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Monday, October 5, 2015

40 Years Without a Restraining Order

This Saturday, (10-10-15) marks our 40th wedding anniversary.

I know. I find it hard to believe too.

Firstly, because I don't feel that old. And secondly, because it went by REALLY fast.

We have company all this week so we'll probably celebrate properly once we're alone again. For now, we'll partake of soft-shell crabs and lobster bisque, and toast another year.

I'll never forget the judge who married us. She was an old black, Baptist justice of the peace who believed young people didn't have the foggiest notion what marriage was about. (She was right!) She did her best to scare the bejeezus out of us, but we stood our ground and assured her we were ready. (Ha!)

I remember her fondly because she was so stern and mean. I know now looking back, she was only looking out after our best interest. I guess she figured that if she couldn't scare us, we might be strong enough for whatever lay ahead.

Once the deed was done, she was all smiles and wished us well, but for a few tense minutes, I wasn't sure she was going to let us marry.

Thank you, Judge Armstrong. When we toast our 40 years, we'll be toasting you too, for giving us the benefit of the doubt.

I'm often asked what makes for a long, happy marriage. Lots of things come into play and it's different for every relationship. For me, it's honesty, equality, and a big dose of seeing the funny side of things. Life is hard. When both people have a good sense of humor it can lighten the load.

I think I chose wisely. I knew Greg would be the kind of guy who would be there even when times got rough.

What do you want most in a mate? Was it easy to find that kind of person?

Monday, September 28, 2015

Out of Phase With the World

It's been a weird few days. I feel like I'm not quite in sync with the rest of the world and I can't put my finger on why. I have this nagging feeling that I forgot something important or left something undone.

First, Facebook blocked both me and Greg from logging in. It was acting funny Friday, constantly jerking me out of my timeline and resetting itself. By Saturday, we couldn't connect at all.

Then it was the goats. Friday, they picked at their food. Our goats never pick. They eat every pellet as if it were their last and if we walk by their pen, they bleat at us as if they're starving. For three days, they've been silent. Other than not eating, they seem fine, but it was unnerving.

Saturday, I opened a fresh bag and they ate most of what I gave them, but still left some. They were happy to eat leaves and sunflower seeds. Maybe they were bored with their feed, but all of a sudden like that? I don't like not knowing why my animals act strange.

To complicate things, the person I normally buy hay from called and told me she wouldn't have any more this year. Now I have to hustle and find another supplier. The goats can't go without hay.

Friday, I borrowed Greg's car and I was stranded in town, missing my yoga class. It turned out to be nothing (the shifter wasn't exactly on Park so it acted like the battery was dead). Had I reached Greg in time, he could've told me his trick for getting it to work again, but alas, we missed each other. By the time he called me back, my schedule was shot.

The chickens are eating their eggs again. They're in molt so I've been giving them more protein, but it hasn't stopped them from eating their eggs. The goats won't eat, and the chickens eat too much. My homestead is topsy turvy.

Even my appetite is strange. Like the goats, nothing appeals to me. I'll eat a little and push the rest away. Not that that's a bad thing for me! Ha! Missing a few meals wouldn't hurt me in the least.

We were invited to a party over the weekend. I really didn't want to go. I felt unwell and a little tired. I even took a nap which is unheard of for me. I whined about going but Greg guilted me into doing the right thing. I put on a brave face and powered through it.

All in all an eventful weekend but nothing that felt right. I can't remember ever feeling so out of phase with everything around me. It made me feel anxious over nothing in particular.

Have you ever felt out of sync with the rest of the world? Was it just as disconcerting for you?


Did you get a chance to see the Super Moon eclipse on Sunday? It was pretty neat. Who knows if I'll be around for the next one in 2033, so I wanted to be sure to see this one.

Our skies were a little cloudy but it was clear in the area around the moon. It really was red too. It made me think how our ancient ancestors must've felt to see the moon 'die'.

Friday, September 25, 2015

LASR Needs Your Blurbs

I was approached by Long and Short Reviews the other day to see if I'd be willing to blurb a book for them.

I don't blurb books as a rule. Much as some of my friends think I throw some influence, (partly because of my cheeky confidence) in truth I feel other people do this better than I would, especially since I don't write anymore.

Still, that doesn't mean I can't ask my blog readers to come forth and blurb a book if they're so inclined.

If you'd like to read a book and have the chance to blurb it, contact me and I'll put you in touch with the Admin staff at LASR. I was offered a paranormal romance, but I'm sure they have plenty of other genres.


Have you ever blurbed a book? Has your book ever been blurbed?

I think it's a great networking tool and another way to introduce new readers to your name. You might be doing something good for the author you're blurbing, but it's also putting your name out to a potential new set of readers too.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Pantry Attacked! Oh, The Horror!

That summer cold knocked me flat for a solid week. Worse, was that sinking feeling when you find yourself throwing back Nyquil cocktails just to keep going. Deep down I knew a quick recovery was futile. I was doomed.

This is the first sickness in 15 years that I didn't have to manage alone. Husbands, I've discovered are very handy.  The dogs were sweet too. It's funny how they know when you're not feeling well. 

There's something about getting sick that:
1. Makes me think of all the things I have on my to-do list.
2. Drives me into purging mode as soon as I feel better.

On Sunday, I attacked my pantry. I have a wonderful, big pantry, but it was time to whip it back into shape. It had begun to look like a catch-all for every little thing, and I was having a hard time keeping track of my staples. 

Because it's a long drive into town, I try to keep my pantry and fridge stocked. Most of my grocery runs are for fresh vegetables and anything that goes on clearance. If I wanted, I could go for weeks without hitting the stores, but I'd miss fresh veggies. My summer garden is all but spent.

I've started the fall garden which is looking great. I'll share some of the details on the next State of the Homestead report.

Back to the pantry. Even a small pantry can increase your ability to save money on food. In the early days, I started small, buying a few extra cans of whatever went on sale. I'm fastidious about checking expiration dates. And while I sometimes "try" something new, I generally stick to the things I know we'll use regularly. 

Loyalty cards: In the US, many grocery stores offer loyalty cards. Kroger, my local chain, regularly sends me coupons and freebies. I may not always use the coupons but I always grab the freebies. Even if I don't use it, it can be donated to a food pantry.

Double down on holidays: In the US, you are guaranteed some great food prices right before major holidays. Set aside a little extra cash to use in November when grocery stores have their biggest sales on baking supplies, turkeys, roasts, and frozen foods.

Freeze it: Every box of baking mix, flour, rice, or pasta goes straight to the freezer for two weeks. I don't take chances with weevils which you'll find in almost every package if you don't use it up quickly. Food distributors can't help it. For the record, weevils aren't harmful, but I still don't want to see them.

Use Glass: I retired nearly all my plastic containers years ago. Although glass is heavier, I find it easier to clean and disinfect. Plastic tends to absorb the smell of whatever was in it last.

Go in with a friend: Those big warehouse stores are great for large buys. If you can't use up a whole bag of flour or sugar, divvy it up with a friend that way you both save.

When I lived in an apartment, I dedicated one bank of cabinets to food. I stored my pots and pans in the dishwasher because I never used it. Big Reveal: This is the first year (in 40) I've used a dishwasher regularly. 

I know most people can't live without a dishwasher but it was only me and Greg and I felt it unnecessary to use the extra energy. Now I'm just busy. Easier to load the dishwasher and go on to another chore than do them by hand.

So how about you? Do you store food for more than a couple of weeks? Are you lucky enough to have a pantry? Do you use a dishwasher, or ever use it as extra storage?

What tips do you use when buying in bulk?

Because Melissa McClone reminded me...

If you want more tips on grocery shopping, try this book: smart grocery shopping

Saturday, September 12, 2015


I was only planning on being off last Monday for the holiday, but the sudden onset of plague has forced me to take off a few more days. It started out as a sinus headache, but now it's a full blown sore throat and general overall ache. The drugs have only made things worse. So there I am. Rock and hard place.

I hope to feel better soon but if I don't I'm not going to waste time suffering.  Might as well put that medical insurance to work.

At least I got many of my projects done before I went down. Still a few things left undone, but not too many.

Greg is taking care of the animals and me, so my only job is to recover.

Hope all is well in your world. If I missed your blogs I'll try to catch up next week. Meanwhile, pass the tissues.


Monday, August 31, 2015


I had missed a couple of homestead high points, so consider this Homestead report 2.0.

A new garden: We had planted corn, soybeans and sunflowers THREE times in the spare goat pen. It gets some dappled shade so I thought it might grow some plants during the hot summer months.

In theory, it was a good idea. I hadn't counted on some malevolent creature eating off the leaves of every baby plant. I tried diatomaceous earth. That deterred them for a couple of nights, but by the third night there had been enough moisture to wash it away.

Some of the corn made it, so did the pumpkins. I'm not going to waste my time planting sunflowers and soybeans a fourth time. 

Greg thinks it's a rabbit or some other rabid leaf-eating critter. They are very careful just to eat the tender leaves. :shakes fist:

Beans: Here's a tip for you. I popped several white northern beans straight out of the bag into some soil and got perfect little plants. I was so pleased. They take three months to grow so I don't know if they'll make it, but I'll put them in pots so we'll see what happens.

Buckling: Sold my little buckling right away. I was shocked that the buyer insisted on giving me more than my asking price because she felt I had priced him too low. That has never happened to me before. I thought it was a fair price.

That little goat pulled one over on me. His mother's udder was really full the next day. I checked her out and sure enough, she was still in milk--and very full. I milked her right away to relieve the pressure. I know all you moms out there know what I'm talking about. ;-)

That little guy must've been visiting the milk bar after hours. We thought she had weaned him. update: I placed an order with and was relatively pleased. They are not as fast as Amazon. The dvds I ordered came straight from their distributor and took a solid five days to arrive. Still, I can't deny their prices were far better than Amazon. My first order granted me six months free membership (instead of the three they advertised). I'll used them for a while and see how they fare.

I will say that when they realized an order was going to be delayed, they promptly sent me an email to apologize for the inconvenience. I wasn't in a hurry, so it was no big deal.

I had forgotten this before but I'll bring it up if anyone is interested. Jet sent me an offer that if I send a friend a code, they (and I) get $15 off a $50 order. I don't know if the code is proprietary so I don't want to make it public. But if you're interested, email me and I'll send you the code. The offer ends September 1, so not much time. Sorry.

Nana: It's a terrible picture (from my phone in a very dark room) but I thought it was cute. There was some gawd-awful movie about Rin-Tin-Tin as a puppy. Schmaltzy and saccharin, but hey, cute dog.

Nana, my tv-watching border collie was mesmerized. I couldn't resist taking a picture of her watching Rinty. 

Does anyone else have a tv-watching pet? Nana and Tank were the only two who ever watched and understood tv.

Have you ever put a grocery store seed in a pot to see if it would grow?

Monday, August 24, 2015

State of the Homestead

During the height of summer, there's not much going on outside. We've been lucky this year. So far we've had only one month of triple digits. The bad news is we've had very little rain.

Garden: Water is always on my mind. Since I can't talk Greg into moving where we get a little more rain, we have to devise ways to water more efficiently.

We've tried it all. Sprinklers. Hand watering. Soaker hoses. Timed watering. Each has pros and cons. Greg is now piping the water directly at the plant roots. It's like a soaker hose but the pipe is more rigid. He punched holes at six inch intervals to spray water at the base of the plants.

We've already tested it out on a couple of beds and it's working beautifully. I can put more water on plants in three minutes than 15 minutes worth of sprinkler water. Less waste and more direct watering. I wish the soaker hoses would've worked but they never last, and those suckers are expensive to replace.

Our project for next summer is to hang shade cloth to see if it will help some of our plants make it through the brutal summer. Pepper and okra do fine, but the rest wilt away under a blistering sun.

I've started a few seeds for a fall garden. It won't be a big garden, just a few veggies for the winter table.

Update on plant fails: All my squash failed. Zucchini, yellow squash, butternut, and spaghetti squash. Lots of flowers but few fruit. When it did fruit, they withered away before they could mature. It could be a calcium deficiency, but it seems unlikely since I crush eggshells around most of my plants. Still researching.

Update on plant successes. The asparagus bed is looking great. I'm hoping to pick asparagus next spring. The sun was killing my blueberry plants so I dug them up and put them in pots. I'm pleased to say they came back to life within weeks and sprouted new leaves.

Isn't he handsome?
Goats: I have one buckling left. I'd like to sell him this year. We'll have only one breedable doe for next year, but that's okay. We want to downsize for a couple of years so we can travel.

Rabbits: The summer is always hard on them. I'm running a fan 24/7 and bring them frozen bottles of ice three times a day. They lay next to the ice bottles and it keeps them cool.

Chickens: We've been hatching chicks left and right. I'm half thinking about raising all of them and selling the hens in the spring. They'll be ready to lay by April and people will be clamoring for laying hens--especially with the price of eggs lately. It won't cost much to feed them for a few months and I should get a pretty good return. We'll see.

We have had some terrible luck with a few older chicks. I had a nice habitat inside an existing chicken coop, but somehow a few always got out. Big mistake. Birds in general, and chickens in particular are ruthless killers of other birds. 

The chicks that escaped were quickly decapitated by the resident hens. I finally moved them to a safer location, but not before I lost four of them.

Indoors...and out: My house has three living areas. Two of them are in the front of the house. The previous owner painted murals in both these rooms. It's not that she didn't do a good job, but it's not to my taste. It's been on my to do list to repaint it for quite a while. 

I finished one room and it looks quite nice. It's a soft neutral. I had planned on painting the other room the same taupe color but now Greg thinks I should repaint it the existing color (sage green). I'm okay with that except for the fact that I already bought the paint.

Generally, poor Greg doesn't get a vote on how I paint/decorate the house, but I'm not opposed to the green. As long as the mural goes bye-bye, I'm open minded. 

Over the weekend we hit a few garage sales (as usual) and found a couple of estate sales in a high end area. The homes were gorgeous and so beautifully decorated. 

Most of my wood furniture came from garage sales and antique auctions. I get a kick out of transforming ratty antiques back to glory. 

Curio cabinet with my boys.
But my one piece of high end furniture came from a store. It's a curio cabinet and I spent an obscene amount of money on it. Still, it's my favorite piece of furniture. (It was also the piece that destroyed my knee when we were moving.) 

Much as I dislike spending big bucks, this is one of those cases where I simply loved the piece too much. Even after all these years, it's still my favorite. That makes it a good buy in my book.

Do you have a favorite piece of furniture? Ever spend a lot of money on something you love to bits? 

The only bad news around the home front is that our water heater went out. (We just replaced the other one this year!) That's another 600 bucks out the window. At least Greg can install it himself. The hard part is getting it up to the attic.

I get so aggravated that things break down after only a few years. It's nothing short of planned obsolescence. I'm old enough to remember when things lasted much longer. Our old water heater at our other house was over 35 years old before we replaced it. This one is only ten.

My mom is coming to visit for an extended stay in October so I've got a lot to get done before then. My house is never cleaner than when company comes over. How about you?

Monday, August 17, 2015

Alternative to Amazon? is a shopping membership similar to Amazon Prime. Over the weekend, I did a sample shopping basket full of the items I had on my Amazon wish list to see how their prices compare. 

Surprisingly, it was significantly cheaper. First some caveats.

Trial membership is free for the first three months. Real membership is $49.99 USD. So while I saved $22 in my shopping cart, plus another $10 with their promo code, it still doesn't make up for the 50 bucks I would've paid in membership fees. Still, it's only one transaction, so not bad for a start.

• Their trial membership is really nice. 90 days as opposed to the 30 days Amazon gives you--and NO automatic renewal when your trial is up.

Free shipping on orders over $35.

• I haven't yet ordered anything, so I can't comment on their delivery. They do have a peculiar bonus. If you waive free returns on your purchase you save a few more cents. I don't know that I'd want to take that risk.

Pros: If you shop online a lot, it might be worth switching to Jet. Also the trial period is much more generous.

Cons: As of yet, they don't provide any streaming. And I was unable to locate a few of the more unique products from my Amazon wish list, like a water pump for my sprouting trays, or a lamp like the one on top of the TARDIS police box. (Greg wants to build a life size TARDIS this winter.)

I'm married to such an interesting man. :-)

Of interest to authors: I typed in my name in their search box and only one of my books showed up in their listing (in paper, listed as used in good condition). I haven't yet figured out how they source out their product requests.

Sell through There is a link (click Terms & Conditions) that allows you to sell directly through Jet. There was only a partial listing on the commissions charged for various products, but the highest commission shown was 15%. Interesting.

Aside from that I have no other information, but I think it's worth a look. If you know more, please share.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Living on Less, Deliberately

I take saving money seriously. You have to when you consider we now live on less than half of what we made only a few months ago as full time employees.

Severe? To the uninitiated of the secret cult of retirees, maybe, but we've been preparing for our retirement for a long time. 

Here are some of the things we've done to stay ahead of the curve.

• I buy in bulk whenever something we use or eat goes on sale. 

• We're disciplined with our spending. We've learned to recognize impulse buys for what they are-- cash-sucking vampires.

• We buy used whenever possible. Garage sales help here. Last weekend, we spent twelve dollars for: 
-a Pyrex measuring cup
-15 dvds
-1 xBox game
-an electronic food scale
-an excellent hanging feed bucket (for my goats)
-an electronic range finder
-steel beams for Greg's metal working projects
-a metal work stand, also for Greg's projects
-a stone entry table that's tres chic

A lot of these things were 25 cents or less. Others were free (like the entry table). It had a broken metal leg that Greg welded back to new in seconds. By the way, that little piece of red decorative porcelain was a quarter.

• We still keep an expense journal which has helped in keeping us honest about what we really spend. To be fair, though, it's a pain in the tuckus to keep it updated.That takes discipline too.

• We reuse and repurpose whenever possible. For example, we need a hay barn. We could build it from scratch, but we have a HUGE greenhouse we're not using. We're going to dismantle it and use half as the skeleton for the hay barn and half for another building elsewhere.

• We sell what we no longer need. Our last garage sale was so successful, we plan another one with what's left over from the other house. We still have appliances and furniture over there. 

If you want to make some quick cash, sell the stuff you no longer use. It's not doing you any favors sitting in storage. Use Craigslist, eBay, or team up with friends to hold a yard sale. Even Facebook has groups that lets you sell your stuff locally.

• I freelance. Even a little extra cash softens the blow of surprise expenses.

• We don't care about keeping up with the Joneses. I used to be envious of friends who were ten years older than us. Gorgeous home, expensive cars, great vacations. I didn't know then that they were always in debt...and probably still are.

When you're used to a certain amount of income, it can be jarring when you cut it to the bone, but it's entirely doable. Before we both retired, we spent a long time calculating expenses. The hard part is calculating emergencies and major auto or appliance breakdowns. And replacements? Those are killers!

We're lucky in that Greg can diagnose and fix most anything. In back to back weeks, he's had to fix both our AC units, each with a different problem. Replacing the parts wasn't cheap, but still a helluva lot cheaper than hiring a specialist. You can't live in Texas without air conditioning. Well, you could, but you wouldn't be happy.

I am not handy. I can grow stuff and I'm pretty good at keeping man and beasts alive, but that's the extent of my practical home skills.

Sometimes I toy with the idea of going back to work. Fortunately, I've managed to talk myself out of it. I guess if we ever have to replace our ginormous roof, or put Greg through school for his doctorate, I might consider working for da man, but until then, I'll stick to making do with what we've got.

Do you earn income from something--aside from your regular job? If you were retired right now, what would you do with your time?

I've had to teach myself to be more easy going and not try to do everything in one day. Retirement is still a hard concept for me to grasp. 

In retrospect, I now know why retirees look younger than people their same age who work. We get to sleep more. :)

I highly recommend it.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Saying Goodbye

I had to say goodbye to three more of my goats. Lucy, Heidi, and Heidi's baby. This is a picture of them in their new home, meeting the other tenants.  :)

They went to someone I actually know (at least online). Some of you might know Marguerite Butler. She's the author of several historical romances and at least one paranormal. You can see her books at Goodreads.

When she mentioned she'd be interested in seeing my goats when I was ready to sell, I was elated. We had a lovely visit and it was great to meet a fellow author so close to me. ...well, relatively close. 

I was sad to see the girls go, even more than when I sold the buck a few weeks ago, but I know they're going to a good home. Marguerite is a true animal lover. You should read the stories she tells about her rescues and the way she nurses her sick animals. She regularly posts pictures of her farm animals on Facebook.

Marguerite has a lot more goat experience than I do so I know the girls are in good hands. 

The first time I brought my goats home I was paranoid beyond belief checking on them nearly every hour. Any time you change an animal's home and feed they suffer stress. I knew so little about goats back then so I was stressed too! You never saw anyone examine poop so closely! LOL!  

Heidi was just a baby then. I think I'll miss that goofy goat most of all. I raised her from a 3 month old. She used to love nuzzling Tank, my old rottie. The other goats stayed clear of Tank, but Heidi was fearless...and a little naive. Thankfully, Tank was a true gentle giant. He loved babies of all sorts.

We are that much closer to downsizing our farm. If we can sell our other house we can do some seriously planning on vacations. At this rate, it looks like 2016. I was so hoping we could go up to Chicago this year. I even have a friend who's offered to house and animal sit while we were gone.

Until that house sells, we're tied. We did get some good news about the house. There's a serious buyer but he wants the land rezoned. I don't know if he can pull it off with the City Council, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

This year has been an uphill battle, but somehow it feels like it will all work out in the end. Things happen when they happen and not before. I sometimes think life would've been easier had Greg worked one more year, but having him home has been worth the extra struggles.

Everything will be all right in the end... if it's not all right then it's not yet the end.   The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Monday, July 27, 2015

A Lofty Question

I believe life is meant to have a purpose. Our job is to find our purpose and fulfill it to the best of our abilities. 

If my purpose on this Earth was nothing more than to save a couple dozen animals from death, then I feel it was a life well spent. Not all of us can change the tide of human history, but we can change the tide of one soul.

Greg feels that we aren't born with a purpose but rather we should be useful (and the best) in whatever kind of situation Fate throws at us. To him, the test lies in how we face challenges, demons, and the consequences of our actions.

I think both viewpoints ring true depending on your personality. 

How about you?

Does life need a purpose? Is it enough just to live a good life? And here's a tricky question. What is a 'good' life?

Sometimes it seems all we see are the loud mouths and the crazies, rocket fuel for higher ratings and clickability. Beneath all the noise there are still decent people out there trying to do the best they can.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Selling My Chickens

Recently, we had a boy contact me (through his mother) asking if we had any chickens to sell.

As it happens, I wanted to sell my black Australorps. I invited them over and showed them the birds. A mutual friend had encouraged him to contact me, but I didn't want him to feel obligated to buy my birds.

It turns out he's in 4-H. For those of you unfamiliar with it, it's a youth organization that strives to teach kids through doing. It's most commonly practiced in rural areas. 

Had 4-H been offered in the inner city of Chicago back when I was a kid, I would've been all over it in a heartbeat. Alas, I too learned by doing, but for the most part it was trial and error. A lot of error. LOL.

We were glad to help this kid anyway we could because we appreciate children wanting to get hands-on experience in something other than texting and Instagram. His mother insisted that he also buy our 'chicken tractor', a movable pen so chickens can pasture in safety.

Greg built ours. 

We don't use it anymore because frankly, we're too lazy to move it around the pasture. When the garden is through for the year, we usually let the chickens roam free. They're good about returning home every night. In five years, we've only lost two birds. One to a coyote and another to a car.

I was surprised they wanted the chicken tractor since he's already building a coop, but they have the acreage for a movable pen so it'll work well for them. Besides, he's young and won't grouse about hauling it around the way we do. Ha!

We've got a few eggs from the Australorps in the incubator. I shouldn't have done it, but darn it, I like those birds. They're so well behaved compared to the Marans.

I'm still on the fence whether to continue with the Australorps or the Marans. 

I'll know by Wednesday if any of the eggs hatched. Wish me luck.

Have you ever been in 4-H or known someone who has? How was it? I'm envious of anyone who grew up on a farm. How much further ahead I would've been if I had had a mentor.

Have you ever mentored someone in anything? What was it?

Monday, July 13, 2015

Creative Ways to Use Leftovers and Scraps

Here are ten (or more) ways to keep food from being wasted...starting with bread.

Stale bread
• Toast, then cube for croutons or crumble for crumbs. Freeze for later.

Freeze whole bread and pull out for:
• Grilled cheese sandwiches.
• French toast.

Green Onions
• Save the tops (roots) and grow new green onions in a pot. You can do this indefinitely.

Black bananas
You know the feeling. You just can't eat one more banana and now they're overly ripe. Freeze them. If you have three of them, save them for banana bread. Here's a recipe.

It's hard to believe we have left over desserts, but most recipes make too much for two people. If I can't halve the recipe, I give half away. 

Some desserts, like cookies or brownies are easy to freeze and taste fine when thawed.

Canned food
I discovered I really didn't like canned black beans. Crazy, I know! And I had bought a bunch of them on sale--certain I would like them. 

After the first can, the rest went to a food bank.

Orange and lemon peels
I've mentioned this one before. Whenever we eat citrus, I save the peels so I can zest it later for other recipes.

Limes: I've never used lime zest, so I just toss the whole (used) fruit into the garbage disposal. Makes it smell nice and fresh.

Chicken carcass
Once you've picked that chicken clean, boil it and make chicken broth. MUCH better than the canned stuff. I then pour the broth into an ice cube tray or into small plastic tubs in 1-2 cup servings.

Extra chicken meat: Make chicken salad for the next day. An easy and fast lunch.

Beer and wine
We always add a cup of red wine into our homemade pasta sauce. Really gives it another level of flavor. Beer is good in chili. That might be sacrilege to some folks, but we don't drink enough to polish off an entire bottle in a timely fashion.

Coffee grounds and (crushed) egg shells
Sprinkle them in your garden. 

There are only two of us so it's easy to waste food if we're not careful. To make matters worse, we don't always have the same taste in food. 

I won't drink beer or Dr. Pepper, and pumpkin pie makes me grimace. Every year I make Greg a pumpkin pie. I've never tasted it, but it must be good because he always asks for one. LOL!

Is your family easy to please at the table or does everyone have different likes and dislikes with the dishes you prepare?

What's your favorite food? Least favorite?
I adore frog legs, and Mexican food.

Monday, July 6, 2015

The Celebration Continues

We're still in holiday mode at the Zannini ranch. Today is Greg's birthday--a milestone birthday to boot. 

His beard might be snowy white but to me he'll always be the 24-year old hunk showing off at the pool.

We've been through so much and it went by in the blink of an eye. We spent the last fifteen years as a long-distance couple--the most grueling fifteen years of my life. If that doesn't test you, nothing will. 

It's been seven months since he retired and I'm still giddy knowing I wake up to him every day.

We usually celebrate birthdays by letting the guest of honor decide that day's events. He hasn't mentioned what he wants to do yet. Probably a movie, and dinner at a nice restaurant.

Independence Day 2015 was great! Greg barbequed. I made the side dishes and an awesome blackberry cobbler. I have to say it was awesome because I always mess up the pastry, but this time it came out absolutely perfect, flaky and delicious. I was shocked! The only thing I did differently this time was chill all my implements and ingredients.

Yesterday, we were weeding the garden and came across this.


These are baby bunnies in the middle of what used to be my snow pea bed. I couldn't bear to disturb them so I left the bed as is. Hopefully, they'll be weaned in a few weeks and move on.

So what do you like to do on your birthday? Is there anything special you wish someone would do for you?

I'd be happy if someone cleaned my house and fed the animals. I don't know what it's like to sleep in late. :grin:  (I so wish I was joking.)

Monday, June 29, 2015

Promo Tips and Tricks

Authors and freelancers, this post is for you. Do you have a plan for promotion? More importantly, do you have a budget? What's your strategy for getting on people's radar?

There's no magic formula for knowing what to spend, but there are guidelines to keep from sinking in quicksand. 

This is what I keep in my budgeting arsenal.

Have clear goals on what you need and what you can afford.
I can't stress this enough. If you need an editor, get some quotes. If you need an artist, know what you're getting for the money. If you buy advertising, swag, or promotional events, create a budget ahead of time so you know not to go over your limit.

It's very easy to overspend when opportunities come up for little chunks of money. A blog tour might cost you $50. An ad on a prominent web site might cost you $100. An ad here, a postcard there, and a conference or two down the road can add up to big bucks before the year is over.

A pre-arranged blog tour can take a lot of stress off you, but you can also do it yourself if you're willing to put in the time to contact potential reviewers and blogs to host you. The same goes for doing your own formatting, editing, or cover. These last three require some level of expertise so if you know it's not your strong suit, budget for that expense.

Jot down the things you'd like to do for your upcoming book. Get some quotes on what each of these prospects will cost, then whittle it down to those things you can do yourself and those you'll have to hire out.

Make a deal.
Many times I've given authors discounts when they hire me for several design jobs at once. It's much easier for me to create a postcard, bookmark, and cover all at once than piecemeal. For one thing, I'll be working with most of the same elements in the same resolution and color profile. I can also design with these various venues in mind so the whole project looks like one cohesive unit.

Even if the artist or editor doesn't offer discounts publicly, it never hurts to ask.

Invest, but save for the future.
On the very first book (and sometimes the second or third), you have no choice but to invest in its promotion to get that book on the radar. Pace yourself. You don't have to be everywhere at once or buy into every promotion. 

No matter where you invest, look into your rate of return. For blog tours, choose blogs that have a big readership, or at the least a lot of comment traffic. If you buy an ad in a magazine, ask for their subscriber numbers. Does it have a big enough audience (for your type of book) and for the money they're asking? If you go to a book conference, can you sit in on panels, get  a book signing, or run a discounted ad in their program?

Time is money too.
This is a biggie. If it takes you weeks to figure out where the best blogs are for hosting your blog tour, you might be better off hiring a company to set it up for you. Those weeks you spent trying to come up with a great cover, or the migraine you earned trying to format your book could be better spent writing. 

You can't get your time back, so spend your time as wisely as your money.

Be a copycat. 
I often follow successful authors on their blog tours as a silent witness. Some of the good ones will keep a list of their appearances. I make a note of where they appeared, what they talked about, what kind of response they got, and whether I thought they were interesting. 

The ones I found most interesting often talked about themselves. As a reader, it made me feel more connected with the author. It made him/her more human, more approachable. A relatable author leaves me with a good feeling. By extension, his book also leaves a good impression, all without forcing the sale.

My favorite no-cost marketing tip. 
For me, the best thing I ever did to get on people's radar is to interact. It's time consuming, but it is free. Comment. Reply to tweets and Facebook posts. Then repeat. In time, people will recognize your name on blogs, forums, and social media. People love an interesting person. Learn to be that person.

Back to you. Do you budget for your marketing? Do you value your time as much as your money?

What's been your favorite promotional tool so far?

Monday, June 22, 2015

State of the Homestead

It's been a busy couple of months despite nearly dying of blood poisoning and having a retired husband underfoot. Don't ask me which was harder. LOL!

We've had more rain at one time than I had ever seen in north Texas. This was great for the garden but a little hard for outdoor projects on the homestead. 

We're into full blown summer now so we have to pace ourselves. No outside work after 10am. After then the sun beats you senseless.

Garden: Beautiful harvests! Beans, peas, potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, strawberries, and kale. The only disappointment this year was my lettuce. Overnight, tiny lettuce loopers devoured my entire bed of lettuce. It's too hot now to replant so I might try again later in the year.

My fruit trees continue to disappoint. I do great with small fruits like strawberries and blackberries, but tree fruit success continues to evade me. I honestly don't know what I'm doing wrong. The trees look great. Beautiful and bushy, but no fruit. (Yes, I have pollinators.)

I intend to persevere and try again in 2016.  

 My herbs did well this year too, but once again, the cilantro bolted as soon as it warmed up. I'm going to try growing it indoors to see if I can get it to produce during the summer. We eat too much of it to have it in such limited supply.

The most successful (and delicious) crop this year were the red potatoes. Man, they are good! You almost don't need butter. 

The snow peas were also delicious. Even though I planted a lot, it wasn't near enough to freeze. Must plant again in the fall.

I got a lot of French beans, but honestly, I didn't care for them. I guess I expected a more delicate flavor. I might try a different variety next time.

Chickens: A failed experiment with the Australorps. I have a broody hen so I decided to give her a chance to sit on a few eggs. 

Alas, she had the best intentions, but poor technique. She accidentally destroyed four of her eggs. Four we removed by mistake. (Greg didn't know I had marked them.) The last two look like duds. 

In this picture, she cracked one of the eggs. What was sad is that the little guy would've been born in two days.

I love the Australorps. They're excellent layers and calm birds. The Marans lay prettier dark brown eggs, but the Australorps are more dependable. 

Goats: We're serious about downsizing this year. If we want to travel, we'll have to get down to just a couple of goats. Last week we sold our "No-Name" buck. 

He is a beauty. Originally, we were going to keep him and put Ray Charles in the freezer, but almost overnight, Ray Charles came into his own. He isn't as big as his cousin, but he's sweet and easy to handle having had so much attention as a baby. He'll still go in the freezer later on, but for now he's received a reprieve. 

The goat we sold went to a man who wanted new blood for his herd. 

Is it strange for me to say that I hated to part with "No-Name"? I hope he likes his new home and I hope they're good to him. 

Greg reminds me that the man paid top dollar for him so I shouldn't worry so much. 

Still, I don't want my goats to go to bad homes. I want their new owners to treat them well and give them regular worming and hoof trimming.

Life goes on at the homestead. The past few weeks have been especially hard on Greg since he's had to do so much of the work himself while I was injured. I've regained some use of my hand, but I bandage it if I have to do any outside work because it's still tender and easy to re-injure.

Photoshop magic. He could lift it, but he wouldn't be smiling.
I did buy him an anvil though. He's been asking for one for years and one finally came up that we could afford. Those things are tremendously expensive! 

There's a class in blacksmithing in the big city. Maybe I can get him enrolled in that once he stops driving to Casa South.

Is anyone gardening this year? What were your winners and losers? Anything you'd like to recommend?

Have you ever sold something with misgivings? Or am I being too sentimental?

Monday, June 15, 2015

Carpe That Diem

I was talking with a good friend about life choices. What makes someone choose a writing life...or walk away from it?

Why do we turn left instead of right?

She had said that even when I walk away from something it's with the intent of walking toward something else.

That's very much true, especially now.

I'm not willing to do things I dislike anymore. Now that I'm retired from Corporate America, I'm entitled to do the things I love, the things I want to do, and to work with people who appreciate me.

Becoming seriously ill recently kind of cemented that for me too. 

The other day we watched "Mary Poppins". I always look up the history of the players from old films. I like to see what had become of them. I was shocked to learn the little boy from the film, Matthew Garber died of pancreatitis at twenty-one. Twenty-One. That's so incredibly sad.

Some of us never get a chance to realize our dreams. Others never get started.

Not that there aren't good reasons and obstacles before you start your journey. For myself, some detours and roadblocks were made by my own 'border collie' mentality. "Never start something new until you've finished the old" is my motto.

Sometimes it's responsibility to family, or earning a living, or getting enough education before you can begin to follow your dreams. The important thing is to eek out a little happiness for yourself along the way.

As John Carter of Mars said...
Take up a cause, fall in love, write a book.

If you died one hour from now, what would you regret most?

PS  I've regained some use of my hand but I still can't make a fist. Little steps, right?


Dream as if you'll live forever. Live as if you'll die today. ~James Dean