*Disclaimer: There is absolutely no geographical, biological, botanical, or zoological fact in this post. This is also not endorsed by or reflecting views of anyone on HGTV or the Love it or List it team – the entire thing is made up by yours truly.

You know the premise of the show – Couple/family has “outgrown” their current house, except one of them wants to stay (the memories!! My grandma’s quilts were made here!!), while the other one is Googling “how to burn the house down and make it look like an accident so this woman will agree to move”. Obviously, something has to be done to resolve this conflict, before the authorities show up to investigate this arson “research”.

In comes the LIOLI team – David the realtor (to find them a new house), who we will call DaRe in the spirit of brevity, and Hilary the designer (to fix the current one) – let’s call her HiDe. They meet with the couple for this episode.

Wife: Alexi (Al). Artist by day, Mother Earth Worshipper by night.
Husband: Yanni (Ya). Wood scholar. Makes furniture and donates it to orphanages.
Children: Twins, boy and girl, named Taylor and Rolyat. Age: 6


Meeting goes as follows:

DaRe: So, what do you need me to find for you?

Al: In order for me to want to leave, I need at least 6 bedrooms with as many bathrooms on a second floor, open concept floor plan so basically one huge space on first floor because we love to entertain, and a dance studio. It is of great importance for me to have a place in the woods where I can have an altar for the Goddess, and plenty of outdoors space because we foster animals in distress: Dogs, cats, the occasional alligator, and we currently have a pregnant bat who became cave-less due to her not knowing who’s the father, so she’s now expelled from her family bat cave, therefore a nearby small cave (say a 50-bat capacity), and a medium size lagoon would be perfect. We would also need an inside mini-pond for the swans/ducks, because Manfred (the alligator) keeps eating them if they swim in the outside lagoon. Oh, and it should be in the same neighborhood – there’s hardly any bear maulings around here. Our budget is $1.2M.

DaRe: Doable. I’m curious though, who do you entertain? Grizzly bears? Elk? Visiting wildlife flown in from Canada? What do you mean neighborhood? This is deep Montana, they don’t neighborhood here! Also, would you please advise where you obtained an alligator? Did you smuggle him from the Everglades? I believe this is unheard of in this area, surprised that the Homeowners Association even let you keep him. And please note that normal people call the “inside mini-pond” a “pool”. But I’ll find it if it kills me and you’re going to list this house! (which it might [kill me] in this God-forsaken nowhere in the middle of the mountains place *mumbles to himself).

HiDe: And what do you need me to fix so you can stay in your house?

Ya: Well, thank you for asking Hilary. We are in need of changing the front door’s direction, because of Feng Shui energy flow. We would like to have the front be in the back and vice versa. It is imperative that the front door faces West – which brings me to the color: it should be some earthy color, maybe muted gray-brownish, like a wolf-color. Marilyn (the bat) needs a cave built by January when the baby is due. The current lagoon needs to be relocated, at least partly; we should want a tributary inside the house, for the house swans. Open up the kitchen area so we can keep an eye on the twins when we’re cooking, as it gets hard to tell them apart when they leave our sight for a while and exchange clothes. I also need a place to have my workshop – as you know I make furniture, and need to be in total solitude while I create. Our budget for this is $98, not a penny more.

HiDe: That is a ridiculous budget and you know it. You just want to deprive Al of her spiritual center. But no worries, I’ll figure it out and when I’m done, you’ll love it – however you may need to make some sacrifices. For example, has it occurred to you that you can tell the twins apart by having them go naked? I mean they are different genders for crying out loud, not to mention 6 years old and they’re already fooling you (*shakes head). As to your workshop, how about where the wood lives?? Like outside?? There is not a soul for hundreds of miles here, you’ll be more alone than in the house with this crowded family and by the way, was that an armadillo just passing by?Armadillo

Al/Ya: (excitedly) – Oh she’s back??!!! That’s Hester, yes she’s an armadillo. We suspect her coming here, as we experienced with Manfred (because you did point out, David, that he’s not local), is due to climate change – they are not supposed to be so up North, but we found her a few months back. We thought she’d died in the last blizzard, as we hadn’t seen her in a while. We’d like to decorate a cactus-themed room for her, to make her feel at home, maybe throw in some desert sand.

HiDe: Well that’s going to cost you, you understand? Already making miracles happen with this pitiful budget. That may cut into the lagoon project so possibly we’ll have to make do with an artificial one instead of a tributary. Just being transparent here.

[WE SKIP TO END OF EPISODE DUE TO: a) David not finding a house even in neighboring states, so he quits, and b) Hilary “making it happen” for Alexi and Yanni and their interminable family with nothing short of magic]

*HiDe explains the newly renovated house:

So you see here your front door. I have relocated the road to the back, and have coated the (ex-back, now front) door with copper stains from melted old pots I got for a song in an antiques site.

Hester has her room now out of what was the front door steps. I have enclosed the area and added finely minced wood chips (she won’t know the difference from that to sand, I guarantee it), plus added a few cacti I had shipped over. Please note that the cacti need to be permanently encased in glass as the temperatures here are too harsh and, despite their thorny reputation, they are quite delicate once out of their comfort zone (which is roughly 120 degrees). Alternatively, you can set the wood chips on fire regularly and that may be sufficient, provided you cover the plants with burlap for frost protection.

Marilyn will be quite comfortable in the bat nursery I have provided here on the side of the house, in a lean-to cave-like enclosure made out of hard plastic mimicking rocks. There is a fountain-like stagnant water basin in the cave, to provide the necessary sustenance mosquitoes and the like – after all, she needs to eat for two! Please use the provided torch hanging to the side of the cave to melt the water at regular intervals and release the larvae. There is also a sack of ripe fruit – do not remove even if it begins to smell! That is a main source of nutrients for the bat family.bats-in-blankets

Lastly, my most impactful gift to you: I had my contractor install a funnel-like contraption on your barn’s roof going in to where I have made a huge hole on the floor. The beauty of this funnel is that it is THERMAL! Yes! It will act as an automatic snow melting device and re-direct all that melted snow – of which you will have no shortage of in this frozen tundra – to the hole (we had it roughly cleaned up but rather rustic and natural-looking, because seriously, do swans need fiberglass?). By doing this, we have had to relocate the horses to your new open concept kitchen area – you do recall that I mentioned having to make some sacrifices? But I believe they are very comfy! And you still have a space for entertaining, because I got rid of the outside wall and have now installed a garage-like door that simply rolls up to the ceiling so you have the entire outdoors as your living room!

Many thanks for the opportunity to work with you. I hope you’ll be very happy. And congratulations on the new addition to your family – I thought I saw a moose? He’ll be happy with the horses, I’d say. Enjoy your new house!! cartoon-moose-9


Meet Bestselling Author Barbara Freethy!

Barbara Freethy

#1 NY Times Bestselling Author Barbara Freethy talks inspiration, romance, and research, plus tells us about how the Callaways’ lives resemble her own… Check out what she has to say then Read on for more information about this blog tour and all its great prizes!

What do you love most about being an author?

Being able to tell stories! I’ve been a voracious reader since I was a child, and having a job that allows me to create my own worlds, characters and plots is a dream come true.

What first inspired you to write the Callaways? Where did you get the initial idea for the series?

I had wanted to write a family series for a while, and I wanted the family to be blended, just to make the dynamics a little more interesting. Jack Callaway was a widower with four small boys when he met Lynda Kane, a divorcee with two small girls. They fell in love, got married and had twins. The eight siblings are now adults and range in age between 35 and 25. I also wanted the Callaways to stand for something. So there’s a family tradition of “serve and protect”. All the kids are raised with the idea that they need to serve the community, to help others and to always protect the family as well as anyone else in trouble. And the Callaways always seem to find trouble, even when they’re not looking for it.

Which of the Callaway siblings is the most like you? How are the two of you similar?

There is a piece of me in every character that I write, which makes it impossible for me to ever pick a favorite. I do like Emma a lot, because she’s the one person in the family who has a close relationship with every sibling. She’s also independent, brave and loving, which are all great traits.

Your characters all have such fascinating jobs, and, in reading your novels, it feels like I’m right there with them. How do you perform your research in order to make careers such as a smoke jumper, homicide detective, or Coast Guard rescue pilot so authentic?

I’ve read quite a few nonfiction books and articles written by smoke jumpers, firefighters, cops, etc. And I have a writer friend who is also a police detective, so I often ask her for help with the more technical aspects. But what’s really fun about writing is discovering new things—so I love to write about people in careers I don’t know that much about. In THAT SUMMER NIGHT, one of the characters is tied into the pharmaceutical industry, and I had never written a book that delved into that area. I found some of the true whistleblower stories that I read in preparation for writing that book to be fascinating. I think enjoying research is probably a big part of being a successful writer. I was born with a curiosity and an imagination. Writing is a great outlet!

The Callaways all have such beautiful, unique love stories. How do you get in the mindset for writing them? Are any of their stories inspired, at least in part, by your own real-life love story?

I have a wonderful husband who always takes credit for being my inspiration. And while that’s true, as a writer I do love to explore stories beyond my own personal experience. I like to bring together couples who complement each other but also drive each other a little crazy. I think love is about finding that one person who pushes you to be better, who challenges the way you think, supports you no matter what and gives you that heady, dizzy, wonderful feeling that comes when you fall in love.

I love that your novels are not only awesome romances but also have gripping suspense as a central part of the story line. How do you start planning your novels with the romance or with the suspense—or with something else altogether?

I enjoy writing romance that brings a little extra in terms of a plot. So every Callaway novel features a great love story, a puzzling mystery, some family drama and a little nerve-tingling suspense. I don’t outline in great detail, but I always have a general idea of the suspense plot points before I begin. The story takes shape and changes as I put myself into the characters’ heads. That’s part of the fun of writing!

Congrats on your groundbreaking, new partnership with Ingram to get the paperback editions of the Callaways out to the world. What about this opportunity has you most excited?

Since I formed my own publishing company and began independently publishing my books outside of the traditional New York publishing industry, it’s been a challenge to get my books into print and into physical bookstores across the country. Late last year, I entered into a groundbreaking partnership with Ingram Publisher Services to sell and distribute my books into retail outlets like Target, Barnes and Noble, airport bookstores and supermarkets, as well as other bookstore chains. I know there are lots of readers who still prefer to read in print, and I’m thrilled that they’ll now be able to read my bestselling digital series in their favorite format!

About the Callaway Blog Tour & All Its Great Prizes!

This is the week you finally meet the Callaways! Not only are they all over the web as part of their extraordinary blog tour, but they are also out and about in your neighborhood. That’s right; we’re celebrating the print launch with Ingram by throwing a party all over the world! Make sure to follow this tour closely for your chance to win gift cards, swag, autographed books, and other incredible prizes.

All the info you need to join the fun and enter to win amazing prizes is RIGHT HERE. Remember, winning is as easy as clicking a button or leaving a blog comment—easy to enter; easy to win!

To Win the Prizes:

  1. Purchase any of the Callaway novels by Barbara Freethy (optional)
  2. Enter the Rafflecopter contest on Novel Publicity (go here)
  3. Visit today’s featured social media event (that’s where the HUGE prizes are)

About The Callaways: The Callaways were born to serve and protect! In Barbara’s new connected family series, each of the eight siblings in this blended Irish-American family find love, mystery and adventure, often where they least expect it! Each book stands alone, but for the full enjoyment of the series, you might want to start at the beginning with On A Night Like This! Get the eBooks via AmazonBarnes & NobleiBooks, or Kobo.

About the Author: Barbara Freethy has been making up stories most of her life. Growing up in a neighborhood with only boys and a big brother who was usually trying to ditch her, she spent a lot of time reading. When she wasn’t reading, she was imagining her own books. After college and several years in the P.R. field, she decided to try her hand at a novel. Now Barbara is a #1 New York Times and USA Today bestselling author loved by readers all over the world. Her novels range from contemporary romance to romantic suspense and women’s fiction. Learn more on her websiteFacebook page, or in her Street Team.


… I’m still alive!! And although you might think I am in an environment such as this:

Beach hut and boat

I am actually and very evidently in this one instead:

Messy desk

Except I don’t have black hair, I wear glasses, and I actually have a whole desk and workstation! And a chair! And instead of a drawing of my cat I have a stuffed baby elephant (fact)!

In any case, I have not forgotten about you my peoples, and I’m planning lots of fun posts (well, one or two), and there are exciting news about upcoming publications EN ESPAÑOL!! So those of you who speak Spanish, take a look at the LIBROS EN ESPAÑOL tab (which if I were not the most un-tech person in life I suppose I could link here, but I fear my tech cells never developed), and write me a note/comment if you’re interested in getting more information.

I will come back soon, I promise. Take care!!

A wonderful historical novel about the American Revolution

Welcome to the next stop on the review tour for The Midwife’s Revolt by Jodi Daynard.

“A charming, unexpected, and decidedly different view of the Revolutionary War.”

—Publishers Weekly

 Midwife revolt

Book Description: The Midwife’s Revolt takes the reader on a journey to the founding days of America. It follows one woman’s path, Lizzie Boylston, from her grieving days of widowhood after Bunker Hill, to her deepening friendship with Abigail Adams and midwifery, and finally to her dangerous work as a spy for the Cause. A novel rich in historical detail, The Midwife’s Revolt opens a window onto the real lives of colonial women.

Jodi Daynard’s historical fiction The Midwife’s Revolt has eared a 4.8 out of 5 stars on Amazon and praise from libraries, historical associations and is even featured at The Museum of the American Revolution.

“This humorous, exciting and touching story retells the familiar saga of the Revolutionary War in a stunning new way that feels fresh and alive.”

—Kirkus Reviews ~ Barnes and Noble ~ GoodReads

Ana’s Corner Review: This is an amazingly enriching book. I love historical fiction, but this goes beyond – it is actual history, told in an entertaining way. The events of the American Revolution are deeply interesting and the basis for our country today. Ms. Daynard achieves an incredibly smooth flow of narrative, while educating the readers in the most personal, human and emotional aspects of the Revolutionary War. The main character, Lizzie Boylston, is authentic and engaging. The notes about Abigail Adams and others who were key individuals in our nation’s battle for independence are poignant, eye-opening, and make you feel as if you knew them at a personal level. This book is a must-read for anyone who enjoys historical fiction and, most importantly, the history of this country. I cannot recommend it enough!

Jody DaynardAbout the Author: Jodi Daynard is a writer of fiction, essays, and criticism. Her work has appeared in numerous periodicals, including The New York Times Book Review, The Village Voice, The Paris Review, Agni, New England Review and in several anthologies. She is the author of The Place Within: Portraits of the American Landscape by 20 Contemporary Writers (W. W. Norton). Ms. Daynard’s essays have been nominated for several prizes and mentioned in Best American Essays. She has taught writing at Harvard University, M.I.T., and in the MFA program at Emerson College, and served for seven years as Fiction Editor at Boston Review. She is a member of the National Book Critics Circle, The National Women’s Book Association, and the Author’s Guild. The Midwife’s Revolt is her first novel.

Prizes! And now for the best part, the prizes!  Because who doesn’t love awesome book themed gifts?  Jodi is offering A Kindle Fire to one reader as well as an Artemis Cameo Necklace, an American Flag Folk Art and a $25 Amazon Gift Card.  All you have to do is leave a comment and enter the rafflecopter!  Of course, there are plenty of other ways to enter to win just by helping spread the word about The Midwife’s Revolt.

The Tour: Follow along and read more reviews of The Midwife’s Revolt.  You can see the full list of participating reviews HERE.

I read, therefore I am…

Or is it the other way around? I am because I read? I am books? In any case, this is the first of a few guest posts by some wonderful authors (who I’m fortunate to get to know). Please enjoy today’s post by Lana Long, author of “Finding Favor”.

Jane Austen

Why I Love Jane Austen

A Guest Post by Lana Long

I can sum it up in one word: escapism.  Don’t get me wrong; I enjoy reading books that deal with hard-hitting issues—issues that are real and difficult—but for the most part watching one nightly newscast can provide enough reality to last a few weeks. When it’s late at night, the kids are sleeping, the dog is sleeping, the husband is sleeping, everything is real quiet and the day’s activities are slipping into memory, I want to spend my last waking minutes in a world that’s interesting, satisfying, and nice.

That is why I love Jane Austen.

The social propriety of Austen’s works fascinates me. All of Austen’s novels struggle with the hierarchy of society.  In Pride and Prejudice, Darcy fights his feelings for Elizabeth because she’s not quite up to his social standing. In Persuasion, Anne pines for her lost love because she allowed her family to convince her that Wentworth isn’t good enough. In Sense and Sensibility, Willoughby leaves Marianne when the risk of lost fortune becomes all too real. Willoughby is not a hero, and in the end Marianne comes to see that love doesn’t need to burn bright and hot to be real. Society tries to deflate these characters, tries to ruin their chances at happiness, but they fight through it and come out stronger, better off, and at peace. All except Willoughby, but that lout deserves what he gets.

That is why I love Jane Austen.

The physical world of Austen’s novels is like a mythical place to me after growing up in the 20th century western United States. In Austen’s world, people live in houses the size of apartment buildings. They travel by coach, horseback, or they walk. If they’re wealthy enough, they summer in the country, winter in London, and vacation or convalesce in Bath. Servants take care of the family (don’t insinuate to Mrs. Bennett that she can’t afford a cook), drive them from place to place, work the land, and take care of the estate. Quaint villages and abbeys sustain small communities. Without wealth, people become isolated in their communities due to the time and cost to travel from one place to another. The characters in Austen’s novels—affluent or not—find ways to traverse this world and allow the reader to glimpse the countryside, the city and everything in between at the dawn of the nineteenth century in England.

That is why I love Jane Austen.

In Austen’s novels, the family structure and the roles of men and women are so foreign but at the same time so simple. What would it be like to spend all day sewing, playing the piano, reading, drawing, or walking in the garden? At the same time the women find themselves helpless because they aren’t allowed to learn anything besides these activities. In Sense and Sensibility, Elinor is powerless to find a way to care for her sisters and mother after her half-brother inherits her father’s estate and doesn’t care for his sisters as promised. Emma‘s friends, the Bates, live off kindness and a small living, because Miss Bates never married and her father is deceased. It’s not necessarily easier for the men. If you’re not the oldest son your choices are limited to clergy, military or another profession deemed acceptable by the gentry.  Still, these people fight against the rules of gender and birth order. They are funny, kind, caring… frustrating and irritating, but they are always likeable and I cheer their success and mourn their losses, even Emma. And most of all, there’s a happy ending; our heroines and their friends find love and peace, and their foes find discomfort and an unfulfilling future.

That is why I love Jane Austen.

So why did I choose Mansfield Park for an adaptation out of all the Austen works? First, it’s a great story. The story is of Fanny Price, a young girl, coming of age away from her immediate family, who is too poor to rear all of their offspring. Fanny is required to uphold expectations set upon her by her caregivers, her wealthy aunt and uncle, but she is never to be rewarded for living up to those expectations because her true parentage is lowly. She’s in love with a boy, her best friend, who’s falling in love with someone else and by all of society’s rules unattainable even if he was available. The story felt ripe for a modern Young Adult novel.

That is why I love Jane Austen.

Second, well, I hadn’t seen Mansfield Park retold. It would take your hands, my hands and twenty of our closest friends to count the number of times Pride and Prejudice has been adapted. I’m not complaining; I love it. Other Austen works need the opportunity to be discovered through modern retellings as well. As a teenager I read Emma because of the movie Clueless.  Jane Austen’s been gone for almost 200 years and we still read her novels and draw inspiration from them because they are truly great stories.

And that is why I love Jane Austen.


Finding Favor is priced at just 99 cents as part of its special launch week sale. Pick up your copy on either Amazon US or Amazon UK now, and don’t forget to stop by and participate in the special release week contests.

Our big launch week prize basket includes:   Journal with a cover inspired by Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park (as is this novel), note cards with an orchid design (Favor’s favorite flower), a hard cover edition of To Kill a Mockingbird (Ethan’s favorite book), and a cool pen (who doesn’t love cool pens?). CLICK HERE NOW TO ENTER!


Finding-Favor - high res

About Finding Favor

Which would you choose:  friendship or freedom?

In the eight years since seventeen-year-old Favor Miller’s father died, she’s had to endure her reluctant, self-righteous guardians the Browns. Every day for eight years, they’ve reminded her that she doesn’t fit in, that she’s not one of them. Every day for eight years, she’s eagerly awaited the day when she’ll finally be free to live her life her way.

On the eve of high school graduation, Mr. Brown ambushes Favor with the offer of college funding and a to-die-for summer internship–with the one stipulation that she must discontinue her friendship with his son, Ethan.

Accustomed as she is to sharing everything with her best friend, this is one secret Favor must keep in order to protect Ethan. The distraction of his new girlfriend, her growing friendship with his older brother, and her need to understand her family history, add in further complications.

As Favor debates signing the contract, she must decide if she’s willing to give up her best friend in order to pursue her dreams.  Will she have to stay in the place she’s so desperately wanted to escape in order to make the right decision and get what she really needs?

Review of “Finding Favor” – From Ana’s Corner

Although this is a YA novel, and YAhood has left the building, at least in this Corner, I really enjoyed this delightful novel. Ms. Long’s characters are well-developed, and her description of the wealthy (and dysfunctional) Brown family is believable enough to make you angry at the cruelty and disdain they show their “outsider, clearly non-Brown Family member”, Favor.

Ms. Long conveys the anguish and insecurity of the teenage mind, the intricacies of complicated relationships, guilt and loyalty, sadness and regret, in a masterful way. The characters have very different personalities, and their thoughts and actions portray these differences in an engaging way. Lana’s narrative flows smoothly, and makes for an enjoyable, sit down with tea and scones read 🙂 If you enjoy these Austen-esque novels, then this book is certainly for you.

About Lana Long

As a devoted fan of young adult novels herself, Lana Long is thrilled to be gracing the YA world with her first novel, Finding Favor. Many years of daydreaming and several writing classes and workshops have contributed to the development of Finding Favor as well as to her inevitable future books. Through her experiences at Lighthouse Writers in Denver, the Big Sur Writing Workshop in California, and the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Colorado Gold Conference, she has learned an amazing amount about writing novels.

Although writing serves as a relaxing process, Lana is also grounded by her family, by her work as a church treasurer, and by volunteering at her kids’ elementary school.

She hopes that her books provide readers with the same entertainment she herself finds in YA novels. If you enjoy a good coming-of-age story featuring enthralling characters, check out Finding Favor and read more of Lana’s thoughts at

We let you go

A few weeks ago we said goodbye to Haddler. My boys’ best buddy, our four-legged son, our family’s companion for the past 10+ years. He was, as I suspect everyone else’s dog is, special. Widely known among our family and friends as the Dumbest Puppa, he was also the sweetest and most loved.

You see, Haddler was probably the only dog in the universe (and do note I am including the Jetsons’ dog Astro, and the Two Stupid Dogs from the cartoons) that did not have the capacity to discern when people didn’t actually like him. No, he was an equal opportunity giver of unabashed canine affection, demonstrated by excited jumping (on the actual person), vigorous whole-butt tail wagging, and leaning on people until he was literally sitting on their toes or they fell down, whatever came first. This could be quite dangerous, as Haddler was, at his skinniest, 89 pounds (106 last we checked). This is bigger than many humans, including my mother-in-law. He even loved going to the vet, as this entailed a lot more people petting him and telling him he was a good boy. He got so excited when he went to the vet, he couldn’t even eat the cookies they gave him. He had no time for eating when there was petting to be had.

This exuberance often got him in trouble, not that he noticed. One time, in our previous house in CT, there were visitors at our neighbor’s house. This neighbor was a retired gentleman who, for some reason, thought Haddler was a girl and called him Heather – he was okay with the dog coming to see him once in a while; however, this time his little grandchildren were playing in the yard. Well, Haddler takes off like his tail is on fire soon as I opened the door and ran straight to the poor little kids. Panic and screams ensue, the grandfather tries to get the dog off his children (presently on the ground, with dog jumping around them), gets a stick and starts waving it in front of Haddler, hoping to scare him… and the blessed dog wags his entire body in joy. I had to go pull him by the collar with the dog literally lying on his side so that I had to drag his dead weight for what felt like an entire football field.

Haddler back deck-7.11.10

But that was the way he was. He lacked the instinct you hear all dogs have that enables them to perceive fear and dislike, as well as sympathy, so that they can behave themselves accordingly.

Haddler was a Golden Retriever, not that he ever retrieved a thing. He loved to play in the yard with the boys or my husband, and would take off to fetch the sticks they threw for him. Once the stick was located, he would grab it and run IN THE OPPOSITE DIRECTION OF THE THROWER. Sometimes he would bring the stick back, but never relinquish it – it would become a new game of tug until the stick was effectively destroyed. Most times he’d come back, sans stick, and wait excitedly for another stick to go fetch and lose.

Haddler in the backyard

His doggie brain understood two commands – His favorite was “Sit”, because it was invariably followed by some sort of treat, and he would sit as close as possible to the person as his body would allow (1 mm apart, at the most). The other was “Stay with the mama”. This was instituted during the days when Haddler and I would say goodbye to the boys at the door, as they left to walk to the bus stop at the top of the street. It entailed his sitting on the 3rd step of the stairs on the front door entrance hall, and I would pet him until we could no longer see the boys – otherwise, he would take off after them and possibly go visiting neighboring streets in search of an open door to go through, regardless of where it led. Even though the last time we had anyone taking a bus to school was somewhere around 2005, to his last day he would dart off in search of the stairs, any stairs, every time anyone said “stay with the mama”, then wait patiently for me to go pet him and release him from his post.

Haddler loved food, just like any dog. There was no problem giving him meds – he even liked his heartworm pills and took them as if they were treats. He occasionally snacked from the kitty litter box, though he KNEW it was wrong; he only did it once he was sure we were all out the door and he was by himself. He especially loved carrots and apples (perhaps he was a horse in a former life, or was training to be one in the next), but his favorite of all times was bread, particularly Portuguese rolls. When he was a little puppy, and alone in the house while everyone went off to work and school, there was no loaf or bag of bread that was safe. We’d come home to find an entire bag of sandwich bread with tell-tale bite marks, plastic and all (well, he was a dog, not like he could untie the little twist thing and get the slices out) on the floor of the boys’ room. Haddler would jump and get the bread from the kitchen counter, so we took to putting it inside a top cabinet, under which he would patiently sit at least 5 times a day, in hopes of a rewarding bread treat.

Whenever he got a bone, Haddler would start what we called his “Bone Parade” – he would run around the house with the bone in his mouth, crying excitedly, showing his treat to everyone who happened to be there, including the person who had actually given him the bone. He went around, and up and down the stairs, until finally he sat to completely disintegrate the poor bone in a matter of minutes… leaving only a much chewed-on piece that he would then think of as a toy, and keep carrying it around for days until I got tired of the dirty thing and threw it out.


Haddler was extremely patient with his little brother from another species, our Persian cat Little Kitty (nee Fred, but have you really ever met a cat named Fred? Seriously). LK would try to engage him to play, jumping over him and trying to catch his wagging tail, while the blessed dog just quietly sighed and occasionally looked at the jumping cat. Haddler sighed with emphasis, especially when both boys were away and he would sink into a despairing depression, laying down on the kitchen floor and sighing loudly every 5 minutes. He also, I regret to say (having been on the receiving end of this) farted constantly when he was depressed. These farts, believe you me, could have been used to disperse a rioting mob. And – dumb as he was – he understood the words “he farted!!!”, as it would immediately provoke a frantic tail-wagging, I suppose in efforts to spread the love.

Haddler in his favorite retarded pose-4.10.2011

Haddler’s gentle personality taught my boys to be caring and loving. He was keenly in tune with the family, knowing instinctively who was sad, hurting, or sick. He alternated sleeping with each of the boys (on their beds), unless one of them was sick – he would then devote himself to the sick one until healed. He would give them slobbery kisses, and knew when he could not get close to their wounds or injuries (he nursed the boys back to life from two near-fatal car accidents, three surgeries, and three broken bones/sprains). When the rest of the body was off-limits, he would take off one of their socks and lick their feet. This had two advantages – he was showing love to his buddies, and he got to keep the sock to chew on. Haddler was definitely responsible for the disappearance (or at least destruction) of many a sock in his lifetime.

This sweet dog also taught all of us the meaning of unconditional love, the joy of pleasing others, and to bear pain and hurt without complain. Haddler was diagnosed with hip dysplasia before he was one year old. He lived with constant pain, and we only noticed when it was worse because he limped. He never once complained – that is why that Monday morning a few weeks back, when my boys saw him just sitting up and whimpering softly, we knew something was wrong. He would not lie down. And when brought to the vet, we got the sudden news: A tumor, originated in his spleen, was hemorrhaging into his abdomen. He must have been in excruciating pain; we had to decide then and there.

We hope that our decision to end his pain shows that we learned something from his selflessness. We sat down with him, the four of us, a blanket on the floor at the animal hospital, to say goodbye. Lights were dimmed; he had been sedated and was quietly sitting with us. He put his head on mama’s lap for one last time. The boys and my husband and I petted and told him what a good boy he was. When the time came, the vet sat on the floor with us and gently helped the boys to have him lie down. We continued to pet him and talk to him as he peacefully fell asleep, then his heart stopped.

We hope you have a yard full of snow to play with year-round, as you loved to do with us in the winter. We hope there is a doggie bakery full of Portuguese rolls. We hope you have a big orchard with already-sliced apples, and a huge veggie garden with carrots and peppers. We hope that bones, peanut butter doggie cookies, and old socks are all around you. But above all, we know that you no longer hurt. We let you go, dear friend. You are free.

January storm-Haddler in front-1.22.12

Eat, Drink, and Drink again

Hello dears. You may be wondering where in the world I’ve been, a la that classic video game, Carmen San Diego (with which admission I am hereby dating myself as an official dinosaur – you may call me A-Rex). Well, I have been here all along – barely functioning.

You see, in keeping with my traditional tardiness on writing about events and holidays, I just wanted to talk about the past holidays [do insert your own holiday here, by all means], and how both you (since you’re reading this) and I (since I’m writing it) survived them. Holidays are stressful times; celebrations with the ones present, sad memories about the ones gone; last-minute shopping and decorations; horrid Celine Dion* Christmas songs; and (GASP!) family reunions. [*Disclaimer: I am in no way disparaging Celine’s unlimited talent which I’m sure you, her numerous fans (n = 32, at last count), can appreciate and are as we speak writing to me in ALL CAPS to express outrage. I am merely saying that I can’t stand the sight of the woman, and despise her songs, as is my right on account of my having ears and good taste. But surely that need not affect you, and you can go ahead keep listening to her].

Now back to the issue at hand, which I promise I will link to the title of this blog: Family reunions.


I believe that the only thing worse than having your in-laws visit is having your OWN family visit. Think about it – It’s not like you can tell your spouse/partner/pet: “It’s YOUR mother, so YOU sit with her for five hours to talk about the gossip back home. Not my responsibility, nor am I interested, plus I haven’t the foggiest idea what/who she’s talking about”. No, it’s all on you, the actual relative. So in these situations, I strongly recommend that you (if you didn’t do so on your own accord) start drinking.

This is particularly necessary when you have to engage in strenuous household activities such as emptying the dishwasher or refreshing the dog’s water bowl. God forbid you should actually have to cook the holiday meal. It is a known fact that any self-respecting professional chef (including those with cooking programs in The Food Network and the like) won’t even disclose how much cilantro is included in the recipe*, without first securing a bottle of fine Rioja or a gallon of mixed drinks, to sip during commercial breaks *(Answer: None. Cilantro is a vile herb suitable only to line the cages of pregnant rabbits so the little mouse-looking bunny babies have a soft bed to fall on when they’re born).

Image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono at
Image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono at

So why should you question the wisdom of professional chefs? I don’t (though it is beer for me, not wine or mixed drinks). Imagine the following scenario (names and occupations have been changed to protect privacy of characters, which we can probably all relate to/are related to/know intimately):

Day of party:

10:44 am – Your sister Mandy, who has never worked a day in her life and is pregnant with her 4th child (seriously?), arrives with her three older children in tow – these children are aged from 6 months to 3 years old. These children are not, by any standards, well behaved (who the hell has time to discipline them, if you’re either pregnant or having another baby while your previous child is exploring the inside of the microwave oven???). The father(s) of said children is/are not coming (can you blame him/them?). It is time to pour first beer (for yourself, not Mandy – after all, she IS pregnant).

11:58 am – Cousin Richard surprises the family by coming over (suspiciously unshaven and possibly un-showered, as it befits someone having just left the half-way house and not passed Go nor collected $200). You ask yourself if Mother perhaps warned you that he was released from jail after that incident with the child porn, but you blocked it from your mind, in an effort to not throw up on your mother-in-law’s dinner table last Thanksgiving. Beer refills are called for.

1:25 pm – Uncle Charlie rolls in, with Flavor Of The Month partner Aunt Charliette (everyone in the family calls all of them Charliette, on account of the rapid changes in partner that Uncle Charlie seems to be fond of, rendering it impossible for anyone to learn the current one’s name, and also preventing the disastrous mistake of calling her by the wrong name). He proudly announces they’re getting married (his 5th, her 1st, judging from her being around 19 years old), and asks your oldest daughter (13) to bring him his usual (Jack Daniels). You wonder if it is too late to send for another keg.

Image courtesy of Danilo Rizzuti at
Image courtesy of Danilo Rizzuti at

3:10 pm – No party is complete without Aunt Louise. Your father’s sister, she never married – for reasons they always said you need not know – and frankly, do not want to find out. She is approximately 105 years old, not counting Sundays, and has the sunny disposition of a monsoon. As soon as Aunt Louise comes in, along with her ubiquitous companion Teresa (an unfortunate nice lady from Honduras who has been with her since the Nixon administration), she sits by the fire in manner of the Queen (Mother) and starts yelling for Teresa to bring her some brandy, what with the people in this house not paying attention to her. Spots you and calls out (“Child!” – she calls everyone “child”, since clearly she cannot even remember her own name). You pretend you don’t hear her, head for the bar. Perhaps if you fashion an IV you may get the beer into your bloodstream in a more efficient manner.

4:55 pm – Blood-curling screams can be heard from the general direction of the children’s bedroom, along with some whimpering noises. Mandy sees fit to inform you at that point that her eldest (3-yr old Timmy, herein to be known as Little Satan) has been watching The Life and Work of Ted Bundy lately (who thinks of these documentaries??), and was last seen going upstairs with a butcher knife. Also, your dog Patches has not been spotted for the past 3 hours. Reinforcements are in order. Beer won’t do. You look around for the fixings of a Scorpion Bowl.

Need I say more? If I have not presented here for you enough evidence of The Importance of Alcohol in Surviving Family Life, then you either a) are seriously creepy, or b) already started drinking yourself to oblivion and right now could not care less. I sincerely hope, for your health and sanity, that the latter is the case. Also, please note that every single event, character, and fact mentioned in this blog is entirely made up, except for the qualities of cilantro (and Celine Dion). As for the rest… I’ll leave you wondering if I, somehow, had a peek at YOUR last family reunion [insert evil laugh].


A (belated) Tale of Thanks

I know, I know, you have all moved on to the next holiday (whatever that one which does not offend you might be – and by YOU, I mean YOU; you know who YOU are). But, since I got carried away with the Patriots last week, I forgot to post this very pertinent Thanksgiving commentary about my favoritest of all topics: FOOD.

So, in addition to being a Handy Man, my husband (previously known in DIY blog as HMH) is also an Accomplished Cook (herein now referred to as HM-ACH). What’s that you ask, ladies? What can he NOT do?? Why, that would be laundry (but that is a whole ‘nother post). Anyway, what with my husband’s culinary skills, plus our living within walking distance (it would take several days, at least for me, but I’d get there) from the inventors of the FIRST THANKSGIVING MEAL site, Plymouth, MA – though I am aware that this is no longer thought to be true, I still have this movie-like scene in my head:

Elder Pilgrim Person: We thank the LORD for this bountiful meal and our health (the 5 of them who are still alive, down from the last 489 who came over) and the fertility of this land and our women (only one left who is of child-bearing age [14], and that will be with the Natives, since the only English males left are the same elder who’s praising the Lord – who she wouldn’t let near her if the fate of the human race depended on her –, a little baby [hers], and a boy who heretofore was raised as a girl but was recently discovered to be just a boy of delicate frame who prefers sewing to building huts). Meanwhile, said Natives sharing the feast are thinking:

Wise Bear: Lord, Schmord, you funny-looking white person whom I despise, but since I am not speaking your language – not for lack of knowledge, but because I’d rather be trampled by a herd of buffalo than talk like you – you will never know. Now, how am I going to tell Little Wilting Flower that the bird you’re eating is her beloved pet Smooth Feathers??

But as usual, I digress. That was not what I wanted to talk to you about. The thing is, you see, yours truly here, surrounded by New Englandness and the original thankful spirit, as demonstrated by consuming large amounts of food – facilitated by an awesome cook (HM-ACH) – does not particularly like the traditional Thanksgiving food. Now don’t get me wrong, the meal is indeed comprised of many fine ingredients, not the least important of them the actual turkey, which I do like, especially when cooked by HM-ACH, and which is referred to in this household as “the Thanksgiving Chicken”*.

Pretty Thanksgiving meal display. Lead role: The Chicken.

*Author’s Note: Every single bird and sometimes other species are referred to, in this family, as “chicken”. This stems from two things: One, my husband’s surprise when seeing actual chickens roaming the streets in my home country when he visited (had never thought of chicken as freely wandering pets), and two, the fact that every single dish I used to cook for my boys when they were little, from real chicken to cow tongue or turtle soup, was classified as “that’s chicken, now eat your food”. So, going back to the fine elements of the Thanksgiving meal, the problem is the transformation of these otherwise perfectly good (most of them) ingredients into dishes that do not, as a rule, taste like anything at all.

Take, for example, the pumpkin. This is a particularly noble vegetable. Now, before you start protesting that “pumpkin is a fruit”, I tell you this: it is not an animal, and it is not a mineral, so it is, by elimination, a vegetable. Also, speaking in a culinary way – today’s topic – it depends how you will use it. For savory dishes, it is a vegetable; for sweets, a fruit. Since this particular example is a sweet one – pumpkin pie – and I do not like sweets in general and specifically dislike pumpkin pie, I will decree it to be a vegetable anyway. And also-ER, please note that mushrooms belong in their own particular domain, “fungi” (this is totally unrelated but thought I’d include just to confuse the enemy). So, as we were saying, the pumpkin, which as soup is delicious and a festive bright orange color, as pie it mutates into a brownish, unnaturally waste-like color (and consistency, if I may add), which you can confirm by this picture:

Another one is yams. I do not believe the good Lord was in a good frame of mind when He invented this thing. For one, as festive as the pumpkin’s orange is, the yam’s is a very strange one, a color I do not believe is found in nature (except for in the yams themselves, and even in them it does not look natural). Pray refer to the following picture.

Does this look natural to you? I didn’t think so.

Now, take the white sweet potatoes (the fact that I grew up eating those instead of yams has nothing to do with it). A nice, creamy color reminiscent of the actual potatoes they take part of their name from. Please do take a look and compare:

Now that’s what I’m talking about! White sweet potato pictured here,
as any self-respecting Dominican dish should be, fried.

Wouldn’t you, dear food lover, rather get a hold of those sweet potato fries instead of the above-pictured who-knows-how-they-were-cooked-and-with-what yams? Go ahead, admit it. We won’t tell anyone.

Then there’s the stuffing. I actually do like HM-ACH’s stuffing, as it is a known fact that he makes the world’s most delicious stuffing in the history of stuffing. But still, can’t bring myself to eat more than a forkful. So I find myself longing for some (what else?) savory Spanish rice… wait, I don’t long for it because many years ago I sort of squeezed it in the Thanksgiving meal and suddenly yellow rice is part of the feast [insert evil laugh].

All that being said, do not think for one second that I suffer in any way during our holiday meals. My love of food overcomes every obstacle, including food I don’t like (I have been known to train myself until I start liking foods previously hated – yams are not one of those, sadly). It does help too that my husband is a caring, cultural diversity-loving person, who (thank you, Portuguese peoples of New Bedford who influenced his cooking!!) actually enjoys flavorful foods, as opposed to the fine peoples of New England who I do not mean in any way to offend, it’s just that they truly do not know what they’re missing.

Happy [insert holiday of choice, since Thanksgiving already passed and MY next holiday will be featured in a future blog] to all!

Pre-mourning the end of the season…

… the Football Season, that is. There is no game today, at least none for a team I personally care about. So I’m sitting here suffering in advance that soon (it’s getting inexorably closer, I tell you!) the season will be over and what will I do until the merciful Spring Training starts??? Meanwhile, I’m thinking of numbers. Such as:




I wonder if they’ll have a side of stuffing… Bring on the Jets!!

Now, I ask you, well-informed reader/football viewer: Is this not what one envisions would be God’s team in Heaven? I firmly believe that Tom Brady might very well have been the prototype of the perfect race chosen by Hitler, had they lived in the same era. Dr. Mengele’s Children of Brazil would have been a bunch of little Bradys, I tell you.

In any case, as much as I mourn the lack of a game today, this past Thanksgiving Day’s game was the perfect excuse not to go to bed after the meal, risking possible overflow by foolishly placing one’s body in a horizontal position. And what a game it was!

If T-Rex Ryan weren’t such an arrogant jerk, shooting his mouth off with nothing to back him up… If Mark Sanchez were a real QB, instead of a toy one with barely any talent to dust Brady’s shoes… If the Jets weren’t from New York… then maybe (unlikely), perhaps (I think not), I would feel sorry for them.

Nah, who am I fooling?? DEATH TO THE JETS, and PARTICULARLY to Ryan – though I am pretty sure that Jets’ fans already took care of him. Say, has anyone seen him after Thursday night?