Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Changes and Movings and Daddies

My dad is still doing okay, getting stronger I think, but I sense a bit of depression in him about where he is at now, in the rehab center. I keep poking him to eat more so he can be sprung from the joint. Meanwhile, I've been sorting my spare bedroom (aka the junk and craft room) into a semi-permanent place for Dad. We're all going to have be watched a little closer; and that's just as well, I need someone to cook supper for and he needs someone to eat with. We'll see how it goes.

As if the sorting and moving and cleansing of the "craft" room isn't enough, I've been rerouted at work into a new location, which has been stressful for me, mostly because I take it personally that I'm being shoved out of one spot and being shoved into another, where I'm not really wanted either. My allies say I'm being punished; my supervisors say there was no other options available to them; and I keep looking on the job postings site because this is nothing if not a motivation to get the hell out of here. Today's Wednesday--I should pick up a paper.

I love books--so having to pare down my books because after moving them last weekend, I was very adamant that I was going to pare the damned things down to "KEEPERS" (and possibly the TBR pile). Those previously shelved "keepers" which I deemed unlikely to read again, et al, were ruthlessly tossed into boxes. I hope someone loves the stories as much as I did, but stories are meant to be shared. Don't worry, plenty of books remain...and I'm sure any shelf space I got back will be taken back over. Although yesterday, I bought three Kindle books because a) they were cheaper and b) I didn't have to find them a shelf. I don't see myself ever being a sole Kindle librarian (no paper at all), but I see myself getting more and more into it.

Lastly, my best friend, the one I've known the longest and best, her daddy died last Friday. He was a Johnny Cash of a man: big, bold, rumbling, and protective. He was funny and a merrymaker; he wasn't a complainer about work or his health--maybe the occasional politician, but who isn't? He was ornery as hell--and he loved being known for it. He loved bluegrass and fixing cars and singing and gardening and cooking...and just being a daddy. He was a daddy to those of us who already had daddies but watched us when our daddies weren't here to watch over us. He could be aggravating--as everyone can be--but he was a man you couldn't help but love and respect, and we did. We love and respect that man to heaven and back. I'm going to miss like hell him calling me "Red" and giving me shit about my driving. The world is less without him.

So much has happened in this past week, so much change and sadness. Hug everyone a little tighter, tell them you love them, listen to their stories because you never know when you may not get to again. The deaths of Robin Williams and Lauren Bacall also have affected me deeply--as well as the death of James Garner a few weeks previous. So many wonderful, bright and shining lights.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

What Disney Taught Me About Being a Real Writer

I went to the RWA 2014 conference this year. Please read PJ's blogs on The Romance Dish--because that woman can certainly sum up an experience. I'm sure I'll write my version later, but I wanted to share something I learned at the conference.

The conference was filled with all day, on the hour sessions about writing, publishing, thriving, branding, marketing, and anything a writer/author needs to refresh themselves for another year of doing this. One of the sessions I chose to go to was GETTING INTO THE SPACE OF YOUR MUSE. Actually this was a two-hour class and I only stayed for one because this class overlapped with another class I wanted, but let's just say the second hour was MEDITATING and I've had classes about that already.

That arrogance of mine aside, there was something the presenters kept saying at this workshop--and it was about how there are two core beliefs we operate from as humans: fear and love. Most of the time, we operate out of fear. I totally believe this. I wrote a fantastic paper about it in college once for an exam and my teacher loved it. (Again, neither here nor there. Just saying, I've always believed this to be true. We operate out of love or fear, but never both at the same time. They're just opposite sides of a coin.) So much of the reason we're not writing, not pursuing our dreams, is out of fear. It's certainly not out of love.

We fear rejection. We fear failure. We fear success. We fear never being able to repeat a success. We fear. We fear. We fear. Fear is useful, perhaps, when it comes to outrunning snakes--I mean, those little bastards are dangerous and creepy. Not so useful in creating our best life.

So say you're a writer...or an artist...or a scientist even. You're born and you seem to have a special talent for something. You're a bit like Pinocchio, a wooden boy with real potential, that the Creator made to do exactly what you have the real potential for. You only need to practice those things, those talents, to become your best self, a real boy. But we end up running with the wrong crowd (FEAR)--the Fearmonger, the Procrastinator, the You Suck gang--and like Pinocchio, while we thought we were real, suddenly we're not, we're really not, and we tell lies to ourselves, like it doesn't matter if we don't do the things we love most, it wouldn't work out anyway, we shouldn't disappoint our families--and our nose grows. And we're very miserable. And a lot of the time, if we let it go on too long, we behave likes asses. We're wooden, we're fake, we're frauds, and we're unlovable. These are the things we tell ourselves.

But say we finally come home to the place we always belonged, to the place we were happiest, and started living the life we always imagined, like Pinocchio did. He comes home; the Creator welcomes him back; and the fairy godmother (LOVE) comes in the night and turns him into a real boy. When we come to the thing that truly makes us happy, love shows us that we are real writers...and painters and scientists.

That's what I feel like: like a wooden fraud who lies to herself all day and isn't doing THE THING she most wants because she's afraid of something, most likely everything. That's what the class taught me. Operate from a place of love instead. I was always a real writer. I just didn't believe it.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Hellie's Reviews: Sophia Nash's THE ONCE AND FUTURE DUCHESS

Sophia Nash’s THE ONCE AND FUTURE DUCHESS, which is part of her series of the Royal Entourage, is really a very hysterical “The Hangover” a la Regency era. I am not a fan of the movie, The Hangover (I think I’m the only one) but I do admire the shenanigans and problems that they all have to deal with the morning after and go, “How the hell did this happen?” Such is this series. The Prince has issued a royal decree that all the participants of this evening must now marry and reform—after all, we can’t have what’s going over in France happen over here in England! The beheadings!

The Duchess of March also happened to be there that night…though her shenanigans were definitely more on the prudent side. However, this doesn’t keep George from issuing a royal command she marry too; and it appears she and George have the perfect candidate in mind. Actually pretty much everyone sees it, even James himself, the Duke of Candover, since he’s in love with Isabelle, but made a promise to her father not to let her marry someone like him. You know, old. And there is a whole bunch of nuanced issues that made up motivations and kept everyone from having a happy ending for a long, long time, like the Duke of March was like the father Candover wished he’d had and he would never disappoint the man’s final and only request, blah, blah, blah. Noble people are so exhausting. It works out, eventually. To keep you from losing despair though there is a lovely subplot with Candover’s friend and an abigail who tricked him into marrying her that fateful night. Hilarious.

I’m not sure if there are any other stories to wrap up in this series, but the series itself has been solid and hilarious and well-characterized. If you haven’t read the Royal Entourage series, I recommend it, especially if you liked The Hangover…and even if you didn’t. Five stars. 

What have you been reading lately?

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Ramblings and other Tuesday Observations

This is why I don't keep journals. I always get discouraged if I don't write something every day or so, as if I'm slacking. Or if I'm not slacking, then it must be I'm so boring I don't have anything worth writing about anyway, so why did I even start a journal in the first place?

No one should wander out alone in my brain. It's a treacherous place, honestly. Go in groups. Take swords.

I have been reading, even if I don't have any reviews here right now. I may do a review on the Nora Roberts' trilogy I just read, which most everyone else has too. But the reviews of the newest books I've gotten lately, those will probably go to The Romance Dish. I've gotten quite a selection so I hope to have new reviews soon for everyone. So you guys can still be assured I'm still literate. I'm not a complete drooling mass who only googles pictures of Tom Hiddleston all day. (Though admittedly it's probably a close thing.)

Here is my current project at home. Not the quilt (which is still unfinished in the whole quilting phase part of it.) Nope, now it's painting all the time and the Brene Brown class, which is art journaling for the soul and she has an assignment every week so you can't fall too behind. Writing prompts. Always helpful.

It's still in process. It's supposed to be Lancelot and the Lady of Shalott. Again I have cut out the unfortunate aspects of their hands until I can "fix" them. Mostly I work on the faces there's a lot to do here...but so far, I'm liking the faces so far.

What have you all been up to?

Monday, March 24, 2014

Here's How My Restraining Order Happened

This is, of course, a shameless, tawdry, transparent stunt just so I can post Tom Hiddleston's picture on my blog. But I have to say--reading this story (and really it doesn't even matter if it's true--just the thought that it is is enough to sustain me)--all I could think was: "Sweet Jesus, I would have passed out like a fainting goat and when Tom, impeccably mannered that he is, bent down to help me, possibly even give me mouth to mouth--well, that's when the restraining order would happen."

Or somewhere close to that.

It could be a few minutes later as the cops are carrying me off and I'm flailing wildly, screaming, "I kneel! I kneel!"

It's Spring Break...I clearly need a vacation. Where's Tom working now? That guy so totally picked the right part in that movie. Just saying.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014


It's my birthday, and that's the only thing this post is about.

In celebration of my birthday, several fine and wondrous authors got together and wrote books to come out ON MY BIRTHDAY, so I would not be in desire of any reading materials or happy endings.

Lorraine Heath's WHEN THE DUKE WAS WICKED is about...I'm not sure. Apparently a wicked duke. Lorraine Heath has become one of my autobuys so I don't have to look too close. I know I adored her previous series; and I think this may be the start of a new series. I'm looking forward to reading it!

Monica McCarty's THE RAIDER is another in her series of the Highland Guard, which is like Navy SEAL ops set in early 1300s Scotland. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. It's like having a dose of Braveheart twice a year--just lovely.

Tiffany Clare's newest THE SCANDALOUS DUKE TAKES A BRIDE also comes out on my birthday. I love the color! Red, the color of passion, and definitely the hallmark of a Tiffany Clare novel.

When I'm not nose-deep in a book, I'll be watching THOR 2: THE DARK WORLD, where Loki looks all scrumptious and darling--I forgot what a little git he was in THE AVENGERS, so it's nice to see better "qualities" of him in this movie. Well, as far as Loki is able to allow himself to have good qualities.

The only other thing on the agenda for the birthday is a hair cut...I am entertaining the thought of bangs, longish ones, but definitely something to sweep decently across my brow. I have a lot of hair going on and no style. Which mind you, it's nice to have hair, don't get me wrong.

So what do you wish for my birthday today? :)

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Knife Skills

Incidentally I posted about this last week on Facebook, so I apologize this is almost exactly the same.*


Last week was the knife skills class. For the first hour, he talked to us and showed us knife cuts that he practiced on various items (and which if we couldn't see him directly, there was a live video and a tv near you). He joked with us about why we were taking the class, since he was sure none of us had ever held a knife before or used one. Yep, we all looked like a bunch of FOOD NETWORK watchers if I ever saw them. He got through all the various cuts; he pointed to the cuts on the poster he held up before and after he did them; he then asked us if there was any cuts we needed repeated or any cuts he hadn't done that we were curious about.

I said, "Well, it's not a cut we need for the class, but it's on your board and it looks very pretty. Can you show us how to do the diamond shaped one?" Rondelle, I believe, but don’t ask me to pronounce it. He just got done showing us the burnoise cuts, which is uniform little squares that the average layman would called “diced.”

He says, Sure, though I don't think I've had to make that cut since culinary school. "Oh,” I say, “it's like me and algebra then. That's okay if you can't."

"No, no, I can do it." He planks some pieces of carrot like he showed us to make fine dice and julienne. He talks as he's demonstrating, saying turn your blade this way and that and he gets a nice pile. "Any questions?" There’s confused silence.

"Um, I'm an English major, so again, math not my strong suit, but didn't you just make a bunch of triangles and not diamonds?" I ask. Was I missing something? I felt like the kid pointing out the emperor was naked; the emperor WAS naked, right?

Another girl in class. "I am a math major and those do look like triangles rather than diamonds."

"Damn, you're right," he says. "I really haven't done this cut since culinary school. I've got it, I've got it." He does another plank; he makes another batch of triangles. We're all staring at him, not saying a WORD. "We'll figure it out in the other room when we practice. I know how to make the cut, I promise."

We figured it out though. When we got to do just practice cutting on carrots (all the food was prepared and cooking), I made a plank, cut a bias line like he did, then stared at a minute, and made a parallel bias line next to it...diamond shape. Voila! Of course, if I’m ever making carrot cut shapes this precise, just shoot me. Dicing the onion had a neat trick, but in the end, I’m relatively certain I’m going back to my old way of slicing the half onion horizontally in thin slices, then turn the group and slice them vertically in thin slices. Lovely dice, really. Much finer (and faster) than doing the “correct” way, but I’m sure it’s just a matter of practice.

Pam and I worked alongside a lovely couple, Kevin and Angie, and all the food turned out wonderful. We made the guacamole first and salsa to "snack" as we waited for the other food to cook, um, yeah, it was so good and we were so hungry, we ate all of the guac and salsa before the fajitas were the fajitas could have done with a little bit of the guac and salsa on them, but we made do. The corn chowder also came out very delish. I notice that when I’m cooking with complete strangers I’m a lot more obsessed with the outcome than if I was doing it for friends. If I burned up my onions when friends were over, I’d toss them out and start again, no big deal…a little burnt bacon, it’ll add flavor. Nope, I hovered over that pot of corn chowder like a Jewish mother over her only son. “Do you think the bacon is rendered enough? It doesn’t look very crisp” and “do the onions look sweated enough? Too crunchy? Yes, I think so too.” Seriously, they weren’t going to give us anything to make that could be easily fucked up, you know? They didn’t even allow us to do anything dangerous, like cut up raw chicken or fry the sopapillas!

Fun class though. If you haven’t tried a cooking class before, I highly recommend, even if you already know how to cook more than ramen and frozen pizza. I will be keeping my eye out for one of the more adventurous classes. Cheesemaking, maybe. That one looked fun.