Snapshots: Art in Bloom at MIA


Had a blast taking snapshots for my Thursday post by visiting the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. Here is part of the description of Art in Bloom from the MIA website:

Join us for Art in Bloom, a four-day festival of fresh floral arrangements and fine art, presented by the Friends of the Institute at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. This spring celebration highlights the talents of more than 150 floral artists, whose work will be on view next to the works of art that inspired them. 

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Writer Interviews: Peg Cochran

I first met Peg Cochran through membership in Sisters in Crime. We “met” online and quickly discovered we had a few things in common. We were mystery writers, Italian-American women, and we both LOVE to cook. In fact, the first night I met Owen Laukkanen, I made Peg’s yummy bean salad as one of the side dishes. I can’t wait to meet Peg in person and would love to sit and talk food with her and, of course, eat! She’s been a very encouraging and supporting person in this writing business and I’m so glad we are friends. Here is Peg in her own words:

1. Describe your writing routine and/or schedule?

I wish I had a schedule!  Right now I basically have two books due a year, but they’re back-to-back dates a month apart.  I eat at my desk and write on my lunch hour at work almost every day.  Then I try to do a little writing before dinner and sometimes while cooking dinner (that doesn’t always produce the best culinary results!).  Then maybe another hour or two after dinner. I try to grab a big chunk of time on Saturdays and/or Sundays as well.  It all depends on how close my deadline is looming!

2. What do you do if you get writer’s block?

I don’t get writer’s block per se—as in can’t come up with an idea. At least that’s how I interpret writer’s block.  If the words aren’t flowing, it’s usually because I don’t know where I’m going.  Sometimes that means I need to think through a scene and just scribble it out on paper really roughly–like what needs to be said by whom, where they are, what the room looks like, what they might be doing.

Sometimes I’m just not sure where to go next with the story or I’m at a fork in the road.  Then I tend to brainstorm on paper—just write down all the possibilities and see where they lead.

And have faith!  The words somehow always end up coming!

3. Who do you read, or recommend other writer’s read, in regards to craft?

I’d recommend reading the types of books you want to write first off.  If you want to write cozies, then read some of the best cozies.  If you want to write hard-boiled, reading a cozy, no matter how well-written, isn’t going to do you all that much good.  I also like reading “traditional” mysteries because I think they are helpful no matter which direction you’re going in—P.D. James, Peter Robinson, Deborah Crombie, Val McDermid (hmmm, seems I’m drawn to English authors or authors who write about England!), Julia Spencer-Fleming.  All great story tellers with the ability to make it come alive on the page.

Oh, and A Christmas Carol for some of the most beautiful language in a book. I reread it every year.

4. Who do you read for fun?

All the above plus Janet Evanovich (for humor, you can’t beat her!), Harlan Coben (wonderful at suspense!).  Quite frankly, I don’t do as much reading anymore as I’d like.

5. When did you first know you wanted to be a writer? Tell us about it.

I was around seven years old, and I’d read my first Nancy Drew.  I decided I wanted to write stories like that someday.  I remember when I was around eight or so, my parents acquired a typewriter (the old, manual kind!), and I came up with some excuse to stay home from school so I could write a story on it!  I also used to write plays and force my cousins to perform them at Christmas dinner. Now that they are all at least in their forties, they’ve basically forgiven me.

6. What advice would you give an aspiring writer?

Don’t quit!  If you quit, no matter how good/talented/clever you are, you will not be published.  If you don’t quit…it’s always a possibility!

7. What do you think is the most important skill to have to succeed as a writer?

Perseverance!  (See above).  And a great interest in people, how they work, think, act. An eye for detail and a feeling for language—words are like music, if the rhythm is off, your sentences will fall flat.

8. What is your favorite food and/or drink?

Wine?  I love food of all kinds—Italian, Indian, Chinese, Thai.  I don’t think I could narrow it down to any one thing.

9. Do you have a favorite book or movie?

It’s way too hard to pick just one!  For movies, the ones that I’ve watched more than once, include Gone With the Wind, All About Eve, the Thomas Crowne Affair (remake), Bridget Jones.  I guess for books it would have to be A Christmas Carol since I’ve read it dozens of times and I’m still not tired of it.

10. Is there anything I didn’t ask you that you’d like to share?

Thanks for including me!  I’m still pinching myself that I’m now a *real* writer!

I have two books coming out in 2012 – Allergic to Death (August) is the first in my Gourmet De-Lite series.  Murder Unmentionable is the first in the Sweet Nothings Vintage Lingerie series written under my pen name of Meg London.  It debuts in September.

I also have an e-book out right now from Amazon, Confession Is Murder, first in the Patron Saint Mysteries.

Peg Cochran bio:

I grew up in a New Jersey suburb about 25 miles outside of New York City, and we moved to Grand Rapids, Michigan about ten years ago when my husband took a job here.  (I’m on exile from NJ!). Currently I am the manager of marketing communications for a company that provides services to seniors.

I have a schizophrenic cat (really) named Frazzle and a Westhighland White Terrier, Reggie, who appears in my Gourmet De-Lite series.  He likes to think he helped me write the books which is fine as long as he doesn’t start demanding a portion of the royalties!

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Books & Flicks: Kate Atkinson and Permanent Midnight


Disclaimer: I am not a movie or book reviewer and would never attempt to call myself such a thing. I have utmost respect for those who do that. I am just a bookworm and movie lover who wants to share what I’m reading and watching.


CASE HISTORIES by Kate Atkinson. This is an author my friend, Mary Pols, recommended at some point in time. Mary, who wrote ACCIDENTALLY ON PURPOSE, (the book that was turned into a TV show starring Jenna Elfman), once wrote a column for our newspaper where she listed the books she was taking to Maine for her summer vacation. I carried that list around for a year, reading every book on it. And every year since then I’ve begged her for a new list. (Are you reading, Mary?) Well, somewhere along the line she mentioned Kate Atkinson. It’s about time I read it. So far, it is gripping. I can’t wait to put the kids to bed and dig in some more.

MURDER IN THE MARAIS by Cara Black. I’m embarrassed I haven’t read Black yet. I mean, after all, I love mysteries, I love Paris. Enough said. Soon. Soon.

HELL GATE by Linda Fairstein I’m looking forward to reading this author for the first time, as well. You might have noticed that all I read lately is mysteries. Well, it’s sort of  my job to read as my books in my genre as I can. But that doesn’t mean I won’t read a really great book in another genre, so please send any recommendations my way.

(The other books in my To-be-read pile have been mentioned in past Books & Flicks posts.)





Thanks to the super cool and awesome MA Talbott, I ordered this for family movie night. I am continually impressed by the calibre of kid’s movies out there. I now look forward to family movie night as much as my kids do. I’m always looking for recommendations, so please send them my way.





This movie, starring Ben Stiller, had me laughing out loud at times, but had some extremely disturbing parts, as well. The film is based on the memoir of Jerry Stahl, a sitcom writer who gets hooked on heroin. My husband and I both cringed as his character shot up with a baby in the carseat beside him. Oh the life of a junkie. But a really decent movie.




Anyone who has read any of my posts before knows I’m obsessed with this series. It just makes me happy.

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This Writer’s Life: 2777 Francis Avenue, Part III

Me and some of my roomies at Troy Cafe (I miss my Alice in Wonderland dress!)

This photo, from 1991, brings back such fond memories. As I mentioned, my housemate and her husband owned a super cool cafe in downtown L.A. Here I am hanging out at the cafe with with three of my six housemates. Missing is Bibbe’s husband, Sean Carrillo, her oldest son, and Sean’s sister, my dear friend T, who is doing a guest post next week.


2777 Francis Avenue: The seedier side of our street

Despite the art-filled life we were living inside our house, the neighborhood outside was gangland.
The Mara Salvatrucha gang ruled our neighborhood and left their mark — MS, Mara, and MS-13 — everywhere, including spraypainting it on our house and writing it in the dust on my dirty car windows. It seemed like they all hung out at what I called “the gang house” at one end of the block. Unfortunately, that end of the block was on the way to everything within walking distance from our place: the tastiest Thai food in L.A., the convenience store where we bought our smokes, and even the payphone we used. (Our house didn’t have a phone.)

If I needed to walk past their place, I would lace up my Doc Marten boots, put on baggy jeans and a hooded sweatshirt, and try to put as much “Don’t fuck with me” in my walk as I could. Sometimes they would be sitting on the front porch with music blaring and I would feel a shiver of fear run down my spine. But the most they ever did was yell a random comment or two, which I ignored, holding my breath until I rounded the corner.


Don’t even THINK about messing with these badasses

But Sean, who was Chicano, was not so lucky. It seemed they knew some punk white girl was not a threat, but they weren’t so sure about other men. One day he woke up and found all four of his tires slashed.

Another time, his nephew, a sweet, happy-go lucky, talented artist (whose illustrations would later be featured in the New Yorker) drove up on his scooter. He was immediately accosted by gang members who asked him, “Who you with?” After a few minutes, they realized this skinny young kid wasn’t a gang member and in fact, wouldn’t hurt a fly, so they left him alone.

One night, they scared the shit out of me, though. I mentioned before that if you came home late and couldn’t park nearby, you left the neighborhood for an hour or two and came back hoping for a closer parking spot so you didn’t have to walk far. Even then, there was zero talking and a fast-paced walk up to the front door and it’s double deadbolts.

I wouldn’t even look sideways at this MS member

One night, I came home alone and felt lucky to find a close spot. But as soon as I parked, a van pulled right in front of me. Crap. Now what? I waited. Two guys got out. Sean had advised me to never make eye contact with a gang member. So, I stared straight ahead out my window as they got out and “split” my car.

That means they each walked on a different side of it as they passed. Gang members do this so they both aren’t gunned down at the same time. Learn something new every day, don’t you? I watched the guy on the driver’s side notice me sitting in my car as he drew near. I held my breath, but kept looking right ahead. He took his finger and slowly drew it across my window at eye level as he passed. My heart was pounding and I was frozen in fear, not daring to look over at him, staring right ahead, but seeing him out of my peripheral vision. As soon as they were a few cars behind me, I started my car and got the hell out there, changing my plans about going home right then.

Another night, my Danish housemate and I came home. Let me back up and say that our standard procedure at night was not to walk up the brightly lit series of steps from the sidewalk to the front porch. Instead, we would creep up the grassy hilled lawn in the shadows so nobody would see us. This time we started up the lawn and two men were standing there in the dark near the house. We both silently did 180-degree turns, went back down the grass and then up the steps, too afraid to even breath. My hand shook as I undid the deadbolts and finally got in the house, slamming the door behind me. We ran, terrified up to Bibbe’s room, and told her what happened. Of course, as I mentioned we didn’t even have a phone to call the police.

Bibbe, a savvy New York born and bred woman, had been mugged several times and thought nothing of going downstairs and confronting the men. But to my surprise, instead of yelling at them to get the fuck off our property, she took a different tact. She told them, in Spanish, that they had scared her daughters, who were good girls, and that they must leave now. To my surprise, the men became supplicating and apologized to her, saying they meant no disrespect and were leaving immediately.

For that day on, my understanding of the Latino and Chicano cultures changed forever. For the majority of them hold honor above all else. I never was as afraid of the gang members in my neighborhood again. They had their own code of ethics and it most likely didn’t involve harassing some college girl minding her own business. Especially when she actually lived in their hood, the area they worked to protect.


Bad asses.

That didn’t mean we didn’t live around some crazy people. One time we pulled into the convenience store. While one housemate was in buying smokes, the other, the future Rolling Stone rock star, went to make a call on the payphone. A few minutes later, he came running back and jumped in the car, locking the door saying some psycho had come after him with a baseball bat.

Another time we were hanging out in the living room talking and a volley of gunfire made us hit the floor. It sounded like it was coming through our front window. We Army crawled through the living room and to the stairs and then peeked out a second-story window but saw nothing.

Police helicopters with giant spotlights were nothing unusual, but they always sent a thrill of excitement through me to hear the sound so close by. One night I was bored and so I sat out on our front porch on the cold cement, silently spying on a man who kept hanging out in the street and watched his drug deal go down. I could probably go on and on, but this post is long enough.

Dear reader, please stayed tuned until next Monday, when I have my last post about 2777 Francis Avenue (but not my last LA Life post), which I’m hoping will be a guest post from one of my favorite housemates (I should clarify: she was one of my favorite housemates as long as I wasn’t trying to wake her up too early in which case she would turn into Satan’s concubine and hiss like the exorcist: “Touch me and you die!!!!!” )


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Weekend Inspirations: Be in the 7 percent

I’ve seen a few versions of this one but to be fair to Regina Brett, I wanted to post her original column.

With that said, I did like one replacement I saw. Instead of number 5 (pay off credit cards), I saw this that I actually prefer: “Don’t buy stuff you don’t need.”

Originally published in The Plain Dealer on Sunday, May 28, 2006

To celebrate growing older, I once wrote the 45 lessons life taught me.

It is the most-requested column I’ve ever written. My odometer rolls over to 50 this week, so here’s an update:

1. Life isn’t fair, but it’s still good.

2. When in doubt, just take the next small step.

3. Life is too short to waste time hating anyone.

4. Don’t take yourself so seriously. No one else does.

5. Pay off your credit cards every month.

6. You don’t have to win every argument. Agree to disagree.

7. Cry with someone. It’s more healing than crying alone.

8. It’s OK to get angry with God. He can take it.

9. Save for retirement starting with your first paycheck.

10. When it comes to chocolate, resistance is futile.

11. Make peace with your past so it won’t screw up the present.

12. It’s OK to let your children see you cry.

13. Don’t compare your life to others’. You have no idea what their journey is all about.

14. If a relationship has to be a secret, you shouldn’t be in it.

15. Everything can change in the blink of an eye. But don’t worry; God never blinks.

16. Life is too short for long pity parties. Get busy living, or get busy dying.

17. You can get through anything if you stay put in today.

18. A writer writes. If you want to be a writer, write.

19. It’s never too late to have a happy childhood. But the second one is up to you and no one else.

20. When it comes to going after what you love in life, don’t take no for an answer.

21. Burn the candles, use the nice sheets, wear the fancy lingerie. Don’t save it for a special occasion. Today is special.

22. Overprepare, then go with the flow.

23. Be eccentric now. Don’t wait for old age to wear purple.

24. The most important sex organ is the brain.

25. No one is in charge of your happiness except you.

26. Frame every so-called disaster with these words: “In five years, will this matter?”

27. Always choose life.

28. Forgive everyone everything.

29. What other people think of you is none of your business.

30. Time heals almost everything. Give time time.

31. However good or bad a situation is, it will change.

32. Your job won’t take care of you when you are sick. Your friends will. Stay in touch.

33. Believe in miracles.

34. God loves you because of who God is, not because of anything you did or didn’t do.

35. Whatever doesn’t kill you really does make you stronger.

36. Growing old beats the alternative – dying young.

37. Your children get only one childhood. Make it memorable.

38. Read the Psalms. They cover every human emotion.

39. Get outside every day. Miracles are waiting everywhere.

40. If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else’s, we’d grab ours back.

41. Don’t audit life. Show up and make the most of it now.

42. Get rid of anything that isn’t useful, beautiful or joyful.

43. All that truly matters in the end is that you loved.

44. Envy is a waste of time. You already have all you need.

45. The best is yet to come.

46. No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up.

47. Take a deep breath. It calms the mind.

48. If you don’t ask, you don’t get.

49. Yield.

50. Life isn’t tied with a bow, but it’s still a gift.



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