Friday, November 22, 2013

Fancy a cuppa and a chance to win a Brown Betty teapot?

Although I’ve lived away from the UK for twenty years now (and these past 11 months in Portland, Oregon) I still stick rigidly to my four 0'clock teatime ritual. 

On Facebook recently, author Elizabeth Duncan asked her friends and followers the question, “What is your favorite brand of tea?”

I used to adore Yorkshire Gold but now I find it too strong.  I enjoy PG Tips but that could be because of “Cooeee Mr. Shifter” – a commercial from 1971. Hilarious. 

I love Twinings (especially Lady Grey), I don’t mind Tetley, I loathe Liptons (is that really tea? Seriously?) but my all-time favorite is … French Breakfast Tea by Mariage Freres. 

Quelle horreur! I hear my fellow countrymen and anglophiles cry. But it’s true. I love it. Perhaps it’s the packaging … or even the little muslin bags?

Drinking tea from the correct cup makes a difference, too. 

My mother insists that only workmen on building sites or plumbers (I do not share her opinion) drink tea from heavy mugs. Bone china is the only way to go. I’m not a fan of a cup and saucer (the tea gets cold too quickly) so these delicate mugs from Tottering-by-Gently are a perfect compromise. 

But the true test of a good cuppa is in the way it’s made. And if you want to know how … click on this link to my latest newsletter.  You’ll also find details of a free contest for a chance to win a genuine Brown Betty teapot. All you have to do is guess the name of the dog on the book cover of my brand new series that will be coming out in May of 2014 called Murder at Honeychurch Hall. The contest ends December 1. Winners will be contacted by email and announced on Facebook.  

But for now, my little alarm has just gone off. It’s 3.50 PM exactly. In ten minutes I’ll be sitting down with my afternoon cuppa and a McVitites chocolate digestive biscuit. Yum. 

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Sun is Out!

View from our room at Sunriver
Well ... summer is around the corner and I'm beginning to cheer up a little. I had obviously lived in California for far too long. Who would have thought the lack of sunshine would have had such an impact on me. I even bought a SAD light.

But - this past weekend my husband and I went to the Sunriver Resort in Bend, Oregon. It was absolutely gorgeous. We had so much fun whitewater rafting, trail riding, hiking, cycling ... Oregon is such a wonderful place to be—when it's sunny.

But - no more grumbling! I am making a solemn intention from this point forwards to embrace my new life. To "bloom where I'm planted" - something a new friend (and everyone in Portland is so nice!) suggested I do.

However - just so you know what challenges lay ahead, here are 37 Things to Consider Before Moving To Portland.  (And a big thank you to Anna Nicholas who sent me this cool blog from Estately).

Click on this link - and learn! Estately: 37 Things to Consider Before Moving to Portland Oh ... and there is always the TV Show Portlandia...

Friday, April 26, 2013

Adjusting to a New Life

There's a saying "be careful what you wish for" and for the past decade, all I have wanted is to quit my full-time job in Los Angeles and write.

When my husband's job moved us to Portland, Oregon in January, I was over the moon. At last my dream was coming true but somehow, things didn't quite work out how I imagined.

This is what I imagined: Getting up at a decent hour (I used to wake at 4.30 AM to write before work) with a leisurely cup of coffee followed by a few hours of serious writing. Ideas would pour into my mind. I'd type away with a huge, contented smile on my face—possibly working on two or three projects at the same time.

I'd make a healthy lunch and lose 10 pounds because I wasn't tempted by office snacks. Afterwards, I'd take a leisurely walk along the river (it's beautiful here) or perhaps an exercise class. I'd be thin. Toned. Radiant. Gorgeous.

I'd spend another couple of hours at my writing—rattle off a few emails, play on Facebook, phone my mother and the friends I never had time for whilst living in Los Angeles. At 4 PM I'd stop for a traditional cup of English tea and read a book for an hour. After that, I'd cook something absolutely fabulous for supper—possibly French—greet my husband at the door like a 1950's housewife and we'd share our day.

How wrong could I be!!

First of all ...I've discovered that without a rigid structure to my day, all my self-discipline has flown out the window.  When I worked full-time my days were ruled by panic and the fear that I would never turn my books in on time. It was what got me out of bed at 4.30 AM.

Secondly ... I really really miss my work people. Being part of a crazy advertising environment was actually a lot of fun. True, it was insane and very stressful but a true mine of inspiration when it came to devising murder plots and selecting victims.

Thirdly ... it rains. Okay - as I am typing this, it is day 3 of sun which is apparently really unusual. Yes, I'm British and I should be used to the weather by now, but after twenty years in sunny California it's very hard staring at a gray sky day in—day out. Apparently, Portlandians (and do check that series out because Portland is exactly like the show) say that summer officially begins on July 5. I have to find the funny though because last year when my husband and I were gripped by the American TV version of The Killing, I would say "Good God. I can't imagine living somewhere so dreary where it rains all the time! I'd kill myself." And here we are ... months later living exactly where it rains all the time. Of course, I miss my little feline friend, Mr. Tig so I suspect that hasn't helped.

And as for exercise. Honestly. Up until yesterday I would have said I didn't care but we just enrolled in "Full-Tilt Spin" classes at Firebrand. I'll say one thing for Portland, it's pretty innovative. It's probably a good thing because the food in Portland is amazing.

Oh! And I missed out a vital fact that although I have essentially given up full-time work in high-rise office, I'm still available "remotely" 24-7 to my Los Angeles boss ... and believe me, he takes advantage of that ... and I don't mind! I'm starved of conversation.

But grumbling apart, I know I'm lucky and as my mother would say, "only you can change your attitude." So ... that's what I'm going to do. Right after I've eaten the last slice of chocolate cake.

If anyone would like to share their moving-to-a-new-city story with me, I'd love to hear it!

Friday, April 12, 2013

Rainbow Bridge

It's been nearly three weeks since my darling Mr. Tig passed over to the Rainbow Bridge. I guess he never really adjusted to life in Portland, Oregon although - two years ago - he came close to leaving us so I try to think of having those extra two years with as a wonderful gift.

Nothing prepares you for the loss of a beloved pet but what has absolutely touched my heart is the amazing support from other animal lovers through countless emails, Facebook messages and phone calls.

Mr. Tig started his journey with me when I moved to California. He was a rescue cat and it was only by chance that my daughter Sarah and I saw him that boiling hot Saturday on Ventura Boulevard in Studio City, California. We weren't looking to adopt a cat but there was something about him that made us change our minds. Mr. Tig's cage was on top of a little Spaniel and every few minutes, he'd push his paw through the grill and tap the Spaniel on the head and then, retreat and hide. It drove the poor dog crazy because he couldn't figure out what was happening ... so we took Mr. Tig home.

His name wasn't always Mr. Tig. The rescue society named him Flipper because he could turn somersaults... but we thought that a little unmanly so we called him Tiggy. It was only when the wonderful Ben Scuglia, pet psychic extraordinaire said Tiggy disliked that name and wanted to be called Mister Tig that we did as we were told.

Mr. Tig stayed with me when my daughter returned to England to go to college; he comforted me through the loss of my Dad ... and he fought for my affections when I first met Jason who became my husband (and Mr. Tig won Jason over, too). And finally, he stayed with us for the 1,000 mile drive to Oregon, making sure that all was well before saying goodbye.

And a huge thank you to Susan Van Hyning and Carolyn Hart for telling me all about Rainbow Bridge.

Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge. 
When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge. 
There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together. 
There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable. 
All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor; those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by. 
The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.
They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent; His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster. 
You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart. 

Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together.... 

Author unknown... 

Till we meet again ... R.I.P. my dearest boy - April 24, 1996 to March 25, 2013.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Mr. Tig Moves to Portland

It is no secret that I am obsessed with my cat, Mr. Tig. With his 17th birthday fast approaching, he and I have been through a lot together. In fact, when I first met my husband Jason (who is really a dog person) Mr. Tig was very put out and was determined to sabotage my blossoming relationship. But that is a whole other story that ended with Jason giving me an ultimatum along the lines of, "it's me or the cat." Suffice it to say, I still have both in my life. Jason and Mr. Tig bonded (eventually) and these days, they can be found watching hockey together or just hanging out doing guy-things.

But I digress. When my husband got a promotion and was transferred to the Portland office a few weeks ago, my wonderful boss agreed that I could work "remotely" from home leaving me more time to write. It's early days but so far so good. My biggest challenge seems to be finding a structure to my day. I was far more productive when I had less time! 

Mr. Tig's challenge is to adapt to his new surroundings. —especially the weather. If he had been human, I suspect he would be a surfer, say “dude” a lot and drive a Wrangler. Now he has swapped the Californian sunshine for English-type weather (I feel right at home) – dreary gray skies where, when the sun does come out, it’s optimistically called a “sun break.”  It’s the land of vampires up here for sure (The Twilight series was filmed locally) but I’m told that when Spring finally comes it is gorgeous.  The countryside is stunning, the food in Portland is beyond delicious and there are a gazillion coffee shops all roasting their own beans. And of course there is a strong writing community along with the world famous Powells of Portland, the biggest bookstore in the world.

…. I absolutely love it here and I do hope that Mr. Tig will adjust eventually. 
Mr. Tig
 Our holistic vet Lisa Hoberg  says that moving a cat—especially an old cat—is very stressful. To help him along I purchased a Sol Box from Pawsitive Lighting that is specifically made for animals. It made a huge difference to his mood. 

I still venture down to Los Angeles once a month for work but in the meantime, Mr. Tig and I share the Sol Box light and listen to a CD called  "Songs of Garden Birds."  I've never been able to listen to music as I write but the sound of birds in the background is quite lovely and along with the special light, reminds me of a perfect English summer day. All that is missing is a jug of Pimms No. 1. 

NEWSThe first book in my new series will be published by Thomas Dunne/St. Martin’s Press next Spring.  If you’d like to be added to my mailing list for updates on this as well as the Vicky Hill Mysteries (yes another one of those brewing too,) send me an email to with Mailing List in the subject line.