No Kidding! I WON!

April 1, 2014 § 8 Comments

What did I win? The SILVER MEDAL in the Young Adult Category of the FLORIDA BOOK AWARDS for THE VISION SEEKER! I am so over the moon on this!Image

Of course, first I had to enter … that’s important. And to have friends and sister writers at the St. George Women’s Writers Gathering (http://fictionamongfriends.com) urge me to enter was super GREAT!

What a whirlwind tour, these awards events:

Monday, March 17 – Tom and I drove up to Tallahassee for the awards. That evening I was awarded my Silver Medal along with all the other Silver and Bronze winners, and had an opportunity to “thank the academy and my writer parents”. We also met and honored the Gold Medal winners.

Humanities Table

Speech, Speech

Tuesday, March 18 – Luncheon with First Lady Ann Scott and the Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner at the Governor’s Mansion. Lovely. We had Mrs. Scott’s own recipe chicken salad (although I doubt she actually made this batch!), salad, fresh fruit, cheese, croissant rolls, Quiche Lorraine with crispy bacon on top! And for dessert – brownies.

Lunch is Served

Mostly we all enjoyed touring the dining room, library (which now holds all of our books signed by us!) and family room overlooking a garden. The mansion is lovely, and not open for visitors unless special arrangements are made. I guess we were special!

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Then in the evening we were guests at a reception and the Florida Heritage Month Awards Ceremony. The Gold Medal winners received their awards; then other awards were given. I even sold four books – not many YAs at these events! And enjoyed seeing friends … Adrian Fogelin and Dianne Ochiltree. Adrian I consider my guru (all of ST. George girls do!). She’s a wonderful writer and past winner, and this year a judge in the Children’s category. Dianne is a friend, an accomplished published authors of children’s books who is a former winner, and this year’s Silver Medalist in Children’s category for her Picture Book It’s a Firefly Night. Great book!

 

Am I using too many ALL CAPS and “!!!!!”? Well, wouldn’t you? What a HIGH!

I’ve won awards before – for singing. I’ve even won some writing awards – Third place, Honorable Mentions – for short stories. But this was a first – an award, even a second place, for a novel that took 14 years of writing and researching and more writing and rewriting … that’s special. Something not to be taken lightly. My work is valued by some strangers who read the book and liked it better than any other save one. I bought that Gold Medal winner, by the way, and intend to read it to find out what was different between our two works. I don’t begrudge the author the gold, you understand, but I am curious!!

If you want to read my books, I love for you to do so! Go to my website – http://MaryLoisSandersAuthor.net – to read about them and link up to buy the print copy or the eBook on Kindle. Then let me know what you think! Better yet, let Amazon.com know what you think, too!

Keep Reading and help the starving writers of America! Well, maybe not starving … after all, I’ve got a day job!

The Winter Olympics is Here!

February 17, 2014 § 2 Comments

Olympic Rings In the last week I have watched winter sports with a passion and I will do the same next week. I never miss the opening ceremonies or the closing party, and in between cheering for the winners, I weep at stories of the life-hurdles they’ve had to overcome just to compete. It’s thrilling when the US wins ANY medal, or fourth or fifth place. It’s the Winter Olympics—that Once-Every-Four-Years celebration of madness where athletes try to beat the mountain, the ice, or the Russians. I love it!

But do I know anything about most of these sports? No. In fact, except for Alpine skiing, ice skating or ice hockey, they are a mystery … and on top of that, so many of these people defy the logic of self-preservation. Sixty miles-per-hour down a narrow half-tunnel of ice (shiver) on a short board with sharp blades on the bottom (shudder) … face first? You’ve got to be joking! No wonder they call it the Skeleton!

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The same thing happens when the Summer Olympics comes along. I watch every event, mesmerized by the strength and swiftness of sports I’ve never watched in my life, and celebrate the efforts!

But for some reason, winter athletes prefer to defy gravity, sharp blades, steep mountains, and hours in sub-freezing temps as they race, jump, twirl, and spin.

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Cross Country Skiing

So what makes them do it?

Money? We know that prominent pro sports on TV make it possible for athletes to earn their living (and then some) performing in the sport they love. But I doubt there’s much monetary reward in Skeleton, Luge, and bobsled, at least of the live-large, live bold, wear-bling kind of payback!

So if money isn’t a good enough reason to risk life or limb, what is?

Glory? Probably not, since there are only 3 medals (plus ties) per event—gold, silver, bronze are great, but not every athlete will reach that podium.

usa_olympic_house_flag_76530smaPatriotism? Yes, hearing the National Anthem played as our Stars and Stripes rise above all other flags can still get the tears flowing. But for those of us who remember those golden Red-White-and-Blue Days of yore, when we held our own and even bested the USSR’s sports machine, beating the Russians today doesn’t quite have the same zingy, tingly feeling. I’ve even found myself rooting for the former Soviet-block countries that now compete under their own flags … as long as they aren’t competing against the good ole USofA!

No, none of these gives reason enough to explain this phenomenon every four years … at least not for every athlete. But there is one more reason.

I think that for most athletes in all of these sports—the popular ones as well as the most obscure—a feeling of accomplishment must be the over-arching reason for defying death and frost bite. And isn’t this why we strive for our best whatever we do, even if we often come up short? After all, there’s always next time, right?

Trying hard to beat one’s own best efforts is always good for a rise in endorphins, no matter the sport or occupation. And whether you hit a new high mark or just get a good feeling that you’ve done your best, you deserve to hum a few bars of “Oh, Say Can You See”, too!

Author Note: None of this applies to snowboarders and freestyle skiers, however. They just want to have fun!

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An Evolution of Chili

January 20, 2014 § 4 Comments

220px-Bowl_of_Chili_No_BeansI’ve eaten chili all my life. Hot Tex-Mex chili, WITHOUT BEANS!! Yum! Should I give it up now just because I’m 70?

Long, long ago, in a state far, far away, I was a little girl living in Fort Worth on McCart Street with my father, my mother, my older brother, my younger sister, and Skipper, the family Cocker Spaniel. We did Texas type things, we kids—roller skating on uneven sidewalks, zoo visiting, lightning-bug chases, tarantula safaris … the usual. This life was idyllic, slow-motion-ecstatic, a thing of beauty, the Great American Novel waiting to be written ….

At five I had also become an aficionado of all things good to eat: fried apple pies, lighter-than-air dinner rolls, biscuits-and-gravy for breakfast, meatloaf, chocolate frappé, Mother’s chocolate-pudding pie with whipped cream topping, iced dill pickle juice.

Then one day my life changed.

It was Daddy’s fault. He made me do it. He decided it was time he and Mom introduced us to Tex-Mex and El Chico’s was their favorite Tex-Mex restaurant. El Chico Logo

[I never have decided whether this first visit was to see if we had inherited the Tex-Mex gene, or to find out if they could stand traveling across the south with 3 kids in a 1949 2-door Chevy and eat publicly with them in restaurants.]

No matter, my fate was sealed. One taste of salsa and tortilla chips, guacamole and tortilla chips, a cheese and onion enchilada with beef chili sauce and Mexican rice, and I was hooked. It’s still my favorite. Oh, I’ll eat hors d’oeuvre tamales for New Years. A quick drive through Taco Bell for three crispy beef tacos is a weekly ritual. And there are some restaurants, in San Antonio for instance, where fajitas are the 5-star feature … I’ll go for that. But cheese and onion enchiladas with beef chili sauce and Mexican rice? No contest. I’ll order it every time!

But I don’t live in Texas now. I’ve lived in Florida for 10+ years and before that 15 in New Jersey, 3+ in Missouri, 7 in Brazil, 2 in Tennessee, and 1 summer in New Mexico (heaven). That’s 38 of my 70 years not in Texas, and I still call myself a Texan, and Tex-Mex is still my favorite food.

For a wondering Texan, what’s the best way to stay Tex-Mex happy? Make my own chili. Of course, the chili has evolved as my hair has grown grayer.

When I was younger, I made 3-alarm chili –

Wick Fowler 2 Alarm Chili Kit 2Ingredients: 1 “Wick Fowler 2-Alarm Chili Kit” (okay, so I don’t measure my own ingredients, but good-ole Wick won the Terlingua, TX Chili Cook-off for umpteen years in a row, so why not let him do it!); 1 small can of chopped green chilis (with jalapeños); 1 large can of tomato puree and a can of water; 1 can of diced tomatoes with the juice; and 2.5-3 lbs of ground lean beef. (BUT NO BEANS!)

Directions: Brown the beef, drain, put in a large deep pot; dump all ingredients in the pot except the small packet of Massa Harina flour, and cook until the chili starts to thicken (30-45 minutes?). Next put the Massa Harina in a measuring cup, just enough water to mix until it makes a smooth paste, and stir it into the chili. Let the chili cook some more (about another 20-30 minutes) and serve. Or save it for supper.

In my 50s, I made 2-Alarm Chili (same recipe, no jalapeños!).
When I reached 60 I only added half the “red pepper” packet for 1-Alarm chili … and chased it with two sugar-free orange Tums!

Now that I’m 70 I make no-alarm chili (hint: no jalapenos, no “red pepper”) and leave the Tums in the bathroom cabinet. The Tex-Mex taste is there, just not the fire. Of course, I miss the fire, but one must sleep.

You can take the girl out of Texas, but you can’t take the love of Tex-Mex out of the girl … Arriba Tex-Mex, muchachos! (Up with Tex-Mex, boys and girls!)

And thanks for sharing, parents.

Tom’s Oranges

January 5, 2014 § 2 Comments

When we moved into our new home in The Villages in August of 2003, we began to look around at the landscaping. Everyone was planting magnolias, live oaks, crepe myrtles, and palm trees – all kinds.

Florida - All Coasts

Florida – All Coasts

Palm Trees? Above the freeze line in central Florida? Were they kidding? Don’t palm trees do best in warm coastal areas? I know that Florida has three coasts: Atlantic, Gold, and Lost—Gold is the panhandle coast between Pensacola and Apalachicola, and the Lost is the west coast on the rest of the Gulf … or is it the other way around? It doesn’t matter in the least … we live nowhere near any of them!

One day Tom said, “But if we live in Florida we should plant orange trees!”

Now really! I know we live in northern grove country, but what did we know about orange trees? He was adamant, however. We started researching … make that, Tom started researching.

He talked to the garden people at Lowe’s, Home Depot, Marion County Extension, and Bob.

Who?

Bob and his wife were new friends we met when we joined a group of church-deprived CBFers (that’s Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and there were no CBF churches nearer than Orlando!)

But I digress. Back to the Great Orange Experiment:

In the long run, Bob knew a thing or two more about orange trees than the ‘experts’ at the other locations, although the Marion County Extension people came in second. He talked about space, and choice, and the care and feeding of. He also gave Tom a lesson in the variety of trees to choose from—Temple (tangerine/orange mix), Honeybell (a true Tangerine/Pumello mix), Red Navel (Cara Cara Navel from Venezuela), Navel (originally from Brazil), Valencia (a sweet, late maturing orange), Page (cross between a Clementine tangerine, and Minneola tangelo), Blood Orange (Italian/Spanish variety).

All kinds of oranges!

All kinds of oranges!

Tom couldn’t decide. Which would be best? Which would stand for the occasional 7-hour-freeze we could get during December and/or January (4-hour-freezes are okay, but the longer ones can actually kill the trees).

Finally he was ready to plant. He chose six trees, all different, each one giving a fruit-a-month (or so) from October to March/April: Navel and Red Navel fruit first; then Page and Honeybell; finally Blood Orange and Temple.

Of the six varieties, the first to mature (after two years growth) were the Page and Temple. Next came the Honeybell and Navel. The Red Navel was next, but the Blood Orange never has done well. Bummer. By the third year we were begging people to pick the oranges.

Tom calls himself an organic orchard grower. Except for the occasional special orange-food sticks, and the water they get when the sprinkler system comes on in their ‘zone’, he doesn’t do anything else to them except prune when he absolutely has to … or when they overgrow our neighbors’ yards.

Three of the trees are house-tall (lost the Page last year to a fungus and replaced it with a peach tree); while the two closest to the street are almost that tall. But look where we started! Tom picked the first orange from the Page tree in 2006!

Picking the First Orange

Picking the First Orange

Since the Blood Orange hasn’t produced. I think he’s going to replace it next summer with another Page, or a Valencia, or another peach tree.

We now give bags of fruit away, eat orange slices at every meal, and drink our own ‘fresh squeezed’ juice most of the year – okay, so we freeze it, but it tastes fresh when thawed!

BTW, anyone want some oranges? The Temples and Honeybells will soon be ready. Come on by the house. You can’t miss us. We’re the ones with the 5 orange trees and 1 peach tree in the front yard! Everyone else planted palm trees!

R to L: Red Navel, Page, Temple

And now … 2014

December 31, 2013 § 1 Comment

Forgive me, but I must begin this first blog of the New Year with a retrospective. (All those retrospectives on the news shows have had more influence on me in this regard than I thought!) Besides, I only blogged three times in 2012 (or four, but who’s counting), and perhaps twice in 2013. I think I owe my readers an explanation … or reasonable facsimile thereof.

I’ve been sick.I'm Sick

Or I should say, Tom and I’ve been sick … and that’s no joke! We began 2012 with good news … Tom’s follow-ups from his prostate cancer treatments were good. Relief! Happy New Year to us!

Then, a bomb dropped … sort of, anyway. I received a diagnosis I didn’t want to hear … and yet I did. For several months I’d been experiencing shortness of breath, chest pains, and utter exhaustion, and feared a heart attack lurking. Turned out NOT to be a heart attack but severe anemia … my blood looked like pink ink … watery pink ink! Yikes!

“Your iron is out for the count,” my doctor told me. “First you get a two-pint blood infusion, and then we work on building your iron stores back to normal. And while we are at it, we’ll do some tests to find out where you are losing all of this blood!”

I received the blood in a four-hour session with a needle in my arm. Then the testing began. Three months later we still didn’t know where the leak was, but my iron count had climbed back to normal and I was slowly gaining back my energy.

Then, Tom was diagnosed with bladder cancer and we’ve been dealing with that … still are. But he is responding well to the treatments.

As you can imagine, some activities had to take a sabbatical during this time of health-tending—golf, blogging, travel (only made one trip in 2012), my own writing. I did manage to finish most of the editing jobs I had contracted to do, though some were late.

2013 dawned with good intentions, better health, and more energy. But I’d lost the blogging habit and again let other activities and demands fill my calendar.

I did, however, store away in my memory lots of subjects to blog about for 2014. So I hope you will stay tuned for tales of the annual Flower & Garden Festival and the Food and Wine Festival at EPCOT; cleaning out my mother-in-law’s house in Texas (that took three trips!); publishing my three books … hurray! [see links below]; and finally, musings on birthday # 70, Dec. 23rd.

BTW, do you make New Year’s Resolutions? I don’t as a rule. But this year I have made several …

– Eat lots of raisins, more broccoli, and take my iron pill every morning.

– Keep to my exercise and diet routine [lost 40 pounds this year … on purpose!]

– Complete and publish Book 2 of my middle-grade series: Virginia Patriot, a Timothy Michael O’Hara Adventure!

– Blog regularly!

– Get back to golfing and water exercises.

– Clean my garage … well … maybe!

Happy New Year, everyone, and let’s all have a healthy 2014!

PS – here are the links to my two new websites (New Year’s Resolutions 3 & 4 from 2013!): http://MaryLoisSandersauthor.net & http://courtjesterpublications.net.

My Bucket List

December 21, 2012 § 4 Comments

12 21 2012 ... Hmmm

12 21 2012 … Hmmm

Today is the day that the Mayan calendar ends and so does the world … so some people say. I’ve been amazed to see how many “survivalists” are out there, building homes into the sides of mountains—back to caveman days?—stockpiling freeze dried foods—have you tasted that stuff?—and buying up automatic and semi-automatic weapons of war to protect themselves from  … from what?

I don’t know what you think, but if the world ends today, no one is going to need food or weapons or holes in the ground to live in. We just won’t be here!

And then there are those like the spiritualist (from Sedona?) last night on Diane Sawyer who believes the world isn’t going to end. Instead, she believes that special “forces” are going to merge and the world will immediately change … for the better. She’s down in Maya land right now doing that “voo-doo” she “do” (my apologies to Cole Porter) to welcome the new world.

Call me an optimist, but I will stand with the spiritualist … well … sort of! And not too close!

CHOCOLATESTherefore, in honor of this day, I choose to stay above ground, eat chocolate, and watch all my favorite movies until midnight. Of course, I’ll take time out to watch Baylor Men’s Basketball play BYU (in Waco). I do that on my laptop if it’s not televised nationally. Sic ’em Bears!

Hmmm, that is indeed a strange bucket list. But if today is THE day … “TEotW” (The End of the World) … I don’t have time for much else. Actually, I don’t have time for the world to end either. I don’t think the Mayans thought about that. How inconsiderate of them to choose today of all days and during this season, too!

Christmas presentsI still have Christmas presents to buy, and I’ve promised myself to finish editing Linda’s book. This one doesn’t need a lot of line editing, nor does it need structural editing. It’s a joy to work on a book like this, and I plan to finish it by tomorrow.

Tomorrow, my sis and I are driving to Eustis to get our hair cut. It takes about 45 minutes through orange-grove and cattle country. We often see eagles on that route, maybe even some Sandhill Cranes and … dare we hope … a Whooping Crane? Think we’ll stop by to see Peggy on the way back. I have a few Louis L’Amour novels to give her. She loves westerns and these are my favorites, too. However, I don’t need the paperbacks. I have them all loaded onto my Kindle.

We’re going Brasileiro tomorrow night to celebrate my birthday (actually, I was born on Dec 23, but that’s Sunday this year and we’re doing the Christmas cantata at church) with a wonderful meal at Ipanema’s Churrascaria! Mmm Mmm, GOOD.

Next come Christmas Eve and Day and a New Braunfels Smokehouse ham for lunch. Then Bowl games all next week … the world can’t end before we know who the pundits think is number one … it wouldn’t dare! And you know which team I’ll be rooting for next Thursday night!

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And we just ordered tickets for a Yankee / Detroit pre-season baseball game on March 23 – we can’t miss that! Or the Flower and Garden Festival, or the Food and Wine Festival (both at EPCOT). And I certainly must attend the Fiction Among Friends Women’s Writers Retreat next November …

Nope. Not today or next year. The Mayans will just have to predict another date! I can’t go yet!

Merry Christmas, BTW.

Tripping … Back to Texas

July 13, 2012 § 3 Comments

Let’s talk Texas! We’ve just returned from our bi-annual trip to old haunts and family rounds … 2,950 or so miles, 17 days, countless activities, and an average temp of 106!

We played golf with some friends –

Fossil Ceek Golf Club, Ft. Worth, TX – Hot day, but lots of shad!

We attended the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship Annual Assembly in Fort Worth –

We visited with Tom’s brother and sister-in-law and my aunt and cousin –

We had the thermostat, radiator and AC fixed on the van –

But the rest of the trip … I’ll not say “highlight” … we spent in the central Texas town of Tom’s birth. Although he didn’t grow up there (he was about 6 months old when his parents moved), his mother did, and when she retired from teaching, she moved back. Now that she’s gone, it’s time to deal with family mementos, photos and ‘stuff’ and then sell her house. Not easy!

Central Texas – 106 degrees … I could see the asphalt melting!

My sister and I did this when our parents passed. I never knew that Mom kept all our letters! She also had shoeboxes filled with the front halves of greeting cards—she taught Sunday School and needed them!  (After Dad died, we found scads of toilet paper rolls under his sink—still saving them for Mom’s church work I guess … old habits are hard to break!)

In the middle of inventorying and sorting my mother-in-law’s clothes to donate to a local clothes closet, I began thinking about us. Tom and I don’t have children. Who will sort and donate and etc. for us when we are gone? No one. Yikes. We’d better start now if we are to do it ourselves.

Let’s see … I don’t teach voice any longer, so I can give my music away. Who would want a collection of art songs for high soprano, I wonder, or opera scores, with all those director’s notes scribbled in the margins? And does anyone these days even know what LPs are?

I have two dining room suites … one formal (Duncan Fife) and one informal (from Brazil). Do I really NEED two? Hmmm, would I do better selling the Duncan Fife on eBay, or donating it to a charity sales shop and taking the deduction?

Duncn Fife buffet – I inherited the suite from Mom. Do I want to sell it?

And if I get rid of the Duncan Fife, I’ll have to sell my good china and crystal. Hate to do that … it looks great in the hutch. But then, I’ve not actually used them in almost 25 years so I have no real sentimental attachment to them … wait that’s not true. The crystal was a wedding present from the Baptist missionaries where I worked in Recife, Brazil. Maybe if I don’t tell them though ….

What am I bid?

I think what I need to do is hire an estate sale’s team … but not for everything … at least not yet!

Which brings me back to my mother-in-law’s house. We only spent 5 days there this time, assessing what needs to be done and how much time we’ll need to do it. We are planning another trip back soon … for a month at least … to complete the job, hire the estate sales people and put the house on the market. I hope I’m up for this! I hope Tom is!

Then I think we’ll wait to do our own “clean out” until later. One house a year is enough!