Monday, December 27, 2010

Greetings from Snowy England

Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays! and all those good things ---

At last ... I have Internet access - albeit for just a few moments to catch up on my emails etc.
This is a quick post to wish everyone a wonderful New Year ... just in case I don't get another opportunity as my mother's house is in the wilds of Devon and does not have the Internet. However, it does have running water (just kidding). We also have a tame robin ... my favorite British bird.

We finally arrived in the small hamlet of Harberton on Christmas Eve - six days later than planned. Twice, our Virgin Atlantic flight was cancelled - but we were luckier than many stranded passengers. We only live half an hour from LAX (Los Angeles) airport so no nights spent in airport terminals.

Here in Devon, the snow is still heavy on the ground with more to come. Despite being cold, we ventured into Totnes yesterday to watch the Dartington Morris men trip the light fantastic in freezing conditions. Tonight, we're heading to the local theatre to watch CINDERELLA - my husband's introduction to the classic British pantomime (oh yes it is).

All in all - so far so good! And now ... it's time for a glass of Sloe Gin.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

A Cat Going About His Business

I am a cat lover.

Anyone who knows me, knows that. I even admit to having a cat psychic so I can communicate with Mr. Tig and understand his grievances. But we have this really annoying problem. Another cat—who's identity remains a mystery—has started doing his business at both our front and our back doors.

We live on the upper level of a Spanish duplex. Apart from being disgusting, can you imagine how traumatized poor Mr. Tig must feel? He's an indoor-outdoor cat and his territory is small, but it's still his. The mystery cat has clearly got bolder. He's moved from using my plant pots (inexcusable as I love to garden) and has stepped up his game. It's quite clear we are living in his old house and he doesn't like it.

Even if I discover the culprit (my husband suggested an all-night stake-out but I think he was joking), what can we do? Cayenne pepper? Anyone got any ideas?

This problem reminds me of one of my favorite children's books. The Story of the Little Mole Who Knew It was None of His Business. If you're stuck for a gift for a child or an adult who never really grew up (i.e. English men who went to boarding school - no offense, I love you all), then this is the gift for you.

Meanwhile, I'm considering calling in my psychic, Ben Scuglia, for a bit of sleuthing.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Good Old Mercury Retrograde!

I don't usually pay attention to astrology anymore (I used to be obsessed with it in my misspent youth) except for one thing. Mercury Retrograde. 

This morning I set off for the post office to buy stamps for the gazillions of holiday cards I love sending to friends and family scattered around the globe. After standing in line (queueing) for half an hour I arrive at the bullet-proof window only to find that they had run out of 98 cent stamps—in fact, they only had First Class stamps. The next indication I received about good old Mercury turning was a one hour phone conversation to my favorite customer service hub. Yes, you've guessed. Mumbai. The five different customer service agents I spoke to were all very pleasant as I explained that I needed to alert the bank that  my husband and I were traveling internationally and needed to use our cards. After jumping through hoops and reciting the alphabet backwards along with other security questions, I was told the "system was down" and could I call again later? Since then, I've had a slew of dropped phone calls, my computer freezing and just that general feeling of wading through treacle. 

However, just knowing Mercury is up to his tricks gives me patience. 

Here is what had to say about the planet. Mercury retrograde "gives rise to personal misunderstandings; flawed, disrupted or delayed communications, negotiations and trade; glitches and breakdowns with phones, computers, cars, buses and trains. Ho hum! And we're told Mercury doesn't straighten itself out until December 30!! Arrrgh. Not great for traveling. 

But - forewarned is forearmed, as the saying goes. In fact, having only recently written all about the importance of learning to go with the flow, it looks like I'm about to be tested.  

Thursday, December 9, 2010

A Sudden Attack of Holiday-itis!

This time of year is always frantic—not just at work but at home too. Since my husband and I are leaving for England in just over a week, there is a lot of holiday shopping to finish, cards to write and mail out plus—a ton of book stuff to do in preparation for the launch of Thieves! in early January.

Last night I arrived home far more tired than usual. By nine 'o clock I had developed a cough and a blinding headache. During the night, my throat felt as if it were full of knives and my headache had become unbearable. There was no question of being able to stagger into work. I spent ALL day asleep—a luxury unheard of and true, I do feel much better this evening.

On delving into Louise Hay's book "You Can Heal Your Life" I later read with some amusement that headaches and migraines are often caused by "resisting the flow of life" and a "dislike of being driven." Sore throats are all about "swallowed anger" or the "inability to speak up for oneself."

Sometimes I try so hard to keep up with my silly self-imposed schedules that I forget to stop and smell the roses. I don't go with the flow and feel as if I am always swimming against the tide. Today, I stepped off my treadmill that seems to be always going full speed ahead.

Every day my husband writes a list of five things he's grateful for. I hadn't written one for a very long time but today, thanks to my headache, I did just that.

The holidays are supposed to be a time of gratitude and joy. Does it really matter if I don't finish my filing?

Saturday, December 4, 2010


No ... not the sword of Arthurian legend ... but the Excalibur Bodybuilding, Figure and Bikini Championship in Culver City last night.
A friend of ours—Troy—competed and we were determined to cheer him on. Troy got into the Finals and frankly, it was a real eye-opener. The one thing that slightly took me off-guard was the obsession with tan spraying. Ninety percent of the contestants sported a vibrant orange tan which was slightly disconcerting.

This championship was geared towards the "Masters" meaning men over 40. About 20 contestants were in their late fifties and flexing muscles I didn't even know existed. Their commitment to their art was jaw-dropping. The female bodybuilders were equally impressive.

Later at home as I tucked into a delicious plate of Trader Joe's Brie sprinkled with roasted hazelnuts and cranberries, I had to accept the truth that competing at Excalibur next year is highly unlikely for yours truly.

Now that Arnold Schwarzenegger is no longer "The Governator," I wonder if he'll go back to bodybuilding?

Friday, December 3, 2010

A Naked British Farmer for the Holidays? Any takers?

I know I'm not alone in feeling completely overwhelmed at this time of year. I'm also not alone in struggling to think up suitable ideas for gifts to buy family and friends. My own family love exchanging tons of presents. The process of unwrapping lasts about two or three hours as we focus on each lucky recipient one-at-a-time. Our ritual includes watching the Queen's speech at 3.00 p.m, drinking mum's homemade Sloe gin and eating far too many chocolates. 

My husband's family is the exact opposite. With them, we play "Secret Santa. " Names are tossed into a hat and the buyer remains anonymous. We all have the same budget and each person only has to focus on one family member. Honestly, I really like it! Zero stress with the emphasis on quality -  not quantity. But ... rough on kids! I still remember with huge excitement, those giant piles of presents under the tree. Then, it definitely was all about quantity!

Having said all that, I have a few Farming Calendars left for 2011 - both male and female - which will make terrific stocking stuffers. The Farming Calendars feature in the Vicky Hill mysteries and have become extremely popular. What's even more exciting is that the creator, Nicola de Pulford, lives just two miles from my mother's house so I'm fortunate to bump into a farmer (dressed, I may add), now and again.

Take a peek at the website and if you're interested, send me an email at with "Farmers" in the subject line or send me a message via my Facebook page. Cost is $15 including shipping. If you would rather pay with British pounds or buy in the UK, go directly to the Farmer Calendar website - Proceeds for 2011 go to Saint Catherine's School, Ventnor, Isle of Wight.