My first succulent arrived, along with some potting soil.
I repotted my umbrella tree, and planted my succulent, which is an Echeveria. I think the pot I have for the Echeveria is wrong – it needs one with a wider opening. Whoops!
I’ve never liked getting my hands into dirt, which is funny because my mother is an avid and very successful gardener. But I enjoyed sitting on my porch and playing with these plants. I think I’m going to buy more and really get into apartment gardening. I mean, why not? I’m home!
I love cold brew. When I lived in Brooklyn, I became an ardent supporter of “iced coffee season.” Basically, on the first warmish day in April, you order an iced coffee, and then that’s it: it’s iced coffee season, even if the next two weeks are cold enough that a warm coffee would feel good on your hands. Iced coffee season is an absolute once you’ve made your commitment.
(I have a theory about coffee and New York City, by the way, which is that the city’s tumult and close quarters are simply easier to take with something in your hands to occupy you. I think having a cup of coffee in your hands is similar to having a cigarette: it’s something to fiddle with, something to do that isn’t meeting people’s eyes or accepting that you are a tiny ant in a vast swarm, something to stop you from having a constant series of existential crises.)
Anyway, it’s hard to imagine a season in Florida which isn’t iced coffee season; plus cold brew is easier on your insides (did you know that? it’s less acidic) and I have always had a tendency towards ulcers and nervous tum. The downside is that it is generally higher in caffeine. I have to drink less of it, or my hands shake. A few years ago I started buying Chameleon Cold Brew’s concentrate and having one every day, usually in the afternoon to keep the after-lunch snoozes away. When I started working late nights at Disney Springs, I’d have a cold brew around five or six PM to keep me going until two AM.
Now I’m home all day, working on my computer, and one day I remembered a pleasure from my old days before I took up iced coffee: the all-day pot of coffee. Back when I had the farm, was writing Retired Racehorse Blog every day, working on The Head and Not The Heart, raising a toddler, and also working at Disney a couple nights per week, I worked my way through a pot of coffee from morning until late. I decided a constant cup of coffee at hand was exactly what my lockdown days needed!
Of course, in those days I was happy with whatever the seasonal roast from Starbucks was. Now I decided it would be fun to get more adventurous. I wanted to try small roasters. It would be great to support small businesses during this economic downturn, for one thing, and for another when it comes to hot coffee I have developed a much more demanding and pretentious palate. (My husband and I used to go around Brooklyn tasting small-batch roasts like other people taste wines. I’m not ashamed.)
I did a lot of research and ended up with a coffee subscription from Trade. There are a lot of coffee subscriptions; Trade was the one that worked out for me. They pull from small roasters all around the country, they match up your flavor profiles and tell you ahead of time what’s coming, and they give you the option to change it out ahead of time if you’re particularly into a certain roast of coffee. Also they don’t charge for shipping. And I have to tell you, when you’re ordering two bags a month, shipping can add up.
The first bag that came was the fabulously named “Darkness” from Gimme Coffee, based in Ithaca, NY. I know there are a couple of Gimme Coffee cafes in NYC but I’ve never been to them, so this was a totally new blend for me. Trade sent me an email when it was roasting and then a few days later my coffee arrived. I ground up some beans and HELLO! Absolutely fantastic. Dark chocolate with a little cherry to finish. Marry me, Darkness.
I have something new coming next week, but I know that Darkness will feature in my coffeemaker again really soon. Another reason to like Trade: some subscriptions are always surprises or curator’s choice, but they let you sub in whatever you want.
Having an all-day pot of coffee has been great and I’m so happy to have gone back to it. I don’t tend to finish it in an afternoon, but that just means there’s some cold coffee leftover for the morning! Since I’m a born napper, it’s helping me work through the whole day so that I can actually fall asleep before midnight and get up early enough to go run… basically, rewiring my night owl rhythm to fit in with Florida weather and the realities of lockdown sidewalk traffic.
Well, this was supposed to be a microblog but it’s a solid 800 words. I guess that’s what happens when I write about coffee!
Today was actually really interesting. A big cold front moved through early this morning. This is about as late as cold fronts manage to push through Central Florida – by May, they’re pretty much too weak to make it this far south. This was a particularly strong storm system, creating tornadoes and hail damage throughout the southeast.
For some reason cold fronts love to hit the Orlando area overnight or first thing in the morning. I knew this one was due around dawn, and at 2 AM our NWS weather alarm woke us all up to tell us there was a Tornado Watch for the area. At 6 AM, I woke up suddenly. Nothing seemed to have caused it, but I got up and roamed around the apartment, looked through all of the blinds, glanced around the kitchen. I just had a funny feeling.
I went back into the bedroom and looked at my phone, and saw an extremely strong line of thunderstorms just about thirty miles west. I tried to close my eyes again, reasoning that the weather radio would wake me up if there was a tornado warning, but I noticed lightning flashes coming from behind my closed blinds and thought, no, this is silly.
So I took the dog out.
I know, that sounds crazy, but actually it made perfect sense: the storm front was still an hour away, and the lightning I was seeing was from a secondary line which had set up ahead of the front and was moving away from me. Plus, the dog was going to need to go out right when it would be storming. I was a problemsolver.
It had been a while since I’d gone out and been surrounded by clouds that are just lighting themselves up with lightning. It was still very dark and very still, with just a few sleepy frogs croaking, and I enjoyed that walk very much. By the time I went back upstairs, fed Sally, and went onto the porch to observe the clouds, the storm front was much closer, while the secondary cluster of storms was in full swing to my south.
It didn’t end up being a terribly bad storm front in my neighborhood – cold front-induced storms have an interesting habit of hitting their weakest point from when they first cross over land near Tampa just as they reach my town, and then they tend to pulse back upwards as they move a little farther inland. For me as an observer of clouds and lightning, this actually isn’t a bad thing. It lets me get great shots before and after the storm.
The all-day rain with occasional thunder that has followed is a very rare treat in Florida. We’ve been dealing with a drought since the beginning of the year, and I think all the animals and plants are very grateful for today’s cool temperatures and constant rainfall. I know I am.
Hi friends! I thought microblogging might be a fun experiment to play around with. I’m a solid five and a half weeks into stay-at-home life, and my only record of this weird period of human history is my insane tweets. Why not do some insane blogs, too?
Today I am excited about my tree, which arrived by post yesterday from the idyllic-sounding Hacienda Heights, California. I know it’s in Los Angeles County and probably isn’t idyllic, but what a name, right? I love the breezy romanticism of early southern California Americans. The citrus trees, the terra-cotta tiles, the boundless optimism. Early 20th century Los Angeles is a beehive for me.
Anyway, my tree arrived and she was looking a little worse for wear at first, but now her leaves are uncurling and she seems quite spritely. I haven’t named her — I kind of got out of the habit of naming inanimate objects and I’m not sure if that’s going to come back or not — but I have already initiated pep talks so that she knows I am rooting for her (that’s a plant pun!) and want her to grow up big and strong.
She’s an umbrella tree, by the way. I ordered this one from Amazon because the reviews were half-decent, the tree described was a good size, and I liked that it came with a pot, so I didn’t have to buy soil and a pot as well. I’m on a budget here!
I grew up with an umbrella tree in the house. When I was in elementary school we moved to Florida from Maryland, and the umbrella tree was eventually planted outside, by the front door. This happened to be where water poured down from the eaves during Florida rainstorms. Was this on purpose? I have no idea. But this tree grew and grew and grew into an umbrella giant during our time at this house. I was always so proud of it for doing so well outside.
So when it became clear most of my life would be working from home, not from a cafe or from the apartment complex workspace or by the pool (by the way, March and April are THE work-from-the-pool-deck months and I am sad to be missing this), a new corner of the living room was set aside for Natalie’s Office, and I declared the window sill to be Natalie’s Garden, and this is where my lovely little tree lives. There’s a succulent coming this week too, and I’ll show you that plant when it arrives!
Well, I’d better get on with the business of writing fiction now. Think of me and my tree sitting in our corner, enjoying the midday light, and know that new books are happening!
Do you have a plant? What kind, and why do you love it?
Has this pandemic turned your world upside-down? Sometimes it really feels that way for me. While I try to keep myself busy all day and into the night with writing, there’s times where I can’t escape the reality of how much things have changed… and how much uncertainty there is about the future.
Well, thank goodness for books. I’m craving horse books more than ever right now, because I’m cut off from riding and barn-time. A little virtual gallop is exactly what my soul is crying out for, and so horse books are the best escape of all.
I’ve recommended horse books on this blog before, of course, but this is a nice little list of eight horse books for under $5 — some of which are also free via Kindle Unlimited — which are all written by grown-up horse girls with a passion for ponies and the desire to share some horsey goodness with the rest of this shut-in world. You’ll see some familiar friends on this list, but you might spot something new… and there’s something for every age!
So click through if you see something you like, take advantage of some special offers, and read some horse books. You’ll feel better. Really!
First off, my most recent novel The Hidden Horses of New Yorkis on sale for $2.99 now through April 28, 2020. So don’t miss that if you haven’t read it yet!
Full of equine epiphanies, In the Reins is a love story sure to touch your inner cowgirl, capturing the struggle between letting life move forward and shying away from taking the reins with horses and in love.
I hope this list of horse books helps you find some reads to take you away and give you a much-needed escape. If you’re looking for more, check out these pages around my site:
It can be really hard to be productive during this current state of affairs. If you can, though, I really encourage you to disconnect from social media and current events for a few hours a day and do something nice for yourself.
Over at Loose Rein Collections, my website for sharing equestrian inspiration, I have started listing all of the free courses, webinars and live-streams I can find for horse owners and riders.
There are many offerings from universities, world-renowned trainers, and respected organizations available free for the taking!
If you can’t ride right now because of stay-at-home orders, this might be the perfect time to take a course on horsekeeping or biosecurity on farms.
If you are wondering how you’re going to shift your business in the post-lockdown economy, there are awesome courses on farm management and homesteading available.
Or maybe you have more time to ride because you’re not teaching or going to work and your horse is at home – now you can learn a lot and put it into practice right away by using free training videos from top trainers.
I’m adding a second book to my serial works-in-progress at Patreon!
Sunset at Catoctin Creek is the first novel in my Catoctin Creek series. I’d been playing with the idea for a small-town romantic novel for a little while. On one of my barn days – I have a lot of time for thinking on barn days! – I came up with not just one, but three novels set in a fictional small Maryland town called Catoctin Creek.
The name and setting both have a lot of significance for me. My Keller family came to western Maryland in the early 1800s and settled there, along with many other German immigrants. Catoctin Creek is a stream that runs along the ridge of the Appalachian Mountains called the Catoctins. There’s an old Keller graveyard near Catoctin Creek, and not far away, my great-grandfather’s old farm.
So I came up with this idea, and promptly fell in love with my imaginary town of Catoctin Creek, and then set it to one side because work, and deadlines, and etc.
Now, though, I could use a little escape. I’m on Day 12 of Quarantine Life, and my long affinity for the fuss-free, smaller-footprint advantages of apartment life? Well, it’s being tested a little. Let’s just say I could really go for a front porch with a set of rockers, a babbling brook within earshot, and an old barn where my horses whinny for their suppers.
So I’m running away (in my mind) to Catoctin Creek, and I’m inviting you along with me. I’m posting the first chapters of this novel at my Patreon, free for everyone to read. Come meet Rosemary, who has lived at Notch Gap Farm her entire life, and seems largely content with her spinsterhood and her rescue horses. Come meet Stephen, who has come to Catoctin Creek to settle his father’s estate, make a little money, and head back home to Manhattan before he forgets how to order in dinner from Seamless. And meet Nikki, Rosemary’s best friend and no-nonsense proprietress of the Blue Plate Diner, and the Kelbaughs, Rosemary’s elderly neighbors and touchstones on lonely nights.
Like I said, the first few chapters are free – no paywall. Eventually I’ll have to move them to subscriber-only, for copyright reasons, but I’d like to give everyone a shot to decide if they want to read it first.
And just as a reminder, subscriptions to read all of my work on Patreon are just $3 per month. I really want to keep it reasonable, while still getting a little income for the writing which takes up much of my day. I’m also posting new chapters of Runaway Alex for subscribers at this time, so you’re getting two books at a time. (Here’s the first chapter, no payment required.)
I hope that everyone who needs a little escape can find it in Catoctin Creek. And I hope that soon, we can all get back to our happy places, for real.
Last year I decided a prequel to The Head and Not The Heart was in order. Readers have been asking for one for years, and I kept pushing it away… then suddenly, it felt like the right moment. I had just finished The Hidden Horses of New York, and the bug to continue writing about my horse racing heroines was still strong.
After some false starts, (including one absolutely gorgeous intro paragraph which I re-read to myself, smiling triumphantly, until I realized that it was written in third person and the entire rest of the series is written in first) I finally have an intro chapter I’m ready to share.
Why share now, before the book is even remotely complete? I’ve been loving installment fiction at Patreon for over a year now, and I’ve shared all of my most recent stories there as works in progress since last year’s Forward. Sharing a chapter or three every week of my first draft has been an amazing experience for me – honestly, more writers should try it.
It’s really fun for me to share my ideas as I write them and get feedback right away from my most dedicated readers. And the response from readers tells me it’s fun for you, too!
So if you’re ready to give the introduction to Runaway Alex a read, hop over to my Patreon – no subscription required.
And if you like what you read, you might want to stick around and subscribe to read the complete first drafts of two unpublished novels: the equestrian amateur-owner misadventure Grabbing Mane, and the theme park drama You Must Be This Tall. They’re all available from just $3 per month!
It’s Saturday and I’ve been reading things on the Internet all week. I thought: why not share this nonsense with you, the readers who might also like the same things as me? Right? So here it is: everything from the past week for you to read!
Eventing Nation posted a list of “horse novels that don’t suck” which could have just as easily been a listing of old horse books plucked from a quick internet search as a series of actual recommendations, so lots of people are posting their faves in the comments – check them out for something you haven’t read yet: https://www.facebook.com/eventingnation/posts/3832017333483004
Barnes & Noble is about to undergo a renaissance which involves fewer toys and junk for sale at the cashwrap and more community-focused booksellers, and I am here for it: