Friday, January 11, 2013

I Didn't Fall Off A Cliff!

To my readers, I apologize that it has been so long since I last posted.  A lot has been happening, to say the least.  The nutshell version is as follows:

      1)     My daughter moved back home, which was great but also a big adjustment.

2)    My kids began homeschooling.

3)     I went back to school at the local community college and took two classes— Intro. to Journalism and Creative Writing.  The first one was fine but the second one I absolutely LOVED!  It opened a world to me that I’ve wanted to pursue for so long—writing!  I actually completed three short stories, four poems, and a one-act play!  I also did numerous writing prompts that may well be the inspiration for a future writing project.  The class inspired me to re-apply at a local four-year college to finish my degree so I applied for financial aid, got approved and signed up for five classes.  I will be majoring in English with an Emphasis in Creative Writing.  I start next Tuesday and I can’t wait!  I still have a lot to learn and I am a little intimidated (sort of like the star high school basketball player going to the NBA) but I’m also so excited!

4)    I am helping my daughter get her driver’s license, a job, and finish school.

5)     I lost my Uncle to cancer, which is the second relative I lost in 2012. 

6)    I put my house on the market with a realtor instead of continuing to try to sell it myself.  In the meantime, we moved to a smaller, less expensive place as part of my simplification and debt payoff plan.  We recently got an offer on the house and I’m waiting to see if it all goes through.  Plus, we still have a yard sale to coordinate so we can get rid of more items that are at our former house.

7)     My family took a couple of mini-vacations.  I’ll write about those on my other blog Explore Virginia in the future.

8)    I got my braces off!  Yay!

9)    I started eating a healthier, mostly plant- and juice-based diet (after watching Forks Over Knives and Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead).

10)  I lost my mind, found it, then lost it again many times over!  J

Well, as you can imagine, there are thousands of little daily problems and joys that I’ve experienced along the way but this will at least give you some idea as to what my life has been like over the past six or seven months.  I plan to try to update this blog bi-weekly and actually have a pact with a blog buddy to help keep me honest and on track.  You can check out her blog at High Quality Mothering.

I will keep you posted on my weight loss journey, my debt payoff plan, my writing classes, and so much more so stay tuned!  In the meantime, I leave you with a quote from Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird:  Some Instructions on Writing and Life.

“Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people.  It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life.”

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Simplifying Ain't Simple!

Today was supposed to be about deep cleaning and getting the house ready to put up for sale.  Yeah, it’s amazing how a day can seem to start well and then go downhill quickly.  I don’t want to go into details since it involves others but, let’s just say, that today was disastrous and I am spent.  I am cried out and my brain is fried.  In less than a 10-hour span today, I have gone from mildly irritated and impatient to extremely angry and hurt to worried to scared out of my mind to relieved to angry and hurt again and then to just plain worn out.  Now I’m left wondering what I could have done differently and how to help the other person in this equation.  I’m also praying…a lot!  And I know I will be okay.  Jehovah God will not forsake me and, as Scarlett O’Hara says, “tomorrow is another day!” 

There are just so many balls that I’m trying to juggle right now.  It’s so overwhelming at times.  As I’ve mentioned briefly before, I’m trying to simplify.  For me, that means selling my house.  It is too big and the payments are more than I’d like.  I can afford them but I am what you would call “house poor”.  I don’t have much left over to do any of the things I’d like for me and my kids.  I’ve actually wanted to sell my house for years but have held back out of fear and uncertainty.  If I sell, should I buy something else or should I rent?  Should I try to buy something with a few acres out in the country and get chickens like I’ve always wanted?  If I rent, I won’t be responsible for the repairs and other costs of ownership plus where I rent may have amenities like a pool, exercise room, etc.  But what if no one buys my house?  The economy is bad and home values are down.  Plus, it’s a nice house and a nice neighborhood...Ugh!  These are just a few of the wishy-washy thoughts that have plagued me for too long!  At least now, I know for sure what I want to do—sell the house and find a place to rent that is a lot cheaper and easier to care for.  I don’t want any more of my time or energy spent on the home than necessary because I want that time and energy focused on spiritual goals, paying down debt, and doing things with my kids.  I’d like to enroll my kids in art classes; travel with them; get them cell phones; help my daughter get a car and cover insurance when she starts to drive, or give her my car and get me a new(er) one; get new tires for my current car, etc.  Yikes!  There is always something!

Along with selling my house, I am also selling furnishings, decorative items, and other things that I either don’t use, don’t need, or don’t want to dust and care for.  I e-mailed pictures of some of my items to a local furniture consignment shop and just got a reply back that they may already have some buyers so we just need to seal the deal and have them pick my items up.  Things are starting to happen.  That’s a bright spot in the day! 

I also have some items ready to go to a different consignment shop and I’m getting some things ready for a yard sale and the rest will be donated.  Sounds like a plan, right?  Yeah, it is but it’s sad that this is not my first purge.  When I moved from my previous house, I got rid of a lot of large pieces, including a piano, and lots of other items.  Then, while in my current house, I’ve had two yard sales; sold things at a flea market, several different consignment shops, and book shops; and given things away.  How do I still have so much to get rid of?  Believe me, I’m not a hoarder like you see on T.V.  Much of my stuff looks brand new and has been either displayed nicely or packed away in a storage room in my basement.  There is not junk lying around.  My house is neat.  Still, earlier in my life, I fell prey to consumerism and materialism and keeping up with the Jones’.  Now it’s sickening to me.  Thankfully, I am finally at a place in my life where none of it matters.  If I didn’t have kids, I could easily pack up just the necessities and travel in an R.V., live on a houseboat, or live abroad.  For now though, I feel I need to give them more stability than that.  Instead, I’ll simplify as much as I possibly can and enjoy the sense of lightness and freedom that comes with it!

P.S. My son has spent the last couple of hours in his room doing his own purging and cleaning.  I’m really proud of him! 

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Strawberry Muffins - Yum!

Hey, everybody!  I just wanted to let you know that I tried the strawberry muffin recipe that I found on and they were delicious!  I meant to add chopped pecans but forgot.  Still the recipe was super easy to follow. 

As an extra step, I added a cream cheese frosting from a recipe found on  

 Give it a try, I know you’ll love it!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Stawberry Dreams for the Budget Conscious

It’s so funny how things work out sometimes. I was supposed to go strawberry picking yesterday but decided not to go to save money. So, instead the strawberries came to me. Here’s what happened…

Last year at this time, I went with my mom, my son, and a few ladies from our congregation to pick strawberries at a wonderful farm in Nelson County, Virginia called Seaman’s Orchard. What a beautiful day we had! The surrounding area was so picturesque and we got so many deliciously sweet strawberries! (I’ve included some of the pictures I took last year on my phone.) 

This year, we wanted to go back and there were a few other ladies that wanted to go as well. So, on Wednesday I tried to make plans to go yesterday (Friday). The weather forecast was good and it hadn’t rained in a couple of days so it would have been a good day for strawberry picking. However, truth be told, I couldn’t really afford to go what with the price of gas and then having to pay for the strawberries with a depleted grocery fund. I confessed my budgetary concerns and bowed out of going. No problem. I was happy with my decision. Besides, I figured maybe things would look better in June and I could go pick cherries instead.  
Well, that was not the end of it. My friend Patrice called later in the day and advised she was at a different farm picking strawberries and asked if I wanted to come over. It was closer (so less gas) and the day turned out to be absolutely GORGEOUS! I was so tempted! But no, I advised I couldn’t go and I was proud of myself for sticking to my guns. Instead, she invited me and my family over for dinner and a movie later that night. Yay! Time with friends and within my budget!  
So, I made a pie to take and went to the grocery store for a couple of sodas. On the way to the store, my mom and brother called. “It’s such a beautiful day”, they said. “We want to go riding and maybe pick some strawberries. Do you want to come?” What?! A third chance to go strawberry picking on the same day?!  I don’t believe in fate but this was getting ridiculous. I advised I had other plans and declined but said if they could wait until the next day, I would go with them. Hey, at least the gas would be paid for and I wouldn’t have to buy anything if I didn’t want to. Well, they were non-committal on that and I kept my plans with my friend. 

When I got to Patrice’s house, she had about 20 jars of strawberries she had canned (which I tasted and it was yummy!) and two trays of beautiful, plump strawberries she had frozen and was putting into freezer bags. Yay for her! Waah for me! Still, we had a fun evening. I absolutely love her family!!
Well, towards the end of the evening I missed a call and had a voicemail message from my brother. He advised that he and my mom did go strawberry picking at Seaman’s Orchard and got extras so I could pick them up on my way home. Since all good things ultimately come from Jehovah God, I will consider this to be a gift from Him as well as my family. And what a lovely gift it is. Sweet, fresh, and local strawberries. Doesn’t get much better! 

So, late last night and eyeing my bounty, I considered all of the ways I could use them (after I give some to my sister and niece). I didn’t want to get out my canning equipment to make jam this year, at least not the next day. So I brainstormed what I could do with my strawberries. It was late and a late-night snack was called for so I was just going to have a mayo and American cheese sandwich, however, a light bulb went off! What if I slice a strawberry and put it on the sandwich? Is that too weird? Well, I tried it and it is not weird at all. It was actually quite good! Here are a few other budget friendly ways to use fresh strawberries:

·        Make a cool, refreshing pie by mixing whipped topping with about a third of a box of strawberry gelatin. Stir in chopped strawberries then transfer the mixture to a graham cracker crust. Top with more whipped topping and add a few decorative strawberries on top. Yummy!!
·        Make freezer jam. I haven’t tried this but another friend says it is easier and tastier than canning. I found super easy instructions at and this is what I will try soon!
·        Make your own angel food or pound cake and top with sliced strawberries that have been macerated in a little sugar. Yum! You can find cake recipes online and even find recipes to make your own whipped topping. Here are links to two recipes that I found on and option 2. I’m going to try it and, if it works, may never have to buy whipped topping again!
·        Melt some chocolate to dip your strawberries. Yummy and decadent! Don’t know how to melt chocolate? Try following the tips given at
·        Add a few strawberries to cereal or oatmeal.
·        Make strawberry muffins. I haven't tried this yet but found a link on to what looks to be a good recipe that I will try in the near future.
·        Slice strawberries and put in a nice spinach salad with walnuts or pecans and your favorite cheese.
·        Look up a recipe online that suits the ingredients you have on hand and make your own strawberry salad dressing. I found one at that I tweaked for my ingredients. Instead of balsamic vinegar, I used white vinegar. It got the taste test seal of approval from me and my son.
·        Make your drink of choice better with fresh strawberries—daiquiri; strawberry lemonade, smoothie, or milkshake; or add sliced fresh strawberries to some sparkling water or lemon-lime soda.
And the list can go on and on. But you get the idea. If your gas and food budget allows, go pick your own fresh strawberries (I’ve seen as low as $1.30/lb.) and enjoy their natural sweetness in any number of creative, unique, and frugal ways!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Where have I been, you ask?

Hey, everybody! If you read my other blog (, you know that I haven’t been keeping up with either blog very well as a little thing called "Life" keeps getting in the way. You see, since January, I started home schooling my son; have been trying to simplify my life by getting rid of things (that’s actually been going on for years!); lost a family member; have been doing work to sell my home; looking for a job that will enable me to work part-time from home; trying to be a good Mom; cooking, cleaning, paying bills; learning some new job skills via online classes; trying to maintain a spiritual routine; etc., etc. And, for me, it gets really hard to focus on too many things at once. I can only keep so many balls in the air at one time. Inevitably, one or two drop for a while until I can pick them up again. In this case, my blogs were dropped for a bit.

Plus, truth be told, I got into a little funk there too. You know, self-doubt. What’s the purpose of my blogs? Who is even reading them? I’m not a good enough writer. Wah, wah, wah! I have to say that it is very heartening to look at my blog stats from time to time and see interest from people all over the world. I don’t know how you guys stumble upon my blogs but it is the coolest thing ever to know that people from Russia, Indonesia, Brazil, Germany, the U.K., Japan, Latvia, Columbia, South Korea, and many more places are checking out my blogs! So, thank you!!

And, yeah, I am definitely a wanna-be world traveler! The only times I have been out of the U.S. I went to the Bahamas and Canada. That was great but not enough. There is a vast, interesting world out there full of fascinating people, languages, cultures, wildlife, and topography. Hence, one of my major motivations for simplifying my life--getting out of debt to live the life I want and teach my kids a thing or two about what is really important. I recently stumbled upon blogs by two families that are doing this very thing. You can check them out at and

For me, these families have helped me solidify my plans for the future. I have a goal to work toward and I'm very excited about that! I'll have more about the changes I'm making and how I’m working to accomplish my goals in future blog posts. I hope you’ll keep coming back and give me feedback or even just share how you simplified your life in the comments section! Maybe we can inspire one another! Until next time, this southern fried and tied up girl wishes you all well on your life’s journey!

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Fun with Stained Glass

After years of wanting to take a stained glass class, I finally did it and completed the last of the four-week course last night.  It was so much fun and both easier and harder than I thought, but mostly easier.  Here is what I learned. 

First, you should know that I’ve taken classes in the past (painting, quilting, mosaics) but never finished the projects due to a chronic case of perfectionism tied to a mild lack of confidence.  I’d hem and haw at the starting gate about what design I wanted to use or how to start while all of the other students took off like they were going for the gold at the Olympics.  I’d get discouraged and would sometimes just stop coming to the class altogether.  But this time I was determined that things would be different.  I would not spend inordinate amounts of time fretting over how to begin or bemoaning every perceived mistake.  I would not focus on perfection.  Instead I would focus on staying with the instructor, completing each task on the assigned night, and just enjoying the process.  It was my first attempt after all so my project was going to have flaws anyway but at least it would be finished.  On the first night, I even told the instructor, Jack, about my sordid past with art classes and he assured all of us that we didn’t need to be perfect.  That’s all I needed to hear.   Boy, did I run with it! 

First Night:  We got some basic instructions on cutting and breaking glass and practiced doing so.  It was surprisingly easy.  We were then given a paper with the same pattern, a star, on it and were told to cut out all of the black lines from around all of the pattern pieces, which would leave approximately a 1/16th space between them.  We could do this with regular scissors or with triple-bladed scissors that cut the black line out for you.  I found the triple-bladed scissors a little hard to get used to but did like them.  However, here is where I made my first mistake as I cut some pieces a little too much and others not enough.  Some had remnants of the black line on them and others were slightly misshapen.


Next, still on the first night, we numbered our pattern pieces then chose the colors and textures of glass we wanted to use for our project.  We learned how to lay the pattern pieces out on the glass to cut them correctly.  (For example, you wouldn’t want to start scoring the glass for one pattern piece in such a way that will cause the glass to break where you have another piece waiting to be cut.)  Once the pattern pieces were laid out, we used a marker to trace around them onto the glass being careful to number them and then cut out each glass piece.  We left the glass pieces assembled together on a tray.
Lesson Learned #1:  Take your time and cut your paper pattern as precisely as possible!     
Second Night:  We took the cut pieces of glass and grinded the edges on a glass grinder.  The first pass was to smooth the edges of the glass but then we had to compare the glass to our original template and grind down any excess glass.  The  grinding machine uses water with the spinning grinder so each time we had to completely dry the piece we were working on before placing it back on the paper template (so the template wouldn’t warp) to make further comparisons.  I found grinding to be the most tedious and least enjoyable part of the class for a couple of reasons:  1) because I had so much of it to do; and 2) because teeny, tiny little bits of glass fly up and get on your face, in your hair, and on your clothes.  However, the last reason wouldn’t prevent me from taking the class again. 

Lesson Learned #2:  Do not squander your freedom from perfectionism so flagrantly!  Cut the glass more precisely the first time around to waste less time on grinding.  Also, note that we wore protective eye gear while grinding but one reference work said you should also wear a mask so you do not breathe in any glass particles.  I’ll do that next time.

Third Night:  We wiped the edges of all of our glass pieces with a cloth to make sure all dust and debris is removed.  We then began applying copper foil to the edges.  This was a little challenging as we had to apply a thin strip of adhesive backed copper to the edge of glass in such a way that an equal amount of excess foil was on both side of the glass.  We worked our way around each piece, cut the foil then pressed it to the edges before pressing down the excess foil on to the front and back flat surfaces of the glass.  We pressed down the corners with our fingers first then with a crimper before using a tool to burnish or flatten the foil on the surfaces of both sides of the glass.  If we miscalculated and got too much foil on one side of the glass than the other, we tried to add a little more foil to that section to fix it or had to remove the foil completely and start over.  This is important because when you look through the glass, it is obvious when this is not done properly.  We then put each piece back on the pattern in order on a piece of wood.  Our instructor nailed pieces of quarter-round around our design to hold all of the pieces in place firmly.

Lesson Learned #3:  Apply the foil more precisely and evenly to the glass pieces so it’s even on both sides.

 Fourth and Final Night:  We applied flux (an acidic mixture to make metal adhere to metal) to key points on our design then soldered them with an extremely hot soldering iron and tin.  This was to hold the design together.  We then proceeded to solder the rest of the design on one side.  (Sorry, but I didn’t get pictures of this as I was too focused on what I was doing and forgot.)  This was both fun and exasperating.  It was cool to see how the tin would melt down the surface of the hot soldering iron and pool along the line of copper being covered.  It was frustrating when I didn’t move quickly or slowly enough and the tin either formed a lump or was too thin.  The cure was a blessing and a curse.  You see, you could apply more flux and then touch the soldering iron to the tin and it would re-melt and be movable.  Great, right?  Yes, except it is possible to re-work something too much.  Oh, well, it was a first attempt remember? 
Once we were done with the first side (not the outer edge, since that would be covered with a zinc frame), we cleaned the flux and debris off with water and dried our piece.  We then flipped it over and did the reverse side being careful not to apply too much tin as it could seep through to the other side we just completed.  Yes, there was seepage and I had to fix it by applying more flux and reheating and removing some of the tin.  Once this was done and the piece was washed, Jack used a miter saw to cut out zinc frame pieces which he fitted to our projects and affixed using a different type of more caustic flux.  (I didn’t really like the way it discolored the zinc frame but what are you gonna do?)  We used a file to smooth the edges where the mitered pieces met.  Jack then drilled holes for our frame hooks which were applied with more solder and voilĂ !  My project was complete!
Lesson Learned #4:  Take your time soldering so you get smoother lines with consistent and correct amount of tin.
Final lesson learned?  Creative people must do creative things.  Even just being in a creative environment is invigorating and feels right to the bones.  Find new ways to express yourself creatively.  Take a class and see it through to the end.  Even if you never want to try that particular art form again, you will learn something about it and, more importantly, about yourself. 

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Why Paula Deen Makes this Southern Chick Sad

Paula Deen, Queen of Southern cooking, announced Tuesday that she has type-2 diabetes. Ordinarily that might be a sympathy garnering announcement but it has her critics up in arms and trash talking the food I grew up loving and that makes this Southern chick very sad. Let me explain.

First, I have to confess that, although I am not a super fan of Paula Deen’s, I do like her. I’ve seen a few of her cooking shows, as well as, other shows where she is being interviewed and I like her folksy, down-home country charm ("Hey, ya’ll!”). I guess it’s a Southern thing. 

I also like that she tries to preserve traditional Southern home-style cooking because I simply love the food that I grew up with! It’s about taste and home and mama. I’ve even written about it on my other blog. Still I know that Southern home cooking in the traditional sense is not the healthiest cuisine around. We all know that. So, what’s the problem?

Well, you see, Paula Deen has been under fire for quite some time for kicking the traditional up a notch or two…or ten! It seems for her that Southern cuisine can never have too much fat or sugar and so she seems to delight in concocting the most outrageous diet busters. (Deep fried cheesecake, anyone?) Add to that her age, weight, and an admittedly sedentary lifestyle and it’s a recipe for disaster. Sounds like it just might be her own personal problem but it’s not. Paula Deen is a well-known and well-liked celebrity. As a result, many take umbrage with her continued promotion of unhealthy foods in light of her diagnosis that, it turns out, she’s actually known about for several years. Really, how can someone continue to relish in and promote dishes like hamburger, egg, and bacon between two glazed donuts while knowing the health risks to themselves and others?
In Paula’s defense, she says that she has always spoken about moderation on her shows. She may have. As I said, I haven't watched a lot of her shows. However, of the ones I did see, I never heard moderation preached. Not once. Never saw anything about it in her cookbook that I checked out from the library a few months ago either. And moderation is definitely key when it comes to Southern cooking! I too have a weight issue and I am currently trying to eat healthier and lose weight. Does that mean I never want to have biscuits and gravy or chicken-n-dumplings or chocolate pie again? Absolutely not! However, I know that it cannot be the mainstay of my diet. Sure, my grandparents may have eaten that way and my grandma did live to be 98 years old, but my grandparents worked hard on a farm most of their lives and worked off as many calories as they consumed. They also had access to fruits and vegetables and non-chemically processed foods. It was a different time. Few people have that lifestyle today, which is why the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) states that one-third of U.S. adults are obese along with 17% of children aged 2 – 19. So, the question is, in a country where an alarming portion of the population is literally bursting at the seams, is it responsible for any public and respected figure to so brazenly flaunt an unhealthy lifestyle?

To rub a salted stick of butter into an already open wound, we also learn that Paula Deen is now the spokeswoman for Novo Nordisk, makers of a diabetes treatment drug reportedly costing up to $500.00 a month, and she stands to make millions from the deal. Seems sort of like being on the board of directors for a tobacco company while promoting a patch to stop smoking at the same time.

Still, some may feel that Paula’s diagnosis is her personal business and that she didn’t need to tell anyone she has diabetes and I agree. However, as a celebrity chef, she could have started changing her recipes to be healthier years ago. She could have preached moderation more loudly and more often. And, if she wanted to come clean about her diagnosis to help others, then why didn’t she do when she found out about it? Why wait until she has a deal with a pharmaceutical company? It all seems so disingenuous now and such a big let down.

To make matters worse, Paula Deen has committed the biggest crime of all--betraying her Southern roots by putting traditional Southern cuisine in such a bad light. And that just makes me sad.