Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Our Favorite Christmas Tradition


The First Two - Snoopy & the Giraffe
My husband’s mother started this wonderful tradition and it is one we are happy to have passed on to our own children. The first year we were married, she gave us two hand-blown glass ornaments. There was something about them that tickled her fancy and made her smile. We had the same reaction as we gently removed them from their boxes and held them in our hands. The first two arrived over 45 years ago and new ones have been added to our collection each year since – either by her and later when she was unable, by us.


Popeye & Olive Oil

She found them in a little shop on Fifth Avenue in Scottsdale Arizona. Luckily, when that shop closed we were able to locate a new source for these treasured mementos. First we found a shop in Solvang California called the Jule Hus, which bills itself as a year-round Christmas store. I can’t tell you how much fun it was to walk in the shop for our annual purchase and view them all hanging from the ceiling. Later, when we moved to Northern California, we found an online retailer, The Cottage Shop, that specializes in all things Christmas – including a wonderful selection of these fanciful and fragile decorations.

Drippy the Raindrop

Alien Santa

During our Air Force years, these beloved characters were never entrusted to the movers but were packed in our car, like the rest of our growing family, and traveled with us. Living in earthquake country, we've been known to tether the tree to a hook in the ceiling.

Happy and Sad Lions
 When the children were old enough, I started their own collection and have added to it each year since.


Christmas is special for many reasons – not the least of which is the reason we celebrate; the birth of our savior, Jesus – the gathering together of family and friends and hopefully, at least for a little while, to enjoy peace and goodwill toward our fellow inhabitants on this earth.


But the chance to ooh and aww over these bits of joy and visit with them for a while, is another reason the holiday season is special at our house.


I’d love to hear about some of your family’s traditions.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

An Excerpt From My Rodeo Man on Connie Bretes’ Blog


I would like to take the opportunity to thank Connie Bretes for giving me the opportunity to share a peek at my newest contemporary romance book, “My Rodeo Man,” with her readers. The excerpt is from a scene where Zach is at a rodeo and Ashley is at home waiting for his call. Their growing attraction floats across the airwaves and… Well, you’ll just have to visit Connie’s blog (ADD LINK) and read the excerpt to find out.

 

Connie is a kindred spirit and fellow author of romance books. Her characters are all down-to-earth, everyday people who meet and fall in love. Most of them meet up with their past loves and rekindle the romance!

 
Feel free to check out the links to “My Rodeo Man,” to learn a little more about Zach’s and Ashley’s story!

Monday, November 30, 2015

Authors of Main Street Holiday Book Sale - More than 30 Authors



Fantastic small-town, contemporary romance book sale
hosted by the amazing ladies of Main Street!
The Authors of Main Street have a bevy of books for $0.99 or less – many are FREE – listed on their blog today! The characters in these contemporary romance stories are people you might meet on the main street of any small town.

I’m happy to let you know that my book, “Julia’s Star,” was one of the books selected to participate in this special event. I love the Authors of Main Street ladies (Susan R. Hughes, Carol DeVaney, Pepper Phillips, Kristy Tate, Joan Reeves and E. Ayers) and know that you will fall in love with their books too.

Some of the other participating authors are: Stacy Juba, Josie Riviera, Cynthia Rayne, Adele Downs, Margaret Daley, Denise Swanson, Bettye Griffin, Raine English, Caroline Mickelson, Leigh Michaels, Kendra Little, Aubrey Wynne and Samantha Young.

If you are looking for a great holiday read – rush on over to the Authors of Main Street site right now and choose from the more than 30 books and box sets! 



Friday, November 27, 2015

Black Friday Blues



If your attic is filled with 'stuff''
I know I’m not the first to comment on this trend – and it’s highly probable given our retail-oriented culture, that I will not be the last – but frankly, I’m sick and tired of the push to make us think we aren’t enough unless we have more stuff. I look around our house at the overflowing closets, drawers and other places we shove the things we accumulate and just shake my head – Black Friday Blues.

The mantra ‘Go Forth and Buy’ spins through my thoughts. It’s all I hear in all the ads that bombard me from every side. Do I really need – or want – any new things? No, I say with a resigned shrug. Can I be tempted? You betcha! I can wander through the mall and imagine taking home any number of items but I think it’s more the thrill of the hunt rather than, ‘I can’t live without it’ attachment – Black Friday Blues.

Maybe it’s an age thing but I’m much less enamored with the need to own stuff and much more intrigued by the idea that having less stuff gives me greater freedom to explore the opportunities around me. Stuff ties you down and limits your mobility because someone has to take care of all that stuff. Guard over it and protect it. That’s not as appealing as it once was – Black Friday Blues.

So here are my ‘wishes’ and ‘wish nots’ for the Christmas season.

  • Wish I could snap my fingers and the tree and decorations would set themselves up and the boxes they were in would magically stash themselves back in the closet.
  • Wish not to be packed in like a sardine at the mall, waiting in lines for more than a half hour each and then trekking back to my car that is parked 20 blocks away. During a shopping trip my holiday good cheer disappears quicker than a plate of cookies in a roomful of kids.
  • Wish I would win the lottery and then share that abundance to make the world a better place. Until then, the charities I support will have to be content with the bits and pieces of time and money I can share.
  • Wish to find that perfect gift that makes the receivers eyes mist up a bit so it’s not just ‘more stuff’ but a memory.
  • Wish not to hear more people spouting hate and divisiveness – us against them. I’m tired of how the fear, mistrust and anger that sentiment generates eats my soul. With each word I can feel my peace slipping away.
  • Wish everyone would put their gadgets down for at least an hour a day and pay attention to the amazing people and world that surrounds them.
  • More than anything, I wish we could put the commercialism aside and bask in the joy, peace and love the season represents.

No matter what your belief system, I hope that each of us can fill our hearts with the spirit that Christmas represents now and throughout the year!
May you exchange that clutter for this!

Friday, November 20, 2015

A Born Clothes Horse

According to the Urban Dictionary a clothes horse is: A person who is passionate about new clothes. A big shopper and consequently, a big spender.

I come by this inclination naturally - and seemed to have passed it along to my daughters. From birth to early adulthood, between the three of us I think we hit most of the malls between San Diego and San Francisco and a smattering of other locals throughout the country. I particularly enjoyed Fashion Square in Scottsdale, AZ and Aventura Mall in Miami, though I digress.

A few days ago, I was rummaging through old photos and literally drooled over the clothes my mother wore back in the 1930s - which is where I inherited my clothes horse tendency. Dressing up was required before you stepped out the door. While many commentators called the styles 'boyish,' I'd say they were anything but. To me they are elegant, stylish, and the wonderful bias cut let the fabric gently hug a woman's curves. Of course, it helped to be super skinny to pull these styles off.

Ever so often, don't you wish you had a place to wear a hat - other than at the beach or a ball game? I like dressing up but my day wear largely consists of jeans and sweaters rather than the dresses of days gone by. Here are a few of my favorite photos of the outfits my mother wore.


Don't you just love those hats?
So elegant.


The car is so cool!








If you want to learn a little more about the 1930s fashion scene visit:

Ruche

Fashion Era


Monday, November 16, 2015

Meet Zach from "My Rodeo Man"

I'm so excited to be a featured author on the Spunk & Hunks blog by Anna Durand today. The post is an “interview” with Zach, the hero in my latest book, “My Rodeo Man.” If you've been wanting to get inside the head of a determined, yet utterly charming, rodeo man, here's your chance.

Please share the post with your friends!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

8 of My Favorite ‘Snuggle by the Fire’ Books


I think it’s safe to say that most writers are also avid readers. If I’m not at my computer spinning some sort of tale – real or imagined – cooking, taking a walk, puttering in the garden or visiting with family and friends, you’ll most likely find me with a book/kindle in my hand. Those who are paying attention will notice that housework is not on that list. It’s not that I don’t do housework, it’s just that I tend to wait until the dust bunnies are about ready to participate in a coup.

Despite what I said in my last blog about loving California’s wonderful Fall weather, it’s one of those things that doesn’t tend to last very long. Our weather has a bad habit of going from late summer to early winter in the blink of an eye. Our heater kicked on for the first time today and my thoughts have turned to sitting by the fire with a good book.

Here are some of my all-time favorites in no particular order, just how they popped into my head. As you will see, I'm eclectic in my reading preferences:
 
The fantastic descriptions of the Yorkshire Dales and the daily life of a country veterinarian make you feel like you are right there with him birthing a foal or swapping stories with one of the colorful characters that fill his books. His words will make you laugh and cry.



Envy by Sandra Brown
I love so many of her books but this one has always stayed with me. It’s one of those books that will keep you up into the wee hours of the night because you’re only going to read ‘one more chapter.’ The story mixes the emotions of friendship, envy, betrayal, revenge and love with a deft hand. The final redemption is totally satisfying.

 


Chasing Fire by Nora Roberts
Another of my favorite authors. This book is filled with emotion, suspense, tension and so finely crafted that I was so absorbed I couldn’t believe I gotten to ‘the end.’ It offers a glimpse into the dangerous life of the fire jumper – the men and women who parachute in to fight forest fires from behind the lines. The language is vivid and the story thrilling.



 
 
Archer’s Voice by Mia Sheridan
Poignant, touching, heart-pounding and sensual all wrapped into one superlative story. I love it when an author introduces us to a character that most of us are not familiar with and makes us understand him at a deep level. In this case, Archer is mute but we hear him clearly and fall in love with this sensitive soul.




Little Brother by Cory Doctorow
It’s been a while since I read this one but it’s a fascinating look at how technology manipulates our lives in a terrifying way. Fast-paced, intriguing, smart and engrossing, this story follows tech savvy teens as they fight for their freedom from ‘Big Brother’s’ control.




 Blackout (All Clear Book #1) by Connie Willis
If you like time travel and World War II, you’ll love this book. Future historians are sent back to London during the blitz to observe and record the events as they unfold and to return home before they are in any danger. Naturally, plans have a way of going awry.



 
Wait For Me (Against All Odds #1) by Elizabeth Naughton
This book is filled with twists and turns, emotional upheaval, gut-wrenching turmoil and gripping tension. A woman finds herself in a life that doesn’t feel right but has no idea why not. All I can say is that the fire will burn low before you are able to put the book down.




The Best Intentions by Candice Hern
I love a good Regency Romance and this is one that is sure to please. The heroine made me smile and charmed me with her effervescent personality. The hero stole my heart. While this one is on the lighter side, sometimes that’s exactly what I want.




What are some of your favorite books?

Thursday, November 5, 2015

I Love This Time of Year


Let me qualify that statement – I love this time of year ‘in California.’ The weather in the last few weeks of October and first few weeks of November is as close to perfect as it can be. It’s that lovely interval between the time the air conditioning stops and the heater starts up. This year it seemed to take a little longer to get to that ‘no air conditioning’ stage but it’s finally arrived and I love it!
 

 

It’s the time of year when all the beautiful scenery beckons – whether it be the trees changing color in the Sierra Mountains or waves crashing against our rugged northern California coastline. Beauty is all around us and often only a few hours’ drive away. I love to explore and head off down unfamiliar roads never knowing what I’ll find around the next curve.
 
 

Most days, with high temps in the high-60s to mid-70s, you can open your doors and windows by early afternoon – often sooner – and let the fresh air pour in and sweep out the mustiness. Sunshine and bright, blue skies predominate with enough rain thrown in to fill our drought-shrouded lives with wonder.
 
 

It’s the time of year I’m tempted to fire up the oven and bake – until I get on the scale and realize where those scrumptious cookies and such go – but I bake anyway and figure I’ll walk off the calories. At least that’s what I promise myself until I look up from my computer and realize the sun has set. I’ll talk about good intentions in some other blog.
 
At this point in the year I have generally put ‘the end’ to one book and am getting to know the characters who will tell their stories in my next book. It’s a season of exhilaration, because I’ve sent another of my babies off into the world, and discovery, because I’m figuring out what drives the fascinating people who will be the next to share their quirks, loves and foibles with readers.

It’s the time of year for transitions. Time to shed the shorts and t-shirts of summer and pull out the long pants and sweaters better suited to cooler weather. Time to cover up the outdoor grill and pull out the crockpot. Time to think about gathering around the table with family and put away the picnic basket. Not quite the deep chill of winter but no longer the sultry heat of summer. It’s a time of change and a time to look forward to what might come next.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Easy Black Bean Chili Recipe

In my second book entitled, "My Rodeo Man," one of the main characters loves to experiment with recipes, just like I do. As authors, we take what we have experienced or see in the world around us and weave stories around those circumstances. Like Ashley, Zach's love interest in the book, I collect recipes, try them out and when they meet my family's taste test of approval, they go in one of now several 3-ring binders (I've been collecting recipes for over 40 years now).

Here's one of our favorites, thanks to my lovely daughter, Allison. So far I have only used the crockpot version and generally cut the recipe in half and still find it makes 6 large servings. It's great paired with cornbread and a green salad.


 
BLACK BEAN CHILI
2 cups diced bacon
1 onion, diced small
1 clove garlic, minced
1 lb. sirloin steak, cut into ¼ inch strips
3 cups dried black beans
1 cup red wine
2 whole tomatoes, peeled and chopped or 1-16oz. can stewed tomatoes
10 cups beef stock
3 bay leaves
1 tablespoon cumin
2 tablespoons chili powder
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
6 tablespoons sour cream

Stove-top version:
Sauté bacon until crisp. Add onion and garlic; sauté until brown. Add sirloin and sauté until brown.

Add remaining ingredients except cilantro and sour cream. Cook for 2 to 2 ½ hours. While cooking, adjust liquid with more stock and wine, if necessary. Remove bay leaves before serving.

Crockpot version:
Sauté bacon until crisp.

Layer bacon, onions and garlic then sirloin strips. Top with remaining ingredients except cilantro and sour cream. Cook on low for 6 hours. Remove bay leaves before serving.

For both versions: To serve top with cilantro and sour cream. You can also sprinkle on some grated cheddar cheese.

Serves 6-8

Visit my website for information about my books.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

My Rodeo Man Now Available on Amazon


I’m happy to announce that my second book, ‘My Rodeo Man,’ is now available on Amazon in the Kindle version.  This is the first book in ‘The Texas Kincaids’ series and follows Zach’s and Ashley’s journey on the road their happily ever after. Visit my website, It’s In the Story, (http://www.itsinthestory.com/books.html) for more details and links to purchase the book.
The paperback version will be available by October 29 and available in other eRetailers in early November. Links will be posted to my website as soon as they are available.

“Zach Kincaid was definitely not what Ashley Drayton was looking for – one more risk-taking, bad boy to add to that long list of narcissistic, jerks who kept breaking her heart. Well, she was fed up. From here on out, bad boys need not apply. So how in the world had this cocky, confident cowboy charmed his way into her affections? She sure wasn’t going to succumb without a fight.

Ashley Drayton looked like the typical, spoiled Southern Belle that made Zach turn tail and head for the hills. As a champion team roper on the rodeo circuit and ranch owner, he sure didn’t need the complications a feisty, prima donna would bring to his life. When he finally did settle down, he wanted a woman strong enough to stand beside him in the hard-knock world of ranching and rodeoing.
Can a rough and rugged cowboy live happily ever after with a sassy and sophisticated socialite?”

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

A New Cover for "Julia's Star"

I decided that my first book, "Julia's Star," needed a cover that was more reflective of the story. Here's what I came up with. Let me know what you think.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Reading Alley Grand Opening Celebration! #ReadingAlleyEvent



AN INVITATION

Reading Alley is officially launching and we are marking it in a big way with our Grand Opening event! Take part in a variety of site activities, such as our weekly contests, review challenge and referral program. The more active you are, the higher your chances of winning in our Grand Draw. Lots of irresistible prizes, including an Amazon Kindle and gift certificates, are up for grabs.

On July 3, Week 4 of our Weekly Contest goes live. Answer 3 questions and get a chance to win an Amazon Gift Card! Each week, we will have different winners, for a total of 12 winners by the time the party is over.

So don't wait! Click here to join now.


WHAT IS READING ALLEY?

Reading Alley is a site that caters to passionate book reviewers. Book reviewers get the chance to read the latest books in the market for FREE. In exchange, the only requirement is for them to submit their honest, unbiased review afterwards.

We feature a variety of books from different genres such as Romance, Mystery and Thriller, Erotica, LGBTQ, New Adult, Science Fiction and Fantasy, Young Adult, and more. These books are from both known and up-and-coming authors. Examples of books currently up for review at the site are:



Authors are welcome to set up their books for review at a reasonable price. By joining Reading Alley, authors gain instant access to this community of reviewers who can share their thoughts and recommendations, leading to greater awareness and exposure of their books.

If you wish to learn more, click here.

Otherwise, sign up for a free account now and join our Grand Opening celebration!

See you there!

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Friday, May 15, 2015

Explore the Beautiful Santa Ynez Valley


 
I, my husband and family had the great, good fortune to live in this area for over 20 years. We fell in love with this spectacular valley that boasts the Danish town of Solvang, rolling hills and world-class wineries. The area is located about 40 minutes inland from Santa Barbara.
 

When the story for my first contemporary romance novel, “Julia’s Star,” started taking shape in my imagination, I couldn’t think of a better, more nurturing place for Julia and her family to live.

Here are 5 things to do if you have the opportunity to visit Julia’s home town:



1. The wine industry contributes more than $800 million to the Santa Barbara region, with wineries in the greater Santa Ynez Valley accounting for a good portion of those dollars. Many famous-label wineries open their doors to the public for wine tasting and tours. Here’s a handy listing of area wineries.
 


 


2. Visit the charming town of Solvang. Founded in 1910 by Danish immigrants, the town’s architecture transplants you to Copenhagen complete with Ebelskivers (a mouth-watering, round pancake puffs), quaint gift shops and authentic Danish bakeries. While you are there, wander over to the Santa Ines Mission and treat yourself to a bit of early California history.
 
 


3. Get outside and explore. You can rent bikes and Solvang Segways, take a hot air balloon ride, go horseback riding or if you want to be more sedate, painting lessons from Gypsy Studios that bills itself as ‘Art on Wheels.’ During your travels, don’t be surprised if you encounter lamas, ostriches, cattle, horses, goats, sheep and other assorted animals.
 
 


4. Take in an open-air theater under the stars from June to September at the Pacific Conservatory for thePerforming Arts in downtown Solvang – but be sure to bring a jacket as the evenings can be chilly. I volunteered as a Red Coat (usher in PCPA parlance) for many years and have fond memories of the many productions I saw there.
 
 
 

5. Visit one of the exceptional spas and pamper yourself.
 
 



Julia’s Star is available on Amazon in both Kindle and paperback.

Monday, March 16, 2015

"Julia's Star" for Just $0.99


 
Slip into Spring with a feel-good romance. Pick up “Julia’s Star” this week only – March 16-23, for $0.99. Deal available on Amazon

REVIEWS:
Jason and Julia’s story is a must read for all those romantic’s out there!”

Reading it gave me the kind of delightful escape that propelled me right into the main character’s lives.

Can't wait for her next book!



Saturday, March 14, 2015

A Proper English Tea at Downton Abbey


I was just doing a little background research for my next book. In the scene I'm putting together the characters are planning an English Afternoon Tea party as they make plans to watch the last episode of Season 5 and I stumbled across this.

If you love Downton Abbey the way I do, you will probably enjoy reading this behind-the-scenes look at a proper tea from the Downton Abbey Cooks blog.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

The Romance Reviews Celebrates Readers

Join The Romance Reviews spectacular Anniversary Party! Loads of fun, tons of prizes and romance everywhere.

“Julia’s Star” is one of the featured quizzes today. Check it out and enter to win.

The Romance Reviews

Monday, February 16, 2015

Meet Jason – The Man Behind the Movie Star


My Hero’s A Sexy Movie Star – Basically the kind of man that makes women drool as they spend time pouring over the latest tabloids to find out what he’s up to. Julia’s Star” is where the lifestyles of the rich and famous meets small-town girl. In case you’re wondering, culture shock sets in as the two work to find a way to meld their two worlds into one satisfying whole. Thankfully, Jason MacKenzie, is a man of many layers – sex appeal by the boat load, money and fame galore but also has a definite soft spot for a sexy widow and her three amazing children who live in rural California. Instead of me extoling his virtues, let’s let Jason answer some of our questions in his own words:

 

Age:

38 – old enough to have learned the hard way that it’s a bad idea to hook up with a woman who is not right for me.


Physical Description:

A woman’s pirate-fantasy come to life. Think Errol Flynn only better looking, my face more chiseled, with greater muscle definition and hot six-pack abs included – basically, women don’t seem to have any complaints about my appearance.

 
People’s First Impression of You:

Playboy all the way, awe-inspiring but for the life of me I can’t figure out why. Guys want to be me and women throw themselves at me. I’m just a man who puts his pants on one leg at a time like everyone else.


Likes:

I love my job, can’t wait for the next great script, spending time with my family – even my quirky Mom who can’t understand why I’m not married and giving her grandchildren – and yes someday I’d like to give her those grandkids. Oh, and before I forget, I love the fact that I can pick and choose my parts now that I’m considered a ‘somebody.’

 
Dislikes:

People who pretend they like me but really want to be with me so I can do something for them. I hate being used. Unfortunately it goes with the territory. I’ve learned to live with it and the suspicion about people’s motives that creates.

 
Relationship Status:

Divorced – man that took me down a few notches. Apparently I’m not every woman’s dream. The experience made me cautious. I definitely plan to look before I leap the next time – and I’m sure there will be a next time, especially after I met that luscious, adorable, little redhead the other day.


Best Memory to date:

The day I got my first acting job. What a trip that was! It was just a bit part but it was my chance to prove I had what it takes to be a star. Of course, in those days, I thought it was all about being a star, hitting the big time. Luckily my family and my best friend, Pete, never let my head get too big and kept me grounded.
 

Worst Memory:

The day I realized that I was hurting Barbara, my ex, and knew she could never live in my world and I couldn’t live in hers. I don’t like failing and you can’t fail bigger than having your marriage end in divorce. I believe in ‘till death do us part’ and I really messed it up.

 
Typical Friday Night:

Attending a charity or industry function with a gorgeous woman on my arm – maybe on each arm since I need to keep up appearances. But if you really want the truth, I prefer a quiet evening at home with a few friends – no fans, no paparazzi – just being a regular guy.

 
Drink of Choice:

Tequila, straight up – no salt, no lime but I tend to drink wine when I’m with the ladies.

 
Favorite Food:

I was born and raised in Boston so I still crave a steaming bowl of clam chowder and if I’m anywhere near fresh-cooked fish & chips, I’m in heaven.

 
Favorite Song:

I know this is going to surprise people but I like jazz. Put on a Miles Davis or John Coltrane album and let me soar. Although I can also get lost listening to Billie Holiday or Sarah Vaughn.


Your Favorite Past time:

The sea has always fascinated my so I like long walks along the beach. Never got into sailing – it just wasn’t something a poor boy from Southie ever dreamed of doing – but walking along the shore or fishing off the pier – that I could do.

 
Your first impression of Julia:

I think what I said when I first met Julia sums it up best:

“Lady, if I were wearing socks, you would have just knocked them right off."  He ended with a formal bow, bringing her hand to his lips for a soft, brushing kiss.  On impulse, he reached for one of the soft, auburn strands that caught the fire of the sun as she moved from the shade of the trees. “Spun gold,” he murmured softly.

 

Learn more about Jason MacKenzie in “Julia’s Star” available on Amazon.


Synopsis

You chug along life’s highway, minding your own business, and all of a sudden - wham - something smacks you upside the head.  For smart and sassy widow, Julia Marlowe, it was something as simple as a flat tire that landed her squarely in the path of swashbuckling film star, Jason MacKenzie, who slams into her life with the force of an 18-wheeler.   

 
She doesn’t want to like the guy.  The lifestyle he represents stands contrary to everything she believes in.  He has that Hollywood ‘love-them-and-leave-them’ attitude written all over him – but despite her best intentions, he has a way of getting under her skin.  Besides, her kids like him and so far he hasn’t flinched at tarantulas, errant goats, space aliens and the chaos an active household creates. 

 
Then again, there is the little matter of his ex-wife, Barbara, who clings to Jason like plastic wrap on steroids.  Further complicating the situation is the 200 mile distance between the places they call home.  She has no desire to live in his world but can he possibly live the country life after the bright lights of the big city?  Can she trust a man who only has to smile to make millions of women’s hearts go pitter-pat to give her the happily ever after ending she seeks? 


Sit back and enjoy the fireworks in this smart, contemporary romance as Jason and Julia laugh, argue and circle each other as they try to figure out if this unlikely couple can make a go of it.