Saturday, May 14, 2016

My dog found Sheila Claydon

Something wonderful happened to me this week. I found a bluebell wood. No, that's not quite right. My dog found it.

It's quite a while since I talked about Elfie, and when I last did she was still a puppy. Now, at fourteen months old, she is a teenager. She exhibits all the symptoms. Never an early riser, nowadays she would stay in bed until mid-morning given half a chance, whereas playing 'hunt the toy' or 'fetch the ball' right up to bedtime is her idea of fun. She's moody with her friends too. One day Ginny is her favorite, the next day she's been discarded for Hugo who, according to Elfie, is much more fun. There's her pickiness over food as well, not her main meal which is eaten a top speed, but her treats. A stuffed bone, the same as the one she ate a few days ago and loved, is ignored, because today she wants a cowhide chew...the same chew she has refused to acknowledge for at least a week.

Then there are rules to be broken. The eyes peeping through the banister at the top of the staircase are really saying 'This is a hologram, I'm actually sitting on the bottom step where I'm meant to wait for you.'

The stuffing pulled out of her bed isn't her fault either, it's the visiting cat's fault. In fact the cat is a good all round excuse for anything that goes wrong.

Like all teenagers she can be a delight though. She knows to obey all the important commands like come, sit, stay, wait and leave. She even knows what 'Yuk' means if she goes too near something unsavoury when we're walking, and leaves well alone. When the mood takes her she likes cuddles as well. She has one other good point too. She never fails to remind me I need to exercise every day and then insists on coming along, and it was on one of our recent outings that she found the bluebell wood. I'm not talking about any old bluebell wood either, I'm talking about something so magnificent that it took my breath away. A narrow sandy path meandering through a a sea of blue that stretched as far as the eyes could see, and overhead the fresh green of new beech leaves.

Now I don't know what your fix is, but I find the great outdoors always cheers me up. While I can enjoy towns and cities, in my opinion they don't compare to the beauty of the natural world, so when Elfie added the bluebell wood to our daily walk I gained far more than physical exercise. It's this sort of serendipity that keeps me exploring the world around me, and it's the knowledge that the bluebells will come back next year and all the years after that, that excites me, and I guess it's why I write nature into a lot of my books. This is particularly the case with Reluctant Date, my book set in a very small town in Florida that I once visited, where the inhabitants wake up to dolphins swimming across the bay, and where pelicans have their own special roost known as 'the doss house' because there are so many of them. There are nesting osprey and wild turkeys too, and right in the middle of them all is a love affair, well two of them actually.

Maybe a bluebell wood will feature in my next book.

Sheila's books can be found at  
She also has a website and can be found on facebook

Friday, May 13, 2016

Road Tripping USA Part Five by Joan Donaldson-Yarmey


My website:

Author’s Note

I belong to Angels Abreast, a breast cancer survivor dragon boat race team in Nanaimo, British Columbia, Canada. Every four years the International Breast Cancer Paddlers Commission IBCPC) holds an international festival somewhere in the world. In the spring of 2013, my team received a notice that the IBCPC had chosen Sarasota, Florida, USA, to hold the next festival in October 2014.
     We decided to attend and while the other members were going to fly down, tour around some of the sites and head home I wanted to see more of the country and meet some of the people. My husband, Mike, and I drove from our small acreage at Port Alberni, British Columbia, on the Pacific Ocean, to Sarasota, Florida on the Atlantic Ocean.
     Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine the people I would meet nor the beautiful places I would see nor the adventures I would have on our ten week, 18,758km (11656 mile) journey. On the thirteenth day of every month in 2016 I will post a part of my trip that describes some of the excellent scenery, shows the generosity and friendliness of the people, and explains some of the history of the country. The people of the USA have much to be proud of.

 Road Tripping USA Part Five

We entered Florida, the Sunshine State and passed a number of roadside shops offering pecans, jams, and boiled peanuts. We stopped at one and bought a bag each of pecans, chocolate coated pecans, and white chocolate coated pecans. We also purchased a bag of chocolate covered cherries, a container of pecan brittle, and a jar of mayhaw jelly. Mayhaw is a wild berry that grows along the rivers in the area. We sampled the boiled peanuts. You can eat them with the shell or you can remove the shell and eat the nut.
     We crossed the Historic Suwannee River made famous by Stephen Foster’s song Old Folks at Home written in 1851. It became Florida’s state song in 1935.
     At 4:00pm the temperature was 83F (28C).
     I was to meet my dragon boat team at the Hampton Inn Sarasota Bee Ridge on Wednesday, October 22. On October 21 Mike and I went to Myakka State Park and booked a site for him for five nights. In the morning we decided to do the Canopy Walk before I went to the hotel. It was humid and hot even at 8:00am.
     We walked down the road to a bridge over the river and took pictures of a small alligator swimming in the water. We continued to where the Canopy Walk trail headed into the bush. It was only slightly cooler in the trees. After a short distance we got to the first of two towers. There was a sign there warning us that the suspended walkway would sway when we crossed it and the taller tower would shake if someone was climbing below. Also, the tall tower would rattle if it was windy. But we were assured it was all natural and safe.
     We climbed the tower to the walkway which is suspended 25ft (7.6m) above the ground. We walked along its narrow 85ft (30m) length through the tall trees. At one point we had to duck to miss a huge branch growing over the walkway. At the end we climbed the taller tower until we were 76.1ft (23m) in the air. What an excellent view we had of the oak and palm tree tops and the wetlands. This is one of just a few canopy walks in the world.
     In the afternoon, Mike drove me to the Hampton Inn. The rest of the team wouldn’t be showing up until evening. I unpacked and watched television, something I hadn’t done since leaving home. I hadn’t missed much. The two ladies I was sharing the room with arrived and after hugs and greetings they unpacked. We headed down to the lobby to meet with other team members and we went for supper.
     Thursday was a free day so we split into groups, some wanted to go shopping, some wanted to relax because of the time change, and some wanted to sightsee. I was part of the shopping group. One woman had gotten directions to a shopping center and we boarded a bus. It was a long trip and we had to transfer once. At one point we were the only people on the bus other than the driver. A young man got on and stopped when he saw all us women. We told him it was safe and we had quite a conversation with him, telling him who we were and why we were in town. He took a picture of us when he got off the bus.
     We visited the mall and returned in time to attend the welcoming party that the hotel staff put on for us and the three other teams who were staying at the hotel. We had a fun time meeting the other women and sampling food and beer from local businesses. We’d made reservations at a nearby restaurant for a team supper so we headed there afterwards. Once we’d eaten, most of the team came back to our room for shooters and a party.
     Friday morning we were bussed to Nathan Benderson Park for our first look at the venue where the festival would take place and for our forty-five minute practice on the lake. The opening ceremonies were held that evening and thousands of chairs had been set up on a grassy area facing a stage. The youngest member of all the teams from each country carried that country’s flag across the stage and set it in a holder. No name or age was given for these women but some of them seemed to be in their twenties or early thirties. Speeches were given and then there was a wine and cheese reception for the teams.
     School buses had been rented to provide transportation for the teams to the site on Saturday and Sunday. Our pick up time was at 6:30am. The hotel management usually supplied breakfast for its guests starting at 6:00am but they changed the time to 5:00am to accommodate our early schedule. And a good selection it was: bacon, eggs, sausages, toast, hash browns, hot and cold cereal, muffins, fruit, juice, tea, and coffee.
     We were in Florida but at 6:30 in the morning it was dark and the temperature was cool. At the site we carried our team banner and decorations to our tent and set them up, then watched the sun rise.
     Nathan Benderson Park was large. It had to be to accommodate the one hundred teams with up to twenty-six members plus supporters. This totaled about three thousand women and men in pink. There were two long rows of huge tents on the grass and the teams shared the space. Each team was given a table and enough chairs for the members. We put our table at one end of the tent and set the chairs in two rows with a narrow walkway between. From the other end of our space we had a view of the lake and the races. Between us and the water was a paved walkway and a beach.
     The races began at 8:30am and ran every ten minutes. There were eight teams per race. Our first race was at 8:50. We found a place on the grass to do our warm up then headed to the first Staging Area to line up with the other seven teams of our race. There were twenty-four dragon boats on the water. Eight were racing, eight were being loaded and heading to the race start, and eight were waiting to unload from the previous race. As each set of boats was loaded the teams for the next race moved from the first Staging Area to the second Staging Area and those from the Second Staging area went down to the water to await their boats. It ran like clockwork.
     When our race was finished we were free to explore the site until an hour before assembling for our next one. I went and checked out the many tents that offered clothes, paddling equipment, food, and souvenirs for sale. One place sold t-shirts that listed the one hundred teams and all their members. I found my name on it and bought it.
     It was exciting to wander the crowd of women, meeting friends from other festivals and making new ones at this festival. Mike and I planned on travelling across Canada so I stopped in at the tables of teams from each province to get a contact number. I wanted to try and make a practice with at least one team in each province as we drove through it.
     We women at the race are a very small representation of the millions of women around the world who have had, are dealing with, or who have died from breast cancer. We are called survivors, but really that is a description that changes minute by minute. I have paddled with many women who had their cancer return, sometimes in the breast, sometimes it has metastasized to their brain, their lungs, or another part of their body. One woman I knew had breast cancer cells wrapped around the bones of her lower jaw.
     In one area there was a pink fire truck and a pink police car. The retired firefighters from various towns and cities drive their truck to festivals across the country to raise awareness of breast cancer. Their motto is Pink Heals and the truck was covered in names of people who had signed it. I added my name to it.
     Some of the teams have come up with some very inventive names: Chemo Savvy from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada; Chestmates from Kingston, Ontario, Canada; Missabittatitti from Brisbane, Queensland, Australia; Hope Chest, Buffalo, New York, USA; and Rowbust from London Ontario, Canada.
     After our last race of the day we headed to the drop off and pick up area to catch a bus back to the hotel. The owner of the school buses was directing them and we visited with him while we waited our turn.
     “Did you know that there are alligators in the lake?” he asked.
     “No,” we said, as we looked at each other in shock.
     “There are and if you fall in you will be eaten,” he said. “Alligators only eat every four months and we hold a festival on the lake about every four months. That way we don’t have to feed them.”
     Back at the hotel, we got ready for the Parade of Nations and a street party. Every team was supposed wear theme costume. Ours was Super Survivor. We wore pink capes, white t-shirts with a super hero on it, pink decorated masks, and black pants. We each carried a small Canadian flag. We were bussed to the Lakewood Ranch Main Street. There were speeches and then the one hundred teams paraded through the streets. Afterwards, a band played while we shopped in the stores and ate in the restaurants or from the street vendors. I gave my flag to a young boy of about eight, my cape to a young girl of about eleven and my mask to a child of about five.
     On Sunday afternoon, the Flower Ceremony was held after the last race. The sixteen boats from the previous two races remained on the water and were joined by the eight boats from the last one. They formed a floating flotilla of twenty-four boats and stayed in formation by the ladies holding the side of the boat beside them. Each of the women in the boats, as well as all the survivors on shore, had been given a pink carnation. Spectators could purchase the carnations and the money was donated to Breast Cancer research.
     Speeches were made then while the song, The River, was played we all waved our flowers. At the end of the song we threw them into the water. These flowers represented the women who have died from the disease or who are fighting it.
     The Flower Ceremony, also called the Carnation Ceremony, is held at every festival where there are breast cancer teams. It always is a very moving sight.
     At the closing ceremonies the oldest member of all the teams from each country retrieved that country’s flag from the holder and carried it back across the stage. Bette, an 85-year-old member from our team, represented Canada.
     Each day there were three drones hovering over the venue recording the sights. In the evening we could bring up the website on the Internet and see all that had taken place during the day.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016


Evening in Paris perfume, Cashmere Bouquet soap, and Tangee lipstick

I hadn’t received a Vermont Country Store catalogue for a while so when one showed up this week I took a delightful walk down memory lane because---there it was: Evening in Paris perfume. Between the 1920s and 1960s, women bathed with Cashmere Bouquet soap, wore Tangee lipstick, and dabbed Evening in Paris on their pulse points.

Evening in Paris, aka Soir de Paris was developed around 1926 by Ernest Beaux, a Russian émigré and perfumer who moved to France after the revolution. There he was able to use his Romanoff contacts to recreate his business.  The Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich of Russia, a companion of Coco Chanel arranged a meeting between the two in Cannes late in the summer of 1920. There, presented his current and former works to Chanel who chose what became known as Chanel No. 5 as a Christmas present for her best clients. Chanel was owned by the Wertheimer family who also owned a cosmetics company called Bourjois. And Bourjois was looking for a perfume that would appeal to the American bourgeoisie—nothing too expensive, however, something appealing and affordable to the middle-income women. And so Ernest Beaux created a scent that smelled of violets, roses, and carnations, and which dried with a hint of cloves. It was sold in a signature, cobalt blue bottle.

In December 1938, the Dallas Morning News ran an ad for “A smart new bottle of Evening in Paris Perfume, with its own, efficient, lasting atomizer” for $1.73. The Vermont catalogue price is $79.95. Prices on ebay vary.

Of these three common toiletries, Cashmere Bouquet Soap is the old-timer. In 1806, an English immigrant named William Colgate started a starch, candle, and soap factory which he called William Colgate and company. When his father died, his son, Samuel, took over and in 1872 introduced Cashmere Bouquet soap, the company’s first “milled, perfumed toilet soap.” The company even went so far as to register the name as a Colgate trademark.

George Luft, the son of a German émigré, was responsible for Tangee products. George grew up in Warsaw, Illinois and attended the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy. After graduation in 1894, he worked in small drug stores throughout the west. In 1902, he was married and living in New York. It would be 18 years before he established the George W. Luft Company, Inc. and begin to manufacture pharmaceuticals and “perfume materials.” The name came from the lipsticks tangerine shade, but the product was advertised as “a technical marvel” because “after application the color changed to conform to the complexion of the wearer.”
Tabloid pictures of movie stars without makeup and the following quote from Yves St. Laurent say it all:
“The most beautiful makeup of a woman is passion. But cosmetics are easier to buy.”

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

New Releases from Books We Love

New Releases

An exciting historical romance, a second edition of a BWL favorite, and a heart-warming contemporary romance. It's almost beach reading time, so get your Kindle loaded!

Books We Love to write...Books You'll Love to Read!

Titillating preview by J.C. Kavanagh

WINNER Best Young Adult Book 2016, The Twisted Climb I've been prepping for Autumn book signings and excited to meet new and...