A Look Back at An Accidental Kiss

An Accidental Kiss

Five years have passed since I wrote this, and so much has changed. I think writing, back in 2013, was a means of escape for me at a time in my life when I felt so hemmed in and frustrated. I decided to write something short and romantic, sent this off, and crossed my fingers. A few weeks later I received in response a really nice email from an editor at The Wild Rose Press. She said my story had made her late for her meeting, which was so sweet. I loved the whole process of working with an editor, getting a final draft completed, getting a cover sorted out. And these characters, Marcy  (a 40-something librarian with an interfering mother), Justine (her fourteen year old daughter) and Frank ( the Western writer who meets Marcy on a blind date) still make me smile.  I really had fun writing this at the dining room table in my trailer, doing as much as I could before the school bus delivered William home.

The world outside my window is cloudy and very autumnal today. I’ve just walked Rudy and Emily, am now taking a break and contemplating the past week – a long weekend with Doug (we went junking and brought home a lovely, battered old chair to set by the kitchen window), a visit to the new ice-cream shop in town, an an entire night spent wide-eyed at the computer after overdosing on Cuban coffee.  I’m writing, working on something much longer than An Accidental Kiss, and it has taken me since the beginning of the year to reach this point – I’m almost at the end of 1st edits, and racked with doubts. I’ve stuck with it though, which is quite an achievement for me, I’ve accumulated several abandoned attempts at novels through the years. It has taken perseverance for me to reach this point – I’m not the most persevering, disciplined person in the world, to put it mildly. My goal now is to finish this, set it aside for 2 months, then take a fresh look at it.

Our hummingbirds are still going strong!

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The Great Chicken Debate

Winter is just around the corner. There are a few fallen leaves to crunch through now when we walk the dogs and leaves are starting to die and take on a burnished look. I’ve felt like crap for most of this month. I’m exhausted from what appears to be a cold/allergies and wakes me up most nights. When I do sleep, it’s because I’ve knocked back a Nyquil. So my mornings are groggy and I feel generally bleuh right now. Getting outside always lifts my spirits, and you’d think the garden would be mostly dead by now, with October just a fortnight away, but not so. Zinnias and 4 o’clocks are still going strong, I picked a delicious little green pepper yesterday for lunch, and there are fresh tomatoes every day. Bees and honeybees are stick stoking themselves up in preparation for winter, and monarchs are a frequent sight, often fluttering around in groups. Most surprisingly of all, we’re still seeing hummingbirds every day, in fact September has been the most active month yet for hummingbirds.

from my seat by the kitchen window

It really is amazing to be able to observe them so closely. Our most frequent visitor has become very territorial and perches on the tomato cage so that she can intercept any other birds that might try to use the feeder. She’ll then dive at them and chase them off.  We’ve added another feeder and have observed as many as 5 hummingbirds at a time feeding and chasing each other through the pear trees, weaving through the branches like little stunt planes. I’m sure they should be on their way to Mexico by now.

We’re talking a lot about plans for next year. More flowers definitely, and tomatoes in the ground rather than in containers, different locations for carrots and peas, and we want to use the space across the street to plant additional flowers for bees and butterflies to use. And something we are discussing is the possibility of getting chickens. I have been interested in raising chickens for almost as long as I can remember, and they are now permitted in Perry as long as you get permission from the council and follow certain rules. I’m tempted to buy a load of chicken paraphernalia and go for it but have to keep considering possible drawbacks, there are quite a few a) would chickens freeze to death during the winter? b) would they attract foxes, rats, possums and raccoons? They almost certainly would. c) would they be happy kept in a run and not allowed to free range around the garden? If I let them out of the run, they’d escape into the park as we have no fence. d) could I find someone to keep an eye on them if we needed to leave town? Probably not. The only positive things I can think of are that we’d get fresh eggs out of the deal, and that I’d dearly love to give this a shot. Was thinking ‘go for it’ yesterday and joined a chicken keeping group on Face Book, only to end up reading a harrowing post from a woman whose chicken had a prolapsed uterus. Honestly don’t know if I’d be capable of dealing with something like that.

the beginning of the garden season – this was in April, excitedly starting off seeds in the kitchen. Many of them died.

Well whether I mind it or not (and I definitely do mind it, I will miss summer in spite of mosquitoes and humidity ruining my hair) these lovely days are drawing to a close and I expect I’ll spend a good part of this winter arguing with myself about chickens.

 

A Trip back to Colorado

Last Thursday morning we headed back to Colorado after dropping Rudy and Emily off with a dogsitter named Addie who lives in the nearby town of Adel. We listened to music and podcasts on the 10 hour drive, drank coffee, talked and ate a Subway sandwich on the road. I was lookingforward to seeing the kids again – especially as this would be my first time seeing Conor since I left the trailer 9 months ago. Once again we were renting a house. Last experience doing this in April was not so great – we stayed in Golden, in a cramped townhome with a threadbare couch, ancient bedding, a coffee maker that didn’t work properly and the owner didn’t provide toilet paper, so one of the first things we had to do after we arrived was run out and get loo roll. This time we were staying in an older area of Denver and had no idea what to expect. Arrived on schedule in a really pretty, historic part of Denver called Sunnyside. Our little house was a 1950’s ranch with a bright yellow front door and pampas grass growing in the front garden.

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Inside was a spacious living room with a really comfy couch, modern kitchen, beer in the fridge plus food, 2 bedrooms and a back garden that was quite private considering the location. We loved this house right from the start. I haven’t spent a lot of time in Denver – I was stuck in the dreary suburbs – but Sunnyside is a cute little pocket in the capital with a nice vibe, close to parks and cafes. We’d decided to check out Cafe Cubano and set off the next morning to sample Cuban coffee for the first time. We both love coffee, but I was a bit cautious because I like mine with milk. We found the cafe after a pleasant walk through the neighborhood, admiring gardens and old houses – it all felt a bit like Portland.

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the Cuban coffee shop in Sunnyside

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inside the cafe

The waitress was a bit snooty, but brought us small shots of coffee in little glasses, topped with a foamy substance. Sipped cautiously; it was absolute heaven! They were playing Motown music and I was drinking this gorgeous coffee and with this gorgeous man and due to see kids, just felt so happy.

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structure in the park we visited

We found a shop called Mid-Mod selling 1950’s furniture and knick-knacks and bought a few keepsakes for the house and strolled to the park. Then we drove to Littleton to see William, and he’s doing well after his difficult summer, which featured a broken pinkie and a rather spectacular seizure. He seemed unsure when he first saw me (probably completely amazed) then smiled and sat with me as we chatted to Tonya – it was a really good visit. Hard to say goodbye though.

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Then the next day Conor came over and it was back to the Cafe Cubano again, then in the afternoon it was off to see Ivy and her girlfriend Page with Conor in tow – visited Ivy’s house and helped round up escaped chickens and was introduced to the bees and admired all the veggies. It was so good to be with the kids again.

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with Conor

We left early on Saturday morning. I hadn’t slept well and felt sad and really tired, but at the same time was looking forward to seeing Rudy and Emily again and getting back into a routine. We found Iowa very rainy when we got back and it has stayed the same way. Looks like we’re saying goodbye to summer. Bees and butterflies are still visiting, although less plentiful now, but every time I think the butterflies are gone I’m proved wrong. Two enormous monarchs fluttered in this morning. I stood under one of the pear trees and looked up to watch THREE hummingbirds weaving in and out of the branches! Every evening over supper we’ve been watching a little hummingbird (Freddie, we call him) fiercely guarding the feeder by the kitchen window from another hummingbird, whom Freddie will attack if he dares to come near. Freddie perches on the tomato cage. If rain falls on him, he just fluffs his feathers.

The garden is still colorful – plenty of buds opening, although it might get too cold for them soon. I’ve started harvesting 4 o’clock seeds. I wanted to do the same with sunflower seeds but reckon the birds beat me to it. I’m waiting for the zinnias to completely dry out before I harvest their seeds. We still have tomatoes every day. I’ve made ketchup with fresh tomatoes (not our own unfortunately, we didn’t get enough big ones) and at the weekend, after returning from Denver, we strained our blackberry cordial into bottles. This was the stuff we made a few months ago with blackberries picked in the park and at the bottom of the garden. The fruit has been steeping in vodka and sugar. We strained it and decanted into bottles. It is really lovely, sweet and fruity more than boozy.

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yummy blackberry cordial we drank last night

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a monarch braving the cloudy weather, probably my last butterfly picture of 2018

So summer (my happiest ever) has ended on a great note and we’re full of plans for next year (bees? Veggies on the space across the street? Definitely more flowers and herbs).

 

The Weekend

Mr B usually works on Saturdays, so I was thrilled when he announced on Friday that he had the next day off. We drove into Jefferson on Saturday, a small town about 30 minutes away.  Due to the Iowa State Fair it was really quiet, although I doubt it’s ever really bustling, and I saw that the cafes and coffee shops seemed to have adopted the usual custom of small cafes and shops in small town Iowa of having really arbitrary, bizarre opening hours. So we were out of luck when it came to having coffee in Jefferson. The bell tower was open for visitors – you can climb to the top and touch the bell, however I have been overdoing it with the squats and knew I wasn’t up to climbing a lot of stairs.

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the courthouse and Lincoln statue in Jefferson

We did a bit of junking though. I’m a Target fan, Mr B is not (and I have to admit Target stuff is a bit generic). We both like things that have a mid-century vibe and found a 1950s cookie jar with a southwestern design, perfect for our coffee. In a little antique store Mr B pointed out a large green vase to me and I fell in love on the spot, we are starting to know each others tastes now. The vase has a drippy green glaze and that sort of trippy, hippy look that things from the 1960s sometimes do.

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it came with a little milk jug too

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the trippy green vase

Other highlights from the weekend; I spotted a Painted Lady butterfly, we walked the dogs to the corn field just beyond the park and laughed at what a novelty corn is to them, we lazed around in bed with our coffee Sunday morning with the dogs on the bed (this is Sunday morning custom they absolutely love). After Doug opened the curtains on Sunday morning I lay in bed and watched 2 hummingbirds flitting through the pear tree. The weather was hot again, but it’s chucking down today, and there are plenty of signs of fall approaching if you look. Leaves are drifting down and there are hardly any lightning bugs now when we sit outside. I am desperately hoping summer will hang on a bit longer, there are still buds on my flowers and the 4 o’clocks that took so long to open up finally appeared, in white, scarlet and peachy pink. They open up each day when the light fades

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wall in Jefferson

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A busy week half way through August

Last night as we ate our Thursday BLTs we listened to Aretha Franklin songs and I was reminded of what a truly amazing voice she had. Watched Don Lemon on CNN later and he was so affected by her death he’d been crying. How sad that such an inspiring, awesome woman is gone from this world. We’ve started heading off to the little Farmer’s Market in Perry each Thursday where we buy tomatoes and make BLTs for supper. After last week’s experience we are sticking to buying produce. You would think that if you can trust anything in this world it would be an old woman selling baked goods in Iowa, but after blowing 6 bucks on three mini loaves – two blueberry, one banana – we are saying, never again. They were dry as sawdust and she appeared to have omitted the sugar. I briefly considered confronting her this week and demanding a refund, but decided to give here the benefit of the doubt; maybe she’d left the sugar out by accident and isn’t really a lousy cook. But her mini loaves were so utterly foul she inspired me to make some of my own. I now have some tiny mini loaf pans and have made peach/cinnamon loaves (mmm) pear/ginger loaves (Mr B loved) and coffee flavored loaves (tiny bit dry, so I made frosting to put on top and Mr B suggested adding choc chips next time.) I also made some Greek focaccia bread, which was a wee bit salty (I put too much on top) but otherwise delicious and definitely something I’ll bake again.

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the smaller ones we grew ourselves, the medium one from see d – these are delicious. Big ones are from the Farmer’s Market in Perry.

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focaccia bread, easy and so good.

It’s been a good week of moving forward with 1st edits on Bohemia Road and walking Rudy and Emily. The weather cooled off slightly and we’re noticing signs of fall; leaves in the park turning scarlet and brown. Special moments this week; walking the dogs on Monday morning I spotted a massive cream-colored with black markings butterfly – a two-tailed swallowtail, I think. It was fluttering around the bushes that edge the park.

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the dogs hated me stopping to snap this picture.

Then on Tuesday around 7 as I sipped coffee I opened the curtains in the kitchen and there was a small fawn by the lilacs. It was such a stunning sight, and then I spotted the mother. Decent pics impossible through the kitchen window unfortunately.

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the little fawn in the garden

We are taking for granted now a little the bees and butterflies that congregate around our flowers every day. I hurried for mt camera the first time I spotted a monarch but we get several each day now, even when it’s cloudy. I have also spotted a hummingbird moth and the lone hummingbird that comes to the feeder sat still enough for a picture a few nights ago.

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hummingbird

Our big sunflower fell over from the weight of all the flowers blooming last night; we had to prop it back up. I’m going to miss all this nature in a few months.0814181836a

 

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blue swallowtail

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monarch

It’s becoming increasingly tough getting the dogs out for a walk in the mornings, when all they want to do is snooze in my office while I write. Things change a little after supper; they seem to love Mr B holding one leash with me holding the other so they can trot along separately. They trot along very enthusiastically. Emily dashes madly after rabbits (which come out when the sun starts going down) then snuffles in the bushes where she’s seem them disappear. This is really my favorite time of day.

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Rudy and Mr B

Because were not getting much rain, mosquitoes are not a problem right now. There’s a slight breeze in the air. The dogs revel in sniffing at all the scents along the way, foxes, woodchucks, deer, raccoons. We marvel at how sprightly the dogs seem to be considering their ages, talk about the garden, or how my writing is going.

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So how is my writing going? Sometimes the answer to that is – great! I am bursting with ideas and snappy bits of dialogue and can’t wait to get cracking. Other days I wish I was doing anything else but writing this novel. I remind myself that it’s probably rubbish and I don’t have an agent and nobody will ever read it anyway, so I am wasting my time. It really can feel hard going at times. But since moving here to Iowa I have completed a rough draft and am now more than two thirds of the way through a 1st edit. I’ve learned a few things and one of them is that next time I’ll take even more time to plan/research because it’s a painful thing to discover your rough draft is so rough it’s completely useless. (Not all of it but certain chapters) I also try to remind myself that anything worth achieving is probably not going to be easy. Doug is that supportive presence every writer needs, especially this one who is so full of self doubt. When somebody asked me a few days ago, what do you do? and I began to reply that I didn’t work, he said; she is a writer.doggie walk[2] (1)