Thursday, November 22, 2012

A THANKSGIVING WISH ....

HAPPY THANKSGIVING EVERYONE!

I know you are all preparing for a special feast, as you should, so this post will be short and sweet. Today is when we all give thanks for all the blessings in our live. Family, friends, our homes, and health are all precious to us. We are so fortunate to be able to cozy up in our homes to give thanks.

I can't help but think of all the poor families affected by SANDY and the flash flooding throughout the country. My wish for them is for peace of mind and to hang on to the thought that people do care and they will get through it.

After living in Florida for so many years, I lived through ANDREW, WILMA, KATRINA, etc. Horrific disasters, but we all helped each other. That's when people's true compassion is revealed. It/s amazing how much the communities banded together to get through the tough times. We all hear about the negative behavior of society. The news is SPLASHED with it, but at times like these I like to dwell on all the Earthly Angels and good hearted people that help the misfortunate.

Today, when you can take a brief moment, say a prayer. The power of prayer can be an amazing thing. Afterwards, take your family into you arms and give them a BIG HUG.... There is NOTHING more important than family....

Have FANTASTIC weekend everyone... and for the RECORD... I am thankful for ALL OF YOU! You lift my spirits when I am down and ALWAYS there for me through the good and bad times. I always smile just knowing you are here!

SENDING A VITUAL HUG to all of YOU! 

Friday, November 16, 2012

OH, HOW I MISS YOU .... A BLOGFEST!

Happy Friday Everyone!

Today is I am participating in the Oh, How I miss you blogfest.... Alex J. Cavanaugh hosts with Andrew Leon, and Mathew MacNish to show appreciation for our blogger buddies.

The bloggers we really miss…
and the ones we would really miss!

"Do you have a couple blogger buddies who aren’t posting as often? Those who’ve pulled back and seem absent from the blogging world? Do you have blogger buddies you are grateful they are still around and would miss if they vanished? Now is your chance to show your appreciation and spotlight them!

On November 16, list one to three bloggers you really miss and one to three bloggers you would miss if they stopped blogging. Then go leave a comment on those blogs.

Our blogger friends are special – time to let them know!" 


This is an INCREDIBLY difficult choice. Over the past few years I have grown so fond of MANY of my blogger friends and I consider all of them special. Now for the ones I miss. That is a bit easier. 


First is Margo Benson... What a sweetheart. I miss you lovely posts for Devon England and her graciousness and charm is forever missed by me.

Next... Giggles and Guns, Mary Vaughn... I terribly miss Mary. She closed her blog over four months ago. Whenever I needed a good LAUGH, Mary was always there. She is also very special to me a more personal level.


Finally. Jodi Henry from
Turning the Page... Jodi and I started blogging around the same time several  years ago. We were very close for the first year, and then she became busy with her writing and family. But I will always be grateful to Jodi for the help she had given me (grammerwise... LOL) in my fledgling writing.

Now for the hard part. You guys want me to pick THREE? Of the DOZENS of friends I adore? You guys are really pushing it now... But since you are twisting my arm ...

First... one of our hosts. Alex. He has given so much of his time and love to our community, I don't know what we would do without his presence. I shudder to think about it.


Next ... It would have to be my cyber SIS, Siv Ottem form Been There, Done That ... Siv is very special to me... We connect on a whole other level and I would be devastated if she left the blogosphere.

Now I have just decided I CANNOT choose only three. So GET OVER IT!

Roland Yeomans.... An amazing writer and good friend. His blog "called to me" when I first started blogging. Roland's heart and soul is clearly visible in EVERYTHING her writes and expresses on his blog. I have learned a great deal from him.

Morgan Shamy... A wonderful new friend. Morgan is the epitome of kindness, positivity, enthusiasm, effervescence, and charm. Over the past few weeks she has been just the most awesome support for my writing and I am thrilled to have her in my life!

Denise Covey of L'AUSSIE .... An amazing blogger, friend, and inspiration. Denise has given us so much. Through her travels, her insights and passion for writing are clearly evident. Her  posts are fun, zesty, and passionate.

Donna Hole. Donna is an amazing blogger and friend. OF all of the bloggers I know, Donna has critiqued more stories than any of us. She is ALWAYS willing to help a fellow writer and she is one of THE MOST SELFLESS people I know.


Ali Cross... and her Ninja army. Ali, too has helped so many pull they work together through her fun and inspiring Ninja themed workshops.


Moody, of Mood Writing. Talk about a never-ending fountain of writing information. Mood's posts make us think... They give us ways to fine tune our writing and make it sparkle... Thanks Mood.


The Golden Eagle.... What a sweetheart. Golden gives so much of herself in her posts and ALWAYS drops by with the nicest comments.


Okay, I can go ON and ON and ON and ON... Just look at my sidebar! For anyone I haven't mentioned, please know I love you all and I am forced to stop because if I don't this will be THE LONGEST post in the blogoshere. But be assured, even if I don't get to you as often as I would like, you guys are always in my heart!


Have a wonderful weekend everyone and make sure to stop by the other participants and especially the bloggers you love... Let them know how you feel! I know I will!


And a special thanks to all of you for the wonderful comments about my new writing space. If you didn't get a chance to see it, just scroll down ... I'd love to know what you think!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

THE REVEAL! ...

Hi, everyone.

The news for today is ... drum roll please ... My writing space is FINISHED!!!! YAY!

As most of you know, I have been under construction for the past month. After eight years in my Chicago condo, I realized I desperately needed a writing space. Since condo living doesn't come with a plot of land to build on, condo owners are pretty much STUCK with the space they have ... but are they?

Yes, we are limited to the square footage, BUT space can be reconfigured. As an interior designer, I am well aware of this. And so, after going back and forth in my mind, I had decided to section off part of my oversized living room. When I bought this condo the main feature for me was to have an enormous living room. At the time I wanted to showcase a Parisian salon style decor. The expansive size and five windows overlooking Lincoln Park, North Pond, and downtown was the perfect space.

After three months I had created a stunning traditional 1920's room to match my vintage condo. It was perfect. I had booked several jobs from it, but as time went by and my business crashed in 2009, the pomp and majesty of the room wore thin. Who needed such a grand space, especially since I had to live of savings and the seldom job.

As I took up writing, the desire for an office grew more intense. I took up illustration again and needed a space that would function for my art. Paints are messy... who wants to ruin a hand-woven Persian rug... not me! That thing cost me the price of a new car! So, needless to say my space wasn't working for me anymore. I also got over fluffing the down sofa EVERY TIME someone sat on it. My formal days were coming to a close. It was/is time for more suitable space for my new lifestyle.

Two years ago, I ditched the overstuffed down sofa and chairs, and put the antique camel sofa in storage and replaced them with two low profile, clean lined, linen sofas. Very Modern... Took my Biedermeier knockoff drawing table out of storage and reconfigured my living room... I even bit the bullet and put a large screen TV over the fireplace ... something I SWORE I would never do. Had to keep the carpet though ... too huge to store. LOL. But still had to be careful with the paint... LOL.

For the past year I have been toying with the idea and dreaming of an office. Most people would just sell their place and buy another one... HA! Not with the real estate market the way it is. Yes, it is a GREAT buyers market, but try to sell... HA! again. I lot almost a $100,000 because of buying high and all the upgrades I put in. So I am totally stuck! And so are many others. That is why I decided to reconfigure.

I made up my mind and decided to GO FOR IT! I did a sketch and called a contractor I had worked with in the past. Hoping for a good quote, I was completely floored. "FOUR THOUSAND DOLLARS! Just to throw up dry wall!" That wasn't even including materials OR the crown molding, which needed to be matched perfectly. Vintage living sports gorgeous details, but try matching them without paying a FORTUNE. I have nine inch PLASTER molding. "Who does plaster anymore? HELP! SOS!"

I escorted my FORMER contractor to the door and told him he was insane! It was time for Angie's List. I had never used them before but I had heard only good things about them. I joined and immediately contacted three contractors. Two called right away ...

The estimates were HALF of the smo I used to work with. Shop around guys! They are a LOT of overpriced contractors out there.

I decided on one. WITH the crown molding AND a closet I decided I had to have too, the bill with materials and two doors, one French, one heavy SOLID wood door, came to around $4000.00. Yes, the same as the other guy, BUT so much more. The crown molding alone was over a thousand. Remember I have two sides, two corners, and a jet out for the closet. This was no easy, put a few studs in the floor and voila a wall. I had pocked doors installed too plus ALL the thick baseboards and door moldings. Again... think vintage. LOTS of woodwork. Beautiful but costly and lots of work.

Now guys, this quote DID NOT INCLUDE painting. That would have been another $1500.00. Painters are INSANE here in Chicago. Thankfully painting is one of my talents ... I am BEYOND anal. I am more meticulous than ANY painter than I have ever encountered.

Okay... enough backstory... Here are the pics. It is amazing how just by putting up a wall it can change your whole space. It's a totally different condo now. AND  I finally have THE office. YAY! Let me know what you think...

Here are the befores, I want to give you a good sense of the remodel...

Circa... 2004-2010

 

As you can see... Lots of room and WASTED space.

Circa 2010-2012




Lighter walls, no window treatments, drawing table  and TV over the fireplace ... EEK! As nice as the new space was, I still had to keep all my projects stored. Not as functional as I wanted/needed.

As you can see some of the lovely vintage details... The crown and baseboards are at least nine inches.

Okay, I guess you waited long enough. Thank you for bearing with me ... Most people thought I was INSANE to even consider breaking this up but you will see why NOW...

Let's start with the Entry...




Here you get a peek of my gallery and kitchen... That was ANOTHER Hell...and another post. Lol. The French doors lead to the bedroom.


As you can see the new pocket French door that leads into my new office. The living room sports the two lines sofas facing each other. I had to pull the other carpet because it was WAY too big for the new living space. I decided to do very simple valances just to finish off the windows. This new space is casual, contemporary and has a homey feel. To the right is the entry. I hung fashion photos I was the makeup artist and stylist for in a cool sepia tone. So the living area has a more sophisticated vibe.



A closeup view. This carpet used to be in the bedroom but it works great here on a diagonal. The reflection in the mirror is the entry and bedroom.



I still kept the nineteenth century buffet (a family piece and truly beautiful) I also had to get a different coffee table. This oval one works great in the new space. I found it at a thrift store for a fraction of the a new one.


The nice surprise about this remodel the nine foot ceilings really show their height and the entry adds to the living room space. So now EVERY inch has a purpose. No wasted space now.

Okay, now for the REVEAL!

Upon sliding the new French door into its pocket, you step into my NEW OFFICE...

First you see my writing/drawing table.... A bookcase with my blogger pals books are featured along with several Harry Potter collectables. to the left a COMFY leather chair...


Toward the back wall a cool Louis XV knock off day bed. With all custom pillows. They took me ALL last week to make along with the window treatments. The coffee table is another nineteenth century family piece. 


Another view from the daybed... 





As you can see the fireplace is decorative and it looks amazing in its new space. Great to display books and art.


I'd also like to share a close up of my bookcase. I have my blogger friends close. You all mean the world to me.

Have a wonderful week everyone... Thank you for sharing in my joy and through my journey.







Friday, November 9, 2012

GIVING THANKS ... AN INCREDIBLE EARTHLY ANGEL ...

Happy Friday all.

With Thanksgiving SO close ... only a few weeks away ...  I can't help but feel thankful for all the blessings in my life. My health, close friends, extended family, AND all of you! As my blog title emphasizes "In Time ...," I truly believe timing is everything. At pivotal times in my life someone has ALWAYS been there for me, which leads me to today's post.

Last week I had been visiting Morgan Shamy's blog, a WONDERFUL and SPECIAL person, so if you don't know her, drop by her blog and say Hi. As I read her post, my jaw slightly dropped and a smile formed on my lips ... "YES!" I thought ... "The PERFECT Thanksgiving EARTHLY ANGELS story.

For those of you who are not familiar with my EA posts, let me explain. During the blizzard of 2010, I had read an amazing story of a woman who had drove through "Thunder snow" for thirty miles to rescue her sister as well as a few other stranded strangers. This woman was an Earthly Angel. These AMAZING people are selfless, caring, and ask for nothing in return. One might also call them a good Samaritan, but for me these people were sent by God. Many enter our lives for one brief moment and then disappear. This is the case with Morgan's story. Let her tell you in her own words....

"Eight years ago hubs and I went to Iceland. We landed at 1:00 in the morning, with nothing but the packs on our backs and a Reykjavik stamp in our passports. We didn’t have a place to stay, with only a few dollars in our pockets. We had been herded out of the airport without any transportation and were left outside in the freezing temperatures with the nearest hotel being $400 a night.

To put it mildly, we felt like Tom Hanks after his Fedex airplane crashed. Stranded, and castaway.

There we were, standing in the cold considering our options, when a man with a duffel bag asked us if we needed a ride. Being young and naïve, we responded yes, we did, but that we didn’t know where because we didn’t have a place to stay. He then offered his place, but said it was a drive. The hubs immediately said, “Yes, that would be great!” while I was elbowing him in the side, totally not wanting to go off into the car with this guy in this strange country in the middle of the night to his house.  Honestly, the man could’ve had a body in that duffel.

But we went.

We piled into his white van with tinted windows (I mean, come on!) and headed off into the night.

Conversation was fine until he started talking about guns. All the while I’m trying to memorize the pitch-dark snowy landscape outside in case we'd have to bolt and run for our lives. Then we pulled up to this high security compound with a barbed wire fence and guards holding rifles.

Our guide, Brent, was actually a military helicopter pilot and “his place” was a little apartment in the American military base. He was amazing. He let us have his bed and gave us his car to drive for the week. All for free. He was our angel. I honestly don’t know what we would have done without his help. To this day, hubs and I are trying to locate him and thank him again. What could've been a nightmare turned out to be one of our favorite weeks of our lives." 

Thank you, Morgan for this most incredible story. How about you? Have you ever encountered one of these mysteriously wonderful people? If so, PLEASE tell us your story in the comments or email me directly. I would LOVE to feature yours.

I believe we all have the power to be an EA, so if you see a person in need, don't hesitate to lend a hand, we all have the gift for compassion and caring. Let's make our world a better place to live. After all, "Tis the season ...."

Have a great weekend everyone. 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

CHRISTMAS ... A TREASURE TROVE FULL OF EMOTION ...

Hi, all,

HAPPY HUMP DAY! Well it's the first Wednesday of the month, and you know what that means .... YES! You guessed! It's time for another INSECURE WRITER'S SUPPORT GROUP post.

By now, you must all know about this amazing group created by none-other-than Alex J. Cavanaugh... On the first Wednesday of every month, Ninja Captain, Alex, gives us a chance to rant, rave, beat our computers, fling them out the window in frustration, or just plain b*tch about our writing lives.

As members, we, the community, pop around to as many of our blogger friends as we can, to share in their "melt down" moments. Our group is LARGE so drop by Alex's for the complete list.

Today, I wish to talk about STRESS before the holidays. Of course, WE ALL look forward to Christmas every year .... UNTIL ... it creeps up on us unaware ... that's where these tips will help you get through this festive holiday season without FREAKING OUT!

Thankfully we still have plenty of time to get things ORGANIZED... yes, you pantsters (me too) need to PLAN. INHALE one LONG, deep breath and take one battle at a time. Don't wait until Christmas Eve and realize you forgot Aunt Sophie's gift and she will be visiting in less than two hours.

As you do you regular shopping, think about all the people you need gifts to buy for. Eventually as the weeks go by you will pick up a present here and a present there and VOILA. All your presents are bought without even batting those thick, plushy eyelashes.

Now... I know we are ALL thinking about the Thanksgiving feast... Why not pick up a few extras for your Christmas dinner or party. BELIEVE ME, EVERYTHING in the stores is geared toward Christmas. Long gone are the days when we didn't see one Christmas decoration until the day after Thanksgiving. I am talking YEARS ago, even before the term "Black Friday" became popular. A few extra boxes of candy, dried fruits, nuts, wine, liquor  etc... because they might not have anything left by the time you get around thinking about what to serve for your festive evening.

In your leisure ... the times you are pulling your hair out because you can't think of one good plot arc ... gift wrap a package. It will take your mind off your dilemma and before you know it fifty gifts are done and your living room or office looks like Mardi Gras with all the glitter, ribbons, and cut off trims littering your beautiful hardwood floor.

Don't wait for the last SECOND to bake ... WHAT?!!! You don't BAKE?!!!  You must and SHOULD. If you wait too long, you will NEVER do it and end up buying the ready made garbage in the stores. As you know from all of mine and my guests' health tips, PROCESSED ANYTHING is not the way to go. Plan ahead... you can make THE most AMAZING concoctions from scratch... HEALTHY, chemical free, and yes, even gluten free if you have wheat allergies. There are ZILLIONS of recipes on line. Plus I will be posting some of my favorites soon ... So, again, at those times when the writing is stale, and you can't form a simple sentence, SNAP the laptop closed and create some wonderful goodie for you or your family and friends.

I can't stress this enough. A few years ago ... before I had started writing,  I had decided to bake all my goodies and you know what, I didn't gain an ounce. NO chemicals... NO excess SUGAR. YOU have control. Now isn't that a great for all you control freaks out there. Imagine controlling your OWN GOODIES> YUMM! Lord only knows I try to be in control of EVERY aspect of my life. LOL. We can't control those picky agents or publishers, but this we can. Raise up those sleeves and take out the flour, sifter, measuring cup, AND GO TO TOWN. Get the kids involved and just think of the fun/mess you all can get into.

I can picture it now... More flour on you and the kids than in the pans... what fun... Life is too short, why not spend some quality time and have fun doing it.

Enjoy this holiday season by just doing a bit of advance planning. It will make a world of difference and you may even have FUN....

On Friday I will be posting an AMAZING EARTHLY ANGELS story... Please drop by...

Have a great day everyone!






Monday, November 5, 2012

SUGAR HIGHS .... THE AFTERMATH OF ALL HALLOWS EVE ...

Hello all,

I hope you all survived ALL HALLOWS EVE and all the dreaded Halloween candy. Yes, you have guessed it is the first Monday of the month and it's time for a Health and Fitness post!

Today I have a special FEATURED guest ... our own Alex J. Cavanaugh! Yes, the Ninja Captain himself is here today with his tips on how he stays fit while writing.

But first, just a quick tip on sugar highs. ANY processed sugar products will give you a energy rush, BUT the crash is so not worth the high. SO, friends, stick with NATURAL sugar, as in fruits, honey, no sugar added preserves, and anything with stevia( a great, NATURAL sugar substitute)

We all need to keep our sugar levels even throughout the day. Eating smaller meals more often will keep you satisfied. You will eat less, and not have those aweful cravings.

Now it's time for ALEX... Welcome Alex. Thanks so much for dropping by and sharing your secrets with us.
Michael has been focusing on health for the past couple months. He asked me to contribute in the area of exercise and I agreed. After all, Ninjas have to stay in shape!

Let me begin by saying you can’t exercise without eating right. Believe me, I’ve tried. It really is a combination of diet and exercise. Writers tend to sit a lot, so we have to get our body moving and be mindful of what we dump down our throats.

For me, working out at home wasn’t much of an option. Sure, I mow the lawn with a push-mower. (Although I still plan to put in Astro Turf one day.) But even at the height of summer, that’s still only once or twice a week. I needed a dedicated time and place to work out.

Going to the gym gives me many options. I can jog on the treadmill, glide along on the elliptical, or do cardio with free weights. Put on some jamming tunes and I am good to go for an hour. I hit the gym four to five times a week, and it helps me wear off stress as well as keep me in shape. I’ve done it for so long, it’s now a habit. Obviously it’s working. After a recent physical, the doctor told me I had the healthy body of a thirty year old. Since you can add almost twenty years to that, I felt really damned good about the assessment!

If you have the means and the time, a gym membership is great. Don’t worry if you’re not in shape. Yes, there will be those guys who pump iron five hours a day and spend most of their time admiring themselves in the mirror. But most people are there to get in shape or stay in shape. Gyms also offer the option of a personal trainer to motivate you. And of course, plunking down several hundred dollars a year is very motivating!

Do you have access to a pool or other body of water? Swimming is one of the best, low-impact exercises. Just leave the inflatable mattress at home. Floating doesn’t count as exercise.

Too busy with work? With kids? With writing? With breathing?! There are other ways to exercise besides going to a gym.

Bring the gym home. Forget the fancy weight equipment – just get a good treadmill. When it comes to burning calories, it’s all about the cardio. Only have twenty minutes? Set that sucker at an incline and trot fast. You will burn some calories!

Workout videos work well for some people. Look for ones that don’t require you to place your body in uncomfortable, pretzel positions. And of course, they work best with the cellophane off.

Don’t want to follow along with some dude chirping “Doesn’t it feel great?” Buy a book. There’s some great workout books that will show you basic exercises, most of which can be done without any equipment.

At the very least, take a walk! Get out of your house. Walking is very slimming and it gives you time to think. Perfect for brainstorming new ideas.

Stuck at your desk? Move that body! Leg and arm lifts. Tap your foot. Anything!

Now, before doing any of these exercises, stretch out! You have to warm up or you’ll just end up hurting yourself. And never overdo it. If you haven’t jogged in years, don’t attempt a five-mile run up a hill. Start with thirty minutes a day, three-four days a week, and build from that point.

Don’t forget to give yourself days off. Unless you’re a professional athlete or training for a marathon, you don’t need to exercise every single day.

Exercise does so many great things for your body. It strengthens muscle, including your heart. It tones and slims. It ups your metabolism and you’ll burn calories faster. It helps control your weight. It staves off diseases such as diabetes. It makes your mind sharper and your body reacts faster. And ultimately, it will help you live a longer, healthier life.

So what are you waiting for, couch potatoes? Move!

Alex J. Cavanaugh

Alex J. Cavanaugh has a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree and works in web design and graphics. He is experienced in technical editing and worked with an adult literacy program for several years. A fan of all things science fiction, his interests range from books and movies to music and games. Online he is the Ninja Captain and founder of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. The author of the Amazon bestsellers, CassaStar and CassaFire, he lives in the Carolinas with his wife.