Posted in Everyday Life, mystery, Writing

Overwhelmed by Changes

I feel like I’ve been missing-in-action for months on my blog and Facebook. I can’t believe it’s been since mid-June that I’ve actively engaged in this part of my life. And I do enjoy it. I love being able to keep with family and friends, share what’s been going on in my life, finding new crafts to create and books to read. But since this summer things…okay time, to be exact, got away from me and I allowed myself to wallow just a little too much in the overwhelming sea of changes going on in my life.

I’m a planner and having unexpected changes pop up throws my whole being into a sense of chaos. I find it hard to get my bearings and put together a new plan to merge all the must-dos and need-to-dos  into order. In the scheme of issues and problems one has to face, mine weren’t that horrible or unmanageable. Just a few too many unexpected ones at the same time.

IMG_2109There was the foot injured that was likely a stress fractured and kept me out of my garden, and pretty much house bound, except for work during the whole summer. It wasn’t easy walking around in the boot, or going up and downstairs, which the doctor told me was the whole point in it, keeping me off my foot. The treachery of navigating stairs had me writing on a laptop upstairs rather than in my office. On the bright side, at least I wasn’t in the boot while we were in California. It would’ve made getting around Disneyland, the Safari Park, and all the wineries difficult.

I hated not being able to tend to my garden as it was a hobby I enjoyed. Sadly, the lack of attention, combined with the heat and humidity, left our plants in dire condition. We didn’t get much produce, and a lot of the plants succumbed to the heat and squash bugs that attacked the garden.

Then came the unexpected home renovation bathroom project which my friend named Armageddon. We had a recurring mold issue in our bathroom, and got tired of cleaning it, so we called a mold specialist to remove it, figuring it would be gone once and for all. And it is–actually the whole bathroom is gone. Eliminated.

 

For someone who does better with plans, this chaos, along with our decision to start rearranging the house, threw me for a huge loop. And I’m not big on twisty, turning roller coasters which is what I felt I’ve been on for the last few months. Every plan I had made kept getting thrown out.

As for the rearranging of the house–that was the result of another change I knew was coming but just not now. I knew our college junior would be leaving home soon. Just not mid-August soon. I had figured he’d stay until he graduated in two years, instead he moved to where he could go to college and was also being considered for a job with the police force. Since our last child was leaving the nest, we decided to move some of the rooms around to better suit our needs (moving my husband’s office from the room at the far end of the garage into my old office, and my office and crafting studio upstairs as it has more natural light (better for crafting). I’ll admit, I wasn’t ready for the change of having no children at home. I still struggle with it as being mom has been the major part of my identity for such a long time–since I was twenty-one. But time moves on. And I know my children need to move on, and forward, to accomplish their goals and dreams.

Which bring me to my writing, my dream, and the new-to-me dilemma of having my main character snub me. I finished Altered to Death, the sixth Scrap This mystery (release date Nov 28! pre-order is available), and was excited to begin a new book in the series. I sat down to write…and nothing. I had two main plot ideas and played around with them, but it was going nowhere. Then I tried writing a short-story featuring Faith and again it went nowhere. It was like Faith didn’t want to be in it. She didn’t want to talk to me. I tried getting her engaged in the plot but everything sounded to me like the author (me) was moving the character around the scenes. She wasn’t coming across as being an active participant. The story was going nowhere.

What was I to do? There were other ideas for books I had wanted to write, a romantic suspense I wrote a few years that I could polish or rewrite to send off. Or…I wasn’t sure. It had been a long time since I wasn’t sure what to write, where I didn’t have an idea chasing me around demanding to be written.

So, I decided fine, I just won’t write for a month. I’ll use the time to put my house back together. And of course that’s when the next book came to me…a new character. A new series. A new mystery featuring a crafting heroine who will be trying to move forward with her dreams as her children are seeking hers. She’s talking to me. A lot. I’m enjoying getting to know her.

And I know I’ll hear from Faith again. I guess we just needed a little break from each other. At least her new adventure will be out soon. Here’s what she’ll be up to:

AlteredToDeath front sm (2)

Even knee-deep in planning her wedding, Faith Hunter finds herself distracted by the town scrapbook she was commissioned to create. Eden’s oldest mystery, the founding family’s exodus nearly a hundred years ago, remains unsolved. When a search through the family’s abandoned mansion leads to the uncovering of bones on the property and ex-boyfriend Steve Davis announces a surprise heir has staked a claim, Faith is determined to dig up the truth left behind.

Meanwhile, family friend Wyatt Buford asks Faith to look into his deadbeat father’s disappearing act and his connection to the murder. Her quest for answers unearths secrets past and present that some would prefer stay buried at any cost. Faith’s resolve to present the facts and nothing but about Eden’s history could lead to her own future being cut short.

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Altered-Death-Faith-Hunter-Mystery-ebook/dp/B0758DG23P

Barnes and Noble:https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/altered-to-death-christina-freeburn/1127044022?ean=2940158764622

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Posted in Books, Everyday Life, Writing

Life and Times of 1950s Las Vegas, NV by Janet Elizabeth Lynn

While researching our latest book, Desert Ice, we spent a significant amount of time at the UNLV Library’s Oral History Center. Histories were recorded and transcribed from people who lived and worked there during several eras and cataloged for easy access.

Participants that were interviewed talked about their memories of growing up in Vegas. My husband and I were particularly interested in the normal life of people living there:  school, social events, work, travel, etc.

Several women talked about their homes, backyard parties, school and fashion. Many mentioned their clothes in the 50’s. Some were teenagers in the 1950s talked about their poodle skirts, white blouses with Peter Pan collars and Bunny Shoes. Growing up in the 50’s but in New York, I hadn’t heard of Bunny Shoes, so I investigated and sure enough, it was a popular style of shoe in Vegas and in some parts of the west. They insisted the shoes were comfortable and were sad to see them go out of fashion.

pajama-bagaMany also talked about their bedrooms, how they shared their room with sisters, cousins, even aunts visiting and staying for a while. Pajama pillows were a big thing then, they came in many shapes: clowns, bears, dogs, just about any design. Entertaining their girlfriends in their bedroom was the social thing to do.

Television was late getting to the area, so much time was spent listening to the radio or phonograph records. Local talent and visiting performers were consistently on the radio as well as school groups and community organizations. Once TV began, many mentioned the Howdy Dowdy Show, Lassie, The Mickey Mouse Club, and Gunsmoke.

I was surprised how similar my life was to these ladies who also grew up in the 50s separated by thousands of miles. I grew up in a urban Long Island, New York.

The hours we spent at the Oral History Center was rewarding in getting the feel for the life and time of 1955 Vegas.

Posted in Craft, Everyday Life, Quilting, Scrapbooking, Uncategorized

Celebrating National Craft Month

creativity takes courageDuring March, we’re celebrating National Craft Month on the Self-Rescue Princess (along with doing an interview or two). There will be posts from authors about their crafting projects, excerpts from novels featuring crafting moments, and reviews of crafting books.

I love crafting. When I was a little girl, I sewed Barbie clothes by hand and spent hours coloring, imaging I was actually painting a masterpiece. The first baby quilt I ever made was also handsewn. I was stationed in Germany and brought the fabric at the large Post Exchange at a nearby Barracks. It was green with rocking horses on it. There weren’t many options so I picked the fabric I thought would work for a boy or girl (I had a girl!). I didn’t have a sewing machine, as sewing hadn’t been something I had thought about doing for a long time, but I had a need to make my baby her first blanket. Baby quilts have now become one of my favorite items to make.IMG_1913

Over the years, I’ve tried my hand at my crafts: cross-stitch, costuming bears (hot gluing strips of silk and lace onto articulated bears), beading, sewing, scrapbooking, paper cut/die cutting creations, and quilting. Megan's afghanLast year, I added crocheting to my list of crafty endeavors. I still sew, quilt, scrapbook, paper cuts, and crochet. Occasionally, I’ll make a card or two but don’t do it as often, and I only make cards for specific occasions rather than because I’m in the mood to craft.

When I’m itching to craft, but not up to working on a particular project, I’ll pull out my paper, fire up the laptop and get my die cutting machines humming so I can make “cuts”. I find the process relaxing, and I get to embellish. There’s nothing quite as fun as getting out glitter, chalk, and pens to make my paper creations come to life.2014-10-28 19.15.18

Anything Goes Cut Party and stuff 014

I’d love to see some of your creations so please feel free to share some of your projects in the comment section. Let’s inspire each other to craft more in March.

Posted in Craft, Everyday Life, West Virginia

West Virginia Craft Week – October 2-11, 2015

WV-Craft-Week-LogoThis is the first year West Virginia is having a craft week, and I’m so excited. (I know that time period equals more than a week, but it’s the official date for the event.) It’s so great to see artisans being celebrated across West Virginia, and the event is also happening in other parts of the US. There are many events around the state where you can get a glimpse at the crafting process and meet some of the artisans in your area. The Tamarack Foundation has a wonderful list of some of the events taking place in West Virginia. Artisan Events in WV.

It’s a great time to find beautiful, unique handcrafted items for your home, as gifts, and you might see a craft demonstration that you’ll introduce you to your new hobby. I already found a place, somewhat local to me, that’s offering knitting classes. I’ve always wanted to knit, and this is the perfect week to find the information as it’s sign of encouragement for me to try a new craft.

This weekend, I plan on attending the Burlington Apple Harvest (as long as it doesn’t get rained out due to Hurricane Joaquin). I look forward to this event every year. It has a great mix of crafters, vendors, wonderful food, and an awesome flea market section. The first thing I always do is look at all the handcrafted items and put together my buy list. After doing my craft shopping, it’s time for a trip back to the car to load up my purchases before getting an apple dumpling and either chili or barbecue chicken. And my day wouldn’t be complete without browsing around the flea market area where I’ll find more handcrafted items, last year I redecorated my new kitchen last year with cute themed towels, Disney memorabilia to add to my collection, and this year I’m on the lookout for picture frames made from recycled wood.

To celebrate the first day of Craft Week, I’ll share some pictures of a few of my favorite projects. Now that I spent some time browsing my handcrafted item pictures, I want to craft. Instead, I must get to my other creative outlet–writing–and work on Scrap This mysteries number 5. (still debating between titles)

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Disney autograph book
cruise 2012 up
A layout of my children parasailing.
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A card I made for a very helpful friend.
Midnight dreary
A framed quote I made for an auction.
Posted in Cooking, Everyday Life, Gardening, West Virginia

The End of a Garden

2015-07-29 17.02.04It’s time to say goodbye to our garden. We’ll be picking our last harvest tomorrow., not that there’s much left. The temperature is cool in the morning and the plants are no longer thriving. I was hoping to have one more batch of tomatoes, but it is not to be. I have enjoyed my time in the garden this summer and am bittersweet at its depature. I love my almost 5-foot tall jalapeno plant and would love to wait it out and see just how tall it could get. But alas, my husband is ready for the last mow of the season, and to prep the garden for next year, so it’s time to get the last of the vegetables and dig up the remainder of the plants (to make it easier for him to mow).

I have plans to make the garden a little bigger for next year because there wasn’t enough space for all I planted. This was our first year gardening and we were told not to worry if some of our plants didn’t take. It happens. Well, we had beginner’s luck and lost only one tomato plant. Okay, we did “lose” all four of our green bean plants but that was because of the rabbits. Baby rabbits are the perfect size to sneak between the holes in the wire fence. And those little rascals love, love, love green beans.

Some of the lessons/tips I’ve learned this year are:

  1. If the recommended planting space is 18-24 inches, go with 24. Once the plants started growing, there wasn’t enough space to easily weed, and I broke a few plants.
  2. Marigolds. Our 4-foot tall fence didn’t keep out the deer. One morning, my husband saw a buck in the middle of the garden chowing down on the tomatoes. He yelled at the deer and it jumped out. We noticed a neighbor still had lovely, red tomatoes in their garden, and had marigolds planted on the corners. Apparently, deer do not like the smell of the marigolds and it keeps them away. I’m not sure about that, but since it worked for them, I’m all for giving it a try.
  3. Four plants of four different types of hot peppers equals an overabundance of peppers. Next year, we’ll go with one less variety. Three of them my husband really liked for making his homemade hot sauces.   2015-09-02 11.07.17 2015-09-12 18.32.17
  4. Add mesh to the bottom of the fence so rabbits don’t bring their babies to your garden to use as a buffet. If I looked out the window and saw the mom and dad rabbits (or maybe they were all moms or all dads) sitting a few feet away from the garden, that meant the offspring were munching away on the green beans.
  5. I have gained a love for eating vegetables. For some reason, vegetables from your own garden taste so good.
  6. Gardening can become very addictive. There’s just something about growing food that is so satisfying. I have to say my most exciting moment was when it was time to harvest the brussel sprouts. I was telling everyone I could that I “made” brussel sprouts. It’s a highlight of my summer that ranks right by there with going to Disney World.

 

This winter, I plan on learning about canning and pruning so I can enjoy next year’s bounty more.2015-09-12 18.16.11

Posted in Cooking, Everyday Life

My Blue Apron Journey Continues: Crispy Catfish with Freekeh

I started a new job so things have been hectic around my house. I’m still working on finding the balance between writing, the new job, and taking an online class, not to mention finding time to enjoy my hobbies. My meal choices are once again reverting back to the standard meals I made when my children were younger and we had sport commitments. The food I’m cooking is good, but I had been looking forward to branching out and making more “elaborate” meals. Thank goodness for Blue Apron. This service allows me to have three days during the week when I can try new recipes and some new foods.

I have a half a shelf in the fridge dedicated to the Blue Apron food so no one uses those ingredients for something else. I group the ingredients for the meals together, placing the vegetables into a storage bag so I won’t have to hunt for them. As I can’t start dinner until later in the evening, it’s nice having everything sorted so I can collect the items needed for the recipe and just start cooking.

2015-09-03 20.14.45From our newest order, our favorite meal was Crispy Catfish with Freekeh. My husband and I had never had freekeh before and I’ll admit we weren’t that excited about trying it and kind of put it into the category of something we wouldn’t enjoy. We were wrong. It was one of our favorite parts of the meal. The combination of the freekeh with the vegetables was outstanding.

My husband usually isn’t a fan of tomatoes, matter-of-fact he avoids them unless they are a part of a Blue Apron meal. The combination of spices and additional ingredients added with the tomatoes (or tomatoes are added to) turns this once hated vegetable into a favorite of my husband’s.

While I was preparing the side dishes, my husband was cooking the catfish. (Sidenote: I have to say my favorite thing about Blue Apron is that it’s turning into a lovely hobby my husband and I share.) He read the directions a few times to make sure the catfish was only to be coated on one side. He’s cooked fish many times and this was the first time a recipe said to only flour one side. The fish turned out wonderful. We both enjoyed having the bottom of the fish crispy while the top remained tender.

I can’t week for our next meals to arrive. Stay tuned for more adventures in what is turning out to be a new hobby. I am thoroughly enjoying cooking again.

Posted in Cooking, Everyday Life

Beginning my Blue Apron Adventure

blue apronTen days ago, I saw an ad on Facebook for Blue Apron, a service delivering fresh ingredients and the recipes for three meals to your home. I’ve been wanting to branch out from the standard meals I’ve been cooking (for what seems like forever), and expand our palate a little more. As we live in a rural area, some ingredients are hard to come by so Blue Apron looked perfect for us. I also liked the fact I could order a 2 person or family plan which your choice of omnivore or vegetarian…or you can mix it up a bit. My son is a picky eater, so I knew he wouldn’t eat the fancy meals but they were perfect for my husband and I. It would be a fun way to have an elegant, date night meal at home.

Another reason I ordered was to see the amount of ingredients needed to cook for two people. I have been cooking for 5 or more for such a long time I’d forgotten how to cook small. Most of the time we had so many leftovers, the same meal was eaten for lunch and dinner a few days in a row, unless it was something that could be frozen and remain edible (note: cucumbers do not freeze well). Also by having so much food available at mealtimes, I was encouraging huge portion sizes.

I hadn’t realized our mind-set until I made the first Blue Apron meal for my husband and myself. As I was preparing it, we both thought the protein (meat) included was rather small for a two-person meal. There was no way we’d be full after dinner, even taking into account the vegetable part of the meal. Much to our surprise, not only were we full but we had some of the vegetables left. We made the second meal yesterday, and again, discovered that the meat portion was exactly what we needed and not on the skimpy side. I’m looking forward to making the spicy meatballs tomorrow, and getting my next shipment in two weeks.

And a huge shout-out to Blue Apron for making it so easy to skip a delivery. In the delivery schedule, the next five weeks of meals are listed and I can choose which ones I’d like and the ones I prefer to skip. It’s so convenient to look at the menus and schedule the next couple of weeks at once rather than having to remember to check every week. I’m really looking forward to week when shrimp and grits is one of our recipes.

 

Posted in Everyday Life, Vacations

Planning is Part of the Fun

2015-06-01 15.52.26In a little less than a week, we’ll be on our way to Disney World. Okay, Orlando actually as we’re not staying at a resort hotel and won’t be at Disney each day but to me we’re going to Disney. For me, it is one of the happiest places on Earth and where I find I can let go of all worries and anxieties and just be in the moment. This time will be even more magical as we’re bringing the little people…aka the Princess and Pirate Boy…aka the grandones…aka the grandchildren…with us. Now, my children never picked up the Disney fever and love from their mother, but my oldest daughter’s little ones sure have. I have got the 2-year-old saying “Going to Disney World” and the 5-year-old is beside herself with anticipation. We giggle about our trip and the plans every time she comes over. I don’t know who’s more excited about the Princess breakfast and meeting Anna and Elsa. Actually, I do. I am more excited about watching my Princess meet the Princesses she loves more than anything else. The anticipation and excitement are so great, I find it a hard time concentration when I find my mind wandering to those events and envisioning the smile on her face. Oh my…is it time yet?

Every vacation we go on, I like to learn about the area and plan out a few things we can do. Fortunately with Disney, there are tons of books, videos, and other sources available for me to get into the Disney and vacation mood. And sometimes a little bit too much because I have to ‘bargain/bribe’ myself into how much work I have to do before I click over to a Disney site or see if we can change the time on the FP+ experience or even switch the experience. My son decided he’d rather trade his Fastpass option from the Under the Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid to Space Mountain, and from Meet the Disney Pals to go on Mission:SPACE along with his dad. Go figure.

I’m really looking forward to this trip that will be a mix of family time and also our group branching out at times to go and experience their favorite parts of the Disney World parks. The Passporter’s Disney World guide is my favorite (if I have to pick one) and I also really like the Hidden Magic of Walt Disney. The Hidden Magic gives tips of things to see and explore when you’re not in the mood for rides or just want to know some of the special ‘treats’ Disney built-in to the park which gives it the magical Disney touch.

Posted in Everyday Life, Gardening, West Virginia

How Does the Garden Grow

This year, I’m determined to try new adventures and not let worrying consume me or stop me from trying something new. I was a tax preparer this tax season, and found out I really enjoyed it.  In continuing with this mission, I started a garden this year. I have the help of my husband, and my good friend Janie. She’s an avid gardener and was willing to help me out. Fortunately, my husband and I have a huge yard (even for WV) so our first task was narrowing down where on the seven acres to put it. A few acres were easily to eliminate as it was either woods or where our flowers were planted. We chose a flat spot near our house hoping that, along with our fencing material, keeps the deer and rabbits out of the garden.

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Let’s hope it works!
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Our freshly tilled garden spot.

It has been such a long time since I had a garden. The first garden I tended came with the house we bought, so I never started one from scratch. I’m so glad I had the advice and encouragement of my friend or I wouldn’t have got any further than planning to put one in. We spent all day Friday finishing up the garden. First a trip to a farm to choose our plants, then coming back, doing a little more tilling, remove some more rocks, planning out our planting strategy, then planting all of our plants. We might have over done it this year…toward the end of our planting session we were running out of room and weren’t sure we’d get everything in.

Our plants include: habanero peppers, scotch bonnet peppers, thai chill peppers, banana peppers, green and yellow peppers, brussel sprouts, asparagus, lettuce, red and yellow onions, eggplants, mix of herbs, and a variety of tomatoes. It’s a very eclectic garden.

I’m going to take notes so I’ll know next year what plants did well in our rocky soil and with an amateur garden tending it. I find myself checking multiple times a day to see if our garden has grown. I can’t wait to pick the first veggies from it.
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Posted in Books, Encouragement, Everyday Life

Stay in the Now

So far, 2015 has been a little overwhelming for me (in a good way). I decided at the end of last year to expand my horizons a little and silence the annoying voice in my head that liked to say I couldn’t do something. Or, it just wasn’t in me to figure out a new skill. I was really tired of it so started doing some new things and working on some skills I did have. And that voice had also made me second guess myself that resulted in me pulling out two threads from Embellished to Death. I loved them and believed added so much to the story but I worried about it…one changed a lot for my heroine and required a new mindset for her. Fortunately, my wonderful editor knew I was holding back something and encouraged me to go with my instinct and write it. I’m so glad I did. EMBELLISHED front under 2mbThose two elements…Bob (Ted’s brother) and Garrison’s (Bob’s life partner) appearance in the book added a richness to the book and I really enjoyed seeing them together on the page. I must admit they are my favorite couple in the Scrap This series. The other element in the book shook up my heroine’s world and while I was worried about it happening in Embellished, when I finished writing Framed to Death (#4) I was so happy I finally ignored the “you can’t” voice. I enjoyed seeing Faith grow on the page. It’s nice seeing her also silencing her own “I can’t’ voice.

To work on silencing mine, I took a sewing class at the end of last year and did pretty well I must say. I then decided to take an online course on taxes, did a good job, and then got a job preparing taxes. I know this might sound strange but I actually enjoy it.. What makes me the proudest was that I overcame the voice saying I wouldn’t be able to do it, and forged ahead even during the class segments when I started doubting myself. So twice last year I won against the “You can’t” voice that liked to derail my plans and vision.

contest 012While Framed to Death (the fourth in the Scrap This Series) is with beta readers, I’ve been working on a book that has been in my mind and heart for the last few years. I’ve been wanting to do it but the “You can’t” voice had overcome me and convinced me the book was a little more than I could write. There are elements of paranormal and mystery in the story, but the hardest one to get just right is the uniqueness of the spirit of not only the people in Appalachia but also Appalachia in and of itself.

This year I stopped listening to the voice saying I can’t and have dusted off the manuscript and began working on it again. I had completed half the book when I let the ‘I can’ts’ convince me I couldn’t adequately tell the story in my own head. If I can’t tell the story who can? And it’s a story I need to tell. It’s been with me for a few years and won’t leave. That tells me it wants out and into a book. The story has grown over the years and I’m confident I can do it. I’ve made some major changes to the original plot and I’m loving how the book is coming together. I don’t know what will happen when I complete this manuscript, but I’m proud that I’m writing ahead and not letting me stop myself from trying. I decide to live in the now writing moment and will consider the book’s future when I’m done. I realized that at times I’m so concerned at what will come next, what could happen, that I don’t enjoy where I’m at now so my motto for this year is “Stay in the now.”