Saturday, December 2, 2017

CHRISTMAS - Make It Stress-free

Christmas is an overwhelming time  during the holidays when we get caught up in the glitz and hustle and bustle of finding presents, writing cards, hosting parties, listening to radio and television advertising, making food and baking--and so many other activities that we become over-stimulated, cranky, and sometimes downright depressed. We think we have to get everything just right. Just perfect.

My mother used to remind me when I slipped into my crazy Christmas mode, that Christmas is only one day. It will come and it will go--in just twenty-four hours, she would admonish. 

Here are some quick tips to reduce the Christmas stress:

PLAN AHEAD – Plan ahead, whether it’s starting the Christmas cards early in November or making a list of things that are priorities such as travel plans, possible presents, or your food lists for menus for the season. It always helps to start early and avoid rushing later.

BUY ONLINE – There’s no need to elbow you way through crowded stores when many of the online specials already beat the Christmas prices advertised in the flyers and on the radio and television. Shop online and have everything delivered to your door.

TAKE TIME FOR YOURSELF – Take time to breathe, take time to exercise, take time to do something you like. Grab a cup of hot chocolate or decaffeinated coffee and your favorite book and cozy chair for a few minutes. Psychologists say we need 20 minutes of “me time” or “personal down-time” each day. Take it and don’t feel guilty.

ENJOY THE SEASON – If Christmas music makes you feel joyful, turn up the knob on your radio or CD player. Take a quiet, solitary walk and get away from it all, if you must. Watch the snow fall silently and peacefully, covering the world in white. Smell the homey scents of the season: pine, citrus, cinnamon and vanilla. Listen to the sounds of bells or children laughing. Enjoy the very sights that remind us of Christmas such as a wreath on someone’s door or a lighted Christmas tree.

And in the end, remember—“It’s really only one day. It will come and it will go--in just twenty-four hours!”  
Merry Christmas to all!

Sunday, November 5, 2017

IT'S THE LITTLE THINGS THAT COUNT

by Judy Ann Davis

In light of all the terrible hurricanes, fires, and earthquakes that have plagued the United States and Mexico recently, I’m focusing my thoughts this Thanksgiving on being grateful for all things, large and small, we take for granted in our everyday lives. 

Every morning I wake up to use electricity that runs my heat and air conditioning, lights, electronic devices like my computer, radio, and television, as well as other appliances. I can have a warm or cold shower, breakfast, or morning drink—and I have a choice. The clothes and shoes I plan to wear are dry and clean. I have access to my medical supplies and prescriptions, pictures of my children, my reading materials, and a vast group of simple everyday things that make my day comfortable, but which others have now lost. 

Yes, material goods can be replaced, but life is not simple without them. I recently skinned my leg leaving an airport, and realized how important one simple Band-Aid is when a wound won’t stop bleeding. It struck me how many more of the little things we use without thought to their importance—paper towels, Kleenex, pencils and paper, hygiene products, lotions, soap, and the list goes on and on.

If you are able to give—if even a few dollars—please find a charity or organization that is working closely with the victims of these horrific disasters. Make it your Thanksgiving gift to those less fortunate. One charity that I like above many others is called UMCOR (United Methodist Committee on Relief) UMCOR spends 100 percent of designated donations on the project donors specify. http://www.umcor.org/UMCOR/About-Us   

This Thanksgiving, as we sit around our food-laden table and have a marvelous hot meal with all the trimmings, remember we have people who have lost everything and who are grateful they have been given canned food and bottled water to eat and drink.  When we put that in perspective, it makes our Thanksgiving even more precious and meaningful—don’t you think?
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I'm showcasing my newest release this year, called “Four White Roses.” I'm happy to announce  it was a finalist in the Book Excellence Awards. The Book Excellence Awards were founded by Literary Excellence Incorporated. Books that have received a Book Excellence Award have been recognized for their high quality design, writing and overall market appeal. It is a cross genre novel that includes mystery, romance, and a paranormal element.

BLURB:
When widower Rich Redman returns to Pennsylvania with his young daughter to sell his deceased grandmother’s house, he discovers Grandmother Gertie’s final request was for him to find a missing relative and a stash of WWI jewels. 

Torrie Larson, single mom, is trying to make her landscape center and flower arranging business succeed while attempting to save the lineage of a rare white rose brought from Austria in the 1900s. 

Together, the rich Texas lawyer and poor landscape owner team up to rescue the last rose and fulfill a dead woman’s wishes. But in their search to discover answers to the mysteries plaguing them, will Rich and Torrie also discover love in each other’s arms? Or will a meddling ghost, a pompous banker, and an elusive stray cat get in their way?


Visit Judy on:
Twitter: JudyAnnDavis4
Author Page:
Goodreads:


Other Judy Ann Davis Titles:
RED FOX WOMAN
UNDER  STARRY SKIES
KEY TO lOVE
SWEET kISS
UP ON THE ROOF and OTHER STORIES

R

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Along the Susquehanna River

There is something enticing about water. People flock to it, whether it's a river, a lake or the ocean. In Central Pennsylvania, the small town of Clearfield lies along the west banks of the Susquehanna River. Flowing 228 miles from Cherry Tree to Sunbury, the West Branch forms the lifeblood linking what is now known as the Lumber Heritage region.

It is also the setting for the book I’m currently writing. My heroine and her father own a large logging operation in the area in the 1800s. And the hero? Well, of course, he’s a ship captain who owns the clipper ships in the Chesapeake Bay and who sells the Pennsylvania lumber.

Throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries, virgin timber—among it the celebrated great white pine—was harvested to supply to supply lumber for shipbuilding, construction and coal mine props. Much of this lumber was rafted down the West Branch to markets on or near the Chesapeake Bay. Today, the West Branch flows through a northern hardwood forest of oak, cherry, maple and remnants of white pine and hemlock forests of early settlers' times.

The West Branch of the Susquehanna is actually part of the main “North Branch” of Susquehanna River which is the longest river on the East Coast of the United States. At 444 miles long, it drains into the Atlantic Ocean via the Chesapeake Bay and is the 16th largest river as well. The headwaters start in Cooperstown, New York, and join the “West Branch” near Northumberland in Central Pennsylvania.

Before European conquest, the Susquehannock, an Iroquoian tribe lived along the river and gave the Susquehanna its name. In the 17th century, it was inhabited largely by the Lenape. In the 18th century, William Penn, the founder of the Pennsylvania Colony, negotiated with the Lenape to allow white settlements in the colony between the Delaware River and the Susquehanna.

Local legend claims that the name of the river comes from an Indian phrase meaning "mile wide, foot deep," referring to the Susquehanna's unusual dimensions, but while the word is Algonquian, it simply means "muddy current" or "winding current". Additionally, hanna is an Algonquin word that means stream or river, and that Susquehanna is up for interpretation as meaning long reach river to long crooked river. It has also been said that the Susquehanna River was also called “Oyster River” by the Lenape because of the numerous oyster beds at the mouth of the river where historians found mounds of oyster shells.

Although there are mysteries surrounding the river and how its name originated, there is one constant. The Susquehanna is the main life-sustaining river of the state of Pennsylvania. Its waters allowed settlements to spring up along its banks and businesses and farms to survive and thrive—and Pennsylvania to become the 9th most densely populated of our fifty states.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

LET’S SWEAT THE SMALL STUFF

Someone said not to sweat the small stuff. But as a writer, I think we have an obligation to sweat the small stuff. I believe all the little things we do—from editing a chapter for the fifteenth time to standing at the kitchen sink and thinking to ourselves that a conversation we’ve already created won’t work for a particular character—is part of our desire to strive for excellence and perfection in our work. We owe it to our audience.
Hello October!

Everyone is aware the ease of self-publishing has caused an explosion of poorly written fiction being dumped into the marketplace. We’ve all downloaded a digital book to our Kindle, Nook, phone, or tablet that was filled with bad grammar, misspellings, incorrect punctuation, and was horrendously embarrassing and painful to read.  And we’ve all hit the “remove from device” link and sent these books to a junkyard in cyberspace far, far away.

But recently, I’ve been amazed with the amount of poorly written copy coming from not only fiction writers, but also writers in newspapers and magazines and (oh, my) writers on the internet. Put aside the fact that they are not checking facts, more and more people are just content to spit out their opinion or construct lazy gibberish on websites and in comment boxes with little regard to how they are shredding the English language.

“So what?” you ask. “Everyone makes mistakes, right?”
  
Do you want your accountant to make a mistake by a few decimal points or a few hundred dollars? How about if your doctor wrote (heaven forbid) a prescription for the wrong drug—or maybe the right drug, but the wrong dosage? Or what if your lawyer sent out a letter on your behalf filled with spelling errors? Even better yet, your plumber decided the joint he connected and sealed in one of your drain pipes is just good enough. Would you be pleased with any of these behaviors?

I believe writers have the same obligation as any other worker in any other occupation. It’s time we take the time to strive for excellence as we string words together for our readers. It’s time we take the time to find the correct word, use a thesaurus and dictionary, double check punctuation, remove wordy dialogue, rewrite poorly constructed descriptions, remove anything that doesn’t propel the plot forward, and enlist the help of beta readers and good editors. My list could go on and on, but you get the idea.

James Michener said, “I’m not a very good writer, but I’m an excellent rewriter.” And that’s the secret of good writing. So, I am going to sweat the small stuff. I’m going to take the time to do the best job I can even if it I have to write and rewrite, and rewrite again and again—even if it takes longer than I planned or hoped. 

Now tell me, what bugs you as a writer reading the written word in print or digital? 
 
 A new month- a new contest- and another chance to win a kindle fire
https://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/e226730a12/  

Sunday, September 10, 2017

The Richness of Autumn


When September rolls around with its misty mellow mornings and chilly nights, our thoughts turn to the richness of autumn. It's one of my favorite seasons in Central Pennsylvania. It’s the smell of curling smoke from chimneys, ripe apples fallen from the tree, foods laced with cinnamon and vanilla, and of course, the smell of earth with its drying leaves.

Goldenrod, Queen Anne’s lace, and russet sumac line our roadways. Maple leaves slowly change from luscious green to yellow and crimson and orange, while poplar and birch shiver in the crisp breezes, their leaves shimmering like gold coins.

Fields of grass, mown months ago in summer, are now fading to bronze and brown. In the gardens, tangerine pumpkins lay with withered leaves, ready to be picked, stored, or made into smiling October Jack-O-Lanterns.

If you pause and listen, there are crickets and night insects still hiding in the grass and chirping at dusk. Overhead, geese honk and search for a field to find food, knowing it’s too early to wing their way southward. Even though the joyful sweet chorus of the songbirds has faded, if you’re lucky—or not—a cardinal or bluebird will squawk out a complaint to let you know they are still nearby. In the tall pines, the annoying, relentless calls of the crows echo in the air.

Red apples, orange bittersweet, yellow sunflowers, blue skies, purple grapes, brown acorns, black nights and white frosted mornings are all part of the assortment of colors, sights and smells that shout autumn is near...get ready!

Monday, August 21, 2017

Twenty Minutes to Relax

In a workshop a long time ago when I worked with adult learners, a speaker once said that every individual, no matter what occupation, needs 20-30 minutes each day to devote to himself or herself. And you should use the twenty-minute allotment for whatever you deem important at the moment: meditation, daydreaming, reading, knitting, woodworking, fishing, sketching, tinkering, puzzles and mind games—whatever makes you feel happy. Anything, that is, besides using an electronic device to access social media. Why?

In a very hectic world, man needs time for peace, quiet, and reflection.  He needs time for observing the world around him, utilizing his senses--eyes, ears, nose, touch, and taste. There is something calming in being able to “zone out” in your favorite activity. To listen to the birds. To smell the petunias and phlox in blossom. To stare at the clouds in a cobalt blue sky. To taste the first blackberries of summer. Or to touch a fuzzy little kitten.

Let’s face it, vacations can be as hectic as everyday life as we scurry around to see and do everything before our time runs out, and we have to go back to the ol’ grind of daily life with our “selfies and hundred digital pictures” in hand to bore our friends.

When my children were little and bedtime rolled around, I always took time to sit down, grab a cup of coffee, and read. Why read? Because I could be transported away from the humdrum of here and now, and I could step off into another world. I could leave my problems behind and get a smile, laugh, or some good vibes, especially from a book with a happily-ever-after ending.

Lately, I’ve been at a standstill with my writing. I can’t decide whether it’s the heat of summer, the reality that summer is slowly slipping away, or just that I need to take a break, but something keeps me from the keyboard.

I do know twenty to thirty minutes sitting out on my patio on my wicker swing does wonders for my attitude. So come on over and rest awhile with me while we take some time to renew our energy and mindset. Or grab twenty minutes in your favorite spot and leave your troubles at bay for a short time.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

BON APPETITE - Zucchini Bread

It's that time of year when zucchini squash multiple faster than any vegetable known to man. Get ready to bake those loaves and freeze for winter. This is an old recipe my mother gave me.


ZUCCHINI BREAD

3 cups grated squash (peel and all)
1 cup oil
3 cups sugar
3 tsp. vanilla
3 tsp. cinnamon
3 eggs
3 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
½ tsp baking powder
½ cup chopped nuts

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Beat eggs until light and fluffy and add to grated squash. Add the oil, sugar, vanilla and cinnamon. Then mix in the flour, soda, salt, baking powder and nuts. Mix well and bake in two greased loaf pans for one hour.