Friday, November 30, 2007

You Know You're Too Busy When...

    By Kirsten Scott

    It's the season of giving, the season of joy, the season of cooking, cleaning, wrapping, crafting, churching...whew. I'm exhausted just thinking it. Add to that two kids in the Nutcracker (guess how I spend all my free time?) and a busy time at work and I have to say...

    I think I'm going to lose my mind.

    I've had two incidents this week that told me, in no uncertain terms, that I am too busy. Both involved bathrooms and my undersized bladder. The first happened on Tuesday, when I was desperately trying to get a copy of Anna Campbell's Untouched. I had a meeting downtown and a meeting back at my office a half hour after the first meeting ended. If I timed it right, walked fast and didn't hit the rest room after the meeting, I figured I had time to run through Borders and pick up a copy on my way back to the office.

    I didn't count on my bladder. Naturally, I put first things first and TORE through the store. Ran from end-cap to end-cap, from new release table to the romance section. Nothing. Bladder was bursting but I had NOT included a pit stop in my calculations. I wanted to wait in line to beg the clerk to check in back but I couldn't risk it. Heartsick, doing the pee-pee dance, I ran the rest of the way back to the office, stayed (mostly) dry, and was late to the next meeting.

    Then Wednesday morning, it got worse. Late for meeting number one of the day thanks to day care and drop off duties, had three calls waiting on the machine and a turkey sandwich that needed to get in the fridge. Raced through the office, dropped off the sandwich in the fridge, and headed for the meeting, bladder a' bursting. Decided I didn't want to have an accident this early in the morning, so I ran into the bathroom, threw open a stall and barely made it. Ahhh. Got up to leave and noticed something odd.

    A urinal? In the girls room?

    Slow realization. Utter horror. I ran out before I could discover if there were any other MALE co-workers in the other stalls.

    I need to slow down. Desperately.

    The problem is that I like being busy. I can't stand down time. I like reading emails on the BlackBerry while waiting in traffic. (Cringe--I know, I know! It's so wrong!) I like finding new ways to multi-task while riding the exercise bike. (The computer does fit on the display. Hurray!) I even like dashing around through the mall on my way back to the office between meetings.

    But enough is enough.

    It's a bit early for resolutions, but I'm making one now for this December season of madness and good cheer. I'm going to streamline something. I'm not sure what, but I'll find it. It may mean less crafting and baking. It may mean work doesn't get done. The house may be messier than I'd like. But by golly, I'm finding the time to go to the bathroom.

    So, what's your goal this holiday season? Making some of those incredible cookie recipes you read about on Suz's blog? Going to that performance of Handel's Messiah? Spending more time with the kiddies? Volunteering at a shelter? Tell me! And if you've got a good story about a time when YOU were too busy, I'd like to hear that too!

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Ducks and Other Fearful Distractions

    by Jo Robertson

    I was looking at some pictures of my granddaughter Annie the other day. Her family took a trip to Apple Hill, a beautiful place in the fall, where there’s a small fishing pond and a picnic area for children to play. Ducks swim on the water and waddle around the shore.

    Initially the ducks fascinate Annie. She has no frame of reference to fear them. They look harmless enough. Pretty, too, with their white feathers and long "lellow" noses. Mommy whispers those noses are called beaks.

    Annie reaches for one. It quacks or makes whatever frightening sound ducks make, startling her. She backs away, crying.

    But, an hour later, with a little coaxing, and having become accustomed to them, their peculiar sound and smell, she inches forward.

    By the end of the day Annie decides ducks are pretty cool.

    Myself, I’m not the adventurous sort. I never cut class in high school. Really. I never sneaked out of the house at night. I never drove my dad’s car without permission. I never tried drugs in college even though it was the height of the hippie era. I avoided the deep end of the pool.

    Like the words of that Kelly Clarkson song – I didn’t stray too far from the sidewalk.

    There’s something wise and smart and cautious about not taking risks. Risk-takers often end up getting hurt. Or hurting other people.

    When I was younger, I wanted to be a professional singer. After I was graduated from high school, I worked for the U.S. Government for eighteen months before college, lived at home, had a little extra money, and wanted so, so badly to take voice lessons from a professional instructor. But I was too chicken. I wouldn’t take the chance. I was afraid to risk embarrassment. Afraid I wasn't good enough.

    As a result I didn’t sing my first solo until I was thirty-two in a small church in Jerusalem. The song was something about lighting a candle rather than cursing the darkness and every muscle in my body quaked like an aftershock -- but not my voice. My voice was clear and smooth and unfettered.

    But you see, I could have done that at age seventeen or eighteen instead of thirty-two.

    I know a lot of writers who never submit their work. Ironic, huh? That’s like a singer who won’t sing in the shower or a dancer who doesn’t tap his foot to the beat of the drum. But it’s true. Their convoluted logic is that if they don’t submit their work, they won’t face rejection.

    There’s a concept that the more we do something, the easier it becomes. The task doesn’t get easier; our ability to accomplish the task becomes greater.

    So my question for you is -- What have you learned to do that got easier with the doing of it? Come on, share those stories, folks. It doesn't have to be about writing. We writers get our inspiration and our perseverance from your successes!

    Jo's Pumpkin Bread HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

    3 1/2 cups flour
    2 teaspoons soda
    1 1/2 teaspoons salt
    1 teaspoon cinnamon
    1 teaspoon nutmeg
    3 c. sugar
    1 c. oil
    4 eggs
    2/3 c. water
    2 cans canned pumpkin
    Nuts (optional)

    Mix wet ingredients well. Add nuts and dry ingredients. Bake at 350 degress in greased pans about 35 to 40 minutes. Do not overbake. This recipe works best in small loaf pans. Makes 6 small loaves or three large loaves.Source URL:
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Furniture love.

    I'll get back to the gift guide soon (still to come: best friend, coworker...) but in the meantime there are some things that need to be posted. If you have $2000 to spare, you could do worse than spend it on this Danish modern teak loveseat. Isn't it beautiful? (Also, on craigslist, there is a Danish modern two-part sofa and chair for a mere $495. Oh, how I wish I needed a sofa and chair!)Source URL:
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Moustaches! Beards!

Cup-of-Jo Gift Guide Part #5: Your Stylish Boyfriend Who Plays Scrabble With You and Still Kisses You When You Are Sick.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Party Favors!

    Firstly, a big fat smoochy thank you to everyone who came to my launch party on Tuesday. I had such a lot of fun and you guys made it a real celebration for me! Mwah! And now for the important bit...

    The winners of the consolation prizes of coverflats, the calendar and bits of stationery are:

    Robyn E with her wonderful idea of having a hero party with no heroines permitted!

    Bonnie for her fantastic Scottish extravaganza!

    The winner of the signed copy of UNTOUCHED is:

    Jennifer Y!!!

    OK, girls, email your snail mail details to anna AT annacampbell DOT info and I'll get your prizes in the mail. Congratulations! And remember, you come back and see us now!Source URL:
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Cup-of-Jo Gift Guide Part #4: Your Car-Enthusiast British Dad Who People Liken to James Bond.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Holiday Gift to You!

    by Suzanne Welsh
    This year the Bandits are celebrating our first holiday season as a blog group. We talked in private how we could celebrate with you, our guests and readers. We decided to share some of our favorite traditions or foods with you. So starting today and ending with Boxing Day, December 26th, we'll have some of those favorite recipes for you to try, some great memories and stories to share with you, as well as some fabulous guests.

    Every year after Thanksgiving I begin baking for the Christmas season. It's a tradition with my family that Mom is baking a new cookie or treat almost daily. Last year I'd injured my shoulder moving a patient and my husband realized that the stirring motion needed to make cookie dough was now impeded. So he bought me a new Kitchen Aid stand mixer..."so the kids can have their Christmas Cookies." Yeah right. Anyway, he saved the holiday season.

    Here's the list that fluctuates depending on my mood and schedule:
    Chocolate Mint Cookies
    Buckeye Candy
    Chocolate Covered Pretzels
    Coconut Jam Thumbprints
    Mexican Wedding Cakes (for hubby)
    M and M Cookies made with green and red M and Ms
    Peanut Butter Blossoms with Hershey Kisses
    White Chocolate and Cranberry cookies
    Raspberry Filled Pastries
    Oatmeal Scotchies
    and Cookie Cutter Sugar cookies my daughter ices with butter cream frosting.

    The following recipe is one I actually make twice over the holidays. It's my kids' favorite, as well as several of their friends. The first batch always disappears quickly. My gift to all of you!


    I received this recipe while working at THE Ohio State University’s L&D unit. It became an instant hit with my family and a staple of every Christmas celebration from that time on.

    ¾ cup butter
    1 ½ cups firmly packed Dark Brown Sugar
    2 TBS. Water
    1 package semi sweet chocolate chips
    2 large eggs
    2 ½ cups all purpose flour
    1 ¼ tsp. Baking soda
    ½ tsp. Salt
    Green chocolate mint wafers, (Andes). About 1 pound.


    Heat butter, sugar and water in a large heavy saucepan over low heat until butter is melted. Add chocolate chips, stirring until partially melted. Remove from heat and continue stirring until chocolate is completely melted. Pour into a large mixer bowl and let stand about 10 minutes until slightly cool.

    With mixer at medium speed, beat eggs in one at a time. Reduce speed to low and add dry ingredients, beating just until blended. Refrigerate at least one hour.

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 cookie sheets with foil. Roll tsp of dough into balls, place about 2 inches apart on cookie sheets. Bake 12-13 minutes. Cookies will appear soft. DO NOT COOK ANY LONGER.

    Remove from oven and immediately place mint on each hot cookie. Let soften, then swirl mint over cookies to frost. (You can use the tip of a spoon or a toothpick.) Transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

    So is there a favorite food you have to have for the holidays or your celebration won't be the same?
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Cup-of-Jo Gift Guide Part #3: Your Lovely Mom Who Has a Soothing Voice That Would Be Perfect for Radio.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007


    by Suzanne Welsh

    This has been a productive week at my house. Yesterday I had three workmen stripping 1970’s era wallpaper and old chair rails from the dining room walls. They patched the plaster and filled holes from picture nails. Then they painted the eggshell white walls a lovely pale yellow green. They also painted the foyer a lovely shade of pale yellow gold.

    Now you may be wondering what in the world this little bit of remodeling has to do with writing. Well, when we bought this house, we had a bedroom for each of the kids and one for us. As my children have moved in and out we managed to carve one room into an office for my husband. One where the door can clearly be closed while he works and when company comes.

    But there never seemed to be a space for me to write. So I carved out ¼ of the front room which should be a dining room for my office. I have a large computer desk complete with hutch that faces away from the wall. I get plenty of sunlight, I have a filing corner, and a huge book case. There’s room for my chair, the trashcan, the shredder and of course space for Rocky the wonder dog, (aka my writing partner), to sleep in the sunshine or moonlight while I write.

    We’ve finally been financially secure enough to buy nice dining room furniture, (which arrives tomorrow), have professional painting done and new floors put in, (those are coming in two weeks). All this is in preparation of having a space large enough and nice enough for the family to spend holidays and family meal nights together.

    It is also time for me to consider moving my cave, (what we writers call our offices), to a small bedroom that will be an actual office. But for now I’m enjoying the fresh clean walls and the lovely color in my office/dining room. Oh yeah and it was great fun watching men work so efficiently yesterday!

    So, writers, do you have anything special about your cave you’d like to share with us? And readers, do you have a room you’d love to do some freshening up to for the holidays?
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Cup-of-Jo Gift Guide Part #2: Your Quirky Little Brother Who Bought a Book About How to Patent His Own Inventions.

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