Tuesday, April 24, 2012

What's worse? Cheating on your diet or your budget?

Taxes-uncle-samI had a very nasty surprise last fall.  My accountant told me I hadn't put enough money away to pay my taxes.  This year, I'm putting my tax money away first, which means I can't touch it.  It's in the savings account, and that's where it's going to stay until June 15th, September 15th, and for the school taxes due in September.

So, this spring and summer I'm going to be living on a very tight budget.  Guess what?  Living on a tight budget really stinks.  I wanted to buy a new pair of jeans, but I remembered I was on a budget. I really want that new-to-me desk, and Saturday I was prepared to go out and find it.  But then I remembered I was on a budget. I wanted to get another David Arkenstone CD, but then I remembered I was on a budget.

But honestly, don't you have to splurge once in a while?

SheersI was bad.  I splurged yesterday.  I've been thinking about this for years, and just never found what I wanted.  Well, last week a catalog came and there they were, the sheers of my dreams, and on sale, too.  So ... I ordered them.  Now I'm wondering what I'll live without once these sheers arrive and are hanging from my bedroom windows. I might only care when I'm away from those windows and think ... I could go out to lunch if I hadn't bought those sheers.  Or ... I could buy myself those jeans or that CD.

Or I could just shut up and and think, I'm mostly living within my means and be satisfied.  (After all, that's what I've done most of my life.)

That said, I have a feeling I won't be sorry about those sheers simply because they're pretty, they were such a good deal, and the sheers hanging from the window are really old and nearly in tatters. (Thank you, cats.)

So, what have you splurged on recently?

Thursday, April 19, 2012

I only need a sweet little desk ... honest.

For the past three years, I've done the majority of my writing on my laptop on the dining room table.  It worked out well. Then it didn't.  So now I'm back to writing in my office, but ... the clutter is starting to get to me.

For the past ten or more years my computer desks (doesn't everyone have two?) have not been desks at all, but old farm tables.  One is lovely oak, the other is really shabby and not-so-chic.  (It was $8 at yard sale.)
A few weeks back, I visited my pal Ellery Adams (who writes  the Books By The Bay Mysteries, and soon the Charmed Pie Shoppe Mysteries, and she has an elegant antique desk.  No papers, pens, office supplies (hand cream, nail polish, candy, hand sanitizer, multiple pairs of reading glasses, Chapsticks in many flavors, paperclips, etc.) on her lovely desk.  And her office is immaculate, too.  Mine is full of junk.  But I'm working on it.  My comfy chair has actually been clear of stuff for more than a week!!!  I can actually sit in it once more to edit my work. (Real progress.)

But until I figure out what to do with all the junk on my work surface, the room is not going to get much tidier.

I need a desk.  A real one.  With drawers.  And I wouldn't mind if it was shabby chic. What do you think of this one?


Or how about this one?

Shabby-chic-desk Incredibly cute, huh?  I could put ALL the junk that's currently on my farm table into the drawers.  I could have a clean surface to work.  I might even be able to address an envelope without having to run to the dining room table or kitchen counter.  Oh, wouldn't that be heaven?

The problem?  Try finding something like this.  I've been on Craigslist and found mostly chipboard computer desks.  Been there, done that -- when I had no taste.  Now I want something girly and sweet.  And I don't want to spend a lot of money and I don't want to do it myself.  Boy, that kind of limits me, doesn't it?

What are you using for a home office desk?

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

My heart is broken ... again

The secret gardenOne of my favorite books is The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett.  I read it every year.  It's a wonderful story (except for the ending, where suddenly the heroine of the story gets lost and the focus completely turns on one of the secondary characters.  Ahem!).

In the book, a little girl, her friend (Dicken) with apparently magical relationships with animals, and the girl's cousin transform a badly neglected garden.  Dicken's animal friends are sweet, cute, and THEY DON'T EAT ALL THE PLANTS.

Unfortunately, the animals around my neighborhood, do.

This past winter was mild.  I had tried growing Brussels sprouts in containers to keep the groundhogs from eating them.  It worked, but they plants did not thrive.  In early September, I put the strongest plant in the garden to see if it would grow.  It didn't.  But it did survive the winter.  And then it took off like crazy!

Oh, what a thing of beauty.  We had a spate of warm temps last week and it shot up at least 12 inches.
Fat groundhogAnd then Mr. Groundhog found it and ate EVERY SINGLE LEAF in about an hour.  We had planted out peas about 4 p.m.  An hour later Mr. G snuck into the garden and decimated the poor plant.  We set the haveahart trap out to try and catch him, but why should he return?  He's already eaten what he wanted, and apparently cabbage isn't as satisfying a dish as sprouts leaves.

Every year I'm heartbroken when all my veggies (and flowers) are attacked and eaten by critters.  Every year I hope it's going to be different.  It never is.

When you've got the gardening gene (and my parents were marvelous gardeners), it's something you do, but man is it heartbreaking at times.

Broken heartDo you find gardening heartbreaking, too?

Friday, April 13, 2012

A product so good they're bound to take it off the market . . .

It seems like every time I like something, it gets taken away.  We like to travel to Vermont.  Our favorite little motor inn ... sold, new owners, now terrible.  A wonderful restaurant in the same town?  Went out of business.

Ice Tea Gatoraid?  Gone.

Gel stickThe list could go on and on.

So I was thrilled a few months back when I found the Oxi-clean Gel Stick.  Spills happen, and I've tried just about everything on the market to get the stains out.  Nothing worked particularly well, and then I found this.  It even gets grease stains out (don't put it in the dryer--sometimes it takes two treatments).  I have saved a bunch of our clothes because of this little cylinder of cleaning gel.

And then I ran out.

DohI went to every grocery store in the area and NONE of them had it.  Finally, when I went to Virginia last month, I found some in a Martin's store, so I bought two.  Then I had a DOH! moment ... I'll bet I could buy it online.  It bites having to pay shipping, but I think in the long run it's for the best--if I want to keep our clothes nice, that is.  (And I could toss a few books or DVDs onto the order to get the free shipping, right?)

What product have you recently found that you LOVE and are terrified they are going to discontinue?

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Coughs And Sneezes Spread Diseases

Yesterday was grocery day!  Man, the people out there!  It's no wonder there are fears of a pandemic, because sick people are out shopping, getting their germy hands on the carts (I always use the cart wipes, and if they're out, slather the cart handle with my own Purell) and coughing, sneezing, and wheezing their way through stores and other public places.

Onion eyes
As I was walking around the veggie aisle, which my grocery store (Wegmans) has a beautiful way of displaying everything out in the open--making it look like an open air market, a man walked up to the lovely pile of onions COUGHED ON HIS HAND and then proceeded to pick through the entire lot before finally choosing one.

Man sneezing As I left the store, a man had a coughing fit about 10 feet ahead of me.  That man never even covered his mouth with his hand, he just coughed into the air.

Cover coughIs it just men who are incredibly rude, or people in general?  Haven't they gotten the memo that you're supposed to cough in your sleeve to avoid getting germs on your hands and spreading them far and wide?

I appreciate it that the store has a few Purell dispensers, but why is it only near the Pharmacy?  There are people hacking and coughing, sneezing and ... well, I know of one elderly woman who hasn't willingly washed her hands in decades, so you don't know WHAT kind of germs she's toting around.

And so I leave you with this small piece of advice:



Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Christmas came sooner than I thought . . .

And yesterday Mr. L finished updating the last cover.  Will this be for the last time?  Who knows.  Last week I Googled a title by one of my favorite authors and saw there had been TWELVE covers for that book over the past 30 years.  Some were better than others--some downright awful ... but every couple of years they re-release the book and give it a new look.

And here's the new look for my Jeff Resnick story Bah! Humbug.

Humbug.sm Humbug.sm
Same (partial) picture, different look.

What do you think about this one?

Monday, April 9, 2012

A Little Market Research -- and you get to help!

On Saturday, I posted on the Cozy Chicks Blog about how I'm updating my covers.  (AGAIN!  And you can see the first two there.)  As it turns out, I'm getting a teensy bit better at being an art director.  And Mr. L is getting a LOT better at doing the covers for my indie books.

Essentially, we decided (and mostly thanks to my pal Shelly Thacker) that my covers needed a more uniformed look.  I was more or less happy with some of the stock photography, but not with the fonts.  I'd also had a discussion about fonts and type size a month or so ago with my good friend Pat Ryan, who is great at covers.  (She did the covers for my Jeff Resnick novels).

So, rather than go into more detail, why don't I just show you the results?

Abused -- A Daughter's Story:

AbusedCover.sm Abused_new.sm

Are You Lonely Tonight?

An Unconditional Love
Unconventional Love#4.smUnconditional-2012-sm

Prisoner Of Love
Prisoner of love.sm Prisoner-2012.sm

And so, for a little market research.  (You guys get to play my focus group.)  So, what do you think of the changes?  Would you be more inclined to buy the stories with these new covers?

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

More Cats In Trouble!

It's release day for the long-awaited fourth book in the Cats In Trouble Mysteries, by my good friend Leann Sweeney.

Cat wife weaponWhen quilter Jillian Hart returns to her lake house in Mercy, South Carolina, she discovered her friend, Tom, is missing-and his estranged half-brother has moved into Tom's house. Jillian doesn't trust the guy, especially since he allowed Tom's diabetic cat to escape. When police officers find Tom's wrecked car with a dead stranger inside, Jillian is determined to find out what happened to Tom-before someone else turns up dead.

You can by it from:

Amazon  ~  Barnes & Noble ~ Books A Million ~ Indie Bookstores

Kindle ~ Nook ~ Sony E Reader ~ Kobo

If you've read the others, I know you'll enjoy it.  If you haven't they are:

The Cat, The Quilt and The Corpse
The Cat, The Professor and the Poison
The Cat, the Lady and the Liar

Monday, April 2, 2012

It only costs me 66 cents a week!

Water with lemon,jpgEarlier this year, when I was on vacation, I had a glass of water with every meal.  With lemon. I liked it. A lot.  So, when I came home, I thought ... I'd drink more water if it had lemon in it.

Wow--what a concept!

One of the reasons I haven't been drinking enough water is that after a while it seems to get "stale."  A flat, metallic taste.  Guess what?  Pour a BIG mug of water, toss in a lemon slice, and no more flat taste, even if it sits for an hour or more.

Lemon-in mugI've even got so I like hot water with just lemon in it.  And, I can use the same (thick) lemon slice all day.  I just keep refilling the cup.

Are you fully hydrated?