So, this morning I was having the neighbor gang over for lattes and look what arrived on my doorstep. My son gets the good son award this Mother's Day for remembering Mom ... and what she likes!
And who doesn't like chocolate covered strawberries?
Of course, I'm only eating them so I won't hurt his feelings!
With Mother's Day right around the corner I can't help but think of my own mom and how rich she made my life. Before there ever was a June Cleaver there was my mom - the queen of the kitchen, reigning in her house dress and high heels. And what a happy reign it was! She made home the kind of place kids wanted to be. I can still remember coming into the house after school and inhaling the fragrance of home-baked chocolate chip cookies. (No wonder I'm a chocoholic!)
And, oh, the parties she could throw for me and my friends - always some sort of theme party complete with hand-crafted invitations, yummy food, and clever activities. She made it all look easy. I still remember fondly the "sewing club" my mother started on the pretext of teaching me and my grade school girlfriends how to embroider and quilt. I think really it was an attempt to teach us to be ladies. We always had tea (laced with cream and sugar) and cookies and were expected to practice good table manners. (Oh, how she tried to wean us away from playing horses!) Every gathering was an adventure. When I was in high school she came up with the brilliant idea to dress my poor old dad up like a gypsy fortune teller and have him crash my Halloween party. He was an instant hit, telling all the guests' fortunes... using information we fed him ahead of time.
She loved to plan special dinners for our family, and her greatest joy was seeing her children, grandchildren gathered around her table.
She didn't stop with family. I think my parents fed half the neighborhood. I know there was never a time when I asked if I could have company that I was denied.
Mom was busy with more than just fun and games. She was a tireless volunteer. She made sure her children got to church every week and she worked hard to instill good moral vallue in us. Kindness and generosity were the twin goals we aimed for in my home, and Mom taught us to take aim with love and laughter.
I wish she was still around to hang out with my daughter and me. Whatever we wind up doing this Mother's Day, we'll bring her along in our hearts.
So, ladies, love to travel? Want to save money? Do a girls' weekend and do it off-season. It's the perfect way to travel. How do I know this? Personal experience, of course!
I Just got back from a fun trip to Portland, OR. Sheila's assessment? Efficient transportation system, huge Saturday market (got the cute cupcake bath bomb th, lots of wonderful restaurants - a great getaway. And going with girlfriends makes it affordable. When you get wonderful off-season rates and can share a room with a friend, well, what's not to love about that?
We took the train down from Seattle, which allowed us to visit and play cards - the time flew! We stayed at the Benson Hotel, which is gorgeous and has a wonderful staff. We ate breakfast at Mother's. Twice. IMHO, this restaurant serves the best breakfasts in the Northwest. And they are not stingy. Both times I split a plate with a buddy and not only saved money but came away perfectly satisfied yet not stuffed to the point of explosion. (Which is more than I can say for how I felt after consuming the incredible happy hour hamburger at El Goucho!) Before we left on our trip three different people told me I absolutely had to visit Voodoo Donuts. Well, we went to check it out but the line to get in stretched around the corner and halfway down the block. So no voodoo for me and no adding to the fat colony on my hips. Probably just as well. And in between the shopping and eating what did we do? Well, this group of friends is The Game Girls, so naturally we staked out a table in the hotel and played games. And since playing games is my favorite thing to do, well, let's just say the weekend vanished in a blink.
Now I'm home, doing laundry. Ah, the glam life of a writer! Why does the time go so fast when you're having fun?! It is a mystery. Sooo, how about you? Have you been to Portland? Somewhere else? What was your favorite spot to visit?
Research, it's a tough job. Except when my research requires a trip to one of my favorite Washington getaway towns: Leavenworth. I'm starting a new series and planning to base my fictional town on Washington's beloved Bavarian village. With it's charming architecture and landscaping and jewel like setting in the Cascades it's the perfect place to settle, not only in fiction but in real life. If you enjoy winter sports, summer hiking, rock climbing, and river rafting, shopping, and visiting wineries this place has it all. And tons of inns and B & B's. Yes, nothing wrong with Leavenworth. We enjoyed our stay at the Alpen Rose (check out those goodies included in our package!) and good times with our friends at A Book for All Seasons. Pat and Ed ran away from the rat race and settled in Leavenworth years ago where she fulfilled her dream of owning a bookstore and he became a winemaker and the proud owner of a vineyard. Thanks Ed for sharing your wealth of information on the wine making process! BTW, if any of you are planning a trip to Leavenworth, be sure to visit their tasting room, D'Vinery. I'm sure your experience will be d'vine!
So, here is my sage advice for the week. Get yourself down to your local mall. Right now! I got this oh-so-cool purse for 80 % off at Kohl's. I also got a piece of fine jewelry at Macy's for 75% off. Happy belated birthday to me :) Let me tell you, that jewelry score was right up there on the woo-hoo meter with my Vegas pawn shop diamond ring upgrade. And it proves my theory that you don't have to be wealthy to enjoy an occasional luxury. You just have to be wise with your money. (SAVE may be a four letter word, but it's one that needs to be in all our vocabularies!) And you have to know when and where to look. Let me tell you, right now is the when and your favorite department store is the where. This is the time of year to be shopping for presents for the upcoming year (birthdays, Christmas, baby showers, house warming, hostess gifts) while merchants are trying to clear out their old stock. And, if you happen to have a few pennies set aside for yourself, now is the time to be scooping up some basics for next year's winter wardrobe. It's a bargain-hunter's jungle out there, full of big game. Get out there, Jane, and bag something great!
My friend and mentor Dan is dying. And, if you ask me, he's dying way too young. Not that anyone asked me. So, why the "lucky man" moniker? Well, let me tell you, watching Dan over the years, I've learned a few things about how people "luck into" a good life. Here's what I've learned from watching Dan.
First of all, be humble and kind. It makes you the kind of person people can trust with their confidences and their hearts. I'm sure it's part of what attracted his wonderful wife Doris to him.
Secondly, be fun. Who doesn't want to hang out with someone who has a sense of humor and enjoys life? And Dan has enjoyed life ever since I've known him (which is a long time - Dan and Doris were my church youth group leaders way back in high school. When I got older my husband and I hung out with them and I can remember some hilarious times together, including a crazy dinner party where the guests ate right off of the table with no utensils but our hands and with those hands tied to each other. Cooperation was the key word if you wanted to eat!)
Thirdly, be a man of integrity. I've never heard Dan say an unkind word to or about anyone. He's always been a man you could depend on.
Lastly, spend your life well. This man has. He's been a loyal and loving husband and father. After retiring from teaching he became a pastor. I have no idea how many people he's visited in the hospital over the years or how many couples he's married but I'd be willing to bet it's a hefty number.
Over the years I've watched Dan's life run like a well-oiled machine. He tended that life the same way he and his wife did their little veggie garden, carefully and lovingly. Thanks to wise choices, many of life's bigger soap opera-style dramas passed him by. Someone casually glancing at him would say, "What a lucky guy." I say, "What a wise man." And what an inspiring example! Some of us squander our lives, some of us spend wisely. I want to be like Dan, the "lucky" man and spend mine wisely.
At least that's what it says on the cake I just picked up for my annual "surprise" birthday party for myself. That's my new motto and I like it! Even though the big day isn't until tomorrow the celebrating and the shenanigans have started already. As you can see by the book pictured below. This arrived in the mail yesterday courtesy of my old high school pal Donna. We have been passing this book back and forth on birthdays for years, and it always comes with a cheeky note written inside. (Yeah, yeah, I know I'm getting older but guess who's right behind me and will be getting this back in a few short months!) The notes in side the book (and the years) are collecting and it is becoming quite the treasure. Hate to say it Donna Jean, but in a couple more landmark birthdays you might not get it back cuz I think I'm going to be passing it on to my daughter to send back and forth to her girlfriend. Let the tradition continue!
I've already been collecting more than funny facial exercise books this month. My game girls had an early party for me and loaded me up with lots of cool presents. It was a shame I had the wrong date on the calendar and missed it! They kept taking pictures with their phones and sending them to me. Everyone had a wonderful time in my absence. Oh, well. My only consolation is that this slight boo-boo had nothing to do with me getting old and forgetful. It just had to do with me being an airhead. Wait a minute. I don't like that explanation of the mix-up any better. I'm just busy. There. That's my story and I'm stickin' to it! I did get the presents and cake the next day from my buddy Jill. She even sang happy birthday to me, fed me, and played a game of Hands and Buns with me. Now, that's true friendship! And I still have tomorrow to look forward to. Meanwhile, today I went to the make-up counter at Macy's and splurged on eye shadow and liner and lipstick. My goodness, do I look hot. So, I look hot, I feel hot. I sure don't feel old. You know, you're only as old as you act. A very wise woman said that. Who was it? Oh, yeah It was me! So all you girls with birthdays coming up, get out there and celebrate. Don't depend on others to pamper you. Do it for yourself. Celebrate the fact that you're alive. It's a gift.
It seems like everywhere I look right now I see tips for guys on how to "get it right" on Valentine's Day. (Believe me, I'm all for that but if Gerhardt blows it, I know where to find the chocolates for 50 % off on the 15th.) What's with all the helpful hints on how to make us women happy? Is this because guys are clueless? Maybe. Or does it say something about our culture these days? Where are the TV segments and radio ads telling us how to give Mr. Wonderful a great day? Are they missing because it's pretty obvious what will make him happy? Maybe. Still, it seems odd to me that while we have lots of advice for the men we don't talk much about how to be great wives and girlfriends. I just heard a radio ad for a seminar for men on how to love their wives. Where are the seminars for women on how to love their men? Are they in scarce supply because it's not all that hard to make a man happy? Maybe. Or maybe it's that these days we'd rather focus on us. Is that a good thing? Not that I'm objecting to all this attention, but . . . maybe not.
Our couples foodie group got together last weekend to celebrate Valentine's Day early, and after dinner we played the game I told you about in my Super You newsletter. When we got to the card that had us complete the sentence "The thing to remember about men is..." all three women in some form or other mentioned the male ego and a guy's need for respect. We all got it, but these last few days I've found myself wondering if we really "get it". I'm not so sure.
Aretha Franklin isn't the only one who wants R-E-S-P-E-C-T. This tops the must-have list for most guys but where the heck do they find it these days? Men in sitcoms and movies are often idiots and their women treat them more like children than adults. And this isn't just happening on the screen, baby. I see women getting after their husbands for all kinds of things on a regular basis. Some guys can't seem to do anything right. And, what can I say? I've been known to go into Mommy mode with my man, too. I've pooh-poohed suggestions or sneered at purchases he's made for his man cave. (HIS being the operative word here.) And I guess I shouldn't have dissed the shirt he found on sale yesterday, but seriously, that thing is ugly. No wonder it was on sale! If Beau Brummel was right and clothes make the man we are in serious trouble. Okay, as you can see, I have room for improvement. Anybody else guilty of this kind of behavior? Come on now, be honest.
I don't like to be put down, nagged, or treated like an idiot (even when I'm acting like one). So what makes me think my man welcomes it?
One of the most important things to a man is respect. If he can't get it from the woman who loves him where's he going to get it?
Sooo, what am I giving my man for the big day (besides the obvious)? His favorite meal . . . and a little respect.
Yes, how's that for a strange blog title! And it gets even stranger. I had a great time with my dermatologist this week. How's that for an odd statement? Let me clarify. I had an odd little dot on my arm. Actually, these days I'm getting a lot of odd little dots on my arm. Not enough protection during those years teaching tennis under a summer sun. But this one worried me. And then I found a mole - and everyone knows moles can become cancerous. And then there was that odd rough patch on my forehead. Let me tell you, we writers are creative. We can jump from "a dot" to "death" in under twenty seconds. Not that I expect to live forever, but I'm hoping when it's time to leave the stage I get to go as painlessly and pleasantly as possible. (Yes, don't we all!) So, visions of something icky started dancing in my head like demented sugar plums and I decided it was time to go to the doc. As it was everything was normal or weirdly hereditary. And that mole? Well, some people call them barnacles but my doctor calls them wisdom spots. Don't you love it? I came home and told Gerhardt I'm so smart it's coming out my skin. And the moral of this story? Well, perhaps it's that worry accomplishes nothing. Better to act and know what you're facing. Meet the concerns of life head on and deal with them, whether they be health related, financial, or relational. And pray. That's Doctor Sheila's prescription. And, if you have health related questions or conc, may I suggest one more thing? Don't go poking around the medical sites on the web. A web page can't run the tests you need but it can certainly alarm you. How do I know this? I bet you can guess!
Yes, I know in the original song the guy left his heart in San Francisco, but I'm thinking maybe he hadn't been to San Diego yet. (No offense Frisco!) This last weekend I had the opportunity of hanging out at the American Library Association's mid-winter conference and Gerhardt and I had a chance to explore the city a little. We barely scratched the surface and I hated to leave... especially since I returned to snow. (I've got nothing against the lovely white stuff as long as it stays where it belongs: in the mountains and off the road!) San Diego was downright balmy and it was great to be able to stroll around the Gas Lamp district with no winter coats. Part of that strolling involved shops and restaurants. Okay, most of that strolling involved shops and restaurants.
These ladies rock!
One of my favorite shops was Carolyn's Designer Resale, where a girl can find every designer purse known to womankind and some fabulous clothes. Oh, those gals are nice! And they didn't laugh at me when I realized, even at a bargain, I couldn't quite afford that Coach purse that kept calling, "Buy me, Sheila!" I resisted, but it was hard. And they tried hard to find me a bargain I could take home. I left empty-handed, but like the Terminator said, "I'll be back!"
I'll take one of each... and a bottle of Tums.
Remember the scene from "The Family Man" when our hero wandered into the men's department at the mall and stood poised on the verge of purchasing a designer suit? His wife consoled him with the promise of a funnel cake. Well, since I couldn't swing the designer purse I consoled myself with cake, also - a cupcake from Heavenly Cupcakes. And the one I chose (vanilla-caramel) was, indeed heavenly. It was hard to make a selection though. So many choices, so little calories to spare!
A message that I should spend money?
So, in spite of strong temptation in the shop windows, I managed to limit my spending to fine dining. San Diego is restaurant city, let me tell you, and offers a range of dining experiences from "We have to sell a child to pay for this" to "I'm going to die in this hole in the wall with a smile on my face." We pretty opted for the small authentic holes in the wall and burned out our taste buds on Mexican food.
So, do I have you yearning for a trip to San Diego yet? I'm sure ready to go back and thinking some California book signing parties might be in order in sunny CA later this fall when my next Christmas book comes out. (Yes, I am becoming the queen of Christmas!) So, a big thanks to St. Martin's Press for letting my hang out at their booth and give away books. And a big thanks to all those librarians for making sure that anyone in America can have access to the wealth of knowledge and adventure that can be found in books.
How fun to meet so many wonderful librarians!