the woman Hayley caught in bed with her boyfriend! Hayley thinks things are as bad as they can get-until the police pull her in as a suspect in Kristen's murder. Kristen was killed by a poisoned key lime pie. Now Hayley must find out who used meringue to murder before she takes all the blame.

Amazon ~ Kindle
Barnes & Noble ~ Nook
Independent Booksellers

Give them a try -- you won't be sorry!
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Monday, January 2, 2012

Doesn't everybody love having a backed-up sink?

KitchenAidWe have been without a disposal in our sink since mid-December.  Mind you, we weren't using it before then because it wouldn't turn off.  It would run and run and you'd have to hit the thing with the big orange flashlight that lives under the sink.

The thing is ... when you're used to a disposal you tend to let stuff go down the sink.  Mind you, I hardly ever use the thing.  I chop up kitchen waste for my (not very efficient) composter.  (We're on year two and still have no appreciable compost.  Don't ask me where the stuff goes.)  Anyway, Mr. L uses it and mostly uneaten cat food goes down it.

Well, one day the water wouldn't go down and the cleaning ladies were on their way. Nothing to do but start the thing up.  And boy did that water go down fast.  I got out the flashlight and whacked the disposal to make it stop.

AND NOTHING HAPPENED!

It ran and ran and no matter how many times (or how hard) I hit it, it ran and ran.  The reset button was useless.  Nothing to do but let it burn itself out -- which it did after about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, Mr. Orange Tupperware Strainer has been living in our sink.  We strain off everythig so it doesn't go down the big hole that is Mr. Kitchenaid Disposal.

Mr. L had to order a new Mr. Kitchenaid Disposal. And darnitall--wouldn't you know the warranty had run out a few months before it died?  (It was 7 years old ... or was it 8?)

Anyway, today new Mr. Kitchenaid Disposal will be installed.  YAY!  Let the food waste go bye-bye!

What kitchen appliance have you waited far too long to be installed?
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Sunday, January 1, 2012