Is it still summer? Or autumn?


Well, this doesn’t look like summer! It’s September 13, still a week away from official fall. Some of you consider Labor Day the end of summer. And retailers? Ugh. It’s Halloween and Christmas already.

I haven’t packed away my white pants and flip-flops yet, and this is a wonderful time to go to the beach, even if I wear fleece and clutch my travel cup of hot coffee in those early morning hours.

These photos are from my walk today, so maybe it is autumn! I bought apples this week and made applesauce with cinnamon. I’ve been whirling up my breakfast shake with pumpkin purée, cloves, nutmeg. That’s fall, right?

Apparently the neighbors are ready for October! But I’m a lifelong New Englander, so I know the temperature could climb back into the eighties this month. That pumpkin could turn to mush.

This evening I’m barefoot but wearing long sleeves. The windows are open, but I put the big quilt back on the bed. My husband needed his sweatshirt because I won’t close the windows. Come on, it’s 64 degrees at 6:30pm!

So….are you holding on to summer or sliding happily into autumn?

Celebrate It All


What would a birthday be without a blog post? After all, I wrote my first eight years ago, on my 53rd birthday.

When I turned 30, an old college friend convinced me to do it up big, stating, “No one cares when you turn 31.” True. So for most of us, these ‘milestone’ birthdays tend to be momentous.

Last year, when I told my soon-to-be-retired ophthalmologist that I was nearly 60, he chuckled and remarked that once you hit 60, those ‘milestones’ are every five years instead of every ten years. Yikes, I thought.

But he was (partially) right. There are fewer decades left. I’ve seen too many friends die too soon, dammit.

My pal Christine DePetrillo asks every Friday online, “What are you celebrating?” Some Fridays I don’t have an answer, but it’s not because I’m a pessimist. Yesterday I thought, well, I’m celebrating my birthday this weekend. Sixty-one is as much a celebration as sixty, maybe even more so.

So, I jumped waves at the beach today with my husband, sang along to songs on the radio, accepted lots of well wishes (thank you!) and will indulge in something sweet after dinner tonight. It’s all worth celebrating.

The 85K90 Challenge


January usually brings a feeling of renewal. The days are getting longer (they are!). It’s a new year. We have a chance to start fresh, whether that involves your eating habits, exercise routines, spending and saving and investing, or, for me, starting a new novel, January is an opportunity.

As some of you know, I try to complete a novel every year, and because the Association of Rhode Island Authors, a 300+-member group to which I belong, holds its annual RI Author Expo each December, I like to debut the new novel at that time. So January is a chance for me to get started.

This year, I’ve decided to participate in the 85k90 Challenge. Haven’t heard of it? If you’re a writer, or aspiring to be one, this is a terrific place to start. Started as a small Facebook group in 2016, the idea is simple – write 85,000 words in 90 days (January, February, March). I like the year-long plan, because it helps me to plot out the months. Unlike NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), which asks you to write 1,000 words a day for a month (usually November, although there’s one in the summer, too), this 85k90 project is more realistic.

First of all, 30,000 words is not a novel, it’s a novella. I participated in NaNoWriMo twice, and I finished, but I was nowhere near done with writing. This year, if I can write (at least) 85,000 words by the end of March, I’ll be ready to step right into first edits. That’s the plan. Second, thirty days goes by quickly. If life interrupts your writing schedule, it’s difficult to catch up. With 85k90, you have more time. You’re still writing about 1,000 words a day, but there are many days when you’ll write more than that, and it gives you a little cushion for the days that maybe you can’t get to it.

The founder of 85k90 is Julie Valerie, a friend and fabulous writer. I’m so grateful to her for her vision and dedication to this project, and I’m right on track to get the new novel written.

And here’s a tiny bit about that new book – It’s going to be a sequel of two different novels. Yep, I’m writing a sequel to April in Galway and combining it into a sequel to A Jingle Valley Wedding – and it’s working!

jingle april

Forty Years Back


Nice, France

Forty years ago today, I boarded my first airplane and began a year abroad that would forever mark my life. The thirty or so students who went with me might well have the same thought – we all were impacted by a year in Switzerland, with no internet or cell phones.

My first novel, Chocolate for Breakfast, was (very) loosely based on that year. Like Bernadette Maguire, I was 20, naive (yes), and hopeful. Unlike Bernadette, I did not have an affair with a married man, nor did I get pregnant with his child. 😉 I recall explaining that to friends, who took my storytelling literally.

I’ve returned to my beloved Switzerland often – in 1981 to work as an au pair (there’s a book I should write), again a few years later, multiple times in the 1990s, and most recently in January 2017, where I was inspired to write Villa del Sol.

But the year that began on 28 September 1978 was my year. I don’t have any Cardinal beer to drink, no Giandor chocolate bar, and the Café Chemin de Fer is now, I believe, an Indian restaurant. Things change, even in Fribourg, Switzerland.

“Mesdames et messieurs, it is time to go sleep!” 🇨🇭🇨🇭🇨🇭

It is the heat. And it is the humidity.


Nearly September. 95 degrees today. Heat index 104. Just like yesterday.

So who else is cranky? I know (at least) three people who live without air conditioning. I don’t know how they live, though. Our thermostat is set at 74 and I’m hot. But I’m grateful for A/C, especially at night.

I’ve never liked summer best. Fall is my favorite. How about you? Depending on where you live, you might not experience four distinct seasons. But by September, the sun rises later and it’s dark by 8:00 now, so I want that cool air to follow.

Meanwhile, I’ve finished the second round of edits for my new novel, so now it’s off to my trusted readers, who give me honest feedback. I sometimes can’t see a plot hole or a character who uses repetitive language, but they can! I’m still on track to have this book ready by December 1 – the day I’ll be at the Rhode Island Authors Expo!

Until then, I’m reading a lot (what are you reading?). I loved How to Walk Away by Katherine Center and Crossing the Bamboo Bridge by Mai Donohue (her memoir of growing up in Vietnam – you won’t be the same after reading it). I’m almost done with How Hard Can It Be? by the hilarious Allison Pearson, just started Alternate Side by the wonderful Anna Quindlen, and The Pendulum’s Truth by the very talented writing team of Leigh Brown and Vikki Corliss. Vacation next week means lots of reading!

Autumn will get here, eventually. You won’t hear me complain about the cold. Not me.

#AtoZChallenge – Reflections


It was my sixth year participating, and I was very happy with my theme (1968). As in past years, I’ve tried to ensure I can cover the tougher letters (Q, X, Z) before I settle on my theme.

But 1968 wasn’t my first choice. I had a few other ideas, and maybe I’ll use them for future challenges. Or, I might choose 1969 as next year’s theme!

Typically, I start planning right after the holidays. I set up an Excel spreadsheet and fill in the blanks under each letter with as many ideas as I can come up with. This way, I try to have some variation each day. 1968 was dominated by troubling news, it seemed, so I decided to add a song at the end of the post, for balance. I used the Billboard Year-End Hot 100 Singles and worked my way up to #1, making sure I had a decent video for each song.

I gained a few new followers through the challenge, and discovered a dozen or more blogs, which I added to my own follow list. While I was disappointed that more folks didn’t ‘like’ or leave a comment on my daily posts, that part was out of my control. I tried to keep my posts short (under 300 words), knowing that people wanted to visit multiple blogs during April.

I’ll be back next year, God willing.

The Year of Living Minimally – Week Twenty-one


How are you holding up? ‘Tis the season for stressing out. Well, not me. I’m not going to do it.

Not this year.

Here’s our ‘tree.’ My Christmas cactus didn’t bloom this year (it’s fickle that way), but I adorned it with little fairy lights and nestled one ornament in it – a sweet ceramic dove inscribed with Jim’s dad’s name. Jim received it from the funeral home that held a lovely memorial service for all the family members who’d lost loved ones this year. It seems fitting to keep things simple this year. We’d scaled way back on our decorations before this year, but the little tree and the strands of lights will sleep in their bins for a bit longer.

I’ve minimized my shopping, too. Give experiences, time, things that can be consumed. How about taking a friend to the movies? Lunch? Coffee? If you’re a couple, decide on a getaway, or home improvement. I know some parents work with their children to donate gently used toys and games before Santa brings more – what a great idea!

Jim did mention a couple of books, and he’ll get them. Remember I donated a few boxes of books earlier this year? That was to make room for more books (haha). My sisters and brother-in-law will be able to eat and/or drink their gifts.

Honestly, we have everything we need. Do you?

For more insights about gift-giving, check out The Minimalists’ post on gift-giving