Saturday, February 27, 2016

Where Are the Spoons? by Betsy Ashton

Just about this time last year, my wonderful husband and I decided that our kitchen needed a face lift. When we built our house, we skimped on the kitchen, not because of space constraints but because we had never planned to live in the house full time. It was supposed to be a weekend getaway, until we fell in love with life on a lake. A big lake.

Back to the kitchen. Over nine years the kitchen wore out. Counter laminate warped; cabinet laminate separated. We had a couple of choices: redo the counter tops and reface the cabinets or redo the whole darned kitchen. Trumpet flare! We went with the entire kitchen.

We hired a contractor who worked with us on the design. Actually, he couldn't do much, since the footprint was fixed. What he could do was provide better cabinets and counters. We went back and forth over the design and choices. He gave us a start date six weeks out. Four weeks later, he called to tell us the cabinets were in and could he begin the next day.

Yikes! We'd lolly-gagged around, thinking about emptying the kitchen, doing absolutely nothing. One day! Holy hell! Terry dashed around clearing table tops and setting up portable tables. I filled them as fast as he made them available. Where ever did we get so much stuff? My first inclination was to sort each drawer, each cabinet, before stacking dishes, glassware, cooking items, on said cleared tables. With one day to accomplish this herculean task, sorting went out the window. Did I really have that many glasses? Really? How many did I need?

And the spices and condiments. Where did these all come from? Some were how old? Six years? No way. I use all these spices and herbs all the time. They can't be that old. Actually, some were more than a decade old. I couldn't believe how much I had in my cupboards. Yes, I cook a lot. I use tons of herbs and spices, but it seems I use the same ones all the time. I couldn't remember the last time I used Chinese Five Spices. The use-by date was in the last century. I tossed the bottle.

And how many pie plates does one cook need? I had 11. I now have three in different sizes. This year at the holidays we used two. Maybe I have one too many. Loaf pans. Six was three too many. If I couldn't remember when I last used something, it went into the Goodwill box. Or boxes. By the time I was through sorting, I had thirteen larges boxes of stuff to donate.

Now, none of this really has anything to do with the title of this little essay. Except that it does. We constantly lost something during the construction. First it was some of the wine glasses. See the top picture. Then it was the silverware. Our joking question became, "Where are the spoons?" Same place they were for a month or so. On a bar stool in one of the guest bedrooms.

And now, a year after construction is complete, duplicates have found their way to Goodwill and we have the kitchen completely put back together, we will look around, turn in a circle and ask, "Where are the spoons?" And we still have no good answer beyond "right where we left them/"

Do you have a similar story? If so, please share it.

Betsy Ashton is the author of Mad Max, Unintended Consequences, and Uncharted Territory, A Mad Max Mystery, now available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Friday, February 26, 2016

I am AWOL, folks ... sorry

We're in the final push for the Big Event. I'm managing a major garden event -- all day workshops, 70 classes, 50 speakers, 400 people attending, with 100+ volunteers assisting.

Today I had one speaker cancel, one volunteer I rely heavily on go into hospital for emergency surgery, the office person who helps us go missing because her daughter needs surgery, and a broken database of registrations.

Guess what I'm going to do this week and weekend? Yep, I'm going to be rebuilding a database with details for 400 registrants. Then printing out those details. And stuffing envelopes. Printing signs. Finding a speaker substitute ... and the list goes on.

So wish me luck -- that big sigh of relief you hear at 7 p.m. on March 5 will be me, sitting down with a drink in hand as I put the event behind me. Until then, though, it's Event Management and/or Paycheck Work 24/7. Literally.

Wish me luck ...


Thursday, February 25, 2016


Roses and Readers, join me in welcoming Ashantay as our guest blogger. I really enjoyed it (since I totally identify), and I think you will, too.
I am an old hippie. Wait, what I mean is that when I was younger—much younger but we won’t go into that—I wore loose fitting clothes, tie-dyed shirts, ripped jeans, and patchouli oil. I listened to a lot of psychedelic music and didn’t pay much attention to the way things “should be” or live a traditional life. Because, as an early twenty-something, I had all the answers, and they didn’t match the ones my parents had.

Fast forward (loud cough) decades, and I’m still wearing loose-fitting clothes, though I save my scruffy jeans for gardening. I don’t use patchouli oil as my nasal passages have a problem with the grocery store’s soap aisle, and I now prefer light herbal scents. But if you stopped by you’d be more likely to hear Eric Clapton or Led Zepplin played on my stereo than the current top forty.

And unlike twenty-somethings, I know I don’t have all the answers, but I’m willing to let the mystery be.

But like so many Boomers, I seem to be stuck In a personal time-warp viewing myself as still young and vital. Not having the energy to run full-out ten plus hours a day came as a shock. And I wonder who the heck transplanted my mother’s wrinkles and her neck wattles onto my body when I wasn’t looking. Wasn’t I attending be-ins and outdoor rock concerts just yesterday?

So when older protagonists clamored at me, wanting their stories told, I was a bit surprised. Then I wrote their tales. In the process, I came to terms with my aging, and isn’t that the best part of reading and writing books? Learning something about yourself or others?

Like my characters, I’ve experienced much of life and find I don’t regret what I did or didn’t do – even the stuff I’m not so proud about. I’m not perfect but I can live with myself, though I admit I don’t like looking into mirrors a whole lot. I wish I had more energy, but I’ve learned to pace myself, and that was an important lesson all on its own.

Due to my experiences, I look at life differently than many my age. I’m less conservative, more willing to think about change but understand fear of the unknown. I’ve learned to merge the varied aspects of me into a more cohesive soul and come closer to understanding life – exactly why I experimented as a young adult. And I think I’ve learned the trick of remaining young, at heart and in mind if not in body. At least I think I know the path to take, and that’s cool.

Life is a trip, isn’t it?

Rock star Jack Reed has secrets. He’s kept his first marriage to a girl he met at Woodstock, and their son, under wraps for decades. Now his child has tracked him down wanting answers.

Former hippie Sally Ford never fully recovered from Jack’s betrayal of their family. She believes he put his career first then and will again, leading to another shattered ending.

Jack and Sally’s first meeting is combustible. Can they confront their past and overcome a history of deceit and manipulation to find peace and love?

         “And how is Sally, uh, I mean, your mother?” He wasn’t sure why he’d asked about a woman who’d torn out his heart, but too late to call back the words.
         “I call her Sally in public, Mom in private. Can’t remember how that got started but it works for us. She’s fine.”
         “She didn’t have a problem with us meeting?”
         “No, no, she’s fine.”
         Jack knew bullshit when someone spun it, and Carlos wove a blanket. He raised his eyebrows. “Really? I figured she’d fight this get-together.”
         “Nope.” Carlos chuckled. “Okay, she didn’t look happy, more resigned. Maybe a little scared.”
         She doesn’t want me around. I can get down with that feeling.
          “You’re not pissed with me or her, are you? For keeping quiet about my identity? The band hit crazy big on that first tour. She, we thought you’d be better off out of the spotlight.”
         Carlos tilted his head to the side, and Jack recognized Sally in the gesture. “I haven’t had time to digest the information. I guess you both had a good reason for the charade, and even though I’m not pressing now, I’ll want answers.”
         Icy fingers gripped his gut. “So my leaving did piss you off.”
         “Not totally.”
         Jack held on to his coffee cup with both hands, happy his son hadn’t walked out yet. Sure, he’d signed away his rights to Carlos, but Sally had been impossible to find after she’d left. She’d made it clear—through lawyers—that he’d only screw up their son, and he’d believed her.
Then his actions had proved her right.

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Wednesday, February 24, 2016


It's been one of those weeks. If you're an author and a blogger that means you really got caught up in the personal drama of life and got no writing accomplished. This is my normal day to post on The Roses and as I'm heading out the door for some doctor appointments, I remembered. If you haven't read this post before, then yay, it's new for you. If you have, I'm sorry. This post was previously posted on my blog Discover Yourself.

Everyone loves a hero! He's willing to put himself in the line of danger; he'll do anything to keep his lady safe and always knows the perfect thing to say.

But let’s not overlook the villain. Personally, I love the bad guy…or woman. Without the villain, the hero doesn’t look nearly as good. Without the villain, you wouldn’t have someone to hate and route against.

The reason I love villains is because they’re so much fun to write. They can be ugly or gorgeous, short or tall, male or female, educated or ignorant, young or old. I’ve used just about all the varieties.

In my first contemporary romance,
Sleeping with the Lights On, I had a villain. This book couldn’t technically be called romantic suspense…there was just too much humor. The redheaded, voluptuous, Amazon of a woman made a great villain. She stalked and threatened poor Sandra to distraction. The reader really isn’t sure of what wickedness she is capable. This villain has very few words and intimidates with actions. There’s a real surprise ending in Sleeping with the Lights On, so enough said.

My romantic suspense Love and Murder Series, is rich with an assortment of villains. Book one in the series has a host of nasty characters; money grubbing step aunt, idiot
Book One
step cousin, jealous woman, deceitful historical museum curator, and the elderly but handsome and wicked professor. One of these characters is the truly evil villain…love does drive some people to craziness.

Book Two
Book two in the Love and Murder Series, Southwest of Love and Murder, has a villain that is both stupid and cunning at the same time. You won’t wonder for long who the villain is, but you will be biting nails on who he’s offing next. I will say, he uses colorful language and his bizarre thought process is intriguing. Love gone crazy in a wicked way.

A Legacy of Love and Murder, book three, will release worldwide on March 30,
Book Three
2016. I think I’ve upped the ante on villainous antics with these badies. I certainly do not want to give away the villain right now. As with most of my books, because they’re suspense not mystery, you won’t be hung up too long on who the villain is. But let’s keep the secret until you read. I will shoot out a couple of words: sexy, neo-Nazi, and pure wickedness.

Ah, villains…you gotta love them!

Find all of Brenda's books and her villains here: Brenda's Amazon Page

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Girl Power?! You Betcha!! by Margo Hoornstra

FEELING FIERCE – The words were emblazoned in pink and silver block letters on the little girl’s size tee shirt at the store. No question. That shirt was just made for my five year old granddaughter. Ooops! I mean five and a half year old. Excuse me. She’s a kindergartner, you know.

This was one purchase I was not going to pass up. Especially when, frugal shopper that I am, I noticed the Buy One Get One Half Off sign across the top of the display.


Several bright pink tee shirts on a nearby rack in more silver block letters declared AWESOME STARTS HERE.

Perfect times two.

Both messages brought to mind an incident of a few years ago when I was raising this grandbaby’s momma. Her middle school class was going to create a bank so the students could learn the ins and outs of corporate finance. Various positions were open for applications and she was so excited to be a part.

As the project took shape, she brought home a printed list of the duties associated with such job titles as president, vice-president, teller, auditor and the like.

After studying the sheet for a while, she shared her intentions. “I think  I’ll apply for the vice-president job.”

“What does the vice-president have to know?”

“Everything the president does.” She didn’t bother to look up. “In case they ever have to take over the job.”

I’ll admit I had a little trouble holding in a ‘is this all the farther we’ve come in smashing the glass ceiling’ rant.

At the risk of providing an inappropriate information dump – an absolute no no in my oh so competent CP’s world – a touch of back story here is necessary.

My long time paycheck job was a management position at a non-profit. One of those professional organizations with a typical men only need to apply mind set. I must have done something right since I survived there for a quite a while. Yet, year after year, I’d have to prove myself again to the incoming, usually male dominated and skeptical, volunteer Board of Directors.

In fact, my brother had an interesting exchange with one of the members shortly after I got the job.

“I heard for that new CEO position they hired a girl.”

Bless his heart, my brother’s response was quick and to the point. “Yes they did. And she’s my sister.”

As I understand, the conversation ended there.

But, back to the dialogue between my daughter and me regarding her immediate career aspirations.

I cleared my throat and swallowed the rant. “The vice-president needs to know everything the president does, so why not apply for the president position?”

My question was met with wide eyes and a dropped open mouth. Then the eyes blinked and the mouth spoke. “Yeah. Why not? I think I will.”

She did and she got it!

FEELING FIERCE and AWESOME STARTS HERE are tucked away for my granddaughter’s upcoming birthday. May she wear them proudly, and stand tall when she does so.

You know what? I wish they made those tee shirts in my size.

My days to blog here are the 11th and 23rd. For more about me and my stories, please visit my WEBSITE

Monday, February 22, 2016

Death by Taxes by Leah St. James

Have you done your taxes yet? Hubby and I tried last weekend. It nearly killed us. We took this weekend off and will try again next weekend.

Before you think we have a Trump-like balance sheet (hahahahahaha... sorry, got a bit hysterical there), we don’t. We have a teeny, tiny small business that requires all sorts of paperwork to keep legal in the eyes of the taxing authorities in our town and state—not to mention with Uncle Sam.

This story is all about our state—the Commonwealth of Virginia—so I’ll save our adventures with the IRS for another date.  

Now, I love living in Virginia. I love the pretty gentility of the landscaping around the shopping centers. I love the kinder drivers who actually let you merge without delivering that one-fingered salute. I love the kids who bag my groceries in the grocery store.

But our process for filing taxes? Not so much. 

As with most bureaucracies, the state has different forms and different filing requirements for different types of legal entities. Looks pretty normal to me.

For our particular category, we’re required to file the annual income report electronically. But that's okay. We're smart people. We can handle it. Probably just download from the state, check some blocks on the form and click 'send'...right?

Wrong. The state doesn't provide the form. You have to use a state-approved commercial tax-preparation software for filing this specific form. The state does provide waivers if your chosen tax software doesn’t support Virginia’s electronic filing system.

Every year to this point we’ve been granted a waiver (and have filed manually with paper forms), but this year the state notified us that our waiver-ability had run out. 

Not ready to admit defeat, certain that the state couldn't FORCE us to buy expensive software (could it?), I called and was told by a really nice representative that we might qualify for the EZ form, which is filed manually and doesn’t require special tax software. All we had to do was answer “yes” to a bunch of eligibility questions. 

We checked...and we answered yes. Yay!

Things were looking up, until we tried to file the blasted thing. It seems our little company’s ID starts with a different series of numbers than the entities that are approved to use the EZ form. 

Close, but no cigar.

So off we went to look for the state-approved software...a CHEAP state-approved software.

Turns out there is no such animal. These things are designed for those companies with Trump-like balance sheets....or their armies of CPAs and tax lawyers.

But we soldiered on, and we purchased a package by a nationally known company that had a less-shocking sticker price. We downloaded the software, realized we had to do the Federal return first, struggled and yelled for about an hour while we tried to figure out where to put our information. Then it was time to sign the federal return.

Believe it or not, we had to download a form, sign the form, scan it and save it as a PDF, then attach it to the electronic filing. I kid you not.

Somehow we got through it and supposedly filed the federal taxes.

On  a “high” from beating that approved tax-preparation program into submission, we started the state return and made it to the electronic signature page. There we discovered that a different signature form was required. We went to the little toolbar that held all the forms—and the required form wasn’t there, although it looked like we could get it, if we paid an additional $19.95. Sigh. Whatever. Just wave the white flag at that point and surrender.

We looked again. We went to the company's website and searched. We Goggled it. 

Finally I called the Help Line and (thankfully) actually spoke to a person. The conversation went something like this:

Me: “I’m trying to download form (blah, blah) but the payment button doesn’t appear to work.”

Tax preparation software rep: “Oh, I know what’s going on. The form isn’t yet available.”

Me:  “Why not?”

Tax preparation software rep:  “It isn’t approved yet.”

Me: “What isn’t approved yet? I’m sorry, I’m confused.”

Tax preparation software rep:  “Form (whatever it was) to certify your electronic signature. It isn’t approved.”

Me:  “Well...whose approval is needed?”

Tax preparation software rep:  “Virginia’s. They just haven’t gotten around to it yet.  Check back in a few weeks.”

We haven’t checked yet. We’re milking this reprieve from torture. Only a lottery win between now and next week will save us. At least then we could hire a team of CPAs and tax lawyers to file this single form for us. 

Here’s hoping your tax-preparation season is going more smoothly. If you’re thinking of going into business, check your state's tax filing requirements first!


Leah writes stories of mystery and romance, good and evil and the power of love. Learn more at