J is for Joy Ride

Carson in the Driver's Seat

When my first daughter was a baby and I couldn’t get her to sleep, I would put her in her infant seat and go for a drive. It didn’t take long, just a few minutes, really, and she was snoozing. I think this practice is frowned upon these days, but it worked for us.

Movement is naturally soothing to most of us. If it’s fast, like a roller coaster, it’s not comforting but exciting (unless you’re prone to motion sickness, of course).

Giant Dipper Sign

When I was growing up in Brooklyn, I loved when my dad said we were going for a drive on Sunday afternoon. It was all about going for The Ride, an adventure during which we could be sure he’d complain about all the “Sunday drivers”—of which, naturally, he was one. It didn’t matter where we went, although it usually was out of the city and into “the country” which meant Long Island or Jersey. Sometimes we went to the drive-in in Valley Stream, combining the best of several worlds.

I’ve been thinking of the things for which I’m grateful this morning, and simple pleasures head the list. So my wish for you today is that you recall something that made you happy when you were a kid: jumping rope, playing hopscotch, tossing a ball with a friend. If you can do that thing, do it. If not, take that feeling and delight in it.

And a very Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Posted in Family Matters, Seasonal Thoughts | 5 Comments

M is for My Personal A to Z Challenge

A while ago I discovered Julie Dawn Fox and her blog on Portugal at http://www.juliedawnfox.com. My husband and I have explored a lot in the year plus we’ve lived in this beautiful country. For instance, here’s a photo of the medieval town of Marvão:


But Julie always has something fresh to say about Portuguese culture and travel, so I love seeing her posts in my Inbox.

She challenged herself to write an “A to Z” on Portugal, and then decided to create a Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/myatozchallenge) where she invites readers to create their own A to Z. Today I’m up to G, and just posted “Greetings from Grasse”. Why not stop by, Like the page, and join us!

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“I Left My Phone in Old Lisboa”

(Sung to the tune of “I Left My Heart in San Francisco“) 

The loveliness of Porto seems somehow sadly gay

The glory of Tomar is of another day

I’d been terribly content with my fella in Penela

Why did I go to that city by the Bay?

I left my phone in old Lisboa

High on a hill, it calls to me

It lies where little cable cars climb halfway to the stars

Where the police pulled me aside, and I cried

My cell waits there in old Lisboa

Dropped on the ground when I was free

When I return to you, old Lisboa

My husband, Keith, will drive for me

P.S. Do you think Tony Bennett would be interested in this?

P.P.S. When I searched online for the full lyrics, there was an offer to send the ringtone to my cell. Just another of life’s many ironies…

Lisbon Tram

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You’ve Got a Book in You

Have you ever thought: “I should write a book”? (I know some of you have, especially my Bunny sisters, because you told me so when I published Rabbit Trail.) But you didn’t have a clue how to go about it, right? I’ve just solved your problem.

Actually, Elizabeth Sims has. “You’ve Got a Book in You”, available in both paperback and Kindle editions on Amazon, has everything you need to know about the process. Written in a conversational style, it’s packed with wisdom, technique tips, and a good dose of humor. A Writer’s Digest subscriber, I’d known Ms. Sims as a contributing editor, famous for her Rita Farmer mysteries and Lillian Byrd crime novels. I expected something special from her presentation, “How to Write a Dynamite Mystery or Thriller That Sells”, at the recent Florida Writers Association conference in Orlando.

Elizabeth Sims on Mystery Writing

But I–and all the attendees–got so much more, including a bracelet for encouragement with the words, “You’ve Got a Book in You” on it, personally slipped on my wrist by her.

Elizabeth Sims Presenting Bracelet

I’m anxious to get back to her book (and writing), so I’ll close with this:

As Sims says in her dedication, “You’ve Got a Book in You” is for anyone who’s ever looked at a shelf full of books and wondered if they could do it. You’re about to find out you can. Get the book, start writing.

And let me know how it goes.

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It’s been exactly one week since my younger daughter was married. I love her, love her husband, love his family. My only complaint is that the wedding weekend went by so fast. It was a blur of greeting old friends, meeting new ones, trying to spend quality time with my immediate family, and attempting to not look as bedraggled as I felt. (I intend to offer superstar photographer Yvette Roman as much as necessary for at least one re-touched photo.)

At her final dress fitting early in the week, my daughter presented me–as if she didn’t have enough to do–with two gifts. Of course there were the requisite cookies, but knowing my love of writing, she also gave me a pair of earrings that became an instant favorite. How adorable are these typewriters?

Typewriter Earrings

It was an especially timely gift because it has been exactly two weeks since the close of the Florida Writers Association’s annual conference in Orlando. I spent the days greeting old friends, meeting new ones, and attempting to not look as bedraggled as I felt. (I’d already spent quality family time in Indiana, prior to the conference.)

Back in Portugal for the last few days, I’ve had a  moment to reflect on these last three weeks. It’s time to settle down and get to two or three of the five or six writing projects swirling in my brain and on my computer.

But most of all, I wish my daughter and her husband health and happiness, love and laughter in all the years to come. L’Chaim!

Posted in Family Matters, The Writing Life | 5 Comments

Food for Thought

One of our neighbors, Peter, came to our village (by way of Germany and Ireland) seventeen years ago. It’s given him time to familiarize himself with what grows in the countryside, and when he rings our doorbell he is rarely empty-handed, but brings gifts of fresh figs, walnuts, passionfruit, and grapes.

Local Grapes

And rose hips, to make tea and to add to protein drinks. Who knew how pretty they look in the wild?Rosehips

If we (read “my husband”) want to put some effort into it, “we” can fill a large bowl with sweet blackberries that grace the bushes near the olive trees along the road.

Keith with Blackberries

For a city girl whose produce has traditionally been sprayed, picked, processed, shipped, and displayed on shelves, it’s quite a treat to enjoy this bounty. It reminds me of when God promised the Israelites land filled with milk and honey as well as figs and leeks and olives and dates–that they did not plant. The concept of “that they did not plant” was never as real to me as it is today. There’s so much to be grateful for in life, and a blessing to discover more each day.

Here’s hoping on this first day of a new week–almost a new month–you find something for which to say a special “thank you” to Someone special.

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Autumn Reflections


Each russet anniversary,

Plaid skirts and pencil boxes, fragrance of a hearth.

Time slips, no longer seek a grade but a career,

And in the work world find rebirth.

But then the greatest miracle–

Crib and tiny toe prints, life’s essence in a babe.

Time stills, and that these precious days will end I fear.

Exquisite pain yet rich with mirth.

Now autumn has returned to me.

There stand the blossomed children, wearing springtime dress.

Time stops, as dawns the understanding of this year.

Yet more awaits before the earth.


Posted in Seasonal Thoughts | 7 Comments

And the Winner Is…

Thanks to everyone who responded to my Labor Day newsletter. I’m happy to announce the recipient of the ebook versions of Rabbit Trail: How a Former Playboy Bunny Found Her Way and Slippery Slopes: A Libby Landis Novel is Ann Cosma. Congratulations, Ann! Kindle book gift notifications are being sent to your email address. Enjoy!

Speaking of notifications, today I’ll receive the results of last Friday’s pop quiz. Remember that feeling when a teacher said “put away your books and papers”? There are no grades for the intensive Portuguese language at Coimbra University we’re taking, which was designed to assist incoming students in becoming proficient so they can understand their other classes. I merely want to speak better in daily life. But with the announcement of a test, I felt my heart rate increase along with the room temperature. Some things never change.

Whatever the coming week brings for you, I hope it’s stress-free, filled with learning, and something fun to read. As Henry Wadsworth Longfellow said:

“The love of learning, the sequestered nooks, And all the sweet serenity of books.”

Coimbra LibraryCoimbra University Joanine Library. Photo credit: Paulo Mendes

Posted in The Writing Life | 8 Comments

Makes Scents to Me

My father wore Old Spice. The blend, which contained cinnamon, floral, and herbal notes, remains with me to this day. He used the after shave, so he splashed it on every morning, but I was usually asleep when he left for work. So I remember it meaning we were going somewhere special: a wedding, perhaps, or dinner at an expensive restaurant. I guess to him it was simply an antiseptic, and the alum it contained an anti-clotting aid, in case he nicked himself shaving. Very practical.

The scent was created in 1938 by Shulton, and if you believe what online reviewers say, the Procter & Gamble version these days doesn’t bear much resemblance to the original. Nor do the ad campaigns. I wonder what my father would have thought of this: “With a buoy-shaped bottle and distinctive scent,” reads the website description, “Old Spice After Shave is as American as a man on a motorcycle jumping over a baseball stadium while singing the national anthem.” Wow. Patriotism in a bottle!

Of course, other Old Spice fragrances were created over time, and it’s not just about who you are, but what you can do:


Daddy would have frowned, shook his head, and lit up an unfiltered Camel. End of discussion.

But there is something to discuss. “A perfume gives an idea of the image you want to project,” says writer and jurist Sophie-Caroline de Margerie in Elaine Sciolino‘s La Seduction: How the French Play the Game of Life. “So if you have a very strong, sexy scent,” she continues, “or if you have a lily of the valley scent, or if you have nothing at all, it tells me something about you.” I agree.

The subject of scent is an intimate one, and as such, people can get protective about their favorites. One of my daughters refused for months to tell her sister the name of her perfume, preferring to retain the mystery of her delicious aroma. And a fragrance can become special because of the giver: one of my children gave me a bottle of La Vie est Belle when I visited her earlier this year. I love the scent, but I prize it also because it came from her.

Here’s another I’m enjoying now; the name reminds me of one of my granddaughters.

Elie Saab Perfume Bottle

Some people always wear the same fragrance, as is the case with my former mother-in-law; I can’t imagine her wearing anything but Toujours Moi. I have old favorites: Vent Vert, Chanel No.5, and Ombre Rose, and others I flirted with for just a short time, like Aliage and Calandre, all an olfactory distance from where I started, with 4711 and Ambush.

What about you? Are you a floral, an exotic, a woodsy green? What does it say about how you view yourself, and what do you think it says to others? Don’t know what the fragrance notes are in the cologne you wear? Check it out on http://www.fragrantica.com or http://www.scentmap.com.

Then come back and fill me in. I’m on a need-to-sniff basis…

Posted in Strictly Personal | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

I’m Game, Are You?

“Which Czech writer’s nightmarish novel The Trial was published in English translation?” “What was the new official name of the southeast Asian nation Siam?” “What is the name for the Israeli parliament, which convened for the first time?”

These questions come from a deck of playing cards for the year of my birth. You know the type of thing: every question on a card relates to something that happened in that year.  (Answers at end of post.)

I love trivia. Whether Trivial PursuitJeopardy! or Who Wants To Be a Millionaire? I’m addicted to testing myself, and answers from others are a natural part of that process. Since my husband is a) not into pop culture, and b) a tad younger than I, I sometimes have an advantage. That’s what happened the other day as he whipped out (often hilarious) answers. For example, I held up this card:

Tracey and Hepburn

Before I could ask the question (“Which screen pair played husband-and-wife lawyers in Adam’s Rib?”) he said, “I know those people! Father Knows Best,” followed quickly by “Ozzie and Harriet.” His earnestness only added to my amusement.

It went downhill–and got even funnier–when he answered with a fictitious name. “Ricky Valley” was his answer to the question, “Which popular singer was the first to hold both the #1 and #2 spots on the charts with ‘That Lucky Old Sun‘ and ‘Mule Train‘?”Frankie Laine

Finally I had an entertainment question for him I knew he couldn’t miss. I displayed the card. Could he name the man?

Jeff Bridges Card

Nope. I read the card prompt: “Name this American Big Lebowski film actor, born December 4th.” Still nothing. “Okay” I said, “here’s a major clue: Your wife acted with him.” Relief flooded his face. “Ted Danson!”

When I finished laughing, I had to admire once again the way he jumped in and responded with relish, correctness be hanged. Then I started to think about it, and I wasn’t laughing anymore.

I’m older than Jeff Bridges.

(Franz Kafka; Thailand; Spencer Tracey and Katherine Hepburn; Frankie Laine; Jeff Bridges. I had a walk-on part in the 1992 movie, Fearless.)

Posted in Fun and Games | 5 Comments