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Thursday, February 28th, 2008
The Care and Feeding of Candles

Thirteen Things about CANDLES

In case people haven’t guessed I visited my local candle shop in the weekend. It’s called RETREAT and for those who live in New Zealand, they have stores in Glenfield, Newmarket, Sylvia Park and Manukau.

1. Candles convey messages of warmth, romance, spirituality and brightness and they are embraced by lots of different creeds, religions and nationalities.

2. The Egyptians have been credited with soaking reeds in animal fats for rushlights. But the truth is all civilizations have a history of illumination.

3. Tealights are tiny candles, encased in a thin metal or plastic cover. The candle liquifies totally while lit and burn times can vary from four to nine hours.

4. Votives need to be placed inside a tight-fitting holder to maximise burn times.

5. Pillars are free-standing and are long-burning, available in a round or square shape. They can have multiple wicks and are excellent for grouping with other sizes and accessorizing to add the final touches to home or office.

6. Floating candles create light in a bowl, fountain or pool. These are specially designed to float on water.

7. Do not leave a burning candle unattended.

8. Trim candlewick to 5mm EACH time before burning.

9. Burn for 1 hour per 2cm in diameter. Noe: a candle has a memory. That is, it will only burn to the same diameter it was last burnt to.

10. Candles make great decorations and provide good mood lighting, but cleaning up dried wax drippings is never fun. Here’s a video about removing candle wax.

11. Never touch or move a burning candle when the wax is liquid. That means not playing with a burning candle, Mr. Munro. :mrgreen:

12. Flickering candles are one of the simplest and yet most magical ways of adding atmosphere to a scene. Ask your local candle shop about home decorating, color coordination, aromatheraphy, home fragrancing and everything candle. They’re the experts! The staff at RETREAT are certainly very knowledgable.

13. Think about personalised candles for a gift. RETREAT will design special candles for birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, memorials, Valentine’s Day, Mother’s day and any other special event. They can be decorated with text, ribbon, graphics and photos. Your imagination is the only limit.

What do you think about candles? Do you like them? Do you have candles in your house?

Thursday, February 21st, 2008
Absolutely, Positively Wellington

In honor of my recent visit to Wellington, THIRTEEN THINGS about WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND.

1. Wellington is the captial of New Zealand.

2. It is VERY hilly, even more so than Auckland and San Francisco. After a day spent exploring, I woke up the next day with sore thigh muscles. No need to buy a thigh master, just visit Wellington!

3. The city of Wellington is known for its wind. Evidently this is because of its position to Cook Strait. (the passage of water between the North and South Islands of New Zealand. The prevailing North-West winds accelerate through the strait giving 173 days with winds greater than 60kph (32 knots) each year on average.

4. There’s an inland island rare bird sanctuary only 5 minutes drive from the center of Wellington, which is pretty amazing. See yesterday’s post.

5. The parliament buildings are known as the Beehive because of their shape. The Beehive is the newer parliament buildings while the old building is the elegant one alongside.

Beehive, Wellington, NZ

6. People seem to build their houses on top of hills and they balance precariously. Many of the homes are original Victorian buildings.

7. Wellington is home to Peter Jackson and sometimes called Wellywood.

8. Our national musuem Te Papa is in Wellington. My favorite part was about our animals and I really enjoyed the section on our geology. Mr. Munro and I went into the earthquake simulation, which was amazing – an old building that shook and trembled. The earth moved! In fact, the earth kept moving for a while after we left. It was neat but weird, too.

Te Papa, WellingtonMoa, Te Papa, Wellington

This is one of the Maori panels plus a model of a moa and our local hawk. Both birds are extinct now but were the largest birds in the world at the time.

9. Wellington sits on a fault line and they have lots of earthquakes.

10. Mt. Victoria gives a scenic view of the city and harbor. I’m glad we could drive up rather than walking! This is me up the top of Mt. Victoria.

Shelley, Mt. Victoria, Wellington

11. There are quite a few vineyards around. We went to Martinborough – a relief to walk around here since it was flat!!

12. All the vineyards are close to town. We hired bikes and rode around the vineyards.

Biking, Martinborough

13. And we stopped to have lunch and sample some of the wines. This is me relaxing at lunch. We rode around 10kms on our bikes before heading back to the hotel to soak in a spa bath. A very relaxing weekend.

Martinborough Vineyards

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Wednesday, February 20th, 2008
Inland Island: Karori Wildlife Sanctuary

During our recent trip to Wellington we visited the Karori Wildlife Sanctuary. As the name suggests, it’s a special sanctuary for some of our endangered native birds. The 225 hectare site includes two dams that used to supply the city of Wellington with water. It was decided that the dams might break during an earthquake and a decision was made to lower the dams and use the area as an inland island. The first step was to fence the area with pest free fences.

Pest free fences, Karori Sanctuary

These fences stop possums, stoats, weasels, ferrets, rats and mice from entering the sanctuary. Once the fences were installed a pest-control plan was put in place. A year later all 13 major pests in the area were fully eradicated. Thousands of native trees were planted (the area was previously all in pine) and this planting continues. The long-term vision for the project is to return the area to its original undisturbed state and this will take around 500 years.

Some of New Zealand’s endangered wildlife has been released in the pest-free area including brown teal ducks, the little spotted kiwi, giant wetas, tuatara, stitchbird, North Island saddleback, weka, North Island robin and bellbirds to name a few.

On entry to the sanctuary staff checked my bag for mice, cats, rats and other pests. Thankfully, my bag was found pest-free! I know I would have been more shocked than anyone if a mouse had jumped out. We explored some of the many paths, pausing to peer through the treetops searching for birds.

Lower dam, Karori Sanctuary

We sighted saddlebacks and bellbirds, lots of tuis and fantails as well as some kaka (NZ variety of parrot). I’d never seen kaka up close so was fascinated to see them at the feeding stations.

Kaka, Karori Sanctuary

This photo shows two kaka. They’re a green parrot and blend in quite well with the trees, although they’re easy enough to spot because they make an awful screechy noise.

I would have loved to see a tuatara but since it was overcast they were all in their burrows, but we saw native fish and green geckos along with lots of our songbirds.

They also do a nocturnal tour where you can hear the evening song before the birds go to sleep and then go out hunting for the nocturnal kiwi. Maybe we’ll do this during another time. I’d highly recommend a visit to this sanctuary, if you’re ever down this end of the world.

Friday, February 15th, 2008
Windy Wellington

I’m off for a long weekend. Hubby and I are hitting Wellington, the capital of New Zealand and also Martinborough. Some of you might recall Lily and Alex from Never Send a Dog to do a Woman’s Job visited both places…

…which, leads in nicely to the fact that I’m the Spotlight Author at Author Island today. I’m giving away a print copy of Romancing the Alien.

How are you spending your weekend?

Thursday, January 31st, 2008
Character Traits of a Writer

Thirteen Writer Traits

This week fellow author Christine d’Abo mentioned The Writer’s Guide to Character Traits by Linda N. Edelstein. It contains all sorts of neat information and inspired by Christine’s post, I dragged it out of my bookcase.

In her book the author mentions traits of writers. Here are some of them:

1. Creates in order to heal old wounds in themselves.

2. Creative thinkers.

3. Sensitive.

4. Often drink alcohol, especially after forty.

5. Depression in younger writers.

6. Problems with anxiety and drug use.

7. Has to tolerate aloneness.

8. Has to let go of work.

9. Families with mental illness and creativity.

10. Higher rates of bisexuality or homosexuality. (there’s a note about a study done for this one)

11. Abstract thinkers.

12. Fear mediocrity.

13. Disregard routine problems.

As a writer I plain disagree with some of these, although it’s good to know I don’t need to feel guilty about drinking wine anymore. I think writers are articulate, imaginative, driven, fear rejection, respond well to chocolate, have great imaginations, are determined, hardworking, good procrastinators (at times) and can suffer from bottom spread.

I’m sure I’ve missed quite a few. What qualities do you think writers have?

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Tuesday, January 29th, 2008
Building a Villain

Playing to Win, the very first book I wrote is a romantic suspense. I’ve written many different genres since then, but one thing remains true. I love to add a suspense element and if I can sprinkle the odd body or two between the pages, so much the better.

Although a villain is essentially a secondary character in a romance, he or she needs just as much work during the creation process as the hero and heroine. There’s a trick or two I’ve learned to make a credible villain. I thought I’d share:

1. A villain doesn’t have to be really evil and horrid. The villain in a romance might be an old girlfriend, a brother or sister, a mother-in-law or the man living next-door. They can be a meddling friend who is trying to match make. You don’t need a high body count to make a villain. Villainy comes in many forms such as the ex-girlfriend intent on regaining the hero’s interest.

2. When you’re thinking about your villain, give him good points as well as bad ones. Make him three dimensional. If he’s a well-rounded character then he’s actually scarier because we, the reader, come to like him or we might see part of our own character in his makeup and empathize.

3. Think about having your villain mirror your hero or heroine actions. Give them a similar conflict but have them behave in a different way to solve the conflict.

4. Give your villains a good reason for behaving in the manner they are—in other words, good motivation for their actions.

5. Make use of the setting to enhance the villain i.e. cold or stormy weather or late at night. Every bit counts!

6. Take as much care when choosing your villain’s name as you do when picking a name for your hero and heroine. A good name can help make a villain.

How do you like your villains? Subtle or in-your-face? Who is your favorite villain in fiction? Are there any characteristics you like to see in a villain?

Thursday, January 24th, 2008
2008: The Year of the Potato

Thirteen Things about Potatoes

Last weekend when I visited the Botanic Gardens I discovered 2008 is the year of the potato. You learn something every day. :grin: So, in honor of the humble potato:

1. Potatoes were first “domesticated” or cultivated in the Andes thousands of years ago. They had hundreds of varieties including a frost-resistant one.

2. The potato derived its name from the American Indian word “Batata”. It was introduced to Europeans by Spanish conquerors in the late 16th Century.

3. Potatoes were not initially accepted in Europe. Some people thought they caused disease.

4. In 1845 and 1846 the potato crop in Ireland was devastated by fungus. The potato had become a major food to the Irish causing the “Irish Potato Famine” which caused many Irish to immigrate. The population of Ireland decreased by nearly two million between 1847 and 1851.

5. The potato is the second most popular food in America, beaten only by milk products.

6. The average American eats over 120 pounds of potato a year.

7. One Medium Potato (150 grams or about 1/3 pound) contains 110 Calories, 3 grams of protein, 23 grams of carbohydrate, 0 grams of fat, 2710 mg of fibre, 10 mg of sodium and 750 mg of potassium.

8. A potato contains 80% water.

9. Potatoes are related to the tobacco and tomato families.

10. Antoine-Auguste Parmentier was a 18th century agronomist who convinced the common French people to accept the potato as a safe food. (They thought it caused leprosy.) He used reverse psychology by posting guards around potato fields during the day to prevent people from stealing them. He left them unguarded at night. So, every night, the thieves would sneak into the fields to steal potatoes.

11. Mr. Potato Head was born in 1952 and was also the first toy to be advertised on television.

12. Instant mashed potatoes (dehydrated potatoes) were introduced commercially in 1955.

13. Marie Antoinette wife of Louis XV was known to wear potato blossoms as a hair decoration.

And a final one – my favorite way to eat a potato is baked in its jacket, served with Greek yogurt and ground black pepper. Hey, I’m on a cutback so I will fit my clothes for Nationals, otherwise I might have said sour cream and butter!! What is your favorite way to eat potatoes?

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Tuesday, January 22nd, 2008
A Potager Garden

When we first moved to our current house the section was bare, and the soil consisted mostly of clay. After throwing around some ideas we decided to design a potager garden.

A potager is French and it’s a raised bed garden, normally for vegetables and herbs. Hubby built three box squares out of timber and filled them with good quality soil. We made a decorative path between them so it’s easy to plant, water and harvest and not long ago, Mr. Munro planted a hedge of shelter trees because it seems to be windy where we live.

Mr. Munro spends hours out in the garden and periodically, I have to go out an inspect his latest improvements and crops. This year we’ve had fresh potatoes, lettuce, zucchini, red onions, leeks, green beans, basil, radishes, beetroot and the tomatoes are starting to ripen. It’s so handy just wandering out to the garden to pick whatever vegetables we’ve decided to have for dinner.

Here are some photos of Mr. Munro’s garden:

Mr. Munro's garden

Mr. Munro's garden

Mr. Munro's garden

I have to confess I’m a bit tired of zucchini but I’m really enjoying the green beans and can’t wait for the tomatoes to ripen so I can make fresh tomato sauce to have with pasta. Do you grow your own vegetables? What do you grow? And if you don’t have a garden, what is your favorite vegetable to eat?

Sunday, December 23rd, 2007
A Surplus of Bananas

Banana Cake There’s a surplus of bananas in our house this week since Mr. Munro brought quite a few hands home last week. I love bananas but for me they have to be on the green side in order for maximum enjoyment.

Once they ripen, in my opinion, the only thing they’re good for is cooking – either banana cake or banana muffins. I made banana muffins the other night and they were delicious.

Tomorrow, I’m going to make my favorite banana cake.

Read the rest of this entry ?

Wednesday, October 24th, 2007
A Military Man

Thursday Thirteen

Thirteen Military Reads

I hadn’t read a military romance for ages but the other day I just had the urge to pull one from my to-read pile. I’m also going through a Western themed splurge so I’m definitely thinking alpha male! Here are some of my favorite reads with military heroes.

1. Cullen’s Bride by Fiona Brand – a Silhouette Intimate Moment by a New Zealand writer.

2. Forget Me Not by Marliss Melton. This is the book I pulled out of my to-read pile. It’s the writer’s first book. Wow! I enjoyed it so much I’ve ordered the rest of her backlist.

3. On Danger’s Edge by Lise Fuller. This book won a RT Reviewer’s choice award.

4. Suzanne Brockmann – It’s hard to choose from Suzanne’s books. One of my all-time favorites is Letters to Kelly. It made me cry.

5. Lora Leigh – I’m a real fan of Lora’s so I’m adding her Navy Seal series to my list. The first book is Dangerous Games. Actually Amazon says this is book 2 so I’m slightly confused.

6. Kiss and Tell by Cherry Adair. I read this book ages ago and have been a Cherry Adair fan ever since.

7. Seven Days to Forever by Ingrid Weaver – another Silhouette Intimate Moment

8. Catherine Mann with her Wingman Warriors. Anything, Anywhere, Anytime is one of her books.

9. Denise Agnew writes great military heroes. Try Primordial.

10. Eye of the Storm by Maura Seger. This is set during the second world war and came out in 1985. I must reread it to see if it’s as good as I remember. Amazon says it’s a civil war story. Wrong, wrong, wrong!

11. All the Queen’s Men by Linda Howard – not strictly military. The hero John Medina is a CIA Black Ops Specialist.

12. Summer in the City of Sails by Shelley Munro – you didn’t think I’d leave out my own did you? :grin: The hero is a member of NZ’s SAS.

13. Unforgettable by Shelley Munro. Go on – buy me! I’ve been getting Five star reviews all over the place!

14. And one extra one – just for Mr. Munro. Any of the Sharpe books by Bernard Cornwell or if you prefer check out the DVD’s featuring the hunky Mr. Sean Bean. One of the recent Sharpe books is Sharpe’s Escape The stories are set in the early 1800’s.

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The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!
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