Sunday, November 11, 2012

Spiffy new look!

My friend Dawne Dominque over at Dusk Til Dawn Designs made me a wonderful new badge!  I'm working on integrating it on all my online appearances.  It certainly gave this old blog something new to look at.

Of course, it would help if I blogged more often, but remember you can always find me on Twitter and Facebook.  Don't be shy about letting me know what you think :)

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Ahern State Park, Near Laconia, NH

  Enjoy some pics from a state park that nobody knows about and you NEED a 4x4 to access.  There was only the lap of the water, an angry squirrel and a lone bird.  Bliss.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Writing and Moving Forward

You can't share words without writing them.
The glamorous part of writing is actually the writing...the creating.  That's when your muse is set free to explore all your fears, dreams, wants and needs and translates them onto the screen.  It's exhilarating.  It is fleeting.

The rest of the writing process is downright torture, and yet without it, all those glorious words would be locked in my computer for all time.  Anybody who has ever read a book, knows keeping words to yourself is a crime.

In order to participate with the rest of humanity the best way I know how, I keep writing.  And then I have to edit those footloose words.  And then (lol...yes, and then!) I must send them somewhere for judgement.  It's called submitting.

Currently I'm trapped in the submitting portion, while I should be moving forward with the editing so I can submit the next story.  It's circular.  Round and round we go.  But on the occasion we do get stuck.  How to unstick?

The answer is as simple as it is difficult.  Just do it.  Take out that rough manuscript and start searching for the plot/pacing flaws.  Go back and check for continuity.  Go back again to clean up the inevitable grammatical errors.

Guess what I need to do this week?  Yep.  Get out my dear "Mistress" and go back so I can go forward.

I love writing.  I do! Can't you tell?

Saturday, September 15, 2012

The lure of the Facebook

Fresh Air, Blue computer in sight. 
I did it.  I added Facebook to my social media presence.  And now that I'm there ( ) I may never leave.

It's like a child in a toy store.  And I realize I'm probably preaching to the converted, as I may be one of the last people on the planet to hand over my info to this decade's version of Big Brother, but the genius of The Creator cannot be dismissed.

People to see. Links to click on. Games to play.  My favorite products, shows, books....aaaah!

I am supposed to use this magical place for the purpose of reaching out to readers, both for NASCAR and Romance, but it wants me to jump down the hole, doesn't it?  I can hear the white rabbit disappearing around the next corner, "Click! You don't want to miss anything!"

Is there a Facebook Anonymous?  There should be, cause I am about to turn into an addict.

What are the tricks you use to keep your online time in control?  I think I need some suggestions.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

What We Learn...More Thoughts from Bristol

Bristol Caverns Bristol, TN
What did we learn in the last few days on our continued adventures in Bristol, TN?

I don't like grits.  I tried.  With some cajun spiced shrimp, mushroom gravy and cheddar cheese.  Everything in the dish sounded good--including the grits.  They are corn.  I like corn in almost every iteration.  Popcorn is possibly one of the most divine creations on the planet.  Corn bread, corn dogs, hush puppies, on the cob, with I couldn't imagine I wouldn't like grits.

But I don't.  There's something missing.

Richard does not like white lightning, also known as moonshine.  Even when sweetened with Mountain Dew.  Still, the mason jar the drink was served in is really cool.  In case you're thinking we went up in the hills and found a local still, nothing so exciting happened.  They're selling it at the track in collectible jars.  We like the nostalgia associated with it, though.

Yesterday afternoon we visited the local tourist spot, The Bristol Caverns.  I've done the cave tour thing before, and it's always cool to look at our planet growing and changing from underneath.  But there's usually a story that goes with the cave.  In this case, it goes back to the early settlers in the area and their relationship with the Cherokees.

Now, in my everyday world they are definitely referred to as the Native American Cherokee tribe.  They suffered at the hands of the white man and we are admonished to remember this in our daily lives.  In the Bristol Caverns, we were told the Cherokee Indians used to pillage the locals' crops and use the caves to hide in, using a tiny entrance that required extreme agility to climb down the 180 ft. to the bottom and escape through the underground stream.  And then the Cherokees would attack again.

Eventually, the Cherokees left (insert your own history is not discussed in the tour) and the locals opened a better entrance and used the caves as a giant root cellar.

I found it interesting what is important to the area is not the Cherokee history, but the mayor's use of the cave as a conference chamber because it has awesome acoustics. I felt something is missing here.  Then again, the geography was only briefly talked about and more time spent pointing at formations that look like hamburgers, sharks, the nativity, etc.  And the gift shop sported lots of trinkets from China, a few made in Ohio.  Even the duck decoys were carved in Indonesia. Something better could be made out of this little tourist spot.  Just sayin...

Meanwhile, this area is undoubtedly suffering from the economy.  Many strip malls are empty, corner stores hidden beneath a carpet of kudzu. We drove down back roads where tiny houses are decorated by sad looking dogs and a single rocking chair on the porch.  It speaks of a depth of poverty I haven't seen since living in Downeast Maine.  The green hills and city of RV's that currently decorate them is misleading.  This neighborhood needs something more than a single race weekend.

Well, that's all for today.  NASCAR thoughts?  There will be my usual column in the Frontstretch Newsletter on Tuesday and probably another blog for the extraneous thoughts the column doesn't fit.

Friday, August 24, 2012

You Know You're Not in New England When

Steele Creek Park  Bristol, TN
If you're traveling, it seems that effort should be made to appreciate the local flavor. As I'm currently sitting in Bristol, TN--a very long way away from home--these are some of the new annd different things I've experienced down here.

Peach Nehi: We've all heard of a grape nehi, except like me you probably never realized it was actually a brand of soda forever and ever. In the soda aisle, above my usual orange Sunkist soda, sat a...peach colored 12-pk labeled Peach Nehi. Huh. I like peaches. I can love them when ripe just so. So, I bought it. Awesomeness. I went back and bought more. It tastes like the candy Sour Peaches without the sour. I can't seem to figure out how to order it online. It will probably become a flavor memory of our Bristol trip. How sad.

Hot Dogs: In New York, it's pizza. In Philly, you have the cheese steak. In Boston there are beans and seafood. Each region seems to have a food that appears with regularity on menus without explanation. It's just there. Around here there's BBQ and hot dogs. In fact when I asked somebody where a good place for lunch might be, I was directed to Sonic or the market across the way that had "really good hot dogs." Let's not talk about the Mexican restaurants that appear every two blocks. Nobody mentions them. Want a hot dog? I'll stick with the BBQ myself.

Chicken Cordon Bleu: No, not something you can buy in the area. It was just my RV fancy dinner. With cream sauce. I'm sure not every trailer in the campground added cooking wine, cream and paprika to their shopping carts. It came out rather pretty. I didn't have toothpicks, so the cheese sort of joined the sauce. But well done! Yummm... We're camping next month, too. What dish will I explore?

What was added to the shopping carts (buggies! We have buggies at the Food City, not carts.)

While wandering up and down the aisles, we noticed lots of racing t-shirts. Most of them didn't belong to the shoppers, but to the employees. Talk about a town that gets into the race! Bristol has mastered the art of the "really big show." And of course this means stocking what the fans want. We added chicken, onions, orange juice, chips, ice cream, bread...our buggy looked rather like a normal shopping trip.

We turned into the beer & wine aisle, while being muscled out of the way by a rather eager trio.

"Hey! We found it. Now we're good." All performed in an accent that reminded me of Billy Bob Thorton in Slingblade. They checked out in front of us with three cases of brew and a loaf of bread.  Oddly enough, I've heard that Billy Bob gravel tone repeated a few more times in and around town.

One wonders why NASCAR fans get the labels we do.

And last but not least for the Bristol flavor, we have a sound effect. "Woo!" I can't spell it any other way. An exclamation that seems to erupt spontaneously from folks who are happy. "Woo!" We first noticed it in the stands on Wednesday night, during hot laps our section passed this sound, "Woo!" from person to person. We chocked it up to too much moonshine--which is sold on the premises. But no, last night as we are going to sleep and someone nearby was still into a killer game of rings, we'd hear it.


And usually followed by laughter.

We laugh, too. It's a happy noise. And one we will forever associate with Thunder Valley, the track built into the mountains.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

On the road again...Bristol!

We're camping on The Dragstrip at the track. 
This year's vacation involves a visit to Bristol, TN for the Food City 500. 

Before we left the house, we felt exceptionally well organized.  Things were clean, put away, laundry done for the return...very odd.  Which only added  to the feeling of anticipation.  I got home from work, we threw those last few things in the truck and hit the road.

And then blew a tire.  Yep, 10 minutes from the house.  Shredded it, in fact.  The sort of horrid blowout you see and are happy it never happened to you.  But, you know, Rich is a boyscout.  We are prepared.  Jack, wrenches, spare (which was flat), compressor and generator to run compressor...good thing we're RV'ers.

Back on the road!  Suffering through road construction late at night in Connecticut, a brief respite from the road in NY and then the long day of driving through Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Virginia.

I love the Appalachians.  One of my favorite drives is I81 down Virginia.  Hills, farms, cows, greenery and a sense you have left the hustle of the East Coast behind.  And we've noticed from years on the road, once you're out of the I95 corridor, people just get much more patient.  (Dr. Zhivago soundtrack just came on my MP3 player...*sigh*) Merging isn't the panicky thing New Englanders make it.  Please and thank you.  Yes, despite that blown tire, we really could feel vacation seeping in.

We stopped in Fort Chiswell, VA at a campground run on the honors system.  Please leave money in the mailbox, we've gone to bed.  We slept to the sounds of crickets and the smell of freshly mown hay.  A baby bird was on the ground and Mama was feeding it.  Apparently somebody hadn't quite learned to fly yet.  In the morning I checked in with the office, the very pleasant lady wrote my name down on a piece of paper and thanked me after wishing us a happy race.  No computers or verifying we had actually paid on-line.  Signs that not everywhere on the planet have we succumbed to technology.

And then Bristol...the whole point of the vacation. 

Each time we book a new race destination, we look on the journey with a bit ennui.  We know how to do this.  We've got the bumps, bruises and flat tires to show our road weary experience.  But as we drove down the road and turned a corner, suddenly the track appeared on our left rising out of the hills.

BRISTOL!  We both succumb to pointing and smiling and yelling.  Look at it!  A giant colloseum rising out of the woods.  Terraced camping is to be seen in all directions.  We will most likely perish climbing around the facility this week.  But we don't care.  It's a new track, one full of history and excitement. 

The folks parked next to us were at Michigan last week. The campground shuttle took them on an extended tour of the track grounds yesterday.  Tonight there are modifieds and trucks.  The wonderful.  Somehow summer has departed and left in its wake cool, dry nights and warm sunny days. 

The spare tire is replaced, thanks to Danny at Appalachian Tire in Bristol, VA.  The nice lady in the bakery at the supermarket welcomed us to town as we gushed over some cute racing cakes and lunch at the cantina yesterday was quite good.

It's a vacation.  It's at Bristol.  We should have lots of memories to share when we return.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

That Home Away From Home

I know it's silly.  This very same weekend used to be fraught with tension.  There would be endless traffic, generators that would make your ears bleed and uncertain suppers concocted out of our Escort's trunk.  Those were the days of youth and exuberance.  Totally committed to watching every minute of racing to be had at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, we rose at the crack of dawn to beat the traffic jam and would return to our home somewhere around midnight, only to repeat the feat the following day.  It sucked.

Then we graduated to the level of Racing RV'ers.  But this isn't an instant move into a mobile mansion thing.  First you decide that one of the little 16 ft trailers would fit you and your husband just right.  Heck, we splurged for that first mobile hotel room and nabbed a 23 ft. travel trailer complete with a bedroom and shower not combined with the toilet.  Then we discovered the only storage existed under the bed, you couldn't cook at the stove unless everybody else was banished from the trailer and was much better if you basically tailgated outside the trailer.  I won't get into the separating wall panels, leaking roof, lights, was a handyman special, shall we say.

But it did introduce us into that mystical RV lifestyle.  Now instead of hours spent in traffic, we parked our carcasses early in the week and became part of the track scenery.  We were able to watch empty acres transform into a mini-city of a mere 100,000 in five days, and then vanish again come Monday.  But there was still the issue of eating campfire smoke for 7 days and discovering all the ways a lawn chair is not the best place to sit for long periods of time.

Thus came the step-up to the next camper, a 36ft. fifth-wheel.  I really think they should just get rid of the misnomer once you have a queen bed, sleeper sofa, rocking armchairs and a kitchen that rivals my own.  It's a house on wheels.

We spent about four years stocking it with its own things; no more shuttling pots, towels, pillows, etc. back and forth between house and trailer.  We pack clothes and food, check the propane and hook it up to the truck and we're off.  And when we arrive at whatever track we're visiting this week, we're home.

Yep, home.  With the purr of the generators (they don't tend to roar as much these days,) the smell of woodsmoke and the happy noises of friends sharing a brew, we sit down and instantly feel the work-day stress slide away.  There is no phone, save for the cell that nobody on the planet has the number to.  There are no deadlines, no customers, no staff, no co-workers.  For once we actually get to say "No!"  And just sit.

Until the first engine turns over in the morning and we are off to the races! This is the least until Monday morning.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

After All, Today is Another Day

Some days you get up in the morning and just know it's one those "start over" days.  That was yesterday.

Today I woke up and promised myself it would be a better day.  And that appeared to be debatable when I arrived at work.  Got out of the car, pulled out the rolling briefcase, juggled car keys vs. work keys and started to walked toward the building.  I passed over a storm grate just as I gave a nice energetic flip to the massive key chain and guess what?

Uh huh.  They flew through the air, I missed them on the downward flight and they landed on the grate...for a second.  Before they slipped between the holes and down...

Well, crap.  Maybe today wasn't meant to be any better. But--there's always a bright side, right?

The drain is only 3 feet deep.  The keys landed on a pile of leaves.  I could see them!  I just needed to get them back out.  Which my cleaner, Moacir, did quickly with an old coat hanger.  Don't ask what kind of deities left a single wire coat hanger in the booth--because we don't actually get them with uniform orders any more.  But let's not look a gift horse in the mouth.

The moment of panic passed.  My keys are back in my possession (you would not believe the kind of headache my keys getting lost would create) and the day is getting on.

Another good thing, the "TED" display is adorable--for all the wrong reasons.  I wouldn't take any child to see the movie when it releases next week, but I won't be missing it, either.  Check out the trailers at

Hope you have a great day!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Don't Go In the Kitchen...

I've been warned.

It's a day off, so I should be able to accomplish what I wish.  I headed to the dining room after doing a couple critiques, thinking I could tackle the laundry.  Along the way, I notice the cats are not sprawled on the bed as is their custom.  I enter the dining room and immediately spy Emerson lounging in the window.  Right, one kitty checked off.  But I haven't tripped over Betty--as she's taken to flopping in the middle of the floor.  Odd.

I noticed her tail on the arm of the couch.  Ah, there we are.  She is full on lounging in the white laundry.  Guess I won't fold that this instant--but it is a cute picture.  I run upstairs to grab my camera.  Dead battery.  Fine.  Plug it in to charge.

I go in the kitchen to take out my tablet--it has a camera in it.  Guess what?

One.)  Betty has abandoned her napping spot and photo op so she can beg for food. AND
Two.)   Dead battery.

FINE! Everything's charging. Feed the cat. Now, I could tackle the peach cobbler I promised I'd cook....wait for it.

Four more of the peaches have sprouted massive black, furry mold spots overnight.  Really?

I put all the food away, thumped the cat and grabbed a bucket of darks to fold--upstairs.  It's safer up here.


Hoping for better things after the batteries charge.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Make Me Happy

It's another day, another dollar.  We get to work, say good morning to our co-workers, and let the bitching begin!

Well, today I'm not listening.  The door is only open to those who have positive comments to add to the conversation.  So, this is simple!  Leave a comment below--

What makes you happy?  Did you see something that made you smile today?

I'm listening to Celtic Woman to help banish the grembling.  That's my happiness for now.  What's yours?

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Piles of Bricks and Writing Prompts

Really, it's just a pile of bricks covered in nameless ivy that shields a rotting tree stump and a crumbling foundation that belonged to a long ago demolished barn.  Move the bricks from here to over there by the fence and make a decent border, much easier to weed wack.  At least you would think.

But, you know, after I identified the fourth creepy crawly bug I just had to stop jumping and going, "Oh God."  I'd never get this done!  There were  daddy long legs, hairy black spiders, furry red ones, pill bugs, black slugs--

Okay, I've dug up lots of the white slugs before.  But these black ones are kind of a dark purply color.  Really gross looking.

Earthworms, snails and why did the shadows under the rotting tree make noises? *shiver*

So, there we go.  My backyard, the home of my RV, a pile of wood, left over bricks from the last century and BUGS!  AHHHH!!!

Makes me wonder what else might be lurking beneath the surface of grass and anthills.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

All Those Screaming Fans at the Brad Paisley Concert

I'm showing my age...or perhaps not.

This past weekend I attended the Brad Paisley concert at the Comcast Center in Mansfield, MA and admittedly had a great time.  I do get to a few music performances of varying genres each year.  In the past year there have been the Celtic Woman, St. Louis Symphony, Organ and Choral concert at Harvard, The Stray Cats, Foghat and Montgomery Gentry.  The other "pop" concerts were either in tiny venues or at the track--both of which have an older demographic.  This applies out of hand to the classical performances as well.

I tend to thoroughly enjoy concerts and am generally the one singing along--even the choral works.  There was a moment of either mortification or serendipity at the Foghat show when I appeared on the jumbo-tron.  Yep--that was me bouncing around on the track.

So you might understand when I say I was more than disappointed that the Stray Cats show elicited a rather sedate reaction from the crowd.  Everyone so nicely sat down and nodded to the strumming of the string bass.  So help me, where did their sense of party go?

Thus, after a 20-year hiatus since I bought a "big" concert ticket, my Brad Paisley experience drew me back to the days when...

In my immediate world, it seems to me that I am the predominant Country Music demographic in the Northeast--somewhere over 35 middle America.  When we pulled into the parking lot at the Comcast Center I was shocked to witness an apparent explosion of all the local college campuses decked out in cowboy boots and hats.  When had I missed the youth invasion?  Ah well, I was here to have fun, too.  And the young 'uns didn't disappoint. 

Yes, Brad Paisley earned my hard won money with his heart-warming lyrics, sharp comic wit and devastating guitar playing ability.  But how can one person stand on that vast stage for 90 minutes and get the crowd involved?  Oh yeah, that's right.  When you're 21, with your friends and at a concert you will make noise.

Song after song after song 15,000 voices rose together and hooted, hollered and sang. 

It's a joyous sound--one that resonates through your heart. And this huge crowd reaction is what I hold dear in my fading memories of summers spent dancing to the Beach Boys, Paul Simon, the Doobie Brothers, Gloria Estefan...those were the days.  But yes, I got up and sang with the guy on my left and the girl on my right.  For a couple hours it just doesn't matter who has the formal training--only that you share your love of music with those around you.

I could run a line by line review of all I saw and heard on Sunday night--but it won't be solely Mr. Paisley's performance that will stick with me through the years and encourage me to click on those tickets again.  It's the chance to involve myself with the rest of humanity for a happy interlude that is the real reason that I'll never be too old to join the youth in rockin' out on a hot summer night.