June 9, 2023

And in the Real World Season 2 Episode 6 with Debbie


Vegas… just the name evokes certain thoughts. Some think of gambling and brothels when they think of Sin City; others think of sports like boxing or the bright lights of the city. I’ve read books, watched boxing matches on tv at the MGM, and seen the photos of friends who have visited Vegas but I’ve never made the trek myself… until this summer.


We only had a short trip planned so we crammed as much into it as we could, from the typical to the downright odd. We saw the Tournament of Kings show, toured the strip, saw the Hoover Dam, stopped along Route 66, and then saw my bucket list item: the Grand Canyon.  Everyone told us the heat would overwhelm us but honestly the heat back here in Florida right now is far, far worse. My main gripe with Vegas is the smoke in the casinos as I just can’t breathe then. And yep, I paid for my visit to the beautiful city as I’m dealing with a summer cold and “airplane ear” (I always get a cold after too much exposure to cigarette smoke).

My return home to hot, humid Florida has me trying to rescue certain plants in my garden that are not handling it well. I may lose a couple plants a bit early this year.  But was it worth it? Oh yes, I’m already planning another trip to Vegas- but this one with a lot more time at the Grand Canyon and far more day trips to see the surrounding beauty! It’s so different from Florida, all that dirt and reds, as I’m used to the green all around me in Florida. I have tons to share, both pictures and memories, but for now I’m going to curl up with a good book and get well while reliving the fun we had in Vegas!

And in the Real World Season 2 Episode 5 with Debbie

The best part of gardening… when you start to see the things you’ve planted start to actually grow and you know eating time is near! This year we’ve got several different peppers and tomatoes, already starting to show their pretty faces. The early girl tomato, affectionately known as the late girl here since it’s been the last tomato to finally show any tomatoes, finally has a juicy one growing:


Meanwhile, our old standby, the heat resistant tomato plant, has so many growing that I believe we’ll be making more than just salsa this year! Can’t wait to try some other recipes, like our own spaghetti sauce perhaps….


And oh, the peppers… we’ve got jalapeno peppers growing like crazy and then one lone banana pepper (really hoping we get more than one banana pepper out of that plant!).


Next week, I’ll show some of the progress we’ve had with the blueberries and the Florida Everglades tomatoes we’ve tried out this year. Every day with the garden is like an adventure, as I notice something new. God really creates miracles with his plant kingdom and gardening reminds me of just how awesome He is!

Meanwhile,  just thinking about all of this puts me in the mood for some good, cozy mysteries! I’ve found a couple new to me authors who write about gardening, spices, and even one about an organic farm that just fit my mood perfectly during gardening season. With COYER about to start, perhaps I’ll find some more authors to give a try!

And in the Real World Season 2 Episode 4 with Debbie


So all my talk about gardening and there’s one thing I haven’t mentioned- it’s all in my backyard, while the front yard has been a sad mess. Why, you ask? Well, we have a helpful neighbor, a nice elderly man who will rake our leaves from our 2 huge oak trees in the front yard. He’ll pick up twigs and generally keep things kept up just because he enjoys getting the exercise. Unfortunately, we have a big disagreement with him on the issue of grass. He’s a fan of the St. Augustine grass, whereas we just want anything green at all in the front yard! Unfortunately, this means that in the guise of helpfulness, he pulled up all the other grass we had in several sections leaving us with dirt. I’m now happy to report that we’ve had a couple other plants that seem to be thriving so perhaps we can go a different route.


Hopefully, like my caladiums that are gradually growing in number in the front yard, I can gradually increase these other pretty plants and eventually have a pretty front yard again. If the two pictured plants survive till next year, then I’m going to be loading up the yard with them, just like I’ve been increasing the number of caladiums in the front yard.

As for my gardens in the backyard, I’ll have to get pictures for next week as I’ve got peppers and tomatoes growing! So excited! Also learned that plants can get sunburned as I have two wee plants, a pepper and a tomato plant, that are turning this odd white color that googling indicates is a sunburn. Who knew??

And in the Real World Season 2 Episode 3 with Debbie

Gardening has begun and once we started, we couldn’t hold to our determination to stick to what worked for us last year. We’ve now added two new trees to the backyard, a guava tree and a banana tree.


I’m excited, particularly watching the banana plant as she shoots those leaves up in the air and then flaps them out quite dramatically. Each day is a new pose and it’s beautiful to watch her grow (and yes, my banana plant is a female. My garden, my rules!).


The guava tree is growing taller, bit by bit, but far less dramatically. I’m looking forward to seeing what the guava looks like as more days pass.

Meanwhile, our lemon tree from last year continues to flourish. I’m also experimenting with my usual tomatoes but also some Florida Everglades tomatoes that supposedly are perennial. So far, my peppers are flowering but only a few actual peppers growing. However, it’s early still as last year we were producing food till well into the summer months!

And in the Real World Season 2 Episode 2 with Debbie

And so the gardening season has begun….

This year, we are sticking to the things we know worked for us last year (well, except for the blueberry bush we decided to try!). So far, I’ve got a few tomatoes and peppers growing while our lemon tree is starting to bud once again. I’m excited! Working in the garden and digging up that fresh soil just makes me feel so much more connected to the earth.  And even better, it’s good exercise for my #FITREADERS challenge!

We definitely ruled out trying cucumbers again this year. Last year, not only did we not have a single one actually grow, but they attracted a whole host of nasty little critters. The final straw for me was the multitude of spiders *shudders*

Temps are pretty high here in Florida, hotter than the norm. It actually feels more like summer than spring. On the positive side, that means plenty of rain showers and that means less watering of the garden for me (and my husband!).

Oddly, gardening also draws me towards reading different books than I read the other times of the year. I’m mainly an urban fantasy reader but I find myself reading more cozy mysteries and books with a nature theme once the gardening bug hits me. Do you find yourself changing your reading habits at different times?

And in the Real World Season 2 Episode 1 with Debbie

Last week was Spring Break and so we made our trip to SC to see my parents and visit the lovely Myrtle Beach. Ah, there is nothing more relaxing than watching the sun rise over the ocean, listening to the soothing sound of the waves, and of course kicking back with your favorite books! Of course my Kindle was fully loaded and ready to go (the first thing I packed, of course!). The week started off a bit on the cool side but that also meant we had it more to ourselves. As the temperature heated up, the Spring Breakers started pouring in. After all, who doesn’t love the beach, especially after a cold winter (okay, well not so cold if you live in Florida but… you get the point!)?


This year we decided to get adventurous. After all, you only live once, right? So….I took my first helicopter ride!


It was exhilarating and I can’t wait to do it again! Perhaps when we go to Las Vegas….

Anyway, the days flew by far too quickly as time at the beach definitely goes faster than time at work (for some odd reason!).  In the meantime, I’ll continue to look at the pictures and remember the peace and calming of the ocean. Life has been a bit challenging lately and so the trip was more than worth it!

And in the Real World Season 2015 Episode 1 with Kelley

I was absolutely horrible about these posts last year. So we’ll see how it goes this year. I’m actually going to link my Fit Readers posts to this page as well so at least if I’m bad about life updates on random topics, since fitness is related to my non-book life, they will feed to this page as well.

Life as an animal rescue foster home…

Clipped from my Christmas letter. Clockwise from top left… Amun and I, Jasper and Ace, Aker and Amun, George, Sheba, Cleo, Nala. This was before I had Ralph and Sapphire.

Those of you who saw any of my “And in the Real World” posts last year may remember I got involved in animal rescue. I took a break for a while after my foster failure Cleo who I adopted in February 2014, since I was in an apartment with limited space. After I bought my house last summer, I was able to start fostering again.

My first foster was George, a 12-year-old full blood Maine Coon who had been dumped by his family, along with his canine friend about the same age, when the family decided to get a puppy! Shortly hereafter, George was hit by a car (we believe anyhow, based on his injuries that the vet said were consistent with a run in with a car). He came to stay with me for his recovery from surgery where he had half one of of his hips removed. After a surprisingly speedy recovery and three months with me, George went to his new forever home in December, where his new mom fell in love at first sight. What a wonderful ending to such a sad beginning.

In November, I took in two kittens from a local shelter who were rescued with literally two hours to spare. I got them at 4:00 and they were due to be euthanized at 6:00. While both of these kids were adorable and sweet (most of the time), I had to return them to their rescue this week. Ace, the male, was picking major fights with my cats and other fosters, and being a bully. I suspect this was because even at about 8 months of age, he was a tiny little thing and that was the only way he had to feel strong. I couldn’t risk the safety of the other kids here so sadly I had to give him up. I had a horrible experience with that rescue group when I told them I had to do this, as if it wasn’t hard enough already to give up a cat who had come to believe he was home and who in spite of his fighting, I loved dearly. This was absolutely devastating to me and it still upsets me every time I think about the fact I had to give him up. Nala, the female, was a feral cat who after three months with me, still flinched every time I tried to touch her, unless I gave her a lot of time sitting and waiting for her to come to me. She also would not come out of her little safe area of two rooms. She was a total sweetheart on the days she would allow me to get close, a total chatterbox who never stopped purring. I think though, with as many other kids as I have here, it’s just too much activity for her and I can’t commit the time she needs to overcome that. So she went to a new foster home Jan 25. I was heartbroken over both of these cases, which in turn taught me a valuable lesson. I’m not going to be able to help every cat I take in, no matter how hard I try. Some are going to come to me so damaged by what their life was like before, or with underlying issues that I’m just not going to be able handle.

Those are two opposite experiences of my recent rescue life. I have also had three other fosters since I started again in August 2014. Jasper came to live with me the day George got adopted and he’s still here, and remarkably recovered just in the past 24 hours since I gave up Ace. Poor Jasper took the brunt of Ace’s bullying and he was the real reason I knew I couldn’t keep Ace. I couldn’t risk the lasting impact it could have on another. Seeing him almost back to normal mere hours after Ace left convinced me I made the right choice.

Then there was Ralph, a gorgeous long haired flame point boy who was the first foster I took in specifically because I was already in love with him. He came to live with me just a few days before Christmas. He was only here for a month before he found his forever home. He flew home to California just this past week. Now I have Sapphire, a beautiful blue, with me, who came home the day Ralph left to get ready to meet his new family. She’s a gorgeous little spitfire, who does not know the meaning of “calm” except when she’s asleep. I’m supposed to get at least one more some time this week as well.

I have found a new passion as an animal rescue advocate and foster/volunteer so don’t be surprised to see future And in the Real World posts about my life with the cats I am trying to save.

And in the Real World Season 2014 Episode 3 with Debbie

First the good news….

I had my first success, as I harvested my first vegetables grown by my own hand (and my husband’s, of course). Tomatoes, jalapeno peppers, and bell peppers… why yes, I do taste SALSA from that!  Our salsa is a bit on the spicy side (probably should have left out the third jalapeno pepper!) but oh is it ever yummy! Makes me think this whole gardening thing is worth it.

And then the bad news….

Gardening is definitely not for the faint of heart! I survived the first wave of the dreaded caterpillar creatures, only to have yet another wave of them where I picked off over 30 of the nasty little creatures in just 30 minutes (and ouch, did I mention that gardening is exercise too? Ugh).  But then we have what looks to be powdery mold growing because of course I’m in Florida and it’s rained daily for the last month at least, never mind the high humidity. But then came the final straw for the cucumbers… SPIDERS!

Yes, imagine my horror when I flip over a leaf to check for caterpillars and discovered a whole bunch of little tiny spiders! Horror movie come to life! I’ll admit to jumping and running to get my husband but I’m very proud I didn’t scream bloody murder (which I’m prone to do over even ONE spider, never mind a whole bunch of the nasty critters!). Needless to say, we now have tomato and pepper plants but NO cucumber plants! Those bug-attracting plants are gone!

And in the Real World Season 2014 Episode 2 with Debbie

Growing up, I remember gardens. My grandfather had a whole field of peas and corn while my mom had a small tomato garden in our backyard. Every year, we would shuck peas for hours, just me and my mom, while chatting about even the smallest of things in life. We would walk into our own garden (fenced in to keep our dogs out) and watch the tomatoes grow and then Mom would have fresh tomato sandwiches to eat (I shunned those as the only tomato I liked back then was found in ketchup!). Somehow, with time and the modern day conveniences, we lost the desire to garden. Recently, however, I decided to give it a try. I’ve been more than pleasantly surprised by the results!

Watching a garden grow is fascinating to me but even more so now that I’m trying to eat healthy and natural (I blame my gall bladder for that fun transition). I tried two separate methods- I bought a couple of small plants to transplant and I also purchased seeds that I have lovingly coaxed into sprouting. It’s a daily activity as Florida is full of bugs and some are nasty little critters that like to munch on my blooming plants.  Me- the girl who screams, “PAUL!! HUGE SPIDER!” is now suddenly plucking the wicked looking hornworm caterpillar off of my delicate cucumbers and mercilessly drowning them in soapy water.  This is the same girl who just a month ago didn’t even know such a creature existed, never mind that the non-pesticide way to kill it was by drowning it in soapy water.

Gardening has been fun but it has also brought me back to reading a genre I had lost track of in all my urban fantasy novels. I’ve started both rereading and exploring new cozy mysteries as there are some great ones where gardening is featured- Edith Maxwell being a new favorite but who can’t help but love the herbal mysteries of Susan Albert Wittig? Books and hobbies so often go hand in hand… what books have you been drawn to because of your hobbies?

And in the Real World Season 2014 Episode 1 with Debbie

Here at Kwips we have a feature called And in the Real World where we can post about our non-book life. In honor of June being Mental Health Awareness month, I’m jumping in for the first time with a weighty topic- grief.

Graduation is a joyous time, filled with hope for the future. However, for those who have lost a loved one who never reached that stage in life, it can also be a very painful time. I recently had the bittersweet experience of attending two graduations- and both were connected to the loss of my nephew.

Many of you may not know but I took an abrupt hiatus from reviewing.  Grief didn’t allow me to focus on even reading, never mind actually writing about the books I couldn’t seem to focus on. You see, grief overwhelms… and the loss of one of my nephews was overwhelming.  He had been like a son to me-and one night, in the blink of an eye, he was gone.

June is Mental Health Awareness Month and part of awareness is recognizing what you or someone you know who is grieving may experience. Don’t try to put a timetable on their grief. The absolute worst comment someone made to me was that I was grieving beyond societal norms- and this was barely past the first year after my nephew’s death. Perhaps society does put a timetable on grief but the human heart does not. Be aware that grief is a process and triggers can reignite the pain even years afterwards. Seeking professional help may be necessary but first make sure you understand that some things about grief are typical.  The American Hospice Foundation offers some great information for anyone who has either personally experienced a loss or knows someone who has.

One of the things that helped me in the immediate aftermath of his death was just remembering the basics- eating, sleeping, and my faith. It’s amazing how something like death will suck away your appetite or even make you forget about one of the basics of life. However, as time passes, the basics of life return back to normal but the hurt still remains. For me, maintaining some semblance of structure was important as I returned to work, continued to do things like grocery shopping, and yes, in time the joy of things like reading returned to my life.

So back to graduation… as I watched both the former girlfriend of my deceased nephew as well as another nephew (who is the brother of my deceased nephew) graduate, I cried- tears of joy and of sadness. No, my deceased nephew will never walk across that stage and hold that diploma so proudly. But I also could see that hope does still exist, as I watched two young people who have survived an unthinkable tragedy and they still walked across that stage and held their diplomas to announce to the world that they did it.

A few helpful articles can be found at: