2020: The Crappy Year in Review by Rebecca Heflin

2020: The Crappy Year in Review by Rebecca Heflin

It’s my pleasure to introduce Author Rebecca Heflin as my guest today. Rebecca captured my heart with her dedication to help others, to help organize the blogs for Soul Mate Publishing, and read on for the other million things about this amazing working woman.

Author Rebecca Heflin

This time last year I was making my holiday preparations, which included the honor of presiding over the marriage of my nephew and his fiancée on Christmas Day—a truly joyous way to spend the holiday. This time last year, I was looking forward to a new year, fresh with the promise of a new start. Which meant, this time last year, I was blissfully ignorant of what was to come. Instead, I was naively planning two international trips, a local canoe and camping trip, several charity events, two weddings, countless family and social gatherings, and the celebration of my 25th wedding anniversary.

Who could have imagined it wouldn’t be long before the world would be living the plot of some sci-fi thriller?

January and February bumped along as normal, with work, exercise classes, dinners with friends, and preparations for the release of my 10th novel. By the end of February, the dark edges of the coming storm were visible.

The first weekend in March was my birthday. I celebrated it that Friday with dinner out and a show at our local performing arts center. There was also an out of town wedding that Saturday, which my husband and I attended. Looking back, being in those very public venues probably wasn’t the smartest decision on our part, but the tidal wave had not yet hit our area. March 17th was my last day in the office, as the university I work for shut down and sent its employees home to work remotely. It would be only a day or two later when the entire state would go under lockdown.  Again, in my naiveté, I thought things would be back to normal in a month or so. Silly me.

Zoom meetings would become a regular occurrence in my daily life, and the next few months were a blur of fear and adjustments, as my husband and I created new routines for ourselves. We limited our grocery shopping to once a week. If we didn’t pick up an item during that weekly visit, we just lived without until the following week. Toilet paper (when the store had it) was priced at roughly the equivalent of a gram of gold. Preparing for grocery shopping felt a little like preparing to enter a contaminated laboratory: masks, hand sanitizer, and disinfecting wipes at the ready. After returning home, it felt like entering a decontamination unit: washing hands, wiping down groceries, and disinfecting everything we touched.

We watched in horror as the numbers rose and people died—many of them frontline workers. I obsessed over the daily case counts, horrified when we hit 1 million cases in the U.S., not even considering that we would reach double-digit case counts in a few short months.

It wasn’t all bad, however. We also watched the world come together in a common experience. Music and voices rose from city terraces. Drive-by birthday, anniversary, and graduation ceremonies became a thing with horns beeping, lights flashing, and signs waiving. Humanity found a way to celebrate life’s milestones even amid a pandemic.

For me, working from home meant no commute. This freed up time for other things. And the lack of social engagements and other commitments meant time for jigsaw puzzles, minor home improvements, and gardening. Not to mention more quality time with my husband. We had a beautiful spring—cooler than average temperatures, and beautiful low-humidity days—which gave us the opportunity for more outdoor activities like corn-hole games, bike rides, and long walks. Life slowed down, and I couldn’t complain about that.

2020

As we learned more about how the virus was spread, and businesses opened up again, we developed a routine that gave us a little more flexibility. Masked and otherwise following the public health guidelines, we gradually began to leave our sterile cocoon. We had friends over for outdoor socially-distanced dinners (BYOF). We began supporting our local restaurants with take-out or delivery, eventually feeling comfortable dining outside at our favorites.

In May, my husband and I celebrated a quiet, but romantic 25th wedding anniversary—not exactly how we had imagined, but nice just the same.

We took three short driving vacations, 2 to the mountains of North Carolina, and 1 to the beach in the Florida panhandle. The change of scenery provided a welcome respite to the sameness of the daily routines.

After working remotely for 6 months, I returned to my office, but still isolated from my co-workers. I only see them masked and walking in the hallway or on Zoom. It was surreal when I entered my office in September to see the calendar still on March.

Here we are again with Christmas past and New Year’s fast-approaching. There is a light, in the form of vaccines, at the end of this long dark tunnel that is 2020. It will take some time, and more patience is necessary, but we will get there. We will overcome this. The world did it in 1918-1919, and we will do it in 2020-2021.

But will the world ever be the same again? I, for one, won’t be. I am forever changed by this experience. I will never again be blissfully ignorant. I have lost my innocence.

Even so, not all the changes are bad. I have come to appreciate so many things I took for granted: my health, my family, freedom of movement, hugs and kisses shared among family and friends, big gatherings and shared social experiences. And my good fortune. Throughout it all, I have wanted for none of life’s necessities. I can’t ask for more than that from the crappy year that was 2020.

Rebecca Heflin is a best-selling, award-winning author who has dreamed of writing romantic fiction since she was fifteen and her older sister sneaked a copy of Kathleen Woodiwiss’s Shanna to her and told her to read it. Rebecca writes women’s fiction and contemporary romance. When not passionately pursuing her dream, Rebecca is busy with her day-job at a large state university.

Rebecca is a member of Romance Writers of America (RWA), Florida Romance Writers, RWA Contemporary Romance, and Florida Writers Association. She and her mountain-climbing husband live at sea level in sunny Florida.

Rebecca can be reached at rebeccaheflin@hotmail.com. Feel free to touch base with her.

All of her books are available on Amazon
as well as Barnes & Noble, Kobo, iBooks, and Eden Books.
The third book in Rebecca Heflin’s Seasons of Northridge Series, A Season to Dream, will be released mid-2021.

The Great Cheesecake Mystery

The Great Cheesecake Mystery

We picked a good day to prune our aged cherry tree. Lots of healthy exercise and well worth the work. After we finished the tree we made the cheesecake.

We did a much better job pruning the cherry tree than we did with the cheesecake!

The Cheesecake recipe that I’ve been making for fifty years was the best, I thought.

Then my almost 24-year-old grandson, Matt, began baking. One Thanksgiving, maybe three years ago, when it was dessert time, he pulled his work of art from the refrigerator and set it on the counter in all its glory, as a centerpiece, like a jewel in the crown, surrounded by dirt cake, thumbprint cookies, tiramisu, and Aunt Madeleine’s handmade chocolates.

 

Working up an appetite before we dig into the cheesecake.

I’ve been baking almost my whole life. I’ve made my share of delicious cheesecakes. Yeah right, my cheesecake is nothing compared to Matt’s. The best I ever tasted. The best. I asked him for the recipe, but alas, he couldn’t tell me, he had made a promise. He said the person who gave him the recipe said that it was an old family secret recipe. A SECRET? Whoever heard of such a thing? And this mysterious person made my Matt promise that he would never reveal the magic ingredients. Imagine that!

“But I’m your Grammy,” I said to Matt. “Surely it would be acceptable to give me the recipe.”

“Nope,” Matt replied. “I’m sorry, Grammy but a promise is a promise.”

A couple of years went by, and I asked Matt again if he would share?

“The person that gave me the recipe has passed away,” he replied. “But nope Grammy, a promise is a promise.”

Well, I resigned myself to my fate. I would never get that recipe. But you know what? Matt impressed me with his solemn vow to the person who gave it to him.

Springform into action!

The other day I FaceTimed with son Rick and Matt was home. I was curious, so I asked Matt what kind of pan he uses to bake his cheesecake.

“Spring-form pan,” he said.

“Oh good, that will be much easier for me than my trusty pie plate.”

I told Matt that I had just made a cheesecake—it was good but the sour cream topping was a little too soft when we ate it five hours later. I refrigerated overnight and it firmed up more to perfect.

I decided to bake another one this week and use my regular two packages of cream cheese but this time I’ll add a cup of sour cream to the mix rather than use it as a topping.”

“That’s what I do,” Matt said.

The ingredients

Aha! He didn’t tell me his recipe, but his agreement got me all excited,

So I tried to guess at his recipe. I tried to solve the cheesecake mystery but unfortunately, I didn’t crack the case! The cheesecake that I took out of the oven collapsed on me. I added the sour cream to the batter instead of smearing it on top. And so it fell in the center and it was also browned the top like a grilled steak. It tasted pretty good but it wasn’t MY usual cheesecake. This is what happens when you try to be a cheesecake sleuth!

My original, trusty, fifty-year recipe is here below for your perusal. Gail’s Cheesecake. I’m not so secretive with my recipes.

GAIL’S CHEESECAKE:

Crust for Cream Cheese Cake

This was my attempt at trying to guess at Matt’s cheesecake and as you can see it didn’t turn out right. I had to cover the top with some fresh sour cream. But it’s tasty.

Poor cheesecake!

Use 9” pie pan

12 full Graham crackers

3/4 stick of butter, melted

Roll out crackers or use a blender, brush some butter on the pan first

then put the crumbs in the pie plate and add melted butter.

Blend with fork and spread. Then take a smaller pie plate to even out shell

If using for other pies: bake 10 min at 400 degrees

There’s nothing like enjoying a bite of cheesecake with your sweetheart.

Gail’s Cheese Cake

1lb cream cheese (2 packs eight oz each)

½ cup granulated sugar

1 egg, 1 egg yolk

1 tsp vanilla

Mix 15 minutes on 1 speed. Add to pie shell & bake 375, for 20 min

Topping:

½ pint (or 1 cup) sour cream

2 tablespoons sugar

1 tsp vanilla

Mix 10 min on 1 speed, add to the hot pie. spread on top. Turn up the oven to 400 degrees, Put the pie in the oven for 5 minutes. Let pie cool. Then refrigerate. Do not cut for three hours. Best if the pie is placed in the refrigerator overnight.

No springform pan, all the butter leaked out leaving the graham cracker crust too hard. I still have my good old 8″ pie pan.

Gail Ingis is an artist, interior designer, and published author. Her historical romances Indigo Sky and The Unforgettable Miss Baldwin are both available on Amazon.

My current books

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Room with a New View

A Room with a New View

Great Room

From our hearth to yours.

Tom and I have been hanging around the house a lot lately – as everyone is and we had the idea to freshen things up. What better way to pass the time than an easy (and free) home project. When was the last time you rearranged your furniture? How about today? You can give your main room a different look by changing where you’re seated. Build your seating around a painting, television or fireplace. Remember your traffic pattern too. How do you get to the seating? Three feet between furniture works. If you have a coffee table, keep the table about eighteen inches away from the sofa so you can put down your wine goblet.

I could go on, but because you are spending most of your time at home these days, try out what you rearrange and if you don’t like it change it!

family photos

Do you have a collection? Paintings, African masks, antiques, signed baseballs or model airplanes that you’ve built? Collect music boxes. Look around your house—you may already have a collection.

Framed photographs of horses, dogs, or animals make interesting components.

If you want to use framed pictures, here’s an idea of how to hang them. The center of the grouping should be at eye level—that means 5’-6” off the floor, the spacing between each picture is about 3 inches. You can create a rectangle or square with the outside of the group. For more ideas go to Pinterest.com, once there look for Framed Pictures. Lots of terrific ideas.

kitchen

The images I have here are of our Great room where we spend all our time, and it’s open to the kitchen.

Maybe you’re passionate about family photos. We all enjoy finding folks we know in the pictures. Set them up on a table as a conversation piece. The picture here is an idea.

Feel free to ask questions in the comments. For those of you that don’t know me, I’m a seasoned, professional Interior Designer and taught the subject for half of my fifty-year career.

Gail Ingis is an artist, interior designer, and published author. Her historical romances Indigo Sky and The Unforgettable Miss Baldwin are both available on Amazon.

My current books

 

Thanks For Giving us the Claus Family

Thanks For Giving us the Claus Family

I’m writing this on Thanksgiving Day sitting in the Claus home in my sister-in-law’s den loving the space in this place, especially the kitchen. As an interior designer since 1969, I couldn’t have done any better with this home. Joyce got it right—function and beauty are in perfect harmony.

The smell off roasting turkey is everywhere. It’s kind of smothering me. I like turkey, but I don’t like to be smothered by anything—except love, of course. I may have to go to my room, but the turkey smell will probably follow me upstairs.

Around 2:30 pm today, twenty-eight relatives will descend upon this beautiful home—aunts, uncles, sisters, brothers, cousins—and of course—the brothers Karamazov aka the Claus brothers. (I’m married to the one on the left (wearing the bright blue hoodie) in the picture above.

The Claus brothers are here early to organize the seating,

Mother Claus, a great lady we all adored, is looking down from Heaven. The last time this great, big family got together was in 2011 for Mother Claus’s 100th birthday. Sadly she left us in 2012 at the age of 101. But what a legacy she left us: the love of family and the importance of family gatherings and God’s love washing over us all!.

Yes, the Claus name is pretty awesome isn’t it? Well, they certainly live up to that name. 🙂

We are missing two of Mother Claus’s grandsons, and their brood, for today’s celebration. Guess those statistics are not too bad considering everyone else who will be here for the turkey dinner and camaraderie.

Before the festivities begin, I’m getting in some writing time. My next book follows the life and love of Mia Baldwin, Allie Baldwin’s younger sister. (My follow-up book to The Unforgettable Miss Baldwin). Like the Claus family, the Baldwins are a loving clan; family gatherings mean a lot, especially during the Holiday Season.

I think Mother Claus would have enjoyed the Baldwins and I hope you do too.

Happy Thanksgiving and Happy Holidays.

xo

Gail Ingis

The Unforgettable Miss Baldwin is available on Amazon.

Flash Floods

Flash Floods

The emergency notice came loud and clear on my cell phone, Flash Flood warning. I didn’t have too far to go from the building where I had been at a meeting. My car was innocently waiting for me under the torrents of rain, so I held my so-called raincoat tight, pulled the hood over my head, mocking myself for leaving my umbrella behind, and raced to the safety of my sweet little Honda Insight. And got soaked.

This wasn’t the day to be driving that small driving machine that still gets fifty-six miles to the gallon, more than my son’s motorcycle. Once in the car, I raced up the hill out of that parking lot that was sure to flood in another five minutes. Traffic was heavy on the avenue, all heading to Connecticut’s truck highway, the infamous Turnpike, I95, the least likely to have a flash flood. It was around 4:30 pm, traffic is usually mega heavy, heaven only knows why the vehicles were not horizontally stacked.

Traffic was moving steadily, but slowly. I got into the middle lane, the safest that would be the last to cover over with water. But it was moving too slow for me, so I maneuvered to the left lane that was practically empty of cars and water. I kept up my speed watching for any sections that were filling with that stuff falling from the thick black clouds.

I only had to go five exits, about thirteen miles. Moved back to the middle, noting the water beginning to fill in my current position, and hung there till I got close to the next slow poke. I moved back to the left lane that now had one of those tour buses illegally in front of me, but thrilled to have it carve the way. Almost at my exit, I moved over and out of the now backed up traffic. It was easy to leave the highway and onto the road home, praying that I wouldn’t drown on any of the streets.

I ran into one signifcant puddle, but my little car behaved like the Little Engine that Could. It took me straight home with neary an incident. I got the mail and pulled into the garage.

WAIT! I’m not done. On my way up the stairs from the garage, I could see that Tom was outside doing something. I stopped, turned into the basement, the floor was filled with about an inch of water.

“Oh no.” I traveled all that way, no problem, and found the flash flood inside my basement. Soaking wet through my raincoat, my jeans wet too, I forgot about my condition, put on my snow boots that I keep in the ready and headed to help fix the situation.

Yup, water was filling our basement, the drain outside the back door was clogged. Asked Tom where our wet vac was, got a couple of pails to bail out that water like I was in a sinking boat, while Tom was building a dam to try to stop the water from running into the drain and wishing I had sandbags.  I started vacuuming out the water, my priority, and Tom building a dam, his priority. We survived, both of us soaking wet, but inspite of all this, my Geraniums were blooming in their pot on the deck, a little bit of pink sparkling reminding me that mother nature is amazing.

And how was your rainy day?

 

 

 

A work of art

http://amzn.to/2j0LXLE

You’re invited to my art show

You’re invited to my art show

Art has always been a big part of my life. Guess what? I’m having an art show and you’re invited. Saturday, Aug. 11, 2018, 10 am-5 pm. (rain date Sunday, Aug. 12, 2018). At my house. And the Sangria is on me. If you’re interested in attending and you’re in the area (Fairfield, Connecticut) you can email me directly at gail@gailingis.com.

Join me for my art show COLORFUL VISIONS and celebrate color and beauty in our world.

Art, nature, Sangria. Sounds like fun to me. Hope to see you there. xo Gail

Many of my paintings will be available for purchase, including the ones featured in the postcard above. I will be donating half of all sales of my paintings to Lockwood-Mathews Mansion Museum. A National Historic Landmark since 1971, the Lockwood-Mathews Mansion Museum is regarded as one of the earliest and most significant Second Empire Style country houses in the United States. Lockwood-Mathews holds educational programs throughout the year for schools, colleges, and universities along with other educational groups and for the general public. Lockwood-Mathews also hosts various events throughout the year for the public including art shows, flea markets, tea parties, costume balls, private tours as well as offering guided historical tours of the estate.

 

Lockwood-Mathews Mansion Museum

Gail Ingis Claus is an author, artist/painter and interior designer. Her upcoming romance The Unforgettable Miss Baldwin will be released in the fall of 2018. Her current historical romance, Indigo Sky can be purchased on amazon.

http://amzn.to/2j0LXLE

Spring Has Sprung

Spring Has Sprung

It’s that time of year – Spring Cleaning. Tom and I have been busy re-organizing our home. Our focus this year is my library, a room that I adore. We have about 2,002 books (2 are tom’s) in my professional library. WOW is right. This year we made the decision to scale it back.

So far we’ve packed up 5 boxes of books (about 100 books in total) and donated them to a local charity, Silvermine School of Art. These are all art books – of course. Even though it’s hard getting rid of things we love, it’s important for our peace of mind. Why? Because we need “white space” in our lives. That extra space where we can reflect and relax. Clutter can lead to anxiety and after the heaviness of winter, it’s time to let go.

So if you’re pondering the clutter in your own home, think about how liberating it will be when you let go, and give yourself the gift of “space”.

Love, Gail.

Gail Ingis Claus is an author, artist/painter and interior designer. Her upcoming romance The Unforgettable Miss Baldwin will be released in spring 2018. Her current historical romance, Indigo Sky can be purchased on amazon.

A work of art

 

 

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