Just take those old records off the shelf…

So I bought a record player.  Yep!  And not the kind you find in a second hand store – that’s where I bought my raspberry beret.

71axzRXL2oL._SL1500_It was an impulse buy.  I was actually shopping for Adele’s new album (25) on Amazon and noticed that it was available in vinyl.  Wha???  I had no idea you could still buy “new” vinyl.  I was intrigued!

So I typed in “record player” on Amazon and found this Jensen model that was the top seller and most reviewed.  It was only around $40 so I bought it.  Then I went back and picked up Adele’s new album on vinyl too.

I was born in the late 70’s and by the time I started embracing music outside of sing-song tunes meant for small children or songs I learned from Sesame Street, the 80’s were halfway over and so was the love of listening to records. I admit it. I was from the cassette generation. And what did that do for us? First, it made music more portable. Remember walkmans? And it gave us options in the car when we didn’t want to listen to the radio.

Cassettes also gave us the chance to record the radio. Remember making mix tapes and how pissed you got at the DJ for talking over the intro music to each song?  Then there was the cassette single.  If you didn’t like the whole album (or didn’t have a enough money) you could buy the single.  I was a single junkie. I remember I had half of someone’s album on singles and a friend asked me why I didn’t just say that money and buy the whole album because I might like it. I didn’t have an answer other than those cool little cardboard sleeves that singles came in each had different covers that were pretty cool.

But just like records, cassettes were delicate and easily damaged. Remember sticking a pencil into the hole to wind it back up, or how pissed you got when your player ate some of the tape and you had to try to pull it out? But with cassettes we also slowly began to sacrifice the quality of sound itself. We made music convenient, but we didn’t make it better, and that holds true with CD’s and MP3’s. Don’t believe me?

Plug your iPod into your car and adjust the bass and treble. Turn both of them up!  You’ll be surprised at all of the little background nuances and melodies you are missing out on through your ear buds. I never really noticed until I got my record player and plugged it up.  I was amazed at the difference in sound quality.  And nothing beats that pop and crackle.

Yeah, it’s nostalgic. I laughed at the thought of getting some milk crates for my “new” record collection. Might as well get some paper lanterns and a papasan chair too, huh? But the older I get, the more I like to reminisce about the good old days and let’s face it, we all have a soundtrack to our lives and chances are your glory days were set to music you played on records.  Eight track folks, that’s another blog post!

So after the player arrived on Saturday, I hit the consignment shop and loaded up with some faves. Call me nuts, but I’ll be buying some more. And I’m not getting milk crates but I did buy some nice wooden record holders that are stackable.

I know why we got away from records and all. Yeah, it’s hard to skip to the next song. You have to flip the record when side 1 is done. One of the new albums I bought is on two records, both sides. One side only has 3 songs on it! You also risk scratching it. Records take up a log of space too.  They aren’t very portable. But the sound quality is superb and what can I say…it’s fun!

So do yourself a favor and drag your old record collection out of the attic if you haven’t sold it on Craigs List already. And if you don’t have a record player, invest in this one. It’s one of the best impulse buys I’ve made in a long time.


It’s that time of year again…


Traditional Glitter House

…when I start making putz houses, also known as glitter houses.  Traditional glitter houses are made from cardboard and usually painted and covered in glitter. There’s usually a small hole in the back where you can insert a Christmas light.  It’s an old tradition that goes way back; you can often find old houses in antique stores these days!

Three years ago I discovered them online when I came across a blog where a lady was making them out of old holiday greeting cards. I decided I wanted to start making them too. It ‘s a lot of fun and just another way I can satisfy my creative urges. I made a few that first year and sold them to a coworker.

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The houses I made last year

Last year I decided to make twelve houses and I gave a set of six to my sister and to my mother as a Christmas gift. They loved them and couldn’t believe they were hand made.

This year I’m making them again. My plans are to make at least 18 of them.  I’m going to give another six each to my sister and mom so they can “grow” their putz village.  And I have an aunt who thought they were so cute so I’m going to make a set for her.

The problem is there aren’t a lot of patterns out there!  You can find lots of pictures of putz houses online, but there aren’t a lot of patterns available. Sure, I can use the patterns I have and just use different cards so the houses look different, but I’d like for the shapes of the houses to be different too.

I even searched Amazon hoping to find a book of patterns but only came across traditional cardboard DIY houses that are already assembled and just need painting.  I did find some H-O Scale books with pre-printed houses in them that you cut and paste to build a village for your model trains. There are several different versions available and I scored an out of print used copy for 85 cents.  I’m hoping it hasn’t actually be used and maybe I can utilize it for patterns, but for less than a buck if I can’t, then no loss really.

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One of last year’s houses I made

I am experimenting more this year with being an “architect” and drawing my own patterns using graph paper. So far I’ve made a cathedral and a barn. I might also attempt to make patterns that mimic some of the houses I’ve found online that I like that I can’t find patterns for.

It’s almost impossible to make one house from start to finish because of waiting for glue to dry. Right now I have one house done that just needs glitter added.  And I have four others all in different stages either waiting on glitter or waiting on accents and bases to be added.

It’s a fun project to work on when I come home from work and I’m in front of the TV and don’t feel like doing anything else. I’ll post pictures of some of this year’s homes once they are ready!



Ingredients of a Healthy Relationship – Part 5

375x321_lose_weight_fast_how_to_do_it_quickly_ref_guideIt’s been 45 days since I went (semi) meatless and so far I’ve lost 13 lbs!  By semi, I mean I only eat meat at lunch at work, and even then it’s probably only 2 or 3 times a week and it’s always a healthy portion. And never fast food!  My favorite “meat” lunches are one of those flavored Tuna Select packs or a chicken sandwich.  But most of the time I’m eating leftovers from the night before so that’s meatless. Breakfast and dinner through the week, and the entire weekend, is always meatless.

My sister read a Facebook post of mine about it and told my mom. My mom told me she didn’t know I was dieting. I happily told her I wasn’t dieting! She was also shocked to learn I’d lost that much weight just by cutting out meat.  It’s been too hot to walk or ride my bike so there’s been little exercise involved either.  But that will change soon when the temperatures start dropping as we get into the autumn months. I know from previous diets and trips to the gym that eventually you reach a plateau where the weight won’t come off.  I think amping up the exercise regimen will help then.

Two weeks ago we actually decided to go out to eat at The Pasta House for lunch on a Saturday.  We went in thinking we’d just get soup and salad.  That all changed when we picked up the menu. I decided I wanted pasta con broccoli and minestrone. John picked a mushroom risotto to go with his soup.  And it was very tempting so we got garlic bread to go with it and an appetizer of mushrooms.  We thought the plate of mushrooms would only be about 12 pieces.  Wrong!  It was about 48 pieces.  We probably didn’t even eat a dozen of them.  But we finished off the bread, soup, and pasta and took the mushrooms home. Total bill, including two teas to drink, was over $50 after tip!

It made us sick.  Not only was the bill disappointing, but the amount of food we ate made us feel gross.  The money could have bought groceries for a week or almost filled up both of our cars with gas.  And we didn’t touch the mushrooms at home so those got thrown away.  And that’s pretty much how I felt about the whole experience. We ate too much and we threw our money away. J agreed.  We’ll never do that again.

Some of you might still not be convinced that this is actually working. Even Mom couldn’t believe J had been completely without beef since late June, but it’s true. He even picked out the bacon from a recent can of baked beans we opened for a meal and asked that I not buy that kind anymore.

I’ll be the first to admit, it hasn’t been easy. Not only have we changed the way we eat, but that required us to change the way we shop and the way we cook.  I’ve probably searched for more recipes online over the past month than I ever did before.  And I am also saving money when I go to buy groceries (I do all the grocery shopping).  Meat is expensive and that alone added about $50 to the grocery bill every two weeks.  Now I shop every weekend for fresh ingredients and buy less. I also try to plan meals ahead for the week, and I rarely did that before.

I’ll say it again…we aren’t dieting.  We’ve still been snacking on cookies. We still enjoy toast with homemade jam. We bought an apple pie a few weeks ago and had it with ice cream.  J made a homemade black berry cobbler for us one week. Potato chips are still a weakness. I still drink diet soda and J still drinks root beer. So we are still enjoying sweets and such, but obviously only in moderation.  Hey, I gave up coffee in February. I’m not about to give up cookies.

Meatless Recipe #3 – Chili

chiliChili is one of those dishes that we consume in our house at least once a month, even in the summer. Nothing beats a pot of homemade chili. In the winter, I like to let it simmer in the crock pot all day on a lazy Sunday. Previously, I kept it pretty simple and made it with just chili beans, kidney beans, diced tomatoes, onions, chili sauce, hamburger meat, and seasoning.

Once we decided to go meatless, I started searching for vegetarian chili recipes online. Most of these recipes incorporate more vegetables like peppers, corn, or even celery into the recipe. To me, that’s not chili. That’s soup! So I wanted to stick to my original recipe and just eliminate the hamburger meat.

00011110849403_fullI started with a chopped onion which I sauteed for a few minutes on high heat in a large pot. Then I added a large 40 oz. can of chili beans as my base. Then I added two 15 oz. cans of diced tomatoes. I like Hunt’s diced tomatoes with sweet onions but any kind will do. Then, I added a 15 oz. can of Simple Truth Organic Tri-Blend Beans. I was tempted to had two cans but with the chili beans and one can of the Tri-Blend, I thought it had plenty of beans.

Next I added 1 packed of chili seasoning. Again, any kind will do. I always add a bit more chili 4293407348_c0865a8dd6_bpowder for taste anyway. Then I poured in half a bottle of chili sauce. I like Heinz Chili Sauce but will actually buy the generic brand most of the time because it’s cheaper and tastes the same.

Add salt and pepper for taste, and most of the time I add about a teaspoon of sugar. We have used a dash of cinnamon before instead of sugar. Yep, you read that right! Cinnamon!  I’ve also heard of people adding some dark chocolate to their chili. Give it a try sometime. But for this pot of chili, I used plain old sugar.

Product-Smart-Ground-Original_0At this point, I thought the chili tasted great but I had recently bought a new meatless ingredient that I was eager to try. I’d been saving it for tacos, but thought what the heck! It’s called Lightlife Smart Ground Original Meatless Crumbles. So, we added the entire box to the chili. It’s basically made from beans and only has 70 calories per 1/3 cup. And each serving has 11 grams of protein and less than 1 gram of sugar. And it was awesome!  Had I not told you what it was before tasting the chili, you probably would have never guessed that it wasn’t meat. It really helped “beef” up the recipe.

We eat our chili topped with a bit of sour cream, shredded cheese, and some corn chips. And it was amazing!  We’ve definitely perfected the recipe for meatless chili. Look out, winter, here we come!

Here’s your grocery list:

1 40 oz. can of chili beans (any kind)
1 large yellow onion – chopped
1 15 oz can of kidney beans or black beans or tri-bean blend
2 15 oz cans of diced tomatoes (do not drain)
1/2 bottle of chili sauce
1 pack of chili seasoning
1 box of Lightlife Meatless Crumbles
Salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon of sugar or cinammon

– Sautee the onion on medium heat for 5 minutes in a large pot
– Add all canned ingredients to the pot and stir
– Add chili sauce and seasonings and continue to stir
– Add the meatless crumbles and stir
-Bring just to a low boil and serve
– Top with cheese, sour cream, and corn ships

This recipe made about 6 large bowls (2 cups per bowl). That’s about 308 calories per serving, 23 grams of protein, and 15 grams of fiber. And if you watch what type of beans you use, it will have zero grams of fat!

How do you make chili?  What are some of your favorite staple ingredients for a pot of chili?

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Christians, Be Careful What You Say On Facebook

Shannon Yarbrough:

My thoughts exactly…

Originally posted on :

While the Bruce Jenner* controversy is at its peak, be very careful about what you are tempted to say about it on social media. Though your gut reaction might be to post a comment/article that articulates your disgust, I beg you to reconsider. Here’s a couple of reasons why.

  1. Many of you are either looking at porn, or something close to it. I know this because some of the pages and videos that you “like” on Facebook show up on my news feed. You probably don’t realize this, because you keep doing it, and I keep seeing it. Unfortunately, all sexual perversion is a result of human corruption. You have it, I have it too. But you might want to reconsider publicly shaming one perversion when you have another.
  2. Related to reason #1, you don’t understand the gospel. There is nothing wrong about outwardly expressing your disgust at sin. The…

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Notes on Consumption


No, this isn’t a post about old world tuberculosis.  It’s about “consuming” or even “consumerism,” the concept that an ever-expanding consumption of goods is advantageous to the economy.  Or in my case, how that said consumerism caused my food pantry to get out of control.  Which in a way is like tuberculosis in that it makes me sick just thinking about it.

I’ve blogged about this before, and here we are again.  I’ve been dreading it for some time, but thanks to the rain keeping us indoors on Saturday I finally broke down and decided to just do it. I cleaned out the food pantry.

Now, guessing from the photo you probably don’t believe me.  But believe me!  Just come over and inspect the two bags of trash in our dumpster or the numerous cardboard boxes and plastic bottles that filled up our recycle bin when I was done.

I started by removing all of the bottles of alcohol and all of the boxes of tea, and there was a lot!  We have a small kitchen cabinet on the wall that contained mixing bowls, shot glasses, tooth picks, lunch bags, cloth napkins, coffee filters, and other various things that don’t get used often. Earlier last week I decided I wanted to relocate all of that and so I did.  Now I had a new space for alcohol and tea!  Never mind the amount of old tea bags and old alcohol that I pitched.  Or the amount that’s still in the pantry because my cabinet filled up quick (alcohol in the back of the bottom left shelf, and tea on the bottom right). But suddenly, an entire space in the pantry was empty! I hear angels singing!

After some quick decisions on what to put where…baked goods, seasonings, canned goods, breakfast things, chips, snacks, pasta, and so on, the fun part came from deciding what to keep and what else to pitch. This pantry is both tall and deep which has both its positive and negative connotations. Positive:  there’s lots of space. Negative: there’s too much space and things get lost in the back, bottom, and very top. We have a few organization caddies in there as you can see, but I was almost tempted to jump in the car and go to the local organization store for more!

Instead, I combined things…like the 3 containers of cocoa powder we had, or the 3 half used bags of powdered sugar and the 2 bottles of cooking oil.  How does this happen you ask?  Like I said, things get lost and forgotten back there so we just end up buying more.

Then came throwing stuff out!  Oh what fun this was! We had so much freaking candy just buried in there – including Valentine’s candy from 2013!!  Christmas candy. Halloween candy. You name it. And there’s more. Half eaten bags of chips. Old cereal. Half used bags of beans. Old flavored coffees from holidays gone by, also half used. I already mentioned old tea – I threw out about six or seven half used boxes!  There were also about 3 half eaten boxes of Wheat Thins. I thought about processing these to use for breadcrumbs but we already had two cans of crumbs in there that I also combined into one.

Now, I know what you are thinking. How wasteful!  Yep, I agree. I was ashamed not only that my pantry had gotten so out of control but by how much junk food and half-used things we had that we didn’t finish and were no longer good. Or I knew we wouldn’t finish them if we hadn’t already, so I threw them out anyway. And like I said, two bags of trash and half a recycling bin later, my pantry was somewhat clean again. Or at least now I had a mental inventory of what we had.

I’m sure some of you out there suffer from sad pantry syndrome too but I’m not pointing any fingers. I’m also not going to wrap up this post with tips on how to keep your pantry clean when that’s advice I haven’t even been following. I’d like to think I’m a smart shopper.  I don’t stock up on things greedily if I don’t have the room. I like to save money. I like to talk about good deals and saving money with my friends.

But maybe what I really suck at is keeping an organized kitchen, or just like I said before…consumption. And isn’t everyone like that to some point?  We want to try new things so we buy new things and we get them home and don’t really like the new things so if we don’t have children (Hey Mikey! He likes it!) or can’t feed it to the dog, then we put said new things in the cabinet for some reason when what we should really do is cut our losses and throw it out or give it away. But then we think we are being wasteful. We paid good money for those new things.  Yep, and we also made poor decisions by even doing that but how will you know unless you try.  Yep, and how will you keep your pantry clean unless you admit to your mistakes and throw that shitty new thing in the trash.

So, there’s a life hack for all of us….don’t keep it. Give it away. Donate it. Or throw it away. I would have gladly donated some of my stuff to a local pantry but who wants half eaten boxes of Wheat Thins and old bags of Cherry Sours?  So I threw it all out. No regrets. This. Pantry. Is. Clean!

Stuck between a book and a hard title…

Two interesting things have happened to me this week.

First, I canceled my contract with the publisher of my upcoming book. There were no differences between us. No hardships. They are a micro publisher who only publish in Ebook format. My contract was signed over a year ago and due to delays often brought on by real life circumstances, they just haven’t gotten around to publishing my book. 48550518I’d been waiting patiently. I finally sought advice from a writer friend who told me what I wanted to hear. So, I sent an email asking if we could cancel the contract.

I got a quick reply that they were happy I sent the email they’d been unfortunately avoiding to send me. Like I said, no hard feelings between us. And so now, a book that I wrote in 2012 is finally free. I can do what I want with it. I can find another publisher. I can forget about it and sit on it a few more years if I want. Or I can get to work, reading it over again, giving it to my editor, polishing it, and ultimately publishing it myself.

And that’s what I’m going to do.

I think the last time I touched the manuscript was in 2013.  I’d forgotten most of it by now.  I wasn’t even sure if my heart was still in this book. Sure, deep down, I knew it was. It had to be in there if I wrote it. But sometimes when there is so much distance and time between us, the heart goes quiet.

I found the manuscript and read the last chapter a few nights ago and all the emotion kicked in and came flooding back. Yeah, there it is. I’m in this. My heart is in it. I knew it always was. So… let’s do this.

And so now I’ll proofread and polish it and turn it over to my editor in May. And while she weaves her magic, I’ll think about and work on a book cover (honestly, I’ve already started thinking about the cover). And when she’s done I’ll make the corrections she suggests. I’ll format it. I’ll send it to some beta readers. And then…I’ll release it out on its own.  And then I’ll celebrate. After three years of waiting, another one of my babies is all grown up and going out into the world to find its place in it.

Another good thing about doing it myself is that I can do a paperback version as well. The micro publisher only did E-Books.  There’s no money to be made in paperback books (but since when have I ever done this for money?) but it’s still nice to hold your physical book in your hand.  I also have family that don’t read E-books and prefer hard copies, so it’s nice to be able to do this for them too.

The second interesting thing that happened to me this week involves my work in progress that I started this year.  If you read my blog posts, then you saw me mention it in some of my Write or Wrong posts. I thought I was off to a good start but quickly lost steam and didn’t know what to do with it or where to go.  My editor suggested that maybe my thoughts were tied up with this finished book and what was going on with the publisher and all.  And I can see that. I definitely feel different about all of this today than I did yesterday.  So maybe that was affecting me creatively.

My biggest conflict this week, now that I am back on track with the work in progress, is what to call it.  I’m stuck between two titles and not even sure about either one of them at this point.  What do you think?  The first working title is “Late for His Funeral.”  It has a double meaning which would be revealed in the story.  The second is “If You Need Me” which is not as mysterious but also has meaning.  Any thoughts on which you like best?

I’m kind of hoping that as I continue to write it a brand new title will reveal itself to me and I can stop tormenting myself over choosing between these two.  But for now the working title is still Late for His Funeral.

So, I’ll have a new book out this year and I’m working on another one! Yay me!  Oh!  And I almost forgot to mention that this new book is the sequel to my second book, Stealing Wishes.  It tells the story of Auden and how he returns to Memphis to try to reconnect with Blaine.  It’s called Feeling Himself Forgotten. You can learn about it here! More news about it to follow as it develops!

Lone Writer’s Log Book: One Meal at a Time

Today’s trip to the grocery store, the first after reading Eat Nourish Glow by Amelia Freer.

  1. Tried out The Fresh Market, a new grocery/eatery that just opened here in St. Louis.  A bit pricey on some items. Couldn’t do all of my shopping here. But lots of good, new, and organic stuff that I want to try so I’ll definitely return.
  2. Bought strawberries, blue berries, black berries, and opal apples for breakfasts and fresh desserts. Had a bowl of fruit tonight after dinner with chia seeds, lemon juice, and some whipped cream. It was wonderful! Chia seeds don’t really have any flavor but they are a good healthy fat.
  3. Bought avocados, a healthy fat that I like but usually only buy to make guacamole. Will try it on salads and eggs soon.
  4. Bought Amish organic butter for cooking!
  5. Bought organic milk (also Amish) and unsweetened almond milk.
  6. Bought cage free, hormone eggs.
  7. Fresh Market stocks my new favorite tea – Revolution Tea – bought Earl Grey with Lavender
  8. I love Fresh Market’s deli counter. Picked out two pecan crusted chicken breasts for dinner.
  9. Went to my regular grocery store for other things including organic salad mix and other veggies. Found coconut oil for cooking, also organic!
  10. Cooked my pecan chicken breasts with coconut oil.
  11. Made pasta from zucchini, squash, and carrots using my new Veggetti Spiraler that I picked up at BB&B yesterday! Using a tool like this to make vegetable pastas was another suggestion from Freer’s books. It’s a healthy alternative to boxed pastas which are loaded with sugar and starch.
  12. Topped my veggie pasta with a Basil Pesto. Was going to make my own but found a nice one in a jar at Fresh Market.
  13. Dinner was awesome!
  14. Need to work on my breakfast meals now…incorporating a protein and green vegetable.

The Pages Hold My Secrets

Shannon Yarbrough:

I couldn’t have said it better. Words from a writer friend for your Friday.

Originally posted on It all started with Heathcliff:

To write fiction is to live in another realm wherein the author’s fantasies, wishes, dreams, daydreams, voices in the mind all roam free – experiencing adventure, romance, triumphant endings, and tis’ a win for the author as much as the reader once the words reach them. 

I know this, because it is my story – my books drip with the essence of my soul, my heart, my mind.

The pages hold my secrets … and my tears.

Where they are hidden, I will not tell (at least not now), but know I am in all of the pages. Every character in some way bears the visage of me or someone in my life or someone I want to know – someone I imagine as a part of my world.

Without time to write, I am not complete because I cannot live well without my dreams.

This is the crux…

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2014 In Review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 25,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 9 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.