Wednesday, May 20, 2015


From the dust jacket:

It has been two years since the death of Merritt Heyward's husband, Cal, when she receives unexpected news - Cal's family home in Beaufort, South Carolina, bequeathed by Cal's reclusive grandmother, now belongs to Merritt.

Charting the course of an uncertain life - and feeling guilt from her husband's tragic death - Merritt travels from her home in Maine to Beaufort, where the secrets of Cal's unspoken-of past reside among the pluff mud and jasmine of the ancestral Heyward home on the Bluff. This unknown legacy, now Merritt's, will change and define her as she navigates her new life - a new life complicated by the arrival of her too young stepmother and ten-year old half brother.

Soon, in this house of strangers, Merritt is forced into unraveling the Heyward family past as she faces her own fears and finds the healing she needs in the salt air of the Lowcountry.

Author Karen White has done it again. Intrigued by the true story of Jack Gilbert Graham, perpetrator in the 1955 bombing of United Airlines Flight 629 which killed all 30 passengers and 5 crew members on board, Karen did extensive aviation research and wove this knowledge into her compelling tale of a broken woman who learns to face her fears and find healing in unexpected ways. I loved everything about this beautifully written, emotionally charged story - from its quirky cast of characters to its themes of love, family, and forgiveness, all woven with just enough mystery to keep me turning the pages all the way until the very end. Five stars! Highly recommended!

NOTE: I received a copy of this book for FREE in exchange for a written review. There was no expectation that this review be either positive or negative, and I was not given any financial compensation to read the book or write the review. This information is disclosed in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 [...] Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

I REGRET NOTHING by Jen Lancaster

From the dust jacket:
Mistakes are one thing; regrets are another. After a girls' weekend in Savannah makes her realize that she is - yikes! - middle-aged, Jen decides to make a bucket list and seize the day, even if that means having her tattoo removed at one hundred times the cost of putting it in.

Middle-aged myself, with a bucket list that has gone through several incarnations, I found the premise irresistible. And this book did not disappoint. Jen's list ran the gamut: personal health ("run a 5K"), self-improvement ("learn to speak a new language"), work ("start a new line of business"), even pie-in-the-sky ("have a conversation with an icon"). With infectious enthusiasm and a sense of humor that kept me laughing out loud as a I read, Jen worked her way through her list, describing her experiences in a way that managed to be both poignant and hilarious, even adding items as she went along just so she could experience the pleasure of checking them off. Along with charming her husband, her supportive friends, and her menagerie of pets, we journey with Jen as she learns to ride a bike, refinish furniture, brush up on her high school Italian, even travel to Italy. What a trip!

Inspired by Jen's success, I think it's time for me to brush off my own bucket list - and to dig into Jen Lancaster's backlist. Highly recommended!

NOTE: I received a copy of this book for FREE in exchange for a written review. There was no expectation that this review be either positive or negative, and I was not given any financial compensation to read the book or write the review. This information is disclosed in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 [...] Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

How does my garden grow?

But each spring...a gardening instinct, sure as the sap rising in the trees, stirs within us. We look about and decide to tame another little bit of ground.
~Lewis Gantt

I'm not really much of a gardener. My backyard is small and slopes dramatically into a creek where vegetable-loving deer abide in large numbers. Besides, my indoor pursuits consistently fill the daytime hours; I am not beckoned by the great outdoors the way some people are. But I do enjoy ripe-from-the-vine tomatoes, fresh herbs, and the pop of color that summer flowers offer. So every year about this time I find myself at Home Depot filling a cart with flower pots, potting soil, and plants of all kinds. 

Last Saturday, I started with some house plants to fill the colorful pots I purchased at IKEA several months ago. 

I also bought some tiny pots and saucers that just fit on the little white stepladder my children used when they were small and filled them with chives, lemon thyme and parsley. 

Then I ventured outdoors. I set a bright pink geranium on the porch next to the front door

and filled the two large planters on my deck with more flowers in my favorite colors, pink and purple.

Here is my black cherry tomato plant with a pot of marigolds next to it for pest control.

The jalapeno pepper plant is sharing its pot with cilantro, just as I hope they will combine flavors in a bowl of homemade salsa one day. Last but not least are the rosemary and basil, culinary essentials.

I look forward to nurturing my little deck garden through the spring and summer, feeding and watering the plants regularly, speaking kindly to them and encouraging them in their growth.

What kind of gardener are you?

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

The Myth of Balance

We begin to find and become ourselves when we notice how we are already found, already truly, entirely, wildly, messily, marvelously who we were born to be.
― Anne Lamott

I wear a lot of hats in this life. I am mom, daughter, sister, aunt, friend. I am business owner, pianist, teacher, adjudicator, speaker, colleague. I am reader, writer, blogger, walker, knitter, seamstress, jewelry designer. I am cook, housekeeper, laundress, house painter, home decorator.

Some of these are technically non-essential. Reading a book or knitting a scarf doesn't help pay the bills. For that matter, neither does making a piece of jewelry, because while I do sell my wares on Etsy, I spend far more money buying jewelry-making supplies than I earn selling the occasional bracelet or pair of earrings. But reading books and making things with my hands satisfy needs that bubble up from deep inside me. In this respect they are, in fact, quite essential.

There is no such thing as work-life balance. Everything worth fighting for unbalances your life. 
― Alain de Botton

I have spent hours creating daily schedules, planning my weeks, writing down short-term goals and long-term goals and pushing myself to meet my self-imposed deadlines. I will even admit to occasionally making a list of things I have already done just so that I can experience the satisfaction of checking them off. But then life happens and my carefully drawn plans fall completely by the wayside. I get sick or one of my kids is in crisis or my dog gets sick or a tumultuous relationship ends or the car breaks down or the lawn mower won't start. What choice is there? I take a deep breath, deal with the situation, and regroup.

Then I make a new list.

I want to caution you against the idea that balance has to be a routine that looks the same week in and week out.
― Kevin Thoman

Last weekend I accompanied a number of home schooled students in a musical theater vocal competition. During the two weeks prior to the event, I spent every minute I wasn't teaching, eating or sleeping learning the music, making recordings of the piano parts so the students could practice with them, and attending rehearsals with the students. The competition itself was a two-day event. Reading, writing, crafting, even my personal piano practice were necessarily shoved to the back burner. Now the competition is over and next week I will have a greatly reduced teaching load on the heels of the piano festival most of my students are performing in this weekend. I will take advantage of the downtime to clean up the mess I made in my craft room over the holidays, pack away the Christmas tree, scrub the bathrooms and mop the kitchen floor. Never-ending circumstances such as these result in the complex meters and syncopated rhythms of my days, weeks and months.

There is no point in fighting. So I might as well give up striving for balance in my life. It might be possible to achieve it if I were content with less, if I could just take care of my daily business and let go of my dreams. But I can't. I won't. And while I remain convinced I can do it all, I understand I cannot do it all at once. Instead, I will focus on one thing at a time. While I am practicing piano, I will not stop to check text messages on my phone. When I go outside to walk, I will leave the ear buds behind and pay attention to the sights, sounds and smells around me. As I eat my lunch, I will focus on the tastes and textures of the food in front of me instead of checking out the latest on Facebook and Pinterest.

Nothing worth having comes easy, but I am willing to work hard. I will play the piano on many stages, I will see my fiction writing traditionally published, I will build wishing towers on beaches all over the world.

But I won't waste another moment of my precious life in pursuit of balance.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Dreaming of Books Giveaway Blog Hop

I am participating in the Dreaming of Books Giveaway Blog Hop, hosted by I Am A Reader, Not A Writer. This hop is scheduled to run January 16th-26th . To enter, all you have to do is follow my blog and leave a comment at the end of this post letting me know you are a follower and sharing a little bit about the last book you read: title, author, and a brief synopsis. I am looking forward to a great list! For additional entries, you can follow me on Twitter (click HERE), "like" my Facebook fan page (click HERE) or friend me on Goodreads (click HERE). Leave an additional comment for each additional entry. At the end of the week, one lucky winner will be chosen by a random number generator to receive a $10 Amazon gift card. Be sure to leave your email address with your comment so that I will know how to contact you should your name be selected. Click HERE for the links to the 150+ other blogs that are also doing book-related giveaways. All contests begin at midnight Eastern time tonight (Thursday); any entries received prior to that time will not be included in the drawing.

Happy blog hopping!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

One Zentangle A Day

There are no mistakes in Zentangle.
~ Beckah Krahula

As much as I enjoyed the Zentangle class I took in September, I was so busy making music in November and getting ready for Christmas in December that there was no time to tangle. Besides, I was getting frustrated. It didn't seem that my skill was improving and tangling began to feel more like a tiresome chore than a creative outlet. But one of my Christmas gifts, the book One Zentangle A Day, has me excited all over again.

Described as "a beautiful interactive book teaching the principles of Zentangles as well as offering fun, related drawing exercises," this book is perfect for beginners but offers me a good review of the basics while helping me build on my previous knowledge and take it to the next level. On Day 1, I practiced the patterns above; on Day 2, I learned three new patterns and combined several to create a "tile," or small square drawing.
Sometimes it takes me more than one day to master the new patterns and complete a tile, but that's okay.
Looking ahead, I see the book also covers more advanced techniques like shading and working with color.
If you would like to give tangling a whirl, this book is a great place to start. The only other things you need are a sketch pad and a fine point marker. Ready, set, tangle!

Monday, January 12, 2015

Enough is enough

Credit buying is much like being drunk. The buzz happens immediately, and it gives you a lift. The hangover comes the day after.
~ Joyce Brothers
Over the past ten years or so, I have accumulated so much credit card and student loan debt that fully acknowledging it throws me into mild state of panic. But enough is enough. And 2015 is the year I am going to actually DO something about it.

I discussed all this with my eighteen year old son several weeks ago and together we got the ball rolling. In December we researched internet, television and cell phone options and made changes to our current plans that will save us several hundred dollars a year. I also put together a budget that I implemented on January first and intend to stick with, no matter what. Then I cut up a pile of credit cards and determined that, moving forward, I will buy only things I absolutely NEED and not merely WANT and will pay CASH for it all. I will confess that I did hang onto a couple of credit cards, one that I use for groceries and gas and pay off each month and one that I can use in case of genuine EMERGENCY, at least until I am able to get an emergency fund in place. (Note to self: seeing a cute handbag at Tuesday Morning does not constitute an emergency.)

Rather than entertain myself with shopping, I will spend time with my piano, my beloved book and music collection, and the roomful of yarn and craft supplies I have accumulated over the years. I will not pay people people to cook food for me; rather, I will shop wisely for quality ingredients and cook healthy, affordable meals for my family and friends. I will get back to work on my fiction writing; I will diligent about listing new pieces in my Etsy store. If I keep my head on straight, I will be too busy making good use of things I already have to feel deprived.

I didn't get in this mess overnight, and it will take me several years to get out of it. But I am willing to do whatever it takes to achieve financial peace.