Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Getting Inspired

One of our train stops on the way to Canada
I was traveling over the weekend and was not able to watch the Academy Awards until the following night on HuluPlus. What an amazing collection of talented and creative people from all over the world! To see the imaginative work produced and the honor and respect that the industry gives to the winner is such an inspiration. It is no mistake that movies like the 12 Years a Slave or Captain Phillips  won such high honors. The whole process of creating the story line, choosing the actors, designing the scenes, the actors learning their characters and so on is a very complex process requiring excellence on every level to produce the caliber of movie that they are. I cannot help but be so inspired and with that inspiration comes a flood of creative ideas for stories to write.

You would think that with the thousands of years of stories between humans that there wouldn't be anything left to tell, yet the field is limitless. Love, hate, jealousy, greed, chivalry, passion, generosity, anger - all qualities we experience individually yet somehow we really enjoy watching the reactions of others to these intangible auras.

Not only are there innumerable real stories to tell, the category of fictional stories based on true stories is simply exponentially larger. As a writer, I can change outcomes, manipulate the motives and create a story that I like or that I think you might like.

There are so many movies I need to see, but for now, I have a story I would like to finish...

Thursday, January 16, 2014

New Year Thoughts

I have been silent for a while but it was not because I had nothing to say. The holidays were quite busy with a houseful of kids and friends and relatives. Once we got over the celebrations and the house quieted down again, I left with Eric for our annual vacation down south. Sunday was my first day back and it was quite an adjustment to come back to the reality of daily life, working and cleaning and cold temperatures.

Now I have the time to think about just what I want to do this year. And....well, I don't know! The regular stuff like getting our debt load reduced, making plans for renovating our house, upgrading some of my plantings outside - that all comes easily. The fact that I am a writer seems to slip away from my resolutions - the obvious should be all kinds of new ideas for writing, but not yet. I guess I need to do more imagining and get my fingers dancing on the keyboard.

Maybe I could combine all my plans and focus them towards writing - like renovating our home a little to make a writing room with plants and without spending much money....

So, maybe I don't have my act together yet, but it will come to me when I am ready. Time to get inspired!



Friday, December 20, 2013

Tips For The Best Christmas Buffet

Today, I was sitting in my living room making up menu plans for Christmas Eve. It is always a challenge when you are planning on serving a crowd to make food that is appealing and delicious and somewhat healthy, so I like to look to folks who might be a little wiser than me for their advise. I came across this blog and just have to re-post exactly as it is:


1. Avoid carrot sticks. Anyone who puts carrots on a holiday buffet table knows nothing of the Holiday spirit. In fact, if you see carrots, leave immediately and go next door where they're serving rum balls.


2. Drink as much eggnog as you can, and quickly - it's rare. You cannot find it at any other time of year. So drink up! Who cares that it has 1000 calories in every sip? It's not as if you're going to turn into an eggnog-alcoholic or something. It's a treat - enjoy it. Have one for me. Have two. It's later than you think - it's almost Christmas!


3. If something comes with gravy, use it. That's the whole point of gravy. Gravy does not stand alone. Pour it on. Make a volcano out of your mashed potatoes. Fill it with gravy. Eat the volcano. Repeat.


4. As for mashed potatoes, always ask if they're made with skim milk or whole milk. If it's skim, pass. Why bother? It's like buying a sports car with an automatic transmission.


5. Do not have a snack before going to a party in an effort to control your eating. The whole point of going to a Holiday party is to eat other people's food free. Lots of it.


6. Under no circumstances should you exercise between now and New Year's. You can do that in January when you have nothing else to do. This is the time for long naps, which you'll need after circling the buffet table while carrying a 10-pound plate of food and that vat of eggnog.


7. If you come across something really good at a buffet table, like frosted Christmas cookies in the shape and size of Santa, position yourself near them and don't budge. Have as many as you can before they become the center of attention. They're like a beautiful pair of shoes, if you leave them behind, you're never going to see them again.


8. Same for pies. apple, pumpkin, mincemeat. Have a slice of each. Or if you don't like mincemeat, have two apples and one pumpkin. Always have three. When else do you get to have more than one dessert? Labor Day?


9. Did someone mention fruitcake? Granted, it's loaded with the mandatory celebratory calories, but avoid it at all cost. I mean, have some standards.


10. One final tip: If you don't feel full when you leave the party or get up from the table, you haven't been paying attention. Re-read tips; start over, but hurry, January is just around the corner. Remember this motto to live by:


"Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, chocolate and wine in hand, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming "WOO HOO what a ride!" George Carlin


Thanks to Janet White for posting this. I always enjoy good, thought-out humor!

Merry Christmas!

1. Avoid carrot sticks. Anyone who puts carrots on a holiday buffet table knows nothing of the Holiday spirit. In fact, if you see carrots, leave immediately and go next door where they're serving rum balls.


2. Drink as much eggnog as you can, and quickly - it's rare. You cannot find it at any other time of year. So drink up! Who cares that it has 1000 calories in every sip? It's not as if you're going to turn into an eggnog-alcoholic or something. It's a treat - enjoy it. Have one for me. Have two. It's later than you think - it's almost Christmas!


3. If something comes with gravy, use it. That's the whole point of gravy. Gravy does not stand alone. Pour it on. Make a volcano out of your mashed potatoes. Fill it with gravy. Eat the volcano. Repeat.


4. As for mashed potatoes, always ask if they're made with skim milk or whole milk. If it's skim, pass. Why bother? It's like buying a sports car with an automatic transmission.


5. Do not have a snack before going to a party in an effort to control your eating. The whole point of going to a Holiday party is to eat other people's food free. Lots of it.


6. Under no circumstances should you exercise between now and New Year's. You can do that in January when you have nothing else to do. This is the time for long naps, which you'll need after circling the buffet table while carrying a 10-pound plate of food and that vat of eggnog.


7. If you come across something really good at a buffet table, like frosted Christmas cookies in the shape and size of Santa, position yourself near them and don't budge. Have as many as you can before they become the center of attention. They're like a beautiful pair of shoes, if you leave them behind, you're never going to see them again.


8. Same for pies. apple, pumpkin, mincemeat. Have a slice of each. Or if you don't like mincemeat, have two apples and one pumpkin. Always have three. When else do you get to have more than one dessert? Labor Day?


9. Did someone mention fruitcake? Granted, it's loaded with the mandatory celebratory calories, but avoid it at all cost. I mean, have some standards.


10. One final tip: If you don't feel full when you leave the party or get up from the table, you haven't been paying attention. Re-read tips; start over, but hurry, January is just around the corner. Remember this motto to live by:


"Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, chocolate and wine in hand, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming "WOO HOO what a ride!" George Carlin - See more at: http://jdurward.blogspot.com/2010/12/holiday-eating-tips-oldie-but-goodie.html#sthash.bQxTA9PL.dpuf

1. Avoid carrot sticks. Anyone who puts carrots on a holiday buffet table knows nothing of the Holiday spirit. In fact, if you see carrots, leave immediately and go next door where they're serving rum balls.


2. Drink as much eggnog as you can, and quickly - it's rare. You cannot find it at any other time of year. So drink up! Who cares that it has 1000 calories in every sip? It's not as if you're going to turn into an eggnog-alcoholic or something. It's a treat - enjoy it. Have one for me. Have two. It's later than you think - it's almost Christmas!


3. If something comes with gravy, use it. That's the whole point of gravy. Gravy does not stand alone. Pour it on. Make a volcano out of your mashed potatoes. Fill it with gravy. Eat the volcano. Repeat.


4. As for mashed potatoes, always ask if they're made with skim milk or whole milk. If it's skim, pass. Why bother? It's like buying a sports car with an automatic transmission.


5. Do not have a snack before going to a party in an effort to control your eating. The whole point of going to a Holiday party is to eat other people's food free. Lots of it.


6. Under no circumstances should you exercise between now and New Year's. You can do that in January when you have nothing else to do. This is the time for long naps, which you'll need after circling the buffet table while carrying a 10-pound plate of food and that vat of eggnog.


7. If you come across something really good at a buffet table, like frosted Christmas cookies in the shape and size of Santa, position yourself near them and don't budge. Have as many as you can before they become the center of attention. They're like a beautiful pair of shoes, if you leave them behind, you're never going to see them again.


8. Same for pies. apple, pumpkin, mincemeat. Have a slice of each. Or if you don't like mincemeat, have two apples and one pumpkin. Always have three. When else do you get to have more than one dessert? Labor Day?


9. Did someone mention fruitcake? Granted, it's loaded with the mandatory celebratory calories, but avoid it at all cost. I mean, have some standards.


10. One final tip: If you don't feel full when you leave the party or get up from the table, you haven't been paying attention. Re-read tips; start over, but hurry, January is just around the corner. Remember this motto to live by:


"Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, chocolate and wine in hand, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming "WOO HOO what a ride!" George Carlin - See more at: http://jdurward.blogspot.com/2010/12/holiday-eating-tips-oldie-but-goodie.html#sthash.bQxTA9PL.dpuf
1. Avoid carrot sticks. Anyone who puts carrots on a holiday buffet table knows nothing of the Holiday spirit. In fact, if you see carrots, leave immediately and go next door where they're serving rum balls.


2. Drink as much eggnog as you can, and quickly - it's rare. You cannot find it at any other time of year. So drink up! Who cares that it has 1000 calories in every sip? It's not as if you're going to turn into an eggnog-alcoholic or something. It's a treat - enjoy it. Have one for me. Have two. It's later than you think - it's almost Christmas!


3. If something comes with gravy, use it. That's the whole point of gravy. Gravy does not stand alone. Pour it on. Make a volcano out of your mashed potatoes. Fill it with gravy. Eat the volcano. Repeat.


4. As for mashed potatoes, always ask if they're made with skim milk or whole milk. If it's skim, pass. Why bother? It's like buying a sports car with an automatic transmission.


5. Do not have a snack before going to a party in an effort to control your eating. The whole point of going to a Holiday party is to eat other people's food free. Lots of it.


6. Under no circumstances should you exercise between now and New Year's. You can do that in January when you have nothing else to do. This is the time for long naps, which you'll need after circling the buffet table while carrying a 10-pound plate of food and that vat of eggnog.


7. If you come across something really good at a buffet table, like frosted Christmas cookies in the shape and size of Santa, position yourself near them and don't budge. Have as many as you can before they become the center of attention. They're like a beautiful pair of shoes, if you leave them behind, you're never going to see them again.


8. Same for pies. apple, pumpkin, mincemeat. Have a slice of each. Or if you don't like mincemeat, have two apples and one pumpkin. Always have three. When else do you get to have more than one dessert? Labor Day?


9. Did someone mention fruitcake? Granted, it's loaded with the mandatory celebratory calories, but avoid it at all cost. I mean, have some standards.


10. One final tip: If you don't feel full when you leave the party or get up from the table, you haven't been paying attention. Re-read tips; start over, but hurry, January is just around the corner. Remember this motto to live by:


"Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, chocolate and wine in hand, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming "WOO HOO what a ride!" George Carlin - See more at: http://jdurward.blogspot.com/2010/12/holiday-eating-tips-oldie-but-goodie.html#sthash.bQxTA9PL.dpuf

Monday, November 25, 2013

Writing Reviews

New York City from the car window...
One way that you can practice your writing is by penning reviews for restaurants or other businesses that you visit. Some will actually pay you for being a mystery shopper, like A Closer Look, while others, like TripAdvisor simply want you to volunteer information for the good of other citizens looking for a good time or bargain. Recently I took a trip to New York City for dinner out with relatives and a Broadway show (Newsies). Of course, we took taxis and walked a lot so each spot we stopped was an opportunity for writing. On the one hand, there was no money to be made, but I am still spreading my name on the web while I learn how to describe and express my experiences.

When you are going out for dinner or even to a unique shop, keep your eyes open and pay attention to details about the place, things like cleanliness, uniqueness, service, prices, etc. Use these observations to write up a review that will hopefully benefit the establishment. Only once in a while do I write a negative review and then I try to be very careful in choosing my words to
not voice my opinion but rather to state the facts as I saw them, and only if I think the review might benefit another traveler like myself in the decision making process.

Happy Thanksgiving!
Who knows, maybe a major outlet will ask me to write reviews for them on a regular basis...

Thursday, November 14, 2013

How to Make Beeswax Candles

Today I am going to try something a little different by writing about something I do at home. My project over the last week or so has been to try my hand at making beeswax candles. So many times people ask me for instructions on how to do things, so since it falls within the category of writing, I will explain it here.

First of all, why beeswax instead of paraffin or soy wax? Well, once I found out that beeswax was considered the premium substance for burning in a candle, I thought, why not? There are lots of claims about problems with the smoke from paraffin and soy but I have not made the time to research them out to see if they were true.

Second, get your supplies. I searched online and found a candle supply company I liked, Candle Science. They seemed to have the best price for the wax in a granular form and plenty of information for learning. Check out their list of fragrances for inspiration, too. While you are waiting for the order to be shipped, come up with the logo for your candles (if you want to). 



Clean a work area in your kitchen and set up your supplies. You will need to have a large pot about a third full of water heated to a simmer. Place a smaller pot on top for melting the wax (creating a double boiler). Use a candy thermometer to watch the temperature of the melting wax as you don't want it to go over 160 degrees (F) or it tends to darken the color of the candle.

Cut your wicks to the right length for your container. Use a hot glue gun to glue the wick to the bottom center. Wrap the wick around a pencil or through a clothespin to hold it in place.

Warm the jars in the oven at 140 degrees. When the wax is melted, add your fragrance (if any) and stir gently.



Pour the wax into the containers, trying to stay as neat as possible since the wax is sticky and hard to clean later. Don't fill it all the way as you will do a second layer after the first is cooled. Leave a 1/4 to 1/2 inch space for the second layer.

Pour the second layer over the candles after waiting about 5 or 6 hours for the wax to harden. If any cracks have formed, this is when you can fill them in.

Leave the candles overnight so they can fully harden.

That's it! You now have a nice beeswax candle that will burn longer than most other types of candles.

(Of course, use caution when working over a stove with hot wax and never leave a burning candle unattended, near children or where it might catch something on fire.)

For those of you who would rather someone else make them for you, you can get them here, on Amazon, Maskyelen Candles.






Saturday, November 2, 2013

Daylight Savings Time

Although I live in a very lush area for growing vegetables, fruit trees and flowers during the spring and summer, there is something unique about fall and the rich colors everywhere.

Tonight we change our clocks back for Daylight Savings time so tomorrow will really feel like we are heading into winter. As far as today goes, it was still warm enough to get out in our kayaks and go fishing and hang out on a secluded beach accessible only by boat.

The clouds have since rolled in and the temperatures are supposed to drop down into the low 30's by tomorrow night. So tonight we will celebrate life with friends and sit around around our fire pit roasting some kielbasa over the flames.

As you can see, I am trying to live by my own motto, "Don't forget to live!" Happy Daylight Savings Time...

Friday, October 11, 2013

Get Around Someone Bigger Than Yourself

grasses, chesapeake bay, inspiration, water, wind
Bay Grasses by Heide Braley
I was just sitting in my living room looking out at a huge maple tree in my front yard and found myself inspired by its simple grandeur. The massive size of the branches stretching out and up hundreds of feet, yet still swaying in the wind. How can something so amazingly massive still be so graceful? I was inspired and realized that I need to spend more time around things and people that are larger than me. They tend to see life from a different perspective and can be less stressed about problems and challenges that always come along.

One example of a person that I want to learn more about is the recent Nobel prize in literature winner, Alice Munroe. Like myself, she wrote short stories when she could, thinking that it was a way to practice her talent until she was ready to write a novel - after all, that's what all good writers do, right? She wrote about life, its ups and down and the feelings that came with them. Now she is in her eighties and thinks she is finished writing, but what a wealth of feelings must be in her by that age.

I can remember sitting down to write a love story when I was twelve and I put my pencil to the paper for a few words, only to realize that I was not mature enough to write nearly enough material about the subject. Today, after twenty-seven years of marriage to an amazingly loving guy, I find myself so much more experienced in the art of love than when we first started and yet somehow know I still have so much to learn. I remind you, writer or not, as I remind myself - find people who are bigger in heart and emotion than yourself and glean from them some of the special facets of life that make them beautiful.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Vulnerability

One of the things that I find interesting is to watch people's faces when I tell them I am a writer. Of course, the words that come out of their mouth are usually admiration and praise, but there is this pause - sometimes just a fraction of a second long, but usually longer, before they respond. It's as though they think, "How could you?" Writers are historical titles on paper, you know - Sam Clemens, the Louisa May Alcott and lists of others as long as there is paper. How could I, a regular girl, from regular life be a writer? What do I have to write about?

People. I write about people and their reactions to life but in stories. I absolutely love people watching. In writing, I have to actually become vulnerable to the fact that readers will not like me and be okay with that. I was listening to a TED talk this morning by Brene Brown on the Power of Vulnerability. During her research she found that we as a society in the US tend to want to numb ourselves from vulnerability and thereby cover up our feelings that we might not be as acceptable to others as we would hope.We say our religion is perfect, we serve the real God, our politics are the best, our food is so healthy - all so black and white yet are they really? Can we really say that everyone else is missing the mark? Where is humility (or common sense)?

What are we afraid of? That we won't make the mark? What mark? I want to have the freedom to make mistakes and not live under the fear that I am not good enough. If you don't like me, that's fine because you know, I might not like you and that is okay too. Who says we have to all like each other? I will still be kind and polite and respect you and possible even learn from you, but I will gravitate towards people I like.

To sum up my thoughts, let loose and become vulnerable. Let us see the real side of you with freckles and chipped teeth and even better, the tears that flow when you hurt or the spontaneous laughter that comes from making a fool of yourself. We all live in naked skin in a flawed world - so why pretend that we are better than others? I am me and you are you - deal with it and let's get along and enjoy this life.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Accidents Happen

sparrow, fall, pines, birds
White Throated Sparrow
A couple of days ago, I was anticipating my husband, Eric's return home with a rush of activities so dinner prep would be ready. Only a few things were left to do, including chopping some green bell peppers for our roasted pork tacos. The combination of my haste and a slight dullness on the blade of my largest knife culminated in me chopping a good chunk off the end of one of my fingers. Now several days later, I still have difficulty using that hand.

I am amazed how such a small incident can affect my whole outlook on my day. This is not my first accident and I have actually had many surgeries, but each time I am reminded of just how frail we are.

But enough of that, I am really anxious to get back to writing stories as it has been several weeks since my last one, Payter's House. My right hand is fine and I can use a couple fingers on my left to peck away. I have been able to get in a little traveling and some new experiences to add to my bucket of ideas. September is a month of change in so many ways from school starting and summer winding down to leaves changing and the air cooling. Winter is on the edge of my horizon and plans need to start soon...

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Walking Along the Ocean

beach, ocean sunrise, Chesapeake
Virginia Beach Sunrise
This morning I was able to start my day by spending over an hour walking along the beach. The water was pleasantly cool for walking barefoot. As I walked down to the water's edge, I was surprised to see a group of dolphins playing just off the shore. There is nothing so calming as the sounds of the waves, the cries of a few seagulls and then a couple of fighter jets going overhead!

I was so surprised and almost alarmed as I heard the roar of the jets before I actually saw them. Maybe the locals are used to them flying low and fast, but I was totally fascinated. Two of them flew out over the water and then straight back in in close formation as if they were somehow connected.

Below at ground level with me, pelicans flew on undisturbed, ospreys kept fishing and the sandpipers acted as if they couldn't hear a thing. I walked for about forty-five minutes to a large fishing pier at which point I decided I better head back.

With my new perspective of looking over the water, I spotted massive ocean freighters way out in the haze of the horizon. A few minutes later a power boat pulling a raft full of folks proceeded to twist and turn thrilling them, I'm sure. To round out my visual explorations, a colorful parasail lifted up into the sky contrasting nicely against the clouds of an incoming storm.

Yet, in spite of all this, I walked on in relative silence and solitude enjoying my chance to scuff my feet against the sand and feel the splash of the incoming waves. What a nice way to start my day!

Plus One

Story Gallery

Overton