Sunday, February 26, 2017

Dreaming of France -- New Website

Thank you for joining this weekly meme. Grab a copy of the photo above and link back to An Accidental Blog. Share with the rest of us your passion for France. Did you read a good book set in France? See a movie? Take a photo in France? Have an adventure? Eat a fabulous meal or even just a pastry? Or if you're in France now, go ahead and lord it over the rest of us. We can take it.
It's hard for me to separate my writing life and my love for France, especially since three out of my four books are set in France.
So with that tenuous connection, I'll share with you my new website.

I worked with and got a helpful young man from Pakistan to build my website.
As you can see from the top right,  it has buttons to connect to me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.
The bottom of the page features my books and even has some of my book trailers on the main page.

You can learn more about my books by clicking on the "Books" page , and there are even a few pictures of France sprinkled on the FAQ page. 

I hope you'll visit my knew website and let me know what you think. 
Thanks for playing along and please visit the blogs of others who join in too.

Birthday Celebrations

This has been a  super busy week for me because I'm teaching online-only classes for one university starting next week, so I had to complete three weeks of online training, along with grading 60 papers from the other college where I teach, plus the actual teaching.
The end of the training is in sight though, and I'll be able to teach online no matter where I live (think France).
Now that I have a few minutes of down time, I wanted to tell you about my birthday extravaganza.
It started Thursday morning with a marvelous 5-mile run in the 54-degree weather. That is the warmest it has ever been on my birthday when I lived in Ohio.
I'm a blur because I took this picture as I was running. 
 When I got home from my run, my dutiful husband was in the kitchen putting an egg wash on the chocolate croissants before he slid them in the oven.

So after my shower, I got to enjoy a chocolate croissant. Then we drove through Starbucks on the way to work for a free birthday drink. I got my favorite, a white chocolate mocha with an extra shot of espresso -- all decaf, since I've been off caffeine for years now, ever since 2012 when I broke my nose and had caffeine withdrawal before my surgery. But that's another story you can read here if you want. 
On Tuesdays and Thursdays I teach from 8-2 with 10 minute breaks between each of my four classes. So things were pretty normal without any birthday fun. Only one class knew that it was my birthday and they urged me to cut class short so I could celebrate.
After I got home from work, I changed into my spring-time sandals. So pleased to be able to share the pedicure that my husband had given me for Valentine's Day.

I went to the coffee shop for our Writers' Group and found a beautiful of pink gerbera daisies and a birthday card signed by the baristas plus my fellow writers.
Another writing friend came in with a balloon that says "Proud of You." He loved that it was so random.
Then two other friends came bearing gifts -- Angie brought me power greens because she doesn't like them. Emily stopped by with her two-year-old and gave me a quart of blueberries. I used them both to make juice the next morning.
Then, as the rain began to pour, my husband showed up to escort me to dinner. We were going to a restaurant just down the street from the coffee shop. All three kids showed up, although Tucker had to leave early for a game in his soccer league, and Spencer got there late because he was working.
There is just something satisfying about gathering all my children together.

We had a starter of goat cheese with tomato aioli and toast triangles. Then I had crab cakes for my main course.
We came home afterward to a luscious-looking cake that my husband made. This was my favorite cake as a child, and each year Earl tries to recreate it. The icing is boiled and can be so tricky to make. It has to be boiled to the exact temperature and then beaten until it loses its sheen.
This year, it turned out perfectly so that it hardened on the cake like a fudge shell.

We also opened a bottle of dessert wine to drink with the cake. 
Yes, the wine came from France and is one of the few remaining bottles we have from our trips. I guess we'll stock up again in May when we travel to southwest France again.
Grace's boyfriend Jack was able to join us after his play rehearsal, so even though we lost Tucker to soccer, we gained another dark-haired boy for the celebration.
I went to bed full and happy, but the festivities continued the next morning with a facial, which was my birthday present.
The esthetician, who has been giving me a facial once a year, went on an on about how good my skin felt. She suspected it might have been the juice cleanse which made it so healthy. "It even looks good under the magnifying lamp and that's saying something!"
But I focused on the relaxation of the facial and felt totally relaxed when I walked out.
Ahhh. I love birthdays, even if this is the last one I'll celebrate in the U.S. It definitely lived up to my expectations.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Dreaming of France -- Healthy Food

Thank you for joining this weekly meme. Grab a copy of the photo above and link back to An Accidental Blog. Share with the rest of us your passion for France. Did you read a good book set in France? See a movie? Take a photo in France? Have an adventure? Eat a fabulous meal or even just a pastry? Or if you're in France now, go ahead and lord it over the rest of us. We can take it.
This week, because of some borderline medical test results (nothing serious), we have started getting serious about eating healthier.
If we already lived in France, we'd be eating healthier, so we might as well get a jump on it. But I expect it to be a bit more challenging here in the U.S.
In France, we'll visit the market a few times a week and buy whatever is fresh.
Do you think these oranges came from Spain?

These potatoes and peppers look firm and fresh.
We're trying to eat more whole foods, cutting down on carbs and sugars.
Salad seems to always be a part of a French meal, traditionally after the main course, although some restaurants have begun to serve them before the main course, more American style.

That's not to say that we will only eat fruits and vegetables. We'll definitely indulge in French specialties, such as these galettes served with hard cider.

Galettes are similar to crepes but they are made with buckwheat rather than white flour, and they are savory instead of sweet. These galettes might have been filled with cheese, ham, potatoes, eggs or a variety of other fillings. 
I hope I've convinced you to start thinking about more whole foods, as my family embarks on healthier meals. Tonight, we had garlic butter haddock filets, baked sweet potatoes and green beans. 
Thanks for playing along and please visit the blogs of others who join in too.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Tuesday Intro -- Letters from Paris

Every Tuesday, Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea posts the first paragraph of her current read. Anyone can join in. Go to Diane's website for the image and share the first paragraph of the current book you are reading.
I wrote about this book Letters from Paris by Juliet Blackwell for Dreaming of France on Monday, so I thought I'd share the intro today. The book goes back and forth in time from Claire Broussard who grew up in Louisiana and travels to Paris after the death of her grandmother who raised her. She's
trying to track down the artists who make masks like the one she found in her attic as a child, and the mask might be connected to her own history. The book jumps back in time to 1897 to tell the story of Sabine, a young French woman who travels to Paris in hopes of finding work.

Here's the intro from the prologue:
February 27, 1898
He sleeps.
Sabine creeps across the dark studio before dawn, beseeching the silent faces not to betray her. They watch her every move, mute witnesses to her crime.
Slipping through the door, she winces at the scraping sound of metal on metal as she pauses to latch it behind her. Fog envelops her,, the mist cutting through her threadbare blouse and underthings, wet needles of cold air piercing her skin. 
  I'm also joining in with Teaser Tuesday which is a weekly bookish meme, hosted Ambrosia @The Purple Booker.
Here's my teaser from page 65:
Claire's stomach growled again. And knock her over with a feather: there was a McDonald's. Right there on the Champs-Elysees.
If that wasn't a sign, she didn't know what was. Claire ducked into the fast-food restaurant. 
I don't know about you, but I'm a little put off by an American who eats at McDonalds when in France. We did it when we traveled with the kids, but I would have to be super homesick pass up French restaurants and cafes to eat at McDonalds.
Here are the kids outside a McDonalds as we drove through France. 
Hope everyone is reading something good.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Female Friends and Dieting

What is it about telling a female friend that you are dieting that makes her urge you to stop?
My friend Sheila says maybe we're only trying to help each other increase our self-esteem -- "You look great!" "You don't need to lose weight!" or even "Diets don't work."
We all do it.
I don't enjoy dieting, but a look at the scale reminds me that I weigh about 30 pounds more than I did when we moved to Columbus.
I was even heavier here when we traveled to France in 2015.
I don't want to avoid cameras or dislike my photos in France
because of my weight. 
I weigh almost as much now as I did when I gave birth to my youngest, and he's the one I gained the most weight with.
Yes, I know that muscle weighs more than fat and that I work out constantly so I am probably healthy, but what is wrong with wanting to be at a lower weight?
I'm not trying to lose 30 pounds. People say that would be too skinny, but if you look at me when I was that weight, you wouldn't think I was anorexic.
See? Healthy. Not too skinny. But also young. I'm not trying
to get to that weight. Just less than I am now. 
I look good, healthy -- although at the time, I never realized it.
I just want to lose about 10 pounds.
If I lose 4 pounds from where I am now -- mid diet -- I'll officially not be overweight anymore. That means I'll reach the top end of the BMI which means between 21-25 BMI. Again, I know that muscle might throw off the official BMI reading, but if you looked at the places I carry fat, you really can't argue that I could lose those pounds and it wouldn't hurt. It might make me feel better, run faster, feel sexy about my body.
I promise I'm not in danger of becoming anorexic, and I'm not judging anyone else who is happy with their body. Good for you. I hope to join you on that platform once I reach my goal.