Monday, January 31, 2011

Telly Tales

Honestly? I don't watch much television. If it weren't for my TiVo, I would see even less. But thanks to modern technology, I am able to record the programs I really want to see - all of which air at times I am not available - and save them for viewing at my convenience.

One by one, my favorite shows have fallen by the wayside. Jack and Bobby. The Nine. Ugly Betty. Lost. All that remains is Desperate Housewives, House, 30 Rock, Grey's Anatomy, Oprah, and Letterman. And I rarely watch a whole episode of Letterman. If I'm don't give a flying flip about the special guest, I simply delete the entire program unwatched. I would probably enjoy the monologues, but I'm writing a novel, for goodness sake. If I do care about the guest, I fast forward to that segment of the show.

I'm one of the reasons advertisers hate TiVo.

I thought I was over American Idol, too. My favorites never win, and when Simon Cowell gave up his judging gig, well, I thought I was finished, too. But my TiVo didn't get the memo, so when the new season began, it started recording. Nathan and I agreed to give it a shot, and we are enjoying it thoroughly. Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez are turning out to be insightful, compassionate judges. Who would have thought Randy Jackson would end up being the bad guy?

My partner in Idol.

What am I missing? What are your must-watch TV shows?

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Five Questions

It has been a great weekend, with sunshine and spring-like temperatures here in metro Atlanta and a good balance of work and rest for me.
  • I spent time with out some of my besties. I had breakfast with my critique partners and dinner with my Jane Austen Book Club pals on Friday. I am so grateful to have these five women in my life. They love me just as I am while helping me to realize my dreams. Friendship doesn't get any better than that.
  • I paid bills, did some paperwork, finished a few pieces of jewelry, and made some progress on my novel. I am quickly approaching the end, and the closer I get, the faster I write.
I wish every weekend could be like this one.

***

A couple of these women are having serious relationship issues and, as many of you know, I haven't exactly been the luckiest girl on the block when it comes to love. Over dinner Friday night, one of my happily married friends said that she is working on her list of five questions just in case she ever finds herself in our shoes. Five questions, I asked? Yes, she replied. She had seen Steve Harvey on Oprah, and in his book Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man, he proposes five questions that every woman should ask a man before getting in too deep with him.
  1. What are your short-term goals?
  2. What are your long-term goals?
  3. What are your views on relationships? (family, friends, God)
  4. What do you think about me?
  5. What do you feel about me?
My friend (whose husband is helping her with her list because, assuming he dies first, he wants to know she will be okay) said she would ask a potential love interest whom he had voted for in the last presidential election and which news network he prefers; as far as she is concerned, there is only one right answer to each of those two questions. Get the idea? This has prompted me to attempt distill my list of 100 Things I want in a man to five deal-breaker questions. Of course, I will post my results here when I am finished. In the meantime, what are some of your questions?

Music, Mozart & Melody

Technically, it's Sunday, so I missed posting on Saturday, meaning I have failed in my (unspoken) New Year's Resolution to write in my blog every day for an entire month. So close, and yet so far!

But I have a good excuse; I just got home from taking Josh and his girlfriend, Michelle, to Symphony Hall at Woodruff Arts Center to hear the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. Tonight, under the direction of Donald Runnicles and featuring Robert Spano as soloist, they performed my favorite Mozart piano concerto: No. 20 in D minor, K. 466. It was sublime.

I found several recordings of the first part of the first movement on You Tube, and selected the one below for your viewing pleasure. You might recognize the opening bars from the movie Amadeus. If you enjoy this excerpt, I encourage you to listen to the entire concerto. There are many reasons to love Mozart, not the least of which is that his music is filled with gorgeous melodies that stay in your head forever; this piece has numerous examples. And while it starts out dark and somber, it has a happily-ever-after ending - like the best kind of storybook. Maybe that's why it resonates with me so deeply.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Pam the Dreamer Gingerbread


I told Nathan I would make gingerbread for breakfast this morning. Unfortunately, I failed to set my alarm before I crashed last night, so I woke up about the time he headed out the door for school and, of course, I didn't bake an entire pan of gingerbread just for myself. I thought I was off the hook. But when my son got home this afternoon, he asked me two questions. How was my day? And did I ever make that gingerbread?

I headed straight for the kitchen.

Great for breakfast, an afternoon stack, or just about anytime, here is the recipe, an adaptation of Betty the Peacenik Gingerbread from my well-worn copy of Frances Moore Lappe's Diet for a Small Planet.

Pam the Dreamer Gingerbread

1/2 cup oil or melted butter
1/2 cup applesauce
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup molasses
1 cup hot water
2 eggs
3 cups whole wheat flour (I use fresh-milled red wheat)
1 teaspoon each baking powder and baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons each ginger and cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine oil, applesauce, sugar, molasses, and hot water in a large bowl, stirring until well mixed. Add the egg and stir again. Combine dry ingredients in a separate bowl; pour into wet ingredients and beat with wire whisk until smooth. Pour into a prepared 13X9-inch pan and bake for 35 minutes. Serve with applesauce and cinnamon sugar.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

That's all she wrote...

Have you ever been so exhausted that you were almost too tired to go to bed? So weary that you could barely find the strength to get into your jammies, brush your teeth, and turn out the light?

That's me tonight, although I mustered the grit to put on the bedclothes and make my mouth minty fresh. All that's left to do is shut my laptop, close my eyes, and drift off to memories of a day well spent and anticipation of a pleasant weekend ahead.

Good night. Sleep tight.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Accentuate the Positive

As I have alluded to on my last few posts, my life has been somewhat frenetic the past several days; consequently, I have been tempted to complain. But then I read this essay entitled Why You're Privileged by the always provocative Justine Musk (click HERE) and thought better of it.

Instead, I will share a few tidbits of good news.
  • I finished my projects for GCMTA; I did them well, and it felt good carrying those completed packets into our January brunch meeting this morning, sharing a meal and catching up with my colleagues. I am thankful to be a part of an organization that does so much to provide meaningful educational opportunities for music students as well as support and encouragement for teachers.
  • Two of my fellow PFHT bloggers received "The Call" today and are on the verge of being published authors. Congratulations to Debbie Kaufman and Marilyn Baron!
  • I am within two weeks of finishing the first draft of my own novel, which has taken on a life of its own. This is both exhausting and exhilarating but I am enjoying the ride, and looking forward to typing The End - and beginning the process of revision.
  • After a month of inactivity on my Etsy site, I made two sales this week - meaning I can buy more supplies and make more cool stuff.
  • I finally found medical insurance I can actually afford. As a self-employed individual, I have paid an exorbitant sum for care coverage; over time, my premiums had risen to the point that my health insurance premium, at $897/month, cost almost as much as my mortgage - and that's a lot of piano lessons. Finally, I located and was accepted into a reasonably priced, albeit high deductible plan, despite "pre-existing conditions" (all resolved issues). Saving money is almost better than earning it, because you don't have to lift a finger to save. My new benefits will go into effect February 1st. What a relief!
  • For the most part, my students are right where they should be in terms of preparation for their upcoming piano festival, and I have booked performances at three local assisted living centers for the following so they will be able to share their beautiful musical selections with the community. I am so proud of these hard-working, talented children, and so privileged to be their teacher!
###

Last weekend, I finally saw the movie version of Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. Negative reviews notwithstanding, I thoroughly enjoyed it, although it lacked the depth and poignancy of the book by the same name. I spent a few minutes prowling around looking for writing wisdom from Ms. Elizabeth, I found this.


Afterwards, click HERE for a link to her TED talk - and if you are a creative individual and have not seen it, it is well worth the time. I promise.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Divine Milk Chocolate with Spiced Cookies

I was checking out at my local Borders Book Store a few days after Christmas, buying cards and wrapping paper for next year, when I spied this lone candy bar. I love chocolate and spice cookies, and at 75% off the original retail price of $4, I couldn't resist its festive appeal. I brought it home and tucked it away, forgetting all about it until I climbed into bed this evening. It has been a grueling couple of days, and I was craving a sweet treat.

If I had known how wonderful this candy bar was going to be, it would be long gone by now. Please understand that I am not a chocolate snob. I can be quite content with a good, old-fashioned Hershey bar or a handful of silver-wraped kisses. But I have never had anything like this before. We're talking creamy milk chocolate combined with crunchy bits of spice cookie. It was positively divine. I ate half of it tonight - ever so slowly, allowing each small square melt slowly on the top of my tongue - and washed it down with a few sips of red wine. I am going to make the rest last as long as I can. Because it turns out this is a seasonal item, no longer available for purchase even from the company's online store (click HERE).

When next December rolls around, I will be on the lookout for these delectable confections once again. In the meantime, I might just have to investigate some more of Divine Chocolate's products. I will keep you up to date on my research.

Monday, January 24, 2011

When it rains, it pours...

Okay, so technically this is a picture of a waterfall, not rainfall, but you get the idea. I took this picture in St. Kitts, a beautiful island in the Caribbean. If you haven't been there, you simply must go. I wish I were there right now.

I am working on two huge projects for my local music teacher's association. For several years now, I have been responsible for doing the scheduling for Central Gwinnett's National Federation of Music Clubs Federated Festival, to be held on February 12th, as well as being co-chairman of the Gwinnett Music Teachers Association Ensemble Concert committee, meaning I assist with music selection, manage student registrations, order all music, prepare rehearsal schedules and student and teacher rosters, and put together the teacher packets in support of our April event.

Unfortunately, both of these projects come due on the same day, the fourth Wednesday of January. Along with the cold and the snow, it's another reason to hate January.

Long story short, I have finished the scheduling for Festival, prepared and printed all the paperwork for the teacher packets, and picked up the music order. All that remains to do is stuff the packets; then, I will get my life back. In the meantime, although everything else has fallen by the wayside, I am pleased to report that I have managed to write my 500 words a day.

It's not much, but it's something.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Lazy Sunday

I have been pushing myself really hard since the first of the year, trying to keep up with the daily tasks required to meet the very ambitious goals I have set for myself, personally and professionally. I said I wouldn't, but I have been drinking too much coffee, staying up too late, and just generally driving myself into the ground.

So I took today off.

Last night, after a full day of meetings and making a new recipe for dinner, I went out dancing for the first time in ages. One of my favorite local bands, the Mike Veal Band, was performing at one of my favorite local dives, Dam Bar. I was there.

I had so much fun. I love me some dancing. I danced with a handsome young man sporting long dreadlocks and a mysterious stranger wearing a cowboy hat. Of course, I danced with my date. A good time was had by all.

My friend and I closed the place down, then I came home and slept until noon and napped on and off all throughout the day. I am in the middle of two big projects that must be finished before my GCMTA meeting on Wednesday and have a million and one other things to do, but they will all be there waiting for me tomorrow.

Because today I needed to rest.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Grammar Divas

Today was the snow make-up date for the Georgia Romance Writers January meeting. It was wonderful to see all my writer friends again, and to get some great writing tips from the Grammar Divas.

Darlene & Annie

l-r: Lindy, Pam, Annie, Pamela, Darlene

After the meeting, I had lunch with my blog sisters from Petit Fours and Hot Tamales. (You can read my debut blog post HERE.) Sandy brought signature items for us to enjoy following our meals.


It has been an awesome day. I am feeling motivated, inspired and blessed.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Chicken Salad Croissants, Karen White, and Me

I had lunch with famous people today.

That's right; I attended Gwinnett County Public Library's Lunch & Listen event featuring New York Times bestselling authors (l-r) Mary Jane Clark, Karen White and Lynn Cullen. A delicious meal, provided by Garden Plaza at Lawrenceville, was followed by a brief presentation from each of the three well-known writers and a question and answer session.

My dining companions were delightful; they were thrilled to learn that I am an aspiring novelist, and went to great lengths to encourage me. One said I "look like a writer"; another, certain that I will become famous, asked for my autograph and said she will be looking for my debut release. With that kind of support from total strangers, I am more determined than ever to succeed.

Georgia resident Karen White has been a speaker at local GRW meetings, so I was already familiar with her work - and if you haven't read any Karen White, you must - but I enjoyed hearing all three women discuss their winding roads to success and describe their most recent publications. All their books sound wonderful; my to-read pile grows larger by the day. The question and answer session was likewise interesting; the authors shared their views on a wide range of topics, including how e-publishing might affect the future of the written word.

Eagle Eye Book Shop was on hand with books for sale, and an autograph session concluded the event. I was thrilled to get my copy of The Color of Light signed by the author, and my picture taken with her. Unfortunately, I have a propensity for closing my eyes when I hear the click of the camera shutter, so I look like a drunken sailor in this snapshot.

Karen White looks beautiful, as always.

These women are wonderful role models; I came home rejuvenated and inspired to work even harder to make my dream become reality. Thanks to Gwinnett County Public Library, Garden Plaza of Lawrenceville, and the three wonderful writers who gave so generously of their time and talent this afternoon.

###

Don't forget, my debut blog post runs tomorrow, January 21st, on the Petit Fours and Hot Tamales website. Please stop by and comment at the conclusion of my post to qualify for a chance to win a $10 Amazon gift certificate. You will make my day!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Critique Partners

Meet Pamela and Lindy.

They are my critique partners. I met them through Georgia Romance Writers, my local chapter of Romance Writers of America. I searched for a critique partner for months, never quite making the right connection - and then I found two.

Obviously, we were meant to be.

They say that two heads are better than one, so can you imagine the power of three? We have met just a handful times, but already Pamela and Lindy have inspired me in so many ways.
  1. They show me the weaknesses in my writing, and help me find ways to make it better.
  2. They are fabulous cooks. Think egg, spinach and sweet potato strata and bourbon brownies. Yum.
  3. They are strong, independent, free thinking women.
  4. Most important, they are steadfast friends.
I met with them just this morning; I miss them already.

If you are a writer, you need a critique partner. Or two. Trust me on this.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

My New Gig


I am one of the newest members of Petit Fours and Hot Tamales, a collaborative blog on the theme of writing, with an emphasis on romance (click HERE for the home page). But there's something for everybody at the PFHT website.
  • There are TRAVEL POSTS, like the one last Sunday by author Cara Marsi about her trip to Rome (click HERE).
  • There are BOOK REVIEWS - click HERE for a link to all the reviews that have been posted so far.
  • There are FREE READS - click HERE to find short stories and group novels written by the PFHT bloggers.
  • There are CONTESTS - this month marks the group's second anniversary; to celebrate, there are giveaways almost every day. Who can't use a gift card to Starbucks or her favorite bookstore?
My first post will appear on Friday, January 21st; ! I hope you all will come and visit. If you leave a comment, you will be entered in a drawing for a $10 Amazon gift card. More important, you will make me feel like a celebrity. Thank you for your support!

Monday, January 17, 2011

THE LAST TIME I SAW YOU by Elizabeth Berg


I have been in love Elizabeth Berg's work ever since I read her Oprah Book Club selection Open House, so when I spied The Last Time I Saw You (click HERE) during a recent visit to a local bookstore, I snapped it up, brought it home and devoured it. What a pleasure!

The book opens with Dorothy Shauman standing in front of a mirror, trying to decide what to wear to her upcoming fortieth high school reunion, fantasizing about the possibility of having a fling with Pete Decker, a popular jock back in the day. Over the course of the next few chapters, we get to know some of the other members of Dorothy's class: Lester Hessenpfeffer, the brainiac become veterinarian, widowed at a young age; Mary Alice Mayhew, the awkward geeky girl, still single and finally coming into her own; Candy Sullivan Armstrong, the sweet, sexy debutante who married well but just received a devastating medical diagnosis; and Pete Decker himself, a somewhat boorish cad. Life hasn't turned out the way any of them predicted, and each comes to the reunion with various degrees of regrets, hopes, fears, and dreams. Elizabeth Berg does a masterful job of creating complex characters who defy their stereotypes; in the end, they learn as much about themselves as they do about each other, and find friendship - and romance - in unexpected places.

If you are looking for a lighthearted yet thought-provoking read, with a twist of nostalgia, I highly recommend The Last Time I Saw You.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Visualization

I tried something new this morning. I woke up early, but instead of going back to sleep as I might have - after all, it is Sunday - or jumping out of bed, starting the coffee, and grudgingly getting to work on my to-do list - as I usually do - I closed my eyes and pictured myself going through the activities of the day. It was like watching a movie, and I was the star.

I saw myself sitting in bed, writing my morning pages and sipping coffee. I felt my leg muscles burning when I first started running on the elliptical machine at the gym after several days away, getting into a comfortable rhythm as I listened to a new audiobook, skipping to the car when my workout was finished. I imagined the satisfaction I would feel after completing the rehearsal schedules and paperwork for an upcoming GCMTA event I am in charge of. I pictured the smile on Casey's face when I handed him his new scarf, after knitting the last few rows. I felt the warmth of Nathan's hug when I picked him up from his weekend with his dad. I experienced the relaxation of watching television with him in the evening, after the day's chores were finished.

It has been a busy, complicated day, filled with work and errands, stress and complications - not the restful Sunday it might have been, if I hadn't been such a slug during the snowcalypse. I can't explain why, but I wasn't my usual, energetic self. All I wanted to do was eat and sleep. I felt like a big old fat bear in hibernation. Oh, I fought against my nature and forced myself to be somewhat productive, but mostly I just went with the flow. Today I had to make up for lost time.

But somehow, thinking through the situations I knew I would be facing - and anticipating the good feelings that would follow jobs well done - made it easier for me when I hit the inevitable roadblocks. Interestingly, although there were other items on my agenda today, the only ones that actually got accomplished were the ones I visualized before I got out of bed this morning.

So tonight before I go to sleep, I'm going to write my list for tomorrow. And when my alarm goes off in the morning, I'm going to take a few minutes to imagine myself working through that list. I think it will be a great way to jump-start another new day.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Vegetarian Hoppin' John

I did it! About three o'clock this afternoon I mustered the courage to venture outside of my four walls. There is still plenty of ice on the roads, especially in subdivisions and parking lots, but I managed to get where I needed to go: the bank, the bead shop, Borders, the grocery store. In that order.

A party atmosphere reigned. Everyone was obviously so gosh darned happy to be out in the world again. Apparently, folks were planning to continue the festivities after they got home, too, because every single person I saw checking out at Kroger had beer and/or wine in their shopping carts.

Go figure.

I was just glad to make it home safe, to get back into my jammies and resume my unexpected vacation. I was also thankful there was some leftover Hoppin' John for dinner. Traditional Hoppin' John is made using ham, but I think my vegetarian version is delicious, and it's a whole lot better for you. This is how I make it.

First, cook your beans. Sort and rinse two cups of black-eyed peas and soak them overnight. Drain and pour them into a pot, covering with plenty of water so they don't cook down; add 1/2 tablespoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, 1 tablespoon black pepper, 1 tablespoon sugar, and 2 tablespoons oil. Cook for about three hours, or until tende; drain.

About thirty minutes before the beans are done, make your rice. Combine 1 cup rice, 2 cups vegetable broth, and 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer about 20 minutes, or until all broth is absorbed.

While the rice is cooking, saute 1 small onion in 2 tablespoons butter until tender.

Finally, combine beans, rice and onion in a large bowl and stir. Serve with your favorite brand of hot sauce on the side.

As you can see in the picture, I had coleslaw with mine. This was store-bought shredded coleslaw mix, topped with homemade dressing concocted from mayonnaise, vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper. Delicious!

It is supposed to freeze again overnight, then warm up again tomorrow afternoon; I expect most of the white stuff will be gone by Sunday. I can't say I will miss it, but I am glad I experienced it. This has been quite an adventure. We will all be talking about the winter of 2011 for a long time to come.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Lockdown, Day 4

It's hard to believe, but Gwinnett County Schools will be closed again tomorrow, and Georgia Gwinnett College cancelled classes today, after all, and they will remain closed through Saturday.

The situation on the roads has improved, for sure, but once you get off the main thoroughfares, there is still plenty of ice to contend with. Not that I know from firsthand experience, but it's all over the local news. Temperatures are supposed to climb well above freezing tomorrow afternoon, though, and I am determined to venture out. I need to deposit a couple of checks at the bank, and I need a few supplies from the bead store. Maybe some milk and bread, too.

Mostly, I need a change of scene. Because today lethargy set in. I'm not sure where the day went; it just melted away (pun intended). I finished the laundry, I watched a movie - "Calendar Girls," have you seen it? - I made Hoppin' John, I added a few inches to Casey's scarf, I gave Nathan a piano lesson. But I also spent quite a few hours surfing the 'net, reading blogs and looking at knitting patterns (?), and paging through magazines and books, searching for inspiration for my jewelry designs. It was the best I could do to get outside of these four walls; my head is swimming with new ideas, so arguably it wasn't a bad use of a snow day.

Still, I felt guilty about my lack of productivity. And it got me thinking about one of the questions I started asking myself on the very first day of this new year: What am I willing to STOP DOING to make this year a success?

This is what I have came up with so far:

(1) I am willing to stop spending so much time online. Every morning, I will set my iPhone timer for 30 minutes, and when it sounds, I will sign out of Safari. Period. I need those remaining daytime hours before I start teaching to do my writing and jewelry making and exercise. I will have a similar 30-minute online session every evening, after which I will spend time with my boys and relax with television, knitting and reading.

(2) I am willing to stop drinking caffeinated beverages after noon. I love my coffee, but I am a certified insomniac, so it doesn't make sense for me to drink two or three pots of joe every day, finishing the last one after dinner, sometimes at eight or nine o'clock at night. In the future, I will satisfy myself with one pot of French press to start the day, and then switch to decaf or herbal tea. With the schedule I keep, I need to get plenty of rest in order to stay healthy and be productive. Avoiding caffeine, along with a better evening routine, should help with that.

(3) I am willing to stop saying yes to time commitments that are no longer working for me. Just because I've always done something is no reason to continue doing it. My choice of activities must change to reflect a shift in priorities; I must learn to say no sometimes, even when it means someone else will be disappointed by that decision.

I'm sure I'll come up with more. But that's a good start, don'tcha think?

Tomorrow, I'll post my Hoppin' John recipe.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

January brings the snow...

The days are starting to run together now. Let's see.. today I started our laundry, baked a German chocolate cake, added 500 words to my novel, and did some beading - a pair of snowflake earrings and a pink crystal and white pearl bracelet and matching earrings for Valentine's Day. I still haven't taken any pictures, but the mail carrier actually made it through the neighborhood today, so now that I know I could actually ship an order if I got one, I am motivated to start adding some of these new items to my Etsy site.

I also took down my Christmas decorations. I know most of you did that days ago, but my stuff went up late and I wasn't ready to put it away New Year's weekend. Besides, I was busy writing my goals for 2011. Anyway, everything is packed away now and the house looks somewhat desolate. However, I spread my snowflake cloth on the dining room table

and scattered my small snowman collection about




so it still feels a little bit festive around here, especially with the white stuff outside and having a rerun of "winter break."

Gwinnett County schools are closed again tomorrow, but it will be business as usual at Georgia Gwinnett College, so Casey and Nathan did their best to clear the driveway so Casey could back his car out and park it on the street. It took several tries, but he finally managed. I will be worried about him out on the roads in the morning; I understand they are still quite icy and treacherous, although I haven't set foot outside since Sunday evening. I am not very sure-footed on the slick stuff and, as Casey often points out, at my age I have to be careful, as I wouldn't want to fall and break a hip. Kids.

In the meantime, I am looking forward to Snow Day 4. I hope you all are keeping safe and warm!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Snow Day Two

The temperature climbed slightly above freezing today, so the snow melted a bit - just enough to insure an even thicker layer of ice on top of everything when the arctic front descends on us in the wee hours tonight. Consequently, both my boys' schools will be closed again tomorrow, and I won't be teaching piano lessons, either, except via Skype to my students in Kansas City tomorrow evening.

Thank goodness we have power to operate the internet, the television, and the video game systems, and that we are well stocked on groceries and craft supplies.

Today I used up all the leather cord I bought over the weekend. I made four necklaces - although I'm not quite happy with one of them, and may take it apart and start over - and three bracelets.

I also did some knitting. I finished a scarf I started ages ago.


And I started a scarf for Casey.

I thought I might list the blue scarf on Etsy - along with the new leather pieces I made today - but I can't find the yarn wrappers and can't remember the fiber content, so I might just keep it for myself. I have enough yarn leftover to make a matching hat, so I think I will. I love knitting in the round; it makes me feel very clever.

Finally, I added 538 words to my novel, for a total of 5,452 words so far this year.

Cabin fever? Not me. I love these lazy, crazy, hazy days of... winter.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Snow Day

With six inches of snow on the ground - and a thick layer of ice on top of that - metro Atlanta is effectively shut down. My boys' schools were closed and I cancelled piano lessons. I couldn't get my car up our steep driveway if our lives depended on it.

I really don't mind being housebound. I enjoy cooking, although with my busy schedule I usually don't have a lot of time for it, so I spent a big chunk of the day in the kitchen. I made pancakes and bacon and scrambled eggs for breakfast, cranked up the oven and baked chocolate chip cookies for snacks, and made crock pot barbecue beef, cheesy potato casserole, and cabbage slaw for dinner. In between meals and this evening, I worked on my novel, strung a necklace and made a pair of earrings to match, and played with the leather cord and beads I got on Saturday.

The boys hung out in the living room, watching television and playing video games and cutting up. Anything is better than school, right? They enjoyed the good food and made for pleasant company. I love it when they are home.

At first, my dog seemed confused by the powdery white stuff. But it didn't take long for him to decide he didn't like it at all. Maybe it was the fact that the snow came almost all the way up to his chest, making walking quite difficult.

Poor Karma.

Temperatures are expected to remain below freezing until Friday afternoon, and there isn't much in the way of snow removal done around here, so we might be stuck at home for a while. We already know that tomorrow is going to be a repeat of today. And that's all right by me.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

It's Snowing!

Here in metro Atlanta, snowfall is an event. At the mere mention of the words "winter storm," we mob the grocery stores and clear the shelves of bread, milk, wine and chocolate; we make chili and Brunswick stew, anticipate school and workplace closings, and pray that we won't lose power.

Here at my house, the snow started shortly after nine o'clock tonight. Here are my first pictures.

My "laying out" chair and iced beverage table. Brr!

Casey's car is under there somewhere...

The view from my front porch.

I would rather be on a cruise ship in the sunny Caribbean. Since I'm not, I'm going to make the best of the situation. I plan to spend tomorrow writing and beading and baking chocolate chip cookies. Heck, I might even throw a snowball or two.

Happy Snow Day, Atlanta!

Preparing for the Snowpocalypse

I gave my brother Eric his afghan this afternoon. I think he likes it.

It's true love.

Afterwards, his wife SeDonna and I went to her local bead shop. SeDonna is officially my sister-in-law but she is really my soul sister. The weatherman is predicting two to four inches of snow in my area tomorrow night and Monday. Most folks in metro Atlanta are stocking up on bread and milk; we stocked up on beading supplies.

My purchases: beads, leather, and silver.

I am going to be making lots of new additions to my Etsy store over the next few days. Watch for them!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Writing Goals for 2011

My fellow PFHT blogger, author Christine Glover, has been a big inspiration to me this week. Guided by Cheryl Richardson's book Life Makeovers (my copy is on its way), she has created detailed lists to help her maintain focus as she pursues her personal and professional goals. In her post today, Christine recognized the necessity of having two separate lists - one for her writing life, and one for her personal and professional life.

Which made me realize I need FOUR lists, as I am a professional writer, piano teacher, and jewelry designer, as well as a single parent.

Gulp.

I wear many different hats. On my birthday, I was forced to wear a sombrero.

Often, I feel spread awfully thin, but it seems to me that at this point in my life none of these activities are optional.
  • The piano has been a passion my entire life and piano teaching is my bread and butter.
  • Writing has become an obsession and being a published author is my dream.
  • I have a primal need to make things with my hands and my jewelry design business is generating a small supplementary income that I desperately need right now; also, there is a beading tie-in to my novel.
  • Finally, I have children who depend on me and social needs of my own.
It's a lot to fit into a 24-hour day. But you know what the proverb says:

HE WHO FAILS TO PLAN, PLANS TO FAIL.

So I have been working hard on my four lists. These really aren't New Year's Resolutions. They fully support the six questions I am asking myself every morning, and are in alignment with my big word for the year, focus. As for the other two words, I will work in a spirit of abundance, and be sure to make time to rest.

Here are my writing goals for 2011. Feel free to borrow them and use them as a springboard for your own list.

WRITING GOALS FOR 2011

  1. Maintain personal and professional blogs.
  2. Meet with critique partners weekly.
  3. Finish first draft of The Wishing Box.
  4. Revise The Wishing Box.
  5. Write a short story and submit it to Woman's World magazine.
  6. Revisit 2009 NaNoWriMo project; decide whether or not it is worth finishing.
  7. If so, finish first draft and revision of Hilda (working title).
  8. Come up with 3-book series concept and characters.
  9. Write first draft of first book of series.
  10. Send 2 query letters each week.
  11. Participate in Virginia Ellis workshop.
  12. Enter 2 contests.
  13. Take at least two professional writing workshops or classes.
  14. Attend all GRW meetings.
  15. Attend Moonlight & Magnolias Conference.
  16. Pitch at Moonlight & Magnolias Conference.
  17. Organize papers, journals and letters.
  18. Read one work of fiction each week.
  19. Read one book on the craft of writing each week.
  20. Set Top 5 Priority List and review every quarter.
TOP 5 WRITING CAREER PRIORITY LIST FOR FIRST QUARTER, 2011
  1. Organize papers, journals and letters.
  2. Establish and maintain consistent schedule to incorporate writing, reading, revision, blogging, support and accountability.
  3. Write 500 new words every day.
  4. Revise and polish The Wishing Box so it will be ready for submission second quarter.
  5. Attend GRW meetings each month to maintain personal and professional connections.

Sure, I want to find an agent and/or editor and be published in 2011. But I limited myself to S.M.A.R.T goals - specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely - and I think they will help me to maintain my focus and make great strides with my writing this year.

I have posted a list of Musical Goals for 2011 on my blog Notes from the Piano, and am working on lists of goals to support my jewelry design business and my family.

If you haven't done so already, I encourage you to take some time to ponder your personal and professional goals for the year, and create your own first-quarter priority list. You will be glad you did!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Mr. Right?

Meet my new boyfriend.

Klaus

Exotic, European, loads of fun, and a sharp dresser. That's my Klaus.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Anticipation...

I looked forward to this ALL DAY...

Nonni's Decadence Biscotti and a glass of red wine, a writer's best friends

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I still can't believe that I got a Kindle for Christmas (thanks, Eric!) It took me a long time to decide on a case for it; now that it is here, I can take my new baby everywhere I go.

I waited for this A WHOLE WEEK...

My new pink Kindle cover!! Closed and ready to tuck inside my purse.

Open and ready for reading.

Really, what more does a person need than a Kindle and an awesome pink case?

***

My Kindle cover arrived, and there is Nonni's Decadence Biscotti and red wine on the premises. It doesn't get any better than this.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Photo Studio In-A-Box

One of my piano students gave me an American Express gift card for Christmas; I used it to buy myself a piece of equipment to support my budding jewelry design business. The Portable Photo Studio from ThinkGeek (click HERE) claims it will "make the difference between sold and unsold on eBay." I assume that applies to Etsy, too; it remains to be seen whether or not that is true. But I can already tell that this nifty set-up is is going to help me and my little Samsung T220 take much better pictures of my pieces.

Today I added a Red Leather Freshwater Pearl Bracelet to online store, The Wishing Box at Etsy (click HERE). To photograph this item, I tried every possibility: indoors, outdoors, with flash, without flash, auto focus, macro focus. This was the best shot I was able to come up with.

BEFORE

Then my Photo Studio In-A-Box arrived.

The grand opening.


Monkey breath included.

Ta-da!

Assembly of the pop-up soft lighting box, lights, and camera stand was a snap.

The entire set-up fits atop my dining room table.

Following the directions that came with the photo studio, I turned on the light sources, set my camera to macro, and used no flash. Here are my first-attempt results.

AFTER

What a difference! Everything is in sharp focus, and there are no crazy shadows. I love it!

The whole shebang breaks down just as easily as it sets up and is fully portable in a compact canvas bag. Cool, right?

And now, before I go, I want to remind you that I will be blogging at The Wishing Box (click HERE) about some aspect of my jewelry design business every Tuesday. I hope you will check it out!

Monday, January 3, 2011

The earth laughs in flowers...


My Christmas cactus is blooming! This beautiful plant was a holiday gift from a student family. The flowers are my favorite color, PINK. How did they know?

If I were a rich woman, I would have fresh flowers in every room of my house all year long. Since I'm not, I am delighted to have this delicate pink blossom to enjoy, right here in the dead of winter. And there are a lot more where that one came from!

"People from a planet without flowers would think we must be mad with joy the whole time to have such things about us."
~ Iris Murdoch, A Fairly Honourable Defeat

Sunday, January 2, 2011

The afghan is FINISHED!!

I first blogged about this project on December 31, 2009, and have mentioned it several times since. Intended to be my brother's gift TWO Christmases ago, the afghan is finally finished.

The pattern is "Comfy" from Leisure Arts' Big Book of Quick Knit Afghans (click HERE). Since my brother's favorite color is red, I chose Lion Brand Wool-Ease worsted weight yarn, a blend of lamb's wool and acrylic, in Ranch Red. Other than adding about eight inches to the length, I followed the instructions to the letter, using size 17 29-inch circular needles holding two strands of yarn together.

I did the math; there are 216 rows, for a total of 23,328 stitches. Whew! No wonder my hands are aching. But I am very pleased with the results; I hope Eric will be, too.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

1/1/11

I have enjoyed this holiday season so very much. I had little time to prepare and less money to spend, but it was soul satisfying in ways I could not anticipate. I spent precious hours with family and friends and got some much-needed rest. I am relaxed and refreshed and eager to move forward with the rest of my life.

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Here are Eric, SeDonna and Nathan at our New Year's Eve dinner.

If you look closely, you can see my dog, Karma, trying to get in on the action.

We had Mexican Lasagna and Spicy Black Bean Salad (recipes follow) and packaged Spanish rice. Everything was delicious, if I do say so myself.

One of my favorite meals.

Donna and I did some beading while the guys played video games; then we watched the countdown in Times Square. I don't know about you, but it warms my heart to see Dick Clark every December 31st, still going strong in spite of everything he has suffered. I totally love, admire and respect that man. After midnight, we played "Apples to Apples" and watched a movie, and finally called it a night about 3AM. I love my family.

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This morning, I woke up early and cleaned up from last night and contemplated this blog post and the list of resolutions I need to write. And I have decided not to write one. At least not my typical list. If I did, it would look something like this.

1. Lose 20 pounds.
2. Hire a trainer and exercise at least two hours every day.
3. Write 10,000 words each morning.
4. Have my novel published, become a New York Times best-seller, and chosen as an Oprah Book Club selection.
5. Declutter the entire house, including the garage.
6. Keep the house (and garage) immaculate at all times.
7. Cook a gourmet dinner every evening.
8. Polish and memorize all of Beethoven's piano sonatas and perform them in Carnegie Hall.
9. Meet my knight in shining armor, have a $10,000 wedding, go on a 6-month honeymoon, retire in the south of France.

You know Einstein's definition of insanity, right? Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Well, every year, I make my New Year's resolutions and every year I fail to keep them. Sure, I end up closer to achieving my goals than if I didn't have a plan. But maybe I have been asking myself the wrong questions.

This year, as I make my to-do list every morning, I am going to keep the following in mind.*

What MUST occur in order for me to feel that 2011 was a success?
What is my DREAM for 2011?
What am I WILLING to do to make these things happen?
What am I willing to STOP DOING to make the year a success?
Who is my SUPPORT GROUP?
Who am I ACCOUNTABLE to?

I have actually written this list down, along with my answers, in the front of a shiny, new spiral notebook; this is where I will write my daily goals, too. I think it will help having everything in one place.

I am also intrigued by the thought of a "one-word resolution."** Although I wasn't able to narrow my intention to just one word, I came up with three.

FOCUS: I enjoy doing many things; all of them are worthwhile, but only certain activities will really help me meet my goals and find my dreams. For example, I love knitting, but if I choose to knit instead of write, I will never achieve my goal of being a published novelist.

ABUNDANCE: I tend to imagine that I don't have enough of certain commodities - time, money, love - and forget that there is plenty of everything to go around. There is more to life than mere survival.

REST: I tend to push myself too hard; there are days I might NEED to knit instead of write. Sometimes a change of activity helps get the creative juices flowing again; also, all work and no play makes Pam a crazy person. So I am going to give myself permission to have one unstructured day every week, to engage in interests and hobbies I don't have time for during my regularly scheduled life, or to sleep late and do absolutely nothing if that's what my mind and body craves. And not feel guilty about it at day's end.

Rather than wait until the end of the year to evaluate my progress, I am going to take stock in six months, and determine whether or not any tweaking is necessary.

Do you make New Year's resolutions? If you were to come up with a one-word resolution, what would it be?

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And now, here are those recipes.

MEXICAN LASAGNA

1 1/2 pounds ground chuck
1 medium onion, chopped
1 can (16-ounce) diced tomatoes with liquid
1 can (10-ounce) enchilada sauce
1 can (2.25-ounce) sliced ripe olives
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon pepper
12 corn tortillas
1 cup cottage cheese (small curd)
1 egg
1/2 pound jack cheese, thinly sliced
1/2 pound cheddar cheese, shredded

Brown first two ingredients. Blend in tomatoes, enchilada sauce, drained ripe olives, salt, garlic powder and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, 20 minutes. Meanwhile cut tortillas in half, and combine cottage cheese with egg. Then spread 1/3 of meat sauce in greased 13 X 9 pan. Top with half of jack cheese and half of cottage cheese mixture, then half of tortilla halves, smoothing each in even layers; sprinkle 1/3 of cheddar cheese on top. Repeat layering, ending with layer of meat sauce topped with cheddar cheese. If desired, sprinkle finely crushed corn chips on top of all (I don't do this). Bake uncovered in 350-degree oven 20-25 minutes. Let stand before cutting.

SPICY BLACK BEAN SALAD

3 cans black beans, rinsed and drained
1 red onion, minced
2 large ripe tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1/3-1/2 cup chopped cilantro
3 jalapeno peppers, seeded and minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 1/2 tablespoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon papper

Combine all and refrigerate.

Let me know if you try either of them!

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*Inspired by Amy Ahler's blog post, "Countdown to 2011." Click HERE.

**Inspired by Christine Kane's blog post, "Resolution Revolution." Click HERE.