Eek! CA Ants, Spiders, and Fires

Last fall, hubby and I moved to California. Though it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, change is still change. And we have to get used to everything that comes with our new surroundings.

Including ants…

Spiders…

And fires.

Eek!

Apparently, ants like the end-of-summer climate around here. It’s hot. It’s dry. And who doesn’t like a good barbecue? So, in August, they like to come out and play. Unfortunately, we new Californians didn’t get the memo.

Last week, I saw a few ants in the master bedroom. And then a few became a dozen. And by the end of the night, that number doubled, and I had to call in backup (hubby) to get rid of the pesky things.

I don’t know much about ants, but these little guys (at least they were little!) seemed to be casing the joint. Apparently, they end up in people’s bathrooms when in search of water.

I went on nextdoor.com (a very useful resource once you sift through the neighborhood drama) and learned about Terro Ant Killer. We put down two liquid bait traps. And let me tell you: Poof! No more ants.

We added two more traps outside in the back patio, where they were marching in a straight line about a foot from the house. Eek. I set the traps down in their path, and they swarmed that thing like it was a donut.

Later that afternoon, hubby went out back and stomped on a bunch of ants. I’ve never seen him do that before. He’s a “there’s no reason to mess with bugs that are outside in nature” guy, which I get. Seeing him Hulk-smash those ants was quite amusing.

Luckily, our strategy worked. By the next day, we only saw two ants. But Mama didn’t raise no fool–I doubt we single-handedly wiped out an ant colony. I called pest control. They arrive tomorrow.

Did you know? Ants deposit pheromones like breadcrumbs along their path. It’s the scent that guides their buddies to a food/water source. After you set the traps and they’ve done their job, you have to clean the ant scent trail to keep from attracting more scout ants.

Ways to clean an ant scent trail — The Spruce

Something else we have in our backyard? Spiders. Correction. Spider webs. I’ve never seen the spiders themselves. They do a good job of staying hidden, which I appreciate.

But it’s weird to go be-bopping along in the backyard and then suddenly feel hair-like strands on your arms or wherever. You can feel it, but you can’t see it. Super-creepy.

Like ants, this is the time of year, where spiders go bonanza. They put their webs all over the place. Trees. Patio chairs. Trash cans. You name it.

We had a huge web in the backyard one day. A very thick strand went about fifteen feet from a tree down to a smaller bush. I wacked the web down. But sheesh, what kind of spider could’ve done that kind of web? I just hope I don’t run into the spider. Because it’s going to be huge. And it may even have a face.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve heard about the fires raging out West. We’ve got one here about 45 miles southeast. Luckily, it’s almost contained. But it took 600 firefighters to do it, and it burned through almost 18,000 acres of land. Crazy.

Here’s a pic that my aunt nearby took on Sept. 5 after the fire started.

Where I live, the sky wasn’t as ominous, but we definitely noticed an orang’ish tinge and gray haze. I found out yesterday, that the haze we’ve been seeing lately is caused by the fires up north. It’s unbelievable how far smoke can travel. This thing’s got serious legs.

I am thinking of everyone impacted by this season’s ants, spiders, and especially, fires.

A big thank you to the firefighters who risk their lives to keep us safe.

And a shout out to pest control folks. Thanks for saving us from the creepy-crawlies.

Photo by Darrah Worobey on Unsplash, Photo by Malcolm Lightbody on Unsplash, Photo by Alexandra Gorn on Unsplash

Summer is passing so fast…

What’s happening to our summer? It’s going by so fast. It’s already late-August. Sheesh. I’m clearly not keeping up. But time has been weird during the pandemic, hasn’t it? The days can be slow yet fast. They go by in a blur or hover like a cloudy haze. Bizarre, indeed.

I hope that you and your family have been able to manage these bizarre days–and maybe carve out some moments of normalcy.

Before the recent “heat wave” hit the southern California area, hubby and I went for a hike by the lake at Cuyamaca State Park.

Cuyamaca is pronounced Koo-yuh-ma-kuh. Yes, it has taken me at least ten tries to say it right. Yes, I still get the spelling wrong. And yes, I confuse it with Kumeyaay, which is another park nearby. Similar name vibe, right? See my brain’s dilemma?

Cuyamaca State Park was about an hour drive away. We paid ten bucks for the lake access entrance. Some families there were having barbecues. I promise you I didn’t steal anyone’s burger. Though, I may have gotten away with it…you know, with wearing a mask and all. 😉

Walking along the lake was really nice. The sun was shining. And as you can see, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky.

Temperature-wise, it was probably in the mid-to-upper seventies with a nice breeze. The sun was pretty strong, though. My arms tingled with heat frequently, and I kept slathering on the sunscreen. I’m pretty sure I left a shade or two browner than when I got there. 🙂

Being with nature, and going for walks, has been really important for me during the pandemic. It centers me, relaxes my thoughts, and reminds me of all I have to be grateful for.

There was a large section of tall blades of grass near the lake. It looked magical. The kind you see people run through in the movies. I didn’t attempt it, because…well…who knows what creepy-crawlies are lurking among tall grass. And there was a sign on one of the trails to watch for rattlesnakes. Eek!

Luckily, we didn’t see anything scary like snakes around, just cute chipmunks, chipmunks, and birds. Though, we did see something like vultures circling overhead. Not so cute.

My Achy Breaky Heart

My heart is breaking. A common feeling for many, I think.

First, the pandemic hit the news. Coronavirus ravaged China. Then, Italy. I remembered the trip I took to the north several years ago to Lake Como and Milan. I recalled the breathtaking view from a scenic lookout at the top of the Duomo, and I prayed for the health of the people there.

I watched press conferences with the new White House Coronavirus Task Force and saw the claws of Covid-19 close around America. I learned new terms like “social distancing, “wiping down,” and “respiratory droplets.”

I watched so many press conferences that I hit the mute button when certain people spoke and turned it up when the experts took the podium.

I grew a fond appreciation for Dr. Birx’s scarves and admired the many ways that she tied them. I wondered where Dr. Fauci could be when he wasn’t there. And I wondered if it was weird to develop a crush on a seventy-nine-year-old man.

I heard the phrase “six feet of distance” so much that I could measure it with my eyes closed. I washed my hands until they cracked and itched. I started keeping Cortizone at my bedside. Sometimes, in the middle of the night, I scratch my fingers so much that I wake up, my fingers feeling like they’re on fire.

I had bizarre dreams. Some of them feature old friends from college. In one, a friend I hadn’t spoken to years, was being chased by three wooden bears. After I woke up, I contemplated calling her so we could get a good laugh. Maybe one day.

I heard about celebrities having Covid-19, then friends of friends then my own family members.

Every day, I checked the positive case numbers in my state, county, city, zip code. The part of town I lived in seemed to have fewer cases, and I breathed a sigh of relief. Then I recalled my family and friends who lived in other parts of the city, and I started worrying all over again.

I isolated with my hubby. Went outside for walks. Ate fruit, veggies, and vitamins. Learned how to make biscuits without eggs or milk. Perfected online shopping for groceries. I’ve had more deliveries come to my door in the past three months than I have in the past three years.

Overall, I stopped wondering how long we’d have to live this way and reached the level of acceptance. I gratefully accepted the masks my aunts made for me and wore them when I went outside.

I grew weary of this new, weird normal, all while getting used to it and wondering when it would end.

And then George Floyd was killed.

I was already a bit drained from the news about Covid-19. Watching the effects on healthcare workers and patients. Seeing the impact it has on working people. Trying to understand this moving-target-of-a-virus. Wondering about loved ones.

After processing all of that, how much was left in me to handle the news of George Floyd?

In fits and starts, I gathered news about the incident. The more I learned, the more I questioned: How much did I want to know? How many details? How much of the video did I really want to watch? Can my heart take it?

I feel ashamed that I can’t pour over every detail of George Floyd’s killing like I did when the pandemic hit. It’s like the emotions are too raw. A painful scab that can’t be touched anymore.

I struggle to put my thought into words even as I write this. So many things come to mind. It’s so jumbled I can’t express it properly.

I can say this, though: I’m angry and afraid and tired of the racial inequality that permeates our culture. I’m tired of feeling it repeat. Over and over again. I’m drained.

And I know I’m not alone.

Living in California, I saw this commercial by Blue Shield of California. If you don’t live in the state, you may not have seen it. I want to share it with you because it’s powerful, dynamic, and expresses—in a concise, poignant way—what I can’t seem to say on my own.

Enough is enough.

My heart is tired of aching.

My heart is tired of breaking.

Stand for equality, America. You can do this. WE can do this. Let’s go!

Broken heart photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Writing a Book about Natural Hair

My friends and family know that there are two topics that I love to discuss: writing and hair.

So it makes sense that I write a book about hair. That way, I get to incorporate my two favorite activities into one experience.

The result for me? A glitter bomb mind explosion.

The result for readers? A book called Ready to Go Natural?

It’ll be designed for women who:

– use chemical relaxers to straighten their naturally curly hair;

– want to go natural, i.e., stop getting relaxers; and

– are having a tough time making the decision to go natural or don’t know how to do it

The goal of my book will be to help women come to a decision and to provide guidance on how to go natural.

The book will include:

– a Q&A section that will answer questions that many women have about going natural;

– information about hairstyles; and

– a lot of links—links to online products, video tutorials for hairstyles, and tools to help

I’ve been wanting to write a book like this for a while. But now there’s a sense of urgency because of the pandemic. Most women with relaxed hair haven’t been able to visit a hair salon for their regularly scheduled relaxer. This makes it a great time to consider the process of going natural. I hope that my book will help with the transition.

On this blog, I’ll let you know more about the book, including when it’ll be published. If you haven’t subscribed to get blog updates sent straight to your inbox, please provide your email info below.


What I’m reading:

I just finished reading The Bromance Book Club by Lyssa Kay Adams

To help repair his fledgling marriage, a baseball player named Gavin Scott joins a book club. Not just any book club, one that’s for males only and includes most of his teammates. They read historical and contemporary romance novels to get tips on how to improve the emotional and physical relationship with their wives. Can you imagine? Ha!

I enjoyed seeing Gavin mend his marriage with help from a historical romance novel and his fellow book club “members.” The Bromance Book Club had lots of “LOL” moments and was fun to read. A total romantic comedy romp.


Here are some FREE, indie LOL Escape Reads, and other free fiction and nonfiction books, including Le Tour de Love and A Christmas Proposal: A Peas and Carrots Short Story.

Fun, LOL Quarantine Escape Reads

Am I the only one who’s reading funny, feel-good books to boost your mood during these crazy times? If I’m not alone, please share your favorite LOL escape reads down in the comments below. Here are a few books that I’ve been enjoying.

The Overdue Life of Amy Byler

This book hit the presses in May 2019 and has been an Amazon and Washington Post bestseller and Goodreads Choice Awards Finalist.

The Overdue Life of Amy Byler by Kelly Harms

Librarian Amy Byler is a single mom who’s estranged husband comes back into her life…well, her kids’ life.

While he’s bonding with the kids during their summer break, Amy pursues an exciting new chapter of her life. It involves New York City, a makeover, great food, and a hot librarian who totally gets her and her book-nerd jokes.

Check out The Overdue Life of Amy Byler.

Do Me a Favor

I recently read the friends-to-lovers romcom Blow Me Away. With a 4.7 rating out of 5 and 174 reviews, I’m not the only one who devoured this book. And looks like Christina has another one coming out. Yay!

Do Me a Favor by Christina Hovland

Love is a battlefield, and divorce attorney Sadie Howard thought she might have met the right man once. But he was a career military guy who got shipped overseas and left her heart on the tarmac.

Fresh out of the Army now, combat photographer Roman Dvornakov is ready to build something worth living for. And his new mission also includes Sadie, the girl who slipped away.

Check out Do Me a Favor on Amazon.

Big Sexy Love

So this might just happen to be another New York City romantic comedy book. I’m noticing a pattern here. But that’s okay if the pattern includes witty dialogue and a sweet love story.

Big Sexy Love by Kirsty Greenwood

Olive Brewster’s ordinary life in the U.K. gets turned upside down because of her best friend’s (Birdie’s) dying wish: Go to America and find Birdie’s ex (her “once in a lifetime,” “Big Sexy Love”).

As a fish out of water, Olive’s adventure in New York City will have you cracking up. But as she gets to know a cute comic writer named Seth, you’ll have heart-eyes, too.

Check out Big Sexy Love on Amazon.

Free Feel-Good Books

Here are some FREE, indie LOL Escape Reads, Uplifting Feel-Good Romance, Contemporary Romance Stories to Make Your Heart Skip a Beat, and other free Romance Read giveaways.

What LOL escape reads do you recommend for these crazy quarantine times we’re in? Are you an author with a feel-good book? Please share it in the comments below.

Book Titles, House-Buying, and Pizza

Last month, I started working on my third book in the Love and Work series. The writing is coming along, but it’s been slower than I’d like. For good reason, though…

We’re buying a house. Yay! The search took about four months, and we visited about sixty houses. After a certain amount of time, the places we saw all started to blur together. To keep track, I collected slip sheets provided at each open house and tucked them in a folder at home.

Getting our offer accepted was a high that wore off quickly once we got into House-Paperwork Quicksand. My creativity has suffered a bit, too. One can’t easily jump from writing a fun, enemies-to-lovers romance one minute to researching home insurance policies the next minute. It’s a rough shift for the noggin’.

Luckily, I’ve managed to keep some creative juices flowing while knee-deep in House Paperwork Quicksand—with a little bit of writing, book-cover creating, and book-title noodling.

Help Me Pick a Book Title and Cover

Here’s a brief snippet of what my new romantic comedy book is about:

An ex-beauty queen faces her biggest rival yet: a cocky advertising sales rep at her new job. When the self-proclaimed “Top Dog of Sales” learns she wants to dethrone him, he won’t give up without a fight. Pride and identity may fuel this rivalry at first. But as they discover more about each other’s past, their rivalry takes a surprising turn.

I’m stuck between two book titles for the book and book covers, and I’d love your input.

Should I call the book A Weekend with Warren?

Or should I call it Beauty Queen Bridget?

If you have any thoughts on the titles or books covers, I’d love to hear it!

Pear Gorgonzola Pizza

A recent trip to California Pizza Kitchen inspired me to make pear gorgonzola pizza at home. I got the recipe from Fit Mitten Kitchen, which calls for pear and gorgonzola (of course!) and balsamic, brown sugar, red onions, and walnuts. I substituted honey-glazed pecans for the walnuts.

I used a lot less balsamic than the recipe mentioned, only about 1/4 cup or so. Next time, I might double the pear amount from one pear to two. I think a little more fruit might add to the flavor.

Overall, I definitely liked it. No, it wasn’t as good as CPK’s version. But it’s hard to make a dish as good as what I get at the restaurant. With that said, I’ll definitely try this pizza again, maybe with flatbread instead of the pizza crust for variety.

Do you have a pear gorgonzola pizza or flatbread recipe to share?

Writing, Moving, and House-Hunting

I’ve been a busy little beaver! In December, I published my holiday romance novel, Santa Bring Me a Ryan. And now I’m working on the outline for my next book. A Weekend With Warren will be book three of the Love and Work series. Updates and a book cover image are coming next month.

Meanwhile, Fake It Til She Makes It, book one of the Love and Work series, has received 20 reviews on Amazon. Woohoo. Hitting that mark—along with 23 reviews from Goodreads—is a small victory worth celebrating.

Thanks, again, to all of you who have submitted reviews!

On to other big news: hubby and I moved from the Washington, DC area to southern California!

It’s an exciting change that we’ve been looking forward to for quite some time. Though I miss being able to see my east coast family and friends, we are lucky enough to have a network of them here. They have made the transition easy. However, having nearby scenery like this doesn’t hurt, either.

Ever since we got to CA, we’ve been house-hunting. And let me tell you, the market is super tight right now. We put in an offer on a house. Got all excited. Did our happy dance. And then we found out that six other people submitted offers, too. Ugh. As you probably guessed, we didn’t win the house. So the hunt continues.

While checking out houses, we’ve seen some interesting things along the way. Here are a few:

This old-school intercom system was found throughout many rooms of one house. Ears everywhere, kids! 🙂
This vintage phone wasn’t just a piece of art, it actually had a dial tone!
I loved this classic typewriter paired with gorgeous travel cases.

Wish me luck as the house-hunting continues. If you have any survival tips…I mean, house-buying tips…during a seller’s market, please pass them on!

Photo by Eli Allan on Unsplash

Ryan Gosling for Christmas?

In my new whimsical holiday romance novel, Santa Bring Me a Ryan, Jules Carmichael asks Santa to bring her a Ryan for Christmas, as in Ryan Gosling or Ryan Reynolds.

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She’s single and has been unlucky in love, especially during the holidays.

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Jules realizes that Ryan Gosling and Ryan Reynolds are a little bit busy.

But there’s her boss, Bryan Blakely.

His name may only be one letter off from Ryan. But he’s just as handsome as those celebrities.

Unfortunately, there’s a problem—a big one. Because of company budget cuts, he’s supposed to lay her off.

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Besides that, he’s been unlucky in love, too.

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What will come of these two?

Will Santa bring Jules a Ryan after all?

Or will Santa have other plans?

Get Santa Bring Me a Ryan on Amazon. Available now as an e-book or paperback. If you’re on Kindle Unlimited, you can download it for free.

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Who would you like Santa to bring you for Christmas?

#SantaBringMeARyan

Santa Bring Me a Ryan, Available Now

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Santa Bring Me a Ryan is available now, and I’m so excited to introduce Jules Carmichael to you. She’s likable, relatable, and not about to let any Scrooge behavior come between her and her Christmas wish.

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Described as a “whimsical holiday romp,” Santa Bring Me a Ryan is a fun escape for the hectic holiday season.

So while you’re buying gifts for everyone else, get yourself this light-hearted read with a happy-ever-after ending.

Here’s an excerpt:

Jules and Kerri sat at a high-top table in a local bar, Shooters and Stouts. An acoustic guitarist covered the latest pop songs, while clusters of patrons nearby cheered at the Washington Wizards game on TV. It was the perfect place to tell your friend you’ve been laid off. You do it over a beer—not while sipping martinis or enjoying a delicious daiquiri brain-freeze. You do it at a bar with communal pretzel bowls, sticky floors, and dusty ductwork.

Jules curled her shoe around the chair leg. She hunched over a Guinness. Her second. “Crazy, right? I ask Santa to bring me a Ryan. And instead, Santa brings me Bryan, my boss, who fires me.”

“A bloody shame.”

Kerri practiced a British accent for her upcoming role in a community play on New Year’s Eve. To Jules, now didn’t seem like the opportune time.

“If I’d known I was getting laid off, I wouldn’t have gone through all the trouble of becoming subtle bait. I went corporate sexy today. I wore smoky eye makeup, flat-ironed my hair, and kept it down, put on the tightest cardigan and shortest work-appropriate skirt I have.” Jules loved that skirt. “You know, the black and gray plaid wool one with the little bit of fringe at the bottom?”

What had Jules been thinking? That Bryan would suddenly become interested in her? He’d see her corporate-sexy ensemble, pull her into his office, do things to her that would collectively make the Human Resources department shriek, and pronounce her his holiday fling.

Maybe she wouldn’t be alone for Christmas.

They could spend December twenty-sixth together, too. Then come Monday, they’d be business as usual, back to their boss-employee relationship, with this fun little secret.

Okay, Jules had thought of all of those things happening. In vivid detail. She’d even thought about the underwear with the beads from Victoria’s Secret. But she knew nothing would transpire. Those kinds of things never happened to her, nor to anyone else she knew.

Kerri said, “I know the skirt you’re talking about. How could he resist you in that?” Kerri pronounced her words in clip, sharp tones.

“Do you have to do the accent tonight?” Jules asked.

“I do.” Do sounded more like duh. Kerri must’ve been going for a brasher English accent, which was a sensible choice, given the circumstance. “Maybe Bryan took one look at you today—with the fringe skirt and all—and realized he couldn’t trust himself around you anymore. To avoid crossing the boss-employee line of flirtation, he had no choice but to sack you.”

Sack the British way, as in to fire Jules, not sack, the American way, as in to take Jules to bed.

Oh, the irony.

Want to read more? E-book is available now on Amazon for just $2.99. And a free promo is running this weekend, December 7 – 8.

Coming Soon, Santa Bring Me a Ryan

 

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Earlier this year, I decided to start writing something a little different. A holiday romance novel.

I wanted it to be fun—a light-hearted love story with rom-com movie flair, like my novella Fake It Til She Makes It.

I wondered: what will the female main character’s goal be? Maybe she’ll want something for Christmas?

Ryan Gosling came to mind. And so did Ryan Reynolds. And Ryan Phillipe. Yes, the main character will want Santa to bring her “a Ryan.”

The idea made me laugh. But to make a story interesting, there must be conflict.

I wondered: what if Santa doesn’t bring her a Ryan? Maybe he brings her a Bryan, instead?

Intriguing.

What if Bryan is her boss?

Oh…

And what if her boss, Bryan, has to fire her?

Now, we’re talking!

The characters started talking, too—coming to life, developing their voices, and sharing their stories.

Santa Bring Me a Ryan is a funny, light-hearted, holiday romp inspired by Meet the Parents, Bridget Jones Diary, and a whole lot of holiday spirit.

I look forward to sharing Jules’ and Bryan’s love story with you.

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The e-book will be on Amazon soon. Once it’s available, I’ll be sure to let you know.