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Friday, September 30, 2011

Day 47: Siam Thai

This evening I joined several of my fellow Moonlight & Magnolias attendees at Siam Thai in Decatur, Georgia, for my first dining experience there.

Tofu & Veggie Soup
Fresh Basil Rolls
3 Flavors Tofu
Now, meet my friends:

Names are strictly confidential. What happens at M&M stays at M&M. What I can say is this:

A good time was had by all.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Day 46: The Chocolate Bar

Today I visited The Chocolate Bar in Decatur, Georgia, where I attended a "chocolate filled chat" with authors Eloisa James and Karen White. I enjoyed the amenities provided by The Chocolate Bar - bottomless mimosas, fresh fruit, cheese and crackers, and a chocolate fountain - and left feeling totally inspired by two of my favorite writers. To find out more about my adventure, click HERE.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Day 45: Music & Arts

Today I visited the brand-spanking new Music & Arts store in Lawrenceville, Georgia. I was greeted by a friendly sales clerk, who pointed me in the direction of the sheet music; the store manager made a point of introducing himself to me, too. I had a long to-buy list with me--method books and festival pieces for my piano students, clarinet reeds and a reed guard for myself--and I found everything I was looking for. At the last minute, it occurred to me to check out the mandolin music, and I found a great book/CD/DVD combo (click HERE) that it just what I need to provide me linear instruction in between my sporadic mandolin lessons. It was an altogether lovely experience. Thank you, Music & Arts!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Day 44: Hanging With Friends

As if I didn't spend enough time playing Words With Friends on my iPhone, tonight I decided to give Hanging With Friends a try. A take-off on Hangman, you solve a mystery word from your opponent, then create a new word to send back. I have played just a few rounds so far, but I can already see that this game is highly addictive. My username is PianoTeacherPam if any of you would like to play with me. May the best player win!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Day 43: Eloisa James

Today I started reading a book by an author I have never read before, Eloisa James. I am counting the hours until the 2011 Georgia Romance Writers Moonlight & Magnolias Conference (click HERE), and New York Times Bestseller Eloisa James is going to be our keynote speaker. Not only that, I am going to have the opportunity to meet her at a "chocolate-filled chat" prior to the beginning of the conference on Thursday afternoon (click HERE). So I thought I should read at least one of her books.

I chose When Beauty Tamed the Beast. Before I joined Georgia Romance Writers, I hadn't experienced many romance novels; I lean more towards literary fiction, both when reading and writing. I am three chapters into this book now, and I may stay up all night and finish it. It's that much fun.

Have you tried any new authors lately? Have any book recommendations for the rest of us?

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Day 42: Wicked

My eyes were red from crying.
Tonight Nathan and I went to see the musical Wicked at the Fabulous Fox Theatre in downtown Atlanta. I have seen a lot of great shows over the years, but Wicked is now my all-time favorite musical. Of course, I had heard the name, even before one of my piano students asked me to accompany her and a friend singing For Good in her senior celebration a couple of years ago. I fell in love with the music and lyrics, but I didn't know anything about the story, other than that it related to the movie Wizard of Oz.

A few months ago, I heard through the grapevine that the show was coming to Atlanta, but when tickets went on sale, I simply couldn't justify the expense. Then, surprise! - my friend Pat wrote me a check and left me instructions to buy tickets when she came to visit for my birthday. As show day approached, I considered researching the plot and listening to more of the songs, but I decided against it; I love being surprised and have had too many movies spoiled by the previews. That was definitely the right call. The story is genius, the cast was excellent, and everything is better at the Fox. I laughed, I cried; I can't get it out of my head. Thanks, Pat, for making it possible for me to have this experience. I owe you one.

Have you seen Wicked? What is your all-time favorite musical?

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Day 41: Spotify

I have never lived an extravagant lifestyle, but before the economy crashed I was able to buy myself a new book or CD whenever I wanted to. No more. Yesterday, I decided to give PaperBack Swap a try; so far, I have shipped one book and am waiting for three books to arrive - books that were saved in my Amazon shopping cart that I will now receive for free.

Today my children turned me on to Spotify (click HERE). Here's the blurb from the website:

Think of Spotify as your new music collection. Your library. Only this time your collection is vast: over 15 million tracks and counting. Spotify comes in all shapes and size, available for your PC, Mac, home audio system and cell phone. Wherever you go, your music follows you.
And because the music plays live, there’s no need to wait for downloads and no big dent in your hard drive.
I have barely scratched the surface of all it has to offer, but I am very pleased so far. I created a playlist and added a number of great songs I have heard on the radio over the past several months; now I can listen to them whenever I want to without having to purchase them. Then I did a search for "mandolin" and found all kinds of great stuff, both classical and contemporary.

There is also a premium version which offers you better quality sound and no advertising and the option to listen offline or on your phone. That definitely has its appeal, but for now I am going to content myself with the free version.

Here is one of my favorite new downloads. I love those strings.

Do you ever listen to music on the internet? What are your favorite sources?

Friday, September 23, 2011

Day 40: PaperBack Swap

Today I joined PaperBack Swap. It's easy. Sign up with an email address, a username and a password, then create a list of books you would like to swap with other members. When a book is requested, you mail it to that member; in return, you may choose from over five million available books. The books you request are mailed to you for free, and they are yours to keep. With your first list of ten books, you receive two credits that you can use to request your first two books; I have already ordered mine. I think this will be a great way to keep my shelves cleared of unwanted books and to satisfy my appetite for new reading material without breaking the budget. 

If you decide to give it a try, please use my name as a referral and I will receive even more credits! Thanks, and let me know what you think!

Day 39: Sweetwater Bar & Grill

I am a big believer in supporting local music, so Thursday night my son Josh, his girlfriend Michelle and I went to Sweetwater Bar & Grill in Duluth, Georgia, twice voted "Best Outside the Perimeter Music Club" by Creative Loafing magazine, for open mike night.

The entrance to the live room. Already decked for Halloween.
Hosting and opening was Daniel & Taymin's Two Man Banned. Performing both covers and original pieces, they rocked the house.

Daniel & Taymin's Two Man Banned
Later in the evening, our bartender took center stage and sang a Michael Jackson tune. 

I never would have guessed.
As the open mike waned, we adjourned to the main room for a final round of drinks.

Josh, our designated driver, drank Diet Coke.
I even got hit on by a devilishly cute 33-year old. It turned out he had a devilish personality to match, and not in a good way. But it was fun for a few minutes.

It was good to get out on a Thursday evening, hang out with my kids, and enjoy some local talent. Have you heard any live music lately?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Day 38: Peanut Chocolate Waffle Cone Ice Cream

The kids asked if they could have money to go to Bruster's. Now, I love Bruster's as much as the next person, but I also know that one can buy enough ice cream and cones at the grocery to feed the entire family for the cost of just ONE treat out. So I sent them to Kroger with my debit card and told them to surprise me. They came back with a half gallon of Private Selection Peanut Chocolate Waffle Cone ice cream and a box of waffle cones. We all ate until we were full and there is still some left for tomorrow. Delicious!

Tried any new ice cream flavors lately? What is your favorite?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Day 37: Just Write

Today I participated in Just Write, an exercise in free writing your ordinary and extraordinary moments. Click HERE to read my blog post. It was great to have an excuse to close my eyes, mine for impressions, and record them in a non-linear fashion, to tattoo them onto the face of my blog so I will never, ever forget. Thanks to Stephanie of The Red Clay Diaries for bringing it to my attention.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Day 36: Stouffer's Cheese Enchiladas

I am still cooking for a houseful, a wild and wonderful combination of carnivores, vegetarians and pescetarians. But one thing we have in common is our love of Mexican food. So tonight I decided to try Stouffer's Cheese Enchiladas with rice and black beans. I thawed them in the refrigerator overnight, followed the package directions and popped them in a 400-degree oven at 6PM, and pulled them out, steaming hot and ready to eat an hour later. I served a simple salad of lettuce, tomatoes and ranch dressing on the side. On a scale of 1-5, my family gave it a 3.5 - not bad for a frozen entree. Definitely worth a try!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Day 35: National Cheeseburger Day

No one seems to be sure where this holiday originated, but September 18th is National Cheeseburger Day. We celebrated this special occasion for the first time this evening with a dinner of beef burgers topped with American cheese. It turns out that some food item is honored almost every day of the year; click HERE for a complete list. Who's in tomorrow for National Butterscotch Pudding Day?

Day 34: New Author, New Bracelet, New Food

I tried several new things on Saturday.

At this month's Georgia Romance Writers meeting, I met a new author, Jade Lee, and bought two of her books, Wicked Surrender and Wicked Seduction.

I quickly read the first chapter of Wicked Surrender; it's a real page-turner. I am determined to find time to curl up with it again later today.

Then I went to my brother's house and spent the afternoon beading with my sister-in-law. I tried a new bracelet pattern. It is a birthday gift for my mom and I don't want to spoil the surprise, so I will post a picture after she opens it.

Then Eric and SeDonna took me to Frontera for dinner, where I tried a new menu item: the light chicken wrap.

It comes in at less than 500 calories, and I hate only half of it. Of course, that doesn't count all the chips and salsa I consumed before my entree arrived. Oh, well.

It was a wonderful day, the perfect combination of old and new.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Day 33: Mirko Pasta

Tonight I had dinner at Mirko Pasta in Buford, Georgia for the very first time. The menu includes a variety of appetizers, salads, pastas, sauces, and desserts; basically, you create your own entree using the pasta and sauce of your choice. We started with complimentary bread and bean dip; we practically licked the bean bowl clean. Then I tasted my companions' dinners - granny smith apples and sausage ravioli and tagliolini with boscaiola sauce - before digging into my field green salad topped with grilled salmon. The food was reasonably priced and everything was cooked to perfection. Highly recommended!

Day 32: The Masquerade

My son and his girlfriend invited me to join them at The Masquerade in Atlanta last night. 

It was 80's night.
I had a couple of drinks and did a little dancing, but mostly I people-watched. It's a great place for that. With four performance levels - Hell, Heaven, Purgatory, and Music Park - it would seem there is something for everyone.

Except me. I am glad I had the experience, but I probably won't go back. 20-somethings, you can have The Masquerade. I'll stick with Johnny's Hideaway.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Day 31: Mandolin Websites

Hungry for knowledge but unable to pay for more lessons, tonight I spent a couple of hours seeking out websites with mandolin tutorials. Here are my favorites.


I actually picked out the notes and chords for the first part of Dueling Banjos. Yes, I am proud of myself!

Click HERE for the video for another song I am working on. Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Day 30: Easy Slouchy Hand-Knit Hipster Hat

Noro Taiyo #7
This evening I started a new knitting project, Laurie Perry's Easy Slouchy Hand-Knit-Hipster Hat (click HERE to see a picture of Laurie's finished product and her instructions). Using a discontinued colorway of Noro Taiyo, all I managed to do today was cast on 88 stitches using size 8 16" circular needles. I will try to finish the ribbing and post a picture of my work in progress tomorrow.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Day 29: Life Stories

My 23 year-old son and his girlfriend are staying with me this week, and this evening after supper, to indulge my need to try something new, they played Life Stories with me. The game was a Christmas gift to my ex-husband and me many years ago; it was still in its plastic wrapping. But tonight seemed the perfect time to break the seal and give it a whirl.

The premise is simple. Each player selects a marker - or uses a personal item, such as a coin or a ring - and move across the playing board towards the "Grand Celebration," selecting cards to share "memories," "valuables," and "etchings" along the way. If you don't like the card you draw, you can choose an "alternative," such as, "Ask each player to imitate a different laugh." Here are a few examples from tonight's game:

Describe a neighbor who was difficult to live with.
What is one kind of art that intrigues you. Why?
Describe one of your best or worst teachers.

Great questions, right?

This is a noncompetitive game, a concept my son seemed to have trouble wrapping his brain around; also, he kept getting cards that hit a little too close to home, and he seemed vaguely depressed at the conclusion of our adventure, even though he reached the "Grand Celebration" first. But I enjoyed the opportunity to share some of my personal stories and to get to know his girlfriend a little bit better.

My conclusion is that this is a great family board game and would be especially fun with multiple generations of family playing at the same time, maybe following a holiday meal. Check it out! You won't be disappointed.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Day 28: Dump Cake

Sweet, buttery and delicious!
Today I tried Lindy's recipe for Dump Cake. I basically followed her directions, except I drained the pineapple before dumping it into the pan, and I used 12 tablespoons of butter instead of an entire cup. It was all the butter I had in the house, but it seemed to be plenty. A similar recipe I found on the internet said to cut the butter into thin slices and top the cake mix with it instead of melting it and poking holes; that sounds easier so I will try that next time. I served it warm with vanilla ice cream on the side, and it was a big hit with my family. What could be simpler?

Day 27: Mountain Music & Crafts Festival

By the end of last week, I was afraid that if I spent another day stuck inside these four walls I might explode. So I got up early Saturday morning and headed up to Vogel State Park near Blairsville, Georgia for the Mountain Music & Crafts Festival.

The closest I had ever come to Blairsville was Brasstown Bald, the highest point in the state of Georgia, so this was a real treat. Vogel State Park is stunningly beautiful, nestled as it is in the north Georgia mountains, and Saturday was a perfect day to be outdoors - sunny and 80 degrees.

The crafts festival was small but there were many quality items to admire. I bought a jar of home made fig preserves and drooled over the recycled glass jewelry from Dessin Creations. I picked up a business card and intend to treat myself to a pair of earrings as soon as possible. 

But oh, the music! I heard three bands over the course of the day.

Cornbread Ted & the Butter Beans
Steel String Session
Georgia Highlanders
Click the captions under the photos to go to each group's website and hear samples of their music. Each was delightful in its own way, but I will admit to a special fondness for Steel String Session with its smart, contemporary sound - bluegrass with a definite twist - and to living vicariously through Lisa Jacobi as she sang and danced and played her mandolin. After the show, I introduced myself to her and told her about getting a mandolin for my birthday (click HERE for the story) vowed that someday I, too, will play in a bluegrass band. After all, if Steve Martin can write books and play bluegrass, why can't I? She encouraged me in my dream, and insisted that I sing, too; as she explained, singing is the soul of bluegrass. All right, then, I shall sing!

After the festival was over, I stopped at a Blairsville diner for some supper - grilled trout, baked potato and mixed vegetables, all for $11.95 - and made it home before dark. As soon as I got back, I pulled out my mandolin and practiced until my fingers were sore. As soon as I finish this post, I am going to play some more. Fresh air, sunshine, and mountain music - it was just what I needed to clear my head and renew my soul.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Day 26: Artisan Bread Dough

I first heard about the book Artisan Bread in Five Minutes A Day in Mary Hunt's Debt-Proof Newsletter. I bought the book, purchased the necessary supplies, and then dropped the ball completely. That was months ago. Today I decided it was high time to give the concept a try.

I don't want to plagiarize, so I'm not going to share the exact recipe - a simple combination of flour, water, yeast, and salt. 

My just-mixed dough.

After a two-hour rise.
The next step is to put the dough in the refrigerator and allow it to chill overnight (up to 14 days). I will probably bake on Sunday, because I have a great adventure planned for tomorrow. See you then!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Day 25: Stationary Bicycle

I have a membership to Fitness 19. I enjoy taking exercise classes, and saunas and showers sure are nice, but at $14.95 a month, Fitness 19 is the only gym I can afford. And then I have no excuse not to work out on days when it's simply too hot or too cold to be outdoors.

I have been going to my local facility for almost two years now, and the only machine I have ever used is the elliptical machine. So today I decided to try the stationary bike. I gave it up after ten minutes. On the elliptical machine, I have a hard time keeping my heart rate down to the optimal level for fat burning; on the bicycle, I had a hard time getting my heart level up to the minimum. And I was BORED. So I went back to my tried and true. Turns out the elliptical machine is more efficient, too; according to the Calories Burned Calculator at Health Status, 5 minutes on the stationary bike burns 33 calories, but 5 minutes on the elliptical machine burns 53. That difference really adds up after a 30 to 45 minute workout.

So no more bicycling at the gym for me. But at least I can say I tried!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Day 24: Crock Pot Vegetarian Spanish Rice


I was in the mood for something Mexican for dinner tonight, but I had piano students from 2:45 until 8:15 with a break just long enough to eat, not to cook. Thinking I had a box of Spanish rice in the pantry, I decided I would make that up this morning, refrigerate it, and stuff it into a tortilla shell when dinner time rolled around. Alas, my little box had disappeared. This happens sometimes when one shares the kitchen with an adult child who often cooks for himself. So I did a little 'net surfing and found a recipe for crock pot vegetarian Spanish rice. To my delight, I had all the essential ingredients; of course, I had to change it up just a little bit and make it my own. Here are the instructions for my version.


2 cups white rice
1 onion, diced
1 green pepper, diced
1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes, including liquid
1 3/4 cups water
2 heaping teaspoons Vogue Cuisine Instant VegeBase*
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
1/2-1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup salsa
1 can red beans, drained and rinsed

Combine all ingredients in a crock pot and cook on low for 3 hours (the original recipe said to cook for 6-8 hours but I would have had a crock pot full of ashes if I hadn't checked it when I did).

*You may substitute 1 3/4 cups vegetable broth for the water and VegeBase. 

Then I heated a flour tortilla for 15 seconds in the microwave and topped it with my bean and rice mixture, my favorite hot sauce, and a sprinkling of cheddar cheese.

It tasted as good as it looks.
I plan to experiment with this recipe, substituting black beans for red beans and adding jalapeno peppers and/or red pepper flakes for extra heat.

* * * * *

I also started reading a new book today.

The awesome Sandra Elzie recommended it to me; she said she rereads it every time she begins working on a new manuscript, and I can already see why. It is hard to find, but I finally located it HERE. I think it is going to be an invaluable resource for me as I begin work on my next fiction writing project.

What did you have for dinner tonight? Read any good books lately?

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Day 23: Aveeno Daily Moisturizing Lotion

Today I tried Aveeno Active Naturals Daily Moisturizing Lotion. This was a gift from a piano student's family; the mom put together a bag of some of my ultimate favorite things as an end-of-year gift in June and added a couple of her own personal favorites. This fell into that latter category. During the summer months, I love Olay Quench Daily Lotion Plus Shimmer With Cocoa Better and that little bit of sparkle it adds to bare, tanned skin, but now that the weather is turning cooler I think I will switch to the Aveeno. It is non-greasy and fragrance free and moisturizes for up to 24 hours. Recommended!

* * *

If you want to follow me on Pinterest, click HERE. Sorry I forgot to include that link yesterday!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Day 22: Pinterest

You've had the experience of seeing something wonderful online and wishing you had some way to save that page? To rip it out and add it to a page in a scrapbook or tack it up on a bulletin board? Pinterest allows you to do just that.

From "Pinning 101" at Pinterest

Pinterest is a virtual pinboard. Pinterest allows you to organize and share all the beautiful things you find on the web. You can browse pinboards created by other people to discover new things and get inspiration from people who share your interests.
I set up a Pinterest account several days ago but didn't take the time to actually create boards and pin some items until this afternoon. Once I figured out how to use the "Pin it" button, it was all over. Click HERE to see some of the virtual bulletin boards I am working on.
I could easily spend hours here, creating beautiful collections of my own and admiring the choices of others. Yes, is clear that Pinterest is addictive, but in a good kind of way. Click HERE to find out what all the fuss is about. And I hope you will follow me while you are there!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Day 21: Fun Websites

I spent the day holed up in my bedroom, writing blog posts and reading The Help, coming out only to change out the laundry, take the dog out to do his business, and get food and drink. Suddenly, it occurred to me that the day was nearly over that I hadn't tried anything new. A quick Google search led me to a blog post on Knowzine, 15 Cool Websites To Try When You Are Bored. I wasn't bored so much as desperate, but I checked out two of them.

1. whathappenedinmybirthyear.com

Ben-Hur won the Oscar for movie of the year. Alaska was admitted as the 49th state. Two monkeys became the first living beings to return from a trip to outer space. Smoke Gets In Your Eyes by The Platters was at the top of the charts. Fritz the Cat made his first appearance as a comic book character. Wow. 1959 was a long time ago!

2. funnylogo

The Google-style logo I created is at the top of this post. Cute, huh? There are more styles to choose from. Give it a whirl!

Day 20: Park Tavern

Last night I joined my friends Natalie and Chip at the Park Tavern in Piedmont Park for the Americana In The Park Kickoff Party. I had never been to Park Tavern before, but I found it to be charming, all nestled in the trees of Piedmont Park and framed by the Atlanta skyline.

Park Tavern.
I met Natalie through Gwinnett County Music Teachers Association and we have grown to be friends. She and Chip have young children and date nights are rare. I felt privileged that they included me in this one.

Chip and Natalie.
We sat on the patio outside, ordered drinks and sushi for starters, and noshed while listening to the first band, Sam Sniper, eclectic and cool.

Sam Sniper.
Then our entrees arrived; I had a grilled mahi-mahi sandwich. I don't expect much from bar food, but this was way above average; as a matter of fact, I would go back to Park Tavern just for the menu. Everything sounded good to me.

After we ate, we spent a few minutes chatting with Joe, Natalie's brother and the trombone player in the next band, Matt Hudgins and the Shit-Hot Country Band. Self-described as "songs about drinking, jail, love and death, all done in the popular country and western musical style," it was definitely country with a twist, very tongue-in-cheek, and the trombone added a unique touch to the overall sound. Their first CD will release this fall; I plan to be at the head of the line.

Matt Hudgins and the Shit-Hot Country Band
 Trying a new restaurant and hearing two new bands was a great way to kick off Labor Day weekend. Thanks to Natalie and Chip for sharing the fun!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Day 19: Orchid

I love orchids, and have drooled over them on numerous occasions--at floral shops, botanical gardens, and the beach--but I have never had one of my own, not even as part of a corsage. So today, while I was at Kroger picking up a prescription and the latest issue of Woman's World magazine, I treated myself to an orchid plant. There were many colors to choose from: pink, white and even shades of blue (artificially tinted). It was hard to decide, but I finally settled on this one.

These flowers have so much personality!
I hope it will be as easy to care for as the directions make it sound. I am very pleased with my little purchase! 

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Day 18: Lasagne

Today I tried Barilla's Oven-Ready Lasagne Noodles. I may never boil another lasagne noodle again. Why should I when there is a product that makes it unncessary? I followed the recipe on the back of the box, except I substituted Paul Newman's Own Sockarooni Sauce for the Barilla brand and split the recipe between two 8 by 8 inch square baking dishes instead of putting it all in one 13 by 9 pan. In order to accommodate both the meat eaters and the vegetarians among us, I used browned ground beef in one dish and crumbled Veggie Patch Meatless Meatballs in the other. Everybody was pleased, and it wasn't much extra work at all. I served a simple tossed salad alongside; for dessert, we had yellow cake with chocolate frosting.