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! ;-)   


Monday, December 1, 2014

Καλò Μήνα

Καλό Μήνα literally means in Greek "Good Month." It's a phrase used at the beginning of every month as a blessing and it's generally said as a greeting. When I first moved to Greece, it felt a bit weird for acquaintances (friends, neighbors, teachers) to say this to me right away as I walked up to them or in passing on the street. In translation, it's like having a person say, "Hi. Good Month." Awkward, right? In the US, we say "Have a good weekend" or "Have a great day" but this is done in departure as opposed to in greeting. Additionally, we might wish someone a good week but it isn't common to wish them a good month. 

But the longer I stay here, the more I've grown to love it. Since today is December 1st, everyone was passing out the greeting to each other. And it felt really nice. Particularly so because it's the holiday season, which is my favorite time of the year.

So I'm going to pass this blessing on to the rest of you. I hope all of you have a great month! 

Καλό Μήνα!

Monday, November 24, 2014

Gobble It Up: Book Rec #3

Many of you may not know this but I'm a historical romance fan. Now, I would never, ever, ever write historical romance and that might be part of the reason I love it so much. I can turn my writing brain off when reading one, in a way I can't in a contemporary romance or a thriller. 

So in continuing my Thanksgiving Gobble It Up series, I thought I would recommend one of my favorite historical romance novels. 


Number Three: The Governess Affair by Courtney Milan


The Blurb: 

Hugo Marshall earned the nickname "the Wolf of Clermont" for his ruthless ambition--a characteristic that has served him well, elevating the coal miner's son to the right hand man of a duke. When he's ordered to get rid of a pestering governess by fair means or foul, it's just another day at work. 

But after everything Miss Serena Barton has been through at the hands of his employer, she is determined to make him pay. She won't let anyone stop her--not even the man that all of London fears. They might call Hugo Marshall the Wolf of Clermont, but even wolves can be brought to heel... 


Let me just say up front, I absolutely love this book. It is completely squuuuueeeee worthy. If you haven't read it, you must stop whatever you are doing and get it.  In fact, right now, the Kindle version is free on Amazon. That's right, FREE. You can't beat that!

Everything about this novella packs a punch. The hero is well fleshed out. The heroine is interesting and tough. Both of them make logically and rational decisions. The issues standing in the way of them being together are realistic and understandable. When I finished this novel on my Kindle, I nearly cried because I didn't want it to be over. Yes, it's that good.

In fact, Courtney Milan is one of my recent discoveries and she's turning into one of my favorite authors. I've read several of her books and have a number of others sitting in my Kindle under the To Be Read section. She hasn't disappointed me yet so if you have a chance to read any of her novels, do it. 

But start with The Governess Affair. I love having people to squuuueeee with!