Polo! Game of Kings

Polo opening

Recently, I attended my first polo match. It was so much fun! Who knew how thrilling it could be to watch a bunch of men chase after a little ball? Well, it was the horses that made it different, I have to say.

Great care is taken in the rules to keep the horses safe. But even though each period (called a chukka) of the game lasts only 7 minutes, they do a lot of running. If you participate in a match, you must bring at least 2 horses for a game of 6 chukkas (4-8 chukkas are allowed), and 3 horses is preferable.

There are 4 players on each team, although the players can be rotated out during the breaks between chukkas.

This was one of my favorite parts. At the half, the spectators are asked to go onto the field and repair the divots. Divots are clumps of earth dislodged by the horses. The resulting holes in the turf can be dangerous for both horses and players. Here they are:

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Here they are in all their glory – click on link:

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The ref was a woman! 🙂

I haven’t written a story featuring polo yet, but I intend to.

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Baby, It’s Cold Outside

skiers modified While I was driving my three kids through a winter blizzard to a ski race in Vermont, my traveling husband was dining at the Fort Lauderdale airport with a porn star.

Ha! Got your attention? I want that line to be the start of a novel some day, but it happens to also be the truth.

If you live in New England, you need to love the snow and the way to love it is to get outdoors and enjoy all the fun winter sports. Hence, in my family, we are all skiers, and part of that is being on ski teams. You attend the races, whether it’s snowing or 16 degrees below zero or whatever.

But you want to hear about the porn star, right? Okay, this is hubby’s story and I’m in no position to dispute it. This woman had been swanning around the Fort Lauderdale airport, and hubby said hordes of men were flocking behind her. (Really? Have you guys no dignity at all?) She was dressed in denim short shorts, a red tank top and high heels.

My husband went into a restaurant to eat lunch, and was joined by a stranger (a man) because the restaurant was very crowded. They chatted while eating, and then the porn star appeared, getting in line at the counter to get her meal. This stranger went right up to her and invited her back to their table (since she wasn’t going to find a seat in the packed restaurant, ahem). So they all ate lunch together. Hubby said she told them about how her family (somewhere in Asia) disapproved of her livelihood. But she seemed happy. The truth is, he often finds himself in odd situations with strangers, so none of this surprises me.

Also, I have the better story since I was flashed by a kilt-wearing Scotsman at Oktoberfest in Austria. So now I DO know what they wear under that kilt. And I tell all in The Naked Male Tour of Austria.

We’re all here to talk about romances between snowbound couples. What could be more romantic with the right person? A cozy fire, no interruptions, and lots of time to play. This is exactly what happens in my novella, Baby, It’s Cold Outside. Of course, it’s not all smooth sailing.

Cover for Baby, It's Cold Outside

Baby, It’s Cold Outside – Now Available!

This novella was nominated for Best Romance this year at eFestival of Words!

 

O Christmas Tree…Falling Down on Me!

iPhone Image 1BD965Our goal for the Christmas tree is to have it stand up straight, be beautiful and look festive. Its goal is to fall over dead.

The first time we had a tree fall over it happened in the middle of the night. The good news is it fell over on the night of Christmas Day, so we’d already had the gift opening on Christmas morning. The bad news is that it fell onto a hardwood floor. We lost many fragile, sentimentally valuable ornaments. The scary news is that it keeled over in the middle of the night, breaking said ornaments, and no one heard a thing. We woke up the next day to find it lying on its side in the midst of brightly colored, shattered glass.

We thought that was an isolated happening. But the next tree that fell over did so before Christmas Day. Luckily, we’d placed this tree on a carpet so the ornament damage was minimal.

The third tree fell over last night, minutes after we finished decorating it. We were all sitting there enjoying it. It really is a beautiful tree. When, slowly and majestically, it fell to the ground. We had a brand new tree stand. A big one. It stuck with the tree all right. And all the water that had been in the stand spilled onto the carpet.  Luckily, we keep a big plastic tarp under the tree but it did spill onto the red felt tree skirt that I keep on top of the plastic. So dh pulled the tree up and I held it while hollering for someone to get towels to mop up the water before the red felt stained everything.

The first comment was from my husband. “At least we’re here to deal with it,” he said. “That was good luck.”

“Nothing says luck like the Christmas tree falling over,” said kid #2.

Kid #3 retreated to the corner to be upset. Kid #2 raced out of the room toward the stairs. Kid #1, bless her, went for towels to wipe up the mess. When #2 returned, I said, “Where did you go?”

“I had to post an update on Facebook,” she answered. What, it’s not real until it’s on Facebook?

Youngest dd had been taking pictures of the tree trimming for her photography class. After the tree was upright again, one of the kids said, “You should have taken a picture of the tree on the floor.”

“That’s all right,” she responded. “I’ll get it next time.”

Well, we had a few broken lights and ornaments, but it wasn’t too bad. We had some laughs.

So then dh wired it to the wall (which he’d said he would do earlier and has done before).

It’s still a beautiful tree. Merry Christmas to all.

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Frog Dissection-Has Feminism Made Any Progress?

frogRomance novels have made great strides in portraying females as strong people who must participate in saving the day. We rarely see helpless heroines saved by manly men. But have people changed so much in real life?

I try very hard to raise my children without stereotypes and to encourage my girls to be interested in all avenues of study and to consider all types of careers. But…

Yesterday, was the day in freshman biology that my daughter had been dreading all year. They had to dissect a frog. They always choose their own partners for lab. The boys had paired up among themselves weeks ago for the frog lab. (They weren’t going to do all the work for these squeamish girls.) The girls had wailed and moaned for weeks.

My daughter threw up before class, just to get ready. (She actually brought a toothbrush and toothpaste to school, giving new meaning to the phrase ‘prepared for class’.)

She arrived in class and decided to ask the one boy who’s her friend to be her partner. (Never mind that everyone was already paired up.) He said sure, but he had to admit he might get queasy and need help. She ditched him pronto (and reported that he did get lightheaded later on, thereby embarrassing himself).

She contemplated another boy, Joe. Even though she’s barely ever spoken to Joe,  she knew he was the one boy who would do the work on his own. Desperate times call for desperate measures. She asked him to be her partner. (At least she’s not a shrinking violet in the boy department.) He agreed.

Joe’s original partner said, “Hey, what about me?”

Joe said, “Sorry, I’m working with her.” (Girls rule.)

Meanwhile, my daughter had abandoned her friend, a girl with whom she’d been partnered for every lab the entire year. (Did I raise her?) That girl and another began crying (!?!) when they realized they had no one to lean on. The teacher finally had to assign them to a couple of boys and allow groups of three.

The class started the job. My daughter said her goal was to do nothing and look at nothing. (This is honors biology, BTW.)

The next exciting moment arrived when a girl fainted, sliding down to the floor in a swoon worthy of a 19th century heroine. (No stigma of shame assigned to her.) They revived the girl and she and her female partner decamped for the nurse.

Now as my daughter is telling this tale, I’m thinking, Whatever happened to women’s lib? It’s the 21st century and these girls are behaving no better than I did back in the dark ages, when, I am sorry to report, I somehow managed to escape dissecting the frog. How hard can I be on my daughter, when I know exactly how she feels? But I have to try. Women need to be positive about science.

I say to her, “The girls didn’t make a good showing for themselves.”
She says, “At least I helped Joe pin the frog to the board.”
I say, “That’s good.”
She adds, “By handing him the pins.”

The frog had still better be the prince, and not the biology lesson.

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Skiing – A Great Family Sport

skiingSkiing is a great sport – you’re outdoors, getting exercise, enjoying beautiful scenery, and having a few thrills! But it’s also cold.

Our home ski mountain is a small area with one main lift. You are bound to know people in the lift line because it’s such a small area. Usually, you identify your friends by knowing something specific about their snow gear – the helmet, the bright jacket, whatever they wear regularly.

So I was standing in the back of the line with a couple of my kids and someone at the front of the line was waving wildly and shouting hello back to me. She was dressed in a full snowsuit, plus ski hat, neck warmer, and goggles. There’s not much of the human to see.

I said to my kids, “That person seems to think she knows me. I don’t have a clue who she is.”

The kids answered, “Mom, that’s your sister.”

(It was. In my defense, she has a lot of different outerwear.)

Another story is from possibly the coldest day I’ve ever skied. My kids had a ski race at Killington mountain (in Vermont). It was -16 Fahrenheit at the base, but the ski races carry on, regardless of the weather. So two of my kids, about 8 and 10, were riding on a triple chair, with their friend who was 9 in the middle spot. It’s a ten to fifteen minute ride to the top. They were completely covered, including face masks, helmets and goggles, but they still didn’t want to move.

They got near the top and my oldest said, “I’m frozen solid. I can’t move.”

The youngest said, “I’m frozen too.”

The oldest said, “Erin (the friend), aren’t you cold?”

“Erin fell off at the bottom,” reported the youngest.

The oldest hadn’t even noticed. You just don’t move. You freeze and you suffer.

(Erin was rescued by her dad and my husband who were following the kids on the chair lift.)

Then you stand near the top of the mountain waiting for your turn to ski down, doing the run as fast as you possibly can. Why is this fun?

It just is. It’s a great family sport.

Bicycling in Amsterdam

 

bicycle-2-kids-1024x768What is the most common mode of transportation in Amsterdam? If you looked at the picture, you know the answer. A bicycle.

As a city reclaimed from the ocean, Amsterdam is totally flat. Therefore, bicycling is easy, and everyone does it. You will see chic ladies in high heels and skirts, businessmen in suits and ties, senior citizens, and kids of all ages, including teens in social groups.

The authorities have encouraged the practice by building bike paths everywhere there is a road. Bicyclists also have the right of way over anyone else, including pedestrians. Which means walking can be hazardous. Each road consists of the car roadway, a paved bike path, and a sidewalk. Major streets also include tram tracks. Oftentimes, all these things are on the same level, with little to mark one lane from a different one, not even a curb.

Whatever method you are using to get around, you need to be very careful as people and cars come from all directions. Cars often park on the sidewalks, which forces pedestrians onto the bike path, and bicyclists will not be happy to see you there.

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Notice the two children on the bike on the picture to the left. It is common to see a parent moving his or her children around this way. Below is an alternative method, with the child in a box up front.

bicycle 1You will see people holding up umbrellas in the rain, texting, talking on their phones. People ride on the back of the bike. Even adults. I loved this shot of an older couple. The woman is pedaling along and the well-dressed man is enjoying the ride.bicycle - older couple-AmsterdamYou may have noticed one unusual fact about bicyclists in the Netherlands (versus the US). No one is wearing a helmet. No one. I never saw a single helmet on a bicyclist in Amsterdam. Not even toddlers in the little boxes attached to the front. But I did see my first bicycle garage. The bike garage is right over a canal. How cool is that?Bike Park- Amsterdam

ETA: I almost forgot to mention the scooters zipping around! They apparently can go on either the bike path or the road. But Amsterdam is a very safe city traffic-wise. I did a little research. Approximately 200 people per year die in bike accidents in The Netherlands, with an average of only 6 per year in Amsterdam. http://www.tobysterling.net/2007/12/bike-accident-deaths-in-amsterdam-and.html

Death in traffic accidents overall is the lowest in Europe at 45 deaths per million inhabitants per year vs. the comparable US rate of 147 deaths per million and the European rate of 90 deaths per million. (credit Toby Sterling). So I guess that’s why they don’t feel the need for helmets.

Which is your favorite photo?

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