Sunday, December 30, 2012

Nobel Prize Winner dies at Age 103

Nobel prize winner, Dr. Rita Levi Montalcini recently died at the ripe old age of 103. She was very active into her 100s, working in science, and later in politics. She was born in Turin, in 1909, and never married.

Due to the war, she moved around with her family, changing their name. Eventually, she came to the United States and worked in research.

To read more about this wonderful woman, please click the link below:

http://www.latimes.com/news/custom/scimedemail/la-me-rita-levi-montalcini-20121231,0,4732404.story

Friday, December 21, 2012

Christmas Blessings


This is my favorite time of the year, not only because of the sights of Christmas trees popping up everywhere, or the lights on the houses, or even the Salvation Army woman outside the shopping mall ringing her little bell. There is more to the holiday season. It fills the senses in every which way.

There are the Christmas parties, with their egg nogs and appetizers and Christmas carols. There are the Christmas songs on the radio with my all time favorite song, "Silent Night." 

The Christmas cards start flowing in early December, with their sweet words and familiar sayings, and photos of children. Visits to the post office take on a whole different meaning during this time of year. 

Then there's the shopping for presents at the mall which is decorated with all kinds of lights, wreaths, and trees. I love watching Santa Claus in the mall as the children sit on his lap and take photos with him. All this is followed later with the wrapping of the gifts and placing them under the Christmas tree.

Then there's the baking of cookies and goodies for Christmas. The aroma in the kitchen is warm and cozy during this time of year. 

I love this time of year, and most importantly, the reason behind it. Jesus Christ, our saviour, was born on this day and we lovingly acknowledge his birth with joy and delight. May his birthday be remembered on this very important day! God bless you all!

 




 
 

Thursday, December 13, 2012

10 Tips to Promote, Promote, Promote



Occasionally, I get asked by another Greek American author about promoting books, and I thought I'd compile the steps I took in promoting my books to the Greek American market. If you're not catering to the Greek Market, you might consider organizations that revolve around your market:

1) Make sure you have a website (or wordpress, or blog) that includes your bio, your books, and where to buy the books. An online presence is critical in this time of social media. Update it regularly. Check out my site as an example: http://www.pattyapostolides.com

2) Join Social Media like Twitter, Facebook, and other social media. Make a Facebook Fan Page. If you want to attract likes on your page, go to http://www.worldlitcafe.com  to sign up for more likes. Become active. Get a following.


3) Sell your books through a Greek American organization like AHEPA or Daughters of Penelope (DOP). It would help if you're  a member, too! You can start by sending a book to the AHEPA headquarters in Washington, D.C., like I did, and ask if they'd like to read/review for their AHEPA magazine. Also, the DOP have a book club, and you might want to contact them, too.

4) Contact all the Greek churches in the states with a flyer describing your book. Include ordering information. You can go on the archdiocese website (http://www.goarch.org/parishes/) to find parishes. Ask them to post the flyer on their bulletin, or give to their Philoptochos society.

If your book does not have offending material in it, your chances are better, you can even ask if they'd be interested in buying books for their library. I have sold many books through these outlets. I have also spoken through several church and Philoptochos events this way (NJ, PA,NY).


5) Contact your churches in your local area to see when they'll have their church festival. Sign up for the festival and be there to sell your books! Expect to pay a small fee for your table. You'll need a white table cloth, books, flyers, and a willingness to talk for hours at an end. Also, your local church might have a book club, or over fifties club, or even a cultural group you can talk to. I did book signings at all these groups at my church.

 6) Contact your local community newspaper. Send them a book and ask for a book review. Do the same for local magazine. They're always looking for new material.

7). Contact the Orthodox Observor, a newspaper of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese (http://www.goarch.org/news/observer.) They do post community events, and when you publish your book that is a community event! Also, you can place an ad in there, I did a few times and got sales that way, too!

8) Mail order : This one's a tough one, but if you can get a mailing list, and send flyers to individuals, your rate of sales goes up dramatically. I still get Christmas cards from readers who I've maintained contact all these years. A reader just sent me a Christmas card asking me "when is your next book coming out?" Isn't that wonderful?

9) Contact your local library -  they typically have rooms where your can sign up to do a talk and booksigning. You can list this event in the newspaper and community news.

10) Contact your local bookstore - I left this one for last because they've given me the least book sales, but they do give sales.

Did you notice that the word "contact" has shown up several times here? This is a proactive situation. You need to be very active in promoting your books, and if you don't make that "contact" then your books will just sit there in your closet, collecting dust.

I made a lot of book sales over time using the above methods, and if you are a Greek American author, or even an author interested in different avenues of promoting, I hope you do well, too!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Strep Throat and 2012 Movie






Not too long ago, I found myself nursing strep throat. There was only one other time in my life that I had experienced this, and it was in college. 

I had forgotten all about the nasty symptoms, and now years later, all the aches, pains, fever, and inability to keep food down gnawed at me with a vengeance. A visit to the Urgent Care confirmed that I had the strep throat, so antibiotics were in order and lots of sleep. Everything that I would normally do became a painful chore, like walking. Couldn't even keep water down. Little sips. Little baby steps.

So that's what I did. Of course I was not alone, my whole family got sick in some form or another. A younger family member got the strep first, and an older member got a much lighter version of it. I was somewhere at the end. At first, I was saying how lucky I was not to catch it. I was taking care of everyone else, tending to their needs, etc. And then it hit me like a sledgehammer. Whammo, I was laid up and now my husband was nursing me. I love that man! He is so good to me! 

We all took turns in some way or another getting sick. As the nurse told me, "You're spreading the Love around." Of course she was kidding, right?

So, now, I'm at the stage of the disease, where I was able to sit up for more than 5 minutes in an awake state of mind, and able to keep some food down. My brain was functioning enough so that my husband and I decided to do something we don't normally do, watch a modern movie. We typically watch old movies, but somehow the 2012 movie, the one that came out in 2009, was the one we watched.

Boy, did that movie wipe out any thoughts of strep throat completely out of my mind! Strep? What strep? These people were fighting for their lives in a fast-paced, action packed dooms-day scenario of the end of the world.  Destruction everywhere, so that you're on the edge of your seat and afraid to go back to sleep in case you'll never wake up.

So if you want to get over strep, watch the 2012 movie! That'll cure anything!

Friday, November 30, 2012

Languid Thoughts


Sometimes I see something beautiful in my life, like this evening sky from my backyard. How wonderful it was to capture the moment with the camera! The colors in the sky were amazing and I wrote a little poem to go along with it.

Our thoughts can reach many heights, and when we capture them by writing them down, anything is possible. Poetry is one avenue of capturing thoughts.

Dare to dream, and you open the door to life.
Enjoy!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!




We celebrated our Thanksgiving by beginning the day with a prayer of thanks. There are so many things to be thankful for, our health, our loved ones, the roof over our heads, etc. It's not only on this day we should be thankful, but every day of our lives. I consider each day to be a blessing. Having gone through so many losses in my life, particularly through the departure of loved ones, I do not take anything for granted.

After our morning breakfast, the family went and played tennis at the nearby tennis courts. The weather was in the mid-50s, sunny and lovely. It was fun running around hitting and catching the little balls. Afterwards, I prepared the meal while everyone watched the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade on TV. It was a joyful occasion with nice music and dancing. There were several public schools involved and I enjoyed watching all that young talent on the screen. I particularly liked the elves.

In the evening, after the Thanksgiving meal, we played a board game followed by watching a favorite movie, "Sense and Sensibility." I chose this 1995 movie because it has influenced me in so many ways when I was writing "The Greek Maiden and the English Lord." Emma Thompson did a wonderful job in weaving drama, humor, and music into this wonderful, wonderful story by Jane Austen. One of the humorous  parts of the movie, were  the "F Major" theme. In addition, there were several  dramatic parts, or highlights of the story: when Elena realized her sister was dying, when Marianne walked in the rain the second time and stood looking at the mansion of Willoughby, when Elena realized Edward was not married, and so on.  The acting was fabulous and my favorite actors were Kate Winslet and Emma Thompson. How did all this influence my story? Read my story to find out! It is available FREE until January 2013 at the following site:

The Greek Maiden and the English Lord

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Next Big Thing Blog Tour


Hello everyone!
 I am delighted to have been tagged by the talented Maria Karamitsos in The Next Big Thing blog tour! The idea is to hop from blog to blog to discover exciting authors and their books we might not have heard about or that are still Works in Progress (WIP).  This is Week 21. 

The hop rules require me to answer predetermined questions, and then at the bottom of my post, to list links to authors who will answer the same questions on their blogs next Wednesday. So, let’s get started.

1) What is the working title of your book?  

The Greek Maiden and the English Lord.




2) Where did the idea come from for your book?

Every year, the Greeks celebrate Greek Independence Day on March 25th, which marks the day when the Greeks broke away from the Ottoman rule. I began researching the topic a few years ago, which eventually led to my book. Greece had been under the Ottoman rule for hundreds of years, but after the French Revolution, in 1814, a group of students outside of Greece formed the “Filliki Etairia,” or “Friendly Society.” This underground movement formed the groundwork for the 1821 revolt. On March 23, 1821, the town of Patras was set on fire by the Ottomans and several people perished. Many Greek women and children were taken as slaves by the Ottomans. The idea for my novel resulted from the question “What happened to the women and children on that day and beyond?” Also, I am a romantic at heart, and have a soft spot for Cinderella-type stories where the virtuous and good heroine is down on her luck but is loved by a good and gentle prince or nobleman.


3) What genre does your book fall under? 


The genre is historical romance.

4) Which actors would you choose to play in your movie rendition?  


I particularly liked Kate Winslet in the Sense and Sensibility movie (with Emma Thompson). She is attractive and blond like Lily and has a sympathetic character. 






Jeremy Northam from the movie Possession would make a dark, handsome Edward.







5) What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?  


During the 1800s, a gypsy girl searches for her real parents in England and finds love in the process.

6) Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency? 


I published this book through a print-on-demand publisher Virtualbookworm.com

7) How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript? 


It took me about two and a half years to research and write it. This was the first time I attempted a historical novel, so there was an intense period of research that needed to be done before the writing began. I researched the 1800s, particularly the culture of England, what clothes they wore, what foods they ate, as well as other things.

8) What other books would you compare this story to?  


My story has been compared to Jane Austen’s works.

9) Who or what inspired you to write the book? 


Although I was born in Greece, I was raised up in America. I was a career woman all my life, working in the fields of biology and healthcare. When I married and became a stay-at-home mother, my life changed, and I had more time on my hands. There was always this urge inside me to write a novel, but I never had found the time before. Now at home, I found the time, so I began to write stories related to Greece. I have a wonderful, loving relationship with my husband, and he has been my inspiration in writing my love stories. 

10) What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest? 


It is 1831, and sixteen-year-old Lily, a gypsy, learns from Mirella her gypsy grandmother that her real parents are an Englishman and a Greek heiress. Shocked by the news, Lily questions her identity.

Her search for her parents begins not only a journey that physically transports her to England, but a coming-of-age journey of self-discovery. Finding out from cousins that her father is away in the Indies and her mother presumably dead from the war with the Ottomans, Lily is sent to a boarding school in York. There she abandons her gypsy way of life and learns how to dress, walk, and act like a lady.

Lily adjusts to life in England, and eventually returns to her familial home. The events that follow, stir up in her the dark, hidden past that she had buried all these years in her psyche. Flashbacks reveal the trauma she experienced as a child during the Greek war of independence against the Ottomans. She secretly falls in love with Edward, a handsome nobleman, but he is engaged to another. Haunted by her past, will Lily overcome her fears to face what awaits her?

The book in its totality is now available for free until January 2013:

  
 Click Here to Read



 

Next Wednesday please visit these author’s blogs to find out about their Next Big Thing!


Lynne Constantine 


Dimitris Sarantis

Audrey Bennett

Tracy Kauffman

Marva Gregorio De Souza

Katina Vaselopoulos



Thank you for visiting me and I hope you enjoyed yourself!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

A Poem - Parting Words


 Parting Words

Then all was dark
And I floated toward heaven
The light guided my way

I didn’t know that you’d be my life
My soul, forever gentle source,
Streaming through every pore
Of me, my essence,
Loving me, bathing me
In warm splendor
Lighting my inner being
With everything that is whole

Yet I pause and look back
At my loved ones
Even as I float above them
I see their sadness
I feel their pain
But they cannot see me
I waver, hoping our love
Reunites once more

I reach down to stroke away
Your tears, hoping you will know
That I still love you
My father
My mother
My sister
My brother
All who still live on this earth
That will taste fear

I no longer fear
But am filled with love
Even though I have parted this earth
Not of my doing.

One day we will reunite,
One day, and it will be the
Happiest day for us all.

2012 by Patty Apostolides

This poem is dedicated to all the children that have left this earth, including my nephew Nikita, and the children in Gaza, and others all over the world.  God bless them and their families!

Why I Write About Greek Themes

Isn't this a beautiful picture of the Parthenon? 
It is located in Athens
So memorable, it stands out  
In my mind for a long time.


I was born in this country, but 
Raised up in the United States.

Yet how can I forget to be Greek -
When I speak the language,
Attend the Greek Orthodox church,
Eat a Mediterranean diet
And am married to a Greek man.
All these are reminders 
Of my Greek heritage.

Yet how can I ignore my American
Way of life that has given me
Everything, my education, 
Endless opportunities to achieve
Higher realms of possibility
And my writing, yes my precious writing.

To write what I know
Is to breathe Greece into my stories
The Greek way of life, filled with 
Emotion
Family
Religion
Love
Music
Food


I invite you to join me in 
This journey I have taken, 
To another world, where life
Is meant to be enjoyed, and
Love reigns in every way

To triumph over evil

To erase the world of today
To imagine a better world
A better way of life
This journey I capture
In my writing.
Will you join me?
 
 

 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Next Big Thing Blog Hop Coming November 21!

Greetings!

I recently joined what's called The Next Big Thing Blog Hop! I have never done one, and was excited to have been tagged by Maria F. Karamitsos, associate editor of the GreekStar newspaper in Chicago and author at https://fromthemommyfiles.wordpress.com/
and I look forward to participating in it on November 21!

The way it works is like a chain letter, one author answers several questions about themselves and about their writing, and at the end of that session, list five other authors who will be answering their own questions and "tag" five other authors, and so on.

It is a great way for an author to gain exposure, as readers move from one blog to another, reading about their favorite authors as well as learning about new authors....isn't that great?

I hope you return next week to read more about me and get a chance to see what other wonderful authors have to say about themselves and their writing!

See you then!!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Tips for Authors

 Tips for Authors: 

This is what I learned from the book "Stand Out Social Marketing" by Mike Lewis -
 

Social media sites, like Facebook and Twitter, push content away from the viewer very quickly. In the first hour after you post something on these sites, only 34% engagement was observed in 10 days, as compared to other sites like Flickr, which earned 82% engagement in 10 days. Also, Youtube, Flickr and WordPress
experienced upticks for the first 24 hours, while Facebook and Twitter, dropped dramatically in the first hour of publication.

The best way to get your work out there is to build a landing page (website, blog) and drive traffic to it to maximize exposure. You can sign up for a free blog through Blogger. Directories such as Digg, Reddit, and Stumbleupon help drive additional views to your content.

Also, use Video (Youtube) and Photos to share with your readers.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Prescription Drugs leading cause of Accidental Death



Today I read an article http://articles.latimes.com/2011/sep/17/local/la-me-drugs-epidemic-20110918 stating that prescription drugs are the leading cause of accidental death. Wow!

It states:
"Drugs exceeded motor vehicle accidents as a cause of death in 2009, killing at least 37,485 people nationwide, according to preliminary data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "

That's a powerful statement, but I can see how that may happen. Although the article focuses on drug overdose (particularly pain and anxiety drugs), and therefore putting the blame on the patient or user, there are other complications as well, like side effects and drug interactions that can also be blamed.

I used to work as a data manager at the Cleveland Clinic in the Cancer Center, pouring over charts of cancer patients, and later at the Children's Hospital in Cincinnati, and one of my tasks was to look at the side effects of the chemo drugs used in treating the patients, who were in clinical trials or just being treated for cancer, and report them. This was a very revealing time for me, for I was able to see how drugs can really affect the body in a negative way. So it was a fine line of balancing the benefits of the drug as well as the side effects. Of course, we want the benefits to out perform the side effects.

Over time, I used my work experience to help elderly family members who were prescribed medicines that for one reason or the other, always seemed to cause them problems. One relative, who had heart problems, was taking many, many pills, and was on oxygen, and could not walk without a cane. At first, I thought it was because of the heart problem, but as I investigated the causes, and checked up on the side effects of the drugs, I found out that all the drugs he was taking was mostly to counter the side effect of some other drug. This "Soup of Drugs" had incapacitated him to the point that he could not function normally. Given that, we took him to another doctor, who prescribed another drug, which worked better for him. We also slowly weaned him off the "anxiety" drug that he needed to take because one of his heart medicines was giving him anxiety. Eventually, he stopped using the oxygen, but the sad part is, he moved, and then was given a whole set of new medicines, and within a few weeks had expired. I have many, many stories to tell regarding the side effects of drugs.

I am seeing the same pattern with another elderly relative, who has now started on the same path for her heart, first she was given one drug, and then another, and then another. I will not name drugs because each one has its own side effects, and sometimes they have similar side effects. I do know that at one time she had diabetes because of a drug's side effect and when she switched doctors and changed her medicine, her diabetes stopped. Now it's a battle with the doctors over her cholesterol. The statins incapacitate her. She cannot walk when she takes them. She is now taking the smallest dose. Statins affect muscles, and they also remove COQ10 from muscle. Heart is not the only muscle in the body. I told her cardiologist recently, that what good do statins do if the patient cannot walk due to their side effects? Walking is one of the most important activities a heart patient can do, it cleans the arteries, for one. So how can statins be beneficial?

Going back to that article, which focuses on people misusing and overdosing on drugs, why even have them taking those types of drugs in the first place?

Drugs are poisons, and they need to be treated as such.


My Facebook Page

As a homeschooling mother and author, I find myself spending much time at home, giving classes to my twelve-year-old son  as well as writing my next historical novel. The rest of my time is spent cooking, cleaning, reading, and spending quality time with my family. Our extended families live out of town, and our church is an hour away. This lifestyle is different from that of the close Greek community that I used to have in the past. One way to overcome this feeling of isolation is to maintain contact with family and friends, and I do it through Facebook. I know that many people worry about the privacy on Facebook, but I believe that the benefits outweigh the hidden costs.

I have been having a lot of fun on my Facebook fans page http://www.facebook.com/GreekNovels and am enjoying the ongoing discussions from all the fine people that have liked my page. I bring up questions for authors and also provide tips that I hope are valuable. The author response has been positive, and I also learn a lot from other authors.

Another online community that I've learned to respect is http://www.authonomy.com which is sponsored by Harper Collins, a publishing company. Another author alerted me to this site. On there, I have listed the contents of my latest historical novel "The Greek Maiden and the English Lord" which will be posted free until New Years. This is my Christmas present to everyone. The link to the book is:

http://authonomy.com/books/46125/the-greek-maiden-and-the-english-lord/read-book/#chapter

Happy reading!
Patty 

Thursday, August 30, 2012





One of the things that we often encounter in life is our being treated like everyone else - we go to school like other students, we work at a job like other employees, we shop like everyone else, we all have social security numbers. This can feel demoralizing at times, as we search for our identity. But we are all unique, and even though we feel different at times, remember that there is no one in the world like you. Even twins have differences.

God created each and every one of us to be unique and loved just for ourselves. We deserve the best that life offers.

Do not underestimate your worth.

This poem was written as an uplifting and inspiring moment by Ipatia (me). Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Walmart Slippers are Radioactive!

Background reading is 30 CPM

Walmart slippers show 132 CPM reading!!
Recently, we tested an old pair of slippers (rubber) for radioactivity with our radiation detector (Inspector) and they turned out to be 84 counts per minute (CPM). So we trashed them. We wanted to get another pair in their place and visited the Walmart store. Little did we know what we were getting ourselves into!!

We bought a pair of slippers from Walmart for a little bit over 8 dollars (brand name is ANDI). They are made in China. After our experience with the previous slippers we decided to test these for radioactivity once we got them home, just to ensure that they are safe.

First, we ran a background test on the ANDI slippers. As you can see in the images above, the first image shows the background radiation being 30 CPM, which is typical. We then placed the detector (Inspector) on top of the slipper and the reading shot up to 132 CPM. We redid it and the second reading was 164CPM. That means that the slipper is five times more radioactive than the background. This also happened with the second slipper. We were shocked at the high reading.

Then we placed the slippers in a plastic bag and the detector reading showed 130 CPM, which means that the majority of the radioactivity did not diminish but was able to pass through the bag, therefore it was not alpha radiation (it does not pass through paper or plastic), but was either beta or gamma rays, which pass through the bag. 

This is very bad news! We wonder how many people have bought these very same slippers not knowing that they were radioactive. We decided not to wear these slippers and to post them online to inform people.  We will take them back with the detector to Walmart and show them the results. Let's see what they decide to do about it!

Has anyone else had such an experience? Please let us know and we can post it here.


Monday, June 25, 2012

Buying a refrigerator has turned out to be more work than we had thought previously. It all started out innocuously enough. One day, a few weeks ago, our Maytag refrigerator made a strange sound, as if it was groaning. At first, I thought it was a family member and ran out of the room, calling out if anyone had hurt themselves. After receiving reassurances from everyone, I then retraced my steps to find out where the noise had come from and lo and behold, the naughty black refrigerator silently stared back at me. It didn't register until a couple of days later why that sound was made. The refrigerator was going kaput, and it was no more than 10 years old! It happened gradually, as the produce started spoiling and the frozen foods were becoming mush, and I was cooking everything to save it (except for the ice cream, it turned into milk). So we called an appliance repair person and they came and checked it out. We were told that it needed a new compressor, which would cost around 500 dollars. We asked if there'd be a warranty/guarantee (we love to ask for these) and he couldn't vouche for it.

 "It could go tomorrow or it could run 10 years," he said, shrugging his shoulders.

  "Uhuh," I said inside me. Not good.

So we thanked him politely, paid him the service call and decided to purchase a new refrigerator. Our search was a quick one since we didn't have the inclination of shopping every day for food or eating out every day..
We ended up buying a Frigidaire refrigerator with top freezer  and no ice maker from Lowes. We like making our own ice, and besides, we were told that the majority of the service repairs for refrigerators were for the ice makers.

We've shopped from Lowes before but this time, when our refrigerator came, during the unpackaging moment of "ahaha! Our refrigerator has arrived!" I noticed two white tapes stuck on the sides so I pulled them off and found two scratches underneath them running down the side of the refrigerator, about 8 inches long each. It was noticeable and apparently someone had tried to hide with a white tape? Huh? So we asked Lowes to replace it. Ok. That arrived two weeks later and with a five year warranty (we wanted to make sure we'd have a running appliance for a few years at least...).

Now, you probably thought we were snug and happy with our new refrigerator? Not quite. Having experienced the demise of the Maytag, I sensed the temperature in the refrigerator wasn't up to par. The thermometer showed the refrigerator was in the mid-50s and the freezer in the teens. That is a no-no. They should be around 40 degrees Fahrenheit and 4-5 degrees F, respectively. So I upped the thermostat from normal to a colder setting, thinking that would do it. The next day, it hadn't reached the setting, nor the next, nor the next. So tomorrow I'm expecting the appliance repair man to come. This time, if he says it needs a new compressor...wish us luck. Oh, and this model was "made in Mexico."

P.S. the previous repair man said they don't make refrigerators like they used to. In the past, they would run 20+ years. Not anymore..

Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial Day Poem

Memorial Day

Throughout our country
People sing in memory -
MY COUNTRY TIS OF THEE

For those brave soldiers
Who fought for our -
SWEET LAND OF LIBERTY

People take time off
From work to pray and to remember -
OF THEE I SING

To commemorate those soldiers
Who fought in battles long ago for the -
LAND WHERE MY FATHERS DIED

Each fallen soldier
Is one less person to live in this -
LAND OF THE PILGRIMS' PRIDE

And wherever our soldiers are
Their families will be waiting for them -
FROM EVERY MOUNTAINSIDE

To lay down their life so that we
May live free to sing -
LET FREEDOM RING!

We are truly indebted to those fallen soldiers
And to their families.
May their memories be eternal.

Patty Apostolides


Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Beauty and Pleasure in Gardening

Do you remember the saying "April showers bring May flowers".... well it seems that the showers have moved into May this year in Maryland. So far, the weather has been comfortable, and we have had plenty of rain, besides, we have not used any air conditioning this year, which is really "cool."

GARDENING

We've managed to plant onions, tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, and beans so far. We threw a little lime on our tomatoes to help them grow nice and big. Our peppermint patch is thriving, and the oregano we planted a few years back is already doing well. Our blackberry bushes have flowers and just looking at them makes us drool. They are our most prolific growers.

Our grapevines are still young, but we do see grape clusters on them. The Greeks like to stuff the grape leaves with a rice mixture, that include lemon juice, and olive oil, then slow cook until deliciously done. This is a time consuming meal, but well worth it!







Our two fig trees are also young, but one lonely fig is already growing!

Here are some tips I learned over time about gardening:

COMPOSTING

Composting is at an all time high around this time of year. Everything goes in our composting pile, from vegetable and fruit scraps to coffee grinds and egg shells. The scraps should be cut into small pieces to aid in the composting process. Please - No oils or fats, or even meats, because they attract rodents. Also, any tea bags, and leftover tea can be added. The tea adds extra moisture which is so critical for the compost to age properly. We avoid adding anything that is synthetic, like plastic bags.



Our compost pile is located in the back of the yard, where we've dug a sizeable hole and covered it with mulch, and over time, the mulch and scraps become part of the soil. It takes about six months to get a good size mix for our garden, so we typically start in the fall and let it sit over the winter. Also, in the fall, I throw extra mulch over the areas that we will be planting in.

During the spring and summer, we continue to work the compost pile, and make sure it gets watered occasionally. By now, you've got all this rich soil ready from the compost pile to use for growing.

WATERING

Water that comes straight from the tap is not necessarily the best water. Rain water is good to collect and use in the garden. Also, if you allow your tap water to sit a few minutes in a bucket, so that the chlorine degrades, that helps. Water at the roots, and preferably during the day. If you water in the evening and the leaves get wet, then they don't have a chance to dry and eventually can cause disease.

This time of the year, there is no need to water every day. When the weather becomes hotter, like in late June into July and August, then you can water more often. Watering also helps the weeds to pop up around your plants, so try and weed them out whenever you get a chance, or else they will take precious nutrients and water from your plants.

FRUIT TREES

If you've planted fruit trees like we have, this is a good time to check them out. If they are young, make sure their bark is covered with one of those white bandage like coverings to keep the animals from scraping their teeth on them.  Also, it is good to spray them with an organic spray insecticide, which smells typically like fish oil, and make sure when you spray, you're not in the path of the spray. It smells nasty. Also, if it rained after you sprayed, be sure to spray soon thereafter, because the spray may have been washed off.


That's it for now.  Enjoy your gardening!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

April musings

Being Greek Orthodox, our Easter was on April 15 this year. This is an intensive week for us. Fasting is the norm as well as going to church daily, if not two or three times a day.

On Palm Sunday, we receive palm crosses in church. On Holy Wednesday, we receive the holy oil which is dabbed on our foreheads and palms. On Holy Friday, we carry lit candles and walk in a procession around the church following the epitaph which is filled with flowers and represents the body of Jesus Christ.
Holy Saturday there are two church services, one in the morning and one just before midnight. That service can last until past one o'clock in the morning. We light our candles and go home to eat a special soup that breaks our fast. Easter is a day of celebration, following the Agape service, which is done in several languages, and where we receive red Easter eggs, at home we cook lamb and have a party all day long. A typical Easter dinner will include roasted lamb, baked potatoes, Greek salad, pastitsio, moussaka, tiropites, spanakopites, olives, feta cheese, wine, fresh baked bread.

Tsoureki is a sweet bread that is very popular during this holiday.

The recipe I use includes :

5 yeast
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 tsp salt
Five pound bag flour
2 sticks butter
5 eggs
Anise extract
1 cup milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

The yeast is placed in a bowl with 1 cup warm water and 1 teaspoon sugar. Let sit 20 minutes, then stir in one cup flour. Let sit.

Meanwhile, the butter is melted in a small pot and milk is added to it. Let cool.


Beat eggs with sugar in a large bowl until light and frothy. Add the milk mixture and anise. Then slowly add the yeast mixture and salt. Finally add enough flour so that the dough is light and not too difficult to kneed. Kneed, then divide into three bowls, cover, and let sit until doubled. About 3-4 hours.

Each bowl represents a loaf. Kneed each dough from each bowl, split into three balls, elongate each ball until it looks like a rope about 8 - 10 inches long and 2-3 inches thick, and line the three ropes on pan covered with parchment paper. Make a braid from the three ropes, crossing each rope over the other, starting with the right over the middle, then the left over the middle, and so on. At the top of the braid, can place a baked egg for decoration.


Beat small egg yolk with 2 tsp water and brush each braid. Sprinkle sesame seeds on top if you'd like. There should now be 3 pans with 3 braids. Let sit for 20-30 minutes.

Bake in preheated oven at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until golden brown on top. Cool before cutting.

These breads freeze well.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Lenox Bowl is radioactive

I am going to start monitoring the radiation in our household items whenever I get a chance and upload the photos and information to this blog. Why? We have known about the radiation in our ceramic dishes, chinaware and crystal for a while now, and have been mentioning it to other people. Most of the time, it goes in one ear and out the other.

Recently, due to the impact from Fukushima's radiation, there has been an increasing amount of concern by people who have asked us to test their plates and bowls.

We tested a Lenox Butterfly and Laces bowl with an Inspector Plus radiation detector and found it to be higher than background reading. We placed the bowl upside down and placed the detector on it. The reading tested 86 cpm, and when we moved the detector to the side, found the normal background radiation reading to be 28 cpm. I have attached two photos to show the difference.

That means that the Lenox Butterflies and Lace bowl has 3x the amount of radiation than the air. I have written to Lenox and am awaiting a response.


Sunday, March 25, 2012

Copyright Infringement

Recently, I perused the internet in search of several articles I had written since 2003. My search found several of my articles on different sites, and unfortunately, they did not give me credit as the author. My name was nowhere on the article!!

Recently, I added one of my articles "Writing Tips for Novice Authors" on this blog, which was originally written on Writing.com in 2003. I will be adding more of my articles.

I have written to Google regarding the above article which was posted on blogspot without my name, and let's see if they will respond.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Writing Tips for Novice Authors

   If you are reading this article then you probably have asked yourself at some point in your life, "Do I have what it takes to become an author?"
   I believe that successful authors, those who actually write and finish that novel, or book of poetry, or even that book of short stories, and see it all the way to publication, have certain characteristics.

Characteristics of Authors

1. They like to sit for hours in front of a computer screen (or with pen and paper), typing (writing) away.
2. They think about their book, even when they're not writing.
3. They are motivated to finish their book.
4. They are motivated to proofread, edit and revise their finished book until it is the best it can be.
5. They are motivated to publish their book.
6. Once they publish the first book, they are already working on the next one.

   If you answered yes to anyone of the above, then you have a good chance of attaining your dreams of becoming an author. Don't listen to those people who say it's a competitive market out there. Don't listen to those people who say they've written five books and haven't had one published yet. And don't listen to those people who send you back your manuscripts! Listen to yourself. Listen to that inner voice, the one that is whispering now. But wait until you get started. Once your book is written and published, that inner voice will be roaring! And the whole world will hear about it.
   I know, I know. I tend to be the optimist. But we have so many pessimists in the book business, we sure need some more optimists around!
   For you, the novice writer who would like to start writing that first book, the best way to begin is to start writing. Yes, just sit down and do it. Stop the other activities, the television, the reading, the shopping, the chatting on the telephone, and find the time to devote at least one hour a day to writing.
   What's one hour a day in the scheme of things? It comes and goes like this, poof! What do you have to show after an hour of television? A lazy yawn? If that same hour were spent on writing, then there would be a product in your hands, something that will be shared, hopefully, one day with others.
   So, go ahead, shut the door to the rest of the world for one hour (or more) and make yourself comfortable in front of the computer screen (or pen and paper). Let's take the first step to becoming an author.

How To Begin

Foundation

   Just like a construction company which builds a foundation to a home, you also need to prepare a foundation for your career in writing. Don't skip this step, it's important.
   Your "foundation" will consist of basic writing skills. Remember those English courses you took in high school and college? If you don't remember anything from those courses, then it wouldn't be a bad idea if you found your old English textbooks, dusted them off a bit, and looked through their pages to refresh your memory.
   If you haven't taken any courses in creative writing, you might consider signing up for one. Check with your local community college. They often offer weekend and evening classes, and sometimes even online classes. If you're on a budget, then visit the public library and sign out books relevant to writing.
   In addition, it would be very useful to join a writing group (online or in your local area) that critiques your work and gives you the opportunity to critique also. The group provides wonderful support and an avenue to sharpen your skills as you gain experience in writing, as well as exposure to other people's writing. For example, Writing.com is a good example of an online resource that provides many opportunities to share your writing, and get your work rated and reviewed. If you want to join a critique or review group, it offers that also.
   The second step to becoming an author, is to have the right tools.

Tools Needed

   Besides a comfortable chair, plenty of lighting, and a quiet room, you will need a computer with a word processing program (e.g., Microsoft Word), a printer, and plenty of paper.
   Why a computer? First of all, publishers typically will request a copy of your files sent to them on a floppy disk. More importantly, working with a word processing program will aid you in many ways towards becoming a published author. It will provide the opportunity to save your work as a Word file, without having to use up tons of paper (as with a typewriter).   
   This greatly aids you in keeping your work organized. It also gives you the flexibility to edit and re-edit large sections of your work quickly by allowing you to utilize the copy and paste functions.
   Other advantages of using a computer word processing program is that it provides spell check capabilities, and also helps you count the number of words per page. In addition, when you want to spice up your vocabulary (For example, if you like to use the word "walk" often, and are getting tired of that word), place your cursor on the word "walk", hit shift F7. It will give you a list of synonyms you can choose from - like stroll, amble, etc.).
   The time saved by using a computer is very valuable. It gives you more time available to write! Of course, if you don't have the above materials, don't let that stop you from writing that book! Using a pen and paper is perfectly fine. Books were written with these two basic tools for centuries.
   Let's assume you are using a computer and a Word processing software. First of all, before you begin writing, form a subdirectory that you can add all your chapters to. Maybe you know the title of your book already. Fine, then form a subdirectory using the name of the title. After you finish writing that first chapter (oh joy!), just save it as Chapter 1 under the subdirectory. If you are writing a book of poetry, then you might want to save each poem as a separate file.
   When I write my chapters for my novel, I format them in double space mode, with a Times New Roman 11 font. All the margins are at least one inch. This way it will be ready for manuscript submission.
   Try not to add your page numbers until the very last revision. Page numbers constantly change when you're revising, so wait until the end.
   Finally, another reason for having a computer is for Internet access. As a writer, you will have opportunities to submit your fiction online, such as http://www.Writing.com, or even your articles online for e-zines, such as http://www.articlecity.com. Any chance you can get to write online, do it. As long as it doesn't take too much time away from your book. It's also a free way of promoting yourself before the book is even published.
   So you need to balance your time in writing that book, honing your writing skills, submitting your work along the way for others to critique, and promoting yourself. Can you do it? Of course you can!
   The third step to becoming an author is:

What to Write

   If you are planning to write a novel, it would help to know what general category your book is going to be in. Will it be in the romance, mystery, or science fiction category? If you don't know, take some time and think about it. Read some books in those genres. Which books seem to attract you the most? It's highly likely that you'll be writing in the category that you like to read. My preference is romance because I read those types of books the most. Once you decide the category, then you are closer to writing that novel!
   For poetry, you might start by writing a poem and submitting it to a poetry journal, or a poetry contest.   Gain exposure for your poetry. Join a critique group so you can sharpen your poetry skills. A chapbook usually consists of about 25-35 poems. For a poetry book, you'll need at least 60 pages of poetry, if not more.

Types of Novelists

   I have found over time, that there are two types of novelists. The first type is the writer who prefers drawing up a proposal or plan of what they will write about. The second type prefers to write whatever comes into their mind at that moment.
You decide which writer you will be.

Type 1 Novelist

   They begin by describing the characters, their names, personalities, and sometimes their motives. Then they decide when and where the setting will take place. When will it take place? If it takes place before the 1900's, then it will be considered historical. Also, will the setting be in the country, in a city (which city?), in a house (whose house), on a cruise ship? That needs to be defined also.
   Once those decisions are made, they write brief sketches of each chapter. It could be a page or two long. Once all this is done, then the real writing begins. If this method works for you, then feel free to use it. It may take some time, but you will become more confident about what you'll write once you go through this initial process.

Type 2 Novelist

   What if you're the type of person who doesn't want to spend all that time writing proposals and character sketches? What if you're like me, who prefers to just write whatever comes into your head? Then do it! Sit down and start writing. Write anything.
   As the story develops, something wonderful begins brewing in your mind. Something called creativity. I've caught myself hours after I finished writing a chapter, and I'll be preparing dinner, or walking somewhere, and a scene from my novel will begin to unfold. It's called creative problem solving. My mind is working to solve the problem that the writing presents it, even though I'm not actively writing. When I get those urges, I immediately stop what I'm doing and jot down my thoughts. It's helped me many times, particularly when everything clicks together.

How Long Will It Take?

   It took me almost two years to write and find a publisher for my first novel, Lipsi's Daughter. For other people, it may take longer or shorter, depending on the amount of time they allow for writing and how many pages they are writing. I know of authors that took six, seven, up to twelve years to write their first book. I also know of a famous author who writes two novels a year!
   So unless you begin writing that first page of your book, you'll never know how long it'll take you to write it. Go ahead, make that first step, and good luck!