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Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Grunts and Groans by Suzanne Rossi

Hi everyone.

Hope 2018 has been kind to you so far. The crud I had in November came back right after New Year's, but I consider myself lucky that it wasn't the flu. (Knock wood. February is labeled as the peak month for that particular ailment.) A lot of people have posted on social media about their health and the horrible weather. I've come to the conclusion everyone is cold and sick.

I think I mentioned once that when we moved to Germantown, Tennessee, we decided to get in shape--or at least in better shape than we were. So we joined a local health club. Up until Thanksgiving we worked out regularly three times a week. It didn't take long, got us out of the house, and because the kitchen was undergoing renovations for most of the summer, we indulged in lunch at some of our favorite restaurants. (Yeah, I know, Mexican food and Margaritas kind of undo all that exercise, but hey, you only live once, right?) After the holiday, illness and the cold kept us home for a few weeks, but now we are back on schedule.

For those of you who work out or want to work out, I decided to give you a rundown of a day at the gym.

I used to spend the first ten minutes on the cardio-bike, but abandoned it a few months ago. I hated pedaling to nowhere. And treadmills scare me. I visualize tripping over my own two feet and flying out into the walkway thereby humiliating myself. The stair machine was not on the agenda from day one. So, while hubby does the bike, I head immediately for the weight room.

Being an aficionado of torture, I start with the standing pull down ab machine. I put on forty-five pounds of weights, grab the over-the-shoulder straps, and bend at the waist. My lower abdomen tightens. I do twenty reps twice before moving on the the next device. By the way, my reps are usually between twelve to fifteen and I try to do three sets.

Now it's time for the biceps curl. Twenty-five pounds for twelve reps three times. Not too bad. The next machine works the triceps. I do thirty-five pounds for this one since I find it easier to push down, than pull up a la the biceps contraption. A year ago my arms were pathetic strands of spaghetti. Now, I can actually feel my triceps and when I flex my biceps can see muscles. Well, I'm impressed at any rate.

When done with that, I slowly walk down the aisle to the most hated machine in the gym--the thigh killer. And I do mean killer. I adjust for fifty pounds of weight, grasp the handles, move the knee pads to the correct position and push my legs apart. I'm grunting and groaning by seven reps before finally giving up at twelve. By the end of two sets, I want to cry. Panting, I change the knee pads to squeeze and push my legs together. This position is no more comfortable than the previous one. Honestly, by now I should be able to crush bowling balls between my thighs.

Once I'm done with this machine, the rest are a piece of cake. Some kind of rotary twist machine that is supposed to work the obliques--whatever they are--followed by devices for a back leg curl, (works the back leg muscles), a leg extension, (does the front of the thighs), and a leg press, which works both. My knees aren't in the best of shape, but I have noticed going up and down the stairs at home is easier than when we first moved in. I now stagger over to whatever machine my husband is on where we discuss lunch options--usually involving wine. I have priorities. I view it as a reward for a job well done.

My last apparatus is the sit down ab machine. Sixty pounds of weight with all the grunts and groans I can emit for twenty reps three times. At least I'm sitting down and I can feel the crunches tightening my upper abdomen.

I'm done! A quick freshening up and I'm ready to eat and imbibe. The whole process took less than an hour, but the important part is I feel better both mentally and physically. I've lost weight--not as much as I would like, however, those lunches are also important to good mental health. Or so I keep telling myself.

Back at home, I try to get in some writing in the afternoon. If not, then I dedicate the off days to writing. I find I'm spending more down time with family and that my writing doesn't seem as forced as it was three or four years ago. I'm more laid back and relaxed. I no longer chastise myself if I don't write two thousand words a day.

I hope you all have vicariously exercised by reading this. Thinking along the same lines? Check out a few gyms near you. Take out a trial membership if possible and see if you like it. My guess is you will. And sometimes as I grunt, groan, and mentally curse, I think up plot twists, dialogue, and characters. How about that? I write as I work out. LOL

Have a great day and I'll be back in March.

Suzanne Rossi

Sunday, January 28, 2018

The hum of bees is the voice of the garden. ~Elizabeth Lawrence

(English Cottage Garden)

In midwinter my thoughts turn to gardening, of course. Ever wonder about the history behind these cherished plots of earth? Cottage gardens stretch back hundreds of years to the time when people used herbs for everything and grew most of their own food. These homey plots acquired their name from the country cottage around which they grew. I love cottage gardens and strive to have my own. However, I live in a boxy white farm house, not a cottage, and our yard and gardens are rather sprawling for that overflowing, filled to the brim, in a compact sort of way look. Like mine, these small gardens are (and were) a mix of flowers, vegetables, and herbs. I strongly associate cottage gardens with the British Isles, because of our shared history and the influence of the Mother Country on the New World. But other countries have them too.

(Bee on catnip flower with our farm house in the background)
(Heirloom poppies)

(Bees on poppies)

"No two gardens are the same. No two days are the same in one garden." ~Hugh Johnson
People acquired the plants for their cottage gardens from friends and family in the form of ‘starts’ (root divisions) cuttings, and seeds. Very much as I do today, only I have the added benefit of seed catalogs. They are called passalong plants. Sometimes these gifts of plant starts to others have come back to me when my own died out.  Thank heavens, I'm generous. If I gave any of you lupines, I would like some back now. :) I'm also a big fan of wildflowers.
(The front flower border in our garden)
Daughter Elise (my right arm in the garden) and I encourage beneficial insects to make their home among our plants. We are discovering which herbs and flowers, etc, are best for attracting pollinators, and we continually experiment with companion planting. It's as much a happy accident as intentional, but we grow a wide variety of flowers so that pollen sources are available throughout the growing season. We've learned that heirloom, non hybrid flowers and vegetables are best for attracting butterflies, beneficial insects, and bees... As it turns out, these are the kind that make up traditional cottage gardens. Those new and improved varieties may look more attractive to us, but not to the pollinators. Butterflies give them a pass. Elise and I noted this with the 'Wave' petunias we got from a garden center. Not a single butterfly or bee paid any attention to those prolific blooms. 
 A few pics from our garden this past summer and some of our visitors.

(Painted Lady butterfly on Agastache flowers)

(Hairstreak butterfly on asters)

(Bee on Tithonia)

(Butterfly On Forget-Me-Nots)

(Monarch visiting Bright Lights Cosmos)

Also, watch out for plants from garden centers that have been treated with systemic insecticides called neonicotinyl insecticides. You will unintentionally kill nectar seeking visitors with those flowers. For more on avoiding these killer flowers visit:

"It was such a pleasure to sink one's hands into the warm earth, to feel at one's fingertips the possibilities of the new season." ~Kate Morton, The Forgotten Garden

If you are in an herb growing mood and want to learn more of their lore and historic uses, I am pushing my herbal, Plants for A Medieval Herb Garden in the British Isles: 

An illustrated collection of plants that could have been grown in a Medieval Herb or Physic Garden in the British Isles. The major focus of this work is England and Scotland, but also touches on Ireland and Wales. Information is given as to the historic medicinal uses of these plants and the rich lore surrounding them. Journey back to the days when herbs figured into every facet of life, offering relief from the ills of this realm and protection from evil in all its guises.

Available in kindle and print at Amazon: 

You can't go wrong with herbs.

For more on me, follow my Amazon Author Page:

Friday, January 26, 2018

Home is a Place We Go When We Aren't at the Doctors by Vonnie Davis

I'm a prolific writer, so I don't have time to be sick. That's why I get a flu shot every year as soon as they're available. This year, the shot failed. Three weeks ago, in an instant, I was sick with the flu. I mean couldn't crawl out of the bed, cough up a lung, ache all over sick. I turn 70 in May and am a diabetic, so I had to take care of myself. I'm more like a tough duck than a spring chicken.

My husband's heart is pumping at 20% efficiency. He's been in and out of the hospital. He falls a lot and I struggle to pick him up. He's using a walker all the time now. The strain on his heart has damaged his kidneys. He sees two cardiologists--one for the chambers beating out of rhythm and another for the heart's lack of pumping power. He also sees a Urologist and a Kidney Specialist.

Last week, I was thrilled to learn I didn't need my monthly retina shot I'd been getting for two years. The bleeding had stopped. Unfortunately, bleeding had started in the other eye so I needed a shot in it. Some months, I'll need shots in both. Ohhhh joy!

But, you know, it could be worse.  We could be worse. No one's said life has to be fair.

Meanwhile I'm trying to finish a bear shifter romance--FINDING CAMEO.

Take care of yourselves. Avoid the flu. It's so easy to get and so hard to get over.


Usually, Vonnie Davis faithfully posts on this blog on the 26th of each month. She is funny and an excellent author. Right now, her new Windows 10 is sparring with Blogger but it is Vonnie who is on the ropes.

Being a mother, she knows how to referee most tussles. This one, has her stumped. Please bear with us (pun intended regarding her Bear Shifter series) and this will be remedied as soon as possible. You may carry on with what you were doing.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Making a Clean Sweep with Ralph

by Judy Ann Davis

It's not easy to get back into the swing of things after all the excitement of the holidays, and I'm a writer who has procrastination down to a science. This Christmas, my children bought me an iRobot (Roomba) to help me get the housework done. I’ve named him Ralph, and he is adept at sweeping so I no longer have that excuse for not writing. Drats!   

I don’t make resolutions, but I promised myself to do more serious writing and marketing this year. I have a dusty manuscript that I’ve wanted to rewrite and edit for years because I love the story. It’s a historical romance about a young woman whose father owns a logging company in Pennsylvania in the 1856. Of course, her hero, from the Chesapeake Bay area, owns the shipping company that buys and ships the timber. He arrives to help her find the culprits who want to put the logging company out of business.

In December, I made a conscientious decision not to market my books during the holidays because I barely found time to read myself. But this month, I’ve set aside two weeks to price my two contemporary novels (both romantic mysteries) “Key to Love” and “Four White Roses” at $0.99, as well as my short story anthology, "Up on the Roof and Other Stories." The sale is now going on until February 1st.  

Here are blurbs from each of them:
      When widower Rich Redman returns to Pennsylvania with his young daughter to sell his deceased grandmother’s house, he discovers Grandmother Gertie’s final request was for him to find a missing relative and a stash of WWI jewels. 
      Torrie Larson, single mom, is trying to make her landscape center and flower arranging business succeed while attempting to save the lineage of a rare white rose brought from Austria in the 1900s. 
      Together, the rich Texas lawyer and poor landscape owner team up to rescue the last rose and fulfill a dead woman’s wishes. But in their search to discover answers to the mysteries plaguing them, will Rich and Torrie also discover love in each other’s arms? Or will a meddling ghost, a pompous banker, and an elusive stray cat get in their way?
      When architect Elise Springer’s father is injured, she immediately leaves San Francisco to care for him. The last person she expects to encounter in her Pennsylvania hometown is her childhood friend Lucas Fisher. Lucas is investigating his brother’s death, and Elise can’t resist lending a hand.
      Lucas longs for the close family ties he never had. He’s back in Scranton to set up a classic car restoration business and build a future. The torch he carries for Elise burns brighter than ever, but before he can declare his love, he must obtain the legal rights to adopt his nephew—and prove his brother’s death was no accident.
      As they unearth clues pointing to find a murderer and a missing stash of money, Elise faces a dilemma. Is her career on the West Coast the key to her happiness, or is it an animal-cracker-eating four-year-old and his handsome uncle instead?

 ~*~  ~*~  ~*~

Short Story Anthology
With January slipping away, and February nipping at our heels, I hope every one has settled into a routine that works and one that he or she can enjoy. Wish me luck with my manuscript rewrite. Why? Because right now Ralph is furiously beeping and has to be rescued by the damsel of the house. He’s either stuck, needs his dust bin emptied, or his extractors cleaned. So much for time-saving technology! 

Twitter ID:  JudyAnnDavis4
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