Mardi Gras is Coming! by Pepper Phillips

100_0657In southern Louisiana, Mardi Gras is King!

Of course we decorate. This massive glass bowl held Christmas Balls during the Christmas Season.

Now it’s holding glass balls with Mardi Gras colors. Purple, green and gold are the designated colors. There aren’t many green balls in this, but I have more in the living room with equal amounts of the colors.

Come Easter, I’ll put in plastic easter eggs. The more the merrier.

It depends on the crazy woman who lives in the house how far she will take the decorations.

This crazy woman did have some nice wreaths, but that was a few years ago. A neighbor on another road does a gorgeous decoration on her mailbox.

I’ll wear my Mardi Gras t-shirt, plastic beads, a mask, anything that makes me happy.

We’ll purchase a King cake. These are big braided loaves of sweet bread, stuffed – my favorite is cream cheese – and decorated with icing colored yellow, green and purple, sometimes sprinkled with candy sparkle crystals. They used to put a little plastic baby or coin somewhere inside the cake and whoever got it, bought the next King cake.  In the olden days, they’d put in a bean. But most don’t have anything anymore because I’m sure someone somewhere sued when they chomped on one.

One year I made a King cake. The recipe was in a New Orleans cookbook and I was throwing the ingredients into the mixing bowl and then noticed…they were general instructions!  So, I braved through it and threw ingredients into that bowl and came up with something that wasn’t too bad after all.  I’m one of those cooks who will follow a recipe. Though I have ventured off the beaten path a few times, coming up with my own classic dishes.

There is a Krewe or two around this area. A King and a Queen are selected. There are parades, where Mardi Gras floats are rented or created by a business or individuals.

Parades are fun…except in the rain. I was in one parade with six inches of water in the bottom of the rented float. Everyone was miserable by the end of the parade…with wet feet!

Beads are thrown from floats, “Throw me something mister!” is the call of the day. Along with plastic cups, individually wrapped candies, maybe a t-shirt, and once our float threw out five thousand mini Moon Pies. My arm was sore for two days after that.

People dress up in costumes, sporting as many different kinds of beads that they can buy or catch.

It’s a different experience. Everyone knows that New Orleans has parades for weeks during the Mardi Gras season, but the small towns celebrate as well.

In Rayne, Louisiana, they do something that’s been done for years. Men on horseback roam the countryside with strange wire masks, getting the ingredients for a huge gumbo.

Fat Tuesday is the day for most of the small town celebrations.

If you can ever attend a Mardi Gras parade, do so. They are a lot of fun. My favorites are the ones held in Lafayette, Louisiana. They have three parades, a kid’s parade, the Queen’s parade, and the King’s parade.

The crowds are huge, and the kids are happy when they ‘catch’ something.

“Throw me something mister!”

“Laissez les bons tempt rouler.” Let the good times roll!

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Sneaux Days Again – In Louisiana!!!

Hey, Sneaux is how we spell Snow in French speaking Louisiana. Sneaux

And sneaux it did. Twice within five days!  Unheard of. Seriously, it might sneaux every few years or so. But twice. No. That doesn’t happen.

But happen it did. Last Friday closed all the schools. A light blanket covered yards, rooftops and cars.

Tuesday it snowed again, but this time was different. There was ice on the roads. We are not used to driving on ice. The schools were closed again.

You might wonder about that, but the reason is that so many kids ride the school bus and most of them must cross over small road bridges over bayous and they will ice up, so in order to be safe, they close the schools. The kids are overjoyed, the moms are crying.

Of course, I needed to go to town to pick up my medications. It was like a ghost town. Very few cars, going extra slow. I braved it at 15-18 MPH. There was ice, serious ice off the main roads.

I’m sure all the people in the north are laughing about now. But it’s dangerous for people who don’t know how to drive in sneaux, have no sneaux tires and are terrified when their car starts to slide sideways across the road.

Most of the stores were closed today. Customers weren’t driving around. And this is a first: a 6PM curfew.

Small town America…some of it might melt away by noon tomorrow. We’ll see.

My son did build a snowman last week. He got a garbage can and a shovel, filled it up with snow and then turned it over. Clever, but that’s now the way I learned to make a snowman.

The kids bought me the metal rooster. I call him Elvis because he has sideburns.

LOL

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My Neighbors and More

The dictionary defines neighbor as someone living near or standing next to another. In my book, the neighbor is any one of the people living in the four-hundred condos of the Blue Waves High Rise on the beach.

Ten years ago I moved from a house to an apartment in a multi-unit building. Downsizing and getting rid of numerous souvenirs was painful enough. Little did I know that living next to so many neighbors would involve losing part of the freedom I took for granted when I dwelt in a house.

My neighbors consist mainly of retirees who live all year round in their condos—and keep a pair of binoculars within reach to peek into their neighbors’ places, the pool area, or the beach terrace. In addition, you can count several snowbird couples who fly to Florida in winter, a few young working white collars who rent for a year or two to enjoy the proximity of the beach, and two or three families with a child. Our high rise is quite cosmopolitan, with South American, Russian, Canadian, French, Swedish, Greek condo owners,… A real Tower of Babel.

Soon enough I realized that the gorgeous and serene scenery surrounding us could hide many potential tempests. And I am not talking about hurricanes or tropical storms only. Passions can simmer and sizzle when you live too close for comfort.

Foreign Lovers Box

The following real examples astounded me:

The woman on the fifth floor broke a stormy affair with her lover from the tenth. 

The old widower on the twentieth floor married the young divorcee from the third floor, and died three months later. 

The neighbor on the seventh floor got drunk and drowned in the hot spa. 

A lady from the tenth floor disappeared for several days and was found floating on the shore five miles away.

As you can see, life is never boring in a high rise. Actually it is sometimes too eventful for my taste. I changed building, and discovered a new set of stories. That was when I decided I absolutely had to write a romantic suspense set in a building similar to the one where I live.  

Product Description:

Neighbors and More is a contemporary romance novel with elements of suspense and humor.

In the Blue Waves High Rise where so many neighbors live too close for comfort, Dante, the handsome Sicilian lawyer, and Alexa, the wealthy young divorcée, try to hide their idyllic romance. When a neighbor drowns in the Jacuzzi, life will forever change in the Blue Waves. Neighbors and More Amazon

 If you like to travel and love to read, come and enjoy my international romances. Meet the spirited heroines and the alpha heroes who share irresistible chemistry in stories that simmer with emotion and sizzle with heat.

Time’s Slipping Away

What? January’s coming to an abrupt end in nine days? Where in the world did it disappear to this year?
If I thought Thanksgiving, 2013, whizzed by, then Christmas, 2013, was a complete blur.

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Could it be I’m simply getting older and what my mom always said is true? “The older you get, the quicker the years fly by.”
I can tell you, because you’re my friend, I don’t like it one bit. Not one little bit.
For Christmas the kids gave me a Kindle Fire HD. I love it! But…sad as it is, I’ve barely seen the reader, still I managed to finish two short stories so far.

OTRAS (4)
Not that I don’t want to read more—so a search for reading time is underway. Care to bet I’ll find time? You bet I will because I can’t live without books. Neither can I live without writing.
So for now, I’ll plunge into setting up files for 2014 and concentrate on taxes while I plot the next novel.
I hope your year is going smoothly and without repercussions.
Oh, my next big thing? To dig my toes into warm sand and relax. IMG_0130

I hope you get all you ever dreamed of. I wish you love, butterflies and music.

Please check out our Christmas on Main Street boxed set if you haven’t already. You’re going to love the stories!

Stay tuned for Our Big Secret coming soon!

A Smoky Mountain Wedding – Book Two, coming soon.

My books are available at Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Kobo, Sony, Diesel, Apple and Smashwords.

You can find links on my website here. http://caroldevaney.weebly.com/my-books

Guilty Pleasures


This New Year’s Eve I didn’t make any resolutions. I haven’t kept a single resolution in my life, so why set myself up for failure?

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I know there are many bad habits I should break and some good ones I should pick up. I should eat better, exercise more, watch less TV. Maybe in the spring I’ll try harder. Canadian winters are too hard to get through without indulging in my guilty pleasures.

With the Olympics coming up, there’s no hope of cutting down on TV watching. I intend to take in as much of the Games as I can until I’m dreaming about Biellmann spins and double daffy twister jumps. It only comes around every four years.

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Of course I’ll have to fit that between episodes of my current addiction, Murdoch Mysteries (called The Artful Detective on Ovation). I missed the first five seasons so I have a lot of catching up to do!

All is not lost. I could walk on my treadmill while watching TV. That leaves my hands free for eating pie. Gotta have pie.

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Somehow I have to fit in writing as well. I’ve got several novels to finish this year. First there’s an exciting secret project with the Authors of Main Street, then a couple of sequels for my Music Box Series.

Treadmill-as-clothes-rackWish me luck.

12 Blog Tips for the New Year by Joan Reeves

A Book of Sunshine for Writers, Volume 1 by Joan Reeves

A Book of Sunshine for Writers, Volume 1 by Joan Reeves

In April, I’ll be celebrating the 9 year anniversary of my blog, SlingWords. Once I had 2 other blogs that I published nearly every day. I also guest blogged for clients for a number of years.

I really have no idea how many posts, all total, that I’ve written. I do know on SlingWords, that I’ve published over 2,000. I guess one could say I know a little about blogging. I also know that a successful blog is one of the best marketing tools a writer can have in her toolkit.

To help you achieve success in 2014, I’ve come up with 12 Blog Tips for the New Year. Take 1 tip each month and work with that tip. You’ll be surprised how much your blog will improve and how your audience will grow with just a few changes in your blog habits.

1. Start a blog if you don’t have one or if you have learned that the one you have doesn’t serve you well. If you already have a blog, then give it a makeover. A blog, when carefully structured, will draw in visitors who are not just other authors.

2. Make a commitment to blog a certain number of times each work. More is better.

3. Write about things that stir your passions, not things that you think you should cover.

4. Set up an editorial calendar that lists the topics you’ll cover. You can keep this private or post it on your blog. This will keep you from wondering what you’ll write.

5. If you want to keep expenses low, then use a free blogging platform. Blogger is easy to customize and maintain. Others say the same thing about WordPress. I use them both.

6. Use your name as your blog URL. Example: http://JohnDoe.blogspot.com. I learned this lesson the hard way. By the time I realized I should have used my name for my blog title, SlingWords was already too well-established to make the change over. I tried to switch it over to my name, but I abandoned the effort when I realized how many portals run my blog feed.

7. If you want to shell out a few bucks, buy your own domain name and set it up to point to your blog. Make sure it’s your name, not something descriptive.

8. Be consistent. If you say you’re going to blog 3 days a week, then follow through. Consistency builds a blog audience.

9. Although the bar is set lower for blog posts, do proofread your posts carefully.

10. Interact with your audience. Always respond to a comment left on your blog.

11. If you have Comment Verification turned off, then check every day to make sure you’re not getting spammed.

12. Avoid using elements on your blog that are listed as “most annoying” by web visitors: music, wacky fonts, black or very dark backgrounds with white or light-colored fonts, broken hot links, and content that isn’t formatted correctly for web reading.

Blogging should be fun. Adopt that attitude. Never look at blogging as a chore. It should be like sitting down with a friend for a nice chat. Build your blog that way, and you’ll build an audience fast.

Post Script

I’m offering a free copy of A Book of Sunshine for Writers to all who leave a comment today. Just leave your email address (written out not as a hot link), and I’ll send you a PDF of this little book of inspiration for writers.

(Joan Reeves writes Romantic Comedy. Her books are available at all major ebook sellers–audio books at Audible and iTunes. Joan publishes Writing Hacks, a free newsletter for writers  and her blog SlingWords . For more information, visit Joan’s Website.)

Relieving the Distressed – Power of Community

The end of the calendar year, when holiday celebrations come to a close and the days begin their slow ascent to light again, is a time most of us use to calm ourselves and re-evaluate our lives over the course of the last year. A time to reflect on how our decisions and our patterns have served us well, or in some cases, not at all. It’s a time for list making. Things to be saved. Things to be discarded. Relationships with ourselves and those closest to us are weighed and evaluated; we make plans to leave what no longer serves us behind, and plans to be more dedicated to those things we believe will make us and our circumstances better.

All that planning and all those resolutions are then put into action New Years Day, or for those of us who enjoy wine, whisky and Scottish revelry at Hogmanay, on January 2nd.

I wrote down my resolutions, focused on my life and what I needed to keep, throw away and start excelling at. I implemented a plan to accomplish concrete things I have control over, like my behavior, my patterns, my approach to life, work and love.

It took me until a few days ago ~ not quite two weeks into the New Year, but close ~ to realize focusing solely on me, on my perceptions, on the things I want to help with, make happen, and see come to fruition was part of life, an essential part, but hardly the whole picture. What I was focusing on was more like a two dimensional circle drawn on paper than a sphere or a globe.

Thank the powers that be that life isn’t flat. We don’t live in a two dimensional world; relationships are neither flat nor two dimensional. They are full and multi-faceted and often messy. Comparisons are pointless because someone else will always have a life more full and there will be others with lives much more messy.

So, where is this rambling mess of pontification leading you rightly ask? It’s my way of forgiving myself for being more self-absorbed than I should be, and my plan for how to change that.

Relieving the Distressed…

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That is the mission of the Saint Andrews Society of the City of Milwaukee, of which I am a member. It is a Scottish charitable organization with branches throughout the world. The seeds were planted here in 1847 when Alexander Mitchell rallied the local Scottish COMMUNITY in Milwaukee to raise funds for famine victims in Scotland. The COMMUNITY effort raised $512.00, which was a significant figure in 1847. It took a dedicated group of people to make that happen.

At Monday’s meeting I was asked to be part of a small sub-committee to look into ways of relieving the distressed in our community. I’ve been thinking about that ever since. Wounded Warriors was mentioned as a place to start. I said nothing then, but my first inclination, was, great, that’s a cause no amount of money or time could satiate…it’s also a cause everyone knows about and most would contribute to. Excellent. Now how do we focus that momentum on our individual vets on the street?

Maybe they will rethink having my voice heard at the table, but I want to focus on the vets coming out of the rescue mission not on the cause itself. I think if we can put a face on it, whatever the “it” is, we can help.

One life, then two, and so on, right here. Locally, or to serve a local need. This is where we live after all, shouldn’t our service go into our communities to make them stronger? Yes.DSCN5032

But again that’s only part of the picture. I realized that over e-mails with other authors here at Main Street who are also committed to relieving the distressed. I find my mind and my heart growing, hopefully in a more open way, while still wishing to serve my community.

I’ll figure out how to help, that’s not what this ramble is about. It’s about communities and relationships, how we define them and how we engage within them. Charity. Giving. Causes. We all give time and resources, even if it’s nothing more than change in a Salvation Army pot at Christmastime. We all burn out on requests for giving which seem to be endless…Girl Scout Cookies, Boy Scout Wreaths, Little-League candy-bars, School Band wrapping paper or pizzas…and these are just the ones our children, grandchildren, neighbors hit us with. The checkout lane requests for books for foster children…a dollar for MS, or Children with Cancer, the list goes on. It can be exhausting…and often is, because as much as we wish it were otherwise, most of us can’t give financially to everything we think we should. No one can. Even Bill and Melinda Gates have to decide where the billions of dollars their society has at its disposal should go.

So where do we go from here…what CAN be done?DSCN8784

Whatever you can, when you can, without guilt that you couldn’t do more. Giving, thoughts, prayers, time, resources (soup-books-clothing-change) energy…it’s all good.

An easy way to do this, which costs nothing, is to simply ease someone else’s day. Answer that e-mail where someone says offhandedly that they or a member of their family is ill with a simple statement like, “I hope you feel better soon. Sending good thoughts.” Or how about when that clerk at the checkout is being harassed by the person in front of you and it’s your turn to check out, when they ask, “How are you?” answer with “Very well, how are you?” Jezze this sounds trite…

Worse than that, it sounds like I’m channeling Pollyanna. It’s a good thing that I write romance because some times I don’t belong in the “real world”. I get it. I do. It’s the BIG things that change the world, not empathetic e-mails or smiles at check-out clerks.

Individual action does matter. Those thoughts, those prayers, those smiles, they matter to the person receiving them and they make those who give them feel better too. That’s a Win~Win, no matter how small. The big things matter as well. They are best accomplished by a group coming together as one to pool their resources to target a group in need of assistance. E pluribus unum – from many, one. It’s a powerful statement. World changing even.

At Authors of Main Street, we are looking to pool our resources and help where we can. We are a COMMUNITY, diverse in membership, but united in our desire to put more love and romance and community out into the world.

Here are some of the BIG things I put time into. I’d love to hear what is important to you. (Via the St. Andrews Society: Ronald McDonald House, Bells for Salvation Army, Soles for Jesus…shoes for third world, financial assistance to local members of our Scottish Community who are suffering hardship. Personal & Family: Arthritis Research for a Cure, Volunteering at the VA, Alzheimer Research for a Cure and Knit for the Needy. Via Macski’s: coming in 2014~Scottish Community Dinner, we serve dinner for anyone who needs a meal and The Average Joe Scholarship funded in part by our upcoming Macski’s cookbook).

There is no limit to what a group of committed individuals can accomplish when we work together. May you year be filled with more resources than you need, more friends than you currently have and more opportunities to make your communities stronger. Slainte~2014!

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