Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Wednesday Walks: Crown Memorial State Beach

Living in the San Francisco Bay Area can feel, well, crowded sometimes. But going to Alameda's beaches in winter and early spring is a relief from the teeming city streets. I usually go past East Bay Regional Park's Crab Cove Visitor Center to enter Crown Memorial State Beach, where I enjoy watching the birds and dipping my toes in the water, or just watching the sun set, the traffic and noise seeming far away, muted by the lapping waves and few other visitors. Where do you like to go for a dose of peace?
All photos in this post copyright 2019, Reina M. Williams

Birds along the shoreline

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Monday Musings (On Tuesday): Giveaway!

Italian Honeymoon, my latest release, is featured today on Clean Wholesome Romance, and you can win a $25 gift card! Go here to win (and read an excerpt)!

Get whisked away on a sweet, romantic European vacation with the Lovestruck Billionaires! When love strikes, these billionaires must risk their most valuable assets–their hearts.
Julia Ross can’t believe her sister is married. They’d promised each other they’d stay single, but now it’s just Julia, facing another change in her well-ordered life. And then there’s the groom’s brother, Romeo, who wants to change even more–he and his family want to compete with her family’s restaurants, and entice her to work for them. But nothing about Romeo Bianchi is enticing…until he proposes.
Romeo Bianchi likes to shake things up–on his terms–and a fake wedding to Julia Ross seems like the perfect opportunity to rattle both of their families. But when their pretend marriage causes real problems, the two decide to face them together, until love strikes and Julia runs scared. Then they both have to decide if change is a price they’re willing to pay for their happily ever after.

Friday, January 25, 2019

Friday Finds: Angela Lansbury Favorites

These feel like distressing times, and during those times, I tend to turn to comforting entertainment (when I have a chance to). Murder, She Wrote, starring Angela Lansbury, is one of those entertainments.
Picture via IMDb

From 1984-1996 (and subsequent TV movies), Lansbury delighted as Jessica Fletcher, novelist and sleuth, whose grace and smarts brought her through her many fictional mysteries. Sometimes, I check out whatever season is available from the library and watch, or just have the show on as I go about my chores. (This article neatly sums up Murder, She Wrote; warning for my gentle readers: the article does contain one F-word.)
Lansbury's career stretches back to 1944, when she appeared in Gaslight, a superb film starring Ingrid Bergman. I also enjoy Lansbury in The Picture of Dorian Grey and The Harvey Girls.
Picture via IMDb
Later, Lansbury gives a chilling performance in The Manchurian Candidate, proving once again her talent and range. On the more comforting side are her TV movies like The Love She Sought, Mrs. 'Arris Goes to Paris (the heroine of Paris Interlude, Elissa, would love this one!), and The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax.

Picture via IMDb
Many also know her as the voice of Mrs. Potts in the animated Beauty and the Beast, and a new generation can see her charm in Mary Poppins Returns. I also enjoyed Lansbury in the 2017 adaptation of Little Women (though the adaptation itself isn't a favorite). But it's as Jessica Fletcher that Lansbury captured my affection and admiration. What's your favorite Angela Lansbury film?

Picture via IMDb

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Wednesday Walks: Mendocino

All pictures in this post: copyright Reina M. Williams 2019

Mendocino is a neat little town on the Northern California Coast. It's full of Bed and Breakfasts, shops, and homes, many of them historic, as well as the Mendocino Headlands State Park. A trail along the coastline is a fun walk, as is strolling through the town, where some of one of my favorite shows, Murder, She Wrote, (starring the great Angela Lansbury) was filmed.
A chocolate named for the fictional town in Murder, She Wrote from Mendocino Chocolate Company; they also have one called "The Angela" for Angela Lansbury

Going along the bluffs

The ocean on a winter day as seen  from the trail

I also visited Fort Ross, the southernmost outpost during the Russian colonization of North America. It's an interesting and beautiful spot.  

Inside the fort

One of the blockhouses

Sunset overlooking the ocean just outside the fort

Where are you walking lately?

Monday, January 21, 2019

Monday Musings: Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

WikiCommons/Library of Congress

Here in the US, many people have the day off for Martin Luther King Jr. Day. It’s often celebrated as a day of service, or of remembering and continuing Dr. King's legacy. It’s a day I’m reminded to practice hope, non-violent communication, and love. Dr. King’s sermon “A Knock at Midnight” seems especially relevant right now, as do many of his words. There’s much more at The King Center website.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Friday Finds: Hallmark Movies Now Review & Movies Set In Paris (Mostly)

So, I wanted to love Hallmark Movies Now, because I love a good Hallmark movie. Alas, I didn't love it. Are there lots of good Hallmark movies on Hallmark Movies Now? Yes, and their television shows as well! But, for me, the search functions were not intuitive, and I couldn't ever get the movies to go full screen, so that they were slightly cut off. I highly recommend doing the free trial before you sign up, as I did, so you can decide how it works for you. I did get to watch Loving Leah (2009), which I'd seen many years ago, and is still heartwarming, as well as In My Dreams (2014), a cute movie with a bit of magic. I would've liked to see more of the heroine's best friend (she was also in Loving Leah as a jewelry store clerk)--maybe someday she'll be the lead in a rom-com. Have you tried Hallmark Movies Now?

In other movie finds, since it's been a Paris week for me, I'm sharing the movies I watched to get me into that setting before I wrote Paris Interlude (it's still 99 cents on Amazon for two more days!). Some aren't set in Paris, but the choices at the library were kind of limited. Most had adult content of some kind, so if that's of concern for you, I can't recommend any of these, except my all-time favorite movie set in Paris, Gigi, a delightful 1958 musical starring Leslie Caron. (Though even in that, there is some innuendo and such, as her family were courtesans.)

I also watched: Amelie (2001), The Hedgehog (2009), Romantics Anonymous (2010), Paris, I Love You (2006). Amelie and Romantics Anonymous both have their moments, but overall, didn't stay with me as memorable. The Hedgehog is a drama, and is touching and well-done, but, ultimately, sad, at least for me. Paris, I Love You, seemed an odd mish-mash of vignettes, and the only one I enjoyed wholly was the one with Rufus Sewell. :) 

Gigi still comes out on top for me. Do you have any favorite movies set in Paris? 
I have no idea what I'll be posting about next week, but I'm excited for February, as it'll be Firth February and I'll be posting all things Colin Firth and Darcy next month! Only two more weeks--if you have any favorite Firth movies I should watch, please let me know!

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Wednesday Walks: Paris

Would you like to walk through Paris? I haven't been to Paris in over twenty years, so this isn't an "I walked here recently" post. It's an armchair travel post (join me on Twitter all this month for more of that!). I mentioned Monday that I love museums, and Musee d'Orsay is a favorite.
From Wiki Commons
Not only is the building spectacular, but so is the collection of art, like this Renoir:
From Wiki Commons

I also went to the Louvre, which was also spectacular, but more crowded. I did get a peek at the Mona Lisa.
From WikiCommons
Paris is a lovely city to wander, and one of my favorite memories, aside from the museums and cafes, was finding enchanting spots, like the gardens outside Notre Dame.
From WikiCommons
If your tour style would be for food instead of museums and gardens, a food blog I follow, What's Gaby Cooking, recently did a post on Paris: Gaby's Guide to Paris. (And if you're looking for new recipes, hers have proved tasty so far, especially the brown rice cilantro burrito bowl.)
Have you been to Paris, or do you want to go? Tell me about it! 
On Friday, I'll review Hallmark Movies Now and share movies set in Paris that I watched to supplement my research for Paris Interlude (on sale January 16-20 for 99 cents!)

Monday, January 14, 2019

Monday Musings: Paris, Giveaways, and More!

Paris--Picture via Pexels
I've been thinking of Paris lately. :) Probably because I've been posting articles for Jet Set January on social media, and musing on my favorite travels. I've only been to Paris once, back in 1993, and it was an experience--the maze of streets, the Seine, the old buildings, the roses blooming outside Notre Dame, the museums, oh, the museums! (I love museums.). The Musee d'Orsay was a favorite, mostly for its collection of Impressionists. Today is Berthe Morisot's birthday; she was considered one of the great impressionist painters, and you can see why:
File:Berthe Morisot - Le Berceau.jpg
The Cradle: Image via Wikimedia/Musee d'Orsay/Public Domain in the United States

I'll post more on Wednesday about museums and Paris. Also today, coincidentally, is a giveaway from Clean Wholesome Romance (part of the month-long Forever Yours Clean Romance Event I'm participating in--if you click, you can enter the kick-off giveaway until February 3, 2019) featuring author Jennie Goutet, and her book A Friend in Paris. Last I looked, the book was only .99cents on Amazon! It sounds like a good read, especially if you like sweet romance set in Paris. There's also a $25 Amazon/PayPal Giveaway (and more information on Jennie's book) if you click through the link at the end of this post. My book set in Paris, Paris Interlude, is also .99cents this week on Amazon (1/16--1/20). Check them both out and happy reading!

A Friend in Paris by Jennie Goutet
Friendship between a talented young artist and her handsome French neighbor is a promising start—until it’s not enough.
April promised her dying father she would study painting in Paris, but friends are few, her budget is tight, and her landlord increasingly won’t take “no” for an answer. Then she meets Victor.
Victor is as chivalrous as he is wealthy, and if it weren’t for him, April would have already left the City of Light behind. Too bad Victor still has eyes for his ex-girlfriend, who is now back on the scene and wants to get married.
Although April and Victor swore to remain just friends, magical Paris seems to weave a different spell. The more their connection deepens, the more it becomes difficult to keep a proper distance. Or to remember why they should.

Do you enjoy books set in Paris and other European cities? Tell me some of your favorites!

Friday, January 11, 2019

Friday Finds: Christmas Movies

Even though I wasn’t feeling particularly festive this year, I ended up watching a pretty big (for me) line-up of Christmas movies. Aside from the usual White Christmas, The Bishop’s Wife, Miracle on 34th Street, and It’s a Wonderful Life, I took advantage of a few evenings of Netflix and Hulu availability to watch some modern romance-centric movies.
via IMDb

I started off with The Princess Switch (2018) on Netflix, which is a cute and sweet movie suitable for teens and up. This is one of the best of those I watched—all the leads are likable, and the supporting cast is solid too. 

Then, on Hulu, The Rooftop Christmas Tree (2016) turned out to be better than I’d expected; though predictable, I enjoyed the romance between the two lawyers who have to work together, and seeing Tim Reid, who starred in a few shows I watched when I was younger.

Next was Naughty and Nice (2014)—I really like Haylie Duff as a therapist-turned-radio host, who spars with a banished DJ from Los Angeles, and her mom, played by Maureen McCormick. There are some cute scenes between the leads, as well as with the secondary characters. I like how the male lead grows and brings joy to Duff’s character, and she grounds him in something more than his previous shallow lifestyle. 

His and Her Christmas (2005) didn’t hold much appeal for me, though I was interested because it’s set in the San Francisco Bay Area, and is about two journalists who clash in print before they meet. There are sweet moments, but overall, it falls flat, and it throws me out of the story when they’re clearly not in the San Francisco area (I imagine this happens a lot, and I don’t spot it with places I’m not familiar with).

The Christmas Calendar(2017) is another predictable but sweet tale, of a lawyer who takes over her late grandmother’s bakery just before Christmas, and is left a mystery Christmas calendar that engages the small town. I watched it while doing some baking of my own.

The March Sisters at Christmas (2012) left me disappointed, and is more suitable for adults (language and suggestive situations), even though the cast was good, as it didn’t ring true to the March family for me.

By then it was twelfth night, so I switched over to checking out a free trial of Hallmark Movies Now, which I’ll talk about next Friday.
Via IMDb

Overall, I recommend The Princess Switch and The Rooftop Christmas Tree for something to watch for the romantic in you, or even with your family or friends. I’m hoping to catch more next year. Did you have any holiday movie favorites this season?

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Wednesday Walks: Pescadero, CA

Late last September, I went to Pescadero with a friend, and we walked around town and on a nearby beach. It was a grey day, but still beautiful (my pictures don't do it justice).

The shell in the last picture was so tiny but vibrant. We also enjoyed a picnic with some cheese and delicious garlic bread from a local market down the street from Duarte's Tavern, where we'd planned to eat lunch. But, it was crowded and rather than wait the thirty-plus minutes, we went to the local grocery/deli and got our own food and ate at the beach. I keep a blanket and picnic supplies in a plastic bin in my trunk for just that kind of spontaneous happening. Do you like picnics, or do you prefer to eat inside? I guess at this time of year, a picnic is pretty risky, at least for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere. 😊 On Friday, I'll be back with something more seasonal: holiday movie favorites from 2018.

Monday, January 7, 2019

Monday Musings

Happy New Year! I've set some intentions this year, among them to have theme months (this month is Jet Set January--I love armchair travels! Please find me on Twitter or Facebook for more--and I'll have a special giveaway for newsletter subscribers as well--you can sign up in the box on the side of this post), and to blog more. I plan to post every Monday (Musings), Wednesday (Walks), and Friday (Finds--in movies, TV, and books). In case you don't know, I don't like surprises in content and language, so I promise to let you know what my favorites contain, in case you also like to know. 😊 I thought about also posting on Tuesdays and Thursdays (recipes and thrifty tips), but I decided three days a week would be enough of a challenge. Some other intentions are to be kinder and let go of old fears. Do you have any special intentions or goals this year?
Wishing you a year filled with love and cozy times!