Friday, July 29, 2005

I Just Read....

When I read a book I loved, I can't wait to share it. I guess that's common for us readers, eh? Blogging is going to be a great venue for that. Sometimes I get in a reading funk and nothing holds my interest. I keep searching for just the right thing. I really hate it when that happens, because I want to be swept away, thrilled, enamored, but everything's unsatisfactory.

I started Robyn Carr's RUNAWAY MISTRESS last night and couldn't put it down. Finally! I was enamored. The cover is pink with a purse and crossed legs, pretty chick-lit looking and not something I'd normally pick up, but it's a MIRA and I often hit it big with a MIRA, so after reading the back copy and the first page, I bought it. I'm not badmouthing chick lit; it's just not my personal cup of tea. In case you hadn't guessed, I LOVE romance.

As the story began, it didn't seem headed in a romantic direction, but the situation and the story and Jennifer/Doris drew me in, hook, line and sinker. There was a perfect blend of secondary characters who were so multi-dimementional that they fleshed out the book and didn't bog down the romance. I never mind a slow start to a good romance. I'm not one who thinks the two people have to be together in chapter one and that's that. Nope, build it up, make me care.

That's the writer's job, you know, first and foremost. To make the reader care. I cared. I cared until midnight last night when I finally stopped trying to hold my eyes open and turned out the light. I cared when I woke up early and snuck in another couple chapters. I cared when I was supposed to be working on my own story today, but wanted to go read. I cared when I finally took a break and sat on the patio with a cup of coffee. I cared as I was cooking supper with the book in one hand. I cared after supper while my husband watched the news. I cared right up until the last page when I could finally lay that book down.

Sigh

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Oh Those Eyes

I'm currently writing a novella for the '06 Spring Brides anthology. It's Charmaine's story--readers will remember her from His Secondhand Wife as well as from Sweet Annie. She is Annie's cousin who deserves the next too-good-to-be-true man to come along. I finally found him for her--and he's the last fellow anyone would expect her to fall for. I use a different tactic writing short for a novella, thinking lighthearted rather than angsty, and winding up conflict much sooner.

I usually have a visual of my characters, pictures on my bulletin board or wallpaper on my desktop. Jack Easton looks like Jack Sparrow, Johnny Depp's character in Pirates of the Carribean. Whenever I want to picture him, I shrink my Word program and gaze at my wallpaper. Oh my, those eyes.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Desk Stuff

I have a desk that wraps from one side of my office, along the wall, and over to the other side, so it's actually two corners and one wall. The entire back behind the work space and below the hutches are fabric bulletin boards, and they're filled with bookcovers, notes, and pictures of readers.

My work computer is in the corner closest to the door, and the top is completely littered at any given time. There's a pile of mail to be answered, a wooden pencil holder that looks like books filled with remotes, the matching tissue box, dictionaries and thesauruses, the notebook for my current book--always open--post-its & pens, my jump drive--I'll never be without back up again--a little tin of cuticle cream and cuticle scissors, hotel-size hand lotions, a shell worn smooth from rubbing, and a magnetic sculpture. It's Xs and Os on a magnet base, fun to stack and play and fiddle with.

I also have three Crayons from Sharon Sala's workshop at the last RWA conference I attended, where she spoke about coloring outside the lines.

Okay, there's a cup of cold coffee and my cell phone at this moment, too.

I should take a picture, eh, and then I wouldn't need a thousand words.

It's so hot!

How hot is it?

It's so hot, I went to the store for flour, sugar and eggs yesterday, and came home with a cake!

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Christmas In X-S: Thinking COOL Thoughts

I promised to tell about this before the end of July.

We love Christmas decorations! We have an entire storage room filled with only Christmas decorations, including four trees and a 40+ piece Dickens Village. One of our trees is pre-lit with all white lights and it revolves. It's incredible. We can do trees in many styles:

* By color - purple; blue & green; red & green; gold; or multi.
* Entirely Santa, including concrete sleigh base.
* Victorian - I do this one every year because it's my favorite.
* Old fashion toys and dolls,
* Handcrafted
* Vintage ornaments

The boxes of bead garland in all colors and varieties weigh a TON.

One year we had an enormous tree and made the mistake of using the old-fashion bulbs. I had to remember to turn it off before I blow-dried my hair! And just walking past it, we felt a wave of heat. We disposed of those light sets once the season passed.

My husband's favorites are the bubble lights, and we've built our collection so that we can do an entire tree. It goes really well with the old-fashion Santa theme.

The village is a masterpiece of electrical ingenuity each set up. At one time my collection was small, and it could be displayed on a piece of plywood covered with cotton snow. Then it grew to the proportions of covering the tops of seven bookcases and two china hutches. Since we moved and downsized, it simply doesn't fit anywhere, so it's lying fallow for a season or two.

I'm a silk flower freak, too, and I have enough Christmas silks to replace all the planters and vases and swags and drape the mantle with greenery swags and lights. Even the bathrooms have themes at Christmas time- Santas, angels, elves--with decor and towels, candles and shower curtains to match.

I have a Santa mug collection, you know those old-fashion heads? It takes up a few shelves now, and includes a teapot and creamer and sugar.

A couple years ago, my husband bought me the most beautiful holly teapot and creamer and sugar set--now one of my favorite things.

I have collectable candles from the 50s - angels, reindeer, trees, igloos, choir boys & girls.

I have several Nativities, my favorite being the porcelain Home Interior set from a few years back, including the stable and accessories.

I'm sure there's more I haven't thought of... what can I say? I love Christmas.
Posted by Cheryl St.John Jul 26, 2005 10:17 pm

HIS SECONDHAND WIFE

Friday, July 22, 2005

Birthdays and other events, like cucumber rallys

My husband suggested I take the patio umbrella out to the street behind our house and set up a stand to sell cucumbers. I told him that probably wasn't going to happen. But we are seriously overrun. The neighbors have cukes, my critique group has cukes; my daughter takes 'em to work, my hubby takes 'em to work--and still they multiply. Two mounds, that's all we planted, but yikes!

I mentioned we were having a birthday party. Our family has grown so much that it's a rare month that doesn't find us gathering for birthdays at least a couple of times. I love to get creative and serve brunch, with breakfast casseroles, etc.. My daughter LeighAnn and I occasionally cook up Mexican Day or Soup Day. But of course, with such a large gathering, we often have the old standbys, grilled burgers and dogs, tastees, chili, and good old ham and turkey on the holidays.

I don't know how I always get the same jobs at these events--but I'm trying to shake off the stereotype. My son-in-law Brad claims he's going to have me buried with an ice cream scoop in my folded hands, just so I'll look normal. I bought him one for Christmas one year--one just like mine, a heavy duty industrial strength flat scooper--but of course I am the one who wields it at their house. Last birthday I hid until the scooping was underway.

While I'm on the subject of birthdays--when we moved I organized photos into albums until my brain went numb and I stashed the rest back into boxes where they will await the next millennium.

Birthday cakes. Remember how exciting those first birthday cakes were? You couldn't get enough pictures of your baby with that first taste and frosting up his nose. Wasn't that darling? Then the second, third, and fourth birthdays, etc., and then the second third and fourth kid--yes I have four and I lived to tell.

And then the grandchildren start arriving--or so they say.

Here is my pledge: I will never, as long as I draw breath, take another picture of a birthday cake. I mean how many cake pictures does a person need? And you know, one shot was never enough, you had to take two in case the first one blurred or something, heaven forbid, and you wouldn't be able to see Strawberry Shortcake or Spiderman clearly once he was a sweet memory in someone's tummy.

You know what I'm talking about. Just you try sorting 20 or 30 years of photos and try to get sentimental about a cake that was only so so in 1983.

And darned if I'm not the one who gets stuck opening all those kids' toys that have been hermetically sealed and wired and clamped. Sometimes you need a screwdriver! I'm telling you, Santa could catapult those boxes out of his sleigh onto our concrete driveways and Barbie wouldn't have a hair out of place.

The packaging is three times the size of the toy inside. It takes half a roll of wrapping paper to go around this box, and once you get the twisties unwrapped and the taped peeled off and the plastic removed, you have a little pile of Power Rangers and half a dozen bags of trash. And---

ever lost a minuscule part and had to search through all those bags because you might have accidentally thrown it away? heh heh It's always with Colonel Mustard in the sofa cushion.

Anyone have a cucumber muffin recipe?

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

How do you say St.John?

Today a reader posted asking how my last name was pronounced.  She obviously knew of the Old English pronunciation.  Well, my grandmother always pronounced it "SENT-jen" with the accent on the first syllable, close to the Old English.  My family and I pronounce it SAINT John, with the accent on Saint.  And when it's printed, there is no space between the St. and the John.  Like this --------> St.John
 
There you have it, all you ever wanted to know about my name.
 
Today I was blown away to note that my first blogs have gone into the archives!  Guess I'm awfully chatty!  If you want to read more blogs, click on the archive button on the right.
 
And by the way, did you know "blog" is not in email spell check?  Not mine anyway.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Books, Books, Everywhere Books!

When we moved last summer, we downsized. I packed up eight huge boxes of paperbacks and mailed them to friends Tina and Connie at Dog-Eared Books. I also dropped off bags and bags at the Goodwill. Sold old hardbacks at a garage sale. I Freecycled bags of books. I went from seven bookcases in my living room to four. I sent a box of vintage Harlequins to my editor--she was thrilled. Some of them originally cost .25 and I had inherited them from a family member. I loved them, but they'd been in a box for years.

Just this past Spring I purged my office to incorporate new, more streamlined furniture and went from eight bookcases in my office to five. If I can get rid of one more, I can keep my office curio. I no longer have a tbr cabinet. I gave that away, too. Gave away bookcases. Used some for storage in the basement. I finally faced the fact that I'd never read all those new books--and that I'd never re-read the ones I'd read and kept.

For four months I held weekly contests from my website and newsletter and gave away packages and sets of books--many of them autographed. That was costly because of postage, but it was a huge hit with readers and I gained many subscribers because of it. I'm much more selective about what I buy now. And much more selective about what I keep. I only keep my very favorites. If it was a good read, but I probably won't read it again, I give it away.

I still support my fellow authors by buying books, but I now have them generically signed and give them away in contests.

And you know what? I don't miss them!

Sizzling Summer

Today was the first day in the low nineties for weeks. It's so hot, the dog doesn't even want to go out. We had a birthday party here on Saturday and instead of grilling, I cooked and we ate inside. We still have cake left. My daughter Kristin ordered it, and it was half white with chocolate chips and half strawberry--and the entire thing had chocolate frosting. Her theory: birthday cakes are usually boring because people always order the same thing. That's my girl. Yum.

We have to water our flower gardens and vegetables every other day. We have cukes coming out our ears and HUGE green pumpkins!

I put up a feeder with thistle seed for the finches, and they're just darling. We have a squirrel that loves to tease the dog. Sits on the opposite side of the privacy fence and shakes his tail--the dog goes crazy.

Tonight, since it was cooler, I walked to a huge bank of daisies and chrysanthemums at a nearby park area and dead headed the dried flowers for the seeds. Our berms in the front are mostly wild-looking flowers, except for the lilies and gladiolus and mums.

I have a huge tub of strawberries to plant, but it rained last night, so I'm waiting for the ground to dry out.

My fingers are sore from those prickly flower heads.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

About Freecycle

I've mentioned Freecycle in a couple of posts, so I thought I had some 'splainin' to do for those who've never heard of it. Freecycle is a yahoo group where people post things they're giving away. I've seen washers and dryers, toys, clothing, pets, coupons, books, just about everything given away. When you have an item or items you no longer need, but you'd like to see someone else use, you post it. I get anywhere from five to thirty-five repsonses, depending on the item. You just pick someone and they come get it.

On the other hand, when you see an item posted that you'd really like, you post a request, and they pick someone. I've been gifted filing cabinets, strawberry plants, cala lilies, vintage light fixtures--including an awesome glass chandelier and other cool stuff. The group in my city is over 2,000 members now. I'm in a large city and new members joined after there were announcements in major magazines.

To check and see if there is a Freecycle group in your city, you go to yahoogroups . com (scrunch that) -- if you're not registered at yahoo, you'll have to register with a password and a profile. Then where it says search for a group, you type in Freecycle - leave a space - and type the name of your city. It will bring up local groups, if any. We have suburbs near us which also have groups, and I'm on one of those, too. If you don't want 50 posts a day, set your mail to digest, so a whole day's mail comes in one post. Warning, though, you may miss something good if you're not watching. There are rules, and you'll have to be approved by the list mom. In my city there's a monthly luncheon where members get together, bring stuff to give away, and socialize. I've never had time to do that yet, but I will.

So, that's the skinny on Freecycle. If you are already a Freecycler or if you join, let me know.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Dumb jokes make me laugh

A man takes his Rottweiler to the vet and says, "My dog's cross-eyed, is there anything you can do for him?"
"Well," says the vet, "let's have a look at him."
So he picks the dog up and examines his eyes, then checks his teeth. Finally, he says, "I'm going to have to put him down."
"What? Just because he's cross-eyed?"
"No, because he's really heavy."

Friday, July 15, 2005

Kinder Than Necessary

This week my women's prayer group challenged each other to be kinder than necessary--to find ways to be kind. I haven't mentioned it to anyone, not even my family. But what I'm seeing are people being kinder than necessary to me, and I'm appreciative of those acts and those people.

A writer whose name I recognized, but whom I don't know personally emailed me out of the blue to tell me she loves all my books and that she buys each one she sees. That made my week.

My daughter who works and goes to school and is very very busy asked last night what she could do to help me. I said cleaning one bathroom and vacuuming the family room and all the steps would sure be a blessing, and she did it there and then.

I posted on my local Freecycle list that I was looking for a little antenna to affix to a television with no cable for the top of my refrigerator. A lady named Kim posted she had gone to look in her basement and found one for me.

A gardener posted strawberry plants on Freecycle, so I took a shovel and a galvanized tub and dug a mass of healthy-looking plants from the prettiest garden I've ever seen. My ground was too wet, because I'd just watered, so I'm babying them in the shade until I get them planted.

Is being kind necessary? That was the question that floated past me as I was reflecting on our weekly project. I'm a firm believer in what goes around comes around, and I believe it is necessary and healthy to do things outside ourselves that don't seem for our own personal benefit, and in the end they are.

Ever notice how unhappy selfish people are? Ever notice how miserable you get when you turn inward and focus only on yourself? I challenge you to do something nice for someone today, and see if the kindness doesn't come back to you. Call someone who's on your heart; send a note or a card to a lonely or hurting friend, relative or neighbor; take a batch of muffins to the cranky lady next door ( have just the recipe for you); let someone into traffic ahead of you; ask the checker without a smile how's she doing today and really hear her answer. This week when a child speaks to you, get down eye-level with them and listen. And if you can't think of anything else, smile. It's a gift worth giving. :-)

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Queen of Muffins

I am the queen of muffins and breads. There's a secret to awesome muffins, did you know that? The secret is not to mix the ingredients any longer than to barely moisten. Uh huh. Otherwise the gluten has a chance to do its thing and the muffins get rubbery. I've experimented with making muffins like those you get in the restaurants. I have several great recipes, but you can use one simple basic recipe and work from there.

I was blown away when the silicone pans came out--bought one for bundt and a couple others. They rock. Do use vegetable spray on those and on non-stick pans, and make sure you get the top of the pan so that the batter oozing over doesn't stick. I like them full so they have a cap on top. Don't use paper liners! You loose those scrumptious crusty sides.

Important: Preheat oven to 400.

Sift all your dry ingredients. I learned that from my aunt who has always made the best cookies in the world. Presifted flour or no, sift it all together to add air. You'll notice the difference, guaranteed.

Whisk the wet ingredients, then quickly add the dry, and stir with a spatula only to moisten evenly. Any lumps will bake out.

I keep a shaker of cinnamon and sugar handy. I always sprinkle the tops, but you can also sprinkle the tin after you've sprayed it and before you pour in the batter.

Spray your spoon or measuring cup, so that the batter slides right off.

How many muffins you get from this recipe depends on the size--regular, you'd get 12--big ones like the bakery, you'll get 8.

Sift dry ingredients:
2 cups flour
3/4 c sugar
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

Liquid ingredients:
1/2 c virgin olive oil
1 tsp vanilla
1 c milk
2 large eggs

Fold in additional ingredients quickly, spoon into tins and bake 20 minutes until golden. Let cool 15 minutes. Allow silicone pans to cool completely before turning out muffins.

Here are my favorites additives:
* 2 mashed bananas, walnuts and cinnamon


* all the above plus craisins and chocolate chips


* mandarin oranges, orange juice instead of milk, orange peel, and sprinkle lemonade mix on top


* cranberries and walnuts - I keep cranberries in the freezer, then quickly cook a cup at a time in the microwave.

I often have so many muffins and small loaves of bread in the freezer that I take a basket to church on Sunday morning. My pumpkin bread recipe is to die for. I'll share that later. I use my grandma's banana bread recipe, and it's a hit as well.

Let me know if you make some yummy muffins!
Posted by Cheryl St.John Jul 14, 2005 3:51 pm

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Clutter Pro or Con ??

I was flipping through a magazine last night (yes, one of THOSE magazines), and there was an article on freeing your kitchen from clutter. The suggestions included:

Clutter pro: Afix shelves or racks to a wall.
Me: What walls?

Clutter pro: Store extra food stuffs in the basement
Me: Did that, basement's full

Clutter pro: Hang shiny pans from a ceiling rack
Me: My family eats here, you want them dodging skillets, too?

Clutter pro: Move spices out of cupboards near the stove--they last longer if they're not in heat
Me: Keep mine in the freezer--freezer's full, so's the one in the garage

Clutter Pro: Place a shelf over the sink
Me: You can see it from my front door--don't think so

Clutter Pro: Get everything out, and if you haven't used in in the last year, get rid of it
Me: Just moved in last year and daughter LeighAnn Clean Sweeped for me--still miss those sippy cups and that extra pair of tongs

Sorry, you're going to have to do better than that for this chicky--bring in the big guns!

LOL
Cher :-)

Joys of Summer

Today I was good to myself and had lunch with friends. It's one of the perks of being self-employed--you can schedule anything as long as you get the work done. We gathered at a lovely froo froo restaurant that serves a hundred varieties of salads and quiche and ate in the sunroom. I had the salad sampler plate and a bowl of cool gaspacho. Mmmm. Can you just see your hubby or boyfriend digging this place? Not. But there were a few brave fellows there on their lunch hour.

There's a huge wooden table at the door and all the loaves of bread it holds are $1 each on Tuesdays, so I brought home a couple loaves.

You've got to love cell phones, right? What did we ever do before we had them? I can have my calls forwarded to my cell phone and no one knows I'm not working when I answer. LOL "Yes, I'm here slaving away. Yes, I'll take another lemon slice in my water, please. No, I was just making up dialogue for my characters."

It's so HOT in my city that we're thinking of renaming it Oma-HOT. We're watering our yard and garden like crazy. My hubby brought in a dozen beautiful cucumbers tonight. One of my daughters stopped by and promptly took over half--her kids love them. I took several to dinner at her house on Sunday and they were gone in a heartbeat.

The pumpkin patch is taking over the garden, so we have to clip back and trim a few of the flowers off--but they're so pretty. Especially in the mornings when the flowers are open and bright yellow. We have quite a few good-sized pumpkins--but alas no tomatoes yet.

I stopped at a stand with a sign that read Yutan. That's a small community outside Omaha. The tomatoes had stickers on them that read "Arkansas vine ripened." What kind of a racket is that? I bought some anyway, because we're salivating for BLTs.

The corn has been luscious. My hubby buys it from truck gardens on his way home from work and we grill it in foil. That's my favorite way. Yum.

I love summer food.
Cher :-)

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Christmas in July??

No, I'm not going to tell you about my Christmas obsession just yet--I'll keep you wondering and checking back...

It's been an awesome couple of months with back-to-back books. Actually it's been an awesome year, because I had a book out in February, as well. I don't know which one has received the most positive feedback. Everyone told me they cried their eyes out, but they loved PRAIRIE WIFE. Then everyone said they laughed themselves silly at MILLION-DOLLAR MAKEOVER. Now for HIS SECONDHAND WIFE I'm hearing the words "beautiful" and "lovely".

Yesterday I had a email chat with a reader and she was interested in knowing a few behind the scenes facts about the story. I thought maybe you'd like to know, too. Ann asked me how I decided to make Kate's baby a girl--if I knew all along or if it was difficult. I had to go back to the synopsis to find out.

I went back to the folder on my hard drive--which always takes a minute because many times my working title was not the same title that made it to the actual book. This one started out as Darlin' Katy. I sell the book by writing a synopsis and the first couple of chapters, then it's sometimes months or maybe even a year before I write the book.

Originally, I had Kate give birth to a baby boy "with his mother's hair and his father's chin", but as I was actually writing and the story was unfolding, the baby's identity changed. It just felt "right."

Ann had observed other books where the couple marry and the woman is pregnant with another man's child, and she noted that the baby is usually a girl. She suggested that "strong man protecting a darling baby girl" was what made that work.

Strong man protecting darling baby girl definitely works, but I don't think I ever actually thought of it like that; the sex of the baby just fell into place as appropriate for the story and the characters.

Back to titles. Here are a few working titles and then the chosen title:

ALWAYS AMY = PRAIRIE WIFE
ALL THAT GLITTERS = MILLION-DOLLAR MAKEOVER
DARLIN' KATY = HIS SECONDHAND WIFE
THE SHADY LADY = THE BOUNTY HUNTER

If you have specific questions about how I create my stories and I'll answer right here.

One more thing...I mentioned how authors propose and sell books, then months later actually write them. Getting back into that story is often a challenge. That's what I've been doing--I'm on deadline right now. I don't believe in writer's block. I believe in the practice of BITC. *Buns in The Chair.* I sit here, I turn off my Internet program, I put my fingers on the keyboard, and words come.

Sometimes it's like starting a car engine in sub zero temperature: erR erRR eerrRRR
then finally VROOOM!!

BLOGDATE: July 2005

Okay, I'm offically a blogger. Only recently did I even know what blogging was and never did I think I'd be doing it. Bloggers blather. They talk about any old thing that pops into their head that day--and people read it! Many bloggers write about things that irritate them. I've come up with a thing or two....

Something that irritates me? All those dump stands crowded in front of the books in Walmart--right in front of the romance section--right in front of the series books. Sunglasses, cookbooks, teen fashion magazines--I've mentioned the situation several times to my local store manager without much success. They have nothing to do with stocking the books, you know; that's done by an employee of the book distributor.

So I move the stands and racks to get to the books, but of course next time I go back, there they are again--or others just like them.

The good news is, those stands in the way don't seem to be deterring the die-hard romance readers, because the series and romances still fly off the shelves. Good job, readers!

The other thing in that section that bugs me? All those subscription renewal cards that fall out of the magazines all over the floor. Isn't a renewal form inside the magazine good enough? Wouldn't one suffice? Do we need four that say the same thing with different pictures?

And speaking of magazines...I'm addicted to decorating magazines, especially flea market, Victorian, collectables, cottage or country. Big surprise there, huh? I subscribe to several. And my subscriptions are probably good until 2020. You see, those sneaky companies have a racket. They send renewal forms that look like bills--and they send them months and years before the subscription expires. What are we conditioned to do? See a bill, pay it.

My husband was cheerfully paying all the bills until I realized my subscriptions had all been extended until Judgment Day.

I know you're on the edge of your seat wondering if I save all these magazines. (Oh, and I have a friend who saves me home and garden magazines, too.) Well, the answer is no. But I do save pictures and articles and instructions. They're organized in plastic sleeves in notebook binders by rooms, Christmas, garden....

Sometime I'll have to talk about Christmas....

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Pie safes and stoneware and tools...oh my!

Jul 6, 2005 2:49 am
Pie safes and stoneware and tools...oh my!

What is it that makes a person a collector? A recessive gene? A childhood lack or longing? An obsessive personality? I’ve often pondered this question, and I’ve decided it’s probably all of those plus other reasons I’ll never understand. My grandmother was a collector. Oh my goodness. The precious lady never threw away so much as a scrap of fabric, piece of paper or a bread wrapper I think her frugality and saving nature was a product of her time, however. From her I inherited the ability to stretch a meal that would feed four to making do for twelve in the blink of an eye and without a trip to the grocery store.

I have learned to force myself to throw away cards and papers and magazines--however I keep notebooks filled with the articles and pictures I will use. Eventually. Someday. My mother’s nothing like my grandmother. She saves cards, books, mementos and letters, but has never had a problem getting rid of old toys, dishes or clothing. However I have a couple of aunts who are collectors. I have learned to weed through clothing and books and the kids’ old school papers, and I have only one remaining box of cards and letters--okay, maybe two.

When we moved from the house where we raised our kids, I made them go through the boxes of school papers and drawings and look at them all, and I gave them all their report cards, etc. Recently I did an office makeover, with all new furniture, cabinets and desks. It was a huge job and I spent days going through filing cabinets, throwing away papers I’d moved twice and didn’t need. In the past year I’ve even reduced bookcases from fifteen to nine--and have given away all of the books that were on them!

Now, if collecting is a gene, does that mean my children and grandchildren have it? If it’s a compulsion, that does mean they’ll have seen enough in me and go another direction? My oldest two daughters are minimalists, and it’s an amazement to me. When they’re finished with something, out it goes--furniture, wall d├ęcor, kitchen things--you name it. Their homes are beautifully decorated and welcoming, with no excess clutter or displays of unnecessary items. My youngest daughter was the most like me. Her bedroom at home was full, and anything the other girls or I were getting rid of, she wanted to keep it. And she did. But after having her own child and making several moves, it was easy for her to start pitching.

My daughter-in-law is an extreme minimalist. She likes things plain. She says it calms her. Last year when we moved to a new home, I was in the middle of deadlines and didn’t have time to do all the painting I wanted or hang things and get out all my stuff. I was getting depressed because I didn’t have my “stuff” around me. When I mentioned that to my daughter-in-law, she glanced around and said, “I like it. It’s peaceful.” Just watching HGTV and seeing new paint colors being rolled onto walls gives me a thrill and the urge to redecorate.

Now mind you, I love new paint and I adore and must have color, but I don’t actually do the “work” myself, oh no. My darling husband is the best painter in the world. He has been known to balk at faux techniques or anything fancy, so I have to help out there, but I’m basically the packer, advisor and gopher.

I’m not alone in my love for “stuff”. Recently two of my writers friends and I traveled to antique weekend in Walnut, Iowa. Oh my goodness! Vendors and sellers from all over the Midwest come together for this yearly occasion. The streets of the town are lined with campers and canopies and tents--business area, as well as the shady tree-lined neighborhoods. The homeowners either set out their own wares or they sell food or drinks. Kids pull wagons selling water and pop. The legion hall and the school are filled with booths and tables. We walked and browsed from early morning to late afternoon and didn’t see it all.

It was interesting to see what other people were buying. One man bought a “four holer”. It was a long old board with four holes that had once been the seat in an outhouse! That was the topic of conversation everywhere he dragged that thing. Why he wanted it or what he planned to do with it, I have no idea. I guess I do draw the line somewhere.

My friend Chris collects anything Snoopy, as well as wood handled cookie cutters, kitchen things, and red, white and blue, as well as German dollhouses and furniture. My other friend, Carol, picked up doilies and fell in love with a pitcher and bowl set--she likes bells and Victorian things. I found a cup and saucer with red roses, a teapot made in Japan, a doily edged with pansies and a red and white potholder to add to my collection. Also bought a floral teapot and a cup with no saucer. I have extra saucers--you can pick up the pieces really cheap and then mix and match. Now, obviously I didn’t need any of those things.

Part of the thrill of shopping flea markets and antique stores is “the hunt”. Only die hards, like the breed we saw in throngs that day, will drive out of town, park in a field with parking attendants on horseback, and fight crowds in the blazing sun to look at every last thing to make sure they didn’t miss something wonderful. And that’s the thing--once I’m there, I have to see it all. Every last thing--every nook and cranny--every piece of glassware and each pie safe and all the old dolls and stoneware and--okay, I do skip over the vintage tools. Hey! There is something I don’t collect! If I left without seeing it all, there would be a nagging question in my mind that I’d missed the one thing I couldn’t live without.

Some of you just don’t get it, I know. You’re in the category with my daughters. But I know there are some of you nodding your heads and thinking, yep, that’s it, right on the nose. That’s me. And if there’s someone reading this who has decided they don’t want all their good stuff anymore, call me. I’ll be right over.