Thursday, June 30, 2011

Happy Birthday To Me!

Today is a pretty big birthday for me. I am 45 years old. It's not really a big birthday in terms of any particular numerical significance. But since I almost died last August (heart attack), the fact that I am alive, my heart is still cranking away (with a little bit of help from a stent), I am healthy and continuing to recover, makes this the most important birthday of my life.

To celebrate, my totally awesome husband surprised me with a trip to the Black Point Inn in Maine. We are taking Natty for 2 nights in Maine, then coming back home for fireworks and a Fourth of July parade in our hometown. I feel incredibly blessed to be celebrating this birthday.

I hope all of you have a great holiday weekend!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Off For A Holiday!

Farewell my friends! I am heading off to Salem, MA for a short holiday. Hope everyone has a wonderful week, including those of you enjoying the national RWA conference. Have a blast!


Friday, June 24, 2011

Beard of the Day

I know. Elijah Wood looks like a baby, and I like older men. But there is something about his young, fresh, innocent face that is super appealing. And I love the thin beard that extends all the way up the side of his face. Also, he has the most gorgeous and mesmerizing eyes.

The reason that EW is on my radar this week is because he is starring in a new quirky TV series, "Wilfred." His neighbor's dog is actually a "pot-smoking, alcoholic, foul-mouthed Australian man wearing a dog suit" (The Smoking Section). Hee hee hee....that sounds fabulous!

Hope that all of you have a great weekend. I am taking my son to a 2-week sleep-away camp on Sunday, and I am only slightly freaking out. I told him I was going to make a life-size poster of him, put it on the wall of my office, and tape record him saying "Hey. I'm going down to the basement to play XBOX."

Happy Weekend,

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Bigfoot, Musicales, and Summer In A Glass

I'm gonna start with the upbeat, positive stuff first. Summer In A Glass.

If you have not checked out the wonderful blog Full Fork Ahead, please do. It has stunning photos, delicious recipes, and will inspire your culinary inclinations. KMont recently posted a recipe for White Sangria that makes me want to sit on my deck, stare at the sunset, and slurp down a pitcher of these delicious-looking drinks. Sangria is pretty much summer in a glass. Filled with colorful, festive fruit, all kinds of naughty liquors, sugar, and's cold, it's fruity, it will knock you flat on your back and have you singing the Backstreet Boys at your next party. The perfect summertime drink!

I have 2 different recipes for sangria I with white wine and one with red wine. I like mine sweeter, so once I added ginger ale instead of soda water. But to each his own!

(While you're visiting Kendra's blog, you might want to check out the recipe for lemon curd tart, too. I am obsessed with lemony things, and this recipe looks like the perfect ending to a summery BBQ dinner. What do you think?)

All right, onto the not-so-positive stuff. I have been reading a lot of lackluster crapola lately. Sure, every once in a while, I read something amazing and have a momentary bit o' happiness, but in general, I'm in a reading slump. In fact, I'm sort of sick of reading. In particular, reading romances. How could this happen? I don't know. But I'm thinking of reading some mysteries for a while. Either my expectations are too high, or I'm choosing poorly, or I need to do something totally different like run away from home, sign up for a glass-blowing camp in Vermont, and let my hair grow into dreadlocks. (I'm already working on the dreads...hee hee!).

In recent weeks, I've read a Julia Quinn (Just Like Heaven) that was not so heavenly. In fact, I am starting to think that Quinn will never get back her writing mojo. Writing witty banter is fun and cute, but adding serious emotional chops into a romance is the sign of a truly great author. Quinn has the ability to do this (Bridgerton series), but she no longer seems interested. The Smythe-Smith musicales have been a humorous addition to Quinn's historicals for a long time. But once the decision was made to write an entire book about one of these untalented musicians, then a few questions needed to be answered. Namely, why in holy hell are these young untalented girls being forced to perform in front of the ton and humiliate themselves? There could have been a cool story here. But the quick flash of humor (oh, look, it's another one of those crappy musicales) doesn't offer a real explanation for why a noble family looking to marry off its daughters would knowingly put them in a situation where they are humiliated and ridiculed. (And please....don't tell me that all of the parents and family members are so clueless and tone-deaf that they are not aware of what is going on). As all of us know, who have read 10 million historicals, there is nothing more important than appearances and proper protocol in the ton. So, yep, I find it extremely hard to believe that an entire family would subject its unmarried daughters to this year after year. Sigh. This book was nothing more than banter, no real magic. And I was disappointed (again). 

Then I tried a bigfoot book. Granted, it was a bigfoot book. But I am always on the look-out for something different and quirky and fun. This book could have been about a chef or policeman or CEO or really anything. Okay, the heroine was a tabloid reporter looking for a story, and the hero....was the story. But other than lots of sex, and of course the whole irritating erotica theme of Wow-We-Just-Boinked-Our-Way-To-True-Love-In-24 Hours-Or-Less premise going on, there was no reason to have bigfoot in this book. If I hear that a book is about bigfoot, then I want to see some bigfooty action....what does bigfoot do all day? where does he go? how does he live? is it interesting, cool, different? He spent all his time in the cabin boinking the heroine. I's an erotica. What was I thinking? Sigh. 

I also read part of an indie book where the POV bounced back and forth from sentence to sentence within the same paragraph, and another historical where the evil step-daughter falsely accuses the hero of rape, rips her own clothes and smashes her head against the wall to appear "ravished" and....

I give up. See Penelope waving the white flag of surrender. 

I'm not sure what I'm going to do. Start reading mysteries for a while? Take the summer off? How about make a huge-ass pitcher of sangria and hang out? That sounds good!

In the meantime, if anyone has just read something utterly mind-blowing, please let me know. As long as it's not about bigfoot.

All My Best,

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Winners of Celebrate New England!

Huge thanks to everyone who stopped by for the Celebrate New England Giveaway! I have 12 winners...8 print book "baskets" and 4 digital book "baskets."

Here are the winners....
  • donnas (Donna's Book Blog)
  • Nina Pierce
  • barbara (bimmergrlmd email address, Maryland)
  • Natascha
  • Susan (I need your email and address!)
  • Di (print books only)
  • Julia Barrett
  • Bex
  • Blodeuedd (Finland, digital basket)
  • Jennifer Mathis (Meandi Corner)
  • Amber Skyze
  • Kym (from Rhode Island)
Could each of the winners please email me at....

penelope DOT romance AT gmail DOT com

....and provide me with your mailing address and email address....Let me know if you have an ereader or not. I have to figure out who gets the print baskets and who gets digital! Thanks so much!

Loretta Chase donated 4 books, so I have those to add into the print baskets, too. Yee haw!

Happy Reading,

Monday, June 20, 2011

Happy First Monday Of Summer Vacation!

Slept in!

8 year old daughter crept into my bed with the laptop, and started searching for dachshund puppies on the internet. And kept showing me adorable photos of Puppies We Must Get Now!

Then, she totally redeemed herself by letting out our dog Lucy, feeding her, and bringing me a cup of coffee. Good girl!

Here are some quickie updates...

  • Celebrate New England Giveaway is closed. Winners will be announced this week. I just found out that Loretta Chase will be adding some books into the giveaway, too. Yippee!
  • I read Kiss Me, Kate by Mari Carr this weekend. Loved it! A sexy, quick read.
  • I am about to start Goddess Cottage by Sherri Dub and Size Matters by Stephanie Julian.
  • Made my goals for the summer. Lose 20 more pounds, and finish my WIP. I can do it!

My husband loved his Father's Day...we watched Natty kick butt in her final soccer game of the season, then my hubs biked with the kids, then we all went to the pool, and then for some dumb reason we went to Panera for dinner. (I voted for sushi, but was over-ruled by the kids). Hubs was a happy camper!

Hope everyone has a great week!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Happy Father's Day!

Happy Father's Day To All!

Don't forget...this is the last day to enter the Celebrate New England giveaway. Just leave a comment after any of the posts published on June 13 and you will be entered to win!


Friday, June 17, 2011

Friday Shenanigans And Penny Pens Another Parody

Here are my random Friday Shenanigans.....

1.) The Celebrate New England giveaway is still going on....leave a comment after any post published on June 13 and enter to win! Yee haw!

2.) My super quickie reading updates.....

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen......meh
Just Like Heaven by Julia Quinn.....double meh
Jacob's Return by Annette Blair....LOVED it! Bawled like a baby at the end.
Heart of a Knight by Barbara Samuel....wicked step-daughter meh meh....DNF

More in-depth reviews to come later. Although I am digging the whole "meh" thing right now. 

3.) Yesterday I planted my entire freakin' garden at once. I weeded, applied compost, and planted seeds and seedlings (3 types of basil, cherry tomatoes, 3 types of pumpkins, carrots and leeks). It was hot and sunny, and I got a bit light-headed (probably from a combination of dehydration, high blood pressure meds, and working my ass off for hours). 

As I felt myself swaying, I realized that if I fell down, I had two options....1.) I would fall on a rake with the prongs sticking up, thereby re-enacting a scene from a horror movie, which seemed like a bad idea....or 2.) I would fall on a pile of chicken shit compost, which....also seemed like a bad idea. And a stinky idea. Needless to say, I forced myself to stay conscious, and went inside to get a glass of water. That freakin' garden better look great in August!

4.) I swear I tried not to do it. But after I read Gail Carriger's blog post "So You Really Want To Help The Author" I just couldn't help myself. I penned another parody. Here it is. (For the record, I am a big fan of Gail's Protectorate Series, but hell, that post was so wack, I was powerless to stop myself).

Do You Really Want To Help Penny? Just Follow These Simple Instructions...

Just in case you've been thinking about me, or worrying about me, or maybe concerned about how I'm feeling, possibly worried about my book sales or money situation, or wondering how I'm paying for my son's exorbitant adventure camp this summer, or hoping that I might publish another book soon (before 2029), or looking for ways to help me out. Just in case. Here are some ideas....

1. Get an ereader. Seriously. Quit whining about how freakin' expensive they are, and just do it. I am SO sick of people asking if my book is out in print. The answer is NO. It's a freakin' ebook. Get an ereader. Whiner. Print books are totally last year.

2. Try to get people psyched about Christmas all year long. Maybe....put up a tree in April? Send cards in July? Offer eggnog in October? There is no g-damned way I am going to have good sales for my "holiday romance novel" if folks can't get over this whole "I'm-only-gonna-buy-a-Christmas-story-in-December" attitude. Criminy.

3. Do you have any friends who are Jewish? Why not gently encourage them to convert to Christianity? How hard could it be? Jews are not interested in a book about Santa Claus. I have a sneaking suspicion that could be hurting my sales. Maybe point out that Christians don't have to plan and pay for a bar mitzvah, etc etc. Be creative.

4. If you like my book, buy 10 more copies.

I hope I haven't offended anyone, but if I have, too stinkin' bad.

Merry Freakin' Christmas,
Penelope (Who Likes Writing Parodies Way Too Much And Needs To Work On Her WIP)

Monday, June 13, 2011

Penny's Most Romantic New England Memory

Celebrate New England Giveaway, Post #8. Leave a comment and enter to win!

At last, the final post for Celebrate New England! Thanks to everyone who has been visiting the party! I decided to finish up our posts with my most romantic memory of New England.....

My husband grew up in Middletown, Rhode Island, right next to Newport. Luckily for me, I got to spend many wonderful weekends exploring Cliff Walk, Brenton Park, Ocean Drive, and Second Beach, which was within walking distance of his parents' home. 

One summer afternoon, my husband, brother-in-law, and I were walking in Newport, on the cobblestone street next to Trinity Church. It's a historic church on Queen Anne Square, built in 1726. If you stand behind the church and look down to the water, you have a magnificent view of Newport....the docks, tall ships, and town. The sun was just setting as we walked by. Suddenly, the doors to a small building to the left of the church flew open, and out came a bride clutching her flower bouquet. Behind her, all of her attendants, dressed in gorgeous red satin dresses. They walked across the sidewalk, with the sun setting behind them, and entered Trinity Church. A gentle breeze lifted the skirt of the bride's stunning gown. Sunshine illuminated her veil like a golden halo. The girls smiled and laughed as they crossed the path to the church.

I stood there transfixed, watching the bride and her bridesmaids enter this beautiful historic church, with the sun sparkling off the water behind them, illuminating their little parade. Tears flowed down my cheeks as the door to Trinity closed, and I knew the bride was on the threshold of a new beginning.

I turned to my husband and brother-in-law, and said "Did you see that?"

They answered, "What?"

Exasperated, I said, "The bride! Her bridesmaids! That was an incredible moment! So romantic!"

My husband and his brother snickered at me and rolled their eyes. "Are you crying?" my husband asked me incredulously.

"Of course I'm crying! That was the most romantic thing I've ever seen in my life!"

My husband and his brother looked suitably chastised for about 3 seconds, then they said, "Let's go get a cup of coffee."

Which just goes to show....guys are dumb.

Who knows what happened to that bride, but her wedding day certainly got off to a wonderful start. 

I would love to hear from some of you about romantic moments in New England. Have any good memories? Let me know!

Thanks for celebrating with us today. 

All my best,

Cool Spots In New England

Celebrate New England Giveaway, Post #7. Leave a comment and enter to win!

Cape Cod by Katie O'Sullivan

Cape Cod is a great place to kick back and relax, and get back in touch with yourself and your loved ones. As Nauset Beach and the rest of the National Seashore celebrate their 50th anniversary this year, you can appreciate the same pristine beauty that President Kennedy recognized and set aside as a national park. Afterward, head to Chatham for clam chowder at the Squire and take in a Cape league baseball game for a perfect summer day!

Katie O'Sullivan
Perfect Strangers
Unfolding the Shadows

Longfellow's Wayside Inn by Judith Arnold

Longfellow's Wayside Inn is the oldest continually operating inn in America.  It first began serving the needs of travelers in 1716. Its most famous guest was Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, who used it as the inspiration for his "Tales of a Wayside Inn."  The inn features several preserved historical rooms, some of them blocked off and maintained just for viewing and others, including the old tap room, still used by visitors who come to drink, dine and spend the night.  (Some of the guest rooms are alleged to be haunted.) Beautiful gardens--including a vegetable garden that provides vegetables served at the inn--surround the main building.  A short walk up the road is the gristmill, where a stream powers the millstones that grind the flour used in the inn's rolls and muffins.  Also on the premises is the beautiful Martha Mary Chapel, a non-denominational New England chapel built by Henry Ford and named in honor of his two grandmothers, and a one-room schoolhouse dating back to the early 18th century.  I live just a few miles from the Wayside Inn, a place where we celebrate family birthdays and special events. We love bringing out-of-town visitors there for a unique Colonial experience.  More information about the inn can be found here:

Judith Arnold
Meet Me In Manhattan
Hope Street

French's Restaurant, Main Street, Tewksbury, MA by Kat Duncan

Think you have to go to the coast to get good fried clams? Wrong. Consider Tewksbury, Massachusetts and French's Restaurant. This hole-in-the wall eatery specializes in catering. But any weekday you can stop in for the best lunch anywhere in New England. Dave French was trained in culinary arts at Johnson and Wales University in Rhode Island. He specializes in catering large functions, but local citizens flock to French's for lunch. The menu is extensive, the prices reasonable and the service is fast. Best of all, you will never be disappointed with the food. Homemade soups and chowders, thick sandwiches, fresh salads and the best fried clams anywhere.

Kat Duncan
Fifty-Eight Faces

Newport, Rhode Island by Penny Watson

Newport is an extraordinary place, and the perfect spot for a getaway weekend. You can browse around the charming cobblestone streets and peek into antique shops. Explore the incredible mansions on Bellevue Avenue, including The Breakers, Marble House, and Rosecliff. Spend some time at Brenton Point State Park, and watch the kites dance in the air. Sneak over to Middletown and go birding at Sachuest Point....there are harlequin ducks, buffleheads and more. Grab an order of fried clams at Flo's. And my favorite, walk along Cliff Walk, with history on the right (the mansions of another era) and the ocean on the left, crashing up against the rocky cliffs. It is breath-taking. Finish off the day with a lemonade from Del's Lemonade Truck (my kids' favorite treat!). It just doesn't get any better than this. It's truly a unique New England city.

Penny Watson
Sweet Magik

Have a favorite cool spot you like to visit in New England? Let me know!

What's Your Favorite Thing About New England?

Celebrate New England Giveaway, Post #6. Leave a comment and enter to win!

Nina Pierce: I love the New England weather. If you don't like it, wait a'll change.

Ashlyn Chase: What I like best about New England is the proximity of natural beauty and city culture. I live about an hour north of Boston, thirty minutes from the ocean, an hour from the Lakes Region and two hours from the White Mountains.

Sherri Erwin: The people of New England, my favorite people, might seem cold to outsiders, but we're the most warm, genuine, honest people in the world over once you break the ice.

Kate George: Snow! No - the people. Snow! The people. Well at least my friends.

Jessica Andersen: My favorite thing about New England is having four seasons. I know that's a cliche, but it's true. I get bored with sameness, but like a certain level of predictability in my environment, so it's perfect that I can have a changing view outside my window and a changing wardrobe from month-to-month, yet have a pretty good idea that I'll be hot in July and August, too cold in January and February, and just right the rest of the year!

Caroline Linden: The history! I still dream of writing a book set in colonial Boston.

Meg Maguire: Why do I love New England? Easy. Hot chowder, cold beer.

Patricia Grasso: I love New England because people are sturdy, down-to-earth (most and usually). Our autumns are the best, most colorful (my favorite season). Winter snow "cools" everyone off. Nothing works off negativity better than shoveling two feet of snow. Our winters make us appreciate spring, and we can enjoy the ocean in summer. There are so many colleagues here, especially in Boston/Cambridge, that even old people (like me) feel young. No where else can an old person feel young just be walking down the street.

Judith Arnold: My favorite thing about New England is the spirit of New Englanders--staunchly independent, live-and-let-live, yet always ready to help a friend--or a stranger--in need.

Mia Marlowe: I adore the history that oozes from the cobbled streets. I'm mad about the art museums, the symphony and Shakespeare on the Common. But my favorite thing about New England is that I'm close enough to see the Atlantic any time I take a notion. Revere Beach is a short drive from my home. Any day you can see the ocean is a day of vacation.

Kat Duncan: New England is full of contrasts that work together. I love New England for its strong sense of seasons. Winters are snowy and wintery, summers are hot and often humid, springs start out chilly, but warm up quickly, falls last and last with cool, crisp air and a vivid display of leaves. In New England you can find alpaca ranchers wearing cowboy hats and organic farmers living next to high-tech industry gurus and Bluestocking families. I love it that so many different kinds of people with so many different viewpoints can all live together and that we regularly welcome new waves of immigrants. I love the rich history here. The Wampanoags and MicMacs, several of the original 13 colonies, battle sites of beginnings of the American Revolution, original homes of many of our founding fathers and mothers. New England is as culturally diverse as a small area can get on planet Earth.

Penny Watson: Birding in Rhode Island, picking fresh strawberries, antiquing in Vermont, eating lobsters in Maine with my best buds, meandering through a farm stand, lighting sparklers with the kids on July 4th. New England is magic!

Annette Blair: I love New England's change of seasons, each with unique colors and scents, its extraordinary history and architecture, islands and shorelines. I guess having set fifteen books in New England, and counting, says it all.

Barbara Wallace: The history. I love the region's rich tradition and history. Everywhere you go you find another piece of our past. Oh, and the Sox.

What's your favorite thing about New England? Or, your own home-town, wherever you live? Let me know!


Maine Is More Than Lighthouses by Nina Pierce

Celebrate New England Giveaway, Post #5. Leave a comment and enter to win!

Maine is More than Lighthouses
Guest Post – Nina Pierce
With only brief stints for college and new jobs, I’ve lived in Maine my whole life, the last twenty-two of them in northern Maine. I love Maine. It’s a beautiful part of New England.

When people think of Maine they think of pristine beaches, lobster and rugged coastlands. And with miles and miles of rocky shores, it’s no wonder that the lighthouse image has become synonymous with Maine’s Vacationland state motto.

But the northern 1/3 of Maine seeks to change that stereotype. Why? Because they live in potato country. That’s right, the spuds you get at the grocery store could have been grown and harvested in Maine.

Not having grown up in a farming community it was a definite culture shock when I first moved five hours from my home near the beaches (Maine is a bi-i-ig state) to the Canadian border. First, the school year began in mid-August and closed for three weeks from mid-September to early October. This allowed everyone in town to work harvesting the crop of potatoes by hand. And I do mean everyone. Anything not related to the potato industry, floral shops, hairdressers, anything like that, closed for the better part of three weeks. 

While we lived there, mechanical harvesters took over as the primary harvesting technique and fewer adults worked and only students 16 and older could work on the equipment. Schools eventually changed to closing the high schools since only those students could work and all businesses remained open.

I had the good fortune of working the three week harvest for a friend who was a farmer. Though I primarily worked in the potato house separating rocks from the potatoes on a conveyor belt before they went into bins for storage, I also worked several days in the field on the harvester. It’s loud and dirty and backbreaking. Rocks and plant stalks are separated by hand as a conveyor of potatoes bumps by on their way to the loading truck.

It’s a loooong day as well. Up at 5 am to be in the field by 6 where you work until 7 pm, 7 days a week drizzle or sun until the potatoes were out of the ground and stored for shipment in early winter and spring. 

So the next time you think of Maine, remember the northern part of the state, where there are no ocean breezes and lighthouses, but plenty of green fields of potatoes and hardworking kids helping to get them out of the ground and on to your table!

From Penny: Nina, Thanks so much for this fascinating piece! Maine has such a special place in my heart. 

Nina Pierce
Blind Love

Memories of Boston and Loon Mountain by Shirley Ann Howard

Celebrate New England GiveawayPost #4. Leave a comment and enter to win!

Memories Of Boston by Shirley Ann Howard

Pleasant weather beckons young people to the banks of the Charles River like a siren’s song. I’m personally most fond of the Cambridge side since I spent many college days strolling the paths there, while holding hands with my boyfriend who attended MIT. There might have been joggers, bicyclists, and dog-walkers too, but we focused mostly on us. As we envisioned a sublime future—so easily induced by fluid white sails, the cadence of rowers, and the clang of halyards—stress of the next Physics exam or James Joyce paper soon vanished like the vapor of billowy cotton clouds in the distance.

Of course springtime in Boston also meant final exams, so the next nice day sent us further up-river where a wide expanse of flat lawn tempted us to spread a blanket and open our books. The theory was good, but the practice, impractical. Two twenty-year-olds, clad in shorts and skimpy tops—lying close enough to touch, to steal a kiss in the sun—soon stopped their studying and commenced dreaming once more.

And planning… planning to cross the Longfellow Bridge to the Boston side. In those days Arthur Fiedler conducted the Boston Pops on summer evenings at the Hatch Shell on the Esplanade, and the concerts attracted only a small crowd of music lovers, music students—or in our case—student lovers. The only fireworks I remember were the ones we created.

Not long ago we strolled these banks with our grown son when he came to Boston for business at the Museum of Science. By some mystery of time the red brick of Back Bay blended beautifully with steel and glass high-rises as if they’d grown from one another. A flood of memories pierced me like Cupid’s arrow when I glanced across the river at MIT’s Great Dome. The winter wind cutting across the water allowed me to explain my misty eyes, and I was able to divert my family’s attention by suggesting we go for pizza at Simeone’s in Central Square. But alas, it had burned and was never rebuilt.

Cambridge, Brookline, and Somerville are the haunts of Sandy and Lenny as they search for self and love in TALES OUT OF SCHOOL and TALES OUT OF COLLEGE. I consider the settings as important and meaningful as any of the characters and hope you do also.

Loon Mountain by Shirley Ann Howard

Loon Mountain captures visitors with its majesty throughout the year. In summer, the whoosh of the gondola whips you to the summit in five minutes where the scent of pine greets you before you even see the cones nestled in clusters in the trees. The crisp air at 3000 feet fills your lungs like a helium balloon. An easy 360° walk treats you to views of hazy Twin Peaks, snow-capped Mount Washington, and all the sky, treetops, and horizon your hungry soul can absorb.

The winter is even more exhilarating. After hopping off the same gondola, the cold bites your cheeks, but the sun—close enough to touch—quickly warms the excited blood surging through your veins. The snap of skis in bindings is the signal to turn your tips downward. You dig in your edges and slice through perfect powder or a patch of ice—it is, after all, New England. A flurry of color—parkas, hats of all kinds even animals, huge mittens, and cool graphics on skis and snowboards—bombard the senses in a moving collage toward the base lodge. Warm chowder or chili, coffee and hot toddies await.

Some years New England cooperates and floods this glorious region with autumnal color. A ride up the tram at nearby Cannon Mountain now attracts tourists from Europe, as well as locals and other Americans cruising in RVs. Gliding on a cable up the side of a rocky cliff, you marvel at Mount Lafayette as nature puts on a light show of maples, elms, and chestnut trees blazing bright crimson, copper, and maize. The play of sun and shadow within the rolling summits makes human concerns seem minor. Only the promise of twin Maine lobsters at The Chalet in North Woodstock can convince you to come back to earth. 

In TALES OUT OF SCHOOL, TALES OUT OF COLLEGE, and TALES FROM HOME Sandy and Lenny seek out the White Mountains for weekend escapes. Their adventures north serve as bonding experiences and seal their love.

Shirley Ann Howard
Tales Out Of School
Tales Out Of College
Tales From Home

Romance In Quechee Vermont

Celebrate New England Giveaway, Post #3. Leave a comment and enter to win!

Romance In Quechee Vermont by Penny Watson

I have lived in New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Vermont at various times over the last twenty years. Of all the places I've lived, Vermont is without a doubt my personal Shangri-La. It has a quiet, laid-back pace, an appreciation of simple pleasures, and people who care about the world around them. One day, shortly after we moved to Vermont, I was standing in Dan and Whit's General Store when the kids got out of school. They ran into the store, grabbed penny candy from old-fashioned glass jars, and ran back out of the store with their friends. The manager chuckled and added the "purchases" onto their family charges. I was awe-struck by this. There was something so wonderful and sweet about living this sort of life. I was in love. I still dream of moving back to Vermont some day.

Of all the charming towns in this area, my absolute favorite is Quechee. It has an enormous antique mall, the requisite covered bridges, and my favorite spot on earth....Simon Pearce Mill.

The Mill is located right next to the Ottauquechee River. It houses a glassblowing workshop, pottery workshop, retail store and a fabulous restaurant. Simon Pearce glass is stunning in its simplicity. My kids love watching the glassblowers create their wares. There is nothing quite like enjoying a gourmet meal, made with local Vermont products, while seated at a table overlooking the waterfall next to the mill. It is heaven on earth.

I have one especially wonderful and romantic moment that happened to me at Simon Pearce. My husband took me out for a birthday dinner about fifteen years ago. He surprised me with a lovely amethyst ring. But it was a bittersweet occasion for me. I had just suffered another heart-breaking miscarriage, and we were both feeling sad and uncertain about the future. We sat on the balcony at sunset, enjoying a glass of wine, watching the falls and trying to lift our spirits. Suddenly, a hot air balloon appeared on the river, skimming the water. It must have been ten feet from the surface. It was gliding along the river, and went right past us. The folks inside waved hello. Everyone in the restaurant gasped with pleasure. It was an incredible moment, watching that balloon glide by us. My husband and I smiled at each other and held hands across the table. I was filled with a sense of peace and knowledge that all was right with the world. It sounds so melodramatic, doesn't it? But that moment was magical for me. Shortly thereafter, we decided to adopt our children from the Philippines. We started on another incredible journey in our lives.

Every time we return to Vermont, my heart fills with happiness. The air is clean and pure, the way of life is old-fashioned and charming. I am filled with a sense of peace and well-being. I have a dream that someday when I'm a little old lady I will have a cottage in the woods of Vermont where I live with three weenie dogs and work on my romance novels. (My hubby can go fishing to keep himself occupied! hee hee).

Dreaming of a Vermonty Future,

Boston's Gem: The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

Celebrate New England Giveaway, Post #2. Leave a comment and enter to win!

Boston's Gem: The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum by Victoria Morgan

One can't truly celebrate New England, as Penelope is doing this week, without a shout out to Boston's own Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. Tucked away in the Fenway district of the city, the Gardner Museum is one of Boston's greatest gems. Unique, enriching and dazzling!

Isabella Stewart Gardner (1840-19240) was one of the foremost female patrons of the art during her lifetime. For over three decades, she traveled the world to amass one of the most remarkable collections of fine art and decorative artifacts existing today. Her acquisitions include over 2,500 paintings, sculptures, textiles, tapestries, furniture, manuscripts, and rare books.

Titian, Rembrandt, Raphael, Degas, Boticelli, and Sargent, and many more of the great art masters grace her walls. However, Gardner considered her acquisition of Titian's Europa (1560-62) her greatest find (above). The painting depicts Jupiter disguised as a bull and abducting Europa, who appears both frightened and excited. The museum's audiotape asks the patron to decide if Europa's stance makes her complicit in her abduction or not.... While this may be Gardner's favorite, I am drawn to John Singer Sargent's El Jaleo (1882) depicted below. This painting with its vibrant Spanish gypsy dancer graces the end of a long hallway known as the Spanish cloister and brings it alive with movement, vitality and excitement. You feel as if the dancer will spin out into the room.

The museum is particularly unique for its backdrop of the works is a magnificent three-story building constructed to look like a 15th century Venetian-style palace. Gardner personally designed each gallery herself and to bring light into the concrete building, she had the rooms surround a central courtyard housing a luscious garden. Touring the museum with Penelope, who has a degree in botany and a gifted green thumb, Penelope reminded me that not all of the museum's art is on the walls or inanimate, but flowering in this incredible courtyard. She pointed out the myriad of different ferns, flowers, and other exotic plants that the museum rotates as each season changes.

While touring the treasure trove of works, it is hard not to be shocked when one encounters the glaringly empty frames that housed some of the thirteen works of art stolen March 18, 1990 and that are still yet to be recovered. The museum's audio defines the theft as a 'crime against humanity' and I have to agree. Of those taken, Rembrandt's Sea of Galilee (1633) was Rembrandt's only seascape ever painted, and Vermeer's The Concert (1658-1660) is one of only 34 surviving Vermeer's. Isabella Stewart Gardner opened the museum "for the education and enrichment of the public forever," and the theft's greatest crime is the loss of these works to public view.

So when you make that coveted trip to Boston, be sure to include the Gardner Museum -- it won't disappoint. And for your next visit, the Museum of Fine Arts is right around the corner. Their new $500 million Art of the America's Wing opened this year to critical acclaim. In the Globe's recent review of the launch, they stated the wing was named the year's "outstanding permanent collection new installation (or reinstallation)" by the Association of Art Museum Curators.

But that's for another blog.....

Victoria Morgan
RWA Golden Heart Finalist 2011