Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Pioneer Woman

Facebook reminded me today about the Pioneer Woman's upcoming book-signing tour in honor of her new book, "Black Heels and Tractor Wheels."

It's next week! In Tulsa!
I'm going. I have her cookbook. The new book comes out Tuesday, February 1, two days before the book-signing party. I want to be just like her when I grow up. Well, minus the four or five kids. And the cows.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Book 'em, Danno

I'm hooked on the (new) Hawaii 5-0 show -- and it's on tonight. Going to watch House from the elliptical, do some writing and then drool over my new celebrity crush!

Today, I went to the library in Cassville for the first time in a very long time. I'm ashamed to even admit how long it's been. Let's just say I had to re-verify my library card.

Since I got my Nook e-reader and joined GoodReads last year, I've had no problem keeping books "in stock" to read. But the past few weeks, it's dwindled and when I calculated how much I was spending on e-books and GoodReads shipping charges, I decided it was maybe time to head to the library. Free books -- what more can you ask for? Especially for someone who reads as fast as I do. I've been known to devour a book in a day or less. That gets expensive! This was also the first time I'd been to the library since I got my new cochlear implant speech processor. I was truly surprised at how un-quiet the library really is! Here, I thought it was a hush-hush place and always worried I was making more noise than necessary. Turns out, there's a lot going on! People shuffle around, talk loudly, the computer at the checkout counter beeps.... It was nowhere near as noisy and annoying as Walmart (where I have to turn down the processor to Program 2, which I call the Walmart setting!!), though. I was just surprised -- all this time I've spent feeling self-conscious and "worrying" that I was noisy was time wasted!
I now have four books just waiting to be cracked open. Two were on my GoodReads "to read" list and the other two were just bonuses I found while browsing. For a rural area, our library usually has a pretty good selection. I have two weeks to read these -- but I'll probably finish them before that deadline rolls around.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Something to Howl About

Just one more full week left in January! Can you tell it's my least-favorite month of the year? I shouldn't complain about the cold, since our temperature--although cold--is still a good 30-40 degrees than Minnesota's. But it's still cold. The outlet drain for my water softener is frozen solid and I had to bail the water out this morning--but I'll take that over frozen water pipes any day. I'm still "stuck" at home -- now out of milk and hoarding the last precious can of Diet Coke. It's supposed to warm up enough on Saturday to melt most of the ice and snow, which will be cause for celebration!

Another cause for celebration: the February issue of Connection magazine is out! I can't wait to get my hands on it. I'm proud of the cover story I wrote about a McDonald County native's Yellowstone outfitter company, as well as the restaurant article about a local BBQ joint. And no, I still haven't set up an online portfolio of my work. I need a kick in the pants....

Have a fabulous weekend--and stay warm out there!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Another Snow Day!

Another snow day! I have about one cup of milk and one can of Diet Coke left, so this could reach emergency proportions if the roads are still bad Friday. Around here, there's only one or two snowplows for the whole county (I'm probably exaggerating, but whatever) and everything shuts down when we get snow. Church services, schools, day care, senior centers, bingo night, even some offices; you name it, it's probably closed.

I had plans to head out to Shell Knob today to work on a story for the March issue of Connection. But -- you guessed it -- the place I was going shut down due to the weather. Instead, Baxter and I alternated between being extremely lazy and venturing out to admire the snow. Well, I admired it; Baxter just played in it. He even waded into the creek! Brrrr.

That's another difference between Missouri and Minnesota: open water! Here, there's really no such thing as ice fishing.

I didn't plan our first walk out in the snow very well and only brought the camera with its basic lens. I WISH I'd thought of tucking away the zoom lens, because there were bluebirds and cardinals galore during our late morning walk. Below is the same picture, zoomed in quite a bit so you can see the brilliant color of the bluebird. We went out again this afternoon, this time with the zoom lens, but only saw some juncos. Better luck next time!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Blog No. 201

This is blog #201! Wow. Who knew I had so much to write about. It's interesting to look back through my posts and see what I've done and where I've been over the past few years. I may have to have the blog-o printed out in a book format...just as a keepsake/scrapbook.

Part of being a writer means continuous writing to keep the mind fresh, which was the original reason behind creating this blog. Sometimes I have good ideas for blogs; other times I just get too busy with paying writing jobs to spend time with recreational writing. This week, I actually have a list of topics I want to write about.

I finished the epic "Fall of Giants" earlier this month. This book is a long-awaited one -- nearly three years elapsed between "World Without End" and this one. Apparently, I wasn't the only one waiting; "Fall of Giants" debuted at #1 on The New York Times bestseller list.

The first book in a planned Century Trilogy, this Giant book spans from the early 1900s to about 1920 -- the years of World War I, womens suffrage and the Russian Revolution. It introduces you to people from five countries: Wales, Britain, Germany, Russia and the United States. These rich characters are from many different walks of life, yet their stories are intertwined in the fabric of history. Each person (or family, in some cases) is affected by events around the world. You'll be captivated and feel as if each character is a real person who lived through the era.

It's amazing how intricate the book is. There's feminism (in both Britain and America), Russian Bolsheviks during the revolution, the Labour, Liberal and Conservative parties in Britain, and more. You'll meet Welsh miners, English aristocracy, a German spy, Russian royalty and revolutionaries, and American politicians and bootleggers.

Follett takes the reader over political landscapes around the world and into the battlefields of World War One as never before. It's a history lesson that will teach you more than you learned in high school about names like Woodrow Wilson, Winston Churchill, Lenin and Tolstoy. Follett dramatizes events so well that you feel like they "could have" happened.

This book is a must-read. At 985 pages, it's pretty hefty. I'm a fast reader and it took me nearly two weeks to finish, which has to be a record.

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Grrrls with the Pearl Earrings

Today was a pearl earring day! See, there's four of us girls who own the same pair of pearl earrings, and when one of our group needs some extra long-distance support, good luck, karma, well-wishes or what-have-you, we all wear our earrings.

These gorgeous earrings came all the way from Manila, Philippines. One of our grrls fought and survived a brain aneurysm in September 2009 and was on her first trip overseas since the aneurysm when she found the earrings in a Manila market. She picked up an extra three pairs as gifts for her sister, who passed a pair to me and another girlfriend. Even though we're spread over three different states and only get to see each other a few times per year, the earrings keep us close.

They have superpowers. Really. Today, the girl we wore them for got a new job! I may have to start wearing mine every day because of the good things they do. It's just a great example of how important our girlfriends are.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

A Nation's Grief

I planned to do another blog about a specific "Baptist Church" today, but after giving it some thought and finding out they did not picket a child's funeral today, I decided to scrap that. I wrote about this organization last February (Here's Your Sign), and they've been back in the news lately in relation to the violence in Tucson.

I hesitate to call them a church because they go against every fiber of Christian beliefs. Their website is pretty offensive, right down to the upside-down American flag, and the judgments they cast on others. While they take glee in quoting out-of-context Bible verses they feel justify their beliefs, they've skipped over several thousand other verses in the Bible. "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone" -- sound familiar?

And so instead of finger-pointing--and opening up the whole First Amendment and right to bear arms debat--I just want to say how very sorry I am for all the people affected by the shooting. I've spent a little time in Tucson, and it's a neat city. I can't imagine the grief, fear and pain going through the hearts of those affected.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Picture This

When I was visiting Brenda in Chicago, she sparked the idea of a photography workshop as a way for me to sharpen and broaden my photography skills. I have the camera, the desire, the occasional (lucky) talent, so why not pursue it a little more? The only photography training I ever had was a photojournalism class in college--what feels like a lifetime ago. And I don't count that one as training, per se, because we were basically told to go out and DO, and the only thing I remember from the class itself was the frustration of scrambling to complete assignments and fumbling around in the darkroom.

I've fallen in love with this photographer. Or rather, his photographs!
Dave Stoecklein
Photographing landscapes, horses, the western lifestyle and cowboys? Now that's a dream job right there. I would love to attend the upcoming Weatherford, Texas, (cutting horse country!) workshop of his, but between the $1500 price tag on a weekend workshop and the guaranteed communication issues, I don't see that happening.

Then Brenda sent me info on nature photography classes at the Morton Arboretum. For the cost of an Arboretum membership and a relatively minimal class fee, I could take classes on harnessing changeable light, closeup, and advanced compositions (think Ansel Adams). Time to start saving up again and make these dreams into reality! Brenda's pretty good at twisting my arm to go visit her in Chicagoland.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Snow Day

You have to love snow days around here--especially when you have no plans to go anywhere! It's an excuse to be somewhat lazy, do some cleaning, work on a craft project or two, bake some biscotti, drag the sore body onto the elliptical for an easy workout. Wait, that doesn't sound like a lazy day. It was pretty productive. I did a (seemingly easy and painless) kettlebell workout Sunday afternoon and I am feeling it today. It hurts so good.

I've found my creative spark again! Have a new horseshoe in the making, with lime and orange beading on copper wire. (It's prettier than it sounds.) I finished a pink & white heart project today and am starting on making a binder to house my recipe printouts, which are getting out of control. I need to do something to boost my horseshoe sales on Etsy -- it's probably time to up the inventory and pay for a showcase exposure.
My new stand mixer has made itself right at home in my kitchen. I gave in and put it to work today and mixed up a batch of biscotti. I'm playin around with a recipe that was originally a cranberry-almond biscotti. This time around, I left the almonds out and added in orange zest. They turned out pretty good, but could use a little more of a citrus kick. I'm thinking of adding some orange juice concentrate next time (instead of the vanilla). I also have a chocolate swirl banana bread recipe I'm drooling over and waiting to try. Oh, the calories!
Stay warm out there!

Friday, January 7, 2011

January Connection Magazine

The January issue of Connection magazine is making its local rounds. It's another neat issue! I wrote two articles for this one -- one about a restaurant in Aurora that's located in a historic bank building, and the other about a Cassville woman who creates handmade soap.

February's articles are with the editor & art director, and I'm excited that one of them is in contention for the cover. Once the cover's released and posted on the Connection Facebook page, I'll share it with you! For now, it's on to writing for the March issue.

Thursday, January 6, 2011


Well, here we are, six days into 2011 and I've already slacked on the blog!

I spent the holidays "up north" and had a white Christmas. Quite a change of weather from 2010, when I was in Arizona. Actually, it wasn't as cold as I was afraid it would be -- the piles of snow even melted while I was up there! Brenda and I didn't even have COATS on when we went out for sushi on New Years Eve in the Chicago 'burbs. That was a-mazing. It sounds like I headed south just in time for the temperatures to plummet back down to their normal frigidness.

I got to kick off 2011 with my bestie in Illinois. We had martinis, sushi, martinis, a movie and greeted the New Year. It was calm and mellow -- the way we are hoping 2011 turns out to be. We packed a lot into our girls' weekend (Hooch the French mastiff and Baxter were the only boys allowed exclusive access): sushi, bubbly, Little Fockers, afternoon tea at the Drake Hotel downtown, movies, naps, baking, Panera, Lou Malnati's pizza and more. The only thing we didn't get to check off the list was going snowshoeing at the Morton Arboretum -- and that was only because there was no snow!

I'm now home -- the car is unpacked, the Christmas decorations are packed away once again, and I'm catching up on all the things I let slide while I was gone. I have a few packages to send out, a few Christmas cards (well, they are now late New Years greetings and going to become Valentine's Day greetings if I don't get moving!) to send out, cows to track down and resolutions to keep.

Kidding about the last one. Sort of! There is a Project Life scrapbooking project I would love to do, but not only are the packaged projects sold out on Amazon, but it's out of my budget right now.

So instead of doing the pre-packaged Project Life, I'm creating my own. I found a do-it-yourself calendar with write-in dates, plenty of room for journaling and blank pages to add photographs and embellishments. It fits in nicely with my desire to take more photographs this year. I'm planning on heading out for a hike this afternoon with Baxter and the Nikon to see what we can find. The sun is shining and the weatherman promised it would get up to 55 degrees today!