Monday, February 16, 2015

The Beginning of A Love Affair

I personally have a very hard time remembering the novels that made me fall in love with a particular genre. I think the first science fiction book I read was a Star Trek one, my first romance (I believe) was The Thorn Birds, and I have no recollection at all which mystery novel had me racing back to the bookshelf for more.  

However, what I can remember, so tangibly, is the moment I fell in love with reading. 

The book responsible for the beginning of my infatuation is Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls. 


I was in the second grade and my teacher was introducing chapter books to us. She had decided to read a class book aloud everyday for a specific period of time. The reasons for this are hazy for me, I can only remember that we were doing it. 

Now I had read books before, both on my own and with my parents, but this particular story touched me in a way I had never experienced before. 

Where the Red Fern Grows is a story about Billy, a poor child growing up in the Ozarks whose dream is to own two hunting coons. He saves up his money, working odd jobs, and by the end of the summer is able to finally purchase the dogs he so desperately wants. When they arrive, Billy patiently trains them in order to enter them in a coon hunting competition. 

I have to say, as a kid, I remember being completely wrapped up in this story. The author painted a life that was so different from my own and yet, I could still see myself in Billy. I connected with his love for his dogs, as an animal lover myself, and became invested in what would happen to him and the beloved pets he adored. 

I won't spoil the ending but needless to say, it's a tear jerker. Like awful, awful, awful. And this is also the part I remember most. Sitting in my classroom, in front of the teacher, crying my eyes out over the ending of this story. And I wasn't alone. The teacher was so choked up she could barely finish the book.

That's the moment I fell in love with reading, right there on that classroom carpeting with tears running my cheeks. It was the first time I remember being so invested in a set of characters that when something bad happened to them, I cried as though it was real. 

And I remember being so enthralled with that feeling. 

I still am. 

What about you? Do you remember the book that had you falling in love with reading? 

Monday, February 2, 2015

Foreigner Alert

I recently learned I've been telling strangers in my neighborhood that I'm a foreigner, completely by accident and without meaning to. Allow me to explain. 

Here's a photo of the area near my house. 



Gorgeous, right? So several times a week, I run for exercise along the marina. I get the double enjoyment of being next to the sea and not having to deal with many cars since a large section of the marina is closed off to most vehicles. In addition, I take my dog with me. 



Louisa is very sweet but she needs her exercise, otherwise she's bouncing around the house like a Mexican jumping bean. And I quickly discovered that a long walk isn't really enough for her. She needs to run.  

So there I am several times a week, in the marina, with my dog, running. Now I've noticed lots of people watching me, including the small boat owners, but I didn't initially think much about it. I mean, people watching is a favorite Greek past time after all. But during a conversation with another woman about my exercise program a few months ago, she said, "Oh, that's a very American thing to do."

And I realized, right then, that I was announcing my "foreign" status pretty loudly even without saying a word. 


Now I don't look American, at least not right out of the gate. I've got dark hair and green eyes and several people have mistaken me for a Greek person they know. (I promise you this has happened at least three times, most recently it was in an airport on my way to Vienna.) Even my hubby has said that I look a little Greek. Of course, the minute I open my mouth and start talking, the accent gives me away but before that time, most people don't know I'm a foreigner. 

Unless I do something weird, like run with my dog. After my friend made her comment, I realized I had never seen anyone else doing it. I've seen people walking their dogs in the marina. And I've seen people running for exercise. But I have never seen another person jogging with their dog. Which would explain why I get a lot of attention when I do it. 

And it's not bad attention. Most people think it's neat to see Louisa running right next to me, a happy dog grin on her face. I keep waiting to see if another person will join me and start jogging with their dog. It hasn't happened yet but I know if I keep at it, someone else is bound to start.

Maybe I can start a new trend. 

Monday, January 19, 2015

Blog Housekeeping



In September, I made the commitment that I would start blogging once a week. And, with one minor exception, I've kept that promise. Go me! But - there is a but here and you knew it was coming - I think I might have bitten off a bit more than I could chew. 

I've reviewed my schedule for the last few months, plus made the schedule for the next few and wow, it's getting hectic. In order to keep doing the blog once a week, I'm going to have to cut into my writing time. Which I'm not willing to do. Writing my novels is the most important thing. It's the biggest part of my job and I have to be very vigilant about protecting that time.

On the other hand, I don't want the blog to fall off my list. The commitment of once a week posts was really good for me because it kept the blog moving forward. Posts were appearing in a consistent and regular manner. I want that to continue. 

So I decided to change the commitment to twice a month. It provides me a little breathing room schedule wise, but still follows through on a post commitment. It makes for a good match, don't you agree?





Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Hello Austria!

It's official. I'm back from the holidays, my kiddos have returned to school and things are settling down into a routine. 

Goodness, it was hard to start this whole process over again. Especially since I had a fantastic Christmas and New Year. We spent most of it with family and friends but towards the end of the break, Hubby and I took a moment for ourselves. 

Our wedding anniversary is on New Year's Day. Normally we don't do something specific to celebrate, not because we're unhappy to have our anniversary, but it's a hectic time of year and it tends to get lost in all the mayhem. But 2015 launched our 10 year anniversary and we thought it would be nice to do something extra and exciting. 

So we went to Austria. 



Gorgeous, as you can see. I'd never been to Austria and so many people told me I would fall in love with it. They were right. We spent some days in Vienna, saw the countryside and also took a trip to Saltzberg. It was amazing and I want to share with you a few things I learned while on our trip. 

People

Austrians are the nicest people. Some of the tourist books had warned that they weren't friendly but I didn't find that to be the case at all. They didn't trip over themselves to greet you or anything but everyone I encountered was terribly nice after we started talking. Loads of people speak English and we didn't run into a lot of problems with communication. Although I think most of them understood my American accent in English a lot better than they did my husband's Greek one. 

Food

Umm, Hubby and I are both foodies. We basically ate our way through the country. Bratwursts, ghoulash, potatoes. 

Schnitzel. 

We went to the most famous place in Vienna for schnitzel which is Fugmeller. The food, all of it, was amazing. The schnitzel was bigger than the plate. 


If you ever have the chance to visit Vienna, eat the schnitzel. You'll be glad you did. 


Yodeling 

We didn't see any yodelers while we were there, to my utter disappointment. We did, however, find some clothes should we decide we wanted to yodel. 




Water 

According to our tour guide, Austrians don't drink a lot of water. And it became really obvious, really quickly. On our first day, we went to eat at a pub and I asked for some water. I thought the waitress would bring me a glass of water. (Austria actually has really great tap water that flows from the Alps.) Instead she bought me a small 50ml bottled water. Hubby leaned over to me and said, "Now let's see how much we pay for that."

I shrugged thinking it couldn't be more than 3.00 max. Imagine my utter shock when we paid 5.60 for it. That's like a $8.00 bottle of water. I've never paid $8.00 for a bottle of water in my life. I would have to be in the Sahara Desert for hours before I would even contemplate spending $8.00 for a bottle of water. Are you kidding me?

And this experience was repeated several times over. Water is just not normally offered with meals or coffee. Even in the hotel during breakfast, which serviced an international clientele, it was nearly impossible to find. 

But a huge glass of beer? That was not only simple to find, it was cheaper than the water. 3.60€/per glass

That finished it. We drank our way through the rest of the meals, like good Austrians should apparently. And of course, we added a pretzel or two.  



All in all, we had a fantastic time and a lovely holidays. I hope you had the same. 

Monday, December 22, 2014

Holidays!


I'm off for the next few weeks for vacation. I hope all of you have a wonderful and joyous holiday season and I'll meet you back here next year. 

Happy Holidays! 

Monday, December 15, 2014

One Week and a Play Kitchen

I'm not big home improvement or building things. Much, I think, to my mother's dismay. She's a do-it-yourselfer. Sink leaking? She pulls out the wrench. Need some crown molding? Let's hit the hardware store. 

As the oldest, I was my mother's assistant. Which probably explains my aversion to home improvement. There's nothing fun about passing over the screwdriver or holding the dirty faucet and watching someone else do all the interesting parts.   

I married someone who is just as allergic as I am to saws and drills. My hubby's an engineer and he likes building stuff but things like switches and computers. Hand the man a toolbox and he's a bit lost. 

However, every once in a while, I like to pull out all that knowledge I absorbed working as my mother's assistant and dust it off. This week was one of those times. 

Hubby and I built our daughter a wooden play kitchen. 

(As an aside, I told my mom we were going to do this and she stifled a laugh. Barely.)

My 6 year old had a play kitchen we bought her when she was a toddler. Most parents will support me on this - you never know which toys your kids are going to love and which ones they are going to play with once and never touch again. As it happens, the play kitchen was one of those toys my daughter constantly uses. Like every day. And she had long outgrown the little one we bought her so I got the bright idea to buy her a new one for her birthday. 

Notice I used the word buy. That's because I thought we were going to pay money for one at a store. Until I tried finding one. Apparently play kitchens are designed, for the most part, for toddlers. That wasn't going to work in our case. 

But while doing my research, I came across several videos of people who had built there own. And I thought, "Huh. Maybe..."

I posed the idea to Hubby. I thought for sure was going to tell me I was crazy and there was no way we could pull it off. He didn't. His eyes brightened, he smiled and said, "Okay. Sounds like a good idea."

A good idea? I'm pretty sure he forgot who we were for a moment. 

We designed the play kitchen on paper, with measurements. (BTW one of the good things about having an engineer for a husband is that he can do crazy quick math in his head and wields a measuring tape like a Samari utilizes a sword. I admire this because both of those areas are not my strong suit.)

We took our design to a carpenter who advised us as to the type of wood to use and cut it to the appropriate dimensions. Which gave us...a pile of cut wood. 



Now, it was our job (using a hand saw, drill and screwdriver - along with our design) to make these pieces into an actual kitchen our daughter could use. 

First we tackled the fridge/freezer combo:

Then the stove/oven:


And the sink/dishwasher combo:


A little slap of paint, a few touches here and there and the finished product came out looking like this:


Pretty awesome, isn't it? And we managed to build it, from design to finished product, in a week. Not too shabby, if I do say so myself. 

And it was a big hit. We gave it to my daughter yesterday and she absolutely love it. 

Monday, December 8, 2014

Self-Discipline

Self-discipline.

It's an easy word. Simple. Rolls right off the tongue. Sounds terribly official.

It's something every writer should have.

Unfortunately, most of us are very bad at it.

I often wonder if this is a problem among all creative people. Creativity is hard to control. I never know when my next idea will hit or where it will come from. Sure there are things that you can do to help like free style writing. But, even still, there is a large part of the time I'm like this: 


One of my goals for the new year is to make a schedule and stick to it. The main problem with working from home is that your "job" is flexible - essentially it's the first one to get thrown off the rails when something goes wrong. Which might be reasonable, however, I have a tendency to allow it to go off the rails even on my own. 

For example, I will get on the computer to write. But first I will check my Twitter. Then I'll read a few articles people have linked. I'll sort through my email. By the time I'm finished with all of that, it's almost eleven and the sun is shining and I think, "I haven't exercised yet. Good time for a run." So, I do a 5k. Then I shower. It's lunch time.

Do you see my point? My whole morning is down the drain and I haven't put one word towards my actual job, my book. 

Or the opposite thing will happen. I'll be struck by genius and my fingers can't type fast enough. I curse the fact that I have to separate from my computer to get the kids from school. Five hours later, Hubby walks in the door. I barely greet him, hunched over the keyboard and muttering to myself. BTW, I have the best hubby in the world because, even after a long day of work himself, he leaves me alone, makes dinner, bathes the kids and puts them to bed. And is happy to do it. 

But that situation isn't all great either. I have to work harder at finding a balance. Working while my kids are in school and then taking a break for a few hours to spend some time with them. 

This past year I set a word count goal for the week and that worked fairly well. I think I want to use the same system but with hour restrictions. 

And I need to only look at Twitter and emails after I write! ;-)