I’m also not much for guilt, unless I’ve done something BAD, and then I can be riddled with it. So it’s very hard for me to combine the two words guilt and pleasure. However, I do have something I do that I know is bad for me and my husband disapproves of, but I do it anyways.
I love the tanning bed.
There I said it. I am a tanning bed freak. I love to have all my flaws (and I have LOTS!) hidden behind dark skin. Ladies, you know what I am talking about. We all have those pesky marks somewhere on our body that blaze “Look at me!” on our pasty white skin, but once we get that slightest color it fades. It helps make me feel better about wearing those dang sleeveless shirts and moving from pants to shorts in the summer. Here in the south, the less clothes you wear the better.
The camouflage isn’t the only reason I tan. I love how I can wear less makeup. I go from foundation and all the works in the winter to a little eyeliner and mascara. Heck yeah!
AND it is the one time that is mine. LOL. Lying in that bed, the glowing blue lights around me, my little glasses perched on my eyes is peaceful time. No kids screaming, no chaotic household, nothing. Just me and whatever music is playing.
I know tanning is bad for me. I do. I swear. But it is something I do because it makes me feel good in my confidence and my appearance.
So do any of you know something is bad for you, but do it anyway?
I had never watched an entire season of DWTS yet, although I had watched a few episodes and loved the dances and the costumes. This season, however, I started watching the series from the first episode for an unlikely reason – Steve-O. I have pre-teen boys, and they love Jackass and Wild Boyz, and Steve-O’s crazy stunts on those shows, which usually involve stuffing live animals in his Speedo. My boys lost interest after about the second week, but I was hooked! I set the DVR to tape the whole series, so even when I was helping the boys with their homework or doing things around the house or writing, I’d get to settle in and watch the shows later.
Of course, like lots of women around America (dare I guess, the world?), I was hooked because of Gilles Marini – you know, Samantha’s oh-so-sexy Malibu neighbor who showed it ALL in the Sex in the City movie (see above AND below… way below…). He even danced shirtless on a few occasions (whew!). But it was fun watching all the dancers. I loved the cowboy, Ty Murray, and watching him improve every week. Lil’ Kim was fabulous and had such personality on the dance floor, and Melissa Rycroft (lately of The Bachelor fame) was an elegant and beautiful dancer. I enjoyed Shawn Johnson, the gymnast too, but no way did she deserve to win that mirrored ball. That belonged to Gilles!
When I started going on-line to vote for Gilles and his professional partner, Cheryl Burke, my husband thought I had lost my mind. When I jumped up after Shawn Johnson was announced the winner and stormed into the kitchen to do dishes while cursing and gnashing my teeth because Gilles didn’t win, my kids thought I was insane. In the week following the final show, my boys would say “Shawn Johnson” just to see me go into a tizzy. Yep – a full-blown addiction here and major guilty pleasure.
After watching these videos of Gilles and Cheryl dancing the salsa and the rumba, I’m sure you can understand why. Will I watch DWTS so faithfully next season? I'm not sure. I might if DWTS gives me another Gilles...please?
I define a Guilty Pleasure as an activity you enjoy doing when you know you shouldn’t be doing it.
Mine is probably fairly innocuous, but I do wish I could curb it. I love to shop, BUT, not for myself. I have three daughters, and I love to buy them things. Not necessities, not food or schoolbooks, but clothes and accessories that they do not need.
I say No all the time. No, you cannot stay out past curfew. No, you cannot go on a date with a boy and then spend the night at a friend’s. No, you cannot watch an R movie. I have no problem saying No. I even think it’s an important word when raising children. But, for some reason, I cannot say No when we’re out shopping.
I went on a binge in March at Bloomingdale’s in NYC. In my defense, I didn’t spend very much money (well, considering that we were on vacation). They were practically giving the stuff away. (NYC was in sad shape in March.) But, one of the store managers actually called me at home to check the order before they shipped it. She was sure something was wrong. I was a little miffed. I highly doubt I am the first person in the history of the store to have purchased, ummm, 8 pairs of shoes and 7 handbags in one go. Plus several dresses, etc. In fact, I’m sure I’m not the only one that day, or even in that hour, to have done so. I mean, can you picture J Lo in the store? But I was miffed because I felt guilty. I knew that no one needs all that stuff.
Why do I enjoy this pastime? That’s easy. It's fun. Finding just the right outfit for that special event. Snapping up a bargain. Then, everything looks so cute on a teenaged girl, and they are so happy. Finally, I don’t buy too much for myself, so maybe it’s some kind of transference thing.
So why do I feel guilty? First, because I do wonder what kind of example I’m setting. I never want them to feel that buying things expresses love, can make them feel better about themselves, or can solve problems. It doesn’t do any of those things.
Second, I feel a bit of guilt over the money I spend unnecessarily. My husband is very good about the junk I buy for them, but he will occasionally let a pained expression cross his face as he says, “Does she need another handbag?” Yup, that gives me a twinge. Because he’s right and I’m wrong. (Did I actually say that?) The one good thing I do is I shop sales and discount stores. I do not like to pay full price. Also, I buy lots of books. That's a good example, right?
Still, I can’t hide from the truth. This is one of their closets. Not a good picture, but you get the idea. Excess. (Unless you too have a teenaged girl, in which case it may look perfectly normal.)
So I know you all don’t want me to feel too badly. Tell me what you’ve binged on. Someone should be able to top this tale pretty easily.
I have too many guilty pleasures and addictions to talk about in one blog post. I'm addicted to kilts and Scotland, of course (you already knew that!) Romance novels, writing, hiking, chocolate, hazelnut coffee. Then there are my TV addictions. Like Natasha, I love gardening and design shows on HGTV, etc. I too have no idea why I love House Hunters. I guess it's just fun to vicariously shop for a house. But my main design show addiction is Clean House on Style Network. It's part comedy, part therapy, part reality show, part learn-how-declutter-and-let-go-your-junk, part design show. It has everything, all in one hour. These people live in rooms that look like a dumpster exploded, so the before and after is dramatic. I love the reveals at the end and how the people's lives and whole outlook changes. It's a really positive, uplifting show that makes me feel good.
I'm also addicted to Lost (the best TV series ever made!) and have never missed an episode. In fact I have them all on DVD so I can watch anytime. But now I have to wait til 2010 for the next and final season. :( But for now they've left us with a major cliffhanger... they blew themselves up intentionally in 1977. Will they still be alive in 2007? Will they never crash on the island and never know each other? Ahh the complexities of time travel. Other TV shows I'm addicted to include The Bachelor/ Bachelorette, Two and a Half Men, America's Next Top Model, and Most Haunted. What variety, huh? I never know what I'll get hooked on next. :)
Some years (like this year) I have an addiction to plants, flowers and gardening. May is one of my favorite months because some of the most beautiful plants bloom in my garden. (Oh yeah, and I'm addicted to photographing them too.) Here are some pictures I took in the last 2 days.
Since I also have the photography addiction, anytime I see something unique and interesting, I have to take a picture of it! Like this huge mushroom I found under some trees in my yard. And this beautiful rainbow.
This weekend is one of travel for many folks; however, I'm right here at home. Why? Because in a couple of weeks I will have the pleasure of taking a cruise--a pleasure cruise!--so I'm staying put for now, but it's no bother. As I sit and enjoy the pleasant weather, this weekend brings back memories of excursions past and anticipation of travels to come. It's a very exciting time!
In my youth, travel consisted of family vacations and field trips at school, the logistics of which were mostly out of my control. In time, my sojourns came to include the many unusual escapades concocted by my mother—a travel junkie—one of which involved sleeping in rest stops across Canada, taking dogs on paddle boats, and devising a back-up plan to sneak my grandfather’s body across the border and back into the US should his heart give out at Niagara Falls. Luckily, the Falls seemed to revitalize him and we didn’t have to worry about it, but experiences like these tend to influence an impressionable young mind. In other words, I crave adventure and lots of it.
Now I travel all over North America and parts thereabouts on a regular basis, going places my mother would have loved to visit but never got the chance. She loved water, and so do I, so it was only natural to say yes when my hubby asked if I would consider going on a cruise with him. Actually, I threw myself into his arms and screamed, and he took it for the affirmative. He's very intuitive, that one.
Anyway, I was hooked from our first trip. Living on a floating city for a matter of days, surrounded by sea life of all kinds, music, good food, sun, and romance, is addictive. The only problem with it is when I tell people I'm into cruising, and they raise their eyebrows until I amend my comment by saying, "No, the OTHER kind of cruising." Might I also add that in port, when you board a cruise ship, they usually have nice hunky Coast Guard officer types holding impressive weapons and sporting well-built physiques that any Alpha hero would envy. They are there for protection and tend to be very serious and unsmiling, at least until you smile at them. Not that I have...much. Ahem.
Most importantly for me is that there's nothing like the ocean breezes and whitecaps to soothe the writer's soul. There's a subtle power to the sea, as if it's only letting us sail on it because it chooses to. I understand I'm in someone else's territory, territory that will truly never belong to any country, any corporation, or any one person. No, the ocean belongs to no one; it doesn't need anyone or anything to exist. It's just there, reminding me of those entities in mythology
Even if I'm just visiting the beach with my sister, I still feel that same awesome power as the waves erode the shore and create gorgeous evidence of its dominance over the land. This is one of the reasons some of my stories take place on cruise ships or islands or beaches. My favorite cruise ship tale is Disappear because it's campy, and because Prince of Betrayal, my latest from Ravenous Romance that is also set on a cruise ship, isn't out yet. Phantasm 2035 is set at the edge of world in New Long Beach to contrast the natural beauty of the beaches with urban decay. It seems like I can't get away from the ocean, even in my writing, and the truth is, I really don't want to!
I've given my husband strict instructions should anything happen to me. He won't have to smuggle my ashes across the Canadian border--although I do love Niagara Falls--just aboard a nice big cruise ship. When no one's looking, he's to toss a little bit of me out of the railing, or at least rub a little of me on one of the Coast Guard guards. I'm sure they get requests like that from widowers all the time; if not, well, they should.
If you get the chance to take a cruise, I highly recommend it. Inspiration abounds at sea, and if you're a people-watcher like I am, you'll get the chance to observe some really interesting behavior you can incorporate into your characters, as well as get to enjoy one of the most amazing natural beauties on the face of the earth.
Have a great Sunday!
The Portuguese Man of War is what we found predominantly at the beach in South Padre Island, but what I would have preferred were visions of other kinds of MAN!
So, two years ago we went to Bar Harbor, Maine. We took an entire week and drove up. We stayed at a little place that had two bedrooms and an outdoor pool. The place was nice, not great, but nice. The best part of the vacation wasn't the hotel, but the area. I've never been in such a beautiful state before. There was so much to see!
This is one of the shores. It was so rustic here, we felt like we'd stepped back in time. Really cool!
Last year we went to Michigan and while it was a fun trip, I think this year we're going to head back to Bar Harbor. We had more fun on this vacation than any we've ever had. Only this time we hope to stay longer and see more of Maine!
When it comes to traveling, what’s a homebody to do?
And that is often my predicament. I’m a homebody, through and through. Now, that doesn’t mean I don’t like to travel, but hmmm… I guess it means I’m not what you would call a huge fan of it. Or maybe I just haven’t been to the right places, LOL.
I love my vacations, don’t get me wrong, but I’m more of a “Hey, let’s get away for the weekend” kind of girl than the “Let’s plan a two-week non-stop tour of Europe” type. So my favorite vacays are:
The one week we spend every year on Florida’s Panhandle (heaven on a beach right there).
We rent the same house every year, and I love it. You walk off the deck and you step into the whitest sand. And the sunsets? Amazing.
Throw in some wonderful friends, and that’s a week my entire family can’t wait for!
Then there’s those quick, 4 day cruises to Mexico. The similar white sand beaches once you get there, but then getting there’s half the fun! And when your husband stops a couple cute guys to snap your picture with (taken with the same wonderful friend from the Florida trip!), you’ve got yourself a great little getaway! (And I know I'm short... You don't have to tell me! In my own defense though, everyone else was REALLY tall!)
But then sometimes we like to just chill and spend a few days lounging in our RV. This is our little home away from home (all the luxuries crammed into one tiny place, LOL) where we spend our summer get-the-hell-away-from-the-city weekends. And for you non-nature lovers, don't knock it til you tried it! I have a killer shower, AC and a microwave, and I still get to listen to the owls at night and the woodpeckers in the morning. The best of both worlds!
So yes, I like to travel, but for me? Make it quick, make it often, and of course, make it fun! Thanks for letting me share my "Close to Home" travels!
And on a completely different side note, I wanted to let everyone know about my most recent release. Lily's War (a story near and dear to my heart) came out this past Wednesday with Ellora's Cave. I hope you get a chance to check it out! Thanks!
The "Dreaming Spires" of Oxford
I’ll never forget that summer. The summer school was international, so there were students from all over the world there, although most were Americans. We met in small seminar groups twice a week where we had a wine allowance and got to drink wine during the discussions! There were two lectures a week – one on literature and one on politics. But the classroom isn't where I learned the most. The program planned outings for us to Blenheim Palace, Cambridge, Stratford, where we saw two Royal Shakespeare Company plays, and a high tea on someone’s country estate. A group of us went to London for the weekend and to Paris for another weekend.
I also wandered around Oxford on my own. For those who don’t know, Oxford University is actually a collection of many different colleges. So as you walk through the streets, there are colleges housed in different buildings, very old buildings (University College was established in 1249, Balliol in 1263, and Merton in 1264), each with their own chapel and housing, and sometimes their own parks. Magdalen College has a beautiful deer park, and I used to sit under a tree there to read. There are also two rivers that run through Oxford—the Thames (called The Isis as it winds through Oxford) and the Cherwell, where you’ll always find people punting or the sturdy lads of Oxford rowing. There’s also an amazing bookstore there, Blackwell’s Books. And one of the most wonderful sites in Oxford is the Oxford dons, or professors, walking down the cobbled streets, their black or burgundy robes flying behind them. And what would a first trip abroad be without a romance? I had a summer fling with a sexy black-haired, blue-eyed Canadian, who was getting his master’s degree at Exeter.
Rowers on the Cherwell River
At the end of the six weeks in Oxford, I wasn’t finished traveling. I flew from London to Stockholm and met family there. After a week in Sweden, I took off with my dad’s cousin’s son (is that a second cousin?) in his Volvo and we drove down through Denmark, Germany (or West Germany, as it was in those days), Austria, where we visited a girl I had met at the summer school, France, and Italy. Quite a journey for a first trip abroad!
That trip didn’t quell my desire to travel, rather it nourished it, and I absolutely fell in love with England. Since that trip, I have been back to Europe 4-5 times (I honestly can’t remember the actual number!) and visited other countries like Portugal and Greece. My most recent trip to Europe was five years ago, and I went with my husband and our two sons – quite a different experience. We went to Oxford, and I took them to Exeter College. As I walked under the front arches into the quad, I stood still and closed my eyes, remembering the first time I stood there as a young woman...a summer full of adventure in front of me.
Entryway to the Exeter Quad
Would you like to be standing at the top of this log ladder in the Swiss Alps when an avalanche hits? I didn’t enjoy it either. Though the steps look inclined in the picture, that perception is due to the angle of the shot. In reality, the steps are almost totally vertical as they ascend the mountain. It’s a ladder, with 999 log steps, not a staircase. I climbed this ladder one summer with 2 of my kids, aged 10 and 12. When you get to the top, you can look into the Blue Ice Grotto, part of the Upper Grindelwald Glacier. It actually is blue. Though the glacier moves slowly, you will be assured it is safe. So you can sit down at one of the picnic tables, enjoy your ice cream cones provided at the little snack shop, and take in the amazing view of the tidy Swiss town of Grindelwald laid out like a toy village below you.
All is well, until you hear the first rolling boom of what sounds like thunder. Boom. Boom. Boom. The echoing noise goes on and on. Not too good. Stuck on the face of a mountain, with no possible cover, in a thunderstorm. But what could I do? Far, far below, I could just barely see my husband (who’d stayed at the bottom with our youngest) waving his arms wildly for us to get down. It’s not like I could hurry down that ladder, especially not with kids. Turns out it was an avalanche and from where he was situated, he could see the rocks and ice tumbling down the mountain. When we got to the bottom (safely) the river below was full of big chunks of ice (it was July) which our youngest thought would be the perfect souvenir to bring back to America. And that was only the first of 2 avalanches we “enjoyed” during our stay. (The Swiss have an amazing search and rescue operation. Almost as soon as you hear the roar, you see the white and orange planes up in the sky searching for people in trouble.) Nonetheless, I love Switzerland. It’s a beautiful country with many, many fun things to do.
One of our bloggers is going to Yellowstone this summer and since that’s another of my all-time favorite vacation destinations, I thought I’d include a couple shots of that unique national park. The Yellowstone Canyon really is yellow, and far more beautiful and large than you can appreciate from a picture. Though we did a lot of hiking, the park is very well set up for people who don’t want to venture too far from their cars. The canyon can be viewed after a short walk, as can many geysers and other scenic wonders. The park offers an impressive collection of wildlife viewing. We saw elk, buffalo, moose, trumpeter swans, an eagle carrying a mouse in its beak and, of course, a grizzly bear. I am happy to say a park ranger was near us when we saw the grizzly because, though I wanted to see one, I didn’t want to encounter one.
This thermal pool is an example of many such pools found throughout the Park. The earth's mantle is very thin in Yellowstone, and the geysers and thermal pools give a good idea of the turmoil and geological activity just below the surface. The color variation in the pools comes from the fact that different bacteria and algae live in the water, depending on the heat of the water. As you see in this picture, even one pool can (and usually does) have different colors. The science is fascinating. If you look carefully, you will see many fallen trees surrounding the pools. When we were there, trees from a forest fire many years earlier were crashing down all around us. Apparently it takes years after they are burned before they fall down and that summer was their year to finally give up. Very unnerving. I felt like a crazy mother walking through the woods with my 3 kids (one in a backpack on hubby’s shoulders) while we could see and hear these trees smashing to the ground all around us. Finally, it was so bad that the entire park lost electricity. They couldn’t restore it for two days and the headline in the local paper was: Yellowstone Tourists Injured by Falling Timbers. But when you travel with my husband, you don’t let anything stop you. Yellowstone is truly a unique place and a treasure for all of us.
If you ever get a chance to go to either of these places, don't hesitate.
Attributions: Staircase: cc-by-sa, Andrew Bossi, Flickr; Grindelwald: cc-by-sa, Steven Wagner
This past weekend my husband and I stayed in a nice cabin on top of a mountain. We even had a hot tub and a pool table for extra fun.
This was the first time I'd ever seen a hen turkey with little chicks. If you look closely you'll see three of the babies. So cute!
We stopped at one site and a man playing bagpipes serenaded us... and the deer. This deer in particular was enjoying his music. I felt I was back in Scotland (though he wasn't wearing a kilt.) I later saw that nearby Gatlinburg was hosting a Scottish Games. Our area has a lot of Scottish or Highland Games and other Scottish or Scots-Irish influences.
We hiked 5 miles total to visit this waterfall called Abrams Falls. The trail was smooth at times but at other times rough and rocky. Unfortunately I had on the wrong shoes for this adventure and ended up with sore feet. But I'll be ready next time.
This whole area is beautiful. You can learn more about Cades Cove here.