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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Day 17: Reading at the Gym

I promised a writer friend a review of her new release by September 1st; also, Pat gave me a book that Kristen Lamb recommended recently, and I have been anxious to start reading it. But life is crazy, and I have been wondering how I can find more time to read.

I have been known to listen to recorded books exercising; however, my ear buds keep disappearing, and I don't have audio versions of the titles I want to dig into most. So today I decided to try reading from my Kindle while using the elliptical machine at the gym. It was great; not only did I finish my friend's book, I polished off two chapters of Failing Forward. Bonus: my 35 minutes on the elliptical machine went by much faster than they usually do. Win, win!

How do you sneak in time to read?

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Day 16: Digital Greeting Cards

Today I made my first-ever digital greeting card. Mom & Dad, this one is for you.

To read about more about my first experiences with digital scrapbooking, click HERE. Follow the instructions for a chance to win a copy of the software for your very own! 

Monday, August 29, 2011

Day 15: Doing Nothing

I planned to return from the Scrapbook Cabin Sunday evening, but my friends there twisted my arm and convinced me to stay over one more night. So I stayed up too late, drinking margaritas and making the most of my time with the Cricut machine, and got up too early, as I had to shower and pack and make the two-hour drive back from Ellijay in time to teach this afternoon.

With an hour to spare, I unloaded the car, hugged my dog, sorted the mail, cleaned up the kitchen and tidied my studio. Then I saw students straight through from 1:30-8:30. That's right - I saw 14 kids in a row. Famished by the time I was finished, I wolfed down some leftover pasta, changed into my jammies, and curled up in front of my laptop.

I have three blog posts due this week: a scrapbooking software review tomorrow at Sometimes It's Cloudy, Sometimes It's Clear; my weekly article on Wednesday at Writers LiPP, and my monthly offering at Petit Fours and Hot Tamales, which won't go live until next week but must be in the queue by five o'clock on Saturday. I also promised book reviews to a writer friend of mine on or before the date her book publishes - September 1st - and I still haven't finished reading the book. Finally, I need to run to the bank, go to the grocery store, and fold and put away several loads of laundry.

But I am exhausted from my wonderful weekend, and showing symptoms of the virus that Nathan brought home from school last week. So I am going to try something new tonight.

I am going to take care of myself.

I am going to brush and floss and put on body lotion and turn out my bedroom lights and go to bed. Period. So what if it's early? It's what my body needs.

Sometimes the best thing to do is absolutely nothing.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Day 14: Cricut

Today I experimented with a new scrapbooking tool, the Cricut, a portable electronic cutting machine. 

The Cricut.
This cartridge-based system cuts letters, shapes and phrases in a variety of sizes and styles. It is easy to use: attach paper to the self-adhesive cutting mat, load it into the machine, and press a button. Voila! Within seconds, your shape is electronically cut out. 

I actually cut three different shapes on this piece of paper.

Then, using a thin metal spatula, you simply lift your shape from the mat.
Three of my favorite things.
Now I know what I am going to ask Santa to bring me for Christmas.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Day 13: Hash Brown Egg Bake

Each of us signed up to make a meal here at the scrapbook retreat; I was in charge of this morning's breakfast and decided to try a new recipe.


1 32-ounce package frozen cubed has brown potatoes, thawed
1 pound sliced bacon, cooked and crumbled
2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese, divided
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 eggs
2 cups milk
1 dash pepper

In a large bowl, combine hash browns, bacon, 1 cup cheese and salt. Spoon into a well-greased 13 by 9 inch baking dish. In a bowl, beat eggs and milk until smooth; pour over hash brown mixture. Sprinkle with pepper. Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees for 45-50 minutes until golden. Top with remaining cheese and bake 5 minutes more.

I put this together last night so all I had to do this morning was pop it in the oven. Simple and delicious! Next time I think I will saute some onions and green pepper and add them to the potato mixture. Let me know if you try it.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Day 12: Scrapbook Retreat

The room where I am working.
I am spending the weekend at the Scrapbook Cabin, nestled in the mountains of Ellijay, Georgia. I have visited this wonderful retreat before; I blogged about my experience HERE. What makes this weekend different is that I am actually creating scrapbook pages; the last time I was here, all I did was organize the photos on my laptop. I will share samples of my creations later. Right now, I need to get back to work.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Day 11: Mandolin Lesson

Ronnie Banks, my mandolin teacher

I received a mandolin for my birthday; click HERE for the full story. Tonight I had my first mandolin lesson with Ronnie Banks of Banks Creek Music. Ronnie is also my youngest son's guitar teacher; since Nathan wasn't feeling well tonight, Ronnie allowed me to use his lesson time. Nice, huh? He explained the layout of the instrument to me and showed me how to tune it; then he showed me how to play a song he composed using three simple chords and got me started on some scales. It might be a while before I am able to go back; in the meantime, I am going to practice, practice, practice!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Day 10: Megan's Dad's Pasta

I may never buy another jar of canned spaghetti sauce.
Inspired by my blog sister Megan, I made her Dad's Pasta recipe for dinner. Heretofore, my only experience with pasta sauce has been from a jar; tonight, I played with olive oil and garlic and plum tomatoes and butter and parmesan cheese and - my, oh, my! - the results were spectacular. Click HERE for the recipe. FYI, 1/2 teaspoon salt and a generous sprinkling of fresh-ground pepper were all that was necessary. A few flakes of red pepper might make a lovely addition for fans of all things hot and spicy.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Day 9: The Ultimate French Review and Practice

The Ultimate French Review & Practice

One of the things I decided to work on during my hiatus from fiction writing is relearning French. I have always loved the language and studied it throughout high school; looking back, I wish I had continued in college and/or spent some time living in France, studying piano and immersing myself in French culture. Instead, I took a year of German, which I also enjoyed; however, instead of becoming fluent in either language, the German confused my French and now, almost thirty-five years later, I have forgotten much of both. 

I would also like to learn some Italian, but I have decided that the best place to begin before I go to Europe - and I AM going to Europe, although I don't know when or how - is with a good review of French. Several months ago, I purchased a couple of workbooks from Amazon to help me; today, I finally got started. Using the book pictured above, I reviewed the present tense of regular -er, -ir, and -re verbs, and did the corresponding exercises, checking my work with the answer key in the back. (I missed three out of thirty).

My friend S.M. Carriere told me about Livemocha, an online foreign language learning community, offering a variety of classes, resources, and opportunities for live conversation. I intend to create an account and check it out. But that is a blog post for another day...

Monday, August 22, 2011

Day 8: Apple Streusel Coffee Cake

Three sorry-looking apples have been "going begging" in my refrigerator, but in these frugal times I don't like to throw anything away. This morning thoughts of apple streusel coffee cake started swirling through my mind but I didn't have the sour cream, pecans or oatmeal for my usual recipe. So today I decided to try something new, using ingredients that most of us usually have in our pantries.


1 1/2 cups flour
2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 egg
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup oil
1 1/2 cups chopped apples

Stir dry ingredients together; beat egg, milk and oil and combine with to dry ingredients, then add chopped apples and mix well. Pour into a well greased 8-inch square pan.

Streusel Topping:
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour
2 tablespoons butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Mix together and sprinkle over top of batter. Bake at 375 degrees 25-30 minutes or until done.

This cake was delicious, but little bit sweet for my taste. Next time I will reduce the sugar in the cake and add some nutmeg and cardamom along with the cinnamon and substitute brown sugar for some of the white sugar in the topping - maybe cut in an addition tablespoon of butter, too. And one could easily replace some or all of the white flour with whole wheat, according to preference. I will definitely use this recipe again. Let me know if you try it!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Day 7: Sudoku

S.M. Carriere mentioned Sudoku in her blog earlier this week, and it occurred to me that I might be the only person on the planet who hadn't played the game yet. So today I decided to go for it.

I visited Web Sudoku, went through the tutorial, and selected an easy puzzle. I am ashamed to admit it took me almost sixteen minutes to complete, and I not have finished it at all if not for the "How am I doing?" button.

Here is a puzzle for you to try.

Click HERE for the solution.

I may never play Sudoku again. But at least now I know what all the fuss is about!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Day 6: Great Wall Supermarket

Fresh out of furikake, a gift from long-ago house guests, I ventured into an Asian supermarket for the first time this afternoon.

All five senses were stimulated: sight, smell, touch, hearing, even taste (free samples!)

Some things were familiar,

others not so much.

It took me a while to find the furikake - and since I wasn't sure how to pronounce it, I didn't ask anyone for help - but I finally tracked it down, in the Korean foods aisle.

I am already looking forward to cooking up a big pot of steaming jasmine rice tomorrow and seasoning it up right. Nori Komi or Ebi Fumi, that will be the question.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Day 5: Library and Lunch

Finding myself in imminent danger of becoming a dull girl, I decided to blow off my to-do list this afternoon and head out in search of adventure.

First stop was the newest branch of the Gwinnett County Public Library. Located less than five miles from my house, this facility opened in May 2010 but I had to look up driving directions on MapQuest. As a matter of fact, I can't remember the last time I visited a public library. Probably back when I was still home schooling my kids. And that was over two years ago.

I found the shelves where my books will be located someday (thanks, Lindy, for planting this seed!)

Somewhere in between Jeffrey Archer and Margaret Atwood.
Then I spent about thirty minutes wandering aimlessly. In the end, I checked out two books on CD, for listening to at the gym or in my car, and three books by unfamiliar authors. It's not like I was experiencing a shortage of reading material, but I liked the covers and the blurbs were irresistible.

Realizing I hadn't had lunch even though it was nearly 2PM, I decided to stop at Starbucks on the way home and use the gift card I received for my birthday and try out one of the new bistro boxes.

I went for the protein box - whole grain bread, cheese, peanut butter spread, a boiled egg, grapes and apples - and washed it all down with a passion tea lemonade, another new experience. The bistro box was just so-so but the lemonade was fabulous, and could easily become an addiction. However, since my gift card will run out all too soon, I found a recipe online.


The cost of today's adventure? Less than a half gallon of gas. Who says having fun has to be expensive?

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Day 4: Pinetti Notte Pinot Grigio

Since I don't teach on Fridays, I often celebrate the end of my work week on Thursday evening with a glass or two of wine. I am a white-wine-in-the-summer-red-wine-in-the-winter kind of girl and generally prefer Pinot Grigio to Chardonnay, so tonight I chose this lovely bottle of Pinetti Notte Pinot Grigio, regularly $9.99 but on sale 2/$5.00 at my neighborhood Kroger. Turns out this wine won the Silver Medal in the 2011 Los Angeles International Wine Competition as well as the Silver Medal in the 2011 San Francisco International Wine Competition. All I know is that it tastes great - light and fruity, perfect for kicking back on a hot August night. 

Time for another glass. Cheers!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Day 3: Wednesday Hodgepodge

My friend Stephanie of Red Clay Diaries joined the Wednesday Hodgepodge blog carnival for the first time today; it looked like so much fun that I decided to give it a try myself. Click HERE to go to the originator's website and see her answers; click HERE for Stephanie's. Read on for mine.

1. Using what's in your fridge right now, what sort of meal would you be able to make for guests who are standing on your front porch this very minute?

I could bake a pizza. I could make cheese omelets and toast or grilled cheese sandwiches. I also have a package of soft taco shells and could whip up some bean and rice burritos. Not bad, all things considered.

2. What is something about yourself that you hope will change but that probably never will?

The optimist in me cannot answer that question.

3. What's something about yourself that you hope will never change?

My optimism.

4. Do you usually send serious or funny greeting cards? Why?

It depends on the recipient. But about 75% of the time I end up with a funny one. I generally prefer to keep it light.

5. Bird watching, shell gathering, or star gazing - your choice for whiling away the hours?

Shell gathering. Definitely. Anything at the beach.

6. Do you double or triple check things? If so, what?

I am usually in too big of a hurry. I have so many things going on in my life I have had to let go of a lot of the perfectionism. Things usually turn out okay anyway.

7. What's your favorite place for people watching?

Hartsfield International Airport.

8. Insert your own random thought here.

I intended to blog about something completely different today, but the new beading technique I tried was a complete failure, so I am saving it for another time.

That's it! Did you have fun? If so, you can click HERE to find out what others had to say.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Day 2: Yves Veggie Shrimp Scampi

Now that school has started and it's just me here for lunch, I tend to keep it pretty simple. A baked potato and cottage cheese. A cup of yogurt and a piece of fruit. A slice of bread and a slice of cheese. I am pescatarian for the most part, although I will admit to indulging in my fondness for hot wings and bacon from time to time. I realize they are not vegetables, but I am very skilled in the art of playing pretend.

Today, though, I my lunch was strictly vegetarian. I tried Yves Veggie Shrimp Scampi, a manager's special in the health food department at Kroger this week.

Preparation was simple. Heat the "shrimp" in a bit of oil in a skillet for two minutes,

add the sauce, and cook for another 30 seconds.

I spooned mine over a bed of jasmine rice and added some soy sauce and red pepper flakes for extra flavor. Very satisfying. 

I give it a 3.5 on a 5-point scale.

For dessert, I had a cupcake leftover from my birthday party.


Not exactly health food, but a lovely finish. Have you tried any good convenience food lately?

Monday, August 15, 2011

Day 1: Vision Board

Inspired by Julie Powell of Julie and Julia and Gretchen Rubin of The Happiness Project, I have decided to launch a year-long project of my own; on this, my 52nd birthday, I resolve to try something new every single day and blog about it.

Never be afraid to try something new. Remember, amateurs built the ark; professionals built the Titanic.

* * * * *

I have always been intrigued by the idea of making a vision board, and today seemed like the perfect day to give it a whirl. There are many websites with instructions, but this one is my favorite. Mine is definitely an "Opening and Allowing" vision board. I don't fully understand why I chose all the images I did, but I am excited about the possibilities they represent.

The whole experience was very relaxing and affirming; this was my first vision board but it definitely won't be my last. Have you ever made a vision board? What was it like for you?