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Friday, May 22, 2015

Feline Friday: This Week in Pictures

We're still having issues trying to integrate Luna into the household. Some days things seem a lot better, and then there are days like yesterday, when she suddenly attacked Magic (who has actually been great and mostly just ignoring Luna) and chased her through two rooms. Argh.

I'm working on what Jackson Galaxy, who is a cat behaviorist with a show on Animal Planet called My Cat from Hell calls "catification" of the household. (This means giving Luna a bunch of higher places to escape to so she doesn't feel trapped, although since she doesn't use some of the ones I have already and often just jumps down into the middle of things anyway, I'm not sure if it will help.) And some other changes. But mostly I'm just enjoying the rare moments when everyone is calm.

Angus being calm and adorable
Magic and Minerva hanging out

Luna on her perch in the kitchen, in a rare moment of calm

Not calm. Mystic actually chased Luna up *into* the window. Sigh.
 Happy Feline Friday and I hope everyone has a lovely weekend (those of us in the USA mostly have a 3-day weekend for Memorial Day--huzzah!). What do you all have planned?

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Belated Weedy Wednesday: A Lovely Pile of...Poop?

Okay, yes, it is late Thursday night and by the time most of you see this, it will be Friday. What can I say, it has been a long week. Now that I'm back in the garden again, I'm hoping to start posting regular garden and yard pictures and updates on, you know, Wednesdays. For now, just work with me, will ya people?

As usual at this time of year, there is a mad dash to get everything in the ground in time to take advantage of the limited growing season we get here in Upstate NY. But this year the process has been complicated by Extremely Rude and Erratic Weather. It stayed cold long past the time when the planting season would usually have begun (there was still snow on the ground in early April, when I'd normally plant lettuce, spinach, peas, and such) and then it got insanely hot. Before getting cold again. (We've had a frost warning this week and there is another one for Friday night.) So the planting has all been compressed into an even smaller window than usual, and I'm just hoping for the best.

On the bright side, I got a huge truck load of 2 year old composted horse manure, which will give my garden a much needed boost (and no, it doesn't smell at all). This made me ridiculously happy. And since my garden is across the yard from where the pile was dumped, is negating the need for any visits to the gym anytime soon, as I shovel a load into a wheelbarrow, push it across the yard, then shovel it back out again inside the garden. I'm so happy about the manure, I don't even mind the hard work. Yes, I do realize this means I need to get a life.

Ye Olde Pile of Poop and a yellow wheelbarrow

Manure pile to the left by the barn. Garden to the right.

In we go

And a happy raised bed topped off with manure

The strawberries, and the garlic behind them, get sidedressed, which means that the manure is spread between the rows.
Some other early sights in the spring garden:

A handsome frog, sitting on the pond filter, looking unimpressed by my efforts

Fish, ditto

The big green patch is spinach that overwintered and the little bitty things are spinach and lettuce started this season. The long tomato in the cage has already had to be covered a number of times due to frost threat, so the rest go in later.

Eggplant plants on the left and onions on the right, from the local garden center. They're still pretty spindly looking.
Do you plant a garden? Or do you wish you could? What is your favorite thing to grow?

Monday, May 18, 2015

Magical Monday: Anxiety Spell

I often get requests for spells and other magical advice and tidbits. Just this week, one of my readers sent me a message on Facebook saying that she needed a house blessing for her new home, but she had already packed all her books. She wanted to know if I could help.

Anyone who has been around here for more than a couple of weeks can probably guess that my answer was, "Congratulations on your new home! And yes, of course I can." I sent her a copy of the house blessing and consecration spell out of my second Llewellyn book, Everyday Witch A to Z Spellbook.

But then it occurred to me that since I got these questions fairly often, other people might enjoy a weekly dose of magic. So I declare today to be the first Magical Monday, and I will try to post something witchy every Monday. We'll see how it goes. It may not be a spell. We'll see. And hopefully those who aren't magically inclined will still get something out of these, whether it is an idea for a prayer or spiritual practice (remember that just because something is "magical" doesn't mean it can't be helpful for someone who isn't a witch) or even a story or character idea for the authorly folks who visit here. I'd love some feedback, to tell me if y'all are finding these helpful, entertaining, or you know, not.

Today we're going to start with another spell from the Everyday Witch A to Z Spellbook--this one is for anxiety. Let's face it, most of us deal with anxiety in one form or another, whether it is brought on by work, our home life, money worries, or something else. Me, I'm afraid of thunderstorms, and one is moving into my area, so I'm feeling more than a little anxious. (I know, I know, lots of people love them. I'm not one of them. The energy makes me twitch like crazy, and I know too many people who have had direct hits to their houses, including my parents and my best friend. If you enjoy them, all the more power to you!)

I hope this spell is helpful for whatever it is that makes you anxious.

Goal: Dealing with and lessening anxiety
Optional extras: White candle, lavender, lemon balm or calendula essential oil, rose quartz tumbled stone or pendant
Notes: Calendula is an especially good oil for calming anxiety. It can be quite expensive, but a little bit goes a long way, and if you have ongoing issues you may want to keep some on hand. If you wear jewelry, try finding a rose quartz necklace or pendant that “feels” right to you. You can anoint both the candle and the pendant or stone with whichever oil or oils you chose.

Take a deep breath and light the candle. Spend however much time you need focusing on the flame and your breathing until you feel calm and peaceful. Then say the spell slowly, envisioning yourself surrounded by a glowing light filled with serenity. After doing the spell, wear or carry the rose quartz whenever you are feeling particularly anxious.

Let calm flow in like waves of water
With each breath in, with each breath out
Let tension ease like ropes unknotted
In magick’s light there is no doubt

The goddess wrap her cloak around me
Loving warmth and reassurance
That all will happen as it must
Gifting me with calm endurance

No more worries, no more stress
My burdens lie on stronger shoulders
I release anxiety’s weight
Turn into pebbles what seemed like boulders

Faith is mine and strength is mine
The love of those who stay unseen
Let calm flow in with every breath
I am grounded and serene


Friday, May 8, 2015

Midsummer Release Day Giveaway!

My contribution to Llewellyn's new Sabbats series, MIDSUMMER finally released on Amazon today! And I just checked, and they're already out of stock. Good grief! I guess that means I'll have to give away one of my author copies just to tide y'all over until they can get some more. (You can also get it directly from Llewellyn or B&N or just order it from Amazon and they'll send it out when they get more.)

Luckily, I got this lovely box o'books last week.

Aren't they pretty?

[It feels like Midsummer here today, even though it is only the beginning of May. Normally it should be in the 60's and 70's with lots of rain. Instead it is bone dry and we broke major records today with a temp of 94. Yeesh.]

We're going to keep this giveaway fast and simple. All you have to do to enter is leave a comment here (not at Facebook, although you can certainly leave one there too if you want) and tell me which one of my books is your favorite. (Obviously, I'd also love it if you'd leave a review for that one, if you haven't yet, because reviews really help authors, but that's completely optional.)

If you don't think I know where to find you if you win, you can also leave your email (josephineschmo at yahoo etc.) or let me know your real name and if you're on Facebook.

Addendum: If you leave a comment as "Anonymous" you should definitely tell me your name and a contact email!
I'll pick a winner on Monday at noon.

Good luck!

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

A Luna Update: Twins from Different Mothers

Don't let that innocent face fool you. I guarantee she is plotting something...

I figured it was time for an update on Luna, the kitty I adopted back in March. The short version is this: she’s happy, healthy…and driving me crazy. The long version is a bit more complicated, but mostly she is doing well. Mystic the gigantic gray boy is still going after her, alas, but she is figuring out some high spots where he can’t reach her, and has made friends with yellow boy Angus, who at eight years old is the next youngest and still very much a kitten at heart.

Angus and Luna playing.

I've had to buy a lot of new cat toys.
The vet finally decided, back in March, that she was about six months old, which would mean she is about seven months and a half months old now. Still very kittenish and full of beans. Just like my author friend’s cat Miss Paddington, also known as Paddy.

In fact, the two kitties look so much alike, they might be twins. (And yes, they’re BOTH still wide-eyed and full of mischief.)

That's Paddy on the left and Luna on the right. See what I mean!

Karen Rose Smith and I actually “met” through our mutual love of cats. I commented on a blog post she wrote about one of her rescue cats, and talked about how all mine were rescues too. She invited me to write a guest post about my cats, and so a beautiful friendship was born. We live in different states, so we haven’t met in person, but we’ve been there for each other when dealing with cat issues—she called me when she was worried about Halo, Paddy’s mom (Karen had never been present at a kitty delivery before, and I’d been a cat midwife a number of times), and I called her when I was bereft at the loss of Samhain right after Christmas (since she’d been through the same thing not that long before with one of her favorites).

Karen Rose Smith and Paddy
So it is kind of ironic that Paddy, the child of the cat she rescued last summer, and Luna, who I rescued this winter after she was found in a snow bank and put up for adoption by the vet who saved her life, look like mirror images of each other.

In fact, we’ve had so much fun with all our cat chat on Facebook, we ended up starting a Cat-Crazy Book-Lovers page HERE with two other cat-loving authors. The page is dedicated to people who love both cats and books, and apparently there are a lot of us out there! Every week one of the authors takes a turn doing a kitty (and sometimes book) related giveaway, and we are having a blast. If you're on Facebook, drop by and see us.

In the meanwhile, Luna is growing fast. She was tiny when I got her, only four and a half pounds. I haven’t taken her back to get weighed, but I’m pretty sure she’s gained weight. She has a long body and long legs, and even so is still much smaller than the other cats. It’s hard to say how big she is going to be when she finally stops growing, but I can say for certain that she gets prettier every day. Just like her twin, Miss Paddy.

Karen was talking about us on her blog today too. Go check it out if you have a minute. Karen's blog

So, anyone else have a cat who has a twin?

Sunday, May 3, 2015

One Saturday in May

It's a well-known fact that I spend most of my days off at home--usually writing, sometimes working in the garden (more about that in my next post) . But yesterday, the first Saturday in May, was an exception.

My lovely friend Rob owns a store called Imagicka in Binghamton (a little over an hour away from me) and I'd promised him that once the snow melted I'd come do a book signing. (I did one there last year after The Witch's Broom came out, and it went really well; Imagicka is a fabulous Pagan/New Age shop, so the folks who go there are my peeps.) Since the signing fell right after my birthday and Beltane, we kind of went with that theme, and I baked some Beltane cupcakes and brought flowers to give out to everyone who came. One fan even brought me a present (as if driving an hour and a half to see me wasn't gift enough) and another friend of mine drove all the way from New Jersey to see me, although she swore that it was at least in part because she needed an excuse to get out of the house!

Here are a few pictures from the signing:

Me and the lovely Rob. You can see a little bit of how cool the shop is.

Niala, who brought not only a gift for me, but one for my friend Jo who is recovering from a heart attack and is stuck in rehab. Niala said she'd been there and knew what it felt like. How sweet! I have the best readers!

The fabulous April S., who I met last year at RoberCon, with Jennifer and Leigh

My pal Karen who is a Betty (some of you know what that means) and came a long way to see me! As you can see here, I sold a bunch of the novels, too, not just the Llewellyn books.

My best bud Ellen, who kindly does the driving so I don't have to and is generally a good sport. We always have a great time together.

Beltane cupcakes

Beltane flowers, being checked out by Luna
 One of the reasons I like doing signings at Imagicka is that my friends Robin and George and their kids Sophie and Nate live about fifteen minutes from there, on the way home. So Ellen and I got to go hang out with them after the signing and have a fun belated birthday/May Day BBQ. Because of Life Stuff on both sides and the horribleness of the Winter from Hell, we hadn't seen each other since Yule Dinner Party--WAY too long! Getting to spend time with my favorite kids in the world (and their fabulous parents) made the day perfect.

This was us, so there were three different kinds of dessert :-)

The only one not squinting was Nate, who was smart enough to put on his sunglasses.

Sophie showing off one of their new ducklings, brought home that very morning.

One of our patented Aunt Debbie and the kids silly face photos

Sophie showing off their cool fire pit. No, we didn't light it with her on there. Or at all, alas.

Nate wanted me to watch him mow the lawn (with dad George's help)

My beautiful birthday flowers, picked out by Sophie because she thought they looked like fire. Very fitting, since the Baba Yaga book I'm working on right now revolves around fire!

Home again, around 8 PM--the moon looked amazing in the pre-dusk sky. We could see it our entire drive back, even though it was still light out.

All in all, a wonderful Saturday. What did you do this on your Saturday?

Sunday, April 26, 2015

They Say It's Your Birthday--Hitting 55

I usually tend to associate the number 55 with the speed limit in some places. This year it means a little something different.

On Tuesday the 28th, I am turning 55. I know--I'm not sure how that's possible either! I could swear that it was only a couple of years ago that I was an adorable little kid. Jeez.

Even then, I was all about the books.

55 seems to have a kind of "Here there be dragons" feel to it. Mind you, I don't have a problem with getting older. (It sure beats the alternative.) I didn't have a crisis at 50. In fact, I had such an amazing birthday that year, thanks to my incredible friends and the terrific folks at Llewellyn Publishing, I ended up saying, "Gee, if I'd known turning 50 was going to be this great, I would have done it sooner." And this year I'm mostly not doing anything at all except my yearly lunch with friends Ellie and Bobbie (whose birthday is May 1st) and  possibly bringing cupcakes to my book signing at Imagicka in nearby Binghamton.

On the other hand, there is something about that number that gives one pause. For instance, in theory, I am ten years away from retirement age. (Feel free to insert hysterical laughter here.) Unless I miraculously become a bestselling author, I will probably never actually be able to retire, but still, I'm suddenly much more focused on getting my financial ducks in a row.

And then there's the body. Oy. I don't so much mind the silver strands in my hair that have, in the last couple of years, become silver streaks. I just tell people it is nature's highlighting, or that I am going blonde one hair at a time. I think I look pretty good for my age (thanks, mom and dad--really appreciate the good genes!), but I'm starting to feel the effects of spending the last few years mostly sitting in a chair in front of a computer. I've been saying for ages that I was going to get back to exercising. Looking 55 in the face seems to have motivated me to actually do so.

Mostly, it makes me think about priorities. Nothing lasts forever. At 55, I have to acknowledge the fact that my parents are getting older. (They're like, 60 now, right? They had me VERY young.) My nieces and my nephew are getting on with their own lives. If I want to spend time with these people, I'd better get around to it.

My maternal grandmother lived to be almost 100--my other grandparents died much younger. Even if I want to take her as the best case scenario, I am now over halfway through my life. That's okay--big huge swaths of the earlier years stunk out loud. I plan to make the rest of them count. Starting with this one.

Mostly I'm just kind of amazed by that number. But hey, it's just the speed limit in some places. Nothing to get all worked up about, right? Please pass the cake...if you dare.

Don't forget to enter my 55th birthday 5 book giveaway HERE -- it's on until Monday the 27th at midnight, EST.