Friday, February 28, 2014

To Grillmasters or not to Grillmasters...

Some time in January, I talked about buying better quality meat. I didn't follow through at the time, but a few weeks ago, I was caught with my office door unlocked and in came the guy from Grillmasters. They have a base of operations here in the business park.

So long story short, I bought meat from them. It'll take me five or six weeks of short-buying my weekly groceries to pay for it. I'm three weeks in. Not terribly awful and the meat should last for four to six months--supposedly. We'll see.  And I do still have some cheap meat products floating around my freezer.

The steaks are all delicious. The burger patties, not so great. The one variety of chicken we've tried I wasn't impressed with. The sausage was pretty good. And we haven't tried any of the other pork items.

But these are all premium cuts and while that's not a bad thing, I don't really need premium cuts for all of my meat needs.

I don't think I'm going to go with Grillmasters again. I think next time or perhaps when I need other things, like stew meat or ground beef, I'm gonna try the meat market.

If only I could everyone to eat more vegetarian fare, like veggie soup rather than needing to always put beef or chicken it.

Well, maybe once the kids are all gone, which might not be as far in the future as I once thought, I'll convince DH.

If you've got an easy recipe to share, meat based or not, I'd love to try something new!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

What was I thinking?

So I took on my writing group's newest biggest project--a writing contest for published works. We had a former board member who suggested it, the board discussed it, and we (**I**) researched other similar contests and decided to go for it.

For various reasons, I then volunteered to be the coordinator. Luckily, our group has been sponsoring an unpublished works contest for many many years and we did not have to re-invent the wheel for most processes. The gal who has coordinated that contest for more years than not is still a member and has been an invaluable resource for me. She's also a dear friend--THANK YOU, ANGI MORGAN!

Anyway, Feb. 14th was the big moment for our contest--the closing to entries and the sending of same to the judges. It was a daunting task, assigning entries to judges and judges to entries based on the judges' preferred romance category and heat levels. I started with the categories that had fewer entries, but discovered I should have started with those that had more entries and more judges. Note made for the next coordinator.

Once I made sure I had final round judges selected and entry/judge assignments set as well as I could for my first time, it was time to email all the judges with the books. There were over 260 judges and over 130 entries. About half the possible entries and half the necessary judges if we'd had a full complement of entries. Some judges received more than one panel of entries.

I spent four days, as much time as I could spare or handle, emailing out book panels to the judges.

That's what happened to last Friday's post...I was busy and exhausted and just didn't get to it.

But the bulk of the work is done and it's all downhill from here. Thank goodness!

I've created FAQs, recommendations for next and future years, I've broken the jobs out into small chunks so hopefully others will take on some ownership and responsibility.

So my reward to myself for making it through last week is this purse:

I can hardly wait for it to arrive. I'm not really much of a purse person, in that I use them, and I'm picky about them, but I just have one. I don't have a closetful and I use the one until it falls apart and then I have to go in search of a new one. I hate that part.

Is it me or what??

Monday, February 24, 2014

Taking a breath and catching up...and considering the very near future.

The bulk of the work for my writing group's new contest (more on that Wednesday) is done.

I spent the weekend worried that there was something I should have been doing. I kept pondering what that might have been. I kept up with questions and judges acknowledging receipt of panels, but other than that, there wasn't anything that needed my undivided constant attention. Whew.

Instead, I puttered around the house. Something I haven't done in ages and it felt good and nice and a tad bit indulgent. I still kept thinking that some task for the contest needed doing, but I couldn't think of what aside from what I was already doing (see above).

Of course, I did the usual must-accomplish weekend chores: grocery shopping and laundry.

I also cleaned out a closet. It's practically empty now. Some stuff went straight in the bin, some went into the donation pile, one box had an assortment of old VHS tapes. I'd been wondering what had happened to Gone With the Wind! There were some other movie treasures in there that I think I can make some money from at some point, but that's a post and project for another day.

 The house still needs a good going over, though. Once I'm working part time from home, I plan on getting back to my old method of cleaning house (another blog post for later).

As for my future, a few weeks ago, I mentioned DD had talked about moving out by May when Sonshine graduates from high school. Then the plan sort of stalled for a few weeks. But it appears to be on again and the move-out date has been moved up to no later than mid-March. I mean, she packing her room up and making lists of must-have things for her new abode...

So soon I will have a bedroom to decide what to do with and then redecorate!

Here's what it sort of looks like now:

Yes, the ceiling and upper portion of the walls are that beige.
And then the lower part of the walls are pink...

...except the inside of the closet.
Which is still blue--from when Sonshine was little and used that room!

Sonshine has requested a guest room, though I'm not sure why since we rarely have guests that stay overnight. Well, except a random friend of his, but they usually end up crashing on the couch.

I guess it's time for a trip to Lowe's to look at their paint cards. I like the ones that show the rooms painted already rather than just the cards with variations on a shade.

Any suggestions for my new room?

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Giving up tasty treats is hard to do...

One of my favorite morning snacks for quite some time now has been a fiber bar in a coconut almond flavor (I could pretend it was an Almond Joy!).

A few months ago, it was brought to my attention that most kinds of "bars," granola and otherwise have a certain chemical that is not very good for you. Don't ask me what it is. I can't remember what it is except that it starts with an M. So I've been considering giving up those fiber bars since I came across that info. Aside from that M chemical, they have all kinds of other things that can't be that great for you either, right?

I just haven't known what to replace it with.

The other day, I was reading one of my latest free reads, How to Kick Your Fat in the Nuts by T.C. (Tony) Hale and something he said sorta hit me upside the head. He was talking about counting calories and he said, "...try eating 2200 calories per day of just chicken, eggs and green vegetables for two weeks.  For the following two weeks, try eating 2200 calories per day of Twix bars and let me know which two week period you had better weight loss results."

And I thought, "Huh."

I mean that makes a lot of sense to me.

But what could I replace my fiber bars with for the same or fewer calories? On the other hand, if you're eating real food, you could probably consume a few extra calories without too much harm. Well, I glean that from the quote above and some of Tony's other comments. What do you think?

Although, healthier and natural and real, I was leery of more fruit. I already eat a banana every day and I put honey on my oatmeal every morning, and sugar is one of those things I try to consume less rather than more of.

Well, when I was at the grocery store Sunday morning, I was perusing the produce and saw a bag of celery.

Now there's a great snack as it seems like you can burn more calories in the act of eating it than you do once you've digested it. And think about all that lovely roughage. Something else we could all use a little more of.

Of course, you can't eat celery plain, but salad dressings--specifically ranch dressings--are also full of that M chemical. But what other tasty treat is synonymous with celery?

That's right--peanut butter!

While my new snack has over twice as many calories (yikes), my quick research says that peanut butter is really very very good for you. It's low in sugar, high in fiber, and insanely high in monounsaturated fats which reduce the risk of diabetes, among other things.

So I'm going to give a try for a week or two and see how things go. And maybe, just maybe, I can convince a few other members of the family to eat it as well.

Are you a fan of the celery and peanut butter??

Monday, February 17, 2014

I'm late, I'm late for a very important date...

..with my blog and my faithful readers!

Yesterday, I had every intention on working on a post for today, but my writing group's contest closed for entries and it's my job to sort the judges and assign entries. And so that's what I spent the majority of yesterday doing, along with my regular Sunday tasks like grocery shopping and laundry.

So dear blog readers, I have nothing much to share today other than I'm pooped and I cannot wait until "THIS" has passed. I have several things I'm waiting on to pass, but one day at a time...

Hope you had a lovely weekend and here's to a pleasant week.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Let's celebrate!

I haven't talked much about weight loss in the past month or more, mainly because I wasn't doing so hot. I'd reached a record low of 133.6 in late December, but then it was New Years and DH got sick and I was stressed out, so while I was sorta/kinda trying to watch what went into my mouth, I would also give in to the lure of comforting or just plain unhealthy treats. And I was eating a lot of carbs.

When the scale flashed 140 point something a couple of weeks ago, I took myself in hand and got back on track. Closely watched was eating. Gave up carbs for protein more often. Said no to offers of root beer despite strong lure and desire for that vanilla-y sweetness. I got back on the tread mill every morning and upped the speed by a tenth and the incline by one (more calories burned in the same amount of time). A couple of times, I made a decision to eat less-than-healthy choices, but then I buckled down the next day.

The result--I stepped on the scale this past Tuesday morning and the scale read: 133.4!

Two tenths less than my former record low and here's the really exciting part--

That's 32.4 pounds I've lost over the course of the last two years. It might be a little more, but I didn't start recording my weight until a few months into beginning my efforts. I was surprised it was that much. I was thinking it was maybe 20 or 25... WOO HOO!

In February of 2012, I started doing short rounds of calisthenics several times a day to get my large muscle groups working and moving since I sit at a desk all day. Then I started walking in the mornings, but that fell by the wayside a couple of times for various reasons. For a while I counted calories as well, though I haven't been as diligent about that for a while. I check calorie count on the foods I eat, but I don't record everything I consume in MyFitnessPal at this point. Because I pretty much each the same thing for breakfast and snacks each day, the need to count every little calorie has lessened. I just have to gauge lunch and dinner--and of course stay on the exercise train.

While I probably wanted things to progress faster, I've come to the realization that the slower I do this, the better off I am. My body will adjust and learn and accept the changes the longer it takes and the chances of gaining the weight back (and then some) are minimized.

I have another ten to twelve to fifteen pounds to go. Looking at my history, that ought to take me a year. And I'm okay with that.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The evolution of a self-created cross stitch pattern...

So I've been working on a gift for a dear friend. It's a cross stitch project, a sampler of sorts. But I had to create the pattern myself. I've done them before, and usually they're birth samplers and are much easier to throw together. You have pattern books with alphabets and decorative lines and borders and cute little baby patterns. Dig out the graph paper and the pencils and plan it out. Or, you know, you could buy a kit, but where's the fun in that?? But I digress...

I'd seen this tee shirt...

...and an idea sparked!

(Those are names of spells from the Harry Potter universe, if you couldn't tell.
My friend and I share a love of the Harry Potter books/movies.)

I wanted to cross stitch it, but try as I might I couldn't find that Harry Potter "font" in a cross stitch pattern. And it would have taken quite some time to create my own and in the various sizes. Honestly, I couldn't have pulled it off. So I did the next best thing--I dug out my cross stitch alphabet books and looked for alphabet styles in various sizes that looked Harry Potterish.

As a side note, in cross stitch they aren't really called fonts, but the term works for my post so I may interchange the term with alphabets as seems appropriate.

Anyway, once I picked out alphabets in fonts I liked, then I had to create the words from the tee shirt to see how they scaled and mixed and matched. Different fonts are going to end up different sizes. Once I did that and counted the sizes of the words, I had to arrange them on my master pattern. I started with the arrangement found on the tee shirt, but had to move things around to make them fit and look appealing. I ended up looking up a few spells that weren't on the tee to switch out or add into available spaces.

My work product...
 This is determining word-to-font size.

This is the master pattern, though it's hard to see...

Then it was time to stitch. And stitch and stitch and stitch. Because most of the alphabets are outline and require only back-stitching, they went rather quickly, but I took a huge break over the holidays and got back to it almost too late! In fact, I didn't finish by her birthday, which was last Thursday, but I'm going to see her this Saturday and come hell or high water, this thing will be done.
This is what it looks like at the moment...

There's a lot of aida cloth left at the top and the bottom--that's so I can roll it and make the whole thing look like a roll of parchment. However, I need some some sort of fray stopper so I can cut the sides a bit wavy and not have the whole thing shred apart from the sides over time. I'll have finished product pictures next week.
Have you ever received a hand-made gift (aside from your children, if you have them)?

Care to share what it was and the event for which it was given?

Monday, February 10, 2014

Rebooting my life...

I read this book called Rebooting Your Life: A 12-Day Program for Ending Stress, Realizing Your Goals, and Being More Productive by Paul Gibbons. It's a twelve step/day process for strategic planning of your life and getting all the data you keep in your head on paper (to ease the stress of trying not forget anything) and breaking down your projects into tasks based on how long they take and/or the type of task they are (phone calls vs. research, etc). You can get a pre-organized and formatted spread sheet (spread sheet, YAY!) to use for each of the daily exercises.

I saw the book for free on that blog I visit every couple of weeks or so and thought, what the heck...

The whole thing took me a bit longer than twelve days, fifteen or sixteen maybe. Some of the exercises took more than one day and I probably skipped Sundays.

Was it helpful? Well, a little, yes. I put everything down on paper and felt a slight ease. I even remembered a few things that had been relegated to far reaches of my mind. I worked on breaking a couple of projects down to workable tasks. But with so many things out of my control and so many things on my plate, the whole process didn't produce as good results as I had hoped. On one hand, I have a definite list of things to do. On the other hand, I realized how much stuff I have to get done in a short amount of time. Yikes.

But that's okay. I can go back in a few weeks or a month and do it again. Re-think long term goals and aspirations (I haven't forgotten the strategic plan for my writing.). See what I've accomplished in the meantime and move forward.

How often do you re-think and re-envision and re-evaluate your goals? Only at the beginning of the year? Or more often to adjust as things happen and gather more data?

Just thought I'd add the picture for fun...

Friday, February 7, 2014

No rest for the wicked or the weary...

It's been one thing after another since Christmas and there are still a few more weeks until things start to settle down. Well, I hope they settle down, because I don't relish going at this pace indefinitely.

What I mean to say is that I hope nothing else happens in the next month. If I can get through the next 30 days or so without illnesses and injuries or any other type of crises, then I'll be a happy camper.

The thing that's been stressing me out and keeping me busy is a published works contest sponsored by my writing group.... I'm the contest coordinator. In charge of the whole she-bang. I gotta admit, I'm getting nervous.

Entry-wise, I'm not overly worried. We've made money. Next year will be better. Since this contest is brand new and we decided on reader judges, we've (I've) had to recruit judges from scratch--we don't have a list of judges from previous years to rely on.  I'm freaking out that we won't have enough once the contest closes.

So here's the pitch...if you're interested and/or know someone who might be, please pass the word, copy & paste, whatever. Thanks!

Love to read ROMANCE? Want FREE BOOKS?

If you said yes to both questions, the please consider signing up to judge in The Carolyn Readers Choice Award contest.

The North Texas chapter of Romance Writers of America is looking for close to 400 romance readers to help choose winners in nine romance sub-categories. To be eligible, you must be 18 years of age or older and not affiliated with the publishing industry in any way, to include being an aspiring author.

Judging involves reading the first 30 pages of up to six books and filling out an online score sheet. The books are yours to keep and read as a thank you. And you might just find your new favorite author!

Contest closes for entries on Feb. 14 and judging panels will be emailed out during the following few days. Judging deadline is March 14th.

For more information and to sign up, visit If you have any further questions, contact Jen FitzGerald, the contest coordinator at

Please feel free to forward the opportunity to any family, friends, or book club and reader groups who you think might be interested.

Thanks so much.

Jen FitzGerald
The Carolyn Readers Choice Award contest coordinator
North Texas RWA

Wednesday, February 5, 2014


So this post topic has been niggling at me for a while now, so here it finally is...

Who remembers the 1984 Winter Olympics, specifically the Pairs Ice Skating event. Jane Torvill and Christopher Dean performed their free-style program to a specially adapted version of Maurice Ravel's Boléro and took home the gold. If winning gold wasn't enough, they earned the highest marks ever for figure skaters in a single performance, garnering all sixes for artistic impression. A record that still holds as of this post.

I was 13 1/2 at the time of the '84 Winter Olympics and this performance is one of the few TV moments I actually really remember from my childhood.

If you're so inclined to re-watch an amazing moment in history...

The actual impetus for this post happened last year. I was on my way home from a friend's house one evening and had the classical station on. The station was airing a simulcast from Berlin and halfway home, Bolero began to pour forth from my speakers. I turned up the volume a bit to really enjoy the performance as well as the song itself. I even sat in the car in the driveway until the song finally wound to a close. The original composition lasts anywhere from 15 to 17 minutes.

The one thing I learned at the end of that performance that totally amazed me was this fact...

The song begins and ends with the snare drum and it continues throughout the entire song and by the time all is said and done, the snare drum player has performed over 10,000 beats! WOW!

Do you remember this performance when it originally aired?

Monday, February 3, 2014


Well, on Friday night, I finally finished watching the last few episodes of China Beach.

What a ride!

When it first aired back in the very late '80s and early '90s, my ability to watch was hit or miss. My Brown Eyed Girl was a baby and I was busy with her. In fact, I finally realized I probably only caught an episode here and there from season two. But the few episodes I saw--and I do mean few. I only ever remembered the characters and a few scenes--left a huge impression on me all these years.

Just in case you have no clue, China Beach is TV show set at an evacuation hospital during the Vietnam War. The title refers to My Khe Beach in the city of Đà Nẵng, Vietnam, which was nicknamed "China Beach" in English by American and Australian soldiers during the Vietnam War.

So watching the whole series from start to finish was a very emotional experience, especially the last season as they fast forwarded to lives of the characters once they returned from Vietnam and gave us a glimpse of the issues they faced due to their service in Vietnam. The show was nominated for and won numerous awards.

I'm ready to start all over again. And I probably will... Life is gonna be crazy hectic for the next month. Rewatching will probably be my decompression method.

Anyone watch this show and love it as much as I did/do??