Friday, July 30, 2010


Heading to downtown Chicago today! I can't wait! Brenda and I are going to meet up after she is done with work, and we will see what trouble we can get into. I have several places I want to check out.

I wonder if the Lisle Starbucks folks will miss me? I've spent hours (and dollars) working there this week. It's nice to get out for a change of scenery sometimes. The writing life can get lonely when it's just you and the computer. The dogs always tend to lay around napping and aren't much for entertainment.
Yes, those are two BIG dogs snuggling -- Hooch the French mastiff and Sugar the pit bull.

Today's coffee goal is to find one of my beloved CARIBOU coffee shops. A standby in the midwest, they are nowhere to be found in the south.

I have two big articles in progress for the September issue of Connection magazine. One is almost done and the other is getting there. Once again, these are light on quotes -- but I am learning to embrace that as my trademark. Instead of letting quotes do the work (aka write the story for me), I let my writing shine. At least, that's what I tell myself. My editor and readers don't seem to mind.

I'm looking into some software I ran across yesterday that is basically speech-recognition software. For $99, I am not sure how reliable it would be, but it may be worth a look-see. It would sure take some major stress off my shoulders when it comes to interviewing people!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Yoga + Pizza

Who says yoga and pizza don't go together?

I tagged along to a yoga class with Brenda last night. It was awesome. And hot. And challenging! I loved it. I am in better shape than I thought -- I am walking fine today. heh. A little sore, but in a really good way.

Ninety minutes of yoga in a 90-degree room equals how many calories burned? We may have negated the calorie burn by going to Lou Malnati's for some incredible pizza. I apparently have no shame, since I am posting this picture (Brenda doesn't either -- she put the pic on Facebook for all the world to see. Or at least our 600+ combined friends.)

Soooo good.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Violet Hour

This is the violet hour, the hour of hush and
wonder, when the affections glow again and valor is reborn, when the shadows
deepen magically along the edge of the forest and we believe that, if we watch
carefully, at any moment we may see the unicorn.
- Bernard DeVoto "The Hour"

Ahh, Chicago! Technically, I'm in the Chicago suburbs as I write this, but whatever.

It's been a whirlwind. I arrived at Union Station at 4 on Saturday and negotiated a drive-by pickup with Brenda via text message. Success! And I didn't get lost, either. Did you know the Caribou Coffee adjacent to Union Station is closed on the weekends? I didn't, either.

Brenda and I headed for Wicker Park, a neat neighborhood north (I think!) of downtown for the evening. After waking up with some caffeine and chatting in velvet chairs at Starbucks, we headed out in search of the Violet Hour. One of Brenda's former co-workers recommended the place--there's apparently a sister bar in Minneapolis. We knew the address and walked down Damen Avenue. And kept on walking. The bar was so well-disguised we walked past it once!

And then we went in. This place was Awesome. They said it did not open until 6 p.m., and thinking we were losers for being there early, we slunk in at 6:10, hoping we weren't the first people there. We weren't--the bar seating was half full, and the seating area had several people settled in already.

Not that we could see. Once you enter the bar, you go through sets of curtains and it feels like you're in a dark abyss because it is so dim. We could not see where we were going, so I was super-careful NOT to knock over a candlelit table as I tried to stumble after the hostess. Both B and I had to "feel around" for our seats--which turned out to be really comfortable high-back, padded chairs.

Once our eyes adjusted, we could see each other and the drink menus just fine. The Violet Hour is a Prohibition-style place, place and they handcraft their own bitters and several house items. I had a Moscow Mule with Tito's vodka, lime and ginger syrup. Heavenly. And strong!

After mellowing out with our pre-dinner drinks, we cabbed it over to our dinner party destination. OMG, was the food good. Cold avocado soup, jumbo grilled shrimp, pork shoulder, and some other Cuban delicacies. And some fantastic company.

I could get used to evenings like this!

Next time: Why I was running through Brenda's neighborhood yelling "HOOCH!!!!!"

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Dog Days

They look so innocent, don't they?

Actually, these two brothers are growing up quite nicely. Sure, there was a time I was afraid it was never going to happen -- that maturation that comes "sometime" between age 2 and 4. Now, at about 2 1/2 years old, the boys are truly growing up.

But they have their moments:
Quite simply, they cannot leave each other alone!

Today I have both of them in the house and they are being pretty good guys. Of course, Baxter won't let Rowdy "bother" me. Or eat his food.

Going to take them swimming in a little bit so they can wear themselves out.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


Here's a sneak peek at the August cover of Connection magazine:

One of my articles has a mention on the cover! Apologies for how teeny-tiny the image is; I stole it from Facebook.

Off to work on an article for the September issue.

Monday, July 19, 2010

mow, mow, mow your lawn...

Monday already. The summer is flying by--and I hope the cooler weather isn't too far behind. Today is yet another hot one, and the humidity is about 129%. I just finished wringing myself out after mowing part of the yard. It was a choice between dulling my mower blade with the wet grass or getting heat stroke by doing it later in the day.

Vacation Bible School was great! I got to work with a super-nice group of people, and the kids were awesome. This year, the church rented the Gizmo Event Center for VBS. Let's just say the building was HOT when the kids sat down at 6 p.m. They hardly complained or fidgeted (I would not have blamed them!).

I helped out with taking photos -- the kids are going to be working on a cute project with the pictures today. I'm kind of bummed out about my 18-55mm lens. You know how you're "supposed" to put on a protective filter over the lens? So if it gets scratched you can just unscrew the filter and put on a new one? Well. The filter is STUCK on the lens. No amount of coaxing or praying is getting that thing off. Sigh. I guess it's better it's stuck on the "cheap" one instead of the new 55-200mm zoom lens.

Better get busy. I have six online articles to write and two magazine interviews to do by Wednesday night. Better refill that coffee cup.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Quick Post

I know--I rarely post on weekends. Just wanted to do a little self-promotion!!
My writing got a mention in the Demand Studios blog:

Not bad! That reminds me: I really need to create my online portfolio as the writing is adding up fast. That's what happens when you apply a little discipline to your life.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Friday, Friday

Happy Friday! I know my "real world" friends are celebrating the fact that it's Friday. For me, it's the start of a busy week.

McDonald's coffee with a magazine interview subject, a peek at the September issue of Connection magazine and photos at the Vacation Bible School kickoff in Wheaton are on today's agenda. I'm glad they have the VBS scheduled for the evenings, because it's going to be HOT. I have a feeling I will have to launder my fluorescent yellow staff t-shirt every night.

Bible school has come a long way since I was a kid. Not necessarily all in a good way. All the staff for Bible school had to have a background check, and we are required to wear our staff t-shirts and photo ID. Parents who want to be at the facility have to wear wristbands. There will be security at the gate checking everyone. While I understand the need for this, it is sad that it's necessary. I remember biking or walking to VBS in Litchfield and everyone was welcome, no questions asked. Things have changed so much since then, especially in this area of Missouri. Nobody is ever going to forget a case like Rowan Ford.

I got a lovely surprise in the mail yesterday. I love surprises. Especially when they make me laugh out loud like this one did. Thank you (you know who you are) -- it will be put to good use.

Happy Weekend!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Heat Wave

Yep, it's hot. Not to mention humid. I'm glad I have a ton of "inside work" to do, because that's about all I'm motivated to do.

Things are finally starting to fall into place for the magazine interviews + travel plans. Whew. I like the freedom the freelance writing offers me, but this month has been a bear with scheduling conflicts. I blew through two or three story options before landing on one where the timing worked. I love the enthusiasm that everyone has for the Connection magazine -- from the great editor I work with to my interview subjects.

Getting ready to go "up north" again. Baxter and I will do the long drive to Waterloo. And -- bonus -- I will hop on a bus to Chicago to see my girl Brenda.

Watching the Today show while I type this (you know I am a multitasker). Mel Gibson is a psycho. Maybe there was lead in the Braveheart makeup, I don't know, but wow. I am not impressed. Sure, his ex-girlfriend/baby mama just might be a gold-digger, but if even half of her allegations are true, nobody deserves that kind of treatment.
WHO really cares about Bristol Palin and Levi Johnston. Maybe it was his Playgirl pose that made her want to "keep" him? I think he is just using her to keep the spotlight on himself.

Enough procrastinating -- now I have to get back to writing for money. It's almost Friday!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Play Time

Anyone who has a blue heeler -- or who has had the privilege of a visit from Baxter -- knows these dogs can be pretty destructive. So far, I've been lucky -- Baxter's only destroyed toys.

Oh, and my bed. How could I have forgotten that one. That's a whole other blog.

Anyways. I've always tried to keep an eye out for good, virtually indestructable toys for the Bax. Stuffed animals are a no-no. They get dismembered and de-squeaked in 60 seconds flat -- regardless if they are Baxter's toys or not.

I've found a few good toys, but the one item I've struggled with has been one of Baxter's obsessions. Balls. He fixates on tennis balls. I think there's even one on the bed -- you know, just in case I decide to get up in the middle of the night and throw it for him.

I've tried to find Bax a good ball to roll around outside and play with. He really, really, really wants to play with my big Swiss exercise ball in the house, but I know he would destroy it, so that one's off limits. I've tried a cheap large ball from the kids' toys department, wasted $5 on an extra-large tennis ball. Nope, both destroyed.

And then I found an egg-shaped plastic sphere at Tractor Supply. The "Jolly Egg." I'm embarassed to say what I paid for it! But it seems like it is going to hold up, both indoors and outdoors. (Although visitors complain about how much noise it makes when being herded across the hardwood floors and banged into walls.)

(I still can't believe what a good dog he is -- pausing from play to pose for this photo.)

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


So happy to be typing this and have electricity! I was in the middle of chatting online with a friend in Texas when a wave of rolling thunder came through and the electricity went out. Thank goodness for candles + flashlights! After last' year's lightning episode that blew the telephone jack across the room, Baxter does not like the thunder very much. He tries not to act scared but doesn't quite pull it off.

The Tulsa birthday celebration was great! I'm so lucky to have friends like Stephanie & Amanda. We hit up Drysdales, Chick-fil-A, the Imax, Cheesecake Factory and Super Target. Of course there were giggle moments!

Eclipse was a good movie--probably the best of the three so far. Sure, it's cheesy with the fang-less vampires, over-the-top eye colors and teenage drama. But Jacob and his muscles make up for it! However, it's not a kid movie. And someone should really tell that to the thirtysomething lady who sat in our row. She had a little girl with her who could not have been more than six. During the intense scene toward the end of the movie (how's that for not giving it away?), this kid was terrified -- she was doing the zombie stare at the screen and even had her hand over her mouth. As Stephanie said, that kid is going to have nightmares.

I had candles and matches in my purse when we went into Cheesecake Factory. No, not to burn the place down, but to stick in Stephanie's cheesecake. That plan went a little awry when Amanda informed me that I would be in big doo-doo if the CF staff sang to Stephanie. Oh, dear. Lucky for me, we decided to get the cheesecake "to go" and the plot changed. We did get to surprise Stephanie with candles in her cheesecake in the hotel room -- without setting the room on fire or turning on the fire alarm and sprinklers. Success!

Of course, no trip with the Butlers can be completed without some drama and/or pee-in-your-pants giggles. When we went back to the hotel after dinner, we got the drama, squared. First off is an old guy hooked up to an oxygen tank sitting outside the hotel entrance. Lighting up a cigarette. Classy.

Then (and this might have been oxygen tank dude's grandson, perhaps) there are some rowdy pre-teen boys horsing around in the lobby, while their parents sat watching them and not really caring. They fooled around with the elevator doors, and one kid somehow got his hand stuck inside the elevator door mechanism. (Don't ask me how, I am not about to find out.) He got it out and is whining about how it hurts to his parents. Amanda kindly let me know that the father said loudly, "You moron! Do you have to do this every time we go to a hotel!??!"
Yeah, that about sums it up.

Can't wait for the next Butler installment!

Thursday, July 8, 2010


Today's Stephanie B's birthday!! She's such a good friend, I had to give her a shout out. She's seen me through thick and thin: good times, bad times, all-night drives from Georgia, laughing til we just about pee our pants, Cracker Barrel dinners. And the Twilight movies! What can I say -- we may be hurtling toward 40 faster than we'd like, but we're still immature at heart.

To celebrate, we're heading to Tulsa. I hope the city is ready for us, because we tend to make a commotion wherever we go. Fortunately, we will have one-day-short-of-17 Amanda with us to chaperone (or embarass!). We're heading to see Eclipse at the IMAX and do some shopping. I hear there might be a visit to the Cheesecake Factory on deck as well.

And for the record, I'm Team Jacob!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Free Advice

I have some free advice for y'all. Actually, two tips.
Don't lose your wallet.
And, keeping with Murphy's Law: Keep a record of what you do have in your wallet. Because when you DO lose it, you're not going to remember some random thing in there, like your Starbucks card.

I didn't follow either pieces of this advice. What a mess!

In all the traveling I've done, I've never misplaced my wallet. There's a first time for everything. Blame it on being travel-weary or whatever; it was just one of those things. You know, "stuff" happens. Especially when you're blonde.

You know all those warnings--including the Oprah Pledge--about not texting while driving? Well, geez, it sure would have been nice to have read my text messages while I was driving. Then I could have turned around and drove Joyce's truck about 15 minutes back to the gas station. But no, that's not how the universe works.

We stopped in Terre Haute, Indiana, for the night. While Joyce went in to check into the hotel, I went straight for the Crackberry. I didn't have a clue I'd left my wallet on the other side of Indiana.

Long, convoluted story short: Cancelled cards, no cash, tons of text messages, hair pulling, stress, new cards, new PINS, a stop at the local sheriff's office.... My dad even stopped at the gas station to pick it up, as he was coincidentally going through the area. No dice.

Finally, on Saturday--11 days later--I had the long-awaited box in my mailbox!! While my Starbucks card was cleaned out of $18.44, there was still $40 in cash in there. Weird. But I'll take it.

Trust me, I'm keeping super-close tabs on my wallet from now on. And trying to remember my new six-digit PIN.

Friday, July 2, 2010

I took a break from writing this morning to play with the camera in the garden. (Among a bunch of other things -- nothing like a little procrastinating with a deadline looming.)
Like I said, the butterflies love the coneflower garden--and they don't seem to mind me climbing right in there with my camera.
A few lucky shots! I need to get a field guide to butterflies....
Have a fabulous Fourth of July weekend!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Cover Story!

So excited to have the July issue of "Connection" magazine in my hands! I had the privilege of getting a behind-the-scenes look at a Civil War re-enactment being filmed for a PBS documentary. And then writing about it. It was quite a project, with a lot of people and different groups involved. Plus the fact that the equation of a deaf person using a digital tape recorder is NOT a good combination.

Here's the cover shot: I need to get busy creating my online portfolio of magazine articles & online content. The list continues to grow & I'm loving it! I have a handful of Demand Studio articles due this weekend, plus two articles coming out in the August issue of "Connections."