Jun 24, 2019

The “everything” drawer – Kandy Shepherd

I’m the first to admit I’m not the tidiest person around. I try, I really do try to keep things organised and tidy, to de-clutter, but it’s a constant battle. I relate to the Peanuts character “Pig-Pen”—mess gravitates towards me!

I kept an old magazine for years that showcased actress Jamie Lee Curtis’s house. It was amazing. Everything sorted, placed, regimented. And the awesome Ms Curtis (I’m a big fan) interviewed, saying how good all that tidiness made her feel. I longed to be like her—how wonderful it would be to have my house look like hers. (Instead of fearing what might fall out and crash to the floor when I opened a cupboard door because of all the stuff randomly jammed in there!)

I want to be like Jamie Lee Curtis!

Then the lovely Marie Kondo with her book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and subsequent television show, struck a chord. There’s a big emphasis on very neat folding. She suggests you discard anything that doesn’t “spark joy”. (Am I surprised to see Jamie Lee Curtis is a supporter of Marie Kondo? She actually says in this article for Time magazine, that if she were to get a tattoo it would say “Spark Joy”!)

Kondo style folding

The message is—decluttering can be life-changing. The few areas of the house I have managed to declutter work so much better and are less stressful to negotiate. It works! (Least said the better about the other areas. And the books. Oh, the books. How difficult it is to get rid of books. Especially when you’ve written them yourself!)

My pantry system needs some refining - but the intention is good!

However, while I am attempting to change my deeply ingrained ways (even my school desk was always untidy!) there is one thing I am adamant about keeping—and that is my beloved “everything drawer”. 

Do you have such a drawer/shelf/box into which every miscellaneous thing that doesn’t have an immediate home is tossed?

I’m bravely sharing my everything drawer with you here. 

Here it is in all its glory - my "everything drawer"!

A quick survey of the top layer of my drawer: take-away menus from restaurants; rubber bands; flyers from tradesmen we might need one day; Band Aids for when it’s too difficult to hunt out the first-aid box; an apple slicer; a sample tile; some anonymous part from the fridge; plugs that don’t seem to fit any of our sinks but must or otherwise why would we have them; a kitchen timer that needs a new battery; spring -flowering bulbs I forgot to plant; string; a cute cat-shaped black board I’ve de-cluttered from the fridge door but still like; appliance instruction manuals that haven’t been put away in folder yet; a device that times boiled eggs; glue. And that’s just the top layer!

When I first lived with my husband he pronounced: “This has got to go!”
“To where?” I asked.
“Files,” he said sternly. “All this stuff put in order where we can find it.”
“Okay,” I said, after an initial feeble protest. After all, I knew where I could find it. In the everything drawer!

After 30 years of living with me, he has wearily and silently conceded some of his hard-fought ground. No bills or invoices are ever allowed in the everything drawer. All the warranties and appliance instructions have their own folder in the everything drawer. Spare light bulbs must be in boxes. Yes, yes and yes. But everything else is randomly tossed in. 

“Where are the spare batteries?” someone will inevitably ask. 
“Do we have any sticky tape?” 
“Aargh! My friend is allergic to cats. Any antihistamines?”
“Look in the everything drawer,” I serenely reply. 
And inevitably what they are looking for is there!

It’s a great system. Maybe I should write a book about it…

Do you have an “everything drawer”? If you are a naturally tidy person, what can I learn from you? Do you declutter? We’d love to see your comments!

Jun 19, 2019

Alpine Style – the things you discover on a research trip! By Annie West

Old houses in Brienz
As some of you know I was recently in Europe for a couple of weeks. I was lucky enough to attend a reader festival in France and also visit some locations I thought would be useful for current and future books. If that sounds like a convenient excuse for travel, I can tell you I’ve lost count of the number of stories I’ve written that have been inspired by places, people, events, traditions and stories that I’ve come across in my travels. Of course, travel is fun too! J

The book I’m working on is set partly in the Alps. Naturally, since I was in Europe it was a perfect time to explore there, soak up the atmosphere and check a few things. 

Window boxes
But in addition to the very specific things I wanted to find out for my story, of course I discovered a lot more. One of those was the alpine affinity for wood! Not just for buildings but for so much more. It’s used in everything from decorative flower boxes to fancy trim on gorgeous alpine houses, water fountains, fences, signs and statues. Even for fashion! 

In case you can't read German and you're looking for a hotel - look for bears carrying luggage!
Everywhere I looked there was something useful or pretty or downright quirky to admire.

Carvings for each hotel door.
Have a look at these and see what you think. They’re all taken around the small town of Brienz in Switzerland where I was lucky enough to spend a couple of days. It turns out that Brienz is home to a Schule für Holzbildhauerei or school for wood sculpture, so perhaps that explains the amount of wonderful carvings I discovered there.

Sign for the wharf and lakeside cruises
In case you want to go on an elegant stroll to the lookout
Or if you're looking for the beach
Or maybe you want to climb the Rothorn Mountain on foot, or better yet, on the steam cog railway
When you get to the top there'll be someone waiting with an oil can to inspect the steam engine
Jolly life-sized locals by the lake
And for the fashion conscious - wooden bow ties!

Several of the men in my family – father, uncle and grandfather – were good with wood and I have a couple of treasured pieces of inherited wooden furniture. Now I’m thinking I missed out at school when the boys learned woodwork and I didn’t. How about you? Do you like handmade wooden items or do you prefer things more modern and streamlined? 

Jun 16, 2019

Sunday Smooch winner!

We don't have a Sunday Smooch scheduled for today, but the winner of last week's smooch and a copy of A Baby in His In-Tray is Pammie S.
Congratulations, Pammie!!!

Send Michelle an email at michelle (at) michelle-douglas (dot) com to receive your prize.

Jun 12, 2019

I'm in a New York state of mind...

I’m pretty certain this isn’t going to come as a surprise to anyone, but I’m starting to get excited about my trip to New York next month (OMG next month!!!).

 I’ve jotted down a few must-see-and-dos:

* I want to visit a rooftop bar and sip something sophisticated while gazing out at the Manhattan skyline
* See the Statue of Liberty
*  Walk in Central Park
*  Catch a Broadway show
*  Walk the High Line
* Spend the day strolling through…well, I don’t really know—Greenwich Village maybe?
* And I have to go to Katz’s Deli of When Harry Met Sally fame (I’ll have what she’s having). Actually, I'm going to have the pastrami on rye. ;-)

But I feel so disorganised. I’m madly writing my next book because I SO want to get the first draft done before I leave, and it’s taking up ALL of my time. I’ve barely started preparing for the trip. Actually that’s not completely true—the flights are booked and the accommodation is booked. But I’m talking about the nitty-gritty planning. I’ve bought a guidebook that I’ve thus far only managed to flick through (see the pic above). I’ve purchased a new toiletry bag because my old one fell apart…

and I’ve bought a most excellent cross body bag that will hold my essentials when I’m out walking the streets of New York.

I’m thinking that’s nowhere near enough preparation, right?

I need help—I need travel tips. I need New York tips.

Here are some things I’ve been told:
  • Take lots of dollar bills for tipping
  • Visit the Met Cloisters
  • Become a member of New York City Library
  • Shop at Century 21
Do you have any other words of wisdom for me? I mean, is there anything specific I should try and buy in New York because I won’t be able to get it anywhere else?

Plus what on earth do I pack to cover sightseeing AND the Romance Writers of America conference? (I mean, when I pack for the Aussie conference I take more for four nights that I take on a five week jaunt to Europe!) Can I get away with just taking three pairs of shoes—two pairs plus the ones I’m wearing? Or should I cover every eventuality?

I know, I sound crazy right? I’ve promised Mr Douglas that I won’t pack the night before in a frenzy of panic. I will be organised (she says, taking a deep breath). Mostly though, I’m just crazy excited.

Jun 10, 2019

Isn't it romantic

Don’t you just love cuddling up in front of a fire? The temperature in Oz has dropped – thank goodness. I’m a gal who loves the cold. Begs the question why I live in a sub-tropical environment where it is hot most of the year. But finally the temperature around Byron Bay has dropped and we’ve been able to light the fire all this past week.

I love everything about having a fire. Collecting the kindling from around the property. Pine cones are especially good to get the fire going.  I love building it just right so it lights up straight away and then stoking it all evening to keep the house toasty. What a joy.

I realised  I haven’t (I don’t think) ever put a fire lighting scene in my books. I must do that.

What about you? Do you have a fire at home? Do you love lighting it and watching the flames dance?

Jun 9, 2019

Sunday Smooch: HOLT Medallion nominee

Welcome to another LoveCats DownUnder Sunday Smooch!

Today we have a smooch from Michelle Douglas but first the winner of last week's Sunday Smooch Giveaway is...Jan VanEngen.

Congratulations Jan! Can you please contact Clare: clareconnelly (at) outlook (dot) com to receive your copy of Shock Heir for the King.

 And now for a retro Sunday Smooch from A Baby in His In-Tray -- a finalist in this year's HOLT Medallion!

Taking care of baby

With the boss!

When Liv Gilmour's identical twin sister begs her to take her place for a week to work for business hotshot Lord Sebastian Tyrrell, she can't say no--after all, the boss will be away. Until someone abandons a baby with a note demanding Sebastian take care of it. Suddenly Sebastian's swift return sees Liv up close and personal with the sexy boss...and a baby who needs them both!

Normally I'd give a scene set-up, but in this case I fear it'd give away too many spoilers. So I'll just let the kiss stand on it's own merits. ;-)

The sure pressure of Seb’s lips on Liv’s, the way his fingers cradled her head as if she were made of something fine and precious, completely undid her, crumbling any resistance she might’ve put up.

Resistance? There was no thought of resistance. Kissing Seb was the most exciting, wonderful thing she’d ever done! She flung her arms around his neck and kissed him back with everything she had.

For a moment he seemed to bend under the onslaught of her wholehearted enthusiasm, like a tree in the wind, but he came back with a force that had the potential to fell them both.

‘Seb.’ His name whispered from her lips. She couldn’t help it. She wanted to say his name over and over. She wanted to whisper it to the stars.

Warm lips pressed kisses to her throat, teeth scraping gently across the delicate skin there. Her knees trembled, her legs threatening to buckle beneath her, but his arm slid about her waist to hold her upright…and so very close. She pressed herself even closer. Under her hands, his shoulders flexed—broad and strong. She traced her hands up the strong column of his neck, the stubble on his cheek scraping her palms as she urged his mouth back to hers.

He kissed her so thoroughly, so completely and shockingly explicitly that a fire burst into flaming life and engulfed them both, and all she could do was hold on and try to keep up with him.

Kissing him was like being on a roller coaster. And yet it was like being wrapped in a warm blanket too. It was like flying, but it felt like the most natural thing in the world. Exotic and forbidden scents should be swirling all around them…as well as the scent of baking bread and sunshine-scented soap. She expected to hear fireworks exploding…alongside birdsong. Kissing Seb was all things exciting…and all things warm and welcoming.

It made no sense, and it made all sense.

She fitted into his arms perfectly, as she’d known she would. And she knew that if they were naked they’d fit even more perfectly. And she wanted that. She craved it with every atom, sinew and fibre. Ecstasy sparked to life wherever he touched…and aches and burnings and yearnings. She pressed herself against him to try and assuage the need engulfing her.

‘God, Eliza.’

It wasn’t his ragged breathing or the hoarseness of his voice that made her freeze. Eliza. She wasn’t Eliza. She wasn’t who he thought she was.

She pushed away from him with all her strength. ‘No!’

The single word rang around the room, dispelling her ludicrous notion of fireworks and birdsong. He released her immediately. ‘Eliza…?’

She’d let him kiss her when he thought she was someone else. She’d kissed him back. What kind of person did that make her?

I adore this book so I'm super excited it has been named a finalist in the HOLT Medallion. To go into the draw to win a signed copy of A Baby in His In-Tray just leave a comment:  Have you ever won anything? I used to dream about winning a holiday to a dream location -- which never happened. But I did win a meat tray last month and that made me ridiculously happy. :-)

Come back next Sunday, when the winner of today's giveaway will be announced!

Smooch Graphic by WebWeaver

Jun 7, 2019

busy-ness and broken bones

You really don't realise how busy your kids are until one of them breaks their arm. Their dominant arm, no less.

Last weekend Miss 11 fractured her distal radius up near her wrist.  A small fracture, but one that requires a cast for 6 weeks nonetheless.

She's doing great! First break. First emergency room trip. She was a trooper. Not a tear shed. Even as the bone was squished back together (for want of the proper language - I wasn't listening at that point, merely holding eye contact and distracting her for all I was worth while she sucked down laughing gas).

Only now we face the next few weeks one-handed.

Cello lessons. Guitar lessons. AFL (Aussie football, how she broke her arm). Volunteering at the canteen of our local footy club each weekend.

She's House Captain for her school sports team and in the next two weeks has to ra ra ra for the Junior School sports days. She's in the Readers Cup team. And Maths Challenge team, both of which are competing this month.

In two weeks she's off to 6th Grade camp. In Canberra. For a week. And she can't tie her shoes.

She's right in the middle of mid-year assessments meaning she has spent this entire week taking exams using her left hand.

Tomorrow she has her high school interview. Since she is applying for an extension program this includes a 45 minute online exam. And two written questions. Again, to be taken using her left hand.

And she has just started her own small business. Hosting Slime Parties. And this thing has taken off like wildfire. We are booked through June and beyond.

And yet, while Mumma Bear has had to switch to another gear - doing all to make sure her kid doesn't miss out, isn't disadvantaged, is a part of all the cool stuff her final year of primary school has to offer - Miss 11 is simply keeping on keeping on.

Writing her exams left-handed without complaint. Making sure she's allowed to attend inter school sport to cheer on her friends. Contacting her AFL coach to ask if she can assist him on game days and at training, to still be a part of the team. Figuring out ways to host her slime parties one-handed by enlisting an assistant for the interim.

To say that I'm gobsmacked by her resilience during this time is an understatement. This kid of mine. Broken, but stronger than I could have imagined.

This is Mumma Bear, proud as punch, signing out.