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Archive for February, 2010

All By Myself

Camera Critters

This week I’m posting a photo of an ostrich, taken at Wellington Zoo. I have actually seen ostriches in the wild and have vivid memories of a male ostrich with twelve chicks running after him. This ostrich is a loner.


A few facts about ostriches:

1. They’re the world’s largest flightless bird.
2. They live in savannah and desert lands and get most of their water from their food.
3. Ostrich kicks are capable of killing both humans and predators such as lions.
4. Ostriches live in small herds with an alpha male taking charge (I wonder if anyone has written an ostrich shifter???)
5. Ostriches do not hide their heads in the sand, but they do lie low and attempt to flatten themselves against the ground as a way of hiding.
6. Ostrich meat is delicious to eat (according to Mr. Munro) and very healthy for you.
7. They live for about 30 – 40 years in the wild.

Source: National Geographic

To see more animal photographs visit Camera Critters.

Looking Forward To The Future

Yesterday I attended a sales presentation for a retirement village. I’m a long way from retirement yet, but I thought it would be interesting to explore the local retirement village at closer quarters. I’m always ready to do something in the name of research because I never know when it will come in handy for a story. Oh, and did I mention there was a free lunch involved? That was the tipping point since I didn’t have anything better to do.

Like many people I’ve heard horror stories about the way these places work, but hubby and I often see the residents out walking and the grounds look beautiful – what we can see of them.

Let me start by saying that not all retirement villages are created equal. Some go bankrupt because of poor management while others have bad reputations. Some retirement villages include rest homes and hospitals. This one doesn’t, instead catering to those who are fairly independent. Buying into a village like this is not a monetary investment. Residents purchase a right to occupy a property. If they die or require the use of a rest home, their families receive 75% of their purchase price back. The other 25% of the purchase price gets written off over five years. If a resident leaves within five years they get a portion of this 25% back as well, worked out on a daily basis. Once a resident dies, the property passes back to village ownership and is resold.

In return for their money the resident receives security and companionship. They have a say in the running of the village via a representative council and can join in one of the thirty-three activities on offer or they can do their own thing. This particular village has a bus so those who don’t enjoy driving or can’t doesn’t need to depend on friends or family to take them out. There is 24 hour medical care available from a nurse in the case of an emergency. Family and friends are welcome to visit and use the amenities, and they also have a motel room that can be booked for visitors. The amenities include a gym, a heated swimming pool, a bowling green, a restaurant, a library and a bar. The village has an active social club that runs the bar and has happy hour several times a week.

Evidently the bar and happy hour is well attended, but the manager of the club laughingly joked they had a problem with drinking and driving. But, he commented, that was better than the problem of prostitutes some of the other villages experienced. I had to laugh at that. Erotic romance writer that I am, my mind went all sorts of places.

The village management are responsible for building insurance and maintenance, all property rates (taxes) plus water rates. Residents remain responsible for power, telephone and personal contents insurance.

I inspected several of the housing options, which range from apartments to two and three bedroom units. Most of them have beautiful gardens and decent sized outdoor areas. There are gardeners and grounds people to take care of lawns etc, but residents are welcome to do their own gardens. I ride past several of the tidy vegetable plots when I go for my daily bike ride.

I left after lunch and two glasses of red wine (that magically refilled when I wasn’t looking!) with a very favourable opinion of this style of retirement. While it’s not an investment opportunity, a village like this has much to offer a healthy and independent retiree. I’ll definitely be checking it out again once I near retirement age.

I know retirement is probably a long way off for most of you, but do you have any idea of how you would like to spend your golden years?

A Healthy Heart

Thursday Thirteen

This month All Romance eBooks is running a campaign for heart health. Twenty-eight authors (myself included) have donated short stories and all the proceeds go to the American Heart Association. I thought this week I’d cover snippets about heart health.

Thirteen Things About Hearts and Heart Health

1. The heart is a hard-working organ that pumps oxygen-carrying blood through the body. It functions like two pumps in one. One pump controls the flow of blood from the heart to the lungs where carbon dioxide waste is exchanged for fresh oxygen. The other pump sends the blood to cells through out the body.

2. Heart disease is one of the biggest causes of death.

3. It takes about one minute for a drop of blood to travel from the heart down to your toes and back again.

4. The heart pumps around five litres of blood a minute during rest periods and up to 33 litres per minute during exercise.

5. If you have a family history of heart disease, your chances of suffering a heart attack are increased.

6. Some factors such as smoking, excess weight, diabetes, high blood pressure, sedentary lifestyle, high blood fats, and excessive stress also make a person susceptible to heart attacks.

7. The heart muscle needs to be strong to pump blood around the body efficiently, which is why it’s necessary to exercise.

8. Common symptoms of a heart attack include sudden severe chest pain that may spread to the arm, neck, shoulder or lower jaw; nausea, changed or erratic pulse, pale or bluish skin, sudden perspiration, shortness of breath and a feeling of heaviness or a squeezing pressure around the chest.

9. If you suspect someone is having a heart attack call emergency services (911 in the US – 111 in New Zealand). Make the person comfortable and keep their activity to a minimum. Stay with the person and be prepared to do CPR if necessary.

10. A Dutch study found that eating fish on a regular basis (2 – 3 servings per week) cuts the chances of fatal heart disease in half. The French claim drinking red wine fights heart disease because of the high level of flavonoids.

11. It’s said garlic can not only deter artery clogging but may even heal destroyed arteries.

12. Reduce your risk of heart disease by quitting smoking, exercising regularly, keeping weight within normal limits, maintaining a low-fat diet, learning how to deal with stress effectively and keeping a check on blood pressure and blood cholesterol levels. Finally, enjoy a balanced lifestyle.

13. Purchase one or more of the 28 stories in the 28 Days of Heart series from All Romance eBooks. There are a variety of genres available including contemporary, historical, paranormal and gay romances.

Wild Child My story is called Wild Child.

Here’s the blurb:

Seize the day…

Zoë Underwood loved Matt Cantrell from the moment her mother married his father. She definitely thinks of him as more than a big brother and even though he moved away from home the moment their parents got married, her feelings for him have grown stronger, bigger. More. No one presses her buttons like the tall, dark and gorgeous Matt. If only he can get over the eight-year age difference.

Now, Zoë is determined to snare her man. She wants one thing—Matt’s love. It’s time for her to make a move, stir things up a little and take a chance on love.

Purchase Wild Child by Shelley Munro

My husband is on medication to control both his blood pressure and cholesterol and we try to live a fairly healthy lifestyle. Red wine is strictly medicinal :grin:

Do you have a history of heart disease in your family?

Visit the Thursday Thirteen Hub.

Teaching Young People To Save

When I was a child, we had a weekly banking day at school, and we’d take along a small deposit for our savings account at the local town bank. It wasn’t a large deposit—usually somewhere along the lines of 20 or 50 cents, but it was surprising how much our bank accounts grew. It was a great lesson in saving, and one I took with me into adulthood. When I started my first job, I saved part of my wages each week as well—a good decision as it happens, since I returned to “school” and trained in accountancy, paying my own way for two years before getting a job again.

Money Tree and Saving

These days, I’m constantly surprised by the way people live from week to week and spend their entire wage. When I worked at McDonald’s and did the wages, the mainly young crew were always short of money, blowing their wages well before it was pay day again. My sister-in-law paid the wages for an older workforce and they behaved in much the same manner.

My twenty-four-year-old nephew spends all his money, usually because of a huge phone bill and socializing. The only reason he saves any money is because he still lives at home and his mother takes part of his wages and banks it. He can’t withdraw the money without his mother’s signature.

From my observations, the lack of saving for the future happens outside of New Zealand too. I think it’s important to save a little, either to cover emergency expenses that hit us all at times or for a special treat for the family such as a holiday or a new gadget. Does this make me an old fuddy-duddy, because most youngsters don’t seem to care and expect their parents to fix the problem?

Quite frankly, I think there is a point where we, as parents, need to step back and let our kids stand or fall on their own, and this includes the arena of personal responsibility with money. Maybe some of these firms who lend money or offer interest free loans to purchase consumer goods should also have to back off a bit instead of making the lending process so easy. Maybe instead of giving loans for one hundred percent of a consumer item, the purchaser should have to come up with a larger deposit.

What do you think about saving? How to you teach your children to value money and save for a rainy day?

Blink. Blink.

The other night I was watching some coverage of the Olympic Games on television. I observed the announcer, and suddenly, all I could focus on was him blinking. Blink. Blink. Blink. Honestly, his eyes reminded me of a warning light flicking off and on. It was weird.

EyeIt’s natural for people to blink. We do it to keep our eyes moist and in good health. We also blink to stop foreign objects such as dust or tiny insects getting in our eyes. A great analogy is that blinking is like the action of a windscreen wiper on a car. On average, a person blinks 10 – 20 times per hour. (I had difficulty finding an answer that everyone agreed on.)

In body language terms, excessive blinking tends to mean that a person is thinking hard. Often, a person who is lying blinks a lot since they need to concentrate to maintain the lie. I heard that body language experts counted the number of times Mr. Clinton blinked when he was busily denying things.

A single blink might indicate surprise. If a woman is blinking excessively while in the presence of a man, then she’s probably flirting with the gentleman.

Have you noticed excessive blinking before?


A common theme in romance novels is building trust or in some cases rebuilding it enough to make a relationship work. In my book Scarlet Woman, the heroine Emily discovers her husband has had an affair with his secretary. Her husband leaves her and subsequently dies in a car accident. For Emily, trusting another man is difficult. While she’s willing to have fun with the hero Saber, it takes her time to believe in him and accept he’s trustworthy enough to enter into a commitment and a permanent relationship.

Trust can be many things. In After the Affair by Julia Cole, Ms Cole says trust can include the following:

1. Reliability – if a person or partner carries out or commits to a promise, then you’re more likely to trust them.
2. Predictability – knowing how a person will react in a given situation makes it easier to trust them. Predictability isn’t always boring.
3. Honesty – people who tell the truth are more likely to gain our trust. Those who are caught out in lies immediately break the bonds of trust.
4. Loyalty – remaining loyal to a partner is essential to build trust.
5. Commitment – caring for a partner through both good and bad times builds trust.
6. Common boundaries – having shared goals and attitudes helps build trust.

For me, trust is being able to rely on someone and knowing they will do the right thing in the face of temptation. It’s being able to believe in a person without a single doubt and feeling confident about their probable actions. Trust is a leap of faith.

How do you define trust? Writers—have you written a story where trust is a big part of the conflict? Readers—have you read and enjoyed a story where trust plays a part in the plot of the story?

I Spy With My Little Eye…

Camera Critters

I took this photo at Wellington Zoo a few weeks ago. I can stand and watch the merkats for hours. They’re so cute and feisty. Seeing them standing upright and on guard never fails to make me smile.


To see more animal photos visit Camera Critters

Birth Order Part Two

I’m continuing my post on birth order today and talking about last born and only children. Go here for the first part of the post on birth order.

Last borns have fun personalities. They’re usually good communicators, but they can be selfish and manipulative. They’re trustworthy and open and tend to hog the limelight. Sometimes they’re dreamers. I actually see a little of my sister in this description, although I wouldn’t call her selfish.

According to the article I consulted, last born children think the Nike wrote their famous ad slogan for them. They love to “just do it.” The youngest child in the family often wants to prove to everyone else (especially older siblings) that they’re capable of doing anything they set their mind to. Last borns love to talk and like to show off, hogging the limelight.

Some last borns have big egos and with that comes impatience. They can be temperamental and spoiled. They make excellent actors and often work in the sales arena with much success.

Only children are good decision makers. They’re well-organized and problem solvers. They believe in themselves. On the downside, they can be self-centered and too critical of themselves. They’re sometimes lonely.

Only children have many of the traits of the first born child. Additionally, they will often make out that they’re in the right and ignore the opinions of others. Like first borns, an only child makes an excellent company director.

Source: Lifestyle Magazine June/July 2000, The New Birth Order Book: Why you are the way you are by Dr Kevin Lernan.

Do you fit in either of these categories? Do these character traits ring true?

Talking Gingerly

Thursday Thirteen

I’ve been thinking about ginger recently, mainly because in our local reality show, Nestle’s Hottest Home Baker, most of the contestants used ginger when they cooked their signature dishes last week. I like ginger and decided it would make a great topic for my Thursday Thirteen.

Thirteen Things About Ginger

1. Ginger is the rhizome (mass of roots) of a flowering plant which is native to South-East Asia. Ginger has been grown in China for thousands of years.

2. Ginger can be purchased fresh, dried or ground. My father loves crystallized ginger, which is often available around Christmas.

3. Fresh ginger has a fresh citrus-like smell and flavor, along with a little hotness. It’s used in Chinese, Caribbean and Indian dishes. Dried ginger root is used in preserves and chutneys. Powdered ginger is used in cakes, biscuits and cookies.

4. A clever hint – keep your fresh ginger root in the freezer. When you require some ginger in a dish, grate the frozen root and return to the freezer. Hubby and I have way less wastage this way. It really works!

5. Ginger – a slang word for a red-head. A human, characterized by pale skin, freckles and bright red hair.

6. Ginger is considered to have aphrodisiac powers when taken either internally or externally. It’s actually mentioned in the Karma Sutra.

7. In the Phillipines, ginger is said to expel evil spirits. The people chew on chunks of ginger and I presume the evil spirits leave.

8. Ginger is a well-known digestive aid because it increases saliva and digestive fluids. Some people say ginger helps with morning sickness. At the onset of nausea, the mother chews on a piece of ginger root. Some people swear ginger helps with motion sickness as well. I’ve heard some bus drivers hand out ginger sweets to school children to stop them from throwing up. At least that’s what the man at the ginger factory in Australia told me.

9. Queen Elizabeth 1 is credited with the invention of gingerbread men.

10. Fresh ginger is found in the produce section of most grocery stores. Look for smooth skin with a fresh, spicy fragrance. Tubers should be firm and feel heavy.

11. My favorite non-alcoholic summer drink is ginger beer. Ginger beer was first made in England during the mid-17th century.

12. You can make your own ginger beer by growing a ginger plant. It’s not an actual plant but is made from yeast.

13. Henry VIII thought ginger would stop people from getting the plague. He instructed the mayor to use ginger as a plague medicine.

Visit the Thursday Thirteen Hub

Do you like ginger? What is your favorite way to eat ginger?

Birth Order

Today I read a magazine article about the birth order of children and how it affects their lives. Experts believe that birth order definitely influences a child’s personality. It also has a bearing on their career choice and the way they deal with relationships.

I found the article interesting because I have a brother and a sister, both younger than me. It was fascinating comparing the first, second and last born characteristics with my family.
First born children love to succeed, they’re good leaders, are good at solving problems, and easy to work with. They can also be overbearing and insensitive, overly concerned with rules, have high stress levels and strive too hard for perfection.

I definitely like to succeed (who doesn’t?) I take charge (sometimes) and I’m good at problem solving. (yes, that’s true—I’m a facts and figure person). The stress part is true, but I constantly work to keep the stress levels down. I worry too much about order, process and rules—sometimes. Insensitive? Sometimes I can be tactless, but I don’t think I’m insensitive. My family and friends might disagree. I’m not sure.

First born children are often company directors and have valuable and enjoyable careers. In truth, I’ve never aspired to be a company director. I like being my own boss and enjoy the creative writing process even though the business drives me nuts at times.

Middle born children are independent, know how to keep a secret, are mentally tough and are good mediators. On the negative side, they can be cynical, they might feel too much on the outside, may be uncooperative and bottle up their true feelings.

Middle born children can be mysterious and keep to themselves. Yes, this is my brother. They’re willing to do things differently. Yes, again. My brother is very innovative. They see issues from both sides. This actually sounds more like me, but no one said this is a perfect science.

On the down side, they’re often stubborn and unwilling to cooperate and they keep opinions to themselves. Yes, to all of this, but I’m also stubborn when I feel the need.

Middle born children are good in mediating roles (nope, can’t see this one at all) and entrepreneurial roles (definitely! This is my brother) and they enjoy building close working relationships.

I know that some writers use this research when developing their characters and give their hero and heroine the quirks associated with their birth order. It’s definitely something to keep in mind when working on your characterization.

Source: Lifestyle Magazine June/July 2000, The New Birth Order Book: Why you are the way you are by Dr Kevin Lernan.

For those who are interested, I intend to blog about last born and only children later this week.

Are you a first born or middle child? Does any of this sound like you? Does it sound like your brothers or sisters who have these positions in your family? And for the writers out there – have you used birth order when developing your characters?

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