Our Own Surprise AirBNB

Right now, I have two huge pots full of philodendron vines and stalks. The bigger one is in my living room, up on a coffee table I’ve never been able to get rid of because it’s just as hardy as the philodendron that sits on the tabletop–and just as functional. I have that plant by the west window in my living room, so it can get the evening light that comes after the sun sinks lower than the side porch roof. And on that side porch, right under that same window, I have an outdoor plant stand that I decided this spring needed the other heavy philodendron in my life. After all, a house really can have too many philodendrons under one roof, especially two as full and leafy as mine (and I’ve given away cutting to so many of my friends they almost run away if they see me carrying anything green).

Honey's grinWhen I put the plant atop the stand on the side porch, I chiefly did so to keep the incredible wagging tail of the incredible yellow Lab who lives here from knocking the plant stand from one end of the porch to the other (the lovely dog means well, but she’s huge, and has no idea what her tail is doing at any time of the day–unless, of course, she’s chasing it).

So, imagine my surprise about a month ago when I started to water the philodendron in the late-July heat, and found a mess of brown twigs and straw balanced on the edge of the large terracotta pot. I couldn’t believe it could possibly be the start of a bird’s nest, but could find no other explanation. I watered the plant, left the woody mess to see what happened next, and went back into the house. Within a few days the nest was taking shape, but since it was balanced half on dirt and half on–well, nothing but air–this little avian B&B didn’t last long.

Still, the bird persevered, and began building a new nest. This time the attempt was a little farther into the philodendron, and more of the nest was grounded by potting soil–but after three days its fate was the same as the first nest, and it splintered into pieces after it fell to the porch cement.

Third time is the charm, however, and the bird struck B&B gold–very little AirBnB this time–when it built the third nest almost completely on philodendron leaves, runners, and potting soil. Just the back edge of the nest overhung the pot lip. I carefully watered around the nest to keep the plant from dying, and the bird came and went each day with building materials, finally topping the nest with a roof. A small hole was the only opening to see inside.

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After a few days, I saw this–

See the two tiny little eggs showing under the shade of the philodendron leaf. They are sooooo tiny, and they looked a lot like white Cadbury mini-eggs (yes, my mind is never very far away from chocolate).

 

For each of the next two days, another egg appeared when I took my morning gander. The temps were warm enough (it was early-August, after all) that the mama apparently didn’t feel she had to sit on her nest.

In the past week, however, things have been quite different. Mama bird started spending nearly the whole day in her roofed nest. Anytime anyone would walk by, she took off in a flash to try to divert attention away from her eggs. One afternoon, when hubby thought she was gone and he wanted to see if any of the eggs hatched, she surprised him by being on guard, and nearly flew into his head to drive away his attention.

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The next day, I watered the Lab and when I went back through the side door, I saw this–

Yes, pretty much just the open beak is visible for the baby bird, the rest of him blends in beautifully with the colors of the nest. Since I took this shot, I’ve seen two more baby birds–and each had their beaks wide open in anticipation of anyone dropping a worm in their mouths (I didn’t comply). I don’t know if the bird in the fourth egg is in hiding, or had grabbed a lion-bird’s share of the food the last time one of the parents came by, but so far the head count remains at three visible and accounted for. However, the fourth egg is not in the middle of the nest anymore, where it sat with the others, so I’m thinking it’s just a scaredy-bird myself.

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And here is the best picture I’ve managed to get of the mama. She’s a sweet little wren, and she flies in and out all day looking for ways to feed these bottomless baby stomachs. Poor thing. I can only get a shot of her through the double-pane glass and screen, and I had to use a tripod and zoom because she flies away anytime she sees me at the window. The daddy wren is a good bit bigger, but I’ve never had the camera handy when he came by to wrangle the young’uns to the dinner table.

The window I shot this picture through is in the living room, near the television, and right on the way for the main entrance we use for the kitchen. Not exactly my idea of a quiet AirBnB spot for tranquil living, but even after the philodendron pot rejected the nest twice the birds triumphed in the end. So this apparently is the best spot they could find to raise their young. I guess this means the philodendron will have to return to the side porch every spring, just like the bird migrations. I’ll have to remember to put it on my calendar to make sure the birds have a place to construct their annual AirBnB again.  :)

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When You Need a Little Christmas–in August

Christmas ice rinkI’m in the middle of writing the third book in the Bodies of Art series. So much fun! I love writing from Laurel Beacham’s point-of-view, and globetrotting across the page with her and her snarky sense of humor.

While the book won’t be out until 2016, the manuscript is due to my editor at Henery-Press-Beachy-ChickenHenery Press on November 1st. However, since the book is set in early November, and starts in London, I’ve been happily finding U.K. holiday connections. And wow! Am I having a blast!!!

Lovely double-decker bus and snowflake lightsLighted Christmas FeathersLondon Christmas lights start going on display the first week in November. Could I have picked a better time frame, or what? Oxford Street and Regent Street are both located in some very exclusive map coordinates. While Oxford Street is only a mile and a half long, it runs right through Mayfair (yeah, the really ritzy part of London) and on into SoHo. The shops through that Royal Mail quandrant are way out of my price range–Laurel’s too, if truth be told–but just imagine the great window shopping.

But that’s not all. Covent Garden and the British Museum are just a stone’s throw away once Oxford Street dead-ends into Soho. And take a right when Regent Street bisects Oxford at about the halfway point, and it’s just a short jog to the National Portrait Gallery or any of a number of theaters (or theatre if we’re talking with a Brit accent. lol), and even the Royal Opera House.

However, while Oxford Street is a haven for those looking for the most unique gift for that special person on the list, at Christmas time the best views Better image with the reindeer branch lightsaren’t even in the windows, but stretched above the macadam instead. Part of my research for book #3 required more than a little Internet touring to see the bright and shiny that comes out above Londoners and tourists alike. From early November until just after New Year’s, shoppers have the chance to ooh and awe over brilliant sights before they even get a glimpse into store windows.

Covent Garden Christmas LightsI’ve sprinkled a few pics around this post to whet your appetite, but if you want to see more, check out these links for a couple of marvelous screen shows:

Christmas Lights in London

More Christmas Lights in London

So, if you’re as sick as I am of summer already, do a little Christmas shopping early. Not for Blue arc Christmas Lightsgifts, necessarily, but for the wonderful displays cities like London offer to ring in the holidays. Here are a couple more if you haven’t yet gotten your fill. Me? I’m heading back to Laurel’s world and finishing up this book so I can start writing the next one!

 

Better Christmas shot with double-decker bus

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Do You Like Newly Released Paperbacks Under $5?

Had a nice surprise this afternoon when an author friend told me that Amazon had her upcoming release in a favorite series on sale for $4.69 — down from the $7.99 regular price. That’s more than $1 less even than the price of a Kindle copy for this title. I went out and quickly purchased a copy of the book Knot the Usual Suspects by Molly MacRae. But as is my usual habit, I check to see what other books people are ordering who purchase this title, and found Amazon is running a number of other upcoming releases on sale in paperback at the $4.69 pricing–books all available for preorder ahead of a Sept. 1st release date. In looking further, I found more discounted upcoming releases at $5.69 in paperback, too,  for titles that will be released sooner–on August 4th. So I thought I’d do a quick blog to let everyone have a chance to grab titles in their favorite series at a discount–or try a new series at a bargain. These are not only for August 4th, Sept. 1st & Sept. 29th preorders, but one of the titles is already out and available for shipping at more than $2 off regular price–no waiting! All these books are better priced than their Kindle copies–some offer a more than $2 discount on the paperback over the price of an ebook! Also please note that you must click the hot link–in this case the book title–to shoot over to the books’ Amazon page. The book covers are just to liven up the blog–they aren’t a portal to transport you there, folks. Sorry :)

HERE’S THE LIST of paperbacks to preorder at $4.69 or $4.75 for Sept 1st release–

Knot the Usual SuspectsKnot the Usual Suspects by Molly MacRae, A Haunted Yarn Shop Mystery

The Marsh Madness by Victoria Abbot, a book collector mysteryMarsh Madness

Fudging the Books by Daryl Wood Gerber, Cookbook Nook Mystery #4

Trick or Deceit by Shelley Freedont, a Celebration Bay mystery

Black Cat CrossingBlack Cat Crossing by Kay Finch, first in a new series

Trick or Deceit

Fudging the Books

and Dead with the Wind by Miranda James is available for preorder at $5.03 for a September 29th releaseDead with the Wind

HERE’S THE LIST of paperbacks to preorder at bargain prices still for an August 4th release  (that’s just around the corner!). All of these–though not quite as cheap as the books with more distant release dates–are all less expensive than even their Kindle copies (as much as $2 off!):

Loom & DoomLoom an Doom by Carol Ann Martin (A Weaving Mystery) on sale for $5.68

A Dish Best Served Cold by Rosie Genova, An Italian Kitchen Mystery on A Dish Best Served Coldsale for $5.99

Crushed VelvetCrushed Velvet by Diane Villare, A Material Witness Mystery on sale for $6.20

 

 

AND FINALLY, A TITLE AVAILABLE NOW and sale-priced at the moment at $5.68, so grab it while it’s a deal–

Grace Cries Uncle by Julie Hyzy, a Manor House MysteryGrace Cries Uncle

HAPPY READING!!!!

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For TBT–My Favorite Commercials

I’m a reader–always have been–but I grew up as a television kid, too. I learned the ingredients of the Big Mac watching the McDonald’s commercial (yes, I can still say it nonstop without having to breathe–not bragging, just trivial fact). And kind of like commercials, I aced the grammar section in high school English class by knowing all the School House Rockwords to all of the Grammar Rock shorts. I also learned how a bill becomes a law by watching History Rock to help make an A on a 10th grade history test. And yes, that means I watched Saturday morning cartoons even when I was in high school (who am I kidding–I was still watching them when I got married). So, yeah, I’m geared for the shorts between show segments that get my attention, make me laugh, make me think, and make me remember.

Now, for Throwback Thursday, here is my list of My Favorite Commercials, with links to the videos if you want to reminisce a bit yourself. I’ve added pictures to decorate this post, but they’re just for show.  Look for the hot link to click over to the shorts you might want to watch again (and again).Hope you enjoy!

ClydesdalesI look forward to the Budweiser commercials every Super Bowl just to see the Clydesdales. However, Puppy Love is my all-time favorite, though it’s a fairly recent one. Of the 58.6 million hits on YouTube, my viewing probably accounts for 10 percent. Just kidding, but I really have watched it a lot of times. Before Puppy Love came out I counted the one with the Clydesdale Colt Getting a Little Help from His Friends as my fave. But truthfully, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Budweiser Clydesdale commercial I haven’t liked. But I don’t like the beer.

Mean Joe GreeneI appreciate a good pop commercial too–caffeinated and otherwise. My two favorite drinks were (and still are) Coke and 7-Up, so it’s no stretch to figure out that I have commercial favorites of each one. First, the earliest (yes the the same one used in the finale of Mad Men) the Hilltop Singers Offering the World a Coke. Next, the cool, un-caffeinated soda ad for 7-Up, The Uncola Commercial from the 70s. And about 9 years later the one where a Kid Gives Mean Joe Green a Coke from 1980.

May the Force be with youOkay, now going from the pop you drink to pop culture–yes, I am a Star Wars/Indiana Jones total-geekout girl. So I absolutely LOVED the Volkswagen commercial where a half-pint Darth Vader finally–successfully–used the power of the force and even surprised himself. Check out May the Force Be With Volkswagen.

These next two are really close. I honestly can’t tell you which is my very favorite. It truly is a tie.

Bird & JordanFirst up, a commercial really close to my heart because I Love Basketball. No surprise then that the Larry Bird/Michael Jordan decade was my all-time favorite basketball era ever. Given that information, it should also be no surprise that I adored the Bird/Jordan “Nothing But Net” competitions they did for McDonald’s. Want to know a secret? I still have one of the “Nothing But Net” caps you could buy at McDonald’s during that time, and I’ve never worn it because I don’t want anything to happen to it. The cap is packed away safe and sound on a shelf high in my closet. My kid will probably sell it on eBay someday (or whatever is the equivalent to eBay in the future). I’ve never even shown the cap to my husband. LOL! Hmmm, the kid may not know about this legacy. Anyway, did you like this commercial too? Then watch these two compete in Larry Bird & Michael Jordan–Nothing But Net

Cat HerdingWhich commercial is tied for my all time favorite? The EDS Commercial–Cat Herding. Funniest thing about this ad wasn’t the cat herding. It was the fact that everyone who saw it loved it, but no one ever remembered the company behind the message. The video was really great, but I’m not sure it was actually a successful commercial. Still, it was absolutely brilliant!

InterjectionsThanks to all the folks who put these videos on YouTube throughout the years. I’ll leave you with my favorite Grammar Rock–Interjections! Have a Wow! day, everyone.

Do you have a favorite commercial you want to share? Leave a note about it in the comments :)

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Yes, another editon of What’s New–and Free–and Made Me Smile Wednesday…

Ah, yes, we’re back for another edition of things I’ve found for free that I want to share with you mid-week. I’m focusing this time on free things that make me smile–hope they add a smile to the rest of everyone else’s week, too. So, here’s an animal story, an easy craft project, a way to stretch creativity, and a place to find free foreign language tools. Enjoy!

First up, this article about a golden retriever and his…well, let’s just say ‘offbeat’ friends. Click this Link to read the article, or you can just gaze happily at the picture–n-BOB-GOLDEN-RETRIEVER-large570

Bob the dog, and his eight bird friends and hamster buddy all live in Brazil, but his Instagram followers total more than 53K, and he has 12,000 friends on Facebook.

 

I’ve been in the middle of finding frugal tips–not just to stretch my wallet, but to help inDiet Coke Can Hacks developing a new character I have in a brand new mystery series (no more hints now, but will post on it soon). My series characters is more likely to recycle aluminum cans for the cash, rather than to create new things, but I wanted to share this video I stumble upon anyway. I’d suggest especially noting the last (tip#3) idea shown, as it could easily be the best and least expensive “quick gift” for a friend, mom, grandma, etc. All the tips are good, but I thought the last one really created “glowing” great potential. Click here to watch three clever ways to reuse soda cans–it’s only 3 minutes long & well worth the short time. Oh, and you’ll need to scroll down a page and a half to get to the video (I hate pages like this that pad the top, but this short video is worth hitting Page Down a couple of times).

For parents trying to find cheap and creative ways to help children stretch their imaginations during the summer months, take a look at The Amazon Free Storyteller. Click Here for the free tool that lets anyone upload a script they’ve written and bring it to life–so you might find it just as much fun as your children. Use the pre-designed characters, props, and backgrounds that Amazon includes at the site to create a storyboard or video. Yes, you can easily illustrate a story, and even incorporate music and sounds from Amazon’s free library. If you want more info on how it’s done, or how to share your/your kids’ mini blockbuster with others, there’s and FAQ Page to give you more info and even more ideas.

Have you ever wanted to learn a foreign language–and for free? Sound interesting? Live Mocha is a website that gives you full access to lessons in more than 35 languages. You just have to create an account. Finish the lessons and submit your work, and you’ll receive personalized feedback from other community members, including teachers, native speakers and language experts. Even more fun, the feedback often includes cultural information and speaking tips. There’s a “paid” section of the website, too, if you find you want to learn more after the free lessons are completed, but you’re not on the hook for anything.

For a bit more foreign language fun, the website Learn a Language offers over 1,400 free interactive flashcards to help the most important vocabulary in 19 languages. Included in these flashcards are 350 verbs, slang terms, greetings, and all the necessary survival questions you need to know before you can find a bathroom or a bookstore during your global travels.

Okay, that’s enough for this week. Remember to sign up for the PaperWhite giveaway on the contest page if you haven’t yet put your name into the drawing. You’ll find all the details on this site’s Contest Page, so click this link, or click the link on the header above.

And while they aren’t free, two of my books are on sale right now for 75% off. Get Organized for Murder and/or Counterfeit Conspiracies for a limited time at just 99 cents.

Have fun and enjoy! Back soon with more freebies I’ve found and want to share.

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For a Way to Get More News

Wanted to mention that I’ve finally taken the leap and started a Facebook Author Page at Ritter Ames Books. It has details right now about an FB event I’m participating in this Thursday, and how to enter for some of the prizes. And I’m planning a big giveaway by the end of the month to celebrate the new page–I’ll give the details once the Thursday Facebook event is no longer on the horizon. This is the page where I’ll post a fun or interesting thing I’ve discovered that relates to mysteries, as well as giveaways I learn that my fellow (and favorite) authors are doing at the moment. I’ll also be able to add first news easier there about my books too, just a brief post when there’s something my readers want to know. But I know Facebook isn’t for everyone, so I’ll still be posting info here–the blog process just doesn’t always have the brevity and immediacy options that a quick FB post achieves. Especially if it also relates to FB events, and there are more and more such events getting scheduled on FB all the time. So, feel free to like my author page if this sounds interesting. I promise not to swamp you with ads :)

RAM Author Page Banner

 

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What’s New–and Free–Wednesday

I’m trying to turn over a new leaf and blog more regularly, so since Wednesday is usually when the unexpected happens I’m starting here with a new feature on anything I find New or Free. Yeah, I know that sounds oxymoronic to start something on the day of the week I can usually control the least, but I’m always up for a challenge. So, here’s a potpourri of things I found interesting and/or free that I thought y’all might be interested in seeing, too.

Make Your Own Pallet BookshelfThis first idea is one that involves repurposing items with a little ingenuity and creativity. So items get recycled instead of ending up in landfills. I love projects like this–especially when you can get the materials cheaply or for just the cost of hauling it away for someone who doesn’t want the stuff anymore. This is a “Make Your Own Pallet Bookshelf” and a mini-tutorial can be found online–just Click Here

Adult Coloring PagesAre you a little stressed, and feel you need to let your inner child out to play? Well, go to Zen Downloadable Color Pages for Adults to not only find intricate color pages to make you forget your stress as you fill in the spaces with crayons, colored pencils or ink–but the site also gives a bit of information about why these kinds of designs help calm the soul.

If you want more coloring options, Mum in the Madhouse has a whole blog page full of downloadable coloring page options for every kind of taste and talent. Check it out and see :)

Carina Press is Celebrating their 5th Anniversary with a Giveaway on their blog. Check out the great books on offer and sign up for your own chance to win.

And if you’re looking for Free Mysteries to read over your summer vacation, Amazon’s Free Mystery Pages offer hundreds of great choices right now. Just click Next Page to get to the next set of books in the list.

I’m going to be looking for new things to send out next week. Let me know if you know about something you think I should include in a coming post.

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