Presents from Across the Pond!

I didn’t go to London for Wimbledon last week with my husband and my son, but I got some good stuff, anyway.

Remember those souvenir T-shirts that said, “My parents went to wherever and all I got was this T-shirt?” Yeah, my souvenirs are way better than that. I got all three of the items I suggested before they left! 🙂

The English like their tea, right? Me, too! I would’ve fit right in. And I probably wouldn’t have had to carry around my own tea bags or ask if the tea was freshly brewed at all the restaurants like I do in the U.S. of A.

I was happy to learn that in London, the hotels actually cater to tea-drinkers. Instead of a coffee pot for coffee drinkers – and pretty much nothing for those of us who don’t appreciate coffee-flavored tea from water that’s been run through the coffee maker – there was tea service in the rooms!

Too bad I wasn’t there to see that, but it makes me smile, anyway. Can’t wait to try this new-to-me brand. Mango and Earl Grey – mmmmm.

And then there’s the chocolate. They did well. Or, I did well. A chocolate library?! Ha! Two of my favorite things combined. Extra brownie points to the hubs who carried these hefty chocolate bars in his bag through two airport terminals due to flight issues. This little “library” weighs a ton!

Next? A very British silk scarf from a museum there. The lightly printed architectural drawings with bold royal blue and gold border look . . . well, royal!

They had a great time being tourists and taking in the amazing tennis at Wimbledon. While I enjoy watching tennis, I’m not a big fan of lines or “queuing up” as they call it. So I declined. I’m happy they had a fabulous father/son experience. And I appreciate they took the time to think of me while they were at it!

If you’re vacationing this summer, happy travels!

What’s your all-time best souvenir?

Darlene

 

Just a Little Flower Power

Last week, I took a road trip that wound through nine states plus a chunk of Canada, passed by four of the Great Lakes, and included a visit to Holland, Michigan — apparently the tulip capital of the U.S. I’d never been there before, and wasn’t sure what to expect from the little town that boasted of its tulips and quaint features.

Turns out, it was a charming town and the tulips were fantastic. So was our timing. My sister and I arrived just a few days after the annual tulip festival. The crowds were gone, but the tulips still put on a stunning show and offered plenty of photo opportunities.

We had a fun day (our only sunny one of the entire trip) walking through the town square shops, visiting the farmer’s market and strolling through rows and rows of gorgeous, colorful tulips. I must’ve taken hundreds of pictures. Couldn’t help myself. So many bright, cheery blooms! They still make me smile!

Enjoy!

Darlene

What’s blooming in your world?

Surviving restaurant week . . .

It’s restaurant week in Kansas City. Or, as my husband and I refer to it, “Amateur Week.” Neither of us is much of a cook. We don’t enjoy the process, and just don’t have a flair for it. So we eat out a lot. And when restaurant week comes around, it messes up our rhythm. Our usual places are busier than normal and some dispense with their regular menus, instead offering only a pre-set, fixed price three- or four-course meal. For me and my husband, who often split an entree and add sides, the price increase is pretty significant.

But worse, restaurant week means forced cooking — a stock-up trip to the grocery store and an attempt to feed ourselves at home. For seven days!! I’ve used my crock pot twice this week – pretty sure that’s a record. So far, I’ve made pulled pork, chicken and noodles, chili, and lemon-pepper baked chicken. Spaghetti is in the line-up for the weekend, and maybe a breakfast-for-dinner option or baked potatoes. Nothing fancy, that’s for sure!

This year, there’s actually a silver lining. Restaurant week just happened to coincide with a big snowstorm. This is a happy thing! I can escape the winter weather during a time when I was going to stay home and cook anyway! Hooray! Spaghetti is in the line-up and maybe a breakfast-for-dinner option or baked potatoes. Nothing fancy, that’s for sure!

Okay, I’ll mention that I did one time get what I consider amazing praise for my cooking. I had my daughter’s group of friends over for a baked-potato bar during senior year when they were allowed to go off-site for lunch. I was completely shocked to read that one of the girls had written in my daughter’s yearbook, “Your mom’s baked potatoes are da bomb!” I am not making this up! Haha! Who writes something like that in a yearbook? Must’ve made an impression, right?!

Anyway, I think we’ll survive, but I’m really glad it’s only one week!

Do you enjoy cooking? What are your easy go-to meals?

Darlene

2018 – Year of Memories and Modifications

Well, I didn’t publish a book in 2018. I wrote one, but it’s pending an agent’s interest. I took a break from working on two other novels to write this post. One is a women’s fiction, and the other a contemporary romance that might be the first in a series. So my goal for 2019 is to publish at least one of them!

penned con signingIt was a busy year. I attended several author/reader events locally as well as the Romance Writers of America conference in Denver and the Penned Con book fair in St. Louis. Met up with writer friends, made new connections and had a blast meeting readers.

Plus, we had a lot of action on the home front. Both kids graduated in May – fortunately, a week apart. One with a bachelor’s degree and the other, her masters. Being my son’s final college tennis season, we traveled to a few more of his matches, which took us from Orlando to Kalamazoo and several places in between. Lots of fun times and memories made! And, I’m happy to report both are gainfully employed and pretty much self-sufficient! Woo-hoo! I’m calling that parental success! 🙂

That said, we are now truly empty nesters. And that feels weird. And it changes everything! No more winter breaks that last three to four weeks. No more “Spring Break.” Our daughter was home for Christmas, but only for a few days. We were only able to fit in a quick overnight to see my folks because both kids had to be back at work the day after Christmas. Our daughter flew back to New York on Christmas Day. This new reality is cramping my style, for sure!

But it’s like the old saying, “The only thing constant is change.” It just keeps coming!

I don’t know what 2019 will bring, but I’m hoping for new adventures, new connections and new books! Wishing you all peace, good health and happiness!

What are you looking forward to in the new year?

Darlene

Nature’s stress relief

Ah, the soothing sound of a babbling brook! I recently returned from a vacation trip to Colorado. It wasn’t a whirlwind, action-packed, sightseeing, tourist kind of trip. It was more of a let-it-go, kick-back, unwind and relax trip. And at the center of that kind of trip is nature — lakes and streams, shimmering aspen trees, secluded trails, a little wildlife, wildflowers and scenic vistas.

I love the sound of a rushing Colorado stream. While we were there, we dined creekside, walked along a trail that followed a gentle stream, and hung out, just listening to the sound of the water cascading over the rocks. I could sit and read or write with that sound as a backdrop for hours!

For me, the water is mesmerizing to watch, and soothing to listen to, especially if the creek is moving fast enough to drown out traffic and other noise. It’s as if nature is saying, “Ahhhh, take a break.”

Enjoy this little snippet!

 

Are there other sights and sounds of nature that give you pause and refreshment?

Darlene

Ready, set, launch! Graduation hails accomplishment and transition

Well, we hit another milestone. Last weekend, we finished up the last of the college graduation festivities. For the first time in a couple of decades, we have no kids in school. We have no college tuition payments to make.

As many of you probably already know, this is big. Huge. In many ways.

As I reflect on what this means, sure, I see home projects and travel we can now do because we might have a little extra cash. It’s also been a fun trip down memory lane. But mostly, I see a transition to a new stage of life. We will never be as involved in our kids’ lives. They’ll have so many new experiences that won’t involve us. Meet so many new people that we may never know. I’m sure I’ll get used to it, but right now that feels a little strange.

mortarboards

There’s also a sense of accomplishment. Yay! We managed to keep them alive to “adulthood.” The oldest, who just graduated with her master’s degree, is already pretty self-sufficient. The youngest is now a young man also on his way to being self-sufficient. We’re so proud of both of them. Proud to be launching decent, functional, intelligent contributing people into the world.

I suppose the other emotion is relief. As the mom, of course I’ll still worry about them, but it feels different now. Maybe it doesn’t have to be a full-time job. Maybe I can relax a tiny bit and enjoy watching their progress from a little more distance. I can’t wait to see how the next couple of years unfold – where life takes them. And me.

So far, I have no big plans other than to buckle down and get some writing done, launch a few more books into the world. Maybe a trip or two. I think we’ll take some time to ease into this transition, and let things settle. And then . . .

Well, who knows? We’ll toss our mortarboard in the air and see where it lands. 🙂

As always, time marches on. Enjoy the ride!

Darlene

A weekend of bookish fun awaits!

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OK, who’s looking for some fun? If you’re in the Dallas area, you won’t want to miss this! Bring a friend, your book club, or just yourself and join us for Readers and ’ritas Nov. 10 -13. Parties, books, authors, scavenger hunt, swag, prizes . . . and did I mention fun?!

I’m so looking forward to this event. I love visiting with readers and chatting about books. Add in food and drink, and what’s not to like, right? And for me, another exciting plus is that the weather is Dallas is currently projected to be in the low- to mid-70s for that weekend. Woo-hoo. In other words, perfect!

Click here for the full agenda and list of authors and guest speakers.

Hope to see you there!