Friday, January 16, 2015

Dreaming of Books Giveaway Blog Hop


I am participating in the Dreaming of Books Giveaway Blog Hop, hosted by I Am A Reader, Not A Writer. This hop is scheduled to run January 16th-26th . To enter, all you have to do is follow my blog and leave a comment at the end of this post letting me know you are a follower and sharing a little bit about the last book you read: title, author, and a brief synopsis. I am looking forward to a great list! For additional entries, you can follow me on Twitter (click HERE), "like" my Facebook fan page (click HERE) or friend me on Goodreads (click HERE). Leave an additional comment for each additional entry. At the end of the week, one lucky winner will be chosen by a random number generator to receive a $10 Amazon gift card. Be sure to leave your email address with your comment so that I will know how to contact you should your name be selected. Click HERE for the links to the 150+ other blogs that are also doing book-related giveaways. All contests begin at midnight Eastern time tonight (Thursday); any entries received prior to that time will not be included in the drawing.

Happy blog hopping!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

One Zentangle A Day

There are no mistakes in Zentangle.
~ Beckah Krahula

As much as I enjoyed the Zentangle class I took in September, I was so busy making music in November and getting ready for Christmas in December that there was no time to tangle. Besides, I was getting frustrated. It didn't seem that my skill was improving and tangling began to feel more like a tiresome chore than a creative outlet. But one of my Christmas gifts, the book One Zentangle A Day, has me excited all over again.

Described as "a beautiful interactive book teaching the principles of Zentangles as well as offering fun, related drawing exercises," this book is perfect for beginners but offers me a good review of the basics while helping me build on my previous knowledge and take it to the next level. On Day 1, I practiced the patterns above; on Day 2, I learned three new patterns and combined several to create a "tile," or small square drawing.
Sometimes it takes me more than one day to master the new patterns and complete a tile, but that's okay.
Looking ahead, I see the book also covers more advanced techniques like shading and working with color.
If you would like to give tangling a whirl, this book is a great place to start. The only other things you need are a sketch pad and a fine point marker. Ready, set, tangle!

Monday, January 12, 2015

Enough is enough

Credit buying is much like being drunk. The buzz happens immediately, and it gives you a lift. The hangover comes the day after.
~ Joyce Brothers
Over the past ten years or so, I have accumulated so much credit card and student loan debt that fully acknowledging it throws me into mild state of panic. But enough is enough. And 2015 is the year I am going to actually DO something about it.

I discussed all this with my eighteen year old son several weeks ago and together we got the ball rolling. In December we researched internet, television and cell phone options and made changes to our current plans that will save us several hundred dollars a year. I also put together a budget that I implemented on January first and intend to stick with, no matter what. Then I cut up a pile of credit cards and determined that, moving forward, I will buy only things I absolutely NEED and not merely WANT and will pay CASH for it all. I will confess that I did hang onto a couple of credit cards, one that I use for groceries and gas and pay off each month and one that I can use in case of genuine EMERGENCY, at least until I am able to get an emergency fund in place. (Note to self: seeing a cute handbag at Tuesday Morning does not constitute an emergency.)

Rather than entertain myself with shopping, I will spend time with my piano, my beloved book and music collection, and the roomful of yarn and craft supplies I have accumulated over the years. I will not pay people people to cook food for me; rather, I will shop wisely for quality ingredients and cook healthy, affordable meals for my family and friends. I will get back to work on my fiction writing; I will diligent about listing new pieces in my Etsy store. If I keep my head on straight, I will be too busy making good use of things I already have to feel deprived.

I didn't get in this mess overnight, and it will take me several years to get out of it. But I am willing to do whatever it takes to achieve financial peace.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Make the Family Cookbook


I spent most of my Thanksgiving vacation putting together a family cookbook. It was hard not to blog about what I was working but since the cookbook was a Christmas surprise I had to wait until after December 25th. Now, finally, I can tell you all about it.

I started out with a boxful of loose recipes, a lifetime of photos, and no idea how to proceed. After spending several hours researching templates and websites to facilitate my project, I finally settled on this software (click HERE). It turned out to be perfect for my needs.

The process really was as simple as the website promised: I downloaded the software, chose my cover and section dividers, and began entering my recipes and adding photos. It turned out there were some compatibility issues with the Word for Mac version (and apparently that version has since been discontinued), but all it took was a few minutes on the phone with the company's great technical support person and I was back to work.

My cookbook ended up being 150 pages long and includes a heartfelt introduction and sections for appetizers, soups and stews, side dishes and salads, meat and main dishes, breads and muffins, cookies and candy, desserts, and breakfast along with pictures of everyone from great-grandparents my children barely remember to my brothers and me when we were small. When I thought it was finally finished, I printed a black and white copy and proofread and corrected it several times before accepting the fact that it would never be perfect. In the end, I submitted my Word document to the same company I purchased the cookbook software from; they sent me a PDF copy for approval before doing the final printing.

The finished cookbook appears in the photo at the top of this blog post. I gave copies to my parents, my brother and his wife, my children, and my niece. I even gave a copy to my ex-husband; peace on earth, goodwill to men, and all that. My sincere wish is that everyone who owns this little piece of family history will use it often and that it will become one of the most battered, soiled and stained cookbooks in his or her collection.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Welcome, 2015

Santa Pam wishes you a Happy New Year!
The last few weeks of 2014 were cluttered with worries and cares. Every time I thought nothing else could possibly go wrong, something did. I wanted to scream and cry and punch through walls and sleep until spring. None of these were options but something had to give. Finally, I threw my daily to-do list out the window. Beginning the week of Thanksgiving, I did only what I absolutely had to do and spent every other moment squeezing what joy I could from the holiday season. Some might call it denial but I called it survival. I decorated my house, made gifts for loved ones, wrote cards to faraway friends. I shopped online and baked snickerdoodles and listened to Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker and watched It's A Wonderful Life. I spent Christmas Eve with my children in metro Atlanta and Christmas night with my mom and dad and brother and sister in southern Illinois. Then I came home and hosted a dinner party on New Year's Eve, screaming "good riddance" to 2014 with friends, old and new, at midnight.

Welcome, 2015, and not a moment too soon.

***

This morning, I printed myself a new monthly checklist and revisited my bucket list, tweaked it a bit, and picked up where I left off in November. Although I am disappointed in the lack of progress on the bucket list - meeting, falling in love with, and becoming engaged to Mr. Wrong proved to be a huge setback - I am ready to let go of the past and get on with my life. 

First, though, I should myself credit where credit is due. I performed the first movement of Mozart's Piano Concerto in G minor in public (#24). I started 2015 ten pounds lighter than I started 2015 (#31). I updated my home and made a big dent in getting rid of everything I don't need or love (#33). I made a family cookbook (#45) and memory quilts (#46) and gave them as Christmas gifts. More on those two projects later this week. And yesterday I cut up most of my credit cards, put together a budget, and put together a plan for paying off all my debt (#63). It will take a few years but I plan to reward myself with that coast-to-coast drive across the United States (#14).

Time to get serious about making all those unfulfilled dreams come true.

***

I haven't decided upon my One Word for 2015 yet but I do have a motto.

All will be well.

It already is.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Sunday Brunch

I have a lot left to do before I'll be ready for Christmas but I still have to feed my family. And this is one of our favorite recipes. It's great for breakfast, lunch or dinner, it reheats well, and it's open to endless variation. Try substituting thinly sliced green and yellow squash for the mushrooms and spinach, ham for the bacon, or leave out the meat altogether. Try it; you'll like it!


Spinach, Mushroom and Bacon Quiche

Ingredients:
3 tablespoons butter or olive oil
1 large onion, thinly sliced
12 ounces baby bella mushrooms, sliced
1 box baby spinach
Splash balsamic vinaigrette
3 eggs
2 teaspoons dried parsley flakes
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon each garlic powder, dried basil and oregano
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 cups (8 ounces) shredded cheese, mozzarella or Italian blend
4 slices crisply cooked bacon, crumbled
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 pastry shell (9 inches)
Directions:
1. In a large skillet, saute the onion and mushrooms in butter or olive oil. Add spinach and cook until wilted. Finish with a splash of balsamic vinaigrette. Drain.
2. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, parsley, salt, garlic powder, basil, oregano and pepper. Stir in cheese, bacon and vegetable mixture. Spread mustard over pastry shell; add egg mixture.
3. Bake, uncovered, at 400° for 35-40 minutes or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean and crust is golden brown. Let stand for 5 minutes before cutting.

Monday, December 8, 2014

O Christmas Tree

Little things, little things, are much more more important than big things. Big things hit you in the face with their bigness and obscure the little, more important things that really define a life and provide it with delicacy.
― Lauren Roedy Vaughn

Now that my house is painted in Caribbean colors, I decided to go for a tropical vibe as I decorated for Christmas. The starfish tree topper I ordered from Etsy arrived Saturday. 


Now my beach-theme Christmas tree, studded with ornaments collected on cruise vacations, brightly colored glass balls, and paper drink umbrellas, is complete. 


Here are a few of my favorite ornaments. 

Ya, mon.
There is a brass ornament from every cruise ship I have sailed on.
Everyone knows Santa heads south on December 26th. 
Angel carved from a Bahamian conch shell.
I look forward to adding new ornaments to my collection and have lots of ideas for other decorations and accessories I want to make over the coming months in keeping with my theme. A seashell studded wreath for the front door. A garland of seashells to drop across the mantel. A patchwork tree skirt in Caribbean brights. A flamingo tablecloth for the dining room.

Because it really is the little things that add up to make a life.