I can’t believe its all over!  The holidays I mean!  

Photo of the Christmas tree and fireplace in my living room 2011

I did not go "all out" this year with Christmas decorations. Instead I just focused on the living and dining room.





Hey, even though I scaled back quite a bit this year because the whole family, including me, went to Colorado for the week that encompassed Christmas, I still put some effort into the decor of the house.

Closeup of bouquet over fireplace

The "star" piece on the mantel this year was just a simple arrangement of white and dark pink poinsettias with light pink roses and some burgundy accents.

Big sigh … Now, it must all come down!  

Another closeup of mantle centerpiece.

I used a few poinsettia flowers that had glitter on them just to give the arrangement a conservative amount of sparkle - not too gaudy, I think!

Such a shame because its so romantic and pretty, and lends such a soft and festive air – especially to the living and dining room.  This year I really played up the PINK, burgundy and white.



  for more about Christmas decorations, click HERE

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I must admit I have always had an interest in self-help and advice books.  They are so tempting with their promises of  ”… turn your life around in 30 days” or “become a millionaire in five years.”  Even though I know that none of these things are going to happen to me – at least in the time-frame the title promises, I still figure I can glean a few worthwhile pointers.

Katie Couric's "The Best Advice I Ever Got - Lessons from Extraordinary People" is delicious and filling good food for the soul.

Katie Couric's "The Best Advice I Ever Got - Lessons from Extraordinary People" is delicious and filling good food for the soul.

I found a book, however, that doesn’t make grandiose promises yet offers some advice worth remembering.

Even if she’s not your favorite TV news celebrity (actually I like her myself) Katie Couric has a written an advice book worth recommending.  ”The Best Advice I Ever Got - lessons from extraordinary lives” is chock full of juicy tidbits of advice and life lessons from celebrated people you want to hear from – people we all know that are respected in their field, from psychology to sports to chefs to show biz.

Some of the most memorable entries for me were:

Meryl Streep, Empathy Opens Doors

Chelsea Handler, Pay Attention!

Chris Evert, Get Off the Sidelines!

Matthew McConaughey, You were Just Having Trouble

Ina Garten, If You Love Doing It, You’ll Be Very Good at It

The trouble with many advice books is I’m not likely to read the whole tome.  It’s just not entertaining enough, or even interesting.  I find myself jumping around looking for the key points, then getting bored and putting the book down.  Not this one. It’s a quick and easy read that gets its points across without boring or preaching. Often the advice entries from celebrities and luminaries are dished out in one or two pages.  I give Katie Couric‘s “The Best Advice I Ever Got – lessons from extraordinary lives” TWO THUMBS up!

Gift worthy?  Yes – Christmas, birthdays, anytime

Beach read?  Definitely.  


Georgetown Cupcake, Emily Post, Flea Markets, and Tony Horwitz – Oh My!      

 On November 15  my friend Len and I attended the annual “Book Fair” put on by the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

Katherine Kallinis and Sophie Kallinis LaMontagne-founders of Georgetown Cupcake at the National Press Club annual "Book Fair" with Deborah Deal-Blackwell

In addition to scooping up some new titles to review for A Romance Renaissance, and getting my copies personally autographed, we took a few snapshots.

Len with Tony Horwitz - the author of Midnight Rising" at the National Press Club

Len with Tony Horwitz - the author of Midnight Rising" at the National Press Club.













Of course, I picked up some editions that would be appropriate for a blog about bringing more romance back into daily living.

Hamming it up with Daniel Post Senning

Hamming it up with Daniel Post Senning, one of the Post family authors of the NEW - now 18th edition! -- of the "bible" for A Romance Renaissance - Emily Post's "Etiquette"

Check back here as these intriguing titles get reviewed … 

Deborah Deal-Blackwell with Maureen Stanton, author of "Killer Stuff and Tons of Money."

Running my mouth again! Talking to Maureen Stanton author of "Killer Stuff and Tons of Money" - Seeking History and Hidden Gems in Flea-Market America. Yum! Love the subject! Love Flea Markets and Antique Markets and well, anything to do with SHOPPING, basically!



Book Signing a the National Press Club's annual "Book Fair."

Book Signing a the National Press Club's annual "Book Fair."


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On Saturday night the Deal family celebrated THREE holidays – Suzanne (Mama Deal) and Connor’s (son Deal) birthday AND Halloween!  

Our extended family celebrated two birthdays at Halloween - Suzanne Deal's and her son Connor's. You didn't have to threaten a trick in order to get a yummy treat ... plenty of yummy morsels.

Everybody dressed up – it was a great opportunity to pretend to be something you aren’t – at least not in public on a regular day.  The house looked great and the food was delicious!  Can’t wait – let’s do it again next year!  

Some strange people showed up for this party. Len Wilkinson with Connor Deal, Gracie and Renny.

Lauren and Jacob Boyett apear to be having a good time!

Ashlyn King takes no prisoners on Halloween! Argh!


The host and hostess of the party - Alice Cooper and Snow White. (Bill and Suzanne Deal) on their front porch to greet (or eat) guests,

Techno geek and Morticia just came as they were ... (Avery and Claire Gimble.)

Little Red Riding Hood (Kimberly Golden King) and the Wolf made their peace at the party!








The cake was delicious - half vanilla and half chocolate all under chocolate icing!

Deb in her everyday attire next to Len in his. Deb holds Gracie in her butterfly costume.

Michelle Prytula came as an Identity Crisis - pretty clever costume!






Everybody wants to be a comedian! Even the skull ...





The table was set eerily appropriate!

Shari Boyett came as one of Suzanne's cupcakes - how cute!

Coupon Queen rides again!


An up close look at those face tattoos!


The Fairy Princess Ballerina (Len) and Alice Cooper (Bill) take a break on the porch with the Butterfly (Gracie).


No particular holiday - It was just ghouls night out ...

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New find!  If you really want some romance in your life, think about acquiring handmade romantic clothing like that found on Smocked Auctions.  As a lifelong sewing enthusiast, I must say I was thrilled to

Photo from "Smocked Auctions" Facebook page

We at "A Romance Renaissance" recommend you check out the beautiful clothing on this unique site.

find this site.  I haven’t tackled smocking myself yet, but I am working up to it.  Although it appears mainly children’s clothes are on Smocked Auctions, smocking can be quite elegantly incorporated into adult articles as well.

Take a look!  The extra drama of the auction makes this site all the more fun!

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If you’ve wondered “whatever happened to blonde but smart bombshell actress Kathleen Turner” let me tell you she’s alive and well.  My friend Claire Gimble and I spent

Kathleen Turner was in town and feisty as ever at her talk at the National Press Club on Sept. 6.

Kathleen Turner was in town and feisty as ever at her talk at the National Press Club on Sept. 6. Left to right: me, Kathleen Turner, Claire Gimble.

a few minutes with her at the reception before her luncheon talk at the National Press Club on Sept 6.  Feisty and genuinely interested in meeting and talking with folks, Turner makes you feel okay to be a woman today of a “certain age.”  That feeling that with age comes a new freedom is driven home when you meet her.  She says she’s always been opinionated and assertive – since she was 12 in fact.  But instead of this state of being working against your own opinion of HER, it just makes her all the more charming.  Now just shy of 60 – but who’s counting anyway – Turner was able to share with those of us at the Press Club because she’s in town for a while  appearing in “Red Hot Patriot: The Kick-Ass Wit of Molly Ivins,” a play about the legendary liberal Texas columnist, which runs through October 23 at Arena Stage.

Kathleen Turner shares some advice with me.

Kathleen Turner shares some advice with me.

The focus of her talk at the National Press Club was the GOP’s stand on women’s reproductive rights and Planned Parenthood in particular. Turner criticized the Republican Party for its archaic views and noted the importance of keeping contraception available for American families.  She said she was afraid for women, families and the now eight decades-old women’s services organization if Mitt Romney is elected. Funny and unedited, Kathleen is perhaps the best person I know to battle those who would want to see American women barefoot and pregnant. Asked if she herself would consider running for office to help improve the numbers of women in Congress – currently only 17% – she replied she still thought her best contribution was as an actress and everyday citizen.

Still one very pretty woman, Kathleen Turner turned out to be warm and genuinely interested in meeting us.

Still one very pretty woman, Kathleen Turner turned out to be warm and genuinely interested in meeting us.

Whoever wins in November – not just the presidential race, but the House and Senate as well – look out!  Today Kathleen Turner is more likely to throw verbal stones against those who would deny women’s rights, than she is to romancing a stone.

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Every year it comes and goes with not nearly enough attention from the mass media. What am I talking about? EARTH DAY. Officially it’s Monday, April 22, although EVERY day SHOULD be Earth Day. Contrary to deniers of climate change, the planet is changing. Whether mankind is wholly responsible for this is something that’s been hotly debated. But, while experts and subsidized deniers do their hot debating about who or what caused it, and whether or not it is a normal cyclical change, it continues to get even hotter, and we still have to deal with droughts, storms, loss of shoreline, loss of species, acidification of the oceans, reduced foodstock from the sea, lack of clean fresh water and more! AUGH!

Ignoring, evading, denying, and mocking the problem is not helping and all this takes precious time and resources away from actually doing something to prepare for the change that IS coming.

A Romance Renaissance, The Great Disruption

Take a look at The Great Disruption by Paul Gilding. It makes sense to me that the planet has a finite amount of natural resources and we could run out ...

The problem for most Americans is that we live our luxurious lives (compared to that of other nations) in air conditioned offices and homes far, far removed from the processes of farming, water purification, and energy resource extraction. We don’t have to get our hands dirty. We are only affected by increased prices. But, this somewhat blissful shelter from the realities of climate change is not going to continue for long for Americans. Soon, it will no longer be a problem for “the poor folks in Africa,” Nope, the problem is going to come home and hit us hard, and not just in the form of an extra dollar per gallon of gas.

Hot - Living Through the Next 50 Years on Earth, A Romance Renaissance

Another of my favorite volumes on the subject of "what's coming next ..."

I’ve been reading “The Great Disruption – How the Climate Crisis Will Transform the Global Economy” and I would suggest it be read by everyone. Basically, the author talks about how climate change is just one of many factors that is going to affect the way we live on this planet.

The End of Growth, A Romance Renaissance

Another good read ... The End of Growth by Richard Heinberg

It’s the kickstarter that people notice, but there are other factors such as the gobbling up of natural resources in the making of “stuff” that is going to change our idea of a successful and productive life. Simply, we won’t have the natural resources to keep making stuff; we’re going to have to recycle to get even the basic materials and everyone is going to have to live with less stuff – particularly less “throwaway” stuff. It’s a good read, but I’ve also added photos here of some of my other favorites.

Take a look; pick up one of these books. Knowledge is power. Sticking your head in the sand will just irritate your eyes so you can’t see the truth. Happy Earth Day everyone!

Eaarth by Bill McKibben, A Romance Renaissance

and yet another of my favorites on the subject ...

See more books and links to Earth Day websites below.

T-Shirts, posters, and my favorite bumper sticker “It’s the GREEN Economy Stupid.” can be found on the home page of http://www.earthday.org







My favorite time of the year is finally here!  

This is the flowering vine that I planted a few years ago. It now comes out every Spring with these beautiful yellow flowers but i don't remember what this vine is. If you know, please tell me!

This past winter seemed to go on forever!  Thankfully in Northern Virginia, the temps are warming up, we can turn off the heat, open the doors and welcome all the GREEN, YELLOW, PINK, BLUE and other colors of this blessed season.

A Romance Renaissance

This bed of tulips will hopefully be planted with tomatoes if my arm and shoulder get sufficiently well soon so that I can plant them.



A Romance Renaissance

The flowering vine up close. What IS this vine? Honesuckle?

 What’s more romantic than Spring?!  Here’s some of the shots of my deck and backyard.  Also some shots of the stuff I’m trying to grow from seed.  Good luck little seeds …















A Romance Renaissance

Good luck little seedlings!


A Romance Renaissance

Closeup of more of my tulips. Glad I took the time in the fall to plant them!













A Romance Renaissance

The birdbath out front ....





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Talk about UN-romantic!  Shuffling through the house with my left arm immobilizedA Romance Renaissance loves MaryJanes Farm magazinein a sling and feeling fuzzy because of pain killers – shoulder surgery is not for sissies!  However, it has allowed me to take some needed down time  and in that time catch up on the stack of mail, TV shows and magazines that I’ve been meaning to get to, but couldn’t bring myself to sit down and enjoy.

Here’s some of the things I’ve found, that I’d like to share:

MaryJanes Farm Magazine

I was way behind on my MaryJanes Farm editions and that’s too bad because it’s a great magazine to de-stress with; I almost feel guilty stealing time to spend with it.  However, the “Newsroom” section in this gem abates my guilt by providing me with useful information that can really help people and the planet.  Like the new April-May 2013 issue, that, on top of the lovely quilt article, fun “clamping” article, interesting edible flowers article and other cool stuff, provides some serious news on the nasty stuff that’s allowed in our food here in the U.S.  but isn’t in other countries.  See page 34 and carry the list with you to the grocery store!  You will want to read labels and avoid so-called “food” products with these items in them!

Neat New Safety Product!

This is one of those products that makes you wonder RideTight Seatbelt adaptor“Now why didn’t someone invent and market this BEFORE NOW ?!”    I mean REALLY!  Everyone – parents, grandparents and the government gets all worked up about putting kids in car seats, but what about when the child outgrows the car seat?  He or she is still too small to properly wear a regular  car seatbelt, which, by the way, is regulated in the U.S. car industry by the U.S. government to fit the 50th percentile male (5′ 8″ tall & 172 pounds).  That’s only  about 25% of the population!   If you are not a 5’8″ 172 pound guy, you are going to have an uncomfortable and potentially dangerous ride using standard in-car seatbelts.  

We at A Romance Renaissance give this inventor and product a “thumbs up” because nothing is romantic about a child or small person getting hurt in a car crash because the seatbelt doesn’t fit …! 

Check it out:  http://www.ridetightinfo.com/

Food Rules!

Yes it does!  Food is probably the most talked about and A Romance Renaissance reviews Food Rules: An Eater's Manualwritten about aspect of life.  Huge tomes are written about how to cook all kinds of fancy, schmancy stuff, and we LOVE that romantic fancy, schmancy stuff, but Really, I mean Really, what should we be eating?  I found this petite guide at the Gum Spring Library’s website and asked my brother to go get it for me because I still can’t drive for heaven’s sake! After perusing it, I quickly decided I needed to BUY my own copy.  Oh yes, I guess I should tell you the name of it again even though I already did!  It’s Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual by Michael Pollan.  Mike is one of my favorite writers and his In Defense of Food made a big impact on me.  I’m glad he took the most important “to do’s” out of “Defense” and put them in a small handy guide. Between this and MaryJanes Farm, what else do you need to take to the grocery store … I mean besides lots of m-o-n-e-y …

P.S. I haven’t reviewed the “illustrated edition” of Food Rules yet but imagine it’s just a more “fun” version of the pocket manual I read.

More Neat Stuff coming in future blog entries …

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We’ve had a very looooong winter it seems – so long that the cherry trees were delayed in blooming!

 Now, they are finally here and wouldn’t you know it- because of my shoulder surgery I can’t drive down in to D.C. to see them!  So, I’ll just have to compensate a little bit here by looking at photos from last year … it’s the same trees anyway!  



































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