Painting Update, June 5

I have good news and bad news.

Let’s do the bad news first. There has not been a lot of chair painting happening the last few weeks. I did get in there once. I put a final coat of white on the rungs, so there was some progress. See?


(Yes, I know it doesn’t look any different than it did a month ago. But trust me. I applied paint.)

However, the bulk of painting time had to go to another project. I present to you – the door.

img_1827 I have mentioned before that my office used to be a garage. It was all converted before we bought this house. But the door to my office was old, heavy, and metal. That was OK.

But it opened the wrong way. It opened into the hall, which blocked a nice section of usable wall space. Our entry hall is very tiny. So I wanted all the space we could get.

We asked our handy-dandy carpenter guy about reversing the direction, but his advice was to simply remove the old door and put on a new one. Not sure why that made the most sense, but we trust him, so that’s what we did.

Which left us with an unfinished door in the hall.

Didn’t really matter for a while. But then, you know what comes next.


There was frantic taping and painting and all that jazz for a few nights, and the mess in my office was QUITE disheartening, but in the end, it was all worth it. img_1841-1

The door is lovely and finished and, in a bonus turn of events, almost a perfect match for my desk and curtains. (And that truly was a bonus: I used the leftover paint from my bathroom for the door, so no coordination was planned.)

I’m ever so pleased with how it turned out. And even more pleased that it’s done and I can return to my previously scheduled chair.


Book Update, May 29

Write or DieAnd the words just keep on coming.

Back on my wonderful weekend writing retreat, I made a plan. I looked at my schedule for the weeks ahead and figured out how many words I would need to write each day to reach the end of the book (or close to it) by the middle of August. Why the middle of August? Because that’s when my youngest will be done with summer playground and family life will take over. Also, that timing will give me time for the story to sit, out of my head, for a few weeks. That way, when school starts in September, I’ll be able to dive into the next step – revisions – with fresh eyes.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

I’m pleased to say that I’ve been doing a pretty good job of keeping up with the plan. As of this moment, I’m up to 36,042 words out of a projected 90 – 95,000. Woooohoooo! Past the one-third mark!

There are two big factors in me keeping up with my projected word count. The first is the aforementioned plan. It is such a relief to know that as long as I write the words allotted for the day, I’ll stay on track. The second is a program called Write or Die.

Write or Die is one of those tools that authors either love or loathe. Very simply, it’s a program that lets you set a word and time goal – say, 500 words in 30 minutes – and then lets you choose consequences (good and bad) for meeting or not meeting that goal.

Those consequences can be personalized in a number of ways.  For me, if I stop writing for too long, my screen will turn bright yellow, a horn will blare, and I’ll see a picture of a spider. If I hit my words in time, I will hear a lovely tinkling noise, things will turn pink, and I’ll get to see a pic of a puppy or a kitten. There are many choices for the severity, timing, and types of consequences, which I really appreciate. I mean, I don’t LIKE spiders, but I can deal with them, no problem. If, however, I had to see a picture of a mouse when I stopped too long? Well, that would traumatize me to the point of not being able to write for the rest of the day.

I’ve used Write or Die since it’s original incarnation. (I believe they’ve just rolled out a third version.) You can use it for free online, or for a VERY reasonable price, you can download it to your own devices. It is, hands down, the best bang for my writing buck that I ever spent.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s time to set up another writing session.



Knitting Update, May 22

When last we talked about my scarf-in-progress, it looked like this:


Very pretty, yes, but also very … um … short.

I came up with a plan to help with my knitting frequency. I decided that I would toss the scarf in the car and work on it while waiting in the school pick-up lot. It would yield only three or four rows at a time, but hey – that’s better than nothing, right?

So I started building that habit. And since it was already in the car, it came with me on my amazingly productive writing retreat. At the end of our day, we watch movies, and movies are an excellent time to knit.

And how do things look now?



I am very pleased.

So is Fidget.



Writing Update, May 15

purple petaled flower

Photo by Pixabay on

I used to belong to a writing group that gave out awards at the end of the year. One of my favorites was the Purple Rose, which was awarded for every day in the year during which you wrote at least 20 pages/5000 words.

Guess what? Since I last checked in, I have earned THREE purple roses!

I wish I could say these came about thanks to serious discipline, but the truth is, they happened because I ran away for a long weekend. Yes, it was a writing retreat. And it was wonderful.

Of course, I have been writing while at home. Not nearly as much – my typical day is 1000 words – but it all adds up. When I checked in two weeks ago, I had a bit over 2500 words. As of this writing, I’m up to 23,649.

pink rose flower on blue hardbound books

Photo by Plush Design Studio on

Yeah. Heck of a jump 🙂

Of course, it’s not just the words. Getting farther into the book means I know the characters more and am getting deeper into the heart of the story. Some people love starting a new story. I am not one of those folks. New = overwhelming for me, so I am more than happy to be moving into the second act of the book.

Onward ho!


Painting Update, May 8

Over the years, we have gone through a number of different dining room chairs. We’ve added and subtracted, and while the result is quite functional, sometimes I think it would be nice to have chairs that totally matched.

Since all of our chairs still work, and I was in no hurry to go out and buy more, I decided that the best solution would be to paint the ones we have. This made sense on a couple of levels. First, it would give uniformity to the chairs we have. Second, many of our chairs are showing their years, (not to mention the number of kids they’ve endured), so they were in sore need of some TLC.

The solution? Chalk paint.

I have one chair finished. We have six that go around our dining room table. I still have a job ahead of me. But here is where I am at, right now, with chair number two.

The next few weeks are going to be very busy, so I am not sure how often I will be able to get to this project. But fingers are crossed.

Writing Update, May 1

When last we talked about the work in progress, I had a synopsis and was confettiworking on a solution for a sticky plot. The good news is, I think I found the solution! Still tweaking and experimenting, but it feels good. So, you know. Confetti toss!

The other implication of this is – I (finally!) get to start writing! Like, actual words on the page! As of this moment, I’m just over 2500 words in (about 10 pages). Since I’m aiming for a final product of 85-90,000 words, it’s safe to say I still have a way to go. But it’s been a long time since I made it even this far. I’m counting it as both a win and the start of the next phase.

Best of all, this weekend I’m heading out for a writing retreat at Ye Olde Cabin in the Woods. By my next report I should be well into the double digits on my word count. Away we go!



Knitting Update, April 24

img_1682-1I like to have a knitting project on hand. It’s such a lovely hobby, quiet and meditative (at least if you choose simple projects like I do), easy to pick up and work on for a few spare minutes between other tasks.

Right now I’m making this lightweight, skinny scarf out of sock yarn. Isn’t it pretty? I love the variations in the color. The pattern is simple, easy to memorize, and because it’s skinny, it’s easy to get through one or two rows at a time. I really hate having to drop everything in the middle of a row. Recipe for disaster, right there.

So all in all, I’m pleased with this project and how it’s turning out. There’s only one problem:

I started it in February.

And this is how much I’ve got:


For reference – that’s a standard size tray table it’s resting on. So my scarf-in-progress is maybe … six inches long? Eight? Let’s be generous and go with eight. Eight inches in two months = four inches/month = this project should be long enough to wear by next February. Maybe.

I’m fine with keeping this as a relaxing projects worked at a gentle pace, but come on. People have marriages that end faster than this scarf.

However: I have a thought. Instead of working on it whenever I can, I need to create a consistent time and place. You know. Make it a habit.

(Side note: just finished reading/highly recommend Atomic Habits, by James Clear.)

So here’s the plan: three or four days/week, I do a school pick-up. I arrive early to avoid the insane lines, and have been using that waiting time to scroll through my email. No more. The knitting bag is going into the car and will be my Waiting in the Lot project.

Here’s hoping that a Consistent Time _+ a Consistent Space will = Significant Progress!

Book Update, April 17

bear-of-few-ideasI have writing friends who have more ideas than they will ever have time to write.

The fact that they remain my friends is proof that they have an abundance of wonderful qualities which offset that overflow of ideas.

Coming up with ideas for books is a painful process for me (and my poor long-suffering agent). It takes an abundance of time, a mountain of emails, and more chocolate than I am willing to admit to in writing. Making sure that the idea is one that will support an entire book is even more involved.

I’ve tried to hack this issue by simply diving in and writing with the merest glimmer of an idea. No go. I do fine for the first few scenes, then boom. I still have no idea where I’m going or what happens next.

Which means that, before I can write anything, I must have a synopsis.


A synopsis, for those who don’t know, is a plan for the entire book. Writing one means you have to know what your characters will be doing – and, often more important, WHY they will be doing it – for at least the major points in the plot. When you finish writing one, you weep tears of joy, because now you have a solid direction and know where you’re going. (Until you get a flash of insight halfway through writing the first draft and realize you got everything wrong and even though you THOUGHT your character was screwed up because of parental issues, it’s REALLY because of what happened at her junior prom.)

Best of all, you can now share your synopsis with your Poor Long-Suffering Agent, who can let you know what’s working (YAY!) and what still needs work (CRAP). And then you go back to the drawing board. But at least this time, the board is smaller, because you’re only focused on that one non-working point.

And you find a fix. Which is great.

Until you realize that your amazing fix for Plot Point C will have a ripple effect on Plot Points A, B, D, and E. So now you have to change them. And those changes ripple out. And so on, and so on.

This is the point I’m at now. I have a concept. I have some unique twists on it. But there’s one major issue I still need to fix, so as of this writing, I am back to the (smaller, far more manageable) drawing board.

And, of course, back to the chocolate.

chocolate bars

Photo by Marta Dzedyshko on


Maybe It’s the Weather …

img_1669So. It’s been a while.

All has been well here at Casa Kitty, though I am rather astonished at how quickly the time slips past. Christmas and Hanukkah, birthdays and snow days, school breaks and college decisions … the weeks have been full.

The writing schedule, unfortunately, has not.

Oh, I have been working, never fear. But (a) for a lot less time each day than in the past, and (b) mostly on ideas which I run by my poor long-suffering agent only to have her say, sorry, that won’t work. Since I am a Bear of Few Ideas, it takes me a fair bit of time to come up with something new …  then develop it into something resembling an outline … then send it off to the agent … then have to do the lather, rinse, repeat thing. The next thing you know, months have passed and all I can point to as evidence of my attempts is a bunch of deleted computer files and half a forest’s worth of used index cards.


I seem to have finally stumbled upon the right idea.

And spring is finally creeping back into central New York, which means that my office (which used to be a garage) is once again becoming warm enough to inhabit for more than a few moments at a time. I spent the winter working at the dining room table, which has its perks, but in the long run, I don’t think it’s ideal for productivity. For one thing, it’s too close to the kitchen. Also, the cats are up there, and when I catch one of them on the counter I feel compelled to try to chase them down. (They, of course, feel compelled to ignore my efforts.)

More than that, though, is the blurring of lines. I’ve been doing everything at that table – writing work, church work, planning work, homework. Meals happened there, too. It seemed my whole life was taking place in a 2×2 square of my home. Not healthy, and not conducive to focus. Was I sitting down to write or to play a game or to have lunch? Everything was rolling together, and not in a happy cinnamon roll way.

So the other day, I returned to the office and dove in. (To clean, not write. Sorry. But you KNOW that it spent the winter as a repository for everything that had no other home.) I cleaned and rearranged and pitched, and now, it’s my office again. It’s also a crafting area and a music studio and a spare bedroom, so some of the lines are still blurred, but the only thing I really do there is create.

Which brings me to a new focus for this blog.


For the next while, I want to post (regularly!!!) about things I’m creating. Mostly, this will be for accountability. It’s sooooo easy to put off writing and other projects because I need to prep a Sunday School lesson, or send thank you notes for the school committee, or fold laundry. Those things do need to happen but maybe not as often as they’ve been happening, if you get my drift.

So once a week, I’m going to post updates on my projects. There are three of them underway at the moment:

  • the book
  • a knitting project
  • a painting project.

img_1670That’s only three topics, but I figure the book takes more time, so I’ll update that progress twice a month. And if it’s a five-week month, then you’ll get … something else. A recipe review, probably.

So that’s the plan. Thanks for your patience, and I hope you’ll continue to follow along for this slightly-more-decorative portion of the ride. See you next week!


Heroes of 2018: Snowplow Operators

wp-image-545725847jpg.jpgWe’re coming up to the end of the year (because I’m sure you haven’t noticed this already), and I want to take these last few weeks to salute some of the unsung heroes of life. First responders and medical personnel and those who serve in the armed forces and all those other amazing dedicated people are deserving of every accolade they receive, and should be entitled to free massages and chocolate fountains for life.

But there are other folks, folks who we don’t think of right away when we talk about those deserving of praise, but who are important nonetheless. And who do I want to celebrate today? Snowplow operators.

I live in central New York state. We get snow. We get LOTS of snow. It slows us down at time, no doubt about it, but it rarely stops us completely, and snowplow operators are a huge reason for that. No matter the hour of the day (or, usually, the night), they are out there, plowing and salting and sanding and carving a path through the snowy wilderness for those who must be on the road. Weekends, holidays, it doesn’t matter. They are out there, doing their dangedest to tame Mother Nature just a tad.

And then there are the independent plowers – the ones who tackle residential driveways.

In October of our first year in our current house, there came a knock at our door early one Saturday morning. It was a guy named Jim, tall and gangling, with a wild shock of dark blonde hair. He told us that he had plowed the driveway for the previous owner, and would be happy to continue for us.

Now, let me tell you a few things about our driveway:

  • it’s a steep hill
  • with a sharp curve as you climb
  • and a rock wall on your left
  • and a garage on your right.

(Oh, and there are low-hanging power lines when you get close to the house, but those only present a challenge to appliance delivery people and anyone who must dump a load of mulch in the spring.)

Get the idea? Basically, we have the driveway from hell. But Jim didn’t care. He just showed up, morning after snowy morning, waving through the window and entertaining the cats do no end as he did his snowplow ballet. Many were the winter mornings when I woke to the sound of the plow dropping onto the snow-covered driveway and the low roar of his truck gunning up the hill.

It was a most wonderful sound.

In November, we realized Jim hadn’t stopped by for his usual early-winter check in. But we had been away for the first weekend of the month, and we thought we had simply missed him.

The next weekend, we got hit. Schools were closed. The plows were out in full force.

But no Jim.

We tried calling, but someone else had his number.

We called a couple of other plow people, looking for someone new. People came, took one look at our driveway, and shook their heads.

Finally, my husband happened to mention to one of the potential plowguys that we used to work with Jim, but we couldn’t track him down.

“No surprise,” came the reply. “He died back in the spring.”

We’re still hunting for a new plow operator. Meanwhile, we’re shoveling. With every person who backs away from our driveway in terror, with every load of snow I pitch over to the side, I think of Jim, and his goofy smile, and his willingness to take on what no one else wants to handle.

Godspeed, Jim. I raise my snow-encrusted shovel in your honor.