Sunday, December 13, 2009

An Old-Fashioned Christmas Tree


Christmas is just around the corner, and I wanted to share with you the nice experience I had with my daughter and son-in-law shopping for a Christmas tree the old-fashioned way.

It's my job these days to assemble our nice looking, but fake Christmas tree. It works for me. It looks good, the needles stay put, and I can burn an evergreen candle if I want a little pine scent. In years past, my husband and I would buy a real tree, pre-cut, at one of the neighborhood lots, but Bruce became less enamored with picking out the tree, bringing it home and setting it up, and cleaning up all the needles.

I finally gave in and we bought the fake, and it is less trouble, but I do sometimes miss getting a real tree. So, I was delighted when my daughter Angie called me and asked if I would like to go to a tree farm and help pick out their tree.

We are not that far from Highland, maybe 10 miles, where a lot of open land still exists and most of the tree farms are located. We visited one of the most popular tree farms first, which featured hay-baled filled wagon rides pulled by a tractor. This was great as it happened to be a beautiful sunny day and only mildly cold. The three of us hopped on the wagon along with a few other people, and headed for the acres of planted pines beyond. It was fun! They dropped us off farther back, and we walked and walked, but couldn't decide between the scotch pine or the blue spruce, plus some of the pre-cut trees they offered looked good also. In the end, we decided to drink some hot cider, then check out another of the tree farms nearby.

Eventually, after more walking, we decided on a blue spruce at the next farm, where many of the trees were nice looking. But as we were ready to leave, the tree tied to the roof, Angie's best friend Darcey and her husband Jim, plus their toddler Andrew arrived. And so we did it all over again, walked through the trees for a third time, to visit with them and to watch while they picked out their tree. I'll admit I was getting tired by this time, also hungry, plus hadn't seen any signs of an available restroom for a while.

It all worked out though. We stopped at a McDonald's for a snack afterwards, then drove back with the sunroof open to make sure the tree stayed securely fastened to the roof.

All in all, I enjoyed myself immensely, and hope to do it again next year.

Enjoy the holidays!

Visit my website to read a FREE EXCERPT of my mystery romantic-suspense novel, Her Last Letter.

Books are available online at Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and can be ordered through most bookstores.

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Thursday, December 10, 2009

A Little Disneyland ... My Bird Feeder

Hi there!

It is cold, cold, cold here in Michigan, especially today. I'm not sure of the temperature, but the winds are fierce. I went out this morning as I usually do and put out seed for the birds and squirrels, and they seemed especially anxious to get to their chow. I have an unusual feeder that my husband built for me. It is shaped somewhat like a cross, about seven feet high, but has three flat boards, one over the other, near the top. I spread the seed on each board, and a variety of birds, squirrels, and chipmunks show up each morning, usually immediately after I spread the seed. When I first started doing this, maybe five years ago, none of them got along. Each squirrel would shoo off the other squirrels and the birds too. Now they seem to know each other, and it's like a little Disneyland out there, birds and squirrels all eating and socializing together.

I originally wanted a bird feeder to amuse my cat Slicky. He gets bored being an indoor cat, and he enjoys watching it all in the morning, though now he is used to it and rarely tries to attack the squirrels that run across the deck. (The feeder is built to one side of the deck so I can reach it easily.) Of course, I really like watching all the action in the morning too. I put out wild bird seed, sunflower seeds, and peanuts. The unsalted peanuts were originally for the squirrels, but the jays usually get most of them. I read that blue jays store food for winter, which surprised me. They are quick, and funny to watch. The peanuts are in the shell, and being greedy, the jays try to stuff more than one in their beak, which doesn't work. After picking up one, then dropping it to get the other one a few times, they settle on just one and fly away to their nest. This repeats for a few minutes until all the peanuts are gone.

I've seen cardinals and woodpeckers, big ones and little ones, and the mourning doves are a large group, plus many smaller birds. I have a bird guide my daughter bought me, so I know most of the ones that come around. I used to see blackbirds and crows, but not recently. I think some birds come by just to see what's going on. One time a duck flew up and sat on the feeder. I tried to get a picture, but something scared it and it flew away. The ducks do walk up from the lake and get seed off the ground in the summer, and they bring their little ducklings. (This makes me glad I have an indoor cat.)

But I wonder how they can stand the cold on days like this, but they do. The squirrels cover their backbone with their long tail, and the birds puff up to capture some body warmth, and their hearts beat much faster than ours, pumping out the heat. Makes me glad I can provide them with some fuel ... and that I can watch them from inside.

Hope you're enjoying the holidays!

Visit my website to read a FREE EXCERPT of my mystery romantic-suspense novel, Her Last Letter.

Books are available online at Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and can be ordered through most bookstores.

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Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Book Signing at Leon & Lulu


A friend of mine, Maureen, was nice enough to tell me about an opportunity to do a book signing at an unusual place. It actually used to be a roller rink, and I'm pretty sure I used to roller skate there as a kid. Leon & Lulu, formerly the Ambassador Roller Rink, is located in Clawson, not far from Rochester, the town I grew up in. My mother used to drop me and my sister off at the rink for the day, and we had great times hanging out with the other kids. The only bad thing about it was we both would come home with blisters on our heels after the many miles of floor we circled.

Now, the former Ambassador is a wonderful furniture and accessories store. You would have to see it to believe it, fifteen-thousand square feet of eye candy for the decorator minded. The floors are still part of the old roller rink, but beautifully refinished, and roller skating employees smoothly maneuver throughout the store helping customers. Leon & Lulu held their first "Books and Authors" event the Sunday before last, and many customers and book lovers turned out to join in the fun and meet the thirty-six authors in attendance. Part of the proceeds went to charity, and I believe they did very well in that regard. Stuff like this is always fun for me as I meet other authors who are inevitably fun to talk to. I always seem to learn something new from them. I had a great space to set up my books, my own little living room near the front of the store. I had a beautiful couch, a chair, coffee table, and art objects surrounding me. I felt like I was part of the display, except I smiled and said hello when people passed by or stopped to chat with me. To my surprise, we were allowed to drink coffee in our area (offered free that day to the authors and customers) and also to eat free muffins and other goodies, and later on, free hot dogs. I had to leave my area to eat the hot dog though. I don't trust myself with mustard around furniture.

I told friends I was going to be there, and my friend Chris showed up to spend time with me, then my friend Maureen, then my sister and her husband, and then my daughter, who took a picture of me holding up my novel. It was a great time and I sold and signed some books too.

It's going to be an annual event, so I'm hoping to be invited back next year also. By then I should have two books to display.

Have a great day!

Visit my website to read FREE EXCERPT of my mystery romantic-suspense novel, Her Last Letter.

Books are available online at Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and can be ordered through most bookstores.

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Sunday, October 4, 2009

A Great Review from Midwest Book Review!!

I can't tell you how happy I was to discover I'd received a great review from Midwest Book Review on my Amazon page! Not only was it a wonderful review, it was six paragraphs long, written by their senior reviewer Shelley Glodowski.

I sent the book in for a possible review about a year ago, and had given up on ever hearing from them. They do get a lot of books, so my guess was they just weren't that thrilled with mine. I was also aware it is their policy to post a review of a book only if they believe it is worthy of five stars. Otherwise, it is not reviewed, and this is a great policy as far as I'm concerned, because the only thing worse than receiving no review is receiving a bad one. Of course, whether a reviewer or reader likes or does not like a book is very subjective. While I, of course, believe my novel is a well-written and exciting read, not everyone is going to agree. (Though I have to brag a little that readers have written me, or told me, that they absolutely loved my book and could not put it down.)

Around this same time period, I also found that my novel, Her Last Letter, was included on another of Amazon's Listmania! lists. This particular list was compiled by MN Mama (from Minnesota) and titled, "Great Suspense Thrillers and Mysteries."

So, if either happens to read this blog post, I want to thank both Shelley Glodowski and MN Mama for giving my book praise and making me very, very happy!

Here is the review as it reads on my Amazon Page:

***** A great read!!, September 8, 2009
By Midwest Book Review (Oregon, WI USA)

Nancy C. Johnson has been making up stories since she was a child. She is a complete bookworm and loves to create a romantic world for the reader. She craves excitement, and wants her stories to engage the imagination of the reader.

Set in Glenwood Springs, Colorado, a town in close proximity to Aspen, Nancy's story begins with Gwyn Sanders, recent heiress, discovering a letter from her dead sister hidden in a desk. The letter indicates that her sister slept with the boyfriend of either Gwyn or Linda, the third sister. Gwyn and Linda decide to hire a private detective to conduct a background check on both men. After all, new money and its owner can easily be separated. Unfortunately, this situation puts a strain on both fairly new marriages:

"When I returned home I sought a good hiding place for the report. Later tonight, after Trevor went to bed, I'd read it in depth. I'd decided that my discovery didn't mean a thing, that if anything, having a father in prison had taught Trevor one thing and one thing only. DON'T END UP THERE. Look how diligently he went about his business, about his life. Of course he didn't want his father's mistakes to reflect on him. That's why he'd kept it a secret."

There is no better place to set a mystery than in an exotic place or in the mountains. Nancy Johnson makes excellent use of this backdrop to set the stage for a smashing mystery that is chock full of romance; sexual tension; and true mystery. Her dead sister seems to be speaking to her from the halls of their childhood home, and the reality that follows is just as startling as if her ghost had jumped out at Gwyn.

The idea of new money creating possible targets is also explored in this mystery. Naturally there are "other women," and it all adds up to a spicy and juicy read that is impossible to put down once the first page is read.

Nancy C. Johnson has created a winner with HER LAST LETTER. Hopefully this book is the beginning of a career that is sure to thrill her growing readership for years to come.

A great read!!

Shelley Glodowski
Senior Reviewer

Visit my website to read a FREE EXCERPT of my mystery romantic-suspense novel, Her Last Letter.

Books are available online at Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and can be ordered through most bookstores.

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Friday, August 7, 2009

Battle of the Crabgrass


Well, all in all life is good. I was not feeling too good several weeks ago, and I have to blame it on one of Mother Nature's peskier weeds.

I've never had an encounter with asthma until recently, and I feel really sorry for anyone who has to deal with it on a regular basis. Not being able to breathe well is awful...

Anyone who reads this blog knows I like to bicycle, in fact I like to bicycle a lot. And breathing hard when needed is certainly a part of that. I don't let myself get too scared about many things, but the asthma episode scared me. I have good lungs, and don't normally worry much about paint fumes and other types of fumes. I know they aren't good for you, but I figure I can deal with them if necessary.

Anyway, for the last six years I've hired a reputable company to kill the weeds in our lawn, and they did a good job on everything except the crabgrass, which was the reason I hired them. I can kill most weeds myself. I have no problem using a lawn spreader. It's not a big job, nor is it particularly expensive. I just can't seem to kill the crabgrass. I've tried the pre-emergents, but never had much luck. I even sprayed the crabgrass with total weed and grass killer, didn't faze it, just left visibly brown patches with little green shoots poking through. One year when I was really mad, crazy mad, I picked every blade of it out of the front lawn. Took me all day and made my back hurt. It was gone for a while, but returned the next year. I'm told it's an annual weed, so where did the new seedlings come from? It never got a chance to seed that year.

I've tried ignoring it, but I swear it laughs at me. It grows for the most part next to the driveway, where I can't help but see it. I thought I had its number this year. I bought spray bottles, big ones, of crabgrass killer. I planned to spray it, and spray it, until it was dead, at least dead for this year. I didn't want to see it. I wanted to see nice lush grass take its place, the kind all my neighbors seem to have.

But whatever grows in my yard is not easily defeated. The first round of spray stopped its advance. The second round a week later stopped me. A couple hours after the application I found I couldn't take a deep breath. It felt as if half my lungs, the bottom half, had shut down. That was on Saturday. I figured it would go away in a few days. I wasn't wheezing yet, just couldn't get a good deep breath. In retrospect I should have seen a doctor right away, but instead I waited until Monday morning.

My doctor gave me a breathing test and I flunked. Allergy induced asthma was the diagnosis. I then had to breathe medicine through a tube to calm the inflammation and open up my lungs. It felt like heaven after the previous two days. I also got a device to use twice daily, and was told that in a couple weeks I would be okay. It actually was over three weeks before I felt normal again. The medication I was prescribed actually didn't help much, and when I read that one of the possible side effects was "death," I decided to just deal with it until I felt better.

So, the crabgrass won again this year, and cost me three weeks of biking fun.

I noticed that the small park near to us has no crabgrass. No one weeds it, or waters it. It does get mowed occasionally. Sometimes the grass goes brown when the rain doesn't fall for weeks and the temperature rises. Mother Nature obviously knows how to keep her pesky weed in check. Maybe I should follow her advice. If so, all I really have to do, is do nothing.

Visit my website to read a FREE EXCERPT of my mystery romantic-suspense novel, Her Last Letter.

Books are available online at Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and can be ordered through most bookstores.

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Thursday, June 25, 2009

Biking in the Heat...


The weather is hot, hot, hot here in Michigan. It makes it a lot harder to make the effort to go ride my bike, because I know how drained I will feel once I'm finished. And it will show. My face will be red, my body will be gritty with dirt and salt, my hair damp with sweat. I can't shower before I go to dinner with friends (my treat for working out) so I won't exactly look my best. But we all look bad, and we're used to seeing each other that way, so it's no big deal. It's sometimes surprising to see friends I don't see other than when I ride. Usually we see each other just as described, with helmet head, hair flattened on the top, then flaring at the sides, or if short, completely flat. The make-up, if added, disappeared after the first ten miles of sweating. One time, Beth, a biking friend, stopped by the ride to deliver a message after she'd just left work. I had to stare. She was gorgeous, hair done up, lipstick on, fashionable clothes, even heels... I had to compliment her, of course. It was quite a transformation.

You might wonder why someone would ride if it's all sweat and grit, but it's the wonderful feeling while riding that makes it a great experience. It's the closest I feel to being a kid again, only now I can leave the neighborhood. The beautiful scenery we pass is always uplifting, and I love the feeling of camaraderie riding as a group, flying up and down hills, around curving roads, through woods and alongside lakes. We stay off the main roads as much as possible, weaving through the neighborhoods, our ride leader determining the route.

This last Tuesday night was great. We did a long ride, 37 miles. We only stopped once to adjust someone's seat that had come loose. We talked when the pace slowed, kept quiet while going fast. That might be part of it too, the focus needed to make sure the ride goes well. You don't have time to think about bills, or problems. It's all about keeping an eye on the road, and the rider in front of you, and an awareness of everything around you. I ride with people I know, and that helps a lot. You know what to expect of each rider, and trust them to maintain their line and not brake unnecessarily. When riding with a group time flies, and the miles with it. It's fun. It really is.

It helps that I am in shape now. Riding when you are not in shape can be hell. I won't deny that. I had my share of heavy breathing earlier in the season. I lost the group once, and had to find my way back. I trailed them for almost a mile, and could not breathe. No one knew I was back, and I did not yell out. The unwritten rule is, the group will stop for a mechanical problem, but not if you can't keep up. You're supposed to come prepared to ride. Still, if I see someone having difficulty, I will yell, "rider back." Most other riders will too, if they see it. But when the group is going fast, you don't have time to look around. That is what happened to me.

The temperature is supposed to rise to 90 degrees today. It was 92 yesterday with high humidity. I think the hottest weather I've ever ridden in is 95 degrees, so chances are I'll try to ride tonight. My group, the Wolverines, has never canceled a ride because of the heat...

I'll look forward to dinner, and then a nice cool shower. :)

Talk to you soon...

Visit my website to read a FREE EXCERPT of my mystery romantic-suspense novel, Her Last Letter.

Books are available online at Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and can be ordered through most bookstores.

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Monday, May 25, 2009


Sometimes opportunities just drop into your lap. For instance, I was having dinner with a group of friends when one of them, my friend Sharon, mentioned she was attending a workshop in Chicago. She was excited about the weekend workshop, but had never been to Chicago and was wishing she had someone to go with her. Though the workshop ran all day, she would be able to see a bit of the city in the evening, but only if someone came with her. Otherwise, she would likely spend the evening in the hotel or close to it. Her workshop was in Rosemont, about 16 miles from the city, and though she could easily take a taxi into town, it just wouldn't be that much fun for her alone. I thought about it for a moment, then told her that depending on the date, I would be happy to join her. I had a book signing coming up, but other than that, my weekends were pretty much free.

(On a side note, my husband just called out for me to come outside. Some World War II planes were flying overhead in formation. Today is Memorial Day, so my guess is they were headed to an air show. So cool... )

Anyway, back to my topic. We had a great time. Sharon booked the Doubletree Hotel in Rosemont and got a low rate. Her event was at another hotel, a block and a half away, which she could easily walk to. We drove to Chicago, about a five and a half hour trip, early on a Thursday morning. Since we forgot about the one hour time change from Michigan, we also gained an additional hour. The event didn't start until one o'clock, so we asked the hotel connoisseur if he might suggest a good restaurant for lunch that wasn't too pricey. We went to Maria's, a Mexican restaurant about three blocks away, and they were featuring an all you can eat buffet, really really good ... all types of delicious Mexican dishes, plus fruit: watermelon and grapes, along with a sweet apple tart of some sort. We also each ordered a margarita, very tasty. The buffet was really inexpensive, $7.50, and even including the $7.00 margarita, was a great deal.

The Doubletree Hotel was beautiful, and the rooms large, with a big picture window in our sixth floor room for viewing the surrounding area. We had a flat screen television, large bathroom with a huge walk-in shower and a separate bathtub, two comfortable queen size beds with "Sweet Dreams" sheets to curl up into, and even a desk for your computer plus two more comfortable chairs to sit in if you felt like reading or just relaxing. The hotel had everything you could need, restaurant, business center with computers, a bar lounge connecting to another restaurant, banquet rooms. It was quite the hotel. I was happy to find out about the indoor heated pool and hot tub, plus a small, but adequate exercise room. I especially liked the ice filled water coolers, in both the lobby and exercise room, in which they added fresh lemon and orange slices. Totally refreshing.

Instead of taking a taxi into Chicago, we used the elevated train located only two blocks from the hotel. It was an adventure for us for sure. We had to ask a few questions about obtaining tickets and which stops would take us downtown, but everyone was extremely friendly and helpful. I had not been to Chicago for many many years, and had never used the 'L.' The trip took about twenty minutes, then we followed people out and eventually ended up on the street. After a few more questions and lots more walking we found Michigan Avenue. It was a beautiful night, the tall buildings lit up and thousands of people strolling. The boulevards were lined with tulips, and about every third street corner we would be entertained by musicians with saxophones and violins, or just singing their favorite songs. We stopped by Millennium Park and walked under "The Bean," way cool, then continued down Michigan Avenue as we were getting hungry. My daughter had suggested several restaurants for us to try, and since it wasn't too far and we were getting tired of walking, we decided to try The Cheesecake Factory. People were eating outdoors under tall heat lamps, but we chose the interior of the restaurant instead so we could do some people watching. It was a great restaurant. Sharon chose a delicious salad and I chose a shrimp and angel hair pasta dish. I don't know how they prepared the shrimp, but Sharon and I agreed it was the best we'd ever tasted. The pasta was incredible too. The restaurant was really crowded considering it was a Thursday night, but not hard to believe considering the quality of the food. By the time we returned to the hotel it was almost eleven-thirty, so it was lights out for us. Sharon's workshop resumed at eight-thirty the next morning.

Unfortunately, the next day was cool and rainy and a bit windy, not a good day to walk Chicago again. Instead we visited Navy Pier, and that was active and very crowded on a Friday night. Many were attending the IMAX Theater located there; others like us, were just hanging out. The big Ferris wheel was closed, but Sharon had indicated to me she didn't want to ride it anyway. Rides like that upset her stomach. I might have taken a ride had it been great weather, but it definitely wasn't. We enjoyed walking through all the stores and checking out the restaurants. It's a lot bigger than you might guess considering it is actually built on a pier. I was impressed. We toured the Smith Museum of Stained Glass Windows, with huge intricate stained glass pieces donated for the public to view. I've never seen anything like it. You could spend many hours there. After all our sightseeing we decided to have dinner at Riva Chicago, and wow, what a meal. I chose the salmon and Sharon the scallops. The view from the restaurant is awe inspiring, two story windows look out at the boats with the city of Chicago as a backdrop.

I could go on and on about my trip to Chicago, and possibly I'll add some more highlights next time I write. For now, I intend to spend some time out on the deck in this near eighty degree weather...

Enjoy your Memorial Day!

Visit my website to read a FREE EXCERPT of my mystery romantic-suspense novel, Her Last Letter.

Books are available online at Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and can be ordered through most bookstores.

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Monday, April 6, 2009

End of a Great Ski Season - Skiing in Aspen

Well, I thought winter might be over, but it fooled me. Again we got snow, six to eight inches, on April sixth, a week before Easter. I suppose I could go cross country skiing today, though the snow wouldn't be too great, even in the woods, as there isn't any base. I would bet skiers will be out at the parks though, a few last diehards willing to scar the base of their skis.

I have to say it was a great ski season for me. My new race skis helped me collect two second place trophies in my class, a more difficult class than last year. I placed myself in A Women, instead of my usual Vet A Women, for reasons I won't go into now, but it promised a better slope to race on and more competition. Next year the problems should be resolved and I will be back to my old class with all of my buddies. Actually most of them changed also, for the same reasons I did, but a few were forced to stay on.

I just got back from Aspen, Colorado last Saturday. I was hoping for sun and warm conditions all week, but the powder seems to be following me around lately. And that was fine. The locals were jubilant, having not seen any new snow for many weeks. Snow starting falling on Sunday night (we arrived Saturday) and just kept falling. So much snow fell in the mountains and in the city of Denver that the airport closed on Thursday. Fortunately, by the time we needed to fly out, it reopened. I enjoyed the first day immensely, a forty degree day with hard pack conditions and full sun. We skied that first day at Snowmass, one of my all time favorite areas. My husband, daughter, son-in-law, and the group we flew out with all skied together for the most part. We started the day on The Big Burn, but it was not good at all, very icy, something you rarely see out west, a result of late day thawing and then morning refreezing. We left The Burn and headed to better conditions on the other side. I knew snow was predicted the next day, so soaked up as much sun as possible and skied as late as my legs would let me. We hardly stopped all day, except for a quick lunch on the mountain. I bought a banana and drank a cup of free water. (I think soup was at least ten dollars, and I wasn't hungry enough to justify the cost.) I did buy a great Caesar salad at the end of the day (again at least ten dollars) but by then I was famished. Eighteen dollar pitchers of beer (do you believe that?) were a hot item at our outdoor table at the base of Snowmass, but I stayed away from the alcohol and had a Coke instead.

We skied Ajax (Aspen Mountain) the next day, and it snowed like crazy. The day was continuously gray, but not too cold, and felt a lot like Boyne, except no one would ever confuse Ajax with Boyne Mountain. I loved skiing in the powder, and the steepness of the runs we skied. We stayed away from double black diamond runs, as most had long standing icy moguls covered by fresh snow. It's one thing to ski moguls when you can see them (and I prefer snowy moguls, not icy ones anyway) but another to ski them when they are hidden. One of the guys in our group started out too fast and took a hard fall because he couldn't see, landing on his head and shoulder. He was dazed, but recovered and continued on. Fortunately, he was wearing his helmet. I enjoyed this day as much as the day before, because of all the fresh snow. The only way it could have been better would have been if the sun were out. But oh well...

We had some great dinners in Aspen. Great restaurants are plentiful. We took one day off, and Angie and I used the Aspen Spa, a fun relaxing day, then met the guys and had lunch at La Cantina, a popular Mexican restaurant. This restaurant has been around for a long time. It has reasonable prices and offers delicious food in large quantities, with excellent service. Great food is common in Aspen, reasonable prices are not. The wonderful thing about Aspen is you can find both if you are interested in looking. I love the town of Aspen, and it was as lovely as ever. We stayed in a two bedroom condo at The Gant, a block from town, which boasts one of the best shuttle services around. You can call them, and in a minute or two or less, they are there to take you anywhere you want in town, and then home. I was impressed. Our condo was really lovely too, with high ceilings in the living and kitchen area, but not extremely large, but was selling for one point eight million dollars. Location, location, location... Our balcony overlooked one of the pool and hot tub areas, which included an outdoor fireplace, sauna and exercise room, plus a convenient cabinet filled with hot towels to use once you finished swimming or hot tubbing. Ahhhhhh...

We also skied Aspen Highlands our fourth day in, and that day was the hardest for me. My legs were crying out to me by then. It also is one of my favorite ski areas, more private and less crowded. I actually skied by Melanie Griffith and her husband Antonio Banderas the last time I skied there, maybe six or seven years ago. Melanie looked even better in person (one of my favorite actresses, I've watched Working Girl at least thirty times) and Antonio looked great also. They seemed to be having a lot of fun.

Anyway, I loved my vacation, but was so tired from skiing that by the end of the week I was happy to head home. I hope it won't be the last time I get a chance to visit Aspen. If so, maybe next time I'll get my wish and enjoy seven days of sun...

Visit my website to read a FREE EXCERPT of my mystery romantic-suspense novel, Her Last Letter.

Books are available online at Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and can be ordered through most bookstores.

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Saturday, March 14, 2009

Ahhhhh ... Tax Time

I'm glad someone else does the taxes for us. Although, by the time I get all the receipts together, it feels as if I've done most of the work anyway. Not true, I know. We drove to Dearborn today to get our taxes done, a new CPA lady that my son-in-law recommended. She was very good, fast, and charged a reasonable amount to wrestle with our return. I felt complete relief once we left her office. (I always think the worst, that we will owe tons of money, which rarely happens.)

The best part of it all was the lunch my husband promised me after we were done. He used to work in Dearborn years ago, about an hour drive from the house in rush hour traffic. He liked working there, but hated the drive, but the company paid him well so he stayed with them for over ten years.

I could see he felt as if he was revisiting his younger days. He used to lunch often at Miller's Bar, and hoped they would still be in business considering the rough economic times. Not only were they still in business, they were doing a hellava business on this day, a Saturday. It's one of those places that adhere to that old saying, "keep it simple, stupid." It's not a very large place, and the tables are worn and scarred, and some wobble. (We moved from one table because it wobbled a little too much.) You don't get menus and you pay on the honor system. Orders are easy. You can choose from a burger, fries, or onion rings, possibly chili too (but we're not sure) and of course liquor or pop. Condiments consist of ketchup, mustard, onions and relish. I felt like an outsider asking for mayonnaise, which the waitress politely informed me wasn't available.

I felt right at home after a while, and didn't worry about my cholesterol for a change. It's nice to know that some things stay the same, and are much the better for it. I would go back in a minute, as I'm sure most do, but chances are we won't be in the area again for a while.

So for me, tax day was a good day, a nice little memory to tuck away and pull out when needed.

Visit my website to read a FREE EXCERPT of my mystery romantic-suspense novel, Her Last Letter.

Books are available online at Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and can be ordered through most bookstores.

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Saturday, February 28, 2009

Escape Artist

My daughter Angie called me a few evenings ago, very upset.

I know I have mentioned Makamae, my feathered grandchild, in previous posts, but in case he doesn't ring a bell, Maka is Angie's cockatoo, or crested parrot, white with light blue rings around his eyes, and a happy sweet nature. He is adorable, and I love him, and he loves me too. He is over a year old now and very smart. He talks, and has a few favorite phrases, his name, and "I love you" and "Good night" when he wants to go to bed. I would be devastated if anything happened to him.

Maka is not Angie's only bird. She has also since adopted two cockatiels, Little Man and Cocos. I love them too, but this post isn't about them.

Both Angie and her husband Marty work, so during the weekdays the birds are in their cages, where Angie supplies them with lots of new toys to keep them busy. They have large cages. We call Maka's cage a condo, because it is actually two large cages put together. He has lots of room to play and not get into trouble. Little Man and Cocos have a separate large cage they share, placed so all can see each other. This way they keep each other company.

Maka, being a parrot, has incredible dexterity. His bird feet are more like hands, and he can manipulate his large beak extremely well also. He loves to play and pull stuff apart, and needs to do this actually. If unhappy or bored, parrots will resort to pulling out their own feathers if nothing else is available.

About a month ago, Maka managed to get out of his cage. He figured out how to open one of the small doors where his food dish is placed. This is very difficult because he would have to swing open a latch on the outside of the cage while simultaneously pushing open the door.

Besides the damage Maka could accomplish in a small time to the house, he could also kill himself. Angie solved the problem (she thought) by heavily taping the latch to the cage so the latch could not swing. We thought this would be enough.

Two days ago our escape artist managed to remove the tape. (No tape showed on the inside of the cage, so he must have spent hours working it loose.) Marty was the first to discover the crime scene, as he called it. When he walked into the house, Maka was nowhere to be seen. Eventually Marty found Maka upstairs in the computer room. Maka is not allowed to touch the computer, or the expensive computer pen (for obvious reasons). He has coveted the pen for a while now. Fortunately, Angie put the pen away in a drawer, so instead Maka went after the electronic mouse, another costly item.

His path of destruction included removing the extension cord from the television set downstairs, then precisely removing the plug from the cord. He also did some minor damage to the t.v. itself. Again, the t.v. set is an item he is not allowed to play with. He also found the tape gun Angie used to tape the cage shut, and removed all the rubber from the handle. The tape gun will still work, just won't be as comfortable.

And last, but not least, he flew onto the stove and removed one of the knobs that turns on the gas. The angels must have been watching, because he didn't turn on the flames and catch fire, or burn down the house.

So, he managed not to electrocute himself, not to burn himself, and not to burn down the house. I'm sure he had a lot of fun while it lasted, but he won't be getting out again. Marty and Angie spent the evening at the hardware store buying locks and chains that we hope will keep our little Houdini safe.

I stopped over yesterday to check on Maka (just in case) but he was playing with his toys, totally unaware of the scare he gave us all.

Visit my website to read a FREE EXCERPT of my mystery romantic-suspense novel, Her Last Letter

Books are available online at Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and can be ordered through most bookstores.

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Sunday, February 8, 2009

Technorati, Social Networking, and Skiing

I'm trying something new in order to let people know about my novel. I'm not sure how it works, or if it will work for me, but I'm told it will help drive traffic to my blog (and therefore my novel). It's called Technorati, and you basically tag words in your blog that represent the message in your blog, and these words somehow wind up on the net. The site I used also brings news of your blog to social networking sites, which again I know nothing about, but they appear to be widely used and helpful also.

It doesn't take much to do this, so I'll try putting these tags on each of my blogs and see if anything happens. I've already tagged the last three I've written. You'll be able to see my efforts at the end of this blog once I complete it.

On the home front, I've gone skiing up north, and it was incredibly cold the whole time. I didn't race this first race weekend, which upset me a lot, but I was changing health plans and the current one had not verified (at least to my satisfaction) that I was covered. I am normally extremely cautious, and probably shouldn't even have been skiing, but I did. I looked at the odds and decided that since I hadn't hurt myself skiing for many years, the odds were in my favor. I would never advise anyone to do this though.

I used my new race skis, but turned the settings down so they'd release easily if I needed them to. I just had to watch out for out of control skiers so I wouldn't get nailed. The new skis were great. I can always tell if they will work for me in the first few turns. The Fischers I bought were extremely easy to handle, and I liked them immensely. They are a bit heavier than my old skis, but I knew that. With my last pair I tried something different, and bought a youth model ski. They are built as well as an adult ski, I think, but you have to be a lightweight to use them. I just fit the requirement, and it saved me money, but I wasn't sure if I wanted another pair. I'll see how I do in the races this year and that will let me know what to buy in the future.

I'll let you know how it goes.

Hope you're having a decent winter.

Visit my website to read a FREE EXCERPT of my mystery romantic-suspense novel, Her Last Letter.

Books are available online at Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and can be ordered through most bookstores.

Monday, January 19, 2009

The New Year...

Well, it's a new year.

I remember thinking when it was still the nineteen hundreds, that it would feel really strange when we hit the year two thousand. Now it's two thousand nine, and though it doesn't feel all that strange (since I've gotten used to it more or less) each year does seem to whip by. I've been doing a lot of thinking lately about what's important, especially what activities are really worth my time. Is it important to try to do as much as possible as fast as possible before the inevitable? And should I even be thinking along these lines?

I've never had too many of these thoughts before, but somehow the way it is right now, the country's plight, all of the unemployment, businesses struggling to survive, people losing much of their life savings ... all of the unhappiness floating around out there, it affects you. I wish I could make it all go away, just wave a super magic wand, and poof, everything is fixed.

I suppose the best thing is to keep, if possible, a positive frame of mind. As bad as things are, we are still better off than those who lived through the Great Depression, when there was very little in the way of social assistance. We do have a few safeguards in place.

As far as my own new year, I don't think I look any worse than I looked last year, and physically I feel about the same. The sun is out today, and I spent a few minutes looking out the window at the abundance of glittering snow in the front yard. The snow's been coming down heavily almost daily, and my husband is getting really grumpy about his continuous treks up and down the drive with the snow blower. He's threatening to make me learn how to use it. Not a problem. It certainly would be easier than clearing the drive by hand, and I helped him do that for the many years before we bought the snow blower.

The battery in my car died a few days ago, but I was expecting it. I've had it for several years. I am grateful that it decided to expire in the garage, and not after I drove to the gym or something like that. I threw a sleeping bag in the car recently too, just in case. You never know when you might get stuck somewhere out in the cold, for whatever reason. Not long ago, my girlfriend who I go cross-country skiing with got stuck out on the freeway during the severe cold. She said she was shivering profusely by the time the police arrived. It was one of the most bizarre accidents I've ever heard of, and I'm really glad she wasn't hurt. She was on her way home from work, and out of nowhere a tire comes flying from the opposite side of the freeway and slams onto the hood of her car. It severely damaged her engine, which stopped, and she had to coast her way through several lanes of traffic to the side of the freeway. Fortunately, those behind her saw the tire bouncing wildly away and let her through.

She just got her car back a few days ago after the several weeks it took to repair it. She also decided to add rental insurance to her policy, as she had to pay for a rental car out of pocket. Doesn't seem fair since the accident wasn't her fault, but that's the way the policy was written. I think I will add it to our auto policy too. You just never know...

Hope your new year is going well. :)

Talk to you soon.

Visit my website to read a FREE EXCERPT of my mystery romantic-suspense novel, Her Last Letter.

Books are available online at Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and can be ordered at most bookstores.

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