15 October 2018

Morning Coffee | Random Thoughts & Oddities

Paul at Lat43 does these hysterical Morning Tea blog posts which are a brain dump of whatever pops into his head while he's writing them. I decided to steal his idea. Except, I'm drinking coffee while I write this and he drinks tea, so it isn't really stealing, is it?

So, here we go - all of the random nonsense floating through my head while I sip on my morning coffee.

  • I'm drinking iced coffee this morning while running my air conditioning full-blast. Yes, it's still hot in southern Florida even though it's mid-October. Looks like we're in for another real feel temp of over 100 today. 
  • When you start dripping sweat the minute you go outside, it's hard to get into the fall spirit. All everyone seems to be talking about on Facebook these days is pumpkin spice this and that while wrapped up in adorable sweaters and scarves.
  • I don't really like pumpkin spice flavored things. I wonder if there's a support group for people like me? Everything seems to be pumpkin spiced these days. They probably even make pumpkin spice toilet paper.
  • The annual migration of the snowbirds has kicked off. People are starting to head back to the marina to get their boats ready to head off to the Bahamas and beyond.
  • We had our first Indiantown Party Posse get-together last night of the season. My friends brought delicious homemade treats to share. I let Walmart do my cooking for me. I really need to up my game when it comes to potlucks.
  • I've got a lot of bug bites on me. I really should stop itching them, but I can't seem to help myself.
  • I saw a giant black spider running across my bed last week and dive under the mattress. Man, that thing can move fast. Normally, I'm kind of okay with spiders, but it's possible this was a black widow and I'm not okay with having that share my bed with me. I haven't seen it in a while, so hopefully, it's found someplace new to live. In them meantime, I sleep with one eye open.
  • The new marina cats are so adorable! I wonder if they would be interested in hunting down a spider.
  • I borrowed a friend's dinghy yesterday to clean off the side of my boat. It looks so much better now that it's back to its original white color, rather than the green hue it had developed with all of the Florida mold growing on it. It will probably turn green again in a couple of days.
  • I seem to know that names of all of the dogs at the marina, but I struggle to remember their humans' names. Why is that?
  • Time for some more iced coffee.

What did you think about over your morning cup of coffee, tea, or other beverage of choice?

Thanks for stopping by our blog - we love it when people come visit! We're also on Facebook - pop by and say hi!

Murder at the Marina - a lighthearted & humorous cozy sailing mystery - available in ebook and paperback format at:

Amazon (US) | Amazon (CA) | Amazon (UK) | Amazon (AU) | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Apple iBooks | Google Play | Book Depository | Books-A-Million

Find out more at ellenjacobsonauthor.com 

10 October 2018

Wordless Wednesday | Adorable New Boat Neighbor

Wordless Wednesday is supposed to be about posting a photo(s) without any words. But, I'm a rule breaker, so here are a few words:

1 - It's always a celebration at the marina when someone splashes their boat after working on it for ages in the boatyard. It's even more of a celebration when she floats.

2 - This adorable tugboat is our new neighbor. I love the little round window on the door.

3 - Her owner calls her Big Tow and his dinghy is fittingly named Little Tow.

What words does this picture(s) bring to your mind when you look at it?

For more Wordless Wednesday fun, click here

Thanks for stopping by our blog - we love it when people come visit! We're also on Facebook - pop by and say hi!

Murder at the Marina - a lighthearted & humorous cozy sailing mystery - available in ebook and paperback format at:

Amazon (US) | Amazon (CA) | Amazon (UK) | Amazon (AU) | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Apple iBooks | Google Play | Book Depository | Books-A-Million

Find out more at ellenjacobsonauthor.com 

08 October 2018

Seduced By Coupons | Experimenting With Meal Kits

I'm a sucker for coupons. The irrational part of my brain screams, "It's a bargain! Get it! Use the coupon!" This is the same part of my brain that convinces me that having cookies for breakfast is a smart dietary choice. The more sensible part of my brain has been beaten into submission over the years and doesn't even bother to put up a fight anymore.

So when I got a coupon for a Hello Fresh meal kit, of course I ordered one, even though I knew it was probably a bit foolish. But, in my defense, I was curious what all the fuss is about. I also did a quick calculation and figured out that the cost of the meals (with the coupon, not at full price) was about what I'd spend on groceries, so it wasn't going to break the bank.

I picked three meals (two servings each) - Korean-style chicken thighs, chicken over tabbouleh, and chicken cheddar fajitas. Because I don't have an oven, I was limited to meals that could be cooked on the stove-top.

A few days later, my box arrived. Everything was well insulated with chill packs, but even so, in the heat we've been having, I'm not sure how long everything would have remained fresh if I hadn't picked it up right away.

The packing materials are recyclable, but we don't have recycling facilities at our marina, so I ended up having to chuck everything out. I felt bad about that.

It was kind of fun opening the box up. There was a paper bag for each meal, along with a recipe card. There were also a couple of Lindor truffles on top. They had melted in the heat. Still scrumptious though. {The boaters among you may notice something that doesn't quite belong in the picture - a joker valve. Ah, life on a boat. Fixing the toilet before dinner.}

Inside the bag, were lots of tiny packages and bottles. I love tiny things. Just look at those tiny fish-shaped containers of soy sauce! {This is when the sensible part of my brain started muttering about all of the packaging.}

I rummaged through each bag and pulled out the stuff that didn't need to be refrigerated. I imagine if you had a normal fridge, then you could just tuck each individual bag inside, keeping the meal ingredients neatly separated. My top-loading marine fridge doesn't have room for this sort of thing, so I just chucked everything into a communal bag and jammed it into an empty corner.

As for the meals themselves, they were fine. The recipes are straightforward and easy to make. But because I make variations of the three meals I had chosen all the time, it wasn't too exciting.

I can see the appeal of meal kits. When I was working crazy long hours, the thought of figuring out what to cook, going to the store, and then pulling it all together was overwhelming at times. Going out to eat, getting carry-out, or just having cookies for dinner was often the default. Something like this might be a solution for busy folks.

It might also be a good way to experiment with new-to-you ingredients. While none of the ones in my meal kit were new to me, I can see how it might be a good introduction for things like sriracha sauce or dukkah spice mix for some people.

Would I buy another meal kit again? Nope. The regular price without a coupon is way too expensive for what you get. Plus there's the whole issue of not being able to recycle the packaging materials where I am. But as far as experiments go, this was an interesting and tasty one.

What do you think about meal kits? Have you ever experimented with them?

Thanks for stopping by our blog - we love it when people come visit! We're also on Facebook - pop by and say hi!

Murder at the Marina - a lighthearted & humorous cozy sailing mystery - available in ebook and paperback format at:

Amazon (US) | Amazon (CA) | Amazon (UK) | Amazon (AU) | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Apple iBooks | Google Play | Book Depository | Books-A-Million

Find out more at ellenjacobsonauthor.com 

05 October 2018

Hairless Cats, Living In A Simulation & Blogging Changes

Here's an important question for you all - would you want a hairless cat? Personally, I think cats need fur, otherwise, what's the point? Have a look at the Spynx kittens in this video and let me know what you think.

And now for a slightly harder question - are we living in a simulation? My mom sent me this article which posits that we're part of a simulation (think The Matrix). I've heard about this theory before and read a few sci-fi short stories based on this. Frankly, it's all a bit depressing, so I distract myself from such scary thoughts by playing The Sims. I wonder if they know they're not real?


Some of you may have seen Crystal Collier's post yesterday announcing that she's stepping away from her blog. While I'm sad to see her go, it's totally understandable that she needs to channel her energy toward her family at this point in her life. 

It reminded me that I should probably tell you about the change to my blogging schedule. I've mentioned a couple of times that I haven't had the same energy for blogging as in the past, probably because I've been focusing more on writing my cozy mysteries. I still love blogging and am going to keep on with it, but I'm only going to commit to posting here on Mondays and Wednesdays going forward. I'll still do the occasional Friday and Saturday posts when the mood strikes (like today), but those won't be regular posting days.

Do you like hairless cats? Do you think we're living in a simulation?

03 October 2018

Simon The Time Traveling Cat's Life Gets Disrupted | IWSG

The Insecure Writer's Support Group (IWSG) is a place to share and encourage, where writers can express their doubts and concerns without appearing foolish or weak. It's a great place to mingle with like minded people each month during IWSG day.

Every month there's an optional question which may prompt folks to share advice, insights, a personal experience or story. Some folks answer the question in their IWSG blog post or let it inspire them if they're struggling with what to say.

This month's question is:

"How do major life changes affect your writing? Has writing ever helped you through something?"

Check out how people have answered this month's question, as well as the other insecurities and writing topics they may have shared by visiting the IWSG sign-up list here. If you want to see how I answered the question, have a look below. 

* * *

Image via The Graphics Fairy

"Here, kitty, kitty," I called out. I opened a can of cat food, scooped it into a bowl, and set it on the floor. "Come and get it." 

A streak of gray fur flew past me and skidded to a stop. Simon sniffed at the bowl then sat back on his haunches and glared at me. "This doesn't smell like Frisky Feline's Ocean's Delight, lady," he said.

"That's because it isn't. It's a new brand of organic cat food especially designed for the, ahem, less active cat."

"Less active cat?" Simon asked. "What are you talking about? I'm very active."

"Moving from the bed to the couch for your afternoon nap isn't exactly what I would call active." I pointed at the bowl. "Go on, try it. The lady at the store said that the morsels of tuna and turkey nestled in a hearty beef gravy are sure to delight any feline's taste buds."

Simon extended one of his large gray paws and tipped the bowl over, knocking the contents onto the floor. "My taste buds told me to tell you to take a hike, lady. A hike right back to the store to get some Ocean's Delight."

"Oh, Simon, you're going to have to learn to embrace change. I bought a case of these cans. It's this or nothing."

"Fine," Simon said. "If it's change you want, how about if I start hacking up my hairballs on your pillow instead of on the carpet from now on. How does that sound?" He padded toward the bedroom, then turned and looked at me. "I feel one coming on."

Fine," I said with a sigh. "I'll go to the store."

"While you're at it, pick up some full-fat milk too, lady."

* * *

When I first looked at this month's question, I figured it didn't apply to me as I didn't think I had had any major life changes since I started writing. Then I thought about it some more and realized that I actually started this whole blog as a result of a major life change - buying a sailboat, moving aboard, and setting off in search of adventures on the water. 

Duh! That's a pretty big change and the reason why I started writing in the first place. And my cozy mystery series is all about how the kooky Mollie McGhie copes with major changes in her life when her husband presents her with a dilapidated sailboat and tried to convince her to sail off into the sunset with him. So I guess writing is how I document and process the changes in my own life.

In related news, I just got back >>Bodies in the Boatyard<< from the editor. I'm in the process of making changes before it goes back for a final round of edits. Hoping to release it in November (exact date TBD). Cross your fingers for me. And your toes. Plus your elbows if you're particularly dexterous.

How have major life changes affected your creative pursuits?

Thanks for stopping by our blog - we love it when people come visit! We're also on Facebook - pop by and say hi!

Murder at the Marina - a lighthearted & humorous cozy sailing mystery - available in ebook and paperback format at:

Amazon (US) | Amazon (CA) | Amazon (UK) | Amazon (AU) | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Apple iBooks | Google Play | Book Depository | Books-A-Million

Find out more at ellenjacobsonauthor.com 

01 October 2018

September In Numbers

Clockwise from upper left: (1) Insect repellent - the essential centerpiece at any outdoor event in Florida; (2) Alex, one of the cool guys who works at the marina, sporting some patriotic shorts; (3) Visions of having three books in my cozy mystery series published; (4) Kudos to folks who brave the heat to clean their boats off - feel free to stop by and take care of mine; (5) I love that someone is driving a former police cruiser - very cool!; and (6) Our friend, Ted, doing his best imitation of a peacock at the local Guatemalan-Mexican restaurant.

September was hot, hot, hot. That's about all I remember from the past month - the heat. Everyone in northern climates is posting lovely autumnal pictures on Facebook. Cool, crisp air. Needing a sweater at night. Sipping on hot chocolate without breaking into a sweat. It all sounds so lovely. Instead, I spent pretty much the entire month inside my boat with the air conditioning running full blast.

On the bright side, at least the great outdoors didn't tempt me away from my keyboard and I made some good progress on my writing projects. I sent >>Bodies in the Boatyard<< off to the editor mid-September (hoping for a November release) and started outlining book #3 in the series.

Now, without further ado, here are the random things that happened at the marina last month in numbers:

  • 8 - How many bags of chips there were at the Labor Day potluck. You can never have enough chips.
  • 3 - Number of new cats at the marina. So cute.
  • 44 - How many scenes I've outlined in the third book in my cozy mystery series. This one is going to be called >>Poisoned by the Pier<<. Yep, you guessed it - someone is going to get murdered by way of poison. But it's also going to feature cake. Lots and lots of cake.
  • $91.56 - How much I spent on eating out last month. Way more than I would normally spend. I gave into laziness way too much during September and ate out or got take-away instead of cooking at home.
  • $1.06 - How much a container of mango juice costs at one of the local dollar stores. I love mixing a little of it with some sparkling water. Like a can of soda, but with far fewer calories. I find dollar stores a bit dangerous. "But this plastic dinosaur only costs a dollar! It wouldn't make sense to go home without it, would it?"
  • 6 - How many books I read. Fewer books than I would have liked, but I'm still on target to meet my goal of a 100 books this year (currently at 83). My fave was Island of the Mad by Laurie King, featuring Sherlock Holmes and Mary Russell. 
  • 2 - Number of overdue library books I had. Tsk, tsk.
  • 8 - How many inches in diameter the average pancake that I make is. Yes, I measured my pancakes. No, I don't measure how much syrup I put on top of them. I like a lot of syrup on my pancakes. It's probably better that I don't know exactly how much.
  • 3 - How many seasons of The Mindy Project I've binge-watched. Who know that a show about an OB-GYN practice could be so hysterical? Now, going to the OB-GYN, not nearly as much fun.

In case you missed them, here are some of our favorite posts from last month both here and on my author blog:

A Blogger Who Blogs or a Writer Who Writes?
Wordless Wednesday | New Marina Cats
Book Release in Numbers

How did last month go for you? What are you looking forward to this month?

Thanks for stopping by our blog - we love it when people come visit! We're also on Facebook - pop by and say hi!

Murder at the Marina - a lighthearted & humorous cozy sailing mystery - available in ebook and paperback format at:

Amazon (US) | Amazon (CA) | Amazon (UK) | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Apple iBooks | Google Play | Book Depository | Books-A-Million

Find out more at ellenjacobsonauthor.com 

29 September 2018

Saturday Spotlight | Banned & Challenged Books Week

In addition to the usual blog posts on Mondays and Wednesdays (and the occasional Friday) about our eccentric travel adventures and day-to-day life living aboard a sailboat, I also occasionally post on Saturdays, focusing on things related to writing such as cover reveals, book launches, reviews, interviews with authors etc. So if you're a bit of a book nerd like I am, check in on Saturdays - you never know what might pop up.

* * *

The annual Banned Books Week wraps up today and in its honor, I selected four books from the American Library Association's list of frequently challenged books with diverse content to add to my TBR (to be read list). I was pleased to see that all of these books are available at my local library.

While I might not agree with the content / themes of certain banned and challenged books, they might make me uncomfortable, or I might just find them boring, I think it's important to read banned and challenged books from time to time to get a different perspective on things and try to understand where people are coming from. In my opinion, freedom of speech is critical, even when I don't like what certain people have to say.

Beloved by Toni Morrison is considered by many to be a modern American classic and won the Pulitzer Price in 1988. Graphic sexual content has been cited as the reason for it being banned, although some would argue that there are many other books that have similar content which haven't been subject to the same restrictions.

Here's the blurb from Goodreads:

"Staring unflinchingly into the abyss of slavery, this spellbinding novel transforms history into a story as powerful as Exodus and as intimate as a lullaby.

Sethe was born a slave and escaped to Ohio, but eighteen years later she is still not free. She has too many memories of Sweet Home, the beautiful farm where so many hideous things happened. Her new home is haunted by the ghost of her baby, who died nameless and whose tombstone is engraved with a single word: Beloved.

Filled with bitter poetry and suspense as taut as a rope, Beloved is a towering achievement by Nobel Prize laureate Toni Morrison."

I was surprised to see Tintin in America by Herge on the list. I used to read the original French-language versions as a kid as part of French class. I had no idea why this was on the list until Tonja Drecker told me that it was due to stereotypical and racist depictions of indigenous peoples. I'm looking forward to revisiting Tintin and seeing what he gets up to in America. And it will be so much easier to read it in English this time.

Here's the blurb from Goodreads:

"The classic graphic novel. Tintin comes to the U.S.A. to clean up the mean streets of Chicago but ends up in the wild west! Will Tintin make it back home?"

The Curious Incident of the Dog in Nighttime by Mark Haddon sounds really interesting as it's written from the perspective of someone who has Asperger's. It was challenged due to use of the F-word and for the main character's views on God.

Here's the blurb from Goodreads:

"Christopher John Francis Boone knows all the countries of the world and their capitals and every prime number up to 7,057. He relates well to animals but has no understanding of human emotions. He cannot stand to be touched. And he detests the color yellow.

Although gifted with a superbly logical brain, for fifteen-year-old Christopher everyday interactions and admonishments have little meaning. He lives on patterns, rules, and a diagram kept in his pocket. Then one day, a neighbor's dog, Wellington, is killed and his carefully constructive universe is threatened. Christopher sets out to solve the murder in the style of his favourite (logical) detective, Sherlock Holmes. What follows makes for a novel that is funny, poignant and fascinating in its portrayal of a person whose curse and blessing are a mind that perceives the world entirely literally."

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi is a graphic novel memoir about growing up in Iran. I remember seeing it at my sister's house, but I didn't have a chance to read it when I was there. It has been challenged due to "coarse language," depictions of torture, and Islamic content.

"Wise, funny, and heartbreaking, Persepolis is Marjane Satrapi’s memoir of growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution. In powerful black-and-white comic strip images, Satrapi tells the story of her life in Tehran from ages six to fourteen, years that saw the overthrow of the Shah’s regime, the triumph of the Islamic Revolution, and the devastating effects of war with Iraq. The intelligent and outspoken only child of committed Marxists and the great-granddaughter of one of Iran’s last emperors, Marjane bears witness to a childhood uniquely entwined with the history of her country.

Persepolis paints an unforgettable portrait of daily life in Iran and of the bewildering contradictions between home life and public life. Marjane’s child’s-eye view of dethroned emperors, state-sanctioned whippings, and heroes of the revolution allows us to learn as she does the history of this fascinating country and of her own extraordinary family. Intensely personal, profoundly political, and wholly original, Persepolis is at once a story of growing up and a reminder of the human cost of war and political repression. It shows how we carry on, with laughter and tears, in the face of absurdity. And, finally, it introduces us to an irresistible little girl with whom we cannot help but fall in love."

Do you ever read banned or challenged books? If so, which ones would you recommend?