Friday, October 26, 2012

Facts, Fun, Fantasy: The Upside-Down Garden

Upside-Down Garden.

In Journey of Awakening, Sara is lying in bed at an old healer's house. She stares up at the herbs drying from the rafters and thinks it looks like an upside-down garden. I thought from time to time, it would be fun to discuss some of the ways she, and I, use herbs in day-to-day life. Today! Lavender

Lavender is one of those plants that grows really well where I live...and I’ve managed to kill every time I’ve planted it. Why? Because it doesn’t need a lot of care and I over water or fertilize... and yeah. Dead lavender. 

But did I mention I love it? So I’m trying one more time. This time, I’m putting it in a container so I can better control the water and it won’t get fertilized with the roses and trees.

So why do I love it so much? Lavender is beautiful with spiky purple flowers and grey-green, very fragrant leaves. But it's also useful!

The use of lavender dates back thousands of years and is synonymous, in some circles, with stress relief. Its name derives from the Latin word Lavare, (to wash) and has antiseptic properties. During WW2, lavender was used not only to dress wounds but to disinfect floors.

The leaves and flowers are often used in potpourri but lavender leaves are also an insect repellent, and I read not too long ago, about a woman who used tied bunches of lavender to stop algae from growing in her bird bath.

Healers and herbalists have used lavender as an antispasmodic, a diuretic, a sleep tonic and as a remedy against headaches. I can attest to its effectiveness in two ways: I‘ve always been a bit of an insomniac and keep a vial of lavender spray by my bed to help me relax. Lavender oil is also the prime ingredient in a lotion I rub on my temples when I have a headache. It seems almost miraculous to me how fast it works.
Lavender is also a culinary herb, which shouldn’t be surprising since it’s a member of the mint family. 

Now for the gardening side:
There are several types of lavender: Spanish, French and English are the most common. (If you really want the Latin names, I can put them in the comments if you like) English lavender has the sweetest fragrance and is most commonly used in cooking. French or Spanish lavender is better for crafts and dried arrangements.

If you grow lavender, and I recommend you do, make sure it has sandy, well-drained soil and lots of sun. If you have clay soil, which is one of my problems, add a considerable amount of sand; a raised bed helps too. Or a pot. Definitely trying a pot this time.

Disclaimer: Dried herbs are always more potent than fresh and never use herbs from florists or nurseries as it could have been treated with pesticides. 

Have you used lavender? Do you grow it?

Monday, October 22, 2012

A Day in the Life: Gardening

Okay, as promised, here are the pictures of my garden. It pains me to reveal these, really it does.
So you have a better idea of the problem, here is a comparison.



The second picture is taken later in the year but... yeah, pretty bad.

Here's another. (It's like ripping off a bandaid!)

I am hoping to post a few pictures of my progress in a few weeks. Wish me time, folks!

Have you ever let anything go so long you wondered if you'd ever catch up? Considered trashing it and starting over?

Friday, October 19, 2012

My little bumblebee

October is anti-bullying awareness month and I am honored to join together with other authors to raise awareness of this widespread problem.

Some consider a little teasing part of growing up. I know I did. At twelve, just entering junior high, my mom moved us from a tiny town in Western Washington where we attended a school of about twenty children to a fairly large city where my moccasins, dresses and old-fashioned clothing just didn't fit it. Yup, I was a social outcast. I was told to ignore it, but you know, some of those scars still remain.

But I honestly don't want to talk about me.

My daughter is a vibrant, gorgeous little girl with curly red hair and the biggest blue eyes you've ever seen. She was also born with Poland's Syndrome and Brachydactyly. Which means she doesn't have a pectoralis major muscle, the one that goes from your shoulder to your breastbone--It looks like the right side of her chest is caved in--and her fingers and toes are stunted and misshaped. At two she had to have surgery because she was missing several teeth and adult teeth were growing sideways in her gums. Her jaw is also misformed a little. She has an under and over bite. She doesn't have the muscle to support her breast growth on one side, which will mean a future surgery once she starts developing more.

She wasn't able to suck when she was born. The doctors and lactation coaches tried everything, but she was labeled failure to thrive. I don't think I can convey what that does to a mother. I finally followed my gut and fed her with an eyedropper.

The doctors said she'd need physical therapy. She went from two months to five months when the physical therapist threw her hands up in the air and said she didn't know how she did it, but she was on the late side of normal and catching up. 

That's when I started calling her my little bumble bee. No one had told her she shouldn't be able to push herself up or roll over. She just did. She walked at nine months and kept up with the other kids. I was told she'd never have strength on her right side. No sports, tumbling, etc, but she could live a fairly normal life. 

When she was two she started going cross-eyed. I took her to the eye doctor to discover she couldn't see very well. When we put glasses on her for the first time, she looked around the room and said, "I see people!" She never took the glasses off.

She was a head shorter than all the other kids in Kindergarten. It was all I could do not to run after her and take her back home. She was the only of my kids that just smiled at me and waved goodbye.

It was with a bit of reservation that, after she insisted, I enrolled her in gymnastics. She thrived. So far she has done everything she set her mind to do. A bumble bee.

But now she's in junior high. She just joined the cheerleading squad. She's already come home several times telling me that the other girls have told her she's too short, too fat, and asking her why she is even there. Her best friend even got in on the name calling. She's started asking me about her hands, and why her fingers aren't straight and when is she going to have a growth spurt. She wants to fit in. She wants to be like the other girls. She won't be.

I've spoken to her and she wants to handle it herself. She talked to her coach, but I wonder. Girls can be vicious. 

So I worry. When will the taunts start dimming her light? How many times does it take to hear she's not good enough before she starts believing it? 

And I'm angry, because she doesn't deserve it. But then no child does. 

Below you'll find the links to the other author's blogs. Thank you for visiting.

Mandy M. Roth Yasmine Galenorn Lauren Dane Michelle M. Pillow Kate Douglas Shawntelle Madison Leah Braemel Aaron Crocco NJ Walters Jax Garren Shelli Stevens Melissa Schroeder Jaycee Clark Shawna Thomas Ella Drake E.J. Stevens Ashley Shaw Jeaniene Frost Rachel Caine Kate Rothwell Jackie Morse Kessler Jaye Wells Kate Angell Melissa Cutler PT Michelle Patrice Michelle Julie Leto Kaz Mahoney Cynthia D'Alba Jesse L. Cairns TJ Michaels Jess Haines Phoebe Conn Jessa Slade Kate Davies Lynne Silver Taryn Blackthorne Margaret Daley Alyssa Day Aaron Dries Lisa Whitefern Rhyannon Byrd Carly Phillips Leslie Kelly Janelle Denison Graylin Fox Lee McKenzie Barbara Winkes Harmony Evans Mary Eason Ann Aguirre Lucy Monroe Nikki Duncan Kerry Schafer Ruth Frances Long

Monday, October 15, 2012

A Day in the Life: Gardening

Those of you who know me, know I love to garden. For me, it’s not a chore...well, most of the time its not. Pulling weeds is cathartic and has from time to time, has been inspiration for a story idea. I think because it’s fairly mindless. I mean if you know the difference between a weed and a flower, or just what you want growing where (some weeds are gorgeous) you don’t really have to think about what you’re doing. This quasi- comatose state is when most of my really good ideas have hit me. That or the shower/right before I fall asleep but that’s another post.

And I love to go out in the garden and watch the changing of the seasons by which flowers are blooming. For me, it’s an exquisite combination of pride and wonder.  I may have trimmed, weeded, fed and watered, but I didn’t create the plant or cause to it to grow.

At the risk of sounding like a kook, I think each plant has its own personality and after awhile they feel like old friends. This was my garden last year.

That’s why it’s hard to walk into my garden now. Toward the end of my pregnancy, I couldn’t go out there and weed. Then there was a newborn and now? 6 months of neglect means weeds as tall as my roses. There is almost as much grass in the flower beds as in the lawn. Everything is overgrown. There are more dead flowers on stems than live ones and my neighbor’s blackberries are once again threatening everything in the east bed.  That and I lost many container plants. Some of them old friends.

I’m not feeling sorry for myself. I’ll regroup. This winter when everything is dormant, I can go out there and reclaim my garden. It was a choice I had to make. A hard choice but a choice. So this winter, if you like, you can follow me in the reclaim the garden marathon. I’m pretty sure it will take all winter. I will *gulp* take some pictures of now so we can track the progress.

Have you had to let something go recently? A hobby? Job? Pastime?

Friday, October 12, 2012

Facts, Fantasy, Fun: Contest

The authors at Here Be Magic, of which I am one, have decided to pull out our bag of treats and celebrate Halloween with a series of month-long giveaways, culminating in a grand prize of a Kindle Fire or Nook Tablet (loaded with ebooks from participating authors) to be awarded to one lucky person on Oct. 31! We'll also announce weekly prizes, including chapter critiques for writers from five of our published authors; promotional services, including promotional tweets, reviews and blog spots; a one-month long mentorship from author Jeffe Kennedy; and a Meet and Greet with authors during the New Jersey Romance Writers Put Your Heart in a Book Conference on Oct. 13.  Be sure to visit the blog for more information and to enter.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Mid-week update

I know I promised an interview with CJ Redwine today on Everybody Needs a Little Romance, but unfortunately it's postponed until next month... anticipation is the best seasoning, right? But I'm still there talking about one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. : )

Also, don't forget on Here Be Magic, we're having a huge Halloween giveaway! Week one is already gone, don't miss out on the fabulous prize for week two!

Monday, October 8, 2012

A Day in the Life: What's cooking?

What’s cooking?

Recently we celebrated my husband’s birthday. He’s quite the foodie. We watch several cooking shows together and he had a subscription to Food Network Magazine, which he loves!

When I asked him what cake he wanted for his birthday, he grabbed the magazines, picked half a dozen contenders (not just cake but pie and crumbles, etc) then asked me to surprise him.

After going through the recipes, and based on the look in his eye as he was pointing them out, I chose a peanut-butter-cream-filled cupcake with a chocolate ganache frosting and topped with a salty peanut garnish. A bit labor compared to a plainer cupcake but oh-my-gosh so worth it.

But unbeknownst to him, I’d also decided to take cupcakes to soccer practice that day. My husband is a coach. So because it’s one of his favorite drinks, I created a raspberry lemonade cupcake. It’s a lemon cake with a raspberry filling and topped with a cream cheese/butter cream frosting.

I totally cheated with this one. It really couldn’t be easier. I blended box and homemade but if I didn’t tell you, you wouldn’t be able to tell. Serious yum!

So what's cooking in your home? Any recipes you'd like to share?

Friday, October 5, 2012

Facts, Fantasy, Fun: Book Review-Defiance by CJ Redwine.

I received this book as a wonderful ninja birthday gift and was in no way coerced, or expected, to write a review. Just sayin'

I don’t usually write reviews, mainly because I’m not very good at it. But every once in awhile, you read something that you just want to rave about. So rave I shall.

The first thing that struck me about Defiance is the gorgeous cover. A cover that I grew to like more as I read the book. It’s always been a pet peeve of mine when the picture on the cover doesn’t even look like the hero/heroine, but with Defiance, they captured Rachel Adams perfectly!

After reading only the first few pages, the reader is transported into a complete, actualized world. I actually went back and studied how the author did this. In very few words, the reader gets a sense of an entire civilization, history and way of life. Not only that, you also get an immediate sense of who Rachel Adams is and you want to get to know her better.

CJ Redwine wrote this book in first person. Even though much of YA is written in first person, I don’t care for it. Sometimes it puts you too close to the character. In this novel, it works. What I haven’t seen much  is a two-person first-person POV. Each chapter lets you know whose POV you’re in and I was grateful for this. It added depth to the story.

Rachel Adams wasn’t raised the way the rest of the girls in Baalboden were. Instead of learning how to be the perfect wife, she was training how to handle weapons, defend herself and track in the forbidding Wastelands that surround the small township.  When Jared, her father, doesn’t return from a mission across the Wastelands, he’s pronounced dead. But Rachel won’t accept it. She begins to plan how she’s going to escape the town and find her father. Logan McIntire apprenticed as a courier under Rachel’s father, even though his skill lies in inventing machinery.  He too wants to find Jared, but his biggest concern is how to keep Rachel safe. A monster, called the Cursed One, lives out in the Wastelands, killing anyone who crosses his path.

The antagonist, the commander and ruler of Baalboden, has his share of secrets. Secrets that cause him to hate Rachel and Logan. He wants something that Jared was carrying and will stop at nothing to get it.
I loved this book. I would highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys a fast-paced story with lots of adventure and just enough romance to keep in interesting.

All in all, I loved this book. To find out more about CJ--she has a sense of humor you can't help but love-- or read more about her work, visit her here. And next Tuesday, I will post an interview with CJ at Everybody Needs a Little Romance. Why not check out the blog now! 

Monday, October 1, 2012

Facts Fantasy Fun: Cover Magic

There’s this moment when you read the art department has your new cover that everything just freezes, your breath catches. This one picture represents the book that has taken you months or even years to write and perfect, or come as close to perfect as possible. 

It represents late nights, too much coffee, piles of undone laundry and dishes, pizza or cereal for dinner, hopes, dreams and yeah, you get the picture. And this one image has been created for you by someone else’s interpretation of your books. Heavy stuff. The time between reading the email and downloading the picture stretches as taut as my nerves. And...then...there it is.

I’ll be honest, I don’t think I’ve ever looked at a cover image and immediately loved it. Probably for all the reasons I’ve mentioned above. So I look, take it in, send it to my trusted web expert and my husband for their opinions, wait a day or two, take another look and love blooms. It helps that the art department at Carina Press is incredibly talented.

So... Are you ready?

What do you think?