Oct 16, 2017

Learning new skills

I have wanted to learn how to sew ever since I was a kid. I spent a lot of time sitting on the couch with my mother painstakingly hand sewing sequins onto dance costumes and being endlessly fascinated by the creations our dance schools came up with.

For some reason, I never made time for it. Life got busy, I studied, threw myself into my career, changed careers, moved countries and all the while this personal goal languished in the depths of the "one day I'll do it" basket.
Current project fabrics

Until now! I'm currently taking a "sewing fundamentals" class where they teach us the basics of using a machine, selecting fabric and making some fun and simple projects.

We're making:
  • A headband (perfect for keeping those pesky layers out of my face while I'm taking my makeup off)
  • A cosmetics case (which will be the blue fabric below on the outside, and coral on the inside)
  • And a cushion cover (hedgehogs FTW!!)

I've got grand plans of getting my own machine and dabbling with dressmaking. My goal is to make an item of clothing that I would be proud to leave the house in. Baby steps! For now I'm just trying to remember how to thread the machine on my own.

What's something on your "one day I'll do it" list? Or have you conquered something from that list already?

Oct 15, 2017

Sunday Smooch with Ally Blake

Welcome to another LoveCats DownUnder Sunday Smooch!

Today we have a smooch from Ally Blake but first ... the winner of last week's Sunday Smooch Giveaway is Laurie.

Can you please contact melaniemilburne@gmail.com to receive your prize!
And now for today's Sunday Smooch from Ally's The Dance Off.

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I'm so excited to bring you a smooch from The Dance Off, quite possibly my hottest book!
Brilliant architect Ryder Fitzgerald's little sister Sam is getting married. Without their father on the scene, Sam has asked Ryder to give her away.  The honour comes with a hitch - Same insists Ryder have dance lessons so as to be ready for the brother-sister dance.
Enter Nadia Kent - dance instructor, daughter of one of the world's most famous ballerinas and sexiest woman Ryder has ever met.
Ryder would rather eat his shoes than take lessons and Nadia would rather be dancing than teaching, so the tension is high. Add an attraction neither wants but both can't resist, and a summer storm brewing outside the studio, the dance lessons get hot and sweaty for more reason than one.
. . . . . . . .
Nadia eased herself into Ryder’s frame, adjusting only slightly, using her body to urge him where he needed to go. And this time, as one, their feet began to move. Slowly, gently, no push or pull, just the music pulsing through the floorboards and rocking them to and fro. Nadia nodded. Good boy.  The music swelled around them, all harp chords and piano keys, and the singer’s husky voice crooning about spinning round and round, moving so fast. Nadia moved Ryder forward, and then he moved her backward, the rhythm so natural she let him. He slid his hand an inch further around her back until her belly met his, and she let him do that too. He tucked their arms nearer their sides, which wasn’t classic dance hold, but even while it made Nadia’s breath swell she didn’t put a stop to it. The rhythm had other ideas as the dance swirled around and through them, binding them together and shutting out the world.
It was bound to happen, considering the way their bodies had fitted together in that kiss. That mind-blowing kiss—
Lightning lit up the room, followed by a crack of thunder, and then out went the lights. Then the fans. Music too. Not for the first time that week, but it was the first time they didn’t flicker straight back on.
The heavy silence, the oppressive stillness in the air, the shards of moonlight the only thing between them, it should have been the perfect chance for Nadia to cut her losses and call the lesson over. Except neither of them stopped swaying.
In fact, Nadia might even have leant her head against Ryder’s chest. Curled her fingers into the loops of his top. Melted a little when his chin landed gently atop her head. Melted a whole lot when his hands slid around her waist, across her tailbone, his thumbs dipping into the elastic of her skirt.
It was madness. Completely the opposite of what she’d set out to do with her hour. And not an altogether appropriate way to earn a fee.
But boy did she miss this. Not just the dancing, but the human connection. Skin on skin. Heat on heat. Feeling a part of something. Feeling discovered. Feeling wanted. And with every sway the sweetest sensation poured through her; a fragile serenity, not only filling nooks and crannies but opening them wide, till all that feeling pressed to the outer edges of her everything. And her heart became a bruising beat against her ribs.
Then, before she could talk herself out of it, she lifted onto her toes, wrapped her arms about Ryder’s neck. And then easy as you please her mouth met his. Hot, wet, open, lush.
His tongue met hers, and she turned to liquid, melting against him as if she wanted to vanish right on inside. And with a groan he lifted a hand to the back of her head, the other gripping her backside, leaving her in no doubt just how much he wanted this. And the warmth inside soon spun into a crazy heat.
She tugged his top over his head, all but growling at the sight of him. Rippling, hot, golden, even in shadow. No wonder she’d been so bent out of shape all week. How could she function on a normal level, when there was this to be had?
Her nails scraped through those tight curls of hair covering his chest and he sucked in a breath between his teeth, and grabbed her by the wrists.
She shot him a look through the darkness. Really?
And with a flicker of the muscle in his cheek, he eased his grip. Shuddering deliciously as she continued her exploration. All that heat. All that strength. She kissed her way across his chest, the salty taste of him turning her thoughts into a faint grey haze.
She felt him bunch beneath her touch before the groan tore from his mouth. And then his hands were on her shoulders, clever thumbs pulling her shirt away giving his mouth better access to her neck, his tongue tracing her collarbone, his teeth nipping the swell of her breasts. And when her collar slipped another inch and his mouth found her nipple, at the curl of his hot tongue she began to tremble.
Nadia dragged her fingers through his hair and held on tight as Ryder proved himself greedy, taking her mouth, taking everything he wanted, leaving her weak, loose, nothing but impulse, and sensation. With no thoughts to cling to except a dull buzz inside her head.
It buzzed again, and through the haze Nadia realised it was the trill of a phone chirruping through the heavy air.
When Ryder pulled away Nadia went with him, following his lips with hers. Not done yet. Not even close.
 - - - -
Want to know what happens next?
Grab The Dance Off here!
I was a dancer growing up - but only took my first ballet lessons for the first time last year. It was a beautiful experience, but boy was it hard.
Have you ever taken dance lessons as a grown up? Come back next Sunday to find out which commenter wins an ebook copy of a backlist book of mine!
Smooch Graphic by WebWeaver

Oct 13, 2017

Adding to the Family

Last Friday we took in a dog from a friend who has hunting dogs. This is the second time we've adopted one from her when it was time for them to retire. I don't like the pig hunting scenario but that's another story. I adored Boss, our first adoptee, and Shade is gorgeous. She's five and a half years old and now that hunting is out sunbathing is her favourite occupation.
She shadows me a lot, and this morning when I let her out of the kennel I received a very enthusiastic welcome so she's getting used to living with us. The beach at the bottom of the hill is a winner with lots of sticks to chase when thrown, and then there are the forest covered hills behind the house to keep us all fit.

I also brought home four point of lay hens last week as my other three were getting a bit slow on giving me daily presents. Shade is totally uninterested in them, merely follows me around the pen to collect eggs and deliver grain. The warmth from the fire was very popular!
It is so lovely to have a dog again. All they want is warmth, exercise, food and loads of love - something they return in loads. We had put off replacing Boss because of travel and other commitments but it was time. And when we go overseas again Shade can go back to her first home where she's always going to be welcome.

I like that I can give her a second chance. Have you ever taken in an animal from the pound or an owner who no longer feels she can give the pet enough attention?

Oct 11, 2017

Tassie Travels

For those of you who are my friends on Facebook, you’ll know that I’ve been traipsing around Tasmania for the last fortnight. For sheer rugged beauty, Tasmania is hard to beat. It’s one of those places that can quite literally take your breath away, but it’s also endearingly quirky, so I thought I’d share three of my favourite things about my recent holiday with you.

1. The Beach! Obviously. ;-) Down the road and around the corner from my accommodation was Bellerive Beach. Happy sighs. I spent many a happy hour ambling there. But what was even better was if you went the long way around (along the little headland), you were treated to the most spectacular views of the harbour and Mount Wellington, as well as the beach. This is a small sample of the pics I took:

The beginning of the walk

Steps! They always make me want to explore further.

Mount Wellington standing guard over the harbour

Glorious views

I fell in love with this house! Naturally it had the best views :-)
Little paths and railings led off the main walkway, which had to be explored

Bellerive Beach in the distance
My destination: Bellerive Beach

2. The headstone. Now around the other corner and down the other road from my accommodation was this lovely old church with an array of weathered headstones.

You can’t read it here (you could hardly read it there either!), but it says: Margaret died age 57 years. She was a most pious woman who has in death, as she did in life, found comfort in her redeemer. Beneath it is says: Joseph died 70 years. Long-term resident.

Long-term resident--that's the best they could say about him? Doesn’t that just make you chortle? Don't you wish you had an inside line on that story. Obviously Maggie was a bit of a favourite with the congregation, while Old Joe wasn’t so popular. ;-)

3. Tarraleah: We took a trip northwest from Hobart towards Lake St Clair in Tasmania’s Central Highlands. We were on a bit of a time schedule so we didn’t make it all the way, but we did stumble across the de-commissioned township of Tarraleah (which was once called Ticklebelly—what a great name!). It was a town built in the 1920s and 1930s as part of the hydro-electric scheme. Workers had to walk in with pack-horses as there was no road. But it became a booming township with a population of 2000 before automation made the workers’ jobs defunct.

The view from Tarraleah lookout

BUT, and this is the interesting bit, the town (the whole town!) was sold and restored, and it's now a tourist accommodation hub. There’s a grand art deco lodge, fifteen 3-4 bedroom art deco cottages (built for the engineers and architects), accommodation in the old schoolhouse, as well as cabin-style accommodation on the grounds. You can hire the entire place out! I was dreaming of the writing retreats we LoveCats could have. Happy sighs. The lodge comes with its own butler and chef. Happier sighs. Oh, dear reader, there’s a book in that. And I believe I’m the woman to write it. :-) What do you think?

Oh, and who is now dying to visit Australia's Apple Isle? Seriously, the air was constantly scented with apple blossoms (and jasmine, wattle and freesias), the breezes were crisp and clean, and the traffic slow. Nearly every person I passed on my walks said hello. I felt like I'd gone back in time.

Oct 9, 2017

Not a Drop to Drink

A couple of years ago we moved onto a country property that only has tank water. We were a little worried as we’d never lived on tank water before, but we soon got the hang of checking the water levels and calling in the experts when required. So when dirt began pouring out of the taps, we were more than a little concerned. 

We knew we were low on water as it hadn’t rained in the Byron region for months, but the water gauge said we still had about a quarter of a tank and I’d already had two loads of water delivered. However, it’s all well and good for the gauge to say you have a quarter of a tank, but if the gauge is broken, you can end up with no water. That’s right, we didn’t have a drop. We are now wait listed for water delivery – it’s a 21 day wait! The shock of this was compounded as I had six children sleeping over at the time.

Byron Lighthouse
So, when you have no water, you have to move out of your house. Sounds easy right, but not in Byron Bay during school holidays. It took me hours to find anything. We moved into a lovely caravan park but the only cabin available was tiny. It was hilarious fitting us all in – it must be designed for families with very little children. 

Anyway by the time this post is published, we will have moved home as we have had a tiny bit of rain. But we will have to strictly ration our water. My teenage daughter is horrified by the concept of three-minute showers, but as much as moving out was an adventure, I’m not keen to do it regularly. So, three-minute showers it is and we have a much greater appreciation of this scarce resource.

Have you ever had a situation where you have had to move out due to some disaster?

Oct 8, 2017

Sunday Smooch- Melanie Milburne

Welcome to another LoveCats DownUnder Sunday Smooch!

Today we have a guest smooch from cat-in-the-wild Melanie Milburne but first ........ 
The winner of last week's Sunday Smooch Giveaway is Franca!

Can you please contact annie (at) anniewest (dot) com to receive your prize

And now for today's Sunday Smooch from The Tycoon's Marriage Deal.

Hi everyone,

Thanks again for having me back to bring you a Sunday Smooch, this time from my latest release The Tycoon's Marriage Deal.
Every now and again I find a book will more or less write itself and this was certainly one of those. I love it when those books come along-they are the joyful books that motivate me to keep writing through the more difficult ones, as I live in hope that the next one will be like that.

Blake McClelland is a fast-living playboy but he needs to clean up his reputation in order to buy back his ancestral family home from the current elderly and ultra-conservative gentleman owner. So who better to help him whitewash his image than to pretend to be engaged to the cute little village bakery owner Tillie Toppington? The problem, you might ask? Recently jilted Tillie is Over Men. She won't have a bar of the charming and smooth-talking Blake, but she hasn't factored in her scorching attraction to him and his to her!

The set up for their first smooch...

Tillie has suddenly found herself pretending to be 'engaged' to Blake, because when she slipped on the gorgeous ring he'd tossed on her desk the previous day, it got stuck on her finger! She decides she won't let him have the upper hand, and when he comes into her shop and there is a customer there, Tillie goes into full on besotted fiancée mode!

  Tillie was in the shop serving one of her regulars when Blake came in that afternoon. She had so far survived Mrs Jeffries's questions about how she had met Blake and how he'd proposed - with a good bit of embellishment, of course.
  She handed over Mrs Jeffries her date and ginger scones over the counter. 'Ah, here he is now.' Tillie sent Blake a dazzling smile and gave him a little fingertip wave.'Hello, sweetie pie. I was just telling Mrs Jeffries how romantic your proposal was. How you got down on bended knee and begged for me to say yes. I told her you had a little cry when I did. Well, not just a little cry.' She looked at Mrs Jeffries again. 'He was bawling his eyes out. I was about to call for sand bags to stop him flooding the joint. I've never seen a man so in touch with his emotions.Wasn't that awfully sweet?'
  Mrs Jeffries made oohing and aahing sounds. 'Everyone's so happy for you, Tillie.'
  Blake was a terrifyingly good actor, for he simply smiled. Tillie knew he wouldn't let her get away with it for too long, but, in a way, that was part of the thrill of doing it. She wanted to spar with him. Their verbal exchanges excited her in a way no one else's conversation had before. She saw the I'll-get-you-for-that-later glint in his grey-blue eyes and a shiver coursed down her spine like a tickle of a strip of tinsel paper.
  'Aren't you going to kiss me hello, babe?' he said, 'I'm sure Mrs Jeffries won't mind.'
  'Of course not,' Mrs Jeffries said, smiling indulgently.
  Tillie came from behind the counter.What harm was there in a chaste brush of the lips? Actors did it all the time and much more than that, too. She came to stand in front of him and planted her hands on his chest and looked into his wickedly glinting eyes.
  Better get it over with.
  She closed her eyes halfway and lifted her mouth to his descending one.
  The first brush of his mouth against hers sent a frisson of heat right to her core. The second wasn't a brush-it was a lingering pressure that made her lips open on a gasp and allow his tongue to glide in with such toe-curling expertise every cell in her body jerked upright as if jolted awake from a long sleep. His tongue grazed hers, calling it into a sexy duel that made her knees feel as if someone had taken the bones out. She leaned into his embrace, another cascading shiver going down her spine when his strongly muscled arms gathered her closer.
  His hands moved from the small of her back to cup her rear, bringing her flush against him. She could feel the growing ridge of his erection, thick and urgent, speaking to her feminine form with such primal power it was almost shocking.
  How could she be responding to him like this? She didn't even like him and yet her body craved his like an addict did a forbidden drug.
  Tillie wasn't sure who broke the kiss but she had a sneaking suspicion it might have been him. She lowered herself off her tippy toes and smiled. 'Well, nice to know you're pleased to see me.'
  Blake's smile told her he wasn't finished with her yet. 'Always, babe. Always.'

I hope you enjoy Blake and Tillie's pathway to happy ever after as much as I loved writing it. I have a signed copy for a reader who leaves a comment. And to get the conversation started - Tillie owns a cake shop and Blake loves her chocolate eclairs.

What is the one cake or bakery item that you can't resist?
Please come back next Sunday, when the winner of today's giveaway will be announced and a new smooch will be posted!

Oct 6, 2017

The Problem with Yoga

Don’t get me wrong - I love yoga.  It is my absolute bliss.  I want to be one of those ninety-year-olds who can downward dog like a teenager.
Because I’ve always been more of a stretchy bendy girl than a runny jumpy girl and add the quiet, the strength, the ability to give my mind a much-needed time out and it is necessary to my life.

I’ve also been doing it so long now, that it actually works. And thank goodness.
Outside of yoga my mind is a constant crazy scribble.  A jumbled mess of appointments, memories, things I should have remember but know I’ve forgotten, current books ideas, new book ideas, kids stuff and so on.

Until the moment I step into a yoga studio and for a good hour and a half all that simply goes away.  My mind goes quiet.  My breathe evens.  And I am truly in the now.

Thoughts do happen.  And that’s okay!  Normal even.  One simply learns to accept the thought then let it go.  I like to watch mine float across my mind and out of sight like clouds on a windy day.

Now, here’s the problem.  What happens when the thought that I am meant to watch blow away is a pertinent plot idea for a book?!?!? 

I had that very problem last night.  There I was, lying with my legs up a wall as I began to wind down.  My brain filled with blissful oxygen.  My muscles all warm and tingly.  Getting my yoga on.

Image created by Freepik
Then BAM!  Idea.  And not just any idea, but A Very Important Idea That Will Tie My Entire Book Together.

It was the most truly odd sensation. (In the moment I likened it to drowning, drama queen that I am.)  My mind all floaty and soft, my instincts fought for all they were worth.

Instead of choosing a gentling mantra (inner peace, patience, good health etc) I was secretly chanting the bones of my idea (“Prime Minister, University Grant, Old Lecturer”) in my head, hoping all the while my yoga instructor couldn’t tell that I was totally cheating.  It was very stressful!

The moment Namaste left my mouth I ran to my phone, frantically typing down those notes, breathing a sigh of relief when done.  Phew.  Crisis averted.   

I think I need another yoga class just to get over the last one!
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Have you ever tried yoga (if not, you really should!)  Or is running more your bag?  What about Pilates?  Soccer?  Underwater wrestling?  Rescuing wine from a bottle? What’s your favourite way to decompress?