Tuesday, December 31, 2013

What Will YOU Achieve in the Coming Year?

"If we write our dreams and goals down, we dramatically increase our odds of realization. If we share them with others, they become potent and alive."
~ Kristin Armstrong 

What are your plans for 2014? What do you hope to accomplish? Does writing it down and sharing with others really help you achieve your goals?

Last year at this time, I wrote down and shared three things:
  • I started Project DO to help me declutter and organize
  • I committed to being prepared for Christmas (and birthdays) well ahead of time
  • I jumped onto the Cake-a-Week bandwagon
Should have all been doable, right? I mean, really...won't I be decluttering and organizing during my regular cleaning? And wouldn't it be pretty easy to be prepared for Christmas way ahead of time if I just focused a little? And making a cake each week would be fun!

After a full year of Project DO and my formalized Christmas Prep, I've realized a few things. Firstly, I'm no good at documentation. I'm good at doing but fall down on the job when it comes to taking photos and posting about my progress. At first it's fun, as evidenced by the early posts. But then the novelty of talking about it wears off and I just quietly go about my business.

So did I accomplish my goals? Pretty much! I was mostly prepared for Christmas by Halloween and this is the lowest stress year I can remember. I also made some good progress on getting rid of stuff and neatening up what's left. But both these are ongoing projects. Christmas comes every year so I'll be prepping throughout the year every year. And there will never be an end to decluttering and organizing! But I'm not going to press myself to write about the minutiae. Who wants to read all the nitty gritty details anyway? I will try to do periodic updates, however, and will be sure to share if I find something especially cool.

As for making a cake a week - what insanity was that? We're a bunch of middle-aged folk who don't need the extra calories! But it was sure fun while it lasted.

As for the coming year, I'm giving myself until the end of January to come up with my 2014 goals.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Publishing Delay but Never Fear - Impossible Beyond This Point is Almost Here!

Getting Impossible Beyond This Point into finished book form has been a labor of love and a mega-challenge. While I optimistically projected (and repeatedly insisted - so much for positive thinking!) that it would be published in "late" 2013, I must now admit to myself and the world that it will not actually be done until some time in January 2014. But here's a peek at the cover. What do you think?

So...what happened?

Well, we had a few struggles selecting, scanning and formatting the 100 photos, which added weeks to the process. Then after all that seemed resolved, I found a few minor issues with the final proof and just can't let it go into print until it's as perfect as possible. In addition, the cover in real life is a little darker than it appears here, so we've got to adjust the color and contrast and whatever else needs adjusting. Of course, the proof came during the holidays when the key players in this project are running all around enjoying Christmas with family and taking some much earned time away from work. Anyway, while I'm disappointed that it isn't finished yet, we're all back on the job and it will be done SOON - yippee!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas...

I keep hearing Frank Sinatra in my head.

Have yourself a merry little Christmas
Let your heart be light
From now on, our troubles will be out of sight

Have yourself a merry little Christmas
Make the yule-tide gay
From now on, our troubles will be miles away

Here we are as in olden days
Happy golden days of yore
Faithful friends who are dear to us
Gather near to us once more

Through the years we all will be together
If the fates allow
Hang a shining star upon the highest bough
And have yourself a merry little Christmas now

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Another Reason to LOVE Kohls

I absolutely LOVE Kohl's. Not only do I get great deals on quality items (which translates into affordable gifts) AND (usually) free shipping AND (sometimes) Kohl's cash, they've now upped their game and sent me $25 for not getting my latest order to me in a timely manner. Granted, the items didn't arrive by the time I expected but weather-related delivery delays were happening all around so it certainly wasn't anybody's fault. So kudos to Kohl's for going the extra mile to keep their customers happy!

They weren't kidding when they came up with their logo...

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

How Are You Spending Your Energy?

"Too many of us are hung up on what we don’t have, can’t have, or won't ever have. We spend too much energy being down, when we could use that same energy - if not less of it - doing, or at least trying to do, some of the things we really want to do."    
      ~ Terry McMillan 

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

"Feeling grateful or appreciative of someone or something in your life actually attracts more of the things that you appreciate and value into your life."
~ Christiane Northrup

I think Christiane is on to something here. I'm most grateful for kids and grands and there seems a never-ending supply. Yippee!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Do YOU Have Starving Artist Syndrome?

I copied the following article (with permission, of course!) from an e-zine sent out by Morna McEver Golletz, founder and CEO of the International Association of Creative Arts Professionals (formerly the International Association of Professional Quilters).

Morna McEver Golletz is the founder and CEO of the International Association of Professional Quilters, an association to help quilters, fiber artists and other creative arts entrepreneurs build business success. Her weekly e-zine offers tips, techniques and inspiration to help you craft business success from your creative arts passion. You can sign up for a F.R.E.E. subscription at http://www.professionalquilter.com.

If you're an artist or crafter, are you being fairly compensated? As a quilt-making professional, I've struggled with pricing and specializing in custom memorial quilts doesn't make it easier! But my price-setting problems have nothing to do with beliefs about art or artists or money, and everything to do with compassion for those who have lost a loved one - although I need to be fairly compensated for my time, I want memorial quilts to be as affordable as possible for people in their time of grief. My answer in part is to freely share my expertise to help others make memorial quilts on their own, and I'm also publishing patterns so that even a sewing novice can create a custom memorial quilt.

How about you? How do you price your art? Are you fairly compensating yourself for your time?

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Have You Hugged Your Loved Ones Today?

Beings I create custom memorial quilts, I frequently talk to folks who have lost someone close - a parent, a spouse, a child. In an email a few days ago was a nugget of wisdom that I just had to share. We always assume we'll have another chance...and another...and another...but I'm reminded on a regular basis that time often runs out without warning.

"Heal rifts if there are any, and hug your loved ones. Tell them you really love them and HOW they matter to you. It is important, and you may never get another chance."
~ Mary S. 


What have you left unsaid? Are there any relationships you need to mend? Do your loved ones know what they mean to you?

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Clever Toilet Paper Holder

antique laundry plunger

What do you think? Is this clever or what? In case you don't know, it's a Rapid Washer laundry plunger. What's a laundry plunger? Well, it's a nifty tool to make washing your clothing by hand easier. Easier than what? Definitely easier than a scrub board! If you don't believe me, give each a try and see if I'm right.

Anyway, we just posted this beauty (sans tp, of course) to my SIL's Etsy shop and needed a place to store it until it sells. After seeing one holding toilet paper while researching antique laundry plungers, I decided to put this one to use. I do hope it sells soon, however, as it doesn't go with my upcoming beach cottage bathroom makeover.

But this did give me an idea...

Why not use your toilet plunger to hold extra toilet paper? Even more clever than using a laundry plunger, don't you think? I mean, really, everyone needs to have a toilet plunger handy but you rarely need to use one. It's also nice to have extra toilet paper close by. Why not pair the two?

I know - who wants their toilet paper touching their (potentially) nasty plunger? Nobody. But I have the answer. Without giving too much away, I'll just leave it at that and post about my solution at some future time.

In the meantime, if you find you just can't live without a truly rusty crusty antique laundry plunger for your rustic, country, primitive, cabin or farmhouse decor, head on over to Rough and Rustic on Etsy and we'll be happy to send you this one!

Very, very rustic!
And very, very rough.
Want an antique 'Rapid Washer' of your very own?

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Beach Cottage Bathroom Decor

We're planning to update our bathroom soon and I've been all over the internet looking for ideas. I'm already set on the whole beach cottage feel and wanted to find a picture or two on which to base the new decor. I found a few professional photos and paintings that I really like but they're all a little pricey. Then I realize - duh! - I took some photos when I was in Hawaii several years ago. So...

Don't you love the color of the water? Now I just need to get these printed out and hung up where I can enjoy them while we continue planning.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

What Have YOU Always Wanted to Do?

"One day you will wake up and there wont be any more time to do the things you've always wanted. Do it now."
~ Paulo Coelho
This is why we're driving to Alaska next summer...
What are YOU going to do while you still have time?

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Affordable Care Less Affordable Under the Affordable Care Act

I just did some research and found that "affordable care" will actually cost me twice as much under ObamaCare. So...how is that "affordable"? In addition, not only is the cheapest plan available to me in 2014 more than double what I could have in 2013, I'll also have far fewer choices - from the current 27 down to only six! These screenshots from eHealth comparing my 2013 and 2014 choices tell the story better than I can.

2013 - 27 plans starting at $226/mo

2014 - 6 plans starting at $456/mo

But won't I get a tax credit to help pay for my health insurance? At this exact point in time, NO. Why? Because I live in a Medicaid-expansion state and my income is below 138% of the federal poverty level, so I DON'T HAVE A CHOICE - in my current situation, if I want to avoid Medicaid, I can either buy health insurance privately or pay the penalty for being uninsured.

Now let's do the math...

The lowest-priced plan available for me in 2014 is $456/month, which comes to $5472 per year, which is a hefty chunk of change for a couple with an income of less than $20,000. If I refuse to play and choose to pay instead, my penalty for 2014 will be about $200. Hmm. Nearly $5,500 or $200 - sure doesn't take a financial genius to figure this one out!

Let me be clear - I am not currently eligible for premium assistance because I qualify for Medicaid. Well, that's great! It's free health care, right? NOT! I will not be forced onto Medicaid for one very good reason that you can read about in a previous post.

So...what to do? Well, fortunately I don't have to decide today. In fact, this first year only, I have until the end of March to figure it out. And I do have a few ideas, which I'll share as they unfold.

Have you figured out how YOU will fare under ObamaCare?

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

What is Craftsy and Why Should YOU Take a Class Online?

What is Craftsy?
Craftsy offers online classes to a worldwide craft community. Craftsy also provides a marketplace where independent designers (like me!) can sell their patterns; a supplies shop so  you can get deals on yarn, fabric and class kits; and a section where members share pictures of their crafting  successes. Craftsy has over two million members and is growing daily. With classes in quilting, sewing, knitting, painting, photography, cooking, and more, there's something for just about everyone!

Why should YOU take a class online?
Online education is a great alternative to the traditional classroom and is undoubtedly the wave of the future! Craftsy courses give you world-class instructors right in your home, whenever it's convenient for you.

Busy schedule or unable to leave home? No problem - with Craftsy courses, you can learn at your own pace anytime you want. Want to learn a new skill? Online classes allow you to watch and re-watch as many times as you want to perfect a technique - and you can refer back later, if needed.

And Craftsy even has a variety of FREE classes! So...what are you waiting for? Head on over to Craftsy and find or renew your passion for crafts!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Finally Jumped on the Pinterest Bandwagon!

I may be sorry but I've finally joined Pinterest. Why did I join? Because my mom showed me all the cool stuff she's been pinning to her Cleaning Up After Myself and Nifty Tricks boards. Why might I be sorry? Because I just don't need one more thing to complicate my life - I'm trying to simplify and adding to an already full plate usually makes things more hectic and complex. But if I can use Pinterest to keep track of things I want to revisit, maybe it will simplify my life. Just think - no more searching for recipes or ideas I find that I want to try ... someday.

So I had my first real 'pin' today - something I stumbled across online that I want to try later but would lose  or forget if I bookmarked it or added it to my favorites or whatever on my browser. Now when I want to actually make 15 meals ahead, all I have to do is go to my Cool Ideas Pinterest board and there will be the link to the blog post with the directions. Well, I guess then I'll have to actually prepare the food for the meals but...

I'm hoping that I can use Pinterest to quickly and easily re-find things online rather than have it become a total time waster. So far, with the exception of the first day on the site, I haven't wasted any time just surfing pin boards - but I can see there's looming danger...

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

What's Your Personal Calling?

"I've come to believe that each of us has a personal calling that's as unique as a fingerprint - and that the best way to succeed is to discover what you love and then find a way to offer it to others in the form of service, working hard, and also allowing the energy of the universe to lead you."

~ Oprah Winfrey

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Why a Moon Roof is a BAD Idea

I'm starting to think my car is jinxed. Keep in mind it had to get new roof and hood skins last spring due to snow damage. And now look at what happened when a limb fell...

This is why I never wanted a window in the top of my car!

Monday, September 30, 2013

Urgent ObamaCare Warning for Lower Income Folks 55 and Over

Attention lower-income adults 55+ in the USA - you may be forced onto Medicaid under ObamaCare! That’s right - if you're uninsured and your income qualifies you for Medicaid, you don’t have a choice.

Health care at no cost to you – what’s not to like? Well, it’s called estate recovery. And if you end up a member of a managed care organization it’s even worse. And where I live, everyone on Medicaid is managed by Partnership HealthPlan, which is a managed care organization that administers California’s Medicaid program, known as Medi-Cal, in some counties.

Well, here’s a little tidbit from Partnership HealthPlan’s Member Handbook, page 18, “The State of California must seek repayment of Medi-Cal benefits from the estate of a deceased Medi-Cal beneficiary for services received on or after the beneficiary’s 55th birthday. For Medi-Cal beneficiaries enrolled (either voluntarily or mandatorily) in a managed care organization, the State must seek recovery of the total premium/capitation payments for the period of time they were enrolled in the managed care organization. Additionally, any other payments made for services provided by non-managed care providers will also be recovered from the estate.”

If you’re going to die with nothing, I guess this doesn’t affect you. If you’ve worked and saved to amass a few assets to leave to your kids despite the fact that your income happens to be under 138% of the federal poverty level, you’re screwed. Well, I guess technically it’s your kids that are screwed.

But don’t take my word for it. I’m no expert and it would be nice if someone could prove all my research has been in error. Just do a Google search for ‘Medicaid estate recovery’ and see what you find. But be sure to dig deep and also find what the rules are in your state – some just recover for long-term care as required by the feds while others (like California) recover for everything. And be sure not to confuse Medicaid with Medicare, which currently isn’t part of the estate recovery scene.

Bottom line is that if you are 55 or over and get signed up for Medicaid, whether voluntarily or not, you are agreeing to your state recovering anything spent on your behalf through the program. Even if you NEVER use Medicaid one time, if you're a member of a managed care organization, you will be accruing indebtedness to the state each month (through capitation payments for your managed care) that may be recovered from your estate. So before you apply for your mandatory ObamaCare, you’d best be figuring out whether you’re going to be forced onto Medicaid and what your long-term consequences are.

So...what's your plan for dealing with ObamaCare?

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Will You Keep Going?

"It may take little time to get where you want to be, but if you pause and think for a moment, you will notice that you are no longer where you were. Do not stop – keep going."
~ Rodolfo Costa

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Almost Ready for Christmas!

Well, it's September - nearly the end of September, to be exact. So...am I prepared for Christmas yet? My goal was to have everything Christmas-related done by the end of Oct. With just one month left, am I on schedule? Hmm...

I have been ahead of the game on birthdays all year and do have several Christmas gifts in reserve - my buying frenzy last winter has really paid off! Plus, not only have I decreased my stress level this fall, I also saved a ton of money. Buying things online that were super on sale is definitely the way to go! But with some items, I still have to figure out exactly who gets what. I've got lots of kids on my list and bought a dozen or so games and just need to allocate them by age/interest, but that won't be too hard.

I also need to decide whether I'm making fudge for Christmas gifts this year, and if so, I need to do it soon. I discovered years ago that I can make it ahead of time and then freeze it with great results, which saves all the last-minute stress of giving a homemade treat. I just cut it to size, double wrap it in plastic food wrap and pop it in the freezer where it won't get buried or dinged up. When it comes time to wrap it, I pull out what I need and pop it in the appropriate box and voila! Instant gift!

So...are YOU almost ready for Christmas?

Saturday, September 21, 2013

WhoKnew Cookie Review

I recently had a $5 CVS extra bucks coupon that I had to spend before it expired and went into the store planning to buy Oreos. Well, Oreos were not on sale but right next to them was a similar looking cookie that was! WhoKnew is supposed to be a healthy Oreo alternative, I guess. So...two packs of WhoKnew for $5 or one pack of Oreos for $5.79...not too hard to decide!

But how do WhoKnew cookies taste? Well, they're definitely NOT Oreos. But they are a decent substitute. The cookie part is fine but the filling is...gritty. My sweetie said it was like eating chalk but I think it may be more like crushed up calcium pills. Never having eaten either, I can't say for sure.

What I like best about WhoKnew cookies is that you CAN have just a few. A serving size is three cookies and that's plenty. It took us a couple days to go through the one pack that sat open on the counter within easy reach of four snackers, so what does that tell you?

I've often wondered what kind of addictive ingredient is in Oreos. I mean, is it just the high fructose corn syrup that makes you crave more and more and more...or do they put something more sinister in there, too? Seriously, can you eat just one? Can you eat just one package?

Substituting WhoKnew cookies for Oreos will save us calories (we'll eat less) and maybe even give us a little nutritional boost. Who knew?

Monday, September 16, 2013

Grammarly Pro Review

Grammarly offered a free 48-hour Grammarly Pro sneak peek that just happened to coincide with the completion of my edits on Impossible Beyond This Point. I've come to realize over the years that it's impossible to catch every error, especially when you've read the same text over and over and over...so I was pleased to have the opportunity to check my work and test-drive Grammarly.

Before I get into specifics of my brief experience using Grammarly, I'd like to comment on the pricing structure. It's set up as a membership with a monthly cost (currently) of $29.95, but if you pay quarterly or annually, you get a price break. Submissions are limited to "300 documents or 150,000 words in any 30-day period, or 100 documents or 50,000 words in any 24-hour period." While this may be generous enough for most folks, my document was nearly 150,000 words spread over nearly 40 chapters, which may explain why I had some of the problems with slowness, hanging up, etc.

Theoretically, I should have been able to check my entire document during the 48-hour trial but Grammerly online bogged down. What I don't know is whether the 24-hour period is really 24 consecutive hours that start when you first access the service, or if it's by the day (midnight to midnight). You can also download a plug-in for Word to use without page/word limitations, which I didn't plan to do just for a trial but...

After realizing I was probably very close to (or maybe over?) the limit, I hit the cute little button that said I could download it to my computer. After that was done, I was able to check the rest of my document but still had to break it into smaller chunks. But that's ok - that's what chapters are for, right?

Is Grammerly Easy to Use?

Grammerly is easy to use. Online, you just paste in or upload your text and then wait a few minutes for the results. You can go through the suggestions right then (I recommend this) and/or download a report. The report is very detailed but much harder to read than when online. Don't get me wrong - the report is valuable, but it's not fun like the online results.

If you download Grammarly as a add-on to your Word program, it functions similar to the online version but is not organized by category of error so you have to go through them in order, just as they appear in the text. I got spoiled with the categorization online and really didn't like not having that feature. Oh well.

Does Grammarly Work?

Grammarly did catch quite a few things that I may or may not have seen during the final hard-copy proofing phase. Thanks to Grammarly, I will have way fewer corrections to make when I get the proof copies. Yay! In Impossible Beyond This Point, I'm not too concerned with run-on sentences and don't want to overpopulate the text with commas. I know - to be correct, you need a lot of commas. But I made a stylistic decision to go with the 'less is more' philosophy. Much of the book is dialogue and natural conversation doesn't include a lot of commas. Breathing, yes - commas, no. Additionally, I know you're supposed to have a comma after and or but or so or whatever you have separating your independent clauses. But here's the thing...

Although the sentence may have two parts that can stand alone (i.e. independent), if the second stand-alone sentence wouldn't exist (i.e. in real life, whatever it is wouldn't have happened) without the first, I'd rather tie them closely together instead of set them apart. Maybe it's just me. Maybe I'm wrong from a technical standpoint. But from a creative-writing/reader-friendly standpoint, I left them out. We'll see how I feel when I get the proof copy - I reserve the right to change my mind.

My Verdict on Grammarly

While Grammarly did a great job on some things and I'm really pleased with the actual errors it caught, it also flagged a ton of non-errors. For instance, it doesn't seem to understand dialogue and suggests commas in the oddest places. It also repeatedly made odd suggestions, such as:
  • drivingly for driving
  • ably for able
  • developed for followed
  • power for right
  • everything for things
  • carry for take
  • many for much or several
  • evening for afternoon and night for evening
  • must for needed
I also think I must have hit the wrong language choice when I started out because I had UK English spellings popping up, but I couldn't find anywhere to change the language preference so just ignored them.

I much preferred the online version to the Word add-on version because it was considerably less cumbersome. That being said, I did encounter problems online, which include:
  • Froze up and wouldn't let me navigate at all or forced me to navigate through sections I didn't want to check.
  • Stopped working repeatedly and may or may not fix on refresh.
  • Cumbersome to use with my browsers, but this is probably one my end (I had to have it open in both Internet Explorer and Firefox to fully use the features).
 So...would I use Grammarly again? YES! Am I going to rush out to subscribe? No. I wouldn't use it enough to warrant an ongoing subscription, but I do plan to buy myself a month's worth the next time I have a manuscript ready to publish. I'm certain it well worth the monthly subscription fee to catch those remaining elusive errors before a book goes to print.

Thanks for the sneak peek, Grammarly!!!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Homemade Cooler - No Electricity or Ice Required!

In editing Impossible Beyond This Point, I came across mention of a 'swamp cooler' Virgil had built to keep perishable foods cool during the summer without any power, fuel or ice. Thinking there should be a little more detail than just that, I made my hubby sit down long enough to tell me briefly how Virgil built it and here's what we've got:

"The swamp cooler consisted of a box made from old wooden fruit crates covered with burlap and chicken wire with a door on the front side. A section of garden hose fed an aluminum trough with holes drilled in it to allow the water to drip down over the burlap. On legs made from wooden poles, the cooler sat about four feet off the ground in the shade where it could catch any available breeze and it kept their food cool but not cold."

Pretty cool, huh?

Monday, September 9, 2013

Impossible Beyond This Point Book Almost Done!

Joel Horn, Author
I've been working on editing and polishing Impossible Beyond This Point and it's nearly done! As I mentioned way back in April 2012 (where did the time go?), my sweetie is combining parts of his mom's book with his dad's unpublished manuscript and adding technical detail and his perspective to round out the remarkable story of how they moved to the wilderness back in the 1960s and created a self-sufficient life. My goal was to have proof copies by June and have it published in early fall but I'm a little behind. I'm hopeful it will be available in print and digitally by the end of this year, however. Wish me luck!

I have managed to get the start of a website, so that's pretty good, right? It's just got a little info on the authors and back-story at this point but will eventually include lots of pictures, some recipes and other info that doesn't make it into the book. So check out the Impossible Beyond This Point website and let me know what you think!

Yes, this really was their home when they first moved to the Flat.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Improve Your Photography with an Online Photography Class

Would you like to join a world-class photographer on location? Want to know more about portraits and lighting? Well, now you can by taking one of Craftsy's new online photography classes. Craftsy is working hard to revolutionize online education with highly interactive courses and there are six specific to photography. So check them out!

Courses currently available:
Shoot It: Product Photography Class - How you can take great photos. No expensive software or fancy camera required!

Kirk Tuck: Studio Portrait Lighting - Equipment, setup and lighting techniques for professional-quality studio portraits.

Portraits With an On-Camera Speedlight - Learn advanced on-camera flash techniques with Neil van Niekerk.

Landscape Photography: Great Sand Dunes - Join Rick Sammon and learn how to take breathtaking landscape photos.

Shooting Intimate Landscapes - Join Rob Sheppard to find beauty on a small scale.

Off-Camera Flash Photography with Neil van Niekerk - Expert flash techniques help you show your subjects in their best light.

For your convenience, I've added links to each of the classes. FYI - links are affiliate.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Fidgeting for Weight Loss

I'm just finishing up a really interesting class through Coursera on Nutrition and Physical Activity for Health. During the past week, we've been studying energy balance and how calories are burned both during activity and at rest at various rates depending on individual metabolism and other factors. This got me to thinking about fidgeting. Can increasing your fidgeting help with weight maintenance or weight loss?

I remember being told as a kid to stop fidgeting. After all, what teacher wants a fidgety kid? It's disruptive to the rest of the class, right? I wasn't particularly fidgety so it wasn't a problem for me to stop. But now I think I'm sorry I did. How many calories would I have burned over the past 40+ years if I had continued to fidget?

Right here on the home front, we have an example of how this works in real life. We're all in our 50s now (there are five in our little non-random sample) and experiencing various rates of middle-age spread, some more than others. After I got onto this whole fidgeting thing, it occurred to me that the one member of our little group who has gained the least weight with age is the one who is fidgety. He rarely sits still. I've been watching him closely over the past few days and now it's no secret to me why he eats more than the rest of us but isn't getting broader.

I realize fidgeting isn't the whole story here. There are many other factors involved in weight maintenance but I think increasing my level of fidgeting is worth considering. Like any other habit, it seems fidgeting can be learned so I think I'll start swinging my foot while sitting here at the computer with my legs crossed and see how it goes for me.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Is Your Life Your Own?

"The best day in your life is the one in which you decide your life is your own. No apologies or excuses, no one to lean on, rely on, or blame. The gift is yours. It is an amazing journey — and you are alone and responsible for the quality of it. This is THE day your life really begins."
~ Bob Moawad

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Easy and Delicious Blackberry Cobbler

Homemade blackberry cobbler - yum!
August is here and we've got blackberries ripening all around. We're not at the height of the season yet but it's getting close!

If you've got blackberries and want to make an easy dessert, look no further. I've used this recipe for over 40 years and it's always a hit. Giving credit where credit is due - thanks, Mom!


  • 2 c blackberries
  • ¼ c butter
  • ½ c sugar
  • 1 c flour
  • 2 t baking powder
  • ¼ t salt
  • ½ c milk
  • ½ c sugar (yes, another ½ c!)
  • 1 c berry juice (crush some berries and add water to make a full cup, if necessary)


  1. Cream butter and ½ c sugar.
  2. Mix flour, baking powder and salt together and add to creamed mixture alternately with milk. Stir until smooth to form a thick batter.
  3. Spread batter in greased 8"x8" pan and top with berries.
  4. Sprinkle ½ c sugar over the berries and pour juice over top (yes, really - pour it over the top!).
  5. Bake 45-50 minutes at 375 degrees F.

I don't even have to ask for a rating on this one - I know from previous experience that it's a favorite and rates just below cherry pie, so we'll say 12/10 served plain and 14/10 if you add a scoop of vanilla ice cream. How's that for creative ratings?

Monday, August 5, 2013

A Different Take on Alzheimer's Disease

"People think it's a terrible tragedy when somebody has Alzheimer's. But in my mother's case, it's different. My mother has been unhappy all her life. For the first time in her life, she's happy."
~ Amy Tan

Friday, August 2, 2013

Easy Pumpkin Bread

With pumpkins on the vine, I thought it might be a good idea to do something with some of last year’s pumpkin. I usually make muffins but my favorite recipe only calls for ¾ cup and I had 2½! So I improvised and came up with two loaves of delicious pumpkin bread. The following recipe is my modification on several and the next time I make it, I’m going to modify it even more and cut the sugar down to 1 cup. If you have home-pureed pumpkin, use the recipe as is. If you’re using the canned stuff (plain pumpkin, NOT pie filling) add ⅔ cup water with the wet ingredients.

  • 3¼ c flour
  • ½ t baking powder
  • 2 t baking soda
  • 1 ½ t salt
  • ½ t nutmeg (optional but yummy!)
  • 1 t pumpkin pie spice
  • 2 c sugar (I’m cutting the sugar in half next time)
  • 4 large eggs. beaten
  • ½ c oil
  • 2½ c home-pureed pumpkin
  • 1 c chopped walnuts (optional but put them in, ok?)
  1. Mix the dry ingredients (sugar too!) together with a wire whisk.
  2. Stir in the wet ingredients with a wooden spoon.
  3. Stir in the walnuts.
  4. Pour the batter into 2 greased loaf pans.
  5. Bake 50-60 minutes at 350 degrees F.

As usual, this was a big hit and scores right up there with banana bread at 8/10. Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Just Get Rid of It!

"If something's not working in your life – no matter how attractive it seemed when you took it on – get rid of it."
~ Stacey Curnow

Project DO got derailed early on and I haven't posted about it since. Oops. And now we're 58% done with the year! How did that happen? Ok - so it's the end of July. Ok - so I haven't accomplished all that I wanted and don't seem to be headed in the right direction to do so. What should I do? Give up? I think not!

So...what happened, anyway? Well, we spent a couple of months away from home half the time, during which and after I finished five memorial quilts in record time (aren't deadlines great?). Then we went north for a couple weeks. And then I've been working on the book that was supposed to be published in draft and to the beta readers in June. Hmm. I'm not impressing myself here...

So did I accomplish any Project DO tasks? Actually, yes. I've filled and sent several boxes to the thrift store and gotten rid of three (yes, 3) huge garbage bags of 'trash' - I may be the queen of re-purpose most of the time but there are some things even I can't find another use for! Which brings me to the above quote...

Many things I hang on to no longer work in my life and I need to just get rid of them. I think I'll post Stacy's quote in each room so I can keep it firmly in mind. How about you? What isn't working that you can get rid of?

See? I did get something done...

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Kapoosh and July Christmas Prep Report

We're only five months away from the big day! How did that happen? Well, things are moving along nicely on the Christmas prep front although I think I'm going to have to pick up the pace come September if I plan to be done with my Christmas shopping by October 31. But it's summer... And the grandkids are coming for a week... Do you suppose my procrastination and excuses is what got me in trouble before?


I've discovered the coolest thing! It's a Kapoosh. Yes, that's really the name. And in case you couldn't tell, it's a counter top knife holder. No more trying to figure out what silly slot to put each knife in. With the Kapoosh, you just stick them anywhere you want. It's got plastic 'Freedom Rods' that separate to allow room for the blades and keep them securely in place. And yes, I tried to find replacement rods or something similar so I could make my own but no luck - so I'll have to buy one already made. And if I can find them on sale, guess what a couple of folks on my list are getting for Christmas?

Thursday, July 18, 2013

How to Double Your Success Rate

"Would you like me to give you a formula for success? It's quite simple, really. Double your rate of failure. You are thinking of failure as the enemy of success. But it isn't at all. You can be discouraged by failure or you can learn from it, So go ahead and make mistakes. Make all you can. Because remember that's where you will find success."
~ Thomas J. Watson

Monday, July 15, 2013

Belly Fat Blues

I just started Nutrition and Physical Activity for Health through Coursera and found that measuring your waist to help screen for possible health risk is NOT the same as measuring for clothing size. Dang! If I measure correctly, I'm teetering on the brink of too fat around the middle. So now I'm signing the belly fat blues.

I've been measuring my waist for close to 50 years. My mom taught me to sew as a kid and my baby doll pajamas even won third place in the adult division at the county fair when I was only 8. I also took sewing in high school (remember Home Ec?) so I learned how to properly take measurements under the watchful eye of Mrs. Giovanetti. Well, from a belly fat measuring perspective, I've been doing it all wrong.

How to measure belly fat

Measuring for clothing is easy. Just wrap the tape around the smallest part of your middle and don't cheat by pulling too tight. That's it. Measuring your waist circumference for health assessment happens in a whole different area - lower, where you have more girth. Yikes! So instead of being a couple inches below the danger zone, I'm right at the limit with no wiggle room.

If you'd like to be depressed, too, just grab your trusty dusty tape measure and raise your shirt...and you'll probably have to lower you pants, as well. Feel around on your hip bones slightly to the front, looking for the highest spot of the bend. Don't cheat by feeling the highest part toward the back or your measurement will be wrong. Once you've found the right spot, measure around with your tape level. NOTE: You'll be measuring below the navel.

How fat is too fat?

Risk of things like heart disease and Type 2 diabetes goes up once your waist exceeds 35 inches for women and 40 inches for men. Remember - a larger waist doesn't automatically mean that you'll have health problems, only that you're at higher risk.

So am I too fat around the middle? Yep - probably so. I've always carried weight around my middle and this hasn't improved with age. Now I just hope the class gives me some doable ideas to edge back away from the precipice!

Care to join me?

Interested in Nutrition and Physical Activity for Health? It's not too late to sign up for this 6-week class, and it's free. Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The Gift of Choice

"Our human capacity to choose how we use each day, however limited our choices, is a gift." 
~Arthur W. Frank, At the Will of the Body

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Super Simple Banana Nut Bread

Banana nut bread - yum!
At this rate, I'll be lucky to post a cake a month! Well, my intentions were good but life got in the way. And I tanked on a few pounds (not from eating cake, fyi) so didn't feel like having regular extra desserts. But all excuses aside, we ended up with some overripe bananas, so...

Want a super simple banana nut bread recipe? Well, look no further! Try this delicious treat the next time you have a few overripe bananas. And if you don’t have nuts, or just don’t like them, go ahead and leave them out.

  • 3 or 4 ripe bananas, mashed
  • ⅓ c melted butter
  • ¾ c sugar
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 t vanilla
  • 1 t baking soda
  • pinch of salt
  • 1½ c flour
  • ½ c walnuts, chopped

  1. Mix together mashed bananas and melted butter and then stir in sugar, egg and vanilla.
  2. Stir baking soda and salt into flour and then stir dry ingredients into wet ingredients.
  3. Fold nuts into batter and spread in a greased loaf pan.
  4. Bake 50-60 minutes at 350 degrees F.
This is a favorite at our house and rates about 8 out of 10. (Not sure if that’s because it’s so darn good or if it’s maybe just that much better than eating the overripe bananas!)

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Free Online University Courses!

Did you know that you can take university courses online for FREE? Well, I didn't - at least not until I discovered Coursera, "...an education company that partners with the top universities and organizations in the world to offer courses online for anyone to take, for free" and believes "...in connecting people to a great education so that anyone around the world can learn without limits." How totally too cool is this???

The first course that caught my eye was Diabetes: Diagnosis, Treatment and Opportunities through UCSF. As the granny of a lovely 12-year-old Type 1 diabetic, I'd like to know all I can about diabetes and am especially interested in Week 5: Frontiers/New Horizons, where I hope to learn about treatment options that may be available in the not-too-distant future. But this course doesn't start until October so I found two more to take in the meantime.

Right now, I'm taking The Social Context of Mental Health (University of Toronto) and will start Nutrition and Physical Activity for Health (University of Pittsburgh) mid-July. I wanted to get a feel for the learning platform and easily found many courses I'd love to take - and it was really hard, but I limited myself to just the two (so far...).

The site is pretty easy to figure out - if I can do it, so can you! I can either view the lectures online or download the videos for later viewing. One huge advantage to watching online is that the viewer allowed me to adjust the speed and I could race through the lectures. Beings I can listen faster than the normal video speed and can only watch online before 5am (bandwidth restriction), this was great! But downloading for future viewing is even better because I don't have to be up so early so often and can more easily pause and take notes.

There's also a forum for class discussions, which I will probably use minimally. After just a couple of days, there are already an overwhelming number of posts and I don't foresee myself taking the time to read through more than a handful. So I hope the other students use super-clear thread titles.

If you'd like to learn from topnotch instructors from big name universities, check out Coursera courses. Most courses are in English (currently 363 spread across 25 subject areas!) but there are a few in other languages, as well. You can either fully participate (discussions, homework, etc.) or just audit the course - you're choice. If you do turn in assignments and complete the course, you'll get a certificate of completion.

What are you waiting for?

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Homemade Christmas Cards & June Christmas Prep Report

Homemade Christmas cards & matching envelopes.
Unless you get them on sale after Christmas, buying Christmas cards can be unnecessarily costly. You can save money by making your own at home. Either opt for a simple letter-style greeting on colored paper or get more elaborate with stickers or iron-on fabric motifs.

More homemade Christmas cards.
I used heat-n-bond, a widely-available fusible web, to adhere fabric motifs to folded card stock that I had cut to fit envelopes I bought in bulk at a thrift store. Then I used a permanent marker to create a dashed outline around the shapes. Add a personal greeting inside and you're done - inexpensive, custom Christmas cards! And I decorated the envelopes, as well. How cute and clever (and simple!) is that?

As for the June Christmas Prep Report - besides getting a jump-start on cards, it's basically the same old, same old. I did have a few gift-giving occasions over the past month and it was so nice to be prepared!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

How to Accomplish Any Goal

What can we all learn from a college student? How about how to accomplish our goals? The following story came to me in an email newsletter from Morna McEver Golletz at the International Association of Professional Quilters and I just had to share (reprinted with permission, btw).

The 1977 Granada

With traveling so much in May, the weeds got ahead of me. Way ahead of me! Weeding is not a chore I enjoy. I'd much rather sit outside and enjoy the fresh air and read or take a walk. About this time I found a note from a young man in my neighborhood looking for work so I gave him a call. He was off from college and wanted to earn extra money. He has a big goal. He was the recipient of a 1977 Granada, a classic car. Only problem was the car needed some cosmetic work that he and his dad could do and he needed to buy insurance. 

What did I learn from this young man?

1. Knowing your why is huge. Tim, that's the young man's name, said he needed the car because it would make the right impression. It was an impression that he wouldn't get with the family's old pick-up truck. 

2. Create a plan and work the plan. Tim showed up at my house with calendar pages for May through August printed out. He knows how much money he needs to make to maintain the car. He has the calendar filled in with odd jobs ranging from yard work to dog walking so he can accomplish that.  

3. Set deadlines so you can work toward your goals. Tim plans to take a "lovely young woman" out on June 16th, so he's got a deadline. He wants that good impression. He has other deadlines along the way, but that's the first one. 

4. Look for options and ask for help. Tim has outlined how much money he needs to make, only it will take the summer to make enough to pay the insurance. (That's not counting on the money for gas!) To meet his goal, he had to look at other options. His older brother, after reviewing the plan, is loaning Tim the money for the insurance. The older brother considers it a good risk.   

5. Don't forget yourself. When Tim was setting his calendar, he put in the fun activities he had planned so that working toward his goal didn't consume all his time. It's easy for those of us who work for ourselves to finish one task and then jump right into the next.

While I could see all the specifics of a good business plan here, what was most fun for me was the joy that Tim had in telling me about the car, how he was fixing it up, and the impression he knew it would make. It was a good reminder for me about looking for the joy in my goals. 

Now I've got to keep a lookout on the 16th to see the car tooling up the road. 

Morna McEver Golletz is the founder and CEO of the International Association of Professional Quilters, an association to help quilters, fiber artists and other creative arts entrepreneurs build business success. Her weekly e-zine offers tips, techniques and inspiration to help you craft business success from your creative arts passion. You can sign up for a F.R.E.E. subscription at http://www.professionalquilter.com.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

How to Live on 24 Hours a Day Conclusion

Well, this is the final post on How to Live on 24 Hours a Day by Arthur Bennett. But if it's the conclusion, why is it the preface to the book? Because Mr. Bennett says in the preface that it should be read last - so I obliged.

To read the entire book, just click on the How to Live on 24 Hours a Day label, below.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

A Bit of Father's Day History

Best dad ever!

The celebration of Father’s Day started from one woman’s simple wish to honor her father. Listening to a Mother’s Day sermon in 1909 inspired Sonora Smart Dodd to pay her father, a Civil War veteran who raised his six children on his own following his wife’s death, the tribute he deserved.

On June 19 the next year, the first Father’s Day sermon was heard in Spokane, Washington. Five decades later, U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson signed an executive order that set the official celebration of Father’s Day to every third Sunday of June. Then in 1972, President Richard Nixon signed a law that recognized Father’s Day as an annual national holiday in the United States.

Father’s Day goes hand in hand with Mother's Day as a time to honor the unconditional love and care of parents.

Have YOU called your dad today?

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Time Management Dangers to Avoid

In this final chapter of How to Live on 24 Hours a Day, Arnold Bennett spells out some dangers that should be avoided, such as:
  • Mind your own business
  • Be flexible
  • Value your time
  • Don't rush
  • Get started!

Now that I'm looking at the main points of the chapter in list form, I see that this is good advice for all areas of life!


For all chapters in How to Live on 24 Hours a Day, just click on the label, below.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Quilts, Quilts, Quilts...Quilts!

Four memorial quilts in all, sent off to Arizona in time for Father's Day. Have I been busy or what?

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Would You Rescue a Drowning Child?

Well? Would you? Of course, you say! But do you even know how to tell if someone is in trouble? Can you identify a drowning victim in time to save them? Only if you know what to look for. And you probably DON'T!

Say what? Yes, once again we've all been Hollywooded up. Did you know that what you've seen on movies and television to depict drowning is usually 100% FALSE? You know how they wave and sputter and call for help? NOT TRUE! In fact, except in rare circumstances, doing any of these things is impossible for a person who is drowning.

Excerpt from article on Slate.com:
"Sometimes the most common indication that someone is drowning is that they don’t look like they’re drowning. They may just look like they are treading water and looking up at the deck. One way to be sure? Ask them, “Are you all right?” If they can answer at all—they probably are. If they return a blank stare, you may have less than 30 seconds to get to them. And parents—children playing in the water make noise. When they get quiet, you get to them and find out why."

If you knew all this already, great! But it was news to me. So head on over to Drowning Doesn't Look Like Drowning on Slate.com to find out what drowning really looks like so that you can be prepared to recognize trouble and rescue the victim - you'll likely have less than a minute to get them out of the water! And please pass the Slate.com article link on to everyone you know.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Batman Cake!

This is not the normal cake-a-week post but we recently had a 5th birthday party for my favorite little man and I couldn't resist sharing. This cake is just too cool!

To make your own Batman cake, you'll need a special pan. It seems this pan is out-of-print, so to speak, so do a web search and get it from eBay or somewhere. If you need instructions for using the pan and decorating the cake, Wilton has them posted online.

Any of you who have done cake decorating already know how nasty black frosting tastes. Not to worry - Wilton to the rescue! You can buy black ready-to-eat in a tube (got mine at WalMart). Don't know how Wilton did it but it really does taste ok. And if you're not in the mood to make any of your own icing, you can buy it all pre-made. And they have screw on decorator tips that fit right on the tubes! How clever are they? Thanks Wilton!

Friday, May 31, 2013

How Do You Want to be Remembered?

Mavis Balvin 1929-2011
Remembered fondly, missed a bunch!

Have you thought about how you want to be remembered? If you're under 50, this probably hasn't even crossed your mind. But if you're anywhere in the second half, even if you've just barely hit the 50-year mark, you need to start considering the types of memories you're creating for the people around you each and every day. And the further you are on the plus side of 50, the more serious you need to be. Unless, of course, you don't care how you're remembered. If that's truly the case, you can quit reading now.

I've been giving this a lot of thought lately. After all, the older I get, the older others get, as well - so I now have numerous examples to follow (or not) just one generation up. Yikes! Does that mean I'm nearly old? Hmm.

Well, anyway...

One woman particularly sticks out in my mind as someone to emulate. Although she is no longer with us, Mavis lives on in the memories of friends and family as a woman who loved life and brought joy to those who knew her. A ready smile and kind words were Mavis' hallmark. What a way to be remembered! Where do I sign up for that? Oh yeah - with my actions.

Experiences Create Memories

Always remember that memories are generated from experiences, not words. Don't expect to be remembered for what you say, expect to be remembered for your actions and how they affect others. If you want folks to remember nice things about you, give them something nice to remember! And this isn't just for after you're gone from this life - it applies every day that you're still here, as well.


What memories are you creating today?

Monday, May 27, 2013

Serious Reading and Time Management

Exclude novels from serious reading? Ok - I guess I can go with that as long as I don't have to exclude novels all together! Arnold Bennett makes a couple valid points in the first paragraph of chapter 11 of How to Live on 24 Hours a Day:
  1. Bad novels ought not to be read (I couldn't agree more!)
  2. The best novels involve the least strain (He's right again!)
He goes on to say that in cultivating the mind, one of the most important factors is strain - so novels are out for this purpose! And what does cultivating the mind have to do with time management? Back in chapter seven, Mr. Bennett explains that developing your ability to concentrate is the key to getting things done and living a full life. So some serious reading - and thinking - is in order.

For all posted chapters from How to Live on 24 Hours a Day, click on the label (below).

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Batman and May Christmas Prep Report

Cool Batman blankie
A picture is worth a thousand words, right? Need I say more?

Well, maybe I don't need to, but I will anyway...

We've got a budding superhero with a particular love of Batman. So it was a Batman-themed birthday this month, which gave me the opportunity to pair this oh-so-cool Batman panel with flannel from an orphaned top sheet (the bottom finally wore beyond repair but the top was fine) to create a blankie that is cool on at least two levels:
  • First, it's Batman - hello! You can't get much cooler than that.
  • Second, our little man sleeps hot and told me months ago (that's right - in the middle of winter) that he needed a "cold" blanket. So I didn't put anything between the layers.
Good job on the Batman cake, mama!
I was so pleased the easiness and results that I posted directions for this super simple lightweight blankie over at Quilting and Sewing with Kids.

And you certainly can't have a birthday without a cake...

Didn't his mama do a great job?

So...what does this have to do with Christmas Prep? Well, remember that Christmas Prep for me includes all gift-giving occasions throughout the year and a birthday for a five-year-old is most certainly a gift-giving occasion!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Cause and Effect in Time Management

I'm not sure I get what Mr. Bennett is trying to say in chapter 10 of How to Live on 24 Hours a Day. I get how cause and effect relates to time management and I even agree (for the most part) that nothing in life is humdrum - I just don't see what this chapter has to do with the title and subject matter of this book. But I'm including it so that the book is complete. Read on, if you like, and if you get it, please let me know what I missed!

All the posted chapters of How to Live on 24 Hours a Day are available by clicking the label, below.