Friday, April 29, 2011

Happy Hour Dance Party: Crashing the Royal Wedding

Everyone's probably tired of hearing about Will & Kate's wedding. I know I am.

Because of the media blitz, Elena and I thought we should at least enjoy the party & toast them "To Happily Ever After!"

So for this week's party, we're sharing two royal recipes found online (

Happy Hour Drink Recipes

Princess Kate Fizz

1 oz Belvedere Vodka
3/4 oz Earl Grey Tea Syrup
Shake ingredients and strain into a champagne flute. Top with champagne. Garnish with a lemon twist of red currants.

Crown Prince Cocktail

1.5 oz Belvedere Vodka-Bloody Mary
3 oz Pineapple Juice
3/4 oz Lime Juice
2 Bar Spoons Simple Syrup
2 Dashes Orange Bitters
1/8 Bar Spoon Smoked Paprika
Shake & strain all ingredients into a glass filled with ice.

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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Working It Out Wednesday: One Perspective

I can't draw. Period. But I love art and have always wanted to take oil painting classes. I attribute the fact that I never got around to taking classes to my insecurity about not being able to draw. Recently, I made myself sign up at a local school and started attending a couple of weeks ago.

There are four of us in the class. After our teacher told us about her background, she asked us to introduce ourselves. When it was my turn, I shared my nervousness due to my perceived lack of ability, but expressed my love for art and photography. Her response was warm and reassuring: she told me that oil painting is what you make of it and I shouldn't be worried because oils were very forgiving. My photography background would play a role in my painting experience, she said, and she was interested in seeing how it would enhance my work. Finally, she added that aside from being comfortable with mixing colors, perspective was what it was all about. 

I have thought about what she said since then and I realized that this was a great philosophy to have about many things. I am writing a trilogy with Elena as well as my own YA novel and even though I am new to all this and feel a similar nervousness, I need to keep writing. This will help in my becoming comfortable with the process of mixing together the characters, plot, and conflict. My perspective may not be the same as others, but that is what makes life wonderful: the differing ideas and views. And it's what will make my painting and writing unique since it will be enhanced by my own experiences. 

I should have taken classes a long time ago!

I hope you are enjoying our posts. We'd love to hear your perspective!

Happy Wednesday!
The picture I chose to replicate for class. Taken in Burano, Italy.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Manic Monday: Inspiration

My Weekend Inspiration

I stayed indoors mostly this weekend due to the weather. I managed to DVR two movies I've been wanting to see, The Fighter and The Kings Speech - the Oscars were spot-on with the nominations and awards. Very inspiring movies in regards to both brotherhood and friendship.

I have 3 sons and I want them to grow up to be good brothers to one another, through thick & thin. Although they didn't watch The Fighter, I told them the message about 1) don't EVER do Crack/drugs {lol, this is a good message and my oldest saw how deathly thin Christian Bale was in this role as a crack addict} and 2) be the best brothers you can to one another. I want them to always be there for each other, even when their dad and I are no longer around.

The Kings Speech was amazing as well in terms of friendship. I love Colin Firth and I loved the role Geoffrey Rush played as the King's speech therapist. My favorite parts of the movie were when Colin Firth actually began to confide in Geoffrey Rush, thus building the trust and friendship. His story about his "Nanny" is still in my mind, poor little kid.

The sun finally shone on Sunday and I managed to get outside and work in the yard, which I love to do. Mother Nature is a true inspiration and whenever the sun is shining I'm typically more apt to be doing something whereas the rain and clouds always makes me less inclined to tackle any projects.

I hope you all find something inspirational to get you moving this week. As long as the sun shines, I'll be at the Little League fields twice this week. I love watching my sons play baseball.

Have a great week!!


The flowers in my yard inspire me!!

 Inspired by the Doctor

After a long week at work and no time to write, I started the weekend feeling battered, tired, and lacking in enthusiasm. It was my week with our story, so I also had the added pressure of a deadline. I read the chapters from Elena; then I re-read them. Normally, I immediately launch into writing. This time, I just stared at a blank screen. 

Despite my weariness, I was looking forward to the return of Dr Who. Growing up, I had heard of this show and of the time traveling blue box; however, it wasn't until David Tennant became the Tenth Doctor that I started watching. I loved his energy and fell in love with the show. When it was announced that he wouldn't be returning, I was saddened and apprehensive. It did take a bit for me to warm to Matt Smith and his interpretation of the character; however, by the end of the season, I loved and appreciated the Doctor in a new way. So, yes, I was excited for the season premiere.

I spent Saturday attempting to write with the Dr. Who marathon playing in the background (read: staring at a blank screen listening to the Doctor, Amy, and Rory's adventures). While I did get some writing done, it wasn't flowing. I turned the computer off to watch the premiere and fell in love all over again. 

I marveled at this world on the screen and at the imagination from which it was created. Everything means something- even the most trivial- and leads to some greater understanding. Even when that understanding is trivial, it is still important. My thoughts turned to my blank screen: so focused was I on the action and the meaning behind what I thought I should write, I was actually blocking my own progress. Thanks to the Doctor, I was artistically rejuvenated (as well as completely creeped out by The Silence).

I, too, hope you all find inspiration this week. Whether it's in the weather, season, each other, or- if you are a Dr Who fan- in the Doctor. And remember: anything is possible!


"Time isn't a straight line, it's all bumpy-wumpy. There's loads of boring stuff like Sundays and Tuesdays and Thursday afternoons. But now and then there are Saturdays, big temporal tipping points when anything is possible."

Friday, April 22, 2011

Happy Hour Dance Party: B52s

Happy Friday!

Happy Hour Drink Recipe


1 Part Bailey's Irish Cream
1 Part Grand Marnier
1 Part Kahlua

Layer Kahlua, Bailey's, and then Grand Marnier in a shot glass.


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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Working It Out Wednesday: Small Steps

Sometimes I get overwhelmed when I think about the amount of pages I need to write to finish my book.  When my heart starts beating faster than it should when I'm sitting in front of the computer, I take a few deep breaths and refocus on the amount of pages I want to write for THE DAY.  I begin to write and often I write more than I planned to.  Those written pages for the day put me that much closer to the end of the story.

Perhaps you've heard the advice to "write everyday".  I've heard this advice first hand from published authors, I've read it in writing journals, and I've told myself to do the same thing.  Although, I usually interpret the "everyday" part to "Monday thru Friday" because as much as I would love to write on Saturdays and Sundays, it usually doesn't happen because that's family time.

During my pregnancies, 40 weeks seemed so long and far away, but once I hit 30 weeks into my pregnancy, I then began the 10-week-countdown and suddenly, those 10 weeks flew and before I knew it I had a beautiful baby in my arms.  My book is like another "pregnancy" so-to-speak.  It's growing and developing and now that I'm working on the last 100 pages, I feel like I've begun the 10-week-countdown again.  Baby steps to the big finale - a complete book that I've written.

Continue to write words, paragraphs, and pages and soon those small steps will result in a finished piece of work. 

Below is a poem I found amongst my 7-year-old's school papers and wanted to share his Small Steps representing Spring.

Daffodils from our front yard
Spring has sprung.
Put on your rain boots.
Rain jacket.
I love Spring.
Nothing but mud.
Going to the park.

 Stay inspired and continue to write,


Monday, April 18, 2011

Manic Monday: Fresh

Fresh Strawberries
This weekend was one in which I imagined myself as a 21st century Laura Ingalls Wilder. I didn't start the weekend off feeling this way. I spent time writing on Saturday, ran some errands, and saw a movie. I love movies (which you may already know if you've read our profile). Nothing better than going to the movies and escaping into the world on the screen in front of you, bag of unbuttered popcorn in your hand (yes, unbuttered). Going to the movies is one of my favorite things, though not something Laura would have been able to do growing up in Walnut Grove.
While running errands, I stopped at the grocery store to pick up more fruits and veggies (I'm trying to eat healthier) and I couldn't resist the display of fresh strawberries. I still had some left, but I bought them anyway. Then yesterday, I made strawberry jam! "So what," you might be saying, "that's easy." Well, I was nervous! It was my first time making it and I wanted to make sure I did everything right. I also didn't think it was going to be simple. Even when I first read the easy-looking recipe, I thought it would be much harder.
As you thought, it was easy! This is when Laura Ingalls came to mind: as I stood stirring the yummy, goo-looking mix. I loved the Little House on the Prairie books and grew up on the show, so Laura was who I pictured. I imagined her stirring the sweet-smelling mixture for the first time like I was doing, excited about the prospect of tasting it soon.
While I am happy for the conveniences the 21st century offers us since many of my favorite things depend upon it, I sometimes wish we could return to a simpler time. Return to a time where fresh ingredients came from the land in which you occupied, not full of preservatives and shipped from all over the world. A time when we actually talked to one another instead of sending quick, short, incorrectly spelled words.
Of course, this is only sometimes. What would I do without my iphone?!

my fresh strawberry jam!

1 (1-lb) container fresh strawberries, hulled
2 3/4 cup sugar
1 (1 3/4-oz) package powdered low-sugar fruit pectin

1. Prepare 4 (1/2 pint) glass canning jars.
2. Place strawberries in large saucepan. Coarsely mash with potato masher or large wooden spoon. Stir in 1/4 cup sugar and pectin. Bring to a boil. Stir in remaining 2 1/2 cup sugar until blended. Return mixture to full boil. Boil, stirring constantly for 1 minute. Remove saucepan from heat; skim off foam.
3. Immediately divide jam among jars to within 1/2 inch from tops. Wipe rims clean with paper towels. Cover tightly with lids. Let stand at room temperature until set (about 24 hours). Chill jam up to 3 weeks.

Hope you get as much enjoyment from the recipe that I did!


Fresh Flowers, Fresh Floors
This past week two remarkable things happened.  One I waited a year for, the second I waited six years for….

Magnolia tree in my front yard

I’ve waited a year for my Magnolia tree to bloom in my front yard.  This past week it finally bloomed beautifully and today its petals began to fall off.  I was happy that the day it fully bloomed the sun shone.  I’ve photographed it all week; I’ve smelled its flowers and have been appreciating its beauty.  Neighbors keep commenting on its beautiful petals.  I wish the flowers lasted longer, but perhaps the fact that it blooms for such a short period of time each year just makes me appreciate it even more when it finally happens. 

new floors in my living room
We bought our house six years ago and I’ve been walking on the same worn-out carpet since the day we moved in.  I’ve saved numerous flooring ads from the Sunday paper, I’ve comparison shopped at all the large hardware stores, and I’ve had several people come out to measure my house to provide a flooring estimate.  Each year I discuss new flooring with my husband but each year passes by and the old worn-out carpet that was probably original to the house (18 years old) remained.  This year, however, my husband took the lead and all I had to do was pick the product.  We choose laminate flooring because we have an active household (kids & pets) and didn’t want to stress over scratches on a hardwood floor.  Carpet and tile was never a consideration.  The floors were installed last week in the living room, kitchen and hallway.  I love them.  The house is completely new and fresh now.
I wish you all Fresh beginning’s this week…

Friday, April 15, 2011

Happy Hour Dance Party: Gaga

It's Friday! It's been a busy week and we're taking a break from writing to have a little fun... Here's to starting off your weekend happy!

Happy Hour Drink

Poker Face

1 1/2 shots tequila
1/2 shot triple sec
2 shots fresh pineapple juice

Shake all ingredients together with ice in cocktail shaker. Strain and serve.


Lady Gaga Drinking Game

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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Working It Out Wednesday: Characters

Elena and I are winging it- this whole co-writing thing. Yes, we have some sort of system we've come up with and, yes, it is working (yay!) BUT perhaps we should be a bit more organized. We do have an outline and we try to talk weekly when we play tag with our story. Still, the story and characters are developing as we write.While allowing development to occur in this manner may be fine for writing alone, it might get confusing down the road with two of us.

I didn't really analyze all this until recently when I read Ink Diva Diaries regarding "How to Grow a Character." In it, the writer used an analogy I loved- though not necessarily the image it evoked. Lori Sizemore described her free writing process as vomiting her characters onto her page. I can relate to this because it is what I do; however, I commented that the character worksheets she introduces in her post might be beneficial to Elena and I so that our vomit would be consistent. (insert winky face here)

A day later, I was flipping through a book and I stopped on a page: Character Bio Worksheet. Are you hearing bells and whistles? Because I am. And the neon signs pointing to it are pretty bright!

In case you're interested, here are the questions in the Character Bio worksheet:
  1. Age
  2. Occupation
  3. Family Members and/or Significant Others
  4. Personality Traits
  5. Character History (where he/she is from)
  6. Highest Level of Education
  7. Physical Traits
  8. Biggest Motivator
  9. Biggest Fear
  10. Things he/she likes and dislikes
  11. What kind of music does he/she listen to
  12. What do they like/not like about themselves
  13. What is their favorite childhood memory
  14. What is their most traumatic life event
  15. What is their most prized possession
  16. What kind of transportation do they use
  17. What is his/her favorite food
  18. What is the most interesting thing about this character
  19. What does this character's voice sound like
  20. If limited to five words, which ones would most people who know this character choose to describe him/her
I'm not sure what we're going to do, but I do know I'll be analyzing the topic a bit more! I hope this gives you all something to think about, too.

Happy Writing!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Manic Monday: Cheer

Mondays...Definitely my run day. Time flies, but I feel as if time on the weekends flaps its wings so much faster. It could be that I want to do so much and there is not enough time in the day for everything I wish to complete.In any case, I love my weekends; even those like this past one where I did not do anything too exciting.

On Saturday I spent the day (yes, the entire day) organizing my office. It was a project I kept procrastinating on because there was always something else I wanted to do first. And let's face it, who wants to organize their office? This weekend, though, was it. I had resigned myself to do it and was even looking forward to it. It was going to be helpful to both my writing and to my job since I work from home 2-3 times a week. A clean, organized office is key, right? So I did it. I feel as if there is still more to do (mainly with filing, but that's another day), but I can see the top of my desk! Success!!

This happy accomplishment was so uplifting, the feeling carried over to my "fun day" with writing and errands to complete. Here's to hoping that the feeling will get me through my least favorite day of the week!

Happy Monday,
M --

Cheer Me On!
So I spent my weekend at  the little league baseball complex.  Both my older boys (ages 7 & 10) had games this weekend - a total of 3 games over the two days.  The games are always exciting and each child likes us to respond differently to him.  For instance, my oldest son loves the cheering and adoration but my middle son doesn't want anyone cheering for him, he doesn't like the spotlight.  So we cheered loudly for the oldest one and congratulated the middle one privately after the game on his plays.  Sunday night, I was reflecting on my very busy weekend - did I mention the hours of practice in my front yard pitching to my 7 year old/middle child so he could improve his batting and build up his confidence for his games - and thought how great it would be to have my own audience to cheer me on!

My husband is a huge supporter of my writing and asks me daily how my writing is going.  I actually told him one night not to ask me how many pages I wrote because I don't like the pressure.  I do manage to write daily - but not this weekend - so I don't want to be accountable for the daily updates.  However, our weekend was so busy and kid-oriented that my husband said he'd take a personal day today to take his dad to the doctor, something I was supposed to do today, so I could write.  This suggestion really made me realize how supportive he is.  He's my #1 fan.

Thus begins my week of writing - more fun blogs to come this week from Michele and I.  Furthermore, I will be reaching 200+ pages on my YA paranormal novel, AND it's my week to work on the paranormal romance trilogy book that Michele and I are co-writing.  Busy, busy, busy - but exciting.

So please root me on as I begin my week of writing - I, like my oldest son, love to hear the crowd cheering my name loudly!


Friday, April 8, 2011's me!

You may be asking, who "me" is because there are two of us... This me--the me talking to you now-- is Michele. This is all pretty new to us, so please bear with us. I'd like to request a sizable learning curve, please!

Let me start with an explanation. One question I get asked a great deal when I tell people that my friend and I are writing together is, "how are you doing it," followed by more specific questions regarding the logistics. I won't bore you with the details, but I will start at the beginning.

E and I have known each other since high school. Reading romance novels and writing were two of the many things we shared in common. I remember browsing over her mother's vast collection of romance books, trying to decide which would be the few (or more than few!) I would borrow. It was a great collection and so much better than the library's collection -- plus, no late fees! We often talked about what we wanted to do and writing always seemed to work its way into the conversation.

After HS, we lost touch. I moved many states away, but always remembered E fondly, wondering "what ever happened to..." Unbeknown to me (until FB), E also had moved many states away: she lives an hour away from me.

We picked up as if those years were never lost. Our conversations inevitably led back to our love of writing. This time, the conversation went something like,
              Elena: "I want to write a book."
              Michele: "Me too! We should write a book together!"
              Elena: "Ok!"

I took some liberties in my paraphrasing since I promised not to bore you. But it basically went something like that!

We've been writing ever since and have recently joined the Romance Writers of America (RWA) as well as Valley Forge Romance Writers (VFRW), a local chapter of RWA. Attending our first meeting was inspiring and I feel as if a fire has been lit under me. It is a bit overwhelming and I am doing this while working full, full-time (yes, the second "full" is intentional), but I am so excited and believe the excitement will help keep me motivated. That and the meetings.  :) After our first meeting, I commented to a fellow writer that I felt like a deer caught in headlights and asked if that feeling ever faded. She was reassuring but I still feel like:

Oh, I haven't answered the question, have I?

E and I take turns with the story and touch base weekly on where our time with the characters took us. At that time, we relinquish the characters to the other's imagination and also talk about the direction we see the story taking. What is really fun about co-writing this way is that when I get E's chapters from her time with our characters, our friends, I'm hearing about what happened with them during our time apart, getting to be both a reader and a writer. That feeling, along with getting to share this experience with E, is what I'm enjoying best.

Hope you have fun getting to know us! Feel free to share any comments or your own experiences any time!


Thursday, April 7, 2011

Why So Serious?

Did you know that laughing burns calories?  Yup - about 10 to 40 calories per 15 minutes, depending on a person's weight and intensity of the laughter.  Plus, laughter can make you live longer too, especially because it reduces stress, and we've all heard the horrors of stress (if you haven't, Google it and start laughing immediately). 

I sometimes get annoyed because my kids laugh all the time - at home, when we're running errands, at the dinner table (restaurant & home, but most annoyingly when we're at restaurants), in the car, when I'm talking to them, in the tub/shower, in their room (usually at bedtime because they share a room and like to goof off), basically all the time & anywhere.

Studies show that adults typically laugh 25 times a day vs. kids laughing 400 times a day.  Wow!  That's alot of laughing (and alot of calories burned & less stress...).

So - why am I so serious??? The answer to that is..."I'm working on it."

My year of stress was definatly 2010 but I have since left the stress behind.  That's not to say I don't worry and am totally carefree, but I'm reminding myself to enjoy life more, to laugh with the kids, at myself, at situations.

But seriously, we do have to be serious sometimes.  I often break into my "there's a time and a place for laughter" speech with the kids.  However, I have to admit that at one of the lowest points in my life - when my father died suddenly several years ago - I went home for his funeral and expected it to be the saddest week of my life.  Quite the opposite actually.  My younger brother, whom I hadn't seen in several years, and I laughted so much that week - many of the times we were laughing over stories of our father, but mostly it was just the two of us laughing at one another.  Oh, I cried plenty too - but I remember laughing alot that week and it really helped me cope with my father's passing.

So stop being so serious.  Smiles and laughter are contagious so find something to laugh about and get someone laughing along with you.  You'll burn calories, beat stress, and most importantly, have fun.


Tuesday, April 5, 2011

If You Slip, Get Back Up

I watched part of Dancing with the Stars last night (my usual favorites are all reruns) but I've been rooting for Kirstie Alley since the show began. Last night, just as her partner and she began dancing, her professional dance partner, Maks Chmerkovskiy, dropped her. I felt bad for them both, but then they got up, they shook it off, and finished an otherwise flawless performance, and received acceptable scores - scoring the same as the other dancers who didn't fall down. And, the judges commended their comeback and attitudes for overcoming their initial fall. Bravo Kirstie and Maks!

But this blog post isn't about Kirstie or Dancing with the Stars. It's about overcoming those slip-ups. We've all had them, whether dancing, writing, eating, sports, work, friendship, etc. The slip-ups apply to practically everything in life. It's how we manage them - do they become our setback, or do we shake it off and continue to move forward?

I've slipped many times - in fact, I've slipped on my writing, but now I'm at the computer once again, writing each day and meeting my writing goals. I'm even attending a National writer's conference in a few months, just joined a local writers chapter, and have weekly writing discussions with my co-writer. The pen is definitely on the paper, and I'm happy with my progress.

Just like Kirstie, if I fall, I will get back up, hold my head high, and finish flawless.

Keep Dancing,


Monday, April 4, 2011

The Journey Begins

So here is our official blog - "our" referring to both "Elena" and "Michele".  We are two but writing and sharing as one.  We are excited about our new blogging adventure and look forward to sharing it with the rest of....well, everyone who wants to take this journey with us. 

What I expect to gain from this is to write - a lifelong passion of mine that I've come back to at this point in my not-so-long-life, especially because I feel like the years haven't affected me.  It's like an old friend that I'm acquainting myself with but whom I haven't grown out of touch with.  A friend I'm comfortable with, a friend I can talk to today without having to go back and explain the years that have passed.  A friend like Michele. 

We will laugh, create, share, and enjoy this process.

I'm looking forward to beginning my writing journey, exploring my Happy Chances, the lanes in life that lead me to smiles, great memories, endless rewards and pleasure.

Happy Reading,